THE CONQUEROR WORM

Monday, January 23, 2017

FONTENOY...1703?

     This time, I've set up a random mini's battle using my 6mm French and English WSS armies. The map is a rough replica of the Fontenoy battlefield from the 1745 battle, only this battle is set about 40 years earlier.
     The fortified village in the center is Fontenoy, occupied by two French battalions. To either side of it are French redoubts, occupied by artillery and light troops. Behind them are French infantry and cavalry, including the elite Maison du Roi. One flank is anchored on a wood.
     Overall, looks like a tough nut for the Brits to crack.
     Admittedly, I've spread the British out a little thin. I wanted to use all my table space for the battle, though. But, now that I think of it, I sure wouldn't mind another line of infantry. Maybe another brigade of cavalry. Or two....

The thin red line advances on the French position.
The right flank. The column on the right decides to take the
path of most resistance -- through the woods.
From the French perspective.
The French looking towards Fontenoy.
British column heading into the woods.
At least the artillery can't target them there.
The British right approaches the village.
This promises to be bloody early.
A veteran French infantry brigade advances to
fill the gap between village and redoubt.
The going is slow -- one base depth per turn.
The British left. I get the feeling the British
commander might not have a solid plan here.
More of the British left. Namely, the right of the left.
Back to the British right. A division of cavalry
advances to back up the infantry.
The two sides come to blows. The French hold
their fire, inviting the British to....
FIRE!!!
The French recoil.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

BAR and Proper Unit Frontages

     Something that has always bugged me about Clash of Arms' Battles from the Age of Reason is that it does not depict realistic unit frontages. A standard frontage for a 700-man Prussian infantry battalion is 150 yards (roughly). The game only allows 100 yards and 200 yards -- a Goldilocks compromise, either too little or too large. What I'm going to propose will hopefully be just right.

     In my upcoming game of Lobositz, I plan on having each of my Prussian battalions occupy "2" hexes at all times. The unit will exert 5 Strength Points in one hex and the remainder in the second (up to 5 more). In addition, any hex containing fewer than 5 SPs can be occupied up to that limit by SPs of another unit.
     The following picture shows how this will work. Basically, what you're looking at here are two battalions occupying 3 hexes (300 yards -- in essence 150 yards of frontage each). Unit 1 exerts 5 SPs in the hex to the left of the hexspine it straddles, and 2 more in the adjacent hex. Unit 2 is a mirror image. I'm allowing 5 SPs to fire out of a hex, so this arrangement depicts the Prussian infantry as they were intended to be used. The SPs in the three hexes are in a 5-4-5 arrangement, allowing for each unit's full firepower.




     Similarly, I'm allowing a maximum of 6 cavalry SPs to occupy a hex. Many of the Prussian cavalry are 8-SP units (400 men each), and they will be split, similarly to the infantry, 6-2. This will hopefully force the player to use his 18th century armies according to the tactics of the day. Currently, the game encourages infantry and cavalry to run around the field in mini-attack columns, using only half their firepower and attacking everything in sight with cold steel. Not cool. (Look, a pun!) And definitely NOT the 18th century battlefield.
     I'm anal about some things. This is one of them.

The Prussian deployment at Lobositz.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

BLAZING CHARIOTS

     I've put my other projects on hold  while I once again hit the boards. Boardgames, that is. My interests seem to ebb and flow and right now my enthusiasm for minis and sports games has ebbed a bit, while my interest in historical wargaming, cardboard-style, seems to have hit new heights. After a short hiatus, all the games seem new again.
     To start off, after several refresher sessions with the rules, I got "Barbarossa: Kiev to Rostov" back on the table. This is an interesting game. I love everything about it -- the highly complex rules, the beautiful components, the history... Yes, I love everything about it -- except actually playing it. Now I remember why I abandoned the campaign game I had started over the summer. The game devolves into a stalemate pretty quickly. The chariots don't exactly blaze in this one.


     The culprit here is that is just too easy to defend. An attacker has to attack EVERY unit in its ZOC, making it virtually impossible to accomplish much of anything in any given turn.
     Here are some examples from a recent playing of "Scenario 6: To Rostov."

The situation a couple turns in. All the victory points are at the top of the map. It's basically a fight for the city of Rostov.
This only looks like a breakthrough. If that 3-2-9 recon bn stack wants to launch an attack, it will have to take on four defending hexes, 5 attack factors vs 9 defense. The 2-2-7 stack could launch some suicidal 1:1 attacks to help out, but that would still leave the 3-2-9 with a couple of 1:1 attacks of its own. The German could apply some Close Air Support and artillery to help, but there's little to do here but retreat. To the right (south), outside of Rostov, the 5-6-7 is in little better shape. The same with the 3-1-7 stack. These guys are going nowhere fast. There is simply not enough supply available to accomplish any of this anyway.
The situation is better in the lower portion of the map (west). The German infantry is free to roam, but there are no VPs in this area and the attack will soon run out of steam. The Soviets get stronger as the game progresses while the Germans have no replacements and few reinforcements. (The purple troops are Italian.)
     I dunno about this game. Forcing the attacker to attack every unit in its ZOC sort of goes against everything you've ever learned about offensive warfare. The benefit of attacking, supposedly, is your ability to concentrate against a single point. Maybe I'm doing something wrong, but every attack in this game is made on a broad -- and I mean BROAD -- front. Not exactly blitzkrieg warfare.
     In addition, forcing the player into multiple attacks uses up lots of supply, more than is available. In the 3-2-9 example above, a plausible offensive would require three or four separate attacks costing three or four attack supply points. The German player is generally lucky to have one supply point, forget four. Basically, once a defenses congeals in an area, it's all over for the attacker.
     Even if it is historically accurate, it's not a very fun game. The turns are too complex and time-consuming for so little to happen. Maybe if turns were 1 week instead of 2 days things would play out a little more interestingly. Oh well....This one goes on the shelf.

     Moving back in time about 3500 years.....


     Now, these chariots blaze. I burn hot and cold on this game, too. I'm burning hot right now, though. After a few turns of the Astarpa River scenario (Arzawans vs Hittites), I'm having a great time.

Hittites in blue, Arzawans in orange. The Light Chariots of each side surge forward. The Hittites definitely have the advantage in this battle.

The Arzawans swing across the front to strike at the Hittite light chariots. Possibly a mistake for the Arzawans. The Hittite heavies are poised to hit the lights in the flank.

And they do, scattering the Arzawan LCs, but taking cohesion hits in the process.
Taking the initiative, the Arzawan heavy chariots surge into the gap and slam into the Hittites. Their charge saves the light chariots from certain destruction.
Two Hittite units are routed. The heavies are now engaged. But who will win the next activation?
The god of fortune favors the Arzawans! The light chariots go next and hightail it out of trouble to the east, away from the Hittite heavies. Arzawan infantry advance, daring the Hittite chariots to attack them. (Spoiler: they won't dare.)
While the heavy chariots duke it out in the center, both sides' lights chase each other east across the desert, flinging arrows as they go.
The Hittites finish off the Arzawan heavy chariots and race away from the infantry. The field is now open for the ground-pounders to settle matters. The Hittites have their sights set on the Arzawan flank and rear now!
Routed units have piled up around the  Arzwan standard. Lots of potential VPs for the Hittites -- if they can get to them before they rally.
     An exciting game so far, if a little unbalanced. I think it was clear from the git-go who was going to win this battle, and I see no stopping the Hittites now. The Arzawan infantry can try to swing to their left to protect the standard. But will it be enough to save them?

     To be continued.....

    Here's what's on the docket in coming game sessions:

The Battle of Stones River, 1862-63. Regimental scale American Civil War. In hand now, learning the rules. On the table soon.
Single battle ziplock game from Revolution Games. In transit to my headquarters.
Sister game of Hastings above.
A game I've been looking at for a long time.
    The two "1066" games and "Washington's Crossing" are part of Revolution Games' Year-End Sale. Having been one myself and knowing what it's like, I do what I can to support smaller publishers. I can't wait to get my hands on these games.

Oh, and here's a strategy tip for the Washington game:


     Until next time: Bomb's Away, Dream Babies!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

BASE-A-BALL BEEN BERRY GOOD TO ME!

     I guess I'm sort of a tool.
     Back in my teen years, I was a yuge (we live in the Age of Trump!) baseball fan. I loved the Pittsburgh Pirates. But I haven't really paid much attention to the sport lately. Not since 1990 really, when the Pirates had Bonds, Bonilla and Van Slyke. Remember that?
     This year's World Series -- with the perennial underdog Cubs winning -- has re-energized my enthusiasm. Yeah, me and about 40 million other people. I think we all agree: awesome series!
     Anyway, that spurred me to pick up a wonderful text-based baseball computer simulation from Steam called "Out of the Park Baseball 17."
     This game allows you to run an entire baseball organization in every imaginable way, from managing its farm teams to negotiating trades and player salaries and drafting players out of high school.
     That's a bit much for me, though. Fortunately, it also allows more casual fans, like me, to just manage a season. That is, I'm simply playing the games one-by-one and making all on-field decisions. I select offensive batting and defensive fielding strategies, pitching decisions and make all substitutions during each game.
     I'm starting with the 2015 Pirates season. I watched a fair number of their games last year (we get all the Chicago games where I live, and the Pirates and Cubs are in the same division, so they're on TV a lot here) and I really liked the team. Baseball is weird in that you can't really enjoy the game until you bond with the players, and the Pirates had some pretty likeable guys. I loved McCutcheon, for example. Also Neil Walker and Marte. I really rooted for these guys. I loved Cervelli, for some reason. Plus, they had excellent pitching, led by Gerrit Cole.

Pirates defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks! Cervelli has broken out of his slump. So has Marte. McCutcheon homered, but he's still up-and-down. Neil Walker has cooled off, but he's the team leader. You really become attached to your team in this game.
     OOTP17 comes with every team from 1871 to the present. The real reason I bought it is because I wanted to replay the Pirates 1975 season. Stargell, Parker, Sanguillen, Zisk etc. What an offensive powerhouse they were! Lots of fun. It'll be tough to beat the Reds, though. The Big Red Machine. Man, they were good! Looking forward to taking them on.
     Why 1975? Because that was the year I was playing a boardgame called APBA. Each player had a distinct card. Roll the dice (one red, one white) and consult the card and cross-reference with the results card. Ah, good memories! You used to have to keep stats for yourself. With OOTP17, the computer does all that. Amazing the trouble we used to go through in pre-computer days, isn't it?

APBA cards. All you over-50 guys know what I'm talking about! This game still exists, too. I'm tempted to get a copy just for the nostalgia of it. IIRC, a "61" is a base hit!
     Speaking of nostalgia, I'll leave you with this. If you recall, in the 1979 World Series, the Pirates were down 3-games-to-one to the Baltimore Orioles. The Pirates came back to win three games-in-a-row to take the series. Sound familiar? Awwwwww Yissssssssss!


     One of the heroes of my youth: Willie Stargell. RIP, brother.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

WILLIE AND THE POE BOYS


     Actually, Poe did not come from a "Poe family." He came from an Allan family. He was an orphan. (Yes, I'm THAT guy. Just call me Senor Buzzkill.) And, even though Bohemian Rhapsody was awesome and everything, Poe himself was a still a little more eloquent:

"Come! let the burial rite be read -the funeral song be sung! -
An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young -
A dirge for her, the doubly dead in that she died so young."
     Have a happy Halloqueen!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

NEW PROJECT - INDIAN WARS 1500-1900

     For my next project, I'm undertaking an examination of the Indian wars in North America from first contact through 1900 (excluding the Aztecs). I'm starting with the French and Indian War and the American Revolution eras, including especially the savage conflict in the Ohio River country. Kan-tuck-ee as Hawk-Eye in The Last of the Mohicans called it. You know, "face north and real sudden-like turn left." So at least we know how to get there.
     So I bought several packs of 15mm Frontiersmen and Woodland Indians from Blue Moon. I also picked up some deciduous tree armatures from Woodland Scenics and a Cigar Box Battle Mat.
     By way of initial review, let me tell you, the battle mat is outstanding. The company's website says to allow something like 6-8 weeks for delivery, so I wasn't expecting a quick turn-around, to say the least. Mine showed up in about 2 days! Now that's service! Seriously, the best companies I've dealt with in this hobby are Cigar Box and Wargamer's Terrain (where I got my river). I'll set up links to these places soon and give them a permanent spot on the blog.
     For rules, I'll be using "Our Moccasins Trickled Blood" for battles through 1800, and my own "Scalp Dance" for mounted warfare. I might give "Too Few to Fight, Too Many to Die" another shot at unmounted warfare (for which it is probably better suited than the wars on the Plains). I'll talk about "Moccasins"  in a future blog. (That's two C's, one S. Whenever I go to type the damn word, C's and S's begin raining from my keyboard -- two C's, one S.)

     So here's the plan. All minis are to be 18/15mm Blue Moon (figures in italics are those I do not already have in my possession).
1500-1650
Florida 1500s (TOO FEW TO FIGHT...)
French & Indians vs Spanish
Minis: Arquebusiers + Eastern Indians
Canada 1600s (TOO FEW TO FIGHT...)
French vs Iroquois
Minis: Arquebusiers + Eastern Indians

1750-1832 
FIW, Ohio 1750-1800 (TOO FEW TO FIGHT...)
Frontiersmen vs Indians
Minis: Frontiersmen + Eastern Indians
Northwest War 1790s (OUR MOCCASINS TRICKLED BLOOD)
Mad Anthony Wayne vs Indians
Minis: Mad Anthony Wayne + Eastern Indians
Creek War + Tippecanoe etc (OUR MOCCASINS TRICKLED BLOOD)
Andrew Jackson vs Indians
Minis: 1812 + Eastern Indians
Black Hawk War 1832 (TO FEW TO FIGHT...)
US Militia/Army vs Indians
Minis: 1812 militia + Eastern Indians

1833-1890 (SCALP DANCE)
Soiux + Nez Perce 1870s
US Cavalry vs Plains Indians
Minis: US Cav + Plains Indians
Western Settlers 1870s+
Settlers + US Cavalry vs Plains Indians
Minis: US Cav, Frontiersmen, Plains Indians

Battle Mat from Cigar Box. Trees from Woodland Scenics. River from Wargamer's Terrain. Field and fences scratch-built.
Close-up of the field.
Styrofoam hill under the battle mat makes a fine-looking hill.
The view from said hill.
I plan on using the guy on the right as a leader of the frontiersman -- Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, George Rogers Clark or any of a myriad of other incredible American heroes. The guy on the left is a British regular. Hiss!
Some figures I plan on using for French and Spanish arquebusiers. These guys tangled in Florida in the 1500s, with the Indians taking the side of the French Huguenots. Who wouldn't? The Spanish of that era seem like pretty unlikable fellows, to be sure.Wonderful figures from Essex, via Noble Knight, a retailer out of Janesville, Wisconsin. Excellent service from these guys, too!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

WITH ROYALL ON THE ROSEBUD

     Playing a game of my semi-home-brew Sioux Wars game, Scalp Dance. It's an amalgam of Chris Peers' "Too Few to Fight, Too Many to Die" (which by itself has much to recommend it -- though not necessarily for Plains warfare) and rules of my own concoction.
     I'll let the pictures do the talking.

The game starts with Lt Col Royall's 3rd Cav defending some high ground. Unfortunately, Co I has become isolated after  pursuing some retreating Sioux. One platoon is all by itself (on the right), while two more occupy a little rise on the left.
These Sioux occupy a hill. They plan to dismount to pour some fire on the lone platoon of I Co below. Another group of Injuns go looking for some I Co scalps.
Making for the flank.



The Sioux get cocky. Not only one, but two, bases attempt to count coup. Both are driven back. I Cos chestnuts pulled from the fire.
The lone platoon of I Co high-tails it to the safety of his comrades on "Royall's Ridge." On the 3rd Cav's right, the rest of I Co tries to fend off two groups of mounted warriors, to no avail.
D, E, and L Cos, commanded by Lt Col Royall hold the high ground in the center. The command has become isolated from the rest of the army. Their horses are on the other side of Kollmer Creek (Seen here in the distance). The unit will attempt a fighting withdrawal to reach their comrades. Reinforcements are possible, but not likely.
Crazy Horse's minions approach! Steady, boys...Steady....
The Sioux isolate the remnants of I Co. One platoon has been pinned by "Skirmish Fire" as depicted by the fallen soldier on the round base.
Dismounted Indians on a hill pour fire into I Co.
The Sioux assault I Co. from the front but are driven back by withering fire from the cavalrymen's breech-loading carbines.
But now the 20 men of  I Co are hit from behind. Massacre!
FIRE! The Indians turn and flee.
Fleeing Sioux throwing up some clouds of dust.
With the TV playing on the horizon, a group of Indians attempting to flank Royall come under devastating fire.