Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life; currently concentrating on a re-fight of the entire English Civil War, but with numerous discursions into battles from many different periods. The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Back in the Game - a Nuts! Patrol AAR

It has been a while since I have managed to get a game to the table, partly from lack of opportunity, partly from a lack of inclination.  I have felt like gaming, but haven't been quite sure about exactly I fancied playing!  It hasn't been an unproductive time: I have managed to finish off plenty of 6mm Covenanter Foot and I am just waiting for some flags before I get them to the table.  Some of this may be that a lot of my gaming projects had got a bit complicated and so I decided to play a quick game of Nuts! - perfect for this sort of thing. I set up a patrol scenario and took out a section of British riflemen to carry out a reconnaissance patrol through a belt of woodland and a locally prominent hill.

Mission Background:

It is 18th May 1940.  the British Battalion of 23rd (Northumbrian) Division on the extreme right of the BEF is pushing out patrols to try and establish the limit of the German advance and the location of French troops in the area.

2 x NCOs (Rifle, Rep 4)
1 x Bren Gunner (LMG, Rep 4)
1 x ATR Gunner (ATR, Rep 4)
6 x Riflemen (Bolt-Action Rifles, Rep 3)

Due to the poor training level of the British, only Rep 4 soldiers are trained in weapons other than their own (i.e. if the Bren gunner is out of the fight, only a Rep 4 soldier can pick it up).

Friendly Investment Level: 3 Enemy Investment Level: 4
Use the normal reinforcement chart, except:

British AT weapons are ATRs (use the Russian stats) not PIATs
No British SMGs.  NCOs replace with rifles, Officers with pistols.
British armour has an equal chance of being a Matilda I or Matilda II.
German AT weapons are ATRs
German armour has an equal chance of being a PzII, an StuG IIIB or a light armoured car.
Resistance fighters are French infnatrymen (Rifles, Rep 3)

The mission is to get a member of the British patrol within 6" of all three zones at the opposite edge of the board and then return safely.

The battlefield: the British patrol advances from the bottom-right

The small copse: this is an initial recce before the main patrol began

The farm at the other side of the battlefield

The view along the wooded belt, with the hill at the top-left

The British lead pair in the copse observe elderly Frenchmen hobbles out of the tree-line towards their position

The British point man (right) and Corporal (left) in the copse observe the approach of the French gentleman...

Another angle...

A German MG34 team comes patrolling out of the tree-line and spots the old man!

That moment of uncertainty is all the British Corporal needs - a couple of rounds rapid drops the German machinegunner before he even thinks about firing.  His no.2 rushes back into the cover of the woods

With the Bren gunner and some additional riflemen covering them, the Corporal and point man deploy a little franglais to ask the old Frenchman if he knows where the Germans are. Apart from some vague jabbing in the direction of the hill behind the woods, they can't get any specific information from him.

The British section moves up...

However, a German patrol has just entered the wood belt from the other side!

Another view of the patrolling Germans

The German squad's point-man is wounded by rifle fire as he advances into the woods.  The German NCO and his machinegun team drop into cover.  An inconcuslive exchange of fire follows.

The British Corporal leaves the firefight to his 2iC and takes a small group right-flanking.  They run into the pistol armed German who fires some inaccurate shots then runs...

The British Corporal drops him in his second bit of neat shooting for the day.  The British patrol in the dead ground at the far side of the hill.

The Germans make an effort to get forward but suffer two more wounded; one of the British riflemen is also hit

Making good use of ground, the British Corporal's team finished the reconnaissance

Silence falls around the battlefield - neither patrol wishes to risk more casualties...
Game Results:
The affair petered out at this point, since no-one really wanted to do any more fighting.  The Germans lost 2 killed, 2 wounded and 2 wounded prisoner, the British had a single wounded.

Although some of the initial shooting was quite accurate, the firefight around the woods was very desultory, both sides finding it difficult to get a bead on the other.  The generally low quality of the British troops did not help matters... It did make me think a little about the way woods and bushes are supposed to be portrayed in Nuts!  It isn't particularly clear to me if the rules imagine that the area is just considered 'wooded'  and the exact positioning of the foliage is just indicative or if it is supposed to be a more precise model.  The way the rules are worded makes me incline to the former, but I am really not sure.

One thing that I think is miscalibrated in Nuts! are the recommended distances with the suggested table-size.  Troops deploying from blinds are supposed to be 3" apart - just outside of grenade blast distance, which is fair enough.  But that means that potentially a 10-man section will be depoyed over 30"...i.e. nearly the whole length of the board.  So I have had to use a kind of 'best guess' as to how enemy troops would be deployed.  It isn't a massive problem, but i wonder if some of the distances might warrant a bit of adjustment, especially if there is going to be anything approaching a platoon on the table at any given point.  Regardless, the Nuts! rules still give a pretty good solitaire game. 

The figures are a mixture of Plastic Soldier Company and Battlefront.  The buildings are from Empires at War.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Labyrinth - Some First Thoughts

I got Labyrinth: The War on Terror to the table properly for the first time yesterday.  It covers the post 11 Sep 01 US War on Terror campaign.  The basic aim of the game is to defeat the Islamic terrorists by producing enough stable, friendly, well-governed states in the Dar Al-Islam that there is no opportunity for radical Islamists, whilst preventing terrorist plots that might destabilize the non-muslim world, in particular the detonation of WMD in the USA.

It is basically a card-driven game, with each card potentially giving rise to events (which may favour the US, or the Islamists, or both or neither) and also allowing each side to carry out operations.  As might be expected, the Islamist are trying to recruit operational cells, which may carry out terror plots or attempt jihad and bring down governments and install radical Islamic regimes instead.  The US on the other hand can move troops, invade countries, try to improve governance and foreign relations and/or counter terrorist plots. It is a strategic-level game about the allocation of effort and resources at the international level, so those wanting more detailed treatment of tactics and operations will have to look elsewhere.

 There are lots of neat mechanics to give problems to both sides and make using the USA's vast power and influence quite difficult.  The way the card deck works mean that both players can sometimes end up playing cards that advantage the other side because they want to use the value of the card to carry out operations, so it is a judgement whether the positive value in using the card outweighs the side effects.  Many cards have different effects depending upon which side plays them.  All the cards are dealt from a single deck, there aren't separate decks for both factions in the usual set-up, although there is a way of doing this to create a more balanced game (it can be tricky for the US player if their hand is entirely composed of events which benefits the radical Islamists!).  Like many other modern games, the use of cards creates friction and allows for complex interactions, but I imagine some players will find the slightly arbitrary nature of this friction annoying.

The game contains a full system for solitaire play and also has methods for varying the difficulty of that play, by changing the effectiveness and efficiency of certain terrorist actions.  At the initial difficulty level, I thought the game was challenging but winnable, even quite quickly after learning the mechanics.  There are fully worked play examples for both 2-player and 1-player games: these were really useful for getting an intuitive understanding of how play is meant to progress.  None of it is complicated - the mechanics are elegant - but there is a lot of stuff to remember to begin with.

The mixture of the card events and the way play progresses create quite an interesting narrative feel to the game - it does feel like an 'alternative history' is unfolding.  Players will recognize many of the events and concepts on the cards ("Abu Sayyaf", "Tony Blair", "Chirac & Schroeder" etc.), creating the right feel for the game.

I have only played it a couple of times so far, but it was a captivating game, with lots of potential for different strategies to be tried out.  My strategy so far has been to focus as relentlessly as possible on Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and UAE, which seems to have been reasonably effective, but I am very much still learning.

Recommended to all those interested in the subject, particularly those looking for a solitaire treatment of a game set at the grand strategic level.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

How on earth did that happen?

I was taking the advantage of some quiet time today to do a bit of sorting out of my 15mm WW2 stuff, basing a few figures, repairing a few damaged paint jobs, that kind of thing when it became clear that my little side project for doing WW2 section and platoon skirmishes now has over 500 figures and 30+ vehicles! How on earth did that happen?   The stupid thing is I will never play with anything but a fraction of this lot at one time: I much prefer using 6mm stuff for reinforced platoon / company (-) actions upwards.  And it isn't as if I particularly enjoy painting or anything.  It has been a small trickle of accumulation over the last...nine years?  There is stuff in there from Battlefront, PSC, Peter Pig, Zvezda & QRF I think...

And the even more stupid thing is, I don't think I have everything that I want!  I have too many 'core' troops, not enough of the one-off things which add interest to skirmish games.  A D+ for project management here I reckon.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Battle of Bosworth 1485: A DBA Refight

I managed to get another game of DBA to the table recently, this time to re-fight the decisive Battle of Bosworth.  I used an amalgam of two magazine scenarios, the first from Wargames Illustrated 193 and the second from Miniature Wargames 53.

As anyone interested in the period knows, the battle was largely decided by the (ostensibly neutral) Lord Stanley intervening on the side of Henry Tudor. Because I know this, the most suitable mechanism to reflect this seemed to be to roll a die every turn for Stanley to become "active" on the Tudor side, with an increasing chance each turn.  This would mean that King Richard's optimal strategy would probably be to attack, just as he did on the day.

I didn't check the history of these scenarios, since the most favoured site for the battle has (I believe) been moved since the time when the scenarios were written and published; I was merely using them as gaming scenarios.  That said, the tactical essentials of the battle appear to remain the same regardless of the site adopted.  I was also a bit sceptical about the strengths of the armies too, suspecting that the Tudor army looked a little weak in comparison to the Royal army, but decided to roll with it for this first attempt.

This is a very simple scenario in many ways: it is a straight fight to the finish!

The Forces:

The Tudor Army:  4 x Blades, 3 x Longbows

The Royal Army: 7 x Blades, 6 x Longbows

Lord Stanley's Contingent: 1 x Knights, 3 x Cavalry, 2 x Blades, 1 x Longbows

Henry Tudor rolled a D6 every turn after the first to see if he would take control of Lord Stanley's contingent.  He needed a 6 on the second turn, 5 on the third turn and so on, but would always need at least a score of 3.

The Set-Up:
The smaller Tudor army is bottom-left; King Richard is on the hill and on the forward slopes (centre-right) and Stanley is "awaiting developments" in the top-left

Henry Tudor's men in line of battle with the usual mix of the Wars of the Roses - billmen and bowmen with a smattering of dismounted men-at-arms

Stanley's forces.  This is unusual in consisting of quite a high proportion of mounted men, including some knights but also some lighter "Hobilar" cavalry

The view from behind Henry Tudor.

King Richard III's battle line, with some reserves on the hill itself
 The Battle:
The battle begins with Richard III moving into action; he leaves a reserve back on the hill, so he only has a very small numerical superiority over the Tudor army

A closer view

Stanley decides to commit quite early and begins to move forward slowly...

Stanley with his Knights, plus some Hobilars

Some very effective shooting creates a gap in the Tudor line; some slightly less effective Tudor shooting creates some raggedness in the Royal line (bottom-right)

A wider view of the same

The melee begins in earnest with King Richard and his personal knights (Centre-left), on foot, trying to burst through the gap in the Tudor lines

Stanley's men approach the Royal reserve

Royalist billmen turn the Tudor right flank (foreground)...

The Tudor line is slowly crumbling...

There is some real chaos now: elements of both armies have broken right through...

The contenders for the throne pass each other by in the swirling melee...

Stanley's troops are unaccountably slow...

The broken battle lines are beginning to favour the numerically superior Royal army, as it gets to find internal flanks...

Some of the troops have now turned through 180 degrees: in the bottom-left, the two left-hand units are Yorkists, and the right-hand unit is Tudor Billmen...; note that Stanley, seeing the crumbling Tudor resistance, has diverted his men-at-arms and supporting hobilars to the fray here (centre-top)

Stanley's light cavalry are about to hit some Royalist bowmen in the flank (bottom-right); but the main reserve body is well placed on the top of the hill to resist Stanley's infantry (top)...

The Tudor army is only just hanging on...only the difficulty in re-organizing his troops is denying the King a victory here...

The reserve bowmen swing into place just in time, but the Hobilars ride them down anyway...

But the remainder of the King's knights, fighting on foot, drive back Stanley's infantry attack

Stanley meets Henry Tudor (centre-bottom) just as the day is lost...

King Richard continues to destroy the opposition (left)

King Richard's dismounted men-at-arms take the initiative and charge Stanley's men...

The Tudor main line has finally collapsed...

As does the Stanley's line...

A wider shot of the main battle lines at the end of the combat: the sides have completely gone through 180 degrees now.  Henry Tudor's life and the embers of the Lancastrian cause will now depend upon the speed of his horse and the loyalty of his retainers...

And a wider shot at the end of the battle, showing the main battle (top-left) and the positions of the Royal reserve and the Stanleys' contingent (right)
Game Notes: 
Another great fun Wars of the Roses clash as history reverses and Lord Stanley becomes a folkloric figure for the man who arrives just five minutes late to save the day...I felt the scenario worked well in giving both sides a good chance of victory.  Fortune definitely favoured the King for most of the battle, as he seemed to get the better combat results and get more initiative points just at the right moment.  I was using the orders of battle given in the scenarios, but I wonder if it might be better to reduce the Royal Army's strength by a base or two to make Stanley's attack more likely to succeed more quickly and make the division of strength  more tricky problem for the King.
The key to the Royalist victory was getting a freak kill of a Tudor base very early on: this allowed King Richard and his men to split the Tudor line and create the overlaps and then flank attacks which lead to further recoils and kills.
As a quirk of these rules (unless I am playing it wrong!), there can be two versions of WotR battles using DBA using exactly the same forces.  Since the armies are basically combinations of bow and blade, the optimal deployment is to alternate those bases in the battle line (to give bonuses to the bowmen).  However, blades still have a decent advantage over bows so if the lines are mismatched (my blades fight your bows and vice-versa) then although it is not necessarily more likely that I will win, it is more likely that the combat will be resolved sooner.  If I have a temporary strength advantage, this seems to make it a much better strategy.  From the opposite point-of-view, when blades are matched against blades, they can fight for a long time before being destroyed.  When I have a bit more time, I may even have a look at quantifying these effects.
I think that this kind of battle works better in DBA than my recent refight of Northampton, because it seems clear that attrition as a strategy is irrelevant here and shock is everything.

Rules were DBA, figures by Baccus 6mm.