Wednesday, 25 November 2020

A return to old Spain

The next publishing project is Spanish Civil War, using rules I wrote back in 2010/12 updated and revised. I've started work on the rule book from my notes, and have even fleshed out a cover. 

It's a bit more colourful than earlier publications, and the picture is more ambitious in some ways, with the use of silhouetting and overlays and different transparency levels.

I'm not sure abut the type face yet. I normally use "Weathered" but that looked a bit dated for the period. I was looking for a art-deco type font, or one from the Republican propaganda posters, but I haven't found one that I really like yet.

Any-hoo, having nailed my publishing colours to this particular mast, I thought I'd better give the rules another run out on the table, just so that I know what I'm writing about when I prepare the final text. I was joined for this on-line visit to the Iberian Peninsula by Richard, Patrick and Jon. Richard and Patrick took the Nationalists, and Jon was the Republicans.

I've gone for an early war-ish period. On the road to Madrid, a column of Foreign Legion (1 x Bandera, 2 x Tabor + 1 x 77mm field guns), supported by a column consisting of Requetes, Falangites and Civil Guards are trying to force their way up two parallel roads, clearing out two units of Communist militia, one of Anarchists and a battalion of Peninsula Army, supported by a field gun or two. 

The Legion are to the left, the paramilitaries to the right. Both Nationalist columns are in trucks. The communists are blocking the road near the river, and occupy the village in the far corner. The Peninsula Army are in the other village, and the Anarchists are dug in across the other road.

The Legion enter the board. The walls represent a sunken lane. This will give them difficulties later on in deploying the artillery.

On the other road the Carlists drive aggressively towards the dug in Communists, and leap out, opening fire. The Communists reply.  The command system here is card driven. Each side gets a number of playing cards, and uses them to activate units. Depending on type of unit, not every suit can be used. You can keep playing cards of the same suit, but when you can't play anymore (or chose not to) you have to stop and pass the turn to the other side. Each action requires a card, and a unit can take three actions in a turn. If you want to co-ordinate an action between two units you need an extra card that needs to be valid for them as well as the card to perform the action. e.g. it requires three cards for two units to close assault. As we were on-line each C-in-C had a deck each. Normally I use patience cards and tuck them under the unit commander to record how many actions each has had. Here I just put cards down when the players called out their orders to keep track of who had done what, and so the players could see as well. Not pretty, but needs must.

The Bandera had debussed into the olive grove, but immediately came under artillery fire, pinning them in place.

The Tabors motored up in turn, and dismounted into a depression in the ground, sheltering them from enemy fire. I have to do something about those buildings in the hill top village, leaning all askew.

For whatever reason, Jon decided to launch an attack by the Anarchists. They rushed forwards out of their trenches and started to shoot up the Moroccans.

The second Tabor dismounted from the truck and formed a firing line. The Legion's gun unlimbered on the bridge (the only part of the sunken lane high enough to see out) and opened fire on the village. Its initial barrage hit the road on the corner of the Anarchist's original position.

The Moroccans charged the Anarchists, driving them back in some disorder, but becoming pinned on their position in the process. The Falangites by-pass the Carlists, and form a firing line to shoot up the village, trying to take the heat off the Legion in the olive grove.

Finally the Civil Guards join the fray, lining up to give the Communists a hiding. However, that was pretty much the end of the turn, for that side of the table.

Elsewhere, you can see the Republican armoured support has turned up top left (they had a Joker), the Legion artillery corrected its fire and hit the Republican artillery in the town. This Pinned the gun, and lifted the barrage pinning the Legion in the olive grove. The Moroccans charged the Anarchists again, and drove them back once more. Jon's final card was also a Joker, and he got in an off table artillery barrage that he directed on to the Falange.

The next turn opened with one of the Tabors of Moroccans being caught in heavy small arms fire from the village, which wiped them out.

Their colleagues, however, had done for the Anarchists at last.

Dashing through the hedge surrounding the grove, the Legion stormed into the village. In the background the communists, supported by fire from the village, have caused a lot of damage on the Civil Guards and the Falange.

The Legion are thrown back in disorder after a short sharp front. The paramilitaries in the open have taken a lot of damage.

The Carlists, not to be put off, charge the communist trenches. No one is in good shape here.

The assault isn't a success, and the Carlists are forced to retire.

It's 11pm, and a school day tomorrow for some of us, so nearly done. The Moroccans line themselves up to storm the village, but the Nationalists are in a bad way, having taken a lot of casualties.

The final act of the game is Patrick playing an ace, which is an air strike. He rolls and gets heavy bombers, and the plaster the village. The eagle eyed amongst you will spot that these are Soviet planes in Republican colours. That's because the Nationalists were in another box, back in the house, and I wasn't going to go and get them just for this photo. Besides, bombing your own side had a sort SCW ring to it.

Thoughts? Well, my design approach has moved on in the last 8 years. I really want these rules not to use squares, for a change, but I kept thinking how squares would make everything so much easier. The unit activation system worked well, and I like the decisions it makes players take. The hand to hand system - an early precursor to the method used in IGABC - works fine. I had some issues with the firing mechanism and saving rolls, but I have some ideas as to how to deal with that. I'd like to get rid of the saving rolls, if I could. 

So, some work for me to do, but the players said they enjoyed it, which is the main thing. I've got a week off next week, as we're doing some WoTR with Richard's wargame room back in action, so I have some development time available to me.

All looking promising. But I feel the need to acquire some more militia, and some of those bizarre armoured cars. And mortars. Need more mortars.


Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Transatlantic To Ur

What's next, after playing on-line games with the blokes up the road? Well, why not expand the circle of participants to include Cambridge and Washington State? Jon F of the Palouse Wargaming Journal blog has been a regular commenter on the blog, and a supporter of the rule sets, so it seemed like a cool thing to do to see if he wanted to Skype in for a game of "To Ur is Human". From Cambridge (the original one in the UK) we had young Rob G. Why I know him is too long to explain. He and Jon took the attackers, and Richard the defenders.

This was slated to be the first big workout of these toys since the mass rebasing project. As I wasn't sure of player numbers, I went for a simple attack and defend scenario. The forces of Ur, off to the right in the picture, are aiming to crush a rebellious city state of indeterminant name. They are an upstart city with a new way of building ziggurats. This sort of thing cannot be allowed to flourish.

The attackers are stronger in heavy infantry and battle carts, but the defenders have masses of missile armed skirmishers, and other massed bowmen.

Their battle car reserve and the Royal Foot Guards are gathered round the holy ziggurat. Actually its an mdf model of the tomb of Cyrus the Great (the provenance of this model is discussed here: Link

The attackers have a bottle neck for their battle carts, as there's only one way across the irrigation ditch.

First turn, and Jon & Rob are off, across the ditch. The fields marked with pebble boundaries are not obstacles. I scattered them across the board to help the players pick out where the squares were. The single trees are on the corners of squares too.

Richard, in response, immediately deployed his reserve battle cars, and pushed forwards with his missile troops. 

Throwing caution to the winds, and at Rob's urging, Jon crashed into the massed archers in the centre with his Lugal-led battle cars. They had previously failed to inflict any hits, and dropped to "fright" status. Not looking good. Over in the distance, Richard's skirmishers had inflicted some damage, but Rob decided to charge in anyway. Sort of his signature move.

Trapped by their own forces, with nowhere to run, the massed archers suffered badly. Elsewhere clouds of sling shot, javelins and arrows filled the air.

With the massed archers gone, the two Lugals led their carts into battle. It was a titanic clash. Or would have been, had Richard not rolled really badly on his Fear Test and bottled the charge. He did not have a good evening for his Fear Tests. He really didn't.  However, in slightly better news you'll see that he has succeeded in shooting away a base of the second wave of battle carts. These, however, are undaunted, and have declared a charge on the massed archers that shot them up.

Jon's carts clatter through their frightened opposite numbers, and crash into their supporting infantry, which Richard's Lugal is now sheltering behind. These infantry also failed a Fear Test. The Carts were having a very good day.

The massed archers, however, did not take fright, so this one was looking a bit dodgy for the onrushing carts.

Flushed with his success over Richard's skirmishers, Rob launches into the front of shielded heavy infantry. Well, he is consistent. (Note to Rob: The skirmishers have javelins, move faster than the heavies and can evade.)

They don't last long.

Richard's dice rolling explodes in his face again, and his other unit of archers are soon heading for the base line.

In the centre, Jon breaks the first line of infantry opposed to him, but the Royal Foot Guards with Lugal are there to prevent him defiling the temple sanctum. Or whatever.

Alas, they too do the discretion and valour bit, leaving Richard's Lugal to skulk behind his last unit of Foot Guards. Jon declines the opportunity to rampage into the city (I'd have stopped the game there and called it a win if he had).

Instead his Lugal dashes off to inspire another unit of carts, whilst he withdraws the remnants of his initial unit, who retire in the knowledge of a job well done. By now Jon & Rob's heavy infantry are well clear of the irrigation channel, and are pressing up the table, restricting Richard's room for manoeuvre.

The Lugal now leads his second battle cart unit onto glory, trampling the fleeing infantry underfoot. You will note that Richard's cunning plan to ambush them with his own battle cart unit fails, as they refuse to charge.

He really didn't have a good evening.

Richard tries to salvage something, by getting his other cart unit out of the way, in the hope he can rally up a fear level. But basically it's all up.

We never did get a heavy infantry v heavy infantry scrap, as that was about three hours, and Richard's army was in pieces.

I have played a lot of games of "To Ur is Human" and never had one where the battle cars have been so effective. They intimidated their opponents then ran all over them. It was truly astonishing. I mean it is what is supposed to happen if things go well for them, but I've never seen it go THAT well.

So, a fun evening for the new guys, less so for Richard. I'm pleased with the new look for the armies, and the lighter cloth helps with the photography. I think we have this video game thing sorted now, except for the sudden loss of internet speed and the need to swap from Skype to Zoom half way through.

If you are inspired by this or interested in the rules, then you can order them from Amazon, where they'll cost you £5 or equivalent. Copies ordered from me incur a £2 p&p charge, unless you order them with another set from my extensive catalogue, as it's postage free for orders over £10. Email me at wgfgup(at)gmail(dot)com if you are interested.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

On-line Indian Mutine-era

This Tuesday's game was a step up in the level of complexity, moving from a simple 1d6 system to a refight of Maharajpur using the Indian Mutiny supplement for my "Taiping Era" rules.

Not knowing how many players were going to dial in (we're using Skype) I put the figures out, and set the camera up behind the mutineers, as this gave the best all round coverage (and is also closest to the electrical outlet for the PC). In the Mutineer set up the Sepoy forces cover their right flank - left of the picture - and the Nana Saheb's palace troops the left flank. I'd painted up a Nana Saheb figure and flag bearer especially for this game. They occupy a strong position, with guns emplaced in villages and a battery dug in on the main road. The British deploy with a small force on their left, under Major Stephenson, and the rest under General Havelock on the right, concealed by the trees. Havelock's plan was to outflank the mutineer position on his wing, then roll the line up.

Once Richard and Steve had dialled in, with no other players it was easiest if I played the Mutineers and they split the British, so I shifted the camera to the other side of the table.

Steve adopted an aggressive approach to keep the Sepoys pinned whilst Richard worked his way through the trees.

Soon Steve was well stuck in, charging in with his Irregular horse, and driving back the Sepoy Cavalry in his way. The Sepoy artillery opened up, but was initially ineffective.

Steve deployed his infantry into line to develop his fire power, and unlimbered his artillery, as Richard's men emerged from the woods in Open Order.

Richard had deployed the "Elephant Gun" and pushed his Sikhs wide, into an attack column, whilst forming up his Madras Fusiliers with Enfield Rifles in order to give his opponents a few volleys before closing with the bayonet.

It was all kicking off now, with everyone firing who could. Some unexpected firing from the Palace Troops and their matchlocks gave the Fusiliers a momentary check, although they (supported by accurate sniping from the Open Order Highlanders) inflicted a lot of hits on the infantry in the open.

The Sikhs were ordered to charge the village, but decided not too immediately, much to Richard's chagrin. The Palace Cavalry launched a charge at the Fusiliers, who stood their ground and delivered a withering volley, as some of the Palace Infantry started to stream to the rear.

The Palace Cavalry were repulsed in a brief action. BTW You can now see Nana Saheb and his standard bearer directing fire from the village.

On the other wing, the Irregular Horse has chased the Sepoys off, but the second battalion of Madras Fusiliers have got themselves bogged down in front of the guns, and simply can't advance. They're taking a lot of damage from the close range artillery fire. The Sikhs on their right are being taken on by two Sepoy battalions, and are finding it hard going. Can Steve hold on whilst Richard breaks the other wing?

The Sikhs and Sepoys charge each other, but retire after an inconclusive round of combat. This gives them some much needed breathing space. The Fusiliers on the left are still unable to advance, and now have got in a firefight with some Sepoys. On the far side, the Palace Cavalry has started to break and retire. The Sikhs finally charged in, and cleared the village. The Sepoy cavalry that remained headed off to shore up that flank.

On their right the Sepoys have got a bit more aggressive, and are driving Steve's troops back. Richard, however, has now got all of his men formed up, and is delivering heavy fire into the Palace Troops.

The Sepoy horse try to clear the Highlanders, but they shoot them off as the battalion on their left charges into the village, routing the defending artillery. Richard has even limbered up the Elephant Gun, and is moving it into the centre to provide fire support if needed.

Steve has pulled back to the T junction. His job is done, as Richard is now rolling up the line as planned. Game over.

That took us just about three hours, slightly longer than expected as I had to remind myself of the rules as I've been working on something else recently, and as said above, I did have to re-wire the camera. The game is also slowed as I have to move round the table and move everything, and the rules do require a bit more dice rolling. Even so, a satisfactory evening's entertainment.

I'm really pleased with how the IM rule supplement has turned out, as the game was not originally written with that conflict in mind. The catastrophe mechanism you get from the EDNA (Ever Decreasing Number Allocation) mechanism can make things flip really quickly when it looks like you've been getting nowhere. The tendency of some troops to behave in a dogged fashion but get bogged down has a realistic feel to it.

Next week, a return to Sumeria, I think.