Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Three Bridges, Four Players

More Spanish Civil War. Jon nudged me recently to send out proper briefings for the games, so people knew what was going on. That's a fair point, so I spent an afternoon working out a scenario, rather than just chucking stuff on the table 'til it looks okay on Tuesday afternoon, my normal approach. So, I present for you, "The Battle of the Three Bridges." Autumn 1936, the Nationalists are trying to seize three bridges to the west of Madrid, as part of the encirclement of the capital. The Republicans, naturally, are trying to stop them. 

This was, unusually for these games, an encounter battle. Other new things included switching to Zoom (I've taken out a monthly licence to see how it goes), and the return of a MNG member who has been absent for most of lockdown.

The Republicans are to the left, and have 3 "mixed" brigades, made up of Peninsula Army, Asaltos and some union militias. There's even a tank in there somewhere. Ian and Richard took charge of them. The Nationalists are to the right, and have two brigades. One of them is a Legion Tercio (which Phil got), the other an ad hoc brigade with a mix of troops (which Jon controlled). Neither side has a lot of on table artillery. During the game we were trialling a slightly different way of handling the command cards in a multiplayer game.

The Republicans won the initiative roll (which they did a lot in the game, although they shouldn't have), and Ian set off and occupied one of the bridges. The turn passed to Phil, who immediately played a joker, and got three rounds of off table heavy artillery. The first round missed the target, but the other two were dead on.

With his opponents pinned in place, Phil marched on a Bandera of Legion troops.

Up the other end of the table, Jon brought on his Civil  Guards.

Richard stealthily advanced his Asaltos into the olive grove, and then moved some Communist militia into one of the fields.

Phil now dropped his Bandera into skirmish order, and got ready to storm the bridge.

I then discovered I had followed Jon's orders incorrectly, and swapped over his Civil Guards and Falange.

The first of Phil's Moroccan Tabors appears, and threatens the central bridge.

Absolute glee from the Republicans as a joker brings a squadron of medium bombers in. Jon has men badly exposed in the open - an excellent target. Alas, they decide to plaster the olive grove instead...after all who knows what might be concealed in there?

A quick overview of where we've got to. The Republicans are pressing up on two of the bridges, and still have quite a few units at the back of the table. The Nationalists are showing two contrasting approaches. Phil is dashing forwards aggressively, and Jon is patiently building his approach.

Ian activates the unit on the bridge, and resolves his blast markers. He then leaves his MG company watching the bridge, and occupies the olive grove with the rest of his battalion.

Leaving his MGs to cover the troops in the grove, Phil rushes the bridge.

It is all over rather quickly, and the Republican MG company are no more (note to self for this scenario - should the bridge and river bank provide cover?). Also, once more, a unit is close assaulted on a position having used all of its activations. It seems obvious to me (well, I wrote the rules) that just because you can activate three times in a row, doesn't always mean you should. Being deployed with an activation in the back pocket means you get to fire as you are attacked, which might be more effective.

Richard is pressing hard on his side, and seems to have the bridge well covered.

Could things get worse for Ian? Phil has now brought on his last Tabor of Moroccans, and has lined them up to close assault the olive grove, having first delivered a round of firing.

Richard has got a unit of Asaltos and some militia in a firing line, and is able to put a few rounds of firing into Jon's Regular Army battalion by the bridge. The fire is so intense, that Jon becomes Disordered.

More off table artillery is called in to support Phil's troops. Ian's unit on the hill crest takes a plastering.

The Republican bombers return, and home in on the Civil Guard, who have taken the high ground. A lot of blast markers are placed. Jon has to take a Terror Test for the air strike.

The Civil Guards panic and flee, Jon is not having a good evening.

The Moroccans charge into the olive grove. They don't leave a lot of the Republicans alive.

Ian's luck turns, and another wave of bombers come in (believe me, this is all generated randomly), and they carpet bomb the bridge area, and Phil's Bandera. They pass their Terror Test at a canter.

And another joker turns up! One of Richard's militia units gets a proper hammering.

When the smoke cleared, Phil was able to resolve the air strike, and got away comparatively lightly, but it was a nasty shock, methinks.

So we stopped it there. There are no pictures, but Jon's infantry by the bridge are in a bad way. They've held on and passed their "It Tolls For Thee" test, but a determined push will see them off the objective. Phil has his bridge held securely, and he has sorted out Ian's best unit. The middle bridge is probably controlled by Jon's Falange Bandera, and Phil's other Tabor. The left hand bridge is probably safe for the Nationalists, as Ian doesn't have enough, most likely, to kick Phil off it. If we were to play another hour or so, it might get close over there. Probably a winning draw for the Nationalists at this stage, although Richard has a lot of uncommitted militia...and a Renault FT-17. 

Another satisfactory playtest, and I got a couple of little changes out of it. Using the smaller playing area is an improvement (and the table colour helps with the photos too). Zoom was an improvement with the HD setting turned on, although at this stage, with my current camera, probably only marginal. It is easier to manage the participants, however, so a guarded thumbs up for the change from Skype. It looks to me now that I probably won't be getting the rules out in January, when I factor in the turnaround on proof copies.

More next week.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

In the ether & in the air

This week we did a WW1 aerial combat game, with Richard's "Knights of the Sky" rules. We had a good turnout for the game, with seven brave souls prepared to do battle in the skies above the Western Front. 

Jon, Will & I were the Germans, to the right, in the heavily armed but clunky Albatrosses. Chris A, Patrick, Steve & Ian were the Brits in the nifty little Sopwith Pups.

With poor communication, we worked on instinct. Will went off to deal with the two at the top of the picture, and Jon & I headed to face down the other two.

Our flying was intricate and surprisingly well co-ordinated. Perceiving the threat, one of the Brits from the top of the picture (Chris??) turned in to bolster his comrades.

Jon & I lined up, and at close range we get to roll dice that cause more damage than the Pups do. This is important for us, as the British planes are much quicker round the table, so we need to pile on the damage when we can.

So of course, one of Jon's guns jammed, and the other missed. Both of mine jammed without even firing. It was going to be one of those evenings.

We flew past each other, and the combat got a bit more whirly. I had to avoid any fancy flying for a turn, in order to unjam my guns. That made it harder to get away from pursuit.

The Pups were certainly getting the better of us in terms of positioning, and they started to inflict damage on us. 

We simply couldn't buy a hit anywhere. 

Then, just as I lined up a Brit in my sights (missed again, thanks for asking, but at least I didn't jam), someone got on my tail (Patrick, I think), scored a hit, rolled a double six for effect (really? These dice have sixes on them?), and my plane went into a tail spin. Patrick decided to pursue.

It didn't end well. Before I could recover my tail had been shot off and I was decorating the landscape.

In the end all three Germans were shot down for minimal damage the other way. I came back on (as did Jon), against the same planes. This time I changed tactics, and spent four turns climbing to a higher level. With a poorer performing plane this meant I could dive, gaining speed and manoeuvrability, and get on one of the Pups.

I did that, and still missed him. 

Richard then thought it was time to end it all, as did my internet supplier, as my connection then went down. Thanks Gigaclear.

It's quick, easy to play (once you've got your head round the order codes) and looks good. The planes have washers on the bottom of them, and these go on the top of one of these:

It's a precision magnetic retrieval tool. That's a strong magnet on the end of it. The pen clip unscrews, so you can replace it with a normal screw and so attach it to a hex base. Each height level in the game is one of tube lengths. It works really well. They aren't that expensive either, if you buy them in packs of 10. Personally, for what I need I'll be sticking to my wine glasses.

Hopefully we'll be playing that again. And hopefully I'll hit something next time.


Wednesday, 6 January 2021

The game in Spain was mainly amongst the ruins

 Another Tuesday, another game in Spain. With temperatures plunging and me all on my own in Shedquarters, there was need for fan heaters to keep me warm. I was joined for this game by Ian, Jon and Richard.

As I'm still playtesting I set this game up with much closer terrain than usual, but a multi-zone wrecked town in the middle of the table, and cut back on the amount of artillery to force the use of different mechanisms and tactics. The game had a couple of Anarchist units holding the smoking ruins, whilst two brigades of Nationalists with some tanks tried to capture them. The Republicans had some off table reserves, but these needed a joker to activate them.

This is a pregame picture, which shows the board, but has too many toys on the table. Most troops arrived on the roads.

Here are the defending Anarchists. You can see I have made markers to show when units have occupied buildings. I've redone all my status markers with a brown background so they blend in better. They'll be available as an appendix in the rules, "Send Not To Know" when published, and probably also as a download.

First turn of the game, and the Nationalists get an airstrike. Perhaps that's the tail end of what flattened the houses. Note to self. Need more aircraft.

New blast makers too, with a brown background. Less intrusive than the white backed ones.

The Nationalists' first move was to drive their armour up the road (in the background) and machine gun the troops who had just been bombed. They followed this up (because of the card mix they had drawn) by bringing on a battalion of Carlists.

These, inspired by righteous fervour, stormed across the field and assaulted the town, only pausing to deploy their machine guns to provide cover. 

Partly because I forgot the rule about firing when close assaulted (sorry Jon), the Carlists managed to get a foothold on the edge of the town, driving back the defenders.

The Carlists were followed by a battalion of Regular Army, who advanced cautiously in skirmish order.

Another battalion finally caught up with the armour on the other road.

The previously mentioned Regulars now leap frogged into the unoccupied building to the rear of the Anarchists' position.

At the end of the turn, the Panzers had done a good job of shooting up the militia in front of them. They had recently gone through a checkered experience, having been forced to retire by a failed Terror Test, after the bombing. The absence of any Nationalists to exploit this slight failing, they recovered themselves, and re-occupied the ruins. Ian was trying to line up an armour supported close assault.

Ian got most of his ducks in a row, and stormed the town, supported by his machine guns. Alas the only way he could do it from the position he was in was to attack in skirmish order. This mitigated some of incoming fire (as did the armour support), but a poor dice roll and the less than optimal formation saw him thrown back with heavy casualties.

The unit then failed his "It Tolls For Thee" test, and decided to retire from the board completely.

As his militia held on grimly Jon was able to bring on a couple of battalions of Popular Army infantry to bolster the position.

The second attempt on the village didn't gain entrance, either, but inflicted enough damage for the militia to remember an urgent appointment elsewhere, abandoning their anti-tank crew to their fate.

Jon's plan at the other end of the board started to take shape, as he spread out his battalions, taking his time to get into position. 

Ian took another bold action, and stormed down the road with his armour, by-passing the anti-tank gun as it had performed all its actions for the turn.

Methodically Jon starting to form his troops into firing lines.

Richard pushed his Carlists through the position they had taken, and over ran the anti-tank gun.

The tanks moved out into an attack line, and machine gunned the far olive grove. Jon, however, held his nerve and concentrated his fire on the buildings in the centre of the table. Because he'd taken his time to get in place he was able to unleash bouts of heavy fire. They started to inflict hits, but because the Nationalists had chosen to bring up their armour instead of reorganising to re-allocate their hits (effectively you can halve the number of hits on a unit by turning temporary damage into permanent hits), Jon was able to put in three rounds of firing from each of his three battalions from fairly close range. This caused every base in the unit to become overloaded, and the unit was destroyed.

Still, the Nationalists were able to bring up a unit and occupy the first buildings captured by the Carlists.

And, finally, the Falange turned up to claim victory.

A hard fought game that didn't quite get to a conclusion, alas. Perhaps I need to start earlier in the evening, or resolve to run games over two evenings. The whole process takes a bit longer on-line as players can't see exactly what they've got and you get a lot of questions about what is where. The SCW is also a bit misleading. I mean, it looks like WW2 but it isn't really even late war WW1 in terms of military co-ordination  and competence. Players sometimes expect Blitzkrieg and they're getting bite and hold. I think in this case, despite holding most of the objectives that the Nationalist bolt is well and truly shot. Jon had another reserve column that didn't even make it on to the table, so I think in another turn of the cards he might be able to claim a win.