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.



  1. Another very enjoyable game, Graham. Thanks!

    I thought the card activation worked well, too. Hand management of the activation deck offered a number of interesting decision points. If I hold back cards for later, my opponent may get a long run of cards and my reserved cards may never get played. Is it worthwhile leaving a unit with actions remaining in order to counter an opponent's play? These are two of the interesting situations that must be considered with the deck. Allowing a unit to take three actions in succession can be brutal when a player is on the receiving end of three fire phases. Ouch!

    As for my anarchists and their mad dash to destruction, I did not realize I would lose initiative so easily. Knowing the Anarchists faced elite Spanish colonial troops, I figured my best chance was to lay down a heavy fire and then attack while the Moroccans were still debussing and before they formed up. Once formed up, I am afraid I would have likely lost any battle of attrition and certainly lost a hand-to-hand fight. They delayed the Fascist advance upon the town and from the blood-soaked ground, the seeds of victory sprouted.

    1. Thanks for the kind words. I am thinking about only allowing two rounds of firing (although that's something someone else does...) or alternatively allowing for an interrupt but at the cost of using two or three cards for an action. I see your reasoning with the Anarchists. Your fire needed to be more effective than it turned out.

      I have had inspiration and think I have fixed the saving roll/fire problem.

    2. I see what you goal is with having multiple types of dice but one thing that would help me would be to reduce the different types of dice required to only one die type. Moving from handfuls of D6s to D8s to D10s is confusing. I suggest using a D8-based system and simply adding 1 as a DRM for Experienced troops and substracting 1 as a DRM for Untrained troops. You could make these adjustments other than a +1DRM or -1DRM to capture the probability of success your are targeting.

      Having multiple dice types was one more reason I didn't care much for Piquet!

    3. I am aware of this problem, and deal with it on my table by colour coding my dice. I'm inclined to stay with what I've got, but I'll give it some thought. I was trying to make it simple by just having people pull out dice with 6 or more on them.

    4. Perhaps not everyone has trouble distinguishing a D8 from a D10?

    5. Keeping the To Hit number a constant 6+ regardless of die type is a benefit, for sure.

    6. It's the D10s & D12s that cause the problems...

    7. ..and having the hit number a constant was an aim.

  2. Hi Trebian -
    The Spanish Civil War is one of those periods I have strongly to resist the temptation to taking up. You are NOT making that easy!

    Just on the 'saving roll' question, I use a system somewhat similar to that used by Charles Grant in his 18th Century war game. It is to add up all the hits on a particular target, and translate those 'hits' into actual losses using a method of my own invention. Broadly speaking 1 'hit' was always a casualty, but 8 hits, say, might get you 4 or 5 casualties, with occasionally 3 or 6 as 'outlier' chances. Theoretically 8 hits could result in 1 casualty (poor fellow), but the odds of that were less than 4 in a million.

    The reason for my adopting this alternative to 'saving throws' was that, apart from the ST system being soul destroying (watching your guys' excellent shooting going for nothing - or B-all), my system at least guaranteed that if you scored hits, you'd do SOME damage.

    As you see, I'm very much a D6-man...

    1. I resisted the SCW for years (and I know Bob Cordery fairly well) until a works colleague who was also a wargamer suggested when the office have a whip round for a Significant Birthday that they buy me a boxed army instead of the usual bottle or two of champagne...

      I had an epiphany in my sleep after playing the game, and I reckon I have cracked the saving roll/DRM problem, so that needs a playtest. Until a few years a go I was a d6 man, too, but I've found that there are some problems that are easily fixed by shifting the dice type. To simplify it all, I colour code my dice, so d6 are red or black, d8s are yellow, d10s are purple and d12s are blue. Although you only need the first three for Send Not To Know.