Saturday, July 29, 2017

Brief Reflections on Historicon 2017 and game mastering

It has been two weeks since Historicon, and it seems long enough to have digested a few thoughts.  Just for the record, I am not involved in HMGS in any meaningful capacity besides attending Historicon every few years, nor do I have strong opinions about the Fredericksburg versus Lancaster debate.

What I do have are a few observations aimed at game hosts.

My trip was a surprise from my wife and we only had time to spend Saturday at the convention.  I saw some amazing games with beautiful terrain and wonderful figures that were inspiring.  But I did run into one issue that I have run into over the years at many conventions, the execution of the games.

Let me explain.  I played in one game on Saturday during a 4 hour block of time.  I will not say which one, as I am trying to give constructive feedback to game masters in general.  The guy running the game was very friendly and had a beautiful setup.  He hit most of the marks for a good convention game:

  • He was friendly and inviting and engaged all of the players in conversation before the game
  • His terrain was great and had all those little details that make you oooh and ahhh. 
  • His figures were very nicely painted to a higher standard than I can.  
  • He was well organized, with troops for each faction pre-sorted into boxes with a QRS and well written faction briefing for each player.
So far so good, I have seen those item missing in many convention games I have played in.

The fly in the ointment came when we started playing.  The rules were homegrown and not overly complicated, but with 8 players on a large board, play ground to a halt.  The bottom line was, over the four hour period, I got to move my troops 4 times, averaging once an hour.  And, we really did not reach a conclusion.  All in all, pretty to look like, nice group of chaps to talk gaming with, but unsatisfying as a gaming experience.

Here are my recommendations for game masters to avoid this problem:
  • Don't have too many "things" for the player to move and fight with.  
    • In this case, each player had about 2 dozen figures.  Not bad, except in the rules every figure could activate and do something different, unlike in rules like Saga or Lion Rampant where you activate groups of units and they do the same thing.
    • Similar observation with Combat.  It was man to man, not unit to unit, so a LOT of die rolls and modifiers were needed.
    • The rules themselves were pretty straightforward, but I think would have played better if each player had had half the number of figures they did.
  • Keep everyone doing something most of the time
    • As game master, you are the ringmaster, it is critical to keep the tempo going
    • In this game, every turn, players activated one at a time in random order.  Things were dragging terribly until a couple of us at the table took the initiative to activate our troops while action was going on on the other end of the table where there would be no interference, but in order as specified by the rules. 
    • It is critical to either keep the tempo of a game going by having as many players doing stuff at once as practical OR have each player make VERY quick moves in turn.
  • Playtest your scenario at least once!
    • This will help you determine of the subtle interplay of table size, complexity of rules, number of troops, and distances involved will work and give an enjoyable game in the time window you have.

I have run many convention games over the years, some fun and some duds.I understand the amount of time and effort it takes to host a game, the figures, terrain, and planning, with your only reward being the appreciation of your peers.

I hope people read this for what it is intended, as advice on how to make your convention games better by stressing speed of play and keeping your players engaged.

An excellent example I have seen of this being done, in my opinion, really well was at Historicon 2015 where I played in a game run by All the King's Men.  It was the Battle of Camden, and on top of being friendly, well organized, and having great terrain and figures, they kept the game MOVING.  They did this by having multiple game masters, streamlined rules, and constant focus on the tempo of the game.  It was an very enjoyable experience and the game reached a conclusion in about 2 1/2 hours of actual play time.  

Now, I have decided going forward to put my money where my mouth is, every convention I attend from here on out, be it Historicon or a local like Souther Front, I will put on at least one game.  I have the experience and material and it will give my thinking a little more weight than if throw from the peanut gallery.

That is it for my Historicon thoughts and a huge thank you to all who organized, volunteered at, and ran games at the convention, especially my gracious host.  It was fun, even though I did not get to do much and I appreciate the time and effort.  It was fun just communing with you and a great group of fellow gamers shooting the breeze about our wonderful hobby.

What do you think? 

Friday, July 7, 2017

OHW: Celebrating Independence in 6mm

Been offline for a few weeks, which included a great cruise with my lovely wife and daughter.  We had a spectacular time and I would not trade it for anything in the world.  Only item of wargaming significance was a trip to the WW2 Museum in New Orleans.  It is well worth a visit, we only had a few hours, but I suggest planning a day.

I also finished reading A Rifleman Went to War, highly suggested for anyone interested in WW1 or marksmanship in general.

Best news is I HAVE THE BEST WIFE EVER!!!  She has arranged a weekend trip to Historicon.  I won't be able to take off any days from work, but will be able to game my little heart out on Saturday.

I have continued to fiddle with One Hour Wargames for the AWI, even while I was on vacation.  I have made a few amendments to my house rules, see v6 of the QRS at the OHW link on the right.  I significantly modified the firing rules so that each unit only has 3 hits and does not clutter the table with casualty dice.  I shamelessly pulled all of the ideas from this excellent blog, thanks, John!  As you can see, I chose the "More Chaos" option.

Please give me any feedback you have on the rules.  The last set of tweaks I am thinking of to give more of an AWI flavor are somewhat inspired by Ruse De Guerre and include:

  • Allowing non-skirmishers to pass through each other, but the stationary unit may not move and takes 1 hit (or rolls to take a hit) to represent disorder, but the looser formations.
  • Also to represent the looser infantry formations and frequent rough terrain, allow non-skirmish infantry to move through woods, but only fire with 1d6 and melee with 1d6.  Or maybe take a hit if they move into the woods?

Meanwhile, here are a couple of quick games I played.  The first was on the third of July, solo just to try out the new firing rules.  I am rather pleased with how it worked and the table looked MUCH less cluttered without the casualty dice.

Click on photos to enlarge

 British approach the Patriot line
Closeup of the Volunteers of Ireland and the British Legion coming under fire 

 And the battle lines meet!
 The British Legion Infantry collapses
And here is my Impudent Mortal plastic dice tower in a felt lined tray.  Makes dice management less messy.

And here is a nice game I played this week with my lovely wife.  It is her first outing with the rules, she ran the British and I had the Patriots, who were trying to defend a ford.

Our dog, General Sherman, supervised operations:

The British General arrays her troops for battle
Here are a few shots of the game in progress.  I placed my militia up front, and the British eventually rolled me up and took the ford.

The victorious general basks in the glory of her victory!

The rules were a hit and she is onboard to play more games.  Sometime this weekend, I will probably post another updated QRS, and maybe get the SBCT back on the table.  Until then, good gaming!

Friday, May 19, 2017

SBCT Rifle Company Battle Position Defense

Switching back from the American War of Independence this week, I am returning to my Stryker Rifle Infantry Company project, today with a Company Battle Position Defense played with 5Core Company Commander.  You can see all posts and the evolution of this project here.

I am going to try to use some of the Tactical Vignettes from Armor Magazine as the basis for some scenarios.  For some reason, they do not print them anymore, but you can find a few from the 90’s here:

Today’s fight will be based loosely on this specific Vignette:

It will take some modification, but the main features of the scenario are:
  •     The Company will perform a battle position defense and prevent the OPFOR from crossing Phase Line APACHE
  •     There are two potential avenues of approach (AA1 and AA2) that the OPFOR might use, each covered by engagement area (EA) SEATTLE and HOUSTON.
  •     The company occupies 3 platoon BP’s (Battle positions) with an alternate to allow fires to be concentrated in EA SEATTLE.

As I am exercising the rules, I will deploy the company with only organic assets and no attachments:
  •        HQ
  •        1st Platoon
  •        2nd Platoon
  •        3rd Platoon
  •        120mm Mortar Section

The company has time for dismounted elements to construct hasty fighting positions and vehicles to assume a hull down position. For this engagement, no other support from Battalion or Brigade is available, nor any aviation assets.
The company will deploy dismounted elements with the intention of engaging the enemy with Javalin’s, ICV’s will deploy on the reverse slope, ready to either move forward to a hull down position is conditions are favorable to engage with the RWS or retrieve the dismounted squads.  3rd platoon in BP 1A ICV’s will standby to redeploy the platoon to BP 1D on order.
The OPFOR will consist of elements of a Krasnovian Battalion Tactical Group:
·        Forward Security Element (FSE)
o   1 x T-80U Platoon
·        Motor Rifle Company (+) (BMP-3)
o   3 x Motor Rifle Platoons
o   1 x T-80U Platoon
o   2 x 122mm SP Guns

As for tactical plan, I will have the sneaky OPFOR send their FSE over AA2 and demonstrate to keep the defender oriented that direction and then strike with the main body via AA1, with the intention of bypassing and penetrating into the task force rear area beyond phase line APACHE.

Here is the table setup, with the company deployed into battle positions and the OPFOR ready to roll forward. 

I ran through the scenario fairly quickly, here are the highlights.
 The OPFOR moves forward using bounding overwatch by platoons, with the FSE in the lower part of this picture demonstrating in AA2. They plan to bypass as much resistance as possible, so will stay mounted and mobile as much as possible.  Heavy fire from the T-80's and BMP's force the platoon on BP 1B to suffer casualties and partially withdraw.  1st platoon pulls back from BP 1A to redeploy to BP 1D.

 Javelins destroy a BMP-3 platoon, but concentrated fire form overwatch elements continues to take it's toll.

The rifle company commander throws in the towel and withdraws.  The final casualty list is:

SBCT Rifle Company: 4 Rifle Squads and 1 weapons squad combat ineffective along with Company sniper team.  I assume a "killed" squad is mostly disorganized enough to need reorganization and not actually wiped out, but still that is 50% of the company's leg strength and a significant number of it's anti-armor systems (4 out of 9 Javelins)

OPFOR: 2 x T-80U, 3 x BMP-3, 1 x 2S1 12mm gun

The company is pretty banged up and I feel failed in it's mission to prevent OPFOR from penetrating PL APACHE in force into the task force rear area.

Here are some observations and feedback I would love from the community:
  • I have posted the QRS and weapon ratings I used to the right.  Take a look at the stats and tell me what you think.
  • Javelins seemed deadly enough.  I did not allow them to reaction fire as they are missiles.
  • Reactive armor save was good, a couple of T-80's avoided blowing up due to reactive armor.
  • I treated the ICV's like trucks, as suggested on one of the forums.
  • I assumed the Infantry squads were in cover (hasty fighting positions) but even s, they seemed to wither under the direct fire of the BMP's and T-80's.
    • Are the fire ratings to high?
    • Is there something in the rules I am missing that is making this fire too lethal?
  • I forgot the mortars, it might have helped.  I need to look through those rules more closely and research what sore of ammo is carried that might be useful against vehicles or use smoke. 
  • First turn a force entered the board I allowed a free scurry and I gave the Americans a free firefight their first turn.  Otherwise, each platoon rolled an activation dies with the company commanders getting one that they could swap with one platoon.  Seemed to work well and injected just the right amount of chaos so far.  Anyone have other thoughts on running Company Command with mechanized forces?
I am fairly happy with the speed of play, just not sure about the lethality of direct fire versus dismounted infantry.  Thoughts? Or maybe it is about right.

Thanks for reading and good gaming!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

PRICE REDUCED AGAIN!!! Buy my stuff! 1:72 / 20mm WW1 project, table ready with figures and terrain.


Buy my 20mm WW1 project!  I am not getting this on the table and my interests have wandered elsewhere.  This is perfect for playing Through the Mud and the Blood, WW1 Chain of Command, or WW1 Bolt Action.  You get enough terrain and troops to play as soon as you open the box.

A platoon's worth of troops with all of the specialists and attachments that make it interesting for the British and Germans.  You can easily play out trench raids or battles from 1917 or 1918.  You also get trenches, barbed wire, fighting positions, bunkers, shell holes, and destroyed buildings to create challenging scenarios,

Figures are a Mix of HaT, Strelets, and Emhar plastics and Early War Miniatures metal figures.  Individual infantry are mounted on pennies.

Here is the box, ready to ship (16x16x16, 8 lbs.)

What do you get?
  • British Infantry platoon suitable for 1917 or 1918 with 54 Painted Infantry Figures including:
    • Lewis Guns
    • Stokes Mortar
    • Rifle Bombers
    • Bombers
    • Vickers gun
    • Sniper
  • 1 x Mark IV Male and 1 x Mark IV female tanks (plastic Emhar kits)
  • German infantry platoon 89  painted figures including:
    • Flamethrower teams
    • Storm troopers with SMG's and grenade sacks
    • Snipers
    • Minenwerfers
    • Granetwerfers
    • Short barreled 77mm guns for Storm Troopers
    • HM's
    • MG 08/15's and captured Lewis Guns
    • Sappers with wire cutters and Bangalore Torpedoes
    • Anti-Tank Rifle teams
  • Over 4 feet of Early War Miniatures Trenches, painted and ready for the table. You can see them new at Early War Miniatures here.  Includes 4 trench sections, a communications trench, and a forward sap as well as 1 inner curve and one outer curve section.
  • 3 x sections of shelled woods with removable trees for easy storage
  • Shell Holes, shell hoes, shell holes! including 5 reinforced with sandbags ad 2 x gun emplacements
  • 2 x short entrenchments and 7 feet of barbed wire.  Entrenchments perfect for late war German defense in depth position from 1917 - 1918.
  • Bunkers and buildings: one fighting bunker, two small observation bunkers, 2 ruined buildings reinforced with sandbags, and stone walls.
All of this for....

  • $250 $200 $150 plus $25 shipping to CONUS via USPS.  
  • Any other destinations, I will charge the actual shipping based on the 16x16x16, 8lb box.  
  • PayPal only please.

Click Photos to Enlarge

British Infantry Platoon

British Tanks (Early War Miniatures 20mm figure for scale)

German Infantry Platoon:


Shelled woods

Shell holes!

Entrenchments and barbed wire

Bunkers and buildings!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

One Hour Wargames: Updated House Rules and Wietzel's Mill

This weekend, I played a nice AWI One Hour Wargames scenario using the latest incarnation of my AWI house rules.  I have posted a permanent link to the right to the latest incarnation.

I the spirit of C.S. Grant, I played a battle game based on the Battle of Weitzel's mill, which occurred about a week before Guilford Courthouse.  Think of it as a movie "based on actual events."  I identified what I thought the most important features were and designed a scenario around that, rather than trying to do a strictly accurate recreation of the battle.  the key points are:

  • The Crown forces are pursuing Colonel Otho Williams and the Continental Light Corps with the intention of catching up to Greene's main force and bringing it to battle.
  • The Continental forces consists of light troops and militia
  • The Crown forces are the cream of the crop available to Cornwallis.
  • There is a contested river crossing, with the Patriots fighting a delaying action.
  • The British objective is to exit the road on the NE by turn 15.
Crown Forces:

  • 3 x Leaders (Cornwallis, Tarleton, Webster)
  • 2 x British Legion Dragoons 
  • 1 x Light Infantry (Elite, Aggressive)
  • 23rd Foot (Elite, Aggressive)
  • 71st Highlanders (Elite, Aggressive)
  • Von Bose Regiment (Elite, Aggressive)
  • Jaeger Detachment (Rifles)
Patriot Forces:
  • 3 x Leaders (Williams and 2 others)
  • 1 x Skirmishing Riflemen
  • Lee's Legion Dragoons
  • Lee's Legion Light Infantry
  • Continental Light Infantry
  • 2 x Militia (Poor troops)

Click on photos to enlarge, here is how it played out.

This is the initial setup.  The key terrain feature is the river, which can only be crossed at the bridge and the mill itself, which is made of stone and provides hard cover.  The Patriot plan (as historically) was to delay with the riflemen and Dragoons and then contest the crossing.

 The British commander created a traffic jam by a poorly chosen march order for his troops, leading with the dragoons. They tried charging the riflemen on the hill and were repulsed a couple of times.  The main effect was Tarleton was rendered hors de combat while trying to rally his horsemen for another charge.

 By turn 4 (as can be seen on my home made turn counter), Cornwallis had sent the Lights around the left flank and Jaegers around the right of the Rebels... 
 ... and the Light Bobs delivered a devastating charge the swept the riflemen from the field, unfortunately most fled to fight another day.

This reverse must have been visible to the Militia covering the bridge because the next patriot turn this Fog of War card came up.

Lee's Legion dragoons charged the Jaegers but failed to do much damage, and the net turn, the British Legion, probably enraged that their commander was unhorsed, savagely charged into the flank of Lee's Legion and drove them from the field. 
Some desultory fire was exchanged across the river, but Lieutenant Colonel Webster saw his chance and with his usual daring and pluck led the 71st Highlanders across the bridge before the Militia can block it. 
 The 71st Highlanders crash into the hapless militia.

 The militia rout from the field.  Meanwhile the Hessians wheel left and the 23rd foot wheel right to clear the rebels from the vicinity of the bridge.
By the end of turn 11, the Hessians have scattered the Continental lights and the British Legion have ridden down the last militia unit.  The remaining men of Lee's Legion occupying the mill decide enough is enough and withdraw to fight another day.

The Crown forces had won, but taken more irreplaceable casualties, while the scattered Patriot formations would reform,  All of the participants would meet again in a week's time at a place called Guilford Courthouse.

An excellent little solo game, I really enjoyed the drama added by the Fog of War cards.  I hope you enjoy it and the latest incarnation of my house rules.