Sunday, October 23, 2011

How to Create a believable RPG

How to create an RPG.  Something I've always wanted to do.  I've always wanted to create (or play) an RPG that took place in one of the following environments:

-Participants in the battle of Philadelphia during a Chinese Invasion of the US Mainland ca 2020
-Post apocalyptic America
-A war torn African Region
-A British Man of War from the SYW through the Napoleonic Wars
-A military expedition to Antarctica
-A British mapping expedition to the himalaya in the mid 19th century

I understand that there are already Commercial Off The Shelf answers to some of these but I found this little gem on the internet recently:

Friday, October 21, 2011

6mm Wargaming Site

Added a link in the Useful Gaming & Hobby Links Section

Very impressive array of 6mm collections and tools for wargamers.  

Monday, October 17, 2011

The American History Project

I am completely overwhelmed with the sheer amount of STUFF on my workbench!

At one point, there were 15mm Seven Years War, 6mm Napoleonics, 15mm Napoleonics, 20mm Vietnam etc.  I have lost count of how many project management blogs I've posted with varying goals so here is a unique concept:  I am unveiling "The American History Project" (AHP) in order to cut through all of the "stuff" that has piled up.

The AHP is an attempt to kill 2 birds with 1 stone.  Some of my most enduring (and endearing) projects are forces and conflicts within the realm of American History (for obvious reasons).  The ACW, the AWI, and our modern 20th and 21st Century conflicts are near and dear to my heart, especially considering I fought in one of them! 

Additionally, I was talking with Dave F and our conversation reminded me of a salient point; namely that the ACW and AWI have been my passion for years and years.  With the exception of microarmour, the ACW has been my most wargamed period ever.  It is with that in mind that I launched the AHP.  Here are some simple goals:

  • Complete the Union I Corps from Day 1 at Gettysburg at Regimental Level, 6mm.

  • Complete the Battle of Hubbardton Roster (OOB) at Regimental Level, 6mm (this will be the third time I am starting this project)

  • Complete the Korean War Troops I've started (NK and US)

  • Complete the Vietnam Forces I've started (ARVN, US SF, Armour, VC, and NVA Troops)

  • Pick up [from my Grandfather's house] the US Operation Iraqi Freedom 20mm Troops I've completed, finish off the M113A3 and Stryker IFV for my FORCE ON FORCE / MODERN CROSSFIRE games I've got planned.

  • Game all of these engagements (Day 1 at Gettysburg, Battle of Hubbardton, Battle for Hill 421 [Korean War 1950 pick up game], Operation Attleboro and Cedar Falls, ARVN Operations in the "Parrot's Beak," and US Operation IVY TYPHOON in Baghdad, and points North (Al Taji) AKA places I've been before.)

Amateur Hour: A Lesson in Task Organization

Played an game with Frank Chadwick's excellent Volley & Bayonet rules once again pitting my hardened British 6mm Peninsular troops against Napoleon's finest troops in Spain.

Once again I have to commend Mr Chadwich and Mr Novak on their work.  Volley and Bayonet is a Solid rules set and great for novices up through hardended, seasoned veterans.  While I "tweaked" one or two aspects of the rules, this is in no way because of a shortfall with the rules, but rather because of shortcomings in my play area, terrain, and forces.  (I used Regimental stands and values instead of Brigade stands/values and measured in centimeters instead of inches due to my small tabletop).

I diced for startup and for the scenario.  both sides attempted to control a road junction, dominated by a small hill in the center of the board.  This hill affected line of sight on both sides as you will see.

While I dont have time to give a play by play, I will give an executive summary of what happened along with a review of the lessons I learned this time.

This week's lesson centers around your Task Organization.  Task Organization is the assignment of units to specific objectives and what resources those units have at their disposal.  In modern armies, Task Orgs are very dynamic and change with the temporary addition or subtraction of resources.

When  you assign an objective to a force, ask yourself, "does the unit [company, regiment, brigade, division, etc] have what it needs to accomplish the task I have given them?"  In a historical miniatures tabletop wargame, you dont have the benefit of a staff coming back to you and telling you their unit isn't up to the task without resources.  I learned that lesson the hard way today.

This game pitted roughly 2 French Divisions against 2 British Divisions of very  equal size.  Both sides had a Cavalry Division, 3 Batteries of Field guns, and about 8 Infantry "Brigades" grouped into 2 units of 4.  (remember on the table they were Regimental stands).

Both sides had an offensive mission; to seize the hill and control the road in 10 turns.  It turned into a British Rout, and with that route, a few lessons I picked up myself.  I will let the pictures tell some of the story:
British on the Right, French on the Left, all are in March Columns.  The British Heavy Cavalry Brigades are both seen with their small yellow "disorganized" dots for moving through rough terrain.  The olive grove and grapevines are visible in the center.

British Heavy Cavalry Division

French Brigades move out

British Cavalry charge the French in an attempted spoiling attack

And are beaten!

British plan morphs into a defensive scheme and the left units take up positions behind the Olive Grove

French gunners supporting the advance on  the Right.
From the pictures you can see how the battle immediately progressed.  The British launched their Cavalry Division out to spoil the French advance, and give the British time to take the hill, and transition to the defense.  That didn't happen.

The British Cavalry Division advanced into a kill-sack and were assailed on all sides by French guns, and murderous volleys of musketry.  Not an auspicious beginning...

By not checking the French advance, the British were forced to modify their plan.  Instead of racing to take the hill, they would now have to defend on mediocre ground, completely split up and not properly task organized to accomplish their mission.  In a 1:1 ratio, the defender "should" have a complete advantage but in this game, tactical errors are not looked kindly upon...
British force suddenly realized it wasn't properly organized to attack - and so they adopt a defensive posture

Then a French Cavalry Division strikes their flank!

View from the line - FORM SQUARE!

In the midst of the French Cavalry Attack, the troops can see French Infantry start to crest the hill.

on the British Right, the French get serious about taking the hill and begin a coordinated, combined arms attack along the entire line.
The pictures don't do the situation justice either.  Aside from some small acts of heroism by a highland unit, the   British force was beaten and routed.  I'm not sure the French were in good shape to exploit but they certainly carried the field.  The British Cavalry brigade that was still standing was used to protect the British right from further attacks and pushed the French Cavalry back at high cost.

The French brought in their guns at close range and made short work of the defenders, constantly pushing them back until they broke as well.

Lessons Learned:
Use of Cavalry: In Volley and Bayonet, Cavalry receive 4 attack dice in melee and if their prey is disorganized, they hit on a 5 or better.  deadly!  They are a juggernaut but have their vulnerabilities as well and need to be used properly.
Cavalry are best suited to rolling up an enemy's flanks.  Even just the threat of a large Cavalry attack are enough to slow down an opponent's foot advance.  He will have to use his vital artillery to protect his flanks while the assault grinds forward.  In the case of the British, the assaulting force was so small that the entire assault up the hill slowed and eventually stopped to redeploy to meet the French Cavalry attack.  Meanwhile the French were able to straighten out their own lines and make better use of space to accommodate more infantry regiments.  Not good for the British.  Instead of facing a Division attack on 2 fronts, they faced a Corps-wide assault on 1 front.  Bad news in Melee (supported flanks and all the firepower that their field batteries could bring to bear)
At the very least, your Cavalry pins down his Cavalry, freeing the flanks up.
"If there isn't enough artillery, quit!"  Can't remember which US General said that and when, but sure knew his stuff and gamers are forced to relearn these vital principles again and again.  Take the case of the British in this Napoleonic's game.  All of the British batteries were wiped out whether by counterbattery, or direct assault.  The French grouped their batteries together and managed the lanes of fire by which they could contend.
The British assigned a Battery per brigade and used their artillery more as infantry support than as a decisive arm.  The game turned into a contest between ideologies.  I have to say, if the year is 1809, you should be massing your artillery for best effect at the decisive spot, unless you are absolutely positive you will be on the defensive.
My French "grand battery" was able to hunker down in Stationary, protect anything the British threw their way, and provide wonderful fire support for a grand assault.  Napoleon would have been proud.
Task Organization:  Your Task Org should reflect the mission at hand.  Scenario-dependent, for pick up games, Mr Chief of Staff, it is YOUR job to organize your forces with what you will think you'll need for the task.

 As the Commander, you would, at the very least, approve your Chief's recommendations.  IN this case, both sides were wholly unequipped to handle either task they were given and halfway through the game, morphed into a Corps Frontage for the assault.  Should have been done that way from the start.  Napoleon said it best about attacking swiftly with everything you have instead of shoveling men and material into the fire.  In this case, the British were not tied-in flankwise and not suited for a defensive operation.  There was 1 crucial Artillery Battery and Infantry Regiment attached to the Army HQs in a reserve role (why?  I just thought it would have been a good idea!)
The British could have used more infantry units at the Olive Grove and occupied it from the start.  Artillery Batteries should have been allocated to the advancing unit up the hill early on and in a massed fashion.  Additionally, the Cavalry division should never have had infantry and artillery units under it.  They should have focused on reconnoitering the hilltop, French positions, and harrassing attacks, not charging wastefully without infantry support onto the battlefield.  Troops would have been better served as being organized into "wings" or a very large infantry division with the artillery, and an independent Cavalry Division.

Planning: There should be a solid plan, not just an advance and an "audible"!  How seemingly obvious but rarely put into practice!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Christmas Came Early

So not only did I receive my new running shoes in the mail, but received my South Vietnamese M113 and my Revell M48 Kit!  Picked up a sweet deal off for 11.99 and the APC for 11.00!  That's the SINGLE PRICE of the M48 that my "local" hobby store was selling it for.  Hmph!

Also the M48 kit contained decals and modifications to make it American, German, Greek, or Israeli which is pretty cool.  I will make my either US Army or South Vietnamese considering my APC is ARVN.  We'll see.

Also gave the North Korean troops and US Korean War troops a bath yesterday in anticipation of painting them.  They will double as NVA and ARVN respectively, even if the weaponry isn't exactly correct.

Plan on playing a Korean War, 1951 Cold War Commander game (2000 points) in the near future.  I'm going to start fabricating medium bunkers soon.  Can't wait!

And as if anyone cares, I finished 3 more 6mm Regiments of ACW Union Troops of Stones' Brigade.  Starting Stannard's Brigade next.

Huzzah!  Pictures to come.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The 'Nam Battle Report: Hill 124

Vietnam 1968, Somewhere North of Cu Chi:

It was a relatively quiet morning in the Division TOC (tactical operations center) when suddenly the radio on the Operations Net burst to life:

The Specialist sitting at the table looked over at the Division G-3 Battle Major with a ghost-white face.  "Sir?  I think we should wake the G3....Dealer Two Zero sounds like they're in trouble."  Indeed they were.  

I was finally able to take my newly painted US Vietnam, VietCong, and North Vietnamese Troops out for a "spin."  The scenario was a "downed pilot" scenario however instead of an aircrew, I used troops from the Division LRRP Company and put them in some trouble.  Terrain is unsuitable for a Helo pickup so Dealer 20 must be walked out of the combat zone.  Enter a platoon or two from the US Army's "Wolfhounds"

Between the Wolfhound elements and the pinned LRRPs are a large cadre of heavily armed VC with NVA Troops who were conducting training missions with the VC Cadres.

"Dealer Two-Zero" SITREP Follows: Ammo is Amber, Four Whiskey India Alpha, holding right now  

Dealer Two Zero's Patrol - stands are roughly fireteams.

The plan was to advance into the bush with elements of first platoon on the left and second platoon, led by the Company Commander on the right.  Unbeknownst to the Americans, they would have to advance through the VC security element and cut through them to get to Hill 124.  Meanwhile, the NVA Cadre were at the base of Hill 124, pouring automatic weapons fire from the RPD, RPG-2, and numerous AK's and SKS into Dealer's position.  Dealer took heavy casualties immediately on turn 1 and lost 1 fireteam.

Rules used were Pete Jones' excellent Cold War Commander rules although I think they were unsuitable for the scale I was playing and next time I will try the same rules with "CrossFire" before playing the Dealer Two Zero Mission in Force on Force.

Infantry don't get save throws but since Dealer are elite, I gave them a save of 6 to make the game last longer LOL.  The NVA RPD and RPGs really were cutting them  to pieces, and the US Company Commander on the right rolled a command blunder (on his first move!) and couldn't get himself unstuck at the Landing Zone to get moving.  Meanwhile, the US Platoon on the left advanced almost haphazardly into a linear danger area (large clearing) and were chopped up brutally by a well-coordinated VC Ambush from hidden units.
Base of Hill 124. NVA preparing to assault the LRRPs at the top.  Note the VC RPD gunner to your left.  He was responsible for many US casualties in the first platoon at the clearing.
Finally, after the almost annihilation of the first platoon the US Second platoon with the CO got its rear in gear and rolled a Command bonus and moved up to the other side of the clearing.  Finally the M60s from the weapons squad got to do its work and the Second Platoon almost single-handedly opened the way for their movement.

Meanwhile, the LRRP team mowed down 3 NVA fireteams in the open as they attempted to close-assault their position.  It was getting down to the wire at this point as the US forces closed in on their breakpoint, however the VC/NVA reached their breakpoint first and bugged out.  The US forces reached the time limit and were still attempting to reach the LRRP team.  The battle was a draw.  I would imagine the Company Commander would have pressed on and reached the LRRP team within another few turns.
The NVA units start their assault up Hill 124
Second Platoon moves out!

Second Platoon engages the enemy.

Gratuitous Hollywood Violence!  Rules of Engagement

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

ARVN M48 Tanks???

I labored all evening at the lingering question of the South Vietnamese having M48 tanks during the Vietnam war.  This will be very important as I build my 20mm South Vietnamese Forces following the completion of my MACV Forces and my 25th Infantry Division "Tropic Lightning" team.

When I got to work I started an extensive Google search to come up with this gem (I read enough Armor articles when I was a kid and have actually read stories by the general officer who wrote this article).

The answer is YES the ARVNs did make use of the venerable M48 MBT.  In some cases, quite well.

I am going to start work on my ARVN and their advisors as soon as my US Platoon is finished.  I am using IMEX ROK Troops as the ARVN and will use IMEX North Koreans as some of my NVA Troops, ready to fight it out in the "Iron Triangle."  Enjoy and HUZZAH!

From Brigadier General Tran Quang Khoi, ARVN:
From 1972 to 1973, I went to the U.S. to complete my advanced military education. Shortly after my departure, General Minh dispersed the resources of the III Armor Brigade and completely disbanded the III Corps ATF. When the battle of An Loc-Binh Long broke out violently during the summer of 1972, the Armor units of III Corps were completely paralyzed (Map 2 on the right shows Major III Corps/ATF Areas of Operations).

When I returned to Vietnam in 1973, LTG Pham Quoc Thuan had replaced General Minh. He insisted that I rejoin III Armor Brigade. I resumed command of the brigade on 7 November 1973 and suggested to the new corps commander that III Corps ATF be reestablished according to General Tri's model. He gave me complete authority for this task. I reassembled dispersed armor units and, with the new M48 medium tanks of 22d Armor and M548 tracked cargo carriers to transport fuel and ammunition, I changed the composition of Armor units and improved the mobility of 105mm towed artillery units.

The 15th and 18th Armored Cavalry Squadrons had had their M41A3 light tank troops reassigned during my absence. They had five M113-equipped Armored Cavalry Assault Troops (ACATs) when I returned. I shifted men and equipment to squeeze a sixth ACAT out of available resources. The recently fielded M48 tank battalion (22d Armor) was identical to the U.S. tank battalion of that time: three 17-tank companies plus three command tanks for a total of 54. I reduced their platoons from five tanks to three (easier for a platoon leader to control) which, with two command tanks, made eleven per company. I was then able to activate a fourth tank company which, with three battalion-level command tanks, gave a total of 47, with seven of the original tanks left over as a supply reserve.


SHAKO AAR - La Bataille de la Table de Salle à Manger.

I am probably way behind the times on writing this as there is already a second (and much more popular) version of Arty Conliffe's Napoleonic Rules set out there.  Still though, this is our first venture into all things Napoleonic so with that in mind, I am "having a go" (that's for our British readers) at reviewing the rules.

Refer to my post below on all of the things I am looking for in a Napoleonic Rules set and buckle up!  This could get a little bumpy...

The SHAKO rule book is short on pages and relies very much on pictoral explanations to teach its unique concepts on command/orders as well as unit firing.  The explanations are not comprehensive and are illogically laid out.  In that I mean I had to look in the chapter on Artillery Fire to learn about casualties from firing and the difference between a "stagger" and a "kill."  For my first round, I spent more time looking things up than I did playing. 

The back of the book has a great army composition book that can be used to build Shako Armies and a Seven Years War supplement that you can use for larger battles from the SYW era.  If Arty wanted to impress he could also have provided some OOB's for battles (but then who would purchase a supplement?  :)

The Rules:
Having a little bit of time on my hands, I thought I might play a round of Shako, albeit a small round.  This game pitted one British Battalion against one French Battalion, both had Morale/Troop Quality ratings of "4" for Regulars.  Shako hones an elegant system for morale / troop quality by assiging a number that must be rolled against.  This number goes down as troop's enthusiasm wanes and casualties mount.  All in all, a bloody system and troop ability to wither constant volleys expires quickly as one would expect.  Imagine my surprise when my single Battalion vrs Battalion game ended in just under 20 minutes (with most of my time spent reading the rules)

Infantry Battalions move 9" (6" for 15mm troops).  I played with 6mm troops and thought I would at first use centimeters which was a huge mistake - I should have doubled the 28mm range but that is for another paragraph.

The plan was simple - the French started the game near a small farm with a low stone wall surrounding it, at the base of a small hill.  The British wanted the hill.  The scenario is set!  The French changed their formation to Column and were able to move very quickly.  (caveat - only the French can change formation and move in Shako - all other nationalities must choose - I disagree with this)  the French took up a position within the enclosed farm and the British sped through the small valley taking a circuitous route to the hill top.

Once atop the hill the British wheeled to meet the French who were arrayed against them beyond Line of Sight.  The British moved to the edge of the hill and the two sides exhanged a volley during the Fire phase.  It's important to note that both sides had a completely even chance of hitting each other.  The French had moved slightly last turn and were 60% uncovered by the stone wall at the farmhouse.

Shako used a very interesting methodology for volley fire.  As long as a unit is within the firing unit's flank lines and is somewhat unobscured it can be hit.  The closest unit can receive a "kill" and/or a "stagger."  As long as the die roll is above the unit's Morale Rating, it is staggered.  If the firer rolls a "5" or a "6" and is closest, it receives a "kill."
The British roll a "2" and the French roll a "5." the British receive a stagger and the French sit there and laugh.

The British, since they are staggered, receive a -1 modifier until they rally.  However to rally they must disengage and leave the French flank lines.

I'm thinking "game over" for the British Battalion but not so much.  The French, greedy and eager to cash in on their musketry close in for the kill, and believe it or not are defeated in the melee.  They receive a kill and have to retreat (the methodology for casualties after a melee is also very elegant - the loser receives kills equal to the difference in the die roll and good tactical common sense pays off).

All-in-all, I very much enjoyed playing Shako and will definitley play it again, although with Artillery and then with Cavalry.  There is much to like about Shako (it's ease of play, ability to reach a decision early-on, and its combat mechanics) and there is also some to dislike (the French flexibilities, the disorganization of the rule book, and the lack of scale for 6mm troops).  If you ask me, the things I dislike, are soundly out-gunned by the things I like. 

Warhammer 40K Lore In A Minute

This is great!  It never gets old....