Tuesday, November 27, 2012

DAK Specialist Troops...Getting There!

What's with all this productivity lately?  Probably the weather.  Bad weather here usually means a spike in hobby activity.  As well as snacking...

I finally finished my DAK Engineer Platoon for my Infantry Battalion, and the Battalion Mortars.  Their transport arrived in-country with no paint whatsoever, so I'll be slapping on the basecoat tonight.  The AT Company will also be showing off their final paint job / weathering this evening.

Check out the 251/7....this is the Engineers' primary ride.  The assault bridge, while laughably cheap looking, is assembled out of balsa wood strips and while it won't win any awards, there won't be a gamer in the room who won't know what it is and what it's used for.  Especially when I'm crossing small anti tank ditches with it and close assaulting with a +3 column shift (GHQ rules) or a ton of attack dice in close combat (BKC rules).

DAK Infantry Battalion Mortars.  I think an 81mm mortar, but it'll be whatever I want it to be.  

Figures are Command Decision.  I love the poses.

The Feldwebel is saying:  how embarrassing!  You idiots forgot to paint the side of our base!  DAK Sapper Platoon. 

PAK 38s with camo

The lines turned out better than the spots.

PionierPanzerWagon Sdkfz 251/7.  cant wait to get some paint  on it and  get it finished.

The assault bridge made out of balsa wood.  Laughable?  Maybe.  Cheap?  Yes.  Effective?  Works for me!

Who wouldn't love these guys?  The guy on the far left is my fav...

"You ate the last slice of pepperoni did you???"
Up next?  The LAST unit of my German North Afrika Force - the Machine Gun platoon.  Then I'm DONE with a project.  It will be back into Ostfront, NW Europe, and we will start our Market Garden forces next starting with the British Paras.  That is...after I start and finish my Desert Rats.  Huzzah!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Liebster Blog Award!

*Insert acceptance speech here.*  

Ben from Ben's Soldiers has nominated Sound Officers Call for an award!  Ben is a toy soldier enthusiast and gamer who has done some excellent work in the modelling and painting department, as well as kit-bashing figures.  I have always enjoyed reading his after action reviews and also and quite keen on seeing his latest projects.

The rules are that now I have to nominate 5 people for the award also, so here goes:

Dave F, my bester kamarade from http://chargebayonet.blogspot.com.  Unlike me, Dave has a blog for each genre, and is now, as we very speak, working on an exciting Inter War project that he has started a new blog for.  I am looking forward to seeing his interwar German commander with the Dachshund!

JFaria from O Brigadeiro, and not just because he's Portuguese, although that doesn't hurt since my wife is also Portuguese (Fundao, Castelo Branco).  If I can convince her that her fellow countrymen are also gamers, she's much more likely to let me spend money on my many armies, right?

O Brigadeiro is an outstanding blog, and Senhor Faria is extremely skilled.  His work is inspiring!

Nick Grant from 20mm Gamer is next up, without question!  Love his blog, his hobbying skills and after action reports are equally inspiring!

Secundus over at Iron Mitten is one of my favorite blogs on my reader.  His cartoons are literally Second To None.  My last active duty assignment in the Army was as a Recruiting Company Commander.  His "Join the Roman Army" recruiting poster is one of my favorites.

Monty at Monty's War Gaming is another of my favorite blogs.  After I saw what he could do with 1/72 Scale Troops, it was all over.  Also, Monty got me into "Cross of Iron."  I was hooked.

That is all for now.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving - Essential Hobby Thankful List

Hello Blogosphere,
To all of my American gaming and hobby enthusiast friends, I wish all of you a very happy Thanksgiving!  For everyone else, I have included a collection of links to bring you up to speed on what all of the fuss is about.

History of Thanksgiving

Turkey Revenge

An old tradition here in North America is to reflect or discuss what you're most thankful for.  We here at SOUND OFFICERS CALL are most thankful for the following:

But most of all, we are thankful for the 80 great followers of the blog, and over 20,000 hits we've received.  Thank you for stopping by.  I hope everyone has a wonderful day!


Saturday, November 17, 2012

PAK 38

You can't have a "pakfront" without some PAKs.  In this case, how about a pair of German PAK 38s?  The PAK 38 is one of my favorite AT guns of the war.  PAK, by the way, stands for Panzerabwehrkanone.

These babies have been sitting around since before my daughter was born.  I got tired of looking at them so I   slapped on some heavy wash and here they are.  I'm thinking I'll have to add some weathering, detail, and camouflage still, as well as clean up their paint jobs and make them more presentable.  I threw in some of my unfinished DAK Specialist troops for scale.  All figs in the picture are from Battlefront.

Will post pics when they are complete.  These will be the big tank killers for my DAK Infantry Battalion.  Together they represent 1 AT Company and will fall in with the Battalion's Special Troops (weapons, anti tank, engineer, recce, and the battalion transportation company).  There are already plenty of prime movers to move them.  Huzzah!

(warning!  these guns are as of now, unfinished!  so there is still a great deal of work to be done in cleaning them up)
The wash is still wet but I am always amazed at how well it brings out the detail

I love how it goes into the wheel recesses.  

Also the carbon buildup around the muzzle brake is a nice touch, and what I would expect from any well-used cannon.

Bent trails...

PAK 38s taking aim at a huge 1/72 Napoleonic cannon and some Kallistra HYW sword behind it.

my still unfinished DAK specialist troops from the Engineer platoon thrown in for scale.  Note the magnificent detail from the wash into all of the gun's mechanisms. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Are You a Proper Wargamer?

Okay there's been this thing circulating on fellow gamers' blogs the last few days...

* Spent at least £500 (Dollars) on figures / tanks - and you get extra kudos for every £500 (dollars) you've spentYes absolutely.  Even with my "30 Dollar per month allowance" I still think I've spent this much - with incidental and emergency purchases, although I will say - never at the same time!  Before I was married, it was nothing for me to drop 200 dollars on a proper Army.  Now that there is a new regime in charge of the wargaming purse, it's a little tougher to justify budgets.  That doesn't mean I don't try!
* Pricked your finger or thumb on a pike block - several times
The answer is no...and yes.  Maybe not a pike block, but definitely my Xacto knife cutting down, whittling down, and shaping my armies.  I've gotten some nasty cuts on the thumbs, but it's a labor of love - and I've had my tetanus shot.

* Tried at least 10 different rule sets and vowed never to play half of them ever again
YES!  But you forgot to mention - tried those rules sets, vowed never to play, THEN PICKED UP AND PLAYED, vowed never to play AGAIN, and then picked up to play AGAIN!  (marked with a **)

Fistful of TOWS III, Le Grande Armee, EPIC Armageddon**, Johnny Reb III, Fire & Fury Regimental (sorry guys, I like the original better) Peter Pig's Civil War Battles, Command Decision**, Battletech, Warhammer 40K, GHQ Modern Micro Armour**

* Bought an army off EBay
Does a bear sh*t in the woods???  EPIC Space Marine Army, Spearhead Modern Soviet Tank Division, and countless, painted 15mm AWI Regiments.

* Sold an army on EBay
Nope!  Never sold anything on Ebay.

* spent months painting an army - then used it in anger once
Yes absolutely done this!  And lost the battle I might add...

* tried several different periods and genres
Of course - my miniatures range from ancients up to moderns.

* dropped a box of figures on the floor from a great height
If you count a great height as about 4 feet, then yes (and to any wargamer, dropping a box of figures 4 feet is a SEE (Significant Emotional Event).  I will also submit that I had my original copy of GHQ's WWII MicroArmour The Game sitting on our bathroom counter top, and my wife walked by and bumped them accidentally into the toilet........

* lost a battle on the last throw of the dice
YES!!! Ask Dave F about my fateful Panzer VIb (Tiger) Platoon's charge into a fortified, built up area loaded with Russian SMG Infantry, AT guns, and more tanks!  Since all of my infantry had been killed off, it was a last, desperate gamble by the Reich.  I almost won the close combat over-run.  Almost.

* made at least one enemy for life
definitely not on the gaming table.  It's hard to make enemies when you lose all the time :)

* had a proper, stand up argument over a wargamers table
Yes.  David F and I could probalby pass law school with all of our arguments over rules, semantics, "what the author was thinking" debates, and "what the unit ACTUALLY would have done" debates...

* thrown a dice across a room
Once or twice.

* rebased an army for a different rule set
Of course.  Switched my ACW guys from Johnny Reb III to Fire and Fury to name one

* inflicted a whopping defeat on an opponent
Yes.  Like once or twice.  It's sad I can remember thrashings by counting on one hand.  Literally.  Beat Dave F in a great GHQ MicroArmour game (scenario 1 - introductory scenario), and some other guys in a Volley & Bayonet ACW scenario when I counter-marched them all over the map and then attacked in echelon up an epic hill.

* suffered an embarrassing defeat due to a stupid tactical decision
See question #8 ...

* joined a wargamers club
Yes I joined the Lehigh Valley Legion although I have yet to game there, and yet to spend my $40 in-store credit!  I also co-founded the East Lawton Wargaming Society, which is neiter in East Lawton, nor a true Society.

* bought a ton of lead that remains unpainted

* been to a wargamers show
Attended Fall-In in 2009.

* have more dice than is logical or necessary to own - and have used most of them
Everyone knows dice eventually run out of luck.  It's a well-known FACT that luck value of the dice is perishable and runs out over time - causing you to buy more.

* have taken boxes of troops down to a club just to show them off to your mates
No but during a table-top exercise when I was a young captain at the intelligence officer's career course in Arizona, my squad mates asked me to bring in 1 1/4" 15mm troop stands to move around on the map.  It was nice showing off my troops and vehicles to non-wargamers.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

World War II Rules Challenge Round I, Part 2 - BKC

While I played the second round days ago, I am finally posting part II of my epic, Rules-a-palooza that I started last week.  The second round saw the same forces play the same scenario but using Pete Jones' excellent Blitzkrieg Commander Rules (first edition).

BKC handles fog of war in a slightly similar manner as GHQ (similar being they involve die-rolls).  You have to beat your command value or less on 2D6 in order to carry out your commanders intent.  It's just like Warmaster - in fact many of the same concepts brought over and as skeptical as I once was - I am here to tell you it works.  So well in fact that I own Blitzkrieg Commander, Cold War Commander, and Future War Commander!

Germans, Command Value of 10, having a hard time getting off the hill top.  Such a hard time, in fact that they're there for almost 3 turns, suffering from multiple 105mm barrages from the US player's FAO (forward artillery observer)...

German FAO still waiting.  He had a really hard time calling in his missions also.

Scatter dice!!

Panzer Marsch!  Sir, what does these big red boxes in front of our tank mean??

US Command Vehicle.  It was the only "finished" US tank I own!  Therefore it was the BKC Command vehicle.

US Armor on the move.

So in BKC there is alot of die-rolling.  Alot of it.  So much in fact, that in a solo game, your wrist starts to hurt from all of the rolling.  I'm like "Jeez- ANOTHER US fire mission huh???"  So BKC, while fun, is not for the lazy or faint of heart.

Things don't go well for the Germans at all.  They can't seem to get off the hilltop, even with a 10 Command Value!  The US Player fairs better, and moves out to take control of the valley.

Long range tank duel

knocked out!

German hits.  Red die are suppressed...

American tank KO'd

Final dispositions.  The Germans NEVER got off the hill thanks to US Artillery and suppression / fall back.
So the game degenerates into the US player firing at the Germans, with the Germans spending most of the game suppressed.  in BKC, you end up becoming suppressed easily and can do nothing for your turn.  So the US Player was able to garner enough hits to suppress, but not enough to wipe out the Panzer IIIs.

This game was a draw.  The Americans would have had to close with the Germans to get the kind of casualties for a decisive victory.  Gunnery alone won't do it!  You need ground-pounders to go in and finish off the bad guys.

So let's start on the review.  I'm a little hard on BKC in this review, but don't take that to mean I don't love the rules set!!

BKC's sequence of play is easy to grasp and fairly straight-forward.  There is an initiative phase, whereby players within initiative distance of each other may react by conducting movement or fire at the enemy.  Next there is a command phase, where players roll their command and headquarters' command values or less to carry out orders - those orders being shoot, move, or deploy.  As I said, it's straightforward.

Movement in BKC is very fair and generous with most mechanized moving 20 centimeters.  Given that you're "likely" to at least issue one order per turn, you will most likely move 20 centimeters.  That being said, it's possibly to move multiple times if the dice are with you and the stars align.  There is also an opportunity fire possibility to consider as well, but use it sparingly because your own firers can become suppressed themselves and fatigue themselves OUT of action for their next turn!!  (truth be told, I have very rarely used OF unless things are going very badly for me in a game).

Firing is great, although a ton of dice rolling.  You can have as many opportunities to shoot as your command dice allow.  You can see where good battlefield leadership and staff coordination pay off - an HQ with a command value of 9 must roll a 9 or less to carry out an action, with a -1 penalty each consecutive turn.  (There are also other penalties as well, but the purpose of this paragraph was firing!)  So imagine, rolling 9 dice for 3 tanks firing.  Then having to roll saving throws for every hit you score, THEN rolling for suppression or fall back each time.  When you play solo alot, it gets old.

Firing is adjudicated the same for all combat types.  Targets in open terrain hit on a 4 or better on a 1D6, in rough terrain and light positions a 5, and a 6 in complex terrain.

One thing I love about BKC are the close combat rules.  Infantry, the unsung heroes, get the glory and are truly the "Queen of Battle" like they are in real life.  No other unit gets as many attack die in close combat as the infantry do.  True they have no saving throw, but they can sustain 6 hits as well so they're tough.  Additionally, you must have infantry on the objective to capture it in BKC - a nice touch.

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

First of all, I don't like BKC's Quick Reference Sheet for the first edition.  I wished it had more processes on it but I do understand the desire to keep it simple.  That being said, I am a moron and had to flip through the rules constantly to learn and get the hang of the concepts all over again.

BKC doesn't have engagement tables per se.  It has a universal engagement system that works similarly for all combat types.  That's cool because it means less fiddling (in theory) with the rule book and more time rolling dice and killing the enemy.

The flow is fast, really fast if you know what you're doing, but it's painfully redundant.  I worked hard to suppress and try to kill the enemy's tanks from both sides, but at the end of the turn, when hits are discarded, it's tough when you have to start from zero hits all over again.  I guess what I'm trying to say is combat events are not wholly decisive.  Not until you introduce infantry and close combat.

The movement and ground scale is in perfect harmony and balance with itself, but is somewhat abstracted or so it feels like.

BKC's point system is much better than GHQs and is frankly much easier to put together scenarios (and the website has a terrific program that allows you to create your battlegroups and print out a data sheet already constructed for you!)

One Brain Cell Effect/QRS Explanations: BKC 1 Stars out of 4
Tables: 1 Stars out of 4
Realism: 1 stars out of 4 - there is much abstracted and left to the die.  Maybe too much for this linear thinker to process.
Combat Model 4 Stars out of 4
Game Process / Flow: 4 Stars out of 4 for "choppiness"
Fog of War: 3/4 stars for the force command value
Point System: 4/4
Scenario Design Simplicity: 4/4

Overall Grade 22/32!  There is much abstracted in BKC and that doesn't earn it the stars on the review.   That and I don't like the QRS.  But you'll see I rated Pete's combat model at 4/4 which is the most important.  BKC is a light-hearted and excellent rules set that I will continue to play, and also encourage others to play.  Heck, BKC didn't get beat much by GHQ, and it's a hugely popular rules set on both sides of the Atlantic.  If it wasn't, it wouldn't have such a huge following.  Also, my ratings can't be that great, because GHQ consistently receives poor ratings for the veracity of its rules.  There was still no grade for "fun" however and BKC remains my second favorite World War II 1:4 Battalion / Brigade level Wargame rules set.  Huzzah!

All in all, I recommend BKC for Club Play and larger battles - not as much for solo play, especially with larger games.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The World War II Rules Challenge! Round I

Finally started my epic, mega-rules comparison last night by playing 2 separate games with 2 different rules sets to see how things turned out.  The results, so far, are shocking!

In this post, I'll go into the "GHQ World War II Micro Armour" rules set.  Next post I'll discuss how Pete Jones' Blitzkrieg Commander played out with the same forces and the same scenario.

This scenario pitted 5 Sherman platoons against 5 Panzer IIIJ Platoons, along with an FO on both sides, and a Battery of 105mm Towed tube artillery in direct support.  The Scenario was a meeting engagement...

In GHQ Speak, the "force cohesion level" for both sides was "15" for ze Germans, and "14" for the Yanks.

Force cohesion is GHQ's way of adding in an element of friction and you must achieve this roll or lower on a 1D20 to carry out any action...

The German force arrayed for battle.  The green dots represent movement groups.  The 222 is the Forward Observer.

My sweet Point of Contact 15mm Shermans.  Only 1 of them is detailed and weathered, but you get the idea.  They are all in 1 movement group.  The jeep behind them is the Forward Observer.

The German FO plots his fire mission.

German tank platoon and the FO swinging around towards the oasis.

The German tank platoon scanning for targets...

The yanks advancing straight up to the plotted artillery.

American FO.  Still working on the passengers and driver!

Next turn - German dispositions.  The red bead indicates it's in firing posture.  The green in movement posture.  Last turn they didn't pass cohesion and couldn't get off the hilltop.

Americans spot the Germans - and plot their artillery right on top of them!

German artillery from last turn lands a little short and the yanks have to go around it...[note this is an excellent opportunity for counter-mobility ops, forcing a turning by your enemy then nailing him with flank shots!  JUST LIKE IN REAL LIFE!!!!!
The first turn got off a little slow with the yanks advancing straight up the middle with their Shermans.  The Germans couldn't beat their own cohesion and therefore never got off the hill.
So far the GHQ rules are super-easy to follow.  All the mechanics went off without a hitch.  The Germans had a hard time getting themselves together, even with the 15 cohesion...  Fog of war - or friction perhaps?

In GHQ, movement occurs after plotting artillery, firing, and such.  In fact it's one of the last things to actually occur.  There are alot of other things that occur prior to, but as you see, everything has a purpose.  Artillery fire lands next turn after it's plotted.

Next turn, the Germans swing down with the FO 222 vehicle and a tank platoon in the hopes of getting to the oasis of trees on the map, and also getting in a flank shot on the Americans as they move forward.

So far the only beef I have is that it's a pain to keep thumbing through the book for values.  I should have made use of the unit data sheet in the back.  So far, only 1 rules research question and it's on the "posture" of FO units calling in artillery - just to answer your questions, the FO must NOT be in the movement posture to call for fire.

The American artillery falls short!  Damn deviation roll!  

German panzers in the movement posture.  I formed 2 separate "movement groups" to better the odds that they'll get off this hill!

Finally moving!  German tanks are on the move.

Dispositions turns 2-3.  Americans reach the oasis first.  German tanks / FO go stationary to fire.

American artillery plots into the lead German tanks advancing into the valley.

Americans turn 4, racing at the FO.

Fire and movement - the left German tanks fire whilst the right tanks try to move around.  The yanks get the jump on them and a knife fight breaks out.

view from the American side.
Combat is handled with a ratio chart and taking the attacker's Armor Piercing attack value, comparing it against the defender's armor, and rolling on the difference column (-2, -1, 0, 1, etc) on the combat results table.  You can get a mixed bag of results from the combat rolls - no effect, suppressed, double suppressed, disorganized, and eliminated.  By the way, if you roll a "1" on your firing cohesion roll, you get a 2 column shift on the CRT in your favor, which helped the Germans immensely.  [rule is called "The Hot Shot"]

The fight develops into 2 separate knife fights on both sides of the line.  With a small American company engaging the German FO / Panzer IIIJ platoon on the right, and a big battle developing on the American left. Now the casualties start.
As an interesting side note, combined arms is really encouraged in this game.  To achieve a kill, you need sustained "D" results or an "E" result on the CRT.  As long as all platoons are taking part in the same event, you can fire multiple times at an enemy.  It can become progressively suppressed, disorganized, and knocked out.  If you use Artillery, you have a wonderful chance of suppressing the enemy outright, then maneuver in for the kill with your own guys.
dispositions, beginning of turn 7

Lucky artillery strike.  Double-suppresses both German tanks.  They fire at +4 on the CRT now and good luck passing cohesion with a mod like that.

At the knife's edge of battle!

hot shot!  rolls a 1 and gets a column shift.  Turn 9 would prove decisive.  You can see the Panzer III knocked out.

Final dispositions beginning of turn 10.  3 German tank platoons knocked out.  The rest of the Germans bug out and head back.
Now it's time for lots of cohesion rolling, artillery strikes, and heartache.  The American AP value is 2 higher than the Germans' armour.  The Germans AP value is 2 LOWER than the American armour.  Meaning the Germans need to outflank the Americans to get a respectable shot off.  Or shoot in conjunction with their artillery, which is the best way to guarantee a kill in GHQ's WWII MicroArmour.  In this instance, the Americans end the game with more kills than the Germans thanks to their better vehicles, and at least a respectable cohesion.

So how do I rate my games?  Well for starters, simplicity and ease of learning the rules is a priority.  Some gamers like to call that the "One Brain Cell Effect."  All of the info should be readily accessible from the Quick Reference Sheet.

Next - engagement tables.  Is the combat model logical?  Does it reflect weapon strengths and the necessary analysis of the weapon's capabilities?  Does it flow into the model properly and is it "choppy" that is, is it constantly broken up into strange segments, as opposed to flowing like it's supposed to?

Realism - How is the ground scale and how does it interact with the forces, firing, and movement?  Are the engagement ranges realistic?  Is it abstracted?

Does the system model the fog of war at least with an appreciable effect on the battlefield?

Is the point system logical and easy to use?

How easy is the game to create well balanced scenarios?

One Brain Cell Effect/QRS Explanations: GHQ 3 Stars out of 4
Tables: 2 Stars out of 4
Realism: 4 stars out of 4
Combat Model 4 Stars out of 4
Game Process / Flow: 2 Stars out of 4 for "choppiness"
Fog of War: 3/4 stars for the force cohesion level and cohesion rolling, which can really affect what happens from turn to turn.  You will grow to both love and hate the 1D20...
Point System: 2/4
Scenario Design Simplicity: 4/4

Overall Grade 24/32 not bad!  There was no grade for "fun" however and GHQ remains my overall favorite World War II 1:4 Battalion / Brigade level Wargame rules set.  Huzzah!