Tuesday, August 27, 2013

UH-1 Huey Progress & Painting Frenzy

Anyone remember playing Avalon Hill's "Squad Leader" when you were younger and rolling a "snake eyes" on your morale check?  What happened to Germans and Russians on the Eastern Front?  BERZERKER!  You charged the nearest enemy unit regardless of your condition.  I lost many a squad that way, charging across the street in the urban nightmare of the game's first scenario.

That could probably describe events in the hobby arena as of late.  Lately life has been busy but I've been managing to get in a game here and there or to slap some paint on my patient miniatures - there are alot of irons in the fire!

I have also been slowly assembling a UH-1D "Huey" for my upcoming LZ X-Ray battle.  Here are some interesting pictures of all that nonsense going on:
this is the Italeri kit.  It comes in several configurations you can choose from - West German Search and Rescue, Italian or Spanish Army, or US Army in Vietnam.  I obviously am choosing the latter.

Here is a shot of the troop compartment so far...

What a pain in the ass these pieces were to put on.

the model builds shape...

fuselage - now they are all OD Green after spraying along with the additional pieces for the external body.  I taped off the nose and will have to HAND DRAW the 229th Aviation Regiment's crest on the nose.  I am going to be modeling a ship from Major Bruce Crandall's A Company.
Additionally, besides the LZ Xray project, there are at least 4 Napoleonic battalions being worked on now.  An additional Legere unit, 2 French Infantry Battalions, 2 Cavalry units, and 1 British Battalion.  The LZ Xray Project has 4 additional NVA Platoons being completed, along with my Warmaster Fantasy Orc rebasing project.  My workbench is a mess!
Everyone's attending this party...

French infantry and cavalry waiting for their uniforms.  These will turn into 2 more French Battalions.

More British.
SURPRISE!  Quality Castings 15mm BMP-2 for my moderns...I imagine when all the Zvezda Modern 15s I've ordered come in, these guys will take center stage.

Orc Regiment - the Warmaster troopers are also part of the rebasing project, and are being based on 3 x 1.5" "Regimental" stands now.

Unfinished French Drummer.  The red figure on his belly behind the drummer is an experiment I'm carrying out - Black Powder has an almost insatiable need for casualty figures.  So instead of paying 15 dollars for 4 casualty figs, I'm going to make my own with HaT leftovers...Wish me luck.

 Add to all this my American Civil War rebasing project, 15mm Moderns Project (cold war moderns) "man cave" reorganization, and my "R&D" research and development programme looking into modern 1/3000 ships for Victory at Sea moderns and I've certainly got my hands full.

If this was a squad leader game, my stand would be red...

Friday, August 23, 2013

FUBAR Vietnam Action

Played a very short and very intense game of FUBAR yesterday seeing the first introduction of light armor into the game, this time in the way of my nice collection of M113 APCs.

Scenario was a simple one - US player, taking part in the invasion of Cambodia, must push across the board and exit his M113 platoon (3 x tracks with troops) from the opposite edge.  THe North Vietnamese player aims to stop him.  The NVA troopers set up in ambush positions - both are rated as "seasoned."

M113s buzz along on Route 10 towards the ruins of an old building and a small clearing.

 The game started off right away with an NVA team activating and pouring RPG fire into the side of a track.  2 hits, 1 saved and the crew is "stunned."  I take that as suppressed but they fail their subsequent activation roll and the dismounts are trapped inside...

NVA troopers deployed in defensive ambush positions against the movement of the American armor.

US track under watchful eye of NVA troopers.

CONTACT!  M113 brews up, dismounts get the hell out of the track but are caught in some nasty small arms fire from RPDs, AKs, and SKS.  3 are killed instantly and a number are suppressed.
The NVA team in the ruins launches another salvo of RPG fire while the US platoon drives its tracks up to fight through the ambush.  US player loses an activation, the NVA player knocks out the M113 and the dismounts get the worst of it.  In FUBAR, each dismount is considered "hit" as the M113 fails its save this round.  I rolled for suppression/KO on each trooper.

US dismounts from the second track maneuver to fire and assault the NVA team

second US fireteam behind the burning track

NVA reinforcements pour in!

NVA ambush team 2 takes up firing positions along a road culvert and immediately start shooting.  They would kill even more stunned dismounts and force a retreat.

US player fighting it out on the road 
US player assaults through the first ambush position as the surviving M113 tracks start racking up the casualties with their .50s!
 By now the initial shock has been overcome and the US player starts maneuvering the armor to fire against the NVA troops in cover.  The .50 cals start doing considerable damage and are softening up the enemy infantry for the US troopers to assault through.  All in a day's work for the Cav!

Platoon leader and weapons section dismount!

Last remaining NVA position on the board.  The US player spots them and moves up

Assaulting "the rock" 

platoon HQs in the treeline

Platoon HQs

Attack!  Advance!  Assault!

Hand to hand fighting in the culvert as the last of the NVA are rooted out

sunset over the battlefield...
The last of the NVA positions are rooted out and dealt with, actually with minor US casualties.  I'm sure that had to do with the softening up they received from the M113s prior to going in.  What an outstanding game!  Quick and brutal, I enjoyed adding vehicles into the mix as it added a new dimension and problem to the game to deal with.  The NVA had only 1 RPG launcher and would be hard-pressed to lose it, which they did in the first round!  There were a few other strategies I could have tried with the NVA player but I would have lost the benefit of ambushing.


DISMOUNT BEFORE DEATH: Tankers can have their fancy sayings (death before dismount) but in actuality, a wargame taught me why all those GIs in Vietnam rode atop their ACAVs during the war.  Survivability.  Should have dismounted and moved with the tracks alongside them during the beginning but I chose as part of the scenario to have them "buttoned up" as it added to the drama of the ambush.  They would have had dramatically fewer casualties had they gone in dismounted.

Anti Tank!  Ensure you have enough anti tank to go around, especially if you're deploying to stop an armored invasion...

2:1 ratio in close assault: Would have been better as the Americans or the NVA to go in with 2:1 local odds as you never know what's going to happen in a close assault when it's fireteam against fireteam.  The NVA had the manpower to do it, but was intent on staying in the ambush teams.

Stick in close!  The US player had an overwhelming advantage in firepower - as the NVA player I should have gone in right after the initial volley and got into hand to hand combat.  Would have guaranteed more casualties from the start.

All in all an awesome game and a great chance to use my nicely painted US troopers, model tracks, and palm trees.  I'll leave you with a few more gratuitous shots of my troopers in action!
heavy combat!

US Troops weeding out the last of the NVA attackers

NVA Commander - where did everybody go?

US Forces mopping up

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Tale of Two Rulesets: Black Powder, Chapter I

It's almost embarrassing how happy it makes me that the title of my latest blog posting is a play on words from none other than Charles Dickens, one of my favorite authors.  It was unbelievably appropriate as well, seeing as how this was a Napoleonic game!  

I've taken on the immense and almost impossible task of playing some Napoleonic rules, comparing them, and writing about them on my blog.  What can I say?  “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done"  Alright, alright, enough with the Dickens quotes.

This is my first "proper" game of Black Powder and even with only a handful of Battalions on a side, what a game it was!  The terrain was simple with an orchard and small outcropping, flanked by a low stone wall dominating the center of the map.  4 French Battalions, one of which was a Chasseur A Pied consolidated Battalion (made them rifle-armed) attacking 3 British Battalions and a section of light horse artillery.  The French staff rating was 8 with 7 for brigade commanders.  The British was 9 with 8 for the brigade commanders.
French Chasseurs consolidated into Battalion strength

French Line Fusiliers marching to the attack

Typical British Command Group...casually unimpressed by the French advance.

 Both sides started at opposing edges and advanced.  The British anchored their defense on the orchard.  The French advanced to the edge of the stone wall and the 2 sides traded vicious fire at each other before letting the bayonet decide the day...

Opening moves.  The French move out!
The French had some initial difficulties coordinating the advance, as did the British with both sides have a brigade that initially failed to carry out orders on the first turn.  (like in Warmaster, you roll your staff rating or less.  Success allows you to carry out movement.  Varying levels of success allow you to carry out a double or triple move).

The British infantry proudly march towards the orchard.

The French advance!

  Both sides advanced to within small arms range of each other and quickly started trading volleys.  Units have save values that keep the game from degenerating into "microarmor with toy soldiers" games and you roll morale saves against enemy hits.  This game say almost 50% of the hits scored lost to saving throws.  At this point, the British Royal Artillery gallops up on the left flank, and prepares their pieces for action!

British Royal Artillery Crewman preparing to load the gun

Infantry Battalion on the British left, trading shots with the French Chasseurs.

Intense rifle fire causes disorder (roll a "6" during fire) and casualties that go unsaved.  This battery is disordered (cotton) and the die indicates the 2 casualties.  I have no casualty markers made yet so these will have to do!

British infantry move up to support.

The next French turn, the Chasseurs focus all their rifle fire on the Battery and it evaporates after failing its break test.
In Black Powder, the debilitating effects of fire and shock on a unit are separate from casualties and this is reflected in the "Shaken" rules and "Disorder" rules.  Units who are shaken have taken dangerous amounts of casualties and are likely to break and run if they take more.  Disorder is the shock and confusion from taking fire.  It's much like in Shako having "Kills" versus "Staggers" or in GHQ's rules having "Suppressed" versus "Disorganized" effects.
trading volleys!
 The French at the edge of the orchard are enjoying the cover of the stone wall while the British are busy unloading volleys into them.  Both sides are starting to suffer from casualties now.  The unit on the British left, still reeling from the loss of the guns, tightens up its position next to the orchard to guard its flank.  The French advance during their turn but do not attack.  The British Battalion launches a spoiling attack next turn!
British spoiling attack against the French.  The first round of combat they are left still fighting for next turn.  The French fail in their order to move up and support the melee.  The Commander stands by, coldly allowing the troops to his front to get cut to ribbons, quietly wishing that unit's commander would fall - especially after the business with the man and his wife....

Sir shall we move up to help them?  Non!  We will stay where we are......high drama on the wargaming table!

Both battalions fighting it out another round.  They would eventually both withdraw before the Chasseurs move in and force the British Battalion back.

Fighting rages in the orchard.

On the British left, both Battalions are forced back!

casualties mount...

Fighting in the orchard leaves 1 British Battalion broken and a French Battalion disordered.

With the British left refused and British right also refused their Commander Sir Buckingham Frogmorton decided it was time to retire

This greedy French Battalion would be wiped out.  They go in, already shaken and take a crippling volley from the Brits, subsequently failing their break test

Final Dispositions!

Wow that was a long post but you know what Mr Dickens says: "A day wasted on others is not wasted" ALRIGHT!  My first impressions of Black Powder are positive.  It's simple to play without too many overly complicated processes.  The unique "special" rules are a welcome addition to a Horse and Musket game set as well.  The British get an extra fire die in their first volley, and the French elite got to reroll a miss.

The only real complain I have is the "break test" process I think needs to be practiced a little more before I have it mastered and I may have screwed a few things up but I'm sure you couldn't tell from the pictures...

Black Powder has a simple Sequence of Play which is basically, move, shoot, hand to hand, switch sides.  Doesn't get any better than that.  While the rule book was a little large, it was a good read, is full of anecdotal humour and well worth the price.

This game was a test of my Battalion/Regimental basing scheme and it worked out rather nicely for Black Powder.  The game doesn't bog down in minutia and details but instead allows you to really get at the meat and potatoes of the wargame itself , which is what was so appealing about Shako and Volley & Bayonet.

Space & Time: Movement in Black Powder is generous and the Frenchies can get up among your own troops before you know what hit you.  So when you move out, try moving Brigades at once to ensure you'll have support when you get there.  The worst thing in the world is to arrive piecemeal on the Battlefield without your friends at your back and flanks.

"Get Up There Fast" Black Powder is a real wargame.  It allows you to come up with a plan and execute it, without constantly fighting the rules.  The important thing it simulates is the ability to take advantage of opportunities on the battlefield, something that made Horse and Musket Commanders so great at their jobs.  (think Robert E Lee in many of his early war victories).  If the enemy fails to do what he needed to do, you can rush to take advantage of the situation.  I like the flexibility of the rules set in allowing me to carry out sweeping maneuvers like that
I give Black Powder 5 out of 5 stars.

Tune in next time as I “crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers" (OH ENOUGH OF THE DICKENS QUOTES ALREADY!) and play the same engagement with Shako to see how it turns out.