Thursday, January 30, 2014

Zvezda 2014 Art of Tactic/Hot War Up & Coming

I was able to spy on some of the 2014 releases for Art of Tactic / Hot War.  If you were planning on buying some "modern" 15mm trucks, some Air Defense Vehicles and.....drumroll please......Modern 1/100 Self Propelled Artillery!  A 2S1 and an M109!!!  I'm going to buy 4 of each!  This is great news.

For World War II, and you may have already known about this, they're producing a Crusader Mk IV 1/100 tank, as well as a Daimler Mk I Armored Car. 

I cannot wait to see what other WWII releases there will be in 2014!  Hoping they start breaking into Mid War!

You can look at the upcoming releases here - Zvezda's 2014 catalog may already be out there so keep your eyes peeled for it!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Some Resolution with COMBAT TEAM! and a visitor?

Okay so after a good night's sleep, breakfast and coffee, the final determination made in my COMBAT TEAM! issues yesterday are simple:

Keeping the game fast-moving, fair and "fun" are still top priorities so I'll change the rules to reflect the following:

Hits recorded in close assault / firefights
All infantry stands have a basic save of 5+ / 1D6 modified by terrain, which increase the save potential. (Thank you A-Historian!  This suggestion worked well and with it, the Germans were finally able to break through those Paras)

Every other stand (rounding up) has an integral support weapon die roll that they can fire during regular shooting in the operations phase (so a company of 3 stands would have 2 support weapon dice, a company of 7 stands would have 4 support weapon dice).  This keeps the game moving so advancing infantry aren't completely wiped out World War I style.  In COMBAT TEAM! Light Machine Guns are integral parts of squads and are only close combat/firefight weapons.  Medium/Heavy machine guns are platoon and company assets and as such receive their own die roll for shooting.  Assigning 1 support weapon dice per platoon (every other stand) gives the game much better balance.

In a large departure from EPIC: Armageddon, Infantry in Close Assaults (engage order in E:A) WILL receive their saving throws.  2 Infantry Companies in Epic could see as many as 30 stands involved in close combat.  COMBAT TEAM! may have as little as 6 or 8 counting both sides.  (the scale is also a little larger in COMBAT TEAM!).  This way the game stays balanced.  One potential problem on the horizon I am eyeing is how to best integrate morale into Close Assaults and I'm tinkering with some ideas for playtesting next.  (using the Tactical Initiative Value and working it into the final die roll to determine who won the Close Assault for one thing).

German troops lose the close assault and also their morale check!
Also yesterday, work finally got underway in the painting of my 15mm Soviet Motor Rifle Troops!  I know everyone is excited to see them so of course naturally I'll keep everyone in suspense for another day or so. Some of them are Khurasan Miniatures and are a serious joy to paint!!

Also SOUND OFFICERS CALL is happy to report a distinguished visitor toured our ranks yesterday after a "hard day" of playtesting, organizing and painting!
Lady Christina checking on the progress of her Army.

Monday, January 27, 2014

COMBAT TEAM! Or how to break a wargame.

So I am continuing on with playtesting and writing of my "Combat Team!" rules, loosely based off EPIC: Armageddon.  So far, so good.  I had a few questions come up recently that I was able to solve with some reading and some rounds of play.

First - should Armor stands and infantry stands have Rates of Fire (multiple dice) when shooting?
This was solved after literally 2 short engagements.  This is overkill in a BIG way.  Not only could a company of tanks sit back and shoot enemy infantry to death in cover, but the better tank stands annihilated everything in their path.  It wasn't a satisfying result.  

Back to single-shot firing, but the entire unit still fires at once.  Yes, you still get your buckets of dice (actually 5 or 6).

Second - should infantry stands have multiple hits during play?

This is a tough one that I have not resolved yet.  This slows play down somewhat because infantry stands most likely survive a round of close combat and if they are on the losing side, they will break off and withdraw.  That is a realistic result, however.  Most infantry units breaking off an attack do so because of the intensity of the fire, casualties, and will to survive.  Up until this came around, one close combat round was enough to attrit a company or kill enough stands that it was non-mission capable and would most likely fail its morale check after it reached breakpoint.

This 2 hit rule makes infantry very powerful.  Here's an example of play with the 2 hit rule in effect:

I played a short game of Combat Team! this morning with a company of British Paras (5 stands plus a 57mm AT gun) defending a hedge-row line against 2 full strength German SS Companies (10 stands of infantry). (regulars though, not elite).  The German companies, as a result of shrewd British orders, overwatch fire, successive German assaults, and good rolling were almost totally wiped out.  Granted the British were in cover, the Germans were not.  Also the British were on overwatch, the Germans were on Close Assault orders.  But is this a realistic result?  Good military planning says you should have about 3:1 odds in favor of the attacker in a close assault.  

The Germans had no Artillery or heavy weapons with them (besides the "support weapon" dice roll each infantry stand has)

The Germans were able to score hits (using the 2 hit infantry stand rule) on each British stand.  Had this been the "old way" the British stands taking hits would have been eliminated if they failed their cover save.  (4+ for hedgerow)

I am going to reluctantly keep the 2 stand rule for now.  Granted, the "hits" an infantry formation takes have no effect on morale.  Which bugs me but it screws up the numbers.  So only removal of stands counts towards breakpoint, and not "hits."

I also am going to test out a new order - SUPPRESS.  Units can attempt to suppress enemy stands both armor and infantry to soften them up for an assault.  I think this would relieve some pressure on the attacking stands but to suppress a unit, you have to actively shoot at it with the intent of suppressing it.  This is a HUGE departure from most "modern" (20th century and beyond) wargaming rules where suppression is a "result" from a die roll that's "not bad" but not good enough to kill a stand.

I am thinking about SUPPRESS allowing you to shoot like on OVERWATCH or ATTACK BY FIRE where you don't move but you get a +1 to hit modifier to your shooting.  For each hit you score, enemy stands must pass a morale check or they have to sit in place until the end of THEIR next turn.  Suppression has no impact on casualties, breakpoint or morale checks.

Well that's all for now.  Going to have a go with more Germans at that hedgerow and see if I can break those Paras!  Let's hope so - the future of the rules depend on it!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Age of Eagles Action! Quatre Bras (or something like it)

So maybe I didn't necessarily play Quatre Bras, but certainly a more scaled down version of it using the popular Age of Eagles rules based off Brigade Fire & Fury.  This was a great game full of dramatic reversals of fortune on both sides.  I love the "reserve movement" table you roll off, I love how melee is handled, and frankly I can't believe I haven't played this game sooner.  (I've owned it for 8 years now...)

Game featured the French attacking on a narrow frontage to secure a small village in the Dutch or Belgian countryside.
The French force arrayed for battle!  2 Divisions of 3 Brigades each with Division Artillery in support.  A few "elite" units thrown in for good measure. 
The Dutch (actually HaT British painted up to act as Portuguese but you get the idea!) Brigade.  None of the stands are flocked yet as my gaming "basing crisis" continues!
French advance!

Part of my "elite" units.  The Chasseur a Pied and Royal Grenadier Guards from my Peninsula force...

The right division, or as I would come to call the, the "le hesitant"

The right division would remain stuck in this spot for a number of turns, failing to move.  In fact the entire assault on the right was marked by the inability for any brigade to move on numerous turns.  And their introduction to combat was a complete disaster!

The French division commander who was commanding the right Division.

The Allied Defense

As the French draw near, the British move to supported line!

Enfilading cannon fire from a KGL battery forces a disorder result on the advancing French

The first French contact!  They would deploy and be forced back in disorder from this combat

meanwhile on the right - NOTHING IS HAPPENING!  Eventually I attached my French Division commander to the Brigade so they'd move a little more.  As you will see that was a very bad choice!

French deploy their heavy foot batter on the road.

The Royal Grenadier Guards move to assault the KGL Battery!  under shot and shell the entire time!

My snazzy casualty/disorder marker!

Brigade forced back in disorder!  But Grenadiers will come again!

This battery is eventually forced off, against Wellington's orders at "indulging" in counter-battery!

French Division Commander steps in to get this brigade moving again

Meanwhile the stubborn British brigade is pushed back in another round of combat!  They would be forced back again in disorder.

The French occupy the initial position.  It's looking grim for the Brits!

Turn 7 reinforcements arrive!!  

Beginning of Turn 7

Still NO movement on the right.  For any of the brigades...

The Brits leave the woodline

See that backrow?  Well you wont see them after this next die roll....

The French Division Commander on the right is CAPTURED after the Dutch Brigade unbelievably rolls a "12" (modified) and the French roll a "7" (modified) difference of -5.  That means the DC is captured, and the French lose an incredible 5 stands from that combat.

The brigade after their combat against the Dutch.  

Meanwhile the reinforcements arrive on the Allied left.  But is it too late?  Note the French brigade in the upper left of the picture, turning for the final assault on the village.

After chasing them halfway to Brussels, the Grenadiers finally take out that battery.

Turn 12 sees.....NOT A SINGLE FRENCH BRIGADE WILLING TO CONTINUE THE ADVANCE.... Can my rolling really be that bad?

Final dispositions.

The British set up for a final showdown so their comrades can escape the battlefield.  But wait!  The French arent' coming!

High drama in the low countries.  A worn brigade, a damaged battery holding off almost of Division of French troops.  The end of turn 12 though, not a single French Brigade can make an assault.  The battle is over.  The French withdraw in good order.  Ney was not pleased.

If you've gotten this far then I applaud your tenacity!  Sorry for the long post and abundance of pictures but that's what you get after an all-afternoon Napoleonic romp!  This battle was great fun and the result was constantly in question.
If anyone wants to know - technically, the British won the battle.  While points-wise it was a draw.  The British made 1 French Brigade worn and captured a Division Commander.  (2 points, 1 point each).  The French destroyed a British Battery (1 point) and made 1 British Brigade worn (1 point) so a total of 2 points to them.  That leaves the ultimate objective which was to defend the village.  The British ended turn 12 with a worn brigade in the village, about to receive an assault from 2 French Brigades.  In the British commander's head, he was about to throw in the towel and order a retreat.  Holding on until the end of turn 12 kept things in suspense until the final turn, in which everything rested on a French assault that never actually came.  How many stories in history can we think of where tired units were in similar situations?  You can't make this stuff up!

It was a great afternoon for Napoleonics and Age of Eagles delivered on all the promises on the back of the rulebook.  The Reserve Movement introduces a great fog of war feature and true to form, my Chasseurs never committed to the battle and actually ended the game still in reserve status.  The Fire and Fury/Age of Eagles system is SUPER easy to learn and easier to play.  I barely had to consult with the rulebook and the entire game was played off 2 sheets of paper (The QRS located in the back of the rules).

So given my ringing endorsement, what were some lessons we learned today?

Artillery Support:  Keep your artillery moving with your assaulting brigades if possible.  You technically can't move, unlimber, then fire but you CAN have them available if things go south in the combat.  Your brigade may be forced to withdraw in the face of the enemy and if you've brought guns along, you will have "final protective fires" the enemy will have to march into next turn.  This would have been helpful on the light division's advance on the French left.

It's not over yet!  In Age of Eagles (Fire and Fury) just because you lost a combat and were pushed out of a position it doesn't mean you've lost the battle!  in some other games, units do not have the ability to absorb punishment and recover as a viable fighting force.  The British were kicked a quarter of the way across the board but still (technically) won the game.  So solid tactics pay off in the face of bigger numbers.  Forcing the enemy to attack you slows him down and buys you time for your reinforcements to come up.

Expect the unexpected:  Who would have thought a small Dutch brigade would hold out against unbelievable odds, Twice?!  Just like on a battlefield, anything is possible in Age of Eagles and I like that.  With the tables, there is literally no such thing as a "typical" result.  You have to fight hard for victory just like in real life.

I will play AoE again!  Huzzah!