Thursday, September 25, 2014

NAPOLEON AT WAR: Initial Thoughts

Oh joy!  Another rules set for my feeble brain!

I ordered the "Napoleon at War" rules from On Military Matters a few days ago and was pleased to find it on my doorstep this afternoon.  I don't have much time for a proper post and subsequent game but I did want to post some comments on my first thoughts upon taking it out of the box.
Impressive and hefty. 

First off, even though this game has been around for some time now, my hat's off to MAN AT WAR games for publishing a very nice product.  The rule book itself is hard-bound and weighty (not weighty enough for $45.00 but there is some "heft" to it!).  The printing and design are impressive upon first glance.
beautiful and easy on the eyes.

classical map of Napoleonic Europe for ambiance!  

The rules follow the flow that you would expect a rule book to have these days, with a nice history for the reader, tips for collecting and organizing a force, and then how to play the game.  Like the BATTLEGROUP series, there is also a nice hobby section in the back for those of us (myself first and foremost among bad painters)who are artistically challenged...  I am happy that the book contains some well thought out scenarios as well, because on a Friday night frankly, sometimes I just feel like a pickup game and rolling some dice.

There are some opinions out there that this game system echoes Flames of War in the rules style and while I have not read enough to agree or disagree, I definitely see the influence of Flames of War on the authors.  Don't read this like it's a bad thing! When Flames of War hit the streets, it created a huge resurgence and interest in World War II gaming, and almost became a "gateway" game for a new crowd of historical miniature gamers, in addition to spurring a collective "arms race" among the 15mm WW2 producers.

What I'm trying to say is that love it or hate it, we are all better off from Flames of War being around.

My thoughts are that Napoleon at War can do the same thing for Napoleonic Wargaming.  The rules are attractive and easy to follow.  In addition they do something that no other Napoleonic rulebook has, in my opinion, done a very good job of -

They teach Napoleonic era tactics to gamers who otherwise would not have an extensive knowledge of Napoleonic warfare.
nice explanations for the novice who might not yet be "into" the Napoleonic era.

Let me explain - many games, in my opinion, treat the reader as if he already knows it's bad to advance in march in column against an artillery battery.   These rules explain why you might not want to do that!  Forgive me, but I when I first set foot into a rules set, I like being treated like I've never played the game before.

My first impressions are hugely favorable and a game of Napoleon at War is most certainly in the cards!

In a few days, I would like to post a review of the combat system.

Now if only I could get some more 15mm guys painted up...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Modern Flames of War: NORTHAG 1000 pt "Hold the Line" Battle

I mixed things up a little today and broke out some of my treasured 15mm modern vehicles and took Mike's terrific home-brewed Flames of War modern supplement for a spin.  His blog is "STOPPING THE RED TIDE" and definitely worth a visit!  His FOW supplements are free and on the right-hand side of the blog.  He also does the gamer another service by posting links to other Flames of War modern supplements, all home-brewed.

Played the HOLD THE LINE scenario from the latest edition rule book and gave the Soviets no Artillery support to try and simulate the stress of a hasty attack under timed and austere conditions.

This battle featured a Soviet force of 3 tank platoons (2 x T-80 and 1 x T-72B) and a BMP-2 platoon squaring off against a West German force of a single Leopard IA4 platoon, and a Marder II Platoon with infantry.  German delayed reserves consisted of a Panzer Jaeger platoon of Jaguars and Jagdpanzer Kanones, and a M48A5 platoon in reserve.

PS sorry for some of the crappy pictures - I am still getting used to my wife's camera after the other one bit the dust.  

Soviet T-80s on the attack!  The Commander is in the ACRV in the background.

The only German combat unit to start on the board.  THe Leo's and Marders are in ambush!

 I am finding that even though it's been awhile since I've played FOW, it's like muscle memory and it comes back to you.  Can't say that about alot of rules sets.
Soviets advancing under the watchful eye of concealed Leopard IA4s!

meanwhile on the Soviet left, T-80s race for the woodline

1st round of shooting goes well for the Bundeswehr, as 2 BMPs and their entire complement of infantry are KO'd.  Leopards manage to also bail 1 T-72B.  Not bad so far!
  As each turn progresses, I'm starting to see the relative invulnerability of those Soviet T-80s, and my Leo's are starting to feel inadequate!!
The Luchs dispatches the BRDM with ease.  The BRDM did serve his purpose though - protecting the tanks from a nasty ATGM Ambush.  The Marders were forced to start on the other side of the hill.

Soviet T-80 races through the small pine grove towards the objective.

 Meanwhile my Marders aren't having the best of luck trying to knock out the platoon of T-80s to their front.  Their Milans hit true but the reactive armor save and relatively low AT value sees not a single T-80 burning at the end of the turn!!  This isn't the "Soviets get creamed by excellent NATO gunnery" usual styled game.  Those of you looking for a "storybook ending" for this battle had best stop reading here!!

T-80s bail a Marder...

You can see the T-80 platoon on the road advancing through the NATO positions, and the other T-80 platoon stopping short and engaging the Marders on the hill.

The Leo's on the German left displace and run smack dab into an advanced column of Reds.  They let loose a salvo and get lucky with a flank shot!  1 T-80 is KIA.

Next Soviet turn the T-72B crew remounts and they race for the objective.

And those T-80s turn towards their ambushers!!  

Meanwhile a Marder is KO'd and its crew miraculously survives

The Artillery gets into the fight and fires some very accurate, albeit ineffective HE against a T-80 platoon.  

German turn 4 both reserve platoons enter the board.  The M48 in the top right and the Panzer Jaeger platoon in the bottom right.  Don't get too excited - these guys are TA units...

showing off my MERDC, 2 "Command Decision" 15mm M48s sporting a mid-70's NATO camouflage scheme.  The M48 in the foreground is a Roskopf or Eko 15mm model.

NATO tries out the "DPICM" Cluster munitions available, also with little effect.  Converged firing sheaf so each tank takes 3D6 attacks looking for a "6"  each hit attacks the flank armor with AT-10 FP 4+ but each hit has no effect as the T-80 flank armor is 11.  Monsters!

 The Soviet advance is rapid and brutal and NATO is knocked off their feet both by the invulnerability of the T-80s and the speed of their advance, with the Marders and Leos finding Soviet armor in their midst before they even know what is happening.  The Luchs is cut off as well.

2 Soviet tank platoons reach the objective and start mixing it up with the Panzer Jaegers, resulting in 1 Bailed and 1 KO.

The German infantry position to take some flank shots with their Karl Gustavs to no avail!  The Soviet player rolls high on his armor saves for each hit!  

 The left-most Soviet T-80 platoon stays put this turn on overwatch for their comrades.  The result?

Another Leo is knocked out and the platoon morale collapses.  The remaining Leopard IA4 bugs out.

By turn 6 there are 2 Soviet tank platoons sitting on the objective and no one has the firepower to knocked them off.  The artillery was ineffective against the more advanced Soviet armor, and the tanks needed flank shots to get a kill.  Simply hoping on the Soviets to roll low on their saves wasn't nearly enough!

Post-Game Wrapup:
Mike has built a solid supplement for a proven game.  The beautiful thing about FOW is that it is easily learned across the board and everyone in the gaming community has at least heard of it, let alone played it once or twice.
Mike's modern supplement gives the Warsaw Pact a decent chance of victory but you have to play your cards right.  The T-80s and T-72 are classed as "light tanks" giving them a 16" movement each turn.  Use your tools to the max and push your forces hard.  Knocking NATO off balance prevented them from massing their fires and setting up the kill areas they desperately needed.  Also the selection of Reserves proved important.  The Panzer Jaegers should have set up early on.  Their TOW missiles would be much more effective than the Milans - but I didn't know that prior to starting!

If you are NATO and not using the vaunted M1A1s or Leopard IIs, ambush and flank shots are the way to go.  Small Warsaw Pact platoons mean you'll get Ivan to roll platoon morale faster than you will have to.  Mike also gives the Warsaw Pact Command Structure a key vulnerability so if you can possibly target company leadership, do it!  It will stall the Reds for a turn and give you some much needed time to "dress the lines."

This was a fun game - not my "go to" game by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm still shopping for a modern rules set I like that I can use my 15mm units for.  Some games coming up are Sabresquadron, GHQ's Modern rules, Fields of Fire, and perhaps Coldwar Commander once again.

In other news, I am looking to play some rounds of Charles Grant's "The Wargame," Black Powder, and perhaps some more "Squad Leader" if I can get more troops painted up.

I would also like to get a basing scheme worked out for my 1/72 fantasy troopers, whom I've been wanting to use in a game for a long time!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Squad Leader in Miniature? Yes, it's about time!

I know I said these plastic guys were being based for Crossfire but the other night as I was cleaning up my table I noticed the Squad Leader in Miniature rules laying around and thought this was the perfect time to try out a game.  This introductory (re-introductory??) game featured 5 American rifle squads and 3 leaders attacking 3 German rifle squads, a Light Machine Gun, a leader, and of course a hidden Stug-IIIG in the woodline!

Some of my initial observations on the game you ask?  Delighted to answer that question!  First of all the ranges prescribed are probably written for 1/285 micro-scale games so I doubled ranges for 1/72 plastics and that seemed to work much better.

The game was comfortably played on a 2.5' squared section of my table with modest terrain.

Beside range, there are some very simple things to work out here and once done, the Squad Leader system works extremely well for miniatures.  (wasn't it actually written to be a miniatures game??)  You will have to work out the morale and morale bonuses of your squads and leaders before the game as they are not conveniently printed on your wargaming stands.  Additionally, you will have to work out terrain types to ascertain the cover they provide before the dice start rolling.

Armourfast Stug-III in the woodline!  
 This game was a simple scenario of a very under-strength company attack with each US platoon fielding 2 squads along with leaders.  Think of it as a very simple patrol scenario, where the main line of resistance is located.
Looks pretty good with light dry-brushing and decals applied!  
The defensive fire rules are punishing if you dont use cover or have any heavy weapons to suppress the enemy before you move.  Mortars and MMGs help to break squads and if you can have leadership directing their fire.

In this instance, it wasn't enough to suppress the 3 German squads on the defense.  The ensuing firefight knocked out one German squad (with the LMG!!) but broke 3 US squads in the process.  Lesson learned is use a base of fire element is critical on the attack.  The other lesson is bring plenty of support weapons with you to suppress the enemy, no matter who you are.  (intrinsic squad firepower values, for the most part, include their rifles but not necessarily the LMGs for earlier war stuff.  The higher firepower squads (Americans) include the BARs with their firepower values but the Germans and Soviets are simply bolt action rifles and have a modest firepower of "4")

Move out!  2 American squads move to flank the enemy position at the outskirts of the village

broken American squad!!  Much harder to rally without the leader attached.  It took these guys 3 turns to roll the necessary "6 or below" with the 2D6.

In the background you can see the Company Command stand and the Platoon Leader stand reconnoitering the enemy.

American squad moves up!  Defensive fire is "point blank" and is doubled at this range.  Germans roll a 3!!  NOT GOOD!

And the US Squad is eliminated per the firepower table...

The Stug fires an HE round at a moving US squad and it hits!  Damn you defensive fire!!!  The US Squad routs into cover.

STUG Victory Lap!

Germans end the game still in possession of the village.  Leutnant Stahler commanding!

Germans holding the other building in the village.  No forces had anti tank in this game but the close assault against AFVs still brutal none-the-less.
Considerations: The issue of portage costs and equipment carried comes into play as well.  I only modeled 1 German squad with an LMG because they were the only stand with an actual LMG model.  That's not to say I couldn't use the cardboard counters to throw on a squad as a reminder, or just said they all carried one, but since this was a re-introductory game I figured what the heck.

For stacking purposes, I just make sure a squad stand or leader stand is physically touching another stand and you have an instant stack for firepower and protection purposes.  Leaders also convey their crucial bonuses to units they are stacked with.  Using square Crossfire stands with the smaller leader stands, it's not difficult on the plastic battlefield to tell leaders apart.

The best advice I would give before going down this road is to print yourself a "cheat sheet" with firepower, movement, morale values etc and book-mark in the rulebook sections you want to play.  For example I was hazy on the vehicle HE Anti-Infantry rules so I pre-marked them in the interest of time.

The Squad Leader original rules along with their supplements can be downloaded for free from the yahoo group as well as the Squad Leader in Miniature supplement.

This was alot of fun and I'll have to paint up more troops and vehicles, as well as terrain!  This makes me want to play some scenarios from the first boxed set!!!  Not to mention paint up more GIs and Brits to fight against my battle-hardened Panzer Grenadiers.

Gosh am I glad I tried this out.  I really forgot how much fun Squad Leader was, and in miniature is that much more enjoyable.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Current Projects Update!

Lots going on at Sound Officers Call!  We're not resting on our laurels after 100k visitors!  So here are a few project updates to whet your appetite and give everyone an idea of our current endeavors.

That's right, one of my all-time favorite games is getting a facelift.  In honor of "World Crossfire Day 2014" we're revamping and re-doing the Crossfire forces.  In what used to be a 15mm game, I've taken all of my 20mm troops based individually for "Disposable Heroes" and based them 3 to a stand on 1 1/4" Crossfire bases.
2 Crossfire platoons each, along with their respective Platoon Leaders, the Company Commanders are in the background.
Not only is this a great use of my 1/72 plastic toy soldiers, it's also a great excuse to finally start building, painting up and detailing those awesome Armourfast models I have on the shelf!!

unfinished Stug-III.  I have a TC figure for the commander as well as some stowage to laden this with.  Once the decals get on there, it'll really pop!  

painted in army-painter desert yellow and tamiya red-brown
As summer draws to a close, a report on "The Summer of Horse and Musket" is way overdue.  After some conversations with Ken, I decided on rebasing my Horse and Musket guys again.  Truth be told, there's no reason I can't put 6 troops on a stand.  So even though it will open up more work for me, I think the results will look much better in the long run
"I feel naked without my flock" French commander eagerly awaits a generous sprinkling of green flock on his base.  The horse still needs some highlights added.

Der Anhalt underwent some changes as well, going from 6 bases to 4.  I think it gives a more "densely packed" troop look to it, and is probably more conducive to fighting battles on my modest 6 x 4 table.

To be perfectly honest here, I'm quite happy with 3 stand French Battalions instead of 6.  With this configuration I can field a Napoleonic force for Black Powder, Shako, Warmaster Napoleonics, Volley & Bayonet, etc.  The only force that will stay 6 stands are my AWI and ACW troops as I like the look of a little more space between troops on an AWI battlefield.

An unruly British battalion.  Note the wide variety of poses...
They don't look like it now, but they'll be an Austrian Battalion when I'm finished with them!

Is there an end in sight for my WW2 project?  Absolutely not!  After a huge wave of "birthday reinforcements" this summer we have a fresh batch of new troops and vehicles to paint and base including German Infantry Heavy Weapons, Soviet AT Guns, Soviet Heavy Weapons, German Recce, German "Big Cats" and artillery.  Charles Grant's "Battle" has proven an excellent system to handle large battles on the tabletop, producing realistic results.  That and the Battlegroup series has reinvigorated my desire to get more and more units completed for larger games.

Paint more, comrade.  And this is only half of it...
Keep on truckin!  Soviet trucks rolling off the assembly line.  They will head to the "People's Dry-Brushing Department" before heading off to detailing, and then straight into combat.

German recce.  Game after game of having my 222's blown up without doing their jobs, I decided to reach into my DAK units and get a Panzer II based up for reconnaissance duty.  Hopefully these last a little longer up against T-70s than their wheeled cousins.  

Strength in numbers.  Another 222!?!?!

Mountains of lead.  Here you see a Soviet SMG Battalion, a German SS Company, and the makings of a new Eastern Front Crossfire unit as well...It never ends!!
There are also a few terrain projects in the works as well although not huge priorities for now.  First thing's first need to clean up the hobby area and prep for finishing up some of these outstanding projects from what has proven to be a very busy summer in terms of everything BUT gaming and modeling.

For gaming, I'm very much wanting to try "SabreSquadron" as well as find a rules set and basing convention for my 20mm 1/72 fantasy troops.  Flames of War Moderns has been calling my name as well!  Using some of the home-grown and BF-produced supplements, I would sure like to play some "Fate of a Nation" Arab-Israeli wars, as well as Cold War Hot games with all that 15mm lead and plastic I bought last year.

Thanks for tuning in!