Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 The Hobby Year in Review

Well, from a blogging perspective, 2016 would seem pretty "meh" with a mere 88 blog posts to speak of, the second lowest since the SOUND OFFICERS CALL blog has been in "publication" but don't let the numbers fool you!

I've been thinking about this post for a few days now and in retrospect, 2016 was, for me, a major milestone year for wargaming and hobby activities! (not to mention real life with the birth of our son!)  I just didn't blog or game as many times as I would have liked.  (could you ever?  I mean really...)

We attended and gamed at a major HMGS convention, posted and received a major SYW paint commission, allowing us to game the entire Battle of Lobositz, solved a really painful Horse and Musket rules dilemma with the help of some friends, new job, posted a huge Napoleonic painting commission, and really made the year count in terms of what we bought and, perhaps more importantly, what we didn't buy.

So let's go over some of the more impressive milestones of the year now:

Historicon 2016:  Sound Officers Call got to pick up and head out on the road to Historicon and we took the family with us!  I got to play in a truly HUGE Battlegroup: Kursk game entitled "The Road to Ponyri" with my best buddy Dave who came up from Fort Bragg, NC.  We also got some "hotel gaming" and played a game of "Bolt Action" with Dave's Canadians and my 12th SS, as well as some Neil Thomas OHW AWI action.  Next year there WILL BE SOC T-SHIRTS!
My 12th SS on the Objective at the hotel in Fredericksburg, VA going down fast!

Dave's stalwart Canadians advancing to victory
Historicon was great fun and I met a great Army vet by the name of Phil who paints figs on commission.  A quick conversation and a handshake later, I'm standing in the post office waiting to send him all of my Seven Years War figures.  He currently has all my Napoleonics.  Yes that's right.  Bavarians, Spanish, British, remaining French, and Portuguese.  Can't wait until the spring when they return!  You can read more about my adventures at Historicon here: *clicky*.

Painting Commissions: So speaking of Phil, I have to say I really enjoyed Phil's painting style.  The details he chooses to emulate over that which he does not really make the figures stand out.  Don't get me wrong, I'm happy with my own block painting style for SYW guys, and I have deliberately chosen to finish my own AWI figures (a few more battalions) but I have to say, for the price, I'm happy with Phil's work as he has enabled me to game with figures that otherwise would not have been finished until my daughter graduated college in 17 years...You can see some pics of Phil's work here: *clicky*

These aren't the same Austrians we fought last year.

Lacy, I said "amnesia," not Silesia.

Horse & Musket Rules Selection: Many hours worth of conversations with my gaming buddies shed some interesting light on the eternal struggle to find "the" set of Horse & Musket rules.  A few long conversations with Brian and Ken put things into a different perspective for me.  Brian introduced me to his 3 tenets of gaming, or the things he cannot compromise on from what he wants out of his games.  These are based off of real world circumstances as opposed to limitations of rules which is a great and very practical way of framing the problem.  Instead of looking for the right rules, I instead determined what it was I was even looking for in the first place, as well as what are my limitations to gaming and what rules most support those limitations?  Ken also offers some great levity here and I believe he bought off on my compromise as well.  There are really 2 horse and musket rules sets I'll use for my games mainly in the interest of time but I'll sum up my 3 tenets of warfare that drive my rules selection:

  • Basing Agnostic
  • Uncomplicated
  • Rules work equally well with a few units or many units.

The answer I came up with was Black Powder and to a lesser extent, Mark Simm's Rank & File.
Unfortunately I'm going through the same thing with World War II rules but that's a discussion topic for next year.  You can read all about my gaming epiphany here: *clicky*

New Job: So not bragging here but I was promoted out of my former job which saw me on revolving night and day shift work with numerous days off, to a standard, monday through friday routine.  This was really cut down on the amount of time I put into my gaming and hobby projects but I suppose it was inevitable.  It's an important component of my limitations on gaming/hobbying, and also drives my search for practical rules now.  (amazing how, when you take into account "the real world" your hobby needs change).

Procurement/Acquisitions: Last year around Christmas I had an interesting conversation with Alex, another gaming buddy, who talked about the morality (yes, the morality) of buying more and more gaming stuff than you can reasonably paint.  I thought about this and thought about the lead pile under my gaming table and I curtailed my procurement binge, cut defense spending, and put purchases toward current gaming projects that were already on the books.  My wife is happy because I spent ALOT less money than in previous years, and this has spurred me to paint the figures that I actually have, narrowed down to 2 scales 10mm (Fantasy & Napoleonics) and 15mm (everything else).

Anyways that's it!  So while 2016 was a bummer year for blog posts, you can see there were some big "breakthroughs" and "firsts" here at the blog that were fairly important.  I'm hoping to game, paint, and blog more in 2017 but we'll see what the year brings first.  This may be my last post of the year.  I'd like to post my 2017 "Gaming New Year's Resolutions" before 2017 starts so look forward to that, SOC fans.

PS: Even though it was a light year, there are still some awesome battles, painting projects, and progress reports here on the blog to look through if you have some time!  So check out 2016's posts, I promise you won't be disappointed!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Christmas Offensive: What did we learn?

This year's "Christmas Offensive" served as one of the test games for my "Ponyri Station Mega Game" so I wanted to write down all of my observations and analysis while they were in my head.

The first test battle was a huge success in terms of the rules and the overall satisfaction from the game itself.  There are, however, a few things I want to adjust based on how it went.

AAR Items:

When playing Rapid Fire, I need a better quick reference sheet.  I like the "X-County Player Sheet" on the website, and the current QRS is designed to sort-of mimic the sequence of play, but it doesn't quite cut it for me.  I would have liked more information on the call for fire process and sequence of play.  I'm going to, eventually, make my own Rapid Fire QRS that addresses some of my quirky issues.

My current terrain is inadequate.  The rules and ground scale are "big" and therefore I felt that the terrain didn't quite capture the feel of the scale which the rules are written for.  While I understand there is a definite "bathtub" effect going on here, I'm pushing companies and managing battalions.  That makes me a brigade commander.  I want the table to capture that feel by looking at it.  I'm not sure I'm there yet, and terrain may have a big part to play in that.  Going to ponder that more.

Indirect Fire:  So I kept tube artillery out of this battle but boy oh boy did both sides have ALOT of artillery at Ponyri Station.  The Germans have all of the supporting fires from their direct support cannon units from their regiments, heavy mortars, and general support tube artillery.  The soviets have a very similar composition.  Additionally, both sides have rocket artillery as well.

On my Ponyri Station OOB spreadsheet, I actually had to make a "Fire Support" Tab to keep track of all of the assets.  I feel as though the artillery may get a little out of hand but it's good to know Rapid Fire supports this, which brings me to the point.

I will need a Fire Support Matrix to keep track of artillery, mortars, rockets, and air support. 

 I also feel that it's a good idea to limit the fire missions.  Last game the mortars killed tons and tons of enemy troops.  Next time, I'll probably roll a D6 per battery and track the fire missions, allowing resupply of those batteries using the Divisional or Regimental Trans Companies.  That will be cool because those transport companies are always in high demand that modeling that supply problem will be cool.  Which battery do you resupply?  When?  How often?  Do you let the mortars starve?

Man, this 6 x 4 table is starting to feel a little crowded.

Speaking of crowding the table I will need more fortifications.  I used baseboard trim for dug-in markers and to good effect but I'll need more.  Alot more if I'm to have proper trench line systems.  Ideally they will be in front of and behind the unit.  That means about six times the amount of what I have now.

Anyways that's about it.  Things to keep in mind for the new year that will drive some of my "New Year Hobby Resolutions." I'll try to get in a final post before 2016 comes to a close.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Christmas Offensive: ENDGAME

Another Christmas over, another battle completed.  I was able to get in a few turns in the wee hours of the morning while the rest of the family snoozed and to good effect!  This battle was a nail biter up until the final turn (not even sure there was a "final turn" but the action kind of settled down.  I'll explain).

 The beginning of turn 4 saw the Germans catastrophically lose one of their battalions of the 184th IR who basically had had enough and withdrew (rolled a 1 for the infantry morale check).  Basically there were 13 figures left in that battalion and their fighting shape as an outfit was questionable.  While I wouldn't have necessarily left a huge, gaping hole in the line in front of a big Soviet infantry battalion, war is hell and I'm left to make due with what I have.

In other news, the Soviet Battalion at the 1st May collective farm turns and runs for the safety of the rear (probably safer at the front!) and the battalion evaporates as they too roll a "1" for their morale check.  The Germans walk into the farm complex without firing an additional shot.

Meanwhile the remaining battalion must reorganize itself on the objective, the 1st May Collective Farm and await new orders or a Soviet counterattack.  Whichever comes first!
 I'm noting that aggressive action mostly pays off in Rapid Fire and this German battalion had a much more aggressive posture than their sister battalion on the left.

The Soviets decide that they can't just remove one of their battalions guarding 253 so they dispatch 2 full strength companies to counterattack the 1st May Collective.  It's an optimistic gesture, but they cant just sit there and do nothing!

Soviet companies move forward towards the Collective Farm.

The Germans pass around ammo and await the next wave of Ivans.
 a frantic push to realign the left flank to meet this new threat from their east.  Both sides' mortars are thumping non stop trying to beat the other side into submission.

We must hold!

The soviet force looms as German mortars and machine gun rounds crash around them.

shooting starts to take its toll on the Germans

The unsung heroes of the battle - the Forward Observer teams!  Dealing whole sale destruction on the enemy!

German troops await Ivan's next attack.

Battalion command team, directing the defense.

The soviet counter attack "probe" has been defeated and a lull settles over the battlefield east of Ponyri village...
You might say something of an impasse happened at this point (turn 7) as a strong Soviet Battalion and a strong German battalion still occupied the table, but at opposite ends.  German progress is marked by a failure to reach Point 253 but a successful capture of the collective farm.  While another unit is sure to take their place, this was a setback that General Model had not anticipated.

The Germans are preparing to commit a panzer division to seize Ponyri, as well as the famed 656 Schwere PanzerJaeger with their Ferdinand tank destroyers!

The Soviets lost their MMG but make up for it with numbers and lack of casualties!
The battle pretty much ended there and then as I had alot to do to get ready for the festivities today but fear not!  This next battle will feature fighting for Ponyri itself as the Germans get stuck in.
So that's it.
I cannot imagine the soviets would have left their positions in front of Hill 253 and the Germans definitely would not leave the collective farm, so until reinforcements show up the fighting in the vicinity of the farm and the hill dies down for a little.

Still liking RAPID FIRE very much as a rules set.  It has a distinct "toy soldier" feel to it, but is very elegant and models all the things you want to see in a WW2 battle.

I am thinking of limiting ammo for mortars to 1D6 shots but allowing a resupply (now you can USE the battalion resupply convoys!)

Playing has so far showed me some of the questions I need to answer and has been not only great fun but enlightening as well.

Anyways, I hope everyone had a great day!  Looking forward to more RAPID FIRE action in the future.

Also a sneak preview of what's coming up - I got 2 BP supplements from Santa this year - "Last Argument of Kings" which should supplement my massive SYW commission nicely, and "Rebellion" which will be fun to play around with my 15mm AWI troops.  Most likely play Lobositz using Black Powder rules and possibly a bigger AWI battle allowing me to put all my troops on the table like Freeman's Farm with 4 stand Regiments.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Christmas Offensive: 1st May Collective & Hill 253.5 with RAPID FIRE

Merry Christmas everyone!  Every year on Christmas Eve and possibly if I find some time on Christmas morning, I like to play a large "meatgrinder" type scenario, usually from the Eastern Front, that I label "the Christmas offensive."  This year was a real treat as not only was this a meatgrinder offensive, but also served as a test game for the Ponyri Station "MEGA GAME!"

German II Battalion lower right and I Battalion upper left.

This battle featured the German 184th Infantry Regiment assaulting the prepared positions of the Soviet 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 1019th Rifle Regiment.

1st May Collective looms on the horizon.  The war weary Landsers know it'll be bristling with rifles, MGs, and bayonets.

And speaking of Ivan...
 The gathering forces start to trade pot-shots at each other across no-mans-land as the German companies gather for the assault.

The Soviet 3rd Battalion, 1019th Rifle Regiment not faring well against German shooting

German mortar tubes are hot this game as Ivan gets pummeled on the German right.

Awesome shot!  The FO calls in the mortars (note the impacts in the background!)

The Soviets answer.  Ahh you send over 81mm?  We send 82mm comrade!!

 I did the first few fire missions incorrectly.  It wasn't until I carefully read the IDF rules in RAPID FIRE that I realized how I'm supposed to do it.  After that, the Battalion mortars got a "little" less lethal, but not much.
German forces close in on 1st May Collective Farm!  Close range shooting and the Germans brought all their friends with them.
 The progress on the II Battalion's advance is gratifying.  The I Battalion however, is not doing good and high command is starting to get worried...

Horrifyingly for the Soviets, the II Battalion breaks through the frontline and a firefight breaks out between the staff and officers of the 1/1019th command group against the assaulting Germans.  The Soviet Battalion command group is wiped out!  Permanent -1 to the morale check!

Firefight with the Soviets at close range.
 This is the end of turn 2 and the Germans are ready to close assault the line of trenches west of the farm.

Soviet reinforcements come up in the nick of time.

and are pummeled by German mortars once again!

The German companies are 2 stands of 8 figures each.  (5/3 based for battlegroup)

Some hardcore IDF knocks the Soviets off balance and the Battalion prepares to move in
 Meanwhile on the German left, the I Battalion, 184th IR is not making much progress.  The Battalion starts to take significant casualties from soviet HMG and mortar fire as they emerge from the cornfield.

The Soviets pour a reserve company into the trenchline before the Germans gobble it up

A reinforced Kampfgruppe is all that remains of the I Battalion!

 Turn 3 the Germans go for broke!  They send in the Battalion to assault the Soviet trench line.
Blut und Schweiss!!!!

Soviet company is thrown out of the trench line and heads for the road culvert for cover.  The combat is a smashing success!

meanwhile on the German left, mortars crash onto the HMG platoon knocking it out.  At least they have that going for them...

I love this picture!  

Soviet turn 3 the Battalion defending the 1st May is pinned.  No offensive action reduced effectiveness.

Awesome game so far and I'm only 4 turns in.  Looking forward to seeing what happens next.  The Germans' left is in a bad way but their right has been wildly successful.  The Soviets may throw their "good" battalion at them to counterattack!

This was a great refresher for RAPID FIRE and it validated my thoughts on using it for "big" battles.  Lots of fun as well and accurately models the support and "peripheries" of war very well.  Not alot of fuss - I like that in a rules set.

Stay tuned for part 2!  

Merry Christmas!