Sunday, September 30, 2018


I got to play around a little yesterday with some concepts for a "grand tactical horse & musket" variant of Mr Neil Thomas' famous "One Hour Wargames."  The objectives for the project are pretty simple:

To produce a set of One Hour Wargame rules that evokes command decisions and problem-solving at the Corps Commander or higher level.

An infantry division and cavalry division struggle for control of the hill against 2 rival infantry divisions

In discussion with Alex, we both felt that the 1HW "engine" has much promise for Corps-sized battles and that refighting Corps sized actions are entirely possible.

So with that in mind, I set out to try and put to paper a rules-set that is Neil Thomas in its flavor, but rests in the grand tactical scope.  The following are some modifications that allow me to reach the objective above.

First, gone are the generous ranges from 1HW.  Musket armed units are now full sized Brigades or Regiments.  As such the ground scale is tweaked to offer the Corps Commander 3 options for his brigade in the offense (and those of you who play "Blucher" should feel right at home here)

"Skirmish Fire" which is the Brigade's long-range firepower from skirmishers and pickets, as well as its supporting batteries that you don't see on the table.  This is a 2 x basewidth range.  (half of the Brigade's strength points are used for firing).

"Volley Fire" which is the Brigade's subordinate battalions online and presenting maximum firepower against an enemy. This is a 1 x basewidth range.  Up close and personal. (all of the Brigade's strength points are used for firing)

"Assault" which is the Brigade maneuvering against an enemy unit.  The Brigade rolls all of its strength points against an enemy unit, who gets to fight back rolling all of theirs.  Assault combat units are touching.

All hits in combat, for now, are on the roll of "6" (not sold on this - more later).  Units add or subtract D6 for advantages or disadvantages. 

Second are the issuance of "orders" for units.  For my first game, the entire division had to receive the same order.  One of the following:  Move, Volley Fire, Skirmish Fire, Assault, March, and for Artillery Battalions - Artillery resupply.

Third is much more restrictive movement.  Infantry Brigades move 2" plus a D6 roll.  On "march" orders they may move 2 x D6 plus 2".  If there is ANY pivoting at all, it must occur at the beginning of movement.  Additionally, ANY pivoting at all incurs 1/2 movement penalty.  So if you rolled a "6" you can move 6 +2" for a total of 8" .  If you must pivot at all, you get to move 4".  All movement is in straight lines as it should be.

Fourth are Grand Tactical Orders of Battle for which I had a clever idea.  For Neil Thomas' random force generator, 1 "unit" equated to a division.  So if you force has 3 total infantry "units" that means you have 3 Divisions of infantry, broken into 3 brigades each for a total of 9 infantry brigades.  Pretty sweet idea, but it's hardly "one hour" long.  A 15 turn game where you have brigades that take 7 hits to die would take a few hours.  I went back to NT's force structure but may return to the Division concept if I can speed up the attrition.

Speaking of attrition, each Infantry Brigade has 7 total SPs.  Cavalry Brigades have 4 total SPs.  Artillery batteries have 2 total hits, but if they are contacted, are wiped out following a full blast of grapeshot.

I really like the idea of orders, too.  Each commander rolls a 1D6 at the start of his turn which tells you how many Divisions can receive orders.  I tweaked this for my second game and dispensed with the larger OOB and opted for Neil Thomas' OOB from his random force generator which gives a much quicker game.
Cavalry Brigade and 2 x Infantry Brigades assault the single Brigade atop the hill in my second game.
I'm working on going through a third iteration now where I'm using "To Hit" values for the units which makes the game go MUCH quicker.  Instead of hitting on "6" in all cases, units have a fixed "To Hit" against certain types of targets.  This feels much more like a 1 Hour Wargame!

The goal here is to produce a set of rules based on 1HW, that gives a Corps' Commander perspective and allows the reader to replicate large battles or significant portions of large battles.  I'll try and post the AAR of my first 2 games this week sometime.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Saturday Night CROSSFIRE: The Assault on Tula!

Alex and Dave were over Friday night for a historical Crossfire match-up straight from the "Hit the Dirt" Crossfire scenario book.  Last night we played the eastern front "Assault on Tula" scenario from the drive on Moscow in October, 1941.  This scenario featured a combined-arms assault by the famed "GrossDeutschland" Regiment against elements of a Soviet NKVD Regiment.

The Germans officers Alex and Dave plotting their next moves.  Note the yellow dice which are our classic "Crossfire Time Clock" dice!

The Germans have 2 x understrength companies (platoons of 2 x squads each) with which to seize all of the buildings around Tula including the Brickworks (we used the Stalingrad Barrikady Foundry from Novus).

They also have 3 fire missions of heavy artillery, and 7 fire missions with battalion mortars.  Lots of firepower!

By the way, I have an under-strength NKVD company sized blocking detachment with some extra HMGs, Anti Tank rifles, and I'm supposed to have snipers and a pair of deadly 85mm AA guns but didn't want to figure out how to model those so I just used the infantry, ATRs, and HMGs.  I have no mortars or artillery.  Per the HtD scenario book, I should also have some fortifications as well as a huge log pile to slow down Fritz.

Using the Hit the Dirt timeclock, the Germans are to step off at 1300 hours and seize the buildings no later than 1700 hours.  The timeclock advances 30 minutes when a "5+" is rolled on a 1D6.  You roll to advance the clock every time the initiative switches to the Soviets.  I think we ended the game somewhere around 1530 hours.

Dave's armor moving out.  We ended up, un-intentionally, using the armor rules from Steven's Balagan which treat armor more like infantry stands.

Alex dealing with the presence of an HMG on his left flank.  That would probably be the Soviet's most successful unit for the entire game.
Germans step up to the line of departure for the attack

Panzer IIIs churning their way towards Moscow
 The Germans start shooting the near side of Tula with a heavy weapons platoon which Alex had as part of his MTOE.  2 HMG sections and their very own Platoon Leader.  It's a great idea and works very well suppressing the Soviets in the worker's cabins.

These men would be suppressed for the rest of the game.
 The Soviets (me) could have made some smarter deployment decisions IE not using your Company Commander to hold a flank down, keeping platoon leaders closer and more centralized so you can mass fires better.  The Soviets suffered from very sporadic and ineffective shooting throughout the game and I dont think ever actually knocked out a German squad. 

It's about as a-historical as could be, but that's because of the commanders decisions, not the rules!  in real life the Germans had to pull back from Tula and wait for the ground to freeze so they could bring in more tanks!

 I also had a SMG platoon attached which I used my scouts for.  These guys are deadly in close combat, provided they get into close combat.  They are terrible for holding ground though, and would have been much better suited to counter-attacking or city fighting with Crossfire's building sector rules.  Dave and Alex knew that I only could use 2 dice at range with them in the open.  So they carefully maneuvered against them and then formed a massive company-sized crossfire against them, systematically eliminating stands one by one. 

It's a good plan and it's also gratifying to see the rules "clicking" with these guys!  This was Alex's second game, and Dave's first after a long hiatus.

 I also experienced the infuriatingly disappointing Soviet Anti Tank rifle which would have needed "boxcars" to hit and kill the Panzer III to its front.  Things arent going well and the Kommissar is glaring at me with his hand on his pistol! 

Germans scrambling up into cover.  this platoon would be something of a reserve unit for the Germans.

I manage an initial suppressing shot against a Geman HMG early on.

Panzers Vorwarts!

Dave moves his company forward to surround and flank the brickworks while my SMG gunners can only watch.  1 die to shoot is too risky for me and they might go "NO FIRE" so I dont even bother, instead hoping they'll close-assault the brickworks outright.  They dont!

The heavy artillery dropped almost 13 inches of smoke to cover the advance!  Plus my HMG is suppressed in the brickworks.

Germans advancing on Tula - note the AT ditch to the right.  

Germans occupying key terrain around the brickworks.  They won't dare enter though.  The SMG's get a whopping 4 shooting dice prior to close combat!
 The Germans take out squads one after the other until the building is clear of SMG stands, they then close assault the suppressed HMG stand and ATR stand.  It's brutal combat!

 Dave and Alex saved their last heavy artillery mission for the house that's hiding my reserve platoon.  It's devastating and they score a kill, meaning up to 3 additional squads in the house are suppressed.  I call the game!
This is the end!

We should really get out of here, huh?

Alex and Dave planning their next moves.  Everyone was fully engaged the entire game and had a great time.  There were no lags or down-time.
Second week in a row of Crossfire and another game that took a little bit more than 2 hours to complete.  Not bad considering there were 3 x infantry companies on the table, a platoon of armor, and artillery in support.  Alex and Dave got the hang of things quickly and while we had to search for some rules, most turns we didn't even have to consult the QRS.  This was a great, albeit costly, game for me and I have to be honest about some lessons I re-learned:

Company / Battalion Commander Placement
Both sides struggled with the placement of company / battalion commanders.  The CO needs to be in a position where he can see things, and coordinate crossfires from multiple platoons.  The key to victory in Crossfire is coordinating Crossfires with support teams and with multiple platoons, giving you the best chance to kill something.

In my case, I needed my CO centrally located to coordinate counter-attacks, and fire into important kill zones.

Coordinated Defense
Units' fire needs to be tied into a larger defensive scheme.  An HMG is a powerful weapon but it's not as effective unless it's tied into a platoon network of linked fires.  (gosh if this doens't sound "real world" I dont know what is).

SMG Units
These powerful units are best kept in reserve where they can be employed in counterattacking, preferably with an HMG to "soften up" defenders prior to going in.  They are very powerful if used correctly and took an entire company to "winkle" them out of position.

All in all a great game with great company, and a great time after a long week at work.  Once again, Crossfire deliver everything it promised and all in less than 3 hours.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Saturday Night CROSSFIRE: Mac's Missions & Hobby Focus

My buddy Alex was over last night to play a game of Crossfire using the "Mac's Missions" [click] rules for pickup games.  We played with my Eastern Front forces, with Alex taking the Soviets and yours truly taking the Germans.  We each drew our missions secretly.  I drew "probe" and Alex drew "Breakthrough."  We used the time clock to "75" which also added a great element of tension to the game.

Mac's Missions add specific parameters to use for each side's victory conditions.  They're fun because you're left trying to guess the enemy's plan all while trying to execute your own.  Now if I can figure out how the point system works, I can tell you who won last night! 

Forces on the table - looking towards the Soviet lines
This was Alex's first game of Crossfire and I think he really enjoyed it.  He took up some great positions and also took advantage of some clear fire lanes and made my life as the German Hauptmann very difficult!
Alex causing trouble for the Germans on his left flank
 Alex had the German right flank pretty much locked down and advanced his troops up to a small farm hamlet where he was able to keep my 3rd platoon locked down.  The 3rd platoon had to literally claw their way up to a small hill.
On the German left, I quickly realize that the Soviet forward area is covered by rifle fire and HMG fire from 3 directions.  My decision to weigh down the left was a bad one!  My troops occupy the treeline overlooking some rubble piles and a wheatfield, only to start mixing it up with half the Soviet army!

The German left - the "main effort" proved a mistake
Alex had some great dice also and his shooting was deadly, mixing it up with my 1st Platoon in the treeline.  He quickly learns the value of a "Crossfire" and starts directing fire onto my lead squads and an HMG section.  I have 3 suppressions on my hand already!

The squad in the rear pictured would end up being my saving grace.
Alex surges a platoon forward after some intense firing and assaults the treeline, wiping out a squad, and an HMG section.  We did have a question about supporting squads (can 1 squad in the rear lend support to multiple combats) but we overcame it.  Alex wins 2 out of 3 combats but the third one sees 2 squads sent packing!  Germans get the initiative and shoot up a squad in the open, eventually killing it.

We also realize the time clock is clicking down.  The remnants of my platoon here on the left move into the rubble piles in Alex's forward area and are fired on by a 45mm AT gun.  Meanwhile Alex still has the German right flank locked down and is starting to maneuver against it.

Soviet FO calling in mortar fires from battalion
We ended the game with 2 of my squads in Alex's "forward area" and 2 of Alex's squads in my "forward area" who, it turns out, were headed to my rear area because Alex had "breakthrough" orders.

This was a great game - lots of fun, tension, and decisions to be made.  Crossfire keeps both parties engaged and also keeps you focused on the big picture throughout the game.

I would also mention the game took a little less than 2.5 hours with plenty of discussion and demonstrations with the rules.

We then switched gears and had a great conversation about some ideas for a Grand Tactical version of 1HW.  As always Alex had some great ideas and suggestions and it looks like we're sneaking up on a concept here for fighting simple, Corps-Sized actions using the 1HW scenarios!  I am super excited about this project so far.

Speaking of projects, I thought I'd snap a picture of my first completed Egyptian 6mm Battalion for Fate of a Nation.  I'm basing the second now (Just Jack's models) and will then start the Egyptian infantry and then the Israelis.

Next is to pick my 2 x main priorities for 2019.  This year I comfortably focused on WWII and less so on AWI. 

So here is a wrap-up of projects that are ongoing:

Fate of a Nation / Team Yankee / Dunn Kempf 6mm Project: 2 x Egyptian Tank Battalions, 1 x Infantry Company in BTR152, and supports (SU100, PT76, BTR50, Artillery) Israeli Magach-3 Company, I-Sherman Company, and Infantry Company.  Also working the Team Yankee vehicles by re-doing all of my MERDC (ugh...) Americans, rebasing the infantry, and rounding out the force to include a full M1 Company, full M60A3 Company, full M113 mounted Infantry Company, air support, M109 battery.  Of course all my Soviets for Dunn-Kempf are completed.

One Hour Grand Tactical Project:  Minis are done and ready for this one.  Corps level rules using the model from One Hour Wargames.  Just need to put the rules down on paper and give them a spin, trying out various mechanisms for combat and attrition.  After conversations with Alex last night, there are 3 courses of action to work through.  More on this in another post down the line.

AWI Project:  I didn't forget that the second main "priority" for 2018 was my AWI project.  I still have some work to do finishing off a 15mm Colonial Ranger unit, and the last of my continental line, generals, and the encampment.  Hopefully there is enough to host a big SARATOGA mega game in the late fall. 

10mm Fantasy Project:  Need to start work on painting and basing my collection of 10mm Low Fantasy Units for use with Alex's Dark Age / Medieval Wargaming rules "Spear to the Strife" which I LOVE.

Napoleonics Project:  Need to finish work on some more 10mm Austrian units, 10mm Prussian units (all are RISK pieces) and flock all my 15mm British and Peninsular Allies.  My intent is to use my 10mm games for more Grand Tactical gaming, while my 15mm units are used for more tactical gaming with battalions on the table.

WWII 15mm / 6mm Project:  Is this one ever over?  Happy to report most of my Eastern Front projects that were started have been brought to near completion or completion this year!  All Soviets and Heer units have been rebased repainted and are in their new storage.  Just need to finish up the SS units who will do double-duty on both fronts.  Next year we'll be focusing on the British (Canadian 3rd Inf Div) and the Americans who will finally get done!  Once all the Germans are finished (Heer and SS) I will switch to starting up my 6mm project again and base them all for 6mm Flames of War (which I feel is a perfect microarmor game). 

It's an exciting time to be wargaming - if I can only FIND THE TIME! 

Lots of gaming coming up in WWII to include more CROSSFIRE, Up the Blue, and of course BATTLEGROUP.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

FATE OF A NATION and other Progress

Took a day of leave yesterday and while I didn't get as much painting done as I would have liked, there was some good progress!

The Egyptian first tank battalion for FATE OF A NATION is coming along nicely and only needs some of the tracks from the 3rd Company painted as well as some light flock put down.  These are 31 GHQ T-55s from my collection.  "Jack" provided me with enough T-55 tanks for a second battalion that will be based when I have enough bases.  This is getting out of hand!  So I'll be able to field an Egyptian tank BRIGADE for FAON.  I'm going to need a bigger table!

The full tank battalion minus the support platoons.

Some have asked me about my basing and how I do the ground texture so here goes - I use vallejo "european mud" goo on the base and let it dry overnight.  I paint it tamiya flat earth (actually a store-made latex version I bought in a pint!  I'll literally never run out), then I dry brush vallejo dark sand.  These are FOW small bases I bought on ebay.

Dry brushed next to not dry brushed base.  

Also started work on the support companies.  In this case, an SU100 tank destroyer company, all GHQ.  I love the detail on these tanks!

Also working on my Israeli forces as well but the progress not as substantial.  I've got about 50% of the armor basecoated with tracks, tires, etc painted but no wash or dip yet.  I was also experimenting with colors for the IDF uniform and I think I have a winner.  Here they are on my practice landser:
and since we're on the subject of uniforms, here is an egyptian as well.  I'm having a hard time with the coloring of their uniforms.  In 6mm, the VJ dark sand is way too bright so I'm playing around with a variation of khaki uniform and dark sand helmet.
All in dark sand looks good on this khurasan 15mm Syrian dude.

but in 15mm it's a little different.  The picture doesn't do it justice.
 Anyways, lots to work on in this department but we're getting there.  I need to prep more bases for the SU company and get started on the infantry.  Also need to get the Israelis started as well so I have a viable force.  Once I get more bases, "Jack's" T55s can be based up and we get a second battalion on the table!  I am really liking the GHQ armor.

And a sneak preview of a 3d printed T55AM2 from Butler's Printed models.  I'm not very happy with them but what are you going to do?  I have 31 of em!  The BPM 6mm stuff is not as nice as their 15mm stuff.  Maybe he'll look better when I have paint and wash on him.  Might be a good excuse to camouflage them up!