Monday, December 26, 2022

The Battle of Golod - A Panzerblitz After Action Report

 Trying out my ideas for a slicker Panzerblitz, or as this project has come to be known as -  "building a better mousetrap."

I threw a bunch of units together, likely from Grossdeutschland PanzerGrenadier Division, during the Kursk offensive, and a handful of powerful Soviet units.  The German OOB featured an infantry battalion, with a mechanized company, and a motorized company, along with a self propelled artillery battery (150mm), 2 armored 8x8 recce vehicles (for artillery spotting), a Tiger-I Company, Panther Company, and a Panzer IV Company.  Their mission is to clear Hill 152 and push on to Golod not later than 1pm.  The Soviet mission is to stop the Germans at Hill 132 with a Battalion of infantry and heavy weapons.  There is a tank battalion in the rear near Golod to counter attack.  

Starting time for the battle is 1000 hours.

The Turn Sequence

The proposed turn sequence from the last post was way too "involved" and choppy while I was playing.  I improvised a little... While we'll still use "Operations Points", OPs can now "do more" and the turns are more flexible IE you have options and are not confined to shooting/moving etc.  Let me explain:

1. Roll for Operations Points (OPs) - Red and Blue both roll a D6.  Higher roll has the turn initiative.  The result on the D6 Blue die is the amount of OPs that the blue player has, same for red.  If you roll doubles, that's a "lull" and everyone with disruptions immediately rallies.

2. Players alternate carrying out Actions. starting with the player who scored higher on the OPs roll  Actions cost OPs.  Actions are:

  • Activate a movement group.  Nominate a single hex as a "group leader" and surrounding, adjacent hexes can move with this order 1OP.  MOve half or less?  You can shoot with half your FP!
  • Activate a fire group.  Units engage a target individually or as part of a hex/stack (just like in the original boardgame)  Same as above except for shooting. 1OP
  • Conduct a Close Assault.  Adjacent infantry can close assault. 1OP
  • Conduct an Armored Overrun Assault.  1OP
  • Rally.  3OPs (!)
  • Artillery Fire Mission. 1OP
3.  Once all units have acted / all OPs are used up or both players pass, adjust Time Clock and Untip units (I cocked them in the hex to show they've activated)

Once both sides have used up all of their OPs for this turn, or passed, I roll 2D6 on the time clock.  The result is how many minutes have passed during the turn.  Game play ends when the scenario clock is up (Golod was 180 minutes).  I figured some things out during play that I'll explain here.

Soviet defense of Hill 132 and Bednost.  Strongly defended by roughly a Battalion plus support weapons.  Note the recce platoon in the rear.  They were artillery and mortar spotters along with the HQs unit (not in pic)

Northern half of the map.  Note the 122mm Howitzer Battery, along with a tank battalion in reserve.  Golod is the village to the NW of the hill.

One cool thing about spending OPs on Movement Groups - you can use them to bring on a stack of reinforcements.  I developed the march order for the GD elements and stuck to it.  I had to live with those decisions in a bit and the motorized infantry bringing up the rear didn't help!
Recon elements, Tiger platoons already on the table.  The stacks to the right were the march serials to feed into the assault.  Costs 1OP to bring them onto the board.

From some earlier playtesting this morning and last night, I realized that constantly rallying was prolonging the game (rallying cost 1OP previously and it was dragging smaller engagements out).  So I upped the cost - 3OPs to rally a hex.  That considerably cut down on the rallying unless the player was desperate and needed the element in the fight to take advantage of a developing situation.  For instance let's say the 150mm fire mission was super effective and wiped out a last defending unit that was on the ropes - this enabled me to get a unit to occupy that hex quickly before the enemy brought any reserves to bear.

ENDGAME - the battle reaches 180 minutes.  Note the casualty pile.  I think for the ground gained, the German casualties are pretty realistic and same for the Soviets.

One really fun aspect of this game was by-passing stubborn defending infantry units and sealing them off with reserves while moving the heavy mobile stuff northward.  The Soviets had a wealth of support units in the rear and it was great fun mopping them up with panthers and panzer-IVs (5D6 to 1D6 over run engagement) and really felt like a "breakthrough" attack.  

The stubborn infantry was another story.  It is HARD to dislodge those strength 16 infantry companies, even with the artillery.  The 5D6 and 6D6 attacks were not easy.  I was hoping that I could whittle them down but while some times the dice were hot, others they were not and the Russians kept coming back.

Interesting aside, whenever DOUBLES are rolled on an OP roll, I immediately attempt to rally every unit that has disruption on it.  This adds a pleasant element of tension and decision making - IE do you try to spend OPs to rally a crucial unit?  Or wait for doubles?

The Germans flooded to the northern half of the map with their armor and eventually the mechanized infantry while the truck-borne infantry attempted to mop up in Bednost.  That single lone infantry company is still there but the Germans seized the town from them.  they were tearing up the road hard when the time clock was called.  One interesting aspect I noticed - Armor is tough but it cant just blast infantry out of a position.  You need friendly infantry to go in and take the ground.  I really appreciated that and the D6 engagement system really highlights it (sure there were some outliers here but most of the time the tanks couldnt do much against those big Soviet infantry companies unless I caught them out in the open and could over run them.)

Final turn.  GrossDeutschland elements just south of Golod.  Note the infantry platoons and the "X" above them - that would be another stubborn Soviet rifle company that just would not die!  I figured out a neat work around for close assault to make it jsut as potent as in the board game

Close Assault Rules
Infantry platoon offensive firepower is not great in panzerblitz which is why they get a powerful "-2" modifier to the die roll in close assault.  You get a column shift on the CRT if you bring engineers along.  With that in mind here is how I'm playing Infantry close assaults:

Count up the infantry firepower score (in the pic above the German platoon is "3" for its attack FP).   In this example we have 2 x German Rifle Platoons with FP 3 for attacking.  So:

German Rifle Platoon Attack FP: 3 (3D6= assaulters do NOT use a ratio - they use the exact amount of attack FP for their dice)
German Rifle Platoon Attack FP: 3 (3D6)
Close Assault Bonus: 2D6
Terrain Penalty: -1D6
Supporting Units (any adjacent or in-hex units that are not participating +1D6 per unit.

So in this instance we get 6D6 for the 2 Rifle platoons (FP 3 each), 2D6 for the close assault bonus, -1D6 for assaulting into cover, and +2D6 for the half tracks supporting.  So that's 11D6, looking for 5+ successes.  

The Soviets have a defending single rifle company stand with a strength of 16.  16/3 = 5D6.  Soviet quality does NOT allow them to round up (Germans get to round up when there is a difference of 2).  They are single disrupted so they lose 1D6 for the "X" on them for a total of 4D6.  

The Germans roll their 11 close assault dice and score 4 successes (5+).  The Soviets roll their 4D6 and score 3 successes (5+).  The Germans win by 1 so every unit in the target hex is disrupted.  If they were already disrupted, it's treated as a NO EFFECT.  If the Germans had scored 2 more successes, each unit in the hex would be DOUBLE DISRUPTED, meaning that additional hits from another attack would eliminate the unit unless it was able to rally.

Heavy fighting around Bednost as the Germans push up onto the hill.  The armor, as powerful as it is, could not help when things got down to the last hundred yards.  The "X" shows a disruption among the German rifle platoons as they prepared to close assault the town.  The result of a Soviet artillery strike using the recon troops as spotters.

Recce Troops 

I loved using the Recon troops as artillery spotters.  The generous movement distance of the wheeled recce means you can put "eyes on" into the enemy rear area and bring down some serious pain if you wanted to (and if your troops didn't need the artillery trying to reduce enemy positions to their front!).  I used both wheeled recce and command posts as artillery spotting platforms.  Simple rule - if the FO or CP moves, it cant shoot.  Pretty neat that I needed truck counters - and an OP - to move the HQs.

Recon troops moving south to serve as spotters for the 122mm battery further north


Any Panzerblitz veteran will tell you the artillery is crazy. powerful  H class weapons have, in many cases up to 60FP (!) so how do you reconcile that on the gaming table?  Great question!  I followed the Panzerblitz rules and halved H class attacks against armor, but even 30/3 was 10D6 so the artillery fired in increments of  1D6 per 10 FP.  The German Hummel with 60 FP fired 6D6 at infantry and soft targets, and 3D6 at armored targets.  It was a decent compromise although I'm thinking of making the artillery a tad more powerful, and a tad LESS plentiful (I allowed it to fire every turn, and like clockwork, I was using it each turn until the Germans overran the 122mm gun battery (that was alot of fun, BTW).  The halving of the value worked well, however, and approximating the firepower into a handful of D6 worked well, too.

OH!  Almost forgot, the Soviets, in an attempt to deal with the Panzers rushing north, used the 122mm battery in a direct fire emergency role.  In that case, I used the ratio value so:

40FP reduced to 20FP for firing at an armored target - 20/3 = 6 for the Soviets (remember Soviets cant round up).  So the 122mm battery got to fire 6D6 direct fire against the German armor rushing towards them.  That was fun stuff.

Time Clock
I used the time clock concept from Norm's Into Battle and from the Crossfire "Mac's Missions" concept.  At the end of each turn I rolled 2D6 and advanced the clock that many minutes.  While this bigger battle had a 3 hour limit (180 minutes) a game with a more restricted end point would cause both players to play much more aggressively and use their resources in a more concerted manner.

Speaking of Rallying, I allowed the Soviets to roll 2D6 needing a 5+ to rally.  Each success removed a level of disruption.  So scoring a single 5+ would take a unit from disruption to normal.  Or double disruption to disruption.  Germans rolled 2D6 needing a 4+ to rally.  Scoring 2 successes would return a unit to normal.

The final casualty tally.  The Germans definitely were bloodied in this fight losing 2 panther platoons, 2 infantry platoons, and a truck company! (the Soviets in the final 2 turns close assaulted the truck park outside Bednost and absolutely destroyed everything in their path)

If you're thinking this sounds fun and satisfying, you're right.  This gave a great game and I'm excited to continuing to work the bugs out so I can make a proper QRS.  If you have a copy of Panzerblitz, Panzerleader, or Arab Israeli Wars, you can use it to fight your games out and they'll feel a little bit more like a miniatures game while still retaining the spirit of the original Panzerblitz Boardgame.  My plan is to put this on the table with microarmor and my hexmat as soon as I feel like its ready to do so.  We're getting closer!

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Merry Christmas!

 The Staff at Sound Officers Call would like to wish our readers a very Merry Christmas and a happy and joyous 2023!  May your days be merry and bright, and may you roll 6's when it counts.  May your French columns seize the ridge from Old Nosey this year, may your Shermans and T-34s make that shot against that Panther, and may your Barbarians finally break those Legionnaire's testudo.  I hope all your games are spent in the company of friends and that rolling dice and painting lead continues to warm your hearts and stir your imaginations.

Holding vigil for the big guy on a very cold December night.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Musing on Panzerblitz's Turn Sequence & Actions

 As promised, more analysis of the Panzerblitz game is here bringing the tenets of the older linear sequence of play a bit more into the 21st century while still trying to keep the (linear) spirit of the original alive and not make things too random or crazy.  Read on!  

The Original Turn Sequence

Panzerblitz's original turn sequence was novel for its day.  Bringing the "sharp end" of the battle into focus for the wargamer, you were now making the decisions for the battalion commander, staff officers, or the company commander.  Decisions on support-by-fire positions and flanking maneuvers all come into focus for the player, guided by a turn sequence that required the support-by-fire unit to remain stationary and forbade the flanking units from firing.  It certainly makes life a bit easier so we'll keep that aspect intact from the original.  Speaking of the original sequence, here it is in its glory:

  • Mine Attacks
  • German Player Direct Fire Attacks
  • German Player Moves and conducts Armored Overrun 
  • German Player conducts Infantry Close Assault Attacks
  • Switch German/Russian Player
  • Turn Complete

This sequence is very straightforward and I'm not going to stray too far from it.  While the 2011 (?) published version "Hill of Death" features a much more asymmetric turn sequence where players pull "Ops" chits from a container with "0" "1" or "2" on them.  These are hex radius that can be activated, thus initiating an almost "mini" turn within the overall turn sequence.  Units can do "stuff" are still limited to moving and assaulting or shooting for the most part.  Again, since MMP is doing it, I'm going to do it.

Dan Fraser's "Panzerblitz in Miniature" Turn Sequence

Dan pretty much perfected the turn sequence from Panzerblitz by accounting for things that weren't in the original and combining them.  While his wikipage (canuckcommander) is still available I couldn't find the rules to download on it anymore.  Here is his turn sequence from his Panzerblitz in Miniature rules:

  • Recovery Phase
  • Indirect Fire Phase
  • Direct Fire Phase
  • Air Phase
  • Move Phase
  • Switch Players

My Proposal - The Operations-Based Turn Sequence

I really liked the idea of pulling Ops chits but I dont like the randomness of it, preferring the ability to set up an attack and carry it through.  That being said, there should be some "fog of war" and you as the commander, should have to prioritize the tough decisions.  That's what they're paying you for!  Who do you reinforce?  Who gets the main effort for fires?  Where is the reserve element going to be placed?  I wanted all of those decisions to come into the game but in a way that forces a bit of uncertainty onto the player. 

Instead of "Ops Chits" I am going to try to introduce "Operations Points" or "OPs".  You as the commander roll 2D6 and that will tell you how many units you can activate, or what staff actions your battle staff will carry out.  In this way, your focus is task-oriented and prioritized towards the objectives of the mission.  Things that take more of the staff's time and coordination will cost more.  Units can do "stuff" at lower cost to represent unit initiative where they are at.  So with all that said, here is my proposed turn sequence and OP cost:

  • Both Players Roll 2D6 for OPs (Simultaneous)
  • Adjust OP Tracker 
  • Roll Initiative for the Turn
  • Player A Ops Phase
  •     Stationary Fires (Free) /Place Units on Overwatch (1 OP) OW units may fire in the enemy turn
  •     Movement (1 OP) & Overrun Attacks (2 OP) /Close Assaults (1 OP)
  •     Player B Indirect Fire Lands (2 OP) from Last Turn
  • Player B Ops Phase
  •     Stationary Fires (Free) /Place Units on Overwatch (1 OP) OW units may fire in the enemy turn
  •     Movement (1 OP) & Overrun Attacks (2 OP) /Close Assaults (1 OP)
  •     Player B Indirect Fire Lands (2 OP) from Last Turn
  • Recovery Phase (Joint Rally Attempts - Simultaneous)
  • Adjust Time / Clear Unused OPs

So a few things on this need some explaining.  I'm clearly a fan of the stationary fires but am putting "overwatch" into the mix (think Fistful of TOWS or the "First Battle" turn sequence.  You sacrifice your own movement to shoot during the enemy Movement phase.  This costs you a single OP just as if you moved).  Also I'm instituting a delay for indirect fire.  This takes some time, even for Direct Support guns and that is factored into when the IDF lands vrs when it is called for (the phase prior - yes your IDF lands during your Opponent's turn, right after he moves - this should reward players for using their artillery to break up enemy attacks).

Summarized OP Cost

Most of these actions, save for direct fire attacks, cost OPs.  Here is a proposed, summarized list of OP cost for various actions:

  • Direct Fire attack (Free)
  • Movement (1 OP)
  • Place a unit on Overwatch (1 OP)
  • Close Assault (1 OP plus the cost of movement)
  • Over Run Attack (2 OP plus the cost of movement)
  • Rally 1 (1 OP)
  • Fire IDF (2 OP)
  • Call for Fire / Call for Aircraft (1 OP)
  • Engineering (2 OP)
  • Activate a Headquarters (2 OP) this is a cool rule whereby you activate a HQs unit or some kind of Command & Control node and it can then activate units within its radius for free.

The Passage of Time

I always loved Norm's use of the turn clock in his excellent "Into Battle" / (formerly Tigers at Minsk).  While I dont want to use that per se, I thought it would be a neat feature for players to tally up their used OPs during the turn.  Every 5 OPs used results in a 1D6 die roll towards the time clock.  This would matter for the game ending or for reinforcements arriving.  The defensive player could also be conservative with his OPs and slow down the clock if he knew there were allied reinforcements en route.

So What's Next?

All of these are my brainstorming and spit-balling ideas but so far I'm getting pretty excited.  Coupled with my proposed engagement system, I think these could be a really great way to spend a Saturday afternoon and even get "all the toys on the table" for a really huge battle.  My next step is to put together some kind of a quick reference sheet that will hold all of these ideas in a single space so I can playtest it (and document if of course).  I feel like there are some hidden trouble spots within this proposal, but overall I'm excited to try it out as I also feel it has much potential to bring back those nostalgic feelings for the original Panzerblitz, but with a bit more sophistication added.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 22, 2022

New Take on an Old Wargame: Musing on PANZERBLITZ

The very name Panzerblitz has always evoked a certain nostalgia with me - being one of the first board wargames I ever owned that was not an operational or strategic level game, Panzerblitz had me leading the Panzer platoons and T-34 companies during the Kursk operation and making tactical decisions that could determine the outcome of the larger battle.  At that time in my life I was preparing for entrance into military school and eventual commissioning as a Second Lieutenant, so tactical games like Panzerblitz and Squad Leader served as more than mere diversions - they were a way to hone my trade.

Still a classic

Given the sentimental nature of these rules and their importance to me, I could never bring myself to part with them.  Rather than throw away, sell, or trade, I lovingly wrapped them up and put them in the attic, all the while hoping to "one day" return to them.

Playing in Bryan L's outstanding "Kasserine Pass" game last week, I was struck at the elegance and simplicity of Bryan's Frankenstein combat system.  While he still utilized the attack, defense, and indirect attack values of the counters (leaving the designer's crucial work of identifying combat values for battalions and regiments intact) Bryan "bolted on" the Axis and Allies board game combat system whereby if an American infantry Battalion counter had an attack/defense/move value of 3/4/7 in Kasserine Pass, Bryan allowed that unit to attack with D10 equal to the number of minis still in the unit (most had 4 reducing the unit by 1 for each unsaved hit), aiming to hit with a 3 or less, subject to a few very simple modifiers.  Artillery could increase this To-Hit value by the amount.  If that same unit's hex was being assaulted, the defense value would be 4 or less, again with the artillery adding to the overall score.  This was genius, and so glaringly simple I was almost embarrassed I hadn't thought of it sooner.  Even while I was still losing as the Americans, I was thinking about Panzerblitz and Arab Israeli Wars from Avalon Hill up in my attic.  While I wouldn't use the exact same system as Bryan, I was crafting a similar idea.

Defending Wadi Sbeitla with 2 x Infantry Battalions and an Armor Battalion

Recall last winter's multiple posts on GDW's "First Battle" series and the combat results table being "disassembled" to be played a bit more like a miniatures game.  My result, while working fine, still felt like a board game.  And the more I played it, the more I realized "A Fistful of TOWS" owed much to the GDW Team Yankee design.  So that experiment didnt "take off" quite like I had hoped.  Sometime last year, Ken and I had played Lock and Load's "World at War 85" game which really felt like a miniatures game.  Why?  Simple - because the units had "To Hit" attack values with dice based on the scale of their capabilities.  A unit equipped with good tank guns might roll 3 or 4 attack dice aiming for a 4+ or 5+ to score multiple hits.  A target unit with good armor, would have similarly good save values.  The game really worked!  And it didn't feel like a board game at all.  It felt like a minis game being played with counters. So much so that I bought a 2" hex mat to play WaW85 in miniature with my microarmor.

A New Take on Older Boardgames?

Taking Panzerblitz into consideration, I looked at the combat results table and wondered how I could "miniaturize" it without breaking anything.  While not a perfect concept, I liked the idea of opposed "successes" somewhat similar to the Lock and Load system.  While my goal wasnt necessarily to make the CRT "chartless", I may have stumbled that way anyways...

The original CRT has 4 potential outcomes ranging from "-" which we'll call "NO EVENT" up to "D" or Disrupted, "DD" or Double Disrupted" or "E" for eliminated.  The CRT, like most, uses a comparison of attack strength to defense strength, and a D6 to arrive at a conclusion from this round of combat between units.  For more reading on CRTs, check out this excellent blog post by "Chuck" from his blog "Gaming with Chuck."

Anyways, since the units are platoons to companies of tanks or troops, it's easier to abstract this.  Jim Dunnigan obviously did his homework from WWII and used the best data he had access to, and so I'll use the stats straight from the box.  

My thoughts were to have opposed die rolls (D6) with somehow maintaining the combat ratio and the combat values.  The answer to the problem lies with the unit Attack and Defense values.  Let's take an engagement in the open at a standard range (not close or long).

Custom PB Panther counter taken from Wargame Vault seller "Homeland Workshop" - used without permission - but you should definitely go there and buy their work if you like this counter.

The attacking Panther platoon has a basic unmodified attack strength of "16".  Dividing that by "3" we get "5" attack dice.

T-34 counter taken from Wargame Vault seller "Homeland Workshop" - again used without permission 

The defending T-34 platoon (or company?) has a basic, unmodified defense strength of "9".  Dividing by "3" we get "3" defense dice.

So the German player rolls 5D6, looking for 4+ "Successes".  The Russian player rolls 3D6, looking for 4+ "Successes".    With the desired outcomes for both of the players to score as many successes as they reasonably can.

If the German player can achieve 3 "unanswered" successes, he eliminates the Russian unit.  If he can achieve 2 "unanswered" successes, he "double disrupts" the Russian unit.  Finally, if he scores a single "unanswered" success, the "disrupts" the Russian unit.

So the basic combat exchange in this scenario looks like this: 

Norm rolls 5D6 and scores 5 "successes" with every die rolling 4 or better.  Jeffers rolls 3D6 and scores 3 "successes" with every die rolling 4 or better.  In the final comparison, Norm has beat Jeffers by 2 successes.  So Jeffers' T-34 platoon is "Double Disrupted".  He puts some kind of counter or marker on the unit to show its status.  If Jeffers would have rolled 1 less success, his T-34 platoon would have been eliminated.  Norm could not have rolled any better than 5 successes, and with Jeffers rolling all of his successes, he staves off an "elimination" result.

The same rules from Panzerblitz on combining attacks, single attacks, etc apply.  So Jeffers could mass all of his platoons next turn against Norm's Panther platoon.

What about when the numbers aren't clean?

I have been rounding all of my results down in instances where the combat values are not evenly divisible by 3.  So for instance, a defense value of "7" with a remainder of 1 has 2 x dice.  The WEC or "Weapons Effectiveness Chart" still doubles, halves etc the combat values when necessary and to this you can apply the dice based on the new combat value.

So are you really going to roll 20 dice for a howitzer attacking an infantry unit?

In the cases of indirect fire, I'm going to use a simple table taken from Dan Fraser's Panzerblitz in Miniature or just use the CRT from the game itself.  That said, when a howitzer is used for direct fire against a dig in infantry unit, then yes, it will be rolled like a normal attack.

What About Terrain Limitations?

I'm going to apply -1 to the attacker's dice.  So in the above example, Norm would only have rolled 4D6 and not 5 due to the terrain.  In certain circumstances with terrain, you have to use all of the defenders' defense strengths together, in which case it will make assaulting a town or village that much more difficult.  Haven't tried that yet but I will.  If the Terrain Effects Chart (TEC) says to reduce AF by half, then I will halve the Attack Factors, then I will calculate the dice.  

Terrain Effects Chart from Panzerblitz

This is all well and good but how does it shake out in a "real world" or "real game" example?  Jeffers is never going to put an infantry unit in the open - sly gamer that he is.

So let's say Norm's Panther (Attack Factor 16) is attacking Jeffer's infantry platoon who are dug-in in the woods.  Looking at the WEC, Norm must halve his AF because he is attacking an infantry unit with an armored unit.  16-8=8.  Jeffers' defense strength is "12".  Norm's attack by fire is going to be reduced by a single 1D6 (remember minus 1D6 attacking a unit in the woods so Norm's poor Panther platoon must make due).  Jeffers is going to roll 4D6 against Norm's attack-by-fire.  Norm rolls a single success, and Jeffers rolls 2 successes.  No effect with the attack-by-fire.

Perhaps Norm would have been better off conducting an overrun attack with his Panther platoon?  (not really because an overrun has to occur in clear terrain but for the sake of argument here let's see what happens):

In Panzerblitz  conducting "overrun" attacks with armored units, you get a 1 column shift, and subtract 2 from the die roll (increasing the odds that you'll have an effect on the target).  Norm's Panther with it's attack value of "16" garners 5 attack dice.  In this instance, Jeffers' infantry platoon defense is "12" which gives him 4 defense dice.  The column shift gives Norm an extra D6, and the -2 on the die roll gives Norm another D6.  This brings Norm's total dice rolled to 7 against Jeffers' 4.  Norm could do alot of damage with 7 dice!  Here's hoping Jeffers rolls low!

What's Next?

Clearly this isn't perfected yet and there are some rules to still comb through (close assault rules, sequence of play, rallying, etc) but I think I'm on to something here.  The newer version of Panzerblitz "Hill of Death" has a neat random activation system in it and I'm going to tinker with that a bit as well to see if you use an asymmetric turn sequence or a more predictable turn sequence with a set attacker and a defender.

So I still have some work to do in terms of ironing everything out and coming up with solid "rules" for how things work, but my gut feeling is that this would work well for all of the WWII and modern tactical games I have where there are Attack, Defense, Range, and Movement values on the counters, and the game would have a distinctly "miniatures" feel to it, instead of purely a board game CRT ratio.

 My next step is to play an actual game with Panzerblitz on the table to see how that goes.  I plan on documenting the entire thing.  My plan is to create a nice QRS that you can use to play these games with all of the Panzerblitz, Panzerleader, or Arab Israeli Wars counters and maps, or use miniatures.  Technically, I feel that the numbers are solid to also use the GDW WW2 games such as "Blood and Thunder" or "Sands of War."  

I hope this was an enjoyable read for everyone, and if you liked this, wait until you see what I've come up with for the old SPI "Napoleon at War" boardgame rules.  It's a similar concept to the "roll successes" idea but with Napoleonic Brigades.  

We'll still use the SPI Combat Results Table (which, BTW is similar for many of their larger scale Horse and Musket games such as the "Blue and Grey" series - so the potential is limitless for Napoleonic and ACW games) and I may take it a step further and try it out with Lobositz and the CRT from that old-but-good GDW game.

On the miniatures front, I'm prepping for an AWI Christmas Megagame using the "Live Free or Die" rules.  Stay tuned!  Lots of good gaming coming up!

Monday, December 19, 2022

Fields of Honor *Napoleonic* Playtest

 Trying out the concepts put forward in my last blog post, I put my Napoleonic 10mm Austrian and French troops on the table to try out Fields of Honor with my Napoleonic mods.  In honor of such an auspicious occasion, only the finest scenario fodder would do - so I turned to an old classic - Mr Charles Grant's "Scenarios for Wargames".  Action-packed with wargames scenario fodder for every theater and conflict!

Naturally Scenario #1, Positional Defense, was appropriate!  The situation features 3 Divisions attempting to seize 2 of 3 fortified positions.  Also some of you may remember this gem posted over 10 years ago featuring the same scenario and scenario book.

The action on about turn 4 when contact is about to be joined.  The Austrians are advancing on the French-held town sectors.  There is a redoubt with Artillery in the upper right, protected by a battery of medium guns and a unit of lights in the woods.

Austrian heavies

Austrian divisions advancing!

French are at the top of the picture - Austrians advancing from the bottom.  Note the French Cavalry upper right charging in the Austrians.  The Austrian Hussars are pushed back.  (Battle Cavalry Melee is +1, Facing a lighter Cavalry unit +1)

French Dragoons charging into Austrian Cuirassier!

The Cavalry battle goes the French way (for now) and the Dragoons beat the Cuirassier in their first round of combat.

Battery of medium guns has 1 hit on it, caused by counter-battery fire.  There is already a modifier in FoH where targeting an enemy artillery battery gets you a negative modifier.

4 hit Austrians advancing on the town.  The unit behind them in battalion mass?  assault column?

Worth mentioning here that the French unit in the town with an attached officer in "hard cover" was very difficult to winkle out.  Luckily the medium guns ignore one level of cover but even then, the morale save of the defending french were +2 for cover, +1 for attached officer so all but a 1 or 2 would save the hit.  That unit was hard work to get out of the town!

More cavalry fighting on the flank.  Both Austrian cuirassier are still in the fight!

Wasnt sure if I could fire into melees - so I allowed it if the firing unit had a base-width sized lane.

Setting up for the assault on the first town.  Multiple austrian units preparing to go into the fight, with artillery support!

The columnar assault wasn't bad.  The dense target was bad for those in column, however the +1 to melee was a nice benefit.  Same for the morale, the +1 to morale in assault column was a nice addition.

The French, never ones to stick to the script, charge into an Austrian line unit who failed their MC to form square.  

And a swirling melee results as both sides hold on and pass all their MCs.  The next turn, Austrian Cuirassier charge into the Dragoons' rear!  This is a mess!

The town assault is starting!

The Austrians would seize the town, and the other redoubt by way of a reckless cavalry charge by heavy cavalry into the French guns.  The experiment is over!

So the game worked well.  In the "heat of battle" it's easy to miss a step when playing solo and rolling for to hits, then for morale, potentially for both sides when meleeing, so I had to redo some things as I lost track of hits or what step I was on a few times.  

In terms of the mods, I liked the idea to keep the Austrians firing at 3D10 but enjoy 4 hits with their larger size.  Also the -1 to morale was a good call.  I think the assault column rules worked well and I do not think they imparted any kind of unfair advantage that wasn't easy to overcome.

The Cavalry mods were a bit much and the Cuirassier in some cases had +4 going into melee which was cool, but possible too powerful.  Need to ponder on that a bit more.

The mods worked well, though, and I'd play more of FoH with Napoleonics.  Also I'd love to try this same scenario with General D'Armee next, or "Grand Battles Napoleon" (which is coming in the mail - I told you I have a problem!) or perhaps a Napoleonic variant of Norm's "Two Flags - One Nation".  The shopping for the Eylau Convention rules....continues!

Coming up next?  Board game modifications for "Panzerblitz" and possibly even the old SPI "Napoleon at War" folio games.  Some of you are really going to love these next upcoming posts!

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Fields of Honor...Napoleonics? And some News

 If you've read this blog long enough you know I have an unhealthy interest with Napoleonic rules that probably borders on obsession.  Recently I've been shopping around for a good set of rules for a convention game of the Battle of Eylau as part of a long-running project I've been working on.  With the easy-going style of game that "Fields of Honor" delivers on- would they be able to work well for a mass battle?  Read on.

Can an AWI game work for Napoleonics?  With a little bit of elbow grease, duct tape, brute force, and ignorance, we can make anything fit here at Sound Officers Call!

I've played numerous games of AWI with FoH, both as part of Jon F's remote AWI games, as well as on my own table.  You might recall that FoH was a serious contender for the old Germantown, 1777 game played 2 years ago for our Christmas MEGAGAME.  (it lost out to Commands and Colors:Tricorne and some of you still haven't forgiven me yet for that)  It is a simple set of rules that lends well to numerous players - I can say that from personal experience with Jon's games.

The problem is that FoH is *not* a Napoleonic rules set. but it could be.  While the rules are set squarely in the AWI, a simple analysis of what is missing, along with bolting on some additional but simple rules, might propel them into the early 19th century and specifically the Napoleonic Wars.

I started on a quick list and then I started on some quick rules.  Here are some of the items missing from FoH that I felt needed to be written in to do the period justice.  While I'd like for my units to be "Regiments", they behave like Battalions.  

Most of these ideas below can be existing modifiers to the game as it is - there are only a few new concepts:


The mounted arm in the AWI served its counter-insurgency and scouting role diligently, and it charged when it needed to.  The Napoleonic period sees the combined might of the well-funded armies of Europe fighting to destroy every horse on the continent as fast as they could, so you know Cavalry is definitely going to be "a thing."  Using the mounted arm properly is one step on the road to victory when playing a Napoleonic game.  So you need differentiation in Cavalry size, mission, and abilities.  For that I added:

  • Heavy Cavalry (Cuirassier): Melee is +1 (B in FoH).  I also allowed an additional +1 if charging lesser weight Cavalry, in addition to the other melee modifiers.  The Cuirassier morale is a "B" as well.
  • Battle Cavalry (Dragoons mostly): Melee is "0" or +1 (C or B in FOH).  Same mod applies if charging a lesser weight Cav unit.  Dragoon morale is  "C" in the game I played.
  • Light Cavalry (Hussars, etc): Melee is "0) or +1.  
  • All Cavalry receives another +1 if charging open order infantry.  All Cavalry were 3 bases/strength points in my game.


Squares were a little tough.  I gave close order infantry the potential to form square as the successful result of a morale check when being charged by Cavalry.  If passed, they'd count as in hard cover against cavalry melee with a +2 modifier, (but would suffer a "dense target" modifier against artillery or infantry fire or infantry melee).

  • Squares can be formed prior to a Cavalry unit charging home.  
  • Must pass a morale check to form square.
  • Suffer a "dense target" modifier (+2) when shot at or melee'd by artillery or infantry.

Attack Columns

Another tough choice that required some compromises.  FoH is a tactical game, and so you'll be punished with a -2 modifier if you're caught in column in combat.  But the use of assault columns to rapidly close on the enemy position was a time-honored tradition during the Napoleonic wars and so it must be represented.

  • You form attack column like any other formation in FoH.  Easy.
  • Attack columns garner an extra hex or 4" of movement.  Easy.
  • Attack columns suffer the "dense target" +2 mod when shot at.
  • Attack columns also enjoy a +1 morale modifier for being in attack column.  I'm on the fence about this but it worked well for them in the game, since every gun or musket wants to fire at you when you're in attack column. 
  • Finally Attack columns get a +1 to melee for being in attack column with their rapid ability to form alternate formations.

I'm on the fence with some of these, but in my ongoing game (from Charles Grant's "Wargame Scenarios" stay tuned)

Bigger Units

My Austrian units in the game played were 4 stand units or 4 strength points per unit.  I played the French at 3 stands or 3 SPs.  One observation so far is that their morale should be lower or they have a much bigger firepower advantage.  Another thing I noticed is when properly supported, you're potentially rolling 8 (!!!) D10s in melee.  So I "nerfed" the Austrian morale a bit to compensate, and also only allowed 2D10 in support.  So a typical Austrian line unit of 4 stands/SPs looks like this:


  • Austrian Line Infantry:  C / C / D (or 0 / 0 / -1)
  • Austrian Light Infantry: B / D / C
  • Austrian Artillery: C / E / C medium guns
  • The French look like this - C / C / C (or 0 / 0 / 0)
  • French Light Infantry: B / C / B
  • French Artillery: C / E / C medium guns
  • Austrian Cuirassier: - / B / B and Heavy so +1 against lighter cav and open infantry
  • Austrian Hussar: - / C / C
  • French Dragoons: - / B / C

I am in the middle of a test game now and will post the results tomorrow.  Suffice to say it has been a fun experiment.

Steve this all sounds great - but where the heck have you been?  We've been worried!

Great question and sorry for my absence.  Work has been extremely busy, home has been extremely busy, and life in general has not slowed down for some weeks.  Not much of an excuse, but it's all I've got.  If you were worried about my gaming, though, fear not.  Yesterday I was at my buddy Bryan L's house for some excellent WWII "grand tactical" gaming - we played Kasserine Pass with Bryan's awesome rules.

The Germans move their columns onto the table - note the reinforcements lower right.  Groups of 4 vehicles were battalions or regimental sized units!

Allied Air Cover making an appearance!

Holding the Axis at Wadi Sbeitla!  It was here the US and Free French made a more determined stand, buying time for reinforcements to get into position.  Those Light Tanks would charge into a German artillery battalion and my abysmal rolling would see them lose!

At Bryan's game I commanded the left edge of the battlefield and tried desperately to slow the Germans down while the other US player maneuvered his forces to slow the eventual reinforcements we both knew were coming.  It was a nail biter and most assuredly a German victory (the Germans destroyed something like 14 allied units...) but incredibly fun and satisfying to play an entire battle in an afternoon.
Giving the Germans enough to chew on while the reinforcements got into position.  Bryan's rules were a mix of "Axis and Allies" and the old SPI "Kasserine Pass" game.  I try to never miss an opportunity to play in one of his games.

So What Else is New?
Some other things I'm working on?  For starters, the Christmas MEGA GAME promises to be a good one this year and one that will see the AWI returning to the table.  Also The boardgame bug has bitten again, and I'm working on a slick conversion for a "boardgame to minis" scenario for Panzerblitz and for the old SPI "Napoleon at War" series of folio games and I'm about ready to share a very cool concept in a few days.  Let's just say I'm headed up to the attic to grab Panzerblitz and Arab Israeli Wars and bring them down to play in some epic battles!  So stay tuned, Napoleonic goodness and some hybrid board/miniature gaming coming soon!

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Valour & Fortitude First Playthrough!

Ken and I played our first game of "Valour & Fortitude" today  - something I've been very much looking forward to doing (especially with Ken's outstanding 15mm Napoleonic figures based for LaSalle).   If you've been reading Norm's Blog, you'll remember he recently reviewed and playtested these rules, and gave an excellent accounting of his battle on his blog post here.

 So what are "Valour & Fortitude?"  V&F are a set of simple Napoleonic rules from the Perry Brothers and Jervis Johnson who teamed up to design a short set of rules that could fit on 4 pages and avoids what the author calls "f**kwittery".  Click on the rules link if you want to know more! (especially what f**wittery is).  Also I should mention that the rules, army lists, and scenarios are free...

Ken and I played the "Assault" scenario today, with 100 points on the table.  This was enough for me to field 3 small French Brigades and Ken to field 3 small Austrian Brigades.  My task organization looked like this:

1st Brigade:

2 x Line Infantry Battalions*

2nd Brigade:

1 x Line Infantry Battalion, 1 x Light Infantry Battalion, 1 Field Artillery Battery

3rd (Bavarian) Brigade:

3 x Line Infantry Battalions

*understrength brigade, although I didn't know it at the time...

With Ken as the defender, he received 1 reinforcing Brigade starting on turn 2 and I had no idea what he purchased.

We diced and I ended up being the attacker.  I started with all my Brigades on the table.  The table is bisected by a river and there are 4 x objectives across the table, placed by Ken and I.  My plan is to go straight for the hilltop objective and the town objectives (the 2 x hardest).  I have a center Brigade which can go left or right, depending on the situation.  I originally opted for larger brigades, but since the minimum is 2 Battalions, I instead created another (Ken's suggestion.  This turned out to be a great idea and gave me much more tactical flexibility than I would have had with 2 larger brigades.

Table at end of French Turn 1 - Bavarians in column already halfway across the table.  The Center Brigade failed its command test (rolled a 1) and so can only move 1 bound since they are in march column.  The Brigade on the right has not yet gone.

Ken has a Brigade of Grenadiers in the village and that's going to be a tough nut to crack but I want to learn the game and so I plan on going after it anyways!  Movement and SHooting are very generous (these rules meant for 28mm Perry figures (naturally!)

So far, so good.  Ken and I are liking the features of the rules, the "maneuver" options and not-fiddly movement rules.  I move up my artillery behind the swamp on the right to fire at the town.  The artillery fire is underwhelming and I dont score a single hit.

Bavarians on the left headed for the hill objective.

My center brigade fails its activation roll, and so can only move 1 bound since they're in march column.

THe rules are subtle and slick, well thought out.  These aren't "One Hour Wargames" simple - they force you to think about your options.  The system oozes its similarities with Black Powder, but goes Black Powder one better with possibilities to act even when you fail your activation roll, and the fire phase going BEFORE activation!  Also, if you do fire, you can't "maneuver", only assault or rally.  Gone also are the "buckets of dice" and instead changed with a number of firing dice and a number of melee dice that can be added to, or taken away from.  There are also no saving throws.

Artillery fire was underwhelming.  1D6 and I failed to score a single hit for the entire game.  I'll have a discussion with the Battery commander later today...

Unlike in Norm's VF game, we used the straight out of the box ranges and distances, and so units had their 12" shooting range.  It's very easy.  Roll your firing dice, score a 4+.  Units in cover don't count the first hit scored against them.  That will prove tough, especially fighting against Austrians...

On the left, the Bavarians have secured the objective but Ken's reinforcements come on - on my flank!  Ken is going for the farther objective so I'm redeploying the Bavarians to counter them.  Meanwhile, I'm setting up an assault against the town.

Bavarians at the hill

Preparing for an assault against the town.  Note the center Brigade in assault column readying to assault across the brigade. 

Ken and I fought our first melee.  At first blush, the French looked like they won because I scored 4 hits.  Ken tied me with 4 hits.  The rules state that the attacker wins ties (which is in itself pretty cool) however there is the cover rule which states that in cover you ignore a hit against you.  As Ken read through the rules, it was not immediately clear if you counted the initial hits scored, or the actual damage done to the unit (IE after the cover bonus).  The "Resolving Fights" section, 7.2, states that "to resolve a fight, carry out attacks with the active unit, then carry out attacks with the target if it is fighting back, then determine the result, and then apply losses.  

By talking through this, we assumed that you count the initial, successful hits.  Meaning that Ken received the cover benefit and 1 of my hits did not count.  So Ken scored 1 more hit than me.  This also brought me to 5 hits for my French Battalion with a Tenacity of 4, meaning I'm shaken at 4 and had to take a valor test for receiving an additional hit above my Tenacity level.  The Battalion routed and left the field.

Ken's tough Austrian Grenadiers in the town  Also the 6mm buildings looked cool even with the 15mm troopers

uh-oh - Ken had Cavalry coming too!  This was am unpleasant surprise

We started marking units that fired so we'd remember we couldn't maneuver with them

My Bavarians moving out to deal with the Austrians who arrived on the flank

Note the 5 hits on the Austrians.  Ken fails an attempt to rally a hit off but even survives an assault from my Legere.  Ouch!

By now we hit 430pm, the time we set to end the game.  A neat and unexpected feature of this game is that you literally call when you want the game to end.  1 hour, 2 hours, 4 hours, etc.  You then calculate victory based on number of brigades you forced off the field, and objectives seized.  Ken had me sorely beaten, with 3 objectives to 1.  My brigade that assaulted the town had 2 setbacks, and was almost ready to make a Fortitude test (and I just realized my 2 x Battalion brigades were "understrength" and so were actually already wavering.

We called the game at 430pm, right on time.  Austrian victory!


I really enjoyed this game, and I think Ken did as well.  For a 4 page or 5 page rule set, there is alot of cool nuance and features in this ruleset.

I really liked the movement rules.  They are super flexible and generous (read that as not fiddly) and you can get to maneuvering your figures and fighting.

Speaking of fighting, the Austrians with the tenacity of 5 are really tough, and the Grenadiers are tougher.  I wish I would have set up supports better, and probably have gone against the town with the Bavarian brigade since it had more battalions (you can have up to 3 x supports, meaning 3 more D6 in the melee).  I enjoyed looking at this like a problem to solve and being forced to whittle down the enemy before attacking.

The fate cards were cool, but we ended up forgetting about them.  Something that will probably evolve as we get more comfortable with the rules.

I'm a bit confused about when to take certain tests and the different names but that's nothing a simple read through won't fix.  The rules are surprisingly packed full of stuff for only having a few pages of text.

It's instantly apparent to me that these rules will happily and readily support big battles with lots of battalions and units.  I imagine that's where their strength comes in - Brigades that melt away from failing a Fortitude test speed up the gameplay considerably and efficient play seems to be part of the design ethos of this game (note I did not say fast-play - but rather efficient play).

Anyways, I'd love to take some of the bigger Shako scenarios out for a spin with these rules.  Ken is convinced that the sequence of play will work for other periods and I have to agree with him.  There is alot of room for chrome and other upgrades with this system.

Is this Black Powder "Lite?" Time to deal with the gorilla in the room.  I don't think so.  I think the designers took aspects of Black Powder that were a bit more unpopular or controversial with players and made adjustments erring on the side of simplicity and/or brevity.  FIring occurs before movement.  Units in march column may act (BP2 remedies this I think) even after failing their activation roll.  Units have their own character and are not completely generic.

All in all, this is a fun game with an epic scope in a tight, 5 page package.  And for the price, you absolutely cannot beat it.