Sunday, May 19, 2024

RUTHLESS: Shootout at the hacienda

 Not looking for a big setup/takedown, we opted for a quick skirmish game on Saturday evening and finally got a game of "Ruthless" on the table after quickly knocking together a few gaggles of western 15mm gunfighters the week prior.  Inspired by the classic "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" movie, I painted a "miniature with no name" as well as a "not-Tuco" and a "not-Angel Eyes".  

Any resemblance to Clint Eastwood is purely coincidental.

The man who double crosses me and then rolls a "1" knows nothing about Tuco...

I had so much fun painting these fellows up that I decided on painting more of my gunfighter "personality" figures, all while listening to Ennio Morricone's excellent score from the "dollars trilogy"

Anyways, I painted up a unit of outlaws, complete with masks, a well-armed unit of Mexican "banditos", a sheriff, and a sheriff's posse with the intent of running them at Saturday night's game.  

They did not disappoint!  I took the outlaws, and Dave took the banditos.  The resulting clash at "The Hacienda" is a classic cowboy storyline, with my outlaws headed to the house to "smash and grab" the loot, while the banditos are keen to stop me and make off with the money themselves.  

Dave and I threw down some middle eastern desert terrain, rolled for random entry onto the table, and the rest is history!  Saddle up for a quick story on the gunfight at the hacienda, partner!

As dusk approaches, my fully-masked outlaws
 are CDC/NHS covid compliant and observing all appropriate, clearly scientifically-sound social distancing guidelines...

The outlaws quietly approach the hacienda.  "The boss" in the lead approaching the steps (I love how this picture turned out - the boss is looking up the steps with his pistol drawn), followed by "Cleveland" with the shotgun, and the always-dapper "Mortimer" wearing a derby hat and a suit.

As our fully-masked outlaws  round teh corner, "Navy Steve" follows up behind them at left.

We are enjoying the activation system of Ruthless and drawing the cards with the competing suits makes it even more tense and gives it more of a western flavor in our humble opinions.  We also liked the idea that various cards can be played for actions throughout the turn.  It makes it ideal to hold on to good cards instead of always playing the best ones immediately.

Meanwhile, Dave's "Banditos" emerge from the forest next to the hacienda. 

Dave sends "slim" around teh back of the house with the lever action rifle.  

The nature of where we started the game means we come to grips relatively quickly, and shots ring out, piercing the peace of the evening.

Mortimer and Cleveland draw the fire from the banditos, while the Boss and Navy Steve head up the stairwell.  Surely they'll be safe up there!

Nope - they wont be.  Dave rushes "Seamus the Drunk" (Dave gave him the drunkard trait) and "Cookie" up the stairs and the men engage in a brutal, close range knife fight, ending in fisticuffs with The Boss.  He beats back his attackers and they tumble down the steps!  

Meanwhile, "Doc" is trading shots with Cleveland (right) and Mortimer (left).  Doc has the "gunfighter" trait and hits Mortimer and Dave ends up scoring multiple "chest hits" on the poor bastard.  Mortimer goes down, dead.  On the bright side, we dont have to roll to see if he's "Lily Livered" because he's already dead.  Meanwhile, Cleveland takes a hit, Dave rolls a "10" and Cleveland is unconscious!  

Cleveland would fire off his last shotgun round down the small alley to no avail.  None of my outlaws can hit the broad side of a barn tonight!

Meanwhile Slim sneaks around and fires at Cleveland.  Cleveland plays a "10" card to "snapfire" at Slim, but the shotgun goes "click" when he goes to shoot it.  2 EMPTY BARRELS!  I forgot I was out of ammo!  Slim drops Cleveland who becomes unconscious.  (red marker)

Dave goes in for the kill now with Doc and Slim firing at point blank range into Cleveland.  He's dead as a doornail too now.

Meanwhile "The Boss" is making his last stand on the roof with "Navy Steve" as Seamus staggers up the stairs, still drunk.  More shots are exchanged.  

At the turn's end, you have to roll a D10 if you have anyone dead, unconscious, or "Lily Livered".  As it turns out I have 2 dead men on the table.  I ended up rolling a "1" and the Boss and Navy Steve jump off the building Butch Cassidy style and run off into the night.  Game over!  It was a quick one and brutal, but lots of fun!


Ruthless packs a huge punch at just 3 pages of rules.  Dave and I were playing reading the rules off our phones and so we missed a few things in the beginning but after awhile the turns flow naturally.  With the limited amount of figures on the table, we should have played with 1 card per figure and not 1 card per side for initiative but perhaps next time.  This game was a ton of fun, tense, and created a very rich narrative (and many of you reading know how much I love when the game tells its own story)  Realizing Mortimer was dead and Cleveland was unconscious, Dave's gang moved in the for the kill to finish Cleveland off.  It was a "Ruthless" move :)

Ruthless is one of those rules sets where each and every word in the rules is important so you have to read all of the rules prior to play but once the learning curve takes effect you'll be firing off the knuckledusters with ease.  A few words of advice as I'm holed up in the second floor of a hotel in Santa Fe awaiting the "banditos" to come for me...You have to force someone to become unconscious or lily livered or dead to force a roll at the end of the turn to make them "skedaddle".

Splitting up was a bad move in this case.  I should have kept the majority of my figures together and focused fire on 1 figure, not spreading my fire out.

Dont forget to reload.  Cleveland learned that the hard way!  (technically he could have "jumped for cover" but in the heat of battle I forgot about jumping for cover and instead announced I'd attempt a "snap fire".  This is the exact sort of thing that probably happened in real life and it was great fun realizing I was out of shells in the "street howitzer" as Wyatt Earp called the shotgun in "Tombstone".

Make use of cover!  Mortimer and Cleveland also learned that the hard way.

This game was a solid hit with us and we will definitely play it again.  The mechanics are excellent and would lend themselves well to Rifle and or Horse and Musket eras if you wanted to play a man to man skirmish with a handful of fellows.  I was thinking about having ACW figures on the table as another "faction" to play.  American Western Indians would also work well and you could have some great little skirmishes in the "badlands" or near the water sources in Apache country.

This was a big milestone for me this year as Ruthless was a game I had been wanting to get on the table for awhile.  If you are struggling to come up with a game to play with your group, Ruthless might just be the ticket (and you cant beat the price!).  A bag of 15mm western figures set me back $12.00 and I used pre-existing middle eastern terrain that actually looked good.  

Highly recommended!

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

WIP Wednesday: More Epics & Rebasing Shenanigans


I had so much fun working on those Prussians last week that I powered through completing a unit of them (sans the drum, applying some ink-wash to their faces, and the unit colors) and since I'm a glutton for punishment, I started up more Epic ACW guys.  Here is the pile of shame so far:

As you can see there is a large pile of "Pike & Shotte" sprues on the right, a medium sized pile of ACW sprues in the middle, and a smaller pile of Napoleonic Prussians on the left.  While motivation has never lagged for Napoleonics or ACW in my house, I'm going to have to put a game on the table for the Pike & Shotte guys pretty soon.  That shouldn't be too difficult because I have 11 infantry units, 2 artillery units, and 3 cavalry units already painted and based for "Tilly's Very Bad Day" "For King and Parliament" Peter's D3 ECW One Hour Wargames Variant (top contender at the moment) or "In Deo Veritas", the latter of which I will probably never play again.

Anyways, I've usually found a game to really whet the appetite for painting and so it is in gaming that I find my proper motivation for completing a project.

On the ACW front, the Epic guys are really pretty easy to paint once you learn the secret, which I've found to be rotating the sprue 90 degrees, which has really 1. decreased painting time, and 2. gotten a better look, faster, than holding them straight up (eg Head pointed towards the ceiling).  They're sloppy because I was painting quickly, but I usually go back and touch them up later.  Here they are - 2 halfway finished Union Infantry Regiments awaiting their first game of "Valour and Fortitude".  

Still need to finish the headgear, muskets, and accoutrements, but on the whole they look pretty "not bad"

I'm actually going to plop them down on the same table with my 15mm guys as they look very close in size.  I'll do a whole post on that in a future WIP post.

This approach - rotating the stands 90 degrees - really worked for me when painting them, and I was able to power my way through them much more quickly and with not much reduction in the quality of the paint job.  As always, Your Mileage May Vary!

Onto the Napoleonics front, I am just about done with that unit of Prussian infantry, artillery, and the officer that come on the sprue.

Not quite finished yet but again I'm happy with how they're turning out

The drummer, and the drum itself still need some small details but overall I'm quite pleased with these lads.

Perhaps how I would play them in a "line" formation, as the 8" units are just way too big on my humble table.  Actually I'll probably play them as just 2 x stand units.

and here is what they look like as 2 x stand units!

Onto the Napoleonic Re-Basing Shenanigans  - if you remember my last 2 or 3 times on this blog mentioning that my 10mm Napoleonics were rebased "for the last time ever" then this new bit of information will come at no surprise to you but I am rebasing my 10mm guys YET AGAIN.  The scheme for basing is putting them back on 2" by 1" stands.  They can form any formation required for a game like Valour and Fortitude, I can plop 2 of them on a sabot for a game like Blucher,, and they can stand on their own as "individual boardgame pieces" a la 36" battlefields or Peter's Large Napoleonic Battles rules (huge hint there).  Anyways, my sincere hope is that this is it for the Napoleonic troops - going back onto rectangular bases but this being maybe the 5th or 6th time in 10 years....dont bet on it.

2 x French Line Infantry Battalions or Regiments or whatever and an Artillery Battery

Anyways that's all for now.  I've been doing some reading this week and planning on some upcoming games and I'm looking forward to getting an ACW Valour and Fortitude game and Napoleonic V&F game on the table soon, and also keen to try out Peter's "Napoleonic Large Battles" soon as well.  Quatre Bras anniversary is coming up!  Perhaps we'll be able to get a QB game up soon.  

Then it may be time to return to some WWII gaming...

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

WIP Wednesday: Fifty Shades of Field Grey


Sorry to those whom the google algorithm brought here expecting something else.  For the usual crowd, more of the same (lack of) progress 😁

This week is all about the Prussians as the SOC team dives into our first sprue of Epic Napoleonic Prussians...

The artillery crewmen get their first uniform slapped on.

The usual complaining and griping about the Epic figures aside, I have to admit once I got the straps for the backpacks painted, I started to enjoy painting these guys.  The Napoleonics are almost all mindlessly the same which is comforting and makes them very quick run-throughs, kind of like the ACW Union troops.

A brigade commander

Prussian Line Infantry - Just the muskets and packs to go

There are at least 4 grey colors that have been used on these fellows since I've started.  A heavy dry brush of "pewter grey", with the paints and bedroll painted in "rain grey", then the bedrolls were painted over again in "light grey", with the pants finished in "hippo grey".  For the accoutrements on their backs, I was thinking of using a charcoal grey but I have to check as the pack may be a leather brown color.  Off the top of my head I have no idea.

A Prussian Line Regiment

They're not bad.  Like the others, I think they're good enough to paint another one up!

I have been thinking of another project and while Kasserine is finished, Ligny (or portions thereof) is probably the next Napoleonic Battle I'd like to tackle with Valour and Fortitude.  There is a good Black Powder Ligny scenario, or I could start smaller and play Norm's old St Amand scenario.

Anyways that's mostly what I have for everyone this week.  In other news, I did complete Peter's DAK Command Stand, but you'll have to wait until he receives it before I post any pictures as it's a surprise!  I plan on getting it in the mail this week.  So we all are at the mercy of the various mail services around the globe.  God help us!

And speaking of 6mm, I was looking at GHQ microarmor Italians last night, thinking of having a go a the 1941-42 battles with microarmor and Rapid Fire, Flames of War, or Battlegroup.  Stay tuned and suffer along with me!

Sunday, May 5, 2024

36 inch Battlefields: The Battle of Kasserine Pass **Lengthy Post**

Perhaps the most anticipated blogging event of the SOUND OFFICERS CALL year, I set up the Battle of Kasserine Pass with Dave on Friday and ended up playing it out solo over the weekend.  The result?  An extremely fun and satisfying wargame with lots of maneuver, surprises, and lessons learned to further refine the scenario for my "36 Inch Battlefield" games.  You'll want to pour a fresh cup of coffee for this one.

The II (US) Corps Area of Operations.  Upper left is Tebessa and II Corps HQs.  Kasserine is almost dead center.  Lower right you can see 10th Panzer and 21st Panzer crowding around the Faid Pass and the passes around Maknassa.

Readers may recall my "Scenario Considerations" post for Kasserine.  The rules played are my modified version of Peter's WWII Gridded Rules based on Panzerblitz.  The scenario is a heavily modified version of Martin Rapier's Kasserine Pass game from April, 2020.  I am indebted to both of these Gentlemen for their expertise, rules, and research.

Now, let's get back in the war!


The battle commences with 10th Panzer maneuvering around Faid Pass to assault the dug-in Regimental Combat Team from 34th Infantry Division (ID).  The Germans have Combat Air Support (CAS) on Turn 1 and dedicate artillery fire missions to the destruction of the 34th's RCT at the pass.  The dark brown hexes are level 2 hills and only infantry can scale them.

501st Heavy Panzer Battalion awaits the clearing of the pass while the motorized infantry from 10th Panzer Division prepare to assault the pass.

21st Panzer moves through the passes around Maknassa 

H + 10 Hours

The Preparation time to assault the Faid Pass exits has taken almost 10 hours of strikes by German artillery and the Luftwaffe as well as the organic weapons from the German infantry battalions.
The poor dogfaces at the Faid Pass are taking a beating from artillery and air strikes while the German infantry regiment closes up to assault next turn.

German Infantry with the "heavy weapons upgrade" advance to assault the pass.  The red chit indicates disorganization.  Interestingly, given the close-in nature of the battles fought here, most sides never even used their heavy weapons upgrades.  Fighting was adjacent.

The Allies are not idle, and the Americans begin shuffling units around to bolster the line between Kasserine and Sbeitla.
American forces around Sbeitla and reinforcing armor from Combat Command C, 1st Armored Division move in to form a defensive line.

Yes - they're shermans - wrong tank I know ....but they still look cool!!

10th Panzer has not yet cleared the pass, while 21st Panzer by-passes and moves up towards Sbeitla

21st Panzer Division in all its glory!

H + 15 Hours

It has taken almost 15 hours for German forces from 10th Panzer Division to clear the RCT from 34th ID at the Faid Pass.  The German motorized infantry regiment that over runs the US RCT rallies and prepares to move north with their kamaraden.

15 total hours have elapsed so far

Faid Pass is cleared after 3 turns and German forces are on the move!

German recce reaches the Fondouk Pass and engages/skirmishes with American Grant tanks while the panzer regiments move up

American air strikes hammer back at the attackers

Meanwhile 1st ID pulls out of Gafsa, headed back towards Kasserine.  The Americans are moving back to consolidate their line.  Next stop - Feriana!
H + 24 Hours

No German CAS is available, and German artillery is ineffective against US Grant Tanks at Fondouk pass.  A tank engagement is ongoing at the pass while 10th Panzer brings up more combat power.  The US Grant tank battalion is eventually destroyed by German armored reinforcements.
The German Recce Battalion is predictably not faring well against the US tankers from 1st Armored Division.

Meanwhile 501st Heavy Panzer clears the Faid Pass and 10th Panzer is still on the move!

Tactical pause for 21st Panzer.  Rommel doesnt want to waste his troopers in a meatgrinder forward assault against Sbeitla.  21st Panzer moves west around the mountains to their front to confront Kasserine instead.

Note the distance between 21st (left) and 10th Panzer (right) growing

US forces destroy the German recce battalion at the Fondouk Pass and a Panzer Regiment is forced back after heavy fighting with the US tankers

US force push infantry from Thala towards Kasserine to bolster the line.

H + 34 Hours

No German CAS is available.  10th Panzer does not decisively commit to the fighting at Fondouk as the division commander does not want to bog down but the German panzers are doing just fine.  They let artillery 

10th Panzer Division coming up!

US CAS comes online and absolutely punishes the spearheads of the 21st Panzer Division, forcing a Panzer IV battalion back.  Artillery disrupts the 21st Panzer's forward reconnaissance screen before fires from the Anti Tank Battalion entrenched around Kasserine knock it out of the fight.

Recce Battalion, 21st Panzer is disrputed

H + 43 Hours

No German CAS.  German artillery fire disrupts 1st ID as they are pulling out of Feriana. German infantry from 21st Panzer occupy the town on the heels of the Americans as they are pulling out.

US Armor in Fondouk Pass is destroyed and 10th Panzer rolls on

Meanwhile the 1st ID, caught in the retreat, is fighting for its life along the Kasserina-Feriana road.  2 RCTs are gobbled up.

21st Panzer Approaches Kasserine and pays for it as US AT Fire opens up on them

21st Panzer takes a wide detour using the mountains to shield them from the dug in defenders at Kasserine 

This turn also got to see the AAA rules in effect as American P-40s attempt to swarm the 10th Panzer Division's columns.  While teh AAA is ineffective, the American planes do no discernable damage to the ground elements.

H + 52 Hours

No German CAS.  German IDF disrupts the 1st ID troopers on the road from Feriana who cant seem to catch a break.  The lead elements are knocked out by intense German fire.  The US Forces are dangerous, though, and 21st Panzer loses an armor battalion to American AT fire from Kasserine.  Meanwhile the 501st Heavy Panzer Battalion is disrupted by US Artillery fire.

US Infantry pulling out of Feriana are caught in a deadly ambush (red tokens)

Heavy infantry fighting outside Feriana on the road to Kasserine.  German forces catch up with the retreating elements of 1st Infantry Division and destroy them.

German fires and artillery finish off the beleaguered elements of the 1st ID.

Meanwhile the 10th Panzer Division breaks through to the north.  American forces are going to have to abandon the Kasserine line!

H + 58 Hours

Not much combat during this operational period but the US Pushes their AT guns south off the ridge in vicinity of Sbeitla and at Kasserine.  This should keep the German armor further away from the main line of resistance.

H + 61 Hours

No German CAS.  German artillery disrupts american infantry in vicinity of Sbeitla, and the 501st Heavy Panzer Battalion pushes the US AT Gun Battalion back near Sbeitla.  The Germans are using an infantry kampfgruppe here to keep the US AT guns occupied while their armor by passes and heads north.

The German elements patrolling and assaulting the US AT guns are disrupted from American artillery fire.  Over in the 21st Panzer Division area of operations near Kasserine, American AT guns knock out another Panzer Battalion!


This indicates a random event.  The random event rolled for is "lost enemy supply column ambushed - German unit nearest the enemy loses a Disruption Marker.  The Germans near Sbeitla lose the cursed D marker that is keeping them close to breaking.

German artillery and infantry pound the US AT Gun Battalion near Sbeitla on the ridgeline.  Also as the US abandons the Kasserine line, they fail to destroy the supply dump at Kasserine.  British "Vic Force" arrives on the northern table edge.  The battle is starting to reach a climax now.  The American defense on the ridge in the vicinity of Sbeitla and around Kasserine is actually very strong, the Germans are by-passing them with mobile forces and heading north.

American mechanized infantry against German mechanized infantry.  Germans are throwing artillery and air at the Americans to keep them disrupted.

A ground assault finishes them off while the Germans attempt to slide through the valley.  Note the US AT unit on the ridgeline.

To which the Germans quickly attempt to over run - this fight would be ongoing for the rest of the battle as the stubborn US AT guns refused to give up and kept rallying

US Artillery used to great effect

H + 70 Hours

German CAS Does arrive and attacks the US AT Battalion at Sbeitla.  The Germans release the Centauro Armored Division from Corps Reserve.  They immediately head north and capture Gafsa.  Uh-Oh.  General Fredendall is looking everywhere for someone to blame.

The 21st Panzer - what's left of it - long suffering under the US AT guns, bypasses Kasserine and heads north into more open country.  With trucks and Self Propelled Anti Tank rolling!

No Allied CAS this turn.  Vic Force, engages and destroys a Panzer Battalion from 10th Panzer.

H + 74 DOUBLES ROLLED.  Random Event.

"The timeline is slipping, General.  Get moving".  All German units get an extra hex of movement this turn.
This was the decisive turn.  German armor is able to exit the board and occupy Sbiba well north of where they are supposed to be.  Vic Force sets up a cordon but at this point, the Germans own Gafsa, Feriana, Sbiba, and are a stones-throw from Tebessa.  I call the game.  This is a German Victory 9 - 5 in terms of points.  The British could have taken back Sbiba from the Germans.  Maybe.  But with 21st Panzer bearing down on Tebessa, the Americans would not have been able to lend much assistance.


Probably more points for the scenario here than for the planning but I'll try to touch on both.  There were alot of things that went wrong for both sides in this battle.  The Germans changed their plan, originally opting for a narrow attack with overwhelming forces, they opted, on turn 3, for a battle of maneuver, using their highly mobile forces to do so and instead of assaulting Kasserine as they did historically, they by-passed which turned out to be the winning move.  The Americans cant defend everything and instead must win by destroying German units, because the Germans are most certainly going to take a few towns.

The Americans were all over the place and were much less aggressive than they should have been.  I like this scenario as both sides have their strengths and weaknesses.  The Germans dont have alot of infantry.  What they do have is hard-hitting and mobile, but they cannot afford to lose infantry units early-on.  therefore they have to be choosy about where they commit to fight, hence 21st Panzer not succumbing to a meat-grinder style attack at Kasserine.  The Americans on the other hand have lots of infantry but they are foot-mobiles and slow as molasses in January...

After just wrapping up the battle - these things were fresh on my mind: 

Scenario.  The scenario definitely needs some tweaking.  I completely missed some units' starting locations and those will need to be accounted for.

Random Events Table.  This was a great addition to hte game.  Unfortunately I only got to roll on it twice but it still adds some tension and extra flavor to the game.

Combined Arms.  I loved both sides' use of Combined Arms tactics in this game.  Both sides pounded their targets with artillery, ranged fire, and infantry assault to finish off the defenders.  The Germans made excellent use of infantry to screen and skirmished with American AT guns while the main forces bypassed heavy resistance.  Textbook!

Limited Artillery Salvos.  Limiting the artillery salvos was an excellent call, and forces you to be more thoughtful about its use.  Each turn is a decision on whether to use it or not.  But when I used it, I checked another ammo block off.  This was great fun and had a more realistic feel to it.

Airpower / CAS rules.  I need to codify a few things about air power, which I was using as artillery.  IE can it destroy units.  Can it force units back?  Can certain units fire AAA or only dedicated AAA units?  So much here is abstracted that I'm wondering just how literal to be here...

Scouts/ Recce.  Something I've been thinking alot about in terms of 36 inch battlefields, is the use of recce and scouts to maintain contact with the enemy and "bleed" him while the main force maneuvers.  This would be a slick way to take advantage of the target priority rules, and force the enemy to commit his recce to stopping your recce.  Some very cool decision-making here that really lends itself to a realistic narrative.  This is entirely possible with these rules and I'm keen to give this tactic a try in a future battle.

Scenario Complexity.  Yes - the scenario is a bit complex and admittedly I was very keen on getting it on the table without printing it out first.  Next time I should have it printed out.

Not enough hills.  It's true.  This battlefield was way more open than Martin Rapier's.  The Germans had plenty of room to bypass defenses.  

No Wadis?  Yes, it's true.  I was in a hurry and forgot to add the Wadi features (I was going to use waterway/stream for Wadis) but the game played OK without them.  They would have constricted the German movement a bit more, and potentially aided the Allied defense.  Next time, better bring the Wadis!

But was it Kasserine Pass?  Not sure about this one.  The battle ended very similarly in many ways, but in others it was wildly different.  There was no large German attack against a large US force dug in.  There was plenty of skirmishing but it seemed there was no single decisive one battle or engagement that "settled" things.  Instead it was a running battle with the Germans bypassing and the Americans shifting reserves to meet renewed thrusts to the north.

So whether it was Kasserine or not, it was a ton of fun and it's been a great and worthwhile journey in the *months* leading up to the battle.  I had a very fun time developing the game, the forces, and the terrain.  It shows what you can do with 6mm minis within a 36" square area.

That's it for now.  Many more great things to come so stay tuned!  Perhaps a Napoleonic project or two looming?  And we'll give a college try to play some very popular tabletop games in 6mm.  What could go wrong???