Monday, 20 January 2020

Sunday Drivers - Gaslands

This about my 7-8th game of Gaslands now, this time, instead of a race, we when for a straight fight, Death-Valley arena, with 3 cars per side, 2 enemy destroyed wins you the dual.

It was fun, playing more like a dog-fight game, as we wheeled and turned to get our weapons lined up (except the few with turrets).  But, and maybe its just me, the core mechanics of Gaslands are starting to bug me a bit. One, you build up so many hazards early on, going up the gears, that its hard to do much manoeuvring when you get to speed, without just wiping out and having to start all over again. The more dice for handling you roll, the greater the risks of something going wrong, and that means the performance cars are handy-capped over the trucks, because the trucks are stable, 2 handling means you'll never gain many Hazard counters, and thus, never wipe out. This means that trucks, being slow, with lots of hits, can afford the luxury of pulling more, harder, turns than the faster cars. So, you performance sports car is good at going straight, but can't out manoeuvre a truck?  This has been growing on me in the last few games... our gun-trucks always do well... they are in the fight, lots of guns, lots of hits dished out and taken, ramming things, and never above 3rd gear... whilst the performance cars, and even normal cars for that matter struggle, gain loads of Hazards, and whilst in higher gears, just end up wiping out and going back to the start. It's a bit frustrating and a repetitive cycle... I'm not enjoying it that much.

The core mechanics, the handling dice roll, is good, but I feel need tweaks... I might give performance cars all a free 'Shift' for each manoeuvre... see how that works. The balance doesn't seem right, I'd rather use a slow, low handling heavy truck, which is tough to  kill,  won't wipe out and has lots of shots per turn from its many crew, than faster cars... the game rules lack for a feeling of speed... that speed and manoeuvre matter more than firepower (as in any good dog-fight game), its about getting into position... that's the fun of the game... not trundling around as stable gun platform. Its like a bomber being the best aircraft in a WWI dog-fight game... that would be odd. Surely its the fighters... speed, agility, that is at the heart of the game.

I'm pondering a few others fixes too... like banning trucks from hair-pin turns... so they don't out turn smaller vehicles.

Also, what are the rules for lasers?? Can't find them, and the special rule for weapons that are 'Electrical', did they get missed out? Plus, harpoons, they seem insanely accurate, never seen one miss. Its a sure fire hot ecah time.

Anyway, beyond these niggles... and maybe it is just my rule pedantry, our game ended in a draw. After a first pass and lots of skid turning, with all vehicles taking lots of damage, including his flamethrower dishing out extreme punishment - being 'on fire' is well, just terminal... a double ram, tail-gated, then head-to-head, resulted in my targeted gun-truck exploding, taking both rammers with it... end of game, 2 lost vehicle each, a draw then! Next time, I'm fixing my rules issues, to see if it helps the games overall feel.

 A close pass at speed. Enemy gun-truck rounding the central mesa. 

 The cars after the first head-to-head pass.

 Trying to get those MGs to bare. 

 In slow pursuit.

Crash - Bang! The final collision, destroying all three vehicles. Incoming is my performance car, a bit of let down, just can't really ever get going fast for long.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Nam '68 project

A project for 2020 is to develop a Vietnam war skirmish game, and to start with well you need something to play with. My first units are taking shape, here are just a few of them. The plan is to paint a US platoon and some light support, and a bunch of 3-man VC teams with various weapons, AKs, rifles, PPsH, etc... and then a few light support weapons for them too, an MG team, a sniper team, etc.

I have already completed 16 civilians, as I plan that they will feature in the game.

The game itself will be a low-level skirmish game, 'man with assault rifle vs man with assault rifle', with US fire teams (4-5 men) vs VC fire teams (always 3 men), jumping out of the bushes. Lots of ambushes, and US search patrols walking into trouble.

The initial idea is to set the game at 3 'threat levels'. Low threat game will only encounter minimal resistance, a few local guerillas (more like armed civilians) and maybe the occasional booby-trap. Medium threat games will encounter more enemy, from the VC Local Force (its militia), better armed and more determined. High threat level games will be more like full battles, against the VC National Force, with their best equipment and things like their own supporting fire (mortars). I'm planning on using a force generation system that means the US player can never be too sure exactly what he'll be facing today... so will it be a few snipers and a light mortar stonk, or a full VC National Force offensive? Should keep it exciting.

Work has started, I have a tonne of notes, and have already read a few Vietnam War books to get a better picture of the fighting. Rumour of War is excellent.

I don't see this being game involving lots of armour, the occasional tank might be available for the US player, or reinforcements might be available in an M113 APC or a Huey... but most of the work is on foot, patrolling, even for Airborne troops.

I really want the game to work as a campaign system as well... so a 12 month Tour of Duty through various threat levels and encounters, and see how your platoon survives. Some game might be a single squad, others include the full platoon in the midst of a full battle. Anyway... all idea atm... but the models have to come first.

 Fire Team 1

Fire Team 2

 VC opponents

 Specializing in hiding in the bushes...

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Mellor’s Ridge, Longstreet campaign, Game 5

Mid-1863, with the Hill Top scenario, and, having lost the roll for Scouting, I (the Union) would be attacking. The Rebs would be on the high ground of Mellor’s Ridges, deployed to hold both objectives, strongest on their left (my right) with two veteran infantry regiments on the forwards slopes and cannons above on the hill top. He also had 2 cavalry units as his mobile reserve. These, especially the largest one of 7 stands, right in the centre rear, behind the ridge, were my first problem. Unable to touch them with my guns, any direct assault in force enough to carry the objective would bring that unit as reinforcements, either with a spoiling counter-charge to stall my attack, or as extra veteran dismounted infantry. Where ever I attacked would quickly get them, and shifting the infantry holding the objective would be hard enough work, the extra big cavalry unit would be too much. So, how to avoid this happening? How to remove his reserves and stop them holding those objectives.

My plan was to launch a strong enough distraction attack to get the reserves attention and draw them out of the main battle. Looking at the deployment, surveying the ground for the day’s assault, I decided his left was strong, and therefore would not be the main target, I’d go for the objective on my left instead, in force, and only demonstrate on the right. I’d use my cavalry for end-runs on both flanks (the joy of two cavalry regiments, the first time I’d ever had this option - well worth the painting time over Xmas to get the second regiment ready for action). The best unit would be on the extreme right, where undefended woods ‘blocked’ the route, but if you’re willing to pay the cost in action cards, woods don’t slow you down in Longstreet. I’d just pay, move my best cavalry, the 12th Maine, (Eager Veterans and Old Reliables!  – like the special forces of Union cavalry), in column, galloping at 20”  per turn, they'd be through the woods and behind the hill and its defenders in 3 moves. Just go-go-go, at full speed. With only his outflanked guns on the hill top objective, he’d have to use his reserves to answer that threat, or lose the objective to my sabres-out charge (once my cavalry had changed formation for action not fast movement).

To stop his infantry interfering here, I’d use my best infantry unit to distract them, advance through the Mellor’s Farm cornfields, use skirmish fire (they have Sharpshooters attached so are best for the job anyway) and keep his best infantry busy enough for the cavalry to do their thing behind. That way, his mobile reserve veteran cavalry would be his only option to respond.

With the plan for the right decided, I piled everything else into the left assault, 3 infantry regiments and my largest gun battery, which would first have to be towed up onto the high ground, but could then use their rifles across the shallow valley for counter-battery fire against his howitzers on that objectives. My accurate guns could win that dual.

I thought my 3 regiments, including my Zouaves, would have enough weight to overrun his blocking regiment and my second cavalry could get round the extreme left flank, meet his second, but far smaller, cavalry reserve at the charge, win, and be on the objective, winning me the game. Deployed, orders issued, all was set for the assault, and my heavy rifles opened up the day’s blood-shed at long range with counter-battery fire, long shots (literally), but out of range of his return fire. If your artillery out ranges the enemy’s, use that range, artillery officer’s 101. I can hit him, he can’t hit me.

Time to sound the bugles and go. Here are some photos of the action.

 My right, the ripe corn of Mellor's Farm, merely a demonstration attack here. 
Mellor's Ridge, before the Reb's arrived to secure it. 

 and here they are, two units of veterans in the cornfield on his left.

 My Ohio-boys moving up to engage them. Sharpshooters out, Hero (on horse) attached. 
It would be skirmish fire here unless we got close, and I had no intention of getting close.

All that is left of the New York Irish, 3 stands, up the lane into the farm, 
to help out the Ohio boys as best they can and try not to get involved in any volley firing. 

On my left, Reb guns on the hill top objective, infantry down on the slopes below. 
This was the priority target of my attack, win here and win the day.

 The Union main force deployed for that assault on my left, 
after the supporting guns got up to the high ground and deployed from their limbers.

 The big Reb veteran cavalry reserve. They could be anywhere he needed them, 
to charge or dismount and block my route to the objective. Wherever I attacked in force, 
they would be...

 His veterans dig-in to face the Union advance, giving them a defended obstacle, 
but they are badly outnumbered.  Zouaves into the teeth of their fire. More glory...

Supporting fire from rifles (and one Napoleon), target his artillery, and, when his small cavalry reserve rode up the hill to the crest, an accurate volley (good dice for once!) cut a swathe through them.

For Ohio! Little happening at Mellor's farm - good.

 In the centre, my Pennslyvania recruits swing round the woods and attack his Virginian recruits, 
and win, driving them back up the slope, and unexpected gain, but welcome.

Meanwhile, on the right, the 12th Maine Cavalry are round the back, formed into line, and advancing up the rear slope. Here, they charged his outflanked guns and overran them, before facing the counter-charge of his cavalry, which he had to commit to save the objective. The plan worked... my cavalry would be driven back, but with only light losses, but his cavalry were fully committed at the opposite end to the field to my main assault. Mission accomplished.

 The left assault, cavalry are round again, and my infantry have bayonets fixed. The following charge drove the Rebs back, out of their defended obstacle. 
The two guns (1 lost to counter-battery fire) turned to face the cavalry threat, but too late.

 Here they come, my cavalry swing round as his own unit moves up, gets hit by my cannon-fire and are then decimated by my charge. Only the guns to hold the objectives. The gunners tried to hang on, but with my infantry coming up the slope as well, the situation is hopeless.

How it played out. Cavalry end run via the woods on the right gets behind him, whilst the Ohio boys skirmish in the cornfields. On my left, the main assault sweeps round against his weakest point in the line. His cavalry advanced, but then had to go back to meet mine.

That's the bones of it. Longstreet again shining, the cards were kinder today and my assault went, largely, to plan. It was bit of crushing defeat for the Rebs, the survivors streaming away down the hill. So, the campaign is now 2 wins each with 1 draw, so close. But I'm ahead on 'Epic Points' (a terrible name for the abstract concept that is the campaign's 'victory points'. Why not just call it 'Glory'. Whoever wins more 'glory' wins the campaign in the end.

Today, the glory was for the blues. Next time, its late 1963, and the Rebs will want revenge for Mellor's Ridge.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Bloody Lane - Longstreet Grand Campaign Game 4

Game 4 of 9 in the Longstreet ACW campaign, with the Rebs on the advance, again, this time the random scenario was the Railway Embankment. So my brigade would have good defensive positions to hold, but with 10 stands left off-table as reinforcements, it would be a hard fight against an outnumbering enemy for the first 6-7 turns. For my reinforcements, I chose the my poor and gutted infantry units, 3 of them with just 2 stands left, so it wasn’t much to write home about even when it did arrive, still it left my best combat units up front to hold the line, and I had special task in mind for my cavalry, which would normally be the obvious choice as reinforcements.

Having set-up the tabletop terrain, it came down to the Rebs to chose whether to attack or defend, and they opted to attack. The battle would devolve into 3 separate engagements, on the right, on the left and with the main Reb attack up the centre. My defensive plan was not to be completely static. My cavalry would be on my left with orders to rush forwards take the walled paddock in front of the embankment, dismount and turn its walls into a redoubt that the Rebs would have to deal with, or it would provide enfilading fire along the line into their centre into his main attack. The rookie cavalry would be out front alone, as a forlorn hope. In the centre was my largest unit, 10 stands of recruits backed by my largest artillery battery covering the approach up the lane. On my right, my ‘old reliables’, the 22nd Ohio had the duty of holding out, backed by just a single cannon. It was weak flank, but my veteran farm-boys were the best I had to hold it.

Drums and whistles playing, on came Jonny Reb, up the slopes of the ridge to take the high ground and deploy his artillery (most howitzer) batteries, along with his artillery officer adding to their accuracy. Being out shot by the Southerns is a rare experience for the Union, my artillery has so far suffered in the campaign, a deliberate policy by the Rebs to target it and avoid me getting a big advantage here, as I have in past campaigns.

And so, battle lines drawn, in the grey-coats came, on my left there would be a protracted fight for the paddock, which the green cavalry would be driven out of, but not without inflicting equal losses and stalling any threat to that end of the line… but it was only really a feint attack by the Rebs, a side show to the main attack. Stalemate here and both happy with that result.

On the right his veteran cavalry, in column, were a flying squad as they tried an end-run, and I had to redeploy to face them. It cost me my cannon, but the Ohio boys stopped his veteran cavalry, which dismounted and fought it out in inconclusive volleys. Holding here too.

In the centre, on his attacking infantry came at speed, supported by bombardments from the ridge above, but my good cover made his artillery work hard, and with little effect. My return cannon fire was equally ineffective - but could my rookie infantry hold in their first fight? Behind them was the objective, if they were driven back, he’d have it, and that would be the battle lost. The battle would decided in the fight across the bloody lane, in the centre.

Here are some pictures of how it all panned out…

The Union centre prepares for the coming assault. 

The short line on the right. Reliable Vets with a Hero attached. Tough-nut to crack.

The Greys advance in columns, guns hauled up to the high ground. 
The railway embankment is top left.

The cavalry move out into the walled paddock on the left. Enemy just appearing ahead.

... and they dismount to fight, winning the race to the good cover. 

The Rebs appear, forming line from their marching columns. Here we stand! 

 Reb batteries in place and open fire.

The main attacking regiments en route, with incoming cannon fire landing around them, to no effect. 

With a Rebel Yell, the enemy charge with bayonets and drive the dismounted cavalrymen back from the wall and across the paddock. 

Behind the other wall, the cavalry regroup and continue to exchange volleys. Both sides are happy to hold their cover and shoot it out for the rest of the battle. The end of the sub-battle for the paddock.

Reb guns in the hilltop farmyard, firing down on my left, but the embankment saved my infantry from any losses. 

The Reb cavalry try to get round the right end, but a quick repositioning halts them. The single gun would be overrun when the cavalry dismounted to fight. 

The skirmish on the right ends in stalemate. 

Bloody Lane fills with charging Rebs, facing canister and mini-balls at short range. They storm over the embankment. But they are thrown back by heroics by my gun crews and my rookies.

 A second charge overruns the guns this time, but Union reinforcements have just secured the objective behind and open volley fire. The rookies on the embankment have driven off their attackers for a second time. The casualties taken here would just break the Confederates for today. A narrow win - phew!

First win of the campaign for the blues... but again very close, I lost 11 stands to the enemy's 12... so very even. A good tactical game... with Longstreet rules again shining, allowing for the tactical nuances, and still throwing flies into the ointment to frustrate. Could easily have gone the other way today. 

That's it for this year, the ACW campaign will continue in January, reaching the midway point. Atm the Union are ahead in the campaign on Epic Points, but only 16 to 15... so all the play for...

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Welcome sports fans...

It has only been, oh, 30+ years since I played this game as a school boy. We ran a school league with 14 teams when first edition came out, back in the 80s. Well, the latest edition of Blood Bowl has fallen into my hands, so I painted up the teams and have decided to play a few games with the basics. First game, rules trial, was a 0-0 bore-draw. Next game, introducing the advanced rules, was 1-0 Orcs. The 'Gouged-Eye' followed that up with 2 more wins, 2-1 and 2-0 and the humans were struggling to match the Orcs in the fight. My human team was down to 5 walking players in the 2-0 defeat. Anyway, a change of players, and I took over the Orcs for once. Payback! Err... nope!

Saturday's highlights package... and another defeat for me (first win for the humans) in a  2-0 hammering... the Orcs were terrible... never got the ball into the humans half, never looked like scoring a touchdown, fumbled it, fell over, got beat in the blocks, turned it over again and again in a pitiful display of dice rolling by me... so, it is just me. The humans scored from a fumble by my thrower in the backfield, which allowed them to walk it in. They were unlucky not to score second at the end of the first half, 1 square short of sneaking in a score when the whistle saved me. Half-time would see a turn around.

Except, after kick-off, the Orcs instantly turned it over again, and saw a huge gap torn in the line of scrimmage. His speedy catchers were through, a quick break by his thrower with the ball, a hand-off, a dodge and the catchers were gone... streaking in for a second as the Orcs just stood about dumbstruck. 2-0.

No coming back, even the on-pitch riot went the humans way... shortening the game. The humans were on the attack again and also in for third when the final whistle released me from my dice rolling torments. A wretched performance by the 'Gouged Eye' saw the old enemy, 'Reikland Reavers' take their first win. Another game I can't play! I'm feeling a bit dice-cursed atm... just cannot roll for toffee.

Anyway, it was a fun few hours. Anymore games like this though and the coach's head is on the block.. literally. Might need to get a few star players to spice it up.

 Kick-off, the Orcs are so far unbeaten, and have handed out the pain. 

Short kick-off, my Blitzers in hot pursuit. Until they all fell over! 

The humans are through the gap, a single-hand-off and the catcher makes 1 dodge and covers 10 squares to score as the Orcs stand and watch! 

End of the game, the ball is loose, but those humans are attacking my end zone again. 
It could have been 3 or 4!

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Longstreet, Game 2 - Attack along the Maytown Turnpike

Having repelled my attack on Muller's Crossing, it was now the Reb’s turn to go on the offensive, attacking up the Maytown Turnpike to secure a crossroads. The first battle in the campaign in 1962.

It was one hell of a close run thing… a slow start, our artillery failing to hit much, the Yankees staying in place as the Rebs advanced in column and deployed into lines for the frontal attack. As his second gun battery deployed on the overlooking high ground, I sent my eager, fresh, Zouave unit (first game out) into a rapid spoiling attack, to drive-off or seize those unprotected guns. They raced across the open ground at the quickstep and up the slope, about to take a round of evil canister-fire at point blank range, but the cost would be worth it. Death or Glory! If I could turn his flank here, his whole attack plan might be thrown into chaos and stalled as he had to turn to face the rampaging Zouaves. Meanwhile, his own fast flankers, his cavalry, had swiftly advanced, dismounted and begun their own distraction attack on my left, now faced up by my Pennsylvania recruits. The exchanges of fire, were, well rubbish, neither could hit much or do any damage… stalemate then. Fire and fury, for no result.

On the hill, in the glorious (foolhardy) Zouave attack, it was neither death or glory. His canister blasts killed, err… nothing, misses all round! My bayonet charge killed, err, nothing, being thrown back by a determine defence of the guns. My Zouaves withdrew, almost unharmed. So much for that. Stalemate again.

In the centre, around the crossroads the main attack was now on, 3 Reb infantry units against 2 Union ones, but mine were veterans, and I sent my mobile reserve (the cavalry) to join them, dismounting to fight (fire) on the crossroads itself. On the right, my Ohio boys put up a hell of fight for the cornfield, skirmish fire and bayonet- work saw off the Rebs, bloody work for both sides, but I’d just come out on top. On the left, my New York vets were hammering volleys from behind the rail-fencing into the Rebs in the open, and their more accurate fire was whittling the enemy down. In the centre, directly up the road, my dismounted cavalry found themselves hard pressed by rebel-yelling southerns, and driven back with losses. The objective had fallen - no!. But the Rebs had paid a high price. Still, on casualties inflicted it was very close. My dismounted cavalry had to try and retake the lost objective and so charged back in, sabres and pistols in hand. Only for find the last Rebs waiting  ‘like a stonewall’. Driven-off, the poor cavalry were decimated, this was not the glorious role of the cavalryman! That loss was enough for the Rebs to edge it. A very marginal win for Johny Reb in a close, tense fight, and again so much fun. These rules are so good, ever game a winner!! I love the dynamic, the ebb and flow, the unpredictability.

It’s 2-0 on wins to the Rebs in the campaign, but there’s a long way to go yet. New Yankee guns will start to claw it back. A big delivery of factory-new parrot gun has just arrived.

A few phone snaps of the action's highlights along the turnpike.

Death or Glory! My newly finished Zouaves about to get their baptism of canister fire storming the hill. Then it missed, and then my charge whiffed too...  just when you think you have him, you don't. Damn those cards (and dice).

The Turnpike. dismounted cavalry have the centre, Ohio to the left in the cornfield, New York to the right, Rebs just approaching, not in range yet.  Steady boys! 

 The far left, my boys deploying in a refused flank to meet the cavalry end-run. Guns have turned 180 to cover the rear, as that cavalry was moving so fast in column I thought it might run right round me. It didn't they stopped and dismounted to attack on foot, in an inconclusive firefight of ineptness from both sides. 

New Yorker's muskets leveled at Rebs in the open, my veterans gave Johny Reb a bloody nose here, but it didn't save the day. Exposed Position cards helped, and seemed about right too...

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Longstreet, Muller's Crossing

Game 1 of a new Longstreet Grand Campaign, 9 battles to play... a new brigade to command. The first fight, in 1861, was a river crossing scenario with my Union boys attacking and the Rebs awaiting across the Creek.

After a long break, this was a reminder of what a great set of rules these are... a top game of tactical decisions and hard card choices, my refused right flank and echelon left attack started well and saw my boys in blue race to threaten three of the creek's fords... all looked good, everything was in place... the Rebs were worried (but not that worried)... and the dice, well they can go the hell... my volley shooting was less than convincing, my eager recruits stalled and then were not so eager to et stick in with cold steel. The return fire took its toll, his artillery out shot my own and in the end, even though a quick bayonet charge by the New York boys in the centre carried 1 ford, it wasn't enough, the attrition wore me down too fast... and Colonel Dupont ordered the retreat, leaving the field to Jonny Reb.

So we are off... and I'm looking forward to it all, the last 2 campaigns were great fun and we stand at 1 win for the Rebs, 1 for the Yankees, so this is a bit of a decider.

Failed to take any pictures, but here is an oldie, and my brigade roster for game 2, in 2 weeks time, the first battle of 1862 will see my brigade on the defensive, this time holding an important crossroads. Let hope I can roll a 4+ more often than 1 in 4 times! (Ah, blame the dice!).

We're going on to Richmond... it should take about 5 years.