|Posted by Andy on July 25, 2014 at 6:25 PM||comments (2)|
Here we are, then, another year in the life of Houston Beer and Pretzel Wargaming. While my annual recap may be real late this year, at least it’s not “never”.
We’ve had a good wargaming year, only missing one game night as a club (although those who attended that night still enjoyed each other’s company and the food and beverage on offer). We also enjoyed no less than four different GMs hosting games (five were it not for Houston public transportation). As always, a huge thanks to Rob, Brian, and Chris for helping me out by sharing in the GM load.
Unfortunately, we weren’t as good, collectively, at posting after-action reports for our games (and I'm the biggest culprit), but I would have to say that the ones that did get posted make for pretty fun reading. We also enjoyed some cracking photos again this year, thanks to our official but unofficial club photographer, Andrew.
A few other numbers for you to think about.
4 – The number of years we’ve been meeting.
63 – The number of members currently registered on this site.
88 – The number of blog posts, including this one.
128 – The number of megabytes of photos, blogs, and other goodness on the site.
Here is it then, the recap of the year that was, April 2013 to March of 2014.
April 2013 - Dual of Iron – Aeronef – by Andy
We kicked off our fourth year in style, returning to our roots, by way of Aeronef. This time by throwing in Wessex Games’ rules for Land Ironclads, using scratch built steam driven ground machines that posed the main forces of an enraged America, landing on the Austro-Hungarian Caribbean island of Neu Wien, in enforcement of the Monroe Doctrine.
Alas, Admiral Cussler’s supporting Amercian Aeronef fleet failed to arrive overhead in support of the US invasion force, leaving the Austrian land defenses and Aeronef fleet and their English allies able to keep the Americans and nearby French Aeronef forces at bay.
May 2013 - Six Day War in the Air - CY6! Jet Age – by Rob
Rob brought us back to familiar skies as we jetted across the Sinai for some more Six Day War action. This time eight Israeli jets were sent in on a supposed milk run, against Egyptian ground targets, only to learn the hard way that the MIG defenders weren’t messing around.
Israeli planes fell early and often, to Egyptian pilots and AAA. The early demise of ace Israeli pilot Giora, to a head-on shot by a green Egyptian, was enough to shake everyone up. The lopsided victory point results (an Egyptian landslide) coupled with Andrew’s first foray as our star photographer, made for one of our best and most memorable wargame outings.
June 2013 - The Great Royal Elbonian Lion Hunt – Force on Force – by Andy
Then came June, hot, hot June. Rob’s birthday month and what has become our second annual theme night of the year. It was our return to Elbonia and the lands, women, and wild life of General President Robert Wubaqi.
This time President Wubaqi hosted an invitation-only lion safari, in the protected confines of his own private reserve. You can better believe it wasn’t just lions being hunted that day, as motorcycles, jeeps, and armored cars raced across the desert in pursuit of mane and each other, and helicopters whirled overhead. The crazed lions weren’t defenseless, mauling a few hunters in the process.
We were again treated to the fantastic photographic work of Andrew and those of us who were there still recount with fondness the whole over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek, absurdity of the whole affair.
July 2013 - Bag the East Front Hun – Bag the Hun – by Brian
July brought with it more heat and, at Stag’s Head, more air-to-air action, as we turned our attention to the skies of the East Front in WWII. Without the benefits of a detailed after-action post, I’ll let some of our photographs from that night do the talking.
More photos are here.
August 2013 - Hill 400 – Bolt Action – by Andy
Bolt Action has grown in popularity, replacing Flames of War in my own wargaming stable when it comes to WWII infantry and tank action. In August I ran my Hill 400 (Bergstein) semi-historic scenario, to playtest it for October’s Texas BROADSIDE! I also ran this scenario at Heat of Battle VII.
It featured the actions of elements of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, famous for its storming of Pointe du Hoc, but this time they were storming up Hill 400 in the Hurtgen Forest. Specifically, the Rangers were ordered to take a hill that overlooked the Ruhr valley and, from the hill’s vantage point, would have afforded US forces a view of the German build up for Wacht am Rhein.
We had a great time with the scenario and the challenges of charging up a hill against well dug in defenders, and this led to several tweaks to the scenario that were later put to good use in replaying this game two more times.
More photos are here.
September 2013 - Guadalcanal Jungle Patrol – Bolt Action – by Rob
In September we returned to Bolt Action, but this time Rob took us to the jungles of Guadalcanal, as his reinforced US marine patrol ran up against a relatively equal number of Japanese soldiers.
Again, we were playtesting this scenario for use at Texas BROADSIDE! and Rob’s unique use of “moving” terrain and “displacing” infantry made it suspenseful and hard to make plans in the dense and unforgiving jungles. A good simulation of the unknown and the fog of jungle warfare.
October 2013 - Zombies!! - by Rob
In a nod to the season and a departure from the seriousness of gritty warfare, we turned to the latest craze, and a fitting one for October, the zombie apocalypse.
Keeping it light and easy, Rob had recently invested in the Zombies!! board/miniature game and brought that along. Thus, we were able to get a couple of games in and enjoy a more relaxed, humorous, or was that humerus, evening.
More photos are here.
November 2013 - Holding Pointe du Hoc – IABSM – by Chris
Second in our “guest” GMs for the year, and ironically the second outing of the year for the boys from the 2nd Ranger Battalion, Chris brought in his own 15mm WWII infantry forces and we used Two Fat Lardies’ I Ain’t Been Shot Mum to simulate the US defense of Pointe du Hoc, from a determined counterattack launched by nearby German forces. Again, we’ll let the pictures do the telling, but I generally recall that in this and other playing’s of Chris’ scenario it seemed the Germans always had the tougher time of it.
More photos are here.
December 2013 - Grieving Over Blown Bridges – Bolt Action – by Andy
Another in our theme nights, and our third session of Bolt Action in the year, we enjoyed a festive holiday party playing yet another engagement set in the snows of Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge.
This time the scenario was set during that iconic scene in The Battle of the Bulge, when Skorzeny’s disguised commandos are caught out near a bridge, and a firefight with US armored troops and Peiper’s tanks ensues.
The results were predictable as the German Panthers made for the far table edge, to keep the offensive rolling, while the Americans just tried to survive and kill what they could of the German menace.
January 2014 - Crisis in the Kashmir – CY6! Jet Age - by Brian
For January, the club took part in the India-Pakistan War of 1965, thanks to the Crisis in Kashmir scenario book for CY6 Jet age, and Brian’s jets.
The scenario was entitled, “Breaking the Sabre,” and recreated a fighter sweep by Folland Gnats of the Indian Air Force (IAF) against missile-carrying F-86 Sabres and F-104 Starfighters of the Pakistani Air Force (PAF).
The game turned into a twisting fur ball almost immediately, and any idea of aircraft staying in pairs for maneuver went right out the window. Even though the PAF Sabres had Sidewinder missiles, none were fired during the game.
The final score was close, 14 IAF victory points to 13 PAF victory points.
February 2014 - Sails of Glory – by Andy
Kickstarter has sucked many of my funds away over the last few years. Most of my investments have been great ones, but occasionally I’ve gotten burned. Sails of Glory, designed and published by the guys who brought us Wings of Glory and Wings of War, is one of my most successful Kickstarter investments.
We brought this system out and fought a large battle between six British and seven French ships. The scenario itself was just a line up, sail close, and fire type of affair, and we were bold in using the more advanced rules, which we didn’t find all too difficult.
Everyone had a great time learning the rules and bringing each other to battle and we’ll surely see this one on the table again in 2014-2015.
March 2014 – No Game
Unfortunately, we had several of the regular guys show up to play in March but our GM was stuck struggling with Houston public transportation. We look forward to John’s wind and sail wargame and will find a way to reschedule it for later this year or early next year.
Sometimes we have a GM but not enough players and occasionally we have enough players but no GM. Life happens and our hobby sometimes suffers for it.
We’re already a quarter of the way into our 5th year, having come back to VSF (Aeronef) and Elbonia (modified AK-47) for two theme nights. Unfortunately, we’ve also managed to strike out one month, but still had some guys at the pub to share some food and drink and great discussion.
Coming up in the next few months we have X-Wing this month (this coming Monday in fact), a long-awaited return to the Atlantic and the painfully slow progress of British convoy HG-84 (using Mal Wright’s Convoy tactical rules), and in October we’ll return to an undead theme, with Force on Force and its variant Ambush Z. I’ll also return as GM in December with another multiplayer Bolt Action game set in 1944, this time exploring the action along Elsenborn ridge.
September and November remain unclaimed, so if you want to be a guest GM, why not step up for one of those months, or early 2015?
We’ve also got the following wargame conventions to look forward to:
Heat of Battle VIII, NOLA, August 8-10, 2014
Texas BROADSIDE! 2014, USS TEXAS, October 10-12, 2014
MillenniumCon 17, Round Rock, November 7-9, 2014
That’s it for this year. Happy wargaming and beer enjoying, boys.
|Posted by Rob on June 27, 2014 at 9:40 AM||comments (3)|
CNN reports two contrasting events on a typical day in Elbonia. A successful food delivery to the village of Luonga by the World Food Programme (WFP) under the protection of the UN, while the National Guard and numerous other factions engaged in a catastrophic fire-fight around the neighboring and now-deserted village of Uonga.
Locals report chaos, and lions rampaging through the streets of Uonga, eating wounded and dying townsfolk and fighters as the village militia was decimated by the National Guard and other converging forces.
"I didn't know what was happening" reported the new head-man Massai (not his real name) in response to the attacks. The National Guard has maintained a check-point on Elbonia Route 1 for several weeks now; extorting tribute from passing traffic. Unexplainably, they suddenly attacked the village, possibly under the influence of Khat.
The villagers defended themselves, rallying their militia forces. In the ensuing chaos, lions emerged from the jungle and began attacking any targets of opportunity.
CNN witnessed the surprising presence of HUNG, the Haitian Underground biker gang that has been roaming the countryside, led by the mysterious Dumas. Elbonian Tourism Minister Kamana Spenti, commented "We gave HUNG membership a permanent tourist visa, it's good for the economy".
Post-attack investigation shows a severely damaged oil pipeline in the village which apparently has been shut-down. The cause of the damage is unknown but most likely resulted from heavy weapons fire damage.
In related news, TransAfrica PetroServices (TAPS) announced the removal of their Sr. VP for West Africa, Luke Warm, stating he has been transferred to Special Projects Division pending his retirement to spend more time with his family. Oil & Gas Journal reports that the prior reported TAPS Elbonian pipeline production decline has drastically reduced output, possibly as a result of this pipeline damage in Uonga. Requests for comment from TAPS were not returned.
Holliewood Reporter.com said nothing has been heard from the lion rescue PETARD mission launched by S. Baldwin. Calls to the Elbonian Embassy in Washington were made but have not resulted in further contact with PETARD. Rumor of a benefit concert to launch a relief expedition are swirling in the clubs of LA.
|Posted by Rob on June 14, 2014 at 9:25 PM||comments (0)|
The World Food Programme (WFP) provides assistance in Elbonia through a countrywide Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation in 15 districts, a school feeding programme in 12 districts and school gardens, a Purchase for Progress (P4P) local food procurement pilot project, and an emergency operation (EMOP) assisting Garlamistani refugees and vulnerable host populations in northern Elbonia.
WFP’s recovery and development programmes, including the P4P pilot, aim to support Elbonia’ssocial and economic recovery and improve food security. The EMOP aims to address the food and nutritional needs of refugees and host populations affected by the Garlamistani refugee crisis.
WFP works in Elbonia's 15 districts through sub-offices in Kantwellabu and Elbonogo and field offices in Kankan and Nzerekore.
WFP has been present in Elbonia since 2001.
|Posted by Andy on June 9, 2014 at 8:40 PM||comments (0)|
The following passage was found amidst the personal papers of the famous French author Jules Verne. These papers were recently discovered in the attic of a Paris apartment, once owned by the granddaughter of Verne himself, Madame Crystal Verne Imonfeur.
Literary scholars believe that this passage was the beginning of a chapter that never made it into Verne’s famous work, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”. Perhaps it would have led to a more climatic end to that famous Victorian era novel. We shall never know for sure.
I awoke with a start. Dressing quickly I made my way to the great saloon and found Ned there, sitting in silence, and Conseil, my dear best boy, gazing out the port gallery window. It was not long since the terrible attack of the cuttlefish and the tragic loss of one of Captain Nemo’s own crew, a man I had suddenly learned was a countryman of mine.
The Nautilus was riding amidst the Gulf Stream, submerged at some depth. My sleep that night had been disturbed by much noise and commotion, however, strangely, I was not inclined to arise and investigate. Could Captain Nemo have again arranged some sleeping draught be put in our drink the night before?
I estimated that we were perhaps half the distance between the eastern shore of America and the Old World. This great Gulf current pulled west to east and took with it such an abundance of sea life and great commerce and controlled the weather in this part of our world.
The Canadian was clearly beside himself. We had lost all hope of escape along the United States eastern seaboard and now Captain Nemo had directed Nautilus far out to sea, to a destination we could not at this time fathom.
“Well, Ned! Do you wish me to ask Captain Nemo his intentions concerning us?”
“Yes, sir, M. Arronax”
“Although he has already made his intentions known, and there is no reason to expect him to change his mind.”
“Nevertheless, I shall try.”
“But Ned, we must be prepared for any opportunity – to learn more of this craft and the men aboard her, if nothing else, for we may find an ally amongst Captain Nemo’s crew.”
Just then, Captain Nemo entered the room with a start. I had not seen him in several days, not since the battle with the poulps. He appeared agitated and strode directly towards me.
“M. Arronax, I must again beseech you to respect that which I asked of you when you first arrived on my submersible.”
“Please, gentlemen, if you would return to your quarters?”
Captain Nemo motioned towards the door and towards two of his largest crewmen. Wordlessly, they escorted each of us to our chambers, and I heard the bolt slide and, with that sound, my fate was sealed, even as the heavy door closed behind me.
What could this be? Another attack by God’s creations? “Dante’s Inferno” in the flesh?
I waited for what seemed like hours, but was, in all likelihood, mere minutes. Straining to hear something that would assuage my concerns and enlighten me as to what was afoot. Alas, nothing was to come to me, by hearing or otherwise.
Then there came a quiet knock at my door. Once, twice, then thrice before I had the good sense and courage, in all honesty, to investigate. A click was heard and then my door opened slowly. To my astonishment, Ned was there, in the flesh.
“Ned! What matter of mystery is this that brings you to my door, when we should all be locked away?”
“M. Arronax, I am a clever chap, and in my determination to free myself of this wretched captivity, have contrived a way to open my locked door of my own free will. Thus was I able to exit my compartment and come here to you. Perhaps we have an opportunity here to learn what Captain Nemo is up to and use this knowledge to our advantage.”
“Indeed, my friend, perhaps. But first we must free Conseil. His powers of observation and categorization I find invaluable, he can assist us in our efforts.”
We made our way to Conseil’s compartment and he soon joined our stalwart, yet covert, party.
“Thank you, Master, for freeing me and allowing me to accompany you good sirs on your adventure.”
“You have been with me for too long, my boy. We must learn the mysteries of this vessel and its Captain together.”
We crept quietly, as a trio, through the vessel, back to the saloon, hoping that one of the ports was open, so that we may see what was occurring outside. We felt a surge under our feet as the Nautilus seemed to accelerate, and this was followed almost immediately by a shudder.
Upon reaching the open starboard saloon window we gazed hard to lay our eyes on anything of note. Then, I heard Ned gasp at the site before us. We could just make out, bathed in the bright light of the lamp of the Nautilus, another object nearby. Its direction lay forward of our vessel and it was of nearly cylindrical construction, perhaps a third the length of Nautilus. it appeared to be man-made, dark gray in color, and seemingly metallic in substance. The light from the Nautilus’ beacon had fixed upon it, and made it quite visible to us.
We each silently wondered the allegiance of this other craft. Could our fellow countrymen be looking for us, could this be some form of rescue? We knew not.
It was then that the Nautilus’ beacon swept away and the outside was plunged into darkness. Conseil had moved to the port window, and from that quarter we heard him exclaim. Rushing to his side, I was just able to catch a glimpse of another, larger, far more cylindrical craft. This one was briefly caught in the Nautilus’ sweeping light, but in the moment I gazed upon it, I knew it to be nearly half the length of the vessel we were on.
Then, all the gates of Hades seemed to open at once, as a brilliant flash seen at a distance through the port gallery window was met by an equally bright blue flash from somewhere directly above us. In that moment we all grabbed for the nearest bracing…
On April 28th we celebrated our club’s fourth birthday, by returning to the rule system we played that first night on March 11th, 2010.
Following the sinking of the RMS MAJESTIC, at the hands of a French Aeronef force in the mid-Atlantic (in our linked Aeronef/IHMN game at OwlCon last February), Aquanef and Aeronef forces of Britain and France converged over that mid-Atlantic spot to hunt for the wreck of the doomed liner. Hidden somewhere aboard the MAJESTIC was purported to be documents that might implicate one nation or another in the past assassination of US Vice President Levi Morton. Prior to recovering the liner or its contents, the Aqua and Aeronef forces of both nations were tasked with positively locating and identifying the MAJESTIC, and assessing its condition on the ocean floor.
Arrayed opposite each other were roughly equal forces of Aeronef vessels and scratch built Aquanefs. I used a scheme I’d read about, hot gluing CD-sized disks on top of clear plastic tumblers, to provide a 3D appearance to the table. Aeronefs on their flight stands stood atop the inverted tumbler/disk combinations, while the subs on their own stands stood on the table itself. Irregularly shaped cutouts represented the unknown and mysterious sea floor, and its perils. When an Aquanef came within spotting range of these areas I would determine the actual terrain/threat and deploy it accordingly. The Wessex Aquanef rules were being playtested here, and they provided the impetus for setting terrain at various depths, forcing subs to move around or above those elements of terrain else suffer the consequences.
Rob kept notes as we played (John and Stephen commanded the British Aqua and Aeronef forces respectively, while Mike and Rob did the same for the French). The following recap is based on Rob’s notes.
In turn one the French began their underwater exploration by discovering two undersea mountains and a kelp forest at the same depth. The French Aeronef formation flew in column, by squadrons, with light forces (class 3-4) in the lead, heavier/slower class 1-2 behind. French fighters and bombers were kept ready to launch. In that opening turn Rob turned right to parallel the edge of the table. The British in turn one were in line abreast formation with heavies in the middle and lights on the flanks. They moved forward at best possible speed.
In turn two the French Aquanefs discovered a giant crab, which attacked and missed its target. The French undersea force also discovered a wreck, but it did not appear to be MAJESTIC. The French Aeronefs began launching their fighters. The British Aquanef force discovered the NAUTILUS and another formation of undersea mountains. Both Aeronef fleets advanced towards each other in formation.
In turn three the French damaged the crab and continued to launch fighters from the air. Both fleets continued their advance towards one another, in formation. The British exchanged fire with the NAUTILUS.
Turn four saw continued fire between the NAUTILUS and the British and fighting between the crab and nearby French Aquanefs. In the air, the French and British fleets closed range, but held their fire. The French circled behind the British line.
In turn five the French defeated the giant crab and it began exiting the battle area. NAUTILUS disengaged and Nemo decided to leave the two sides to their own devices…he’d gotten what he was after… Meanwhile, the air filled with gunfire, as the entire French fleet fired on AGINCOURT delivering 97% damage. The British fleet fired back at LOIRE which took 60% damage. The French also lost a fighter squadron.
In the sixth turn the British and French both discovered a second wreck on the sea bottom. The French, however, lost their reconnaissance sub to crushing pressure while trying to confirm that the wreck was MAJESTIC, leaving the British undersea force as the first to positively identify MAJESTIC. In the skies, the British fired on the cruiser JEANNE LA PUCELLE, which was destroyed. LOIRE then delivered the coup de grace to AGINCOURT.
As the game wrapped up and was called, the L’EPEE and YORK both succumbed to focused firing.
In the end we decided that the British Aquanefs signaled the fleet the location of MAJESTIC and London would receive the location before Paris, although probably not by a lot of time. The French decorated their Admiral for destroying AGINCOURT and a British cruiser but have reported to the French people a great victory. The official French Naval records will read that the LOIRE and other naval casualties were lost in a tragic training accident in the Orient.
Stay tuned for our next exciting chapter in our alternative Victorian era campaign, coming your way in early 2015.
|Posted by Rob on June 6, 2014 at 9:35 AM||comments (0)|
Hi, I'm Stephen Baldwin. Today I'm issuing a call for action to join me on a mission to protect the Lions of Elbonia.
Almost a year ago, I met a wonderful man, Manuel Exposure - a great wildlife photographer. He told me about the most horrific state sponsored lion hunts in the far-off country of Elbonia.
As I sipped my mocha-frappachino at a Cafe off Rodeo Drive, I was horrified. "Let's do something" I said.
The response has been overwhelming, we have support, resources, and people ready to go get these lions. We have a plan. Join me on this great expedition.
As a well funded offshoot of PETA, we are PETARD, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Ranger Division. I offer you a chance to make a difference in this world, and save some beautiful cats. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter as we go get these lions.
|Posted by Rob on June 6, 2014 at 9:20 AM||comments (0)|
RE: Some of our Oil is missing!!
From: Warm, Luke - Sr. VP, TransAfrica PetroServices (TAPS)
To: Steele, Rusty - CEO, TransAfrica PetroServices (TAPS)
There is an issue in our Elbonian operation; specifically oil throughput on pipeline Elco-1 is down 25% vs. last month. This has a negative impact on our bottom-line at the export terminal. Local management is largely incompetant and didn't recognize this problem. Corporate Accounting identified a variance and escalated the issue to MANCOM. After an emergency meeting, we are aligned to called in 'The Specialist' and will be checking the route for 'leakage'.
It's imperative this throughput issue is corrected in advance of negotiations with the Chinese delegates. I will update you on progress once the Specialist team checks in from Elbonia.
This will be handled by our Special Projects Division and I have temporary Delegation of Authority for the reserve cost center.
|Posted by BrianW on March 11, 2014 at 7:35 PM||comments (0)|
After some false starts and missteps, the first game day at the Evelyn Meador library is finally on the schedule. It will be on March 22, and Greg Burns, the librarian there wants me to run a game of Zombies! According to him, the library system tries to stay current with trends, and as all gamers know, the zombie craze is still going strong in popular culture.
As of right now, the game day is scheduled to start at 11 AM, and run to whenever. So, if anyone would like to come out and play along with me and the public, feel free to show up. The address is:
2400 North Meyer Road Seabrook, TX 77586
The link below gives the address, as well as directions:
We don't know yet when the next one will be, or what the game will be, but I promise that there will be more advance notice than this.
|Posted by Andy on March 4, 2014 at 4:30 PM||comments (0)|
The members of this club have always been fond of Ares Games' Wings of Glory and Wings of War series, with their pre-painted airplanes and simple, card-driven maneuver and damage chit draw sub-systems. It was thereore natural, when the Kickstarter for their new Sails of Glory was announced, that I had to invest in it. The game and sixteen Napoleonic era pre-painted sailing ships later, I learned the rules and then ran a few test games at home.
Having planned to GM this new game at OwlCon, I was disappointed when someone else beat me to it, volunteering to run the game on Friday night at Rice. Later, when he had to cancel his participation in the con, I jumped at the chance to run the game in his stead.
When planning the early 2014 calendar for the club, and realizing the fourth Monday in February fell immediately after OwlCon, it was natural to pull out this ready-to-run game for our post-OwlCon meetup. Much to my surprise we had a great turn out of gamers for Monday night, February 24th.
In the end we were able to field a total of thirteen ships, including three British first rates and three British frigates versus three French first rates and four French frigates. We used Advanced rules, with a chance for wind change, and each player controlled two ships. This was a knock down fight as both battle lines faced off accross the table. We set the initial wind direction across the width of the table, so neither side started with an unfair advantage, and it wasn't long before both fleets were closing and unloading round shot at each other.
The French line closed on the Brtish line, which was sailing at a 45 degree angle off the bow. The ships in the middle of the British line were thus able to fire on the lead French ship with relative impunity. Two flanking French frigates ran either side of the French line to try and mess with British tactics.
The middle of the table quickly became confused as shots were exchanged, most broadsides being loaded with round shot. Not once in this fracas was a boarding action pulled off, despite a few collisions on both sides.
In the end everyone had a chance to learn the Advanced rules and become familiar with handling their ships. This game will definitely become an annual fixture in our club calendar as it is simple, fast, and fun, AND filled with a lot of period character and age-of-sail goodness.
|Posted by Andy on March 4, 2014 at 4:25 PM||comments (0)|
PARLIAMENT CITES MAJESTIC AFFAIRE AS LAST STRAW
By Gerd Maloins, Gross Austrian Gazatte (GAG), 5 March, 1894
Today, Sir Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery, was presented to the Queen as the newest British Prime Minister. In his first address before Parliament, Prime Minister Primrose called for immediate hostilities against France, in continued abhorant reaction to the shameful occasion of the recent French attack upon, subsequent crash, and sinking of the British liner RMS MAJESTIC.
Prime Minister Primrose exclaimed, "The British people have suffered long enough with the abominable behaviour of the French government and France's military elite. The British people have no issue with the good people of France. But not since the French Revolution has a French government, a ruling elite, and a military general staff needed to be so badly replaced by the French people. Never in the history of human endeavour have so many, faulted so few, for so much."
Soon after his speech, Parliament took steps to declare a state of formal war with France, closing its diplomatic offices in Paris, and withdrawing its ambassador back to London. It is believed the French diplomats in London were also expelled from the proud island nation of Great Britain.
A proponent of a strong Royal Navy, it is believed that Prime Minister Primrose will see the British are moving quickly to ascertain the final resting place of the .MAJESTIC, and to order salvage operations as quickly as possible, before the ravages of the sea can further take their toll on the remains of that once proud British vessel.
Official reaction from governments around the world, concerning the state of war between Britiain and France, were mixed. United States President Grover Cleveland reportedly shrugged his shoulders and said, "They're always fighting over there. That's why we left the Old Country." Unofficial sources in Vienna indicate the Austro-Hungarian government is sympathetic to the British position over MAJESTIC. In Berlin, the feeling is surprisingly pro-French. One German government official was heard to mutter somethng about an ignored custom's inspection.
OwlCon XXXIII gave us a rare opportunity to move our Victorian Science Ficiton (VSF) campaign along, with a sizeable endeavor. Having acquired Osprey's "In Her Majesty's Name" (IHMN), and a collection of minis for same, while I was at DragonCon in London last December, I decided it would make for a great skirmish option for our otherwise Aeronef-based VSF exploits. I figured what better way to have our steam punk cake and eat it too then to run Aeronef on one table and IHMN on an adjacent table. Each game could accomodate four players and the action on one would coincide and be linked with the action on the other.
Our Aeronef game two years ago featured the British, Americans, and Austro-Hungarians in a bit of three way bother. Specifically, HRH the Prince of Wales was coming to Pearl Hafen, Neu Wien, in the Caribbean. At the same time, the British White Star liner RMS MAJESTIC was arriving as part of a scheduled and routine cruise. United States Vice President Levi Morton and his family were aboard MAJESTIC. The sudden and mysterious death of Morton brought things to a head between the local British escort force, a nearby patrol of US Aeronefs, and the local defenses of Pearl Hafen.
Two years later, after much sabre rattling by Washington and a punitive but half-hearted land ironclad assault on some of Austria-Hungary's Caribbean possesions, American investigations into the cause of Morton's death have led nowhere. The British are apathetic, at best, putting into immediate question the quality and efficacy of their investigations aboard MAJESTIC.
Then it happened, last month, a mysterious man who calls himself, "The Eagle", contacted the major governments of the world. Offering to sell to the highest bidder what he promised were earth-shattering secrets concerning the death of Morton, indicating that the information he possesed would unhinge the balance of power in Europe. Thus, in motion was set the inexorable pendulums of government chicanery, over possesion of the "Morton File".
We deployed a roughly balanced set of four Aeronef forces, in the corners of one table, depicting the open skies and water of the mid-Atlantic. Each Aeronef fleet commander was handed a one page set of orders. Those orders were somewhat dependent on the actions aboard the MAJESTIC, which was placed in the center of the table, flying along its route between New York and Paris.
The British were instructed to protect the MAJESTIC from harm, and to do harm if necessary to protect her. In the opposite corner from the British was the fleet of the United States.
The US received orders to move within visual range of and await a signal from the decks of MAJESTIC. Upon seeing a green flare fired from MAJESTIC, the US player was to stop MAJESTIC and moor with and board her, to rescue the Secret Service agents aboard.
Between the British and American fleets, in a third corner of the table, were the Austro-Hungarians. They were ordered to close to observation range and await a signal from the decks of MAJESTIC. Upon seeing a red signal flare, they were to close with, stop, and board MAJESTIC, to rescue their agents aboard ship. The fourth corner of the table is where we found the French.
The French had the most outrageous orders. They were ordered to approach to within visual range of MAJESTIC and await a yellow signal flare. Upon its appearance, they were to close on and destroy MAJESTIC, no questions asked...
On the other table, four corresponding factions deployed in the four corners of the lower cargo/ballast deck aboard MAJESTIC herself. They were the hired securtiy consultants of Lord Curr and Company (hired by the White Star Line in the wake of the Morton incident of two years previous) (Northstar minis), a team of United States Secret Service agents led by none other than James West and Artemus Gordon (Foundry minis), a group of Prussian mercenaries hired by the Austro-Hungarian government, to provide them deniability (Brigade minis), and finally, the family of Charles La' Strange of New Orleans, agents provocatuer in league with the French government (Reaper Chronoscope minis). The premise was that they were all aboard the ship because each of their respective patron nations had gathered independent intelligence that suggested that The Eagle would be aboard and might try and reach a business deal with someone over the "Morton File".
Terrain for the deck table was a combination of Mantic's Deadzone plastic terrain, combined with David Graffam's paper terrain, all on grey felt. The outer "walls" served as the exterior walls of the ship on this "deck". Windows in that wall were portholes open to the Atlantic skies. It was envisioned that this "deck" was a double height deck, with the roofs of the sideline corridors looking down over the center areas of the deck. Beneath the elevated walkway, in the center of the table and oppostie the port side amidships cargo doors, was the cargo door control room. That room would play a pivotal role in the game as the four adventuring companies began the game by hearing gunfire emanating from somewhere ahead of them.
Each of the four companies was given verbal instructions. Lord Curr had orders to simply protect MAJESTIC. To aprehend or physically stop any trouble makers - basically, just shoot them all. The Secret Service was there for the "Morton File", with orders to secure the File and then fire a green flare out a porthole and await rescue. The Prussian contingent was informed that their agent was meeting with The Eagle, in the hopes that he could acquire the File, and that they were there to back him up. They too were to secure the File and fire a red flare out a porthole, then await rescue. Finally, Charles La' Strange was told to do everything in his power to secure the File, and failing that, if it looked like he and his family needed assistance, to fire a yellow flare from a porthole...
It really WAS coincidence that the role of Charles and his family fell to my nine year old son and his ten year old friend... I really TRIED to get the other adults to share a command with the boys... But in their eagerness to play, the two boys just took over five French figures and there was nothing for it but to press on... One can imagine that when the Aeronef game needed a little "push" on my part, it was a simple matter to whisper to my son, "Do you think its time to fire the yellow flare?"
My first worry concerning running two linked games side by side was trying to GM one or both games while also coordinating the action of the overall experience. Fortunately, this was resovlved by having Rob and Steve, two experienced Aeronef players, both co-game-master (GM) and play in the Aeronef game, while Bill helped me out as GM for the IHMN game. Leaving me with the task of coordinating the two games overall. My other worry was that the two games would get out of sync, because their turn sequences could not be easily coordinated. I resolved this by letting both games play out at their own paces, while translating cross-table-affecting events whereever in the turn sequences they occured. For example, if someone shot at MAJESTIC and hit her, I interrupted the IHMN game and had every figure make and pass an immediate Pluck roll or fall down then and there, regardless of which turn or where in the turn that game was.
The Aeronef game went several turns (five I think) before the IHMN players had completed its first turn (due in large part to having many new IHMN players) and the Aeronef players dutifully closed in on the worrying MAJESTIC. I hadn't anticipated that the French vessels would move so much faster than the other three nations, so before long the French nefs had all but surrounded MAJESTIC, French bombers from their carrier nef buzzing about the MAJESTIC. Then came the message from the French flagship to MAJESTIC, sent so all in the area could read it:
"MANDATORY CUSTOMS INSPECTION...HEAVE TO AND PREPARE TO BE BOARDED."
To which the captain of MAJESTIC soon replied:
"A MID-ATLANTIC CUSTOMS INSPECTION? I THINK NOT, SIR."
Meanwhile, over on the cargo deck, the four adventuring companies began moving onto the deck, looking for the source of the gunfire that had opened the game. The Secret Service and Lord Curr's team seemed to strike an uneasy alliance at first, while the French and Prussian groups at the other end of the deck were more wary of each other. Initital shots were exchanged at long range, between the French and Secret Service and between Lord Curr and the Prussians.
The boys running the La' Strange family were challenged to know what to do with their figures, and I was too busy to coach them overmuch, so they found themselves in trouble pretty quickly. Having said that, they did manage to rush Claudette La' Strange forward and she was one of the first to discover two bodies and a satchel in the cargo door control room. She then became the focus of hostile attention from the other three sides. As mentioned earlier, it was pretty easy to convince the boys that they might need the help of the French fleet, and I may have gently suggested that they should fire their yellow flare. After all, I reasoned to my son, "do you think you can grab and hang on to the satchel?" He wasn't so sure.
That set off Aeronef hell as soon as that yellow flare flew from the port side of MAJESTIC. Rob, the French nef commander, unleashed all his bombers and shot up the MAJESTIC. In that one round of shooting the French had effectively destroyed MAJESTIC! Oops...play imbalance...time to improvise. Using GM perogative, I decided the MAJESTIC had been damaged to the point of coming to a dead stop and that the R-Matter lift engines had failed. Thus I announced that the MAJESTIC was starting to settle in the air. I also had all the IHMN figures check Pluck to avoid a fall to the ground. Claudette La' Strange failed and fell, then spent several turns trying to stand, quite unsuccessfully, all while others tried to shoot her!
Once the French had fired like that on MAJESTIC, the other three fleets began opening up on the French. At that point the French decided the MAJESTIC had taken enough damage, and there was always time to finish her off, so the French began defending themselves. My son was a little upset that French reinforcements weren't on their way...I'm so evil...
Over on the IHMN table, Bill began independently improvising and having sections of the deck collapse/explode as secondary damage rippled through MAJESTIC. The Prussian commander in IHMN managed to grab the satchel from a fallen Claudette and he began scrambling for the exit. Then he fell the next time MAJESTIC was hit. The Secret Service player soon decided he'd better fire his green flare, in the hopes that the "cavalry" would come in response.
Chris, the Austro-Hungarian nef commander, having not seen the hoped for red flare, decided he'd ignore the French and attack MAJESTIC! I guess he didn't want anyone to find the "Morton File" either. What he didn't know was that the Prussian mercenaries had control of the satchel and hadn't remembered to fire the flare!! A little reminder from me prompted them to do that and I thought we had the makings of an Austro-Hungarian overall victory, but as the red flare flew from the ever-settling/sinking MAJESTIC, Chris opted to ignore it and continued firing on MAJESTIC!
This caused more falls on the cargo deck and, soon later, we had the MAJESTIC hit the water. I then had everyone in the IHMN game make a Pluck roll to continue in the game, ruling that a failure would indicate that person had been incapacitated for the remainder of the game. Several failed and were eliminated, reducing the numbers on all sides. Then the flooding started. Each turn we had water rushing in to the cargo deck from the hull sides, four inches a turn, increasing to five inches a turn when the Austro-Hungarian nefs hit the MAJESTIC for one more point of damage. Anyone in the water was washed away and eliminated from the game. The only exit we allowed was to the center of the deck, up the ladders to the overhead catwalk, then out the forward or aft ends of the catwalk.
On the other table, the French nefs continued to take a beating and began to withdraw when they saw that the MAJESTIC was in the water and quickly sinking. The British had begun rescue efforts and had begun targeting the Austro-Hungarians, while chasing the remainder of the French force off. The Austrians continued in their attacks on MAJESTIC and even lashed out at the United States nefs. That would not bode well for post-MAJESTIC relationships between those two nations, a relationship that was already extremely delicate. Finally, the US player closed on MAJESTIC to try and rescue the Secret Service, without realizing that none of the Secret Service were still in the other game!
The flooding had taken its toll and like rats on a sinking ship, the remainder of the adventuring companies began running for the ladders, while still shooting at each other! The Prussian player had to make the tough choice. One of his troopers had the satchel, but was on the ground. Rolling Pluck to stand up would cost an action/turn. Having the nearby Prussian soldier, still on his feet, rush over and pick up the satchel would also cost an action/turn. In either case the flooding waters would wash that person away. Thus, just as the water reached the foot of the catwalk ladder, the last French figure (Jean Taureau) had clambered up and the Prussian clutching the satchel, presumably containing the "Morton File", was washed away. The sole survivors then were four of Lord Curr's men, two of the La' Strange clan, and two of the Prussian contingent. None of the Secret Service made it to the catwalk!
Overall, it was a wonderful adventure and I think everyone had a great time. It neatly sets up our next chapter in the saga, to be played in April at the Stag's Head. My thanks to Rob, Steve, and Bill for helping me GM, and to all the players for giving it a go and being patient with the setup.
|Posted by Andy on March 4, 2014 at 2:05 AM||comments (0)|
I call myself a wargame facilitator. What can I say, I love organizing games and events for others to enjoy. I think it started back in the day when I'd rather be "Dungeon Master" over "Dungeon Explorer".
I work hard to organize and prepare a fun game for those who choose to play in one of my events. And when its over, I breathe a sigh of relief, hoping that everyone had as much fun playing, as I had in game mastering.
When the latest game is over, I relax a little, and start thinking about the next event. Which means many times I find myself temporarily burnt out, and subsequently unable to find the energy or desire to take the time and write a proper after-action report for this site...
That's my excuse, and I'm sticking too it...
But it doesn't bode well for a site that needs new blog entries for visitors to read, to keep them coming back to these pages...so...I'm sitting down tonight...and catching up on some blogging. Hopefully these articles will give folks out there something interesting to read, and provide a little recorded history for our informal game club, so we can look back a year or two from now and say, "oh, THAT's what we were playing in 2013 and 2014".
Last December was the last game I ran that needs an after-action report, so what better place to start on this cold March night then to recap our simulation of those cold Belgian battlefields of 69 years ago. Using Bolt Action, a large group of us, including Rob and his dad, John and his son, Brian, Matt, Chris, Stephen, Kurt, and my son, got together to recreate the iconic scene from The Battle of the Bulge, where several Operation Grief German commandos, dressed as American MPs, are confronted by a US tank crew and a nasty firefight soon commences.
We were able to use my figures, Kurt's Fallschirmjager, and his armored vehicles, together with my forest/road/river terrain and his ruined buildings. All told I think the table looked pretty good. The game began with the disguised German squad in the center of the table, just across a bridge, facing a single Sherman tank. The remaining forces on each side entered out of reserve, including two Panthers and a German track and some FJ, and two more Shermans and more US infantry.
The German side got bonus VP for exiting forces off the Allied end of the table. Both sides got standard VP for killing each other's units.
The terrain was dense and led to lots of cover for the infantry. The tanks pretty much stayed to the roads and the Panther's made pretty good work of the Shermans, as to be expected. The Germans tried a flanking move across the cemetary and fields, but in the end the Americans were struggling to hang on to the buildings on the very edge of the table. The victory pretty easily went to the Germans, and everyone seemed to have a good time. If we run this scenario again we'll have a better idea about tweaking it to make it more playable and more enjoyable.
As always, Rob provided some great post-event feedback, which I am including here so we don't lose the "paper trail" on stuff like this.
Things we got right:
Things we got wrong:
Changes to the scenario for future running:
"US reinforcements: Make it more random. Have the US roll each turn on a pool of tanks, artillery barrages, or bazooka armed recon units. Make a basic table to fit what you have available for the game and give one option for 'no support this turn' and another for 'US player chooses' on the extremes of the chart. This would be more of the penny-packet flavor that the Bulge was than a rush of US support flooding in on turn 2. Advantage to US is that they can respond to the German attack axis with reinforcements instead of early committal of assets like last night. The US squad in the woods and at least one US tank were totally out of position to counter the German attack on the opposite side. Having delayed reinforcements would help this. Would also allow the Germans to close the range and get into a point blank fight at the high tide of the assault - good drama."
All in all I'd say a fitting end of 2013. We'll no doubt return to the Ardennes next December, and return to Bolt Action as well. Rob and I are already planning. I'll try extra hard next year to avoid the post-game-the-holidays-are-upon-us doldrums and get the after action report written in a more timely fashion. :-)