|Posted by Andy on February 23, 2015 at 12:35 AM||comments (2)|
You'd think that after all this time I would have learned my lesson?
Early last year, when we were planning our game night calendar for 2014, we knew we had to return to the 1944 Ardenne for our annual December romp in the snow. In the last few years we've used Bolt Action and 28mm figures pretty successfully, prior to that we'd used FOW and its 15mm figures, although in the last few years FOW has fallen out of favor with some active members of the club, including yours-truly.
My plan early last year was that we would use my ridge/hill terrain and play a microcosmic engagement of the struggle to control Elsenborn Ridge, with German forces trying to make it up the ridge, in the face of dug-in American defenders, using Bolt Action and 28's. What happened in October, however, changed my plans...
A business meeting in Berlin gave me an excuse to visit a couple of German game stores. I stumbled upon a copy of the Battlegroup rules, written by Warwick Kinrade (Iron Fist Publishing) and written for the Plastic Soldier Company. In addition, the Battlegroup Overlord campaign book was available as well. Having read good reviews about the game, I bought the books, hoping they would be a viable replacement for FOW, as I own quite a few 15mm FOW minis, both painted and unpainted, but got tired of buying more books from Battlefront. Thus, I thought it wouid be cool to try these new rules for our annual December fling. Did I mention not learning a lesson?...
The lessons I should always remember are that December is usually our biggest turn out (12 guys were there this year!) and with that big a group it's generally not a good idea to try new rules. Also, because the group can be big, its always best to ensure that there are either no reserves, the reserves come in quickly (from the first turn if it looks like the first turn might take an hour to play), or if there will be a delay in their arrival, that all players are encouraged to take responsibility for something on the field at-start, so guys who came to play aren't waiting around with nothing to move/shoot.
The table was laid out, about 6' x 4', with a steep ridge and ridge top dominating one end of the table and a small town, woods, and roads covering the rest. Lots of cover and lots of avenues of approach, from the German Fallchirmjager deployment zone at the other table end. One objective was placed on the ridge and then each side placed another objective (we basically played the Battlegroup scenario High Ground, with the ridge as the principle objective for the Germans). The US infantry were dug in and waiting. Half of the attacking German forces started on board, with the other half entering on turn 4. Half of the American GIs started on board, with the remaining half entering from turn 4. 1d6 of the American units were allowed to setup in Ambush (basically what these rules call Opportunity Fire).
The Battlegroup rules are similar to both FOW and Bolt Action. This is a reinforced platoon to company level game, designed for 15mm or 20mm. Units are fire teams or individual vehicles and gun crews. It is point based and the two sides were relatively balanced. Basing is flexible. Units are killed one soldier at a time, so if you base individual soldiers on a stand you can easily remove casualties, but then at a company level game, you're moving a lot of infantry stands around (unless you use some sort of skirmisher movement tray). We used FOW based figures and used small red dice to mark casualties on each stand.
The rules are IGOUGO and command and control is represented by a side rolling a certain number of d6 at the beginning of its turn to determine how many units can be activated for orders. For this reinforced platoon sized game, both sides got to roll 2d6, but then also added one for each of their officers. Once the number of orders had been determined then a commander activates one unit for each order. For example, an order to move a halftrack up and stop, with its riders dismounting adjacent is one activation. The dismounted infantry can then be activated to do something, using a second order. Units can only be activated once a turn. Units can be given an ambush fire (overwatch) or reserve move order with one of these activations. This allows that unit to interrupt an opponen'ts action later in the turn/game.
Possible orders include:
Movement is standard fair. Infantry move 5" and can pretty much ignore most terrain. Vehicles have movement listed in their profile. Infantry that come within 5" of an enemy can close assault that enemy. Close assault is resolved immediately, before moving on to the next order.
Fire combat is pretty simple. SMGs have a range of 10", rifles have a range of 30". You can conduct Area Fire where you are just trying to put a pin on a target (with the occasional killed soldier) or Aimed Fire where you really try and hurt the other side. Rifles have a ROF = 1, SMGs = 1 (2 under 5" range), LMG = 2, MMG = 5, HMG = 6. Add up a team's ROF.
With Area Fire, a typical German 5 man team might have 4 x rifles and 1 x SMG for ROF = 5. Shooting at infantry out to 10" needs 3+ to hit on 1d6. ROF = 9+ out to 10" would need 2+ on 1d6. So ROF, range, and target type determine To-Hit on 1d6 for Area Fire. If a hit is rolled then the target gets to try a cover save. Infantry in the open save on 6+, soft cover is 5+. Save failure results in a pinned unit. Rolling a 1 also results in a single casualty.
With Aimed Fire, first the shooter must spot or Observe the target. Roll 1d6. Infantry in the open firing are Observed on a 2+, infantry in the open on a 3+, obscured infantry on a 4+, etc. Then total the shooter's ROF and roll that many dice. Range and the type of weapons firing determine To-Hit. Small arms to 5" hit on 2+, out to 10" on 3+, out to 20" on 4+, out to 30" on 5+. Any hits are rolled for their cover saves. Failed saves are removed as men down, forcing a morale check. Failing a morale check can result in pinning or routing.
The Battlegroup rules also have an interesting system for dealing with army morale. Each unit in the game is given a Battle Rating, which measures how relatively important it is to its side. Total all these ratings up to get an army list's overall Battle Rating. Then, during the game, when units are destroyed, or a side comes under artillery or aircraft attack for the first time, or a senior officer is killed, or a commander wants to remove pin markers from 1d6 of his units, he draws a Battle Counter from a container. Values on the counters range from 0 to 5, with a few special events thrown in. When a side's drawn total equals or exceeds its overall Battle Rating, it surrenders. Thus, you never know how close your opponent's army is to breaking.
For our game, the elevation of the ridge really made the attack difficult for the Germans, as the Amercian commanders had LOS over nearly everything. The Germans tried moving through the town, along the backs of some of the buildings, rather that hopscotching from building to building, and got shot up pretty badly. Unfortunately, a late start, having to explain the rules, and the slowness of playing new rules for the first time, didn't allow us to get very far. I hope I learned my lessons this time. Next December, no new rules. No reserves. Back to Bolt Action, I think, or these rules with no reserves.
In true Beer and Pretzels fashion, the highlight of the evening was watching Chuck shell his son's German unit. Even after failing his artillery rolls, miraculously, Chuck preservered and kept rolling till he got though to Battalion. His son got the artillery pasting Chuck was so sure he deserved! :-)
|Posted by Andy on February 19, 2015 at 4:25 PM||comments (0)|
Brian Weathersby hosted January's game night. His blog contribution follows...
In January, seven members of Beer and Pretzels turned out to help me test a new set of auto racing rules I am writing for Two Hour Wargames. Although originally scheduled as a stock car racing test, I had been testing that part of the rules pretty regularly with other groups of people. Consequently, I decided to test the modern Formula 1 (1980-present) portion of the rules instead. This turned out to be a good choice, because Daniel Shaw worked for Dunlop during the game’s timeframe, and is a Formula 1 fan to boot!
In Formula 1 racing, the emphasis is usually on the team of two cars instead of individual drivers, so I gave each of the players two cars to run. In retrospect, this is probably not necessary for a one-off race, as the benefits of having a teammate become more apparent over the course of a season. There are extensive rules within the game for having cars run by non-player drivers, and this could include teammates. I decided not to use these however, as I felt like I was already burdening the players with learning an entirely new system.
One interesting thing I did learn is that you are going to misplay rules sometimes, even if you write them yourself. For some reason, I did not let players pass on the inside during the course of the game, even though passing on the inside is an important tactic in motor racing. I thought this was something that was going to need some serious work; imagine my surprise to find that the rules were already there! I’m going to blame the beer, or anything other than the fact that I just forgot what I had written.
Overall, the group said that it was fun and gave the feel of a real auto race. This was probably helped by the large wreck in a chicane late in the race that took several cars out of the pack! Several good suggestions were offered by the players. Daniel Shaw suggested that the problem about passing on the inside needed to be solved ( which was solved, simply by my reading my own rules a little more closely), and Rob suggested that there be a more bloody possible ending to wrecks, which was added to the appropriate tables. Since everyone had a good time, I’m hoping that we can do it again in the near future, but without the need for playtesting.
|Posted by Andy on February 18, 2015 at 2:25 AM||comments (0)|
In the interest of catching up with the blog posts, I'm going to take this opportunity to turn back the clock and revisit, briefly, via pictures, what happened at our Wings of War battle last November.
Brian, Chris, Stephen and I were in attendance for our WWI aeroplane tribute to Veterans/Remembrance/Armistice Day. We each dropped down a pair of planes from my collection and flew and fought until there was a clear winning side.
Brian and I flew the Germans while Chris and Stephen flew the Allies. In the end the Germans held the field, and pretty handidly won the battle, with the loss or departure of all the Allied planes, and no loss (but plenty of danage) to the Germans.
|Posted by Rob on October 31, 2014 at 3:05 PM||comments (0)|
The collapse of civilization saw one platoon of USMC in Elbonia become a squad.
For the month of October, Beer & Pretzel club continues a Zombie theme which began in 2013. For this outing, Andy used Ambush Z which are the Zombie rules for Force on Force. He setup a scenario featuring a platoon of very lonely USMC holding a defensive wall in a small village in Elbonia. Part of a US health mission to 'cure the outbreak'. Sound familiar?
The local Elbonians were turning into undead, and a small local militia was trying to get into the 'secure USMC perimeter' while surrounded by very undead and hungry locals.
Chris T. played the Elbonian militia, Joe P. took the USMC, while I tried to eat lots of brains.
Game began w/ Andy displaying his freshly painted Zombies from Rebel Minis, supplied by Bobe's Hobby at Broadside. Kudos to Andy for 1. having a baby daughter earlier in the month, 2. running a successful gaming convention aboard USS Texas, and 3. hosting a game w/ lots of newly painted minis all in the same month!
The sound of gunfire attracted a zombie herd initially to Chris, who rushed a gang into a building near the Marines line and tried to fortify the upstairs/roof. Another gang took this as a good idea and ran into another building, only to find an entire group of Biters/Walkers/Zeds waiting inside who promptly ate them for afternoon snack. Militia at this point decided prioriity was more on survival than joining the Marines.
The Marines had 3 squads online w/ a sniper team and just started to engage, when a lucky event card caused a sandstorm to hit the village which dropped visibility to night conditions and effected their engagement range. This did not bother the Zombies who kept trudging toward the sound of the guns.
Eventually, the Zombies started the hit the Marines' wall in the center and were gunned down in large numbers. As time went on, the Zombie's troop quality increased due to their frenzy which made them harder to fight against.
Once a large enough herd clustered on the center, they broke through and destroyed one fireteam. At this point, a reinforcing militia unit had comandeered a troop transport truck and drove through the herd with a plan to fire out the back. Resulting reaction tests had a few Zombies jump onto the truck and fought the occupants to a man. Final result was the driver of the truck escaping away with one undead Zombie in the back trying to break into the driver compartment.
The large herd over the wall swung to their right in a successful reaction test and closed with the next Marine squad before they could fire and another close combat was won by the Zombies. We called the game at this point as the sniper team and last USMC squad would be executing a retrograde maneuver after seeing what a herd can do at close quarters and without the advantage of ranged fire or distance.
Some more militia and civilians were trapped within the town by more Zombies so this hotspot will be part of the no-go zone in Elbonia for quite some time.
Thanks to Andy and the players for having some Halloween fun. More pictures are in the Photo Gallery.
Next year I might try something in 28mm w/ my Zombie horde and using Zombies by GASLIGHT rules.
|Posted by Andy on September 24, 2014 at 2:05 AM||comments (3)|
Pushing the box aside with one hand, Captain Weathersby glanced at his watch. Noting the time, he ran a hand roughly through his greying rumpled hair and sighed heavily. They’d be entering the mouth of the Mersey within the hour, he thought.
Turning his attention back to the matter at hand, he sighed again. How had it all gone so wrong? Where had he failed? He cast his mind back to the last few days, forcing himself to recount all that had occurred. He buried his head in his hands once more. It would all come out anyway, in time, through the inevitable cursed review board. “Damn them all to hell”, he thought.
He had been so full of excitement, sailing out of Gibraltar on June 10th, just eight long days ago, knowing that none other than “Johnnie” Walker was in command and twenty-four merchants were under their protection.
The weather had deteriorated so quickly then, and that alone should probably have forewarned all of them what they were in for. Now, days later, he hoped the crews of the straggling City of Oxford and Camarata made it safely to port.
That first night, when all hell had broken loose, that was a shock to them all. He’d been on the bridge, monitoring their progress, guiding Jonquil through the night, when the first explosion had lit up the night sky. No one really knew how many U-boats they’d faced, but that first night saw the loss of Baron Graham and Lyminge, and eventually the Merkland too. But it was the sudden and unexpected loss of Rother, torpedoed unexpectedly, that hit home the hardest. Fellow warriors sent to their Maker with nary the slightest warning.
Weathersby paused his lamenting for a moment, and gently placed a hand on the box, shifting in his chair as he did. He remembered how he’d come upon that box. He’d won it in a game of poker in Gibraltar, fair and square. A lovely box it was too, inlaid with ivory on all four sides. Like the ivory carried by the ill-fated Empire Tern.
He lowered his shoulders and glanced at his sweaty palms. The Empire Tern, sunk later that same first night, in the wee hours of the 11th. That second attack managed to damage the Empire Moon as well, he recalled, before daybreak came and chased those damned sub-mariners away.
Thinking back to those events that were now nearly a week past, he could remember the terror they all had felt when they heard the drone of an approaching aircraft. The men had been so brilliant at their AA mounts, and at least, he thought, there was a little bright spot that day, as he smiled slightly at the thought of the frustrated Jerry pilot who had headed home unsatisfied.
“Wipe that stupid smirk off your face”, he thought to himself, “you have nothing to be happy about today”.
He raised his head and glanced in the direction of the box. It had made a good place to store his personal trinkets, he thought. He reached for the whiskey bottle and poured another round.
They’d all had a respite after that. A calm night on the 11th, a blessing, really. The men had celebrated with a little tipple, nothing excessive, just a touch, but it was warming and welcome nonetheless.
But the jubilation had been short lived. While the loss of the merchies and Rother had been tragic, he grimaced inside when he remembered Beagle. Losing an escort is never a good thing, losing two was even worse. But he had trusted Walker. Hell, they all had. So you really couldn’t have blamed him for sending Beagle away, early on the 12th, to investigate a contact. No one really wanted to talk about it; no one wanted to think about Beagle’s fate. All anyone really knew was that she hadn’t rejoined the convoy. He hoped, as he knew they all did, that they would see their friends on Beagle again.
Recalling the events of the afternoon of the 12th, then, brought Weathersby a fleeting moment of pride and pleasure, but his misery and feelings of guilt made the moment pass quickly. Another possible contact, signals from Walker; but this time it was their turn to investigate. He recalled for a moment how proud he’d been when he’d read Walker’s signal. Jonquil had been sent to hunt.
He knew his men had performed brilliantly that day, and Jonquil could, with any luck, at least claim they’d badly hurt an Eytie submarine. His logs would reflect admirably on their performance, even if he knew his more recent actions were an embarrassment to himself, his crew, and his family.
Straightening his back, he lifted the glass to his lips. The liquor was warm in his mouth, he tossed it back. “How could I have been so stupid!” he cried aloud, and threw his glass across the small cabin.
Burying his head in his hands once more, he grunted. Like the calm that befell HG-84 on the 13th, Weathersby took a slow, and deep, breath. Complacency is never a good thing, and the men, he thought, had started to get comfortable with the quiet.
“Idiots”, he grumbled low, under his breath. The 14th had seen an RAF Sunderland appear for a time, a welcome site for the men, “They’d all been fools”, he mumbled to no one in particular.
Nightfall on the 14th, and the tossing turning seas that night had led to the breaking of the silence. Explosions had again lit up the night. Fortunately, Jonquil had been in the right place then, following the subsequent torpedoing of Kitchener and Empire Moon. At least he and his men had been able to contribute something, by keeping one U-boat under sonar contact, for a time.
He reached towards the bottle then, “fuck the glass”, he thought.
Once that immediate threat had ended, they’d hoped that, like the other stragglers, Kitchener and Empire Moon, too badly damaged to keep up with the convoy, would make it on their own. Walker and Brueggeman had been determined to press on, without them. Those poor bastards.
Taking a swig from the bottle, he thought briefly about the object in the box. When had he used it last? India? Panama? Damned if he could remember straight. He took another swig and lowered the bottle to the table with a dull thud.
He’d come knocking soon, his Exec. Letting him know they were near the harbor entrance. How would he react? Would he give it away? He thought not. He knew what he had to do. Knew that the shame of what he’d already done was too great.
He stopped then, for a moment, and with sudden awareness, truly understood when it had all fallen apart for him. He’d looked up to "Johnnie". He’d trusted in him, believing that he’d be there to carry on leading them all. How could he be gone now? He reminisced, remembered the other night, when the convoy had lost Stork.
The quiet had been first broken that night by gunfire. He’d heard that a U-boat had fired first, but missed. He remembered the brilliant lights, as the merchants had quickly loosed their star shells. And even as the escorts had begun their search, a tremendous explosion had rocked them all. The Egyptian had been hit. Tense moments had followed as the light from the star shells ebbed.
Then it happened. Somehow, against all sense and reason, Stork had been torpedoed. They had lost their stalwart leader in that brief, incredulous, instant, and despite all that Copeland had done and would do, throughout their journey, as HG-84’s rescue ship, she could not rescue “Johnnie” Walker and his crew.
Soon after, a foreshadowing of his own ineptitude had occurred. As the convoy had tried to escape total destruction, its sudden starboard turn caused Vanellus to hit the stricken Stork. Wild Swan followed suit, colliding with Pelayo in an effort to get at a U-boat. And while Vanellus had, for the moment, been lucky, Pelayo would inevitably be lost that night from her damage. The irony suddenly took hold of him. Vanellus would become a factor days later, in his own nightmare.
He had Jonquil on the opposite side of the convoy from all this action, but his men were on their toes, and he knew that night that they’d done their duty to its fullest. For even as young Gibson was reporting a radar contact, one final explosion had erupted in the night. They learned later that the Norwegian tanker Slemdal had also been hit, and sunk. But at the time, Jonquil was focused on pursuing her own contact.
With a U-boat in their sites, they bore down, in the hopes that they would avenge their lost comrades-in-arm. They would never find out for certain, as after hours of prosecuting their contact, the needs of the convoy had required that they break off their attack.
After the adrenaline of that night had ebbed, and the convoy had regrouped, the shock of what had been lost hung thick like a fog over all of them. They all knew, at the time, that Liverpool was close at hand. Hoped that they could make it with no further loss of life.
He slammed his fist on the table, “how wrong we all were!” he grumbled, forcefully.
“Skipper, is everything ok?”, came a voice at his cabin door.
“Yea, I’m fine!!”
He glanced at the box, ran his fingers over its textured surface. How could he have been so careless? Had he been trying too hard? Did it really matter, now, anyway? Now that he had resolved to act? He toyed with the latch on the box, tugging on his short beard with his other hand.
The 15th had dawned as he knew it must, following that terrible night. They had contented themselves with licking their wounds and maintaining their vigilience for new threats. Learned to adjust to a new SOE in Stephenson, aboard Gardenia.
The monotony of being on constant lookout was rewarded briefly with the sighting of another ship on the horizon. Concerned about their dwindling escorts, Stephenson had decided not to dispatch an escort to investigate. Instead, he had signalled all of them to redouble their efforts in keeping a sharp eye out for adversaries and other threats.
At midday a long range Hudson flew overhead, providing them, for a time, an added sense of security. At nightfall they all took their usual added precautions.
Sometime that evening, he remembered, Shetland had reported mechanical problems, wihich forced her to drop out of formation. Stephenson, again, decided the greater good could not afford an escort be left to hang with the straggler, so Shetland was left to her own devices.
Around 2300 hours, an explosion shattered the sounds of a routine night, the flash coming from the direction of Empire Conrad. Jonquil had remained on station, guarding another flank of the convoy. Her time would come, his moment of stark failure would come, the next night, the night of June 16th, 1942.
He paused then, shook his head, and shuddered. Fighting back a tear, he wondered if he really wanted to recall what had happened next. "Want" was always a relative term. He knew he had to. At least this one last time. Had to review the actions of that night, as his last act on earth. For the sake of the victims, if nothing else.
That night had been a nasty one, in so many ways. The weather had been horrendous, he recalled. He knew the Polish escort, Krakowiak, recently arrived with Spey to help shepherd the survivors, had been dispatched earlier in the evening to hunt for another contact. He hadn’t heard yet what they’d found out, nor now, he supposed, would he ever. What did it matter now, anyway?
He’d had Jonquil to port of the convoy, Spey, Convulvulus, and Gardenia were running forward of the herd. As he’d heard it told yesterday, Spey had apparently caught sight of the U-boat’s scope on the water, and her crew had been on their toes and able to drop a right proper rasher of chargers on top of it.
While he had been quickly bringing Jonquil around to get his own fix on Jerry, the first freighter, Empire Kestrel, was hit hard by at least one torpedo. A mighty explosion and bright flash had lit up the night, hammering home for all the terror of the moment, as they all struggled to get to grips with their new reality.
He began to really sweat then, as he struggled to focus and recall the rumors he’d heard as he painfully reconsidered Jonquil’s part in the whole affaire. He knew they’d dredge it all up in that damnable hearing of theirs.
He remembered the U-Boat had been forced to the surface, trying to flee from them, and that a surface gunfight in the darkness of night had erupted, just as the ship Etrib was also hit. Whoever that U-Boat commander had been, he was good, or there were two or even three of those flaming subs out there that night. That would have been typical of their luck.
He was shaking then, and even as he tried to calm himself, he could tell that the memories of that night would haunt him and ruin whatever life he’d have left. He couldn’t let that happen. Couldn’t, wouldn’t, allow these memories to ruin his future, or his family’s future. That’s why he had to play them out in his mind this one final time, as his left hand rested on the box.
Re reached back into those memories, painfully, and recalled that the U-Boat crew had traded shots with a charging Convolvulus, as Spey and Gardenia did what they could with their own guns. Even his Jonquil was able to get a few shots off, albeit ineffectively.
None of them could believe it then, it was happening before their very eyes, Convulvulus was hard charging at the grey shark, aiming right for her stern, and with a gut wrenching screech, she had rammed the German! What lasting damage had been done to Convolvulus, he hadn’t heard, but he knew that the collision must have driven the U-Boat down, beneath the waves. What had once been a fleeting surface engagement quickly became an undersea hunt.
Weathersby’s hand was squeezing the armrest, his knuckles turning white with the strength of his grip. His brow furrowed, forehead glistening with sweat, as he relived once again that horrific moment, the moment his actions as commander of Jonquil cost fellow sailors their lives.
As they were nearing the last known position of the U-Boat, he had barked orders to prepare a brace of depth charges. He was certain that they would at that moment have their revenge for having lost so many on this journey. Was it blind rage and a desire for revenge that prevented him from seeing the danger? Was it the sudden flash of an explosion and the loud report that followed as Vanellus was, in that instant, also hit by an unseen menace? Why hadn’t someone aboard Jonquil seen the Kerma looming before them, and warned him? Why hadn’t he seen her himself?
It was too late, oh so late. Even as they had crossed over the U-Boat’s position, and the charges were let go, he had looked up and realized his mistake. Shouting at the top of his lungs for his helmsman to turn hard over, it had done them little good. While in that rapid move they had avoided a direct hit, the glancing blow across the port fore quarter of Kerma was danger enough to all. With a tremendous grinding and screeching, Kerma’s hull was ripped open below the water line.
What had followed then was a blur now. Orders shouted, the U-Boat all but forgotten, as both ships had quickly seen to their damage and casualties. The collision itself had thrown him about, but his seated position on the bridge had saved him from serious injury. The same could not be said for many others aboard both vessels. The injuries and deaths were on his back. They would always be on him.
He paused then and began sobbing, uncontrollably.
There was a gentle knock at the door. “Ten minutes, skipper. The harbor master’s launch is coming alongside. Harbor master says two naval MPs are preparing to come aboard.”
This was it, then. They were coming for him. They knew, already. Knew his culpability in the collision, and must have guessed at his inner shame. It was time to do this. To save his family from the shock of what would surely come.
Weathersby sighed one final time, reached over and unlocked his cabin door, opened the box, and drew out his revolver…
The launch pulled up alongside the halted Jonquil, and tied up to her. The harbor master crossed over, followed by two naval MPs. As the group made its way across Jonquil’s deck, the ashen look of shock on the crew’s faces became evident. The harbor master could swear he heard someone mutter the words “Skipper” and “overboard”.
The two MPs pushed past the harbor master, then, and strode forcefully towards one particular sailor. Seaman Botond pulled away from them, knowingly, as the MPs grabbed him and placed him under arrest.
“Botond here is wanted for dereliction of duty and desertion”, said the harbor master, to no one in particular. The crew of the Jonquil just stood there, in shock, and stared, as the sun finally set over convoy HG-84, and the silent Liverpool dock yards.
|Posted by Rob on September 13, 2014 at 9:20 PM||comments (0)|
In July, we used an open night to start the X-Wing miniatures Point of No Return campaign that is included in the CR90 Corellian Corvette expansion pack.
I greatly prefer campaign or scenario games to the tournament style game, but your mileage may vary. I've been eager to get this giant ship on the game table, and the release of Saint Arnold Bishop Barrel #7 provided the frosting on the glass for this month's game night.
The campaign consists of 4 linked scenarios w/ results of each game affecting the start of the next. It's like a choose your own adventure book but w/ Star Wars miniatures! The first scenario has the corvette carrying some 'contraband' and being intercepted by an Imperial patrol. Of course a fight ensues, and the outcome is based on whether the Empire cripples either the fore or aft section by Turn 6. From the FFG website:
Things escalate quickly for a band of Rebel smugglers when their CR90 is intercepted by a patrol of TIE fighter pilots eager to enforce the Empire’s authoritarian directives. The Rebels must fight their way through the patrol, and they must also effect their escape before their ship suffers heavy damage. This mission pits a single CR90 against “Howlrunner” and five Black Squadron pilots, and it was designed to be a “training mission” of sorts, deliberately dropping players into the shallow end of the pool and allowing them to absorb the new rules for huge ships quickly and easily while battling against a familiar group of foes.
Barry, Joe, Andy, and Dan took the Imperials, while Andrew and I divided up the corvette's fore/aft section and managed the systems. We figured out how to maneuver the corvette with it's new maneuver template and quickly got the hang of energy management.
Our basic strategy was to buy time, so we put all the asteroids on our side to break up the Imperial formations and cruised along parallel to the edge at optimum energy generating speed. This allowed us to power up the maximum assortment of weapons and start rolling dice. The TIE players were surprised we have a range 5 weapon (first in the game) but it proved fairly ineffective against 3 green/defense rolling TIE fighters w/ the +2 green dice for being at range 5. Once the TIEs got in close, they discovered our blind spot Aft, and lack of short range weapons. The damage began to pile up, shields getting stripped away by all that Imperial firepower. We used energy to rebuild shielding which cut down on our offensive capability (no energy for weapons).
Once the TIEs made their initial attack run, the asteroids and the corvette started to cause collisions. It was very entertaining to mush 2 TIE fighters into the corvette for minor/insignificant damage.
At the end, it was a close-run thing, but the corvette managed to make it to Turn 6 w/out crippling damage, so the Rebels will face the Imperials in the next campaign scenario w/ a slight advantage.
We are scheduled to play this game aboard USS Texas on the first/GM day of Texas BROADSIDE. If you want to join us, sign up to run a game aboard Texas and see you on the ship on Oct. 10!
May the Force be with you...
|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.