More stuff from the Grab Bag

July 13, 2018

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  Real Life (TM) seems to take up much of my time lately.  I finally have enough steam to write and plenty on my mind so here it goes.

I’ve finally gotten around to reading Panzer Army Africa by James Lucas.  I have read as far as Operation Crusader and getting ready to start the section on Gazala but have formed some opinions.  I think Mr. Lucas does well when he lays out the details.  His writing style, while a bit dry at times, is to the point and easy enough to read.  I am enjoying the book so far.  I do have some quibbles.  The author tends to spin some of the facts to show the British in a bad light with regard to  equipment (especially tanks) and leadership.  For instance, the chapter on Crusader is called Rommel Deflects Crusader.  Honestly, Rommel did not “deflect” anything.  He was beaten and driven back to his early 1941 start line.  The author states that the 2-lbr anti-tank gun was “useless” which is also not true.  It was quite capable of knocking out German tanks in the desert at 500 yards.  These guns were quite useful though they did have their flaws – the lack of a high explosive shell and the relatively short range for instance.    If you can ignore the author’s opinions, the book does a nice job of telling the story of the North African campaign from the German perspective.

I’ve been eyeing up a game called “Table Battles” by Hollandspiele for sometime now.  I finally took a chance and bought the Wargame Vault PDF version.  I’ve not played yet but am very much looking forward to some games with my son.  It is a static and abstract game that allows you to play out any battle in history on a small table.  There are cards that represent the various formations or wings in a battle line.  You use dice to “power” the various attack abilities on the cards.  One card might need 4’s while another card might need doubles or even a small straight.  One review joked that it had elements of Yatzee.  Why, yes.  Yes it does.  The PDF does require that you assemble the cards and you do need to provide some match sticks and cubes as well as 12 dice, 6 per side.  The match sticks are to be painted in red or blue (one color per army) and you will need about 40 per side.  The cube can be painted a neutral color or just left natural wood.  I have the cards printed but not cut out yet.  I also have the cubes and blue army painted.  My red craft paint dried out so I will be making a trip to the craft store for another bottle.  I probably won’t get a battle in before I leave on vacation.

I have started collecting some old/new folio games from Decision Games (Think SPI).  I’ve picked up Marengo, Carentan and Zama so far.  They are three distinct game systems that deal with the era they portray.  DG has settled on a differential for their combat resolution and have added some twists to the old systems to help differentiate the various units without overcomplicating things.  For instance, in Carentan, Armor may move through a zone of control by spending half its move allowance plus the cost to enter the hex.  Infantry can do something similar but it spends its entire move allowance to get to the next hex in a ZOC. Artillery and aircraft are treated as off board assets to be used per turn to influence combats.   Leaders in Marengo, as another example,  can add to the moral move and or combat of a unit but doing so puts them at risk of being hit.

I’ve been on a bit of a Robin Hood kick lately.  I watched BBC’s Robin Hood (2006) from start to finish.  It was generally good with a sort of Robin Hood meets Hercules/Xena vibe.  If nothing, it was pretty entertaining.  I am on to the 1980s BBC version called Robin of Sherwood.  The costumes are much better in this version.  It does play the legend out better than the newer version.  It is, however, a product of the times.  Robin looks a bit more like a rock star than a bandit.  Curiously, there is also a good bit of mysticism injected into the story.  Hurn the Hunter appears frequently and there was a sorcerer.  Still more medieval goodness with a bit of fantasy thrown in.  I am getting ready to watch season 2 soon.

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Pikes, DBA, Campaigns…Does this count as a Grab Bag?

May 4, 2018

It’s been a while since I’ve said anything about DBA.  I own the v3 rules and like them quite well.  The one thing that bugs me is how Pikes are handled.  Pikes, by the reckoning of several primary sources is a direct offshoot of hoplites.  really, the only difference between the two is in the equipment.  Pikemen (aka phalangites in wargaming parlance) operate in a rigid formation (phalanx) with long spears that could be measured up to 24 feet long.  The phalangite had a round pelta instead of a metal aspis (hoplon) shield.  They both wore similar armor though during the time of reform, phalangites were said to have been wearing quilted armor.  That did not last long though since people back then, as they do today, like to enjoy as much protection as they can practically have.

With that in mind, in DBA the Pike element has a +3/+4 combat factor and enjoys +3 rear support.  I am not sure why the +3 against infantry as they were quite effective against all comers save maybe Gallic style warbands who could swarm the flanks.  Perhaps they should have a +4 all around just like spear/hoplite elements.  But then what do we do about support?  You could give them side support as with the spear. That would raise them to a +5 combat factor which pretty much gives them the same strength as spear.  You could also include a rear support which gives the a total combat factor, with side support, of +6.  Another idea would be to simply give them +2 for rear support only.  In either case, I would still make them pursue infantry after combat as per the rules.  Pike phalanx routinely became disjoint after prolonged combat and often this would lead to their downfall on the battlefield.

I was looking for a map of the ancient world online and found this one here for Web Diplomacy with an ancient theme.   I was thinking that this could be a good way to resolve ancient battles, especially for quick play games like DBA, Mighty Armies, Ancients D6 etc.  Each city you control would allow for 1 army in the field.  All battles are standard games.  If you are fighting more than one army at a time, you fight each one in turn but cannot replace your losses between battles if you have only 1 army.  If you outnumber your opponent, then you simply fight each battle with each separate army if needed.  Like in the DBA campaign, cities would not automatically fall.  Rather you roll each turn to see if they capitulate.  Roll a 1 after the first season and the city surrenders.  2 or less after the second, 3 after the third etc up to the sixth season which afterward they automatically surrender.  Breaking the siege automatically resets they siege level and you start over.


Friday Grab Bag #14 A Mechanical Symphony

February 2, 2018

I have the History of Gaming book on Lionel Tarr.  This book is filled with all sorts of rules, notes and campaign ideas the Mr. Tarr used throughout his wargame campaign.  I think his early rules, with a few modifications would make for a very solid game.  I have no problem with tanks making an abrupt departure from the table if the dice gods will it.  However, infantry seem to get the short end of the stick.  Caught in the open they would get murdered.  Let me explain.  Each 6 rfilse, 3 sub machine guns or 1 machine gun causes a D6 casualties.  Period.  Now this is modified for cover where the target takes casualties at a quarter rate.  It was noted in an editor’s note in Wargames (Featherstone) that some folks introduced a saving roll per casualty based on unit grade.  Elites saved on a 4+, regulars a 5+ and green on a 6+.  I like the idea but would change it as follows.  Instead of basing it on morale grade, base it on the various cover the unit occupies.  For example, infantry moving in the open save on a 5+ and in cover save on a 4+.  If the unit is stationary or creeping at half speed, you may add 1 to the die roll.

Artillery is similarly deadly.  Saves will tone the artillery down a bit.  I like the idea of open sites, observed fire and map fire, all of which are handled logically well.  In his later rules, he made artillery hit on target with a 4+ for open sites, 5+ for observed and 6+ for map fire.  Anything else is subject to scatter.  A direction die and another D6 would handle the scatter well enough.  Burst templates and possible saves also apply.

Finally, there is a matter of morale.  The infantry company, the standard unit in the game, would be around 10-12 figures.  Any time a unit takes casualties, roll 2D6.  If the total is less than or equal to the remaining figures, the unit is fine.  If the check fails by 1 or 2, the unit is pinned and can’t move.  It fires at half effect.  If it fails by 3-4, the unit retreats to the nearest cover and does not stop until it reaches cover.  It then spends the next turn pinned.  If the check is failed by 5 or more, the unit quits the field.  Armored units can be checked for in a similar fashion but with a single D6.  Each tank in the company (assuming a tank equals a platoon) is worth 2 points.  The die roll must be be less than or equal to the total points.  In all likelihood, the tanks would fire at a penalty on a failed check.

Not much of a grab bag on subjects but certainly on game mechanics.


Friday Grab Bag the 13th!

January 19, 2018

I’ve seen plenty of blog and forum posts that utilize photobucket or similar photo sharing sites.  These sites have recently started to restrict such sharing to other sites.  Honestly, I’ve always though these sites were poor products at best.  Adding this new restriction makes them less than desirable.  Start a blog.  Your (free) blog will hapilly accept documents such as PDFs and MS Word Doc files as well as most graphical formats.

In the same vein, I often do research into games to see if it is something I’d like to play.  I see plenty of battle reports with wonderful game boards and well painted miniatures.  In general, most tend to lack any sort of detail about the game being played, often there is no mention of even the game title!  Please add some context.  If it is a battle report, give us the game being played!  If it is a review, give us some details about how the game plays…game mechanics and so forth.  A simple “it gives a good game” doesn’t really tell anyone anything.

I received my copy of Sellswords and Spellslingers” by Ganesha Games the other day.  It is designed as a solo or cooperative game and scales up nicely for multiple players.  It is sort of an RPG lite style game similar to Frostgrave but you are not limited to playing just a wizard character.  You may lay any character you can think of and any will be viable options for the game.  Monsters are governed by an event deck.  Like Song of Blades and Heroes, you roll 1, 2 or 3 D20 and get 1 action for each 8+ rolled.  each failure results in 1 event being drawn, always before the character gets to move!   I will have a full report after the weekend.

I’ve finished up my Rolls Royce armored cars.  Now I have 3 to form up the 11th Hussars for Rapid Fire.  I had to scratch build the Bren and ATR.  Normally I have several printed on a single template just in case I messed up.  However, 2 of the 3 brens were used and this practice was a recent development.  So I used the last bren as a guide and glued it to a piece of scrap card.  I cute around the shape so one side was printed and the other white.  Then I simply painted the white side black.  It’s enclosed in the turret so you can’t actually tell.  It also kept me from having to waste a piece of card just to print out a Bren that was only a half inch or so long.


Last Friday Grab Bag of 2017

December 30, 2017

Well, it has been a good year in gaming.  I managed two conventions and several games with my son as well as the regular DnD game I attend a couple of times a month.  Painting has been sporadic with equal time being pent between 1/72 scale fantasy and 1/72 scale WW2 as well as a bit of card modeling.  There was even a bit of Portable Wargame being played in between it all.  In all it was a satisfying if not a bit slow year.

An observation for advertisers and gamers.  I have noticed over the years that bloggers, whether they are gamers or game designers, don’t seem to give enough details for the reader.  I will often see a battler report or even a review of a game or period I am interested in.  At the end of the report, I am left puzzled as to what was being played or, in the case of a designer or reviewer, how some of the game mechanics work.  A simple detail like what game you are playing can go a long way to clarifying how and why a battle went one way or another.  When reviewing a game, most people want to know WHY this game is the best game since sliced bread.  Tell us about the game mechnics.  Give us some vital derails like how combat works or something more than “It’s definitely not IGO-UGO.”  Most of these little nits can be answered in a few sentences.  It really isn’t too much to ask!

This year, TMP and I parted ways after 17 years of participation.   I’ve found a new community with The Wargames Website.  Much of the advertisement and content at large leans more toward home grown and indie style games.  I like this a lot.  Many of these games get back to the spirit of wargaming, back in the days when the games were simple and straight forward.   I think this is the last I will speak of TMP.  TWW is hear to stay.

Finally, for a Christmas present , my friend gave me his old 3D printer.  The Da Vinci Jr is not a high end printer and will not print figures all that well.  However, have found it will print buildings and vehicles reasonably well.  A bit of sanding and fill are definitely required.  The smaller scale of the vehicles mean you won’t really want to use filler primer as you might bury the fine detail of the model.  I’ve been using krylon plastic primer alternating sanding and priming to fill in the ridges.  So far, so good.  I’ll post the final models in a week or so.

So this is it ’til next year.  May everyone have a fabulous New Year celebration and may 2018 bring us many fun games and much progress on the old lead pile!

Happy New Year!


Friday Grab Bag 11 – It’s one louder

November 26, 2017

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post.  Mostly it’s been a very busy and somewhat ugly week.  But that is all passed now…thankfully.

I posted last time that you could randomly select the 36 scenarios in One Hour Wargames with 2D6s read as percentages.  While this is true, there are actually only 30 scenarios.  You can still randomly roll for the scenarios with a D30.  “What’s this?  You need a computer?”  No.  You roll a D10 and a D6.  If the D6 comes up a 1-2, then read the D10 as is.  If the D6 comes up 3-4, add 10 to the result of the D10.  If the D6 comes up 5-6, add 20 to the result of the D10.  The best part is that you don’t have to mark up your book.

Speaking of One Hour Wargames, this is really a great book for scenarios for those that just want to game.  You can use the 3X3 board and play slimmed down versions of just about any game you want.  On to Richmond or Fire and Fury both can be played with standardized units.  I plan on playing some Bloody Big Battles (Maybe that should be small?) with these scenarios. The army generators in the book will translate well for most eras.  For those armies with more unit variety than the book allows, you can randomly determine what type of unit it is.  For instance, is it light cavalry or heavy cavalry?

The shopping season is upon us.  My post is late for the Black Friday sales which have come and gone.  Lulu sent out a 30% off coupon for print books.  I passed on it as I am not really interested in much they have to offer right now.  However, in the past, they’ve sent out a 40% off deal for cyber-Monday.  Here’s hoping.

I have not been able to playtest my slimmed down version of On to Richmond.  I may get a game in this afternoon or evening if my son is up for it rather than fantasy.  He seems to have an aversion to history.  He does like battles but is not much for learning more.   He’s not even interested in medieval which much of the fantasy games out there are based off of.  Maybe in a few more years that will change.


Friday Grab Bag #10 What’s it all about again?

November 10, 2017

I’ve been playing a good bit of Battle for Wesnoth lately.  It is a computer game that plays both like a miniatures skirmish game on hexes and a strategy game where you have to capture towns to maintain your upkeep.  It has a series of scenario driven campaigns.  I’ve been playing for years but have never embraced the full strategies which sometimes can be the downfall to make even the easiest campaigns seem difficult at times.  When I first played, there was a scenario called “The Scepter of Fire” which is set in the bowels of a volcanic mountain.  You have to battle through several enemy leaders and their minions.  It seemed so difficult at the time that I actually hacked the game to put the scepter right in front of my general.  On turn 1, I grabbed it and left.  Yeah.  I totally mulliganed that one.  I have since played this campaign several times including that scenario – unhacked thank you very much!  Last night, especially, the scenario was a walk in the park.  I had done all the things a good player should do.  Stay away from the lava.  Soften up the enemy with one of your ace warriors and finish it with a low level guy to gain experience and level him up.  One thing that has really helped is that I’ve gone out of my way to protect the “loyal” troops.  Wesnoth has an upkeep system.  You must pay a cost in gold equal to the total number of levels of troops deployed on the board.  For example, if I’ve deployed 4 level 3 units, I will pay 12 gold per turn for those units.  Loyal troops have no upkeep.  I think I have six of them in my army right now.  All are either level 2 or level 3.  I can highly recommend this game.  It is free so you have nothing to lose, except maybe time as you play it.

Paul, of Paul’s Bods blog, has been doing a good pit of fantasy lately.  Much of it deals directly with the Lord of the Rings, especially in the area of Balrogs and Trolls.  Both come from Dark Alliance Miniatures.  He’s done a wonderful job painting them.  He admits and reaffirms my one lament about 1/72 scale plastics.  For specialized creatures such as these, you end up with way more than you actually need!  I suppose you could recreate battles of the Simarillion if you so choose.  There are all sorts of miniatures, mostly plastic 1/72 scale, that he has been painting for quite some time.  Well worth a visit every now and again just to see what he’s been up to.  The scratch built projects are especially nice!

I do still breeze through TMP every now and again to see if there is anything new and interesting posted.  I rarely post content anymore.  I’ve drilled down into some thread of interest and read through, only to find some poster has started grinding his ax about this problem or that.  That, and the content can be a little racey.  There was one in Science about “Sex Dolls” that I was not willing to click on.  I am pretty glad I don’t participate in TMP anymore.  I will say that Wargames Website is a fine place to be with some fine contributors but it doesn’t have the same amount of traffic that TMP does.  Who knows.  Maybe that will change.

Campaigns in One Hour Wargames are done with the toss of a 6 sided die.  The first battle comes from the first 6 scenarios, the next from the next 6 and so on.  This is fine but what if you wanted to choose from the entire body of 36 scenarios?  Or what if you don’t want a 6 game campaign.  Maybe you want more or less?  You can truly randomize the scenario selection by rolling 2 different colored 6-sided dice.  Count one color as “10s” and the other color as “1s”.  So if you rolled a 2 and a 5 you would read it as twenty-five.  Then simply label each scenario, starting with the first 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22 and so on until you get to the last, which would be 66.  Roll.  Find.  Play.  It’s that simple.

There hasn’t been a lot of time to get a proper wargame in lately.  Between my son playing soccer and the regular duties of parents with 2 children, the weekdays have been tough.  My daughter is running a race this weekend and my son has a soccer tournament both this weekend and next.  Then it is off to the Thanksgiving holiday and the in-laws.  I also have an article to finish for The Wargamer’s Notes magazine.  Hopefully, December will be more kind.  Who am I kidding.  It’s the holidays!