Recently, we finished Graham’s XIV Army game. A few days later, fellow ancients enthusiast Richard L came up for a (Society of Ancients) Championship game (Armati – Byzantines and Arabs), in the aftermath of which we set up a little taster game of PBI on the Eastern Front.
In Burma, game two was a bit one-sided: I took over Will’s platoon plus CC, Chris the Doormouse joined the game and took the reinforcement platoon which swept into the position from the south. We coordinated well. Some very effective ‘spotted’ mortar stonks took out and/or pinned some key British assets.
On my flank, where Will had cleared away a lot of casualties (so eliminating some of the morale and break test hazards), the Japanese remnants were able to push on getting a worthy toe hold in the Nissen huts (those casualty makers are in green uniforms) …
Meanwhile Chris executed some text-book infantry attacks… (pop some mortar rounds over, then … section ‘a’ swing left and fire into the position … section ‘b’ swing right and fire into the position … section ‘c’ sweep through the now devastated position with a close assault if anyone has survived).
Game Two casualties were almost entirely on the defenders, and Graham was pronouncing it done by the end. I suspect the base commander would be calling for artillery or air missions to obliterate the intruders – certainly pulling back until a credible counter-attack could be made.
XIV Army certainly got its work out.
(click on the picture for a closer look)
For our little Ost Front game, I tried to repeat the simple set up I had frequently seen Martin Goddard use when demonstrating the game at shows. I holed up a platoon of Germans in some fairly centrally placed buildings, and gave Richard and Graham a platoon each of Russians to move up and attack. We played both the Northamptonshire variants and straight PBI so Richard would at least get some idea of the game as well as the game the way we play it.
In the second game we added a few frills (or should that be ‘thrills’) – a few vehicles, a HMG platoon and an attached flamethrower. So game one demonstrated how the basic infantry section worked (PBI’s core building block); game two added a flavour of the full game (full metal jacket).
I was very pleased: both games, I think, gave a good account of themselves, and Richard left possibly converted (certainly having glimpsed why I like the game for this 1:1 level action). As ever, when demonstrating a game, we got quirky die rolls … loads of APs when showing the normal method, so a massive wave able to attack (then lots of 6s in firing and assault so everyone cut down) … but firing, movement and use of cover etc.
In the second game we had an almost unprecedented event … a foot group with flamethrower getting up to close range and able to use the weapon. These nasties usually attract so much firepower that (certainly in games I set up) they are eliminated way before they get in range. In this game, they got up, squirted, hit, and caused a casualty (and hence an unpleasant morale test to follow). It gave me an opportunity to taunt the players with my preposterously gaudy (GF9) wall of flame – as an over the top ‘casualties from flamethrower’ marker.
On a more serious note, it confirmed my suspicion about the saving roll (which one of the Germans failed anyway) … reading the book, it seems that the usual modifiers apply (so anyone in the ‘hit’ square saves on a 4+, with the die roll +2 for closed, -1 for close range … but possibly +1 for not moving): so same chances as hit by small arms. Now, really, the whole (risky) point of bringing up a man with a cylinder of gasoline on his back is that – at least – if and when he gets there, his terror weapon negates the effect of the cover (it is what gets the enemy out of trenches and bunkers). Mostly, when flamethrowers have had a big effect in previous games (and that’s not often) it has been as an anti-tank wonder weapon (Gun Effect 9) … now I’m not saying that is wrong (but I wonder how often it might happen), but I do think the primary role is anti personnel.
So I think the scenery/cover modifier should not apply. That still means it’s against the odds to squirt more than once (2 APs, max 2 squirts, and you have to expose yourself to ‘op fire’ to get in range), and against the odds to hit (you needs 6s with your 2 dice per squirt to hit everyone in the square). After that, if you are not moving, that modifier would cancel the close range modifier so leaving a 50/50 saving roll. Crucially, the modifier on morale only applies if the flamethrower does cause casualties (which is clearly unlikely). Now I’m not sure victims to wait to see their buddies burned first – but I understand the mechanism. If the trigger for the morale effect is so demanding, we at least need to make the difficulty of the hit more plausible, though.
Back to the jungle … There were some flamethrower guys in that Burma game, of course. They got shot quite early. They will be important, of course, if the Yanks go on the offensive in the Pacific at some stage. Also attacking Japanese dug-in positions, Zhukov had a lot of T26 flamethrower tanks at his disposal for the battle of Khalkin Gol …
So we are likely back to this topic …