With the Society of Ancients BattleDay and Salute coming in quick succession in this busy Spring, I have had a lot of photo reports to edit. Although that has slowed down my blogging, it has not stopped the wargaming. Quite the opposite.
Luckily, locally and at events, in March and April we have played ancients (really, Ancient, Dark Age and Medieval – Armati, DBA and FoG), Marlburian, ACW, RCW, SCW, WWII (PBI and NQM) and Post War (AK47) … to add to the Civil Wars, I have ECW games I am putting on at Naseby and COW (so those toys are also currently out ...) … and Treb is setting up a Science vs Pluck game for the Bank Holiday!
(Gazala … great battles in the desert with everyone bundling in)
The Gazala series was great fun, and very thought provoking. In the desert, Chris Kemp’s free-rolling system was a bit lost – without roads and towns creating a network of distances and locations, it was much harder both for players and the Umpire to keep track of what was where (and when) and which formations could cooperate and combine. The game needed a clock and a more rigorous ground scale, and confirmed my previous thoughts on using squares to manage the real estate issues.
Although this would potentially give the players more control, it would be a more authentic operational ‘quasi map-based’ control, and it would take lot of pressure off the Umpire. Otherwise, I think the game demonstrated that what are now quite venerable mechanisms stand up well: the recce rolls, table XII shooting and risk-style close combat all did their jobs well enough.
Of course, NQM has always been an event-led system with a certain variability to the bounds … but I think there are ways in which a stricter spatial structure would actually help that more fluid game turn. I think squares can also help clarify supply avenues and associated problems.
It is all too easy to allow operational games to degenerate into vast bun fights at the critical point. Sometimes that would be historically appropriate, but not always. More anon.
We had slipped in another game of Treb’s Return to the River Don … a control heavy game with lots of markers (but fewer than the Perfect Captain, so that’s a relief!), but a well-honed command system that really has a period flavour. A game took us two sessions to play, but that is hard to avoid if you want to use a lot of toys and have an alternating activation method (rather than everyone moving simultaneously).
I would like to see this game go to the next stage of evolution.
Meanwhile, on the Home Front, I rejigged the snowy landscape for more PBI.
Richard was bringing up his Easy Company paras, so I replaced the Russian buildings with blown apart European ones (a half-way house to our ‘outskirts of Bastogne’ project).
Ironically, Richard had driven up with all the other toys we needed for a feast of wargaming but left his Band of Brothers behind. So we kept the new set up, but dropped some veteran Russian paras into it …
I was pleased to oblige as the Soviet paras have been around for while but had yet to be blooded on the table. I had expected them to be sent up the line in an operational game as emergency blocking troops – but battle is battle, and tactical combat seemed to suit them fine (rated veteran for the game they were nothing if not stubborn!).
This was a great game also notable for the cork building shells I made up a while back but had not finished. I thought they might work for this so gave them a very loose spray with grey and while paints, and some snow flock.
You can see it was a rush job, but somehow the abstract look worked very well – I’m never sure if that sort of effect really works in photos. Cork is a very inexpensive and easy material to work with and is a good alternative to foamcore for some jobs.
Anyway, I drove my Aufklarungstruppen up the road, allowing myself to run into the enemy outposts … then swung support platoons out to the flank, but also tried to force my way up the road …
Mimicking the Americans they were standing in for, these Russians were festooned with anti-tank guns and captured Panzerschrecks, and they had been deployed to cover all the approaches.
This is a very heavily armed German unit (MG42s, Sturmgewehrs, SMGs, the lot …), and they are used to being able to blast their way through blockages (as their historical prototypes were expected to do) – but not on this occasion.
Stubborn infantry in buildings or dug in anti tank guns meant I could make no progress anywhere. And my plan to seize the key positions from which I could converge my fields of fire got nowhere. So I needed to get lucky.
That didn’t happen, and we chalked up a resounding win to the Americans … err – Russians … Last time we tried a similar game, Richard was less canny with his use of the terrain, and I was luckier with my firepower. It wasn’t a very long battle – so turning it round by shrewder deployments was quite a satisfying outcome. Good on PBI.
And I was very pleased with the new additions to the winter layout – I am inspired to go back and do some tidying up!
And almost as suddenly, we were playing AK47 again.
The idea came up an we all said yes … there is a second game I will report shortly but here is a taste from our ‘get your toys out’ refresher game (in which we got ourselves back into the swing of the rules)
We will return to all of this soon. We do indeed live in exciting times!