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Archive for September, 2014

Malta FP 01(The Fletcher Pratt naval game: ignore the leaflet boxes – they are just helping keep the blue sea flat)

The Mediterranean Fleet (Malta) puts to sea.   There is a high level air attack from the Regia Aeronautica incoming … we drive it off and suffer no damage …

And so it begins …

This was a critical phase in the Mediterranean as Italy prepared the way for a possible assault on Malta.   We have been here before (Malta) megagaming the whole campaign in celebration of the pioneering contribution of the late Paddy Griffith.  This game we played part of the war at sea, and were using the system devised by an earlier pioneer, Fletcher Pratt

Malta FP 02(opening shots on the Regia Marina … red tees are hits, blue are misses – unfortunately for the photographer they sometimes topple over)

I am sure most readers will be familiar with Fletcher Pratt’s rules, even more so its celebrated core mechanisms … but as a reminder, the game assumes you play with ship models on something like a ballroom floor and the key gunnery is by guesstimating the angle (using a pointer marker) and the range (in actual inches) – if you get hits, the value is multiplied up from the weight and number of the guns and that much ‘tonnage’ is crossed off the target ship reducing speed and potency proportionally until the ship limps away or sinks.

Malta FP 03(umpires at work adjudicating British gunnery)

This game is a scaled down version using 1:1200 ships and a very large floor.

This was also the first outing for a splendid blue groundsheet – it really enhanced the game but increased the disturbance risk of the light markers compared with playing on a bare laminate floor.

Malta FP 04

As players we would manoeuvre our ships then place those arrow shaped post-it notes (indicating the azimuth) with the range (in inches) marked on … once all the moves and markers are done, the players retire to the fringes and the umpires measure and adjudicate the hits.  If successful they call out the damage equation, if not then a blue marker is placed so the player can see the ‘water spouts’ and get an idea of how far off the shot was.   More guns spread the shots and increase the chances of hitting.  Bigger guns do more damage.

Malta FP 05(Good shooting!: long range British gunnery scores 3 direct hits on the Vittorio Veneto)

Torpedoes are shown by placing pipe-cleaners which then speed along  for a few turns before sinking … and do huge damage to anything unable to get out of the way.   For Destroyers, torpedoes are the main offensive weapon.

Malta FP 06

It is as simple as that … the down side is you need a lot of space … the upside is almost anyone can play and very few rules need to be grasped.

The methodology is, of course, entirely abstract … the game system does not mimic the science of target acquisition in an age of precision instruments and mechanical calculators – however, for many players, the combination of a ‘fun’ bit of skill with about the right level outcomes makes the system preferable to rolling dice and complex charts.

Malta FP 07(sometimes the destroyer battle can get complicated: spotting and avoiding all these torpedo tracks was a challenge)

I am working on some solutions of my own to aspects of the 20th Century Fleet engagement (kaboom! near the bottom of this COW report) but it was highly entertaining to have another go at the FP game so well put together.   My thanks to all involved.

we had a few destroyers (Italian) blown out of the water, and a number of capital ships quite badly knocked about (including the Warspite) as a result of which both fleets needed to recover.

Operationally, that was something of a result for the Regia Marina and they were confident that had achieved enough to green light the invasion fleet ..

Well … that’s another story.   I am told this encounter was, of all things, an ‘equal points’ encounter – and it certainly felt a close affair.

We finished the day with some airstrikes … here one of my torpedo bombers gets through and drops its fish within a turn’s run of the target (the ship would not be able to move before the hit slams in!

Malta FP 08

A good point to wrap up my report.

You can get the Fletcher Pratt naval wargame in John Curry’s reprint

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The Forgotten Front …

Sept Manch 01

At Lake Khasan in 1938 and Khalkhin Gol in 1939 the Red Army decisively stopped Japanese expansion in continental Asia.  It proved decisive: the Japanese instead focused on the Pacific and, ultimately Stalin had reinforcements he could pull from another front when Moscow looked about to fall.

OK: that’s an oversimplified historical take … We tried it with PBI

And more or less by the book (rather than fully worked out as a historical scenario) … my Winter War/Early Barbarossa Russians vs Trebian’s basic PBI Japanese.

We both tried to attack, but the Russians gained a considerable edge in the recce game, so the Japanese started as the on table defender … and after working through the pre-game, the table looked a bit like this …

Sept Manch 02

Fortunately, the Russians had defined (1) as the key objective and hoped to use the terrain to work around the flank and attack from several sides.    Across the more open front I lined up for a speculative advance.

The Japanese had 2 big-ish platoons on table, plus an MG platoon defending Objective (1) and some light tanks at the back.  They had another platoon plus a Coy Cmd platoon dicing to arrive.

The Russians one rifle platoon on table plus an MG platoon and Coy Cmg group.  There were 2 armoured attachments, 1 supporting the CC and one supporting the rifle platoon.

A further full size rifle platoon was dicing off table.

Sept Manch 03

In the early turns the attacks went very well and the Japanese firepower was of low lethality.

I hoped to follow historical tactics and use the shelter of tanks to get my infantry across the open ground ..

Sept Manch 04a

(in PBI vehicles make Open squares Partial Cover so this might work, as long as I can avoid 1s and 2s in my saving rolls)

Sept Manch 04

Sept Manch 04b

On the flank, the tanks moved up in the open squares while what little infantry there was used the full cover.

Sept Manch 05

All this got them up into the threat zone with few losses and with Russians being able to assault for 3APs there was a fair chance I could get some numbers into an assault (preferably taking the vehicles in with them for a few more dice to roll) …

Sept Manch 06(foreground: a BT tank waits for its infantry to form up; background: maxim gunners set up in front of the buildings to lay down fire support)

The CC’s attached AA truck went up, worryingly indicating that the Japanese could hit things after all, and I had to grab everything I could before the luck swung (as it often does in PBI) …

Meanwhile, the Japanese moved their light tanks into the open to get some shots in.

Sept Manch 07

Two of them stayed wisely out of range of the Russian flamethrower tanks … but one got too close and went up in a ball of flame.

Sept Manch 08(black smoke billowing from an incinerated Japanese tank) 

The flame tanks are really there to help infantry tackle dug in defenders but their anti armour capability is fearsome if enemy vehicles get close (these early ones have a downside however and are unable to shoot back at all against armour that stands off – a fault fixed on later models, but in game terms at least these simple ones are cheap to employ) …

Sept Manch 09(machine gun fire and close assaults with vehicle support clear out the Japanese on the left flank – here a flame tank tries its luck against a distant pocket)

The first line of defenders fell quite quickly to a moving combined arms attack.   But on the right, a swift counter attack saw the Japanese bayonets set about their work and casualties began to undermine Russian resolve.

Sept Manch 10

This left the flamethrower tank isolated and it did little thereafter other than survive (albeit immobilised).

The turn counter was rattling down and it was clear that although the key objective (1) was secured, (2) was out of reach.

(3) might just succumb, however – especially when those Japanese assaulting out of it were gunned down before they could slip back into their buildings.  So although most of the platoon was still straggling, I rushed my reinforcements on to snatch the objective (which was actually unoccupied by the time they got there) …

The Russians had lost quite a few groups but no units, and just one truck from the vehicles.    The Japanese had fared worse and only held one objective.

We rarely ‘score’ games but playing more by the book, we went through the ritual tallying (which for the attacker involves some die rolling so is far from certain – but this had all gone well)

A closely fought encounter, but by and large a historical result: advancing sheltered by tanks worked, and the Japanese proved under-gunned and not quite tough enough to withstand a combined attack.

Sept Manch 11(objective (1) …) 

Sept Manch 12(objective (3) … )

Another couple of turns and maybe the Russians would have run out of steam, worn down units might have headed for home …

A decent game of the fuller version of PBI which certainly vindicated the area movement and firefight/assault model of the game (even if it had its usual ups and downs on the dice) …

Historically, the Japanese pushed their luck on the Manchurian frontier because they believed the Red Army was operating too far from their rail head to be able to sustain armoured warfare.  They were wrong.   Surviving the purges, Georgy Zhukov was refining his craft.

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