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Archive for the ‘megablitz’ Category

Op Boxes 05(NQM Squared: the armoured thrust at El Alamein)

Over the Summer a lot of thinking has gone into the Operational Game and into grids – squares and hexes.   I have long advocated that Chris Kemp’s NQM might gain something from the structure grids are able to offer (who is – or is not – in contact with the enemy … who likewise can contribute or support etc.) …

Meanwhile, Trebian has been exploring the Great War, in part, through recreating campaigns using Op 14 by historian and wargamer Richard Brooks (whom many readers of this blog will know through Wargame Developments and his many contributions to the Nugget).

Then, whilst these options were in our minds, Bob Cordery published Hex Blitz (a variant of Megablitz played on a hexagon grid with a card driven unit activation mechanism).

We ran a couple of playtests … we used offset squares rather than hexes … they have exactly the same effects but they aren’t hexes (and Trebian has cloths already marked up in offset squares) …

Personally I think offset squares look a little less ‘star wars-y’ than hexagons – but that’s mostly a taste/style issue.  Board gamers seem to love the little six-sided thingies.

Op Boxes 01(Offset Squares: Hex Blitz on the Eastern Front)

Op Boxes 02(Offset squares: Hex Blitz Spanish Civil War)

I have to say that, for me, the 20th Century seems the age in which most military operations were planned on maps that had orthogonal grids on them … so my top candidate for a grid system to apply to a ‘modern’ wargame  (with inverted commas as we’ll get to a time when WWII etc. is no longer considered ‘modern’) would be orthogonal squares.

In Burma, of course, they fought in an Admin Box … and I can’t help thinking there’s a way, somehow, of translating the Admin Box into the Operational Square.

Op Boxes 03

But I think that’s a bit of literate candy-floss which would only go over a set of robust mechanisms.   So where have we got to?

So far, in all honesty, I don’t think we’ve quite reboxed the fluidity and simplicity of either NQM or Megablitz into the gridded wargame.

Op Boxes 04(Royal Artillery 25pdrs bombard Italian positions in a night phase of CK’s prototype Alamein game)

Op Boxes 04a(NQM Squared – El Alamein: the ‘crumbling’ attacks grind down Axis positions)

I think we have succumbed to the temptations of too many toys and/or of squares that are too small and try to do too much.

Using a large number of models apparently ups the scale of the game … and smaller squares enables more real ground to be scaled onto the same table area.  Both these seem to be win-win choices … but if the battle area becomes confused – and difficult for players to manage easily … then the primary benefit of shifting to the grid – clarity – is lost.  If the umpire is going to have to arbitrate positional and orientation issues then you may as well revert to NQM’s freewheeling style of active umpiring.

Op Boxes 06

I think the looser, less cluttered style of the first experiments with NQM Squared (above), or the simpler figure numbers of Op 14 (below, in a Russo-Polish battle recreated in Jockey’s Fields a while back) can be played more quickly because the table space can be understood more easily.

Op Boxes 07

Some things are not really working for me though … card activation and the unit by unit activation that goes with it … well these are tools to do a job.   I’d argue that whilst they suit a small game … solo game or similar, they are not solving problems you have if you play with a larger number of players and an umpire.

Further, unit-by-unit activation brings a whole host of other problems along with it – as units may end up sequentially attacked by a number of enemy actions in a temporally inconsistent pattern during a phase of otherwise apparently simultaneous action.

Being more abstract, this methodology can allow the resolution of a lot of complex interactions in a series of simpler small phases … but it can equally lead to near surreal episodes of play that defy the willing suspension of disbelief.

Op Boxes 08

If this post seems to have failed to get to an eloquent conclusion that may be a fair impression.  I did get to a nicely worded and coherent conclusion on my laptop – and then the unresponsive page gremlins failed to save any of it … so I am trying to rebuild the thoughts on my phone (which doesn’t just ‘break’ the way PCs and laptops seem to in the age of Windows 10).

So I was arguing for simultaneous action in big games and umpire resolution.

I was arguing against troop positionings straddling square boundaries and intersections … there are many ways of breaking the apparent limitations of the grid  but in breaking the limitations there is a significant risk of also breaking the gains in clarity and legibilty that were the reasons for turning to the grid in the first place.

I think I’m arguing for embracing the grid’s advantages rather than constantly butting against its limitations.

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One of the key options in preparing for an operation is to use artillery to suppress the enemy’s artillery.  Not easy for the Germans on the Eastern Front as their guns were generally outranged by the equivalent Soviet equipment … Giving them that option was a key function of the 17cm Kanone 18 and the similar 21cm Morser 18.

17cm k18 build 06

Despite the gun’s widespread use and iconic looks, I’ve never found a 15mm model (I guess because most 15mm models are dedicated to tactical wargaming at ranges that are below Counter Battery ranges …) …

So I added one by scratchbuilding around a 17 Cm barrel that comes as an option with BF’s sFH 18.  See the modelling page for some of the nuts and bolts of the build.    Finishing will find this model superdetailed, towed and crewed (and that will be ‘Part Two‘).

For counter-battery fire in Operational wargames like NQM or Megablitz I would apply the simple expedient of reducing the dice rolled by the enemy battery by the score on a die per supressing battery.   This will best achieve the suppressive effect (reducing the incoming damage on the troops the counter-battery fire is intending to protect, rather than inflicting damage on the supporting artillery itself which would all be too late for the troops under fire) …

17cm k18 build 05

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A Battle Lost 10

2 Operational Level wargames within a fortnight sandwiched my trip to the Plassenburg.    NQM is the original ‘event led’ Op Game designed by the Doormouse years ago (even I have been part of the playing group for 20 years, now!).   Megablitz is a more codified game inspired by the NQM project.    When NQM stepped down to 15mm for space reasons a decade ago, much of the 20mm collection went into the Megablitz stables (so even some of toys are the same).

Fall Gabel 04a(Fall Gabel: 4th PD – my 22 PD toys – getting obliterated by a Corps level artillery barrage or unprecedented ferocity)

The two games couldn’t have been more different.   Fall Gabel (NQM) was played amongst a small group on a single evening just on one table; A Battle Lost? (Megablitz) was played all day on six tables with around twenty players.

In Fall Gabel we were channelled straight into the combat zones so spent just about the whole game running higher level combats; in A Battle Lost? the French were determined to dig in, while the Panzer Corps (at least) were given strict orders to by-pass enemy units and not to fight any battles (so the game was mostly a traffic game).

A Battle Lost 04a(A Battle Lost?: Panzer columns navigate around and between French positions)

Fall Gabel 06(Fall Gabel: the Gross Deutschland Motorised Division gets stuck in – my Germans, Chris’s Russians, Treb’s buildings)

Neither game featured any player engagement with the logistics rules.   Which, originally, was what these Operational Level games were about.   What made them interesting.

Air power is another important part of these operations but was Umpire controlled in both games … in A Battle Lost? this combined with an ‘all in one basket’ policy imposed by high command to mean the Luftwaffe played little part in the conquest of France.

A Battle Lost 02(A Battle Lost? Opening Phases … the Luftwaffe take off successfully – one of their better moments)

Here are some more pictures:

A Battle Lost 01(A Battle Lost?: some of Rommel’s recce units – on strict orders from Gen. Guderian – me – to get to the beaches first)

A Battle Lost 04(A Battle Lost?: the BEF about to cop it)

A Battle Lost 05(A Battle Lost?: Cambrai about to cop it)

Fall Gabel 08(Fall Gabel: 4th Panzer advancing confidently into the battlespace)

Fall Gabel 07(Fall Gabel: the remnants of the Division reorganise a safe distance back from the smoking wrecks of its combat units)

Fall Gabel 05(Fall Gabel: nightfall – the tattered Red Army are driven out of all their positions into a confused cauldron around the rail head; Gross Deutschland poised, brimming with confidence, before the morning’s assault)

In truth, blend the two games together, add back the missing logistics and air liaison – and give all the players enough to do … and you would have the perfect wargame.   At the moment the Operational Game seems to have settled into a formula which everyone enjoys (me included) but which runs as much because of the fudges and bits left out as it does because of the rules which are played and work.

A Battle Lost 07(A Battle Lost?: by Day Three my Corps had worked its way to the front and Rommel was headed for the coast)

The games are very well organised and the lunch at Shrivenham was first rate.

My thanks all round.

I played Germans in both games.  In Fall Gabel I commanded 4PD which bounced off, but which had softened the position sufficiently that we took it in the afternoon, and I commanded Gross Deutschland which methodically destroyed everything in front of it.  Unfortunately we were at the end of our (unplayed) logistic chain, so the thrust was doomed to fail.

In A Battle Lost? I played Fast Heinz whose XIX Corps of three Panzer Divisions was allocated a 2nd echelon birth with orders to break through to the coast.

Despite all the traffic trouble, the infantry getting in the way, and lack of allocated road priorities, by Day Two we were threading our way through.   We took 3 or 4 small towns, the main Front airfield, cut off a full enemy Division and were first to the Sea with 2 of our 3 Panzer Divisions (Rommel up front); indeed, at the airfield we were just minutes behind the departure of the French C-in-C!   Job done I guess.

A Battle Lost 08(A Battle Lost?: XIX Corps securing the Albert air facilities just as the lumbering Bloch extracts the French High Command)

I took personal command of the Albert (airfield) exploitation phase so as to free Rommel up for the race to the coast.    Had the Luftwaffe been properly about its business it would have forced the still visible Bloch transport down, enabling us to capture the top brass.   As it was, they ignored air identification flags and flares, ignored the priority messages sent 2 hours earlier concerning the capture of the assets, and instead shot up the German Staff detachments and wrecked the captured planes.   Thanks guys.

Not to worry, of course, it is the kind of hokum Umpires enjoy throwing into games but which doesn’t really happen: my father’s cousin won his DFC in this campaign and always insisted it was easy enough to tell the French from the Germans from a plane in 1940!

Operational games are like proverbial buses (unusually I used a real one recently) … you wait for too long then several come at once.   I am pleased to have been able to join in.

NQM vs Megablitz

NQM has too many stands (you don’t need so many stands at battalion level if they are all going to do the same thing) … Megablitz is better in using company stands for recce (who disperse at that level) but battalion and similar stands for other troops.*   I prefer scaling by relevance, so might compromise by allowing 2 stands to a full strength battalion so I can show a difference between transit and combat moves.

I do like NQM giving different values in attack and defence compared with Megablitz Strength Points – I like the way artillery can be strong supporting an attack but relatively weak if caught unprotected**.

I like Megablitz‘s codified movement concepts but still have a soft spot for NQM‘s variable (event led) length bounds.   One day that sort of system will be harmonised into a working game mechanism that requires less umpire fudge than tradition has allowed.

Megablitz has a very efficient orders/posture system that reduces confusion.   NQM is more ‘old school’ (and free-wheeling) …

Both games are great value and should be played more.

*******

*NQM gives an infantry battalion up to 6 stands, varying strength by the number of stands present.  Megablitz uses one stand per battalion, varying the strength by varying how many strength points the stand can contribute (and absorb) in combat.   Megablitz feels less cluttered as a consequence.

** NQM rates a stand Heavy, Medium or Light for its firepower and similarly H,M,L for its target value.  It means that, say, a Katyusha unit e.g. can be H in its hitting power but only L when taking incoming hits.   Megablitz uses the same SPs for hitting and taking hits (so tough units are equally tough in attack and defence): this is a very useful and quite justified simplification which does the job relatively well – I just prefer the more subtle detail the NQM mechanism allows.

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Tidying up the outgoing year

Next up will be a blog covering the latest Spanish Civil War adventures at Chateau (Shedeau?) Trebian …

But I’ve also been loading up a lot of pictures of Russian vehicles on the review page – the main gist is …

T26 Z 01

Currently at the top of the page I make a short appraisal of the new BA-10 from Zvezda Art of Tactic ..

Zvezda's BA-10

Zvezda’s BA-10

… and in a longer overview (scroll down the page) of what around for 15mm early WW2 Russian armour, a little bit of this as well

BT-5 rocket artillery tank

BT-5 rocket artillery tank

Meanwhile, on the modelling page, I’ve added a short homage to NQM …

blitz tanker 02

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My 15mm ex-Matchbox M17 Lend Lease Quad 50 cal

There are a lot of shows, competitions and heritage events cramming the early Autumn, but in the quiet moments I have been chipping away at a number of projects.

I now have a multiple gun motor carriage to add to my Red Army inventory – and give some added air defence.  The model is an extreme revitalising of an old Matchbox toy half track – the first military vehicle I ever bought (and one which hasn’t seen service in over 30 years) …

Bet you wouldn’t have guessed from the picture!   Welcome back, old friend …

For more on the makeover, see the modelling page

(Welcome material from the arsenal of democracy: Jeep by Peter Pig, SU-57 by Battlefront, M17 built on a Matchbox original)

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It was a busy weekend at Colours but I managed to pick up some of these excellent Zvezda JU 52s (Army Group South for the use of) …

1:200 suits me as an appropriate scale for transport aircraft – that gives a wingspan of just under 6″.   Quick to assemble, chunky soft plastic and I think they’ve painted up nicely.

There’s more on the reviews page (P.B.Eye-Candy reviews … )

(click on the picture for a larger image)

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BT artillery tank

Stepping down a few scales, I managed to slip in an evening or so’s work on a the BT tanks project … and completed the BT5A …

BT5A artillery tank

This is, of course, the big artillery turret more commonly found on the model 7 chassis (but I have been doing some work on the earlier chassis) …

BT fast tank converted for on road driving

In this case I have cut through the flattened back QRF tub in order to model the driver’s hatched open.  And I have taken the tracks off to show the tank ‘converted’ for driving on the road wheels.  The driver is using the detachable steering wheel as opposed to the levers necessary in tracked mode.

BT7, BT5A, BT5 … some Fast Tank family members …

So … the hull and tracks are QRF, the turret is fabricated around a Zvezda former.  The driver is Battlefront with a PP Russian tanker head, and the guns are also BF (the 76.2mm regimental howitzer is a spare from the T28 model which I assembled with the later L10 gun option).

Of course, part of this conversion job includes slimming down and spacing out the oversized wheels that come with the QRF model.   The easiest way to do this now is to pinch them from the Zvezda BT5 – however in this case I have separated them off, turned them down and them spaced them more accurately …  You can see the difference in the photo below:

On the left, the Zvezda track component is pretty much spot on.  On the right, the QRF one has wheels that are too big and evenly spaced.   This is important to the design – the rear pair support the weight of the engine, the more independent spacing of the front pair allow the vehicle to be steered in road mode.    Hopefully the artillery tank shows a reasonable modelling compromise.

I will update the modelling page with some pictures of the conversion process and options when I have completed the other family member on the table at the moment (an experimental version with Katyusha rockets …)..

For game purposes … in PBI (company level) the behaviour is the same as other BT5s except the gun is a 76.2mm IG (high explosive rounds) … in NQM/Megablitz, the model can stand in for standard, command or SP armoured units.

BT5A

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