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Archive for the ‘NQM’ Category

So the big El Alamein game came and went over the Summer …

FFDD 000

It was indeed big, although, in the end, I’m not convinced the squares made as much of a contribution to managing the sprawling engagement as I had hoped they would.

An upside of the venture was that I got to fit out my Vichy French as Free French (or Fighting French, if you prefer) … the stalwarts who joined Montgomery’s army in the desert … heroes of Bir Hakeim and El Alamein.

FFDD 00(some new kit to give a Libyan configuration to my Moroccan French)

The French forces retained some of their original weapons though had much Anglo-American gear too.  They had little bespoke armour, using British tanks and theatre converted vehicles.  Yay … real world conversions – a lot down to the inventive mind of Adrien Conus …

FFDD 10(hard fighting at Alamein: FFL go in, supported by a Tanake unit, carrier conversion and Conus gun)

The Crusader tank is a lovely QRF model … the rest I had to build.  The Tanake had to built from the chassis up.  The carrier and Marmon-Herrington are what I have previously termed ‘pointless conversions’ (you can get them – or the basic vehicle anyway – just I had something nearly suitable so went about it the hard way!)

Tanake

FFDD 01

This is an armoured car built on a Dodge truck … so my work began with making some cosmetic changes to a QRF (nearly right) Chevrolet … (basically the bonnet/hood) and then painting the inside before assembly …

FFDD 03

The back end is all thin card … (recycling the backing card of the superglue with which it was assembled) … meanwhile fabricate an armoured shield with light gun and MG on a pintle, ready to drop in (this just makes painting and assembly easier) …

FFDD 04(we should end up with something that looks like this)

I’ve then made up wheel arches,  finished and sanded in the surfaces and detailing with Miliiput and made ready to paint.

FFDD 05

I was very pleased … it’s a great vehicle to have to do … (it’s like Indiana Jones meets Lawrence of Arabia – or is that just me?) … and it turned out easier than expected …

FFDD 06(Yesthatphil’s 15mm Dodge Tanake built on the QRF Chevrolet truck)

OK I got the height of the unusual back end wrong: I’ll have to find an example (they were all hand built so do differ) that matches or, at some point, I will need to go back and alter it – but indulge me for now: it was made to a deadline.

FFDD 07(top view and speedy insert)

As with the other vehicles, insignia was added in the less hurried hours after the game.

FFDD 10a

Hotchkiss Carrier and Marmon-Herrington

The ‘pointless’ conversions:  once upon a time I had bought too many Skytrex Humber light armoured cars, and have been grateful for chances to use them.  It’s completely unsuitable for a Marmon-Herrington but with the size and shape changed and bigger wheels … well it’s almost convincing …

FFDD 11(so … reshape, add big wheels, restyle the front, add those tell-tale ribs on the bonnet …) 

Of course the real ‘conversion’ here is adding a French crew, Breda gun mount (rather than a turret) and coal scuttle gun shield.

FFDD 12(again the basics are card, the finishing details are Milliput epoxy … and paint …)

FFDD 12a(Yesthatphil’s French Marmon-Herrington/Breda)

The Hotchkiss Carrier

In this case the unnecessary work was the result of Chris giving me a PSC Loyd Carrier which I didn’t have a particular use for (so it sat on the bench unassembled for a while) … the the French requirements came up and (actually looking for a portee), I found pictures of the carrier SP … Great, I said … I could use that carrier.

Chris agreed, and pointed out that it would almost right (‘good enough’) as there was little difference between the carriers other than the Loyd’s having more wheels.  Well, that’s not good enough then … is it …

FFDD 13

… so in addition to the ‘main job’ of creating a suitable fighting compartment and adding the big (well, relatively speaking, big) gun and shield … I had to shorten the whole thing …  You’d never know, though … right?

FFDD 14(… and just add paint)

Again, I think it turned out fine.  From the contemporary photos it looks like the gun isn’t long enough … I think they mostly used a ‘long’ version.

FFDD 15(French Universal Carrier with Hotchkiss 25mm AT … 15mm conversion from PSC parts)

Both of these pointless exercises have added a lot of value for me … there was going to be work involved in assembling these unusual vehicles anyway … but doing it the hard way has cleared a number of odds and ends from my desk (things have found a home) and the models have already seen action in the big game.

Nevertheless, the Tanake has to be my favourite.  A true ship of the desert.

FFDD 00a

Postscript … I’ve titled this part ‘1’ … the keen-eyed will have spotted the Conus gun in the Alamein pictures.  It was very much a quick stand in … and I need to go back and do the job properly.  And I mentioned portees.  So there will be a part 2.

And there were some soldiers too.

Plus I think the French vs Italian engagement on the Southern flank will make a good PBI game – and that will be a good reason to complete those last details.  It all comes together sometimes.

In due course I will transfer the Tanake build to the modelling section.

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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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NQM Squared (1)

I put (1) after the title as I’m sure there is going to be more to come (however this post ‘is it’ for now) ..

This was a trial game set up by NQM Chris to see how squares (similarly to my ideas in Megablitz Squared) would help simplify the movement and real estate issues of large operational games.

My project was a mix of Megablitz and NQM methodology applied to gridded battle space.  Necessarily Chris’s experiment was significantly closer to NQM.

(over the battleground: a Soviet ground attack mission is driven off by German fighters)

Scales apart (because scales can always be adjusted) the key difference between the two related operational games is in orders/status and combat.  NQM uses die rolls that are varied in value by the weight of attack and defence values.  Megablitz uses strength points (which give you the number of dice in combat and hits that can be taken) varied in effect by the order status of the units.  I like both approaches.

(NQM Squared: a Soviet assault bridge aids a river crossing)

You can have a look at the ideas Chris was resolving here: Novgorod: NQM Squared

How the squares actually work is clearly a key aspect of the approach … how do you treat diagonals?  How do you handle ‘corner to corner’ contacts.  Using orthogonal squares, how do you do ‘2 up/1 back’ deployments (and, then, who supports whom?) …

(NQM Squared: 3 Red Army battalions plus some Brigade HQ assets advance through an area)

Then again, these are questions that come up without squares – just squares make you answer them and give some structured definition.

Squares can make it imperative and advantageous to occupy ground and (for defenders) to hold a coherent line in a way that is sometimes lost in a more free roaming game system.

Whenever we use squares, of course, players will always ask about hexes, and their elegant relation, off-set squares.

This can be a thorny issue for some periods – but I think orthogonal squares are the obvious solution for a period where officers used gridded maps.  They thought, planned, and moved in a squared world so no harm will result if we model it that way.  The same cannot be said for hexes.

(NQM Squared: German Parachute units dug in)

A thought provoking session which I hope will bear fruit.

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As we entered the main phase of the operation, Chris gave me a fairly open approach to reinforcements – so, concerned by the scale of the task, I called up more artillery, the Red God of War … indeed, I employed all the heavy artillery the front could muster.

(B3 Howitzers on the road up to Leningrad)

(Ski troops, supported by air, move around the frozen Northern flank)

The old front line gradually became a vast artillery park, ready to reduce the city.

(Gotterdammerung: the Red Army’s guns prepare to reduce Leningrad)

(a TB3 provides air support in the frozen North)

The Russians enjoyed almost complete air superiority for this campaign and it’s elderly supply fleet, reconaissance planes, as well as ground attack wings could operate virtually unchallenged.

Had the Germans put much into the air, they would have found daunting concentrations of ground AA …

(rail artillery defended by a light AA battery and searchlights)

Given these conditions it is perhaps unsurprising that the dive bombers were (finally) able to deliver a shattering attack on the Southern flank which had – until then – managed to hold up the advance on Oranienbaum.

(Heavy v Light dice for the dive bombers … n uncharacteristically hammer blow rich in sixes)

From the North East, the Ski troops were able to enter undefended areas evacuated under the heavy artillery bombardments …

… although stiffer resistance was maintained in the leafy Eastern suburbs and broken bridges slowed progress on the main line of advance.

(Leningrad NQM: Peter Pig Soviet Scouts making hard work of the garden suburbs)

Here’s a look at the situation as the Red Army retakes the city …

Despite stubborn success in some sectors, the German commander had recognised that the city had become untennable and began a pull out before getting cut off.  As the Germans raced for the roads, Russians flooded through the city and swept around the Southern flank …

(Motorised troops snake through Leningrad)

(Heavy resistance to the attempt to cut the road)

This was a race against time determined by local firefights.

(Trapped!  Or not?  … the fight for the line of retreat)

Tactically dominant, at the sharp end, the cavalry again proved unable to press their advantage (game note: bad dice, really ...) … and, beaten off by desperate firing, allowed too much to get away towards Oranienbaum and Kronstadt.

A doomed pocket had been left in the docks, and no more Germans were able to escape from Leningrad.

Final situation …

It was time to dismantle the game and put away the toys.

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This is the first part on a big WWII Operational Game being fought out over a number of evenings mostly between myself and NQM’s Chris … I’ve titled it the retaking of Leningrad because that is what we must do.

It’s a long way to the Front but these wastes will fill with men and materiel as the operation evolves.

There is a lot of kit being directed at this task.

(First contact …)

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If you follow Chris’s NQM Blog (and you should) you will have seen all the technical details of the Battle of Vyazma.  This grand operational game saw the first action of some of the snow soldiers I have been tinkering with of late* – so here is their photo story.**

In still freezing conditions, the Red Army was heading West …

Minefields took a toll but the Scouts pressed forward

… onwards …

… as resistance stiffened, the Sturmoviks screamed in, following the road …

The first wave of reinforcements pushed North around the Viazma pocket …

… and now an armoured column appears on the road West ..

… and crashes straight into the main defences …

… not without losses …

Although the centre of Vyazma holds til the last man, armour quickly bursts through defences to the South ..

… and more armour streams to the front …

The Battle for Vyazma is fully committed when a German column crshes into the flank of the offensive.

But not early enough to stop the Northern encirclement …

As Vyazma finally fell, way to the rear German stragglers are brought into a Soviet aid post …

For them the war is over.

Kudos to Chris for managing such a mass of material in such a compact space.  It all made sense at the time.

*objective 1: get them painted; objective 2: get them into a game!

** as I suggest, for the narrative details, see Chris’s post.

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Snow troops 01

Just a quick experiment really … I swapped on a few ushanka heads and painted some of the new Piggie scouts in snow camo …

Now mostly the Red Army’s snow suits were one-piece coveralls with the equipment under the suit (2-piece suits on the Eastern Front seem generally Finnish or German ..) … but these paras show there were variants …

GroundParatroopers(Soviet Paratroops ready for wintry conditions)

So here’s the result of the experiment, ready for Chris’s next NQM retreat from Moscow.

Snow troops 02(Peter Pig 15mm Red Army Scouts with head swaps and white suits)

I think it works quite well and expands upon my ski troops.  Hopefully, in time, Martin will make some new packs in the more familiar voluminous coverall.  I would buy some.

The truck in the background is one of the new Piggie resin models.  Looks good I think.

Snow troops 03

I’m happy with that experiment.  The force expands.

snow-drop-01a

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