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Archive for the ‘NQM’ 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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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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All quiet here for a few weeks I know but things have been moving on … there’s a couple of accessions updates to log and I’ll add some reviews and modelling notes in due course …

AK47

ak-specials-01

Some special forces have arrived: French inspired security types (Professionals, you’d think) made up from the excellent Peter Pig French Paras plus some other odd spares …

ak-specials-01a

ak-specials-01b

ak-specials-02(P.B.Eye-Candy: Peter Pig 15mm figures for AK47)

You might notice there is one of those splendid Recoilless Rifle motor scooters in the unit …

ak-specials-03

Home made from the PP weapon and some aero modelling spares, I think it turned out OK and has been on my list of cool kit for some time (a box has been ticked)  – remarkably, French paras had them in Algeria …

ak-specials-04

PBI/NQM (WWII)

… and I have cobbled together a PBI platoon from some trial items Chris Kemp gave me …

Now he’s a big fan of Plastic Soldier Company (not really my cup of tea) and insisted I try a Blitz truck sprue and some Fallshirmjaeger …

I built the trucks OK …

blitz-trucks-05

I’ll insert a link to a review when it’s done (so you can see what I think of them) … they’re OK, and I’ll use them to ship about a platoon or so of paratroopers.

I added a pack of PP metal ones to the plastics to make up a viable unit (and I have to say liked them a lot more than the PSC ones) … anyway, here are some pictures …

fallshirmjaeger-01

fallshirmjaeger-03

fallshirmjaeger-04

fallshirmjaeger-05(P.B.Eye-Candy: 15mm Fallshirmjaeger for PBI/NQM)

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