Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Great War Spearhead - my introduction

Robert Dunlop, a major contributor to Great War Spearhead, kindly introduced me to the rules. Rather than play on opposing sides we went through the sequence and mechanics of play together. This is an absolutely brilliant approach to teaching rules and makes me wonder why I've never tried the same thing myself!

GWSH evolved from Arty Conliffe's original WW2 Spearhead and was developed by Shawn Taylor with Robert's support. The current edition (GWSH II) is now a fully standalone set of rules. Different rules model different things. The Spearhead family focuses on orders which are marked on maps by arrows of advance. These become the absolute drivers of the game until the enemy are spotted and the play becomes tactical. For that the mechanics are relatively simple.

This approach forces the players to plan. They must study the terrain, look at the routes of advance, and consider the areas of deployment. Crucially, they must also take into account likely or possible enemy plans. Later in the game they may discover the holes and be forced to alter plans and move formations.

GWSH uses a scale of about 80 yards to 1 inch. The 30mm square bases used in the game represent companies and about 12-16 of these are grouped into regiments (British brigades) which are the principal level for order writing and manoeuvre. Four regiments might form a division and two divisions a corps. I generalise here in order to give an idea of scale. A divisional game is a reasonable size for an evening's entertainment, but much larger games can and have been staged.

I now look forward to playing a proper game. Spearhead's grand tactical nature does, of course, appeal to me. In fact, my 10mm Normandy armies were planned and organised for playing the original WW2 version, although I've never got round to using them.

Great War Spearhead

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Great War Crossfire

The empty field (lower left-hand corner) had contained a
German platoon. Despite eliminating this, the British
platoon (lower centre) was beginning to lose the firefight
with the German platoon in the copse on the left edge.
Many of you will know Robert Dunlop from his contribution to the Great War Spearhead rules and scenario books and his extremely well-informed forum postings on WW1 topics. It was thus a pleasure and privilege to welcome him to my local wargames club and to play a WW1 Crossfire game which he organised.

Robert has recently been quoting chapter and verse on the Yahoo Crossfire group about low level training and actions during WW1 - the level that Crossfire represents - so I was keen to see how a WW1 game would work with these WW2 rules.

The game was a meeting battle, a common occurrence in northern France in the early days of WW1 during the Race to the Sea. Robert posted an eloquent account of the game in the Crossfire Yahoo Group placing it in historical context.

The absence of smoke and the relative scarcity of HMGs made this a significantly different style of game to the WW2  ones I've played but the rules worked equally well.

Plenty of reserves but nowhere to send them except into
the German meat-grinder. Miniatures are 15mm Peter
Pig and Minifigs.
The game has rekindled my interest in doing some 1914 armies, but I once again find myself spoilt for choice. For Crossfire armies, which are small and predominantly infantry, I would normally go for 15mm figures, but for early WW1 I am very attracted to the superb 12mm Kallistra ranges. But the armies might also be used for Square BashingBloody Big Battles! and/or Great War Spearhead which all require relatively large numbers of bases, so 6mm Baccus figures might be a better option.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Battles of Napoleon

Battles of Napoleon is a hex board game with miniatures which was published in 2010 and is no longer in print. Despite a superficial similarity in appearance to the Command & Colors series of games, it plays quite differently.

Board games with miniatures are said to be the wave of the future, and I would say that miniatures games with hexes or squares are effectively converging from the other direction. This was thus a game I was keen to try.

My friend Ian, who owns the game, chose the Salamanca scenario and gave me the French with the warning that I was unlikely to win, but fate decided otherwise. The British were stronger, particularly in cavalry, but I had more artillery and a good position on a ridge line defending the three objectives which start in French hands.

The aim of this scenario is to take a majority of the objectives, but you can also win the  game by destroying a certain number of units or killing the enemy c-in-c.

The initial French deployment. The British are yet to set up.
The British made a frontal assault in column and uphill which gave me two  bonuses in firepower. Coupled with a  run of skillful dice throwing (!), the British attack shattered on the French rock. The British may have suffered from bad luck but I believe they would have needed an equally exceptional run of good luck to have succeeded in their strategy.

The French hold firm while the British begin to suffer.
I'd certainly be interested in replaying this game from the British side. My strategy would be...well, you'll have to wait for that!

I really enjoyed the game and I think Napoleonic buffs would prefer this game to the more abstract approach of C&C Napoleonics.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game

I don't have much time at the moment to sort out my own games so I'm grateful for the opportunity to play other people's games, even though these are not necessarily part of my annual plan! This recently included a couple of games of X-Wing, the highly popular Star Wars spaceship combat game.

The games were based on a simple introductory scenario which pitted a pair of TIE fighters against an upgraded X-Wing, the components of the core introductory set. I controlled one of the TIE fighters. Although they are generally more manoeuvrable, the upgraded X-Wing continually escaped our arcs of fire while bringing us into its own arc of fire and I was quickly eliminated in the first game.

In the second game it was my companion's turn to be knocked out first. I fared a little better but was still unable to inflict much damage. The X-Wing, however, accidentally flew off the table, giving me the game. It was a victory of sorts, but not really a satisfying one. Had the battlefield been a bit more crowded, we would more easily have ended up with some sort of target in our sights.

The game mechanisms are similar to Wings of Glory WW1 (originally Wings of War) and the game plays straight out of the box. The rules are well written and the gameplay is smooth. The diminutive spaceships are very nicely modelled. I've seen the game played with much larger numbers of much larger ships, so it is very open to the escalation of financial investment.

Despite my recent foray into 15mm Sci-Fi skirmish gaming I'm not a Star Wars fan (or a Trekky), and spaceship combat doesn't really appeal to me. If I wanted to invest in a game of this sort I would probably go for the historical Wings of Glory. At one time I was quite interested in the WW2 variant, but my understanding is that it involves a lot of manoeuvre and that the chance actually to fire is rare, a somewhat frustrating recipe for a wargame. In any event I understand it's out of print at the moment, but never say never. And I see that Ares Games are due to release a new Battle of Britain Starter Set...

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