Thursday, 10 October 2019

Flames of War: A Bridge Too Far – The Battles for Oosterbeek and Arnhem

Photo at beginning of game showing most
of the Allied miniatures.
Ian brought round yet another boardgame for me to try - Flames of War's Market Garden game. I elected to play the Allies. As you would expect, they have airborne troops that need to be reinforced and resupplied by air and ground forces that need to smash their way through to link up.

The Allied strategy does require a plan but going up the central road is a pretty obvious option as that route has most of the points on it.

An early attack on Arnhem Bridge by my airborne troops. It seemed the right thing to do. I took the bridge but could not hold it.
It's an interesting game but odd in some ways. It comes with some miniatures but very few. The board is divided into zones  and these can attack and defend regardless of the miniatures. In some ways the miniatures are a distraction.

There were some ups and downs but it was with great satisfaction that a combination of my airborne and ground forces took Arnhem bridge on more-or-less the last 'Battle' of the last game turn.

Late in the game Ian attempted to cut my supply line by attacking out of an empty zone into an empty zone. This was actually in error as even empty zones have to be in supply and Ian's wasn't. So the moves were taken back leaving me with the victory.
Thanks to the points I had accumulated, mainly from seizing bridges but also from captures of troops, I achieved a 'Strategic Victory' which is the best sort of victory you can get.

It was an enjoyable game but I am left more struck by its oddness than anything else.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Race to the Rhine

Thanks to my friend Ian I’m currently enjoying a boardgame bonanza. My penultimate experience was Race to the Rhine by Jaro Andruszkiewicz and Waldek Gumienny, a game of resource management in which you compete against other Allied players to be first across the Rhine.

In a two-player game one player always takes the central command, Bradley, while the other plays Montgomery (along the coast) or Patton (to the right). I was advised that Patton was the easiest option so that's what I chose.

There are just three resources: fuel, ammo and food. You have to get these to your forces at the front via chains of supply lorries, but you also have to contend with a buildup of German forces blocking your path or cutting your supply lines. Germans pop up when you attempt to occupy a new town or courtesy of rival players.

Despite going through a very weak phase during which one of my corps was isolated, another had run out of food and my supply lines were constantly being cut, I just managed to pull it off.

The game is very cleverly designed. It has a certain 'unity of design' which gives it a convincing feel, and I imagine it has great replay and solo value.
Patton's Corps are in blue. One is awkwardly
placed behind Bradley and needs to backtrack
before going anywhere.
Making good time. Patton's command enjoys
additional minor supply points on the edge
of the board, so you don't have to bring
everything up from the start position.
Accross the Rhine (bottom right) but cut off.
The supply line is restored and the game won,
although the leading unit is out of food.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Thirty Years War 6mm basing: Commanders, Cannons and Dragoons

Commanders and Cannons
I had originally intended to put three mounted figures on Commander bases but sometimes less is more and I think two figures actually looks better.

Cannons were one of the easiest basing decisions and will be represented by a single Saker and 4 crew. The officer and the figure with the linstock will be positioned behind the cannon and the figures with sponge and cannonball in front.

Dragoons
Dragoons were the most challenging decision. Dragoon bases represent the same number of men as Horse bases, but cramming the same number of figures onto a base just doesn't work.

I think the best way of representing Dragoons is to have a skirmish line at the front, with a horse-holder and horses positioned behind. This would look better if the bases were deeper, but I don't intend to do that so it's a question of doing the best I can in the limited space.

I need 3 units of Dragoons in total and I happen to have one packet of Baccus dismounted Dragoon figures, so I decided to split the packet between them and this just about provides a reasonable look. However, I think the skirmishers would look better with perhaps two or three more figures so I'll just have to get some more.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Thirty Years War 6mm basing: Horse and Light Horse

Original plan for Horse
Original plan for Light Horse
These photos show my original plans for Horse and Croat Light Horse. The top one shows 24 mounted figures which is in the correct ratio to the 48 figures I'm using on Pike+shot bases. The bottom one shows 16 Light Horse.

I had second thoughts about these ideas. I didn't think it was really necessary to use 24 figures for Horse, and I also felt that the Light Horse base looked a little overcrowded. I also thought it would be useful to use (subtly) different numbers to indicate Arquebusiers, Cuirassiers or Swedish Horseman. So I'm now planning to use 20 figures for Arquebusiers,  18 for Cuirassiers, 16 for Swedish Horsemen and 12 or 14 for Croats.

The Croats are acually  'Unarmoured Cavalry' (GNP08) from Baccus's Great Northern War Polish range. I understand that TYW Croats had a proportion of lancers but most would be pistol-armed so most of the spears need to be snipped.

Monday, 30 September 2019

Thirty Years War 6mm basing: Non-Swedish Pike+shot and Commanded Shot

German and Spanish Pike+shot
The non-Swedish Pike+shot units include Imperialist, Catholic League, Spanish and other German Foot fighting against the Swedes as well as Germans allied to the Swedes, but not regiments of German origin under Swedish command which I'm treating as Swedes!

These are going to have the same overall numbers as a Swedish Pike+shot unit, but I'm giving them a higher proportion of pikemen. The proportion isn't necessarily historically accurate but there are only so many ways to juggle 48 figures. It's all about giving an impression.

The front rank will be armoured pikemen and the shot will have a number of helmeted figures. This will make them look a little more armoured than the Swedes.

Commanded Shot
The Commanded Shot bases represent the same number of men as a Pike+shot units but I thought that 48 Musketeers would look a bit boring so I decided to use three ranks of Musketeers with four command figures at the back. It's useful with these small scale figures to provide some visual clues to distinguish unit types at a distance. Swedish Shot will include figures in Monmouth caps.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Thirty Years War 6mm basing: Swedish Pike+shot

A test base of Swedish Pike+shot sitting temporarily
on Blu-Tac. Command strip forms second row of
the pikes.
I've been looking forward to receiving my first orders of Baccus 6mm figures for the Tilly's Very Bad Day Thirty Years War project, not least because I wanted to see how many figures I'd actually end up putting on a 60mm x 30mm base.

But firstly let me say that the Baccus figures are very nice and remarkably well detailed for their scale. I'm no fan of cast pikes, however, and hope that enough layers of paint and varnish will provide a little protection for them against floppy spaghetti syndrome.

First up to consider, and most importantly, were the Pike+shot units. As my friend Ian pointed out, it's good to have the pikes looking really solid and I can't see that being achieved without having them at least four deep and roughly square. (There's enough room to have five ranks but that would probably an unnecessary extravagance.)

A slightly more aerial view. For the Swedes, some figures
in Monmouth caps will be mixed in.
Historically ensigns were placed somewhere behind the front ranks. With four ranks of figures, I can have the command strip with the ensigns as the second rank.

There isn't enough room to have any supernumeries standing outside the ranks. In theory these could look good, but I think you would need vastly more figures in rank to prevent the extra figures from over-balancing them.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Thirty Years War: Updated unit plans for Tilly's Very Bad Day

In order to help develop some scenarios for Tilly's Very Bad Day and to better identity the units I need to model, I've been spending a lot of time analysing the Orders of Battle given in William P Guthrie's Battles of the Thirty Years War: From White Mountain to Nordlingen, 1618-1635. This turned out to be very time-consuming but somebody had to do it, and I had a pressing interest in narrowing down what additional figures I needed to get.
I picked three battles from the Swedish period for which details are quite complete and readily available:

Breitenfeldt 1631
Lützen 1632
Nördlingen 1634

I've forwarded the results of this research to TVBD author Steven Thomas, and am looking forward to seeing scenarios produced in due course.

For the Catholic-Imperialists, Guthrie sometimes lists units as Cuirassiers or Arquebusiers but often just describes them as "CR" (Cavaly Regiments). For these, it was necessary to make an estimate so we took the numbers and apportioned them to Cuirassiers and Arquebusiers in a 2:1 ratio.

The other big surprise of this exercise was the discovery that most of the 'Swedish' Horse were not Swedish Horsemen, but German Cuirassiers and Arquebusiers - the same sort of cavalry to be found in the opposing armies.

The revised requirements now look like this.

Commanders    11
German Cuirassiers    14
Swedish Horsemen    3
German Arquebusiers     7
Croats    2
German Dragoons    2
German Pike-and-Shot    17
Swedish Pike-and-Shot    9
German Commanded Shot    1
Swedish Commanded Shot    2
Cannon    8
Spanish Cuirassiers    2
Spanish Arquebusiers    1
Spanish Dragoons    1
Spanish Pike-and-Shot    6

My two initial Baccus orders are now on the way so I should soon be able to make a decision about how many figures per base.

New Version

Tilly's Very Bad Day is being continually updated and has now reached version 1.3. It remains downloadable from the same page https://balagan.info/download-tillys-very-bad-day-fast-play-rules-for-the-30-years-war .

Friday, 27 September 2019

Axis and Allies: D-Day

View from the beachheads.
My friend Ian brought the Axis & Allies: D-Day boardgame round. As I’m still in recovery mode, I thought a boardgame would be less demanding. I'm not a regular boardgame player, so anything like this is quite a novelty.

I played the Allies. The Allied objective is to take and hold Caen, St Lo and Cherbourg. The Germans win if they prevent that.

The sequence of play is driven by a stack of cards. They are always in the same order and you play through the stack each turn. Interspersed ‘Fortune’ cards improve or degrade your performance of each action. Players are left with the choice of where to move and attack.

For the Allied player the main challenge of the game is how to divide resources between the three objectives. At one point I was contesting all three with some chance of winning the game, but the Germans retook St Lo and I just didn’t have enough resources left in the vicinity to counterattack.

The game is obviously quite abstract but I think it does quite a good job of capturing aspects and flavour of the Normandy campaign.

The game is fairly attritional - as was the reality. Playing through the card stack is rather repetitive but it speeds up each turn as some cards are single-use and discarded and you become more familiar with the sequence.

The game certainly works and would be good to play from time to time, but it’s not the sort of game I’d want to play regularly.

The only major design fault is the very small print on the order cards, which is extremely trying for anyone over 40. On those grounds I think this game is best left to younger players.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Further thoughts on Rommel

Rommel: End of the road...
Further to my last post, Little Wars TV also have a pretty astute review of Rommel here. They note the difficulty of adding historical flavour to a high level game, and see the Tactics in Rommel as Sam Mustafa’s way of providing it. Unfortunately, Tactics give players so much choice that they begin to slow an otherwise fast-moving game.

Sam’s decision to make the basic unit a company rather than a battalion was in my opinion extremely disappointing. The companies are little more than strength markers. They require you to have lots of stands, and they limit your ability to play large battles.

In LWTV’s D-Day game they took things up a level so the companies became battalions. You can get the scenario and the rule revisions under 'Free Stuff' once you have signed up. As you will see, the changes required were absolutely minimal and are contained in just a few sentences.

Notwithstanding the attraction of this option I remain unmotivated for a number of other reasons.

(1) IMO the success of high-level rules depends as much on the availability of historical scenarios as it does on the rules themselves. Sam Mustafa has not provided many scenarios for Rommel, relying instead on players to produce their own.

(2) Sam's publishing venture, Honour, used to have a proper forum where scenarios could be presented and rules discussed, but this was subsequently replaced by a private Facebook group, another bad decision and a complete barrier to anyone who doesn’t want any FB involvement.

So here we have a game that has failed to attract any other local champions, is only half done because it lacks scenarios, is effectively unsupported unless you want to surrender your life to Facebook, and would be better played at a totally different level from the one intended.

It looked full of promise, but those negatives just stack up in a crushingly large heap. If there was a local group of people keen to pursue it I’d give it another go, but I don’t have the energy and don’t see the point of going out on a limb when there are so many easier avenues to pursue.

What I’m looking out for now is a much higher, Operational level, game but as far as I'm concerned, it must come with a range of ready-made scenarios to attract my commitment.