Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tuesday Night Boardgame (On Wednesday): GMT'S Fields of Despair

 

I couldn’t resist this title by GMT games - any World War One game generally goes to the head of my purchasing queue, and this one was no exception.    Fields of Despair (FOD) is a strategic scale block game designed by Kurt Lewis Keckley - you can find his blog here and follow him on Twitter at @PhotoAvalanche .  It comes with an attractive hardback folding map, several hundred counters and blocks which need to be stickered (thankfully, for Command and Colours fans, only on one side).  

I’ve only played FoD solo which is a pity because that is rather like driving a Ferrari in stop and go traffic and never getting out of second gear.  This is a game designed for two players, and the one-sided blocks mean that you never know exactly what is waiting for you when you launch an attack.   I can’t wait to try this game head to head because the suspense would be epic.   The blocks themselves are the heart of the game, reminiscent of the four-sided blocks used in well-known Columbia games such as Quebec 1759 and Waterloo.   Blocks range from 1 to 4 up to 17 - 20 Strength Points, with 20SP blocks representing a multi-corps army.   Most blocks represent infantry, with a few cavalry units given to each side.

In addition, players can commit artillery to key battles (representing strategic artillery assets) and can also commit aerial units in the hopes of forcing the other player to reveal some or all of his blocks before battle.   Aerial reconnaissance is not a sure thing, however, because the defending (or passive) player can throw in his/her air units as well to try and keep the observer planes from carrying out their missions.   Besides his/her own blocks, the defender can try to hold the line with a few key fortresses, such as Verdun, which are very hard nuts to crack.

Here is a shot of the game board in the early stages of the three-turn introductory scenario, set in 1914.  Infantry units move two hexes a turn, and cavalry three, but units have to stop when they enter an enemy controlled hex.  Unless all defending units are removed from a hex, it is considered contested and remains in the defender’s control, so the ownership counters seen here are quite important for deterring victory.

And the same game at the end.  The Germans have taken heavy losses, but have done worse damage to the French, and have come within an ace of capturing Paris before the end of the game, which the Germans won 9-7 based on hexes control.  The British (tan counters) are slowly building up strength, but were separated from their French allies by the German advance.

In retrospect this game might have gone better for the French if played H2H, since playing it solo it was impossible as the stronger German side to hit the French where they were weakest.   There is a slightly intimidating solitaire system for one of the late war scenarios, which I hope to try at some point.  

WW1 fans will appreciate the fact that the game is highly attritional.  While breakthroughs are possible and  can be exploited, they are difficult to achieve and hard to exploit.  Manpower is a very finite quantity in the game.  The Germans have an initial advantage, and their army grows considerably in 1914, but like the other countries the manpower streams dry up later in the war, so every SP lost early in the game is one you won’t have later when you may need it.

There are several economics and technology R&D tracks, where players can put resources into developing new weapons (poison gas, gas masks, better aircraft, tanks, etc) and also put resources into maintaining the Allied blockade vs the German submarine campaign, ether of which can hurt the other side’s resources.    The German player must also think about the second front with Russia, which is represented in a very abstract but effective way.  Don’t put enough resources into the Russian front and you as the German can lose the game.   

While the game does not use a card system like Ted Raicer’s WW1 classic Paths of Glory, it does have a series of technology thresholds that introduces events like aerial combat, the start of trench warfare, as well as political events like the US entry to the war.  

FoD is a simple and highly playable game with enough chrome to give it a good feel for the strategic choices faced by the combatants in the Great War on the Western Front.   Fans of WW1 should check this out.  While it would be huge fun with an opponent, the solitaire mechanism looks promising and there is also Vassal.

Speaking of Vassal, here is some bonus WW1 content.  This is a screen shot of a game that Jonathan Freitag and I are playing online - it is from the introductory scenario of GMT’s 1914: Offensive a outrance, from their operational monster game about the first months of WW1 in the West.  My French divisions begin the war by hurling themselves on the Boche to erase the infamy of 1870 and to recapture France’s provinces.   Latest communiques from French HQ confirm that all is going well.  

The cool thing about this game is that it is a 100% digital version of the real game, and while the going is slow, Jon and I are learning a lot about Vassal in the process.

Good luck to your die rolls, virtual or otherwise.

MP

 

 

 

 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Catching Up: A Miscellany

Time for another report from Casa Padre in Central Ontario, where the cool wet weather is being quite English.    I have not been in much of a mood to blog or paint lately, a small funk that I hope I am coming out of.  Some of you know that the news about Madame Padre’s fight with cancer has not been great, and she continues to battle a series of challenges with her usual humour, faith and sang froid.  I am so proud of her.  My continued thanks to all those who have reached out to me about this, it is most appreciated.

So here are, in no particular order, some items of interest.   First, I was astonished to find that there is a Facebook group called Cats and Wargames.  I discovered this after someone saw my post on the adventures of Kampfgruppe Von Topper and told me about the group.  Lots of photos of kitties helping their humans to play wargames, mostly boardgames.   Needs some more miniatures content. I encourage you to check it out.

I haven’t had much time for gaming, lately, but here is a shot from last week’s club game of Dragon Rampant.   An effort to play a campaign game foundered badly, and so we reverted to what we know and love,  four plus players putting their armies down and fighting all against all.   In this game, Charles’ Vikings (bottom left) and Bruce’s Orcs (top centre), Stephen’s Medieval Types (top right) and my Fantasy types (bottom right) fought over a the rights to plunder a hapless wagon train.  Good fun, and shows that sometimes the best club games require only a few brain cells.  The guys would like me to paint more of my lady elves, can’t imagine why.  

I continue to be amazed at the versatility of Dan Mersey’s Rampant engine.  The guys are getting together tomorrow night to try something called Xenos Rampant, an adaptation of the DR rules to SF.  I will probably pass, but if you are interested, it apparently has something to do with this chap.

Finally, I saw this on some chaps’ door at work last week, and I am desperately hoping that these are the promised new Canadian Armed Forces dress uniforms, because they are super blinged out and I could totally rock these.

 

I have some other things to report but will save them for my next Tuesday Night Boardgame report.  I regret that I have not visited as many of your own blogs as I wanted to, and I thank you for visiting mine.

Blessings,

MP+

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Panzer Reinforcements For Kampfgruppe Von Topper

Here are five new tanks for the early WW2 Wehrmacht force I am slowly assembling.  These are the excellent Plastic Soldier Company 15mm PzKpfwIV models made up as AusF models, suitable for Barbarossa.    I really like the PSC philosophy. which allows you to make different variants of the same basic tank in the same kit.  Very clever.  Likewise, their T34 kit contains two turret variants, for the 76mm and 85mm guns.   Nice.  Sadly these don’t have any stowage or decals yet.  The models don’t have much room for turret numbers.  I suppose a cross on the top of the turret might not go amiss.

I’ve dry brushed them liberally to suggest the dust of the summer/fall of 1941, though it turns the panzer grey almost green, which I’m not sure I like.   Otherwise no weathering, other than a little rust on the tracks and the track sections used as frontal armour.  I have glued them to the magnetized bases I like to use for storage in cookie tins, which keeps the models from getting bashed around.  The bases also look sharp, in my humble opinion.

 

These platoon had its introduction to combat the other night, when I was pushing them around the table to try and understand the mechanics of Flames of War 4.0.   Please don’t judge me harshly on this, it’s what the WW2 guys play at the club and it’s that or nothing, right now.   

I put them under the command of the household’s junior member, Leutnant von Topper, who has volunteered to command all Wehrmacht forces in future, though he wants to call them “Purrmacht”.  Here he works on digging the Soviet defenders out from cover.

                                                                                             Come out, little red mice!

As an exercise, I put the PzIVs up against four KV1s that are almost ready to roll of the Red Banner Workbench.  The Germans were rated Confident Veteran, the Soviets were rated Fearless Conscript.  I quickly learned that with KV1’s front armour of 9 and a side/rear armour of 8, there is no chance of a PZIV’s 75mm gun being able to knock out one of these monsters.  The best one can hope for is that the Soviet rolls a 1 on his armour save on a side/rear shot against the 75mm gun’s AT rating of nine, meaning that 1+8 ties the AT rating and causes a bail.  So basically the KV1 doesn’t get knocked out, it just fails a morale check.   Meanwhile the PzIV has a front armour of 5 and a side armour of 3 and while the Conscript Soviets are crap shots, it’s bad when they hit.

 

                                                      These comrades will ruin a tanker’s d

I think Kampfgruppe Von Topper will be asking for 88mm AT and Stuka support in its next requisition.  I think in the short term they will have to settle for some infantry support to go close assault those beasts.

Blessings to your brushes!

MP+

These figures bring my 2017 totals to:

15mm: Vehicles: 8, Foot Figures: 4, Scenic Pieces: 7

20mm: Foot figures: 18

28mm:  Foot Figures: 86;  Mounted Figures: 11; Terrain Pieces: 17


 

 

 

 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Battle of Shiloh Update Day 1 08:00 to 08:30

Here’s a brief update on my solo play of The Gamers’ April’s Harvest: Battle of Shiloh.

It’s 08:00 on the first day of the battle, Union turn.  This turn McClernand’s 1st Division is now alert but will need to wait for orders from Grant.  Meanwhile, Sherman (right) and Prentice (left) brace to meet the Confederate tide.

An incident during the CS 08:30 turn.  Gladden’s brigade of Wither’s CS Division advances along with the division artillery.   In the game mechanics, the non-phasing side shoots first, and in this case, Peabody’s US brigade of Prentiss’ division  gets to shoot and causes some casualties.  However, as it is in extended line, each time part of the line shoots, there is a chance it can run low of ammo if it rolls an 11 or 12, which is what happens.  Then Gladden’s men and supporting guns return the fire, the US rolls boxcars on its morale check and Peabpdy’s brigade routs backwards two hexes.  It takes casualties and stragglers and is now the second Union brigade to become wrecked.

 

Situation at the end of the CS 08:30 Turn .  Peabody’s routed brigade has left a large gap in the US line.  Will the Union be able to plug the gap?  Grant better arrive soon to take charge!

 

 

 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Some Captains Of Mordor

It’s been quiet here, with little painting done of late, but here are four Games Workshop figures from their Lord of the Rings line a Mordor orc command team.  The figures are fine case resin, which I suspect are now done on a print on demand basis as orders come in.  The figures are generally good, with a little flash, but the banner bearer’s sword is quite wavy and to quote Blackadder, looks a bit like an Oriental disembowelling hook.

The banner is totally coped from one done (better than mine) by my friend James.

I’ve been toying with some modified command rules for Mordor for Dragon Rampant, which I need to revisit.   These fellows will play a role in getting otherwise inert and quarrelsome lumps of orcs going anywhere.  Also, the fellow on the right is described as being an Orc Shaman, or a chaplain, which I find kind of creepy, that the orcs have their own padres.

Blessings to your brushes!

These figures bring my 2017 totals to:

15mm: Vehicles: 3, Foot Figures: 4, Scenic Pieces: 7

20mm: Foot figures: 18

28mm:  Foot Figures: 86;  Mounted Figures: 11; Terrain Pieces: 17


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Meanwhile, In Gondor

MINAS TIRITH, MIDDLE EARTH PRESS SERVICE:  After accusations from the White Council that Gondor has gotten lax and fallen behind on its security, the Office of the Steward announced that the Gondorian army has been increased.   Said Denethor, Steward of Gondor, “Our new rapid deployment force will allow us protect our borders and keep the people of Gondor safe.  Our troops are the best.  Not that Sauron is a bad guy.  I don’t know Sauron, but I am sure that if he and I got together, we could do some deals together."

Twelve new troops for my Gondorian force.   These are of course the classic GW plastic sculpts as per the Peter Jackson films.  They are figures that Chris Stoesen sent to me at Christmas as part of the Santa Clause project.  Thank you, Chris, great gift!

Also finished are these eight figures from the GW Warriors of the First Age sprue.   You get four per sprue and I had two sprues, so …   I think they could pass for palace guards or some sort of ceremonial or elite unit.

They have comfy blue cloaks.  Definitely an elite unit.

 

Then, just to have a bit of a gloat, I put all of my Gondorian figures together for a group shot and was pleasantly surprised.  Almost fifty figures in all, and this force has never fought together on the tabletop before.  Shall have to fix that.

Gondorian archers.  My take on them would be that they are the best archers of the race of Men, second only to the elves.  Other races of Men, like the Rohirrim, use shorter bows suitable for mounted work.    So, for example, in Dragon Rampant I would give Gondor 18” missile range and allow the sharpshooter upgrade as well as an upgrade to their armour from 2 to 3 on the grounds that they walk around inside tin cans.  Of course, that would be an expensive unit to field.

“Men of Gondor …” sung to the tune of Men of Harlech.   Inspiring lot, and very shiny.

Thank you and blessings to your sharp swords of Men.

 

These figures bring my 2017 totals to:

15mm: Vehicles: 3, Foot Figures: 4, Scenic Pieces: 7

20mm: Foot figures: 18

28mm:  Foot Figures: 82;  Mounted Figures: 11; Terrain Pieces: 17


 

 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tuesday Night Boardgame: April's Harvest by the Gamers

A quiet week at the Mad Padre's wargaming chapel.   Spring is slowly coming, I've been doing some painting, including reorganizing my 15mm Red Army of the Great Patriotic War (more of that anon) and am generally being delighted that Madame Padre is doing so well.

 

While my GMT 1914 game is still raging at home, at work things are pleasantly quiet and I have found a space in the stockroom to set up a game to tinker with during my lunch hours.   Because it’s April and spring is gloriously here, II chose this 1995 title by The Gamers', April's Harvest, an ACW game on the battle of Shiloh.  It’s a design by Dean Essig, the well-known and distinguished designer behind The Gamers,  and Alan Wambold, part of the Civil War Brigade series now available from Multiman Publishing.  I blame Jon Frietag for telling me about an MMP sale a few years ago.

 

Most of the books in my ACW library are about the war in the East, and I don’t know much about Shiloh except the rollicking account in the first volume of Shelby Foote’s Civil War series, so it’s an opportunity for me to learn a little more about this battle that started the Confederacy’s long slow death spiral in the West.  

Here’s the game set up and ready to go.   The Confederate army is marching on in the top left corner, and the Union are the blue counters scattered around in the centre.  Because U.S. Grant let the Confederates assemble right next to his encampment at Pittsburg landing, without being too bothered by reports of trouble coming, most of the Union troops start immobile and off guard.  Each counter represents a brigade, a battery, a cavalry unit, a commander or a supply train.

I am still working my way through the rules, which are generally well written and moderately complex.   One of the things that appeals to me as a miniatures gamer is the command and control dimension of the game.   As I understand it, divisions and corps need orders (seize this, defend that, go here, etc) that can need to be written in broad terms by the players.   It’s not at the micro detail of hex by hex movement, but broad strokes.  For example, the three CSA divisions that start on the board all have territorial objectives that they are ordered to capture.   If new orders need to be given, there is a mechanism that marks the time necessary for the orders to travel from commander to subordinate, and then a mechanism to see if they orders are accepted and understood.  

I’ve just had time to run the first turn (6:30am).  It wasn’t clear to me which side went first, so I let the Union go first and moved the two Union brigades that had orders.   Since then I have had access to the errata, and discovered that the rebs should go first.  Ooops.  Here Moore’s troops of Prentis’ Division have been ordered to scout for rebel tools.  They run right into Hardee’s third corps and are falling back.  Both sides have fired shots and taken casualties, with a rebel brigade pushing the Yanks back but becoming Shaken after a failed morale check.  Shaken is not a terrible thing, but it does stop troops from making Close Combat (shock) attacks.

The counters on either side of Confederate units showing red arrows indicate that the brigade has adopted an extended line formation.

More to follow as the Union camp starts to wake up.

Blessings to your hardtack and coffee!  

MP+

 

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