Monday, August 22, 2011

Firestorm Gothic

While I was in Winnipeg, the last two weeks of July, I stopped by at Imagine and bought the rulebook and cards for Firestorm Armada. I found that the basic fleets (1 battleship + 3 cruisers + 3 frigates + 3 frigates) did match the two Battlefleet Gothic fleets I have. I organized a scenario to test the rules where the Terrans (represented by the Imperial Fleet), played by Curt, meet the Directorate (represented by the Eldar fleet), played by me.

The surface is a sea textured mat that Curt graciously lent to me. In the above picture, the three Directorate cruisers are forming into a line of battle in the upper left while my battleship, in the lower left, escorted by frigates, prepares to deliver deadly broadsides.

Maybe not so deadly... I soon discovered that Directorate ships are more efficient when firing in multiple arcs. So my best approach would have been to move within the enemy formation. I guess I was using outdated tactics from the age of sail.

But it was now too late as my last cruiser blew up into a miniature supernova.

Overall, it was a good introductory game. The Firestorm Armada game engine is really simple and fun. You activate your squadrons (from 1 to 3 ships) one at a time and perform all your moves and attacks for that squadron before inviting your opponent to activate a squadron. You damage ships by accumulating hits up to a certain threshold. And you get to roll LOTS of dice. There is a rule refered to as "explosive 6s". Whenever you roll a "6", you score two hits and get to re-roll. Although unlikely, it would not be impossible for a single fighter rolling 6s after 6s to blow up a battleship. Squadrons get to link fire, which adds to the number of dice. The cards add some unforeseen events, without completely shifting the battle from one side to another. It was good to have some space action.



Sunday, June 19, 2011

'Food for Powder' Scenario: 'Ney on Ice' Part I


I hosted a Napoleonics game for the guys this past weekend that was another one of my hypothetical 'what-if' scenarios - as JohnB was kind enough to bring down his beautiful Russian collection from Saskatoon, this game was set in Poland around Christmas 1806.  

First, the 'true-to-history' bit:  
October 1806 had seen the French crush the Prussian army at the twin battles of Jena-Auerstaedt and by December Napoleon his Grande Armee was encamped in Poland, preparing to bring the Russians at bay in the upcoming spring campaign.

Wanting to catch the French unprepared while they were scattered in their cantonments, the Russians decided to initiate a surprise winter offensive. Nonetheless, by pure coincidence, at that same time Marshal Ney unilaterally decided to move his corps forward into a better foraging area. So the two forces began to move very near to one another, close to the Baltic coast.

In London, with the defeat of the Prussians and the subsequent advance of the French army into the Baltic region, the British were becoming very concerned that Denmark, with its significant navy, was at risk of being annexed by France or worse, would be convinced into a French alliance. Accordingly, discussions had been going on between Britain and Denmark with the British 'offering' to quarantine the Danish navy until the end of hostilities with Napoleon. Not surprisingly the Danes were not interested. 

Now, my hypothetical premise (i.e. 'made-up tosh'):
 ...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Modern Spearhead: Yom Kippur War on the Golan Heights

Syrian T55s at the 1973 'Purple Line' along the Golan Heights.
Greg and I had a couple great games playing 'Modern Spearhead' last weekend. The scenario was set during the opening days of the 1973 Yom Kippur War on the Golan Heights, with an Iraqi T55 tank brigade attempting to force its way past an Israeli defensive line armed with modified Super Shermans. Greg took the Israelis and I commanded the Iraqis.  

Shot-up T55s on the main road to the Israeli positions.
The Israelis were set up on a ridge in hull-down positions while the Iraqis entered on the board with 3 tank battalions. The Israelis were rock-hard but heavily outnumbered while the Iraqis were relatively green but had mass in their favour. 

Iraqi tanks cresting the final hills and seeing the Israeli Shermans in the valley.
Spearhead has a great mechanic that compels players to draw their orders on a map which has to be strictly adhered to. Orders can be changed but the speed and effectiveness of any adjustments are determined by an abstraction of doctrine, morale and training. I knew the Iraqis would be fairly inflexible in their command & control so I knew my initial orders had to be fairly simple and straightforward. I decided to assault with two tank battalions, one over the central hill and the other along the highway, while shielding the third in a valley as a breakthrough unit.


As I advanced Greg pounded my formations pretty darn hard but they managed to 'hold their bottle' and ground forward. Greg decided to stay in his original positions in order to dish-out some more pain. As suspected, I took another turn of accurate tank fire but my T55s finally reached a good range-band for their main guns and so I opened fire. The limitations of the Sherman's armour began to tell as platoon after platoon was silenced from the weight of fire.  In the end the Israelis were compelled to withdraw the remnants of their force as the Iraqis drove forward with their fresh battalion. By the scenario's parameters it turned out to be a solid Iraqi victory.

Many, many tanks burning after the final exchange of fire...
Greg and I chatted about the game, coming to the conclusion that the critical decision was probably him staying in place too long instead of 'shooting and scooting'. We decided to have another go at the scenario with the Israelis using several fallback positions so they would not be so easily overrun and so they could use their superior long range armament. For simplicity sake I kept to my original plan and again attacked with two battalions while keeping one in reserve. This time it was a very close game as the Israelis made the Iraqi armour pay for each position. I managed to get away with some critical morale rolls while Greg's luck dimmed during a few crunch moments of tank-to-tank direct fire. The climax came when the Israelis fell back into the last valley with the pursuing Iraqis hot on their heels. The final exchange of fire saw the last of the Shermans destroyed while the crippled force of T55s managed to creep off the field to a marginal victory. 
 
The final (fiery) position of the Israeli command.
Spearhead is a such a great system and it was a pleasure getting to play with Greg's beautiful collection of miniatures and terrain. I'm actually tempted to paint up a small force for myself as I think the guys back home would enjoy the period and the change of pace.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Grand Port, 1810


Last Thursday, Curt and Stacy showed up at my place for a re-enactment of the action at Grand-Port, under the tropical sun of the Indian Ocean. As mentioned previously, this was the only clear French naval victory of the Napoleonic Wars. I used a modified version of the Trafalgar ruleset that I refer to as "Trafalgar Redux". Basically, I've replaced saving throws with more hits and increased the chances of strinking colours. The game runs more smoothly and ships rarely fight to the bitter end.


I wrote comments on the set-up map in French, to reflect the fact that most of the documents depicting or narrating the battle are in French. Grand Port presents unique challenges in naval warfare. The battle took place in a treacherous bay, an ideal terrain for defense. Boats also played different important roles, like towing ships or transporting personnel.

Captain Curtis Pym was in charge of Sirius and Magicienne, in the upper left, while Captain Stacy Willoughby waited in the upper right corner aboard Nereide and Iphigenia. I, as the referee, was in charge of the French forces who were to act under pre-programmed priorities. The British captains, instead of heading directly to the French line, decided to capture the shore battery first.

Requesting all the boats, Captain Curtis Pym landed troops near the fort. His ship sustained lots of damage, but the operation was a success. Not only would the British avoid the fire from the battery, but they would also use the captured guns against the French and prevent supplies from reaching the French ships in the late phase of the scenario.

To simulate rivalry and delays in communication, the British captains were required to write letters to each other.

Captain Curtis Pym to Captain Stacy Willoughby
Willoughby, I have taken the position (though no thanks to your crew, who were mostly drunk). I have commanded the shore pilot to assist your advance on the French position, knowing you need as much help as possible. As I have done my part I beseech you not to make a cocked hat of the fulfillment of your duty. God save the King.



After having captured the battery, both squadrons proceeded to the French line. Captain Stacy Willoughby (upper right) had the pilot, allowing him to reroll rolls for ending up grounded. Captain Curtis Pym (upper left) decided to move forward without the pilot, risking to become grounded on a "1" (D6) for every 4cm of movement. Having to move forward about 40cm, the odds were not good for Pym!

Captain Stacy Willoughby to Captain Curtis Pym
Most Gracious Pym, Aghast at the completenes of your victory! No doubt you have found the addition of my crew to your ranks beneficial. Please remember they are gentlemen. If you are less bull headed than usual, you will await our ships as guidance through those treacherous waters. Ah. I see as I’m sadly mistaken. We will endeavour to strike out to port and then pass the Froggies on the port side. Once done with the enemy, we will see what we can do about dislodging your ships. Britannia will rule the waves.

Against all odds, Captain Curtis Pym made it through the bay and was able to reach the French line, combining the firepower of the four British Frigates. In the above picture, the Ceylon is already grounded and has struck colours after a duel with the shore battery. The corvette Victor, at the right of the line, is drifting, after her anchor line was ruptured.

Captain Curtis Pym to Captain Stacy Willoughby
Willoughby, Can you send the pilot to the Magicienne?

Captain Stacy Willoughby to Captain Curtis Pym
My Dear Pym, Mr. Howarth is somewhat busy at the moment. But I will do against my better judgement and accomodate.


Captain Curtis Pym, trying to emulate Captain Foly at the Battle of the Nile, was going to enter the gap behind the Bellone, the flagship of capitaine Dupperé, with the intend of using raking fire.

Captain Curtis Pym to Captain Stacy Willoughby
Willoughby, I am crossing to your port with BOTH of my ships. Draw of the Sirius and replace with Iphigenia.


This is the moment when the Bellone struck colours. It was a stunning victory for the British side. All in all, it was a very pleasant scenario that could have taken a completely different paths with different decisions.

The score for the captains is as follow:
Captain Stacy Willoughby: 160 points
- 50 points for the letters
- 10 points for crippling the Victor
- 100 points for being the first to score a first hit on an enemy ship
Captain Curtis Pym: 225 points
- 50 points for the letters
- 75 points for capturing the Bellone
- 100 points for capturing the commander
- 100 points for being the first to have an enemy ship strike colours.
I did not give points for capturing the battery because it was not on my list and because, indirectly, it allowed a greater victory to the British. In fact, the captured battery was also the first one to score a hit on an enemy ship as well as the first one to have en enemy ship strike colours. But I've decided to reward the ships captains instead.

This scenario was played for the first time and the British won a stunning victory. Why?
- Instead of showing rivalry, as was the case between Pym and Willoughby, both British commanders collaborated very closely, graciously exchanging resources like boats, crew and the pilot.
- Thinking out of the box helped and capturing the shore battery deprived the French of important strategic advantages.
- Captain Curtis Pym was EXTREMELY lucky and was able to navigate through the bay without becoming grounded.
- The French ships were bounded by pre-programmed priorities. I thought the special rules I developped for the battle of the Nile would apply here as well. But it appears that the French could have had more freedom for manoeuvers, like sending crews to support the shore battery.

I think I would change a few things if we play this scenario again:
- Forget about the "British rivalry" rule that did not really work. Players "naturally" enjoy to collaborate.
- Have the French side taken by a player instead of of using programmed priorities. The boats offer lots of interesting options and it will make things a lot harder for the British.
- Drink the rhum straight instead of using mixes.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

April 28th Pregame Notice: Battle of Grand Port using 'Trafalgar'


From Sylvain:

Battle of Grand Port

The Scenario
On 22-24 August 1810, a British squadron of 4 frigates entered the bay of Grand Port to eliminate a French fleet of 2 frigates, 1 corvette and a captured East Indiaman.
For some background:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_grand_port

There is an even better document: 
http://www.amamu.org/fichiers/bataille_grand_port.pdf (but it's in French)

Historically, this is the only clear naval victory the French could claim during the Napoleonic Wars. It is the only naval victory to be engraved on the Arc the Triomphe.

The Game
Each player will be commanding a British frigate and will be competing against his fellow seamates for greatest honors. The French will act according to programmed priorities and automated rules. Let's see if the British players can change history.


SCENARIO RULES

Duration
Until all the ships on one side are destroyed or have surrendered.

Weather
In this season, the only change in weather is for the wind to change direction or to becalmed.

Terrain
Reefs are impassable to ships, but not to boats. The rest of the seaboard is considered shallow water. Only frigates or smaller ships can navigate through shallow water at the speed of 4cm (1cm for inertia + 3cm for moving).
- The French removed all the navigation buoys after entering the port. Whenever a British ship moves in shallow water, it becomes grounded on a roll of 1 (on a D6), even if the ship moved only 1cm. Frigates may go faster than 4cm per turn, but by doing so will increase the chances of being grounded by +1 per extra cm.
- Frigates can do one shallow turn each turn.

Low Ammunition
Being so far from a base, ships have a limited supply of ammo.
After firing 3 times, a ship will be low on ammunition and its firepower will be halved (round fractions up). However, French ships can be replenished by boats.

Anchor Manoeuvers
Ships at anchor can manoeuver by pivoting from either the bow or the stern and away from the wind.

Stream Anchor
“An anchor used in narrow channels to prevent the stern of the vessel moving with the tide.” This anchor can also be used to pull the ship against the wind at a rate of 2cm per turn, but with the risk of becoming grounded.

Boats
Boats move at 5cm. They can be fired at at any range with a -1 modifier. Boats played an important part in the battle and can be used for the following tasks:
- Towing ships from the bow in any direction at a speed of 2cm per turn. In this case, there is no risk for the ship to run aground.
- Kedging grounded ships on a roll of 6+. One attempt per turn. The boats counter must be located at the stern of the grounded ship.
- Supplying ships with ammunition from the shore (French only). Two boats are necessary for this operation and must be located at 1/3 and 2/3 of the distance between the ship and the shore. A supplied ship will not suffer a reduction in firepower. (This is to represent the “bridge” established between the shore and the Bellone).
- Transport special crew, like the captains and the pilot.
- Transport crew for boarding actions.

SPECIAL RULES FOR THE FRENCH

French Squadron
- Frigate Bellone, 40 guns, Capitaine Guy-Victor Duperré, flagship
- Frigate Minerve, 48 guns, Capitaine Pierre Bouvet
- Corvette Victor, 18 guns, Lieutenant Nicolas Morice
- Captured East Indiaman Ceylon, 26 guns, Lieutenant Moulac
- 6 boats counters (1 per ship, 2 on the shore)

French played by umpire
French ships have programmed priorities.
- All ships from the French squadron will fire together at the same target.
- The common target is the British frigate closest to the flagship Bellone.
- Ships of the French squadron can turn on their anchor to present their broadside to the closest British frigate.
- If the closest British frigate is moving, shots will be aimed at the rigging until completely dismasted.
- If the closest British frigate is grounded, anchored or dismasted, shots will be aimed at the hull until crippled.

French Shore Battery
The shore battery set up by the French will follow the programmed priorities except if there is a target that is closer to the battery than it is to the French squadron. The shore battery is allowed to move 1cm per turn, but in doing so forfeits its opportunity to fire.

Critical Hits Against French Ships
The very first critical hit against each French ships will be as follow:
- 2 hits + anchor cables ruptured
The affected ship will then start drifting windward 3cm per turn until grounded.



SPECIAL RULES FOR THE BRITISH

British Squadron
- Frigate HMS Sirius, 36 guns, Captain Samuel Pym
- Frigate HMS Iphigenia, 36 guns, Captain Henry Lambert
- Frigate HMS Nereide, 32 guns, Captain Nesbit Willoughby
- Frigate HMS Magicienne, 32 guns, Captain Lucius Curtis
- 4 boats counters (1 per ship)

British Rivalry
The commanding officers (especially Pym and Willoughby) were definitely not best friends and this rivalry played a part in the British defeat. However, in the ensuing martial inquiry, all captains had their name cleared for having done their best. To simulate this, British players are allowed a pre-game discussion about a common strategy, but after the game has started, the captains will be allowed to communicate about strategy only by “letters”. Letters (short ones) can only be from one captain to another and are written during a given “weather phase” and delivered during the next “weather phase”. Letters can include sound strategic advices as well as witty insults. After the scenario is over, the referee will compile the letters and reward the best author on a given turn with an extra 25 points. Letters may be posted in the after battle report.

British Stubbornness
British frigates will start testing to strike colours when there is 25% of the hull left, instead of 50%. With a second successful command check, the crew may decide to set fire to their their ship instead of surrendering.

British Pilot
The British had only one pilot who could navigate the shallow waters. The Frigate captains with the highest roll on a D6 will get the pilot. (Historically, he was posted on the Nereide). The pilot allows the die to be rerolled when grounded. Frigates that follow the path of the ship with the pilot don’t need to make “grounded” check rolls.

British Victory Points
Each frigate captain compile his own points using the following Victory Points Chart when the game is over:

                   Crippled        Destroyed     Captured
Frigate             25               50                   75
Commander      ---            +50                 +100

Bonus points:
Every turn, to the best letter                                                         +25
To be the first to score a hit on an enemy ship                             +100
To be the first to have an enemy ship strike her colour                  +100

The frigate captain with the highest score gets the greatest honours!


AND More Importantly: The Rhum
I've decided that naval games from now on should have a specific taste, so I bought a bottle of Rhum. I will have some Orangina, fruit juice and pop to drink with, but if you have a favorite ingredient to mix with the rhum, please feel free to bring it.

Sylvain

Thursday, April 14, 2011

April 14th Postgame: 'Conflict of Heroes' or 'Chomping of Gyros'


I dragged out a boardgame for tonight's session to give the toy soldiers a bit of R n' R. We played two games of Academy Games' 'Conflict of Heroes' (COH) which is basically an very inspired re-imagining of Avalon Hill's classic 'Squad Leader'. All four of us are Old Salts of boardgaming from the early 80s and we clearly remember the heady days of 'Advanced Squad Leader' (ASL) with its binders of rules and wavering towers of chits. COH distills much of what is great about ASL to provide a nice, espresso shot of WWII ultra-violence without the required lifestyle commitment.


Dan and Sylvain cut their teeth with a small scenario before the Main Event.
The first game was just a small infantry-only primer to get Sylvain up to speed and to reaquaint the rest of us to the rules' mechanisms (though a big thanks to Stacy for shouldering the burden of the rules lawyering). The games typically last only around 45-90 minutes so its quite feasible to get in two or three games in a night. 

Dan nervously nibbling his fingers to the quick contemplating the onslaught of Soviet zombies...
The second game was a 4-player scenario with a silly twist. It had the Germans set up in a village in what was thought to be a quiet sector of the eastern front. Nonetheless, out of the mists emerge hordes of Soviet Zombies wanting to feast on the flesh of the Hitlerites. Really, who can not have fun playing a scenario with zombies? The Germans had to exit 7 squads off the map using the halftracks whereas the zombies had to devour at least 7 German squads. It was great fun with the Germans managing to evacuate 4 squads out of the village before being overrun by the undead. Lots of laughs and a great scenario!

The mapboard very near the end. The brown chits are the zombies. Not much German gray out there as they had become lunch.
Next week we're back to our 'Wings of War' WWI campaign with the Germans choosing the flight mission...

Friday, April 8, 2011

April 7th Postgame: Warhammer Fantasy Orcs vs Wood Elves

'Waddya mean the 'Winds of Magic' were too strong? I thought that was just the composting toilet backing up.'
 Here is a post-game rundown and some pictures of the game Sylvain had with Dana last night.


"Dana's Orcs and Goblins met my Wood Elves in a 3000pts encounter. The pictures shows both armies advancing resolutely to settle an old score about logging rights in the forest of Athel Loren. It should be noted that even with over 100 archers, there were not enough arrows in all the Wood Elves' quivers to kill all the greenskins."

Sylvain's Wood Elf Spellweaver about to go 'Fukushima' next to her Eagles. Let's just say Greenpeace would not be impressed.
"On Turn 1, eager to show some real power after the annoying Goblin shamans dispelled her first attempt at magic, the Spellweaver decided to push herself and used more "magic wind" then needed. Indeed, all the Wood Elves and Greenskins were deeply impressed by her unprecedented display of raw power, complete with flash and thunder, even wounding two Great Eagles in the process. After the last sparkle of magic faded away, the Spellweaver was nowhere to be found."


"By Turn 4 the Orcs managed to reach the archers and started to play Whack-A-Mole. The little crosses help to figure out how many models were put back in the glass cabinet. In must also be mentioned that on turn 3 a unit of only seven Goblins got a special praise from the Big Boss for contributing, just by being there, to the destruction of six sturdy Treekins. With a total of seven Wood Elves' models left on the battlefield, it was agreed to end the battle."

Take heart Sylvain at least you retain the moral highground of having all your models painted. That's gotta count for something!