Friday, December 26, 2014

Sharp Practice - Blow up the Bridge

I found this scenario on the TooFatLardies Forum page:  The bridge crossing Tormes river

It references a web page by Maerk that can be seen here:  Maerk's Web Page

I liked this scenario so decided to try it myself changing it slightly to match the figures I had available. Instead of French, I used my 4th regiment of Polish in French Service which served in the Penninsula. I added another Group to each side and also allowed the French side to find a ford across the river by moving up to it and rolling a 6 on a D6. Here is my version of the scenario and composition of Forces.

The bridge crossing the Tormes river
t is the year 1812 when the whole of Europe is ravaged by the Napoleonic wars. In Spain the British-Spanish coalition under the command of Lord Wellington is advancing towards Madrid and the French armies are on the retreat.

Captain Sharpe and a group of British riflemen have been ordered to secure a bridge crossing the Tormes river. Within a few days part of Wellington's army shall advance and cross Tormes river using this bridge. Sharpe's group will be supported by a band of Spanish guerilleros under the lead of "El Capitán". Word of this plan has reached Major Ducos, a French intelligence officer. He orders a small group of sappers to destroy this bridge and thus block the British advance. The sappers will be protected by two groups of the Polish 4th line infantry lead by Lejtnant Borodenko and a Group of Dismounted Vitula Legion Lancers under Lejtnant Kaminski. As fate would have it, both parties arrive at the Tormes bridge almost at the same time...

Order of Battle

Big Man I        Lejtnant Borodenko                Status 3
Big Man II      Lejtnant Kaminski                  Status 2
Big Man III     Sierzant Fiutek (Sappeur)       Status 1
1. 10 Man Group    4th Polish  Inf       Line infantry   good
2. 10 Man Group    4th Polish  Inf       Line infantry   good
3. 10 Man Group    Vistula Leg.         Skirmishers      good

Grasp the Nettle 1
Grasp the Nettle 2

Brits and the Spaniards
Big Man I        Capt. Sharpe   Status 3
Big Man II      Sgt Harper       Status 2
Big Man III    El Capitán       Status 1

1. 10 Man Group         95th Rifle         light infantry     elite
2. 10 Man Group         89th Foot          Line infantry    regular
3. 9  Man Group         Guerilla           light infantry    poor

Grasp the Nettle 1
Grasp the Netlle 2

So on Sunday, December 21st, Kevin Walker and I met at BlueSky Hobbies in Bremerton and played out the Scenario, myself playing the Brits and Kevin the Franco/Polish. We used a mod to the rules proposed by Simon Walker here: Grasp the Nettle(GTN) Mods
I'll repost them here as they were crucial to the play of the game. 

Re: Grasp the nettle
Postby sjwalker51 » Sat Nov 22, 2014 5:46 pm

....... the house rule says that, as well as allowing a BM an extra Initiative when their personal card is drawn, a GTN card may now also be used to activate any BM of the same or higher Status who has not yet been activated by their personal card during the turn. However, the BM's Initiative is then limited to that of the GTN card regardless of his actual Status.

So a player might desperately want to activate his Status IV BM before the end of the turn and rather than risk Tiffin being drawn before his personal card, chooses to use a GTN2 card in his hand to 'seize the moment' at a time of his choosing, but is then limited to the 2 Initiatives allowed by the use of the card.

If his personal card is drawn later in the same turn it is ignored. We use markers to keep track of which BM and Groups have already been activated in the course of a turn. This rule keeps a level of friction in the command and control rules, makes it more likely that high Status BM can be activated than low Status ones but balances that by potentially limiting the number of Initiatives they can use.

As well as this, we also allow a player to discard any one GTN card in his hand in order to give any one Group or Formation activated by a BM an extra (third) action that turn, which can be used in any way they choose within the normal rules - so it could give the Group an extra 1D6 of movement if you need them to 'leg it', an extra fire action at a crucial moment etc. a Group may never use more than 1 GTN card in this way (may never make more than three actions in any one turn)

We also use 2 Tiffin cards, which has a very positive effect on the way the above rules work - it adds much more friction than you might expect. The first has no effect whatsoever except to warn that the turn could end at any moment thereafter. Players are forced to decide when and how to best use their GTN cards - do they hoard them to make the most of a single key BM's turn or do they use them to activate lesser BM before the turn ends? The dynamic and decision making really changes once the first Tiffin is drawn.

Unused GTN cards ARE returned to the deck when the 2nd Tiffin card is drawn and cannot be used to give a third action to Groups taking their turn during Tiffin.

 The game moved along quickly and I unfortunately forgot to take some pictures at some of the critical times. Anyway, here is how the game played.

 First turn, the Guerrillas come on at the left Flank through the rough terrain. I wanted to keep them in cover. The rifles with Sharpe head straight for the hill. Harper with the Light Infantry follows the road.

Kevin moves the Vistula Legion on his right flank to look for a ford. The other Poles guard the wagon  and protect the Sappeur, ( represented in our game by a Polish Artilleryman figure).
 The Brits continue their advance, the Guerrillas having been slowed down by the rough terrain.

 At about Turn 4, the dismounted Lancers have found a ford and crossed over to engage the Guerrillas in the woods after having received a volley from the rifles. One Group of Poles is trading shots with the Rifles while the other is deployed to protect the Bridge. The Sappeur has reached the Bridge and unloaded the gunpowder charges from the Wagon.

 Here we see Harpers Group continuing their advance, hoping to reach the Bridge before the Sappeur can light the fuse. The Vistula Legion Group has taken quite a bit of shock and are almost all across the river.

 The Vistula Legion are about to charge the Guerrillas while the Poles and rifles continue to trade volleys. The Sappeur continues to lay the charges on the bridge. With each action he can roll one D6, needing to reach a total of 12 points to complete the task. The Blue dice mark how many points he has achieved. We found 12 points to be too low and recommend maybe 20 points or higher is you are going to try this scenario

 Harper's men are almost to the Bridge, but have taken some casualties

 A view from the other side of the table. So far the Guerrillas have been holding their own against the dismounted Lancers, but in the subsequent melee, the Spanish are defeated by 3 and must retire 12 inches and have more shock than men, a bad situation.

 Having defeated the Spanish, the Vistula Legion now move left to engage the Rifles. The Sappeur has set the charges and moved off  the Bridge to light the fuse. The Fuse burns 2 inches a turn and the Sappeur used a 3 inch long fuse. Harper and three light infantry have reached the Bridge, but don't have any Actions left to remove the fuse from the charges. Whether they can do it or not, depends on who gets the initiative first.

Same turn as above, but showing the Spanish still retreating. With only one Initiative, El Capitán was never able to remove enough shock from the Guerrillas and they eventually retired off the table.

 The next turn, the Poles got the first Initiative and they fired at Harper's Group, wounding Harper and killing all but one Infantryman. Having more shock than men, the lone survivor of Harper's Group drags the wounded Harper off the Bridge. Sharpe, seeing Harper's repulse, decides to see if the Rifles can save the day and leads them in a rush to the Bridge. This is where I wish I took more pictures to show the intermediate stages of the end of the Game. As it played out, Sharpe reached the Bridge with a good movement roll, but the fuse had already burned its 3 inches and on the next Tiffin card it would blow. Sharpe needed a GTN card to come up, so his Group could get one extra action. Will he make it?

No! BOOM! Sharpe and his Riflemen are blown up. Wellington can use the Ford, but he needed the Bridge for his artillery. He'll just be a little late in catching up to the French.

Kevin and I had a great time playing this Scenario and it's simple enough that it is a good scenario for beginners. The GTN mods described above were essential to the game I highly recommend them. Much Thanks to  Maerk for proposing this scenario and Simon Walker for the Grasp the Nettle (GTN) mod.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Counting the Dead

Keeping track of casualties in some games can be difficult when you don't remove figures from the unit. This is especially true in Tactica Ancients rules where the whole unit stays on the table until it Breaks, usually at about 67% casualties. I have used Dice but since you roll a lot of Dice in Tactica, it is easy for the casualty dice to get mixed up with the marker Dice. Even when you use different colors, some player invariably picks up one of the marker dice to roll. Also it takes a lot a dice since some units in Tactica can have upwards of 32 casualties before breaking.

So I took to using some counters from a game called "Rummikub" which helps but they only go up to "13" and are still somewhat fiddly. Below is  a picture from one of our games. You can see the Phalanx Unit has 28 Casualties.

 What was needed was a casualty counter that went up to at least thirty two. Looking around on the internet, I found a couple of companies make counters, Litko and The Dial Dude. Unfortunately, their counters only went up to ten or twelve. So I had this idea shown below where I could make my own. At first I was stuck at sixteen , that being the most I could manage to divide a circle up into. Then it occurred to me that I could use both sides of the washer and the final design is shown below except I used laying down commercially available casualty figures instead of upright ones. These I recently got from Donnington Miniatures.

 The hardest part was rotating the numbers so they could be read as you rotate the dial. Not having any expensive graphics programs on my computer, I was able to accomplish this using MSPaint and Long story, short, here are the two images you need and a sheet of twelve pairs. All the hard work is done. You just need to print them out.


I used two sizes, 1-1/2 and 1-1/4 inch O.D. The circles above should be pretty close to 2inch O.D. and you just have to scale them down to whatever size you want when you print them. I'm assuming you are computer savvy enough to do that, but if not and you need help, send me a comment with your email address and I'll try to help you.

So I cut out the circles and glue them to some Fender washers which you can get at your local hardware store. I get my magnet from McMaster-Carr which comes in a three inch wide roll . Here is the link: McMaster-Carr  I use the part number 5769K52 which is magnetic on both sides and has a good "pull".

 I take a section of magnet, put the fender washer on it and cut out the magnet. Hopefully it comes out symmetrically round.

 Once the magnet is cut out, you can make a notch in it using one of the numbered circles as a guide so that only one number shows at a time. I cut it out using an Xacto knife.

 The numbered circles, I just glue onto the fender washers using a Glue Stick. If you print them out on some sort of label paper, you could just peel them off and stick onto the washer.

So here is the finished product, three dead Romans and a Pontic pikeman. I use the larger counters for the big pike phalanxes and the smaller ones for Roman Cohorts.

Here are some staged to see how they look. Not too bad and certainly better than dice or Rummikub markers.  With Tactica usually running about twelve units a side, with the four above I've only got about twenty more to do.
 If this was helpful to you, please leave a comment.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Historicon 2014 Report

Well I'm somewhat recovered from my two week trip back East which included going to Historicon 2014. The time change coming back really affected me, but with a couple nights good sleep, I think I have recovered. Last time at Historicon was two years ago. I think the quantity of good games and number of dealers was better then than this year but I still had fun. They have added curtain partitions in the game area which cut down the noise level and by re-designating some women's bathrooms as Men's  fixed the backup at the bathrooms they had two years ago. I managed to get in two games a day which made me feel I got my money's worth.

First game was a pick-up game of Tactica in which I played Huns vs Late Romans. I got my butt kicked big time. Wasn't even close. As at home we only play T2, I have a problem going back to the original Tactica rules. Also, I'm not good with cavalry armies. To win with the Huns you need to wear the Romans down with a lot of missile fire and not get into melee. You only have three melee units, the rest are all horse archers. That's not my style of play and to do it would have made for a very long game. I still had fun and learned I don't like playing Huns. Thanks to James Baker who put on the game.

Next was a civil war Skirmish Game where the Union was making a raid to blow up the Confederate ironclad Tennessee. I had command on the ironclad but it starts with all the gunners and crew on shore in the town. Confederates can't move until Union gets within twelve inches or starts shooting.

Above is  a view  of Militia unit in town supposedly sleeping until the alarm is raised. Ironclad gunners can be seen in middle left of picture. Union patrol starts from group of trees seen to left of ironclad.

 Another view of town and Ironclad Tennessee

 A view inside the Ironclad model all beautifully hand built by Game master Miles Reidy.

 I never got the gunners onto the boat as the Union boarding party moved too quick and overpowered the Confederate Militia Unit defending the town.

I was able to get the Ironclad Commander and the Marines inside the boat to keep the Union boarding party from getting inside to set their charges. Gamemaster decided to let the kid win so he changed the rules to finish the game and give the victory to the Union side.

Below is a couple of pic's of an 1812 6mm game of the attack on Fort McHenry . You can easily recognize Baltimore Harbor. Very nicely done.

 Following are some pictures of a Tactica game I played on Friday. Don Manser hosted four Tactica games at once. I was playing Republican Romans vs Later Macedonians. Figures are 25mm, very nicely painted by Don.
 This is just after Deployment, about end of Turn 2, I think. I tried to use the old "march to one flank" gambit to prevent the Macedonian cavalry from getting around my flank. Didn't work too well. Needed another turn before Deployment. I was more used to Ponts and Armenians Supplement armies which don't have to deploy until turn three.

 Macedonian Light Cavalry seen above was able to catch one of my cohorts with a Flank attack until I could rescue the unit with one of my Triari.

 On my left flank I was able to keep the Macedonian Cavalry engaged so they couldn't attack me infantry although I eventually lost all my cavalry units.

 Near end of the game, I was loosing cohorts left and right. I had made a bad Deployment of the Principes 2nd line and my opponent Richard was kicking my butt. I really thought that this gave was lost.

Final turn. I have to destroy 2 phalanxes to win. Macedonians have to rout eight cohorts.  Melee direction is right to left. I've finally managed to route one phalanx, but loose another cohort soon thereafter. Score was 7 to 1. In the center, Richard needs just three kills to make me check morale. He'd been hot dicing me the whole game while I was barely able to get one or two kills. He throws bad and gets no hits, but I score enough to make him check. He fails the morale roll. Romans win by a hair. A very close game indeed

Below a very cool looking All Quiet on the Martian Front by Alien Dungeons that was very well attended. They put this scenario on several times. You can check out their products here:

 They had a really massive layout. I don't normally like Fantasy type games, but I could go for this.

Couldn't resist taking this picture of some guy zonked out in one of the Ballroom game areas.

 Battle of Talavera, 1809 a Shako II game. I had the French Left Flank shown above.

 Game host Robert Lockley. He had his hands full with about 10 players in the game.

 At lower right side, the Brigade of two battalions from Polish 4th Regiment adavance toward Talavera and Spanish right Flank. They eventually took the town. It was a Glorious French Victory.

 My last game on Saturday was a typical TheSwordandtheFlame(TSATF) scenario set in the Northwest Frontier(2nd Afghan War). We had to march a British caravan through a Pass.

 A view from the Afghan side. They start out hidden.

My unit fighting off a charge by the Pathans. We didn't get through the pass, but by end of game, the Pathans didn't have much left to stop us. It was a very long and bloody game. Gamemaster didn't turn the cards fast enough to keep the game moving. We were exhausted after playing for some five hours.

Hope you enjoyed this brief look at Historicon 2014. Thanks to all the Gamemasters for putting on the games. Not sure I will make the next Historicon, but one never knows.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

ENFILADE 2014 Report

Enfilade is the annual convention of the Northwest Historical Miniatures gaming Society(NHMGS). It is held on Memorial Day weekend at the Red Lion Inn in Olympia Washington. Although not as big as East coast conventions its still a great convention with lots of good games.

This year I put on two Tactica II games on Friday and helped my friend Gary put on Two Napoleonic Courier games 2nd and 3rd Period Saturday. The players seemed to enjoy all the games and Gary and I won "Best of Show" for the 2nd period Courier game on Saturday. I only managed to take some pictures of the 1st game we did on each day. Was just too much to do putting on back to back games and by the 2nd one each day, I was to whipped to remember to take photos.

The 2nd Tactica game was a lot closer than the first. The Romans were just 1 figure away from one of their Legions breaking which might have given the Ponts a victory. At any rate, the following is a write up of the first game. Below is the initial disposition of the Forces, pretty standard with HI in the middle and Cavalry and LI on the flanks.

Roman Army (Number, Type, Descr, FV, Morale, Weapon)

12    HC    Roman     5-6    V Javelins
12    HC    Roman      5-6    V Javelins
8    LC    Gaullic LC  3-6    V Javelins
8    LC    Allied LC     3-6    V Javelins
8x9    FT    Legion I Cohort 5-6    V Pila/Swords
16x1   FT    Legion I Cohort 5-6    EL Pila/Swords
8x9    FT    Legion II Cohort 5-6    V Pila/Swords
16x1   FT    Legion II Cohort 5-6    EL Pila/Swords
12    LI    Tribal    3-6    V Javelins
16    LI    Auxilia    3-6    V Javelins
12    LI    Auxilia    4-6    V Javelins
12    LI    Auxilia    4-6    V Javelins
12    SI    Auxilia Archers    4-6 V Bows
12    SI    Auxilia Slingers    4-6 V Slings
12    SI    Auxilia Javelins    5-6 V Javelins

Pontic Army (Number, Type, Descr, FV, Morale, Weapon)
2    HC    Pontic     5-6    V    Spears
18    CAT ( I )    Armenian     5-6    V    Lance
12    CAT ( I )    Rhoxalani     5-6    V    Lance
12    LC    Skythian     3-6    V    Bows
8    LC    Thracian Light Cav    4-6 V Javelins
3    Scyth ( I )    Chariot    5-6    MG    Itself
48    PH    Brazen Shields    5-6 V    Pikes
32    PH    Phalangites    5-6 V    Pikes
48    PH    Ex-Slave Phalangites 4-6 V    Pikes
24    COH     Immitation Legion    4-6 V    Pila/Swords
36    FT ( I )     Bastarnae    4-6 V    Various   
27    LI( I )    Thracians w/Romphia 3-6 V Various
12    LI    Thorakatoi    4-6 V Javelins
12    LI    Thurephoroi    4-6 V Javelins
12    SI    Armenian Archers    4-6 V Bows
12    SI    Slings        4-6 V Slings
12    SI    Javelinmen    5-6 V Javelins

 Above is a view of the Pontic Set Up.

 A look at the Roman side Set up.

Here is a good view of the whole table and the opening moves. For convention games I roll for the terrain as per the rules ahead of time and then let the Players set the individual pieces up where they want them.

The Pontic Cataphracts failed to get Impetus against the Roman Cohorts and ended up eventually getting destroyed. Such is the roll of the Dice. Roman Pilum were unusually deadly though and reduced many of the Pontic 1st melee round die rolls. The Pontic Scythed Chariot however did get Impetus and did some decent damage, taking out a couple of Cohorts before disapearing.

Here is the crux of the Battle. In the middle you can see the Pontic Player has placed his Army General in contact with one of his Phalanxes. A very Bad Move and I even gave them a hint telling them so, but Hey! It's just a game. Phalanx wasn't outscored in Melee, but rolled an eleven for the General casualty killing him. Unit them had to roll for "Loss of General" which they failed making them disordered. Next turn they fight disordered with half melee dice and no rank Bonus. Disordered units who are outscored in melee must roll a Control Test which of course they were and they fail again. Good Bye Phalanx!

I count up the Pontic Broken units and come up with 138. Loss of General counts as 10% which in this case is 21 for a grand total of 159. Pontic Break Point is 151, so Game Over. It wasn't as bad as it looks. Roman Legion on Pontic Right had lost 52 figures, 7 away from Legion Break Point of 59. Other Roman losses at this point were 56 so if a Legion had gone with its 88 figures, the Romans would have been over their Army Break Point of 138.

View of the last Phalanx. You can see some of  the Cohorts are very close to being eliminated. Great game, the guys had fun playing. Lesson learned, do not risk your General by adding him to a melee with one of your units that counts for almost a third of your Army Break Point.

Second game used same forces but with slightly different terrain. Romans won, but just barely in that one.

Saturday's Courier Game (Get the Message Through).

On Saturday we did a Napoleonic Courier game in which players take the roll of Hussars or ADC's trying to get a message through from Napoleon to Ney. The game has an interesting history. I moderate a Yahoo Group for Napoleonic Skirmish games   A guy named Malcolm posted on there looking for some ideas for a game he was planning. Below is his original post"

"I'm designing a one-off game using 28mm which is for 4-5 French
couriers in the peninsula racing to get a message through enemy lines.
If at least one message gets through then the player with the most
boasts wins the game. If all messages are lost then the player with the
most shame loses. Boasts and shames are gained by having little
encounters along the way with British patrols, guerrillas, civilians,
and even priests.

The step I'm on now that is giving me some trouble is nailing down the
little narrative mini-events that can occur to our heroes. Most of
these might just be resolved with a die roll or delay him for a turn
and give either shame or boast.

In particular, what might happen when a courier pauses in his course to
explore a farmhouse. Surely one result will be finding some food and
another will be finding a maiden, but what else could befall him?

The tables that need filling out are Adventure at a farmhouse,
adventure at a bridge, adventure in the woods. Then I need to figure
out the interesting results that could come with parlying with
civilians and parlaying with priests.

If any ideas come to mind, send them along. My imagination is near

I gave him some ideas and he turned it into a game which was described here: 
At the Historicon Convention about two years ago, Gary and I met a guy, Chuck from Michigan who had taken Malcolm's idea and revised it quite a bit. He did a pick up game at that Convention which Gary and I played in and had a lot of fun. We enjoyed it so much thatI had Chuck send me his Rules. Its taken awhile but Gary and I finally got around to doing our own version at ENFILADE.

 We needed a long table to do this, but arrangement in the convention site prevented us from moving the table around as they would interfere with other games. So we did what Malcolm did and used a "U" shaped table where the Couriers go up one side and down the other. Above you can see the last of the Couriers fighting a British Patrol just past the Bridge. Others have entered the town for an "Adventure at the Tavern". There are 4 enemy patrols players must dodge and 4 "Adventures" they must participate in, the Bridge, the Tavern, the Farmhouse and the Woods.

Here is a view of thew other side of the Table showing the Farm House and the Woods. If you look closely, you can find Richard Sharpe, 95th Rifles Officer lurking in the woods. On one of the Wood's Adventures you may find yourself having to fight the renowned Richard Sharpe.

 In addition to the Patrols and Adventures, players must negotiate with a bunch of  irksome Monks before they can move on. In front of the Monastery is a patrol of Spanish Guerrillas. Heaven forbid if you get captured by them and have to roll of the Guerrilla Torture Table.
 Ok we're near the end now and one player has drawn an Adventure that gives him a friendly patrol of French Dragoons to accompany him for a couple of turns. They came in handy in fighting off a patrol of British Riflemen.
There is Ney at the end of the road awaiting his message from Napoleon. You can see it was really close with four Couriers contending to get there first. One of the players is a Spy who can win by riding past Ney. In the first game it was a kid who played but was revealed by the Farmer's daughter at the Farm House. He was soon thereafter killed by one of the other Courier's. In the second game, the Spy wasn't revealed but he was not close to the finish line at games end.
The guys had a lot of fun playing this one and Gary and I will probably do it again at next years Enfilade convention.