Friday, March 4, 2022
Thursday, October 28, 2021
Recently, I have been thinking about wargame scenarios. There are a lot of excellent sources for scenarios out there. Many are collected either as an addendum to a rule book, or gathered into a separate publication supporting a rule set. Some excellent examples are the scenario books published for rule sets such as Fire and Fury, Napoleon’s Battles, British Grenadier and General de Brigade… and many others.
There are some excellent sets of generic scenarios for different periods such as the English Civil War books from Caliver Books and the series of ancient and medieval battle books by Peter Sides. Many rule sets put out volumes of special rules and army lists for particular periods and theaters. Warhammer Ancient Battles, Flames of War and Bolt Action have some of the best of these.
All of this got me thinking. I have written professionally about what it is that constitutes a centric for professional simulation and wargaming (such as what the Department of Defense does), and my own taxonomy of what a scenario includes is based on this breakdown of four parts:
- Context (background for the battle, I.e. why are they fighting?)
- Environment (map, setting, lighting, weather, etc.)
- Participants (combatants, unit details, non-combatants, allies, etc.)
- Timing (start of the battle, timing for events like reinforcements or weather change, etc.)
That list is intended as a recipe for many different types of scenarios, including regular warfare, as well as political or economic games.
The US Army uses a structure called METT-T to describe a scenario description. It breaks down some of my elements into more detail, and does not include some of the wider picture things (like timing of some events that might occur during the fight, or the ‘road to war’ description of why the fight is taking place). METT-T stands for:
- Time Available
In both cases, my own list, and the US Army list, I could not help but be aware of how good the various Charles Grant books on scenario cover that material. Another great example are the wonderful scenarios that Gene McCoy put into his old magazine, Wargamer’s Digest.
Monday, September 27, 2021
WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
One of the things that is rare in the spread of popular current WW2 skirmish games, is the type of game where each maneuver element (i.e. game piece - whether that is a vehicle model, or a stand of infantry models) represents a squad, section, or platoon. In games such as Chain of Command, Bolt Action, I Ain't Been Shot Mum, or What-a-Tanker each piece represents one entity (a tank represents 1 tank, and a soldier model represents one soldier). Flames of War was a stranger mix - each vehicle represented one tank (or gun, halftrack, etc) but infantry was mounted on stands, representing (roughly) sections or squads. Those types of games are fine, but they limit the ability to represent larger battles.
Other games, such as Blitzkrieg Commander (2006) have each piece represent a platoon (this is true, even of the new Pendraken released Version IV). The newest version of Rapid Fire (1994), Rapid Fire Reloaded, uses a scale where each vehicle (or gun) model represents 5 real life vehicles (roughly a platoon), and an infantry figure represents 15 men, so a stand of two figures represents (roughly) a 30 man platoon.
When a stand represents a platoon, or part of a platoon, you don't have as much problem moving your infantry units. They tend to act as a fighting unit (sometimes with support weapons included, sometimes they are separate stands of models). When you have rules representing a platoon of tanks as a single model, you don't need as much detail (i.e. "rivet counting") in the tank rules, as you do when you are playing a single tank to tank engagement. That sort of combat is well represented in many, many rulesets aimed at playing micro armor, and skirmish sets like What a Tanker.
HOW IS ODMS PLAYING THIS SCALE?
Recently I hosted, for ODMS, a Thursday night game using a set of rules that were cobbled together, but that represented this scale fairly well.
They were based on the Neil Thomas World War 2 rules, from his book, "Wargaming an Introduction". In the book, an infantry section (representing 9 men) is represented on the table top as 9 model soldiers, split up to three stands of three. Shooting and Casualties, in the rules as written, are per man. However, I borrowed some very good looking house rules from a blog called Sound Officers Call.
With the house rules, we were able to represent infantry as a stand per section, or three sections per platoon. The sections could act independently from each other, and if the section had an attached heavy weapon team (mortar, HMG, anti-tank weapon, etc), you would signify that with an attached stand with the weapon.
This system worked pretty well, and overall the rules were OKAY, although extremely light weight. I think the desire would be to dress them up and add a little more detail, without going overboard. Looking around and discussing online, I got a recommendation to take a look at a ruleset called Ostfront. These are very roughly similar to the modified Neil Thomas rules, but a stand of infantry is either an Assault Infantry section (such as you would find in an armored car, or half track - Panzer grenadiers, or US Armored Infantry), or a half platoon (with two stands needed to make a platoon). One of the benefits of the Ostfront rules over the Neil Thomas is that there is just a little more detail to the vehicles and weapons. The mechanisms for shooting and killing are the same (tank and antitank - roll 1d6 to hit, and 1d6 for effect; infantry similar). It has much better rules to integrate artillery, field guns, and soft transport vehicles, all without adding to the complexity of the rules. Because vehicles have more detail to them, there are national OB books, such as this one on the Soviet Forces. However, there is also a quick-fire (quick start) version of the rules, that also contains basic vehicle information for US, German, British and Russian nationalities.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
Other similar scale games include Crossfire (1996) - which focuses primarily on Infantry. Here the stands represent sections, but are kept together in platoons (three sections, and a commander, make up a platoon), and groups of platoons make companies and eventually battalions. Crossfire has a lot going for it as an innovative rule set, but the representation scale allows the player to make battalion command level decisions. Poor Bloody Infantry, from Peter Pig, is similar to this. A unit is a platoon, but it might include a stand for the platoon command, and two stands for LMGs, and then 4 or 5 stands for infantry rifle groups. Altogether, a platoon. Rommel, a great system from Sam Mustafa, is larger level of abstraction, where an element (vehicle or stand of infantry) is representing a whole company.
Older rule sets at this scale would have to include Command Decision (1986), originally from GDW. The Angriffe (1968) rules had infantry stands, representing a group, although like the unmodified Neil Thomas rules, group of 10 infantry was recommended to be represented on the tabletop by a stand with 10 model soldiers (so command by group, but represented 1 to 1). One area where the 1 model representing a platoon vibe really took hold - and where a player (or side of players) would be commanding a battlefield force representing (more or less) a battalion or two, was the Series 76 scenarios that Gene McCoy published in his Wargamer's Digest magazine. Those were quite excellent, and over the years pieces and parts of a ruleset were hinted at by Gene, or you could play it using either Angriffe or Tractics, but each model represented a platoon of vehicles, or a stand of infantry represented a platoon of infantry.
BENEFITS OF THIS SCALE
The benefit of games at this scale (rather than at the 1 miniature = 1 soldier scale) is that you can act as if you are a Battalion Commander. Making the sorts of rules, and commanding the support equipment that a Battalion Commander would have. In command, a player would normally be concerned with the actions of two units below his/her level (as described by some, for real life command situations). So, a Battalion commander would be concerned with the actions of Companies and Platoons. The commander would have access to support elements such as artillery and maybe could tap into elements from up to 2 levels above him, with permission, but is concerned with the scenario and battlefield objectives that a battalion commander would focus on. This opens up a very wide variety of wargaming scenarios - much more so than the player who is running individual soldiers (such as in Bolt Action or Chain of Command).
Ever since the sharp decline of interest in Flames of War a few years ago, ODMS has not had a lot of 15mm WW2 action. We had a lot of micro-armor being played in 2019 before the pandemic, and likewise a lot of 28mm skirmish (with Bolt Action and What-A-Tanker!). Hopefully we will be playing some more 15mm WW2 very soon.
Saturday, November 17, 2018
The referee of the campaign is Stephen, and with all the players involved, he has done a great job of keeping it going. We (November 2018) are about to start season two. He adapted the rules from the first edition Saga campaign ideas.
Wednesday, August 8, 2018
The first is Cold War Commander - which we have been using in the club recently to play some Modern Micro Armor games, mostly in the 1973 Egyptian/Israeli conflict (Sinai).
Jagdpanzer - which will be used for some upcoming WW2 microarmor games. These rules used to be played a long time ago at Campaign Headquarters by some of the earliest members of ODMS, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The rules date to 1985, but are still an excellent choice for fast play WW2 combined arms land combat.
Sean has posted an excellent "player's guide" on the basics of David Brown's rule set General d'Armee. These are great rules, and are designed to handle battles of a larger type than his earlier rules, General de Brigade. Sean's article is located here, at his blog.
As an aside, there are a number of great articles and downloads available for both General d'Armee and General de Brigade, at David Brown's blog. For instance - the FAQ and Index for General d'Armee.
Sunday, April 29, 2018
There was a room full of gamers there for the ODMS meeting in the morning (10:00am), but by Noon, the number had grown, as we added a few more gamers for a game day.
The games played were two, primarily - Heroes of Normandie, and Hail Caesar. I was the referee for the Hail Caesar game, so here is the description. There were six players, three on each side. The Carthaginian side featured Rich (of CMS), a friend of his (Brian I think), and Justin as overall commander. The Iberian side featured Richard, Stephen as overall commander, and David as the commander of the Gallic mercenaries.
The Carthaginians, during the period following the First Punic War, whence their fortunes were somewhat reduced, were led by the Barca clan to believe that new fortunes could be made by having a reinforced trade colony in Iberia. Much of that effort was the various ports and colonies on the eastern coast of the Peninsula (Carthago Nova, for instance), but also the Phoenician bad boys wanted to push in country. This led them to a conflict with the Oretani tribes.
The Phoenicians had established the city of Tartessos at the mouth of the Baetis river, and now they had moved up the river, and constructed an inland port. Raids by the local Oretani (a mix of Iberian, Celtic, and of course, Celtiberian) warbands made the area unsafe, so the Army was called in. They moved in from the eastern coast, and began the ponderous job of crossing the river, to pacify the Oretani.
At that time, the Oretani tribes, alerted to the river crossing, struck! They came down out of the hills and attacked the Carthaginians during their weakest moment, with half the army on each side of the river.
In the game, the Carthaginians had four divisions of troops, two on each side of the river. There was only one permanent (stonework) bridge that had been constructed for the colony, it could accommodate 1 unit of troops, per turn, crossing it. Each division of troops has 4-5 units in it, so that is a nightmare. Luckily, the Carthaginians had some engineers along, and were able to construct a hasty pontoon style bridge, to double their crossing capability.
Along the river, there were several mooring spots near the colony. The Carthaginians had shipborn reinforcements (a fifth division of troops, very heavy, with 8 units). But it would take turns to sail to the mooring spots nearest the action. In addition, the Carthaginian players decided to build the pontoon bridge in such a way, that it masked one of the mooring spots (making it inaccessible).
So the pregame decision of the Cartho players was - where to place your pontoon bridge. Too far up stream, and you lose tactical capability to relieve pressure on the main point of action. But too far down stream, and you block potential landing areas for reinforcements.
The Iberians, on the other hand, had their own pregame decision. They had a chest full of Lusitanian silver (as well as some Lusitanian soldiers who joined the cause). With that silver, they could (1) hire Cilician pirates to attack the Carthaginian reinforcements (and attempt to sink some of them), or (2) hire Gallic Mercenaries. The Iberian commander chose the second course of action.
Saturday, April 21, 2018
First was a DBA game between Dave and Stephen. (details to follow)
Second was a Hail Caesar game between Stephen and Chuck (playing Gauls) and Dave and James (playing Marian Romans).
|Gauls taunting their Roman foes|
The Hail Caesar game had 400 point armies on both sides.
|Hot action! Gallic Infantry, ferocious charge against Roman line!|
The Marian Roman army list consisted of:
3x units of Legionaires
3x units of Veteran Legionaires (Caesar's 10th?)
3x units of "Spanish" style light Legionaires
2x units of Germanic medium cavalry
1x unit of Numidian light cavalry
2x units of Roman skirmishers (small units, with javelin)
3x division commanders (1 was commander in chief)
The Gallic army list consisted of:
1x unit of Gaesatae (naked fanatics)
1x unit of General's bodyguard (cool, professional soldiers)
7x units of Warband (large units, with javelin and sword)
2x units of medium cavalry
1x unit of light cavalry
2x units of skirmishers (small units, with sling)
3x division commanders (1 was commander in chief)
|Gaesatae (from behind) Ready to throw themselves on the Romans!|
|Gaul line meets Roman line (Gallic division commander riding in a chariot)|
|Gauls approaching the Roman testudo formations!|
The Roman legionaire units all began the game in testudo formation, and that combined with their training, meant they could execute a move every turn, regardless of their command and control dice results.
|Gallic second line advances (ignore the Persian styling on the C-in-C chariot)|
The game was a learning one for most of us, and we got a few things wrong as we work through the rules, but we planned to try it again in a few weeks, the basic rules being pretty enjoyable, and offering up some interesting tactical solutions (like unit support in combat, interesting flank move possibilities, and lots of great army lists and unit types).
|Maybe this'll happen next time, Romans|