Saturday, 16 March 2019

Turning the Flank at Reval: Freikorps Go Home!


Today the Germans shall throw their full strength at us. At you. At Estonia! Truly I tell unto you, if we do not stand and fight, the very rocks shall cry out! The trees shall throw themselves at the invaders! Behind every boulder, an Estonian, and in every Estonian, a heart of rock!

Our forces are a curtain over the Prnovo river; an iron curtain - The curtain falls on the Freikorps!

And if, out of any hole they crawled, any spies or servants of these German oppressors, shall hear of this, as the whole world will hear, we can only say one thing: in response to tyranny matched with treachery and muscled by the clash of arms and the thunder of hooves, we, and all the free people of the world, can only demand that,

There will be blood!

Friday, 15 March 2019

Hellfire: A little more hell on Dodgson's World

Figures: Irregular Miniatures
Buildings: Various
Terrain hexes: GHQ Terrainmaker

The heroic resistance fighters of Dodgson's World took on the brave liberators of Dodgson's World at my house last night. The rebels arrived mob-handed in a selection of improvised armoured vehicles worthy of the A-Team (circled in blue in the image below). Their goal was to seize the air traffic control equipment from the New Clemency spaceport and make off with it. This would make it hard for ShortCom to land new troops and would disrupt ShortCom activities massively, thus giving the rebels a chance to focus on defeating existing ShortCom troops before new ones could be brought in.
The situation just after the start of the game
 The spaceport defence company, augmented by a small militia company and a company of mercenary Thaugs who acted as the police for the spaceport village occupied the spaceport buildings (circled in red above). A battalion of ShortCom regulars was known to be in the area and they might be made available to the spaceport defence troops. They would enter from the right of the picture when Steve had rolled enough points for them. A single d6 was rolled each player turn and the value added to the previously rolled total. The troops would become available once the total reached their points cost.
Another view of the game at the start.
The rebels rolled forward as fast as they could. The spaceport defence vehicle heroically drove out to meet them, and was promptly destroyed by rebel fire. The militia company holed up in the hangars fared little better and was soon retreating towards the control tower having taken more casualties than it liked.
Lorries packed with troops follow up the armoured spearhead.
As the rebels raced forward, elements of 26T battalion started to appear. The troops in the control tower had made contact and emphasised the seriousness of the situation. Two companies of infantry and two guided missile carriers were soon tearing up the road towards the spaceport. The missile carriers met the same fate as the spaceport defence vehicle but the infantry made it into the cover of nearby buildings and prepared to assault the rebels.
Reinforcements arrive
Rebel vehicles screamed up the apron. The fire from their gunners drove the spaceport defence company and the militia back but returning fire immobilised one vehicle and took out the gunner on another. Light losses for the rebels. It seemed like nothing could stop them.
The lorries approach the control tower ready to deploy their troops and carry off the control equipment.
As the lorries deployed their load of troops, the spaceport defence company was routed. The troops entered the control tower and began dismantling the equipment. (At this point, I got too carried away and forgot to take any more photos.) The troops in the control tower came under fire and took some losses but three turns later they had loaded the equipment onto a lorry and were prepared to skedaddle with the loot. At this point, the two companies from 26T battalion broke cover and close assaulted the vehicle companies. A combination of  melee and RPG fire saw the artic and one of the cars destroyed. The rebels were pulling away. Seeing nothing else for it, a ShortCom RPG gunner fired his weapon at the lorry with the equipment on board. He hit it and turned the lorry into a fireball. At this point, there was nothing for the rebels to do but scoot away. They had not achieved their objective.

The game was a draw thanks to Steve's last lucky shot with the RPG. Up to that point, it had felt very one-sided. Rebel casualties were amazingly low because of the lack of anti-vehicle weaponry among the corporate forces while corporate casualties were huge. Despite this, he prevented me from achieving my victory condition (escaping with the equipment) but by destroying it, he also stopped his own victory. To be fair, I think this was the best outcome he could expect by that point of the game. No doubt both sides will spin this into a propaganda victory.

After two games, we are of the opinion that Hellfire is a decent set of rules. The mental arithmetic that is needed to calculate combats is, no doubt, good for our ageing brains and will offset some deterioration there. However, we are also both of the opinion that these rules, more than many others we play, require the players to play within the spirit of the rules rather than the letter of them. Playing them with a rules lawyer would be even more hellish than other rules sets.

I was a bit worried that I would not have enough buildings to cover the table. Turns out I did, although there is little coherency in the architecture, and I really need to get more of them painted.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Turning the Flank at Reval: A Plea to the Good People of Estonia

Soldiers of Estonia. We offer you the chance to surrender to us and we will be merciful. If you offer any resistance we will not be so merciful. We have witnessed the horrors of war and how it can turn a mans mind. We know what happens to families when they receive news that their loved ones have been slain and their bodies left to the crows. We have no fear of this happening, our families are immune to the terrors of the front.

Do you really want to give your families nightmares about their sons? Do you know what the Russians will do to your women whilst you are at the front? We see no need for this and offer you the chance to surrender your arms and go home.

The choice is yours, valiant men of Estonia.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Turning the Flank at Reval: Set-up

The Estonian forces are massing to repel the Freikorps invasion. The map shows those forces of which the Freikorps is aware at start.

The Resource Track records your current resource levels for pre-operations actions (see Section 9 of the campaign rules).

The Freikorps has Strategic Initiative.

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Turning the Flank at Reval: A Red Actions Campaign

I ran this campaign for two friends back in 2011. It was run on its own blog, but I have decided to consolidate my blogs, so I shall post all that content here over the next few weeks or months as my schedule permits, and delete the other blog. It's unlikely to be used again, so there seems little point leaving it lying around, and more people might enjoy the action here.

Campaign introduction
The Freikorps have succeeded in Lithuania and Latvia, and are now racing against time and the waning patience of the Entente to reach the last of the Baltic States.

The current campaign uses scenario 5 Turning the Flank at Reval from the Beyond the River Don campaign supplement for Red Actions. A Freikorps force must elude the Estonian defenders and exit a little less than half their numbers off the northern edge of the campaign map. Naturally, the Estonians will be trying to stop them.

Campaign map at start (Click for a larger version):

House Rules and Clarifications
Routed Troops
Troops that have routed from the battlefield suffer an additional +2 modifier when checking for casualties due to retiring.

Routed troops on the winner's side roll for additional casualties using the normal numbers for retiring.

Tank Breakdown
On the turn following a breakdown, a repair attempt is permitted. It will cost 1 resource point. If you want the tank to provide direct support that turn, you must allocate a resource point to it as you would normally in addition to the point for the repair attempt. Thus, to repair a tank and use it in direct support on the same turn will cost you 2 resource points.

If the owner of the tank rolls a 5 or 6, the tank is repaired. Otherwise it is destroyed by the crew. Repair and destruction occur in the resource allocation phase. If no repair attempt is made then the tank is assumed to have been destroyed by the crew.

If, on the turn a tank breaks down, the enemy enters the square containing the tank, then they automatically capture it unless there is a supporting force to defend the square. If the tank has resources allocated for direct support it is placed on the wargames table as normal but is immobile for the battle.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Hellfire: Hell on Dodgson's World

Actually playing games has not been a common occurrence over the past year. I've done a bit of solo gaming with Four Against Darkness which was fun but figure games have not been much of a thing. Last night Steve and I finally managed to get our diaries to coincide, so we dug out Jim Webster's Hellfire rules and the Hell on Dodgson's World scenario pack that Irregular Miniatures used to sell. I bought these back in the nineties and got them painted really quite quickly compared to some projects that I have pursued. This shows in the paint jobs, and I need to return to them and given them a new lick of paint plus some better attention to their bases.

Hellfire is a generic sci-fi rules set designed for 6mm. The introduction notes that the rules were written with a background in mind that is not overly militarised. To quote the rules:

'It is a universe where the black sheep of the family returns with a battalion of genetically engineered warriors he has hired, to be met by the family who have called out an ad hoc local militia. It is a universe where most armoured vehicles are improvised on site.'

That said, the rules are sufficiently flexible to cope with mechs and other features of more militarised backgrounds, although the more techie among us may not be overly fond of the generic nature of the weapons. The focus is on command and morale, not on the differences between a 3.82mm pulse rifle and a 15mm accelerator cannon. As a result, weapons are divided into broad groups: personal weapons, crew-served weapons, vehicle-mounted weapons, etc. The only differences within each group are whether the weapons are projectile or energy and guided or unguided.

The game uses Command Points, familiar to most people from DBx and similar rules sets. These are used to move your troops, to call down off-table artillery and to rally disintegrating groups.

The core of the game is the reaction system. Units have a reaction code which is an eight-digit code. As units are fired on, take casualties, etc., you check the leading number on the reaction code and roll on that table to check their reaction. Then you cross that number off and the next number in the code becomes the leading number. If you reach the end of the code, all further reaction tests are taken on table 1 (the worst table). Reaction codes can be constructed in a number of different ways to reflect the ups and downs of the combat experience. Higher numbers at the start and lower numbers as you progress through it would show a unit that gradually deteriorates through the battle. Putting some higher numbers mid-way through or towards the end would indicate a unit that is likely to peak after being through a bit of combat but then to tail off, and so on.

Overall, the game plays well. It's a bit clunky in places and the combat system requires some basic multiplication and division, but at my age a spot of mental arithmetic is supposed to help me keep mentally active, so I should not complain. There are areas where you need to agree with your opponent how things should be played, and there are no detailed terrain rules. It's up to the players to agree how terrain affects game play. There is no points system, so you need to create your own scenarios. There are several scenarios in the back of the book that you can use as a guide to get started. We did not find any of these areas to be a problem but competitive/rules lawyery players should probably steer clear.

Hell on Dodgson's World
As I mentioned before, Hell on Dodgson's World was a scenario pack for Hellfire. Irregular released three scenario packs (Hell on Dodgson's World, A little more Hell on Dodgson's World, and Dodgson's World: The Hell Continues). These scenario packs chart the attempts by ChiCom to crush the populace of Dodgson's World so that they can exploit its people and resources. Alternatively, they chart the attempts by ChiCom to bring civilisation and prosperity to Dodgson's World. The first scenario is a chase: High Priestess Nissa O'Quinn tries to evade capture by ChiCom forces. The second scenario sees local militias trying to seize control of the local spaceport to prevent fresh ChiCom forces landing. The third scenario has local militias besieging the village of New Hovine in an attempt to capture Prince Bishop Audley Yonk because he is a pro-ChiCom figurehead.

If you bought all three scenario packs, you got Dodgson's World: The Hellfire Campaign free. This is a mini-campaign using the forces from the scenario packs. It is map-based. The local militias are trying to capture one of the main towns in the area and ChiCom is trying to stop them.

Between them, these offer a good range of play.

Our Game
We played Hell on Dodgson's World. I took the part of the High Priestess and Steve took charge of the ChiCom forces. We played at half scale on a 4' x 3' table because Jim Webster once told me that the scenarios were tested on an 8' x 4' table. My games table is 6' x 4' and I don't have space for a longer table. I figured that playing full-scale on a shorter table would excessively disadvantage Steve, because it would mean that my troops could escape from the table more quickly. This proved to be the right decision and it kept the game close.

My forces set up in the middle of the table (blue circles). ChiCom entered from the left side of the table. To win, I needed to get the High Priestess, six bases of infantry and my two crew-served weapons off the table. Steve needed to capture the High Priestess, but he would not know which group she was with until he had her in his line of sight.

The blue arrows show my line of advance. The ChiCom forces followed this as they chased me. The High Priestess was with the top group in the photo, as were the two crew-served weapons. The other two groups were intended to distract Steve's forces and soak up the damage while the main group headed as fast as possible for the safety of the dense jungle just off table.

The above photo shows Luke Company of the Fidelis Guard in the woods. Well, it shows what was left of them after the first two turns. ChiCom showed up, dropped artillery on them and then proceeded to shoot them to pieces without even stopping. It was brutal. We made a few mistakes early on which led to higher casualties for Luke Company, but I don't think it seriously affected the final outcome.

In the foreground, I deployed the two crew-served weapons thinking that I could set up covering fire and take out the troop of ChiCom armoured infantry that were about to appear round the corner of the woods. I messed up. I did not leave myself enough time to both unlimber the guns and set up covering fire. The armour rounded the corner of the woods followed by the command vehicle. Artillery rained down on my position destroying one gun while direct fire from the light tank with the armoured troop knocked  out the other.

Meanwhile the High Priestess in her doolie wagon was still running for the jungle. Every command point I had was focused on getting her off the table. Of course, it did not help that I suddenly started getting low rolls for command points at this time.

With the guns gone, the entire ChiCom force focused on the High Priestess. Despite the risk of killing her, the ChiCom commander called down artillery on her position and the light tank opened fire. Fortunately, this was all noise and few of my troops were killed. The final turn of the game saw the ChiCom APCs closing in to deliver their cargo of infantry, but the High Priestess made it into the jungle the turn before she would have been captured.

With the crew-served guns lost, I could not win the game, but the High Priestess' escape meant that neither could Steve. The game was a draw, but I'm sure both sides will milk their own version of events as a propaganda victory. All in all, it was a fun game and the final chase proved me right in choosing to play at half scale so that the table was long enough. Had it been shorter, my forces would have escaped too easily.

The plan is to play the next scenario in the series next time we meet, but I have no idea when that will be.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Red Barricades Once More - Advanced Squad Leader

Mal and I have returned to Stalingrad after I inconveniently moved to Ireland for a year. We decided to restart Red Barricades Campaign Game III, and have managed a couple of sessions so far. It's taking ages and we are only half-way through the first campaign scenario with potentially thirty more to go, assuming the campaign runs its full course. At our current rate of play, Mal and I reckon it will take us 10 years to complete the whole campaign. Well, everybody needs a project.
The view from the Russian end of the map
 The campaign begins with everything clustered in the north. The Germans enter the map and have to fight their way south through the factories. And loads of them are fortified. Eek!
The view from the German end of the map
The Germans have struck out strongly down both flanks while keeping a pinning force in the middle. Unfortunately, the promised artillery has not turned up so it is down to the grunts on the ground. I got one fire mission from one of my artillery modules, and that only after ages of trying and failing. The other was lost without a shot being fired. Ugh! Also, as I should have expected, the three-hex building on the German right flank is fortified and I am not going to be able to push through quickly. I really should have focused on the left flank more. Of course, if the artillery had come down as intended, it might have been a different story.
Overview of the whole map from the German end
I'm looking forward to the next session, but that won't be until later in April, because neither of us has a free Saturday before then. Ah well, anticipation only sharpens the enjoyment.