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.