Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A bit of Old School Tactical

I don't know about other people but I had a relatively wargame-free New Year break this year. Our annual local game didn't eventuate, but my boardgame mate Pat did come down one Sunday to introduce me to his new WWII game, Old School Tactical.

He taught me the main points of the rules in about five minutes and then we got into it. I was commanding a bunch of Germans trying to escape the Falaise pocket towards Argentan. We had something like eight squads and two leaders with a couple of LMGs and another couple of Panzerfausts to share amongst them. On turn three or four a Tiger would arrive in support, and my objective was to get three squads off the opposite board edge.

Pat was coming in perpendicularly to cut off our retreat / breakout. He had three or four squads in halftracks and a small army of Shermans and M10s to interpose between the Germans and their hopes of (temporary) escape. It would be an interesting fight.

(Apologies: my photos have been ruined by glare from the window, but in person the board was very impressive.)

First squads enter.

More follow up.

Field of play: lots of open ground to cross, and some good fire positions for both sides.

I won't go into too much detail, but our Tiger and a particularly reckless Panzerfaust team did a scarcely believable amount of damage to the Allied armour.  Terrified Sherman crews preferred to take shots on offer at infantry rather than the Tiger because the chances of doing any damage were so slim. There were close-assaults a-plenty, and lots of momentum swings. Things turned our way after a brilliantly executed ambush of the Tiger leading to shots from point blank range from both the flank and front failed to do any damage to the great beast. Once those two ambushers were smoking wrecks, the poor old Allies didn't have a lot left. Still, it would have been touch and go whether the Germans could get to their exit area before time ran out, so we called it a draw.

All those wrecks were caused by that (unscathed) Tiger and a single suicidal Panzerfaust team!

I thought the game itself was good fun. The board was a delight to play on, and there was enough there to convince me that it would be a system worth investing time into. I suppose you'd call it 'cinematic' WWII, with lots of swings of fortune and plenty of moments of high drama as you decide whether to take on the odds or not, and then, decision made, see what happens.

One quibble I did have was that the activation mechanism relies upon command points to do anything (even opportunity fire), and uses a low base rate + high variable system (I was on 4-14 CPs per turn; the US on 3-18). I would prefer a higher base rate and lower variables so that a good planner could avoid the situation where a low roll leaves one helpless. Perhaps a good planner can already, but I couldn't see how, except by hoping the enemy rolled badly with attacks. I generally want a positional advantage (good cover, clear firing lanes, etc.) to count, but at times a low CP roll meant that it effectively wouldn't: if one side had no CPs left the other could advance across open ground into a 50/50 close combat situation without fear of being shot up before getting there.

It's probably however just a beginner's reaction, and I'd certainly like more opportunities to enhance my understanding of the system!


Not only did Pat introduce me to Old School Tactical, but he also very kindly went to the considerable trouble of making up a board and set of figures for a jousting game for our kids. Our boy is already enjoying the game, and he wants to play it with his mum next. I'm not sure how lucky he'll be on that score, but we'll see!

The two protagonists square off...

Thanks, Pat!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Just one more day of work for me and then it's two weeks off to enjoy a bit of rest and relaxation. Not sure if there will be much gaming involved (the time off is actually awkwardly punctuated with 'must attend' events and activities!), but there will certainly be some drinks consumed, convivial times had, and a few tunes bashed out on the old guitar.

Anyway, compliments of the season to all, and I wish everyone a safe and joyous end to the year. See you in 2018 (if not before!).


Friday, December 8, 2017

The foraging party (Part III)

And so we come to part three. The previous installment of our tale saw the two Roman raiding parties experiencing contrasting fortunes. The western column has been set upon by Gauls while crossing the river, and although reinforcements have rushed to its aid the Romans have been having much the worse of the fight.

In the east all has gone more smoothly: the troops have cleared one field of wheat and ransacked a village to so far bag three loads' worth of supplies to take back to the storehouse at the camp. Two more loads and it will be a good day's work.

But the alarm has now been sounded. A band of Gauls has burst out of the forest to confront these Romans who would rob them of harvest and kin, and the distant sounding of warhorns has the Thirteenth legion a little spooked.

And so they should be, for a mighty host has gathered.

[The Gauls roll high, and seven units appear in the vicinity of the hill fort]

Dumnorix and men appear seeking vengeance!

As yet unaware of the true danger they are in, the Romans continue loading their stolen stores into the wagons and on to the mules.

The eastern column does not yet know quite what it is facing.

In the west the fighting carries on. Another cohort is put to flight, but a band of Gauls also gives way. A second reserve cohort hurries west to secure the ford against any opportunistic Gallic advance.

Romans have lost 2, Gauls 1, but the Romans have reserves on the way.

This cohort reaches the ford before the Gauls can cross and there is a moment of respite as the two bodies of troops confront each other across the river. The Roman central cohort, having driven off its enemy, is asked by its commander to steel itself for another charge. Too exhausted, it refuses to budge. [Morale test fail!]

The situation in the west.

Back east the forward cohort is starting to sense that things are getting tense. "Is it just me or does that hill over there appear to be moving? Do we stay or do we go?"

Sorting the wheat from the chaff.

Dumnorix is faced with no such hesitancy. His Gauls will advance!

Up and at them.

Back west once more, fortune favours the big battalions as the second reserve cohort charges across the ford and drives off the defending warband. These Gauls have already put in a heroic performance in defeating two cohorts singlehandly and they can be forgiven for at last running a little short of blood sugar.

Nevertheless, their departure means that just one band of Gauls remains, and with fully equipped, grimly determined legionaries to its front and flank, it won't last much longer.

The ford is cleared: just one unit of Gauls remains.

In the east the cohorts so recently happily pillaging have finally seen the size of the force now bearing down upon them. The commander pulls them into a defensive position to cover the retreat of the wagon train. After all, he reasons, we're here for the food, not for the fight.

[Column fails a morale check and falls back. I wanted them to stand and fight, but once you commit to letting the dice decide you can't just ignore what they tell you!]

Romans get the jitters (or see sense, depending on how you look at it).

After four hours the Romans have almost seen off the challenge in the west, but it has taken five cohorts to do so. This leaves only half a legion and a squadron of cavalry to face the lately arrived Gallic force in the east and to get the supplies across the ford and back home safely to the camp.

The map after four hours.

In the west the Romans break the last batch of Gauls holding on there. One badly beaten up cohort pulls back across the ford, but the two reserve cohorts are still fairly fresh.

Phew! Seen 'em off!

The stand-in commander of the Thirteenth (the infamous Aaronius Bellicus Minimus) continues to pull back. It will take him two hours to get his stolen wares and troops across the river, and the Gallic force appears determined to make things difficult for him. "If I get my men slaughtered against this river, what will Caesar say?" he thinks.

Romans pull back.

For the Gauls, there are conflicting emotions on their left as the menfolk from the recently ravaged village arrive back home. What of the women and the children? Did they survive? Do we stop and take account, or do we continue on and catch the Roman dogs?

Gauls surge forward, reclaiming the village.

Dumnorix the Gallic chief, attaining the high point near the ancient obelisk, surveys the field.

Dumnorix. Not one to eschew manly gestures, he grasps the opportunity to flourish his sword dramatically.

From this elevation he can observe the true picture, and the victorious Roman cohorts across the river to his right do not escape his notice.

The Roman left, now free to ford the river and turn the Gallic flank.

Dumnorix halts to consults with his druid.

The field at the moment.

With the village now back in friendly hands, its menfolk anxious to tend to kith and kin, and the Romans with an observable and unchallenged force on the Gallic flank, Dumnorix considers the possible cost of driving on against these Romans and orders a general halt.

[Dumnorix bottles it! He fails a morale check and the Gauls stop]

Even so, well done to the Gauls - especially those on their right - who by keeping the Romans to just three loads of forage have won a minor victory.


And so the game concluded. I'd almost run out of time to continue on anyway, but as it has ended in such an interesting position I'm going to play out a final fight at a later time. The Romans should get their ill-gotten provisions across the river, but the troops are faced with a dicey situation: if they all stay they are safe; if some leave, the rear guard is vulnerable. The Romans will need to scout for additional fords to cross by. If they find some, they will probably be fine; if they don't, look out!

As a solo affair this approach ( a first for me) really was a lot of fun. The twists and turns in the story were both entertaining and, to my mind, believable. Thanks to Stuart Asquith for the germ of the idea, and to Dan Mersey for the nicely adaptable Dux Bellorum combat rules.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The foraging party, or even Romans have to eat (Part II)

As detailed in the last post, our Roman foragers have run into feast in the east and a test in the west.

First to the east.

Two cohorts have moved into the wheat fields. One field is being cleared already, while the other is about to be. The Germanic cavalry and another cohort see if they can't break into the fortified village and rob it of whatever foodstuffs are in storage there.

It's a tough life when there are invaders about...

But it's not so pleasant for the Romans in the west. Caught on the hop while crossing the river, the two leading cohorts have a mass of Gauls crash into them, and it's all the centurions can do to prevent panic. Another half hour of this and the Romans will likely break [Vicious attacks by the Gauls see 6 hits inflicted against 4 sustained]

The Gauls charge in with understandable passion!

The third cohort squeezes across the river into a support position, and in the nick of time the reserve cohort splashes across at the ford they so fortunately discovered last turn.

The numbers even up, but the Gauls' first rush has the first two cohorts badly rattled.

In the east the lone horseman seen an hour ago has arrived at the Gallic hill fort. Unbeknownst to the Romans, a muster is now underway, and the men will arrive at the fort within the hour. [A d3 roll determines how many turns it will take for the chief to organise resistance. Two is the result]

Message delivered, our hero waits for the tribal reinforcements to arrive. Anxious moments as he contemplates the fate of his village and the desperate families within.

In the west the lead Roman cohort has had enough. Thrown into confusion and panic, the men pour back across the river. The victorious Gauls follow up and hit the supporting cohort before it can get out of the ford.

[The Gauls win initiative (d6 each minus attrition. Highest score strikes first) and get to deliver the first blow. They break the Romans and then catch the second cohort in the river. Again, they inflict heavy damage at the cost of just one further hit to themselves (cohort caught in the river gets half the usual number of attack dice)]

The central cohort hangs on, but only just. The reserve cohort and the last Gallic unit are strangely reluctant to close to close quarters. [Both fail their activation rolls]

The first cohort has had enough.

And what's this? The Romans in the wheatfields are suddenly confronted by a terrifying sight - Gauls coming out of the woods! It must be the menfolk from the village.

Think you can take our crops, eh?

But in an awful turn of events for the would-be Gallic saviours, the Romans succeed in finding a weak point in the village defences and break in through the wall. They commence ransacking the place for stores, and no doubt will do worse if they have time.

The fall of the village stuns the newly-arrived Gallic warband. They pause, unsure of what the best course of action might be. For the Romans, the first cohort starts loading freshly harvested wheat onto the train, while the other cohort covers for them.

Loading wheat and ransacking the village.

Back in the west the fight goes on. The reserve cohort has now engaged the third Gallic unit, and the Gauls continue to have the advantage in the other two fights. The danger is such that another reserve cohort is hurrying to the scene. The baggage train realises that it will not get across the river, and, calling it quits for the day, hastens back to the safety of the camp.

The Gauls still giving more than they receive.

The map after three hours of daylight.

Overview of the scene.

Yet hark: what's that sound coming from the north? Not Gallic war horns, surely? 

To be continued (here)....

The foraging party, or even Romans have to eat (Part I).

It's 56BC, Gaul, harvest season, and Caesar's legions are running short of food. It's time to do a little foraging. The Thirteenth legion has been instructed to go north of the river, into Gallic territory, and raid. They have eight hours to do their work, and must bring back as much forage as they can. Five loads would be a good effort, but you never know what might happen over there...

Map of the area, with north at top. Each carpet tile is 1 mile across.

The temporary commander of the Thirteenth - Aaronius Bellicus Minimus - sends three cohorts and a wagon train to the ford northwest of the camp. Four other cohorts, a detachment of German cavalry and two trains are to cross the northeast ford. The remaining three cohorts will be held in reserve to cover the return crossing or to advance and fight if the foragers get into trouble. Orders are that the foraging cohorts are to take light equipment only. 

[For game purposes the lightly equipped cohorts have lower morale and combat strength than the reserve cohorts. This is shown here by making the reserve cohorts three ranks deep]

The cohorts leave camp.

There is some delay as the troops reach and then begin to file across the fords.

The western ford.

The eastern ford.
The main group advances without opposition, despite the terrain offering good potential cover for roving Gauls. So far so good!

The way to the village seems clear!

But in the west they are not so lucky - three gallic warbands suddenly spring from the woods and catch the Roman column still in the ford. Alarums blare!

Hearing the call for assistance, one of the reserve cohorts hurries west, hoping to find a crossing point closer. Fortunately, a scout discovers one just half a mile away. [A very lucky scouting roll of 6 allows them to find a new ford]

The western column has just enough time to rush a following cohort across the river before the Gallic attack hits.

A bad situation, but help is on its way.
The other column is having a far happier time. Wheat fields, a village, and a strange obelisk in view, but no sign of the enemy in any strength.

Happy Germans.
The forward-most cohort begins harvesting wheat while the rest come up.

Sickles out, chaps!
But their activities are not unobserved. In the distance a lone, proudly seated horseman takes in the scene, then gallops off towards the west.

To be continued.... (see here)

[The game is a solitaire encounter scenario inspired by Stuart Asquith's book on solo wargaming. A simple dice mechanism is used to check if and where enemy forces are generated in response to the Roman moves. The fighting rules are an adapted form of Dan Mersey's Dux Bellorum] 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Naval Thunder in Hyogo

I was lucky enough to get an excellent day's gaming in yesterday with Luke and Pat up at Luke's new pad in Hyogo. Things though didn't start too well - I overslept, missed the train, and had to drive there to make up time. Fortunately, the car navi did what it says on the tin and helped me thread my way through the traffic hell of Osaka; less fortunately the rush to get moving meant that I completely forgot to take up my sea cloth and a book I needed to return to our host.

Anyway, I got there about 10:00, and when Pat arrived shortly afterwards we began looking at fleets for some Naval Thunder action.

We decided on early Pacific war, so Luke and I made up an augmented Force Z (Prince of Wales, Perth, Arrow and Ardent for me; Repulse, Houston, Shark and Scourge for Luke) while Pat worked out his IJN contingent. I'm not sure what the exact composition of the Japanese force was, but there were two battle cruisers (Nagato and Hiei), a couple of light cruisers (Jintsu and Furutaka) and three or four destroyers.

It began badly for us as Nagato found her mark early and pounded an outranged Repulse, taking her apart turn by turn. Prince of Wales closed to firing distance but found hits initially hard to come by.

Repulse under fire early.

Houston engaged the Japanese light cruisers who took damage.

A menacing lot of Japanese vessels!

Fine aggressive work by Japanese destroyers distracted Perth and Prince of Wales long enough and well enough to prevent closing of the range to concentrate fire on the Nagato while she was busy finishing off Repulse.

Japanese destroyers close in to torpedo range. They wrong-footed my destroyer screen and gave Perth and Prince of Wales a scare.

By the time Nagato was listing and removing herself back out to her extreme range we had lost Repulse, Houston was effectively dead in the water, and Scourge and Shark had been hunted down by secondary-battery fire. Jintsu and Furutaka were Japanese casualties, but Hiei and Nagato were together able to outgun Prince of Wales, and although she traded fire gallantly, once critical hits put two main gun turrets out of action the game was very clearly up.

So, lots of fun, some great moments of drama, and some good play by Pat to win with the Japanese. There were a few things about the rules we might want to adjust, but they gave us an excellent four hours of play. Pat and I were playing for the second time and Luke for his first, but we were running the charts like veterans within a couple of turns.

To finish the day we gave the boardgame Conquest of Paradise a go. We managed to play it to conclusion in about 90 minutes, despite Luke and Pat having to learn the rules on the fly, so it was a good way to end the day.

So, good gaming, good company and fine hospitality. A great day all round.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Game day upcoming

There's been an unexpected treat this week. A public holiday tomorrow and some hurried communication with Luke and Pat has seen a game of Naval Thunder organised up at Luke's new pad in Hyogo. In preparation I've just finished applying magnetic backing to all my recently painted ships, stowed them into a biscuit tin, rummaged through my board game collection to find d10s, and worked out the various trains I need to catch to get there at a time which will allow us a decent amount of gaming.

After all that it's 2:45am and I'm enjoying the chance to have a quiet whiskey and dry before bed.

It's been a long time since I've been up to Luke's. It's probably two, even three years. I think the last time was for an epic game of Modern Spearhead, so it should be great fun. I must confess though to not particularly looking forward to 3hrs 30mins on trains and buses each way! 

Once I see where he is I think in future I might drive up!

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