Sunday, September 5, 2021

More Desert Tankers

The U.S. Labor Day long weekend has arrived. I had mention in a previous blog post that the NHMGS Enfilade miniature gaming convention had been shifted to Labor Day weekend. Enfilade is normally one of the big yearly events for me (as you can see in these older posts) and usually I would have been busy preparing games and off to the convention. But this year some health issues have kept me away from the convention. So instead I invited some fellow misanthropes (okay, not really, they were just guys who couldn't make it to Enfilade either) over for a What a Tanker in the desert game.


This time around we were using tanks from around the time of the Gazala battles. The British started out with a Grant, Honey, and Crusader II.  

It's a Honey

A Grant on the lookout for the Germans

The German side started with a Panzer IV F1 with the short-barreled 75mm gun and a Panzer III H. I was on the German side and we added another Panzer III after a couple turns to balance the sides. 

The Panzer IV watching for the enemy

My Panzer III looking to make a flank run

The terrain had hills, rocky outcrops, and some scrub brush. So there were places to hide (although maybe not enough) and that blocked line of sight. 

An aerial view of some of the terrain
The Panzer IV was a little more exposed. It took hits that reduced its command dice and was eventually abandoned by its crew. I was trying to move up on the British without exposing myself too much, but that wasn't helping the Panzer IV. 
Hiding behind a short hill
After losing the Panzer IV, we brought on a Semovente 75. Initially it shrugged off the British shots, but one set of bad die rolls let to a quick kill on the SP gun. That gave the Axis side two tank losses to none for the British.
The Semovente arrives, with the abandon Panzer IV in the background

And good-bye Semovente
The second Panzer III had been hiding out in the scrub, using it for cover. It was finally able to draw a good bead on the Crusader and destroy it.
Panzer Bush

Scratch one Crusader

The British replaced their loss with another Crusader and the Axis brought in an Italian M13/40. Overall, things were still looking good for the British.

The three British tanks in good positions. You can just make out the M13/40 in the upper right (near the burning Semovente)

I decided to push forward, hoping the other tanks could cover me. This would put my Panzer III into direct confrontation with the Grant. Meanwhile, the Honey tried to move around my flank. Over the next couple of turns both sides would get hits, but the target rolled for saves against the hits. Then the M13/40 got around on the Honey's flank and blew it up. My dice got hot and I did the same to the Grant. 

Good-bye Grant

At this point we decided to end the game with the Axis getting a slight win. 


While this didn't really make up for missing Enfilade, it was a fun time. It also gave me a chance to play with my new What a Tanker dashboards from Dark Ops.

I did mine up in desert colors to fit my tanks. I still have a few more to put together and may vary the scheme a bit.


On a side note, you can see some photos from Enfilade (along with the normal posts of Dean's nicely painted miniatures) over at the WAB Corner blog.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Back to the Narrow Seas

I'm still trying to take advantage of the good weather for some outdoor lawn gaming. On Saturday a small group of us had the chance to get together to play a coastal forces action. We used David Manley's Narrow Seas rules (available on Wargame Vault) with the 1/300 scale ships (from Warlord Games Cruel Seas line). This gave me a chance to get my Kriegsfischkutters (KFKs) and Räumbootes (R-boats) on the table. On the other side were Bill's six Vosper Motor Torpedo Boats (MTBs).  

Bill's nicely painted 73' Vospers (with 4 torpedo tubes) and 72.5' Vospers
The scenario was a basic convoy attack by the six British MTBs. The convoy had three small merchants escorted by two KFKs and two R-boats.
British target for tonight
I was the only person that had played the rules before, so things started out a little slow as the players got their sea legs. We used the spotting rules, but didn't hide the ships at the start of the game (that will change your playing experience, but I like having the miniatures out at the start). Once the British spotted the merchants, they increased speed and began launching torpedoes.
The Vosper launches torpedoes (this is after the boat movement, but before torpedo movement)
The convoy began to take evasive action, while the escorts moved to engage the MTBs.
Merchants trying to comb the torpedo wake

Torpedo hit!

The Royal Navy had some success early on, getting a torpedo hit on a merchant (stopping it dead in the water, but not sinking it) and a bridge hit on an R-boot that would force it to head off the map. 

The MTBs enjoying their early success
But then things went a little cold for them. The German merchants continued to maneuver to dodge torpedoes and move around the damaged merchant. 

Merchants maneuvering

The little KFKs then got into action and started to make an impact with their 37mm guns and, in a lucky case, ramming and sinking an MTB.

a KFK blasting away at an MTB

Once their torpedoes were gone, the MTBs broke off the action. With the sides disengaged, we looked at the damage done. Most of the MTBs and escorts had taken some damage. The Germans had one merchant wrecked and dead in the water and the British lost three MTBs. So we gave the Germans the edge in the battle.


Everyone seemed to have a good time and liked how the rules played out. I expect we'll see more coastal force actions in the future.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

ImagiNations Dreadnought Wrap-Up

After the battles and losses from the previous month, both sides looked to incorporate what had happened into their future plans.Nordland had won all three of the major missions of the month, successfully controlling the sea between the two nations and getting a troop convoy through to the front lines on the disputed islands. Nordland had 8 battlecruisers (1 in repair) to Tierra Del Sur's 4 battleships (1 in repair).


The Nordland admirals were happy with the results of the first month and felt confident that the fast battlecruiser strategy would continue to pay off. But there were concerns from the fleet that the battlecruisers would not be able to stand up in a sustained fight. At the start of the month, the Nordland Admiralty Board decided to refit the Hurtig class battlecruisers that was still in repairs newly designed guns. The refit would extend the time the ship was in the shipyard, but the new guns would almost double the range and improve the hitting power by another 50%. So it seemed like a good risk.

 

The losses during the first month of war forced the recently installed Tierra del Sur Admiralty Board to rethink how they were using the fleet. The board wanted ships similar to Nordland's, but they had not been in charge long enough to make the changes. One admiral was heard to say "you have to fight with the ships you have, not the ones you wish you had." With only four active battleships, the admirals decided to move up the commissioning and deployment of the first Veloz class fast battleship. They also knew they had to have a victory soon or the war could be lost.

 

The second month of the war had 3 major missions; a sea sweep, a Nordland troop convoy, and a Tierra del Sur troop convoy. Both sides decided that the convoy missions were the most important and only allocated light forces to the sea sweep. Nordland assigned the 4 Rask class battlecruisers to escort the troop convoy and their other 4 battlecruisers (2 Hurtig and 2 Kaftig) to intercept the enemy convoy. With only 5 battleships available, Tierra del Sur decided to concentrate on getting their own troop convoy through. So the Nordland troop convoy would get through without opposition.

Nordland battlecruisers departing port

The sea sweep engagement was indecisive and the real action for the month would come down to battle around the Tierra del Sur troop convoy. This time the battle was played out using the Dreadnought VASSAL module, instead of using miniatures. So there are a lot of screen shots to share.


The Tierra del Sur admiral in charge of the convoy escort was worried that the faster Nordland battlecruisers simply move around his ships without engaging. So he split his battleships into two groups that would be close enough to (hopefully) support each other, but far enough apart to make it difficult conduct the end-around action. He also planned to release the fast battleship Veloz to block the Nordland moves. As suspected, the Nordland admiral did plan on maintain range and trying to move around the enemy battleships to get to the troop convoy. 


Good weather favored Nordland, allowing them to engage at long-range while limiting the number of ships exposed to enemy fire. Each side took some damage, but the Tierra del Sur battleships were able to keep themselves between the Nordland battlecruisers and the convoy. With time to intercept the convoy running out, the Nordland admiral decided to attempt to breakthrough the Tierra del Sur line and then use his higher speed to escape the battleships to get to the convoy. This maneuver put the battlelines in close contact. Luck (and the dice) favored Nordland as they were able to sink 2 Tierra del Sur battleships and damage the other 3. But 2 Nordland battlecruisers were heavily damaged in the exchange.

A Tierra del Sur battleship sinking

The other 2 Nordland battlecruisers were able to complete the breakthrough and scatter the convoy (along with sinking several ships), while the damaged ships continued to pound away at each other.
 

The success of the Nordland convoy coupled with the failure of the Tierra del Sur convoy allowed Nordland to take control of all the islands between the 2 nations. The loss of 5 of 6 missions and only 3 battleships in service put Tierra del Sur in a bad position. At the end of month 2 the del Sur government decided they had enough and request peace terms, ending the ImagiNations solo campaign. 


It was a fun little mini-campaign and I enjoyed trying to design ships and come up with the naval doctrine for both sides. Also, the Dreadnought rules play very quickly and having a VASSAL module saved a lot of set up an take down time.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

International Naval Wargaming Day - ImagiNations Dreadnought Battle

Work schedules and my own poor planning meant I would do a solo game for International Naval Wargaming Day (INWAD). For those of you that haven't heard of INWAD, in 2017 David Manley, well known naval gaming guru, kicked off the first International Naval Wargaming Day as a day to "Celebrate the birth of the father of naval wargaming, Fred T. Jane, by running or taking part in a game of your own!" I always play a naval game on August 6, but most of the time it is a solo project.

This year I'm doing an engagement from my solo ImagiNations Dreadnought campaign. So far each side has created their initial fleets, based on the doctrine of their admiralty boards, and with war now declared both sides prepared for engagement. Three missions were set for the first month of war; two Sea Sweeps (basically naval meeting engagements) and a Nordland convoy mission.

 

Nordland assigned two class battlecruisers, plus two scout cruisers and two destroyer flotillas to each sweep mission. The Nordland Admirals expected the Rask class battlecruisers to use their speed to hunt down smaller ships while avoiding larger ones, and these assignments would put that theory to the test. The convoy mission was carrying troops and supplies to a disputed island and would  have a heavy escort of three Hurtig class battlecrusiers, two Kaftig class battlecruisers, two cruiser divisions, and two destroyer flotillas. See my previous campaign post for details on the battlecruisers.

 

Tierra del Sur's Admirals felt that splitting up their slower battleships to cover all the missions would invite disaster. So they concentrated their six battleships into one force and sent it after the convoy. Thinking (hoping) that Nordland would do the same, they sent a token cruiser-destroyer force on one sea sweep while the other would be unopposed. 

 

The weather in the region generally means visibility at sea is good, meaning that most actions will start a longer ranges. This proved to be the case in both the opposed missions. The sea sweep was an unequal match, with the Tierra del Sur destroyers desperately making smoke to try to allow the cruisers to escape. But the Nordland fast battlecruisers were able to use their speed and long range guns to sink the entire Tierra del Sur force.

 

The convoy mission was a much more interesting battle, pitting five Nordland battlecruisers against six Tierra del Sur battleships.  Nordland had the edge in speed and the Kaftig class had the advantage in gun range, but the Tierra del Sur ships had better protection and heavier guns. To make this post a little more entertaining, I played out the game on my ocean mat with a hex grid overlay using some Figurehead 1/6000 miniatures as proxies for the ImagiNations ships.

Tierra del Sur battleline

Good visibility allowed the forces to spot each other at long-range and giving the Kaftig class the opportunity to engage the enemy without them being able to fire back. 

Nordland battleline before the destroyers and cruiser shift to the unengaged side

The Tierra del Sur admiral initially decided to try to close the Nordland ships. But the faster Nordland ships were able to maintain the range, limiting engagement opportunities for enemy battleships. As the engagement continued damage slowed the first and second battleships in the del Sur line, both Fuerte class battleships, forcing the del Sur admiral to make a decision about slowing the battleline or leaving the battleships behind.

Damage to the leading Fuerte class battleships

The del Sur admiral decided to keep his force together and, seeing the futility of trying to pursue the faster enemy, turned his force north toward the estimated position of the enemy convoy. This course change found the Nordland ships out of position. As the Nordland ships raced to get back in front of the del Sur battleships, the range closed to allow all the ships to engage.

 

Both sides took damage in the exchange, which slowed a Nordland battlecruiser and sank one of the damaged Fuerte battleships. The del Sur admiral was again faced with a dilemma - his lightly damaged battleships could now maintain range with the Nordland force, but if he left the heavier damaged battleships behind he would be outnumbered five to three. 

Good shooting bashes the del Sur battleships

Nordland battlecruisers taking damage

Having already lost one battleship, the del Sur admiral decided to break off the action. Destroyers were ordered to make smoke and battleline turned south. The Nordland admiral, knowing that his primary mission was to get the troop convoy through, chose not to pursue the enemy. 

 

At the end of the first month of the war Nordland lost a cruiser division and one Hurtig battlecruiser was damaged. Tierra del Sur lost a Fuerte class battleship, two cruiser divisions, and two destroyer flotillas and had one Fuerte battleship damaged. Victory point wise, Nordland had a commanding lead having won each of the first month missions.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

ImagiNations Dreadnought - Road to War (2021 Solo Game part 2)

After coming up with the focus for the Admiralty Boards for my two ImagiNations (Nordland and Tierra del Sur), it was time to design some battleships and start the march toward war. As a reminder from my first post, Nordland's Admirals want fast lightly armored ships, while Tierra del Sur chose heavily-armored slower ships. 

HMS Dreadnought, which does not appear in this game but looks good as the cover photo

Each side started the game by designing a couple batttleship hulls and guns, then placing orders to build battleships and light forces. Nordland ordered seven fast battlecruisers, while Tierra del Sur ordered six heavily armored battleships. I'll provide more details on the ships later in this post. The light forces and half the ordered battleships would be available in the first year of the game, just in case the war started early. The other battleships would be commissioned the following year.


The game started in 1915, with the Great War raging in Europe and the ImagiNations at peace. During the first two years of the game, peace factions (horrified by the war in Europe) worked to keep tensions between Nordland and Tieera del Sur low. In 1917, during a peace and friendship visit by by Tierra del Sur's navy, Nordland's Admrials got a close up look at the heavily protected battleships. This spurred them to order the design of heavier guns and a better protected, but still fast, ship. Two of the new battlecruisers, with better guns and armament, were ordered for delivery in 1919.


In Tierra del Sur, a group of young naval officers began complaining that their battleships were too slow to catch the Nordlanders and that the navy needed a fast battleship or battlecruiser. Nordland's new battlecruiser order and the vocal officers forced the Admiralty Board to design and order two of their own battlecruisers. The new ships were slated to join the fleet in 1920. 


Hardliners in both nations used the new "naval arms race' as a pretense to get into power, while also raising tensions. 


In 1920 the five-year term for the Admiralty Boards was up and new Admirals were installed. For Nordland, the board's ideas only changed slightly. With new technologies becoming available after the end of the European War, they would look build better guns, but the capital ships would still be fast and lightly armored. Meanwhile in Tierra del Sur the was a major shift in the board. The new Admirals on the board supported the faster, lightly armored ships that the young officers had pushed for. As they came out of their first meeting, they announced plans for a major naval rearmament and order the design of a new battlecruiser, along with new light forces. Events quickly spun out of control of the politicians in both nations and in March 1920 war was declared. 


Opposing force descriptions (note all the ship images below are from the Shipbucket site)

Nordland Navy Capital Ships. Nordland has nine battlecrusiers; four Rask class, three Hurtig class, and two Kraftig class. 

 

The Rask class was the first Nordland battlecrusier class and designed withe heavy enough guns to engage the enemy at long range, but fast enough to escape if needed. The class ratings are:
Gun Attack = 17, Gun Range = 12, Ship Defense = 6, Ship Speed = 7

Rask class

The Hurtig class had the same guns as the Rask class, but was more heavily armored, and would form the main battleline. The class ratings are:

Gun Attack = 17, Gun Range = 12, Ship Defense = 9, Ship Speed =6

Hurtig class

The Kraftig class, the class that started the naval arms race, was designed with larger guns to take on the better protected del Sur battleships. The class ratings are:

Gun Attack = 20, Gun Range = 14, Ship Defense = 8, Ship Speed = 7

Kraftig class

Nordland's capital ships are backed up by four cruiser divisions, four scout cruiser divisions, and six destroyer flotillas.


Tierra del Sur Navy Capital Ships. Tierra del Sur has 6 active battleships, four Fuerte class and two DifĂ­cil class, and two Veloz class under construction. 

 

The Fuerte class was meant to form the vanguard for the battleline. The class ratings are:

Gun Attack = 23, Gun Range = 12, Ship Defense = 10, Ship Speed = 5

Fuerte class

The Dificil class was planned as the main part of the battleline. But the ships were very expensive to build, so only two were completed. The class ratings are:

Gun Attack = 23, Gun Range = 12, Ship Defense = 12, Ship Speed = 5

Dificil class

The Veloz class was designed to counter Nordland's battlecruisers. The first ship is expected to join the fleet in April 1920 and the second in June. The class ratings are: 

Gun Attack = 23, Gun Range = 12, Ship Defense = 7, Ship Speed = 7

Veloz class


Tierra del Sur's capital ships are backed up by one cruiser division, four light cruiser divisions, and six destroyer flotillas. There are two cruiser divisions and two destroyer flotillas under construction that are expected to join the fleet later in 1920.


Heavy naval activity is expected during the first month of the war. I'm planning to play out the initial encounters as part of International Naval Wargaming Day. 



Saturday, July 31, 2021

2021 Summer Solo Game - ImagiNations Dreadnought

It is time again for my summer solo gaming time. I've always wanted to do an ImagiNations type naval mini-campaign, where players take the role of naval leaders to plan, build, and train up their navies on a budget with a random time when the war begins. I usually propose it as an option when players vote for DANG, but they don't usually do very well.

 

Most of my summer solo games are centered around boardgames, since they are a little easier to setup/take down and don't require a lot of space. This year I've selected the old SPI boardgame Dreadnought as the basis for my solo mini-campaign. Mainly because the rules are pretty easy and will play quickly. While it is a boardgame, I could play it with miniatures (although it needs a hexgrid) and there is also a VASSAL module. So I have some flexibility with how I play the games.

 

My plan is to do that as my solo game using the Dreadnought Extended Campaign rules and the Additional Extended Campaign Ship Design rules from Moves No. 24.

For my game I will also use a randomly generated Admiralty Boards for each side that will set some basic plans for ship building and maintenance/training. The first boards get to do an initial build and then plan the annual shipbuilding for the remainder of their term. The boards will be replaced (rolled for again) every 5 years, which could change the buying strategy of the navy over time. The war will start at a random time and each side will see tensions rise or fall and what ships the other is building, which can also affect shipbuilding and maintenance plans.

 

OnCe the war begins things will shift to monthly turns. There will be random number and type of missions that the navies need to assign ships to, which will then turn into scenarios. The war will last 2 - 12 months (yes another random time) at which point a winner will be determined.


With all of my game ideas in place, I'm ready to start the mini-campaign. I rolled up the Admiralty Boards for the two belligerent nations, Nordland and Tierra del Sur (not the most imaginative names, but they will work for the game). 


Nordland's admirals believe the way to win is with fast, lightly armored battlecruiser type ships with medium-sized (10" - 12") guns and good light forces armed with torpedoes. Knowing that speed may cost more more, they have put in place an average maintenance and training program. Across the strait, Tierra del Sur's admirals have chosen heavily armored ships with weapons and speed set to keep the ships at a moderate cost. They also laid out extensive maintenance and training programs for an efficient naval force. 


My next step is to design and purchase the ships for each side. Then I will determine when the war starts, and set up the first missions. I should have that all in place for a later this week for International Naval Wargaming Day on August 6. For those of you that are unfamiliar with International Naval Wargaming Day, in 2017 David Manley, well know rule writer and naval gamer, kicked off the first International Naval Wargaming Day as a day to "Celebrate the birth of the father of naval wargaming, Fred T. Jane, by running or taking part in a game of your own!"

 

Here are a couple posters to help remind you about the event. 

 

Monday, July 5, 2021

Western Desert - What a Tanker

 I took advantage of the long weekend for U.S. Independence Day to have some friends over for a game on the lawn. This time around we decided to pull out some Western Desert 15mm World War 2 tanks and use the What a Tanker rules from Two Fat Lardies. Most people in the group had tanks to

A German Panzer III watches for the British

The What a Tanker rules some basic scenarios, but they are mainly just tank duels without any objectives. I prefer to have scenarios that are more than just shootouts, so I decided to add some ideas into the game. I borrowed some ideas from Mark Morin's blog (link to his blog post on something he did for Normandy) and I added my own to drive the game objectives. I based our scenario on Operation Crusader, the British offensive to relieve Tobruk in late 1941. This battle gives the British an interesting mix of tanks, which are still weaker than the Germans, and an objective to advance across and exit the area. 

A pair of fast Crusader tanks

For the game, I gave each side a number of buy points to purchase their tanks and other special actions (dust storms, artillery strikes, air strikes, etc.). Each side would earn victory points for destroying enemy tanks and the British would get points for exiting tanks off the map. We had six players and I thought the British should have an advantage, so we went with 4 British and 2 Germans (this was probably a mistake). The British had 2 Crusader Mk I tanks, an M3 Honey, and a Matilda II. The Germans started with a Panzer IIF and Panzer III F. The game map had several hills along with a couple depressions that were  minor obstacles for line of sight and shooting.  

M3 Honey on the move
When on the first round of the game the Panzer III hit a Crusader, reducing the tank's command dice, I thought it was going to be a tough road for the British. But things were downhill from there for he Germans. The other Crusader, the Honey and Matilda advanced on the Panzer II's position. The Honey ended up getting 3 hits on the little tank, putting it out of the game.

KO'ed Panzer II
The Germans brought on another Panzer III while the Crusader and Matilda advanced. 

Matilda on the move
The Crusader closed with the map edge and got into a close-range duel with the newly arrived Panzer III. Neither tank was able to hit the other hard enough to stop them. The Crusader eventually took advantage of the activation order to move off the map. The Honey was also able to get off the map. There were a lot of bad rolls for shooting and damage.
Close-range duel
On the other side of the map, the Crusader that had taken early damage was able to recover the Command die and moved to attack, while the Panzer III tried to take advantage of cover from the hill.
 
Crusader closes range
Die rolls on this side of the table were not great either, but the range kept closing and tanks tried to use to hill to their own advantage. 

Crusader driving over the hill
The British brought in replacement tanks for the ones that had exited the map. The new Crusader and Honey used their Fast attribute to quickly get into action. 

Honey and Crusader squeeze the Panzer III
The game ended shortly after the last picture. The Germans only lost the Panzer II, but other tanks had some damage. The British did not lose any tanks, although several were damaged, and exited several off the map. So while it seemed like a good close tank battle, the victory points were completely in the British favor.

 

So, while my basic scenario ideas seemed like they would work, they will need some tweaks and changes to really work.

 

After talking through the results a little, we decided to have another go with just a straight tank duel with Italian earlier British tanks. So it was an M11/39 and two M13/40s against an A-10, A-13, and Matilda.

A nice Italian M13/40
The die rolling was better and the results were a little more even this time, with each side losing several tanks.
M11/39 blows up

and an A-13 does the same
Overall, the rules are a fun diversion and the addition of some scenario rules will make game play a little more interesting. So I expect we will see the desert steel roll out again later this summer.