Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Malta Playtest

Monday was a day off for me (one of the rare times I actually get Veterans Day off), so Kevin and I decided to do a playtest of the Malta raid game we are running at the upcoming NHMGS Museum of Flight Game Day. We put the word out about the game and expected a handful of players. We were both a little surprised when eight people showed up for the game.
Players starting to gather around the table
The scenario is a straight-forward bombing run on Valetta harbor by nine Italian BR.20s, escorted by four Me-110s and intercepted by six Hurricane IICs. The bombers could choose from three different targets, although after a couple turns, it was pretty easy for the RAF players to guess where the bombers were going.

We were using David Manley's unpublished Air War 1940 rules for the game. Our previous games used relatively lightly armed fighters, so I was really interested in seeing how the cannon-armed fighters would do.
Bombers and escort enter
Planes close in
A long-range (fuzzy) shot of a fighter fly-by (no shots were exchanged)
Hurricanes and Me-110s jockeying for position
Me-110s see lots of targets
Photo just after the Me-110s blasted a Hurricane out of the sky
Hurricanes hit the bombers as they drop bombs on the floating drydock
The other bombers on their bombing run over warehouses
A Hurricane knocks down one bomber
The game went pretty well and played out fairly historical. The RAF knocked down one bomber and damaged several others (two had fuel leaks and probably would not make it home). The Me-110s shot down one Hurricane and, along with bomber defensive fire, damaged some others. The bombers did minor damage to the floating drydock (call out the painters) and moderate damage to the warehouses. We rated it a minor Axis victory. Overall everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

Kevin did a great job painting up the aircraft. The Valleta map looks really good and should be a hit at the museum game day. We are hoping for a good turnout at the museum.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Catching up on Odds and Ends

October turned out to be bad hobby month for me. For one reason or another, all of my October gaming plans fell through and most of my hobby projects languished on the paint bench.

I'm hoping to turn that around in November. But, in the meantime, I want to catch up on a few things.

NHMGS Museum of Flight Game Day 2018

This year NHMGS Game Day at the Museum of Flight is slated for Sunday, November 18. If you're in the area, be sure to stop by. The museum is advertising the 18th as a Hobby Day Expo. So we will share the floor with the NW Scale Modelers and Lake Sawyer Hawks Radio Controlled Airplane Club. Once again NHMGS will have four game tables and the schedule of games is set.

AM Games
- Air War over Malta (Kevin and I are running this one)
- Thuds Over Hanoi
- Wings of War
- Micro Armor - Eastern Front 1944: Soviet Attack

PM Games 
- What a Tanker
- Battle of Coronel
- Star Wars Armada
- Micro Armor - Eastern Front 1944: Axis Counter-Attack

It should be a good day of gaming. I'll be sure to post some pictures after the event.

Dave's Annual Naval Game 2018

Voting is all done for DANG 2018 and the winning game this year is entitled Cradle of the Rebellion - The Siege of Charleston. The general idea for this American Civil War mini-campaign is to start just after the First Battle of Charleston Harbor when the Union Army and Navy began cooperating in the siege of Charleston, South Carolina. The Union will be tasked with using their ironclads to reduce the Confederate forts and batteries around the harbor, allowing the Army to storm them, while maintaining a tight blockade on the city. The Confederates need to support their forts, while supporting the blockade runners or even trying to break the blockade! As usual with DANG, both sides will have some options to start the game and missions they must complete.
I'm hoping to get two or three battles out of the game, including at least one ironclad fight.

I'll be borrowing a lot of the ships for the game from others. But I am planning on getting a few to put together myself, so there won't be too much in the way of planning photos.

Cruel to be Kind

Warlord Games recently opened pre-orders for their new naval game Cruel Seas. The game covers coastal forces actions during World War 2 using 1/300 scale miniatures. Those of you that read my blog know that I like doing coastal forces games and have a wide variety of coastal craft, but they are all 1/600-700 scale. I like the look of the miniatures and I'm interested in the learning more about the rules, but I'm not sure about a new scale. Last year, I was very interested in the Blood Red Skies game when it was first announced. But when I read the basic rules and as more information became available, I found that I was disappointed with the system and saved my money.

That said, the videos and information that has been posted for Cruel Seas seems encouraging. So it will be hard for me to resist this game and I'll probably order a starer set. But, assuming I like the rules, I will probably use 1/600 scale ships (unless, of course, I just can't help myself and have to buy the larger ships).

So far, November is looking pretty good.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

A Short Update

The last month has been busier at work and home that I expected, meaning I haven't had much of a chance for gaming and other hobby activities. But last week Kevin and I got together for a couple hours of gaming. This gave me a chance to pull out my version of Naval Battle in Archipelago.
My Kickstarter version of the game
The game is sort of the spiritual successor to Seastrike, in that it is an easy, fast-play modern naval game. The version I got came with some extras, including two game boards and miniatures.

Instead of using a paper form or rosters to keep track of weapons, damage, and fuel, Naval Battle in the Archipelago comes with cardboard forms and lots of counters/markers (aka "fiddly-bits") to track those items. The photo below is my starting forces for the game.
Starting forces
I had four ships (a torpedo boat, a destroyer, a frigate with a helicopter, and a missile corvette) and a base (the base roster is in the upper left and has extra ammunition for the ships and helicopter, along with repair tokens for the ships). Pretty much all the information you need for running your ships is on the forms and is pretty easy to read, once you figure out the symbols. The game also comes with a couple reference sheets to help remind you of movement and combat restrictions.

During a game turn, each side moves their forces and then shoots. You normally don't get to move all your ships or aircraft during the turn, so you have to make decisions about which ones are going to put you in the right places. But any ship or aircraft can attack during your turn. 

Since we just wanted a small game, we used the small map. But that did make maneuvering around a little more difficult, since all the ships except the torpedo boat needed deep water for movement and there was a limited amount of that.
My forces on the map
When you fire a weapon, the marker on the ship form is removed and you roll dice to see if you get a hit.
My helicopter lining up for an attack on Kevin's frigate
The number and type of dice used depends on the weapon. If the roll is greater than or equal to the range to the target, you get a hit (there are a couple other things to, but those are the basics). If you get a hit, you place the weapon marker on target do show damage.
My torpedo boat sunk by a surface to surface missile with one torpedo still onboard
During the game, Kevin rolled poorly for his attacks, while I rolled about average. I ended up losing my torpedo boat and having a couple damaged ships, while sinking all of Kevin's ships.

The game has several different scenarios that provide some interesting situation. During game play, there are enough decisions and different ship/weapon types to keep it interesting. Additionally, there are rules (and fiddly-bits) for land troops and commandos. So you can conduct amphibious landings and raids. Overall, we thought it was a fun little game.

In other developments, I saw a preview of Warlord Games new naval game called Cruel Seas. If you haven't seen the preview, it can be found on the Wargame News and Terran blog. They have some nice photos of the preview in the blog. It looks like the game will cover coastal actions during World War 2 using 1/300 scale ships and aircraft. I'm interested in seeing the rules, but I'm not sure if I want to get into another scale, since I already have a lot of 1/600-700 stuff. It is supposed to be out some time in December, so I'm sure more previews are coming soon.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

More Song of Drums and Tomahawks

I'm late in getting this up, but last Saturday a few of us got together to playtest the Song of Drums and Tomahawks game Kevin and David are putting on at Fix Bayonets 2018. The six-player game set around 1640 has a force of Hurons trying to ambush a combined Dutch – Iroquois force that was making its way across the map. Each group had 8 figures. The Native American groups had a leader, hero, two muskets, two bows, and two regular natives. The Dutch had a leader, a hero (both in armor with nasty halberds), and six muskets. I took one of the Huron groups.

The Dutch set up in the middle of the advance, with their Iroquois allies leading and bringing up the rear. Half the Hurons moved to hit the lead Iroquois unit, while the others (including my force) moved to hit the Dutch.
The lead Iroquois unit
The dastardly Dutch boys
We all started out in lines, so we could take advantage of group movement. Movement was a problem in our last game, so being able to move as a group was a benefit. As we got closer, individual warriors broke off from the group to start their attacks.
My Hurons moving into action
I started out trading musket fire with the Dutch, with each of us losing one figure.
Opening shots
The trailing Iroquois unit was having trouble moving. So, I closed with the Dutch, hoping to take out several of them before reinforcements arrived. However, the plan didn’t quite work, and I had my own movement troubles as the Iroquois arrived. We had a big melee in the middle where I combined with another Huron player to kill the Dutch leader. That was not an easy feat, since the Dutch armor protected them against, most native weapons. But I got a lucky roll with a primitive weapon for the killing blow. Unfortunately, I lost my leader to an attack from an Iroquois hero and had to fall back. By this time, I had lost about half my force and I decided to let the enemy come to me.
Moving to melee
reinforcing Iroquois move up
Big melee
The Dutch leader goes down, forcing the other Dutch to fall back
My turn to fall back
Over in the middle of the table, the Huron were having good luck against the lead Iroquois unit, killing three and forcing the others back. The Hurons then came streaming around the longhouse to take on the on Dutch.
Lead Iroquois taking casualties
Battle at the longhouse
Skirmish in the middle
There was a lot of back and forth fighting, but in the end, the Dutch and their allies held their ground. By this time pretty much everyone had lost half their force and we decided to call the game. It was a very bloody game, but we decided the remaining Dutch and Iroquois would probably be able to make it across the board.

Overall it was a fun game. I like the basic Song of … system from Ganesha Games. I haven’t played any of the other variants yet, but it seems like a good set of skirmish rules. It will be interesting to see what changes they make for the rules where everyone is armed with ranged weapons.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

International Naval Wargaming Day 2018

Last year David Manley kicked off the first International Naval Wargaming Day. 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!"
This year, Jane's birthday was on a Monday, which made it really tough to organize a game with other players. But the celebration must go on, so I grabbed some ships for a little solo action.

This year I pulled out some of my Spanish - American War ships for a little pre-dreadnought action using David Manley's Broadside and Salvo rules, which are included in his Splendid Little War mini-campaign. The scenario was an encounter in the Caribbean between heavy ships of the US Atlantic Squadron and Admiral Cevera's cruiser squadron.
Spanish cruisers (L to R - Infanta Maria Theresa, Almirante Oquendo, Viczaya, and Cristobal Colon) steaming to their fate
Two US battleships (Iowa and Indiana) and the armored cruiser New York
The Spanish objective was to escape across the map, while the Americans were trying to stop them.The Spanish cruisers had a little speed edge, but were out-gunned by the Americans, which is a pretty classic naval situation.

The turn sequence for the Broadside and Salvo rules is:
  1. Roll for Initiative 
  2. Roll for Action Points (these are basically command points to order your squadrons to maneuver and repair ships)
  3. Move ships (Initiative winner picks order) and allocate Action Points
  4. Gunnery - Initiative player shoots first and firing alternates by squadron with damage effect taking effect immediately
  5. Torpedo Phase - conduct torpedo attacks
  6. Repairs and Special Damage Phase
Overall a clean and easy turn sequence. Initiative proved to be an important part of the game.

The Spanish won the initiative on the first few turns, forcing the Americans to move first and then ordering max speed to try to slip by. But then the dice turned on the Spanish. The Americans won the initiative on the turn that both sides came into gun range and damaged the lead Spanish cruisers before they could return fire. But the Spanish were able to damage the American cruiser.

Gunnery is resolved by be competitive D6 die rolls, which are modified by the attacking ship's attack factor and defending ship's defense factor, along with some other modifiers for damage, range, etc. If the defender's modified roll beats the attacker, there is no damage. If they are equal, the defender takes a temporary hit. If the attacker beats the defender, the defending ship is damaged with multiples of the defender's roll doing more damage. There is also a chance of critical hits. One level of damage still allows the ship to move and fight, but with negative modifiers. A ship is Silenced with two levels of damage and can move, but not shoot. A ship is Crippled with three levels of damage and cannot move or shoot. Four levels levels of damage means the ship is sinking. Action Points can be allocated to repair Silenced (3 APs) and Crippled (4 APs) ships one level. I used markers to show each level of damage.

Over the next couple of turns the Spanish die rolling was very bad, while the Americans continued to inflict more damage on the Spanish line.
Spanish ships in trouble
The Spanish were able to repair one ship, but things just kept going downhill. In the end all the Spanish ships were sunk and the only damaged American ship was the cruiser New York.
Just before the end
The game played really quick. So quick, that I decided to try another game, but with a different scenario.

During the Spanish American War the American battleship Oregon made a high-speed (for those days) trip from San Francisco to the Caribbean. One of the fears was that Cevera's squadron would intercept the lone battleship. So, I decided to try out the four Spanish cruisers against one battleship.
Oregon, crossing the line (equator?)
The Spanish cruisers had the speed edge, so the battleship tried to put itself in the best gunnery position. The Oregon's heavy battleship armor stopped most hits, while her big guns dealt damage to the cruisers. Oregon did take one level of damage, but was able to silence three of the Spanish cruisers. Just when it looked like Oregon had everything in hand, Cristobol Colon scored a hit silencing the battleship.
Standoff at sea
With almost all the ships silenced, both sides hoped to roll enough Action Points for repairs and the Spanish also hoped for another lucky hit by Colon. But luck was with the Americans. They repaired the battleship first and finished off the Spanish cruisers.

Overall the games were quick, keeping with the fast-play rules, and deadly. The 1-on-1 squadron battles probably weren't as interesting as a multiple squadron action. After playing, I thought I should have created multiple squadrons in the first scenario to see how that would have played out. Another alternative would have been to add some more ships (regular cruisers for the Americans and torpedo boats for the Spanish) to make more squadrons.

The same rules are used with the Russo-Japanese War campaign and I think they would work well there, since both sides have more ships.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

A Flight of Falcos

I recently finished up six Raiden Italian CR-42 Falcos. The planes are a fairly new addition to the Raiden line and there weren't any photos of them on the I-94 website. I've had trouble assembling other World War II biplanes and since there weren't any photos on the website, I was a little wary of getting the planes. But they turned out to be pretty easy to assemble. The planes come in 3 parts, the fuselage, the lower wing (with the fixed landing gear and one set of struts) and the upper wing (with more struts). Overall, the assembly work wasn't too bad. So, if you need some 1/285 scale Falcos, I would recommend these.
Four of my six Falcos

The Falcos will be part of the upcoming Malta air campaign and will make some appearances in Western Desert games. The camouflage scheme is a base sand color, with green and brown irregular shapes. I also painted the engine cowling yellow, mainly because I like how it looks.
Overhead shot showing the camouflage a little better
Kevin recently finished his six CR-42s too and while the paint schemes are similar, they are different enough that it will be easy to tell them apart (plus mine have yellow noses).
A closer view of one of the planes
Overall, I was pretty happy with how the planes turned out. I'm finishing up some Gladiators for the game, and I also have some Fiat G-50s and RAF Tomahawks in the works. The last two types are for Western Desert games and won't make an appearance over Malta.

I'm also preparing for International Naval Wargaming Day. But, since it falls on a Monday and I kind of messed up scheduling with others, I'll be doing a solo game again this year. Right now I'm looking at a Spanish - American War scenario where Admiral Cevera's cruiser squadron meets up with the American Flying Squadron (or maybe the North Atlantic Squadron) in the Caribbean. I'm going to use David Manley's Broadside and Salvo pre-dreadnought rules (which are included in his Splendid Little War and White Bear, Red Sun games).

Monday, July 23, 2018

Tomahawks and Tankers

I had a chance to get in some gaming this weekend. On Saturday, I got together with Kevin and David Sullivan for a game using their Flint and Feather figures and the Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules. The figures look great and my photos don’t really do them justice (I recently got a new camera and I’m still learning how to use it, even on Auto settings).
Moving onto the board
It was planned to be a four-player game, but we only ended up with three people. David had envisioned a three-way battle, but Kevin and I didn’t really hear that part and ganged up on him. Kevin and I had eight native warriors with a mix of muskets, bows, and “primitive weapons.”
My troops with their stat sheet
David had a mixed force of natives, with mixed bows and hand weapons, and French, armed muskets and swords.
Frenchmen, with a big stick, in the distance
The rules have some interesting mechanics that is shared with other Song of … games, but also has some period specific rules. I like the activation rules, the combat rules seemed to be a lot of pushing and shoving with some surprising lethality mixed in to keep you on your toes.
some ineffective skirmishing
David and I started close together and engaged in some skirmishing. Kevin had some horrible rolls during the game and it took him a long time to get his warriors to engage. My bow fire proved to be mostly ineffective. I did have some luck with my muskets and by the end of the game I had killed a couple of David’s Frenchmen. My melee figures turned out to be pretty ineffective and unlucky. All my melee battles ended with my figure getting whacked by David’s primitive weapons. One of the special rules for the era is that if the player with a primitive weapon rolls a natural 6 and wins the melee, they automatically kill the opponent. This happened to three of my warriors, at which point I decided to focus on long-range shooting.
My bowman misses his shot while my hero tries (and fails) to bash a Frenchman
More skirmishing
After everyone lost half their forces, we decided to end the game. I lost five figures, Kevin lost four, and David lost four. Since Kevin and I had ganged up on David, we declared him the big winner.
My survivors limp off the field
I like the rules and look forward to trying them out again. You can read David’s and Kevin’s reports of the action on their blogs.

On Sunday, I had a little free time and decided to try a solo game of What a Tanker. I pulled out my 1/285 scale Desert War tanks (from a previous summer project) for the game and used centimeters for range instead of inches. I didn’t want to do a 1 vs 1 battle (that seemed a little boring, even if I was just learning the rules), so I decided to match a British M3 Lee and Honey against a German Panzer III H and Panzer II F (the points matched up nicely for these tanks). 
The British tanks ...
and the Germans
I wanted to include some basic terrain, which in the desert is mostly dunes and scrub. But because there aren’t any rules for hills in the game, I decided to treat dunes as minor obstacles. If two were stacked, the second would block line of sight. I felt like this gave me some decent terrain to try to hide behind and kept the battlefield looking like the desert.

The rules are pretty straightforward, but it still took me a little while to get into the swing of the action. Both sides moved forward and took a few pot shots, without inflicting any permanent damage. As the tanks closed, the Panzer III got off a good shot at the Honey hitting with four dice. But the Honey rolled four saves and only ended up falling back.
Lucky Honey
Once the tanks got closer I started getting more permanent damage on both sides. The Panzer III was caught in a crossfire and reduced to two command dice. But then the Panzer II, which had been slow to move all game, suddenly sprang into action. It closed on the Honey’s flank and blew it up with some rapid fire shots.
Not so lucky Honey
The next turn, the M3 Lee finished off the Panzer III, making it a 1 on 1 battle. The Panzer II tried to maneuver to get on the Lee’s flank, but the British tank was able to get the right combination of command dice to acquire, aim, and shoot. That was followed by goods rolls of the 6 strike value dice, which turned out to be too much for the little Panzer.
The M3 Lee is the winner
It was an interesting little game. There are a more decisions (and frustrations) than I originally thought there would be. Additionally, it seems hard to get an outright kill with the early war tanks (that may change with later war tanks) and the battle seems to be more about whittling down your enemy. I’m looking forward to playing the rules some more.