Sunday, August 25, 2019

Game Day at the Veterans Museum and Upcoming Plans

Saturday, August 24, NHMGS held a game day at the Veterans Memorial Museum in Chehalis, WA. The museum has a nice collection of firearms and uniforms in the main exhibit hall and jeeps, 5 inch guns, and a Huey Cobra outside. There is also an F-105 Thunderchief outside that looks like it is under restoration (sorry no photo of the plane).
Outside view of the museum
I joined with Kevin and David to support the group and play in Kevin's buffalo hunt game, which was slated for the afternoon session.

We arrived in time for David and I to get into the What a Tanker game. We each grabbed a German Panzer IV J and were off for some shooting. The other Germans had a Tiger and a Stug.
My Pz IV making its way across a field
On the other side, the Americans had a couple Sherman tanks, an Easy Eight Sherman, and an M-36 Jackson tank destroyer.
Tiger crossing the bridge to hunt Shermans
David and I spent a lot of time beating up the Easy Eight and fending off other tanks. David was knocked out by the M-36 and I took a hit from a Sherman just before the game ended. I like the basic What a Tanker rules, but I would like to see more of a scenario some goals (other than just shooting up other tanks) for the game. It is something I need to think about. 

In the afternoon it was off to hunt buffalo. Kevin had modified the Tusk Mammoth Hunting rules to use with his Comanche figures and a horde of buffalo. There were six clans in the hunt, each with slightly different abilities and goals, but the main goal was to get meat for the upcoming winter. The buffalo, and any predators that showed up, were controlled by the rules.
Where the buffalo roam
I was part of the Horse Clan, which got horses for free, and had a couple bow armed men and three other warriors. The other clans had a mix of foot and mounted figures, with 5 or 6 figures per clan. 
A few of my warriors closing on the buffalo
The hunt turned out to be a lot more deadly than expected. I was expecting a few men to get taken down by the buffalo, but most of the fighting would be between the Comanche clans, or other predators, over control of the dead buffalo. But the buffalo were aggressive and had hot dice. Several of the clans were reduced to 1 or 2 figures by the end of the game.
The killer buffalo calf stomping Comanches
The player that took a bunch of bow-armed foot warriors ended up winning, mainly because he was able to keep away from the buffalo. Overall it was a fun game and certainly different.

I also grabbed photos of the other games that were being run.
An ironclads battle using the Hammering Iron 2 rules
A giant Memoir '44 game with 15mm figures
The Zeppelin Pulp Alley game (an award winner from Enfilade)
A World War I trench attack
The Sword and the Flame in Sudan
Overall it was a fun day. The gaming space was above the main museum, with room for 6 gaming tables. Turnout was good for a first time event that isn't near any large towns. I expect there will be another event here in the future. 

End of Summer Plans
With summer winding down, I'm starting to look at what to do for Fall and Winter. Top of the list is preparing for my annual naval game (DANG) by putting together the list of scenarios for voting. Once we've decided what the game is, I'll work on putting together the ships. I also need to reorganize my modeling/painting area, along with my storage shelves. I've got several items taking up space that need to get finished or packed away.

I haven't really decided on any game projects (other than whatever comes up for DANG) and I will probably just follow where my nose leads me for the rest of the year.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

2019 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!"

With August 6 being a weekday (and due to my own poor planning), I played a solo naval wargame again this year. My idea was to try out a relatively new set of World War 2 naval rules by the aforementioned David Manley called Find, Fix and Strike. I took a quick look through my ship miniatures and decided to use the Second Battle of Guadalcanal to try out the rules. Here is the setup and special rules I used for the scenario. 
My setup for the battle (click for a larger image)
Before I get to the game, here is a little more about the rules. Find, Fix and Strike is available on Wargame Vault. It is a fast playing set of naval rules designed for use with models from 1/2400 to 1/6000. Bookkeeping is minimal, with damage recorded through a series of levels rather than keeping track of damage points. The rules also include a set of operational level campaign rules that provide a framework for linked battles and club campaigns.

The turn sequence is:
• Initiative Phase
• Ship Movement
• Air Phase (launch and move aircraft, resolve air-to-air combat, resolve air-to-ship combat)
• Gunnery combat
• Surface ship torpedo attacks
• End Phase (Resolve damage control and Remove dispersing smoke screens)

The rules are pretty easy to get into and most naval gamers will have them down in a couple of turns. Gunnery and air attack combat is resolved by 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 is straddled and has a temporary negative modifier for attacks. If the attacker beats the defender, the defending ship is damaged with multiples of the defender's roll doing more damage. The levels of damage are Light, Heavy, Crippled, and Sunk, and there is also a chance of special (i.e. critical) hits. Light and Heavy damage still allows a ship to move and fight, but with negative modifiers for combat and, for Heavy damage, movement. Ships with Crippled damage cannot move and shoot with large negative modifiers. Players roll to repair ships during the End Phase. Players can use various methods to track ship damage, from keeping notes on paper to using markers. For my game I used some Litko explosion markers to show each level of damage.

For torpedo combat, the attacking player first rolls for a hit. It a hit occurs; a competitive die roll is made to check for damage. There are special rules for the Japanese long-range torpedoes.

Now, on to the game, I used 1/6000 scale miniatures for the game and my camera had trouble focusing on the small ships. So apologies for the fuzzy photos. Looking at the special scenario rules, I chose to have the Japanese Screening Unit enter on turn 4 at area B and the Bombardment Unit to enter on turn 6 at area C. I was thinking that this would give the Japanese a chance to catch the Americans in-between both forces. 
U.S. battleline ready for action
On the first turn the Americans won the initiative, closed with the Japanese light cruiser and destroyer, and caused heavy damage to both ships in the gunnery phase. 
Japanese light cruiser Sendai takes the first hit of the game
On turn 2, the other two destroyers from the Screening Unit entered, but, seeing the fate of their comrades, decided to keep their distance and move toward the Screening Unit entry point. The American finished off the two damaged ships.

American radar gave them an initiative and combat advantages. On turn 3 they were able to use those advantages to damage the remaining sweep Unit destroyers, putting the out of the fight, and get into position for the Screening Unit. The Screening Unit finally got some hits on the leading American destroyers with guns and torpedoes. But they had no luck against the battleships. 
U.S. destroyers (foreground) take damage while the lead Japanese ships take hits
At the end of Turn 5 most of the Screening Unit ships were damaged or sinking. The Americans left their damaged destroyers behind and moved to intercept the Bombardment Unit.
Japanese heavy cruisers (left and center) and battleship Kongo (right) move in for action
As the two forces engaged, the Japanese attack dice got better, and they were able to hit the battleship South Dakota with torpedoes. But it only resulted in light damage. Meanwhile, the Japanese battleship Kongo took heavy damage from the American 16” guns.
View from the Japanese side as Kongo (foreground right) and Takao (foreground left) take damage, while South Dakota (background left) and Preston (background right) are also hit
The two forces continued to slug it out, but the damaged Kongo and 8” cruiser guns weren’t able to do any more damage to the American battleships.
The view from the American side as Kongo (left background) and Atago (center background) take damage
With all the Japanese capital ships heavily damaged and unable to do anything to the Americans, I decided to call the game in favor of the Americans. The Americans did a lot more damage than they did historically, while taking close to historical damage.

The game played quickly, finishing up in a little more than an hour. The American dice were hot throughout the game, while the Japanese started cold and moved to average. With the limited visibility range, the American radar really helped out with initiative, spotting, and combat. The Japanese used searchlights during combat to negate some negative modifiers, but they could not effectively use their long-range torpedoes.

Overall it was a fun little game and the rules lived up to the fast play promise. I'm a fan of David Manley's rules, so you can take my comments with a grain of salt. The downside for the rules is that they could use a little more editing to clear up some confusing parts and clarifications around fighting night battles. I also wonder if torpedoes are a little under-powered (it seems like it is really hard to get hits), but I'll need some more playing time to really determine that. The rules work well for moderately-sized and large battles, where record keeping can really slow things down, but might not be good for small battles with small ships (although I expect they would play quickly). The campaign rules look like they could be fun to try out. 

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Summer Solo Game - London's Burning

An He-111 bomber over East London (Wikipedia)
For this year's summer solo game, I selected Avalon Hill’s London’s Burning game. If you aren’t familiar with the game, it is a solitaire boardgame where you control a couple Royal Air Force (RAF) fighters during the Battle of Britain. The game system controls the German air raids through chit pulls and die rolls. I used the VASSAL boardgame engine and London's Burning module to play the game (mainly so that I didn't have to worry about setting up and picking up the game or storing things between sessions). I really like VASSAL for solitaire games and recommend it for those of you with limited table space or that can’t leave a game out between playing sessions.

I chose to play the standard scenario, which runs from August 13 thru September 6, with random weather. I put my main air base at Kenley airfield and drew 2 Hurricane pilots (Holmwood and Palmer) to start the game and 2 Spitfire pilots (Richey and Clisby) in reserve. My main strategy was to forward base my aircraft at the southeast satellite airfields (Manston and Hawkinge) until the Germans damage the radar sites and then deploy further back. I wanted to minimize the flying standing patrols to minimize pilot fatigue. I also wanted to try to keep both fighters together on intercepts as much as possible for mutual support. With my forces set up, it was time to start the game.

Day 1, August 13, started out well for the RAF with the Hurricanes attacking out of the sun on the first raid, knocking down all the German planes, including an Ace Me-109.
Hurricanes bounce the first Luftwaffe raid and get an Me-109 Ace
A couple more Germans were downed during the rest of the day’s raids, while damage was done to the Dunkirk radar station and Detling airfield. I repaired the radar during the night phase to keep the early warning system up.

On August 14, Holmwood was wounded and put out of action for 3 weeks. He was replaced from the by Richey. The Germans again damaged the Dunkirk radar station and also hit Hawkinge airfield (fortunately, I was using Manston as my satellite airfield when they hit Hawkinge). The damage to the radar and airfield forced me to pull back from the forward deployment.

August 15 was a light raid day, with only one afternoon raid. During that raid Palmer downed a Do-17 for his 5th kill, making him an Ace. But Richey was wounded and put out of action for 4 weeks, essentially putting him out of the game. Clisby was called up from the reserves and I was starting to worry that I would run out of pilots.

Luckily for me, the weather turned bad for the next 3 days. This allowed me to repair all the bombing damage and get another pilot (Stone) in the reserve box.

August 19 saw a raid on Dover that I missed intercepting, but no other action. The tempo of raids picked up on the 20th and 21st with attacks on airfields and the first raid on London.
The first raid on London
On August 22, Clisby downed an Me-109 to become an Ace. But both pilots were starting to feel fatigue, limiting the number of raids I could effectively intercept.
Clisby (in the Spitfire) gets his 5th kill
On the last raid of the day Palmer’s plane was damaged, but, luckily, he was not wounded and could return to action the next day.

At this point things were starting to look grim for the RAF. Both of my pilots would be starting the day with some fatigue and there were a lot of damaged spaces on the map. But the poor English weather (really the random weather die roll) came to my rescue for the next 10 days as the south of England was blanketed in rain storms. This allowed me to repair almost all the bomb damage, rest up my pilots, and get some more pilots, including the Hurricane Ace Kowalski, into the reserve pool.

The Luftwaffe got a couple good days of weather to restart their bombing, but paid a heavy cost as my rested Aces hit the bomber formations. Palmer had to bail out during an afternoon raid on September 3, but he safely ‘hit the silk’ and was ready to go for the next day. Bad weather returned on September 4, but then cleared up for the last two days of the game. However, by this time the game was already decided. Even with some strong raids to do some last bits of damage, I had been able to use the bad weather to repair most of the earlier damage and the game ended with a resounding RAF victory.

Without the weather reprieves, I would have had a much tougher time with the game. 10 days of bad weather allowed me to repair almost all of the damage done by the earlier raids. That coupled with all the Luftwaffe planes I had downed made it an easy win.
The lads chatting about the terrible weather during the summer of 1940 (Wikipedia)
I hadn’t played London’s Burning for many years and it was fun to pull it out again. The system still provides an interesting game with a lot of player decisions. It does make me wonder if the system could be adapted for other World War II situations (maybe Malta, Guadalcanal, or Rabaul). But that will have to wait for another time, as the next thing on the agenda is International Naval Wargaming Day on August 6.