Sunday, 26 November 2006

Quiet Week...

Didn't manage to get much gaming in this week at all I'm afraid. I've just spent the weekend sorting stuff out, updating my BGG collection and sorting out figures for a Montjoie! playtest:

As you can see the figures are Gripping Beast.

Sunday, 19 November 2006

Video Review: Brigade Games' The Ends of the Earth

Here is my first attempt at a video review. In this case it's of two packs from the Brigade Games The Ends of the Earth range of 28mm figures:

Saturday, 18 November 2006

First Look: Division Commander

Division Commander is, as you might expect, a Divisional level set of World War 2 rules from Bruce McFarlane.

The rules bear a passing resemblence in some areas to Bruce McFarlane's previous Second World War offering Great Battles of World War II (GBoWW2). In this case a Battalion, rather than a Company, is the smallest manoeuver unit and hence the rules operate at that higher (and more abstract) level.

As with GBoWW2 the rules are designed to play large multi-day operations and include all the appropriate mechanisms to enable this. The layout and presentation somewhat detract from the rules but they do contain the rules (with a FAQ section), army lists and three scenarios (Counterattack at Arras, El Almein (sic): Operations Lightfoot and Supercharge, and Mud at Mtsensk).

The rules are available as a Adobe .pdf download from Saber's Edge Hobbies & Games at $24.99 CDN.

Overview: World War 2 Rules

Like the Napoleonic period the Second World War seems to polarise wargamers by their preferred rule sets. Until relatively recently I had a problem finding any sets of rules that I felt provided the flavour that I was looking for at the various scales you can game the period. I thought I'd outline the rules I've now found and why I like them (you will probably also see full reviews of these rules at various times in the future - indeed I have reviewed one of them already). This isn't to say that other WW2 rules are bad but simply that I prefer these (and as you will see there is still a gap I am trying to fill). You may notice my list doesn't include Rapid Fire, I'm not a big fan of these rules generally as I think they play like a skirmish but as that's not the level they are trying to represent that's not a plus point! However, I would agree that they are relatively simple to pick up and might be a good introduction to the period. Anyway here are my favourites:

Nuts! from Two Hour Wargames is the WW2 variant of their Chain Reaction 2 skirmish rules.

The chain reaction concept takes a little while to get your head around but once mastered I find it provides the best modern skirmish games I have ever played. It neatly represents the feeling of a fire fight and the effect of troop quality and leadership very well. The rules provide both the basic game mechanics for infantry, armour and artillery along with army lists (though focussed on mid to late war) and a campaign system. It's a great package based on an excellent series of mechanics that give a great skirmish game.

I Ain't Been Shot, Mum from the Too Fat Lardies has been reviewed by me before and whilst also at a 1:1 ratio uses the section as the basic manouevre unit.

The use of an interrupted card based initiative system and reducing action dice generates a series of challenges for the player acting at a Company commander level or higher. It works as both a two player and multi-player level and the rules are easy to pick up and play.

The fact that not every unit can act every turn can be a little frustrating at first but it does present a very interesting series of challenges to the player. Obviously for multi-player games it is essential that the distribution of units is properly thought through to avoid prolonged downtime.

My final selection is Great Battles of World War II by Bruce McFarlane (originally published by The Canadian Wargamers Group). These rules use a company as their smallest manouevre unit and allow the player to operate at a Brigade or Division commander level.

The rules are designed around fighting large multi-day actions as units gradually grind to a halt during combat and have to be reorganised overnight. A Divisional Centre of Operations and Forming Up Place are represented and provide reference points for deployment and lines of communication and supply.

The CWG rules sets include background, rules and scenarios as a complete package and the original two volumes were The Canadians in Europe and Dropzone which dealt with major airbourne campaigns (Crete and Market Garden). A third early war volume (Invasion '40) has also been released and is available, along with a .pdf version of the rules as part of the CWP offering at Saber's Edge Hobbies & Games (whose website appears to be down at the moment).

The obvious omission from this list is a set of rules at Regimental level. I have used Spearhead for this but, whilst a decent set of rules, I'm afraid they don't float my boat.

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Review: I Ain't Been Shot, Mum

I Ain't Been Shot, Mum (IABSM) is a set of World War 2 rules by Richard Clarke and Nick Skinner of the Too Fat Lardies.
The rules are based on a 1:1 figure:man ratio, with the smallest manoeuvre unit being the section and placing the player at Company commander level or above.
Turn sequence
The turn sequence is dictated through a card system with each platoon, each "Big Man" having a card combined with various special cards. In addition there is the "Tea Break" card which, when drawn, indicated the end of the turn; however, units which have not yet fired and have a target in short range may then fire. The Tea Break card means that not every unit will be able to act each turn.
You will have noticed the reference to Big Man this is Lardies shorthand for the natural leaders within a company who are able to galvanise their fellow soldiers into action. Their inate command ability is represented by having their own card so a unit with a Big Man attached doubles their opportunity to activate during any turn.
The special cards include bonus moves, bonus firing, ammunition shortages, national characteristics (e.g. human wave attacks) etc. These cards are theatre and scenario specific.
Once active a unit may utilise their "Initiative Dice" in order to perform actions (spotting, movement, firing etc.). The number of Initiative Dice (d6) is determined by the quality of the troops and is gradually reduced as a unit takes casualties.
The rules system provides for the use of "Blinds" where units have not yet been spotted. These are card templates which can conceal one or more or, indeed, no units and must be the subject of a successful spotting roll or activate in order to be revealed. Any cover may also be treated as a blind and hence be hiding troops deplayed in concealment.
A separate Blinds Move card is used in the deck and the cards for the units concealed are kept to one side and only inserted into the pack when the unit is revealed. This system enables some greater co-ordination of units before they fully deploy and maintains an element of the fog of war. Additionally Blinds may perform any action that a unit can do other than firing (in which case they must be revealed).
Spotting is achieved by sacrificing one Initiative Dice in order to make each spotting roll. The target number for the spotting roll is an example of the Lardies approach to these issues. Rather than provide a prescriptive list of modifiers they provide examples of factors which may make spotting easier or more difficult alogn with typical target numbers (e.g. a particularly easy spot will require a 3 or 4 on a 2d6, with ahard spot around 11). The players or umpire then need to determine the number and thus whether the units revealed or the blind removed. This may no appeal to all gamers but I have found it provides a much more flexible approach than a precriptive list.
Movement is determined by allocating a number of Initiative Dice, rolling them and then moving that number of inches. Units who have take sufficient casualties to lose their Initiative Dice may make a Guts Test to see if they may move or must rely on a Big Man (who has an Initiative Dice of his own) to help them. Modifiers are provided to allow for different terrain types.
Firing is determined by the number of Initiative Dice allocated to it. It does not need to take place when a unit's card turns up as the dice may be reserved for use later in the turn when the attached Big Man's card turns up or on the Tea Break card.
As with spotting th system is not prescriptive it requires the players to agree as to whether the situation provides a Good, OK or Poor shot and different columns on the firing table are applied. Range bands are also included. The result is specified as a number of potential casualties and may also make the unit pinned (no move but may fire) or suppressed (no move or firing) for the remainder of the turn. Potential casualties are the diced for to determine whether they were a near miss, wound or indeed dead. "Wounds" is more Lardies shorthand and actually means loss of unit cohesion and is a negative modifier to the unit's Initiative Dice. These "Wounds" may be removed by a Big Man.
Close Combat
This is achieved by each side rolling 1d6 per figure with the total number of dice for each unit being modified for troop quality, Big Men, heavy weapons, wounds, suppression etc. A "six and you're dead" approach is then used with the overall result being determined by the difference in casualties.
For the most part morale is built into the system through the Initiative Dice being reduced as casualties are suffered; however, where the players agree a specific morale test is required due to the particular circumstances a specific roll of 2d6 versus the number of casualties suffered may be made. Again a flexible approach is provided with the players agreeing any positive or negative factors which should be taken into account (examples are provided) and ultimately agreeing the effect of the result.
Optional rules
Various optional rules are provided to address Tank Quirks, MG Sustained Fire, National Characteristics etc.
Vehicles, Artillery etc.
Rules are provided for all these but I have concentrated on the infantry to better communicate the basic mechanisms as armour, artillery etc. all follow similar principles.

The rules are clearly layed out in sections with a table of contents and some examples. There are no graphics and, other than the covers, the rules are in black and white. This obviously has benefits if your are buying the .pdf option and printing it yourself. A few more examples might be beneficial but overall the presentation is good.
The Lardies strapline is "playing the period, not the rules" and these rules are an excellent example of this approach in that they provide a framework for play rather than having a prescriptive approach thus meaning that player should win through the use of appropriate tactics rather than relying on obscure references to or inappropriate application of rules. I believe these rules achieve the aim.
IABSM are not rules for everyone. If you like to have total control with every unit moving on every turn then the initiative system will not be for you. If you like a prescriptive set of modifiers for spotting, firing or morale rather than the common sense/by agreement approach adopted by IABSM then you will probably not like these rules. But if you want a good set of World War 2 rules for this level of combat then I highly recommend IABSM. With the unpredictability of unit movement the best use of Big Men becomes a real challenge along with the need for a more complex level of planning which is appropriate for the level of command being represented. They have become firm favourites of mine and work equally well in two or multi-player games. The rules are available in both hard copy and .pdf format from the Too Fat Lardies for £11.25 and £6.00 respectively. A wide range of theatre specific supplements are available along with scenario booklets.

Tuesday, 14 November 2006

And the award for speedy delivery goes to...

Maddison Games, who managed to get two games I ordered on Sunday to me today! The games in question are Apples to Apples and Are You A Werewolf? which I got to play at our large family gathering around Christmas time. Great service Maddison Games!

Saturday, 11 November 2006

First Look: Montjoie!

Montjoie! is a set of medieval rules by Ken Sidenblad, edited by Bob Minadeo and produced by Ed Teixeira of Two Hour Wargames.

The rules have similarities to other Two Hour Wargame sets in both format and mechanisms but obviously do not rely on the In Sight test of their modern counterparts like Chain Reaction 2. So the concepts of “Rep” as the main measures of a figure’s effectiveness and “passing dice” are retained along with elements of the ranged and melee combat tables; however, the rules are more geared around groups and encompass the necessary features relating to armour and the focus on hand to hand combat.

A campaign system is included allowing your “Stars” to progress to command greater numbers of troops and attributes have also been included. There are even rules for sieges. Army lists are provided for most of the main medieval wars and forces.

The rules are available from Two Hour Wargames as a 40 page .pdf for $14.00.

A quick update and ParcelForce rant

Not much gaming this week but I have been reading a couple of new rule sets which I'll shortly post First Looks for. I'm also working on a couple of full reviews which will make an appearance shortly.

As an aside aren't ParcelForce utterly useless? They tried to deliver a package to us on Monday when we were out, left a note saying we could pick it up from the local post office after 3pm on Tuesday, then left after driving over the lawn! To pick stuff up from the post office requires going into town and paying for parking - so not exactly convenient - but did it anyway and low and behold they don't know anything about any parcel. Of course the parcel reference on the note looked like it had been written by a barely literate drunked chimp so tracking the parcel on the web wasn't possible. Tried ringing ParcelFarce and after several attempts actually managed to speak to a human being rather than their labyrinthine automatic menu system. Apparently the parcel was actually at the depot (about 30 miles away) and marked as "return to sender". This is somewhat at odds with ParcelFarce's policy to try to deliver twice (they hadn't) and to keep packages for three weeks (they'd had it a whole 3 days). Maybe there's somesort of wormhole in Tonbridge and time passes differently there? Anyway we agreed they would redeliver (but not before 8:30 to make sure someone was in) and to avoid driving on the lawn. So they did redeliver (at 8:10! Possibly that wormhold effect again) and drove even further over the lawn! I suppose we did actually get the parcel (yup we'd guessed they'd not be able to tell the time and had someone house sitting in case - it does indeed pay to be paranoid).

Monday, 6 November 2006

Ancients - It's not a period!

When will people realise that Ancients is not a single period? I mean just 'cos people were only using pointy sticks and swords doesn't make all combat from the dawn of time to 1485 the same! Wargames rules that aren't period specific just don't float my boat. Where's the flavour? OK, I'll give DBA its due (albeit some people think its not a proper wargame), it is quick and its fun - but does it simulate ancient warfare? Of course there's DBM - that's DBA with all the fun sucked out! I always thought it was like taking a motorbike and using it to tow your caravan! Am I missing the point here? Isn't it essential to have a set of rules that allows you to fight Samurai against Hoplites? Mmm ... let me think about that - errr NO!

Anyway, so it's hats off to The Perfect Captain who have taken the time to produce Hoplomachia, a set of rules specifically created for the wars between the Greek City States. It has a campaign system too. OK, its not for everyone but it simply oozes period flavour.

So lets have less Ancients and more period specific stuff which reflect the weapons, strategy and tactics of the times!

Sunday, 5 November 2006

First Look: Algernon Pulls it Off!

Algernon Pulls it Off! is a set of World War 1 air combat rules by Richard Clarke and Nick Skinner of the Too Fat Lardies.

The rules are derived from their Bag the Hun Second World War air rules. They are hex based but reference is made to adapting them to avoid the need for a hex cloth. The rules include the two usual Lardies' staples, card based initiative and blinds. The cards include multiple cards for the better pilots but all appear each turn (i.e. without the Tea Break mechanism from I Ain't Been Shot Mum!). All the usual manoeuvres, tailing and the like are catered for, and anti aircraft fire, bombing and balloon busting also make an appearance. Stats for almost 50 aircraft are present (including all the usual suspects).

The rules are available from the Too Fat Lardies as a 35 page Adobe .pdf for £6.00 (which will be emailed to you) or on a CD for £7.50.

Saturday, 4 November 2006

Another week speeds by...

I can't believe a week has passed already. Unfortunately I haven't got into the habit of making posts yet but I'm sure that will come. The wargaming highlights this week have been getting a copy of Algernon Pulls It Off! the WW1 air rules from the Too Fat Lardies and an excellent Russian Civil War game using Triumph of the Will also from the Lardies. I'm working through the Guards to Poltava campaign from the Lardies' 2006 Summer special and whilst the Whites have won the first two games they are getting slowly worn down. Only time will tell whether they will get all the way to Poltava. As to Algy I intend to make this the subject of one of a "First Look" slots where I give you my first thoughts on sets of rules I've yet to play. These will be followed up by a full review once I have played them a few times to make sure I'm giving a proper picture of the rule set.