Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
It comprised the Warspite, three Truculents and three Martlets.
One time the Germans were able to pull out a narrow win by sinking the Warspite while still having the crippled Scharnhorst afloat. The British had awful luck with initiative.
But the other two battles were decisive British wins, with all three German ships going down with no British losses at all (not surprising of course, as the Germans have nothing that can shoot down the Martlets and have a low chance of success in ASW and are vulnerable to being picked off by the Martlets. The Warspite took damage in both battles, but that was it.
Generally the Germans could get two objectives but that was the extent of their scoring.
This does not suggest that the Warspite/Martlet/Truculent build is a good one. It has obvious vulnerabilities, but it has a very good chance of beating that particular German build.
This time I had the Soviets concentrate on trying to eliminate Germans ships, on the theory that this was their only hope of avoiding eventual destruction by air units.
This worked somewhat better for the Soviets, although they were still no where close to winning.
The Soviets charged ahead at maximum speed to close on the German fleet as quickly as possible. This time around the air strike luck was pretty normal. There were few aborts and the German bombs generally fell true. Despite that the Soviets were able to grab one objective and sink a Scheer before being wiped out, so the final score was 198 for the Germans (One objective for 50, surviving for 50 and 98 points for sunk Soviets) and the Soviets got 70 (20 for a sunk pocket battleship and 50 for an objective). The third objective was unclaimed.
I am not sure whether this result says that the Soviet fleet is too weak or it just points out that it's always possible to build a fleet that can kill another fleet if you have the luxury of knowing its order of battle beforehand.
The main problems for the Soviets were two-fold.
First, they have no real counter for the German airpower. The Soviet AA can't hope to do more than occasionally abort the German bombers, which means they will eventually lose if the game goes on long enough.
Secondly, the Scharnhorst is a tough nut for the Soviets to crack. If they could get in to torpedo it they might stand a chance, but the German air units will usually kill off enough torpedo armed ships to prevent an effective swarm. The only ship with sufficient gunnery power to get through the Scharnhorst armor of the Okt. Rev., but it can't win a gunnery duel against the German ship.
The mine special ability isn't easy to use in a Standard Scenario Fleet action, although it might be an interesting tool for a convoy raiding fleet.
Monday, September 28, 2009
With only 100 points it's hard to build anything resembling a balanced fleet, but knowing the composition of the Soviet fleet is an advantage. Actually, simply knowing that they are Soviets is a big advantage because the Communists don't have a lot of options. They have no aircraft or subs yet.
So the German fleet comprised one Scharnhosrt, two Adn. Scheer, two Kondors and one JU-88. The commenter suggested that the aircraft would savage the Soviet DDs while the surface units dealt with the larger Soviet ships and objectives.
And so it played out, although it was a stiff fight. The Soviets attempted a control-the-objectives strategy, but the Germans were aggressive to at least deny objective control, if nothing else. As it turned out the air units were very effective at decimating the Soviet DD forces, even with some fortuitous die rolling by the Soviets which aborted an unexpectedly high number of German attackers and poor rolls by the Germans which left some destroyers crippled instead of sunk outright.
Because of this enough Soviet forces survived to get close enough to eventually take out both German pocket battleships, although at the cost of almost all of the rest of their number. The Scharnhorst, on the other hand, was virtually untouchable and ended the battle with just a single hit. A few mines were sown in the late game as last ditch attempts to do something but no mine hits were scored, even has the Scharnhorst deliberately risked one to claim the last objective on the same turn the aircraft finished off the last of the Soviet surface fleet.
The final German score was 298 points (98 for sunk Soviets, 150 for three objectives and 50 for last surviving surface fleet) The Soviets managed just 40 points for the two sunk pocket battleships.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
This operation is generally considerd to mark the end of the end of the battle.
Operation Market-Garden is one of the most controversial battles of World War II. The stakes were high, the valor unmatched and the sides evenly matched. It was really a battle that could have gone either way and is one of the classic situations in wargaming.
It's not one of my personally focused topics. One has to draw the line somewhere and my main battles/campaigns that I follow are Midway, Gettysburg, D-Day, Bulge and Waterloo.
That said I do have quite a few games that touch on the battle. Most tactical WW2 wargame systems have a scenario or two on it like Memoir '44 or Tide of Iron. The TCS game Screaming Eagles in Holland is about one aspect of the battle.
Arnhem on Hexwar.com
Cvering the whole battle is the free introductory wargame Target Arnhem, but by far my most played game on the battle is the old SPI quad game Arnhem which is on Hexwar. It turns out it's one of the most popular games on that subscription PBeM service and it works surprisingly well, especially when played with the optional Fog of War rules. That option provides hidden movement, which aids the Germans considerably. The Hexwar stats don't differentiate between games played with Fog of War and those played without. but I think the majority of Arnhem plays probably use FOW. The Germans have won (as of Sept. 26, 2009) 4,513, the Allies 3,517 and there have been a mere 13 drawn games.
My experience with the game suggests that playing without fog favors the Allies, while adding Fog of War makes it an even contest between experienced players. I think the Hexwar results are skewed considerably because the Allied side has a very steep learning curve. One error and you lose, so many of those losses are part of the learning process. Once a player learns what he must do as the Allied player, then it becomes a very tight and even contest.
Friday, September 25, 2009
With small fleet builds I suspect that general purpose builds may be at a disadvantage against all-or-nothing fleets.
In this case the matchup was as follows:
Admiral Hipper (16) U66 x 2 (24) U510 x 2 (22) Graf Zeppelin (18) BF109 (7) Ju-87 (7) Fw 200 Kondor (6) (100) The actual ForuMini build had two Bf109s but I subbed a Ju-87 for a better balanced fleet.
Okt. R. (24) Kirov x 2 (20) Gromkiy x 9 (54) (98)
This seemed right off the bat to be a tough situation for the Germans to me. It seemed liked there was little prospect of challenging the Soviets over objectives and the sub-heavy German fleet was facing a lot of ASW.
And so it proved. A lucky shot from a DD took out the Stuka early, but the Bf 109 did OK strafing DDs, crippling two by game end. The Kondor's glide bomb attack missed the Soviet BB.
The Germans subs were simply overwhelmed by the Soviet DD swarm. The submarines' wolfpack and Kondor pinpointer benefits were no match for all the ASW penalties from the destroyers and most of their torpedo shots were reduced to one die. One DD ended up being sunk by a sub while three f the four U-Boats went down and the fourth was left crippled.
So the Soviets swept up all three objectives and closed in on the Graf Zeppelin and its escort, the Admiral Hipper. The rush by six DDs, the two Kirovs and the battleship was Zulu Dawn-like. The two German ships managed to take out three destroyers and cripple a fourth before going down in a blizzard of torpedoes and shells.
The final score was 223 for the Soviets and 24 for the Germans. One crippled U-boat and two German aircraft survived. Two of the three surviving Soviets DDs were crippled and one of the Kirovs had a hit.
Special abilities used in the battle:
German: Anti-Ship Missile (missed), Pinpointer, Land-based, Wolfpack, Extended Range 4
Soviet: High-speed Run, Slow 2.
I'm going to try one more FuruMini build against the Soviet fleet and see what happens.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
So we now have the following confurmed expansions for War at Sea
Condition Zebra (Set IV)
Set V (name TBD)
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
It appears to be standard S&T fare, with 11 pages of game rules, a standard-sized map and 98 counters, mostly units. It does look like it has some interesting twists. More on that later.
The game also includes a bunch of variant counters for Red Dragon Rising, which appears to be one of the most popular S&T games in years. I wouldn't be surprised to see it juiced up for a boxed release someday. A could of the counters are errata for the original game but most represent order of Battle variants. There are also a couple of pages of variant rules that add some new operations for the base game and there are counters and rules for a "Hyperwar" variant that adds some more what-if options.
It struck me that there's quite a contrast between the US forces represented by the two games.
The 1898 US Army was an anachronistic force, not all that different in character from American troops of a century before. Sure, there were some hints of modernity. The rifles were modern bolt-action types, there were Gatling guns and even an observation balloon. But in organization, training and general level of professionalism it was an early Nineteenth Century army, with battalion-sized regiments, ad hoc brigade and division organizations, politically connected officers, volunteer militia, spotty supply services and minimal staffs. It's only because the Spanish in Cuba were even more backward and ill-led that the Americans found success. The Navy, of course, was well along in its transformation into a modern fighting force, but it doesn't appear in the game except on its margins.
On the other hand, the US Army and all its sister services in Red Dragon Rising is the epitome of high tech warfare. While the 1898 US Army would have been a recognizable force to Anthony Wayne's 1796 Legionaires. I doubt that an 1898 veteran would recognize much about his 2009 descendent, particularly at the higher levels. The 1898 Army and Navy barely talked to each other to the extent that the game doesn't allow the player any control over where to land or who gets landed. Warfare in the 21st Century is all about jointness and there's little evidence of interservice rivalry now. Navy, Marine, Army and Air Force assets are used completely interchangeably -- and also integrated with Allied forces.
It's just coincidence that these two games shared a counter sheet in this issue of S&T, but it does illustarte how much has changed.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
This was evident from the very beginning of the crisis, when the Czechs set up a government in exile, but the Czechs were a small country and I'm not sure that their resistance made a big difference.
But Poland was a different story. While outnumbered and outclassed by the German war machine, the Poles were still a major European country and their refusal to accept that their 1939 defeat was final was an important factor in later events. Indeed, large formations of Polish troops in corps and army size were on the front lines on the last day of the war, just as they were on the first. Their example may very well have inspired other countries to do the same. As their homelands fell, ships, pilots and troops from Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Yugoslavia and Greece fought on. This testifies to how odious these people found the Nazi regime.
In game terms it manifests itself in the variety of units and nationalities depicted. I think my first real exposure to this was in the game Afrika Korps. The famous cover of that game highlights all the different nation's that fought against the Germans -- Jews, French, Poles, Indians, South Africans, Australians and New Zealanders. Driving the point home even more was Anzio, which had most of the above and added Canadians, Americans and Brazilians!
The Axis had their helpers, too, which I saw in the old Stalingrad game, but the Finns, Romanians, Hungarians and Italians somehow didn't seem as important or integrated into that war effort. They were weaker units and in the case of the Finns off in their own corner.
In contrast the non-British Allied units in Afrika Korps and Anzio were every bit as good as the Brits and in Anzio, actually outnumbered the British units. As a teen-ager who didn't know a lot yet about World War II this was an eye-opening revelation. That the situation could also be complicated was illustrated by the Italian units in Anzio, who fell into three groups -- the original Fascist army which mostly surrenders when the Allies land at Salerno, Mussolini's reorganized Fascist troops and the Italian troops that join the Allies. This prompted a lot more and deeper reading by the teen me back then as I was curious what brought about this state of affairs.
Which brings us back to the Poles. Before I was a wargamer I had read a little bit about World War II. I especially remember a series of books that was called How and Why that was popular back then. These were color illustrated books on all sort of topics from science to arts. But I enjoyed the history ones the most. But there was one on World War II that had a striking illustration showing some Polish troops on horseback and wagons being strafed by Stukas. They really seemed hapless.
But a few years later, as I started playing wargames I found out that they were not so hapless after all. Polish troops showed up early and often in World War II wargames and I started to develop an appreciation for their stalwartness in the face of defeat. By high school I knew enough to appreciate that my French teacher, a gentleman named Kozacko, had a hell of a story to tell ,even though he never told it. But I heard from other teachers that he was a World War II veteran and like many, he was unable to return home after the war because of the Soviets. Some of the other kids thought Mr. K was rather odd and he wasn't all that popular. Frankly, I don't think he was the best teacher. But I knew that he'd seen a lot and he always had my respect.
History is a neglected subject these days. The pressures of school testing mean that teachers spend most of their time on English and math, so I don't think today's kids are getting a firm grounding in history. They will have to find out about it themselves. That's one reason why I have been thrilled by the whole Axis & Allies line of games -- despite their limitations as history. Because of A&A some people will be exposed to enough history to whet their appetite for more. The Axis & Allies miniatures lines don't just include troops and tanks from the big powers like the US, UK, USSR, Germany and Japan. There are Dutch warships, Azad Hind collaborators, Hungarian tanks, American Buffalo soldiers and yes, Polish cavalrymen. With luck wondering what the story is behind that piece will provoke a new generation to discover the fascination of history.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Later versions of the Crusader had the 6-pounder gun, which was an improvement over the 2-pounder but compared poorly with the 75mm/76mm guns being used on equivalent foreign tanks.
The Crusader had a substantial production run, with more than 5,000 of all versions made. In Axis & Allies Miniatures the Crusader is identified as the Crusader II, although the model in the Base Set actually appears to be a Crusader I because it has the small machine gun turrets of that mark. The North Africa set version does appear to be a Crusader II.
Rarity: RareSpeed: 4
Attacks vs troops at short-medium-long ranges:
Attacks vs vehicles at short-medium-long ranges:
Vanguard — After both armies are deployed, this unit can move at speed 4 before the first turn begins.
Prone to Breakdown — This unit can’t move while damaged.
Thanks to their speed, many Crusaders fought in the North African Campaign despite being mechanically unreliable.
The unit in history: The Crusader was meant to be an improvement on earlier British cruiser tanks as a "heavy" cruiser tank. compared to earlier cruiser tanks it had more armor, although it was still vulnerable to the most common German antitank weapons. Unfortunately the new tank proved to be unreliable under desert conditions with problems with the air filters and fans. Overall it was an interim design in the continuing British search for a fast tank that still had reasonable combat power.
The unit in the game: The Vanguard special ability allows the player to get a positional jump on the enemy, but the combat power of the Crusader is really too marginal to make optimal use of the ability. It's defense is too weak to hold any objective it might seize and it's firepower inadequate to deal with either tanks or infantry. About the best thing that can be said about the Crusader is that it's an inexpensive unit and the player can afford several. Overall though, the Vanguard ability is put to much better use by the Cromwell tank. Unfortunately that's not available until 1944 and the Crusader has to do until then.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Just about every war anybody heard of -- and many that no one heard of -- has been done. Every level of command from private to field marshal is covered. Every era from the neolithic to interstellar is depicted.
So 1805: Sea of Glory is quite a remarkable design achievement. I won't say that strategic warfare in the age of sail is entirely untouched, but I think 1805: Sea of Glory is the first real serious wargame to attempt the topic. I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays in practice, but if it works as well as it appears it may this may open up a whole new genre of wargames. Evidently the next campaign that will be covered in 1798, but one can easily imagine games covering Suffren in the Indian Ocean and operations off the American Coast from the Revolution.
And one rich area for exploration would be the Anglo-Dutch Wars, which have been barely covered at all, largely because they don't have a lot of tactical interest and tactical games were the only age of sail games until now.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
And amazingly a second Intrepid is what I pulled! I think my Flank Speed collection is just about complete.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Sunday, September 6, 2009
The idea was to keep it simple, so I cast it as a War Plan Orange fight with no subs or planes. The US force was made up of two Arizona-class Battleships, one Richmond-class light cruiser and, in order to fill out the 100 points, a Liberty ship. The Liberty ship played no role in the fighting, to no one's surprise. The Japanese force was the battleship Yamashiro, the battlecruiser Haruna and the light cruiser Jinstu. It was a 100-point standard scenario using the straits map.
I drew the US first. The Richmond headed for the northernmost objective, as did the Jintsu. Meanwhile all four battleships converged on the area between the central and southern objectives. The Richmond won its duel with the Jintsu, largely because of a lucky torpedo hit, which resulted in Richmond claiming that objective and sinking the Japanese CL, although the American ship was crippled.
The battleship duel also went the US way. The Haruna was overwhelmed and blew up, as battlecruisers often do, and the Yamashiro has little chance under the combined fire of the two Arizonas.
The final score was US 200 to Japan 0. (The US score was 100 points for ships, 50 points for one objective and 50 points for having the last surviving ships.)
We switched sides and this was a much closer fight. The US once again sent the Richmond north, but then backed off as bit as the combined Japanese force charged up the middle to meet the US battleships. Both cruisers ended up going down in a hail of secondary and tertiary battery fire from the battleships. Torpedoes were launched but none struck home. Once again the Haruna was quickly downed by battleship fire, but some failed speed rolls meant the US battleships couldn't prevent the Japanese from claiming the central objective. The Yamashiro then turned away and made a dash for the southern objective, with the slower US battleships following. The Yamashiro claimed that objective as well, and then in its dying breath was able to sink one of the Arizonas as she went down herself. Final score Japan 153 to US 150. (Japan got 100 points for objectives and 53 for sunk ships -- a BB and a CL; US got 100 points for sunk ships and 50 points for having the last surviving ships).
Overall the Arizona seems to be a cost-effective ship and I'd be tempted to pick it again. The Yamashiro is comparable, but I don't think the Haruna is worth its points. The Jintsu also seems pricey, but it's Long Lance torpedoes could have been game-changers if they hit.
Overall it was an entertaining match and it went quickly, with both battles being concluded in a little over an hour.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
From two cases:
HMCS Sackville Common 4
Milan Common 5
Suffren Rare 2
HMNZS Leander Uncommon 3
HMS Belfast Uncommon 2
HMS Prince of Wales Rare 2
HMS Repulse Rare 2
HMS Saumarez Common 4
Martlet Mark II Common 4
SB2C Helldiver Common 4
USS Alaska Rare 2
USS Arizona Rare 2
USS Gunston Hall Uncommon 3
USS Intrepid Rare 1
USS Kidd Common 4
USS North Carolina Rare 1
USS Phelps Common 4
USS Richmond Uncommon 3
USS San Diego Uncommon 4
Gromkiy Common 7
October Revolution Rare 1
Kirov Rare 2
Ju 88A-4 Uncommon 3
Prinz Eugen Rare 2
Schleswig-Holstein Rare 1
T27 Common 4
U-47 Common 3
Aquila Rare 1
Gorizia Rare 1
Guiseppe Garibaldi Uncommon 2
Pegaso Common 5
Re. 2001 CB Common 4
A6M5 Zeke Common 4
Aoba Rare 1
B6N2 Jill Common 5
Nagato Rare 1
Oi Uncommon 3
Shigure Common 4
Soryu Rare 2
T1 Landing Ship Common 6
I got my last missing rare in the very last box I opened, so there was even some drama. The distribution was very even, with only the TI and the Russian DD over represented. I'm not sure how useful the T1 will be but having so many Russian DDs means I'm just 1 DD away from being able to field a 100-point Russian fleet (unbalanced to be sure, but not bad for a minor naval power.)
Friday, September 4, 2009
In the meantime I managed to come across War at Sea designer Rich Baker's Opening Salvos for Flank Speed, which Hasbro/AH/WOTC/whoever never actually managed to get published on the company Web site -- way to market there. Instead they are published at Baker's blog. The models previewed are the Helldiver, the new Zero, The Soviet cruiser Kirov, U-47, the Repulse, and the carriers Aquila, Soryu and Intrepid.
Anyway, they are worth a quick read.
With luck the official gallery will appear soon.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Troll and Toad sent an email today that my two cases of Flank Speed are on the way, which was all well and good, but I knew that today was "Release Day" so I stopped the The Citadel and bought one booster of Flank Speed just to break the ice ...