Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Just ordered my own copy of Washington's War

Yep, after reading yet another glowing review, this time in Armchair General, I decided I needed to have a copy of this one in my collection.

I really enjoyed my game with the redoubtable Mark K. and I'd really like to beat him next time we play Washington's War so it will be helpful to have a study copy.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Grant considered

Atlantic editor and blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates just finished reading Grant's Memoir, which he has been "live" blogging about.

It's a remarkable book, widely and justifiably considered about the best of that genre ever written.

I'm reading up a bit on Grant's nemesis, Robert E. Lee, in preparation for the upcoming anniversary of Gettysburg.

I often find myself defending Grant from ignorant criticism, often from Lee fans. For some reason Lee's admirers find it impossible to admit that Grant was a good general or anywhere near the equal of Lee -- Grant only won due to overwhelming force. Now, it is true that Grant had significant material advantages over Lee in 1864, but no more so than many other Union generals that Lee had nevertheless thrashed for the previous two years.

Lee was, undoubtedly, one of the greatest generals of U.S. history. Gen. Winfield Scott, one of America's other great generals said Lee was the finest soldier he ever knew -- and in more than 50 years of service Scott got to know a lot of soldiers.

It takes nothing away from Lee to see that Grant was also an exceptional general. He had to be, to beat Robert E. lee.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Reprint planned for Napoleon's War

While unsurprising, considering the first run sold out instantly, Worthington Games ahs announced it's taking preorders for a reprint of Napoleon's War: The 100 Days.

This makes sense. Might as well strike while the iron is hot. There are three similar figure-based Napoleonic games coming out this year and NW is both first and least expensive.

The FFG and GMT version are also likely to offer a bit more in the way of bling, so Worthington is wise to stake out first-comers ground.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Battle of Westeros is apparently out

It appears that the Battle of Westeros is out. Marketed as a "Battlelore" game, it's not part of the Richard Borg Commands & Colors system, although it bears more than a faint resemblance to it.

Fantasy Flight reportedly plans a pretty aggressive release schedule for expansions, although I have to say I'm pretty sure I won't be among the purchasers any time soon.

I'm mostly a history-based wargamer, although I make occasional forays into sci fi and fantasy wargames. Still, my main interest in Battlelore was because I like the Bog C&C system in its other history-based incarnations (Memoir '44, C&C: Ancients and Battle Cry) and I thought the fantasy theme would appeal to my stepson a little more than the historical titles would.

I've never heard of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, but I understand that it's not really set in the typical magical fantasy world but is more straight medieval, just in a fictional world. If I'm going to do staright meideval, I think I'll stick to the real one.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Goblin Chevauchee Battlelore session report

After a long layoff the Young General and the Old Warrior returned recently to their familiar battlegrounds at Battlelore.

This time we finished off the scenarios of the Goblin Marauder pack by playing the Goblin Chevauchee scenario.

This is an unusual Battlelore scenario because it features an army made up solely of Goblinoids on one side. As matter of fact, humans are only a little more than a quarter of the combatants present, as almost half of the Standard army is Dwarves.

The Goblinoids so far have not earned a good reputation with either of us, and they were fated to continue their losing ways again this day, although both games ended up being hard-fought affairs.

Young General started off commanding the Dwarven-Human standard army. As is his practice he took Level 1 lore masters in each of the four classes of Wizard, Cleric, Rogue and Warrior and a Level 2 Commander. This has worked well for him in the past. While he gives up a lot -- smaller hand size of lore cards, no level bonuses, no strongholds -- he believes that's made up for by never having to pay extra for whatever lore cards he uses. He has a small had n size, but every card he draws is useful, in his opinion. He doesn't believe the strongholds are worth the trouble and only a few cards have level bonuses. Old Warrior likes to have choices and likes to trick around with the Strongholds, so he selected a Level 1 Commander, a Level 1 Warrior and a Level 3 Rogue. The Spider rounded out the War Council. The Rogue's Den was placed in the center section between the two Goblin medium infantry and the woods.

The game started with some long-range Goblin archery that picked off a dwarf. Young General believes in offensive play so he came off the hills with his dwarves and started a push on the left flank, followed by offensives all along the front as the cards allowed. As usually seems to be the case, the Goblins came off second best in their encounters with the Iron Dwarves, who were unfazed by Rogue infiltration behind their lines or the unusual stoutness of the band-inspired Goblin infantry. While the Pennant army of Goblins jumped out to an early 3-1 lead, the Dwarves roared back to end up with a 6-4 victory. A key event was a 3-Bonus strike die roll that wiped out the Hobgoblin heavy infantry in the center. As usual the Spider didn't pull its weight, failing to do much damage before falling to a critical hit.

The side switch brought dire predictions of doom from Young general, who was sure that the Goblins would let him down as usual. As it turned out, though, it was a very hard fight. Unlike Old Warrior, Young General knew how to draw some good cards and he was especially aided by an early Mounted Charge and also a Forest Frenzy lore card that each managed to do serious damage to several units and kill outright one unit each time.

As usual Young General spread out his War Council, although the Spider meant he had to settle for e Level 1 Commander. Old Warrior continued in his quest to prove that the proper strategy was to have a Level 3 lore master -- in this case a Level 3 Warrior and a Level 3 Commander. This provided the largest possible hand of 6 Command cards and 4 Lore cards. The Training Camp and the Commander's Stronghold were both placed in the center section in front of the small woods, with the camp nestled between the hill and the trees.

The Goblins do play to Young General's aggressive style of play, and the stout dwarves and less stout men had waves of Goblins dashing against their lines -- and doing quite a bit of damage, too, especially in the center and Dwarven left flank. The humans on the right were able to clear their sector, however and for three full turns both sides were locked in a 5-5 tie hunting for that last Flag. Time and again a single-figure unit on each side escaped what seemed like certain destruction until, finally, a surrounded Hobgoblin Ostrich Rider was caught without out a retreat path when a pair of flags were rolled on him.

After playing one game of the Goblin Riders and a match of the Goblin Chevauchee, Old Warrior's preliminary opinion is that the new Goblin units are all useful additions to that mercenary army.

The Goblin band died early in its exposed position in the Goblin Riders scenario, but it was very usefully well behind the lines in the Chevauchee and definitely stiffened the Goblin center sector.

The Hobgoblin Ostrich Riders are a fairly useful unit, being fast and flexible, although as a green unit they don't have much hitting power. They didn't play a memorable role in the first scenario but they were in the thick of the action in both Chevauchee games.

The Goblin Hyena Riders were the star units of the new set, however. They played an important shock role in all three battles. Their flaw, of course, is the Goblin Run, but if used carefully they can do a lot of damage. Young General's Hyena Riders made very good use of the Mounted Charge and their 2-hex pursuit to chew up several Dwarve units on the flank.

While not a new unit, the Chevauchee scenario in the Goblin Marauder pack put the Hobgoblin heavy sword unit front and center in the action. In both games the hobgoblins went down, but not before doing serious damage in return.

The Chevauchee scenario, in particular, provided a good, hard-fought battle both times and is a scenario I can see returning to.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Battle of the Java Sea in War at Sea

With Condition Zebra's appearance we are close to being able to field all of the ships or sister ships tor ecreate the Battle of the Java Sea, one of the more interesting sea fights of World War II.

On the Allied side we have the following:
Neth. CL De Ruyter herself
Aus. CL Perth Sub with sister Sydney\
Amer. CA Houston herself
Brit. CA Exeter herself
Neth. CL Java N/A closest would be a sub with De Ruyter
Brit. Encounter sub with similar Vasillas Olga
Brit. Electra sub with similar Vasillas Olga
Neth. Witte de With herself
Neth. Kortenaer sub with sister Witte de With
Brit. Jupitor sub with sister Javelin
Amer. Edwards, Ford. Paul Jones and Alden This is the biggest hole in the OB and I hope the next set includes some four-stackers. Right now there isn't a good sub. The closest would probably be a DE, but get rid of te Slow SA.

The Japanese side is likewise nearly complete.

Haguro herself
Nachi herself
Jintsu herself
Naka sister Jintsu

Murasame as herself and six sisters
Yukikaze as herself and three sisters
We don't have any Asashio or Fubuki class destroyers yet, so I'd sub five Shigure for now.

Monday, June 21, 2010

More action on the lighter wargame front

It appears that 2010 is going to be a banner year for lighter wargames. Besides the newly released Napoleon's War: The 100 Days, it looks like there will be two other Napoleonic era wargames with figures and user-friendly procedures published by Fantasy Flight Games and GMT (the long-awaited Commands & Colors: Ancients.

There's also a new C&C: Ancients expansion on the way, as well as a new updated edition of the orginal Borg game, Battle Cry.

The Axis & Allies series will continue with the other half (Europe) of the huge 1940 edition of A&A. The naval miniatures line recently had an expansion set and the next set for the land miniatures is due by the end of the year.

We're also still getting expansions for Memoir '44 and Battlelore.

Fantasy Flight is also promising a new expansion for Tide of Iron, which is, in truth, a little more involved than some of these other titles.

Columbia Games continues to put out its block games, most of which seem to have settled into the same sweet spot represented by Hammer of the Scots. Both Richard III and Julius Caesar are essentially variations on the system pioneered by HOTS and seen since in Crusader Rex and Athens & Sparta.

This is an interesting trend. The popularity of these games is hard to pin down. On the one hand I do think that they're attracting some new blood into the hobby, especially among the euro-gaming crowd. But I'm also seeing a lot of long-time, hard-core wargamers graviating to these games. While a bit dodgy as simulations, many of these games provide a good helping of the strategy and drama of a good wargame while generally being much more kind to our limited game time and opportunities. Most of them are pretty quick to play and, perhaps more importantly, pretty quick to learn.

While the more traditional, detailed hex-and-counter and card-driven designs also seem to be going strong these days, I wonder if they are hitting the table with as much frequency as the lighter fare.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Interesting juxtaposition -- Fall of France and Fall Barbarossa

While setting up the Cadets of Saumur Overlord Scenario for a Memoir '44 game which, unfortunately failed to materialize, I noticed in the Historical Background that the French Army surrendered on June 22, 1940, shortly after the heroic last resistance depicted in the scenario.

Most wargamers know by heart that Fall Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union , began on June 22 of 1941. Not coincidentally it was also the date that marked the beginning of the Soviet offensive that destroyed Army Group Center in 1944.

An entire year transpired between the German offensive's in the West and the East. That's not to say there wasn't some fighting, of course. There were German operations in the Balkans, the Afrika Korps started its epic career and Germany's air and naval forces fought the Battle of Britain and the Battle of the Atlantic. But none of these engrossed the full attention of the German Army and it was able to devote its attention to training its troops and improving its equipment. Germany's land forces were never better than they were on June 21, 1941.

Friday, June 18, 2010

First impressions review of Napoleon's War: The First 100 Days

Based on two plays with novice wargamers just outof the box, I have to say that I think Napoleon's War: The 100 Days succeeds as an entertaining light wargame suitable for sucking in new players while being enjoyable for grognards as a filler game.

Based on the same general system as Hold the Line, Clash for a Continent and For Honor and Glory, Napoleon's War: The 100 Days is roughly the same level of complexity. While it has a few special wrinkles (such as infantry squares and skirmishers) to reflect the changes in warfare between the linear warfare of the earlier games and the Napoleonic era the new rules are straightforward and introduce minimal complexity to the design.

The more involved rules are added as "intermediate rules" and can be left out when playing with new players. The most involved rules are presented as "Kevin Duke's Advanced Skirmisher Rules" and take up nearly a whole page of the 8-page rulebook, but in truth they are still pretty simple by wargame standards and I expect that experienced wargamers will use them.

The heart of the game system is the use of Command Action Points. Each player starts with a base number of CAPs (typically 4) and adds 1-3 more CAPs based on a die roll. Each CAP can be used to activate a single unit to move or fire. An additional CAP can be expended to allow an infantry unit to move again or to allow and infantry or cavalry unit to charge into shock combat.

Combat is resolved by rolling 3 dice with "sixes" generally inflicting a hit. Artillery firing at close range and infantry and cavalry in shock combat have an increased chance to hit, while certain terrain effects and other conditions may add or subtract dice.

Hits remove figures from the target unit, similar to the system used in Borg's Commands & Colors system. Higher quality units such as British infantry have 4 figures per unit while more fragile units such as most cavalry, artillery and Dutch-Belgian infantry have just 2 figures. Regular infantry has three figures. Some units such as Heavy Cavalry and Elite infantry get a chit that essentially can absorb more hits. I found this the least graphically satisfactory element of the design. It seems less elegant than simply having more figures would. Leaders are also represented by cardboard counters instead of figures.

The figures themselves are nice, although generic, busby-wearing infantry, cavalry and guns in hard plastic. The nations are differentiated by color, blue for France, Red for Britain and Grey for Germans.

Unlike the Commands and Colors games or the earlier games in the Hold the Line series every battle in Napoleon's War comes with its own map, instead of a blank map and terrain tiles. This makes set up a little easier but reduces the scope for player-designed scenarios. The maps themselves are double-sided on sturdy card stock. The maps do not link and can't all be used at the same time Napoleon's Last Battles style.

The unit, ground and time scales are all undefined and vague as is the usual style with this sort of game. Instead each scenario is set up to give each side around a dozen to a dozen and a half units. At Waterloo, for example, each infantry unit appears to represnt about a division while at Quatre Bras they seem to be brigade-sized.

As is unfortunately often the case with small publishers, the rules seem to have needed a little more proofreading. There are some misspellings ("Belgiam"), unclear scenario rules (reinforcement entry ares in Quatres Bras and how CAPs are allocated between allies at Waterloo) but nothing an experienced wargamer can't work through.

There are plans for additional games in the series that will bring in the Russians, Austrians and Spanish and scenario packs with more maps, but the basic game provides a nice introductory 4-game set of wargames. I had no trouble explaining the rules to two nonwargamer players who were able to play competently and enjoy the game on the first go. Playing time seems to be well within the 1-2 hours promised by the box so you can probably play all four battles in an evening's worth of gaming.

All-in-all I'd recommend this to anyone who has enjoyed Worthington Games' earlier games or Borg's designs.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bunker Hill Day

Amidst all the excitement about the arrival of Napoleon's Wars: The 100 Days, I almost forgot to note that today is the 235th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Famous among school children, it was in truth a very important battle which influenced the subsequent course of the war immensely. It made Gen. Howe, in particular, extremely reluctant to assault American fortifications.

I wrote an article about the aftermath of the battle for Command Magazine and also a review of the Bunker Hill game that was in that issue.

Napoleon's War out of the box

Some initial impressions after having opened the box.

The figures are a little smaller than the Memoir '44/Battle Cry sized figures seen in most games. They are made of a haad plastic with should hold its shape well but will not be forgiving of off-the-table foot mishaps.

The counters are well die-cut and serviceable, if a little on the boring side as far as graphics go.

The scenario cards, player a aid card and rules are all in full color and look really nice.

The maps are larger than I thought they'd be and are double-sided and very sturdy cardstock.

This is definitely a set of four single battle scenarios. The maps of each battlefield are focused on that battle and do not link. Quatre Bras is on the reverse side of the Waterloo map and Wavre is on the reverse side of the Ligny map, so there will be no Napoleon's Last Battles style campaign game possible. There are also not enough figures to fight more than one battle at a time. Nothing in the Worthington Games literature indicated any of this might be possible, but I wanted to mention it in case anyone was assuming that the four battles were linkable in any way.

Napoleon's War arrives

Well, this is a pleasant surprise. Napoleon's War: The 100 Days arrived today, so it did make it for the 100th anniversary of the battles!

Now to try it out!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Napoleon's War sold out

Worthington Games reports that Napoleon's War is already sold out and they are considering a reprint.

I'm a little surprised at that caveat "considering,," as there is obviously a lot of interest.

Still, WG is a small publisher and I wouldn't presume to second-guess their business decisions.

For gamers, though this strongly implies that current owners will have a long period of exclusivity.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Star Trek Clix

WizKids has won the license to produce a line of Star Trek clix miniatures games. Apparently there will be two different games, although both will use some variation of the patented clix system.

One will be a star ship combat game with pre-painted miniatures. The other is billed as a "euro-style character-driven game. The announcement does not indicate whether these will be "collectible" games or simple expandable games, a fact that will play a big role in my interest.

The clix mechanic is not necessarily linked to the collectible marketing scheme, so I hope they avoid going down that road. I won't get involved in another collectible game. It would be nice to ave a good and accessible starship combat game and the clix mechanic has potential.

The character-driven game is a much harder sell for me and I doubt I'll get into it even if it's not a collectible.

Neither game will be compatible with previous Clix games.

Napoleon's War by Saturday?

Worthington Games repoorts they are getting their games from the printers today and mailing them out tomorrow, so people should get them by "Saturday or Monday at the latest."

Darn, Probably going to miss the anniversary by one day.

Oh well, it does look interesting and it should be fun to play, based on the HTL experience.

Looking over the rules I do expect many of the same kinds of questions to pop up with this game as did with HTL. The rules are usually the weakest part with Small publishers like Worthington Games and Columbia Games. Normally there's an oversight or two and sometimes the rules are obtuse in unexpected ways. A few things about the game were not crystal clear to me when I read the rules but I am hoping that it will become more obvious once we start playing.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Epic Battle of Marathon tomorrow

We will be playing the Epic Battle of Marathon tomorrow starting at noon at Arkham Asylum, 276 W. Main St. in Norwich using the epic rules for Commands & Colors Ancients.

Napoleon's War starts shipping Monday

Over at CSW Worthington Games reports the game is back from the printers and assembly has started with the first shipments going out Monday which is also the last day for preorders.

So there's a shot at getting it in time for Waterloo on the 18th.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Worthington Games new Napoleon game in a race with history

Over on ConSimWorld a post by Worthington Games indicates that they hope to have their new Napoleon game based on the Hold the Line system "out" by June 15th.

This would technically mean it's published before the anniversary of the battles of the Hundred Days (QB/Ligny is June 16th), although I doubt that many players will actually get their hands on a copy before Friday's anniversary of Waterloo/Wavre. Oh well. WG reports the printer had a death in the family which pushed everything back a week.

I have high hopes for Napoleon;s War, given that Hold the Line has been so good.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Condition Zebra arrives -- first impressions

My two cases arrived yesterday and I spent the morning in bliss opening them up. Out of two cases and one extra booster I bought at the local game shop I ended up short just two rares, the West Va. and the Italian battleship. Not quite the perfect draw I had with Flank Speed but not bad.

My initial impression is very positive. It seems tome that the scaling for the new sculpts is more accurate and the detail is much crisper. The turrets now move on the uncommon light cruisers that are new sculpts in this set.

Overall there are some surprises as far the models go. The Lexington is not a straight repaint of the Saratoga, the 8-inch guns have been replaced with AA guns. This made a lot of sense historically, as the AA guns were far more useful than the 8-inch guns in actual operations. In game terms it's a much more mixed bag because carriers are much more likely to get involved against surface ships in the game than real life.

The Witte de With and Vasilissa Olga are near sisters, both based on a common British destroyer design, and in an earlier set would have been simply repaints but they are actually different models in this set.

There are some very handsome models. I like the HMS Royal Oak/Arkhangelsk and USS Houston in particular.

Finally, the Vainamoinen is sooooo cute! It's like a "Mini-Me" for the Schleswig-Holstein. It's a pity the class limit is 2.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Controversial naval incidents on June 8ths

The eighth of June was an unlucky day for a couple of ships.

The doomed HMS Glorious photographed from the Scharnhorst
On June 8, 1940 the British aircraft carrier HMS Glorious was caught unprepared by the German battlecruiser duo Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Although escorted by a couple of destroyers, the carrier's main defensive weapon, its aircraft were unprepared and the British force was destroyed with heavy loss of life.

The USS Little Rock assists the crippled USS Liberty

27 years later it was the USS Liberty, an intelligence gathering converted Liberty Ship, that was dogged with bad luck when it was mistakenly (or so it is claimed, some doubt it was a mistake) by Israeli aircraft and torpedo boats during the Six-day War -- again with heavy loss of life, although the ship did not sink.
Both incidents were controversial at the time and have remained so. Even now survivors of the USS Liberty demand a proper investigation, although it seems clear that neither the U.S. government nor Israels are interested.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Breaking in the Underdark

While a long-time Heroscape fan I hadn't had a chance to try out the new Underdark master set until today but my first impression was a good one.

I played a complete Heroscape novice, so I naturally took the weaker side, but even though I went down to eventual defeat it was an interesting fight.

We played the first scenario, which sees the heroic human fighter Tandros Kreel and his elven magic-user companion Ana Karithon racing to rescue the Elf mage Erevan Sunshadow from drowning in a cage guarded by a fearsome feral troll.

This alone was an interesting twist from the usual Heroscape scenario, which often tend to degenerate into mere smashing matches.

Tandros and Ana charged forward and were met halfway by the troll, who concentrated on the weaker Ana first. Here we made an error in play because I didn't realize that Tandros had a special ability that required him to be attacked first if he was adjacent to an enemy. The novice player also missed the special ability.

In any case Tandros bravely abandoned Ana to face the troll alone while he continued on to free Erevan. The troll dispatched Ana and followed.

Tandros was able to spring the cage on the first try, and the blubbering Erevan crawled out of the water and right into the rending arms of the troll. Having no order markers on him because he was just freed Erevan wasn't able to use his Fey power to escape and the second hero joined the first in the dead pile.

So it was just Tandros against the troll. Tandros abandoned the archery he had using up to this point for a close-range broadsword attack that quickly slew the troll, and claiming a rather Pyrrhic victory. It appears to me that the hero party needs to use Tandros to deal with the troll while Ana tries to save Erevan. I'll report how that turns out.

The battle went quickly. It probably took more time to build the set than it took to play. Next time I'll try to get more than one fight off the same map.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Second try at BK-1 (modified) and even worse

Well, Young General helped me out by taking the French side for my modified version of the Axis & Allies Miniatures Scenario BK-1

To recap, this is an updated version of the official Blitzkrieg Campaign A Defiant Gesture, BK-1 scenario, modified to be more authentic because a number of units that were not available when the scenario was first published in 2006 are now available.

The starting French force defending the town of Stonne and the heights didn't change. It is comprised of one Bold Captain, six MAS riflemen and 3 Level grenadiers. (As noted before, there's a typo in the scenario and it shows Lebel icons but says SMLE Rifles underneath. As the SMLE makes no sense I went with the icon,.

The French reinforcement group from the 45th BCC has been changed to H-39s instead of the original R-35s because the actual battle featured H-39s. The R-35s were apparently merely the closest sub available back then.

The French group from the 49th BCC still includes a pair of CHar B1 bis heavy tanks but the 6 pdr ATG has been replaced with a 75mm Gun and a half track transport to better match actual French equipment in 1940, although the actual battle for Stonne didn't include any heavy French anti-tank gun.

Much bigger changes were in store for the German side. The changes to the French OB added more points so the Germans were also boosted in total point value to match.

First off, the anachronistic JU-87G was replaced with a JU-87A Stuka.

The Grossdeutschland Regiment kept its Wehrmacht Oberleutnant, despite his anachronistic nature because I felt like he might represent fanatical anti-tank teams and the Germans really needed the AT capability. I replaced the two Panzergrenadiers with three Motorized Schutzen because it was more accurate to the period and the Germans needed the bodies. The MG 42 was replaced with the sand-bagged machine gun team and its MG 34. With the revised card they sand-bagged MG tean can move so it ends up being much the same.Finally the SiG 33 was replaced with a STG III. This is a better unit anyway, and it';s much more authentic. The STG III's baptism of fire was with GD during this campaign.

The 8th Panzer Division contingent was also modified. I added a second Panzer III and added a Panzer IB to make up for a deficiency in points. The SdKfz 222s and the Panzer IICs remained (although I proxied a couple of Pz IIFs to make it look better.

Even with the beefed up German force I suspected the French armor would simply prove too tough to handle and it did. The first turn the Stuka performed its duty by successfully bombing the French Bold Captain off the board, which meant the Germans would win the initiative in every subsequent turn save one. Unfortunately it appears that the Stuka pilot was spending too much time celebrating back at the airfield because he didn't reappear again until the issue was well decided and when he did come back his bombs missed. Worse, he was not available to interdict the French tanks, so the Char Bs arrived on turn 2 and the H-39s on Turn 3.

Even the 67th Reserve Division troops proved tough to handle because they had an uncanny ability to find cover.

In the brutal affair that followed the German force was again wiped out while causing rather light losses to the French. Only the Bold Captain, two grenadiers, one rifleman and on Char B were destroyed. One H-39 was damaged. That was it.

To salvage this scenario I think the arrival of the French tanks has to be delayed further or maybe their numbers reduced. So far the Germans have not come close to being competitive in the scenario. I think the French cannon and transport can be dropped, as they're not even historical and it may be worthwhile to cut the number of French tanks in half. Even one Char B is pretty tough to handle with Pz. I, II & III tanks.

In any case, it was not a total waste, as Young General always loves a chance to kick the Old Warrior's butt and he's not overly concerned about whether it was a fair fight.

Friday, June 4, 2010

My favorite battle -- Midway

The Midway Objective card from Lightning: Midway by Decision Games.

It should be hard to pick a favorite battle for study and gaming, there being so many fascinating possibilities, but I have to say that it's never been a difficult call for me. I've been enthralled with the story of Midway since my first wargame, which was Avalon Hill's Midway. About the only historical engagement that rivals it for me is Gettysburg.

But unlike Gettysburg, which I think has proven difficult so simulate and even more difficult to create a good competitive wargame for, Midway is a natural. Nearly every Midway game is a pretty decent contest for players and the historicity of most isn't bad. As a matter of fact, the 1964 Midway probably holds up better as a wargame today, nearly a half century later, than any of its land-based peers.

There's a lot of drama at Midway, of course. It was a battle of strange twists of fate. But it was also a remarkably even fight. Yes, it's true that the combined Imperial Fleet vastly outnumbered the American force defending Midway -- except that the Japanese didn't combine their fleet. Japanese naval planners were absolutely in love with intricate, complicated battle plans that relied on nearly split-second timing. As a matter of fact, they remind me a lot of a certain sort of wargamer we've all seen at the table. He's always a really smart guy and he comes up with these amazing, detailed plans. On the wargame table you can even sometime s make this stuff work, but in real operations the best rule of thumb is to keep it simple.

But Japanese battle plans were rarely simple and even among the universe of complicated Japanese naval plans the Midway operation was one of the worst.

So the bottom line was that at the tip of the spear, the critical point of engagement, the two sides had almost the same effective strength. Each had four "airfields." For the Japanese these comprised their four most elite carriers and their air crews. The Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu and Soryu and their air units were undoubtedly the premier carrier force on the planet in early June, 1942. They could operate four carriers together (and actually they could operate six together, but two fleet carriers were missing). In contrast, the Americans were breaking some new ground doctrinally by operating the Hornet and the Enterprise together in one task force. And even this was a baby step, as the two carriers still maintained seperate screens. By 1943 and 1944 the U.S. Navy was habitually operating large numbers of carriers together as integral tactical units, but that lay in the future.

So the Japanese had four first-class carriers available and the United States Navy had three comparable units. The USS Enterprise was a crack unit, as was the USS Yorktown, although the Yorktown still had some unrepaired battle damage from the Coral Sea battle and had a composite air group aboard. The third carrier, the USS Hornet, was the newest of the class, and it's air group was the greenest of the bunch. In addition to being new, the ship had missed out on some additional training time because of the Doolittle Raid. Finally, Midway itelsef provided a fourth airfield that had the advantage of being unsinkable but was, naturally also fixed in place. The Midway air force was a mixed bag of types, quality and effectiveness, but it was numerous.

The Japanese carrier strike force had a total of around 225 aircraft, the U.S. carriers had about 223 aircraft and Midway added another 110 or so. Escorting the Japanese carrier strike force were two battleship,s three cruisers and a dozen destroyers. Screening the U.S. task forces were 8 cruisers and 14 destroyers. It was really about as even a fight as you can get in a historical battle situation.

The Americans had an important edge in intel, but the two task forces were, for all intents and purposes on their own. The USS Saratoga and escorts was on the way but clearly would be too late to take part in the battle. Meanwhile the Japanese, while suffering from a self-inflicted wound of dispersal, did have a huge fleet of potential reinforcements available to support the carrier force -- as many as four light carriers, 9 more battleships, 18 more cruisers and 53 destroyers.

On June 4, 1942 the two carrier fleets met in battle and by the end of the day all four Japanese fleet carriers were sunk, while only the Yorktown was mortally wounded on the US side. But it was hardly a foreordained outcome and it would not have been a shocking result to see the tally reversed, with the US carriers wiped out. Besides the material losses, such an outcome would have had huge strategic impact. There would have been no Guadalcanal campaign. And the Japanese carrier air arm would have avoided the awful battle of attrition that wasted it away in 1943.

A lot was at stake at Midway -- probably a lot more than was at stake at Gettysburg. Gettysburg is often styled a turning point in the popular accounts, but few Civil War historians see it that way. Most would rank Vicksburg much more significant. A Union defeat at Gettysburg would have been unfortunate for the federal cause, but it would have been just one more in along string of such defeats. The primary effect probably would have been to bring Grant to the East earlier.

In contrast Midway was a true turning point. The vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean and Japan's fanatical resistance meant that the road back was long and hard, but the initiative had already shifted, permanently to the Allies.

Yes, to me Midway is the ultimate wargame -- a very even fight that was also very important and filled with drama.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Condition Zebra shipped!

Well, Miniature Market sent notification that it is on the way, with delivery expected on the official realse date of June 8!.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

More counterfactual Memoir '44 history -- this time Dunkirk

From May 26 to June 4 more than 330,000 British and French troops were rescued from the beaches and harbor at Dunkirk, preserving the essential cadres needed to reconstitute the British army, although a lot of equipment was left behind. Many of those rescued were save by small civilian craft, although the majority were undoubtedly carried off by the navy.

Still, it was one of the most dramatic episodes of World War II, a war that had no shortage of drama.

Game Store Tony and I continued our 70th anniversary of World War II refights using Memoir '44, although this time I was able to finally break his winning streak with the allies. Unlike the historical event, Tony was able to get few troops off the beach and the Germans broke through in force.

The map

The main German effort came around Nieuport, where the three German units on that flank were able to bust through, eliminating the British and French units on that flank and sending a unit rampaging alongt he beach to eliminate some boats and an evacuation unit.

On the other flank the German armor was also able to fight its way to the beach, wiping out the British tanks and an evacuation unit before being killed itself.

The final medal score was 6-3 in favor of the Germans.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Chesapeake vs. Shannon

Today is the anniversary of two notable naval victories by the Royal Navy.

The more recent of the two was the 1813 duel between the American frigate Chesapeake and the British frigate Shannon which has been the topic of several posts already.

The earlier one was the British naval battle known as the Glorious First of June, where a British fleet defeated a French fleet in 1794.