Sunday, October 19, 2014

OK, Fatal Choices is out

With this project almost completed I should be able to start posting here much more regularly.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Charge! Polish cavalry tackles tanks in AAM

When I was in elementary school back in the 1960s I had several of the How and Why Wonder books. One in particular that I still remember vividly was the one on World War II. It had, as I recall, a dramatic illustration of Polish cavalry being attacked by German aircraft.
So when a new player of AAM suggested he’s like to try a few DYO scenarios I thought I’d make it interesting by picking one of the minor Allied powers to face his Germans. I happened to have a bunch of Polish cavalry that had never seen the table, so I designed a build that used them – and almost every other 1939 Pole I owned. Actually a few more, as I bought a few more to fill it out from 12-7 games.

Although not intentional, our mutual OBs ended up being reasonably historical, representing a good facsimile of an encounter between the German 3rd Light Division and a Polish Cavalry brigade. About the only departure was the inclusion of a stray Polish 7TP tank.  The German build was 151 points and the Poles were 174, given the 15% bonus for being an all-Polish build.
So, the Polish force comprised the following elements:
10 x Polish Cavalry
9 x Polish Mauser
5 x TKS Tankette
4 x 37mm ATG
4 Minefields
3 x Polish officer
1 ea 7TP tank, Ammo Dump, HQ, and Pillbox
This approximated a Polish cavalry squadron, an infantry company, an anti-tank battery, a tankette platoon and supports

The German opponents were:

Two infantry platoons, each with 1 SS Leader, 3 Mausers, 1 MG34 and a Lt Mtr.
Two tank platoons, each with a Pz IVA and two Pz 38(t)
Air support with a Disciplined Spotter, one Stuka and one Bf 109E

The Poles had to set up first. We used Map Configuration 1 “Villages” Alternate Map layout from Page 7 of the Expanded Rules. The Poles selected the “Left” edge (the side with the numbers) which placed them closer to the objective and gave them some woods, hills and hedgerows for cover.

The cavalry set up in the left woods, ready to advance through the woods and hills in that sector. The HQ and pillbox were to their rear.
On the ridge and central woods were the Polish armor and two infantry platoons.
In the hedgerow field on the right was the ammo dump, the ATG battery and the remaining infantry platoon.
The minefields were set up to block the gaps between the woods on the German side of the map.

The Germans set up with one infantry platoon on the far right in some woods and the other in the central woods behind the small pond. Each platoon had a Pz. IV in support.
The Pz 38(t) all set up on the German left flank, with the Disciplined Spotter.

The Germans won the initiative, which they generally did through the battle. The Poles advanced all along the front, occupying the central village and taking firing positions. The German armor advanced, while the infantry held back for now.

During the first Air Phase the German fighter targeted a cavalry squad while the Stuka took aim at an ATG. Here the Poles caught a vital break, as excellent shooting by two Mausers attached to the ATG actually shot down the Stuka! The Stuka’s destruction of the ATG didn’t make up for this.  In fact, the Poles continued to have good luck with their rifle fire, twice managing to disrupt the fight later in the battle. As a consequence, out of a theoretical total of 14 air strikes the German player only got to implement six! It’s quite likely that this represented the winning difference in the game.

The Polish cavalry in the town was quite chewed up by the nearby German infantry, tanks and fighter aircraft, prompting the Polish commander to pull back the surviving platoon for the time being.

Near the end
On the right the German Pz. 38s tested their luck against the 37s and came out on the short end of the stick, losing three tanks. A big help in the effort was the ammo dump. Eventually the German player took out the dump with the fighter plane, but by then the damage had been done.

The Polish tank didn’t last long, dying in the first exchange of fire, but the tankettes proved surprisingly robust. While the Germans destroyed four and damaged the last, the TKS managed to swarm and destroy one Pz. IV.

Once the Germans numbers were reduced the surviving Polish horse was able to re-enter the fray and do some damage. Among their highlights was sobering one of the German leaders in the woods and shooting up the rear of the last Pz 38(t) after it was damaged.

The game ended with the Poles in secure command of the objective with most of their surviving infantry and leaders. Also surviving were two cavalry squads and two ATG. The Germans had one infantry platoon and the fighter remaining.

Some good luck against the planes was responsible for a surprising Polish victory.

A few thoughts on the Polish units based on this fight:

The Polish Cavalry’s forte was mobility, but they are very fragile. An overly aggressive opening move cost the Poles half their cavalry on Turn 1. More circumspect usage thereafter resulted in them doing good work. A key tactic was to disrupt the target hex and move in during the following turn’s movement phase when there wouldn’t be defensive fire.

The Polish Mausers are your regular AAM standard infantry platoon.  This worked to their advantage because the more colorful units such as the cavalry, tankettes and officers drew fire. At the end of the day, however,  the Mausers were the key to victory, shooting down the Stuka, disrupting the fighter and capturing the objective

The Polish Officers were a disappointment. While only 1 less initiative than the Germans, they only won initiative a couple of times, and once was on a HQ re-roll. Their Coordinated Fire Ability was only used once all game because the officer only has a range of 1.

The 37mm ATG were killers. Every bit as good as similar weapons in other Early War armies, they were devastating against the light German armor. They really had no drawbacks outside the mobility restrictions of the type.  They achieved a 5-1 kill ratio against the German tanks.

The TKS tankettes were also useful. They proved distracting to the Germans and managed to hold their own against the German armor, destroying on Pz IV and contributing to the death of the other.

The ammo dump was very useful and the Germans made  a mistake by not trying to take it out earlier. The Poles seemed to roll an awful lot of “1s”

The 7TP, in contrast, didn’t accomplish much before it died. It was taken out in the first volley and only managed to disrupt a Pz IV.  A single light tank isn’t very useful.

The HQ also didn’t accomplish a lot. One initiative loss was turned into a win, but the other rerolls failed. The pillbox wasn’t tested, largely because the HQ wasn’t deemed worth killing by the Germans. The minefields created a minor headache for the Germans, but nothing notable.

Overall it was fun to finally get to use my Poles, but they aren’t really a competitive build, even with the 15% bonus. Against a more experienced German -- or one with better luck -- they could be expected to lose more often than they win. It’s a very one-dimensional force and one that is especially vulnerable against an armor/air build.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sorry for the long gap -- update

So the Fatal Choices Kickstarter was successful. I have been spending most of my time working on finishing up the book and the Rewards.

This is the final version of the countersheet that goes with the book. Kickstarter backers will get a copy of the countersheet with their copy of the eBook or physical book. I am getting the final proof version within the next day or so. Assuming no more changes need to be made I will order the first batch.

These will also be available for separate purchase once the Amazon edition of the book is published.

Also on their way are the sets of Topside Miniatures Fatal Choices wood-backed stickers that those who pledged at the higher levels will get.

I am still expecting to start fulfilling the Kickstarter pledges by the end of the month.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Some recent gaming

I've had a recent binge of Napoleon at Waterloo on Hexwar with my usual 60-40 split.

For face-to-face gaming I finally got he chance to get Fast Action Battle: Bulge on the table. I played it once when it first came out, but only recently found a gaming partner with similar tastes to really get into it. We played the NUTS introductory scenario three time sand just recently played the Cold Shoulder P500 bonus scenario once.

Here's a shot from the game ending situation (a draw).

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Marred by some poor spelling, but I suspect the creator may not be a native English speaker. Anyway, that is easily fixed.

Trenton Session report for Hold the Line

Wargamers want fair contests. There's little sense of triumph in willing a foregone conclusion and it's disheartening to feel that no matter how well you play, you may lose.

Yet it's undeniable that a "fair' fight implies a failure of generalship and there's no correlation betwene the fairness of a battle and its significance.

The Battle of Trenton in the Americana Revolution is undoubtedly one of the most significant battles of the whole war. Washington's bold stroke may very well have saved the Patriot cause. And it's widely held that Washington wasn't especially skilled as a tactical commander. He lost more battles than he won. But he won big at Trenton with his ragged rebels despite facing professional troops because he made sure it wasn't a fair fight.
Set Up

This creates some problems for wargame designers, though. Trenton was too significant a fight to not be depicted. But it's hard to make it a fair fight, as a recent session of Hold the Line with my friend Mark Kolenski demonstarted.

Hold the Line is a fun, but very simple game system. In my opinion it manages to succeed quite well as a simulation despite its abstract nature, but there is no arguing that it is a detailed or exhaustive simulation. It tends towards the "game" end of the game vs. simulation continuum.

One might think that simplicity might make a balanced fight more likely. The HOTL Trenton scenario has very little in the way of spacial rules. The situation is rather baldly depicted by the set up. The Americans are in two concentrated bodies, with one group on the flank of the British (actually Hessains) who are widely scattered amidst some buildings.

Mark and I played a match with both games going very similarly. An early volley wiped out the one Hessian artillery piece and then the Americans pressed forward. Mark favored the larger body that started on the ridge led by Washington. I tended to favor actions with the slightly smaller flanking force led by Greene.

But in the end it didn't matter. Both times the Americans won with a VP score of 6-1. It's probable that the historical Hessians didn't even manage 1 VP, but the game outcome was so one-sided that one can doubt that there is much the Hessian player can do except hope for extraordinary dice.

It might be possible to adjust the game victory points so that the British can win with, say, 3 VP, but this doesn't seem very true to the history and runs the danger of making the game just too driven by chance. The Hessian would probably play aggressively hoping to score on lucky shots.

I'm glad Trenton is in the box, but I'm not sure I'll ever play it again.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sparse posts

Sorry for the hiatus in posts and it's likely to continue a bit longer as I have been very busy with a big project.

More will follow, but as a teaser it involves World War I, Larry Bond and Graf Spee