Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Simulating War: Fire and Movement - Extended Ammo Variant (Part 1)

Once more unto the breach. The battlefield (see below):

My fascination with a small game called Fire and Movement from Phil Sabin's Simulating War book continues. To me it epitomises the "battalion push" over a broad front, The strategy that seems reminiscent on France 1944 Normandy+. A hasty German defense is strung together covering the "battalion frontage of 1200 metres" of two under strength companies with little or no reserve, with depleted mortar support. The goal of the British player is to dislodge the German front line by (a) killing Germans and (b) capturing baseline German hexes. The terrain is generated randomly as per a little JavaScript program I wrote for Connections UK 2016. The Germans have "choice" of with baseline to defend - so the program allows it to flip the board accordingly (see below the generated terrain) :

The German player chose the "hilly" side of the board. The terrain is not ideal as the British left hand flank has a potential blind spot caused by the ridge of hills near the German held wood. The Germans scan deploy up to three hexes in from their baseline. The British will deploy on their baseline.

Note: I will "flip" the generated map to align with future photographs (see below):

The "map" is transferred onto the terrain of the game board (see below, van you spot the six "hill" and two "wood" hexes? ):

As the German player I set-up the defense in a line across the board half way in to maximise the firing line but at the same time avoid bunching in consecutive hexes. In this game rifle, machine gun and mortar effect all the enemy units in two adjacent hexes. It really does pay not to bunch if (and it is an "if") you can be fired at. The only problem (as in a defensive weakness) is that I have is the low lying hills to the German left flank. I don't want to move forward and occupy them as that would lose my precious dug-in status  but I want to protect my German platoon in the central woods. I decide to lay in ambush in the adjacent hex which allows me to ambush any "Tommies" (Canadians, Scottish, Welsh or Irish, even Free French) that dare to come 'over the hill'. Almost "guaranteed suppression" by the Germans I think. The other option would be to hang back to the German hill in the rear. Taking General Slim at his word, when choosing between two plans of equal worth chose the bolder! The final platoon is a "tail-end Charlie" guarding the baseline as a final redoubt (see below):

The games then commences unceremoniously with a light British Artillery barrage, the regimental mortars plastering the Germans in "Line Of Sight" from the British baseline. The barrage will suppress and cause one casualty on an unmodified roll of 1 or 2 (this is as per the base rules, Phil via the Simulating War Yahoo Group suggest increasing the "ho hit" range in a bidding war with the player with lowest artillery score 'winning' the privilege to play British.) The rolls are poor and only the German in the "last redoubt" is suppressed. This means there will be a 'hot' reception for the attacking British infantry. The British battalion commander moves his HMG into the wood to get the defensive modifier and decides to probe the German right flank for a weaknesses by bringing on two platoons from "A Coy" (see below, position after the end of the first turn): 

The Germans send a welcoming torrent of fire down upon the advancing British. Three rifle platoons and the hated 81mm mortar [which to some epitomises the battle for Normandy through the hedgerows] open up. The two British infantry platoons take casualties and are suppressed. The HMG survives intact (See below, please note I had to swivel the photo 180 degrees to maintain the British top Germans bottom orientation so the perspective is different in this picture):

Note: The right German flank platoon has also fired but I was snap happy and took the photo before the white suppression counter was in place! A thing I noted about this game is that although there were two of us, so much was happening that despite all the photographs lots of small details were missed. In "professional wargames" along with computer audits of moves there are dedicated scribes furiously making notes for the "After Action Review" (AAR).

Flipping onto the next British turn, "B Coy" moves onto the German left flank as the right flank is bogged down. Don't reinforce failure. The British HMG and mortar fail to suppress any German stands. (How many times game you draw a one? perhaps a "bag of numbers" would be a better random control! That way extreme variances could be taken out of the system.) At the end of the British phase (and the end of Turn 2) the British suppression markers are removed (see below): 

No German movement (other than shuffling in their trenches) and the defensive fire silences the British Infantry attacking the right hand side of the German line. The British casualties are slowly mounting but have not yet reached the point whereby a platoon is removed from play (see below):

The British Battalion Commander (whose wargaming lineage can be traced back to the Spartan King in  the Sparta v Argos game in the previous series of posts) commits "C Coy" to attack the German left flank. The attack on the German right flank seems stalled and something needs to be done to generate impetus. "Am I being aggressive enough?" is the British infantry officer's mantra, so on cue he launches his third company forwards. At the end of the British phase all their suppression markers are removed. Turn 3 draws to a close (see below, 25% of the way through the battle and the British are barely off the baseline):

Turn Four starts with telling German defensive fire (again). The British attack on the right is pinned, including the useful Vickers HMG platoon (Note: A key British weapon system: the British need the firepower but as soon as it is on table it becomes the primary German target for their 81mm mortar. In practice (and when or where possible) the British used it in an indirect role, thus not exposing to 'direct fire' retaliation). The only good news being that the Germans have used a lot of their stock of 81mm mortar ammunition as part of their early success on the PBI of "A Coy". However "B Coy" are all still fresh and in a position to advance further across the board (see below):

The British player brings in another platoon from "C Coy" attacking the German left flank, he snakes two platoons of "B Coy" up to the low hills on the German left flank (in preparation for an 'over the hill assault'), using the third platoon to spot for a mortar attack on the German wood and fire at the central German platoon (hence the name Fire and Movement, or as the sequence of play has it Move then Fire; the ones that didn't move are critical for suppressing the defenders- as per Captain Ed Farren's quote at Connection UK 2015 "Movement without Suppression Fire is disastrous"). The result being the central German platoon is (happily for the British player) suppressed. At last there is some leverage and perhaps slackening of German fire for next turn [5] (see below):

Turn 5 starts with the familiar German LMG and rifle chatter. The mounting British casualties draw  blood and a platoon from "B Coy" is removed from play as a KIA (1 VP for the German player), but for the first time the British player options are starting to open up with four fresh platoons that could advance (see below): 

The British player is stoically "hanging in", perhaps playing Sparta in the last DBA game helped and has already picked up the 'good' wargaming habit of playing through until the end. A well respected wargaming friend once pointed out that "someone had to be under the guns" for things to work on another part of the battlefield. Not a pointless useless sacrifice but getting the "friction of war" to work in your favour. Can the British Battalion Commander get something going, the German lock down seems to be slipping slightly?

Next: Starting the push (to Berlin)!

Monday, 19 February 2018

Labyrinth: Family Game

This is a particular family favourite of mine, Labyrinth (see below):

I like thew quirky way the board terrain 'transforms' by the players sliding the tiles as part of their move. Wargaming designers take not of the interesting concept of the player transforming the terrain. Another point to note, I lost my "champion's crown" as my daughter won the last game!

Friday, 16 February 2018

Book: Small Wars (from The History of Wargaming Project)

Courtesy of John Curry's History of Wargaming Project subscriber email and Bob Cordery's (Wargaming Miscellany) post this little tome caught my eye (see below, and it's a beauty!):

It concentrates on asymmetrical wargame and fills a gap I have in COIN games (or could be seen as a starter into this area). The figure count required is low and te ingenuity level is high. Having read each section you want to play.
  • ISAF Operations
  • Colonial Foreign Legion
  • Afghanistan (Soviet Era)
  • Bush Wars (Africa) 
  • Vietnam
Note: I am not on commission but it is a little gem, see link below (Note: It is in the Solo Wargaming Section although I think the games would be best run with an umpire and group of players over a pint).

Small Wars

Thursday, 15 February 2018

UK Connections 2018 Itinery Released

Coming in September 2018 the Hottest Wargame Show in (London) Town: UK Connections 2018

Note: Sadly the 2017 event coincided with a significant birthday of mine [I have to realise I am getting old as I am now looking forward to Saga priced holidays] so I "missed" the 2017 Conference. Looking at the 2018 line-up I am so sorely tempted to "go again" primarily because the event is focused on the "very practical" side of "doing wargames" (even being in the 10% hobbyist minority this should make it very interesting). However seeing as I am already committed to going to CoW2018 this year would this be simply too much for me to go to two mega events in a year? The horns of a terrible dilemma. 

Let the invitation email speak for itself  from Graham Longley-Brown
PS If this post looks "ugly in its pasted from email format" Rex has "done it very professionally" here 

Hi All,

Many thanks to everyone who completed the Connections UK 2017 feedback survey, and a warm welcome to those who have expressed an interest in finding out more about professional wargaming.

The Connections UK 2018 conference will be, as far as we can make it, a precise reflection of your views and requests in the 2017 feedback survey. The resulting conference outline is below. If this is of interest, please note the dates 4 – 6 September 2018 in your diary. I will send you registration details presently. More details of Connections UK, including all previous presentations, can be found at http://professionalwargaming.co.uk/index.html If you do not wish to be on this email distribution list, please let me know and your name will be removed from future announcements relating to Connections UK.

Connections UK 2018

If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. 91% of survey respondents found the 2017 conference useful or very useful; 85% said you would attend a future Connections UK; and 91% thought the conference was the right length. Some survey comments:

  • ‘An excellent event, a great opportunity to meet professional wargamers and those crossing over into the hobby side. An invaluable experience for the UK wargaming community.’
  • ‘Overall this was an excellent and extremely encouraging event demonstrating the high international standing of UK wargaming.’
  • ‘Looking forward to 2018!’

However, as the comments below illustrate, there are compelling reasons to go into more depth at Connections UK 2018. Answers to the question ‘How do we make the event better?’ included:

  • ‘More on practical approaches, case studies and insights.’
  • ‘Deep dives on game design and data capture, versus ‘we did this.’
  • ‘More emphasis on lessons learned from developing and delivering wargames.’
  • ‘Intellectual depth into the art and science of wargaming.’
  • ‘Methodology and best practice for analysis in wargames.’

Adopting a ‘deep, not broad’ approach accords with the Connections purpose, which is to advance and preserve the art, science and application of wargaming. So, this year we will concentrate on the ‘how to’ of wargaming, from design through execution and analysis to refinement. Expert speakers will talk in detail about the practicalities of designing and delivering wargames, and will include best practice and lessons identified, both positive and negative. The Games Fair and various breakout sessions will give you a hands-on experience of a large number of game designs and tools, and there will be plenty of time to network with many of the world’s best wargamers.

Three points the organisers would like to add:

  • The ‘High North’ was briefed last year by the UK MOD’s Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC). This remains a topic of interest for Defence. Games that feature the ‘High North’ would be most welcome at the Games Fair. DCDC’s presentation is at http://professionalwargaming.co.uk/20170906-High_North-Cole.pdf
  • There were a number of requests in the survey to feature the psychology of wargaming, human decision-making and such like. Rather than try to squeeze that – large and significant – topic into the 2018 conference, we are considering devoting most or all of Connections UK 2019 to this.
  • Games selected to be shown at the Games Fair will qualify for one free place per game. Conference fees for all three days will be waived.

Connections UK 2018 details

  • Connections UK purpose. Advance and preserve the art, science and application of wargaming.
  • DatesTuesday 4 – Thursday 6 September 2018.
  • Venue. Kings College London, The Strand, London, UK.
  • Cost: no change from 2017 (and 2016!): £60 for the megagame/Introduction to wargaming day; plus £135 for the two main days. Connections UK is not for profit; the cost covers administration and food, which is provided.
  • Themes. ‘How to’ wargame. Best practice, in-depth insights, and lessons identified in the wargame ‘steps’ below. You will note a striking resemblance between these and the MOD Wargaming Handbook, which can be downloaded at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/641040/doctrine_uk_wargaming_handbook.pdf
    • Design.
    • Development.
    • Execution.
    • Analysis.
    • Validation.
    • Refinement.
  • Key note speakers: Volko Ruhnke and Brian Train. We are extremely fortunate that Volko and Brian, two of the world’s leading wargame designers, have agreed to help us. Straddling recreational and serious gaming, and with decades of award-winning and high-profile game design behind them, they will participate in multiple plenary sessions, as well as deliver the key note address. For any who don’t know Volko and Brian:

Volko Ruhnke is a game designer with three decades of experience in the US intelligence community. He most recently served as an analytic instructor, making extensive use of boardgames in the classroom. He also is an award-winning creator of numerous commercial wargames, such as GMT Games’ COIN Series about insurgency and counterinsurgency.

Brian Train has been designing conflict simulation games for the civilian market for over 20 years, with over 45 published designs to date. His articles and games have been published by a wide range of large and small firms. His special interests in game design are irregular warfare, "pol-mil" games, concepts of political influence in games, and asymmetry in games generally. In his spare time, he is an Education Officer in the Ministry of Advanced Education of British Columbia, Canada.

  • Outline. Some details remain to be confirmed, but the conference structure should look like that shown below. The left-hand column includes the themes, or wargame ‘steps’, mentioned above, and shouldn’t change much. The right-hand column includes topics drawn from your feedback survey suggestions. These will be refined as we confirm speakers and chairs.

Day 1. Tuesday 4 September
Introduction to wargaming for newcomers
This will be an entirely separate event to the megagame, with a series of games interleaved with talks
This will be an engaging and fun ice-breaker on a serious and contemporary topic.
Component production
Informal evening session.
Day 2. Wednesday 5 September
Relating the conference structure to the MOD Wargaming Handbook wargame process.
1. Dilemmas and Trade-Offs in wargame design.
2. Serious wargame design.
3. Design factors and choices.
1. Game mechanics and processes.
2. Play-testing and Test Exercises.
3. Scenario development.
(Look forward to Execution)
Scenario execution.
Games Fair session 1
Key note address
Volko Ruhnke and Brian Train.
Games Fair session 2
Day 3. Thursday 6 September
1. Wargaming uses.
2. Wargaming Case Study.
(3. Facilitation will be covered in a grand finale; see below).
4. Adjudication.
5. Automation – break out and demonstrations.
1. Analysing wargames.
2. Data capture.
3. Lessons identified from the analysis of the 2017 Dire Straits megagame.
1. Validating wargames.
2. Applying wargaming lessons identified to the real world.
1. Making wargames better.
2. Sharing best practice.
Facilitation (from Execution)
Hands-on learning experience.

 Please reply to me with any questions. Registration details will follow presently.


Graham Longley-Brown
Connections UK Co-organiser

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

28mm Russian Soviet Stalingrad Winter Infantry (WIP)

Well, I started painting my new genre of 28mm Winter Soviet (Warlord Games) fro the Chain of Command Stalingrad game. I was adopting the 'factory method' (which seemed appropriate for the battle in question) but decided to spurt on with one as a 'Proof of Concept' (see below, charging the enemy): 

Facing front (see below):

A side shot (see below):

The first of many Soviets. However I got a bit sloppy towards the end of this marathon painting session and need to touch up a few rough spots. 

Monday, 12 February 2018

Sparta v Argos (Re-Run Take III): Done (Part 7)

Flying high with gods the Spartan left flank can be seen cruelly wheeling into the Argive right hoplites, harvesting them like ripe wheat. The Argives have one last hope, a third attempt to shatter the Spartan "youth hoplite stand" of spears that has twice thwarted them (see below):

The proverbial kitchen sink is thrown at the Spartans. Notice how the Argive General (myself) refrains from attacking the Spartan hoplites to the right hand side of the attacking Argives, because success is unlikely to kill and a push back would help out the the beleaguered Spartan stand. On the other hand it would have potentially interrupted the run of "bad Argive dice" in the vital sector, but statistics say that should not have mattered because you do not affect the future with past rolls of a d6 (see below, I as the Argive ruminate about this now):

A sacrifice is offered to the gods, harsh words of encouragement by the Argive Captains of War are given and the attack commences and the die is thrown. Stunned into silence, all pleasure of head banging gone (see previous posts) just the sad (from the Argive perspective) calculation is repeated. "No, unbelievable, these Spartans cannot be moved" (see below):

The Spartan run through the Argive hoplites like a hot knife through butter. Smoothly and without mistake two Argive hoplites fall upon the hill. The Argive army morale shatters and they flee (see below, Sparta 5 Argos 3 - Sparta remains supreme on the Peloponnese):

What a fantastic game! Incredible in that right up until the end the Argives thought they had it, but the Spartans played true. This young novice Spartan King is a man to watch in the world of DBA, he plays the period not the game system. Immense fun. Maybe I should look to introduce some new troop types. Perhaps from Persia or Thrace ;)

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Sparta v Argos (Re-Run Take III): Time to Finish it (Part 6)

For the second time of asking the seemingly forgone conclusion of a forlorn stand of Spartan hoplites outnumbered 3:1 and with no possible room for retreat were drawn into a "do or die" combat (see below, "Spartans we salute you! You fought well but Argos needs to teach Sparta a lesson"): 

Instead the Spartans show Argos that today, here, on this piece of hallowed ground no more Spartans shall give way to Argos. Bang 8-6 - the massed ranks of the Argives bounce away again. Quite sportingly the Spartan King offers me a cushion so to not damage my head (see below, the unbelievable happens and to my shame I did not use the extra PiP I had to bring the extra Argive troops into "usefulness", hubris my friends, hubris): 

It is Sparta;s time to deal the death blow. The Spartan king watches as his mighty phalanx unfurls for a  Sparta [Spears 4 + 2 flanks] = 6 versus  3 Argos [Spears 4 - 2 overlapped flanks + 1 for being on a hill] basic attack - needing to double to kill (see below, all to play for at 3-3 and just one stand needed by both sides to win):

Ah! The Argives roll a 1, all seems lost but then Sparta also rolls a one: 7-4 Push Back! How on earth? Argos has yet another chance to pull it out of the fire! Will this game ever finish? Will this game not stop providing "crazy" dice rolls. The Spartan King is momentarily crestfallen but composes himself and moves on (see below): 

Apologies for the misdirection saying it was a "done thing" but we seem to be now playing on past the end of regulation time ;)

Next: Extra Time Sudden Death?