Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Bolt Action: Moongrunts


First game to christen the new war room was a spot of 15mm Moongrunt. I bought the models from GZG at Salute 2019 and painted them soon after, but taken ages to get them to the table. A nice 3' x 3' gridded cloth from Deepcut Studio, craters made from upturned lids and rocks from the drive!

I decided to modify Bolt Action as its become my go-to Platoon sized rules. I doubled ranges (treating the weapons as modern chemical ones, no fancy lasers), and also increased lethality - as any suit damage is going to be an issue. I thought about increasing movement - but watching the Apollo videos whilst the bunny hop was fast it as a) hard to stop and b) made you a cracking target. So its reasonable to expect that "patrol" speed would be little different, and a hop is just a run.

To give it a bit more of a "space" feel I decided though to add a "fumble" roll to anything that might risk suit damage - as that seems to be the big difference - particularly as we're not talking battle armour here. So any Run or Down action needs an extra Orders test - fail it and you take 1 Pin, double 6 and you lose a soldier (assumed out of game whilst doing suit repair).

I did a straight attack/defence game. Even forces so defenders won easily, but the mechanics all seemed to work. Might as ever do a few tweaks, but I think the fumble gave it just enough extra to remind you that this wasn't just WW2 in a grey desert. Tempted the write the whole thing up for MW&BG.

Seeing as I have the table set up I'll run few a few other SF rules to see how they fare.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

The War(Games) Room


The reason for the paucity of posts here for the last few months hasn't been so much COVID as that I've been involved in a stint of 1:1 painting. My daughter finally officially moved out at the end of June and so the big attic room that has been her bedroom for over a decade has now become my wargames room and office. Teenage murals, dark walls, cracks and quotations needed painting over, and then a big move of wargames stuff from the dining room and a swop of books with the old study, and then a move of the office from the spare bedroom and finally I'm all settled in.

I bought four 6ft trestle tables (foldable type), the aim being to have 3 up for wargaming - letting me do one 4'x6' game and then have space for an SPI type game or some game prototyping - or use all together for one 8'x6' weekend game (small gap between tables covered by the 60cm terrain boards). For really big games I can add the fourth table which will usually be the workshop table (which will be the last bit of wargaming stuff to leave the rest of the house!) giving me 10'x6', or even 12'x6' at a push. Just need COViD to abate (particularly in Brum) so I can have people round.

I've even found space to sneak in a space for my keyboards and a nascent home music studio set-up!

Thursday, 6 August 2020

Virtual Conference of Wargamers

On the weekend of 10-12 July I had a great time virtually attending Wargame Development Group's Virtual Conference of Wargamers usually held at Knuston Hall, but due to COVID held on-line. I've never managed to get to the physical event, so whilst attending virtually wasn't ideal at least I got there!

Since I'd been writing an article for the Nugget (the WDG magasine) on Remote Wargaming I thought I'd also put it up for a VCOW talk - so I got to present as well.

Anywhere here are the highlights of the weekend - I've done offside reports for each for the Nugget, and once they run my Remote Wargaming article in Nugget I'll post a copy up here.

Events were held on a mix of Zoom and Skype.

  • The conference kicked off with a virtual battlefield tour of Landsdowne, led by John Curry (of History of Wargaming Project fame), with deft use of Google Earth and Google Streetview, and Zoom breakout rooms for syndicates to discuss options
  • Several interesting talks on professional wargaming and the history of COW/WDG
  • An SF skirmish game called Hadleys Hope where our team had to try and fix a transmitter and find out what happened to the previous team. Tom Mouat had the tabel set up in his house and gave us a ground-level Zoom view to work from - all very blurry and hard to spot attackers in amongst the terrain. Our characters were primary coloured meeples (see top) so easy to spot. Worked very well.
  • A virtual ECW TWET (Tactical Exercise Without Troops) for a disguised Battle of Cropredy Bridge - again Google Earth/Streetview, plus on-site photos and sketchmaps and breakout rooms. Again worked very well (and helped I'd wargamed it in January)
  • An Age of Sail Naval Wargame (see below) run by John Armaty’s - I was on the Spanish side trying to sink a convoy or capture and avoid the Royal Navy. As with Hadley Hope John had a hex grid table and 1/3000th models, but this time we had a fixed overhead cam view. The grid made movement and firing nice and easy. Great game, narrow Spanish win I think - I certainly captured a merchantman.  
  • Interesting lecture contrasting professional and recreational wargaming
  • Unfortunate Differences - a cut down professional strategic game of a dispute in the China Sea over some islands between the Chinese, Japanese and Americans. I was the Chinese Navy commander under strict instructions to keep my carrier safe whilst our subs did the dirty work. In fact they didn't need to as the Japanese ran a sub aground on the islands which trying to land Special Forces - right in front of our crack team of social media student influencers!
  • A nice discussion about what we'd all been up to in lockdown, and which different parts of the hobby we were taking the time to explore
  • A great presentation by John Curry on storming a medieval castle - drawing on an exercise done by a group of re-enactors. 

All-in-all a great introduction to COW, and I really must get there in person next year.

As an aside, what is interesting is that of all the "virtual" events I've been to in lockdown in terms of professional work this was actually probably the best - with everyone fully engaged, no real passive participants, and great use of a variety of technologies. No surprise really given how great Connections (another professional wargame conference) last year - with both having an emphasis on playing games more than just talking about things.


Wednesday, 5 August 2020

SN5 Makes First 150m Hop

After at least 3 false starts and two 1 AM bedtimes SpaceX's Starship SN5 prototype finally made its first 150m hop. It really was quite awesome (just see Everyday Astronaut's cam for how he was reacting - I wasn't far off), and just like last year's Starhopper the SN5 flew "in exactly the same way that bricks don't". As the dust cleared we weer all hoping to see it upright - there'd been no bangs - and sure enough, there it stood as proud as punch on the landing site.

I watched Lapadre's Sapphire cam - probably had the best view - legs coming out clearly visible.

Official SpaceX video is here:

I know that Elon was giving it the "new era of spaceflight" speech when they welcomed home "Bob & Doug" from Crew Dragon Demo 2 - but the SN5 fight is far more the beginning of a new era as the complete Starship system promises to open up the inner solar system to us once he cracks in-orbit (or on-planet) refuelling.

It's been a long just-under-a-year since the Starhopper flight and we've seen Mk1 and SN1/2/3/4 all fall by the wayside, but hopefully SN5 and probably SN6 can prove the 150m hop solid (I expect Elon will test to destruction rather than retire SN5), and then it looks like SN8 is being prepped with cone and flaps for the 20km tests some time in the autumn.

It's also still less than 11 months since the Mk1 rollout and its worth revisiting what I thought there in terms of future timeline.

  • Nov 19 - first flight (10s of km) of Mk1  - 3Q20 with SN8
  • This year - 200km flight of Mk1 - 1H21 - SN12ish?
  • Mk2 then probably takes over testing, still suborbital, no heat shield
  • Mk3 makes first orbital flight ~ 2Q20 - Early 2022? SN15ish?
  • Mk4 joins testing programme
  • Work starts on the first Super Heavy booster - Looking like 2H20 with HighBay going up
  • Work starts on a "production" generation of Starships - 2022?
  • Lunar orbital flight ~ 2021 - Late 2022/Early 2023?
  • Lunar landing ~ 2023 (prob before NASA) - ~2024 (prob as part of NASA Artemis plan)
  • Unmanned flights to and landing on Mars (and return?) before human landing

Of course sending a rocket straight up and down is something Elon's being doing reliably with Falcon for ages now, and Blue Origin has done the same, but the mass of Starship will be on a totally different scale, and with his rocket factory behind him he may well get to the Moon and Mars before NASA  does (or with NASA hitching a ride). And I'm still taking bets that the Perseverance sample containers will be plucked off the Martian surface by the gloved hand of a SpaceX astronaut!

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Deliberate Attack on Chanzori

The Story So Far

Lupus Company of 3rd Battalion, 15th Armoured Infantry Regiment EDF was deployed rapidly forward to Topi Junction. Leaving 3rd Pl and Sp Pl to hold Topi, 1 and 2 Pl moved rapidly to take Chanzori but arrived to find the ILR just digging in about company strength. A hasty attack was a tactical success, knocking out the Satcom, but failed to dislodge the superior numbers (and quality) of the ILR Assault Company there. As the rest of Lupus Coy moved up (along with elements of Kilo Company) 2 and 3 Pl spent two nights in heavy patrolling conducting nighttime raids on the ILR, succeeding in the first to kill some critters but failing in the second to take out a LARC. Once the rest of the Company arrived it was time for a deliberate attach on flank of Chanzori, whilst two platoons of Kilo Company attacked the other flank.


Checking points EDF was meant to have 34 pts against an ILR force (smaller but more capable) of 20 pts. I scaled that down to 7 pts for EDF (2 sections, and extra fireteam plus a PML), and 4 pts for ILR (Assault section plus an Assault Pl HQ). The table had open ground in front of the town, and the IRL had rigged barricades on most of the main entrances. The EDF rolled for the train station as being their objective, to be held for D3 turns (determined once taken). ILR was controlled by the Solo/AI rules as in the latest issue of MW&BG.

EDF moving in form the L with ILR holding Chanzori R

How It Played

The EDF sprinted across the open ground as fast as they could, but still took several turns (low cards and body armour), and for much of the time were out of range of the puny ILR carbines. The forward ILR positions began to cause problems as the EDF neared but a few rounds from the PML took one of the main ones out. The extra fireteam tried to go right flanking but found no entry point, so back-tracked to where the PML had just struck and tried to sneak in their to enfilade the ILR team. An ILR LMG on a roof opened fire causing casualties so a brave EDF trooper lobbed a grenade up onto the roof, which bounced and came back down on top of him and killed him!

ILR LMG team with brave but dead EDF critter below

Better progress was being made on the other flank, with EDF coming off the best on the firefight. But down to 2 critters the ILR fireteam leader decide to charge the EDF and in a multi-turn melee managed to wound one EDF before being finally killed. 

ILR Fireteam commander makes a fanatical charge into melee

His colleague hunkered herself down by the station platforms and managed to hold the EDF off for several turns as the rest of the ILR abandoned the (their) left and centre zones and came to her aide. As she fell to a UGL grenade the EDF went firm and rolled for 2 turns to defend the station. 

ILR holding out at the station

As the ILR rolled in the EDF shot the lead critter at point blank as they emerged from an alley. Another EDF fire team pushed forward and flanked the ILR taking out two more critters, but losing one in the process. The second Shuffle card was drawn and the game was over.

ILR Commander rushing in, but all too late

A firefight round the alley, and it's all over


Another great ACP164 game. I think the solo/AI rules are a little bit cautious, the ILR HQ in particular hung back a lot and a lot of "do nothing but react" results. The ILR stepping up to "aggressive" as the game went against them was I suppose a reasonable reflection of their last ditch attempt to save the game, and was triggered by the fact that EDF was able to attempt more shots as they had more figures, but then kept missing due to their Green rating.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Dynamic Physical Digital Tabletop

Rather nice use of a 32" 'tablet' to provide the maps for a game of Traveller at TravCon 2020, reported in the latest issue of Freelance Traveller.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Medieval Rules Experimentation - Order Changes

With Kings of War failing to make the cut, and still not being 100% happy with my current in-house rules I decided to have a go at a new set with three main objectives:

  • Make stand based, as seems more "classic" and possibly better suited to the period
  • Enable units to mix bill and box as some recent research suggests that this was the case - given that an affinity would be raised locally, and probably train locally, and build its esprit-de-corps, so why split it when it gets to the battlefield
  • The big one, focus command and control on the CHANGE of orders, not assigning them. I get frustrated with a lot of rules which have limited activations as you end up with troops advancing off towards the enemy who then just stop in the middle of nowhere, or bow men who just don't fire. I also like the fact that some rules (including one of the WW2 sets) makes it harder to issues orders which are risky (eg charge) as against ones which are safer (eg withdraw).

I followed a bucket-of-dice model for combat (2 D10 per stand, 1 if damaged), stands eliminated once 2 hits. Pretty basic DMs for to-hit and to-penetrate. Melee uses to-penetrate only, with different weapon types, and all with different armour types. Troops randomly dice for quality when first needed (my now standard 2DFate model).

The orders list is below (original, now modified after playtest), with the roll needed for order change, modified by damage and quality and local commander. If a unit fails the change it FALTERS to reflect order confusion.

No move, may fire at Short range, +1 melee
No move, may fire full effect
May move and fire reduced effect.
No move, no fire, +2 melee
Move full distance twds tgt
Move double distance, twds tgt,  -2 melee
Double distance til in contact
No move/fire. Recover 1+DF DP, less last
Run back to lines or cover
Run off table edge
Auto if stopped in asslt.. No move/fire. -1 in melee.

All units start on an order, and each side has one activation card per unit (not assigned) of which about 1/3rd allow order change (varied by commander quality). Cards are then shuffled and then drawn in turn, the relevant side either activating a unit on current order, or trying to change its order if allowed (I used picture cards for order change, 1-10 for normal activation). One thing I didn't expect but works well is that you can "sacrifice" an order change card in order to activate an important unit earlier on its current order.


I used a new iteration of my random table set-up rules which worked well. There are then "fate" cards which are diced for which made just minor changes to deployment and none to terrain, but which did bring on a rain storm which stayed the whole game, reducing bow, eliminating power and reducing movement.

Yorkists on L, Lancastrians on R. S to bottom.

How it Played

The Lancastrians were on the defensive and the Yorkists slowed slightly by the stream. Currours on both sides charged on the N flank and pretty much eliminated each other. They also made demonstrations against each others lines (reborn), but as small units facing a hail of arrows made little headway - seems reasonable. In the S Yorkists handgunners tried to get close, hoping the rain would stop, but took increasing damage and eventually routed. As the main body of Yorkist bill and DMAA came on they took damage but managed to make contact, the DMAA dispatching Lancastrian archers. Up to this point most orders were the starting ones, but now as risks and opportunities opened up order change became important, and both sides failed several roles, so the Yorkists failed to exploit, and the Lancastrian response was slowed - seems reasonable.

Advancing Handgunners (with too wet powder to use!)

The Lancastrian leader joined his DMAA (which was in reserve) and rushed to plug the gap in the line which the Yorkist DMAA had opened up - whilst Yorkist bill was in danger of breaking through a neighbouring unit. The two DMAA joined in melee and the Lancastrian leader was killed! 

The central melee

At the moment there is no instant surrender, but all troops take 1 damage so the Lancastrian force was, whilst substantially intact, notably weakened. The Yorkist DMAA was also spent though, and their Bill companions eliminated by two Lancastrian units. With the Yorkists only have one decent unit left, and the Lancastrian commander dead it was ENDEX and something of a draw.

Lancastrian DMAA flee, their commander having been killed


Well I think that worked pretty well. Some tweaks required as ever but the C&C choices of where to play the order changes, and the friction that failures introduced worked well but nobody hung around for no reason doing nothing. Think I'll refine further and maybe try out for ECW. The stand and BOD mechanic was OK but needs a bit more work, still find BOD models very variable.

Some additional shots from the game...

Currours below a tower (built by Alan Martin)

Archers exchanging shots

Lancastrian Bill