Thursday, 29 September 2016

Battalion and Brigade level Mechanised Warfare Rules

Test game of MechWar in progress - I love the hex basing, works well on big or small hexes

I've been trying for ages to write a decent set of mechanised warfare rules to support 1/300th wargaming. I grew up on WRG's 1950+ plus rules, which got more complicated with each edition, and I was always after something simpler, but which maintained a good level of realism ( I hate bunched tanks!). The last time I had a go a few years ago I was still trying to do something with squad or section sized manoeuvre units, but when I started looking more at WW2 actions and at the old 1980s North German Plain battlegrounds it become obvious that to capture the sort of encounters I'd like I would need something that let you put a Battalion or Brigade on the table, and have the table covering 5-10 miles - particularly if you wanted to model helicopter ops (which I did having served in 24th (Airmobile) Brigade.

So I'm now having another go, building on some of my old ideas but also making some radical changes - some of style, and some of substance. I'll write more as things mature but some of the guiding ideas at the moment are:

  • Platoon or company manoeuvre units except specialists support wpns
  • Anti-tank fire based on separate to-hit and to-penetrate rolls, and minimal of chance of penetrating if your gun is underpowered
  • Small arms fire/damage based on more of the damage/CEF model I use with Steady Lads Steady
  • Similar activation, command points and morale mechanisms to SLS
  • Easy to use Indirect Fire model, with option for plotted Fires
  • Simple suppression/neutralisation model (and really all small arms fire is assumed to be suppression first, damage 2nd)
  • Overwatch is always on, no need to specify
  • Turns  are 10 minutes
  • Ground scale is 1 big hex (10cm) = 500m (maybe 250m) or 1 small hex (4cm) = 250m
  • Elements are based on 4cm hexes (just look nice!)
  • All element data on unit cards - minimise the tables on the QRS
  • Replace the QRS with  a set of A6 cue cards  - easier to find and keep front of mind the bits you are really using (might also try that for SLS)
Sample Card

More later...

Friday, 16 September 2016

A French Battalion at 1:1

Seeing as I had a load of 6mm units out for Maida I thought it would be interesting to see what a battalion looks like at a 1 figure = 1 man ratio. And this is it. The bases already have figures in 3 ranks, 15 men to the base, so I only needed 30 bases to get 450 men in 3 ranks. The 15mm house is there to give some sense of relative scale and the hexes are 100mm.

Here's couple of other views.

And finally the same troops in an attach column of divisons.

Would be fun to play a 1:1 game one day!

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Battle of Maida - 4 Jul 1806 - 6mm

6mm starting positions, British on left

In just the same way that Mad Mac used Maida to test different Napoleonic wargame rules I thought I'd use Maida to compare scales. So having fought the battle in 20mm I thought I'd also give it a go in 6mm.

Now the ground scale is staying the same - 1:1000 (1 x 100mm hex = 100m), but the figure scale is increasing from 1/72nd to 1/300th (6mm), so this means that there is only a mismatch between ground and figure scales of 1:3, quite unique for any Napoleonic game I've ever played (its usually 1:14), so I was  hoping to get a far better perspective on ground and movement. It also meant that since there were now 90 figures in  a battalion (6 of my standard 6mm battalion blocks) I only had a figure:man ratio of 1:5 (for a 450 man battalion).

To make the game slightly different I decided to have the French attack in column, not line, but nothing else was different.

The 90 figures of the Combined Light Battalion, 1:5 figures:men

The change to column made a big difference from the start. Both Compere and Peyri's leading battalions managed to close with the defending Brits and get into melee (they move faster, so less artillery/musketry, they get a +1 on resolve and 1 +1 in melee against line, but effectively lose the power to fire on the way in). The 42e sent the 81st reeling back again, but the Light Brigade managed to eventually win their melee and send 1/1e Legere back, and then 2/1e. Oswald again move forward to help fill the gap left by the 81st, and the 78th Highland were also now in melee with the Poles. On the left flank the 23e Legere of Diagonnet made far faster progress in column round the thickets, and the Chasseurs having corralled the Grenadiers and 27th into square held of the attack until the 23e could arrive.

By the end of turn 4 (about 9.20) the 1/23e had gone in against a 27th weakened by the fire from Griois' guns and routed them. In the centre 1e Polish failed to go in against the advancing Swiss of Oswald. However Dyneley's battery managed to rout 2e Polish, which then took the French Swiss with them. Oswalds 58th then fell on the flank of the halted 1e Polish, sending them home too.

Two battalions of 23e Legere in Column of Divisions

Technically it was now game over as the French had two broken brigades, but I was keen to get the 20th onto the table so let the game play on. I soon almost regretted it as Raynier was first out the deck and used a command point to rally 2/e, bringing Compere's Brigade back under control.On the left flank the 20th failed to materialise and so 1/23e Legere charged into a now weakened Grenadier square and routed that. Turn 6 and the 20th are still not there. 1/23e failed to charge in against Dyneley's battery which had begun to rake the French on the left flank. Likewise the 58th failed to go in against Griois battery which had placed itself in a commanding position on  a small hillock. 2/23e managed to push Watteville's Swiss back, and Acland and Oswald were struggling to build a defensive line on a much refused left flank. On the right things were also not looking good as a rejuvenated 2/1e pushed the Light Brigade back and took the gun battery.

Final positions

On Turn 7 the 20th finally turned up, right onto the flank of a weakened 2/23e. 2/32e routed immediately from this surprise flank attack, and took the unformed and battered 1/23e right next to them with them. Game over.

Endex as the 20th Foot goes in against 23e Legere

Interesting how a change in tactics resulted in a far more bloody and close fought battle. Given my comments last time I do wonder if perhaps I need to up the impact of musketry, need to dig out some detailed casualty figures again, to make it harder for the columns to go in, and also to make more of an incentive to stop and fire.  One other minor change I made was to force morale tests when units retreat past you (a lot more common then rout - which was the original condition) - think that worked well.

Playing with the 6mm really did give it more of  a "battle" feeling, 90 figures not 18 per battalion. The ground coverage looked quite convincing, although there wasn't too much of  a sense of unwieldiness that I was expecting with long lines as there were in reality on 2 hex wide (would have been interesting on my 40mm hexes - then 6 hex long!). It's certainly something I'd do again, and it may be a ideal job for the MDF Napoleonics.
So overall another cracking game and a nice scenario.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Battle of Maida - 4 Jul 1806 - 20mm

Reynier's 1ere Legere advances on the British Combined Light Bn

Next up in my decadal battles series was the Battle of Maida, 4th July 1806. This was the only major battle the British fought in Italy, and was part of a small, and highly successful, operation aimed at disrupting the French plans to invade the British defended island of Sicily. Richard Hopton's book is the go-to information source - I picked mine up at a show for £5!

Stuart had landed with about 5000 men just up the western Italian coast, 80 km from the Straits of Messina. Reynier marched with about 6000 men to meet him. As Stuart marched up the flat Maida valley (as in Maida Vale!) Reynier descended, possibly unwisely, off the valley side to meet him.

The nice things about this battle is that it's about 8 bn a side, the British have two small batteries of 3/4 pdrs, the French just one. The French have a regiment of Chasseurs, and that's it. Here's a nice map from NapNuts:

Given the small size I decided to play this scenario twice. First in 20mm with 18 figure battalions (so about 1:33), and then in 6mm (1/300) with the same ground scale with 90 figure battalions (so about a 1:5 ratio). In the latter case since the ground scale is 10cm = 100m (using hexon hexes), so 1:100, it means we have only about a 1:3 error between figure and ground scale. I used Steady Lads Steady as usual, but given the small numbers I decided to also allow musketry (which is usually wrapped in with the melee/charge rules), but used the existing firefight rules to do it.

Initial Deployments - British on left
Both sides start deployed in echelon and in line, as was historically the case. This meant that the first clash was (bottom half of image) between the British Combined Light Battalion and the French 1ere Legere. The firepower of the British line and the gun batter was enough to see off the first French battalion. Alongside, 2/1e Legere came up against the slightly untried 81st who flinched and withdrew. But that left 2/1e momentarily stranded and Wateville's English Swiss in the reserve Brigade marched swiftly up and into the flank of 2/1e who retreated back.

Whilst this was going on in the centre the French Swiss (yes, both sides!)  and Poles marched steadily forward but again the fire from the second British battery and the 78th Highlanders they were unable to make an impression on the British line, and were soon withdrawing with losses.

On the British left flank the French fared better since the Chasseurs could come forward and force the British grenadiers and 27th into square. But the French battery of Griois (who provided one of the best eye-witness accounts) was too weak to make any impact unless it could get really close. The French 23ere Legere also came forward in support, but the scrub on this flank really slowed things.

That was pretty much the first hour/3 turns.

Returning to the British right flank the Light Battalion surged forward against the two weakened and one full strength (but disordered) battalions of Compere's Bde, forcing them all back and sending the Brigade into Compulsory Withdraw orders. In the centre Oswald's Reserve Bde pushed forward through Acland's disrupted Bde of the 78th & 81st and started chasing the Poles and Swiss back. That brigade (Peyri's) was also soon into Compulsory Withdrawal. But before the turn could end (and it would then be game over since the French had 2 of their 3 Bde's withdrawing) Reynier was able to use a command point to rally one of the Polish battalions and stave off the end of the game.

On the left flank the Chasseurs unwisely decided to charge the Grenadier square but were beaten off and had to withdraw. This meant that the Grenadiers and 27th could come back out of square and advance, helped by the 20th Line who had just arrived on the table (they were late marching up from the beach having been involved in a diversionary attack elsewhere).

The 81st advance - but bring up the rear after initial losses

In the closing turn - #7 - Oswald finally made contact with Peyri's fragile Poles and Swiss, and that was it, game over as both the battalions exited the board.

The subtitle of Richard Hopton's book is "15 Minutes of Glory", and the real battle lasted about 8.30 to 10.30, so the wargame was about the right duration, and gave the right result!

Curtains for the Poles, who performed better than in reality

The really interesting thing for me though was that in the whole wargame there was not a single melee! In each case when someone went to charge either their charge faltered or their opposition fell back. Reading Hopton's book this appears to be exactly what happened in the real battle. Hopton says "It was very rare that two lines of infantry charging with bayonets fixed would in fact run into each other....Maida has in the past been offered as an exception to this rule... [but]...bayonets did not cross at Maida ..[and]...Dyneley [commanding one of the British batteries] confirms..that the French 'turned tail' and fled before they reached the British bayonets".

Indeed Hopton highlights that the fact that the casualties were extremely low. He reports that the British lost only 45 soldiers (including one officer), and had 280 wounded. French  losses were around 700 killed/wounded and 1000 prisoners. This all seems in line with what the wargame showed. He also notes that the highest British casualties were in Acland's Brigade, as in the wargame, and that they were saved by Watteville's Swiss - again as in the game.

The end state

When I wrote Steady Lads Steady I had this issue of bayonets rarely crossing front-of-mind, and designed the "assault" rules accordingly with a three phase, but quick, firefight-resolve-melee sequence to try and capture this and have a fairly high "resolve" threshold. It's always worked pretty well in bigger games, with many charges either not going home or having their target evaporate, but this is the first battle where NO assault resulted into an actual melee, and it was nice it did it on a battle that is documented as one where exactly that happened.

So the 20mm figures can be put away and the 6mm one's brought out!

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Back to PortJump

Having dragged myself away from No Man's Sky for a while I've decided to try and get Port2Jump to a stage that I can release it in beta before Christmas. You get a clue as to what Port2Jump is about by the ship name in the above photo chosen about 2 years ago - the "Poor Man's Sky"! P2J is a GDW Traveller play aid, letting you take a ship from downport to anywhere in the system, and then jump to another system and land on any other planet. However it's all about implementing Traveller rules, not about graphics! Initially all feedback is via the text "COACC message log" and a set of static images which will be cued to your orbit type and the world below. Pretty quickly some of these will be replaced by some WebGL graphics of spinning globes etc.

I had most of P2J working in Perl about 2-4 years ago, but I started last year to port to ASP.NET. All the basic navigation stuff is already working. I'm now doing the table-intensive system and world generation, then once I've got the first WebGL bits in and worked out how to get it up onto Azure I may let people start playing with it.

Monday, 5 September 2016

No Man's Sky - Early Thoughts

Bumpy landing on a hot, watery planet!

Pre-ordered No Man's Sky having been following its development for about 2 years (and hey they're from Guildford!) and been playing it since the day it came out on the PC (and my 2nd and 3rd sessions were playing it on the train to Edinburgh).

It's been interesting/frustrating to read all the negative hype. In most way's I think the game is exactly what I was expecting - just new world after new world to explore. The whole alien story overlay was far fuller than I expected form the original descriptions and does give some sense of an aim, but otherwise I'm quite content to just wander round these worlds - I've only done1 jump so far, but am doing pretty well on my wanderer's badge!

My starting point, poisonous atmosphere, yuck!

Yes the worlds do seem a bit samey after a while, partly the colour palette, partly the "library" of bits, and my most recent planet which actually has trees and flowers is the first one that felt significantly (if not radially) different. Although my first one with a coast-line was a neat experience.

The game certainly has a survival feel. My first trek across a planet to some Heridium and then back to my ship felt quite epic (before I realised how easy it was to recharge life support). Likewise my first dive down to a sunken base - working out how to maximise air and use my jet pack to just keep lifting me out the water on a free boost) had the adrenaline going.

Coasts and islands on the hot water planet

The idea of naming things was great to begin with, but you soon find that with the "always moving on" imperative there is always too much to name! I had a whole list of Vilani names ready to go, but have hardly named anything. In many ways you almost want less worlds and more time and variation on each - and something faster to name them than a console speed keyboard (even on PC).

I suppose I'm now at a bit of a cross-roads. Holiday's are over and time to get back to some serious evening coding, so far less time on No Mans Sky. But I still want to explore, but every time I land on a world I just always want to see what's over the horizon, so it takes me days to get bored with a planet, weeks to get bored with a system. But you do begin to want something a bit less samey.

Big mushrooms appear to be everywhere. Lovely planet backdrops though

One angle for me of course is how this plays out against a Traveller type backdrop - what would it me like to use No Mans Sky as a setting for Traveller adventures, if ever we get multi-user (and thinking of it what would it be like to use our own Fieldscapes for Traveller - and already thinking about recreating the core No Mans Sky loop in Fieldscapes).

First ruin, more alien than the carbon-copy bases

So what changes would I ideally want in No Mans Sky in the ideal world?

- More real variety from planet to planet
- Variation on a planet from place to place (eg polar caps to tropical desert)
- Quicker naming (eg Name Now when discovered)
- Compass or other waypoints to aid planetary travel
- "You are here" on a planetary map, linked to your own waypoints and places you've been to
- True multi-user once I start bumping into people
- The NPC experience is minimal but a nice sense of ships coming and going, you do feel like there are other people there. They alien stuck at a ground station as he needed some fuel was the nicest touch so far. Would be nice to have more of that rather than the cookie-cutter aliens-with-ipads in the bases. And maybe even meet aliens while trekking across.
- Far fewer small cargo containers with isotopes and gek charms. You always feel like you ought to click on them but its rarely worth it.

Just some early thoughts, partly to pull the game in the direction I'd like it to go of course, your mileage my vary. But overall the game IS what I expected, it was money well spent and I'll continue to keep playing it. But it could have some serious competition once Star Citizen and Dual Universe are out.

My first flower! (I didn't destroy it!)

For those interested my album of No mans Sky screenshots is at

Friday, 2 September 2016

Pike & Shotte and Hexon

Each battalia is 3 P&S units, 2 of shot, 1 of pike, each occupy 1 hex

Took these as part of article I'm working to see how the Pike & Shotte rules would work on a 10cm Hexon grid - even though it took almost every 20mm ECW figure I had to muster two Pike & Shotte Battalia. I'm tempted to use them in my refight of Barnet though as they may suit that far better than my big battles rules.

Cavalry units of 8 figures over 2 hexes

Pike and Shot ready to receive

Coming to push-of-pike, note realistic variety of actual colours/units!
Dragoons play out the skirmish came in the copse on the flank

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Strategy GameCon and Dust

Headed off to Strategy GameCon in Telford at the weekend to see what it was like. The couple of halls of CCG championships were packed, but the "main hall" with a smattering of boardgame vendors and assorted others was absolutely empty - all very weird.

The saving grace though was the stand put up by the STAGS Telford wargaming club. They had about 6 3x3 demo/participation games going on including Tanks, Team Yankee and Dust, and people on everyone keen to explain it all and play a game. We missed the chance to play Tanks! but did get the chance to play Dust, which, not being a Weird War Two fan I mainly wanted to play because a) it had troopers with jet packs and b) used a grid movement system so fits well with an article I'm writing. Jo and Tom beat me but it was a fairly even match.

A nice overview, not crosses for grid corners, and dots for centre points

My hero (on the ground) trying to fend off Jo's flying Valkyrie!

The Team Yankee talk-through almost tempted me to buy the rules (and I would have if I'd realised they were only £15), but as input to my own WW3 gaming rather than to buy into the system.

Battletech Radar Map for air assets

The other neat idea was on the Battletech game next to the table was an "aerial environment" map/scan, where air assets first appear and make their way through a couple of levels, and possibly hostile AA and CAPs before appearing on the table. Must adapt that!

6mm MDF Figures - The Cavalry

A few pictures of the 6mm cavalry from Commission Figurines positioned as line sabot's for my Baccus 6mm metal figures. The French Heavy Cavalry pack paints up as Dragoons or Cuirassiers.

The dragoons.

Side view of the Cuirassier.

As predicted in the Infantry blog post the cavalry don't work quite as well - thin horses and no sense of the riders legs over the saddle, but again viewed from the edge of an ordinary wargames table you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference en-masse.