Saturday, May 21, 2016


Mike and I tried out the new skirmish game Tribal. The game represents small groups of warriors from cultures that place a premium on the concept of honor in combat. Our game featured the Bronze Age Achean chieftain Proctocules (me) seeking revenge for a slight done to his family by a retainer in the service of his neighbor Mysoxargon. Both sides fielded their chieftain, two heroes and fifteen ordinary warriors in 3 groups of five men.

Proctocules presents a pre-battle review of Mysoxargon's questionable ancestors
The interesting thing about the Tribal rules is there are no dice or rulers. You might think that wouldn't work, but it actually does. A 'unit' consists of a single prominent warrior or a group of 5 lesser men. When two such groups engage they each get a hand of standard playing cards, the number depending on circumstances. Opposing sides take turns playing a card for either attack or defense. Attack cards can damage an opponent. Defense cards can prevent damage and also can tinker with the value of cards played in the next round of combat. There is ample opportunity for strategy in the combat rounds. Honor, which determines the victor, is won and lost in combat and in achieving scenario objectives.
"When the gods laugh at you", saith Mysoxargon, "all a man can do is laugh back"
In the course of the fighting the hero in Mysoxargon's retinue who had offended the (overly sensitive) Proctocules was slain along with assorted other men on each side. Honor was satisfied and the surviving enemy fled. The awesome pile of honor tokens in the foreground was loaded onto the backs of the pack serfs and the victors set out for home. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

This Is Hamlinopolis!

Pete, Strategos of the forgotten Greek city state of Hamlinopolis marched his citizen hoplite army out to face the invading hordes of Persian barbarians. Actually, the Persians had quite an advanced culture, but the Greeks had a hell of a PR capability, so there you go.
Persian infantry in all their gaudy, barbaric spendor
 In any case, the hoplite phalanx, unbeatable to it's front, was deployed in close array with additional hoplites and skirmishers held back to cover its flanks. The main body of Persian infantry, massed bowmen, deployed opposite the phalanx. The Persian horse and light troops deployed on either flank. Western Civilization hung in the balance.
The citizen warriors of Greece deploy in phalanx formation
As the phalanx rolled forward, the Persian arrow storm was having an effect. Casualties were insignificant, but the solid Greek formation was breaking up here and there, slowing the advance. Meanwhile, the Persian horse and light troops moved on both flanks and were met by the hoplite reserves supported by skirmishers.
Why won't those Persians impale themselves on our spears like men?
Things started to go wrong for the Greeks on their right flank. While a solid line of hoplites is a difficult proposition for Persians, small formations of hoplites screening the flanks are subject to being swarmed by the fast moving barbarians, and so it was that casualties mounted on both sides in a series of small actions on the Greek right. In the end, the Persians won by the narrowest of margins and Hamlinopolis received its new Satrap while muttering salty comments about being betrayed by the gods.

The rules we used for this game were DBA. There were 18 elements per side. Elements were 6" wide and depth varied by troop type. The hoplites had 16 figures in 2 ranks per element and the Persian massed bow units had 18 archers fronted by 6 spearmen on a double depth base. Other troop types were scaled appropriately. We like our DBA like this. As long as the base widths are the same, the depth to width ratio the same as in the rules and distances kept in proportion to base widths, everything works and the visual effect is spectacular.

Berlin Kaput!

This was the 2nd half of The Biggest Wargame Ever Played (in my basement). The ruined city was laid out on Pete's rubble themed cloth 6'x3'. He also has quite a few ruined buildings, some of them made by the talented Walter Kordon. By the way, does anyone know Walters status? We haven't been able to reach him. The rest of the buildings were my undamaged structures with the roofs removed to give 'em that "there goes the neighborhood" look. We wanted some rubble heaps to scatter around because half blown away structures without rubble heaps look odd. After experimenting with piles of mixed plaster and (clean) kitty litter, we finally settled on scrap foam core cut into irregular shapes and colored shades of gray.

 At this stage, the Russian infantry and tanks were starting to press in on the hidden German infantry.
Russian engineers attack Germans in a house using a flamethrower
The German mortars and howitzer were scoring some good hits. The advancing Russian infantry were unmasking the hidden German units in ambush, and were being rewarded with a hail of fire.
 Ivan finds Fritz the hard way. "Get back in there" says the Commisar "or I'll shoot you myself!"
Once the Germans were uncovered they were pounded by the Soviet tanks and mortars. The attack was pressed from all four sides, lavishly supported by heavy weapons.
T34s plow through the rubble of the ruined city
The end was near and the defenders would not have lasted much longer now that they were visible to the attacking hordes. Due to the sheer scale of the game we ran out of time, but the writing was on the wall so the Germans surrendered.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Battle of "Berlin", Part 1

Pete and I began the third and final battle in our Bolt Action Russians v Germans series. Each of the battles was planned for two evenings because they are a bit on the large side.This series was a little unusual in that its purpose was to encourage Pete to get his Russians painted. Each of the battles would pit my slightly understrength German infantry company with a few supporting vehicles against as many Russians as Pete could get painted. The downside was Pete had a lot of unpainted stuff which he worked very hard to make table ready.

This last two part battle would feature the German Kampfgruppe Diefenbach defending a ruined town on the road to Berlin against the mad Russian General Pete Behronovich of the 964th Guards Tank Army. General Behrenovich is pretty sure he is attacking Berlin itself (which he expected to be much bigger), but geography was never his strong suit at the Academy.

The sun rose in the East, as it so often does in this part of the world. The Fascists were dug in and well hidden in the town. Behrenovich, ever mindful of his mens welfare, ordered a preparatory bombardment of the town. "Make the rubble bounce" he said (in Russian), and so they did. By the time the firing had stopped they had scared the urine out of the defenders. Pin markers abounded and two of the four defending armored vehicles were immobilized.

While the German defenders picked themselves up and started the process of working off the pin markers Russian infantry cautiously approached the town from the South and Southwest. A firefight broke out between the Russians and the defenders of the municipal building. The Russians committed the bulk of their armor to the fight, sending in six tanks and a tank destroyer. They soon dispatched the enemy Marder and Stug deployed at that end of the town square. A Panzerfaust fired from the building failed to penetrate a Russian tank and a second defender with a Panzerfaust was shot by a tanks hull machine gun before he could launch. A German sniper, in turn, shot the leader of the infantry pressing the attack on the building.

Russian infantry was now moving in on the defenders from all sides. The defenders, now fully recovered from the effects of the bombardment, were holding their fire in their hidden positions, waiting for the Russians to get close enough to engage.

At this point we ran out of time. This battle will be completed next Saturday, and the results, with pictures, posted soon after.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

I'm (still) Spartacus

Mike and I got together for our every other Thursday game. It was my turn to pick the game, and I picked Big DBA Spartacus vs the Romans.  As a way to save time I set up the board, and Mike had the choice of the table side and army. Mike chose Spartacus because he is a Romantic.
The armies square off. The slaves supply of Diet Pepsi can be seen lower right and Spartacus himself, upper right.
 The Roman army has 30 stands of Legionaries (Blades), four stands of skirmishers (Psiloi) and two stands of Cavalry. The slave army has 12 Blades representing enslaved men with military training, armed with the best of what Roman equipment has been scavenged from stricken fields and captured towns. Three more stands are Warbands representing German and Gallic POWs who have banded together. 16 stands are Fast Horde representing the majority of the slaves with no military background and the worst of the available equipment. 4 stands of skirmishers (Psiloi) representing shepherds and the like and Spartacus himself at the head of the army's single Cavalry stand round out the army. The sharp eyed wargamer will note that this is not a fair fight. In fact, normally I wouldn't have built two armies that are such a mismatch, but I saw the movie when I was a kid and it stuck with me. To try to even things out a bit, and represent Spartacus apparent tactical skill I set up the table with more woods and hills than Roman armies of the period would like, and required the Romans to set up first.
                   One of the three Roman legions
The Roman scouts reported the rapid approach of the slave army, and they rapidly deployed their three legions to face the onset. Spartacus deployed his best men on his left, hoping to overwhelm that enemy flank and then turn and roll up their line.
The best of the Slave army. Experienced men armed with previously enjoyed Roman gear. 
The Romans moved forward slowly on both flanks and pressed the attack vigorously in the center. Honestly, that had more to do with how the movement dice played out than any concious decision on my part. However it came to be, the heavily armed legionaries clashed with the poorly equipped slave hordes on a hill in the center, and quickly broke them.
The onset of the ill equipped, untrained hordes. What could go wrong?
 Spartacus, although illiterate, could read the writing on the wall and withdrew back into his inaccessible mountain stronghold. I think the next time we play this matchup I'll propose that slave commands won't break until they reach 50% casualties to represent desperate men who know what will happen to them if captured. I hope that will balance the two sides.
 The slave right anchored firmly on a hill by skirmishers backed by German and Gallic warbands.
  The end comes quickly. You can't talk to a man with a gladius in his hand.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Bungle in the Jungle

The following is an account of a game of AK47 that Mike and I recently enjoyed. It was loosely based on a real event in Northeastern Nigeria earlier this year. The Strategy Page website covered it in an article about Boko Haram and VICE news has a video on Youtube.
A quiet village just off the road to Samvisi. Enemy occupied?The Nigerian President, whose popularity in a recent poll had dropped below zero (many respondents disliked him multiple times) decided to mount an expedition against the even less popular Boko Haram rebels. The South African military security firm STTEP was hired to plan and organize the effort and, within a few weeks had selected and prepared the Nigerian Armys 72nd Mobile Battalion to lead the attack. One of the several columns striking into rebel territory consisted of a platoon of APC mounted infantry, two platoons of truck mounted infantry, a unit of 3 Panhard armored cars with tank guns and a small group of STTEP advisors in Humvees. Their mission was to clear the rebels from a road that led to the main enemy stronghold in the Samvisi Forest.
The Nigerian commander grants an interview to the BBC while the battle rages behind him The terrain along the Samvisi road was was lined by several areas of dense jungle that might provide cover for rebel units, but the timetable for clearing the road was such that the column would not have opportunity for methodical recon. It was thought that a bold stroke would carry the column through to its objective.
STTEP "advisors" scout ahead and are attacked from the bush
It wasn't long before the government column was bogged down by attacks from jungle on both sides of the road. Several vehicles were in flames, casualties were heavy and two of the platoons broke and ran. The remaining infantry platoon, the Panhards and the advisors drove the ambushers away and continued down the road. The bridge over the river leading to their last objective was in sight when they were surprised by the appearance of 3 ancient M48 tanks in the service of the rebels.
Rebel tanks (upper right) engage the Panhards and Humvees Heavy firing ensued. One of the rebel tanks exploded but one of the Panhards was knocked out and another immobilized. The Nigerians column was in shambles and had failed to reach their objective in the allotted time. The Nigerian commander concluded his interview with the BBC, rejoined his unit as they limped back down the road the way they came. The rebel commander, known to the Western press only as Mike el Brockporti kicked back in his rat infested jungle headquarters to savor his victory.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

I'm Spartacus...?

After evading or defeating a number of hastily raised Roman forces Spartacus was at last brought to bay by a properly trained Roman army of three legions led by Peticus The Unlucky. The terrain was fairly rough, which favored the Slave Army, but the majority of their men were poorly equipped and trained hordes. The balance of the army, and it's main hope was the hard core of experienced warriors armed with captured Roman weapons and equipment.
       Peticus contemplates the advance of the Slave Army
Spartacus deployed his best equipped men under his own command in the center. His lieutenants Gannicus and Crixus commanded the Left and Right wings composed mainly of hordes of desperate but poorly equipped and trained men arrayed around a small core of well equipped, experienced men. Peticus opposed one of his legions to each of the three Slave generals. His plan was to delay a decision in the center where the best of the enemy army was by making use of rough wooded terrain. At the same time he would crush the weaker enemy wings and envelop their center.

             The left wing of the slave army is broken
The Roman right flank had little trouble breaking the enemy facing them but they were unable to capitalize on their success because, at the summit of the hill dominating that part of the field the rebel commander Gannicus struck down the commander of that Legion throwing their command structure into chaos. Gannicus stood his ground on the hill but the rest of his command crumbled and fled. Without their commander the victorious Roman legion was unable to effectively intervene on behalf of their hard pressed center.
               Crixus charges downhill into Victory and Death
On the Roman left flank the Slave commander Crixus "The Undefeated Gaul" compensated for the shortcomings of his willing but poorly equipped hordes by agressively leading from the front surrounded by his hard core of Gallic and German warriors. Crixus heroism cost him his life, but he broke the Roman left. At this point Peticus decided to withdraw from the field and Spartacus, who had narrowly escaped defeat was only too happy to see him go.