Sunday, November 25, 2012

Battle for the Aw Shucks valley, Vietnam 1967

Last Wednesday Pete and I did a 15mm Vietnam game. We use the old AK47 rules modified for this period. The modifications give the US air mobility and off table artillery fire support, and give the NVA ambush capability, booby traps and snipers. Basically, when a US unit arrives on table they are placed wherever the commander likes (in clear terrain) via helicopter. When an NVA unit arrives it can appear anywhere, but not closer than 2d6 to any US unit. Artillery fire, booby traps, etc are handled by card draw.
       The Aw Shucks valley with Montagnard camp and airtrip

A Green Beret training team has joined with Montagnard tribesmen to build a camp astride an NVA infiltration route on the Cambodian border. The NVA has moved an infantry battalion into the valley to take out the camp. Montagnard scouts report the advancing enemy and a US Air Cav company is dispatched to relieve the camp.
Camp Zinderneuf
Pete commanded the NVA and managed to roll all of his units on the table at the start of the game. My dice were less cooperative and I started with only one rifle platoon plus (of course) the camp defenders. I chose to land my platoon in an open field next to the camp and Pete attacked them from both sides (the swine!).
A swarm of NVA rise from the elephant grass and pour fire into the LZ
Two companies of NVA attacked from the south and one from the north of the LZ a fourth company attacked the NW corner of the camp while their mortars supported from a nearby hill. The Air Cav platoon lost one of its Hueys to machine gun fire as it touched down but the rest of the troopers deployed quickly and fought back. The NVA tried to overrun the LZ with their superior numbers before the rest of the Air Cav showed up, but I was lucky in the card draws and was able to direct off board fire support onto the attackers which caused heavy casualties.
Air Cav, son. Air Mobile
My good fortune continued as 1st platoon and the heavy weapons (mortar) platoon entered the fray. The Mortars landed and deployed NE of the hill and opened an effective fire on the rear of the NVA attacking 2nd platoon on that side. 1st platoon landed behind the hill where the NVA mortars were positioned and started making its way up the slope.
The battle ended as I drew another artillery fire mission card and called it in on the NVA caught in the open. Seeing the writing on the wall, they departed the battlefield, standing not upon ceremony.
Overall, a simple and fun game. The NVA commander enjoyed a very lucky initial deployment, but that was the last break he caught. The event cards that might have hit the US with booby traps, etc never appeared and his firing dice were pretty cold.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The section of the Interstate where George and Kathy lost their car was adjacent to the western end of Midvale. When they emerged from the woods they were at the edge of town. The Westside of Midvale had seen better days. To their right was a subsidized housing project and straight ahead was the old business district, which had suffered when the malls and big box stores came along. Down the street they could see two of those things that the news stories were calling zombies. They shuffled along as if in a daze and seemed to be unaware of the newcomers. George and Kathy slipped quietly across the street and took cover alongside the old brick fire station, out of sight of those shuffling horrors. Kathy had noticed the roly door at the front of the building was up about 3 ft. Getting to the door would require them to go back around the corner and possibly be spotted by those two zombies, but the thought of remaining out on the street caused a paralyzing fear to well up in George. “We’ve got to get off the street now or we’re dead” he whispered to Kathy. They braced themselves, slipped quickly around the corner and crawled under the door.
                                               The survivors approach the fire station
Some light filtered into the ground floor of the station through the windows and under the door but most of the space was lost in deep shadows. Their immediate concern was to get the roly door closed. With no electricity it wasn’t easy but the door was designed for backup manual operation so George and Kathy were able to force it down and lock it. While they were fumbling in the darkness to find the locks Kathy heard a shuffling noise from farther back in the big room. She turned and saw a grotesque figure that had once been a man limping toward her. She screamed and backed away as George turned and froze in horror. His movement caused the thing to notice him and it turned to move in his direction. George fumbled for his rifle but as he got a firm grip the thing was on him. He managed to get the rifle across his body between him and the ghoul. He shoved the thing back with the rifle and then brought the butt around and smashed its jaw. The thing staggered from the blow and then came on again. George countered with an adrenaline fueled blow to the monster’s forehead with his rifle butt. Its skull shattered, the zombie dropped to the floor and remained motionless.  

George dropped to his knees, cradling his rifle. He couldn’t stop shaking. When Kathy sat beside him and put her hand on his shoulder he flinched and, for a moment looked at her as if he didn’t recognize her. They stayed there for a while and gradually George recovered his composure. At last he offered a weak smile and said “I suppose we’d better make sure this place is secure”. The fire station was old and designed to house a single fire engine. The engine and crew were gone and something told the couple they weren’t coming back. The first floor was simply a large open truck bay. They carefully examined every corner of the space and found a well stocked first aid cabinet and vending machines for soft drinks and snacks. The doors were heavily built and secure. The windows were high enough that it seemed unlikely those shambling horrors could get through them. The building itself was a solidly built brick structure. “We could be safe here until help comes” said Kathy. George smiled thinly and put his arm around her shoulder. He was afraid to say it out loud but he was starting to wonder if there was any help coming.
                                            The shabby west side of Midvale, Ohio
They stood looking at the stairs to the second floor for a few minutes. Finally George took a deep breath and said “Let’s do this”. Rifle at the ready, he led the way up the stairs trying, unsuccessfully, to avoid the creaking noise that attended every footfall. Stopping at the top they scanned the area. The second floor was, like the first, a single open space. It was primarily designed as living space for on duty firemen. Sunlight provided some visibility and Kathy suddenly grabbed George’s arm and pointed to a far corner. George swung his rifle around and a heartbeat before he fired they heard a hoarse stage whispered “Wait!”. George’s hands were shaking and it took a conscious effort for him to lighten his finger’s pressure on the trigger. While they stood frozen in place the figures in the corner moved into the light. There stood a man about his own age holding a rifle and, huddled behind him, two elderly women.

“Uh, Jimmy, my name’s Jimmy” said the man as he slowly laid his rifle on the floor. “This is my mom Ellen and her neighbor Beth.” He took a step forward and George instinctively braced himself, causing the stranger to stop and put his hands up. They were shaking as much as George’s, which somehow helped him to relax a bit. He took a deep breath and lowered his rifle. Kathy stepped forward and introduced herself and, suddenly, except for the pistol in Kathy’s hand and the whispered tone, the group might have been neighbors talking at a backyard barbecue.

Jimmy’s group had arrived about a half hour before George and Kathy. They hadn’t seen any zombies in the street and had left the roly door partly open for light. They were checking out the first floor when they saw a pair of ragged legs appear outside the opening and halt facing their way. Apparently, the noise they had been carelessly making had attracted the creature’s attention. They made their way up the stairs as quickly and quietly as they could while the zombie tried to negotiate the low door opening. They heard the thing moving around down there and they heard the struggle that had attended George and Kathy’s arrival but they didn’t know who or what had arrived.
                                         Gangs compete with zombies to control the streets
The first and second floors of the fire station had been secured but there was still a third floor to be dealt with. After a brief discussion Kathy agreed to stay on the second floor to protect the two older women while George and Jimmy checked out the third. They ascended the stairs, George leading the way. When they had gone far enough to see the third floor they saw one zombie sitting on the floor with her back to them. Advancing carefully, they managed to avoid detection as the creature’s entire attention was devoted to a lump of raw meat it was ripping at with its teeth. George didn’t let himself think what that meat had once been. He swung down hard with his rifle butt and struck the thing on the collar bone. He heard a sickening sound that must have been the bone breaking as Jimmy’s rifle butt hit hard into the monster’s back. The thing snarled and tried to rise supported by its arm but it slipped and fell. George’s second strike landed squarely on its head and it slumped over and was still.

“The head! They go down when you smash their head!” said George. Jimmy had already started crossing the room to make sure there were no more of the things lurking in dark corners. The third floor, like the other two was a single open space. An old fashioned brass pole led through holes in the third and second floors to the first. George began a careful search while Jimmy called down through the hole to let the others know the situation. The third floor seemed to be used for storage. A quantity of canned food and bottled water were discovered, as well as heavy duty flashlights, batteries and an assortment of potentially useful hardware. It seemed they were safe, at least for now.

Friday, October 19, 2012

October is Horror game month here in Hilton. We've dusted off the All Things Zombie rules, which my usual gaming partners and I have only played a few times. After two games this month I'm getting comfortable with the rules. As a little amusement on the side I started tinkering with a small solo game on those evenings when normal people are off doing whatever they do. I'm not a big solo game fan because the social aspect of the game is missing. I decided to liven up the solo effort with a little blogging. The first chapter, presented below, is the back story for the two main characters, George and Kathy, two star crossed lovers trying not to be eaten by the dead at the end of the world. No pictures in chapter 1, but stay tuned. There is a nice miniature zombie town in my wargame space that will provide the scene of the action to come. Without further ado, here is...

You are what you eat
Living well in the zombie apocalypse

Chapter 1 The End of Everything

George is a 30 something confirmed bachelor. He has a decent job, a comfortable life and is set in his ways. Kathy, his girlfriend, is about 5 years younger, two years out of a bad marriage and hoping that George, a great guy, will make a commitment. George and Kathy commute to their jobs in Columbus, Ohio from their hometown of Midvale, an outer ring suburb.

It’s Friday evening and George is cooking dinner for Kathy at his place. They have a great dinner, listen to some jazz, talk a while, smoke some weed and then it’s off to bed. The next morning George sleeps in until 10, as is his custom on a weekend. He shuffles into the kitchen, sees Kathy watching TV in the living room.

“Hey babe, you want any breakfast?”

“George, come in here! You have to see this!”

“Bacon and eggs. One time offer.”

“George, you have to see this!”

George enters the living room and drops down on the couch next to Kathy. The local news station anchor is on wearing his tragic story face. It seems a riot overnight in an inner city neighborhood of Columbus has sent dozens of people to area hospitals with severe wounds. The disturbance is ongoing, the police are investigating and the mayor has requested assistance from the State Police. George and Kathy had planned on spending the day in Columbus attending the opening of an art exhibit, Kathy being something of a modern art enthusiast. George is relieved when Kathy suggests they stay home until things settle down in the city.

The story gets stranger with each passing hour:

11:00 AM: The victims of the riot are found to have severe bite wounds, and they are starting to die inexplicably.

Noon:  Similar outbreaks are reported in several other cities in Ohio.

The attackers seem to be in the grip of some sort of madness.

1PM:  State and local law enforcement is overwhelmed, and the Governor has activated the National Guard.

3PM: Reports of similar attacks are coming in from around the nation and overseas.

George goes through the house locking the doors and windows. When he returns to the living room he has his rifle, which he uses to go shooting with his friends at the gun club, and a 9mm pistol which he keeps for home defense. Kathy has never been comfortable with guns but George reassures her that it’s just a precaution. The problem, whatever it is, seems to be concentrated in the urban areas.

By 7PM the first incidents are reported in Midvale.

George and Kathy spend the evening switching between the local and national news as the crisis deepens. They can hear emergency vehicle sirens off in one direction or another on and off all evening. Unsubstantiated rumors coming through the news outlets are getting more bizarre by the hour. Government officials on the broadcasts urge everyone to stay where they are and await further instructions. By midnight the couple is exhausted by the tension. George makes another round of the windows and doors to make sure they are secure and then they go off to bed, taking the guns with them.

At about 6AM Kathy is awakened by a passing ambulance siren. She shakes George, a heavy sleeper, to wake him up and they return to the living room to see if things have gotten any better. The situation has, in fact, gotten worse. A state of national emergency and martial law has been declared. The Guard and Reserves have been ordered to report and the regular military is being deployed to support local authorities in restoring order. Reports of similar situations continue to come in from around the world.

The day is spent in an agony of indecision. Both are originally from out of state and attempts to reach family by phone all day are unsuccessful.   About mid day television and radio broadcasts are taken over by the emergency broadcast system. The government is now instructing people to go to the nearest evacuation center designated on their maps. They watch as the neighbors pack up and go and they see the utter chaos in their immediate vicinity. Reports are now coming in that the assailants are….dead! Incredibly, the dead are rising up and attacking the living! The nearest evacuation center to George’s home and several others in their vicinity are removed from the Emergency Broadcast System list without explanation. George and Kathy agree that their best bet is to wait this thing out in place. They fill the bathtub and all available containers with water. Food will be a problem. There isn’t a lot on hand and popping out to the supermarket doesn’t seem to be an option.

 At dusk a gang of looters in an old panel van starts hitting the houses at the other end of the street. George and Kathy push heavy furniture up against the doors and prepare to defend the house. Kathy gets a crash course in how to handle the pistol. As the looters are carrying a computer and some boxes out of a house a few doors down, a National Guard humvee turns the corner and bears down on them. The looters drop their burden and run for their van but they are cut down by a burst of machine gun fire from the humvee. The Guard vehicle slows down for a visual check of the looters. Satisfied that they are dead, the humvee speeds up and disappears around a corner. Thoroughly shaken, the couple wait out the rest of the night in front of the TV watching what appears to be the collapse of their world.  

At some point George and Kathy fall asleep on the couch. They awake the next morning to total silence. In the distance columns of smoke mark the horizon. Soon they can hear the sound of sporadic far off gunfire. The electricity isn’t working and the feeling of isolation is overwhelming. They decide to make a break for one of the evacuation centers that was still in operation the previous day. Once the decision is made they move with a desperate energy and purpose. They load George’s car with what food they have, the guns and ammunition, clothing and as much water as they can pour into a few empty soft drink bottles from the recycling bin. By mid morning they are on the road and driving toward they know not what.

Pulling on to the Interstate was a mistake. The road ahead is completely blocked with abandoned vehicles. George gets out and scouts a little way ahead but sees no way through. He returns to the car and plans to turn around and head back the way they came. While standing outside the car discussing their next move George and Kathy hear gunfire beyond a bend in the road behind them. George quickly grabs the guns and the plastic bag with the ammo out of the car. He and Kathy climb over the guard rail, slide down a steep embankment and sprint into the nearby woods. They wait there in the shadows for a few minutes until three pickup trucks pull up behind their vehicle. Armed men get out and start rummaging through the car and transferring the contents into their truck. From their hiding place they hear one of the men say ‘Get the gas’. They watch with horror as a looter slides under the car, punctures the gas tank and transfers the contents into a container with practiced efficiency. The other looters have already moved on to other nearby cars to repeat the process. George and Kathy quietly slip deeper into the woods with nothing but their weapons and the clothes on their backs.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

I'm Spartacus!
My army of escaped slaves
Another one of my all time favorite childhood movies was Spartacus, so I guess it was inevitable that there would be a Spartacus wargame in my basement. The main obstacle to creating a slave revolt army was the lack of appropriate figures. Of course, there is very little information on the appearance of the escaped slaves so I guess my problem was there were no figures to fit what I thought they should look like.
Ah, the Romans. Everyone agrees what they looked like
Old Glory came out with Spartacus figures in 28mm a few years ago and they came complete with various bits of gladiator equipment. I've seen a number of other wargame armies for this period with gladiator figures arrayed in close order. Sadly the one thing we do know about Spartacus and the lads is they did not use gladiator equipment except for a very brief period right after the original 70 gladiators escaped and captured a wagon carrying equipment for the arena. Soon after that they captured real Roman equipment and also appearantly fabricated as much of their own as possible. They discarded the arena stuff ASAP.
Escaped slaves partially armed with Roman gear
In spite of capturing equipment from the various contingents of raw troops the Romans initially sent against them and fabricating some of their own, the number of slaves outgrew the equipment available to them. Some of them would be fairly well equipped, as in the picture above. Other elements of the army would have little equipment available to them, as in the picture below.
A horde of poorly armed ex-slaves
When the new plastic figures from manufacturers like Wargames Factory came out it seemed like the perfect opportunity to build a Spartacus army. The heads, bodies, weapons and shields are interchangable between sets of figures. My escaped slaves are made primarily from the Wargames Factory Roman set and the Numidian Infantry set with a light sprinkling from various other sets. The parts are swapped around so one man may have a Roman mail shirt, another a Roman helmet and a third a Roman shield, and so on. The Numidians make a great foundation because they are dressed in a simple sleeveless tunic that looks like something a slave might wear.
Roman general with his exotic German bodyguard
The sources tell us that the German and Gallic slaves formed a seperate contingent of the army that sometimes travelled with the rest and sometimes operated alone. I believe they probably looked pretty much like all the others. Any time they had to spend fabricating things they needed would have been spent making weapons rather than trying to reproduce their native costumes. Painting a large number of them with fair hair is the only distinction I allow for appearance.
A Roman cohort
Wargaming the period - I like the DBx series of rules. DBA has the virtue of simplicity and I am a lazy fellow, so my first effort to do Spartacus was to make 12 element armies of Romans and Ex-slaves. I don't care for the look of a DBA army (not enough toys) so I made a Roman cohort or a similar element of slaves from twelve 28mm figures mounted on a 6"x2" base. After a few games I thought that the slave army didn't 'feel' right. It was composed of roughly equal numbers of blades and warbands. I took a look at the DBM rules and army lists, and they seemed to make more sense. The DBM Spartacus army has more than half of its close fighting infantry classed as 'Superior Horde', with the rest as 'Inferior Blades'. I think Inferior Blades are a good classification for that part of the army that had been prisoners of war or or showed some military aptitude. Superior Hordes is a good classification for the swarms of desperate people who attached themselves to the army as it moved up and down the Italian penninsula. They may not have known anything about weapon handling or acting as a unit, but they knew what fate awaited them if they were recaptured, and it must have made them subborn in battle. The list allows a few German/Gallic warbands and a few cavalry and skirmishers. The warbands are optional to allow for those occasions when they were away operating on their own. My Spartacus army has 1 Cavalry element to represent Spartacus himself, 12 elements of Inferior blades to represent the more skilled and better equipped part of the army, 16 double depth (24 figures) elements of Superior Horde to represent the masses. There are also 4 elements of Inferior Psiloi. They are opposed by one of the earlier, less capable Roman forces consisting of 1 Cavalry General, 10 elements (cohorts) of Inferior Blades, 2 elements of Numidian Light Horse, and 4 elements of Psiloi. The first game is scheduled for 2 weeks from tonight. I'll post a battle report and some pics when it happens. 
Shepherds skirmishing in front of the Slave Army

Monday, February 20, 2012

Saxons and Vikings

For my premiere entry on the new blog, let’s talk Saxons and Vikings. This has been one of my favorite periods since I was a kid at the RKO Palace theatre watching Kirk Douglas storming Aelle’s castle. Odin! As you know, the toys do accumulate over time so I now have about 1400 figures for this period. For rules I started with some basic concepts around movement and combat lifted from DBA and added in lots of ‘chrome’ to enhance period feel, troop quality modifiers, etc.  An element consists of a dozen 28mm figures on a 6”X2” base and we can play a game with 50 or 60 elements per side to a conclusion in 3 or 4 hours.  My regular opponents enjoy doing this game occasionally but aren’t as in to it as I am, so there is little chance of engaging them in a campaign any time soon. Too bad, since campaign ideas have been floating around in my head for some time.
Interior of a viking chieftain's mead hall by Mike the artist
                                         Saxon hearthtroop
                             A peaceful North Anglian village, but for how long?
The rivals in this campaign are the small, lost to history 9th Century Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of North Anglia and the Viking sea king Orm Longsword. North Anglia is located on the West coast of Britain, wedged between Wales and Scotland. It is isolated from its neighbors by the surrounding mountains, but exposed to seaborne raids from the Vikings that infest the Irish Sea. King Burghred is old and spends more time in prayer and penance these days than in governing. His only son, Aelfred handles affairs of state these days. While not a natural warrior, Aelfred has improved the organization of the army and the efficiency of the state. His relationships with the other four leading families are a bit strained, as the crown is not necessarily hereditary.
Aelfred, brilliant organizer, reluctant warrior

Orm has his base on a barren island in the Irish Sea. He supports his followers on the proceeds of hit and run raids against Saxons, Irish, Scots and Welsh. He is a great warrior, poet, drinker and ring giver, and a foot taller than most men. Now in middle age, Orm dreams of a kingdom of his own. North Anglia, small, wealthy and isolated on its landward borders, seems tailor made. His own ships and men are too few to conquer and hold the land. He will have to forge alliances with other Viking leaders to defeat the Saxons.   
Orm Longsword confers with one of his captains

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Welcome to my wargame blog. I started this as a companion to my Ardoberg-Holstein Imaginations 18th Century blog. That one will chronicle the long running war between the Elector and the nefarious King of San Maurice. This blog will cover my gaming in all other periods. I do enjoy gaming in most periods, and I hope this blog will be a vehicle for exchanging ideas with other gamers. I hope you will find something useful and enjoyable here.