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.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Desperate action in Darkest Africa

Africa circa 1880 - The warlike natives of the interior were at it again, running cattle raids against the friendly tribes of the coast. The Colonial Governor decided to send an expedition up country to burn a few villages, take hostages and restore order. As the main column moved inland, a supply depot was established at a trading post on the border of the hostile territory. The post consisted of the trader's house, stables and a storehouse. The army linked those buildings together with sandbag walls forming a compound, and left a company of 50 marines commanded by Lt Covell to defend it.

The Chief of the hostile tribesmen observed all of this with interest and then, when the main force of the enemy was a day's march inland, descended with all his warriors on the supply depot. The warriors surrounded the post and comenced a series of uncoordinated attacks from all directions.
A native wave strikes the wall near the store house
The tribesmen lacked nothing in courage, but had not the tactical coordination to strike from all directions simultaneously. Deployed in the jungle in a loose ring around the post, parties of a few score warriors would break cover and charge one or another face of the position only to be met by a withering fire and a thin but determined line of bayonets.
Two waves of natives cross the open ground under fire near the main house
While each thrust was driven back with stinging losses, the marines lost a few to the native spears in each clash. As the day wore on it became more difficult to secure the perimeter with the dwindling number of men. Finally, the decision was made to withdraw the remaining defenders to the main house.
Defenders hold 2 walls under assault while withdrawing others to the main house
The tempo of the native attacks increased as the defenders started to pull back. Most of  the marines succeeded in reaching the house, but some were caught in the yard and forced back toward the stable, where they barricaded themselves.
Native warriors pour into the compound
Alerted by the sound of repeated volleys of rifle fire, the main column had doubled back and was making its way through the rough terrain toward the besieged outpost. The native Chief's scouts had kept him aware of their progress. At last, he was forced to withdraw from the field.

Notes: The inspiration for the game was, of course, Rourke's Drift. The rules were a homemade 1 page deal that worked quite well. The native manpower was, for practical purposes, unlimited. The number of warriors in each attack and the direction was random. It was very difficult for the natives to get over the sandbag wall, but as each wave receded a few marines were left among the slain. The arrival of the relief force was determined by a cumulative die roll at the end of each turn, with a total of 50 representing the rescue of the garrison. In the event, it was a close run thing, with the 21 surviving defenders holed up in the house and the stable nearing the point of a morale downgrade due to heavy casualties.

If anyone wants a copy of the homegrown rules, send me your email and I'll send the Word file along.


Monday, July 13, 2015

Bolt Action Tank War

I like the Bolt Action rules for WWII and I like tanks so when Warlord came out with their Bolt Action Tank War.....well, you know the rest. I couldn't afford to do it in 28mm scale but I do have some 15mm armor so, for no investment, Pete and I tried a game. Pete claims I am inspired to blog mostly when I win and not so much on other occasions. I say it's just a coincidence.

 Pete commanded the Germans and fielded 1 platoon of Tigers, 1 of PzkwIV, 1 of StugIII and one of Marders (a kind of hillbilly tank destroyer). My Americans consisted of 4 platoons of Shermans and 1 of M10 Tank Destroyers. I also had a Forward Air Observer detachment in a half track. All platoons on both sides consisted of 3 vehicles.
          American air power helps to offset the superior German tanks  We used random die rolls to determine the order we set out our various units. Those rolls went badly for the Germans who mostly set up first. Pete placed his PzkwIVs on his right (east of the village), Tigers and Marders in the center and Stugs on his left. His plan was to quickly move the PzkwIV unit into the center to support his main attack with the Tigers. Pete has a deep and abiding love of Tiger tanks. I piled 2 units of Shermans on the PzkwIVs before they could get to the center and, using Happy Dice, got them all. In the center the Tigers took a toll of the Shermans but were stopped by a combination of defensive fire from my ground forces and air strikes. The poor Marders were pushed forward to try to keep the attack going but their light armor was not much help against the American guns. As he was running out of options, the German commander withdrew.

The game played easier than a typical Bolt Action infantry game because it was vehicles only. It was a good size encounter played out in a few hours. The Bolt Action Tank War book is interesting to read, but really didn't add much to the basic rules. If you want to save some $ you could certainly play the game without it. We will run this scenario again at the upcoming JeffCon, the Historicon of the North.

War of the Roses accidental army

I hadn't planned on gaming the War of the Roses but Mike, driven by greed for the new Perry Miniatures figures for the period, dragged me into it. As luck would have it, I already had a large number of longbows from fantasy gaming and a reasonable number of Old Glory dismounted men at arms that I picked up at a convention on impulse. Supported by a generous toy donation from Mike and a few purchases I am now the proud owner of a small army of the period.
Lord Percy, his vassals Foxham and Baskerville and their retainers
The rules we use are Fantasy Warriors, which really work well for small scale medieval warfare. The scale is 1 figure = 1 man and the individually mounted figures are grouped into units. I use movement trays for mine, Mike goes Old School. In my army most of the units have 28 men. I have 3 companies of veteran Men at Arms (dismounted for battle as they did in that period), 5 companies of trained bowmen, and a half company of levy billmen. Along for the ride are a dozen border reivers, light horsemen used for scouting etc and a pair of cannons that are a menace to friend and foe.  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The (plastic) Walking Dead

Mike and I started a multi game zombie apocalypse campaign following the fortunes of a biker gang (him) and a Latino street gang (me) in Midvale Ohio starting on the first day of the disaster. We used All Things Zombie (ATZ) for the campaign rules and Dead Walk Again (DWA) for for the combat rules. ATZ has a good process for gaming the world of the apocalypse while we prefer the elegant DWA combat system. We had no trouble joining the two for a playable game. Note that in the pictures the figures are all portrayed carrying weapons. In this first scenario the male bikers carried concealed knives only while the one female also had a concealed pistol. Her job would be to hold the knives outside the police station while her friends were inside clearing up the misunderstanding. The Latinos carried concealed pistols and knives except one who had a knife only.
                                  Michigan Avenue in the slums of Midvale Ohio  The game started with the bikers, 4 men and 1 woman, leaving their clubhouse/abandoned store front in a very bad section of town at about noon, headed for the local police precinct station to answer an appearance ticket for a minor infraction their leader, one 'Santa Claus' Covell, might or might not have committed. At the other end of Michigan Avenue the surviving members of WTF13, the Latino street gang has heard the TV new reports of some sort of disorder that occurred overnight. While the reports were unclear on the nature of the disorder, the gang thought this might be a good time to rob the neighborhood bar, Rotten Appleby's.
                                   Blossom and friends cross the street The Bikers ran into trouble immediately. As they were crossing the street they collided with a group of terrified citizens running the other way. They forced their way through the frantic civilians with some difficulty only to encounter what they were running from. A young woman with a bloody raw wound on her shoulder and vacant eyes lurched toward them. The bikers were spread out from the encounter with the civilians and Blossom, the female in their group was closest to the stranger. The horribly wounded woman lurched forward and sank her teeth into Blossom's throat, and was cut down by the knives of the furious bikers. Blossom died moments later.
                              WTF13 on their way to rob the bar
At about the same time as the attack on the bikers the Latinos were confronted by what they thought was an overly aggressive drug addled panhandler. When the stranger attacked Paco, he and Montoya quickly dispatched him with their knives and concealed his body under one of the piles of trash bags that were dotting the streets since the collection trucks had failed to make their scheduled run the previous day.
                                WTF13 encounters frightened civilians
Soon after the killing a mob of fleeing civilians crashed into the Latinos. With punches and kicks they scattered the mob. A single police officer came out of the nearby police precinct and approached the bikers who were walking toward the front entrance. The officer asked the bikers their business and they explained they were on their way to the station to respond to an appearance ticket when they were attacked by a crazy woman who killed their friend Blossom. They had killed the attacker in self defense and were coming to report the attack. The cop seemed rattled by something more than just them, and he told them in rather unprofessional language to come back another day. When Covell tried to explain that he didn't want trouble, the cop cut him off and ordered them away from the station. At this they slouched away toward Rotten Appleby's for some ribs and beer. On the way they encountered another knot of hysterical citizens. "Whole damned town has gone crazy" quoth Santa Claus Covell, ever the philosopher.  At this, one of his boys directed his attention back the way they had come. There, in the middle of Michigan Avenue and shuffling their way was Blossom, who they had left for dead! "We'd better get inside the bar and lock the door" said Santa.
More damn citizens in the way! What the &^#@%!
As they made their way toward Rotten Appleby's they found the Latinos between them and the door. "Best step aside amigo, that's our bar" said Santa. The Latinos smiled and produced their guns. "My bar now, Homes" said Montoya. As she who had been Blossom was moving closer, and with purpose, and their own guns were back in the club house, Santa held his hands up in mock surrender and said "No problem amigo. C'mon boys, let's go home". The bikers walked around the other side of the bar to put more distance between them and the Blossom thing and walked briskly toward the clubhouse.  

                                           "My bar now, Homes"
WTF13 walked into the bar and were confronted by two waitresses holding pistols and a tough looking barkeep with a machine pistol. "Strange way to welcome new customers" said Montoya. Barkeep replied "We live in strange times, friend. Now, why don't you leave the way you came in". Montoya briefly considered taking the bar the hard way, but concluded that he couldn't afford to lose any more of his people.
Hospitality lacking at the neighborhood joint
The Latinos backed out into the parking lot just as Blossom got there. They became aware of the new threat as Maria, one of the women in their group screamed and fell to the ground with Blossom tearing her with her teeth. Paco fired a shot into Blossom's head to put her down but it was too late for Maria. She died in Paco's arms. A patrol car screeched to a halt across the parking lot exit and a cop with a shotgun got out. As he had been dealing with the horror all night, the cop was less concerned with the two dead women than he was with four armed gangbangers. "I'm going to need you to lay down those guns" he said. Montoya did a quick calculation. The police station was just the other side of the fire station that shared the parking lot with the bar. If the shooting started there would be cops everywhere. He quickly agreed to lay down his guns on condition that the cop bring them all into the police station. As the cop was collecting the guns another of those bloody things came around the corner, attracted perhaps by the sound of gunfire, and grappled with him. With difficulty he drew his pistol and shot the thing in the head. As it crumpled to the ground he said "Leave the guns where they are, let's go!" and started herding the Latinos in front of him toward the back door of the police station. They had almost reached the door when dead Maria advanced on them from the shadows! The unarmed Latinos recoiled behind the cop, who summoned his last reserve of steadyness and shot the monster in the head. The door to the station swung open from the inside. The cop and Latinos bolted through the door and it was slammed shut and locked just as yet another of the things came into view.    

"If we can just get past that thing we are home free"
Notes: That was Day 1 of the Apocalypse for the survivor groups. We hope to carry on this campaign to see how these two groups (now each reduced to four people) develop. Mike 'Santa Claus' Covell's bikers have a Day 2 objective to set themselves up a base in Rotten Appleby's. There they will have plenty of beer and pork to sustain them while they figure out what to do next. It remains to be seen what the bar owner thinks of this plan. My WTF13 is currently safe in the police station, but they are also unarmed and their status, guest or prisoner, is unclear. Their Day 2 plan is to depart the precinct on friendly terms, reacquire their weapons currently lying in a dark corner of the parking lot and establish themselves in a safe haven. From there they will be able to collect the supplies they need and recruit new members.   


Saturday, May 9, 2015


Enjoyed back to back Saxons vs Vikings games recently. The rules we use are basic DBA mechanisms with the tactical classifications replaced by troop quality classifications. DBA is a great game but it tends to downplay differences if troop quality (Spartan hoplites are the same as Syracusan hoplites). When the tactical style of the opposing armies is pretty much the same and lacks variety, then it makes sense to downplay that in favor of the very real differences in quality.
Mike, King of North Anglia commanding his monks to pray harder as Vikings approach 
The other liberty I take with this game is to redefine element size. I like visually appealing games and I like toys. The basic infantry element in this game is a 6"x2" base with twelve 28mm figures mounted on it. The opposing armies each had about 65 or 70 of these elements. That allows us to play with two armies of about 800 men each represented on a one figure equals one man scale. 800 men would be a significant army in this period. And it looks like this:
    The Danes attempt to capture the bones of St Cuthbert from the chapel (top)
Since there are no tactical differences between the opposing armies, that leaves room for lots of period 'chrome'. We include rules for pre battle pep rallies to pump up the morale of the armies with appeals to the gods, passing around the alcohol, rousing speeches, shield banging displays of aggression and duels between champions. All of these are optional and entail both potential reward and risk. There is also an allowance for chieftains of sub sections of an army to bolster flagging morale by taking heroic risks. There are praying monks who might allow an occasional reroll of unhappy dice and a giant Viking king who likes to take a personal hand in the fighting. All in all a visually appealing game that 'feels' like the period it represents and is easily completed in about 4 hours of casual gaming.
        Viking king Orm Longsword takes a selfie before the fun starts

The Boyd-Parker Massacre

I recently attended the first of what I hope will become an annual regional wargame event; Wargames Among the Warplanes. The venue was the Geneseo Warplane Museum. There were a number of games offered up in the one day event, including Flames of War, Bolt Action, Force on Force modern skirmish, Musket and Tomahawk, Wings of War, Gladiators and my own American Revolution skirmish game.

The town of Geneseo happens to be the site of a little known skirmish in the American Revolution, the Boyd-Parker Massacre. I volunteered to host a wargame of this obscure battle. I really enjoyed the preparation for the game. Since I am a local boy I was aware of the skirmish from childhood, but knew nothing of the details. I went out on the internet and found quite a bit of detail. I read The Iroquois in the American Revolution, which described the Sullivan Expedition, of which this massacre was a part, in depth. I learned a lot about this fascinating episode of the American Revolution. The roster of individual men on both sides used in the game included many actual names of participants. I used the game as an excuse to acquire and paint up Wargames Factory Indians and Americans from their excellent American Revolution range.

The short version is the American commander sent Lt. Boyd with a scouting party of 26 men (mostly Morgans Riflemen) to locate the position of the Iroquois/British force in the area. They passed through the enemy lines undetected in the night but were attacked on their way back to the American position the next day.
       Boyd's men cross a creek with the Iroquois in hot pursuit
The game wasn't called Boyd-Parker Massacre for nothing. The scenario was designed for the scouting party to be overwhelmed. Victory for the Americans lay in escaping with as many men as possible. In the event, the dice were not kind to the Americans, and few escaped.

I believe the Wargames Among the Warplanes will run again next year. If it does, and you are within a couple of hours driving distance (which would include Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse) you should plan to make a mini vacation of it. The National Warplane Museum is located in prime wine country if you enjoy wine tours. The magnificent Letchworth State Park is right there and the rolling landscape is dotted with beautiful little villages. Check out the local attractions on line.

Expedition up the Zambesi

A few weeks ago I chugged up the great gray green greasy Zambesi River on a river boat with an understrength company of Colonial Marines (circa 1880 something) to rescue Dr Witherspoon from the local savages commanded by Pete. The good doctor had come to Africa to convert the locals to Christianity. It wasn't long before the climate and local customs had caused him to lose his already shakey grip on reality. He settled in with a primitive tribe and soon had them converted to his own brand of religion which involved the worship of a giant invisible gray cat.
               Doctor Witherspoon spreads the Word in the dark places of the earth.
His tribal congregation was allied with a band of Arab slavers who would strike from their base on the river to capture slaves from the less warlike tribes in the area. While in the neighborhood, the Marine commander, Captain Gary, was charged with the task of breaking up the Slaver ring.
                                Gratuitious picture of hungry giraffe
In due course the Marines landed near the native village and moved slowly inland (it was hot). The natives and their Arab friends saw them coming from miles away, and had massed their forces to resist this attempt to bring the blessings of Civilization to their corner of the world.
The Marines begin to deploy as the fast moving natives move to surround them
It was the firepower of the European breechloading rifles and gatling gun against the overwhelming numbers of natives.
                                    The Arabs move in to close the trap
In the end numbers (and dice related misfortune) told, and the marines were overrun and wiped out.
Artist rendering of the last moments of the Lost Expedition
Since there were no European survivors the newspaper accounts were free to imagine the heroic exploits of the Marines as they fell to the heathen hordes. The natives attribute their victory to the intervention of the Great Gray Cat.