Sharp Practice 2 ACW – The Second Go

Sharp Practice 2 – Second Game – ACW in 15mm

Charles came over recently for his baptism of fire in Sharp Practice 2, while it was my second game.  As I had left the table set up from my recent solo effort, we opted for another ACW game in 15mm.  Charles chose to lead the Confederate forces, while I headed up the boys in blue.  The force list remained the same as well, which can be found here:

First Sharp Practice (2) – ACW in 15mm

AAR

The Rebs began by deploying on their far right near their primary deployment point with a mix of skirmishers and regular troops.  As they were deploying first, they were able to extend the range of their deployment options being that a wooded area blocked line of sight from the Union deployment point and several CSA Leaders were drawn early in the turn.

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Rebel forces deploying to the high ground and firing on the Yanks as they move up.

 

The Union deployment point was in the center section of the table, and the majority of the Yanks made it on table within the first couple of turns and began forming up for the engagement to come.  With the Confederates out of sight beyond the trees, the line of blue troops began to slowly make its way through the wooded area on their left, while the rest spread out in the fields to their right.  The stone wall, located at roughly center of the table, would anchor the right, while the trees should afford some cover on the left.  All looked good for the Bluebellies…

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Union infantry driving toward the enemy.

 

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“Come on you men!  Get that gun into position!”  Despite his prodding, the gun would make little difference in the coming fight.

On the Rebel right, the lead group of skirmishers took refuge along the farm fence and traded blows with the Yankee skirmishers that had deployed in the woods to meet them.  As the skirmishers traded mostly ineffective shots, the overall battle heated up in the middle.

By mid-engagement the Yankee units formed a hook-like line anchored firmly on the left by the skirmishers who were now accompanied in the woods by the largest of the Union formations, with the right extending along the stone wall.  All the infantry nicely formed into line formations, with skirmishers on the flanks.  The Confederate skirmishers were taking heavy casualties and their leader caught a well aimed skirmisher ball.

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Solidifying the Union left and driving off those pesky skirmishers.

 

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The Union right.  Taking the “good ground” first should make the difference.  Could make the difference.  Maybe?  Just hold the line, men!

 

While the Union position appeared firm, the appearance was quite deceiving.  Captain Charles had deployed his largest CSA formation, 24 troops led by the able “Leader I” (I really need to name these guys…), in the middle on the high ground, and his second infantry formation consisting of 16 troops just to their right.  This gave them an excellent firing position on the Yanks as they moved across the fields toward the stone wall.  They heaped great amounts of pain on the advancing bluecoats with scant harm taken in return.  The mounting shock on the Union center and right would play heavily in the endgame.

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The Rebs on the hill were able to put plenty of shock on the approaching Yanks.  “Keep firing, boys!”

 

Charles had to depart before the conclusion, but I soloed on as I wanted to see the outcome.  As I had not tried out the “fisticuffs” rules yet, the South decided to close and finish their Northern brothers in melee.  With the battle being set in 1863, the Confederates had an advantage in troop quality (likely one of reasons the “cost” of CSA is higher vs. USA units on the support tables), and I wanted to see if it would make that big of a difference.  Both Confederate infantry formations (still almost at their original strength of 40) closed on the center Union formations.  The largest Rebel formation hit the Yankee line (now partially positioned along the stone wall) and a massive melee occurred, with roughly 20-30 troops on each side.  Despite attacking across the wall, the superior troop quality of the Confederate troops was enough to even the odds.  Casualties were roughly equal on each side, BUT the Yankee groups had suffered substantial shock from previous fire and the casualties resulted in broken formations and broken groups.  As the Yank infantry fell back, their cannon finally made it into position and fired one punishing shot.  It was, however, too late.  By that time, the Confederates were reforming and firing hotly  into the faltering Yankee infantry causing the Union morale to plummet.  The South was victorious.

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The Southern pincer closes on the Union center.

 

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The “Rebel Yell” commences!

 

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The aftermath of the melee.  The group off camera to the right was largely unscathed and sent the final rounds into the last remaining Union “group” in their path.

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One mighty blast from the late-arriving artillery piece was not enough to turn the tide of battle.

 

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“They’re breaking, boys!  Reload and give them one more!”

 

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The center lies broken.  Union morale had zeroed out and the late-comers looked on in disbelief as they’re brothers fled the field. The concentration of force on the weakened Union center ultimately shattered what looked like a solid position.

 

Thoughts

For this scenario, I used the same forces and board layout as in my initial solo effort, with the only changeup being the sides from which the forces entered.  It played very differently than the first run through, much of which is owed to the system’s ability to create plausible and entertaining narrative.  Decisions from the commanders were not always obvious and the friction created by the activation system added plenty of game “drama.”  SP2 moved up a notch in my book and Charles seemed to enjoy it as well – always a bonus.  We’ll have another game soon and introduce our friend Colin to the system.

Command Cards – actually wood tiles for me – really add a lot to the game play with their myriad optional uses.  (Maybe a bit overwhelming the first few games, but hey.)  These also lend a lot to the historical period feel of each force and a judicious commander can use command cards to their distinct advantage in the right situation.  “Rebel Yell,” for example, is specific to the ACW Confederate force lists and then only to specific units.  The player must astutely decide when to make use of their command cards, else they may lose them with a draw of the “tiffin,” and thus turn end.  Flavor and friction – all good for a game.

I am also liking the game in 15mm.  I haven’t played in 28mm, but I tend to think that while 28mm may be somewhat “prettier,” the table may be too cramped for my tastes.  (And, well, I have enough 15mm troops to field a nice force on both sides of the line.)  The appearance of the table, the ability of formations to maneuver, and to form up on each other works well at 15mm on a 4’ x 6’ table.  So very glad to have this one in my gaming repertoire.

First Sharp Practice (2) – ACW in 15mm

Sharpe Practice 2 AAR and Thoughts

A recent TMP forum post about Sharp Practice 2 (SP2) (from TooFatLardies) got my attention when it referenced the AWI. Wait, isn’t Sharp Practice a set of Napoleonic “big skirmish” rules (for which I have no minis)?  More digging ensued, and I quickly discovered that the new scope of the rules encompasses a lot more, such as F&IW, AWI, Napoleonic Wars, and ACW – woohoo!  As an added bonus, SP 2 included not only a broader scope, but systems and mechanics that include some wonderful elements of TFL’s excellent WW 2 rules set, Chain of Command.

All of this got me thinking…don’t I have a bunch of ACW minis in 15mm that I had purchased for Fire & Fury that I had never used?  As it turned out I had more than enough already painted that I had purchased on eBay a few years ago. I decided to dig them out of the base them individually for SP and get them on the table.

I made a few extra items before commencing with my first game, such as leader and command tiles (vs cards or chips), deployment points, and range sticks.  With that, I was ready to roll.

AAR

For my first solo effort, I went with ACW forces from 1863 and used Scenario One, “An Encounter.”  I set up a 4′ x 6′ table, with a scattering of fields, trees, walls, and fences that looked fair enough for the endeavour.  (I need a farm building and barn from the era!)

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Next was force selection.  The base Confederate force was valued at 88 points (52 infantry with four leaders).  For the Union, the base force clocked in at only 65 points (50 infantry with four leaders).  The support roll yielded an additional eight points – for a total of 96 each.  The final forces were:

CSA

  • Base force of 40 line infantry (regulars), 12 skirmishers, and 4 leaders (88)
  • 1 colours party (had to have the stars ‘n bars on the table, right?) (3)
  • 1 musician (a drummer) (1)
  • 1 marksman (2)
  • Fixed secondary deployment point (2)
  • Force Morale: 11

USA

  • Base force of 40 line infantry (conscripts & volunteers), 6 skirmishers, and 4 leaders (65)
  • 2 groups of line infantry (12)
  • 1 artillery battery (1 medium gun) (7)
  • 2 status I leaders (6)
  • 1 colours party (3)
  • 1 leader upgrade from I to II (3)
  • Force Morale: 11

After the DPs were established, the first turn commenced.  Amazingly (to me, at least!) the “tiffin” was very late in the draw cycle, and after all leader tiles had been drawn.  Thusly I all forces deployed on the board by the end of the first turn.  I considered leaving some units off table, but since this was a learning scenario, everyone deployed.

Over the next few turns, the “tiffin” came early – within the first three or four tile draws (but never on the first draw as it would ultimately turn out) and resulted in short turns with scant force movement.  Both sides did manage to get their skirmishers forward and firing (with probably overzealous use of the “sharp practice” attribute) with the confederate skirmishers picking off several of their union counterparts.

As the lead union formation moved forward, hoping to take the stone wall ahead of them before the Rebs could do the same, they were subjected to a hellacious opening volley from the just formed confederate line.  Sixteen well placed shots slammed into the open column, bringing down several advancing Yankee troops, including a knockout of their leader.  Bad went to worse for the northerners as the secessionist skirmishers continued to punish their opposites, despite their having taken the stone wall ahead of them.

As the battle developed, I began to get a better handle on the mechanics of the system.  There were numerous rule lookups and references to the FAQs, but overall things were progressing nicely from that perspective.  The results on the field were no looking good for the North.  Losses mounted in their lead units while the larger, supporting units lagged a bit (chit draws were not exceptional for the Yanks, nor was their shooting).

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Events were about to change the situation.  A shot wounded the status III southern leader, and a random event a few chit draws later resulted in him being shot and wounded by his own troops – two wounds on the same leader, on the same turn.  The lost Command Initiatives would haunt the formation for the rest of the engagement.

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On the other side of the field, the Yankee cannon roared into action, subjecting the Confederates crossing the fields to deadly canister fire.  At the same time, the Union infantry on the right got their act together, forming up and firing with deadly accuracy.  Shock quickly mounted, and the third blast of canister from the cannon broke the Rebs, routing them back across the fields, now littered with the dead and dying.

As the Confederate assault on the left floundered under fire, the pressure in the center and Union left heated up.  Despite the loss of command, the Southerners continued their onslaught of precise shooting, finally breaking the Yankee skirmishers and sending the last survivor fleeing to the rear.  Alas, all was for naught.  Despite the arrival of the second group of Rebel skirmishers, it was too late.  By that time, the main Union formation under the command of the status III leader had moved from behind the lead formation (still struggling with their wounded leader) and unleashed a deadly first volley into the approaching Confederates.  The Rebs reeled back, and finally broke under the withering fire.  Their retorts were weakly executed and their supporting skirmishers suddenly became ineffective.

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The Confederate Force Morale crashed quickly to zero, and they quickly fled, leaving the Yanks in possession of the field.  The final tally was 19 dead on each side, including the loss of one Federal officer.  CSA morale was zero, while the USA morale had dropped to 7.

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The final positions as the CSA’s morale hits zero.

Thoughts

Greatness.  Not only did the system play nicely, it felt right for the era and scale.  Very fun and I’m officially hooked.  I generally have an affectation for “skirmish” and “big skirmish” type games (e.g., Saga, Chain of Command, Battlegroup), but was never really a “black powder” guy.  Seems I am now.

Some of the compelling aspects of SP 2 are the activation system and focus on leaders.  The effective combination makes for a wonderful narrative event.  Units of varying effectiveness with different capabilities clashed and tides swelled, then turned.  A modicum of friction and chaos, mitigated somewhat by the Command Cards (tiles, in my case) added fantastic decision points during the entire game.  I’m very much looking forward to the next game and getting more familiar with the rules and trying out some aspects that never materialized such as “Fisticuffs,” which never occurred, despite the best efforts of the Rebs.

Wonderful, thematic fun.

And one more for the road:

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Battlegroup: Kursk, wait, no, Battlegroup: Overlord!

Several friends came over recently to throw some dice in anger while playing one of my favorites – Battlegroup.  Michael, Chris, Charles and I are BG veterans, but Colin and Eddie were rookies, albeit rookies with plenty of wargaming experience.

Since coming back from Historicon in July, the gang decided to put on a somewhat regular “big” game each month with one of the members hosting the event.  First up was Battlegroup at my place.  As with many of our games, we need to pool our resources, particularly when setting up a larger game for 4-6 players.  With a few of the guys having mid- and late-war WW II Germans and Soviets, BG: Kursk became our go to source for our first game of the new plan.

The “Attack/Counterattack” scenario form the base book looked great, so we put together two 950 point (roughly) forces, and I put together a table that looked reasonably like somewhere at some time.  (More on that elsewhere, as I wanted to make some decent roads, quick trees, fields, and dang, I needed to finish my German armor.)

With plenty of toys on each side, the table needed to be large as well.  When using 15mm models, Battlegroup recommends a 6’ x 6’ table at the “Company” level, and as luck would have it, I had a piece of green felt exactly that size…

As with all good plans, something is bound to go wrong.  In our case, a miscommunication led to a rather large shortage of Soviet tanks.  And infantry.  Not to be defeated, I pulled my British out of the box and put together a quick force using battlegroupbuilder.com and revised the German list to match the new setting: Overlord.  I adjusted the board by adding a second level to the two buildings.  Heck, y 4Ground buildings are of the “northern Europe” variety anyway.   😀

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British substitute battlegroup ready to roll.

Scenario Setup & AAR

As mentioned, we used the “Attack/Counterattack” base scenario with close to 1,000 points of forces on each side as follows:

German (Chris, Eddie, Robert) – 1 x Armored panzer grenadier platoon, 3 x Pz IVHs, 4 x StuG IIIGs, 3 x Tiger Is, off board 105s, and 2 x Sd.Kfz 222s

British (Colin, Charles, Michael) –  7 x Sherman M4A4s, 3 x Fireflies, 2 x Dingos, 1 x Motorized Infantry Platoon, off board 25 lbrs, and 1 x recce squad in an M5 halftrack

We threw in a couple of supply trucks for each side as well.

Of note:  For this scenario we reduced each side’s Battle Rating by 20%.  I wanted the game to come to a conclusion within a few hours.  In my past experience, the larger Battlegroup games do not end by BR reduction in a 3-4 hour timeframe, and we agreed it would be best to reduce the BR totals to ensure force morale played a more prominent role in the decision process throughout the scenario and that we ended up with a “winner.”

The Germans won the roll off (both sides had two recon units) and began by deploying their 222s near enough to the objectives to claim them, with the British doing likewise with their dingo and the M5 recce unit.

Being on the German side, I was more in tune with our “plan,” vs our British opponents – ours being “push the Tigers up the middle and support on each flank.”  The Brits, moving second, did much the same in response to our efforts.

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Action heating up

I had the left, taking the four StuGs and an infantry squad for support.  In the middle were the 222s and the three Tigers, while on the right were the Pz IVs and remaining infantry.  My first group (per scenario, 2D6 units enter each turn) consisted of a lone StuG and a mounted infantry squad and set up in a field behind a row of low hedges and began firing on the advancing British. To their front came the bulk of the British infantry mounted in halftracks, along with a Firefly that went around my left flank.  As additional StuGs came on, two moved to intercept the pesky Firefly.  After an exchange of medium range shots (all missing), one StuG got in close and knocked out the Brit.  By this time, the fight in to my front had turned ugly for my infantry.  The MG34 team was eliminated and the rifle team was reduced to a single man.  Luckily, he was not pinned and was able to retreat to safety and avoid the morale chit draw.  While the infantry took the brunt of the fire, the StuGs were now free to operate.  All four began pouring fire into the British line and they melted away quickly.  After some hits on their supporting armor, the British advance faltered.  Ammo on the StuGs was running low, but by this point there were very few opposing armored targets and their MGs rained destruction on the rapidly retreating infantry.

In the middle, the Tigers pushed ahead steadily.  The big cats were hammered from the start by the offboard 25 lbrs, and while not losing a unit, they suffered a few pins.  Two Tigers went down, one from a penetrating hit from a Firefly and one abandoned by a bell ringer from a Sherman M4A4 (“Eddie, whatever you do, don’t roll a one…”).   The Tigers knocked out several Shermans in return, despite the constant fire directed toward them from all three British commanders.  Also in the middle, a German 222 used its autocannon to good effect and plastered the British squad that had taken up residence in one of the central buildings.

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Tigers v Shermans

On the right, the British pushed hard, but ran afoul of a Panzershreck team and the rest of the German battlegroup.  At least three more Shermans were knocked out in that sector, with Pz IVs taking advantage of the wheat fields for cover.  There were countless “lost targets” and “clear misses” (seriously, there were a lot of bad sighting rolls and to hit rolls on that side of the table!) that hindered the British efforts.  The importance of obscuring terrain cannot be discounted in Battlegroup.  (Not that it was, but it plays a huge role in those few shots that don’t happen because of a failed sighting roll or miss by one pip of the die.)

The narrative sounds one-sided, but it clearly wasn’t when looking at the final battle rating results.  While the Brits suffered a defeat by having their morale reduced to 0, the Germans ended the battle with only 15 points left.  Three or four more draws could have easily given the victory to the British, and there were plenty of pinned German units at the end of the action.  There just wasn’t enough British firepower left to force the Germans to draw chits.  Casualties were relatively high on both sides, but the British armor took the brunt losing eight Shermans/Fireflies and several tracks and carriers.  Infantry casualties were around 30-40% for both sides.  The Germans lost two Tigers, but those losses came too late to impact the final outcome.

Overall, the scenario seemed a good time.   The Attack/Counterattack setup creates a fluid meeting engagement and the 6’ x 6’ table allowed ample room to maneuver.  I believe the reduction of the Battle Rating total by 20% for each side created enough “stress” in the late game that overall morale affected decisions on both sides, and with that result, I’ll suggest the same reduction going forward for all of our Battlegroup games at the company level.

All in all, a fun game with excellent friends.  We’ll be doing it again soon – this time we may even get the Soviets on the table!

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Full Thrust: Battlefleet Gothic Style (Sort of…)

FT CoverFull Thrust, a game which I haven’t played in over a year, came up in discussion and we decided it was time to get it back on the table.  Charles, Colin and I met up at Colin’s place and beam and missile fire was quickly exchanged.

We used the Full Thrust:  Remixed set of rules, which to my understanding combines the FT Second Edition, Fleet Books 1 and 2, as well as More Thrust into one document.  It’s nice having all the rules in one place and not having to thumb multiple documents.

Charles had never played before, but Colin had some experience – although, it had been ten years since his last play!  My experience, while limited, was more recent.  The rules are on the “light” side, as far as rule sets go, and flow very quickly with easily grasped concepts.  Once we worked through movement (we used Cinematic style for this scenario) and basic combat, we were ready to commence.

FT Scenario Book CoverI chose the “Raid on a Repair Depot” scenario for the excellent Full Thrust Skunkworks Scenario Packs book. (This is a great resource containing several well-written scenarios to get you beyond the basic set ups in the core books.)  The selected scenario depicts a raiding force hitting a refitting station where a similarly sized fleet has taken refuge to effect repairs.  Many of the damaged ships are “powered down” at the engagement’s outset, setting up some tricky situations for both sides to consider.

I whipped up a couple of fleets by selecting SSDs from Fleet Book 1 to the approximate point values designated in the scenario for each side.  As I was using my old Battlefleet Gothic models for the game, I wasn’t concerned with actual layouts or capabilities of specific vessel types from a BFG perspective.  Instead, I selected SSDs that reflected the hull size of my available Gothic ships and proxied my BFG models.  The “raiders” (Chaos styled ships) consisted of 1 BC, 4 CAs, and 4 FFs picked from the FSE fleet list), while the defenders (Imperium styled ships) consisted of 1 BB, 2 CAs, 2 CLs, and 4 DDs picked from the NAC fleet list.  There was nothing too fancy with either fleet, and the selected forces would get us beams, missiles, munitions packs, screens, point defense, and pulse torpedoes.

File_002 (4)With the fleets arrayed per the scenario, we commenced action.  (I say “we” but it was actually “they,” as I opted to play the role of GM.)  The raiders, under the command of Chaos High Admiral Colin, came in fast, intent on taking out the screening patrol vessels (2 CLs) and then proceeding to attack the repair docks.  Two raiding CAs veered off to engage the light cruisers patrolling on their far right flank.  After a quick exchange, the CLs were left crippled or destroyed, but they had at least delayed one battle squadron of attackers.  The rest of the fleet accelerated toward their primary targets, all the while peppering the forward Imperial ships with long range beam and missile fire.

File_005 (2)The ships of the Imperial squadron slowly came online (simulated by rolling a d6 each round for each powered down ship until a total of 10 was scored), one by one, and joined the battle.  While initially overwhelmed, they quickly began picking off the smaller vessels, and successfully crippled the Chaos BC.

Just as things began to appear in grasp for the stalwart Imperials, the Lords of Chaos unleashed their remaining missiles – resulting in the destruction or near destruction of each repair dock.  Grand Admiral Charles had no choice but to watch in horror as the stations disappeared in great balls of plasma fire.  As his flagship turned to exact vengeance, the remaining enemy ships jumped to lightspeed – and safety.

File_001 (4)We had a fast-moving and enjoyable battle with many lessons were learned by both sides, particularly in areas concerning maintaining velocity and bringing weapons to bear.  Missiles were highly effective, overall, and damage to core systems (a rule I like to use) had devastatingly fun effects.

We got most things right, and we’ll adjust those items that we missed in our next session – which hopefully will be sooner rather than later.

My BFG fleet will likely be retired before long – with “long” being defined as the time it takes to paint up the myriad of more “realistic” looking ships I’ve purchased over the last few months.  While I still like them, the style is no longer my thing.  Next up will be the excellent Firestorm: Armada models I picked up at my FLGS.  Soon…

Additional shots from the session:

Siege of Augusta 2016

Siege of Augusta 2016

2016 was my third trip to Siege of Augusta, held annually in Augusta, GA during the month of January.  SoA is a great small-ish table top wargaming con that is relatively close to my home (less than three hours), so it has become an “automatic” every year.  This year, I picked up Charles on my way down (and unfortunately for him, he likely picked up my plague as I was in pretty bad shape all day Friday).  We rendezvoused with Phil at the convention site and scouted out the goods.

With a late arrival on Friday, most of the interesting con games were already in progress.  The schedule for Saturday had several games that sounded interesting, and I opted for Fire & Fury at 1 PM (which was the second half of the Battle of Cedar Creek, 1864).  I left my evening open as I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel (having been plagued with a nasty cold for a couple of weeks already).  As we didn’t want to let Friday end without some type of gaming, the three of us played a quick and entertaining game of Daytona 500.

First thing Saturday morning was the flea market.  I brought several containers of boardgames and leftover miniatures gaming bits and pieces with the intent of going home with empty containers (i.e., all items were “priced to sell!”).  As it turned out, I did rather well toward that goal and made a lot of fellow gamers happy.  By the end of the session, my cold was beginning to come back in full force, but I was determined to actually get some real table top gaming in before retiring for the day.

Fire & Fury: Brigade Level

Fire & Fury was the game that got me into miniatures gaming several years before, thus I was very much looking forward to playing it again.  The table was hosted by Bill Moreno of Good Ground Miniatures (who, it turns out, is writing the scenario book for the forthcoming new release of Fire & Fury: Brigade).  His 10mm setup was outstanding, as can be seen in the few pics I remembered to take.

There were eight players, so we split up, with me being placed in charge of the cavalry on the Union left.  The four Union commanders came to quick agreement on an overall plan, with me being responsible for pinning the Confederate right, which was held by two brigades, for the opening of the battle, then swinging around them to capture the rebel camps in the rear.  My fellow Yankees would hammer the Confederate lines with their superior weight and try to break through.

File_000 (1)My cavalry charged forward gallantly, Napoleonic style, and within a couple of turns (an hour of game time) became engaged with the waiting rebs.  One unfortunate brigade ventured too close before dismounting and suffered from very effective artillery fire.  The new version of F&F, which we were playing, has a much more “deadly” CRT than I recalled from my previous experience, and my troops paid for it.  Two brigades dismounted and formed up in front of the Confederate line to hold them.  My fellow union infantry had by this time made it forward, and our combined artillery batteries (I had two horse artillery units) began to pound the enemy.

File_004 (1)I left two brigades mounted so that I could swing around the Confederate line as soon as it was prudent to do so.  With the threat from our artillery and the approaching infantry and dismounted cavalry, the rebels pulled back and allowed me an opening.  Plan A was working.  There was one problem – a lone Confederate cavalry brigade was lurking in the woods on the extreme right.  His 600 men vs. my 2,000+ wasn’t a real problem, but I did not want to be taken in the flank or rear as I charged around the infantry line.  My advance spooked my opposing commander and he attempted to blunt my advance by taking on my smaller brigade head on.  After the melee, the rebs reformed back to their position in the woods after disordering my troopers.  On the ensuing turn, the union boys rallied and counter-charged the rebels with devastating effect.  The hole was there and my remaining troopers bolted through the gap with nothing to stop them but the impending darkness.

File_005In the middle and on the right, the Yanks made some progress, but the Confederates were densely packed and tough to push aside.  The Rebel reserves did not commit soon enough to blunt the other assaults, and strangely, did not move any forces to help their beleaguered right.  Losses were mounting on both sides when darkness fell.  By that time, my troopers had turned and pinned the Confederate right, and were in possession of two of the Rebel camps.

When victory points were tallied, the Union emerged victorious – by 1 point!  I was well-pleased that my taking of the two camps mattered.  While we didn’t route Jubal Early’s army as Phil Sheridan had done historically, we did possess the field at the end of the day.  Much fun was had by all and the new “increased lethality” of the F&F: Brigade version 2 CRT will improve the speed of the game.  I’m looking forward to its release in the coming months.  Maybe I’ll finally get back to work on the pile of 15mm ACW lead I own.

After the F&F game, I was pretty much spent.  I shopped a bit, picking up some resin haystacks in 15mm and 28mm, as well as some 28mm 4Ground walls.  All at excellent prices, particularly with the use of my “con bucks” that you get as a type of kickback for re-upping your HMGS membership.  The excellent Cigar Box Battle Mats siren call was strong, but I just couldn’t make the wallet open up for one of them.  Maybe Sunday morning…

Sails of Glory

Before we left, Phil set up a small game of Sails of Glory.  Charles and I took two small vessels against Phil’s ship-of-the-line.  The game is pretty, that’s for certain, but the mechanisms are too fiddly for my tastes and we had to be getting something wrong regarding damage control – ships would pass, decimate each other, then be fully repaired by the time they turned for another pass.  At the rate we were going, the battle may never end!  SoG certainly has its fans, but I’m betting the minis will show up on the table, but be driven around by a different rules set.

Spartacus

Later, we met back at Phil’s and despite my deteriorating state, I opted to join in on a 4-player game, as our friend Tom had arrived on the scene.  Hmmm…what to play?  Charles had brought along Spartacus, so we opted to give it a try.  It was the first time for everyone but Charles.  We had a raucous good time, with a final battle between my champion-level Spartacus and Tom’s sniveling starter gladiator to decide the winner.  I loved it.  The combat system is extremely simple, but effective, and when combined with the game as a whole, it’s rather fun.  Spartacus is definitely not for the family, but with the right group, much fun can be had with it.

Wrap-up

After that, I was done for.  We stopped by the con on the way out Sunday morning to see find some deals, but most of the vendors had already packed up their goods and were also heading out.  I would have likely gone home with a CB battle mat and some buildings from Impudent Gamer, but it was not to be.  Maybe I’ll catch them at another con.  I’m already looking forward to next year’s SoA – good friends and good games.

 

Battlegroup: The Jagdpanther Cometh…

 

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A quiet morning in France…

Another game of Battlegroup and another excellent wargaming experience.  Since Charles missed our MACE get-together, he and I met for a game of Battlegroup, which has become my “go to” game as of late.  This time it was a Meeting Engagement between British Armored Division forces clashing with German Armored Division forces using BG: Overlord as the resource.  The 4’x6’ table was strewn with hedges, woods, and fields, with a village near the center.

 

We looked over our miniatures on hand, and I noticed Charles has a couple of Jagdpanthers in his bag.  One of those simply had to get on the table top.  For the German side, we went with 4x Pz IVHs, 1 Jagdpanther, 1 Armored Pg Platoon, 1 forward HQ, and an off table battery of mortars.  For the British, 2 Fireflies, 6x M4A4s, forward HQ, and a full Motorized Infantry Platoon.  The forces were equal for the most part regarding “points” (Ger 627/33br/3 officers, Brits 617/45br/4 officers), but the British enjoyed a 12 point morale advantage.

File_006The Germans selected their table corner and the British took the opposite position.  There were no recon units, and the Germans took the first turn, opting to bring in fast moving 251s to snatch one of the objectives.  The British responded by sending in the mortar team, which quickly set up shop in the nearest wooded area, a halftrack and a Sherman to snatch two objectives.  As the British Bren carrier took the first objective, the chit from the bag indicated that a “Mine Strike” had occurred.  Amazingly, the vehicle survived, was not immobilized and did not become pinned!  A close one for the Brits at the very outset of the battle and hinted at similar events yet to come.

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Germans seizing the initiative.

As the game developed, the Germans used their somewhat open terrain (good choice of starting corner Charles!) to quickly seize a second objective and occupied the village.

 

The British responded by sending armor around the left and down the center, with tracks heading across the fields and into the edge of town.

The first true “hit” of the game came with a Sherman hitting a Pz IV and pinning it just as it entered the village.  The action heated up from there with more British armor coming down the main road to engage the lone Pz IV and the Jagdpanther moving up behind in support.

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They would go no further.

As events unfolded, the attacking British infantry would never make it into any of the buildings. Trapped in the fields just outside the village, with no one able to spot the enemy or inflict much harm, they would succumb to a combination of 251, Pz IV and infantry firepower.

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A Firefly moments before exploding.

The British armor on the main road had taken casualties (they just could not go toe-to-toe with a Jagdpanther and never should have tried) and the remaining Shermans decided it would be best to lurk behind the wrecks (a Firefly and a M4A4 had been hit and destroyed) or eschew the road entirely by moving through the fields in hopes of saving some of the infantry.

On the British left, the remaining Firefly and two supporting Shermans had taken out a 251, but had otherwise failed to inflict any other results.  The situation as certainly grim for the British and their commander stated that while his unit morale was largely intact “his personal morale was near the breaking point.”  (More 1s than even Charles could roll had hit the table for the British all afternoon.)

File_004File_003 (2)Grim or not, the fight was not lost or won for either side.  In quick succession, the lead Pz IV was taken out on the edge of the village and another was lost on the other side of the village.  The British then swept into the village center with two Shermans, attempting to take some of the forward German armor units in the rear or side.  Unfortunately, they were unable to do any harm.  The Germans responded by hitting and killing one of the encroaching Shermans, but the British “luckily” drew a Mine Strike from the bag.  “Yes!” exclaimed the British commander…”Finally! Take that, Jagdpanther!”  1D6 = 1.  (Lol…wouldn’t you know it?)  The German commander then selected the other advancing Sherman to take the mine.  1D6 = 1.  (“Hahahahaha, redemption! Take that”…1D6 = 1.  OH COME ON!  LOL.  (This is one of the many reasons I love BG, btw.)  The mine strike finally landed home, killing the second advancing Sherman as it was the only British vehicle to have moved this turn or the last.  So, the effect of the Pz IV shot that had killed the first Sherman, apparently caused the other to veer off the main road and strike a mine. While I was the “victim” of this horrific run of luck, it just makes the game narrative fantastic.

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“Whoa, Dad, are those all your burning tanks?  I want to be on Mr. Charles’s team.”

Shortly thereafter in an act of near desperation, the British launched their PIAT team into the fray.  They had lurked behind the Shermans on the left, and sprang into action by advancing their wee carrier to the edge of the village and disembarking into the middle of the village street among the wrecked Shermans.  The brave team, PIAT in hand, moved to close with the Jagdpanther.  The shot was true, striking the side of the fearsome cat.  Alas, the shell failed to penetrate (despite have a surprisingly good chance to do so) but did at least pin the beast.  On the following German turn, infantry in the buildings dispatched the worrisome PIAT team.

Time was running out so we called it at that point.  Losses had been heavy on the British side, and in the latter stages, the Germans had suffered as well.  The Germans held three of the objectives and the village.  The British had lost a Firefly, three Shermans, two infantry squads and an HMG team.  German losses amounted to a full squad, two 251s, and two Pz IVs.

As we totaled the morale losses, it turned out, rather unexpectedly, to be in the British commander’s favor: 21 lost by the Germans and 24 by the British.  Late losses by the Germans and numerous pins throughout the battle took their toll in the end on the Axis with the British having 21 morale remaining and the Germans having just 13.

A few observations:

  • In Battlegroup, you may be able to snatch victory from the jaws of apparent defeat with the hidden morale system
  • Battle events (e.g., Mine Strike) driven by the chit draws remain to be great narrative elements, and regardless of affected side, they’re very thematic and lend more to the chaos management element of the game.  They’re also not overall game-changing events, but can certainly muck up a plan.
  • Pinning enemy remains a key concept that works for the “long” game.  While knocking models off is pleasing in the short term, the morale erosion of pinned units, and the relative ease in which units may be pinned, seems to have the best end game effect and feels right.
  • The Jagdpanther evoked a manner of fear and destroyed a Firefly and a Sherman with relative ease, but otherwise it was held in check, as the action developed outside of its line of sight.  It was also a shot magnet, a several of which succeeded in pinning it.
  • Charles was very aggressive and claimed the favorable terrain of the town early in the engagement.  He also used his 251s well in an offensive role.
  • Neither side was able to concentrate their forces, other than one brief moment when the British squads were cut down in the fields outside the north side of the village by a combination of suddenly unpinned infantry, halftracks and Pz IVs.
  • Tank MGs are effective versus infantry.  Very effective.

Battlegroup just moved into my top five games list and is currently my favorite miniatures game to get on the table.

MACE 2015: Battlegroup

Another MACE has come and gone.  This year, I hosted two Battlegroup games set in Normandy during Operation Bluecoat (late July through early August, 1944).  Since I had played a larger version of the scenario before (see AAR here) and had four players for each of the day’s games, I simply played GM and had a mighty fine time doing so.

First up, we had three new BG players and one very experienced player.  While all had gaming experience in general (and plenty dealing with WW II tactical games in particular), one was completely new to table top historical style gaming.  Good news – she (an 11-year old young lady) was interested in learning some history and about the game.  She and a close friend of mine (yeah, my bff) took the British attackers, while the others took command of the defending Germans.

File_000(2)The Germans deployed their forces, consisting of an Armored Panzergrenadier platoon, a PaK 40 AT gun and a StuG III battery, across the 4’ width of the board.  The PaK, deployed with an Ambush Fire order, went in the center of the village to deny the British access to the single road.  The German 120mm off table mortar battery pre-registered the road in support of the PaK 40.

File_002(3)The British opted to concentrate their attack on the German left, throwing in all three Sherman troops and the Motorized Infantry platoon.  (Admittedly, the formation looked a bit Flames of War-ish in its close, near phalanx-like formation.J )

File_007(3)Disaster struck early for the Brits when the Germans drew a “minefield” chit from the bag and blasted a hard charging Firefly for the first casualties of the day.  Shortly afterward, with the British forces massing together behind the protection of bocage and a small wood, more casualties were inflicted when the infantry, now

unloaded, advanced into the killing zone of the pre-registered artillery.  Three went down in the initial hit, and several units were pinned.  The British commander commented “this is a tough scenario.”  Good – mutual frustration was growing on both sides.

File_001(4)At this point, about mid-way through the engagement, the British looked pinned up, facing StuGs, a relocated PaK 40, and dug-in infantry to their front, and reinforcing Panthers approaching from their left.  The battle was certainly heating up.

File_009The Shermans and Fireflies exchanged a few shots before crossing the bocage and advancing into the woods, being careful to stay deep enough to conceal themselves from the StuGs holding the opposing line of bocage.  By this point, the Panthers had arrived at the front and began to engage the Shermans and Fireflies at relatively close range.

File_005(3)Just as the Panthers were about to unleash their version of suffering on the British armor creeping around the trees, “Timmy” arrived on the scene.  “Timmy,” as named by our young British tank commander, was a Typhoon drawn on the previous turn.  He came in and loosed all four of his bombs on the big cats, knocking one out and pinning the other.  In quick succession, a Firefly knocked out another Panther.  Perhaps the tide of battle had turned.  “Timmy” hung around for the remainder of the battle, and although he captivated German gunners, he failed to inflict much harm until the very end when he finally spotted the Pak 40.

File_008With the battle in full force, both sides began inflicting significantly more harm upon each other, but mostly in the form of pinning shots and armor losses.  The infantry never fully engaged before it was all over.

Oddly enough, by the final tally (we had played about three hours and had run into a hard time stop) the British had amazingly lost 47 of their 51 morale, while the Germans had lost only 24 of their 40.  Victory went to the Germans in a close one.  Our young British commander told me she would be back next year.  Win.

In game two, we had fairly experienced WW II tactical game players, but all were relatively new to Battlegroup (one had just played his first game earlier).  The forces were identical and German setup was similar, but the PaK held the German right while a StuG camped on the main road within the confines of the village.

File_000(3)The British opted for a broad approach to place pressure on all points of the German front, including an advance down the main road by a lone Sherman.

The British timed air attack, in the form of a Typhoon, came on the initial turn, but failed to pin the StuG in the village.  This slowed the road thrust down somewhat, but the flanks advanced rapidly – much more so than in the first game, which saw the British being a little more tentative in their attack.File_001(5)

The action proceeded quickly, with British combined arms attacks occurring on both flanks.  Artillery, onboard mortars and off, harassed both sides as troops and tanks positioned themselves.  Great setup and action by both sides.

File_001(2)As the battle progressed, two German Panthers advanced through the center of town to challenge the Sherman that still lurked on the main road while the third moved to support the heaviest British armor advance on the western side.

I had goaded the German commanders somewhat in proclaiming Panthers as “invincible” to the lone Sherman on the road, and as luck (unluck?) would have it, the Sherman ultimately scored hits on both and pinned them down.  Repeatedly, it seemed.  Oops.  This occurred after both Panthers failed multiple shots on the Sherman.  The third Panther ran into engine problems as it advanced toward the bocage line and never made it into the battle.  (The British drew the dreaded immobilized chit…)  Later, one of the Panthers finally succeeded in knocking out the offending Sherman, but was in turn taken out by Fireflies that had been able to close up and engage.  Both Panthers were soon wrecked with little to offer in return.

File_008(2)On the German right, it seemed that opportunity turned into near disaster at several points of the battle.  Numerous times, the British commander (Jody) scored 6’s on morale tests, only to pass Call of Duty checks and pummel his German opponents.  One wild example saw a Pak 40 shell slam into a Dingo scout car (the forward HQ), only to score snakes and immobilize the wee Dingo.  The Dingo, in return, scored Beyond the Call of Duty and returned fire on the Pak, killing two crew members.  In revenge, a German squad charged out of its foxholes to blast the Dingo with a panzerfaust – this time finishing it off.

File_007(2)On the German left, the StuGs were falling to Shermans and were unable to return the same.  One unfortunate StuG was hit twice, failed morale checks with 1’s consecutively, and forced its crew to abandon the vehicle.

The battle was largely over and the Germans were convinced they could not continue.  As we were closing in on a hard stop after about three hours of excellent gaming, we counted morale.  The Germans had taken 36 of their 40 morale and the British 37 of their starting 51.  A close game, again, but the British took the win.

Overall, I couldn’t ask for a better gaming day.  We had 8 enthusiastic players who got into the game and stayed engaged throughout the duration.  The new players seemed to enjoy the system and hopefully will play more Battlegroup in the future.  While there were some frustrating points during the day (what wargame doesn’t frustrate the commanders when things don’t exactly go their way?!), the narrative was great.  Both games had events play out very differently, despite being the same scenario and forces.  While I didn’t actually play in the games or fire any dice in anger, I had arguably just as much fun GMing and plan to do it all again at next year’s MACE.

On another note, we finally met up with “Battlegroup Charleston.”  They were on hand in full force at MACE, and we traded players throughout the day.  Overall, we likely had 8-10 players concurrently at the two tables throughout the day.  They’re a great bunch of guys who love the Battlegroup system.  They also brought their excellent terrain and models.  Good times!

Some more pics from the day’s actions:

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The after effects of a Typhoon and Fireflies.

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Full on British advance.

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Preparing to cross the bocage in force.

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German deployment in the east, first run.  (Note, infantry are in foxholes.)

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A Panther speeds through the village to reinforce the German left.

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The German right at setup.

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StuG preparing to cross the bocage and reinforce the German left.