Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The taxonomy of WW2 rules

In the field of information modeling and knowledge modeling, a taxonomy is a way to sort out a complex body of knowledge, by providing a structure of definitions and categories, to help you find your way quickly, and see which pieces of information belong together.

An easy example is the taxonomy of Carl Linnaeus, which was used to organize all the animals of the animal kingdom into like groups.  This gives us the concept of animal families, etc - mammals, canines, and so forth.

Carl Linnaeus' Taxonomy (example)
One of the things I would like to do, based on a series of games played in ODMS recently, is to come up with a taxonomy for WW2 micro armor rules.  So the first thing is to come up with some of the categories of concepts that apply to different rules.

Off hand, I can think of these:
  • Scale (i.e. how many vehicles does a tabletop model represent)
  • Turn Sequence
  • Friction/Fog of War
  • Command & Control/Morale
  • Hit mechanism
  • Kill mechanism
  • Acquisition/Spotting rules 
I will have to come up with ways to divide and recognize the features in each of these areas, and then come up with a reasonable (but finite) categorization system for the WW2 rules we have played recently.

Monday, August 20, 2018

On Serious Wargaming

The US Department of Defense, under Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work, realized that professional wargaming had lagged over the few decades of us fighting in Southwest Asia, and in short, since the "end" of the cold war in 1991.

He proposed a re-invigoration of the art, and suggested a few ways in which this could be done.

One of those was something called the Wargaming Initiative Fund, which is a way for the Department of Defense to fund new and interesting wargaming activities within the multiple parts of the service.

Here is a recent article by the current overseer of the effort - COL Heath.  This is very interesting to me as I have been funded as a research scientist working on projects related to this for the past few years, and I hope that continues.

The article is here.

Friday, August 3, 2018

General d'Armee - first thoughts

Recently, we played a couple of games of General d'Armee at our regular ODMS game meetings.  These have been run by Sean (read about his gaming stuff over at Mad Mac's Attic), although I suspect that they have struck a chord with the group, and that we'll be playing more.

The rules are available from Too Fat Lardies, who sell the Reisswitz Press rules (that is the imprint of David Brown's current batch of rules).  These (GdA) are on a step up from General d'Brigade (GdB), and one of the chief differences is that now battalions and regiments are treated as somewhat generic in size, only differentiating by gross categories (large, regular, small, etc).  This is very similar to Black Powder, etc. and different from the earlier rules (GdB) - which had you using specific numbers of miniatures for different units, based on historical OB.  There are a ton of useful resources at David Brown's blog.

The turn sequence runs (roughly) like this -

  1. Both sides dice for the number of Aides de Camp (ADC) available.
  2. The ADCs are applied to units.
  3. Each brigade is rolled for to see if it is Hesitant or not during that turn.
  4. Both sides then roll 2d6 for initiative, subtracting 1 for each Hesitant brigade.
  5. Winner chooses to go first or second.
  6. First player orders and resolves Charges.
  7. Second player orders and resolves Charges.
  8. First player resolves moves.
  9. Second player resolves moves.
  10. First player resolves firing.
  11. Second player resolves firing.
  12. Melees (resulting from charges, or carried over) are resolved.
In all this is a pretty good sequence.

Firing is done (by regular formations and artillery) by the toss of two dice, and then modifiers are introduced.  The final result is consulted on a chart to see what the impact is (casualties, discipline test, etc).

Firing by skirmishers is done by granting the skirming formation a number of Casualty dice - roll them, and they cause a hit on 4,5,6.

Charges are handled first as a test, to see what the charge results are.  This may, or may not result in a melee or a volley being fired, as well as charging home, retiring, etc.

Melee's are resolved by each side having a number of casualty dice (as with skirmish fire), these are rolled and hits counted.  Then the winner of the melee is determined by  comparing these scored hits.

In all this is a good set of rules, with a lot of thought going into how the different formations, etc interact with each other.  Looking forward to playing some more of these, I may run a game or two myself in the near future.  Sean has published a Player's Guide over at his blog.

Here are some pictures from our most recent game, which was the battle of Maida 1806.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Cold War Commander - How To

This is a "how to" article I wrote for ODMS, giving the basics on how to play Cold War Commander.

Cold War Commander – How is it played?

1. Introduction

Cold War Commander, by Peter Andrew Jones, is a set of rules for modern conflict (1946 until today). It follows (and is very much similar to) Blitzkrieg Commander, which covers WW2. Both rulesets have a lot in common with Warmaster (by Rick Priestley), and Mr. Jones had Mr. Priestley’s blessing to write a set of tank and infantry rules. Other rules that are very similar, are the Warlord rules (Hail Caesar, Pike & Shotte, and Black Powder). All of these rules are currently very popular, in general, and here in ODMS.

For those not familiar with Warmaster, what that means is that the basic tempo of the game is this: players will take turns, and on their turn they will try to activate units.  Different command elements (HQ and CO) can make a dice roll vs. a target number (their command value) - if you pass the dice roll, you get to issue an order to some of your units (move, shoot, etc).  The strength of the system is that command structure and command level is a key part of the game, and you are never 100% sure of a plan (as in real life, friction and fog limit military operations).  The weakness of the system is that there are times when a player, or a side, will miss most or all of their command rolls - getting to do very little on their turn.  Very Frustrating!  Details are described below.

2. Types of Units

Cold War Commander (CWC) has several types of units. The biggest distinction is between combat units (infantry, vehicles, support weapons), artillery (which may be on or off board), aircraft, and command units. Let’s look at these in reverse order:

Command units consist of four types –
  • CO (Commanding Officer) - overall commander of a side in a game – 1 per side
  • HQ (Headquarters) - in charge of some part of a unit’s combat units – multiple per side
  • FAO (Forward Artillery Observer) – sights targets and requests unplanned artillery missions – 0 or more per side
  • FAC (Forward Aircraft Controller) – sights targets and requests close air support missions – 0 or more per side

Aircraft units are of two types –
  • Ground attack aircraft, which are requested by an FAC (or used in planned aircraft strike missions)
  • Transport helicopters, which are treated as regular units, to carry infantry and support weapons

Artillery units can be off board (in which case it can be used for planned missions, or in response to the FAO), or can be on board. In either case, they are used for indirect fire, and can fire Barrage missions, or Concentrated missions (see artillery rules in the rulebook).

Combat units are everything else (infantry, support weapons, transport vehicles, tanks, etc). All are rated with several pieces of information. These include:
  1. Move
  2. Attack (or number of dice to attack with)
  3. Hits (to be killed)
  4. Armor save (in some cases - usually armored vehicles)


 3. Turn Sequence

CWC is played in alternate turns. On a turn, you have four phases:

Scheduled Phase – Scheduled artillery and aircraft missions for this turn take place

Initiative Phase – Recon units attempt to communicate with a command unit; then any units within the Initiative Distance of the enemy get a free action.

Command Phase – Now, command units may, one at a time, attempt to issue orders. Pick a command unit, and then pick a unit to receive an order (or group of units), and declare what the order is (“That unit of tanks will move to the ridgeline.”). Then roll the dice (2d6) vs. the command unit’s command rating. If less than the target number, the unit performs the commanded action, and that command unit may roll again. Note that the subsequent order can be to the same unit. Subsequent rolls are/may be reduced depending on who is being ordered again.

If the roll is a failure, that command unit may issue no more orders this turn. Once the CO fails his roll, the side is finished with Command Phase for the turn (hint: use your CO last).

End Turn Phase – Check for victory conditions, and then remove all hits from any units on the table that were not destroyed. Additionally, remove suppression markers from the active player (only).


4. Recon Units

During the initiative phase, a Recon unit tries to communicate with the nearest command unit on that side. This is based on a dice roll (based on how close the nearest enemy unit is), and if successful, then the Recon unit can choose an action. Depending on what that command unit is (CO, HQ, FAO, FAC) then the Recon Unit can choose from the following:
  • Add 1 to the command value of the command unit (CO, HQ, FAO, FAC)
  • Issue orders to on-table mortars to fire at that closest enemy unit to the Recce unit (CO or HQ)
  • Request artillery support against the closest enemy unit to the Recce unit (FAO)
  • Request an air strike against the closest enemy unit to the Recce unit (FAC)
Note, that the second, third, and fourth item take place during the Command Phase, by the command unit the Recce unit communicated with – this just lets that command unit target the enemy unit that the Recce unit can see. (remember, that the Recce unit doesn’t have to be in line of sight to the command unit it communicates with, so this is a way of “extending the eyeballs” of that command unit).


5. Assets (planned Artillery and Aircraft strikes)

Not every side, or every scenario will have Assets available. These are the pre-planned aircraft and artillery missions. The player who has them available must write down where the target of the strike is (based on the map of the game), and on what turn they strike. Different armies have different types of missions available (HE, Smoke, etc).


 6. Orders to Combat Units

The orders that a command unit may issue to a combat unit are pretty simple. They are: move, deploy and fire. Note, these are the same orders (or actions) that a unit may do during the initiative phase.
  • Move is just that – a unit may move up to its movement value. See the rules about limits from terrain. If a tank unit has a Stabilized weapon, it may also fire, if it only moves half.
  • Deploy is used to set up certain support weapons (such as Mortars or towed guns), also it is the order used to load infantry onto transport units (they must be in contact). Deploy is also used to dismount from transport units. The infantry units (and/or support units) are placed in contact with the transport asset they just dismounted from. Finally, Deploy is used to pivot a set up towed weapon.
  • Fire is used so that the unit (or units) may shoot against an enemy within range, line of sight, and line of fire (all defined in the book).
When a unit moves in contact with the enemy, then that is a Close Assault.


7. Command Blunders

When a command unit is issuing a command and rolls double 6’s – then a blunder has occurred. Not only does the order not succeed but based on what type of order it is (Artillery strike, Aircraft strike, or Command order) there is a roll to see what the blunder causes. Usually bad (like friendly fire).


8. Attacks

When a unit executes a Fire order – and attacks another unit – that unit rolls the number of attack dice that they have available. The to-hit number is 4+ if the target is in the open; it is 5+ if the target is in soft cover; it is 6 if the target is in hard cover.

There are several types of weapons, based on the army listing – those followed by an asterisk * do not cause hits vs. any units with an armor save (i.e. tanks, APCs, IFVs, etc). Those followed by a hash mark # do not cause any hits vs. unit that do not have an armor save (i.e. soft transport, infantry, support weapons).

Line of sight is 180 degrees, forward of the unit. Line of fire, in a restricted visibility unit (marked in the army lists) is only 90 degrees, forward of the unit. Armored units can fire at other vehicles, over infantry and guns. Line of sight can pass over infantry and guns, but not over vehicles (friendly or enemy).

Command units do not block line of sight.


9. Hits

Any unit that takes hits, must make armor saves (if it can). If there are enough un-saved hits to exceed the HITS rating of the unit, it is destroyed. Keep track of the number of hits a unit has taken, even if they aren’t enough to kill it. Other units may attack the same target this turn (although all hits are removed from all targets at the end of each player’s turn).


 10. Suppression

For each hit that was not saved, the attacker rolls the dice again, with the same “to hit” number. If any of the dice score, then the target is suppressed (mark it with a suppression marker).

NOTE: You can purposefully try to suppress a unit that you cannot cause hits against (like using a weapon marked * against a tank) – in that case the to-hit number is automatically a 6+. Saves are allowed. Unsaved hits are then rolled for suppression (again, 6+).
Suppression markers are removed from a player’s units only at the end of his turn.


11. Fall Back 

A unit that is ALREADY suppressed (because it was attacked by another unit, which resulted in suppression), and which receives more hits, may fall back. Instead of rolling for suppression by additional unsaved hits (assuming that the additional hits are not enough to kill the target), the target unit rolls 1d6 for each extra unsaved hit, and falls back that many cm. If the unit has to fall back more than 10cm in a turn, it is destroyed (the crew/infantry abandon the field, hide, run away, etc).


 12. Close Assault

The rulebook has a series of restrictions on close assault, but in general when a unit contacts an enemy, there is a close assault. AFVs can only close assault in the open, unless they are carrying infantry or support riders. Transports that close assault automatically dismount their infantry, in contact with the enemy, when the assault starts (except IFVs which may keep them on board)

Friendly units within 10cm can support the close assault, if they can draw a line of sight to one of the assaulting units in contact with the enemy.

Responding units can also have 10cm of supporters to fire back.

Once hits are rolled for (all close assaults hit on 4+, to determine the number of dice rolled, consult the chart on p. 35), determine which unit (on each side) takes the hits. Roll for saves if possible. Then compare outcomes and follow the results (also on page 35).

Close assaults are deadly. And can be unpredictable.


 13. Infantry Support Weapons

Machine Guns and Infantry Anti-tank Weapons (RPG-7, Bazooka, etc) do not need a deploy order before they can be fired.

Mortars and Recoilless Rifles must have a Deploy between moving and firing (to set up), and also between firing and moving (to break down).

Infantry units that have Anti-tank Weapons added on to them, may use their regular attack values, and their IATW attack values. IATW can only be used once per turn by a unit. Armored units do not get a saving throw vs. IATW (unless noted in the army list).


14. Anti-Tank Guided Weapons

ATGW (i.e. Anti-Tank Missiles, such as Sagger, MAPATS, TOW) are extremely deadly, and long ranged.

There are firing restrictions (see the rulebook, p. 24), and they can only be fired once per turn. If a unit is targeted by an ATGW, there is a dice roll to see if it can evade. This is one dice, vs. the same to hit number required for the ATGW to hit the target. If this evade dice hits, then the target may not evade.

Roll the attack as normal. However, if the evade dice misses, then the target saw the missile coming in, and may evade. It can move up to 10cm in any direction, and the to hit number against it gets worse by one category (i.e. – if in the open, it is treated as in soft cover, etc). If the unit was already in full cover, or if the 10cm move can get it out of LOS, then it cannot be struck.


 15. Artillery, Aircraft, Engineering, Tactical Doctrine, Opportunity Fire, etc

There is a lot more to this ruleset, but the above presents the basic ideas required to play. Some things are often forgotten (like Initiative Moves, Recon communication, and how to do Close Assaults).

These are a reminder for those items. In all cases, consult the rules. These aren’t hard rules, and players will get the hang of things in a turn or two.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Jagdpanzer - a rules review

This is another review in the Once and Future Rules series, of wargame rules that are out of print, but that got a lot of play at one time (at least, in the clubs and groups I played in since the early 1980s).

Once upon a time, in Campaign Headquarters (in Newport News), there were some gamers called Alfred, Jason and Gary.  They played Jagdpanzer.

Once upon a time, in Campaign Headquarters, there were some gamers called Wayne and Oscar.  They played Jagdpanzer.

Once up on a time, in Campaign Headquarters, there was a gamer named Danny.  He played Jagdpanzer.

Most of the folks I played with in those years (mid to late 80s) were playing Overwatch.  Some were playing Angriff!  But not a small sampling were playing a set of rules called Jagdpanzer, published by Greenfield Hobbies, and authored by Kevin Cabai (a former armor Captain in the US Army).  This was when I tried the rules, and I liked them.

One of the strengths that I will applaud, right away, about Jagdpanzer, is that it is very inclusive.  It covers many different weapon systems (armor, infantry, artillery, airpower), all in rule subsystems that are very clean and workable.  The overall effect is a game that gives depth to all sorts of scenarios, but is not difficult to play.  Also, it avoids (by using a dice mechanism for penetration and kill, although informed by real life vehicle and weapon characteristics) the old problem that some rulesets have (I'm looking at you, Overwatch) of comparing mm of penetration, vs mm of armor, to determine a kill.  As an engineering professor, I realize it is not that simple, and that the number of variables present in any single shot to target situation are far to numerous (and perhaps unknowable) in order to present a way of modeling them all.  So why not use a dice mechanism to add in the fuzziness?  Mr. Cabai does just that in Jagdpanzer, and it works very well.

Another think I like very much about the game is that while it lists a ground scale (1 inch equals 25m), it gives all movement and weapon ranges in inches.  Nice.

Here is an overview of the rules, so you can see what I'm talking about, and I'll return with an assessment at the end.

Turn Sequence

Basic concept - On each turn, for each of your units (the basic unit is the platoon, which is usually 3-5 individual vehicle models), you decide if that unit is going to do one of the following three options:
1. Move and Fire
2. Move double (no fire)
3. Stationary (double fire)

A full turn consists of two movement and direct fire phases (see below).  For each of them, a vehicle decides if it is going to do one of the above options.  So in the first move phase of a turn, a unit could Double Move, and then couldn't fire during the first fire phase.  But then in the second move phase it could Normal Move (and fire in the second fire phase).

If a unit Moves and Fires, it is assuming that the unit is moving tactically, taking advantage of available cover, and is loaded and ready to engage if a target is found.

A unit that double Moves, is assumed to be moving at top available speed (cross country or road), and doesn't conform necessarily to available cover (so may be easier to hit).

A unit that double Fires is assumed to be stationary, and focused merely on firing and reloading as quickly as possible.

Based on that - here is the turn sequence, with some notes:

A. Determine Initiative - Roll 1d6 to determine who gets the choice of being Side A or Side B.
B. Command & Control (optional rules - a dice roll based on nationality to see if a unit activates or not).
C. Movement Phase
   1. Side A
   2. Side B
D. Direct Fire Phase
   1. Stationary Shooters fire Simultaneously
   2. Moving Shooters fire Simultaneously
   3. Stationary Shooters fire Simultaneously (a second time)
   4. Close Assaults
   5. Overrun Attacks
   6. Remove/Emplace Vehicle Smoke
E. Aircraft (optional)
   1. Movement
   2. Combat
F. Morale
G. Movement Phase
   1. Side B
   2. Side A
H. Direct Fire Combat (same as D.1 through D.6 from above)
I. Artillery
   1. Fire missions striking this turn will Impact
   2. Plot new fire missions
   3. Remove/Emplace Artillery Smoke
J. Morale

Movement - In phases C and G, movement takes place.  The two sides alternate who is the first mover, based on the Initiative dice at the beginning of the turn.  The first mover has 2 minutes (only) to move his Command Vehicles (the command vehicle for each unit).  Then his other vehicles in those units move to follow the command vehicle route.  Once the first player is done, then the second player only has 30 Seconds (!) to move his command vehicles.  Any command vehicles that do not move, mean that the other vehicles in their units will also not move that phase.
Movement rates are given for Road, Cross Country, and Rough Ground (wood, hills, mud, deep snow).  Recall that a Double Mover getst double the listed rate.  Rates are listed in inches on the vehicle detail sheets.

Armored Vehicles

Direct Fire (Tank and Anti-Tank) - Roll 1d20 per shooter, and see if they roll below the "To Hit" number.  The basic number to hit is an 11 (or less).  Modifiers to that basic number are here:

Situation . . .
+3 Consecutive Fire (same target)
+3 Automatic Weapons (small AA weapons, autocannons)
+2 Targetting a Building
+1 Range Finder (PzV-f, Nashorn, PaK36, PaK43, FlaK 18)

Target Is . . .
-6 Hull Down
-6 Entrenched
-5 In Dense Woods
-3 In Light Woods
-4 In Town
-4 Infantry
-1 Towed Gun
-3 Moving

Shooter Is . . .
+2 Short Range
+0 Medium Range
-4 Long Range
-2 Moving (without gun stabilizer)
-1 Moving (with gun stabilizer)
-2 2nd Shot, Same fire Phase, at a new target


Take the Penetration Value of the weapon firing, based on range (short, medium, long), and subtract the armor value of the facing of the vehicle hit (Front, Side, Rear, or Top).  This gives you a number, which can be indexed on a Penetration Chart, to give the Number to roll, or less, on 1d20 to score a kill.  Otherwise the shot has no effect.  Rather than using the chart, you can calculate it easy enough - just add 5 to the penetration value, before subtracting the armor value.  The resulting number is your target to roll, or less, to score a kill.

Example: A T34, at Medium Range, is firing it's 76L41 gun at the front armor of a PzIVH.  Looking at the weapon chart for the Soviet Gun, we see that at Medium Range, it penetrates 11.  Looking at the PzIVH, we see that the front armor is rated a 7.  So, adding 5 to the gun's penetration value (11+5=16), and then subtracting the armor of the target vehicle (16-7=9) means that we have a chance of a 9 or less on 1d20 to score a kill, if a hit is registered.  In practice, very simple - lookup the range and penetration, and the armor value of the target.

Machine Guns - Vehicle machine guns do not affect armored vehicles in the game.  Larger calibre automatic weapons are listed on the regular vehicle charts.  Normal MGs however, do affect soft targets.  They roll with a strength of '5' on the soft target (i.e. Infantry) table - see below.

Catastrophic Kill
If the number to score a penetration is half or less than the number needed, then it is a catastrophic kill (for instance, in the example above the number needed was a 9 or less, so rolling a 4 or less would be a catastrophic kill).  This means that all crew, passengers, and equipment are also destroyed with the vehicle.  Also, place a burning marker on the vehicle, it now blocks line of sight.

Crew/Passenger Bailout
If a vehicle is killed, but not a catastrophic kill, then there is a chance for bailout by crew and passengers.  Roll 1d6, on a 1 or 2 all personnel are killed, otherwise they bail out.

Vehicle Smoke
Vehicles can (very limited basis) fire smoke rounds.  Pick a target and roll 1d6 for scatter based on range - Short (1,2), Medium (1,2,3), Long (1,2,3,4,5).  If it scatters, the smoke round hits 1 inch away in a randon direction.  It produces a line of sight blocking puffball.
Some vehicles have smoke dischargers - these produce a puffball 1 inch from the model of the vehicle, in the direction the tank is facing.

Spotting (optional)
Spotting rules give a ditance away that a target can be spotted.  It is based on whether the unit being spotted is stationary, in a prepared position (trench or pit), or moving - and also what type of target it is (vehicle, gun, infantry).  This ranges from unlimited range in the open to see a moving vehicle, to only 3 inches to see infantry in the woods or hills in a prepared position.  This is an optional rule, but tends to encourage more play with the terrain and maneuver.  Under these rules, you can spot through smoke, but only up to 4 inches on the other side of the smoke.


Infantry vs. Soft Targets
(that is, other infantry units, and vehicles with a side armor of 2 or less) is handled by looking up the basic strength of the infantry unit firing.  This is for a single counter (the game recommends counters for infantry), representing a single infantry squad (usually 3 squads per platoon).  These squads are rated for the following types:
  • Infantry
  • Armored Infantry
  • Airborne Infantry
  • Armored Cav/Recon
  • Cavalry
  • Heavy Weapons
  • HQ Section
  • Crew

Each type has a strength value for the year and nationalities that employ those types (for instance, in 1941 a Soviet infantry squad has a strength of 4, but in 1943, a Soviet infantry squad has a strength of 6, representing better weapons/training/leadership).

Each basic type has an associated range, within which it can engage other Infantry.  For instance, basic Infantry has a range of 12 inches, but Cavalry only has a range of 8 inches.

Infantry vs. Infantry fighting - when an Infantry squad attacks another, there is a target number based on the terrain the target is in (the only modifier to this number, is if the target is moving, this number is increased by 1):
  • Open - 10 or less
  • Soft Cover - 8 or less
  • Hard Cover - 7 or less
  • Supressed - 6 or less
  • Entrenched - 5 or less

There is an infantry chart, so your actual number you roll is cross indexed with your squad's strength, to see if you either Supress or Kill the enemy.  In practice, it works very simple.

Melee Combat - Infantry ending in contact with enemy counters will fight melee.  Fights are determined by finding all the attacking (moving) counters that are touching a single defender counter.  Roll 1d6 per counter involved.  Any attacker that is less than a defender's number is destroyed.  Any defender that is less than an attacker is destroyed.  Ties are resolved as both destroyed.  So if multiple attackers go against one defender, the defender can beat all of them by rolling the highest number, otherwise as above.

Melee modifiers (to the d6 rolled) are these:
+1 Charging
+1 Cavalry
+1 Airborne
+1 SS
+1 Marines
-1 Crew
-1 HQ Section
-1 Entrenched
-1 Routing

Infantry Anti-Tank Weapons - A variety of anti-tank weapons can be employed by Infantry squads.  These include Recoil-less Rifles, Handheld Anti-Tank Rockets (Bazooka, PIAT, etc), Anti-Tank Rifles, and the experimental German X-7 Wire-guided Missile (was it ever really used?).  Each of these weapons has range (short/medium/long) and vehicle penetration rules.

Infantry Close Assault - Infantry attacking vehicles use the Close Assault rules.  An infantry squad that closes to contact with an enemy vehicle must pass a Morale test.  If it passes, it rolls 2d6 on the close assault table.  The variables on the table are whether or not the vehicle is closed top, and the terrain (open, wooded, urban).  A range on the 2d6 roll determines if the vehicle is killed.  That is the only result.

Other Rules

Rules are given for artillery pieces on the table to engage in Direct Fire against armor units (ranges and penetration are given for different size guns).  Indirect fire rules are given - how long it takes for an artillery mission to arrive, what types of missions you can call (Point, Rolling Barrage, Creeping Barrage, Final Protective Fire), and what type of pattern it falls in (point/tight, or area/loose).  Rules for scatter of shot from the aiming point are given.    Finally, rules for HE rounds vs. infantry and soft targets (those with a side armor of 2 or less) are given.  Infantry are subjected to a chart much like small arms fire.  Vehicles are two, but hard vehicle targets (with a side armor over 2) are only affected very rarely (roll of a 10 exactly, on a 20 sided dice, and only for certain types of artillery).  In the case of artillery (HE rounds) there are column shifts to the left for being in certain terrain (entrenched infantry, woods, town, suppressed target, woods, etc).

Combat Engineers
Rules are given for combat engineers (placing and dealing with obstacles, such as abati, barbed wire, craters, dragon's teeth, tank ditches, and mine fields).  A discussion of, and rules on, different types of mines is present.

Rules are given for aircraft, with a view towards permitting supporting air actions that present ground support.  Detailed dog fighting rules are not present.

And that's it for the rules.  More on the Vehicle and Weapon statistics, in the next article.

So, what do I think of Jagdpanzer?  It is a game of it's time, but I do like how it abstracts some vehicle info (penetration and armor), and also how it keeps armor values to a minimum (averaging turret and hull, so that an armored vehicles has four armor values - front, side, rear, and top).  It plays fast.  The morale rules are playable, and give good results.

My only regret - and this is largely from memory (I will have to check the rulebook again) is that there is no mechanism for recovering from Suppression (that I recall). It might have been a preferred house rule, but I seem to remember that we would use either a Command Control roll or a Morale Test to recover from Suppression (I can't find where in the rulebook it discusses this...

Update! After talking with the author, I confirmed that it is a Morale Test that removes a Suppression result.

Overall, and in light of how well the many different branches of WW2 combined arms land warfare is - these are really great rules.  A nice high resolution (low aggregation) wargame simulating WW2 ground combat, and it covers everything in elegant ways, that is still fun and easy to play.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Wargaming the Barbarian Kingdoms (6th and 7th century) - Part 3, Franks under Merovingian Rule

The Franks, of course, are those Germanic tribes that were in the area previously called Gaul, and soon to become called France.  In the period we are looking at, for wargaming, they are ruled by the Merovingians, and the style of warfare during this time and for these peoples is definitely a telltale version of the tribal type infantry army, replacing the remnants of anything the Romans left during the last stages of antiquity - but starting to get a little more organized as the political units of the day get larger and more sophisticated.

Brief history of the people and period:
The Merovingian dynasty properly started towards the end of the 5th century, in 481.  That year is significant because Childeric, who had ruled the Merovingian tribe, among several tribes of the Franks, was succeeded in 481 by his son, Clovis I - and it was Clovis (Chlodowig) who united all of Gaul under Merovingian rule.   This will last until the year 751 (just outside our period, in the middle of the 8th century), when Pepin deposed the last Merovingian king, and established the Carolingian dynasty.

During the reign of Clovis, the original territory he recieved from his father (Austrasia), was added to by his military victories at battles such as Soisson (the Gauls of Neustria, defeated in 486), and Vouille (the Visigoths of Aquitaine, north of the Iberian peninsula, in 507).  By the end of his reign, the kingdom of France was pretty large, indeed.

From Wikipedia article on Merovingian dynasty
Clovis left the kingdom to his four sons, who defeated Burgundy in 532 at the battle of Autun, then captured the defeated Burgundian king (Godomar) in 534, and annexed Burgundy.  At this point, the only lands that could be called Frankish (German) that were outside the control of the Merovingian monarchs were Saxony and Frisia in the north, the Spanish Marches, Gascony, and Septimania (and Provence) in the south, the holdout german kingdoms of Bavaria, Carinthia and Lombardy in the southeast.  All those territories would come under Frankish rule, but not until the Carolingians began their expansion.

A couple of interesting cultural and historical factors from this period.  The Muslim conquest would reach southern Europe for some time (end of the 6th century, roughly), so the tribes in the south and west that the Merovingians had troubles with were other German, Gothic and related successors to the failed Roman period.  The Lombards, distinctively, retained their paganism in this period.  Clovis himself (first king of the Merovingians) is considered to be the last of the Pagan kings of the Franks, because after his victories over the Alemani (in 496 and 506), he converted to Christianity, and his people (who hadn't already) followed suit.

One of the aspects of Clovis' conversion is that he (under influence of his wife) adopted Catholicism, rather than the Arianism that was prevalent among the Goths, Vandals and Burgundians. This gave him (after the Alemani) something of a religious reason for subjugating his enemies. In addition it made the remaining Roman population loyal to him.

Around the period of 540 or so, for a few years, there was a bad outbreak of Bubonic Plague, although this wouldn't be as devastating as the later Medieval outbreak in the 14th century would be (because of fewer large population concentrations) it would be bad enough, and since it hit the agricultural areas hardest, it would have had a huge impact on this post-antiquity economy - which would have kept military forces necessarily small for almost all the belligerents we are talking about.
Wargaming the Merovingians

Merovingian Re-enactor
Let's start out by taking a look at the DBA army list for the Merovingians.  If we are talking about the period from 481 to 751, this covers a couple of DBA lists.

First,Early Franks, up until roughly 496 (corresponding, roughly, to the major unification under Clovis I with his defeat of the Alemani, and eventually setting up his capital at Paris) and then the Middle Franks.

The Early Franks (II/72d) in DBA really reflect the post antiquity tribal quality of the warfare.  The army consists of one element of cavalry, and ten elements of warband, and one element of psiloi.  The cavalry element is the general - representing a Frankish leader and his comitatus.  The warbands are the tribal warriors (round shields, and spear and ax - or the), and the psiloi would be maybe slingers or throwers of the angon javelin.

Their Alemani (II/72b) enemies (fought Clovis in 496 and 506) were similar - one cavalry element, seven warband elements, one psiloi - and the difference is that the Alemani had much better quality archery, so they receive three elements of bow, in addition to the psiloi element that might represent slingers or angon throwers.

In both cases, the general and his comitatus can choose to fight dismounted (especially useful in the many forested areas of the region), in which case the cavalry element becomes another warband.

The Middle Frankish list (III/5) covers the Merovingian Franks from the war with the Alemani up until the dominance of the Carolingian Mayers of the Palace (639).  This list (III/5) has two variants, corresponding roughly to the North and East, or Austrasian and Burgundian area (III/5a), and the South and West, or Neustria, Provence, and Aquitaine areas (III/5b).
The first of these (III/5a) contains:  the general is either a Cavalry or Knight element, and there is an additional mounted element which can also be Cavalry or Knight.  There are  six elements of warband, and then three elements which may choose to be warband, or may be upgraded to spear, and finally one element of psiloi.

The second of these (III/5b) contains: the same mounted elements as above (the general, and an additional element, each of which can be cavalry or knights), six elements of spear, again three additional elements which may be spear, or warband, and one element of psiloi.

Here we see the growing sophistication of the armies, as the mounted troops become much more effective as knights (introduction of new equipment such as the stirrup, and better armor).  As the region gives way from dense forests to more and more agricultural land, the troops can find more uses to fight in a tighter formation - hence the spear elements (also representing the greater training available under rulers of larger armed forces).  In the south, more spears than warbands represents the terrain, as well as exposure to the Goths and other enemies.

For miniatures - Baueda makes some excellent figures for the Carolingians, and they are promising Merovingian figures any day now.

The Essex figures are quite gorgeous, but their "Early Franks" seem to be from a much earlier period (the era of the Roman Frankish Federates).  However, their Saxon, Frisian, Suevi and Bavarian line is just about perfect.  Here are some pictures of the figures from that line.

Essex SXA1

Essex SXA4
Essex SXA2
Old Glory 15s makes a very nice range of Carolingians - and the infantry, at least (and truly, most of the cavalry) is useable for at 15mm Merovingian army.

In 28mm, one of the companies that is supporting a lot of Dark Ages gaming in recent years, is of course Gripping Beast.  As usually, they have a great offering for this period, and they would make a great army for a wargamer.

Okay, so what is the compelling reason to wargame the Franks under Clovis (and his successors)?  Three reasons, immediately that I can think of.  First - if you are a fan of late antiquity/early medieval wargaming, and want to explore the earliest history of what would become Medieval France.  Second, because of the interesting foes that the Merovingians fought against.  And Third, the most practical reason - you can represent a Merovingian army pretty easily with a a reasonable collection of Dark Ages infantry and some cavalry.  Mounted Saxons work well.  You could use Normans in a pinch, although your opponent is likely to call foul on the shields...  Still, this gives you a new set of armies, history, and foes to explore with your dark ages infantry figures (hairy men, round shields, chainmail, and a variety of fierce weapons).

Friday, March 16, 2018

15mm Napoleonic Game hosted at Williamsburg Muster

I ran two games at the Williamsburg Muster.  The first was a Napoleonic game in 15mm, using the Neil Thomas rules (the version from "Wargaming: An Introduction"), between a British army and a French army.

The two armies were the same size (typical for NT rules), but the British were definitely mainly on the defensive, as they set up in an extended infantry line (with artillery) defending a church.  The French were assaulting the line, bringing their infantry up in column, while probing for local weakness with their artillery and cavalry.

The tactical problem to solve here for the English is: There is nothing that can stand up to the French Heavy Cavalry.  The problem for the French is: How to succeed against the superior English firepower, while assaulting (and no numerical superiority)?

British in Line, defending the church of San Miguel
The rules from the introduction book and the rules from the specialized Napoleonic book differ  in a few areas - one of them is how musketry (with special national characteristics) is treated, the other is how artillery (same consideration - special national characteristics) is treaty.  Here I think we used generic values, but a slight nod to British infantry musketry, since they used the 2 rank system vs. the more typical 3 rank system used by the French and most other nations.
British Cavalry move out from behind the line.
There were some other differences, notably the superior quality of the French Heavy Cavalry (only one unit, but what a unit!!).
French Infantry respond to British Cavalry

The French on the move past the village of Duertez.

French Columns and French Cavalry, advancing.

In all, it was a great game, the four players really enjoyed themselves, and we got to talk a lot about the typical characteristics of the Napoleonic period and Napoleonic wargaming.