Monday, January 7, 2019

Gaming over the Christmas Holiday 2018

One of the things I enjoy most about being employed by a University, is that my work schedule is more or less similar to a student's schedule, which means I get a break over Christmas every year.  This is (as reported on in previous years here at Gaming with Chuck) a time for family, friends, and in our house - gaming is one of the ways we spend time together.  This year was no exception.

The gaming we did was of three varieties.  First, there was a lot of board games and card games.   These were done at home, with either the immediate family, the extended family, or with friends so close they are practically family.  More on what we played down below.  Second, there was some miniature wargaming.  With my reduced schedule, I actually got to play some wonderful miniature wargames - I usually try to host one (as the referee) over the holidays, but not this year.  Instead I got to play in a few (again, details below).  Third, there is roleplaying. We did not do a lot of RPG gaming this year over the Christmas break, but did manage to get one day of gaming in, right around New Years, which was a smashing success.

So, first, the board gaming.  There are a couple of board gaming activities that take place at our house over Christmas time.  Every year we participate in the Boardgame Geek Christmas Card Exchange.  This year was no different - we were able to send out some great cards to gamers all over the planet (we signed up for 12 gamers to send cards to, and received random names from a list).  I try to read the profile of the person getting the card on BGG before sending the card, and writing a note about their type of gaming, and any ways it intersects with ours.  Also, every year at Christmas time we try to have a few boardgame days at the house, where we host people with lots of Christmas treats, music, drinks, and boardgames.  A great time.  This year was no different.  We had friends over several times.  Finally, every year around Christmas time, we try to get some new boardgames to play as a family, and spend the spare time of the holiday break playing them together.  Some great breakout titles this year have been Sagrada, Queendomino, and Railroad Ink: Blue.

As gifts there are some games we got but haven't tried yet.  That includes (finally) the Toscany addition to Viticulture, and Anita received Between Two Castles.

For miniatures gaming, chiefly I got to play in three games.  First, I got to play in Saga - the Viking Age skirmish game.  I got to run out my Anglo-Saxons against the feared Jomsvikings.  Great game.  Practically speaking it was a tie, but I hand the victory to the Jomsvikings.  In that game I tried a different commander for my Anglo-Saxon force.  Typically, I use a regular (generic, non-named) Warlord, but this time I used Alfred the Great.  He has some (according to the rulebook) abilities in the game as a playing piece, and I love the history of Alfred, but it just wasn't my playing style.  Second, I got to play in a fantastic game of Shako II - 15mm Napoleonic rules.  The battle was an 1809 battle between the Austrians and French, and I was on the French side.  Loads of fun even though our side lost (as it did in real life).  The third game was a battle of late ancients, with Late Romans fighting Sassanid Persians.  We used the Impetus rules for this one, and it was a lot of fun.  A bit strange with so many new players, but we agreed the rules (now 10 years old) were very good, and deserve a rematch.

Finally, we played an RPG session.  Our last RPG series, which was a dungeons and dragons game set in the World of Greyhawk, saw a big break coming up for the players, as they prepared for the next part of their quest.  Taking advantage of that natural pause in the campaign, we this time played with a new set of players, having a city adventure, protecting a shipment of wine, arriving in the city of Niole Dra during the midwinter festival week of Needfest.  Lots of fun, as invisible thieves, evil knights, and goblins tried to spoil the winter festival.  The new adventurers uncovered a much bigger plot than the simple theft of fine wine, and the game will no doubt continue in the future.

I will end by saying that one of the highlights of the Holidays was getting together with my Brother's family, which is almost always a chaotic affair, but this year it included some gaming.  We taught them how to play the Christmas card game, 12 days of Christmas (not the one pictured above, but rather the one from Dr. Gordon Hamilton, published by Eagle-Gryphon).  It was a lot of fun, and I think my brother's family are almost recruits into gaming.

God bless all who read this, and I hope we all have a great 2019.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

28mm Dismounted Boers - a short review

28mm Boer War Figures - a quick review...

Thinking about my Old Glory dismounted Boers got me considering the different Boer War lines I've seen/painted over the years, and I considered writing a really quick review. Note, this is just the Boers (Transvaal trekkers).

Ral Partha - True 25s (so quite small by today's standards), but these were truly fantastic figures. The only drawback was that at the time, very few different poses were in a single product line. I still have some, but they don't mix well with my other figures.

Foundry - Excellent as always. Good poses, good choice of equipment, and both mounted and foot. The problem? Only one code for each mounted and foot. So that means six poses of foot, and 3(4) poses for mounted. They do have an excellent supply wagon that works for the Boers

Old Glory - A great range. They have two packs of (30 figures each) dismounted Boers - firing and skirmishing. These are a mix of hats/equipment, so would work for the 1880s or 1899. These paint up really well.They have a pack of mounted (10 figure plus horses) that is also excellent. They have a pack of Staatsartillerie that include both gun crewmen and uniformed officers (Orange Free Staters?). The guns are sold separately but they have whatever you might like. Other than my old Ral Partha holdouts, the vast preponderance of my Boer War collection is Old Glory.

Warlord - They have a nice pack of dismounted Boers that includes four body styles, with two heads each. Very nice, and excellent quality. But out of production right now. They have a new mounted set of Boers that also look great.

Black Tree - Great figures . . . except the Boers all have HUGE hands. They are Gargantuan. Not sure who the sculptor is.

Age of Glory has, in his Zulu Wars line, a nice selection of really attractive Boers. Always high quality, but I have not painted these.

North Star has a nice line of 28mm Boers.

Essex, of course makes a nice range of 15mm Boers (I've painted, and used to own them, before converting to 28mm for TSATF), but I don't think they make a 28mm Boer War line.

One last thing - there are some nice guns associated with these ranges. Old Glory has a nice, affordable selection of the main pieces you could want (Krupp, Pompom, etc). On Shapeways, there is a really nice 3d printed model of a Long Tom gun. It is from MojoBob design, under his 1:56 range.

Getting familiar with Baroque (part II)

This is a continuation of the conversation started in Part I.

I would like to talk about the turn sequence for Baroque, which is one of the things that makes the game attractive for me.  I was never much of an Impetus player, (I played the free Starter version a few times, using typical Roman/Barbarian army pairs, but not too much).  So, the Baroque structure is one that I am exploring with a fresh perspective.

A few things have to be defined before getting into the turn structure.

First, the army will have a Command Structure.  This is defined by the army list, or a series of options are given.  An army can have Good, Average or Poor.  These cost an increasing number of points, and there is a range given for Leader figures, where they can use their leadership bonus to keep troops under control.  For instance, an Average Command Structure costs the army a total of 12 points, and it means that leaders in that army have a leadership range of 6BU (Baroque Units, or in the case of 15mm armies, 6x 60mm baroque units).  Other Command Structure levels, with cost and range, is found in the rulebook.

The turn sequence works like this
  1. Decide the Initiative
  2. The active player (one by one) activates all the units in the Command he has activated.  The inactive player responds with reactions and/or evasions.
  3. Initiative is re-decided, and repeat until all of the Commands on the table have been activated.
Deciding the initiative works like this - Each player selects one of their commands (each army is divided up into a number of 'commands' that each contain several units).  Both players roll 2d6 for their selected command, and apply dice modifiers based on the leadership bonus of the Leader of their command.  High roller wins the initiative.  If there is a tie, then the highest rated Command Structure will break the time.  Otherwise, re-roll to see who has initiative.

 Once a command has been identified as having initiative. the player controlling that command now activates each of his units, one at a time, and then plays out all that the unit is doing that turn.

The actions that a unit can do include these:
  • Rally
  • Withdraw (from the battlefield)
  • Move
  • Disengage (from a melee)
  • Shoot
  • Charge
  • Fight a Melee
A move action can be repeated multiple times, but each time after the first, once the move is completed, the unit must pass a discipline test, or the unit is Disordered.  If the unit is trying to contact the enemy, the last move action is considered a Charge, and certain rules affect it (the rolling of an additional charge bonus distance; the possible reactions of the target of the charge).

The rulebook describes how to handle these actions, but many of them will allow for the opposing player to engage in a Reaction.  In this way, the turn is integrated, and both players are involved throughout.

The reactions allowed are these:

WithdrawOpp Fire or Opp Charge
MoveOpp Fire or Opp Charge
ChargeOpp Fire, Def Fire, or Countercharge
ShootOpp Fire or Opp Charge

The reaction can only be against the unit that enabled the reaction.  So that if I move my Pike & Musket unit, and it comes close enough to an enemy unit that it can Opportunity Fire, it can only do so vs. the unit (my Pike & Musket unit) that triggered it.

In addition to the Reactions listed, many units may also Evade.

If more than one unit can React to an acting unit, only one may be selected to React.

If a reacting unit decides to Opportunity Charge, it may hit a different target unit, if such is in the way of the movement of the Opportunity Charging unit.

So, the turn is quite interesting, as the player who has initiative has to decide if his actions are worth doing, if they may trigger some reaction by the enemy.

All movement and movement bonus amounts are given in multiples of the BU (Baroque Unit).  USUALLY but not always, foot are 1BU and mounted are 2BU, but there are exceptions.  For instance, on the 30YW German Catholic army included in the rulebook, there are infantry musket units called Schutzen.  They have a move of 2BU.

Units may be classed as either Fast or Slow (but not all units are - most are average).  A Fast Unit has a benefit to the discipline test after second or subsequent movement orders (meaning it is easier for Fast units to do more than one move order).  A Slow Unit is the opposite - there is a penalty to the discipline test after performing additional move orders.

The movement rules cover interpenetration, maneuver and wheeling, obstacles and terrain, and how to handle the charge bonus (which is given in BUs of course).

Shooting is handled by rolling a number of dice equal to the shooting unit's VBU (Basic Unit Value, recall that the acronym VBU is from the Italian, not English version of the rules).  That number gives a basic number of dice for shooting, which is modified by a Range chart.  The range bands are Point Blank (1BU), Short (2BU), Long (4BU), and Extreme (8BU).  Most hand weapons (bow, musket, pistol, etc) have a maximum range of either short or long.  The firing table in the book gives you a number of extra dice that you gain, or lose, at different range bands, based on your weapon type.

The dice are rolled, and modified by situations (first volley, shooting while moving, shot modifier for mixed infantry units, etc).  Each 6 causes a DAMAGE (a hit), and every pair of 5s causes a hit.  Count up all the hits (total Damage), and then the target unit makes a Cohesion test, to see if the Damage tranlates into Losses.

Damage is not permanent, but is only a modifier to the Cohesion Test.  For every point that a unit misses it's Critical Number (which is the VBU of the unit, minus the Damage it took), it takes a reduction to it's VBU.  So if the Critical Number is (as an example) 2, and the Cohesion Dice Test comes up a 4, the unit would take a permanent Loss of -2 to it's VBU. If a unit has it's VBU reduced to 0, it routs immediately and is removed from the table.

If a unit passes the Cohesion test, it takes no Losses, but does suffer Disorder.  A disordered unit that AGAIN is disordered, will instead take a VBU loss.

The book gives rules for commanders being hit, arc of fire, reduced effect firing (like into terrain, or blocked) and discusses particulars for artillery, pistols, and defensive & opportunity fire.

Fighting the melee is similar to shooting.  Once two units are engaged and fighting (there are rules determining charge effects, flank charges, melee modifiers for certain unit types and situations, etc.), each will roll it's allowed number of dice (VBU plus or minus modifiers). A gain, 6s and 5s are the dice that cause damage.

Once again, there is a roll to see if the damage translates into permanent Losses (i.e. a Cohesion test).

Following the melee, and determining results, there are rules determining retreats and pursuits, and how they are evaluated.

Rules are given for commander casualties, and also for mixed (i.e. multi unit) melees.

Skirmishers that are hit in the open by formed units do not fight, but are immediately dispersed (remove from the table).  Again, there are rules covering melee and Artillery, and Baggage trains.

The rest of the rulebook covers special rules, setting up battles, and a number of army lists.  These will be covered in Part III.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Getting familiar with Baroque (part I)

The term Renaissance as a period is one which has been responsible for a lot of ink - in both history circles, as well as by wargamers.  Going with the various articles published here at Gaming with Chuck over the years, I am going to (vaguely) take it to represent warfare (typically, but not exclusively) dealing with Western Europe (and the border regions of Western Europe - say with the growing powers in the south and the east).  As far as time periods go, I am going to limit myself with the 16th and 17th centuries (so, roughly, from 1500-1700AD).

There is a lot going on in other parts of the world, and the study of conflicts there is equally worthy of wargaming (in fact, I have even published a set of rules for the Samurai battles in Japan (From the Sky we Came) which covered the Sengoku period, up until the battle of Sekigahara in 1600 AD.  But, that is a different sort of warfare from what I am discussing here.

Here, I am focusing on warfare in Western Europe.  These are the conflicts of the Italian Wars, the wars of religion that grew out of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.  The possible conflict between England and Spain.  The battles of the Spanish Netherlands.  The many conflicts making up both the Thirty Years War and the English Civil Wars (both in the 17th century), and so on.  These battles and wars are marked by several broad features - the presence of gunpowder, the reliance of infantry (in many cases) on pike, the presence of armor (especially, but not only, for mounted units) and the existence of interesting mixed-arms formations (starting with the tercio formations coming out of the Italian Wars, and then moving to the more streamlined pike and musket formations of the 17th century, which eventually gave way to pure musket formations by the end of this period).

I've reviewed, and reported various battles, using several sets of rules for this period.  I have read many, many more.  Lately I have looked into Baroque, from the Italian wargaming company of Dadi & Piombo.

These are an evolution of the Impetus rules for ancient and medieval warfare, published earlier by Dadi & Piombo.  As the cover states, these cover 1550 to 1700.  The earlier Impetus rules overlapped with this period, and the very nice wargame lists they produce on the website have armies up to and including 16th century (including some of the Central American armies - another focus of warfare in this period, but not what I am discussing here).

My recent (the past 2-3 years) renaissance wargaming was with a modified version of the Neil Thomas Renaissance rules, from his "Wargaming: An Introduction" (several convention games, and an Italian Wars scenario).  While they produce a small, and satisfying game, they are a bit limited in troop types, and also in allowable player actions.  While they are excellent for introductory games, and for small convention games (to introduce a period), they don't have the complexity or depth to keep more experienced wargames engaged for long.  On the other hand, these days, I am not a big fan of very complex rules.  While I admire the Field of Glory rules, and their Renaissance version, they are not the rules for me.  Also, while I am a huge fan of the George Gush rules (mentioned here on Gaming with Chuck with some of my other Renaissance rules reviews), they don't play well with a modern audience.  However, I think that Baroque might fill the sweet spot (at least until we try By Fire and Sword).

Unit Types
As mentioned, Baroque covers 1550-1700.  The unit types it features are perfect for representing battlefields in that period.  There are, roughly, two different types of units, plus artillery.

The first type are Mounted Troops, and include several classes of unit -
  • Gallopers - Shock cavalry trained to charge at a gallop, may use a pistol, but more likely to rely on the sword or lance.  
  • Trotters - Cavalry that charge at a trot.  These almost always will be pistol armed, and will discharge those during the slower charge, to follow up with contact by sword.
  • Reiters - These are pistol armed (and perhaps heavily armored) cavalry, the prefer to not close to contact - but instead will keep their distance, and employ pistol tactics, like the Caracole maneuver.
  • Sipahis - Eastern cavalry, usually armed with missile weapons.  Sometimes present in large units (treated as a 'Massed Unit').
  • Light Cavalry - These are fast, skirmish cavalry, often armed with missile weapons.  
  • Horse & Musket - In the later part of this period, some trotter units will have integrated foot musketeers, for greater strength on engaging the enemy in fire combat.  This is a mixed unit with mounted and foot soldiers in the same unit.
The second type are Foot Troops, which also include several classes of unit -
  • Pike & Musket - This is the mixed unit of pikemen and musketeers made popular with the advent of more, and more reliable, hand weapons that use gunpowder.  Because a portion of the unit is armed with pikes, this reduces firepower, but also provides a strong deterrent to cavalry, and the ability to hit other infantry in contact. 
  • Early Tercio - This is very, very deep unit, coming out of the 16th century, with some integrated shot troops.  Because of its extreme depth, and training in deployment, it is almost impossible to gain a flank advantage against this unit, but it is extremely vulnerable to artillery.
  • Later Tercio - Not as deep as the earlier tercio, and sometimes employing a higher ratio of shot troops, the Later Tercio is almost as flexible as the Pike & Musket unit, but still a bit more unwieldy.  It is not as well protected on the flanks and rear as the Early Tercio, but it has enough shot troops posted there that it can give fire out of those aspects of the formation.
  • Pikemen - Deep formations of only pikemen, without integrated shot troops.  These are popular in the earlier part of the period by those nations fielding pikemen, but not employing the Tercio.
  • Irregular Infantry - These are (sometimes) fierce hand to hand fighters.  Sometimes they are equipped with missile weapons.  Sometimes they appear in large units (treated as a 'Massed Unit').  But they are not the disciplined mixed units listed above.
  • Shooters - As with Pikemen units, these are from the earlier part of the period before the mixed units took over - these are units of purely missile armed soldiers.
  • Skirmishers - Light troops, sometimes armed with good quality firearms, designed to skirmish with the enemy.
  • Dragoons - These are mounted infantry, armed with missile weapons.  They combine the faster maneuverability of mounted troops, with the ability of infantry to provide good missile fire.
Other classes of tabletop units -
  • Artillery is available.  In this  period, as the science of artillery is being developed, there is a bewildering constellation of different types of guns, calibers, firing mechanisms, etc.  These are all simplified in the rules to light, medium or heavy batteries.  And further, they are classed as either Cannons (firing a relative flat trajectory), and Howitzers (firing a high arcing shot).
  • Commanders - The army will be divided up into a handful (usually 3 or 4) of commands (or brigades).  Each of these has a commander.  One of these commanders will be the General (or commander in chief).  A commander can be attached (if he wishes) to any non-artillery unit in his command.  the commander-in-chief can be attached (if he wishes) to any non-artillery unit in the entire army.
  • Baggage - All armies have immobile baggage.  The baggage may be Fortified or Not.
Measurements in the Game
Battlefield measurements in the game are measured (and listed on the charts) in terms of BU, or  'Baroque Units' - so named to distinguish them from the basic unit of measure from Impetus, which was the Unit, or U.  In Baroque, the BU is equal to half the frontage of a standard unit (which is always 12cm).  So, a BU is 6cm.  Speaking of unit frontage...

Unit basing
For 15mm, the standard unit frontage is 12cm.  Which is perfect for me, as my units are based on standard 4cm wide bases.  So three bases wide, makes a unit.  For Pike & Musket units that is perfect - a stand of pikes in the middle, flanked by two stands of muskets - looks great.

Using larger one piece bases would be nice, but I don't want to rebase my renaissance wargaming armies.

The depth of the units varies, with the deepest being the Early Tercio - it is 12cm deep.  Since I mount my pikes in two ranks on a 3cm deep (or sometimes 4cm deep) stand, it is easy for me to model an Early Tercio - 3 stands wide, and 3 or 4 stands deep(!) - but it is the biggest unit in the game (and was quite large in history too).  A more standard Pike and Musket unit is listed as 4-6cm deep - which means, for me, one or two stands deep for Pikemen in the middle, and two stands deep of Musketeers on the flanks.  Easy, and it looks good.  Cavalry is easier - one rank deep.  Massed Mounted units are two ranks deep.

I'll follow this article up in Part II with a discussion of the turn sequence, and basic game structure.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Saga - and the Dark Ages

Just a quick note - we (myself and the members of ODMS local to Hampton Roads, Virginia) have been playing a lot of SAGA lately (2nd edition).  One of our members has even started a very nice SAGA campaign.

In that campaign, I am playing an Anglo Saxon contingent, with Wulfric of Kent as the faction leader.

But, one of the things that is exciting, is the rekindling of interest in Dark Ages history, within the club.

It got me to thinking about some of the early dark ages articles I wrote last year.  I am thinking of creating SAGA boards for some of them - based on some that do exist (some in Aetius & Arthur), such as the Franks, Goths, Carolingians and others.

posting from GwC HQ, hidden in the Lake Maury Forest, with a view of the verge

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.