Monday, April 29, 2013

19th Century Imaginations - Fictional Naval Forces

I have been building up some fictional navies, using balsa wood and other materials, in order to fight out a series of Naval engagements between my two fictional foes from Balkania.  The nations of Furstenberg and Rumpwhistle share some very large common rivers, and both maintain a (second rate) navy during the 1870s, when they were engaged in the 23 Weeks War.

Here are some pictures, along with notes, showing the progress of my modeling efforts.
Battleships on the left, and Armored Cruisers on the right and in the rear

The four Furstenberg Battleships, in the picture above, are all from the Queen class of battleships.  These were large, masted vessels, like the HMS Warrior from Great Britain, that were fitted out with steam power, and heavy guns on the gun decks.  The Queen class consists of "Queen of the May" (launched 1857), "Queen Guinevere" (1859), and the two twin queens, "Queen Titania" and "Queen Gloriana" (both launched 1863).

On the right, are three of the Furstenberg Armored Cruiser class.  These were high-sided armored ships, although with wooden frames and decks.  They feature steam power alone (no masts, never constructed for sail), and two large turrets.  The front two are from the Pest class, including (front) the "Junebug" (1869), and behind her, the "Weevil" (1870).  Behind those two, an older design, from the first class of armored cruisers, the Hound class, it is the "Moondog" (1859).

Armored Cruisers, and unique Rumpwhistle Battleships on the right
In this picture, we see four of the newest battleships in Balkania, these were built in Rumpwhistle after the popular Admiral's revolution of the 1850s, and exhibit the latest doctrines of the revolution in their design.
  The Admiral's revolution was such that, because no single Canton could afford their own Battleships, and because these were such prestigious vessels, that a Citizen's Counsel of 13 Captains, one from each Canton, would together control each Battleship.
At the aft of each battleship, you can note the massive, round cabin, where the Counsel of Citizen-Captains dwell, and hold their meetings about how to run the ship.  The ships, from front to rear, are the "Longinus", "Ephialtes", "Iscariot" and "Guy Fawkes".  Being rather forward thinking, and embracing progress, the Revolutionary Government decided that during actions, the Counsel would be reduced to a wieldy Three Citizen-Captains to facilitate quick decisions and decisive action.  Several older Armored Cruisers are to the left, and these are (in capability) very similar to those of Furstenberg

Here we see three of the Furstenberg battleships in Line Ahead formation.  In the back, rear, of the shot you can see some of the recently re-based Cavalry of both Furstenberg and Rumwhistle.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wargaming Wednesdays - Current projects

So, I don't have anything finished this week to post, so I thought it would be a good time to talk about various projects I have cooking along.

At the top of the list are the various projects related to my interest in the fictional wargaming setting, Balkania.  I have several imaginary nations devised, and they interact with several others of some good friends of mine.  Two of the countries I have detailed are Furstenberg and Rumpwhistle, who are (it seems) almost constantly at a state of war with each other.  So I have been working on 19th century troops to get ready to fight some solo battles (the string of actions making up the Maduro Valley campaign, in the 23 Weeks War).  I have the infantry for both sides, and the cavalry for Furstenberg, already based up and ready to go.  I have finished painting and grassing the bases for Furstenberg Infantry and Cavalry, and for the Rumpwhistle Infanty.  I have to still do the R. cavalry, and artillery for both F. and R.  I have been tinkering with a set of rules that favors "fieldcraft" or some other name, for a capability of troops to work in rough going.  The 23 Weeks War was characterized by being fought almost entirely in very rough country, and I thought it would be good to have a set of rules that modeled a rewarding battle outcome for the troops who could take advantage of such countryside.  Troops almost done, rules in progress.

Simultaneously I have begun modeling a couple of fleets of transition era 19th century fleets, to play out some of the naval battles between Furstenberg, Rumpwhistle and the Urbik pirates.  These are progressing, and I am starting to paint up the battleships and armored cruisers - pictures soon.  Rules already posted to this blog, although some modifications are coming, based on playtest with cardboard ships.

My spring semester is almost finished, and summer is coming.  I hope to do some solo Fantasy wargaming, using Hordes of the Things, and a bunch of armies I have painted up already.  Working on an activation system sort of like Commands & Colors, but for HOTT.  Maybe, maybe not.

I would like to get some of my troops for either Shieldwall or Age of Arthur begun.  They have been burning a hole in my collection catalog, watiing to be painted for several years now, a project I started and then put on hold when I was finishing my PhD, several years ago.

I would like to get troops finished and mounted for some 1700 action, again using imaginary nations from Balkania (Poppenheim and Bombastia). This action would mimic the Great Northern War, mostly, but without the addition of Piles.  I have a copy of Under the Lily Banners that I would really like to try.

OGRE/GEV mini campaign.  I started this, but I put it on hold, waiting (waiting...) for the new version of OGRE to ship.  It will have all the maps in it that I could ever want to use for the campaign, so that eliminates the need for me to do my own.  I could use the maps from Shockwave, or Reinforcements, to work this one out, but I would rather wait for the new system.

Commands & Colors: Napoleonics - I would like to pay some battles of this - either solo or via Vassal, over the summer.

World at War - I would like to get some of the add-ons to this, and play through some of the campaign type battles in the Gamer's Guide, and some of the other supplements.  On my to-acquire list are 1st Panzer, and also Blood & Bridges.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Traveller Tuesdays - Bonus Edition - 19th Century Army characters

[This is a bonus edition of Traveller Tuesdays, but since I have missed so many Tuesdays lately, I didn't think it would matter.]

Okay, so after doing some fiddling with the tables, here are the charts for a 19th century Army character generation sequence (based on the Mongoose edition of Classic Traveller):

Personal Development (unchanged):
  1. +1 Str
  2. +1 Dex
  3. +1 End
  4. Gambler
  5. Medic
  6. Melee (unarmed)

Service Skills
  1. Animal (any)
  2. Athletics (any)
  3. Gun Combat (19th Century)
  4. Fieldcraft
  5. Melee (any)
  6. Heavy Weapons (19th Century)

Advanced Education (Edu 8+ only)

  1. Signals
  2. Fieldcraft
  3. Navigation
  4. Explosives
  5. Engineer
  6. Survival

Officer Skills (Commissioned Only)

  1. Tactics (military)
  2. Leadership
  3. Advocate
  4. Diplomat
  5. Tactics (military)
  6. Admin

Specialist: Support
  1. Signals
  2. Fieldcraft
  3. Vehicles (19th Century)
  4. Explosives
  5. Animals (Veterinary)
  6. Medic

Specialist: Infantry
  1. Gun Combat (19th Century)
  2. Melee (any)
  3. Heavy Weapons (19th Century)
  4. Stealth
  5. Athletics (any)
  6. Recon

Specialist: Cavalry
  1. Signals
  2. Animal (any)
  3. Animal (any)
  4. Recon
  5. Heavy Weapons (19th Century)
  6. Fieldcraft

New Skills
Gun Combat (19th Century) - The player may choose one of the following:
  • Slug Rifle - modern breech loaders and repeaters
  • Slug Pistol - revolvers
  • Shotgun
  • Archaic Firearm - muzzle loaders, arquebus, etc

Heavy Weapons (19th Century) - The player may choose one of the following:
  • Machine Guns - includes gatling guns, the nordenfeldt, the pom-pom gun, etc
  • Field Artillery

Vehicles (19th Century) - The player may choose one of the following:
  • Flyer: Lighter-than-Air Craft
  • Drive (Steam Locomotive)
  • Seafarer (Any)

Traveller Tuesdays - Changes to Character Generation for 19th Century Characters

So, I have been thinking about how to use Traveller in order to generate characters that could populate a fictional gaming universe set in the 19th century.  I began with looking at the ARMY career generation tables.

It appears as if all is well, there, with the exception of two skills.  COMMS and SENSORS.  So I have come up with two alternatives.

Instead of COMMS, whenever it appears on the character generation chart, replace it with the skill SIGNALS (new).  And whenever SENSORS appears, replace it with FIELDCRAFT.

Here are the two new skills (they both are cascade skills).

Signals - The character has the ability to send and receive signals using pre-radio systems.  Choose one of the following Specialties, expertise in one grants familiarity in the others:
  • Semaphore - the character is expert in sending and receiving visual signals using based on a color and position based code, such as hand flags, or much larger semaphore towers.
  • Optical - the character is expert in sending and receiving light based messages, such as with the use of reflected sunlight (using a heliograph) or with the use of signal lamps, such as on a ship.
  • Audio - the character is expert in sending and receiving signals over a pre-radio wire based electronic system where audible signals are sent from one station to another, such as with Morse code.

Fieldcraft - The character has the ability to support military operations that take place in a wilderness, away from urban support systems.  Choose one of the following Specialties, expertise in one grants familiarity in the others:
  • Tracking - the character is expert at following tracks and trails left in the wilderness.  Note this is not useful, nor transferable, to urban or indoor settings.
  • Scouting - moving undetected through a wilderness setting, and making a military assessment of forces and emplacements that can be observed. Similar to Recon but specialized for a wilderness setting.
  • Fieldworks - the character is expert in constructing wilderness based engineering projects, typically of a military value.  This may include log forts, earthworks trenches and earthen gun emplacements.
  • Camouflage - similar to the Stealth skill, but rather than applying to the character himself, the camouflage skill allows the character to be expert at hiding military emplacements, or small troop movements that can be less well detected.  Again, this is only applicable in a wilderness setting.

Update Army career, mustering out, and events tables will follow.  This is getting exciting.

Monday, April 15, 2013

19th Century Imaginations - Characters in wargames for imaginary nations

So, every since Tony Bath's Hyboria Campaign (see Rudi Geuden's great page on the topic), the idea of generating personalities for the various rulers and personalities in the fictional kingdoms an empires involved in wargaming has sort of "stuck".  One of the things pointed out in the three part article on the Hyboria Campaign over at Hill Cantons is that Tony's campaign never was a roleplaying campaign, and although the setting was fantastic, there were no non-earthly elements to it (no overt magic, no spell casters, no fantasty races, etc).  This makes it (as it always has been) the perfect Ur-example of a historical fiction based wargaming campaign from a fantasy setting, but without fantasy elements.  You know - Imagi-Nations.

Then along came Role Playing Games, where creating characters became a scientific art (or an artistic science, but whatever - you get the idea).  Lots of creativity, yes, but also lots and lots of rules and structure.

For a wargaming campaign setting, however, I don't believe you NEED to know the minutiae of all that, in order to have compelling characters.  A short run down of capabilities and motives is all that is required.  The system that Howard Whitehouse devised for his terrific game of British Imperial forces vs. the forces of the Mahdi - "Science vs. Pluck" is perfect.  It gives some background to the character, an indicator of general experience, and some specific traits.

And still . . .

Since I DO have role-playing in my blood I think it might be nice to see what specifics each character might have.  So I have been thinking about a role-playing system (it has to be simple, relatively speaking) that might foot the bill.

The first that comes to mind, especially given that I am dealing with the second half of the 19th century, is of course Space:1889, that wonderful tour de force from Frank Chadwick, back when one of the greatest gaming companies of all time was still in existence - Game Designer's Workshop.  The strengths of the system are (1) it is simple, (2) if individual combat (for duels, or assassinations, or whatever) is required, then it is easy to adjudicate, (3) it is made for the Victorian Milieu, and (4) It does have a nice NPC motivation generator.  In fact, I have used Space:1889 character generation in concert with that found in "Science vs. Pluck" in the past, and it works extremely well together.  The drawback - since the skill system and statistic system is so simple, there just simply are too many similarities among the characters.  Still, it might work, it might work.

The second one that comes to mind, is the D6 system, especially close to the original West End Games version of the Star Wars Role-Playing Game.  This works well, has a nice system that I like (and it is not TOO much different from the Space:1889 adjudication system, not too close either, making it a nice alternative to consider) for skills and combat, and is easy to understand characters from, even if you are not conversant in the rules.  However . . . This one would require a lot of work on my part to create character templates, I think. I'll have to take a closer look. One of the neat things, however, is the vast number of different settings that the D6 system has been applied to, not least of all the marvelous Pulp games that Peter Schweighofer and his publishing company, Griffon Publishing Studio.
Finally, the third one that comes to mind is a game that is based on a cultural world much like that late 19th century, albeit in a pure science fiction environment.  That is Classic Traveller (or more accurately, Classic Traveller as it has been re-envisioned and re-packaged by Mongoose).  This one has all the character types I need - Army officers, Navy officers, Spys, Nobles, Diplomats, Barbarians, Scientists, etc.  It has a great stat/skill system, and a wonderfully non-complicated system for skills and combat.  Unfortunately, inherent in the skill system, are a number of different skills that are Specifically for high-tech science fiction settings (this is appropriate, of course).  And, there is not the clear cut personality attribute generator that exists for both Space:1889 and Science vs. Pluck.  However . . . since neither of those systems has anything to do with the actual statistic or rules system - the could easily be transplanted to Traveller.

So - which one to pick?  As Sherlock Holmes would put it, this is definitely a three-pipe problem.  I'll get right onto smoking those pipes, and come up with a solution, and then start posting here on my decision, along with some game charts to make whichever I choose work for the Balkanian games I work on.

Friday, April 5, 2013

19th Century Imaginations - Rules for Naval Battles

Here are some simple rules for playing 19th Century (Transition era) naval actions. This is the age of the 1850s-1870s when ships still were mast rigged, but had steam power as well. Ironclads are covered as well.
Furstenberg vs. Rumpwhistle in the 23 Weeks War

  1. Ships come in two sizes, big and medium. Which, to show off our saltiness, we can call Battleship (or Ship of the Line) for Big, and Cruiser (or Frigate) for medium.

  2. All ships may move under Steam or under Sail.

  3. All ships have two types of hit points - Hull and Mast. These are divided up into three divisions each.

  4. Battleships have three mast divisions, each taking 5 points of damage. They have three hull divisions, each taking 12 points of damage.

  5. Cruisers have three mast divisions, each taking 4 points of damage. They have three hull divisions, each taking 8 points of damage.

  6. Sail movement - The ship may roll 1d6 for each (whole or partial) mast division they have left.

    1. The ship may choose to roll few dice, but must move all that they roll.

    2. The ship moves forward (without turning) the distance of one dice at a time, Captain's choice.

    3. After moving ahead, the ship may make a turn - Battleship, up to 45 degrees; Cruiser up to 90 degrees.

    4. Vagueness of sail movement is preserved, without worrying about wind gauge, sail setting, etc - boring things that landlubbers THINK we salty captains care about.

  7. Steam movement - The ship moves a standard amount, and may make a turn every 4". The number of inches varies based on how many hull divisions the ship has left.

    1. If the ship has three hull divisions left (whole or partial) then it may move a total of 16".

    2. If the ship has two hull divisions left, then it may move a total of 8".

    3. If the ship has only one hull division left, it may not move via Steam.

    4. Turns (every 4") are as per sail movement - Battleships 45 degrees; Cruisers 90 degrees.

  8. Steam engine clouds - Regardless of how far a steam fired ship moves, it leaves a thick cloud over the second half of its movement distance. This remains for two turns.

  9. Shooting - Ships may shoot at anyone within range. Battleships have 24" range; Cruisers have 18" range. A target is declared, dice are rolled, hits are recorded.

    1. Battleships roll 5 dice per hull division they have left (whole or damaged); Cruisers roll 3 dice per hull division that they have left.

    2. A target vessel is nominated before rolling, also announce if firing is Regular, High, or Low. Each division of a firing ship may choose a different target.

    3. Regular fire - Roll dice, every 6 scores a Mast hit; every 1 scores a Hull hit.

    4. High fire - Roll dice, every 6+ scores a Mast hit. Half of the 1s rolled score Hull Hits (round up), then reroll the other 1s, this time adding +1 to each die.

    5. Low Fire - Roll dice, every 1- scores a Hull hit. Half of the 6s rolled score Mast hits (round up), then reroll the other 6s, this time subtracting -1 to each die.

  10. Damage - All damage (either hulls or masts) goes against one division completely, until that division is gone, and so forth. No splitting it up.

    1. Ships that have lost all three Hull divisions have sunk.

    2. Ships that have not sunk are towed home by the victor of the battle.

    3. Damaged ships may completely repair one division (hull or mast) per week in a port.

  11. Visibility - Ships moving under Steam (i.e. - those with Coal Smoke) lose 1d6 off the total they can roll to shoot with, per division.

    1. Cruisers cannot trace a line of fire through a Battleship.

    2. All other combinations are possible (battleship firing past anything, or cruiser firing past cruiser).

    3. No ship can see past smoke to fire.

  12. Ramming - If a ship model can move into another ship model, then the chance for a ram occurs.

    1. Roll 1d6 - on a 1,2,3 the ram actually occurs.

    2. If the ram does not occur, move the moving ship past the other ship.

    3. If a ram occurs, roll all the firing dice that the ship doing the ramming has available to it - i.e. an undamaged Battleship would have 15 dice; a Cruiser missing one hull division would have 6 dice; etc.

    4. All 1s rolled do one point of hull damage to the Ramming ship, all 5s and 6s rolled do one point of damage to the ship being rammed.

  13. The Torpedo - Cruisers carry one torpedo, Battleships carry two. They are quite unreliable.

    1. A torpedo has 12" range.

    2. A stationary ship (one that has not moved this turn), or a ship under Steam power may fire a torpedo.

    3. Nominate a target, if a Battleship fires both of her torpedoes on the same turn, they must be at different targets.

    4. Roll 1d6, on a 1 it strikes the target, on a 2-6, it is lost forever.

    5. Roll 10d6 on a successful hit, all dice scoring 5,6 will do one hull point of damage.

  14. Troops - Battleships may carry two units of troops. Cruisers may carry only one unit of troops.

    1. For these purposes an artillery unit counts as half of a unit. Cavalry units count as two units.

    2. A ship may send units ashore, or collect them again, via boats, if they are within 6" of the shoreline.

    3. A unit disembarking or embarking troops via boats may not move during the entire turn of the operation.

    4. The troops must begin their move at the shore's edge if embarking; they finish their move at the shore's edge if they have been disembarked.

  15. Shore guns - Shore batteries may fire at Ships, and be fired at.

    1. Shore guns have 24" range, and roll 4d6 per battery. They may only fire normal.

    2. Guns in batteries may be targeted by ships. Each battery takes 2 points of damage to be destroyed. Once the ship fires, each dice does a point of damage to a shore gun on a 6.

    3. If the shore battery is in stoneworks (harbor fort, etc), then reroll each 6, and only the second set of 6s will score hits.

    4. For these rules shore batteries typically are either Small (2 batteries), Medium (3 batteries), or Large (4 batteries).

  16. Ironclad vessels - The ships described so far are transition ships - still mast rigged, with with steam power included. There are also Ironclad vessels.

    1. Ironclads are neither Battleships nor Cruisers, but a different class of vessel.

    2. Ironclads do not have Mast divisions. They do have three Hull divisions, of 8 points each.

    3. Ironclads may only move via steam power. They may move 12" if they have all three hull divisions left, and only 6" if they have two divisions left. Once they are down to one division, they may not move.

    4. Ironclads have two turrets, each rolling 6d6 to fire. Each turret may target a different target. They may not fire High or Low, only regular.

    5. Once an Ironclad has only two hull divisions left, it may only fire one turret. Once it is down to one hull division, it may not fire.

    6. Mast hits scored against an Ironclad miss. Hull hits scored against an Ironclad must reroll. Reroll all hull hits scored, and only on 5s and 6s do they actually do damage.

    7. Ironclads that are ramming wooden ships do not take damage. Ironclads rammed by wooden ships, or by other Ironclads do take damage.

    8. Ironclads have one torpedo.

    9. Torpedos fired against the Ironclad actually hit on a 1 or 2 (because of the poor handling of the target, not because of magnetic homing).

  17. Fighting Battles - Set up the playing surface. Shorelines, shore batteries, and shoals should be clearly marked.

    1. Battleships may not move over shoals. If they do, they take 1d6 worth of hull points.

    2. At the start of each turn, each Admiral rolls 1d6. A legendary admiral adds +1, the side with more ships trailing smoke (i.e. moving under steam) subtracts -1. The high score has initiative.

    3. The Admiral with initiative decides to move first or second. When a player moves, they move all their units.

    4. Once both sides have moved, Shooting is simultaneous. The side with initiative resolves their shooting first (i.e. declare targets, roll for damage, etc - but all damage takes effect simultaneously).

    5. If a ship is of Poor quality (as per scenario or campaign) then the first time it takes damage, immediately roll 1d6. On a 1 or 2 it strikes its colors, and does not take a further role in the battle. Otherwise it is okay.

    6. Once one side or the other has lost Half of their vessels (a vessel is considered "lost" if it is down to only one Hull division, regardless of its fighting ability), that side must begin rolling Morale at the end of each turn.

    7. Roll 1d6 for morale. On a 1 or 2, the side surrenders, and the other side is the victor. If the side rolling for morale has a Legendary Admiral, subtract one from the roll. If the other side has a Legendary Admiral, then add one to the roll.

    8. To handle smoke,  use two different colored pom pom balls, Gray and Black.  After all the ships on your side move, remove all Gray pom pom balls that belong to you (i.e. were placed by your ships).  Then replace all Black pom pom balls with Gray ones.  Then place new Black pom pom balls behind the second half of movement of your Steam powered vessels.