Capital /Coruscant News Network (CNN) – Emperor Palapatine proclaimed a Week of Celebration today following the news the devious rebel alliance was crushed by loyal forces of the Empire in the Ryloth System. An Imperial Navy news release stated, “The upstart rebellion, those miscreants who talked of law and order but were actually forces of anarchy, met their end in the Ryloth System when Imperial Navy and Army forces led by Grand Moff Tarkin and Lord Vader discovered their secret base and utterly destroyed it.” Grand Moff Tarkin himself was quoted as saying, “The more we tightened our grip, the fewer systems slipped through our fingers.”
Sources tell CNN that forces under General Veers originally tracked the rebels to Yavin, but the rebels escaped at the last minute. “The pursuit necessitated subjugating several systems, like Kashyyyk, which was in total rebellion. The indigenous Wookies, who refused to culturally assimilate into the Galactic Order, were dealt with severely, but fairly,” according to a staff officer of who was not authorized to talk on the record. (Several million Wookies were unavailable for comment.)
Meantime, confusion continues with regards to the Bothawui System. Rumors persist that Bothawui suffered a “serious seismic event” that resulted in the catastrophic destruction of the entire planet. The Imperial Palace itself denies any knowledge of what actually happened, although the social media network Gliiter continues to carry a ‘gleet attributed to Emperor Palapatine himself in which he says, “BOOM! FULLY OPERATIONAL!” Amateur hyperspace trackers also report that the unfortunate event was preceded by the arrival of Imperial Battlestation #1, more commonly called Death Star, which may have been present for the destruction of the planet. (Imperial Navy HQ was queried about these reports but CNN was advised to submit a Freedom of Information Act request, which was subsequently denied.)
In celebrity news, Lord Vader was sighted with a strapping young man dressed in all black and carrying his own “light saber.” Gossip is that the young gent, known as Luke to to his oldest friends, hails from Tatooine. The always secretive Lord Vader also has not commented on several HoloTube vids that surfaced recently where Luke is overheard addressing Lord Vader as “father.”
In other news from Tatooine, Jabba the Hutt announced a new exhibition called “Smugglers in Carbonite.” He also invites all to see the latest sexy accessory in his entourage, the former Princess Leia of Alderaan.
ON A RAINY DAY CLOSING OUT THE LAST WEEKEND OF THE YEAR, I decided to go old school (sorta) and play a more classic hex & counter wargame. Searching my shelves, I pulled down WW2 Deluxe: European Theater from Canvas Temple Publishing in 2018. The CTP motto is, “Old codgers trying to retire!” and their designs reflect a desire to satisfy “more senior” wargamers with larger counters with larger fonts. As CTP says themselves:
We at Canvas Temple have been at this a long time; designing and playing wargames. The youngest of us has been playing over 35 years. Like many old-school wargamers, our eyesight has declined, our fingers have become fumbly, and our time has become scarce.
So we decided to make the perfect wargame for us old timers. A grand strategic game that is big in scope (and in lettering!) that can be played in an evening. Utilizing 3/4″ counters, a full-sized map with giant hexes, and a tried and tested game system that approaches its subject with enough abstraction to keep the game tight, but just enough detail to do justice to history and create an array of complex decisions.
Another World War II
My World War II started off with a mostly historical situation in 1939. In WW2 Deluxe you can start some setup variations possible. In this game, the Axis started with the historical setup (Panzer Divisions at full strength) whereas the Allies were joined by a Republican Spain (can join the Allies starting in Winter 1940, automatically once the USSR joins the war; Portugal may also be Allied). The Fall 1939 turn (each turn is a season) saw the historical German conquest of Poland. Winter 1940 saw the Germans shift to the French frontier and the invasion started in Spring 1940. Maybe the Germans should have waited; although they blew thru the Ardennes and besieged Paris, the British were able to bring reinforcements to the continent. Summer 1940 saw Paris fall to the Germans only to be heroically retaken by a reduced 1st French Armor**. In the course of retaking Paris an entire German armor unit was destroyed and an infantry reduced. Of course, lots of RAF support also helped the French defenders as the Luftwaffe suffered terribly in air-to-air combat. Fall 1940 saw new German armor drive on Paris and retake the city, only to be ejected once again. Meanwhile, in the south of France, the Italians had joined the fight and took Toulon, robbing the French of one Production Point and thus making them dependent upon US Lend Lease aid if they want to rebuild lost armor or air units. A German offensive drive against Paris in Winter 1941 fell short and the Germans went over to the defensive in Spring and Summer 1941 as rumblings from the Eastern Front started to become alarming.
That really was the end of the war for Germany. As fast as the Germans tried to rebuild they had lost too much with the failed campaign against France. When the Soviet Union entered the war it was Operation Bagration – in 1942. With a toehold on the Continent (remember, both France and Spain were part of the Allies) the Americans didn’t need a Normandy invasion to get to the battle. Italy fell in 1943 and by the time Spring 1945 arrived it was an Allied Major Victory with a much reduced Germany remaining the sole Axis Major or Minor power still standing.
The Armored Action phase of a turn where Armor gets another movement and combat phase is very evocative of the era. The Blitzkrieg is real!
Aircraft are so powerful with a Strategic Warfare role and air combat for land and sea. The RAF dominated the French Campaign and the Luftwaffe was swept from the skies leading to Paris surviving and France not falling.
I underplayed my naval forces. The Battle of the Atlantic took place but the Germans had to focus on rebuilding lost ground forces to defend the Fatherland. The U-Boat campaign never really got going and the Germans never deployed enough submarines to seriously threaten either Lend Lease or the movement of US troops to Europe. The British controlled the Mediterranean and enjoyed strategic mobility against the soft underbelly of Europe.
WW2 Deluxe: European Theater is a fun afternoon’s diversion. With a relatively simple set of rules you can refight the European Theater in just a few hours. My game took about three hours although the first 75 minutes or so decided the war. In addition to the 1939 setup, there are six other scenarios that start at various points of the war. Fall Gelb and Weserubung (Spring 1940) is the historical invasion of France. Barbarossa and Battleaxe (Summer 1941) is the historical German invasion of the Soviet Union and the British defense of North Africa. Fall Blau and Torch (Summer 1942) looks at that pivotal period while Citadel and Avalanche (Summer 1943) starts with those two offensives. Overlord and Bagration (Summer 1944) is followed by Wacht Am Rhein (Winter 1945) for the final showdown. Any of those could be interesting and well worth another afternoon of play.
Kudos to John Compton of CTP for a very simple, yet highly enjoyable, old school wargame design. WW2 Deluxe: European Theater, though a newer title, is a perfect old school renaissance wargame and rightly deserves a place in both my game collection and on the gaming table.
** Looks like I misplayed this whole game! Rule 12.2 Vichy France and Free France states, “The instant the Axis captures Paris, France is conquered and Vichy France is created.” Oh well, my play was still enjoyable. I haven’t cleared it off the table yet so a reset and some evening play sessions seem called for now!
In the wake of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, a complex web of interlocking treaties led to powers both great and small taking sides in the Great War. Belgium, however, declared its neutrality. German war plans against France called for an invasion through Belgium, and they demanded free passage. When the Belgians refused, the Germans invaded…
Brave Little Belgium recreates this dramatic early campaign of the First World War in a lightning-quick introductory wargame with plenty of challenges for both sides. As the German Player, you must smash through the enemy’s defenses as quickly as possible, relentlessly advancing. But push your men too hard, and they might commit atrocities that will rally world opinion against you. As the Entente Player, you must stage a desperate defense against overwhelming odds. When and where to fall back, and where to take a stand, are decisions of vital importance.
Combat is fast and streamlined, while a clever take on chit-pull activations creates moments of tension and uncertainty. The result is an engaging wargame for new recruits and grognards alike from first-time designers and longtime friends Ryan Heilman and Dave Shaw.
I recently have been very taken with chit-activation wargames which was part of the reason I picked up this game. In my first solo play the chit-pull mechanic certainly made it solo friendly, but that same mechanic also introduced a classic friction and fog-of-war into the campaign. A little bit of a push-your-luck mechanism also fit the theme to a tee.
Let me be clear from the beginning; Brave Little Belgium is an excellent game. I tip my hat to designers Ryan Heilman (@ryanheilman) and Dave Shaw for taking a single 22″x17″ map, 88 counters, and an eight-page (actually just over six) rule book and making a very tense and exciting game.
Knowing the history and looking at the set up, this looks like it will be a cake-walk for the Germans.
However, once the first movement comes those little lines between boxes suddenly become so restrictive. The straight lines cost 1 MP, the squiggly (“difficult”) cost 2 MP. Infantry can only move two and cavalry four. But it should be alright because the Germans are simply going to sweep across the board, just like the staff planning maps say, right?
This is where the chit-draw mechanic comes in. German armies can move when their chit is drawn. If the three Turn End chits are drawn before all the armies move there is an opportunity for each army to move, but at the risk of an Atrocity – too many atrocities and world opinion hardens against the Kaiser.
In my game, in the early turns the Turn End chits came out early. In order to keep the offensive going, the Germans had to risk Atrocities.
In order to win, the Germans must reduce the forts of Liege and Namur and get an infantry unit across the victory line to the west.
In the mid-game the chit-draws started favoring the Germans. Liege was being ground down while Namur was invested. The German First Army made a dash for Ghent.
The fortresses of Liege and Namur proved very formidable and the Germans threw themselves against the forts with little success. One of the German chits is Big Bertha that deals an automatic hit to a fort. It can be used by an army if it has already been pulled. In a fine example of timing not working right, many times the Big Bertha event was drawn after a sieging army was activated, thus rendering the event near-worthless.
Eventually, Liege fell but at the cost of effectively destroying the German 2nd Army. Namur held stubbornly. In the north, the German 1st Army attacked the British in Ghent but were repulsed although most of the British Army was destroyed.
The chit pulls again created an interesting flow of events. Before the German 1st Army could attack out of Brussels the British and Belgium armies moved with the Belgiums assuming the defense of Ghent.
In the end, the Germans simply ran out of chits and time. Namur held and the German First Army was unable to break the defenses at Ghent. Brave Little Belgium held!
The rules for Brave Little Belgium are super-easy to digest. This is a game that can be learned, or taught, very quickly. In my first game, I needed to reread the siege rules the first time through to capture a few nuances but it didn’t derail the game or cause a reset. My playthrough above certainly was not anything close to an “optimal” play but it was a wonderful exploration of the core gameplay elements.
The chit-pull mechanic really shines in this game. It creates tension every turn and moments of elation when the right chit comes out, as well as dejection when the chits aren’t pulled in the preferred order (I can’t count how many times Big Bertha came available after the siege combat has occurred).
Combat? Well, if you don’t like dice-chuckers then Brave Little Belgium is not your game. But the simple combat keeps the game moving without distraction from the tension of the chit-pulls.
Look at that map! It looks like a canvas map that a field commander would be using. Really helps with the immersive experience. Maybe next Christmas Hollandspiele will offer this one in a canvas map – AUTO BUY!
I have to admit it was a bit disconcerting at first to see dice faces printed on combat counters. What is this, a game? Luckily, any feelings of thematic disorientation quickly fade away as the dice on counters feeds the quick combat resolution system. Sure, putting a number would have worked too but the dice face makes sorting for combat go quicker. In Brave Little Belgium the design choice fits the ease-of-play approach well.
Some historical purist may accuse Brave Little Belgiumof being “ahistorical” because, we all just know the Belgiums never stood a chance. Or did they? In Brave Little Belgium the Entente play wins if they delay the Germans, not defeat them. This is a great theme for a wargame to explore – victory is doing better than history, not necessarily changing it.
The hype is right; Brave Little Belgium is a great game for wargame newcomers or grognards alike. I wouldn’t call it a filler game but it plays really quickly and each turn and decision is engaging for both sides.
The entire Wing Leader series focuses not on the intricacies of air-to-air combat but on the larger dynamics of air combat. If you want to see how a P-51 can turn against an Me-262 you will be much better off trying out the Fighting Wings series from J.D. Webster. Wing Leader is a maybe better described as a grand tactical view of air warfare. The most important lesson one learns from Wing Leader is not its not just airplanes that fight, but more importantly the aircrews in the planes.
My recent weekend play of Wing Leader: Victories 1940-1942 reminded me of this lesson. I played Scenario V03 Stalingrad Airlift where two flights of German He-111 bombers escorted by a flight of Me-109F-4 fighters are trying to deliver supplies to Stalingrad. Opposing them are two Soviet squadrons of Yak-1 interceptors. By the measure of most air combat games this should be a cake-walk for the Soviets; after all they have 18 interceptors against a measly four German fighters and eight sluggish bombers!
In Wing Leader it’s not that easy. In this case, the Germans have at least one Veteran flight and an Experte (Ace) to assign. The Soviet squadrons are inexperienced; Green in game terms. The Soviets do have an advantage with early warning and ground control (GCI – Ground Controlled Intercept) but there is also a dense cloud layer at low altitude. In this play the Me-109 flight was given both the Veteran and Experte.
The He-111’s started just above the cloud layer with the escorting flight a bit higher and between them. The Soviet squadrons started one ahead and one behind the German stream. The leading Soviet squadron got a Tally on the lead bombers and dove to attack. The escorting fighters reacted late (Late Reaction) and a fur ball developed between the bombers, fighters, and interceptors. Immediately, the difference in crew quality showed through as the German fighters mauled the Soviet interceptors and the bombers scooted away. Though they tried to pursue, the Germans engaged in a Dogfight and kept the interceptors busy.
Meanwhile, the trailing Soviet squadron, guided by GCI, bounced the trailing bombers. Poor shooting by the interceptors yielded no damage to the bombers but the intercepting squadron became Disrupted; that is, unorganized. The bombers dove for the clouds below (Note: Technically the bombers were not allowed to dive per rule 18.104.22.168 Transport. Oh well, a rules learning point!). The interceptors attempted to follow behind and engage again. They finally caught up to the bombers, but in the attack they caused no damage and instead lost cohesion and broke. Dropping to the deck, they raced for home.
The dogfighting interceptors did no better. In the Turning fight the Soviet Yak-1 pilots, now likely green with fear like their Green experience, were disrupted again and also broke. Like their brethren below, they left the fight and turned for home.
So just how did four German Me-109s hold off an entire squadron of 18 Yak-1s? At the dogfight altitude the Me-109 has only a slight edge in combat. The real telling factor was the experience and skill level of the pilots. The four Veteran Me-109s with that Experte just shot up the Yaks. The Green pilots got in one or two shots then broke for home.
Cohension Checks, Disruption, and Broken Squadrons are probably the most important rules in Wing Leader. The real test of combat is not how many guns you have or how tight you turn, but the ability for a flight or squadron to stay and fight, or just run away. Wing Leader reminds us that it’s actually not the hardware of war that makes the difference, it’s the people.
In this game, the numerically-superior Soviets were simply outclassed by the fewer, yet more experienced, German aircrews. Using that advantage, the Germans were able to get supplies though, their true objective. The Germans didn’t need to shoot down Soviet aircraft (though it helps) but get the bombers across the skies. The really neat part is that Wing Leader allows one to explore this “squishier” side of aerial combat in an easy-to-understand model that delivers the experience without having to learn how to fly an airplane. This is partly why I rate Wing Leader: Victories 1940-1942 and the companion Wing Leader: Supremacy 1943-1945 amongst the top 10 games in my collection (that’s the top 1.5% of my collection).
If you really want to understand why air battles are fought and not just the technical how, one can’t go wrong with Lee Brimmicombe-Wood’s Wing Leader series.
In wargames, seeing history repeat itself is seen by many as a mark of good game design. To many gamers, being able to recreate the historical result is often expected. To me, a mark of a good game is not only when it has the ability to recreate the historical result, but to offer some insight into why it happened. Such a case was well-illustrated in a recent wargame I played.
Awesome sauce. Supply Lines – The Southern Strategy plays out close to reality. Nothing to see, nothing to learn, right?
At game start, the Crown player begins in Savannah, the extreme other end of the Southern Colonies from Yorktown. The Patriot player has only a small army at Charleston. In order to win, the Crown player must either control 10x Cities or Forts or move the Political Will Track to the far right. The Crown player moves Political Will through being victorious in battle. The Patriot player wins by either forcing the Surrender of the Crown Leader (instant Victory) or moving the Political Will Track to the far left. Similar to the Crown player, the patriot player moves Political Will by victory in battle and the passage of time; as more years pass Political Will decreases reflecting Crown fatigue with the campaign.
The victory conditions immediately supply the time pressure and in many ways drive strategy. The Crown must fight battles and win; the Patriot either focuses on the Crown Leader or avoids defeat and bides their time.
The Crown players advantage is that they have Transport (9.3) or naval movement available. This strategic movement ability can be used to outflank the Patriot player.For the Patriot player, the ability of a defender to Refuse Battle (10.0) is crucial. The Patriot player also has the ability to Skirmish (9.5); that is, battle but not take territory. Useful for eliminating Loyalists or moving away small Crown armies.
Layered onto this military confrontation is a irregular war. Militia and Loyalist units are also available to the players. Arranged according colony, these units can supplement the player armies. Available actions include:
Recruit – Exchange 2 Militia/Loyalist for 1x Army
Forage – Use to gain 1x Food Supply cube in the colony
Raid (Militia Only) – Removes Crown units or supply from the board
Hold (Loyalist Only) – Occupy a place to help move Supplies (see rule 5.3 “adjacency” – an easily overlooked yet vital rule) but are vulnerable to Raids.
In my campaign, the Crown player started out by taking the many forts in the southern part of the map. The thought was to take the Forts then let Loyalists hold them. This didn’t work out because the Georgia Loyalists didn’t materialize (units must be drawn from a pool and made available) in a timely manner. As a result, too many Crown troops were stranded in Forts with not enough Food available to move quickly. Sensing the time pressure, a (now reduced) Crown expedition was launched to Yorktown using Transport. It had to go all the way north because the Patriot player had built a supply line along the coast and controlled all the other landing points. The overland route would have to go through all those Forts meaning Food must be supplied from Savannah – a slow process given only 1x Food cube a turn is generated in Cities. At this point the Patriot Fleet showed up and forced the Crown Fleet to withdraw after a Sea Battle. Using a better supply line, the Patriot army struck west from Norfolk and looped around to Richmond getting a single Army into the second area around Yorktown and forcing a Siege. Twice the Crown Fleet returned, and twice it was defeated to keep the siege in place.
In the photo above and beneath the Siege marker is a Crown Army with Leader. In Norfolk is the Patriot Leader with a sizable army. Offshore, the Patriot and Crown Fleets are ready to fight their second Sea Battle. Much like history, the Crown fleet is defeated. Not quite in keeping with history, rather than waiting out the siege and risking the Crown Fleet returning a third time and possibly lifting the siege, the Patriot Leader led his army against Yorktown and forced the surrender of the Crown Leader for automatic victory.
So my campaign gave me the historical result, but in doing so did so much more by delivering insight into why forces moved where they did. I don’t think designer Tom Russell is a deep historian (not a criticism) but I do think he identified key factors of the campaign and brought them into this game. I am highly impressed with the amount of history Supply Lines of the American Revolution: The Southern Strategy gives to players using an uncomplicated set of game mechanics. By focusing on supply, a different view of the campaign is taught and made clear.
I wonder what other campaigns this supply line focus could help teach. Maybe Patton’s dash across Europe after D-Day? Hmmm….Tom Russell, you got any other ideas?
This week’s RockyMountainNavy Game Night featured 1754 Conquest: The French and Indian War from Academy Games. What I really love about this game, and the entire Birth of America-series, is that there are deep strategic decisions played out in a very mechanically simple, yet thematically appropriate game.
The publisher’s blurb for 1754 goes like this:
‘1754 Conquest’ is an area control game that continues the award winning Birth of America Series. Players for each side work together in order to coordinate their strategies. To win, each side attempts to control Victory Spaces on the map that represent towns and forts. The militia players receive reinforcements from muster points while the French and English Regulars must ship their reinforcements from overseas. The game ends when the Treaty of Paris is signed and the side controlling the most cities wins the game.
We usually play the three-player variant with myself on one side against the RMN Boys together as a team. This week I asked to mix things up a bit and to be part of the team and not play against both Boys. So when we sat down around the table it was the Middle RMN Boy and myself as the British Regulars and Colonials against the Youngest RMN Boy taking the French Regulars and Canadians. Before the game, the Middle RMN Boy and myself agreed to a “middle” strategy in which we pledged to focus on going thru Fort William Henry to Montreal. Supporting this strategy the British Colonials had Muster Markers in Oneida Carry and Philadelphia.
I played the Colonials in a very aggressive manner and pushed into Canada, seizing Fort Saint-Frederic and Fort de La Presentation early in the campaign. Further to the west, an opportunity arose to seize Fort Dusquesne and I took it. In the east, around the French bastion at Louisbourg on Nova Scotia, all was static. As the French defense stiffened, they pulled their Muster Marker back to Montreal.
As the game entered the later turns, Youngest RMN used a special Event card to enter his French Regular reinforcements at a defended harbor. His target was the Chesapeake Bay, which he successfully assaulted, followed by seizing Williamsburg and Alexandria. But his assault in the British rear was too late as both British Treaty of Paris cards were played, ending the game after the current turn. A desperate French attack that saw Fort William Henry fall to the French was offset by the Colonials leading a massive Indian raid through Fort Niagara, Fort Toronto, and into Ottawa with all becoming British controlled. The end result was a major British victory.
This was the longest game of 1754 we have played lasting into the seventh turn of eight possible. Still, total play time was a relatively quick – and very enjoyable – 100 minutes.
Our game this weekend showed the value of choosing a strategy and committing to it, even when major distractions abound. 1754 Conquest, like all of the Birth of America-series, are great teaching games and highly suitable to family game nights. Not only does one learn the geography, but the game mechanics help players explore strategic choices that are very historically thematic.
Often times, wargamers get caught up in the material of war. Comparisons of which tank or airplane or ship is better dominate the hobby. Wargames that are more simulationist reinforce this condition. The impact of war on the human condition is overlooked or even outright ignored. In the RockyMountainNavy weekly game night, the impact of morale was brought front and center and forced all of us to think about it deeply. To my surprise, the lesson came from the Panzer series from GMT Games; a game that I consider detail-oriented and a good game for comparing tanks. When the game was finished, the lessons learned had little to do with which tank was better and everything to do with the role of morale in combat.
The Youngest RMN Boy is getting into the machines of war. After diving deep into the aircraft of World War II and battleships of World War I he has turned his attention to armored vehicles of World War II. Last week, I introduced Panzerfrom GMT Games to the boys. This week he hounded me for a bigger, better battle.
Youngest RMN Boy recently purchased a copy of Osprey Publishing’s M26/M46 Pershing Tank 1943-53at a used book store. He read with fascination the accounts of battle between Pershings and German tanks at the end of World War II. After playing Panzerhe wanted to see for himself how the match-up could of gone. I created a home brew scenario where a German Elite platoon of 4x Tiger II tanks, supported by a Jadgtiger tank destroyer, had a meeting engagement with a US Veteran platoon of 5x M26 Pershing supported by a platoon of 3x M36 Jackson tank destroyers with a single ‘Easy 8’ Sherman. Although the Germans were outnumbered almost 2:1, their better morale and training actually gave them a slight edge in scenario points.
In order to expedite the game, I once again played as umpire. Youngest RMN took the Germans while Middle RMN led the Americans. Both boys are still learning tactics, so I was not surprised they both split their forces on set up. Once the shooting started, something very incredible happened.
In Panzer, the experience/morale level of the unit impacts several game mechanics. On Initiative Rolls, units that are Elite gain a +40 while Veterans gain only +20. The level also determines Command Range – the distance units can be apart and still share a common order – with Elite having a 2-hex range and Veteran only 1-hex. In AP Fire, the superior training of Elite units gains a greater positive shift in combat (translating to better chance of hit) as compared to Veteran units. Taken together, Youngest RMN Boys’s Elite Panzers were not only superior in firepower and protection, but with their better training should have gained the initiative (control of the battle) more often. The American tanks had the advantage of numbers and mobility (both in terms of raw speed as well as turret slew rates).
The battle actually devolved into two separate skirmishes. In the north, two Tiger II faced off against the 5x Pershings. In the south, two Tiger II and the Jagdtiger took on the 3x M36 and Easy 8.
First blood was drawn in the north where the Tiger II’s firing at ranges between 1600-2000m “brewed up” two M26’s. Even using better ammunition, the M26s were impotent against the German armor protection.
Another game mechanic in Panzer where morale/experience is represented is Bail Out. When tanks are hit, even with a non-penetrating/non-damaging shot, the crew must roll for Bail Out. In the case of a non-prentrating/no-damage AP hit, the crew will Bail Out on a percentile die roll of 10 or less. Elite units gain a +5 modifier, literally meaning there is only a 5% chance of an Elite unit bailing out.
At the end of the scenario, four M26 Pershings were knocked out along with two M36’s. The Jagdtiger and a single Tiger II were immobilized by Track Damage. But the most astounding result was that in three of the the five German tanks the crew bailed out from non-penetrating/non-damaging hits. Statistically speaking, this was an astounding outcome.
That is perhaps the greatest lesson of Panzer; the greatest tank with the best guns and armor does not always translate into battlefield success.
I fear that in this age of push-button warfare and video games that the human factor in combat is ignored or forgotten. This is also why I play games, and wargames, with the RockyMountainNavy Boys. I want them to know that war is not machine versus machine but human. I did not expect GMT Games and their wargame Panzerto be this vehicle of learning, but I am very happy that it is.
Using the tables provided, I determined that my game was taking place in October-December 1941. I was charged with escorting a slow convoy of 21 ships from Freetown to the UK. My escort group was decent with 2x PG, a single SRE DD, 3x PGE, an ASW trawler and an Aux AA ship. Additionally, I had the benefit of a local escort group (2x AM, 2x ASW trawlers) through the midday of Day 2. Opposing this convoy were eight German U-Boats and 2x Italian submarines.
The Convoy Sails
After arranging my convoy and escorts, I set off. Each turn is an 8 hour block and for each one rolls against an Event Box. Hard to see in the attached image, I was following the brown route on the far left of the map from south to north.
The first Event Box (midday Day 1) started out with an HF/DF contact against an Italian Sub. Since I had the local escort group in company, I sent two ships out against the contact which surprised the submarine and sank it. Great start!
The first night was a bit difficult with two ships in the convoy colliding. Again taking advantage of the local escort I separated the ship and sent it along the way with an escort. It would eventually beach itself (1/2 VP to Axis players).
Day 2 started out with no contact in the morning, but a fire aboard a ship carrying explosives resulted in a spectacular fireball and lots of smoke that attracted another submarine. Initially located by HF/DF again, a strong response was able to sink this sub too. As the escort commander I was feeling good; two days, two submarines sunk.
The second night would prove to be a nightmare. Early in the night, another Italian submarine and a U-Boat attacked. The U-Boat was especially dangerous as it started out between the columns of the convoy. A valuable tanker was sunk and another damaged before the submarines could be chased away. Obviously skittish, a short time later Panic set through the convoy which gave another U-Boat a virtually free shot. Another merchant ship lost. Before the night was over, another U-Boat would get into the convoy and sink yet another merchant ship.
Day 3 was nerve-racking, as HF/DF showed that there was a U-Boat out there – somewhere – but without a good bearing no attack was possible. All the ships in the convoy were very nervous for the coming night…and rightly so. That night a German Wolf Pack of four U-Boats fell upon the convoy. Before the night was over, all the submarines would escape, and another two merchants were sunk outright.
Day 4 and night miraculous passed with no contacts. Day 5 brought good news with the Coastal Command sinking a German sub in the Bay of Biscay (removing one U-Boat from the German available forces). Day 6 saw a U-Boat attempt a submerged daytime attack but the torpedoes missed and the submarine was driven off. That night, two more submarines attacked, with another merchant ship lost (this one with explosives…more VP for the Germans).
Day 7 was highlighted by air attacks on the convoy. Though the AA ship was still in company, two German Do 217s gained surprise in the morning. Luckily, their bombing was horrible and though there were some near misses no ship was sunk. Later in the day several ships in the convoy were struggling and making heavy smoke. HF/DF revealed more U-Boats around, but the escort command declined to pursue this time. In the afternoon two FW 200s attacked; again no hits. That night, severe weather played havoc with the convoy and saw two ships previously damaged but not sunk develop severe flooding. Both were lost.
Day 8 dawned with good news of another submarine sunk in the Bay of Biscay. Another air attack in the afternoon was driven off with no damage or losses. The night passed quietly with no contact. The next morning, the convoy arrived.
Of the 21 ships that set sail, only eight arrived. The Axis lost four submarines. The result was an Axis Decisive Victory.
Although designed for miniatures, I found in my solo game the using my vinyl wet marker map worked best. My plotting was a bit loose, but I was able to quickly lay out the merchants and escorts and then vector in the attacking submarines. It certainly kept the game moving along.
The game also reminded me of just how desperate a struggle the convoy war was. A a naval wargamer, I tend to focus on the ‘big boys;” battleships and carriers and the like. Convoy and Deadly Waters is a reminder that it was the little, often unheralded ships (boats?) that carried a large burden of keeping the shipping lanes open. As my campaign shows, it was often thankless, demoralizing work and not always victorious.
A snowy day in the mid-Atlantic region on this President’s Day weekend gave me the perfect opportunity to pull out Command and Colors Tricorne: The American Revolution (Compass Games, 2017). I categorize this as one of my “lite” wargames that combines easy to understand rules with a thematic experience. In the case of Tricorne, it is the Retreat and Rally rules that make the difference:
Players, that are familiar with other Commands & Colors games, will soon note that unit combat losses in a Tricorne game are typically not as great as other games covered in the Commands & Colors series. This is a direct result of the linear tactic fighting style of the armies that fought during the American Revolution. Unit morale is the main thematic focus in a Tricorne battle as it was historically. Knowing that an entire unit, that has only taken minimal losses when forced to retreat, may actually break and rout from the battlefield, will definitely keep players on the edge of their command chairs during an entire battle. [commandandcolors.net]
Understanding that the Continental Militia are the weak link, having less firepower and retreating more for every Flag result, I focused my attack on my left section. The plan was to roll up the Continental right and then push down Chatterson’s Hill. Historically, I was attempting to repeat history:
The British regiments attacked directly against the American positions while the Hessians attempted a flanking manuever against the American right flank. The British were forced back with heavy casualties but the Hessians took up a position beyond the American left flank, which was held by inexperienced New York and Massachusetts militiamen. The fight lasted only a few minutes before the militia fled. The fleeing militia exposed the flank of the Delaware troops. The appearance of the advancing Hessians threw the Delaware troops into confusion. [myrevolutionwar.com]
It almost worked for me, if it had not been for those d*mned Continental Militia!
As my Hessians pushed forward, they pushed back the Militia like I expected. But the Militia refused to Rout. To my great surprise, Middle RMN actually counterattacked with the weakened Militia and, to my greater surprise, Bayonet Charged with them! Caught off guard, the Hessians melted before the Continentals (ok, he got some great die rolls while mine…sucked).
At this point I tried to bring my Elite Infantry Grenadiers into the fray. As much as they tried they just could not push the Continentals back. One leader in particular, Alexander McDougall, just did not give up. I even had a five-die attack against McDougall and a weakened infantry unit and – against all odds – whiffed completely.
After that, it was only a matter of time. Since I had concentrated on my left, I had failed to bring the center to engage and, once I tried to advance, faced the well-prepared Continental artillery. Already behind in Victory Banners, it was only a short matter of time before I lost completely.
Total game time, set up to clean up, was only 90 minutes. I really enjoy Tricorne in that it can deliver a very intense game in a short period of time. The game also reminds players that expectations do not always meet reality. Tricorne will definately be getting more play with longer scenarios to come.
Mrs. RockyMountainNavy usually has a student on Sunday afternoons, so the RMN Boys and myself are usualy exiled out of the house or to the basement. With all the rain this weekend we decided to stay in and play another session of Circus Maximus (Avalon Hill, 1980). Unlike our first game, we played with the Advanced Rules that really are nothing more than an expansion on the Basic Game that details what happens after a chariot flips. In the Basic Game the chariot is removed; in the Advanced Game there are Wrecks and Runaway Teams and Dragged Drivers and Drivers Running to deal with.
This afternoon was a full eight-chariot race. I took three chariots, Brown, Yellow and Orange, while the Middle RMN Boy took three others (Black, Green, and Purple) and the Youngest RMN Boy took two (Red and Blue). In Chariot Generation we all ended up with at least one heavy chariot (in my case, a +2 Driver in a Heavy Chariot with a Slow Team and Low Endurance) and one fast chariot (again, in my case a +0 Driver in a Light Chariot with a Fast Team and High Endurance).
This race featured a lot more tactical play then our first game. The speedy chariots pulled out ahead and the heavies fell behind, patiently waiting for the speedy teams to lap them, if they could. Both RMN Boys recognized the danger of my “enforcer” team and took measures to interfere with him. In quick order, Brutus (as I had named him) lost one horse and had another severely injured. He fell way behind the pack as he had to stop and cut the dead horse from the reins.
Meanwhile, Blue tried to get around a corner but was a bit too fast. A super high roll on the Corner Strain Table resulted in a flipped chariot and a dragged driver. He eventually cut himself loose after taking only light wounds. He raced for the wall but could not find an exit.
As Blue was searching for a way out of the arena, the leaders of the pack came around again. Slow Brutus maneuvered himself into position and threatened Red (the Youngest RMN speedster) and forced him to brake hard and evade attacks. Meanwhile, Orange (my speedster) tried to take advantage of the situation and slip past Red. It almost worked, but once again Corner Strain resulted in Orange being spit out of his lane in a Double Sideslip…directly into the wrecked Blue chariot.
Red was in a tough bind as Brutus moved first and blocked his path to a safer lane. Red was forced to keep in his lane and ended up running over the Blue driver who was still unsuccessfully searching for an exit. Running over the driver forced a Movement Factor loss of five. Orange then rolled off the wreck and damaged both wheels. This meant that going too fast would risk the wheels coming off and flipping the chariot. As it was the final stretch there really was no choice and Orange went all-out. The first Wheel Damage roll was passed but the second failed. The Orange chariot flipped and the rider was dragged. Youngest RMN was jumping for joy as he could see his second victory at hand!
After taking damage, I elected not to cut the driver loose and stay dragging. Fate smiled and Orange went first, crossing the finish line first with the driver still dragging. The driver wound roll was made and the result was the driver surviving – just barely. Brutus almost got one last run at Red but Red was able to move away and ended up just short of the finish line.
Total game time was just under two hours from set up to end of clean up. There was much good nature ribbing given during the game. In this game, more than the first, a real narrativefeeling came through during play. Youngest RMN was exasperated at the Blue driver constantly failing his exit rolls. I told him there was obviously a centurion on the other side of some gate who refused to open it for him. Apparently not a favorite of the gods, he was unceremoniously run over by Red. The final dramatic victory of Orange, literally being dragged across the finish line barely alive, was the stuff of legends.
Circus Maximus, a long-ago childhood favorite of mine, has been reborn in the 21st century RockyMountainNavy household. Hail to Michael S. Matheny and Don Greenwood for bringing this game to life. It is also interesting to note that the the first credited playtester is Alan R. Moon. Yes, Alan R. Moon the famous designer of Ticket to Ride!