Dug in like an ox – my thoughts on a BGG variant for Chantilly: Jackson’s Missed Opportunity, 1 September 1962 (Decision Games, 2013). #coronapocalypse #wargame

Over on BoardGameGeek user Tom Krynicki (@krygfam) posted a set of variant rules for Chantilly: Jackson’s Missed Opportunity, 1 September 1862 (Decision Games, 2013). I have a soft spot in my heart for this Mini Series game not because of the game play (I rate it a 5 – Mediocre Take it or leave it on BGG) but because the battle took place not far from my home. The game uses a QuickPlay version of DG’s Musket & Saber rules. Personally, they are not for me. When I saw this variant pop up on BGG I was interested in trying to make the game better so I got it to the table.

Mr. Krynicki’s variant rules aren’t that long, only six rules actually, so I will post them in their entirety here:

What I find the most disheartening about DG’s Chantilly is that with just a little play-testing and thought, this could have been an excellent historical simulation AND game. Try these simple changes…I think you will find it makes for a much better historical simulation AND a much better game:

1) Make the Union player the FIRST player during every turn. Union forces showed more energy and seemed to have a clearer picture of what needed done….thus they had the initiative. This has the pleasant side effect of getting rid of the two free Confederate moves before the Union gets a chance to react, allowing the Union to get into position near to where the historical battle took place.

2) Get rid of the whole Confederate “Half/Full Movement” Initiative roll (Scenario rule 15.0). It’s gamey and has way to much impact on play balance. Reducing the Confederate’s infantry and artillery MA to “4” movement points is sufficient to show that the Confederate soldiers were “burned out.” Again, Union forces showed more “get-up-and-go,” mainly because they rightly perceived they were in eminent danger of being cut off and surrounded. Therefore, ALL Union infantry and artillery should keep the “normal” Musket & Saber MA of “6” movement points.

3) March Movement (QP rule 4.3) should not be allowed. It rained the entire night before the battle. During the battle it poured most of the day. The roads and the ground were a soupy mess, nobody was going to go anywhere quickly.

4) In keeping with the very poor ground conditions, the Terrain Costs should be modified:
1/2 MP
(only infantry allowed in Deep Woods and must stop upon entering).

5) Initial Movement Restrictions:

UNION: Formation #1 (the two units which begin the game in Germantown hex 2208).
These units must remain within 3 hexes of Germantown (hex 2208) until:
a: A unit of Formation #1 is attacked.
b: An enemy unit moves adjacent to one of the units of Formation #1, or a unit of Formation #1 moves adjacent to an enemy unit.
c: An enemy unit moves to within three hexes of Germantown (hex 2208).
Should any one of these events occur, all movement restrictions on Union Formation #1 are lifted.
 The “task and purpose” given to this formation (a reinforced brigade from the AoV) was to secure Germantown and the road intersections around it, in order to allow Union freedom of movement along the Warrenton Turnpike. They would never have moved away from the vicinity of Germantown unless forced to do so (BTW these two units should have MAs of “6”).

CONFEDERATE: Formation #1 (the FLee cavalry brigade which begins the game in hex 1204).
At the beginning of Confederate Game Turn 1, the MA of the FLee cavalry brigade is determined by a special die roll, similar to a morale check.
The Confederate player rolls one die and compares the result to the FLee brigade’s morale rating of “3.”
If the FLee brigade “passes” its morale check (rolls a 1, 2, or 3), then the number rolled is its MA for that turn (i.e. 1, 2, or 3 movement points).
If the FLee brigade “fails” its morale check (rolls a 4, 5, or 6), then it must remain in hex 1204 for the turn.
The FLee brigade moves normally starting on Game Turn 2 and after.

Other than “scout for and screen Jackson’s movements” F. Lee really didn’t know what he was supposed to do that morning…He had attacked Germantown the previous evening where he had been chases off by the garrison stationed there (this had alerted Pope that something dangerous was amiss on his flank). Should he head back up the Little River Turnpike to Germantown, or should he head south toward the Warrenton Turnpike? After he found out that Jackson’s lead elements were going to bivouac at Ox Hill, he pushed further south and ran into Stevens’ Division coming hard up Ox Hill Road, and the fight was on.

6) Adjust the Union Major Victory conditions to read: At the end of Turn Six, the Union player wins a major victory if an undisrupted Union unit occupies a hex on the Little River Turnpike between hexes 0501 and 1204 (inclusive). Cutting off a portion of Jackson’s overstretched command would have been a huge coupe for the Union effort, coming close to erasing the Union defeat two days earlier. This entire stretch of road would have been critical, not just the crossroads at 1204.

With these changes I think you’ll find this a better historical simulation AND game. The fighting will usually start close to the location it did historically, with the historical outcome a distinct possibility. The Confederates can try to bludgeon their way down Ox Hill Road, in an attempt to cut the Warrenton Turnpike, or they can try to “stretch” the Union forces by leaving a holding force on Ox Hill Road and making a stab for Germantown. Be careful though, the Union forces are more agile, and if they cut the Little River Turnpike, all of the Confederate maneuvering will be for not.

As you can see, rules 1-4 have to do with movement. You can also see Mr. K focuses on initiative and movement in bad weather. My reactions after playing with the rules once are:

  1. Automatically allowing the Union to always move first is too rigid. Maybe historically the Union was a bit more spry than the Confederates, but to make that an automatic condition seems too favorable to the Union. Not to mention, it avoids many “what if” versions of the battle. This rule seems to be a matter of taste; if you want to be tightly bound by history then go ahead and use it!
  2. Mr. K seems to be of two minds here. On one hand he wants to reduce movement due to the weather but he ends up penalizing the Confederates because they were “burned out” while giving the Union full standard movement (extra in this game). What’s wrong with everybody being reduced to 4 from the standard Musket & Saber rules and keeping the Confederate half-moves? Of, see rule 1. Mr. K wants the battle to be where it historically happened.
  3. The weather made things miserable. No problem.
  4. The weather made things miserable. No problem again.
  5. I have to agree that the Union restrictions make sense. For the Confederates though, this seems like an awful lot of rules for one unit for one turn. I guess if one wants to surrender player agency to the randomness of the Dice Gods in the name of “historicism” than by all means, use this rule.
  6. Well, I think this new condition will only work if you give the Union the advantages of movement rules 1 & 2. Without those, no.

So…I guess if you want this small game to ‘recreate’ the Battle of Chantilly and be assured that the outcome will always be close to the historical then use of Mr. Krynicki’s variant rules. However, if you are like me and you want to use the game to experiment with the situation and explore potential “what-ifs,” then the rules as written are good enough.

#ThreatTuesday – New Chinese Type 55 DDG(?) thru the #wargame lens of South China Sea (@compassgamesllc, 2017)

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) commissioned Nanchang, the first Type 055 destroyer in their fleet on 12 January 2019. This ship appears in the wargame South China Sea: Modern Naval Combat in the South Pacific (Compass Games, 2017). For this installment of Threat Tuesday I’m going to look at the ship and compare the in-game version to what is seen in public.

IMG_0477Although the Chinese seem to be calling Nanchang a ‘destroyer,’ it almost anywhere else it would be a cruiser. Here is a datasheet on the ship that accompanied the commissioning ceremony:

IMG_0473In South China Sea, designer John Gorkowski identifies this class of ships as ‘CG TYPE 55.’ Here is the counter for the ship in the game:

CG TYPE 55 in South China Sea (Compass Games, 2018)

The Quick Reference Card in South China Sea tells us how to decode the counter. It is also useful as we can compare the CG TYPE 55 to the US Navy ‘CG TICONDEROGA.’ Fair warning here – I did not assist in the development of South China Sea so I actually do not have any ‘official’ insight into how the various factors were decided upon. What follows is my interpretation of the factors in South China Sea and how they relate to the announced capabilities of the Type 055 destroyer.

Decoding Surface ships and Submarines (SCS Quick Reference Guide)

Let’s first start by looking across the bottom of the CG TYPE 55 counter. The first factor is Gun – rated a 2. The Type 055 has a single 130mm gun forward. The Ticonderoga has 2x Mk45 5″/45 caliber lightweight guns. Although the guns are somewhat similar there are no half-factors in SCS so 2 seems fair.

U (Underwater)2: Very similar to the US TICO-class, the Type 055 is credited with a bow-mounted High/Medium-frequency sonar and a towed Variable Depth Sonar (VDS) as well as two helicopters. While Ticonderoga’s have torpedo tubes, the Type 055 carries the ‘CJ-5″ ASW rocket/missile. The U rating of 2 seems fair.

YJ missiles on parade

A/S (Anti-Surface)4 Range 6. The Type 055 is credited with carrying the YJ-18 anti-ship missile. According to US government sources, the YJ-18 has a range of 290nm, or 6.4 hexes in South China Sea. Although the missile is subsonic, the warhead of between 140-300kg mass is delivered by a supersonic sprint vehicle. A lethality rating of 4 seems fair although I worry that it may be underrated as compared to the Harpoon (4 Range 5) used by the US Navy. Recommendation: CHANGE the A/S rating to 5 Range 6 (Optional).

Courtesy ausairpower.net

A/G (Anti-Ground)4 Range 10. The Type 055 is supposed to carry the CJ-10 cruise missile. Most sources give this missile a range of 1,500+ kilometers (809nm). In South China Sea-terms this would be a range of 17.7 hexes – well in excess of the 10 shown on the ship counter. The US Navy TLAM missile flies between 700-900nm – 15.5 to 20 hexes in SCS – but is only credited with a range of 12 (~2/3rds of max range?). Using that very rough rule, the CJ-10 could be range 12. As for lethality; the CJ-10 appears comparable to the Tomahawk so a lethality rating of 4 again appears reasonable. Recommendation: CHANGE ‘CG Type 55’ A/G rating to 4 Range 12.

Let us now turn to the combat factors on the upper right, Missile Defense and Torpedo. In South China Sea the CG TYPE 55 is given a Torpedo rating of 2. Yet, on the factsheet, no torpedo tubes appear. An oversight in the datasheet? Look for other sources….

The CG TYPE 55 is rated a 9 for Missile Defense. This is in part because of the 4-panel S-Band AESA multifunction radar with X-Band rotating AESA radars supporting the HHQ-9 anti-air missile. Note the color of the Missile Defense rating – black. In South China Sea, ships with a Missile Defense rating in RED, like US Navy Aegis-equipped ships, are capable of Area Missile Defense:

5.81 Units with MD scores printed in red have Area Missile Defense (AMD). AMD functions like MD (missile defense) but can also protect other friendly units while also threatening enemy air units in the same and adjacent hexes. Air units in air to air combat are the one exception; they are not protected by an AMD score.

5.82 Therefore, with the exception of air units in air to air combat, a targeted friendly unit can always cite the red AMD score of a friendly AMD-capable unit that is in the same or an adjacent hex and engaged in the current engagement. Any number of units can call on the same AMD any number of times.

In the DIA publication China Military Power: Modernizing a Force to Fight and Win, 2019, they make this assessment:

These newer ships use modern combat management systems and air surveillance sensors, such as the Sea Eagle and Dragon Eye phased-array radars. These new units allow the PLAN surface force to operate outside shore-based air defense systems because one or two ships are equipped to provide air defense for the entire task group. (p. 70)

This makes a good case that the MD rating of the CG TYPE 55 should be a red AMD factor. As far as the lethality number? A factor of 9 seems a good place to start. Recommendation: CHANGE the MD factor to RED.

The numbers to the upper left of the counter are Move and Stealth. The Move factor is in line with what is expected of ships like this so we will leave that be. In South China Sea, Stealth is used to evade contact. When a unit enters the Illumination Range of a unit (5 hexes for a surface naval unit) the unit must stop and make an evasion roll (2d6 + Stealth). If the roll is greater than 11 the unit has evaded detection and can continue movement. In the case of the CG TYPE 55 a Stealth rating of 3 is very good, even better than the Stealth rating of 2 for US Arleigh Burke-class DDGs. Indeed, the much smaller Freedom-class has a Stealth factor of 3. Looking at the pictures of the Nanchang, there is some radar shaping but there are also some good radar-bouncing areas. To my (untrained) eye it looks more like an Arleigh Burke. Recommendation: CHANGE the Stealth rating of the CG TYPE 55 to 2

There is one last ‘factor’ I want point out; the number of Steps for the CG TYPE 55. See those three boxes between the Move/Stealth and Missile Defense/Torpedo?  The CG TYPE 55 is a three Step unit, more so than the CG TICONDEROGA with two-Steps. A multi-step unit is flipped on the first hit and destroyed when the number of hits equals the number of Steps. At full load a Ticonderoga weighs in at 9,600 tons, a bit smaller than the 13,000 full load tons of the Type 055 destroyer. Is that extra 30% worth an entire extra Step? Another consideration is the state of damage control training in the PLAN. When I see a Step in SCS I don’t just see how many ‘hit points’ the ship has but also how well the crew is trained to save the ship. The US Navy is amongst the best in the world and, to be frank, there are questions as to the real technical competence of the average PLAN sailor. My gut tells me that giving the CG TYPE 55 three Steps is too generous. Recommendation: CHANGE the number of Steps on the CG TYPE 55 to 2.

I want to be very clear that in making this ‘reassessment’ of the CG TYPE 55 in South China Sea I am categorically NOT saying the original version is flawed. Mr. Gorkowski, in taking on a modern subject like South China Sea, is at the mercy of publicly available information. Even in the few short years since South China Sea was first published, the information available has changed significantly. You can play a scenario with the out-of-the-box CG TYPE 55 or, if you want, look at my attempt to update. Whatever way you chose to play just make sure you are having fun while you do it!