Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sharp Practice 2 - first impressions

With Salute out of the way, those nice people at Lard Island have sent through my pre-ordered copy of the second edition of Sharp Practice.

Now as I've mentioned here before I've had problems with the first edition.  For one thing I found some of the unnecessarily ambiguous phrasing of the rules frustrating.  Another problem was that some of the rules were just plain annoying.  How many times did we roll for movement or firing and pick up the dice without remembering to count the number of ones and sixes to determine if random events occurred? My main issue, though, was with the disruptive effect of the game's inherent randomness on a finely crafted scenario.

It's fair to say I've remained interested in what the Lardies' games can offer despite, rather than because of, Sharp Practice 1.

I pre-ordered the basic package of SP2. This gets me the hard copy rules, a pdf version, and a pack of the cards that drive the game.

So far my impression is overwhelmingly that the rules show their line of descent  from the far more recent Chain of Command.

The starting forces that you need are, it seems, a little more structured (like the base platoon in a CoC game) and a little smaller.  The latter is A Good Thing; the size of forces in edition one's The Complete Fondler supplement were rather off-putting.

CoC features show in the use of deployment markers that are no unlike Jump Off Points, and in the use of variable numbers of Turns (CoC phases) in a Chapter (CoC turn).

Overall I'd say the first impressions are: nice production, improved layout, and the impression that this is more of a structured game and less of a slightly rambling kit of parts.  More when I get the rules read properly.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

RAGE in Leeds

I met up with Jamie in Leeds today for the latest Royal Armouries Gaming Event.  This one was focussed on the Hundred Years War.  It's not a period I've ever gamed before but Jamie's keen to recruit a couple of HYW Lion Rampant retinues.

Note, if you will, that he has finished his neither 10mm American Revolution armies nor his 28mm Ronin forces - he's a proper wargamer is Jamie.

The event takes place in a separate room on the fourth floor of the Armouries.  I had expected to find games spread throughout the galleries buy I suspect that on the whole this probably worked better as the concentration of games and gamers gave the room a nice buzz.

The first game that caught my eye was a small game (compared with their enormous Agincourt diorama two floors down) by the Perry brothers.  I took several, rather boring pictures of bits of the terrain I'll probably steal, but here are a few more dramatic ones.

I love the fortified manor house and the figures are gorgeous.  I shall be adding these pics to my file of terrain-making inspiration.

What do you think, though, of the dirt roads?  I have heard it suggested that the green strip down the centre of the road is an artefact of the age of the internal combustion engine and that medieval on roads it would have been trodden to mud by draft horses.  I'm thinking up replacing or improving my existing dirt roads.  Anyone know if I should flock the road centre lines or not?

Next up, is the Peterborough Wargames Society's 54mm game.

This was built by Mike Whittaker of Meeples and Miniatures fame and used the old Donald Featherstone Skirmish Wargames rules.  In true Featherstonian fashion, the bombard is built from cotton reels and balsa wood.

Speaking of Meeples, it was nice to meet and speak to Neil Shuck and Dave Luff, whose enthusiasm on the podcast has lured me into the world of Chain of Command.  I'm going to have to start working out the platoon organisations of the Andreivian Army in the 1920s in CoC format.

Probably the biggest game at the event (though I didn't see much action on the table) was this version of Agincourt by the Lance and Longbow society.  We met up with Will McNally from L&L who reported that he ran this game using Hail Caesar at Salute but I believe Impetus was, at least theoretically, in use this weekend.

Finally, the very friendly guys at the Harrogate club put on a game of Lion Rampant that I was very pleased to join in with.

Based on a doubling up of the Defending the Indefensible scenario in the Lion Rampant rule book, this scenario had a French sally threatening an English siege tower and bombard at Harfleur in 1415.

Playing two Lion Rampant retinues side by side worked very well as did using multi based figures and casualty count markers.  In the end we English triumphed by millimetres.  Literally; a French unit was 30mm away from capturing my bombard when action elsewhere caused a crucial fourth French unit to rout.
Our afternoon at RAGE (and lunch at Pizza Express over the way) was most enjoyable.  I shall certainly go again if they do another.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Speed Painted Fallschirmjäger

I've finished the early war German paras I showed just underway in the previous post.  They were stain painted over a white undercoat and then shaded with a Vallejo brown wash.

The chap on the right on a square base is one of the old batch I painted in the 1990s and to which I wanted to match these guys.  I think they work together OK.

Seen in the background are a couple of hedge/fence sections I've knocked up from bits I had lying around.

I now have four feet of 20mm fence.  I might need to start on some bocage soon, though.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

On the Workbench - April

Inspired the return to WW2 by trying out Chain of Command, I've found myself pulling out of storage some part-completed figures that have been unloved for years.

First up is a platoon of Hinchliffe (yes Hinchliffe, that old!) German MG34 tripod MGs.  I suspect I picked these up cheap at a bring and buy somewhere.  I don't usually use white undercoating for WW2 figures but these were already undercoated so I shall try a stain and wash technique with them.

Next we have some Ravensthorpe Fallschirmjaeger.  I have a full battalion of these guys for Rapid Fire.  They date back to a time before I realised that playing Rapid Fire in 20mm and TacWW2 in 6mm for battles of the same size was a dumb idea.  Together with the RF battalion, these guys will enable me to field an early war Jaeger platoon for a project I've had in mind for decades (of which more later).  White undercoat to match the earlier models.

Also in the pic below is an FAA German NCO who somehow escaped being rebased onto a penny when I switched from card squares.  He's now going onto a 2p piece as recommended for CoC.

On the left below are a couple ofGermans who had broken off at the ankles.  I've superglued them together and build up around the joins with Green Stuff.  I've then sculpted the Green Stuff to look something like tall grass.  I'll probably add grass tufts to the bases to try and hide the repair work.

And on the right are an FAA French command unit and some mortar crew.  Here we're back to my preferred black undercoat except for the officer's kepi which has a white undercoat so the red and blue will really pop out.

Hopefully having posted progress pics here will keep me focussed on sorting these guys out.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

CoC - The Probe, part five

It was now clear that the battle would be won by manoeuvre.  The Germans were ahead in force morale terms and had two Chain of Command dice they could potentially use to avoid Force Morale tests.  On the other hand the right flank German squad was very weak and at least one German jumping off point was in danger of capture.

The British commander decided to launch forward his left flank and centre sections. One would bypass the German right whilst the other would finish off the weakened German section (to which was attached the German platoon commander).  

In fact the Germans fell back before the British advance, the right hand section falling back into reserve behind the dug in central section. Of the two British squads pursuing, the left-most, with the platoon commander, moved forward and left parallel with the Kartenspielerweg.  The other moved towards the crossroads and an inevitable confrontation with the dug in Germans there.   

Needing to cover the table with just two sections, the German commander now split his dug-in section.  The MG team moved right to try and prevent the British crossing side-lane.  However the British, at this point, scored three consecutive activations and even spending a Chain of Commend die to interrupt the British move wasn't able to prevent the British CO getting his men into the triangle of ground in the far left corner of the table.

At this point, disaster very nearly struck for the British.  Their central section, launched forward to overrun the isolated German LMG team at the cross-roads, threw an agonisingly small number on their movement dice.  

The Germans then got two consecutive phases and the rifle team from the formerly-dug-in section hit them from the rear and wiped them out to a man.  It helped considerably that this German squad was mostly equipped with SMGs.  The loss of this whole section took the British down to Force Morale four and reduced them to rolling four command dice.

The four dice were enough, however, to allow the bloody remnants of the British section to exit the table running down the Kartenspielerweg for the narrowest of victories.

Talk on the Lardies Forum is of how games played within the context of campaigns using the At The Sharp End supplement are less likely to end in bloody fights to the last man.  I suspect this was the kind of bloody fight to the last man they had in mind.  the British had lost 26 men and the Germans 17.  The German Force Morale was 6 and the British 4.

I now feel that I have a reasonable feel for the rules and will offer them shortly at a Saturday afternoon session.

COC - The Probe, part four

So I managed to get in a few more phases of turn two last night before heading out to the folk club at the Royal.  The developments were quite significant.

When we left the game the British were beginning to move forward to attack the German right.  This developed into a three section attack when the British commander used a Chain of Command die to move one of his Jump Off Points over to that flank and threw his last section into action.

The German had in the meantime deployed his third section (in entrenchments) centrally to block any advance along the Kartenspielerweg.

The British now had three squads attacking one on the (British) left.  Unfortunately I misjudged the situation.  Rather than wait to inflict more kills and shock on the isolated German unit and give the flanking British section time to get behind the German flank, I launched a hasty charge and had a British section wiped out to a man in the resulting close combat!  Did weaken that German section though.

This leaves us with the following position:

Three British sections face off against three German.  All three senior leaders are now deployed.  The British platoon sergeant is with the weakened squad on the right.  He also has the one remaining man from the platoon's 2" mortar team.  The British platoon commander is on the left facing the German squad that's currently playing host to his opposite number.

The only undeployed units are British.  The PIAT team may end up on the right just to add some extra bodies to resist any German counterattack, whilst the sniper will struggle to add much given the limited visibility.

Speaking of the sniper.  I started construction of him on Saturday at teatime and finished him Sunday morning so don't judge too harshly:

Body of an Airfix paratrooper, rifle and helmet from Esci British infantry.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

COC - The Probe, part three

The first turn begins with the Germans rolling their five command dice:

The 6 we can ignore, it just tells us that the Brits will get the next phase.  With two ones the Germans could put two independent teams onto the table but they only have one - the Panzerschreck team.  They elect to leave it for now.  The two allows them to deploy a squad - they bring one on on their left flank.  The three would let them bring on another squad by means of activating its squad leader but they decide not to at this stage.

The British then roll:

The two fives immediately start them building pips on their first Chain of Command dice.  When this reaches six pips it'll be a valuable resource.  The two fours are ignored for now as the British player doesn't want to commit his platoon commander and platoon sergeant too soon.  The two is used to deploy a squad at the right flank jumping off point.

Play than swings back and forth for several phases with new units coming on and existing ones moving and firing. The two squads/sections on the right hand side of the table exchange shots at the limit of visibility through the trees (12").  Suddenly the British are taking casualties and picking up shock points.

The British platoon sergeant is suddenly right where he is needed.  He rallies two points of shock from the Bren gun team of the right flank section and has the whole section fire at the enemy squad inflicting two kills and two points of shock.

This is not enough to dampen the spirits of the enemy though.  Their left flank squad puts down fierce fire and wipes out the British section's Bren team!  British force morale falls from 9 to 8.

Knowing then that action is required, the British commander sends forward his 2" mortar team to support the right hand section whilst commencing a left hook attack with two of his four sections.  The 2" mortar fires smoke (off target) and the rifle team and section leader (all that's left of the right hand section) withdraw behind their jump off point.  Another section will be needed to drive forward on this flank.

But what's this?  The Germans roll four sixes!  The Turn ends, the Germans go first the next turn and there's a random event.  The Germans move their left flank squad into an better position, the 2" mortar smoke disperses, and it starts to rain, reducing maximum visibility to 18".  The last fact is pretty much irrelevant as the maximum visibility within the woods is only 12".

At the end of turn one the British have a badly mauled section on their right and two sections advancing through the woods in the centre of the table.  They are heading towards a single German section that's as yet untested.  Force morale stands 10:8 in favour of the Germans.