Thursday, June 27, 2024

Arc of Fire unit activation redux

This post, prompted by the solo game I played yesterday, is a revision of a piece I included in the Andreivian Tales blog back in 2017.

Arc of Fire (my go-to set of skirmish rules for small actions from at least the mid-19th century onwards) uses a card activation system. Each unit (typically squad-sized) is activated twice in a turn on the turn of a pair of nominated cards. 

Thus in a WWII game with three units a side we might allocate the two red aces to the first US infantry squad, the two red 2s to the second squad, and the two red 3s to the accompanying Sherman tank. Likewise the German units might be allocated the black Jacks, Queens and Kings respectively. A couple of Jokers are added to our abbreviated game deck and we're good to go.

This works fine for smaller games but we (the former SOTCW and current Crisis Point communities) have tended to use AoF for bigger, multi-player games. 

We therefore activate multiple units on each pair of cards with competitive Tac rolls to see who gets to go first in the event of a clash.

The following alternative method was designed to address the needs of a player who had trouble remembering which unit was which when comparing the units sheet with what's actually on the table. The next card's a red Ace... yes that's one of mine... Oh yes, it's second infantry squad... now which one was that...?

The approach is adapted from Buck Surdu's Combat Patrol. I haven't read these rules but they were described on the Meeples and Miniatures podcast.  

At the start of each turn we roll a D6 for each unit. This gives the unit its Activation Number. A micro-die in a die holder can be placed next to the unit to show this.

The new Activation Deck consists of:

  • Red cards numbered 1 to 6
  • Black cards numbered 1 to 6
  • The Red Joker
  • The Black Joker, and possibly
  • The "Roll a D6" card.

Because I'm producing my own cards I can include all of the relevant info on them. Wounded figures previously didn't activate on their unit's second card. Now I no longer need to go back through the previously dealt cards to check this. 

Note the reference to "Command Chit" is now out of date - I'll be replacing it with "Units with Activation Number 2".

Similarly the Joker cards themselves remind me which sequence of cards triggers a random event and who is affected by it. Obviously there may be more than one unit with the relevant Activation Number. We dice to see which single unit is affected by the random event.

Finally we have the "Roll a D6" card. 

This triggers the eponymous die roll to select an Activation Number. Units with that Activation Number may get a special activation if designated in the scenario.  Examples from our Andreivia 1918 games included:

  • If unit is rated Aggressive, it may activate a third time this turn (including wounded models).
  • British Mark IV tank - one vehicle immobilised by engine failure, normal immobilisation rules apply.
  • British Mark V Tank - crew must abandon one vehicle for two whole cards due to overheating.
  • Early armoured car - get an extra move if on road, bog down if moving cross-country, normal immobilisation rules apply.
I'd been reading the book A New Excalibur about early tank designs. The peculiarities of some of them were clearly in the forefront of my mind at the time. You could use something similar for unreliable early Panthers at Kursk. 

I'm sure there are other characteristics of units that might be applied in this way. Perhaps "If unit is rated Steady, any Broken models may make an immediate attempt to rally"?

I'm tempted to go back to Arc of Fire. Maybe for Crisis Point 2025?

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

More Muddy River pics

The Muddy River Blues campaign continues. We're now seven campaign turns (three-and-a-half days) into the story and as previously I can't give away too much at this stage. Suffice to say there has been a small skirmish somewhere in Hendricks County, Mississippi.

With just a dozen or so men involved, the game was too small to play out with Sharp Practice so I dusted off Arc of Fire, a nice, flexible set of rules that'll cope with smaller forces.

The top of my plan chest was big enough to represent an area of woodland with a patch of denser undergrowth created using my Woebetides elephant grass pieces.

I played the game solo and used the session to remind myself of the variant activation system we worked out for a past Crisis Point. I'll do a post later this week to explain this in detail.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Some random Poles

Last week I was at a bit of a loose end and fancied painting something so I dug through a few bags of spare 20mm figures and pulled out a random one. It was a Warsaw Past soldier in a beret but not the kind worn by Soviet VDV (airborne troops). Somewhere in the memory banks I knew I'd seen something like it and sure enough, a check on the bookshelves turned up this from the Osprey book Soviet Bloc Elite Forces

Digging through the other bags in the same drawer I worked out that I might have enough models to make myself a platoon of Cold War Polish marines!

Some research suggested that a Polish marine platoon for Arc of Fire would be something like this:

Platoon HQ (Tac 5)

Platoon Commander        Assault Rifle, Pistol        5L

Platoon Sergeant               Assault Rifle                   5L

1st Squad (Tac 5)

Squad Leader                    Assault Rifle                   5L

Gunner                             Belt-fed LMG                 5

Loader                              Assault Rifle                   5

6 Riflemen                       Assault Rifle                    5

2nd Squad (Tac 5)         As first squad

3rd Squad (Tac 5)

Squad Leader                    Assault Rifle                   5L

Gunner                             MMG                              5

Loader                              Assault Rifle                   5

5 Riflemen                       Assault Rifle                    5

Sniper                              Self-loading rifle              5

Here (with judicious use of Green Stuff to convert some Russian-style jackboots to ankle boots) are a couple of squads and the platoon HQ to be going on with:

The platoon command element consists of the pistol-armed officer and the platoon sergeant in the distinctive blue beret.

The squads each have a squad leader (single figure on a 2 pence piece), a machine-gun team with PKM light machine-gun (two figures on a 2 pence piece) and six guys with AKMs (on pennies) one of whom has an underslung grenade launcher. 

I do have a few more figures to add and they'll probably end up forming an under-strength third squad. One of the riflemen needs an SVT sniper rifle, which I have, but I'm lacking RPG-7s for each squad.

I don't know who these miniatures are sculpted/sold by. I thought they might be Platoon 20 but I can't see them on the East Front Miniatures website. Now all I need to do is to come up with a suitable scenario to use them.

Monday, June 10, 2024

A Barn Full of Lard

On Friday, Stella and I drove down to Bristol so I could spend Saturday running the Harpers Ferry What A Cowboy game at Lincombe Barn. This was the first of what will hopefully be a series of Lardy Days rejoicing in the name "A Barnful of Lard".

The day saw five Too Fat Lardies games set up in the Barn's main hall. As usual I was too busy running my game to get more than a few snatched photos of the games.

Lloyd Lewis ran "Bejabbers I Want That Cuckoo" a Peninsular War Sharp Practice game involving attempts to capture, recapture, and, on one occasion, re-re-recapture a French eagle.

Next we had another Sharp Practice game run by our host Carole Flint. This time it was a 15mm American Civil War action.

I'm not usually keen on smaller figures for Sharp Practice as they can end up too widely spaced. However I think for ACW, where firing lines were increasingly "loose" it's probably believable.

Brian Shipp ran a 15mm Chain of Command game with two US platoons, supported by Shermans, attacking against a single German platoon.

Brian and I had a good chat at lunchtime. Lardy Days can be a great opportunity to share ideas on scenario design.

The scenario was from the Pint Sized Campaign 29 Let's Go.

A very nice-looking Star Wars game was run by Kev using modified Chain of Command rules.

And finally there was my own Harpers Ferry game, seeing its third outing at a Lardy Day.

The players in both runs of the game were mostly new to What A Cowboy so things ran somewhat more slowly than they did at Posh Lard but all involved seemed to enjoy it. This was despite my forgetting to allow the victims of the first couple of hits to dodge!

A highlight of the day came in the second game. The player in charge of the townsfolk of Harpers Ferry had struggled to get his head around the use of the "Other Townsfolk" activation card. Eventually things clicked into place with this exchange:

Umpire:    The Other Townsfolk card!
Player:       What can I do with that?
Umpire:    Lay down covering fire, remove opponents' covering fire, or perform a Task.
Player:       What's a Task?
Umpire:    Anything you like.
Player:     Could we build a bomb to blow a hole in the wall of the engine house?
Umpire:    Sure that'll have a Task Value of...  

<grabs a couple of 12-sided dice and rolls them>

Umpire:      ...seventeen! Roll me a D6 to get started.
Player:       One!
Umpire:    OK, the townsfolk are one-seventeenth of the way to building a bomb.

After three more trips though the game deck and three more d6 rolls by the player concerned (all of them ones) we got as far as:

Umpire:       OK, the townsfolk are now four-seventeenths of the way to building a bomb!

Needless to say the bomb didn't get completed before the insurrectionists completed the job of moving their hostages into the engine house. 

Each time I run Harpers Ferry I come up with a couple of tweaks to improve the design. This time I gave Mayor Fontaine Beckham a musket rather than a handgun. The longer range made it more likely that his player might deploy him to the railroad trestle where, historically, he was shot dead by Edwin Coppock.

I also firmed up the rules for what happens when either side tries shooting near the hostages and misses! A table in the rules now allows for the death or wounding of named hostages or non-player insurrectionists including one of John Brown's sons.

Shotgun-armed Thomas Boerley (foreground)
heads towards the hostages...

... who are escorted by "Emperor" Shields Green,
Oliver Brown and Jeremiah Anderson.

In general I was pleased with how the games went. We didn't get to Act Two (the US Marines assault on the engine house) in either case but the What A Cowboy rules engine always gives a fun game. I think the players appreciated the research that went into providing the historical context of the events at Harpers Ferry.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Little buildings

I've finally got round to painting the Battlescale 6mm buildings I bought at Penkridge in January.

They're a bit of a mishmash of styles - a couple of clapboard cabins (ACW or Eastern Front?), a wooden framed, thatched barn (German?), a stone-built farmhouse (Normandy?), and a brick-built church with peeling render (again ACW?)

My plan at this stage is to leave them unbased to use for towns and villages in Bloody Big Battles. The rules are very high level and battles often see units (brigades) marching through built-up areas. The best way to handle this is represent the 'footprint' of the town with a flat base and scatter on some representative buildings.

I should say that I like these models. They have a nice level of detail and a sculpted feel that suits the pre-twentieth century style of architecture. Worth picking up if you see some at a show.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Another early jet

My kit-building enthusiasm has had a bit of an upsurge of late. The latest off the workbench is this Airfix F-80C Shooting Star. 

Built straight out of the box, it represents an aircraft of 36th Fighter Bomber Squadron, 8th Fighter Bomber Wing, US Air Force in South Korea, 1951. 

I chose this paint scheme because both of the build videos I've seen were of the other optional scheme and I wanted something a bit different. In addition, the other scheme has a painted blue nose heading into a decal side stripe and both builders found it impossible to accurately match paint colour to decal colour.

The kit was originally tooled in 1973 and it's now available in the Vintage Classics range from Airfix. The detail isn't bad for a kit of its age. I added masking-tape seatbelts and painted in cockpit detail but to be honest, you can't see much through the bubble canopy.

The modern Cartograf decals are superb and went on with virtually no problems. I did leave off a few tiny stencils on the underside.

We're awaiting delivery of a glass-fronted cabinet that will eventually house my small collection of built-for-display aircraft models