Saturday, 19 June 2021

Finishing off some wooden block houses

Before starting the painting of Samurai units for my next project. I tidied up the painting table by completing some wooden block buildings. These houses had been sitting around for a month or two undercoated.

The houses are simply made from wood and a modelling paste used to texture the roofs. All other details are painted on.


4 houses were painted up during the past week.

The roofs are a modelling paste textured with a toothpick.

In all seven houses and one windmill have been made for my horse and musket games.

One thing I like about these models is they are robust with no fiddly bits to break off when stored.


Sunday, 13 June 2021

Planning the next painting project

Having finished painting all the units I need for my ancients games and soon to be started simple 2nd Punic War campaign. It is time to decide the next painting project. There are a three options which I can do that don't involve purchasing new figures, they are:

  1. Finish painting some old Seven Years War Spencer Smith plastic figures to add to my existing small SYW collection.
  2. Paint some Warhammer starter set figures to oppose an already painted Orc army for some Dragon Rampant style games.
  3. Paint some old Miniature Figures Samurai for 16th Century Japan. A combination of some old figures and secondhand figures purchased 18 months ago.
I am not sure why, but 16th Century Japan seems the most enticing. In all I have approximately 400 figures to paint. They are simple figures from Minifigs S range, I believe, but I am not sure. I have been doing a bit a reading and the following picture is the inspiration for undertaking this project.

The inspiration for the project

The picture is from the book "The Samurai - A Military History" by S.R. Turnbull.

Currently reading.

I pulled out the boxes containing the figures and completed a count of what is available to make up two armies. I am planning on having between 9 to 12 units per army.

Boxes of Samurai figures

As mentioned these are not detailed figures and size-wise they are smallish 25mm miniatures. I will be painting them is a glossy toy soldier look. I am still thinking about the best approach for basing them. Normally I base my units on 4" by 3" bases containing 9 to 12 figures. This time I plan to use 4" by 1.5" bases with 5 to 6 foot figures mounted on them. This way I can mix and match pikes with bows and arquebus to create mixed units or solely units of pikes or bows and arquebus. Mounted units will use 4" by 2" bases of 5 or 6 cavalry.

A couple of test figures painted

Trying out basing options

Given the simplicity of the painting approach I am hoping to get through all the units over a timeframe of 6 to 9 months.


Friday, 4 June 2021

WW2 Western Desert Campaign Wrap Up

Well, the WW2 Western Desert campaign finally finished last week with an AXIS victory.  Possibly not the result I was looking for but an enjoyable campaign nonetheless. I did a quick count back on the campaign turns and games played. In all there were 11 campaign turns and 27 tabletop games played. This all occurred over a period of 15 months between March 2020 and May 2021.

Campaign Map

Campaign Diary

Keeping a campaign going over a long period of time can be problematic, even with a solo campaign where the only dependency is upon myself and my motivation. The linear campaign approach, based upon the KISS Rommel campaign rules, allowed me to easily pick up the campaign after a few weeks break. I would just have to look at the photos of the last blog posting to quickly set up the campaign map and get going. My blogging was essentially my campaign diary and key to tracking progress and for referring back to any rule amendments.

Campaign Rules

The campaign rules were adjusted a couple of times as the campaign progressed, and finally settled down halfway through the campaign. For those interested they can be found here. There are a couple of areas I would revisit if running the campaign again:

  • The supply rules were applied evenly for both sides. I would tweek this if running the campaign again. I would use a set of chance cards for each side with the number of supplies and a brief description explaining why the supplies were lower or higher than expected to help with the campaign narrative. By using cards it would be easier to reflect the AXIS difficulty in obtaining and delivering supplies. Additionally, there could be conditions on the cards such as - “If Tobruk is not held, reduce supplies by 1”.
  • Another area I would modify would be in the use of minefields. They were widely used and it was a rare occurrence in my tabletop games. I would allow two of the defending infantry divisions to deploy mines at no supply cost. The divisions would have to be selected prior to placing the defensive division counters face down on the campaign map.

Tabletop Game Set Up

The terrain cards worked well, a carry over from my English Civil War campaign, with additional rules that allowed:

  1. Defenders to swap two adjacent cards on the first game to make the terrain set up more advantageous for defence.
  2. In the second game both players had to accept the cards as they were laid out.
  3. In the third game the attacker was allowed to swap two adjacent cards to their advantage.

Example of the terrain cards.

The type of game to be fought (frontal assault, flank attack, or escalating encounter) was influenced by whether it was the first, second, or third game. This worked well and I would have liked to introduce some more types of attack or variations of the existing types of games. The tabletop game setup rules are here.

Tabletop Rules

One of the reasons I like to run campaigns is to test out some new home-brew rules or test variations I have concocted for an existing ruleset. The campaigns force me to work away at the rules (or variations). This can be rewarding, if you get it right, or frustrating when things don’t work out to one’s own expectations. However, the campaign encourages me to be persistent.

The rules used and only slightly modified by the end of the campaign.

Tabletop rules started as the Tank on Tank rules (living rules which are downloadable from Lock ‘n’ Load games). I really like these rules and their games, East Front and West Front, which are available as online games through the Steam gaming platform. Both games are geared towards the latter part of WW2. So I began the campaign using these rules with minor modifications to the unit defence and range values. 

Gradually as the games progressed I tried out using D10 rather than the 2D6 dice from the rules. This then morphed into using opposing dice mainly because I don't like the way D10 dice roll (a personal quirk). I also tried having units taking two hits before elimination. Eventually, it was a big circle where towards the end of the campaign I returned to the original rules using 2D6, but with a rule that moving units do not get the +1 to their dice score, whereas stationary units do get the +1. 

For those who have not come across Tank on Tank rules, to make an attack add all shooting units in range to the 2D6 score and if equal or higher than the target defence value the unit is eliminated. So wonderfully simple, but there was one area of the rules that bothered me. It allowed units to rush up and attack without penalty, the change meant an attack could still be made, but not a coordinated attack with multiple moving units.

Dust and burn wreck markers in use.

Other rule modifications which stuck included: having dust from moving units block line of sight, and burning wrecks which were treated as difficult terrain costing an extra movement point to be consumed when moving through.

Settling on the home-brew rules changes was one of the objectives for the campaign, so regardless of the result I was happy with the campaign. Yes, I was hoping the Allies would have a comeback from behind win in the campaign. Anyway I will be writing up the rules either fully or as a quick reference sheet over the next few weeks and will post them.

Tabletop Games

The games themselves were played on a 4x4 foot tabletop with a homemade hexed gaming mat. I was pleased with how it all turned out, I even added a scenic backdrop. Originally my idea was to use a 6x4 foot tabletop with 17x13 hexes, but ended up playing small sized games, 11x11 hexes. These smaller games proved to be much more enjoyable and no less challenging. Smaller and quicker games can make a campaign less onerous to complete.

Tabletop set up for a game

As you can see my tabletop rule variations and campaign rules evolve as the campaign progress. As a solo gamer this adds to the enjoyment of a campaign as you work through ideas and refine the rules. (Although not a good approach if other wargamers are involved.)

Now it is time to start thinking about progressing the Ancients Campaign which will have both sea and land games to play.


Saturday, 29 May 2021

WW2 Western Desert Campaign - Turn 11 Game 2

The second game in this campaign turn (number 11) and has elements of an understrength South African Infantry Division defending a line of hills against a flanking attack by lead elements of the 15th Panzer Division.

The 15th Panzer order of battle:

  • 2 x Armoured Car units
  • 4 x Pz III units
  • 1 x Pz IV unit
  • 2 x Armoured Infantry units
  • 1 x Marder Self-Propelled AT unit
  • 1 x 88mm unit
  • 1 x Wespe Mobile Artillery unit

South African Infantry order of battle:

  • 1 x Armoured Infantry unit
  • 2 x Infantry units
  • 1 x 25 Pounder unit
  • 1 x 6 Pounder unit
  • 1 x 2 Pounder Portee unit
  • 2 x Sherman tank units
  • 2 x Matilda tank units

The above order of battle is after accounting for ongoing wear and tear from operating in the harsh desert conditions.

Plans

The tabletop setup. Allied forces are holding a defensive line along the hills, and have some tanks hidden behind the central escarpment.

The 15th Panzer plans are to move along one of the tracks and seize the first objective of the central escarpment. A flanking force, about a third of the overall force, will attack their second objective the hills positioned in the centre. 

The advance Panzer force arrives moving along one of the tracks.

Opening Phase

The opening phase of the game had the 15th Panzer units quickly moving along tracks towards their first objective the central escapement. A short tank engagement was fought before the Allies retired to their defensive line along the hills. The 15th Panzer quickly pushed on to attach the Allied line, but after losses panzer forces retired and waited for their artillery and 88mm units to arrive.

A tank battle begins as Allies tanks attack the advancing Panzers.

The Allied tanks retired to their defensive on the hills and waited.

The 15th Panzer attack pushes on to the Allies defensive line with losses on both sides occurring, but the defence holds and the attack was called off until support units arrive.

Flank Attack

As the panzers regrouped in the centre and brought up support units, their flanking units started to arrive. They ran into a unit of Matildas supported by a 6 pounder AT unit positioned on a hill. After a short engagement the flank attack was in disarray with the majority of units destroyed. This success allowed the Allies to reposition the Matildas, their only remaining tank unit, towards the centre where another attack was underway and beginning to make headway.

The flanking Panzers arrive just as the main attack has to regroup before making any further assaults.

The combined attacks of the 6 Pounder AT unit and Matilda tanks eliminated the flanking threat.

With the flank attack failing to achieve any success the main attack made another assault and with the support of the 88mm and artillery make a breakthrough.

Final Phase

Having regrouped the 15th Panzer prepared to make a final attack with their remaining active units. The total failure of the flank attack meant this was going to be a make or break attack. The attack began well until the arrival of a unit of Matildas, which stopped the initial momentum. Accurate shooting from the 88mm unit put an end to this troublesome tank unit, and the attack momentum was back with the panzer units. The last Pz III unit with support from their artillery and 88mm were able to take the second objective.

The sole remaining Allied tank unit (Matildas) moves from the left flank to help defend the centre.

The loss of their final tank unit had the Allies having to sit tight on the hills and prepare for the final attack from the depleted Panzer forces.

A final attack proved successful and the 15th Panzer capture the 2nd objective and will the game.

Game End

A victory to the 15th Panzer who ended capturing and holding two of the three objectives in the game. This is the second victory on this campaign turn and they will advance another zone, but with no more zones to retire too for the Allies the campaign is won by Axis forces.

The campaign ends with a second Axis victory.

I will provide some comments on how the campaign rules went in a later post, and whether, or not, I settled upon the game rules by the end.

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Possibly the last WW2 Western Desert Campaign Game

The past week has been spent messing around with some simple hex-based ancient naval games, testing out various rules on a hex and some home-brew variations. My aim is to settle on some rules prior to starting the planned ancient campaign. However, there is my existing WW2 Western Desert campaign to finish as I want to avoid having two campaign on the go at the same time.

The start of a naval game

The Allies are in a perilous situation. Should they lose this campaign turn, they will lose the campaign overall. Already they have lost the first game of a best of three games which determine the winner of each campaign turn. The next game has the 15th Panzer division attacking the understrength 1st South African Infantry division.

Campaign map situation

The battle will have the Allies in a good defensive position defending along a line of hills and escarpments, which will funnel any attacks. Axis forces will be able to get a flanking attack in this game which may well go along way in offsetting the terrain advantage held by the Allies.

Terrain cards selected for this game. The Allies are able to choose the side they defend.

I plan to play what may well be the last game in the campaign this weekend.

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Ancient naval preparations continue

I have been playing a few small ancient naval games with 5 to 10 ships per side. There is one thing I have found frustrating, and that is the measuring and checking of angles for ramming in my games. So yesterday I decided to move to a hex grid and cut out a template for 4 inch (side to side) hexagon in preparation. This evening I have been marking up the hex grid with the template, not marking the whole hex, just marking the corners of the hex. Having laboriously completed this carefully to avoid misshaped hexes, I then went over dabbing on a bluey-grey using a piece of cut foam in the form of a wedge. My hope was to make the dabs look like waves in the hope of disguising to a certain extent the hex look.

The completed blue felt gaming mat.

Ancient ships in the hexes. They all face one side of the hex.

I chose the 4 inch hex because this will also work with my Napoleonic and WW2 ships. 

My semi-flat Napoleonic ships made from MDF wood and cardboard.

My balsa wood WW2 ships are a slightly snugger fit to the hex.

Now that I have the hex gaming mat all prepared, I need to revisit the rules and amend them to work on a hex grid. I suspect the biggest challenge will be differentiating the different ship speeds (move distances).

Saturday, 15 May 2021

Ancient ships finished and a few islands added

Yesterday I was able to finish off the last few ancient ships. I will be needing to add a few islands and coastline to make the games a bit more interesting, besides which many of the naval battles were fought close to the coast.

The tabletop setup with the newly created islands and coastline, and recently completed ships.

After I considered a few option on how to creating the islands and coastline I settled on using foam/sponge sheet which I had used for packing the last time we moved. It is nice and light and can be throw in with other terrain without any worry of damage.

Here are the steps I used to create some foam islands and coastline.

Step 1 - Using a pair of scissors I cut out the pieces, shaped the coastline, and finally cut out gullies to make the coastline look quite rugged.

Foam is cut and shaped

Step 2 - I made up a large batch of brown wash using cheap acrylic paint from the kids section of the art shop. This was liberally applied to the foam pieces, then they were squeezed out to rid them of as much surplus wash as possible.

Step 3 - While the brown stained foam pieces were still damp I brushed on a light sand colour, working in the colour with the paint brush.

A comparison of a brown washed piece and one with the light sand brushed in.

Step 4 - Again before allowing time to try, a light grey paint was applied and worked in as with the sand colour.

A light grey is worked into the edges for cliffs and rocky areas.

Step 5 - A mid-green paint was applied, again nothing had been allowed to dry out, and the green was worked in on the top of the islands and coastline to represent vegetation. In all it only took 30 minutes to do all this using house paint in sample pots and cheap artist acrylics.

Green is added for vegetation

Step 6 - Once the terrain pieces are dry, then dry-brush the edges and terrain pieces to help highly the rugged coast. It can take quite a while to dry out, so finding somewhere warm will help speed up the process.

Once dry, the cliffs and coast is dry-brushed with a light sand colour

The final step is to set up the tabletop and play my first ancient naval game. All in all this terrain is simple, cheap, and no need to worry about it getting damaged when stored away.

A closer look in use on the tabletop


Thursday, 13 May 2021

Preparing for some Ancient Campaigning

Now my Roman and Carthaginian armies are painted and progress is being made with some supporting naval contingents, it is time to start planning for a campaign. 

Only a few more of the current batch of ships to paint

A closer view

The following map and rules have been influenced by Phillip Sabin’s Second Punic War game in his book Simulating War. In the book the game is designed for a multi-player political game and I have modified the game ideas to hopefully make a simple solo campaign game which will generate some tabletop land and naval games.

The campaign map

During the campaign land battles will be fought using One Hour Wargames rules with chance cards as described here in an earlier post, while for the naval games I am planning on using Poseidon's Warriors rules by John Lambshead.

These draft rules below are very much my starting point and I will be posting updates as I progress with the campaign.

The campaign board begins with the following setup where each round counter represents an army from Rome (Red) and Carthage (Green). A square counter represents an exceptional general, in this case Hannibal. During a campaign turn player's can gain the initiative through winning the naval contest, which will allow them to move second after the losing player has moved and committed their forces. Then battles are fought for contested regions and finally recruitment occurs.

Campaign map starting positions

Sequence of play

  1. Naval battle is fought using the generic scenarios from Posiden’s Warriors rules.
  2. The losing player of naval battle gets to move their forces first.
  3. The winner of the naval battle gets to then move their forces second.
  4. Where armies from Rome and Carthage occupy a region a battle is fought on the tabletop. The number of armies and commanders in the region add chance cards to a player's chance deck used in the battle.
  5. The loser of a battle removes one army, or in the case of a drawn game, both sides remove one army.
  6. Recruiting of armies in regions were a player has equal or more occupying armies.

The campaign runs for 9 turns in total with each turn representing two years between 218 BC and 201 BC.

Winning the Campaign

The campaign ends immediately with a total victory, if Roman armies occupy the African region with no Carthaginian armies present, or Carthaginian armies occupy Northern Italy with no Roman armies present. 

Otherwise, the side with the most armies at the end of campaign turn 9 has a partial victory.

Recruiting

Players can recruit one new army in regions where they have an equal number or more armies than the opposition. An army cannot be recruited if there are already 3 armies in a region.

Moving

Armies can move between adjoining regions up to 2 armies between land (brown arrows) and 1 army when crossing sea (blue) arrows.

Exceptional commanders do not apply to this restriction.

Stacking Limits

A maximum of 3 armies from one side are allowed to occupy a region after all recruitment and moves are completed. Remove any excess armies.

Exceptional commanders do not apply to this restriction.

Exceptional Commanders

Carthage has a commander counter for Hannibal that moves like armies, but does not count to the stacking limit. Hannibal as a commander adds one initiative chance card to the deck in exchange for a confusion card when battles are fought on the tabletop.

Rome has a commander counter for Scipio the Younger which becomes available on turn 5. The counter is placed in a region with Roman armies. Scipio the Younger adds one initiative chance card to the deck in exchange for a no effect card when battles are fought on the tabletop.

Preparing for Chance Decks for a Battle

When setting up for a tabletop battle the chance cards need to be set up for each side. The chance cards used during the game are acted upon during the turn they are drawn and cannot be carried over to another turn.

  • 5 x No Event. Nothing happens
  • 2 x Confusion. A player’s units cannot move this turn, but they are allowed to pivot.
  • 2 x Ammunition Shortage. A player’s units cannot shoot this turn.
  • 2 x Initiative. One unit can immediately make a move, shoot, or conduct a round of combat if already engaged in combat. The unit can still be activated as normal later.
  • 2 x Rally. A player can remove 2 hits from all units.
  • 2 x Demoralisation. All hand to hand combat D6 scores are reduced by 2.

These cards are adjusted for commanders:

  • Hannibal as a commander adds one initiative chance card to the deck in exchange for a confusion card.
  • Scipio as a commander adds one initiative chance card to the deck in exchange for a no effect card.

Count the number of armies a side has in a region and subtract 1. The result is the number of rally cards which are exchanged for no effect cards. For example, the Romans have 3 armies in the contested region and would add two rally cards, replacing the no effect cards.







Saturday, 8 May 2021

WW2 Western Desert Campaign Turn 11 - Game 1

The plan for the 21st Panzer division is to capture and hold the centre hills and strike on their right flank to capture the wadi then move along the line of hills. The understrength NZ Infantry division chose not to defend the centre hill, but instead hold a defensive line along the hills and wadi, close to the baseline where a few precious are available. 

(Note - preparation and set up activities for this game can be found in the previous post.)

Plans

Opening Moves

In the opening game moves 21st Panzer units quickly advanced and occupied the centre hills which would be used to support the flanking attack on the right. To counter this Allied reserves quickly arrived and rather than sit idly back and wait for the onslaught, they pushed forward with two tank sorties. One along the road on their right flank, and another with the heavily armoured a Matilda tank unit against the centre hills.

The sortie by tanks along the road is stopped with the help of an 88mm unit

A Matilda tank unit attack against the centre hills proves to be very successful and causing difficulties for the 21st Panzer and their plans

The swift advance by the 21st Panzer was stymied somewhat by Allied tank sorties

Flank Attack

Having dealt with the tank sorties down the road, the Axis begin their attack through the wadi and on to the hills. In the centre they were struggling to contain and suppress the Matilda tank unit which was stubbornly hanging on. This meant their centre were unable to provide support for the flank attack on the hills.

The flank attack begins without support from the centre hills who are occupied trying to suppress a Matilda tank unit.

The wadi is secured and the attack on the hills begins

Getting a Foothold

The 21st Panzer units finally gain a foothold on the hill, prompting the Allies to move their last tank unit across to counter the treat. The Allied units were perilously thin on the ground. Their sortie on the centre hills had ended and this meant Panzer forces, while also short of armour, were able to coordinate with their AT and artillery to finally secure their second objective and securing a victory.

Having destroyed the Allied tank sortie Axis forces are able to coordinate their AT and artillery  to support the attack gain a foothold on the hills. The last Allied tank unit attempts a counter attack.

The hills are finally captured after the Allied counter attack fails.

Game End

An Axis victory, they are now well positioned to win the campaign by winning one more of the next two games.