Saturday 27 March 2021

Ancients project game mat

The Ancients project painting has slowed down in the last couple weeks. This delay was partly due to the recent WW2 floor wargame, which was time consuming, and some Napoleonic wargames to test out a few rule changes. This week I managed to get the project progressing again with a couple of units getting painted and this weekend I created a game mat.

Some of the distractions delaying the Ancients project.

Over the last couple of years I have created a few game mats using material and paint. This mat is for an arid looking tabletop and to keep costs down I used a canvas drop sheet purchased from the local hardware store. This needed a good iron and trim before starting to paint it.

Canvas drop sheet. An old fashioned heavy one without plastic backing

The drop sheet needed ironing before starting...

... and needed trimming.

All ready to start.

In the first step I sponged a sandy brown wash all over the sheet. While it was still wet I sponged a lighter sand colour all over, this helps to soften the sponged colour. I did this a couple of times with increasingly lighter sand colours until the right balance was achieved.

The first sandy brown wash is applied.

The picture shows the lighter colour sand sponging.

As I wanted an arid look rather than a full sandy desert look. I applied areas of a green wash, then later over sponged very carefully with a mid-green colour. Throughout the whole process of adding colour gradually I kept checking with a based and painted unit.

Areas of green were applied to make the overall look arid rather than just desert.

The completed mat on the tabletop.

A closer look at the mat

With a completed mat on the tabletop it was time to get the two armies out and on the tabletop. With any luck I may be able to have a game.

Armies out of their boxes and deployed on the tabletop

All the figures are HAT plastic 1/72 scale miniatures.

A view from the Carthaginian side.

Friday 19 March 2021

WW2 Floor Wargaming - Part 3 - Game Report

This is the last post on my WW2 floor wargaming efforts from a week ago. It relies on quite a few photographs to tell the story.

The Plan...

A quick reminder of the Allied plan. There are three objectives in the game:

  1. The buildings on the beach
  2. The crossroads
  3. The village
The Allies aim first to control the beach them secure the objectives in the order above.

Map of the game area (6 x 12 foot) and Allied plans

The funnies...

What D-Day style game would it be without some funnies? The Allies have a Sherman flail tank to help deal with the minefields and a hastily made Churchill AVRE Fascine Carrier to deal with the tank trap.

The Landing...

The beach landings began at 6am and went reasonable smoothly with only a few units from the first wave having to make second attempts to land. Each unit in a wave rolls a dice and arrives at one of the 6 landing craft representing landing areas on the beach. Only two units can arrive in a landing area in a single turn.

The first wave arrives and begins to engage the beach defences. On the left had side of the beach a lack of armour is making progress difficult.

Progress on the right hand side of the beach as the second wave arrives.

Activation cards are placed and revealed. Units within 6 inches are able to activate to move or shoot. At the early stages of the landing the Allies had to prioritise between: 1) moving up the second wave arrivals to clear the area for the third wave, and 2) engaging beach defences.

Two-thirds of the beach is now controlled and the Allied units prepare to take the left hand flank defences with support from naval gunfire (which was treated as artilley in the rules).

On turn 6 (9am) the beach is secured as the third wave units start to move off the beach. From this point on the Allies have air support which can attack if a black activation card is revealed. 

The Counterattack...

While the Allies had been securing the beach the defending Germans pushed up all available tanks into the second defensive line around the crossroads. More armoured reserves arrived on turn 5 and started moving forwards.

German reserves arrive turn 5 and move through the town. As with the Allies, the Germans were having to make priority decisions with their activation cards, whether to move up reserves or use their artillery to its fullest extent.

While the first line of defences had delayed the inward advance of the Allies. The Germans started to bolster their second defence with all available units and to prepare to launch a counterattack. 

German tanks counter attack on their left flank.

The counterattack began well, the initial advance of Allied tanks were stopped in their tracks. 

Reserves are quickly pushed up into the line. The Germans were pretty much putting all their units into the second line defence.

The second line of defence...

The German counterattack was a surprise to the Allies and further progress inland was not going to be easy. The loss of tank units was a blow and forced them to organised their armour and artillery into groups for the next advance. Grouping units together helped reduce the number of activation cards expended to provide artillery support and advance units.

The defending Germans move up their reserves into their second line of defence. While the Allies prepare to continue their advance and push along towards the second crossroads objective.

German reserves move to take up their positions at the crossroads.

The Funnies in action with the Churchill AVRE deploying its Fascine to bride the tank trap and a Sherman flail tank clearing a minefield in the background.

The Allied advance on their right flank is stalled by the German counterattack and units have taken up defensive positions. The only area to advance is the centre and units push through the gap between to two steep hills. These hills can only be occupied by infantry units and the advancing units will be channelled into a narrow front. 

Steep hills channel and delay the Allies advance as German reserve units take up defensive positions.

Allied infantry with all available artillery support attack the hill. The German counterattack had stopped advancing, but remained a threat. This was around turn 13 when German activation cards were reduced to 4 cards (rather than the original 5 cards) due to having a third of their units eliminated.

The Germans had a choice of continuing their original counterattack, or pulling back some of the units to help with the defence around the crossroads. The reduction to 4 activation cards would make maintaining an attack and defending the crossroads a difficult proposition. In the end the decision was made for two units to retire and support the crossroads defense. 

The fighting around the crossroads was most interesting. Neither side wanted to be too aggressive and take heavy losses as this would turn the game. Having removed the German infantry from the hills with a number of artillery bombardments the Allied tanks eventually moved forward to attack the crossroads.  

Air support which in previous turns had been ineffective, this time proved to be very useful. The Allies gained the upper hand in the fight for the crossroads.  Though their tanks had suffered hits and would be vulnerable to attacks.

With no threat on their left flank a German tank unit is rushed to the crossroads to hopefully tip the balance of fighting in their favour. It never arrived due to air support which was all of a sudden proving its worth.

The remaining German units defending the crossroads are mopped up. This was around turn 20 (4pm).

The third line of defence...

Having gained control of the second objective, the crossroads, the Allies had to hurry up and get their artillery into position for the assault on the village. The Sherman flail tank moves up to help the attack as it is the one remaining Allied tank unit which has not taken a hit.

Allied units line up ready for the attack on the village which is lightly defended with a single unit. The Germans having committed most units to the defence of the crossroads.

The attack begins

The town is cleared of defenders and is open to the Allies.

After game thoughts?

This was such an enjoyable game. I set up the game Saturday morning and began the game Saturday afternoon and finished Sunday morning with lots of breaks to rest and do other things. It was great fun and a rare thing to get many of my 20mm WW2 units out and in a game at one time.

The rule changes worked and provided an entertaining game. The combat results table (see previous post here) provided quick results when units engaged, particularly when they have an advantage. I definitely plan to apply the combat results table replacing the D3 dice I use in the rules.

The other change limiting the number of activation cards worked well, and introduced a number of priority calls into the game for both sides. They also kept units together as attacking or defending groups, rather than having individual units moving all over the gaming area.

From a game perspective there were a few decisions caused by the rule changes and size of gaming area:

1) The limited activation cards meant both sides needed to group artillery and mortar units together to minimise the need to issue too many cards, and these groups delivered what seemed like bombardments.

2) The Allies took a very methodical approach of bringing up all available units, get the artillery in position, then attack. This took a few turns, but paid dividends in overwhelming defensive positions.

3) One of the most interesting decisions was whether the German counterattack should have pushed on rather than stopping and redeploying units to the crossroads. By pushing ahead there was a risk of losing the crossroads, but the reward would have had a tank units running amok in the landing area. It was one of those moments where it would have been interesting to replay from that point in the game.

In the end it was a victory to the Allies taking the town at 6pm as evening arrived on turn 24 (each turn is assumed to represent 30 minutes).

Tuesday 16 March 2021

WW2 Floor Wargaming - Part 2 the Rules

People's comments on my previous post highlighted some of the difficulties of wargaming on the floor. Aside from the careful tip-toeing to avoid standing on the miniatures, there is the constant getting up and squatting down to measure and to move units and measure shooting ranges. With that in mind I was using some very simple rules to make things easier. These rules have their origins in the One-Hour Wargaming WW2 rules. The two major changes are in the sequence of play which uses card activation, and shooting which has units eliminated upon taking two or more hits.

German reserves move up to bolster defensives

My current WW2 rules for the tabletop has individual activation of units. At the start of a game turn a card is dealt for each unit on the tabletop. Then units from both sides are activated one at a time starting with the unit with the highest value card (Kings) working down to the unit with the lowest value card (Aces). Using suit order for similar value cards - Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs. This works fine when there are only 12-20 units involved in a game, but I had more units than cards in a deck.

I do like the card activation approach as a solo gamer, it gives quite a tense game where you are not sure if the enemy will get the jump on your units. So the question was how to keep this activation approach without it being too onerous?

I chose to activate a units in groups. A up to 5 cards per side are placed on single units to represent orders to this unit and any nearby units within 6 inches. When it is time to activate the group, they all activate choosing to move or shoot as desired. The total number of cards is reduced based upon loses. When a force loses a third of their units only 4 cards are used, and this is reduced again to 3 cards when two-thirds of units are lost.

Once all activations are complete the game turn is complete. Deal out the cards again reshuffling the pack of cards if necessary.

Cards are used to activate groups of units

The limited number of cards meant units tended to move as groups and in a staggered way as one group moves forward, then waits for support to catch up. There was also a need to prioritise between activating artillery support and keeping units moving forward.

Movement was kept simple. Units may move some or all of their movement allowance and may turn during their movement without penalty. There are no adjustments for moving through terrain and friendly units may pass through each other freely.

  • Foot infantry and mortars - 6”
  • Towed artillery and AT guns - 8”
  • Mechanised Infantry, Tanks, Self-Propelled Guns - 12”
  • Reconnaissance (armoured cars and jeeps) - 15”

With combat normally I would track up to 8 hits on a unit before it is eliminated. With the number of units involved this needed to change as it would make combat a fiddly affair with tracking hits. Opting for 2 hits and you are eliminated would make tracking easy.

  • Units may only shoot at units they can see within 12", or in the case of artillery and mortar indirect shooting is allowed where there is a friendly sight the target for them.
  • Artillery and mortars had a range of 48" and other weapons 12".

The procedure for combat is as follows:

1) Determine any advantages and disadvantages - The table below shows if the attacking unit has an advantage or disadvantage, or neither.

2) Assess the effects a D6 and use the following combat results table. The first figure is used if the target is in the open and the second figure if the target is in cover. This combat table is based on the work done on on with a few slight changes.

Units are eliminated after accumulating 2 hits, or more. Use a marker to indicate this, I use grey smoke to indicate units with 1 hit. I like leave armour in place when destroyed and mark them with red/black smoke.

To destroyed Allied tanks

By keeping the rules simple my aim was to keep the game rolling along at a reasonable pace and limit the need for me to move around the game areas too much by having group activations close together.

Next up is the game report as I sort through the photographs...

Saturday 13 March 2021

WW2 wargaming on the floor

This weekend my wife is away and when this happens there is always the opportunity to undertake some floor wargaming. Last time the floor wargame was of a D-Day style landing using "A Landing in Force" from "War Game Campaigns" by Donald Featherstone as inspiration (here). This weekend I have decided upon a D-Day style again using a scenario from "Operation Warboard" by Gavin Lyall. I have done by best to recreate the map from the book, but it has ended up being slightly elongated.

Map using Operation Warboard as a guide

The book from the book was based upon a map of King beach in the Normandy Gold landing area.

Source of inspiration for the game. My rather battered copy of Operation Warboard with one of the more interesting book covers. 

Having sketched out a map the floor was cleared and various wargaming cloths used to set up the game. The playable area ended up being 6 foot by 12 foot. Pretty much all my wargaming scenery was consumed laying out the terrain. I did avoid putting down any fiddly terrain and lichen as I will be stepping all over the gaming area carefully watching where I place my feet.

The playing area all set up with terrain and defending units

The defending German order of battle:
  • Tank company (2 x Panther tank units and 2 x Panzer IV tank units)
  • 3 Infantry companies (3 x infantry units and 1 x mortar/howitzer gun)
  • 1 Mortorised company (3 x Motorised units and 1 x Stug III)
  • 1 Armoured Car company (2 armoured car units)
  • 2 x AT guns (75mm and 88mm)
  • 2 x Artillery (105mm)
German defending forces

The Armoured Car and Tank companies are in held in reserve and will arrive on turn 5.

The Allied order of battle is:

Wave 1
  • 1 infantry company (3 x infantry units and 1 x mortar unit)
  • 1 tank company (1 x Cromwell tank and 2 x Churchill tank units)
  • Supporting units (1 x buffalo infantry units, 1 x DUKW infantry unit, 1 x recon unit)
Wave 2
  • 2 infantry companies (3 x infantry units and 1 x mortar unit)
  • Supporting units (1 x Sherman flail tank, 1 Churchill AVRE Fascine Carrier, 1 x recon unit)
Wave 3
  • 1 tank company (3 x Sherman units)
  • 1 artillery troop (2 x 25 pounder units)
  • 1 mechanised infantry company (4 x mechanised infantry units and 1 x 6 pounder AT gun)
  • 1 Air Support
Throughout the game there will be artillery support available from the ships.

Allied landing forces

The game begins with the first wave of Allied troops arriving. To represent the difficulty of landing units where you want them to land. The following rules are used:

  • Each unit will arrive at one of the 6 beach zone represented by a landing craft. A D6 dice is used to randomly decide which landing craft is used. 
  • In one turn only 2 units may deploy from a single landing craft. Those units unable to land because a landing area already has 2 units, must attempt again the following turn.
  • The following wave cannot begin its landing until all the previous wave has successfully landed.

Two tank "funnies" a Sherman Flail and hastily made Churchill AVRE Fascine Carrier with a cotton reel covered with masking tape. 

The German units are positioned on gaming area. Because most of the defending units are in prepared positions and I lack terrain to represent this I have used hedges to show units in prepared defence positions. They will be treated as being in cover.

The first line of defence on the beach has guns and pillboxes

Supporting the beach defences are an infantry company (their tent are just folded cardboard)

The second line of defence on one of the steep hills and centre crossroads

The second line of defence continues by the second of the steep hills

The third line of defence in the town

Reserve which will arrive on turn 5

The Allied plan is drawn up. It has three phases with three objectives:
  • To control the beach taking small collection of buildings (objective 1)
  • To push on to the centre crossroads and hold this position (objective 2)
  • Attack on the village (objective 3).
The Allied plan

The next couple of posts will be of the game and rules used...