Monday, August 27, 2012

It's Official - Bolt Action Rules, OK?

In a recent pseudo-scientific poll of blog readers, fifty-one of you voted on your favourite WW2 skirmish ruleset... the winner, with 27% of the votes cast, was Warlord's new "Bolt Action" rules.

Other favourites were IABSM (7%), Rules of Engagement (11%), Disposable Heroes (13%), Nuts! (1%), and Something Else (17%, a pretty popular ruleset!). Nineteen percent of you say you don't play WW2 skirmish games. Or perhaps you just won't admit to it, which is OK too.

In any event, congratulations Warlord Games!

Armies on Parade - Howling Griffons Rogue Trader Marines

As threatened, yesterday I took the lads out into the yard for an impromptu photo shoot of my entire RT Howling Griffons Space Marine army. Not quite to the level of Fred Reed yet, but unlike Fred's, mine are all metal ;-)

Here's the commander. Haven't gooten a name for him yet. I do have an unpainted Perry twins' Imperial Commander diorama that I'm planning to paint as Orlando Furioso, Chapter Master. In camouflage of course!! Behind him stand the Chaplain, Apothecary, and a Space Marine Tech Support trooper.

Here's the Terminator squad, with Devastators behind.

Brother Marines.

Rhino 5 with Space Marine tank rider.

Newly painted Landspeeder, all metal of course ;-)

The amazing changing AFV... one minute it's a Rhino, the next minute a Predator (see below)... right now it's a Razorback with twin lascannons. Resin turret is from Puppets War in Poland. Great stuff.

Assault squad with insane turbofan jump packs from Max Mini.

Commander on bike, with power fist of course!

More of the Brother marines.

Land Raider Armoured Proteus with a new commander model, converted from a metal Space Marine.

Landspeeder again. I love this model. So... Rogue Trader-y.

Rhino/Razorback with Predator turret.

Overhead shot of the lads. Can hardly wait to get them all out for a 6th Edition game. Must be 1500 points here easy - on a point-per-weight basis anyway!! Still a bit to add though - I'm thinking Dreadnought(s). Modern style? FW Contemptor? Mr. Peanut? Watch for a new poll question!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Gangsters! 28mm Skirmish Game

For last night's game I decided to debut the Citadel Gangsters I'd painted a few weeks ago. I'd finally sourced and repainted some excellent Lledo "Days Gone" cars to go with them (one seen at left above) and this was the last element remaining before we could have a game...

Rules used were found in a back issue of Wargames Soldiers and Strategy magazine and based on Warhammer Historical's "Legends of the Old West". I wanted a multi-player game so I came up with a simple scenario set in the seedy dockyards of the Big City. The Italian Mob and a Scottish gang known as the "Sean McSeans" are bitter rivals in the illegal liquor trade. Unbeknownst to each other, each gang receives a tip... there is a cargo truck full of illegal whiskey at the pier. Unfortunately, the truck has broken down, and each gang sends a "delegation" to secure the goods and wait for a commandeered tow vehicle to come pick up the truck. However, the local police precinct is also in on the secret, and a crack unit led by the Commissioner and a Special Agent is also on the way to secure the booty...

 Conscript Mike appears unimpressed with his lot as Police commandant...

For the first game, Conscript Mike played the cops, and Dave V. and Brian played the gangsters. We used the WSS rules as written for the first game...

... and they proved somewhat unsatisfactory. What happened was that Brian ran his gang in a very "meta" fashion and sat back, waiting for the other two antagonist gangs to destroy each other. Long-time Conscripts will recognize this as Conscript Sean's favorite tactic for multiplayer games - a tactic which was as successful as it was infuriating ;-)

Therefore Brian's gang became known as the "Sean McSeans".

Here they are, advancing en bloc...

Hiding behind some barrels...

The main problem with the rules, however, had to do with the effect of shooting. Or rather, the lack of effect. Most of the figures had a "Shooting" value of 5+ on a d6, with a few at 4+. When combined with the copious cover provided on the table and the short ranges of the weapons (typically 12"), this resulted in shooting having little effect. Bizarrely for a game so evocative of wild gunfights, "gats" and "Chicago typewriters", the antagonists had to close to knife range in order to effectively engage their rivals. The mental image of gangsters throwing aside their Tommy-guns and pulling out brass knuckles to decide things was jarring, to say the least.

"Don't bother with the guns; let's wade in with nightsticks!!"

The Sean McSeans camped on the objective

Settling things the Chicago Old Testament way

Brian won the first game after Dave V. and Mike's gangs basically stabbed each other to death. However, that game didn't take long, and we identified the problems with the rules, so we decided to play again with a quick fix - shooting values improved by one pip across the board and gun ranges standardized to 12" (24" for the cop rifle).

Brian turned over the McSeans to me for the second game, Mike kept the cops (unwillingly) and Dave played his Italians again. The second game was much improved. Close range firefights abounded and the atmosphere was most evocative of the era. In the picture above, my gang and Dave's get to grips at short range with a gun battle over some crates (literally) - the objective is the green truck at upper left. After a turn of that there were 4 dead gangsters and an impromptu truce called in order to address the coppers... Dave had to go home a bit after that so I took over his gang too. The uncomfortable possibility of me having to fight myself was avoided when the remnants of my own gang failed its bottle check and fled the table, leaving a couple of Italian die-hards to sweat the heat. The forces of law and order prevailed at last as the Italians turned tail.  

The second game was really fun and tense, I think the slight rule mod made a big improvement. Goes to show that when it comes to game design it can be the smallest things (like one pip!) that make the biggest difference.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dieppe Game Report - Bolt Action Rules

Yesterday marked the 70th anniversary of the raid on Dieppe by a combined force of about six thousand Canadian, British and (fifty) American troops. Much has been written about Operation Jubilee and I think it's fair to say that any student of the Second World War (and especially Canadians) have at least a passing familiarity with the history of the operation. So to commemorate the anniversary, I decided to host a Dieppe game last Thursday using our "new favorite" Bolt Action rules.
The tabletop was laid out as an approximation of White Beach - the landing zone of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and the 14th CTR (Calgary Tanks) in front of the town of Dieppe itself. On a 6x4 table I laid out the sea cloth, a Hotz "Old West" mat for the beach, then three 2x2 MDF tiles to represent the outskirts of Dieppe. The sea wall was made of baseboard scraps painted grey, and the beach obstacles are made from sprue - specifically, the sprues that carry Games Workshop plastic bases :-)

Anti-tank gun in a typical Normandy concrete emplacement.

Overhead view of the beach. The landing craft are inexpensive plastic toys that I got at the Michigan Toy Soldier Company on a visit there with Conscript Curt, many moons ago...

The gang has gathered for the game. L-R, Conscripts Mike F., Bill, Tim, Mike A., Brian, Dave V., me, and Frederick. Picture taken by Curt :-)

We played the "Envelopment" scenario again from the Bolt Action rulebook. Attackers gain VPs for having units exit the table from the defender's edge and by having units in the defender's deployment zone at the end of the game. Defenders gain VPs by killing stuff. The game also features a "preparatory bombardment" which of course didn't happen at Dieppe, but which we included anyway, to represent the confusion of the surprise Canadian attack. The accumulation of Pin markers on some of the German units was to cause problems for them throughout the game!

Our founding Conscript, Curt, with Mike A. and Brian.

The first wave rolls onto the beach - Churchills of the Calgary Tanks. The tanks had a 1-in-6 chance of bogging down each time they moved on the beach - and the far tank promptly did!

German MG nest sighting in on the beach...

As their compatriots move up through the town.

Second wave - Rileys and Royal Canadian Engineers about to disembark from their landing craft.

The landing is well underway. Tanks of the 14th CTR on the beach with Rileys crowing up to the sea wall. Royal Canadian Engineers are in the Universal Carrier behind them.

Infantry rush the sea wall. The platoon commander and his two assistants are still in the landing craft at centre left, and got lit up by the MG nest at centre right. They were able to get onto the beach but were caught in the open by MG fire and were wiped out :-(

Infantry huddle behind the sea wall. The Daimler scout car at upper right was able to scoot off the table, picking up 3 VPs for the Canadians.
Churchill crushes the wire, followed by Rileys and Engineers.

German forces mobilize to defend the town.

The German bunker tries to activate and engage the Rileys in the open on the beach, but cannot shake the Pin markers...

Rileys move off the beach to close assault the German MG bunker...

 And achieve an outstanding success, evidenced by the smoke of victory!

A Churchill has rolled onto the Promenade followed by a section of infantry.

StuG III in the centre of the table is continually suppressed by Churchill fire...

Successful close assault on the Pzkpfw 38(t) by the Engineers!

Commandoes appear from the flank and engage the anti-tank gun.

Churchill tank moves into the German deployment zone to score 2 VPs on the last turn.

The game ended on the seventh turn, in a hard fought bloody draw - 10 VPs each. While the Canadians managed to exit their scout car from the table, and got one Churchill and a section of late-appearing Commandoes into the deployment zone, it was a hard slog for them (as it should be!). One Churchill was immobilized on the beach and another by fire on the Promenade. The Engineers were stars, blowing up a 38(t), and a section of Rileys did well to neutralize an MG bunker and run up to the edge of the town, only to get lit up by the Germans' mobile Flak 38 (quad light autocannons against men in open = 8 shots at 3+ to hit and 2+ to wound, ouch). The Germans had some trouble issuing orders as the Pin markers accumulated, but as they brought more assets to bear the few Canadians who managed to get off the beach were surrounded and eliminated. If the Commandoes hadn't fortuitously appeared on the last turn it would've been a German win.

Another win for the Bolt Action rules. Although this was only our second game it really rattles along well. It's a great blend of familiar concepts with some clever innovations, kudos to the Warlord crew. Great to have Conscript Curt over and a good crowd out for the game too - it was after 2am by the time the house cleared out!