Wednesday, August 28, 2019

What a Tanker! - First game, Eastern front, 1943

What a Tanker!

Last Thursday I ran  a new (to me) game, What a Tanker!, from Too Fat Lardies. Conscripts Dallas and Kevin had also expressed their interest in the game.

Game: The Battle of Kursk: a microcosm in 28mm of one of the biggest clashes of Soviet and German amour. One tank per person; the game is all about the friction of trying to command and crew a tank in combat.

I had tanks available for use, but if players were  very keen, they could BYOT (Bring Your Own Tank). The stipulations were that it must be:
  • of suitable size for 28mm figures (i.e. 1/48, 1/50, or 1/56 scale - note that all the tanks in the photos are 1/48 and 1/50);
  • painted; and
  • available for service on the Eastern Front, Kursk salient, in July, 1943. So, e.g., no Jagpanthers or JS-II's.
In the end, only Kevin brought a tank to the fight (see below).

The Rules

I will walk the reader through the activation of a single tank during a turn of a hypothetical game set in the fall of 1941.

Below, a T-34 (Model 1941), wonderfully painted and weathered by Kevin, which now resides in my collection. (Click on the picture to embiggen.)


Below is the lay of the land (which would be fought over a couple of years later by the Conscripts). For tanks, from L-R, there's the T-34, a Panzer IV D lurking behind the church, a Panzerjager I tank destroyer behind the revetment, and a knocked out KV-2.


Assuming that this is like the second or third turn, below is the player's Dashboard for the T-34. The Armor and Strike of 6 is very good for this period of the war; the tank commander has buttoned up, as indicated by the marker on the sheet, and thus can only see to the front 60 degree arc of the turret. The main gun is loaded.


Each activation, the player rolls 6 Command Dice for their tank, representing the tank commander and crew trying to perform all their actions. Each pip on the die has a different resulting action:

1 = Drive; each Drive Die allows you to:
  • Move Forward 2D6 inches. 
  • Reverse 1D6 inches. 
  • Turn on the spot up to 90 degrees – using one of your 2D6 from 1 above.
  • Turn on the spot 91 degrees to 180 degrees. Requires full Drive D6
  • Rotate Turret up to 60 degrees if stationary
  • Cross a Minor Obstacle.
2 = Acquisition; each Acquisition Die is used to try and acquire a target.
  • Must have LOS to target, 60 degrees forward arc from turret (or front of tank if no turret) if ‘Buttoned’, 180 degrees if Unbuttoned. Acquisition lost if no LOS, or outside arc.
  • Target in Open, is acquired Automatically by an Unbuttoned Tank.
  • Target in Open, is acquired using 1 Acquisition Die by a Buttoned Tank.
  • For each Minor Obstacle intervening, 1 additional Acquisition Die will be needed.
  • For each Major Obstacle intervening, 2 additional Acquisition Dice will be needed.
  • Target is Low Profile, +1 additional Acquisition Die.
  • Partially (~ 1/3 of vehicle) obscured = Minor obstacle.
  • Largely (~2/3 + of vehicle) obscured = Major obstacle.

3 = Aim; Aiming can only take place when the target has been Acquired.
  • Arc of Aim: Target must be within 60 degree arc of turret (or front of tank without a turret). If not within arc, turret/tank must pivot before aiming.
  • One Aim Die is needed to Aim.
  • Any number of additional Aim dice may be used to -1 to firers required score to hit a target.
  • Aim is lost if either tank moves.
  • Unloaded tanks may aim but must load before they can fire.
4 = Shoot; Shoot dice allow the tank to fire.

In order to shoot, the tank MUST :
  1. Have Acquired a Target, and
  2. Be Aimed, and
  3. Be Loaded.
Various modifiers adjust a 2D6 roll "to Hit". If hit, the Shooting player rolls the number of Strike dice of their main gun; the target player rolls a number of dice equal to their Armor. You're looking for 5's and 6's. When Shooting, 5's are Ordinary hits, and 6's are Critical Hits. For the defender, 5's and 6's negate any hits.

Damage occurs when there are more hits than Armor Saves. Various calculations are performed if firing form the Flank or Rear, and if the number of initial Shoot dice have more Critical  Hits than Ordinary Hits. Damage is represented either by Temporary losses of Command Dice, or Permanent losses of Command Dice, coupled with physical effects (e.g. -1 roll To Hit for first Turret Permanent Damage).

The loss of Command Dice represent the degraded capabilities of both the crew and the tank.

5 = Reload; use 1 Reload Die to reload. Tanks start the game Loaded.

Tanks with Rapid Fire Guns do not need to reload between each shot in a single activation, they can reload at the end of the current activation or before firing in a subsequent activation.

6 = Wild; each Wild Die may be:

  • Changed to any other Command Die.
  • Banked to give +1 to Initiative Die Rolls next turn, per D6 banked in this way.
  • Add -1 to “To Hit” score required per D6.
  • Add 1 Additional Strike Die in step 2 of firing process.
  • Recover a Command Die lost to Temporary Damage. Can be rolled in future activation.

Some specific tank special abilities modify the Command Dice rules. For example, Fast tanks like the T-34 may turn any ONE die into a Drive Die.

Here, the player has rolled "2, 2, 3, 4, 4, and 5" for their Command Dice.

The player has a number of options. The actions can be carried out in ANY order. So, one option might be to Acquire a target, Aim at it, Shoot, Reload, and Shoot again!


Using a template made by the game designers, the T-34 is Buttoned  and thus the crew can only see and shoot to its front 60 degrees. So, the Panzer IV is out of arc.


Below is a tank's eye view of the field.


Below, the Panzerjager I taking cover behind an abandoned Russian position.


The T-34 is Buttoned, and the Panzerjager is Partially obscured, so two Acquisition dice are required to Acquire the target. The T-34 has an Aim, so it can fire.


Because of the range and obscurement, the T-34 needs a 7+ To Hit (looking at a table in the rules). The player decides to use one Shoot die to fire, and to use the other Shoot die to make his chance to hit 6+ again. The player rolls a "6" and so hits! Rolling their Strike dice, they get two "5's" and a "6" for hits; 2 Ordinary and 1 Critical Hit. The Panzerjager player rolls the measly 2 Armor dice they have, and fail to stop any Hits.

Hits exceed Saves by 3 or more: Target Tank destroyed:

  • More Crits than Ordinary = Tank Brews up, killing crew.
  • Otherwise, crew bail out.

The Panzerjager crew bails out, retaining any special skills they may have earned over time.

The T-34, not having any target any more (the Panzerjager is destroyed; the Panzer IV is out of arc and is neither Acquired nor Aimed at), must make a decision about what to do next. If he reloads, he is potentially setting himself up for a side shot from the Panzer IV. As a Fast tank, the T-34 player therefore decides to change the Reload die to a Drive die, and turn the tank to face towards the enemy tank they can hear moving behind the church.

Buttoning or Unbuttoning (i.e., sticking your head out the hatch) happens at the end of an activation. The player decides to stay buttoned up. Though granting better vision, being Unbuttoned grants enemies an extra Strike die if they successfully hit; being a tank commander is a dangerous job!

Below, the final position of the T-34.


Below, the current status of the tank. The tank's gun is also now unloaded, but at least its front armor is pointed at the enemy!


Game Play

The Thursday game was loosely set in the July, 1943 time period, during one of the numerous tank battles that occurred in and around the Kursk salient. I chose this time period because that were a wide variety of tanks fielded; relics dating from the earliest days of Barbarossa, to the latest in mid-1943 technology (Tigers and Panthers and Ferdinands, oh my!). Randomly choosing sides, the forces set up as follows:

Below, from left to right sitting behind the South table edge, the German side consisted of Dallas (fielding a 1/50 scale Panther Ausf. D, a diecast from Corgi), DerekY (1/48 scale Panzer IV Ausf. F2, an already painted and finished model from New Millennium), and Kevin (Panzer IV Ausf. F2, a 1/50 scale Solido diecast model that Kevin himself had re-painted in a very nice camo scheme).


Below, from left to right, looking North, the Russian side consisted of, from left to right, myself (1/48 Hobby Boss(?) KV-1E heavy tank; plastic model kit assembled, painted, and weathered by the craftsmen at FloZ Model Workshop), ChrisH (1/50 scale T-34 Model 1943, a Corgi diecast), and JohnC (1/50 scale lend-lease Churchill Mk. IV, another Corgi diecast).


Each player started the game with a single card from the Tanker deck, representing skills amassed over previous battles' experience. Such cards are basically one-use advantages on the tabletop. Usually, you only earn such a card after knocking out an enemy tank, but for this one-off scenario, we assumed that veteran tank crews were facing off.

In the What a Tanker! rules, players dice off for the order in which they activate each turn. For the evening's game, to speed play I used playing cards numbered 1-6 dealt out face down at the start of each turn.

The game started with a general advance, with most tanks heading towards the enemy. The 2 Panzer IV's took up positions hull down by a hill; near the South table edge.

Below, in the foreground is the heavily armored KV-1E plowing through some poor farmer's crops. Dallas' Panther can be seen advancing past the Orthodox church, behind the peasant market stall.


Below, after Dallas laid some accurate shots into  the Churchill (which pinged off its Heavy armor) and the T-34 (causing damage, which forced Chris to temporarily lose some Command Dice), John's Churchill one-shotted the Panther with only a 6-pounder gun! Clearly, as Dallas observed, anything can kill anything in this game. Using the optional King of the Ring rule, Dallas would re-spawn on the South table edge next turn, fielding a Marder III. This game is not a simulation; more like World of Tanks with physical models.


Derek's Panzer IV quickly changed targets to the advancing Churchill. (Photo credit: DerekY @pathoftheseer)


After taking even more damage, Chris' T-34 finally succumbed to a 75mm round from Kevin's tank. Chris re-spawned with a T-34 Model 1941, the one painted and weathered by Kevin. Meanwhile, my KV-1E could barely muster enough Drive dice to get out of the crops...


Below, Dallas' Marder enters the fray. With its captured  Russian 76.2mm gun, this vehicle was a real glass hammer. Great gun, but paper thin armor for 1943. The Churchill fired at Derek's tank, but Derek rolled hot (as he did all game), and shrugged off the hit with a great Armor roll. John then played his Tanker Card, which was Hot Tracer.
"Use a machine-gun to fire tracer at a target that you have already acquired. Play this card on your activation. For the rest of this turn the tracer fire will count as two TARGET ACQUISITION dice for any friendly tank attempting to acquire the same target as you."


Chris and I lit up Derek's panzer. Sadly, neither of the other Soviet tanks could penetrate Derek's Unobtanium armor plating.

As Dallas scooted North, Derek reversed his Panzer IV tank to a hull-down position behind the small hill, and proceeded to knock out John's Churchill with a single round!


John had to take off, but he did express that he was having fun with this new game.


Chris' fast T-34 sped around the church and laid fire into the panzers. Kevin took careful aim (literally, with multiple Aim dice) and knocked out the T-34 with a single shot! (Photo credit: Derek Y @pathoftheseer)


Meanwhile, Dallas' Marder had gained the high ground, and sighted in on the rear deck of the KV-1E. Luckily, its Heavy armor held up.


With the Russians outnumbered three-to-one, we decided to call the game at the end of the current turn. My KV-1E finally found some good Drive dice, and surged forward 17" on the tabletop.

If the game had continued, depending on Command dice, I would have tried a ram on one of the Panzer IV's. Armor 10 vs. Armor 5 gave me good odds to completely crush the other tank beneath the KV's wide tracks, but that's all hypothetical now.

Below, Dallas looks over the table at game's end, with the smoke of victory (or defeat, depending upon one's POV) wafting over the field.


Future games

People seemed to have a good time, and  I look forward to playing this game again soon.

I am in the midst of collecting tanks for the period from the beginning of Operation Barbarossa in 1941 to the Battle of Kursk. So, in addition to the German tanks used in the game I have various early Pz. 38(t)'s, another Panzerjager I (with 4.7 cm. AT gun), more Pz. IV D's, more Panthers, and a Tiger. For the Soviets, more KV's and T-34's. There's also  a T-26 (Model 1938) and a BT-5 on their way from Eastern Europe. Below, a KV-2 heavy assault tank that arrived by mail the day of the game, superbly painted and weathered by Polish modeler Andrzej Kielar (@artminimax).


I also have a long-OOP T-34 (1941) from Bandai that Founding Conscript Curt gave me awhile ago. I am thinking of painting it up myself, and including at least some of the interior details provided in the kit (maybe the turret's gun breach and ready ammo racks, with an open hatch).

I am looking to do some more early- to mid-war games. Currently, I am thinking about re-fighting part of a June 1941 incident near Raseiniai, Lithuania, where a lone KV-2 tank managed to hold off the advance of the 6th Panzer Division for a full day whilst being pummeled by a variety of tank and antitank weapons, until finally running out of ammunition and being knocked out.

That would also make an interesting scenario for Bolt Action, Chain of Command, or some other set of WWII skirmish rules.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

30k Thallax Cohort

Thallax cohort in service of the Iron Hands Legion - models from Forge World.
Here are a few more 30k models - these are "Thallax", spooky killing machines from the Mechanicum faction of the Horus Heresy.  The Thallax are AI-powered - I believe the Mechanicum-speak is "Djinn Sight" or something along those lines.  While the various Mechanicum Forge Worlds would use Thallax in their own military forces, they will also "pledge" them out to various Space Marine Legions.  The three Thallax of this cohort are in service with the loyalist 10th Legion, the "Iron Hands".

Those "lightning guns" are nasty...
In the wake of Horus' rebellion, the Iron Hands faced a critical challenge - a shortage of Iron Hands. Nearly wiped out in the "Dropsite Massacre", the remnants of the 10th Legion will need to scrape together every trooper they can - these pledged Thallax will provide an important boost to low numbers as the Iron Hands fight the desperate campaigns of the Shattered Legions.

Jump-pack systems to aid in battlefield mobility.
You might think that employing Mechanicum AI infantry is a bit of a gamble, like putting militia or levies into the battle line.  Far from it - the Thallax are tough fighting machines, and their "lightning guns" hit hard.  The individual Thallaxi are larger than an individual Space Marine, so they can take a lot of battlefield abuse.  Yet they are also mobile, able to use jump-booster type systems to augment their mobility and get to where you need them most on the table. 

I wish I had purchased more of these models - with larger units you can get into some of their terrifying special weapons, from multi-meltas to "phased plasma fusils" and "photon thrusters".  In the fan-driven 8th edition of 30k, a Thallax unit can be as large as 9 models - quite a force to deal with on the gaming table...

An individual Thallax, size comparison to a Mark IV-armoured Marine from the Thousand Sons (yes, I'm painting more of those too...)
I just love the look of the Thallax models - in fact, the Forge World sculptors have generally just killed it with the whole Mechanicum range from the Horus Heresy.  Just search this blog for photos of Byron's awesome 30k Mechanicum army, it looks amazing.  Thallax units in particular have an unsettling, spooky look to them that fits perfectly into the 30k universe.  No human, even in the grim darkness of the far future, is going to see a Thallax unit arrive and think to themselves "oh, thank goodness, I feel better".

Thallax ready to move out...gloss coat under the decals can still be seen...will be addressed once the humidity subsides and it is safe to use matte sprays.
These models are not completely finished - they need a coat of matte spray to remove the gloss finish from underneath the decals on their shoulder plates, after which I will apply gloss to the creepy domes on their heads.  But that will wait until after Labour Day, when the humidity fades away.

Have a great long weekend, everyone, and thanks for visiting the Blog!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Horus the Warmaster (1995 Version)

Here's another of the small projects I've undertaken in the past couple weeks, just to get back into the habit of swinging a brush.

As blog readers will know, we had a trip earlier this summer back to England, which included a stop in Nottingham and vicinity. And Nottingham means Games Workshop, which means Warhammer World. And one of my favourite-ever things at Warhammer World is the famous "Death of Sanguinius"/Horus vs. the Emperor diorama piece by Mike McVey. I'd snooped around the web off and on for several years trying to get more detailed shots of the models, with a view to trying my own hand at a conversion someday, but without much success.

And then, amazingly, in response to my "Ye Olde Trip to Nottingham" post, blog reader Mikko pointed out that White Dwarf #183 featured an article by Mike McVey himself detailing the construction of the diorama. Well, I happen to have that issue in my collection so off I went to soak it in...

Consequently, I decided that a replication (as far as reasonably possible) of McVey's Horus conversion might be a feasible afternoon project. Obviously I wouldn't be able to do this with complete accuracy as
  • I don't have access to the massive and free quantity of conversion bits that Mike did when he was working in the Studio, and more importantly
  • I do not have even a miniscule fraction of the painting and sculpting talent of a Mike McVey 
So I determined that I'd do a "close enough" job to try and convey the flavour of the model using bits that I had handy.


First of all, I started with a metal Chaos Terminator body. I carved off the helmet, and severed the arms below the elbow joints, as I wanted to re-use the shoulder pads. I used a metal head from the bits box (can't remember what third-party vendor it came from) and sculpted the deformed-looking skulls from greenstuff. The cowl is from greenstuff as the original got a bit messed up when I cut off the helmet. Looks slightly ropey but good enough from 3 feet away. The chain came from the bits box, as did some guitar-string cabling.

The massive lightning claws are the signature of this model. Fortunately the bits box came to the rescue again as I had the gloves left over from the Cataphractii Terminator sprues that came in the "Betrayal at Calth" 30K game. Two suitable items were selected and carved down to fit.

The decal on his right shoulder was an ace find - it's from a 1992 Chaos decal set I had in the decal folder. I'd tried to freehand the design at first but it looked terrible, so decals to the rescue. I painted in the yellow parts of the Eye of Horus and the red "Eyebrow of Horus" on the decal.

Add an easy-peasy paintjob and there you have it - one Warmaster circa 1995. Not very impressive compared to the current model so amazingly painted by Conscript Greg, but fun for an afternoon project and homage to the talented Mr. McVey.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Mega-DBA - The Battle of Dertosa, 215 B.C.E.

The Battle of Dertosa, also known as the Battle of Ibera, was fought in the spring of 215 BCE on the south bank of the Ebro River, across from the town of Dertosa. Historically, a Roman army, under the command of Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus and Publius Cornelius Scipio, engaged a similarly sized Carthaginian army under Hasdrubal Barca.

The Romans, under Gnaeus Scipio, had established themselves in Hispania after winning the Battle of Cissa in 218 BC. Hasdrubal Barca's expedition to evict them had ended in the defeat of the Iberian contingent of the Carthaginian navy at the Battle of Ebro River in 217 BC. Barca launched another expedition in 215 BC 215 BC. He moved north with some 25,000 foot, 4,000 horse and 21 elephants. The Scipio brothers massed 30,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry to bar his path at the Ebro River. Hasdrubal's objective was to defeat the main Roman field army so that he could cross into Italy while still maintaining Carthaginian control of Spain. The Scipio brothers likewise aimed to defeat Barca in open battle to prevent his crossing into Italy and to break his grip on the Iberian Peninsula

(Historically, the Carthaginians defeat at Dertosa cost them a chance to reinforce Hannibal at a critical juncture, and the Romans gained the initiative in Hispania.)


Dallas mentioned how it's been awhile since we have done some big battle De Bellis Antiquitatis ("Mega-DBA") ancients, and Conscript Sylvain is in town for a little while, so Thursday night I organized an ancients game based upon the above-noted battle, using DBA version 2.2. For years DBA was popular locally, then people drifted away. I know of only one local person who has painted up a DBA 3.0 army. DBA 2.2 is what our group is familiar with.

Each side ended up having the equivalent of 2 complete DBA armies. We had an historical "matched pairs" encounter: the defenders were 15mm DBA Late Carthaginians, the attacking Roman side was  represented on the table by 15mm Polybian Roman armies of the mid-Republic. The figures were painted by Conscripts Frederick and Kevin (each had painted a Roman and a Carthaginian army; Kevin's figs now reside in my collection).

Brian played the C-in-C of the Carthaginians, Hasdrubal Barca, and Dallas was his subordinate (his brother-in-law, maybe?). Each Carthaginian general had an Elephant stand; Brian was hoping for great things from his elephant, nicknamed "Sparkles" for the evening. Frederick was the C-in-C for the Romans, playing Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus ("Scipio the Elder"), and Sylvain played his subordinate, his brother Publius Cornelius Scipio ("Scipio Junior"). Each C-in-C wold roll both command dice each bound, and apportion the dice as they saw fit between themselves and their subordinate.

Who would win this dust-up between two consuls of the Roman Republic and one of the scions of the uber-rich Carthaginian Barca clan?


The Battle

Below, looking southward, Dallas and Brian can be seen sitting behind their deployed Carthaginians.
(Click the pictures to enlarge.)


Below, Sylvain and Frederick sit behind the northern edge of the table, overseeing long lines of Roman legionaries.


Below, closer shot of the Romans commanded by Frederick's Scipio the Elder.


Below, looking west, both sides drawn up for battle. Frederick rolled a "1" and a "4" for PIPs. He kept the 1 as his forces were in one long line.


 The Carthaginians advance north.


Both sides sent some cavalry to try and flank the forest seen to the far west.


The Carthaginians divide their forces to meet the Roman lines.


The Carthaginian eastern edge was held by Spears in ranks on the road, with their flanks anchored by a small cliff, and some light infantry in the marsh. The Roman cavalry declined to attack and these small forces shouted invective at each other all game.


The Carthaginians seized the initiative by advancing to contact all up and down the lines. To the west some Roman Blades are in danger from the flanking Light Cavalry.


To the west, some Roman Cavalry fence with Carthaginian Auxilia in the woods. Neither side could afford to lose because of the placement of friendly units; of course their battle was a draw!


Sparkles ground down a stand of Blades and moves forward to fill the gap!


Some of Brian's Celtic Warband  tried to kill the Roman C-inC, but were slain for their trouble. The rest of the Carthaginians bounced off the Roman shield wall.


With the support of some friends, the Roman Cavalry rode the Carthaginian Auxilia down.


Below, some legionary Blades try and flank the Carthaginian sub commander. Dallas rolled hot and drove off his attackers.


Below, the Roman players contemplate their next moves.


Brian's  Barca, with the help of Sparkles, tried to nail another stand of Blades who had Psiloi support, but the Romans' swordplay and javelins forced off their attackers.


Below, in response, some Roman Triarii move to face off against Sparkles. The rest of the line advanced on the Carthaginians, pushing back Barca's stand, and destroying another stand of Cav.


Below, a panorama of the land south of the Ebro River, at this final point of the battle.


The casualties below tell the tale. Barca's half of the army reached its breaking point, and the Romans had only lost one stand so far. The Carthaginians threw in the towel, and, as in history, the Carthaginians retreated off the table. Barca somehow survived, leaving the Scipios the masters of the field.


All agreed that it was fun to push around figures using DBA again. I have both Scythian and  Mongolian armies ready for cleanup and painting. The Scythians in particular would make great opponents for the various Greek Hoplite and Roman armies several of us have.

Hordes of the Things

The game prompted me to finally finish off the shields on some HotT Wood Elf Knights that I painted up and have been playing for years. Cheated a bit, using some Eldar Harlequin decals and some thin green glazes to make the white look like it was painted a little unevenly on the shields.


It's a fun army, with figures from Chariot Miniatures. It's constituted of: 1 x Magician General, 1 x Magician, 1 x Hero, 2 x Knights, and 4 x Shooters (and a Toad for when the Magicians' magic goes horribly wrong).