Modified ‘Battle Cry’: Play-test 1

Turn 1
The first line of the attacking Union troops moved forward two hexes (they moved and did not fire, hence the longer movement distance). As a result, they came into extreme range of the three Confederate Artillery units (whose range was six hexes rather than the normal five as they were sited on top of the berm).

The three dice thrown ‘killed’ two of the attacking Union Infantry (one each from the centre and right-hand units).

Turn 2
Despite their losses, the front rank of Union troops again moved forward two hexes, supported by the second line that moved forward a similar distance.

The reduction in range made the cannon fire from defending Confederate Artillery units even more effective (they each threw two dice), and all three Union units suffered the loss of two figures (units were allowed to exchange ‘flags’ that would otherwise have caused them to fall back for additional figure losses on a one-for-one basis).

Turn 3
The very depleted first line of attackers now reached the edge of the Confederate defences.

The Confederate Artillery now fired at almost point-blank range (they threw four dice each) and caused one further casualty on the right-hand Union Infantry unit (which was now destroyed), three on the centre unit (which was also destroyed) …

… and three on the left-hand unit (which was wiped out).

The entire first line of the Union attack had been swept away, but the second line had been continuing to advance behind it.

Turn 4
The second line of Union troops now came under fire.

They fared somewhat better than the troops that they had followed along the beach, and each unit only suffered the loss of a single figure each.

Turn 5
They next turn brought the Union attackers up to the edge of the Confederate defences.

The Confederate Artillery units each threw four dice, and the right-hand Union unit was ‘hit’ three times, which meant that it was destroyed. The centre unit was hit once …

… and the left-hand Union Infantry unit suffered two casualties.

Turn 6
At this point the Union now only had a total of two Infantry units, and they could only muster three figures between them. They attempted to climb over the fieldworks and into the moat, but at point-blank range the Confederate Artillery swept them away.

Conclusions
The modification that allowed the Union Infantry to move forward rapidly at a rate of two hexes per turn if they did not fire, seemed to work quite well, but exchanging ‘flags’ for further figure losses meant that units were shot to pieces very quickly. I hope to run another play-test using the same scenario but with ‘flags’ forcing units to fall-back rather than lose additional figures.


Modified ‘Battle Cry’ play-test – scenario

After what seemed like a very long day at work, I got home feeling tired … but I was determined to set up the scenario that I am going to use for the play-test of my modified version of Richard Borg’s BATTLE CRY wargames rules.

I decide to use the attack on Fort Wagner as the basis for the scenario I will use, but as the BATTLE CRY board does not have any beach areas on it, I used the MEMOIR ’44 board instead.

As the photograph shows, the Union troops will advance along the beach with the sea on their left flank and impassable swamps on their right. The Confederate defenders are set up on a raised berm behind a wet moat that has a barrier of earthworks in front of it.

The Union attackers have six Infantry unit, and the Confederate defenders have three Artillery units and one Infantry unit. The Union troops will move first each turn, and will be able to exchange a figure for any ‘flags’ thrown by the Confederates.


Warships of the Spanish Civil War

During my chat with David Crook (AKA Orgefencer) whilst I was visiting ‘Skirmish‘ last Sunday, one of the topics we discussed was the warships used by both sides during the Spanish Civil War.

It is interesting to note that almost all the warships in service with or being built for the Spanish Navy in 1936 were designed in Britain.

  • The two extant battleships – ESPAÑA (ex-ALFONSO XIII) and JAMIE I – were designed in the UK and their main armament and much of their armour was supplied by Vickers.
  • The two heavy cruisers – CANARIAS and BALEARES – were designed by Watts, and were based upon the Royal Navy’s COUNTY-class cruisers.
  • The three light cruisers of the CERVERA-class – LIBERTAD (ex-PRÍNCIPE ALFONSO), MIGUEL DE CERVANTES, and ALMIRANTE CERVERA – were based on the British E-class light cruisers.
  • The light cruiser MÉNDEZ NÚÑEZ (her sister ship – BLAS DE LEZO – sank in 1932) was a better-armed version of the British C-class light cruisers
  • The light cruiser NAVARRA (ex-REPUBLICA, ex-REINA VICTORIA EUGENIA) was based on the Royal Navy’s World War I BIRMINGHAM-class of light cruisers
  • The destroyers of the CHURRUCA-class (SÁNCHEZ BARCAIZTEGUI, JOSÉ LUIS DÍEZ, ALMIRANTE FERRÁNDIZ, LEPANTO, CHURRUCA, ALCALÁ GALIANO, ALMIRANTE VALDÉS, ALMIRANTE ANTEQUERA, ALMIRANTE MIRANDA, GRAVINA, ESCAÑO, ULLOA, JORGE JUAN, and CÍSCAR) were virtually copies of the SCOTT-class Royal Navy destroyers
  • The design of the ALSEDO-class destroyers (ALSEDO, LAZAGA, and VELASCO) was based on the NIMROD-class destroyers that served in the Royal Navy during World War I

With the exception of the battleships, almost all of these warships can be converted quite easily from models of their Royal Navy ‘sisters’ … and I got the distinct impression that this is something that Ogrefencer might be considering as a future project.


I have been to … Jersey … but not for some time!

Before my wife and I caught the cruising ‘bug’, we regularly went to Jersey for our annual holidays.

For anyone with even the slightest interest in World War II, Jersey has a lot to offer. It sometimes appears that there is a relic of the German Occupation around every corner, and although this is somewhat of an exaggeration, there are lots of places visitors can go to see restored German fortifications.

The German Underground Hospital
This underground tunnel complex was build by Organisation Todt using slave labour, and it is now a museum that deals with the Occupation. When we were last there it had been extensively upgraded and re-branded as the JERSEY WAR TUNNELS. The entrance was guarded by a German 37mm Anti-aircraft gun (possibly a SKC/30 single-shot gun used by the Kriegsmarine).

Anti-Tank Gun Casemate, Millbrook, St. Lawrence
This bunker formed part of the German coastal defences on the south coast of Jersey, overlooking St. Aubin’s Bay. It contains a very rare example of a Czech fortress anti-tank gun (a 4.7cm Pak K36(t)) that was seized by the Germans after the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in 1938, and re-used in Jersey.

Batterie Moltke, Les Landes, St. Ouen
This battery was originally being built for the Kriegsmarine but before it was completed it was taken over the the Wehrmacht, who mounted four French 155mm GP guns (15.5cm K418(f)) in open emplacements on the site. The battery was part of the defences in the north west of the island, and is situated near Grosnez Castle and the Les Landes Racecourse.

Batterie Lothringen, Noirmont Point, St. Brelade
This battery was built and manned by the Kriegsmarine (3./Batterie, Marine Artillerie Abteilung 604), and was armed with four German naval guns (15cm SK L/45 guns).

Captured French 105mm guns (10.5cm K331 (f)) are also displayed at Noirmont Point.

A large Command Bunker is also situated at Noirmont Point, and it was able to direct the gunfire from the coastal defence batteries in the area at any threat approaching the south west of the island.


I have been to … Skirmish in Sidcup

‘Skirmish’ is a twice-yearly Wargames and Toy Soldier show held in Sidcup, Kent, and as it is less than fifteen minutes drive from my house, I like to go if it is at all possible.

This time I spent almost as much time talking to old friends including David Crook, Professor Phil Sabin, Alan Abbey, and Ken Smith as I did looking at the traders stands and the wargames.

The following photographs give a flavour of the show:

Inside the entrance there were several trader stands that specialised in model military vehicle and aircraft kits and toy soldiers.

Also in the entrance were the ‘Firepower’ Museum‘s Royal Artillery re-enactors. They had a large display of Second World War military equipment on show, and were both knowledgeable and very welcoming to anyone who showed an interest.

The main hall contained the rest of the trader stands.

One of my old friends – David Crook (AKA Orgefencer with whom I wargamed many, many years ago in the basement wargame room under Eric Knowles’s shop, ‘New Model Army’ in East London.)

The Old Guard Wargame Club fighting a battle from the Crusades using the ‘Command and Colours’ wargames rules.

A close-up on the second Crusades battle fought by the Old Guard Wargame Club. They corners of the hexes have been marked on the tabletop and can just be seen.

The Orwell Wargamers staged a wonderful 6mm-scale recreation of the fighting around Hougoumont during the Battle of Waterloo. Alan Abbey is watching events unfold … when he is not making rude comments about me! (What else would you expect from an old friend?)

A close-up of Hougoumont with the fighting in full swing.

An American Civil War battle in progress.

What at first looked like a conventional Napoleonic battle turned out to be far more interesting … it was a battle from the South American Wars of Liberation!

A large-scale skirmish between German and Russian troops in Stalingrad.

The Russian defenders.

As usual this was a nice, friendly, local show … just like so many others that now – alas – no longer take place.

PS. Apologies to those wargames clubs whose games I have photographed but whom I have not credited by naming them in my captions. My excuse is that I forgot to ask … and I will try to do better next time.


A modified version of ‘Battle Cry’

Having already word-processed my notes comparing the movement rates and combat resolution systems used in BATTLE CRY and MEMOIR ’44, it only took me a few minutes to set out some ideas for incorporation into a modified version of BATTLE CRY:

Units
Infantry

  • Move two hexes or
  • Move one hex and battle
  • Range = 4 hexes; four battle dice are thrown: 4-3-2-1

Smooth-bore Artillery

  • Move one hex or battle
  • Range = 5 hexes; five battle dice are thrown: 5-4-3-2-1

Rifled Artillery

  • Move one hex or battle
  • Range = 6 hexes; three battle dice are thrown: 3-3-2-2-1-1

Cavalry

  • Move three hexes and battle
  • Range = 1 hex; three battle dice are thrown: 3

General

  • Move three hexes
  • Add one battle dice to Infantry and Cavalry units they are in the same hex with

Terrain
Wood or Forest hex

  • Units must stop when they enter a wood or forest
  • Units entering a wood or forest may not battle
  • When battling a unit that is in a wood or forest, reduce the number of battle dice thrown by one
  • Woods or forests block line of sight

Orchard or vineyard hex

  • No movement restrictions
  • No battle restrictions except that when battling a unit that is in an orchard or vineyard, reduce the number of battle dice thrown by one
  • Orchards or vineyards do not block line of sight

Hill hex

  • No movement restrictions
  • When battling a unit that is on a hill, reduce the number of battle dice thrown by one except when a unit on a hill is battling a unit that is also on a hill; in this case the number of battle dice thrown is as per normal
  • Artillery firing from a hill increases the range they can fire by one hex (5-4-3-2-1-1 for smooth-bore and 3-3-2-2-1-1-1 for rifled artillery)
  • Hills block line of sight except when units on a hill are looking at units on other hill that are the same height

Built-up Area hex

  • Units must stop when they enter a built-up area
  • Units entering a built-up area may not battle
  • When battling a unit that is in a built-up area, reduce the number of battle dice thrown by two
  • Built-up areas block line of sight

River or Stream hex

  • Units must stop when they enter a hex containing a river or stream
  • Units may only cross rivers or streams in hexes that contain a bridge
  • Rivers and streams do not block line of sight

Field hex

  • No movement restrictions except that units in fields containing tall crops may only move one hex
  • When battling a unit that is in a field containing tall crops, reduce the number of battle dice thrown by one
  • A field of tall crops block line of sight

Rough terrain hex

  • Only Infantry may enter rough terrain
  • No battle restrictions
  • Rough terrain does not block line of sight

Fence or Wire hex

  • Units must stop when they enter a hex containing a fence or wire
  • When battling a unit that is in a hex containing a fence, reduce the number of battle dice thrown by one
  • When in a hex containing a fence or wire, Infantry either reduce the number of battle dice thrown by one when battling or do not battle and remove the fence or wire
  • Fences or wire do not block line of sight

Fieldworks hex

  • No movement restrictions for the fieldworks; other restrictions may apply
  • When battling a unit that is in a fieldwork, reduce the number of battle dice thrown by two
  • Units in fieldworks ignore the first ‘flag’ rolled against them
  • Fieldworks do not block line of sight

Sand hex

  • Units moving on sand may only move a maximum of two hexes
  • No battle restrictions
  • Sand does not block line of sight

Water hex

  • Units moving on a water may only move a maximum of one hex if they are landing; units may not retreat into water
  • Units on an water may not battle
  • Water does not block line of sight

Now all I have to do is to play-test my ideas!


Erast Fandorin

One thing that I did manage to do yesterday was to begin reading the latest Erast Fandorin novel by Boris Akunin – HE LOVER OF DEATH.

Boris Akunin is the pen-name of the Georgian author, Grigory Shalvovich Chkhartishvili, a former editor of a literary magazine and now a full-time writer of fiction. Beside the series of nineteenth century crime novels that feature Erast Fandorin as the main character, he has also penned books about Sister Pelagia – a Russian Orthodox nun – and Nicholas Fandorin, Erast’s grandson.

I happened to buy the first of Bakunin’s Fandorin novels to be translated into English – THE WINTER QUEEN – just after it was published, and liked it so much that I pre-ordered each of the later novels as soon as I knew that it was going to be published. Each of the novels has a different style, and fits into one of the sixteen subgenres of crime novels that Akunin is said to have identified.

So far I have bought:

  • THE WINTER QUEEN: This is a conspiracy mystery in which the young investigator Erast Fandorin discovers – and stops – a plot that will lead to world domination, as well as getting married and widowed on the same day.
  • THE TURKISH GAMBIT: This a spy mystery set during the Siege of Plevna, which took place during the Russo-Turkish War. Erast Fandorin sets out to counter the damage being done to the Russian war effort by a well-disguised Turkish spy, and in the process helps to capture Plevna and end the war.
  • MURDER ON THE LEVIATHAN: An Agatha Christie-style closed set-up mystery set on a large luxury liner on its way from Europe to India. Erast Fandorin manages to solve several murders, recover a vital clue to a ‘lost’ treasure, and prevent the ship from being deliberately sunk by the murders.
  • DEATH OF ACHILLES: This is the story of Erast Fandorin’s hunt for the hired assassin who has succeeded in killing General Sobolev (the military hero featured in THE TURKISH GAMBIT) in a Moscow hotel. Part of the story concentrates on how Achimas Welde became an assassin, and how he had only failed to complete his murderous missions three times during his career … one of them being the failed attempt on Fandorin’s life that takes place at the end of THE WINTER QUEEN, and which results in the death of Erast’s wife.
  • JACK OF SPADES (published along with THE DECORATOR under the title SPECIAL ASSIGNMENTS): This is a novella about Erast Fandorin’s attempts to hunt down and arrest a very clever group of swindlers and confidence tricksters.
  • THE DECORATOR: This novella is about Erast Fandorin’s involvement in the hunt for Jack the Ripper, who turns out to be a Russian who has returned to Moscow after his killing spree in London.
  • THE STATE COUNSELLOR: This is a political mystery in which Erast Fandorin tries to counter revolutionary terrorism in Moscow.
  • THE CORONATION: The novel is set amongst Russian high society, and deals with Erast Fandorin’s involvement in the events leading up to the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II.
  • SHE LOVER OF DEATH: In this macabre novel a series of apparently unconnected suicides in Moscow lead Fandorin to uncover – and ultimately destroy – a society dedicated to death.
  • HE LOVER OF DEATH: This is a mystery which has echoes of Dickens, as it deals with life – and death – in the Khitrovka slums in Moscow. This is the area of the city where the professional criminal gangs hold sway, and where a treasure trove has been hidden.

Busy, busy, busy …

The past two days seem to have been rather frantic … which is why I have not been able to write a blog entry!

Wednesday afternoon saw me in Central London attending a large meeting, after which I went out to dinner with some of my colleagues. As a result I did not get home until after 10.00pm, and so I had little time to look at my emails, let alone write a blog entry.

Yesterday should have been a lot calmer, but a last minute meeting at the end of the working day meant that I was late leaving work … and on the way home I managed to get stuck in a traffic jam that was caused by two serious accidents only half a mile apart. The whole of South East London seemed to be gridlocked, and just had to sit there and wait my turn to get through.

It did, however, give me time to think about the modifications that I want to make to BATTLE CRY, and I all I have to do now is set aside an hour or two this weekend to write them down and then – if time permits – play-test them.


‘Wargaming on a budget’: A review

As I reported in an earlier blog entry, I recently purchased WARGAMING ON A BUDGET – GAMING CONSTRAINED BY MONEY OR SPACE by Iain Dickie. It is published by Pen and Sword Books Ltd. (ISBN 978 1 84884 115 4) and costs £14.99.

I must admit, that this is – to my knowledge – a unique wargames publication. It does not contain any rules (although it does include some rule mechanisms that can be used be for certain specific types of game or scenarios) and is not lavishly illustrated. It is, however, full of interesting ideas and suggestions.

The book is split into ten chapters, and I have attempted to give a flavour of what each chapter covers in the following paragraphs:

Chapter 1: Resources
This chapter looks at the limitations you might have to deal with when trying to wargame on a budget:

  • Space: How much room do you have determines how big a wargames table you can comfortably set up at home
  • Finance: How much disposable income you have will affect what you can afford to buy
  • Materials: Do you have to buy everything that you need or can it be obtained legally at little or no cost?

Chapter 2: Basic DIY
This chapter explains the basic ‘do-it-yourself’ techniques you will need to make some of the items that are covered in later chapters, including:

  • Measuring: How can you make sure that the parts that you are going to make are the right size so that they will fit together properly?
  • Cutting: Using the right saw for the job
  • Joints: The range of simple wood joints that can be used during construction
  • Drilling: Basic techniques that will make sure that when you drill a hole, it will be done properly
  • Nailing: How to nail wood together without splitting the wood you are nailing
  • Planing: How to select the correct wood plane to suit your budget
  • Knots: How to deal with knots in wood
  • Sanding down: Why it is important and how to do it properly
  • Painting: What paint to use, how to paint properly, how to keep your brushes clean, and where to get cheap paint

Chapter 3: Making a table
This chapter explain how to assemble a wargames table that can be stored easily including:

  • The table top: How to make a tabletop from cheap, damaged, or reclaimed materials
  • Painting the playing surface: Painting your tabletop so that it can be used for naval wargames
  • Mounting the table: How to make a set of folding legs for your tabletop and how to mount your tabletop over your spare bed, dining room, or kitchen table

Chapter 4: The Playing Surface
Having made you wargames table, what are you going to use as a playing surface? This chapter covers the alternatives, including:

  • Sand table: Very heavy and potentially very problematical, it is what a lot of wargamers aspire to
  • Cloth: Cheap and usually easy to source but it can look rather plain and artificial
  • Gaming mat: very hard wearing but they can be quite expensive
  • Square or hexagonal expanded polystyrene tiles: Light and ready-to-go, they can be expensive to buy and are prone to damage
  • Hexagonal plastic tiles: Reasonably light and ready-to-go, they can be expensive to buy and can ‘gap’ around the edges if not fixed together properly
  • Carpet tiles: Cheap and easy to keep clean … if you can find them in appropriate colours and textures!
  • Homemade tiles: Cheap, but they can be messy to make, need a degree of accuracy when cutting, and have the same disadvantages as ready-to-go square or hexagonal expanded polystyrene tile
  • Paint: Cheap, hard-wearing, and simple but can look a bit plain and artificial

Chapter 5: Figures
This chapter is firmly back in regular wargame book territory, and deals with:

  • Scale: What size figures are you going to use depends upon the type of wargaming you want to do
  • Figure ratios
  • Lead figures
  • Homemade lead figures: How to start with a ‘dolly’, and how to create moulds using that ‘dolly’ so that you can cast your own figures at home
  • Plastic figures
  • Card figures: An early alternative to lead figures, these still have their uses, especially as they can be very cheap to make
  • Homemade car figures: How to create your own, homemade card figures using simple techniques
  • Bases: using different materials – MDF, Plasticard, plastic floor tiles, cardboard, sheet lead – to base your figures
  • Figures and the for or war: How to conceal what you units are during a game
  • Painting
  • Conversions: How to convert figures so that they represent something that would otherwise not be available for you to have in your model army
  • Movement trays: How to make movement trays so that your individually based figures can be moved ‘as one’ with other figures in their unit

Chapter 6: Terrain
Now that you have your tabletop battlefield and you armies, you now need some terrain. This chapter explains how to make:

  • Grass
  • Bushes
  • Hedges and scrub
  • Trees
  • Palm trees
  • Marshes and bogs
  • Rivers
  • Hills: Including contoured and sloped hills made from expanded polystyrene and papier mâché

Chapter 7: Man-Made features
Besides natural terrain, you will also need man-made features such as:

  • Buildings: Including how to make an ancient Northern European farmstead, ancient Mediterranean buildings, larger settlements, a walled town, a Medieval village, a 5mm-scale city, castles and forts, a semi-fortified manor house, and more modern towns
  • Roads and tracks
  • Field fortifications: Including trenches, temporary barricades, chevaux-de-frise, and twentieth century fortifications

Chapter 8: Ship and Planes
This chapter explains how to make your own ships and aircraft for wargames, including:

  • Canoes
  • Saxon and Viking longships
  • Classical galleys
  • Early sailing ships
  • Seventeenth to nineteenth century sailing ships
  • Transitional ships
  • Iron battleships
  • Planes

Chapter 9: Storage and transportation
Not all wargamers are like me and sit at home a wargaming solo most of the time; some (in fact most) like to join wargame clubs. This means that they will have to both store and transport part or all of the wargames collection at some stage. This chapter explains how to do that, including:

  • Happenchance systems (i.e. systems that are not designed with wargamers in mind, but which can be used and obtained quite easily): Including cotton reel and thread cabinets, office filing cabinets, cutlery boxes, tool boxes, plastic trays, and plastic storage boxes
  • Purpose-built systems: Including wooden cabinets and foam-line cases
  • A home-made cabinet: Including how to design it and how to build it

Chapter 10: The Game
This chapter appear to return to the ground normally covered by wargames books, but does contain some interesting ideas for different types of wargame. The chapter covers:

  • Choosing the army
  • Skirmish games: Including naval actions, aerial combat, satellite chasing, chariot racing, night attacks, garrison duty, indoor and tunnel actions, robberies, trench raids, street fighting, small-unit actions, hunting, and quests
  • Battles: Including solo wargames
  • Campaign games: Including a campaign scenario
  • An epilogue: Which suggest further sources of information that readers might find useful

I must admit, that at first I thought that this book was a case of ‘teaching your grandmother to suck eggs’, but soon I began to realise that it was written for a generation of people who may not yet have started wargaming, or who started when it was possible to buy a lot of what you needed quite literally ‘off the shelf’. Once viewed in this light, this book becomes a very useful aid to wargamers of all ages and experience. Even someone like me – who has been wargaming since the 1960s – can learn something new from this book … and if, like me, your budget is not unlimited, it would be worth giving serious consideration to spending some of you limited supply of wargaming funds on buying a copy. You might find that it saves you more than its cost!


Comparing movement rates and the combat resolution systems used in ‘Battle Cry’ and ‘Memoir ’44’: My notes

I finally managed to finish word-processing my notes into a series of tables, which I have converted into images (I have yet to work out how to put tables into a blog entry, and this was the only method I could come up with to get around the problem!).

My intention was to compare the movement rates and the combat resolution systems used in BATTLE CRY and MEMOIR ’44 to see if there was anything from the latter that I could use to develop my own version of BATTLE CRY. I suspect that some readers will not like the conclusions I have come to … but this exercise has really helped me to understand Richard Borg’s game design philosophy, and has made me realise how simple yet effective the mechanisms he uses are.

Movement distances and combat resolution data:

The effects of woods, forests, orchards, and hedgerows:

The effects of hills and built-up areas:

The effects of waterways, rivers, fields, and rough terrain:

The effects of fences, wire, and fieldworks:

The effects of beaches and oceans

My next step is to try these ideas out with a play-test sometime soon.