Friday 31 July 2020

Warning Order #54

To aid passing the time whilst still in lockdown, with any chance of face-to-face gaming a way off for the foreseeable future, the latest issue of the ever excellent Warning Order 'magazine' by Matt Irsik is available to download.

As always a nice mix of articles, reviews, AAR's etc, with a lot devoted to BKCIV this issue. So I hope you enjoy it and Matt always appreciates any feedback, so he feels he is not doing this for nothing. Drop him a line if you can.


Monday 27 July 2020

Hills and Rocky Terrain

When I first got back into wargaming some 15 odd years ago, it was mainly in 28mm and very much skirmish based games, such as Mordheim and Rules of Engagement. the terrain I made for these games very much reflected the needs of the game itself, but also the look, being more on the realistic side. Whilst I loved the look, often the terrain didn't always work from a practical point of view, such as being unable to get some troops where you wanted due to some lovely bushes getting in the way. Not insurmountable by any means but it always used to frustrate me a tad if I'm honest.

Fast forward 10 years or so and my gaming had moved on, with the rules changing to BKCII, Honours of War etc and 10mm being the chosen figure size. My terrain whilst still useful in some respects, didn't really work for the type of games I was playing, so I slowly started to sell off my old stuff and make new ones that were more in keeping with the new games and figures.

Hills were pretty much the last to be tackled, as my 'old' hills were shaped nicely but the problem was figure bases and vehicles sliding down the slopes, despite numerous efforts to prevent this. Also they were really too big for my games. So with plenty of time on my hands due to early retirement and the Covid-19 lockdown, I finally set myself the task of making new ones.

Base wise I used a mix of 2mm MDF, covered with foam and then sculpted or, more recently, 1/2" MDF, due to a lack of foam at home (I used to use off cuts from work). These were then covered in grit and rocks as required, painted and then flocked, in the same manner as my other terrain and figure bases. The results can be seen below and are certainly much more game friendly.

Four new hills with some detail, but fairly plain to add game play.

By chance they can be combined to make larger hilly areas if required. the gaps can be left or some flock or lichen added to hide the joins. I simply don't have the space or real need for single large hills.

A Pendraken tank to give an idea of the size of the hill.

 Three 40mm x 20mm bases lined up, again to give an idea of scale.

Rocky terrain that may or may not be impassable to certain troops types, largely dependent upon the needs of the scenario.

Again a tank to give an idea of size.

Gandalf summoning who knows what on his 40mm x 20mm base.

I've enjoyed making these new hills and rocky terrain and may add more in the future. Most of the time is waiting for the glue or paint to dry, but in warm and sunny weather, I could make and finish one in a day, all being well. However I don't rush things as I like to take my time and get things right to my own satisfaction.

All of these pieces will hopefully see action soon in either a planned new campaign, or some one off games. I still need to decide which. I really should get back to figure painting but the Muse is not upon me at present, so this will have to wait. So until next time...

Thursday 23 July 2020

Post PBEM Campaign Thoughts

Having just finished my first PBEM campaign, I thought I'd take a few moments to reflect upon how it went, what worked, what could have been improved etc. So in no particular order:

The KISS Principle. I know it sounds pretty obvious, but don't go too large or too complicated. Keep it a manageable size so that you and the other players can feel in control of things. I found that 3 Divisions per side worked well, with each Division of 3 Brigades. The Divisions are large enough to allow for detachments to be made, if required.

Be Flexible. You will not be able to cover every conceivable situation that might occur. Have some good basic guidelines, such as road versus off road movement,  how far Divisions can 'see' in terms of map squares. When  a situation occurs that is not covered, simply work out what would be the most reasonable outcome, bearing in mind the orders from either player, the terrain involved etc.

Map Area Size. With the WarPlan maps I was kindly given by a fellow Blogger, 3 maps x 3 maps worked well, with each map having 25 squares. This enabled plenty of room for pre-contact manouevering, but not too much that both players would get bored before the real action started. I found that by Campaign Turn 3, both sides had started to 'see' the other, but still not have a complete picture of overall dispositions.

Fog of War. Directly linked to the above, both players enjoyed this aspect and found it a nice challenge, although obviously daunting at times. Where were the enemy? From my perspective, it was fascinating seeing the action unfold before my eyes.

Help The Players. Fog of War is all well and good, but you don't want to be blundering about clueless as it's no fun for anyone. So I fed snippets of intel to both sides based upon what they might be able to glean from the local populations etc. This helped in 'directing' their broad lines of advance, but not revealing too much inforamtion.

Rules. Make sure you play with a ruleset that you know well and ideally the players do too. You don't want to be learning new rules in the midst of a campaign. Also keep things fairly 'vanilla' and only add 'chrome' where appropriate, such as making one unit 'Stubborn' as I did in this campaign to reflect their determined resistance in one game.

Have Fun. It sounds obvious but make it fun for the players but also you as the umpire and player on the table.

Orders. Possibly one of the most important things to consider is how you handle information out to the players and the orders you receive in return and how you execute them. Clarity both ways works well and avoids those Captain Nolan moments, but should they occur, than can be fun.

Common Sense. Another blindingly obvious statement, but I often found myself looking at the campaign map and the orders from both sides, thinking what makes the most sense? I then went with the one that did make the most sense, sometimes reflecting upon it overnight.

Play Both Sides Equally Fairly. Yet again another obvious point but I would set up the game up as best I could based upon both sides orders. I would then play the game from either table edge, so I felt I was playing that side each game Turn. It is too easy just to sit in one place but that movement really helped me play each side fairly.

Post Game Campaign Movement. So after each game, I would look at what had happened to either side, then think what would be the most likely lin of retreat or advance, given orders received, the terrain being moved over, the general Campaign situation. Mulling things overnight often helped clarify things.
Time. I was surpised at how long it took to make the maps moves, relay, receive and implement orders then play the game. Broadly each Campaign Turn took about a week to complete. Because of this the whole KISS principle really helps in keeping the whole thing manageable.

It's Fun! It certainly was and a very different experience for all involved. I particularly enjoyed implementing both sides orders when the game hit the table. The campaign also through up many 'scenarios' that i would not normally play, which was a pleasure and often a challenge, but a good one.

Different Periods. My campaign was set mid-19thC and I felt worked well for this period. There is no reason why it could transfer to say a SYW setting or WWII, with some tweaks here and there. In fact I am mulling over an idea of a WWII campaign and how to fit in the aerial and communication aspects of this conflict.

I hope the above might have been of use and I found it useful to reflect upon how the whole campaign played out. Hopefully I will get another one up and running soon, but I don't want it to become onerous for anyone involved.

Monday 20 July 2020

The War of the Rhabarberian Succession - Turn 6 Miracle on the Marne?

With the Campaign Turn 6 map moves already made, it was a fairly simple task to transfer the battle area to the table top. Once again the terrain was very open, with a few woods and some fenced fields. The river was fordable for most of its course due to a period of dry weather. Not the best defensive terrain it must be said but the Ruthenian troops would have to make the most of it. Both sides had units that started the game with one hit, to reflect the action they had just been and the damage taken.

As before, information and 'photos of the table were sent to both players who then fed back to me their plans of attack or defence. It was then up to me to try and implement them to the best of my ability.

Ruthenian Orders
Overall: the combined army will defend the line of the river, using it as an obstacle between them and the enemy. This is the occasion to hold at all costs and drive off the enemy with a very bloody nose.

1. 6th Division. 2 battalions will defend the bridge from the river bank left and right of the bridge. One artillery unit will be deployed on the road near the farm with a direct line of fire to the bridge. 1 battalion will occupy the farm, with the other artillery battery supporting it to its right. The final battalion will form a reserve behind the farm. The 1st Cavalry will form on the road in front of the wood, ready to commit themselves to a reckless charge whenever the situation becomes desperate.

2. 2nd Division must lose no time in fording the river to form on the right of 6th Division. 1 brigade will link with 6th Division and line the bank of the river. The other brigade will form behind the right of the other brigade, to guard the right flank of the army, particularly against any enemy units crossing the wooden bridge.
Prusskian Orders

With both sides having cleary set their stalls out, it was an easy job to deploy the various Division & Regiments.

An overview of the table, with the Ruthenians in Blue and the Prusskians Red.

The Ruthenian 2nd Division in the process of trying to ford the river.

The Ruthenian 6th Division deployed ready to meet any attacks over the bridge.

The Prusskian 5th Division & 6th Cavalry Regiment.

The Prusskian 3rd Division & 4th Cavalry Regiment.

Turn 1
The Ruthenians started the game and the 2nd Division were only able to make one move even in march column. One unit already deployed in line prepared to cover their withdrawl. The 6th Division failed to receive orders whilst the 1st Regiment held their position, awaiting developments.

The Prusskian 5th Division was only able to make one move onto the table and stayed in march column, whilst the supporting 6th Regiment failed to appear. Both the 3rd Division & 4th Regiment made two moves onto the table and followed their orders as much as possible.

The end of Turn 1.

The Prusskian troops begin to arrive and their intentions are clear.

Turn 2
The Ruthenian 2nd Division made three moves and formed a good defensive line as per their orders, but a lack of artillery might hinder their efforts. Once again the 6th Division failed to receive any orders, but the 1st Regiment moved across the rear to try and support the 2nd Divisions right flank.

As the Prusskian 6th Regiment arrived, the 5th Division moved towards the river and deployed into where line where possible. The 3rd Division managed to make one move due to being in march column, whilst the 4th Regiment carried on pushing forward with flank protection. 

The end of Turn 2.

The Ruthenian 2nd Division form a good defensive line.

The static 6th Division can only watch on as the enemy arrive.

The Prusskian 5th Division begin to form up for the attack.

The 3rd Division are somewhat tardy and could do with getting a move on to help pin the enemy left flank.

Turn 3
The Ruthenian 6th Division suddenly burst into life and redployed to meet the expected line of attack from the Prusskians. Their artillery opened fire at long range but failed to hit. The 2nd Division held their line and opened fire on the Prusskian Light Infantry, causing two hits and Disorder. The 1st Regiment continued to edge forward to cover the flank.

The Prusskian 5th Division pushed forward as the 6th Regiment moved over the wooden bridge to cover their flank. Fire burst out along the line causing Hits and Disorder (note that the Stubborn unit from the previous games made a load of Morale Saves to avoid having to take a Break Test). Again the 3rd Division failed its order but chose to deploy from march column into line as the artillery continued forward, covered by the 4th Regiment.

The end of the Ruthenian Turn 3.

The end of Prusskian Turn 3.

The 2nd Division begin to engage the enemy.

The 6th Division has formed up along the river, but is still covering the bridge.

The 5th Division is pressing the enemy whilst the 6th Regiment moves across the bridge.

The 3rd Division are not really playing ball at present.

Turn 4
With the obvious threat to the 2nd Divisions position, the 6th Division failed to send its reserve unit to support them. However the 1st Regiment moved up to try and restrict the ability of the enemy cavalry to deploy into the open space behind the Ruthenian lines. Shooting across the front was rather ineffective, with only one hit caused but some counter battery fire caused one hit and Disorder on the Prusskian 5th Divisions artillery.

The Prusskian 3rd Division finally moved forward and their artillery carried on limbered. Shooting at the Ruthenian 6th Division by the bridge, they caused Hits & Disorder, but the 6th Division units made many good morale saves to avoid going Shaken or having to take Break Tests. The 4th Regiment moved across the Prusskian rear to support the 6th Regiment.

The 5th Division Blundered but at least moved forward and their shooting caused Hits, Disorder & one unit becoming Shaken. Again the Ruthenians made many good morale saves to avoid having to take Break Tests.

The 6th Regiment seeing an opportunity charged the Ruthenian 1st Regiment who counter charged. In the ensuing melee one Ruthenian Squadron broke whilst a Prusskian one retreated Shaken.

The end of Ruthenian Turn 4.

The Prusskian cavalry charge is met by a counter charge.

Both sides retreat but the Prusskians are in a stronger position.

The end of Prusskian Turn 4.

The Ruthenian 2nd Division are really in the thick of it.

The 6th Division come under fire.

The Prusskian attack from their left flank is developing nicely.

The 3rd Division finally get going and pin the enemy left flank.

Turn 5
The 6th Division managed to send a reserve Battalion to support the pressed 2nd Division, whilst across the whole front they held firm and fired upon the enemy. The shooting was pretty ineffective but at least one unit became Shaken and an artillery unit was finished by Counter Battery fire.

The 6th Regiment pushed on but was unable to charge the enemy 1st Regiment, whilst the 4th Regiment moved up in support. The 5th Division made a small advance and their shooting took its toll, causing more Hits which led to one Ruthenian unit breaking.

The 3rd Division pushed forward as their artillery started to deploy, with their shooting causing hits, with one unit ruthenina unit passing their Break Test. Again lots of good morale saves prevented the situation from being far worse than it was.

The end of Ruthenian Turn 5.

Counter Battery fire sees the loss of an artillery unit.

The end of Prusskian Turn 5.

The cavalry really are in danger of breaking into the Ruthenian rear.

A Ruthenian unit breaks.

The Ruthenian 2nd Division is coming under severe pressure...

... as is the 6th Division.

The Prusskian 5th Division and combined cavalry are pressuring the Ruthenian right flank.

The 3rd Division push forward to pressure the Ruthenian right flank.

Turn 6
With little room for manoeuvre, the Ruthenian troops largely help their positions. The remaining squadron of the 1st Regt retired to be closer to supporting troops and the 'reserve' unit moved to support the 2nd Division that was under severe pressure. Shooting actoss the front saw another artillery unit destroyed, but for once some good Prusskian morale save prevented a rash of break tests.

With the withdrawl of the Ruthenian 1st Regt, the Prusskian 4th & 6th Regt's advanced into the enemy reat, threatening their lines of communication and waiting for possible stragglers etc. There was little movement other than dressing lines to try to bring more units guns to bear. Shooting led to the loss of another Ruthenian unit and an artillery unit Disrupted.  However three infantry units were shaken and the Stubborn unit had used its 'free' auto break test.

The end of the Ruthenian Turn 6.

The Prusskian artillery loses another battery of guns.

The end of the Prusskian Turn 6.

The 4th & 6th Regt's get behind the Ruthenian line.

The 4th Regt has many targets of opportunity.

The Ruthenian 6th Division is under a lot of pressure.

One infantry battalion breaks.

The 5th Division very much in control on the Prusskian left flank.

I fear the Ruthenian flank is about to be turned.

Another view of the 5th Division commanding position.

The 3rd Divisions grand battery finally in position.

The 3rd Division almost ready to start crossing the bridge.

Turn 7
All the Ruthenians could do was to withdraw parts of the 2nd Division to try and protect the right flank. The 1st Regt moved to try and protect the artillery from any Prusskian cavalry attacks. What little shooting there was caused Hits & Disorder, but at least another artillery unit was destroyed.

In a strong position the Prusskian forces broadly held their positions and opened fire, leading to two units breaking and one being forced back, leaving the Ruthenian right flank in tatters. Seeing an opportunity the 4th Regt manoeuvered around the woods and charged into the lone 1st Regt squadron, who borke after failing a break test. They were then able to make a sweeping advance into the artillery by the river, breaking one battery and then retiring to reform. A rather successful action one might say.

The end of Ruthenian Turn 7.

The 2nd Division begins to withdraw.

Another Prusskian artillery unit broken.

The 6th Regt charges in...

... breaking the enemy cavalry and...

... then charging into the artillery...

... which is easily destroyed...

... and finally retiring to reform.

The end of Prusskian Turn 7.

The 5th Division about to turn the Ruthenian right flank.

The 6th Regt poised to exploit as the 5th Division advance.

The 'Stubborn' unit finally breaks.

Another unit is forced back by a break test.

The 4th Regt in control of the Ruthenian rear.

A unit breaks at the bridge, leaving it largely undefended.

The 3rd Division face little opposition by the bridge.

A final view of the battlefield.

End of Game
With their positions completely untenable, the Ruthenian troops surrendered after a staunch defensive action and were granted the Honours of War, quitting the battle field with drums playing, flags flying and their heads held high. With this loss the Ruthenians left Rhabarbernland to the Prusskians, who would 'guard it' whilst Crown Prince Ruprecht continued to look for his chin.
Post Game Thoughts
It was always going to be a tough ask for the Ruthenian forces, given they were outnumbered, especially in artillery and cavalry. However they held on a lot longer than I thought they would and gave a good account of themselves. So as always a few thoughts on the game:
  • Really the game was over at the end of Turn 6, but I thought I'd play one more Turn just to see what would have happened. I'm glad I did as it clearly showed (to me at least) a clear and decisive Prusskian victory.
  • Morale Saves really kept the Ruthenians in the game, as early on they could have easily lost quite a few units in opening moves, which would have spelt an early end to the battle.
  • Both sides artillery was pretty ineffective, often due to the above. However rifle fire accounted for most of the Prusskian artillery losses, which I haven't really seen before. Something to bear in mind for future games. 
  • Despite being outnumbered by Prusskian infantry and artillery, it was really the Prusskian cavalry that were a constant threat. As seen in this and previous games, once in the enemy rear cavalry can be devastatingly effective.
  • I must say that yet again Black Powder II, with the Glory Hallelujah! supplement,gave a very nice game that gave plenty of action throughout. You can add 'chrome' if you want, but I feel using 'vanilla units' makes game play much easier and allows one to concentrate on the game. A case of 'less is more'.
So there we have it, the campaign has finished and the Prusskians are victorious! I must say it has been great fun and could not have happened without the great support and co-operation of Dave & Keith, who have been fantastic thoughtout. I will post some thoughts on the campaign as a whole in another post, but suffice to say I already have another campaign in mind. A clue can be found over on  Jon Bleasdale's excellent  Blog. Until next time...