Monday, February 27, 2012

Dystopian Fleets QRS

To make our games play faster, I decide to create a quick reference sheet for ourselves.

The basic layout was easy, and the "Algerian" font gave a nice VSF look to the headers.

I was planning to print them on faux parchment paper, but then the idea occurred to me to print them on paper that already has some VSF themed graphics printed on them.

A quick google provided a few possibilities (tip: search "steampunk" instead of "VSF"), but those with too much artwork or too thick a border would obscure the tables or require me to shrink them, and so were abandoned.

I eventually picked one with faint artwork, but the original background colour was a yellow that was a little too bright. I loaded the picture into my photo-editing programme and "sepia-ed" it, printed it out, then printed my table over it (OK, I had to do it twice because I printed on the wrong side...), and this is the result.

Unfortunately I couldn't get my printer to do borderless printing, but all the tables are legible, and the background is atmospheric enough. If I can find more graphics, perhaps I can have a unique QRS for each player?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Napoleonic Tabletop Rules Playtest

As planned, I playtested the tactical rules from Real Time Wargames' ACW rules this afternoon.

I matched 3 divisions of French versus 3 of British. The British had better command and a slight numerical advantage.

The French deployed with a strong centre and weak flanks, holding some of their forces in reserve. The British deployed a small force in each sector, but opened the battle with an attack on their right.

The French were taken by surprise, and Ney sent his cavalry to counter the British in that sector - after two turns the British cavalry were dispersed but the French cavalry were weakened; they withdrew without taking further part in the battle.

In the centre both sides now carried out an artillery duel, but neither side made a committed attack.

Wellington fed more forces into the other two sectors to pin the French, then launched the remainder of the division into the contested right. Ney rushed a brigade from another division to try to shore up the front, but it was all too late for the weakened French brigade at that flank as the newly arrived British launched a ferocious charge that swept it from the field and captured many men (I rolled two 1s!)

Ney now began to plan his retreat and began to pull his artillery back. Wellington, having secured his right flank, began to the forces there to the transit area, but the French completed their pull-out before he could launch an attack.

The French lost a whole division in this battle, but they will recover 60% of the infantry lost, though none of the guns.

The British will regain all of their cavalry, as well as half of their guns, so in all this was a profitable battle for them.

All in all I liked the rules.

the first thing that struck me was how very little happened across the entire battlefield at one time. With limited command points, one could not hope to launch a co-ordinated attack on all sectors at the same time. In fact, unless you committed the CiC into a sector to lead an attack himself, attacks tended to happen piece-meal.

I will need to read through the army withdrawal rules again, as right now it seems that it is too easy if costly to retreat from the field of battle.

Dystopian Fleets ship cards

One of the things I wanted to make for our Dystopian Wars - Grand Fleets 2 project (which I will call Dystopian Fleets from now) is ship cards. I wanted them to be small enough to fit onto a standard collectible card sleeve so we can use non-permanent markers over them, yet be able to hold all the information required for gameplay.

After a night of mucking around with a word processor, I managed to come up with this, with a little help from my new printer.

The British and Ottoman ships will have their own ship cards with a different coloured header and their respective ensigns; I am using the Dystopian Wars ones for now.

I was able to fit everything on one card because we standardised the gun ranges and eliminated some elements; we do lose the granularity of WW1 naval gunnery, but with something like 15 ships/flyers and 8 plane tokens to look after each turn, we have to simplify things to make the game playable in an afternoon. It will still be a bit of work keeping track of 15 ships at once, but having a stack of cards may be preferable to loose sheets of paper.

Now if only they will tell me when they are going to release the Ottoman models...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Levee en papier

I had the idea that I wanted to playtest the tactical rules for our Peninsular campaign over this weekend, but since I only have French troops, I thought I would use counters instead.

Now I *could* just use pieces of card with military symbols and numbers on them, but since I just bought myself a new laser colour printer, I thought I would indulge a little...

After some searching online, I managed to find the fine top-down counters from the Junior General Home Page. I've known about the site for a while now, but it's only today that I realised that they have top-down figures - I forsee myself being a frequent visitor from now on.

With a bit of cut-and-paste and my rudimentary word-processing knowledge, I managed to make a set of counters with check-off stats for a two-corps fight. A bit of glue and knife-work and I should be ready to play.

Look out for the battle report here.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

More Peninsular thoughts - Allies OOB

The Allies may require a slightly different organisation, with some manoeuvre units represented as a whole division or two 'demi-divisions', giving 4 Divisions (with 8 'brigades'), and the Light Division and the Independent Portuguese Brigade as single units, giving us 134 bases of infantry in 10 'brigades', with two brigades of cavalry each of 10 bases attached to two of the divisions, plus 2 guns per 'line' Division.

To simplify things, I may have.

C-i-C Wellington [4]

1st Div - Spencer [2]

Guards Brigade 13/3
KGL Brigade 13/3
2 Guns

3rd Div - Picton [3]

Mackinnon's Bde 13/2
Colville's Bde 13/2
2 Guns

4th Div - Cole [2]

Kemmis' Bde 13/2
Myers' Bde 13/2
2 Guns

5th Div - Dunlop [2]
Hays' Bde 13/2
Egerton's Bde 13/2
2 Guns

Light Division - Erskine [2]

Light Division 16/3

Independent Portuguese Brigades [2]

Portuguese Bde 16/2

Cavalry Division - detached
de Grey's Bde 10/1
Slade's Bde 10/1

The 'line' Divisions should have 3 or 4 bases of Portuguese troops to reflect the mixed nature of these divisions.

The number [X] behind a commander's name is is command rating, and the numbers for each Bde represents the starting number of bases and the 'flag' or quality rating of the unit.

The Allies start with larger (and thus more powerful) units than the French, and they have units with quality 3, which can make a real difference in combat (I think). I have however given their cavalry a rating of 1.

The French outnumber the Allies at the start of the game, but I will rule that for logistics purposes neither side may have more than 6 Bde of infantry in a node.

At the same time the French will have a movement of 2 nodes per turn while the Allies will have a movement of 3, which means the French cannot hope to win without at least fighting some rearguard actions. In addition, I will allow an Allies unit that has not moved its full 3 nodes to move an additional node after a battle if it wins, allowing them to catch a nearby French Corps if the rearguard failed to delay it.

Finally, I think the format of the game now lends itself well to a two-sided game with 2 players per side, which is what we have.

More Peninsular thoughts - French OOB

I spent most of yesterday night thinking about the campaign system.

To give more tactical options on the tabletop, we will need to tweak the scale to a 1 battalion = 2 bases, 1 squadron = 2 bases, and 1 artillery base = 4 guns.

The smallest manoeuvre unit will be the brigade. The 3 French Corps in the game will have a total of 178 bases of infantry in 15 brigades (4 to 6 brigades in a Corps), and probably 12 bases of cavalry and 4 of artillery per Corps.

C-i-C Massena [3]

2nd Corps - Reynier [2]

1st Division - Pierre Merle [2]

Sarrut's Bde 12/2 

Graindorge's Bde 12/2 

2nd Division - Etienne Heudelet [2]

Foy's Bde 12/2
Arnaud's Bde 12/2

Cav Bde 6/2
6 guns

6th Corps - Ney [3]

1st Division - Marchand [2]

Maucune's Bde 12/2
Marcognet's Bde 12/2

2nd Division - Mermet [2]

Bardet's Bde 12/2
Labassée's Brigade 12/2

3rd Division - Loison [2]

Simon's Bde 12/2
Ferey's Brigade 12/2

Cav Bde 6/2
6 guns

8th Corps - Junot [2]

1st Division - Clausel [2]

Menard's Bde 12/2
Taupin's Bde 12/2
Godard's Bde 12/2

2nd Division – Solignac [2]

Gratien's Bde 12/2
Thomières' Bde 12/2

Cav Bde 6/2
6 guns

The number [X] behind a commander's name is is command rating, and the numbers for each Bde represents the starting number of bases and the 'flag' or quality rating of the unit.

The Brigades should have a mix of Ligne and Legere bases (probably 2:1 ratio, since that's what I have).

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Massena's Retreat - A Peninsular War Campaign

Even as we playtest our Grand Fleets 2 adaptation for use with the Dystopian Wars models, I am planning for the Peninsular Campaign project that we have been preparing for since the year before.

Between Martin and myself we have looked through a few sets of rules, and while he is painting up the Brits and Portuguese I have bought a painted army off ebay.

We still haven't decide on a set of rules yet, but a question regarding Realistic Modelling's ACW rules on TMP is making me look at using them as a candidate.

Now the rules come with a set of campaign rules and a set of tactical rules. The campaign rules have all the players playing Union commanders trying to defeat Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley, bu each trying to outdo the other and win more Prestige form theselves, oftentimes at the detriment of their compatriots!

The campaign takes place on a map with node-to-node movenet, and the Confederate army's moves are determined by an algorithm that takes into account the size of the Union army that attempts to move into contact with it: if the opposition is strong, Jackson may decide to retreat or indeed move on to attack a weaker target nearby. The size of the Confederate army is also determined randomly, such that the Union player never knows whether or not he will successfully bring the Confederate army to battle, which Confederate general he is facing, or how many the enemy are.

Once a battle occurs, the action is moved to the tabletop, where a Union player not involved in the battle now plays the role of the Confederate commander!

The tactical rules are abstract, featuring brigades of around a dozen bases fighting over sectors of the battlefield which are depicted on-table, but whose physical relationship and distance from each other are not to scale - to me this is similar to the Dixie card game which I enjoyed more than a decade ago. Command is thus at a high level: as the Corps commander, you decide wich division commanders to activate and the division commanders in turn decide which sector to commit which brigades to, and which to hold in reserve. There are no rules for formations or tactics per se, and the player is locked out of the lower levels of decision. To me this is a good representation of warfare at this scale, but of course the commander can still decide to influencethings on the ground personally by leading a brigade/divison himself.

I then went on to read a little about the period to find a campaign that has a similar scope and setting, and decided that Massena's retreat from Portugal in 1811 may fit the bill. The retreat from the lines of Torres Vedras took place along a few axes which meant the French split themselves up and the Allies were not always sure where the French were, there were a few rearguard actions fought, and to the end the British still thought that there was a chance the French would still turn back and resume their invasion.

I found a map and translated the places of note and the routes between them into a node map, which gave in most places two or three lines of retreat with only one real choke-point.

Turning to the orders of battle I think a larger scale of 1 base = 1 battalion will probably be more suitable given the size of the forces involved (as well as the number of figures I have!). This will mean Ney's 6th Corps will consist of 1 Corps Commander, 3 Divisions of about 12 bases each, and a Brigade of cavalry and two bases of artillery... I should be able to field up to 2/3rd of the French army at one time.

Now things are still rather preliminary - we will probably require a couple of test games for the tactical rules and I may do a dry run of the campaign rules solo before deciding whether we should have a one or two-sided game, but it should be fun.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Making a splash

One of the nice things about naval wargaming is - let's face it - the chance to use splash markers.

While we are thinking of the really cool ones from Litko, I nonetheless decided to try my hand at making some after reading a post on TMP - it just so happened that I recently recaulked my bathroom sink and had a tube of white silicone sealant which was going to just dry up in its tube anyway...

On the way home I dropped by a general store and bought myself two packs of flat-headed screws. Once I got home, the clear plastic front of the packaging is kept aside for potential basing material, and the screws are glued to the cardboard backing itself - talking about being environmentally friendly!

After letting the glue dry, I squeezed the sealant over the screws and shaped them into plumes of water... as much as I could, anyway.

As you can see from the end result it's pretty... irregular. The few taller ones on the right actually have a second 'layer' of sealant added on top of them to achieve the height. The sealant is sticky fresh, but dries soon, allowing more sealant to be 'piled' on top.

The will probably need some final touching up to ensure all the metal is covered, but so far it's been a cheap and quick way of getting some splash markers done... even if it gets a little messy.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dystopian Wars project - Grand Fleet 2 playtest

One of the projects our little group is embarking on this year is Spartan Games' Dystopian Wars.

To be precise, we are using their models in a VSF setting, but using a set of WW1 naval rules, with flyer rules bolted on.

Here's a picture of the first test game, using WizKids plastic card ships (without their masts), Majestic 12's Grand Fleet 2 rules, with some Litko Savage Worlds markers, on my desert terrain cloth with a few Heroscape hills as islands... Is that confusing enough for you yet?

I came up with a set of formulas to convert the Dystopian War stats to Grand Fleet 2 stats, and fg and I played a small game with 1 Battleship, 3 Cruisers and 3 Frigates per side. The Germans had bigger guns with longer ranges and more powerful torpedoes than the Brits, but the Brits had better fire control and more guns.

After the first few tuns we got the hang of the rules, although it is still rather tedious having to roll for each battery, then penetration, then damage (and this is with half the number of models we expect to field in a full game).

I made the mistake on not capitalising on my ships' strengths and fg took advantage of that, closed in with his cruisers, and hit my Battleship so hard that it had only 2 hulls left (out of the starting 24) so I decided to strike colours.

With a little experience (and the proper markers) we can probably play the game faster. As it is we both like the rules enough to want to use them for the project. Majestic 12 is coming up with the third edition of Grand Fleet soon, so that may be something to look out for - in any case, we can continue to use the same models regardless of the set of rules used.

fg plans to get the French ships when they are released in March, while I will have to wait longer for Spartan Games to release their Ottoman fleet. We will need to get a sea terrain cloth, and a set of Amera islands is also on the cards.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Scout squad 2

Well, it took me a while, but with the holiday season behind, I've finally started painting again.

I decided to complete my sci-fi project by finishing the last two figures in my scout squad: the figure in the centre with the binoculars is from the Infinity range, while the one to her left is from Sedition Wars.

Next on the painting list will likely be some 28mm beastmen, hopefully followed by the Perry WOTR figures again when their mounted knights are released in April.