Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Boardgame: Budapest '45

It's been some time between wargaming drinks but I cracked open a new wine the other night, this being Budapest '45 from Command Magazine.

I'd played and enjoyed the chaotic Ukraine '44, and after being told on Consimworld that that MMP title was derived from the Budapest '45 game I hunted around and managed to locate a copy of its older sibling.

The thing I really like about the system is that it tracks combat losses right through. If you have a panzer division with 21 attack points, it will take 21 step losses to eliminate it. There's none of this "Oh, a six, you're dead and I'm fine" or "Damn a one! I'm dead, but you're okay". This is constantly and grimly attritional. Whether attacking or defending you're going to lose at least one step, and maybe up to five if the odds are bad or if someone's forced to retreat into an enemy zone of control. There's bookkeeping, but that's okay by me (I am a miniatures gamer, after all!).

Another thing about it is that you don't know what you are up against in turns of combat strength. The combat ratings are on rosters, not the counters, so you don't know what strength the enemy has there until you fight. You have to use a combination of intuition ("Hmm, a Guards mechanised unit has just come into the line. Will it be weak or strong?") and memory ("Ah, we had a 2:1 against those chaps last turn and they took a few hits. Let's whack them again!) in planning attacks.

These elements make for great solo play. The only rule change I have made is that I don't hide unit designations, and I allow myself to look up the attacking strengths but not the defending ones when planning attacks. So far it has worked out brilliantly. I've made foolish attacks once or twice after underestimating enemy strength while on other occasions I've avoided combat because I didn't know what the active side was up against.

An unexpected bonus is that I have so far avoided the analysis paralysis stage I seem to get to when soloing boardgames with full informatoin. I often reach a point where it just starts to become too much hard work when I can see the response to every move I will make and am trying not to let that affect the game.

It has made for excellent and refreshing solo gaming.

The situation is an interesting one as well. The Soviets have Budapest under siege well behind the front lines and the Germans are tasked with breaking through these front lines to relieve the city There is a quality versus quantity dynamic as well as competing cycles of manoeuvre-attack-reorganise and defend-retreat-outflank.

Anyway, enough chatter. Here's the board at set up, with separate rosters and turn record sheets for both sides.


To look more closely at the board, the Germans are aiming to pressure the Soviets all along the line and hopefully achieve a breakthrough in the north and the centre, while keeping enough force in the south to prevent the Soviets from being able to mount a strong southern counter-attack.

German plans.


By turn three (January 4-5), the Germans have made progress, but the Soviets have been able to pull back the line and avoid any catastrophic breakthrough.



By turn four the Germans in the north have pushed to within about 25 miles of Budapest, but the Soviets are still able to offer defense in depth.



Further south the German attacks are obliged to channel north or south of Lake Valense....


... which prevents the Germans from concentrating for a breakthrough at one point and allows Soviet reinforcements to threaten an outflanking movement against the weak flank guards.



Meanwhile, in Budapest, the Soviets are whittling the defenders down, helped by some fearsome artillery barrages.


And so to turn five. The defensive line is still holding, but it is running out of room to fall back.


Now it is decision time for the Soviets. Do they launch a counter-offensive in the south, pull units from the south and send them to reinforce the centre, or do a bit of both?

Enjoyable times in house Prufrock, and what solo wargaming is all about.

Time to pour a drink and get back into it!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Navwar order

There was a nice visit from the postman today to drop off an order I put in with Navwar last week. The parcel was sent last Thursday and arrived this, so that's pretty good timing.

I was a little apprehensive about ordering through Navwar due to their old school system, but I needn't have been. The service was excellent and I shouldn't have waited so long to get on the horse..

Anyway, first up is a US early war starter pack.


Next is the US late war starter pack.


There is also a selection of goodies for some 'Four Against Japan' early Pacific War scenarios from the very useful Fire on the Waters site, and - I couldn't resist - Bismarck, Prinz Eugen, Hood and Prince of Wales for one of the first naval battles I read about as a kid. I still remember feeling devastated reading of the loss of the Hood.



So, plenty to keep me going here!


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Bill Butler's Scutarii

I spent an enjoyable evening last night muddling through a test game of Bill Butler's Scutarii featuring Pompey versus Sertorius and based on a Classical Hack scenario.

Notable features are using d10s for combat (variable # of dice per unit class rolling against a defence number type scheme) and morale tests, with the morale tests occurring at the start of each players' turn.

Unit morale is tracked over three stages - normal, shaken, routed - and units also track hits, with each hit a permanent subtraction from the unit's morale number, making it more likely they will fail the test and drop a level.

This leads to units being worn down by the accumulation of hits until they become shaken and then next morale failure sees them gone, probably taking a few others with them.

There are a few 'fast-tracks' to shaken - hitting units in rear, etc - so exploiting that is probably a key tactic for old hands (which I am not!).

Nice clean turn sequence and fairly easy to get the hang of.

There are lots of ways to classify units (type, grade, drill, regular/irregular, open/closed order, missile/non-missile, etc) so you can build troops to match your own ideas as desired.

It's quite different from what I've been playing the last few years, but I like it. It has the wearing down and morale collapse dynamic you get in Lost Battles but at a more tactical level. It was also a nice change to see both manoeuvre and combat featuring more concretely (as opposed to more abstractly) on table, and lines ebbing and flowing rather than either being there or not being there.

My biggest issue at this stage is with the markers required to track morale level, hits and disorder. I'll need to organise a system so that I don't have unsightly clutter on the table.

Anyway, nice rules, I think. Would be interested to hear if anyone else has played or is playing them.

Just prior to contact



Action on the Sertorian left

The Sertorians attempting to make a Pompey sandwich, but the bread is straining...

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Forthcoming Roman Battles

I've been in the ancients doldrums since our Society of Ancients battle day game way back in April and have been looking for something outside of my usual game options to put some - ahem - wind back in the old sails. By chance, I remembered there was a scenario book for the Classical Hack rules hidden away in a storage cupboard, so I grubbed around for it to see if it would provide any inspiration.



Happily, it did.

It's a little hard to see the Table of Contents in this scan (it should be better if you click on it, however), but the book contains a number of battles from the Sertorian era, and these might just be what I'm looking for.


A quick inventory will show what can be put on a prufrockian table: 

Native Cavalry: 
15 bases of Spanish heavy cavalry (18 if I add in some 'Iberianesque' Carthaginians), 
8 bases of Spanish light cavalry, 
16 bases of Gallic heavy cavalry, 

12-19 units, depending on how I organise them.

'Roman' Cavalry:
6 bases of Samnites, who can I think pass for generic rough-and-ready cavalry from the period,
19 bases of mid Republican era heavy cavalry,
4 bases of Tarantine cavalry.

10-13 units, depending on how they are organised.

Light infantry:
36 bases of caetrati type light infantry,
12 bases of archers,
20 bases of slingers,
32 bases of generic javelinmen.

25 units.

Spanish medium infantry:
28 bases of Iberian scutarii,
44 bases of Celtiberian scutarii.

18 units.

Marian-era Roman infantry:
96 bases of 'Blue' infantry,
96 bases of 'Red' infantry.

32-48 units, depending on how I organise them.

Extras:
8 artillery pieces,
Sundry command stands and individually based figures.

I'm probably a little short of Spanish to do the bigger scenarios as they are presented here, but I'm sure I can adjust the numbers to fit as needed.

The next thing to think about it is which rules to use. 

I have (in no particular order) Scutarii, Lost Battles, To the Strongest!, Might of Arms, Sword and Spear, Hail Caesar, modified Dux Bellorum, Warmaster Ancients, Armati, Commands & Colors, Classical Hack, or my homegrown set. 

I think I want to avoid squares this time after using them for the battle day game, so that narrows things down a little. Also, if I want to change things up, it is probably a good idea to try a rule set I haven't played very much (or, indeed, at all!).

Well, we shall see. I'm not sure if I'll get a game in before I go back to New Zealand for a quick visit at the end of the month, but I can at least enjoy getting some planning and rules-learning done.




Monday, July 4, 2016

Contents of 1/3000 ship sets by Fujimi

Fujimi Set 1: Yokosuka Naval Port.
Type
Class 
# in class
Names
BB
Yamato x1
2
Yamato, Musashi; this one Musashi
BB
Nagato x1
2
Nagato, Mutsu
CV
Shokaku x1
2
Shokaku, Zuikaku
CA
Takao x1
4
Takao, Atago, Chokai, Maya
CL
Oyodo x1
1

DD
Fubuki x 4
24


Fujimi Set 2: Sasebo Naval Port.
Type
Class
# in class
Names
CV
Akagi x1
1

CV
Kaga x1
1

CA
Mogami x1
4
Mogami, Mikuma, Suzuya, Kumano
CA
Myoko x1
4
Myoko, Nachi, Haguro, Ashigara
CA
Takao x1
4
See set 1
DD
Shiratsuya x 4
10


Fujimi Set 3: Kure Naval Port.
Type
Class
# in class
Names
BB
Yamato x1
2
See set 1. This one Yamato
BB
Nagato x1
2
See set 1.
CA
Mogami x1
4
See set 2
CA
Takao x1
4
See set 1
CA
Furutaka / Aoba x 1
4
Furutaka, Kako, Aoba, Kinugasa
DD
Kagero x 2
19


Fujimi Set 4: Truk Lagoon.
Type
Class
# in class
Names
BB
Kongo x 1
4
Kongo, Hiei, Kirishima, Haruna. This one Hiei.
CA
Mogami x 1
4 (1)
Float plane refit. This one Mogami
CL
Naka/Sendai x 1
3
Naka, Sendai, Jintsu
DD
Fubuki x 4
24
See set 1

Akashi  x 1

Repair ship

Akitsushima  x 1

Seaplane tender

Mamiya x 1

Supply ship


Fujimi Expansion Set 1: BB Expansion
Type
Class
# in class
Names
BB
Kongo x 1
 4
Kongo
BB
Kongo x 1
 4
Hiei
BB
Kongo x 1
 4
Kirishima
BB
Kongo x 1
 4
Haruna
DD
Shiratsuyu x4
10
See set 2

Monday, June 27, 2016

On the reading table

There has not been a lot of 15mm miniatures painting action here of late, but one thing I have been chewing through is the books.

I've been particularly enjoying Alan Moorehead's The Desert War. He gives an excellent overview of the campaigns and his easy style, combining personal observations with broader commentary, makes for an engrossing read. He has a couple of standout passages on the effect of war upon the men. See this, for example, regarding life at the front:

One lived there exactly and economically and straightly, depending greatly on one's companions in a world that was all black or white, or perhaps death instead of living. Most of the things it takes you a long time to do in peace-time--to shave and get up in the morning, for example--are done with marvellous skill and economy of effort at the front. Little things like an unexpected drink become great pleasures, and other things which one might have thought important become suddenly irrelevant or foolish. In a hunter's or a killer's world there are sleep and food and warmth and the chase and the memory of women and not much else. Emotions are reduced to anger and fear and perhaps a few other things, but mostly anger and fear, tempered sometimes with a little gratitude. If a man offers you a drink in a city bar, the offering is little and the drink still less. You appreciate the offering and give it more importance that the drink. At the front the drink is everything and the offering merely a mechanical thing. It is never a gesture, but a straight practical move as part of a a scheme of giving and receiving. The soldier gives if he can and receives if he can't. There is no other way to live. A pity this is apparent and imperative only in the neighbourhood of death. (p.92)

An ebook I have on the go for the first time is Les Miserables. I'd always associated it with high school musicals (which right from my first exposure to them I've always found very annoying), but it's actually quite good.

Rosemary Sutcliff's Arthurian trilogy is another I've been dipping into when I have a spare ten minutes. I got it to read to the kids, but it's a bit beyond them yet. You tend to think of RS as a young person's author, but her books have a lot going on in them. It makes her more valuable in that  people just don't write like she does anymore. There is a dignity to the pacing of her stories but she can pull out some marvellous imagery and action sequences when she has a mind to. I must keep an eye out for more of her books when I'm browsing second hand stores back in New Zealand next.

One other I'll mention before I sign off is a collection of short stories called The Burial of the Guns by Thomas Nelson Page. The stories are set in the American South, mainly during or after the Civil War, and although the stories are sentimental they are well crafted and worth reading through. Again, he writes in a style that you don't see these days. As a bonus, the book is available free from the internet archive, as is an audiobook version of the title story.

Cover image from here.
Cover image from here.


Friday, June 24, 2016

Prepping the IJN

I've been doing a little more work on some of the Fujimi 1/3000 naval models I picked up recently. Goodness me, they are beautiful to work with, and the detail is astonishing.

Here is the light cruiser Oyodo. There are nine parts that go into making her up, but you'd never know it. I had a little glue run onto her side, but you can see how much detail there is.




This is the (as yet unmade, obviously!) sprue for the Nagato. The thought that has been put into the best way to capture the essential characteristics of the ship is quintessentially Japanese. The craftsmanship is wonderful.




And here is my little fleet so far, including a test painting of the Shokaku. There are another twenty or so ships to do from the sets I already have, but I think I'll grab one or two sets more.




Their opponents will probably be 1/3000 metals, which I imagine will look pretty crude by comparison. Perhaps a plea to the company might be in order?



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