Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Snowed under...

Have been a bit snowed under of late.  Three PBEM games going and a sudden burst of enthusiasm for chess (of the variety!) has meant that I've had little time or energy for posting here.  There are some PBEM updates to do when the mood strikes, however...

Monday, September 17, 2012

DungeonQuest with the kids

Today was a public holiday so with the kids starting to get restless mid-afternoon I roped them into a game of DungeonQuest.  

If you don't know of it, DungeonQuest is an adventure game based around going into a dungeon and - you might have guessed it - finding treasure.  Each player starts in a different corner of the game board and must make his or her way to the dragon's lair in the centre by - here's the trick - drawing dungeon tiles.  These tiles show a room, corridor or tower, with between one and four possible exits.  When you enter a room you will, depending on what kind of tile you turn up, have to pull a card of some description, which might cause an encounter with a monster, set off a trap, uncover some loot, and so on.

It's a bit too fiddly for the kids to play properly, so we used some dad's rules, which boiled down to two key elements: the kids' characters can't die, and they must have fun.

To this end they got to choose a character figure and start on the corner of their choosing.  Each turn they drew a tile and moved onto it.  We didn't use any cards or complicated stuff; it was fun enough for them just trying to put their tiles together in a way that would get them to the treasure chamber.

The adventurers on their quest...

Every second or third tile they drew I would reveal a monster figure and place it in the tile they'd just pulled, yelling "It's a (insert name of mythical beast), quick, roll the dice!" and the child in the hot seat would roll until they scored a 5 or 6.

Foreheads would be wiped in exaggerated fashion and exclamations along the lines of "phew, that was lucky!" would be made.

Once both kids made it to the central chamber (their old man was still floundering about near the entrance...) four monsters suddenly appeared, and they had to take turns rolling the dice until all of the creatures were dead.

Oh no, it's four creatures flogged from World of Warcraft: the Boardgame!

Both kids seemed to have a great time and immediately wanted to play again.  Not only did they enjoy it, but so caught up in it were they they forgot to get into their usual grizzling match about who got to take first turn, who won and so on.

You wouldn't think it, but a game involving violent conflict made them much more cooperative and agreeable than a game involving matching cards, scoring points for picking up cheese, or saying words correctly.  Maybe there's a lesson in that...

Anyway, judging by the enthusiasm exhibited today, I think this game is one that we'll be able to come back to a few more times yet.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Victory Lost with Piero, first turn

An email buddy and I have just started a play-by-email game of A Victory Lost, the brilliant Eastern Front operational game by Tetsuya Nakamura.  This is Piero's first attempt at AVL, so it will likely be a learning game; but as I've been experimenting with taking screenshots before and after every activation, I'm going to post these here as a record of how events progress.

To get a general overview of the rules and feel of AVL you can take a look at an earlier post, found here, that I wrote on it back in February.

Turn 1, December 17 to December 27, 1942.

The screenshot below shows the positions at game start.  The Soviets have strong forces present in the vicinity of 1st Guard Army, 2nd Guard Army and 5th Shock and 5th Tank Armies.  The German line is weakly held in the centre, but there are powerful panzer divisions scattered about the south.

The Soviet attack commences: 6th Army attacks across the Don, dislodging elements of the Italian 8th Army from their positions and establishing bridgeheads for exploitation.

2nd Guard Army advances in the south, but unfortunate circumstances allow 7th Landwehr and 336th Division to hold their positions.  Stalin will have something to say to the random number generators...

STAVKA is drawn from the chit cup, and the whole of the Soviet line activates.  The Germans are under pressure everywhere.  They are in danger of being overrun in the south, but again the line holds firm.  Grave fears are held for the future of 4th Panzer Army.

The Rumanian 3rd Army HQ authorises a pull-back towards Millerovo and Morozovsk which gives the Germans some breathing space.

5th Tank Army breaks through north of Tsimlinskaia, destroying 8th Landwehr in place and threatening to outflank 7th Landwehr next activation.

4th Panzer Army at last gets the order to withdraw.  The bulk of the panzer divisions are ordered north, crossing the Don to support Hollidt against 5th Tank and 5th Shock Armies.  15th Landwehr falls back to Proletarsk to hold the Manych River crossing and bar the way to Rostov.

1st Guards Army closes in on the German troops in position at Rossosh in the north, driving back one division and cutting the other off in the town. The centre of the German line has been blown open and the north is in tremendous difficulty.

In the south, Hollidt orders a local counterattack north of Tsimlinskaia, giving 7th Tank and 5th Mechanised Corps a bloody nose and driving them back.  The line is briefly restored.

German reinforcements arrive - Kempf rushes north with two infantry divisions while Fretter-Pico sets up headquarters at Voroshilovgrad on the Donets.

Soviet 28th Army is due to arrive on the south-eastern flank of the German position, and elsewhere another tank corps makes its way to support the offensive.

As things are - but dependent on how the chits come out of the cup - the Soviets are primed for success both north and south this turn as there are vulnerable German units at both ends of the line.  That said, the Germans will have 4 chits in the cup this turn, giving them more options and a better chance to fall back to better defensive positions.  Turn 2 will be very important (but they all are, really!).

Stay tuned for more...

(BTW, at the time of writing there are about 300 hits to go before the blog reaches the magic 50,000.  If you want to enter the celebratory thank-you giveaway, go to this link and follow the instructions there.)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

50,000 hits and a celebratory giveaway

After a couple of years blogging we are approaching the milestone of 50,000 hits.   I'm fairly sure that some of them have even come from people other than me (!), so to thank you all I'm going to do a giveaway.

Before we get to the details, I'd just like to say that while this blog's primary function is to keep a record of my wargaming activities, it has also proved to be a significant motivator in helping me to get more figures painted - and these done to a less shameful quality than I was previously accustomed to.

As good as this is, by far the most gratifying by-product of blogging has turned out to be the connections built up with gamers all around the world.   It is a constant inspiration to see what others are up are up to and to have people drop by here to take a look and/or comment is very encouraging.

So, to cut to the chase, as a thank you to all the folks who visit me here, I'm going to do a humble but heartfelt celebratory giveaway.

The winner will have a choice of two items.  For those who like boardgames there is a lightly used but complete copy of GMT's Guilford, the third volume in Mark Miklos' Battles of the American Revolution series.  It's a nice little game containing two scenarios and uses quite an interesting battle mechanism.  The counters are all punched, bagged, and neatly clipped.  It's probably not something you'll want to play every night, but you might get a few good games out of it.

If boardgames are not your thing, you can instead take the poorer cousin: a set of EM4 Miniatures' Old West Heroes.  The box is slightly beaten up, but it contains five pre-painted 28mm figures, rules, and a CD-R with files for a printable western town.  The pre-paints are not going to win the Golden Demon, but they're not bad, and it looks to be a useful set if you like Wild West gaming and light-ish rules.

To be in the draw, there are two things you have to do:

1) be (or become) a follower here, and
2) leave a comment on this post saying what your favourite board and miniatures games are.

If you are a follower here but have changed your user name, profile or photo since you became one, you can always 'recommit' to be sure that I don't overlook you by mistake.

Once we get to 50,000 hits, the dice will be consulted to find a winner.  I will then announce the result here and ask him or her to contact me privately with a name and postal address and to indicate which item they would prefer.  After that I will send the game or figures off, hopeful that they will arrive in one piece, but conveniently avoiding all liability if they do not!

The dice roll will of course be done fairly, but people I recognize as especially valued visitors will get the equivalent of two entries in the draw.

There we have it.

Thanks very much again to everyone who has dropped in here over the past couple of years, and good luck!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Case Yellow

I am currently enjoying a play-by-email game of Ted Raicer's Case Yellow: the German Blitzkrieg in the West with my email buddy Andrea.

Andrea is controlling the Germans (with razor-sharp precision!) and I am bumbling about as the Allies.  Things are looking pretty grim.   It would have been a lot worse but Andrea has managed to roll a ridiculous number of 1s in his attacks these last two turns, and his terrible luck has been considerably more influential in preventing catastrophic losses than have the actions of this Allied commander!

The panzers have reached the channel coast, so I've now declared Operation Dynamo in an attempt to salvage some formations by embarking them from Oostende and in so doing perhaps gain enough victory points to stave off a German game victory. 

I don't think this is a game that I would want to play every week, but it has been very impressive so far to see the Germans in action. 

Here's a clickable screenshot of the situation on May 21st (end of turn 3).  To concentrate on the positives, the Maginot line is holding up pretty well!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Painting poem

Night time sat in craft
          paint fumes
lead shine
in yellow light
I ply brush late and
each cuff
               just so...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Video report - Paraitacene with Lost Battles

I've been experimenting with some video making software today and thought I'd use some photos from a Lost Battles game I did a while ago to put together a slightly tongue-in-cheek AAR as a wee tester.

You can see the results here...

What do you reckon?  Time to start concentrating more on my day job? 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

20 Wargaming Questions

I've enjoyed reading the "20 wargaming questions" posts from bloggers around the traps, so I thought I'd have a go at answering them myself.

1. Favourite wargaming period and why?  The answer has to be ancients. Not only have I 'invested' in a fair whack of figures, but there are lots of interesting rules sets and armies that will suit every type of player.  It helps that there are plenty of bloggers to draw inspiration from and a fellow enthusiast only a couple of hours from here.

Basically, I just love the history and colourful characters of the period.

2. Next period, money no object?  Marlburian / Seven Years War Imagi-Nations in 25mm using old school rules.  Ideally, figures would be painted (in prodigious numbers) for me by a first-rate company located somewhere in Asia, based singly, and games would be enjoyed with beverages and cigars in a large, tastefully decorated games room with at least six of the finest wargaming fellows known to man present at each occasion...

3. Favourite five films?  Hmm, tough one.  Have to cheat and make this five sessions, I think:

The Godfather (I and II)
The Departed and No Country for Old Men (uplifting double feature!)
The Deerhunter and Shadowlands (ditto...)
Dazed and Confused and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
This is Spinal Tap and The Song Remains the Same...

4. Favourite five TV series?

Band of Brothers
Fawlty Towers
The Sopranos
The Simpsons (1990s period)

5. Favourite book and author?  Really tough.  Probably W.B. Yeats's Collected Poems.

6. Greatest general (with all due modesty!)?  Caesar, for me.  Made too many mistakes to be the greatest tactical general, but a masterful leader of men.  His boldness and ability to inspire was extraordinary.

7. Favourite wargames rules?  Day in and day out, it would be Lost Battles.

8. Favourite sport and team?  I am a New Zealander.  There can be only one answer!

9. If you had a 'use one time only' time machine, when and where would you go?  Hmm, on a military theme, Pickett's Charge.  I'd probably never want to wargame again after seeing it though!

10. Last meal on death row?   Steak and cheese pie and chips washed down with a pint of Black Mac.

11. Fantasy relationship and why?  Eva Green...

12. If your life were a movie, who would play you?  Probably Jabba the Hutt!

13. Favourite comic superhero?  Asterix.

14. Favourite military quote?  My grandfather once told me that anyone who says he wasn't scared was crazy or a liar.  I think it's hard to top that.

15. Historical destination to visit?  Gettysburg.

16. Biggest wargaming regret?  That I haven't been able to play Lost Battles in miniature with my old man and my brothers.  Hopefully that will be remedied some time in the future.

17. Favourite fantasy job?  Atilla the Hun's fermented mare's milk taster...

18. Top five songs?

Ten Years Gone   Led Zeppelin

A Million Miles Away  Rory Gallagher

Echoes  Pink Floyd

Buckets of Rain  Bob Dylan

No Quarter, live  Led Zeppelin

19. Favourite wargaming moment?  Introducing my old man to Commands & Colors: Ancients on a trip home to NZ, and then the next time I talk to him finding out he'd gone and bought the first two sets!

20. What upsets you?  My own competitiveness.  I have moments of rules-lawyerness and can get very annoyed with myself if I make stupid mistakes.  When I reflect back on those moments I feel slightly ashamed of myself.  But then I just blame the rules and the feeling soon passes ;-)

More Lost Battles testing...

I played through a game of Carrhae solo last night to get a better idea of the impact that using a proposed alternate movement turn sequence would have on Lost Battles.  The Carrhae scenario was probably not the best choice actually - I don't know it that well and it's not as linear as the other scenarios in the game - but I gave it a crack, anyway.

This is the board at start of turn two, with Crassus in the foreground, Romans the white-on-black counters.

Right away it became clear that each move would be important in such a chaotic situation, and that the order of events would greatly impact on the plans of each commander.  Crassus began by using cavalry and light infantry to drive a wedge between the Parthian centre and its right wing.  The light cavalry all-out-attacked from distance to score 2 hits on the Parthian centre but did not survive the counterattack.

On the Roman right both sides tried to force the other to advance first, but in the end it was Surena who charged into contact.  Unfortunately, I made a rules error here; I momentarily forgot that cataphracts cannot move and attack in the same turn, so this was an illegal move.

On the Parthian right the light cavalry disperses to make it more difficult for the Roman centre and centre left to advance into contact with the mostly spent centre.

Observations: when commands are relatively plentiful, as they are in this scenario, there is incentive for players to do a higher proportion of single-unit moves than we might normally see.  That said, there is a lot of space on the board in this scenario and there would not be the same opportunities for this in battles where the board is more densely populated.

(Board after turn 2)

The third turn saw the Romans get in the first move, which they used to attack with the heavy cavalry on the left.  The turn proceeded with tit-for-tat attacks, culminating in Crassus Jr. rolling snake eyes while attempting a rally.

The Romans now had the semblance of a line but the right was entirely spent.

Observations: there perhaps needs to be provision for troops who wish to vacate a zone entirely to be able to move out all of their units in one go, even if it requires more than one phase to do so.   Deciding whether to prioritize attacks over movement, and if so where, adds another interesting layer of decision making to the game.

(Board at end of turn 3)

The Romans had first move again this turn, which they used to get in another attack from the unfortunate Crassus Junior's zone.  They scored another hit there before their right was eliminated.  The Romans turned their centre to meet the threat from their collapsed right, while advancing on the centre left to try and get closer to the juicy targets in the Parthian centre.

The Romans now had only three zones with troops in them, so the Parthians could easily keep out of reach of the legions if they so wished, and could move individual units around to maximise morale attack advantages.

Observations: while you would think that having first move would confer a significant advantage, as the game wears on, the extra reaction ability that moving last brings - especially when there are several unanswered moves - seems to be very effective in its own right.

(Board at the end of turn 4)

It was at this point that I realised I'd made the error I mentioned earlier with the Parthian cataphracts, so I decided that there was no need to continue as the result would be devalued and that the things I'd wanted to test had been done so satisfactorily.  It was also getting rather late by this point, so that was a factor too!

All in all, I thought alternate movement worked quite well.  Playing against a live opponent there would be room for clever play and the chance to exert a bit of psychological pressure here and there with adroit manoeuvre.  The problem of course is whether such clever play detracts from the simulation value.

As a final point, the board did not get cluttered; I used the provided 'attack made' markers to show which zones had already attacked, and when adjacent zones had both attacked I conserved said markers by placing a single marker across the borders of the two (or more) zones. 

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