Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Normandy to Reach... The joys of tabletop gaming!

Reach for the stars... climb every...

First of all this week has seen a lot of TANKS action. Shaun came over on Monday and we had a few games, playing normal scenarios to see which ones could be incorporated into the Normandy campaign. I used my new Brit list of three Comets (A troop) and their 'call up' tank destroyer in the form of a Firefly. Pleasingly historically accurate they also work well. The Comets have to be about one of the best tanks in the game point for point (although as they are all pointed to a formula this shows I am actually just as biased as ****). Nonetheless they did me proud against the might of Shaun's Germans.

On Tuesday they repeated the success against my games against Charlie's Germans winning 2 out of 2 scenarios (although both were very tight) before I swapped them out for 3 Comets (to see how they worked) in an intro game kill fest while we were teaching the rules to someone. A German swarm led by a Panther (2 IVS and 2 StuGs) in a kill match was never going to be easy and in the end an unlucky engine hit (which waved goodbye to my moving last with 3 moves shenanigans) saw my last tank unable to make the brave last stand, if only just.

But Tuesday was also noticeable for another reason. After getting back in touch with my old, and dear friend, Neil (Mr. SpartanGames) and arranging a visit I was hooked onto Spartan's newest release (technically shipping right now) :

Yep... (1/100) 15mm Halo ground combat (which complements Spartan's Fleet Combat game). Now I have known how much a FANBOY Neil is of Halo from way back when (Wargames Journal days would often see him dreaming of making a HALO game) and was really happy for him when Spartan got to do the fleet combat game. But up close and personal ground combat is really where the game (as in the video game) has its roots. And here it is:

Now, being a SONY family I have only got to play HALO a small number of times and because of this have never really got into the books etc. BUT being a 15mm fan (again numerous hours were spent at WJ and later Spartan HQ devising our own 15mm WWII game) I couldn't leave it alone. Plus in a very short space of time I have learnt about the Halo Universe and especially all about the planet of REACH. Long prose way of saying - it's freekin' arriving very soon!

Made in pewter (for detail sake) the miniatures do look stunning:

But a game is only as good as its rules. Obviously a better in depth look at the rule mechanics will appear in a short while but suffice to say they have adapted the Star Fleet rules to cover ground combat. Design wise I suspect Neil has had to keep a number of hats on. I know he likes to cover stuff in detail and was never really a fan of much abstraction, or rules that made little sense except for the game play. But this will be a game for not just experienced table top or wargamers but for those HALO fans who will want to try it out - especially with the blossoming in the trendiness of playing 'games' on the table, not just online. As such it will need to be relatively easy to pick up, but with enough depth for experienced players. This is a very hard goal to achieve, but I bet the Big Man has come up with the goods.

One thing I am glad that appears to be in there is a mechanic to liven up the 'Igo Ugo' system, which for its target audience it has to be. Having tried to teach free flowing games to non gamers it seems to be that it is just too much to take in. The reaction system that they seemed to have settled on is one that has been toyed with for a long time - the unit (base, figure etc) has a reaction stat and if this is rolled over the unit can react to anything done by the active unit (and it seems to be alternating unit/group activation). Nothing new perhaps (Ambush Alley, THW, Infinity and others have similar) but in HGC it appears that the unit will have two stats for reaction - one target number for the first reaction and then one for subsequent reactions. This means it is a tactical decision to react (as it means you can't activate fully that turn) and also it gets harder to keep reacting. Also it looks as if some units have a second reaction TN of over 12, this in theory means they can't react again but there are some command decisions which can modify your roll. Also super units (think Spartans here) are game savers and could have a low second reaction target meaning they can keep on and on like the proverbial Duracel Bunny !

Can't wait to try this out, also can't wait to mod it to my WWII figures and Stargate  - but that is another story.

So if this whets your appetite then I shall report back more later SIRRR !

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

INTO NORMANDY BY TANK... GF9 Tanks Organised Play event at Enfield Gamers...

On the 2nd and the 9th of August I will be running the OP kit campaign over the two evenings. 10 players will compete to see who is the best Tank Commander over the two evenings of play (6 games for each). As players will be nominally put into 'teams' the evenings will also determine if the liberation landings have been successful - which will feed into other OP events.

McTague winced as felt the front of his M4 tip over the edge of the ramp and enter the chopped up water... His crew had already witnessed one tank tip and disappear, the crew desperately escaping into the bullet strewn water. Hopefully the reason was not miscalculation on the LCT crew's part but a crater from the preliminary bombing that had fallen short. Fear passed over his face as the front hull seemed to go down and down - relief surging as he felt the tracks hit sand and start to dig, the days of waterproofing the hull paying off.

Vision was never good through the periscopes, today it was virtually non existent - the water, sand and constant MG fire saw to that. 'Preacher' the gunner sought out his target, a bunker that was covering the beach exit.

Bodies, wrecked tanks, sunk landing craft, the beach was littered with debris already. Geller, the driver, tried to hammer up the beach as the sand erupted volcano like around them...

Fase had been manning his 75mm anti-tank gun day after day, month after month. Life was good for the occupying forces, cheese, eggs and friendly locals, he hardly felt that there was a war on. Even when it came, and he knew it must, it was likely to be up the coast - not in his bit of Normandy, then what ever happened, would happen. It was the droning that woke him up - then the whistling and then the blasts. Blast after blast - his ears hurt, concrete dust was everywhere, flashes coming in the front slit... But no word from above, so he presumed it was just a bombing raid. He and his colleagues couldn't determine if it was plane droning that carried on or just their burst ears. At first light the dust was settling and he looked out...

OK... panic filled his mind, the invasion was here - and it looked like they had only chosen his little bit of Normandy...
"Loader, AP ... Fire"

FLASH, searing shards of white hot metal seemed to fill the hull compartment, ears rang, eyes blinded. McTague realised they had been hit, but not penetrated... Yells, blasphemy followed but they kept going, up towards the exit.

FLASH, Preacher wiped his front, wiped 'Angelos' off him... They'd been hit again, a solid lump of AP shot, white hot by the time it was through the armour, had gone straight through the loader, ricocheted around and started a fire in the ammunition storage. Scrambling through the escape hatches, the crew bailed out... But other tanks carried on!

Running over two nights the campaign will follow the first wave of landings and the action of the next day. Before any play, the commanders will be split into 2 teams - US/Brits and Germans. It matters not what forces they may actually be using but results will be used to form a narrative base for the OP kit as a whole. 

Players will however be allowed/encouraged to submit 2 100 point lists - one for attacking and one for defending the beaches. If this option is taken however the player should use Germans for the defending side list. In this way there will be a more historical feel to most of the games. 

Each player will receive the acrylic OP themed measuring sticks and four sets of terrain will be given out as prizes at the end of the 2nd nights play - these will be for:
Best Commander - the person who has won the most games.
Best painted/themed troop - what it says on the tin !
Best take out of the campaign - one shotted a Panther; then you have a chance!
Commander with most points at the end of the second Tuesday.

The first night will see the players playing the OP scenario twice; once as attacker and once as defender (against different opponents). However, the game will last 8 turns with VPs being scored on the 7th and 8th turn for the attacker. The defender can choose to use the bunkers, trenches  and tanks traps instead of houses if they like - in which case the rules in the OP kit are followed for set up.  

Following that the 3rd and 4th games of the evening will be one hour games and will be one of the missions from the rule booklet themed for Normandy. The defenders (determined normally) will be allowed to place the special terrain instead of the houses. 

During the second night the games will all be scenario driven and these will be determined by the outcome of the first night - if the allies do well then the scenarios will be trying to expand the beach-head, capture important terrain etc etc. If the Germans do well on the first night then expect some counter attacks as they try and drive the liberators back to the beaches (this blog will be updated after the first night).

Non of the players have been playing long - and we have kit we can lend out, the rules are quick and easy to pick up. SO come and help D-Day succeed (or fail depending on your allegiance).

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Commander McTague, missions and good times... all on a school night!

Shaun (long time gaming mate, who has to suffer my game adhd) came over for more TANKS last night. We played 3 missions out of the rule book on my over terrained (for a standard game) table - we had bocage on there which we said blocked LOS unless against it, gave cover and a tank could only move once if they went over it at any point.

Three good games where we kept the same forces for all the games but had the chance for the attacker to choose edges. Shaun, from memory, had 4 M4 - one of them a 76mm with a few crew upgrades and I had a Jagdpanther, Panther and a StuG - Barkmann in the Panther and a precise gunner in the Jagdpanther which also had cammo netting.

My baby cats!

The first mission was the KILL mission and it was pretty close - some early BIG hits from the 88mm on the Jagdpanther meant it was always going to be hard work for Shaun to claw back - he nearly did but in the end I was winning on points after the allotted time.
A cat in the bush... bye bye Fury
 Second mission was 'King of the Hill' and the objective was the cross roads in the village.

Again a tense game, felt a bit like Villiers Bocage in the end but I managed to eek out another victory. Although my Jagdpanther was out of the game for a long while with a  broken track result which took a long time to clear! It came back in at the end and made sure that there was no chance for Shaun really.

Barkmann claiming the objective
Engine fire eventually got the StuG !
Third game we played the defense scenario which played into the US tanks hands in a sense as Shaun put an objective in both corners - forcing a wide defensive line, kept one side busy while concentrating on the other. A sound tactic but my cammo netted, in the wood Jagdpanther proved a tricky one to take out - my mobile reserve, in the form of the StuG went down fairly easily from being ganged up on and my Panther held it's side but a busted track meant I couldn't then nip across to help out on the other flank - well played Shaun !

Again - very impressed with the rules - three good, close games in 2.5 hours of play, who can argue with that.

After re-reading some of the memoirs and accounts of tankers I like the way the rules cover stuff I am reading all the time. US tanks knowing they are not going to penetrate went for longer ranged HE and even WP ammo attacks on the Germans hoping to disrupt them enough to get around the side. In TANKS this is basically what is happening with the lucky crits that get through to give the optic/busted track/stunned crew effects.

Roll on OP season...

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Tanks revisited...

So, been playing TANKS for a few weeks now, at home, at the club and even a couple of excursions to play 'strangers' at Dark Sphere, all coupled with the rewatching of Fury and a lot of re-stocking of 15mm scenery. So, what has been learnt from these forays?

1/ Still really, really like the 'game'. It plays fast and furious and I haven't had a game yet I have been even the remotely bit 'miffed' in.
2/ It's simple enough in its mechanics to play different/new players and not have to discuss the mechanics or interpretations of the rules - which will be great in Organised Play sessions.

3/ THERE is going to be Organised Play starting this month and it looks good! Participation prizes of alt art cards, winner prizes of acrylic tokens and rulers and thankfully no 'unique' cards or tanks! First theme is Normandy and introduces static fortifications and bocage to the mix - can't wait.

4/ It's really not as cheesey game play as some people make out. Yes in theory, especially in the movement, you can do weird things. But, in reality when you are playing these would rarely be advisable or beneficial. Tank 'jumping', as in moving over operational tanks, which has attracted a lot of criticism from 'rivet counters' (note destroyed tanks are impassable terrain) is an essential part of the game play. While in the course of a bigger 'traditional' WWII game this would be daft the fact, that in Tanks, you are playing a short, objective driven, time limited game it means someone can not block you in by closely surrounding your tank... If you want rationale, beyond avoiding dick head plays, then it is explained by the fact all the tanks would be moving simultaneously and therefore one would not be able to pull in off.

5/ Crew and upgrades make the game, but do not dictate the game. Always a good result, the crew and upgrades add character and game play - but a vanilla lot of tanks are still a very viable list indeed.

6/ It is fast and furious, and it is a game... But I have been pleasantly surprised how, despite what people tend to purport, you need to use 'tactics' from the era. Moving tanks are a lot harder to damage (as in to hit and cause damage), moving makes shooting harder, BUT stationary shooting helps you hit with the down side being you are easier to hit. All things you read about in memoirs from WWII tankers. 'Keep moving' (US trait) or you die is something that you hear from all allied tankers, 'keep firing until you hit' is another - both good advice for TANKS. Meanwhile the German armour often benefits (as in late WWII) from being hidden (camo netting) getting a good first stationary shot in, then moving like crazy (blitzkrieg trait) and hoping to keep popping them off until the little bastards get behind you!

7/ People are drawn to the game... always have an audience who often end up vocally joining in!

So, all in all the game is going from strength to strength I think...