Wednesday 30 August 2023

Painting Tutorial for 1/1200th Ships

A short tutorial on painting 1/1200th scale ships from Ark Royal Miniatures for use with the Mad for War rules. This is a basic tutorial, mainly using contrast paints, for a speedy and simple finish. If you want to get reasonable-looking ships on the game table quickly, this is one of the ways to do it. 

Sunday 20 August 2023

When Serendipity Strikes: Never ignore the Gods of Wargaming

Sometimes it feels as if the Gods of Wargaming are dropping not-so-subtle hints about what project you should do next. I'm talking about those moments of serendipity when the stars align and everything seems to be telling you to start a new project. This has happened to me twice in the last year and both times has led me to exciting new projects. 

Monday 7 August 2023

La bataille de la mission impossible: A WWI battle report.

I've been very busy with home DIY recently but I've reached the point where I could take the day off for a game with my fellow Rejects down the Shed-o-War. So it was with great eagerness that I arrived at Stuart's on Sunday for whatever game he was running. World War One and his in-house ruleset was the order of the day and I was initially very happy with that because we have had some cracking games with these rules and his 6mm figures. Of course, I hadn't factored in being beaten before the game had even started by the scenario he presented us with and by the impossible French objectives. That's not to say I didn't have a good time of course (the usual banter and joviality were on top form as always), but having an outside chance to achieve victory, as opposed to none, would have made it better.

As is our way we started with a pre-game cuppa and picked sides randomly. Myself, Richard, and Steve were the French as this is an early war set of rules, we would be attacking the Germans across largely open countryside. Ray and Surjit played the Germans and while they were outnumbered about 3:1 their job was to hold as many objectives as they could by the end of the game. They started holding 24 points worth of objectives such as crossroads, buildings, woods, and hills, and it was the French player's job to take at least half those points by the end of the game. However, all but three of the objective points were in the last third of the 6' deep table. his meant that the French would have to move at double speed, unopposed if they were to even reach those objectives, let alone have time to fight for them. There was a dice roll at the beginning of the game for a French Double move (the Germans rolled to see if they could react to our sudden attack...they did, and we lost the extra move turn) but even that still left most of the objectives out of our reach, even without German troops trying to delay us!

I have to say at this point that I don't think this is a fault of Stuart's rules (although more on that in a moment) but of the scenario design. It's a pity because we had a great time and our artillery fire was significantly more effective than the German players for most of the game. In these rules, the artillery roll one d10 per gun to hit (hitting on a 5+ in the open, 7+ in soft cover, and 9+ in hardcover), and for each successful hit, the player then rolls two d10s for casualties. Rolling a 10 on the casualty dice counts as a double kill and forces the target unit to make a Courage test. I can say without any hubris that I was the uncontested master of the 10s throughout the game (my dice rolls were charmed) and still, it counted for nothing because the game was being decided on objectives captured and all those in front of me were too far away. And of course, there was also the small matter of the German defenders trying to slow down our advance.

This brings me to the one single bone of contention in the rules for this game. Stuart is of course tweaking and refining his WWI rules with every game and following our last WWI game, he made a small change to the Melee rules that I think was probably a mistake. I would say that of course because myself and Steve found the change to our mutual disadvantage, but let me explain and maybe you can draw your own conclusions. 

Melee is decided by a series of d10s. One for each base of figures still in play. Additional dice can be added for defending favorable ground, charging, etc. In addition, defenders usually hit on a lower dice roll than attackers so the 'favorable ground' bit is effectively applied twice. So for example, four attackers attack four defenders in a slit trench which is classed as light cover. The defender would get four d10s for troops, and +1d10 for favourable ground. The defender hits on a 6+. The attacker meanwhile gets four dice for troops, plus one for charging, but hits on an 8+. So in a straight fight, the defender in cover has an advantage. (There are other dice that can be added for trained or specialist troops but for the purposes of keeping this example simple, I'm leaving them out).

The wiley attacker will therefore bring as much firepower to bare on the defender before going into the attack. This may mean targeting the position with artillery or weakening the defender with rifle and machine gun fire before getting stuck in with Boyonets. In Fig 2 below, the defender has been whittled down before the attacker charges in. Now the defender only has three dice to the attacker's five, although the hit differential remains the same with the defender hitting on a 6+ and the attacker on an 8+. 

So the attacker is incentivized to bring as much overwhelming manpower to bare as possible, to swamp the defenders and take the position. So in Fig 3 below both the attackers and defenders have taken casualties but now the attacker brings two companies to swamp the defenders. In this example, the defender gets 3 dice for figures and one for the softcover hitting on a 6+, while the defender gets 6 dice for troops plus one for charging, still hitting on an 8+. The attacker still has a hard job but by bringing lots of troops to the melee, and with a bit of luck on the dice, stands a chance at winning the melee and taking the position. 

Now we get to the rule change that caused such consternation on the French side. In a previous game, the 'ganging up' tactic seen in Fig 3 upset the defending players and much moaning ensued. Stuart decided to change the rules meaning that only stands in base-to-base contact could be counted in the melee. In this example that would reduce the attackers' dice by three, making the assault significantly harder to win despite outnumbering the defenders 2:1. 

Now consider this extreme example in Fig 4. The defender has been battered by artillery and denuded by rifle and machine guns until only one of the original four defenders in the company remains. Meanwhile, the attackers have crossed the open ground unharmed and now attack the position with two full-strength companies. The recent rule change means the defender gets 1 dice for troops and one for the softcover, hitting on a 6+. Most of the attacker's troops are discounted so they only get two dice for troops in direct contact with the enemy and one for charging, hitting on an 8+. Despite being outnumbered 8:1 a defender in soft cover still has an advantage in melee. 

At this point is worth pointing out that in the open the cover advantage falls away and both sides would be hitting on a 6+, but even so, there is little point in trying to overwhelm an enemy position under the new rule changes as all 'additional' bases are ignored. 

As I am writing this I appreciate this may look like I'm really worked up about this (having written a few hundred words with supporting graphics) but I want to repeat that on the whole we enjoy Stuarts WWI rules and personally I had a great day playing this game. Putting aside the unwinnable victory conditions (every umpire can have an off-day when creating a scenario) my only criticism was this rule change, and I believe Stuart is giving some thought to changing it back to how it was. Hopefully, this article will help convince him to do just that before our next game!