Friday, August 30, 2013

Battle of Gela wrap up and some Marengo Napoleonics

Battle of Gela ended disastrously for me on Wednesday. This puts my win-loss record in Great Battles of History to 0-2 when I play the side that SHOULD have won.

Though I started the day in a position to possibly pull off a win I knew that my forces were terribly weakened on the right and may not be able to mount the counter attack I needed for at least a couple more turns. On the left I had already had my flank folded and things were looking grim. You can read the first report here:

So when the game started up again I had to deal with the reorganization of my left flank and healing up my right flank and getting things ready to try and destroy some of his phalanxes. If I could get 2 kills that may give me enough points to force his Greek army to withdraw.

Unfortunately his elite leader had other ideas. He went first and continued to press on the left. When my turn came around I failed every rally roll but one and essentially gave him free points for every unit of mine I unwillingly destroyed. The Carthaginians were close to routing.

With my points low and my forces too beat up to mount a counter attack the Greeks picked off my isolated units on the left and my army reached its breaking point. Another tough loss for me in the game system.

The Battle of Marengo

After this we decided to play a lighter game and picked the 1975 classic Napoleon at War quad game by SPI. We chose the battle of Marengo. I played the French of course and my opponent took the Austrians. This game had some special rules like half movement for the French on turn one and a special French counterattack on turn 9+ starting for 3 turns.

I wasn't sure how the battle exactly went so I focused on forming defensive lines along the streams and rivers. I knew I had to maintain the ability to strike and get Marengo back near the end of the game to win.

As the battle ebbed and flowed my opponent craftily evaded the brunt of my counter attack in a masterful retreat move and I really did not inflict too many casualties on him. So it came to the last turn of the game and in a last ditch counter attack I forced him to retreat from Marengo and retook the city for a win. It was a close game that came down to one die roll. Even for 1975 sometimes the older games still provide some tense moments.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Great Battles of Alexander: Battle of Gela

405 BC: The Battle of Gela

The battle went on for 5 turns. It's at a tense draw right now. At the start I routed his surprise attack off the beach. I then turned my attention to the left side of the defense wall and used a swinging door tactic to draw him in then unleashed my chariots.

Due to some bad charge rolls many chariots collapsed and were ineffective. He managed to circle around my left and get into my back lines but I shifted and plugged the gap. THEN IT HAPPENED: On my right he came at the wall with 100's of men but rolled poorly for momentum and then failed horribly on the Die Roll of Doom. He rolled a 9 on die roll of doom follow up and his left is falling back due to a total morale collapse.

As he was retreating I went after his big units. If I can route one or two more double sized units I may win this one. I barely have the strength to exploit but I am close. I saved some reserves I wont know until next week!

Monday, August 19, 2013

War Movie Monday: The Battle of Camden from the Patriot

Of course not everyone loves this movie but it does have some impressive Revolutionary War battle scenes. There are scant few movies on the subject so here is this week's clip:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Great Battles of Alexander: Battle of Granicus wrap up and final

Day two of the battle of Granicus river. Coming in I knew I had to solidify my lines quickly. As you can read from the first post I had a disastrous turn of events my first turn in terms of command. The first post is here:

So coming back I knew I had to fix the left flank and get that gap between Parmenion and Alexander closed or the enemy would be in back of me the rest of the game.

This next few turns I had successful trumps and was able to pull Alexander into full effect, running him all over rallying units and moving my heavy cavalry to fill in the gaps. This was making me weak all along the line however. The Persians still had a ton of units in the back and I knew they were moving forward.

The picture above was about the most stable I got my lines. There were still too many gaps and the Persians drove light cavalry in and around the flanks of one of my phalanxes. I lost that unit due to rout and started to get really low on units.

For the last time Alexander pushed the Persian left and attempted to cross the river with his best units. Though he crossed a combination of my bad rolling and my opponents good missile attacks and falling back kept him more fresh than I. I was too weak and too low in numbers to hold the river bank

Finally with some phalanxes across the river I did my best to hold my flanks but he just had too many units. In one turn I lost two phalanxes and those points were enough to cause my army to hit the withdrawal number.

Joe, my opponent, played a good game and I certainly learned a lot about how the system works. Never put gaps in your army no matter how strong you think you are. Also making sneaky round about moves does not work as I tried to play this like a Napoleonic or WW2 game. I also learned the importance of not putting too much stress on my key units. Terrain really hurt me here. Whenever I wanted to cross that damned river it was TQ hit after TQ hit. Despite Alexander's great job at restoring his lines they gradually just had too much damage and fell apart.

While I did crush the Persian right with Parmenion and cross the river late in the game it was too late as most of his strength had been shifted to face Alexander. No amount of combat would have allowed me to get behind the Persians and race over to help. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

War Movie Monday: 8/12/2013 The Blue Max

This week the theme is all WW1 thanks to my dose of Bloody April so here is the trailer from Blue Max with George Peppard.

Weekend gaming recap: 8/10 and 8/11

Saturday and Sunday were busy gaming days for me. Saturday I had my first exposure to Bloody April and Sunday was my first game of Serpents of the Seas (Flying Colors system). I enjoyed both immensely.

I managed to get two duels in on Sunday with Serpents of the Seas. The first game was two British ships, the Cyane and the Levant, against the American ship Constitution. The Cyane went down fairly early and was set adrift but I manage to hang in there with the Levant and actually get the Constitution flipped over to the damaged side. Careful use of the new initiative cards in Serpents of the Seas while playing these duels really frustrated my opponent and kept lady luck on my side. Still after a while I couldn't compete with the firepower and succumbed to the guns of the American vessel.

In our second game we had two French ships against a larger British ship. This game did not go the way of the French at all. I started on the board already and the second French ship came in much later. On the second turn the wind shifted and came right at me, stranding me in the water and allowing the British ship to maneuver and shoot me up. After that the French team never recovered and got blasted out of the ocean. I was forced to run away with about 8 rigging hits and a damaged hull while my partner was sunk.

In Bloody April on Saturday we did a patrol mission. This game had 5 flights of British planes doing various missions over the WW1 trenches in 1917. Two of my missions (as the British player) were to photograph trench lines. One was a bombing run, one was a combat patrol, and one was general photo recon.

As my flights went out they were soon identified and the German player was able to scramble. Trench Recon flight one managed to get all but one hex photographed and then turned back toward base with some German fighters hot on his tail.

Trench recon flight two was hit by anti air flak and shot down. My bomber made it through the chaos and is still en-route to its target while further south along the trenches my combat patrol and recon flight are engaged in dog fighting and aerial maneuvers. 

One German flight has had to abort and so has my southern trench photo flight. My aborted team will head back to base with only two pictures having been taken. My SPADS are still in the area though circling and looking to mix it up.

More to come as this game was not finished. There is a LOT of record keeping in Bloody April but most of it was fun. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Great Battles of Alexander: Battle of Granicus

Today I took a foray into my second GBOH title: Great Battles of Alexander by GMT Games. While I prefer the subject matter in this game to SPQR they do play a little similar so I was not totally unprepared rules wise. Of course my inability to get of copy of the game currently is frustrating (I will probably have HOPLITE before a reprint of this one).

We played the battle of Granicus.

While my idea was not far off from the original battle my die rolls and luck sure were. I immediately charged forward on the right flank with my heavy cavalry and stormed across the river:

Initially I met with good results but what was not good was the amount of TQ hits I gave to myself getting across that river. I caused the entire left flank of the Persians to rout. This was a good beginning and I intended to follow up with skirmishers and heavy infantry once I got across the Granicus. However on his turn Memnon managed to rally EVERY SINGLE routed unit with splendid die rolls. 

What killed me and stalled my entire offensive were my aborted attempts to trump his momentum. I failed at each one and watched his army recover and get in position to throw me back across the river. What I needed in speed and mobility I did not get and I spent the entire rest of turn one watching him plug gaps and assault me.

In the middle I moved the phalanxes up into the river and attempted to storm across. The Persians pulled back and I used some orders to take TQ hits off my units. Below picture...just to the left in the shot.

On the left I moved swiftly to get Parmenion across the river. However the Persians reacted quickly and got some forced to the bank of the river and I was locked in combat on both flanks. 

By the time the battle had raged for 60 minutes the Persians had thrown me back across the river and Alexander was racing to and fro in an attempt to rally his troops, many of whom had routed way back from the lines. And that is where the battle stands at the moment. I have a crucial rally phase coming up and if I fail it I will lose some very strong units. Time to regroup and rethink my options.

Monday, August 5, 2013

War Movie Monday 8/5/2013

Last week we had Hamburger Hill

This week we go way back in time to Gladiator and watch that awesome opening battle once more:

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Charles S Roberts Award winners have been announced

We have some surprising victors this year with Victory Point Games coming in big in the Best Pre-20th Century Era Computer Wargame category.

However an iPad title winning COMPUTER wargame is a bit of a farce. I really don't want to see tablet titles taking awards from COMPUTER titles. They need to split that category. Tablet titles do not hold a candle to PC wargames

Here is the link to the full list

And some winners:

Best Ancient to Napoleonic Era Board Wargame
Amateurs, to Arms! (by Kevin McPartland), Clash of Arms Games
Fading Glory (by Lance McMillan), GMT Games
Kingdom of Heaven (by Scott de Brestian), Multi Man Publications, Inc. (MMP)
The Battle of Fontenoy (by Paul Dangel), Clash of Arms Games
Virgin Queen (by Ed Beach), GMT Games

Best Post-Napoleonic to Pre-World War 2 Era Board Wargame
Battles of 1866: Frontier Battles (by Mike Bennighof), Avalanche Press
Bloody April (by Terry Simo), GMT Games
Guns of the Askari (by John Gorkowski), Against the Odds magazine (ATO)
Somme 1918 (by Thomas Pouchin), Nuts Publishing
Zulus on the Ramparts (2nd edition) (by Joe Miranda), Victory Point Games

Best World War 2 Era Board Wargame
It Never Snows (by Dean Essig), Multi Man Publications, Inc. (MMP)
No Question of Surrender (MMP) (by Nick Richardson), Multi Man Publications, Inc. (MMP)
Panzer (2nd Edition) (by James Day), GMT Games
Red Winter (by Mark Mokszycki), GMT Games
The Blitzkrieg Legend (by Hans Kishel), Multi Man Publications, Inc. (MMP)

HPS Waterloo PBEM AAR continues

Continued from

The battle is full on now with the Allies taking some losses but trying to hold the town. I have some reinforcements coming in but they may be too late. I manage to get some charges off and disorder the French to the Northeast. I will lose a surrounded cavalry unit to the south however there will be no saving that unit. I am trying to create some sort of line the French will be forced to collide with but it is not working too well. I have some artillery setup in a nice spot should my third objective be challenged.

Friday, August 2, 2013

10 Questions with game designer Mark McLaughlin

Recently, with the release of Rebel Raiders on the High Seas, I reached out to game designer Mark McLaughlin and asked him 10 fun questions. I wanted to get a wide range of questions out there that covered the gamut of his design thoughts and his process on getting his latest game completed.

Mark got back to me and the answers are below. My goal was to make the questions fun and give Mark a little to think about when he answered them.

Mark has been at game design quite a while. Rebel Raiders is his 16th game published and he has an extensive 30 year background as a ghost-writer and columnist.

His latest book, the sci fi novel Princess Ryan's Star Marines, is available on Amazon and is based off the board game of the same name.

Now on to the questions:

1) Of all the hoops you had to jump through to get Rebel Raiders on the High Seas to market which event would you say you were the LEAST unprepared for?

The only hoop was time – GMT loved the concept and design and put it up on the P500 right away – but it took three years to amass enough pre-orders to justify getting a spot on the production schedule!  Watching the ticker literally go up by one order every day or every other day….that was painful.

2) If you could do Princess Ryan's Star Marines all over again what is the one game mechanic you would change?

I would make it easier for players to acquire the little cards that they can use to zap one another or modify the outcome of a skirmish.   

3) For Rebel Raiders what was the main thing that touched off your drive to get a game on that subject matter created

Boats.  I wanted to see boats!   In 1980 when I designed Army of  the Potomac/Army of the Tennessee (The Mr. Lincoln’s War series) I put in ironclads, gunboats, raiders and blockade runners – because NO other strategic civil war game had them….and in 2008 when I decided to do Rebel Raiders there were still NO boats in other civil war strategy games (sure, maybe a card or special counter here or there, but usually navies were handled by some dice on a chart on the side or other abstract mechanism).

James McPherson (an award winning author and professor at Princeton whom I have twice met and conversed with  and long admired) concludes his new book War Upon the Waters with this telling statement:  “To say that the Union navy won the Civil War would state the case much too strongly.  But it is accurate to say that the war could not have been won without the contributions of the navy.”

                I wanted to show that in a game…..

                ..and boats are cool ….especially ships of that bizarre period of experimentation!

4) When you started creating and designing games did you have any designs that were flat out rejected by a company?

I have been exceedingly fortunate.  I  have never had a design out and out rejected.    I designed an Axis and Allies type NATO game that  3W was going to do but my timing was awful….we were playtesting it when the Berlin Wall came down (we mutually agreed to pull it from the schedule).  I had a great big roman game that Task Force Games was going to do….but it got caught up in a change of management and in their new direction it got sent back to me.  I showed it to Greenwood at AH who told me if I had given it to him three years ago (this was the mid 90s) they would have loved it, but the market had changed and it was “too much game” with too many components  (and he was right).    That, however, got us talking and he and Ben Knight took me to lunch to ask if I could design a We the People meets War and Peace (my 1979 AH game), oh, and make it multiplayer and design it so it could be played in one sitting with rules so short you could read them during a typical visit to the john.

That became Napoleonic Wars … which was optioned by Hasbro when they bought AH, and nearly got published by them (even had a developer assigned to me)…but again, management changes knocked it out…but Mike Gray at Hasbro called GMT on my behalf, telling them there was this great game they would like….

5) How many hours a day would you say you devoted to Rebel Raiders while you worked to get it finished?

That is impossible to estimate.  I am a free lance writer.   There are times I could arrange to get my work out of the way to clear the decks for a two or three day arc to work on the game;  there were other times when I could not get to it for weeks …except to make some minor changes due to a book or other research I was doing or when some idea would pop into my head.    Game design is not a job;  it is a hobby that happens to make some money (and not a lot).   I love to work on my designs, but can only do so when time permits.

6) Of all the changes and the corrections that you have gone through on Rebel Raiders what was the one mechanic that you removed that did not make it into the game?

A lot of the optional rules began as rules in the body of the game – Fred Schachter (my developer/editor) and I agreed early on to move a lot of them out of the main game and into the playbook --- to create a multi-tiered game, much like the old AH did with basic, advanced and tournament rules.    

The basic game is hardly bare bones, and there are plenty of bells and whistles,  but the French horns, jingling johnnies, bassoons and string section were moved to the playbook, so players could customize their games by adding in what they wanted for flavor or play balance.

7) Who did you get in touch with for the artwork on the counters and the box or was that assigned by GMT?
GMT is great about this.  Mark Simonitch has done the maps for all of my GMT games.  He has done most of the card and counter work and rules layout, or in this case oversaw it with Charlie Kibler, who did a great job (and who loves the period perhaps even more than I).   Rodger MacGowan has been doing box covers for my games for 30 years….and he and Mark are among the key players in the company as well, as they deserve to be – they do such fabulous work.

8) What is next for you on the horizon as far as game design goes?

For the last eight months I have been working on and playtesting what I hope will be a series of quick play strategic games I am calling the “Card Conquest” series….imagine a half-size game map, a handful of counters, and combats and political contests resolved by playing the card game War! But to which you add some dice and events.   The one Fred is working on now with me is Hitler’s Reich, a WW2 ETO strategy game that takes from 20 minutes to two hours to play;  we have six playtest groups around the country, and I am talking it up with GMT at WBC in August.    My work on that is 99 percent done (Fred has the lead on it now)  and I am already at work on the next game in the series, Hannibal’s War…

9) From start to finish was the total amount of time you spent getting Rebel Raiders to the public in its final form?

That is impossible to estimate.  I started the design in 2008.  The game shipped in 2013.   Most of my time went into the front end of that ….about a year’s work to get a good, solid and playable design.  Fred got involved in it during that first year as well, which was a big help (I always work with editors, not just in my games but in my writing).   We were pretty much satisfied with it by the time it went up on the P500….but of course used the intervening years to keep playing, testing, tweaking here and there….and to keep taking things out of the main game and putting them into the playbook.

10) If you could meet one great military commander from history who would it be?

One?  I only get to meet one?  I guess since I have done so much on Napoleon  (War and Peace, Napoleonic Wars – two editions – Kutuzov, Wellington)  it should be him.  Although part of me would like to warn him not to go into Spain or Russia, well, just think of how many great books, novels, movies, tv series (Sharpe, Hornblower, Patrick O’Brien, Brigadier Gerard) not to mention miniatures and board games would never have come about if he took that advice!

                Anyway, Vive L’Empereur!