Sunday, April 8, 2018

Bolt Action: Normandy

Met with the usual suspects for a game of Bolt Action, the good edition.

I've run a similar scenario before; the idea is that a bigger, yet less experienced American force tries to dislodge a smaller, but veteran, German force who are dug in in a bombed out village and causing a bottleneck for the Allies to get off the beach and into the hinterland.

Eschewing convention, the lists used were by no means legal and included multiples of choices that are disallowed for tournament play. But this is not tournament play. The GI's got two M4's, two M3 half tracks, 4 machine guns; the Germans got two machine guns, etc...

I love the rules but hate competitive play. I like to design realistic scenarios and use these fine rules to play them out. In this case, the Americans were tasked to take as many of three stated objectives as they were able. These objectives were both exits off the board on the German side and the steeple of the church. If the Americans captured no objectives, it would be a German victory, one and it would be a draw, 2 or three makes for an American victory.

Some other home brewed rules included hidden units for the defenders and the Americans got to use dummy counters so the Germans wouldn't be sure if units were real until they got too close or shot at them. We accomplished this by having the Americans only place one dude to represent units moving on the board. Dummies were marked underneath as such. This way, the Germans would either have to start shooting and give away their hidden positions or wait and let the real Americans close in on the objectives without opposition. The German set up was recorded on a map.

The scenario started with a pre-game bombardment that pasted the Gerries pretty good, delivering lots of pins and even though only one dude died, he was part of a MMG team, and that lessened their effectiveness. Several of the units, including the sniper did NOT want to play much after that. It took multiple turns for them to pass a Leadership test and shred some of those pins.

Spoiler alert: the bombardment that we rolled against us was to be the best dice we faced. The American dice started off really poor. And then they went downhill.

The sleepy village of Hommes avec des seins.

Hilly bocage surrounds town.

The sunken road in front of the village marked the western most edge of the German set up.

From the back of the German side. There was a MMG in the upper right that sat in Ambush the entire game without firing a shot. Until the last turn actually when we fired it just so we said we could. The last dice roll of the game.

Staring forces included a squad in the rubble in front of the church, a MMG (minus a loader) in the steeple, the HQ behind the church. Also, the sniper's hide was the old attic of the red brick hotel in the upper center and in the meadow in the upper left awaited a hidden PaK40 and supporting squad, plus the aforementioned superfluous MMG in the building overlooking the fountain.

A ruined farmhouse on the road into town.

A view of the terrain from the south.

Unfortunately, I could only load the rest of these pics in reverse order unless I wanted to upload them one at a time. I didn't. So if you want to watch the battle unfold, go to the bottom and work your way back up.

Plus, in a game of this scope, one could take a thousand pictures from any angle. I decided just to take a few at the end of each turn.

The Gerry half track provides machine gun support to the center.


The Tiger waits to take on all comers. Unfortunately the road was too narrow for it to go any further and it was relegated to intimidation duty. Note also the HQ in the background and the FJ occupying the forward house.

The high water mark for the Americans. Due to absolutely abysmal dice, they never even got into town, though several times they were poised to do so in a meaningful way and just needed one dice roll to break their way. Not today.

The squad that was to support the PaK40. It took a beating but never broke.

The American Airborne. Talk about taking a licking! But they never stopped moving forward. Through fire and flying lead, they never quit.

The aftermath of the worst possible dice failure. The Americans had a forward artillery observer that could call in one barrage. The rules say that he has a 1 in 6 chance of hitting his own guys but I have always felt that is way too great a percentage, so we have always played a '1' followed by a '1' means  a mistaken attack. Even a 1 in 36 chance is too high but that's the way we play it. So, naturally, Chris rolled a '1' followed by a '1' and we were allowed to bring in the barrage at a place of our choosing.

Too bad too, because the Americans were poised to overwhelm the defenders on the heels of that barrage. they almost certainly would have gotten into the church and steeple. Unfortunately, two entire units were wiped out, including their HQ and a 10 man squad. The other units, including a M3 with HMG took so many pins they were never able to recover.

The shot above shows where the barrage landed but also a German squad that was so emboldened the actually left the ruins to counterattack in HtH and took out a squad *and* the M3, then took cover in the sunken road to take aim at the last element of the American attack.

This is what happens when a PaK40 sees you. The HT was carrying the Airborne squad when it was hit. Luckily they escaped with minimal damage. The half track didn't though.

German paratroops debus and take shelter in the front of the village, emboldened after watching the Americans rain death onto themselves.

Right after the barrage. there was a full 10 man squad and the American HQ in that field. The Germans were still back in the rubble when it hit. 

The view from the PaK40. The burning wreck on the right was actually the work of the Tiger.

A sniper's view of Normandy.

Still pinned. Dick.

From this spot, the Tiger reached out to touch the other Sherman. 

So this is a good shot because it shows the spotting round called in by the Americans. If it comes in right there, there are four German units that are Fucked with a capital 'F'. The FJ in the open, the HT, the MMG in the steeple and the only squad between the Americans and the objective!

And here are the Americans massed for the assault. Sad.

Another shot of the spotting round and the vulnerable German defenders.

American armor burns. There are two American MMG's in the right/center bottom that must have fired every round they had but simply could not budge the PaK40 or it's defending squad. Methinks this side show ended up using too much of the American resources, but the German defense was going to be a hard nut to crack in any case.

This was interesting. Both sides opted to bring their last reinforcement on either side of the bocage in the middle of the board edge. And both decided it would be suicide to assault the other (Good Call) so they engaged in a fierce shooting match across the bocage.

U.S troops advance through a ruined farm.

The Shermans take up position to work together to take out that gun. They had multiple chances to but simply could not score a hit other than taking out one crew member. The M3 burns.

Worse than a cave troll, it's a MkVI.

The Americans advance through withering defensive fire.

The artillery observer finds his hide in the upper story of the old farmhouse.

And still Gerry waits.

The farm.

It's a beautiful day in Normandy. The birds sing, the wind whispers and the soldiers croak.

The artillery observer advances down the road behind the M3 that isn't burning. You can see one or two individual figures representing real or fake, troops.

The Airborne squad makes an early exit.

Damn thing just fit.

PaK40's are bad news and no mistake.

Well, I had a blast. It really is a shame the way every single break went against the Americans. Their strategy deserved better results. Plus I really wanted to see all kinds of HtH in the rubble! It was a German victory; Ike is going to have to send another task force to sweep through this particular bottle neck and into France.

Bolt Action is a great game. I am already looking forward to the next game. Hopefully by then we'll have some new and different forces to play with. My Soviets are just started and it's going to be a long time before they hit the tabletop but it's the prospects and the projects that keep the hobby interesting.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Muskets & Tomahawks at Midnight

Real men play miniature war games.

And this one was for real men only. We didn't get started until 10:30 pm after a day long gaming session. We were tired, brain dead, stinky but full of pizza and ready to roll dice.

We set up quickly and reviewed the basic rules of play quickly as well, there was no time to dally. The lists weren't 'legal' for tournament play but held every single M&T model I own. 428 points for the Brits and 421 points for the French.

 We had muskets. We had tomahawks. We had dice and a bad attitude.

The quick scenario idea was that the British had sent a punitive force to raze a hamlet started by French against explicit protests from the British not to. The French, spoiling for a fight, sent Regulars to man the town before the civilian population. Reinforcements were on the way but from which direction? Word had been sent that heavy rains the previous week had washed away the bridge and that repairs had yet to be started. Could the French hold out? A smaller, but better led British force was on the way.

An overview of the playing surface. The British would enter from the edge in the foreground and to the left. The French reinforcements would enter from the far edge and to the right.

A view looking lengthwise down the table.

Unfortunately, we were really, genuinely tired and I forgot to take too many pictures. These are some highlights but don't really tell the story.

The Pennsylvania militia.

The idea was to bring all the Regulars on the short edge and force the French to deal with them while the guerrilla forces sneaked in and torched the buildings.  But alas, no plan survives contact with the enemy. The Brits got the jump on the Frenchies and both units had a total of 20 shots and missed with all of them. The French return fire, only 10 shots strong, felled 4 British regulars. It was a precedent that was set for the rest of the game on that side of the board. Those Frogs were dynamite!

French Indians emerge from the woods to support the second unit of Regulars and some French Marines. The light infantry, the Chasseurs lent their elite support to the original French unit near the smaller of the two buildings.

British Rangers and Natives cross open ground in a race to burn those homesteads! The Ranger unit in the center of the screen, with their officer, was destroyed to a man! The Natives were eventually forced to retreat back to the woods under withering French fire.

The Indian Sachem directs his warriors forward. The Regulars have been forced to recoil due to British fire and the Marines are half the men they used to be! Fighting was fierce all over the board but the survivors were heard to say this was the some of the worst fighting in the war as musket balls buzzed like hornets across the landscape.

The meadows of Pennsylvania. Still no smoke from the buildings as the night marches straight into morning for the weary gamers.

If you look in the background you can see the Chasseurs about to cross the river.

You can hear the victorious war cries of the French Indians as they shoot down the British Rangers. Not just bravado here. These guys are bad news and no mistake. The Marines can only watch and eat cheese that smells of people's feet.

Aha! Chris' unit of rangers finally reaches the smaller of the building and starts to set it alight!

The story of the night. The unit in the foreground, 2 man strong with officer, are the remaining guys from the original unit on board. They passed every Morale Check possible, with d6, with d3, with no mods, with negative mods, it just didn't matter. They refused to falter and likely, no, more than likely, they won the game for the French. They held off two units of British Regulars twice their number, *plus* a unit of Natives, *plus* a unit of Rangers firing at them.

The Chassuers can be seen behind them after crossing the stream but they have been rendered superfluous by their brothers.

The remains of two units of British regulars after trading dice with one unit of French. 

BTW, the officer in Red completed his sub-plot by not killing anyone in the game and so technically forced a draw. The French sub plot was to kill the Pennsylvanian carrying the colors. He lived!

British Rangers all fire into the air after starting to light the small building on fire. I like these guys but I bought a bag of them at a flea market and many have the same poses. Oh well, I got 15 of them for $5, so...

So, technically a draw, but the Brits had a long way to go to win when we called it due to hallucinating from sleep deprivation. It was a game crowd to stay so late and so long but it was worth it. It's a great game and I really needed to get my Pennsylvania on after so many months outside of civilization.

Frostgrave, Every Man for Himself

Met with real men this weekend to play games. First on the docket was a 4 way Frostgrave game of Chris' design. It took place above *and* below ground. There was a wyvern, treasure, and other monsters. It's not a city for the weak spirited. It was a very cool way to play with 4, with points awarded for getting away with treasure and killing other wizards and apprentices. I foolishly thought there may even be some co-operation, And I guess there sort of was: Chris and Nat co-operated in destroying my war band but that wasn't what I had in mind.

Remember that every piece of terrain, excepting the trees, was hand made by Chris. Awesome.

A shot of the whole table while Chris and Ogre pick schools of magic and starting spells. Chris put together 4 generic war bands with some magic items but each player assigned the items and chose their own spells.

There were also five possible entrances into the Undercity but only two of them were real. We placed them randomly, not knowing which were real and which were not. To find out, a member of your band had to get within an inch.

There were monsters down there.

A shot near my set up area. Given access to Chris' very large miniature vault, the game quickly took on a Warhammer feel as he played his Dark Elves, Ogre chose Chaos, Nat took dwarfs and I chose goblins.

The racial differences played no real part in the game except maybe the short guys were able to hide better. I wish I had taken a photo of each war band. Chris' figures are all awesome and playing with them is always a treat.

I love this picture. Taken from behind my right flank, it shows, from left to right, my apprentice, a goblin-at-arms and an archer. What's cool though is that if you look just above the archers bow, you can see a dwarf in a blue hoodie. Just a really cool line of sight! However, he moved off before the archer got a shot off. 

Some of Chris' Dark Elves slither through the city. In fact, this is the unit that decimated my left side and crushed my war band, chopping my wizard up like he owed them money.

I can't even tell who these guys are.

My ranger and crossbow goblin had great LOS to a lot of the city from atop this wall. In fact, it was from here that came the only half point we scored, when out of desperation, the archer fired into a melee and luckily (emphasis on luck), hit and killed Chris' apprentice.

I had several other great chances to stay in the game but my dice were abysmal against Chris. However, they were equally amazing against Nat on the other side thus proving that dice average out. I rolled nothing but 1's against Chris, nothing but 20's against Nat and 9's for everything else. (That's a lie of course. For some reason, I won initiative seven out of ten turns.)

Ogre and I never rolled an opposing die in anger.

Overhead shot. It's hard to actually pick guys out because the terrain is so good that figures actually 'hide' in the ruins. Decent LOS's are hard to come by. Also, Ogre quickly found an entrance to the Undercity and his entire war band, excepting a pesky archer, went underground. His figures were off the table in a series of rooms Chris had set up just out of this shot.

This is a great shot because, well, it is. What I like about it is that you can see the base of my wizard downstairs in the building in the foreground, hiding like any goblin with any modicum of sense would do. However he had cast 'Wizard's Eye' on the tower in the upper center, so that is where he could draw LOS from. Cool spell, lots of fun.

Eventually he moved to his left and went up the stairs to the far left second floor where he was cornered and filleted.

It was a close game between the three of them with Chris pulling out a narrow victory, including a point for murdering my wizard and getting several treasure tokens off the board. I *had* a treasure token once but Chris later found it under the corpse of my thief.

It was a great scenario for this very worthy game. A tip of the skull cap to the others as everyone played really well and had a great time.The barbeque'd ham didn't hurt either.