Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Programmed opponent with Ancient Battlelines Clash, test 1

Introduction
I have lots of things in the pipeline…so I decide to do something else!  I  have been mulling over  creating a programmable opponent for my Ancient Battlelines Clash rules to help with replaying historical scenarios.  This stemmed from some discussion from Dale's Solo Battles blog from early 2013.  An excellent place for quality discussion on creating decent opponents for solo play.  The last few posts discussed finite state machines and their applicability to gaming, Dale use Meso-American Saga as an example.  Discussion turned to using FSM for THW’s Rally Round the King but did not get far. I kept this in the back of my mind and thought about it at odd moments over the last year.  I finally decided to write it down early March.

Warning
This post gives an overview of the Ancient Battlelines Clash programmable opponent and an overview of the 5 playtests.  While I have tried to make it as exciting as I can, I think it is still dry reading and likely a bit self indulgent (so it fits the criteria for a blog post!) unless you really really care about playtesting ancient gaming programmable opponents.

Where the programmable opponent is at
I have done five playtests, brief overviews are the rest of the post. The programmable opponent is closer now than it was a few weeks ago.  Playtesting has shown I need more testing with different armies. From the five games I did below, I did not use the zone order unit tactics (to decide a units move) very much past the first few moves.  This is mainly because there was not much decision making to be made after the few moves and combat commenced!  It did come in handy to help with some individual moves and I have expanded the zone orders table to accommodate this.  However, the last game had the units further away and the zone orders and action selection got a good working out.  I am *very* tempted to ignore my other projects and play some more games using the programmable opponent.


The zone order unit tactics table at the start of playtesting. Zone orders are the columns (each of 4 zones - flanks, centre, reserve) - each zone has a zone order.  Rows are broad unit types.  Each cell in the table determines the action that a unit may or must undertake. 

The zone orders table at the end of game 5 of playtesting.
I will play some more games and then post the whole thing.


ABC programmable opponent summary
 
Pre-battle
The opponent assists with the following:
  • Random unit selection: this is done as per the ABC army lists, based on the Milgamex tactical armies army lists.
  • Random selection of attacker: a die roll
  • Random selection of terrain: as per normal ABC rules using 12 cards to place terrain into 9 zones based on the terrain location of the defender.
  • Selecting of defenders deployment edge: This is new and loosely based on the DBAS edge selection rules – roll a die for each edge, add to each die from a list of 7 modifiers and select the edge with the highest result.
Battle
The opponent assists with the following:
  •  Deployment: I revamped the ABC deployment options but think Rally raound the King where the army type (Mounted, Infantry etc.) determines the broad strategy for the army (e.g. Centre attack, skirmish line, flank attack).  The broad army tactic determines unit placement e.g. 50% of units in centre.
  • Zone orders: This I borrowed the WRG 7th/Warrior concepts of command orders – Rash, Attack, Probe, Wait, Hold, Delay.  Each zone (left flank, centre, right flank, reserve) is given one of the 6 orders.  So an army with Left Flank attack strategy will have the left flank with Attack orders, centre and right flank with Probe or Hold and any reserve with Wait. As a bonus, each zone rolls for a cautious, normal or bold general. There is a small chance that zone orders will change each turn.  This is also very loosely based on the WRG 7th generals and orders.
  • Tactical engine aka unit tactics: The zone orders determine what each unit does. I have split unit into 4 broad types – impetuous, non-missile, missile-armed and skirmishers.  Each unit type acts a particular way based on the zones orders.  E.g. an impetuous unit in a zone with attack orders will charge at the enemy or full advance if cannot charge.  But with hold orders they will attempt to not move past the centre line.  Missile units in a zone with attack orders will charge into a combat if they have a good chance of winning, else will stand and fire.  Missile units in zone with hold orders will only advance until in range on and enemy, and will not advance over the centre line.
  • Unit reactions: unit reactions are unchanged from ABC and operate “sort-of” like in Rally Round the King.
So, armed with all of this I thought, let’s play a few battles to see how it goes.  I thought it went well. I tweaked a lot of the tactical engine as I went but the concepts held up well.  Amazing what 12 months of working with an idea gives.   The practicability of it was really useful for game setup and the first few turns until there was general combat along the line, after that is was not so useful as most movement was based on reaction.  However, it did help decide what to do with those lone units that won a combat and wanted to know what to do next.

Potential room for improvement
I do not have a system whereby a zones forces will change their order based on circumstances e.g. the left flank has ATTACK orders but is facing overwhelming forces in front of it – maybe the orders should be HOLD.  But again, the zones orders are selected based on what the entire army is doing, so maybe it is not required.  Maybe it would be better to have the army change orders based on circumstance, so in the previous example, if the army was doing an Oblique attack with a focus on left flank and centre but the left flank is facing overwhelming odds, the army changes to Centre attack, and places the left flank into hold.
 
Troops
For these game, I dug out my first two ever 15mm armies – Late Imperial Roman (that I used as mid-imperial as I have not yet done an ABC Later Imperial Roman army list) and Sassanid Persians.
After generating about 30 different battles I gave up selecting what looked like interesting ones and just generated 5 in a row and used them.  I should be testing out the random army selection after all!  I did notice after this that the army size seems just slightly too small.  I have decreased the costs for generals which effectively increases the points available for the rest of the army by about 3 points (from 32 points to 35 points for an average general’s army).  This will make armies nearly 10% larger.  3 points is one average Heavy Infantry unit.
 
I also went with naming the overall commander and each of the zone’s generals.  I did this to inject a little of a campaign feel to follow the generals’ performance through the five games.  This bit was not as onerous as I thought, added to the fun and will do more of it where I can.  I can thank internet friend Jack from BlackHawkHet blog link for this who has been badgering me to do something like this for ages. I grabbed the names by looking through a Persian myths book and "The Roman Eastern frontier and the Persian Wars AD 226-363" compiled by Dodgeon and Lieu.

Game 1

Battle creation page (all randomly generated)

The battle creation page explained
Creating a battle is very easy - select two opposing armies from a drop down list in Excel.  Everything you see on the page is randomly derived - the forces for each side (based on defined army lists) including breakpoints and army tactics, the attacker, the battlefield (and lower right the Def: xxx shows the side the Defender will choose).  It is simply a matter of grabbing the appropriate miniatures and then following the programmable opponent from there. When I am more confident of the programmable opponent, I can add zone orders and generals to the random army generation.

Sassanid (attacker)
Army General Siyavush
Army tactic: Envelop Flanks
Left flank: Attack.  General Karus (cautious)
Centre: Wait (using optional dice to see if Probe changes to Wait). General Garsivaz (rash)
Right flank: Attack, General Khusrow

Roman
Army General Aurelius
Army tactic: Envelop Flanks
Left flank: Attack. General Macrianus ( a +1 marker)
Centre: Probe. General Quintus
Right flank: Attack. General, Timesicles (rash)

Note: Not one random zone order change in the entire game.  There were 4 turns and about a 1 in 12 chance per zone per turn per side of a change.  So in 24 tests (12 per side) tests there was not one zone change.  Ah well.
 
Overview

Game 1

The Sassanids advance and early and things are going fairly well.  The skirmish infantry screen is cleared early on with only a couple of disorders inflicted. The Roman allied warband is routed on the Sassanid left flank.  However, the Roman cavalry unit on that flank proves to be very stubborn and the melee continues to the end game, even with a rear attack!

On the right flank the Roman Cataphract (with Commander Aurelius) routs an opposing cavalry unit.  But immediately after the other Sassanid heavy cavalry unit charges an disordered roman cavalry unit and rout them.  The legionaries in the centre attack the Sassanid Cataphract and elephant; disorders are handed out to most combatants.  Aurelius leads the Roman Cataphracts into side of the elephant that then routs though a legionary (oops)!  Aurelius pursues into the side of the Sassanid cataphracts who rout.  Game over.

Game 1 end

Awards
No awards given out – Aurelius and the cataphracts could do no wrong.
A special mention to Timesicles (Roman right flank) that lost his warband early on but held off superior cavalry for three turns, even surviving a rear attack  The Sassanids could only fail on a roll of a 1 and so rolled that!
 
Lessons
Tweaked table so that non-missile will not always charge, and impetuous will charge closest unit.  Otherwise I did not change much at all.  The units were only 20cm apart and so there was not much looking up of orders.


Game 2



Sassanid attacker
Army General Siyavush
Army tactic: Oblique (right and centre)
Left flank: Probe. General Khusrow (again)
Centre: Attack. General Shaqad (new)
Right flank: Attack. General Sohrab (new)

Roman
Army General Aurelius
Army tactic: Flank (left)
Left flank: Attack. General Timesicles (rash) (again)
Centre: Probe. General Felix (cautious)
Right flank: Wait. General Macrianus (again)

I had to add some new generals as I did not want a general to be rash in game 1, and then become normal in game 2.  I will attempt to use the fewest generals.
For game 2 I changed the chance of a random zone order change to a 1 in 9.  With 4 turns there still was no order change.

Different forces to Game 1 - no Sassanid elephant and artillery on the Roman side.  I do not have a roman artillery piece but do have one for a Byzantine army, so used that.

Overview
Game 2

Things did not go well for the Sassanids overall.  With General Sohrab on their right flank, the regular heavy cavalry was wiped out by the Roman legionaries and heavy cavalry with Aurelius and zone general Macrianus.  All the Romans lost on this flank was the skirmish infantry.
 
In the centre, the Sassanids did much better - one legionary and heavy archer for one Sassanid elite heavy cavalry.
 
But the left flank! I classed the Roman artillery as light artillery - acts basically like a light infantry unit with bows.  It managed to disorder and then rout the light infantry and the skirmish cavalry just kept evading under fire!  Eventually the artillery was routed by a charge from a Sassanid Heavy cavalry unit from the centre.  But it was all too late, the Sassanids had reached their breakpoint, and lost again.

Game 2 end

Awards
No outstanding actions warranted an award, but we say goodbye to the Sassanid general Sohrab who lost his entire right flank force.

Lessons
None but I added a priority list on targets for charging that was useful in this game.

Game 3


 
Sassanid
Army General Siyavush
Army tactic: Envelop flanks
Left flank: Attack. General Karus (cautious) from game 1
Centre: Wait. General Khusrow (game 1 and 2)
Right flank: Attack. General Garsivaz (rash) from game 1

Roman attacker
Army General Aurelius
Army tactic: Centre attack
Left flank: Probe.General Quintus from game 1
Centre: Attack. General Felix (cautious)  from game 2)
Right flank: Probe. General Macrianus (game 1 and 2)

Overview
Game 3

On the Sassanid right flank the Cataphracts and elite heavy cavalry overruns and routs the lone Roman heavy cavalry and also capture Commander Aurelius. 
In the centre, the legionaries never managed to engage with the Sassanid Light Infantry - the skirmishers exchanging fire took two turns and so no main combat occurred before the battle was decided on the flanks.
On the Sassanid left flank, the impetuous warband did not last long.  The elephant was delayed a lot by the artillery but in the end the elephant managed to rout the artillery and end the game.

Game 3 end

Awards
General Karus on the Sassanid left flank lost no units and managed to clear the entire flank.  The Elephant managed, despite disorder, to rout the artillery.
Commander Siyavush who managed to capture the opposing Roman Commander (Aurelius).

Lessons
A very one sided game - The Sassanids had lost only two skirmishers compared to half the Romans.  It was really that the flanks decided the game and the Romans really did not have enough in defense on the flanks having concentrated in the centre.  Even one extra unit on one of the flanks would have made a difference.   I do not think I need to change the programmable opponent - it was just one of those things; the deployment rules would have allowed an extra unit from the centre to be on the flank.
Oh, and I finally got an zone order change - the Sassanid centre went from Wait to Hold - slightly worse off but did not impact the game.
I spent a bit of time clarifying the non-missile unit tactics - minor changes - but I needed to add in the bits and pieces I had built up over the 3 games and make them easier to follow.


Game 4


Sassanid
Army General Siyavush
Army tactic: Oblique (right and centre as Left has terrain)
Left flank: No left flank as too few units to populate this flank
Centre: Attack. General Khusrow (game 1, 2 and 3)
Right flank: Attack. General Garsivaz (rash) from game 1 and 3

Roman attacker
Army General Macrianus (promoted from zone general in games 1, 2 and 3)
Army tactic: Centre attack
Left flank: Probe.General Priscus (new)
Centre: Attack. General Quintus from game 1 and 3
Right flank: Probe. General Cassianus (new)

Overview
Game 4

The Roman right flank sees the Roman Heavy cavalry advance and eventually rout the opposing Sassanid Heavy Cavalry (lucky 6).
The left flank has the Roman Cataphract manage to rout two opposing heavy cavalry for no damage to itself.
The centre did not end well.  One legionnaire is routes but so is an opposing Heavy Cavalry.  But then the generals - both in a continuing combat - see the roman legionnaire rout, the general is captured and the game is over.

Game 4 end

Awards
Roman General Priscus, new general on the Roman left flank, manages to rout two opposing elite heavy cavalry and is not disordered themselves.

Lessons
I realised Probe was too similar to Attack orders for non-missile units and so the Roman cavalry on the flanks were two aggressive.  And if they were infantry, there would have been no difference.  So I reduced the aggressiveness of infantry a bit and mounted slightly.  And then looking at HOLD and DELAY they were the same too.  So I reworked those too.  The whole table is now about twice as complex (still easy to follow) but it now captures a lot better the differences between the zone orders that did not exist before.
I also think I am started the armies too close together - 20cm is 2.5 times heavy infantry moves and a Heavy cavalry moves 16cm.  I think I will make the defender's side setup no more than 10cm in - this will give a separation of 30cm.  The games are all over too fast with not much tactics happening after deployment.
And this game did show that my proposed change to increase the points by 3 is good - there was not really enough units in this game.

Game 5


 
Sassanid
Army General Siyavush
Army tactic: Flank (right)
Left flank: Wait. General Garsivaz (rash) from game 1, 3 and 4
Centre: Probe. General Khusrow (games 1-4)
Right flank: Attack. General Shaqad from game 2
 
Roman attacker
Army General Quintus (promoted from zone general in games 1, 3 and 4)
Army tactic: Defensive
Left flank: Hold.General Priscus (game 4) +1 marker
Centre: Hold. General Cassianus (game 4)
Right flank: Hold. General Vincentius (new)

Overview
Game 5

With the Romans setting up 10cm in and the Persians also this means the distance between them is 40cm, rather than the 20cm of previous games.  This led to quite a exciting game.

The Sassanid right flank charges down that flank and manages to rout the guarding heavy cavalry.  The Roman Legion in reserve advances to that flank and holds the cavalry for a while unit the legion is routed.  The Cataphract eventually manages to charge uphill and rout a legion, causing the end of the game.
Sassanid centre changed is zone order from Probe to Wait first turn and wait and then to Hold in the second turn. On the fourth turn they zone order was sucessfully changed back to Probe and the Elephant advanced, charged uphill but was repelled.  Another heavy cavalry unit from the centre also charged uphill and was routed.
The Sassanid left flank is simply the skirmisher that advanced to the centre and went no further.

Game 5 end

Lessons
The Sassanid Centre changing from Probe to Wait to Hold over two turns showed me that the Commander in Chief would want to change the orders back to what they were at the start of the game.  So I added in a table to allow for orders to potentially revert back to the original orders.  But having the zone general interpret the orders his own way can shake up the game a little.  A good thing when playing solo.

The Sassanid Persian cavalry is not impetuous as they all have bows.  I realised I needed to make sure that heavy mounted units (that get a charge bonus) are treated appropriately and that heavy mounted units with bows also work the way I think they may have. I created a non-archer Shock section in the non-missile units. I also had to add in special rules for heavy mounted archers in a couple of the zone order columns.  I think after the last 2 games, the zone orders table is a lot closer to being workable.

The Generals report card
It was interesting to track the generals as they went from game to game and hand out awards.  On the Sassanid side, General Khusrow was in every game, and the rash General Garsivaz was only missing from game 2.  On the Roman side, things were grimmer - the Army General Aurelius was captured in game 3 and his replacement, General Macrianus, was also captured in Game 4.  These generals were the only ones to participate in more than two games.

The Romans won games 1 and 2, while Sassanids won games 3, 4 and 5.


Verdict
Playtesting is fun and frustrating (as I have learning with playtesting my rules).  The first three games did not test much as the troops were too close together and I was just tweaking the tactical engine.  But the last 2 games! There was where all the action was.  I spent a while focusing on the zone orders table, matching to what the units would have done (or at least what I would potentially have done - it is a solo effort so far).  There was a lot of situations that came up in the last two games that the zone orders table did not handle, or handled not very well.  All better now and, as I mentioned at the beginning, I am tempted to run a bunch more games from different periods to firm up the tactics table.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

WW2 20mm West Front Goodwood mini-Campaign Game 4

Introduction
I have 1/2 a table tennis setup and am playing a 7 game mini-campaign set over 2 days at the opening of Operation Goodwood. This is game 4.  Game 1 and some more background, see this blog post.  I set this game up and then a few days later got a call from a friend who needed a place to stay from that night.  The only spare place for a bed is where the gaming table was temporarily setup.  I played the game in a hour, including taking notes! Note sure when Games 5 to 7 are going to get played.


Scenario 4 - Evening assault upon Cagny
Grenadier Guards tanks supported by motorised infantry attack Cagny; the latter defended by an ad hoc collection of Panzer Grenadier troops.

The story so far.  Germans won the first two, the British the third.
Troops
Germans
1 Panzer Grenadier HQ
3 Panzer Grenadier squads
1 Pak 40
Sdkfz 250/9 (supposed to be a 234/1 but I do not have one)
80mm mortar
And I add the surviving 88 from game 1 (1 of them) as per the mini-campaign rules.


British
1 Squadron
    3 Shermans
    1 Firefly
1 Motorised unit
   1 Infantry command in M3 half-track
   3 Infantry squads in M3 half-track
   3 PIAT teams

1 FAO in Bren Carrier; dedicated off table 3 x 3" mortars


Scenario changes
Game is supposed to be on a 6'x8' but I am playing on a 4.5'x5'.  No changes to accommodate this, it will just be cramped!
 
I realise it is game 4, but I looked up what a squad is in Kampfgruppe Normandy and the Battlegroup series.  Turns out a Panzer Grenadier squad is 5 men and a separate MMG (the MMG is the MG34/42 that comes with the squad).  So when the scenario has 3 Panzer Grenadier squads and 3 MMGs, that is really just a squad of ten men in my rules (as I have scaled them up and a squad = a company).   But a German company would often have been allocated some MMGs from the Support Company so will make each "Panzer Grenadier Squad" 6 men and an MMG.  Luckily it has made no difference to the game so far.

I put in a Jack card into the deck - if the card before was a moving vehicle, it is now bogged (the scenario notes mention bogging).

Normally I would use 1 halftrack with 3 passengers but due to space restrictions I will go with 10 figures to one halftrack.


Deployment
The British deploy on either side of the road with the objective to race to the first town and take it.  The Germans are in an staggered defense from the first objective back to the one in the rear. The Sdkfz 250/9 is in reserve near the rear.  AT Guns are near the rear tow with good fields of fire.

British deploy in their designated area.  Germans may setup anywhere to the right of the village and the village.






A view down the road - the British need to basically take everything you can see to get to the church at the far end.


Game
First card is out for the Germans and chose the AT guns.  88 fails to spot but the Pak 40 hits a halftrack, destroys it  and the passengers bail with 3 casualties and subsequent retreat through the woods and are pinned.

Half track KO's the remaining parts of the unit retreat through the woods and are pinned.
 Second card is the Brits that advance a halftrack up to the first building (Allies cannot close than  9" from suspected enemy) and unload the 11 passengers.

Another squad gets into the first building.
 Third card is for the Germans and i attempt to call in the mortar but fail.  This game is more exciting in three cards that some of the other ones.  I hope it continues. Two minutes in and interesting things happening already.

The British infantry unit that retreated managed to advance up thier right flank.  They got halfway up the table but were never anything more than a nuisance.  If the Germans had held on longer, they would have come in very useful.

The squad that bailed from the destroyed halftrack advanced up the right flank and ended up quite near the far village before the game ended.
 Axis response fails to damage the Brits out of the building (very bad dice rolling) but the allies maange to kick them out of the building; and then to add insult to injury manage to set alight the building they had retreated to with the indirect mortars!

The second building from the left is cleared and the third building set on fire by indirect HE.
 Infantry advances and another halftrack comes up and unloads in the now vacated house.

Building hopping.
 They continue hopping across the road and back to the other side, losing a few casualties but eliminating two more Panzer Grenadier squads along the way.

More building hopping





Still more building hopping
 

OK, this was the last of the building hops

 After 3 attacks by the guns and not doing any damage, both took out a Sherman!


One Sherman gone
...and another in the same turn by the very next shot with the other AT gun



Eventually they took out the Firefly before the Pak 40 succumbed to indirect HE.  And the 88 succumbs as well a few turns after.
 
All that is left of the German defense.
The Germans are now down to 50% their starting units and fail the morale and pull back.  The British win the scenario.

Overview shot at the end of the game.  The British lost 4 tanks all told.
I forgot I had a Sherman HQ.  The trees were blocking it as I was playing from the side facing the line of trees.  I only noticed it when I was taking a few end game shots!

The extra Sherman that never left the start, never fired - it was never actually seen by me until the end of the game!

Verdict
I really enjoyed this game.  I don't do many house to house clearings and it may not seem so from the report but I had lots of decisions to make as the British about when to commit the tanks and how safe it was to actually move form house to house.  The rules stood up just fine, another British win but it was close.  Here is to Game 5 sometime!

Monday, January 20, 2014

100,000 posts and a retrospective

100,000!
This blog has reached 100,000 posts.  I never thought it  would get this far.  When I started it in 2010, it was as a way to get back in the hobby while I was time-poor with two small children.  My aim was to solo test a few ancient rules for fast play on a small board size.  There was a dearth of the very thorough reviews that I liked - those that showed in detail how the rule mechanisms worked during a game.  So I decided to blog these battle replays using the same ancient battle:
Nearly 50% of my posts relate to these battle replays so I did not do too badly, afflicted as we all are with starting other projects mid-project.
Diversifying
So, that was the primary aim.  In early 2011 Dave Howitt of Britannia Miniatures tragically passed away.  I was a big fan of his Battalion level 20mm WW2 rules Take Cover!! but had not played with my 20mm collection since about 2004.  So it was an opportunity to dig out the rules and play a game.  This lead me to remind myself how much I liked WW2 gaming and built up some 6mm armies so I could play some solo games on a small table.  I did play some games, but not as much as I would have liked.  I also started acquiring more WW2 rules but ended up writing some of my own.  I am still tinkering with them.
 
And I did a few projects I had wanted to do for a while - play Hydapses with a few different rules; play a few battles using Cyrus the Great armies against different opponents.  But I had always wanted to play all the Peter Sides scenarios from the three Ancient and Medieval scenario books.  I had just started writing my own set of fast play ancient rules (based on some scratchings from 2001) and thought this would be a good way to test them out.  This has been great fun so far and will continue.

If anyone is interested, here is the gaming map drawers - silky oak and the picture does not do it justice. 
Silky oak map drawers.  The three open at the far end are where I play ancients and ww2.  The closet drawer houses rules I am playing or recently acquired. Other closed drawers hols plaints, terrain and some boardgames. The far computer is my ASUS slate  that I use for all blogging.  If fact, it is my only machine - the others in the picture are my wife's.
My wife was looking for some cheap map drawers to store wood veneers in.  We walked into a huge second hand office warehouse and this was at the the far end.  I knew straight away that my wife would pick it!  And so we walked away with something 10 times more expensive than what "we" were looking for.  But it is a fantastic piece of furniture so I did not mind, and at the time thought I could use it to store some boardgames while in play (that did not happen but I have had Steve Jackson's One Page Bulge setup for about 2 years in one of the drawers!).  It now goes in a corner of the lounge and I have taken over most of the drawers.  Each drawer is about 2.5'x2.5' .  The top drawer is 5'x2.5' but I do not have ownership of that!  So I have three 2'x2' green boards that sit in the drawers and  I use for almost all my figure gaming.
  
Learnings
The main thing about gaming blogging is the community of gaming bloggers.  There are not that many of us and we all seem to crop up everywhere - forums, on each other's blogs etc.  It have been an absolute pleasure to be part of this.

When I first started the blog, I had no idea what I was doing or the level of interest out there.  I had been on TMP for only a little while and posted a topic there when I posted a blog entry.  Compared to other blogs, I would be happy to get to 10 followers and a few hundred hits a month.  I have delivered approximately 100 posted over nearly four years - that is a post just under every two weeks.   I have now 70 followers and hits are about 3000-4000 a month.  I would never have thought my ramblings may be of such interest!  I post what I would like to see but the hit rate is always pleasing (and good for the ego).  My wife is stunned I am past 100 hits, let alone 100,000!
 
Blog Stats
Comments are about 300 on 100 posts.  I respond to most comments but that still means I get about 1.5 comments per post.  My most comments are normally on reviews.

Most popular posts/pages (via Google Analytics, not Blogger):
 
1. Take Cover!! WW2 rules review
2. WW2 rules ramblings and draft rules
3. Ancient Battlelines Clash (rules)
4. Rally Round the King: Persians V Romans
5. Irregular Miniatures Ancients Rules Review
6. Warrior Kings Review
7. Callinicum refight with Mighty Armies Ancients
8. Mighty Armies Ancients AAR - Greeks Vs Persians
9. Wars Ancient rules overview and battle report - Persians Vs Romans
10. WW2 1943 Eastern Front Take Cover report

Note: don't use Google Analytics if you love your blogger stats!  while you can do far more analysis and detailed drill downs on blog data via Analytics, the hits are only about 60% (or are for me) than reported by blogger due to not recording bot or known spammers.  I use it occasionally to see where some hits are coming from in a bit more detail than blogger.


The thing I gleam from all the statistics is that rules reviews are really popular, and that WW2 posts are generally more popular than than Ancients (this shows up more when I look past the first 10).
Onwards
What does the next few years hold for this blog?  More of the same:
  • Continue trying out the remaining 10-15 rules that are on my list to play.  I have yet to pick a battle but leaning to Sentinum after playing it with my rules.
  • Continue with the Peter Sides scenario replays using my own solo-friendly rules.
  • Get in a few more games with spaceships. Have lots of rules but no idea on what I will try out - likely give Full Thrust a go but who knows?
  • Increase face to face gaming.  I succeeded in 2013 of increasing non-solo games compared to 2012, that in itself was an increase over 2011 that was also an increase over 2010 ( none).
  • Play more 6mm WW2 but using the rules I have acquired and paid money for.  I wrote a list of the ones I would like to play and stopped at 30!  I need to prioritise this a bit :-)  I think I have a top 10 I have wanted to try out for a while and will start there.
  • Attempt to try out a few more games with my latest incarnation of WW2 rules - Advancing Battalions.
The one new area of gaming over the next few years is to play some of the boardgames I have acquired over the last 30 years.  I did used to play lots of boardgames in the 80s but nearly none since then.  I have a list of a top 10 here too, some designed for solo play, some not.  I am hoping to focus a bit here and play 10 in 2014 (compared to zero in 2013 and one in 2012).

And If I ever acquire some second hand GW fantasy figures (there is a possibility), I may start playing some fantasy games such as Kings of War but no rush there.

Final Word
Thanks to all of you out there that read the posts, comment and provide feedback.  I am glad to have started the blog to get back into gaming - it has been an enjoyable 4 years and here is to many, many more!

Friday, January 10, 2014

WW2 20mm West Front Goodwood mini-Campaign Game 3

Introduction
I have 1/2 a table tennis setup and am playing a 7 game mini-campaign set over 2 days at the opening of Operation Goodwood. This is game 3.  Game 1 and some more background, see this blog post.

Scenario 3 - Emieville Charge
Irish Guards attack a Pak front and a lost King Tiger wanders in for support.  Objective is for the British to hold the road in front of the woods.


Setup and table.  Objective is the road on the right
Troops
Germans
3 Panzer Grenadier Squads
3 MMG
2 Pak 40
2 Pak 43
Tiger 2 (potential reinforcement on a 4+ per turn from turn 4)

British
3 Squadrons
    2 Shermans
    1 Firefly
1 Sherman FAC
1 Daimler Armoured Car

Scenario changes
As I use card activation with a End of turn card, I will start rolling for the King Tiger on turn 6.

Campaign so far - two wins to the Germans (blue).  We are in game 3.
Deployment
3 AT guns in the woods and one slightly forward in a hedgerow. The Panzer Grenadier squads spread out across the woods and the hedge on the far edge.

The German setup.  The third squad is off camera on the far left behind a hedge.

The British will focus on coming down their right flank.


British deployed with focus on their right flank.

Game

With my card activations, one possibility is to hold where you can then activate anytime during the rest of the turn.  I have not had much of a chance to use this during the last two games but this game, I gave the 88s (as the first unit activated) this order as the allied tanks were likely to get closer this turn.

The Allies advance. Daimler is shot at by a Pak 40 but misses.  The other Pak 40 hits a Sherman and it is destroyed (rolled a 6 to hit, and then a 6 for damage - reminds me of the first shot with the 9 year old and he was playing the Germans as well!).

First Sherman gone.
The Pak 40 that destroyed a Sherman destroys another one and the remaining firefly in the sqaudron has enough and pullback ( after a unit suffers equal or greater than 50% casualties you need to roll a morale check.  The Firefly rolled a 1).

..and another.
The Daimler spots the Pak 40 that fired at it (needed a 5+) but misses.

The Daimler is halfway down the road at this point with AT guns firing at it.

A Sherman next to the Daimler also spots the Pak 40 and manages to kill the crew (very lucky MMG firing).   The Pak 40 takes a morale check and the other Pak 40 (that has two kills for two shots) is pinned (no move or fire).

Two of the AT guns - a Grey 88 (should not be grey but all I have) and a Pak 40 further away.

88s on activation either fail to spot a target or miss entirely.  The Pak 40s are showing them up!  And then the Shermans manage to spot an 88 and the entire squadron opens up with direct HE fire and manages to kill all the crew.  The other 88 rolls a morale check and also rolls a 1 (just like the Pak 40) and so is also pinned.  Things are not looking so great for the Germans now.

And the FAC Serman successfully calls in a Typhoon on the remaining 88 that is destroyed.  The Pak 40 (the last remaining AT gun) becomes unpinned and destroys another Sherman.  But the combined returned fire from three Shermans finally puts the Pak 40 out of action.  The Brits have lost 4 Shermans (three KO and one routing) and so have 6 left.


A view of the "advancing" British armour.

And then the Tiger II comes on.

Tiger II

All the Fireflies have a shot but miss.  One of the Shermans raced up the road and subsequently got a flank shot on the Tiger and pinned it (1 in 9 chance).

The Sherman in the foreground has a flank shot at the Tiger and actually pins it!
But the Tiger II subsequently unpins and destroys a Firefly.  Tiger II subsequently pinned again by other Shermans.

The Daimler advances to the road - it is the objective after all - and is destroyed by a Panzerfaust.

The destroyed Daimler.

Other Shermans race up the British right flank, over the hedge and a clear line of sight down the hedge.

Could not be better - over the hedge and they are nicely lines up for the Sherman MMGs.
The following turn 4 vehicle MMGs  with 12 dice manage to cause 7 casualties (5 sixes!).  The rest of the unit routs.  They advance to the road and one is pinned by a Panzerfaust from the woods.

A German squad in the woods.
  The other Sherman successfully spots them and fires it MMGs, causing casualties and pins.

The Shermans now focus on the squad in the woods
A Battalion morale check is triggered (greater than 40% of all units pinned destroyed or routed).  They pass, but next turn the Sherman MMGs fire again, causes another battalion morale check and the Germans fail and pull back off the board.  Victory to the British, and well deserved too!

End game. The British survive with 1/2 their armour 

Verdict
Well, I did think that it would be all over for the British; and when the Tiger came on it was not going to get better.  But the German AT guns fell one by one, and the plane attack definitely helped. I think there was a bit of luck on the British side.  It was an interesting game (and fast - I think it took 30 minutes), and one likely best played solo as I did.  The Germans don't do much but fire at best targets, it is up to the British to figure out what to do with ever diminishing resources.