Saturday 30 April 2016

New books.....

fasands of em!

Well, maybe not quite thousands but certainly some.

I recently mentioned the paper soldiers book for the ECW by Peter Dennis and that it is part of a series. I'm glad that it is because I saw a copy of the book in the Ian Allen shop in Birmingham last week and it is really very nice. The other two books in the series are:

Very cool. We just need one for the Jacobite Rebellions and we are away!

Also on my book list at the moment are the next Osprey Wargames books including The Men Who Would be Kings, Chosen Men and The Pikeman's Lament (in chronological order). But look what else I have found.....

Due out in September. I'm pre-ordering mine. Check it out here.

Sunday 24 April 2016

More stuff...

than you can shake a stick at!

1. FiveCore hex grid conversion 

Norm was quick off the mark last night to worry with me his comments on whether the frontal arc is too generous. 

Where is our frontal arc?
What concerns me about this design decision is the point that Norm made a lot earlier around most tactical gamers thinking of "front" as a vertex not a hex side. In fact, when I was playing with photos to illustrate the conversion rules I found myself in some trouble as my mental map is firmly vertex orientated. Also, my hexes don't fit the table if I turn them round (and that's the clincher). Rather than faff about it over the next couple of days I'll have a calm think and get back to it later.

2. Paper soldiers etc

A new book from Peter Dennis and Andy Callan with paper soldiers. Helion & Co £11.65. I understand this is a series, hurrah!

3. Hold the Line: Remastered!!!!

The big one, HTL revisited plus PSC miniatures!

With the FiW expansion as well. I understand that all of the HTL games will be redone in this format. It looks very good. Kickstartering now.  

Saturday 23 April 2016

FiveCore hex grid conversion.......

the next version!

Well, I have had another go and here it is. 

Successful flanking shot on a Tiger, well done!
So far, the Duc has most influenced my thinking on facing. Let's see what people think. I'm still a little uncomfortable and may have to think again.

Friday 22 April 2016

Quatre Bras.....

its quite good!

It is nice to get feedback on the stuff that I do. Paul Leeson has been playing Quatre Bras a la Carte and has very kindly said:
First complete play through last night and it worked very well, almost as it did in history! A great little game - the limited Action Points for the French side work very well and really make you think about what you need to do next AND what can wait!!!
I'm very chuffed. Paul also spotted a glitch in the counter sheet and reinforcement schedule which I have now fixed. Version 2 of both can be found here.

Next job is to revisit the FiveCore hex grid conversion. I have realised that having more than one vehicle per hex is an issue! I have an idea to sort that out. I'll have a go around the Sarries game tomorrow and the usual chores.

Saturday 16 April 2016

Face front.....

Pointing in the right direction!

Shoot that way boys....USMC in Afghanistan
Further feedback on the FiveCore hex grid conversion has raised an interesting point about facing. Ivan's view is that:
On facing, I'd be inclined to use the Battletech method: Vehicles face a hex side (which as mentioned fits many hex map roads). The two facings on either side of the front are also (front), the one opposite the front is rear and the two adjacent to the rear is left and right (if that makes sense?)
Norm's view is a little more traditional:
The only thing about using hexsides rather than a vertex to establish the front facing is that flat edges create a forward arc of 3 hexes, which in turn on a small board makes flanking shots and positions harder to achieve.
At the moment, my view is that facing is important for tanks because they have different armoured strengths depending on which part of the tank you may be firing at. This is really important for Panthers because of their relatively weak side armour. Also, tanks with turrets have a 360 degree field of fire for their main armament, but assault guns and similar vehicles have a very limited arc of fire. Use of facing helps to differentiate these capabilities. Therefore, I like the idea of facing but it is not yet in the hex grid conversion.

In the base Company Command rules: 

  • Infantry squads do not have a fixed facing and may turn to face any desired target.
  • For speed of play, we are not concerned with exact vehicle facing. Players who prefer a more detailed game may upgrade weapons one step when firing at the rear of a vehicle (for example a kill shot becomes overkill when targeted against the rear of the vehicle).

So, including facing is a good thing for vehicles but not, so far, for any other units. I may worry about anti-tank guns at a later date however!

Hex side or vertex? I am going for hex side at the moment as suggested by Ivan. I'm not a Battletech player so I don't have any practical experience in this approach. Like Norm, I usually prefer the vertex solution. My decision here is based on the practicalities of managing more than one tank per hex (max two in the current draft). 

Looking at this picture you can see that a vertex solution with two tanks looks a bit odd. Turn the picture round (in your own mind is ok!) a hex side solution looks a little more usable. I think I can cover off Norm's point about giving a chance to get in flank shots by deciding on how to play LoS. 

Facing and LoS are critical factors in small unit fighting. I don't think civilians appreciate the complexities. As a civvie myself I often turn to US manuals for insight. I have just been reading MCRP 3-11.2 Marine Rifle Squad because I'm interested in what facing looks like for a squad. Looking at direct fire issues:
1. A sector of fire is an area that is required to be covered by fire by an individual, a fire unit (squad or fire team), or a crew-served weapon. It is a pie-shaped area enclosed by two lateral limits and a forward limit (i.e. a vertex solution).
2. A principal direction of fire is a specific direction within the sector of fire given to a flat trajectory weapon and which is designated as its primary fire mission. Within a rifle squad, a principal direction of fire is assigned to automatic rifles. Units are not assigned principal directions of fire.
The sector is assigned if possible but where it is not possible, weapons are assigned PDFs. Although this looks like a vertex solution, if we have multiple squads in a hex my feeling is that a hex side solution becomes easier.

At the end of the day we just need to make a decision now and test it out, so lets go.......

Sunday 10 April 2016

FiveCore Hex grid conversion.......

Even more feedback!

Guys, thanks for your contributions. It is really great to get so much informed feedback. As last time, I'll try to carefully pick through the comments and see where we need to go next. The full comments are at the foot of the last post on this subject so these are edited highlights. Once I have got things straight in my own head I'll have a go at revising the conversion guide. 

Conversion guide or new rules: Duc suggested the guide might be evolving into a new rule set. Longer term this might be a way forward. My concern at the moment is to build on what Ivan is doing already and not to repeat in the guide any of the main rules. I do wonder whether, in future, there might be scope for a "SixCore" version (five core principles and six hex sides!), effectively a simplified, hex based and more gamey version of the main rules. Worth a ponder I think and a discussion with Ivan.

Platoon orders: Ivan's view is that units near each other can activate on the same activation point "So on a hex-map, 3 squads strung out in adjacent hexes could move together, but if you start spreading them out (or they get pushed back), your command/control starts faltering."

Movement rates: Everyone seems cool with the proposed movement rates. Ivan says: "I agree with dropping "slow" tanks to 1 hex. Seems them crawling along at the same speed as the infantry would make sense. (and for things like the Valentine is probably about as fast as they'd go anyways)." Duc's view is: "Spot on with movement - tactical movement is the order of the day. Perhaps allow move x2 when outside enemy range." 

Peter has suggested: "1) all movement where the moving unit can be spotted by enemy units is one hex. This would represent caution forward movement or short stop start sprints between cover. Where unit cannot be spotted then infantry move one hex and tanks, etc move two hexes." I like this, it comes from Tigers at Minsk and relates also to the hesitation roll used in Minden's Retro rules (really obscure Squad Leader territory here). "2) slow units just move or fire, and faster units can move and fire. This way you differentiate between unit movement capabilities." Brilliant!

Obstacles: For obstacles, Ivan's view is that: "if they fail a "crawl' test to cross, leave the die next to them and next turn they cross automatically. Normally, I would be against tracking that but we only have 8-10 squads to deal with, so its not too bad. Alternatively, use the positioning inside the hex to signify it. Place the squad in the middle normally and at the edge when they are half way through." Norm's thoughts are: "
I am glad we have had the discussion about rolling to enter a hex, with the issue of repeatedly failing to pass and in effect being stuck. the obvious solution is to automatically allow the movement on the following turn ......... I will now go and apply the 'obvious' rule to my own Tigers design, as my vehicles have to dice to enter woods." Duc suggests: "Perhaps roll for units to 'leave' terrain - meaning they can tend to 'hug' the cover if poorly commanded."

Facing: Not in the original rules but this has now come up. Norm, being very tactical, has told me: "I am just going through my Tigers at Minsk rules and having previously had all vehicles always facing a vertex, I am now dealing with the reality that roads cross hexsides, so a vehicle using the road will actually be facing a hexside and not a vertex. accepting this rather than by attempting to fudge it actually helps, because the new facings generated by hexside facing (only 1 front hex but now 4 flank hexes) makes the vehicle following a road more vulnerable to flank shot and less effective in their own front arc - this feels right." Norm's latest version of Tigers at Minsk can be found hereDuc thinks that: "I always thought facing a corner was simplest and could allow clear flank and rear facings."  For me, the jury is currently out since facing adds complexity but, on the other hand, allows nice side shots at Panthers.

Excellent. I have one more day of the Easter holidays tomorrow and may have time to have another crack at the guide, Further suggestions and feedback very welcome. Cheers.

Saturday 9 April 2016

More Airfix Battles stuff.........

Cool or what?

A flyer has gone out to retailers:

And a PDF of the rules can be picked up from here.

The rules will demo at Salute and orders will ship first week in June. Top, I'll get mine for Fathers' Day!

By the way, I'm really pleased with all of the helpful comments on the FiveCore hex grid conversion. Lots of good ideas which I will ponder today. Thanks everyone!

Thursday 7 April 2016

FiveCore Company Command.....

More conversion issues

I have had some really useful feedback on the CC hex grid conversion. Rather than hide my response in the blog comments I thought it would be useful to talk through the issues here.

I did the work very quickly, because the muse had taken me, and took a few very quick decisions without much reflection on certain issues. Norm, with whom I have an ongoing conversation about these sorts of things, has come up with some really good questions (thanks Norm!) which are worth contemplating:

1. Custom dice: In my original thoughts (link) I talked about D2s. Basically a 50:50 shot usually represented as 4 or more on a d6. D2 is a good short hand way of talking about these sorts of die rolls. There are some really great custom dice available and these would be ideal, for example, to use a d2 for all terrain rolls. That would be nice and simple. But I can't help thinking back to Piquet. For those short of memory (or young) these used a whole raft of different dice including d6, d8, d10 and, I think, d12. A real nightmare for me. In the conversion guide I have therefore reverted to the use of d6 with appropriate rolls rather than custom dice. Longer winded to write about but nice and simple.

2. Movement rates: One of the big problems with hex grid conversions is converting movement rates to hexes. This is largely because movement rates for infantry don't always convert in the same ratio to vehicles. We have that problem here with infantry basic move of 6" (one hex) plus 1d6" if dashing (an additional hex at 50:50 in the conversion). Vehicles, however, have a standard move of 9" and a scramble move of 12". I ended up going with 1 and 2 hexes respectively. Partly because I think that tanks moving tactically with infantry will tend to move at infantry pace (lots of film of Churchills supporting infantry in Normandy have imprinted this in my mind). 

3. Obstacles: Norm makes a good point that the die roll for obstacles crossing might actually result in units getting permanently stuck with rubbish die rolls. He suggests an automatic success after an initial failure and I think this is very reasonable. One other thought occurs and that is that this sort of roll might be better related to troop morale or competence (paras crossing an obstacle might present a different set of odds to some very unhappy conscripts). The current set up in CC doesn't support this but a revised version taking account of the more nuanced Five Men at Kursk rules might help with this.

4. Smoke and LoS: I must admit that it was late and I thought about LoS rules and then decided to see if I could get away without any. Norm has raised an interesting point about smoke and the precise line of sight (where it might not be blocked if only one hexside is "smoked"). This needs some thought.

5. Facing: Are there any facing rules and does this mean there are no flank armour rules? Really good questions. They can easily be added and would make the game even better provided they are kept simple.

More things to ponder:
  • Infantry in a hex with tanks will rally quicker because the tank provides the cover for NCOs and Officers to stand up and get their troops moving. An interesting fact that I can no longer substantiate with evidence but which has stuck in my mind because it feels really true!
  • Infantry can't assault an enemy tank if it is protected by enemy infantry in the same hex (in the conversion guide). What wider impact does terrain and infantry protection have, especially in respect of the ability of enemy troops to launch close range Panzerfaust or Bazooka attacks? Remember that Panzerfaust attack in Fury? Allied tanks often refused to move without infantry alongside.
  • I like the lack of range restrictions on weapons. Although they are more effective the closer you get (within 1 or 2 hexes), the fact that you can be in danger anywhere on the board feels very realistic. Usually movement rates have to be considered in relation to weapons ranges. I think that CC has it right that if the enemy can see you they have a chance of shooting you.  
Prove it

Can we test whether the rules converted to a hex grid remain true to the original rules (which they should as we are not in the business of reinventing them) and can we test if they appear realistic (shock horror)? In my minds eye I do see a line of British or Canadian infantry advancing down a shallow slope through cornfields to assault a farm or village in Normandy followed by a platoon of Churchills. I think it would be good to design a classic scenario on these lines and play both a hex and non-hex version and see what they feel like. Any volunteers to help?

Monday 4 April 2016

I blame Norm again.....

he asked me a question and then I just.....

In one of the comments on my earlier post Norm asked about difficult choices when converting games to a hex grid. I understood exactly what he meant so I then had to work out what the answer would be. So, here it is, the hex grid conversion guide for FiveCore Company Command. This is a draft and may need some revision. Let me know what you think!

Sunday 3 April 2016

Next grid conversion?

FiveCore Company Command!

Following my last post and some interesting comments from Ivan, Norm and le Duc, I have taken a look at the Five Core Company Command (CC) rules as a potential hex grid conversion. My thought experiments with Bolt Action and Neil Thomas' WWII rules had left me with a sore head. This one, however, is quite exciting.

Here are some bullet points:

  • CC table size: 3' by 3'.
  • Standard move: 6".
  • Dash: 6" plus 1 d6 (say 6" with a 50% probability of another 6").
  • Vehicle move: 9" or 12" if scrambling (a bit tricky, see below).
  • Squad base: 1.5".
So to my mind, we can use a hex representing 6". My hex grid uses 125mm (5") hexes because I'm funny that way (and it fits my table nicely). Like this.....

My big hexes representing a 3' square table in this picture. Tanks are 15mm (KVs at that), the squad bases are FoW standard and designed for my 20mm troops (I don't mind mixing scales, same as Art of Tactic). The 10p bit is a weapons base but I'll use 2ps in real life. Attachments will be on 1ps. This looks OK to me with a good sized Company Command force. 
  • Infantry move: 1 hex.
  • Vehicle move: 1 hex or 2 if scrambling. A/C = d2 for plus 1 hex.
  • Road: vehicle move = d2 for extra 1 or 2 hexes.
  • "Stacking": Four squads or mix of four squads and weapons teams. Squads can have attachments as well. Two tanks or one tank plus two squads/weapons teams.  
  • Platoon order: All units in same hex.
  • Obstacles: Treat as hexside with a success roll to cross for movement and a fire combat modifier.
  • Terrain: Fills each hex. Hexes count as open or cover. Troops to have indicator if they are peeking. 
  • Smoke: Completely fills one hex. Might be an issue with smoke grenades (need more than one squad to do this?) but should not be a problem for a light or medium mortar strike.
  • Anti-tank fire: Treat as current rules, firer chooses target in hex.
  • Anti-personnel fire: Allocate hits to squads first, each target gets a shock dice first then allocate any kills. Apply results at the end of the turn to take account of multiple attacks. Shows need to disperse your troops! 
  • Assault: All assaults on one hex to be added together as one large assault.
This is just a first pass but the fact that there are no show stoppers here is great. It fits my table, my base sizes and troop scale thoughts. An identical approach can be used for Five Men at Kursk which would allow 20mm tanks to be used as the scale is tactical. Use 6mm troops and you have Brigade Commander. And all on my kitchen table, brilliant! 

Friday 1 April 2016

Loads of rules.....

Very sore head!

I spent last weekend with the in-laws in Scotland. I enjoyed a little piece and quiet for a change and was able to do some thinking. The subject of this difficult enterprise was the idea that Bolt Action could be turned into hex based game. This is an idea I have had before but have never thoroughly tested out.

First off I actually had to read the rules. Easy enough I thought, many better people before me have done this and survived. My first issue is that the rule book is 216 pages long, that's a big read even if it does have lots of pictures. 

The second issue is that the infantry game is quite straightforward. Using hexes significantly simplifies a lot of the mechanisms including unit cohesion, line of sight, who can shoot etc. However, when you get to the vehicle bit it looks like a bolt on (sorry). Superficially similar rules actually follow a different path, for example, "down" and "pinned" for infantry are interpreted differently for tanks. Not a surprise in itself but, for me at least, a sign that the underlying mechanics are not holistic. They have been bolted together (sorry again) to make a game. 

The third issue is the army lists. Loads of really boring points led stuff. Tedious in the extreme, great for selling miniatures though.     

The fact that people buy Bolt Action, get the miniatures and have a nice time is great and I don't begrudge that at all. The rules just don't fit the inside of my head.

I then had another look at the Neil Thomas WWII rules from his Wargaming: An Introduction. Firstly, very short. 30 pages including introduction, rules, army lists and scenarios. The army lists are very simple which is also great and give lots of nice options when combined with some nice simple scenarios. 

So far so good. When I started to look at a hex conversion I was struck by the similarities with Bolt Action. Things like unit cohesion and firing ranges etc are simplified by using hexes. I didn't enjoy working out firing dice by range band. I had to do a similar thing for Bolt Action. The numbers just didn't look right in either game and I concluded that range attenuation isn't really handled very well.

I then looked at the tank thing. Again, the NT rules have a separate approach to the tank rules. Tanks don't take morale tests for example. OK fine, in real life tanks are different. But I also know that tanks and infantry in real life are inseparable. They can't do without each other and must have a way of interacting effectively. 

My only other comment about the NT rules is that the 30 pages probably leave out some important stuff, although I think NT trusts us to work this out for ourselves. 

This all sounds a bit depressing. However, both sets of rules show their connections with the origins of the hobby. Neither are revolutionary and both can be linked back to stuff written in the 1960s. Again, nothing wrong with that either. However, I ended up turning to boardgaming back then because I was not satisfied with these sort of miniatures rules.

I still have two further sets of rules to explore: FiveCore and Blitzkrieg Commander (BKC). I'll be pursuing these further. BKC is very interesting because it bridges the infantry/tank game divide by having a conscious combined arms approach. FiveCore is a bit more traditional but has some other very unique features. Wherever this goes, I do keep coming back to the simple army list ideas in the NT rules and will want to keep these in future.


Interesting Weasel developments:
  • From Shako to Coal-Scuttle: The beta version has been updated following feedback and can be obtained from Wargames Vault.
  • Company Command: An updated version of this has been announced for a few weeks time incorporating some of the Five Men at Kursk features. I'll wait for these before doing more work on the hex thing.
And finally....

I have mentioned a potential hex version of Lion Rampant before. An article on a conversion of Lion Rampant to the Napoleonic wars has appeared in the latest edition of WI. This is great and quite exciting, especially if I can fit it to hexes. However, it is called Eagle Rampant whereas I would automatically have called it Dragoon Rampant. Never mind.