Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Manila Bay 1898

Fleet Admiral is a  new set of naval miniatures rules written by Bill Madison. The first volume covers the period between 1890-1924, a time of great transition for the world's navies.

Regular readers here may be forgiven for not knowing that I am a keen naval This being, IIRC only the second naval gaming post to the blog. Be that as it may I have been playing naval games for these past twenty years at least.

I quite enjoy Bill's game. The rules are easy to use and give a nice narrative to the game.

After corresponding with Bill on a few matters he asked if I would write up ship data sheets and a couple of scenarios for the Spanish American War, namely Manila Bay and Santiago.

The ship data sheets are all done and up on the Fleet Admiral website.

Here then is the first half of a play test of the Manila Bay scenario:

0512: Dewey leads his squadron past Manila and towards the waiting Spanish fleet of Admiral Montojo off Cavite.

The US Squadron.

The Spanish fleet at anchor

0515 Olympia exchanges for with Reina Cristina.

A lucky shot ignites a fire in Olympia's magazine.

The fleets exchange fire.

The action becomes general. Gridley was forced to flood Olympia's main battery magazine. With one of her main battery turrets already disabled this wasn't so great a blow as one might think.

The lead three ships of the Spanish fleet are hotly engaged.

05:30 The big picture: Olympia turns away to bring the line around for another pass.

Up to this point the US has landed 15 hits versus only 5 for the Spanish. Still the US has suffered heavier damage with Olympia taking the brunt of the damage.

0533 three shells from Raleigh tear into Isla de Cuba. Two strike her magazine and she disappears in pall of thick smoke.

After about two hours of play I decided to call a halt for today.

I've played the scenario very cautiously. The Spaniards have remained at anchor and simply traded fire with the US ships as they passed. This was a deliberate decision in an attempt to see if the scenario is worth playing. After all the historical battle was very one sided with the Spanish fleet destroyed and the US fleet having taken only 7 hits and only one man lost (due to a stroke).

Fleet Admiral does not generally take crew quality into account which for this scenario is a good thing. The Spanish fought very bravely but also very haphazardly in the real battle. Their rate of fire was prolific but aim poor. Those ships capable of movement maneuvered individually and often fouled one another's range.

In contrast the US gunnery, while poor by later standards, certainly overwhelmed the Spaniards. Dewey's control over his squadrons movement was superb and very orderly.

There were also technical issues that plagued the Spanish cause.

However this play test shows the battle is no push over for the US even if the Spanish fight from static positions under the game rules.

The final scenario will have a random element in that Spanish fleet may or may not be plagued by the mechanical issues of the day, and therefore be operating at full ability.

Although randomly determined before play, the US player will not know which option the Spaniard is operating under unless and until he sees something moving that shouldn't be or gets shot at by something that should be unarmed.

It will provide a nice game with victory achievable by either side.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Los Correos de la Muerte!

Antoine Fortune de Brack assures me that when scouting a village it is essential to seize the post office and the mayor. 

So it was with these twin goals in mind that I led my troop of dragoons (TV miniseries strength) onto the table. We were approaching from a wooded rise, and could expect some company although whether from British light forces or Spanish guerillas remained yet to be seen.

I split the troop into two sections, each approaching from one side of the village.

On my left, I wisely sent a scout out ahead of the section. He located the post office almost immediately.

On my right...lets just say I was addled. Rather than sending out a scout first, I sent the section to the top of a rise overlooking what turned out to be the church. This, before sending a dragoon to scout ahead.

The church was held by four veteran guerillas.

Four shots rang out as one.

Down went three of my men, and the fourth rode off in panic.

With fully 40% of my force lost in the opening salvo, I didn't think I had sufficient men in hand to storm the church.

... so I withdrew.

Not a sterling performance by any standard and I am unlikely to find a Marshal's baton on my backpack any time soon!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Plodd Redux: It's All On The Cards

Just wanted to give you all a look at how the test game can be played right on the cards.

This is the same encounter as last time. Rifleorc Plodd, cut off from his unit, must forge ahead into unknown territory in order to lose the pursuing enemy light infantry.

Instead of laying out the terrain as it was generated this time figures were deployed and moved on the cards.

Sorry for the photo quality but I shot these using my phone rather than my camera in the interest of "fast play". Indeed this game, along with the time to layout the board and take the photos, lasted less than 15 minutes. I played the same encounter two more times afterward.

Here we see we see the situation at the end of the first turn. Plodd has taken shelter in  building that gave him a view of the terrain ahead. Unfortunately that terrain included a river with only on way across it, a bridge. Three Possible Elven Forces (PEF!) are fannying about in the distance. One on the left on terrain yet unseen and the other two on the right behind a hill.

Plodd continues his advance as the pursuing light infantry appear on his baseline.
As Plodd move into some clear terrain, the left hand PEF moved into a church and opened fire.
It turned out to be a single line infantry figure and Plodd was fortunate enough to shoot him dead with return fire.

Now Plodd has made a dash across the bridge and into the clear terrain beyond it. Opportunities for fast moving are somewhat rare in this game as it requires two stretches of open terrain, or a bridge, adjacent to one another. Couple that with the rather exposed situation in which it places the fast mover and you have a recipe for caution.

One of the PEF's behind the hill turned out to be a false alarm. The other, however, was indeed an enemy who promptly shot poor Plodd. Again, without the use of Hero Dice, Plodd would have been done for. As it happened though he managed to survive, losing one Hero Dice in the process.

Just when it seemed that Plodd was in the clear, another PEF appeared to his left, and promptly resolved into two line infantry. More shots were exchanged.

 Plodd was hit twice more, and again was saved by Hero Dice, losing one more this time. His return fire missed but did send one elf packing. At this point, there was nothing to prevent Plodd from exiting and he did so. Job done.

As mentioned above this was followed by two more games. In the second game Plodd managed to escape again, even though his rifle misfired on its first shot. Once again he was hit once or twice and save by his Hero Dice.

In the third game, Plodd was overwhelmed by something like 10 enemy soldiers, converging from multiple directions. He died game defending a cantina in a scene reminiscent of the end of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid".

Clearly this encounter is weighted in Plodd's favor. In that respect it would make a fine introductory scenario. Two Hour Wargames stalwarts may recall that we used that approach in the first edition of "Nuts!" although, I wouldn't claim those scenarios favored one side over the other.

The weighting also makes a fine campaign "hook". Start the solo player off as Plodd and have him or her sped the next few adventures wandering around Portugal or Spain trying to find The Peer's army.

Alternatly I could tone it down and make it more of a near run thing. Starting Plodd at Rep 4 or 3 rather than 5 would both decrease his survivability by reducing his Hero Dice and leave more room for advancing in Rep as well as Rank.

Regardless my object in presenting this report is to show that players with limited space, time, or both can still enjoy a game by using cards rather than tabletop terrain. The look of the thing certainly takes a hit, but so long as the play is the thing, good results can be had! Mind you that doesn't just apply to my game. Just about any game can be so adapted with a little imagination.

Hope you enjoyed and thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Rifleorc Plodd or Death to the Elves!

Rifleorc Plodd

Got in some more work on "Baker Rifle", that is not what it is going to be called mind you but it sounds a lot better than "The Napoleonic Skirmish Game to be Named Later".

It has always been my intention to cover not only the battles and intrigue of figures like Sharpe and Hervey, leaders of men, but also to allow for the exploits of individual soldiers behind enemy lines such as Rifleman Dodd.

At first this looked dead easy as a good deal of this sort of thing could be looted from "Savvy and Steel". However looks can, as always, be deceiving...

Every story needs a beginning and so does that of stalwart Rifleorc Plodd. The Chosen Orc has been cut off behind enemy lines during one of Wheeling-Turn's many retreats in the face of overwhelming elven forces.

What Plodd must do is cross the board, dealing with any enemy forces generated by the game system, while at the same time being pursued by a potentially large force of elves coming up behind him.

Plodd has three turns of movement before his pursuers appear.

The Field

 The Field is lain out using playing cards arranged in a 5 x 5 offset grid. Each card represents about 8" of space. This nominally brings this game above the Two Hour Wargame standard of being able to be played on a 36" x 36" surface. However its an easy matter to cut the outer rows of cards down by a few inches in order to make them fit.

One could even play the game on the cards alone, which for someone just starting out in the hobby allows for gaming without having to purchase or make a good deal of scenery ahead of time. Even for veteran gamers, playing on the cards allows for a very quick game indeed.

I first came across the idea of using cards to make the playing field in one of the many fine Flintloque articles published on "Orcs in the Webbe". That game featured some mayhem at a sanitarium and the cards were used to lay out the facility.  Cards were also the method I used to lay out the subterranean Nazi lab in Rebel Miniatures 

This time the cards will be used to lay out some cluttered terrain in sunny Catalucia/Spain.

Initial cards flipped and lines of sight established
 Our hero starts on his base line. The first thing to be done is to turn over the cards and see what kind of terrain he is approaching and what terrain he can see in the distance.

Terrain placed and PEF's generated

Plodd is emerging from the cover of some walled fields and approaching some buildings. One fo them is a stable which would be a great piece of luck if only Plodd could ride. He can't though and so he must march on.

At this point Possible Enemy Forces (PEF's) were generated to potentially populate the countryside. None of them are in Plodd's sight from the start with one in the cantina, far left, one in the center screened by the wood, and one in the far left hand corner, screened by the buildings to his front.

More terrain as revealed from the center building.
 Wanting to keep to cover as much as possible, Plodd moved to the building, dead center. From here he spied a wooded rise and walled field off to his left. There was also another building revealed beyond the wood to the right. The central PEF, located in the wood on the right of the rise is sighted and revealed to have been a false alarm.

On the elven go, the left most PEF advances onto the ridge and is revealed to also have been a false alarm.

Plodd presses on toward freedom
 Plodd continued forward into the central wood. Craftily he hoped to keep the building between himself and the PEF in the cantina.

Softly, softly, catchee monkey

The pursuit arrives
 Thus far things had been going really well for Plodd. Now, however, the elven pursuit arrived in the form of three PEF's entering from Plodd's base line. Fortunately they could not get eyes on him for the moment.

To the green, err, vineyards beyond
 Emerging on the far side of the central wood, Plodd could see a vineyard, and beyond that, freedom.

What disturbed those birds?
 Just as Plodd was readying himself for a dash to freedom, he spied movement in the vineyard ahead.

An elf!

A Catalucian stand off

Plodd quicly raised his rifle to fire and...CLICK. A misfire! Curses!

The elf raised his musket to fire and...CLICK. A misfire! Oh the joy!

Summoning all his courage, Plodd charged towards the elf...only to be fired on by two elves by the cantina.

Two shots ring out as one
Both shots found their mark and would have lain poor old Plodd low had he not been a Hero!

Normally I don't go in for the Star benefits in my games but this one is very much a work of fiction and so it is only appropriate that our heroes be larger than life, or more specifically in this case, avail themselves of hero dice. 

Plodd lost two dice in the process but was able to convert his hits into mere flesh wounds. 

Crossed bayonets!
 With a final rush, Plodd confronted his elf. 

Take that!

The sheer ferocity of his attack forced the elf back.

Before his foe could recover, Plodd slipped away to freedom...

So there you have it. 

Plodd dodged three elves and although he remains a fully fit Rep 5, he is down to 3 hero dice. 

Plodd needs to continue his journey, trying to remain at large and possibly joining up with a band of guerrillas, if he can only contact one.

First use of the terrain cards went very well but it is early days yet.  

Till next time.

Thanks for stopping by!