Saga Age of Hannibal has 3 Greek factions, the Epirotes, Syracuse and Italian Greeks. Although Pyrrhus came to Sicily to aid Syracuse they later fell out so here we have a battle between Epirus and Syracuse. They both use the same battle board but Pyrrhus has access to elephants and must field his phalanx as Sarissa. These move ‘short’ except when they charge. Syracuse can field old style hoplites who can move without restriction but do not have the short range shooting (or poking) ability of the Sarissa. The Syracuse leader has the ability to cast Resilience on a nearby unit once a turn. Unfortunately it cannot be combined with LEGACY OF THE ANCESTORS to upgrade a unit to Resilience(2). As the ability requires use of a rest activation and the Graeculi have no relevant reaction ability the Resilence cast will only be used in a friendly turn and only if the target does not rest. Overall this ‘bonus’ is not going to see a lot of use.
Pyrrhus fields 2 units of 4 mounted Hearthguard, 2 units of phalangites, an elephant and 1 unit of javelin Levy. Syracuse has 1 unit of 8 Hearthguard, 3 of Warrior hoplite, 1 mounted Warrior and 1 Levy bow. The faction can field up to 8 Hearthguard models but only as a single unit. Victory is based on massacre points but the total is capped based on the number of enemy objectives destroyed. The Epirotes use sheep and Syracuse uses cattle and pigs as objectives. Both sides minimise terrain as the cavalry and phalanx units are all penalised outside of good going.
Both sides deploy ‘long’ in so there is not much room for manoevre moves early in the game. On turn 1 the Epirotes shuffle up what little they can. Syracuse shoot their bows and with some lucky rolls remove 3 of the unit of 4 mounted Hearthguard figures.
On the following turn things go poorly on the other flank. The elephant shoots at the Syracuse cavalry and the Hearthguard charge in but the melee is a draw and they bounce off.
The Syracuse horse Warriors wipe out the last Epirote Hearthguard putting a pin on the elephant. The nearby hoplite Warriors charge in, bounce off but add 2 more pins (1 combat and 1 melee).
The elephant rests and tries to finish off the Syracuse mounted Warriors; it does not go well. On the other flank Sarissa Warriors push back the Syracuse Hearthguard and kill their Warlord; a tricky use of THE HAMMER AND THE ANVIL. Looking back Syracuse should have taken a bodyguard loss onto their Hearthguard from the Warlord. A Syracuse special rule is that now every Syracuse unit takes a fatigue.
The following Syracuse turn is spent with their few remaining dice stripping fatigue.
The Syracuse Hearthguard are finshed off and both sets of Levy come to blows in the ruins.
The Syracuse forces fail to destroy an Epirote objective.
The Epirotes have more luck on the other side of the table. Parts of the ruined terrain have magically moved to one side making room for the continuing Levy brawl.
Syracuse forces take out an Epirote objective and shuffle their Warriors to protect their own threatened objective. Objectives are impassable so it is tricky to move from one side to the other.
The Epirote general makes an end run for a distant Syracuse objective and whiffs the combat. Although another Syracuse objective was much closer it was blocked by Syracuse Warriors. Saga units move in straight lines. The best the general could have done was a dog leg of 2 Medium moves; not good enough to get into position on the nearby objective.
In the last turn of the game Syracuse Warriors make a similar run for an objective on the other side of the table and manage to destroy it.
The final scores on the doors see 1 Syracuse objective destroyed to 2 Epirote. Massacre points are capped at 16 for Epirus and 24 for Syracuse. Counting up points the Epirote total of 26 is reduced to 16 but Syracuse only scores 15. The elephant has presence but that does not affect massacre points so losing it only costs 1/2 for the Warrior and 1 for the unit. STOP PRESS – the elephant counts as 12 levy, working out to 4 massacre points and 1 for the unit pushing Syracuse into the win following this late judges’ ruling.
Looking back the Syracuse force do rather better out of the Graeculi battle board than Epirus. The board has no ability to specifically buff elephants. HETAIROI benefits mounted troops best (of which elephants are not) but both forces can field cavalry. The Epirote mounted Hearthguard being more useful than the Syracuse mounted Warriors. Syracuse are the only Greek faction that can load up on phalanx benefits although none of these abilities are major game changers. Syracuse might have been better off only fielding 4 Hearthguard and buying another 8 Warriors with the points saved to get a little more benefit from the phalanx rules but more importantly another Saga die. The Epirote Sarissa is a disappointment; it should be better than a hoplite spear because of its historical success. The medieval Scottish spear was not as long as the Greek Sarissa but the Scots Saga list has some useful advanced abilities loosely based on the long spear. The Epirote Sarissa has none of that; in the long term improvements might come when the Age of Alexander book is released.
The final day of the Saipan campaign begins with a Japanese night attack on the last table won by the Marines. So this means setting up a table that has been already used. Luckily there are the images from this blog to help although some of the terrain may have shifted by an insignificant amount. Jump off points are shown with patrol markers. The big building is also a Marine jump off point.
The Japanese have a full platoon together with 3 tanks. The scenario rules are based on 4 tanks but that and the Marine support has been reduced to reflect the models available. The Marines have a full platoon, an anti-tank gun plus, embedded within 1 section, a flamethrower and bazooka.
Turn 1 ends on the first phase again making the Japanese pre-game bombardment worthless. Nevertheless the Japanese advance steadily, keeping their tanks together with the infantry. The night rules restrict visibility but it is relatively easy to see a unit that has fired in the previous phase. The Marines can call in star shells to light up the table but they are not accurate and reduce visibility away from where they land.
The tanks bombard the Marines in the building. One Japanese section has had good movement rolls and overrun one of the Marine jump off points.
The Marines deploy their gun and the gun versus tank duel is off again but the Japanese have 2 tanks in on the action. The Marines charge in and wipe out the Japanese section at the bottom of the table. They then take cover in the wooden building. A Japanese tank moves up and gradually shells the Marines off the table. The Marines drop a bazooka squad in ambush by the Ha-Go. They hit but amazingly fail to penetrate the little tank’s paper thin armour.
Eventually the Marine gun is lost and only the senior leader is left of the Marine section at the bottom of the table. The game is called with the Marine morale at 1 and no hope of breaking the Japanese.
The campaign rules state that the Marines always have the initiative but the night fighting section explains that the Japanese are buying space not time. This will be taken to mean that the next battle will be fought on this board again with the Marine force bonus as if they had fought and lost here on the last day battle. It also saves having to set up the next board yet again.
The beach assault and night attack do not count as games for campaign victory. 7 valid games have been played. To win the campaign the Marines must win on the final map by game 9. They could still do it but it will be tight.
Daylight on day 3 and we have an attack and defense battle on the same map. The Marines have 2 more points of support since they last fought this battle. They take a pre-game bombardment, off table mortars and a HMG. The Japanese have 2 anti-tank guns in support. Both sides have enough men left from disbanded platoons to run at full strength again. The Marines deploy a senior leader, HMG team and the mortar observer in the top story of the big house. A Marine platoon advances towards the hedge line. Turn 1 ends and with it the pre-game barrage effects. The Japanese first deploy a gun; leaving the mortars with a lack of targets. The mortars aim for the gun and spectacularly miss; landing on the top jump off point. The mortar shelling will make use of that jump off point very risky so the barrage is left in place. The Japanese gun is eventually neutralised by Marine HMG and rifle fire. The Marines move up one of their jump off points and drop a platoon close to the edge of their bombardment. The Japanese deploy another platoon and exchange shots with the Marines at the hedge line.
The Marines call off their barrage and run a platoon to the now exposed Japanese jump off point. The Japanese have to shift their line to make the best firing line against them. The mortar section is deployed to add to their firepower. The Marines by the Japanese jump off point shift to tactical movement and creep up to it. A key moment as the Marines might be able to destroy the jump off point or the Japanese might be able to move it back out of the way. This all depends on how many 5s each side roll in activations allowing the purchase of a Chain of Command point. Unfortunately requests for another mortar barrage have been refused so the Marines cannot bomb the Japanese off the board.
The Marines earn a Chain of Command point first and remove the Japanese jump off point. Japanese morale drops by 1 and they are down to 3 dice. This could be a good point to withdraw but with the campaign drawing to a close and the Japanese still relatively strong they carry on and deploy more troops in the hopes of maximising Marine losses.
The Marine section that captured the Japanese jump off point soon breaks. The Marines deploy their final section. A firefight ensures with but the Marines gain the better of it and the Japanese have 2 broken sections and elect to withdraw.
The campaign rests on the final battle. Both sides have enough replacements to field full platoons. The Japanese support is a field gun and entrenchments for 2 sections. The Marines will rely on a mortar battery, bazooka and flamethrower plus a red command die.
The Marines advance a section to behind the clump of trees where there is some break in the line of sight to the Japanese jump off points and some hope of staying away from being shot for longer. A team of 2 Marine rifles can just be seen behind the middle small building. They had moved forward with the hope of moving up a Marine jump off point behind them. Unfortunately the dice did not turn up in time to do that. A Marine section, senior leader and the mortar observes sit in the big building to the rear throughout the game providing long range fire support. The Japanese have deployed a gun to shell the Marines in the house and their mortar platoon to prevent the rightmost jump off point from being overrun. The Marines call in their mortars on the Japanese little mortars. Unfortunately they inflict few hits. The barrage is soon called off by a turn end and no further barrage calls are available.
The Marines do get a 2nd section, senior leader, bazooka and flamethrower team up to support their assault. The Japanese deploy an infantry section in front of their mortars and a 2nd in the bunker.
The Marine assault seems to be slowing so, chancing their luck the Japanese deploy their 3rd section behind the bunker and move to outflank the Marines. Note that the Japanese forgot to deploy their entrenchments, this proved to be unwise. The general firefight broke the Marine section that deployed first but the senior leader managed to rally them.
The Marines wipe out the closest Japanese infantry section. The mortars start to take losses and break. The Japanese are now down to 3 command dice. The Marines sections are all weak but morale is still good.
Another Japanese section breaks. The Marine fire from the house (to the left of this image) helped here. The turn ended abruptly and with 2 sections broken but not rallied the Japanese morale drops to 0 and the Marines pull off a win. Note the heavy Marine losses, the 2 prone figures to the right of the board are all that remains of a section. Another Marine section is dangerously weak in the woods. If it were not the final game of the campaign the Marines might have pulled out long ago. The Japanese in their bunker are unharmed but only contributed 8 shooting dice at any time due to the restricted vision of the bunker. The Marine section in the house is also relatively unscathed but they were continually put out supporting fire. If the Japanese had sat still in their 2 unused bunkers they might have pulled off the defense.
To finish up here are some general comments on the campaign. All the games were played down rather than across the table. The patrol phase and jump off point mechanism led to a good 2′ of table space only being used for the attacker’s deployment. The core of the battles took place on the remaining 4′ square of table. If possible it made more game sense to keep units off board until jump off points had been moved forward or backward during the game then deploy units. This does depend on having 1 or 2 Chain of Command points in hand and that is a consequence of rolling lots of 5s. At least 1 unit does need to be on the table to prevent the opposition overrunning jump off points. It also prevents a flurry of early game dice rolling to rack up those Chain of Command points. A point can be used to end a turn which will stop a barrage either on table or a pre-game barrage. If the attacker has bought either he will need to get boots on the ground before the opposition ends the turn wasting the points spent on the barrage. The off table mortar barrage was a chancy buy, as seen by its effects either being devastating or far from effective. It is guaranteed to come in once but after that the odds are against repeated use.
The campaign as a whole did work and one can’t argue with it being free. It does require a table being left alone for some time or taken down and reset for each game. The night actions require resetting a table out of sequence. There is some advantage in running the night battle in advance of schedule while the last victorious Marine table is still set up. There would of course be some drop in surprise as both sides would know the future. The replacements available, 1 Japanese and 2 Marine platoons are more than adequate. The only casualty worries were in losing just enough plastic men to allow a platoon to be disbanded and to make it available for reinforcement use. This is akin to throwing Gandalf the Grey under a bus because you know that the improved Gandalf the White will then come along. The rules for commander’s opinion from ‘At the Sharp End’ were not used and might have helped to reduce the butcher’s bill throughout.
Game 4 and the 2nd turn of day 2 on Saipan. The first battle turn had seen a voluntary Japanese retreat and automatic Marine victory. The next battle is a probe. By the rules book this should be fought across the table but for this game play goes along the table length. The Marines need to get a unit off table; breaking through the hedge line behind the railway tracks. An added blow is that the pre-game barrage is not allowed in a probe battle. The image below shows the patrol markers and jump off points in place. The Japanese are planning to hold the hedge line. The Marine support is an off-table mortar unit and 2 teams of MMGs. The Japanese buy 2 anti-tank guns, neither entirely useless against infantry in a case such as this where they do not encounter any tanks.
The mortar choice proves a game changer due to pure luck and a mis-read of the rules.. A single barrage is guaranteed to come in but will end with the turn end. To call an additional barrage requires a 5 or 6 on a D6, on a 3 or 4 another attempt to call a barrage can be made on the next spotter activation. On a 1 or 2 no further barrage will come in. The Marines were able to call in 3 barrages in this game. The relatively narrow Japanese defensive area made it almost impossible to miss a target unit even if the barrage deviated. There are few counters to the barrage effects. Not deploying would allow the Marines to march off the board. Entrenchments might have been some help as they would be some protection against HE. When the barrages came the Japanese damage was severe. This was because each team under the barrage rolled for hits with a reduction of cover for HE. A better reading of the rules revealed that although under a barrage each time still has to roll to be targeted and again for the effect of the hits. Getting this right would have halved the number of effective hits. Also although HE does reduce cover a unit under a barrage is pinned and this increases cover by one level so the HE cover effect would be cancelled out.
The Marines moved in with a single section and the Japanese manned the hedge opposite with one of theirs. The Marines deployed the mortar observer and a senior leader so the observer could activate on a 1 (observer team) or 4 (senior leader). A barrage comes in pinning the Japanese infantry and racking up their losses. To counter the Japanese deploy an anti-tank gun and shoot at the observer. He takes a shock but the nearby leader is killed. The Marines deploy another section, their 2nd senior leader and a MMG team. The gun scores no more kills and there is nothing much the Japanese can do until the barrage lifts. The Marine section stay outside the barrage area.
Eventually the barrage lifts. The Japanese deploy a mortar section but have to shuffle them outside of minimum mortar range.
The Japanese deploy a section in the centre of their line. A new barrage catches part of a section and the nearby gun. Marines move up to the railway embankment and blaze away. Other sections move up and give supporting fire.
Close combat is somewhat random in Chain of Command. There is too much risk in charging in if you can get away without it. The Japanese deploy another gun to support their defense. The original Japanese squad holding the line has broken but another has deployed to fill the gap. The 2nd barrage ends but a 3rd catches the centre section and eventually wipes it out. A fresh Marine section moves up on the empty Japanese left wing.
The Marines lift the barrage so they can charge through and get off board. The Japanese manage to move their jump off point so it is not overrun and gather their remaining forces around it. The Marines will not be able to move far enough to get off board on their next phase and the Japanese voluntarily withdraw. They were close to a rout and a a game loss through Marines exiting the board. All that remains of a full Japanese platoon can be seen below.
The Marine platoon has taken only limited losses but the Japanese are running out of men. The Japanese fill out their 1st platoon with survivors from the 2nd and field it at full strength. None of the Marine platoons are weak enough to disband so the 3rd platoon goes in again. The Marines take a Sherman and pre-game barrage as support, the Japanese an anti-tank gun and 4 sets of entrenchments. The patrol markers and jump off points are shown below. The Japanese markers are deliberately further back to prevent them being overrun. The objective is to break the opposition’s morale while keeping your own above 3.
The first dice roll includes 4 sixes so the turn ends and the Marine pre-game barrage is never used. Some good news is that the random event bring on rain so the Marines are out of sight of the Japanese on the back row. Unfortunately the turn has ended swiftly again and with it the rain. The Japanese have deployed 2 more sections well back and inflict losses on the leftmost flanking unit forcing to fall back into cover. The entrenchments are a cover bonus to the Japanese but do make the defense less mobile.
The Japanese mortar section comes on too far forward and is taking hits before it can sort itself out. The Marines make better use of cover which slows their advance but keeps them in the game. The Sherman shows up and tries to keep out of trouble.
The Japanese deploy their anti-tank gun opposite the Sherman and the familiar gun-tank duel is off again. The tank takes some shock which it shakes off and the gun loses some crew. The initial Marine sections have been taking steady losses. A 3rd section deploys and moves up to the side of the Sherman.
The Sherman loses its main gun and has a wounded leader but carries on. It is the accompanying infantry which eventually assaults the Japanese gun, breaking the crew. The Marines end the turn and the Japanese morale drops to 2 due to the routed gun team and accompanying senior leader. The Japanese had sent a section to advance and overrun the exposed Marine jump off points. With a minimal chance of holding out that long the Japanese pull back and voluntarily withdraw.
The games so far have featured lengthy gun and tank duels. Where possible it is best for the tank to avoid or overrun the gun. In the last game the gun hit the tank with almost every shot but did not knock it out. The gun rolled 6 dice for effect and the tank 6 for armour. In each case a 5,6 was a success and the surplus of hits against saves affects the possible damage. For a good chance of a knock out a surplus of 3 is required and the odds are against that.
This is the final scenario with the play at game 4 of day 2. The Marines are only 1 game behind schedule but this looks a tough nut to crack. All ground to the right of the row of scrub is a steep hill and impassable to vehicles. Most of the board, excepting the courtyard around the buildings offers some sort of cover. This will put an end to the strategy of running over the Japanese with a tank. Instead the Marines rely on an off-table mortar battery and pre-game bombardment to do the job.
The Japanese deploy a squad with entrenchments in the centre jump off point. The Marines bring on the mortar battery. Despite getting the rules right this time and rolling to hit and to damage the Japanese still take massive damage. Meanwhile the Marines move up on the rightmost objective but the Japanese deploy an infantry and a mortar section. The Marines go to ground with 2 sections but still take heavy losses. The 3rd Marine section is in the building. This is also pouring fire into the section on the centre jump off point, together with the effect of the mortar barrage the Japanese holding the centre are wiped out.
The Marines need to lift the barrage to hopefully move onto the jump off point and capture it. The Japanese deploy their final infantry section in the now empty entrenchments. The Marines cannot shift their forces forward to make any progress and with steadily mounting losses and dropping morale withdraw. The Japanese had bought a field gun, this could have gone into the bunker but was never deployed.
The Marines have failed to pull off an early win. Day 3 will begin with a night attack by the Japanese.
The four first 4 turns of a WW2 Pacific campaign running with the free Saipan rules covering day 1 of the campaign and the beginnings of day 2 in 3 battles. To properly play the campaign it also needs ‘Chain of Command’ for the battle rules and ‘At the Sharp End’ for campaign tracking. The beach landing and night attack scenarios are run with full units and no campaign options so could run with the main rules alone. The Saipan force lists could also be run with other rules such as Bolt Action.
The 1st game is a beach landing. Marine losses are not carried over to subsequent games. Multiple failures would however use up campaign time and lead to a Marine campaign loss. There is a video playthrough on YouTube which goes some way to explain how the scenario plays. This and the other Saipan campaign games on YouTube are a useful reference on the table terrain but may be using older versions of the scenarios so the support points in play may vary here. Having run it through the beach landing several times making fewer rule mistakes each time it seems that success is heavily based on the supports chosen by either side. The Marines do well to take Amtraks; their entire base force will load onto a single LVT-4 and LVT(A)-2. These will roll over any wire obstacles and are relatively impervious to the Japanese defending fire. The field guns available to the Japanese are relatively low powered. The only other options against the Amtraks being to drop mortar shells into the open topped transports and fire LMGs in the hope of doing some damage; both are low probability options. Even when hits are scored the effect on vehicle and crew is limited. Put shock on the Amtraks faster than the Marines can strip it will cause the vehicle crew to bail. There are no rules to assault armoured vehicles but if an Amtrak has been immobilised it is reasonable to treat it as a building assault and bodge some sort of mechanism. The high transport capacity of Amtraks makes even this option unattractive. When choosing their defending supports the Japanese need some sort of big gun. Otherwise they are relying on light machine guns to drive off armour or the unlikely chance of dropping a mortar round inside an open topped Amtrak. For stopping infantry wire is a good option. It won’t stop the Amtraks but if the Marines begin or end up on foot wire will force them to go round.
The maps are laid out in the scenario book and have been reproduced as well as possible on the gaming table. This is the beach assault. The undergrowth by the beach is a steep bank which tracked vehicles can just about get up. There is a deliberate gap onto the open ground beyond. Be warned that 2 of the 3 Amtraks have been proxied. The single real Amtrak in use is from Anyscale. With limited game use buying enough to move an entire Marine army is an expense that is hard to justify. The Marines run with their standard platoon and one each of LVT-4, LVT(A)-2 and LVT(A)-1; the latter for some fire support. They also buy a pre-game barrage and ‘red’ Chain of Command die (5s and 6s are ignored). To win the Marines must get 2 units off the table. This encourages pushing all possible activation dice onto a single Amtrak to get it off table before the Japanese sort themselves out at the possible and unlikely expense of leaving others back on the subs bench.
The Marines lose the LVT-4 to an unlikely hit from a mortar shell. One of the two sections inside takes significantly more damage than the other. Chain of Command movement is based on D6 rolls and with some above average numbers one of the squads from the LVT-4 has caught up with the LVT(A)-2. That vehicle was halted by a tank barrier which the transported section hops over and gets as far as the wire line. The Sherman is acting as a LVT(A)-1. It has advanced towards the Japanese gun in the tree line, both trading shots with limited effect. The pillbox is not occupied.
The Marines end up occupying the 2 houses while a 3rd section breaks through and runs off board. The remaining Japanese close the line behind it. Marine victory is achieved by getting 2 units off-board but is a section 1 unit or 3 (for the 3 Marine squads in the section)? To make sure the LVT(A)-1 speeds past the Japanese gun and drives off board. As the vehicle gets close to the gun it is better off driving fast than stopping and shooting because it can move more easily than the gun can be turned to face.
The Japanese should have kept their losses for the next game. Although these can be worked out from the photos the mistake was not realised until after the following scenario was played. So the Japanese get a (free) fresh platoon in scenario 2. Knowing that losses will not be replaced would influence the Japanese to only make a limited defense in the beach assault. The Marines will get a fresh platoon in scenario 2 so the only benefit in putting up a vigorous defense is to gain a ‘campaign day’ and slow the Marines down. This could be a winning strategy but only if casualties are minimal and that is unlikely. If the Japanese are just going to run away then game 1 in the campaign could be skipped.
Here is the set up for game 2, an assault on a makeshift airstrip. The patrol markers have been left in place to show how the jump off points worked out. To win the Marines must take and hold the rearmost Japanese jump off point.
The Marine supports are a Stuart tank, preliminary barrage and MMG team. The simple plan is to belt the Stuart forward and capture the jump off point before the Japanese can deploy. It almost works. A preliminary barrage means that a Japanese unit must roll 4+ on D6 before it can deploy. It ends with the beginning of the 2nd turn. This is the situation at that point. There are Marines all over the shop and only a single Japanese gun has deployed. On its first shot it knocked out the main gun of the Stuart but the little tank kept on coming.
The Japanese manage to sort themselves out and put up some sort of resistance. This includes a tiny tankette which can’t hit much but with the Stuart gun out of action can’t be easily damaged either. The Japanese have used a Chain of Command point to pull their jump off point out of the wooden house which the Marines now occupy.
The Marine section in the wooden house trade shots with the Japanese in the trees while another section moves up on the jump off point. That section is in the open and takes significant losses. The Japanese crew abandon their gun after immobilising the Stuart.
The Japanese move their tankette to overrun the Marines in the open. As the Marines are heavily ‘shocked’ they can’t all get away. They take losses and break. The Japanese use a Chain of Command point to end the turn and the Marine squad routs off table. The game is called with a Japanese withdrawal at that point. It should continue through the remaining Japanese and following Marine turn but neither would have a significant impact on casualties and given time the Marines would take the objective and win. The casualty list was about the same for both sides, the best part of an entire section. Below is the Japanese view before they bug out.
On to game 3 and the first face to face game with a human opponent for 16 months. The Marines have to take and hold the 3-storey stone building. For support they bring a Stuart, bazooka team and the ‘always popular’ pre-game bombardment. The Japanese spend all their support on a ShinHo To Chi-Ha; it proved to be worth every penny. The Marines field a new full platoon. One of the Japanese sections is down to a single LMG team, the rest of the force is up to strength.
The tanks and bazooka trade shots but eventually the Marine tank, bazooka and the senior leader directing it are all taken out; Marine morale drops to 5. At a morale of 4 a force starts to lose activation dice.
The Marines push on closing in on the objective building but take fire from the Japanese mortar and HE from the tank. The mortar team proved its worth. They don’t put out a lot of shooting dice but firing indirect allows them to cover most of the table and to set up behind another section giving a bonus defense in depth. A carefully placed senior leader can activate the infantry and mortar sections on a command die roll of 4.
The Marines move up a jump off point and get a 2nd section close to the objective. The first squad almost broke but moved out of sight behind a building. A senior leader and section junior leader put the kettle on and passed around Mars bars and gradually peeling off the shock.
The Japanese defend the objective building with the lone LMG section and a full section. Both take heavy losses but Marine progress is slow. They can’t lay down fire and move quickly at the same time. The Japanese move their tank closer for a possible overrun and shift troops from the far side of the table towards the objective. To win the Marines would need to run quickly enough to get into the building and hold it until Japanese morale breaks. With the precarious Marine morale and prospect of HE coming in from the tank and mortars and little chance of neutralising either the Marines decide to pull out before they are forced to rout.
A Japanese victory buys them a campaign turn. It is day 2 and they are now eligible for a new platoon of replacements. The Marines also have a full fresh platoon as well as the 2 blooded platoons. Both sides could go in again with the same forces to conserve their replacements for future battles. The Marines get an extra 2 points of supports to help them out. The Japanese could field what is left of this platoon or bring in a fresh platoon. Although this is a good board for the defense the Japanese pull back and the following game is fought on the next campaign board. Assume that the Marines have pulled back, regrouped and gone in cautiously on day 2 to find the Japanese gone. The campaign allows the Japanese to fight a night attack on the last board won by the Marines. As this would need a reset of board 2 they will wait and launch the attack on the night of day 2.
Shakos and Bayonets is the Napoleonic supplement for Muskets and Tomahawks. The base rules are still required to play as are a set of cards, official, proxied or made from the pdf file on Studio Tomahawks’ website. The Rebels and Redcoats supplement already covers the 1812 war in North America so it would be possible to run Napoleonic battles without the new book. The new card load out is different with the addition of 2 types of cavalry and changes in the infantry names and card quantities.
Shakos and Bayonets has lists for the French, British, Austrians, Spanish, Prussians and Russians. There is a also a generic minor nations list. The Portuguese are part of the British list. There are no stats for Ottomans. There are no specific rules for allies, for example stiffening the Spanish with some British but something could be worked out by customising the card deck.
The rules gave an opportunity to trot out Flintloque figures that have been boxed up since about 1998. Enough figures were found for about 300 points of Spanish and 500 of French and British. A solid coat of varnish has left them in good condition if overly shiny. They have now all had a shot of matt varnish. The Orks had been given green flesh. This seemed reasonable for Orks at a time when there was no cheap Internet and few colour images for inspiration. The flesh has now been over-painted pink to make the models look a little more ‘human’ at a distance. A full strip and repaint would have brought out more detail but that would be almost as much work as painting new models. The Flintloque figures are vaguely 35mm but as they represent Orcs, Elves and other fantasy races the proportions are all over the place. The castings are still available from Alternative Armies and there is usually a selection on eBay (many at higher prices than buying new from Alternative). It is pretty much a buyer’s market. The reason that your author still has Flintloque figures is due to a consistent failure in selling them off. A unit of dwarves did manage to make their way to a gamer who specialised in collecting the little folk. The quality of the models is spotty. The best have a certain charm reflecting the modelling style of the Wallace and Gromit films. Some of the worst have been re-modeled or dropped from Alternative’s line. Older versions of the Flintloque rules can be found amongst the Alternative Armies free downloads, look for the ‘free files stacks‘. The Elves and Orcs just about pass for historical but some of the Flintloque races such as the Goblins, Dogs and Toads are way off the scale. The Russians are undead and werewolves; so to start off we will stick to Spain.
This image is of a Reiver 28mm wagon. It looks acceptable by the French elves although the original heavy horses have shrunk to being ponies.
Here is the convoy scenario from Shakos and Bayonets. The wagon contains gunpowder and might blow up. The French are escorting the wagon but some of their troops have become separated from the road convoy. The wagon and its escort move on a clock card and the game runs until the 6th red clock card. As the deck is shuffled after the 3rd clock card drawn it is possible although extremely unlikely that after the 1st 6 cards every single card drawn could be a clock. Although unlikely the length of the game and how quickly the wagon moves are quite random. The size of the deck will affect this and it is governed by the variety of troop types fielded by each side. The wagon defender should prefer a small deck, hoping to rush the wagon through the board. In this scenario it would be best affected by running light cavalry only. Fast enough to get ahead of the wagon and keeping the deck size small will make the wagon move more often. This is a very reasonable convoy escort detail but not the best for a balanced game.
Trying it all out at 300 points; so on the small side for Muskets and Tomahawks. A unit of Spanish line (12) 2 of guerillas (6) and 1 of lancers (6) with 2 leaders. The Spanish could have fielded militia but the line unit stats were ropey enough. The lancers are recruits so rubbish but cheap. The French had 1 leader, 2 units of line (8)(centre company troops of a light regiment) , 1 guarding the wagon and 2 of voltigeurs (5).
This layout was fought over twice and seemed to fit the bill. An isolated finca surrounded by orchards and vegetable fields. As a game it worked less well as the fields hampered movement except for the lights and guerillas who had the scouts trait. This meant that most forces moved up and down the road. The hedge system also made it difficult for the wagon to move off road, either to avoid a Spanish block or for the Spaniards to capture it and drive the wagon away and off the road.
Trying for a more open set up here with lanes allowing the wagon to more easily get off road and reach the opposite board edge. The attacker has entry points on 2 board edges. Here the wagon finds the main road blocked and turns onto the side track (not benefiting from the road movement bonus) towards the edge furthest from the Spanish entry points.
The only unit that can catch the wagon are the lancers who bravely self destruct on it as it turns and heads for the exit board edge. A re-run of the game saw a similar result with few casualties and the wagon making its way off board, well ahead of its own escorts.
The problem is the relative speed of the wagon. It moves when a clock card is drawn; 8″ on road and 6″ off. There will always be 3 clock cards in a turn so except for terrain effects it will move 24″ or 18″ unless the path to the board edge is blocked. An infantry unit would draw 4 cards in a turn at best. Probably less due to shuffling and maybe more from activating through command points. 4 moves of 6″ with the road bonus would give 24″. A more likely case would be without the road or even with a terrain penalty as units chase the wagon through rough terrain. In the gunpowder scenario shooting at the wagon has the risk of it blowing up so the game becomes one of position with the ambusher trying to get units into blocking positions. The chance of additionally winning a melee and escorting the wagon away is low.
Having got the table and troops out here is a go at the first skirmish scenario from the main Muskets & Tomahawks rule book. The only force change is to ditch the guerilla leader and 1 of his men in favour of 4 more regulars and deploying the 16 Spanish regulars as 2 units of 8. The guerillas are skirmish troops, tending to run back rather than rout when failing morale. This is easily reversed so they do not get a great benefit from their leader. The ‘forward boys’ card is unlikely to come up before every shuffle making the leader less use than 3 more boots on the ground. Also a unit of 12 is a poor size as it needs 1 more command point to shift than a unit of 11. 8 is a good sized unit for line although it loses the juicy close order bonus when reduced to 5.
The troops deploy around their entry points. It is not clear exactly what this entails but they have been placed close enough but not overlapping. The sheep and cows are objectives. To win a side must control 2 out of 3 on a deck shuffle.
The Spanish lancers gallop forwards; soon to fall back under French fire.
The Spanish keep up the volley fire. There is another firefight between the guerilla and voltigeur units.
The Spanish line manages to turn and hose down the 2nd unit of French line. Note that there is another unit of Spanish line behind the first trying to nudge their way round and avoiding the path of the volley fire. The Spanish guerillas now control 2 objectives and win the game.
The message here is that even rubbish infantry can do well with volley fire if they have the close order trait and have a touch of luck with the dice. The lancers were consistently rubbish although they do look good, the unicorns might not be historic. They would have done better had they remembered that they had pistols as well as lances. The Flintloque figures as a whole looked OK. After 20+ years an order has gone off to Alternative Armies and they will be treated to another 12 new Elf models to buff up the Spanish army. These could run as guerillas or militia or even pad out the regulars considering the Spanish supply system and these being fantasy Napoleonics.
‘For Whom The Dice Rolls’ are rules for Brigade or Divisional games in the Spanish Civil War. Each base is half a company. The unit of manoeuvre is a battalion; that might be 8 bases although part of a unit can be split off from the main body at some cost of retaining control. The rules examples use 15mm figures in bases of 3 with an additional command base for infantry units. The command base is purely used to govern how spread out a unit is and could be ignored.
Your author has 15mm WW2 French, Russian and Finnish models based for Flames of War which could see service here for the Republic but lacks a suitable Nationalist force. To try out the system and see how many or few units are needed for a workable game Irregular 6mm strips will be used. A problem that any army built for Bolt Action, Chain of Command or other 1:1 systems will have is a lack of support weapons. Larger guns and all aircraft can be held off-board but at Brigade level assets such as HMGs, mortars and smaller guns would be needed in larger numbers. At full strength one or two models per battalion; depending on the basing used.
The 6mm models here do have just enough support assets having been built up for similar scaled rules in the 1990s. The SCW Irregular 6mms are not their best in this scale. They are cast as strips of 3 on thick bases which would take significant effort to remove and re-base. The SCW range is reasonably comprehensive and models from their WW1 and WW2 range can expand it. Unfortunately the WW2 infantry are cast 4 not 3 to a base making for some awkward re-basing to put them back into use. The models look OK from a distance, close up details are unclear. Guns are the best models but the limbers are blocky. Trucks are acceptable but the tanks less so. As an alternative Baccus do WW1 in 6mm, at this scale many of the models could be used for the SCW.
6mm works best with larger numbers of figures on base sizes approximating those used at 15mm or 28mm. It does have the advantage of getting a game in on a limited space. The relative size taken up by markers is greater than at larger scales. The dice and tokens here would easily fit on single 15mm or 28mm half-company bases. The best plan for painting 6mms is to use bright colours and accent select details such as tassles, berets and flesh areas. Any attempt to show real detail requires painting on what is not there and would not be seen from more than a short distance away. The models shown here are not a particularly good example of this painting. To be fair the camera close ups are much more detailed than would usually be seen in gaming.
The rules include tables of organisation and suggest brigade level games. There are no points values and no set game scenarios. This does make it hard to determine what might be a balanced, achievable game. The on-line resource pack includes a couple of scenarios. One seems relatively involved and the other requires Italians, which your author does not possess. To try out the system the double or breakthrough board from the Commands and Colors game Memoir ’44 will be used. The hexes will be treated as equivalent to 4″ across in the rules with models set to the edges or mid lines of hexes. That will give an equivalent to a gaming table of 4′ 6″ by 5′ 8″ plus the 6mm figures in 2cm strips will take up a little less space in proportion than the 3cm recommended bases.
The consequence of the card activation system deserves some debate. A unit can activate up to 3 times in a turn spending a card each time. A force will draw at least 1 card per unit, plus 2-6 based on the army quality and another 1D6 from a dice roll. Smaller forces will receive proportionally more cards from the quality and random factors. The very best troops such as La Legion can operate on any card suit. Most troops act on 2-3 out of the 4 suits only. So a proportion of the drawn cards are unlikely to be of use. Even for La Legion there are unlikely to be enough cards on hand to activate every unit 3 times. Units take hits which are allocated to stands when the unit is activated or it pays 2 cards of the same suit to reorganise. Reorganisation is a magic bullet that should be used whenever possible. Hits are halved, pins and disorder removed. The result is that a unit under heavy fire (many unallocated hits) will want to spend 2 of its 3 possible activations to reorganise. Any nearby enemy will continue to pump in more hits at a rate of 1 card per shooting. Unless there is some way to take the pressure off the unit will sink into a cycle of mounting losses. Although losses are allocated to stands and morale rolled for when a unit is activated there are some cases when a unit is obviously done for but technically still on the table. At its simplest the unit has hits which if halved and allocated are enough to wipe out all the unit’s stands. Alternatively the unit would be allocated enough hits when halved to ensure that it cannot pass the resulting morale test even on the best possble die roll. The simple solution is to remove such units at the end of a game turn.
Having got some idea of how the rules pan out and a strong lesson in the importance of heavy machine guns here follows an attempt at a more varied game. To the front of the ‘photo op’ we have 6 battalions of Republicans. 4 of regulars and 2 of militia recently co-opted into the Popular Army and not too happy about it. Behind are 8 battalions of Nationalists, 2 being Carlist and a group of 4 batteries of artillery. All the Nationalist Peninsular Army units have 2 bases of machine guns but the Carlists and Popular Army only have 1 machine gun base per battalion. The Nationalists also have 2 one-use off table assets, medium bombers and heavy artillery. Some of these machine gun bases are probably mortar models but in 6mm a model with a machine gun barrel or mortar tube over their shoulder looks much the same. Command bases are not being used. The bases with flags are standard infantry.
The Republic’s troops line up and hope for the best. The ex-militia battalions hold the rear. The Nationalists manage to draw enough of the right sort of cards to get all their units on the table. All the infantry are in skirmish order for relatively quick movement and to minimise losses. One battalion has taken some hits from long range machine gun fire. The Nationalists are looking to break through across the river, taking or isolating the town.
The Nationalist air and off table barrage comes in but with only limited effect. The Nationalists also bombard the Popular Army in the town and the general advance approaches the Battalions lining the river. Blue markers are hits allocated to bases. Yellow dice are unallocated hits to Batallions. The yellow die on the explosion is bombardment hits. The unit at the end of the river has built up a mass (9) of unallocated hits and is pinned for good measure. This is a consequence of any unit at the edge of the game board having a virtual exposed flank. All units are moving in short bursts and assumed to be halted at any time. Where units were kept moving green markers (similar to the blue) were used. Red markers are for pinned or other poor status units.
The Nationalists are across. A Battalion of Popular Army and both Battalions of Carlists are both out of the game. In the top of the field a Popular Army Battalion has pulled back to shorten the line.
The Nationalists push on taking more losses, the Republic pull back their exposed flank by the town. The game ended with the the Republic having the initiative and charging out of their defenses at 2 Nationalist Battalions dragging large numbers of unallocated losses. The allocation of losses caused both Battalions to fail morale. This required 5 consecutive cards of the same suit, attack and then pull back for 1 unit; attack, pull back and reform into firing line for the other. All activations were resolved separately. If the Nationalists had the initiative they could have reorganised the 2 wobbly units for 4 cards of the same suit. With 4 Battalions out of 8 off for an early bath the Nationalists make a flank assualt at the Republicans lining the fields by the town but that too is repulsed. A final tally of 5 Nationalist units routed or replulsed to 2 Republican routs.
In theory a 3:1 advantage should allow an attack to succeed. In gaming we do not want pre-ordained failure nor a walkover. With 8 Battalions against 6 and the hope that the artillery and off-table assets could neutralise 2 defenders a 2:1 ratio might have been hoped for. The better Nationalist morale and greater number of machine guns would also be expected to give an edge. The off-table support was not a game changer, single use assets can be relatively ineffective. Multiple instances of each asset would offset this. The artillery did its job but was only silencing 1 target at a time. With a bit of luck a single battery could shell 1 target, stop shelling and then shell another with 3 consecutive cards. This does depend on the cards being available and the rounds zeroing in on the first shots. Artillery will pin but its effect will vary. In this game the Nationalist guns shelled the town, earned 12 blast markers but only inflicted 1 hit. Shelling for more than 1 activation is needed to build up the bast markers under the target. The machine guns kept up their reputation as good value. They have a longer range and better firepower than infantry stands. It made sense to leave the machine guns behind giving covering fire as the infantry advanced. This did lead to isolated machine gun stands if the allocated infantry is subsequently destroyed.
The game size seemed about right for an evening’s play and limited knowledge of the rules. ‘For Whom the Dice Rolls’ does include vehicle rules but these were not used. The board seemed crowded, the defender could cover almost all of it as a single line. At this scale any terrain is a generic area not an individual feature. Where a unit spread over more than 1 feature the cover bonus for the most open was used. It would be reasonable to allow a unit to count as in firing line if in more than 1 parallel line at the cost of only being able to shoot from the front line. Built up areas need defining as to how many bases can shoot or melee. An entire company could fit in a good sized house. This would be fine for a cocktail party but in combat how many rifles could be brought to bear? If packed too tight losses would be increased unless we allow a unit to occupy deep bunkers. Trenches and deep bunkers were a feature of some Spanish Civil War battles but these would need to be scenario specific rules.
The last 2 games in our campaign see Tintin and Lord Curr head to the countryside to put an end to the machinations of the mysterious cult. Lord Curr has won both games so far but combat losses have seen his point pool drop to well below that of Tintin and the Navy lads.
Lord Curr is escorting Mary to the rural plantation where the cult is rumored to be active. This is a 400 point game. Both companies have enough points in their pools to field the requisite strength. Lord Curr’s mob deploy at the road edge with Mary and the faster Incorrigibles in front. Singh takes up the rear, slowed down by his machine gun. The Navy lads take up positions at what they hope are key points close to the road. Mary must be escorted to the door of the plantation house but could leave the road and go across the fields.
Most of Lord Curr’s company head off at maximum speed but Singh holds back to give covering fire. They shrug off shots from Sub Lt Philips and his accompanying rating. Feedback from the first part of this campaign suggested that characters with objectives should not run (not the gentlemanly-thing to do) this would prevent Mary’s escort from running and tighten up the game. Unfortunately this episode was already ‘in the can’ when that advice was received.
Lord Curr and the Incorrigibles pause at the road junction taking advantage of the cover from the house.
The main party split up to allow some covering fire from the rear. Tintin’s lads move to the edge of the fields and open fire but fail to cause any losses.
Captain Haddock charges into combat with Lord Curr. Po takes on Mad Jack who is supported by Gerald Fitz-Curr. Lady Felicity shoots into the melee but in the end no one is harmed.
Lord Curr pushes on, pursued by Captain Haddock. Tintin struggles to keep up. Mad Jack is down but not out. In sadder news Sub Lt Philips buys the farm.
Lord Curr finally makes it to the plantation house. Mad Jack is still hanging on.
Lord Curr won again and earned 24 victory points but another Incorrigible and Gerald Fitz-Curr took an early bath a loss of 63 giving a running total of 332. Tintin lost, gained 5 points for kills but Sub Lt Philips cost 46 points leaving 429 in the bank. To even things up a bit Tintin ransoms Sub Lt Philips back for a 23 point transfer fee to Lord Curr.
Now to the final chapter, the cult have run off with Mary but the companies are in hot pursuit. They approach ruined buildings amongst the fields with even older columns just behind. Mary is with the cult leader and his intentions do not appear to be honourable. Both sides come on from opposite corners and it will take them a while to get into any danger. In the book version of this scenario the cult members are placed in base to base contact. This makes hitting the cult leader a random shot unless you have a machine gun like Singh which can hit everyone with a single burst and make for a rather short game.
Both companies move up keeping well apart except for Mr Slow (Singh) and a naval rating who stay at the back to give covering fire.
The Incorrigibles choose a slightly shorter route up the board; a benefit of having won the last game. The cultists are clearly up to no good.
Shots are exchanged with little effect. Everyone hugs the defensive terrain.
Singh is hit by the naval rating’s rifle but he is not out. One of the cultists is definitely out of play.
Things have taken a turn for the worse as Mary has had a makeover. Lady Felicity shoots Purple Mary but to no effect.
Purple Mary charges Lady Felicity. She can shoot as the monster charges in but it does not do any good. In the Navy Po is taken down by a gaggle of cultists.
Lady Felicity is out. The Navy lads start to pile into the cultists.
Purple Mary charges into Gerald Fitz-Curr. Lord Curr takes aim at Purple Mary and takes out Gerald instead. He will need to send flowers to Gerald’s aged mother. The Navy lads mop up the relatively harmless human cultists.
Lord Curr is attacked and knocked down by Purple Mary. Singh and Mad Mick pour machine gun shells and lob grenades into the melee. Lord Curr can take the risks but Purple Mary is hard to take out.
Finally Mad Mick decides to use his arc pistol and downs Mary, Singh finishes her off. Lord Curr manages to survive having now burnt all his luck points. Tintin and the Navy lads raise 3 cheers for the gallant Incorrigibles.
Counting points and subtracting losses Lord Curr ends with 210 and Tintin 333. This is hardly relevant as the campaign is a clear win for Lord Curr.
Looking at the maths the points pool as written will not work. Eliminating an enemy figure will yield 10% of its point value (rounding down). A lost model can be ransomed back for 50% of its points paid to the capturing side. So at least 40% of points originally paid for a model in the force pool are lost to the game. In practice a suitable budget overspend of points allocated to the full company will allow a campaign to keep running. There is, however, unlikely to be a surplus built up by any faction to upgrade models during a campaign. Any points earned are spent trying to keep the original roster afloat. One area for modification would be the points given for victory objectives. These are constant in scenarios but might be better linked to the size of forces involved (perhaps 10% of the game force points size). Some easy to determine bonus awards could also work. Examples would include first side to knock down or kill a model and most uses of luck rolls (which are optional) by a company.
Following on from a comment on the last IHMN post by our loyal reader we take a run through of the example campaign system from In Her Majesty’s Name 2nd edition. Lord Curr faces off against the Naval Landing Party with Tintin and Snowy on board. Both parties are seeking to root out the origins of a mysterious cult. The companies start with 500 points to run over 4 scenarios. Victory points come from scenario events and for taking out enemy models. These can be used to buy back models that are out of the game or to increase the skills and numbers of existing characters.
The first game sees both companies trying to retrieve 3 ancient texts from the mansion of a suspected cult member. The board squares are 3″ a side so movement is based around half squares. Opening a door will take 3″ of movement as will picking up an artifact. These cannot be be picked up if there is a combat in the immediate vicinity. Coincidentally the companies have simultaneously arrived at opposite doors of the mansion.
There was some pre-game tweaking to give each side better access to one book; leaving the final book dead centre to the board. The furniture had some effect on movement but mainly served to set the scene and show which boundaries were walls and which had doors. To clarify there is a double-tile central room and 2 narrow corridors at each end. The only entrances are through the opposite large doors. This game is played with 300 points out of each side’s pool of 500.
Tintin is shot, down but not out. Other shooting is ineffective.
Lady Felicity rushes in on the downed Tintin. Calculus is attacked by an Incorrigible. To the left and right a sailor and 2 Incorrigibles head for the flanking books.
Tintin gets back up and in a couple of turns of melee takes out Lady Felicity; her stats are predominantly shooting based so the melee may not have been her best decision. Lord Curr has the central book but is pursued by Haddock, the factions have 1 each of the books in the side rooms. The cult has heard the commotion and shown up to run off the intruders.
Tintin and co’ clear the cultist from the door. In the adjoining rooms a sailor and 2 Incorrigibles make off with mysterious dark tomes. Lord Curr is still pursued by Captain Haddock.
The Incorrigible with a book gets away. Lord Curr continues to pull out of combat with Captain Haddock but is pursued towards the door. He keeps hold of his light reading. At the other end of the mansion the bookworm sailor is overpowered by a cultist.
More cultists show up and the remaining company members decide to get out of Dodge.
The final curtain call. Lord Curr is safely away with 2 companions and 2 of the artifacts. A steep price has been paid, Lady Felicity and 2 more Incorrigibles are down. As for Tintin’s company, 1 sailor is down and another captured, the remaining book remains with the cult. After the game Lord Curr spends a slew of victory points to pay Lady Felicity’s medical bills, buying her back to the company. The scores on the doors are now 499 points for Tintin and 452for Lord Curr.
The next game is also of 300 points so both teams will field the same lineup as before. They have enough paid for ‘redshirts’ to fill up on sailors and Incorrigibles. Both companies have been tipped off that Mary the kitchen-maid has important information on the cult’s plans. She can be found shopping at the busy commercial quarter of the city. It is hoped that she will reveal all for the price of a few gins. Oddly everyone has exactly the same tip off but Lord Curr will act first as his company won out in the mansion.
Here we see the runners and riders after the first turn. The vehicles move last but before shooting at 1D10″ each. Lord Curr uses his advantage to move on from the direction with least traffic. Models run to get as close to Mary as possible but Tintin’s men are hindered by the traffic.
Lord Curr gets to Mary on turn 2. Lady Felicity and the Incorrigibles provide covering fire. The Navy are still having traffic issues.
Captain Haddock closes in but Lord Curr is off like a rocket.
Captain Haddock charges Lady Felicity. An Incorrigible runs to the rescue but pays the price. Other models drop to shooting.
Lord Curr gets away just as the Rozzers show up.
Lady Felicity, Tintin and Snowy all help the police with their inquiries. Eventually Lady Felicity runs off and Tintin talks his way out of trouble. Other characters bravely run away.
The Incorrigibles lost 2 redshirts to Tintin’s 1. Lord Curr won but adjusting for losses and buying 1 redshirt back for each team the half time score (2 missions out of 4) is Lord Curr 421 to Tintin 470.
This terrain set was too easy for the first player which with higher leadership is likely to be Lord Curr. The house scenario was first run through and then re-set with a more challenging layout. This market market board gave similar results in 2 games. The lesson learnt is to run through a few turns to try out a scenario before a full playthrough.
The 2nd Edition of the Victorian Sci-Fi rules ‘In Her Majesty’s Name’ is out. The system is essentially the same as in the previous Osprey Blue Book version. The changes are summarised on the IHMN blog. A possible significant change is the addition of hero points. These grant a single use re-roll per hero point but if a figure starts with hero points they can earn additional points through the elimination of enemy models. Any combat success is based on both the shooting or hand to hand roll and pluck roll. It saves time to roll both of these at the same time as any obvious failure can swiftly be seen. The better characters have a pluck of 2 or 3 (on a D10) meaning they only fail 10% or 20% of tests (0 is 10). Better weapons reduce the pluck roll but even so low pluck characters are hard to take out. The addition of the hero points will further increase the resilience of figures with good pluck in the new edition. This can lead to hand to hand dragging on between hero characters as they use hero points to cancel the few failed pluck or ‘to hit’ rolls. If using pluck against ‘to hit’ rolls 2 D10s need to be rolled separately. The antidote to everlasting heroes is to ensure that a game has some clear end condition and better still offer the heroes something better to do than engage in endless combat with each other.
The new book has updated some of the lists from the previous 3 Osprey books. The lists from the Gothic supplement have been updated online. A more accurate name for that supplement would be Dracula, Romania and the Balkans as the whole game system is broadly Gothic. It would not be a lot of work to update the remaining lists as there would only be changes in points and the odd special ability. Hero points could be doled out to taste. Of the provided lists those that link to the old North Star boxes are amongst the most original. To try out the new rules Lord Curr’s company will take on Tintin and pals.
There is no Tintin list but the Royal Naval Landing party has a drunken Captain who will fit up as Captain Haddock. There is also the brave Midshipman Easy who can run as Tintin. Professor Calculus can be the Artificier. Fans of the radio series ‘The Navy Lark’ will recognise CPO Pertwee in the list but he is portrayed as the brave brains of the outfit. In the radio series Pertwee is indeed clever but would sell off everything in the stores and buy in any rubbish as replacements. This game is not running Pertwee but will use the Lieutenant who we will call Sub Lieutenant Philips.
In this game both teams are racing to get on board of the paddle steamer Troutbridge. The model is from Sarissa and far too much trouble to put together. MDF and cardboard do not like making curved shapes or thin rods such as the roof supports and railings. Toys off eBay are a much cheaper source of model boats. On a positive note the model is large enough for all the models to get on it. In this game the steamer is ready to cast off off with ‘the lad’ and other competent members of the crew below decks. We will allow it to steam off when models of only 1 faction begin a turn at the wheel in the helm section.
Here we see the action after turn1. Lord Curr’s lot are at the top of the screen. Both sides run on with the faster characters at the front to make the most use of their speed. Singh is dragging along a huge machine gun so can’t run and stays at the back through most of the game.
Both sides keep moving up, making use of cover. The sailors have rifles but Curr’s company have shotguns and pistols so the landing party try to keep a safe distance away. Some members of both parties remain behind to give covering fire.
The sailors are taking heavier casualties from shooting but there were more of them to start with. All actions are alternate so with more models the Navy have an advantage in that some will move after all of Curr’s Company have activated. In this report casualties are left on the table but down until the end of turn then removed. This is to distinguish them from models who are knocked down and could get up again.
Po the cook takes on Lady Felicity. She can shoot both her pistols in hand to hand fighting but still misses with both and fares no better in hand to hand. Po also fluffs his combat rolls. The next turn Po will run off towards the steamer. Elsewhere models take ranged shots at each other.
Po is the first model on the steamer. Lady Felicity now tries to take on Tintin.
The combat continues and Tintin is finally out as he fails 2 pluck rolls in a row. The only hero character to do so in the game. Snowy the dog runs off. The sailor boys are starting to pile onto the boat. Po has headed for the helm.
The ship sails; here shown with both decks apart for clarity. Lady Felicity and 1 of Curr’s Company are on board. Sub Lieutenant Philips, 1 Able Seaman, Professor Calculus and Po the cook are also on the steamer. Playing on for a couple of turns, Calculus is out, but Po takes down the company man. The fight between Philips and Lady Felicity could go on a while so she gallantly gives in.
Both leaders, Curr and Captain Haddock are left behind. As is 1 Able Seaman and Singh. Singh never fired a shot all game as in the few instances where he had a clear line of sight it was only to a melee with both sides involved.
Achtung Cthulhu is the twisted child of Modiphius Entertainment. H.P. Lovecraft died in 1937 so the setting is not ‘canon’ Cthulhu but the familiar overarching theme is bolted onto the World War 2 setting. Broadly there are British and Americans up against the Nazi Black Sun organisation (Cthulhu magic), loosely cooperating with the Nachtwolfe (alien tech) and Mythos creatures (tentacles). Shadows Over Normandie is a licensed boardgame series set in the same alternate universe. In the boardgame most counters are squads of about 5 ‘beings’, vehicles are individual counters, Cthulhu itself is a huge blob covering several game squares.
There is also a fan created Achtung Cthulhu Bolt Action mod called Bolt Achtung! The points values have not been tested to extremes but it includes the key models from the Modiphius range as well as spell casting (with the risk of the caster being lost in the attempt). It also models some larger Cthulhu creatures that are not in the Modiphus universe. Naturally all the regular Bolt Action and Konflikt 47 goodies can be shoveled in.
Returning to the official release; Achtung Cthulhu Skirmish is not a skirmish set of rules but is designed to play with several squad sized units on each side. A Cthulhu force could get away with monsters, possessed, summoners and the odd megalomaniac nut job but could equally well be built around a core of regular German troops. The Allies only have a handful of special units and will mostly comprise standard human troop models. There are no Soviet lists but the Allies could easily be fielded as Desert or Far East troops. The core German units could instead be Japanese or Chinese Warlord. This is excellent for the Bolt Action or Konflikt 47 player who will already have the nucleus of a playable army. The role playing types will not be so happy as they might be in possession of a few character models and an assortment of ‘gribblies’ but will need some serious assembling and painting to build a force for Achtung Cthulhu Skirmish.
The Skirmish rules are based on Dystopian Legions; a Victorian Science Fiction setting. Dystopian Legions is no longer officially supported but the rights are owned by Warcradle, a trademark of Wayland Games. The rules and army lists for Dystopian Legions are still available as free download PDFs. Unfortunately the cards which are a key but not essential element to game play are not available. The Achtung Cthulhu cards could be pressed into service as an alternative. An American Regular GI is 25 points in Achtung Cthulhu Skirmish, a British Regular lineman in Dystopian Legions is also 25 points and the stats of each are identical indicating that borrowing between the lists is feasible. The only vehicles each side has in Cthulhu is a truck, half track and a medium tank. The Dystopian Legions setting includes drones, armoured infantry and light tanks that might be a source of additional goodies for the Nachtwolfe.
Modiphius have released an alternate rules set Achtung Cthulhu Combat, also as free downloads. This is billed as a slightly simpler game system with the same units but a differing combat dice system and different point costs for models. Mechanics in Cthulhu Combat are more in common with the Bolt Action rules making it easier to adapt Bolt Action or Konflikt 47. Cthulhu Combat has no vehicles and less magic but more goodies for the Nachtwolfe. Ranges are different; a M1 Garand has a 24″ maximum range in Skirmish but 12″ short and unlimited long range in Combat (some weapons are penalised outside effective range but not the M1). They share the same Mythos theme in that deploying more Cthulhu-like units (by either side) will push up the Mythos level leading to an increased chance of bad things happening to random units. As the Mythos level rises there is also a chance of a mist rolling in which restricts visibility; to the benefit of the Black Sun player who has access to specialist close combat units. Players take turns activating units but in Skirmish melee only takes place after all activations. This means that several units can load into a single combat and a few troop types (vehicles and flyers) can run back out of it. The Bolt Action activation could easily be jammed in and some of the order dice effects map across to Achtung Cthulhu model conditions.
To try out the system the Skirmish rules will be used together with 3 scenarios from the Secret War Operations booklet which is a also a free download. Some of these scenarios use relatively few models and look to be more trouble setting up that the limited gameplay predicted. These 3 scenarios use a 4′ square board and the same terrain as both forces fight over a ruined monastery. The Black Sun here are Black Tree fallschirmjäger. The Americans Warlord Marines, the Commandos Warlord and Black Tree Paras. The gribblies, heroes and villains are Modiphius. The Modiphius models take some getting to the table as almost everyone has at least 1 part to glue onto the main body. The alien Mi Go have at least 5 pairs of limbs all of which need gluing on although as aliens one could leave some sets off or add a few more. In many of the non-human casts it is not too important exactly which bits go where as long as it all holds together. Some tweaking was required to fit the force layouts to the models available. The image below shows that for the human models Modiphius are close enough to other 28mms but are more slender.
The first game has relatively small forces trying to control 2 objectives each within 1 of the central ruins. Here we see both sides deployed and ready for the off. The 2 sets of smoke are a Mythos effect and provide cover throughout the game. Even without these there is a good deal of cover which should give a benefit to the Cthulhu player as he relies more on close combat troops.
Both players rush forward. The Allies grasp both objectives but the Black Sun pile a unit of Servitors (tentacled possessed ex-humans) onto the rightmost objective. They were unable to wipe out the Allied defenders so that objective remained contested. An attempt to simultaneously overrun the other objective with Mythos ‘Deep Ones’ failed leaving the Black Sun a unit down and the Allies controlling 1 objective. The Servitors sorted out the remaining humans around the other objective leading to control on the following turn. Still with points gained for every turn of control the Allies kept to their early lead and pulled off a win.
Although the Black Sun had 2 spellcasters no spells were successfully cast. In retrospect command points could have been spent to increase the chance of spell casting. Most spells are of short range meaning that getting into position to cast spells means risking the expensive spell caster. Casting spells increases the chance of bad Mythos events occurring so a player could cast spells with no game effect beyond increasing Mythos events. This seemed bad form so was not taken advantage of.
The second game expands both forces. The Black Sun are trying to push forward into the Allied side of the table. The Allies are trying to destroy Black Sun units. Both sides have reinforcements that arrive on random turns. The Black Sun happened to draw more early doors units than the Allies. The Servitors move up making some use of cover.
They are now well past the centre point and taking some casualties but being already dead do not see this as a big problem.
The Servitors hug the hard cover for a while but eventually come out. That machine gun team is about to take an early bath. The real problem for the Allies are the purple worms mid screen. They burrow so avoid terrain are built hard and hit hard.
The Black Sun are through. The paras are tough but not that tough and the worms make a mess of them. Chaos hounds are also running up and the Black Sun commander can be seen just moving out of the ruins. It all seemed in the balance for a while but when the worms hit it all went to pot.
The final game in the set of 3 uses less models but a higher points count as the Allies field a tank. Both sides are trying to inflict maximum damage on each other. There is more wiggle room in what to field and the Black Sun buy spells for augur (a die re-roll bonus) and a level 2 summoning. The summoning spell is a no-brainer as summoned creatures do not count as part of the player’s force size and could lead to a new unit every turn. Bought from the lists a unit of 3 Nightguants costs 105 points. A Black Sun Canon with a level 3 spell book costs 130 points, has a better than 50% chance of summoning Nightguants every turn and has several other useful command benefits on top. In a matched game the Allied player would want to deploy at least 1 sorcerer with the level 1 ‘sever control’ spell to stand any chance against summonings.
The tank rules work more logically. It can spew out a ton of firepower (which might well all miss). It can be attacked in close combat (and some of the Mythos beasts could chew it up) but not fight back. It can pull out of melee if not destroyed beforehand but keeping just out of enemy charge range is a good plan. Other friendly units can also hose down the melee attackers with firepower if they have not already activated. A much bigger danger to tanks are anti-tank weapons. In this game the Black Sun have panzerfausts and the tank wisely spends much of the game staying away from them.
The Black Sum move up using Mythos and summoned creatures to soak up the Allied firepower. Once the gribblies get into close combat Allied losses become unacceptable. The Black Sun troopers keep out of the blood bath and provide long range fire support.
The Black Sun commander is exposed and is hosed down by the tank. The tank is now close enough for the Black Sun troopers to move forward and light it up with their Panzerfausts. As the tank is a massive points sink this now pushes the game into a Black Sun victory.
The Achtung Cthulhu Skirmish system does work and at the price (free) it is hard to argue with. Some gameplay gripes should however be aired.
There is a good deal of randomness in the game (not necessarily a bad thing). In general 4+ is good on the dice but rolling a 6 may give a bonus. The mortar only killed 1 figure in 3 games and usually missed by a considerable distance due to the indirect fire deviation rules. Grenades use a similar deviation mechanism and due to the risk but possible high damage wherever they hit were not used in any of the games.
The command system which gives a bonus to units within range of a commander does work but is a layer of detail that can easily be forgotten. As it increases the potential of success spells are more likely to be cast, units are better in combat and morale failures less likely. This is all going to prolong the game. The morale rules have limited effect. It is fairly easy to fail morale and this affects shooting and melee. It is also relatively easy to regain morale levels at the end of a turn. Failing a morale test will add 1 and only 1 shaken result. A unit can have a greater chance of failing but will only lose the the 1 level in a single test. A unit of shaken 3 or greater will rout but because of the ability to recover this requires several independent morale tests in a single turn or bad recovery dice rolls. Routing is possible but no units routed in any of the 3 games as they tended to ‘get better’ before dropping to rout.