Silver Bayonet for Flintloque

Having languished for some 20 years in their boxes the Flintloque figures find another route to the table with Osprey’s Silver Bayonet. Their other recent trip out being with Muskets and Tomahawks. Silver Bayonet is a very simple gaming system and 10 figures a side should be more than enough. The system is set in the Napoleonic Wars but would run for any horse and musket setting from the end of the pike and shot period until the proliferation of breech loading rifles. Gamers command ‘historical’ forces with a 3rd monster force run by the game system. With nothing being strictly historical the Flintloque nations fit in well and being large models work with the various Games Workshop style gribblies. Games of both systems involve roughly the same size forces so some of the Flintloque scenarios could be easily adapted for Silver Bayonet. There are a selection at Orcs in the Webb and more scattered through the Alternative Armies digital archive. The challenge is to track down those with the more interesting play value. ‘A Stroll in the Park‘ has the makings of a Silver Bayonet adventure after a few changes in force compositions.

There is little shockingly new in Silver Bayonet. The key combat factor is the use of 2D10s and needing to equal the target’s defense. The 2 dice are classed as either power or skill. If a hit is achieved the score of 1 die (usually the power die) is subtracted from the health of the unfortunate target. A basic soldier has a health of 10 so if hit has a 1 in 10 chance of being down in one. Models that survive gradually get better during a campaign and one of the best early buys is to increase that health to 11, effectively giving a model 2 wounds and negating the chance of an instant kill. There is no penalty to losing health above 0 except that fewer hits will eventually force an early bath. The twist in the tale is each player has a small bank of spare dice (usually 2 each of power and skill, plus 1 monster die). A player can use each spare die once as a re-roll or an attempt to reduce any damage. A common hit number is 14 so if 10 is rolled on the power but 1 on the skill (total 11) it is a good call to re-roll the skill hoping for a 4+ and a possible kill. In the case of 10 skill and 1 power it is probably not worthwhile spending a spare power die as the damage caused will be 4-10 but 1-3 will still miss (assuming 14 to hit). The spare power dice (only) can also be used to reduce damage, best saved for when those 10 score hits come in. There are very few modifiers to firing; skill, movement and cover, nothing for aiming and a rifle is no more accurate than a musket but has a longer range.

A typical Silver Bayonet scenario has the players moving on from the board edges with something bad in the middle. Objectives on the table will give an advantage in taking down the monsters or spawn more bad things (probably a mixture of both). The monsters are hard to put down, many are immune to just about any damage. Special weapons or ammunition overcome these immunities but you need the right tools for the monster of the day. The scenario set up should have some of the right kit hidden on the board although you can still end up with the right figures with the right kit but in the wrong place. The book scenarios have no end condition but do offer experience points for fulfilling objectives such as killing things, finding things and rescuing things. There will come a point where both sides realise that they have either achieved the optimum point score or that further losses would achieve nothing so both retreat off the board. When played as a campaign models improve a little between games so staying alive is a win. With the monsters being well-hard it pays to let the opposition wear them down a bit then finish them off (monsters and opposition) then get out of dodge.

Gameplay involves dicing for who goes first. The first player acts with half their models, then the monsters (with a basic automation), all the 2nd player’s models go then the remaining 1st player’s models. Going first can be an advantage as they can get out of the way of the monsters, allow the 2nd player to get mauled then clear up with their remaining models.

Of the 10 scenarios in the book we have played up to number 8 while trying to keep experience logged and used for a campaign. The plot was slightly hampered by losing the roster sheets after scenario 6 and having to resort to an earlier saved copy. None of the characters have massively increased in skill although there has been an experience gap that has led to the British being granted some extra game experience to keep up with the French. 2 games comfortably fit into a games night (just over an hour’s play in each) including set up and take down of the table and figures. Playing as a campaign is a definite benefit as it gives an incentive to cut and run if things seem to be going as well or as badly as they are likely to get.

There are certainly some problems with the rulebook. Most of it is fluff but the actual rules seem to be only detailed once but not all in the same place. This makes tracking down a particular rule tricky as the book lacks a comprehensive index. For example there is a section on the monsters, most of these have a list of special powers. Those are listed in another section and may modify standard rules scattered throughout the body of the rulebook. The monsters and traits sections are just about in alphabetical order. Some, however, are out of sequence causing some severe frustration: Inspiring is at the bottom of page 151 but indefatigable is over the page at the top of 152.

In summary a simple system that gets games played although it lacks the depth of decision making of some other games; such as the card system in Muskets and Tomahawks.

Congo Campaign: Finale

The 5th game of the campaign sees both columns at opposite corners of the table with a ridge of high blocking terrain between them. The expedition leaders have to get to their opposing corners. There are also 4 campaign discoveries and 2 dangers to be found amongst the upland spine.

With no shooting over the high ground both sides use their first turn to move as far as possible with as much as possible.

Lady Mary is on the central highlands with her askari, as is a group of her sailors. She is trading shots with Ujuwa’s bundukai but is having difficulty moving forwards.

Ujuwa and a group of bowmen are over the hills and off. Lady Mary has revealed 3 of the hidden discoveries but only 1 turns out to be useful. The remaining 3 are all true discoveries and are easily mopped up by Ujuwa’s groups.

Coordinated shooting from 3 groups of Ujuwa’s warriors sees Lady Mary and her group of askari wiped out.

The focus moves to blocking Ujuwa from moving off table. There is a lot of back and forth but in the end he makes it accompanied by 1 surviving bowman.

At the game end we see where Ujuwa got away (11 o’ clock on the image below).

Onto the final game; both sides are clustered around the central idol. Ujuwa has too many models to fit in the deployment area so a group of archers are off board. Each side has to grab items from within the wooded areas and get them off the board at the opposite edge to where they deploy. This all complicated by 3 of the items being for Lady Mary and 3 for Ujuwa but all the items begin the game hidden. There are also additional discoveries amongst the bushes but a group carrying those can only move ‘short’.

Both sides are trying to move in opposite directions and also trying to stop their opponent from moving at all. There is additionally a degree of splitting up to find which items belong to whom.

Opposing groups rush past each other. Ujuwa’s archers (just off the left edge below) have an item that Lady Mary needs. She sets off with her best groups (sailors and adventurers). Ujuwa heads in the other direction.

A group of Ujuwa’s young warriors approaches their exit point. They are slowed by Lady Mary’s own young warriors. The latter have picked up a missionary that was found hiding amongst the trees (white suit, pith helmet).

Ujuwa’s scouts and pygmies are whittled down by rifle fire but they do shield the archers in the woods.

The sailors try to take on the archers in close combat but whiff it and are pushed back. In better news the adventurers get off board. At the other side of the table Ujuwa’s young warriors are also off map.

Largely due to losses inflicted Lady Mary pulls off a win. That is 3 wins each for anyone who is counting. The scenario rules as written imply a big victory points boost if Mary or Ujuwa themselves leave the board with an item required for their side. This is quite hard to do although Mary did come close with her assault on Ujuwa’s archers.

The final part of the campaign is adding up the accomplishment points earned by various bonus actions in the scenarios. These are combined with additional points from a dice race as Lady Mary and Ujuwa work around a track. The track movement is also affected by some of the previous scenario effects. Careful reading of all these effects would impact on how both sides treated the scenarios and the resulting game play. The campaign does work reasonably well by just going for it and seeing how the scores end up at the finish.

Adding it all up: Final score Ujuwa 37, Mary 28.

Congo Waiting for the Belazur

Game 3 of the Mungo Mah Lobeh campaign sees a change from the previous two with victory being based on control of territory. There are 3 quays along the river which Lady Mary must control as she is waiting for the arrival of the steam ship Belazur. There are also 6 hidden markers amongst the swampy terrain. 2 of these are dangerous and 4 contain discoveries. Lady Mary begins at one side of the river; Ujuwa in the centre of the edge opposite the river.

By the end of turn 1 Lady Mary has moved a group of sailors to the second quay. Ujuwa threatens them with a group of young warriors.

Keeping with the plan Lady Mary has groups by all 3 quays at the end of turn 3 but Ujuwa is hoovering up the discoveries. The swamp terrain could have different effects depending on a random die rol but in all cases during this game it revealed quicksand. This being difficult to get out of without racking up stress tokens.

Ujuwa starts to put on the pressure. The hold of the sailors on the middle quay is contested and constant attacks leaves the last man standing.

Another turn and the sailors are gone; now the adventurers are suffering from Ujuwa’s attacks.

Ujuwa ends with control of 2 of the 3 quays. Lady Mary suffered with a group of her young warriors stuck in quicksand for much of the game. A group of bundukai were tied up in a similar situation. Heavy rain reduced all gunpowder missile ranges; a bigger problem for Lady Mary than Ujuwa.

The game end sees Lady Mary losing 2 entire groups, they will be back but that made it almost impossible to hold the quays. She had also lost a guide but he recovered. On the other hand Ujuwa’s chief is now grievously ill. Lady Mary won the game by points but with no discoveries to Ujuwa’s 3 is on the back foot of the campaign. She travels on slowly to the next adventure but does recruit 2 new bearers. Ujuwa has moved on swiftly and improved his campaign knowledge much more than Lady Mary

Onto scenario 4; unknown species and stone statues. Both columns start at the table corners in columns of 3, not all of Ujuwa’s lads fit on the table at start. There is an objective in each of the wooded areas and discoveries to be made in some of the areas of dense bush. The objectives make up 2 separate statues. The 2 sides want 3 parts from the same statue which causes a lot of back and forth action as they all end up with the wrong bits.

Keeping to the usual pattern both sides push forwards to grab what is uncontested.

It all starts to go wrong when a lion appears and chases the pygmies off their objective (number 4). The lion comes and goes throughout the game; inconveniently appearing amongst the objectives.

There are 6 objectives but the columns only have 5 (Lady Mary) or 6 (Ujuwa) groups so when additional loot tokens show up these get left alone. At times a group will drive an enemy off an objective but as they are already holding one of their own will have to leave it and hope that someone else picks it up. Ujuwa’s advantage in groups is furthered as one of the 3 groups is of pygmies who operate as 2 sets so he has 7 maneuver units to pick up objectives and reveal discoveries. Better still one of his regular groups is of scouts and they do not roll for the effect of dangerous terrain.

The lion was driven off objective 4 by a group of Ujuwa’s young warriors only to later show up around objective 5. No one fancies going in to pick that objective up

The game starts to consolidate with neither player having a full set of 3 objective parts. Ujuwa tries to pull back with what he has and avoid being badly shot up.

With a lot of back and forth as columns fight for objectives, the stress tokens mount up.

Lady Mary’s adventurers had held objective 1 for most of the game but lose control in melee and it is soon picked up by a group of pygmies.

Ujuwa ends up with a win due to picking up more discoveries and 4 of the 6 objectives. Unfortunately this did not include a full set of 3 parts of a statue. Both Ujuwa and Lady Mary were downed in the game but they recovered. Ujuwa’s chieftain is also starting to look a little more perky.

This game was a lot more back and forth than previous scenarios as the map layout encouraged taking back enemy objectives. The lion was run using the leopard rules for this scenario. It is uncommon for the beast token to come out in games of Congo but in this case it did and made quite an impact on proceedings.

Congo First Contact

The first two scenarios of the 6 in the Mungo Mah Lobeh campaign book.

There has been a recent trend away from game genres reflecting colonisation and exploitation. Studio Tomahawk’s Congo is not looking good from that viewpoint. While it is true that factions can be European, Arab or native African in almost all games there are other African resources and peoples that are getting exploited. Wargames Illustrated have published a 1920s Amazon variant. At least 1 player has moved the setting to the Caribbean but in both cases the ‘ethical stance’ is unchanged.

Mungo Mah Lobeh pits the European explorer Mary Kingsley against the native shaman Ujuwa. The majority of both columns are native roughnecks and ne’er do wells in it for the money. The 6 games are all played between the 2 same base columns although either can gain additional characters or units for single scenarios. The leaders have slightly different aims throughout the campaign but winning the individual scenarios does not do any harm. Either leader could die during the campaign and their column still win based on accumulated accomplishments but it is a good plan to try and keep your leader alive.

The first scenario sees Lady Mary with an additional unit of askaris granted by the campaign for that encounter only. Both sides are pegged at 6 units in play but additional campaign units can be used to replace less efficient core units as they are available. The core units replace losses between games but the characters and auxiliaries can increase or decrease in number. In the 1st game there are 3 masks to be recovered and sold; one by each hut and 6 discoveries of which 3 are harmful in the 6 wooded areas. The low bush areas are impassable. The value of the masks and discoveries is not known until they are found. A mask is worth more if sold to a dealer at a board edge that is randomly determined each turn. This all means that getting control of the majority of the game tokens does not guarantee a win although it does tip the odds in that favour.

The 2 sides start at opposite corners and with nothing in shooting range concentrate on moving up quickly. Actions depend on choosing 1 of 6 cards, 3 cards in a turn. The cards determine how many groups can move (including melee), shoot or make a terror action. There are not enough move symbols on the cards to get every group moving every turn so some groups are still stuck in the corners.

A single group could still move in each of the 3 card plays in a turn so both players get control of a mask by the huts. Ujuwa can gain campaign points by successfully casting spells so wants to be up in the front line. Lady Mary has a slight benefit in reducing combat losses but really wants to be out of the danger zone.

In turn 2 the action hots up as there is a choice between nailing down open objectives and putting damage onto opposing groups that already hold objectives. No one can get to the 3rd mask before it is removed from the game. The sailors move out of danger with their mask. There is some scattered shooting from the pygmies and both columns investigate the artifacts in the clumps of trees.

Ujuwa has 2 discoveries from the trees, is moving on a 3rd and holds 1 mask. The sailors get their mask to the off-table dealer for a victory point boost.

Lady Mary’s musketmen start to open up. Most of the opposition back off as they already have a decent haul of loot but one group (at 11:00 below) is isolated unable to get away.

They are overwhelmed losing their loot. The end game shows both sides pulling back. Running the numbers Lady Mary has pulled out a victory and a slight campaign advantage. Ujuwa had lost a sacred warrior who recovered and a native chief who is now rated as poorly.

Onto the next encounter; the search for deeper knowledge. The terrain is moved about a bit but the overall plot is similar. The 3 huts each have a villager who must be recruited to join a group. The 6 clumps of trees are high dangerous terrain. Each contains 1 of 6 objective markers. 1 through 4 are good but 5 and 6 generate a hazard. Which marker is which will not be revealed until they are moved onto. Here we see the deployment with the columns at opposite sides of the table.

At the end of turn 1 each column has met with 1 villager while the third is still to join the party. To recruit a villager a group must end an activation in contact and roll a 5+ on a D6. Lady Mary succeeds on the first attempt and later pulls back away from danger. Ujuwa spends most of the game trying to convince the other villages to join him. Instead his failed recruitment rolls provide Lady Mary with a steady supply of new event cards.

Action is focused around the 2 huts with unconvinced villagers. Lady Mary has a group of solders and another of adventurers. Both are armed with rifles and try to reduce Ujuwa’s strength by shooting. Ujuwa has 2 groups tied up in fruitless discussions. The solid green counters are the discoveries, flipped when revealed and for 5 and 6 removed after their effect. One of the discoveries was never revealed as numbers 1 to 4 had already come up and it would be a fair deduction that it would be best left alone.

Stress tokens mount up, Ujuwa is pretty strong by the centre hut but his young warriors near the other uncommitted villager are having a hard time of it. They break off negotiations to give the adventurers a swift kicking but Lady Mary brings up some of her young warriors to fill the gap.

Ujuwa finally has control of the 2 remaining villagers and pulls back with them, using other groups to cover his retreat. The young warrior group is down to 1 warrior and a sacred warrior (bottom of image, the 3rd model being the villager).

The final turn sees Ujuwa shed stress and continue to pull back.

Looking at the scores on the doors Ujuwa pulls off a win. He has 2 villagers and 2 discovery counters. Lady Mary has 1 villager and 1 discovery counter but also has a government official that was found hiding in the bushes amongst the trees. Lady Mary did posess an additional discovery counter but that was snatched away in dangerous terrain. It landed up in another area of dangerous terrain next to a pack of wild hyenas courtesy of some unfortunate events manipulated by Ujuwa. In other news Lady Mary has lost her bearer and Ujuwa’s chieftain is in worse health despite liberal applications of healing plants.

Both scenarios were played on different days but looking back at the terrain and force set up they might be best played as a single longer session. Almost all the game elements being the same but moved around a bit. The next scenario sees a river, landing places to defend and crocodiles.

Warmaster Wagon Train

Escorting the wagon train is often an interesting change to the standard ‘last man standing’ wargame. This is the scenario from the Warmaster Revolution ruleset so has probably been through some degree of prior testing. Chaos guard the wagons with Empire trying to destroy or capture them. The terrain has been chosen to try and match that suggested in the rules.

The chaos forces deploy first so the Empire can see where they are and optimise the ambush. Chaos puts the best cavalry in front so that even if they fail to receive orders a half move ahead will keep the column moving faster than an infantry half move. Two big infantry blocks cover either flank and marauder cavalry protect the rear.

Chaos: 2000

General 125

2x Hero 160

Sorcerer 90

4x Chaos Warriors 600

4x Chaos Marauders 240

3x Marauder Horsemen 270

Chaos Knights 200

2x Chaos Hounds 60

2x Chaos Chariots 190

Harpies 65

This list builds on that used in the previous battle. The successful marauder and warrior block has been doubled up. The chariots hit hard but are brittle. Swapping both units for another unit of knights might be preferable.

The Empire plan is to use the cannon to disrupt the chaos centre, knights break through from the rear and a halberd block blocks the main road. The 2 shooting blocks are deployed where they can get off good shots and will not be blocked by their own melee units.

Empire: 2000

General 125

Hero + Sword of Fate 85

2x Wizard 90

4x Halberdiers + Skirmishers 280

Handgunners 65

2x Crossbowmen + Skirmishers 160

3x Crossbowmen 165

4x Knights 440

2x Pistoliers 190

2x Helblaster 100

2x Cannon 170

Steam Tank 130

The Empire army is neither fish nor foul. The halberds are very average but there are not enough of them to make a decent tar-pit. The knights are the best units but more are needed for serious hitting.

Both armies field more commanders than they need but this gives them the flexibility to move around separate groups. The chaos front and Empire blocking units are both led by Generals. This is to give a better chance of these groups acting under orders. If a General fails an order then the whole army cannot receive more orders. With a little luck and some daring a General can issue a few orders and then stop before failing any orders. The remaining commanders can then continue to issue orders although the General can issue no more orders that turn. This ensures that a crucial part of the army will move at a possible cost of less important elements being left behind.

Chaos moves forward putting out flyers and wolves to block the Empire’s missile fire. Units of both are driven back and confused. Part of the chaos flank has to make way for the flyer’s retreat but they avoid being confused. The Empire front swings in to try and block the road. The knights set up a line to threaten the chaos rear.

Chaos forces shift forwards but leave a rearguard line to hold off the Empire knights.

Shooting pushes back the chaos flanks. The Empire front closes in on the road

The knights make a mess of the rearguard. Pistol fire pushes back the chaos infantry to the front. There are no losses but in the retreat the elite chaos knights are forced to make way. The chaos knights are confused and will not be able to scythe through the Empire infantry ahead.

Chaos forms a new desperate rear line. The wagons move forward but lack any covering units from the fire of the Empire crossbows on the hill.

The wagons are not quite close enough for the Empire crossbow to charge them on initiative and their hero fails the order roll to shift them. Nevertheless Empire missile fire eliminates 4 wagons. This does not get the Empire any victory points but prevents chaos from gaining points by moving them off table. It would be better to melee the wagons but in Warmaster a unit must shoot at its closest target that it can see. Elsewhere the Empire tightens up the holding line and moves further up on the chaos rear. For the first time in the game the steam tank passes an order to move.

Chaos make a strong effort to push through the Empire centre and possibly break Empire morale. They shatter the majority of the line and move up units to block the crossbow fire on the remaining 2 wagons. Unfortunately the last halberd unit and a rogue skirmisher still block the road and the chaos general fails an order roll to move the wagons off-road.

Empire halberds destroy the remaining wagons. They have the option to capture them but with a strong chance of chaos troops getting them back. The Empire knights continue to slice through the chaos rear.

With turn 6 over the game could continue for 2 more turns but chaos have no wagons to move off and they are 1/2 a unit from breaking morale. The larger Empire force is nowhere near breaking so an Empire victory is declared.

With the terrain all set up and the armies out of their boxes it would be a shame not to swap sides and have another go. Only the highlights are presented below.

The Empire have the problem that their artillery is very slow moving and vulnerable to being taken in the flank or rear by flyers or cheap cavalry. To counter this the Empire artillery is at the rear and sides of the defensive box. Knights are at the front to try and punch through any Chaos blocking units. With the Chaos army being so much smaller than the Empire they are not able to threaten so much of the column. Both sides begin the game by activating their generals to ensure that key units move up. Both blunder after their first activation role so turn 1 is effectively a mutual write off.

As the game progresses the Empire artillery gets shots off on Chaos units before those units are able to move away from the board edge. 2 units are destroyed as they are unable to retreat. Chaos should have hidden the flank threat behind a hill (not failing their activation rolls would also have helped). On the plus side a group of chariots and Chaos knights bursts through Empire pistols holding the other flank. The Chaos knights have a clear pursuit to attack the wagons. They decide not to destroy 2 wagons but hold on as there are more points to be earned for looted than destroyed wagons.

The Empire pile all they can in an initiative charge into the chaos knights. They wrap around the knight’s flank with halberds but those knights are tough. Chaos wins the combat and to rub it in pull back putting their knights further out of the way for the next turn. Empire knights have some success pushing back on of the Chaos blocking units by hitting it in the flank. The 2 rear wagons are stuck on the road as their path had been blocked by the Chaos knights.

The Chaos knights evade right back. This does not pan out well as the Empire crossbow and hellfire gun line moves up on them and eventually drives the unit off table with missile fire. As the chaos knights are no longer in play their wagons count as destroyed not looted. The rest of the Empire army pushes forward covering the remaining wagons while chaos blocks the road. Units of chaos marauders and knights are badly mauled by Empire knight charges.

The chaos line breaks through the few Empire knights on the road and captures more wagons. Chaos has now suffered enough losses to break their army and must withdraw. Chaos has 6 victory points (2 looted wagons and 4 destroyed). Empire has 5 (chaos broken and 1 wagon that will be saved). An army that has broken cannot claim a win so the final result is a draw.

To conclude a worthwhile scenario. Success depends in part on the army list so is best played twice with swapping sides or without forewarning using ‘best effort’ lists. There are interesting puzzles involved in choosing which commands to activate so the units do not get in each other’s way and some progress is made even if the activation dice go against you. The issues is slightly eased with the Warmaster Revolution rules that allow some limited movement if an initial activation is failed but not blundered.

Fantastic Battles

Fantastic Battles is a set of miniatures rules for fantasy or historical gaming. It is available as a PDF or for slightly more as a printed A4 book from Amazon. The author might have been poorly served by Amazon. For whom the dice rolls is a Spanish Civil War ruleset with a similar Amazon printing option but those rules are on heavier paper and with a sturdier cover.

There are limited rules for formations so the rules should work where the relationship between formations is key. They would be fine for most ancient or medieval periods. They would struggle with pike and shot where shot support horse and pike support shot. They should work for linear shot settings such as the Seven Years War. Napoleonics would not be a good setting.

Games can be run in any scale but fits in well with Warmaster based 10mms. Some of the provided lists matching closely with Warmaster army units. The key difference in modelling is that Warmaster runs units in sets of 3 bases. The basic Fantastic Battles building block can be a rectangle or square but putting 2 Warmaster bases together as 1 Fantastic Battles base works out. This will lead to some left over Warmaster bases and some fiddling for the few single base Warmaster units such as giants or the steam tank.

To compare the rules the same terrain will be used as in the last Warmaster report. The Empire army will be based on that in Fantastic Battles. There is no equivalent Chaos list but the ‘free men’ list is the closest starting point. Both forces have been closely modeled on those in the Warmaster battle although as the stats differ they will not be an exact match. In Fantastic Battles there is a short list of set troops types that can be customised by adding up to 3 traits, plus 1 more shared by all units of a race to each basic troop stat. Units are rated for resilience (hits), movement, melee, shooting and save. Some of the traits modify these base numbers others add a new ability. Add mounted and the unit moves faster and is better in melee. Flying gives obvious benefits over foot sloggers. A unit that is mounted and flying flies faster. Some abilities are mutually exclusive. A unit cannot be slow and fast. The limit to 4 abilities makes it harder to create some of the high power, high cost units available to Warmaster.

Although troops are bought by the unit they can be deployed alone or as groups. The groups are of up to 4 units of the same type. They add up their individual stats making them more powerful and more survivable. A single unit can move as it wishes. The groups are forced to wheel and adopt formations making them harder to shift about.

The Empire army is 991 points and Chaos 992. Unit costs are in increments such that getting an exact 1,000 is hard in troops alone. There are some cheaper ruses and special items that fill out the totals. Here the Chaos have ‘quartermaster’ to reduce problems with deployment. The Empire field ‘master of horse’ and gain a bonus to mounted charges. Chaos was the defender and deployed first. The Empire deployed second but in a reduced deployment area. The Chaos training allowed most of their line to stay in place. 2 units ran on in front; a boon as they were going in that direction anyway. The Empire saw some losses to units from desertion before the game began and the deployment of their knights, already a tight squeeze was further messed up.

In each turn the armies take turns in shooting then activate by chit draw. The armies have a chit per commander and another for all units out of command. The out of command units are activated first and have only a 50% chance of following orders. Here the steam tank has moved forward. The Empire begins to sort out the rest of the line. The knights are proving a problem as (like in Warmaster) most units cannot move through other units. The Chaos army moves forward in respectable order.

The steam tank hopes for the best but is a target for the massed Chaos chariots.

On the other flank barbarian horsemen crash into Empire crossbow on the hill but fail to achieve enough hits to eliminate them. Shooting and melee is through rolling dice based on the attacker’s stats and beating the save of the defender. Tactical factors will affect the dice rolled and some weapons change the score needed but it is a single die score not a case of roll to hit then roll to save. A problem with Fantastic Battles compared to Warmaster is that final hits need to be recorded. They can be reduced by a ‘bless’ spell from a wizard or a rally action from a commander but eliminating a significant number of hits from a unit within a game is unlikely. In Warmaster excess hits are removed at the end of a phase.

The Empire pistols are having difficulty getting into the combat as they need to wheel into action.

The crossbow don’t last long nor did the steam tank. Chaos units crash into combat where they can. The barbarian warriors are faster than the tougher Chaos infantry warriors. The activation sequence has an effect on melee combat which can extend over several turns. If a unit charges into another that has not yet activated it can counter-charge or if it has missiles gains a benefit in combat. Otherwise the target just hangs around, it will fight back but with no additional bonus. Where a combat has extended to a subsequent turn any unit in melee to its front only can elect to withdraw. They will end up out of combat but with their backs to the enemy. If that enemy has yet to active it can still move and if quick enough can catch the original disengagers in the rear. If a unit tries to disengage but is in contact with enemy that have already activated then there is no additional penalty if they fail.

The Chaos centre moves up. The unit in the built up area have been slowed by the terrain. The Empire pistols still hold on but losses are mounting. The Chaos knights are suffering badly from missile fire. As there is only 1 unit of them they can only soak up a more limited pool of losses.

The Empire right is looking good. The Chaos chariots and knights are gone. The missile units are running out of targets so are moving to find new targets instead of reloading. The Empire pistols are still hanging on but one unit of halberds has gone.

The pistols are finally removed but the victorious Chaos units are some way from the Empire centre. The crossbow unit piles into the flank of the remaining warrior and halberd melee. They are not great in combat but the flank attack benefits them and harms the Chaos warriors.

Breaking the Chaos warrior unit sees half the army destroyed and an Empire victory. Empire losses were also substantial but as their average unit cost was less they could hold out. If the Chaos army had time to sort out their victorious left the Empire would have been in trouble.

Fantastic Battles could appeal to anyone not liking the command activation rolls of Warmaster. The effect of these are, however, much reduced in Warmaster Revolutions. A limited number of units can always make a single half move forward each turn. As in Warmaster command range is important. Uncommanded units will have to roll for actions. There is no initiative for units close to the enemy as in Warmaster so in some cases generals will have less control in Fantastic Battles.

To wrap up a note on wheeling. Groups of 2, 3 or 4 units need to know how to wheel. With large blocks of models a wheel template is a big help here. If playing with 10mm figures on 4cm bases it is a fiddly business to work out wheels. Getting the calculations wrong can mean the difference between getting a charge in or not. Thankfully maths comes to the rescue and we can work out the length of any arc for a given radius. It is θ * r where θ is in radians. Using some rounding to nice numbers here are wheel distances for 4cm bases to angles that might be judged by eye. Those without a protractor to hand could use the movement value for the next highest degree of turn.

Degrees2 bases3 bases4 bases
304 cm6 cm8 cm
456 cm9 cm12 cm
608 cm12 cm16 cm
9012 cm18 cm25 cm

Return to Warmaster

An idle scan of the rules shelf revealed the Warmaster and Battle of the Five Armies rulebooks. A printed and dated army list next to the books dates their last outing to 2016. Empire, Undead, Orc and High Elf armies sit stacked amongst the ‘ready to go’ army boxes so Warmaster gets a new outing.

The original Warmaster rules were pretty simple. A unit is 3 stands but up to 4 units can be brigaded together to allow them all move with a single order. Roll 4+ to hit in the open, armour gives a save of 3+ at best, 2-4 hits eliminates a stand. Ability to move is based on proximity to the enemy or a friendly commander passing a 2D6 command rating score. Close combat is a case of lining up opposing units and it is the lining up concept that is hardest to interpret. There are subtleties in which stands can line up, in what order, which units fight or give rear support and at what angle onto an opponent can give flank or rear advantages.

Games Workshop wrapped up their involvement in the game sometime around 2004 after 21 issues of their Warmaster Magazine and annuals in 2002 and 2003. By that time the content and figures were mail order specials with only a limited selection of the product available in store. The magazines and annuals clarified rules and introduced new armies all of which would have been a mystery to the casual player. With some poking around the internet most of the printed material can be tracked down but thankfully that is no longer necessary.

The free fan implementation at Warmaster Revolution includes the expanded army list from GW together with further additions and adds some scenarios. Most importantly it modifies and clarifies how units can move into combat and advance or retreat after combat. These are a necessary improvement; in the original rules a unit victorious in melee could keep ploughing forward and exploit a flank attack to roll up a chunk of the opposition’s forces. In Revolution a single combat is capped at 2 rounds. If the enemy is destroyed a subsequent combat by the same attacker is also capped at 2 rounds. Unfortunately for owners of the original book; the printout of the core of the expanded rules comes to 80+ pages and there is no easy way to print the full details of just the changes.

The basic army battle strength seems to be 2,000 points although a 1,000 point battle works well on a 4′ by 4′ table. The official list army maximums and minimums go up in steps of 1,000 points. Up to 1,999 points the 1,000 point limits apply meaning that fewer filler units need to be bought. The limits also apply to command figures so the 1,999 point army will be limited to the maximum commanders of a 1,000 point army and will probably have difficulty moving units around.

The Brumbaer list generator has been out since the rules were in print and is still up to date for the official Warmaster list additions. WM-Selector works with Warmaster and Warmaster Revolutions armies giving a wider range of armies and some point modifications. Unlike Brumbaer it does not show all the stats and special rules on screen. Most armies have a minimum requirement of cheap but ‘not so good’ models; so armies are relatively large. To be fair if an army only had a small number of high value units it might quickly be overwhelmed. The original GW models were a true 10mm. Just about any scale can be used instead and as long as the models fit on a 4cm by 2cm base and would even be compatible with other scale choices from another player.

Paper counters and list ideas are on the ‘League of Ordinary Gentlemen.‘ The original GW models still turn up from time to time. In metal Pendraken (fantasy) and Irregular are a little larger than GW humans, for fantasy races anything goes. The Pendraken historical minis are pretty close to GW size. Kallistra also do metal figures as do Magister Militum (an eclectic selection) and Black Gate (daemon and ogre specialist). Copplestone have a small range of orcs and humans. Eureka have very close non-GW Lizardmen but are expensive in the UK. A new trend is to print in resin, for example; Excellent Miniatures (In Germany), Geekvillain (UK), Printing In Detail (UK), Cromarty Forge (UK). The images of these are very attractive but some are more expensive than older metal lines. There are also resin prints available on eBay and Etsy. Many of these are implementations of the same licensed sculptures. The sculpts will be the same for each but the quality of the resin and degree of clean up can vary between printers. Supply of the licensed prints is less of an issue for those with their own 3D resin printers. Comparing the costs of printed armies to that of new resin printers and dedicated washing and curing units the whole set up would start to pay off around the 3rd printed army. Resin prints can hold onto their distinctive smell if kept in closed containers even when they have been painted and varnished. Another issue is that resin lacks the heft of metal so resin models are more likely to slide off hills.

The 3D print files would probably not work in FDM filament machines because of the print lines. An exception would be chaos figures where any ridges might be a feature as the daemon shifts between dimensions and for terrain elements. As with any set of sculpts a more expensive but more detailed model will look better and be easier to paint up than a cheap blob of resin or metal. When basing the main consideration is to choose and arrange models that fit within the 4cm by 2cm bases and allow stands to line up cleanly.

A painting tip is to use distinct costume colours on each unit set of 3 bases. This makes it easier to allocate attacks to specific units in combat and check unit losses for army break points. For some armies such as skeletons this plan will be hard to achieve. Below are GW, Irregular and Pendraken infantry. Their heights are close enough although the keen eyed will notice that the skeletons are bigger than humans. This is of course because the skeletons are not human but come from some extinct race of big apes.

Cavalry: Pendraken, GW and Irregular lined up. The size difference is less obvious due to the relative proportion of the mount model in relation to its rider.

Resin prints of Onmioji sculpts with Kallistra in the middle.

Here is a 1,500 point game between Chaos and The Empire on a 4′ square board. There are some enclosed fields and a built up area towards the centre of the board. The Chaos forces have not brought any missile units but The Empire has crossbow and artillery. Missile fire is more likely to break up battle lines and drive units back than to destroy anything. To compensate for this the Chaos deployment has expendable hounds and harpies out in front. The Warmaster Revolution rules are in use including the optional rules that make giving orders slightly easier.

Chaos1500Empire1500
Characters (19.7%)295Characters (17.3%)260
General125General – Sword of Destruction135
Hero80Hero80
Wizard90Wizard45
Infantry(28%)420Infantry (23.0%)345
2x Chaos Warriors3004x Halberdiers180
2x Chaos Marauders1203xCrossbowmen165
All the Rest (52.3%)785All the Rest (59.7%)895
3x Marauder Horsemen2704x Knights440
Chaos Knights2002x Pistoliers190
2x Chaos Hounds60Helblaster50
2x Chaos Chariots190Cannon85
Harpies65

Chaos moves first getting their infantry well into the enclosed areas where they will benefit from a better defense. The cavalry support on one flank moves up in support but fails to shift on the other.

The Empire also move up, trying to get their missile units into shooting positions. Their artillery are slow and don’t get above the crest of the hill. On the opposite flank Chaos hounds are driven back slightly. The Empire centre slowly shuffles forwards.

Chaos continue to move up. Empire missile fire drives back the Chaos hounds and confuses them and a unit that had to get out of the way (the red burst markers). Confused units cannot be ordered in their following turn. The Empire halberd block lines the fence at the edge of the built up area.

The Empire halberds behind the fence count as defended, taking hits on a 5+ not a 4+. The Chaos infantry move up although they also lose their charge in the open bonus. The Chaos warriors are as hard as the Empire halberd are weedy. The Empire are driven off taking heavy losses, the Chaos warriors retire behind the fence line. To the top of the image Chaos harpies charged the Empire hellblaster gun in the rear, destroyed it then mopped up the adjacent unit of Empire crossbow for good measure. This took some fortunate command rolls, first to get behind the Empire gun line then again to charge in as a second order and more than 20cm from their commander.

The Empire try to save the flank with their knights. A charge into the flank of the marauders supporting the Chaos warriors knocks out a stand. Everything else just messes up due to a lack of command successes. The remaining halberd troops pull back away from the Chaos centre, they can do that for free.

The Chaos chariots move up and destroy all but one of the Empire pistol stands. The remaining crossbow unit having made a poor job of driving off the Chaos flyers.

The Empire best chance is with their knights. They charge in and damage several Chaos units but eliminate none.

Chaos eliminate a crossbow unit and the last pistol stand with their horse and chariots. They also eliminate a lone knight stand. More than half the Empire army is destroyed resulting in a Chaos victory.

In conclusion the Chaos centre went through the Empire centre like butter. The Empire knights got into a mess and the Empire firepower was neutralised by the Chaos wolves and flyers. Artillery are based to the short edge so will stick out to the rear or front next to a single line of infantry. This allows a targeted charge to hit them but not an adjacent unit. The Empire has a solution in using their skirmisher units attached to an adjacent unit to offer protection to their artillery. The hellblaster can put out a serious 8 shots to an attacker from the front if it does not break down. The cannon are not so handy but have a decent range if no one gets in the way.

The Chaos army load out worked with a decent proportion of marauder and other chaff to fill out the excellent if expensive warriors and knights. The Empire are going to need some sorting either bulking out with skirmishers or adding more cheaper units. This will require having to lose something to pay for it, possibly the cannon.

Saga – Epirotes vs Syracuse

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.

Chain of Command – Saipan Day 3

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.

Chain of Command – Saipan Day 2

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.