Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Red vs Blue: The cards

Update: a full account of this convention game has been published in Miniature Wargames with Battlegames, issue 380.

Listed below are all possible cards we will hand out during CRISIS. As explained in the previous post, try to collect one at the convention and participate in the Red vs Blue war. Alternatively, print out a few of these cards and bring them to the gaming table!

We omitted a few of the more rare cards, with very special abilities ... so go hunting for them! ;-)

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Red vs Blue: Real-time, Mass-participation Wargame at CRISIS 2013

Update: a full account of this convention game has been published  in Miniature Wargames with Battlegames, issue 380.

After an uninterrupted 16 years of presenting participation games at CRISIS, we decided for our 17th game to try something new: a mass participation wargame, run in real-time. Our goal is to have as many players as possible to participate in the game, each with a limited micro-order. The accumulation of all these micro-orders will result (hopefully) in a full game, resolved by 17.00.

The design philosophy of this game will be kept for a future blogpost. This post will explain the playing principles, such that players can prepare themselves to participate in this experiment.

The game features a modern land war between Red and Blue.

The cards

We have printed roughly 1200 (twelve-hundred) playing cards, each containing a single gaming action for either Red or Blue. These cards will be dealt out en masse in the convention hall, with the explicit task to go to the game at any time during the day. So, spot a Schild&Vriend club member wandering the convention hall and get a card!

Cards come in different variations: movement and attack orders, reinforcements, airstrikes, etc. Some uncommon cards specify weather effects. Some cards allow you to play interrupts during the other side's turn. Some ultra-rare cards allow you to play nuclear strikes.

The clock
When you arrive at the gaming table, take a look at the real-time clock (prototype shown below). When the minute hand is in a red sector - colored sectors last for 10 minutes - cards for Red can be played. The more players show up for Red, the more cards can be played, and the more orders Red can execute. During this phase, orders are only planned and represented visually on the table - but are not yet executed. Execution follows when the minute hand enters a black sector. No more orders for Red can be played at this time. After 5 minutes of execution time, the cycle is repeated for Blue.

Below is an example  of what the planning phase might look like. The example is rather small and limited, since the gaming table will be several times larger than what is shown in the photographs. The scale of the game is more akin operation Barbarossa rather than a skirmish fight.

A situation at the start of Reds's cycle is shown below. Blue defends one of its cities. Imagine each hex being 10km across and each tank represents a division. The game is played at a strategic scale!

It is Red's planning turn, and the first player plans some movement orders. These are indicated by arrows. One arrow moves one division one hex. Keep in mind that no movement is yet executed.

More players for Red show up, playing additional movement orders. A movement order into an enemy-occupied hex counts as an attack.

Another player plans an airstrike just in front of Blue's city. Planned airstrikes are indicated by explosion markers.

... and even some more movement/attack orders are laid down. During executuon, units will start using up movement orders, and will keep moving as far as they can. That's why it is important to have as many players as possible supporting Red at the table as possible. Players supporting Blue will be able to play interrupt cards with weather effects such as rain, clouds, fog etc.

A rare card has shown up! A nuclear strike is planned! In the distance, some other weather effects such as a rain storm are also visible.

When the minute hand enters a black sector on the clock, time's up and now is the time for execution! Red's units start "eating up" movement orders, one order for one unit that moves one hex. The situation below shows the executed movements just before the attacks are rolled for (simple D6 mechanisms). The actual rules governing combat are literally only 10 lines long, and will be explained by the game controller at the table when necessary.

... and this might be the situation after combat resolution. Attacks that succeeded result in Red units occupying previously enemy-held hexes.


Of course, the game will see many more players participating over the entire breadth, width and depth of the playing field. The idea is that visually, one sees a big planning map that should give you the feeling of planning a war in a situation room. When the clock hits a black sector, one of the game controllers will resolve all actions, the visual planning markers are removed, and the other side takes a turn.

The game starts at 10.00, and will play continuously till approximately 17.00.

Will Red be able to conquer the Blue homelands? Come and find out at CRISIS 2013!!!

Note: Hex terrain from Kallistra, explosion and weather markers from Litko, cards printed by The Game Crafter.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Historical or imagistorical?

I was presented with (well, I presented myself with) an interesting dilemma the other day. While I was setting up the table and miniatures for the Battle of Windmill Hill game, I realised that I dislike some of the French Napoleonic figures in my collection. The figures in question are these:

IMG 1484

These are plastic Victrix Napoleonic French figures, painted for me by Mabuhay Miniature Painting Service (hi Fons!). While I'm very happy with the quality of the painting, I don't like the figures themselves (note that this has nothing to do with MMPS, as I chose and bought the figures myself and just had them painted by MMPS). The reason I'm not happy with them is that I find them to be too dynamic for my tastes. When I bought them, I (thought I would) like(d) figures with a large dynamic range that could be posed in many different poses. However I have come to find that I like look of more or less single pose units more than the hodge podge of different poses that these figures offer. These days, I find that I like my units to look more like this (maybe the Classic Wargaming look is growing on me):

IMG 3437

So I decided to replace the brigade of French Victrix figures with one which has units of figures all in the same pose (marching, advancing or charging). But then I hit a snag: the one other manufacturer of plastic Napoleonic French I (then) knew of—Perry Miniatures—does figures for the Waterloo campaign, in the post 1812 uniform, while the rest of my collection is appropriate for the 1809 Danube campaign, so in earlier uniforms. What to do?

The solution to this dilemma is one I already used for my (now already consisting of all of two bases of painted figures) Thirty Years' War collection. Instead of basing my Napoleonic collection on a single campaign and picking units from it to model in miniature, I shall cast my nets wider and just select units from the entire period. If one plays historical battles, one has to substitute the units in them for the units in one's collection anyway (unless you are rich and have *every* unit available), so the leap from fully historical to imagistorical is not so big anyway. The added flexibility in figure selection more than makes up for the (perceived) loss of historical accuracy.

So, next time someone comes to your table, leans close, squints and starts with 'I think you will find that …' you simply answer 'Well spotted, but I think you will find that these units are imagistorical' :).

As a final coda—the best laid plans of mice and men, and definitely of war gamers planning collections, often go awry. In my case, since deciding to replace the Victrix brigade I have found the Warlord Games plastics (which are appropriate for 1809 - the only appreciable difference in fact seems to be the lower edge of the vest, which is rounded pre 1812 and straight post-1812—but I might be wrong there), so that solves one problem. However, after going through my pile of lead in the attic I realised I have 5 battalions of Front Rank Wurttemberg infantry, so the Victrix French brigade will in the end be replaced by Front Rank Wurttemberg infantry. Hmm, given that my other allied infantry is Bavarian, I see a Raupenhelm ('sausage heads') theme developing :).

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Rear Slope - the Battle of Windmill Hill

Last night we played a Napoleonic game at my place (likely one of the last games there as I'm moving house in early December). The game was based on the 'Rear Slope' scenario from Charles S Grant's 'Scenarios for Wargames' book—referred to as the white book in our circles to distinguish it from the red 'Scenarios for all Ages' from the same author.

The game pitted a mixed Bavarian–French division sized force in the attack against Austrian defenders. The Austrians were played by Phil while I took the Bavarians. The aim of the scenario was to take (or prevent the taking of) a big hill feature that dominated the right rear quarter of the table.

I had big plans of using combined arms tactics to break through the Austrian lines: ride up with my heavy cavalry to force the Austrian infantry in squares, bombard those with horse artillery and then slam into them with the infantry. Unfortunately, my brain seems to freeze over whenever I try to apply such Napoleonic tactics on the actual table (as evidenced by the one Napoleonic competition I played in, where I ended last with 0 points :) ) and the actual game deviated somewhat from the plan. There were squares, there was artillery bombardment and there was an infantry charge, but none of them were in any way coordinated. The fact that for some reason I deployed my infantry assault force immediately behind the windmill where they would have to go through it to advance was instrumental in this (my reasoning was that I would swing the infantry left or right of the windmill depending on which Austrian unit looked the most crunchy after the artillery bombardment).

All that is not to say that I did not win the game, but that had everything to do with dice rolling and nothing with tactics. This is the situation at the end of the battle, where the attacking Bavarian infantry has blasted a hole in the Austrian line by breaking IR1 Kaiser and throwing back IR27 Chasteler:

IMG 3434

For the campaign diary (where I intend to keep a track of all the units in my collection), these are the units that fought:

  • I and II battalion, 1st Bavarian Line Infantry
  • I and II battalion, 2nd Bavarian Line Infantry
  • 1st Bavarian Light Infantry
  • 1st & 2nd Squadrons 1st Bavarian Dragoons
  • 1st & 2nd Squadrons 1st Bavarian Chevaulegers
  • 1st & 2nd Squadrons 7th Cuirassiers (French)
  • Regniers Battery Horse Artillery (Bavarian)
  • I and II battalion, 3rd Ligne
  • I and II battalion, 57th Ligne

  • I battalion, IR 1 Kaiser
  • I battalion, IR 44 Bellegarde
  • I battalion, IR 27 Chasteler
  • I battalion, IR 58 Beaulieu
  • I battalion, Gradiscaner Grenzer
  • Divisional Foot artillery battery
  • 1st & 2nd Squadrons 6 Kurassiere Melas
  • 3rd & 4th Squadrons 6 Kurassiere Melas

Honorouble mentions go to I/1 and 1/II Bavarian Line for breaking through IR 1 Kaiser, the Bavarian Dragoons for singlehandedly charging and surviving the charge against 2 units of Austrian Kurassiere and IR 44 Bellegarde for charging and destroying half of Regnier's artillery battery, with only half of the battalion.

Broken on the field of battle were two guns of Regnier, IR 1 Kaiser and 7th Cuirassiers.

Finally, here's some more photographs of the battle:

IMG 3438
The victorious I/1 and I/II Bavarian Line.

IMG 3439
1st Dragoons

IMG 3440 IR44 Bellegarde (-) after its double victory against Regnier.