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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

WWII Rules, playtest, Scenario 21 Redux, P.1

 The Inglese are advancing upon the town in force Signore - the situation is critical!

Blimey, they've brewed our tea for sure, now!

So, with much in the combat table changed and more addition / subtraction modifiers in place, along with a net "halving" of Hits for units that are Dug-in or in Towns, and many little fine-tunings for measuring Range, etc, I set out with some excitement to see how this played out on table. My goal is still a set of fast-playing rules that deliver enough tactical decisions and historical feel for an enjoyable game, without bogging the players down in decisions that they can't / shouldn't make at the company / battalion command level - which round to shoot at a tank, does Pvt. Snuffy have a hole in his shoe, etc.

I returned to Scenario #21 in Neil Thomas' "One-Hour Wargames" because it is already set up and also because this is meant to be more of a test of the rules rather than a test of how well I play either side, or the forces involved.  That being said, after seven or more plays or partial plays of the scenario, I decided to rate both British Infantry Units Crack and the Italian Mortars as Crack and use an Advanced rule [unpublished] called "Field Gun" that allows light artillery to fire direct or indirect, and at -1 instead of -2 v. Armor [note this is still very different from an ATG which fires at +2 v. Tanks - my justification is both the gun platform itself, rate of fire, and availability of enough AT rounds to make a difference]. 

At the end of the AAR, I'll post the new rules in all their glory!

I found the Italian tanks too weak on the defense here, without a hill behind which they could be hull down.  They died in the first two turns no matter where I put them and even if the ATGs were closer to the British armor. Ergo, I substituted the dual-purpose Italian field gun, the 75/18 which was a very common gun. The ATGs are of course the 47mm elefante portable mountain gun so common in Italian service.

Per last post, the Red defender sets up one Unit on the wooded hill and three within 6" of the North edge of the board.  The Blue attacker sets up in the bottom right two squares, 1' square each, for a 2x1' setup area.  Blue has six Units to four Red Units and must take both the wooded hill at bottom left and town at top center.  Terrain is the road leading to the town, the north edge of which is a marsh [impassible]. 

With much experience for both sides at this point, I set up the Italians with an Infantry on each objective, within it so as not to be in LoS until a Unit was within 4" with two bases to two bases. The ATGs and Mortars are to the West of the town - it has been a tough decision as to put one Unit to the East or not. Putting them both to the West leaves a bit of a dead zone for the ATGs East of the Town altho the Mortars may still fire into that.
The Fire Arc is 180 off the forward, unique base of the three. You can see that the staff base is angled so that the Front arc covers nearly the entire town and all the dead zone past it. By contrast, the ATGs are nestled against the town. An alternative would be to put the one of them in the Northeast corner, but I like the mutual support the gun line presently has.
For the British, I set up two Infantry Units to attack the wooded hill immediately - vehicles are not permitted into it per scenario rules. The CS Crusaders are in the Southeast corner to provide Mortar fire, while the three Crud platoons are in a reverse wedge 2-up/1-back formation at the deployment edge. The plan is to crush the Italians in the woods and send the infantry against the town, while the Tank units damage or destroy the Infantry and ATGs protecting the town. The Mortars will support either as needed. 

Turn 1 below. The British armor advances! Shouting "Tally-ho" and swiwing riding crops and cricket bats, the armored might of the Empire advances against the foe. After some debate, I decided to use the "Ready" status of both gun Units to fire against the Brits in their turn, as well in the Italian turn. Lousy rolling resulted in two Hits on the closest platoon. At two Hits Units are -1 to Hit rolls, at 4 Hits -2, so the Tank platoon is partially suppressed. The Mortars couldn't see the lurking Italians, who responded to the British advance by pushing forward the Infantry in the town. This makes them visible, but also able to support the ATGs.
Turn 1 on the hill. Crack British infantry advance into Close Range. Italians botch fire rolls. The top Unit is out of LoS, while the bottom is both in and at Close Range. The attack ratio isn't that great to take a fixed position: 3-1 with occasional artillery support is barely enough.

Turn 2 below. British dash a crud Unit into a flanking position - note that the Italian Infantry in the town are going to be flanked one way or the other as long as they are up with fire support for the ATGs. Tough decision, but I've found it to be worth it generally. They inflict three Hits upon the Marching Cruds. Other Cruds move into firing positions on the town, but stay out of 12" from the ATGs who still pose a threat with their +2 v. Tanks at every Range. They rolled well and put several Hits on the bottom Cruds forcing them to Rally [the black spoked wheel marker indicates a rally and the roll]. Positioning has gone well so far.
Turn 2 on the Hill. Ineffective fire exchanged, but top Infantry gets two Hits. Should the Brits Dig-in instead of Firing? Probably for the best over the long haul.

Turn 3 below. Cruds pressure the town, getting pressured back and flanking Cruds forced to Rally. Note I forgot to pick up the dust marker from the Italian movement! Unpaved town?
Turn 3 at the Hill. Firepower pressuring everyone, North infantry Dig-in. South Infantry do not and have the Hits to prove it! With 4 Hits they cannot now rally below 2 Hits, so red die.

Turn 4 below. Plenty of shooting, some red dice indicate damage but nothing decisive yet. Italians in town pushed to 4 Hits and rally 2 off.
Turn 4 at hill. Brits dig in but Fire from North Unit forces Italians to 4 Hits and a Rally attempt - bad roll results in only 1 Hit being removed. Could this be the end?

Turn 5 below. Italians pushed hard, ATGs suppressed with town Infantry, but flanking Cruds are destroyed by excellent rolls from Infantry and supporting Mortars [I think they both rolled a '6' or so]. They inflict 5 Hits taking the Cruds to 7 and destroyed. Attack in trouble!
Turn 5 on hill. Fighting lulls as Rallying is done. Italians survive, which is a win for them. British frustrated but the Mortars were used against the ATGs this turn to help the Tanks.

Turn 6 below. Cruds move into Flanking position again, supported by fire from other surviving Cruds. Italian infantry forced to Rally, roll great and go from 5 Hits to 2! ATGs roll a '5' and get rid of all 3 Hits! This is the penalty for failing to bring consistent overwhelming firepower to bear on the defenders, and it cost the Brits a Crud Unit as well as a delay.
 Turn 6 at hill. British Fire forces Italian Rally, but their Mortars inflict a Hit.

Turn 7 below. British Fire and poor Rally leave the town Infantry at 4 Hits. Critical moment! Supporting Cruds unfortunately also at 4 Hits. Quite a pickle since one Crud platoon cannot handle the two gun Units - and they must be destroyed to allow the British Infantry to cross the open space from the Hill to the Town. Poor rolling leaves hill situation identical to above!

Turn 8 below. Tally-ho! Italian Infantry on the go! British switch to captured Panzer Lehr dice and roll well enough to see off the Italians in the town.
Italians respond by dropping Mortar fire on the Cruds, rolling a '6' and inflicting 3 Hits. They also shift the ATGs into the town [I hadn't thought of that before...]. As the Tank Units can't end their move in the town without a road, they will have to use firepower and position to stop this. But the Italians roll a '3' for 4" move -2" b/c of Dug-in, and don't move far.
Turn 8 at the hill. Indecisive. A concentrated effort is required, but the demands of the Cruds attacking the town distract the Mortars and some Rallying weakens the Firepower.

So far, very pleased with how things are playing out. I've surprised myself a couple of times during the game with inspiration for one side or the other, but the quality of leadership is pretty consistent for both and not a factor for the playtest. All the play so far has both good 'feel' and historical precedent, so I've no complaints. A couple of typos and little corrections to the rules, but nothing major.

Had plenty of clear decisions that had to be made, and sometimes I chose well and others not as well, but at all times the choice was clear and the dice have favored both sides at one time or other. My opinion is that a balanced scenario played well by both sides will usually come down to a victory for the player whose good play gives them that little edge with some good luck and a narrow win. Anything else _should_ be a draw, right?

What will happen in the next 7 turns?  Tune in and find out!

Monday, June 20, 2016

WWII Rules, playtest, Scenario 21: Twin Objectives

In the process of working on the Horse & Musket version of OHW, I developed a strong desire to figure out a fast-play version of grand tactical rules for ACW, along with painting up 6mm ACW figs for which I traded some excess 15mm WWII and board games.
[thus keeping my rule intact not to spend new money on gaming, which has been going well for several years now - I've been not just "new money" free but also a significant net "giver" into the bills and savings account with my gaming over the last few years, depositing several thousand dollars while continuing to finish or start a few projects!]

The development of the ACW rules has proven to be the most difficult I've ever attempted as it is a new approach from a larger battle concept, where each Unit or Base of 6"x3" is a full brigade. Along the way, I also wanted to stop using three dice to mark casualties with the OHW rules and get it down to only one die, preferably color-coded to also indicate morale  / suppression status. I must've played 20 times with several different versions! Finally, I decided I had to try it with the WWII rules as they are more solid in both concept and execution.

So, here I am with a more linear mechanic for combat resolution. I'm using a standard six-sided die and modifying it as usual, up / down / halving but giving each Unit 6 hits [one die worth for ease of marking] with a -1 at 2 Hits and -2 at 4 hits [at which time the 2 Hits become permanent and can't be rallied off]. Most of the rest of the rules are the same with just a couple of little changes to accommodate the new math and a couple of little tweaks.

Below, the scenario, quite an interesting one. The Blue attacker has six Units to four Red defender. Blue must take both the wooded hill at bottom left and the town at top center. Red deploys one Unit on the hill facing East and three Units within 6" of the North board edge [the squares are 12", so it is the top half of the top three squares]. Blue deploys all six Units within the shaded area, the two bottom left full squares as indicated on the map. Note that I played this 2-3 times before recording it as there were several little modifications needed to the combat mechanics as I switched them from 1Dx and 15 Hit Units to 1D3 and 6 Hit Units.

And below is the resulting forces and set up. I picked the forces from my available painted figures. The Italians are defending with two infantry - essential to hold the town and the wooded hill. Supporting them are a Unit of ATGs and a Unit of tanks. Both infantry are pulled back into the objectives thus limiting Line of Sight to only 4" mutually, two bases to two bases. I felt that with the British superiority in force if they lined the edge they could fight but then be overwhelmed by superior firepower. The 24" range of the tanks and ATGs does reach halfway into the British deployment zone but the Brits have the first turn and I didn't want to make the mistake of sacrificing Units for some early shooting. 

I put the ATGs on the Italian right to cover the flank of the Unit on the hill, and the tanks to the left to give them some space and threaten the British right. The alternative was to put them on the right so they could move to support the hill if needed. I also had to decide to deploy the defenders first, which seemed likely altho not specified in the scenario. I should try using blinds for a couple of the defending Units so that I don't even know what they are!
Upon seeing the defense, I weighted the British right, intending to overwhelm the tanks quickly then threaten the town. Advancing upon the ATGs in support and to take the town is a platoon of Motor Infantry. This limited me to one Motor Infantry to take the hill, but I thought they could do it with the support of the CS Crusaders - Mortars [at bottom right with big barrels] and possibly switching one Crud platoon left after the ATGs were handled. As ATGs don't fight infantry as well as they fight tanks, I felt I had a solid threat to the ATGs and tanks supporting the town while having just enough to take the hill unless I rolled badly. 

Turn 1 below. British mortars and two tank Units fire upon the Italian tanks causing 4 Hits, so they can't rally below 2 Hits and are presently -2 firing. One tank platoon and the infantry are advancing but rolled low so not advancing much! probably just want to see how the prep shooting goes! Italians return fire off of their "Ready" status in the British turn, then fire again in their turn; this causes a few Hits on the advancing British tank platoon and the infantry against the wooded hill. They didn't roll great, so acceptable losses to the Brits thus far!

Turn 2 below.  British advance continues. Italian tanks wiped out by the fire of nearly the entire British force! British infantry take it in the teeth as they try to take the hill but they've dug-in. Italian ATG fire is weak, mildly suppressing one British tank Unit.

Turn 3 below [slightly blurry, sorry, but the action was too intense for our correspondent!]. British advance shifts left, two tank Units and the infantry heading against the town while one tank Unit shifts to support the infantry on the hill who only rally off one Hit. The Mortars put the hurt on the Italians on the wooded hill. The Italian ATGs get one Crud platoon to 4 Hits and the left infantry to 5 Hits but they rally well. They need to eliminate at least one platoon to weaken the British attack at this point I think.

Turn 4 below.  British taking heat on the way in, but weakening the ATGs and hill infantry. Still, looks good for the Brits to be applying this much pressure this early in the game.

Turn 5 below.  Limey's outflank the town and eliminate the ATGs. This clears the way for the infantry to advance as the tanks are threatening the Italian infantry holding the town. Combination of mortars and infantry gaining slight edge on hill, but it is clear that they need additional direct fire support if they're to overwhelm the Italian defenders. The game has a nice balance - if you don't bring overwhelming firepower to bear, opposing Units may be able to rally off enough hits to stay in the game. Very historically accurate from my reading.

Turn 7 below.  The Italians on the hill folded and the British are attempting to bring overwhelming firepower to bear on the town as the tanks and infantry fighting the hill shift North. While a few British Units have taken serious Hits, there isn't enough Italian firepower to eliminate them before they can pull back and rally.

Turn 8, the end of Italian resistance. The combo of three Units, including the infantry at Close Range overwhelms the Italian infantry Unit holding the town. By sitting at the back of the town, they British were able to get a couple of bases into it and get some Cover and Concealment benefits. Next time I would defend a town with the infantry closer to the edge so that the attackers can't take positions within it. This will still leave a flank vulnerable but would be worth it. I like the choices here - defend a town at the edge, just inside the edge, or deep within it. Each presents the attacker with a problem yet is realistic and very simple.

Overall a good playtest. Had a few tweaks along the way with the rules, shifting the factors a couple of times here and there. I still tried to keep the scenario a real battle despite the changes. I am trying to get the right balance with the Italian deployment, but wondering if there's a use for Italian tanks in this battle, honestly. I think a second ATG Unit or some Mortars might be more useful.

I played this scenario again, shifting the Italian tanks to the right flank, but they still didn't last long. Dug-in ATGs would be more of a threat I think. There are several tough decisions for both sides. The Italian ATG and tank Unit have to fire and engage the British or else the Brit tanks can shift left and overwhelm the defenders on the hill. But in doing so they lose their Ready status and may be spotted and fired upon. 

Meanwhile, the Italians on the hill don't have enough firepower to destroy even one Brit Unit, so the question is only if the time taken up to destroy them would be enough to make the defense of the town more plausible given the 15-turn limit. I also made some final adjustments to the combat mechanics and am ready for a final playtest!