Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Bolt Action- Winter Skirmish

I have been cracking through painting my Winter German Army, and since McZ has had a Winter US Army for a while now, it was only a matter of time before we had a wintery game of Bolt Action!

The Regiment has been thinking about small scale, 500 point games of Bolt Action for a while now. Having so few points lends itself to being a brutal affair, so when McZ and I took to the field with 500 point armies, it was no exception!

I was running Regular Germans, with
- Second Lt
- 8 Grenadiers with an SMG and LMG
- 8 Grenadiers with an SMG and LMG
- 8 Grenadiers with an SMG and LMG
- 6 Veteran Pioneers with an SMG and a Flamethrower
- MG42

McZ was running (I think)
- Lootenant and buddy
- 12 GIs
- 12 GIs
- Pioneer GIs with a flamethower
- Light Mortar

The mission was to claim the loot from the Panzer III in the middle of the table, and then leg it off your table edge. Sounds simple enough?

As for the game, in picture form it went something like...
Hans, the disabled Panzer III got stuck in the middle of the table

The Germans arrive on table (after spending the first turn NOT arriving)


The German pioneers took some positions next to large fuel tanks. With their flamethrower....

The Americans showed up! 

The pioneers claim the Panzer III!

This is called a "horde" of Americans

A flanking squad of Grenadiers deploys next to the huts...

...and is charged by the US Engineers...

....And totally wipe them out!

All in all, my dice were terrible for the first three turns, and then they were just great, which meant that I was able to wipe the Americans off the table, claim the loot and win the game!

As for 500 point Bolt Action? Man it is brutal, and when it starts going wrong, it really goes wrong. I liked using small unit tactics, and certainly enjoyed getting the Winter Germans out onto the table. Just three elements to go then they are all done!

Whitewashing on the vehicles is going well too, I am super, super happy with the Panzer III

Grubby whitewash!

Till next time, I will get back to the painting table...

Pooch


Monday, 15 May 2017

More V4 musings...

At the club this weekend we have some V4 games organised so we can get back into playing and start the long process of expunging the V3 system from our heads. To help with that, I''ve been reading the V4 EW/LW conversion rulebook quite a bit recently to see if I can understand it and see if there are anymore vague rules like the assault step one I raised in my last post (lovin' V4) or new rules that change the way units or teams play (compared to the V3 way I am trying to forget).





Late War American Tank Destroyers



I loved using the M18 platoon to support my late war US Paratroopers, so I was keen to see how they changed (remember: learn V4, forget V3) play in V4. I like these changes.


Tank Destroyers. Now the two parts of the TD platoon are treated as separate platoon! The Security Section (the M20s) and the Tank Destroyers themselves have their own rules now, but they work very well together. This is a good move and is in keeping with keeping the newer rules simpler than V3.


The Security Section now operates as a recon unit with Spearhead (advanced deployment) and Scout (Gone to Ground if moving while Concealed). This means the Security Section can deploy in advance of the normal area, then the Tack Destroyer section can then deploy in that new bubble around the Security Section.


The Tank Destroyer Section uses the new Seek, Strike and Destroy rule plus the Scout rule.


Seek, Strike and Destroy. The M18s now move the 12" tactical move, but with SS&D if they have already passed a Movement Order already, they can attempt the Shoot and Scoot movement order. They act now like the German TDs but Blitzing, shooting, then Scooting.


Flamethrowers



Something that does not appear in the new V4 rulebook (the Mid War one) is flamethrower teams. This is presumably because neither of the new army books (for the Afrika Korps or Desert Rats) have them in the lists. They do appear in the EW/LW conversion book so I thought I'd look at these (purely academically of course! I don't really want to field my Crocodiles or Wasps....)


 Ok first up; Flamethrowers can fire in Defensive Fire now.


There is no restriction for FT teams to fire in DF anymore (which makes a lot of sense). Instead, there is this rather tricky interaction. In the Flamethrower rules on page 42, Infantry, Gun and Unarmoured Tank Teams are automatically pinned when hit by a flamethrower. At first I read this as that one hit in DF from a flamethrower team will stop and assault going in. OVERPOWERED! I cried, drawing concerned stares from my family. I dug further into the rules. In the Assault Rules for defensive fire 'Forcing The Assault To Fall Back' the text states that 'a unit taking at least five hits from Defensive Fire becomes pinned down' and the assault ends.


Well, that brings it back to an even keel. Reading these rules it means if you got a hit with your FT team, and the target assaulting platoon was pinned down, the assault would still happen as it had not taken five hits! That sounds a bit weird though, so I followed the litmus test: Am I a Dick if I enforce that interpretation of that rule? In this case, I don't think I am being a dick. It seems pretty even for me, even though there is the odd (when comparing to the old V3 rules) scenario of a pinned platoon assaulting.


Flamethrower teams cannot assault and must break off if assaulted. Cool, I'm ok with that. If I was the dude carrying the tank of fuel I'd be reluctant to get anywhere near someone pissed off that I had just sploodged my hot load all over his friends.


Flamethrower teams do not get removed for the table once they have shot their load. They can just keep spraying like some young [analogy deleted].


That's all interesting and I cant wait to try them out (maybe at Panzershreck or maybe not... nudge, nudge, wink, wink)... 


Turntables and 360o facings




One rule from V3 that did not make the transition over to V4 in the same format is the Turntable rule. Previously my 25pdrs and 2pdrs that supported my New Zealand Divisional Cavalry were able to spin in place and fire at full rate of fire like some antipodean dalek.

Now in the Mid War V4 there is no specific rule for Turntable. Queue the "WHAT THE ACTUAL?" moment. Then I remembered the assault rule and thought "hmmm, perhaps I am missing something here, or more likely applying my V3 brain to the V4 rules?"

Reading through the V4 shooting step we are presented with the steps for shooting.

1. Check Range
2. Check Line of Sight

Here you measure the LoS from the Weapon mounting of the gun team. It is measured to any part of the target team. There is no requirement here to measure forward of the base or in a particular arc.

3. Check for Concealment
4. Declare Targets

In this step there is a sub heading "Limited Fields of Fire". It specifically states that some weapons (gun teams and tank teams) have a field of fire - which means that they can only fire forward of their base. Obviously, in V3 having a turntable would negate this issue as the standard was that all gun teams had limited fields of fire and 'turntable' was the exception.

5. Rotate to Face

Here is the cool part of this process and the answer to the question of where is the Turntable rule. In this step the shooting team rotates to point at the declared target team. There is no exceptions apart from the aforementioned Limited Fields of Fire rule. Seeing there is no other exception, one can only assume that all gun teams, by default, have the turntable rule (without the actual rule). While Turntable still exists in the EW/LW conversion books, it only applies to the MW book list. It'll mean sneaking up on gun teams from behind will be more difficult unless you can kill them straight away.

But how does it affect Defensive Fire?

Flicking on through to the Opponent's Defensive Fire step it says that any Defending team shoots as if it was their Shooting Step. Holy effing moly! No more charging gun teams from the back to stop defensive fire. I guess the only thing to check is which teams in the new books have the limited fields of fire (Forward Firing is the actual rule).

Just checking the Afrika Korps book:

5cm PaK38 - Forward Firing
8.8cm AA  - no Forward Firing
10.5cm howitzer - Forward Firing

So, it looks like the exception is not the rule and we can all calm down (well just me!). It looks as though the guns that had turntables, such as the 88, dont get the Forward Firing rule while those that did not have a turntable, do have the rule. Cool, but something to watch out for!

Club Meeting

I finally made it to the club last weekend and had a game against Richard Steer (Richard's Musings). We had a great late war game at 1350 points playing the reworked Fighting Withdrawal mission - Rearguard. My Highland Scots with a couple of troops of Churchills tried to push some panzergrenadiers supported by an Elefant(!) off the objectives. They failed, but that was not important. We had a great time and some good debates about the new rules. I'm sure Richard'll have one of his excellent game write ups soon :)

Monday, 1 May 2017

Flames of War V4 4eva *love heart*

Ok, so maybe a bit over the top, but the title of the post shows that I am really enjoying Version 4 of Flames of War.


Now, I'm one of the original players of FoW going waaaay back to 2000 when Wayne Turner, Evan Allen, Phil Yates and I were playing Phil's hastily scrawled notes for a new 15mm WW2 game. This is pre, pre preV1! Since then I have played a lot of Flames of War in the last 17 years as a playtester and I have been suffering from game burnout recently. So much so, I started selling off my collection! With the release of V4, however, my enjoyment of the game has been rekindled and I've found myself go back to old habits, you know, making lists, making them different, perusing the online shop, making dicky lists that I'd never field, making 'I wish' lists etc etc etc.


Tank Engine and I both had last Friday off (he is a teacher so never works normal hours anyway, and as it was school holidays here, I had the Friday off to look after the kids) and so we decided to get together for a game. Both of my boys (C and L) expressed an interest in learning the rules as well, so seeing the rules have a 'simpler' feel to them, I thought it was a good time to try them on the game again.


We decided to play 1500 point of late war using the V4 conversion rules. Tank rocked up with a Finnish infantry list ably assisted by C:


CHQ + hero and Panzershreck
Big Platoon of SMG
Big Platoon of SMG
3x PaK 40
3x T34/85
Mortar platoon
MG platoon
3x 75mm Artillery platoon


L wanted to run German tanks so I gave him the Nachtjaeger book to go and work out a list. What we came up with was:


Panther HQ
3 x Panthers
3x StuGs
Gepanzerte Panzergrenadiers
Volkssturm
4x 120mm mortars
Sporatic Air - Me262


Here are a few in game pictures.


The table. Due to flooding in the gaming room recently, we had adjourned to the garage.

Finns (on the left) count their dead and wave their middle fingers at the panzergrenadiers who have retreated back behind the hedge with their halftracks after failing to counter attack in the assault.

The defensive position of the Finns. Infantry, AT guns, and Artillery.

New smoke bombardment! The Finns protecting their gun line from the Panthers.

Oh dear! The T34/85s arrive from Reserve and shoot up the halftracks.

The StuG platoon on overwatch, waiting for the T34s to make their move.




We played Dust Up. Tank started with both large infantry platoons, the artillery and the PaKs. The Germans began with the Panther platoon, the Gepanzerte panzergrenadiers, the Mortars and the Volkssturm. Why so many platoons when you are only allowed 60% on? The Volkssturm must be deployed on table, but count as only worth 0 points for your split!


Both sides deployed conservatively, the Germans more so as the Finns start with two pre-planned artillery aiming points! Each were placed on an objective point. Tank tried to send one infantry platoon around the flank, but that was countered by the halftracked platoon while the Panthers kept the rest of the Finns in their foxholes.


After a ding dong battle between the half tracks and the flanking Finn platoon, both platoons were reduced to bad spirits and were destroyed after failing morale tests. The Finn reserves came on, but were countered by the Panthers and the recently arrived StuGs while the CO and the same Panther platoon brassed up the other Finn infantry platoon when it got excited and attempted a sneaky assault on the Panthers.


In the end the Finns broke with Bad Spirits for their Formation leaving the Germans winners 100-0 (or whatever the new scoring is now!)


Version 4 Rules


I think the simplification of Version 4 works really well, but with a caveat. I feel the rules have been simplified enough that there is quite a bit of inference in the rules - is some things are not explicitly stated. This is quite a change from V3 where each step was laid out minutely to make sure people played the same way. I don't think this is a major issue, and its one that can be solved by one simple litmus test:


Am I being a dick?


If answer is Yes, stop it.


That being said, here is one example. It may take a bit of explaining and I hope I make sense!

The Assault Step.

One of the things that I think most people felt was that under V3, the Assault step consisted of many point-by-point steps to make sure it was conducted exactly right. There was not much leeway and it made for a very long section in the rules. Under V4 the Assault Step is far simpler, however I think writing simple is a very complex skill to learn.

Step 1 Charge to Contact
An Assaulting Unit Moves any of it Tank or Infantry Teams up to 4"/10cm into Contact with an enemy Team by the shortest route. These Teams are now Assaulting Teams.

Now, when we read these rules, words in the sentences with capitals are Important Words. They require some description or explanation.  'Assaulting', 'Unit', 'Tank', 'Infantry', Team' are all terms explained in the book. Then we come to 'Contact' and the explanation for what is Contact.

A Team is in Contact with an enemy Team if:
  • its front edge is as close  as it can get to the enemy Team, or
  • it is an Infantry Team and its front edge is as close as it can get to another Infantry Team from its own Unit that is directly in Contact with an enemy Team
The thing I'd like to point out is that in the first bullet point, the one that should declare exactly what constitutes 'Contact', at no point mentions anything about base to base contact, or even 'touching'. The second bullet point does allow for a second Infantry Team to be in 'Contact' if it as close as it can get to another Infantry Team that is directly (my emphasis) in Contact with an enemy Team.

On first reading this says to me that our opposing platoons could be 48" away when I initiate the Assault. I move my teams 4"/10cm to 'be as close as they can get' to your teams (still 44" away). There would be no Defensive Fire (as you'd have to be within 8"/20cm of the Assaulting Teams) and I would roll my dice To Hit - hopefully wiping out your platoon. Again, the description does not say my teams have to touch your teams.

The way to solve this is to look back at the Golden Rule. Am I being a Dick? I would say yes. Yes I am. The way to read this is to look at the common sense term, 'Contact'. The dictionary says Contact is a 'State of Physical Touching', therefore Contact in the V4 Flames of War meaning infers that Contact must mean touch. This makes much more sense.

To make this easier to read/understand, something like this would have been better (in my opinion):

A Team is in Contact with an enemy Team if:
  • its front edge is touching the enemy Team, or
  • blah blah touching from behind (fnarr!)

Now, take this with the good will in which it is offered up as an example. I may, of course, be completely wrong about this and either you can assault from the next table or there is a passage in the text that explains this better. I hope the latter is true, but I think that common sense should prevail if not.

What do you think? Is this a case of poor writing, or a case of a writer assuming that we as players as not as big of gamer lawyer asshats than we actually are?  Can you Blitz over minefields with out testing for being hit, or keep your Foxholes in the new position seeing that the movement in the Blitz move does not count as Movement? Do rules need to be written to stop dickheads? Or can we just play a game?