Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Friday, May 26, 2017

A little something in the mail...

Just had this beauty arrive in the post today and am looking forward to getting into it on the train tomorrow. His first book was very good, and this looks to be possibly even better.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Alexander: a grand tussle

And so we turn to the second game in our Lost Battles Alexander campaign. This time, Issus.

Alexander debouched onto the plain as the Persians awaited him behind the Pinarus...

... and we switch to our easy-to-see troop outlines. As before, Macedonians in red, Persians in blue.

Turn 2: the Persians advanced into their key zone so as not to take a morale hit, but left an enticing gap for Alexander himself to advance into if he was game.

It turned out he was.

Turn 3: fighting in the foothills goes the way of the Persians. Elsewhere also the fighting is fierce, with hits scored on both sides. The Greek mercenary hoplites give a particularly good account of themselves, and there is tension as the 'Favour of the Gods' marker changes hands several times during the clash.

Turn 4: Alexander's Hypaspists and Companions put the enemy in the centre left to flight, and these carry off the light infantry with them, much to the relief of the Prodromoi (who were looking decidedly shaky up in the foothills). The rest of the Persian line holds, and Parmenion is rather disappointed with his Thessalian cavalry - they have not performed as vigorously as their fame would have suggested.

Turn 5: the Persian cavalry now shatters a unit of aforementioned Thessalians, but on the Persian left the camp falls, and with Alexander around the flank and bearing down upon him, Darius - he's not rated timid for nothing - gathers his bodyguard and flees.

With the king gone no one else feels much like sticking around either, and Alexander claims the victory.

It has been a hard-fought battle. Although the Persians have lost the field they have done just enough damage to the Macedonian army to win on points, 102 to 97.

A very close game, and whoever the guy who soloed it is, he's ruing the fact that he forgot to use Alexander's ability to steal turn initiative (but we won't talk about that!).

So, after two battles, it's one win apiece. Gaugamela is calling....

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The tottering giant

Ever since I've been a proper wargamer, the miniatures page forum (TMP) has bestrode the virtual wargaming world like a colossus. It's been the place to go to for news, general info, chat, and good advice; the spot to meet like-minded enthusiasts, to share a recent thrill, post a link to a latest game report, or hear the things in wargameville that are exciting people.

Being myself physically distant from any other miniatures gamers, TMP and TMPers taught me most of what I needed to know about collecting, prepping, painting, researching and so on when I first got into the hobby. Of course, there were other good places too (and good people - thanks Luke and Pat), but if you needed to know something right now, or if you were facing a conundrum and wanted to see how others with more experience had handled that same issue in the past, or if you wanted interesting discussions, TMP was indispensable. In fact, I would not be a wargamer without TMP, and I owe it and its denizens a huge debt (in more ways than one, says my wife. Ha!).

So the fact that things have not been right there for quite some time, that periods of calm followed by bitter and seemingly unnecessary blow ups over peripheral things that have nothing really to do with the primary aspects of our hobby contrive to drive more and more people away, is a great shame.

I finished up my membership there in January or February of this year, for reasons which I won't go into, but I still drop by as a casual viewer.

All things go in cycles, and as I've said here before, there seems to be a trend in the hobby towards fracturing, but it's a shame to see such a formerly (and, for me, formatively) influential place in such a bad way. Maybe the editor at TMP has just been doing it too long and has had enough. It's hard to maintain enthusiasm and keep perspective on one thing for as long as he has; perhaps he's just worn out and hasn't quite seen it yet.

I think there was a tremendous amount of goodwill around TMP for a long time, but it seems to be running on empty at the moment. Some people with a bone to pick are glad about that, but I am not glad about it at all. It was a huge help to me and I don't enjoy iconoclasm for its own sake.

In the end though, it's only wargaming; it's no great matter. Still, for a time, it was about as good as a wargaming warren gets, and, being the place that nurtured me as a fledgling gamer, worth remembering with fondness and gratitude.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Alexander: a great diversion

To keep myself sane between bouts of work and assignments due I've decided to run through a little Alexander campaign using the boardgame version of Lost Battles. Oddly enough, in all my years of playing Lost Battles, I haven't actually played through the Alexander scenarios. I did a couple of turns of the Granicus for a video tutorial, but as far as I can recall, that's all.

I had been waiting to finish painting up my Persians to do the Alexander battles, but as the big guy in the sky alone knows when that project may ever be completed, what's wrong with cheating a little and using the boardgame for its intended purpose?

Anyway, I played through the Granicus scenario last night, so here's an account of the affair.

Deployment turn, with the Persians in the foreground. They have a line of horse defending behind the river with mercenary hoplites off table ready to march into prominence. Alexander commands his right, with the Macedonian cavalry and the hypaspists as his main strike force. The phalanx is in the centre, and Parmenion holds the left.

Here it is transposed to our representation. Blue represents the Persians, red the Macedonians.

On turn two the Persians engage the Macedonian right and the hoplites come onto the field. Alexander attacks; Companion cavalry advances to engage the Persian left; Parmenion advances.

Turn three has the Persians outflanking Parmenion and reinforcing the centre with the Greek mercenaries. A lack of commands limits the effectiveness of the Persian attacks, but the phalanx is under pressure crossing the river.

Alexander is forced to pull back the Agrianians and the Prodromoi after heavy fighting. The hypaspists advance to bear the brunt of the Persian resistance while Alexander himself probes for a weak point.

On turn four a powerful Persian attack supported by the Greek hoplites sees the central phalanx waver, but it holds due to a timely intervention of the Gods (the 'Favour of the Gods' counter was played by Alexander to force a re-roll of a spectacularly successful Persian attack; an attack which could not be repeated so effectively the second time).

The Companions are victorious on the far right of the Macedonian line.

On turn five the Persian line continues to crumble. The left gives way as Alexander commits himself to the forefront of the fight.

On turn six the Persians rout entirely.

After victory points are tallied, the Macedonians and their young king have won a clear - bordering on major - victory, and Darius III has a fight on his hands.

So, a good start for Alexander. He was fortunate indeed to have the Gods on his side!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

All's quiet

There is little to report here of late. My internet buddy Andrea and I have an age of fighting sail game going on over VASSAL at a (thankfully!) leisurely pace, but apart from that and the odd bit of online chess, there is not much going on as far as gaming as concerned.

Normandy '44 has been removed from the hobby table to make way for coursework which is, boringly enough, going to take up my hobby time until the end of July; all primed or partly-painted figures are in boxes awaiting time and motivation; rulebooks are in their accustomed places on shelves; and the only thing that I'm doing of any real interest is reading at nights and on trains the decidedly unwargamerly but nevertheless very fine Anna Karenina.

There are a few plans afoot however, and the coursework taking up time now is hopefully going to prove useful later in keeping the wolf from the door.

Until next time...

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Normandy '44, first turn

One board game in my collection I purchased with high hopes but haven't properly sat down with is Mark Simonitch's Normandy '44. I decided therefore to lay it out and play through at least a couple of turns.

The rules are fairly straightforward, but there are some interesting additions to your bog standard hex and counter rules. Firstly, there is a special kind of zone of control called a hex bond which allows very tight defence lines to be established through which enemy units may not advance, retreat, or trace supply. Secondly, attacking units must nominate a 'main attacking formation' which fights at full strength and that can be supplemented by other units which attack at half strength. Thirdly, there is a 'determined defence' rule, which allows defending units that receive retreat results in combat to roll on a table which may permit them to stand fast, possibly at a cost to themselves.

Anyway here are a few shots of my progress. As usual, the game is being played solo.

Bad jumps for the 82nd and 101st Airborne. High casualties, and the troops are badly scattered.

The British jumps don't have a lot of joy either.

The invasion forces: American.

The invasion forces: Canadian and British.

Sword Beach.

The landings at Utah are very successful.

Those at Omaha less so, but they are there.

The forces landing at Gold and Juno take a lot of step damage, but all units survive.

So too at Sword.

The overall view is of success. The troops have got ashore. Most of the armour is spent, but there is quantity and quality to resist the German counter-attacks.

German and then Allied turns follow the landings. At close of June 6th the positions look like this.

The US sector has seen German units converge on the bridgehead. The 82nd Airborne is isolated and in all kinds of trouble, but if they can last the morning of the 7th they will be rescued.

The Canadians and British have done well in their sectors. The have avenues of advance and Caen looks inviting.

And the overall position at close of day.

There are 22 turns to the game, so I'm not sure that I'll get through them all. It does look already to be a game worth learning properly with a view to playing face to face or over VASSAL.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Gaming war and war as reality.

It's been brought home by recent escalating tensions near here just how crass wargaming must seem to those living in war's shadow or, worse, living its reality.

Lately there have been people on wargaming sites around the web wetting themselves with excitement over the gaming potential of recent flash points and, today, over the US letting loose the so-called 'Mother Of All Bombs'.

The reality is that thousands of lives are on the line right at this moment, and that most of those are innocents who happen to live in a particular place at a particular time, who go about their lives like everyone does, caring for their families, enjoying their friends, and hoping that when their time is up that they leave something of themselves behind that those who knew them will recall with fondness or with pride.

I love the challenge of trying to win a game. I enjoy replaying wars and battles from the past, seeing how the original commanders approached certain problems, and trying situations out myself on a board or on a map.

But I am uncomfortable with modern war, and, by extension, modern wargaming. It's kind of like war as porn. Glorying in technology, the roleplaying of good guys and bad guys, knowing that our guys are good because they're ours, no matter why they are involved or how they are used, and in spite of the current political reality and the moral separation of means and ends. We are told all that is possible is done to avoid civilian casualties, and while I hope that is true, is that enough to justify our involvement, the destruction our involvement brings, and the falsehoods that are used to get us there? The reality is confusion, hatred, uncertainty, fear, death, decay of morality and good purpose and awful destruction of person, family, place, community and society. It's sidestepped with a kind of smugness in wargames and by wargamers - "oh, but see, we're not celebrating it; in fact, WE of all people know just how awful war is..." -  and yet there many of us are, thrilling to the deployment of new and destructive weapons systems, asking which games we can buy that model it, play-mooning about how long it will take for our order to arrive - or what the wife will say when she sees the credit card bill - when we should be asking why we are using these things at all, and where they are taking us. It seems that many wargamers are simply invigorated by it. In the end, it seems, a fair proportion of us want to go and blow things up just like they do on the TV.

Mostly, war does not touch us, except in the abstract, or by proxy. But this week, as the potential for crises rises, war suddenly does not seem like much of a game.
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