The future of wargaming

We hear a lot of discussion about wargaming becoming a “grey” hobby, with the proponents generally ageing and no youngsters coming on board

This week I (a 65 year old retired gentleman) have played a board wargame of the Battle of Britain with a 23 year old and a table-top 1941 naval battle with an 11(?) year old. Both want to play again.

Ben is looking forward to the follow-up Indian Mutiny game at th3 Wargames Holiday Centre in October with the “Featherstone” crowd.

Luke has asked me to put together a “massive tank battle”. I have decided to use my redundant “Memoir ‘44” tanks (even if the scale and dimensions are a bit “iffy”) for a Western Desert battle in 1942. I will ask Luke to bring his mate for a 30 tanks a side game.

But first I have a load of painting to deal with…

And during both games I heard a lot of references to semi-equivalent computer games beyond my knowledge and comprehension, from which both opponents had gained much of their historical knowledge.

Matapan: phase 1

The Battle of Matapan – phase 1

Today I fought the opening stages of the Battle of Matapan 1941 with my young neighbour Luke.

This was his introduction to naval gaming, at his request.  He is hoping to join the Royal Navy when old enough.

The scenario was the opening stags of the battle of Matapan.  At 09:00 the Italian flotilla of 3 cruisers (Bolzano, Trento and Trieste), with three destroyers (Ascari, Carabiniere and Corazziere) were pursued by the British cruisers Gloucester, Perth, Ajax and Orion with the destroyers Hereward, Hasty and Ilex.

After one turn it was clear that the Italian cruisers would outpace their British counterparts and no battle would ensue so I obligingly turned them to fight.  I ran down the line of British cruisers, expecting to lose, but I knew that on turn 10 (2 hours in) if I could hold out that long, the battleship Vittorio Veneto would arrive and save us.

As it happened, after the two flotillas circled each other for an hour and a half the Italians had rolled the better combat dice and by turn 8 (10:50 am) the British were down to one destroyer while the Italians still had the cruiser Trento (severely damaged) and two destroyers.

At this point Luke conceded defeat. He then spent another hour playing with my toy ships before asking if we can play a major tank battle next time.

I am thinking that with the toys in my collection, Arras 1940 is probably the most likely. That might be an eye-opener for a young lad of about 10, who is expecting Tigers vs T34s.

A new old book for my collection

Today I finally got my hands on my own copy of “Sea Battle Games” by P. Dunn, published by MAP in 1970, reprinted 1974.

This means that I can throw away the 88 photocopied sheets from a library copy that I have had for the last 15-20 years as a substitute.  (Yes, I know it was not legal, but in those days it was very difficult to hunt down an out of print book.)

Amazingly the price I paid for a copy in good condition with a protective plastic cover over the dust cover was only four times the cover price 45 years ago!  Even with postage added I paid only about 7 times the original price, which in my opinion is not bad.

When it was published the book cost about 3.5% of my net monthly salary.  Today, even with postage added, it cost only about .075% of my net monthly pension.

I have always had a whim to play Chapter 9: “The Hypothetical World War Game”.  Sadly I already have too many gaming projects to start this at present, but it might be tied in with my plan to refight on the wargame table the whole of World War Two, which started five years ago and has so far reached 4th September 1939!!!

Anyway, this evening I will commence reading the book.

Battle of Cape Matapan: phase 1

Following on from yesterday’s “convoy” battle, another long-outstanding battle which turned up in my “to do” tray.  This was the battle of Cape Matapan, which I was intending to fight as a full scale game, but may be better fought as separate actions.

Whatever the final decision is, today I played the first action: the engagement off the island of Gavdos.

The account of the original action, taken from Wikipedia, reads thus (edited to remove hyperlinks):

“Action off Gavdos

On 28 March, an aircraft launched by Vittorio Veneto spotted the British cruiser squadron at 06:35. At 07:55, the Trento group encountered Admiral Pridham-Wippell’s cruiser group south of the Greek island of Gavdos The British squadron was heading to the south-east. Thinking they were attempting to run from their larger ships, the Italians gave chase, opening fire at 08:12 from 24,000 yards (22,000 m). The three heavy cruisers fired repeatedly until 08:55, with Trieste firing 132 armour piercing rounds, Trento firing 204 armour-piercing and 10 explosive shells and Bolzano firing another 189 armour piercing shells, but the Italians experienced trouble with their range finding equipment and scored no significant hits. HMS Gloucester fired three salvos in return. These fell short but did cause the Italians to make a course change.

As the distance had not been reduced after an hour of pursuit, the Italian cruisers broke off the chase, turning to the north-west on a course to rejoin Vittorio Veneto. The Allied ships changed course in turn, following the Italian cruisers at extreme range. Iachino let them come on in hopes of luring the British cruisers into the range of Vittorio Venetos guns.”

And with that in mind, how did the wargame progress?

At 08:00 the Italian squadron came within range of the British squadron, both heading to the south-east.  The Italian cruiser Trento opened fire at long range (10 hexagons), scoring one hit on HMS Orion.  Orion returned fire with her stern guns.  The range was good and four hits were registered, giving the Trento one point of damage.  The Trento fired again with her forward guns and damaged the Orion.  Trento’s secondary guns also fired but to no effect.

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The British squadron, aware that they could not outrun the faster Italian ships, turned to fight, planning to bring their broadsides to bear on the enemy.  Anticipating this manoeuvre the Italians turned to starboard and crossed the British front line.

Matapan04

From this position the Italian ships were able to fire broadsides at the British, who had turned to inflict this upon the Italians.

HMS Gloucester fired her forward guns on the Trento, scoring 4 hits with the main guns for 1 point of damage, and a further hit with the secondary guns.  HMAS Perth added her fire with 5 hits and a further damage point.  Trento, with 2 damage points against a hull value of 3, was now “crippled”.  This means -1 to armour, vital armour and speed.

HMS Ajax fired a long range broadside at the Bolzano, scoring 3 hits but no damage.  HMS Orion also fired at the Bolzano, but failed to register any hits.

The Italians returned fire.  The Trento fired a devastating broadside at the HMS Gloucester with 11 hits from her main guns and a further 3 from her secondary armament.  The Gloucester began to sink.

Matapan06

The Bolzano fired at HMS Ajax and scored 4 hits, inflicting 1 damage point. Trieste fired at HMS Orion with her forward guns.  2 hits were registered.

The head of the Italian squadron now turned to the south-east after crossing the British front.  On the British side, HMS Ajax made an emergency turn to starboard to avoid the sinking Gloucester, followed by HMAS Perth.  HMS Orion continued to the south-west to cross the new enemy front.  The destroyer HMS Ilex passed directly in front of the Italian destroyer Ascari, risking being rammed.

The Bolzano fired her main and secondary guns at HMAS Perth, inflicting two points of damage and a crippling effect.  The Trento fired at the destroyer Ilex and sank her before she could inflict any damage on the Ascari.

HMS Ajax fired at the Trieste and inflicted 1 damage point.  HMAS Perth and HMS Orion both fired at the Bolzano, scoring 3 and 2 hits respectively but no serious damage.  The destroyer HMS Hereward scored a hit on the Trento, but again no serious damage.

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Note: Although it looks like these ships are at very close quarters, the actual model at 1:1800 scale represents its “sea room” required for operation.  A cruiser occupying two hexagons is actually using an area of about 400 x 200 yards and the opposing ships are about half a mile apart.

By 08:25 the battle had broken down into individual engagements with each ship operating to its best advantage.

The Ascari, with no room to manoeuvre, struck the sinking HMS Ilex and took severe damage to her bow.  She too began to sink.  HMS Orion fired at the destroyer Corraziere, inflicting one damage point.   HMS Hereward damaged the destroyer Carabiniere.

HMS Hasty launched torpedoes against the Bolzano, but they failed to strike home.

HMAS Perth scored five more hits on the Trieste, crippling her.  HMS Ajax destroyed the destroyer Carabiniere with an overwhelming barrage, scoring 9 direct hits.

At 08:30 the Corraziere attacked HMAS Perth but with no significant damage.  The Trento sank HMS Hasty.  Trieste fired a broadside at HMAS Perth, scoring five more crucial hits and crippling her.  The Bolzano joined in and with 11 more hits sank the Australian cruiser.

Matapan08

In the next five minutes the Italians completed their destruction of the British squadron.  The Bolzano hit the Orion six more times, and the Trieste added five more hits to the stricken cruiser.  The destroyer Corraziere sank HMS Hereward and the Trento scored eight telling hits on HMAS Perth.  Three British ships began to sink and the battle was over.

A decisive victory for the Italian navy.   From the British squadron of four cruisers and three destroyers all had been sunk except the cruiser HMS Orion, which was severely damaged but able to escape.  The Italians had two cruisers and one destroyer severely damaged by enemy fire,  one destroyer sunk and a second destroyer sunk after a collision.

The turning point in the battle was literally just that.  The British squadron turned to attack but the Italians seized the initiative and crossed their line in Nelsonian fashion, and were thus able to bring all their guns to bear at short range.

Rules: tweaks and clarifications

Each salvo is to be adjudicated independently.  If a ship is firing both main and secondary (or even tertiary) guns, the damage effect is registered for each set of guns independently.  Likewise, if two ships attack one, the damage from each is registered separately, not cumulatively.

No ship may fire guns and launch torpedoes in the same turn, because the effect of firing would disrupt the balance of the ship and thus the aim of the torpedoes.

Depth charges may only be used if no other weapons are in use, it being deemed that if main guns or AA guns are in use there are higher priorities on the surface or in the air!

 

 

 

 

Atlantic Convoy

A test game using my Axis & Allies* naval, adapted for hexagons, rules.

It’s a lovely day, so I decided to play a short wargame in the garden.  I have three lightweight trestle tables, each 60 x 100cm and 95cm tall, so I took them from the Shedquarters and set them up on the patio area. I covered them with my somewhat bright blue hexagon cloth, clipped it to the table edges and set to.

Situation.  A convoy of merchant ships, escorted by two British destroyers, is approaching a screen of German submarines in the North Atlantic.

The submarines submerged.  Each is replaced by one real submerged token and 1d6/2 dummies (rounding down).  They all look the same, but the real subs are marked with a number on the bottom and the dummies with a small ‘x’.

Both destroyers have the “Sub Hunter” special rule, so after each German turn, they turn and move 3 hexagons towards the nearest German submarine.  This turn is deducted from their next maximum move.  I decided to change the operation of this rule, see below.

The two destroyers went after the nearest contacts and the convoy was ordered to make best speed, so some of the larger ships increased to maximum speed of 4 hexagons. (around 22 knots)

The entire convoy of 16 merchant ships was now spread over a length of 15 hexagons, or around 3000 yards.

Two submarines closed on HMS Hasty.  One was a dummy, and after declaring its attack was removed from the table.  The other fired a torpedo at the destroyer’s port bow at 1 hex (around 200 yards) range.

Two dice were rolled: 5 and 2.  One hit was scored for the 5.  (4 and 5 score 1 hit, 6 scores 2 hits).  One point of hull damage was caused, and with only one hull point remaining the ship was marked as “crippled”, losing one point from armour, vital armour and speed.

Hasty swung to port and depth-charged the sub, with five dice scoring 6,6,5,4,3 for six hits.  With hull points of 1 and vital armour of 5 the submarine sank immediately.  I decided to adjust the depth charge rule as well (see below).

HMS Herward also depth-charged and sank a submarine with two hits.

Meanwhile Penguin and Countryman, two of the faster ships, both swung to starboard to avoid the destroyers operating in their paths.

The other ships ploughed on at about 12 knots.  One of the cargo ships on the edge of the convoy was struck and began to sink immediately.

The destroyers chased another two targets, both of which turned out to be false contacts.

Three more submarines lined up to attack the convoy but two, on declaring their attack, were revealed as dummies.  The third failed to hit the Atlantic, a large tanker.

Hereward depth-charged another dummy U-boat.  With several wrecks in the process of sinking, ships were now having to take avoiding action to avoid collisions.

Another cargo ship was struck by a torpedo near the centre of the convoy.  She continued, crippled.  Hereward steamed for the location and sank the last of the German submarines.  The convoy proceeded towards Liverpool.

Losses.  One cargo ship lost and one crippled.  HMS Hasty crippled.  Three U-boats sunk.  A good day for the Royal Navy.

Rule changes to be applied.

Depth charges.  Rather than rolling 5 dice for hits on any submarine adjacent to the rear half of the destroyer, I will apply the same system of splitting the dice as I do for gunnery.   Thus the depth charges are thrown in a pattern into the three adjacent hexagons to starboard rear, starboard port and directly astern.  Up to 1/3 of the dice available, rounding up, may be used for each hex, provided that the total number is not exceeded.  

Targeting 5 dice at 1 hex is overkill, because it only needs 1 hit to sink most submarines.  With 1 die there is a 50% chance, with 2 dice a 75% chance and with 5 dice almost 97% chance of rolling 4,5 or 6 on at least one of them.  

Sub Hunter.  Rather than arbitrarily moving the ship at the end of the enemy move, I decided that a destroyer with this special rule must at the start of its turn roll a die and immediately head for the nearest enemy submarine within 1D6 hexagons, notwithstanding any search pattern she is working to.

Summary

All in all a fun little test game, and I think with the rule tweaks the submarines might have a better chance of surviving more than one destroyer sweep.

* “Axis and Allies” and “War at Sea” are copyright to Wizards of the Coast, and the use of their original rule concepts is acknowledged.

Confession time: February 2019

In the style of the Meeples and Miniatures podcast, here is my confession for February 2019.

So, what have I been squandering my pension on?
In February, I bought or paid for:
Deposit for 2 players at the Donald Featherstone tribute game: £200
Plastic soldiers for playtesting the Sudan game for above: £112.39
Plastic palm trees for playtesting the Sudan game for above: £16.17
Bases for 6mm model trees (100): £13.95
Model for my character at the Donald Featherstone tribute game: £4.70
Replacement models for above: £13.98
Plastic bases for 6mm wargames: £35.00
UHU Glue: £5.98
Game (Santorini) for 6mm model houses: £24.81
Model cargo ships for Axis & Allies naval: £7.27

Total February wargame spend: £434.25

This is more than my pension will support, but almost £350 (80%) is unusual spending related to the Featherstone Tribute weekend. This is not only a once a year event, but this year I am paying for two players, and I needed a playtest. Whether that was worth spending well over £100 on models in a scale that I do not normally play is something to review later.  They may well turn up in the Belgican Wars at a future date.

 

Wargaming progress: March 2019

The story so far…

As usual I have too many wargaming balls in the air at one time.
I am working through my in-tray, but now have adopted the system that if a game is on the table then other projects will have to be recycled through the pile of paper, unless they are research, reading, rules development, etc. that can be done without disturbing the current game.

Each project gets an hour to progress before the next one is examined.  That way I do not get stale.  So, in the last two weeks I have:

1. Printed, painted and played with some WW2 naval models, to playtest my rules for use of submarines with my hex-based adaptation of Axis & Allies War at Sea. The trial game has already been reported here.

2. Received some new Kallistra half-hex tiles to square off the edges of my terrain. This makes a world of difference to the visual aspect. Unfortunately part of my order was incorrect, receiving unflocked rather than flocked tiles. Sally at Kallistra was very helpful and sent replacements, but this time with the wrong orientation (cut side to side rather than point to point).  Anyway, it’s all sorted out now and Kallistra refunded my return postage.  I am now in the process of creating roads on some of the half-hexes before my 1939 Poland game can progress.
Having discovered that the half-hexes are simply whole hex tiles cut in half I had a go at some half-slopes for where my hills run off the board.  Photographs will follow when the rain stops enough for me to comfortably get to the man-cave.

3. Designed and printed labels to create WW2 tokens for use with both my Memoir ’44 and Advanced Squad Leader boards*.  My idea is that if the terrain is viewed top-down, the troops should be too.  I have tried using various top-down images, but the definition on 13mm square tokens is too low to easily identify troop types for mechanised warfare.  Therefore I have adopted map symbols. As a basis for the images on the labels I am using the German system from 1939/40 for map symbols. I have not been able to find a comprehensive pre-NATO system for the Allies, so the German system is used for them too.

The labels are printed onto Avery A4 sticky label sheets, then stuck onto 13mm gaming tokens of different colours which I obtained from Plastics For Games. Unit labels German for blog

4. Played two engagements of the ongoing Play By E-mail campaign of Market Garden and started a third one, using the tokens described above and Memoir ’44 boards and rules.

5. Started research for a (probably) solo campaign for Operation Lion – the possible German invasion of Britain in July 1940 (before the “Battle of Britain”).  I am re-reading Kenneth Macksey’s book: “Invasion” and have ordered an old copy of the GMT game “Britain Stands Alone” from the USA, for orders of battle if nothing else.  I have yet to decide whether to use the board game as a basis for air, naval and land battles (solo or with an opponent), or whether to use the ASL boards for a rolling terrain campaign for maybe one German regiment to follow its fortunes – or both!!!

(I refer my honourable friends to the comment in the second line of this post.)

Oploo 4

* I was always too lazy and short of time to learn how to play Advanced Squad Leader properly, but have found a myriad of uses for the hex-boards, of which I now have several dozen and am always on the look out for more.

image

They are particularly useful for “rolling terrain” type games or campaigns involving exploration into unknown country. My latest idea is to create a template to place over ASL boards to create a board for Commands & Colors and its various derivatives, or for transfer to my Kallistra terrain for 6mm games.