Sunday, October 20, 2013

New Toy

After the first snow fell, the skies have finally cleared and I got the opportunity to try out my new toy, a Meade LXD-75 152mm telescope. So far I've been using a Russian 110mm TAL-1 telescope which is completely hand operated and a neat cold war era design meant to last. The sturdy scope is excellent for the moon and the planets, but I've had lots of trouble getting anything that is invisible to the naked eye in my view.

I spotted General Meade on a Finnish online marketplace and quickly struck a bargain. The model is made in China and prone to manufacturing flaws if online reviews are correct. As the previous owner said her family had only tried to use it once, I managed to haggle the price down to a sum for which I would agree to buy a potentially faulty scope with no warranty. As it happens the scope works just fine, so I made a very good deal indeed.

It's a motorized and computer controlled telescope so I can just choose my target on a hand console and the telescope will automatically point to the target and track it. Pretty accurate too. I haven't been able to get Uranus in my view before and now it was easy. The planet is visible only as a greenish dot, but when you think that you're viewing a gas giant 2 870 972 200 kilometers away from the sun, it is pretty cool.

There was just one downside to the scope I've spotted so far. The grease in the focuser gears went hard in the mere -4 degrees Celsius tonight and made focusing the telescope difficult. I just wonder how it will be when I go out there in a -25 celsius weather. The TAL-1 had it's problems but the Siberians who built her can definitely make a tool that can handle cold weather!

Anyway, I just thought I'd share what I've been using all this extra space and countryside darkness for. Fear not, most of the winter nights are cloudy so there'll be plenty enough time for wargames!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

6mm Black Powder ACW

Hi all,

Here's a report of the regimental level ACW game I hosted at Warcon using my 6mm collection. I'll also give you info on the scaling and the setup of things as I gather from the Google search traffic I'm getting on Hail Caesar that a lot of people are wondering on how to apply the Warlord Games rulesets to 6mm.


Black Powder is a 28mm game and meant to be played on a huge table. The recommended depth of the table is something like five or six feet. The amount of figures needed in 28mm is something from 16-20 models per unit upwards and an army required by most of the sample scenarios would take hundreds of 28mm models. For someone with limited space and painting time this can be a dealbreaker.

As it happens, the game scales quite nicely to 6mm models when you simply halve all ranges. All the ranges used in the game are even numbers so there are no awkward half-inches to deal with. The effect on table space is not quite as drastic as with substituting inches with centimeters (as I've done with Hail Caesar). This makes the standard 6x4 foot wargames table the equivalent of a 12x8 foot table. Lots of elbow room.

The standard frontage of an infantry unit in unmodified scale is about 240mm to 300mm. In half scale the same range is 120mm to 150mm. My ACW infantry is based on 25mm wide (Fire and Fury) stands, and five of them gives me a nice looking unit 125mm wide and 50 models. For small units I use three stands just to keep the unit symmetric with the command stand in the middle. My artillery is based on 25mm stands too and I used two of them side by side for a battery of guns. Open order formations are simply represented by placing the stands one inch apart.

A Union brigade of  one standard unit, two small units and a leader.

The Scenario

I was determined not to return to Gettysburg for a while, but I spotted a nice and easy scenario in Wargames Illustrated 245. I needed a simple and straightforward scenario with simple terrain I could easily build in a convention 300 kilometers from my home. In WI245 there is a regimental Wheatfield scenario written by a David Brown for the Guns at Gettysburg rules (an ACW variant of General De Brigade). I adjusted the OOB to Black Powder and used the scenario map and the map from Maps of Gettysburg to do my version. The reinforcement schedule worked quite well as it was without tinkering with which turn the units would arrive.

In the scenario, three Union brigades defend the wheatfield and the adjacent hill against an attack by three larger, veteran Confederate brigades. The Union forces will receive plenty of reinforcements but will they arrive too late to keep the Wheatfield in Union hands?

The Game

We had four players participating in the game. Two had read the rules but no-one had played the game before. I had played Hail Caesar, which is quite similar, but this experience worked to my detriment a couple of times as a rule or a modifier would be subtly different and I would try and play the rule the wrong way. All the players had some experience from miniature wargames (and one was a fresh convert from the grim, dark future with no prior experience with historicals). I think we were pretty much at home with the ruleset by turn three so points to Black Powder for clarity and ease of learning!

One Union brigade was deployed on the Wheatfield in the center, one was protecting it's right flank on the hill and one was on Wheatfield lane ready to support the ones in the front. Two Union artillery batteries were also on the road.

The Confederates kicked off the game by marching on the table from the woods south of the Wheatfield. They had the veteran status but the Union forces facing them had a stone wall to take cover behind.

The reserve Union brigade saw an opportunity to threaten the Confederate left flank and marched on with great speed.

This forced the Confederates to deploy their reserve brigade to counter, and with a similarly good activation roll they now deployed into line withing musketry range of the Union brigade still in field column. Uh oh..

The volley of musketry caused some casualties in the Union column, and they hastily started to form line. One regiment was too disordered to comply, and had to remain in column. (Red markers are casualties, yellow markers are disorder)

At the Wheatfield the Confederates took their sweet time to reach the Union defenders (two consecutive failures in command checks, I think). When they charged, the Union forces protected by the stone wall had no trouble repulsing the attacker. On the Confederate right the skirmishers were pushed back but this was not enough to remedy the obvious blunder of charging headlong into a stone wall.

The hill objective received a charge as well. Freshly Raised troops versus Reliable veterans, so the result was clear? Nope, the Confederates were repulsed again.

To make things worse the Union forces took their opportunity to cut the Confederate line in two and capture their artillery while they were at it! The desperate Confederates on the right flank assumed a defensive posture.

On the Confederate left both parties were pretty beat up but the Confederates had failed to gain a breakthrough.

 Even on the far Confederate right the regiment had trouble brushing aside the skirmishers in front. The noose was tightening on the right flank as three isolated Confederate regiments were slowly being encircled.

As all of the Confederate attacks had failed and Union reinforcements were flooding to the field we decided to call the game. The utter failure of the attacks owed a bit to hasty scenario conversion and to my own tactical blunders. Design-wise, I think there wasn't an appreciable difference between veteran troops and the green troops they were facing. The "drama" of the scenario would have had the initial Union defenders running and the real fight would have been fought between the reinforcements and the worn out Confederates. To make this the probable outcome I'll need to tinker with the stats a bit. I think as far as tactics go, I shouldn't have attacked that wall head on but rather flank the position as I had room and time to do so.

The Black Powder rules felt nice and light. The troops were easy to maneuver and there were just a few modifiers to learn. I think the ruleset works best for a carefree saturday evening game where you don't want to stress out on the minutiae and just want to have a lot happen on the table with not much effort. I think I have to look at the skirmisher rules again though as one small skirmisher unit held a full close order regiment in melee for three turns I think. Was that just good luck for the boys in blue?

Anyway, it was a great evening and I had the pleasure to play with three gentlemen I haven't played with before, one of whom will hopefully be a new convert to historical wargames!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Warcon 2013

This year's Warcon (held in Tampere, Finland) was a treat as always. I managed to keep playing through the weekend with only minimal downtime and tried quite a few new wargames.

Sword of Rome

Sword of Rome is GMT's card driven strategy boardgame set in the Camillan period of Rome (I think). It puts the Romans, Gauls, Phoenicians, Samnites, Syracusans and Carthaginians on the board to solve their disputes with some dice rolling and maneouvering.

We played a four player game. I got the Gauls.

After some successful campaigning (looting the countryside that is) the Gauls threaten Rome herself. Brennus besieges Rome but is unable to make her surrender.
I neglect to protect my rear and the transalpine Gauls invade. The support of my home cities crumble and disaster is near.
With sage advice from an experienced player, I stab the Phoenicians in the back, claiming enough victories to resume control of my home territories.

In the end, the Phoenicians were totally wiped out and Rome was barely hanging on. After learning a valuable lesson on protecting my rear, I went on to grab a tiebreaker victory from the Greeks.

 Commands & Colors: Napoleonics

A quick filler game of C&C:N to finish friday. I don't remember the scenario but my brits and portuguese troops were soundly beaten.

Labyrinth: The War on Terror 2001 - ?

GMT's Successor to Twilight Struggle, Labyrinth is a card driven game where the United States attempts to stem the rising Islamist extremism in the Middle East and Europe.
I was a first timer playing versus someone who had played the game some times before, so I picked US because I thought it would be easier to play for the first time.

My opponent's opening play was to dump all terrorist cells in Afghanistan on the first round. He explained to me that the move was pretty much the best one could do in the game at this point. I responded by putting some boots on the ground and by overthrowing the Islamist regime.
My opponent then spread his cells to the neighboring Pakistan managing to overthrown the local government. I retaliated again by sending troops, but unfortunately not before the Islamists had helped themselves to the Pakistani nuclear arsenal!
The results were predictable. With a few moves I was unable to stop he moved his terrorist cells through Europe to the United States and blew up a nuke there. Game Over.
The game felt somewhat confusing and after the brief game I still don't have an idea on how to play or stop the terrorist infiltrators. I think I'll need a game or two more to wrap my head around the game.


Maria is Histogame's game set in the Austrian War of Succession in the 1700's. It is the successor of Friedrich and I have played it a few times now. It is one of the better three player wargames out there but not exactly balanced. Prussia wins often, France sometimes and Austria rarely. I was teaching the game to two new players so I naturally picked Austria.

After a traditional slugfest between Austria and France, the Austrians are left with little to pit against Frederick the Great.
The surprise comes from the French front, however as the Pragmatic army defeats the French and bring the game to a conclusion before the Prussians get a chance. This I've never seen before (although both Prussia and the Pragmatics are played by the same player)

Black Powder ACW

My first game of Black Powder and for me the main event of Warcon. We played the battle for the Wheatfield (Gettysburg) on a regimental level and fun was had by all. I'll write up a dedicated post on the game itself as it deserves it's own entry.

Epic Armageddon

My return to the grim darkness of the 41st millenium is in 6mm. A fellow gamer who has participated in some of my ACW games was happy to show me the ropes.

The Dark Angels and the Tyranids fight over a city on a not so grim and dark green planet.
The Marines capture a block while the Tyranids quicly capture most of the city.
*Scuttle Scuttle*
The buildings provide a good firebase

The tyranids charge the marine positions and reach melee range but are ultimately driven back.

The Marines take the city.

My opponent had put a bit more effort in his models than I had.

The game felt good and I decided then and there to expand my marines to a proper tournament sized army. I'm sure my opponent pulled some of his punches to spare the newbie so the next game won't be quite as easy.

Pax Baltica

I was interested to try this out. Another GMT game, Pax Baltica is a block wargame where two players play through the twilight era of Sweden as a great world power.

On the first turn the Swedes invade Estonia. This proves to be a mistake as the Russians are in range to counterattack and drinve them back into the sea.

Swedish armies are quick to raise but it takes time to get them across the Baltic sea. All invasion attempts are blocked.

The Russians can now spare some troops and invade my real life hometown in Finland.

The Swedish wise up and attempt a new invasion into the German territories, but Saxony has already gained too much strength and are more than a match for the Swedes.

The final battle ends with the Swedish king left alone on the field with one point as the attackers are forced to retreat. We call it a game at this point.

Either my opponent should have made a different opening play, we played the rules wrong or the rules are broken because it was next to impossible for the Swedes to gain a beachhead in the Baltics or in Germany. It's a fresh scenario though, not many GNW games around.

Commands & Colors: Ancients

I had just enough time left on Sunday to play a game of C&C:A. We played the battle of Marathon from the Greek expansion.

Opening setup. I got to play the Greeks.

With two consecutive "Order line" commands, I made simultaneous contact to the Persian line with all my troops.

The Persians line falters.

I add insult to injury with a card that allows me to hit with every unit adjacent to the enemy.

The Persian made a good comeback and only lost 6-5.

So, there it was, another thoroughly enjoyable con with lots of games to play. I'll end with some snaps from games I did not participate in.

Space Empires 4X
Red Winter
Europe Engulfed
Veli Veljeä Vastaan, a prototype wargame of the Finnish Civil War.
Europe Engulfed, some 11 hours later.
Sword of Rome was really popular this year.
Nuklear Winter something something.