Thursday 26 June 2014

TooFatLardies Summer Special 2014

The latest “Special” from TooFatLardies pinged into my email inbox a few minutes ago. These Specials come out twice a year – in Summer and Christmas – and are a great read and excellent value for money. Think of them as an online wargaming magazine which is really focusing on getting games onto the table, and how they’re played.

OK, OK….I admit it, I am very biased as you will know. That being said, speaking honestly, this edition is a cracker and I doubt you will be disappointed if you buy a copy.

The Summer Special can be purchased for the very reasonable price of £6.00 – which is two large cappuccinos in London money - and can be purchased at the TooFatLardies online store HERE.  

And to excite you further, here's the list of contents for the Summer Special 2014

  • Introduction. Nick says hello.
  • Westwind. A complete Chain of Command mini-campaign set in East Prussia 1945.
  • Seven Spears. A truly magical conversion for using Samurai with Dux Britanniarum. 
  • Do Some Dinging C Company. A Charlie Don't Surf scenario from Operation Colorado in 1966.
  • Robin Hood's Black Gold Home Guard versus Fallschirmjager mini campaign for Chain of Command based on original defence plans for Nottinghamshire. 
  • The Siege of Augusta. A multi-player scenario for Sharp Practice in the American War of Independence.
  • Big CoC in Africa. A fantastic report of a post-colonial Africa adaptation for Chain of Command which has been impressing the Australian show circuit.
  • Carribean Broadsides. A squadron action for Kiss Me Hardy. 
  • It's the Chindits! A great new list for Chain of Command with several Chindit force options and three distinct support lists for the varying operations undertaken. There's a smashing little scenario added on to give them a run out too.
  • Hurricanes over Hal Far. Bag the Hun looks at the siege of Malta and presents three scenarios for air war over the Med.
  • Circle the Wagons. A Chain of Command scenario for fighting in Benouville in June 1944. A 70th anniversary scenario.
  • The Roundwood Report. Blogimpressario Sidney Roundwood chats to Big Rich about how he writes rules. So top tips for would be rule designers.
  • Strawberries for Elephants. A spectacular full campaign for Chain of Command set on the Dyle Line in 1940. A great example of gaming interwoven with superb historical research. 
  • Giarabub. In the deserts of North Africa the Australians face the Italians in the aftermath of Operation Compass. A scenario for IABSM
  • Sawrms for Q13. A look at using swarm type forces for our popular Sci-fi rules.
  • OML2. A report from a great Lardy Games day in the West Country. With cakes!
  • Vacquevill. A second 70th anniversary game, this time for IABSM as the Yanks fight their way inland from Omaha beach. 
It's 139 pages in total and each one packed with goodies. And not a single page of adverts to be seen - not even for Ade's delicious cakes....

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Opearation Gericht - The After Action Report

After all the planning, blogging, frantic activity and late night terrain making, I finally got to Operation Market Larden on Saturday in Evesham. I ran two games of Operation Gericht on the day, making that four games in June, and six of the game overall including the playtests in May.

Before I move on to the game itself, allow me to say some thank you to some heroic endeavours. To Ade, Paul and the rest of the Wyvern Wargamers, thank you for arranging such a great day’s gaming. 

To the players who participated in the game (Paul and Dane, Paul (Pingu) and Dave, Bob and Phil, and Paul and Ralph), thank you all so very much for taking part. Eight finer players for the game I could never have imagined.  

Thank you all for making it such a pleasure to umpire for you – you can all come again, anytime! And huge thanks to everyone who made the trip to Evesham for the day, and for the great curry afterwards. The day of wargaming with friends by far made up for the disappointing footie result!

With thanks to Phil and Paul and many others who stepped into the breach when my iPhone’s battery died at 11am, I’ve posted below some pictures from the games. Both of the games were finely balanced right up to the end. I’ll post the full player briefings later this week, along with the additional rules and rule adaptations for the game which (hopefully) bring out some of the unique challenges of wargaming Verdun.

In the first game, Dane and Paul as the German Stosstrupp slaughtered the French defenders of the Bois de Chapitre in a massive close assault, but then found it hard going through the wood itself. The French defenders, Pingu and Dave, carefully nurtured their forces in Fleury itself, making it near impossible for the German attackers to obtain even a small fingerhold in the village. The result was a notable German success, although falling short of a German triumph.

In the second game, the German forces of Bob and Phil opted for a bold plan. Unlike all of the German forces in the three previous games played (and the two playtests), they decided to surge around the Bois de Chapitre and attack the village of Fleury outright. In doing so, they opted to try for an all-out victory, denying themselves the possibility of a notable success by taking the Bois de Chapitre. It was a bold plan, made workable by a very imaginative artillery fire-plan. Instead of barraging the entire width of the table with the German supporting barrage, the German players opted to barrage in two stages: the first on the Bois de Chapitre only, the second on the base line of French defences in Fleury itself. The overall plan was certainly bold, perhaps even slightly reckless. However, the German players appreciated they had good German troops and they carried their plan out with great determination in the face of very skilled French opposition from Paul and Ralph.

For 90 minutes, I thought Bob and Phil had made a mistake. They seemed to be bogged down in No Man’s Land, their formations suffering dislocation from French fire. However, their main artillery barrage, timed for the seventh turn, came in at precisely the time when French defenders at Fleury were redeploying to fire on the German forces. The French suffered two turns of artillery barrage in which they could do nothing but take cover in their defences. 

This gave the German Stosstrupp just enough time – and I really do mean just enough time – to rush forward and contact the French defenders in Fleury itself. In the last turn of the game, the Germans won the close combat for the Cordwainer’s House, bolstered by choosing an “inspiring speech” from their commander as a pre-game option. The French fell back, and the Germans took the French strongpoint on the edge of Fleury for the first time in six games.

In short, it was a German triumph, and very pleasing to watch unfurl. The French defenders were magnificent (and very magnanimous) in their game-play, but ultimately had no answer to a perfectly planned German assault driven home by an inspiring German tabletop commander.

So, the Knight’s Cross gets awarded to Hauptmann Ulrich von Bek (who we found from the “Big Man German Exits” remained in the Heer after the end of the Great War, suffering the slight indignity of going on manoeuvres on bicycles while awaiting the whirlwind of the 1930s), and no doubt a consolatory cognac for the French defenders as they fell back to their main line defences around Fort Souville.

I thought it might also be useful, after four participation and two play test games, to set out what I feel I’ve learned from the games.
  • Trying to recreate Verdun on the wargames table in a historical manner at a small is very difficult. The strength of the artillery and off-table machine guns, firing on fixed lines, makes assaults murderous. Attacks will fail if not well supported. Attacks will also flounder in bad terrain.
  • The French, as the defenders in the early part of the battle, face a herculean task to hang on. Staging these games has made me respect to an even greater degree the titanic sacrifices of the French army and French nation in just holding on at Verdun.
  • On the tabletop, fighting “down the table”, as opposed to “across the table” is a big challenge in a 2 – 3 hour game. It looks better, and plays more sensibly, but the attackers need to have markedly stronger forces, and some compensation for the distances they need to travel and fight. (I added in an extra, second, Sturmabteilung Vor! card into the deck for the German forces in Evesham to compensate for the Bois de Chapitre, but not at Partizan. I should have done the same at Partisan.)
  • Single mounted figures take too much time to move. I’ve since ordered some figure movement trays from Martin at Warbases to speed the movement phase up.
  • Operation Gericht was a large game, and the card deck was considerable. It contained seven Big Men for each side, plus three additional support weapons cards. I thought this was right on the edge of what was workable. I’ll slightly reduce the size of the game for the next participation.
  • Players seemed to like the background I had created on-line. I didn’t have as long as I wanted to get this up and running. A month, and a slower burn, would have been better.
  • Organising artillery fire-plans in “Through the Mud and the Blood” is a lot of fun, but does take some time and planning. We ran a bit short of tabletop gaming time with the second game because we spent longer in the artillery planning phase. That being said, I thought the introduction of the fire-plan and artillery barrage improved the games immeasurably, and was (at least for me) critical to trying to create an atmosphere of the battle we were trying to recreate. Both the French and the German players used their fire-planning as a significant and valuable tool, and this really added to the game. Watching the French defenders’ faces as the “French SOS Artillery” card finally arrived in the second game was a real treat.

As mentioned above, I’ll post the player briefings over the next week or so. Until then, it’s a short hiatus in the Verdun/ French project while I gather breath. Then, in July, I’ll look a little further towards the Nivelle Offensives of 1917 and the first deployment of the Artillerie Sp├ęciale. Hope you can join me for that!

Friday 13 June 2014

Operation Gericht: Adding the last details

After a week of activity setting the scene for tomorrow's two games set at Verdun in 1916, I think we're almost ready.  The players have returned some fine characteristics for their Big Men to be used in the games (thank you, Gentlemen).  I've prepared the character cards for the games as you can see from the photo above.  Efficient "Operation Gericht" card backs for the Germans; more languid "The Road to Verdun" card backs for the French.

And I've tried to set the scene in various posts on the TooFatLardies forum.  This has been a really enjoyable part of the pre-game phase for me.  It's been an experiment, to be honest, and very much a way of trying to set the scene which can then explain some of the things which may happen on the tabletop tomorrow. It'll be interesting to see how the payers have found this part of the games when we meet up tomorrow.

Player briefing - done.  "Verdun specific" rule amendments and changes distributed - done.  Terrain additions - mostly done.  Figures - done.

If I've forgotten anything, just let me know!

If you're coming to Evesham, see you there!  if not, don't worry.  I'll take plenty of photos, and hopefully (fingers crossed) will be using Twitter as the games progress throughout the day.  Updates should be @RoundwoodsWorld, and also on #spreadthelard.

Hope you enjoy it, wherever you are!

Wednesday 11 June 2014

The "Zuricher Zeitung" and Operation Gericht

Just a short update to bring you up to speed on the pre-game preparation for Operation Gericht (Redux) which will played at Evesham this Saturday.

All of the French and German officers have now had their characters allocated by the players in the morning and afternoon games. This has been a really fun process, seeing what each of the players came up with for some distinctive Big Men to lead their forces.

I’ve also distributed the scenario packs, including details of force composition and a list of additional key “attributes” which can be chosen for each force from a list which hopefully frames some of the key tactical choices available to the opposing troops in the battle. To maintain the tension for the players, I’ll not be posting the scenario packs until after the weekend.

However, after the games are completed, I’m hoping to create a PDF of the scenario packs, character details, newspaper clippings, rule amendments and all the other details which we’ll be using in the two games this weekend. I’ll be posting that PDF on the blog, hopefully in the next week or so.

All the newspaper material is available over at the TooFatLardies forum HERE and HERE. However, to bring the blog up to speed, here’s some of the news extracts which have featured in the Zuricher Zeitung over the course of the last week.

And because a map says a thousand words, and because I love maps, here's a rather wonderful map (courtesy of "The Soldier's Burden") depicting the ground over which the battle will be fought.

Hopefully, I should have time before the game itself on Saturday to introduce the Big Men characters here on the blog.  But if not, please feel free to stay tuned on Twitter to @RoundwoodsWorld, where I will again be attempting to do reports from the games as they unfurl on the tabletop.  It's all a little experimental, but stay tuned for that mes braves!

Thursday 5 June 2014

Operation Gericht Redux: opening up the game

With Partizan 2014 successfully completed, its time to look forward to “Operation Market Larden”, a day of wargaming hosted by the Evesham wargames club on Saturday 14th June. 

Operation Market Larden, or OML to give it a more catchy title, will be the second run out for the Operation Gericht game featuring the German attack on the village of Fleury on 23 June 1916, which we took to Partizan last weekend.

I’ve wanted for a while to try and build up to the Evesham games day by posting some of the background to the Operation Gericht game, some of the scenario mechanics and some of the pre-game events and decisions which the eight players who are booked for the games are going to be making.

In these posts I was keen not to “give the game away” as regards what the two sides, Germans and French, are deciding. Such details will no doubt be closely guarded in the respective headquarters of General Petain and Crown Prince Wilhelm, at elast until Mata Hari becomes involved in the evolving chaos.

Instead, I’ll be focusing on ideas for enhancing the scenario through looking at some of the aspects of the actual battle which we’re trying to replicate, possibly with a very small dash of alternate-history.

As of now, the eight players have chosen their sides, and are currently adding the details of their Big Men’s characters using the “Just the Right Sort of Chap” and “Les Grandes Hommes” articles which you can find on the Blog on the right hand side-bar entitled “Playtesting Scenarios, Campaign Diaries, Play-Aids and Painting Guides”. 

Basically, the players need to work out, for their respective Big Men:
  • the Big Man’s breeding as an Officer; 
  • his popularity;
  • his physical stature;
  • his health at the start of the game; and
  • any character traits he may have.
If the players do not want to roll up these attributes using dice, they’re free to either simply choose what character they want for their Big Men …. or suggest anything different.

The next stages of the pre-game work will be a series of choices for the consideration of each group of French and German players. I don’t want to give too much away, but this will involve things like:
  • deployment of resources (which support weapons do you want to get your men to drag up to the line first?)
  • reconnaissance (how well do you know the terrain and the valley in which the action takes place?)
  • inspiring your men (are you going to focus on a rousing speech – and can they hear you – or are you going to focus on getting them some rations and hot food?)
Finally, each group will have the chance to tell me how they ideally want to deploy their troops at the start of the game. 

The idea is that when we all collectively reach Evesham on the 14th, the players will have a sense of the battle, an idea of the context of the specific action, and feel a little bit invested in the troops under their command. And I should have a better idea of how to arrange the scenario to be fair, but testing, for all sides.

One of the other things I’ve been keen on testing is the form of information distribution to the players. With this in mind, I’ve created a forum thread at the TooFatLardies forum which will be the method for disseminating all kinds of reports, rumours, information, and newspaper reports. The latter will be appearing frequently on the thread, courtesy of Alois Zurlauben, Paris correspondent of the Zuricher Zeitung (“the neutral voice of a continent at war”).

Hopefully you can follow the fun at the forum thread HERE. I’ll also be experimenting with tweeting new forum posts using the somewhat unimaginatively titled @RoundwoodsWorld

So, with all that in mind, pull up a plate of cheese and wine (if you’re favouring the French) or black bread and Bavarian beer (if you’re favouring the Germans), and enjoy the show.
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