Sunday, April 28, 2013


A solo play of the Montgisard scenario in Infidel, the second of the GMT Games "Men of Iron" series.

In this battle, the terrain is flat and clear. Ten Crusader units--five knights, five infantry, under Baldwin the Leper--face eighty Saracen units, mostly light and medium cavalry, under Saladin. The Saracens have to gather 15VP to win, with Baldwin counting for 5, Reynald 2, knights 3 and foot 1. The Crusaders have to get 60vp, including the result of a d10; Saladin himself is 5, the Mamluk heavy cavalry are 3, other horse and generals 2 each.

The Saracen forces all start Disordered. Their left is a single formation of thirty Seljuq light cavalry; the right is a formation of ten medium cavalry and a formation of ten light cavalry farther right. Saladin, with ten Mamluk heavy cavalry, is in the rear. A force of fifteen infantry units will arrive as reinforcements. The Saracen leaders are all in the second or third lines of their formations, rather than the first, on the theory that safety is better than glory.

The Crusaders start with a line of knights facing the enemy, with a line of infantry behind. Baldwin is in the center, with the Templars. The infantry line has a unit of crossbowmen on the right, with the rest of the line being men at arms, commanded by Raynald de Chatillion.

By scenario rule, the first activation goes to the Crusaders. They advance to the seam between the enemy wings, and charge. The knights on the Crusader right are disordered by Seljuq archery, but shatter all before them and pass through all four lines of the Seljuq formation. The band on the near left does the same to the Syrian medium cavalry. The other three knights each defeat two units, including, on the far left, al-Adil's unit, but the general slips away as his troops rout around him. At the end of the activation, four of the five knights are disordered, but they have destroyed seven units and forced six more to retire. 20vp for the Crusaders.

Second activation: The Saracens decide not to contest it, and Raynald de Chatillion makes his roll to activate the Crusader infantry. They advance, and the crossbowmen on the right fire at an opposing Seljuq unit; the range is long, but the Frankish crossbows are steady, and the Seljuq archers retire. 21vp for the Crusaders.

Third activation: Baldwin announces his intent to activate again; Saladin tries to seize initiative, but fails the roll. With his free activation, Baldwin urges his knights to attack. The company on the left pivots to attack al-Adil; attacking from the flank, this time they succeed in cutting him down, and pass through the Syrian cavalry to end up facing the Kurdish light cavalry of the Saracen right. The other four knights ride to attack the Mamluks--one on each flank of the formation, and Baldwin with the Templars and another company charging straight in. The two flanking units, being disordered, make no progress, but the frontal attack succeeds; the Templars crash through the lines, destroying two Mamluk companies and forcing a third to flee. Saladin narrowly escapes, taking refuge with his last company of guard cavalry. Atthe end of this activation, eight of the ten Syrian medium cavalry have retired or been eliminated, as have four of the Mamluks and seven Seljuqs. The Crusaders are at 35vp, over halfway to victory.

Fourth activation: Reynald rolls a 0 and activates. Good thing this is solo or the Saracen would be muttering darkly about the dice. The Crusader infantry advances to engage the front and right flank of the Seljuqs. As they close, Saracen archery disorders the crossbows and one of the men at arms companies; the crossbows' reply forces the Seljuq unit to retire. Reynald's frontal attack bogs down, but the two companies on the left force yet another horse archer to retire. Crusaders are at 37vp.

Baldwin fails his next activation attempt, so the Saracens finally get to do something. The Saracens would prefer to get the Mamluk heavy cavalry in the game but almost all of them have a Crusader adjacent, so they can't be rallied from disorder. Only one of the Seljuq light cavalry has an enemy adjecent, so the Saracens activate that command and rally it.

And then Baldwin seizes initiative again. Most of the knights are disordered and all of them are adjacent to enemy units, so they can't charge, but they can melee. The company off tangling with the Kurdish horse forces one to retire, and advances, working its way closer to the general. The other four knights attack the Mamluks, killing two and forcing Saladin to scramble to escape yet again. The Crusader score is 44 now, and only three Mamluk bands are still functional.

Saladin tries to regain initiative, choosing his Seljuqs with some misgivings; he rolls badly enough that none of his commands would have made it. The Crusaders had been planning to activate Reynald, and do so, although since it was a Free Activation, the knights could (and probably should) have activated instead. The crossbowmen exchange ineffectual long range fire with a Selujuq band; the men at arms on the left swing around the flank but are unable to make much of their attack; Reynald's men force a horse archer to retreat,  but it has no avenue for escape and is destroyed. Reynald advances. The Crusaders are at 46.

Saladin again rolls a 9 and fails to seize initiative. Baldwin and the Templars charge, destroying two bands of Mamluks; Saladin is mounted on his racing camel and easily escapes to the last remaining Mamluk band. The lone company of knights engaging the Syrian cavalry attacks successfully, destroying a band. The Crusaders now stand at 54 points. They don't quite make their roll for victory but Saladin can't get away and the next Crusader activation will finish him. The Saracens surrender.

Final tally:
Crusaders: no losses. Four knights and two infantry are disordered, which doesn't count for victory points but would help the Saracens if they ever got a chance to attack.

Saracens: Mamluks, 5 eliminated, 4 retired; Syrian medium cavalry, the general and 4 units eliminated, 4 retired; Seljuq light horse, 6 units eliminated, 6 retired; Kurdish light horse, 1 unit eliminated and 1 retired.

The results are unbalanced but something like this is what actually happened; the Crusaders destroyed 90% of the Saracen force, including Saladin's bodyguard and almost including Saladin himself. So in that sense it's fairly faithful historically. The results would have been less lopsided if Saladin had been able to succeed with an activation roll, but c'est la guerre.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Storms of Steel: Firefight 3 "Wind or Sniper?"

In this Conflict of Heroes scenario, a Russian force must assault a German-occupied village. The Russians have two hidden sniper teams and eight infantry squads; the Germans have two hidden rifle squads, plus a squad and two heavy machineguns in the village. In this one, the Soviets start off with an advantage in command points, but they need them.

Josh started by taking sniper shots at one of the HMGs, doing one hit and forcing me to spend most of its action points rallying. A few Red units came in from the northwest corner, losing one to machine gun fire; most of the rest came from the southwest, with one running into a hidden German unit in the field. I'd been trying to get that squad into the building on the west side of the map but had unwisely activated it too soon in the turn, so when the Russians ran into it, it couldn't do anything. On turn two, that unit was quickly killed by close range fire, although the HMGs quickly polished off a couple of Russian squads in return. The ability of the HMGs to fire three (or four, with a CAP) times per turn made them deadly. The Russian northern prong got down to point blank range before succumbing to the HMGs; the southern prong made it to close range on the next turn, but was whittled down to two squads. At that point, the Russians had one detected sniper, one hidden sniper, and two squads; the Germans still had both HMGs and two squads functional, so the Russians resigned.

It's not immediately clear how to win this as the Russians. They have to cross at least seven hexes of open terrain to get from the cover of the building at the west edge, to the woods at the south of the village. They aren't hidden when they enter, and with only five turns to clear the village, they don't have time for hidden movement. It seems a human wave is the only option, but the German machineguns make that expensive.

We'll trade sides and see if I do any better.


Hoo, boy, did I do better.

As the Russian player. I put one sniper in the building on the west edge of the board, and the other off the north edge of the village, with a LOS to both machineguns. I brought in two squads as bait, to draw fire from the HMGs and get them to use up their actions; this cost me a squad, but meh, Russians. And it meant the HMGs couldn't respond if they discovered my snipers. When the HMGs were spent, I activated my snipers. Using Command APs prolifically, two shots at +2 killed the first HMG, and a single shot at +2 managed an instant kill on the second one, and Josh resigned. I still had six squads I hadn't even gotten onto the map.

So it seems that this scenario is sensitive to how well the snipers do. Partly that rests on careful use of CAPs, and partly it's just rolling well when you need to.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel

Josh and I have gotten out Conflict of Heroes, dusted it off and started playing it. One of the nice things about it is that it's rules-light -- nineteen pages covers fire, movement, line of sight, tanks, aircraft, mines, snipers, everything. And it's quick. Each of the first two scenarios has taken maybe five minutes to set up, and about 90 minutes to play to completion. I expect the play time to go up as we get into more complex scenarios, but not much.

Scenario 1 has three German squads moving into a village held by a Russian platoon consisting of three rifle squads, an SMG squad and a machine gun crew. The Russians have poor fields of fire, and the Germans can  defeat them in detail and capture the terrain object pretty easily, if they are fast and careful. This was a learning scenario.

Scenario 2 posits that the Russians have captured German documents; they're trying to get a courier to a local HQ while the Germans try to retrieve them. Four German squads enter at the board edge to tackle a  Russian force consisting of two Maxim crews and three rifle squads, plus the SMG squad acting as courier. Josh brought all his forces in at one end of the map, which I thought was a bit risky; he didn't even try to stop the courier getting to the HQ, he just bet on being able to clear the entire village. Which he proceeded to do. He came in through the woods and focused fire on the Russians there until they broke; the superior German firepower was a help, as was my inability to roll a 5 or better to rally my squads. Then he moved in on the center of the village. One squad was too eager, and came to close range with active machine gun and paid the price; however, that was his only casualty. He retrieved the captured documents and wiped out every single Russian unit within five turns.

Good infantry tactics are rewarded. Stay in cover. Don't bunch up. Suppress the enemy then assault to finish him off.

Looking forward to the next scenario.

Kestrel: The End

After discussion with our gamemaster, in which I expressed considerable frustration with some aspects of the character build system and he expressed a complete lack of interest in resolving the problem--which has been an ongoing pattern--we concluded that it's best to call this campaign dead. Therefore....

The Impetus sailing in company with us, and the service of the Company being wearisome, and uncommon dangerous, and ill Rewarded, the latter being the most salient point, I took leave of Prosperity, as being a ship woefully misnamed, and Kanak and I took my boat, that which I had paid for of my own purse, and joined the service of Caleb Grey. In keeping with this fresh start, I close my current Journal, and may in time begin a New one. Onward we sail, to Fortune and Glory!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Champions: Roundshot

I've had this concept floating around a long time, and finally created him, using the Hero System 5E rules. He's a simple brick. A short, chubby guy who wears a tuxedo and a domino mask, he is cheerful outgoing, possibly even manic; he's also naive, overconfident, and likely to go enraged when he sees innocents hurt.

Where did his powers come from? He doesn't know. It probably happened when he took that look tour around the Caribbean after his parents were killed. Was it that "special drink for the special seƱor" instead of the mojito(s) he'd ordered ? Or the voodoo ceremony, which he'd thought was kinda hokey but the locals seemed really scared? Or was it the visit to that Yucatan cenote--and why would they have carvings of elephants in Central America, anyway? Well, whatever their source, now he can bounce bullets off his chest and lift trucks, and he's going to Make the World a Better Place, somehow.