More Musings on Close Assaulting Tanks

I’ve continued to think about close assaulting tanks in the game I’ve been designing.  I wasn’t really happy with the previously-discussed complexity associated with various types of close assault weapons and special procedures.  During my last run, it finally hit me that I don’t need a special procedure at all.

Since this is a man-to-man game, where each figure can perform individual actions, all I need is some mechanism for moving fire, and I need to give each weapon a penetration number, just like other anti-tank weapons.  For instance, an anti-tank grenade has a penetration of 5.

So a soldier runs up to the tank with half a move.  He then tosses the anti-tank grenade at the enemy tank, applying the moving fire column shift.  If he hits the tank, he flips a card for hit location, rolls a die to determine if he gets a penetrating hit, and apply results, just like any other anti-tank attack.

The defending tank can attempt a reaction roll to fire at the charging soldier if the soldier is unlucky or foolish enough to attack the tank where it has a machine-gun or other anti-personnel weapon.  The same is true for any infantry or other vehicles who can see the close assault taking place.

The beauty of this is that no special procedures are needed, and all the basic systems apply without modification.  This is significantly cleaner than either of my previous thoughts.  Like all elegant schemes, I look back on it now and think, “Of course!”

I am going to run a game with the rules this Friday at HAWKs night, and I hope to engineer a scenario in which I can test these ideas.

Close Assaulting a Tank

Ever since last weekend, I’ve been thinking a lot about infantry close assaulting a vehicle.  I don’t suppose there are any statistically relevant sources on the probability of succeeding.  There would be so many variables that it would be difficult to draw any meaningful conclusions that could be applied to the game table.  According to wikipidea ( killing a tank with a hand-held weapon wasn’t very common.  The site claims 18,500 silver recipients of the badge (one kill) and 400 gold recipients (five kills), many of whom were awarded the badge a single time.  When one considers the numbers of tanks and infantryman on the Eastern Front, this would indicate that knocking out a tank with hand-held weapons is a pretty rare event.

Still, on the gaming table, we want there to be some chance.  It’s dramatic and fun.  Plus as a career infantryman, I really like the idea of blowing up enemy tanks.

I have three pages of notes in my gaming idea notebook on special procedures for the WWII card-based game, G.A.M.E.R.  It occurred to me last night that special procedures aren’t needed.  Instead, I can use the explosion markers on the cards for another purpose.  There are three sizes of explosions on the cards, small, medium, and large.  These correspond to general sizes of HE:  grenades, mortars, and artillery, respectively.  I also use the large explosion marker to determine if a tank brews up from a penetrating hit.  When a tank is penetrated, you flip the next card.  If the card has a large explosion, the tank explodes.

So here’s what I’m thinking.  A soldier runs up to a tank.  If he only used half of his movement to get there, he can initiate an attack on the tank.  I see three classes of attack:

  1. The attacking soldier has no anti-tank weapons and is hoping to shoot someone through a hatch or vision port.
  2. The attacking soldier has grenades, Molotov cocktails, and other improvised anti-tank weapons.
  3. The attacking soldier has a purpose-built, hand-held, anti-tank weapon.

For these attacks you wouldn’t use the cards to determine where you hit the tank.  The attacking soldier gets to decide between hull, turret, or wheels.  For a class 3 attack, the attacking soldier flips a card and looks for a large explosion.  A success results in a penetrating hit. Otherwise, no damage.  (Or maybe a non-penetrating hit.  I haven’t decided.)  For a class 2 attack, a success results in a non-penetrating hit.  For a class 1 attack, the vehicle must be unbuttoned.  The attacking soldier just fires his pistol, rifle, or SMG at soldiers in the open hatch.  If the soldier can climb up (half a move) and the hatch is open, he could, of course, try to drop a grenade in the hatch.

It needs some testing on the table, but those are my musings for today.

Some New Thinking on the WWII Skirmish Rules

We had a chance to play G.A.M.E.R. this weekend.  All the way home from Charlotte I was thinking about the tweaks I want to make.  Today I spent a little time on the computer making those changes.  I wanted to improve the way hand-to-hand combat worked.  I wanted to make a few small changes to the action deck.  I also wanted to put the effects of non-penetrating vehicle hits on the cards.  Finally I wanted to make a better unit roster.

Changes to action deck cards:

You can see three of the four changes to the action deck cards above.  The first is that I labelled the large, medium, and small bursts  to make it easier for players to distinguish them quickly, especially in their first game.  Second, added one more modifier, or column shift, for firing.  That shift is a shift to the right if the leader is not present.  This might be applied if the leader is stunned, is firing his weapon, is dead, or for whatever reason is not directing the fire of his squad.  The third change was to change the labels on the “table” of bubbles on the top of the card.  They had been labelled E, V, and T for expert, veteran, and trained, respectively.  Since units’ and soldiers’ Guts attributes were labelled Elite, Regular, and Green, this created confusion.  Now Guts, Accuracy, and Melee use the same semantic labels:  Elite, Green, and Regular.

Vehicle combat:

I have codified the process for shooting at vehicles:

  1. Flip a card to see if you hit the target vehicle, just like normal small arms fire.
  2. If you hit, flip the NEXT card to determine the location on the vehicle.
  3. Consult the vehicle record sheet to determine the protection value for that part of the target vehicle.
  4. Roll a d10 (or flip a card and look at the d10 toward the top left) and add the attacking weapon’s penetration value.
  5. If this sum is greater than the vehicle’s protection, the hit penetrates.
  6. Flip the NEXT card.  If you see a large explosion, the vehicle is destroyed, the crew is killed, and the other players rejoice.  If you do not see a large explosion, bad things happen (to be defined).  In addition, roll TWO crew casualty dice.  For each hit indicated on the crew casualty die, flip another card, ignoring cover, to determine which crewman was hit and how badly he was hit.
  7. If the hit does not penetrate, apply the results from the hit location card draw to the vehicle as non-penetrating hit damage.  In addition, roll ONE crew casualty die.  or each hit indicated on the crew casualty die, flip another card, ignoring cover, to determine which crewman was hit and how badly he was hit.  This may result in too many crew casualties for non-penetrating hits, so I need to test it out.  The math seems about right, but still want to see how it works on the table.

A crew casualty die looks like this:  0, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2.

Hand to Hand Combat:

Note on the card above that there are the five little bubbles under the cartoony-looking tank.  This is used to determine which target person was hit.  I plan to also use this for hand to hand combat.  Here’s how I think it will work.  Each player flips a card.  The position of the bubble indicates your initial hand to hand value.  In the card above, that would be 5.  Modify this result as follows:

  • -1 if you are suppressed or stunned
  • -1 if you are wounded
  • +1 (for each additional figure, to a max of 3:1) for each extra figure you have fighting a single enemy figure
  • +1 if you are defending some sort of cover
  • + the hand to hand rating of the figure’s weapon.  A pistol or SMG have a positive modifier to hand to hand combat.  A crew served weapon has a negative modifier.

The winner draws a card to determine what type of wound he inflicted.  In addition, the loser is pushed back an inch and the victor has the option of advancing.  In this way, the victor can push his way over a wall, through a door, etc.  If the result is a tie, all figures are pushed back an inch.

I’ve also been considering some sort of roll to close, but instead, I think I’ll let the defenders make a reaction check.  If they pass, they may fire at the oncoming enemy, but they will be stunned in the upcoming melee.

Improvements (hopefully) to the Unit Record:

GAMER is meant to be played at three levels of complexity.  The first two are represented on two unit records shown below.

In the most complex case, each figure has its own attributes, so the card is quite a bit larger.

I actually have a version of this card with the top half upside down so you can print it, cut it out, and fold it in half.  All three cards are 3″x5″ when cut out.  A player would normally command a squad, perhaps more, so he would need two of these little cards.

Chart Card?

Along those same lines, I’ve been see how much information needs to be placed on a chart card.  So far, it’s not much, and it fits on a 3×5 card too.

Extra Dice:

JJ suggested something this weekend, that worked pretty well.  He felt like the attacker didn’t have any advantage.  He suggested that the attacker rolls two activation dice for each of his units.  When a card is drawn that matches either of the numbers, the player gets to decide to use that die and discard the other or discard that die and keep the other.  The decision must be made right then.  This helps ensure that the attacker doesn’t bog down just because of bad luck with the activation deck.  It seemed to work pretty well, and I’m anxious to try it again.  This might be something that applies for the entire game, the first x turns, or until some trigger event occurs during the game.  Still thinking on this one.

Reaction and Opportunity Fire:

I really dislike opportunity fire in games.  It is nearly always abused.  My plan with GAMER was that the player could attempt to interrupt the movement of another unit.  First, the moving unit must move at least half of its allowable move that turn.  Then the reacting player announces that he wishes to conduct reaction fire.  For each figure attempting to react, the player rolls 1d6.  If the result is less than the figure’s reaction number, the figure may fire, but them marks himself as stunned.  This is so that when the figure next activates, he would remove the stun instead of acting, since he essentially took is action early.  Of course figures that are already stunned cannot do this.  The players seemed to think that there needed to be some sort of “wait” or “overwatch” action that a unit could take that would let it fire automatically and essentially pay for the reaction fire in advance rather than in arrears.  This is exactly the kind of thing that gets gamey and annoying that I was trying to avoid, but I’ll ponder it before making a final decision.  I thought what we did worked just fine.

So those are my thoughts for now.  Come by my table at Cold Wars on Sunday morning to see how it plays.

Last Two Games of Saturday at JJ Con

Another view of the table
Another view of the table

Our last two games of the night were X-Wing Fighter (Fantasy Flight Games) and Red Dragon Inn (Slugfest Games).  The X-Wing game pitted three X-Wing fighters and a Hawk against five Tie Fighters and an Improved Tie Fighter.  This was the first time that most of the guys had played the game.  It is quite simple and quite fun.

Red Six to Red Leader. I'm going in!
Red Six to Red Leader. I'm going in!

Early in the game, Luke was shot down, but by the end, three Tie Fighters were knocked out, and the rebels were in good position to finish them off.

An X-Wing Fighter squares off with two Tie Fighters
An X-Wing Fighter squares off with two Tie Fighters
The fighting devolves into a fur ball; Luke dies.
The fighting devolves into a fur ball; Luke dies.

The final game was a drunken brawl at the Red Dragon Inn.  This is a great little game.  It is easy to learn and very fun.  The setup is that a party of adventurers has returned from a dungeon crawl and plans to relax in the inn for the evening.  The objective is to outlast your buddies through a series of drinking contests, brawls, and gambling events.

An evening of drinking, gambling, and fighting at the Red Dragon Inn
An evening of drinking, gambling, and fighting at the Red Dragon Inn

Sunday morning we met for breakfast at Cracker Barrel then played a game of Nuclear War, the 1970’s card game from Flying Buffalo.  Nick ended up with a lot of population and outlasted both JJ (who was wiped out before the war even started), Dave, and me.  Despite a valiant attempt at a final retaliation, I was unable to take him down with me.

It was a good weekend of gaming.  We’re a little older now and unable to game all night, be we crammed a lot of games into the weekend: two chariot races, a fantasy battle, a WWII skirmish, a Napoleonic battle, an X-Wing space battle, a brawl at the Red Dragon Inn, and a nuclear war.  Amongst all that, Dave and I got in a five mile run, worked on scenarios and rules on the long car rides, and made it home without falling asleep at the wheel.  I’d call that a success.


Fate of Battle Game at JJ Con

Russian infantry defending Brienne
Russian infantry defending Brienne

Our next game at JJ Con was a play test of another scenario for our upcoming 1814 scenario book.  This one was the battle of Brienne.  The game was fun.  JJ’s priest came to see what we were up to, and we got him to run a Russian division for an hour or so.  He launched his cavalry against Eric’s French columns.  He got lucky and smashed a column before it formed square, then broke through and took out a battery of artillery.  You can see the smashed French column in the picture below.

In general the guys caught onto the rules quickly, but got a little confused with the night effects.  It was a real scrum; however, there was no way the French were going to be able to accomplish their main objective.  We adjusted the victory conditions.

That battles was a real scrum.  I took over for JJ’s priest and used my dragoons to spar with and delay the French.  In the meantime, Eric’s light cavalry just about destroyed my only infantry, which withdrew to the town to await the French onslaught.  When the smoke cleared, the French had begun to push me out of the town despite the arrival of fresh reinforcements.

Close up of some troops
Close up of some troops

The game was a marginal French victory.  They did not capture the town that was their objective by the time the game ended (midnight game time, and pretty close to that real time).  They did, however, kill seven of our units, losing only one battery along the way.  Both sides had many units that were badly shot up, but only those eight units were actually destroyed.  By the scenario victory conditions, it was a marginal French victory.

I think this was another successful game, but I was getting very tired of game mastering by this point of the weekend, and I was not up to par as a GM.  As the GM, you feel responsible for everyone having a good time.  There were lots of questions about the rules and scenario, and I could feel the game going South a couple of times, but in the end, I think everyone had a good time.

Fallschirmjäger Raid at JJ Con

Nick advancing through the woods.
Nick advancing through the woods.

Our first game Saturday morning was a WWII game with the card-based rules I’ve been developing, called GAMER. (That stands for the five attributes of a figure in the rules:  guts, accuracy, melee, endurance, and reaction.)  As a play test for a game I plan to run at Cold Wars in March.  It involved German Fallschirmjägers launching a raid to kill a bunch of allied generals who were meeting for a planning conference.  The generals were being guarded by two squads of Home Guard.

Who is that in the woods?
Who is that in the woods? JJ's wife came by to see what we were up to.
One view of the opening situation.
One view of the opening situation.

The Home guard positioned one squad near the far hedge and in the woods near the blue house.  The generals were in the second floor playing canasta — I mean planning for Normandy.  The second squad of Home Guard positioned one team in the building with the generals and another team in the plowed field in the foreground.

Another view.
Another view.

The Germans had three squads of Fallschirmjägers.  Two squads (Jimmy and Nick) massed on the allied left and attacked toward the Home Guardsmen in the plowed field.  The third squad (JJ) advanced through the rocks on the left of the picture above.

Eric's Home Guard defending a wall against the onslaught of the Fallschirmjägers.
Eric's Home Guard defending a wall against the onslaught of the Fallschirmjägers.
Jim's Fallschirmjägers moving up cautiously through rocks.
Jim's Fallschirmjägers moving up cautiously through the rocks.

This was the first time I’ve run these rules outside a small inner circle.  I was gratified by how well they worked.  There remain a number of things I need to tweak.  For instance, I’m still unhappy with the way hand-to-hand combat works.  (During the 8 hour drive home today, Dave came up with an idea I plan to try soon.)

After Jimmy was wiped out, Nick's Fallschirmjägers rushed into hand-to-hand combat with the stunned Home Guard.

After firing more rounds than an episode of The A-Team, the Fallschirmjägers finally pinned down the British team in the field.  By this time, the Brits had just about wiped out Jimmy’s squad, but the remnants charged the Brits who were pinned won by fire from Nick’s MG-42.  In furious hand-to-hand combat, the Brits were eliminated, and the few remaining Fallschirmjägers raced towed the house and their objective.

Nick's final rush to the house.
Nick's final rush to the house.

Jim was advancing steadily against Dave on the British right, managing to incapacitate the Bren gunner on the second floor.  Nick rushed forward with half his squad to get into the house.  The Brits and Fallschirmjägers exchanged a bunch of grenades over the hedge, then Nick rushed through the gap.  He lost most of his men to withering Enfield fire from the second floor, but got three or four men to the building.  Monty lay dead.  A few more grenades cleared a path into the house, but then General Eisenhower started picking off Fallschirmjägers on the porch with his M1911.  At this point, JJ’s remaining Fallschirmjägers decided to withdraw from the field, leaving a four Brits and three generals in the building.

The game was a British victory and a very positive play test for the rules.

Fantasy Battle at JJ Con

A wide shot of the battle

Our second game for the weekend was a fantasy battle using the under-development Bear Yourselves Valiantly rules.  I ran this game, because Eric expressed interest in trying out the rules.  This was a refight of a Napoleonic battle (sort of), but we used 3000 points per side instead of the actual Napoleonic order of battle.

Another view, early in the game.

Eric, Nick, and Jimmy had the goblins and their human allies.  JJ, Dave, and I were the elves.  The goblins were supposed to be defending, but Jimmy decided to advance, which force Nick to move forward as well.  My human force, facing Nick’s goblins never really got much going.  We mixed it up quite a bit, but I didn’t really make much progress toward my objective.

Getting ready to start

There was a fair amount of kvetching and grousing about the ratings and statistics on the troops, but the forces, by points, were pretty equal.  Eric’s goblins mixed it up with JJ’s elves, and the fighting was hot and heavy.  Eric was doing a pretty good job of holding off JJ, but then some of Dave’s elves joined the fight, and Eric was hard pressed.

The fight over one of the Elf towns

The problem with fantasy is that everyone has their own idea of the capabilities of wood elves versus goblins versus undead versus humans versus…  Bear Yourselves Valiantly allows players to use a point system to build out their forces, providing a great deal of flexibility for folks to make the armies match their preconceived notions.  Unfortunately in these demonstration games, where we hand folks armies built according to OUR notions, people tend to confuse the rules with the scenario with the army statistics.

Jimmy's wizard uses a wall of fire to protect himself from Dave's elves

I think the guys had a good time.

Circus JJ-Con-icus

The racers preparing for the main event...

This weekend was our annual gaming day in Charlotte.  JJ, a high school buddy, hosts this reunion of sorts each year.  This year we had a light turnout but quite a good time nonetheless.  The first game of the weekend was a chariot racing game using a beautiful set of rules that JJ played at Historicon 2013.  They were simple rules without nuances to make it really interesting.  From left to right the races are Jimmy, Nick, JJ, Dave, and Eric.  I took the picture.

Purple (me) in the lead at the first turn.
Purple (me) in the lead at the first turn.

We raced twice.  These are pictures of the second race.  From a previous post, you’ll know that I just finished these chariots last weekend.  When I got to Charlotte, I mounted the chariots on 5″ plywood squares and gave them a quick flocking.  They held up okay for the two races, but now that I’m home I’ll re-flock the bases and spray seal them.

Completion of the first lap. Note how all the racers are hugging the spine, except purple (me).

I tried to leave the starting blocks at a gentle pace; however, my stupid horses took the bits in their teeth and bolted ahead.  This allowed all the racers to draft behind my chariot while I broke the wind for them.  I fell behind after the first turn because of some really slow speed rolls.  I tried to power the our the second turn to stay with the pack and remain competitive, but I had my typical die luck, skidding out four lanes and falling way behind.

Completing the second turn. I'm whipping my horses to catch up, but blue is way ahead of me.

Coming around the second turn, blue was in the lead, and I was struggling to get back into the pack.

Completing the third turn. Blue crosses the finish line first, but will green or white come in second place?

I was still far in the rear as Eric, in the blue chariot, crossed the finish line well ahead of everyone else.  Will white or green come in second place.

The finish is blue, green, and white!
The finish is blue, green, and white!

Trying to race around the last turn, all out, I rolled really poorly and crashed.  Dave, in the green chariot, nosed past JJ in the white chariot, beating him for second place.  Medics hauled my limp body to the showers…

This was a terrific beginning to the weekend of gaming!



I’ve had this project hanging over me for quite some time.  For an upcoming game we needed this chariots painted up.  As the game’s host’s house has been under renovation for almost a year (it seems), he hasn’t had a chance to get his painted, so it was up to me.  In the vein of just-in-time logistics, I completed them this weekend for next weekend’s game.

(As an aside, the only all-nighters I pulled in college were to get battalions painted for the next day’s big Napoleonic war-game.)

The chariots are recasts of old Marx sets.  As I was finishing up this project I was reminded how much I hate plastic.  I did all the things you are supposed to do.  I washed the figures.  I used Krylon Fusion (which is supposed to bond to soft plastic).  I buried a statue of St. Anthony upside down in the garden.  Actually I didn’t do that, but I did the other stuff.  No matter what, unless you paint with the flexible artists’ acrylics that come in the toothpaste tubes (really too hard to work with if you want to paint any detail), I rarely have any luck getting the paint to stick to soft plastic.  (I haven’t had the same problems others report getting their paint to stick to the Bones plastic figures, however.)

So anyway, the six chariots are done.  Thank God!  I fear, however, that more and more paint will flake off these every time I game with them.  The required five-inch-square bases won’t be available until I get to the game on Friday, so I’m worried about their condition by the time I get down to Charlotte with them.

I think they turned out okay.  Each one is a different color to make them easier to distinguish on the track.  I didn’t put a lot of detail into them, but the sculpting and molding didn’t help me much.  They’re good enough for the game next weekend, and I hope they last for a few games before they return to the bare plastic from whence they came.  I’m anxious to get them mounted onto bases so that players can handle the bases instead of the soft figures.

P.S.  I’ve continued to slog away on my 16 battalions of 10mm Russian grenadiers.  I painted all the tiny muskets this weekend.

Look, Sarge, No Charts: Near Future and Sci Fi

A sci fi tank company
A sci fi tank company

The development of Bear Yourselves Valiantly:  Look, Sarge, No Charts:  Fantasy, Ancient, and Mediaeval is nearly done, and I have begun the first draft of the rule book.  From previous posts you will recall that I have been tinkering with a new concept for WWII (or modern) skirmish fighting.  At the same time, I’ve been talking about a near future and science fiction version of Look, Sarge, No Charts.

Command vehicle
Command vehicle

That project won’t start for a year, probably, but it’s not too early to start building up some forces for those early play tests.

Daleks -- Exterminate!  Exterminate!
Daleks -- Exterminate! Exterminate!

I found the futuristic tanks in the flea market at Fall In, last November.  They are from a line, called Gropos.  I don’t know much about the line or the company, but these two packs I found make a pretty nice tank company with three line platoons, a scout platoon, and a headquarters section.  My buddy Greg found the 10mm Daleks there as well.

Scout cars
Scout cars

They assembled and painted quite easily.  I painted them in tactical colors, in this case olive.  I have never understood red, yellow, psychedelic, paisley, or plaid camouflage patterns on futuristic vehicles.

A tank platoon.
A tank platoon.

Over the next year or so, the plan is to comb through flea markets and hobby shops for odds and ends to begin making up some forces for play tests.  It was a nice break from blanket rolls on 480 10mm Russian grenadiers!