Saturday 2 December 2023

2023 - My wargaming retrospective

This post attempts to review my, and my club's, wargaming activities of 2023. Above you can see the Wollongong Wargamers celebrating  two of our founding fathers: Alan in the Mad Max T, and Caesar, whose 50th it was, on his right. 

As I compose this blog post my overriding sense is of gratitude to my club members and the local and world wide wargaming community in general who make this hobby what it is. (But I do also refer to some solo games if I think they may be of interest!) I generally haven't  linked to specific blogs of battles mentioned, if further interested please browse by scale or genre using the 'Label grid' above. 

By far and away the biggest event of 2023 for me was our two day Gettysburg The Second Day 160th game we staged at the Campbelltown Hall of Heroes FLGS. Using Epic scale minis, it was, well, Epic! For more details on this game please see the Warlord Games Article here.

Whilst this post is thematic rather than chronological, the Gettysburg game did emerge from the tail end of the Shenandoah Valley campaign with which the Wollongong Wargamers started the year: above - Port Republic, below - Cross Keys:

For fictional ACW campaigns, I came up with the idea of translating HP Lovecraft's mysterious and isolated Miskatonic valley several hundred miles further south down the American Atlantic seaboard to provide the cockpit for further smaller battles:

Sticking to the Horse 'n Musket theme, Lasalle 2 remains a favourite at the club,  including below 'Waterloo - the fight for the farm'.  Peter M, centre, watches aghast as Darren comes down off his ridge: 

The club also repeated our annual Lasalle Games day for the wider gaming community, which was again a success, organised by David (Centre - UOW T):

Black Powder remains a firm standby - below a solo game set in 1813:

But there is burgeoning interest, with really big games in mind, to master the new Valour & Fortitude rules:

After having played V&F twice or even thrice now these may be played much more regularly in 2024...Below, Caesar's Battle of Friedland scenario, photo courtesy of Kaptain Kobold:

A key goal for me in 2023 was to mature and evangelise about the benefits of 1/144th or 12 mil scale as a  viable way of playing both WW2 and Cold War games.

There was already some acceptance of this scale for playing Arab-Israeli Wars using Fate of a Nation rules, simply because no-one has a rival scale! Above: The Golan Heights, Below: Mitla Pass, The Sinai.

But gradually I have persuaded some of the club to try this small, but not diminutive, scale, where infantry figures can just about be made out properly, in other genres. Below, a Cold War Gone Hot Soviet OMG advances using Team Yankee rules:

Latterly, I have even persuaded club members to attempt the sacrilege of playing Flames of War (FOW) in 12mil scale. Below, 5GTA advances out of Prokhorovka during the Battle of Kursk: 

After a couple of games the sky has yet to fall in and indeed some mates are furiously printing up their own armies in this scale! In fact most of the 7th Armoured Division we see below in the vicinity of Villiers - Bocage were provided by Stuart, left.

This is not to say the traditional 15mm scale for tanky games has been neglected. In fact a major highlight of the year was Ed's (above, centre) staging of the Battle of 73 Easting in Gulf War 1, which was so spectacular we took it to our local show at the Illawarra Plastic Modellers Society:

This Team Yankee game was such a success it allowed us to attract several new young club members to become valued regulars! 

FOW also featured regularly in 15mm and continues to attract attention from younger gamers, and again I am grateful to our club members, such as Bryan, (below, left) who spend so much time and effort introducing newer members to our hobby:

There were two highlights for me in the 15mm FOW space. Colin (Space 1999 T below) set up a 'Peiper's Charge' campaign early in the year: 

But equally spectacular and entertaining was our combined Bolt Action (BA) and FOW Market Garden evening organised by one of our younger members, Daniel (centre, black T). In the foreground, the Wilhelmina Canal of the BA game:

Whilst the FOW component was based on the XXX Corps start line to Hell's Highway:

Team Yankee was also regularly played in 15mm scale, in this case a more traditional Soviet scenario set at the Inner German Border at the time of the Moscow coup:

Turning to matters maritime, the by now traditional October Trafalgar game was played at the local Returned Servicemen's League club:

But we also found opportunities to reap the reward of our Nimitz Play testing with a series of games set in the Pacific (1st Naval Battle of Guadalcanal) :

The Mediterranean (Battle Off Calabria - also displayed at the IPMS Show thanks to Darren's stunning terrain): 

And the Atlantic - The Battle of the Denmark Strait:

Another popular (and local - well by Aussie standards!) naval ruleset, for WW1, we played regularly was Broadside Age of Empires - below we see the Battle off Imbros:

And here an action based around the Dogger Bank:

But of course naval warfare is as old as time, going right back to galleys:

As a club we also pay our play testing dues in the form of assisting talented wargames designers with their future projects - including pushing the boundaries of strategic level WW2 games:

And of course, the small in scale but big in terms of fun games mean that usually every week there are at least 2-3 games on, something for everyone's taste! Bolt Action:

Hordes of the Things and various other DBMM variants:

and a variety of Skirmish games:

So, thanks again to (L-R below) Darren, Bailey, Ed, Bryan, David, Alan, Caesar, Peter, and of course Peter M, Geoff, Colin, Stuart, John, Theo, Drew and the other Wollongong regular and not so regulars! 

Not to forget gamers from the wider local community for the bigger projects, and the global wargaming massif from whom I get my on-line inspiration! Lets do it all again in 2024! Which will be the 80th anniversary of 1944 - just sayin'

L-R Declan and Bailey at the Battle of Geilenkirchen, winter '44.

Friday 1 December 2023

Valeur et Fortitude: The Battle of Friedland

All right peeps, you can all put your hands down - I know its actually 'Valour & Fortitude'! Its just that my Franglais version seems more Napoleonic somehow. And yes, I know, that nice Mr Jervis Johnson is working on an ACW and SYW version too, so we shouldn't 'oppress' these rules by limiting their potential to a patriarchal linear historical construct dominated by a single individual....(Jeez, so glad I've retired!)

Anyhoo, The Battle of Friedland has long captured my imagination, and was the subject of one of my earliest 'Unfeasibly Large Mega Games' way back in the day in full 28mm glory...(Unfortunately before digital photography was a thing!)

So when my mate Caesar (below) came up with an ingenious scenario for the Wollongong Wargamers to continue our protracted flirting with these rules, I jumped at the chance to get involved!

Caesar's scenario stipulates:

The French start with one command, Lannes, anchored between Heinrichsdorf and Posthenen (both small urban areas). The Russians start with two commands, Gortschakoff and Bagration, who have just crossed the Alle river and are arrayed along the western bank. Their mission is to destroy Lannes before Mortier and Ney can arrive as reserves along the roads from Konigsberg and Eylau respectively. 

When reserves arrive, the French will have three commands and the tables are turned, as the Russians attempt a fighting withdrawal with their backs to the river. 

The Alle is impassable except for several bridges near Friedland. Other rivers/streams are bad going.

Above, Lannes' Corps is set up between Heinrichsdorf on the left and Posthenen on his right, looking across the plain to the outskirts of Friedland and the sinuous bends of the River Alle. Sortlack wood on the far right.

Above, the Russian masses press forward their temporary advantage.

Lannes has no choice, after garrisoning both villages to secure his flanks, but to deploy his few remaining troops in line and to plug the gap with light cavalry. Not the Directing Staff solution, but what choice does he have?

The Russians creep closer, frustrated by the limitations of terrain rather than anything else!

Lannes, worried by the masses of Russian Heavy Cavalry looming on his right flank, sent in the 'Infernal Brigade' of Hussars to get their retaliation in first!

This brought the lone French Corps a little more time...

Until  Ney's Corps finally turned up - Dieu Merci! (The dark masses on the left, above)

Equilibrium restored, the French line stabilised, but having played four turns we left it too late to start the long push back to the River Alle...effectively a draw.

So what did we make of the rules? Well for most of us this was only the second game of Valour & Fortitude, so probably too early for a definitive judgement. My particular interest is to see if they will be suitable for staging really huge mega-games over a couple of days - Waterloo with the full orbat the 110 anniversary in 2025, say: Epic Waterloo 210 Project

So far I'm impressed with V&F, and I daresay most of the players were too. Certainly the command friction is as effective but much faster in Black Powder. Essentially you get to activate a Brigade for free, thereafter there's a single die roll per brigade. You need either 'anything buts' if all is well, or a -1 modifier if any of the formation's units have routed. Simples! Hit rolls for both shooting and melee don't have saving rolls, so that's a huge time saving right there. But does the game play still feel Napoleonic? 

Well, initially I was surprised to discover that there was no chance for infantry to form square as a response to be charged by cavalry, similar to the 'Must Form Square' rule in Black Powder. Presumably with this level of gaming that's too granular a question to worry about, and, actually, as it turns out the combat is not all that unequal. More broadly, for a huge game, I like that units can rout much more easily than in Black Powder or Lasalle, and that larger formations may not be too far behind. It forces the player to think as a General rather than as a Colonel. So, for me, more games soon please! 

For an another player's perspective, please see Kaptain Kobold's batrep here: