Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Battle Report: Day Of The DOWA - SpaceKrieg 28mm Sci Fi

FuturKom troops plot the doom of their enemies.
Our group likes to roll out to support local gaming events here in Manitoba, and this past weekend we attended LegioCon in Winnipeg and ran a demonstration game of SpaceKrieg, our home brew 28mm sci-fi skirmish rules.  The scenario was set in the horribly abused city of Staliningrad and pitted the antagonists of FuturKom against the other antagonists, Gün Schwarm.  Here are some pictures and a short account of the game.
Table setup showing the DOWA in launch position.

(Click above to see a short video of the table)

The Kommulist Marshals have tired of the constant conflict in the city, and the occupied spaceport that is keeping the Gün Schwarm troops supplied.  So a Device Of Widespread Annihilation (DOWA) has been moved into position to, ahem, "deal with" the situation.  Gün command noted the arrival of the DOWA, and sent crack troops to capture it.

FuturKom squad manning Community Outreach centre.
The table was 6' x 4', covered with Dallas' awesome urban ruins and his outstanding 40k landing pad and strong point (known generally to us as the "community outreach centre").  The DOWA (a 1/50 scale model of a Soviet SCUD done beautifully by Dallas) was set in the middle.  The Güns would approach from either short table edge, and to stop the launch they had to get an infantry model to base contact with it by the last turn - they could not shoot at it with AT weapons as the "local incident risk" was a bit high for that.

FuturKom commander provides early interview to KNN.
"We're going to take it one battle at a time, and try to move the ball forward with each play."
The game would be eight turns.  Dallas and Mike F took the Kommulist side, while Dave V and I rolled with the Güns.  Both sides had an ample assortment of infantry and tanks.  The Güns had a Valkyrie with some heavy infantry, and the Kommers had the support of the FuturKom flyer.  For fun we also put a 28mm sci-fi media crew on the table.  They were from KNN - Kommulist News Network (a division of FuturPravda) and they had no impact on the rules, but made for some entertaining photos.

Gün recon brews up on the first turn.
"Stay tuned to KNN for more on our special report about flank shots!"

Valkyrie lands on Dallas' awesome platform, complete with flashing lights.

Gün heavy infantry disembarks, not long for this world.
Dave and I divided our forces, pushing the armour ahead with the hopes of either clearing the enemy vehicles and troops away, or at least ending up with well-placed burning hulks that would serve to cover the last minute dash of our infantry. We used the Hetzer and the Valkyrie as diversions, and sent a Panther, the SchwarmBot and the Flakpanzer down one road, hoping to clear a path for two APCs loaded with troops.

SU-300 draws a bead...just not very well.
Nothing says "tank country" like a city street.
Our diversionary stuff got lit up (damn Mike F and his hot-rolling) but served something of a purpose. Our main thrust was slowed by a visit from the FuturKom flyer.  We did manage to knock out the KomBot and then ram a Space Panther and the Flakpanzer right up against the DOWA. 

SU-300 performing some local community renovations.

FuturKom flyer buzzes the table.
Our efforts were greatly assisted by the inability of the FuturKom SU-300 to hit the broad side of a barn.

Gün vehicles head for the DOWA.

"So, how does it feel to be hit with a 120mm high-velocity round?"
The FuturKom BRDMs, however, were having quite a day, knocking out both of our APCs,  and we lost a lot of infantry from that. The surviving troops made a mad dash for the DOWA, and were trading blows with the FuturKom troops (who had difficulty engaging due to the blocking of our armoured vehicles) when we had to call the game.  I would Thorpishly say it was a draw, but a draw with a definite tinge tilting toward the Kommulists...

The Güns cling to the objective - but Futurkom has more troops...
"And we now go live to an opposing lackey officer. At what point did you think this game was lost?"
Thanks to Dallas, Mike and Dave for braving the inclement weather that day to join us for the game.  I would note that LegioCon enjoyed a healthy attendance, despite the weather and the best efforts of its website (inside joke).  It was great to share some Fawcett Avenue craziness with the crowd.

One quick PS - while we have some fun with journalists in this post, we acknowledge that there are some serious professional people who do it for real, and in some cases they pay the ultimate price for it so we can have some idea of what is happening while we are safe in Canada. Check out Reporters Without Borders for more information.

15mm Progress

Here's the infantry for my current (and last?) 15mm army. HALO theme. Perhaps a bit simple, but it pretty much has to be simple these days for stuff to get done. Miniatures are Critical Mass, Khurasan, and Blue Moon.

This is another 15mm army I painted just before we moved into the house. It's a high-tech army with grav vehicles meant to fight my Sahadeen army ( Sardaukar from the Dune series was inspiration) . Infantry are Blue Moon. Vehicles are GZG and Combat Wombat.

Warhammer 40K 25th Anniversary

This past weekend was the 25th anniversary of the game that I play the most, Warhammer 40,000.

The local Games Workshop store participated in the anniversary, hosting events such as a speed painting contest and an Apocalypse game. It was a good day to catch up with fellow hobbysists, meet new people, talk modeling and gaming, and reminisce.

As reported on several blogs, GW released a limited edition model, the central figure of the original Rogue Trader cover by John Sibbick - a Crimson Fists Space Marine Captain sculpted by Juan Diaz (see above).

Conscript KevinH and myself each pre-ordered the fig. I think that it's a beautiful sculpt, capturing the lines of the classic models. It will make a great objective marker for my games. Kevin also painted a very cool Crimson Fists Terminator test model, a photo of which is located here.

Kevin and I have both been playing 40K since the beginning. It's been a bit of a rollercoaster ride over the years, what with the various editions of the game and some, shall we say, uninspired game design choices. Does anyone remember the RT-era Vehicle Manual with its clear targeting grid? Talk about stopping the game and bringing you "out of the moment".

Admittedly, the 40K rules mechanism itself is somewhat old-fashioned. IGO-UGO? Rulers and tape measures are good things? Seriously? IIRC, games like Crossfire did away with such impedimentia back in the mid-90's. Still and all, 40K provides a fun, cinematic tabletop experience for gamers throughout the world. This is due partly to the interesting background fluff provided in the game materials and the Black Library fiction. Also, it is due in no small part to the various communities that have grown up and matured over the last quarter century, supporting the 40K hobby in its various incarnations: tournament play (like 40Kegger, Astronomi-con, Mechani-Kon, and AdeptiCon), miniature painting sites (CoolMiniOrNot), online community forums (Bolter & Chainsword, Warseer), numerous 40K related blogs, and a multitude of small, unheralded gaming groups that constitute maybe the bulk of the gaming populace.

Rumour has it that the 6th(!) edition of the 40K rules will be coming out sometime in the summer. Time will tell whether this is a good thing or not. I have actually liked the codices that have come out in the last few years, so here's hoping for some more balanced armies and clean rules.

Apocalypse Game

As I indicated above, MarkG, the manager of the local GW store, had organized an Apocalypse game. There's no real balance to such an affair, what with the appearance of super-heavy vehicles and gargantuan creatures. The theme of the day's scrap was "Good" versus "Evil", with a 1500-point limit per participant. Accordingly, I brought my modified 1000-point 40Kegger list, with the addition of a Scorpion Super-Heavy Grav Tank.


The Scorpion was proxied by my old Armorcast Tempest. There's no longer any rules for the Tempest, which is a close fit to the Scorpion, since both are armed with turreted TL-Pulsars.


The factions that played were as follows:
- Good = Blood Angels, Eldar, Imperial Guard, and Space Wolves
- Evil = Chaos Space Marines, Orks, more Orks, and Tyranids

It was an objective game on a 6' x 12' table, with objectives located as follows:
- 2 in the southwest third
- 1 in the northwest third
- 2 in the middle third
- 1 in the southeast third

Both sides bid the maximum time, to try and go second. The Good side lost the resulting tiebreaker die roll and set up first, deploying about half our forces in a shallow line from west to east, both flanks anchored with pairs of Blood Angels Dreadnoughts, with heavy weapons teams and two super-heavy tanks in the southeast third of the table, along with the Wraithlord, some Marine characters, and a Predator tank. We also spread out lots of barbed wire and minefields throughout No-Man's Land, to try and channel the enemy infantry.

The photo below is taken from the western table edge, looking east.


The forces to the southeast:


Three loaded IG Valkyries, a SW Land Raider full of troops, BA Terminators, and the bulk of the Eldar skimmers were held in strategic reserve.

The Evil side set up, from west to east, some Chaos Marines in the bunker and in the ruined buildings, a big Ork mob of Kans led by a Stompa, and a Heirophant Bio-Titan. A couple of Tyranid Zoenthropes anchored each end of the line. Various Daemons, Chaos Marines, the Doom of Malantai, and a 120+ strong Green Tide of Orks were left in reserve.


The Heirophant is a 10-wound, Toughness 9 monster that's larger than a building. Yikes!


The Good side fired at the Heirophant and the Stompa, infliting 1 wound and a drive hit, respectively.

The Evil side made a general advance, killing the Wraithlord with fire.

Hilariously, the Edmonton GW store telephoned in a random orbital strike onto the center of the table, inflicting some damage on the Kans. Below, Mark takes a photo commemorating the strike. The Winnipeg store subsequently returned the favour...


Some Daemons had teleported within the southeast corner. They were gunned down by close range firepower and a Rune Priest's psychic ability. The two Zoenthropes also fell to Marine missile launchers.



A dying Daemon managed to drop a Vortex Grenade, which stayed on the table to cause havoc. It was scary, but didn't end up doing anything of significance.


The Blood Angels Terminators teleported in the middle of the cluster of buildings in the northwest, setting up a next turn charge against the Chaos troops holding an objective.

In the centre, the Stompa was immobilized by the Scorpion, halting the advance of the Kans if they wanted to stay inside its Force Field.

To the far west, the platoon of infantry mounted in three Valkyries can be seen to have arrived onto the table, trying to control the westernmost objective.


In response, the Doom of Malantai deep struck and the Ork Green Tide used a Flank March to come in on the whole western half of the table, destroying some Guardsmen, some Marines, a Rhino, and a couple of Dreadnoughts. Things were starting to look bad for the side of Good.

That's a lot of Orks...


To the east, the bug Bio-Titan kept moving, unperturbed by the volume of fire directed at it.


Concentrated Evil fire ended up immobilizing the Scorpion and blowing off its main guns.

More Edmonton hijinks ensued, as another strike damaged the Guard's Stormlord Super-Heavy.


The rest of the Good reserves were finally committed, with three of the Eldar skimmers coming on in the southeast, taking control of the objective there, as a BA Dreadnought finished off a small squad of flank-marching Chaos Marines. To the west, the Warp Hunter and Fire Dragons supported an assault by the Space Wolves from their Land Raider.

The Doom of Malantai was killed by the Dragons, the Terminators cleaned out the buildings to the northwest, and a LOT of casualties were inflicted on the Green Tide (the Warp Hunter alone killed 17 Orks with an Aether Rift). That STILL left over 70 Orks in the mob...

...who proceeded to kill off the Space Wolves assault squad, pull the gun off the Warp Hunter, and wipe out the Fire Dragons, leaving the Autarch to yell defiance from the wreckage of her destoyed Wave Serpent. Nearby, some allied Blood Angels wish her "good luck".


The game had started at 1:30 PM; time was called at 5PM.

Surprisingly, the Evil side's steady advance was not enough; they had lost control of the one objective they held in the northwest. In the southwest, the objective nearest the Ork Green Tide was contested by Good forces. The Valkyrie-borne Imperial Guard controlled an objective to the far west.


In the southeast, despite taking a lot of hits from the Bio-Titan, Good forces managed to retain control of another objective.


Final Score: Good = 2 objectives, Evil = 0

All in all, it was a fun game, only slowed down by the enormous close combat in the southwest half of the table. I also liked the random orbital artillery strikes. Those were something no-one could really plan for, adding a certain fog of war to the affair.

Some Random Thoughts

When 40K first came out, I would have never guessed at its present level of popularity. To me it was just another game for me and my friends to play, like the classic versions of Traveller or Dungeons & Dragons. (Yes, I am that old.)

The current state of 40K is interesting. It is the most played game GW makes. GW is the dominant company in the miniature wargaming hobby. You can generally find an opponent to play in many major centres in the world. However, 40K and GW have competitors for our hard earned dollars. Companies like Privateer Press and Battlefront Miniatures make competing miniatures games that are well-supported by their own communities. Various homebrew rules are still written and played, since it is in the nature of a lot of gamers to tinker, and the possibilities of miniatures gaming are many and varied.

GW's business, and mini-gaming in general, is dwarfed by more generally accepted activities like computer console gaming. Despite its recent success, mini-gaming is still a relatively niche pastime. It will be interesting to watch the future changes in both GW and 40K.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Battle Report: Vandamme's Assault on the Stare Vinohrady - Austerlitz, 1805

Note: My apologies for cross posting from my blog but I wanted to get maximum press coverage for Greg's gorgeous Napoleonic Austrian collection and celebrate the inauguration of my new gaming room here in Regina.

Last weekend Greg and his lovely wife, Linda, came to Regina for a holiday weekend visit to which we all ate and drank to excess and caught up on our sleep. Greg and I also took the requisite time to game like men possessed. On top of a suitably bloody game of SAGA, and reacquainting ourselves with 'Conflict of Heroes' we also played a cataclysmic 'Spearhead' scenario set in the opening hours of Kursk (see Greg's excellent batrep below). These were all great fun, but undoubtedly the main event was our Napoleonic scenario based on the French attack on the Allied center at Austerlitz in December 1805.

Historically, Vandame's assault on the Stare Vinohrady was virtually a non-contest. The remnants of the mauled Allied IV Column, composed of six battalions of the IR#23, five severely reduced Russian battalions and their attached artillery, tried to hold the heights, but the French had both the numbers and the quality to quickly overwhelm them. Nevertheless, in reading the numerous accounts of the engagement I thought there were a few 'what-ifs' that  if cobbled together could make a viable, if somewhat asymmetrical scenario. The following is what piqued my interest:
  • Scott Bowden's 'Napoleon and Austerlitz' describes the Austrian and Russian contingents as separate actions even though they occurred very close to one another on the Pratzen Heights. I think much of this had to do with both the difficulty of communication between the Austrian and Russian partners along with the fact that the Allies wanted to cover-off as much of the heights as possible. Nonetheless, what if the Allies had drawn themselves closer together to better support one another, would it have helped?
  • Bowden further describes that the two Allied contingents did not make good use of the available ground, which had several vineyards below the summit (thus the name 'Vinohrady'). These would have slowed down infantry attacks and pretty much nullified threats from cavalry. Historically the Allies deployed well back from the vineyards, surrendering their advantages to the French light infantry. So what if the Allies had positioned their forces to take better advantage of the available ground, could it have aided their defence of the heights?
  • In David Chandler's 'Austerlitz, 1805' he obliquely mentions another unit of Kolowrat's command, Infantry Regiment #24, being in support of IR#23. Reportedly this was a depot battalion of around 400 conscripts, but I reasoned that every man would have helped to spread out the line on the Heights and so included them in my Order of Battle. I also added cavalry support to both sides. The French had access to Boye's Dragoon brigade (which was historically on-hand) and the Allies now have two regiments (Dragoons and Hussars) originally from Liechtenstein's V Column of cavalry and Wodiansky's Advance Guard. So, finally, what if the Allied High Command had released more cavalry assets to the defence of the Heights?
So for our scenario I incorporated the above conjectures and worked with the hypothesis that Kolowrat and Miloradovich have decided to concentrate and coordinate their efforts thereby bringing their forces together - forcing Vandamme to engage them as a combined force on the summit, on advantageous ground of their choosing. 

A map of the rough dispositions of the two armies as seen at the start of the action. 
For our game we used our home-grown rules, 'Food for Powder', which do a very good job of reflecting unbalanced engagements. This battle was actually fairly large for a battalion-level game (24 battalions, 4 regiments of cavalry and 3 batteries of guns) so we played it on a 6x10 surface to give us enough room to maneuver. Some may notice that I did not model the Heights on the tabletop - in my reading it seemed to suggest that the path Vandamme took on his assault was along a very gradual slope and therefore would not have granted much tactical superiority to the Allies so I decided to leave out modeling the Heights for sake of clarity.

The Stare Vinohrady today as seen from Vandamme's initial positions.
For our battle we had John and Dan on the French side, while Greg and Sylvain ran the Austrians and Russians respectively.

Here the French commanders, Dan and John, look on with Stacy (on the right) assisting as umpire.
Greg and Sylvain commanded the Austro-Russian force.
The first turn was fairly quiet, seeing the French move towards the heights along their entire front, including their guns. For the Allies, they stayed in place but were very lucky in their reinforcement roll and an composite brigade of cavalry (Austrian Hussars and Dragoons) arrived on their right flank. Greg formed them up in column of squadrons, with the Hussars leading and the Dragoons in support.

In the second Turn the French brought in their own cavalry in the form of Boye's bigade of Dragoons (under Dan). They deployed on the French right flank, in extended column of squadrons, diagonal to the Austrian cavalry. This choice of deployment had a critical impact in the following turns for both sides as the cavalry had free reign in each of their sectors. Eyebrows were duly raised with this heap of snorting cavalry showing up on the tabletop all at once.

Boye's Dragoon Brigade heading towards the Russian line.
Amongst our group, Sylvain is legendary for his caution so you can imagine the hoots of derision when he began to retrograde his Russians in response to the arrival of the French Dragoons. (As you will see Sylvain had the last laugh as his refusal of the left flank probably saved the Allied line.)

Shown here are three of the five understrength and exhausted Russian battalions that held the Allied left flank.
The third turn was a corker. First thing you have to understand that Dan is the antithesis of Sylvain. I like to think of Dan as the General Haig of miniature wargaming. To Dan's way of thinking 'If the first assault does not break them then the twelfth will certainly do the trick...' As such Dan's French Dragoons duly charged the Russian left flank as soon as they got the chance. Since the charge began from a long distance away (practically in Vienna) the Russian battalions had enough time to form squares. Undeterred, Dan noted that most of the Russian squares were not well-formed (our rules differentiate between 'solid' and 'hasty' squares) and so sent in the leading regiment of Dragoons to see if the Russians would loose their bottle. It was not meant to be. The Russians held their position and repulsed the Dragoons, but not without suffering some casualties and disorder in their ranks.

The nervous Austrian line, jammed full of conscripts and raw troops.
Meanwhile in the center, one French battalion decided to take the bit by the teeth and move ahead of the advance in line formation... While up the slope the two Allied artillery batteries hammered away at the approaching French columns, who inexplicably neglected to shake-out into less target-rich line formations and so consequently paid the price.

Back to the Allied left, Greg noted the impetuous advance of the solitary French battalion with an arched eyebrow, and thought it was too good of an opportunity for his Austrian Hussars to pass up. Greg knew he'd have to 'roll Vegas' to get the requisite moves in order to close, but he rolled the dice hoping they'd be kind to him. Well, the dice gods were smiling on Austria and Greg managed change formation, sound the charge and head for the French battalion.

The Austrian Hussars receive their order to charge...
Several French squares watch apprehensively as the Austrian Hussars begin to move across their front...
Again, as the charge originated from so far away the French battalion had a very good chance to form square. In 'Food for Powder' there are Impetus Dice (good mojo) and Friction Dice (bad mojo). Both Impetus and Friction are drawn from unit quality, officer rating and environmental conditions. Both are rolled simultaneously and you literally have to take the good with the bad (or vis a vis). Well, John rolled well enough with his Impetus dice, but the Friction roll was completely off the register - to the extent that the French battalion continued to trudge along, wondering why the ground was shaking, trumpets were blaring and their comrades to the rear were waving their arms and shouting...

'Ah! Zee target is in sight - Sound ze Charge!!'
A French ADC tries to warn the battalion of its imminent danger...
As John would say later, his battalion 'had the distinct misfortune of being ridden down by the 'flyboys' of the Horse & Musket era'. The only thing that saved the French battalion from complete annihilation was that the Austrian Hussars were at the end of their tether and very fatigued, so the mauled survivors were able to make their escape.

... but too late - the Hussars are upon them!
Turn four saw the French grind forward, closing with the Allied positions while the Russian and Allied guns gutted a French column. Nonetheless, the 1st of the 57th 'Le Terribles' got into action against the Russians and quickly broke a battalion that had been forced into square by the nearby French Dragoons. The French guns were dragged forward 'by bricole' and unlimbered in preparation to punish the tightly packed Russian formations. I'm sure there were many muttered prayers in those formations...

The unlimbered French artillery ranging in on the Russian squares. 
In the center Greg knew his victorious Hussars were desperately exposed and winded so he committed his remaining cavalry, the Dragoons to try to cover their retreat.  This turned out to be a little Pyrrhic as the Dragoons were shot to pieces by every French battalion's voltigeurs on their 'Death Ride' to the Hussars' support. Nonetheless, the exhausted 'flyboys' of the game managed to get extricated and began their ride back to Austrian high command to present the French colours they had captured.

Kolowrat receiving the news of the capture of a French eagle.
I'm sorry I cannot give a final account of the scenario as this is where we decided to break for the evening (we spent a lot of time laughing, eating and drinking.) Nonetheless, we looked over the field at 'halftime' and surmised that while the French had certainly been rebuffed in a few areas they were still in an excellent position on the Allied left flank to start an envelopment with combined arms. The fragile Allied line composed of reduced battalions and conscripts had not yet been truly tested and it would be touch-and-go to tell how it would turn out for them. It was really anybody's game.

Looking from the French left across the battlefield.
It was great fun, and all of it due to an excellent bunch of guys to game with. I extend my thanks to them all for making the night so entertaining. A special thank you goes to Greg and John who both travelled great distances to attend and brought many beautiful toys from their own collections in order to make the game that much more colourful - bravo! 

I had such a good time that I'm already planning for the next Napoleonic weekend...