Showing posts with label thw. Show all posts
Showing posts with label thw. Show all posts

Saturday, 12 March 2016

More Shermans On Patrol

I tried another game of 'Hell Hath No Fury' last night. I've been rereading the rules, asking questions of the author and playing some test games during the week and I think I understand how most of the game is supposed to work now.

I felt ambitious enough to try five Shermans. I stuck to one Rep value for the whole crew though. I made my platoon commander Rep 5, of course, and rolled a Rep 4 and three Rep 3s Not brilliant, but that's pretty much what the crew skill table offers you. All Shermans were the 'basic' model - no E8s

As before, my objective was to reconoiter the far edge of the board. I sent the commander and two tanks along the right, to take the hill.

Two tanks, both Rep 3 crews, worked their way through the woods to the other hill. I reasoned that the hills would be good jumping-off points for the patrol, offering a chance to scout out potential enemy activity from a position of security.

The Potential Enemy Forces were placed. Two were directly behind the big hill.

The third was working its way towards the other hill.

The single PEF resolved as three Stug III assault guns. These are 3D prints from Marco Bergman's file collection.

The main Sherman force spotted them, and they fired, but the low silhouette of the assault guns threw off their aim. The lead Stug fired back, destroying a Sherman.

The Second PEF moved, and a company of Panzer IVs moved into sight on the crest of the hill. Bugger!

(Actually I rolled Panthers, but I only have three of those printed off and they're not painted yet, so I substituted Panzer IVs. Seriously. Six Panthers.)

We exchanged fire, and I lost another Sherman, whilst the Germans just shrugged off a couple of wild shots.

And the third PEF? Another Panzer IV. I had obviously run into a major offensive.

In the centre I moved the two Shermans onto the hill to try and put the Stugs under pressure.

My novice crews didn't do too well. The Stugs reacted first, with the lead one, unable to fire, running for cover, but the second disabling one of the Shermans in an exchange of fire. The markers show that the Sherman had stopped, so it could fire, and was in the process of loading its gun.

With its companion knocked out, the other Sherman retreated to cover.

I had two tanks left, and ten German vehicles advancing across the table towards me. I took cover behind some cultivation.

The Stugs worked their way around the hill in the centre. My Sherman fired, and they retreated to cover.

The swarm of Panzer IVs advanced towards my platoon commander.

One tried to use a destroyed Sherman as cover, but I was able to disable it.

However the cultivation, whilst blocking line of sight up to a point, didn't offer much physical cover. The Stug's platoon commander moved onto my flank ...

... and it was all over.

I had one Sherman left, with a rookie crew and outnumbered nine-to-one by superior German tanks and crews. I was stuffed.

That said, they disabled the lead Panzer IV, and retreated to the cover of some woods.

Winning the next activation, I was then able to withdraw the surviving Sherman.

The Americans lost three tanks destroyed, and one disabled. The Germans suffered two Panzer IVs disabled.

As I said at the start of the post I was happier with how I played the game, having a clearer idea of what I was doing. The actual scenario is a very hard one, though, and I can't see the other nine in the book being much better. There are pretty good odds on each of the PEFs resolving to an enemy force, which will be on average as big as mine, and fairly good odds for at least two of the PEFs to resolve to something. This means that pretty much all games will leave me facing two-to-one odds, with the enemy having superior vehicles and higher crew quality. I'd have to be very lucky to generate a game where I stand a chance of achieving the mission, let alone actually achieving it.

Obviously I could generate charts and scenarios to my own taste, but the point of this game is really that it's the tank combat from overall WWII game Nuts! split out from the rules and garnished with the ten tank-specific scenarios. In other words, the only reason to get this game, rather than Nuts! is the scenarios.

It's obvious, from reading and playing the game, that it's really designed for man to man combat. The Duck Back and Hunker Down reactions see tanks running and dodging in reaction to things, in a way that doesn't seem quite right for multi-ton vehicles. The fact that their ability to fire is linked to their movement also makes for various odd rules situations about what a vehicle can d on its next turn, which wouldn't occur where the reacting entity is a single person. Even the terrain rules are really based on the assumption you are running a group of individual men, not a vehicle. Cover is an important concept, but virtually everything defined in the rules as 'cover' is really 'out of sight' - behind a building, for example. Things which would provide obvious cover to a man - being in a building, or inside woods - aren't really options for tanks. Hull down is a form of cover, but has special rules of its own. Most of these things can be resolved with a bit of common sense, but they are situations which are central enough to the workings of the game that they should have been addressed with either detail or examples in the rules.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Hell Hath No Fury - First Games

I have been printing tanks to supplement those in the Memoir '44 box, just to add a bit of variety. But it occurred to me that those same tanks, along with the ones in the game itself, could also be used for other games. I have been looking at 'Hell Hath No Fury' by Two Hour Wargames for a little while now, and enjoyed reading various reports of games on other blogs, so yesterday I bought it, downloaded it, read it, asked the author a few questions and then, this evening, played some games.

Hell Hath No Fury is basically derived from their Nuts! WWII squad-level game, and just covers tanks. Specifically it covers German and American tanks in 1944-45, although stats and charts for other nationalities can be found elsewhere. Each model represents one tank, and it assumed that you will play with a platoon or, at most, a company of tanks on each side.

Like all Two Hour Wargames products it's suited to solo play, and contains a number of missions. I started with the first one, a dawn patrol.

I decided to keep things simple and use just three tanks. I ignored the Star rules (which make the tank you personally command a Hollywood combat-monster) and also generated one Rep for each crew rather than assign values to the individual crew-members. Rep is a number from 3 (the worse) to 5 (the best) which covers a crew or crewman's experience and training. I also didn't bother with skills. I reasoned I'd have enough to keep track of.

I ran a group of three basic Shermans on my patrol. They had to cross to the other side of the table, then reconnoitre the far edge for a few turns before heading home. I ran them with Reps of 5, 4 and 3, mostly so I could see how the different values affected their performance.

Here they are, starting their patrol. I moved into the more open area of the board, hoping to use the hill as cover from any enemy tanks which might be lurking around.

The grey pieces of card are Potential Enemy Forces (PEFs). These are randomly placed after my first move, and are resolved when they are in line of sight to see what they are. They could be nothing, they could be the premonition of enemy troops elsewhere or they could, indeed, be enemy troops.

PEFs move. One entered a field, and became visible. It turned out to be nothing, but increased the likelihood that the next one would be something.

The next one moved onto the crest of the hill. If it was an enemy tank I would be in trouble. It wasn't. It was just another false alarm.

The third PEF was over the other side of the board, so I pressed forward to complete as much of my mission as I could before it was resolved.

I sent one tank to cover my flank.

The platoon commander and the novice (Rep 3) crew continued the patrol.

The lone Sherman moved into a defensive position on the central hill. The last PEF can be seen lurking in the distance.

My patrolling brought me closer to the enemy, whatever it was.

The PEF moved into view ...

... a was resolved as a lone Panzer III. Not only that, but it had a novice crew. It was, however, the gaming debut of one of my 3D prints.

The platoon commander's tank took it out with one quick reaction shot, disabling it and causing the crew to run for the cover of the woods.

With no other enemy to be found, the patrol returned home, their mission successful.

Well, I had a chance to try some of the basic mechanics of the game, but really that wasn't much of a game. So I set it up again. I adopted the same plan as before.

One PEF was lurking behind a hill to my left, whilst the other two were beyond the crest of the big hill I was heading towards.

With hindsight I should have moved all of my platoon to just behind the crest before peeping over, instead of sending the platoon commander on his own. The two PEFs resolved into two platoons of Panzer IVs - seven vehicles in total.

At this point my phone battery ran out. I couldn't be bothered to get my proper camera, so I plugged the phone in to charge whilst I resolved the battery of tests and checks my movement had caused. 

My platoon commander failed to react quicker than the Germans. Three vehicles scored near hits, with only my hull-down position saving me. A fourth German tank put a round through my turret, destroying the tank. 

Before the rest of my platoon could get their act together the Germans topped the crest of the hill, and worked one vehicle round the side. A second tank was destroyed before it could react. This left my novice crew, who wisely decided to retreat, but a shot took the tracks off on one side, and they were forced to abandon their vehicle.

All in all a bit of a disaster, but that's how the random enemy forces work. I got extremes in both games, one in my favour and the other very much not in my favour.

I tried a third game, but by that stage I was getting too tired to keep track of the various tests and checks you have to make in this game. I'm still not convinced that I'm playing all of it correctly, and I'm still not sure how some things are resolved at all, especially around the issue of firing and movement as the result of an in-sight test, a key part of the game. A few examples here would really help. 

I have to say that I didn't enjoy the game as much as I thought I would, but there's a lot to keep track of and I'm sure with experience it gets easier and more intuitive. It's very much one of those games that you need to have taught you by someone who 'gets' it, as I never find any of the Two Hour Wargames rules that easy to read or follow. I think there will be more questions to the author.

The second and third games only featured the Shermans and Panzer IVs from Memoir '44, but I hope you will all scroll back up to appreciate that lovely 3D-printed Panzer III in the first game. Sadly the Stugs and Tigers didn't get to see any action. I'm printing some Panthers as I write this ...

Note: If you are reading this post on then you are reading a stolen version. Please go to 'The Stronghold Rebuilt for the original posts. Thank you.

Friday, 12 June 2015

The Telegraph Road

So after yesterday's trailer here's the report of the most ambitious game of Machinas I've tried so far.

The scenario was a road-chase, but instead of a small, random number of vehicles chasing a single target, I had three vehicles being pursued by a gang of six - nine vehicles in total. I determined that all vehicles would be run by players - no NPC vehicles. 

So - the scenario was effectively as described in the previous post. These were the vehicles being chased - a tanker, escorted by a car and a motor-bike.

Against them was a gang - The Black Emperors - consisting of three bikes, two buggies and an articulated digger. Their objective was to destroy the tanker before either all six of their vehicles were destroyed or dropped out of the chase.

I used the standard chase rules with a couple of additions. Firstly all pursuing vehicles were on-table from the start. No new vehicles would join the chase via random events. Instead, if the lead vehicle rolled that event then the effective turn number for determining if vehicles would drop out would be reduced by one. Secondly the effective turn number was counted as one less for each Black Emperor vehicle that was ahead of the tanker. This allowed faster vehicles to extend the game and buy more time for the other attackers.

I diced for road sections one section in advance (so the players always knew what the next section would be), and at the end of each section rolled a D6 with a '6' counting as the end of a lap and allwing all vehicles to pick up three Bonus Dice.

On the night we had six players. Dave and I took the tanker and escort. Since I would be running the game as well, I took the tanker, since it was likely to be fairly passive throughout the game. Dave took the escorting bike and car.

Caesar, John T, John G and Geoff took The Black Emperors. Caesar took the bikes, John T and Geoff a buggy each and John G the mighty digger.

Setup was simple - the three pursuees set up first in any order, then the six Black Emperor vehicles in any order. 

Unfortunately in my rush to make sure I had everything I needed for the game I forgot my phone, so wasn't able to take my usual semi-professional pictures. Fortunately Caesar had his phone and stepped in as official photographer.

Here's the first turn, looking from the back of the pack. The digger (Lift Your Skinny Fists, Like Antennas To Heaven) was bringing up the rear. The plan was for it to tail other vehicles and build up a stock of bonus dice, but John actually slowly edged it forward, keen to bring it into action. In the middle of the picture the buggies edged up the pack, whilst out of shot were the two fastest Black Emperor bikes, which Caesar had decided to push in front of the tanker in order to extend the game and also separate the tanker from its escorting bike.

Another shot of the first turn - Caesar's bikes are roaring along the road to the bottom-right.

A view of the tanker and its escorts. The tanker is almost purely defence, with heavy armour to defend against shots and rams, and barbed chains to make it harder to pass.

The beginning of a turn later in the game. The digger had moved up a couple of positions, whilst Caesar chose to hold back one of his bikes, building up an enormous store of Bonus Dice through use of the rider's drafting skill.

Geoff, using the buggy Dead Flag Blues, kept up the pressure on the tanker throughout the game, attempting to pass, and taking shot after shot when he succeeded. Sadly the tanker's armour and sheer bloody-mindedness prevented any damage. This shows a pass that went wrong, and ended with the tanker getting an opportunity to run the buggy off the road.

The buggy survived.

In the previous pictures you'll note that Caesar's bikes were not only ahead of the tanker, but were also now ahead of the escorting bike, piloted by the vigilante known as Eleanor Rigby. This was due to Dave dropping the bike back, forcing Caesar's to overtake him, and giving him the chance to then position himself for shots at them.

And so we came to the first casualty of the game. One of Caesar's bikes fell foul of Eleanor Rigby's sabotage ability, an attack we rationalised as a friendly sniper on a hill just off the board. Totally failing a control roll, the bike flipped off the road and was destroyed.

Random events can play a big part in Machinas. Several times vehicles found themselves too close to others, or with failing brakes or lost traction. In this picture John T's buggy, Terrible Canyons of Static almost collides with escort vehicle The Devil Went Down To Georgia.

But it wasn't an accidental collision which took out the escorting car - the digger closed up and deploying its massive shovel and fearsome array off spikes it ripped the car apart, leaving it a shattered wreck.

At the front of the chase Eleanor Rigby engaged  the Black Emperor bike. A single well-placed gunshot caused the bike to skid out of control, its rider mortally wounded. It skidded under the wheels of the tanker and was totally destroyed.

The chase was now well advanced. and the tanker was drained of Bonus Dice. The Black Emperors had lost two bikes destroyed, but time was now catching up with them. Caesar decided to bring up his reserve bike, but as it moved down the pack its rider inexplicably decided enough was enough and dropped out of the chase - Caesar had left it too late. In the next couple of turns both of the buggies dropped out. Losing the two bikes in front of the tanker suddenly caused the game clock to lurch forward very much in the favour of the pursuees. This left The Back Emperors with just the digger.

John G tried to move it in for the kill, but once again Dave dropped his bike back (unphotographed), preventing John from completing the manuever. He prepared to move in on the next turn, but time and remaining fuel wasn't with him, and the final Black Emperor vehicle broke off the chase.

The tanker was safe to continue to its destination.

The losses were relatively light - The Black Emperors had lost two bikes, whereas the tanker had lost an escort vehicle. Most other vehicles had scratched paintwork and dents from minor collisions, but gunfire proved rather ineffective. This was mainly because a lot of it was directed at the tanker, which had the armour to defend against it.

Machinas can be a very random game and with a single vehicle as the objective there was always the possibility of a sudden finish. Indeed this nearly happened early on when I foolishly tried to attack one of Caesar's bikes in front of me using the tanker's spiked ram. The bike fired off an oil-slick, which almost saw the tanker spin off the road. However aside from this the scenario delivered a game which neatly filled the evening, kept all of the players engage pretty much to the end, and delivered a great story with plenty of incidents large and small. I was pleased with how the various different vehicle sizes interacted - my house-rule has six size classes, and five of them were actually in play (the digger was graded a size smaller than the tanker, despite appearences). Bikes proved suitable vulnerable to shooting, offset by their ability to avoid being shot at - by vehicles other than bikes. I rather fancy an all-bike game, although I suspect that it will be fast, random and bloody. The larger vehicles tended to be more passive, but if they did get the initiative they could be very dangerous.

The random road turned out to be almost entirely straight - one curve in the eight or nine sections we negotiated - whilst only two sections generated additional Bonus Dice, and they both came early on. Later attacks suffered through lack of dice to make them truly effective.

Thanks to everyone for taking part - at least a couple of the players were novices, and others had only played once. Everyone picked up the mechanisms fairly quickly, although remembering which factors give dice and which give auto-successes was sometimes tricky.

I'm keen to try more odd vehicles now, and more chases.

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