Friday, 18 December 2015

Cold War (video)gaming

I was having a clear out of old games and whilst I was amazed at the amount of dross I had managed to keep hold of through two house moves, I also found a couple of time-hogs that, once upon a time, I considered brilliant. And funnily enough, they are both set in the modern Cold War period (what I class the 1980's)

First up is M1 Abrams Battle Tank for the Sega Megadrive.

This arrived with the aforementioned console for Christmas 1991, along with the pack-in game Altered Beast. As much as I liked the (almost) arcade perfect conversion, it was quickly put to one side as I pretended to be Captain Sean Bannon (I had just finished re-reading Team Yankee for the third time) and took on the Soviet invasion.

As you can see, it's not the best looking game ever (bear in mind the original PC version is 27 years old), but it was a revelation to me as a teenager. Ok, it was stupidly hard at times, and the T80's were a swine to kill but I enjoyed it. It's arcade-like in its tone, but if you ramp up the difficulty level, it's surprisingly realistic for the time, especially when you consider the hardware it was running on. Now you can still play this game as it is available via abandonware and ROM sites but for obvious legal reasons, it's up to you to search for them. The copy I had still worked when plugged into my last working Megadrive.

On the topic of Team Yankee, I will be looking to try out the Flames of War  Team Yankee game at some point in the future. I have heard both good and bad about the ruleset so will probably pick it up at the York show next year. Once the TWATS have had a go at it, I'll let you know what I think of the system.

The second game I came across was LHX Attack Chopper. This was also on the Megadrive and it was kind of like a companion game to F15 Strike Eagle 2 which I had for the Amiga. LHX looked pretty similar to F15, with the exception of playing a little slower (understandable given it's a helicopter!). Here is a video of the game in action. It was a tad more cerebral than F15, however, a hell of a lot easier to play than Steel Talons, which took a greater arcade view of helicopter combat but forgot to make it playable. Hey ho.

Thinking about it, there were more games that covered the period too. For flight sims, there was Falcon, F18 Interceptor, F19 Stealth Fighter and MiG29. Naval Combat was covered by two games, 688 Attack Sub and Harpoon, both of which will be the subject of a future post.

Monday, 7 December 2015

The only thing that will affect it is that you have to roll a dice...

Saturday saw the final game of the year for the TWATS and although it was a reduced turnout, fun was still had. In attendance we had Theatre Steve (who was running the game), Andy, new TWAT Paul and your humble scribe. This was the first time we had played with Steve's rather fine 20mm moderns and the Cold War amendments for Rapid Fire. As per usual, fine ale and sustenance were on hand throughout the afternoon.

It was East Germans versus West Germans, circa 1985, so whilst the Ossi's had the benefit of two T72 companies, the Wessi's had a recon platoon with a Leopard 2. In addition to the T72's there was a company of T55's, two companies of BMP1 mounted infantry, a recce company in BTR60's plus an attached artillery spotter to call in 3 BM21's and a battery of 122mm guns and/or a Hind strike and a 120mm mortar track. The West Germans had a Leopard 1A5 company, HQ company with another attached Leopard 1 and several companies of infantry in Marder and Fuchs APC's, as well as a company of engineers. So, having set the terrain, I took the East Germans and Andy took the Wessi's. Paul was observing with interest.

The aim of the Ossi's was to secure a crossroads in a town that was being held by a scratch force of engineers who were awaiting support. All the Wessi's had to do was stop that from happening. I thought I had a chance, but being tank heavy versus an infantry heavy force in a built up area, I knew this could get messy.

My initial aim, after a short period of consideration, was to grab a foothold in the nearest building in the town, and then take the crossroads with the BTR60 company. I also sent my T55's in first on the right flank towards some woods where Andy, quite rightly, parked his Leopard 1's.

If you go down to the woods today...
I quickly debussed the infantry at the building, just as Andy's recce platoon's Leopard 2 crashed through it.

Sshhhh! Be very, very quite...
Despite some light damage from an RPG, the Leopard was still there and causing me great worry. Fortunately, the BMP's on the left flank had ATGM's, and I managed against the dice roll to get a hit. Huzzah! Unfortunately, it was still active. But, to add insult to injury, it was finished off with a 73mm smoothbore round. First blood to the German Democratic Republic, With the Leopard now history, my troops fought their way into the compound. At this point, I was confident of success.

At this point, things became less one sided. There was Milan fire against the BMP's that missed, but the Leopard 1's quickly found the T55's, damaging two out of three. Meanwhile, the HQ Company Leopard had snuck into a gap between two buildings and heavily damaged a BMP. For the second time that afternoon however, my dice rolling was immense and another BMP ATGM killed the offending tank in short order.

Sneaky Bugger, but not for long...
My T55's also had their revenge, killing one of the Leopards and the T72's lightly damaged another. Andy had now lost half of his supporting tanks and I hadn't lost a vehicle yet. Confidence still reigned in the Socialist camp.

It was now time for luncheon. Superb vegetable soup and substantial beef butties were eagerly scoffed. (Thank you Jean, you really do spoil us!)

Back to the battle and Andy advanced his Marder's and debussed his infantry to try and regain the compound. It was now that the quote in the blog title came into play.

"Sarge, I think there is someone outside."
Andy managed to damage another T55, so feeling the pressure, I debussed my infantry well short of the town, targeted the nearest Marder with BMP cannon fire, the furthest with 120mm mortar fire, all of my T55's/T72's against the remaining Leopards and an artillery call against his infantry reserve. The was the kitchen sink tactic, and it needed to work if I had any chance of taking the town.

I began well, with a 120mm round killing a Marder and half of the attached infantry. Then my luck changed. Another Leopard died (albeit with horrendous dice rolling, 7 tanks against 3!) and the artillery call failed. Bugger!!! Although Andy had now lost two thirds of his tanks, his return was devastating. Milan fire took out a T55 and a T72, causing a morale check that halted one of the T72 companies. His Leopards passed their with flying colours and their fire took out another T72. I was now down to three working T72's and one T55. He had effectively neutralised the tank force and now stormed the compound, three companies against one.

The gathering storm...
He couldn't fail, and I was booted out, taking 30% casualties. A final request for artillery failed (ending an afternoon that started well for dice rolling but ended horribly), which meant that it was all over.

For want of an artillery strike!
Funnily, that's what Andy also thought, though the opposite to my view. Although he had held the town, he was hurting. His armour had been decimated but the infantry were dug in, whilst my tanks were raggedly holding a line but I didn't have enough troops to force him out.

Overall, it was a good game and we liked the Rapid Fire rules. They are set at a lower level than the usual Command Decision set that we play with and they worked well. There were a couple of amendments we would make for the next time, but on the whole, the afternoon was entertaining and a laugh. And that, gentle reader, is surely the point.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

The Show Must Go On...?

Last Saturday saw a trip to Stockton and the Battleground 2015 show. A successor to the Smoggycon's of years past, this is the show's second year and a third is already planned.

The show itself had a good number of games, a varied selection of traders (including two book dealers, which is always a plus point for me), and had been well advertised prior to the date. Even the venue, a large sports hall, was well lit, with nearby amenities and a floor that didn't make your feet want to join your ears after half an hour. In fact, I doff my cap to Leon and co for organising a very nice event.The only downside to the show itself that comes to mind is the catering cock up which meant mid-morning breakfast was a sausage roll. That was no fault of the organisers and as per Pendraken's own report, it's going to be looked into for next year. So why the blog post?

Well, the thing is, although the show opened at 10am, and closed at 3pm, it was pretty much done and dusted by 12 noon. Seriously, the doors opened and for about two hours, there was a buzz about the hall. Plenty of punters, familiar faces and all, yet by 12, it was quietening down. By half twelve, I am positive that there were just traders, demo/participation gamers and the odd die-hard. Now there is no doubt in my mind that this is a bad thing. Yeah, you expect a show to die about 60-90 minutes before the door officially close, but this was just daft. Would the show have benefited from a later closing time? No, probably not. Would other attractions, like talks, re-enactments, go-go dances have helped? Again, no, probably not. Even though attendance was down from last year, it did feel like a busier show. Then again, last year didn't die off until half one, two o'clock-ish. It's a nice little show and where problems occur, the organisers are showing willing in addressing them for next time. But what to do about the lack of attendees after the half way point?

I honestly don't know, but I can't see how the smaller shows can continue if this template continues.