Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The Road to Bad'gagh

Last Saturday saw a gathering of TWATS at the usual venue for what was planned as a three way test of rulesets that was proposed quite a while back. However, as playing the same period/ruleset does get quite monotonous very quickly, we waited until the back end of the year before we tackled the triple challenge. And what a challenge it turned out to be. 

The initial brief was simple. I was to run a game using three Modern period rulesets, Combined Arms, our usual set; Team Yankee, a lower level fast paced 'fun' set, and Cold War Commander, back to a similar command level as CA. To make this possible, the scenario was as simple as can be, the briefings designed to make the individual games quite quick and offer an opportunity to put some awfully bad jokes in there as well.

Before I list the briefings, a note on amendments: As Team Yankee does not cover Challengers, we basically used the Chieftain's stats with Stillbrew. Similarly, Warriors were classed as BMP 2's. This didn't make much of a difference overall. 

The British Briefing

The Road to Bad'gagh - Bar-Alnnabidh Aleasaria - British Briefing

To: Colonel Richard Bartholomew Copestake

What ho! Dickie!

Sorry to get down to business, old chap, just we have found ourselves in a bit of a squeaky bum situation. As you know, Christmas is nearly here and, like you, I was hoping to get a bit of skiing in with the family at Klosters. Bit of bad luck that the American hope of a quick bish bash bosh and home by Chrimbo seems to have been a tad over-presumptuous.

However, the Greenflies have heard that there is a nice big gap in the Hirraqui lines leading to a rather important town and oil field. More so, the town overlooks the main highway to Bad’gagh, so offers the perfect opportunity to cut off the head whilst giving him a damn good thrashing to the kidneys.

All is not green and pleasant though. Seems the Yanks don’t have the spare tools for the job so want us to make a lightning strike and capture the town and the oil (nothing new there then!). So, your job is to take a scratch Battle Group and sort the buggers out. I don’t have an exact Or-Bat, you’ll find out when you get there. However, I do know that the Green Howards will be your boots on the ground, the Royal Irish Hussars will provide your firepower and recce will be courtesy of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.

I can also give you the basic plan of attack.

Start line is SHAKESPEARE, follow on is objective BARD. From there, you’ll have phase line HORSE, with secondary objective LONG FACE. Finally, there is phase line DICKENS, where you’ll need to decide upon objectives OLIVE or TWIST. And shout up if you need support, you never know, there may actually be some this time. As an aside, you might want to capture OLIVE, just to get in your cousin’s good books. I hear he quite enjoyed his little helicopter escape action a few weeks ago.

Good luck, and God’s speed.

Oh, and one more thing. There is frightfully awful Haboob heading your way. Best be at that town quick smart!

As always,


(Brigadier Norris St. Michael Farquhar)

The Hirraqui Briefing

To: Commander Hirraqui Republican Forces, Bar-Alnnabidh Aleasaria

Greetings and Salutations on this pleasant day. I hope all is well as your valiant forces rest after teaching the Infidel the true error of his ways. Although your losses were heavier than I had foretold, I understand that you find the rest and recuperation pleasing, and that material defects to your combined arms forces are being repaired quickly and efficiently.

I am sorry to say that your forces will be required again in the very near future, so please do not delay in training and melding the numerous brave soldiers of the 3rd, 5th, 9th, 31st and 33rd Armoured Divisions into the Sword of Allah I know you are capable of being. I believe that you and the four hundred brothers in arms you lead will be the key to our victory! You should not be disturbed by the Infidel as the 6th, 10th, 14th and 22nd Armoured Divisions are at this moment weathering the sandstone of his pride.

Allahu Akbar

The Great Leader.

As you can see, nothing too specific regarding forces, as the whole point was to playtest the different rules. It pretty much ended up being 6 Challengers, 4 Warriors, and 4 Scimitars versus a dozen or so T72's and 5 BMP 2's. Also, the approaching storm was designed to limit the games to 5 turns apiece so we could fit everything into an afternoon, especially the Beef butties and chips! As for the jokes, well, I'll let you guess at those - there is a common theme.

Game One - Team Yankee

As this was the ruleset that kicked off the idea of the challenge, Team Yankee got first shot. Andy took on the role of the resting and recuperating Hirraqui commander, whilst Jeff and Paul were the British.

First turn was pretty much the British dashing to contact, the second turn slowing to a more tactical pace that ended with an ATGW strike against one of Paul's Challengers without effect. The British reply was a volley against the offending BMP that quickly ended it's participation in the proceedings. A T72 tried it's luck, again without effect and it too ended up dead once the British had replied.

Turn three saw Andy get the bulk of his T72's into line on a ridge to await the British advance. At this point, the British closed again and the real tank engagement began. Three Challengers fired, killing two T72's, the return of which killed a Challenger! I know, shock and horror!!! Paul, on the other flank, targeted three '72's and killed two. Things were not going well for the Hirraqui's!

Turn four saw the British dash their Scimitars through an ambush point towards the town, a point they had to reach to class the encounter as a win. This, it must be said, did not go well. In quick succession, cannon fire destroyed a Warrior and three Scimitars. On Paul's side, a BMP took out a Challenger with flanking cannon fire.Not to be totally outdone, the British claimed two more '72's and a BMP. At this point, the game was declared over by both sides, and I couldn't blame them as the slaughter had been quite horrific.

Now, before we continue, yes, Jeff and Paul were forces to be overly aggressive, so in a full afternoon game, tactics would have played more of a part. However, the original aim of the game was achieved. We had play tested Team Yankee and although, compared to CA, it lacked nuance and seemed to be quite dice driven, it was actually good fun. I would certainly have a go again, and maybe tinker a bit here and there, as is the wont of our Group.

Game Two - Cold War Commander

The second game saw a reversal of players, Andy and the recently arrived Shaun taking the British, and Jeff and Paul turning Hirraqui. I will be honest and say that none of us were au fait with the rules but between myself and (mostly) Andy, we had a bash. Early on, we ditched the five turn rule as the distance to be covered and the scale of movement being too great.

Turns one and two were just the British advance, though it did give us an idea of the initiative system between formation leaders and CO's. And by idea, I mean chucking a lot of dice for not much effect.

Turn three saw Challengers take up a firing position and the British recce fail a command roll, though the CO saved them, so all continued as planned. Still, if I had 10p for every dice rolled so far, I could have bought myself a pint!

Turn four saw the action kick off, Three Challengers against T72's, who remained out-ranged throughout the game. 18(!!!) dice saw 4 hits (bearing in mind, it takes 5 hits in a turn to kill a T72 unit) saw some suppression but as two of the hits were saved, no other effect. Another three Challenger round of firing, another 18 dice, another four hits, but with only one save this time. So, 36 dice(! - another pint there plus change) and five hits. Ok, bad dice rolls but still.

During the mass firing, a pause was held for the as-usual excellent beef butties and chips, before we went back to see what we could salvage from this game. And there was the rub. CWC is an extremely dice driven game and seems aimed at the professional dice roller, rather than what we would call an historical wargamer. Harsh? Maybe, and I have borrowed the ruleset from Andy to have a proper look over but to a man, none of us thought the system was any good. As for the third game, CA, we simply ran out of time, but since we have been playing those rules for several years, we know how they work.


So, where to begin. Well, without a doubt, CA remains the group favourite. However, the surprise of the afternoon was Team Yankee, very playable, not without fault but at the same time, they fill a gap and I can think of making a couple of amends to add a dash of flavour and we'll have at these again. I would, however, avoid the game extras: £16.50 for the artillery template! No thanks, cheaper to find a sailor down the docks!

CWC was the real disappointment. Too faffy, far too dice driven and very much of the "rules say this, you must do this, nothing else is permitted" school of thought. Not my cup of tea and, judging by the other guys (including a couple of former competition players), theirs either. It was still a good afternoon though and that's what it's all about, isn't it?

The Jokes

The basic premise was an Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman walk into a (trendy wine) bar (in arabic, obviously). After that, it was the trio of bar jokes: Shakespeare walks into a bar, Barman says You're barred! A horse walks into a bar, barman asks, why the long face. Finally, Dickens walks into a bar and asks for a martini, barman asks, olive or twist.

I am truly sorry!

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

September and gone...

So another month nearly over, and one that contained a tad more wargaming that usual, what with the Newcastle show and a meeting of the TWATS. It also has a fine ending in the Derby World Wargames show this weekend.

The Newcastle show was, to be honest, slightly disappointing. Maybe it's me, maybe it's the small regional show vibe, but it felt more like Battleground from last year, decently busy at the beginning but tailing off by midday. And, whilst I do try to support local shows by spending some cash, it was a pretty hard thing to do this time round. Still, a couple of decent books made their way home.

The TWATS gathering has been well covered here so I won't add much else, other than to say that I was having an off day, and only the good company, fine ale and delicious food saved it. But isn't that what club gaming should be about???

Derby promises to be a good show, one where I hope to get the two available expansions for Team Yankee. They should come in handy for the October TWATS meeting where the long mentioned three comparison between Command Decision, Cold War Commander and Team Yankee will be made. Nothing overly fancy but just enough to give the different rule sets a try.

Outside of this hobby, September had its fair share of treats, such as eventually getting to start "Stranger Things", an 80's set sci-fi horror show that hits the right nostalgic note (the credits and music are prime examples) as well as not dragging too much into the eight episode season. If you have Netflix, give it a try.

Book-wise, there have been a couple of goodies from Amazon. The fourth in the series of Cold War technical books from Chris Gibson (this was co-authored with Dave Forster), "Listening In". This follows the British elint effort from the 1940's onwards and is another cracking text. There is another in the series, "On Atlas' Shoulders", due out in October, detailing transport projects. That one is already on the wishlist. The second book is "British Aircraft Carriers" by David Hobbs. The sheer amount of detail and information held in this book is amazing and well worth a gander if you have any interest in the subject.

So, that's it for the moment, just a couple of reviews to complete for allthetimeiwaslistening.blogspot.co.uk and a couple of weeks off towards the end of the month. May even get some painting done...

Saturday, 30 July 2016

August??? When the hell did that happen???

Now that we are nearly into August, I thought it time to a) post something here as I have been very lax, although not without cause. Between work and family, the last couple of months have been rather hectic, and b) figure out what I want to sort out hobby wise before the year ends.

Wargaming wise, well, there's a show a month now until November, with Claymore in Edinburgh next Saturday, Border Reivers in September, Derby in October and Battlegound in Stockton in November. Sadly, it looks like I shall miss 2nd Partizan in a few weeks but we shall see closer to the time. Hopefully, I will be able to advance slightly on the Panzer Group Qatar project I mentioned back in May. As this force currently consists of three unpainted AMX-30's, I perhaps should pull my finger out and sort out bases and get something ready for use on the table.

I do like the Claymore show, a good venue with decent facilities, better than average food and a very good selection of traders. It also helps that it's just a relatively short (under two hours) run up the road, so I may actually get a little bit of a lie in compared to the usual working waking hours!

Following that, there are the three modern scenarios to look at for the rule set comparison, also mentioned earlier in the year. Now I must admit a slight bias to CD, and Team Yankee seems "lightweight" so to speak, but in fairness, there will be an even playing field given the constraints, scale and time permitted for the rules. All I need to do after that is sort a date for the actual game.

As for computer/videogaming, that too has had a patchy time, with just a couple of games played (one finished, so a 50% completion rate isn't too bad). However, due to X-Box Live's Games with Gold scheme, I have six untouched titles waiting on the hard drive but I don't feel too bad about that as they were free. For the rest of the year, I can honestly say that there aren't too many titles that I am tempted to buy. The Skyrim re-release, definitely. The new Battlefield and CoD titles, possibly, depending on the reviews. Other than that, it looks quite quiet.

Outside of those two areas, there is the continuing open invitation to guest on Attention Please, the seemingly never ending supply of albums to review, the hope of some Saturday games with the TWATS and some blog posts. It's all down to spare time. Hell, even my reading pile has seen a distinct lack of action recently, as I am only just getting though the last of the titles bought at Triples (Fireforce by Chris Cocks - an excellent read).

So there we are, doesn't seem like much to fit in the next five months, but then I am sure we all know better than that...

Friday, 3 June 2016

2017 War With Russia - some thoughts

Ever since I was a child, I have always enjoyed that little cul-de-sac of fiction signposted "counter-factual". What if has always been a interesting question to ask and forms an important part of war gaming. After all, for those of you have re-fought Waterloo haven't tried to better the efforts of the Duke?

So bearing that in mind, during some enforced downtime, I read the copy of "2017" I picked up last week. Given that it was written by General Sir Richard Shirreff, former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, my hopes were quite high. But, a lot like the "Invasion Literature" popularised in the late 19th, early 20th centuries, its faults detract from what could have been an entertaining tale.

Set in the year 2017, the novel takes the multiple point of view format used to great effect by Tom Clancy and Larry Bond thirty years ago. Characterisation is pretty minimal, especially the Russians who wouldn't be amiss in a Panto version of a Bond film. All the novel's version of Putin needs is a moustache to twirl. The good guys are pretty much good guys, and the gals are all as pretty as can be. Seriously, say what you like about the author, but he likes the ladies to be pretty. And poor old David Cameron. Not by name, but boy, his caricature is not flattering at all!!!

So, sneaky Russians, gullible Europeans, incompetent politicians, plucky soldiers, this book has it all. As well as its most glaring flaw. The message. The axe the author has to grind. Yep, the sorry state we are in is down to silly politician types having no clue at how defence works, or what is needed to protect the country or its allies. This point is hammered home atleast once every two chapters. The last chapter has what can only be called a call to arms, a speech calling for eyes to be opened before it is too late. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad message, it just doesn't need to be delivered with the force of a Charlie 2 down the throat. Still, it kind of has a happy ending.

I mentioned Clancy and Brown earlier. I would compare "2017 War With Russia" with their earlier works and I find the "2017" lacking. Ok, Clancy and Brown weren't brilliant authors but atleast their characters had some character. Shirreff's don't. They exist just to get his point across. Similarly, Clancy and Bond put a lot of technology into their techno-thrillers. Whilst Shirreff does know what he is talking about, it's very lightweight.

Overall, it's fluff, good for an afternoon's lazy read.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

An Update

Well, after what has seemed like weeks of relentless work, I finally seem to have time to sit in front of a keyboard that isn't my employers! It's not been all work as since my last post, I have co-hosted a radio show for a local station, read a couple of interesting books and attended a wargames show, so not all work and no play.

The radio gig came about from my mate Eddie and the Attention Please show on Ne1.fm which has a local FM broadcast as well as an Internet stream. A tad nervous to begin with, by the end of the two hour segment, I was really enjoying it. I got to chose half of the music played and the blog even got a mention.The plan is to do that again in the near future.

As for books, I picked up three of the four volumes by Chris Gibson on what-if British aircraft development in the post war period. Battle Flight, Thor’s Hammer and Nimrod’s Genesis are interesting reads, covering the planned and suggested projects that never made it to fruition. Highlighting the political and technological challenges of the period, these books give a good grounding in how the state of the nation’s aircraft industry ended up the way it did. I would recommend these books to anyone with a passing interest in the subject. Plus, there seems to be a million and one things you can do with a Vulcan…

Next up, the Carronade show at Falkirk. Taking place last Saturday, it involved an even earlier than usual wake up call but was well worth it. I like the Carronade as it fits into the description of small regional show but is big enough to have a good variety of traders. The venue splits the show over five areas which makes it fun to have a wander around whilst, unless you are on the first floor, offering relatively easy access for trollying and the like. I also liked the fact that the show never died, it just closed. It’s nice to see people at a show up until the very end, rather than watching tumbleweed for the last two hours. On a culinary note, the breakfast rolls used for the sausage/bacon butties are immense! Whilst there, I did see the tasty new 15mm  AMX30-B2’s from Old Glory, tempting enough to start a little project for Command Decision, and, since our little group already have British and Iraqi styled forces, I think I’ll have a go at the Qatari forces. Just need OGUK to do a VAB...

Finally, after consultation with a couple of TWATS, at some point later this year, we will try out a comparison game. We have played CD in the modern period quite a bit, and there has been a read through of Cold War Commander. I purchased a copy of Team Yankee back at Sheffield Triples so in the spirit of having a laugh, the plan is to design a scenario that shouldn't take too long to complete, but will allow the rulesets to be tested to see which suits us best. Having said that, a couple of disclaimers should be added. One, we are not driven by the idea of “having fun”. That line is used several times in the TY rules and to be honest, fun is subjective. Arguably, the enjoyment of a TWATS meeting stems from the meeting itself and the game is, at times, of secondary importance. Enjoyment is the result of more than just the game. Two, I understand that TY is more of a skirmish game than the command levels offered by the other two sets but, as a student of the historical period, I am interested in how wargaming can portray that period and how (in)accurate/in period these rules can be. I am, however, reminded of a TY game at Falkirk where the playing area was maybe a tad over a metre square and had three tanks and a helicopter. That is not for me. I more prefer a sense of scale and ambition on a table, so maybe the skirmish style of TY might not be to my taste, but we’ll see how that goes, open mind and all that jazz...

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The Trouble With Triples

Sheffield Triples Wargames Show was held a week and a half ago at the English Institute for Sport and for the fourth year in a row, I was there for the weekend. Some of you may have seen the chat on TMP about the failings of this show, in particular the lack of attendees and a handful of traders. Well, I have been pontificating on the matter and to coincide with Andy's take on the matter, here are my thoughts.

Previously held in May, this year saw the move to the original timeslot for the show. This was given as one of the reasons for the perceived failure of the show, a change in date combined with a lack of advertising. If you don't tell people, how will they know? Well, sorry if this is a tad blunt, but GOOGLE IT!!! Seriously, it's a five second search and there you have it. It's not rocket science. Do people have to be spoon fed everything? Is it beyond a person's ability to discover information for themselves? Or has wargaming dumbed down to the point where if it's not delivered with the force of a four by two across the back of the head, it doesn't register? As I said, a tad blunt. It is true the event should have been advertised more, but the information was out there. Lack of communication from the organisers has also been blamed and, regardless of whether it is 100 percent factually accurate, that needs to be addressed by the organisers.

Some have blamed the venue, too large, too soulless, not the Octagon. Well, sorry, but if you like your venues with space, decent lighting, easy access for traders and public and decent grub, the EIS has it. What is the obsession with atmosphere at venues? OK, so as a punter, funky venues are a nice touch, but spare a thought for the traders, the lads and lasses who have to cart their gear around these places. And if that doesn't make you consider your view, what about this: Shows only happen because traders table fees pay for the venue. From personal experience, I'd take a sports hall over somewhere like Kelham Hall any day of the week.

Others have questioned the need for a two day show and one that falls close to two other reasonably sized shows in the calendar. If you made it a one day show, which day? Saturday, and risk clashing with sporting/public events (during the weekend of the show, there was the derby soccer game, Six Nations and a beer festival in the building opposite the venue); or Sunday and have the usual busy at 11, dead by 1 syndrome. What if the venue will only hire out for the weekend so you have to take the block booking? Weekend shows also give more time for competition games, greater scope for demo and participation games, and give a more relaxed vibe to the show. So, for me, they have their place.

So, mini rant over with, where does that leave me on Triples 2016? The show was not as well attended as last year, at least it seemed that way. There were fewer games on display and fewer traders, so the move to just having one hall next year may help. At the very least, it would fill the place up. Having said that, it may be in the interests of the organisers to publicly answer some of the criticisms/observations of those who attended the show. Not a mea culpa though. As Andy points out in his post, if traders or demo gamers decide not to attend, that's not the fault of the organisers. If they didn't know about the show, then better communication possibly, but bear in mind the second paragraph above.

I'll end on a question for you. I mentioned Kelham Hall above, and Partizan has moved venue to the same location as Hammerhead. In addition, 2nd Partizan is now in August. Since the shows have moved both venue and date, what would you expect the effect to be for this year?

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Plus One For Buying The Umpire A Pint

Last Saturday saw an assemblage of TWATS (Andy, Jeff, Theatre Steve, Shaun and myself) at the usual location for a game of modern warfare with a slight twist on the usual set up. Normally, you see, it's a straight conventional square off between valiant British forces and the despicable Great Leader's horde of cannon fodder. Well, this time, as I was in the chair, I wanted to try something different. 

Enter stage right, Sir Aloysius Ponsonby Copestake. I'll let the briefings take it from here.


With war between the Allies and The Great Leader looking increasingly likely to as a means to extract the Hirraqui forces from the invaded country of Quewait, a last ditch peace mission by an ”interested third party” was given the go ahead by the UN. Consequently, the Deputy Vice Chief Executive (Gulf Region) of Oyston Industries, Sir Aloysius Ponsonby Copestake arranged a meeting with an envoy of The Great Leader’s in the town of Al-Missya, located 10 miles from the border.

Oyston Industries is the largest corporate entity in the Gulf region, with oil exploration, extraction and refinement interests, combined with renewable technology research and development.

Unfortunately, during the meeting, news broke that The Great Leader had begun a pre-emptive assault on the massed Allied forces. As per protocol devised by Oyston Industries along with the local British forces, a rapid response team was dispatched to extract Sir Copestake. This it did. However, as the Chinook and its escorting Apache made their way southwards, ground fire brought the transport down. Fortunately, there were no casualties. A ground based force is now en-route to the crash site to complete the extraction.

British Briefing

You control two forces on table, with potentially a third en-route. The aim is to get the HVT to safety with minimal casualties, though as always, things are not quite that simple...

Extraction Unit

1 command Infantry stand (integral AT)
1 infantry stand (integral AT)
1 sniper stand
1 HMG stand
Sir Aloysius Ponsonby Copestake and bodyguard
You start off at the helicopter crash site and have a decision to make as to where to more to. Staying put is an option but the local militia and regular forces know where you are. Discretion may be the better of valour, at least in the short term. There are no injuries to prevent tabbing out, however there is a lack of suitable footwear for a certain individual.
You do have off table 81mm mortar support though this is not available if you locate to a built up area.
A brief note about Sir APC. He served in the Nookyo Yeomanry during the 1980’s and is still range qualified. He can provide additional rifle fire if you desire. This will, however, greatly expose him to enemy fire. That, and he would enjoy the excitement. Sir APC’s close protection detail is armed with an SMG and pistol.
British Ground Extraction Unit
These will start off table, with dice rolls required to decide when they make an appearance. These are Royal Marine troops who have made a rapid advance through the weak enemy forces. As such, there vehicles are lightly armoured though they do have CVR-T support.
1 command Infantry stand (integral AT)
3 infantry stands (integral AT)
1 Milan Stand.
1 Quad Bike and Trailer
1 Pinzgauer truck
2 Landrovers
3 CVR-T Scimitars
For the initial two turns, Apache support will be present on the table. After two turns, “Ugly 69” will return to base for refuelling. It’s return is dependent on how the Allied Forces are dealing with the Great Leader’s attacking forces (yup, dice rolls). Whatever you do though, don’t get it shot down. Losing one helicopter in a day is an accident, two would be considered careless.
There is an emergency extraction procedure if it all goes tits up (Total Inability To Stop Unfriendly Persons). An extraction for Sir APC can be completed by climbing onto the exterior of an Apache. Please note that this is extremely risky and has more danger than you can possibly imagine (in other words, the Umpire will be a bastard with your dice rolls!)
British Support Forces
HQ No 1 Sqn Prince Regents Own Heavy Hussars
1 Command Sultan
1 Sabre Squadron with
1 Command Challenger 1
2 Challenger 1
No2 Sqn Prince Regent’s Own Heavy Hussars
1 Sabre Squadron with
1 Command Challenger 1
2 Challenger 1
Attached armoured Infantry – 3rd Btn Queen’s Malabars –
1 Command Warrior IFV
2 Warrior IFV
1 Command Infantry Stand
1 Infantry stand
1 Weapons stand
These will have to be diced for as the game progresses. Please note that at the Umpire’s discretion, there may have been losses prior to the units reaching this area of operation. If they reach the VIP group, they will pick up and return to their starting point.
British Success Scenarios

  1. Everyone gets out, minimal casualties
  2. Sir APC is extracted, British forces remain in situ, providing a jump off point for following forces
  3. Sir APC is extracted, British forces remain in situ, under extreme pressure due to numerically superior enemy forces
  4. Sir APC is dead, British forces remain in situ, providing a jump off point for following forces
  5. Sir APC is dead, British forces remain in situ, under extreme pressure due to numerically superior enemy forces

  1. Sir APC is dead, British forces heavily engaged with local Hirraqui forces with subsequent losses on both sides (and a scathing editorial in The Times to go with the lovely obituary of Sir APC)

Hirraqui Briefing

In order to please The Great Leader, you must take advantage of the local situation and kidnap the western capitalist dog called Sir Aloysius Ponsonby Copestake. The Great Leader trusts that you will, with the blessing of Allah, capture the infidel and hold him until we can benefit greatly from him. He must be taken alive.
Due to the forward thinking of our Great Leader, these are the great forces you have to complete your divinely ordained mission:
Local Tribal Militia
Enthusiastic and blessed by Allah (Morale 7, rabble)
1 infantry command stand
2 weapons stands
2 infantry stands
Local Tribal Militia (2)
Extremely enthusiastic and blessed by Allah (Morale 10, vigorous rabble)
1 infantry command stand
5 infantry stands
Local Militia Support:
1 107mm RCL
1 HMG stand
1 Light Truck with SNEB
1 Truck (with for 107mm rifle and HMG stand)
3 Motorcycle stands
Fist of Allah Tank Company (deployed in Al-Missya, unable to move til Turn 3)
1 Command T55
2 x T55 (understrength)
Follow up forces (from turn 6 onwards)
Experienced Morale 8
Tank Battalion with
Battalion HQ company
1 Command T-72
1 T-72
1 BDRM  SA-9
2 Tank Companies each with
1 Command T-72
2 T-72
1 Tank Company with
3 T-72

Victory Scenario


The Game

With the stage set, the assembled TWATS were assigned sides. As benefited the scenario, Andy took the British as he was, figuratively, in-situ. Jeff took the enthusiastic militia and the T55 company. Theatre Steve took the very enthusiastic militia and the support weaponry. To start off with, there were dice rolls to see how far the Chinook made it from the town and which side of the highway it crashed. This was important as Andy managed to place the crash site as far as possible from the two villages containing the militias and the town with the T55 company.

Another fine mess...
Steve started by sending his motorcycles haring down the highway with his light trucks in support. In very short order, "Ugly 69" sent the light trucks packing, though that did leave their support weaponry inconveniently in the middle of the road. Jeff started to move his militia towards the crash site, whilst Andy started the long tab away from it.

Worse than the A19 at rush hour!
The second turn saw Hirraqui forces get their revenge by hitting a Scimitar with a 107mm round. As the rest of the extraction unit passed by the militia held village, Steve sent rounds their way, hitting another Scimitar but apart from that, they continued to speed through. Andy, sensing discretion was the better part of valour, continued his run, whilst Jeff, fearing "Ugly 69's" cannon, retired his militia back to their village. So far, fairly tame. That was not to last...

Turn three saw some bloodshed as a 107mm point blank shot missed a speeding Scimitar, though RPG fire took it's toll on the accompanying Landrovers. Not to give impression of being softies, the British return killed the 107mm crew and dented the enthusiasm of their RPG wielding compatriots. Jeff began moving his militia back towards the Chinook as "Ugly 69" had to RTB, leaving the Brits feeling all lonely.

Whatever you do, don't look back!
Turn four saw the T55's join the party, sending long range 100mm fire towards the Scimitars. This was as pointless as it sounds. However, the motorcycles has reached the hill where Sir APC and his boys were hiding. They then proceeded to spray and pray, narrowly missing the VIP but causing no casualties. The British return was more effective, having not moved. This allowed the infantry and the attached sniper to put three hits against the motorcycle troops. Steve then decided to dismount for the next turn.

What's that coming over the hill? Is it Militia? It is Militia!!!
Turn five heralded the Hirraqui support forces arriving on the table, whilst there was no sign of the British follow up troops, though they would be ably led by Shaun who had just arrived. The motorcycle troops were being a tad tiresome, RPG fire using HE warheads killing one British soldier. Small arms fire, despite the warnings of the umpire to the risk of hitting Sir APC, was directed against the group. Sir Copestake was hit!!! His body armour was well made, though, and he survived. He was not, however, best pleased. British return fire killed another motorcyclist and pinned the unit. "Ugly 69" made a welcome return though, sending Hellfire missiles towards the T55 company which was now rapidly approaching the under fire escapees. The end result, one dead T55.

Almost there, almost there...
At this point, time was called and the (as usual excellent) Beef butties supplied with copious amounts of chips were consumed. Now refreshed, we were back to the table.

Turn six finally saw the British support forces arrive, in a race with the Hirraqui regulars as to who would get to Sir APC first. Back at the gunfight, the surviving T55's were now pouring MG fire onto the desperate band of troops, though their lack of main gun depression mean it was just the turret mounted AA MG's and not the main guns or coax. This was seen as unsporting, and another T55 disappeared to Hellfire missiles, whilst the remaining tank took a glancing hit but passed it's morale test. By this point, the initial British response forces had reached the VIP and surviving infantry.

The British support arrives and take no notice of The (infamously shy) Great Leader

Meanwhile, it's getting a bit squeaky over here...
Turn seven turned out to be the last, but bloodiest, of them all. The T55 MG fire killed a British command stand, though Sir APC was untouched, whilst the sniper team took a hit. British LAW fire killed the last T55 and the remaining motorcyclists failed a morale and ran away. The British support forces took fire from Steve's village militia, one RPG hit a Challenger, it didn't notice. Return fire was lacking effect as the British were travelling too fast to get to the VIP. Meanwhile, the SA-9 tried to take out "Ugly 69" and missed. Hellfire missiles killed two T72's and damaged two more in return. At that point, I called it a day.

So, who won? Well, the British achieved victory condition 2, though not without taking more casualties than I thought. The Hirraqui's? Well, they were all shot. Life's tough. Jesting aside, it was fun to see how the scenario worked out and though it needs a bit of tinkering, it has potential. And in best Bond style:

Sir Aloysius Ponsonby Copestake Will Return!

Now, at the TWATS, we always play umpire led games. It works, partly because of the mindset of the group (we are not really competitive gamers though some of us have been in the past), and partly because we want to enjoy the games we play, not fight over rule minutiae. It also helps that when we are missing part of the ruleset, the group knowledge helped keep the Umpire right. At the same time, the Umpire can add to the rules to make them a bit more real-world and less gamey. This brings me to the title of the post. The scenario itself was called "Chinook Chicanery". However, during one of the turns, I had a pint bought for me as part of the round and the comment was made, "plus one for buying the Umpire a pint". That kind of neatly sums up the attitude of our group (and it stuck for the post title!). Not that I would succumb to bribery like that. It would have to be a pint and a double whiskey and then I'll consider the merits of the situation! :-) 

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

You could take me to Hull and back...

After what has seemed like an age of uninterrupted work, last week saw some time off and a bit of a road trip to Hull to see the better half's sister. Just prior to the trip, we went to see Deadpool at the cinema and enjoyed it immensely we did. Fast paced, hilariously funny and tonally spot on, it is the perfect counter to the increasingly serious Marvel and DC movie universes. Give the trailer a shot as it's a blast.

Anyway, the trip to Hull. It is not, as some people think, a crappy place. True, it has both good and bad, but then all places do, and it suits a couple of days to see the what the place has to offer. Apart from the usual retail haunts (and a CEX store that doesn't stink of b/o and pee!), it also has a Games Workshop store. As I was passing, I thought I would have a look in.

Wow!!! Why the wow? Why the three exclamation marks?

Well, it was busy, and surprisingly not just with the expected hordes of teenagers. Nope there was a goodly mix of twenty-somethings, worried looking parents buying the teenagers their toys, other halves standing in bemusement at said toys, and your humble scribe. (My better half was perusing a shop further down the street). What did make me go "wow!" at first was the general stock of the shop. Reasonably well laid out, sections on rulesets, figures, starter kits, vehicles, books etc. Nice to see and not what I had expected, although that could be down to me seeing GW fans at wargames shows and projecting that image to the company. The second "wow!!" came from the book section alone. I knew there was an expanded universe out there but seriously, how many books??? I presume they must sell (and keep Dan Abnett in tea and biscuits), but I wasn't expecting the full on media expansion of the lore. It made me wonder how much GW are focussing on everything other than the gaming systems that I thought was there bread and butter.

The final "wow!!!" kind of answered that for me. I saw one figure, looked like grey resin, maybe an inch tall (I profess to not know the details), in a neat little blister pack. Nice piece of work, until I saw the price. £15!!! For one figure!!! Jesus indeed was sobbing gently into his handkerchief.

Now I admit, I have not played any GW games since the 1980's but I can't quite comprehend how people can justify charging (and paying) that much for one figure. Not when you can buy Perry plastics at shows for £20 per pack for 36 figures, or Old Glory 25mm for £24 for 30 figures. The former are plastic, the latter metal, but either way, much better value than £15 for one! Do GW need the book sales to cover the low sales of actual gaming goods? I am not sure, but it's a thought. And yes, I am aware of the idea of expanding market presence and diversifying your income, but at those prices, no wonder the parents looked terrified...

I didn't loiter for long, and after the aforementioned two days, we left Hull behind and returned to the bright lights of County Durham.

Thankfully, now I am back home, I can get round to sorting out my plan of action for this Saturday as it's a TWATS meeting and I am in charge. Mwah-ha-ha-ha!!! If I had whskers of a certain length, I would be twirling them right now. It'll be a modern, not-quite-Iraq themed game, but on a smaller scale than previous games, and with a few umpire introduced amendments to the proceedings. There shall, without doubt, a report or two and pictures.

The weekend after that will be filled with the joys of Sheffield, where the Triples show is being held in it's new timeslot. I admit that I am looking forward to the show, it has a good number of traders, games and the facilities are of the better sort for a show. There is also the Lord Nelson pub, just round the corner from the hotel. That is always a nice sight for sore eyes on a Friday and Saturday evening.

After that, well, hopefully some more blog posts, more music reviews for the other blog I write for and maybe, just maybe, a couple of cinema trips too. Well, one can but hope...

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Start as you mean to go on...

Well, 2016 is well under way and already one Saturday game has been played and a show attended. This, surprisingly, is a good start. The game itself has a good report already on gloriouslittlesoldiers though I shall say now that I think the reporting is a tad unfair. (But then I would say that!)

Sunday was the Vapnartak show in York, and a good day it was too. The show food was of the decent to rather good variety (this is a biggie if you go to lots of shows, you get to sample some... delicacies (if that's the right term)). Compared to the first show at the race course where they served Breakfast pasties, this year's sausage bap was superb. Having said that, it's a pricey venue and when three portions of noodles and three bottles of orange juice reach £24, you know you have to chew your food slowly just to get your monies worth!

Still, the show itself was extremely well attended, for the first four hours at least, and unlike most Sunday shows, actually made it to 2 o'clock without dying a death. I have always liked the York show and the only real downside, apart from the lack of a visible bar (possibly a good thing as two years ago, three cans of beer topped £12!) was the lack of lighting on the first floor. There was very much a hint of Kelham Hall's stygian gloom. I have seen a comment on TMP regarding the show and traders packing up at 3.30pm when the official closing time was 5.00. In one respect, it's a fair point of view. However, Sunday shows are infamous for dying early and there comes a point that staying is a fruitless exercise. All told, 3.30pm seemed about right.

Anyhoo, onto other things. Big Andy posted an item on his blog with a question as to where does wargaming stop and gaming begin. It was his round up of the current crop of magazines aimed at the wargaming market that started me thinking. And after such pondering, I have a question: Is there any longer a point to the printed magazine?

Whoa, whoa whoa!!! Surely, you may think, he has lost his mind. Well, bear with me. I have two hobbies that I have, in the past and to this day, purchased the occasional magazine for: Wargaming and Videogames. Back in the day, magazines were pretty much the only source of general information, product reviews, how to guides and the like. I remember fondly the days of flicking through Computer and Video Games, ACE, The One (later The One Amiga) and Mean Machines, finding out about the latest Japanese imports, the best and worst of the new software releases and the shiniest new tech on the horizon. Monthly mags were brim full, as all news was complied into these neatly wrapped, and usually well written, four week packages. As a result, it could take up to a couple of hours to make your way through everything. Information was savoured.

Compare that to the current market where the internet (I know, hardly a new invention), has changed that. News is now a daily stream, sometimes accurate, sometimes not. But as such, it is a momentary flash before being replaced by the next item. It also means that anything a magazine publishes can be several weeks out of date or just not considered newsworthy anymore. This is more prevalent to videogaming, though the upside is that whereas once you had to stand in front of a shop window and hope the demo machine was playing, you can now see any game you are interest in Full HD via publisher websites, youtube etc. It is, however, also coming to wargaming/gaming in general. Witness the recent release of Team Yankee where the manufacturers have released a number of "how-to" videos. From a consumer point of view, this can be a good thing. From a magazine publisher's viewpoint, how do you cope with that? In the case of the latest issue of Wargames Illustrated, how can they counter a video with several pages of photographs? (Roll two D6 and hope for the best???)

Reviews are a staple of many websites and magazines, and how the editorial bias of the publication sways can have a significant bearing on the style and content of featured reviews. WI has (a somewhat historically deserved) reputation for being a corporate vehicle, though it's style is approaching that of some of videogaming magazines aimed at the teenage demographic. Miniature Wargames less so, but I am picking on the most recent issue of this mag because it has a prefect example of dual standards. They have reviews of two Ospreys, a US Battleship tome and one for Soviet-era self-propelled anti-aircraft guns. The former is a well written review, detailing both good and bad and offers an opinion as to if it is worth purchasing. In other words, a review. The latter is a filler piece, little more than "Here is a book on this, wouldn't it be good to play with the rulesets to make then more funky". There was no mention as to if the book was well written, informative, whether it contained any previously unheard of historical details, or if it was any good at all. That comparison, more than anything I have read in recent issues of magazines, highlights the question Big Andy put: where does wargaming end and gaming begin.

There is one more publication that deserves mention: Tabletop Gaming. A new entrant last year, it's a glossy, well printed and quite hefty mag. It does what is says on the tin, it's a magazine about gaming. And that's where, after giving it two issues, I stepped away. Whilst gaming is part of the hobby I enjoy, it's not my primary focus, as noted in previous posts.

What I should have said at the beginning of the post is that I do not subscribe to any magazine of any kind at the moment, and base my purchases on the contents page during a perusal at the local WH Smiths. Sometimes I spend my money, other times I do not. The decider for me, and this is where magazines currently have an advantage over web-based outlets, is the nature and quality of the articles. Those pieces written by paid for contributors who may offer a new point of view on an established topic, or introduce a new period, point of view or genre to a wider audience. I know this sounds a little harsh on magazine editors (and those who have issues with publishers even more so, as it may be a case of trying to square a circle), but the quality of these articles is directly linked to whether I hand over the requisite £4-5. And when I say harsh, there is very much a feeling in both war and videogaming publications that there is a trend of dumbing down. Or, at the very least, mistaking accessibility for over-simplicity. And that is before you get to any involvement from the big advertising spenders.

So where does this leave me? Well, as far as videogaming magazines go, I am about done with them. Reviews are pretty much the only thing I read these days, and even then, the number of games I purchase each year is dropping, so I don't look for too many reviews anyway. As for the wargaming titles, I agree with Andy, you pays your money, you takes your choice. I shall keep checking out each new issue of all three (MW, WI and WSS - who haven't had a mention so far as I haven't read the last couple of issues) and take it from there. Magazines still have their place, but whether they are in for the long haul is a different matter. Content is king. I just hope the editors/publishers remember that, and please don't infantilize the readers. We are not all 12.