Monday, 18 September 2017

Colours 2017 Show Report

For myself the Colours show marks the start of the wargaming season after the long Summer break. The nights are drawing in and the Autumnal snap has happened, so my mind naturally returns to wanting to get games in, the paints out and campaigns planned. With this in mind I had been looking forward to the show for several weeks. Pre-orders had been placed with Pendraken and the show guide perused for games that looked to be of interest.

So the big day arrived and I collected Mike Embree en route and we had a pleasant journey down chatting about wargaming and history in general. It was good to see him again and his company helped ease the boredom of the drive to the show. One thing I love about Colours is that it's damned easy to get to and there is simply loads of parking. The venue itself is light and airy and to my mind is the best I've seen. We didn't have long to queue and soon we were in the show. I dropped Mike off at Bruce Weigle's table and then went off for a wander. 

This was the first time at the show where I was not putting on a demo game, so I was keen to see how the show felt from a punters point of view. Initially it felt slightly quiet, but maybe this was due to the rush towards the B'n'B that seems to be a fixture of the show. Very soon it got busy, but not so much so that you could not move around with ease. My first port of call was at the Pendraken stand, to pick up my orders and to have a chat with Leon and Co. It's always good to meet them and have a chat, albeit it rather brief as they are always busy. From there I just had a good wander around. To be honest there was little of interest to me as these days I game almost exclusively in 10mm, so most of the traders I simply ignored. If I was a 28mm gamer, then I'd be in Seventh Heaven!

The areas that did interest me were the second hand book sellers, which is where I spent most of my time before heading up to the show tables on the top floor. Personally I like to have a look at a book before buying it where at all possible. After much perusing I bought three books, but could have bought a lot more.

So with the grand tour of the traders completed, I headed up to the top floor to have a look at the show games. Sadly two of the games I was hoping to see and take part in failed to show, but at least some kind gamers stepped in at the last minute so there were no empty tables that I could see. I took photos of the games that were of interest to me and have annotated them were appropriate. Hopefully I will have got the details correct, but please forgive me if I've got anything wrong as I lost the show guide!

Some form of Ancients game, but no idea on the rules used..

My planned Ancients army will have chariots in some form or other, so I was drawn to these fine examples.

ECW game based in Borsetshire and using a forthcoming variant of 'To the Strongest' ruleset IIRC. 

Certainly an impressive table which was popular each time I checked it out.

I believe the figures are 10mm and from the Pendraken ranges. There were some other examples off table, including some massed 2mm figures that really looked pretty impressive.

It certainly looked impressive and the 10mm figures really gave the feel of a massed battle.

A game put on by the Society of Ancients I believe. No prizes for guessing what battle they were fighting...

WWI 28mm game set in the Middle East. Certainly impressive and had lots of visitors throughout the day. The Turks are at this end of the table, with the Allies in the far distance.

There was lots of lovely attention to detail all across the table.

A view from the British lines. Unsurprisingly the table garnered lots of interest throughout the day. 

The British artillery train caught my eye as I love this sort of WWI kit.

Again, some nice attention to detail.

WWII Stalingrad participation game using the FoW rules. It seemed to have lots of participants throughout the day.

The impressive train which was the objective of the game.

1985 Cold War game somewhere in Germany in 6mm.

Massed armour on the move.

A view across towards the advancing armour.

Not sure on this one. Sorry.

Another Cold War game based upon a boardgame.

Lots of nice details right across the table.

Marengo in 15mm. General d'Armee rules? I think it suffered a bit from being right next to the B'n'B area.

It certainly had the feel of a large battle and the table looked great.

The troops clash by a farmstead and I like the puffs of smoke.
WWI using 'Through the Mud and Blood' rules I believe. A replacement game for the planned Bloody Big Battles 6mm Gettysburg game.

I believe it was set in 1914 and looked like the race to the Marne?

Italy 1859? A very impressive table and had nice chaps running the game to boot.

The army advances and...
... forces its way across the river.

The rather lovely scratch built town. A lot of love, time and effort went into this.

Nice to see some troops within the fortifications.

The impressive view from the fortified town.

Bruce Weigle's Franco-Prussian War game, Vendome December 1870. As always Bruce puts on a damned fine game and this year was no exception. He was showcasing his new 1871 rules, which are a streamlined version of the previous ones.

German troops push through the woods on the left, trying to beat the French to the town, which they did, but only just.

The simply spectacular table using 6mm H&R figures.

The German artillery prepares to advance and deploy on the ridge just outside of the woods.

A view from the French side, who at this point were more than holding their own against the combined German forces.

From left to right: Jean-Marc, Bruce Weigle, Mike Embree and two gamers, whose names escape me!

Post Show Thoughts
I enjoyed visiting the show as a punter as I had so much time to really take in the show. In reality I could have whizzed round in an hour or so, but it was nice to take time just to wander around, checking out some traders and chatting to other gamers. The social side of the show is one that I enjoyed when putting on demo games, so I was happy to still be able to chat to other gamers at various points throughout the day. It's not often I get the chance to do this these days.

There was a good mix of games on show, four of which were of real interest to me. Last year I think there was only one, which probably contributed to my non-attendance. Sadly there were a few games that had little or no information on what was being played, what rules used etc. Also quite a few had no one to talk to about the game or didn't seem to have any interest in talking to anyone. More than one other gamer commented on this same thing on the day. To be fair Colours is not the only show guilty of this.

Would I go again next year? I'm not sure to be honest. A lot would depend upon the games on display. However I did enjoy myself so the jury's out on this one.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Blitzkreig Commander III - a first game AAR with thoughts and comments.

As planned, I managed to get in a follow up game today, based upon yesterdays scenario and forces, but this time using BKCIII. Initially I had thought to use the army lists from BKCII, but I decided to go with those in BKCIII, as there didn't appear to be any glaring errors with the troops at my disposal. The same was true of the scenario, as the Assault one in BKCIII is quite different from that of BKCII.

Some points to note that are different enough in BKCIII to warrant a mention in advance of the AAR:
  • The Italian L3/35 tankettes have the Vulnerable rule, which means they can be affected by small arms fire when within 30cm of the enemy. They also have a longer range with their MGs, now shooting out to 60cm.
  • At least 25% of the Italian troops must have the Veteran special ability, which broadly makes them more durable on the battlefield, but easier to suppress when shot at with opportunity fire.
  • The Russians are all Green, which is the closest I could get to make them similar to Conscript. They are harder to suppress with opportunity fire, but cannot dig-in as per other troops.
  • Mortars and Infantry Guns can now fire smoke.
So onto the game. To keep things consistent, I continued to use my house rules of hits stay on and mortars and infantry guns using indirect fire automatically cause suppression when they hit a unit.

The Russians had to set up 20% of their forces within 30cm of an objective which is placed centrally in the table. I chose to use the bridge over the river as this was close enough to the centre as made no difference. The rest of the Russians deployed in a similar position to yesterday, but with a more all round defensive posture due to way the Italians could deploy. The Italians had to use a mix of static, mobile and flank deployment, which was quite a change and certainly made for a different game from the off.

Both sides arrayed for battle.

The Veteran Italian cavalry and supporting L3/35 tankettes.

The rest of the Italians, with the centre using static deployment and the CO mobile deployment.

The Russians deployed by the objective...

... with the rest in the orchard and pig pen.

Turn 1
As the Italian right flank moved onto the table using flank deployment, they came under fire from the Russian infantry gun, which missed. As the tankettes closed, they came under small arms fire and, being vulnerable,received hits and were suppressed. The centre got off to a flyer, rolling a double 1, which allowed them to advance to the fence line by the cornfield. The CO managed to move his units onto the table as well.
In response, the Russian infantry gun on the left flank penend up once again, but was destroyed as a result of opportunity fire. Not a great start, one which was compounded by the other command units all failing their command rolls.

The Italians advance on all fronts.

The vulnerable Italian tankettes narrowly avoid being destroyed.

The centre has pushed forward, whilst their armoured support lags behind.

Turn 2
On the Italian right flank, the L3/35s destroy two infantry units and suppress another due to increased range and firepower in BKCIII (3 base, +1 for half range, +1 AFVsfor shooting at infantry within 20cms). At the same time, the Russian troops by the bridge are caught in the flank, seeing the loss of an MG unit and the suppression of an infantry unit. In the centre, the Italians shoot at the units along the fence line, but only manage to hit the 45mm ATG. The FAO then manages to call down an artillery strike on the same gun, destroying it. The Italian CO moved his tankettes forward and deployed the infantry gun, which was suppressed by mortar fire. In response the tankettes opened up on the mortar, destroying it.
The Russians had a bad Turn, with their right flank failing, their centre blundering after some desultory shooting and the CO failing his command roll.

The Italians in a good position with the Russians under pressure right across their front.

The Italian veteran infantry and their supporting tankettes have managed to gain the upper hand on their flank due to their combined fire.

The Italians have reduced the Russian along the fence line that are either suppressed or in retreat.

Suppressed by the Italians, the only active Russian unit has to retreat as the result of a command blunder.

Not quite pigs in sh*t, but the Russians aren't in a good place.

Turn 3
This Turn it was the Italians who didn't get any good command rolls, with their right flank, FAO and CO failing. At least the centre managed to get some shooting off, resulting in the loss of another Russian infantry unit. 

At this point I called a halt to the proceedings, as the Russians were in a pretty poor position, once again having lost the heavy support weapons and being close to their break point.

The Italians in all but complete control of the game.

Not much stands in the way of the Italian centre and left flank.

The view from the beleagured Russian positions.

Post Game Thoughts
Even though the game was over pretty quickly, I learnt a lot about BKCIII. So first I'll go into some specifics about this game, and then the new rules in general. 
  •  As with any new ruleset, it will take time to get used to the nuances within the rules. This is certainly true of all of the units and any abilities that they may have. As an example, the L3/35s are much more effective in their shooting, but are rather vulnerable if they get too close to any infantry units. I'm used to having to get them rather close to the enemy to be able to shoot or to be in a positon to pose a threat.
  • The new scenarios are quite, quite different and will take getting used to in terms of set up, the terrain used etc. They also need some clarification in certain areas.
  • I liked the 'Vulnerable' rule, but feel that it should only apply to MG units and not general infantry.
  • Broadly the rules worked well and certainly have a feel like BKCII, which is good.
So now onto the rules in general. Firstly I should point out that I helped with the playtesting and development of these rules, but hopefully I will be able to give an unbiased view.
  • To begin with, I must talk about the elephant in the room. There are certainly some issues with the army lists, but these are being addressed and the guys at Pendraken will sort things in due course, have no fear. 
  • With that out of the way, there are some nice additions in the lists for the Italians, with the L3/35 cc AT variant appearing as well as the L5/21 (Fiat 3000). These were not in BKCII, so I'm happy that they've made an appearance as they allow me more options in terms of scenarios, such as the L5/21s in action in Sicily 1943.
  • The rulebook is beautifully produced and well layed out. There are page references in the text where relevant, making it very easy to find things during the game
  • It comes with a nice card QRS, which is not always the case with rulesets.
  • I really like the Special Abilities that some units have. These will take time to digest, but they hold a lot of promise.
  • Command units no longer have an inherent AA ability.
  • Shooting at aircraft has changed, but I haven't studied this in detail as I've been concentrating on the basics.
  • The Recce actions have been clarified and are certainly easier to understand.
  • The Assault section has been tidied up and is easier to understand, but personally I never had a problem with that in BKCII.
  • There are areas that require clarification, some more than others, but then that happened with BKCII when it was first released.
  • As with BKCII, there are optional rules, which you can take or leave as you see fit.
  • So overall I think BKCIII are a good set of rules. The issues are really to do with the army lists and scenarios, rather than the core rules themselves. 

So there you have it. Will I use BKCIII rather than BKCII? For the moment I will stick with BKCII and import some of the good ideas from BKCIII, such as the special abilities. As I read BKCIII more and get used to the nuances within the rules as I play more games, then I may move over to them lock, stock and barrel. I am glad that I've got a copy of these rules. However this old dog finds it hard to learn new tricks!