Tag Archives: Too Fat Lardies

Accessories

I’ve built a few jump off points for Chain of Command. These are made out of some stowage from Academy’s “Light Vehicles” kit. Unfortunately there weren’t enough to do the Allied side, too. I may have to pick up another kit! Note: the jerry cans are modeled totally wrong, if that sort of thing bugs you…

Those barrels are full of schnapps...

Those barrels are full of schnapps…

These jump off points serve as points to distribute forces from. They’re placed through a rather clever abstracted ‘patrol phase.’ Watch the video I’ve linked above, if you think you might be interested in the rules set.

The tree on the leftmost base is by the amusingly named “WeHonest” from China. You can find their fine day-glo trees on Ebay. Trust me, they’re bright. If I hadn’t painted and dipped the tree in flock I wouldn’t have needed any other light source. I may add signs or some more greenery to these bases. Who am I kidding, I’m way too lazy to re-visit these.

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Zig-Zug

I’ve been painting a platoon of Panzergrenadiers for Chain of Command recently, and I’m almost there. In fact, I thought I was there, until I tallied up my forces and realized I was two MG-42s short. A slight oversight!  Actually completing a unit would be completely out of character, for me, so I’ll just put up pictures of what I do have done, but will leave the offending Zug 3 out of the photos as punishment for having left their MG teams behind.

My real reason for posting these, is I’d love to hear some comments, criticisms, and suggestions about painting Germans and having them ‘pop’ on the table. These guys don’t look too dull up close and on camera, but they totally fade into the table at 3′ or more.

Ok. The figures (all Fantassin/Warmodelling, by the way).

Zug 1 on the Move (Plus a really badly painted Stug)

Zug 1 on the Move (Plus a really badly painted Stug)

German squads are made up of two LMG teams. Team one on the left, team two on the right. I think this Stug was the second or third thing I painted when I started this mad wargaming thing. It shows.

Zug 2 assaults the farmhouse! (rather lazily on the right)

Zug 2 assaults the farmhouse! (rather lazily on the right)

There’s that pesky Stug again. Notice the squad leader (a junior leader, in Chain of Command terms) has his base outlined in sky blue. I’m still debating whether or not that’s a good idea. It definitely takes away from the diorama approach, but I think I’m ok with that.

You can have additional forces in Chain of Command. These are a few of mine. Plus a senior leader for the platoon.

You can have additional forces in Chain of Command. These are a few of mine. Plus a senior leader for the platoon.

These are mostly support forces for Chain of Command. They are added on to your base platoon in a don’t-call-it-a-points-system-points-system way. These forces can range from a jeep (if you’re cool) to a King Tiger (if you’re not). I have a PZIIL on order, which is nearly as rare as a King Tiger but almost as ineffective as a jeep. I’m not sure where that puts me on the cool scale. Probably not very high.

If you’re still reading this, the forces in the picture are, from left to right, a sniper team, a forward observer (most likely for mortars), a tripod mounted MG-42, and the fellow on the far right is the platoon lieutenant. Who isn’t a support force. And who’s supposed to have an attached Panzerschrek team. Which is why he’s hanging out with these non-standard types, for the moment. You’ll notice he has a red ring around the rosey, as all senior leader will, if I adhere to this scheme.

Any advice?

1.00 TW&T AAR

The Full 1.00

Yes, the fateful day has arrived. The blog has finally reached the 1.00 mark, signifying that I actually managed to play an historical miniatures wargame of some sort. The game in question was Too Fat Lardies, “Troops, Weapons, and Tactics” and the playing of the game took place way back before Christmas. Which should tell you a lot about how busy I’ve been with other, less interesting, things. Without further delay, here is my first attempt at an after action report for my first game.

The Setup

This intro game is an adaptation of the intro scenario from Two Hour Wargames “Nuts!.” The Nuts! scenario was a zoomed in, four-on-four skirmish action, but I upped the forces to a squad per side to conform to the TW&T rules.

An American infantry squad has been tasked with reconnoitering and taking an isolated farmhouse in the Normandy countryside. They will be passing through dense woods on their approach to the farmstead. Opposing them is a full squad of Heer soldiers, who have taken up defensive positions in the house and a copse of woods, both of which lie south of a single track sunken road.

I took the German side for the first run-through, with my buddy, Brendan, taking the part of the U.S. Army.

The starting disposition.

Cards

Rather than an I go,you go turn system, TW&T uses a card-based turn mechanic. The deck is composed of a series of cards representing various organizational elements (squads, MG sections, armor, etc), big men (NCOs and officers), national characteristics, and random events. There are also tactical initiative cards, which are the currency that big men use as a sort of action point.

The card system makes for a very swingy game with the small forces that we had under command in our game, but I think it would make for a dynamic and exciting game with more squads and leaders in the deck. Exploitation of the ‘right moment’ becomes a big factor with a random turn sequence, and one is forced to make difficult choices with the limited number of tactical initiative cards that come out of the deck in each turn. As important is that the card deck makes for a very exciting game, with moments of extreme tension interlaced with the occasional bit of elation.

The Americans push forward.

The card out on the table in the picture above is an American ‘All Blinds’ card, which, as you might imagine, allows the US commander to move all his blinds.

Movement

TW&T features random movement, which is one of the ways that Too Fat Lardies (TFL) create battlefield “friction.” While troops are on blinds, they move in good order, but once contact with the enemy and exchange  of fire occurs, various squad elements will depend on their leaders to get them moving.

The random movement can be a bit frustrating, but the randomness is somewhat mitigated by an exception which allows an element to move to a particular terrain future, without danger of running over their objective. For instance, if I rolled 9″ of movement, but my goal was to occupy a stone wall 6″ away, then I could stop at the wall. If I rolled 3″ of movement, then that would be all I was able to move, regardless of intent.

Moving onto the sunken road.

Operating by Teams
One of the cooler things about TW&T is that it encourages historical tactics. Unlike most skirmish games, the smallest element in the TFL game is the fire team. An American squad is broken down into a rifle team, a B.A.R. team, and a scout team. The scout team is forced to rejoin the rifle team once hostilities break out, and then the American is left with two teams. One team serves as a base of fire, and the second becomes a maneuver element.

As a new gamer, I really appreciate the ten or twelve pages of the rulebook that are devoted to explaining tactical doctrines of the major combatants of WW2. Not only does it help one play the game, but it’s interesting information in its own right.

A successful spot roll...

In the photo above, one of the American blinds has been spotted by my MG-34 team in the copse of woods. I can’t remember if I successfully rolled to spot, or if they were discovered by automatic spotting rules that come into effect at close range, but in any case, the unit was revealed. If this were a larger game, I would still have to be concerned about the remaining blinds as potential strong forces.

Wounds, Pinning, and Suppression
TW&T uses a d6 based combat resolution mechanic. Firepower is based on weapon type and number of men in the firing element, and superior ability or equipment results in rolling of more dice. The total rolled, minus any ill effects from earlier combat, is compared to a chart and a result is given. The results vary from ‘wounds,’ which really represent a loss of cohesion more than any physical injury, to suppressing an element, to pinning an element, to inflicting actual casualties.

Suppression (in the general sense) works very well. It’s a lot harder to kill a soldier than it is to make a unit duck and refuse to advance. The level of lethality and the difficulty of getting soldiers to advance in the face of fire feels about right to me. TFL rules emphasize leadership, and having a good leader in the right place at the right time is essential.

Units will defend themselves and hold their position, but they will not advance against the enemy without explicit orders from a leader.

Exchanging fire.

The photo above shows that the MG-42 team and American squad have both taken wounds, but no casualties, as yet.

There's a kill...

If you look closely at the picture above, you’ll notice that the ammo bearer on the German side is gone and has been wounded or killed. You can’t make him out, but the German big man, Gefreiter Fritz Lieber, is directing the machine-gun fire. Lieber is beginning to wish he hadn’t deployed his MG in such a forward position.

That didn't take long...

And now we see the results of exchanging fire with a full squad at close range. The German MG team has been wiped out, though Lieber survived. He’s making his escape to the farmhouse, while his counterpart on the opposite side, Sergeant Slaughter, is leading his rifle team east down the road to prepare to assault the farmhouse.

The Germans are going to be at a severe disadvantage with no heavy weapons.

Lieber deploys men from the farmhouse.

The photo above shows Lieber with three rifleman (ignore that Panzerfaust). His card came up (the silhouette with the MP40) along with a tactical initiative card (the card with the corporal stripes). Lieber used his tactical initiative points to order a few men to the stone wall, while leaving half the team in the house to fire from doors and windows. All of the German riflemen have good cover, and all are able to bring their weapons to bear.

A preponderance of fire...

Unfortunately, my opponent is smart. He’s moved his B.A.R. team up through the copse of woods to apply a withering fire from the flank while the rifle team keeps up a suppressing fire from the sunken road. Soon enough, they’ve inflicted another casualty.

We're going to need a bigger graveyard.

The fact that I’m using a d12 to mark ‘wounds’ means that the Americans are pouring the fire to the Germans. Leaders can reduce wounds, but the Americans have caused another casualty, and there’s no way that poor Lieber can keep his men in good order.

Faced with the inevitable, Lieber throws his hands up and surrenders to the Americans, saving the lives of his three remaining men. The astute observer will notice that I caused not a single casualty on the American side! Grrr.

The Near Future

I’m a fan of this set of rules. We did some things wrong, and found some confusing spots in the text, but in the main the game we played was fast-moving, felt ‘realistic,’ and provided us with meaningful and interesting choices.

I think the TW&T rules will really shine on a larger battlefield with more maneuver elements. I’m now preparing for such a game, using the Skirmish Campaigns book, “Heroes of Omaha and Panzer Lehr,” that I’ve written about before. I’m really looking forward to giving the rules set another run.

Technical Notes—–

Adobe Illustrator does weird things to image files.

I apologize for the first few photos that are out of focus. I’d forgotten that autofocus was off on my camera during the first part of the game, and it’s a miracle that any of those early photos are of use!

 

Now is the Winter of our Discontent

The above phrase has nothing to do with this post. But it is winter, so I’ll let it stand.

I haven’t been on the blog in a bit, because I’ve been lucky enough to have been gainfully employed for the last week and a half. Not that I was unemployed before, but I was seriously under-employed! In any case, yay for employment.

That’s not to say that I’ve lagged on the historical miniatures wargaming front! In fact, I’ve been quite busy!

I should Explain

I almost have my American roster of reinforcements completed for the “Heroes of Omaha and Panzer Lehr” campaign that I’m hoping to play in the new year. In fact, all they lack is a drybrush of yellow ochre and some flocking. Expect shots of mortarmen and .30 caliber machinegunners in the very near future. Of course, I still have a bunch of terrain boards, two more squads of American infantry, and the German reinforcement roster to build and paint, but I try not to think about that.

This is good

I hesitate to give this campaign book a glowing review without having played a single game, yet, but I really do think it’s good.

The scenarios are, ostensibly, historical. I’m not sure to what degree of accuracy, but the supplement does include a significant bibliography and  recommended reading list, the inclusion of which points to a certain level of scholarship. I don’t know how important historical accuracy is to an enjoyable game of miniatures, but at the very least it’s cool to game based on real history. That’s enough for me, I think.

HoOaPL (that’s awkward. From now on, I dub thee HOOPLA) has no less than three campaigns of varying intensity. The battles in HOOPLA are invariably unbalanced and reflect the ebb and flow of real engagements. The terrain (the bocage, sunken roads, and stone farmhouses of Normandy) and naturally resulting force dispositions seem to be very tactically engaging.

The initial campaign features 2’x4′ boards (Skirmish Campaigns suggests doubling the board size if you’re gaming 28mm) and manageable numbers of troops. This is, of course, very encouraging for a beginner like me. Not that I’m not drooling to play the later campaigns and scenarios with larger boards and tasty amounts of armor!

The engagements in the initial campaign (which actually pits the US 29th Infantry Division vs. the German 356th Infantry Division, not Panzer Lehr) are primarily concerned with infantry actions. That first campaign features forces of a reinforced platoon on the American side vs. (typically) a squad and a few machine guns on the German side. There are opportunities for vehicles, anti-tank guns, and other elements in the random reinforcements that the book details, and they should provide a bit of spice to the games. I think the approximate 3:1 ratio of attackers to defenders that the scenarios contain should make for some harrowing games for both sides.

There are meaningful decisions to be made within the campaign structure. For instance, if the player of the German side  (I almost said German player) mounts an inflexible defense in the first scenarios of the opening campaign, he’s quite likely to be steamrolled by the Americans. A more elastic defense allows the Germans to retain men and firepower in anticipation of stronger reinforcements in the later scenarios. At the same time, the Germans will not be in particularly great shape later on, if they don’t inflict significant casualties on the Americans in the earlier scenarios.

As excited as I am to actually play a game of TW&T with my minis, I’m very tempted to play referee for the first HOOPLA campaign. I think I (and my potential players) would really get a kick out of the increased fog of war that a refereed campaign would give. It would also allow me to get a really good command of the rules. Another happy side effect would be the potential hooking of said potential players on miniatures wargaming crack.

The Best News

But on to more important things.

I’ve played in a Pendragon game with a few fellows down at the local game shop every Thursday  for the past several months on a weekly basis. It’s been decades since I played RPGs so often! I could go on and on about how great Pendragon is, and how lucky I am to finally get to play in a campaign, but that’s a subject for an entirely different blog. The only reason that I bring it up is that the GM of the campaign has family in for the holidays and has cancelled for tomorrow.

Not to jump for joy at the temporary demise of our Pendragon campaign, but I’m going to take this opportunity to play a small game of Troops, Weapons, and Tactics with another member of the RPG group. Brendon is an old grognard (In fact, I owe him a game of Squad Leader in the very near future), so I’m interested to see how he’ll react to a relatively radical set of rules like TW&T. Hopefully I don’t screw everything up and he really enjoys it!

Happy Holidays…days…days

I’ll bring my camera to the TW&T game, but I won’t be able to post up a report until after the New Year.

Not only is it the holidays, but I’m going pheasant hunting with my father and brother in the plains of West Texas for most of the week following Christmas. I’m not completely comfortable with hunting as a past time, and haven’t done any since I was a very young man/boy, but I’m excited to go tromp about in the brush with a shotgun, nonetheless.

In any case, have a great Christmas, my legions (I use a 1:100 figure/unit ratio for this blog) of readers.

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P.S. I bet no one has ever made a sarcastic ‘legions of readers’ joke in the history of blogdome. EVER.

0.15 The Things We Do…

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve switched to Troops, Weapons, & Tactics by Too Fat Lardies for my skirmish rules set. TW&T is a card driven game, but you’re only given some shoddy card templates in the rulebook, there are no professionally produced cards available, and thus you must make your own.

My Effort

Put your cards on the table

I have to say, after all the stuff I’ve painted and modeled, I’m most proud of these cards. I think I happened upon a workable scheme that imparts all the relevant information at a glance. Graphically, I wanted something striking, but simple, and I think I’ve mostly succeeded there, as well. Don’t worry about all of this crowing about success: I’ll be back to my usual self-loathing, before too long.

I’ve customized these cards for the “Heroes of Omaha and Panzer Lehr” campaign that I plan to do. Thus, I’ve used the quasi-yin/yang symbol of the US 29th Infantry Division and the cool “L” of Panzer Lehr for my unit cards. I’ve tried to be funny (in the Too Fat Lardies tradition) and used silly names for my big men (leaders) like Private Fritz Lieber and Sergeant Slaughter. I doubt I’ll keep it up, though, as I’m just not all that funny.

Tools

All of the work on the cards was done using Adobe Creative Suite (well, Illustrator and Photoshop, anyway), but you could accomplish the same thing using the completely free G.I.M.P. and Inkscape. A word of advice: do image manipulation within Photoshop/GIMP and do your  line work and text within Illustrator/Inkscape. Illustrator and Inkscape are vector graphics based, and you’ll get very clean lines and printing compared to photo-editing software.

With my cheap Brother laser printer, I’ve printed onto 110 pound off-white paper stock. I have a color inkjet at home, too, and I may do color versions at some point. My girlfriend teaches at a local elementary school, and I’ve made her promise to laminate the cards for me. That last tip is probably pretty useless, unless you fancy school teachers.

Self-critique

There are a couple of confusing elements on these cards that I need to sort out. I’ve used American rank insignia to denote two completely separate mechanical effects, which will likely prove confusing. Another issue is that the placement and size of some of the graphics ‘wanders’ a bit much. The graphics could be tighter, which would ‘train’ the eye to use the cards more quickly. After I’ve done some play testing with my cards and made some refinements, I’ll post them to the TFL Yahoo group.

 

 

0.05 Operation: Honeypot

Drawing Flies

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t know any wargamers. I do know some guys and gals that play role-playing games and board games. So, if I’m going to get any wargaming done, I’ve got to create some opponents from this pool of more general gamers. There are at least a couple of implications packed into creating opponents:

  • I must build, model, and paint all forces, terrain, and buildings, and they must be impressive.
  • I must carefully select rules that will appeal to my peeps and be easily teachable.
  • I must keep the amount of work involved in the above manageable.

In order to create impressive models/terrain/toys and keep the time and effort manageable, I’ve limited myself to skirmish rules. Now, there’s probably some false economy there, because larger scale rules often use a few figures to represent a larger unit (3 guys representing a squad, or whatever the case may be), but there are other advantages to keeping things down in the mud and blood.

I think 1:1 figure/man/tank ratio is going to appeal to role-playing gamers more than a larger scale representative game. In fact, I suspect that 1:1 games would have immediate appeal to the general public, as that’s the level most media operates on, these days. Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, Call of Duty, you name it, the media is zoomed in on the individual.

I don’t think most people much care about the thickness of the front plate of the hull of a Marder III. I don’t think technical detail, especially technical detail that has the hood up, so to speak, is all that interesting, in an of itself. The psychology of warfare and the problems that commanders, and each soldier, face is interesting stuff, and I think those things are readily grasped by your average person who possesses a modicum of intelligence and empathy.

Picking Rules

That’s a long way around to saying that after much research (well, maybe heavy browsing would be a better term), the two rules sets that caught my eye were “I Ain’t Been Shot Mum” by Too Fat Lardies and “NUTS!” by Two Hour Wargames.

It's so...British!

I Ain’t Been Shot Mum

    I Ain’t Been Shot Mum (IABSM) is attractive because every after action report (AAR) I’ve read that’s used the system has been quite interesting. IABSM features hidden movement, deliberately imperfect command and control, an emphasis on leadership, and a rather open semi-Kriegspiel approach to rules adjudication. Yeah, I used the word Kriegspiel in a post, and I have yet to play one single minute of a historical miniatures wargame. Bold of me. All that said, I’ve actually ordered their skirmish game, Troops, Weapons, and Tactics (har…har…har…I won’t be giving that one its acronym.), which seems to have most of the features of IABSM, but is aimed at squad level instead of IABSM’s company level actions.

This is not so British

NUTS!*

    NUTS! ties into my honeypot goals quite well. It has significant role-playing elements: Your men have traits, stats, and they persist from game to game in the by-the-book campaign system. NUTS! initiative system is very fluid. I believe THWG calls it the Reaction system, or something of the sort. Basically there is an elegant, but detailed, system of opportunity attacks and movement. This reaction system is heavily awareness and morale based. NUTS! also has robust cooperative and solo playing options, though I hope I won’t have to use the latter! In any case, NUTS! is in my possession, and has been guiding my terrain and model building activities.

In Summary

In spite of all my Machiavellian scheming about honeypots and creating players, you’ve got to pick a rules set that you’re going to enjoy playing. If my RPG career is anything to go by, I’m going to be capable of enjoying a LOT of different rules. Thankfully, the wargaming community is profligate with rules creation, so there’s an embarrassment of riches to explore at and with my leisure.

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    * Look up the Battling Bastards of Bastogne, if you don’t get the reference in the title of this game.
    ** The wargaming industry is in dire need of the attention of a few volunteer graphic artists and book layout guys (whatever they’re called). I think the reasons are self-evident.

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