Sonntag, 11. September 2016

Workbench: Kurmainz Infantry

Currently on the workbench: four 24 man bataillons of Kurmainz infantry.

Attractive (and fast to paint) with their Austrian style uniform with an unusual facing color, challenging because of limited uniform information, especially regarding the flags, and interesting because the four bataillons present at Zinna (the battle whose OOB I'm aiming to create) add up to nearly a hundred figures so I hope I'll also be able to use them for a larger display some time. That's also why I went for a firing unit, this gives me three different soldier poses to work with.

At least I will try to base them such that I can use them in six base, 24 model units for tabletop gaming, and arrange them into one large, 24 base / 100 model three rank unit, as well.

Top to bottom: white basecoat, painting in progress, bottom two rows waiting for the protective clear hardcoat varnish

Wargaming with flats: OOB recap and expansion plans

To plan out my next painting bouts and purchases from Grünewald, I decided to do a quick roll call on what I have available so far and make sure I often hit points where I can use all available minis for test games with somewhat balanced forces.

1. Current status (May 2016)

I have available painted and ready to rumble the forces that met in the first encounter and its replay:

Prussia: 2 Grenadier battalions, 2 Fusilier battalions
Allies: 2 Infantry battalions, 1 Cuirassier regiment

At face value that adds up to (inf+cav) 2+1 Allied units vs 4+0 Prussian, or 5+5+4+4 = 18 morale points for Prussia and 4+4+5 = 13 for the Allies, but the cavalry gives the Allies more flexibility so with some luck they can hold the Prussians back as they did in the first attempts.

2. Next round of additions

Since the last games, I have added one Hussar regiment for the Prussians. Next I will paint the first two of four Kurmainz batallions, to get to 4+1 units for each side. 

In terms of morale, this will make it 4+4+5+5+4 = 22 for the Prussians, and 4x4+5 = 21 for the Allies if the Allied troups are all rated as per default rules. This should allow for a pretty balanced game, though I suspect the main point will be whether initial positions end up having the cavalry units facing each other or not.

3. Further purchases

The next purchase will add another two Kurmainz battalions. After that I will have 6+1 vs 4+1 units, and can use that to try out an Allied army with lower ratings for the regular infantry, e.g. 3 for all of them except maybe the Kurpfalz guards, that would make it 5x3+4+4 =23 (downgrading the Cuirassiers to 4, too) against the same 22 for Prussia as above. I could also experiment with rolling for each Allied unit's morale (3 or 4) on first use.

After that, the Prussians will get another cavalry unit so I can try 6+1 vs 4+2 units. Morale would then be 28 Allies vs 26 Prussians at default values, or something like 24 vs 26 if the Allies are randomly downgraded one step. I guess both variants are worth a try, and it will be interesting to see which is more balanced.

Decision Games "Border War": first tryout

On vacation in Italy, I spent some time browsing through the central Florence game store Stratagemma. This is a very nice, classical game store with a broad range of board gaming, role playing and also a remarkable selection of Consims on stock.

They even had a big box of boardgaming magazines, magazine games and mini games to go through, and a mini game called "Border War" from Decision Games' Commando Series about border intrusions by the South Africans into Angola around 1980 caught my eye - mostly because of the subject, which is totally unknown to me as I'm generally not well read about post-WW2 military history in general, and Africa in particular. But it also looked eminently playable, being a small format mini game designed for Solitaire play.

So here are a few notes from a first playthrough based only on a single read through of the notes (I later found that there is a small thread about the game on Consimworld, too, but with very little volume). I really liked the story that came from the game and will try to summarize a few rules and tactics points to keep in mind in case I get around to trying the campaign, too.

I played Operation Reindeer, the smallest of the four scenarios in terms of time (game turns, called "Operations"), forces involved and victory conditions. Here is the starting setup with my forces before the game, after an initial recce die roll performed at the home base of Ongandjera had revealed the mission target at Chetequera to be only a mine field:

As one of the two objectives close to the border turned out to be a real one, I limited myself to a very local operation, ignoring the targets much further East. This meant I would mostly lean on my main force starting out in Ongandjera, and was unlikely to need the para reserve ready to be airlifted in via helicopter from Grootfontein.

It turned out that the game went very quickly - recce found that Chetequera was not a real target, so I went straight to Ngiva which did turn out to be a target despite a failed recce attempt.

The mission was a clear success. At least, that's how the South Africans will sell it: the commandos went in, defeated the opposing forces, occupied the target, had the target material flown out via helicopter and returned home in less than half of the available game turns.

Internally, though, there will have to be a severe counter-intelligence investigation of the departments involved in planning and preparing the mission, and I do expect that some heads will roll (figuratively or even literally, no sure how the SADF would have handled such an event).

Just take a look at the events as they happened in sequence:

As you can see, the operation must have been leaked to the enemy, and the international community at large, well in advance. The commandos had just crossed the border and had not even engaged with the enemy yet, when the international press already reported it and forced the issue onto the agenda of a UN emergency session which had been scheduled for some other crisis elsewhere on the planet. 

Now, the UN attention was not a reason for the mission to be cancelled or considered a failure (in game terms, it only reshuffles the event card pile for no immediate effect). More damaging was the fact that the commandos were welcomed in force by a full contingent of all the six OPFOR units available in this scenario (local forces only, no Cubans or Warsaw Pact advisors).

Here's how I lined up the involved forces:

The exact arrangement who fights whom seems to be one of the murky areas of the rules, the brief Consimworld thread revolves mostly around that detail.

I handled it like this: each side uses its units from left to right as arranged. Friendly units get to choose their target freely, OPFOR units always target the leftmost friendly unit which is still active (i.e. not panicked or eliminated). I.e. I did not have each OPFOR unit shoot at the unit arranged directly on top of it in the battle setup (although I originally read rules in this sense). 

If this is correct, it means that friendly units always die from left to right, so the most expendable units should be placed first (for example, for more long range forays I will probably often place the slower units first so the force can move faster once these are gone), and very important units should be placed to the right (as I did in the example with my tank bataillon). On the other hand, placing low firepower units earlier increases the number of OPFOR units that will be able to fight, which is why I put the infantry last.

The other major rules uncertainty was how to handle the end of the operation, and whether all friendly units must have returned to a friendly home base within the allocated Ops limit to consider the operation a success. 

My first test game happened very close to home, so this was not a concern, but for future games I decided that I will keep playing even if I fulfill the victory conditions with Operations to spare, and will try to return as many friendly units home as possible (which implies the risk that the game can go from a win to a loss if I lose too many friendly KIAs on the retreat). 

On the other hand I don't see anything in the rules that punishes the player for running out of Operations with friendly units still in enemy territory, so I will consider a game with victory conditions met, but some units still at large in Angola at game end, a minor victory, as well.

Montag, 5. September 2016

Westweg Etappe 6: Harkhof-Hausach

Und schon ging unser zweiter Abschnitt Westweg wieder zuende, auch diesmal mit einem langen Abstieg ins Tal. Allerdings immer noch auf eine Entfernung, auf die wir dank der kurzen letzten Etappe gut noch abends mit der Bahn nach Hause fahren konnten. Und das, obwohl wir noch den optionalen Abstecher zum Brandenkopf mitgenommen haben (und im dortigen Ausflugslokal über die lokalen Wandergrößen staunen konnten, die unter ihren Porträts stolz die jeweils vielen hundert "Besteigungen" des Brandenkopfes stehen hatten, die sie im Laufe eines langen Schwarzwaldlebens zusammengebracht haben).
Blick in ein Seitental vor dem Abstieg ins Kinzigtal

Westweg Etappe 5: Zuflucht - Harkhof

Weiter ging's entlang der alten badisch-württembergischen Grenze nach Süden. Diese Etappe war eine der "zivilisationsfernsten", also ohne an irgendwelchen bewirteten Hütten, Gasthäusern etc. vorbeizukommen. Umso schöner dafür immer wieder die Blicke ins Rheintal oder weiter in den Schwarzwald hinein.

Auch das Etappenziel, der Harkhof, liegt in Bilderbuch-idyllischer Lage ganz einsam an einem steilen Hang mit wunderbarem Blick.
Mitbewohner des Harkhofs
... und wieder ein Screenshot vom Runkeeper-Überblick des Tages.

Sonntag, 4. September 2016

Westweg Etappe 4: Hochkopf / Bühl - Zuflucht

Da die Etappe 4 nach Buch enorm lang und auch deutlich länger als die folgende Etappe ist, haben wir uns entschlossen, schon etwas früher im Hotel Zuflucht Station zu machen (und dabei gar nicht gemerkt, dass das Hotel am eigentlichen Etappenende, der Alexanderschanze, schon längere Zeit nicht mehr in Betrieb ist :)

Mit der Hornisgrinde war der erste Gipfel der kargen, heideähnlichen Grindenlandschaft auf dem Weg.

Grindenlandschaft - immer wieder weite Passagen fast baumlos mit weitem Blick.
Ausblicke in die Seitentäler und auf weitere Karseen

Strecke nach Runkeeper

Westweg Etappe 3: Forbach - Hochkopf

In den Sommerferien 2016 ergaben sich vier Tage, in denen alle Kinder auf Zeltlager bzw. Schülerfreizeit waren, da sind wir ein Stück Westweg weitergewandert. Los gings in Forbach, aber im Gegensatz zum ersten Teilstück des Westwegs ab Pforzheim dauert es ab Forbach nur wenige Minuten, bis man ganz alleine draußen unterwegs ist.

Einfach nur Wald, Weg und Ruhe. Es waren überraschend wenige andere Wanderer unterwegs, wir konnten die Einsamkeit wirklich genießen.

Der (Wieder-)Aufstieg von Forbach war längst nicht so mühsam wie der Abstieg dorthin, und es gab gleich die ersten Naturerlebnisse - mit dem Herrenwieser See als erstem Karsee, davon sollten ja noch weitere folgen.

Herrenwieser See - der erste Karsee von mehreren auf der Strecke von Forbach nach Hausach.
Strecke nach Runkeeper, einschl. optionalem Abstecher zum Mehliskopf.