Saturday, 16 July 2011

Another Portable Wargame game

I've just finished playing another solitaire wargame using Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame rules and Heroscape hex terrain. The scenario was based on number 19 - River Assault from CS Grant's "Scenarios for Wargames". This time I filled my entire coffee table with Heroscape hexes, which looked great but was, I think, a little too large for the PW forces involved (24 hexes wide with only 17 units on the largest side) plus I wound up spending longer setting up the terrain than I did actually fighting the battle. The forces were thrown together from the 15mm nineteenth century collection, with an Anglo-Egyptian force facing off against those dastardly Russkies again. Perhaps this was a clash in a particularly fertile area of northern Olistan?

I won't give a full battle report, as most of it was pretty much a grindhouse as the main Russian Assault tried to cross the river under the shelter of the two wooded areas. The British moved out their one unit of cavalry and one unit of infantry from the town and brought in the Highlander Reserve from the farm on the right in order to try to meet the crossing on the river bank. They enjoyed considerable success initially, wiping out the cavalry who led the first wave across the water (the scenario rules stated that there were only enough boats for three units to cross at any given time), but eventually the weight of numbers and supporting fire took its toll on the Anglo-Egyptians.

Meanwhile on the other flank, the two sides traded artillery and rifle fire fairly ineffectually throughout most of the game, neither side getting more than pins until the last couple of turns of the game. By that time the main assault had managed to secure a tenuous foothold on the riverbank with one surviving member of the second wave of infantry, which was soon re-inforced by the third wave which crossed largely unopposed. The British had a number of reinforcements that they were due to receive at random intervals throughout the game, which started arriving in penny packets after turn 8, at which point the Russians had secured their bridgehead and combined with a lousy series of activation dice rolls were too little too late to turn the tide. By the end of the game on Turn 13, the Russians had five units safely across the river, with two more about to cross more or less unopposed directly into the town itself.

Despite being something of a grind, it was still an exciting game and the result was in doubt right up until the end. I'm still sold on the Portable Wargame & Heroscape as my solo-gaming platform of choice.

I've had a couple of thoughts as a result of this game. Firstly, I need to scale down the terrain and/or work out a quicker way to approximate the layout from the scenarios. It took far too long to setup, and because the armies were so small for the area of terrain, there was a lot of pre-contact manoeuvring that took far to long to play out, although it was mitigated by the fact that I deployed the troops according to the scenario rather than the "two hexes in" recommended by the PW rules.

Secondly, Bob's mentioned on his blog today that one of the questions that came up from his COW playtests was what to do about multiple Pin results on a single unit. His thought was to allow them, and to require multiple activation points to unpin. My gut feeling is that Pinned should be a binary state - you're either pinned or you're not, and the marker is just there to indicate this. Otherwise I can see it leading to two undesirable scenarios.

1) Instead of spreading fire across the enemy forces, a "canny" player unrealistically concentrates all his fire on a single unit, racking up multiple Pins over a couple of rounds. This makes the affected unit almost impossible to unpin, even several rounds after they are no longer under fire. It's a highly cheesy/beardy and entirely unrealistic tactic, and reminds me of a Games Workshop epic-scale battle I once saw played, where on a given turn every single unit on one player's side fired at the same very high value and high powered unit on the other.

2) Even without such deliberate gamesmanship, a bad series of Activation dice could see a unit accrue multiple pin results from a single enemy over the course of several turns. Again, that unit becomes almost impossible to recover, even after the enemy is long gone.

Since the Napoleonic portable Portable Wargame is primarily a solitaire project, I forsee it developing as a fork of Bob's original rules, using his system as a core but reflecting my own biases and ideas, as well as any period specific tweaks needed for Napoleonic warfare. I'd also really like to see if the system can be tweaked to give an ultra-modern operational level game, with maybe two 1/300 vehicles representing a company.

I'm sure Bob, standing as he is on the shoulders of Morchauser, won't mind.

In other news I received an order from Ramshackle games today. To try them out I ordered the Iron Grumbler APC, with a view to converting it to something a little more steampunky. First off, the parcel arrived incredibly well packed. Not only were the pieces protected by the usual bubble-wrap, in a padded envelope, but the pieces were also split between two disposable plastic tubs, exactly the sort of thing you might use to save leftovers for reheating later. One was sadly broken in transit (though rather the tub than the resin) but the other one will prove handy, which is a bonus. Secondly, for only £9 this thing is frikkin huge, dwarfing the more expensive Ironclad steam tanks.

The downside is that this has to be one of the roughest resin-cast vehicles I have ever seen. Part of that is forgivable, since it's part of a post-apocalyptic range and supposed to have been cobbled together from scrap. But even allowing for a fairly chunky, orky build, there are some places where you really need to have a clean cast, and in this case the problem area is the track treads. There's a lot of very thick, chunky flash clogging up both track units I received, and it's going to require a lot of trimming and sanding to get them to a usable state.

I think I'm going to have to give Ramshackle another try, this time with one of the more polished looking vehicles like the much more steampunky Brass Coffin.

Plus I've just discovered they produce a figure called "Isembard Kickass Brunel". It Shall Be Mine! Huzzah!

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