Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Brazen Chariots

I had heard somewhere that Brazen Chariots was an amazing book about armored warfare in North Africa during World War 2. Some time later I found a used hardback copy of the book and put it on the shelf, to await the appropriate opening in the reading queue. I pulled it down last week on a whim and, as it is only 240 pages long, ended up tearing through it in less than a week.

Amazon describes it thus:

"Unquestionably the finest narrative of tank warfare to come out of World War II."
Los Angeles Times

A tank officer's story of the desert war in North Africa, "Brazen Chariots" is one of the most widely praised war books ever published. Major Robert Crisp recounts Operation Crusader, the great tank battle waged against Rommel's Afrika Korps on the borders of Egypt.

The story covers just a little more than 2 weeks of war in the desert, but it is exceptionally well written; dry (pun intentional), witty, raw and at times, heart breaking. I found myself stopping to admire turns of phrase and wondering about a man who could write with such frankness and eloquence. I was not surprised to learn Robert Crisp worked as a journalist; his story beyond the war can be found in part, here.

I highly recommend you read Brazen Chariots, and be prepared to want more when the book abruptly ends!

See ya!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fistful of Lead: French and Indian War Style!

A lot of you that look at this blog arrive here via The Baron's blog, so you already know about The Baron's Kickstarter for his Fistful of Lead: Reloaded wild west skirmish rules. 

To the rest of ya, if ya want to game in the Wild West at the skirmish level, and ya want to have loads of fun doin' it, ya cain't go wrong with Fistful of Lead: Reloaded!

And if yer still in need of convincin', Varmint, you can even game in the Horse and Musket era (aka the French and Indian War) with a tweak or two, as The Baron and I did just a'while back at Recruits. Check it out here and then run, don't walk, to the Fistful of Lead: Reloaded Kickstarter and get into the action!

Go Molly!

See ya!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Hannibal: A Hellenistic Life

Project-wise I don't have much progress to show. . . spray-varnishing minis and re-building woodland terrain does not make for dramatic documentation, so I'll share a "book like" instead. I just finished Hannibal: A Hellenistic Life, by Eve McDonald. Amazon describes it thus:

Hannibal lived a life of incredible feats of daring and survival, massive military engagements, and ultimate defeat. A citizen of Carthage and military commander in Punic Spain, he famously marched his war elephants and huge army over the Alps into Rome’s own heartland to fight the Second Punic War. Yet the Romans were the ultimate victors. They eventually captured and destroyed Carthage, and thus it was they who wrote the legend of Hannibal: a brilliant and worthy enemy whose defeat represented military glory for Rome.

In this groundbreaking biography Eve MacDonald expands the memory of Hannibal beyond his military feats and tactics. She considers him in the wider context of the society and vibrant culture of Carthage which shaped him and his family, employing archaeological findings and documentary sources not only from Rome but also the wider Mediterranean world of the third century B.C. MacDonald also analyzes Hannibal’s legend over the millennia, exploring how statuary, Jacobean tragedy, opera, nineteenth-century fiction, and other depictions illuminate the character of one of the most fascinating military personalities in all of history.

My wife asked me, when she saw me reading Hannibal, "Are you reading the same book about Hannibal, AGAIN?" Well. . . sorta. We only have so much information on a man that lived over 2,000 years ago. That said, Hannibal is a solid biography with copious notes and an extensive bibliography. It's focus is more socio-political than military, with some emphasis on "myth management" and use of propaganda, and places Hannibal and his Roman opponents squarely within a thoroughly Hellenistic Mediterranean political arena. 

From a "wargamer" point of view, then, this book is way more about "strategy" than tactics; in fact there is not a single battle diagram and battle descriptions are taken mostly from the primary sources and used to provide context for the narrative. Still, an interesting read.

See ya! 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Avalanche Press and WW2

Avalanche Press interrupted my focus of late on re-basing my French and Indian War models by releasing the long-awaited (at least by yours truly) third game in their Panzer Grenadier series trilogy of the North African Campaign of World War 2. An Army at Dawn - obviously a nod to the book of the same name by Rick Atkinson - lets you play out the end game in Tunisia in 40 different scenarios. If you own two earlier games in the Panzer Grenadier series, Desert Rats and Afrika Korps, you can play nearly 150 scenarios covering the whole campaign with all of the relevant forces. 

If you hadn't guessed, my interest in these boardgames is related to my collection of MicroArmor. Like ArkieGamer, I was considering Spearhead by Arty Conliffe (along with the Blaze Across the Sands scenario book) for my WW2 gaming, but when I found the Panzer Grenadier games, with single stands representing platoons (like Spearhead) I found a fun boardgame system that would convert easily to MicroArmor and 4" hexes. All but the largest scenarios will fit on a 5' x 9' table or smaller. I like hexes for this operational scale, as they provide an easy way to represent direct fire on individual units in a hex as well as "area bombardment" that effects an entire hex.

One big advantage of these games for me is the focus on scenarios - some are as small as a dozen units per side, permitting the game to be learned with small fast games, and permitting armies to start small and be built up over time.

You can download the Fourth Edition Panzer Grenadier series rules here if interested. 

See ya!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

JoAnn Score and Book Likes

Score! Between half-off on "fall foliage" and a coupon for 25% off my entire purchase. . .

I scored enough pre-painted plastic foliage to dress up a table full of trees for only $9.00! The pre-painted part is super-sweet - I haven't seen these colors before - even a bit of "Fall creeping in" hues. Some Tamiya Flat-coat and we're in the forest-building business again.

On to the Book Likes. First up by Chris Webber: Gods of Battle: The Thracians at War, 1500 BC - 150 AD.

 Amazon describes it:

Herodotus described the Thracians (who inhabited what is now roughly modern Bulgaria, Romania, the European part of Turkey and northern Greece) as the most numerous nation of all - apart from the Indians - and said that they would be the most powerful of all nations if they didn't enjoy fighting each other so much. There may have been a million Thracians, divided among as many as 40 tribes.
Ancient writers were hard put to decide which of the Thracian tribes was the most valiant; they were employed as mercenaries by all the great Mediterranean civilizations. Thrace had the potential to field huge numbers of troops, and the Greeks and Romans lived in fear of a dark Thracian cloud descending from the north, devastating civilization in the Balkans. The Thracian way of warfare had a huge influence on Classical Greek and Hellenistic warfare. After Thrace was conquered by the Romans, the Thracians provided a ready source of tough auxiliaries to the Roman army. Chris Webber gives an overview of Thracian history and culture, but focuses predominantly on their warfare and weapons. The latest archaeological finds are used to give the most detailed and accurate picture yet of their arms, armor and costume. He identifies and differentiates the many different tribes, showing that their weapons and tactics varied. The resulting study should be welcomed by anyone interested in the archaeology and history of the region or in classical warfare as a whole.

This is a great "wargamer" read. Lots of primary source and archaeology used to describe how the Thracians fought and how they looked doing it. Recommended without reservation.

Next up, by Dr. Phil Sabin: Simulating War: Studying Conflict through Simulation Games.  

 Again, per Amazon:

Over the past fifty years, many thousands of conflict simulations have been published that bring the dynamics of past and possible future wars to life.
In this book, Philip Sabin explores the theory and practice of conflict simulation as a topic in its own right, based on his thirty years of experience in designing wargames and using them in teaching. Simulating War sets conflict simulation in its proper context alongside more familiar techniques such as game theory and operational analysis. It explains in detail the analytical and modelling techniques involved, and it teaches you how to design your own simulations of conflicts of your choice. The book provides eight simple illustrative simulations of specific historical conflicts, complete with rules, maps and counters.
Simulating War is essential reading for all recreational or professional simulation gamers, and for anyone who is interested in modelling war, from teachers and students to military officers.

This is an interesting read if the theory of game design interests you. The appenidx on probability and statistics using the D6 was useful for me. I might have named this "Designing Wargames for Non-Wargamers." I recommend it, but it's a dry read.

See ya!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Hunting Grounds: Games Three and Four at Recruits

Game Three at Recruits started at 1pm on Saturday afternoon. 

You can review the scenario here, the AAR of Game One here and Game Two here.

The Indians run and the Rangers give chase. . .

A tied Initiative roll brings on The Preacher (see Game Two AAR for the explanation).

The Indians make it into the woods "en masse" with the Rangers in hot pursuit.

The Rangers follow into the woods where the lessened visibility and the higher cover modifiers to shooting make it more difficult for both sides to hit their targets.

And the Indians scramble their way to a 2-point win! 

We had a lot of fire combat in the woods this game and a frustrated Ranger player wondered why his activated Fire combat was at a -3 Marksmanship roll because of the Medium Woods modifier and the enemy's Opportunity Fire was a -2, so the Opportunity Fire actually had a better chance to hit. I didn't have a good answer for him during the game but after some thought the rule makes complete sense to me. Here goes. . .

Opportunity Fire is permitted against a unit that moves 1/2 of its normal movement rate or more, at -2 if the firing unit has not activated this turn or -3 if it has, ignoring all cover modifiers. So why doesn't the woods always confer at least the -3 cover modifier? Opportunity Fire always ignores all cover modifiers. The target gets the full cover of the woods when stationary or moving slowly enough to be partially hiding behind the cover, but when moving more quickly is "less covered up" by the cover. So it makes sense to me.

Game Four started at 5pm that same afternoon and turned into another very close game with even more fighting in the woods!

The Rangers win by 2 points! 

I am very impressed with how well This Very Ground handled this straight-up skirmish game.

Another Recruits is in the books. See ya next year!