Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Mussey-la-Ville Road (including the Return of the Fog Machine!)

22nd August 1914, later that same morning. The Lorraine countryside is still shrouded in fog. Having linked up with the rest of his platoon, Lt. Rommel orders them to halt as he scouts ahead to the outskirts of Bleid with three men. In the poor visibility he blunders into a group of French infantrymen resting by the side of the road.

The layout of the game. The fog machine sits nervously waiting at one end for a chance to redeem itself.

Rommel's small force started at the windmill. The variable attachment they had rolled from the scenario was a squad of infantry coming to support them on turn four, entering from the northern table edge.

The French soldiers, resting by the road. Their variable attachment was the ability to act on turn five. In reality Rommel stumbled right into them and started blazing away, and normally they wouldn't be able to act until attacked by the Germans. Their attachment put their destiny back into their own hands a little.

To win the French need to capture or kill Rommel or his sergeant, or survive to the end of the game with twelve unbroken and uninjured men. The Germans simply have to prevent this.

Yeah, the whole cricket thing again. You probably know the drill by now.

So the game began with Rommel cautiously creeping forward in the fog, towards the unsuspecting Frenchmen.

Did I say fog? Hurrah! As inexplicably as its refusal to work the day before, now the fog machine was working perfectly! Bravo, Foggy!

But what's this? More blurry figures in the mist?

Yes, Rommel's support, right on time.

Hearing French voices in the fog, Rommel elected for caution, heading towards a nearby shed.

And then taking cover therein.

The German squad took cover among the haystacks, and started firing into the smaller body of Frenchmen.

Which quickly had them scurrying for cover.

Quickly, the other French lads poured into the house to take cover, and took up firing positions at the doors and windows. The house and shed fired ineffectively at one another for a while. The geese didn't seem too bothered to be caught in this fire.

This was getting nobody anywhere. The French sergeant had an idea...

He called for his men to leave their cover and take the shed. A rush and a push, a bit of bayonet work and that would be that. Things looked perilous for Rommel, if they made it into contact they would surely overwhelm his little band. But no! Despite his frantic squawking, none of the men would budge. They felt too safe in their cover to risk moving in the open under fire. It seemed the moment for French glory had passed.

For as though punished by the Gods of Battle for their timidity, their fortunes took a decisive turn for the worse. Some incredibly unlikely good shooting from Rommel's scout team brought down some of the defenders of the house. Then, their (dice-rolling) luck now totally deserting them, the French broke and ran.

Rommel quickly signalled to the infantry to advance. With a cheer they dashed across the open ground to the house.

Occupying the ground recently vacated by their foes, they then poured fire on to them...

... Causing more casualties and sending them into a headlong rout across the road and into a nearby field.

Things looked bleak for the French.

Those in the field finally managed to regain their composure, but it was too late, time was up and the Germans had won. The French here were in no state to resist. The way was open for the assault on Bleid...

It was most pleasing to see the fog machine work so well. It certainly has redeemed itself, and will definitely be used in the next scenario set on this foggy morning: The assault on Bleid. In an ideal world I'd have someone as a dedicated Fog Machine Operator, as it fills the table with fog for a short while, but it soon dissipates. You really need a hand on the button at all times, to keep the flow of fog coming. That's why in some pics there seems to be lots of fog, and much less in others. We had to keep interrupting play to make more fog.

Still, on the whole I was very pleased with the second outing of the machine.

The game itself, while fun, was slightly less satisfying, as it was so one-sided.

French Casualties:
Seven Killed

German Casualties:

This one turned on a handful of flukey die rolls. Rommel's team really had no right to expect to cause so much harm with their shooting, and the French were very, very unlucky to fail the two crucial morale roles which led them to quit the house. I have been thinking that when using these scenarios with Price of Glory, the pretty green French troops really do need to have officers around if they hope to prevail. In the one game where they had officers they did okay, in the other two where they didn't they were soundly beaten. On the other hand, I think even with officers present the die rolls in this game were so in favour of Germany that it may not have made much difference. Except that with good leadership rallying would have been much easier.

But speaking as the German player, Gott really was Mit Uns this day.

Monday, October 08, 2007

More Slightly-Gay Star Wars Nonsense, Courtesy of Chronoglide

(Admiral Allahu Ackbar! Quite clearly a terrorist, with a name like that. Clicking on pics makes them bigger)

Don't worry about the "Slightly-Gay" part of the title, I'm just baiting Chronoglide.

So, Friday night Chrono turned up with more of his childish space-opera junk. Star Wars again, this time a space battle. Following the destruction of their base on Hoth, the scattered Rebel fleet is making its way to a new rendevous. One small convoy of transports, protected by cruisers, is sheltering in an asteroid field near a gas giant, while preparations are made for their next hyperspace jump. At this point an Imperial Squadron shows up to teach the rebel scum a lesson.

The playing area: A gas giant surrounded by nasty asteroid belts. The rules we used were the Mongoose Babylon 5 set. I had played them before and enjoyed the game, but this was the first time we had used the Star Wars mod.

I really like Chrono's groovy home-made gas giant. Far out, man.

The transports and their fighter escort (the red counters) prepare to leave the asteroid field. To the right the watchful eyes of the Mon Calamari cruisers are there to keep them safe.

Mon Calamari??!! What a stupid name. Phoned that one in from the Greek restaurant did we, George? What's next? Terror of the Scampi Men? Invasion of the Moules Marinieres?

Just as all is going smoothly, the bad guys turn up. This Destroyer-thingy comes with a special plot widget, that somehow stops the good guys from making the jump to hyperspace. Something like that, I wasn't really listening.

You have to have such a plot device, or there wouldn't be a game. Ah, the twists and turns of plotting that we have to make once we start making daft shit like this up. Tuh! Science Fiction, eh?

To win, the rebels would have to either defeat the Imperial Squadron in combat, or destroy the Hyperspace-blocking doohickey and then make their escape. The Imperials needed to capture or burn as much of the convoy as possible.

Here come more bad guys. Four Imperial Frigates, bristling with home-grown nastyness and rented malevolence. I was in command of three of them: The Imperial Vessels Useless, Useful Junk and Alien Artifact. They were so named because Chrono had provided no way to distinguish them, so I used some counters I had lying around from Doctor Who: Invasion Earth, which happened to have those words printed on them. Actually, I think they make good ship names.

The Imperial Squadron closes in.

The transports turned and fled back into the cover of the asteroid field, while the Mon Calamari cruisers turned in a wide circle to attack the baddies. Fire was exchanged, mostly just knocking out shields to begin with.

Most of the Frigates pursued the transports into the asteroids, while zillions of little fighters buzzed around the big ships, doing surprisingly little harm and generally just blowing up.

Unfortunately, the inept crew of Useless had not been concentrating. Realising they were about to fly headlong into a very dense patch of asteroids, the emergency order of "All Stop!" had to be issued. She would then have to spend another turn laboriously bringing herself about so as to move around the space-rocks.

As the other Frigates were now out of sight, this meant Useless had the full attention of the Mon Calamari cruisers. They pummelled her stupid, until a massive and catastrophic fire engulfed the stricken vessel. Almost the entire crew were instantly fried, and the ship was left as a charred, floating barbeque briquette.

Oh, the humanity! All my own stupid fault, of course. Hmm, any volunteers to inform Lord Vader? Anybody? Come on, what's the worst that can happen?

But the rebels weren't exactly showing themselves to be master navigators, either, with numerous close-calls and brushes with danger. No damage to speak of, though.

Unfortunately, just as two Frigates were overhauling one of the transports, it became clear that we had run out of time. Fun as it had been, Chrono's scenario had been too big to really fit into the time we had. It had all taken a bit too long, what with all those ships. A shame, really, as it was a good game, and the rules are pretty enjoyable.

Typical Chronoglide. You didn't think it through, did you, you big fool?

Still, I wouldn't mind playing another game of this some time.

By the way, is it just me, or is George Lucas growing to look more and more like Rolf Harris? What do you think? Personally, I think they should've got Rolf to direct the prequels. They certainly could hardly have been any worse...

George Lucas.

Rolf Harris.

Uncanny, eh?

Tie me Bantha down, Han, man,
Tie me Bantha down, Han.
Altogether now...

Contact in the Fog (With Real Fog)

(Click on pics for a closer look)

This weekend we played some more of our Rommel's Route to Verdun campaign. The first part can be seen here.

Early morning the following day, August 22nd, 1914. Rommel's platoon of the 7th Company, 124th Infantry Regiment was part of the advance towards the strongly-held town of Bleid. They pushed forward at first light in the fog, with the limited visibility hampering the coherency of the advance. Isolated units from both sides bumped into each other in the mist and contact was made...

As the next few scenarios all take place in this troublesome fog, I figured we needed to simulate it visually somehow on the battlefield, as well as including its effects in gameplay terms. Suddenly it came to me: THE FOG MACHINE!

Provided by those nice people of F.W. Woolworth and Co., I had had this thing for ages, and never quite knew what to do with it. Wakey, a member of our gaming gang, had given it to me as a Christmas gift some years earlier. It had struck me then as a bizarre gift, but it seems our Wakey had somehow known that I would one day have need of it.

Cheers, Wakey. It's just the ticket.

Anyway, more of that in a bit. First let's introduce the players:

Lieutenant Arnaud St. Denis Mini-Babybel Sickerlie, commanding the French.

Leutnant Hermann von Plynkerhofen, affectionately known to his troops as Herr Schnurrbartmeyer, commanding the Germans.

The table layout. The Germans entered on turn one, the French could set up anywhere in their half of the table. As variable attachments we gave them a Platoon HQ and "may start dug in", giving them some light entrenchments. Slit trenches or rifle pits. Something of that nature.

The German objective was to exit at least ten men off the opposite table edge, so as to continue the pace of the advance on Bleid. The French had to prevent this.

French Forces. One squad, a four man patrol lost in the fog, the platoon HQ and a medic. The medic could be used to treat wounded troops to a level where they could be evacuated off-table. Wounded troops that made it safely off the table would not gain victory points for the Germans, if it came to a point-counting exercise to decide the winner.

The German force. Rommel's platoon HQ and two of his squads. Presumably he had been separated from the rest in the fog.

The Rommel's Lawn Cricket Screamy-Cry rule was still in effect. For details see the previous battle report.

The fog machine, in place and ready for action.

Sickers wanted me to take a photo of these sheep. He likes them because they are on Games Workshop bases. Yes, that is the only reason. He is impressed by anything to do with Games Workshop, those foul fiends have got him well brain-washed.

Okay, ready to start.


Wow, this is cool.

Excellent. Just what we need.

But then ... Pffft! Pffft! Pffft!

The damn infernal machine conked out. We had about ten seconds of really atmospheric fog, and then it stopped. The flaming thing could not be coaxed into producing more than tiny little spurts of mist. Bugger. I shall give that Wakey a piece of my mind when I see him. And F.W. Woolworth, too, for that matter. I bet it's revenge for my stealing sweets from the pick-and-mix shelves. Grrr...

Oh well, I guess the show must go on. We'll just have to imagine the fog. Things got underway with Rommel's Germans advancing across Hill 325, heading for Bleid.

These fellows were confident they could handle any straggling Frenchmen in their way. They had seen them off the day before with ease.

Rommel watched from the hill as the 1st Squad advanced towards a wheat field. 2nd Squad, meanwhile, made their way towards a small copse of trees.

Then, through the fog (!), they spotted a stray French patrol taking cover in the copse.

And on the other side of the field, a squad of French infantry, lightly dug in, in shallow, hasty entrenchments.

Contact had been made. Rommel made his way down the hill to direct the advance of his men personally...

... While the sheep watched, unpeturbed, from the hill.

Suddenly the sheep were rudely startled from their pastoral reverie, as French bullets came zipping across the field. Visibility was too poor for accurate shooting, but it was enough to make Rommel get his head down.

The two sides exchanged fire, resulting in quite a few fellows getting their heads down, but nothing in the way of actual casualties.

The French platoon HQ revealed itself by joining in the firefight.

The German left and centre had all hit the deck, but on the right 2nd Squad had suppressed the patrol in the copse ...

... and so advanced to drive them from it.

But the steady fire from the French soon began to take its toll, and the Germans were taking casualties. Eventually they were forced back by the sustained French fire.

Somewhat foolishly, the patrol opted to pursue as 2nd Squad headed for the cover of the woods on their far right flank.

This exposed them to fire from the hill, where 1st Squad had recovered their composure. One of the patrol went down. The patrol leader called for the medic, and, seeing him coming, urged his men on towards the woods...

... Which the remains of 2nd Squad had now reached.

The pursuit continued. They couldn't let Les Boches get past them.

Ils ne passeront pas!

Back among the corn stalks, the medic was plying his trade. Unfortunately he lost his first patient. Occupational hazard, I suppose.

And up on the hill, still with random rounds pinging around him, Rommel realised that without all his platoon to hand he wasn't strong enough to force the issue here. But the advance must not be held up. He would bypass this position and leave it for later following forces to deal with. He must try and pass around them and connect with the rest of the company, wherever they may be.

With that in mind he set off after 2nd Squad, still taking fire as he went.

Speaking of whom, they were making good progress on the extreme right, when they blundered into the French patrol ...

This time the Germans had the better of it, bringing down all of them in short order. The faithful medic ran to their aid, ran away again when he saw the Germans coming, and then ran back again as they passed by without molesting the casualties.

This is Chester, our historical advisor, watching the battle. You can see he is carefully scrutinizing the battle by his intense gaze. Obviously all of his attention is focused on the events unfolding on the tabletop. You can see that in his eyes.

Realising, perhaps too late, that his left flank was wide open, the French commander frantically tried to redeploy...

... Sending his men running across the open fields towards the woods.

In the woods, the brave medic had managed to save at least one patient. Two actually, but the third fellow would later die of his wounds.

Rommel had made his move just in time. His men vanished into the woods and were lost to the French. Hopefully he would soon be united with the rest of the company, and the advance could continue with a little more cohesion.

So the game ended. Rommel had achieved his victory conditions, but not in the time-frame laid out orginally by the scenario. As matters had seemed unresolved, and we were both having fun, the players resolved by mutual agreement to play for a few more turns. As the French held up the German advance for a while, but they had eventually continued on, we decided to call it a draw.

The book-keeping:
French Casualties
2 killed
2 wounded

German Casualties
4 killed
4 wounded

So, from a pure accounting point of view, you might say the French had had the best of it. The German advance had continued, though.

The game was lots of fun. Almost all the fire was of the long-range unaimed kind, due to the fog hampering targeting. Without the fog, it would have surely been a much more messy affair with many more casualties. The rules used were again Price of Glory. The human figures were all from Renegade games. The sheep were Gripping Beast (with GW bases!).

The real downer was the poor performance of the fog machine. But fear not, fog fans. We did not immediately cast it into a skip in a fit of rage, but opted to give it one more chance the next day.

How would Old Foggy fare this time? Would it redeem itself or be condemned to the executioner's block? Tune in next time to find out!