Saturday, September 27, 2008


So I've finally gone and done my first ever bit of ebay business. I bought a copy of the forgotten 1975 classic naval wargame Seastrike. The game was brought to mind by an article across at the F:AT, about multi-use cards, a design feature I haven't seen in any earlier adventure game. (That's another nod to the benefits of lurking at the F:AT I guess.)

I've only played Seastrike once before, back in the late 80's, with my old pal Jim the T. My most vivid memory of that game was my massed helicopter attacks, which were able to sweep across the table and back with irresistable speed and deadly effect. They more or less won that game for me by themselves I seem to remember. I am very pleased finally to have got myself a copy of this game I have so much wanted to revisit for so many years. ;)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Posting on consecutive days? Shock! Horror!

One of the things about journal writing as opposed to 'zine writing is that you don't need to try to write full length articles. You can just do snippets of whatever kind.

My internet forum posting has dropped to an level lower even than slow times here at RD/KA!. I'm not lurking all that much either. So I'm surprised to find myself feeling quite pleased recently to have registered for the ConsimWorld forums.

I've been reading ConsimWorld for a couple of years, and have a been a regular reader of the Combat Commander forum in that time. But I've never posted there because I thought you had to pay to register, and I see no reason to pay to post on a boardgames forum. It turns out that I was wrong, as I discovered recently on this thread at Fortress: Ameritrash. So my lurking there has paid off. The story goes that ConsimWorld hides its free registratrion to increase the numbers of paid registrations.

Some of what is said in that thread is true. You're not going to read thousands and thousands of posts to catch up on all of an old thread. But then, you're not really going to do that on a bulletin board either, are you? It's an obvious point that the bulletin board format is generally easier for finding things, so that it works better for rules questions and so on. But for general chat about a very tightly focussed topic- eg. a single family of boardgames- the open-ended single thread format offered by ConsimWorld actually seems ideal to me. It is certainly better than what you get at the BGG, where each expansion and/or supplement to any game gets its own individual forum, which just fragments the discussion, which must therefore to some extent undermine the community-building elements of internet fora.

If only I'd had something like this at my disposal back when we first played Up Front! ;)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Alive and, well...

I don't know the effect on you all as readers, but I confess that the recent staple diet of ever thinner Combat Commander battle reports has become uninspiring drudgery to this blogger. Working up the GIMP files I use to create my CC maps has been the part of that labour I've found the most enjoyable and productive. I've now got a bunch of XCF files put together by cutting, copying and pasting elements from PNG's saved from the VASSAL CC mod. I've got some more work to do, but eventually I'll have the template honed to a nicety. Not enough by itself to break this writer's block though.

A serious narrowing of my gaming activities in all sorts of ways has reduced potential content to a trickle. And this at a time when I was struggling to find the voice to make RD/KA! less a 'zine and more a journal. This was troubling for me because I kept a diary as a teenager and that angst-ridden adolescent self expression is a memory best left resting. What practical function might this blog therefore fulfil, beyond reportage and opinionated exposition, so that I could escape this impasse?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

August Bank Holiday Offensive #3. And punishment in Stalingrad

As I pondered the map for our 4th game, Badger was keeping up his own personal whinge, "Oh dear please, not the bocage."

Victory notwithstanding, I wasn't feeling the slightest bit charitable at 2-1 down, especially with all that had gone before. "OK," I thought, "You don't want to have to endure the confines of the bocage, eh?" And so I choose map#17 of Scenario 17 'Little Stalingrad' infamy, just to be a real bastard. The result was a colourful and apt finale, even if it did turn history upside-down just a bit.

The first game on this map saw Badger take his Soviet assault engineer company in against my German rifle company. In the face of Badger's aggressive setup, I spent most of the game precariously close to his best assault troops, and in danger of being pinned on, then forced off my baseline. Fortunately I'd made sure to set up pretty much all of my units out of sight of his, so that I forced him to move onto my guns. This told in the end, and Badger lost as his units got bogged down in minor firefights none of which were ever really likely to deliver him the break he so sorely needed.

In perfect fashion, the dice just swapped our sides, so that I was then able to take my own German Pionier company up against Badger's Soviets across the same terrain. Badger made the mistake of setting up some defenders on my right flank who were immediately open to attack by my flamethrower squads. This was all the worse for Badger because objective 5 down there was my secret objective chit, making it my primary objective in the game.

I didn't have everything entirely my own way- Badger showed yet again that he really knows how to mount a good ambush; but my win was comfortable enough.


I had saved the day, but only just! ;)

- August Bank Holiday Offensive #1. I take a tanking
- August Bank Holiday Offensive #2. Revenge on the steppes

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

August Bank Holiday Offensive #2. Revenge on the steppes

Getting the choice of map, Badger decided it'd be amusing to send us to the wide open spaces of map #23. Oh dear, I thought, this is the kind of terrain you only want to fight over if you've got tanks. A choice between the short ends suited me because I wanted to hunker down behind wire with some MG's in this situation. After events in France my immediate thought was objective 5. This turns out to be bang in the centre of map #23, so I chose to put the next most valuable objective- #4- as far away from Badger as possible.

With green Germans against Badger's line Soviets in 1944, I imagined we were fighting it out in some corner of Operation Bagration, otherwise known as 'the destruction of Army Group Centre', or "the most calamitous defeat of all the German armed forces in World War II". This wasn't really as bad as it might've looked because I'd already decided to play a defensive game. I chose a Volksgrenadier detachment which I figured would:

  • Be cheap enough to ensure my posture as defender.
  • Leave me enough VP to buy the 2 wire OB's and the foxholes was going to rely on.
  • Give me just enough men and materiel to hold (an HMG would've been nice, but to go for one in my OB choice- buying a full company- would've cost me the fortifications I wanted, and might even've left me in attacker posture).
This all worked out in my favour against Badger's Late-War rifle company, especially when he forgot to check for the artillery support which had so bedevilled me before. With neither cover nor sufficient heavy firepower, his units balked at the wire, where they were easy meat for even my light forces. Surrender was quick.

I think this was a game where Badger's best chance would've been to confront the madness of just flat out storming the wire. With a Surrender value of 15 compared to my 6 he could lose 2 for 1 and still win on attrition. Looking back, I think Badger played the Russians in this game with too high a regard for the lives of his men. ;)

- August Bank Holiday Offensive #1. I take a tanking
- August Bank Holiday Offensive #3. And punishment in Stalingrad

Monday, September 08, 2008

August Bank Holiday Offensive #1. I take a tanking

So, Badger and I had our bank holiday Combat Commander session as announced. I cooked a meatball lasagne (Millefoglie alla 'guardiese'- pasta layers the guardia way- from the Abruzzi region) which was really good if I say so myself, and we got 5 games in, all using the Random Scenario Generator.

France, 1939
I chose the map, Badger orientation. Nationality and OB rolls pitted my line French against Badger's line Germans. A minor setback. Then Badger's objective chit draw turned up chit R, which made objective 5 worth 10VP. Oh look, there's objective 5 right in Badger's deployment zone. A major setback. And sure enough, I ended up forced to counterattack across little or no cover against a German rifle company with artillery support (naturally enough). That's the French. Attacking. With a 4-card hand... Setback upon setback!

I actually had the inklings of a decent plan: pin and break Badger's units on his startline for the sake of rout exit VP while developing an attack on objective 5, whose 10VP I figured would decide the game. There was a viable strategy here, especially since I nabbed an extra HMG with my support roll, leaving me 10VP to spend on fortifications.

With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I'd bought:
  • Wire OB- 3VP.
  • Strongpoint- 2VP
  • Trenchline- 2VP
  • Entrenchments x2- 2VP.
Then I wish I'd set up my units something like this. (The C+1 and C+2 notations on the map refer to where I'd've put the leaders I generated during that game.) For readers who've not played the CC RSG, I should here point out that I'd be setting up my fortifications (9 wires, 6 foxholes, 4 trenches and 1 bunker) after Badger'd set up his units. Where would you set up in your 2-hex deep deployment zone in that situation dear readers? How far could you risk setting up right under the guns of that mass of French infantry massing by the primary objective? Might you be tempted by the prospect of making an end run against my weak flank for exit VP?

So anyway, one way or another, there'd be a German comany strung out along its narrow deployment zone with a French company about to kick off up close and in its face. And the fortifications? Well, the situation required the French to attack, forcefully and quickly. The position shown here seems more or less to fit the bill. The assault platoon and the base of fire are right in the line, able to bring their squad FP to bear immediately against the objective and/or its supporting units. The assault units have trenches to cover their move up. And the right flank should be secure with that wire and the covering platoon.

All of which would've been very nice, perhaps. But of course I didn't work all that out on the night. I bought myself 2 lots of wire, for 18, and some foxholes for extra cover. I set up firegroups around the buildings, woods and buildings features across the middle of the board. Considering my main objective I added extra men on my left for the assault. I wired extensively on each flank. I was confident that Badger wasn't going to get forward off his startline, so I was hoping that I'd have time to break him and rout him before he could get clear.

Of course, Badger was going nowhere. And neither was I. There wasn't enough cover to risk much running about in front of all that German firepower, and I'd wired the area in front of my primary objective to boot! And the odds are against the French winning a firefight against the Germans all things being equal, and all things weren't equal here: I was playing the worst hand and cardplay in the game against the best and with most of my units out of range too. Oh yes, and don't forget the artillery! Badger didn't, and neither could I as it rained down on my men with dreadful frequency.

So the game was a painful defeat for me, and just painful for Badger, because I couldn't help myself: I bitched and moaned. I did actually talk myself out of it before the game was finished. And I wasn't totally slaughtered in the end. The result was close enough that I wouldn't've needed all that much luck to swing my way after the glorious good fortune of Badger's scenario generation and early turns of the game, and I was more or less in with a shout (and yes, a bit more of a whinge again, I must confess) to the end.

Italy, 1943
Facing the next game, I had to pull myself together quickly I knew. I didn't want to whinge my way out of another potential victory. Badger's choice of map gave us #5. I pondered my choice of sides as carefully as I could. I decided that putting the marsh and that pond in the middle of Badger's deployment zone couldn't work against me, and that's how he got the long edge at the top there.

It was downhill all the way after that, and certainly not worth the effort of a cut and paste session with the GIMP. I got green Italians against line Americans, which left me defending with my Blackshirts company against Badger's rifle detachment, with artillery support, naturally enough. I bungled my defensive setup a bit again. I'd bought wire again, as is my wont. I had originally planned to put a row of 5 across the woods just above the stream. But I had some kind of brainstorm instead, and put it all on the right, to pin Badger's units there in the brush. This turned out to be exactly as pointless as my use of wire in the previous game. On top of all that I made the mistake of trying to hold a forward firing line with the worst troops in the game, troops who should be lurking out of sight waiting to take pot shots at enemies incautious enough to move into sight.

And so Badger's firegroups and artillery spotters were able to inflict a steady steam of casualties giving them healthy increases in VP without pressing need to worry about objectives or exiting. I tried to hold on, but my line was crumbling in short order and no mistake. I resigned when even Badger realised that he was down to mopping up. I was well and truly stuffed by any measure.

Badger. 2
Me. 0

Ouch! ;-\

That's it for now. I hope to write more about the other games in time to get something posted this week. ;)

- August Bank Holiday Offensive #2. Revenge on the steppes
- August Bank Holiday Offensive #3. And punishment in Stalingrad

Another Sunday session

A call last week from Donald broke incommunicado, so he and Andy were round for boardgames on Sunday. A recent thread on the Classic AT board at Fortress Ameritrash (F:AT) had reminded the me classic oldie from my collection I most wanted to play after the past few month's hankering for more tactical and wargames-oriented multiplayer gaming. That game was Gunslinger.

Donald turned up well first, so Andy arrived to witness me finishing Donald off in our first game. I'd got the first hit, typically enough in Gunslinger as in its prototype. Donald therefore spent the game reeling in shock while I finished him off, which had a certain charm of its own thanks to the delights of the system. All that can be said is that I wasn't the utter cold-hearted killer, letting Donald's character pass out from his wounds instead of sending him to Boot Hill when I had him dead to rights.

Andy agreed to join in for another game, and, funnily enough although by pure chance, he and Donald ended up on the same side against me. Against 2 opponents, I figured my best bet was to go in as close as possible against 1- Andy; thus being as far as possible away from the other- Donald; this left me 2 hexes (each hex is a pace, or approx. 1 yard in Gunslinger it seems) from Andy, who'd been chosen for his role because his character had the lowest 1-handed shooting skill, which improved my survival chances against him.

All of which only served to prove the difference between probability and eventually, statistics and luck, when Andy's character nicked mine just as I ran behind him. Looking back, I suspect that the turn sequence management might've broken down a bit there. It wouldn't've changed the result, which saw Andy and Donald's characters finish me off in best clinical spaghetti western fashion. I just think that I might conceivably've been in a different hex is all!

In any event I was pleased to get this old favourite out on the table again. Andy and Donald's reaction was more guarded. Insofaras as application of the actual rules went, I was left with the impression that it was the strict attention to the peculiarities of the turn sequence that both players found most testing. Otherwise, I thought that both players found the mechanics quite intuitive, really startlingly quite intuitive when I look back on it, considering that I actually explained almost nothing to begin with.

Settlers of Catan
My past few month's hankering for more tactical and wargames-oriented multiplayer gaming notwithstanding, after Gunslinger we just had time for a quick game of guess what? Settlers.


Precisely the game from which, for quite some time now, I have been wanting to escape in favour of more martial pastures new in my mulitplayer gaming. 'Combat Settlers' is the multiplayer game I've been looking for for years now, and even as I still look for it (Nexus Ops is the closest I've seen yet), I can't help but enjoy coming back to the qualities of the original.

The main distinguishing feature of our game was there being just 1 grain region on the board. Our setup meant that we each got a corner of it. That single grain region then proceeded to come up for at least 5 of the first dozen or more turns, and then more again later!

We entered the midgame with Andy just behind. I was happy to be generating a lot of lumber and/or ore to trade through my 3:1 port. Donald however was doing much better, with more numbers and cities to generate even bigger hauls of resources. Andy was suffering at this point, having to watch a long, long series of 6's net him just 1 resource instead of the 3 his building should've entitled him to (the robber's responsibility, naturally enough).

And so we entered the endgame with Donald in front and Andy even further behind. And we barely had time to realise we were in the endgame before a series of resource rolls had come round leaving Donald with a huge hand of cards in his turn, with which he, if I recall correctly; promptly built a settlement then a city in one turn to leave him on 9VP, then noticed he could trade for a development card, so picking up a VP card for the game. Curses!

Andy. 1
Donald. 2
Me. 1

Ah well. ;b

Friday, September 05, 2008

Oldie but goodie

Mark and Robert, a couple of old, old buddies, passed through last weekend. Mark was an avid and skillful Up Front player back in the day, so it was a cinch that we'd get a few games in; unless, that is, I could persuade him to try his hand at Combat Commander instead. In the event I deferred, naturally enough, to Mark's inevitable yearning to revisit battlefields of old, and we got stuck in.

We started with Scenario 1. Patrol, as you do; my Japanese against Mark's British (not jungle). My variant Japanese set-up having been decisively refuted at last year's post-Claymore mega-session, I went with the standard Japanese 3-group setup (2 ML rifles, firebase, and Sgt. Okimoto's 4-man bayonetting group). Against this, Mark too deployed 3 groups, including a 5-man firebase and Sgt. Vasey in a 3-man manoeuvre group. Hmm, I thought.

For the unititiated, Mark's choice of setup had reopened the old issue of the better basic British/German 10-man-squad setup: fire, or fire and manoeuvre. Or, as veteran players will know: the 2-group, 6-man firebase setup versus the 3-group, 5-man firebase setup. You lose 1FP from 9 and 10FP at RR1 and 2 respectively by going for fire and manoeuvre, so that the essential question is whether that 1FP is worth the additional fire and manoeuvre opportunities.

Mark clearly thought it was. He was almost right too. My initial Japanese rush was quickly pinned and started taking casualties early. That was the point at which I managed to keep my nerve. I pulled everything back together quickly enough to leave Mark facing the killer tactical problema of the British versus the Japanese: how to avoid your firebase getting stuck at Range Chit 0 while the Japanese swarm forward. His failure to solve this problem left me winning comfortably from the position I enjoyed once I'd rallied from under Mark's early hails of fire.

An excess of whisky renders vague the precise order in which followed the subsequent 3 games. But I can avow that Mark's SS enjoyed an easy victory over my Russian Conscripts in Scenario K. Elite Troops on the Attack. I'm also certain that I defended with the US in Scenario F. Infantry's Iron Fist, and with the Germans in Scenario D. Rearguard Action. What I can't remember (whisky again) is who won which playing what to leave us tied 2-2.

Circumstances conspired to force us to declare a draw just as we were readying ourselves for our next game. I have to confess I was a bit relieved. I was going into the attack with the US against the Japanese in Scenario S. Jungle Assault. A flamethrower and 2 BAR's might be all very well; but you've still got to get through the jungle to use them on the beggars, and they're dug-in with their MMG to stop you. So, like I said, I was satisfied to call a draw! ;)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Dark Knight... returns?

So, I did go and see this again as I'd said I would. I enjoyed it about as much the second time around as I did the first. That's pretty good going really. I mean seriously: 1983's The Return of the Jedi is the last time I can remember enjoying a movie more than once on its original release. My tone therefore, however restrained, just really cannot be a matter of damning by faint praise.

I agree with Andy about the "non-comic-bookiness of it." It'd been precisely the focus on street-level crimefighting that I'd thought had made Batman Begins the successful film that it was. I can hardly complain about the same aspect of Pt. 2 of the revival of the franchise. And of course The Dark Knight is not as such a movie adaption of The Dark Knight Returns, although I'd argue there's more of the comic in the movie than Andy asserts.

Again, that's the point for me really.

The comic is a masterpiece transcending the limitations of its genre (the presence of Superman is essential to that by the way), casting its shadow to this very day over a truly iconic postmodern character. The movie is just a superior Hollywood blockbuster. Of course, the movie's huge audience suggests that many might disagree with me.

My general antipathy towards Hollywood blockbusters aside, I have to remind readers that reading the original The Dark Knight Returns on its first release stands out as one of my peak comic-reading experiences. Y'know, one of those personal landmarks the memory of which is cherished and brought out for a polish every now and again. What chance did the movie have against that? Let's be honest: none at all really.

It's like the Lord of the Rings movies which, by adding to an already rich trove of delights, delivered the best they could've done for me. I mean to say: by the time I watched Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring, I'd had the bedtime stories and the calendar; read the books, the geek encyclopedias and the atlas; listened to the Radio 4 adaption; and played with the miniatures, the boardgame and the rpg. Oh, and I'd seen Bakshi's film, naturally enough, which I left out of the preceding list because it broke my heart, being the only bit of my sub-Tolkien Middle Earth experience that was actually shite.

So...? Well, ICv2 reported ticket sales of the order of $B1, or 100 million tickets at a mean $10/ticket. (I'm assuming that the price and multiple-purchase variations mutually cancel.) 100 million?! Holy moley Batman!

I'm going to have to come back to this. ;)