Monday, 29 June 2015

Bolt Action - Turns 2 / 3 and further impressions

German centre squad advances.
This weekend I had a chance to get back to the gaming table to continue with Bolt Action. Playing the Soviets, I'm trying to get as much of my formation as possible across the 'phase line' of the enemy's base board. This is the envelopment scenario from the core rules.

On the right, I brought on my Maxim heavy machine gun team, setting them up in light cover, with the plan to engage the German MG42 team further down the road. However, my opponent moved her command squad up in the centre, most unexpectedly, but obviously adopting the view that attack is the best form of defence. I thought it foolhardy at the time, but in reality it has succeeded in blunting the Russian advance.

The Maxim team, seeing the German squad moving up to the ruined priory in the centre of the field, opened fire on them, but MG fire from their original target downed two members of the team, leaving one to man the gun on his own, at a -1 penalty.

In the centre of the field, a big firefight developed around the ruined priory. The Soviet squad began to win, however, thanks to the fact that four of them are equipped with SMGs. Even at long range and firing at targets in hard cover, that's eight dice before you factor in the squad's light machine gun and rifles. The Germans lost their NCO in turn 2, and then three more men in turn 3, including, potentially, their forward artillery observer, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The German lieutenant has kept the squad from failing a morale test, but they are now in a sticky position, with more Russians on their right flank.

Maxim HMG team sets up to lend support at the priory.

The Russian officer has moved his unit across the road from the church, and is now preparing to potentially assault his opposite number's squad, although whether this is a sound move is open to question.

On the left, my plan had been to rush a big 11-man squad forward down the road past the church, while the sniper team in the tower covered them. The German MG42 team in the cottage put the hurt on the sniper in the tower, killing his spotter, and the poor comrade then panicked (FUBAR roll), leaving him unable to support the advance.

Russian squad laying it on thick in the centre of the battle.

This left the advancing squad with no covering fire, moving down a country lane into the teeth of a German MG team. I forgot that they could react with a Down order (still learning, you see) and my opponent quickly took out five men, including my forward observer! Desperately, I order Run, only for the squad to trespass into the LOS of the German unit in the ruined cottage. More Russians fell. A morale check was passed, thanks in part to the presence of a grizzled Russian sergeant.

German HQ squad down to three men and in a pickle!

Still, it's not going brilliantly as we set up for turn 4. I've got three, maybe four turns to get units over the phase line. The Germans look to be in too good a position, with MG42s on both flanks, one in hard cover, and now I've lost my ability to call in more artillery. Rats, rats, rats.

Impressions of Bolt Action as a rule set

About to get chopped up by an MG42.
The game moves along at a fair clip, which is good. Where it can be fiddly is working out which squad is armed with which weapons. If I'd generated formal army lists, this would be less of an issue, but we're just having an informal throw down game with everything I've got painted. I like the fact that activation is random - you have no idea who will move next. The orders dice are a great way to keep track of who is doing what, particularly if someone is on Ambush orders.

The game is a good, simple introductory level rule set. In some ways it is very similar to Disposable Heroes, and is also reminiscent of Warhammer 40,000, but with the rubbish bits filed off. At a complexity level, it probably sits up there with the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, and I can readily see how Warlord Games saw the science fiction possibilities for these rules. I am now pondering whether to play test Beyond the Gates of Antares.

If I had a concern, it is working out line of sight, which can be complex as you try to work out who can see the enemy and who can't. In Force on Force, for example, this seemed to work more smoothly. We will continue to playtest and form further impressions as we proceed.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

More Phantom Leader

Dashed exciting time last night with Phantom Leader, the iPad version of the game from DVG. This is a solo wargame about air warfare in Vietnam in the 1960s. It is not a first person game - rather you plan and execute raids on targets with multiple pilots. The player manages a roster of fly boys, examines intel on enemy ground targets, and decides on munitions load outs, as well as making tactical decisions in-raid. What you aren't getting here is the cockpit level view, but then that has never really pushed my buttons. It is more a squadron leader simulation.

Last night I began a new campaign with the US Navy on Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tongking. It was 1967 and we were taking part in a week long operation against North Vietnam. I'm starting to get the hang of this. First off, the USN gets a better selection of plans, IMHO (and yes, I was in the RAF section at school, so I shouldn't have a navy bias). Most importantly, the Navy has the A6 Intruder, which was state of the art in 1967 (see below). It was introduced in 1963 and only fully retired in 1997. To my knowledge it has never been offered to foreign governments, which tells you how good it is.
A6 Intruder dropping payload in Vietnam.

The Navy also used the A7 Corsair, which is not such a good plane, as I found out. Other jets on offer include the wonderful F4 Phantom, A4 Skyraider and some others.

I'd learned my lesson from the first game, this time making sure I had at least one Phantom on each raid, armed with air-to-air missiles and rockets for ground suppression. My idea was to use the F4s to counter any MiGs (more of these the closer you go to Hanoi), leaving my other pilots to go in and bomb. Secondly, there were some bombs that could be dropped from high altitude, like the Paveways, first generation laser guided munitions which mean planes can hit targets without having to get too close and personal. Finally, I started equipping my bombers with ECM pods - this made a big difference to their ability to evade enemy radar.

My first mission was against a minor bridge in North Vietnam. This did not go that well, as I ballsed up my approach and some of my pilots got hosed by enemy AAA. I lost one Skyhawk which made my other pilots start to panic and miss their targets. Luckily the pilot ejected and evaded capture. He was rescued by Navy SEALs but is not currently classed as fit to fly.

Navy Phantoms attacking a bridge in Vietnam.

Second day, new target, new pilots. This time we ran into a SAM battery en route (always a risk over the North) - these were SA2s I believe, but luckily a combination of ECM and some bombing by an F4 got us through. This mission was a doozer, however, as we then ran into three MiGs over the target, including a brace of MiG 19s. I decided not to abort the mission, but go for it regardless. One of my Intruders flew in (call sign Pluto), evaded the enemy fighters with his ECM, and was bracketed by a horrendous amount of AA, but dropped a huge payload on the target, an oil refinery. It flattened it totally, to the extent that we got ticked off by the Pentagon for 'overkill'.

The experience with the MiGs frightened the heck out of my pilots, and even Pluto, who must have needed a stiff drink when he got back to the carrier, was looking too shaky to fly on Day Three (he was classed as Stressed, which means he's not going to be so accurate and more likely to bottle the mission).

Never good news for Navy pilots...

Day Three I stood the whole squadron down for compulsory rest and got chewed out by the Admiral, who felt we needed to be getting better results. The pilots were cheered up by the news that the SEALs extracted their buddy in one piece.

Day Four I only really had four pilots good to go. Most of the targets looked horrendous, including a naval base. We went for an easy suppression mission against AA emplacements. This one went pretty well; we got bounced by MiGs on the way in, but my F4 Phantom escort was tooled up with air-to-air missiles and shot down two MiGs. The mission went better as I'd figured out who was going to attack from range with Paveways, and who would go in and dump more conventional bombs. We hit and destroyed all targets.

MiG 19 over Vietnam, Phantoms in background.

So, as we proceed into the fifth day, the trick will be getting enough jets in the air to tackle some of the harder targets. Thus far my performance is not being well rated by the staff. A high profile target is in the offing, but can we tackle it with some pilots in a tired / stressed condition?

Monday, 15 June 2015

Bolt Action - turn 1.1

I managed to actually get my WW2 game rolling this weekend. I've decided to use the set up to play test Bolt Action, the WW2 platoon level rules from Warlord Games. I am really after some entry level rules which are simple enough for non-wargamers to drop into and can achieve a result relatively quickly. At some point the intention is also to play test Chain of Command from Too Fat Lardies, but that will need to wait.

I've put together two platoons but have left out any armour, as I just wanted to learn the other rules first. We chose the first of the six scenarios in the book, with the Germans defending their position against a Soviet assault. The Russians rolled successfully for a pre-assault bombardment, and brought their long range artillery down on the Germans' heads. This succeeded in dishing out pin results on three German squads. No bonus for hiding in cottages when Soviet big guns are hitting you!

We commenced the first turn. Squad Schmidt had divided into two groups of six men, one with an MG42. The first squad, with Schmidt in it, was pinned by artillery, but the first die out of the orders cup was used to effect a Rally order and remove the pinned status. Next up, Squad Schneider also tried to Rally, but failed its orders test, and went Down. The Russian artillery was too close for comfort for Schneider and his men.

The first red die out of the bag and the Russian infantry moved onto the table, bringing a squad with an LMG at the Run past the duck pond.

First Soviet squad advances on the German left.

Next up, another Russian die. I had already deployed a two man sniper team into the church tower ahead of the game. Snipers get this special ability. However, as the photo illustrates, they couldn't see much, other than the house where one German squad was hiding (at the end of the row of cottages). I mistakenly applied the hidden advantage (all Germans in this scenario began hidden) to the roll, which meant the sniper missed his shot. He should have fired without it as he is a sniper.

Sniper's eye view from the top of the church tower.

The Germans in the house got the next order, and opened up. They had a pin marker, so should have made a roll to see if they fired, but we forgot that too. Learning experience. The Russians in the church tower were too well hidden to be hit. I also made the mistake of letting the four Germans with rifles shoot, but they were out of the range of the tower, which could only have been raked with MG42 bullets. Speculative shooting, but enough to give away that position to the Russians, dropping its cover bonus to -2.

Church tower seen from the German MG position...

Finally, another squad of Russians moved onto the field. This time the Russian lieutenant and his medical orderly are part of the squad. They inch their way past the church. Their problem is going to be dealing with the MG42 set up in that cottage. Will the Russian sniper team be able to help out? Sadly, my opponent was called away to finish her homework, but we'll try to resume Bolt Action in the near future.

The Soviet LT (fur hat and pistol) urges his men on! Urrah!

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Command exercise: delaying action in Prussia 1945

For this game we're going to be looking at everything from the German perspective. Followers are welcome to comment on what the German commander should do next. The default setting is East Prussia in 1945. The Germans are trying to make a last ditch defence of a village to allow refugees and other troops to escape the onslaught of the Red Army. A German company under the leadership of Hauptmann Muller has occupied part of the village, setting up a defensive line in a row of cottages. They are awaiting the Russians, who are not far away...

In this game we're going to be using the company level rules, I Ain't Been Shot Mum from Too Fat Lardies. All Soviet troops will start on blinds until  spotted by Germans. On the table, Russian blinds will be signified by lone Russian soldiers who may / may not represent larger units, or may just be scouts sniffing around. One infantry model on the table will equal two actual soldiers, unless they are Big Men (leaders). Vehicles will be represented on a 1:1 basis.

Let's take a look at the initial German positions. The Germans are Veteran Infantry.

First, Zug 1, on the left of the position...

10 men led by Leutenant Schmidt (level 3), plus an MG42 team with six men. They are set up watching the northern road.

This is what Schmidt and his men can see, looking eastwards - nothing moving at the moment...

Still in Zug 1, 10 more men, led by Sergeant Schneider (level 1), are in a cottage on Schmidt's right. Schneider, a tailor before the war, is the one toting an assault rifle (bottom right).

On Schneider's right, in the next cottage, Hauptmann Muller, the company CO (level 4). He has an 8 man squad with him, plus a Forward Observation Officer (FOO), Leutenant Fischer, who is spotting for an off-table battery of 105 mm guns. Fischer is the one with the natty helmet camo.

On Muller's right, we have Zug Two. This time an 8 man squad with a Panzerfaust 30. They are covering the southerly route into town. They have a two man MG42 team with them as well.

This is a good position looking east to the church, which you can see in the background. Nice fields of fire but a likely axis of advance for Ivan.

Finally, the second squad from Zug 2, 8 men under the command of Leutenant Weber (level 3). He is Zug 2's officer. This is a ruined cottage in the more heavily wooded terrain to the south of town, and potentially the German weak point if the Russians choose to come at them through the woods. They can see the church to their left through the trees but have woods in front of them, obscuring their sight. Weber is hoping that the Russians choose the easy option and come at them down the road.

For IABSM purposes, order markers will be - Zug 1, Zug 2, Schmidt, Schneider, Muller, Fischer (German FOO), Weber, Axis Artillery, Schnapps Break. I'm also adding Axis Machine Guns, Axis Ammo Shortage, and Axis Dynamic Leader.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Cry Havoc

While my earliest taste for miniatures wargaming was for platoon level WW2 actions, probably prompted by the vast number of Airfix plastic figures on the market in the late 1970s and my early obsession with WW2 comics (I blame my uncle's large collection of Commando comics), in the mid-1980s I discovered medieval skirmish wargames in a big way when I bought Cry Havoc, by Standard Games.

At the time, myself and a school chum had the idea of running a play by mail game about dynastic power politics in a speculative medieval kingdom called the Grand Duchy of Irongrim. It was Game of Thrones really, and years before its time. We had spots for 30 baronial players plus potentially some other senior figures in the realm, like clerics and dukes. While we were working on the economic rules for the campaign, we lacked a set of battle rules to resolve the anticipated combat that would occur between rival player factions. I originally bought Cry Havoc because I hoped they would let us resolve battle scale games. Sadly, that was not what they were.

However, having said that, Cry Havoc was a great game. It provided you with everything needed to play skirmish level battles in the Middle Ages, including lovely full colour maps and pieces. The artwork was part of the appeal. Later sets took the game to the Holy Land, Japan, and introduced siege warfare. But there was enough in the original box for hours of fun.

Players controlled small groups of warriors, including knights, archers, men-at-arms and peasants. The combat was grittily realistic - a mercenary with a bill could carve up a peasant in very short order, and even mighty knights would be brought down with concentrated bow fire. Soldiers were typically worn down through exhaustion and multiple wounds to the point where they eventually succumbed, and critical kills were rare. We never played with the optional morale and command and control rules, but I'm sure these would have added yet another dimension to the game.

The game boasted lovely maps and artwork.

Cry Havoc included a scenario book with a range of interesting battles, including the introductory one involving two groups of peasants in a fight outside a pub, to a more sophisticated - and slightly one-sided - peasants revolt scenario, which gave one side all the peasants, backed up with some archers, and the other all the mounted knights. This helped us understand how feudalism only disappeared with the arrival of gunpowder weapons!

One of my favourites was a three player scenario featuring an attack on a merchant caravan, with one player taking the role of the bandits, and another a relief force riding out from a nearby village. The bandit had to score as much loot as he could, and escape, before the heavy brigade arrived and carved up his retinue of brigands.

Cry Havoc featured an interesting damage system - if your attack exceeded an enemy's damage threshold, his counter was replaced with a wounded version, which featured similar artwork, but this time showing the character in more disarray (e.g. bandaged head, on a crutch, clothes looking torn and bloodied) and with reduced statistics. It helped you to keep track of who was running out of puff / starting to take hits.

Playing pieces included donkeys and civilians.

This was not a game about chivalry - I saw many a knight slain once he was unhorsed, by a bunch of billmen running up and ganging up on him. It was very, very hard to kill someone in a straight fight unless you were a knight - usually two or more soldiers came at a target from multiple directions. Once you learned that lesson, stragglers and isolated soldiers could be picked off quickly. Crossbows were also ludicrously deadly - they could only shoot once per turn, and IIRC could not move and shoot, but they were about the only battlefield weapon that stood a good chance of killing a knight straight away. Needless to say, one priority in this game was taking down all the enemy's crossbowmen as quickly as possible!

I've still got my copy of Cry Havoc, although my Samurai Blades game was destroyed in a flood, and I sold my copies of Siege and Outremer years back. Medieval skirmish for me remains a very fun topic for gaming regardless. I'm particularly interested by the arrival of new rules sets like Dux Bellorum and Lion Rampant from Dan Mersey, and it's given me a hankering to return to some of the sunny pastures of my youth.

Monday, 8 June 2015

World War Cthulhu

A quick update then on RPG activity. Since the conclusion of our Deadlands Noir plot arc (the campaign is not over yet, but I'm just taking a breather as work has been getting busier), we've been dabbling in World War Cthulhu. For those not familiar with this, it is a setting for Call of Cthulhu, using World War Two as the background. Characters are members of the British Special Operations Executive, tasked with dropping into enemy-occupied Europe to carry out missions of espionage and sabotage. On top of this, our group has been tasked with tracking down a missing German occultist, who vanished in a sleepy French village in 1938. Our team of five is using the cover of a regular SOE mission into France in 1941 to find this missing man.

On the team are two British operatives (one from Northern Ireland), a ex-IRA man blackmailed by the Secret Service, a French pilot who missed the fighting in 1940 because he was in Algeria, and an Australian lawyer.

Our motley crew has already run into trouble, with one badly injured on the initial drop, another got lost in a mysterious Sanity-devouring woodland that seems to be haunted by something unpleasant, papers have been confiscated by a German patrol, and not only has a German officer been shot and dumped in a river, but we've also been forced to execute one of our partisan allies on flimsy evidence of being a double agent.

The big differences with CoC are that firstly, you play a trained expert in assassination and covert operations, so you are meant to be able to handle yourself. The character generation process is more involved and designed to deliver a competent team of agents. It does, however, end up channelling points into some areas and not into other, logically associated areas. For example, my character, Pierre-Yves Bertrand, is a pilot, and enjoys high scores in Pilot Aircraft and Operate Radio, but he relies on Fergus, his Irish colleague, who is the team cryptographer, to support coded communications. Should something happen to Fergus, we may have problems communicating with London. But Bertrand lacks skill in Navigation, which would have been a core skill for him in the conventional version of the game. His Stealth is also 10%, which is proving ruinous in an environment where there is plenty of sneaking about. Some of the blame must lie with me, as I was pretty tired on the night we rolled up characters, and I should have paid more attention to associated skills, but Navigation just didn't jump at me,

What augments the tension, however, is conducting an investigation in occupied France, while trying to set up a resistance network, and dealing with people who want to let rip and bring the wrath of the German Wehrmacht down on our heads (even my own PC has been guilty of wanting to blow something up, although blowing things up is specifically not in our orders).

This is not pulp Achtung Cthulhu. In this game, you are more vulnerable, and it is becoming increasingly evident how much pressure SOE operatives would typically live under, without any hope of extraction if things went 'Pete Tong' suddenly. We've twice now had to kill people to maintain the secrecy of our existence in the village, including one person who might have been innocent, while making very slow progress in establishing our cell. On top of that, there may / may not be a cult of some kind active in the village - we've seen and heard some very odd things, to be honest, and as ever in this game, I can't help feeling we're missing important clues.

"I've got a little job for you, in France..."

Again, I find myself wondering about the deficiencies of Call of Cthulhu as a system, as we have characters with some very high scores that could easily be abused - including one with only a 1% chance of failing in Fast Talk, who could technically be able to talk her way out of anything if the Keeper does not impose penalties of some kind. Compare this with Gumshoe GUMSHOE, where she would have to spend points on interpersonal skills unless she were on top of a core clue. While I've not yet read the 7.0 version of the game, I do feel it would bear an update of some kind.

That said, I'm very much enjoying the game, even though I stand convinced we'll all die horribly. Our last session was particularly intense, and had me on the edge of my seat for most of it, except when I was slicing up Caribbean rum cake for the players. WWC is a very intriguing deviation off the well-trodden path of CoC gaming and highly enjoyable.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Phantom Leader

This is going to be a slightly more rambling post than usual, for which I won't bother apologising. I note for starters that my pictures in the recent couple of posts, while appearing initially, have now vanished. I'm trying to find out why, and if anyone can advise, I'm all ears. In the meantime, I'm exploring other options and it is possible that some battle reports which require pictures - i.e. mainly for miniatures games - will migrate over to WordPress. I'll keep you posted when this happens, as I'm prepping my games hut for some Battleground WW2.

I've been re-reading BG WW2 as it is thus far the only set of WW2 platoon level rules that I've come across that would allow an umpire to run a game as one side, with the players taking on the roles of individual squad commanders on the other. The first chapter is entirely about spotting - you have to try to spot troops before you can fire on them. Troops in hidden ambush positions will be even harder to discover. It makes interesting reading, and I may still give it a go, having already set up a German platoon (the Russians are still in the warm, but I'll be getting them out soon). I will look at creating a WordPress site to publish more pictures and commentary on this as and when I have the time.

I downloaded Phantom Leader from the iStore for use on the iPad this week. It usually retails at over £50 as a board game, and is designed to be played solo. It covers small air campaigns during the Vietnam War. At £10 on the iStore, it is a bit of a steal. I set up a small two day campaign last night, and drew a couple of missions. I sent my seasoned pilots, with two Phantoms and two F-105s on a mission against a tunnel complex in Laos that did not turn out well, as I failed to arm the jets with any rockets to suppress air defences, leaving the Vietnamese to pick two planes (call signs Irish and Boomer) out of the sky with relative ease (they did have about six emplaced AA guns, including one right on the target). One pilot was rescued (Boomer), Irish is MIA, and the third pilot too traumatised to fly the next day (pronounced unfit to fly by the base doctor - sheesh!).

Day two left me with two green Phantom pilots to throw against a bridge in North Vietnam. They managed to hit it but not destroy it and one of them was shot down by random AA on the way back to South Vietnam, and got captured. Overall, really good fun, maybe not so for the pilots however. I'm making some school boy errors, but closer reading of the rules will help rectify those. I'm going to continue to dabble with early war USAF missions in 1965/66 before I try some of the bigger, more complex raids against Hanoi and Haiphong.

The F4 Phantom - one of the work horses of the Vietnam air war.

It is good that the game has a significant level of challenge at first play. I would also note that, like Titan, Imperial or Lords of Waterdeep, the game plays fast on the iPad. I flew two Phantom Leader missions in the space of an hour, possibly less. The game would likely take much longer if you were using the cardboard version. Hence, I doubt now I would ever buy the original. This presents an interesting questions for board game designers, considering launching an app, as apps bring with them the additional benefits of an AI, faster playing time, less book keeping, and they're compact and can be played anywhere. Plus they cost less, as iPad apps seem to be coming from a lower cost base anyway.

Continuing the Vietnam theme, I also took delivery of Fire in the Lake, the fourth in the counter-insurgency series from GMT Games. This one covers the war in IndoChina; previous games looked at Colombia in the 1990s, the revolution in Cuba, and the recent war in Afghanistan. All are sadly now out of print and sell for silly money on eBay. Hence, I decided to jump on Fire before it disappears off shelves too! It looks as if the next game in the series will go back 2000 years to the Gaulish revolt against Roman rule in the 1st century BC, which marks somewhat of a departure from form. I've literally only cracked open the box for FITL, and will provide further feedback on this as soon as opportunity allows.

Finally, rounding things off, at half term I got to work on a zombie miniatures horde with a view to finally doing some zombie gaming. My daughter built an entire box of zombies from Wargames Factory, and I have to say they are a marked improvement on WF's plastic 28mm Zulus, which I'm in the process of building. These guys really look like zombies, and are easier to build than the Zulus (who come with separate spears, shields, rifles, powder horns, etc). They are very much intended for modern zombie games, not fantasy games - they would look odd in a dungeon, if you get my drift. I've supplemented them with some metal castings from West Wind's post-apocalypse range, but the Wargames Factory plastics simply look more like shambling undead, while the West Wind models are more akin to angry tramps. You have more control over the poses, and I feel my daughter has done a smashing job here. We're in the process of basing them up, and hopefully will prime them in the next couple of days.

That's it from me  - apologies for the slightly rambling style of this post. I'll be back with further news on Battleground WW2 and WordPress as and when I have it.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Rules for WW2 platoon level battles

It has been some time since I last played any WW2, which is a pity. Last time Kelvin and I tried out Point Blank by Iron Ivan Games, which is really more of an individual soldier rather than squad based game. It might work nicely for a bigger, multi-player game, where each player controlled a squad or 1-2 vehicles, but frankly I think Savage Worlds would work even better for this.

Hence, the time has come to play test some other offerings. I'm likely not going to run these as 'live' games as scheduled gaming time is limited and currently occupied by other things, of which more later. They will be more like walk throughs of the rules to try to get a feel for them and whether this is something I'd like to play more of. Followers on the blog are welcome to comment re the tactics being employed as I progress.

Firstly, a quick summary of the rules I'll be testing:

Bolt Action: These are a joint venture between Osprey Publishing and Warlord Games and seem to have become the most popular set of rules for WW2 platoon level gaming, certainly if the recent massive turn out for the BA tournament at Adepticon in the US is anything to go by. In terms of sheer popularity, this is the current market leader, and the mechanics form the basis for the upcoming Beyond the Gates of Antares science fiction variant, also from Warlord.

Chain of Command: Published by Too Fat Lardies, these have not been as widely adapted by gamers, but are raved about frequently by more traditional wargames - i.e. those who already play military themed games. I suspect that BA has poached many, many players from the Warhammer 40,000 fraternity, while CoC is catering more for those more concerned with historical tactics. I could be wrong, but am hopeful this experiment will shed more light on the matter, one way of the other.

Arc of Fire: About 15 years ago, I was researching platoon level WW2 rules, and on many of the forums that then existed, Battleground WW2 from Easy Eight Enterprises was claimed as the foremost set of miniatures rules in this category. Since then EEE has folded, and BGWW2 has gone out of print, but many commentators see Arc of Fire as the heir to BGWW2's mantle, and indeed a superior product to its ancestor.

The plan, then, is to run three WW2 games, using largely the same group of soldiers but in slightly different tactical situations. I will avoid making the game too big, or including too much hardware, but reserve the right to be a little flexible on this. The ostensible historical situation is the Soviet invasion of East Prussia in early 1945.

The table being used has been created by my kids, and represents a small German village, a little cluttered, but then plenty of terrain seems to help with WW2 games. This is very much a built up area, and if there is one thing I've learned from playing Disposable Heroes, it is that winkling troops out of buildings can be a nightmare.

Something else worth noting: this marks the debut of my first Cigar Box battle mat. I've been using either some tatty faux grass mats or a large piece of astro turf for earlier battles. This time I've gone a little bit more up market. These mats are washable, easier to store, and certainly look the business. The one I'm using for these battles is the original European rural one. I believe North Star Figures in the UK is still acting as their sales rep on this side of the pond.