13 Sep 2016

WW1 project - expanded!

Hi guys,

The WW1 really sparked my interest and now I'm neck deep in the project - and already on the edge of desperation.

The rules I'm working on are slowly taking shape and I started looking out for suitable miniatures for Austrians and Italians (I am aiming for the time around 11th Battle of Isonzo, a prelude to the more famous 12th).

Long story short, I found there aren't any. Brigade Game has Italians and Austrians for 1915, which isn't good enough. Then there are Scarab games, which have lovely characterful miniatures, but I couldn't get myself to like the style (not the quality of the sculpts, that doesn't really bother me that much).

In the end I decided I could sculpt my own. Yes, again. Yes, from the scratch. I started gathering material, being very familiar with Austrians that part was easy. Italians less so, but I slowly gathered enough information to be able to put something together.

To help me with judging scale and style, I bought some Great War Miniatures Germans. While waiting for them to arrive, I was working on one of Ebob dollies I had laying around to give me some taste of what's to come:






The first lesson I learned was premade dollies are no good. They snap and this guy has wire for the arms, for example. His legs are held together by putty alone and I am afraid to touch it by now, as it's all woobly. The other lesson was I convinced myself this is something that could yield results.

By the time my GWM packs arrive, I had a helmet 3/4 done (it is supposed to be a Berndorfer, please). This is where I quit working on him, but I will be using left over putty to slowly have him finished for that 2 minutes rush of pride when a "project" is finished.
 First thing I noticed when I got my GWM Germans was just how large they were. I hereby apologise for claiming Open Fire Cold War Germans were extraordinarily large. As it happens I just happen to have smaller miniatures in my collection!
 Having made some rough measuring, I decided they are both more or less in 1/50 scale, which makes it easier to sculpt weapons to fit. I also noted that Open Fire are far better proportioned and more naturally posed (mind there's quite some years in between the two sculpts - I am not judging, merely comparing). If you stare at them long enough (as I did!), you can see how exaggerated the position of the legs are on the GW miniatures.
Secondly, they are both something like 6 heads tall (as opposed to natural 7-8) and GWM is a lot beefier. In a way, I prefer the GWM as they are easier to paint, but I found it hard to force myself exaggerate both the details and the poses, for better or worse.

Unrelated to sculpting preparations, I was otherwise disappointed in my GWM Germans. Sculpts are lovely and I would love to have more of them, but the casting was horrendous.  Below, you can make out a large flash in the backpack-helmet-rifle triangle. That's just one of many simpler examples.

Secondly, look at the legs on this one. Firstly, notice the best putties I've seen (I told you I stared at a lot of miniatures), they are made to look as if they cover each other. Exaggerated, yes, but they look fantastic. And then notice the cut in the knee, just below yet another piece of flash. I think this could be due to fact the moulds are old and worn out. It was a bit of a joy killer, however, and they probably won't see their turn to be painted any time soon.


 Anyways, using some of the poses as an inspiration, I started twisting the wire. I consulted my charts carefully and did my best to measure them. This is the point where I learned that you can not use (3 years old) milliput, as it cracks. What helps is to mix it with some GS, making it rock solid, yet slightly flexible.

I made 6 poses out of wire, 3 of them looking something like these:


Now, full disclosure, this is the point where I died a bit inside, feeling I'll never make it. The wires just didn't seem right, something was off and I couldn't figure out what would it be. I am fully aware I need to practice, but looking at that wires made it seem as a bridge too far.

Anyway, I pushed on and started bulking out the legs. It is amazing how much better I felt after I've put some muscle on the wire and just as fast as I'd give up, I was full of optimism again.



Having three done, I decided I would only work on 3 at a time at most, anything else is already a burden. And even here one tends to be left out in favour of other two.

For only a short try, I started working from bottom up. Not using corks that would give me a solid base, I found shoes very hard to do and rather  moved on to puttees. The idea is to work from puttees up and if that doesn't quite work, to bulk out the tights first and then work down with a good support.

I started working out how to make puttees. I can not imagine the greenstuff being rolled around a leg as a real puttee, and I generally came up with two ideas. On the photos below, leftmost example is the first one. I simply wrapped the GS around and indicated puttee with a knife.

 It doesn't follow any patterns, but the notches are subtle enough to give what I believe to be a good impression (it honestly looks better in person).  It is hard to get a knife all around to dent it, but it looks great from a bit further away.
 Other examples were done by twisting a thread around the leg, which both gives a clear indication of a puttee being rolled up, and also looks somehow wrong.
 I am thinking what I should do is use GS-milliput mix for a harder putty, so that threat can't cut too far inside and then figure a way for a slightly more consistent rolls. As you can see on the rightmost example, I left far too much space in between the turns, making it awful. Harder putty could also simply be sanded where it would bulge.

While I try to do something every day, I found myself very busy elsewhere just in the time I started working on these! Keeping it fun, I do try to do little at once to make sure I don't start hating them. I plan on working on these 3 up to a certain level and treat them as a practice, hoping the next 3 might fare a bit better. And then 3 after them should hopefully be reasonable and if all is right, I might be satisfied with the 3 after those. Or that's the plan at least.

As usual, thanks for looking, any comments or ideas would be most welcomed!

Mathyoo

4 Sep 2016

WW1 Skirmish rules: Playtest 4

Hi guys,

Long overdue I finally played another test game. I am getting progressively lazy so I decided to limit myself to a 2x3 board once again. The size suffices for my current needs, but I imagine game being played on a larger board, so there are more venues of approach, which makes moving more than just means to get closer to the enemy and it saves games from being a one trick pony frontal assaults.

I am aware it's a bit pointless to talk about the rules you haven't seen yet, but I would wish to have them finished-not-polished before I show them, because things literally change from day to day even now.

The biggest change from earlier games is that I've dropped the concealment + cover modifiers. It was a hard choice, because I really liked the variation it produced, but the added complexity made it all a bit too awkward.
Now,  shooting unit's ability to shoot never changes, which is justified by the logic that unit's expertise limits the model's chance to hit an intended target area as it is. Obstructions in LOS due to terrain are also ignored, as this leads to nothing but arguing in the game. Or at least that is my experience - true LOS sounds great until one argues he can see your standing miniature through a crack in the wall, but you can't see his crawling one.

To avoid that, what matters is where the target unit is at the time of being shot at, which then improves or worsens the targeted model's saving roll. Every model has a generic saving roll, so there's always a chance for a lucky escape. Additionally, some weapons can lower that save or ignore it all together. It's all a bit abstract, but it helps with high rate of fire and survivability of small units. Well, or doesn't as there's so many more hits now.

To test the new mechanics, I played a quick game where two rifle units and a HMG are defending against the attacker with 2 bomber units, supported by LMG (to test new weapons), supported by a reserve of 2 rifle units.

THE GAME

I used my modern Slovenes and cold war Germans to act as proxies. I have to admit I am really happy to be using them, albeit as proxies.

 Defender's rifle units were positioned right next to the wire, with a HMG some distance behind.
Attackers were simply left off board, this seems to work just fine so far.

One thing I keep pondering about is how machine guns would fire down the flank of the line, so they should not really be in a game like this, but an off-board machine gun rule of some sort would have to be implemented. When a HMG would be on board for the defenders, it should ideally be positioned for flanking fire somewhere off table, and thus have little effect on the game played.
For now, I've accepted that shouldn't be forced, game is just a game after all and I for one always liked my machine gun models. 

With a gradual introduction of means to deal with machine guns, including (off table?) infantry guns, I suspect players would be more eager to try and conceal machine guns behind some kind of terrain.
Massive 'points difference' in the two armies - can the defence hold?

I am no fan of markers, but as I'm playing alone and considering the rules and what not at the same time, I am finding them very useful to remind me what I was doing. This is even more important because this drawn board gets quite confusing at time.

Just for the sake of my own consistency, here are the beads I used:

Yellow indicates modifier to save due to action or terrain (1-3)
Orange indicates unit activated already (or failed to do so).
Blue indicates 'On guard' status.
Red indicates suppressed units.
Green indicates penalty to saving roll due to terrain


TURN 1

Bombers (paras) activate and rush down the deep sap towards the defenders.
Bombers (West Germans) activate and run into the nearest shell hole. As they are both armed with pistols there's not much else they can do.

[at this point I realised I saved the new version of the rules as the old ones and I've printed the old ones, confident that I'm printing the new ones!]

LMG team rushed to a disused listening post and set up their weapon.

With attackers all activating, it was defenders' time to try. HMG fails outright, going "on guard".
Defender's rifles at the mid promptly bombed attackers in a shell hole! This was a no-nonsense affair, attackers losing two of their numbers!

Defender's last unit fired their rifles at the same bombers and managed to kill another one. That's quite a bummer and bombers (West Germans) were down to 1 man just like that.
Sole survivor on the mid left side of the wire.

TURN 2

Turn 2 sees the attackers win the initiative and the now single survivor bomber activates, filled with thirst for revenge.

THE 'problem': As it has dawned to me in the next second, trying to activate him first was a horrible idea, as he was slightly outside the bombing range. If he would try to move closer, the HMG on guard would rip him apart. Not wishing to sacrifice him for nothing, I rather had him hunker down and hope he survives until there's a better chance to react.  That, I feel, is a good example of where "skills" would come in play with the game.

He 'takes cover', enjoying a luxurious save of  2+.

To prepare the field for the advance, I tried to activate LGM team, which, true to Murhpy's laws, failed to do so and went on guard. [Talking about skills before, that's a good example of one die roll ruining all your plans. ]

There is a war to be won, however, and bombers (paras) move on into a firing trench, offering them solid protection. I don't even follow my own rules, so I was ready to cast the MG ROF die before I noticed there's a defender's unit obstructing the fire of the machine gun! Yay! (Or nay, I am unbiased!)

Having all 4 members of the team in range of grenades, bombers (paras) unleash a hail of bombs down the defenders on the middle. They scored 5 hits that had to be distributed among 3 of the 4 defenders and as luck would have it, only one would be removed from play!
There was enough of bang in these grenades to have defender's nerves waver, failing the motivation roll and becoming suppressed. If only I had a unit that could assault them now!

The defender's other rifles now activated, firing at bombers (paras), hitting twice but without any visible effect.

Defender's HMG failed to activate agian and remained on guard.

Situation after turn 2.
TURN 3

Skipping my own rules, I noticed I should roll for attacker's reserves on previous turn already! Any way, one unit of riflemen did appear and can help press the attack.

Defenders won the initiative and rifle unit on the mid failed to activate and decided to go 'on guard'.

THE PROBLEM: I am still deciding whether I should  let on guard units react to movement and fire; movement only; movement and assaults. I am currently favouring the idea that one can't react with fire to fire, but only movement. I might let them fire on the assault actions with pistols only, as riflement, for example, would brace for the bayonet charge. I will let them react to movement  this time, but not firing.

Learning from my mistakes earlier, LMG team activates first this time with an intention to prepare the grounds for infantry assault.

The way MGs work now, they build up their ROF based on how many crew members the unit has. But these being weapons of suppression, they can force a suppression test based on ROF alone, and not on hits as other weapons do. In general, 2 men serving HMG and 3 men serving LMG are enough  to force a suppression test by ROF alone.

As troops aren't fit for assault across barbed wire, LMG fired at defender's HMG in an attempt to suppress it. It scored massive 4 hits (4 sixes!) out of 6, but it can only hit the gunner himself, the rest of the defender's crew being safely out of LOS! Gunner was thus forced to save 4 hits and did so for all but one. As another man simply takes his place, a spare crew man was removed from play.
The defenders failed their motivation and weapon became suppressed - this means it won't have a chance to activate (or react) this turn, so it's a job well done!

HMG team ducks, 3 yellow beads indicating they now save on 2+.
Bombers (para) activated next. They've spent their bombing volley now, but one of them can still lob grenades. The rest fired their pistols like some kind of cowboys.
Combined, they scored 4 hits (plus additional 2 as bomb's hits count for 2 in regard to suppression), triggering a suppression test.

Attacker's LMG team didn't have a desired impact on the game.
THE PROBLEMS: Rifle, being the basic weapon all other weapons are tailored to, has 1 die ROF. Pistol has 2 (as they are faster to fire etc), but I'm starting to believe that's already too many. Three men armed with pistols fired 6 shots combined. But on the other hand, when in trenches at least the lead man can have 2 shots instead of one. That will need some further consideration, with SMGs being additionally annoying to resolve.

A more pressing matter, 3 men unit now  faces 4 hits of 2 kinds. Bomb hits lower their saving throw and pistols do not. So one could put 2 bomb hits on a single man, the other 2 having better chances. Instead, I will play it that hits granting the lowest save are distributed first. So two guys get 1 bomb hit each, one gets a pistol hit and third is allocated to whomever.

In the end, both bomb saves were saved and guy with 2 pistol saves failed one of them. Furthermore, unit passed their motivation and was not suppressed, which is really annoying, as this means that bombers (West germans) unit's sole survivor can only go to ground again, lest it gets shot to pieces by defender's reaction fire.

The other defender's rifle unit failed its activation as well and it too, went on guard.

With all units activating, failing to activate or being suppressed, reserves finally move on board and run straight into the shell hole where bombers (West Germans) were. As rifle units only get to throw grenades one per game, they are reasonably safe in there, but they do receive reaction fire from the defenders.

THE PROBLEM: 2 units are on guard, so the question is, can they both react to single movement action? So far, I've been thinking it should be allowed. If they all react to one action, they simply won't be able to react to another one. But now that I'm actually playing I am not too sure and I think it should be limited to one unit (justified by time frame of reaction, each unit covering one sector or simply game playability). I will play it with a limit for now and see how it works out.

The defenders thus decided to react with the larger of the 2 units. They scored 2 hits, killing one man.

Situation at the end of Turn 3. Can the attackers push through?
TURN 4

No reserves for the attackers this time, and the defenders won the initiative again.

Defenders' HMG tried and failed activating yet again, which is slowly becoming rather annoying.

Attackers' LMG fared no better this time.

Nor did defender's larger infantry unit...

Bombers (paras) activated just barely and I started considering what to do with them. They would not be able to move too much as everyone is on guard on the other side of the barbed wire, so they kept bombing the defenders in the middle.

They were far less effective this time, scoring no hits with a bomb and 3 hits with pistols (all were saved). That was, luckily, enough to force a motivation test for suppression  - which defenders passed.

Attackers' reserve unit now activated and faced the problem the bombers faced before. If they move forward they will be shot at by the machine gun. I have no rules for smoke yet, which is rather limiting. Having one man in the grenade range (if the board was 4 feet long I could have put barbed wire outside grenading range - hows that for a trick, eh?), they threw that and would fire rifles if they weren't so foolishly placed. They scored 3 hits with grenades, killing both of the remaining defenders.

Bomber (West German) activated yet again, and went to ground. The thing is, should he fail his activation, he would start running away, so now at least I have him there in hopes of him being useful in this game.

TURN 5

Last of the attacker's reserves arrived on the battlefield.

Defenders won the initiative and their HMG failed the activation, as usual. I could swear this pattern repeats itself in every single game.

Attacker's LMG activated this time and fired at the HMG with an intention to suppress it. Scoring 2 hits, it failed to produce any casualties, but it did suppress the HMG crew due to weight of fire (as noted earlier).

Now is the time for the attackers to push - or is it? As expected, attackers' bombers (paras) failed to activate, wasting their chance.

Defender's rifles were a tad more lucky and activated, opening fire on attackers' reserves, killing one.

Reserve unit then activated and pushed forward, attempting to cross the wire by jumping over it. Being no athletes, both failed miserably and became entangled.

Uh-oh.
THE PROBLEM: The option to jump across wire was suggested by Joe and I have to admit I couldn't wait to try it out. Leaving history aside, I find it very amusing. Now the lads are entangled, so the question is, how easy they are to hit? A default save is 5+ and being hung on a wire like that, they can't be as nimble as an ordinary man on the battlefield. I think  removing the save all together is a bit harsh, given how easy it is to hit, but they should suffer a -1 modifier.
Further more, entangled models should count as being suppressed for melee (meaning they can surrender before the fight), given how they can't really do much. Perhaps they should automatically surrender to units within a certain distance, but hat would be another deviation from standard procedures.

Bomber (West German) activated (this guy really showed some motivation in this game) and attempted to cross the wire by jumping as well - surely a trained assault trooper would fare better? Not really, and now there's 3 scare crows in the middle of the board.

With all units activated this turn, reserves moved on board taking the usual way towards middle shell hole.

The attack is crumbling!

TURN 6

Defenders won the initiative yet again and, you guessed it, HMG failed its activation roll once more.

Attackers' LMG failed to activate.

Defenders' rifle unit failed as well and defenders would have to count on reaction fire to keep the attackers at bay.

To conserve larger units, I decided to start by try to activate two of the units in the wire. Reserve didn't activate and remained stranded, and bomber (West German) both activated and wiggled himself free, eager to push on.

Moving into grenade range of defender's rifles, I had to decide what to do about him. I didn't wish to waste HMG's reaction on a single man, and defender's rifles could only have one man fire his bolt action, with a bad chance of scoring a hit. So, being true to reality, defenders threw a bomb. They scored one hit which wasn't saved and the bombers unit was now finally completely wiped out.

No other unit activated, so  bombers (paras) couldn't benefit from the spent reaction of the defenders.

Situation at the end of turn 6. The sole attacker that has pushed across has already been removed from play.
TURN 7

This turn saw defenders win initiative again, but this time HMG activated, meaning things are about to get ugly.
Recognising bombers (paras) as more dangerous than the LMG, he sprayed them. Scoring 6 hits it failed to remove any miniatures from play (whaaaat?) and failed to suppress the bombers. Awful.

Defender's rifles failed to activate and went on guard.

Attackers LMG failed to activate and as reactions can only be made to enemy movement, can't do much as the defender has no reason to move around, being safely positioned behind the wire.

The rest of the attacker's units all failed to activate.

TURN 8

Attackers won the initiative for a change this time, but as LMG failed to activate that helped them little.

Defender's HMG failed to activate as well, reassured that it can always react to the enemies that will have to move sooner or later.

Attackers earlier reserves unit, now free of the wire, rushed towards the machine gun, threatening with the assault. The machine gun crew had to react with fire to them, lest they get assaulted with bayonets.
Scoring 6 hits, they erased the riflemen without much hassle.
Foolish attempt to dislodge the MG crew failed miserably.

Losing half of it's maneuver units and barely breaking across the wire to say hello, attackers need to make their best to end this in their favour.

I had reserves moving first, attempting to force cross the wire (that should've been cut by now!)
Only one of 4 men made it through and two of the Defenders rifle unit could take reaction shots  [at this point I also remembered reaction activates units, to avoid abuse!] and scored that one kill.

Attacker's bombers (paras) failed to activate and the turn ended.

TURN 9

The defenders won the initiative, but HMG failed to activate.

Attackers reserve unit, stranded on the wire lucked out and activated, both entangled men wiggling themselves free of the wire. They pushed on towards the defender's rifles, as attacking HMG on guard wouldn't end too well for them. They threw their grenades and scored one kill.

Attacker's LMG failed to activate and could not attempt to suppress the defender's MG.

Defender's rifles activated and to give me at least a taste of close combat, assaulted Attacker's reserves.

In contrast to earlier test games, this was the only melee fought in this game.
If assault actions could trigger reaction fire, attacker's LMG would stop this assault dead in its tracks. While I like that the battlefield is a dangerous place to be, losing units cheaply would ruin the game as everyone would just sit in their shell hole without any incentive to move.

As the defenders assaulted the attackers in deep trench, the latter never saw it coming and fought with a slight handicap. The melee round ended with 2 of the attackers and 1 of the defenders lost.

Bombers (paras) failed to activate again, which is slowly becoming very painful. I have little idea how to fix that, as they activate on a roll of 3+ as it is!

End of turn 9 leaves defender's with only a HMG and half a rifle unit alive.
TURN 10

Turn started with resolution of the melee that has been started last turn. In 1 vs 2 fight, everyone scored a hit, leaving one defender alive and victorious.

Attackers then won the initiative and LMG failed to activate, followed by defender's HMG failing to activate.

Attacker's bombers (paras) finally activated and set out to end this charade.

The rest of the turn was pretty uneventful as very little started to happen.

After in turn 11 three of four units failed their activation tests, I decided to call it a day, as the game became boring. The attackers had 8 men versus defenders' 4, but unless HMG would be kept suppressed, the game would probably eventually come down to HMG and LMG spraying each other.

POST GAME THOUGHTS:

Well, this game was different that those before in so many respects. Barbed wire completely shut down the attack. As opposed to last game I played, the attack was now limited to a frontal affair, had the attackers have some bombers working their way from the flank, this game would have played a whole lot differently.

In general, I think the simplified shooting rules are a step in the right direction. Saving rolls keep both players busy and the lack of penalties for shooting, while at first glance counter intuitive, helped speed things up quite some.

I am not too convinced by the reaction fire and on guard status. Failing the activation limits your choice of action (hide or scan the horizon basically), but I feel weapons like MGs are just too powerful, which could lead to abuse. I think best option is to force a re roll to hits for reaction fire (ie its snap shooting). Another options are halving the ROF and having a yet-another test to see if a unit can react. Former is doable, but re rolling of hits is a much more elegant solution I think.

In other news, I've gotten really deep into this whole WW1 project and I have grand plans for it. More about that at a later date, but let me say it will hopefully keep me occupied for another year or two.

Thanks for reading (or at least looking at the photos!),
Mathyoo

23 Aug 2016

Underfire miniatures: 28mm West Germans


Hi guys,

while it might look different from my posting time frame, the hobby mojo is really high lately.

I've managed to paint  another of Underfire's pack, this time West Germans for the change.

There are 4 riflemen in a pack, armed with G3 rifles. Equipment wise, they are almost identical to the East Germans, but not that this came as a surprise.




As with the first East German pack that I painted, it took me quite some time to figure out the paints I want. Consulting photos (there aren't all that many, honestly), I figured it should all be done in a very pale green grey. EVERYTHING. So to gain some contrast, I cheated a bit and painted the equipment slightly khaki.

Other than that they are rather simple to paint and to save me further trouble, this is what I came up with. Mind, some steps could be avoided.

1. Uniform was base coated with Feldgrau, followed by Green grey highlights. This was too striking, so I washed it in Feldgrau and for a moment felt impressed with my painting skill.
Note, this step is way unnecessary and a straight go for Green Grey would probably suffice. I found it advised to mix Feldgrau and Green grey in 60/40 mix, but I think that'd still be too dark.

2.  Helmets, plastic rifle parts (stock and grip), gas mask bag and canteen were all painted violet brown. Mind, gas mask could be of another colour, I just could not find any reference.

3. Pouches, webbing and any other bag were painted in Green Grey mixed with Khaki. Finding what I wanted here was a nightmare as anything that felt right simply became too similar to the uniform.

4. I washed it all with black, I ALWAYS try something  different (see point 1) and I always settle for base coat - black wash - highlights. I find that sufficient for my painting skills (and indeed expectations) and the wash really helps bringing tiny details out.
This sculptor has a very subtle (= realistic) style and a lot of details simply disappear with a bad paint job.

5. Pretty regular highlighting, so now that I think of it I could simply tell you I used Green grey and shorten this "tutorial" for quite a few lines.

Lastly, a few comparison photos. The miniatures in this range are rather tall, I am not sure if that's the latest trends or intentional, but I suppose that makes them a better fit for 1/48 kits.

East German - West German - Empress "Slovene". Technically, they are all around the same height to the eye, with the Germans being bulkier - but not at all grotesque in proportions. This really seems to be a new standard for the miniatures.

East German - Hasslefree Ken (I think?) - West German.


Other than that, the WW1 project is in full swing. The rules are giving me a bit of a headache. I am very satisfied with them, but now I am having trouble cleaning them up. Evidently I can't say things on the short way!

I've also tried myself at modelling a mountain gun (felt in despair at the wheels stage and yes, I started with the wheels); I'm drawing up a plan for sculpting a whole range - didn't have plans like that since the modern Slovenes project; I'm preparing a campaign for the rules that haven't even been written yet; I am thinking about tackling a WW1 battlefield board AND I am finishing some sculpting projects I started the magical 2 years ago when things were moving with speed.

After almost a year of a lack of enthusiasm, it's really astonishing what a fresh project can do for the motivation!

Thanks for looking,
Mathyoo

5 Aug 2016

WW1 Skirmish Rules: playtest 3

Hi guys,

I have to thank everyone for every little bit of input on the rules. After giving it quite a lot of thought and debating them over with Zabadak, I gave them another try now.

I am now at a stage where I am afraid I am overthinking the rules and I am holding myself way back to try and find the optimal stance between too complicated and too simple. As this is a rather new experience for me (and a quite entertaining one), I searched for any tips and tricks and I found all sorts of "what makes a successful game" kind of "suggestions" that I found absurd to be frank. It is a lot like searching for medical advice online and it's horrible. From several blog posts and pages that took game design as a serious business (offences punished by severe talk down), the  only reliable advice I came upon was that game has to be playtested a lot.

Should you wonder, I do get overwhelmed by all the things I have to do, mostly because there's a huge gap to be bridge between "keep it simple" and "making it realistic". The easiest solution to that, and something I should probably use in everyday life more often is to break the load in smaller pieces. So instead of doing everything at once, I just have to fix the movement, fix the shooting, fix the melee and add stuff that looks cool.

UNIT SIZE
Units have to roll for activation and can be useless given bad rolls. To fix that, I considered breaking squads in halves. In previous games I had up to 10 miniatures per unit, portraying squads, because 'reasons'. Now I broke them in half-squad sizes, so there would be 2-4 (1+D3) miniatures per unit. Most squads were 8 men strong by mid war, so with the added simulation of bombardment effect, half would be anywhere from 2 (barely playable) to 4 (full half-squad).
There was an instant fear present, that this might be too small, but as you will see I think it worked just fine.

Having smaller elements means in a game with 20 miniatures per side, you can have 4 and more units, while before you could only have 2-3. More units means more flexibility and a failed activation roll doesn't render 1/3 of your army useless. An unfortunate roll for morale making whole unit surrender doesn't affect you as much, if that's 1 in 6 units. The surrender rules I think are very elegant and I feel they are a nice addition and I would like the players to try and force as many 'surrender' checks as possible on  the enemy, which can only be done by suppressing them and assaulting them, so by combining the units with some thought behind it, rather than simply throw some dice hoping to hit something.

The problem here comes with the support weapons. I love the idea of large HMG teams, where spare men take over the casualties positions. In one of the period manuals, Vickers HMG was described as being "invincible", because only 2 man were needed to man it, and even 1 could do in desperate times. So by cutting teams to 2-4, that lowers their survivablity a lot, but also displays the danger of having a machine gun this close to front line.

Likewise, this would mean each unit would have 1 bomber (the rest being carriers, spare men), so grenades would not fly all over the place anymore.
Rifle grenades are a bit more problematic as surely they would be firing as batteries, all together. So a mechanism to allow two teams of same type (ie a full squad) in a certain distance of one another was devised. This, I figured later, could also be used to have a separate infantry unit serve to help crew a machine gun whose unit was depleted. This is another thing I found very great (at least on paper), as obviously anything that would keep the machine gun going was a good plan.

Should a player wish to keep the spirit of the squads, teams made into a single squad could be forced to stay within a distance to one another - but why restrict it? Everything happens in the chaos of battle, so the more flexibility the better. It is not as if a 3-4 feet wide board represents any large area.

Not to make this post text only, I decided to give small units a try in a game of trench fighting, to see how Actions work. If you remember me being bothered by weapons in last game - I decided I will rework them completely. Instead of making stuff up, I will find a weapon (ie a Rifle) and then build others around it (more or less bullets fired; more or less mobile; more or less accurate; more or less destructive). I plan on making all sorts of weapons profiles,  as nothing I hate more than buying and painting a fantastic artillery piece and not being able to use it, because "it would be far away". I've read several memoirs where guns were very close, for better or worse, and even an instance where on the Balkans front, late in 1918 civilians would fire grape shots at Austrians soldiers from Austrian guns during the latter's retreat. So, while manuals are great, anything can happen in the war and should player wish to have a force made of nothing but machine-guns, why not - as long as weapons are balanced there should be a counter to every thing but a diverse fighting force.

To cut the already long intro a bit shorter - the game:

The attack is well under way and the attackers are advancing both from the front and the flank.

Bombers Unit - 2 men - activation 3+; 4+ expertise
Bombers Unit - 4 men

Riflemen -  4 men - activation and expertise 4+
Riflemen - 3 men
Riflemen - 3 men

This equals to 16 miniatures, which should be enough as I am playing on 2x3 this time.

I gave defenders exactly the same number of units:

Bombers - 4 - same as attackers.
Bombers - 2

Riflemen - 4 - same as attackers.
Riflemen - 4
Riflemen - 3

Rolls were slightly better for them, so they have 1 man extra.

Weapons note: Bombers are equipped with pistols, close combat weapons (daggers, clubs etc) and grenades, where a dedicated thrower (1 miniature per unit) can throw grenades all the time. Once per game, a whole unit can throw a salvo.

Riflemen are armed with rifles, bayonets and grenades, where grenades can only be thrown once per game. For now, this means once per game, one miniature can throw a grenade once. This sounds a little, but it saves us from book keeping and it keeps grenade salvo unique to bombers.

Set up:

Ouch! The small table really shows. For defenders, I've put two riflemen units (3 and 4.1) in front trenches. Behind them in a purpose built bomber's pit (I know!) are 2 bombers. In trenches, desperately trying to delay the flanking bombers are riflemen 4 at the end of parallel communication trench and bombers 4 in a reserve trench. First thing I noticed was my parallel trench is WAY too straight and bombers advancing down that trench would need a lot of luck. It's more of a not for future, but when designing terrain it shouldn't be straight in any direction for too long.

Attackers were positioned off the table (because I decided to use half size table), 4 bombers rushing in from flank down the aforementioned comm trench, 2 bombers will roll up the fire trench from shell holes and 3 riflemen units will push from the front.

Attackers have first turn, because there's nothing useful defenders can do with no enemies on board.
I am trying to avoid counters, but lest I forget who tried activating, green beads represent units that can still be activated.


Turn 1:

Attackers bombers 2 activate and move in a shell hole towards defenders in firing trench.

[THE PROBLEM: Yup, right at start. Can they assault the defenders right away? I think they could - why wouldn't they? Game started in middle of the battle, so there's no reason to delay. Enemy is within 8" of the table edge. To compromise this, I decided the bombers can't throw grenades before the assault as they were not on board at the point prior to move.

The defenders do not get reactive fire on the assault move (I justify this by defenders bracing to meet the melee. Option here would be to decide if defenders fire as a reaction (if they were 'On Guard'), but then hit second (after attacker's hits are resolved) or meet the attack and fight as per melee rules. The problem is, assault troops armed with pistols pretty much always hit first anyway. I will look into it, but at this moment, I would prefer it not being an option as whole game portrays one large assault.]

The bombers rushed into the defenders, who were then repositioned to fight (get as many as possible in base-to-base contact).

[THE PROBLEM: I decided only miniatures in btb contact can fight - trenches are narrow, so this means a unit with more troops would still only be able to use only a few. As defenders left enough space in between them, I've put bombers in those spaces, to make a sandwich: bomber-defender-bomber-defender-defender. Last defender can not hit anyone. I am not sure about moving pass miniatures, but it makes sense that an engaged miniature can be moved forward to engage with someone unengaged.]

Bombers have an option of using pistols (no bonus to hit, but resolved before the rest), to try and avoid being hit by defenders. Their other option are daggers, giving them +1 to hit, but would be thrown simultaneously with the enemy. Pistols can only be used for the first round of combat.
Defender's only option is bayonet, giving no bonuses, but having no drawbacks either.

Bombers missed both their hits, while defenders got a hit. Melee will continue next turn.

Larger attacking bomber unit activated next. Risking enfilade fire from defenders down the trench, they rushed towards defending bombers and assaulted. Again, no pre-assault grenading was allowed to make up for the instant rush. Again, because they're fighting in trenches, a melee of two units came down to being a duel where both sides suffered a casualty!
[Both have an option of pistols and clubs, which is something I can not playtest myself. As long as both use pistols or both use daggers and clubs - there is no difference. They both either hit on +3 or +4. The problem is, one of the sides can opt to use clubs (easier hitting), but has to hope the side using pistols does not score a hit.
Ie. If attackers fire with pistols and hit the only defender in contact, he won't get to hit. This is a great chance for players to decide, but I will simply use pistols as solo gaming can not solve this.]

One of the attacking units didn't activate, so initiative passed to defender.

I was not sure whom to try and activate here, rifles far back could try to rush in melee against larger attacking bombers, but that can also wait. So I decided to try and activate rifles in the fire trench.
They passed and went 'On guard' - orange bead.

Defender's 2 bombers did the same, while larger unit in the supervision trench ran towards attackers engaged in a melee against defender's bombers.

Only troops left to activate were two of the attacker's rifles. 4 man unit activated and moved towards the barbed wire.

[THE PROBLEM: The wire being really close, the attackers could choose among these actons:
- Walk (and fire or throw grenades)
- Run (harder to hit, no other bonus)
-Take Cover (3" move for extra concealment and cover). In this instance this move represent rolling in/out of a trench hole and so it has to be renamed (Joe's idea and I love it). "Take Cover" indicated miniature could not advance).

If they'd 'Walk', they would suffer reaction fire by two defending units and whoever survives would be able to toss a grenade or fire against well entrenched enemies. Run is pointless  and 'Take cover' would mean they up their survivability chances quite some.]

I decided to have them 'Take cover' (I've renamed the action to "crawl" after the game) towards the wire. This means they enjoy +1 concealment and 6+ cover. On top of that, they get another +1 concealment and cover from wire. Concealment is always cumulative and cover only adds up because they try really hard not to get hit with this kind of move.

[THE PROBLEM: This looks like an action that could be abused, moving 3" infront of enemy for an abundance of cover. After the game, I made a "Take Cover" action with 0" move, extra concealment and cumulative cover (as it is now). And another action (currently named "crawl") that would enable a 3" move, have extra concealment and cover, but where cover would not add up (so a player would choose this 6+ or whatever terrain would grant him if it's better)]

Defending rifles in a fire trench ahead can now react to this crawl move with one of these:
Fire 4D6 of rifles at basic 4+, and additional +1 for wire and +1 for crawling, so a roll of 6 would hit. Or they can throw one grenade (3D6) which ignores concealment (as blast radius negates the need for a really careful aim).

[THE PROBLEM: Grenades will be played as they are written atm, but I have to consider if they would not only negate some part of concealment (-1 or -2 as opposed to all of it) and if they would negate any cover (my guess is no, so larger calibers, like trench guns can be useful). Also, I need to consider if grenades would give extra "hits" towards suppression (1 grenade hit could count for 2 hits suppression wise, so hitting with all 3 grenades would suppress an enemy). Grenading will demand a game of its own for testing.]

Riflemen's grenade did absolutely nothing, because dice rolled were 1, 1, 2. So much for the overpowered grenades!
Defender's bombers in a bomber pit are too far to react to this group, but will react to middle group, if it activates.

Same story here, attackers crawled to the wire and bombers throw their grenades, hitting twice (4,4,1). The wire and crawling grants attackers a 5+ save (none basic -> 6+ crawl -> 5+ wire, so cumulative covers seem to be okay. They failed both. [Mind, this would now be changed, so there would only be a 6+ save from either crawling or the wire].

Everyone had their chance at activating and everyone but one attacking rifles did so. First turn left 4 attackers and one defender dead. Not the best of the starts for the attacker!

TURN 2:

At start of turn 2, there were 2 unresolved melees to fight.

I first resolved melee in fire trench. There, both sides activated. Gap, opened by a dead attacker was closed (2" move for miniatures not in btb). As pistols can only be used in first turn of combat, bomber enjoys +1 to hit on his truncheon (hitting +3), while defender needs a roll of 4+. Both are thrown simultaneously and bomber scored a hit.

The melee is not over, but there's a large gap between the fighting sides, so I think gaps should be closed at end of previous turn instead of at start of this one. If this is not done and another unit jumps in that gap, unit that was in fight all of the sudden loses contact. (After the game, I decided gaps should be close right after the casualties are removed, so the units keep contact).

[THE PROBLEM: Resolving melee does not count as activation, so if it would have been concluded, surviving unit could give activation a try. As it was not resolved, I suppose this means they both activated now, as they are still brawling.]

In the other unresolved melee, both teams activated as well, gaps were closed and each team rolled a single die, looking for a +3, owed to their daggers. In this case, the defender was the only one that hit and now both units are activated.

The initiative was rolled to see how the rest of the turn would play out and attackers have won it.

I tried to activate sole survivor of middle rifles unit, so he could at least throw grenades before he dies. He activated, scored one hit, but failed to kill any of the defenders, well protected by their trenches.

The other attacker's rifle team, standing by the wire failed to activate and was put on guard.

[THE PROBLEM: The problem here is, what happens with extra cover, the unit did not move, but I want to keep away from book keeping, so now only the terrain will count. It also opens another option: Should a unit that fails activation be given a choice to be on guard (scan the horizon to fire at enemy) or take cover (gain extra concealment and cover). Units caught inactivated in the open would surely prefer extra cover than a lousy try at hitting well entrenched enemy.
After the game I introduced a "take cover" action as discussed above, while "crawl" action is the same, but has 3" movement and non-cumulative cover.]

Defender's rifles in fire trench were put on Guard as they failed their activation.

Attacker's unit that still didnt move on the board activated. I was not sure what to do with them. There's an opening, so I wanted to assault and had to consider how to tackle difficult terrain. I decided it would take 1" of movement every time they crossed a difficult terrain. As they start in a shell hole, that is -1" for climbing out of it. Possibly -1 for jumping in trench, but I think not - climbing OUT is the problem, not jumping in. So, as they were 7" from the enemy, they could assault.
One made it in trench, 2 are on the lip. Given these are miniatures on bases, I think its fair that those on the edge of trench count as in b-t-b for purpose of melee.

This means that attackers get 3 dice and defenders only one. If attackers would attack head on (assuming there was no wire), each side would get at least 3 dice (both units would be parallel). To simplify, the melee counts as being fought in the trench, so there is no pros or cons for any of the sides in this regard.

They both use bayonets, attackers scoring 2 hits and defenders none. As defenders now engaged in melee, they are not considered to be on guard anymore.

Defender's 2 bombers fail to activate and are put on guard. Defenders rifles in supervision trench activate and assault into melee between two bombers units.

[THE PROBLEM: Defender's rifles just assaulted across 2 corners, as did bombers before. This sounds pretty bad, as assault move is long and table is quickly covered.
It would be worth wondering why isn't assault same as running action (6"), justified that second part of action is done by fighting (and in walk action, by firing). This is another of Joe's suggestions that I might quite like and I changed it after this game.
Another thing that I did was introduce a LOS as a necessity to the assault. This means attacker's can't just run around trenches, but have to move carefully around the corners, which slows game on small tables down a bit, making it more playable. This opens another set of problems, like assaulting into deep trenches from above ground (which is bad for those in trenches), but that can be fixed by proper wording.]

Anyway, I decided to let them assault into an engaged melee, which is something I have not yet tackled. I have not prepared anything for this instances, so this is what I did:

As assaulted unit is already fighting, it does not expect to be hit by another unit, so it counts as "suppressed" - it has to throw an activation (=morale) die right away to see if overwhelming melee forces them to surrender.
The assaulted bombers passed, so another round of melee is fought. Bombers can't use pistols, but they have +1 to hit on their close combat weapons, which isn't enough and defenders rifles score the only hit.
[After the game, the rules were written a lot like played in this game, as it seems to be quite logical]

All units have now activated and the turn ended.

TURN 3:

Again, the melees were resolved before the turn started.

I went through multiple unit combat first, as it was the most complicated.

[THE PROBLEM:
This is what usually happens:
Units throw for morale, if both activate they fight; if none does, you reroll until one does. The one that fails to activate surrenders.

But now I have one unit fighting two (not to mention the one unit only has one survivor left!). The attacker has 1 unit that activates on 3+, the defender has two, activating on 3+ and 4+. I was thinking about having the defender roll 1 die for both of his units (but which one then, and why so?) and add +1 to the roll for any unit he has more than the attacking player.
Second option, each unit rolls its own (3 for bombers, 4 for rifles) but unless both fail, they do not surrender. This sounds good and viable and I've put it in the rules.
The problem is now, the one that fails - does it still fight (even if it failed) or it simply stands there, but it does not surrender, because friendly unit continues the fight.
At the moment, I believe it can not just stand there watching, so as long as one passes, both fight. While this is an 'Activation' role, it's actually a role for morale.]

So, I rolled for activation and defenders both passed, while attacker didn't and thus surrendered. I really need to sit down through this however, but I think the general idea is good, as to avoid any unnecessary complication.

As melee was not fought, both defender's unit can give it a try at activation this turn.

Second melee I resolved was between attacker's bombers (started as 2 man) and defending rifles. Both units activated and only the bomber scored the hit.

Lastly, the fight between two rifle units ended with a casualty on each side.

The initiative was then rolled for and attackers won.

[THE PROBLEM: Similar to an earlier case - does being "On Guard" move to the next turn? That is worth thinking about, it and "take cover" actions (that can also be a result of failed activation) should persist until next try at activation - or until 'on guard' is activated by reacting fire. This sounds viable, so a unit that failed to activate on turn 1 can enjoy the bonus defence from 'take cover' until it tries to activate on turn 2 and can be tactically left to be activated last.]

Larger attacker's rifles unit cut some passages in the wire, that were then taken advantage of by the smaller (sole survivor) rifleman.

Defender's bombers in the bomb pit failed to activate and were put on guard - after the attacker has already moved, which shows why initiative is very important.

On the north, defender's bombers activated and sprinted towards the front line and rifles failed to activate. Turn ended.

At this point, I decided to stop playing as I ran out of time and I pretty much got the idea of how game could work with smaller miniatures and found some more grey areas.
In 3 turns, Defenders managed to get one prisoner and 7 kills (50% of Attacker's starting force), while attackers managed to kill 5 of the defenders, less than a third.

POST GAME THOUGHTS:


There is not much to say, I think the smaller units are the way to go. Trenches are really narrow and should be numerous, so having more smaller units is better than one long snake. If we assume miniatures in melee would never fail their activations, a fight between 2 equally strong 4 man units could last up to 4 turns, while 8 man units would be fighting for 8 turns.

Even now melee is almost tediously slow if both units activate, so I might wish to enable fighters to hit anything in 1" (so first two in line), to speed it up a bit. But I am not sure if I want melee to be fast, as the longer it takes, more chance there is for other troops to do their objectives or come to aid. Another option would be the melee is fought over and over again in a single action until someone wins, but that would leave players with not chance to tip odds in their favour by having another unit join the fight.

I am really trying hard not to have the game too complicated, with as little to consider as possible, but making it too simple would essentially water it down to a generic set, while I want it to portray the WW1 trench fighting.

One other thing I find bad is my table - I made way too many deep trenches that should not be as numerous and I might find myself planning a game that is far more confined that an ordinary game would be. I will try playing on the other half of the board next time, that's mostly covered in shell holes to see how it would fare if everyone could see everyone else.

Thanks for looking,
Mathyoo

26 Jul 2016

Underfire Miniatures: 28mm East Germans team 5

Hi guys,

To begin with, I noticed my blog has now reached over 100,000 hits, so thank you for that. While blog is more a way to fill my must-type quota, I always try to post what someone else might find useful. I really like seeing how other people tackle their hobby, so I have to say I am quite surprised to learn how many people dislike posting WIP posts.

Anyhow, I have yet another team of East Germans from the Underfire miniatures. This is a duplicate set, so I was reluctant to simply paint it. For any new readers, I have grown very reluctant to painting miniatures as they come in the past years. Not that they're done badly (or that I could honestly improve them), it's more that the conversions are the part of hobby I enjoy the most.

So, the problem with East Germans is that they are rather unique as it is - except for their weapons. I can not tell you how annoyed I am at being able to play 70 years of conflicts with one constant - bloody soviet weapons. That is, of course, not the problem or miniature makers.

That being said, I still wanted to do *something*, so I started researching East German special forces and I found a fitting unit, whose gear differs from the ordinary rifles: Fallschrimjaegers of NVA.

They was only one paratroopers unit in the NVA and you can enjoy their superior skills on the video below:

Basically, what I did was quite simple. Firstly, I dropped my expectations way low. I've decided to give them paratroopers helmet, AKs with some kind of folding stock (not being too picky!), sort-of sculpt their signature vest and keep any gear that would not go off easily.

Firstly, I chopped the helmets. Ruthlessly. Really, without any mercy.

Then I chopped them some more. And more. And filled them. And then I sanded them as well.

At some point, very early while doing so, I was left wondering why am I destroying these nice miniatures, but well, alea iacta est, so I carried on. I also made a decision that as opposed to my original plan of having several teams (at least 2!), these 4 will have to do.

Next were the blanket rolls. Gone. Then entrenching tools handles - all gone. Any large remains of any straps that would go across the body (i.e. NBC suit bag) - gone.

Rifle butts were carved into something resembling a wire frame.

As you can see, I kept the large haversacks (where gasmask would be stored) - surely being a paratrooper does not give you any sort of protection from chemical attacks. I decided to cut away the straps, thinking it could be attached to the vest "somehow". That was a mistake, but nobody really notices.
Below you can see how I destroyed fantastic mesh on the helmets (that I would actually need on mine, but there was honestly no other way). Also notice the rifle butt being very simply carved.
After a few days of relaxation, I started slightly resculpting the helmets' shape with milliput. In the end, I opted for clean finish and did not try to reproduce the mesh in any way.

Furthermore, deciding I have enough of the pointing-there miniatures, I resculpted the hand of the team-leader (third from left, with binoculars).
 The painting was pretty uneventful, I am not quite satisfied with the pattern. I mean, the idea is great, but I would much prefer smaller strips with less mistakes. I tried really hard to subtly indicate the vest around the shoulders, but I can't say I succeeded with every man.

One thing I did notice while painting the miniatures was all the extra details (like flag!) on their shoulders that I sadly ignored on the first batches, and didn't really think to fix with this one!
 Talking of the pointy-man, here is a side-by-side comparison of the original miniature and the paratrooper conversion. I have to say I was really glad how it turned out, it's barely noticeable that it is the same miniature!
 And the back shot. The miniatures look very different, but paratrooper only lacks the bedroll and entrenching tool handle! Okay, and the helmet is different. But that's it!

Looking at them all done, it makes me want to do another four (a RPG would be useful!), but I hope my sanity prevails!

As usual, thanks for looking!
Mathyoo

PS I really, REALLY wanted to paint their faces with camouflage black stripes, but I couldn't see how this could be done without messing the faces completely.