Thursday, December 3, 2020

A Pair of SYW Irish Regiments and Virtual Gaming

Painting, of late, continues to focus on the 15mm side of the ledger.  Rather than continuing a steady stream of troops for the French Revolution, I break up the painting routine to field a pair of Irish regiments for the SYW.
Off the painting desk today are Irish regiments, de Clare and Rooth.  The 46 figures comprise Blue Moon foot and AB mounted officer.s  Flags are from Not by Appointment.  Both regiments saw limited service during the SYW but were much more active during the War of Austrian Succession.
de Clare
If these Irish regiments saw limited service during the SYW, why field them?  Should I not be painting gris-blanc Frenchmen if I am to field a French Army? Quite right.  I should.  But, sometimes I eat my dessert first!  With the colorful Irish finished (for now), SYW work will begin to pull French troops into the production queue.  First, other projects are seeing activity at the painting desk.
On the gaming front, I enjoyed another fine game via Skype hosted by members of a wargaming group in the UK.  This marked my third visit and game with these fine fellows in the last three weeks.  Three games in three weeks?  Yes, indeed!  This must be a record for me.  In fact, over the last three weeks, I will have enjoyed five remote games.  Unbelievable, really, and definitely a record. 

While remote gaming during the pandemic has opened up a whole host of new opportunities for gaming, one downside is that I cannot take decent photos from my iPad during these remote games.  Therefore my chronicling battle reports from these activities is lacking.  I need to find a remedy for this.  Luckily, Graham captured a sampling of screenshots and retells the battle on his blog posting of Back to the 15th Century.   

Tuesday's battle featured a clash set during the War of the Roses (WotR) using 25mm figures and one of the member's developmental rules.  Rules are geared toward the tactical level with each commander leading one Battle.  The troops arrayed "en battle" looked great with banners and colors in abundance.  Interplay between the lines within a Battle is key and decisions are many.  My assigned Battle contained three lines of troops.  I fielded Longbowmen in the first line followed in support by two units of foot in the second and third lines.  Each line had varying degrees of armor and training.  My third line was peasant rubbish.  Having not gamed WotR, I did not know quite what to expect.

What happened? I enjoyed the game and rules very much!  My first Battle was sacrificed for the cause but I received a reinforcing Battle to deliver the coup de grace.  Rules seemed finely honed and play was smooth.  Looking forward to another trial run-out of the rules in the near future.  With exposure to so many new and interesting periods to game, I may be hard-pressed not to add on another project or two.  Did I mention the WotR game looked great?  Hmm.  Iain, are you taking notes?

Monday, November 30, 2020

To Ur is Human - First Impressions

Having purchased the rules, To Ur is Human (To Ur), one year ago and having finally fought a Sumerian battle among the irrigation ditches of the Fertile Crescent two weeks ago, time for a First Impressions of the rules.  The game mentioned was fought under the guidance of the author, Graham Evans.  To Ur states that it is a set of Tabletop Wargame Rules for Conflict in Sumerian Mesopotamia.  What does that mean?  We will find out.

To Ur measures in at 29 pages in length.  Typeface is large so the rules' content is shorter in length than suggested by the page length.  The back cover of the book contains a QRS.  Publishing the QRS on the back cover is a very useful practice.  Unlike Graham’s later, Its Getting a Bit Chile, To Ur features only the core rules without sections describing figure availability, painting guides, scenarios, etc..

To Ur features an Igo-Ugo system played on a grid.  Sure, play could be adapted to free-form movement and measurements but a grid allows for effortless resolution and little ambiguity.  Well, more on ambiguity later when movement, missile fire, and charging are discussed.  With no ground scale nor figure-to-man ratio given, To Ur represents combat in ancient Sumeria abstractly.  A Basic Maneuver Unit (BMU) consists of four bases for infantry and two bases for battle carts.  The number of figures per base is not important.  Any number of figures will do.  Each base can suffer four hits before its removal.  Given that, a four stand unit can absorb 16 hits before removal to due casualties.

Movement is most often one grid per turn unless charging.  Missile troops may fire up to three grids for bows.  Facing within a grid is important.  A unit may position itself in one of eight attitudes within the grid (four facing grid sides and four facing grid corners).  With the plodding rate of advance, an attacking unit may suffer several turns of missile fire before coming to grips with an adversary.  Light infantry can move and shoot. In fact, light missile troops may advance one square, shoot, and then retire one square.   A very handy attribute! Each unit is classified by Type (Heavy Infantry, Medium Infantry, Light Infantry, and Battle Carts) and by Training (Elite, Trained, Levy). Each side has one Big Man or Lugal.

The Turn Sequence is typical of many Igo-Ugo wargame rules. The sequence is,
  • Move CiC (Lugal)
  • Charge Declaration
  • Movement
  • Shooting
  • Hand-to-Hand Combat
  • Rally
  • Assess victory conditions
What is at the heart of the design philosophy for To Ur?  Strip away all but the essential elements and the players are left with a psychological test of wills between adversaries.  Whether or not units will close or run is governed by a Fear Test.  A unit can be in one of three morale states: Fight, Fright, or Flight.   Units take this test when charging, after a round of Hand-to-Hand combat, or attempting to rally.  This test features an opposed roll by the two combatants.  Each side rolls 1D6 and adds only a handful of modifiers.  As a result of this computed differential, each participating unit’s morale state may remain the same, go down or up.  A player may attempt to maximize chances for success but there is enough variability built into the Fear Table that each contest contains inherent risk.  Whoever can manage this risk more effectively over the course of battle may win the day.   An interesting twist to the use of the Fear Table and opposed die rolls is that this same mechanism is used for rallying. Imagine that. An opponent with a hot hand may prevent your unit from rallying!

One complexity and ambiguity with many grid-based games is diagonal measurement across the grid whether for movement or for missile fire.  Different rules approach this challenge differently by employing different distance metrics.   To Ur tackles this by stating measurement criteria but then offering multiple examples of both movement and missile fire. The process can be confusing but enough examples are included to work through most situations.  I appreciate that foresight.  I am sure some of these complicated measurements will become second nature with repeated playings but for now, complex moves, charges, and missile fire may require extra effort at first.

As for combat resolution, both missile fire and hand-to-hand (HtH) combat use D6’s.  Each unit is awarded a number of dice per base. For missile fire, this could be up to two dice per base or 8D6 for a full four-stand unit. For HtH, units can throw as many as four dice per base for a total up to 16D6. Modifiers can add even more D6s per base.  A bucket of dice can be thrown in HtH combat. Typically, 5s and 6s hit for most unit types although light infantry hit on 4+.

Production quality is good and the price very inexpensive.  I paid less than USD$10 post paid from Amazon.  The rules are well diagrammed to illustrate a number of the subtleties.  As noted earlier, examples of play are numerous.

With only one game under my belt, has this tempted me into beginning a new project?  Of course, it has!  I have spent considerable time pouring over the catalogs from Wargames Foundry and Newline Designs comparing their 28mm Sumerian offerings.  I may already have too many projects on my plate so a more measured and prudent approach may be to try modifying the rules to accommodate my later Bronze Age armies. The main change would center on the tactical differences between Sumerian battle carts and later chariots. That should not pose too tough of a hurdle to overcome.

As for rules' complexity and completeness, the rules are medium complexity primarily due to the constraints imposed by a grid.  Even only playing the game one time, I found the answer to every question within the rules.  That sounds complete.  Could I have absorbed the rules on my own without the author present as my guide?  Eventually, sure, but having Graham lead me through the rules helped tremendously.  An enjoyable gaming session for us all, I think!   Looking forward to my next encounter in ancient Mesopotamia.

Well done, Graham!

For more information on To Ur is Human, please contact Graham at Wargaming for Grown-Ups.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

More FRW French and a Remote Game

Work continues on fielding 15mm French Revolution French infantry.  Out from the painting desk, one more French regiment consisting of three battalions departs.  These Frenchmen are a mix of figures with AB mounted officers, 2nd generation Old Glory fusiliers, and 1st generation Old Glory grenadiers.
You may recall that 19th Century Miniatures produced French in bicorne in mid-2019, heeded complaints of figure sculpting and fragility, and resculpted the range by the end of 2019.  The 2nd generation figures are much more robust than the 1st generation figures.  I still had some 1st generation grenadiers handy so why not press them into service to fill out the ranks?  Perhaps these Frenchmen will see action at a planned Rivoli battle?  More details on that soon.

Next off the painting desk, I expect to see a second SYW Irish Infantry Regiment in French service.
On the gaming front, I enjoyed another remote battle this week with the publisher of the blog, Wargaming for Grown-Ups and his local group in the UK.  Action this week was set on the road to Madrid during the Spanish Civil War.  Rules in use for Tuesday's battle are currently in development by the author, Graham.

The scenario placed me in the role of leader of Republican forces determined to block the approaches to Madrid.  Converging upon my positions were two columns of Nationalist troops.  One of the columns consisted of a crack force of Spanish colonial troops.  The other column comprised mainly troops of lesser quality. 

The objective for the Fascists was to clear the table and secure the two towns on the board.  Casualties were high but my Republicans held on to claim victory when time expired.  That, despite surviving a last turn bomber run over the Republican held village.  
Photo courtesy Wargaming for Grown-Ups
Being a development game, there were a few questions, scratching of heads, and careful notetaking.  At the end, everyone enjoyed the battle.  The game via Skype completed without incident and was quite fun.  Before the pandemic, I would not have imagined gaming with guys in the UK in a remote setting.  Of late, I have two regular remote gaming sessions with two different groups.  The lockdowns have moved technology and our gaming forward.  I hope that these remote sessions can continue even when the world returns to normal.  

Graham musters a good-natured and welcoming group of his buddies for these weekly sessions.  They made a foreigner, new to the group and technology, feel very welcomed.  For a full battle report of the action, please visit A Return to Old Spain on Graham's blog.

Next week's remote gaming session will be a WotR battle in 28mm, I think.  The session will include a playtest of rules in development by another member of Graham's group.  Whatever is on the slate, I am looking forward to it.

Having made it through several readings of Graham's Ancients' To Ur is Human rules and participating in last week's remote game (and taking a few notes of my own), expect a First Impressions of the rules in a post within the next fortnight.  

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Control, Control, You Must Learn Control

Yeah, that is what I tell myself almost weekly with respect to taking on another project. This time, it is different. Really it is.  Fielding Sci-Fi rather than the usual diet of historicals?  I am surprised too. 
What I have today is the first figure off the painting desk in what is planned as a very small project.  To lead off the project is a Rebel AT-RT from the Star Wars Legion Core box.  Why the AT-RT off the painting desk first?  Well, it is cool!  I will stick to painting just this one box of figures.  Who is buying such convictions of project restraint?  Well, I am, for now.
There is method to this madness.  My young grandson has developed a strong fascination with all things Star Wars.  I figured this could be a chance for an enjoyable, collaborative effort for the two of us.  Building the figures is a task we managed together while I took on the painting.  Once we have enough figures painted, we could work on developing an easy set of rules.  Rules that are easy enough for a first grader to grasp yet offering a chance at working on rudimentary math skills, measuring (maybe a grid-based system would be better?), and perhaps critical thinking.  

While the Core box contains rules that I have not looked at closely, I want something very simple.  My thought is that some of my old, Old West gunfighter rules would work well for this genre of game.  Most have simple mechanisms, easily grasped, and having a Hollywood style of exciting narrative.  What do you think?  Any other suggestions? 

You know what?  Painting this figure was quite fun. 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

GWS2020: Game Period, Type, and Figure Size, Oh My!

In previous installments of the ongoing analysis of the 2020 Great Wargaming Survey, we examined the relationships between game period and figure size (see: Comparison of Game Period and Figure Size) and the relationships between game period and game type (see: Looking at Game Period by Type). This time, we bring the two analyses together to build a picture of the relationships between favorite game period, favorite figure size, and favorite game type.  In a later post, age group will be added into the analysis to examine the tendencies of these four attributes in unison.

The Study Data
Before beginning, the survey data need to be pruned back in order to make the graphical representations manageable.

First, 21 game periods are identified in the survey. For this work, the Top 6 game periods (highlighted Periods in graphic below) will be kept for later analysis.  These Top 6 include three fantasy/sci-fi periods and three historical periods.
Top 6 First Choice of Game Period
Second, ten game types are identified in the survey.  With a clear break point in total counts between Campaign and RPG, only the top 4 game types (highlighted Types below) will be kept.
Top 4 First Choice of Game Type
Third, the top choice of figure size drops off precipitously after 25/28mm sizes but 15/18mm will be included as a viable third choice as counts again fall dramatically after 15/18mm. 
Top 3 First Choices of Figure Size
So for this study, analysis will concentrate on the interactions between six Game Periods (WWII, Warhammer40k, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Napoleonics, and Ancients); four Game Types (Skirmish, Big Battle, Scenario, and Campaign); and three Figure Sizes (25-28mm, 28mm Heroic, and 15-18mm). 

Multiple Correspondence Analysis
Multiple Correspondence Analysis (MCA), briefly, is a statistical technique from which any underlying structure in the categorical response survey data may be detected.  The results are then presented in graphical form in two dimensional space.  Don't throw in the towel quite yet. Interpretations are understandable and intuitive without knowing the underlying technique.

MCA of Top Game Periods by Game Type and Figure Size
Pushing all of these data through the algorithms produces the graphic shown in Figure 1.   
Figure 1
What do these scattered, labeled points suggest?  Some attributes are grouping near one another (Napoleonics and 15-18mm, for example) while other attributes seem to be scattered hither and yon.  Are there any useful patterns contained herein?  To find out, let's tackle this question one dimension at a time.

Dimension 1 Tendencies
In Dimension 1, only four of the attributes are identified as loading in this space.  Those attributes are 28mm Heroics, 15-18mm, Ancients, and Napoleonics (see Figure 2).  Notice two distinctions in the Dimension 1 space.  Ancients, Napoleonics, and 15-18mm are grouped in close proximity in the right half of the graphic.  28mm Heroics groups by itself in the left half of the graph and far from the AncientsNapoleonics, and 15-18mm groupThese results suggest that 28mm Heroics is very dissimilar to 15-18mm and that 15-18mm gaming tends toward Ancients and Napoleonics game periods.  Also notice that non-historical game periods group on the left and historical periods on the right frame.  
Figure 2
Dimension 2 Tendencies
In Dimension 2, all remaining attributes are identified in this space and encircled to ease identification (see Figure 3).  Notice that Warhammer40k finds itself in the top half of the graph along with Campaign and Big Battle game types.  All other attributes group into the bottom half of the graph.  What inferences can be made in the Dimension 2 space?

First, notice the distance between Warhammer40k in the upper half and SCI_FI in the lower half.  This result suggests that respondents choosing Warhammer40k are very different from those choosing Sci-Fi.  Notice also that Warhammer40k tends toward Campaign and Big Battle gaming over Skirmish gaming.  Finally, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and WWII game periods tend toward 25-28mm figure size and Skirmish game type.
Figure 3
The Magic Quadrant
With tendencies identified in the first two dimensions, does a breakdown into quadrants make sense?  Are more tendencies discoverable?  See Figure 4.
Figure 4
Interestingly, each of the Game Types finds itself in only one quadrant with no confounding or overlap.  Campaign game type falls into the Warhammer40k and 28mm Heroic quadrant in the upper-left; Big Battle game type coincides 
with 15-18mm and Ancients/Napoleonics in the upper-right quadrant; Scenario game type groups into the lower right quadrant along with WWII and 25-28mm; and finally, Skirmish finds itself in the quadrant along with Fantasy/Sci-Fi.  Given the distance between 25-28mm figure size in the blue quadrant and the attributes in the purple quadrant, Fantasy/Sci-Fi and Skirmish tend toward 25-28mm figure size.

As for the WH40k and Campaign relationship, notice that 'Campaign' is situated near '0.0' along the Dimension 1 axis (x-axis). Being closer to the axis signifies a less strong relationship.  so, I suggest the relationship between WH40k and 'Campaign', while present, is not a strong one.  'Campaign' simple tends toward WH40k with respect to the other game types.

Now, to me, the analysis is remarkable in that data from the nearly 11,000 surveys can be distilled down to produce these results and conclusions.  This exercises demonstrates the possibilities of data analysis and the insights attainable given some effort. 

What, in this MCA analysis, stands out of interest to the reader?  Are there surprises or are these results accepted, common knowledge?

Next time, I plan to toss age group into the mix and see if any clear and insightful tendencies surface.  Will age muddy the insights gained or contribute to a more meaningful interpretation of relationships between game period, game type, figure size, and age group? 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

15mm CGM Austrians for 1799

Following closely on the heals of the French infantry regiment for the 1799 project, off the painting desk emerges component battalions for two Austrian regiments.  Now, I must admit that I am falling a little behind on getting painted units into the photo booth.  The two battalions of line infantry in helmet have been completed for a few weeks.  Churning units out at a faster pace than can be photographed is a much better situation than not having any units coming out from the painting desk, don't you think?  Anyway, two battalions of grenz and two battalions of line infantry make it into the light box for a daily double.

First up are two battalions of Austrian line infantry.  These figures muster out as IR#23 and are from Campaign Game Miniatures (CGM) from Spain.  CGM figures are compatible in size to AB and carry their own charm.  I like them a lot.

Next up are two battalions of Banal Grenz infantry.  Again, these figures are from CGM and, again, fine sculpts. Actually, these figures may be my favorite grenz ahead of AB, Old Glory, and Blue Moon.  Why?  I don't know.  I simply like their style.

So, that makes 52 figures for today's tranche.  All four battalions are led by an AB mounted colonel.

On the gaming front, following my 28mm AWI Rebels and Patriots (R&P) Zoom battle on Sunday, Tuesday saw my participation in an Ancient Sumerian battle in 1/72nd using To Ur is Human via Skype.  Like the R&P game, the Sumerian game was another very enjoyable three hours spent fighting it out over the ether.  The battle was hosted by the rules' author so any uncertainties or questions were quickly addressed.  
Transatlantic to Ur
Photo courtesy Wargaming for Grown-Ups

To see the battle report for the Sumerian action, please visit, Transatlantic to Ur at Wargaming for Grown-ups.  I represent the transatlantic piece in the battle report title.  How long before I am tempted to undertake the construction of a pair of Sumerian armies?  The Newline Designs' 10mm Sumerian figures look nice.  I wonder how long it would take to field two such armies?

Monday, November 16, 2020

French Reinforcements for Rivoli?

While work at the painting desk has tended to focus on a few 28mm projects of late, I have been trying to get more of the 15/18mm projects into the painting queue before year-end.  A couple of units for the 1799 Napoleonic project have crossed the workbench this fall and today another regiment (or demi-brigade) musters off the table.

Marching out of the recruitment center is a three battalion regiment of French infantry.  Each battalion contains a dozen foot from 19th Century Miniatures led by an AB miniatures' mounted colonel.  
This project has not been out onto the table in a very long time.  My recollection is that the Battle of Montebello 1800 may have been the collection's last appearance on the gaming table.  To remedy the long hiatus and to commemorate an upcoming battle anniversary, the Battle of Rivoli is being studied for a winter refight.  Rivoli was last fought on my gaming table way back in 2004 (see Rivoli: A Progress Report).  This time, I will be using troops in the proper uniforms with French in bicornes and Austrians in casquet.  The OBs have been modified slightly based upon new numbers dug up recently and cross-checking of various published sources.  Still, the OBs contain some uncertainty.

One of the recent additions to the study is the boardgame Rivoli 1797.  The game has a detailed OB, a very helpful map, and sources listed for all of the published troop strengths.  
The battle has been laid out on the game table with slight adjustments made to the battlefield allowing a smaller footprint.  I decided to constrict the footprint of this playing of the battle to fit into a 6'x'6 playing area.  The earlier battle shown in the link above consumed much of the 12' length of the table.  By lopping off a little bit of distance from both of the north and south ends of the battle, the important sections of the battlefield will fit into a smaller area.  This small concession allows half of the gaming table for other battles. 

With my State going back into a more rigorous, 30-day lockdown beginning today, no chance of fighting this battle out F2F.  This will be another solo game.  I am considering refighting Rivoli as a multi-player game similar to the Battle of Raab fought in 2015 (see Battle of Raab).  In this format, players submit orders and then I try to implement those orders to the best of my abilities and within the spirit of the orders and rules.  As Raab showed, this can be a multi-month commitment.  If any readers have an interest in this undertaking or simply want more information, please read through the Raab playthrough and leave a comment.  Enough interest may push me into that direction.  I know that I enjoyed the Raab refight since it removed some control from my hands.  I believe the players enjoyed the experience as well.

Last but certainly not least, below is a teaser photo from Rebels and Patriots Widow Creek Bridge action fought out on Matt's (Wargames in the Dungeon) table on Sunday.  I am sure Matt will provide a full battle account once all of the dispatches have been received.
Colonials advance upon British breastworks