Sunday, March 29, 2020

Spanish Infantry 1898

During these uncertain times, off the painting desk advances an element for a project that faces uncertainty, itself.  My Spanish-American War project is one of those undertakings launched in anticipation of great gaming but has rarely seen the table.  Begun in 1999 (just over 20 years ago!), the SAW collection last saw any paint work back in 2018.  Still, I hold out hope that the project will see action on the gaming table in the not too distant future.      
Originally planned to be gamed with Fields of Honor (FoH), I am undecided if those will be the rules I return to when the collection next sees action on the table.  Twenty years ago, FoH seemed to capture much of what I wanted in a Cuban adventure.  Having not read the rules of late, I wonder if my perception still holds.  Good question.

Within the last year, I picked up a copy of S&T's The Santiago Campaign.  My goal was to investigate whether this magazine game might make a useful battle generator for tabletop scenarios.   
Having played through the campaign. solo, over the Christmas Break, I think it would make a very useful battle generator for the 25mm troops.  I played the boardgame as the USA player and utilized AI to govern the Spanish forces.  A low complexity game, the mechanisms would not get in the way of generating a number of battles.

The boardgame heavily favors the attacker.  However, bringing the might of the US Army to bear in the jungles of Cuba poses several challenges.  The initial landing sites are fraught with peril too.  Still, the campaign I waged across the map did not seem to give the Spanish much hope.  The Spanish can be spoilers, for sure, and forcing the Americans to take too many casualties can cost the Americans the war.  Fighting through the entire campaign would offer a number of interesting battles within the overall context of the war.
Section of map
Today's fifteen Spanish figures are Old Glory 25s.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

A Mix of German Vehicles

For something completely different from the regular figure offerings, I dug deep into The Lead Pile and pulled out a stack of 15mm Zvezda plastic vehicles.  A moderate stack of these models has lingered around for exactly five years.  Looking back in my invoices, I see I bought fifteen models (three copies of each model) for $2.99 apiece.  Each is a neat little snap together model with crisp detail.  

Having received two sets of Vallejo Pigment sets two years ago as a Christmas present from a gaming buddy, I finally had reason to give them a try.  Not knowing what I was doing, I mixed up a little 'mud' to slap onto the wheels, tracks, and undercarriages of the models.  I like the effect it offers and adds some interest to the predominantly grey of early war German vehicles.  Jake, sorry it took two years before I pulled these pigments out for a trial run.  Glad I finally got to it!  I think I will go back to a pair of 1/48 Shermans and muddy them up a bit too.

One final decision in the building of these models was whether to base or not.  With the only recent 15mm WWII action an infantry only affair, no need to address vehicle basing at that time.  Now that WWII gaming has piqued my interest, I want to try expanding the collection to include a vehicle or two.  While indecisive for a time, I finally rationalized that since the infantry was based on 3mm thick bases that the vehicles should be mounted on 3mm thick bases too.  This allows for all stands to lay on the same plane during a game.

On to the individual models...
Sd Kfz 222 Armored Car
Sd Kfz 251/1 Ausf B
Opel Blitz Truck
Panzer II
Besides the ten remaining unbuilt Zvezda models, I also have a number of Command Decision models to add into the collection.  I may begin adding these into the project over time.  Perhaps I should strike while the iron is hot?  First, back to the figures with two units of Spanish-American War Spanish infantry off the painting desk next.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Tigers at Minsk - First Play

I pulled Norm Smith's Tigers at Minsk (TaM) rules down from the bookshelf and settled in for a Saturday night read and think.  Having quickly sprayed a stack of four inch hexes with a coating of green paint in the bright afternoon sunshine, my plan was to give the rules a go for a solo battle on Sunday.  With a minimalist playing surface (maybe I will flock the hexes to cut down on the glare?) and a handful of troop stands, I set to work.

With no armies for the eastern front circa 1943, I pulled French and German troops from the box and set up Scenario 2.  With no requirements for eastern front armor, this would be a perfect infantry-only introduction.  The battle venue is transported to France, 1940. 

Scenario 2 - Following the Elefants 
  • German: 6x infantry sections and 1x HMG.  Can make smoke.
  • French: 2x infantry sections and 2x HMGs.  No smoke.
To win, the Germans must exit at least one infantry stand off of the French Baseline.  Otherwise, French victory.  Game begins at 11:00 and ends at 11:50.  French first player. 

I will provide my First Impressions in another post but for now, straight into action.
French open up with fire from the villages into the woods.
One German infantry section destroyed and a second pinned.
Very tough start for the Germans.

Two more losses and German morale will be zero.
One French village defended by an HMG and infantry section
Germans put the left into command.
Laying smoke, one section advances on the left.
On the right, fire from the woodline pins a French unit
 positioned in the scrub.
German left in command.
Command stand encircled to denote status.
French put left in command.
Fire from village pins a German section.
German puts right into command.
With a hail of bullets from the treelines,
two French sections are destroyed. Ouch!
With French morale at zero, morale tests are taken.
One HMG team withdraws from a village
while the HMG on the French right holds.
French dispositions.
Only two HMGs remain of the French force.
As the German section moves into the woods,
the French HMG opens up with Op Fire.
German section is pinned in the woods.
French HMG deployed in the village is pinned
while the Germans advance on the right
 under cover of smoke.
Masked by a thick bank of smoke
As the second French HMG moves back into the village,
Germans advance on the right.
French Op Fire pins the German section in the scrub.
German section on the far left advances in the
woods to see victory within its grasp.
French HMG recovers from pinned.
German section in woods fails to activate.
Both French HMGs open up on the enemy.
German section in scrub is destroyed.
German section in woods is pinned.
German section rejoins its HMG while
the German section near the French baseline advances
toward the French baseline and victory.
German infantry in center lays down a withering fire
 into the HMG in the village.
Two hits = one kill!
The French stationed in the village on the French right
 has one final chance to prevent a German victory.
The German is destroyed but the HMG breaks!
With the loss of the German section,
 EVERY German unit fails its morale check.
Out of game time, the French win the battle even though
the French HMG is broken.

The victor.
Well!  That was a quick, exciting, and bloody battle.  A few lucky rolls but luck was impartial.  Both sides saw some well-timed shooting. Had the Germans held position and fired rather than withdrawn on the last turn, the French HMG may have been destroyed. If so, victory would have gone to the attacking Germans.

This is a very interesting scenario with much to think about with respect to force deployment, strategy, and tactics.  With the Germans setting up first, the French can place their outnumbered forces to their best advantage.  The Germans have difficult deployment choices to make.  Placing most of the weight on one sector guarantees that the French will do the same.  With villages near the center of the table, the  French can take a central position and keep most German advances in a cross fire.  Where to best place the French wire?  I opted for the hex adjacent to the scrub to prevent a German outflanking on the right.  I am sure other placements are appropriate.

I think I will reset and give this another try.    

Friday, March 20, 2020

Spanish Crossbowmen and Spinning

Following closely behind the Moorish crossbowmen, a stand of Spanish crossbowmen departs the painting desk to oppose them.  Crossbowmen are Black Tree Design and the spearmen are two leftovers from a pack of Casting Room Miniatures' Normans.  Fine figures all but the CRM figures are especially characterful. 
Next off the painting desk will likely be a small variety of 15mm WWII armor.  Some are newly built; others are newly rebased.

On the cycling front, just as the leg break has mended and light indoor training can begin, the State shuts down almost every business to reduce risk of spreading the virus.  For indoor cycling in a controlled environment, the gym was my preferred venue.  No more.  Until my foot and ankle are fit for cycling outdoors (no cycling outside until I can safely and painlessly unclip from the pedals), I turn to a gadget Nancy presented to me for my 60th birthday.
While I set it up a year ago in the garage, the torture device remained unused.  Well, I finally made the effort to reacquaint myself with the machine, attached the bike, and gave it a whirl.  You know what?  This fluid trainer works great!  The machine is super quiet, rock solid, and provides a great workout.
How do I overcome the potential monotony of indoor cycling?  Audio.  Typically, my listening tends toward the Great Courses when riding indoors.  This week, I turned to Dan Carlin's Supernova in the East.  I am up to episode two and Dan's storytelling is as riveting as ever.  Recommended!

With the arrival of Spring and temperatures warming, perhaps, I can venture outdoors next week?  That is, unless we are all ordered into lockdown.   

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Back to the Reconquista

After a very long hiatus from the painting table (almost two years!), a unit for this long neglected project was pushed into the painting queue.  Why so long of a layoff from the project?  Good question.  I suppose so many projects and not enough time.  Coupled with my more active projects, du jour, and the long time since the Reconquista troops last saw the gaming table, this absence is really no surprise.  
Off the painting desk today is a BMU of twelve Black Tree Design Warriors of Islam figures.  The seven crossbowmen are flanked by two spear-wielding guards to discourage enemy cavalry while they ply their trade.  Up next is a similar unit of crossbowmen but for the opposition.  

Friday, March 13, 2020

Last of the Assyrians (for now)

The recent parade of Assyrians finally comes to an end with a bang.  Up today is a four-horse chariot with its complement of spear-wielding supports.  
The horses, chariot, and crew are from Newline Designs.  The infantry support are from Black Tree Design.  Say, did anyone notice that BTD has pulled all of its ancients' ranges for retooling?  I wonder when we will see these figures again? 
The chariot is the first Newline Design chariot I have built and fielded.  I think it looks great; big and beautiful.  It will make an impressive sight when arrayed for battle.  I may want a few more of these beasts.  There is a lot of metal in the cab and horses.  When this piece gets up to speed on the table, it may be difficult to stop.   
Staying on the topic of Newline Design chariots, a three-pack of Hittite chariots will be in work soon.  Hard to believe that it is nearly the middle of March and I have yet to complete any units for the month.  A few units are in work but time down at the painting desk has been limited of late.  Do you supposes there is a correlation between my wife retiring two weeks ago and my hobby time dropping off?  Perhaps, I need more data?  

That, and the 15mm SYW Bavarians, front and center on the painting desk, are not painting themselves.  For some reason, working this battalion of Lancashire infantry has become somewhat of a chore for me.  I should be able to kick it into gear and get them off the work table this weekend.  After that, time to push some Hittites into the production line.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Yet Another Assyrian Auxiliary Infantry

Tired of Assyrians yet?  Another Assyrian auxiliary infantry stands departs the painting desk.  Actually, these twelve warriors mustered off the painting desk in late January.  Only now are they getting proper recognition.  As the most recent auxiliary troops before, these fellows are from Wargames Foundry. Even though this range of figures has been available from Wargames Foundry for years, it is still a great collection.   
One more Assyrian unit remains before I flip the switch to move on to something else for parading across the table.  Saving the biggest for last, next time, an Assyrian four-horse chariot with assorted supports.  

In other work, the rebasing of the 28mm Napoleonics continues.  French and allied skirmishers have all been rebased from singles to pairs.  In the reorg, several singletons were left unpaired.  These missing pairs will need to be put into the painting queue to bring three or four skirmish stands up to full muster.  Next, tackle the British and Portuguese skirmisher reorg.  A quick count shows a half-dozen or more British skirmishers will be needed to bring the English Army up to full complement of skirmisher stands.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Judean Spearmen

After a brief detour through the land of game analytics and 28mm SYW Prussians, the unit parade returns to the Assyrian Wars project.

Off the table today are twelve Judean spearmen from Newline Designs.  With simple tunic and shield, these dozen warriors step off the painting desk in quick time.
Even with the long parade of units for this project having already passed in review, two more units remain in queue.  Before I switch gears to other projects, one more unit of Assyrian auxiliary infantry and one more Assyrian four-horse chariot await in the photo booth wings.

After these two units, a mish-mash of units and projects are readying themselves for parade including Spanish-American War Spanish, crossbowmen for the Reconquista, 15mm WWII German armor, two units for Samurai Battles, and a French infantry regiment for the 1799 project.  Add to that a rebasing of skirmishers for the 28mm Napoleonic project and the photo booth will be busy for weeks to come.   

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Minden Prussian Grenadiers

Taking a temporary pause between the remaining parade of Assyrians and a respite from the heavier mathy-stuff, off the painting desk today are two dozen 1/56th Minden Miniatures (now Fife & Drum) Prussian grenadiers.

These grenadiers have languished in the primered but not painted state for longer than I can remember.  I know they were purchased six years ago.  Primered not long afterwards.  Every time I dig into the bins of primered figures, these figures naggingly remind me to, one day, push them into the painting queue.  With no SYW project to paint towards, motivation was low to proceed.  
Well, this procrastination finally ended.  Hobbled by a broken leg and no means to spray primer onto more figures in the hazardous and wintry weather, I pushed the grenadiers into the production line.

These grenadiers muster from the 15th and 18th regiments to form a combined grenadier battalion.  The figures are superbly cast with not so much as a hint of flash.  If I was to start a SYW project in 28mm, I would be very tempted to use these figures.  In the meantime, get ready for a few more units of Assyrians to hit the photo booth in the coming weeks.
On the gaming front, Kevin hosted a round-robin session of Command & Colors Napoleonics on Saturday.  This marked my first non-solo game since early January.  Kevin set up the Battle of Delhi 1803 using blocks rather than miniatures.  Really interesting battle and solid scenario design.  The three of us each fought two battles for a total of three games.  The three games were fought in about two hours total.  Very fast conclusion to the session.  Scott came away undefeated in his matches winning with both the British and Indians.  Great fun!

Back on the home front, I laid out the grid mat and pulled the Punic Wars figures from storage boxes for a Telamon refight, having clearing the gaming table earlier of Kunersdorf.  Out came the Celts and Romans.  Looks like the battle will cover the entire 6' x 8' mat with armies arrayed from one end to the other.  The Celts, of course, find themselves outnumbered and sandwiched between two Roman armies.  It will be interesting to see how this plays.  

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Peering Into the Charge Sequence of TF-ON

Two Flags - One Nation (TF-ON) is Norm Smith's grid-based ACW rules (see: Battlefields and Warriors).  In a recent replay from Sound Officers Call's Seminary Ridge game (see Seminary Ridge), rules' questions led to a discussion of the charge sequence.  After Norm's clarifications, I sat down to put pencil to paper intent on investigating the math within.  For those not interested in probability theory and a brief look into computational statistics, you have been warned.

First, the steps of the Charge Phase before entering Close Combat include:
  1. Attacker declares charge
  2. Attacker takes Capability Test to assess if charge is FULL or HALF-HEARTED
  3. Defender takes Capability Test to react
  4. If Defender passes test then likely fires on charger
  5. Attacker takes Capability Test if receiving at least one hit
  6. Attacker closes for Close Combat or is stopped short
Given the above sequence, the Charge Phase will require either two or three unit Capability Tests (one for the defender and either one or two for the attacker) before combatants actually cross swords.

What was I hoping to unearth?  I was in search of a tactic for improving my play!  I wanted to know the probability of an attacker successfully charging into Close Combat against a defender.  If successful, was this charge going in as a Full or Half-Hearted charge?  With the two or three Capability Tests required and a comparison between Modified Capability Levels of attacker and defender, the answer is not immediately obvious or easily computed.

The diagram below illustrates the process flow for the Charge sequence.  In the flow example, the Attacker and Defender's Modified Capability Level is 6.  What is a Modified Capability Level (MCL)?  This is the unit's Capability Level modified by any situational modifiers that may be applicable.  A smaller Capability Level is preferred to a larger Capability Level.  MCL is then used in a unit's Capability Test.  Probabilities shown are based on one sample of 10,000 trials.  Different samples with differing number of trials may yield slightly different results.  The probabilities shown in the diagram are reasonable approximations to the theoretical probabilities for each event.  
The first decision point is whether the attacker's charge goes in as Full or Half-Hearted.  In this example, the split is 73% Full/27% Half-Hearted.  

Next, the defender tests to see if it responds.  To affect the attacker's ability to close, it is not sufficient for the defender to simply pass this Capability Test.  To have any chance at repulsing the attacker, the defender must pass the test and inflict at least one hit on the attacker.  Without this hit, the attacker makes no second Capability Test and goes into Close Combat with certainty.

If the defender is successful in both passing its test and inflicting at least one hit on the attacker then the attacker must make a second Capability Test.  If the attacker passes this test, it closes with the defender.  If not, the attacker is repulsed and no Close Combat ensues.

After computing the outcomes for these assorted possibilities, we see that the attacker is expected to enter Close Combat with a Full Charge about 61% of the time, Half-Hearted Charge 23% of the time, and repulsed 16% of the time.  Is this result surprising?

How do these computations change if the MCL for attacker and defender varies?

First, consider the attacker's probability of failing to close with the enemy as shown in the chart below.  As expected, for any attacker's MCL, the probability that the attacker fails to close decreases as the defender's MCL increases.  Two take-aways from this chart are,
  • A smaller attacker MCL is always preferred across all defender MCLs to a larger attacker MCL.     
  • The probability trend of failing to close across the span of defender MCL steepens as attacker MCL increases.
When examining the attacker's charge disposition of either Full or Half-Hearted charge, results are interesting here too.  In the example of Attacker MCL=6 and Defender MCL=6, we saw that the attacker attacks at Full Charge about 61% of the time and Half-Hearted Charge about 23% of the time. 

Notice the effect as attacker MCL increases above six.  Both the probability of charging Full and Half-Hearted increase at an increasing rate of change with Half-Hearted increasing at an even greater rate.  Does this make sense intuitively?  Fortunately, it does.  As the defender's MCL increases, the defender is increasingly less likely to pass its Capability Test.  With that, an attacker is increasingly less likely to take a second Capability Test, guaranteeing closure with the enemy.  Unfortunately as an attacker's MCL increases, the attack is more likely to go in as a Half-Hearted charge.  
While many of these results may be intuitive, breaking down the probabilities embedded within a ruleset can provide insight into design philosophy and intent.  What can be inferred from this exercise of digging into the Charge Sequence?
  • The first attacker Capability Test to determine either Full Charge or Half-Hearted Charge is independent of defender status.  I think this an interesting point for debate.
  • A smaller attacker MCL is always preferred across the range of defender MCLs to a larger attacker MCL.  
  • As Defender MCL increases, the probability of charging home increases.
  • As Attacker MCL increases, the probability of charging in Half-Hearted increases at an increasing rate.
Will this information change my style of play?  It may.  Charging with an attacker MCL above six, may give pause to reconsider.  What will be interesting, for sure, is to put this analysis into practice on the gaming table to validate decision science at work.