Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Galactic Knights at Historicon #2: Raiders from the Lost Rocks

This was the second of the two Galactic Knights games I ran at Historicon on Thursday afternoon. This one pitted the Carnivorans against the Entomalians in a more free form engagement. The Carnivorans are HUNTing some pesky Entomalians. Grant played the Carnivorans, and Tod the Entomalians.

Scenario #2:   Raiders from the Lost Rocks, or "Bad Will Hunting"

Carnivoran Ships

Squadron 1: Cruiser, 2 Destroyer Leaders
Squadron 2: Destroyer, Starbomber, Armored Pursuit Ship
Squadron 3: Destroyer. Starbomber, Armored Pursuit Ship
Squadron 4: Destroyer. Starbomber, Armored Pursuit Ship

Entiomalian Ships

Squadron 1: Destroyer, Starbomber, Armored Pursuit Ship
Squadron 2: Destroyer. Starbomber, Armored Pursuit Ship
Squadron 3: Destroyer. Starbomber, Armored Pursuit Ship
Squadron 4: Cruiser, 2 Destroyer Leaders


A nest of Entomalians have been hiding out in an Asteroid Field known locally as "The Lost Rocks". From there, they have been raiding Carnivoran shipping and colonies. Thus far, efforts to track them down have failed. This will change, today! Lesser Claw Grahlis has been dispatched with a task force, and ordered clean out this hornet's nest of Bugs!

Set Up

I used a playing area 5 feet wide by 6 feet deep. There is no DRIFT phase the first turn (only). Will tells me this is a house rule they use for all of their Galactic Knights games, and it makes sense to me - we are essentially picking up the action immediately following the DRIFT phase of the first turn. 

All four of the Carnivoran squadrons enter up to 12" (6 hexes) onto the table anywhere along the Southern edge, with an initial drift of up to 1/2 of the thrust of the slowest ship in the fleet. 

Then Entomalian Squadrons 1, 2, and 3 are deployed randomly, by squadron, on the opposite half of the table, with random facings by squadron (they are surprised by appearance the Carnivoran reprisal force). They start with an initial drift of up to 1/4 of the thrust of the slowest ship in the fleet, in the direction of their facing. 

Deploy six Asteroids randomly on the table. Do not place any in a hex with a ship! Determine the direction of each Asteroid's Drift individually by rolling a D6 for each one, and the magnitude of their Drift by rolling a D4 for each Asteroid. The Asteroids drift in the Drift phase, but AFTER the ships do so. If an Asteroid contacts a ship (or vice versa), it does D4 critical hits to the ship. Asteroids cannot be destroyed. They DO block fire!

After the set up is complete, the Entomalians then designate any location along the three edges on their half of the playing area for their 4th Squadron to enter, along with a facing and an initial Drift (up to 1/2 that of the slowest ship in the Squadron). The 4th Squadron may appear any turn after the Second (The player must decide and write down the above before play starts).

Victory Conditions

The Carnivorans must destroy or drive off all of the Entomalian ships.

The Carnivorans blaze across the Lost Rocks, trying to close with and defeat the Entomalians in detail. The Carnivorans have the Red DRIFT markers. 

The Entomalians struggle to concentrate their forces. Note the scattered green DRIFT markers. DRIFT is a key feature of the movement and maneuver rules in Galactic Knights. 

The fleets close, with the Entomalians still suffering the residual effects of surprise. That one Carnivoran ship had better watch out for the Asteroid on its tail, though!

Entomalian Squadron 4 enters the fray! A Carnivoran Star Bomber and an Entomalian Armored Pursuit Ship are seen venting plasma; their crews are taking to the Life Pods!

Close up of the action

As the action continues, the high DRIFT of some of the Carnivoran ships carries them past the heart of the action, as one of their Destroyers goes critical. 

An Entomalian Destroyer and another Armored Pursuit ship are breaking up. Note the Escape Pods at the site of previously destroyed ships!

Close up of the Action.

At this point, the Entomalians conceded the day, and the Bugs scurried off to safety as best they could. The Kitties are victorious! Lesser Claw Grahlis' status with clans of the Carnivoran Republic is rising...

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Battle of Latema Nek: WW1 East Africa at Historicon

This battle, fought on March 11, 1916,  was run by my friend and recurrent Historicon roommate, Tim Couper, once on Thursday afternoon, and again on Friday morning, using Piquet: Field of Battle, 2nd edition, by Brent Oman, with extensions for World War One in East Africa. From the PEL:  "Allied troops under Gen Tighe advance into Tanganyika through the Latema & Reata hills. In spite of an ineffective reconnaissance of the steep, jungled terrain, troops from India, East Africa and Rhodesia were ordered to take the Nek. Take command of a battalion or a Feldkompanie!

Game 1, Thursday afternoon
I managed to snap a few pictures as I ran my own game nearby in the same time slot. Tim brought all the terrain and his 28mm figures on the plane with him from London - quite an accomplishment!

The "British" have three commands, one each Indians, East Africans (King's African Rifles), and Rhodesians. each of 4 infantry and a machine gun, plus a single Artillery unit. The "German" defenders consisted of three infantry units (Askaris) 3 machine guns, and a single artillery piece, defending 2 sets of works situated atop a steep, rocky, hilltop, covered with brush and jungle. Tim had some on site photos of the Nek with him, and I certainly would not have wanted to be attempting to fight my way up it!

The defenders look thin, but the terrain makes the attack slow going, especially under the murderous fire of the ridge top machine guns! Philip and Alex played the Germans; Gabriel played the Indians, Barry played the KAR and ? Melvin played the Rhodesian reserve.

The Rhodesians (reserves) are thrown into the attack now!

"Gosh Sarge, I'm so thirsty after climbing this damned rock!"  The irregular brown areas are completely impassable. 

The Allies finally crest the hill!  They would ultimately seize the ridge line, only to pull back when they exhausted their morale chips. Tim tells me this is pretty much what happened in the actual battle as well!

Game 2, Friday morning
The Cast:
"Germans"  (mostly Askaris): Terry S. (from Colorado) and Nelson
"British" (Sepoys, KAR and Rhodesians): Kevin and Jared, with Peter commanding the Rhodesians (reserves). 

The "Germans" start concealed; this part of their position  flanks the route of the main "British" advance.

Seen here, they make good use of the opportunities for enfilade fire offered by their position!

One of the Allied colonels is hit!

The Rhodesians of the Reserve are committed, commanded by yours truly. 

Overview, mid battle. 

My Rhodesian command assaults the Flanking position; they probably would have been better to have screened it with one unit, and committed the rest against the main position.

Run Away! Two units of Allied East African troops have routed.

Looking up slope, my Rhodesians trudge forward up the steep slopes and through the heavy jungle. 

The main attack finally manages to crest the Nek!

The Rhodesian assault looks impressive, but they never got any further than this!

Fierce fighting along the earthworks atop ridge; you might say they were Nek and Nek!

Overview of the battle. about 2/3 of the way through the game. Around this time, I had some urgent phone calls from my practice that had to be dealt with in a timely fashion, and thus turned over the command of the Rhodesians to my old friend, the globe trotting economist, Adolfo, who had cleverly arranged some business in DC for the Monday after Historicon!

Adolfo wisely shifted the bulk of the Rhodesians against the main position, where they helped turn the tide in the Allied favor. 

The position was gained, but at a terrible cost!

Colonel Peter surveys some of his Rhodesian command with dismay. "But, but, but.... they all wear Khaki! Don't any of you understand?  I don't do Khaki!"

Tim ran two great looking, well paced, fun games, and seems to have made a convert to Field of Battle in Jared, who, it turns out, lives about an hour's drive from Barry and me. Tim is scheming to return to WW1 East Afrika for next Historicon. I believe that I heard him mumbling something about a Dirigible being involved next year...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Galactic Knights at Historicon #1: Voyage of Convoy J-219

As readers of this blog will know, I have building up my four fleets of Galactic Knights ships (ex Superior Starfleet Wars line); my oldest ships were purchased at least 40 years ago, and the newest a few months ago. In my usual megalomaniac fashion, I decided to run 2 sessions of three hours each, one of Thursday afternoon, and one on Saturday evening. To make it harder on myself, I ran two different scenarios simultaneously side by side for each session. The original plan was to use the adaptation of the Star Navy 5150 Campaign system that I have been developing for the Galactic Knights rules (see previous blog posts here in that regard). A playtest with Barry the weekend before Historicon made it obvious that that was too complicated and would lead to far too much sitting around before the action got started. That is the kiss of death for a convention game, so that plan was quickly scrapped in favor of four pre-set scenarios. This is the first of the series, and was run on Thursday afternoon. George and Jeff played the Terrans, and Scott played the Terrans, ably assisted by Will, the owner of the Galactic Knights line, who was attending Historicon from Oregon!

Scenario #1:   We've got a Mighty Convoy!

Terran Ships

Squadron 1: Cruiser, 2 Destroyers
Squadron 2: Destroyer Leader, Starbomber, Armored Pursuit Ship
Squadron 3: Destroyer Leader. Starbomber, Armored Pursuit Ship
Convoy J-219: 2 each Medium Freighters , Heavy Freighters, Super heavy Freighters*

* I used designs that Mack Harrison kindly forwarded to me, as follows (no shields, armor, or weapons):
 Light Freighters (not used in game)  18 hull boxes, 16 cargo holds, Hyperdrive, 1 engine of 7 thrust. 
 5 Critica1 Hits, Profile 4
 Medium Freighters  26 hull boxes, 23 cargo holds, Hyperdrive, 2 engines of 3 thrust each
 6 Critical Hits, Profile 5
 Heavy Freighters  36 hull boxes, 32 cargo holds, Hyperdrive, 3 engines of 2,2,1 thrust
 8 Critical Hits, Profile 6
 Super Heavy Freighters  46 hull boxes, 43 cargo holds, Hyperdrive, 2 engines of thrust 2 each
 9 Critical Hits, Profile 7

Avarian Ships

Squadron 1: Cruiser, Starbomber, Armored Pursuit Ship
Squadron 2: Cruiser. Starbomber, Armored Pursuit Ship
Squadron 3: Destroyer Leader. 2 Destroyers
Squadron 4: Destroyer Leader. 2 Destroyers


Terran Convoy J-219 is on its way from Gamma Draconis IV to Hades on the frontier with the Avarian United Worlds. Supposedly carrying medicinal supplies and industrial parts, Avarian intelligence has information to suggest that the convoy is instead carrying munitions to support the launch of a new incursion by the Monkeys into Avarian Space. 

Set Up

I used a playing area 5 feet long by 6 feet deep. Convoy J-219 enters at the Southwestern table edge with an initial drift of "1".  The rest of the Terrans enter up to 12" (6 hexes) onto the table anywhere along the Southern edge, with an initial drift pf up to 1/4 the thrust of the ship with the lowest thrust in the fleet. 

The Avarians enter anywhere along the Northern table edge, up to 12' (6 hexes) on, with an initial drift up to 1/2 of the thrust of the slowest ship in the fleet. 

There is a warp point/wormhole at the far Northeastern corner of the table. The Terran objective is to exit as much of their freighter capacity off the table via the warp point as possible. Moving a ship to the warp point hex is sufficient, as long as it has an intact hyperdrive!

Victory Conditions

Terrans get 75% or more of the cargo holds off the table = Major Victory
Terrans get 51 - 74% of the cargo holds off the table = Minor Victory
Terrans get 26 - 49% of the cargo holds of the table = Minor Defeat
Terrans get 25% or less of the cargo holds off the table = Major Defeat

End of  Move 1 - The Convoy (orange ships, white drift markers) has started its perilous journey, maintaining a tight formation, with the Terran warships (white, blue drift markers) on the lookout for the Tweeties!

End of Move 1 - Avarian ships begin to streak towards the helpless merchant ships from several different approaches.

Terran ships maintain formation, as the Avarians close in.

The Convoy is making good progress, but is attacked from the rear, forcing the Terran warships to come about in order to counter the threat.

One of the freighters is destroyed, but the rest press on, as the Avarians seem a bit scattered. 

Avarian ships trying to claw back and get in effective range of the Freighters once again. 

In the end, the game was judged a marginal Terran Victory.

In the game postmortem, it was felt that the Merchant ships, although excellent targets, had so many hull boxes that they were perhaps too difficult to destroy. Cargo Holds were introduced in the 2nd Galactic Knights Supplement. I'd suggest borrowing an old Starfire rule- if a point of damage strikes a cargo hold, and the next box in that column is also a cargo hold, both are destroyed for only one point of damage. This reflects the tendency of clustered cargo holds to collapse fairly easily when hit. It also keeps them from being used as cheap armor!

The players seemed to enjoy both the game and the rules, which have a lot of potential for strategy, and Will asked to steal the scenario for future use, which is more than fine with me. I did discover that I didn't have nearly enough D10's to run the game efficiently, which sent Will scurrying off to the dealer hall and back to the rescue with two fistfuls of D10's!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Emperor Strikes Back - Montmirail 1814 at Historicon 2014, Take 1

In a moment of unusual sanity, I opted to run the battle of Montmirail twice at Historicon this year, rather than two different 1814 battles. This post concerns the first rendition, played on Friday night from about 7 - 11:30 PM. Barry and I had playtested it 6 months ago, and tweaked it a bit,. Overall, it seemed to be a very solid scenario (posted previously to this blog),with the main down side being the potential for the Prussian player to be relatively inactive (as the Prussians were historically!). Figyures are 28mm, rules were Field of Battle, 2nd edition. Of course, no scenario fully survives contact with a group of gamers, to paraphrase the well know military aphorism.  But I am getting ahead of the story...

French Set up:  Ricard's Division of Conscripts, seen here in greatcoats and 1812 pattern standards. French far left. My Historicon roomate, Tim C. of London had this command.

French Set up: Friant's Old Guard Division, and the Guard Foot and Horse Artillery. French Left Middle. Gabriel had Friant, and the Guard Artillery was part of the other Tim C's command.

Two small Russian Corps of 2 Divisions, each of  2 Jager and 4 Line regiments. Being Russian, they come with many guns! Barry had the near Coropsm, and Sammy had the far one. 

Close up of the 2nd Russian Corps; all Barry's Front Rank figures, and Sammy's command. 

French Right Center - Old Guard Cavalry Division, including the Chasseurs a Cheval and Mamelukes (2 units), Grenadiers a Cheval and Gendarmes d'Elite (2 units), and the Empress Dragoons, all part of Tim C's command.

French Far right set up: Small division of 2 Guard Lancer units (Polish and the Dutch "red" lancers), Young Guard cavalry Division of 5 units ("heavily disguised" as French line cavalry, to borrow from my friend James' blog!).  This was Dan's command.

The lead Brigade of Yorck's Prussians, in column of march. Due to the mud, all artillery movement was reduced 50%. The multicolored felt swatches are due to table cloth, which I think came out great, only being 10.5 feet long instead of 12 feet - the heather type tan felt was perfect for what I needed, but that was all they had! Ken had the Prussians. 

Close up of the far French right. 

A Russian cavalry Division held the Russian Left; one Division each of Barry's star crossed Dragoons, and one of Hussars. The near units only are mine, one each Old Glory and  Minifigs, the rest are all Front Rank. Andy (Sammy's Dad) had the Russian horsemen. 

A view from the Russian rear. 

Looking across the battlefield at the French Old Guard infantry.

Ken Baggaley commanded the Prussians. He had hot dice for his MOVEs, and brought the Prussians up as quickly and as far as possible, allowing for the mass of French Young Guard cavalry (under Dan) facing off against him.

Dan has turned the entire Young Guard cavalry Division to contain the Prussians. He has no artillery or infantry support, however. 

A stalemate existed between them... until Ken's Prussian artillery, dragged laboriously through the thick, cold mud, started to deploy.

They Old Guard Cavalry boldly, perhaps recklessly, charged into the teeth of the Russian guns and Dragoons. They were fairly successful at taking out the guns, but the Dragoons, which had so often appeared on the Roll of Dishonor, repulsed several units of the Emperor's Finest. Perhaps Barry's threat to sell them on E-Bay finally awakened their martial spirit?

No less than three Old Guard cavalry units routing for home! Sacre Bleu!

The Old Guard Infantry was also launched into the teeth of the Russian main line, with Ricard's conscripts moving up somewhat cautiously in support.  Meanwhile, the Middle Guard Division has arrived. Perhaps spooked by the surprising alacrity of the Prussians, the Guard Horse artillery and half of the Middle Guard are dispatched to the French right. Could take a long time to get there, though...

The Chasseurs a Pied tussle with the Russian infantry, routing several battalions.... but there are more where those came from!

The 2 lone regiments of Guard lancers are looking more than a bit outnumbered, especially with the arrival of the Prussian Cavalry as well (mostly Landwehr, though). 

You are beautiful, but vulnerable, mon cheris!

The Gendarmes d'Elite celebrate their tabletop debut by running down a Russian battery!

The French Old Guard Infantry is performing valiantly, but three units against 12 is a bit long odds, even for the Grognards!

Overview of the center mid battle; the Old Guard infantry in line seem to be daring the mass of Russian Cavalry to charge them!

Dan finally realizes that a few units of his superior cavalry are enough to keep the Prussians honest and relatively bottled up, and throws some support back at the Russian and Prussian cavalry to keep them occupied. 

The remaining Young Guard cavalry try charging an unscathed Prussian square, composed of Grenadiers. Needless to say, the hotheads of the regiment perished in the attempt, while the remainder got a painful lesson in Napoleonic Tactics 101!  "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre: c'est de la folie!"

Overview of the right, mid to late game. The French are almost down to zero morale chips, while the Russians have about 20 left. This doesn't look good for H.M. the Emperor!

The Guard Horse Artillery and half the Middle Guard infantry continue to march further off to the French right flank, to counter the perceived Prussian threat, which is more apparent than real. 

Prussian Landwehr cavalry beset from the front and rear by Guard cavalry. As we say in Piquet/Field of Battle, "you can always roll a one..."

Not this time, though - the Guard sliced through the Landwehr like fresh pate de fois gras! On they went into the Russian Hussars...

whilst their Dragoon counterparts decided to test the mettle of the Old Guard infantry. 

Charge home, Ivan!

Having seen the Grenadiers a Pied trampled under, the Gendarmes d'Elite trot forward to succor their bearskinned foot bretheren. 

On the French left, the Russian infantry senses victory on the air, and  surges forward to engage Ricard's plucky conscripts. 

Grand Charge of the Guard Cavalry! Marshal Bessieres would have been proud.

At this point, the French turned a "MOVE ONE COMMAND" card. They were debating using it for the Old Guard, now down to three units, which were unloaded and battered. The GM (tip of the chapeau), an admitted Francophile, was heard to utter something like, "Nom de Dieu, Attaque de la Garde Moyen!", pointing out that the tired Grumblers needed support badly. Gabriel promptly rolled a "Triple Magic Move" for them, and the tide began to turn in favor of the Emperor!

The Gendarmkes d'Elite continue their glorious first outing, supported by the now rallied Grenadiers a Cheval, who are eager to make amends for their earlier shame under the every eyes of  Le Petit Caporal!

The Russian Cavalry, tired from earlier charges, is feeling the pressure as they get tag teamed by the horseman of the French Guard.

Overview of the infantry battle, as the French Guard commence their Vegomatic imitation, slicing and dicing the opposing Russians!

Barry's Dragoons finally remember their routing ways!

The outnumbered Russian cavalry is being slowly consumed .

The Middle Guard overuns a battery and seizes both villages (worth 4 Morale Points a piece, although I forgot that part of the scenario). Note the routing Russian infantry units at the table edge. What had seemed impossible 30 minutes earlier has happened - the Russians are at zero Morale chips, and will quit the field. Napoleon seems back to his old self on the battlefield, in a way not seen since 1809! Vive l'Empereur!