Friday, August 5, 2016

Historicon 2016: WW1 East Afrika, Russian Civil War with FoB2

       Well, dear friends, I have  a confession to make. Yes, I have done it again; my hands have touched khaki! Tim C. once again made the trip over from the UK, and ran another of his small World War One East Afrika scenarios. These games are an excellent introduction for players new to the Field of Battle rules, and fun for us veteran players, too! Tim ran this game at 10 AM on Friday, and again at Noon on Saturday (twice that day!). From the listing in the PEL:

 The affair at Kisii (British East Africa Sept 12, 1914) 

"The Germans advanced across their northern border into British East Africa, and had set up camp in the small village of Kisii under Kapitan Bock von Wuelflingen. To counter this move, the British sent troops under Captain Thorneycroft. The Germans were completely oblivious to the advancing troops, the first shots hitting them in the middle of a parade!"

And here are the "Germans", all lined up on parade, shouting cadences and glory to the Kaiser! Most of their troops are Askaris of various sorts, and they are definitely not expecting a fight. With there being an open slot, and me not needing to start to set my game up until about 2 PM, I took one of the German commands; the middle one, IIRC. No cavalry though. Is that even civilized,?

The British swoop onto the field, and we Germans have to try to restore command, bring up our off label forces, crew our guns etc.

We Germans make a fair hash of it, failing most of our command rolls, as Captain Torneycroft's men start about the task of throwing this rubbish out of British territory!

Yep, still plenty of black "out of command" markers on the Germans!

The British look pretty smug. "I say. Bostwick, do you think we can wrap up this sordid little affair in time for Tea?"  British players were, left to right, David H, our old friend John M from Colorado (empty chair), and Keith F. 

You guessed it! STILL out of command!  "Rifles, machine guns, ammunition?? Must be some here somewhere!"  German Players were Adam, Steve, and myself. 

Well, at least SOME of our units finally shake themselves into a semblance of combat readiness
... and none too soon, as the Brits are peppering us with long range machine gun fire!

In the center, a British command has established themselves at the edges of a plantation (class 2 terrain). They are pushing their right flank forwards, seeking to seize the small village of Kisii

"Say, good man, what's up with those huts?"  Two units of Ruga-Ruga, temporarily allied to the Germans, rush forth from the village, seeking plunder and easy pickings!

British fire forces a German machine gun back...

and  then, the proverbial worm turns! To my right, the German player takes two shots at David's "British" in the plantation rolling a D4 vs a D6 each time. 4 vs 1 , and 4 vs 1 again! Both units are pushed back 3" out of Command, and lose a unit Integrity each. When a timely MOVE card is turned, my boys move forward to contest the Plantation.

The Ruga-Ruga and our sole unit of European infantry also advance.

Another timely MOVE card and my troops engage the shaken British within the plantation.

Action across the field is fast and furious!

Some Rhodesian police arrive to bolster the British left flank.

The British are being pushed back within the plantation, and are then attacked by a swarm of angry African bees!

My people are a poor people....  Ahem

The Brits try to save face (and Army Morale points) by whupping up on the hapless Ruga-Ruga. 

who prove to be tougher than their stats!

In the end, British morale fails as their losses mount, and they quit the field. A victory for the Kaiser's men. This will not play well with the Horse Guards!

 Reds vs Whites: Retreat to the Crimea! 

From the PEL  "Deniken’s 1919 push on Moscow has failed. With Baron von Wrangel in charge now, the White forces are in full blown retreat towards the Crimea. In this battle, a desperate White rearguard, entrenched along a rail line, attempts to hold off combat ready Red troops who are beginning to shine on the battlefield. 15mm, lots of variety (tachankas, armored cars, White officer battalions), using modified Field of Battle 2 Rules."

 Jared ran this game at 10 AM, Friday and again at 12 Noon on Saturday. Unfortunately, due to my own games I was only able to take few random shots

I see Alex and his son Thomas played in this one. I understand that in the Saturday game, Piquet veterans Ken B and Eric B set new records for dice rolling ineptitude!

Some shots from Tim's Saturday "Kissi" games.

Tim had 2 brothers playing on opposite sides in these games,  as well as Roy Jones (center). 

Jared contributed his pink dice; are you man enough to roll with them?

I understand that the first game ended rather quickly and was surprisingly lopsided, so Tim set it up again!

As he needed players, I took a British command this time, with the other Peter playing on my side (and his brother opposite). I have my hat strategically placed covering may face so as not to be identified as handling Khaki yet again! :-)

 Barry and Tim check the Firing modifiers. How did we Brits do? Well, suffice it to say that our attack didn't Peter out!

    In a message sent to Historicon GM's, event coordinator Bill Rutherford announced that there were more games run at Historicon 2016 than at any previous *Fredericksburg* Historicon, breaking the previous high total set by the first Fredericksburg Historicon (which was in 2012 - good gracious, was this the 5th Historicon in Virginia already?!  Bill also noted that there was less carpet and more noise this year than before, although certainly nothing approaching the severe tinnitus inducing levels of the first show there. Replacement carpet is planned for next year so we should be back up to snuff there for 2017. 

    I certainly want to thank the HMGS officers and all of the Historicon volunteers for a great convention. I've dealt with Bill as a pre-registering GM for quite a few years now, and he has never been anything but accommodating. The GM help desk staff helped resolve a scheduling conflict quickly and effectively, and the greatly improved suply of ice water this year was especially welcome, particularly when the mercury outside hit 102 degrees of Friday. I'll be back again in 2017, although I'd certainly be thrilled if one of the HMGS conventions moved to Somerset, NJ - a huge reduction in drive time for everyone in NY and New England, and as noted previously, very familiar territory for me as well. 


  1. Whilst I am sure its "Fun" rules systems that rely on dice activation every move for every unit before any combat command can do anything are not realistic. For example the unit under direct command should always be able to do something as the CinC is actually on the spot. I preper Phil Barkers concept of a PIP dice that will always return at least a 1 but may return a high roll too. Having played games where I have just been forced to sit there and do nothing for what seems like ages whilst "superior" enemies run rings around you isnt fun, leads to bored disengaged players imho

    1. Drew,

      I am going to respond to this once, and at most one additional time as it appears likely on the face of things that neither of us are likely to convince the other person of the other's viewpoint, and this is a hobby, not a political debate. And that is perfectly fine!

      I have been engaged in our wonderful hobby for well over 45 years now. In the late 1990's I had become somewhat bored with our games. I loved the visual spectacle, research, painting, and rules writing, but... the actual games had become sort of dull. We line up, and I pretty much know what's going top happen over the course of the next 4 to 6 hours. Ho hum. Around that time, I discovered the early version of Bob Jones' "Piquet". I played a solo game, and OMG! HERE was EXACTLY what I was looking for. the games were marvelously exciting, seldom predictable, and yet... solid tactics were still rewarded, as was a keen focus on what you wanted to accomplish, and how to do that in the most efficient fashion possible. It was amazing easy to do a write up after the fact that sounded almost exactly like a real narrative does, focusing on the key moments when things went very right... or otherwise! I set about exposing as many wargamers as I could to this new way of looking at tabletop miniature wargaming, and hopefully converting some of them. Original Piquet (with some impetus modulation added; I think even us fans will admit, with apologizes to my freind Bob Jones, after many dozens of games that yes, it really does benefit from a modest governor on the potential for enormous swings of impetus). With at, Piquet is a hugely fun game for up to 4 players. After that, by it's very nature and design, indefinitely becomes more likely to leave players out of the action. There are to modulate even that - I know, because I've used them in games with up to 10 players. Regardless, my experience was that about 1/3 of the players I introduced to the game were hooked almost from the get go, another third were OK with it but not their cup of tea, and 1/3 never wanted to hear about the rules ever again... which is OK, I mean how do you really know if you like something radically new unless you try it? Anyway, I went on to author the revised Late/Medieval Renaissance variant of the rules, "Band of Brothers, 2nd edition", and contribute the development of the second editions of the Ancient and Napoleonic ones. Great times!

      To address some of the issues with multiplayer games, Brent Oman developed his own Piquet inspired rules, Field of Battle. Indeed, I and much of the Piquet crew were involved in huge play test of the rules at Historicon 2005. It was clear that Brent had come up with a new approach that would allow an unlimited number of players to stay in the game, and yet still keep the element of uncertainty ever present. I ran my first games with FoB at Historicon 2006, and it promptly became my set of choice for convention games. I've been using them ever since, and wrote the Fantasy rules, "Hostile Realms":, which is a sort of hybrid of Piquet and FoB both from a game mechanics standpoint. I've won a number of GM awards at Historicons, including two in the same convention. where the judges commented on presenting the award at the table side, "A big Napoleonics game where every one, is smiling, laughing, and having FUN... including teenagers???" I say all of this to make it clear that no amount of debate is likely to change my own particular viewpoint.... just as I doubt that it will change yours!


    2. "Realism", as it applies to game with toy soldiers with no one's life or health at stake, is at best an elusive concept. I've played and even written highly "realistic" rules. I would say that having predictable, incremental movement, that everyone does simultaneously is about as far from the reality of the battlefield as it gets! I have hardly played more than a handful of "I go, You go" games in the past 20 years - I just find them boring. Phil's pip system is another way to get around that... as is the very clever use of playing cards in "To the Strongest!"

      It is definitely true that large, multiplayer games can sometimes leave players with more down time than we would like, especially if the commands are too large, and/or there are many players unfamiliar with the rules. But you know, the same thing happens then no matter WHAT the rules are - and it isn't mostly the lack of opportunity to act that causes the lulls, it is the time taken to resolve combat when some commands are hotly engaged, and others are not. That's the time to watch the rest of the game, take some pictures, and have a sip or two of your favorite beverage, alcoholic or otherwise... and plan your next moves!

      Just a few comments on Tim's WW1 East Afrika games pictured above. One of the great things about them (aside from Tim's banter and quirky British sense of humor) is that the players have only one or at most two small commands. Thus no matter WHAT the roll of the dice or the play of the cards, no player was ever out of the action for long - the game just moves along too quickly for that. That also made them an almost ideal introduction to the system... which is at least half of the reason that Tim runs them.

      Good gaming!


  2. Peter, very good to see that you could take time out of your very rigorous gaming-hosting schedule to participate in a game or two. Congratulations on the German victory!

    1. Thanks, Jon! I enjoyed Tim';s games a lot, and managed to be on the winning team both times... chiefly through the actions of the other players on my side! :-)

  3. Agree with your assessment of Piquet family of rules and in particular FOB. I find few other rules play like the history I read and yet yield such enjoyable games. I love the narrative it builds in a game. I understand some players feeling about the inherent chaos but again that to me is the attraction at times.
    I do play other traditional style games which are perfectly fine in their own way but am always drawn to PK style.
    Knowing in some sets sequence of play that my units will always travel 6" per move and therefore will reach their destination in X moves and the enemy can/will move same amount in interim is fine but no substitute IMHO for PKs lack of sequence or indeed FOBs.
    Will their card appear to allow a move ? will it yield 1-3 moves or indeed none !!?? will enemy get initiative to thwart this planned advance ? they shot but will they get to reload before I pile into melee with them ?
    Just so much more exciting a game than the more predictable systems.
    But definitely not for those that want total control of their little men which is fair enough to each their own I say.

    1. Yes, not to say I won't *ever* play a game with a fixed sequence (etc), but definitely not my style of choice.

  4. Great to get a spread of games from your weekend Peter and great to see you trudging through Africa once again !!

    1. Thanks, Carlo. I am still debating whether to pick up a copy of "Congo".

  5. Wow, East Africa WWI. Great stuff! I recently picked up the new 1/72 releases from Hat for WWI Africa. They have a Ruga-Ruga, German Schutztruppe, Askari and British sets. Need to order a few things but can't wait to run a game. I was planning on using FOB WWI. Maybe FOB 2 is the way?

    Guys, I agree completely with your thoughts about a fixed system with set moves and sequences. I tried PK when it first came out. We did a Zulu war battle with the British needing to move across the board. It was 'ELECTRIC' in how much fun and excitement there was in that game! I was hooked. When Brent came out with FOB I was stunned. He had made PK even better IMHO. I have found my Holy Grail set of rules. It is Field of Battle.

    Do yourself a favor before you write them off. Try a game. You may find your 'Grail' set too!

    1. Thanks, John. We are of like minds here. Still, FoB isn't for everyone - as if any war games rules were! :-)