Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Tank on Tank: Eastfront

The holidays are nearly over and I've had a lot of fun playing more wargames in the last four weeks than I have in the last twelve months. This is mainly due to my switch over to playing some simple, low brain cell board and counter games, with an emphasis on print and play to keep the cost down to a minimum. 

I decided to start this blog to chart my adventures in 'beer and pretzels' lead free gaming, and it has been a really positive experience, in contrast to my frustrated attempts to get some miniature based stuff done this year. The work side of my life has been terrible over the last couple of years, so the Tea and a Wad blog has given me a real boost.

Anyway, to cheer myself up before I get back to the slog through at work next week, I decided to splash out on a copy of Tank on Tank: Eastfront, which wasn't cheap but will be a splendid addition to my wargame collection. I've enjoyed playing the Westfront version of this game so, with loads more units, new geomorphic maps, special rules and extra scenarios, the Russian Front original should be great.

Unfortunately, this does mean I've blown a major hole in my wargaming budget for next month, which will probably lead to some of my miniature gaming plans being put on hold. It's Colours 2016 next weekend too, so I'll have to save up my pocket money for the show, especially as I have some resurgent naval wargaming projects in the pipeline for the autumn which could do with a few extras.

Whatever happens and no matter how swamped I am with work, I'll still find the time for more 'beer and pretzels', one brain cell wargaming!

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Tank on Tank: Westfront - Design Your Own

There's a very simple but effective Design Your Own scenario system for Tank on Tank: Westfront, so I thought I'd give it a try. There are two possible types of scenario, one being a basic Meeting Engagement and the other a Meeting Engagement with Objectives, so I decided to go for the vanilla option, aiming for around 200 points a side. The guidelines suggest between 250 and 350 points for a decent sized battle but I find that this causes a bit of congestion, so I went for a slightly lower total.

I haven't used a range of the units available in the boxed counter set, so I also decided to incorporate as many of these as possible, most of which are the late war AFV's that only feature in the last five core scenarios. With a 200 point top limit I wasn't going to have all the whistles and bells but I could include some Panthers, a Tiger, a few M26 Pershings and a P47D airstrike or two. I used the airstrike option in my last game and it was fun but a bit useless, so I thought I'd have another go!

The mechanism for a DIY Meeting Engagement scenario is really straightforward:
  1. Decide the number of points both sides will play.
  2. Purchase units according to the points decided upon.
  3. Roll 1D6. The winner (Player A) decides which map to use, whether snow is used or not, and what long-edge side of the map they will set up on.
  4. Player B sets up second but moves first.
  5. Both players set up on any hex row bordering the map edge.
  6. If using the Snow Map, check the rules for fighting in the snow.
  7. The game lasts 10 turns.
  8. To win the game, a player must destroy 50% of his opponents units (using points values) by the end of Turn 10. If neither side achieves 50%, it's a draw.
I worked out two roughly equal forces using the instructions and aiming for a scenario in February - March 1945, when the Pershing would have actually been in action. The option to use a King Tiger had to be scrapped and a Tiger I used instead as, by this point in the war the remaining King Tigers had been redeployed to what was left of the Eastern Front. This was not a problem as there was only a single point in difference between the two and I could boost the Tiger up to Ace status anyway.

German Kampfgruppe (Player A)

1 x Tiger @ 24 / Ace @ +10
1 x Panther HQ @ 31
3 x Panther @ 23
2 x Infantry @ 26
1 x Pak40 AT gun @ 29

Total = 215 points

American Task Force (Player B)

1 x Pershing HQ @ 31
2 x Pershing @ 23
2 x Armoured Infantry @ 26
2 x Priest SPG @ 27
2 x P47D Airstrikes @ 18

Total = 219 points

I thought about using a Wespe unit to support the German Kampfgruppe and the 105mm Howitzer battery for the Americans but this would have thrown the balance out and made it harder to fit in everything to the 200 point target. I think the two forces are fairly well balanced and should produce an interesting, fast moving game. The German armour is powerful and they have a useful AT gun but the Americans have plenty of fire support to soften things up before they go in for the assault.

I'm hoping to play this scenario out later today, so will post an after action report when it's done.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Wings of War

I used to play a lot of Wings of War, before it became Wings of Glory, but haven't done so for quite a while, mainly due to having other things to do. It is always a favorite with my kids, especially when we're on holiday. It's so simple that the kids pick it up really quickly and it's perfect for a rainy day, not that we've had many of those recently.

I left a deluxe boxed set in France last time we were here for just such an occasion but only found it this morning when I was tidying up ready to leave. I think I'll take it home with me and use it alongside my other Wings of War planes, so that I actually get some games organised on a more regular, less occasional basis. It is an ideal 'beer and pretzels' pub game after all.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

X Wing Squadron Forward

I was thinking about some sort of solo mini-campaign for X Wing, with a narrative to link together a series of scenarios and a pilot advancement focus to build in a role play element to the campaign. I tried to find something like this using my Googlefu but didn't get very far, with most X Wing campaigns being multiplayer ladder style efforts.

I then remembered the Squadron Forward supplement for Toofatlardies Bag the Hun air combat rules, which was exactly what I was looking for. Although designed for WW2 the basic mechanisms could be adapted for the Star Wars universe and X Wing rules system without too much difficulty.

The Squadron Forward campaign system enables you to develop  a number of character profiles for pilots in a typical WW2 unit, with background, personality traits and attributes. This then builds into a scenario development tool, with the characters progressing through each mission, complete with advancements in skills and promotions.

It would need some further tinkering to incorporate the upgrade cards in place of Bag the Hun pilot skills and experience levels, but it is a definite option instead of the squad building system in X Wing. I'll see if I can work something out on paper and have a go at creating backgrounds for an X Wing pilot or two.

I am also going to play around with X Wing Squadron Builder to see if I can cut a few corners with book keeping:

It's one of the various X Wing spreadsheet programmes that you can find online and should make it easier to record the various upgrade cards and components that I can equip a squadron with in the rules.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

TAC I-16 Ishak

The I-16 has just been added to the Table Air Combat range via Wargame Vault. I haven't had a chance to order a copy yet but, from the pictures and the preview, it looks like it will be useful in a turning dogfight, tough as old boots to damage but pretty weak when it comes to firepower. The scenarios include the Spanish Civil War, the Sino Japanese War and the Russian Front, so a lot of variety and plenty of replay value. Not bad for £1.51. 

Victory at all Costs

I've played a couple of games of Victory at Sea at the club in the past but never really sat down to work through the rules myself, so thought it would be a good idea to use the cardboard counters that come with the download version of the rules for a spot of play testing. The counters are really not that bad and, when photocopied onto thin card and glued back to back, they are quite sturdy. This is perhaps more than can be said for Victory at Sea itself?

I set up a rather uneven but not too far fetched encounter game between two Z36 class German destroyers and a York class light cruiser, using the generic At All Costs scenario from the rulebook. The cruiser deployed in one corner of the table and the destroyers in the opposite corner but at the edge of the deployment zone, so that they could go full pelt at the opposition to close the range. The captain of the cruiser decided to stand off to make the most of his longer range capability.

In the end, the destroyers managed to get within torpedo firing distance of HMS York but at the cost of a pummelling from her 8'' guns, which were able to concentrate their broadsides against each of the destroyers in turn. The cruiser also fired two torpedoes, one at Z31 and the other at Z34, which effectively finished them both off. The Z31 almost managed to escape to fight another day but was blasted out of the water as it made its tactical withdrawal.

The rules were at times really easy to grasp but at others a bit vague and confused. The initiative and movement phase, together with the special actions, were pretty straightforward and required no head scratching at all. The Attack Phase was, however, a bit less transparent and I screwed things up a couple of times before I got the stick firmly grasped by the correct end. Maybe I'm a bit thick but there were several points at which I struggled to make sense of the exact meaning of the text.

I was surprised by how difficult it was to hit anything, with HMS York needing a 6+ to hit the destroyers, not allowing for a -1 modifier when they were using Full Speed Ahead, even at close range. The bulk of the damage inflicted by the cruiser was through critical hits. This seemed to lead to a not unreasonable end result but to me seemed a bit unrealistic as I worked through the results of each Attack Phase. The destroyers also barely scratched the cruiser, which was largely due to their secondary armament being pathetic and both failing to bring their torpedo tubes to bear.

Regardless of the niggles, it was a worthwhile experiment in the potential of cardboard naval counters which are a great way to play test the rules and to clear things up without having to assemble anything more robust. The various ship counters that I've already cut out and assembled will be perfect for this so they won't be wasted. I now have counters ready for the RN, the Kriegsmarine, the IJN and the USN, with plenty more on the sheets that I haven't cut out including the French and Italians. They may not be as flash as miniatures but they'll do.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

X Wing Extra

I spotted a couple of packs of miniatures for X Wing in FNAC today, tucked away on a display of Star Wars books and toys, so grabbed an extra X Wing to fill out my squadron to four fighters. The cards and base are in French but, as I have duplicates this isn't a problem. I have my X Wing stuff with me on holiday but haven't got around to playing any games yet. The weather had been so good that it's a shame to stay indoors. Now I have a good excuse to unbox the Tie Fighters for a dogfight with the new rebel reinforcements.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016


In played a reduced size solo game of MTB today to see if it was as much fun as I remember it being back in the day. In short the answer is no. It really is showing its age and is definitely of its time with a fair amount of book keeping, a shed load of tables to consult and numerous modifiers to apply, before you even get to the end of a single turn. It was published in 1977 so no surprise there really?

The basic game is fine, its just swamped by the level of cross-referencing and calculating you need to do in order to sink anything. You need to consult at least five tables to work out if you've caused any damage, for example, let alone work out what the damage is that you've inflicted. Its clear that things have moved on a bit, especially when compared to equivalent modern games like TAC.

Anyway, it was fun to re-play the game which I set up with three British MTB's intercepting a coastal patrol of two German R-Boats and a VP-Boat or armed trawler. This was a fairly even match on paper but, as things turned out, it was a walkover for the Kriegsmarine. The R Boats and the trawler were too tough to damage, even by a lucky torpedo hit, and too well armed to be a pushover.

In contrast, the MTB's were fast but flimsy and took far more damage than the opposition, causing one MTB to catch fire and another to sink. The latter loss was, however, self inflicted due to a navigational error by the flotilla leader, who succeeded in ramming his number two at high speed. This left both MTB's locked together, unable to fire and sandwiched between the Germans.

I think I'll stick with other, more up to date rules for coastal warfare in the future, but it was a good game in the end and I did enjoy it. The clunky mechanics and time spent number crunching really detracted from the game itself, which was a shame. I'll definately continue my lead free naval gaming using card counters but I think MTB will be put back on the nostalgia shelf.

Tank on Tank: Westfront - Thorns

This was an unusual scenario as  the Americans had some air power available, with a single airstrike by P47's to be used once during the game. I hadn't used this option before so was looking forward to seeing how effective it was and how the mechanics worked in practice. In the scenario, the Americans had to break through the German defences and exit the map from the far edge, while the Germans had to stop them. The Yanks gained VP's for exiting units from hex row A while the Germans gained VP's for each US unit destroyed.

The game was eight turns in length but nothing much happened until the fourth turn when the Americans, advancing their Shermans on both flanks, decided to soften up the defenders with the much anticipated air strike. There is an interesting mechanic for this which involves placing an intial airstrike marker on the target, then rolling a D6 and placing a second and third marker according to the direction of the arrows on the counters. This means there are at least three potential hits, assuming the markers don't end up deviating onto your own units!

Anyway, the airstrike managed to wipe out only one Panzer IV, so was pretty useless. With the clock ticking the Americans decided to launch their assault on both flanks. At one end of the map, the German AT gun and Panzer IV's managed to wipe out all but one Sherman, at the cost of two tanks and one Pak 40 unit destroyed. At the other end, it was a similar story, although this time the Germans took a pounding with only one Panzer IV left facing two Shermans. The Tiger rumbled forward to support the last Panzer IV but too late to make a difference.

Overall, the Wehrmacht knocked out four Shermans and lost four Panzer IV's and the AT gun, giving four VP's to the Germans and zero to the Americans. This seems odd but the Yanks were supposed to be either wiping out the defenders or exiting units off the map, so achieved neither of their objectives. The airstrike was interesting but relatively ineffective, although it could have been devastating with better deviation rolls and higher die scores. In retrospect, I think the Americans need to concentrate on advancing and avoid slugging it out with the Panzers in order to achieve their mission.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Cardboard Coastal Warfare

I mentioned to Tony at Tiny Tin Troops that I'd be really interested in some 1/600 scale WW2 coastal warfare counter sets, if he was looking for another line to explore in addition to his ancient naval galleys. I was, therefore, really surprised to find that he'd already had a go at creating some MTB counters as an experiment for a friend, one of which he attached to an email to show me what they looked like.

The MTB counter example took a long time to design due to the amount of detail that Tony added, which is to a high level of accuracy. I think it looks great. These counters would be excellent as a replacement for the rather dull ones used in MTB, for example, as well as substitutes for miniatures with other conventional rules. I really hope he decides to pick up this idea and take it further including S boats, R boats, VP boats, MGB's, MTB's and so on.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Table Air Combat Thoughts

I've played enough TAC scenarios to have a good handle on the game and how it works, so I thought I'd jot down some good points and not so good points about the system. On the whole, the Table Air Combat system is a very neat and elegant representation of air warfare in WW2 and does reflect what I know about the subject.

The game leads you toward real life tactics and, with the focus on fighter elements and bomber formations, it does feel right. It is easy to pick up and play, very inexpensive and looks really good too, with high quality components and a pretty extensive range of aircraft. The downsides are minor and reflect the scope of the system rather than being inherent faults.

If you are looking for a paper version of CY6 or Bag the Hun you will be disappointed, as this isn't a detailed set of aerial warfare rules or a highly sophisticated air combat representation. The initiative rules are a bit clunky and there are no rules for pilot skill or progression, not that you couldn't make them up.

I am impressed by the Table Air Combat concept and have really enjoyed the games that I have played thus far. There's plenty of re-play potential and no shortage of possible scenarios to develop, so I'm looking forward to more aircraft being made available and to trying out the various combinations possible with the aircraft already available. 

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Poseidon's Warriors

I'm pinching a really neat from the Meeples and Miniatures blog. The idea is to use Osprey Publishing's Poseidon's Warriors miniatures ancient naval rules with 2D card counters from the Tiny Tin Troops range of pre-printed, full colour ships. I've ordered a 1/600th scale set for the Peloponnesian Wars, which is a good conflict to start with as there are plenty of potential actions and several battle scenarios in the rules. The set only cost a fiver plus a quid for postage, so far cheaper than the metal option, even though I do already have some of the 1/600th scale Xyston models stashed away for ancient naval gaming. This will be an experiment for me in using card flats instead of three dimensional metal miniatures, so it will be interesting to see how it turns out. 

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Table Air Combat : Schweinfurt (B-17F vs Bf-109G)

I cut out some of my late war aircraft sets for Table Air Combat yesterday evening so decided to try out the B-17F Flying Fortress against the Bf109G 'Gustav' in a one off scenario. This was a simple set up with a pair of B17's separated from their bomber formation on the way back from a raid on Schweinfurt, intercepted by a flight of two elements of Bf-109's. I wanted to try out the defensive armament on the B17's and to experiment with the additional energy of the late marque Bf-109's to see what I could do with it in combat. 

In the end, this turned out to be a very short game of only three turns, with the Gustavs turning to engage the bombers in an attempt to get a head on attack. The B17's were having none of this and turned away from the incoming 109's to try and get the side and tail guns, with two or three damage dice, to bear on the fighters. This worked to an extent in Turn Two, with the second fighter element damaged by the waist gunners but with one of the B17's being shot down in the return fire. The lone B17 struggled on but it would need a minor miracle to make it back to base.

In the final turn, the two fighters swooped in for the kill, with the B17 crew now reduced to one defensive dice per arc of fire, which meant that it was very difficult to hit anything or prevent the inevitable happening. The lead Gustav moved into a beam attack position and let loose with it's cannon, rolling 4/4 and causing two hits, one of which then converted into a 'damaged' result with a roll of 4+2 = 6. This finished off the bomber which went down in flames, although I like to think that the crew bailed out in time before it crashed (I need to work out a simple way to do this).

This was an interesting game despite the short time it took to play out. The bombers are pretty vulnerable and really need to be in a strong multiple element formation in order to defend themselves properly. This is just like the real thing. The fighters are also vulnerable to concentrated defensive fire, especially when more then one firing arc can be brought into action against a single target, which happened once during the game and led to one fighter being shot down. If the rear gun had been able to engage this would have been even more decisive.

Rogue One

I should really, really get in some more games of X Wing. Even if you are not a die hard Star Wars fan this does look pretty cool. I can't wait for this to come out at Xmas, although I'll be watching it in French, just like the last instalment of the Star Wars saga. I have actually brought my X Wing collection with me this holiday but, thus far, it has remained on the shelf, so it's about time I unpacked the contents and set up a few games before we head back home.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Tank on Tank: Westfront - Break In

As a change from Table Air Combat, I played another scenario from the Tank on Tank: Westfront rules manual, with an American armoured force trying to break through a German defensive line somewhere in the Ardennes. The Germans set up first with two infantry units, two AT guns and two improved defensive positions. They also gained a reinforcments of a Panzer Mark IV HQ and three Mark IV's in Turn Three.

The Americans entered the board in Turn One using their AP's to bring their units on. The American force consisted of a Sherman HQ, three Shermans, a Wolverine SPAT, a Priest SPG, two armoured infantry units, an M8 scout car and two supply trucks. Their objective was to gain  seven or more VP's by the end of Turn Ten, with one for each town captured and three for each supply truck driven off the other end of the map.

The game started badly for the Americans with a series of low AP rolls limiting what they could bring on. The Shermans, the Priest and the Wolverine were moved up in an attempt to soften the German defences before the panzers arrived but this didn't really work, despite knocking out one of the defending AT guns. The German infantry dug into their bunkers remained firmly entrenched with the Americans reluctant or unable to get into range.

In Turn Three the Mark IV relief column turned up and in the following turn made short work of two of the Shermans. The panzers were dominating the situation by the end of Turn Six and it looked as though the Americans had blown it. Then things began to turn round for the Americans, who brought their Priest into action at long range using the Shermans to spot for the artillery. Together with the surviving Sherman the gunners knocked out three of the Mark IV's by the end of Turn Nine.

This was too late to make much of a difference to the outcome, even though the dice had also picked up for the Americans allowing them to bring on the armoured infantry and the supply trucks, one of which was promptly blown to bits by the surviving Mark IV. As the final turn ended, the Germans had taken a beating but were still holding on, while the Americans has suffered almost twice as many units knocked out for possession of only two town hexes, giving them a score of only two VP's.

This was a tough game for the Americans to win, even with their superior numbers and firepower. If they had had better AP dice early in the game they could have brought more units on to overwhelm the German defences but, with a series of turns only having two AP's to spend, their options were limited. The Germans weren't going anywhere and were prepared to use the panzer reinforcements as a fire brigade, rushing into action to blunt the Americans attack. A really enjoyable game.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Battle for Britain Paper Armies

I've been thinking about these paper miniatures as a possible way to approach historical 28mm wargaming since the first set Wargame the English Civil War 1642-1651 was published a couple of months ago:

The miniatures are in the traditional 2D stand up style and come pre-coloured, unlike the ones I've tried before from Billy Bones Workshop, which are really good but need hand shading if you want them in anything other than black and white. The Battle for Britain series also includes a set of simple rules by Andy Callan designed for use with the paper figures, although I guess any suitable set of rules would do.

There is a book for the English Civil War out already, with the War of the Roses and Saxons, Normans and Vikings for 1066 out in October as well. I think these would be ideal for a 'Beer and Sandwiches' style 'print and play' project so will see what more I can find out about both the figures and the rules. The best bit is that the artwork is by Peter Dennis, so as long as I don't screw up cutting the figures out and gluing them together, they should look pretty good?

Wednesday, 10 August 2016


I decided to have a go at the old Tabletop Games MTB, which was originally published way back in 1977 and which I played to destruction back in the day. This is now out of print but I managed to get hold of a copy a few years ago when it was re-published, then stashed it away and forgot about it. The rights to this series of paper and card wargames are owned by Hurlbat Games but they have yet to re-publish this one and my other favourite, the Micro Fleet: Napoleonic Naval set.

So, I have now cut out all of the ships, damage counters, turning templates and movement rulers, ready for a game tomorrow at some point. This is a very straightforward 'beer and pretzels' style game, with everything included apart from a couple of D6, a tape measure, some pencils and a table to play on. The ship counters feature generic MTB's, MGB's, E Boats, R Boats and Trawlers, together with a convoy of Merchant Ships, 'F-Lighters' and a Tanker.

The introductory blurb from the rule book says:


The time 1942/43, the place is the English Channel. The scene set is that of the almost continual battle for supremacy between the small boat navies of Germany and Great Britain. The prize for both sides is two-fold: first, the elimination of the other's coastal convoys, and second, the control of this narrow and dangerous stretch of water.

The majority of ships involved were, for the Germans, R and E boats and, for the British, MGBs and MTBs. Both sides also pressed into service, as convoy escorts and minesweepers, trawlers from their fishing fleets.

The game MTB re-creates the main aspect of this battle: that of the attack and defence of coastal convoys. You control a small but powerful force of these craft and your orders are, as the  attacker, to destroy as many enemy ships as you are able in one attack and, as the defender, to beat off the attack and get your convoy through.

It will be interesting to see if they stand up to the test of time?

Table Air Combat: Midway (Dauntless vs Akagi)

This was a cracking scenario, pitting the carrier Akagi and a lone element of A6M-2 Zero fighters on CAP against two flights of SBD-3 Dauntless dive bombers. This was the first time I had used the rules for naval flak, dive bombing, tail gunners and ships, so a proper baptism of fire in more than one respect. As usual, I decided to plot the movement and combat on a large sheet of A2 paper, which is the ideal size for these table top dogfights. I also did a cleaned up version on a sheet of A4 afterwards, to help see what I'd actually recorded in my scribbles.

The action was pretty intense, with the Dauntless flights splitting to avoid the flak bursts from the Akagi, whilst fending off the Zero air cover and attempting to line up on the target. They managed to pull this off in the end with an almost perfect stern approach to the carrier, which planted two sticks of bombs slap bang onto the Akagi's unarmoured flight deck in quick succession. This was at the cost of two dive bombers shot down, one by a combination of flak and anti-aircraft fire and the other by the defending Zeros.

The Zeros didn't escape unharmed either, as the rear gunner of one Dauntless managed to hit and damage the fighters at close range, holding them off to allow the other USN dive bombers to start their bombing run. One of the Dauntless elements also ended the game damaged by a flak burst as it zoomed away from the burning flat top but too late to make a difference to the scenario outcome. The overall result was a draw according to the victory conditions, with the game ending on Turn Ten. I allowed the surviving dive bombers to escape, as the Zeros were probably low on fuel and ammo.

Two things cropped up in this game. The first was shooting through friendly aircraft. I decided that this was not allowed but there is nothing in the rules to cover this, so who knows? I suppose you could play this either way but it seems realistic to have friendly fighter elements blocking line of sight to enemy targets. There are many instances in the Battle of Britain, for example, of fighters flying in front of other fighters and 'getting in the way'. It's probably better to stick to one decision now rather than deliberate later.

The other thing was whether you can carry over damage when bombing ships. I managed to score two hits with one stick of bombs and rolled more than the target defence value to convert both of these into damage. In the end I just counted this as one damage result, in line with the rules for aircraft, rather than spilling the second damage point over to fill up a second target circle. This doesn't happen when bombing ground targets, as aircraft just have to cross the template at some point, not the exact circle but it does crop up when attacking ships.

I really enjoyed this game but have now run out of early war USN and IJN aircraft to cut out and glue together, having only printed out the Wildcat, Zero and Dauntless counters. The dive bombing was really neat and the Akagi counter is a lovely bit of artwork. I'll probably have another game with these three planes then switch over to a different campaign, either the Battle of Britain or the US daylight raids over Germany. I quite like the idea of the former as I can play around with dive bombing again using the Ju87 Stuka and try out level bombing with the He111 and Ju88.

What a great little system!