Brand Nubian(s)

Trigger warning: This post contains shitty references to 90s hiphop. 

Another wave of recruits for the Moors arrives to shake the funk in our Age of the Wolf campaign. Had a good time painting these fellows. Tried for a mix of clothing here, a couple of veterans “acquired” flaunty Moorish dress but the new recruits from Africa came with plain clothes. My only regret is giving them those long ass spears. It looks cool but they tend to impale scenery on the gaming table and are a bitch to pack. Models are from Gripping Beast and are on the bigger side of 28 mm.

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Until next time, stay beautiful, black and bold.

Moors versus Jomsvikings (SAGA Age of the Wolf)

Our SAGA campaign steams on and here’s a short battle report of Moorish volounteer warriors facing the illustrious Jomsviking brotherhood. This battle took place in the third campaign turn (out of six possible). Since we were both raiding this turn,  Battle at the Ford was rolled as the scenario.

The Jomsvikings were lead by the infamous King Fury who took over the reigns once the previous leader was killed. Driven into the fray by his lust for riches, the Jomsviking leader had many scars from previous battles represented by the Trollhide ability, requiring two wounds to be slain. The force consisted of:

Warlord
5 Hearthguard
4 Hearthguard
5 Warriors
6 Warriors

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The Jomsviking assembled for glorious battle.

My Moorish Warband is led by a tough Sub-Saharan former merchant calling himself al-Battal Ghazi, who sold as all his property and took up the Jihad of the Sword. While lacking serious religious credentials, few can doubt that he doesn’t receive what he asks from Allah. His sense for business and logistics has led to the employment of northerners with various faiths, despite grumblings from his more puritan warriors.

The Moorish warlord has the Son of Odin (heh), Eye of the God, Scout and the Great Special Rules. In game it means he is requires two unsaved hits to die, Levys generate SAGA dice, the post game progression table can be rerolled (very useful this one) and up to 7 SAGA dice can be rolled each turn. He’s a total beast in the game. The Moorish Warband had:

1 Warlord
1 Bard (Christian nobleman)
9 Levy Archers
11 Warriors
7 Warriors
8 Warriors (saxons)

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The Moors together with some Saxons. Because of our house rules, my Warband had a Bard in this game, represented by the Christian nobleman on the armored horse. To get some sweet post-battle effects, it was paramount he survived.
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The Jomsvikings deploy in a tight formation on the left flank. In this way, they would avoid the nasty abilities of the Moorish board. But this allowed my Saxons to advance unopposed over the bridge. I need to secure the left flank quickly though.

Early Turns

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The Jomsviking dreng, eager for battle, are the first unit to cross the bridge. My opponent also played the Northern Tempest the first turn. This time, I really wanted my levies to fire off 5 shots so I gave him the Wrath.
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Saelred the Saxon, preferring to fight for the Charred Men from the south over the ferocious viking pagans, leads his men dutifully across the bridge and secures the other side.  The rest of the Moorish Warband scrambles left to challenge the fearsome northern mercenaries.
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The Moorish volounteer warriors steel themselves before the coming storm. As my opponent usually has the activation blocking Punishment up, I can’t use Song of Drums to activate everything. However, the fact that I roll 7 dice and have a bard allow the Moors to move quickly.
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The Levy close in to fire at the bridge while the rest of the Moorish Warriors move in as a reserve.
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But even with 7 dice is not enough to move the Warband and stack up abilities to fight in combat. I decide to wait for my opponent to make the first assault.
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My opponent doesn’t engage yet but moves up his Warband further up. The Moorish Archers shower the Jomsvikings with arrows but fail to make a dent.
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Since the jomsvikings have some Wrath up, they get access to their powerful rightmost column. However, my Moorish phalanx is prepared with dice on all the combat abilities. My opponent plays Dance of Steel a lot this game,  granting the Jomsvikings extra armor. He then shouts praises to Odin and attacks.
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And it is a disaster for the Jomsviking drenge. The muslims fight with skill and faith, but also by rolling very good attack and defense dice gained by the Fury of Swords ability. A strong melee ability to play on large units of spear men.
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The Jomsviking hearthguard are a lot tougher and force the Moors back. With Dance of Spears played, I reduce our casualties. Being true to their Viking tradition, the Jomsvikings easily remove fatigue gained from combat. Any counter attack will be costly.
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I roll two 6s and decide to play the Betrayal ability first time ever. If I took over the Dreng, I could crash them into his hearthguard nearby. Of course my opponent opts to put 3 fatigues on King Fury, the Jomsviking Warlord. My other dice are spent on defensive abilities and resting.

Late Turns

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My Moorish spear men and the Jomsviking hearthguard fight again. I deny my opponent some activations, giving him more wrath. Hopefully, I would be able to destroy the Jomsviking vanguard before it is reinforced.
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My Moorish Spear men crash into his weakened warrior unit and cuts them down. Al Battal Ghazi unsheathes his sword and charges the fatigued Jomsviking hearthguard on his own. I even bought an extra attack dice. But this time he is an african’t and does little damage.
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The Moors are attacked again by the Jomsviking Hearthguard. My Levies dropped one of them before, but they still slay 5 of my men.
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The fearsome Jomsviking assault leaves my 11 man warrior unit with only 2 fighters left. However, my opponent suffers from some terrible luck here as my 2 fighters survive another round of combat. The Jomsviking Hearthguard are angry enough to sit on +1 armor in their turns, but my dice are rolling a lot of sweet 6s.
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The Moorish archers aim more carefully this time and bring one of the Hearthguard units down. The bard has fallen behind way down to be of any use.
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And a final charge from the righteous believers finishes the last Jomsviking Hearthguard. King Fury shouts insults on the bridge before he turns back. Unfazed, Al Battal Ghazi offers a silent prayer as his victorious forces control both bridges.

Some finishing thoughts

The Moors had a stronger Warband in this game, and together with some above average dice rolling, they were able to reel in a victory. With few losses too. I really shouldn’t have played Betrayal though. A weak ability to play on Jomsvikings who can easily remove 3 fatigues from their Warlord with a common dice and free rest.

My Jomsviking opponent didn’t blame his dice. He found his plan flawed as he expected to move my men out of the way with Jomsborg, but this ability could only be played in my turn. He told me he could have played more cool, there was no need to rush into battle.

Post battle, the Jomsvikings faced another revolt at home, as the inhabitants of Jomsborg expect victories. Al Battal Ghazi gained some additional warriors and levies were bulked up to full strength.

I am surprised to like Age of the Wolf as it has the faults of classical British game design. These are characterized by eccentric rules married with random charts, where rolling double ones can totally ruin your life. But unlike my experience Flames of War and Warhammer 40k, where the campaigns are basically marketing ploys requiring  huge amount of product to play, Age of the Wolf offers interesting games and characterful Warband development. Just don’t expect it to be fair.

I would recommend fans of SAGA to try it out but consider two things before hand. Firstly, roster management is a huge part of the campaign and there needs to be a way to update it easily and keep them accessible to other players. For gaming balance reasons, the roster management is quite complicated so prepare to dumb it down a bit.

Secondly, try to figure out some way players can get more games in regardless of their chosen campaign actions. Now, back to painting.

The Second Clash (SAGA Tournament AAR)

I brought my trusty Byzantines to test their mettle in the brutal fighting grounds of A Clash of Dice and Men II. God willing, the burning shame of placing last at the spring tournament will be avenged. I got to play 3 out of 4 games (had to omit one to make up for uneven number of players).

The tournament was 6+1 points, meaning that we brought 7 points but only 6 fight on the table. I ended up with:

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The Byzantines assembled and ready to kick some pagan and latin ass.

Byzantines of Komes Dwellias  (7 Points)
1 Mounted Warlord
3 Points of Hearthguard (8 Mounted Lancers + 4 Mounted Archers)
3 Points of Warriors (10 Warriors w Bow + 10 Warriors w Spears+ 4 Warriors w Spears)
1 Point of Levy (12 Javelinmen)

Game 1 – Jomsvikings – Battle Twilight

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The Lord of Jomsborg, Sigvaldi Strut-Haraldsson leads his fearsome warriors against Byzantium.

I got to face the winner from the last tournament with his army of invincible Jomsvikings. It consisted of:

Jomsvikings 
Jarl Sigvaldi
20 Hearthguard (split into 6+6+8)

Special Rules: Armor 6 against shooting attacks. Starts the game with 1 Wrath.

My opponent plucked his boys near the center lines of each quarter. I put some the cavalry and 6 Warriors in one quarter, the levy split and took the lower quarters. The last quarter was occupied by 10 Archers and 8 spearmen. Foolishly, I put my lord with the infantry and not with the cavalry.

A possible weakness of the Jomsvikings is Sigvaldi who generates 3 SAGA dice by himself. If I could knock him out, the Jomsvikings would run out of steam. Without having my Warlord nearby, there was no way of using double cavalry activations moves from Basileus.

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I gained a lead from the beginning by controlling more quarters but my Warlord was exposed. The archers on the left flank were previously destroyed and came back in.
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I held the cavalrymen back to secure quarters and score points. I couldn’t reach Sigvaldi without making two moves which would dull them in combat.
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As the brutal Jomsvikings close in from two sides, the Byzantine Komes faces a very desperate situation.
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In the last turn I tried a desperate charge but to no avail. However, victory was secured victory on mission points. The barbarians wrecked my warlord though.

The Jomsvikings are very scary in combat. Their defensive abilities can subdue everything thrown at them. They can activate easily and are completely immune to shooting.

My opponent was determined that he could not win this mission from the start but he made things easier for me by splitting his force into 3 units and not 4. In this way, I was guaranteed to score in at least one quarter. Unfortunately, my opponent did a good job exploiting the bad positioning of my Warlord, netting him one victory point.

While my army had the advantage of many units, it had the disadvantage of them having specialized equipment. It was hard for me to utilize the Endless Warband rule compared to an Jomsvikings all Hearthguard army with uniform equipment. As the Byzantine battleboard demands close inter-unit-cooperation, using it in this scenario is quite a challenge.

Result: 3-1 for me. (3 points for me by winning the mission, 1 point for my opponent for taking out a Warlord). Won the battle by not fighting, the proper Byzantine way.
Game 2 – Anglodanes – The Challenge

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Travelling all the way to Byzantium,  Guthred son of Helgi finds no sour dough rye for his Smörrebröd and declares war on this cursed southern land and all her inhabitants.

In this mission we used the revised rules where the objective is to get 10 wounds on the opposing warlord first. Units cannot engage an Warlord unless your Warlord took more wounds than the opponent. The secondary objective is to get 4 conquering points in your opponents deployment. The Anglodanish force arrayed against the might of Byzantium consisted of:

1 Warlord
8 Hearthguard
8 Hearthguard with Daneaxes
4 Warriors
12 Warriors

With a quick glance, the obvious mission plan is to avoid the 8 Huscarls with Daneaxes smashing into my Warlord and chopping him up like firewood.

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The Byzantine Komes and the Anglodanish Jarl face off in the middle.

Initially the Danes were able to play Trapped for a couple of turns, sprinkling fatigue all over my army (mostly the cavalry). I should have really found some time to paint up some banner-men.

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The Danes surge forward while the Byzantines sit back and shed fatigues from Trapped. The Anglodanes roll well, dish out fatigues like crazy and my Komes gets very tired. I avoid punching the Jarl until the axe wielding Huscarls are taken down.
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The Anglodanish press forward into the Byzantine shield wall. Not happy with the bowmen in terrain. They couldn’t impact the game later on. My cavalry is slightly out of position from where I want it to be.
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Here the luck turns for the danish. My shooting reduces the Huscarl axemen in half and the Levy defeat a couple in the coming close combat. The Jarl has attacked my Warlord and slammed 4 wounds into him, while taking one.
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The axe wielding Hearthguard are taken out by my Spearmen with Strategikon from the nearby cavalry. The Archers take a huge toll on the other unit of Huscarls. Things look grim for my opponent.
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The nooze is tightening. All I have to to do now is to move the spearmen up and support the cavalry with Friendly Shields. However time is running out.

The Danish defenses turn out to be impeccable. Exhaustion and defense dice hamper my horsemen’s efforts while the Jarl and his men run towards the woods. In the last turn of the game, I put all my activation on the Hearthguard, it’s Now or Never! and..

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It turns out to be a dead ender comedy skit, I only manage net 2 wounds. All of the Danes were expended either blocking my movements or as extra wounds to their Jarl.
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The Jarl looks on as the Byzantines argue among themselves about whom should get what bodypart mutilated.

I can’t believe I snatched defeat from the Jaws of victory here. Short term gratification of killing models took precedence over long term victory conditions.

But it was an enjoyable close and tense game to the last dice roll. Anglodanes are a good opponent for the Byzantines. Their fatigue and activation blocking shenanigans can throw plans off and they are surprisingly durable in combat. However, the Danes have to watch themselves from the Byzantine shooting and avoid losing too many men breaking the shield wall. Their slow pace allows cavalry to hit them in bad places. My opponent won the tournament. Congratulations Alex!

Result: 0-3.

Game 3 – Crusaders – Champions of God

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The Crusaders march through Anatolia but fail to salute a local Byzantine Strategos properly. Such behavior cannot be permitted and the incensed noble sends his men to teach the arrogant latins a lesson.

The final opponent fielded Crusaders. The force had:

Crusaders
Godfrey de Bouillon
8 Mounted Knights (Hearthguard)
4 Foot Knights with Heavy Weapons (Hearthguard)
8 Crossbows (Warriors)
8 Spearmen (Warriors)
Special Rules: de Buillion can use We obey! twice, and starts the game with the Temperance virtue unlocked. de Bouillon can also allocate wounds to nearby models within 4″ instead of 2″ thanks to him being a knight exampler. Everybody wants to take one for team Bouillon.

I have played this type of mission a lot and the terrain was suitable for my army.

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The flat piece on the left is actually a small Wood with trees momentarily removed. My plan was to shoot the crusaders until they engaged or died.
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And here they come, by unlocking Fortitude their most deadly virtue ability, the Knights  hit like trains. They slam into my 7 man Levy, who with a bit of luck, survive reduced to a man.

My opponent held off his close combat abilities waiting for my inevitable counter attack.

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I get lucky with activation dice and throw every stick, stone, spear and arrow at the knights. With 5 left, I send my cavalry in with Friendly Shields loaded up. But not before using Basileus to move the spearmen up.
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I only manage to kill two knights. The crusaders unlock the full might of their entire Battleboard  by turn 3, by rolling only two dice for virtues each turn.
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My opponent actives the entire army from the Siege and hits my cavalry and the Levy. De Bouillon leads the charge personally. My cavalry is almost destroyed but I manage to wipe out the knights!

My opponent also attack my levy with his spearmen but they refuse to die. In my turn I counterattack with my spearmen and push his back. De Boullion stands alone..

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I use Common Efforts and Strategikon and slam my Warlord with his armored horse into Godfrey de Bouillon. With 10 attacks and two fatigues in my favor, the famous Norman lord was knocked out. The Byzantine Komes was then able to return to Constantinople, tell his Saga, snag an heiress and never had to work again.

After this huge setback, the crusaders were out of the game. My opponent was a new player, having borrowed his army. I felt like an total ass for wiping out all of his miniature dudes. A real “That Guy” way of introducing someone to a game.

I was however impressed with my opponents decision to follow the game through until his last man was cut down, without a word of complaint. It was no surprise he won Best Sportsmanship.

Result: 4-0 to the Byzantines. I finished 3/9 place overall.

Closing thoughts

My Warband did a good job most of the games but I need to play other missions than just slay the Warlord. I like the flexibility of the Byzantines but its not an easy battle board to use. Overall it was a great tournament.

Some quick words about organization. As each game had to completed within two hours, the terrain was pre-placed on each table by the tournament organizers. To avoid unfair advantages, we decided also that buildings (one of our common terrain pieces) was impassible terrain. We also had only one mission where Slaughtering Victory Points were counted at the end. Avoiding them seem to speed things up.

It was great to see new players showing up with their warbands. Also shout outs to Pedro for coming here all the way from Denmark. I suspect watching me getting molested by a piss drunk stag party later that night made up for the long trip.

Byzantine tactics and reinforcments (SAGA)

Been taking the Byzantines out on campaigns during the summer and found out some things that I want to share with my fellow Strategoi. In this post will describe what army compositions I’ve been using and some tactics that I learnt.

Initially I was fielding this 6 point force:

1 Warlord
8 Hearthguard Lancers
4 Hearthguard Mounted Archers
8 Warrior Spearmen
8 Warrior Archers
12 Levy Javelins

An army made from the Starter Warband with a few additions. It lacked offensive power and most abilities on the Battle Board were quite weak with it. The strength of the Byzantines in SAGA is their ability to activate multiple units, usually for shooting with easy to get dice. After being unable to win 10 or 15 games, I decided to take out the mounted Hearthguard archers. They were too few to do damage and easy to kill. Switching them out for 1 point of warriors I could instead bring:

1 Warlord
8 Hearthguard Lancers
10 Warrior Spearmen
10 Warrior Archers
4 Warrior Spearmen
12 Levy Javelins

This army performs much better, it can pump out more shots per activation and it is more survivable. The small 4 man warrior unit, is just as tough as the mounted Hearthguard archers. The 10 man warrior unit can be powerful in close combat when attacking together with the Warlord.  Some of the abilities, like Strategikon and Support Archers work much better on large units.

The 4 man unit works as a fatigue dump from the Archers and the Warlord with the Common Efforts ability. The only difference is Massed Archery becomes weaker, only one strong shooting unit is there to use it. Didn’t count the levies as they become casualties too quickly. Massed Archery is somewhat expensive, can be stopped by cancel activation abilities which leave the shooters in a bad position. It could probably work with a large bow armed hearthguard unit or two large warrior archers.

My favourite abilities are Basileus and Support Archers. Their flexibility and low cost is fantastic. Support Archers is somewhat poorly written, but it is a good offensive and defensive ability. Basileus has a lot of use, usually it means a second shooting activation or repositioning. But it can launch the cavalry L+L away and hit units that thought they were safe and then Withdrawing to a safer position.

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I replaced the mounted Hearthguard Archers with these newly painted warriors. These are all Gripping Beast miniatures.

 

For 4 point games, I ditch one point of Cavalry and the Levy. The levy are excellent, they can throw a fair number of javelins with Scouting but most importantly, stand in the way. I usually split the 12 into 5 and 7 man units. Byzantines are weak too shooters, blocking sight with Levy or placing dice in the Combat Pool are usually the best options. This is why I prefer the Psiloi to Steppe Archers.

As for tactics, the battle board abilities require units to be bunched up but do it sparingly. When close together (i.e within S),  traffic jams occur (no moving through your own units in SAGA) and if something gets wiped out in assault, everybody gets fatigues. The Cavalry unit is used for counter attacks and require gaps of atleast S between the units to manouvre. When the horse mounted nobility fights, Withdrawal sees a fair bit of use.

I try to keep everyone important within M of the Archers and L from the Warlord to use Basileus and Support Archers each turn. The small 4 man unit stays close to the Archers or Warlord to soak up fatigues. I only bunch up if the Cavalry gets involved and I need to use Friendly Shields or Strategikon.

Can’t wait to bash some heads in our mega cool upcoming November Tournament.

 

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Patterns were kept simple as the padded armor provides plenty of intricate detail.
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The Kentarchos looks badass enough to led the 10 man warrior unit.
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The fellows with raised spears are the 4 man warrior squad.
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Next up in the are the Psiloi Levy. I kitbashed this one from Gripping Beast Dark Age Warriors and the head is from Conquest Games Medieval Archers. The shield is a metal one from the Gripping Beast range. I also gave him an axe to misrepresent an tzikourion.
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I intend to keep the color palette a lot more simplified for the Levies. It means 12 of them will (probably)  get painted this year. The javelin is painted in a lighter, freshly cut wood scheme to differ from the spears. I also used different shield design on the Psiloi.

Romania Campaign Wrap Up (Flames of War)

As the fog of war clears and the fighting fades away, the campaign in Romania ends with the Axis and the Allies grinding each other to a draw. The Soviet team suffered an initial series of setbacks in Grupul de Nord, Grupul Central but were able to decisively defeat the Axis in Grupul de Sud. The big boost to the defending Axis was winning drawn areas. Not a fair rule, but it represented the need for the attacking force to punch trough quickly and avoid being tied down. It ain’t much of a victory otherwise.

The historical restrictions on force selection allowed for interesting army compositions. The fighting around Targu Frumos in 1944 saw the first use of the IS-2 and their dreaded impact of the IS-2 was keenly felt by the German players. The Soviet heavy tankers won all battles but one. The Axis brought heavy tanks of their own. I got to fight both Tigers and Panthers with my Strelkovy and their armor is tough to face without easy access to the 1945 arsenal. Tigers were especially bothersome as only specialist infantry can take them down.

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IS-2s wrecking an SS Panther Company. Pilloried on the interwebs for their low RoF and high points cost, the IS-2s were keeping Team Red afloat by scoring victory after victory.

About 16 games were played over 5 sundays but considering 6 people signed up in the first week, that isn’t bad. Almost no whining from the players (remember that almost), so I am satisfied how it turned out. Even if it involved map making. The players enjoyed the pace of the escalation in the campaign, except for the first weeks of 750 point games. These were not fun as tanks could quickly dominate the game with impunity. What we missed was some kind of campaign finale, a collective ritual mourning of its passing so to speak. Hopefully this will be amended by a themed tournament I will be running later.

Momentum
One thing that stood was how important momentum is in wargaming. As the crowd’s enthusiasm rises, it pays off to look for ways to draw upon it and convert it into something useful. This needs be looked at before the action starts. How much hobby time can the players get out of each round? A good feature of the ruleset is the lack of limited games during each round. And for the team to win an area, every game was is important. This lets hyped up players fight 3-4 battles during a day. As people would stay longer and fight during club meetings, beginners could come in and be shown the ropes. Some people came just to watch the battles.

I tend to focus on drawing people beyond the local scene by for example having one day only-events, but this has been hard without having a strong reliable gaming brand. Gamers are a conservative bunch and they tend to avoid travelling if they can. It is better to plan the campaign for the army of players you have, instead of the army you want.

Keeping things simple and in one place
I tried a few channels to draw in players but it resulted in fragmented information and increased work load. While reaching out to potential FoW nerds is important, the essential information should be in one easy to find place. I intended for people to use the 15mm.se forum for reporting but almost nobody bothered.

Next time I will try handling everything from the blog and just pass links out in different places. As for keeping things simple, I wrote some brilliant extra rules trying to link games together but my genius writing was unappreciated. Probably because I failed to present them in a clear and accessible way. The extra Battle Skill rules were stashed on an uploaded document that had severe privacy settings. Putting those directly on the dedicated campaign page, ditching all the historical background, could solve the accessibility issue for next time. Or making sure printed copies are found at the club.

The map was a surprisingly helpful tool for explaining scoring and victory conditions. The campaign didn’t require people bringing a ton of extra shit to each game, an annoying flaw found in the Firestorm campaigns put out by Battlefront. So to conclude today’s sermon:

1. The campaign rules should be simple to find and understand. If there is a lot of them, consider using other modes of explanation besides walls of text. There is no need to re-invent the wheel, save yourself work by modifying an existing campaign system.

2. Make sure to eliminate bottlenecks so enthusiastic players can get a lot hobby time done during the campaign.

3. Pacing it is important as well as having a clear finish and an end. There should be some kind of finale to mark the campaign conclusion.

A short campaign AAR Soviet Guards Strelkovy (attacker) vs Panzergrenadiers (defender) – 1350 points – Pincer

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The Heer Panzegrenadiers were supported by Panthers, Pak40s and a small platoon of mortars. I had two small Guards Strelkovy platoons, ZiS2s, SU85, Heavy Mortars and the 45mm obr 1942 guns. I had imited Sturmovik support on call, holding them off until the cats got in sight.

 

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I deployed the guns in line abreast to see where reserves would come from. My infantry  doubled towards the other flank once he declared his reserve arrival. Initially, there were problems attacking as my firepower failed and infantry got pinned in the worst places. However, the Strelkovy would refuse to leave the battle, regardless of losses. My opponent put his Panthers and Mortars in reserve. He also brought those souped up PaK43s guns from reserve.
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The worst part was when a single PaK40 took down all of the SU-85s. My opponent made two mistakes here by over extending his Infantry and Panthers. The Panzergrenadiers jumped out of their foxholes and assaulted Strelkovy in the open. The Panthers advanced north to provide support but got flanked by ZiS-2s. Without the Panthers, I overwhelmed the northern objective. Don’t mind the Soviet objective on the left corner. it’s just gaming debris.

A sweet victory for the red team.  The army above was fun to play (fun for a Soviet Flames of War army). The hardest working proletarians were the ZiS-2s, they made an impact in every engagement. I also tried out the wretched SU-85, with its flimsy armor of 5 and no machineguns. Sending them against Tigers and Panthers was pointless so they spent most games hidden or shooting at infantry. I once tasked them with a real target: a pair of outflanked PaK40s. A fatal mistake as the guns rolled up and cut them to ribbons in 2 turns. Lame.

 

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I finally picked up my brush and completed a 122mm Heavy Mortar battery. I find that 4 of them are enough to get the job done. While kicking them up to 6 gets that sweet re-rollable template, one stray bullet finding its mark and its all over. I try to mix up the colors when painting Soviet uniforms. A battalion with the same shade of mustard yellow gives Soviet factories far too much credit.

 

Romania spring 1944 (Flames of War Campaign) #1

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German infantry defend a village somewhere in northern Romania.

Nothing gets foul, grumpy basement dwellers excited as a wargaming campaign, so this summer I opened up the Google drive and began to scribble down some ideas. Singling out the era and front wasn’t hard, I picked Romania in early 1944. The campaign had the good wargaming properties of having somewhat equal military forces (slight favour towards the Axis) but most importantly, large military formations with all the fancy toys were fighting. Romania was an important Axis ally, supplying Germany with vital oil and manpower for the big fights in the east. For Stalin, the Red Emperor, a defeated Romania would become a springboard for more influence in the Balkans.

Campaigns can easily get into Moby Dick type of eternal quests, so I pussied out by reworking the Infantry Aces format from Battle Front by mostly renaming things and making a new map. Points were upped so players could build some redundancy into their armies. It sucks to lose the Pak40s and having no way of hurting T-34s outside Panzerfaust range. The most time consuming part was making the maps, after about 4 iterations I made one that wasn’t awful. The fruits of all the hard work can be enjoyed here.

First round and results

In the first round we had a good turn up playing 750 point games. The areas fought in the first round were Falticeni, Pascani and Targu Frumos in Grupul de Nord. After 6 hard fought battles, the Axis had defeated Soviet attempts at Targu Frumos and Pascani. Only Robinsky’s T-34s achieved a breakthrough at Falticeni. With an Axis victory in Grupul de Nord, the Soviets will look forward to fighting more Axis fortifications in the next round.

I personally got 3 games in playing for both sides, netting two losses and a win. I learned that the Panzer IVs is a worthy fuckin’ adversary in 750 point games. Leaving home without two AT units is a bad idea.

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Two of the three battlefields in the first round. Armies were 750 points only and rounds were quick.
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German players favored infantry companies while the Soviets brought tanks. Here a Forward Detachments stares down Grenadiers in Dust Up.
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After two humiliating defeats I got to play a third game against a Forward Detachment. A took a big squad of grenadiers, a small one, some panzer IVs and a minium sized Nebelwerfer battery with a PaK40. A powerful toolbox at 750. Opponent was fielding a Forward Detachment with 5 T-34/85s, some SU-76s, SMG infantry and Spetsnaz.
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The mission we played was Encounter. My opponents SU-76s went down against the Panzer IVs. With PaK40s and Nebelwerfers I took out just enough T-34s so that the Panzers and infantry occupying the town could take them out. On the right flank my small infantry platoon came in from reserves and secured the far objective.
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T-34/85s make a run towards the village. Poor accuracy means they do very little damage. They shot up my infantry with MG fire but the German grenadiers miraculously survived and took shelter in the buildings.
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The Second in Command and the Nebelwerfer battery turning up on the right spot securing my home objective from Soviet probing attacks.

 

Second round

In this round players will fight in Grupul Central containing Targu Neamt, Halaucesti and Podu Iloaiei. The Soviet wunderwaffe Robinsky who switched over to Hero IS-2s has been steamrolling over the German opposition, Soviet tankisti are making ahead in Targu Neamt and Podu Iloaiei but are pushed back in Halaucesti. Points in this round were upped to 1150 meaning players could bring real armies.

I brought a Panzer IV company supported by Tigers into battle, but could not take out the damned IS-2s with flank shots. We fought in Hasty Attack with me as the attacker. I initially laughed at their poor aim as my Panzers raced to the flanks. But the tears of joy soon turned into tears of sorrow once those stupid 122 mm cannons started to roll those important fives and sixes. This weekend the fate of Grupul Central will be decided. Hopefully, I will have the 120 mm Heavy Mortars ready to spew some death and destruction.

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The battlefields in the second round. We played the river as simply difficult going to avoid bogging down the game.
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A second rate German infantry company (represented by Sicherungs) defend in Counter Attack. A Soviet forward detachment is attacking.
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The Germans are supported by an armored train and a platoon Nashorn tank hunters. They stop the Soviet attack.
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I played a German Panzer Kompanie with nothing but 2 Tigers and Panzer IVs. The opposition was an Hero IS-2 Heavy Tank Batalion. IS-2s should be dead meat to flanking and Tigers.
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I get my reserves in and push very hard to get to flanks. The IS-2s have a hard time hitting the Panzers.
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The Tigers struggle to penetrate the heavy armor of the IS-2 Obr 1943 at range. I need to get closer.
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Soviet reserves show up and the Panzer IV’s fail to get through the side armor. That was something of a nasty surprise. The IS-2s lose two tanks and the Katyushas, but the Panzer Company is broken. I should have probably attacked on the other flank. The Tigers were a big letdown though, they bogged down in bad spots and their armor penetration was bad.

The campaign is pretty fun so far, however some of the extra rules weren’t used by the players (such as the Battle Skills). I had high hopes they could link together the campaign, will print them out next time to see what happens. I was expecting some resistance with the restrictions on briefings and units but the players find them acceptable.

Another lesson learned is to run the campaign directly from the blog and Facebook. Nobody bothers with forums anymore.

Stumbling Colossi: Tankovy vs Leichte Panzerkompanie

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Germans and Soviets tankers locked in deadly combat.

There is hardly anything more iconic about World War 2 more than the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The biggest and baddest conflict in human history erupted when two legendary shoot firsters – Stalin and Hitler, came to blows. This time two tyrannical neck beards will attempt the same on the tabletop. The mission we rolled up was Encounter, which could represent a German armored breakthrough colliding with a Soviet counter attack aiming to restore the line. As both forces get entangled, reserves are thrown in and the battle escalates.

Armies

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My red levies ready to defend their lebensraum. I have big expectations on the KV-1 as my opponents tanks can’t hurt it at all.

The Germans assembled their army on the spot and had:

Leichte Panzerkompanie (Confident/Veteran)

1 Panzer III E

2 Panzer III E
2 Panzer IV D
3 Panzer II F
Infantry platoon, 7 teams with panzerknacker
Limited StuKa air support

Deployment

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Somewhere in Eastern Ukraine 1941. The big bushes and craters were very difficult going, the fields would conceal infantry and tanks. Otherwise we played the terrain by the Book.
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My opponent picked the North and I ended up with the rail station. I put my home objective a little to the left in the crop field. The away objective ended up as far as possible from where my opponent put his. Hopefully, the reserves could reach it from the flanks. I put my T26s and KV in reserves to either counter attack or advance on the objectives.

Early Turns

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The Panzers take the initiative by getting the first turn and advance into the village.  With successful stormtrooper rolls, they stay out of sight behind the buildings.
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The T-34s scout the horizon for targets but don’t to find any.  Sappers fail to dig in during the whole game. So much for being “dedicated specialists”. The Soviets call for air support but no aircraft show up.
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Panzer vorwärtz! StuKas roar into view. I choose not to intercept them.
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Which prove to be a mistake. After the smoke clears, the HQ and some infantry teams are taken out by the wailing dive bombers. A really bad start for the Soviets.
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The Panzer IVs close in from the other flank. On occasion they bombard my infantry. I was dreading their direct fire smoke that could make the T-34s totally ineffective by forcing movement.
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The infantry gets bombed by planes and hosed with bullets from the tanks. Their large platoon size means every German tanker has plenty to shoot at. Without being properly dug in, casualties are severe.

 

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The Panzers push forward. The T-34 fired upon the Panzer IVs last turn and presents side armor to one of the incoming Panzer IIIs.

 

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The shots punches through the “impenetrable” front armor and the crew bails out. The Soviets with only one functioning tank, are about to get overwhelmed by Panzers.
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The crew gets in and I redeploy my tanks to get better shots. And finally the T-34 gunner finds his mark. But the hit only shakes the German crew. BLYAAAAT!
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Being flanked from both sides, the T-34s are bailed out repeatedly. Limited vision means I hit on 5+ after the crews sort themselves out.
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On the right flank, the Panzer IV Ds are pouring in shot after shot. With worst skill ratings (i.e. feudal levied), every shot finds its mark. Only a October Revolution miracle can save my hide now.

Late Turns

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And praise Lenin here it comes! The T-26s arrive from reserve in the right spot. But their shooting does not even scratch the paint of the Panzers. PIZDEC! The German rush their Panzer IIs into action from reserves. The Panzer gunners take their time to line up the shots.
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A lone Top Gunski flies past German fighter interception and spews hot lead on the Schützen. An infantry team is taken out and they become pinned down from the sudden attack. The flyer returns home for chicks, medals and vodka, taking no more part in the game. Panzer IIs can be seen in the background, rolling towards my lines.
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The T-26s take out a single Panzer IIIE and lose many of their own number. I even tried an infantry assault on the left flank, but the Sappers failed their tank terror checks.
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The KV-1 comes in from reserves, misses its shots and is quickly blown up by dive bombers. But my ego takes the worst beating and I begin to sulk.
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The T-26s shoot at the Panzers IIs and destroy two of them. The last one flees, and the Panzer commander does not attempt to rally them. In the next German turn, the entire Soviet force is destroyed by tank gun fire. The surviving Sappers are rounded up and begin Ramadan fasting permanently in German camps.

Result: 2-5 to the Panzers!

Conclusions
I am not really sure why this army fails spectacularly but two things stand out. It lacks options in a given situation and response times are too long. It become outmaneuvered by an infantry army in the last game, and the German tank mobility gave it no chance in this one. Once it is deployed, it moves very slowly  like an infantry army. It lacks the attentiveness typical of a Flames of War Tank Company. Making sweeping maneuvers like dashing from one flank to the next to exploit holes in the defense, is not possible.

Next challenge were the negative special rules combined with ratings and point costs of the tanks. Every unit I brought to the table had some kind serious defect that made it quite passive in the game. The T-34s don’t do enough damage and the T-26s don’t survive getting shot.

As for the Germans, I’ve heard opinion that anything heavier than a Panzer II is too expensive to be playable. In this game, that turned out not to be the case. Their armor held, guns were deadly and they were able to easily deal with Soviet tanks. Of course, ambushing AT guns and artillery will give them trouble. They are still top armor 1. But the German MVP was the Stuka, the Luftwaffe took out the third of my army all alone.

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Not really the King Tiger of Early War.

I’ve been discussing the games with my opponents who said I didn’t roll high enough, but blaming dice makes for a lazy analysis. I think the replay-ability of this army is quite low. Maybe solo gaming is a better idea for the T-34s. The player takes the side of Axis and lets the game play the Soviets with simple move or shoot activations. If I was to play the EW Tankovy again, it would be either Land Lease Valentines or T-26 spam.