Monday, November 6, 2023

We Played a Game

 On the new table and everything!

The rules were Command Decision:Test of Battle and the scenario was a very simple meeting engagement; a real introduction with limited capabilities.

It was fun, but definitely more learning than anything.


More to follow as we game more regularly.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Requirements, Stories, and Miniature Wargame Rules

Requirements - or what do I want anyway.

I am looking for the right set of WWII wargame rules.  A fool's task, of course, but at least it's an excuse to read some rules and play some games.

When I was a young software developer I was taught to start with requirements; after all stating what you want makes it far easier to get it.  So, what are my requirements?

  • cat standing on a wargame table
    A game that I can play with a small group of friends at my home in a day  -- which means of course that it has to be a game my friends enjoy.  One day is important because while my cat is very tolerant of my hobbies, I do not want to tempt her too far.

  • A game that I can take to a convention and present to a group of boardgamers and have a fun game wrap up in four hours including setup, teaching, and teardown.

  • A game that uses my existing kit.  I have an extensive 10mm collection for late war east front and while it might be fun to extend it to earlier periods or to add the western allies, I cannot afford to throw it all over to re-invest in 3mm or 28mm.  And that's not just the money but the painting time.  I do have a huge (5'x8' more or less) gaming table and enough Hexon terrain to cover the whole table, so hex grid based games are open to me.

  • A game that tells a story that is useful for the solo campaign I am planning.


I believe that the history books that wargamers enjoy provoke our desire to game, not because they show us the truth of the progress of human history but because they tell stories that connect to something fundamental in humans; and that we have to find a way to express in something we do or make.  OK, your mileage may very, but that is always the urge that events large and small have provoked in me.  Judging from the number of dedicated trekkies, reenactors, and roleplayers around, I am not alone. 

The campaign that I am planning is a fiction.  Not a novel, but a secondary world to use Tolkien's term.  A secondary world can be shaped with all sorts of content, including ordinary fiction but also false histories and encyclopedias, maps and myths, and propaganda and straight up lies.   By using hypertext to tie it all together, I think that I can produce something a little bit different,  Will it be worth it?  As long as it entertains me I will be satisfied.

Of course, it's one thing to write fiction; the challenge is writing something that other people will want to read, and to keep writing it until it's done.  If that was easy I would probably have done it.  But the tool of a game with its cycle of scenario design, setup, play, and battle report provides a library that can inspire threads of narrative when I am out of fresh ideas.  

So what rules?

Right now I am looking hard at three sets.

War Stories: A World War 2 RPG is a game of the Year Zero Engine family.  Those games have excellent combat mechanisms and being RPGs are not just skirmish games.  No, it's not a wargame but instead it droves to the sort of detail we find in frontline soldier's memoirs,

Command Decision: Test Of Battle is a set of rules where one stand equals (more or less) a platoon.  Decision making is quite granular, using both proximity to command units and issued order that can go to a stand level.  This is the level that can cover some of the small unit actions we find in history books.  I CD have enjoyed it in the past, but I have some concern about using it as a convention game.  

My backup plan right now is either Fist Full Of Tows or Battlefront but everything needs testing.  The pleasure of this level is that it can involve some detailed tactics that resemble a lower level while covering more ground.  A realistic mix of unit types is easy to achieve.  I have played a lot of Blitzkrieg Commander but it has left me cold.  A fast, fun game but if you play enough the dice will deliver too many frustrating activation fails.

Panzer Korps uses an approach that I have not tried.  The fundamental unit of operation is the battalion.  It is represented by three company stands that illustrate the base type and up to four company attachments.  All of these stands remain together act act as a single formation.  At 1cm = 50m I can use my table to represent a divisional attack such as Juno Beach.  I will be testing those rules in a couple of weeks.  My only real problem with them is that they are in desperate need of editing; but I can work through that for a good game at that level.

It is not quite alone at that scale, but the only one I have at hand, Rommel (one square is 1km, so on my table with my Kallistra hexes 1cm =100m) reminds me very much of a board game.  Not so much the hex map as the fact that all information is really on a scrap of card with the  miniatures merely providing decoration.  It might be more interesting to "jack up" the representations of Panzer Korps to a higher level and even use a hex grid with that scale.


In this line of investigation, testing -- with a plan to blog the results in detail as battle reports.  I am also still working on the economic model for the campaign and I will be investigating platforms for presenting the campaign results.


Monday, October 16, 2023

Making a model from a map

 I have been reading some quite brilliant new(ish) books on World War Two.  I especially recommend The Wages of Destruction: The Making And Breaking Of The Nazi Economy by Adam Tooze and Kiev 1941: Hitler's Battle for Supremacy in the East by David Stahel.  Both books aim for maximum myth busting, Tooze focusing on the “Speer production miracle” and Stahel digging deep into the communication within the German high command and the post war blame shifting.  Both look very hard at logistics. 

Stahel looks (among other things) at the wear rate on German trucks which steadily de-motorized the supply system. If you are used to games win which the limit of logistics is to trace a supply line, his analysis is quite a revelation.

Tooze (an economic historian) works at a high level and uncovers the real constraints on the German economy during the war.  I had especially not realized the extend to which food production – and starvation – drove so many decisions and limited German options.  I think, coming from North America where we export food, that it’s hard to have a visceral feel to how food production can be a key factor in strategic thinking.  

Thanks to that reading, I want to put together production and food supply models for my still unnamed campaign.  Step one is counting a classifying hexes.  So looking at the Blitzkrieg map lets enumerate the terrain features.

First we have the map itself






In most games this is treated as unremarkable open land with uniform road development presenting unremarkable military opportunities or obstacles.


This is not fine grained enough for me for the economic model or for differentiating terrain for the gaming table.  I think that I can get a finer granularity by including adjacent terrain as a modifier. 



To be precise, the Great Koufax Desert, included in the game for players with Rommel fantasies.  Oh, and the original Blitzkrieg had a couple of 60s pop culture and wargaming names for the geography.


I’ve been arguing with myself about this one because it’s unrealistic.  But seriously? It’s just for fun.



Italian mountain troops moving an artillery piece up a vertical cliff
But how high and rough?  My current thought is to select some European range such as the Carpathians as a standard.  I note that mountain to mountain hexsides have been highlighted on the map.  Mountains surrounded by mountains might be special.  And gaming mountain warfare would at least be a challenge. 



What it says on the tin



There are some hints at relative size.  The multi-hex cities of the original version are missing.



Very dense woodland, with low population density, little arable land, and occasional settlements linked by logging roads.



Mainline dual track railway. Also, an indicator of development, so hexes near a mainline might be more developed in some way.



A yellow line on the coast indicates beaches which can be used for landings.  But is all the Great Koufax shoreline also beach? A decision to make.



Navigability is a detail that most be sorted out.  River monitors are not in the rules but are an interesting detail.



Labels some cities, a few actually inland on rivers. 

and then the points from which more details can be drawn


Adjacent to


Clear, Forest


Somewhat hillier than normal, on the level of the Ardennes (forest) or the Alberta foothills (clear)



Better communications, improved agricultural development, higher population density



Slightly higher agricultural productivity



Higher population density and some industrial buildings especially along roads.

Also, thanks to JSTOR and a professional historian friend who pointed me in the right direction I was able to download Arnold Daniel, "Regional Differences of Productivity in European Agriculture" (Review of Economic Studies, 1944-1945, Volume 12,  No. 1 pp50-70").  In addition to an interesting discussion of the reasons for differences which can lead to cultural backstory for a worldbuilding, he has productivity for key crops in Metric tons per hectare for the countries in his study.  So count hexes, determine scale, attach a factor for the terrain and the country, convert to calories per hex per harvest, Bob's your uncle.

I think that next I will look at scale, which will be an interesting problem since how scales work will determine how strategy translates to the table.  I am thinking right now or some for of nesting of time and distance so  the pace of the game and the strategic/operation/tactical interfaces feel "right" without worrying about everything being mapped 1:1.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

More Solo Campaign Thoughts

 What interesting problems can I investigate?

I have been listening to Prit Buttar's books on the Eastern Front -- currently The Reckoning.  This has left me wondering how the loss of men and equipment affect how units are used, and how home production is fed into front units.  While board wargames can portray some parts of this with techniques like step reduction, I don't think that they do well at how units are rotated out of the line or rebuilt.  That's not a horrible flaw as far as the games go, but if I want to look at what happens to combat effectiveness in detail I will need are quite fine grained model.  Doubly so if I wish to look at production factors.

The Map

I am starting by picking a map.  Maps contextualize strategy. Since this decision will be with me for a while it has to stimulate thought and enthusiasm.

Frankly the map of Middle Earth leaves me cold. 

This version is optimized to increase scale by excluding sea space.  

The problems are:

(1) The map, especially Eriador, is virtually empty.  That makes sense for the Third Age, but by the time industrialization has bee accounted for and human populations backfilled it is all enormously different.  That's both a lot of work and obliterates the feel of ME.

(2)  The strategic problem boils down to control of the Gap of Rohan.  No matter who is fighting whom, the small number of choke points is frankly frustrating.

The only things I lose from abandoning Middle Earth are a cool campaign name and the idea of the Numenorians with their racist backstory being the Nazis.

Instead, I have decided to use a game map from the 1960s, heavily modified half a century later, called Blitzkrieg.

This was my first wargame, giving it a sentimental attachment.  The fan upgrade has far better art and better granularity.  I won't be using the rules, but the map itself is a good starting point.  It has enough details at a sufficient granularity to direct action, while at the same time leaving space open for imagination.

So it's no longer Panzers on the Anduin.  Name to follow, I suppose, alone with a lot of systems design work to tie make a usable game.


Monday, September 11, 2023

Throwing off the balast

 If you used to follow one of my blogs that has now disappeared, sorry, but they are never going to get worked on again and have (in my mind, who else has a say?) no ideas that are super worth retaining.  Most of what I have kept is because I think that the ideas are worthwhile.

So What's The Plan?

When I moved I swore that I would have a normal living room.  In practice, this lead to a lot of wasted space.  I don't really sit and watch a TV and when my friends come by we stay at the dinner table. So here's the new game space:

Fully Cat Approved.  A cat picture, because internet.

Current back burner

I have a nice army of Imaginations for Not The Seven Years War, which should regularly see action in the new space.  No particular plans to enlarge. See Enlightenment Imaginings
  • In 28mm
    • I am assembling a nice little 28mm force or two for Lion (and Dragon) Rampant and Clash of Spears.  Two interesting rules sets with very different approaches to the same scale and period.
    • Lets not forget the ongoing 28mm late-C15 Italians; probably Art de la Guerre.
  • In 15mm, my 15mm Italian Wars army for Impetus.  Deserves some love, and eventually it will get it.  Pictures eventually.   Mostly painted by a friend but I think that I can step up to it.
  • The less attended to but still high potential projects
    • Imjin war at sea.  If you don't know what that is, it is well worth a look.  Related, my 16th Century Mediterranean galleys.  And maybe an Indian Ocean meet-up? 
    • My very tiny pre-dreadnaughts
    • 10mm Italian Wars of Independence.  ACW tactics without slaveowners.
Nothing above is going to get a new blog; news will be posted here. For now anyway.

Panzers on the Anduin

Ever since I thought it might be fun to do fantastical (but not magical) World War II, that phrase has been bouncing through my head.  So the plan is to use the rules for the Columbia block game Victory, knock them into shape for a fifth age, industrialized middle earth, and use my WWII forces for tactical combat.  Still inchoate, but it will get it's own blog if it really starts to roll. 

My Roleplaying Experiments

I have worked through at least five rule sets for campaigns in renaissance Italy and now third century Rome.  The most recent games are ongoing, and I think it might me worth a blog to record and reflect on the whole experience.


It is traditional at the point to apologize for the paucity of blog posts and resolve that there will be regular updates in the future.  Let's be real BUT I think it would be good for me to do something every week on at least one blog, and I have recently been doing things that are good for me.  We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, December 5, 2019


A cat
My new boss, Hildigard von Katzen

And an 8x5' gaming surface

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Two posts in one year; I feel so smug.

As usual, I have too many projects.

  1. For the Enlightenment lads, I will be sorting out the table-ready figure inventory and start getting games going this month or early next so my retired buddies and I can game without having to accommodate working people.  Nothing need be done except the making of a list.
  2. For WWII, I think I will change rule sets, probably something of my own devising  -- or more accurately something cobbled together out of other systems.  Now, do I want to re-base or not?  Current direction is "not" -- the bases I use are not huge.
  3. Still running Magnifico, now on season two using GURPS.  Season three  will be derived from Cypher System, which is a bit more rules light.  For developing and selling a session they have a far more inviting business model and people I respect like the rules.
  4. I have now acquired a a 10mm Italian Unification army which I plan to use with Fire and Fury,  The draw is ACW kit and tactics without slave owners.  If that works well I will do more periods using it.
  5. I'm getting a cat.  Some nice senior cat from the shelter to drag me out of bed every morning and give me someone to look after.  I seem to need that somehow.
  6. There are 1:3000 pre-dreadnoughts that need my attention.  I have everything I need but time.
If I start listing all my other unpainted or barely started projects I will just be sad; I am planning on staying at home until spring rolls around so  there will be lots of cold winter days to get work done.