Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Team Yankee - Playtest Game - Thoughts

This isn't a battle report as such, more a notepad to share my thoughts on the game Team Yankee, the recent offering from the Battlefront stable.  I must admit that I have never really tried playing a modern game since trying to get my head around 'Challenger 2000' in the late '80's/early 90's.  So Team Yankee looked like being something that I might get to fill this gap in my wargaming.

Last year I found a set of WW2 rules which I thought were superb but which would take some getting used to.  These were Battlegroup Panzergrenader (2nd Ed), which took me a year of dipping in and out of before I took the plunge and actually played a game with them.  I found that these actually gave an excellent game.  The author of these is an ex-British Army officer and has an understanding of  the effects which really need to be modelled into rules.  The game proved this right.  My thoughts at the time was that I would make my own version of these rules modified for a WW3 type encounter.

Well the last year has shot past and I could not even remember how BG Panzergrenadier was played when I picked up the glossy and very attractive Team Yankee.  Reading through it the rules seemed very playable.  I got out my 1:285 GHQ vehicles and played the rules in sections.  It all came together very well.  There were a few small niggles; I really couldn't understand what role commanders had in the game. It seemed that if one was killed, you got to throw again and if you got 3+ he is resurrected. If not he is dead - though this doesn't seem to affect play in any way.

Likewise, there is a mistaken target rule which protects valuable teams (the word 'team' is used a lot - and certainly more than it was used in the British military in 1985 - and really it gets confusing and almost like a sports match - it's also used to a excruciating degree in modern parlance 'team this' and 'team that', its becoming a pet hate!).  I digress, this rule seems a bit unnecessary to my thoughts. If you have a valuable 'team' then tactically position it where it could be better protected.
This rule was ditched immediately.  I'm getting better with experience at spotting stinkers.

There are some really good elements to the rules.  It is quite fast play. The firing and armour protection seems to play really well.  I like the fact that crews bail out of tanks out of panic of being hit. Accounts from Normandy show even Tiger crews getting multiple hit on their tank would sometimes panic and bug out of a perfectly good (if shell dented) working tank. Self preservation is a powerful thing. It was great to use a whole range of really interesting kits in non-complicated way on the field - great to see and for the first game, a great novelty

The 2nd play test involved Ian's superb 15mm models.  These are all by Battlefront.  Ian has done a great job on these.  The DPM uniforms on the British look great as do the Soviet uniforms too.  The Battlefront models are great and the books (like 'Iron Maiden' are superb).

It was an enjoyable game but the list of weird rules to look at started to grow.  It became apparent that the rules when matched with what I hope/expect to see in a rule set, and also compared to my understanding/experience of modern warfare, the rules have some major holes in.  Holes you could drive a troop of Chieftains through.  Not only could they drive through but they could advance up to the enemy point blank and shoot. Because there is no defensive/opportunity fire for the defender. This is a major flaw and actually makes it all a bit silly.  There is also no bonus for being point blank and shooting too - you might as well stay and hold off at max range - it's the same dice throw for 20 yards or 2000 yards for a modern MBT in this game!

Command and Communications are one of the most important elements in warfare. This is more true now than it ever has been.  There really is none in Team Yankee. Everything just seems to do what the heck it likes.  You want to drive your tanks through that gap and up that hill and shoot - no problem just do it.  There is no 'friction' for commanders, no hard choices, no scope for 'Murphy's Law' to kick in.  Any of us who have spent time in field knows how this will kick in often repeatedly, even on exercise.   Communications are horribly fallible - sometimes the oik manning the radio has simply nodded off after being awake for so long, sometimes the commander is too busy with a crisis, sometimes the commander doesn't want to receive the orders he has. Command and communications should be portrayed in the rules in some way or otherwise what we are trying to represent fails badly and we are better off playing a fun game like snakes and ladders and forget trying to represent modern battle in any way, game, shape or form.

'With skies darkening there were no clear orders coming over the radio, only curses, claims of hits and reports of vehicles brewed...."  5 Royal Tank Regt. Western Desert. 1941.

Ditto for reconnaissance - really I couldn't see anything of value in the rules relating to this important aspect.  Wellington always wanted to know what lay on the other side of the hill.  Well in Team Yankee you could just drive straight over and have a look as there seems to be no hidden units (other than an ambush mission at the back of the book). No having to use skilled recce troops to spot the enemy.  It seems pointless having lovely looking Scorpion tanks and having no role for them other than to use as shell stoppers to protect your Chieftains.  I'm not sure the Household Cavalry would have been too impressed with that as a role.

There is a pinned down rule (thank goodness) but it depends on either 12 teams taking 8 hits or a smaller group taking 5 hits in a single shooting step.  I think this could be made to work better.

The melee rules were confusing and I have so far been unable to devote the time to fathom this out properly. It seems better than the melee rules in Flames of War which just seemed daft.

 So what am I doing about it. A magazine recently was critical of the way many wargamers interfere in a set of rules to improve it.  I don't have a problem with tampering with rules.  The Black Powder set of rules is robust and sees itself as a tool kit to add as one wishes.  It works very well like that. There are major changes I have made with ideas, Ian and I have devised or I have gleaned from other clubs and sources online.  I think Black Powder with these modifications is now a superb set of rules but it needed these tweeks to become that good.

Many wargamers are extremely well-read, using first hand accounts, actual post-battle reports etc and have really studied their chosen areas of research in detail.  Some wargamers also have first hand military experience which they can bring.  Very often this far exceeds a rule-writer's knowledge. Combining all of this can and often does really enhance a set of rules.

In conclusion Team Yankee is a fairly good basic set of rules. It has some really good elements and some bad and some huge gaps which need filling to make it into something really worthwhile.  I am currently devising rules to cover the C2 element and the recce elements.  I am inclined to borrow heavily from BG Panzergrenadier, particularly the HQ Command Points, phased play to allow defensive fire, recce and melee.  It could be that eventually I will just adapt Panzergrenadier to a modern setting.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

An Attic Discovery!

Two posts in three nights what am I thinking!  Well this rapid post is all due to a discovery made in the attic yesterday.  This probably represents the turning point for me from being a modeller to being a wargamer.

From the age of about 8 I stuck model aircraft (and my fingers) together and attempted to paint them.  After a good many kits and reaching the age of around 14, I had become fairly proficient for my years.  Other recent attic finds have surprised me at the detail I tried to put in at that age. I even had a 1/24th Scale Hawker Hurricane where I even painted a handlebar moustache on the pilot!

Certainly, I went through that phase of throwing marbles at plastic 1/32 airfix figures in garden gaming, not exactly HG Wells style but I had fun. But I hadn't tried wargaming 'properly'.  A friend had shown me how to use a ruler to give rifles a distance and grenades other distances but lethality was decided by who was in range rather than any dice throws, effects of cover etc so it was barely one up from the marble method.

I think there were 3 co-incidental factors which happened at the same time.

1.  A history project  in class which we had to work on and present (I chose Waterloo because of the next point).

2.  A rather good book on the Battle of Waterloo which I had on near permanent loan from the school library. There was something about the first hand accounts which wouldn't leave my imagination alone.

3. This battle set produced by Esci especially the artwork by Rick Scollins, I mean look at it!  It has everything - drama, colour, desperation, heroic officers, smoke, battle lines wavering.  This picture inspired me as I painted as many plastic 1/72 figures as I could get my hands on - (not realising that within a few years the paint would ping off!).

When I found this lid,battered as it was, it all came racing back, those thoughts and inspiration which it gave me some 33 years ago.  I have the box sat behind me at the moment rescued from the attic.  I don't know what to do with it.  Thoughts of framing it come into my mind.

One thing is for sure though - I'll be keeping it safe now and seeking inspiration from it anytime I need it.  Thank you Rick Scollins (sadly deceased now I understand) for helping me to get into this fine hobby with your amazing artwork!

Saturday, 31 December 2016

AWI - 4th Virginia Regiment

Just squeeking in a last posting in 2016!  This should bring me up to beat my posts in 2015 by one! I noticed a small decline in posts over the years and hoped that 2016 would be an increase in posts.  I don't tend to post unless I have something fairly worthwhile to say, hence my few posts.

 Here we have the 4th Virginia Regiment.  This Continental regiment are shown very well turned out in their later war uniform.  This regiment fought at Guilford Courthouse and are another unit to get closer to my aim of representing all of the units who were there.

The figures are 28mm from the plastic boxed set produced by Perry Miniatures.  I love these figures and really enjoyed putting them together and painting them.  I'm not normally a fan of marching poses, preferring the more dynamic poses of shooting or attacking with bayonet (it's my Airfix upbringing!), however I do really like these.

This is my second attempt at finishing this unit.  The stars and stripes flag is produced by GMB and is beautiful.  As I couldn't find any images of the flag for the 4th Virginia I decided to paint my own regimental colour.  This looked pretty good and I used a gel pen to produce some pretty nice scroll work and writing BUT overnight the gel pen ink spread like a fountain pen on blotting paper so by morning it looked like I had used the flag to wipe my tears (which I could well have done at that point!).  This yellow flag is instead a replacement and rescued me.  It is produced by Flags of War and is lovely.  I have just in the last few minutes painted the edges of it and replaced my duff flag.   I am really pleased with this flag.  Flags of War allow you to choose your own regiments and colours for the unknown colours and then they print it to your desire.  A perfect solution.

Paints used were my usual combinations of Foundry, Vallejo and Citadel.  I went for the the Foundry Triad French blues which are a tad darker to my earlier painted units, but I feel this has the right look.

I have about 6 minutes now before New Year so I had better post a bit quick to get it into 2016 as mentioned earlier!  Enjoy the rest of the photos!

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

American War of Independence - British Artillery

This British 6pdr has waited patiently for most of the year to for me to realise that I had yet to post it up on here.

I built and completed this whilst staying away on a two-week course. It was mostly finished in a whole week of evenings (a good thing too, as the second week of the course left little time to relax!).  It was really nice to have something pleasurable to focus on and paint whilst living away from one's home comforts

The figures are by Perry Miniatures and the Royal Artillery crew are in the Southern dress which would have been most likely worn in the Guilford Courthouse campaign, this being my primary area of interest in the AWI (but once I have the required troops I am sure to spread into other campaigns!).

I apologise for the poor lighting on the following close-ups- I nearly didn't post them but as they are only few and might be of interest, I included them.

Well, December is racing by - I reckon I can get one more AWI post of recently completed troops in before the end of the year if the new flag arrives in time for them.  It's going to be a post on this or a rambling blog post about my first thoughts on playing Team Yankee and reading the rules for Flames of War.   I hope the AWI flag arrives quickly!

Thursday, 1 December 2016

American War of Independence - Lee's Legion

Some troops ready to seriously challenge the British 'Light Bobs' on the field of battle.  Here we have the foot troops of Lee's Legion ready for battle.

Usually with painting for a particular project, I will determine the theatre of war that my main interest lays, and then a date range or particular campaign and then build my forces around that.  With my American War of Independence troops, my main interest is in the Southern campaign around the time of the Guilford Courthouse battle.  In this case, I had a conflict in the uniform I wanted to paint Lee's Legion in and what they actually wore.

I have always found artwork of Lee's foot troops resplendent in their purple uniforms an irresistible object of my desire to paint as wargaming figures.  However as I read further into the particular campaign of 1781, it became apparent that  Lee's men are described as being dressed in green making them very similar in appearance to Tarleton's British Legion.

I have recently painted Tarleton's Legion, and very smart they look too, however I really had set my heart on the slightly earlier purple uniform (though I know that the purple is disputed by some).  So I had a dilemma on my hands - though a not un-enjoyable one. I find that when confronted by work issues in the day job it is a nice distraction to think about more important issues such as paints to use on wargame figures when one gets home!

So as we can see, I made the decision.  At least I can use these for earlier campaigns should I wish and I shall just have to imagine that perhaps some old stocks of uniforms may have been found for some men for the Guilford Courthouse battle!

Anyway, the figures are from Perry Miniatures.  The paints used were a combination of colours from different companies, with much mixing of paint to to get subdued shades of a not too gaudy workman-like appearance...and yet be a purple hue.

I think the 'Tarleton' helmet is such smart uniform item and it always pleases me to see units wearing this item of headgear.

I have high hopes of the performance of these chaps on the field of battle given their high morale and light infantry skills.  As a freshly painted unit we will have to see whether they break the age old tradition of new units of fleeing in the first turns of their first outing!

 A few more pics to follow below...

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

AWI - British Brigade Commander

 Slowly but surely my American War of Independence armies increase in size.  As so often, I find that
 I paint units (eventually!), but the commanders get neglected in my desire to get units on the table

I am really pleased to get a commander ready to take his place on the field.  This time we see a British brigade commander and one of his staff observing and giving orders to the men in the field.

The figures are from the superb Perry Miniatures range and painted with combination of paints, mostly Foundry, but also with Vallejo, some Games Workshop and some Miniature Paints.

I love the pose of his officer, leaning in his saddle as he stares at something distant that has caught his attention. One can only guess at the forthcoming drama that has caught his gaze.

The basing material is from Mini Natur with my usual selection of twigs and cat litter rocks to break up the green.

More AWI goodness to follow in due course!