Moravian Sun

Moravian Sun, designed by Enrico Acerbi and produced by Acies, is a wargame about the battle of Austerlitz, the decisive encounter of the Third Coalition in the Napoleonic Wars. The scales are hourly turns, brigade sized units, and hexes of 450-500 meters.

The system is a step above the basic – or classic – wargame standard, though it does use odds based combat and traditional zones of control. The command system elevates it, though not as far as I would like. Essentially, each formation (a corps, with provision for creating smaller detachments) gets an order, and that order determines what units can and must do.

For example, the Advance order obliges at least three units to move at least one hex closer to the enemy. The Attack order obliges all units to move at least one hex closer to the enemy, and so on. There are exceptions, but the rules are supported by a good table summary, and do a fair job of imposing some form of command and control realism.

This is helped by adding a priority system. Each side must prioritize its formations – order of activation – though there are separate priorities for the main and the support orders. When your side goes, you have to activate the next formation in priority order, but you can choose between those with main and support orders. One of the support orders is a neat Pursue option which allows (so far as I can tell) that formation to immediately react to an enemy retreat. Cool idea!

Orders can be issued and changed, though fate can intervene which is just the ticket for some true battlefield chaos and winning opportunities.

The part that it’s missing, for me, is the lack of a destination. In other words, I as the player can advance closer to the enemy to my front. But, if I decide the chaps off to the left are a better target, I can simply change the direction of movement. (The Eagles of France series designed by Walter Vejdovsky and published by Hexasim includes a destination hex as part of its orders system.) It’s simple enough to add a geographical restriction, and that produces good results for a modest overhead.

But don’t let that minor carp get in the way of seeing this for the interesting game it is as it stands. The graphics are good, the rules are OK considering their non-native English speaker origin – and supported with living rules – and the thing is playable. Eminently so. For my tastes, there is a decent amount of chrome – cavalry charges, squares, march columns, and weather – but not too much. And with one map and less than 500 counters, about half of which are markers, it’s a relatively compact game.

I have played through several turns of the battle scenario (you get that plus a campaign scenario starting on the previous day) twice to a reasonable conclusion with one victory apiece. I worry that the orders give the Allies more flexibility to counter Napoleon, but have certainly not played the game extensively enough to offer an authoritative opinion. I have enjoyed having this game on the table.

Reports, what reports?

I don’t know why, but I find it difficult to write up gaming reports. This is especially true of my ASL games. But the important thing is that I am actually playing – and loving – the game. (This despite my woeful record.) ASL delivers the most intense gaming experience. I can sit at the game table for hours at end, engrossed, totally enthralled. The closest similar experiences have come from my monster gaming sessions at the various ConsimWorld gatherings in Tempe, Arizona. ASL thrills. But you’ll have to exercise your imagination until I figure out how to motivate myself to write some reports!

Bloody 110

This, from 1989, is the first of Dean Essig’s Tactical Combat Series (TCS). Units are platoons of infantry, mortar and machine gun sections, individual tanks and guns. Hexes are 125 yards and turns – during the day – are 20 minutes. The action covered is the role played by elements of the US 28th Infantry Division in holding up the German Bulge Offensive heading towards Bastogne.

I was getting sick and tired of looking at all the TCS games on my shelves that weren’t getting played because I repeatedly found the latest iteration of the system too much of a slog. (I like it when I read it, but not when I’m playing it.) I decided to start trying out some house rules/variants to see if I could cobble together stuff that worked for me.

I started with a quick run through the tank and infantry learning scenarios, and have now moved on to the 1st day battle scenario.

I have used and rejected several ideas, and while at times it is frustrating, it’s also a fun challenge. And when I think something is getting there…

Oh, and I also enjoyed – as a change from today’s multi-colored environment – going back to the old-style counter graphics. Quaint!

On the beaches at Normandy

This game, one of my ConsimWorld Expo purchases, is about the Normandy Campaign in WW2. Published by Decision Games, it was originally a magazine game (Strategy & Tactics) designed by Brad Hessel, featuring only the Cobra part of that campaign. It has gone through a couple of updates and upgrades of campaign coverage by Decision, of which this newly released boxed version is the latest, led by Joe Youst.

What you get inside the box are two standard maps, 280 die-cut counters of decent quality, a rulebook, and a separate campaign study booklet, as well as dice and some plastic storage bags. Continue reading

Red Badge of Courage

This game was on the table before I went to ConsimWorld. It contains two battles – both at Bull Run – and is part of a long running series (probably one of the oldest) called Great Battles of the American Civil War (GBACW*). The series started with Richard Berg’s groundbreaking design Terrible Swift Sword about Gettysburg, published in 1976 by Simulation Publications Inc. (SPI). Generally, these are tactical games with regimental sized units and hexes of 100-150 yards, and some form of command and control mechanism.

The series is now hosted by GMT, and other designers have utilized the core features to extend its life. Red Badge of Courage dates back to 2001, but this was the first time I had broken it out and played the game. Previously, I had spent most time with Three Days of Gettysburg, Berg’s updated version of Terrible Swift Sword, sometime in the late 1990s.

After bringing myself up to date with the rules, I played through the first Bull Run main scenario a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It uses chit pull which makes it solitaire friendly. And, although the rules are a few iterations out of date, I didn’t come across any major issues. (There were some clashes in the orders system with formations getting March orders and wanting to come out of that order, but I worked something out that seemed to fit well.)

CSA cavalry force Hunter’s marching troops to partially deploy for combat

So far as the battle was concerned, on both occasions the CSA managed to hold up the Union forces well enough to claim victory. I suspect it needs a higher level of skill to get truly successful attacks. But it was still fun. I was more interested in reconnecting with the series, as there is a chunky eight battle package due out from GMT soon, and I am very keen to play that. The smaller battles are more attractive for all sorts of reasons, though I do still hanker to have another bash at Gettysburg.

Tyler in reserve

It was also interesting to compare this system with MMP’s Line of Battle (LOB) output. I do prefer certain aspects of LOB, and wonder how easily they could be adapted into GBACW. For example, LOB’s closing to contact and defensive volley are so much quicker to process than the standard, step by step, unit by unit approach of GBACW.

Jackson marching to the sound of the guns

Expect to see more GBACW posts in the future.

(*You can see all the GBACW games here.)

ConsimWorld 2019

I had a great time playing games at ConsimWorld.

I spent a few days, guided by Tom Holliday, playtesting Greatest Day: Utah Beach, a game in MMP’s Grand Tactical Series to be published at some point in the future. I was responsible for the 101st Airborne Division. The landings were chaotic, with too many stragglers. The 101st did manage to create enough of a cordon, growing in strength as the scattered troops found their way to friendly staging posts. When I left, the seaborne invaders had reached the 101st cordon, and were trying to stage a wider breakout. Continue reading

On the table – Ligny 1815

I am currently playing Ligny 1815. It is the third game in the Eagles of France series  (after Fallen Eagles (Waterloo) and Rising Eagles (Austerlitz)), all designed by Walter Vejdovsky, and published by Hexasim. Turns are  1 hour, hexes are about 200 m, and units are regiment sized with each strength point representing 100 combatants.

I played the first in the series long enough to have a good grasp of the rules, but I needed to pay attention to the tweaks to the system that extended playing has brought about. As usual, I’m supplementing the gaming with some reading on the topic to refresh my knowledge and enhance the experience. Should be good fun.

Operation Focus

Operation Focus (Mivtsa Moked מבצע מוקד) was the name given to the Israeli Air Force (IAF) plan of attack for the opening of what became the Six Day War. It began as a surprise attack of a first wave of bombing runs against the Egyptian air force bases and planes. It was a stunning success. By the end of the first day, the IAF had destroyed over 450 enemy aircraft, and had total air superiority on all fronts. From then on, they were able to concentrate on supporting the equally impressive campaign on the ground.

This topic is covered by the first scenario in Elusive Victory. The original scenario is a two player game, but post publication a solitaire version was produced and, after getting to grips with the rules, that is what I used to test out the game.

You have six flights to bomb the target airport runway, planes, and its defenses.

The Egyptians are caught unawares, so their forces cannot do anything until the first bomb attack. In the scenario, that attack is probably the most important one in the game. If you put the airfield out of action, the two flights of ready MiGs will never be able to take off, and so you can concentrate on the ground assets – a nasty collection of light and medium anti-aircraft artillery (AAA), backed up by one Fire Can, a deadlier, directed AAA.

The first flight is about to hit the target…

I played the scenario a few times. Once my dice were so hot, there was nothing left of the runway, and plenty of burning Egyptian aircraft and AAA batteries. On one other playing, the initial bombing run wasn’t too good, but the lead flight managed to shoot down all the MiGs that took off, though not without cost. You play this game and you have a renewed and strengthened sense of how brave these IAF pilots had to have been. All the technology in the world is not much help when the air around you is filled with hot flying lead from AAA batteries.

After playing the solitaire scenario, I came to the conclusion that this was one game that I wasn’t going to enjoy playing solitaire. (Apart from anything else, there are no more solitaire scenarios.) There’s just too much of the game atmosphere and enjoyment caught up in arranging hidden defenses, dummy flights, and so on. On the plus side, I had a look at Downtown, a game on the air campaign over Hanoi in the Vietnam War. It uses the same core system, and the changes are so modest I now feel confident of being able to play that game too, if I ever find a live opponent.

The system itself is an impressive feat because it packs a lot of detail in without being overly complex. Once you have run through the game turn sequence a few times, you can play just using the player aid cards. However, there is a lot of paperwork compared to most games. (You need to set up details of each flight, its payload, and so on as well as plot the flight path for the attacking aircraft, and more. You also keep track of damage and losses using written records, in the main.) That doesn’t bother me greatly, but I can see why it may be one reason these games – fine combinations of playability and historicity – do not seem to be as popular as others.

So, off the table it comes for now.

Currently playing – Elusive Victory

About ten years after it came out, I finally have Terry Simo’s game Elusive Victory on the table. It’s a GMT game focusing on air warfare over the Suez Canal, with scenarios on the Six Day War, the War of Attrition, and the Yom Kippur War.

Let’s see how this goes…

(PS: For the avoidance of doubt, the fact this game is on the table now and things have gone hot in Gaza at the same time is a coincidence. I started reading the rules over a week ago. Honest!)
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