Sunday, 9 July 2017

Odious Cubes Strike again... and fiddling in a little sack!

There are large parts of our hobby that I find distinctly risable and last Saturday saw laughter in fine measure- both at ourselves and at the situation.
 Let me explain....
 Saturday saw out usual gathering at our usual watering hole for a game. We had a total of 6 members abnd guests present. Steve- in the chair Andrew Shaun, Lim aka Garth- and Liam's younger brother Jake
 Steve was in the chair and opted for a WW2 Russian Front game in 20mm. He has a really cracking collection of models by various makers including Elheim a maker I'd not seen in any detail before-who do some really sweet 20mm models. If I were a 20mm man I'd be sending some shekels his way but I'm not so I'm saved!!
Russians- dug in . 

 I opted for the Russians- expecting some T-34 and Katyuska .WRONG!  It is 1941 so the Russians don't have any decent kit. Hi-tech is a T -26 or BT-7  or some big klunky wossname with guns sticking out in all directions but not enough crew to man them all.
 Mind you the Germans were not much better off top of their tree was a 38t
 So the stage was set for an interesting day- just not quite in the way I imagined.
Panzer 38t.Halted by consistant Russian Mortar fire. 

 Steve chose the "Battlegroup"  rules which the rest of us had never tried and yes they very definitely have a plus side but they also have some pretty strong minus points as well . Most notably  no command structure worth a damn...(actually that is not strictly true but you will see what I mean)  Very VERY dice heavy- this is another "game" where  rolling D6 is seen as an intellectual activity and also some fiddling about in a small sack to draw chits- which are mostly pointless unless they are super deadly. Both sides spent at least as much time fighting the rules as they did each other. This "game" suffered from the modern curse of "mechanisms" seemingly put in for their own sake rather than as an aid to the players understanding of how battles worked.
The Germans finally reach their intitial objective.

  This game was at a relatively low command level of squads and platoons rather than say CD where the level is companies and Battalions. The major problem here was in the area of command. Now as you would expect the Russian Command Structure in 194 was a bit ropey to say the least. No problem there but the game called for you to roll "order dice" every move to see how many orders you could issue. Again no problem there, not a bad idea at all. However for reasons not explained to me troops immediately forgot any orders they had already been issued with at the beginning of each turn. Further a tank unit for example consisted  of individual tanks which each had to be issued an individual order so 5 tanks 5 orders-  though there seemed to be some kind of "command Radius" which meant tanks were almost track to track-each turn even if an order had already been issued to them. Add to this an IGOUGO turn system and the game slowed to a crawl with large periods of time doing nothing, waiting for the other side.  Andrew commented that the whole thing felt rather "bitty". I know what he means.. The skill - with this "game" is to fight the rules not the opponent. I can see the point of some of this stuff after all it introduces Clauswitzian friction into the game rather nicely but this is obviously designed as a "game" for mechanism freaks rather than period freaks ... and in this particular case the drawing of chits from Steve's little felt sack changed the game so utterly that skill or period knowledge had nothing to do with it at all only luck- there were apparently 2 "air strike" chits in the bag-  out of around 50  chits I think the Germans drew them both in succession and killed 60% of the Russian armour in 1 turn - or was it two. The Russian air and artillery was not negligable- halting their tank advance and wiping out an infantry squad and frankly had it not been for the luck of the draw the game may well have bogged down into a stalemate as each side fought the rulebook to try to get something to happen. I would have expected a German command superiority here but Shaun And Andrew seem to have lesser but similar problems- they never seemed to be abler to move all of their troops - even those not in contact without the re-issuing of the same repeated orders each turn.

The start of the Russian counter attck. Most of these troops and more would be slaughtered by 2 Stuka attacks .

 Frankly that to me is a clumsy mechanism which does not reflect the actuality. Troops will usually attempt to carry out there orders until the situation changes so having to repeat the same order to non-moving troops or troops not in contact with the enemy is just silly and over complex. Now changing orders can be hard so perhaps needing more order points to change an order would help here rather than repeating yourself. Overall there was more than a hint of  the currently fashionable "game mechanism for the sake of mechanism" here than a set of low level WW2 rules.

The Victorious Germans after our single air strike came in. 

 Yet these were not complete rubbish by any means. We will need to play several more games to be sure but there is a bit of potential here. Combat resolution is pretty simple- artillery does work well  though perhaps some kind of observation rules might help. One game does not give you all the nuance- assuming these rules have any- but I'm certainly willing to give them another bash


  1. Have to admit the 'individualism' of Russian armour seems counter-intuitive, from a war gamer's point of view. In a game at platoon level like this I would have thought that Russian tanks should have to act together, at least at the level of the platoon. The lack of radios might tend to reduce flexibility rather than increase it! I seem to recall that Flames of War used a 'Duck and ducklings' rule for Russian tanks. which seems more in keeping.

    Here is a possible 'mechanism' that doesn't seem too complicated. A platoon of 3 T34 tanks, say comprises a platoon leader and two others. The remaining two, being practically untrained, are there to make up the numbers, and to perform one other function, which will soon become apparent. Only the leader can actually fight.

    The tanks are prepared in such a way that it is not apparent which is the leader. So the Germans can not concentrate upon the leader tank (as the Russians tended to do when they figured out the German tank numbering system).

    To keep up the mask of anonymity, the Russian tank platoon fires as if it were a single tank, with that effect. Basically it is all 3 tanks firing but only one with any real effect.

    Only if the leader's tank is knocked out is the platoon rendered ineffective, and even then, if he survives unhurt and brain unscrambled, the tank leader may take over another tank (seems to have been a universal practice).

    Otherwise, the presence of a tank with even an inexperienced, untrained crew would still have the usual morale effect on enemy infantry.

    It sounds fairly complicated, but isn't really. But I also think something like it seems to be called for to reflect the battles against numbers the Germans often had to fight.

    I have a feeling that some such 'mechanism' would lead to ferocious battles...

  2. Ion- that would also have been my view too but I had to issue 5 orders for the single platoon but they were still - up to a point duck and ducklings. I don't pretend to understand the system but equally I don't recall any morale for anyone - other than Russian Infantry pinned by artillery- which would be normal.

  3. I don't have much experience of playing these rules as they got the "thumbs down" at my club, but you might want to take a look at their forum which might help explain matters a little.
    If I can find the link I'll send it to you.
    Good to see you were able to retain a sense of humour about it all.

  4. Hi again
    Hope this helps.

    1. Keith- Thanks for that- I don't know if Steve- who ran the game - is on the forum or not but I shall pass this on to him. I shan't be investing in the rules but will have another bash when Steve turn to run a game comes up again.