Friday, December 01, 2006

WWII Miniatures Review - Mein Panzer

I first tried Mein Panzer at Fall In this year. I was sufficiently impressed with the demo that I bought the rules. The system is fast paced and produces reasonable results.

Mein Panzer is a squad level simulation of 20th century ground combat. Each unit is one vehicle, gun, or infantry squad. For micro-armor, the scale is 1 inch = 50 yards. The individual elements are grouped into platoons according to the correct TO&E. The core rules only cover armored combat, but the are "drop in" modules add things like Artillery, Infantry, Airpower, etc. The system is designed to allow players to adjust the complexity of the game to their tastes. There is also a basic set of rules that you can use the learn the system.

During a game turn, players alternate activating platoons. Each unit in a platoon can perform one of several actions when it activates, such as move, shoot, rally, overwatch. In addition, a unit in command can perform a bonus move, which is an additional move activation with some restrictions. Units that fire have to first hit their target, and if they do, then roll on the damage table. The To Hit roll is modified by things like firer status, target cover, target range, etc. If the firing unit scores a hit, you compare its Offensive Value with the target's Defensive Value, and then roll on the damage table. Possible results include kills, suppression, immobilization, and no effect.

Here are some typical unit values, using a Pz III J (special) as an example. It can move 4" per turn cross country, or up to 8" if you include the Bonus Move. Its offensive modifiers are +1 if stationary and -4 if it used its Bonus Move. It cannot fire on the move since it doesn't have a stabilized gun. The offensive value (i.e., penetration) of its 50L60 gun is 7 with regular AP ammunition and 13 with APCR. It has no size modifier, and its armor values are 6, 3, 5, 2 for front, side, rear, and top, respectively.

Now for a quick example of fire combat using the basic rules. Lets assume our Pz III is firing at a British Grant tank 20" away. German regulars have a TQ of 12, so the base to hit value is 12. The German tank is stationary, so its offensive modifier is +1. At 20" range, there are no range based modifiers. The Grant has a target size modifier of +1. Lets assume that its in the open and not moving, providing no other target based modifiers. The final to hit number is 12 +1 +1 = 14, so the German player must roll a 14 or less on a d20 to hit. Lets assume that he hits the Grant on its front armor. The OV for the Pz III J is 7, and the Grant's front armor is an 8. To find the effect of the shot, you would roll a d20 on the -1 row (7 OV - 8 DV) of the Kill Table. A 6 or less would kill the tank, 7-10 would result in some damage, and 11 or higher would result in no effect. If the panzer used APCR instead, he would be rolling on the +5 row (13 OV - 8 DV), which results in a kill on a roll of 16 or less. The APCR makes a big difference.

I like the rules a lot. The core game is very straight forward, and once you understand the basic rules, the advanced rules can be added on an as-needed basis. The combat results tables seem to be a bit deadly, but I think that forces the players to be a bit more crafty in how they maneuver their troops. The activation system works very well, and I do have to admit that I'm a big fan of alternating impulse systems. I have not tried any of the drop-in rules, and I'm looking forward to doing so. One final thing to consider, the game is easy to teach and plays very quickly. This is a great benefit when introducing new players or if you are interested in playing a large scenario. I would definitely recommend the rules set.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Might of Arms Redux

I've been itching to try this game again, and was able to get a few free hours. I set up a medium sized, meeting engagement. To add a little spice, I've added a few pictures to help illustrate the action.

I went with the same armies as the first battle, Seljuks vs Crusaders, but I went with larger armies. The Seljuk army consisted of 3 units of Heavy Cavalry, 7 units of Light Cavalry, 2 units of auxilia, 1 unit of archers, and 1 unit of skirmishers. The Crusaders had 4 units of Knights, 1 of Light Cavalry, 2 units of spearmen, 2 units of spearmen with attached crossbowmen, 1 unit of pilgrims, and a unit of skirmishers. Each formed infantry unit (spearmen, archers, auxilia, pilgrims) had 4 stands, while everything else had 2 stands.

(The opposing armies)

The battlefield was rather simple, with a small village at the edge of a valley. The terrain split the battlefield into three sections separated by rough terrain.

(The battlefield)

The plan for each side was simple. The Turks wanted to delay in the center and win on the flanks, while the Crusaders wanted to do just the opposite. Here is the initial setup of the forces:

(Crusader setup)
(Seljuk setup)

The Turks sent light horse to attack each flank. On the Crusaders left flank, they were stopped by crossbow fire and the Turcopole light horse. The Turks were not able to make progress on that flank for the entire game.

On the Crusaders right flank, the spearmen/crossbowmen unit was able to hold off the horses for a few turns, but it was then charged by a unit of auxilia. It held the initial charge, but was then hit in the flank by light cavalry. A unit of knights rode to rescue, and a swirling melee developed. (insert picture here) Eventually, both the infantry and the knights routed in the face of superior numbers, but they mauled two units of light horse and delayed the Turks for several turns.

(Action at the end of Turn 1)

In the center, the Pilgrims pushed forward. The Seljuks quickly dispatched them with a unit of auxilia and a unit of heavy cavalry. Crusader spearmen charged the auxilia, and were able to defeat them after 3 or 4 turns of battle. In the meantime, two units of knights were able to charge the heavy cavalry after taking a few hits from long range bowfire. The Turks responded by sending in their reserve, and things looked grim for the Franks. By a stroke of luck, they managed to kill the Seljuk commander, causing several units to fail their morale check. At about the same time, the spearmen finally defeated the auxilia and joined the fray. It proved too much for the Turks... their last heavy cavalry unit broke and the game was over. The Frankish knights had taken many casualites but were able to win the day.

(Climax in the valley)

The Turks lost nearly double the points that the Crusaders had lost, resulting in a decisive victory for the Franks. The Turks were unable to break through on the flanks, and the Crusader spearmen plus knights proved to be very tough. That said, the loss of the Seljuk leader was probably the turning point of the battle, since the units that failed were destroyed soon after, causing the collapse of the Seljuk center.

I definitely like the "feel" of the game. To me, it feels a lot like Warhammer, where you maneuver to get advantageous charges or to position your skirmishing units to harass and disrupt. I like the fact that you use missile fire to wear down units before you charge them. I also like the way that the different units have very different movement capabilites. I think we did the system an injustice in our Romans vs Gauls game by simply lining up two infantry lines and slamming them into each other.

On the down side, the system is more complex than DBx. Combat resolution between evenly matched units can take a long time. And finally, you need a lot of stands for the armies. I used about 70 stands for this battle, while an average sized battle would be about twice that.

All that said, I'd love to try the game again. It provides a nice change of pace from the DBx games, while not being overly complex. Knowing how the system works, I think we'd find it quite enjoyable.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

DBM 200 Army Lists

Here are the two army lists that I used for the Dorylaeum game. They are based on the DBM 200 rules commonly found on the net. Essentially, they are the basic army lists with the minimums and maximums divided by two. Also, the costs of the generals are slightly reduced.

III/73 Seljuk Turk, 1097 (Ag 3)

1st command (17 EE)
C-in-C: Reg Cv(S) x1
Askaris: Reg Cv(O) x6
Turkomans: Irr LH(S) x10

2nd command (11 EE)
Ally General: Irr LH(S) x1
Turkomans: Irr LH(S) x4
Foot Javelinmen: Irr Ps(S) x2
Foot Javelinmen: Irr Ax(O) x2
Foot Bowmen: Irr Ps(O) x2
Foot Bowmen: Irr Bw(I) x2

198 Total Points, 30 elements, 28 EE

IV/7 Early Crusaders, 1097 (Ag 4)

1st Command (21 EE)
C-in-C: Irr Kn(F) x1
Knights: Irr Kn(F) x7
Spearmen: Irr Sp(I) x8
Crossbowmen: Irr Bw(I) x2
Archers: Irr Ps(O) x2
Pilgrims: Irr Hd(S) x2

2nd Command (13.5 EE)
Ally General: Irr Kn(F) x1
Knights: Irr Kn(F) x5
Spearmen: Irr Sp(I) x6
Crossbowmen: Irr Bw(I) x1
Archers: Irr Ps(O) x1
Pilgrims: Irr Hd(S) x2

199 Total Points, 38 elements, 34.5 EE

Review/AAR: DBM

Now that we are playing DBA regularly, I decided to check out DBM and see how it compares. I took the latest rules (DBM 3.0 + 3.1 amendments) and created two 200 AP armies: III/73 Seljuk Turk and IV/7 Early Crusader. The date for both armies was 1097, which is the date for one of the first major battles of the First Crusade: Dorylaeum. The army lists are contained in a separate post.

The Franks were the defender, the Turks the invader. The board contained two steep hills, some rough going, and a road. The defender gets to place most of the terrain, although the attacker can pick one major feature (a river, waterway, or road), with the Turks going for a road. The terrain is randomly placed on the board, so no one can get a perfect set up. As it turned out, all of the terrain ended up on half of the board. Both sides placed their main command in the empty half, the supporting commands and camps in the hilly half.

The Turks got some good PIP rolls in the first two turns, and were able to position their light horse units to disrupt the Crusader's knights. The Crusaders moved forward, waiting for the right opportunity to unleash the knights, with a solid anchor of crossbow supported spears in the center.

On the flank with the smaller commands, the Turks were able to peel two knights out of formation. The light horse were able to separate them and kill them both, greatly aided by the knights impetuousity and the superior grading factor of the light horse (more on that later). The rest of the knights advanced toward the Turkish command group, consisting of bowmen, auxilia, and psiloi. The bowen managed to kill one knight, but were then run down. In the end, neither side had done enough damage to break the other's command, although the Franks appeared to have the edge.

On the other flank, the Turks broke in to two groups. One group, consisting entirely of light horse, was to occupy the knights, while the other group, consisting of the heavy cavalry with a light horse screen, was to go after the Frank infantry. The Frank pushed some pilgrims forward (classified as Hd(S)), to disrupt the charge of the cavalry, and it worked. While one element of horde was quickly killed, the other managed to hold out the entire game. Thus the heavy cavalry was prevented from attacking. The light horse drew the first wave of knights into combat, but the Frank player was able to keep a few units as a reserve. The light horse were not able break up the formation, because the fast knight's (Kn(F) move 4" instead of 3") were able to catch them.

The Frank player threw the reserve group into the fray, killing 4 light horse while only loosing 3 knights. However, one of the knights was the general. The next PIP roll would decide if the command broke, losing the game for the Crusaders, or stuck around for more action. The knights stuck around, deciding to avenge the loss of their general. The now uncontrollable knights impetously charged into the mass of light horse, killing 2 more, breaking the Turk's largest command, and ending the game in a Crusader victory. The game took three hours from start to finish.

I had a lot of fun. The game felt like a slightly more complicated version of BBDBA (which, of course, shouldn't be a surprise). Units have a very similar feel to DBA, and all of the mechanics of the game are basically the same. The biggest difference is that there is a bit more to all of the rules sections.

IMO, I like three parts the best: grading factors, impetuosity, and army selection. I think the grading factors add a lot of flavor to the units without a lot of complexity. For example, the Turkish light horse were superior, Irr LH(S), and were much more difficult to kill than LH in DBA. Also, the Frankish knights were fast, Irr Kn(F), making them slightly weaker in combat (which didn't matter much here, since LH quick kill Kn), but giving them an extra inch of movement, which made a big difference. I also think the impetuosity rules are very interesting. The units are cheaper than regulars, meaning that you get a lot of them, but once they are committed they become nearly impossible to control. If you have a group of impetuous troops, you only have one chance to commit them, so you have to make the most of it. Finally, I like the army selection. There is much more of a variety than in BBDBA. I also like the fact that you can have a big army of inferior units, or a small army of superior units, or anything in between. Again, its really the variety that I like.

There are some downsides, of course. DBM armies are larger than BBDBA armies. My two armies had 30 and 38 elements, and that was 200 AP worth. The armies in the book are for 300-500 AP, which would probably mean armies of 40-70 elements, or even more. That is a lot of guys to paint. Also, you have to keep track of different grades of the same type of troop. The Turks had Ps(S) with javelins and Ps(O) with bows, so it actually mattered what troops were on the base. Finally, the rules are a bit more complicated than DBA. Plus, there isn't an official 3.1 release, so you need the 3.0 rules and the 3.1 amendments.

Now, I don't plan on giving up DBA. I think it is a great game and has a lot of things going for it. I would like to try a few more DBM games, however, and see how the group feels about it. I don't think that I want to pursue DBMM. It is MUCH more complicated than DBM, and its not clear that its any better. Of course, I still have a half dozen other ancients rules that I'd like to try, but that is the subject of another post. :-)