Saturday, May 14, 2011

Force on Force: Infantry Rules Mini-Review

While attending Stooge Con, I noticed up a new set of rules titled Force on Force. They are published by Osprey and contain rules for modern skirmish gaming. I've always been interested about the recent campaigns in Afghanistan, both Soviet and NATO. I read through them at the store, and they seemed to be pretty interesting. After a quick check of a few online reviews, I decided to buy them.

Last week, I had a chance to kick the tires on the rules set. As I don't have any modern minis, I set up a few fights between American and German troops in France. First I'll give a quick overview of the rules then I'll give a mini AAR.

The basic unit in the game is a fire team of 2-5 men. Each team is rated on three things; Troop Quality, Morale, and Confidence. TQ and Morale ratings are represented as a die ranging from d6 to d12. To pass a check, the unit or soldier must roll 4 or higher on its die. As you can see, units rated d6 have a harder time passing that units rated d12. The Confidence rating is given as Low, Normal, or High, and affects when a unit has to take a morale check.

Shooting is done as a unit, and the target is also a unit. You cannot specify a single soldier as a target. To shoot, you roll one TQ die per soldier in the unit. You add one die if the unit has a light support weapon (LMG, SAW, grenade launcher) and two dice if it has a heavy support weapon (HMG, RPG). In addition, you roll an extra die if you are in effective range, which is based upon your TQ. You keep track of all of your successes, included the value rolled. The target rolls one die for each soldier in the unit, plus a number of dice based upon the terrain it occupies. Every success the defender rolls can negate one of the attacker's successes that has an equal or lower value. Its not just based on number of successes. For example, an attacker rolls four dice, scoring 1, 4, 5, 8. The defender rolls four dice, scoring 2, 7, 7, 7. The 1 and 2 are discarded. Two of the defender's 7s negate the attacker's 4 and 5 rolls, but the final 7 doesn't negate the attacker's 8. Therefore, the defender takes one hit.

One other interesting bit about fire combat is that its executed in a round of fire. If a unit is shot at, it has a chance to respond. When a unit declares that its shooting at a target, both the attacker and the defender make a TQ check using a single die. If the attacker rolls equal or better than the defender, he shoots first. If not, the defender shoots first! Basically, the TQ check represents who gets the jump in a firefight. Note that a unit can respond multiple times if multiple units attack it, although it rolls one less die each time.

At the beginning of each game turn, the two sides make a modified TQ check. The side that wins gets the initiative, and sequentially activates all of its units. The non-initiative player can react to any of the initiative player's activations, and then can move any left over units at the end of the turn. There are a bunch of different activations, but there are four main ones: fire, move, fire and move, and overwatch. The first three are exactly what they say, while the overwatch action allows you to fire at any units that react. Note that the defender cannot react to overwatch actions, but can react to the others. This allows the initiative player to set up a bounding overwatch, where one unit covers another as it moves. Reacting units can choose to move or fire as a reaction, but while a unit can fire multiple times, it can move only once in a turn. When a unit reacts, both it and the active unit make a TQ check, and the winner gets to perform its action first. So, a unit can attempt to shoot at an enemy unit, but if the enemy unit wins the reaction test, it can move out of LOS before the activated unit shoots. The action/reaction system makes the game very fluid.

Morale checks are handled by making a TQ check for every soldier in the unit. If the unit passes more checks than it fails, its fine. If not, it is pinned, which forces it to take cover (i.e., not move) and reduces its TQ by one die. If a unit is pinned a second time, it falls back. A unit recovers from pinning at the end of the turn.

That's a basic summary of the rules. Now a quick AAR of my two fights.

In the first fight, I had two teams of Germans and two teams of Americans do a meeting engagement in the woods. I wasn't too clever, and tried a basic bounding overwatch advance into each other. One German and one American team blundered into each other, with the Germans firing first and causing some casualties. The second German team followed up and finished off the Americans. In the next turn, they started dragging the wounded Americans back to their lines as prisoners, while the initial team took up a position at the edge of the woods. The remaining Americans didn't have much chance, so I tried to charge the Germans in the woods! It didn't work so well... two of the Americans were hit, and the unit failed its morale check. In the next turn, the Germans finished off the remaining Americans.

In the second fight, I had a German half squad and MG team defending a couple of houses. The Americans had three teams of riflemen, a light mortar team, and a MG team. The assault group consisted of two rifle teams on the left flank. The support group had the MG team, the mortar team, and the third rifle team on the right flank. As the assault teams moved through the woods, the support teams took up their positions. The Germans fired on the support teams, quickly knocking out the MG team with their own machine gun, while the half squad waited behind a wall trading shots with its American counterpart in another set of trees. The assault troops managed to get behind a second wall near the house with the machine gun, and caused several casualties to the German half squad. The German machine gun wasn't able to do to much, although it did take out one or two more troopers. Finally, the weight of American fire took out the rest of the German half squad, leaving the German MG team alone to defend the house. A lucky mortar shot wounded the two machine gunners, and the fight was over.

Overall, I like the system. The game moves fairly quickly, and both players are involved all of the time. The results seemed to make sense. I made a lot of mistakes in the first game, and a lot less in the second. There are rules for vehicles, artillery, and air support, but I haven't really read them yet. I'm definitely looking forward to trying it out a bit more. Hopefully I'll be able to find a game at Origins.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Stooge Con 2011 AAR

Two weeks ago, our local wargames group hosted a mini-con. There were about eight people playing DBA and the same number playing DBM. It was hosted a local game store, Legions Hobbies & Games, which sells all sort of cool stuff and has a huge gaming area.

I played DBM and brought the latest version of my Norman army. The army has evolved over time, starting as a Sicilian group including some Arab allies and changing into William the Conquerer's list utilizing a mix of regular and dismounted knights.

III/52 Norman

Command 1
CinC Irr Kn(F)
Milites Irr Kn(F) x8
Scouts Irr LH(I) x3
Archers Irr Bw(I) x2
Peasants Irr Hd(O) x12
20 EE, Breaks on 7

Command 2
Sub-General Irr Kn(F)
Milites Irr Kn(F) x4
Dismounted Irr Bd(O) x9
Spearmen Irr Sp(I) x4
18 EE, Breaks on 6

Command 3
Sub-General Irr Kn(F)
Archers Irr Bw(I) x10
Crossbowmen Irr Bw(O) x6
17 EE, Breaks on 6

Command 4
Breton SG Irr Cv(O)
Breton Horse Irr Cv(O) x6
Dismounted Irr Bd(O) x4
Spearmen Irr Sp(I) x6
17 EE, Breaks on 6

Army total: 72 EE, Breaks on 36

I was a little pressed for time, so I only got to play three games. I went 1-1-1, and would probably have gone 2-1 if I didn't arrive late on Saturday. Overall, I was pretty pleased.

The first game was against Howard West's Bosporans. His army had a bunch of Ax, Sp, Bw, and Kn. He also had a Scythian ally with a bunch of LH(F). There was a large batch of rough going in the middle of the table, and two smaller areas on the flanks. I set up with my Bretons on the right flank, my dismounted milites on the left, and my knights and bowmen in the middle. I pushed the whole lot forward, and Howard was happy to oblige. The match almost ended in disaster, as his bowmen shot up my Breton cavalry pretty badly. Luckily, I managed to extract them before the command broke. On the other flank, I had a slight numerical advantage, so I decided to sweep the rough going clear with my dismounted milites. Through sheer weight of numbers, and a bit of luck, I was able to push the Ax out of the rough going and was in a pretty good position to put pressure on his flank. In the middle, my bowmen and knights were slowly grinding down Howard's Sp and remaining Bw. The losses were spread over several commands, so I wasn't able to break anything before time was called, but we sort of agreed that with a couple of more bounds, I had a good chance of breaking a command and possibly the army. It ended in a draw, but I felt pretty good.

That feeling was quickly erased in my second game agains Rob Cunningham and his New Kingdom Egyptians. The terrain featured two areas of difficult going on Rob's flanks, and a river near my back edge. Rob set up his bow and blade line anchored between the two pieces of terrain. He also placed two groups of psiloi in ambush, one in each piece. I set up with my Bretons on the left flank, the knights and bows in the middle, and the mixed blade and knight command on the right. I made quite a few mistakes in this fight. First, I tried to sweep the difficult going with my blades. I forgot that they couldn't do group moves in difficult terrain, and by the time that I remembered, they were out of position to attack the bows. I tried to make an end around with some knights on the other flank, but they got tied up by the psiloi. In the center, I lumbered forward with the bows and main group of knights. I managed to charge the knights as a cohesive group, but didn't kill a thing on the charge. After that, it didn't take long for Rob to break both my knight and bow commands, causing me to go down in defeat. We had a good talk about using Normans and fast knights after the battle, which would go on to be a big help the next day...

On Sunday, I played my last game against Carl and his Successor Army. I knew he had a whole lot of pike, so I planned to dismount my main knight command at setup. When the terrain fell, there was a lot of rough going on my right flank, but my left flank was wide open. Figuring that I had nothing to lose, I sent the Breton command on a flank march. The plan was to engage the pikes with my blades, delay on my right flank with the light horse, and use the Breton cavalry to flank the pike block. I set up with my bow line in front of my blades, and marched forward. Carl's pikes did the same. I got lucky, and my flank march arrived on turn two. This forced Carl to divert a lot of pips to the counter them just as the blades and pikes started their shoving match. I then sent my reserve group of knights to aid the flank march. Carl was forced to spend pips all over the entire battlefield while I was able to focus two commands on one of his, including a group of impetuous knights. I managed to close the door and kill his pike subgeneral, causing even greater command problems. He did kill quite a bit of my guys, but not before I was able to overwhelm the command opposing the flank march and break it. A few bounds later, they called time, and I won by virtue of breaking a command without losing any.

I was very pleased with this last game. I formulated a plan and executed it almost exactly as I had wanted. I was able to delay in the areas where I couldn't win and was able to combine forces on one command where I could. By engaging the entire line at once, I was able to force Carl to spend pips in places where he didn't want to spend them. I was pretty happy that my crazy plan had worked.

I had a really good time at the event. I thought I played well, except for the middle game, and I felt much more comfortable with the rules. I also felt more comfortable with my army, utilizing its strengths and mostly handling its weaknesses. Its a fun army to play, although you have to deal with the fact that sometimes you will lose in a spectacular fashion! In that case, you have to look on the bright side... you will get to spend more time shopping in the dealer's hall!