Tuesday, 18 June 2019

ECW Battle

I tried a simple ECW Portable Wargame this evening, partially to remind myself how to play, and partially to try out the rules for limiting card-activation runs.

I gave each side four regiments of foot and two lots of horse. Parliament had trotters, and one of their foot units was entirely shot-armed. The Royalists had gallopers, and two of their regiments were entirely pike-armed. The terrain was some scattered enclosures. I forgot to include commanders.

Both sides' horse advanced on the flank, and started a fight which pushed back and forth with no result.

Parliament's foot advanced.

The Royalist foot was slower; their command effort was still being put into trying to win the cavalry actions on the flank.

However with the horse showing little inclination to win, the Royalists committed their pike units, who drove back the Parliamentarian regiments in front of them.

Parliament's foot gave ground, as the Royalists drove forward.

But the Royalist units couldn't maintain the momentum, wavered, and the Parliamentarian foot destroyed them both.

Their centre units pushed forward, and helped drive off the rest of the Royalist foot. The battle was an obvious Parliamentarian victory.

This was a pretty basic game and, to be honest, not that exciting. But it got the rules back into my head. In terms of the card-activation, it certainly limited runs, but whether it was too much I'm not sure. I did it slightly differently to how I described it in my original post; instead of subtracting one from the value for card after the first, I simply halved the value of each card after the first. With six units this was pretty much the same as the subtraction. Most runs were two cards; I had one run of three.

I shall try the system again, but maybe with a more interesting action. Possibly even an historical refight.

The Portable Wargame - Card-Based Initiative

In 'The Portable Wargame' there is described a card-based initiative system which I like, mostly because it is geared up for solo play. Indeed I use it for face to face games as well, because it has a nice level of unpredictability.

I should say that I use a variation of the system, as Bob's method uses two packs of cards, whilst I use one. So the odds are different, but the principle is the same.

Essentially the system is this:

(i) Assign each side a colour - Red or Black

(ii) For a given side count up how many units it has. Halve that number, rounding up. This is the Initiative Value for that side.

(iii) In a deck of cards, find the two cards of the Initiative Value of the appropriate colour. In addition find the two cards for the Initiative Value + 1 and Initiative Value - 1. You should have six cards per side.

(iv) Shuffle the twelve cards together, along with a single Joker.

A 'turn' consists of drawing a card. The side whose card it is gets to perform actions with a number of units corresponding to the card's value. If the Joker is drawn the deck is reshuffled.

It's a simple system, and creates a nice ebb and flow. Mostly.

An issue with it is that it's possible for one side to get a run of cards, leaving the other somewhat flat-footed. In most systems which allow this as a possibility the side which loses out can be sure of getting their own run. But the Joker in the deck means that often one side can get a run of actions and then a reshuffle happens, creating a new deck before the other side gets a go. It happens often enough to be a little frustrating.

I have been considering how to limit this issue, whilst maintaining the essential nature of the system. My answer - currently untested - is this:

Assume you're starting with a freshly shuffled initiative deck. Draw a card as before. The side whose card it is gets to act with as many units as correspond to the value. Then draw another card. If it is for the same side, then its value is reduced by one when determining how many units can act. The next card in a continuous sequence for one side is reduced by two. And so on. If the value is reduced to zero or less, ten it is treated as '1'. This progressive reduction of value continues until either a card for the otehr side is drawn, or until the Joker is drawn, causing a reshuffle.

Example: Red has an Initiative Value of 5, so the six cards they have in the deck are two 4s, two 5s and two 6s. The first card is drawn and it is a Black card, so Black activates some units. The next card is a Red 6, so Red activates 6 units. The third card is a Red 4. Because this is the second Red card in a row, its value is reduced by one, so Red only activates 3 units. The fourth card is a Red 5. This is now the third card in a row for Red, so its value is reduced by two; Red once again only activates 3 units. The fifth card is the Joker, so the deck is reshuffled. And the first card from the new deck is a Red 5. Because the deck has been reshuffled, Red can use its full value and activates 5 units. And so on.

As you can see, it's still very possible for one side to be sat watching the other take continuous actions, but reducing the card values should tend to reduce the momentum such runs otherwise builds up and prevent the non-acting side being steamrollered.

The next step is, of course, to try this out.

Monday, 17 June 2019


Our local cinema chain does a Hollywood Classics series, showing a classic film every three weeks or so. And look what we got today!

We do quite well for 'classic' films here. As well as the cinema itself doing them, Wollongong University has a film society which shows an 'oldie' at the cinema every month. It's a great opportunity to see favourite films on the big screen. In the past year my wife and I have been to see '12 Angry Men', 'Singin' In The Rain', 'It's a Wonderful Life', 'Alien', 'Die Hard' (at Christmas, naturally) and, greatest of them all, 'Casablanca'.

Anyway, 'Zulu' was fabulous. The sound was a bit iffy, but once it got going we didn't really notice. If you haven't seen it on the big screen, then you should. It looks amazing, and there's so much detail that you miss on a TV screen.

And next week we'll be going to see 'The Princess Bride'.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Burlesque Update #6

I did it!

On Saturday all of our work and rehearsals bore fruit, as we performed our burlesque showcase to a packed audience. And I made my solo debut.

What can I say? It was so much fun. Yes, I was nervous. Very nervous in those few final minutes backstage. But once I stepped up on stage, and the music began it all clicked into place, and I had a whale of a time.

I also performed as part of the Showgirl Troupe later in the show, and that went well too.

There are more official photos, and individual performance videos are yet to come, but our headmistress, Mae de la Rue, put together this clip video, showing all of the performances by both students and 'professional' performers. The opening and closing clips show the 'cannon' move I wrote about in Burlesque Update #1

Indeed here we are doing the second of our cannons.

I took a screen capture of part of my solo from the video.

There was, of course, a curtain-call

Back Row: The Muse Showgirls (of which I'm a part), plus guest performer Coco Rochelle. Catherine (Mrs Kobold) and Maya (our daughter) are fourth and fifth from the left.

Kneeling (Left to Right): Isadora Persano (me), Kiss Tingles, Valerie Chandon, Miss Incognito, The Muse Fan Trio, Pearly Lustre

On the Floor (Left to Right): Miss Surely Knot, Mae de la Rue, Satin Spitfire

Tomorrow we will be doing our showgirl routine up in Sydney (so I will be missing wargaming one final time), and then on Saturday we'll be doing the whole show again, also up in Sydney.

Next week? Life returns to normal ...

All photos and video by Stuart Bucknall Photography

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Farmhouse Attack

I tried another ad hoc Trench Hammer game over the weekend. Once again I gave each side an identical platoon, then allowed them to add one specialist squad after the terrain and victory conditions had been determined.

I randomised the terrain, and generated the following objectives:

British - Destroy a German unit by assault and kill a leader.

German - Destroy two British units and hold the ruined house at the end of the game.

Both sides added an additional bomber squad - the British because of their requirement to score a kill through assault and the Germans because they had to capture a defended building.

As with the previous game I rolled a random barrage as a complication.

Here's the setup from behind the German position. They had a tough task ahead of them, with an advance across mostly open ground to the objective, whilst the British had shellholes, buildings and woods as cover.

With no secure positions from which to launch softening up fire, the German plan had to be a simple, rapid attack. A bomber squad led by a sergeant went straight for the ruined farmhouse, whilst a second squad approached it through a wood. Their LMG squad covered them from a hill (out of shot).

The British were covering their squad in the farmhouse with a Lewis gun squad in a wood. This took fire, and was soon looking weak, so the Germans switched their attack to clear them instead. It meant that once the farmhouse was captured it could be more easily held. The British squad was quickly eliminated.

Meanwhile the German rifle-grenadiers managed to eliminate the farmhouse defenders, leaving the objective completely open.

The British were having a tough time of it at this stage. Their activation roll after the Germans made their first move was abysmal and, to make matters worse, the random barrage was hitting their units hard. The Germans needed a lot of luck, and they got it.

On the other flank the British were moving up bomber squads to assault the German rifle squad covering that side of the field, and achieve their assault objective. The artillery barrage saw them pinned down in some shell-holes instead. More bad luck for the British.

The German squad in the woods had cleared that flank, but was weakened so badly that the British platoon commander was able to drive them off with his revolver.

With the objective cleared of British troops, though, the Germans moved up to occupy it. The bomber squad in the woods regrouped and recovered, whilst the LMG squad advanced to provide covering fire.

The Germans occupied the objective. The British had one chance to oust them, and launched an assault with one of the bomber squads on the other flank, covered by rifle-grenade fire. This saw the German squad destroyed, giving the British the first of their victory conditions.

It was now the final turn. The Germans had to retake the farmhouse to avoid a draw, and not lose a leader to avoid a loss. They assaulted the ruins with the LMG squad, riskily throwing in the leader to improve their chances. They failed, and the squad was destroyed ...

... but against the odds the platoon commander managed to escape to cover under heavy fire.

The end. The Germans had destroyed two British squads, but failed to hold the objective. The British scored a kill via assault, but both German leaders survived. The fight was a draw.

Given the poor German starting position, a draw was pretty good going for them. Bad luck early on for the British, both in terms of activation rolls and from random artillery fire, saw the Germans able to quickly seize the initiative, and almost pull off a win. Only that final bold assault on, and steadfast defence of, the objective by the British bomber squad staved off defeat.

I ran the game with the rules changes outlined HERE. Specifically I used the change to the way assault damage is run, with the side scoring the most damage inflicting the full number of hits, whilst the losing side only scores half hits. This helped prevent mutual destruction situations, although winners were still generally too battered to consolidate their position for long. Still, it generally felt better. I want to try a game with some assault squads next and see if I can balance them up a little better.
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