Sunday, 22 February 2015

More Vickers

Continuing to build my UK Western Desert forces, I bought a GHQ pack, UK-71, Individual Heavy Weapons. Unlike the plain vanilla UK pack, this one has a dozen Vickers machine guns, which is good. However there are no loaders supplied; the same is also true of the 3" mortars, where there are 18 models, each with one crew. There are a few officers pointing, and men prone with binoculars, who can be used to add a few figure to the bases, but they still look bare. These weapons should have 2-3 man crews. You also get plenty of Bren gunners and ATRs, which are fine - I am keeping these to add variety to the infantry bases.
Vickers HMG
2" Mortars

3" Mortars

Sunday, 8 February 2015


One small gripe I have with GHQ is that their packs of UK Infantry Heavy Weapons are missing the Vickers HMG that is so characteristic of British infantry forces. The other Infantry Heavy Weapons packs - Desert, Sikh, Paras, Aussies - all feature plenty of them - eight I think. But if you want plain vanilla British HMGs, there is only the "Heavy Weapons" pack. This is one of the old style packs, with the whole crew moulded as a lump on the weapon, and in addition you only get four HMGs, along with four mortars and two ATRs. This is poor value, and in addition I don't like the style of those old packs (they were apparently created for Avalon Hill to fit with ASL).

So I have gone to Adler for a pack of HMGs (and a pack of 3" mortars as well). Adler are nice figures, the equal of GHQ in most cases, though a few of them have rather large heads. Good value too - the HMG pack had 12 guns in action, with three crews each, plus another 12 4-man crews advancing carrying the guns and ammo.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Blitzkrieg Commander II

A couple of YouTube videos piqued my interest, and I had another look at these rules. I bought the first edition about ten years ago, maybe more, and now I have purchased the second edition as a pdf. These rules are derived from a fantasy set called Warhammer (from Games Workshop), and the defining feature is the command system. Fighting units are activated to move or fire by command units rolling 2D6 to beat their "command value" - usually between 6 and 10. A commander can activate the same group of units several times - each subsequent command roll has a penalty, so it gets harder, but it is still possible to activate units several times in a turn. Famously in Warmaster a chariot unit could fight its way from one side of the board to the other in a single move. On the other hand if the command unit rolls high on its first try that is it. Sometimes the GHQ can intervene, but usually it means the units don't move at all that turn.
While it is good that commanders cannot plan everything without risk, this system seems to me to have a bit too much friction in it, too much variability, and while we can all point to cases where units spent an entire battle failing to move, this puts this rule set on the "gamey" end of the spectrum for me. However it is well written and flows smoothly, and the support is good, particularly the on-line force generator, which makes it very easy to create a force to any points value, and then print out the necessary information to play the battle.
I set up a battle, an assault by British troops (3000 points) on 2000 points of Germans in October 1944 (the force generator allows you to specify the date and limits the unit choices accordingly). Two infantry units supported by Cromwells advanced frontally, while another group of infantry and Churchills executed a flank attack. Both sides had off-board artillery, but this is rather ineffective in these rules - unless the observer is very close to the target there is a substantial drift which means that your shells are quite unlikely to hit their target. Plus, artillery can only fire once per turn. Much more effective is direct fire, especially as units can fire several times if the command rolls are good. German anti-tank and infantry guns dominated this game, knocking out three Cromwells out of four, plus a Challenger, and several infantry units - the central thrust by the British was almost completely stopped. The flank attack was more successful, getting in among the Germans, and killing a Hetzer and a couple of infantry units. However they were under constant fire from the PAK and iG guns on the hills, and this was too much to overcome. In BKC each force has a breakpoint (roughly half its unit count) and when this is reached it has to start taking a command test at the start of each turn. The British reached their limit of 13 units long before the Germans were close to theirs (7) and after a couple of turns the British failed a roll, and the game was over.
My feeling about these rules, as I have said, is that they make a good game. The mechanisms are very simple and consistent, with a single process for attacks of all kinds. There is very little need to refer to the rules during the game, and the printed unit sheets give all the numbers needed - a good set for a fun battle in a club, for example. But I didn't get much of a feel for the scale or nature of the battle. The game has two scales, units can represent platoons or squads, without any changes at all, and I think this indicates my point - they feel like game counters, rather than representing any specific historic unit. So I will use these rules for a fun game, but probably not for campaigns or to re-fight historic battles - they don't feel right for that.

From behind the German lines. The British flank attack can be seen arriving top left
The British flank force is advancing, but the rest of their units are in trouble further back
The British main force. The Cromwell unit is reduced to one tank hiding in the centre wood
Flank attack. The Hetzer in the field is suppressed.

Near the end. The flank force has lost a Churchill and several infantry units

Final positions from behind the British flank force entry point