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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Langensalza 1866 - another nice photo report

Happy to see the Langensalza BBB scenario got another outing, this time in New York:

http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=373224

Looking forward to playing this myself some time.


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Kampfgruppe Peiper - WWII KGC game

Last night's entertainment at the club was a WWII Battle of the Bulge scenario laid on for us by Colin. I found myself on the US team, commanding 3rd Bn 119th Infantry Regt, defending Stoumont against Kampfgruppe Peiper's King Tigers, attacking from La Gleize on 19 December 1944.

This was quite an ambitious game, with 4 German battalions (I think) attacking initially 3 and eventually 4 US battalions. We had 6 players (plus referee), some of whom were new to the rules, and there was also a lot of information to digest from the scenario briefings. Since we were using Kampfgruppe Commander II - my favourite WWII game because of its beautiful command & control, activation/response mechanisms, but quite a complex game - this did slow things down about. Even so, by the end of the evening both German columns had traversed the length of the table and even though we were some way off playing through the scheduled 8 turns, we had reached a satisfactory result. I felt sorry for Bruce, whose tactical options were essentially limited to one - charge down the valley of death and run the gauntlet of my minefields, bazookas, and AT ambushes - but whose King Tigers had still managed to break through (albeit his battalion was reduced to a platoon). Overall, a bit chaotic but a good fun game, and a good-looking one thanks to Colin's beautiful 1/300 scale models.

I knew about this action in general terms, but having played the game I have a better understanding of what actually happened. I guess I need to read this though:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Devils-Adjutant-Jochen-Peiper/dp/1862271569











Friday, 23 January 2015

Review of "Bloody Big Battles!" in the Foreign Correspondent

BBB and BBEB have now been officially reviewed by Bob Mackenzie in the latest issue of the Foreign Correspondent, #105, journal of the Continental Wars Society. Bob and Ralph Weaver of the CWS have kindly agreed that I may reproduce the review in full here. Bob is an experienced rules author in his own right and a thoughtful critic who knows what makes a good game - see his essay on scenario design on his website here: Bob Mackenzie's homepage - 20mm & 1/300th Wargames


(I encourage you to join the CWS. Contact Rob Burke Burker1@aol.com  or Ralph Weaver ralphcws@hotmail.com for details.)

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Bloody Big Battles (BBB) and Bloody Big European Battles (BBEB)

Bloody Big Battles is a set of wargames rules designed to simulate the wars from the end of the Napoleonic Era up to the start of the 20th Century. It includes 9 Franco- Prussian War scenarios. Its companion volume is Bloody Big European Battles, which is a scenario book for BBB and contains 16 European scenarios from 1854 (the Crimean War) to 1897 (the Greco-Turkish War).

First a disclaimer … Chris Pringle, the rules’ author, is a good friend of mine. I have had the great pleasure of playing many excellent games of BBB with him over the 4-5 years the rules took to playtest. Despite this I have striven to be objective in my comments. This relationship means the review is  based on playing the rules many times rather than just taking a cursory look through the rule book. I am no C19th expert, so what follows are comments on how the rules play, not on their realism. Having said that I have glimpsed Chris’s personal library, which is awesome. This was not a set of rules knocked together after reading a pair of Ospreys.

What do I get for my hard earned cash?

The rules are $25 or £18, they are 54 pages long, they come in an A4 (US letter) stapled booklet with paperback quality covers. BBEB is a similar format. There are 24 pages of rules, which include copious examples; 29 scenario pages and a 1 page introduction. The rules buck the current trend for lots of extraneous fluff in rules: so no painting guides, army guides, or “codexes”. The rules are printed in black and white so completely lack the overwhelming amount of “eye candy” that can be found in some sets. The one useful thing omitted is a separate quick reference sheet. There is one bound in to the back of the book but you will have to copy and prepare the quick reference sheets yourself. So what you get are the rules and a bunch of scenarios and nothing else.

The Rules

The rules, it is fair to say, were inspired by the Fire and Fury ACW set, but ruthlessly simplified so as to deal with big battles in a reasonable time. As an example, I played the first two scenarios in BBEB, Kurudere and The Alma in an afternoon, in just under 6 hours. That excluded the first game set-up but included the set-up for the second game. Both of the games were played to the last turn and both came down to a nail- biting last turn finish.

Base sizes are flexible and the rules suggest 1 to 1.5” frontage, though I suspect bigger bases would work perfectly well too, which means you are unlikely to have to rebase. The rules make the point that the bases are considered the “centre of mass” of a unit so base size is not critical. It’s up to the players to determine the numbers and scales of figures to mount on a base; it’s irrelevant to the game mechanics. A base represents 1000 infantry, 1000 cavalry, 24 guns or 24 MGs, however this is flexible to allow bigger scenarios to fit on a reasonable 6x4ft table. An inch on the table represents an average of  200yds and a turn is roughly 1 hour,  though scales are somewhat elastic to allow for playability of scenarios.

The core of the rules is the “movement chart” which is actually a combined movement and morale chart. Each unit rolls dice to see how far it can move. If the unit’s morale is bad enough it may move backwards. The chart also deals with rallying. This system is unlike some other dice activation systems where it’s not unusual for all a player’s units to remain halted if they have poor quality troops. In BBB most units move at least half a move most of the time. I have yet to see an instance where a player was stymied in moving all of his units. The activation system is certainly an inconvenience to your plans and will make perfect co-ordination of your forces almost impossible, however it is not designed to frustrate players by preventing them moving anything. Movement distances are generous, 12” for infantry and 18” with cavalry if you roll well on the movement table. This makes the games very dynamic. The battlefield situation can change dramatically every turn, which to my mind makes for an exciting challenging game. Do not expect to spend half the game “playing” out a meaningless approach march.

The shooting and assault rules work smoothly and are competent. There are no radical mechanisms but they do produce results that feel correct. Fire often disrupts the enemy rather than kills, but combine enough firepower and the effect can be decisive.

Scenarios

The rules are good but they are not the highlight of BBB. Chris is a genius scenario designer and this is what sets the books apart from their competitors. The scenarios appear thoroughly researched. They tend to be asymmetrical in some way which adds considerable interest, and the victory conditions are cleverly thought out to provide an interesting and viable challenge to both sides. None of the scenarios represent bog-standard “line ‘em up” frontal assaults, all represent fluid situations which are interesting to game with many thorny decisions to be made. Each scenario has a smattering of special rules, not enough to overwhelm the players, but enough to capture the particular flavour of the battle.

Games Workshop aficionados may be disappointed.

Game play is based around the historical scenarios. There are no army lists and no points values. There are no generic scenarios and no mechanisms for balancing a fictional scenario. If competition gaming is your cup of tea then these are not the rules for you. Even if you like scenarios but feel the need to set up your own there is no guidance for creating your own, so you are very much on your own in this situation.

Other challenges

None of the scenarios are small (there is a hint in the name). Although the rules are simple and easy to pick up the game requires considerable investment before you can play. You need a lot of troops. Froeschwiller in BBB is a relatively small scenario but requires 90 assorted Prussian bases and 50 French bases. If you have a suitable collection already then all is good but this is not a set where you can dabble with a few troops before investing in bigger armies.
[ChrisBBB adds: actually there are now some small 'training scenarios' available in the files of the BBB Yahoo group.]

Scenarios have realistic terrain, which certainly makes them more engaging. However you need a great deal of terrain to make up the maps. The most challenging aspect will be hills. Nearly all of the maps are covered in contours and it ’s rather unlikely most gamers will have enough hills of suitable shapes to fit most of the maps. Books under a cloth is not suitable substitute as the game rules require clearly delineated contours and require all steep slopes to be marked clearly. Personally I feel a system of making ridgelines would have been more accessible to most gamers when trying to model the battlefield topography. Modelling the hills can be done, but will require some investment.

Maps

The maps in the game are its least attractive aspect. They are black and white with shading. In some the shading is tricky to follow, especially in those with many woods which sometimes use similar shading to the contours. Luckily all the maps are  on  the  BBB  Yahoo  group  in  glorious,  and  comprehensible,  colour: https://uk.groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/BBB_wargames/files , as are the quick reference sheets. Note you need to be a registered member of the group to access the files.  The maps (but not  the QR sheets) are also available on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/127771552@N03/sets/72157646425291544/ .

In Conclusion

Some of the best gaming I have had over the last four years has come from BBB. If you have the models and terrain to hand so you can start playing immediately I thoroughly recommend the rules. Even if you are not particularly interested in the period I recommend give it a go, the rules and scenarios produce great entertaining games. If you haven’t got the kit to play then find a friend who has so you can try it, it may well inspire you to build up your personal collection.

I’ll leave you with Chris’s final words from BBB: “And remember: if you lose, it’s due to bad luck; if you win, it’s due to your superior generalship! Have fun!”

“Bloody Big Battles!” and “Bloody Big European Battles!”. Chris Pringle. 2014. SkirmishCampaigns. RRP $25. Available in the US from Brigade Games or On Military Matters, and in the UK from Caliver Books or Irregular Miniatures. Reviewed by Bob Mackenzie.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The 2015 campaign season begins!

It took me until last Friday to get my first wargame of the new year, but the 2015 campaign season has now started with a bang: four solid days of holiday weekend gaming, some great games with good friends. Truly the "High Quality Gaming Experience". For the record, the weekend's entertainment comprised:

AWI: Bunker Hill (Black Powder - Rebellion scenario book)
We fought this twice, changing sides. Essentially it is a simple frontal assault, which is a bit limiting, but it was still entertaining to play. The British won both times. First time we focused on the American centre and simply punched a big hole with our elite Grenadiers and Light Bobs. Then on the receiving end, it was a bit closer (we changed the reinforcement rules, which helped), but the British finally broke through on their left and rolled us up.

ACW: Seven Pines (Altar of Freedom)
My first taste of this ruleset. A good-looking game in 6mm. The battle ebbed and flowed for a while, but as the Union we were doomed by Alvin's evil yellow dice that kept rolling 6s for him. When I run a game, I make sure everyone uses the same dice ... Confederate victory.

AWI: White Plains (Black Powder)
Being pretty ignorant about the American War of Independence, I had never heard of this battle. One of a succession of British attempts to turn American positions, apparently. A few more options than Bunker Hill, and we managed to choose one of the wrong ones: before my Hessians were able to march round the woods that obstructed us on the left, my British employer charged in the centre, got a brigade broken, and cost us the game.

Fireball Zombie
This is the Zombies variant of the conventional WWII company-level game, Fireball Forward. British Paras found themselves up against Nazi Zombies in Normandy, and had to escort French civilians to the (relative) safety of the abbey. Our Zombies managed to eat one Para, but mostly just got futilely mown down, as the Paras skilfully mutually supported. Credit to our human opponents who deserved their win.

Junta!
The classic board game. We didn't have time to finish, but I wasn't among the frontrunners when we stopped.

Crimean War: The Alma (BBB)
One of my favourite scenarios, from what I think is probably the best campaign in the BBEB scenario book. As our host doesn't (yet) own actual Crimean armies, we improvised. Napoleonic British for the Brits; ACW Union for the French, with zouaves for the zouaves, and turbaned zouaves for the Turks; and ACW Confederates standing in as Russians. A stonking fight, which for a while looked like being a Russian win, only for the Allies to clear them off both objectives on the very last turn.

WWII: Operation Totalize (rules in development)
Akin to the "Bloody Big Battles" philosophy for C19 games, we've been looking at developing rules that let you fight the whole of a significant multi-division WWII operation, on a sensible-sized table and in a sensible amount of time. We want the game to give due attention to command & control, and also to logistics, but without it becoming an exercise in accounting and blanket-stacking. So that meant Monday was spent pushing Oddzial Ozmy picoarmor across the tabletop, tinkering with rule mechanisms, deriding each other's unworkable ideas. There's definitely a viable game in there somewhere but it may be a year or two away.

My score for the year so far:
Games played to conclusion - 5. (not counting the one I refereed)
Wins - 1.

Langensalza - photo report and BBB rules review by Konstantinos Travlos

Nice report of the Langensalza 1866 scenario here:

http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=372444

http://phdleadhead.blogspot.com.tr/2015/01/battler-report-and-review-langesalza.html


Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Wittmann at Villers-Bocage

My second post seems like a good time to stray off-topic and talk non-BBB. I just spent a short New Year holiday in Normandy. Santa had been kind enough to bring me David Porter's pair of books about the battles of 13-14 June 1944:
"7th Armoured Division at Villers-Bocage"
and
"1st SS Panzer Corps at Villers-Bocage".

So on Saturday we did a 'staff ride' following the course of Wittmann's rampage, the debacle on Point 213, Lieutenant Bill Cotton's successful ambush by the Mairie, and the Battle of the Brigade Box at Amaye.

Plenty of wargaming inspiration there. I may have to tackle this action sometime in 2015, probably using my preferred rules for WWII games, Kampfgruppe Commander (KGC).


Sunday, 4 January 2015

BBB and BBEB were published in October 2014

Welcome to the BBB Blog! Let me start the blog by posting, slightly amended/updated, the original announcement of the publication of BBB last October:

I am delighted to announce the publication of "Bloody Big BATTLES!" (BBB), a new set of rules for wargaming the Late Nineteenth Century, and of a companion scenario volume, "Bloody Big EUROPEAN BATTLES!" (BBEB). Both are published by SkirmishCampaigns.

BBB OFC by bbbchrisp, on Flickr
BBEB OFC by bbbchrisp, on Flickr

BBB does exactly what its title says. It is intended for fighting the biggest, bloodiest battles of 1850-1900 in a manageable way. Specific design goals included:
to tackle the major battles such as Solferino, Gettysburg, Königgrätz, Sedan or Plevna, often spanning several days' combat;
to fit them on a 6'x4' tabletop;
and to fight them in their entirety, in a single 3-to-4-hour session, with 2-6 players (typically 4).

BBB is not suitable for small actions of a few thousand men a side. There are plenty of rulesets that do that. But BBB is distinctive in;
Enabling players to command entire armies of 100,000+ men ;
Fitting battlefields of up to 20km across on the table;
While still producing a fast, fun, flavorful game and a result in an evening.

Scale varies according to the battle but is typically:
Figure scale 1,500 men or 36 cannon per 1" base (organized into multi-base division or brigade-sized units, usually of 3-7 infantry bases, 2-3 cavalry bases or 1 artillery base);
Ground scale 1" per 200-250 yards;
Timescale 1 hour per turn.
BBB uses simple mechanisms and memorisable tables that fit on a clear 2-page QRC.
Turn sequence: IGO-UGO
Command and Control: reflected partly by how many generals get represented on table, partly by how units are rated.
Movement: 2D6 movement table incorporates difficult terrain, generalship and doctrine, troop quality and morale, loss recovery.
Fire Combat: calculated by adding fire points and applying a few relevant column shifts. 2D6 fire table to determine casualties, recorded by base removal.
Assault: opposed D6 roll incorporating a few relevant factors.
Night Interval rules to allow multi-day battles.

BBB is not meant for tournament games or for generic encounter games. It is meant for fighting historical battles. BBB and its companion volume, Bloody Big European Battles, therefore provide fully playtested scenarios for 25 of the most important battles of the period, linked into full campaigns. Further free scenarios are also available on the web [now including some smaller 'training scenarios' for learning the rules before embarking on the big battles].

All the scenarios fit the battles they depict into a beautiful, tightly engineered game structure. They have clear, simple, but carefully thought-out victory conditions, designed both to recreate the historical situation and to generate an exciting and balanced game that can be completed in a sensible period of time. A particular joy of fighting historical actions on this scale is that usually both sides have several different viable strategies available, meaning the scenarios are full of replay value and can produce quite different games each time.

Dr. Nicholas Murray of the Naval War College and formerly of the US Army Command & General Staff College uses BBB to teach decision making and history to US and international officers. He specializes in the evolution of warfare in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and is author of The Rocky Road to the Great War.

The BBB rulebook contains not only the rules, but also a complete campaign of linked historical scenarios for nine of the largest battles of the Franco-Prussian War.

BBB Contents:
Introduction
Scale & Organisation
Terrain
Sequence of Play
Movement
The Firefight
The Assault
Night Intervals
Scenarios, Campaigns & Victory
Franco-Prussian War Campaign Scenarios
Froeschwiller
Borny / Colombey
Mars-la-Tour
Gravelotte
Beaumont
Sedan
Loigny / Poupry
Beaugency
Le Mans
Quick Reference Sheets

BBEB is a companion volume to the BBB rules. It provides 16 historical scenarios. Most of these are connected to create mini-campaigns, so that players can fight through the entire course of the major European wars of this period.

BBEB Contents
Introduction
European Wars 1853-1897
Scenarios, Campaigns & Victory
The Crimean War
Kurudere
The Alma
Inkerman
The Chernaya
Risorgimento! Italian War of 1859
Magenta
Solferino
The Second Schleswig War
Dybbøl & Als
The Austro-Prussian War of 1866
Custoza
Nachod, Trautenau, Skalitz
& Soor
Königgrätz
The Russo-Turkish War
The Second Battle of Plevna
The Third Battle of Plevna
Aladja Dagh
Metchka / Tristenik
The Serbo-Bulgarian War
Slivnitsa
The Greco-Turkish War
Domokos

BBB was launched at Fall In in November 2014. It is available from dealers including Brigade Games and On Military Matters in the US, and in the UK from Caliver Books or Irregular Miniatures. To keep informed of availability, join the BBB Yahoo Group
link
or monitor the SkirmishCampaigns website:
skirmishcampaigns.com
Vendors who carry SkirmishCampaigns books will have BBB products:
link

The Yahoo Group files include:
Colour versions of the scenario maps from BBB and BBEB;
Additional free scenarios [including some small 'training scenarios'];
Quick Reference sheets;
A list of the biggest European battles 1854-1897;
Tables listing the scenario size and troops required for every scenario in BBB and BBEB;
Campaign reports.

Colour versions of scenario maps, along with more photos of wargames with 6mm figures than anyone is likely to want to look at, can be found in my Flickr photostream:
link

Chris