Leaguers vs. Kislevites: Very Simple Sci-Fi!

It is 2822 AD.

On Urth-II, the Commonwealth of Free Planets, led by Grand Hetman Zelazny IX, is in a life-or-death struggle for the city of Kislev. Assembling a scratch force from veterans of the Solar Wars, Zelazny faces his Old Enemy: Khan Nee Tup of The League of Imperial Oligarchs, who has despatched a Grand Army to crush all resistance. Can the doughty Kislevites stand firm under Zelazny’s inspirational direction, or will the numberless Leaguer legions crush them like grapes to the greater glory of the all-seeing Khan?

Last night’s club game saw a whimsical trial of the ‘Very Simple Sci-Fi’ rules which I adopted from a 2002 Miniature Wargames article by Malcolm Stewart. Theo, Mal and Patrick, with fewer troops, were defending Kislev from the oncoming Leaguer forces of Rob and Doug, in what was also the first run out for my 10mm sci-fi figures. Commanding armies including a wide range of units (infantry, bikes, roughriders, tanks, artillery, robots, mechs, titans, etc.) the object of the game was to control three of the five built up areas in Kislev by the end of the game.

Theo and Mal lost a lot of units early on after an aggressive deployment. They did however seize a Leaguer urban area early in the game using dropships to transport infantry in a deft manoeuvre, giving them the advantage. Unphased, Rob and Doug managed to retake this district, and late on in the game launched their own successful air-assault on one of the Commonwealth’s strongholds.

The game was a quick affair, despite a flow of reinforcements, with Rob and Doug taking all five built up areas in the city by 10pm, allowing for some thirsty wargamers to repair to the local pub. The Commonwealth’s forces suffered a decisive defeat, but the merciless Khan earmarked both his victorious commanders for another vanguard role in the next battle, while the disconsolate Zelaznyites were merely threatened with public ignominy.

Designed by their original author for children but apparently fun for adults too – the rules were simple and easy to grasp. Each unit (base) had three factors (move, fire, armour), between 1 and 6 in rating, all reduced by one factor every time it took a hit. Exploiting cover and coordinating different unit types was the key to victory. While winning the initiative is key (possibly too central to how the game plays) and some clarification may be needed about line of sight and a few other issues, these rules do allow for a bloody and decisive clash on a club night.

I had fun painting up the armies. I sourced 10mm sci-fi figures mostly from Warrior Miniatures and Pendraken, plus odds and ends at home including 10mm Samurai, Crusades figures, converted WWII tanks, as well as mechs and titans (the latter bought from Trevor and repainted). The overall effect was very much ‘Epic 40K’, particularly given the ex-Epic buildings bought cheaply on EBay.

With the sky being the limit for sci-fi rules and scenarios (enabling creative narratives and endless historical mash-ups) I’ll enjoy thinking of more for the future, while probably tweaking the rules, and maybe tabling a War Room big-game… which might be over by lunchtime!

3mm Modern Skirmish

Theo's first club game as umpire last night was a Modern period skirmish game, using his own set of rules. Theo had play-tested them at my house a week before.

A Red force (Philip, Patrick and I) clashed in a valley with the Blue force (Rob, Doug, Mal), using a large table decorated with multi-layered hills, roads, a river, woods, some farms, and some pillboxes. The Red force: two infantry platoons and several technicals (armed militia in Toyota pickup trucks) was tasked with holding a missile battery and preventing the Blues (with a number of infantry platoons including special forces, plus helicopters, and a convoy of trucks) from exiting off the northern table edge.

The Reds managed to win the game, despite the destruction of Patrick's vehicles carrying a senior commander, having inflicted more casualties, and destroyed one Blue helicopter with ground fire. The Blue convoy did not manage to get off the table.

A number of things struck me about the game. The figures - in 3mm scale - were unusual and nicely painted and based, each infantry base having a coloured strip to identify mortars, anti-tank rifles, machine guns, snipers, AA, grenade launchers, or riflemen. Each penny-sized base could be slotted into a movement tray in various configurations. While the table was very large, the ground-scale was supposed to be accurate, in other words, each millimetre was equivalent to one metre. The generous movement distances and weapons ranges meant that the units could manoeuvre quickly. The overall effect was panoramic, and reminded me of the film Behind Enemy Lines (starring Owen Wilson and Gene Hackman), in which a downed American pilot had to negotiate a hostile countryside to avoid capture. The use of 'blinds' to mask real or ostensible troop positions was a good way of lending fog of war to the scenario.

On the night, Theo and a few players were of the view that the Red team's use of interrupting fire and overwatch made their defence too easy, and the corresponding Blue advance consequently too difficult. The rules themselves are certainly grounded in the arcana of modern weapons systems and capabilities and in that sense were realistic, to my mind. As with any new ruleset, we were all being spoon-fed by the umpire, but this is not so much a criticism as a reality of wargaming. Whether Theo wants to tweak them further, or streamline them, is of course up to him. However, I do see the rules and figures - which are fairly generic - being used in other settings such as Iraq, Afghanistan, or the Middle East, in any period after World War Two. The blend of small forces and detailed rules in a large landscape lends itself to imaginative scenarios, and certainly adds something different to our repertoire of club games, which tend to be predominantly tactical (rather than operational) in nature.

Looking forward to another 3mm Moderns game in the not too distant future!

6mm Napoleonics: Battle of Friedland (1807)

I prepared for last night's club game - a 6mm Napoleonic refight of the Battle of Friedland (1807) - by producing multiple copies of the latest incarnation of my rules for this period: 'Coup de Grace: Generalissimo'. Using my usual online publishing platform, I ordered eight coil-bound copies of the rules, which were a slightly tweaked version of the ones used in the Austerlitz game last year.

Rob, Patrick and Theo were on the French side, attacking with superior quality and numbers against the Russians led by Doug, Philip, and Phil. By the end of the game, the French looked to have emerged victorious, with Theo piling in with three corps against Doug and Philip, and winning most of the melees that resulted. Philip, however, managed to outflank Theo's army, and may have stabilised the situation before the town of Friedland, had there been more time.

I am reasonably pleased with these rules, which attempt to bring together a scenario, player initiative points, command and control, higher formation orders, as well as tactical decision-making. A few minor points of confusion arose about melees, but nothing that couldn't be resolved with the roll of a dice. The overall feel and look of the game is as envisaged, however, which is to say that multiple players are commanding a whole army in a relatively short space of time, using 'playable rules', while having to face multiple challenges.

Next time I think I will give my British army a run out, probably in a Peninsular War clash with the French.

Gangs of Ruś: More Units Completed!

A quick update here on some more units I've finished off for Gangs of Ruś, my Eastern Renaissance wargame ruleset.

First up, a 20-strong unit of Ottoman musketeers. These guys can be used by the Turkish faction, and fill a gap in my collection, due to the fact that all my other Turkish musketeers are Janissaries. Apart from this, the figures would be suitable for Muslim forces from the Balkans, which often were used as allies by the Turks. At a push they could pass for Cossack foot, as well.

Next up, two units of Ottoman Turkish Spahis. I already have several Turkish cavalry units, and these supplement them. I painted one unit with green horse cloaks, the other with reddish-orange, just to tie the units together. While they are meant to be heavy cavalry, they can pass for other sorts too. The castings were old fashioned, but I think I've managed to give them a respectable paint job.

Finally, I needed some Light Cavalry units to add to my collection. These two are jacks of all trades, painted in different colours, and can pass for Polish-Lithuanian, Muscovite, Moldavian, Wallachian, Hungarian, Transylvanian or Turkish, light cavalry. They could also be used for medium cavalry at a push, wearing chainmail as they are.

All in all, I'm really enjoying building this collection up. I would like to paint all the remaining figures I possess, including ECW castings as Swedes, for some 'Deluge' (1650s invasion of Poland-Lithuania) skirmish scenarios. The last image depicts the 1655 Swedish Siege of Częstochowa - the Pauline Monastery containing the Black Madonna icon - successfully repelled by monks, local volunteers, and Polish nobles.

The fun never stops on the Polish-Lithuanian borderlands!

Gangs of Ruś: Last Stand of the Devil of Łańcut

Last night’s club game saw the first trial of my new eastern Renaissance rules, Gangs of Ruś: a multiplayer skirmish-roleplaying wargame inspired by the history and cultures of the mighty Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (c. 1569-1683). The setting is the Palatinate of Ruthenia (Red Rus), a religiously diverse border territory now in western Ukraine, with a rich history, transnational links, and many different resident communities.

We played the ‘Devil of Łańcut’ scenario: being the last stand of Stanisław Stadnicki, a volatile Polish Calvinist nobleman (and real historical character, d. 1610), against his encroaching opponents led by Jan Zamoyski, the Crown Grand Hetman. Philip played as Stadnicki, with Theo his co-religionist ally, Zborowski. Rob played the role of Zamoyski, with Doug supporting him as Stadnicki’s antagonist Opaliński. Phil elected to play the role of Mellechowicz, a Polish Muslim Tartar Colonel and noble, allied to the Zamoyski faction. The objectives were to take/hold the Reformed church, sack the town, capture or kill Stadnicki, and capture the hidden treasure.

The Stadnicki faction - initially made up of two gangs - held Stadnicki’s town of Łańcut, and occupied several buildings with musketeers, holding their cavalry back. The Zamoyski faction, with three gangs, advanced steadily to the river-line, which they had to cross to enter the town. Philip’s Reiters and Doug’s Pancerni cavalry fought it out on one flank, while Rob took a few casualties from a gun position but advanced across a bridge in the centre, with Phil’s Tartars holding back for a suitable opportunity.

About halfway through the game, Rob’s Winged Hussars burst into the town and pillaged a number of townsfolk. The Stadnicki faction looked to be losing, but happily a Turkish contingent arrived in their rear as reinforcements. The townsfolk (controlled by me) were in uproar at the chaos, however, and attacked the Janissaries, but to little effect. Yet, another Zamoyski ally, a Transylvanian gang commanded by a mercenary captain, also played by me, arrived on Theo’s flank. The Turks promptly stabilised the situation for Stadnicki, with several melees between them and the Hussars. Yet Phil’s Tartars and my Transylvanians finally managed to wreak havoc on Theo’s flank - weakly held by a few Hajduks and some Ottoman irregulars - opening a path into the town.

As a trial game it was successful frolic, with Stadnicki escaping justice, the church and treasure safe in godly (Reformed) hands, and only minor damage to the town: all this only through the intercession of the dreaded Turks!

Overall, I believe this was an enjoyable game, using only small numbers of figures (about 20 per person). The rulebook includes three new elements: diplomacy (allowing deals to be struck between players before the main game), honour (key to garnering repute and glory), and religion (holy men, faith loyalties), as well as the baser motive of enriching one’s gang, all of which adds depth and flavour to the familiar and fairly simple combat system.

With 20 troop types and 12 ethnic factions (Poles, Lithuanians, Ruthenians, Cossacks, Tartars, Moldavians, Turks, Muscovites, Wallachians, Hungarians/Transylvanians, Mercenaries, and Bandits), enabling countless variations and scenarios from the Commonwealth’s fascinating history, there is plenty to explore and unpack in the future.

Looking forward to the next game!


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