Monday, 29 August 2011
Sunday, 28 August 2011
As a break from all the VSF of the last couple of months, this weekend was dedicated to ultra-modern wargaming with the popular Force on Force rules. Jonesy, mi hermano del instigador, dragged me along with him to visit an old, old wargaming friend of his who I'll name only as the other-other-Chris. The two go way, way back and OOChris is lucky enough to have a dedicated wargaming room with a 8'x6' wargames table, although we weren't going to be using more than a fraction of it.
Friday, 26 August 2011
Tuesday, 23 August 2011
Sunday, 21 August 2011
Thursday, 18 August 2011
Sunday, 14 August 2011
Part 2 – The Game
GASLIGHT works best with some sort of scenario, even if it's only a rationale as to why the two sides are meeting in an encounter battle. It's also best when both sides need to move to fulfil their victory conditions, otherwise a very dull and static attack/defence game can result.
Following the stalemated clash at Nether Fondle, morale among the British Army reached a new low. In order to raise the Tommies' spirits, Whitehall ordered a special mail delivery to the troops in the field. Major Norbert “Nobby” Stiles on detached duty from the Blues and Royals was assigned to lead the escort of a platoon from the East Surrey regiment and one of the experimental Royal Horseless Artillery Gun Trucks.
Word of this special delivery leaked to Imperial German spies, who surmised that the postal delivery must include some secret plans for a counter-offensive. Count Otto von Hurlitz was despatched with a platoon of men and a Ludwig combat walker in order to intercept and capture the “secret” messages. The horse drawn van carrying the messages must be captured intact for the messages to be secured.
There's the scenario, this is the terrain. The British must get the PO Van the length of the board to safety, the Germans must prevent it from doing so.
In a GASLIGHT turn (Section 6.1.1. p.43) the umpire turns initiative cards over one at a time, and the unit, vehicle or character named on the card gets to activate. An activated unit may move OR fire but not both. When all the cards in the deck have been turned over, the deck is shuffled and the process repeated for the next turn. So without further ado the umpire turns over the first card of the initiative deck.
The First Turn
Card #1 is the German Infantry. They decide to simply advance 6” towards the road from their start position. (Section 6.4.1 Movement of Personnel p.49) The Umpire turns the next card...
Card #2 is Count von Hurlitz. He too advances to join the infantry. Again the Umpire turns the card...
Card #6 is the RHA Gun Truck. This does need to roll Sustain (Section 6.4.3 Movement of Ground Vehicles p.50), and does so easily with a 10. The player ponders how best to use it. Vehicles in GASLIGHT can either move or fire, and can only turn at the start of their move. The truck could shoot right down the length of the road with its massive 17” move and try to loop around Square Wood to engage the oncoming Germans in the flank. But that would leave the PO Van unprotected for at least 2-3 turns. Instead the British player decides to advance only to the entrance of the corn field, with the idea of turning to face the enemy on the next turn to bring its gun to bear by turn 3. Remember that armoured vehicles in GASLIGHT are big, primitive and clunky and nowhere near as flexible as their modern day counterparts, and they can prove unreliable and ineffective as we shall see.
Finally Card #7 is the British Infantry. Captain Hurst leads his men up behind the PO Van to protect it, and that's the end of Turn 1
The umpire shuffles the cards, amidst further taunts from the players. The British player asks if the umpire needs a grown-up to help him cut the cards. The umpire simply narrows his eyes and silently vows the British player will pay for his insolence. He turns over the first card...
Card #1 is the British Infantry. They simply move 6” further up the road behind the Gun Truck
Card #2 is Major Stiles. He initially moves up to the end of the hedge facing onto the cornfield...
Card #3 is Count von Hurlitz, who moves a further 6” up to the wall around Square Wood.
So with Turn 2 complete, we've still had no real casualties but the Gun Truck is temporarily out of action due to technical difficulties. The cards are shuffled and we're on to...
The Third Turn
Card #1 is the PO Van. Now we run into the traffic jam. By the strictest definition of the rules, the Van ought not to be able to move through friendly troops, but where's the fun in that? The umpire, with an evil glint in his eye, offers the British player a choice. The PO Van may move through where Major Stiles is blocking, but it will be treated as a reverse of the “vehicles overrunning troops” rule (i.e. instead of having to roll vs Shoot to run the troops over, the Van will need to roll vs Shoot to not hit Stiles – see Section 6.9.2 Vehicles Overrunning Infantry p.78). The British player, knowing that Stiles has a decent Save rating, decides to take a chance, and moves the PO Van forward its full move. The driver fails the Shoot roll to avoid Stiles, but then the British player rolls Stiles' Save and gets a 20! By The Book, Stiles has met a crunchy end under the wheels of Her Majesty's Post Office wagon, however the umpire decides that's a little harsh given the small size of the game and to forstall any whining from the player, decrees that Stiles has been forced to dive out of the way into a muddy ditch by the side of the road and will simply miss the next activation.
Card #3 is the Gun Truck. Because it failed its Sustain roll last turn , this turn it needs to roll less than its Start value (Section 6.4.3 Movement of Ground Vehicles p.50). It needs to roll 12 or less, but gets a 17 and is going nowhere. The British player says a few choice words about the quality of British coal.
Card #4 is Captain Hurst. Seeing the German Infantry about to come across the cornfield, he deploys his men in a firing line along the hedgerow facing the lane. Although he and a couple of his men are in the open at the gateway, fire against the unit will count as if in cover, because more than half the men are behind the hedge.
Card #5 is the Ludwig walker. The German player rolls for sustain and gets a 20. After muttering that he shouldn't have looted that "verdamnt Britischer coal" from the last battle, he asks if he can still fire his weapons. The umpire looks at the model – the machine guns are clearly fixed and would need the walker to be able to move to bring them on target. The turret ring, however looks like it might be possible to turn it manually and the guns are conventional cannon rather than anything that might require power. He rules that the Ludwig may fire one of its two main guns without power, with the crew manually rotating the turret ring with hand cranks. He rolls to shoot, but misses.
Card #7 is Major Stiles, who picks himself up and dusts himself off, much to the hilarity of Captain Hurst of the East Surreys, who is barely able to restrain a giggle at his commander's wounded dignity.
Still no real casualties as we're onto...
The Fourth Turn
Card #1 is the German Infantry, who let rip with a volley of rifle fire at the British on the other side of the cornfield (Section 6.5.1 Firing at Personnel p.54). They're just outside of the short range for Breech Loaders (12”) as the field is just a little larger than that across. So the firing is at Long Range, which means the germans need to roll less than half their Shoot score to hit (9 halved = 4.5 so a four or less will hit). In addition the British are behind soft cover (the hedge) and so +1 is added to every die rolled.
Eight troopers plus the Sergeant fire, Hauptmann Weber's pistol is out of range.
The Germans get two hits. The next step is to see which of the men in the target unit are actually hit. A d20 is rolled and the result halved (roll 7, half and round up to 4). The British player counts the men in his unit, front to back (which doesn't matter because they're in a line) and left to right, and every fourth figure is hut, up to the total number of casualties. One-two-three-four, One-two-three-four. The two men hit are Extras and don't have a Save rating, so it's first blood to the Beastly Huns.
Card #3 is Count von Hurlitz. He moves a futher 3” deeper into Square Wood, (half movement for rough terrain)
Card #4 is the Gun Truck. The player rolls to start and gets a 19. He sulks.
Card #5 is Major Stiles. He moves 10” up the road to the gate into Square Wood. Because von Hurlitz is more than an inch inside the wood, he can't be seen from outside, so although the British Player knows the count is there, he won't be able to fire at him until he comes closer.
Card #6 is the PO Van. Dobbin plods along another 6” bringing it up behind Major Stiles
Card #7 is the British Infantry. The first thing they need to do is make a Morale test, since they've taken casualties since their previous action (Section 6.10.1 Morale and Tests of Manhood p. 82). The British player rolls 5, -1 for being in soft cover and -1 for having the Unit Leader with them... halved, which rounds up to 2 which is well below the number of men left in the unit.
(NB - Buck's pointed out that I've made a mistake here, the roll should be halved first and then the modifiers applied.)
They prepare to give return fire to the Germans (Section 6.5.1 Firing at Personnel p.54). Again it's at long range, and this time the Germans are in Hard Cover giving them +2 on the roll. Seven men fire (again we're outside of pistol range for Capt Hurst)
The umpire smiles inside as he shuffles the initiative deck, then turns the top card over for...
The Fifth Turn
Card #1 is Count von Hurlitz. The German player wants to charge at Major Stiles and run him through, but the British player points out that von Hurlitz is out of sight within the woods and surely couldn't see out from his position. The umpire thinks long and hard about this situation – Stiles is on the outside edge of the wood so it's not unreasonable that he might be seen from inside, depending on how thick the foliage is. There are several ways the umpire could rule this situation...
- He could say that von Hurlitz can't see out of the wood until he's within 1” of the edge, just the same as if he wanted to fire out of the wood.
- He could call for a Shoot roll from von Hurlitz, rationalising Shoot as a function of vision and situational awareness, if the roll succeeds, von Hurlitz spots Stiles through a gap in the foliage and may charge him.
In the end the umpire looks at the rule for visibility within a wood. If two units are both in the same wood, visibility between them is 2D6 inches, rolled every turn. If they're closer than the value rolled, they can see eachother and fight. The umpire rules that if the value rolled on 2d6 is greater than the distance from von Hurlitz to Stiles, he's able to see him.
(NB – I actually got this wrong and used the old rules from the original GASLIGHT book. In the Compendium, the new rule is that visibility within the same patch of woods is fixed at 4”. See 6.5.1 Firing at Personnel p.54)
The German player rolls a double six. If a vehicle or unit wishes to charge into contact with an enemy, it normally needs to make a Morale check, but unattached Main Characters like von Hurlitz are exempt from this roll (6.8.1 Close Combat p.66). He does need to make sure he can actually reach Stiles – he's about three inches inside the wood and Stiles is a couple of inches further away from the gate. He rolls the charge bonus movement of d6 and adds it to the regular move of 6” rolling 4 for a total of 10”, easily enough. Normally a unit or vehicle receiving a charge needs to make a Morale check, but again with Stiles being an unattached Main Character he is exempt from the roll. This is a duel to the death between the two heroes.
Each figure involved in the melee rolls a D20 aiming to get less than its Scuffle score, remembering that von Hurlitz gets -1 to the roll because of his Fencing skill. Both however roll way above their Scuffles (15 and 16) and are therefore locked in deadly combat. The melee will resume the next time either figure involved is activated.
Card #2 is the German Infantry. They roll for a second volley of fire against the British infantry, but this time roll no hits at all.
Card #3 is Major Stiles, so we resume the duel with Count von Hurlitz. The British player says that he'd much rather back away from the fight and shoot at von Hurlitz with his superior Shoot score, but decides that it's too cheesy a move and commits to finishing the duel.
"Gott In Himmel! Ich bin ein Kaputnik!"
The German player rolls an 18, which is higher than von Hurlitz's Save rating, and the Count is slain. The British player acts out how, with the two men sabres locked coeur a coeur, Stiles drew his pistol with his off-hand and shot the Count at point blank range. Major Stiles may be an officer, but he's clearly no gentleman!
Card #4 is the PO Van. Dobbin plods onwards, taking him past Major Stiles standing over his fallen foe's body.
Card #5 is the Gun Truck – the British player rolls a 2 and finally gets it to start. With the forward gun out of action he opts to move it up the road to behind the PO van so that the rear Gatling can at least cover the road behind them.
Card #6 is the Ludwig walker. The German player also rolls a successful Start this turn, and this time decides to bring his Heavy Machine Guns to bear on the remaining infantry. He gets three hits, and an 8 is rolled – halved to 4 - to determine the casualty assignment. Counting left to right, the casualties hit two extras (who are killed) and Captain Hurst. Captain Hurst is a Main Character with a Save value of 10, and he rolls a 7. Although the Ludwig's HMGs have a SRM modifier, this isn't applied to Saves by Main Characters, only to Saves due to vehicle or conveyance armour.
(NB - Again by the rules as written in the Compendium, neither the Gun Truck nor the Ludwig should have been able to move or fire in the turn they finally made their Start rolls. See I told you I was going to make mistakes!)
Finally Card #7 is the British Infantry. They've taken further casualties and so need to make another Morale Test (Section 6.10.1 Morale and Tests of Manhood p. 82). The British player rolls a 14, -1 for the unit leader, -1 for soft cover = 12 which is halved to 6. That exactly equals the number of men left in the unit, but to succeed the test the player needs to roll under that number and so the test has failed.
(NB - doing this correctly, the roll of 14 is halved to 7, -1 for the unit leader, -1 for soft cover = 5 which would have passed. Let's just assume that I rolled a 16 or higher and that it failed, so we can see what happens with a failed morale check)
The British player rolls for each figure left in the unit on the Morale Failure Results Chart (Section 6.10.1 p.82) with the result that two men run 12” away from the enemy, two back 6” away and two (including Captain Hurst) are frozen in place and miss this action.
This leaves the unit scattered over quite a wide area. The nice thing about morale in GASLIGHT is that it's stateless. A unit isn't “broken” or “routed” and there's no such thing as a “rally” roll. Provided the unit doesn't take any further casualties before its next activation, the leader will be free to act normally along with any other survivors within the 12” command radius. The two chaps who fled 12” away are however outside this range, so the officer would either have to abandon them, or spend a turn moving towards them so that on the following turn they can move with the rest of the unit.
In actual fact, the players and umpires agreed that at this point the game was effectively over. Major Stiles and the PO Van were within 12” of the table edge, and the Germans had nothing that could cut them off before they would be able to leave the table. Following the death of Count von Hurlitz (the german Army Commander), the other German units would also need to make Morale Checks, but since both Ludwig and the Infantry were undamaged and in good positions, it was almost impossible for them to fail. They might be able to kill a few more troops and possibly destroy or disable the Gun Truck, but there was nothing they could do to capture the PO Van.
Saturday, 13 August 2011
Friday, 12 August 2011
A chap called Scott Bowman on the GASLIGHT mailing list posted that as a complete newbie he was finding it hard to grasp the basics of the rules from the new hardback Compendium. I can't blame him, as the book includes rules from the basic game, Battles, Adventures and Expeditions and To Be Continued all shuffled in amongst each other. It was a design choice, but to be frank not the one I would have made. I still recommend anyone new to the game pickup the PDF of the original book (available from Wargames Vault or RPGNow) and learn the basics from that before cracking open the Compendium.
Scott also suggested a blow-by-blow tutorial of a game to help newbies learn the rules and I think it's a splendid idea. So crack open your copy of the Compendium and hold onto your hats, boys.
Part One – Planning and Preparation
Unlike some games, GASLIGHT needs a little bit of preparation before the game. Firstly we need to sort out the forces we'll be using. The authors recommend that for starting players, one unit of Extras, one vehicle or conveyance and one unattached Main Character is easy to handle. GASLIGHT is generally written written with the assumption that it's being used in a large multiplayer game, with eight players or more some of whom will be playing for the first time. If you're playing a smaller game with one or two players per side, once you get a little more experienced with the rules I think most players should be able to handle double or triple that, though having too much on the table may slow the game down.
Now obviously what troops you use will depend entirely on your collection and what you have available. If you don't have any vehicles in your collection yet, replace the vehicle with a second unit of troops. It just so happens that I've been painting up a selection of 19th century British and German forces, with vehicles, so that's what we'll use. Assuming one player per side, let's start with...
One unit of Regular Infantry
One Gun Truck
One Main Character
One unit of Regular Infantry
One Quad Steam Walker
One Main Character
That's fine for a tutorial but.... it's not very colourful is it? In my experience, you get the best out of GASLIGHT when you approach it with a properly Victorian or Steampunk-y flair. I also think it's easier to identify units if you name their officers, especially if you have multiple players. A player might have trouble remembering if he's commanding “German Infantry #1” or “German Infantry #2”, but he'll remember “Hauptmann Klinkerhoffen and 1st Platoon of Company B” If you're stuck for names of a suitable nationality, I find the 1966 World Cup Squads a useful resource. So let's try that again.
Captain Hurst and 1st Platoon of the East Surrey Regiment
Royal Horseless Artillery Gun Truck “Oliver”
Major Stiles (on detached duty)
Hauptmann Weber and 1st platoon of the Infantry Regiment No 84
One “Ludwig” class Quad Steam Walker
Count von Hurlitz, special agent of the Kaiser
Much better don't you think? Whatever the setting of your GASLIGHT game, whether it's lacepunk pyrates or Darkest Africa, try to give everything colourful names. If you start feeling obliged to put on a silly accent then you're probably doing it right.
Next up we have to stat out all the units. Starting with the regular units, GASLIGHT suggests (Section 3.1 p. 7) that a unit of “western” troops should be made up of two Main Characters (An officer and an NCO) and eight Extras. Personally I don't always bother with NCOs as Main Characters, but for the sake of this tutorial we'll play it by the book. To assign Shoot, Scuffle and Save scores we look at Section 4.1 p.10. Extras are easy, just pick the appropriate values from the table on p.11. All our troops are Westerners/Europeans so Shoot 8 Scuffle 8 is appropriate.
For our attached Main Characters, you can roll on the Character Attributes Chart on p.10 but to save time I like to just assign values based on the two highlighted rows across the middle of the table. I count the officer as a Leader and the NCO as a Veteran. For each Main Character I'll assign each of those two values to either Shoot and Scuffle, then give them a Save equal to the lower of the two values. So for example, the leader column has values of 10 and 11 highlighted. If the officer figure is wielding a sword, I'd give him Shoot 10, Scuffle 11 and Save 10. The NCO might have Shoot 9 Scuffle 8 Save 8.
For the unattached Main Characters I like to actually roll on the Adventurer column. Heroes are particularly powerful in GASLIGHT, and I'd only use them for truly epic characters where appropriate to the scenario.
These are only my personal preference. You can roll everything for every MC, you can manually assign ratings according to a scenario, or based on the figure (so a big bear of a figure wielding a huge axe might deserve a Scuffle of 12 or 13). You could rate each MC with either the higher or lower highlighted value in each trait, so that leaders are always 11 in everything, NCOs are always 9. If you want to put together balanced opposing forces, there's the points value formula in Section 4.3 (p.30) The choice is yours, and one method may work best for a scenario-driven game while a different method might be better for a campaign battle.
Now by the book, all Main Characters have one or more specialist Skills. These are generally beneficial, but there are one or two that are actually disadvantages. Personally I only use these for unattached MCs, or where appropriate to the scenario. For a regular game like the one we're playing for this tutorial, I'm just going to roll once for each unattached MC. Major Stiles rolls a 7 “Swift” giving him a 10” standard move, while Count von Hurlitz gets a 10 “Fencing” which means those years at Heidelberg gives him a -1 on Scuffle rolls (note that GASLIGHT tends to apply modifiers to the die roll rather than the value, making -1 an improvement.)
To arm your troops, scoot forward to Section 6.5 Firing at Personnel and the Missile Attack table on p.55. What weapon you give your troops depends on the figures and the period/style of game. For an ACW game or earlier, Muskets or Muzzle Loading Rifles might be the norm. For the mid to late Victorian period (1870-1890s) I play in, the Repeater/Breach Loader is a good standard weapon (like the good old Martini Henry rifle), which allows you to give primitive troops Muskets while elite modern troops might be lucky enough to have Bolt Action Rifles (like the Lee Metford)
If any of your troops or Main Characters have any weird science or Steampunk weapons, then either rate them as one of the “modern” weapons on the table (for example, the multibarrelled rifle wielded by Vicky Hawkes in the picture on p. 1 of the compendium might cound as a Light Machine Gun) or head to Section 5.2.1 and the Anti-Personnel Weapons Capabilities Chart. Again use your method of choice to generate the stats of the weapon. Personally I'd consider the fictional description of the weapon and assign stats but if all else fails just roll for everything.
Now for the vehicles and on to section 5.1 (p.31) Again you have free choice on how you give stats to the vehicles and weapons. This is one area where I definitely prefer to manually assign values based on the appearance and nature of the model, varying up or down from the highlighted median values. Just as with the troops, to arm your vehicles you'll also want to flit forward to the Heavy Weapons Capablities chart in Section 5.2.1 (p. 36) or the Artillery Effects Table in Section 188.8.131.52 (p.56) or even the table on p55 for Machine Guns.
The Ludwig is a relatively squat beastie, but although its crew compartment is well armoured, it has a lot of exposed machinery around the walking mechanism, so it gets a slightly better Save of 10. I rate the rest of its stats in comparison to other vehicle models I have, making it a little slower than average but able to turn 90 degrees. It's very heavily armed with two short-barrelled but large-calibre guns on the turret ring and two Heavy Machine Guns (which I rate as linked together with an impressive 6 shots against infantry - simply doubling up to 10 shots would have made it far too deadly)
Balancing vehicle forces against each other is a bit of an art. If one side has a lightly armoured vehicle with primarily anti-personnel weapons and the other has a heavily armoured tank with a massive cannon with a +4 SRM, the battle is not going to be balanced. Both the Gun Truck and the Ludwig Walker are “eggshells with howitzers” which should make for a bloody but fairly balanced game.
So with everything statted out and vehicle & unit record sheets filled out, we're almost ready to start the game. The one last thing to do is to create an Initiative card deck, with a card for each unit, vehicle or unattached MC in the game. Personally I like to go to town on these in advance of the game, with attractive card backs bearing the GASLIGHT logo, but I've also in the past turned up to a game with a random selection of toys and a pack of blank index cards which had unit names scribbled onto them minutes before the game started. It really doesn't matter, as long as you have a set of cards that you can shuffle and turn over in sequence, with one card for every unit, vehicle or unattached Main Character in the game.
Coming Next - Part 2 the Game itself.