world war I

The Last Visit to Tanganyka…A Pulp Alley Experiment

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The Hedwig von Wissmann

Last August I was disappointed with how the game went, and in fact often have been.  The rules I was using just didn’t seem to work with these tiny vessels.  they were also really meant for the period just prior to my conflict.

recently I have also been enjoying Pulp Alley as a bit of a diversion from my more serious wargaming.  Perhaps it might be a better fit?  So I decided to bring out the Mimi and Fifi one more time….

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the Hedwig and the Kingani

Pulp Alley isn’t really built for this sort of thing.     Rather than being a game of military simulation, it is really meant more for recreating the derring do of intrepid adventures that filled the pulp pages in the thirties.  the game is amazingly flexible however so I thought it just might work.  To do this I relied upon the original rulebook of course, but also the Pulp Vehicle book and the new Pulp Leagues which gives some advice I using the rules in alternate Pulp periods and settings.

I decided to make each boat’s crew an individual league which are basically the teams or gangs that each player controls in a game.  I used four boats, two for each the German and British navies.

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Toutou Closes with the enemy

Guns are all pretty abstract in Pulp Alley.  This is true of the small arms usually used in the games as well as the larger pieces that arm vessels.  With no real guideline on how to apply the rules for light, medium or heavy guns, I decided instead to look at the ship’s Weapons  and figure out how to represent them differences between them.  I was basically only dealing with four different guns.  The Kingani had the largest, a six pounder mounted on her fore deck.  The Hedwig was armed with a 3 pounder on her bow and a 37 mm Auto cannon on the fantail.  The Mimi and the Toutou both on the other hand were armed with 3 pounders on the front and vickers machine guns on the stern.

Due to how these weapons work in Pulp Alley I didn’t need to make a real differentiation between the Automatic weapons and the others.  What I did was to call the machine guns light, the 37mm autocannon and the 3pdrs medium and the 6 pdr heavy.  I alos made the 3pdrs on the British ships advanced which reduces the number of crew needed to man them.  I did this mostly to keep the crews at the number they operated with.  In a somewhat reverse fashion I gave the Hedwig simple crew characters.  these are low lever characters which come with a gun with no cost.  This allowed my to increase the number of men available on that larger ship.

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The Hedwig 3pdr crew looses a man

Due to a lack of fore thought I had no perilous area. This could have been easily resolved by designating shoal or reef areas, or possibly locations where other navigational hazards by be found (sunken vessels for instance). The problem was by the time I thouigh of this it was too late to make any way to mark these areas.   I did designate all of the water as an Extreme Peril for any sailors who might find themselves overboard.  I also decided to create a perilous area anywhere a vessel might sink, representing the sunken hulk .  I did already have markers for this wreckage but it didn’t matter as no ship was ever sunk.

I also decided to just forget about Plot Points.  These are the goals and objectives of the normal Pulp Alley game.  They represent the goals or clues for the adventures to find to drive the course of their adventure.  This really being just a historic combat game I gave them a miss.  This was to have dire effects on the game!

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A German Sailor is knocked Back right of the Kingani!

I left the ships unarmored except for the Kingani.  These were not fighting vessels but rather simple boats converted for their wartime use.  The only exception was the Kingani.  The gun of the Kingani was armored which in fact caused it to be taken in the historical battle.  A round lodged into its gun shield and then exploded killing most of its crew and its Captain.  I gave the Kingani one point of armor and a Glacis which added its armor by 1 to the front.

Oddly enough in the game an incredibly lucky British shot did take out the gun and most of the Kingani’s crew!

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Kingani runs out of steam trying to ram the Toutou which by this point was dead in the water

The game turned out to be a British victory, which was partially because of a mistake with the fortune cards.  The British were incredibly lucky with there cards.  They kept getting very useful and powerful cards.  The Germans on the other hand found their cards mostly useless.  Some of that was because in this scenario they simply did not apply.  Many of theirs relied upon plot point challenges and we weren’t using plot points!  Or perilous areas which didn’t really exist.  We did notice that early on, And  I instructed the players that any card the received that seemed unplayable in this version of the game.  On was replaced but I think the offer was forgotten after that.  If I was to play this again I would either pull those cards from the deck, or preferably include at least the perilous areas.  I don’t however intend to play this scenario again.  I might however rename the vessels and use them in a game more fitting to these rules.  Maybe a raid with items hidden in the bigger boat…..

Until next time…Cheers….

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Categories: africa, Convention, Pulp, pulp alley, Uncategorized, Wargaming, Williamsburg Legati, Williamsburg Muster, world war I | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Guns of August

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August 20-23 marked the return of local wargaming convention, Guns of August.  This local show is one of two put on by ODMS here in Williamsburg every year.  Usually there are about 200 people in Attendence and soon the venue will be changing to allow for continued growth.

I was slated to run a Sharp Practice game on Friday night, but had to cancel due to difficulties getting home from New Hampshire on a work related trip.  While that game didn’t happen I did take the time to run a add on Chain of Command game Saturday afternoon.

The game was a Fall of France game, set in May of 1940.  Having nothing special prepared, I simply rolled for a scenario following the procedures suggested in the rules.  One challenge was that I was missing my 1940 army lists which were not properly put away after Historicon.  Because of this annoyance I was forced to organize my troops as per memory and I had no idea what the proper support costs were.  I ran the game a s a probe, and decided to give the Germans the use of a Panzer II and the french a 25mm Antitank gun to counter it with,

My players were two old friends of mine, Alfred and Malcolm.  Alfred decided to play Germans and so Malcolm took command of the French.

The French suffered a bit from their patrol phase.  One challenge to Chain of Command is the learning curve attached to the patrol phase.  This phase represents the pre-battle reconnaissance of the forces involved but it is a game unto itself.  it is also pretty much exclusively a Too Fat Lardies concept and therefore unfamiliar to most players.  Very often it will take a players few games to understand the importance of the phase and how to use it tactically.  this does give an advantage to the player more familiar with the ruleset.  I think at conventions I need to get more proactive in helping new players through this bit.  the French therefore found themselves with most of their jump off markers trapped rater close together and far back, behind a stone wall to the rear of the table.  one was forward in the central farmhouse.

The French did take the very strong defensive position in that central farmhouse.  A German squad aggressively approached it to just out of Close combat range.  Their Junior Leader ordered two potato mashers lobbed into the house, but they missed the window and skitted of harmlessly.

Germans advance on the Farmhouse

Germans advance on the Farmhouse

Well almost harmlessly.  Oddly enough this aggression seemed to frighten the Poilus inside and the immediately were ordered to retreat and fall back to the cover of the stone wall that ran parallel the length of the southern table edge.  this action proved disastrous, as it meant crossing an open area in cross fire to get to that cover. The Frenchmen took serious casualties and their eventually broke and fled, causing serious loss to the French Force Morale, not to mention represent a third of their force already gone.

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Frenchmen in position behind stone wall

After this point the French settled into a static defense of the rear wall and the game turned into a long drawn out exchange of small fire.  Never the best course of action in a Chain of Command game and certainly not one when opposing a larger force also in defensive positions.

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More of the same

Either from confusion or unlucky  command dice rolls, the French command was slow to deploy his brigaded Rifle Grenades which can be devastatingly useful.  The Germans never deployed their Panzer II, and because of that the French also waited to deploy their AT gun, which may have proven helpful against the infantry onslaught as well.

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German squad takes cover in destroyed farm house opposite the French held wall

Eventually attrition did it’s bit.  The French position slowly collapsed due to casualties, shock, and dwindling Force Morale.  Just in the nick of time for me OI might add, as I was scheduled to run the Battle for Lake Tanganyika directly thereafter!

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The French Line

THE BATTLE FOR LAKE TAGANYKA

 This was the second time I ran this battle, but this was the reason it was created.  My club, The Williamsburg Legati, are commemorating the 100 year anniversary of World War One by sponsoring themed games at both Williamsburg Muster and Guns of August over the next few years.  Some of these are the major actions and other, like this one, or more unusual situations.

This battle was actually made up of a few encounters fought between December of 1915 and February of 1916 on the world’s second largest and second deepest freshwater lake in the world.  involving elements of the British Royal Navy,  Belgian Congo’s Force Publique, and Imperial Germany’s Kaiserlich Marine.

Basically, the Germans held complete naval superiority of the lake this with small ship and a couple of boats.  The British decided to challenge this by transporting two 30 foot motor boats through the Congo.  A crazy and arduous adventure on its own.  Command for this mission was given to an eccentric British Naval administrator Geoffrey Spicer Simpson.

For the game I combined what were in reality two separate actions, to allow the Germans the use of both their boats instead of letting the British attack them piecemeal as happened in reality.  The game was played in 28mm with most of the vessels built by myself with the exception of the British vessels the Mimi and the Toutou.  These are Old Glory castings.  the rules used were TVAGs Boilers and Breechloaders.  A little bit of adjustment had to be made for the two British ships (which are both petrol boats not covered by the period or rules).  The vessels are also over armed by the rules,, but I followed the history.  That might have been an error.  Having run this twice I am pretty sure that the points are not equal, giving far to strong an advantage to the British/ Belgian coalition.  If I ever do this again I will need to make some changes.

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The Congolese ex torpedo boat Netta, with Mimi and Toutou in the background

Boilers and Breechloaders is a card driven activation system.  this proved disastrous for the Germans.  Over and over again they were losing initiative to the Brits.  Besides that factor, the Kingani’s captain had horrible dice luck.  he was successfully avoiding any critical damage but is shots kept missing their target, and his 6 pounder was the largest of the German guns.  Furthermore an incredibly lucky British first shot left hedwig’s main gun crew disabled!

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The German Squadron, Kingani and Hedwigg Von Wissman

Damage was being done to the British boats.  One more hit on either would have seen them destroyed, but the Germans lost the ability to strike.  Kingani was taking on water, her speed reduced and constant machine gun fire eventually left the Hedwig bereft of her crew.

I like to report that all players had a good time, but not on this occasion.  At least one of the Germans was displeased.  I do think this game has some balancing issues, which I had warned when I begun, but it really was more luck that hurt the Germans than anything else.  I may run this on one more occasion, or maybe not.  The theme for Williamsburg Muster is Naval and the second battle did happen in February 1916 (Muster is in February).  if I do, I will either use different rules, modified rules or leave the Belgian ships out.

Categories: africa, Boilers and breechloaders, Chain of Command, Convention, Sharp Practice, The Virtual armchair general, Too Fat Lardies, Wargaming, Williamsburg Legati, Williamsburg Muster, world war I, World War II, world war one, wwii world war two normandy buildings mdf | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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