A year’s worth of gaming (Part 1)

Club member Stephen reviews the games he has played at Maidstone Wargames Society this year. This is part 1 of the article covering January to June.

This article is a review of all the different games I’ve played over 2023 just to see, and remind myself, of the variety of games I’ve done. At the beginning of the year I made two decisions – play more sci fi, and play more games that other people put on (my general attitude is ‘I paid for these models and took the time to paint them so I want to use them!’ which means I generally put on a game at most meetings). So this year I wanted to mix things up.

The first game of the year was at the club meeting on January 28th. This was a game of Sword & Spear and part of a campaign (which started in 2022) to re-fight the Wars of the Roses with Jeremey.

January – Sword and Spear – Mortimer’s Cross

I love playing Sword & Spear. I do. But I don’t seem to be any good at it. In all the games I’ve ever played of S&S I think I’ve only ever won twice. Surely it can’t be my superior tactics, that seems to be beyond reproach, right? This game was a re-fight of Mortimer’s Cross (you can find the full, and gloating, write-up here: Wars of the Roses – Battle of Mortimers Cross – Battle Report – Maidstone Wargames Society (brigademodels.co.uk)). As is traditional with S&S, I lost. But you know what, I couldn’t care less because the games are always a lot of fun with plenty of pre-game trash talk and goading, and each game has a story. Playing in good company always helps as well. I’d willingly keep on losing so long as I keep on enjoying it.

February brought another couple of games at the club.

First up was a new game to me – Charlie Don’t Surf by Two Fat Lardies. I find TFL games a bit marmite. I’ve played Chain of Command – loved it. I’ve played What A Tanker – didn’t like it. And this was the first time for CDS. And I loved that as well. The game and models are all Pete S’s, and he’s done a blinding job on them. They are 10mm Pendraken models (I think) and it has just the right look for Vietnam.

February – Charlie Don’t Surf

We’re used to seeing 20mm and 28mm Vietnam games which focus on platoon actions. But Vietnam was bigger than that – often brigade sized actions with the company as the manoeuvre unit. And 10mm captures that perfectly. I had command of the armoured platoon. We put Mark J (newly appointed club chairman) to prove his mettle in command so he took company HQ. The game was a victory for the US side!

The second game in February was planned to be a Barons’ War game with Andy. But in the week leading up I suggested to Andy we could do a ‘compare and contrast’ and have a game of both Lion Rampant and Barons’ War to see how the two handle the same period. You can read a summary of our findings here (Lion Rampant and Baron’s War – Maidstone Wargames Society (brigademodels.co.uk)).

February – Baron’s War and Lion Rampant

First club meeting in March was a Stargrave game. I said I wanted to play more sci fi in 2023 and this was the first sci fi of the year. I found the original scenario online and tweaked it to be what I wanted it to be. Stargrave is a great toolbox of a game – you can make it what you want it to be. This game had both an overland and underground part, which was new for us.

March – Stargrave – The Warp Sextant

I prefer running Stargrave as an umpire, like a RPG. You get a different kind of pleasure as umpire because it’s about providing challenges and running the NPCs/monsters and hopefully providing an enjoyable scenario. Well, for me anyway. In this game Eric’s crew had fought hard to get to the bunker where the Warp Sextant was hidden. But coming out he found Tony F’s crew waiting outside, guns pointed at the entrance. A brief exchange of fire and it was Tony who made off with the treasure. Poor Eric.

End of March it was another chance to lose at Sword & Spear – Second Battle of St Albans. In this campaign I have the Lancastrians which means the onus is on me to win in battles where the Lancastrians came out on top. Such as Second St Albans.

March – Sword and Spear – Second Battle of St Albans

Again, rather than go into details here, anyone wanting to know more about this game can read the battle report (Wars of the Roses – 2nd Battle of St Albans – Battle Report – Maidstone Wargames Society (brigademodels.co.uk)). Suffice to say, it was business as usual! Tony joined me again on the Lancastrian side. I was feeling good about this one, felt I was due a win. And the early part of the game was looking good – the local militia archers engaged the Yorkist artillery and eliminated them for no loss! Yup, first blood to Lancaster. And then it steadily went downhill. Never mind.

More sci fi in April! This time it was Pete M’s Space 1889 game. A different kind of sci fi – Victorian rather than futuristic. The stand out thing were Pete’s scratchbuilt aeronefs, and we spent a bit of time playing ‘guess what bits have been used for the models’. Truly outstanding.

We played two games. I was on the human side for both games, and both games were very close. And Jeremey got a leathering in both games with his colleagues leaving him to do all the work. Excellent game.

April – Space:1889 – Mars

The end of April was Salute and this coincided with a club meeting day. Naturally, it was going to be a quiet meeting with a fair few members at Salute. I ran an American Civil War game (battle of Cedar Mountain) using brigade Fire & Fury.

April – Fire & Fury – The Battle of Cedar Mountain

The Union army is in a difficult position for this battle – making an attack against a much larger Confederate army. John R took control of the Union troops and did a good job – but his artillery ran out of ammo early in the game and he never had the time or opportunity to replenish them. This left him conducting a fighting retreat, and he made a good job of it, slowing down the Confederates.

First game in May was another in our Wars of the Roses campaign – the battle of Towton. Like all the others…I lost. Now, I’m not just saying this, but the dice rolling on our side was pretty poor, compared to the other side rolling really well. No, no! Stop that! It’s true on this occasion. To read more about this game you can check out the blog post (Wars of the Roses – Battle of Towton – Battle Report – Maidstone Wargames Society (brigademodels.co.uk))

May – Sword & Spear – Towton

Next was another sci fi game – Full Thrust. Jeremey and Tony were running the game which meant only one thing: vector movement. My fluffy little head struggles with that and prefers the cinematic movement option.

May – Full Thrust

A mixed bag of results. The first game was two opposed fleets with an asteroid field cutting the table in two – Tony F and myself using some of Brigade’s German ships, and Jeremey and Tony G using some of Jeremey’s scratch built (out of false nails) ships. Tony and myself came out on top in that one. We then played a couple of one ship per player games (first was cruisers, second was destroyers) and the alien nail ships won those games.

Along came flaming June and I decided not to attend Broadside since I was trying to restrict spending and if you go to a show you have to buy something, eh? John Lambert and myself had a game of Crossfire. We played this quite a bit a few years ago but then it fell by the wayside. The models for this game were from my collection – WW2 eastern front.

June – Crossfire – WW2 Eastern Front

The scenario was a late war one – Russian advance through Poland with the Germans on the retreat. Naturally, we were re-learning the rules, but it steadily came back to us. MUST ensure we play more of this one.

June 24th was the club Open Day. My game was a Saga: Crusades games. We played two scenarios, I had Saracens and Andy had Milites Christi. Saracens carried the day and won both games. I love Saga. It’s just the right game for me.

June – SAGA Crusades – The Road to Damascus

You can read more about the Open Day here: Review of 2023 Open Day – Maidstone Wargames Society (brigademodels.co.uk)

That concludes part 1 of the review of 2023, part 2 will be published in a couple of weeks.

Battle of the Bougainville Asteroid Field

Marcus turns assassin as he tried to eliminate a Japanese Admiral.

I needed to dig out a space mat in connection with another project this week and as a result just fancied a game of Full Thrust. I’d sketched out some ship diagrams previously and done a couple of other designs. The scenario I threw together was loosely inspired by Operation Vengeance, the plan to kill Admiral Yamamoto which took place on April 18, 1943, during the Solomon Islands campaign in the Pacific. Yamamoto, the commander of the IJN Combined Fleet was deliberately targeted by USAF aircraft following US Navy codebreakers identifying his flight-plan in the area of Bougainville Island.

In this scenario, Admiral Maya of the IJN is present aboard the Heavy Cruiser Chokai escorted by the Light Cruiser Mogami and a frigate, the Fubuki, having visited an installation in the Bougainville asteroid belt. Royal Navy forces, having been made aware of his presence in the area have penetrated deep into IJN space using light forces with the intent of springing an ambush using the belt as cover. The Chokai needed to exit the far end of the table for a win.

The British forces are composed of the (very) light carrier Pandai (with just one fighter group), two destroyers, the Triton and Ganymede, and four pulse torpedo armed corvettes: Leda, Ersa, Elara and Dia. I set up the game initially and played a couple of turns but then match abandoned for dinner! More of that anon (the abandoned game, not dinner!) I set up again the next day for take two.

Turn 1
The IJN ships entered from the short navigating carefully at speed 3 but accelerate to 4 on detecting trouble. Both the Mogami and Fubuki detect the Leda and gain a hit each on the approaching corvette. The Callisto responds from beyond Leda to gain a hit on the Mogami.

Turn 2

The IJN fleet accelerate to 6 with Fubuki forced to make a slight turn to port to avoid an asteroid. The Ganymede to the port of the IJN fleet became exposed from behind an asteroid and suffered combined fire from the Japanese. Chokai put four hits on the Ganymede to her port from the A and 3 B turrets. Mogami gets an unlikely three hits from her 3 B’s to turn Ganymede into a flaming wreck. However, before she succumbs Ganymede fires on Chokai, but the one shot on target is deflected by Chokai’s shield. To starboard the Fubuki opens up on the leading RN corvette, the Leda, again achieving two hits. However, both Leda and Ersa reply. Leda gets just one hit with her pulse torpedo, but this produces a damage roll of 5. Boom! Both sides have lost one ship

Turn 3

Accelerating now to a velocity of eight, the remaining Japanese ships also make a one point turn to Starboard to manoeuvre through the asteroid field and escape. Chokai open s up with her A battery at close range on the Dia but all 3 dice miss! By contrast the 2 B turrets fired at Ersa produce 6645! 4 hits from four dice! Ersa nevertheless manages to put a pulse torpedo into Mogami at close range on a 4 and rolls 4 damage before succumbing to the fatal damage from Chokai. Leda does exactly the same; a roll of 4 and a damage roll of 4 also against the Chokai. Dia misses her shot while finally Elara rolls a 5 for a hit. Elara rolls a damage of 6! The heavy cruiser now only has two damage boxes left, but the critical damage “threshold” checks result in the A turret being placed out of action. Most unfortunately though the FTL drive has been put out of action. Callisto tries to finish off Chokai at close range but her 2 B’s and a C turret get two hits of 4, but are blocked by the Chokai’s shields.

The RN Pandia, which has been lurking out of sight behind an asteroid launches her fighter group.

Turn 4

Despite the heavy damage taken by Chokai, her systems are largely intact. However she needs to get the FTL up and running if she is to escape. The damage control party attempt this but needing a 6, only roll a 5. She nevertheless pours on further acceleration in a bid to escape the onslaught, moving to velocity 10. Mogami has to slow slightly (-1 velocity to 7) to manoeuvre.
While Pandia’s fighter close in on a Chokia which is now opening up the range from Callisto, Chokia brings Pandia under fire with her 3 remaining B turrets at short range. An unlikely 66555 results in 7 hits! With just two damage boxes remaining Pandia also loses a point defence system. Mogami finished her off with a 6 and 4 from her 3 B’s resulting in 3 damage. However, while the fighters closed in on Chokai, Callisto again fired with her 2 B’s and C (5 dice) to get to 6’s and 4 damage. Chokai is eviscerated and the Admiral lost.

Despite the conclusion of the scenario objective, I played on the next couple of turns to see if the Mogami could at least make an improbable escape.

Turn 5

The Mogami runs, accelerating by +3 to a velocity of 10, chased by Pandia’s orphaned fighters. Mogami uses her area anti fighter weapon to shoot at the fighters and bring two down on a 6, but not before they launch their weapons; 125566 results in 6 hits including a point defence system and a firecon. In Mogami’s rear arc, Callisto continues to blast away with 5 dice and does a further two damage.

Turn 6

So close to the edge of the asteroid field now, Mogami accelerates to 13. Although the fighters trail they are still in range. However, although the range has opened to the extent that it reduces Callisto’s firepower to just 2 dice, a roll of 5 and 6 did three damage, finishing off the gallant Mogami. In fact although the pictures show that Mogami was pursued by the fighters I subsequently realised that they are armed with single shot weapons. But for quite a lucky roll from the Callisto, Mogami might have escaped to at least advise the IJN High Command of the disaster.

That was not the least of my mistakes! Evaluating the game I noticed something about the corvettes and crunched the numbers on the design again. I don’t think I had ever finished the calculations on this whenever I had first made them, because I had them costed out at 42 points. I now made them 76! This meant that the RN which I had earlier calculated as being down c. 30 points was actually up around 100! I also noticed page 31 of the FT rules (ship design) which noted that fighter groups should only be carried by carriers and dreadnoughts. I hadn’t really considered what this meant before, but I wondered subsequently if that outlawed “jeep” carriers like the Pandia. I am not convinced though. Even if that was the intention, such small carriers existed in World War Two and continued with carriers such as the Invincible class in the RN and a number of others armed with V/STOLs. Balancing a scenario on points is not critical, especially in such a solo, narrative game. I tried to play a “fair” game, but it is clear in retrospect that the asteroid field gave a substantial advantage to the RN flotilla.

I mentioned the earlier, abandoned game. I only played at most three turns and perhaps the third wasn’t completed either, I can’t quite recall. What was interesting is that the corvettes acquitted themselves terribly in that game, while the fighters made very early work of the Chokai. I think that this points out the power of fighters in this scenario where there was no fighter cover for the IJN. That could be balanced out in the scenario by an escort squadron from Bougainville. In any event, I would like to give the scenario another try with a better balance just out of interest.

In discussion afterwards with members of the club, they asked how I ran the ”opposition”. As I described above I played it as a more narrative game, but this did make me think about describing a couple of options for manoeuvres (almost “matrix game” like) to myself and then rolling to select which applied. The firing/target selection is less of an issue I think.

Moon 22 – A Full Thrust Battle Report

Everyone loves a bit of space opera and so several members jumped at the chance of a game of Full Thrust. Jeremey takes us through the battle of Moon 22.

Rather than have a straight up fight I thought I’d create a scenario to add a bit of flavour. We had two players per side Marcus joined me against Tony and Stephen. As we didn’t have an umpire I created four different scenarios centered around two damaged freighters and the collapsed Moon 22, each scenario had a different objective and each team would draw one at random. The remaining two were not revealed so that neither team could guess what mission the enemy had.

Tony’s fleet were all from Brigade Models, while my fleet was one I’d scratchbuilt. This was in fact their first action. Tony and Stephen’s mission was to get alongside the damaged freighters and then escape with the cargo. The mission facing myself and Marcus was to destroy as many of the enemy fleet as possible while trying not to lose any ships.

At the start of the battle each player ended up splitting up effectively creating four battle groups. Both groups made straight for eachother apart from Tony who kept some ships back and headed for the freighters.

Having exchanged a bit of fire Marcus and Stephen’s ships got very close. We were using the slightly harder vector rules from the Full Thrust Fleet Book 1 which led to a miscalculation for Marcus’ ships where they stopped short and turned their backs to the enemy. In the meantime Stephen also turned some ships round in anticipation the enemy would fly past.

On the other side of the battle I engaged Tony’s ships in a fierce fire fight. I got lucky with the re-rolls on one attack causing significant damage.

Meanwhile Marcus and Stephen were still engaging eachother. Marcus was concentrating on the smaller ships in order to score more points towards the objective but at the expense of leaving Stephen’s bigger ships including their bigger guns.

It became obvious what mission Tony and Stephen had when Tony managed to get some ships close to the freighters. Seeing this I quickly moved some ships in order to get Tony’s  ships in line of sight.

I manged to destroy one of the ships but the others began to escape. Marcus had taken quite a beating from Stephens ships and decided to jump out rather than allow his ships to be destroyed.

With Marcus’ fleet leaving I made a run to catch up to Tony’s escaping ships. However I still had two big ships bearing down on me and so left a ship to cover my fleet.

Little did I know how severe the damge to Tony’s ships was, fire from my rear guard ship took out Tony’s flagship.

Tony’s ships were accelerating fast leaving only one chance to stop them. Unfortunately the dice were not with me and I manage to destroy only one of the fleeing ships.

With Tony having got only one of the two ships away and the loses suffered by mine and Marcus’ fleets the game ended in a draw.

It was good to get a game of Full Thrust in and for a chance to use my scratch built fleet. Also the moon used in the battle was an old sponge ball I found and the space mat was actually a table cloth.

Virtually Meeting

Last Saturday, at Stephen’s suggestion, some club members held a ‘virtual’ club meeting; some played solo games or with family members at home, and three even managed to play a board game over Zoom. Here’s a round up of what went on.

Mark H, Mark J and Seán – Nightfighter
Mark H ran a three-player game over Zoom – he’s written it up fully in a separate report.

Marcus – Air Combat in the Gulf War
Marcus played a solo game of modern air combat using Wings at War; this will also be getting its own write-up soon.

Phil – Space Hulk
Phil broke out the new (ish) re-issue of Games Workshop’s Space Hulk with his eldest son; unpainted figures, really!

Stephen – Full Thrust
Stephen, whose idea this all was, went for some solo Full Thrust. Which just sounds all wrong…

Mark J – Kobolds and Cobblestones
Mark.2 played out a Fantasy rumble at the docks.

Tony F – Lord of the Rings
And finally, the webmaster played out a simple Lord of the Rings scenario (the one where Sean Bean/Boromir gets shot full of arrows defending Merry and Pippin).