Achtung! Kreig Unter Brüdern After-Action Reports

Tiger_II_02RECAP: My buddy Matt and I decided to play some red-on-red games of Flames of War. As we discussed what the games might look like, it evolved into a four game, “de-escalation”mini-campaign with some experimental house rules about list-building, air support and using a weighted dice-off to determine who is the attacker and who is the defender.

We created an alternate history back story for the campaign where the July 20 Plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler succeeded but Goering took power, there was a schism in the Wehrmacht and on the Western front the combined forces of the SS and Luftwaffe fought the Heer.

As our games rolled out, a setting for the battles took shape within this larger fiction. As German forces rushed from Normandy back to the Fatherland to determine who would have political control, they ran into each other in the Ardennes. As in the real history of WWII, a great armored battle took place. Only in this alternate history, German soldier fought German soldier.

GAME 1 (1650 points) – ROYAL TIGER MEETS “FRANKENTIGER,”

Floreffe Abbey, 7 miles SW of Namur, Belgium on a tributary of the Muese River

SB Game 1 List 2014-12-21Obersturbannfuhrer Joachim Peiper is still absent from I SS Panzer Corps’ Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH) when the division – busy keeping the British out of Caen – learns of the assassination of the Führer. Goering recalls all SS and Luftwaffe divisions to the German border, so LSSAH entrains in the rail yard in the eastern outskirts of Caen. The division is able to travel by train as far as the other side of the Belgian border. There, Heer forces have cut the rail lines and the division is forced to disembark at Namur.

Meanwhile, Heer forces have gathered at the Siegfried Line with the goal of preventing SS and Luftwaffe ground forces from re-entering Germany. Reconnoitering in force is an armored kompanie from KG Hummel out of the Paderborn Tank Training School, being personally led by a recently convalesced Obserstleutenant Hans-Peter Knaust. When the kompanie hears that LSSAH is in the area, it sends an armored column to gather security troops and block the SS division’s entry into the Fatherland.

Local Belgians sympathetic to the Heer side of the “civil war” alert KG Hummel to the presence of advance elements of the LSSAH near the Muese. These locals are dismayed when Heer forces destroy the ancient Floreffe Abbey in a massive artillery bombardment intended to deny this very defensible piece of ground to the SS. This bombardment also tips off the LSSAH to the presence of an “enemy” force so that the two opponents meet on the move.

A nigh unstoppable platoon of King Tigers – issued to LSSAH for early testing just prior to the surprise Allied landing at Normandy – easily destroys three of the worn Tiger 1Es from Paderborn and threatens to overrun Kampfgruppe Hummel’s position. A Heer recon platoon supported by Grenadiers returns in the nick of time and outflanks the SS force just before a final tank assault can be launched to shatter the Heer force. Threatened with encirclement by the addition of these forces, the LSSAH Kompanie retreats south.

Mission: Dust Up

Final result: Heer victory 4-3

Running Total:

Heer: 1 Win,   0 Losses, 4 points

SS/Luft: 0 Wins, 1 Loss, 3 points

KuB MapGAME 2 (1500 points) – “VERRÜCKT!”

Hannut, Belgium, 10 mi N of Namur on the way to the Dutch border near Eindhoven

2014-12-28 SMB Game 2 List

Their repulsion at Namur has tipped LSSAH off to the fact that Heer units are in position to defend the Siegfried Line. So in a strange perversion of history’s Allied attack, Operation: Market Garden, LSSAH decides to drive north through Holland in an effort to link up with SS and Luftwaffe forces capable of holding the bridges there and outflank the West Wall by crossing the Rhine at Arnhem.

After Normandy, the 116th Panzerdivision retreated east ahead of LSSAH. So when the order to integrate, disarm or repel SS units is issued on July 21st, they are in position to move east to a defensive position on the West Wall at Aachen. The 116th’s reconnaissance unit – Panzer Aufklarüng Abteilung 116 – is in an advance position near Liege, Belgium and its scouts first report the northern movement of LSSAH.

Major Eberhard Stephan – commander of Pnz Aufkl Abt 116 – immediately attacks, taking the LSSAH’s rearguard infantry screen – composed of elements of 6th Fallschirmjager Division – by surprise. Major Stephan offers them the opportunity to surrender but the 6th FJD, lacking experience but not courage, responds: “Verrückt!” (Translation: You’re nuts!).

Badly outnumbered and facing a mobile armored force, the Fallschirmjagers are encircled. Their problems are compounded when an RAF patrol of rocket-armed Typhoons unloads its ordinance on them. Unable to reposition its defending infantry platoons fast enough, the Fallschirmjager’s AAA and anti-tank platoons are overrun. Though an ill-advised, overly aggressive  assault by armored cars results in the needless loss of a highly valuable Heer platoon, the Fallschirmjagers are forced to retreat and the north-moving LSSAH is seemingly left without an infantry screen to defend its right flank.

Mission: Hold the Line

Final Result: Heer Victory 5-2

Running Total:

Heer: 2 Wins, 0 Losses, 9 points

SS/Luft: 0 Wins, 2 Losses, 5 points

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GAME 3 (1350 points) – IT’S A TRAP!

The Losheim Gap – a valley byway into Germany, south of Aachen

2014-12-28.2SMB Game 3 ListThe Losheim Gap can be used to advance into Germany from Belgium, but any invader still faces the defenses of the Siegfried Line once they crossed the border. But since the Losheim region is of no other strategic importance (producing no military materials) the OKW has left it lightly defended. In the Gap sits the 246th Volksgrenadier Division recently reformed and shipped to the Aachen area in anticipation of the defense of the West Wall. These “green” troops are the first to learn that LSSAH’s drive north toward Holland is a clever feint when a strong armored spearhead slams into them. Never one to go around when they could go through, the LSSAH is probing to find a weak spot in the Heer occupation of the West Wall and return to Germany by the most direct route available.

The 246th VGD is tragically inexperienced and its commanders make gross errors: they choose a poor position from which to defend the Gap and as a result are forced to charge across open ground to attempt to stop LSSAH’s Panzers from rolling through the valley. Even support from two experimental, heavily armed Sturmtiger Rocket-Assault Howitzers (Proxy: Tiger 1 Es with the turrets rotated backwards) cannot stem the LSSAH armored tide. The 246th evaporates in the attack.

Mission:  Cauldron

Final Result: SS/Luftwaffe Victory 6-1

Running Total:

Heer: 2 Wins, 1 Loss, 9 points

SS/Luft: 1 Win, 2 Losses, 11 points

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GAME 4 (1200 points) – PLUG THAT GAP!  Losheim, Germany

SMB Game 4 List FoWPrint_Page_1Though soundly defeated, the 246th VGD was able to blunt the advance of the LSSAH enough to give elements of the 116th Panzer Division – mainly the green 60th Panzergrenadier Regiment” – time to move south from Aachen and attempt to counterattack into the Losheim Gap and stop the SS advance. But before the 60th could reach the SS spearhead they ran into the 6th FJD, acting again as a screen for SS armor, protecting LSSAH’s left flank. The 6th FJD having no good reason to go toe-to-toe with the 60th, began a fighting withdrawal towards the main SS force, hoping to draw the Heer forces into an overextended position and allow SS armored reserves to encircle the 60th. Two platoons of the 60th launched a mounted assault into left side of the 6th’s defensive position. FJ AT guns decimated the PG’s armored HTs as they attempted a mounted assault and the two platoons of PGs evaporated even as they destroyed the defenders. As the battle wore on and the Heer forces lost momentum, the 6th was able to move a platoon from its right to support the center and stall the Heer attack long enough for the FJ force to withdraw back to the main SS force.

Mission: Fighting Withdrawal

Final Result: SS/Luftwaffe Victory 4-3

Running Total:

Heer: 2 Wins, 2 Losses, 13 points

SS/Luft: 2 Wins, 2 Losses, 15 points

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We had to call the last game before it was finished. Matt and I talked through how we thought the next few turns would likely go and decided that the most probable outcome would be a 4-3 SS/Luftwaffe victory. This tied the campaign at two games apiece with the SS/Luftwaffe slightly ahead on points. Under the rules we’d outlined for the campaign, the points advantage should have given the campaign victory to the SS/Luftwaffe, but because we had to call the game early we decided it would be “cleaner” to play an unplanned, fifth, tie-breaker game. (And we’d get to play another game!)

So check back in to learn how things are finally settled in the Losheim Gap in the “Kreig Unter Brüdern.”

House (Divided) Rules: Flames of War “Krieg unter Brüdern” Campaign

5367354868_43bb5019d6_z My buddy Matt (also a developer here at SBG) and I got tired of one of us not getting to play our beloved Germans in Flames of War (FoW) games so we decided to play some red-on-red games.

This decision quickly grew into a plan to run a Heer-vs-SS/Luftwaffe, 4-game, de-escalation mini-campaign complete with house rules and a late-1944 German civil war back story starting with the fictitious success of the July 20th Plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

We named our planned mini-campaign “Krieg unter Brüdern” or  (If Google translate got it right) “War between Brothers.”

NOTE: All the photos of 15mm minis in this blog are Matt’s beautiful work.

Re-Cap – The Fictional Alternate History Behind the Campaign

We imagined that the July 20 Plot  succeeded in killing Hitler in his “Wolf’s Lair” but that the conspirators’ plan to seize control of the government using the Replacement Army (sort of like the National Guard in the US) failed. Hitler’s named successor, Herman Goering, has taken over the government but the OKW – the western command of the German regular army (aka “Heer” in German) – still hopes to achieve a coup d’etat.

Goering has recalled to Germany the forces loyal to him – the SS and the Luftwaffe –to secure his grasp on power. This self-appointed, Heer backed government led by Ludwig Beck has ordered all Heer units to integrate any nearby SS units into their commands or to disarm said units if they refuse to submit. Beck has sent diplomatic envoys to the Western Allies offering conditional surrender to the UK and inviting the US to oversee this surrender to avoid an all-out invasion of the Fatherland by the Soviets.

In the midst of this confused situation, the aforementioned Soviets continue their rapid advance in the east. There, the entire Wehrmacht – OKH, SS and Luftwaffe – continue to fight together to prevent the collapse of the front.

Western Europe is a different matter. In the wake of a general German retreat, US and British forces liberate France without firing a shot and the Wehrmacht retreats from Italian soil entirely, leaving it in Allied hands. The Western Allies have stopped at the German border at the end of July 1944 to regroup in the wake of their unopposed, lightning advances behind the rapidly withdrawing Germans. Allied air forces continue to patrol the skies and, favoring the Heer side of the civil war that’s broken out, sortie against SS, Fallschimjager and other Luftwaffe units when targets present themselves. But for the most part the Western Allies are content to let the Germans tear each other apart and take advantage of the gift of time to make ready to launch a new offensive when the dust settles.

Matt's KTs1.1Re-Cap - The Plan for Our Four-Game De-Escalation Campaign

We decided to do a four-game mini campaign. At the end of our four games we’ll look at the win/loss results and declare a winner.  But winning and losing isn’t really the focus of this series of “friendly games.” Instead we’re focused on mastering rules, practicing tactics and running all the fun army lists we’ve never gotten to play before.

There is a well-established FoW campaign format called “escalation” where the size of players’ forces increase with each game over the course of a multi-game series. We decided to do the opposite: a de-escalation campaign. The size of our forces would shrink over the series of four games, representing an attritional effect that we think a civil war in 1944 would have had on German military strength.

House Rule #1 – Choosing Sides

Matt chose to play the SS/Luftwaffe side (partly because he has a beautifully painted Fallschirmjager force) and I happily took the side of the Heer. It may go without saying but this dictated that he stick to SS/Luftwaffe lists in the source books we selected for the campaign and I was prohibited from these lists. Those sourcebooks are:  Atlantik Wall, Bridge at Remagen, Bridge by Bridge. Devil’s Charge, Desperate Measures Fortress Italy and NUTS! My previous blog about the campaign describes in detail why each of these books was selected for inclusion in the campaign.

We also decided that when permissible lists included support platoons from the “opposite side” of our fictitious civil war – called “Allied platoons” in FoW (not to be confused with the historical “Allies” in WWII: the UK, France, Poland, Austrailia, New Zealand, India, the US, et. al.) – we had to substitute equivalent platoons from our own “side. These “substitute” platoons would lose the “Allied” keyword, be assigned the base  motivation and skill ratings of the substitute platoon in the source list from which they were being substituted, lose the “Allied” keyword and be re-costed as needed to adjust for changes in rating. (eg Say a Heer list rated “Confident Trained” had a Luftwaffe 2cm anti-aircraft artillery platoon rated “Reluctant Trained.” I am required in our campaign to go find the Heer list that is the closest to the one I am using that includes a Heer 2cm AAA platoon and substitute that platoon and use its cost. Having done this several times now, I have typically substituted CT Heer Flakvierling platoons for RT Luftwaffe platoons at an added cost of +10 points.)

Matt's Nebs2.1House Rule #2 – Heer Air Support

Unlike the US during WWII, which had both an Army Air Force and naval aviation, Germany had just one air force: the Lufwaffe. The supreme German commander of the Luftwaffe was former WWI fighter pilot Herman Goering. Goering was also the former head of the Gestapo and Hitler’s appointed successor, so in our little fiction Luftwaffe forces clearly had to join the SS in supporting Goering’s assumption of power.

In our campaign force-building, this left the Heer side without any options for Air Support. After contemplating leaving things this way, we decided this was too problematic.  The Heer player would need to worry about air defense and spend point on AAA and the SS/Luftwaffe player wouldn’t. Prohibiting the Heer from taking air support also limited its options for countering heavy armor.

So we invented a new piece of the back story to give the Heer player an air support option: Allied sorties against the SS/Luftwaffe. The Heer player could purchase US and UK Air Support options – Typhoons, Thunderbolts or Spitfires. This air support option would represent the fact that the Western Allies were favoring the Heer side of the civil war and so Allied pilots were authorized to attack SS/Luftwaffe forces if clear opportunities presented themselves. But because in our fiction the Western Allies are not engaging in concerted military action and are instead sitting back and waiting to see how the German “civil war” turns out, we decided that the Heer player could only buy Air Support at the “Sporadic” level – the least amount of air support available in the game.

Interestingly enough, because the Western Allies had achieved air superiority in WWII by mid-1944, Allied FoW lists don’t have Sporadic options. I had to extrapolate costs by comparing the proportional reduction in points from Priority-level Air Support to Limited-level and from Limited to Sporadic in Mid War lists. The results of this extrapolation? Sporadic Typhoons cost 125 points and Thunderbolts/Spitfires cost 110 points.

Matt's 2cm AAA1.1House Rule #3 – Terrain

Matt and I typically play on terrain boards arranged into what we call “mirror maps” – each side of the board has the same terrain as the other side. This eliminates – as much as possible – any terrain advantage being given to one side or the other.

This has disadvantages and advantages. The disadvantage is that we don’t get practice “reading the board” and identifying the most advantageous deployment. This is an important FoW skill for competitive tournament play. The advantage, though (besides equalizing deployment) is that game set-up is faster. Since both sides have the same terrain, there’s no delay while the first player to set up studies the board.

We also decided to make terrain density subject to random determination. Before setting up the board we would roll to see how dense the terrain would be: 1 = light terrain, 2-5 = medium terrain and 6 = dense terrain.

Heavy terrain favors infantry by reducing the greater mobility and longer ranged weapons of mechanized forces, so terrain can definitely work to one player’s advantage. Though Matt and I are friends and wouldn’t be likely to intentionally skew the terrain set up to the disadvantage of the other player, we decided to avoid even unintentional “terrain bias” with this random determination system. Since he and I have been playing together for something like three years now, we pretty much have a common sense of what the different terrain densities would look like.

Matt's PnzIVs1.1House Rule #4 – Testing an Experimental “Opposed Roll” to Determine which Side Attacks and which Defends

Finally, we took the opportunity presented by a dedicated four-game series to play test an experimental house rule we had been discussing for some time.  Every FoW game is played using a scenario from the rule book or other official source – called a “Mission” – that lays out starting conditions and victory conditions of a game. The basic rule book has a table of 12 of these missions.

In three of these, the terms “attacker” and “defender” are almost meaningless – both sides have to “attack” because seizing an objective is the way you win and both sides have to “defend” – make an effort to keep the opponent from taking an objective on your side of the board. But in the other nine missions, the attacker truly attacks – usually having to push the other player’s force off of a prepared defensive position in order to take an objective. In these missions, being the “attacker” or the “defender” can really add to one player’s advantage, especially if s/he brings a force well-suited to one role or the other. In competitive tournaments, where games are played in a short period of time and where “timing-out” in many of these scenarios means that the defender wins, it seems to us like being the defender is a distinct advantage.

The way that FoW determines who attacks and who defends in these nine missions is by comparing the two types of forces the players bring. The types of forces in order of likeliness to be required to attack are: Tank, Mechanized, Infantry and Fortified. When two matching force types play against each other players dice off to see who attacks, but otherwise a Mechanized force will defend against a Tank force, an Infantry force with defend against a Tank or Mechanized force and a Fortified force will defends against the other three types of forces.

We have always felt like this is overly “deterministic” and  not very historical. While military commanders do compose forces with a mind to whether the force will be attacking or defending, there’s rarely a guarantee in war that things will work out as planned. The fog of war has often resulted in battles where the “wrong” force composition for the job was called on to get it done nonetheless: armored forces defending, infantry attacking, etc. Game-wise, guaranteeing that certain types of forces will defend against other types is “deterministic:” players have an unrealistically high degree of certainty about what “job” their force will have to do by virtue of the type of force they bring. As a result, it seems to us, a player can significantly increase his or her chances of game success by sticking to “conservative” list choices, specifically infantry.

So we decided to experiment with taking some of the determinism out of the system and experient with using a “dice off” to determine who attacks and who defends. In our campaign, at the start of the game, each player rolls a d6 and the high roll defends. The player with the force that is further in the “defending” end of the spectrum adds to his or her roll +1, plus a cumulative +1 to his or her roll for every degree of difference between the two force types. For example, if a player with an Infantry force is facing a player with a Tank force, the Infantry player will add +3 to his or her die roll because it is two “steps” further down the “defends’ spectrum. So the Infantry player’s roll will yield a result of 4-9 whereas the Tank player’s roll will yield a result of 1-6. So while it is still much more likely that the Infantry player will defend, there is some chance that s/he will be forced to attack.

We’ll be experimenting with this house rule over four games to see if it has any effect on the way we think about force selection.

Matt's FJs1.1House Rule #5 – Excluding Missions

At the start of our campaign I said: “Matt, I want to exclude the Free-for-All Mission from our campaign” and he agreed. Free-for-All is essentially a “non-mission:” both sides have to capture an objective on the other side of the board, forcing both sides to both attack and defend. Its essentially FoW’s version of the most basic “last-man-standing” scenario that almost every table top miniatures game suggests players start with. Matt and I have played it to death. We wanted to practice other Missions we hadn’t played as often.

Then a funny thing happened: when we went to roll for a Mission we would invariably roll one of the other two Missions in the same category as Free-for-All, what is called the Fair Fight category. Because these missions are in the same category as Free-for-All, they’re not much different. We kept re-rolling and getting one Fair Fight Mission after another until finally we agreed to exclude the whole category!

Getting the Party Started

To date, we’ve played a practice game and then on 12/20/14 we played our first “official” game at 1650 points.

After the game was over, we decided that the game had represented an armored spearhead from I SS Panzer Corps Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler meeting a hastily assembled blocking force of “Frankentigers” from Schwere Panzerkompanie “Hummel” from the Paderborn Tank Training School led by Major Hans-Peter Knaust on the Belgium-German border .

My next blog will present after-action reports (AAR) covering this game and several others we’ve played on the way to completing our 4-game series.

 

 

Makin‘ Up “History”: Flames of War “Krieg unter Brüdern” Campaign

It has been far too long since I wrote a substantial blog entry. This is because my site got hacked and not being a tech guy I had to rely on the charity of friends to get the site back up. While I greatly regret the hiatus, there’s nothing to be done now – you can’t go back and change history.

th…Or can you?

In 2012, Steve Bean Games participated in the wwpd.net Operation Overlord Global Online Flames of War Campaign. I wrote about how the campaign was organized, the games my local group played and finished with a comparative analysis of the historical D-Day and the online global game “simulation” and received a “Best of the Blogs” nod from Battlefront Ltd, makers of the Flames of War (FoW) 15mm WWII tabletop miniatures skirmish game.

Starting before the wwpd.net Overlord Campaign and up until about a year or so ago, SBG was part of a very active group of 7-8 players focused on FoW. But then a number of things happened: people’s schedules changed and one of the most enthusiastic players moved away. I stayed in the area but moved another 75 minutes further from our central gaming location. Games became fewer and farther between.vgpf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After an almost complete hiatus of several months, Matt (my gaming buddy and a developer at SBG) and I wanted to get back into playing some FoW. In the absence of an active, larger group we decided to just play each other. The problem? We both play Germany almost exclusively. I DO have a largely unpainted collection of Soviets – enough for a few lists – but have almost no interest in playing them. Plus, I feel like I’m always the guy who says: “Oh, we need an Allied player? Okay, I’ll do it…” As a result I often don’t get to play the minis I’ve painted or the lists I’m interested in.

The solution? We decided we’d just play some “red on red” games. (Red on red is the military term for enemy on enemy fire or hostility.)

A Flames of War Mini-Campaign: Krieg unter Brüdern (War between Brothers)

As we started talking about playing a series of red on red games, we also started talking about a history-based fiction in which battles between German forces in World War II could plausibly have taken place.There was one battle at the end of the war in which German regular army forces (Heer) fought alongside American and French soldiers to defend a castle in Austria against the SS. But we wanted something a bit grander in scale than a single battle.Goering and Bormann inspect the bomb damage caused by the July Plot, 1944 (b/w photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The obvious source – especially since we knew we wanted to play the Late War period in FoW – would be to fictionalize the July 20 Plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, imagine it succeeded and then add a supposition that Germany’s military devolved into civil war between factions.

So we imagined that the July 20 Plot – sometimes referred to with the misnomer “Operation: Valkyrie” –  succeeded in killing Hitler in his “Wolf’s Lair” but that the conspirators’ plan to seize control of the government using the Replacement Army (sort of like the National Guard in the US and the actual Operation: Walküre [Valkyrie]) failed. Hitler’s named successor, Herman Goering, has taken over the government but the OKW – the western command of the German regular army (aka “Heer” in German) – still hopes to achieve a coup d’etat.

Hermann-Goering-96927557417

Goering has recalled to Germany the forces loyal to him – the SS and the Luftwaffe –to secure his grasp on power. Meanwhile, Feldmarschall Erwin Rommel has forcibly replaced Feldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel as Chief of the General Staff of the OKW and has put the support of the Heer publically behind Ludwig Beck (a retired, formerly high-ranking general who opposed Hitler in the late 30s), naming him President of Germany. This self-appointed government has ordered all Heer units to integrate any nearby SS units into their commands or to disarm said unitsif they refuse to submit to Heer authority. Beck has sent diplomatic envoys to the Western Allies offering conditional surrender to the UK and inviting the US to oversee this surrender to avoid an all-out invasion of the Fatherland by the Soviets.Frankreich, Rommel bei 21. Pz.Div.

In the midst of this confused situation, the aforementioned Soviets continue their rapid advance in the east. There, the entire Wehrmacht – OKH, SS and Luftwaffe – continue to fight together to prevent collapse of the front.

Western Europe is a different matter. In the wake of a general German retreat, US and British forces liberate France without firing a shot after the Battle of Caen. Operation: Cobra, the Falaise Pocket, Operation: Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge – none of these will occur; all have lost their place in (alternate) history. Similarly, in Italy, the Allies will never have to throw themselves against the Gothic Line to drive the Wehrmacht from Italian soil – it has already left.822

So, in our alternate history, the Western Allies have stopped at the German border at the end of July 1944 to regroup in the wake of their unopposed, lightning advances behind the rapidly withdrawing Germans. Allied air forces continue to patrol the skies. Overtures of surrender from the OKW have inclined the Allies towards the Heer and so Allied ground attack aircraft sortie against SS, Fallschimjager and other Luftwaffe units when clear targets present themselves. But for the most part the Western Allies are content to let the Germans tear each other apart and take advantage of the gift of time to make ready to launch a new offensive when the dust settles.

Four-Game De-escalation Campaign

A quick search of the web will reveal many discussions of the question “Would the success of the July 20 Plot significantly changed the outcome of WWII.” The general consensus seems to be, in a nutshell, “no.” But Matt and I are almost entirely unconcerned with this question. The purpose of our fiction is to give us an excuse to play a red on red multi-game series with the internal logic of the fiction shaping some of the parameters of army list-building and other game mechanics.

The winner of a FoW game is the player who captures an objective or forces the other player’s company to fail morale and break. The games are then scored on a seven point scale. This final scoring depends on how many platoons the losing player defeated in the winning player’s force. This produces the following four possible game scores: 7-0, 6-1, 5-2 and 4-3. At the end of our four games we’ll calculate a total score but winning and losing isn’t really the focus of this series of “friendly games.” Instead we’re focused on mastering rules, practicing tactics and running all the fun army lists we’ve never gotten to play.

There is a well-established campaign format in FoW called “escalation.” In an escalation campaign the size of players’ forces increase with each game over the course of a multi-game series. We decided to do the opposite: a de-escalation campaign. The size of our forces would shrink over the series of four games, representing an attritional effect of a civil war on German military strength. In 2014, the official point count for a Late War tournament force was 1780 points. We decided to do a four-game mini campaign. Our four games will have point counts of 1650, 1500, 1350 and 1200 points respectively.

“Approved” Source Books for Army-Building Lists

Like many tabletop miniature skirmish games, FoW uses source books to guide players in selecting forces to play. One of the things about FoW as a game product that most impresses us is the research that goes into trying to make FoW source books history-based. But our campaign was ranging into the realm of fiction! So in designing our campaign we would have to decide which books/lists – and the historical forces they present – would be appropriate to an “alternate history.” Exercising our powers of interpretation and extrapolation we selected:FW114

Atlantik Wall and Blood, Guts & Glory: These two books offer army lists from the German defense of Normandy. We agreed that any of the units represented in these two books that survived the first weeks of fighting after D-Day would be present in our fictitious general withdrawal following Hitler’s assassination.BbB

Bridge by Bridge: Covering German forces in Holland during Operation: Market Garden in September 1944, we thought that the Kampfgruppes – ad hoc combos of any and all available units – in this book would represent well the mixing and matching that might occur in the wake of the schism between Heer and SS/Luftwaffe.

Devil’s Charge and Nuts!: These source books cover many of the key German units of Hitler’s doomed Ardennes offensive. Though the so-called :Battle of the Bulge will never occur in our alternate history timeline, many of the lists in this book represent units and force compositions that were already being organized at the end of July 1944 and could believably come to the battlefield in our fictional civil war.

Fortress Italy: In our alternate history, German forces have withdrawn from Italy to join the factional fight over who would govern the Fatherland. Fortress Italy would provide us with game lists for the forces coming from the historical “southern front” on the Italian peninsula.

Desperate Measures     aindexnd Bridge at Remagen: These two source books cover the makeshift German units that defended the Reich on home soil in the final days of the war in Europe. Though Desperate Measures is written with a view to the eastern front, its lists also represent units that fought in the west. Both books cover a period a good six months or more later in the war, but we thought these books would serve a similar function to Bridge by Bridge – representing the kind of ad hoc forces we imagine this fictitious civil war would produce – AND a function similar to Devil’s Charge and Nuts!: representing units and force compositions that were already being developed, if not utilized, at the end of July 1944.

In my next blog I’ll present some house rules we instituted in our campaign as well as brief after-action reports (AARs) for any games we’ve completed by then. Until then, Happy New Gaming Year!

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SBG Proudly Authors the 2014 Dungeon Crawl Classics Holiday Module

GMG52014CoverLargeGoodman Games is pure RPG marketing genius. Last year they put out an RPG adventure module for their flagship Dungeon Crawl Classics fantasy RPG that thGMG52013CoverLargeey billed as their “first-ever Holiday Module:”  The Old God’s Return penned by the inimitable and inscrutable Michael Curtis.

The idea behind this product line is simple:  create the gift that keeps on giving – an adventure module that players can give to their Judges/DMs/GMs as a holiday gift that the Judge/DM/GM will then turn around and run for the player(s) who gifted it. Like I said: genius.

Goodman Games has stated its intention to establish a tradition of annual holiday module publication with each module increasing one challenge level of difficulty – last year’s was a first level module, this year’s is a second level module, next year’s will be a third level module, etc. – until the company has an entire holiday-themed adventure path. (I guess you’ll just have to skip the holiday theme for your zero-level funnel…)

I’m proud to have been tapped to continue this tradition and scribe this year’s 2nd level DCC Holiday Module, which I’ve entitled:  “Trials of the Toy Makers.”

The promo copy reads thusly:

 “Murder! Foul murder!” These are the only words that describe the scene inside the underground complex of the toy-making gnomes called the Konhengen.

Murder is not what you had hoped you would find, but you’re not surprised, either. Your introduction to these fabled, reclusive toy-makers had ominous overtones from the outset. First, there was the abrupt and unceremonious end to their nightly gift-giving visits to the village children. Then, three children snuck off into the Taboo Lands to investigate, convinced that evil had befallen the Konhengen.

And so you’ve traveled to a great island on the eve of the Winter Solstice to find the missing children. Instead you’ve found mass murder. But you’ve also found evidence of a secret agenda behind the gift-giving of the toy-making gnomes. Now you must unravel the mystery of the gnomes’ true purpose — or the world will suffer consequences on a cosmic scale!

A few “exclusive-to-this-blog” designer’s notes:

  • Don’t let the stunning Doug Kovacs cover art fool you – this is NOT a “Santa’s elves dancing a jig” adventure. It’s a grisly murder-mystery wrapped up in a great, big, cosmic logic puzzle with plenty of cannon fodder to keep the Dwarves and Warriors happy (or at least bloody!)
  • The adventure gives a starring role to a couple of juicy DCC game mechanics that often seem to get overlooked in people’s regular games.
  • A couple of Easter eggs serve as shout outs to my adoring fiancee Tracey DeMartini and to the illustrious, de facto co-president of the Minneapolis DCC Society, Jullian Bernick – keep your eyes out for those.
  • Trials of the Toy Makers follows in the footsteps of the Serpent Door puzzle in Michael Curtis’ DCC #77.5: Tower Out of Time, the Curse of the Emerald Eye face shield in Jobe Bittman’s DCC #81:  The One Who Watches from Below and the spinning wheel door puzzle in Michael Curtis’ DCC #83: The Chained Coffin. “Trials” is chock full of visual logic puzzles that players can solve using the graphic handouts provided. Don’t like logic puzzles? Fear not, there are multiple ways to complete the quest, so you don’t have to spend your whole gaming session poring over handouts if you don’t want to.

Expect Trialsplash1_sliced_16s of the Toy Makers to hit the shelves sometime around Black Friday, giving your Judge plenty of time to prep to run it at your FLGS’ holiday party! Check the Goodman Games website regularly to catch the upcoming announcement!

A big thank you to all of the people who playtested this module (in alphabetical order): Mike Bolam, Fred Dailey, James Deyonke, George Feldman, Theo Feldman, Jeff Hays, Eric Kearney, Bobby Lepold, Mario Mejia, Brandon Raasch, Mike Rabaca, Rachael Torres and Matthew Walkup.

I’m going to leave you with some photos from the playtest at the 2014 Pacificon Game Expo:

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New at stevebeangames.com: Painting & Modelling Gallery!

A new section of the SBG website will feature miniatures modeled and painted by me, staff and friends of Steve Bean Games.Mordheim Possessed devours an unfortunate flagellant

The SBGers are BIG fans of tactical miniatures games, especially WWII historical  – Axis & Allies Miniatures (AAM), AAM: War at Sea and Blitzkrieg Commander – and Skirmish-level fantasy/sci fi with Mordheim, Horrorclix, Star Wars Miniatures and the Space Hulk and Descent board games. At conventions we like to run Axles and Alloys, a beer-and-pretzels car combat game taught to us by Trevor Swallow from Op-For. It looks like we might even start playing some Infinity and using the minis from that game to play Necromunda withthose Op-For guys.

So we do a fair amount of painting. I like modelling even more than I like painting so I’ve kit-bashed quite a few pieces. I like my minis to be unique and to tell a story. You’ll see ‘em here.

CIMG2437Along with miniatures themselves comes terrain. What good is having great looking minis if you have to play them on a board that looks like crud? So these pages will show off some of the terrain the SBGers have made for the games we play.CIMG2475CIMG2476CIMG2479CIMG2481

I’ve struggled to take decent photos of my minis, so I’m also going to document an effort to improve my photography skills using the very basic camera and lighting I have. I’ll share any advice that CIMG2488guides my efforts – there are lots of good “how to photograph your minis” sites and blogs out there.

And though here at SBG we don’t design miniatures, we do design miniatures games. The very first game designed at SBG and pitched (unsuccessfully, I’m afraid) to a publisher was a miniatures-driven game called Grognard Vs. LARPers. This game is still on the design board being adapted to more of a straight up homage to Tom Wham’s Awful Green Things from Outer Space which was one of its major influences.

The Creature That Ate Berlin and Battalion Commander are SBG rule sets that expand the now OOP Axis & Allies Miniatures game by Avalon Hill/Wizards of the Coast. A third SBG AAM-compatible rule set is called XTO ’49 (for “Extra-terrestrial Theater of Operations, 1949“). XTO ’49 is a game about near-space  ‘mech combat in an alternate “diesel-punk” WWII.

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The war still rages at the eve of the new decade, the Axis powers having put their most advanced weapons designs into production soon enough to stave off defeat. The  Rocket Age has moved the war into near-space as both the Axis and the Allies seek hard-to-find radioactive ores to power their new technology (“Iron Sky: The Game,” anyone?). XTO ’49 was born out of a design exercise. I have always hated space combat games that only used two dimensions and I have never been able to envision a combat environment where ‘mechs with their slow speed and high silhouettes make sense,  their popularity with gamers, manga readers and anime watchers notwithstanding. Thinking about these issues  and being influenced by interest in ground combat and not air (or space) combat, XTO ’49 was born.

While not strictly a tactical miniatures game, SBGs WIP After the Oil uses Axis & Allies Board Game-compatible rules to explore strategic warfare in a post-oil, post-climate change United States where a second Civil War has broken out between north and south. Minis for this game would be A&A style, plastic, low detail and roughly 1/285 scale, but cool nonetheless.

So check back here regularly to see what’s coming off the work bench and out of the man cave in the “miniatures department” at SBG!

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My Article “Nanotech Soldiers & Future Combat Operations” – Now Out in Modern War #13

Nanotech 2-page SpreadPerhaps you’ve heard of nanotechnology:  serums, coatings, composites and robots built at the microscopic nanoscale. Perhaps you’ve heard of how nanotechnology will revolutionize the way we live:  those little robots will perform surgeries causing less trauma and those composites will be used in car parts, making them both lighter and stronger than steel and creating vehicles that are both safer and have better fuel economy.

What you may not have heard as much about are the military applications of nanotechnology. Some of these applications offer greater safety for our soldiers through sophisticated body armor and highly advanced medicine. Some of these applications hold the promise of surveillance and situational awareness capabilities that will allow our soldiers to identify the enemy, target them with pinpoint accuracy and take them down using new weapons that are unlikely to cause harm to civilians or other collateral damage.

Then there’s the potentially ominous side:  nanotoxins that make current chemical agents look like pepper spray by comparison. Nanoviruses that can modify themselves to avoid destruction after being loosed upon the battlefield.

So it has always been with military advances:  their destructive capacity must be wielded judiciously and their manufacture and deployment must be controlled by an informed, MW13politically active citizenry.

Read more in my article:  “Nanotech Soldiers & Future Combat Operations” now available in your FLGS or directly from Strategy & Tactics Press.

As with every issue of Modern War, issue #13 comes with a new, original war game:  The Next War in Lebanon. This is an operational level wargame designed by Brian Train. It simulates a speculative Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the near future. The context is an Israeli invasion with the goal of eliminating the presence of Hezbollah terrorist group, and presumes a much larger invasion than the 2006 incursion (which is also included as a scenario). One player (the IDF) is assigned the role of the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) commander, and the other player is assigned the role of the Hezbollah forces, as well as Syrian and Iranian forces if certain events occur to cause their entry into the game (or players may agree to have these additional forces in the mix from the beginning of the game instead).

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“Products” Page Launches on Steve Bean Games’ Website

Steve Bean Games is pleased to announce that it has officially “gone commercial!”

Please check out our new Products page for current and upcoming SBG-produced gaming products!

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Heat of Battle: The National WWII Museum's Wargaming Convention

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Did you know that the US has a national World War II Museum?

Until recently, I didn’t. Turns out it started as the National D-Day Museum and was the vision of famed historian and Band of Brothers Executive Producer Stephen E. Ambrose who raised funds and provided artifacts from his personal collection to get the museum started. It expanded its scope to the entire war in 2003 and after recovering from Hurricane Katrina along with the rest of New Orleans, the National WWII Museum has since grown into multiple galleries housing countless artifacts, an interactive exhibit about the submarine USS Tang, several different combat aircraft from WWII, musical and comedy shows featuring period entertainment and for tread-heads like me, both a Stuart and a Sherman tank. (Guys, where’s the love? You gotta get a Tiger I and a Panther in there!)

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Better Yet:  They Promote Tabletop Gaming as a Educational Experiencewargaming2-405x248

Here’s what the museum’s website says about the educational benefits of gaming:

Wargaming for Educational Purposes — Electronic, Board or Miniatures

The National WWII Museum focuses on board or miniatures games, rather than electronic wargames. We do this for several reasons listed below.

Development of social skills.

Board and miniature wargame players sit across from each other. They see each other and directly interact. Large games involving teams promotes team building, management skills and resource management in a cooperative environment. In recreating difficult military situations, players vicariously gain glory in victory, or suffer dismal defeat in the social setting of the group. As they do so, they develop real human friendships. Game friendships, formed through sharing the hobby, can last a lifetime. Unless playing with someone in the next chair through a shared network, electronic games only provide a limited comradeship through disembodied voices, though possibly from across the globe.

Development of critical and strategic thinking.

In most board and miniatures games, as in life, players must generate a workable strategic plan to be successful. Games encourage consideration of future challenges, and the best responses, before those challenges occur. In many electronic games, advance planning may not be feasible, as game challenges may remain unknown — and the mission may only involve a body count.

Game scales and probability can be misrepresented in electronic games. Board and miniatures games generally let you know — in advance — the probability of various occurrences in the wargame and put the probability in your hand in the form of dice. Math skills are reinforced by the player’s personal game calculations. This makes the board or miniatures wargame a better historical educational tool. In electronic gaming, computers handle all calculations and probability is located in the device’s random number generator. The player has no idea how easy or hard a function is, unless they reboot to play multiple sessions.

Accuracy.wargaming10-405x248

Electronic first-person shooter games often immerse the player in an exciting, ongoing environment, but single person e-games often provide little understanding of the risks involved beyond the player’s role. The role of leadership can be misconstrued. However, it is true viagra prescription online that electronic first-person shooter games more accurately portray the often horrific violence of war. This is abstracted in board and miniatures games, but those do a better job of educating players as to the larger scope of battle. This debate has informed The National WWII Museum’s educational wargame choices; as an institution, we hope to introduce youth to a critical time in world history. We also recognize the desire to involve parents in gaming.

All wargames sacrifice realism for playability, the question is how much — and whether it is acknowledged by the game developers. If a gameplay situation seems questionable in light of reality, it probably is. Learn more and come to your own determination about the accuracy of that game and the reality of that battle.

Development of creativity.

In miniature games, hobbyists often research the military units they are using, and often try to replicate the paint scheme of the real military unit. They must also analyze (and, in miniature games, build) the map, the roads, hills and other historical terrain fought over. Books, magazines, multimedia and interviews are all used in the discovery process. This process requires patience and creativity — and makes for a better learning experience. It also provides a more complete, and thus more interesting, panoramic overview of the battlefield. Electronic games are constrained by the scenarios and responses programmed into them, thus they generally offer low replay value. Board and miniatures games played against human opponents allow for the creative flexibility of the human mind.

To learn more or receive notices about historical wargaming at The National WWII Museum, contact walt.burgoyne@nationalww2museum.org or call (504) 528-1944 x 333. Or sign up for Educational WWII Wargaming eNews.

And… They Host their Own Wargaming Convention!

They’re on their eighth consecutive con, scheduled this year for August 8-10. Sadly, I can’t go this year – I’m making my first-ever pilgrimage to the Mecca of cons: GenCon. But next year I hope to attend the con, visit the museum AND do the Behind the Lines museum tour where I hope they’ll let me climb into the commander’s crew position in their Sherman tank.

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