Never Forget the "D-Day Dodgers:" 4th Indian Division vs 1st Fallschirmjager in's Global Italy Flames of War Online Campaign

Once again, the premier independent website focused on Battlefront Limited”s WWII miniatures skirmish game Flames of War is producing a global, massively multiplayer online campaign. Last year it was D-Day: Operation Overlord (Check out my blog about it here – I was named the “Best of the Blogs”) and while I voted for Market Garden for this year”s campaign, wwpd chose to do the Allied invasion of Italy, probably because the timing coincides with Battlefront”s release of two new Italy sourcebooks.

So my buddy Matt and I got together yesterday and recreated part of the famous battle of Monte Cassino, where the Allies encountered extremely rugged, mountainous terrain and the tough-as-nails 1st Fallschirmjager Division. We aligned our game historically in this way:

It”s mid-March 1944 and the Allies have secured the Cassino “town proper” and its strategically important rail line. In preparation for an assault on the monastery at the top of the mount, the 4th Indian Division takes over 2nd New Zealand”s position on Castle Hill. But on March 19, 1st Fallschirmjager Division descends from the monastery to launch a surprise attack on the position. If the German paratroops can retake Castle Hill they can steal the initiative from the Allies and blunt the next assault on the monastery before it ever begins.

We rolled randomly for one of the two recommended missions for Castle Hill in the Cassino source book campaign: No Retreat and Cauldron. We got No Retreat. We played at 1500 points so we used a full-sized board and the standard two objectives for the mission instead of the 4″x4″, single objective set-up suggested in the campaign mission. We both had infantry companies so we diced off and the Germans were the attackers. (If the Allies had been the attackers

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our game would have represented the March 15th advance that took Hangman”s Hill and I would have played a 2nd NZ list that had been prepared beforehand for this contingency.) We tried to re-create the historical terrain by working off of the full-color painting in the Cassino book. A pre-game sketch of the terrain board we wanted to produce is included in the attached photos.

AAR Monte Cassino Terrain TableDSCN04704th Indian put its armor in reserve – Churchill NA75s, Shermans and Humbers (using German-captured Panhards as proxies so don”t be confused by the balkancruzes in the pix) – and one platoon of Ghurka infantry in ambush. A platoon of Vickers occupied the castle ruins (which were also the location of the Allies” Objective placement) giving them a vantage point with excellent fields of fire and lines of sight in the hilly but fairly open terrain. The UK sniper was… everywhere (and a pinning machine).



















The Fallschimjagers put an assaulting platoon of infantry on each side of their line, PAK 40s and Mortars in long-range firing positions and Marders and Pioneers in support. Entek placed his objective at a bottleneck on the precipitous mountain road leading from Castle Hill past hills 236, 435 and Hangman”s Hill up towards the (off board) mountaintop abbey.

DSCN0474DSCN0475Things did not go well for the Germans. As with the real battles, this game was going to be tough going for either side on attack. Entek “won” the roll and the privilege of charging into the meatgrinder to take an objective. As soon he”d had his first turn and started his advance my Indians got reserves and the Churchills moved into a firing position covering the objective on the UK left.





While the Fallschirmjagers scored an early kill, brewing up a Churchill, luck immediately abandoned them: their Marders failed a stromtrooper roll and were left exposed, the platoon of TD”s quickly going up in flames. At the same time the Fearless FJs blew 5 or 6 rolls to rally from being pinned across two turns (THAT was A LOT of 1s and 2s…). Those same two turns were their sole reprieve from reserves: the third turn saw BOTH of the Ghurka”s remaining reserve platoons come on the board: Shermans and Humbers.

In the meantime, one FJ platoon had reached the castle but the assault was repelled, Vickers and Khuhuris inflicting major casualties on

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the elite paratroops (who still couldn”t catch a break and make a motivation roll.) The defending Ghurka platoon paid dearly as well – coming out in to the open to repel the FJ assault brought the platoon under fire from multiple directions and the shattered remnants (three stands) retreated behind Castle Hill

DSCN0487 DSCN0491On the German right, the second Ghurka platoon leapt out of ambush, scaling the rocky kills and cliffs of Hill 236 to spring a surprise assault. Two assaults were pushed back and the platoon was decimated, but it was a tactical success: both the second FJ platoon and the Pios were reduced to minimal fighting strength.

DSCN0483 DSCN0495 DSCN0494 DSCN0493 By turn 8 or 9 (we lost track after 6 when turn count became irrelevant) the ongoing, intense fire from the Vickers platoon (at half strength by this point) and the concealed Churchills and Shermans

had picked off both FJ combat platoons and the FJ Pios. With 2 Morale 1st Fallschirmjager was NEVER going to break, but with only gun team platoons left on the board it was clear that they weren”t going to be able to maintain a position on the Allied side of the board, much less take an objective from 2 full-strength and 2 half-strength UK platoons still defending.DSCN0499B DSCN0500

So victory went to the Allies, 5-2.DSCN0501

Steve Bean Games has MINIONS! Can World Game Domination be Far Behind?



In June 2011 I left the “comfort” of a high-paying “straight job” to strike out on my own. In truth I was disillusioned with my employer, discouraged by the state of the world and bored with the chronic communal pain and ideological backwardness that seemed to characterize our response to the Great Recession. The only thing I knew for sure was that my next “thing” had to be fun. Eventually that thing would be this crazy experiment called Steve Bean Games, but back then I was too tired and burned out to launch a game design venture. I needed to recharge my batteries. So I moved to Emerald Earth Sanctuary, an intentional community and permaculture education center where some of my closest friends in the world live, work, farm, love each other and raise their livestock and their families. They took me in and for 6 months Emerald Earth was my refuge, my Camelot.

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There I formed an unexpectedly close bond with two five year olds: Esther (above, left) and Garnet (above, right). I spent a lot of time with them, both providing formal child care and just hangin’ out. They are children of Gaia – mushroom hunters, goat herders, foragers and fey-seekers. To them the outdoors are one, big giant game board. So what did I, a self-proclaimed “avid indoorsman” do to entertain these amazing, nature-loving kids? What I ALWAYS do with my own free time: make pop art, read and write fiction and play and create games. You see, I learned a while ago to be true to my inner (geek) self and I still wake up every day, as I have for the past 20 years, amazed that the world around me has, miraculously, found and embraced its “inner nerd.”

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held got Love?

I don’t remember how it came up but one day I learned that Esther didn’t know the Wizard of Oz. I think Garnet had seen the movie during a visit with extended family and had told Esther about it and she was interested in the story. So I got online and bought the complete set of Frank Baum novels – there were more than I even knew about! We read them aloud and made up our own stories about the characters while walking around the farm or sitting by the wood stove. My versions of the stories were influenced heavily by Gregory MacGuire’s Wicked and I called my Witch of the West “Alfaba” and adopted that book’s characterization of her as an anti-hero rather than a classic villain.

Up at Emerald Earth I started working on the first game design that I thought I would commercialize: a miniatures skirmish game Buy cialis generic played on a one-inch grid mapwith a Zombies!-like horde mechanic. It’s set in a game convention and depicts a brawl between gamer-geek factions. I called it Grognards Vs. LARPers. Esther and Garnet thought that was a very odd name – and these were kids who truly believed in magic AND fairies. While I was there, and with lots of encouragement from Esther’s father, my friend Brent, I also built a prototype version of a game called “Good and Evil.” Me and the EEers play tested that game at my going away party. That “paper prototype” was a core piece of the proof-of-concept work for the Facebook game that is currently the main game development project here at SBG. Thanks, Brent.

But the first game I finished while I was at Emerald Earth was a Wizard of Oz game for the kids. It was basically a Candyland clone. We all played it a few times after I first made it and then it got put on a corner. That’s the problem with Candyland – no “legs;” low replay-ability.

I left Emerald Earth in April 2012 and life being what it is – namely “busy,” especially for an aspiring commercial game designer – I haven’t had much of a chance to visit. And I’m characteristically lousy about staying in touch.

So it was a pleasant surprise to get an email from Brent telling me that Esther and Garnet had spent an entire afternoon making their own board game:

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It doesn’t have a name. I’d suggest “Elfquest” but I’d hate to see two (now) 7 year olds get sued for copyright infringement. It’s a two player game with each player taking one of the orange-suited elves as a pawn. The object of the game is to get to the Golden Castle at the end of the path. The way is long and dangerous, with animated, carnivorous trees, giants that can squish you and rattlesnakes. You start the game with three weapons drawn at random from a weapon deck. There are three types of weapons: pistol, bow-and-arrow and sword-and-shield. Each weapon is good against a specific baddie. On your turn you draw a movement card which moves you between 1-10 spaces. (That reminds me, I promised to send them some 10-sided dice…) If you land on a space next to a baddie you either have the right weapon and therefore defeat them or get sent all the way back to the beginning. If you defeat a baddie you expend the weapon card and draw another. The first player to reach the end (exact count is NOT required) is the winner.

Boy was I a proud “uncle figure.” OF COURSE I assume that this is all due to my influence, sustained over two years (almost a quarter of these kids’ lives) despite minimal contact on my part (cue guilt complex). And you know what that means? I have proteges. And you know what proteges are? Grunt labor with admiration in their eyes. Minions with an important-sounding title. To paraphrase Homer Simpson: Ummmmm, minions. (Cue long, white-haired cat.)

Except… this game has a really brilliant mechanic. There are board effects that are driven by the art rather than by the core game mechanics. For example, if you look at space number five, you can see that it has the entrance to a labyrinth. (Emerald Earth has a traditional, meditational/spiritual pagan labyrinth atop a small knoll.) When Esther and I were playing I landed there and asked what I needed to do. “Walk the labyrinth” was her reply. “How do I do that in the game?” I asked. “You WALK the labyrinth” she said, slightly exasperated. She took my pawn and traced the labyrinth and placed it in the exit space. Hunh!?! Oh, okay. Cool. If you look at the center-left and dead-center areas of the board you’ll see some green patches that look like treetops with no trunks. Turns out they’re Sleep Grass. If you happen to lay your pawn on the board so s/he’s lying in the grass, s/he goes to sleep for the rest of the game (and the pawns are so big that you HAVE to lay them across some part of the board or table.) Hunh. How is anybody supposed to knw THAT!?! VERY cool. See where you could go with this, design-wise? Tabletop open world gaming!

Wisdom out of the mouths of babes…

Soooo, I’m going to steal their mechanic so I can do the work of fleshing out a full-fledged game based on it, and… Wait. So who’s the protege? Who’s the damn minion? Me, that’s who.

I just hope they don’t own the intellectual property. Can 7 year olds retain copyight attorneys?