Monday, January 14, 2019

Kriegsspiel: Big Trouble in Little Lardas

Two weeks ago, I participated in a week-long online Kriegsspiel run by Nick Skinner and Richard Clarke of Too Fat Lardies fame. With a total of 13 participants, two umpires and one observer, it was quite an undertaking. Set within a fictional "Imaginations" campaign of the "Lard War II," the players commanded either the forces of the Kingdom of Blue or the Red Republic. As Nick explained in the game:

Blue has invaded Red and achieved a breakthrough in the central South. Blue's armies are now pushing Northwards towards the crucial line of the NEMUNAS river and the strategically important city of LARDAS that stands at the confluence of two rivers. If they can push on, they will be threatening the capital city of REDBURG. Red forces though are well organised and aware of the danger. What will happen next?
For the participants, the planning portion was the meat and potatoes of the game. We started out by signing into a website and associated app called Discord. Nick set up a server and we joined it. We were immediately assigned to either the Blue or Red force rooms. From there we received our unit assignments and awaited orders. 

The Blue forces, of which I was a member, consisted of an airborne division. We had as players the commanding general, chief of staff, two para brigade commanders, a special reconnaissance squadron commander, a divisional artillery battalion commander and me. I was assigned as the commander of a brigade of glider troops.

Speaking of gliders. This film and the real events it represents may have provided may have provided some inspiration.
We confirmed that our organization and equipment was vaguely British. That meant I had three battalions of infantry, each with four companies of four platoons plus a support company. I was also assigned an ambulance company. This seemed a bad omen.

In the background, Nick was briefing the division commanding general and chief of staff with the division mission. A day or so later, after the CG and COS had some time to digest the mission, we received our unit missions. My mission in particular was to neutralize four forts that protect the southern flank of the city and conduct a follow on mission of clearing the two main routes to the city.

The small circles are my objectives, the forts. The larger circles are the landing zones for the gliders. The red areas? Anti-glider poles. To quote a certain British officer, "I'm thinking of a phrase that rhymes with 'plucking bell'." Umpire Nick Skinner took  an actual 1:50,000 map and appended new place names, grid line identifiers and other information.

Early in the plans process, I chose to land my initial assault gliders directly on the forts. I figured my best chance was to take the enemy completely by surprise and jump right on top, like at Eben Emael. I had limited resources to get my brigade on the ground. It would take three lifts over the course of two days to get my complete brigade into the battle area. Given my resources at hand, on the initial landings, I would have 20 platoons out of 48 on the ground. Not great odds, I thought. But I had to risk it. Who dares, wins, right?

Plans were set, then changed and changed again as the brigade commanders weighed options and made their cases with the CG and COS for why they should get resources. A feature of Discord that we found handy are voice chat rooms where members can talk via VOIP for planning, rock drills, etc. Blue had two conferences and we found them very beneficial. By the time we had our first conference, we had our plan largely in place and were discussing some of the finer points. The final conference was to make sure everybody had their plans finalized and ask final questions.

My set up for the day of battle. The cards have each lift marked on them with the units and target LZ. As the battle progressed, I put the markers on the map as needed. We didn't get past the first lift on Day 1, although we planned for four days.

The day of battle arrived. 
As time drew closer for us to climb in our imaginary planes and gliders, top level rooms were locked up and player-to-player communications stopped. We sat at our computers waiting for H-Hour. I received a message that I was on the ground at LZ Baker and could see paras taking heavy fire about a kilometer to the northeast. I could also see and here vicious combat in Fort 2, aka OBJ Grumpy. Then the various communication nets started going live in the form of restricted chat rooms in Discord.

My brigade net room was where I spoke with umpires to get reports from my battalions and request info from them. There was an “on the ground” room for commanders that were up on the division net. Finally there was a division HQ room for those who had established comms with the outside world. Receiving information, parsing it, confirming our own assumptions and then assessing it before putting it up in both the "on the ground" room and Division room was a significant challenge. Luckily, the game was set to last only three hours. 

During the game, we were mostly interacting with the umpires and relying on them for information. Issuing orders and requests for information from my imaginary subordinates. I then had to process that info and relay it to my in-game superiors. But only once our in-game communication nets were established! One of the para commanders didn’t have comms because his radios got shot up on the DZ. He had to “walk” to where I was and then we could talk to each other and the had to use my “radios” to talk to higher.

Fort 1, OBJ Bashful was taken almost immediately with 30% casualties. Fort 2, OBJ Grumpy, fell only after receiving help from a platoon that had landed on Bashful. Fort 3, OBJ Dopey, was a see-saw battle and I tried mustering forces from Bashful and Grumpy to push it over the edge. Fort 4, OBJ Sleepy, only reported in once their ammo was all expended and the last holdouts were cornered in a bunker and calling "God save the King."

Enemy armored infantry and self-propelled guns had been spotted in the vicinity of Sleepy, so I called for air strikes on the fort with machine gun and cannon only, then follow up with bombs and rockets on the enemy vehicles. Imagine my surprise when I received the report that Sleepy had been destroyed from the air.

In the meantime, I was still trying to get enough forces scratched together to make a difference at Dopey to find it had fallen and was being evacuated, my troops being led away by the enemy. When I asked for clarification if it was Sleepy or Dopey, i was told, "No, it's Dopey, dopey!" Thanks, Rich.

Then the game ended. Luckily, our troops were wholly imaginary and our decisions didn’t result in any real casualties. It was an exhilarating, exhausting, madcap, sobering, nervous, mind-blowing experience. I'm planning a podcast with Nick, Richard and the two force commanders. Stay tuned.

I will definitely be looking to do one of these for my J3 group and possibly for my fellow OCS instructors in the near future. Stay tuned for that, as well.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Commands & Colors: Fantasy Update!

My opponent, lo these 35 or so years. ATTACK! He's a pretty good sport and a hell of a lot of fun to play a game with. He's even more fun to play against. I suppose that's the little brother in me talking.

On New Years Eve, my brother Chris and I had the opportunity to playtest some ideas I had for my long-suffering Commands & Colors: Fantasy project. Yes, I know about BattleLore. Read this for a reminder.

My interest in this project was jump started when I traded for a Warhammer Empire army. Now, adding a pre-painted army to my collection was a huge motivator. While there were a number of unpainted figures in the collection, they can be assembled and painted later. Along with the other Empire figures I have lying about. What can I say, I like the look of these dudes with their armor and plumed hats.

About half of the Empire troops I traded for. They are based on black movement stands. Four figures to a stand, four stands to a unit. These are made of matte board. I'd like to get something a little more substantive and magnetic.

Anyhow, I wanted to get these guys on the table and have them go up against my (partially) painted Skaven. Now, I’m not going to lock myself into the Warhammer setting, but many of the figures I’m using are GW in origin. But not all. Many of the Empire figures I recently traded for are actually Wargames Foundry. Gorgeous figures. I need more of them. Or the Warlord/Pro Patria Landskechts. But I digress.
The battle lines clash! It really looks quite nice with 28mm figures on such a big mat. My eventual plan is for the Ratmen units to be based five figures to a stand with four stands in a unit. Units with 20 rats will look epic indeed.

Not wanting to place a high Medieval/Rennaissance veneer on the existing C&C: Ancients units, I opted to tweak some of the ratings and abilities. For example, Human Halberdiers are essentially CCA Auxilia without the ranged attack. Human Bowmen are pretty much CCA Light Infantry Bows.

I created a wholly new unit in Handgunners and Crossbowmen. These guys are light foot infantry as one would expect. They move 2 hexes and have a ranged attack of 3 hexes, like Bowmen. When they fire their weapons, they roll a respectable 3 dice. In close combat, they roll 2 dice but do not strike with swords.However, due to the relatively cumbersome nature of handguns and crossbows, they may not move and fire in the same turn. I suppose on a “Move, Fire, Move” command, they could hold their movement, fire and then move. But that might be a risky endeavor. Or it could be a highly profitable gambit. Fortune favors the bold.

I really liked the pistoliers in small three-model units. I'd like to get more of these dudes.

Another unit I devised is Swordsmen. On the surface, they look like standard Light Infantry with a move of 2 hexes and close combat with 2 dice. However, I took away their ranged attack and gave them the ability to strike on swords. What use are swordsmen that don’t strike with swords?

Other units include flagellating Zealots (basically Warrior infantry, but they can ignore one banner result in a given attack), light mounted pistoliers (light mounted cavalry), and mounted knights (heavy mounted, move 2 hexes, CC with 5 dice if they moved the full 2 hexes, may momentum advance, take an additional hex and battle again with the same 5 dice since they moved another 2 hexes), and even a Dwarf unit (heavy foot).

And what about the Skaven, or as I’m calling them, the Ratmen of Suttar? They have some nifty units of their own. Plague Monks are basically like Warrior Infantry, but they’ll get some type of limited magic ability in the future. Ratmen with swords are basically light infantry. Rats with spears are basically auxilia. Rat ogres are heavy cavalry, through and through.

"We ignore everything but green when we evade, right? Damn."

The real neat thing about Ratmen units is that they can always evade. Even into friendly units, so long as they move completely past and through the friendly unit. I just love the idea of units of Rats passing one another as they swarm over, around, past and through each other. To make up for this undeniable advantage, Rat units require three adjacent units to claim support. I like this as a nod to their cowardly and craven ways. And it simply encourages evading through the Rats’ own lines!
The Zealots punch a hole in the Rats' line and advance in the breach to attack the spear rats to their left!

Chris and I played a pretty straight forward “Kill the enemy” scenario. We didn’t notice any particularly hideous results. There were some exciting moments like when a unit of Zealots crushed a unit of Plague Monks in one go, momentum advance and battled a unit of Spear Rats, only to have the Rats battle back, roll three banners and send the unsupported Zealots back to damn near the edge of the table!
The Spear Rats turn to face the threat and send the crazed humans running! Can't ignore all those banner results, boyo!

A few things we’d like to add:
  • Objective-based scenarios beyond “Collect X banners.” BattleLore does this right and I will definitely be taking a page or two from their scenario books for this. 
  • Named characters with special abilities. Maybe an elf ranger hero allows a ranged attack unit to reroll a single die, or a heroic knight makes one sword hit count double.
  • Simple magic. I don’t want magic to be a mini-game like it was with versions of Warhammer I’ve played. We’re kicking around an idea where magic using heroes and units have a menu of available spells. In order to cast a spell, you order a unit or leader as you normally would, but you can dump additional orders into the unit or leader to cast more powerful spells. I’ll explain this further.
  • Much, much more!

As I’ve stated in previous blog posts, this is a long-term project for me. While we are using a 6-inch hex mat, it’s still the basic 13x9 (6.5 foot by 4.3 foot) hex playing area. Eventually, I’d like to have a full 26x9 (13 foot by 4.3 foot) mat for a full 8-player Epic experience. To get the most painted bang for my buck, I will concentrate on getting my Rats painted up. My goal is to have a 2-player game fully painted for J3 and I’ll take it to Recruits this year as well. I also have an undead force that I will be adding to at some point. I’d like to add more dwarves and some elves to the “good side.” Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Ep 43: Undercoat it black is live!

Ep 43: Undercoat it black

Neil Schuck and Jay talk about gaming the Vietnam War.

Follow Neil on Twitter! @mandmpodcast

Jay’s Mission Analysis Article

Empress Miniatures FNG Indo-China Range

Charlie Don’t Surf - Too Fat Lardies -

Charlie Company Rules - Rafm -

Charlie Company Miniatures - Rafm -

Fireteam Vietnam - Buck Surdu

Ambush Valley - Ambush Alley Games -

FNG - Two Hour Wargames -

Men of Company B and AK 47 Republic - Peter Pig -

Carport Gaming - Chain of Command DMZ Blog -

Full Moon Jacket - Strangley Games -

Thud Ridge - Tumbling Dice -

Check Your Six Jet Age -

Baker Company Miniatures  -

The Assault Group -

West Wind Miniatures -

Eureka Miniatures -

SHQ Miniatures -

Britania - Grubby Tanks -

Platoon 20 - East Riding Miniatures -

Elhiem Miniatures -

Under Fire Miniatures -

Esci - -

Flashpoint Miniatures -

Peter Pig -

Old Glory Command Decision -


PicoArmor -

Fire In the Lake - GMT -

A Distant Plain - GMT -

Join the conversation at, email, Twitter @veteranwargamer

Music courtesy Recorded with Edited with Audacity. Make your town beautiful; get a haircut.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Ep 38: A Tankful of Lard is live!

Ep 38: A Tankful of Lard is live!

Join the conversation at, email, Twitter @veteranwargamer

What a Tanker!

Veteran Wargamer What a Tanker play through

Too Fat Lardies What a Tanker - an introduction

What a Tanker Twitter thread

What a Tanker FB Group

Music courtesy Recorded with Edited with Audacity. Make your town beautiful; get a haircut.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Episode 37: The Power of Positive Larding is LIVE!

Ep 37: The Power of Positive Larding

Nick Skinner, Richard Clarke and I talk about What a Tanker and all things Lard.
Join the conversation at, email, Twitter @veteranwargamer

Follow Nick @dozibugger and Richard @TooFatLardies on Twitter! The Too Fat Lardies Website Blog and Forum

What a Tanker Pre-Order

Sailor Malan’s 10 Rules of Air Combat

YouTube Crack That Tank

US Army professional wargaming

S.L.A. Marshall Men Against Fire

M40 105mm Recoilless Rifle

TFL Kriegsspiel

US Army professional wargaming

Music courtesy Recorded with Edited with Audacity. Make your town beautiful; get a haircut.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Ep 36: Wiley But Not A Coyote is LIVE (finally)!

Ep 36: Wiley But Not A Coyote is LIVE (finally)!

Jaye Wiley and I talk about the Fistful of Lead game series and his current Kickstarter.

Join the conversation at, email, Twitter @veteranwargamer

Wiley Games -

Galactic Heroes Kickstarter! Pledge now!

Jaye Wiley’s Blog

Oshiro Model Terrain -

Chris Clucky’s Blog

John Jenkins Design 54mm figures

Recruits Convention

Music courtesy Recorded with Edited with Audacity. Make your town beautiful; get a haircut.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

What the heck is going on?

So, at this point, I'm a week late for a new episode. Don't fear, a new one is coming. Probably next week. I recognize that I've skipped weeks before and haven't ever said why, except perhaps in passing. Normally, it's because I'm off performing my two weeks of annual training for the National Guard. But not this time.

It's like this. I need to get my life to a better place. Mainly with my health, but also my relationship with my wife and kids. I have high blood glucose and I need to get it under control. I've drastically altered my diet and am exercising more. That means earlier mornings, which require earlier nights. That means less time for recording and editing and everything else that goes into making the podcast.

If you're reading this, I assume you're a regular listener. For that I thank you. I owe you quite a bit. For example, I owe you more and better content. It's coming. Exactly what form that is, I don't know.

But back to my main point.

I'm exercising more, eating better, working harder on my Cub Scout commitments (I'm Cub Master for the Pack my son is in), working harder in my National Guard posting (Senior Platoon Trainer NCO for Officer Candidate School), and wanting to do more "hobby stuff." All of this takes time. Unfortunately, all of these things take a higher priority than simply banging out a podcast when it comes due.

Now, there is some cross-pollination in there. It's especially evident when it comes to my National Guard pursuits and my hobby. For example, Henry Hyde will be publishing an article I wrote as a direct result of my recent military education. Additionally, I'll be writing about my experience in planning a staff ride for the Officer Candidates. More on that later. Furthermore, I'm planning more articles for Henry.

As for the hobby stuff, I want to spend more time with my kids. Luckily, they both want to paint figures with me and play more games. Anticipate that generating more content for the podcast and maybe more blog posts here. For example, the projects I'm actively pursuing include:
- A semi-secret Seven-Years War project
- My son's 40k Orks
- A Full Thrust project using Halo ships
- A microarmor game I'm developing with my brother Chris
- Rommel in 3mm
- The Commands & Colors Epic Fantasy (not BattleLore) project (and I might have a writing partner for this one now)
- The space station project I talked about previously for sci-fi skirmish (possibly Oldhammerish)

Lots of other stuff is ruminating as well. What can I say, I'm a gaming magpie from way back. In the meantime, I'm trying to read more history, historical fiction, self-help, US Army doctrine publications and even the occasional hobby magazine!

I'm a busy guy. Part of this little pause has been taken up with some thought, soul searching, prioritizing, planning, and figuring what the hell I'm doing next. Part of that is going to take me becoming more personally disciplined in how I go about things. I've never scheduled "free time" before, but I might have to start.

We're all busy. So, I hope you can understand why I might be late with the podcast. I hope you'll forgive me. One of these days, you might even think what I produce was worth what you paid for it.

That is all.