My Gaming Year 2022

This was definitely the year of naval wargaming. If you add up all the naval wargames in my BGG statistic, they are at the top of the list with 18 gameplays.

In April, I suddenly had the urge to re-visit the 1/300 American Civil War ships I had prepared for a one-shot game years ago. Thanks to my 3D-printer, I added lots of new ships, mainly from East Coast Ironclads. At first I played my modified Galleys & Galleons rules, but from the second game on I started to tinker and by the fourth game, I was starting to create my own rules (I still logged them under Galleys & Gallons on BGG, because there is unfortunately no possibility to log games that are not in the database). I invited a couple of friends for playtesting (thanks to Sigur, Virago, Stephan and of course my wife K. for their feedback!) and, in the end, had something I was actually happy with. It needs some further development, but I’d really like to publish them in one way or another (probably as a low-cost pdf on wargamevault) this year.

Steamboats on the Mississippi.

However, the road into naval wargaming led me beyond the ACW and, after some reading, to the First Sino-Japanese War. I painted two fleets and K. and I started a campaign (which I’d like to finish this year). I then discovered that there were naval actions during the Spanish Civil War and promptly painted a Republican and a Nationalist fleet. From there, an interest in the mediterrean theatre during World War 2 developed, and I ordered even more ships, this time for the Italians and British. Virago, who has a long-time interest in naval aviation, offered to paint up some 1/600 aircraft, so I hope we can play a small campaign this year.

Ironclad action in the First Sino-Japanese War.

Next up on the list (actually in the first position if you don’t count naval wargames as one item) is a game my wife gave me for my birthday, namely Race for the Galaxy. This really is great fun and as you can see we played it a lot. This is also one of the rare games where I tend to win more often than not.

I also did a lot of role-playing this year. I started a Traveller campaign with my virtual group and had a lot of fun with world-building and running the games. I’m really happy about this group – it already existed before COVID and is an opportunity to spend time with friends living in other parts of Europe. And when I was a bit burned out DMing, Jan took over with a fabulous short Shadowrun adventure set in Germany.

De Bellis Napolenicis was another one of my rules-tinkering projects. At the beginning of the year, I started a 6mm napoleonics project and decided to use DBN for rules. I wasn’t completely happy with them and developed my own; however, this attempt at game design produced a decidedly mediocre result, so I abandoned it after a couple of play-tests.

Napoleonic action with 3D-printed 6mm figures.

Spirit Island is also a game I bought this year, mainly because my wife was interested. She also was the driving force behind playing it. I also like it, I think the theme and its implementation is great and it offers an interesting cooperative challenge.

Another recent newcomer is Undaunted: North Africa. I bought it just two weeks ago and we both like it very much, so this will see more plays next year.

The second scenario of Undaunted: North Africa.

At the beginnig of autumn, I was in a bit of a bad mood and behaved like a jerk, moaning that “no-one wants to play the games I want to play”. Keeping a statistic such as this is a useful tool to prove oneself wrong. It’s abundantely clear that I played a lot of games I like and that my friends are very indulgent – they even play-tested my not always exciting game ideas. And we had a lot of fun together, the highlights being the summer event racing game and my birthday game of Sharp Practice. So, sorry guys for being a jerk, I really enjoy all our games together and I hope that we will play many more!

My bad mood was partly a result of my working life, which was a mixed bag, with one huge exception: I started to teach at the Viennese University of Applied Arts at the department of Experimental Game Cultures. I started with a course on Innovations in Tabletop Gaming and I’m now running a course on game mechanics. This is hands down one of the best work experiences I’ve ever had – the students are curious, open and enthusiastic and the atmosphere at the department is incredibly welcoming. I really hope to be able to continue teaching there.

Modifying Malefiz in a game design session.

What is in store for 2023? I’m not really into making big plans, as I know that my interests can change at any moment. If pressed, I’d say that I’d like to publish something, either my ACW naval rules or the Star of Bravery campaign rules (perhaps even both). I’d also like to play a WW2 naval campaign set in the mediterranean, something that might get another motivational push when Sam Mustafa’s recently announced new naval rules come out. I also hope we’ll have another summer event – meeting a large number of good friends to have a day of gaming really is one of the highlights of my year. The Traveller campaign will also continue, at least until I run out of ideas, but then I’m sure someone else will take over as a GM. More Sharp Practice would be nice (I think I needed a bit of a break this year, but I start to miss it…). At the moment, I’m strangely enough again in the mood for some 6mm napoleonics, so I’ll try out Drums and Shakos Large Battles (and perhaps Bl├╝cher).

Oh, and I also want to post much more regularily on here, so I hope you will drop by occasionally. You might find a new post for a change!

It’s Been a While…

… since I last published something on here. I can’t say there’s a special reason, I just seemed to have lacked the mojo to write. But I really intend to reinvigorate the blog, especially now that I have left Twitter (you can find me on Mastodon, though, at tbrand@mastodon.wssmagazine.com).

I actually played a great variety of games this year. After my foray into 6mm napoleonics, which petered out because I couldn’t find rules I was happy with (this might have changed recently, though), I was bitten by the naval bug. I started printing, building and painting 1/600 ACW ships and developed my own rule-set, which according to playtesters is actually fun. I had quite a number of games with several people, the highlight being the Battle of Memphis when my mate Stephan visited from Sweden.

I also had the traditional birthday game, where I invited my mates Virago, Sigur and Martin for a large game of Sharp Practice. The scenario was based on the historical raid on Little Washington, N.C., in 1862. It was great fun and I finally had the opportunity to use the ship I built ages ago!

The big event and the real highlight, however, was our traditional summer gaming event. This time, our very own “Bernie Orclestone” Virago pulled all the stops and presented us with an assortment of fantastic bolides in the form of various 28mm chariots. Sigur also threw in his collection and we had a chaotic, wild and fun racing game! Sigur also wrote a great report on the Grand Prix of Monte Chaoso: https://www.tabletopstories.net/language/en/2022/07/the-grand-prix-of-monte-chaoso/

In autumn, Sigur invited me to for a game with his impressive 30 Years War collection. We played the Battle of Herbsthausen:

I also branched out with the naval stuff. First I painted fleets for the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 and started a campaign with K., then I became interested in the 20th and assembled fleets for the Spanish Civil War and for WW2.

So, a lot of very diverse projects, and it feels like this won’t change soon. At the moment, I have difficulties concentrating on one topic or period – Last week, I had a sudden urge to play ACW, so I invited Sigur for a game of Drums and Shakos Large Battles.

This is a napoleonic ruleset from the Ganesha Games stable which, with some modifications, works very well for the ACW. We both like it and it might be the answer to my search for rules to use with my 6mm napoleonic, so of course I got the urge to do something in this direction… At the same time, I want to continue with the naval stuff, as Virago is also very interested and has volunteered to paint 1/600 airplanes for a campaign set in the Mediterranean.

Of course I also played other games, but more on those in my end-of-the-year post. I really hope that I will be motivated to update the blog more often. Let’s keep fingers crossed!

I wish all of you Happy Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever you might celebrate! Enjoy the festivities!

Gettysburg Campaign Kriegsspiel

At the end of August, we began something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time: namely a large-ish Kriegsspiel covering the Gettysburg campaign. I based the map (but not the rules) on the board game Lee’s Invincibles and found six volunteers – some of them veterans of my past experiments with Kriegsspiel. I divded them into two teams, one playing the Confederates and one the Union. Each group had a C-in-C (Lee or Hooker – we started the game before he was replaced historically), one infantry commander and one cavalry commander. I had to take some liberties with the historical command structure, but the order of battle was correct.

I had two main things I wanted to game to reflect: First, the difficulties of communication. After thinking about it, I decided not to implement a game mechanism for restricting communication – the players within one team could communicate in whatever form they liked. However, there was a time limit set for each turn, which I hoped would put enough pressure on the players so as to make things a bit more interesting.

The second aspect I wanted the game to reflect was the difficulty of locating the enemy and the importance of a close collaboration between cavalry and infantry commanders. Each side had three cavalry units, and those were the only units that could “see” beyond the location they were occupying. Infantry had to feel their way forward by moving into another location blindly. They could, however, chose between the standing orders “attack” and “retreat” – if both had “retreat”, no combat would occur. If one had “retreat” and the other “attack”, there was a 50% chance that combat would occur (modified by the commanders’ skills).

I gave both sides victory conditions, but each commander also had personal aims which would give him glory points. Those, of course, were not necessarily in the interest of the greater strategic picture…

I’m not going to write a detailed narrative of the game, which moved along at a brisk pace and took seven weeks to complete. Lee chose a historical strategy by moving his army down the Shenandoah Valley, while the Union split their troops at first and sent a portion after the Confederates. Just like in history, rebels easily took Winchester, but then a snag developed on the country roads and some units became stuck. Meanwhile, the cavalry fought aggressively, with the Union troopers managing to occupy Snicker’s Gap, from where they had a good look at the Confederate army marching. Hooker set his army in motion northward, while two corps under Reynolds stayed on the Confederates’ heels in the valley, leading to a memorable rearguard action dubbed “Pickett’s Last Stand”. The Confederate cavaly managed to encircle Gregg at Snicker’s Gap and completely destroy his division. As the Confederate army cleared the valley, they split up to plunder Pennsylvania. However, the Union army had also arrived north of the Potomac and elements from both armies stumbled into each other at Frederick City. The Union won this engagement (I had a tactical mini-game for battles) and the Confederates concentrated their army in the area of Gettysburg. Some units advanced to Westminster, where they stumbled yet again into Union infantry. What started out as an encounter battle became the deciding fight as both sides hurried troops to the town. Two days of combat ended with a decisive Union victory. The Confederates had to retreat – the invasion of Pennsylvania had failed.

This narrative, however, does not convey the drama and excitment of the game. The players perfectly fell into their roles, communicating by addressing themselves as “Major Generals”, discussing strategy and sometimes even quarreling a bit. What I found very interesting is that sometimes, the subordinate commanders became quite focused on their area of operations, while the C-in-Cs tried to keep the larger strategic picture in mind. However, the teams worked together very well. Fortunately for Lee, Jeb Stuart didn’t take my bait, which would have sent him far away from the infantry to get some individual glory points.

The battle and campaign of Gettysburg has long been a major area of interest for me and playing a Kriegsspiel covering it was something of a wargaming dream. I’m extremely grateful to the players for making this dream come true in the best way possible! Honestly, this was one of my favorite gaming experiences ever.

A New Blog

I know I haven’t posted in a while, but I was kind of uninspired and then the whole COVID business started and suddenly other things occupied my mind. This also means I didn’t get much miniatures gaming in. I do, however, play a lot of D&D nowadays – using Discord, it’s easy to get together a group that is physically distant!

There is one thing I started, though: a new blog! As you all know, I have been fascinated by the American Civil War for a couple of years now. I have now decided to put all this together on a new blog. This will feature essays on historical topics (which feel kind of out of place at The Raft) as well as scenarios for wargames (mainly Sharp Practice).

So, please consider following Stauchendiciler!

Bildschirmfoto 2020-05-30 um 09.50.30

The first post is an essay speculating about the origin of the phrase “opening the ball”, which was used to describe the beginning of a battle.

And if you wonder about the name of the blog – the “About” page offers an explanation!

Stauchendiciler also has a Facebook page and I’d be happy if you’d consider following it!

And for those of you not interested in the American Civil War: Don’t worry, The Raft will continue. I will post about my hobby activities and all my science fiction and fantasy stuff here.