First Game of What a Tanker!

Last Friday, I could persuade Sigur and Stephan to set up a game of the new Lardies extravangaza, What a Tanker!, at the local club. They had both played the game a couple of days before, but unfortunately I didn’t have time then, so I was very grateful that they indulged me and played again.

We set up a desert table with rather eclectic terrain. It looked like the set for a cheap 60s B-movie, but that fits rather well with the aesthetics of the rulebook. Incidentally, the cover is a work of art. It’s fun and irreverent and pours scorn on the Nazi kitsch that pervades some WW2 games.

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We played with Sigur’s 15mm tanks and as he only had British and Italian, Stephan and I took an Italian tank each and Sigur got two British ones. I can’t remember which – I’m lucky if I can tell a tank apart from a bicycle.

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The game is easy to understand – it’s the simplest Lardies game I’ve ever played – and flows along at a nice pace. The dice activation mechanics is great, there is friction but as long as your vehicle is undamaged you have a lot of dice, so the chances are good you can do stuff. While I fumbled around a bit, Stephan proved to be an old tanker and smashed the British vehicles. In the end, I think I got the hang of it and could contribute to the Italian victory.

I really like the game. Playing it felt strangely relaxing. Perhaps that’s because I’m not really invested in the period or the vehicles (in contrast, after a game of Sharp Practice, I usually feel pretty exhausted). Perhaps it was because we played with early war tanks – I’ve heard that late war fights are faster and much more dangerous. One thing that certain contributed to my mellow mood was playing with two congenial chums. What a Tanker! works really well as a multi-player game, the turns being fast enough to keep downtime short but still long enough to have fun watching the others manoeuvre and shoot.

I don’t see myself buying tanks, but Sigur and Virago and the others have enough anyway, and I’d certainly be happy to play it again. It’s a great little game for a fun evening with mates.

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TooFatLardies Games Day in Vienna

It’s no secret that TooFatLardies are my favourite rules publisher. Fortunately, there are a couple of like-minded individuals around. Last Friday, a bunch of us got together to play and present TFL games. The idea was to showcase the rules and induce people who have never before played a Lardy game to give it a try.

We had four games prepared: Dux Britanniarum, Sharp Practice 2, Kiss me Hardy! and Chain of Command.

As we’ve written a short report for Lard Island News (which will be published shortly), I’m not going to repeat myself but refer the reader to this blog. Sigur has also written a very fine report on the Battle Brush Studios blog – head over there for more information!

I just want to thank everyone involved: Those who prepared and presented games, those who played and those who watched and contributed to the friendly and welcoming atmosphere. I’m especially happy that I had the opportunity to meet up with old friends and make new ones.

Certainly an event to be repeated!

Here are some impressions from the games:

Sharp Practice (hosted by me)

Dux Britanniarum (hosted by Sigur and Virago)

Kiss me Hardy! (hosted by Annatar)

Chain of Command (hosted by Sigur and Shlominus, with a scenario by Slowik)

Clearing out the Rebels – Sharp Practice AAR

At the moment, I’m playtesting a series of scenarios for Sharp Practice. My intent is to have them eventually published in some shape or form, but before this can happen, they have to be researched, written up and playtested. All of them depict historical actions of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, one of the first African-American regiments of the American Civil War.

The objective of this scenario was for the Union to clear out the Rebel pickets and burn huts so as to establish a defensive perimeter. K. played the Union, while I took the Confederates.

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The first two Union groups deployed in line at the center, no doubt intent on heading straight for the central building, which also served as the Confederate secondary deployment point. K. also sent a group of skirmishers to her far left flank. To counter the thread in the middle, I deployed two groups in line behind the fence so as to defend the house. Two other groups marched along the road at my left flank.

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I also sent both of my skirmishers to protect my right flank, where K.’s guys were running towards the house with spirits & tinder box. They managed to check the Union advance. However, K. then deployed her regimental chaplain, who rallied all the shock, bringing the skirmishers back into the game.

However, an even more dramatic turn happened on the other flank. K.’s second group of skirmishers worked their way around the flank of my second line of infantry, which was taking up position to blaze away at the Union center. I had to detach one group to chase away the pesky guys. At first, they duly fell back.

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However, before my guys could react, they turned around and charged them! The Rebels, who had unloaded muskets at the time, were pretty surprised – which must have been the reason for the disastrous result of the melee: The group lost by a margin of 4, fell back and broke, taking the Rebel commander with them.

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The lone Confederate group on the road was now in a bad spot. I made my biggest mistake by deciding to get them behind the fence in the center, were they could join the other Rebel leader. However, I somehow overlooked that to do this, they would cross the line of fire of a Union formation which had not yet fired a shot. A controlled volley later, and those Confederates were also running.

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The Union skirmishers were now free to advance towards the leftmost building and set it ablaze.

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There was still an intense firefight – with lots of smoke! – going on on my right flank, but K. was starting to divert one of her center groups to this action and my Force Morale was at 2 while hers was at 8, so I conceded.

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A very enjoyable game with some unexpected turns! This was actually the second version of the scenario. The first proved to be far too hard for the Union, but this was quite balanced. It’s never easy as the attacker in Sharp Practice, especially if there are objectives to be fulfilled. But we both agreed that the scenario offered plenty of options how to attack and how to set up a defense.

Wall’s Bridge – Sharp Practice AAR

This scenario is based on a historical skirmish which took place on May 1 1863 during Grierson’s raid through Mississippi.

The historical situation

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Grierson’s troopers around Baton Rouge near the end of the raid.

Since April 17, Union cavalry under Col. Benjamin Grierson had been moving through Tennessee and Mississippi, destroying railroads, burning Confederate stores and freeing slaves. The Confederates had dispatched several detachments to hunt down the raiders. Around noon on May 1, the Ninth Louisiana Partisan Rangers (Major J. de Baun), while on their way to intercept Grierson’s men, halted at Wall’s Bridge. As always, Grierson had sent his scouts ahead, which were nicknamed ‘Butternut Guerillas’ because they wore Confederate uniform. When some of the scouts confronted a Confederate officer, carelessness led to a shot being fired. This alarmed the Rangers, who took position to ambush the Union troopers.

Seeing his scouts bring in Confederate prisoners, Lt.-Col. Blackburn, who was in charge of the Butternut Guerillas, galloped towards the bridge, shouting to his men to come along. When they reached the bridge, a volley was fired. Blackburn and Sgt. Surby were hit while their men scrambled for cover. Pinned in the underbrush of the river embankment, they hoped that reinforcements would arrive soon.

The game

The scenario started with a leaderless group of Butternut Guerillas (Union cavalry) positioned in cover at the river bank. A group of Confederate skirmishers were in the woods opposite the road. For the first two turns, only Leader 2 (with two units of cavalry) and two blue flag cards were in the deck for the Union side. The rest of the Union cards would be added at the beginning of the third turn.

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K., wo played the Confederates, immediately deployed her infantry to block the road while her cavalry moved around the woods on her left flank, evidently trying to outflank me. I deployed two groups of cavalry on foot and had them take position at the river bank to the right of the bridge. The skirmishers sniped at my pinned scouts, but all the shooting caused a pall of smoke to hang before them (firing random event). I reckoned that this was my chance to get the Butternut Guerillas out of their predicament and rushed them back towards the other side of the river. Despite being shot at by a group of Rebel infantry marching along the road, they made it safely into cover.

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Meanwhile, the Rebel cavalry had advanced to the river and was preparing to ford it. They were quite a spectacular sight and for a moment caused some unease in the Union ranks. However, when they came under fire from my dismounted troopers, a lucky bullet hit the Confederate leader, killing him instantly. Milling about leaderless at the embankment, the riders were no immediate danger for my right flank.

So, when the rest of my cavalry finally arrived, I decided to send them on a charge across the bridge. K. had deployed her infantry in single groups, so I hoped to drive them back without taking too many losses.

Regrettably, it didn’t work out as planned. The Rebs stood up against the charge and gave my horsemen a good licking. Broken, they retreated in panic. Fortunately, my Leader was able to rally them and prevent them from fleeing off the field.

Rallying

Evidently, a more methodical approach would be advisable, so I dismounted my other group and had them take position to the left of the bridge. K. had meanwhile formed a line and for a while, Confederate and Union troops exchanged fire.

On my right flank, the withering fire from my repeating rifles had driven back one group of Confederate cavalry. The other group had dismounted and managed to wade through the river, intent on falling upon me with pistols and shotguns blazing.

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They were, however, driven off by the concentrated fire of my dismounted troopers.

The situation was looking bad for the Confederates and it got even worse when I finally deployed my Woodruff gun.

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I know it’s the wrong gun, but I couldn’t find my other model…

After two shots from this light piece of artillery, the Rebel commander decided he’d had enough and retreated – with her Force Morale at 3 against mine at 7, K. conceded.

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Analysis

This was a bit of a mixed affair. We both hadn’t played Sharp Practice for a while and felt a bit rusty rules-wise, which interrupted the flow. Also, K. was really unlucky: her shooting was dismal and losing her cavalry leader early in the game completely stalled her counter-attack and allowed me to make my foolhardy charge without any real negative consequences. There was also a slight balance issue, as I’ve underestimated the Union cavalry’s repeating rifles – being able to deliver the double volume of fire makes them formidable enemies!

Historically, what happened was that the first group of Union reinforcements to arrive also rashly charged across the bridge, only to be repulsed by Confederate volleys. When Grierson finally arrived at the scene, he had his men dismount and advance on both sides of the bridge. They formed a skirmish line along the river bank while Cpt. Smith brought forward the Woodruff guns. When the skirmishers and the guns opened fire, the Rebel shooting started to wane. Grierson now advanced his mounted troopers, two groups fording the river on the flanks and one charging across the bridge. The Confederates broke and retreated.

In the afternoon of the same day, Grierson’s men had another close brush at Williams’ Bridge before they could cross into Union territory. They had covered over 600 miles in less than sixteen days, capturing and paroling over 500 prisoners, destroying around 50 miles of railroad and telegraphs as well as immense amounts of army stores and capturing 1000 horses and mules. Most importantly, they had created a diversion which enabled General Grant to safely land his troops below Vicksburg, leading to his taking of the city.