Tanksgiving 2015!

Every year I like to host a big event with prizes, beer, and plenty of food. This year I reached back to my FoW roots for inspiration … and TANKSGIVING 2015 was born. I wanted a quick-play, arcade-style game that maximized plastic, resin, and lead carnage. So, I sat down over the course of a few nights with my current favorite ruleset, Chain of Command, and cranked out something workable.

The rules modifications, quick reference sheets, and more that I used are downloadable below. They are free for anyone to use. I just ask that if you do use them, then send me a message and let me know how they worked for you or what modifications you made.

Rules Addendum

Tanksgiving Morale Chits

Chain of Command is a terrific game, but it is geared toward historical accuracy and infantry-based forces. Since I wanted a game that was neither accurate nor infantry-based, I needed to make some modifications. Here were my design principles:

  • Game must move quickly with minimum player downtime
  • Game must have simple mechanics; players should be able to play more or less solo within 3-5 phases
  • Game needed to be arcade-like with larger-than-life characters
  • Game needed to encourage offensive actions — There should be many burning hulks on the table and plenty more spare vehicles waiting in the motor pool as replacements
  • Game needed some random elements, just to make things interesting

Rules Modification Overview

Adjusting the Chain of Command mechanisms for Tanksgiving was pretty simple. We skipped the patrol phase. Instead, each player placed on jump-off point from which his tanks deployed. Since I planned for six players, each side being a team of three, I had each player place his JOP along his table edge within a 20151122_134518designated third of the table length. Tanks could come on anywhere along the table edge within 9″ of this JOP, moving on as though they had started the phase on the table edge. I wanted to ensure rapid arrival and entry into action.

Players had an activation pool of four dice with the usual rules applying except that rolls of “5” could either add a pip to any other die rolled or count toward a CoC die. If a player rolled a double 6, he could take a second phase but not the rest of his team.

Tanks were worth a number of points equal to their list value in the CoC rulebook, so a Panzer IV from list seven was worth seven points. Players started with 25 points and could purchase any tanks up to that value, though they were not allowed to have more than four tanks under their command at any point. Players were also allowed to purchase additional tanks at any time by spending points. Killing an enemy tank earned players points equal to the value of the KO’d tank.

I stole the morale system from Battlegroup for this game. Every player started with a Force Morale of 10. Every time players lost a tank they drew a morale chit from a cup. Most chits had a value between one and20151122_134453 three, though several had special events such as mine strikes, booze caches, mad minutes, and aerial attacks. For more on these random events, see the downloadable rules sheet below. When a player hit zero on force morale, he was out of the game. Play continued until all players on one side were eliminated.

Each player also had one Ace, which worked like a senior leader. Each Ace also had a unique ability such as +1 on his rolls to hit or free removal of one shock point per phase. I created cards for each Ace with some personality information too, but sadly the files seems to have vanished from my hard drive so I can’t share them. Every time an Ace scored a kill, the owning player marked it. Killing an enemy Ace also earned bonus points.

At the end of the game, every player rolled a die, the high roll earning the grand prize (a gift certificate to our local gaming store). Every player on the winning side got to add a second die to their roll, and the two highest scoring individual players also got to add a die.

Finally, the player controlling the Ace with the most kills also walked out with a prize–this one a six-pack of my favorite local beer.

Brief Report

So how did it all go? Life conspired against most of our players, so only three of us gathered for the game. We played it as a three-way free-for-all, each player taking a turn activating in a clockwise manner. We had a great time, though I know if would have been better with more players. (Unfortunately I forgot to take more pictures. Caught up in the heat of the moment, I suppose.)

The most entertaining part of our game came at the very end when only two players remained. The surviving Aces were locked in a shootout across fairly open terrain, one in a StuG and the other in a 20151122_165104Sherman with a 76mm gun. Crazy defense rolls and poor strike rolls kept both tanks in the fight over several phases, though each slowly accumulated engine damage and crew casualties. The StuG became immobilized, trapped in the open. Then, when the American player started his victory lap, he rolled his activation dice and guess what? Four sixes. Crazy. We rolled on the random events chart and came up with a rainstorm, which reduced visibility to 18″. The Sherman was 21″ from his prey, so moved slowly to get in range for the kill shot…and rolled a 2. I built up a CoC die on my phase and when the Sherman moved again on his, I took a snap shot and detonated the tank. Victory! (Sometimes being lucky is better than being good.

Overall, the rules worked really well. With only four dice and a maximum of four tanks per player, play flowed quickly. Everybody picked up the limited rules within a few phases and required little to no support. I need to think about modifying the way points are earned and spent, so if you have feedback I would appreciate hearing from you.

If you use the rules, enjoy! And Happy Tanksgiving!

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First American Civil War Confederate Regiment Complete

Quick post to show off some recently completed work. My brother is just getting into miniatures wargaming and wanted to go American Civil War for his first project. I have always had a gnawing feeling in the back of my wargamer’s mind that I ought to dive in to some horse and musket, especially ACW, so how could I refuse?

We are planning to use the Black Powder rules to get started, though I have us based appropriately to run Regimental Fire & Fury or Johnny Reb if we want later.

Figures are mounted on bases 1.25″x1″ from Litko. I put flexible steel bottoms on the bases so that I can store the figures in an art bin with a mag20151101_225321netic sheet bottom. I plan on using five bases, each with six figures in two ranks of three, per regiment. Large regiments will be seven bases, small will be three.

This regiment painted up super fast. All figures are from Blue Moon and they are wonderful! The figures are large, however. I would guess around 18mm, so I doubt they will mix well with any other manufacturer. Given the breadth of Blue Moon’s range, though, I don’t anticipate needing to mix anytime soon. Figures had very little flash and came in a wide variety of poses.

A refreshing aspect of painting Confederates is that you can paint them pretty much anyway you like and be assured of some reasonable historical accuracy. In this case, I went for a mixture of about two-thirds in traditional grey and the others in a mix of butternut and other tan colors. I wanted the unit to have some visual cohesion on the table, so I limited the variety and interspersed the oddballs on the bases.

I started with a basecoat of Army Painter Uniform Grey (fitting, huh?) and a quick highlight of GW Administratum Grey. GW Deathclaw Brown stood in for butternut. The shoes, knapsacks, and hats received a mixture of tans, browns, and leather tones. Canteens are either khaki, brown, or GW Fenrisian Grey. A nice coat of Army Painter Stro20151101_225346ng Tone tied it all together. Because I was going for speed, I omitted highlights at this point and just finished the models with a matt spray.

Overall, I am very happy with my first foray into ACW! The models were wonderful and the painting was quick. The final result is a regiment ready for tabletop combat.

So, if you are an ACW gamer, sound off! How do you paint your Confederates? Think I can mix more colors in to future units without them looking like a circus?

Chain of Command Battle Report – US Infantry vs. German Panzergrenadiers

Battle report! This past weekend my brother came down for a game. I had intended to break out a new board game but life conspired to limit my preparation time the week prior. So, instead of muddling through a new game we settled for something we both know—Chain of Command! This system is one of my favorites, as regular readers will probably note.

My purpose in this game was simply to put a lot of toys on the table—terrain, soldiers, and AFVs. I especially wanted to give rarely-used kit some exercise. We set the game somewhere in Normandy. Two wary patrols with armor support nearby ran into one another at the ubiquitous crossroads village. We used the Patrol (#1) scenario.

20151025_134843

The village from the German (north) table edge

US forces included a standard infantry platoon with a medic and extra bazooka team. In support was a platoon of three M18 TDs, an M20 scout car, and a lone (senior leader) M4 Sherman (75mm).

German forces consisted of a standard panzergrenadier platoon with an attached sniper. Armor support was a motley collection: a Panther (senior leader), two Pz IVs, and a Marder IIIM.

My ulterior motive in this game was to test some “Big CoC Lite” rules for a Tanksgiving Day game I am planning for November. I gave each infantry platoon the standard five command dice with no modifications to the normal rules. Each armor “platoon” had a pool of three command dice rolled simultaneously with the infantry platoon’s standard dice pool. The extra armor dice could only be used for the AFVs and the infantry pool dice could only be used for the standard platoon and scenario attachments. Rolls of a “5” in the armor dice pool could either increase the CoC die count (as per usual) or bump up the roll of any other dice in the armor dice pool by one pip (so one could use a “5” to make a “2” into a “3” – Useful because the AFVs only activated on 3’s and 4’s). The system work decently, but I will make some adjustments before Tanksgiving, which I will address at the end of this post.

The idea, by the way, came from the outstanding blog Gaming with the Silver Whistle. If you want to ogle some miniatures wargaming masterwork (or wallow in feelings of inadequacy), then you can check his website out here: http://wargamingwithsilverwhistle.blogspot.com

The specific post that inspired my rules experimentation is here: http://wargamingwithsilverwhistle.blogspot.com/2015/07/an-armoured-engagement-chain-of-command.html

Patrol Phase

The Patrol scenario permits players to choose between three and four patrol markers, then requires players to roll a dice to see which third of their long table edge the patrol markers come in on. Both of us opted for three markers and we ended up in opposite corners (NE and SW as designated on the table). Each of us rolled up an 11 for morale so we conducted another roll-off to see who went first, which I won.

German end designated as

German end designated as “north”

I wanted to get to the church in the middle for no particularly good reason, just because it looked cool and offered a dominant position in the middle of the field. My first moves were in that direction. I made it just beyond the church before my opponent locked me down. I worked the rest of my markers around the south end of the board going east. By the end of the phase we were pretty well lined up to fight down the length of the table, my opponent ensconced on main street while I wandered in the southern fields.

At this point I have to confess that I lacked a good, comprehensive plan. In CoC, that is usually deadly. Just a word of warning.20151025_153427

However, knowing that my opponent is usually an extremely cautious and conservative player, I thought maybe I could get a jump on him and grab his eastern-most JOP. My JOP south of the little orchard gave me a fantastic covered avenue of approach across an isolated part of the battlefield. Perfect! Now I just needed to execute…

Game Progress

…and that’s where things fell apart.

I began with an attempt to capture the German JOP on my right. A squad deployed and moved through the orchard. Halfway through—BANG!—a mid-field German sniper in a second story window winged the squad’s junior leader, dropping him with a wound. My medic rushed forward and patched him up under ineffective sniper fire and the squad pressed forward. Then, instead of waiting to establish covering fire, bring up some armor, or even secure a double-phase, I pushed the rifle team ahead toward the building. I got what was coming to me. A German LMG team leapt out of the house in a CoC-die ambush, killing three riflemen. Before I could react, the rest of the German squad appeared and close assaulted by rifle team survivors. The Americans died to a man but took four Germans with them. -2 US morale.

That about sums up my feelings...

That about sums up my feelings…

Meanwhile, in the center of the table, I brought an M20 scout car on to overwatch the suspected sniper position. Problem was I totally forgot about the PzIV sitting at the other end of the road on which the M20 positioned itself. The crew must have been quite shocked too, at least for a split-second after realizing their mistake. A single round from the panzer detonated the M20. -1 US morale.

Things started to go my way at this point. I brought an M18 on in the center of the southern table edge. The TD crept up a hedgerow, ready to pounce on the PzIV. The German tank didn’t want to get in a gun duel but did want to reinforce the isolated, now-short squad holed up on the JOP on my right, so it crashed through the hedgerow to get in position. At least, it tried to crash through the hedgerow. Doubles on the dice bogged the tank. I then gained a double phase and plenty of time to peak my M18 out for a sideshot on the bogged panzer. Good for a kill! -1 German morale.

Curious about the happenings, a second PzIV rolled on to the board just behind his destroyed counterpart. I played a CoC-die to interrupt. The M18 put a round right through the oncoming PzIV, killing the driver and inflicting two shock. The PzIV then returned fire. The M18 crew, working furiously to chamber a new round, breathed a sigh of relief as the round whizzed by. In the subsequent phase, the M18 put another round into the PzIV, this time wounding the commander and inflicting two more shock. The panzer crew had had enough and bailed out. -2 German morale.

M18s took up position in the lower right. PzIVs turned the upper right into a smoking tank graveyard.

M18s took up position in the lower right. PzIVs turned the upper right into a smoking tank graveyard.

The rest of the game mostly consisted of ineffectual maneuvering. I had worked a second M18 up on the left and put it in a dominant position overwatching the east-west road on my opponent’s side of the board. This severely limited his freedom of maneuver. Instead of continuing my attack on the right, however, I tried to move the US platoon’s two remaining squads up on the left. Honestly, I didn’t have a solid plan so they moved slowly and achieved little.

Maybe they would have had better luck hiding in the grass than on that odd platform?

Maybe they would have had better luck hiding in the grass than on that odd platform?

One last burst of excitement punctuated the final moments of our game. I had moved my third and final M18 up on my right around the orchard, intending to blast the short German squad off their JOP. As I did so, the Germans dropped a panzershrek team in the open just over 6” from my TD. Before the TD could react, the panzershrek team fired and hit. My three dice of armor didn’t afford much protection from the panzershrek’s thirteen dice. Miraculously, though, the Germans achieved only two net hits resulting in two shock and the death of the hull MG gunner (nonexistent anyway). The M18 crewman standing on the back deck to man the .50 caliber MG (he had been preparing to spray the JOP building) swung his weapon forward and obliterated the stunned panzershrek team before they could withdraw at the end of the phase.

Conclusion

Dinner called so we decided to end the game, tied on morale. Later I realized that my opponent could have played a CoC die to end the turn and rout my broken BAR team on the right, which may have dropped my morale a point or two. But, it didn’t happen, so we settled for a draw.

I really struggled this game to put together a coherent, focused attack. Chain of Command punishes players in a rush to get killed, and that’s exactly what I did. Rather than taking my time to set up, I rushed in early and lost a squad as a result. I should have more carefully prepared by attack by isolating the building, putting some armor on overwatch, and approaching the enemy JOP under covering fire. Also, instead of dithering around on the left, I should have committed to finishing my attack on the right. Concentration!

The split dice pool worked ok. The tanks didn’t end up activating often, strangely. This might have represented a tanker’s hesitance in close terrain fine, but gamers might get a bit frustrated with it at Tanksgiving. I think I may expand each player’s dice pool to four, retain the option to modify a die roll by a pip with a “5”, and give players double phases on double “6’s”.20151025_145545