Friday, November 30, 2018

Fix Bayonets 2018, What A Tanker Game Report

The second game I played during Fix Bayonets 2018 was What A Tanker, run by Damond and assisted by David.

What A Tanker, produced by Too Fat Lardies, is a tank vs. tank skirmish game.

Each player controls one tank, although running more is possible, through the use of a "dashboard."

(Image from:  Skirmish Wargaming's game review)
This is used to determine the status and possible actions your tank.  After determining the initiative order, each player will roll up to six 6-sided dice (d6) and put them in the Command Dice box when it's his turn.  (When your tank takes damage, you will roll less than  6d6, depending on the severity).  The results are:  1-Move, 2-Acquire, 3-Aim, 4-Fire, 5-Reload, and 6-Wild Dice.  The Wild Dice can be used for any other action, or saved for next turn.

Damond put together a Breakout from Normandy scenario.  The American players needed to advance across the river, while the German players needed to defend.

The American force consisted of a few M4 Sherman tanks, and a M36 tank destroyer.

The Set Up

Setting up the scenario and going over the rules.

The four German players.
Two of the American players and the Gamemaster (GM).

The Battle

Tiger tank advances up to the bocage on the north flank.

Two Panzer IVs maneuver around a farmhouse. 

Sturmgeschutz III ("Stug III") advances up to the bocage on the south flank.

An M4E8 ("Easy 8") advances up the road and comes under fire from the Tiger.

The Panzer IVs guard the river crossing.

My M36 advances up to the bocage on the southern flank.

My M36 and the Stug III exchange shots.

The StugIII is hard to hit, but is destroyed by my M36.

Another Sherman tank advances over the bocage but is caught in the open.

Another Stug III arrives to reinforce the Germans.

My M36 takes a long range shot at the newcomer, but to no avail.
Another Sherman tank arrives in the American center.

One Panzer IV takes up a position on the south side of the farmhouse...

...while it's companion continues to guard the bridge.

While on the west side of the river, the Tiger tank moves to another position behind bocage.
The newly arrived Stug III takes out my M36!

One of the Panzer IVs backs up behind the barn.

The Tiger and the Easy 8 begin their cat & mouse game around the woods. 

The Tiger advances.
The Easy 8 advances, just far enough to take several shots at the Tiger.

Both tanks are struck several times.  The Tiger suffered minimal damage, but the Easy 8 became hard-pressed.

One of the Panzer IVs advances around the farmhouse and attempts to take some potshots at some Sherman tanks.

Another M36 arrives to reinforce the American's stalled advance.
One Sherman takes a shot at the newly arrived Stug III

The Stug III returns fire.
My newly arrived M36 provides supporting fire against the Stug III.
The Panzer IV moves to the front of the farmhouse looking for targets.
The Tiger doubles-back towards the woods on the north flank.

The Easy 8 and Tiger at a final stand-off.


This was an enjoyable, yet challenging scenario.

This was my first time playing the game.  The only problem I, and us newbies had was understanding the results of the command dice die rolls.   A quick reference chart could alleviate this problem.

Otherwise, What A Tanker is fun, easy and quick to play, that requires less resources than "more serious" games.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Stern Rake Studio--10th Anniversary

I originally started this blog 10 years ago today as therapy while I recovered and convalesced from hernia repair surgery.

Since then, I've branched off into making YouTube movies and concocting webcomics, like The Chronicles of Culhwch y Drewllyd, derived from the games I've played.

It's been a rewarding "journey" and I hope to continue this internet "voyage" for another 10 years--hopefully even longer.

Thank you for your readership and support.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Decision Games Modern Battles: Golan--The Syrian Offensive

Just over 45 years ago, the Yom Kippur War broke out.

I was in junior high at the time and was already reading about the tank battles of North Africa during World War II.  So in addition to reading history, the October War sparked my interest into keeping up with world affairs.  This of course all led to wargaming.

Fast forward to the early part of this year:  My friend Joe and I managed to get-together and play a few turns of Golan: The Last Syrian Offensive.  (Although my copy, printed in 2010, is titled--Golan: The Syrian Offensive).

This is one in Decision GamesFolio Series.

Within Golan's folio is a map (12" x 22"), one 8-page Folio Standard Rule Book, one 4-page Exclusive Rule Book, and 100 die-cut counters.

Golan is a two-player game representing the initial Syrian attack during the Yom Kippur War to be played within 1-2 hours.  The Complexity Rating is considered low, but has a high solitaire suitability.  Unit counters represent battalion, regiment or brigade forces while each hex on the map represents 2 kilometers (1.25 miles).

The After Action Review of the Initial Phases of the Syrian Offensive

Four Syrian Divisions, the 3rd, 7th, and 9th Mechanized, along with the 1st Armored Division, mass in assembly areas just beyond the DMZ.  

Meanwhile, elements of the Israeli 11th and 19th Mechanized Brigades occupy outposts along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) centered around the towns of Ahmediye and Boutmiya.

On 6 October 1973, the Syrian 7th and 9th Mechanized Divisions pour across the DMZ border near Ahmediye, and engage two Israeli battalions (one from the 11th and 19th Brigade), who are supported by the 71st Tank Battalion.

While near Boutmiya, elements of the Syrian 3rd Division engage the three Israeli battalions picketed there (two from the 11th and one from the 19th Brigade).

Both sides quickly call for fire support.  In the opening engagement, 10 kilometers (kms) west of Ahmediye, the Syrian 7th Infantry Brigade and the Israeli 71st Tank Battalion sustain heavy casualties.

As the battle around Ahmediye rages, the Israeli 21st Mechanized Infantry Battalion and the Syrian 5th Infantry Brigade inflict heavy casualties on each other.  Fire support continues for both sides.

As the Syrian forces to the west of Ahmediye regroup to renew their advance, the focus shifts on dislodging the Israeli 10th Mechanized Infantry Battalion hunkered-down in the village itself.  The Syrians call-in heavy artillery and rocket batteries, while two flights of Israeli F-4 Phantoms attempt to provide close air support for the beleaguered defenders. 

Unfortunately, the Israeli aircraft draw attention from three Syrian SA-2 batteries.

The volley of Surface-to-air missiles surprise the Israeli pilots and two F-4s are shot down.

Despite the loss of vital aircraft, the Israeli defense inflicts heavy casualties on the Syrian 8th Brigade/9th Infantry Division.

Meanwhile, back near Boutmiya, the Syrian 3rd Mechanized Infantry Division attempts to envelope the Israelis by attacking the 12th Battalion/11th Armored Brigade northwest of Jukhadar.  Both sided call-in artillery support.

The Syrians press-home their attack, and the Israelis call-in another artillery fire-mission.

The intense artillery fire forces the 2nd Brigade/3rd Mechanized Infantry to fall back.

Despite the Syrians' set-back at Jukhadar, they continue their attack on the Israeli positions around Boutmiya.  The Syrian attack is supported by two batteries of heavy artillery, while the Israeli defense is supported by two flights of F-4s.

The F-4s brave three salvos of SAM fire and engage ground targets.

Despite the intensity of the surface-to-air fire, this time all of the missiles missed.  The Israeli air strikes and ground defense forces the Syrian 10th Mechanized Infantry Brigade to fall back and inflicts heavy casualties on the Syrian 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade.

Syrian reinforcements approach the DMZ border on the weak Israeli western flank.

Israeli artillery fire attempts to neutralize a Syrian SA-6 battery.

Both sides pour-in massive fire support for the battle still raging around the fort at Ahmediye.

Masada is captured by the Syrian 11th Armored Brigade/7th Mechanized Division, as the entire Syrian 1st Armored Division crosses the DMZ, while the Syrian 1st Paratroop Brigade captures another Israeli hilltop fort.

The Israeli 71st Armored Battalion is wiped out, leaving the 21st Mechanized Battalion to hold the collapsing western flank.

The last stand of the Israeli 21st Mechanized Battalion is short-lived, despite a fire-mission from heavy artillery, and an airstrike which is shot down by a salvo of SAMs. 

Israeli reinforcements finally arrive and occupy key secondary positions...

...but will it be enough to stem The Syrian Offensive

Concluding Notes 

Joe and I didn't have enough time to run through the entire game and only played a few turns.

As the Israeli player, I committed two major mistakes.  

The first was leaving my six battalions strung-out in forward positions along the DMZ.  I should have retreated, or attempted to break contact with the Syrian forces right from the get-go, trading space for time.

The second error I committed was under estimating the effectiveness of the Syrian SAM umbrella.  The fact that historically, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) made the same mistake provided me with little comfort.  In game terms, a SAM battery isn't all that effective in-and of itself, needing a "6" on a six-sided die (1d6) to hit.  But each IAF flight ended up being targeted by several SAM batteries simultaneously, which greatly improved Joe's odds of rolling a 6.

I lost half my aircraft within these first few turns.  If I lost one more flight of aircraft, it would have degraded my ability to win if we played the entire game.

And while we're on the subject of supporting firepower:  Howitzers, rocket launchers, mortars and air strikes are represented in an abstract manner.  That is, there are no actual artillery batteries to move around on the map.

Joe didn't particularly care for this mechanic, because he had played an earlier version of this game that utilized specific artillery units.  (Unfortunately, I can't seem to find any links to this on-line).  

I thought it was a bit too abstract myself.

However, despite the need to get use to a healthy dose of abstraction, Golan:  The (Last) Syrian Offensive is an inexpensive and quick way to spend time wargaming a modern military campaign.