Monday, May 27, 2013

Enfilade! 2013

I arrived home from Olympia yesterday afternoon and crashed (after feeding the demanding cats, of course). Another Enfilade! has come and gone and I'm in recovery.

I took the week off, as I have done many times in the past. The goal of the week is spring cleaning around the house (not much accomplished there) and prep for Enfilade (again...). I always have more ambition than my efforts can support.

This year I originally planned to run just two games of my Row Well and Live! rules. I got another six heptiremes from Xyston last fall and planned on adding them to a game featuring a lot of big Hellenistic super-ships. Alas, by Wednesday night I had managed to clean and partially assemble the models and gave up all expectation of getting them done in time. I decided I would just use the ships I have already (about 20) and build the big ships later.

The urgent pre-convention calls from the events coordinator for MORE GAMES led me to plan on running a Silent Death game on Friday afternoon. However, I had no Silent Death ships painted. I ordered some from Metal Express, which took a very long time to arrive. Most of the last week was spent painting Silent Death ships and wee torpedo models for the game. In fact, I was still painting torpedoes at 3:30 AM on the first day of the convention.

I also wound up getting psyched to participate in a Bolt Action tournament that would be held at the convention on Sunday. I planned to run a 1000 point force of late-war US Marines. This was coincidental to the fact that I have been painting Marines for our regular gaming, so I had a good head start, but I still needed a few more units for the tournament force I would run. I spent a lot of effort getting things completed for our last Bolt Action game—time I might have spent painting heptiremes or Silent Death ships. As it turned out, I bailed from the tournament a week before the convention so that relieved me of having to paint more Marines before the convention.

Day 1

As I mentioned above, the first day of the convention started at 3:30 AM when I got up to feed the cats and continue working on my Silent Death ships that I needed for the game I would run 11 hours later. I had gone to bed earlier that same morning (12:30 AM). Thanks to the miracle of coffee, I was pretty well primed. I also had some house cleaning to complete so my cat-sitter wouldn't think I was completely feral (my week-off-from-work goal of deep-cleaning the house having gone by the wayside).

I finally left the house by 10:00 and headed first to Kinko's to get a couple copies of my Row Well and Live! rules printed and spiral bound. After getting more coffee from the espresso stand outside Kinko's, I was off to Olympia. It's about a 90 minute drive from Lynnwood if the traffic is good. Just south of Fort Lewis (a.k.a. Joint Base Lewis McChord), I had to pull off the road to keep from falling asleep at the wheel, an inauspicious event in light of the fact that I had two games to run before going to bed that night.

Silent Death

Silent Death was the first game I ran from 2:00 to 6:00 PM. I had a full contingent with a handful of nostalgic former SD players. I hadn't played in years, but everything went well and I had a chance to run my favorite (mostly mediocre) ship, the Epping.

The good ship Epping, scourge of the outer void
Our side took crippling losses right off the bat. I was off to the side with Dale Mickel's two Hammers mixing it up with Mark Serafin's two Sorenson IVs. We eventually took care of Mark, but our ships on the other end were facing a Betafortress and a couple Nighthawks, nasty ships—especially against little fighters like Blizzards.

Torpedoes about to rendezvous with Mark's Sorenson
By the fourth or fifth turn, It was just Dale and me left to face the little-damaged victorious enemy. I decided on a death ride through the mass of them. Fired at by blattguns, plaz cannons, torpedoes, and all kinds of what-not, I managed to avoid sure destruction for two more turns while dealing out misery to my tormentors. The Epping is a spacefaring missile battery and I put the hurt on the two Nighthawks.

The death ride begins with much nastiness ahead
Nevetherless, they got me in the end. I was one hex from exiting the board when I blew up. Dale lost one of his Hammers, but got the other one off the board. The sole survivor, like Jason McCord in the TV show Branded. ("All but one man died...There at Bitter Creek...and they say he ran away...")

Row Well and Live!

Game two started at 7:00 and ran until 11:00. By this time I was nearly incoherent—more so than normally. I had eight players and 13 ships in the game.

Into the narrow waters...
The squadrons mix it up
Being in a sleep-deprived state, I recall very little of the game except that Henry Thompson, with two little hemiolas, took on the world and managed to survive, although he caught fire a time or two.

Something's burning...
There was one fateful ramming attack, which was fortunate because I didn't manage to finish painting the other nine ship wrecks that I have.

Fire and Flotsam
Gamers are a curious species. They always do what you least expect and the result of the game left me needing to rethink some aspects of my rules. Overall, the game went well and I think the players had a good time.

By 11:30 I was in a nice king bed with a pillow-top mattress. I have never slept better in my life.

Day 2

Day two started at 7:00 AM. When I first awoke, I moved cautiously in the the bed so as not to disturb the cats lying all around me—but then I realized where I was. Cat wariness is a hard thing to just abandon.

My only scheduled event was another Row Well and Live! game at 7:00 PM, so I had the bulk of the day to wander, talk, shop, and have lunch with Phil Bardsley and Kevin Smyth in the hotel restaurant.

There were several interesting games. Chris Leach from White Rock B.C. put on an impressive Zulu game using his soon to be released rules Battles for Empire II. Tom Condon, who played in my Row Well and Live! game the night before was running an ancient naval game using his own Galleys & Glory rules. There was also an impressive game of the battle for Crete using Bolt Action rules.

Dave Schueler ran an event using his War of 1812 adaptation of the Sail & Steam Navies ACW naval rules. In the 2:00 period, he and Kevin Smyth ran their Sink the Tirpitz game, which resulted in a win for the Fleet Air Arm.


There are things I usually only buy at Enfilade. My initial shopping netted me a Company B T-35 and LVT(A)1 Alligator. I also got a Type 94 tankette a bit later. That's a lot of tanks to paint.

I had a bit of serendipity in the much overloaded bring & buy. I found a bag of 28mm Crusader Miniatures WW2 Russians, all cleaned and mounted on Canadian nickels. The cost was roughly half price—not including the $1.83 rebate from the nickels (after conversion). I've been planning on painting Russians for Bolt Action, so this is a nice kick-start to the project. I already have some Crusader Russians and this extends it to a full platoon.

Wizard Kraft was there with some new dry riverbed pieces. I picked up a few of those to use with the river sets I bought years ago as well as some new swamp pieces. Wizard Kraft keeps getting better and offering new, interesting stuff.

I also picked up some resin terrain from Monday Knight Productions. MKP casts some Company B terrain products and I got five Japanese earth bunkers that will look very nice when they're painted and flocked. MKP also had some very nice bridges that were designed and mastered by Sven Lugar. I saw his painted versions in the Saga tournament he was running. He pointed me to MKP and I got two of them. They're a nice rustic foot bridge suitable for Dark Ages to WW2 (and beyond), although I shan't try to drive a T-35 over one.

Row Well and Live Game 2

The second RWAL game had fewer people so I was able to run a few ships (ingloriously) myself. This game saw some intense bow-to-bow ramming, which of course provided more thoughts about rules changes. The bows-on ram left both ships taking on a lot of water, but also going at each other like the Kilkenny cats. I must admit that it's a glitch in the rules that one player, whose ship was sinking, nevertheless attempted to keep ramming. He ultimately boarded the bigger ship and captured it, even though it, too, was bound for Davey Jones'. There will be changes...

Product of Scotland

The day ended (and actually the new one began) imbibing scotch in Gary Pomeryq's room (the "q" is silent). This is a new tradition that conflicts with the old tradition of drinking beer with the Canadians. We were all Americans in the scotch crowd except for one Canadian defector (Doug Hamm). I was well oiled by the time I went to bed at 3:00 AM.

Day 3

With nothing scheduled for Day 3, I got up around 7:00 feeling very cotton mouthed, showered and went to breakfast, where I met Doug Hamm. We chatted about my galley rules (he played the role of Henry Thompson in game 2) and I ran by some of my ideas. After breakfast I roamed the convention floor a while and then packed up my belongings and checked out of the hotel. After a little while more, I said my good byes and headed home at 11:00 AM.

The trip home was a little like the trip down. I was very sleepy at the midway point, but kept at it. I reached home without falling asleep and would have crashed immediately if the cats hadn't beset me on arrival wanting to be fed.

Home Fires

While I was at Enfilade! Phil Bardsley's wife Karen took care of my cats. Grendel was predictably pushy, Maebh was surprisingly friendly, and Rhiannon was sure that evil had come to town. She hid under the bed (her safe haven from whatever befalls) when Karen came in and had to be fed up there since she wouldn't come out even for food.

Is it safe to eat?
After feeding the cats when I came home, I sat down and leaned back in my recliner; I awoke some time later under a pile of cats, who were no doubt happy to have their warm-blooded furniture back where he belonged.

It was a good Enfilade! I wish I'd rested more beforehand and wish even more that I'd arranged to take the next four days off as well. Maybe I could deep clean the house like I'd intended.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Bolt Action: Gung Ho in the PTO!

We played our second Bolt Action game set in the Pacific on Saturday at The Panzer Depot in Kirkland, WA. By now our forces have grown a bit more. The Americans were all Marines now and the Japanese had a bolstered anti-tank force.

Mike Lombardi, Lewis Dorrington (a new player from the UK), and I played the Marine foot-sloggers. Phil "Blood 'n' Guts" Bardsley ran the Marine tanks. The Japanese were Dick Larsen and Jerry Tyer.

The scenario was a bunker-busting mission. The Japanese had two reinforced platoons plus four bunkers. I wasn't sure how much the bunkers would be a force multiplier for the Japanese. In the end, they were less trouble to take out, although it took the Marines until the very last turn to do it. The Marines had eight squads plus supports (bazookas, flamethrowers, a mortar, and a 75mm pack howitzer). They also had two tanks: an M4A3 Sherman and an M3A3 Stuart.

A nasty bit of concrete awaiting the Marines
Knee mortar in support of another MG bunker
The victory conditions for the Marines was to take the four bunkers by the end of the game (6 turns). We had a lot of units on the table; the full bag o' order cubes (a Crown Royal felt bag) could have knocked a bull unconscious if swung with moderate force. Nevertheless, the turns went pretty quickly with six players, each using a separate color order cube for their units.

Turn 1 was a lot of moving into place for the Marines with the Japanese shooting at everything that moved. Phil and Lewis had the Marine right flank.

An M3A3 goes into action supported by Marine infantry
Mike was on the Marine left.

Mike's Marines providing fire support
 I had the center.

Marines moving into the woods
Phil's Sherman on the line between the Marine center and right
Ready to advance with a Sherman in support
The Marine advance took it's hardest hit when Dick's wee 37mm AT gun got a shot on the Sherman's side armor and knocked it out.

Just a pea shooter...
...but effective nevertheless!
In a lucky mid-game move, I advanced my flamethrower team into position at the end of the turn hoping that I would get the first order cube in the draw. I did and whooshed Jerry's Japanese squad in the woods.

The Japanese took four casualties and two pins, but then they failed their moral test and were removed. However, the flamethrower team failed its roll to see if it retained enough fuel and had to be removed as well. Nevertheless, an advance route with decent defilade was now open.

Advancing into the recently cooked woods
On the Marine's right flank, Lewis and Phil were making steady progress.
The Stuart crosses the bridge
Jerry moved a squad forward to counter them and a firefight ensued.
Japanese in position to counter the Marines' advance
Up until this point, Phil had been using his Stuart's main gun to attempt to knock out the Japanese bunker or the other Type 1 AT gun that was shooting at him. At some point it dawned on him that 1) shooting at the bunker was a waste of a Fire order, and 2) the three MGs on his tank were a much more formidable weapon against infantry and guns. Throwing 12 dice to hit was so much better than throwing 1 to hit and then having a possible maximum of 2 casualties from the HE effect of the 37mm. Jerry's squad soon disappeared in a .30 caliber hailstorm.

After finding it to be in a useless position, I moved my 75mm pack howitzer to a position in the woods.
Ready to move through the trees to a support position 
It took a few vital turns to accomplish, but it turned out to be ineffective at shooting. It did, however, serve as a magnet for Japanese fire. Mortar, sniper, and small arms fire rained down on the gun with very minor effect. The gun took one casualty and a few pins (which it succeeded in rolling off pretty consistently) and stayed in the fight.

Although it looked dicey for the Marines in the first few turned, things seemed suddenly to turn. Their fire slackened markedly—not in volume at first, but rather in effect. My pack howitzer wasn't the only Marine unit with a charmed life. Shot after shot either failed to hit or did nothing apart from pinning. The only Marine units lost were one of my squads that imprudently advanced too far and failed a critical morale check and the aforementioned Sherman taken out by Dead-Eye Dick from across the table.

Once the Japanese started taking serious losses, the Marines had nothing to stop them and we quickly took the bunkers on turns 5 and 6.

Lewis took the first bunker with an assault from the rear.

Taking the first bunker
Later in the turn, Mike got his flamethrower team into position and whooshed the occupants.

WHOOSH! (redux)
The big bunker in the center was lost when the MG unit inside failed a morale check. The game came to an end on turn 6 when one of my squads managed to run up and successfully assault the last Japanese bunker from the rear.

Taking the last bunker 
Post mortem
As I mentioned above, despite about 50 units on the board, the turns went quickly and we finished six turns in about 3 hours of play. Bolt Action is an easy game and as the number of units decrease through losses, the pace picks up significantly.

I made all the units regular, the Japanese still seem to be much outgunned by the Marines. I didn't base the scenario on points, but I had more expectation that the bunkers would be a tougher nut to crack. Instead, after the Marines shot away the supporting units, they were free to pretty much walk in and take the bunkers with little effort.

There were no banzai charges, which might have had a good effect. There were a few occasions where the Japanese infantry had racked up a lot of pins, but could have taken advantage of the banzai rule to charge into combat anyway (and remove all their pins if they make contact).

The hero of the game (and one of the few Japanese units to survive to game's end) was Dick's 37mm Type 1 AT gun that took out the Sherman with a long shot.

Mentioned in final dispatches to the Emperor
The figures used in the game were painted by Bill Stewart (Japanese), Mike Lombardi (Marines), Jerry Tyer (Marines), Phil Bardsley (M3A3), and me (Japanese and Marines).