The Triumph of Germanicus

I would like to announce the first open play test of With a Turned Thumb!

With a Turned Thumb is a 28mm skirmish game with an innovative combat system and easy-to-learn rules, pitching players into the heart of the Ancient Roman arena.  I’ve put a good few months work into the rules and have run a few small tests with a local club, and now I’m opening up to you guys to put it through the wringer.

I’ve decided to theme the play test around a massive triumphal program to celebrate the birthday of the heroic Roman general Germanicus. As the man who tamed Germania and added Cappadocia to the Empire, Caesar has deemed him worthy of a mighty spectacle.

Each game you play will be commemorating the birth of this Roman hero. So grab some 28mm gladiators and something to use as an arena and dive right in.

Find a copy of the rules here.

When you’ve played your game, head to the link here and fill out the short survey to give your feedback.

If you’ve got any other questions or issues, don’t hesitate to contact me through the website or through any of the company’s social media.

A Quick Update

Hi all,

Things have been a little slow of late due to my workload and not being able to find the time to sit down and produce content for the website or to publish on WargameVault.

In the meantime, I’ve written a report of my time at ChillCon for Initiative Magazine and had an incredible time at Salute in London. I’m in the process of getting my thoughts on paper and working through the sizable haul accumulated across both conventions.

I’ve also found the time to head down to the Sheffield Wargames Society and play some games.  Expect to see a few battle reports and reviews from them in the coming weeks.

With a Turned Thumb is coming along nicely – the core game mechanics are pretty much locked down and some narrative campaign elements are in the works. I’ve also got plans to put a demonstration game together to take to some nearby shows.

I’ve also decided to focus entirely on With a Turned Thumb and an another upcoming skirmish title – putting a few other titles onto the back burner until I have a bit more time to work on them.

I will continue to play the Blitzfreeze campaign through to completion, as people seem to be enjoying it, so look out for the next installment in the week.

Apologies for the lack of content, I’m hoping to turn things around over the next couple of months.

Cheers for the support,

Tom

Blitzfreeze Campaign Walkthrough Pt.6

A fiery contrail slashes across the winter sky, marking the demise of a Luftwaffe Fw 189 reconnaissance plane, shredded by chattering machine-gun fire from swooping Soviet fighters.

With both engines aflame, the twin-tailed aircraft disappears over the horizon, its passing watched by the straggling body of the retreat column.

An emaciated hauptmann stretches a frayed map over the bonnet of his staff car, attended by Specht and Konigsmann. The senior officer gestures towards the forested horizon and our two heroes move off to mobilize their men with swift kicks and vicious curses.

  • All characters gain +2 ammunition.

Tasked with recovering the film canister and any surviving aircrew, our emaciated protagonists will face a cadre of hard-bitten Siberian veterans. Their squad is composed of:

  • 3x models with submachine guns
  • 1x model with a bolt-action rifle
  • 1x model with a light machine gun

Burning puddles of aviation fuel and soot-blackened panelling litter our battlefield, dominated by the smouldering corpse of the Fw 189. A long furrow of broken ground stretches behind the shattered fuselage, decorated with the crumpled remnants of the aircraft’s twin tails and angular wings.

Snowy pine trees and withered undergrowth press in on the smoking wreckage, unwilling spectators to the hideous carnage.

A blood-spattered arm is draped over the canopy lip, the only sign of the three Luftwaffe crewmen.

The Siberians are already in attendance when our protagonists arrive on the scene, picking through the wreckage in search of any valuable intelligence. Their light machine gunner is concealed behind a fallen log, screened by a tangle of undergrowth.

With Bretz out of commission, the Germans divide into two groups; Konigsmann and Pawlitzki on one flank, Specht and Kraus on the other.

While the others advance in a series of frantic rushes, Kraus settles in behind his MG42 and lays down a withering blanket of fire, stray rounds sparking off the 189’s fuselage as the Siberians scatter.

Falling into a rough line, anchored by the concealed machine gun, the Siberians begin to return fire, forcing Specht to halt his charge just short of the open ground.

With the Siberian’s flank turned, Konigsmann and Pawlitzki attack from the safety of the treeline, catching one unlucky veteran in a deadly crossfire.

With the precision of a well-oiled engine, the Siberians realign to meet the new threat, using a barrage of gunfire and grenades to cover their redeployment.

Taking sustained fire from both flanks drives the Soviets from the clearing, leaving another of their company twitching in a pool of his own blood.

Using a section of fractured tail boom for cover, Specht darts towards the wrecked fuselage, hauling himself up towards the splintered canopy.

Swathed in ammunition belts, shedding spent cartridge cases like a tree in autumn, Kraus makes a break for the wreck but is snatched off his feet by a burst of well-aimed machine gun fire.

With a man down, Konigsmann and Pawlitzki douse the treeline with lead, allowing Specht to snatch a canister of film and dash back towards the relative safety of the broken tail boom.

Supporting the blood-spattered Kraus between them, and the precious cargo safely stowed in an empty satchel, our intrepid crew make their way back towards the straggling bulk of the retreat column.

Resource gains/losses:

  • Specht, Kraus, Konigsmann and Pawlitzki gain +1 stress and exhaustion for participating in the battle.
  • Kraus gains +1 exhaustion for carrying his MG42 into battle.
  • Specht, Kraus, Konigsmann and Pawlitzki gain +1 stress for being under fire for at least two consecutive turns.
  • Specht, Kraus and Konigsmann lose -2 ammunition for firing their automatic weapons.
  • Pawlitzki loses -1 ammunition for firing his rifle.

Kraus was cut down by the enemy machine gunner and must roll 1d100 on the injury table:

  • He is critically injured for 2 hours and gains +1 exhaustion.

The group rolls 3 positive morale dice, scoring 2 successes and reducing everyone’s stress by -2.

Buoyed by their success, the party splits off from the main body of the column, guided by a crumpled map and the word of a local woodsman. This path takes them across a frozen lake. We roll 1d6 for each character:

  • Specht successfully negotiates the treacherous ice.
  • Hobbling on a makeshift crutch, Bretz’s clumsy gait cracks the thin ice and sends him plunging into the frozen water below. He rolls once on the General Winter table and loses his winter clothing. Due to the swift action of his comrades, he escapes any more serious consequences and gains +1 exhaustion.
  • Kraus successfully negotiates the treacherous ice.
  • Pawlitzki successfully negotiates the treacherous ice.
  • Konigsmann dives into the water to save Bretz from a watery grave. He rolls once on the General Winter table and loses his winter clothing. Limbs numbed by icy water, with frostbite setting in, he is critically injured for 3 hours.

Having rejoined the column, our heroes trade the majority of their ammunition supplies to an outbound patrol in exchange for some precious supplies. Shivering around a meagre fire, they share out the meagre rations in an attempt to keep the whole group fighting fit.

As the fire gutters, Specht, Kraus and Pawlitzki must roll on the General Winter table:

  • Specht’s hypothermia rears its ugly head once again. He is critically injured for 5 hours. Addled by the freezing temperatures, he staggers away from the fire and loses his prized submachine gun.
  • Kraus spends the night trying to track down the wandering Specht. The cold saps his strength. He gains +1 exhaustion and can only roll shock dice next battle.
  • Spending the night in a blizzard does Pawlitzki no favours. He gains +1 exhaustion.

For our player action, we’re going to give Bretz’s pistol to the now unarmed Specht. Without any loot or provisions to exchange, we cannot flatout purchase a new weapon for our disarmed officer.

The group advances 13km in an hour, riding on the empty engine deck of a PzIV tank.

Leningrad is now 77km behind our protagonists, and 24 hours have passed since the siege collapsed.

 

Chillcon 2018

For a show entering its second year, Chillcon was an incredible experience – one that does a great service to its organizers and the various traders and clubs that turned out to help put on such a memorable show.

My full write-up will be in Initiative magazine in the next few weeks, but to tide you over until then, I’ll share a few pictures:

 

Free Stuff!

This week, because I’ve been worked half to death at my regular job and ChillCon’s coming up, I haven’t had time to playtest or work on any of my main projects.

So to tide you over until I’ve got some more content, I’d like to share a quick and dirty medieval wargame I wrote a little while back. Click the link below to download a copy for free!

Warlord_ Simple Medieval Battles

Also if you’re at ChillCon in Sheffield this Saturday, I’ll be mooching about with 10% off codes for Blitzfreeze.

Blitzfreeze Campaign Walkthrough Pt.5

The Maultier grinds to a halt, allowing Konigsmann to dismount. His comrades lay supine in the cargo bay, huddled up under coats and blankets. Without supplies, they will all perish.

  • If Konigsmann flees the battlefield, he could become lost for up to 10 hours.

Our opposition for the battle are a patrol of Soviet regulars, shadowing the retreating Germans to identify opportunities for their main force to strike. The patrol is composed of:

  • 2x models with pistols; perhaps an officer and a forward observer.
  • 3x models with bolt-action rifles.

Our mission is:

  • The Soviets are between Konigsmann and vital supplies. To return to the retreat column empty handed would be a betrayal of the highest order. While heavily outnumbered, the doughty NCO hefts his rifle and advances.

The action centres around a pair of lonely hunting cabins – rude buildings of fresh-cut logs and splintered planking. The stout doors hang half-off their hinges, betraying the machinations of other looters. A cluster of outbuildings stand apart from the cabins, surrounded by wrecked furniture and discarded tools.

Thick undergrowth and denuded fruit trees surround the cabins, a rotting cow carcass dissolving into filth amidst the rotting fruit. Beyond the orchard, the anonymous ranks of pine trees encroach on the clearing, providing the perfect cover for the advancing Soviets.

Led by a striding officer, the Soviet patrol fans out across the open ground between the cabins, splitting off to investigate the abandoned buildings. A pair of great-coated privates vanish into the closest hut.

Konigsmann picks his way through the fallen boughs and tangled brush, rifle levelled at the strutting officer. His first shot strikes the man in the chest, bowling over into the mud.

Rifle fire erupts from one the windows, driving the lone German behind a pile of decaying logs.

Splattered with black mud, Konigsmann hauls his bulk away from the log pile, disappearing out of the Soviet line of fire.

The lone German pitches a hand grenade through the shattered window, the explosion blasting the log wall to splinters, eviscerating the Soviet infantrymen sheltering inside.

Darting away from the smoking carnage, Konigsmann ducks into the lee of the second cabin, watching the hapless Soviet conscripts scramble for cover. Rifle rounds shriek off into the snow as the two soldiers beat a hasty retreat.

Konigsmann scrambles through the churned up snow, crashing through the splintered door into the second cabin. A trapdoor in the floor yields some valuable tins of food and a bundle of moth-eaten blankets.

Another volley of poorly-aimed rifle fire chases the Unteroffizier in his rapid dash between the two buildings. Acrid smoke billows through the wrecked doorway, the interior spattered with viscera. Picking through the gory remains yields a string of smoked sausages and a dented hip-flask filled with vodka.

Satisfied with his haul, Konigsmann turns away from the smouldering cabin and the terrified Soviet conscripts. His trip back to the retreat column is thankfully uneventful.

Resource gains/losses:

  • Konigsmann gains +1 stress and exhaustion for participating in the battle.
  • He gains +1 stress for being under fire for more than 2 consecutive turns.
  • He loses -2 ammunition for firing his semi-automatic rifle.
  • His successful search rolls yield +2 provisions and +1 loot.

Thankfully Konigsmann was uninjured and did not flee the battlefield, so we move straight onto the morale phase.

Our NCO’s successful expedition generates 4 morale dice, generating 3 successes, reducing everyone’s stress by -3.

The squad parts company from the Maultier and the frazzled Saller, taking the remainder of the crew’s ammunition and the contents of the half-track’s first aid kit. All characters gain +1 ammunition, Specht gains some Medical Supplies.

Konigsmann swaps the bundle of threadbare blankets for another pack of iron rations to supplement the vodka and sausages squirrelled away inside his great coat. With the harsh warmth of the vodka spreading through his limbs and the greasy sausage filling his empty stomach, Konigsmann recovers 2 exhaustion.

Specht and Kraus spent the last engagement laid up. At this point they reduce their stress and exhaustion by 1d3. Specht reduces both by -2, Kraus by -1.

As night sets in, the cold frosts close in around the makeshift camp. Everyone rolls on the General Winter table.

  • Specht’s hypothermia has abated somewhat, but uncontrollable shivering still wracks his emaciated frame. He gains +1 exhaustion and may only roll shock dice in the next battle.
  • Despite the amputation of his right foot, the black tendrils of frostbite creep up the pale flesh of Bretz’s leg. He is critically injured for 5 further hours.
  • Trudging through the snow under the weight of the machine gun saps Kraus’ strength. He gains +1 exhaustion.
  • Despite his hearty meal, the bitter cold has sapped Konigsmann’s strength. He gains +1 exhaustion.

For our player action this turn, we’re going to generate another character to replace the traumatized Saller. Specht heads off towards the main body of the column, intending to conscript some poor unfortunate into our unhappy band of brothers.

During his march down the straggling tail of trucks, half-tracks and shuffling foot soldiers, Specht finds some Feldgendarms preparing a makeshift gallows at the roadside. Their victim is Jager Helfried Pawlitzki, a dispatch rider from one of the light infantry divisions.

Pawlitzki fell afoul of the lopsided military justice system after some partisans relieved him of some top secret orders. Charged with high treason, Pawlitzki’s brief military career was set to end in a noose until Specht bribed the Oberfeldgendarm to release him on the condition that he find some suitably gruesome end for himself on the battlefield.

With the surly Pawlitzki in tow, the group advances 12km in 5 hours.

Leningrad is now 64km behind our protagonists, and 23 hours have passed since the siege collapsed.

The General – Book Review

In a slight departure from normal wargaming fare, I’m going to take a look at a book that grabbed my attention and what I’ve taken away from it. Please bear with me if I ramble.

The General was published in 1936, penned by the great C.S Forester of Hornblower fame. Apocryphally purchased by Adolf Hitler for his generals and hangers-on, this book serves as an object lesson for the perils of high command. It follows the meteoric rise of one Herbert Curzon from humble subaltern to lieutenant-general, taking in the bloodiest battles of the first world war along the way.

Curzon is a cavalryman, born and bred – deeply mistrustful of anything that deviates from the strategies laid down by the great worthies of the Napoleonic period. He is a man out of time, wholly unsuited for warfare involving magazine-fed rifles, machine guns and quick-fire artillery.

As he rises through the illustrious ranks of the British general staff, he becomes more and more detached from the reality at the front. He becomes obsessed with the application of even greater forces, convinced that each new offensive will shatter the German lines and pave the way to victory.

The book provides an interesting portrait of staff officers in the 20th century – something that I was wholly unfamiliar with prior to reading. This world of map tables and field telephones is wholly detached from the brutal realities of the front line, where shot and shell fall like spring rain.

It paints a picture of the prevailing opinions of the time, and the assumptions made by senior officers untroubled by the relentless march of technology, and the impacts that it would have on their profession.

When it was first published in 1936, the message of this book was obvious – those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. While explicitly stated as a work of fiction, with no greater aspirations than to entertain the readership of a popular author, the General gives us a chilling insight into the mindset of the British high command and their unsuitability for the travails of mechanized warfare.

I found the insights into high command particularly compelling – and while not necessarily directly applicable to game design, the book gave an interesting perspective on the rigours of command and control at a divisional and army group level.

Most wargames give players some degree of omniscience and does very little to model the difficulty of transmitting orders between units, and the transfer of accurate information up and down the chain of command.

Making an effort to represent the fog of war and the problems of command in a wargame may add an interesting dynamic to play – introducing an element of unpredictability and presenting new challenges for players to overcome.