Monday, July 19, 2010

Historicon - 2010

I reached Pennsylvania on Friday ( 9th July 2010 ) evening and after taking a quick shower at the hotel, I rushed to the Valley Forge Convention Center located in King of Prussia. As it did in 2007, the Historicon drew hundreds of enthusiasts and visitors from different corners of the US and from several walks of life.

My first game called "The Savage Wastes of Germania!" was hosted by Game Master "Howard Whitehouse" using the ancient wargaming rule set : "Clash of Iron". "Clash of Iron" is a simple, straight forward rule set designed by the Game Master himself, who is an employee of the Wargames Factory. I was formation leader Cornelius Junius, who took charge of one of the cavalry units of the Roman Army that had crossed the Rhine to suppress the Germanic tribes that were giving Rome relentless migraine.

A wilderness of forests, bogs, streams, and hills, the terrain was one that offered a cavalry commander very few options. I stayed behind, letting the infantry units march ahead and deal with the sea of barbarians that the Germans had amassed. They seemed inexhaustible, with waves of men armed with motley weapons rushing into the Romans again and again. I stayed to the left of the infantry and lagged behind, promising to charge the flank of the attacking German hordes. I did charge and route two waves of attackers before taking a Javelin on my chest.

The Romans pulled off a marginal victory in the end.

On Saturday I attended Capt.Dale Dye's talks on Hollywood, Military History and the making of Band of Brothers and The Pacific. I asked Capt.Dye a question. Let me recollect and quote the question and answer here :

Sarath : I think it was in the 9th episode of Band of Brothers that you show a Nazi concentration camp. How did you pull that off ? It was shot very well.

Capt. Dye : To film the concentration camp, we needed several extremely emaciated people and it was hard to find so many of them. So, I did something that makes me feel like a butt hole to this day. I went to a hospice for terminal cancer patients and told them that if they would like to make a contribution towards preserving history, I would like to hire them. In the end, we had about 85 volunteers, two of them were brought in ambulances. That's how we filmed it. Most of them could be dead now. It is something that haunts me to this day.

On the same day,I fought a battle set during the days of the American Revolutionary war and a 1953 dog fight over the skies of Korea. More about these two games in the next post.

On Sunday, I attended two seminars : Col.David Glantz's "Soviet Operations in Hungary (Jan- Mar 1945)", which described the Soviet planning and conduct of operations to capture Budapest in January and February 1945. It was an excellent effort by Col. Glantz and included translations of Russian and German war diaries that depicted the movement and shifting positions of the two armies on a day to day basis. The next seminar was "The Bear is back - Russia's new cold war" by Col.(Retd.)Jerry Morelock in which the Colonel presented his thoughts of how the Putin- Medvedev regime is redefining the Russian national philosophy with "Super Power dreams".

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fire and Smoke with Flashing LEDs and Cotton :-)

This was quite interesting :

Historicon - 2010

Here are a few random shots from Historicon 2010. I'll write more about the event over the coming weekend.

Friday, August 31, 2007

I Ain't Been Shot, Mum!

Yesterday I picked up (PDF) copies of "I Ain't Been Shot, Mum!" and its "Gottterdammerung" supplement. IABSM is a set of rules for playing WWII company level wargames. The rules are the brainchild of Too Fat Lardies, "a vibrant wargames development partnership that produces an ever growing range of rule sets for what we think are discerning wargamers".

I think I first heard of IABSM sometime in 2004 from fellow gamer Dennis Cunningham. After reading a lot of positive reviews and after action reports I was intrigued enough to give them a try. A quick read through revealed several nice features. These include variable length turns, "blinds" and dummy units, deemphasis on charts and modifiers and potential for creative umpiring. As our players have always liked creative umpiring the last feature is particularly appealing.

Ravi and I are planning to do some "detailed reading" followed by play testing sometime this weekend. We plan to play one of the easier scenarios from the TFL scenario archive.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Battle of Longewala, 5 Dec 1971 (Played at the Historicon, 27th July 2007)

I played on the Indian side at Game Master Dan McDonagh's table, where we re-created the Battle of Longewala, which saw the clash between the Indian and Pakistani forces at the border post of Longewala in Rajasthan, India. The formidable Pakistani force comprised of 65 tanks (T-59s and Shermans), Field guns and mounted Infantry against entrenched Indians who had nothing but mortars and recoiless rifles. Later in the game, the heavily out-numbered Indians also received support from their centurion tanks and mech infantry.
The major difference between the real battle and this game was the Pakistani Airforce. In the real battle the Pakistani tanks were laid to waste by the Indian Airforce. In our game both sides had air support. There were plenty of dog fights and loss of aircrafts. I wasn't too lucky with my fighters which required a roll of 1 using a D10 to score a hit.
"Ground War" is a simple rule set (I believe it was designed by Dan himself), easy to understand and with very few complications. What I did not particularly like was the treatment of ambushes - they were all put on the table right from the beginning and hence the enemy clearly knew which route to avoid. The justification for this treatment was the presence of surveillance aircrafts which could give advance warning to the attackers- I somehow couldn't accept that. Hence, with the enemy clearly avoiding the ambushes and tank traps right from the offset, the Indians were forced to fall back and fight for their lives till their centurion tanks and armoured carriers arrived.
The battle ended in a draw with both sides failing to accomplish their objectives in the given time. The Pakistanis failed to cut a wide (2 ft on the table) secure path through the Indian side and the Indians failed to drive the Pakistanis back.All said and done, it gives me goose bumps to think of the Indian Soldiers who fought that decisive battle. Heavily out-numbered and without enough resources to thwart a tank attack of such proportions, they managed to hold on till the fighters arrived at dawn. The result which in my opinion may have had a lot to do with Pakistani stupidity and incompetence, takes nothing away from those jawans who stood their ground. Hats off to Major Chandpuri !!
On a lighter note, I should have prepared for the battle by watching J.P. Dutta's film - Border. It may have given me a lot of ideas like engaging my enemy commander in a verbal duel before the battle or asking my soldiers to walk towards the Pakistani tanks with anti-tank mines in their hands and thereby forcing them to retreat. Bollywood ! S I G H !!!

- Sarath
Trench War !

On saturday the 28th of July 2007, I led a WWI German unit towards well fortified Allied positions under heavy fire :-) . The rule set we used was Trench Wars and the Game master was Steve Robinson.There is no major strategy that you can follow while attacking such a well entrenched enemy as shown above - just get your men across the killing field as soon as possible and use your tanks well. Tanks have to pass a "break down test" every round which requires a roll of 5 or higher using a D20. My tank made no more than 3 moves and before it could recover, it was destroyed by artillery fire. A similar game was played the day before and the Germans were completely wiped out before a single soul could reach the trenches. Our fate wasn't that bad. We took around 80 % casualties getting to the trenches ( A blood bath was predicted by Steve, given the fact that the attackers had no air support or cover. ) A great amount of luck is involved when you rush towards the enemy under relentless machine gun fire and artillery bombardment. There were 10 German units in all and only two tanks found their burial ground across the trenches, the remaining 8 were busted well before they could reach anywhere close. With the tanks destroyed, the attackers had to rush towards the enemy to avoid being sitting ducks. Artillery fire aimed at the defenders needed to land inside the trench to kill the enemy (Dice are rolled to check for Scatter and hitting soldiers inside the trench wasn't as easy as killing them in the open.)

I did the best I could - Kept my troops dispersed while advancing, moved my tank as fast as possible with my Infantry under its cover (but there was no escape from the enemy artillery), with the tank gone I moved my men to the trenches as fast as possible (Retreat was not an option) . I could get my flame throwers up to the trenches, but were destroyed before they could use their weapon. Braving the enemy barrage, a couple of my soldiers entered the trenches only to die at the hands of the enemy trench fighters.

How would I play it next time?? ... Hmmmm.....Not sure how I can do it without air support. But if air support were available, I would try softening the enemy with aerial bombardment while my troops dash across the killing field.

- Sarath

Sunday, July 8, 2007

"MSM" discovers the India Wargamers

Today's edition of' The Economic Times contains an article about India Wargamers, which, among other things, describes us as "battling all odds" :) :) Three of our players, Ravi Mohan, Mridul Jain and yours truly have been (mis)quoted in the article. Fame, here we come!!!