Friday, March 18, 2016

Juror Number Twelve

It was the first shot that killed him. The two other bullets that entered his body were survivable, but that first one pierced his aorta. The screaming friends holding his body, vainly attempting to awaken the victim from shock induced unconsciousness likely had no idea that their friend and companion had no hope for survival. The video recorded it all, the encounter, the drawn pistol, and the three shots, the first from less than two feet away. That no one else was hurt by the large caliber bullets after they exited the body of the victim is nothing short of a providential miracle. That restaurant and bar was crowded and the victim was standing nearly in the middle of a group of dancers and bar patrons.

It took nearly four and a half years for justice to be gained for the victim and his family and associates, four and a half years for the shooter to be legally determined a murderer.

It was my job to help reach a verdict...

For the past several weeks, I have been spending much of my time in a courthouse. The building is old, well old for this area, build some fifty years ago, replacing one built in 1875. Confining, overbearing, and heavy with the accumulated weight of both justice and injustice, it is not a pleasant place to hang out. The three public elevators take seemingly forever to gather and deliver their occupants to one of the ten floors, two basement and eight above ground.

In the basement there is a small eatery. Not a particularly grand place and neither too expensive or too cheap, the best selection, in my view, is the french dip sandwich. Soda is sold by the can and bottled water and juices are available. However, heavy burdens of the structure above, the atmosphere is dense and troubled. Jurors and court staff do not mingle. There is the occasional outgoing bailiff, nice enough to chat when in the queue, but most people entering sit alone or with one or two who are well known to them. The jurors make the best of the situation and carry on with small talk.

The case was simple, the basic facts undisputed by either side. The defendant killed a man. The video camera captured the entire scene from its perch on the ceiling. Both the defense counsel and the prosecutor agreed to these facts. Where they disagreed was as to whether or not the killing was justifiable self defense or was it murder.

For approximately twelve days the jurors got to know each other, while sitting in the deliberation room, awaiting to be called in to hear testimony and see the evidence. Four women and eight men, thrown together through a not exactly random chain of events, were strangers to one another, with one exception. I happened to have a recollection of one of the jurors as he had attended the same graduate program as I did for a time. I did not readily remember his name and he did not recognize me as I had recently shaved off my beard and mustache. Apart from our common university experience, we did not really know each other.

Sitting across someone for six hours a day over the course of twelve or so days does grant a measure of acquaintance, if not intimacy. We did not sit in silence, when in our little cubby, but there were several who texted or talked with family, friends, and work, while the rest of us chatted about movies, the O.J. Simpson trial and television mini-series, food, and books.

I am normally an introvert, extremely so, but when placed in situations out of the norm for me, I put on a facade of an outgoing individual. After years of practice, it is easy to do, but by far my preference is to sit alone and observe.  Here, my facade backed me into a corner, but I did not know it until the end.

Upon the first showing of the video evidence, an individual in the audience, presumably a close family member of the victim, screamed loudly and sobbed when we all saw the defendant pull out his .45 caliber handgun and point it at the chest of the victim. The video also had sound and the sharp and heavy sounds of each round being fired hit the jury with enough force that several of us shifted in our seats.

The victim was obviously drunk. We saw him staggering around. We saw him encroach upon the personal space of the defendant, nearly twenty minutes before the first shot was fired. We saw him gesture, pointing at himself and the defendant repeatedly, but with the blaring dance music, we could not understand the words. It would not have mattered, they were speaking a language foreign to all of us.

That the defendant did not pull the gun at this time showed a measure of control however, that control was temporary. Twenty minutes later, the victim made the last decision of his life, the one that ended up costing him his life. He decided to approach the defendant one last time, in what appeared to be a playful manner. Two thin fingers, flicking down at the eyes of the man standing across from him. Words were exchanged, the playful drunk's hands come up, palms up, to his sides, as though he were asking, "why you mad, bro?"

Less than a second later, he was on the ground in a near fetal position, his life's precious liquid pumping out of him rapidly.

The defendant claimed self defense, that the victim had threatened him, but the two further shots when the victim was down and obviously not coming back up, were beyond the scope of defending oneself. They were the evidence of unnecessary force, but in tragically different ways.

After the two sides rested their cases, we jurors walked solemnly and somberly back to the deliberation room. We know had the responsibility of determining one man's fate, to be the instrument of justice, to be the judges of evidence.

At such times, juries must elect foremen or forepersons, if you prefer, who will essentially lead the group of equals in discussion, insuring everyone has the opportunity to be heard, to give some measure of order to what can be a chaotic process.

In this case, my facade was too successful and although I did not seek it, my peers decided that I should be the foreman. The issue was put to a vote and mine was the final hand raised, accepting the will of the others.

We deliberated for over six hours, over two successive days. I will not go into great detail as I have too much respect for the individuals inside that room. I will say that we first discussed the issue of self defense and rejected it. We then discussed each of the legal requirements for murder in the first degree and agreed to all but one, deliberate.  If the act under consideration was rash or impulsive, it could not then be deliberate. For six hours, we discussed, argued, and considered this point. That is six hours within that room.

As we were not given the case, for deliberation, until the afternoon, we only had a few hours to review the evidence and talk amongst ourselves before calling it a day. At this point, the majority was for for murder one, the rest for murder two. We agreed to sleep on it, to ponder it in our minds, and then to come back the next day to take up the discussion once again.

I did not sleep that night. The responsibility of being a juror means examining the evidence, judging for ourselves, but not making any firm decision outside the room designed for that purpose. As I tossed and turned, the thought kept returning to my mind, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt. MUST prove. MUST PROVE.

One would think the video recorded it all.

One would think that.

Yet it did not.

We cannot see the thoughts inside a person's head, at least not yet. As much as I had wanted to decide one way, in that room, I wanted, and we all agreed, that justice required us to not rush to a verdict. To give the process its appropriate time and consideration. It was obvious, before we went home, who impassioned some of us were towards a particular outcome, but several of us could not reach that same point. At least, not without being true to ourselves.

As we entered the room for the second day of deliberation, we had a brief discussion and again voted in secret, the result was the same as before. Now, we were more polarized in our discussion, with each side hardening themselves to their decision, which was not where we needed to end up.

I ended up making the final argument, repeating what had been going through my head all night long. As much as I wanted to, and unhappy with the situation as I was, I felt and still feel, the prosecution failed to prove the act was deliberate. There were various factors that played on my thoughts, including intoxication and provocation, and these same thoughts bothered several of the others, who felt similarly as I did.

All of us felt the injustice of the killing, the sheer wrongness of what had occurred, but those alone do not define cold-blooded murder.

As we continued to talk, another changed his vote to match my own. He agreed with my argument and added more of his own. This further snowballed into another adding further to my argument and switching his vote.

Justice is a double-edged sword, it must cut evenly both for and against both parties; Justice is blind.

In the end, we all of us agreed that the prosecution left us hanging. We agreed that we wanted more, but there was no evidence of more. We only had what had been placed before us and we did not like it. In the end, we followed the admonition of the Court to deliberate the evidence, to follow the law.

In the end, we agreed that the act of killing was impulsive and rash...and in no way justified. We agreed to murder two.

This was my first murder trial as a juror. I hope to never have to endure such a trial again.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Blücher - Linked games for my club

I have been a fan of Sam Mustafa's games for over a decade.While they may not suit everyone's tastes (they should!), I happen to like the simplicity, but also way he incorporates certain mechanics in each of his games, which provides me exactly what I am looking for.

Last year, his newest take on Napoleonic rules were released, Blücher which is obviously the picture image above. I pre-ordered these rules and the card set that was released simultaneously. Now, the cards are not necessary, but they have sure proven handy as you will see below.

This is not a review of the rules, so if you're aiming to skip reading on that account, never fear, this is a report of a series of linked games I put on for my club. Yes, it is a long read, but bear with me, please.

As an aside, I played the game with several of my mates, who are also members in the club, during weeknight gaming at our local FLGS. My primary opponent, who I shall name, "Brent", ( the usual names I call him are not family friendly), played several games in a row with me, all of which I lost...badly. Wholly unrelated to his euphoria over figuratively crushing me,  he stated, "Blücher does for Napoleonics what DBA did for ancients." In a way, I think he is right on target, as do several members of the club who later went out and bought their own copies of the rules (I ended up getting Brent a copy for a birthday present).

Blücher does change that way my club played Napoleonics in the past. Gone are the days of marching across the table, and taking 6 hours of real time to do it, without ever firing a shot (my FIRST game with the club, back in 1984).  Instead, we can play some rather large games, to a finish, in about 4 hours, with anywhere from 6 to 10 people playing.

[note: the rules do not have a set convention for how to handle large multi-player games, there are suggestions, but I had make some additional accommodations for these big games.]

This past summer, I put on an abbreviated 1809 campaign, over 2 of our monthly meetings. The first scenario was Aspern-Essling, and the second was, of course, Wagram. Those events are summarized below.

For the first scenario, I planned on a 1 to 2 "day" battle, where if things went well enough for the defending French, they would continue the fight over a second day, to see if they could outdo the historical result. On the other hand, I made it very possible for the game to end after a single day, depending upon the success of the attacking Austrians.


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Above, you see Aspern, in the foreground, and Essling is a bit further away. I got the ground scale as close as I could manage, but used a template for the actual towns. Each card, later base of miniatures, represents about a half brigade in strength. In Blücher, cards normally function at brigade strength, but I wanted each player to have more units and it fit well with the 12' long table at the ground scale I had worked out.

The cards you see are the backs of the unit cards I bought for the game. You see the French colors because those units are as yet unknown to the Austrians.  This was especially important as the French were rather lacking in the way of infantry, and those units between the two towns were actually cavalry (the Austrian players thought they were infantry).

The "road" connecting the towns was an embankment, which provided a defensive bonus against fire, were the unit in contact. Once an enemy was also in contact opposite a friendly unit, neither side received the bonus.

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Admittedly, this is not a great image, but as I was using a phone to take the shots, I did get some that were fuzzy.

I set up the table, complete with zones of deployment for each of the Austrian columns, and some of the attacking units were placed on the table at start. I designated each pair of turns (one Austrian, and one French) as approximately one hour of time. I then wrote entry times on the tape I used to designate the deployment zones.

Although it appears the Austrians have not moved very much, they actually crossed about 3.5 to 4 feet of table, at this point, but this is more due to their command and control issues, and player choices, than a movement limitation imposed by the rules. The Austrian commanders wanted to have all of their attacks at the same time, so it took a while to get their columns coordinated.

One of the things I really enjoy about Blücher is the fact that a player does not know how many units he will be able to move in a given turn. His opponent has a good idea, as he rolls the command dice (Motivation Dice), but the way activations work one typically ends up unable to do everything one wished.

I simulated the damaged to the bridges over the Danube by rolling 2d6 each turn, each pip equaling 1 point of damage. I rated the bridges at 30 "health" each, but they could be repaired, 1d6 (to be allocated between the bridges by the French commander...."Brent"), but if Napoleon were to remain behind at Lobau, then 2d6 of repairs would be conducted as everyone was under Nappy's eye. However, the Guard could not be released unless Napoleon's person crossed over to the battlefield. So, there were some significant decisions that had to be made during the course of the game, especially since if both bridges were to drop, then the French had to retreat and try to get back to Lobau.

The ways things turned out was, pretty much historical. The French defenders in Aspern, led by Massena, held out for quite a long time, but Massena ended up getting killed, and the Austrians were able to get into to the town and hunker down. They were unable to push through due to terrain and more French infantry just outside. Also, they had real problems with getting their troops into such a confined area.

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 The initial attacks on Aspern.

 On the right flank, the defenders of Essling held out for a relatively short time, once the attackers got stuck in. Unfortunately, it took a LONG time for the Austrians to actually attack Essling itself. This was mainly due to command and control issues, coupled with the desire to have all Austrian columns in the area to attack simultaneously.

Meanwhile, the bridges were taking a pounding. The French engineers were able to keep a handle on things, until two disastrous turns in a row, where 12 points of damage were done to each bridge (if doubles were rolled, both bridges took damage, otherwise, first one was damaged, and when it went down, the second was to take the damage), the French engineers only recovered 2 points (total!) the first time, and 4 points the second, leaving each bridge at -5 or worse....thus they fell.

Once that happened, they French were hit with a -1 to combat dice, for each unit, due to ammunition shortages (no supplies crossing), and they had to pull back. By this time, Aspern had already fallen (just!), and Essling fell the next turn.

Due to the casualties the lead Austrian units had suffered, I ruled the game at an end, a Austrian tactical victory, but no pursuit allowed. Casualties were fairly close between armies, but the Austrian units were exhausted (each unit is rated for Elan, with each hit reducing this amount. Most units started with 5 or 6 and many of the Austrian units were at 2 or 3. At 1 Elan, a unit cannot attack).

I had the French player on the right flank roll a d6 for Lannes' surviving the battle, which he did...a lucky roll. I had St. Hilaire, who also survived, promoted to Field Marshal and he would take over Massena's commander in the next battle.

With the aftermath of the game, I was rather happy with the result. Although we did have problems in that several players had to miss the game...leaving just a few to carry on, the fact that one of the Austrian players have never even seen the rules prior, we did fight to a conclusion.

Planning for the next game, I wanted to keep the ground scale, unit scale, and time scale, the same as the first game. I also wanted to switch the experiences for the players, as each player continued with the same commands, so that the Austrians would have a similar experience as the French in the first game and vice versa.


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Another 12' long table, with the terrain set up for the 2nd day of the historical battle. The image above is the initial set up, complete with on table units. The French objective was to take both Baumersdorf (in the center right) and Markgrafnusiedl (just out of frame in right foreground). The town of Wagram, itself, is just visible at top right.

I placed the French deployment zones as close as I could manage to the historical situation. They were advancing on a narrow front and in depth.

The Austrian objective was to hold both towns. However, if Markgrafnusiedl were to fall to the French, the flank would be uncovered and they would have to test to see if they would be forced to fall back to the center, they could still recover, but it would depend on the result of the test. Also, I allowed Archduke Charles (in the person of Dave B.) to decide where he wanted his main effort to be, and he could then move there, adding an additional motivation dice to that area. (Essentially, I split the table into 3 individual games, allowing each section to proceed at its own pace.....friction!).

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 A few turns into the action, and the French left flank is getting mauled. The Austrian player (his second game of Blücher) was rolling hot and the French commander on that flank has about as bad a day of die rolling as I have ever seen). The French on the left never made it to the center of the table.

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Another badly taken photo.

About a half dozen turns into the game or so, and the French left is being pushed back to their initial positions, after suffering significant losses, with no real losses to the Austrians here. The French center is peeling off both cavalry and infantry to support the left, but also to protect the flank of the mass aimed at Baumersdorf.

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The French right, facing Austrian left. As you can see, there are no French miniatures here. We just did not have enough figures based amongst the club members. We have plenty of figures, for all combatants, but many are still packed away in garages, storage sheds, etc., and one player, who was going to bring his troops, had a family situation crop up and was unable to make it. You can see the utility of these unit cards, in a pinch you're still covered!

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The French right, about 6 turns later. Yes, there are no Austrian defenders in the town.

The French right took a long time to get itself sorted, but it quickly made up for the lost time by breaking the defending unit in a single round of close combat. It was unbelievable, but it happened in a toss of the dice for each player.

I made the Austrian wing commander roll for the crucial test....and he blew it yet again. The Austrians on the left flank had to flee towards the table edge, giving the French right an open road to the center and last objective. With the French reserve now on the table, and the French center able to hold its left flank (the actual French left was almost at the table edge), the center had the "go-ahead."

One turn later, I made Archduke Charles test to see if his center would stick, now that his left flank was gone, but his luck, too, ran out, and the remaining Austrians retreated in the face of the French center's advance. The above image shows Charles' position as the French close in on their final objective.

You can see there are plenty of Austrian troops, but with the left gone, and Charles' secondary objective being to keep his army intact, as much as possible, the game was called.

A major French victory, but a minor (moral) victory for the Austrians.

The casualties in this game were much less equal, primarily due to the meat-grinder that the French left fell into. The French left flank almost collapsed on its own, but St. Hilaire was able to retire most of his mangled troops (a good idea!) before they were broken. It was very close, 2 stands in fact, that had he suffered them as broken or even had he retired them, that flank would have been shattered, leaving the French to pass a crucial test to press on.

This battle could have gone either way, but I think the critical error was made by Archduke Charles when he got the bit in his teeth and focused nearly all his efforts on his right flank, which did admirably. However, this meant he had little for his left, and more vulnerable flank.

One "trick" I pulled was that Archduke John was "expected" to arrive on the table. The French players did not figure this to be a ruse until well over a dozen turns into the game. They did have to watch for this and I looked on with glee as they finally figured it out. I also made the Saxon corps a bit brittle, which forced the French to protect them from too much harm.

The game very nearly went exactly according to history, including the devastating casualties on the French left and the Austrians retreating once their left was a goner.

Overall, I am pleased with the results...

Friday, January 22, 2016

Temporary Construction Issues

I was working with my blog this morning and jacked it up slightly. I wanted to improve the overall look, but some things got moved which should not have moved. As I am at work, but before I start my first class, I am unable to tinker with it enough to apply a good kick. I hope to make things more presentable once I return home. Until then, please forgive the mess....

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

.......time flies

Just a quick update, as I am at work (between classes)... I cannot believe it has been months since my last post. I've been thoroughly busy with work (teaching 7th grade world history) and between trying to herd students as though they were wild horses, and dealing with the mandatory paperwork that goes with the job, I've lost time. Unfortunately, I have been gaming less as grading papers takes up much of my evenings, but I have been reading more. My camera ist kaput, else I would provide a pic of what books I have recently acquired. Luckily, the internets are powerful and I can just show you images:
I've also purchased some British figures for the Sudan, from Peter Pig. I've never done a colonial army, but I am going to work on one (or more) as the period is growing on me. Of course, Bob at Wargaming Miscellany has inspired me through his various sites. I'd complain to him that his colonial site has not been updated in a long time, but with my out infrequent updates here over the past two years, I'd be a hypocrite for doing so. I am just finishing up reading
for the second time. The book is not without fault, but it is an entertaining read. Well, I am off to a meeting, so until next....

Saturday, September 19, 2015

And so.....

 photo imagejpg4_zps21f9423b.jpg Well, it has been some time since my last post. I have had continual problems with my computers, first my desktop, and then my laptop, which hindered my posting to this blog. In fact, more than once, I attempted to post a new entry, but due to computer errors, the entry was lost or corrupted. However, I have been able to replace my desktop, mostly, and am now with a somewhat more reliable machine. Hopefully, this will translate into more frequent postings from me here, and visitations to my favorite sites elsewhere. In the meantime, I have been gaming, off and on, since last October. I have purchased a few new wargames, as well as some long desired wargaming terrain. The above pic is a clue...

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

An End to the Financial Drought

As of today, I started a new full-time job as a 7th grade History teacher. It has been a touch-and-go for a number of years, but the cliched silver lining may actually start to appear...perhaps once my first paycheck arrives.

What this ultimately means is that I will be moving across town as the school is about 25 minutes away on the freeway, but with the price of fuel, the expense will certainly add up. I hope to find a home for rent within a much shorter distance. The move will not only benefit me from saved time and fuel, but also with my sanity. I have been renting a room in a house for over six years and I have little space to do anything in there but sleep and read. Any other painting and terrain projects have taken place in small chunks either at the kitchen table or in the garage, but always with the proviso that I clean up immediately after. This has made it very difficult to paint my troops... A move means I can tailor my space to my needs, instead of the other way round.

On the gaming front, I might be able to purchase, within six months to a year, the long awaited and highly anticipated (for me) Hexon II terrain from Kallistra. Pictures of that stuff makes me drool and the pricetag plus shipping makes me weep. However, I plan on tucking away some funds each month until I can afford to fill a 4x8 table with it.

My gaming mates have all been highly supportive, giving me rides to and from our club meetings and our mid-week game nights. As I had to sell both of my cars over the past few years, this help has been essential to gaming life. I hope to gift them something, each, as a way of giving thanks. I've already promised them dinner at a local Italian restaurant.

Of course, my postings here may be a bit hit or miss (now that I just got back into posting, the difference may not appear to be all that significant) for a bit as I get my feet wet with classroom work as well as teacher training and the additional time needed to get caught up to speed as the first quarter ends this Friday.

I've been working on a terrain project, as time was available, and hope to post something on that later this week. I need to finish the project by Friday, so I might get to the posting that night.

As you can imagine, this has come as a major relief, but I am still in a sort of surreal fog that can only be resolved once my first real paycheck is in hand.

The position will certainly be tough, but tough is easy, it's the impossible that I find difficult.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Thirty Years War: Europe in Agony

I have always been fascinated by the tragedy of the Thirty Years War. I cannot fully explain why, perhaps that it was the last of the religious wars in Europe or maybe due to the personalities involved. On the other hand, it could be simply the interaction of the weapons and tactics utilized throughout the period.

In my own thirty-odd years of miniature wargaming, I have never played a game set during this war. Neither have I collected an army for it. However, a few months ago, I did pick up a used copy of Thirty Years War: Europe in Agony 1618-1648 by GMT Games (these folks are less than a 45 minute drive from me).

It has been a rather long time since I have played a counter based boardgame such as this. Even Friedrich uses wooden pieces and not cardboard counters, so this game is a throwback to my youth (When Avalon Hill dominated the scene).

Last Thursday, my mate Brent and I played a game of this (his first and my second attempt). Due to time constraints and our learning and relearning the rules, we were unable to complete the game. Yet, we both came away with a great liking for the system and have vowed to tackle it again in the near future...even to use it as a basis for a miniature campaign.

For this game, Brent played the Papists and I took on the Protestant cause.
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Yes, my shakey-cam method doesn't quite work, here, but you are viewing the status of the game before the first turn.

Tilly is in Bavaria, with an allied Imperial Army facing against a Hungarian Uprising army on the right. The Spanish, under Spinola, are placed to respond to any Protestant movements in and around the UP. The Saxon King George was sitting pretty, in his capital, awaiting Protestant movements. My main forces were in Bohemia, ready to move in any direction. This is the starting position for both sides in the long war scenario.

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Beginning of turn 2 sees the Protestants having moved to strike against Saxony. A quick sieged that failed an initial assault (in my first game, none of my first assaults were successful). I overran the single unit of Saxon militia and took Anhalt's troops to conduct the actual siege. The Spanish, under that damned Spinola, easily took a fortress in the Lower Palatinate via a coup d'main. As I had no forces to oppose him, the Lower Palatinate was surely to fall to the Catholics quickly and early.

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The beginning of Turn 3 sees Spinola back in the UP, having taken control of the Lower Palatinate. Tilly has moved against the Upper Palatinate and the thrice damned Imperials advance against the Hungarians, beating them soundly in open battle. Meanwhile, Brunswick-Luneburg has joined the Protestant cause. Bavaria has now become an Elector, following the demotion of the Lower Palatinate.

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The start of Turn 4 shows that the Hungarian Uprising has been quelled... sigh. Yet, Spinola was recalled to the UP, shadowed by the Brunswickers. Baden has entered as a Protestant ally, but was far too weak to make any kind of move against Bavaria or the Lower Palatinate as the Spanish and Bavarians were too numerous and too close. I had taken Anhalt's forces to strike at Tilly, who is killed in battle and his forces retreat. Not shown is a quick thrust into Austria, in an effort to get the Imperials out of Hungary.

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Turn 5 starts with the Imperials under Wallenstein recruiting and splitting into two field armies. My thrust into Austria worked, unfortunately I've stirred a hornet's nest. Denmark enters the war, but Christian remains in Denmark (I had no way to activate him to come south as I needed my cards to keep the pressure on the Catholics). Another Spanish general arrives in theater and threatens Baden. I had tried to retake a fortress in the Upper Palatinate, the previous turn, but the Bavarians relieved the siege and were able to concentrate on home group.

I was down to just a seven of the Early War cards, at this point, meaning that I had the same batch of cards at hand and could not risk using anymore of the Use and Remove event cards that I had. Luckily, I did possess some high Aid Point cards (needed to pay my troops) and also a couple of cards that hurt the Catholics' in paying their own troops, even when on home territory. This severely limited Brent's ability to come out after me. He was not prevented from doing so completely, as we shall see, but it did force him to make tough decisions.

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End of Turn 6. We were running out of time, due to the store's imminent closing for the night, so I did not take pictures of all that I wanted to.

Essentially, the Imperials came out to play in Bohemia and Moravia. Partially as I goaded Brent into doing so and mainly because that was the only sound play he had, due to the limited cards we had in hand (at the beginning of Turn 7 we would have each received about 20 additional Intervention cards).

The Imperials came at me in two prongs, one with Wallenstein and the other with Picclomini; my smallish army was just outside a fortress in Bohemia. As luck would have it, Wallenstein was killed, but he was immediately replaced by Picclomini, leaving some other general (whose name I forget) in charge of the eastern prong. I tie the first field battle, the one which sees Wallenstein fall, but lose the second, forcing me to retreat (I could have opted to go into the fortress, but doing so is very risky as I could lose the army and any generals on a good Catholic die roll). Meanwhile, the Bavarians are heavily recruiting. I pull the Brunswickers over to cover the Protestants in Saxony.

And time runs out...

Normally, once going, the turns run about 20 minutes in length. However, Brent had not played and so we discussed the rules of the game before hand and then had to look up a few things where I could not find a specific way to resolve a rules question. I eventually discovered these and we were able to proceed.

I really liked the mechanisms for this game. In my first outting, I was the Catholics and had done quite well, but we later realized we had totally screwed up the logistical side of the game, which Brent and I ended up getting right.

Although this game is out of print, currently, it is available through such places as (which is where I got mine). GMT is out of additional counters and partially out of the cards, so make sure that any seller has a COMPLETE game, before purchasing. I was missing one card, one counter, and both dice, but GMT covered me with their last bits and bobs on the shelf.  The only quibble I have about the game is that it is strictly a two-player game. The cards for the card activation mechanism just don't lend themselves into opening this up to a three or four player game.

I vowed to them that I would be ordering more of their games, and have already pre-ordered a reprint of For the People which is expected in the next six months or so. I may also pick up Hannibal, when I can.

Brent has two DBR armies for this period and he and I are looking at using the map and some of the mechanisms for running a small miniature campaign.

Monday, September 22, 2014

To Build A Better Bomb: The Manhattan Project

A few weeks ago, on our regularly scheduled boardgame night, my mates and I were exposed to the radioactive goodness that is The Manhattan Project. Evan particularly enjoyed the game and so he purchased a copy within a matter of hours.

I, too, had a lot of fun. I had been looking over the game for several months, but had not parted with my money for it. I am always on the lookout for a game my sons and I would enjoy, but while this looked good, I was not sure about the play of it.

However, after three games, none of which I won, I do believe the game is a keeper.

The game board is actually quite small, but each player also had his/her own side board, and then there are cards which are used throughout the game play. Looking at the board itself, one sees that it is not only very busy, but also very stylized (a bonus!) and filled with play areas where one places workers.

Yes, it IS a worker placement game. Much in the style of Euro games, one one is eliminated during play. Although, one can become frustrated if an evil player chooses to make one's life miserable (insert evil laugh here).

There are three types of workers in the game, as I don't own a copy of the rules, I will use what I remember and totally make up what I don't remember: Workers, Scientists, and Engineers. Workers can do most anything, apart from design or build the actual nuclear bombs. Scientists can help produce more scientists, design and build bombs, and also create the all-important fissionable materials as ingredients to bomb-making: uranium and plutonium. Engineers get a bonus for building some buildings, help produce industrial goods, and are generally better than workers in most any of the board spaces.

Each player receives four of each kind, in their own color. There are also four of each kind in a neutral gray, which are acquired as temporary workers due to board placement or cards that are in play on a player's board.

When it is your turn, you MUST place a worker on the board OR you may recall your workers. When a recall action happens, your workers, wherever they are and also all the gray workers on the board are removed and placed back in their proper pools. If you place a worker on the board, it may be placed on any open space, subject to certain limitations. For example, some spaces require an Engineer or a Scientist and these are noted on the board space.

Cards are purchased from those available along the top of the board, with card position determining the cost of the card below it. As a card is purchased, the cards to the right are shifted, filling the now empty location, and a new card from the deck is revealed and placed in the far right position. If an Engineer is used to build the building, either of the two left most cards may be purchased at no cost. Also, if there are any funds in the area on the very far left of the cards, those are taken by the player who purchases the left most card for $2 (or for free with an Engineer).

These cards are essential to a player's ability to win the game. Yes, one can play without any cards, but doing so puts one at a severe disadvantage. This is due to the fact that once a player has placed a worker on the board, he can then place the rest of his workers (including any temporary workers that have been gained since one's last Recall) on his cards.

Notice, there are also markers for fighters and bombers on this player card. Yes, you CAN bomb opponents into well, not submission, but surely into a realm of extreme frustration.  If you look at the image above, notice the symbols along the top of each card. These indicate the costs of activating the card, whether this be through worker placement or the expenditure of money, yellow cake, and fissionables.

Uranium bombs are worth more victory points, but are also more difficult to produce, unless you get very lucky with early card purchases.

Some cards produce only one type of resource, where others give a choice between two types, and another gives both. In the image above, placing any worker on the university card allows a player to choose either a Scientist or an Engineer. But the factory in the lower left allows for a bomber and $2 for the placement of any two workers. Notice that the enrichment plant in top right needs $4, two Scientists, and three Yellowcake in order to produce two uranium.

Yellowcake is almost always used in the production of uranium and plutonium. It can be produced via cards or by placing a worker on the appropriate board space. There are quite a few wooden pieces for this, but if you run out of these during a game, you can substitute any suitable items; I recommend coins with the coin value equaling the same amount of Yellowcake.

 If a player has not gotten the needed card, there is a work around; Espionage. On the left side of the board, there is a single space costing $3. Placing a worker there allows a player to move his Espionage marker one greater and also to place his workers on ANOTHER player's cards up to the limit of his Espionage marker. So, if you have been using espionage throughout the game and now have your marker at 4, you may place workers on up to four cards owned by other players...they do not need to be the same player.

 photo Mp1_zps03a893cb.jpg

The above image is from my last game. Although difficult so see, I have seven cards that produce fighters or bombers or can be used to produce money or can do both, depending on the card. I built up my air forces quickly and then bombed two of my opponents....after sensing their frustration, I stopped in a moment of weakness. I wanted to see how this worked as none of the others had used their air forces in any of the three games we'd played.

Each bomber I used gave me a damage token that I then placed on the opponent's cards. The cards could not be activated if damaged, so they needed to then repair, which is not cheap.

 photo MP2_zpsb17377d3.jpg

Also from the last game. You can see the bomb cards, and a few of the yellowcake, in the foreground. On the board, on the right edge, you see the inventory of fissionables for each player. There are numerous bomb blueprint cards, each with a unique name and one or two victory point values. Uranium bombs are worth the most and also cost the most, but Plutonium bombs  have two possible values. If a player builds a Plutonium bomb and then "tests" it, it is removed from his play area, but he then receives the higher value from any of his other bombs. Additionally, not only do the bombs cost U or P, but also workers must be placed on the card in order to build it.

This is a good game! It is one of the "tightest" designs, with the best utilized maps that I have ever seen. Very little board space is wasted and the worker placement mechanisms give players a great deal of control over their tactics. In many other worker placement games, everyone places their workers and then picks them all up at once. In this game, you can pick up your workers as often as you want, depending on your play style.

There is an expansion available, which we do not have (Evan needs to buy it!), that includes personalities, nations, rockets, and another ingredient similar to Yellowcake (it is a slightly different colored wooden block).

There is also an iOS app, but the reviews of that version indicate that it needs some bug squashing to really make it worthwhile.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

An Army's Stomach

I am trying to now get back in the swing of things, blogging-wise. After a heavy workload summer, I am back to the usual schedule of desperation and famine; full-time work still eludes my every advance, like a smart woman.

So, I am writing this post as a way to get back to blogging regularly, again. I still have a backlog of things to post about, complete with photos, but today's post is text heavy.

If you have been following my blog for the past couple of years, you know that I am trying to start an imagi-nations campaign, but have been thwarted by a now dead desktop, which has the custom map on its hard drive. I am THIS close to having it fully repaired, but I need a new monitor now, in addition to the internal hardware that has been or still needs to be replaced.

Anyhow, while this delay has been going on, I have been intermittently working on fleshing out and/or cleaning up the campaign rules. Much of which has yet to be posted on the "official" campaign site. However, I am working on the logistical rules, and have a revision in mind. See below.

The current campaign rules for logistics require a lot of math calculations before, during, and after a turn. Since the campaign map is nodal, with each node been a source of supply (of various sizes and capacities for supply) players, and myself as umpire, would have to calculate how much supply was available to a given army within about four nodes of a force's location. This means we'd be calculating up to 20 or more node's worth of supply for EVERY player's non-garrison force on the map.

I never liked what I had thrown together for these rules. Yes, they are more "realistic" in a sense, but they are also far too complicated to expect to last and broken/abused rules really do not belong in a campaign.

Thus, my new idea...

Begins with the premise that an infantry battalion's supply is about equal in cost (a term to describe the many factors involved in delivering needed supplies to a particular unit) to that of a cavalry squadron or artillery gun (with crew). Not everyone may agree, but in MY campaign, this happens to be true.

Next, each node, complete with population center of small to very, very large (non-technical terms), can provide a given amount of supply, roughly equivalent to other population centers of the same size. Larger population centers give proportionately more supply than smaller ones.

Meaning that a village will provide the same amount of supply as another village, but a major town will provide even more.

Now, we just need to make it easier to track how a force is supplied during a campaign turn of approximately one week of time.

Some may argue that logistics is unnecessary for wargame campaigns and can be left out, but I disagree. Logistics IS a major part of military planning and the early 18th century campaigns that did not succeed were usually the victims of poor logistical planning or execution.

I want my players to have to chose where to strike and be subject to attrition if their preparations are lacking. I also want to give them the opportunity to hurt other players by razing lands as a means to reduce another player's ability to feed his troops.

Hence, the proposed revision of the rules is:

1) Armies, of any size, must be supplied over the course of a turn, otherwise they will be subject to attrition.

2) Garrisons do not require supply neither do they absorb supply. Garrisons are handled differently if the location is under siege; see the appropriate rules for sieges.

3)  Population Centers provide the following amounts of supply:
  • Capital City: 16
  • Major City: 12
  • Minor City: 10
  • Major Town: 6
  • Minor Town: 4
  • Village: 1
4) Supply is provided locally. This means that a given force is considered as being fully supplied if its size does not exceed the supply capacity of its location. If otherwise, then the force must be within three nodes of a magazine that can sufficiently supply it, else the force will be subject to attrition.

5) Magazines may be purchased by the players during the Winter phase of the campaign. They will each provide a given amount of supply, with several magazines purchased and placed in a single location to increase its effectiveness.

a) Magazine capacity: 16

6) Magazines will provide supply up to three nodes away, with a diminishing capacity the further away from its location. In same location, 100%; 1 node away, 75%; 2 nodes away, 50%; 3 nodes away, 25% (all values rounded down).

7) As a force moves during a turn, it must check against the location's supply capacity. If the force exceeds the local supply capacity, then a check for any magazine within three nodes is made. If the force both exceeds local supply and does not have sufficient magazine capacity, then it will check for attrition losses for each battalion/squadron/gun not in supply. Only those units which exceed supply are checked for, not each unit in the force. The owning player chooses which of his units are in supply. However, only one Attrition Roll per unit per node is allowed. This means that if a player first rolls against his infantry, but there are still rolls to be made, they then must be rolled against his cavalry. An exception is that players may always choose to save his guns by forcing infantry or cavalry units to make additional rolls.

8) Attrition losses are taken at the end of the turn, before any battles are fought.

9) The logistics rules only apply to armies when marching outside one's own territory. We assume the troops are being fed one way or the other within home territory.

10) Attrition losses are handled like combat losses. Some are permanent. Some will go into the casualty pool. Some may go into replacement pool from the casualty pool. Replacement pool figures go back into units, based on the player's desires.

Example, player A orders his Army of Observation, composed of 8 battalions of infantry, 4 squadrons of horse, and 2 guns to move to a spot four nodes away.

The path tracks through a minor town, a major town, a village, and ends in a major town with a magazine. This means the supply value of that path is 4, 6, 1, and 6; the army supply requirement is 14. With the help of the valuable magazine the actual supply capacity is 8, 14, 13, and 22. This results in 7 Attrition Die rolls, six for the first node and one for the third node of movement. Attrition Die rolls can result in 0-2 figures lost per unit. The owner of the army selects to roll each of the Attrition dice against his infantry battalions as he has 8 battalions, which is greater than the number of rolls he had to make at the first node.

Note: I want players to have to take attrition an attrition losses into account. The economic system I plan for the campaign requires that players make choices and not be able to do everything they could wish in a given campaign year. The idea being that since historical commanders had to make do with limited objectives each campaign, so should they...but if they choose not to, then they will also pay a price in attrition for. So, a player might raise several extra regiments instead of stockpiling supplies in magazines, but they then risk losing large numbers of troops due to lack of supply.

Incidentally, well really by design, this means that protecting one's line of supply is vital and failing to do so will potentially have severe consequences.

I solicit responses and suggestions, but know that I am fairly well happy with the mechanics of this system.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Coming up for air!

Sorry friends!

I have been absolutely busy these past weeks, far more than anticipated. I have been teaching one class, during the summer, at the local university. However, this summer I am teaching four classes, including one where I had to design the curriculum on my own, two days before the class started.

So, while. I am actually earning some dosh, finally, I have been focused on work and sleep up to this point, with a game during the week, here and there.

As one class is now finished and a second ends this Thursday,  I hope to catch up on a backlog of posts.

Meanwhile,  I have been purchasing terrain materials, especially trees and foliage, and expect to purchase some teddy bear fur and pink insulation foam this week. In addition, I bought a few rules and miniatures and will post on those soon.