Rubicon Models Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer Review

Firstly a big thanks to Tyler for the series on Muskets and Tomahawks, it was a big help as I went through surgery and gives all of us a chance to read well constructed articles that don’t ramble on like mine tend too, about one of the most colourful and fun periods to game in.  I do wounder if Tyler would like to do a series on Bolt Action at some point, as Tyler dips his toe in to 28mm WW2.  I am back now and we are off to a running start, while recovering I had a chance to catch up on some new and old projects.  So here is the first.

Rubicon Models released their Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer, well I had to have one, not only because it is a cool model, but because I really wanted to do a force for Bolt Action with Hetzers in it.

 

Image from Rubicon Models

As soon as I got my hands on one I had to review the kit, and here are, my Rubicon Models Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer Review.

Continue reading “Rubicon Models Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer Review”

Muskets and Tomahawks In Action

Tyler here, writing to you one last time. You may remember from my last couple posts that your regular author, Floppy, heroically pioneered a new Field Hockey goal defence technique. It involves stopping the ball with your face. It didn’t go well, which is why I’ve been writing to you.

For the last couple weeks I’ve written a lot about the 18th century skirmish wargame Muskets and Tomahawks, and why I love it so much. Today, I’m doing something a bit different. Yesterday at the League of Ancients, a Melbourne wargames club, I played a couple games of M&T. I also snapped a bunch of photos, and thought I would post a lot of those as a kind of pictorial battle report. So, with just a little bit of writing from me to explain the action, here it is.

Oh, and apologies that I’m uploading this a day later than intended. I had it ready to go and saved as a draft, but when I tried to post it I got a series of timeout errors. I’m not sure exactly why, but Floppy tells me that it seems the host came under attack from someone in Belorussia? I guess someone over there is still unhappy about how the French Indian War turned out, and doesn’t want me bringing it up.

Anyway, on to the game!

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We played the first game on a double wide table, with four players. Richard and Andrew, below, played the dastardly French. They had a mix of French Regulars, French-Canadian Irregulars, Indian allies, and a crowd of Civilians to defend. Richard’s random sideplot was to have his Indian officer avoid ever killing anyone. Andrew’s sideplot was a need to capture a prisoner alive, by defeating an enemy in close combat.

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On our side of the table was Mark (below) and myself. Mark ran a mixed force of British Regulars and Indian allies. I ran a purely Indian force, with a couple normal units, one elite unit with rifles, and two leaders. Mark and I’s mission was to scout every sector of the board.

Mark’s sideplot was that his Regular officer had, up until recently, been a spy in the French village! In order to win his sideplot, Mark had to keep his officer from ever being seen by the enemy, and thus blowing his cover. We decided that the French must have heard rumours about a possible spy, which is why Andrew’s side objective was to capture a prisoner for interrogation!

Mark’s British officer spent the entire game scouting out sectors on the isolated left flank, and managed to flee from the French-allied Indians that Richard sent to hunt him. It was quite a smart tactic from Mark; his officer contributed quite a bit to our main objective, without losing a sideplot that would have usually been fairly difficult to win.

The sideplot I rolled up was simply to prevent my opponents from succeeding on theirs.

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The first started out very well for us. The French Regulars (my own miniatures, lent to Andrew for the day) marched boldly forward. But my elite Indians emerged from hidden positions and brought deadly accurate rifle fire to bear. French return volleys couldn’t hit the stealthy warriors.

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Things only got worse for the French Regulars when British line troops marched onto the table and added an effective volley of their own. That fence provided light cover, but it wasn’t enough to stop the French being cut down to just two survivors, and quickly retreating.

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As the French Regulars pulled back, their French-Canadian Irregular troops were turning a nearby patch of fruit trees into an impromptu fortress. You can see them in the hedge-lined area on the top right of the picture below. My Indians are moving up through the woods to face the Irregulars. The two sides would sit opposite one another firing for the next couple turns.

Mark’s British Regulars, bottom left, marched around that field, through the village, and poured fire into the Irregulars from the side.

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With casualties mounting for the French skirmishers, and the British Regulars getting closer, I was getting ready to take the plunge and cross the open ground for a bit of scalping action. If it worked and I cut my way through the French-Canadians, my warriors would do terrible things to the crowd of civilians hiding at the back of the forest.

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Andrew and Richard had reserves arriving from their table edge, but it wouldn’t be enough. I was willing to accept any amount of casualties, in order to kill those civilians. We had already completed our scouting objective, and Mark had enough troops to control the battlefield even if all of mine died. My braves were ready to sacrifice their lives to drive the French-Canadian invaders off their ancestral lands!

But alas, at that point Richard rolled the dice to see if the game would come to an early end. As the defender in a civilian protection mission, he could roll every turn to see if the battle ended early. It was actually pretty unlikely that the game end at this stage, but the dice decided that night began to fall, and a heavy rainstorm came with it. That was enough to soak everyone’s powder, as well as allowing the civilians to slip away to safety under cover of darkness. Our warriors and their British allies gave up the chase and returned home.

In game terms, the result was a dead draw. Both sides completed their main objectives; us to scout the whole table, and the French to protect their settlers. Side plots usually break ties in M&T, but this time both sides completed one sideplot, but failed the other. Richard’s pacifist Indian leader killed no one, and Mark’s spy kept out of sight. But Andrew couldn’t capture a prisoner, and I couldn’t stop Richard completing his sideplot. So a perfect tie! And a very fun game, with a great group of players. I look forward to seeing you guys across a tabletop again sometime soon!

That brings my guest tenure here on Floppy’s blog to a close. Thanks to you for reading. I hope that this series of articles has sparked an interest in Muskets and Tomahawks, if you weren’t already a player. And I hope to see some of you readers painting some of the colourful and varied forces available for this game, and playing out some of the dramatic skirmishes of 18th Century North America.

 

 

Unit Types in Muskets and Tomahawks

Hi! This is Tyler, writing to you today because Floppy forgot to duck. I’ll be continuing my discussion of Muskets and Tomahawks with a look at the types of forces you can build, and how they look and feel on the tabletop.

First, an update on Flop’s health. He’s through surgery now, and recovering well. I even saw him struggle his way through his first post-op beer on Friday night. It seemed to make him feel a bit better, but it’s tough to read his mood because most of his face is a bruise.

It’s also Floppy’s birthday today. Sadly, the injury pretty much means he won’t be doing anything fun. But here’s wishing him a happy birthday, and a swift recovery. He’s hoping to be painting again soon. But it doesn’t pay to rush things, and I’ve got plenty to write about, so let’s delve a little deeper on Muskets and Tomahawks.

Deciding Who You Are and How You’ll Play

Now, you might presume that I’m about to go in-depth on the various nations you can play in the game, but that wouldn’t actually tell you all that much. You see, the colour of your flag in Muskets and Tomahawks will govern some part of what troops you can and can’t take, but it’s not actually the most important aspect of list design. Instead, what you really need to choose is what “type” of force you want. So that’s where we’ll focus.

Force type in Muskets and Tomahawks comes down to a choice between:
Regulars
Provincials
Militia
Irregulars
Indians
Mixed

Now, in practice your list will almost never be purely made up of only one of the troop types. But if any type makes up more than half of the figures in your force, that’s what you count as. And that’s purely based on numbers, not on points percentage.

The most obvious reason why your type of force matters comes up pre-game, when you dice to see what your and your opponent’s objectives will be. As you might expect, different types of forces are more likely to get different missions. A majority Indian force is more likely to be raiding, because that more closely represents their style of warfare, and that’s what they were so often hired to do during the European settlers’ conflicts. Militia, obviously, are more likely to be defending their homes. Regulars or Provincials are more likely to be seeking out and destroying the enemy. And so on. Understanding the type of mission you’re more likely to play and planning your force to meet is an important consideration.

But I believe that force type is even more important than it first seems. Muskets and Tomahawks has a number of different systems working together “under the hood” of the rules. And they aren’t always obvious, because it all works together so smoothly that games progress with a quick, natural feel. It’s only when you stop and think about it that you realise that the game how cleverly evoking the feel of the various troop types to tell a story.

FullSizeRenderFrench Regulars defend a homestead, with artillery support 

Fighting in Uniform for King and Country

I’m going to go ahead and lump Regulars and Provincials together under one subhead. You see, Provincials are troops raised for the American colonies, who fight in the style of European Regulars. Whereas Regulars are either European troops who have come by boat, or in the case of the Continental Regulars, an American equivalent. Now, I say this with a degree of ignorance; I haven’t used or even faced off against Provincials, so I don’t know for certain that there isn’t more to them than just “discount Regulars”. It’s possible that there’s some subtle difference that will emerge on the table. I wouldn’t put it past the authors of Muskets and Tomahawks, they’ve surprised and impressed me that way before.

But for now, let’s consider the two types as fairly similar. So, how to describe your uniformed troops? As you might expect, these troops do well marching around in neat lines in the open. Individual shooting is poor, but when they all fire together as a volley it’s much better. They move slow, but they’re hard to stop without concentrated fire. Regulars especially will usually ignore all but the most heavy casualties.

If you play a Regular or Provincial force, expect to see more mobile opponents run circles around you, to an extent. And you’ll see them fade back into the wilderness when you start to inflict casualties, so that you can’t finish units off. You can counter these weaknesses with your strengths. If the enemy won’t come to you, then let them slip away. March arrogantly onto the objective and stay there, so that they have to come to you or lose. You can of course take a few units of light troops to support you on the flanks and to march into thick forest when there’s no other choice. But if you overspend on light supports, you’ll end up weakening the solid uniformed lines that are your core.

The French, British, Germans and American revolutionaries all have access to Regular troops. The French and British have access to Provincials. There are a multitude of ways to upgrade your line troops. You can make them just a bit tougher and more active by upgrading them to grenadiers. British generals can upgrade them to marksmen. American revolutionaries have fewer upgrade options, but can have larger units.

The only force without access to Regulars or Provincials are the Native American Nations, for obvious reasons.

Creeping about in the Trees

Irregular troops are any Europeans who fight in loose order, moving a bit more quickly, but without the stolid dependability of the Regulars. Typically their morale will be a bit more easily shaken. On the table these units creep forward through forests, or dart about very quickly in the open. When they get hit they usually fall back, but then bounce forward again soon after, until they win or die.

This troop type can represent your French Canadian settlers who have had a lot of cultural exchange with the Native Americans, and have taken on a bit of their way of fighting, travelling and living. Or it could be British or German light troops in uniform, but trained to fight in loose order. It can even represent the hardy frontiersmen among the American revolutionaries who fought by ambush and guerrilla tactics.

Irregulars are extremely customisable. You can take small, cheap units, or large ones with frightening amounts of firepower. There are versions with more solid morale, or less. Some can have rifles instead of muskets, for slower fire but greater accuracy. All of them are more mobile than regular troops, and some can be upgraded to be more mobile still. The French even have access to units of Marines who can either be light troops or regulars, decided at the start of the game.

FullSizeRender (1)A large unit of French irregulars. These could easily pass for British
or
American Frontiersmen, if you took out the blue hats.

At Home in the Woods

Native American troops of different nations were allied to either side of the French Indian War (hence the name). Some also fought in the American Revolution, again on both sides of the conflict. And there are a number of wars between Native Nations and the European settlers, conflicts too often forgotten in my opinion.

Indian troops often act a lot like Irregulars on the tabletop, but there are subtle differences. Indians are much more dangerous in close combat. Indians are more likely than some other troops to recoil from enemy fire, but less likely than most to rout completely. Indians perform better in rough terrain than out of it, as you would expect. Both because they get bonuses there, and also in practice because the shorter sight lines let them get closer, where they can use those tomahawks and knives.

When used as allies or mercenaries in a European force, they often fulfill one of two roles; either as accurate back-table snipers, or as a fragile but devastating melee unit, which usually works once to great effect and then shatters. Essentially a hand grenade.

When you take a purely Indian force, you get a greater variety of upgrades, and your troops can fulfill more roles. They all still fight in the Indian style, of course. But pure Indian forces have access both to upgrades and downgrades, so that you can build variety into your force for different purposes.

FullSizeRender (3)This force includes Indians, Regulars and Irregulars, but the majority
are Indian, so that’s the “type” for the objective roll.

Defending the Farmstead

Militia are a bit of an odd creature. They don’t shoot very well, they don’t fight very well in close combat, and they aren’t very mobile. Up until recently, I had largely thought of these as poor quality, “filler” troops. But a recent game taught me that I hadn’t been giving them enough credit. While it’s true that they are less likely to kill their opponents, militia aren’t really any easier to kill. Every one of them is a warm body, ready to absorb a musket shot or a blade. And that may sound obvious, but what surprised me was their morale.

Maybe it’s because they’re defending their homes, but the snaggle-toothed rednecks just will not run away! Throughout the entire game, I was faced with a dilemma between shooting at the massive militia unit, knowing that they would refuse to run if I did kill a few of them, versus shooting at the much more dangerous, better units in my opponent’s force. But ignoring the militia left them free to fire volley after badly aimed volley at me, and eventually even the worse shots have to hit some time. And all the while, they were sitting their defending the village I wanted to burn. So credit to the militia, they surprised me.

The Odds and Sods

Mixed forces, are, obviously, any force that isn’t majority one type. What they’ll look like and how they’ll play will come down to what they’re a mix of, naturally.

There are also some unit types who don’t get to make up full forces. Artillery and cavalry are minor support arms, often not taken at all, and never taken in great numbers. That’s a result of history, of course. In game, these units can be very useful, but in a very specific role. Artillery knock down building faster than anything in the game, and can provide a decent bit of firepower in one area. But of course they’re very slow to move, and very vulnerable to return fire. Cavalry, on the other hand, have a huge amount of mobility in the open, but struggle in close terrain. And cavalry’s low numbers mean that they aren’t overwhelming when they get to wherever those fast horses are taking them. Typically they outflank the enemy and then dismount to fight, or they stay on their horses and spend the game running down damaged units in the open.

With artillery and cavalry both rather expensive, you usually see only one unit of either type on the table, if any at all. That suits the conflicts Muskets and Tomahawks covers. Though it is technically possible to have higher numbers of these very specialised troops. I am tempted to see what a force with three large cavalry units could do. I imagine it will either be glorious or horrible, but definitely nowhere in the middle.

FullSizeRender (2)Two officers to lead a Highlander force, my latest project.

Gather the Men and March Out

So there you have it, my thoughts on the various types of army you can take in Muskets and Tomahawks. I think the authors have done a fantastic job of balancing the game so that every troop type or mix of types feels fun and challenging. Every type of force has strengths and weaknesses that mesh well, so that you never feel powerless, but also never feel totally in control and unbeatable. It’s a key part of why both players always seem to enjoy the game, whatever the result ends up being. And every game feels like it’s told an exciting story, which is something I value very highly in wargaming.

Next week I hope to bring you a battle report from a Muskets and Tomahawks game at the League of Ancients wargames club, here in Melbourne, Australia. I’ll be teaching a couple of new players the game, so it should help demonstrate how easy it is to get started.

Until then,
Tyler

Muskets, Tomahawks, Head Wounds, and a Few Acres of Snow

Hi everyone. My name is Tyler Jefferson, and I’ll be your guest author for the next three Sundays here on ‘What Could Possibly Go Wrong?’.

Why, you ask?

Because your usual author, Scott ‘Floppy’ Bartel, got his skull stoved in playing field hockey. I’m reliably informed that he managed to sustain about as serious a hit to the face as it’s possible to get without permanent damage to his brain, teeth or vision. So, depending on your point of view, he was either very lucky, or very unlucky. And isn’t that the essence of wargaming, to debate over relative luck after someone takes a serious head wound?

All humour aside, Floppy is expected to recover fully over a few months. And he will be back to painting and playing wargames within a few weeks. So expect to hear from him again soon. But in the meantime, he’s asked me to write a few articles to fill the gap, which I’m very happy to be doing.

Like a true friend, I’m not letting Floppy’s painful, bedridden and highly-medicated condition stop me from making jokes at his expense. So for the next few weeks, I’ll be taking an in-depth look at a game that Floppy has been promising to paint an army for and play for years now…but which he’s consistently failed to follow up on. He’s too lazy to do it, so I present to you Muskets and Tomahawks. The easy to learn but surprisingly deep, narrative-driven wargame about small, sharp battles in 18th Century North America. That is, the French Indian War, the various conflicts between First People nations and European invaders, and the US War of Independence.

FullSizeRenderSome of my Native American warriors

For the first of our three part series, I’ll give a quick overview of Muskets and Tomahawks (M&T from here on), and explain why I think it’s one of the greatest wargames ever written.

In next week’s article I’ll look at the various forces available and discuss the many ways that your unit choices change the game and capture the feel of the period. And in my final article I’ll show you it all in action with a battle report. Throughout I’ll have pictures of painted miniatures from my own collection and from other Melbourne wargamers. My painting isn’t up to Floppy’s standards, but it will have to do because Floppy is lazy and hasn’t painted his M&T army yet.

So, let’s get into it!

The basics

M&T occupies that nebulous ‘skirmish’ level of wargame. 30–50 figures per side, for a normal sized game. Larger than some skirmish games, smaller than others, but fewer figures than the set piece battle games.

The game is miniatures agnostic — the publishing company, Studio Tomahawk, has a loose partnership I believe with North Star Figures. North Star produce some decent quality 28mm miniatures packaged specifically for M&T. But you can and are encouraged to use miniatures from any manufacturer you like. The game was designed with 28mm miniatures in mind, but there’s a guide in the rulebook for converting ranges to suit smaller or larger figures. I personally think that this scale of game is perfectly suited to 28mm, so that’s how I play it. But that’s just my opinion.

And if you’re wondering why my mention of the publisher, Studio Tomahawk, rings a bell, it’s because they’re the French wargames publisher who brought us the brilliant and very successful Saga. M&T was actually their first project, Saga a later idea, but it was Saga that was translated to English first. M&T followed years later, and has begun to enjoy the same success.

There’s a hidden movement mechanic. Indian and Irregular troops can deploy as hidden movement markers. Those markers can move around the table, but not attack or complete objectives. When they get close enough to the enemy, or when their controlling players decide, they’re replaced with miniatures. There are also some dummy markers, so your opponent can’t be sure exactly where your strength is. But eventually you’ll have to come out of hiding, to accomplish anything. What it means is that the first turn or two the skirmishers are hidden, but they come out and get involved before the mid-game really gets started.

And finally, the most unique ‘basic detail’ to get out of the way about M&T is how the turn sequence works. Like some other modern wargames, M&T uses a semi-random simultaneous card activation system. And if that sounds like gibberish, just let me explain.

You see, when you’re playing M&T you don’t divide the game into your turn and your opponent’s turn. Instead, before the game you build a small deck of cards. Those cards are labelled with unit types. Militia, Regulars, Artillery, Indians, and so on. And each card has a nationality. So if my French force consists of Militia, Indians and Provincial troops, and my opponent’s force has British Regulars and Provincials, our deck for the game would include these cards:

cards

Now, looking at the above picture, you can probably guess how things will develop. We’ll shuffle those cards all together, and then one by one flip them over and resolve their actions. And note that the different unit types get different mixes of cards. This makes the game unpredictable in a way that reflects the chaotic skirmishes that took place in 18th Century North America, where dense terrain often made large battles difficult and central command and communication in an army impossible. But the subtle brilliance is that, while it’s unpredictable, it’s still semi-predictable. And each unit type acts in a very different way.

Regulars only get to act a couple times a turn, but when they do act they can achieve a lot at once with their superior drill. So they’re very formidable, but inflexible and have a hard time reacting to a changing situation. Militia have the same problem, of inflexibility, but they lack the Regulars professional drill to compensate.

Indians and Irregular troops, meanwhile, have a high number of activations, but scattered throughout the turn. So they don’t have a huge impact all at once, but they can easily change direction mid-turn and act on a whole new plan. They’re unpredictable.

When you’re playing M&T you never quite know what’s going to happen next, but if you look at what troops you have on the table and what your opponent has, you can make an educated guess. And then your moves become informed gambles. Risk versus reward decisions. The very heart of good, interesting game design.

Another clever bit of design is the objective system. Before setting up for the game, both players roll to see what kind of mission they’re force is on. I’ll go into more detail in the next article on different force types; for now suffice to say that a force with lots of scouts is more likely to be on a recon mission or a raid, whereas a force with lots of regular troops is more likely to be defending a village or simply seeking to find and attack the enemy.

And then, in addition to your primary objectives, each side gets one ‘subplot’ attached to one of their officers. These subplots break tied games, and add a lot of narrative flavour, and there’s a massive table of them to roll for. It could be that your leader is desperate to prove himself in front of his men. Or he could be rescuing a damsel in distress. Or a coward, who wins his subplot by keeping his distance from the enemy. It’s a small detail, which often doesn’t have a huge effect on the game, but is surprisingly effective at sparking storytelling at the table.

So, those are the basics. And if that was all there was to Muskets & Tomahawks, it would be a very good, fun game with a nice amount of historical flavour.

FullSizeRender(1)My rakish looking French officer. A Perry Miniature that was a joy to paint.

But there are more layers to this onion. And, happily, I’m not talking about the kind of finicky mechanical detail that clogs some game systems so that they grind to an unplayable halt. No, I mean the sort of really cleverly designed rules that add flavour, balance, touches of unpredictability, and heaps of replay value, but without slowing down the game.

For example, I could explain how the cover system works to sometimes allow stealthy troops in woods to snipe at targets in the open who can’t even see them, which means they’re more likely to panic from casualties. Or how that is balanced by advantages to regular troops marching in line in open terrain.

There are many reasons why Muskets and Tomahawks is one of my favourite wargames. And, because Floppy forgot to duck, I’ll be writing more to you about the game for the next couple weeks.

Until next Sunday,

Tyler