Monday, August 8, 2011

Summer PAASL

A busy summer has left me without much time for gaming.  The next PAASL meeting, which I will finally be able to attend, is on Monday, August 15.  

In other news, my podcast debut was featured at the beginning of The 2 Half-Squads Episode #50 in the opening comedy bit.  Bonus points if you can pick out my line!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

AAR: Here I Stand (For A Few Minutes)

Here I Stand
Full 9 Turn Scenario 1517-1555
Ottoman: Michael R
Protestant, Pope, England, France, Hapsburg: Rich, Tom, Jim, Mike, Bob

This weekend was another full game of Here I Stand hosted by Rich S.  Aside from Rich and myself, the additional four players were all new to me, so it was nice to meet an expanding base of local gamers.  This was the first time playing a live game for a number of the the group, so the atmosphere was understood to be friendly and educational.  We all arrived ready to commit the day to diplomacy and conquest; little did we know it would all be over by lunch.  By the end of turn 3, France was declared Master of Europe. 

There is little point in giving a detailed account of such short game.  Essentially, my Ottomans and the Hapsburg squared off in Hungary and in the Mediterranean resulting in a stalemate.  The French prosecuted a war with the Pope in Northern Italy.  The Protestant was in no position to intervene in the early rounds and the English remained uncommited until Turn 3 when, realizing the potential for French victory, launched an abortive raid on Paris from Calais.  Through a series of New World successes and a nearly perfect draw of cards to complement his Italian strategy (Master of Italy), France hit the 25 vp's needed to win at the end of Turn 3.  I have yet to participate in a game that goes past 4 turns; I would like to see how a more typical endgame plays out.

Monday, May 23, 2011

AAR: DASL3 Storming The Factory

Advanced Squad Leader VASL
Deluxe ASL 3: Storming The Factory
Germany: Michael R.
Russia: John H.

For this weeks round we picked the deluxe board scenario Storming The Factory.  This one pits a force of 20 German SS squads against a factory of 22 Russians during the advance on Rostov in July 1942.  Notably missing are the ususal toys we associate with factory assaults: flamethrowers, fanatics and fortified locations.  Instead the Germans get a randomly arriving set of PzIVF2's and the Russians get Molotov capability to counter this armored threat.  The Germans get ten turns to take the factory, but must use this generous amount of time wisely to reduce the Russians to a variable, but ultimately low, number of squads. 
Initial Setup
Setup requires each side to start rather densely packed in their respective starting areas.  My plan was to use the extra time afforded by the scenario to attempt a double envelopment of the factory to prevent a Russian fighting withdrawal.  My armor force came on randomly at the very first opportunity which required me to take the Russians down to 3 squads (not squad equivalents).   
German Envelopment On Both Flanks
The tanks were able to take advantage of their quick arrival and helped the right flank forces quickly threaten the east sector of the map.  The left flank advanced methodically up to the west and south approaches to the factory.  The critical phase occurred at two points around turn 4.  On the left flank I pushed one PzIV into the factory followed by its supporting infantry force.  They survived all attempts to dislodge them and would dominate the factory interior for the rest of the game.  The other decisive factor was a series of berzerker Russian squads on the right flank that charged the maneuvering armor, abandoning their heavy machine gun and unhinging their defensive line.  They did manange to flame one of the Panzers with a Molotov but at the expense of an exposed right flank. 
Factory Encircled
From that point the fate of the factory was sealed.  The balance of the game was spent reducing the encircled Russian defenders until they finally surrendered.  This scenario, like many of the early deluxe board designs, features size without sophistication.  It does provide a good primer on basic urban block fighting with large maneuver elements, but is not a scenaro that will be revisited often. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Library Book Sale

This weekend is the Arlington Heights Memorial Library Book Sale.  It is the premier library book sale in the NW suburbs of Chicago.  The wife and I loved the sale so much we joined the Friends of the Library so as to volunteer to help at this seasonal event.  It has an incredible selection of genre, but for my tastes, a particularly large area devoted exclusively to history.  I've had many excellent finds of rare and obscure historical arcanum.  On second thought, don't's a lousy sale, nothing here for you to see.....move along...hey, that one's mine....I saw it first!
(We will be working the sale Friday evening which allows you to come in and shop the books early if you become a member of the Friends of the Library.) 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

AAR: Here I Stand

Here I Stand
Full 9 Turn Secenario 1517-1555
France: Michael R
England, Hapsburg, Ottoman, Pope, Protestant: Rich, Tim, Dean, Bob, John

This weekend I was finally able to try out Here I Stand in all its 6 player diplomatic glory.  This game duplicates the tumultuous period of early 16th Century Europe where players take on the roll of the various heads of state and religious leaders in order to guide their faction through a myriad of challenges.  As a CDG (card driven game) design, the game does a wonderful job of showcasing all the colorful events of the period.  Players must contend with: pirates, burning heretics, theological debates, exploring the New World, and Henry VIII's wives, just to name a few.  This period of history is woefully underrepresented in historical game design, and this simulation goes a long way toward correcting that imbalance. 

Europe: 1524
The was the first large multi-player diplomacy game I have played in a number of years.  When I first learned that Ed Beach had designed this game I was extremely interested.  Ed had continued the development of  the Great Campaigns of the Civil War series, one of my favorite systems, and I was certain an original game of his own design would also be a winner.  As a former Empires In Arms player, it was a joy to see how far these new designs have come in terms of efficiency and steamlining.  Rules for diplomacy, alliances, declarations of war, and peace treaties are all handled in such a way as to facilitate speed of play.  Our game on Saturday went about 8 hours and some of the players remarked that it should have gone quicker.  I was amused by these comments, thinking back to the days of Empires in Arms where 8 hours would have been one turn at best!
Diplomacy Phase: Secret Meetings in Dark Places
A quick overview of the game (from the French perspective):

The French and English started the game in a proxy war over Scotland.  This would eventually turn into a larger conflict the consumed most of our four turn game. The French launched a failed invasion of Portsmouth but managed to control the English Channel with the loan of the Spanish Fleet.  This allowed for the eventual seige and assault of Calais which finally fell in 1535. 
The English and French Prepare For War
This played out against the backdrop of Hasburg and Papal efforts to stem the growth of the Protestants in Germany.  The Ottomans pressed their war on Hungary and expanded in the Eastern Mediterranean, but were checked by the Hapsburgs and the Pope.  Near the end of turn 4, the Hapsburg and Papal successes where putting them close to the automatic victory point conditions, though it was unlikely either of them would win during the final phase of the turn.  Turn 5 would have seen a major redrawing of the diplomatic map of Europe in an effort to suppress their leads.  However, there was one chance that the Hapsburgs could pull off a victory by sending Narvaez, the worst navigator of the lot, on a cruise to circumnavigate the world.  In an incredible show of luck and daring, the Hapsburg managed to roll the needed eleven and twelve in rapid succession which gave him the neccessary victory points and an early end to the game!  

The final standings were: Hapsburg, Pope, France, Ottoman, England and Protestant.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Angarain Erain Members Read This First!

This post is a blatant shout out to the members of my kinship "Angarain Erain" on Lord of the Rings Online.  Instead of making handy crafting charts, deed lists and Warden power guides, I am now directing all my efforts to this blog.  You should all endeavor to check back frequently and consider playing a wargame with me instead of slipping off to that other game! 
Don't forget that there is a WARG in WARGamer.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

AAR: ASL 95: Descent Into Hell

Advanced Squad Leader VASL
ASL 95: Descent Into Hell
Germany: Michael R.
New Zealand: John H.

For my weekly VASL game with John H. I picked ASL 95: Descent Into Hell with the latest MMP revisons.  John H. and I have been playing ASL on and off for nearly 16 years.  John still resides in Michigan and VASL has allowed us to keep up our long running matchups in ASL despite several relocations for both of us over the years.  Descent Into Hell features German glider assault troops storming New Zealand positions at Maleme Airfield on Crete in May, 1941.  To win the German must eliminate a light AA battery and secure both ends of the strategic Tavronitis Bridge in 8.5 turns.  I took the Germans and planned to have the first wave of gliders hit fairly close to the airfield around which the AA guns were emplaced. 
Initial German Landing - Maleme Airfield
Dust is in effect for the first three turns, so this allowed a closer glider landing than would normally be possible.  Gliders are vulnerable to fire on the turn they land, so the dust provided just the cover neccessary to get the squads off intact.  The landing worked quite well, bringing me down close to two of the AA guns.  Within three turns, this pair of guns was eliminated, but the dust had settled down and I had to contend with approaching the third gun over open ground opposed by the defenders in the airfield buildings.

Turn 3: Two Guns Down, One To Go
On turn 4 the second wave of glider troops landed around the bridge, one group on a hill overlooking the eastern bridge defenses and another in the middle of the dry river bed itself.  This landing went off perfectly and these forces were able to secure both ends of the bridge within 4 turns.

Turn 4:
 Bridge Assault Force Landing
I was able to divert some of the bridge force toward the airfield battle, but they would arrive too late to help.  The remaining troops at the airfield inched their way toward better positions to eliminate the last AA gun.  However, the doughty Kiwis rolled a fanatic and a hero which really slowed down the advance.  The final blow was a wind change that prevented me from throwing smoke up wind toward the airfield defenses.  There was a last turn of hope as the 9-2 leader who had raced from the bridge sector battle hardened to a 10-2, but he was just too far to save the day.  The last gun remained just out of reach across all that open ground and runway.  The Germans were forced to call off the assault. 
Turn 9: Final Dispositions
This was another close game, coming down to the last turn as so many ASL games do.  The glider rules are not overly complicated and add an interesting new dimension to any ASL scenario.  I highly recommend that you try this section of Chapter E.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Borders Is History

The unfortunate demise of 75% of all Chicagoland Borders retail outlets has one small bright spot, 75% off all purchases.  The closing stores are currently at 40% with 25% added in for buying 8 or more books plus 10% if you are a Borders Club member.  I stopped by one of the North Shore stores and picked up a few items.  Borders has always had one of the better selections from serious military history publishers such as Kansas Press and Pen & Sword.  Two notables were Allan R. Millettt's "The War For Korea: They Came From The North" and the 2nd volume of H. P. Willmott's "The Last Century of Sea Power."  Some good reading to look forward to.     

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Red Sunset

My good friend and fellow lawschool survivor Carlos visited from Michigan recently.  Carlos is more of a RPG and computer gamer than traditional boardgame player.  However, he has always held a certain fascination for those of us who grew up during the Cold War, particulary the 80's era vision of such a conflict, being that he was quite young at the time.  We have had many conversations on the cultural impact of the period, significantly in how it influenced my own pursuits at that time in high school and college into history, international relations and gaming.  Carlos asked me to give him the total 80's Red Scare experience so we spent an evening watching Red Dawn and playing Fortress America.
We tinkered with the game and watched the movie, mostly just having a good time than a serious gaming session.   The part of the game that most intrigued him was the mystery surrounding the box art.  The first edition of the game came out sometime in 1986, which I purchased that year from a Toys R Us.  I still have that first edtion copy, and that was in fact the one we were using.  The box art features a montage of images reminiscent of Red Dawn but with a slightly more futuristic edge reflecting the advanced technology offered in the game.  However, there are two salient features to the picture that would become controversial some years later. 
The picture in the middle has a remarked resemblance to Saddam Hussein.  The third picture features the World Trade Center.  At the time of the games release in the 80's of course neither of these images would have evoked much response in the way of current affairs.  The commander is most likely inspired by the Cuban commander from Red Dawn.  There have been conflicting stories on the web and at BGG that the artist was inspired by everything from a news image of Saddam himself to a Milton Bradley co-worker.  The image of New York also is easy to understand in context of the total vista of the work: West Coast, East Coast and Middle America as the three major sectors of action in the game.  Naturally, the conclusion of many is that the box is in fact a wargame signpost to the future dropped right out of a Richard Kelly movie.

To add to the air of mystery, Milton Bradley ordered up a smaller 2nd printing of the game a year later.  For some unknown reason, "Saddam" gets a beard and sunglasses, indicating both an actual and symbolic "coverup"!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

WTF - The Western Task Force

I couldn't help but be amused by the anachronistic humor of this counter from Breakout: Normandy. 
This unit is the Allied Naval Bombardment Fleet designated the Western Task Force.  I am sure that more than a few German defenders on the beaches of Normandy that June morning looked out at the looming battleship silhouettes and cried "Look there, WTF!"

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Comment Problems

Some of you have had problems leaving comments.  After a quick search of the Blogspot forums I discovered that it is apparently a common problem.  I have made the recommended setting changes so we shall see if it works.  Otherwise just do what John did and keep hitting the "post comment" button until it takes.

Monday, April 18, 2011

AAR: Victory In The Pacific

As rewarding as it to introduce new players to the hobby, it is with equal satisfaction to reintroduce players who have been absent for a long time to the current gaming scene.  I was recently able to demonstate to my friend Roger M. of California the flexibility and ease of using VASSAL ( for long distance play.  Roger has not been playing for some time so we thought we would start with something classic: Avalon Hill's Victory In The Pacific.  Here is a quick report on our game.

Victory In The Pacific
8 Turn Standard Game
VASSAL PBEM - February-April 2011
Japan: Michael R.
US: Roger M.

Turn 1 - December 1941
My Japanese plan was a standard push for Hawaii with a maximum Pearl Harbor raid force.  The results of the Dec. 7 air raid were quite exceptional with 6 of the 10 ships in port sunk. 

Turn 2 - May 1942
I continuted my drive toward Hawaii and Samoa while supporting Indonesia with only land based air power.  The British were able to take advantage of this by forcing out the Japanese Bettys, but US carrier forces took a beating.  The pivotal event was Japanese control of the Coral Sea and US Madate sea lanes at the end of the turn, preventing significant US power projection into Hawaii for turn 3.    

Turn 3 - September 1942
I was planning for a double invasion of Hawaii and Samoa this turn but sent an understrength force to US Mandate.  I was getting ahead of myself thinking I would be able to support them with Bettys.  Hawaii fell to Japan, but at the expense of trading away Saigon to the British.  The Japanese sub won the Order of the Rising Sun for sinking two carriers in a row.

Turn 4 - January 1943
Japan concentrated on securing US Madate to prevent the massive US fleet reinforcement due to arrive on Turn 6.  The US responded by projecting power into the sea lanes adjacent to Indonesia/Australia, but the point values were not significant enough to put a dent in the strong Japanese lead.

Turn 5 - June 1943
Japan moved to set up the invasion of Samoa.  The US had no choice but to respond by throwing every asset that could make it to the zone.  Japanese control of Hawaii and Samoa prevents the new US reinforcements coming from the West Coast.  The Japanese carrier air wings bested the US land based air units.  At this point the game was effectively over and the US sued for peace. 

I know Roger had fun while learning the interface for VASSAL.  Neither of us had played the game in a very long time, so it was a nice place to start and still a solid game to revisit.  Next time we are going to try a more recent release, Breakout: Normandy...wait...release date 1992??  Where has all the time gone!

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Any serious wargamer knows that half the fun of the hobby is accessorizing: counter clipping, organization, storage, and shelving to name a few.  This weekends project was to refurbish the game table.
I rescued what would become my primary game table from the in-laws basement about 20 years ago.  There it sat alone and unloved in a dark corner because it was a really ugly table, looking like it had been constructed out of left over pieces of basement wood paneling from 1958.  However, it is extremely sturdy and perfectly sized for the gamers needs: 3x4 expandable to 3x5 or 3x6 with two leaves.  My original solution was to tack down a piece of green felt, but this made it difficult to manipulate the leaves as needed.  Also, I was unhappy with the ease with which the plexiglass topper could slide around. 
The solution to the plexiglass problem was to mount 6 brass door brackets on three sides of the table allowing you to slide the plexiglass under the brackets at the narrow end of the table, thus eliminating counter quakes.  The solution to the dark wood grain...spray paint.  And here are the results of a successful weekend of wargame accessorizing.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Leading the Tin Men

Last night was the April meeting of the PAASL group in Palatine.  I was matched up with John P. for scenario SV5 Lions and Tin Men from the Swedish Volunteers pack.  This kit features a set of white and light blue counters to represent the small number of Swedes who fought in the Winter War and the continuing conflicts in the region.  In the interests of time we picked a smaller scenario (4.5 turns) featuring a German attack to breakout through the valley on board 24 defended by a mixed bag of Swedes and other Allied Minors.  We randomly picked sides and I drew the German force.  The Germans start with a basic infantry force that is reinforced by 2 of 3 randomly selected groups, one of which features a PzIB and a squad on a bicycle!  To make a short story even shorter, some really unfortunate die rolling combined with John P.'s expertly handled defense resulted in a Swedish win.  My tin men's morale finally collapsed when the Swedish ATR immobilized my PzIB just short of the board edge.
The highlight of the evening, however, occured when the attending members were all recruited by Dave K. to participate in a short audio sketch that will be featured on the 2 Half Squads!  The NDA requires me to remain silent on the experience until it is actually released to the public.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

PAASL Meeting

The next meeting of the Palatine Area Advanced Squad Leader group is Friday, April 15.  These were the first group of gamers I met upon arriving in Chicago's Northwest suburbs and they are a fun and active group.  The host, Dave K., is also one of the 2 Half Squads, (, an entertaining and informative podcast on all things Advanced Squad Leader.  I plan to be there!

Welcome to Chicago Wargamer

Chicago Wargamer is a blog dedicated to the hobby of examining and recreating the great moments of history through competitive boardgames.  The intention of this site is to increase awareness of the multitude of historical simulations available covering virtually every era of human conflict as well as the growing number of platforms enabling virtual live or email play on the computer.  This blog also aims to serve as a means of helping players in the greater Chicagoland area discover new opportunites by reporting on local events, clubs and other historical items of interest to the conflict simulator.  Whether you are a player new to the hobby, new to the area or a long established Chicago grognard, it is my hope that you will find something useful, informative or entertaining here at Chicago Wargamer. 
Thanks for stopping in,
Michael R.