British Cromwell hunts Whittman!

British Cromwell hunts Whittman!
A pic from a Fireball game at Fall In 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Scenario Specific rulebooks or not?

Hi All,

I have had a couple of people express disappointment with the approach we have been considering regarding scenario specific rulebooks. The idea is that we will not publish a rule book and then seperate scenario books. The scenario books will come with rules and charts tailored for those specific scenarios.

As we have been developeing the rules it looks like that idea will probably fall by the wayside. As more scenarios are written and developed we seem to be encountering most situations that will need to be covered by the rules. (Having said that I don't think any rules are fully complete when first published. We had to wait years for Squad Leader to come out with Japanese and Marines. And there are a whole slew of planes missing from Check Your 6!)

We are currently developing artillery rules to cover all situations and the armor rules have been revamped. In last night's game we tinkered with the mortar rules after playtesting the first Hurtgen Forest scenario and we all think they 'feel' right.

The question remains as to wether we will publish the rules as a seperate book or just include the rules in each scenario book. I'll chat with the publisher about that.



Friday, March 19, 2010

Paw of the Tiger - Fireball on the Russian Front

Jonathan Miller ran our first Fireball game set in the Russian Front at Cold Wars last weekend. It was great test of how range affects are modelled in the new armor rules. The scenario is based on the old Cross of Iron scenario, Paw of the Tiger. Two Tiger Is and three Mark IVF2s take on a mixture of T-34s, SU-76s and SU-122s...about twenty-two tanks in all. The Germans are defending the siege lines around Leningrad in February of 1943. They are all hull down on a series of hills overlooking a fairly open plain. The Russians enter the plain through a bottleneck and must navigate their way towards the Germans...taking fire the entire time. The goal - destroy all the Nazi tanks and exit four Soviets off the table to try and lift the siege.

Turn one - the motley collection of Russian tanks rumble onto the board along a single road. Using a covered way through a woods they try to fan out across the width of the board. They manuver to advance in line and hopefully overwhelm the Germans. As they rolled forward the Tigers began to take aim and fire at long range. One T-34 went up in flames. The distance was too great for the Mark IVs whose shots were ineffective. Undaunted the Soviets continued on singing great patriotic songs. The following turn another T-34 was knocked out. As the range closed the MarkIVs began to hit and more Russian tanks were wrecked.

After suffering heavy losses the Russians finally got to a range where they could possibly take out the Germans. A few of the T-34s stopped and engaged the Germans while the majority continued their mad rush. They headed for some woods at the base of the hills the Germans were defending. From there they could launch a final rush. Two of the Mark IVs were put out of action and things began to look better for the comrades. One T-34 made it up onto the hill and took out a Tiger! The Russians were really feeling good now. But as the remaining tanks rolled up to the woods they were hit by a fusilade of Panzerfausts from German infantry. That took the wind out of the Russian attack. They found that they had only four tanks left...just enough to exit the board and claim victory. Fortunatley one of the T-34s had manuevered up right behind the final Tiger.

The T-34 missed and the Tiger (Crewed by an elite crew) was able to destroy one of the remaining Soviets and thus claim victory.

It was a great game and I felt the armor rules were right on. The results mirrored the results of Cross of Iron. Jonathan really seems to have the numbers right...and it was all played on a 4x6 table. No need for a 10 foot table to do battles on the steps or the desert of North Africa. Ed Stewart, who played, was inspired enough to start thinking about doing Fireball Norht Africa.

I think the armor rules are good to go except from tweaking certain weapons.

In my next post I will address whether we will have a standard set of rules or sceanrio specific rule books.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Cold Wars

I ran three 'official' and three 'pick-up' games of Fireball Forward at Cold Wars last week. All of them were received very well and a good time was had by all. It was great to see a group of ten people who had never played before sit down at the largest scenario I have written and within five minutes they were all playing and totally hooked.

All of the games I ran are from my Panzer Lehr at St. Lo scenario book.

The first official game I ran was 'Darkness Before the Dawn' which sees ten Panthers and a Panzer Grenadier Company trying to take a farm and/or exit the board. They are opposed by six M10s and two and half platoons of infantry. The Germans plowed straight up the main road and the tank-riding Grenadiers assaulted a barn near the road. A huge close combat erupted at the barn which eventually drew in an entire platoon from each side. When the smoke finally cleared the Americans held the barn and twenty Germans were dead. The Panthers were then able to bring fire on the barn and drive out the GIs. They then pushed through the hedgerows in an attempt to by-pass the US defense and exit the board...only to run into some M10 Tank Destroyers. The lead Panther was destroyed and the Germans realized they should try a different tactic. They shifted their advance to the other side of the board and moved tanks and infantry to assault the farm area. The US was caught with most of their anti-tank units out of position. It looked like Panzer Lehr was rolling to victory but the Americans were able to hold on by the skin of their teeth and claim victory. The new armor rules seemed to work great. No complaints by the gamers.

The second game was 'Holding On' which features an German asault on a town. This scenario was great as the Germans looked to have it sown up by they got so focused on a firefight that they neglected to complete their brilliant flanking move. This allowed the US player to react and block the Germans on the last turn. A great game in which everyone had fun. Again the new armor rules were liked by all.

The third game was 'Watch the Flank' which is a meeting engagement. The US has numbers but the Germans have the edge in heavy weapons. It started out looking like the US would roll to victory...that is until they tried to cross an orchard to occupy the farm area. The Germans had a 20mm auto-cannon covering the orchard and it just hammered the dogfaces. The GIs kept trying to cross and kept getting turned back...and then 81mm mortars started falling on them. That's when one of the US players said, "Wait...the 20mm is killing us and now we are getting pummeled by mortars in this hedgerow...we need to change tactics." They did and should have won except for a team of German infantry that won the Iron Cross for heroics on the final turn. It was a draw. The best part about the game for me was that the US players felt their tactics were not working and came up with new ones to get them moving in the right direction. They had never played the rules before but just used basic infantry tactics to solve the problem. As a game designer I was very happy to see that.

Basically, all of the Fireball games went well and I am very pleased with the new armor rules. Jonathan even ran a Russian Front scenario based on the old Cross of Iron scenario 'Paw of the TIger'. It went great and played just like the scenario should. More on that later.

I also am working the artillery rules so that we can have them modelled in all possible siuations.

More later.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hurtgen Forest Scenario book under way!

A quick note before I dash off to Cold Wars. Doug "Captain Fresh" Austin and I have start work on a new scenario book and rules for fighting in the Hurtgen Forest. So far the first 10 scenarios focus on the Kall Trail. Although this was ultimatley an American defeat it has some unique actions and gives us a chance to examine this overlooked battle.

Already under way is my book on Pannzer Lehr at Saint Lo. Sean Barnett is going to start work on Villers Bocage and Michael Whittman shortly after Cold Wars. Also - Jonathan Miller is going to run a pick up game of the old Cross of Iron scenario "Paw of the Tiger" at Cold Wars using Fireball Forward...does that mean a Russian Front book is in the making? He also has scenarios created for The Battle of HUe CIty, 1968. Hopefully those will make it into a book.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Fireball at Cold Wars

I am off to Cold Wars in Lancaster PA this week and will be running three scenarios: "Darkness Before the Dawn," "Holding On," and "Watch the Flank." All three games are from Panzer Lehr's counterattack on July 10-11th north of St Lo. We have played them all a few times each but now that we are experimenting with new armor rules it will be good to see how that changes the play-balance. Hopefully it won't matter and the scearnios will see play fine...but we will see. Stop by and check them out if you will be at the con.

When I return I will try to post after action reports of the games we play here in Northern VA. One of my playtesters was disappointed that I did not post a write up of our last he was hoping to be 'mentioned in dispatches.'

See you at Cold Wars!


Thursday, March 4, 2010

New armor combat rules

Before I talk about our experience with the new armor rules I would suggest that you read CB's comments about close in armor fighitng on the previous post. He makes a good point. In my research the Germans talk about how the Panther was not suited for hedgerow fighting for exactly the reasons CB has outlined. To address this we changed one small rule which appears after one playtest to have dealt with this problem. Shermans which had a quicker turret traverse can rotate their turrets 180 degrees instead of the usual 90 degrees. This means that up close they can manuver to were the German tanks will have trouble positioning their guns. This keeps with our philosophy of simple rules that have profound tactical implications.

On tuesday we tried out Jonathan Miller's new take on the armor v. armor combat rules. As with most first attempts there were some good elements and some not so good. But overall it ended up as a positive experience. The rules used to go: each tank rolls a number of d6s based on range, gun type, armor of target, cover and moving penalties. Each 6 rolled caused a morale check. This seems to work fine but it was not deadly enough a very close range. Tanks could blaze away at each other at 6-inches and miss for multiple turns. Jonathan's idea was to fix this problem (basing the hit probabilities on Cross of Iron) and eliminate or greatly reduce the need to measure shots. He achieved this by incorporating a 'range die.' You roll this die along with your normal shooting dice. Any shooting dice that are equal to or less than the range die are potential hits. You then multiply the range die by the gun's range value (modified for movement) and if the target is in that range then the hits apply.

The beauty of this is that is is obvious if the target is in range or not, so no measuring is needed. For example a MkIV has a range value of 16. If you roll a 2 anything within 32-inches is in range. That will almost always be the case in the hedgerows. If you are firing from a moving tank you subtract 3 from the range die meaning you need a 4 or better just to have a possibility of hitting. It seems pretty good. The Fireball playtesters in Charlottle, NC tried it out yesterday and they seemed to like it.

What didn't work out on our playtest was how you accounted for armor. It required more die rolling after the fact and this just seemed to go against the game's philosophy...we want less complexity and less die rolling in favor of tactical thinking. Jonathan agreed and has since revamped how armor works and it seems much more stream-lined.

The jury is still out but it looks pretty good so far. I will be running a few games at Cold Wars with the new armor rules so stop in and check them out.