So, I had played a 20mm solo game recently (see this blog post) and had the table still set up when a few friends and their children came over. The adults are gamers and they were from the recent cruise and gaming I did. The guy that I play Armati occasionally has a nine year old son, L--- who, when he saw the table set up, said "Cool. Can I play?".
Me: "Sure, why not, school holidays are coming up soon".
Him: "Great. Tanks. I like tanks."
And I had just, after many many years of wanting, bought some railway grass mats to use on large table that I wanted to use so that was another plus.
So it was arranged and this blog post is the result. His Dad had to work so I am not sure if my friend was jealous or not - he has wanted to play a WW2 game for about 10 years, so possibly :-)
Leading up to the game
So I was only told the day of the game two days in advance. Firstly, what rules? I scoured my rules collection and found a few mechanisms I thought would work, but no rules as a whole that I was comfortable using to introduce a 9 year old to gaming for the first time. Some of the rules I considered, and would be good maybe after a few other intro games, were Pz8 WW2 rules, Irregular Miniatures Mechanised Warfare Rules, Tigers and Stalins, Battlegroup Series, Armies in Crisis, Take Cover!!/Rapid Fire, Fields of Honor: WW2, Look Sarge, No Charts! WW2, Flames of War, Combat:WW2. I was looking for something with some command and control, easy infantry rules (e.g. 1 die per rifleman, 4 dice for an MMG, hit on a 4+) and something that differentiates armour values a bit as he did want tanks.
So, what did I end up with...ff you want to see the rules I played with they fit on two pages (and I wrote a 1 page QRS). Go to this Google docs link to read them.
Otherwise here is a summary:
Command and control:
Card activation similar to TSATF - red and black cards for each side, draw your colour and you get to activate a unit of choice. Units can activate once per turn and move, fire, move/fire, rally. There is a joker that end the turn and reshuffle. This worked well, but it was a stretch for L--- to remember what units had activated or not. I was going to put the cards behind the units as they were activated as a reminder, but forgot on the day.
Simple to hit rules rules: 1d6 per soldier/tank: 4+ to hit, -1 > 1/2 range, -1 target in soft cover, -2 in hard cover, -1 if firer moved. Rifles fire out to 18", MMGs 36". Infantry that are hit are destroyed; tanks that are hit use a simple gun value minus armour value for destruction or pinned. MMGs roll 4 dice. This worked well too. The one thing was when he hit a tank, he wanted to roll multiple dice to destroy. I was tempted to use something like the IABSM armour penetration (rolling d6s equal to armour and penetration values, count all the 5s and 6s and compare). I have used something before years ago, I may drag change it to this type of armour rules next time.
If an infantry unit takes a casualty, roll for morale. This is very similar to the Battlegroup morale table; basically a 4+ to pass, otherwise pinned, retreat or rout depending on circumstances. This worked VERY well, better than I thought it would.
Although I had rules for spotting, I did not use them except in woods.
Late 1944. He wanted tanks so let's have some Panthers. I did Western Front as the terrain will be less open and there is fun in finding the fire lanes as you play.
German (L--- the 9 year old)
3 Panzer IVJ
1 staff car
3 infantry units each:
1 Mortar Support
1 81mm mortar + truck
1 MMG support
2 MMG + 1 half track
2 tank squadrons:
1 Sherman Firefly
1 50mm mortar
3 infantry units each:
1 Carrier Support
1 50mm mortar
You may note that I have underpowered the British a little bit - no halftracks and not really equality in tanks. But I thought that would be a fair balance as I have played lots of WW2 and L--- none. As you will see, I should not have bothered; L--- proved that golden rule that children get all the luck
River down the centre, bridge and ford but can cross by spending one turn. a village, a few outlying buildings with generous wheat fields (can see all the way into a wheatfield but not through unless vehicle to vehicle), hedges and walls.
|Table overview (1/2 a table tennis table), Germans enter from left, British from right.|
|Overview of how the units entered and moved during the game|
|The objectives from the view of the whole table.|
|And a view of the objectives (left and right in the centre) from the British side.|
|How a five year old builds up terrain. The hill in the river may be a bit much|
I especially like the fact that he surrounded the church with undergrowth:
|The church is a little surrounded by bushes. And hills. And dragons teeth. And walls on hill. And rocks.|
I am not wedded to the terrain or troops - I do not mind him doing this when I am around, and when it is out. He knows not to touch anything while I am at work!
So I decide to focus on the crossroads and the ford, and then work over to the village/bridge.
L--- focuses on the village/bridge but brings on all 3 Panthers to cover the crossroads.
|The Panthers arrive. They stayed here for half the game, L--- was nervous I may get a shot in with a Firefly. At least they were pinned for quite a while.|
|The LOS for the first shot of the game.|
|And the result. A "6" to hit followed by a "6" for penetration. Only children can do this.|
|These troops were the subject to indecision and were loaded and unloaded into the halftrack and went from the wood on one side of the road to the other|
|The movement of the unit during the game. It did not help them, this was one of the few units I managed to destroy.|
I slowly and steadily moved up the table. I did race the Carriers up to take some houses but the mortar and Tank MMGs should them whittled down and eventually rout.
I did move the tanks into line of sight of the Panzer IVs but their return fire always saw a Sherman brew up. No second chances here!
|The Panzer IVs and some infantry in the village before the bridge.|
Eventually he moved the infantry and Panzer IVs from the village to circle and take the bridge.
|They move out of the village and sweep around the flank of the village to help control the bridge. A good tactic.|
I finally managed to destroy a Panzer IV and cause one infantry unit to get to 50% and retreat. But I could not dislodge his forces from around the bridge and my infantry unit their was pushed away and then routed.
|A Panzer IV braved the bridge. The Brits (me) fired a few times at it but never managed to hit it. L--- managed to KO the tanks that fired on the Panzer IV while the Panzer IV was busy machine gunning some of my troops near the bridge.|
|Proof that the Germans made it to the other side of the bridge. That is a brewed up Sherman in the foreground.|
On the cross roads side, L--- did move two Panthers around the back to support the village. I got in a flank shot for no effect :-(. The remaining Panther stayed behind.
|L--- did mention that he should get an extra -1 to the die to hit the Panthers as their camo (compared to the British tanks) would make them harder to hit.|
I tried to attack it with infantry assaults but no luck. It then mowed them down with MMGs.
|I close assault the Panther at the edge of the woods. With no luck, and the Panther then used the MMG to good effect. He also wanted to run me down.|
But.. on the wooded flank I had some success, close combat with an opposing infantry unit saw me very victorious...until the Panther came over and wiped me out with MMGs.
|I close assault a unit in the woods. My only run of 6s in the game and I win the combat.|
I only had two functioning units on the table, and they were badly depleted. I rolled a higher morale and got a 1. It was time to pullback and so L-- is the winner!
|End of game. German remaining unit circled in grey, Brits in Blue. Destroyed British tanks in red.|
The rules worked really well. And L--- really had a great time. Although most of the time I was telling him what to roll, near the end he was getting some of the modifiers correct. He had a fairly good grasp of tactics too. I did not pull my tactics as I was starting with a some minor disadvantages (less powerful troops and further to go to the bridge). He wants to play again which is a good sign. He asked about getting his own tanks but when I said you will have to paint them or pay more to buy them painted, his response was an incredulous "You had to paint all of them?" (Actually, I did paint the British about 30 years ago as a teenager, and the Panthers. The rest of the Germans I acquired painted). And he wants to help set up the terrain next time too - I enjoy doing that too! He did see my ancient figures and wants to have a go with them as well. It is slightly weird introducing a child to the hobby as I have not done so before. It may have been weird but it was most satisfying.