Thursday, September 20, 2018

Office War-game Thursday: Red Vengeance

I’m a fortunate chap in that I have my own office at work, with space to layout a small game to noodle away at during my lunch hour.   Somedays I’m too busy, but some days I get to push some cardboard and roll some dice.
Currently I’m playing an OOP Avalanche Press title, Red Vengeance, which is a little gem I found in an estate sale purchase I made this spring.
Red Vengeance is a simple, high-level (armies and corps) operational game focusing on the Eastern Front 1944-45, a “Bagration to Berlin” approach .  The designer is William Sariego, not exactly a household name in wargaming circles but he has a respectable CV posted at Boardgame Geek.  Sariego designed a Barbarossa game, Defiant Russia, using the same system, which is still in print.
Turn 1: June 1944.  Here’s the opening setup, with the Germans opposing the Russians on a solid line running from the Baltic to the Black Sea.  This is a mandatory setup, with the German infantry deploying first along an indicated line of hexes, then the Russians, then finally the German armour.    Armour units have a higher combat value and movement, and also get to move and attack again during an Exploitation Phase, along with certain other types of units such as Soviet Guards.  The logical setup for both sides is to mass the armour in the centre, either north of south of the Pripet Marshes.
The game mechanics require Soviet units to attack Axis units in adjacent ZOCs.  German units do not have to attack units in adjacent ZOCs in their turn.   This rule means that on Turn 1, all hell breaks loose as the Soviets attack every single hex on the German front line, guaranteeing a huge bloodletting for both sides. One Turn 1, the German defensive rolls were generally poorer than the attackers, so the Wehrmacht was roughly handled and it has been going badly ever since.  When my son and I tried the game, we found that the first turn went slowly as it was a LOT of die rolling, but the game picks up speed thereafter.
Three months later, here’s the situation at the end of Turn 3, August 1944.   Not good for the Germans.   Warsaw is threatened, and the Germans are practically broken into northern and southern pockets with little linking the two.
Army Group North is in falling back and is in serious trouble if Warsaw gets taken.   The Panzer reserve was thrown against the two Soviet Shock Armies at 0708 but that fight ended with no casualties on either side.  A reduced SS Corps grimly hangs on to Riga as a distraction, Combat in this game is very simple.  Each unit throws a number of device equal to its combat victory and each 6 causes a step loss on the opponent.  It’s that simple.   The number of dice can be slightly modified by terrain, or goosed upwards if leaders, air or naval support are present.   Provided that a stack takes as many hits as it has steps, it can lose one step and retreat a number of hexes equal to the remaining number of hits.  If the hits are one or more above the number of steps, the stack is eliminated.   Attackers and defenders shoot simultaneously.   

Meanwhile Army Group South is falling back on Bucharest, leaving that one poor Hungarian unit at 2313 to hold the mountains against the Red Horde.  On the southern flank there are two hexes with oil wells which are quite strategic.   For each one that the Axis hold, they get one additional armour step replacement.   It is possible to build up and even reconstitute lost units in this game, but there are never enough step replacements, generally just 4-6 per turn, and the armour step replacements dry up in 1945.  There are some reinforcement units that arrive, so the German strategy as I can see it is to counterattack where possible, fall back, trade land for time and hope that the reduced movement in the winter turns slows the Soviet juggernaut.  
Red Vengeance is a small game that is well suited for solitaire play.   There are a few chrome and optional rules to experiment with, but the joy of the game is how simply it plays.     It certainly keeps my mind diverted on those rare days when I have a free lunch hour.
I’ll check in again next Thursday and see whose flag is flying over Berlin.
Blessings to your die rolls!

Monday, September 17, 2018

More Good Doggoes

Hello friends!

As I mentioned in my previous post, my partner Joy is very much a dog person.  In her life she’s owned several pure-bred huskies, and we occasionally talk about getting a husky puppy when I retire in a few years, though there are all sorts of pros and cons there.

Joy with war dog statue near Ottawa City Hall, June 2018

Joy is not much of a wargames person, but she does appreciate a crossover angle, like my friend Jame’s goblin wolf riders in my last post.

I don’t remember how, but I came across a crazy Kickstarter project called Dungeons and Doggies.  The idea is that various breeds of dogs decide to become D&D characters and set off, appropriately acquired, for the local dungeon.   How that is any more ridiculous than, say, a giant floating eyeball?


How do they draw their swords?  They don’t have thumbs!!!!?????

The KS project does include a paladin husky dog wearing armour, which painted would make a lovely gift for herself.    Lord knows what I’ll do with the rest of them, but I know enough doglovers that individual figures will make nice gifts.  I am a bit leery of Kickstarter projects generally, but this one is fully funded and then some, so hopefully it will deliver.

Blessings to your doggos!



Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Life Goes On - Part Two

Hello all:

I was totally bowled over by all the support that I received on my last post, where I resumed blogging after my wife’s death last winter.   Thank you all so much. It’s been a few months since then, so a little catch up.  Back in May I said here that “A lovely lady, a cancer widow, has entered my life and made it much richer”.   Well, “much richer” barely describes half of it.    Her name is Joy, and she is well-named.   

I met her through the Anglican parish where I serve as a volunteer assistant priest.  Her husband was being treated for cancer at the same hospital where Kay was a frequent flyer, so we often crossed paths and would meet for coffee and mutual encouragement, telling the war stories that only caregivers can really understand.   Then, last November, mysteriously and ten days apart, first Randy died, then Kay.   That winter was hard, but we got through it, checking in and feeding each other as necessary, and gradually realizing that life, and love, can go on.

In April we celebrated Joy’s birthday with a trip to Mexico.   On the flight home, we talked about how difficult it was visiting each other’s houses with a dog and three cats in the equation, and so high above the Gulf of Mexico we decided to throw in together.   


It was a splendid decision, and looking back on it, totally the right one.   We weren’t expecting to find love so quickly, but as is the case with a long terminal illness, we had both been in mourning for a year before our spouses passed, and coming back into the land of the living was an unexpected blessing.   As C.S. Lewis said in another context, I was truly Surprised by Joy.

As I moved into Joy’s house, she was a little dismayed at what came with me.   Most of my furniture I left for the tenants of my house to enjoy, but I did bring a steady stream of boxes full of games, terrain, and little soldiers.     She was a good sport, even as she lamented how her basement was now overrun with things that she didn’t truly understand, but she did appreciate the paintwork on my “little men”.

In late May, a bemused Joy had the chance to see some of my collection set up on her dining room table when my mate James came up the three hours from Stratford for one of our ongoing EX THUNDERING DICE dustups.     We don’t see each other as much as we’d like, so we try to get a lot out of our EX TD weekends.  Here the hordes of Middle Earth prepare to do battle - I think we each used about 40 points of figures using our favourite quick play fantasy rules, Dragon Rampant.

I love James’ work, and am always curious to see his latest units.   That day he debuted this impressive unit of wolf riders, old Vendel figures, with a handprinted banner of little doggies circling the Eye of Mordor.  Joy, who adores husky dogs, was suitably impressed.

Much mayhem occurred that day, and while the Wolf Riders died in the end, they were a right pain in the arse.  Even when they were reduced to one figure, they tied up my Rohirrim cavalry and were generally annoying.  Good doggies.

James has some more pictures here.  Also that weekend, I tried to introduce James to one of my fav GMT games, Space Empires, but I think it was all a bit much for him.  On Saturday we decided to play TFL’s Sharp Practice, but the unpacking was still in progress and since I couldn’t find my ACW figures, we used my SYW figures, Russians versus Turks.   It made me realize how much I enjoyed this period, and how much I would like to get back into it.


Joy and I spent a lot of time together this summer, solidifying our relationship, and everyone we know says we just look like a pair of happy idiot kids, so that bodes well, I think.

There was a little more gaming, and I’ll tell you some more about that sometime.   Oh yes, there is a project involving Space Kitties.    More to follow.

Blessings to all of you in the land of the living.


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Life Goes On

A dear friend of mine whose husband died of cancer a week before my own beloved Madame Padre passed away last November said something wise to me.   “You and I are still in the land of the living”, she told me, and I have tried to live by those words for the past five months.


 The support of my wargaming friends has been wonderful and I have leaned on several of you, as you know.  Thank you all.  I’m in a better place now, and do indeed want to dwell in the land of the living.  I’m eating well, working out regularly, have lost some of the weight I put on as Kay’s caregiver, and am fully engaged at work and as the volunteer honorary priest of my local parish.  A lovely lady, a cancer widow, has entered my life, and made it much richer.


So my life has changed in many ways, but some constants remain.  I have only touched a paintbrush a few times since Kay’s death, and I have rolled dice a few times.   I am however slowly coming back to the wargaming hobby via my first love, boardgames.  A few months ago I had the opportunity to take a longish drive to buy five boxes of games from someone’s estate.  They almost went to the garbage dump, but someone had the sense to take them to a thrift store, and the thrift store owner knew someone who got the word out into the local gaming community, so that was a close run thing as someone once said.  Here are some of the games, mostly classic Avalon Hill titles.

It me, reading rules.

Besides the AH titles, there were some happy surprises, including seven of Avalanche Press’ Panzer Grenadier series, which looks like an interesting tactical game in the vein of AH’s Squad Leader.   I hope to explore PG in the near future.  

Currently on the gaming table is GMT’s game Churchill: The Struggle For Peace.   I’m playing i solo, as the Americans, and the other sides (USSR and Britain) are played by decision trees or “bots”.   The game is an interesting take on WW2, and certainly works as a history lesson, but not really sure yet whether it works as a game.   More to follow.    Also, my gaming friend James came by recently for a weekend of miniatures fun, in our ongoing OPERATION THUNDERING DICE series of irregular weekends, so I will have a report on that soon.

So it’s good to be back, I hope someone reads this, and I hope to be more active in the hobby again.

Blessings to your die rolls and paintbrushes,





Sunday, October 22, 2017

Quick Update On Madame Padre

A quick update and word of thanks to those of you on social media who continue to reach out and offer their support and encouragement.   As longtime readers of this blog will know, Madame Padre has been fighting cancer for two and a half years now, and has been giving ground grudgingly.   Unfortunately, her cancer has advanced and we and her oncologist are now hoping that we will have some good months remaining.  She continues to inspire me with her resilience and peacefulness, and with her total absence of self-pity.  Our parish friends sometimes speak of her as a living saint, which causes her to gently roll her eyes, but I see their point.

Friends and family are amazing with their support and kindness.  My brother Chris flow out from Vancouver, a five hour flight, just to spend the weekend with me and to help construct this wheelchair ramp which we hope will assist Madame when she comes home from the hospital.

Knowing my interest in all things related to the B17 and to the airwar over Germany in WW2, the kind and eclectic Edwin King put together this B17 gift for me, which arrived in my mailbox last week.  It includes a guide to old USAAF airfields in Norwich, and I hope to tour them with Edwin one day.  

The wargaming hobby is pretty much on hold for me at present.   The only accomplishment I can point to is that I snickered the blocks for the Command and Colors Napoleonic Epic expansion.  Lord knows when I will play it.

I'll leave you with this photo of happier times last August, when Madame was well enough to come to work and be present at my promotion to Major.   We were joined by my ecclesiastical boss, the Anglican bishop ordinary to the Armed Forces.   He used to play Avalon Hill games as a boy, and I've encouraged him to visit this blog and see what a mad padre does.

Please keep Kay and I in your thoughts and prayers and accept my apologies for not visiting your own blogs and projects as they deserve.   Thank you for all your support and encouragement in this hard journey.



Saturday, September 23, 2017

Gaming By Tweet: A Social Media Experiment

Back in July I posted a review here about Target for Today, a solitaire game by Legion Wargames, about the US daylight bombing campaign in WW2.   For now it suits my gaming lifestyle, which has largely had to adapt itself to my primary role as my wife’s caregiver.

In the last few months, a social media project has taken on a life of its own as I have been “live tweeting” missions using my Twitter account (@madpadre1).   It started by putting my Twitter friends into crew positions on “Foxtrot”, our fictitious B17, and seeing if they would survive each mission.   A few folks (Tweeps) seem to quite enjoy the experience, which I have gradually thickened by adding GIFs and period photos to illustrate various phases of the mission.    The cumulative effect is a kind of storytelling by gaming, but it has also fuelled my desire to learn more about the US 8th Air Force in Britain and the daylight precision bombing campaign in general.

This particular project is set in the fall of 1942, following one of the first operational USAAF bombardment groups in England.  It is the same period depicted in the film Twelve OClock High, when the daylight campaign was still very experimental.

I have started collecting the various tweets for each mission into narratives using the online tool Storify.   You can see the results for Missions Five, Six, and Seven if you like.   Now the interesting thing abut the project is to see if Foxtrot can make it through the war, which is no small thing given the high casualty rates among Allied bomber crews.   Already we have had two crew members set home to the States with serious, war-ending wounds, and on our last mission the Bombardier, who had flown six missions already, was killed by a cannon shell from an ME 110.  

In this respect the project has started to incorporate elements of role-playing, and a strong emotional investment from some of the regular players in their fates.  There is also a lot of humour and joking, so it is not a terribly serious venture, but serious enough in its own way.

After our last mission there was some talk on Twitter about adapting the Target For Today game engine to the night campaign of Bomber Command.    Such a project could be done easily enough, but the game would have a different feel, more cat and mouse as opposed to the stoic endurance of waves of fighters by the B17s, which is more like a British square facing repeated attacks in Napoleonic or colonial warfare.   It might be done using some existing titles, such as GMT’s Nightfighter

There are also possibilities for using social media platforms such as Twitter in other games, such as putting people into various roles in a skirmish miniatures game and illustrating the action with photos to explain the action as the game goes along.  This would not be a true gaming experience online, such as tools like VASSAL allow, but rather a type of storytelling.

At any rate, Foxtrot is scheduled to fly more missions, and you are welcome to follow me on Twitter and even fly along.  I look forward to hearing about your own experiments with gaming via social media.

Blessings to your die rolls and watch your arcs!


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

"Zulus, Mr. Rico! Zillions of 'em!" : A Quick Review of Zulus on the Ramparts by Victory Point Games



“Men of Harlech, stand you …  AAARRRRGGGGHHHHHH!” 

Don’t let this happen to you.

If I’m a little bleary eyed this morning, it’s because I was up past my bedtime playing Zulus on the Ramparts, a solitaire game about the Battle of Rorke’s Drift from Victory Point Games’ States of Siege series, designed by veteran grognard Joe Miranda.  In the few times I had played it already I had gotten a quick and unpleasant result, as the Zulu imps almost effortlessly overran my defences and the rifles fell silent.    This game was a different result.  Miraculously the Zulus held off until the defences were reinforced, giving me time to get all my heroes, Bromhead, Chard, Colour Sgt. Bourne, Hook, Hitch, and Ammunition Smith the Padre among others all on the firing line.  When they came on, we let them have it, and while they got close to our final redoubt, it was Steady Lads Steady and Men of Harlech and we dropped them as they came.   All through the night we held, and then the last impi came on like a black thundercloud,  and we were down to our last cartridges, but we held, by God.  It was a Martini Henry miracle with a bayonet and some guts behind it.

Well, as you can see, I enjoy this simple game.  If you’ve played other VPG solitaire games, like Dawn of the Zeds, you’ll recognize the basic idea.   The bad guys (four Zulus impis of various strengths) each start on their own track and their progress is chit driven.  If any one reaches the centre of the board, you lose.   You can help your cause by building two sets of barricades, if you have time, to buy yourself some more space and time to defend. As the Zulus advance, you are drawing cards which allow you to bring various heroes and personalities into play (like Dick, the Surgeon’s dog) and Pvt. Hook, or any of the various volley cards which allows you to engage the Zulus from various ranges.    Each turn you have to chose an action - do you fire a volley, work on extra barricades, pass out more ammo, or get one of your personalities into the battle to use their various abilities?  You have a lot of heroes (all those VCs, after all) which help, but never enough time.

There is a day phase, and a night phase, which is worse because it’s harder to hit the Zulus at night unless buildings catch fire, which they can do.  There are also some random event cards, and some what ifs, like Company G actually showing up and helping the garrison.  If you want pics and more comments, you can find the ZotR page here on BGG.  At $40 it’s at a midrange price for a boardgame, and the components have the usual VPG high quality of treatment - a hard mounted board, professional cards, and thick MDF laser cut playing pieces, so to my mind that’s a good game at a fair price.  While this is a solitaire game, it would be fun to take to the pub/club and play a few times.  A quick defeat can take twenty minutes, but an epic stand might take an hour.  My record so far is one out of three wins, so it’s a challenging game.

 I have this week off, so I’ll probably watch Zulu for more inspiration.

Blessings to your die rolls!




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