Friday, 3 July 2020

Campaign files for the OST mini campaign.

Designed to work as a generic mini campaign with all of the map boards and various orders of battle, the test campaign for the east front game seemed to work pretty well and so this post introduces the download link to the Mini Campaign file (see the Resource Section below).

This is a fan based piece of work and is not officially endorsed by Flying Pig.

Tactical games by their nature end up with a lot of dice being thrown, so there are many opportunities for variables to kick in that might throw things off course, no doubt making some campaign games more or less successful than others, but in the main, I am at least hoping that a fair balance has been struck that will see most games give some fun play.
iPad doodle - 26 points worth of kit!

The mini campaign has been designed to initially identify an attacker, giving them a reason to capture objectives and to give them some additional resources to help do that, but importantly, from game two onward, the terms attacker / defender are deliberately dropped with those designations become blurred as both players may become engaged in attack and counter-attack opportunities. It is the desire to want this to happen that underpins the maths to help ensure that neither side is too over or under resourced.

The attackers do not get a huge starting advantage, certainly not the 3:1 type odds that might be expected, as a clear winner emerging in the first game would leave the other side always on the back foot and probably unable to recover. There are enough neutralising aspects here to prevent that.

Of course it is possible that if too many ‘calming’ influences come into play, the games could settle into just a ‘knock-about’ that doesn’t get us anywhere. I am hoping that the balance is close enough to being right and in any case, the processes involved are so transparent and stable, that if a player feels something needs tweaking, that can be easily done without breaking anything.

The campaign document has held up pretty well since the original draft in relation to the intention of how this should all work, but along the way, it got a few tweaks. Most notable was the way that players earned buying points in the Lull Phase.

Initially, this was based around the number of leaders that a side had and was capped at a certain level. In practice this did not work so well, as leaders fell to the high attrition rate. It was enough that the degree of leadership presence on the field, itself reflected in one side or the other having a leadership advantage in local situations during play, without then also feeding into the reinforcement rate.

So earning buying points has been changed to using the randomiser of 3D6 to provide a dynamic, but stabilised by a fixed addition of 15 points, with a guaranteed minimum of 22 points. It seems to work to give a tilt, without pushing one side or the other into a spiralling cycle of defeat.

Another change has been to drop the game length of each Action from 7 turns to 6 in order to reduce the amount of potential firepower and carnage over the course of the game, as the attrition rate was probably a tad higher than was good for the campaign.

There is the special rule that in the latter half of each game, based on a dice roll, things could end early, adding another dampening effect. The core OST system provides a natural counter to this with the rule that once a game reaches the last turn, players should test to see if the game is extended by 1 turn (i.e. turn zero on the countdown turn track), so a game may become lengthened or shortened.

A rule that allowed the Impulse Dice allowance to go up to 4D6 for the winner (based on casualties) of the previous Action was dropped as this tended to accelerate a decline in the losers fortunes too early.

Finally a few of the cost / buying allowances were tweaked, but by ever so small margins, that they hardly need mention here. 

The one thing that did get me thinking was that in the test game, that defending KV-1 was a nightmare to the opening attack, with its strong frontal armour, enhanced by tucking down behind a wall and then also gaining a ‘cover’ counter and I was left wondering whether the piece was too dominant without a counter-balance being available to the other side. 

However, if the Germans had drawn one or more 88mm Flak guns at the set up stage, which was fairly likely, then the KV may have been easily dealt with and the way ahead might have been quickly cleared in the first game, with that original German armoured force of 5 tanks and 2 halftracks then creating havoc, which may have brought its own imbalance, though certainly at least putting the focus on the subsequent fighting more towards the prime objective (the church) towards the rear of the defensive zone.

It is however the variable of whether such a thing will happen or not that seems the very essence of what a campaign game should deliver and for this system to ensure that there is enough variability that individual campaign games will potentially give differing routes of play. In any case, one might get something like the expensive 88mm gun and then lose it within minutes to an air or artillery strike, there are no guarantees.

Also, there are some other ‘in game’ ways of dealing with such a vehicle, such as causing damage to the main gun or track, getting into a flanking shot position, close assaulting it or getting an accurate artillery stonk. All these things may or may not happen, such are the variables that go with these things, but they do always add to a good story and bring game tension.

In the end, I decided to leave things the way they are and in this instance just enjoy the narrative of that ‘pill box’ type tank that held up an entire advance, which reflects historical accounts that I have read of similar experience. The campaign becomes more honest when sides have to deal with what they meet, with what they have.

It does of course show that the OST system nicely models the KV-1 in action in 1941-‘42. These sort of things are going to crop up in several settings.

(Panzers at War 1939-1942, Bob Carruthers, published Pen & Sword, pages 111 - 112. ‘Despite the fact that it [a 150mm howitzer battery] scored numerous direct hits from as close a range as 200 yards, its heavy shells were unable to put even a single tank [KV-1] out of action’.

‘To be sure, the engineers managed to get to the tank after midnight and laid the prescribed demolition charge under the caterpillar tracks. The charge went off according to plan, but was insufficient for the oversized tracks’). 

It is probably a bit of a tall order to expect the campaign document to work in every situation, but it should generally do okay and the player should feel free to make any in game adjustments that will get the campaign delivering the 'right feel' for them. 

Anyway, the mini campaign document is now available as a free fan based download in a PDF at the two links below (DropBox and Board Game Geek). 

Resource Section.
OST generic Mini Campaign download in PDF via DropBox, LINK

OST generic Mini Campaign download in PDF via Board Game Geek, LINK

Flying Pig game Company LINK

The opening blog post, which shows set-up and starts a campaign AAR. LINK



Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Part 4 (final) OST east front mini campaign

This post covers the fourth and final Action in our mini campaign. Following the Lull Phase after the third battle, both sides responding to their dire lack of infantry, released the last of their reserves.
KV-1 from my 15mm miniatures collection


Needing a counter-attack force to re-take the village, the Soviets received a company of ten rifle sections. The Germans, wanting to both keep hold of the village and try to exploit their right flank and reach the church beyond, received an under strength company of five rifles sections and an assault section - it seems they will have much to do!

If there was writing on the wall, it would likely say ‘Quantity has a quality of its own’! We shall see.

Please use the ‘read more’ tab to see how the campaign is unfolding.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Part 3 OST east front mini campaign

This post covers the third of the four Actions in our mini campaign for the Old School Tactical system. Following the Lull Phase after the second battle, both sides have brought up some much needed infantry replacements, placing them across the whole front to try and cover losses, but in particular, supporting the centre, where the Soviet held village has seen much of the fighting.
The KV-1's crew are most unsettled by the repeated shell
strikes against their tank!


Please use the ‘read more’ tab to see how the campaign is unfolding.