Welcome to Platoon Forward!

Welcome to the site where the story of the battle is as important as the battle itself. Here we will focus on men thrust into extraordinary situations of life and death. They must lead other men with duty and honor to meet their countries objectives. Some will be blessed with great skill, some will carry great shortcomings. No matter what nation, no matter what war, no matter what theater, they are all called to move their Platoon or Squadron forward!

These are their individual stories as played out using my various campaign rules . Hopefully these stories will entertain and inspire you to use your own troops, airmen and sailors to accomplish your own great heroics.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

In defense of 15mm

Well a week after Salute and I am back in the swing of things.  Rich and I are hard at work at Squadron Forward and I think it should be done before the end of May.  I am also starting to toy with "Warband Forward".   Am playing the first scenario with Olveg and his small band.

Seeing all the great tables at Salute and reading both Wargames Illistrated and Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy it would seem the whole world plays in 28mm.  When reading an article or figure review it is almost always, "and there are plenty of figures in smaller scales which will not be covered in this article."  What about those of us at 20mm/15mm and 6mm?  I have heard of 3mm but have never seen pictures of it. 
Don't get me wrong.  I love looking at the 28mm figures.  I guess that is why the tables and magazines use them.  But how about reviewing stuff for the rest of us?  Certainly there are people who buy smaller scales, particularly FOW. 
In defense of 15mm they are cheaper.  For the solo gamer who has to buy both sides and supply all the terrain this is a huge plus!
They are readily available at least for the wars I want to fight so far.  For WW II there are many companies that I use with good quality and reasonable prices to include Battlefront, Peter Pig and Command Decision  if I need a lot of stuff.  For Vikings I have Peter Pig again and the two companies for Salute, Donnington and Lancashire.  I am less thrilled with Lancashire after opening the package of Saxons and seeing 3 poses for my 40+ figures. 
They take up less space for storage.
They take up less space on the table thus my ground scale to figure scale is close to 1:1 for my skirmish games.

Skirmish gaming at 1:1 ground scale (horizontal at least)

They are more forgiving of less than stellar paint jobs.    I enjoy the painting of figures up to a point but I am definetly a gamer at the end of the day.  I don't need to worry about eye color and facial expression!

  Look deep into the color of my eyes!

Did I mention they are cheaper?

Now I realize that people that play with 6mm or 3mm can make all these claims against 15mm as well.  I say, "More power to you!".   For me 15mm is a good compromise between detail, space and price.   If I played larger games I suspect I would go smaller.  If I had started in the UK I might have gone with 20mm as I would have had a ton of HO soldiers lying around. 

So I am glad people take pictures of 28mm figures to inspire me but every once in a while I wish folks would take about the smaller figures.

Did I mention they are cheaper?


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Salute 2012

One of the many advantages to living in England is I get to experience the largest game show in England; Salute.  It is very different from a US "con".  For one thing it last only 7 hours and there is really no space to set up "extra" gaming.  It is in a huge warehouse or hanger type exhibition hall and there are long rows of retailors.  there must of been at least 30.  Between the rows various clubs set up games.  The games are beautiful but are primarily there to be looked at.  Some of them can be demo'ed.  It is quite different from the US where the games are the focus and the traders are off to one side.  Then again in the US you normally have a whole weekend.  Both formats are fine; it depends on what you want.  Since I don't get to shop much this worked out well for me!
Rich Clark and the gang told me I could go down with them to the show.  They ditched me when they claimed to not look at the back entrance to the train station to see if I was there!!  As fate would have it we met in line to get in so alls well that ends well! 
I had hoped to get some SAGA dice (told you I am a dice junkie) and several 15mm clerics for my vikings to kill.   I manged to get both!

Keeper of the SAGA dice

I found the clerics from a company called Donnington.  They look good and I got some civilians and campfire stuff as well.

I have been looking for some vineyards for about a year.  I made some that looked good but they were too flinsey.  I came across some S&A scenics ones that looked nice so I picked up a couple of them as well. 

Finally picked up 2 FOW russian rural buildings as a spur of the moment purchase.  Don't know why but I did.  Can use them on the russian front and as saxon dwellings a thousand years ahead of their time!

Had a very nice lunch with Rich, Sid and Robert (not pictured) and the gang at a local pub. 

Rich calling in his fan club!

Rich decided to make time with his fans and I decided to go back to the show

Notice the storks nest !

 great table

Another great table

Interesting Chap

Crying table

The table above was the worst for me.   It showed the belgium army fighting the germans in 1940.  Almost all the tables were 28mm or bigger and as you can see were brilliant.   I take solace in the fact that they are larger than the 15mm scale that I use.  The table above was 15mm and blew away my stuff!

Another picture to weep over

If I had Belgium stuff it would look this good!

Great table/ bad picture

After the show I went back to the pub and there sat the Lardie lads.   So we talked for about an hour about US presidents, the Church of England  and Anglo-American relations.  It was a great time!

With that we all rode back to St Albans the long way so I could view the tower of London.

The tower of London blocked by tourists!
(Nick and Sid)

All in all it was a very nice show and I feel I had a great time with some good friends.  You can't do better than that.



Monday, April 16, 2012

The Black Rams A walk through of Squadron Forward

Greetings all.    I hope you all had a blessed Easter, Passover or Spring break.  Spent the last week tooling around England and it has been fascinating.   
Rich has started working on Squadron Forward in earnest so I suspect we should be seeing it within the next 6 weeks or so.   Since I decided I needed a P-47 squadron in the pacific and had to roll one up I thought I would tkae this opportunity to do a walk though of Squadron Forward for those interested.  For those familiar with Platoon Forward much is the same but it plays different.  There is more of a individual feel.  There are no amorphous squads or platoons here.  Every pilot is a character here and his performance matters every time.

I have been playing several games of the AVG and got a little bored of the P-40s and Nates but still wanted to do Pacific.  (Good thing about Squadron Forward is my Flying Tigers will still be waiting for me whenever I get back to them!)  Was at wing HQ and saw some pictures of P-47s and bingo.  A little reading and found a P-47 squadron that set up in the Phillipeans; the Black Rams.  I was set.!

In Squadron Forward the first thing you do is roll up your pilots.  Each pilot has a personality and motivation.  Some personalities will help him get along better with others and some will make it a challange just like in real life.  Then for officers you roll for their background, again this can help/ hurt you with your superiors.  Finally you roll the starting skill level and if they start with any special skills.  The skill level will vary by country and year and is found in appendix 1.  It is very similar to my "Everyone wants an Ace" articles for those of you familiar with those. 
You can start with as many pilots as you want.   I usually play with 6 planes per side as I play solitaire and this is all I can handle.  Consequently a roster of 8 pilots works well for me.  More an I have too many idle.  Please note this is a function of my tactical game- not Squadron Forward.  I suggest you start with 8-12 and adjust from there.

So I roll up my 8 pilots but for brevities sake will only list the 4 that will go on this mission.

Maj Dingy McGee           Naive/ hedonism               Veteran         1 kill
Lt Blue    Mooney           Cocky/   family    (privilaged)  Veteran      eagle eye                -1

Lt Paul  Franklin             Mercurical/ position  (mustang)      Veteran                           -1
2Lt  Joe  Thurmond         Cheery/ hedonism                                                                  +1

Now to round out the personalities of your pilots you will have to interpret the above.   Here is how I did it.     Maj McGee rose to command the squadron based on hard work and skill.  He is a straight shooter who believes everyone else is as well and does not play politics.  Thus he does not care Lt Mooney's dad is a congressman but treats him like everyone else.  He lives life for today and takes all it has to offer.
 Lt Mooney grew up privilaged with money.  His Dad is a congressman and he makes sure everyone knows it.   He knows he is very good and feels he will get his way all the time.  He has excellent eye sight to boot.   He gets a -1 modifier on most interaction rolls because everyone dislikes him for the moment.   
Lt Franklin is erratic.  He is driven to get ahead in this man's army.  This is probably because he came up through the ranks and feels the need to prove he is a good as these college boys.  He plans on being the first ace and a squadron commander some day.   He is a good pilot, an unreliable wingman and alos gets a -1 modifier.
Lt Thurmond is a happy lad new to the theater.  An average pilot he knows he has a lot to learn.  He lives life to the fullest and is always the last to leave the bar.  He is very popular in the squadron and gets a +1 on most interaction rolls.  [That is why Dingy picked him to fly this first mission]

Once you have your roster you need to fly a mission.  You find your plane, theater and year and roll a d10.  As a squadron commander you have no say in this.  For a P-47 in the Pacific in 1945 I roll a 4 and get "patrol".  This is a great mission as almost anything can happen.  Suggested number of planes are 4-6 but you can take as many as you like.  Just like in Platoon Forward, the # of enemy you encounter is modified by how many aircraft you take so odds are you will have a balanced game.  Dingy decides to take 4 on a sweep of enemy lines.  Because this is the first mission he picks he best pilots.   Next you roll for weather and for any event that occurs before the battle.  Today the weather was fine and there was no event. 

Next you roll to see what you encounter.  [ While not realistic you will encounter something every mission.  You did not go through all this trouble for nothing!]  Fighters!!!   You now move to another scenario card to determine how many.  In this case we get 5.   Unlike Platoon Forward there are no enemy blinds.  I really wanted to do that  because it sounds cool to go chasing after blinds but in practice it just prolonged the game with little fun added.  In air combat there was no real reconnasense at the tactical level.  You either saw the enemy first or he saw you.  So it is in Squadron Forward.  You make several die rolls that determine where you and the enemy set up and how far away you are.  To explain it sounds complicated but it plays easily and Rich understood it the first time he read it.  It allows for bounces and surprises but otherwises get you right to the fighting.
For the black rams we started at the enemy's 8 o clock at 2/3rds the spotting distance because of Mooney's eagle eye.  Once the enemy is confirmed you roll on an appendix 3 table based on theater and year to determine what type of fighter you are facing.  Here we rolled Zeros.  Next it is back to appendix 2 to roll up the pilot skill levels.  For Japanese in 1945 we got one veteran, one average and two rookies.

The battle is then played out using whatever your tactical rules are. Some things should be modified.  For instance, Lt Franklin should have a low probablilty of sticking with his wingman.  (I used 33% chance after any manuver)   Like Platoon Forward there is a random event chart included.
In this game Lt Franklin bagged a Jap
 Scratch one Zero

The next turn a random event came up that stated his engine was running rough.  So guess what?  As he flew through his kill he got debris caught in his engine and had to leave the battle.  Cool eh?

 Japanese pincer Lt Mooney

Unfortunatley Mooney got shot down but a good chute was seen.  (There is a table for that.)

So now we have 2 P-47s against 3 Zeros and the Black Rams are low.  As Dingy calls for Thurmond to break off I get another random event.  This time it is US reinforcements.  I don't want any more P-47s so four 4 P-51s show up.

The cavalry arrive!

 They catch the Zeros from behind and quickly shoot down 2 thus ending the battle. 

Now we have to get everyone home.  Lt Franklin's engine is running rough so we go to the AKOT to see if he makes it back to base.  [ The scenario card told us we were over contested territory today so not too far.]  He does but then has to land a damaged plane.  20% chance of damage and we roll badly as the plane careens off the rough strip snapping its gear and knocking poor Franklin out cold. 
Meanwhile, Congressman Mooney's son lands in no man's land.   Another unlucky roll and he is captured by the Japanese.  The Black Rams will not know this for weeks so he will be listed as MIA.

Lastly we now go to the post battle events.  Unlike Platoon Forward there is some resource management in Squadron Forward.   We need to see if we got a replacment plane or pilot for Mooney. (no) and if Franklin or is plane is fixed yet (no).  Our squadron reputation and indivdual pilots can affect these rolls at times.

 A word about squadron reputation.  In this game you want your squadron to have the reputation as the baddest squadron in any air force.  So we track cool points.  This is a great equalizer amoung air forces.   My russian I-16 Ratas get cool points just by surviving in the air with ME 109s in 1941!   Here the Black Rams took on Zeros in an even fight, started to run away and got saved by P-51s.  Not Cool!!  They lost a cool point for this mission even though both sides  claimed a plane.

Next we introduced a new NPC, Lt Jake Shapiro the maintanence officer.  He is naive and motivated by wealth and is neutral to the squadron.   Lastly the group commander, Col Bubba Jackson is not happy that Congressman Mooney's son is MIA.  He blames Dingy and has tasked the Black Rams to provide a pilot and plane to help with the search operation. 

So that now leaves the Black Rams with Lt Franklin a 1 kill guy in the hospital.  They have -1 cool points and are down to 5 planes and 5 pilots ready for the next mission.    Oh, the challenges with leading your Squadron Forward!