Sunday, January 31, 2021

Soviet AA Revisited - The Tunguska Edition

A couple of years ago I wrote a post looking at the cost-effectiveness of the various Soviet anti-aircraft options in Team Yankee. The new WW3: Soviet book has introduced the 2S6 Tunguska to the game, so this is a good opportunity to update that earlier analysis.
In the game, the Tunguska differs from the other Soviet systems by having two anti-aircraft weapons, cannons and guided missiles. Its guns are better than the Shilka's, with greater Range, ROF, and AT, making it the best AA weapon available to the Soviets. Despite only being able to use one of its weapons per turn, it carries a hefty price penalty for having both, costing twice as much as a Shilka. Yes, it's expensive, but it's guaranteed to always be able to shoot at something, whereas the Shilka is limited by range.

Note: There's an interpretation of FM-101 that says that if you fire one of these weapons in the enemy turn, you cannot fire the other weapon in your own turn. I don't agree with this reading, so have written this post assuming that my interpretation is correct, and will update the numbers if FM-101 gets clarified to say that I'm wrong.

I updated my AA spreadsheet to include the Tunguska stats, and reran the cost-effectiveness calculation: which unit will do the most damage to a flight of typical NATO jets per point expended (click on the chart to get a higher resolution version).
The Tunguska's guns come in as the third most cost-effective form of air defence, but suffer from occupying the same unit slot as the Shilka. If you are looking for long range air defence, the Tunguska's missiles on the other hand are terrible value for money - costing as much as a Gecko while losing a point of ROF.

This ability to fire both weapons at helicopters in sequential turns raises the question of which weapon should you fire in the enemy turn, and which in your own. The specific scenario I have looked at here is a pair of Tunguskas shooting at a pair of hunter killer helicopters (making the heroic assumption they are in range of both weapons), and compared it to an equivalent cost unit of Shilkas. In the turn which the helicopters fire, you shoot against a Concealed and Gone to Ground target, while in your turn they are only Concealed. Assuming the helicopters are in range of both weapons, is it better to fire the guns needing 6s and the missiles needing 5s, or vice versa?
Overall it's better to fire the missiles at the Gone to Ground target, because the guns are just so much better at killing stuff that it's best for them to be hitting on 5s rather than 6s. So the question then becomes: can you afford to lose the teams that the helicopters are targeting? If yes, fire missiles then guns in order to have a higher chance of killing something across the two turns. If not, either fire the guns first to try and kill them before they get you, or better yet just spend the points on Shilkas.
The final question I wanted to answer was how many points should I be spending on AA in my Soviet lists? Or more specifically, how much air defence do you need to be able to defend against four A10s?
Having braved your layered air defence, how many of your teams will the surviving A10s kill in return? For consistency, the target in the model is one of the armoured platoons, with the massive blue spike in the following chart at "Destroy 4 Teams" being when the unarmoured Gecko is the only target. Of course, that may not be the way things play out in the game, with the US player just as likely to take a run at the Geckos as the softest target whenever they're present, or split their fire to try and chip teams off multiple platoons.
There are a few conclusions coming out of this. 
  • If Geckos get shot at, they die. Keep them concealed as best as you can.
  • It's no surprise that the best protection comes from spending the maximum possible points across your three AA slots for quartets of Tunguskas, Gophers, and Geckos.
  • For a given number of points to be spent on AA, it is more effective to spend those points on more platoons of cheaper weapons, rather than fewer platoons of better weapons. For example, four Shilkas and four Gophers are a more effective use of 8pts than four Tunguskas.
  • My pick from the choices available for the best AA combination available to the Soviets would be a platoon each of Shilkas, Gophers, and Geckos.
  • If you are simply looking at their AA performance, the Tunguska is too expensive, and the marginal increase in protection it offers is simply not worth the additional four points over a unit of Shilkas.
  • Maybe they could have a role as an ambush unit? It would be kind of interesting to see what 28 dice at AT10/FP5+ would do to a LAV company. Apart from that, with Armour 1 they are not something that you should be relying on to kill ground targets unless you're desperate.
  • I would only use the Tunguska for fluff reasons or because the model is cool. Which of course means that I need to get some Tunguskas. 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Seven Days to the River Rhine

In a spur of the moment decision during our lockdown last year, I purchased the PDF version of 'Seven Days to the River Rhine', a WW3 ruleset by Great Escape Games, and this week I played my first game of it with local blogger Pelarel.
The game is designed for 15mm and to suit Team Yankee basing. It's a smaller game than TY: set at reinforced platoon level, with activation by team.

The rules are brief at about 30 pages. The Facebook group has a FAQ/errata sheet, which is essential because there are a couple of places where the writing is a bit loose - particularly with shooting. There are embedded QR codes that link to tutorial videos on Youtube, which I think is an excellent touch.

Points are provided for a wide range of teams and nations, but apart from that there is no structure to support list building. Unit stats are relatively homogeneous across all of the nations, e.g. all infantry teams have the same stat line except some nations have slightly better morale.

A few scenarios outlines are provided, but these leave a lot to the player. Deployment zones and the process for placing objectives need to be agreed with your opponent.

The best aspect is the initiative rules. Each turn, both players get one command token per team (excluding APCs/IFVs), plus an additional two tokens for the battlegroup commander. The players dice off to see who starts with the initiative, then spend these tokens to activate teams, or to react to their opponent's actions. The initiative can pass from player to player during the turn, a process which continues until all the tokens are spent, at which point the turn ends. You can activate a team more than once, but each activation makes the next one harder to achieve. The chance of activating is also affected by the accumulation of morale markers, generated when the unit takes fire. 

We played 500pts on a 6x4 table, and completed the game in about 2.5 hours. This gave me six infantry teams, six BMP-1s, three T-64s, and two BRDMs. Pel had two Chieftains, two Swingfires, two Scimitars, three infantry teams in FV432s, a Milan team, a Marksman, and a Lynx. This was a good amount of equipment for the table size. Having more variety in his list seemed to work out well for him, and next time I’ll definitely run fewer infantry and a wider range of units.
My thoughts from the game are:
  • The initiative rules create a fantastic ebb and flow across the turn.
  • Tanks die really easily.
  • Infantry on the other hand are hard to kill. They can only be removed through the accumulation of morale markers, which takes either a long time or a significant concentration of fire.
  • You never really have enough command tokens to do everything that you want, particularly when you start to lose teams. You need to think really carefully about what you want to do in the turn and concentrate your command tokens on doing that, rather than spending them reacting to your opponent.
  • It gets really hard to do things mid game, as the accumulation of morale markers makes activation harder. Things just don't do what you want them to, which I think is a great mechanic.
I really like it. I don't think the game would replace TY as my WW3 game of choice, but it is a very different experience and an enjoyable change.

Monday, January 04, 2021

2020 Retrospective

It's hard to do a hobby retrospective for 2020 without mentioning the pandemic. In New Zealand we were blessed that our remoteness gave the government time to put together a heavy-handed but effective response, combined with a whole lot of luck, which eliminated community transmission of the virus and allowed us to have a normal Christmas.

I managed to keep up with monthly posts until June, after which I totally overwhelmed with work and lacked the motivation and energy to do anything. In that time I did however manage a total of 13 posts, which was a significantly better effort than the year before.

The year was bookended by 100pt TY at ValleyCon and 60pt FOW-MW at Remember December. I ran T-64s at ValleyCon, placing fourth, and Afrika Korps panzers at Remember December, also placing fourth.

I didn't write about Remember December, nor take any photos, but as usual it was a great day. I ran a Panzer III company:

Panzer III Tank Company - Afrika Korps
Company HQ - 2 x Panzer III (short 5cm)
Panzer III Tank Platoon - 3 x Panzer III (short 5cm), 1 x Panzer III (long 5cm)
Panzer IV Tank Platoon - 2 x Panzer IV (short 7.5cm), 1 x Panzer IV (long 7.5cm)
Panzer II Light Tank Platoon - 3 x Panzer II
Total Cost: 60 pts

I thought the list would be terrible, but it was felt pretty good. I lost my first game against a US Rifle Company -  I made the error of choosing Attack rather than Manoeuvre, which forced me into a No Retreat, losing because I didn't know that the newest version of the mission requires you to remain within 8" of an objective to keep the game going beyond Turn 6. I won the next two, against US Lees/Stuarts in Free For All (by the skin of my teeth and some very lucky Unit Last Stand tests), and a Panzer IV company in Encounter (confirming that the short 7.5cm is terribly over-costed).

I had a good spurt of painting FOW in the middle of the year, finishing most of the remaining models I had left for my Mediterranean British - two more platoons of armoured cars and platoons of Mk VIBs, Carriers, Vickers MGs, and 4.2" mortars. I didn't touch my TY Syrians.

I had three goals for 2020 relating to 28mm - painting and playing. I painted two squads of Perry Fallschirmjager, but did not play any games with them, nor did I do any work on the 28mm Landsknechts.

My most successful goal was to paint a Black Seas fleet box, which I changed during the year to be painting the Royal Navy ships required to play the Smugglers' Run campaign. I fell slightly short, needing just two more cutters to complete this fleet. With Warlord Games not having released a cutter model at the time (one is now available), I ordered some from Hagen Miniatures in June. Covid got in the way, with Deutsche Post spending much of the year not shipping to New Zealand, and I only received them in December.

I have decided to set fewer goals for 2021.

1. Field a T-80 company for Team Yankee. I have picked up the Soviet halves of a couple of the new TY starter sets, which are great value for the number of sprues that they contain, so need to paint them up and get them on the table.

2. Play a 1500pt game of 40K. I painted up about 400pts of Adeptus Mechanicus this year, so there's a bit of work needing to be done first.

3. Play through the Smugglers' Run campaign for Black Seas.

4. Administer a FOW ladder tournament for the club.

So happy new year, and thanks for reading the blog. Stay safe, and best wishes for 2021.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

And So It Begins

Last week I played 40K for the first time, but it didn't come about how I had expected. I was rushing to paint as much as I could before the club day on Saturday, when my 10 year old daughter Zoe asked if she could paint something as well. This seemed like a good idea, so we headed off to the nearest hobby shop to see what we could find. Her attention was caught by a poster of a Space Marine and a Necron, so we picked up a Recruit Edition starter box and she's been doing a very nice job of painting up both sides while I chip away at my Admech.
As well as some beautiful push-fit miniatures, the starter box includes a few basic missions to help learn the mechanics, growing in size and complexity until they use all of the miniatures in the box, and it was the first couple of these that were my first play through of the rules. As Zoe works her way through the rest of the box we will move on to the next ones.

Saturday came around, so we headed to the club and played a basic 500pt game against McZermof's Deathwatch.
As a learning experience it was great - we got to cover all of the basic rules, I got an idea of some of the shenanigans that are possible, and I was able to Neutron Laser a few Space Marines before I got overrun. There's lot to learn, but looking forward to playing again soon.

Next time: I have impulse bought a copy of 'Seven Days to the River Rhine', so hope to offer a few thoughts on that.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Richard's July

I don’t know where July went. I didn’t paint anything or play any games, so there’s no point doing the full write up.

I did however do a bit of reading. Late last year I found Shelby Foote’s “The Civil War: A Narrative” trilogy in a local second hand bookshop. I completed the first book at the start of this year before getting distracted by other things, but got back into it during July and am currently half way through book two, bringing me to the end of Gettysburg. Before picking it up I knew nothing of the period, apart from the Union winning in the end, so it’s been quite an adventure. It’s an incredibly well-written series, with the author skilfully weaving the events in the different theatres, and the political backdrop, into a coherent narrative. Recommended.

To get back on track, I've booked in for my first game of 40K at the club on 22 August. I currently have all of 87 points painted and based and need to get to 500pts, so I will have to get cracking to meet the deadline.
  • Models Finished: 0
  • Leadpile Size: Increased
  • Month Rating: Missing in action.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Richard's June

I started the month thinking it was realistic to average a model a day for all 30 days. That hope lasted for about a week. During the month I switched from working at home to being back in the office. This change was pretty draining, presumably due to having to interact with people, and I struggled with energy and motivation to paint in the evenings. When I did finally get back into painting, I found myself only wanting to do 40K, leaving a bunch of half finished historicals on the desk.

1. Painting 28mm FJ. 

I had been planning to complete a squad of Luftwaffe troops, but in the end just managed two figures.

2. Find a set of WW2 rules that I enjoy playing in 28mm.

We did have plans to play Battlegroup at the club, but life got in the way.

3. Paint a Landsknecht square for Impetus.

No progress.

4. Complete a Black Seas fleet. 

I painted three schooners, which wasn't a very pleasant experience, so the second half of the box remains undone.
This leaves just two cutters to complete the project. In the absence of a Warlord product, I have ordered some from Hagen Miniatures, but Deutsche Post is not currently delivering to New Zealand so I am not sure when they will arrive. 

5. Try out Battlegroup: NORTHAG, and write a review. 

No progress, although my hard copy of the rules arrived this month.

6. Complete some of the random FOW platoons that I have lying around. 

A little more progress with the Mediterranean British, completing a platoon of 4.2" mortars.

7. Syrians for Team Yankee.

No progress.

8. Put together an event or campaign of some kind. 

No progress.

9. Paint 500 points for 40K. 

I settled on the basing for my AdMech, decided to change the base colour that I was using for the Skitarii robes, painted four Rangers and updated the Vanguard to match. I still have two more figures from that first box, to be done as Alphas to make two minimum sized units, and then I've got a Dunecrawler to start.
June Summary
  • Models Finished: 13
  • Leadpile Size: Reduced, just.
  • Month Rating: Meh

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Richard's May

Life is returning to normal here with the progressive lifting of COVID-related restrictions. It has been ten days since the last case was found, and it's likely that all restrictions except for the border controls will disappear in the next week or so.

1. Painting 28mm FJ. 

No progress.

2. Find a set of WW2 rules that I enjoy playing in 28mm.

No progress.

3. Paint a Landsknecht square for Impetus.

No progress.

4. Complete a Black Seas fleet. 

I finally finished USS Constitution, which was started in January, and then reflagged my Spanish ships as Americans. I also painted the last gunboat squadron I needed for my RN fleet. I have three schooners on the workbench, they would have to be the least enjoyable Black Seas kits I've made so far, and I'm worried about how sturdy they'll be on the table: narrow, all metal including sails, and very top heavy.
I also bought some Battlefoam trays for storage and transportation. These were BFL size trays for X-Wing, with packers made from some spare foam I had lying around.
    5. Try out Battlegroup: NORTHAG, and write a review. 

    With restrictions easing, I'm hopeful of getting a game in the not too distant future.

    6. Complete some of the random FOW platoons that I have lying around. 

    I made good progress on this one. I pulled a few things out of the stash and did a bunch of work on my Mediterranean British, including finishing my last two Early War Armoured Car Platoons, a platoon of Light Mk VIbs, a platoon of Vickers MMGs, and some carriers and trucks. I only have a few related models left for the army, so will finish those off and then post photos of the wider collection.

    7. Syrians for Team Yankee.

    No progress.

    8. Put together an event or campaign of some kind. 

    On hold, but I’m thinking about what we could do for some multiplayer TY once we’re able to reopen the club.

    9. Paint 500 points for 40K. 

    No progress. I'm annoyed that I put off buying more for so long, as the AdMech Start Collecting box I was intending to get has been re-released, replacing the Dunecrawler with a Dunerider, which is a disappointing change.

    May Summary
    • Models Finished: 21
    • Leadpile Size: Reduced!
    • Month Rating: Productive.