Sunday, May 5, 2019

Finally! More attractive Wars of Insurgency order markers

The finished product -- order markers for two dozen squads done quickly, simply, and attractively for the tabletop!

I've been telling myself for months (years?) that I was going to get around to creating less obtrusive order markers for my modern infantry skirmish game, Wars of Insurgency. The colored poker chips I used are functional, but can be an eyesore for a perfectionist like myself when it comes to making your battlefield look great. My latest game, Bush War in Rhodesia, finally forced my hand.
In this game, there are six very large units of ZANLA insurgents. According to the special scenario rules, each time these units of 20 take a hit, they are marked with a "bombshell marker." Bombshell was the name the Rhodesians gave to the insurgent tactics when they came under attack by a Fire Force assault. Essentially, they splinter -- breaking up and running in different directions. In game terms, they split into two. A unit of 20 becomes two units of 10, a unit of 10 splits into two of five, a unit of five actually begins suffering morale effects.
Wooden discs readily available at craft stores make great, inexpensive order markers
What this has to do with markers is it means I need a LOT more order markers for the ZANLA side than I have in my previous games. So, I decided to make some up in a quick and simple fashion, but hopefully so they don't detract from the look of the battlefield. I used 1.5" diameter wooden discs available at craft stores like Hobby Lobby and Michaels.
Each round wooden disc is attached to a bamboo skewer with blue tack then set upright in foam

I would do the next batch differently than I did these, though. The first step is to attach each disc to a bamboo skewer with blue tack, and then use some foam to create a holder for the skewers. Next, glue down the JTT Detachable Grass Bushes first to the center of the disc. I made a mistake and did Step #3 before this step #2. The next step is to paint the disc with a 50/50 mix of brown paint and white glue. The wet disc is sprinkled with Woodland Scenics fine brown ballast to give it a solid, thick flocked earth base.
Sigh, mistake! I foolishly flocked the disc with ballast BEFORE attaching the bush causing problems for me later

After it dries, the next step is to paint the ballast with a 50/50 mix of white glue and water. While it is wet, sprinkle it thickly with Woodland Scenics Blended Turf Earth. After it dries, do this again with Blended Grass. Next, spray it the markers with clearcoat. When dry, a final 50/50 mixture of glue and water should give it a thick durable coating.
A view of the poker chips I used before on a battlefield
You can apply 1" round adhesive stickers to the wood underside to denote your squads that move first, second, etc. The markers are anonymous enough that opponents can't look at them and know which unit you've marked to go first, but scenic enough that they actually add to the look of the tabletop rather than detract from it like...ahem, colored poker chips!

Acheson Creations resin bases which will form my next batch of order markers
I am also working on another batch of markers, this time using Acheson Creations round bases (I believe what they are meant to be). I've washed them to remove the mould release agent off of them, and spray primed them black. The challenge will be to flock and paint them as identically as I did with the wood discs!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Kingdom of Gododdin Repels Viking Invasion

The Men of Gododdin - Lord Gwendawg and his Welsh warriors close with Jarl Jimsson and his unit of hearthguard
When word was spread by riders throughout the kingdom of Gododdin, Lord Gwendawg gathered his men - mounted hearthguards, foot warriors, and levy archers. Rumor flew that the Vikings were on the had plundered a monastery and were marching the monks back to their ships to sell overseas as slaves. Riding hard and fast the Welsh warriors caught up with the Vikings of Jarl Jimsson. The Vikings were tossed into confusion, but the jarl quickly reordered his men to face Lord Gwendawg's forces as they deployed.
Jim, left, finished his deployment while Mike Stelzer and his Byzantines faces off against Adrian and his Romano-Brits
This game of Saga was played as part of a game day at a local game store (Guardtower East). Steve Phallen organized it, and eight players showed up from Central Ohio, Springfield, and Dayton. I was matched against one of the Dayton player, Jim, and his borrowed Viking army. Jim suggested we play a game from his friend Adrian's copy of Book of Battles, so we did. I forget the exact scenario name, but it involved four objectives on the battlefield -- two on each side of the table -- that the armies were attempting to hold onto. We received points each turn for being within 2" of them with no enemy within 4". We used monks for the objectives (though they counted as impassable terrain and would remain stationary). Each of us deployed to maximize our chances at holding onto the ones on our side of the board and seizing those on our opponent's.
My mounted hearthguard charge up the hill on the left while my two center units of warriors and Warlord advance
I deployed my large unit of 8 mounted hearthguards on the left, so that they could race across a gentle hill and rescue the monks from the two units of 8 Viking warriors each guarding them. I figured my mounted troops should be up to the challenge, even though they were outnumbered 16 to 12. In the center, I placed my two large units of 12 warriors, supported by my mounted Warlord. Across from them were a unit of 4 berserkers, another unit of 4 Viking hearthguard, and his Warlord. This could be a nearer thing, I thought. On the right, I would have to delay with my unit of 12 Levy archers who marched onto a hill to shoot the enemy, yet still keep men near the objective. Across from them was another unit of 8 Viking warriors. I had five units vs. Jim's six, but most of my units were bigger, which should make them more survivable, I hoped.
Breakthrough! My mounted hearthguard have almost eliminated his first unit of warriors, and ready to charge the other
On my left, the mounted hearthguard of Gododdin raced towards the Vikings and crashed into the first unit. We smashed into them, killing six of them while losing only two. They were driven back to the corner of the battlefield. In the center, Jim advanced his three units, but I felt their attack was somewhat piecemeal. First, his small hearthguard unit tried to charge my archers, but I had saved an "Evade" move on our board and we withdrew before his charge. His berserkers targeted my warrior units, and I crossed my fingers and hoped our numbers could absorb his attack. In the ensuing combat, I lost 7 warriors, but he lost all of his berserkers. His hearthguard were ground down by my combined javelin and bow fire, and by my other warrior unit. Soon, only his Warlord contest the center.
Late stages of the battle - the Viking Jarl nearly surrounded by four units of Welsh
The battle on the left continued to go in my favor. My hearthguard followed up their charge, slamming into the other unit of Viking warriors, killing four of them and driving the rest back into the woods. This left us in control of the objective for the rest of the game. We turned and destroyed the remaining two warriors of the first unit, and tossed javelins at the warriors on the edges of the woods.
Other battles taking place - Roman ballista and infantry target their enemy
Then began the heroics of Jarl Jimsson. Time and again, surrounded and opposed on three sides by larger units, he shrugged off the effects of our javelins and arrows. I wanted to kill his leader, and did manage to get him to two fatigue. However, I could never finish him off, despite numerous flights of arrows and javelins, and even a charge by a warrrior unit. When he brought his fresh unit of warriors from his left to reinforce his center, I sent a "Wild Charge" of javelin-armed warriors to scatter them, slaying most.
Adrian's warlord leads a charge against Brett's Vikings in a second round battle
Essentially down to his virtually surrounded Warlord, Jim conceded the field. Interestingly, this scenario gives zero points for enemy kills. However, I was way ahead in that category, too. It was a smashing victory for the men of Gododdin. I really enjoy playing this Welsh Saga army. It has speed, strong melee ability, and significant missile firepower, as well. It's command and control "board" has a lot of reaction moves which can allow a commander to stay one step ahead of his opponent's maneuvering. In thinking about it more, I may experiment and swap out my 12 Levy archers with 12 javelin-armed ones. It was a fun game, and Jim was a great opponent.
Another second round battle - Steve's Romans face off against Lowell's borrowed Saxon army
Our game lasted about 2 1/2 hours, though, and everyone else had finished and been matched up for a second round by the time we were done. Both of us were fine with playing one game. Jim wanted to shop a bit and I wanted to check out some of the other games. Thanks to Steve for organizing the game day, and providing loaner armies, terrain, dice, and more. The Welsh are my own figures, and several other players brought their own troops, too. Everyone seemed to have a good time. I'm looking forward to playing again soon, and continuing the saga of Lord Gwendawg of Gododdin.
A Viking warlord -- Brett's borrowed army with his berserkers and raven banner
A "Hold the Bridge" scenario
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John Pittenger deploys his borrowed Irish army and makes adjustments as the Lowell's Saxons close
First round game - Lowell's Saxons vs. John's Irish, while Jason at bottom marches on Brett while Steve oversees
Mike Stelzer's elite Byzantine army, led by Harald Hadrada

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Scratch-building Chain Link Fences

My scratch-built aluminum fence sections surrounding my scratch-built basketball court
As my 28mm urban terrain began to grow, I knew I would needed fences to enclose my basketball court, parking lots, playgrounds -- whatever I think will look better with something around it. I thought I would try my hand at scratch-building chain link sections with easy-to-obtain and common materials. Sure, I realize somebody probably already makes them for purchase. I enjoy the modeling part of the hobby, though. And if I can do them cheaper, it means I can do more of them!
The black mesh called "plastic canvas" which -- when rotated 45 degrees -- looks like a chain link fence
I started with a plastic mesh screen called "plastic canvas" that you can buy at craft or fabric stores (I believe they are used for needlepoint). I chose black as the color so that I could dry brush my aluminum color over it to give it more of a worn look. The mesh is horizontal/vertical. Chain link fences usually have their wires running diagonal, though. So, I simply rotated the mesh 45 degrees. To make sure I was cutting it uniformly straight, I first cut out a thick cardstock template that would equal the size of the fence section that I wanted. I rotated the mesh, placed the template down, and used a sharp X-acto knife to cut along it.

My 6" bass wood sections with holes drilled 1 1/2" from each end for the nails to be forced through
I ended up with lots of segments left over, but I may go back and use those for gates, smaller sections, or whatever comes up. Next, I cut out the bases out of bass wood. In hindsight, I would make the bases wider. I chose bass wood slats that were too narrow and the fences seem a tad top-heavy. I then measured so that if I lined up several sections end to end, the poles would be evenly spaced. With a 6" long base, I needed to measure in 1 1/2" from each end along the centerline of the base. That meant that each pole would be 3" apart. I marked the spot and drilled it to accommodate my fence posts.
The nails, which become fence posts, pushed through the bottom of the bass wood base through the hole drilled for them
I used aluminum nails for my fence posts. My idea was to use a flat head nail and drive it up from the bottom through the bass wood base material. Unfortunately, I did not notice that my chosen nails had a slight, irregular, material bump on the end of each nails flat head. That meant they did not truly lay flat. I thought this could be easily fixed by simply gluing MDF "bricks" -- tiny rectangular pieces that were left over from building construction. I did this, but then found that the base was even more wobbly and unstable. The next attempt to salvage the bases was to epoxy metal bases on the bottom in the center between the two posts. The weight of the metal allowed them to finally be more bottom heavy and stand up more straight. Still, I wished I had gone with wider bases.
The styrene rods placed atop the points of the nails to be the horizontal poles
The next step was to cut the styrene rods that I had bought at a local hobby shop into six inch sections. I measured 1 1/2" in from each end and marked the spot. I then took the sharp point of an X-acto blade and spun it to make a hole at the marked stop. I widened it so that it would fit over the tapered point of the nail. The rods would become the horizontal poles atop the fence sections. Once I had all the poles cut out and drilled, I simply epoxied them onto the nail points.
The size of styrene rods I bought from the local hobby shop
It was at this point I discovered I had made another miscalculation. When I drilled the hole through the bases, I had not done them uniformly straight and perpendicular. This meant the nails did not point up a true straight up and down, and the styrene poles would not look straight. In the future, I would probably find truly flat head nails and simply epoxy them to the base, rather than drilling them up through the bottom. Lessons learned!
The materials all ready for assembling
Next, I coated the horizontal styrene poles and the vertical nails with a line of epoxy. I took each precut mesh screen and placed it onto the epoxy, angling the piece at an angle so gravity would force the screen against the epoxy. This step went very quickly, and I soon had a bunch of 6" chain link sections. I was mostly happy with how they'd turned out.
My first attempt at making the bases more stable. I would later add two metal bases in between the nails for weight
The two gates were a bit more fiddly to make. I cut styrene rods to be the gate posts, and epoxied them onto the base. It took some bracing and use of bluetack while the epoxy was drying for them to stay upright. I glued an appropriate bead onto the top of each post to look like the filial caps you usually see on aluminum fences. I glued on more styrene rods for the gates side and top poles, but otherwise, the steps were very similar as constructing the straight fence sections.
The plastic mesh is epoxied onto the aluminum nails and styrene rods - ready for priming!
Once all dry, I took the sections outside and spraypainted them with Krylon black primer acrylic paint. I followed this up with a coat of 50/50 mixture of black paint and water. They dried overnight, and then it was time to turn them into aluminum. I searched around to find a silver that looks more like aluminum. I purchased a jar of Vallejo Liquid Silver "White Gold" because it looked the most like aluminum of all the paints I'd found.
The painted and flocked gate section with a fence section on either side
My original intention was to drybrush the silver on over the black, leaving some black in the recesses as shadows. This paint is very watery, though, and wanted to cover the area completely -- running into crevices. I decided to go with the flow, so to speak, and cover the poles and fence screen more completely. This went VERY fast, and I really liked the bright color and how it reminded me of aluminum.
A good look at the mesh and how it simulates a chain link aluminum fence
Once dry, I flocked the bases with medium brown ballast, and followed it up with Turf Earth, and finally blended green grass (leaving some sections bare earth). A couple sprays of clear coat and my fences were done! Everything did not go exactly as planned, and I will certainly be making some changes on future fence sections. However, I liked the way it turned out, and actually bought a second section of black plastic canvas tonight to do more fences!
Some of my 28mm urban gangs get ready to rumble on an inner city basketball court surrounded by my fence
These fence sections were quick and easy to create (and cheap, too!) If you follow in my footsteps, don't make the same mistakes that I did! See my blog entry above...

Monday, March 18, 2019

Bitter Tribal Warfare in the North of Britain

Steapa, at bottom right, encourages his Saxon warriors to exact revenge on their Viking foes across the field
I have always been fascinated by the history of Britain during the Dark Ages. Long ago, I painted up 28mm Vikings, Picts, Saxons, Britons, and Irish for use in skirmish games. I've used them with Song of Blades and Heroes rules, Saga, and most recently with Tribal rules from Mana Press. Enough of our Sunday evening gaming group enjoyed them to say they were interested in playing them more often.
In the center, Keith (left) and Joel count up their winning card exchanges to determine which unit won that clash
I pitched the idea to them of a series of games, with players controlling the same faction in a series of battles. We would keep track of Honor Points -- Tribal's ways of judging victory -- over the course of the games. Our forces (and leaders) would get more skilled, and hopefully a storyline would develop. I didn't want to necessarily call it a campaign, because there would be no map and no control of territory, or anything like that. Neither would it be a League, in which players are free to play multiple factions for the sole purpose of one-on-one competition. Ostensibly, the player's forces would remain the same faction.
The Townsfolk of Camelon rally to defend their fields from a horde of inebriated Norse-Irish
Since nearly all of my 28mm Ancient/Medieval stuff is for Dark Ages Britain, I encouraged the others who own figures for it (Keith and Mike S) to also field armies from the north of Britain. That accomplished, I've decided to give it a bit more of a framework. The factions would be from an area known as Gryme's Dyke, formerly the Antonine Wall -- an earth barrier constructed by the Romans before they pulled back to the location of Hadrian's Wall. Thus, in the Dark Ages, this could be the haunt of Picts, Dal Riatan Irish, Britons, as well as invading Saxons and Vikings. Our six players involved in the games so far represented the following factions:
  • Caithill's Norse-Irish (Keith)
  • Steapa's Saxons (Me)
  • Picts (Allen)
  • Vikings (Mike W)
  • Vikings (Mike S)
  • Local Townsfolk (Joel)
A band of Franciscan friars rally to the defense of the townsfolk, ready to use their staffs on the godless heathens!
 For our second set of games, we decided to use three of the four scenarios from the Tribal rulebook (#1 Revenge, #2 Raid, #4 Destruction). I used the order of Honor Points earned from the first game to let players choose their spot on the battlefields (attacker or defender on which designated battlefield). I skipped over myself and took the remaining spot.
The drunken Irish approach the stalwart monks, none too steady on their feet (judging by the cards they'd draw!)
Destruction featured five of my 28mm Acheson Creations Dark Ages buildings that Allen's Picts would be attempting to defend from an invading force of Vikings (Mike W). The attacker's goal would be to have a unit or figure spend an activation card adjacent to a building, which would represent setting them alight. Allen's placed his Pictish defenders in a forward defense, forcing the Vikings to go through them to get there. The drawback of his strategy was that, with half his forces not arriving till he end of turn 3, he would be outnumbered by the Norsemen. As it turned out, the Vikings did win the battle 13-7 in Honor, but managed to fire only one of the buildings.
The ending stages of the game sees the Irish force scattered and being mopped up by the Townsfolk
Since the games were being held on St. Patrick's Day, Caithill's Norse-Irish were full of enthusiasm to go out and raid the outskirts of the town of Camelon, near Gryme's Dyke. The battlefield represented one Dark Age hut and three fenced pastures with horses and pigs. The Irish goal would be to spend an activation card either in, or adjacent to, each of the structures to represent stealing animals or supplies. Led by a local group of monks, the townsfolk of Camelon were ready when the raucous (inebriated from celebrating St. Patrick's Day?) Irish arrived. The Irish would have to attack and drive them away from their herds to attain any loot. Keith was certainly missing the luck of the Irish that night and was soundly thrashed by the stalwart countryfolk and well-fed monks who guarded the pastures, 15-3. The Norse-Irish fled in disgrace.
In the far game, Jarl Mike W (left) grinds down Allen's Picts, while in the middle Keith (left) and Joel count their dead. At bottom right, Jarl Mike S patiently shuffles his deck and waits for me to finish taking pictures!
The final game pitted my Saxons (named after the Last Kingdom's character Steapa) seeking to avenge a wrong done to use by the Vikings of Mike S. Perhaps a band of Viking young men had stolen into our territory and perpetrated an atrocity on our Saxon womenfolk. I was to secretly designate one of Mike's units as the ones marked out for our revenge. I chose his one unit of hand weapons (figuring he would think I would pick one of his leaders). I deployed my three units of Saxon warriors across my front, each of them backed by a character -- my chieftain in the middle, and heroes on either end.
At top, Jarl Mike S's Vikings (including the Ravers just to the left of the monastery beehive huts) charge into my Saxons
I noted that Mike deployed the ravers we wanted vengeance against opposite my right. I then began to refuse my left flank with my unit of spears, and crept the other units over to the right so they would all be able to gang up on hand weapon unit. The characters also stalked forward to be within movement range. As it turned out, Mike attacked first, driving off one of my units with those very same ravers. They then followed up their success against my hero with the fearsome skill. Mike's early luck with cards ran dry, and my hero pulled a number of high black cards. With each wound dealing an extra, my hero cut down the over-confident (dare I say "cocky"?) ravers in one turn of combat.
Another look at the Raid battlefield with its pastures
Each of us had our successes and failures elsewhere on the battlefield. However, I had the upper hand in numbers and a clear lead in Honor. I could have attacked and possibly destroyed another damaged unit or two, but decided that honor had been satisfied. I offered Mike a chance to withdraw, and he took it. Steapa was successful in his second battle, as we revenged ourselves upon the Vikings, 16-7.

After weeks of games, here are the "campaign" Honor Point (renamed Legend Points) won by each faction:
  1. 27 Steapa's Saxons (Mike D, 2-0)
  2. 23 Townsfolk of Camelon (Joel, 1-1)
  3. 22 Vikings (Jarl Mike W, 2-0)
  4. 15 Picts (Allen, 0-2)
  5. 15 Vikings (Jarl Mike S, 0-2)
  6. 14 Caithill's Norse Irish (Keith, 1-1)
 With the next set of games, we're going to introduce a new feature to the games: Card pools. These are drawn at the start of each game and can be substituted for a card that has been played by the player or his opponent. I am planning on each player beginning with one card in the pool, earning an additional one with each victory. So, for next time, here's the card pools:
  • 3 - Steapa's Saxons
  • 3 - Jarl Mike W's Vikings
  • 2 - Townsfolk of Camelon
  • 2 - Caithill's Norse-Irish 
  • 1 - Allen's Picts
  • 1 - Jarl Mike S's Vikings
And finally, the Honor Points in each player's pool are also accumulated as Experience Points. Unlike the Legend Points, which simply accumulate and "rank" players, Experience Points are meant to be spent. Players can spend 15 points to purchase a permanent skill for one of his units or characters. Alternately, the can save them up to purchase a two point skill for 60 points. Purchased Skills will be "free" in future games -- over and above the normal Honor Pool which they can spend on Skills. However, this free skill cannot be changed from game to game, but is a permanent feature of the faction's armed forces.

Obviously, the current Experience Point pool is equal to the Legend Points: 27 (Mike D), 23 (Joel), 22 (Mike W), 15 (Allen), 15 (Mike S), 14 (Keith). After two games, five of the six players can purchase a permanent, 1-point Skill if they desire. Or they can wait and save it up for a 2-pointer! We will see how all these campaign additions affect the game as we progress. I, for one, certainly enjoy the scenarios better than a straight up battle. Tactical objectives always make a game more interesting! I am looking forward to the next time that bloody warfare resumes far to the north of the old Roman wall in the land of Gryme's Dyke!


Friday, March 8, 2019

Playground Equipment for my 28mm urban battlefield

3-D printed 28mm playground equipment for my urban battlegrounds
When I decided to begin collecting, building, and modeling for my 28mm urban gang warfare project, I started brainstorming what kind of scenery I could include besides buildings. Block after block full of buildings may look cool, but wouldn't be as visually exciting as mixing some other things. I thought of things like a basketball court, park, outdoor market, parking lots, and a playground.
28mm Slide and climbing bars from my friend Joe Merz's 3-D printer
My friend Joe Merz has a 3-D printer and had offered to print up terrain for me, if I could find the file on Thingiverse. I wasn't having much luck searching, so asked him, and he found quite a few things. He sent me some pics and I ordered swingsets, slides, teeter-totter, spinning wheel, and park benches from him. There was enough equipment to make two small playgrounds or one big one.
Members of the Bexley Block Watch keep an eye on their turf -- an urban playground
The first thing I noticed was that 3-D printed terrain has some serious flash in areas. I worked at it with an X-acto knife and made it more presentable. The fiddliest of bits to assemble were the swings. The seats did not attach easily to the ropes or chains hanging from the overhead bar. Otherwise, it all assembled relatively easily (or required no assembly at all). I based everything up on styrene plastic -- mainly because I wanted to model the effect of the grass being worn away to bare dirt in high traffic sections (like underneath each swing seat).
A rival gang - the Sons of Thor, German Village chapter - move in on the Bexley playground
I did a Google image search for pictures of playground equipment, and came to the conclusion that bright, primary colors was the usual look. I thought about doing some serious weathering and rust on the pieces, but didn't want post-Apocalyptic stuf -- just a little dirty. A dry brush of the lighter shade of the base color and a black wash would suffice for that, I felt.
Close up of one of the swingsets, including the difficult to attach seats
I really like how everything turned out -- especially the metal on the slides. I think it will make a good addition to my downtown. Now, I just have to find some modern 28mm kids to be clambering around the equipment. So, if anyone knows where I can find some, feel free to let me know!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Rhodesian Bush Wars at Cincycon

Rhodesian G-car flies over a ZANLA encampment in a Fire Force scenario at Cincycon 2019
It is interesting that one of the more interesting conflicts of the 20th century "Bush Wars" -- that of Rhodesia fighting to maintain its minority rule -- is also one of the most challenging to game on the tabletop. In particular, the Rhodesian Fire Force missions of helicopter-borne and paratroop dropped assaults on insurgent camps can be a thorny scenario. The casualty ratio between the Rhodesians and the insurgents is so lopsided that for a long time I considered them not worth trying to stage on the tabletop. I mean who wants to play a side that loses casualties at an 80-to-1 rate vs. their opponent?
ZANLA encampment prior to the Fire Force assault, with troops milling about in the village grounds
However, as I continue playtesting the air support rules for my modern skirmish rules set, Wars of Insurgency, my mind kept trying to solve the riddle of putting on a fun, playable Fire Force assault game, yet keeping casualty rates vaguely historical. One day it came to me: why not have the insurgents played by the GM? The players would take on the role of the helicopter-borne and paratrooper infantry attempting to corral the ZANLA insurgents and prevent them from escaping. Another player would take on the role of an Alouette K-Car (armed with a 20mm autocannon) and an Alouette G-Car armed with a machine gun as fire support. The players would be challenged, as the Fire Force historically was, to prevent the maximum number of enemy from escaping the board. I wouldn't have any ego issues watching large numbers of my troops become casualties, while inflicting few on the elite Rhodesian infantry.
Rhodesian K-car opens the engagement banking left to allow its 20mm autocannon to engage the enemy below
I intend to do another post on obtaining and getting the Alouette III helicopters ready. I ended up going with two different sources, a Heller 1/72 scale plastic model kit (which would end up being the K-Car), and 1/72 die-cast from Amercom (G-Car). The plastic kit would be the K-car because I would be chopping it up to have the door open and insert a gun to represent the 20mm autocannon. I wouldn't bother with sticking a gun in the metal die-cast helicopter. The die-cast rotor assembly was EXTREMELY flimsy, and broke while I was just sizing it up to see how the blades would fit. After consulting with folks on various Facebook modern military history groups, I replaced the blades with a clear plastic sheet to represent the spinning main rotors. I was extremely happy with the look.
On the ground, sticks of Rhodesian Light Infantry advance through the bush, determined to cut off the escape of ZANLA
One unfortunate aspect of running a cooperative, players vs. GM game is that it limits the number of player commands. This would be my smallest Wars of Insurgency game, yet, with only four slots for Rhodesian players. Both slots filled up at Cincycon 2019, though -- I was running Friday evening and Saturday morning. That's my usual trick to allow me to have to set up and tear down only once each. My first group of players were fellow HMGS Great Lakes members and a fun and laid-back group. It included fellow board member Randy Miller and his high school senior daughter, Emma. She has gamed with Randy through the years and has the reputation of being a deadly opponent. 
Due to the large numbers of insurgents, a G-car is pressed into gunship mode and prepares to engage
We had a blast in the first game. I particularly enjoyed the players reacting with alarm as insurgent groups neared the edge of the board as they called over Randy for fire support from his chopper command. In the end, 18 insurgents out of 120 made it off the table. The Rhodesians lost five casualties. Honestly, considering the wounded-to-killed ratio of modern warfare, that would mean only one or two KIA, the others being wounded and out of action. So, the ratio proved very historical, in my opinion. I asked for suggestions from my players and they said it was perfect -- not to change a thing!
The players picked up my Wars of Insurgency rules quickly, and were a great help in keeping the game moving smoothly
The next morning I promptly disregarded their advice and made a couple changes. Number one was allowing two friends to play the insurgents for me, letting me sit back and GM (and causing the game to move faster with two players moving and firing 120 figures!). The best side effect was that both Jenny and Mike S who played the ZANLA force said they had fun. They said other players would likely feel the same way -- as long as they're not hyper-competitive and aren't the type that need to "win" to feel validated. I think at DayCon 2019 next month I will offer those two slots to walkup players, briefing them on what they're getting themselves into!
Rhodesian Light Infantry advance through a village to clear it of insurgents in Rhodesian Bush Wars
The other change I made was rearranging how the ZANLA troops were organized. Friday night, they began with groups of 12 or so, while Saturday morning I chose 20-figure groups. The reason they were so large was because I was replicating the "bombshell" tactic of ZANLA troops when under assault by Fire Forces. The insurgents would scatter in multiple directions (bombshell). So, I made a rule that when a group of insurgents took casualties, they would split into two separate units next turn. Thus, a 20-man group would bombshell into two 8-9 man units. Then, they would further bombshell once more, into 4-5 man groups. From my research, this would be the typical size of small units fleeing through the bush to escape. It wasn't until a unit got down to the smallest size and lost further troops that they would check morale.
A squad of lucky ZANLA troopers make it to the cover of the wooded hills near the board edge
For both games, I used a random aggression die roll when a ZANLA unit activated. I rolled 1d6 per squad. The higher the roll, the more aggressive they would be. So, if under fire from a Rhodesian squad and taking casualties, on a "5" or "6" they would move into cover and return fire. If not actively under fire, they would move to cover and advance towards the sound of Rhodesian fire. On low numbers, they would break off and scatter away from visible enemies. For rolls in the middle, I had them act in what I thought they would consider the most intelligent fashion. This type of simple AI for the insurgents works well in a game with a GM, and I was able to make most of my decisions without any questioning or complaints from players.
Rhodesians closes in on the village center,  firing from the cover of the trees
I was very happy with the outcome of both games. Number one, the players had fun and said how much they enjoyed the game. Number two, it felt like a historic action and had a realistic outcome, in my opinion. And finally, my air support rules worked very well, I thought. Although very little fire was directed at the helicopters, one G-car had to withdraw when it took accurate, damaging fire from the ZANLA on the ground. That also seemed to ring true with the players.
A shot I took before the game with the K-car above the native village, before placing troops
Fire Force will spring into action April 5th and 6th at DayCon 2019. I'll be repeating my times, with a Friday evening game and a Saturday morning games. DayCon is a fun, small convention that is growing rapidly -- come check it out!
ZANLA insurgents begin to scatter in the early stages of the Fire Force attack as a Alouette III G-car moves in