Sunday, 26 November 2017

First FUBAR competition come and gone!

Time for an update. There has been a lot of gaming, purchasing, painting, and just idle daydreaming on all things hobby related since my last post.

Everything except blogging, which is simply because I spend much more time on the iPad these days than I do on the computer, and Blogger isn't very tablet-friendly. 
Japanese SL in Russki livery.  The train made choo-choo noises- what more could a gamer ask for?
Anyway, here is an account of my mixed fortunes at FUBAR, our first ever Bolt Action tournament held way back on the 1st of October, and held at the community centre at Seiseki-sakuragaoka here in the west of Tokyo.

I have to be honest and admit that I actually enjoyed it much more than I ever thought I would. I had never played in a tournament before, in fact I've tended to be quite suspicious of them in the past, due to those stories you hear out there of overly-competitive, unwashed basement dwellers who delight in sucking the fun and energy out of gaming.  

Now that's unfair stereotyping to be sure, but I had never been much for competitive play, preferring my games to be scenario-driven, firmly grounded in at least some historical context, and played against plausible historical opponents.  

I'd heard horror stories about tournaments where one finds Japanese flame-thrower teams darting around the front lines in Kurogane field cars, or unlikely mixed platoons of SS, paratroopers, and- for all I know- COBRA troopers; win-at-all-costs power gamers busy mini-maxing points with not even a cursory nod towards historical plausibility.  

Each to their own, but I wanted nothing to do with that scene.

But I needn't have worried.  There were no such excesses evident, the air was redolent of soap, and as a change from my usual gaming fare it actually proved a nice break.  

It turned out being a very enjoyable tourney, with great people to game with.  There was loads of enthusiasm, with everyone playing to win but not wanting to do so at the expense of everyone having a good time.  Lots of good humour and nobody taking it all too seriously.  

In fact it was surprising just how much we were all able to learn about the finer points of the rules through accessing the group's "hive mind", especially given the range of experience when it came to playing Bolt Action.

In my case, all my experience had been against Matt's Far East British, so I was not at all confident about my chances.  I duly managed to come in 9th out of a table of 12! 

But better than I thought I would, given that the Japanese would be up against all manner of Axis and Allied mechanized nastiness.

For a one-off day of gaming I can live with any of the historical anachronisms, and I have to say I really like the second edition of the Bolt Action rules, which seem to play much better than the first edition. Hurrah to that extra dice for LMG's and MMG's.

We had five, very nice tables laid out for the games. 
Jungle table- The sun doesn't shine in jungle; neither did my IJA.
Giovanni was responsible for this rather nice desert table.  This was much more to my men's liking on the day.
Fear, loathing, and weirdness in Peenemunde
My mountain fort finally saw combat!  I didn't have the chance to play on this table, though.
Psyche Ops.
I liked this one; very "Market Garden-y".
I had decided to risk all and go for what was very much a light infantry force. No tanks or vehicles. Japanese armour would most likely get toasted by anything the Germans or Soviets could bring to the party, so why bother?

Instead, I would spend the points on what was my army's strength; being able to throw wave after wave of good-quality infantry, in large squads of twelve or more, straight at the enemy and to get in close with the bayonet.  And shrugging off any pins or casualties, as was the done thing.  

With just about all my troops being fanatics, no one can better my IJA as far as force morale goes.

I've been gaming long enough to realize that numbers often count, both in being able to absorb casualties and in the number of dice to be rolled; the more dice, the more things average out.  Just being able to roll a dozen dice in a firefight means I'm bound to hit something, let alone unleashing them in a Banzai! charge.

So in the end I went for a very vanilla infantry platoon- straight by the book. My only luxuries were a sniper team, a suicide A/T team, a 70mm light howitzer in support- and the combat debut of my new pointy stick guys- bamboo spearmen.  

To be honest I doubt the historicity of being able to field spearmen in separate squads.  In reality, it's most likely that any army troops finding themselves reduced to having to wield spears instead of rifles would have been skeletal, emaciated, malaria-ridden, poorly-supplied waifs, so it seems to me that having them as a separate troop type seems kind of gamey  (as, I suppose, they were...).  

But for game purposes, they would do; I could get a lot of them, and they were as cheap-as-chips. 

When first putting together the list, I had most of what I needed except for that squad of bamboo-spear armed infantry and  70mm light gun. These were ordered, and came mercifully quickly from Warlord Games.

The morning of the tournament I was knackered, having been up until 2 o'clock the previous night furiously trying to get them ready for the day (some things never change...).  I probably could have had them fully finished, had I not decided to break out the epoxy putty and do a few conversions, which took time.
So I ended up just block painting them, with no shading or highlights, so I knew they wouldn't be winning any painting prizes. But at least they were table ready, and after the game I would take my time to dip them, go over the highlights, and tart up the bases.

I'd rather do it this way then try to do a rush job with the basing just for the sake of the competition.

On to the tournament.  I played three games, all against people I've never played against before; all were good sports, and everything went smoothly, with very little in the way of rules clarification or refereeing needed. 

First round, and I ended up being butchered badly in a face-off against a platoon of Soviet combat engineers- and that in what should have been my natural habitat, jungle terrain. 

Faulty tactics and deployment on my part- my opponent was more focused on the objective.  I dithered around, and I paid the price.  Some nasty hand to hand combat was to take place, so it was no bloodless walkover; but it still came to an end rather embarrassingly quickly!
Reach out and touch someone- with a T-34/76.
Sub-machine guns; don't leave home without 'em.
The only army I really fear is the Russians. My strength is in the number of infantry I can field, and the Soviets can match as many boots on the ground as I can- and have exponentially better quality tanks and support kit, even if their morale can be suspect.

And I'm here to tell you that their veteran SMG squads are fearsome things.

Chalk one up for International Bolshevism.  


Next round, and I went on to again lose the second game, this time fought over a Russian factory complex against- as one does- a reinforced platoon of the Afrika Korps. 

It was a lovely table, and a challenging scenario.  And did I mention that the IJA didn't have any AA assets?
Still, I only lost by a very slim margin due to my opponent being smarter than me meeting the scenario conditions first.  

This despite the fact that not only had I managed to thumb my nose at his Pz-II, but that I had actually ended up dishing out more casualties than I received- admittedly helped in part by a DAK "own goal" from its own air support. 

Shades of Matt and his Royal Artillery, as regular readers of this blog will remember.
Fear not, the train was just a static wreck.
Humiliation came in the form of Erik's DAK sending a motorcycle combo down the flank of the table, where I had nothing to counter it.  Thus he was able to seize the objective and hold it right up to the point when time up was called. 

Didn't see the Hun in the sun.  Be sure to check your six next time, Robato-san.
The spearmen did manage to wipe out a squad of over-confident Jerries.
Damn these internal-combustion engines, anyway.
Quite unsporting, and just the thing I would have done had I had the chance! Next time I will get my bicycle squad painted.

Erik was a great opponent, and despite the disappointing outcome the game was a lot of fun.  And it was fought against a good-looking army; I have to admit I find myself tempted to do a DAK force one day.


The third and last game, fortunately, was much more to my liking; a delicious triumph, one against none other than the much-vaunted late war Germans.  And what's more it was largely won by my bamboo spear-armed, inexperienced troops at that. 
By this time I had gotten into my stride. In the second game I had figured out how better to coordinate my all-infantry force, and this scenario, coupled with a relatively open desert(!) terrain, allowed me to play boldly and aggressively.

Despite being pitted against a late Wehrmacht army armed to the teeth with assault rifles and other nasties, the Japanese launched an assault that ended up wiping out two German squads plus a Nebelwerfer, and in doing so the spearmen- underfed, malodorous, yet valorous-  led the Japanese army on to victory!  

Banzai! indeed.

It helped that James, for all his high-tech Teutonic instruments of frightfulness and death, had no tanks- or any armour at all- with which to crush Imperial Japanese dreams. 
I had dreaded the prospect of facing just a Pz-III, let alone a late-war nasty such as a Pz-IV or Panther.   I've had enough trouble in the past with Matt's M3 Lee-Grant.  Against a Panther I would have been Kat food; all I had was my suicide A/T squad. 

Fortunately, they were to remain under-employed, holed up in a small building and no doubt relaxing with a few games of Go, or getting in a bit of Karaoke practice.
Through the swamp and on to the Nebelwerfer!
Loved James' dice bag; luckily this was the nearest thing he had to a Panther or Tiger.
It was evident to the both of us that with the Japanese being fanatics, the opposing player has to destroy all my squads virtually to the last man, as they rarely rout.

This meant that while the enemy is having to take two turns or more concentrating fire from several of his own units to try and actually wipe mine out, I was able to leapfrog my larger, relatively unscathed squads around the rest of the table, flanking weapons teams and mopping up his smaller squads here and there in hand-to-hand combat and/or firefights. All the time adding more victims (and victory points) into the bag.

Love it when a plan- finally- comes together.  Third time lucky.


great way to spend the day.  There were some wonderful modelling and painting in evidence, good sportsmanship in spades, and it was clear that everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves- really positive vibes all round.   

We had an excellent turnout, and both Giovanni and James Kelly did a fantastic job organizing the day- many thanks to both of them for their hard work.

On top of all that, we were also able to recruit a new player for our Napoleonic games as well, so all in all it well worth attending.  I'm looking forward to the next one.

In the meantime, it's more Napoleonics at my place on Dec. 10th.  Need to get some painting in.