Wednesday 31 January 2024

Painting Challenge Report #3

A spell of extremely and abnormal warm and sunny weather last week in Madrid, facilitated undusting my airbrush to work outdoors on a couple of 28mm 2WW Allied vehicles for the challenge.

First, a late war British 4-wheeled Humber Mk IV  used in the recon sections of the British and Commonwealth divisions. Over 6,000 were produced during the war (of the different versions) and saw post-war action up to the 60s: the latest in record, an obscure colonial conflict  in Asia between Portugal and India for the control of Goa, where the Humber featured among the recon squadrons of the Portuguese forces.

This kitl has been painted in the olive green and "Mickey Mouse" cammo scheme widely used in the Western Europe campaigns of 1944-45

This is an old Warlord resin model with metal fittings, which incidentally has been recently replaced with  (in my view) a more nicely designed plastic model. 

The second contribution to the Challenge last week is a US  M3 halftrack, the real workhorse of the Allied mechanized units in Europe (including several thousands supplied to the Soviet Union).

A solid and reliable APC, it saw action in Asia, Middle East and Latin America well into the 80s. It was also the main APC vehicle of the Spanish army, until being replaced by the M113 in the early 80s. Actually, you can see it featuring both on the Allied and  Axis sides in classical war movies films like Patton or the Battle of the Ardennes, filmed both in Spain with the support of our army.

This kit was acquired assembled second hand to one of my local club friends, and I'm unsure whether it is a Rubicon or a Warlord model. 

These two vehicles plus an extra bonus earned in one the Challenge Library rooms themes, added 60 points to muy personal scoring. I'm now at 200 points accumulated, or 50% of my 400 points target for the year.


Saturday 27 January 2024

Painting Challenge Report #2

This is long overdue post, as the original entry published in the Painting Challenge blog was dated January 7th 2024. My second contribution to the Challenge this year is a unit of Late Roman mounted light archers.

The unit is part of the project that slowly is taking shape to have an 8 points Saga Late Roman warband: more cavalry will arrive soon and I have the Heavy Cavakry and Light Infantry boxes already at home. 

The models are part of the multi-pose Gripping Beast plastic range (Late Roman Light Cavalry) offering two different options (armed with bows or with javelins). These are vey well designed minis and the box offer (in my humble opinion) one of the best quality for price combos in the market.   

The unit together with some bonus points add 100 points to my Challenge score, to a total of 140 points. I'm now at 35% of my Challenge target of 400 points by March 31st, and I'm confident that will reach the target on time with the pipeline of models currently sitting on my desk.

Sunday 7 January 2024

The Last Hundred Yards Reviewed: The Ultimate WWII Tactical Game

The Last Hundred Yards (LHY) is a series of tactical board wargames in a Second World War environment designed by Mike Denson and published by GMT Games. The LHY system has recently  become my number #1 tactical game of choice in detriment of Advanced Squad Leader (ASL). The LHY cover small mostly infantry-based skirmish actions at company/platoon level, with an innovative sequence of play resulting in fun, fast paced and furious engagements.

The terrain scale is 1 hex = 50 yards and the time-scale is variable, each "turn" or combat cycle representing between  2 and 5 minutes. Counters represents squads and sections (half squads), platoon leaders, support weapons (HMG/MMG, flamethrowers or light antitank weapons squads) and individual vehicles. 

Additionally there's a myriad of auxiliary counters to keep a record of activated units, fire effects (more on this later), heroic units, etc  as well as other counters representing minefields, foxholes, smoke of fortified positions among others.

The quality of production is high as usual in GMT: units counters are large  9/16 of an inch squares (3/4 of an inch for auxiliary counters) and maps are very nicely printed giving a sense of "3d" depth; the maps are generic geomorphic, double sided printed and can be arranged in almost infinite combinations. 

When compared to ASL, there are a few aspects that are worth taking into consideration:

The first is the length and complexity of rules: you got everything you need to play in a 34-pages long publication (the current rules book version 3.1). There's also a complementary "playbook" with extended illustrated examples of play of the different rules sections. And the scenarios (or "Missions" in LHY parlance) can include some (very few) special rules applicable to that particular situation. 

Second, the game is played using the historical orders of battle. The forces are organised in companies of three platoons, each led by a platoon commander and depicting three squads and potentially some support weapons. You can argue that these were "paper-strength" orbats; but missions (based on historical real engagements) take into consideration the real manpower of the units involved, adjusting the forces accordingly.

Third you play against the clock and the casualties. Missions may set some objectives, but you must accomplish the mission in a fixed timeframe (and time passed is variable in each turn) and not incurring excessive casualties. Unlike ASL for example, where you can win a scenario even with only one suqad left on the table, in LHY the depletion of your manpower counts against you. 

Finally, the very innovative game system based on an action/reaction chain of the players' units, reflecting the combat friction typically found in the battlefield.




Overview of the Playing System

How the system works? The sequence of play is structured in 7 phases or steps. 

Phase 1 (initiative) is to determine initiative rolling a dice and winning the side with the higher outcome. Note however that there is no full randomness. Usually the attacking side owns the initiative at the start and will have a positive DRM to the die roll in subsequent turns. 

Once initiative is resolved we entre into Phase 2 (activation), the nitty-gritty  of the system, based on an action-reaction chain. Activation is made by company and then by platoon within a company. Two platoons of the same active company  may coordinate actions with a die roll, but usually you go platoon by platoon  (To clarify: as the attacker, I declare that Able will be my active company; from there I activate platoon by platoon).

The selected platoon may undertake different possible actions: move, fire, withdraw, assault, call for mortars, recover from disruption or just stay put. Once the player declares the end of its platoon activations, the opposing player can react with the units that saw an action (i.e.: in LOS of an activated enemy undertaking an action). When the opposing player declares the end of the reaction, the player with the initiative may react to the enemy reactions or else conclude that platoon activation and activate a second platoon. Reactions do not need to be just shooting someone getting into LOS, but players can move units to get a position of advantage or to avoid being assaulted.

As you see the system creates a cascade of action/reaction moves. Interesting, shooting is not resolved automatically in this phase; therefore you decide your actions/reaction without any knowledge of what effect shooting had on the enemy unit. This adds another layer of friction to the game.

Introducing shooting, the system rewards proximity to the target which basically implies that little harm is made when shooting at three hexes or more. Fire effect is calculated as a "dice roll modifier" ranging from -4 to +3. The base number is the firepower of the unit shooting and the distance to the target, then adjusted by a list of modifiers (cover, hindrances, concealment, density of manpower in the target hex...) to get the final fire modifier.  

One example to illustrate the mechanics. 

  • A German rifle squad with a firepower of 1 and fire range of 10 hexes, shots at a US squad in a forest at 4 hexes distance. 
  • Crossing range (10) with the distance (4) in the Small Arms Fire Table, the German squad will have a base number of 0 (+1 for firepower less -1 modifier for distance).
  •  As the target unit is under cover of some woods, there's an additional -1 penalty to the shot, resulting a total fire modifier on -1 

 Note: should the Germans have fired at 3 hexes or closer, the modifier for distance for a 10 fire range squad would have been 0 and therefore the final fire modifier  would have been 0: +1 fire power + 0 distance modifier -1 for woods).

At this stage of phase 2, the target unit under fire will be marked with a "-1" Small Arms Fire Die Roll Modifier (SADRM) counter, but the actual effect of the fire will not be resolved yet. 

Once the active player concluded activating all the platoons and both players finished their respective reactions,  the play sequence moves to Phase 3 of Fire Resolution. As explained, the units under fire are marked in Phase 2 with the SADRM modifier. Firer rolls a 10-sided die, adds the modifier and compares the final result to the unit cohesion level: if lower, no effect; greater, the unit disrupts; if 10 or higher, the units suffers a casualty.

Assaults resolution is done in Phase 4 (after firing). Like shooting, assaults take place in Phase 2 as part of the units activations, but the effect of the melee is unknown until later in the sequence of play.

Phase 5 relates to mortars: now it's the time to extend fire missions called in the current turn; or to attempt  contacting the battery for the following turn. 

In Phase 6 (Time Lapse)  the active player rolls for time spent in the turn, which is variable between 2 and 5 minutes

And the final Phase 7 is a clean up phase in which players remove different game markers, the smoke counters placed in Phase 2, or place conceal markers on units out of LOS, etc

This is a nutshell how the system works, being very unique and distinctive compared to other tactical systems in the market. The rules book of course have many other chapters dealing with vehicles, anti-tank fire, airborne troops, special national characteristics (applicable to Russian and Japanese units), night fights, etc. 

If I have to summarise the game, the system rewards the player gaining and keeping the initiative. Having the initiative is in fact a key driver to win a game: as an attacker, getting the initiative allows great flexibility of action, with the defender only able react to your moves. If on the contrary, the defender gets the initiative, he'd be able to slow down the attacker, only having to decide how much time for space he's willing to trade.

Current product line and future releases

The LHY series currently has four game boxes (or "volumes") and one "mission pack" (set of scenarios)

Volume 1 ("The Last Hundred Yards") covered the US and the German army in the European Western Front during 1944 and 1945

Volume 2 ("Airborne Over Europe") introduced US and German paratroop units as well as British armour units (representing the XXX Corps assets for the US side Market Garden) 

Volume 3 ("The Solomon Islands") introduced the Japanese Imperial Army and the US Marines in Guadalcanal.

Volume 4 ("The Russian Front") very recently released (December 2023) covers the Eastern Front battles confronting the Red Army and the Germans between 1943 and 1945.

Mission Pack 1 provides some new maps and mission cards to play in the European Western Front.

In relation to future releases, the only confirmed addition to the series will be Volume 5 ("For King & Country"), introducing the British Forces in Western Europe during 1944 (Normandy and Market Garden). Vol 5 is currently in GMT's P500 page and likely to be released in late 2024

In a recent thread in BGG, Mike Denson announced he's taking a step back after the release of Volume 5  but will leave a committed and experienced team in place to ensure continuity of the system. After Vol 5 the team seems inclined to return to the Eastern Front battles but focused on the earlier war period (1941-43); no official release date yet, but sometime in 2025 likely.    

Convinced to jump-in? Some important considerations

So you have been convinced and want to play LHY? You must then consider the following:

Vol 1 and Vol 2 are core acquisitions that you need to have. These are needed to play the Russian Front volume, the Mission pack and the future British volume. 

Volume 3 (The Solomons) on the other hand, is a self-contained game; if your focus in the Pacific, don't need to buy the rest of the boxes. 

The designer is continuously updating the rules and support materials (playbook, tables)  with the the introduction of new armies and suggestions from players across the world. For that reason,  all the booklets and support tables coming in the different game boxes are outdated.

The GMT website posts the most recent versions of the rules, tables, etc. Check regularly for new version, to uploading and eventually printing. The latest version of the rules (as I'm writing this) is 3.1 The changes versus version 3.0 (included in the latest Russian Front game) are minimal but I suggest checking v 3.1and marking the amended paragraphs in the 3.0 printed booklet.

This also applies to the missions or scenarios: GMT has released last December the amended missions in downloadable pdf format for all the different volumes (including Russian Front!.. I wonder who is in charge of quality control at the firm). There's lots of small but nonetheless significant, changes that you should be aware of before playing any mission. 

Finally, if you haven't done it yet I strongly advise to sign in to the LHY's BGG website page. There you'll find a very active and supportive community of players, with tons of reviews, videos and other downloadable materials. My experience requesting clarifications and questions couldn't have been better indeed. Designer Mike Denson is also quite active in the forums.  


GBoH and LHY - Two of my favourite rules systems


Saturday 6 January 2024

Painting Challenge report #1

A late start this year in the Annual Painting Challenge, Christmas holidays have been particularly busy with different family and friends gatherings.  In any case, my first post is already live (published on December 31st) and will eventually be the initial  part of a series dedicated to 2WW recce vehicles.

This is a German "Luchs" (or Lynx in Englsih) an evolution of the Panzer II that saw action from mid '43 in the recon units of the German divisions both in the Eastern and Western front. The production was limited to a total of 100 units (according to Wikipedia), which made sense cutting when Germany went into a defensive stance and shifter efforts to the large "cats".

This is a resin 3D printed model from the French company Eskice; this model in particular has a good design but the truth is that the brand is pretty irregular in the quality of their designs (the German Fallschirmjager for example are terrible) 

It was painted in a 2-colour (dark yellow + green) cammo scheme with a faded touch.


The model scored for the "New Acquisitions" section of this year's Challenge bonus pool (developed around the sections of a Public Library) and merited a total of 40 points (or 10% of my 400 points Challenge target in 2024).

Have a great 2024!