Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Some airsoft stories...

I'm the guy with a face and a bullpup.

Hey all, just a brief post to look at some of the common scenarios in Airsoft - these will be very familiar to anyone who's played paintball or call of duty (or any FPS online game).

I've found my experience with 40k and Flames remarkably useful in tactical awareness and exploiting opportunities.  I've found my XP on World of Tanks as useful in timing attacks, moving between terrain and 'judging' live opponents.

Situation One - Capture the Base

Base capture:  They have one life each and medics, we have unlimited lives at a regen point (a bit of a run back).

The teams: Small, 9 players a side.

Tactics: These games are often about a simple mistake or taking a risk to gain a superior position.  The attacking player can catch the defender off guard with a particularly dominant attack - especially is a few defenders are in poor positions, however this is uncommon.  The game is more likely to get bogged down in a tit-for-tat attrition with the dug in players keeping the regen players at bay until they are too tired to run in again.

Breakthrough: I judged that the base had a blind spot and approached on my belly (crawling is something a lot of airsofters just won't do - which is funny considering the bottom foot of a woodland is the least visible...) on the hard right flank to a barracade.  They knew I was behind, but I popped up with two pistols and lay about me John Woo style - which to my surprise really really works.  Killed 6 opponents and gutted their defence bobbing up and down behind cover.

Conclusion: Buzz-wise, it doesn't get much better.  Satisfying to read it right as well.

Situation Two - Suppression

Flag Capture: lost the previous game and need to storm their base and enough flags and transport them back to base. I'm on right flank again with one guy in support, whole team attacks the other flank.  I'm on radio.  We have a regen, they have medics (count to ten, touching inside the base).

The teams: 11 a side.

Tactics: Sometimes the most important job you can do is not to get shot.  Shooting the opponents is secondary to actually engaging the opponents.  I got forward via stealth to a forward position with little support.  I had good line of sight to their defensive positions.

Breakthrough: Managed to get multiple kills (which got their attention), established that I and a colleague bogged down half the enemy team and enabled my team to storm and steal two flags (even with one of our team members dressed as a 7 foot fraggle - don't ask).

Conclusion:  Being pinned is really annoying, but the skills learnt online counted here as I could pop up and shoot with patience.  By keeping half the enemy team under fire and focussed on me, I enabled the team.  Having a radio really helped as I could keep them appraised of the tactical situation as well as get feedback that what I was doing made an impact.

Situation Three - Camouflage

Defend the Poles - Four poles are set up in parking cones.  The poles are half painted white.  The enemy team needs to get to and flip the four poles without getting shot.  It's a brilliant game and very difficult.  The attacker can win via killing everyone (defenders only get one life, attackers regen), or turning the poles.  Normally the poles is easier.

The teams: 9 players a side.

Defend: In this game every defender has a favourite position.  Some prefer hard cover - I prefer to use camoflague.  In MTB (Multi-terrian-battledress), which is the British armies current camouflage, with a facemask on and hidden under the mottled shade of a Rhododendron bush.  You simply vanish.  Combine this with a highly accurate bullpup, lots of ammo and a fully automatic pistol as back up and I killed too many.  avoiding fire within the bush is comparatively easy as I'd chosen a tree to position myself alongside.  Any time they nearly targetted me - I could shuffle sideways.  Using this kind of cover is all about minimum movement.   By keeping the final pole in view, I could gun down those players trying to rush the position, and hold off several flanks using my visual advantage.

Conclusion: I particularly enjoyed one encounter where I shot down two individuals at close range.  They went off to regen, and I moved position to a weaker - but strategically better - position as its was really easy to pick them off from hiding when they attempted to storm my previous position.

I hope you enjoyed this brief round-up of some of the Airsoft games I've played and a few 'finest hours'.  This does represent the comparatively rare 20% of games, but I am a pain in the arse to play against.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Now I have a machine-gun Ho-Ho-Ho!

Been a while ... I've been busy.  A few months back I was invited to a Stag do by friends of an old, and best friend at school.  I saddled up and looked forward to hearing what we'd be doing, and I was told: AIRSOFT.

Eh?  Airsoft, what on earth is airsoft?  Does it involve flying? Or giant bouncy castles?  Some sort of Go Ape tree climbing, meets glider suits meets bouncy castles came to mind.

Thankfully it's no longer 1991, so a quick scan at the YOUTUBE educated me.  Errrr ...ok?

Appropriately dressed in DIY clothes I met up with some old friends and random new friends at a hotel off Junction 27 of the M1 at 8am form a 7am start.  As I rolled up on my tod, I see a group of (for want of a better word) redneck dressed individuals milling around the rears of their cars, smoking and watching me surrupticiously.

Auspicious opening as this was, I parked up near them with all eyes on me.  At that point I heard someone say "He's with us." and the whole group physically relaxed.  I wandered over, trying hard to blend in while my guts did a 'not in Kansas anymore moment' as a huge giant of a man with a big beard dressed in various camoflagued fatigues pulled a huge machine gun from the back of a pick-up truck.

Errr ....

I'm not someone who has grown up around guns, my mother banned my brother and I from even watching the A-Team because of the guns (not that this helped at all).  For most men, there is a fascination with guns, its phallic, its pretty basic, its about power and deadliness.  It's in our DNA, and lets face it - guns are like the coolest (and lethal) gadget ever.  We've grown up watching countless American heroes levelling the playing field with a Glock, beretta or MP5.  Guns are cool.

Lets get a bit of Airsoft history.

Back before I lived in Japan, in the early 90's, paintball had come and become popular in Japan.  There was a problem though, the Japanese identified a key problem with paintball.  It is a messy, sweaty, painful game.  Due to the type of ammunition used, the players are forced to wear 'goggle' masks that regularly fog up.  The previous stag do I attended, the last game of the day effectively revolved around whose goggles misted up last wins.  It was like a night game.

The ammunition is heavy, requiring large hoppers and padded clothing to protect you from the insane bruises.  It can burst in the gun, jamming.  It bursts on you, which is unpleasant.  Especially if you double tap a friend in the mask, only for the second shot to shatter on their grill and bounce up into their eyes.  The ammo is also inaccurate, larger round balls requiring significant momentum generated from large and heavy gas bottles - which are a hazard in themselves.

The Japanese solution, the BB gun.  Now the BB gun has been around for years.  Normally spring loaded, a rifle BB gun is a childs toy from an earlier era.  Firing 6mm or 8mm BB's with a spring is much much easier.  The Japanese changed the ammo from metal to high grade plastic.  The spring only needs to be powerful enough to push this ultra light ammo, so it could achieve phenominal feet per second (FPS) from a lighter weight spring.  It could be hand cocked.

The Japanese went one further, utilising experts from their very well hung toy car divisions, they started looking at electric motors which could power the return locking of the spring.  The Automatic Electronic Gun (AEG) was born.

The Japanese had one last master stroke.  Who wants to fire a gun that looks like the love child of a welding burner and a gas boiler?  No?  Lets make them look like real guns.

20 years on and the variety in quality, value, range, size of AEG is enormous.  Everything from an MP5 to a M4, Glock or beretta pistols, Sniper Rifles, Shotguns and machine pistols.  It is literally mind boggling.

After reviewing some weapons, we travelled to the airsoft site in a small wood.  The site was called better battles, and was a carbon copy of all the paintball sites I'd visited over the many stag do's in my life.  After getting kitted out and paying £40 for gun, ammo, gear and lunch I'm handed my weapon for the day.

Here sir, have an AK74.
Why thank you.

The clip, although appearing just like a real magazine, hold 400 odd rounds.  Which is very very impressive.  But you need lots of ammo, because AEG's typically throw out 10-15 rounds a second.  I also find out very quickly that these things are much much more accurate than paintball guns.

In paintball (with standard hire weapons) it takes 2-3 players to really 'pin down' an opponent behind cover.  With airsoft, every player has this potential.  Your iron sights (and yes, you can mount scopes, quick spot red dot sights and even lasers and night vision if money is no object) are accurate.  You can take support weapons (miniguns, M60 machine guns etc), sniper rifles (higher FPS and evil accuracy, reduced rate of fire (ROF)), pistols are essential for base clearing, as you shouldn't fire your AEG at less than 2-3 metres.  So when it comes to base clearing all the pistols come out!

Getting shot isn't a problem, not getting shot - now that's harder.  It doesn't hurt at long range at all.  You feel it through your clothing, at which point you stick your hand up and shout "HIT!", its an honesty game, a more grown up game, in which persistent cheaters are prone to some rough justice and judgement from the game wardens.  At 5m or so it can hurt, and a hit in a soft spot can sting and bring a nasty bruise.  A friend of mine was shot in the face with a sniper rifle at less than ten metres.  The ball went in and came out of his face and he is now the owner of a pock like scar in his face.

I own a full face mask.

After a few games, the 'shop' AEG got jammed and I borrowed another.  then the battery died and I felt a bit jinxed, until he handed me this.

HO HO HO indeed.  I played a game with it and went back to the AK74U as it was lighter.

Three things I learnt from this day:
  1. I really really love this game.  By the end of the day (6 hours) I was exhausted, shattered, aching all over, bruised but buzzing.  It is tremendous fun.
  2. I was buzzing for about three days straight, which was weird.  Eventually I worked out this was more to do with the survival buzz of having a machine gun pointed at me, being shot and living to tell the tale.  Wargame survivor guilt persay?
  3. A weird notion is that the second time we cleared a base and I got to an identical tactically useful position and made more kills, I immediately started tracking positions where the previous opponents had been.  Sensible?  Maybe they would choose the same spots, but probably it was just the Call of Duty hangover of 'replaying' a save gamed.  Oh FFS!
So now I'm a paid up member of the airsoft community.  In the UK you have to be licenced to own a replica firearm, and SO19 will happily shoot you if you're stupid enough to parade it.  As such, on top of some serious camoflague and assault vest etc, I now own the following weapons.

This is a Chinese Type 97b (built by RealSword) shortened bullpup machine gun.  It basically built by the same manfacturer who builds them for the Chinese military.  It is very well made, has good rate of fire, suits my play style as it is very short, but thanks to the bullpup design (ammunition goes in behind the handle and trigger) it actually has the same barrel length as an M4 or AK74.  Nearly double that of the AK74U above.  It is robust, well made and awesome.  Downsides?  Its comparatively heavy (being within a few grams of the real weapon), weighs to the rear (which suits my play style) and the ammo release catch takes some getting use to.

 Beretta PX-4 by Tokyo Marui.  A gun with metal interior and plastic exterior.  You wouldn't know it.  TM are renown for inventing AEGs and making the very best guns.  With the hop-up turned up (gearing which adjusts FPS) it can range against an AEG and its very very accurate.  Its a gas blow back pistol (GBB), which means you fill the ammo clip with compressed air and this gives it a very realistic firing mechanism.  Downside, clip only holds about 26 rounds.  Its a beautiful piece of engineering.

This is a Glock 18c built by ASG.  It's a very popular pistol because it is capable of firing both semi-automatic and fully automatic modes.  Many manufacturers make Glocks as they are popular and that's why I didn't want one, but.... This version is an AEP (Automatic Electric Pistol) and with the extended clip it can carry 90 odd rounds.  It was cheap (less than half the price of the beretta), and subsequently its a bit ropey.  But I wanted something to back up the Beretta in base clearing and this can offer AEG rate of fire and suppression, while the beretta delivers the accuracy.

I hope this quick look at Airsoft has whetted your appetites, this is what I've been up to for the last few months.

Friday, 5 July 2013

How I play my Russian Tank in Flames of War

Check out How it Works

When you need to absolutely positively kill every last motherfucker in the foxhole, accept no substitute.

How the Russians play - quantity has its own quality.

Russian Infantry has a lot of advantages, and Russian infantry is very reminscent of the Guard blob in 40k.  They can take loads of damage, lose loads of guys and still stay in there thanks to the Commissar.  They are also able to attach heavy machine gun elements.  This gives them some of the best anti-infantry firepower in the game.  The downside is that they are general 'trained' at best making them weaker in combat and easier to shoot (remember to hit is dictated by the shootee's competence, not the shooters), they can't carry much in the way of anti-tank (flour bombs and close combat generally, never stopped them!)

So the basic infantry is good, but where's the real strengths?

Heavy Mortars: The russians have some of the best mortars in the game.  They combine the ability of accuracy (reroll to hit on the first roll), with the firepower (3+) that other mortars lack (normally 5+ or even 6).  This means that they are the 'go to' unit for clearing enemy infantry out of cover.

Infantry Antitank: It doesn't do the biggest amount of damage, but for a flexible infantry gun unit you cannot get much better than the 57mm antitank gun.  Its got enough penetration to put holes in a Tiger (maybe), but it'll certainly see off all standard tanks below that.  They are equally good at killing machine gun nests and the like.  The bullet shield automatically gives them bullet proof cover against anything in front, so walking up to less than 16" ain't no thing.  Thanks to 'roll up the guns and volley fire), they move up like a light guns team and then let rip with 3 shots each, with a reroll to hit at less than 16".  Good bye.

Assault Gun: The difference between an Assault gun, a tank killer and an vehicle artillery is no different to a russians, they all got SU on their name.  But the best value for money in my opinion is the SU-122.  It's got next to no armour and the gun doesn't penetrate armour, but if you want to massacre infantry, clear bunkers/buildings and dominate, then these slow vehicles are awesome.  The 122 offers a reroll to hit a less than 16", 2 shots with a breakthrough gun with 2+ to kill.  This means the weapon denies the enemy a saving throw of 3+ (breakthrough) and then give a 2+ to kill if they are in bulletproof cover.  Nice.  When you need to absolutely positively kill every last motherfucker in the foxhole, accept no substitute.

Tank Killer: The SU-100 or SU-85M are a toss up in value, price and effectiveness.  Both have the same frontal armour which is the same as a tiger tank.  From there its a question of adversary.  The SU-100 is a single shot high penetration weapon (anti-tank 16!), but suffers from a combination of hens and chicks and ROF 1 weapon meaning a +3 (+1 for H&C, +1 ROF1, +1 over 16" range) which means this tank is near useless on the move.  Stationary, and with a 40" range, this is a great tank killer.  The 2+ firepower help pop tanks nicely.  The SU-85M brings the strength of the T-34 85mm gun with a tiger armour.  This tank doesn't suffer as much on the move, but also can't handle the worst types of opponents.

"...sweeping advances and flanking maneuvers are an 'on the table' reality, instead of being a series of crow barred rules which result in unintended surprises or failure on the capricity of dice. "

Tanks: The best tank in my opinion is the humble T-34.  The T-35-85mm is a fantastic tank, but in return for much better penetration you lose both the wide tracks AND the 'fast tank' ability of this vehicle.  Wide tracks gives the tank the ability to re-roll bogging down tests for cover cross, and you will cross a lot of cover.  Fast tank gives this tank the ability to move 32" at the double.  They normally move and fire at 12" per turn.  This gives the tank the ability to swarm parts of the board and opponents that otherwise would easily pick off this underpowered tank at range.  Once they've surrounded the opponent, shots into the side and rear armour will quickly subdue them.  You sacrifice one point in armour (6 to 7) for immense speed and the assurance that you will probably get there.  Hands down a game changer.

Example Game

 In the following game I use all the elements above against a crack German tank unit comprising 4 panthers in two groups of two, 3 late Panzer 4's, a Jadg-panther and several infantry antitank option.

The two panthers on the right were charged by the SU-122's, they promptly get popped (but as they can't hurt anything this was my plan).  The SU-85M's then drop in behind their carcasses and start exchanging fire with the panthers.  Its attritional and not very effective, but they hold this unit in position.  The 57mm antitank rolls up the middle and massacres the Panzer 4's facing them.  The T-34's are my strike unit, as 11 tanks (2x5unit plus commander) rush 32" into the face of the two panther's on the left flank.  The panthers get double shots each, but can only target one tank each as they are securely boxed in.  The surviving T-34 fire into the rear and side (AV 5 instead of 10) easily massacring the outnumbered tanks.  It's then rinse and repeat against the jadgpanther.


The beauty with these tactics of sacrifice and rush with overpowering numbers, is that this is exactly how the Russians approached the problem of technically superior German armour in WWII.  The examples in Kursk of T-34s swarming and ramming Tiger tanks is testament enough.

Playing armour in this way just makes you realise how 'cramped' the 40k table is for armour.  In 40k you can hide one tank behind a hill, in flames you can hide 11!  This movement produced by the scale means that sweeping advances and flanking manuerves are an 'on the table' reality, instead of being a series of crow barred rules which result in unintended surprises or failure on the capricity of dice.

And I thinks that's the core of the difference, good tactics in Flames work.  They can be undone by bad luck or poor dice, but you are not dependent on that 'must have' reserves roll for flanking (there are nearly always reserves in Flames, but it's clever, intelligent and mission relevant - another post methinks), or the chance they your opponent will simply overturn your tactical superiority with a 'HEROBOMB' or even imported herobomb.

So if you thought WW2 was boring (how could you), and that the lack of space monkeys with pew pew lasers meant it would be simple - think again, Flames is where tactics beats gimmicks.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

M42 - something really interesting is occuring

Sandwyrm and Eriochrome have 

been doing something really interesting.

For those of you who work somewhere near technology, open source should be familiar.  Crowd surfing is also a common thread.  This is the idea that rather than ferreting away creations behind closed doors and with limited playtesters, you create your product in full view.

When this first started, I was intrigued and even offered myself up to help (I couldn't help, but I tried).  The idea is to create a new set of rules which are based around original material, formented from the experience of Flames of War, 40k, Hordes, etc etc and trying to distil down a game that brings back the balance and dynamic to 40k.

The only thing you need is a series of 'proxy' models, luckily a company called games workshop sells those.

I'm AM SO IMPRESSED with what these guys have done.  These guys were always stat hounds in playing 40k, and the thought processes into the game mechanics are stupendous.  Even more impressive as they are right up there, in the open.

It's like watching the growing portfolio of the worlds greatest game designer.

IF it was just the mechanics it would be enough, but these guys have really grabbed the bull by the horns and got to grips with producing some very impressive narrative.  In this their sensitivity is spot on, as it is the fluff that sells the concepts and 'sells' this version.

The level of detail is impressive.

It's like 40k and Flames had a lovechild and adopted it to hordes and Infinity.  It's very very clever stuff indeed.

So head over to "The M42 Project" and bask in the glow of their collective creativity and awesomeness...