Sunday, 30 August 2015

Thoughts on Rules

AK47 Republic

The obvious set of rules would, of course be AK47 from Peter Pig. They're a neat set of rules, are available as a pdf (the old Republic edition anyway, not the newer Reloaded one). There's a clever pre-game political system that can cause major surprises. You can get a nice variety of figures and models onto the table, and everyone has a good time.

My only real issue is the perennial one of scale. 

Infantry groups can fire 10" (25cm), RPGs 6" (15cm) and tank guns 26" (65cm). That seems to me to be an effective ground scale of about 1" = 25 yards (or 10cm = 100 yards) or more. Suddenly I'm no longer sure whether a tank model is one tank, or maybe it's 2 or 3. And maybe the figure scale is 1:10, so that a stand represents about 30 men. As you can spread them out to have 3" between each stand, that's maybe 100 yards frontage per stand which sounds about right for poorly trained troops. 

Why does this matter? Well it matters because the entire number of main battle tanks received between 1964 and 1985 by Zambia (to take an example, and according to arms registers(a)) was 25. That's 5 x T54's and 20 x T55's if you're interested. Count 'em. That would be 8-12 models for the entire army, assuming all were in a road-worthy state (which is unlikely). Those numbers alone show how African warfare can be on a very different scale from so much of the rest of the world, and most wargamers would thoughtlessly burn through that many models in an afternoon of gaming. 

So it's not a definite "no", but it bears some thought. It would help if I were better at suspending disbelief, of course.

Chain of Command (CoC)

Chain of Command by Too Fat Lardies looks like a definite possible. It's specifically 1:1 and is designed to be based round an infantry platoon plus supporting elements. It's not quite the sweeping scale I was hoping for, but it may well do the job nicely. The stated ground scale is 12" to 40 yards, and that's not a million miles away from the 1/100 scale that is 15mm figures - it's actually 1/120. It has an innovative patrol phase that drives unit setup and where reinforcements can appear. 

I Ain't Been Shot Mum (IABSM)

Also from the Too Fat Lardies stable, this is designed for actions with a supported Company on each side. It probably has the sweep of bigger units that I would like to employ, with infantry and vehicles deployed on a 1:1 basis, with squads and vehicles being the base elements. It has card activation which throws in a nice element of the unexpected into a game. Units will do better if motivated by the few "Big Men" in your force, which sounds just perfect for this kind of conflict. The stated ground scale is 12" to 80 yards which is OK for me, as it pretty much fits with "if you can see it you can shoot at it" which makes more sense for this scale of warfare. There is an excellent supplement, B'Maso, that deals with African bush wars from the 1950's onwards. The related rules "Charlie Don't Surf" that cover the Vietnam War also have a take on some asymmetric warfare rules that could possibly be ported across. 

Force on Force

Published by Ambush Alley Games and I'm still looking at this one. Like CoC it's 1:1 with individual infantrymen. Unlike CoC I suspect that taking a full platoon plus supporting elements on each side might overload the mechanics. It also has a "Bush Wars" supplement which covers much of the period in question and is a useful source of information, at the very least. 

Initial Conclusion

There are many other rules sets out there, but I can't really look at them all. 

I don't really want to base all figures individually - moving them around would take forever. I will probably go with 3cm x 3cm bases as for AK47, with two (for support weapons and better troops) or three figures (for the rest) per base. I can then go for sections/squads of 4 bases which will fit in a truck under those rules. I suspect I will end up going for IABSM, and CoC for smaller actions, but I'm sure it will work for those as well, and at least I can get on with collecting!(b)

(a) Zambia also received the following combat vehicles from the Soviet Union:
44 x BRDM-1
44 x BRDM-2
13 x BTR-60PB
50 x PT-76 
This information comes from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute register of arms sales here. I might question how complete it is, but given that Zambia is a landlocked country it probably isn't so far out for big kit like MBTs. It's a great little tool. 

(b) OK, confession time - I actually picked up an army pack from Peter Pig many, many years ago. In fact so many years ago that some of the figures have been redesigned and are not what appears on the website today! 

EDIT: I have fixed some of the more egregious calculation errors

Monday, 24 August 2015

First Post, with Apologia

What follows is an occasional attempt to record my thoughts and progress on an AK47 wargames campaign, much of which will likely be fought in my own head. 

For those who aren't in the know, let me quote from the Peter Pig rules set "AK47 Republic":

"These rules are intended to cover warfare at the battalion/Local Warlord level. The rules cover the period from c. 1955 until about 1990. 

It is accepted that these rules make many generalities. The reason for this is to provide a playable game. The rules should allow players to gain a good flavour of military operations in Africa whilst giving a satisfying and sociable game. 

The rule writers have considered that the game must not only attempt to simulate warfare but to provide an opportunity for players to socialise and have fun.

Modern wars in Africa have been frequent and bloody. Little ever changes for the civilian population. A new leader's title, be it democrat or saviour, does not necessarily indicate his true political nature. 

It is important at this stage that it is made clear that the suffering of people is not a subject for glorification by these rules. However the warfare on the African continent is very different from that in other theatres and therefore deserves study.

The term "army" in Africa covers forces ranging from the highly professional South African Army to the wild militias that so many conflicts let loose. What they do have in common is the ability to change a leadership. Many African leaders are put into power by strong support from their own tribal or ethnic faction. These factions are not necessarily the most numerous of a country’s inhabitants but the most powerful/able at that point. With the necessary backing a very small fraction of a population can indulge in its own policies to the detriment of the majority of a population. Such "backers" might be neighbouring countries, industrial giants or superpowers." 

My musings will hopefully lead me to an "Imaginations" state, with its residents and neighbours; its trials and tribulations; its PR face and its darker underbelly. If I do get it right it will take on a life of its own, for better or for worse. 

One of the first thoughts in an imagination campaign is to visualise the layout of the nation. Not in full technicolour detail, perhaps, but in broad terms so that you can get an idea of it's layout. Where are its borders and who/what lies beyond them? Is it blessed with natural resources, and are any of these in easy reach of its grasping neighbours? In my initial musings I panned through Google Earth, and came across an area that seemed to offer an ideal canvas on which I could paint the picture of the campaign.

I must therefore make an up-front apology to the good people of Zambia and its neighbours for freely plagiarising, adapting and corrupting their geography, history, administration and ethic groupings to suit the storyline. On occasion I may have been too lazy or forgetful to change the names of entirely innocent people and places, or changed them only slightly, and perhaps I have even hit upon them by random chance. Nothing is intended or implied by such thoughtless misuse of real names and their close proxies. This truly is a work of fiction.