Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Feet Dry - Feet Wet (Part 1)

Colours Project 2010 - 2011

Downtown is released by GMT games and is a raid scale product modelling the US activities in the area of Route Package 6. Pak 6 at the time was the most heavily defended airspace in the world and experience gained here has led to the development of some of the airpower doctrine used today by the US. It hasn't stopped them forgetting the odd lesson here and there though!.
First Off a very big THANK YOU to both Tony Curtis at GMT Games LLC and Lee Brimmicombe-Wood who kindly have given permission for us to do a limited print run of the Downtown data cards and Play Aid for use with the Minis game for the Newbury Demo. These two are definitely on my Christmas card list.

Downtown covers USAF and USN operations in the the middle of Route Package 6 which contained the hardest targets in North Vietnam. It is well researched and has proved popular with both "normal" gamers and those with "military" backgrounds. The game is complex and takes a while to get used to. The DRV player has the biggest challenge and it takes a lot of work to set up a integrated air defence system.

I bought downtown with a direct intention of trying to play this with miniatures. The game uses (normally) 1 aircraft per flight (and a flight can be any number of aircraft). Both the living rule book and scenarios are available as free downloads as are a number of playing aids including Solo instructions. What you need to purchase (to play downtown) are the counters, map and the aircraft stats.
Upon opening the box it was apparent that I had made the right decision. Aircraft operate at one of 4 heights (the same as Thud Ridge), operate as flights (which meant the model count would be about the same and the movement rate for a loaded aircraft was about 5 hexes. I envisaged playing this on a hex mat from Eric Hotz with 2" hexes. This meant that the ground scale/movement was also about the same as Thud Ridge.
What wasn't good from my perspective was the map being 30"x 22" and my chosen scale being 2" hexes. The Hotz mat is 37 hexes long by 26 (fully usable) hexes wide (the other two being half hexes) The gaming surface was just too big. But this is only because of what the game wanted to model. I could take any scenario (not the campaign games) and with judicous orientation could put it onto the gaming surface. What it did meant was that I would need a lot of terrain markers and any high ground had to be sufficiently modular to be moved around.

The picture above shows the expected coverage on 3 hex sizes. The largest coverage using 1 1/2", Our Mat using the 2" scale, and for those who really really want to the use the B-52 what you can expect to cover using 3" hexes. I selected 2" based on some of the later US aircraft models. Possibly consider using the 1 1/2" if I decide to redo this game.
The upshot of this was that, it appeared to be the right scale. It allowed full utilisation of the models I wanted to use as well as having a good support network. The game is also supported by a Vassal Module which I found vital in moving the game from board to table once all the scenario pieces were plotted. The downloadable planning maps can also be used if you can't run vassal (remembering the license conditions on Vassal please).
Armed with my new hotz mat, a set of Tumbling Dice USN and USAF aircraft off I went to play.   
The work we have been doing is to take the solo rules and slim them down as much as possible with a card driven decision system. This would then allow 2 players to play cooperatively as the US (as most gamers like having models on the table) against the DRV. From the Colours Game at reading this produced some really good player interactions which is what I wanted to achieve. It also means that the Solo gamer is also catered for so I get to play as well when adrift of opponents.

The rules changes can be dry so we also need to look at terrain options as the Downtown map is well designed and adds flavour to the games. The team at Fight's On kindly provided a set of target markers for the game which you can see below along with a couple of my home made efforts of specific targets for the game at Newbury. Mine were taken directly from the DT map itself whereas the fight's On markers are generic. Madness can come from the home made route so if you want to get going quickly then these guy's get my recommendation.
Some early shots of the Newbury Colours 2010 table. The base is a Hotz European Fields map with 2" hexes overlaid. The water area representing the Gulf of Tonkin was then hand painted a were the rivers and roads/railways. The idea being to replicate the Downtown play map.

The Target areas are built from 2" hexes with Styrene strip relief added and painted to match the mat.

For 2011 we would be using a larger map to allow for operations off to the North and the Chinese Border

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