I Ain’t Been Shot, Mum

Since moving to Virginia, I’ve been meeting a number of different groups of gamers around the area.  One such group meets at the FLGS (Your Hobby Place in Martinsburg) and usually plays various historical board games.  However, Jim was interested in playing I Ain’t Been Shot Mum! from Too Fat Lardies.  I’d had the rules for a while and had been wanting to try it out, so I was happy to set up a game.

I wrote a scenario based on the encounters between the French 3rd DLM and German 4th Panzer near Hannut in May 1940.  With a first game, the smart play is to start small…  but I am not always smart :).  I wanted to get a good taste of how the rules handled things, so threw in a little bit of everything.  The French had a couple of infantry platoons, some MMGs, and a pair of 25mm ATGs.  A platoons of SOMUA S-35s were in reserve along with a couple of 47mm ATGs.  The Germans had a company of infantry to start the game, backed up by some MMGs with the company HQ platoon, a platoon of off-table 75mm infantry guns, and a patrol of a couple of light armored cars.   Coming up behind the forward German elements were three tank platoons (a light panzer platoon of PzKw Is and IIs, a section of PzKw IVD, and a platoon of PzKw III).  The German mission was to push armor off the other side of the table.

IABSM incorporates all of the standard Two Fat Lardies staples (or rather, TFL games mostly incorporated IABSM mechanisms, since that game came first) – card based activation, deployment of troops on ‘blinds’, and the role of Big Men on the battlefield.  The French had a number of blinds on table (which could be units or dummies and in addition, each terrain feature was considered a blind, so the French could be anywhere.  The Germans deployed the infantry on 4 blinds with a section of  MMGs and the FO for the 75mm guns tasked to support two platoons on the left moving against the town.  The HQ kept 2 MMGs and was to support one platoon and the recon armored cars moving againt the farmhouses on the right.

The first turn saw the French blinds card come up first, so they were able to reserve their dice in case Germans later came into view.  the Germans then moved forward and began trying to spot the various French blinds.  A successful spotting check verified the farmhouses were empty, but the HQ platoon foolishly tried to sprint across some open ground in front of the orchard.  Suddenly French small arms fire erupted from the low stone wall enclosing the orchard.  An entire platoon of French infantry was packed into the space!  The HQ platoon was decimated, with many casualties and wounds (a colorful term in the game for negative cohesion), and would play only a minimal role in the rest of the game.

The Recon armored cars rolled forward up the road on the right and paused to machine gun the French infantry in the orchard while trying (unsuccessfully) to spot some of the blinds.  The German infantry on the left moved up cautiously through the woods and revealed a couple of French dummy blinds.  The first German tank reinforcements arrived in the form of a platoon of Panzer Is and IIs  and were committed to supporting the infantry against the town on the left.  As some Frenchmen were discovered on the edge of town, the tanks rolled out to hose them repeatedly with 20mm and MG fire.

Back on the right, the third German Shutzen platoon was attempting to move forward to seize the farmhouse and outflank the orchard.  However, apparently the hedge at the end of the field was covered in razor sharp thorns as my troops had great difficulty getting over it, leaving them caught out in the open to be fired on by the French in the orchard and some MMGs further back.  One section was badly mauled but one had reached a marginally safe position.

With time getting on, the armored cars began to press up the road looking to ID more French blinds.  They succeeded in locating the french 25mm ATGs – the hard way.   However, the thin skinned armored cars survived the onslaught with only some engine damage to one car.  The tank fire  against the town was followed by an infantry assault.  Despite a substantial advantage due to defending the buildings, the French were driven from the front of the town and German troops moved up to take the first row of buildings.  In the last turn the SOMUA platoon deployed off of their blind and fired off a barrage of shots against the light panzers, but succeeded in only damaging a couple of engines.

At this point we ran out of time and called off the game, but it was clear that the French enjoyed a substantial advantage.  The unit holding the orchard was a little beaten up, but so was the German platoon near them.  A couple of Panzer IVDs had arrived to help, but were very slow in deploying forward.  The Germans had seized the front of the town on the left and inflicted a lot of damage on a couple of French sections, but still had a number of French in the town that would have to be overcome in close street fighting.  They would get little help from the light panzers, as the thinly armored and lightly armed tanks would be no match for the advancing SOMUA S-35s.

I knew that I had put together a game too large to likely finish with the first try of a new set of rules, but as stated above the real purpose was to try out the rules and see how things worked.  The game was fun and I’ll happily play it again… but probably only until Fireball Forward gets finished!  I generally like games with a little chaos in them, as it seems to better reflect first person accounts from the war.  Not knowing exactly when things will move or whether your infantry can make it over the hedge adds interest and forces you to make really sound judgments – or to take risks.  However, the rules are very British, meaning that they are written in a manner that is long on flavor and short on specifics.     For instance, when firing rather than have a lit of modifiers, each shot is simply classified as Great, OK, or Poor.   In and of itself this is not a bad thing, but in a game a without an umpire, it does add to the resolution of each shot as you have to stop and make sure that you have an agreement with the opponent as to what each shot is rated.  Like a lot of other British game rules I’ve played, it also tends to have a separate mechanism for each type of action, which definitely adds to the learning curve and makes a reference sheet essential.  I also have a love-hate relationship with card-based activation – I like the randomness and the ease of inserting special events brings but dislike the waiting around while each individual unit takes it’s turn.  However, most of those issues are either acceptable parts of the game’s charm or just things that I can get better at with increased play.  However, the firing chart is unfortunately central to the game and a real drag on it.  Having to total up several dice and cross reference the results on a full-page table to find the results of each shot is just a pain.  Other gamers may not be put off by it as much as myself I guess.  We definitely need to give it another go (or two) to give the mechanics a fair shake.

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12 responses to “I Ain’t Been Shot, Mum”

  1. Jim Murray says :

    We (Jim, Matt, Brad and Mike) all enjoyed the game and discussed it during our game of GMT’s HIS (Here I Stand) last Tuesday (2-24-11). I suspect that Sgt Bordeaux would have only gotten the dregs of his platoon out of that orchard if we had continued the game to a conclusion.

    I will propose house rules to force retreat on tea card units with more “wounds” that remaining men and allow a unit with reserved actions to either used them on tea break or carry them into the next turn. Reserved actions would be lost on that units card being drawn.

    Your figures and terrain are great and a joy to play with. I will continue my glacial progress painting 28mm ECW figures and eventually get to the 15mm WWII ones.

  2. Brian Weathersby says :

    Actually, a unit with reserved dice can use them on the Tea Break card. Any unit whose card was not turned may fire at any short range target, but not move or spot. Then, any units with reserved dice may use them on the Tea Break card for spotting or firing at any range. Movement must be made when the unit card is drawn.
    BWW

  3. Todd says :

    enjoyable write up. i’m new to miniature gaming but IABSM is one of my rulesets I’m prepping my 6mm men to do battle with.

  4. Brian says :

    Brian,

    Thanks for the clarification on the reserve dice. I knew that the units could only move on the blind, but I was under the impression that reserved dice (by a blind or an on-table unit) could be used for shooting or spotting later in the turn, essentially as opportunity fire. This highlights the main issue that many people have with the rules – they are just not written and organized in a clear manner so that you can easily tell what the author’s intention is. I can see the core of the rules, but the interactions of different parts are not always clear and can make a significant difference. I often wonder if the aficionados of IABSM are like a game of “Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon” where they can all trace a lineage back in seven steps or less to a game played with the authors so that the intention of the rules is passed along by word of mouth.

  5. Jim Catchpole says :

    Brian,

    Your impression is exactly right. Reserved dice may be used for spotting and firing any time up until the tea break card. What Brian (Weathersby) is saying is just how he handles reserved dice when the tea break comes up. We usually do it slightly differently, just treating unused reserved dice the same as units which haven’t had a turn at the tea break, but this is one of the areas with the most variations. Just handle it how you feel best.

    One thing you have to remember about IABSM is that it was originally written in the style of a Kriegspiel, so a lot of the rules were intended to be interpreted by an umpire (although you don’t need one if all the players aren’t overly competitive).

    One final point – there were a series of three articles written for Troops, Weapons and Tactics (the platoon-level sibling to IABSM) in the 2008 and 2009 TFL specials which covered, amongst other things, how to do away with the fire table and just read the effect from the dice as rolled. If the fire table bothers you, you might want to look that up.

    Cheers,
    Jim

  6. Brian says :

    Jim,

    Thanks also for the clarifications. I do appreciate the kriegspiel approach to IABSM. Our group was certainly friendly and non-competitive and even though I had never played a single game with those guys, we had no problems with coming to an agreement on what to assign a particular situation. I just noticed that we ended up taking a ‘noticeable’ piece of game time discussing those things, which was time we were not using to make tactical decisions in the roles we were taking on for that day (company or platoon leaders). Not a bad thing per se, just something I noticed. As I’ve noted, I can see that the core is all there, but it will obviously just take a couple of plays, a few re-readings, and a couple of trips to the yahoo group to make sure that we are meshing the rules together in a way that doesn’t set off the Laws of Unintended Consequences.

    I’ll definitely keep the chartless fire articles in mind. Thanks for the tip on those. I’ve never gotten any of the specials since I don’t play a lot of TFL games and I always seem to be looking at paying $10 for a couple of articles I might want and pages of stuff I’m not interested in…

  7. Brian Weathersby says :

    Jim,
    Actually, what I said is not just how I handle reserved dice. It is actually stated on page 14 of the rules under Section 3.1.3, Using Reserved Dice. It states, “Dice that have been reserved by a unit that has already had its card turned serve to allow it some reactive capability during the remainder of the turn. These dice are useable only for spotting and firing (at any range), and may be used at any subsequent point in the turn as
    the player desires. This may even be part way through another unit’s turn or on the Tea Break card for spotting or firing at any range.”

    I will agree with you that there is a lot of variation on this, but this is one of the things that is (to me, anyway) quite clear. I will also agree with Brian C. that overall, they are not the most clearly written rules I have ever played. That is something that TFL has gotten a lot better at over the years. Charlie Don’t Surf is much better in the rules clarity department than IABSM.
    BWW

  8. Brian says :

    I’ve heard that CDS is much clearer. From what I’ve gathered IABSM v3 is in the works using some of the more evolved mechanisms found in CDS and other later TFL products. That set should also benefit from the Lardies improvements in writing clarity. Who knows when that will arrive though as they have a lot of projects underway…

  9. Jim Catchpole says :

    Brian,

    Yes, you are quite right, the rules are clear on that. What we play is under the optional rules – 16.3.1 the Skelton gambit (I wonder where that name came from! ;^)). We also play 16.3.0, voluntary deployment on the Tea Break. I misremebered and thought we were playing a common house rule where the rules weren’t clear. Thanks for correcting my mistake (seriously!) – I really should have checked first…

    Cheers,
    Jim

  10. Brian Weathersby says :

    Brian C,
    You are welcome. I love TFL rules, because I think that the way they model battlefield friction is absolutely fantastic. To me, you have to model friction somehow if you want to claim that you’re even attempting to do something historical. As I like to tell people, when I commanded a reenactment group we couldn’t even get a company level attack to kick off on time with guys who slept in their own beds and ate at McDonald’s the day before. As to IABSM v3, I think from the talk on the forum that it is a low priority project right at the moment. As to the ‘Six Degrees’ idea, I hadn’t thought about it but you may be right. The first scenario I played was one of the old Scenarios of the Month that Richard had written, and then I asked questions on the yahoo group afterwards. I guess that would make my rating about a 2 out of 6….

    Jim,
    I hope that I didn’t come off as sounding too ‘snarky’ when I answered you. Ugliness would be the complete antithesis of what they are about, and I don’t want to come off sounding that way when I discuss their rules. As to variants, I think that we also do voluntary deployment on the Tea Break card as well.
    BWW

  11. Jim Catchpole says :

    Brian W,

    No problem, you didn’t sound like that and I certainly didn’t take it that way! 🙂 I agree about the ethos of the rules too – definitely one of the reasons I like them

    Cheers,
    Jim

  12. Brian Weathersby says :

    Jim,
    OK, that’s good. I am a huge fan of TFL rules, and I wouldn’t want to turn someone off to their products because I came across as a jerk.
    BWW

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