Saturday, 21 July 2018

Joy of Six 2018

The week after COW I went along to help out with the combined Sheffield Wargames Society and Wargames Developments show game at the Joy of Six in Sheffield. I'd not been before as it is straight after COW, and doing two wargames shows in successive weekends always seemed a bit much. This year however I had gaming credits in the bank after my heroic labour efforts of shifting daughter number two to London instead of attending COW in Sunday.

The Joy of Six is a purely 6mm show, and I was pleasantly surprised to find loads of games on and loads of punters. Good stuff!

The show was in the main Hallam University building, right near the main entrance. The SWS/WD offering was a revamped version of 'Cliches of the Great Patriotic War', which had its first outing on the show circuit 22 years ago!

The 6mm element of our game was the large 'front' marker which including both heroic Defenders of the Motherland and wicked Hitlerites in 6mm.

The aim of the game is to stop with wicked Huns from taking Moscow through the cunning use of Soviet rhetoric to inspire the troops and bring despair to the enemy. The rhetoric is generated by cards with various genuine quotes on them, and the Soviet defender plays these to stop (and ideally push back) the German advance whilst coming up with inspiring speeches. In the photo above the Germans have got quite a long way.

Near to us was this large Battle of Austerlitz. View from the Russian right flank, Pratzen Heights in the centre.

Just to show the games don't all have to be huge, there was this very neat game of Hastings on Hexon terrain.

Another small game, ECW this time, played on a squared grid.

This was a magnificent recreation of seventeenth century Salford! Those familiar with Manchester will recognise the steep bank leading down to the river.

This is a monumental Great War Spearhead game.

View from behind the French lines. Tanks and Infantry prepare to advance.

The German trenches around Courcelles.

This was a beautiful 6mm game of the Zeebrugge raid.

The debarked troops can be seen making their way along the dock. 

This was a novel idea, the same WW3 battle set in 1959, 1973 and 1985!

1959, Centurians and Conquerors face T55s and T10s.

1973. The town has now acquired a TV mast. Chieftans vs T62s.

1985. A housing estate has been built next to the TV mast. Challengers vs T-64s.

Back to 1959, Conquerors with Lightnings in support.

We had a steady stream of players all day. This staunch Soviet hero seems to be holding the enemy off, while the Commisar slurps tea.

It was a really good day out and I'd recommend the show to anyone. There were lots of good games (including participation games), a couple of interesting talks, competitions etc and a good range of small scale traders. I picked up a pair of beautiful Leven Miniature resin bridges, and I was very excited to find Heroics and Ros actually there in person. I had a fun half an hour rummaging through their storage trays picking up various 6mm odds and ends. 

I've been buying H&R for over 40 years now, and it still cracks me up how big modern '6mm' figures are in comparison. It put it in context, on the Bring and Buy were some 10mm figures, and they were pretty much the same size as some Adler figures right next to them. Oh dear. Give me H&R, Scotia and Irregular any day.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

COW 2018

Last weekend I went on my annual trip to the Conference of Wargamers. Unfortunately this year my trip was cut short as I had to help one of my children move house on Sunday, but I managed to attend on Friday evening and Saturday.

More detailed reflections on the event and various game reports will appear in the Wargames Developments Journal in due course, but here are a few photos to give the flavour of the event. High points for me were helping Tim run his huge WW1 54mm lawn game, and getting to play with Tony Baths original figures, the flats he used for Hyboria games. And very flat indeed they were!

Knuston Hall, bathed in sunshine. Perhaps a bit too much sunshine as my room was my usual stiflingly hot garret up in the eves.

A relaxing start to the weekend in the lobby.

The ever popular Bring and Buy.


The timetable, which astonishingly did not change much over the course of the weekend.

Eager punters sign up for games.

Sue Laflin-Barker accepts awards for her and Phil for their lifetime contribution to wargaming. Phil had retired to bed at this point!

Jim Roche ran Paddy Griffiths 'Halbardiers' game, about careers in the British Army during WW2 and loosely based on Waughs 'Sword of Honour Trilogy'. Piles of bumph were in evidence. 

A nice chestful of gongs, particularly proud of the MC. Such a shame I died in a plane crash at the end of the war!

John Curry ran a Bomber Command training game. Even more bumph including reproduction period maps of France and Germany, and lots of baffling navigational equipment.

The assembled crews did eventually make it to Koblenz, here neatly modelled on the floor, and made it home for eggs and bacon. Tally ho!

Graham Evans put on a magnificent game of Blenheim using his newly developed WSS rules and featuring piles of very old Airfix figures. 

Closeup of the French. Blenheim village in the foreground.

Graham and Phil Steele also put on Tony Baths Hyboria.

The original flats, they look really good from the side.

Tims magnificant 54mm Somme lawn game. The British lines.

British aircraft recce the Hun defences in the blazing sunshine.

Fearsome concentration from the British commanders as they bombard the German defences with matchsticks.

The planes go up up again to recce the damage.

And then it is time to go over the top. The Knuston pals bravely march forwards.

Despite the gaps in the German defences, enough German machinegunners are left to mow down the attackers, who were eventually left with small groups of survivors clustered in Nomansland. Oh well.

A great weekend, hugely enjoyable as ever, and I'm looking forward to next year. Hopefully I can stay for the whole thing next time.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

A Drop Too Far from the Bridge

John has recently painted up a load of PSC 15mm British paras and wanted to get them on the table. As I own the 'Market Garden' scenario book for Command Decision, I managed to find something suitable fairly easily, the specific scenario covering 1st Para Brigades attack into Arnhem on the afternoon of the 17th September.

For some unaccountable reason the authors had made the battlefield about twice the size of the actual one and had misplaced 1st Para Bn  to have apparently landed where the South Staffs did. I spent some time researching the actual drop zones, battlefield layout and what the Germans actually had and when it turned up (not the 25 tanks and armed halftracks reported by the South Staffs!). The research aspects were actually really enjoyable, and I based the core of the scenario around the account in Middlebrooks 'Arnhem 1944', supplemented by 'It Never Snows in September' and some painstaking research conducted by various people on internet forums about the German OB.

I was particularly delighted to find the entire battlefield would fit on a 4x4 (representing appox 1.5 miles in each direction). I left 2nd Battalion out as they made it to the bridge, focussing more 1st and 3rd Bns action against Kraffts 16th SS training Bn, supplemented by KG Weber and KG von Allworden.

The battlefield from the southeast. Western Oosterbeek nearest the camera, Wolfheze in the far corner and the main Arnhem-Ede road in the top right.

The destroyed Flak train and artillery park in Wolfheze was and excuse to get my train set out. Various civilians,lunatics and South Staffs wandered around the village. Very hard to tell them apart.

1st Para Brigade command team!

3rd Bn came on along the road to Oosterbeek. Civilians cheered as they marched along. Phew, no Germans around then.

Goughs recce squadron roared through Wolfheze stopping only to pick up some intel from the Staffs. Contary to Ryans account and the film, almost all the recce squadron landed OK and set off down the Wolfheze road. 1st Bn marched along behind. The Staffs reported that the road SE to the Wolfheze hotel was blocked.

3rd Bn continues its march, recce platoon to the fore.

Oooer, Gough meets some Germans dug in on the railway embankment. The leading half troop of jeeps is knocked out and the survivors dive for cover. These Germans seem to be quite well armed, including flamethrowers (this is a platoon of 4 Company of Kraffts battalion, which included a flamethrower section).

A close up of the ambush. The remaining jeeps fired back but their MGs were ineffective against the German trenches. Gough sent a contact report back. irl this became very mangled indeed and led to reports that the entire squadron had been knocked out.

Meanwhile in the south, 3rd Bn shot up a German staff car which pulled out of a side road. The occupant being none other than the Arnhem Town Commander, General Kussin. The general did not survive but various interesting documents were retrieved from the car.

1st Bn laid down mortar fire on the stubborn Germans, suppressing them, so Gough set off to bypass the area. Just visible in the woods to the right, KG Weber has turned up (hastily armed Luftwaffe signals troops). Lurking in the woods was sufficient to put the British off from heading in that direction (irl 1st Bn went that way to get around Kraffts roadblock and tangled with the Luftwaffe).

1st Bn decides to form up for an assault and push the Germans aside. The Germans very unfairly call down mortar fire of their own.

Meanwhile Gough makes it onto 'Leopard' route heading for the junction with the main road.

1st Bn discovers that the Germans on the railway have some flank support. They also suffer some losses from German defensive fire and the recce platoon are pinned down.

Down on the Utrechtsweg, more Germans ambush 3rd Bn as they march on past Kussins staff car. These are two platoons from Kraffts other SS infantry company. 1st Light Airborne Artillery Regiment drops a concentration on them to keep their heads down.

Oh dear. Gough discovers that KG von Allworden (9th SS Panzerjaeger Bn) is parked on the Amsterdamsweg. irl these chaps were here half an hour before the paras had even left their drop zones, which demonstrates the speed of the German reaction. They still had a couple of working panzerjaegers, towed PAK and may (or may not) have been supported by a couple of  Mobelwagens. I decided to represent their armour with a single Stug, as I don't have any 15mm Jagdpanzer IVs or Mobelwagens! 

The infantry element were a company equivalent of dismounted SS panzerjaeger crews at this time, but later in the battle they were reinforced up to battalion strength.  Dimly visible is a patrol of Sdkfz 250/9 from 9th SS Recce Bn, which spent much of the afternoon of 17th September sending patrols all over the place before crossing Arnhem Bridge later that night (and probably accounted for the South Staffs various armour sightings). 

It turns out that Kraffts second company is supported by SP Flak on armoured halftracks. These were cunningly placed by Krafft on the north-south road east of his main position to intervene on either route. 6pdr to the front! Fortunately for the paras, the SS flak gunners are poor shots.

In the north 1st Bn discovers even more SS in the woods blocking the road. Krafft had half his battalion dug in covering this approach (the rest were strung out south of the Wolfheze Hotel) Things are looking a bit sticky here but some brave paras are skirting the woods following Gough.

The paras move in to assault. It all gets very messy as the Germans are unsuppressed and pour fire into the attacking paras. Over in the far left the recce platoon has discovered the SS troops that the South Staffs mentioned before, covering the road past the Wolfheze Hotel.

Things are going better in the south. The leading paras bypass the German resistance as the forward infantry are thoroughly suppressed by the artillery fire, and the 6pdr troop manages to drive off the armoured flak, who fall back down the side road. 3rd Bn is now slightly handicapped as both Brigadier Lathbury and General Urqhuart have turned up at Bn HQ having been on a bit of walkabout in the woods. irl both accompanied the battalion into Arnhem where they managed to get lost again.

The SS panzerjaegers prove to be appalling shots, or perhaps the jeeps weaving at high speed make very hard targets to hit with an SP gun? In any case, Gough determinedly presses on under a hail of fire from the SS.

More Germans roll up, this is Kraffts last company, busily launching a counterattack through the woods (which would later get written up by Krafft as a huge victory, even though it actually achieved very little). Meanwhile the paras continue to bypass the resistance.

Up in the north, 1st Bn finally clears the SS from the railway and the road. The way to Arnhem is clear! Apart from all those SS panzer troops. 1st Bn aren't going to be getting anyone off the table before nightfall, but they have made a bit of a mess of one of Kraffts companies. irl Krafft became somewhat nervous about encirclement as night drew in, with good reason, and fell back to join the main blocking line north of Oosterbeek after dark, taking his armour and heavy weapons with him. 

One half troop of jeeps is finally hit and falls back into the woods, while the rest rush off past the bemused Germans. irl only Goughs HQ troop made it via a very roundabout route, and Von Allwordens men ambushed the leading elements of 1st Bn as they cleared the woods to the north, even mounting a counterattack back down the road supported by their SP guns.

Down in the south, the leading company of 3rd Para is well on the way to Oosterbeek with little to stop them and the Germans in the woods are thoroughly pinned down.

With that we called it a day. It looked like the British were going to get one para rifle company off, and a full recce troop, which was rather more than irl (where a single company from 3rd Bn slipped down the railway line after dark and  most of the jeeps headed back to Div HQ and sat around with nothing to do).

I was a little disappointed that we didn't make it to nightfall, but on the whole it was a reasonably historical result. The paras have loads of ground to cover, and any sort of delay is fatal to their timetable, so even minimal resistance from scratch units is enough to mess up their timetable. Many thanks to all the players for participating and role playing with such gusto.

irl Von Allworden was reinforced up to battalion strength, and his unit and Kraffts incorporated into KG Spindler (9th SS Panzer Artillery Regiment, reinforced with the 9th SS Engineer Battalion) so when the paras resumed their advance the next day, they were facing a blocking line which outnumbered them, so it is hardly surprised that Frost ended up isolated at the bridge

John and I had a brief discussion later about developing a more modern set of rules which could handle a full brigade (with platoon stands) as Battlegroup is both quite old and also designed with only a single battalion in mind. The recent work I've done around modifying the Portable Wargame has given me lots of thoughts in this direction so I've got a rough draft worked up already, though they looks suspiciously like Neil Thomas's nineteenth century rules with various bits of NQM bolted on! Well, an interesting project anyway.