Saturday, 10 November 2018

Olpae 426 BC

Tim is continuing our tour of unknown battles of the Ancient World with a trip to the skirmish at Olpae in 426 BC, at the start of the 2nd Peleponnesian War. The entirely peace loving  and reasonable Spartans under Eurylochus had come to the aid of their oppressed allies, the Ambraciots under Menedais. Meanwhile wicked Athenian Imperialists and their servile lackeys the Acarnanians,all under Demosthenes lined up to rend this happy union apart.

John and Tim C took the evil Athenians, while I got the glorious Spartans.  As ever, Tims 25mm toys on Hexon terrain with CnC Ancients. Tim has already reported on this game on his blog.

View from the Spartan right rear.  The coastline hexes (blue strips) are impassable.

View from the Athenian right rear. Both armies are very similar, a core of Hoplites, supplemented by various ragged light troops and auxiliaries. The Athenians also had one of unit of (rare) cavalry. Pah. Who needs horses when you'v got Spartans.

The Spartan left rear. Not sure about having those woods there! Still, they are fairly open so don't impede retreats. There is an annoying gap visible between the Spartans and their Ambraciot allies, very untidy.

These Spartans are very venerable, being among the first wargames figures Tim ever purchased.

The action opened on the left as my light troops saw off an audacious Athenian cavalry attack. Albeit not without losses. Heavy losses in every combat were to be a feature generally.

Before long, there was a major clash of  hoplites, which duly turned into an utter bloodbath as both sides rolled very hot dice. Poor old Eurylochus was one of the casualties. Well that was a historical result then.

Menedais waded in with some reinforcements and obliterated Demosthenes' hoplite unit. Demosthenes survived to live another day though, and Menedais went the same way as Eurylochus in the counterttack. The Athenians were on five banners now (needing six to win) whereas I had four.

The right flank was denuded of troops by the slaughter in the centre, but there wasn't much either of us could do about it.

My final hope was an all out attack to destroy the last Athenian hoplite unit and Demosthenes with it (getting two banners). The hoplites duly died, but Demosthenes skipped away unharmed to the shelter of some light infantry. My units all had multiple hits now.

Demosthenes wrapped it up by leading his light troops forward and eliminating one of my damaged light troops with two extremely lucky 'general bonus'  hits. What are the chances? Well, 1:36 actually.

So, once again we very creditably replicated history, as irl the Spartans lost and Eurylochus was killed while Demosthenes' name echoed down history. Aristophones even wrote a play about him. To add insult to injury it turned out that a  big chunk of the Athenian army was lurking in those nasty looking woods and we'd lost without them even being engaged. Well, you can't win them all.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Never has so much been owed...

John has been busy painting a load of Raiden 6mm aircraft and was keen to put on a game. We used the Pz8 hex based air combat rules (one sheet of A4, so a proper set of rules). Being a grizzled veteran of many flight sims, radio controlled aircraft models, and also having been fortunate enough to (briefly) fly real biplane and monoplane prop aircraft, I'm always a bit dubious about the two dimensional flying games. irl it feels like wrestling with a powered sailing dinghy in three dimensions, not quite the same as putting a toy aeroplane on a stick.

But, I shall reserve judgement.

Tim and I got to be the wicked Germans, a finger four of Bf 109s led by no less than Adolf Galland, escorting a lonely He 111 to bomb somewhere in merry England. Jerry and Graham got flights of Spitfires and Hurricanes respectively.

Here is the mighty Luftwaffe. My two 109s are closest to the camera. The little dice are altitude markers (each pip being 3000 feet!).

The RAF. Three Spitfires and two Hurricanes. Very unfairly the Spitfires had a  higher ceiling than our 109s, but we were somewhat faster than the Hurricanes. 

Off we went, the Heinkel at altitude 2 and our two sections at altitude 3. 

My wingman (yellow nose) keep excellent close formation. One slight problem we came across was that the hexes were a bit small, particularly having separate altitude markers.

Ooer, this isn't looking too good. We should maybe have flown a bit further ahead as the Hurricanes just flew right past us and attacked the Heinkel. Galland has managed to get on the tail of one, but the other survived my double head on pass and duly shot the He 111 down in a single attack! 

Retribution is swift as I manage an Immelman to get on the tail of the impudent Hurricane, and knock great big bits out of it. The table is getting a bit cluttered  with dice and activation markers at this point. 

The Spitfires now put in an appearance, again I loop and turn my way our of trouble but my wingman isn't so lucky. We were all starting to get the hang of the flying and tailing system by now, which worked surprisingly well. Turning in level flight is quite restricted, so being able to pull a half loop (ideally preceded by a dive) is really very handy. The game does have a certain amount of energy management (altitude for speed and vice versa), not as much as I'd like, but not as little as I feared. The extra movement point gives the 109s a big manouverability advantage over the Hurricanes.

While my wingman limps off, I am surrounded by the entire RAF in a buzzing dogfight. Fortunately(?) only the one on my tail is low enough to engage.

Gallands flight comes to the rescue and downs the Hurricane on my tail. The table is now a complete mess of markers and some of them are getting knocked over.

My wingman goes down to one of the Spitfires though. The dice are their respective combat dice... it uses an opposed dice combat system, with suitably amusing DBA-like variability, but you can't go far wrong with a point blank shot from the rear then rolling 6 vs 1.

At this point the melee breaks up a bit as planes zoom off to regain some altitude and sort themselves out. With two planes down each (including the vital He 111) we call it a day.

That was actually very enjoyable, and once we got the hang of 'flying' a certain degree of tactical subtlety became apparent. Jerry is very good at hex games and outflew us all, but I think we all got an inkling of what being able to think a couple of turns ahead might look like. The tailing system is simple but effective, and the energy management aspects are OK.   

So, another outing is lined up soon, but this time we'll use bigger (Hexon) hexes to avoid the clutter. I think none of us had appreciated that the combat is played out at pretty close quarters so the hexes need a certain amount of elbow room. 

If anyone is interested in these rules, they are part of the Pz8 rules compendium, which sadly you'll have to hunt around the Interweb for as Mr Pz8 doesn't seem to have his website any more.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Roco King Tiger

This old clunker has been knocking around in my spares box for years. I remember my pal Neil at school in the early 1970s had one painted panzer grey, and funnily enough this bring & buy acquisition was also painted dark grey.

I already have a few Tiger IIs, but they have Henschel turrets, so whenever poor old Lt Gorman needs to take on the Tiger IIs the 503rd outside Cagny in July 1944, I feel a faint thrill of revulsion at using the WRONG TANKS.

So, time for a Porsche turretted Tiger II. They look so much better than the Henschel ones. Would you buy a sports car from Henschel?

It is a fair old beast of a tank. All I did to it was take off the old wheels on the underside. It was caked in paint so I just added another few layers. Sadly the hatches were glued down, but at least the turret still turns.

It is modelled on a Tiger from the 503rd, with very heavy disruptive camo and very little dunkelgelb showing. It sports those nice crosses on the turret which make such excellent aiming marks, and some turret numbers. The gun is glued at a rather odd angle, perhaps it is shooting downhill.

The engine deck detail is beautifully done on these and takes a wash very well.

Along with the disruptive camo, I did the tracks and running gear mud coloured and finished the whole thing off with an inkwash and light drybrush of pale tan. Despite the layers of caked on paint, it took the wash and drybrush very well. I picked out the treads and tow cables in metallic steel.

I was briefly tempted to finish this as one of the Panzer Lehr Tiger IIs with their huge turret numbers, but their main role was to break down across France and be photographed with happy GIs standing next to them. At least the 503rd Tigers actually got to shoot stuff, even if some of them suffered the ignominy of supporting a Luftwaffe Field Division or getting rammed by Lt Gormans Sherman.

I can't imagine this will be hitting the table any time soon, so off it goes, straight into the box of 'stupid big German tanks', but it was fun to paint.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Ponyri July 1943

As I wanted to get my Zvezda Elephants out to play, I dug out the old Memoir 44 'Ponyri' scenario. I've made a few tweaks to my Memoir 45 variant - modifying artillery so that it is less effective against armour or troops who are dug in and adding in leaders and visibility for artillery spotting.
So, off we go to the northern shoulder of the Kursk salient once again... John and Jerry took the Germans, while Tim C took the Russians.

View from the north. Hill 235 and Ponyri are visible in the centre. I've modified the standard scenario, tweaking the OB and terrain to be bit a bit closer to the Command Decision scenario of the same battle (which features 18th Panzer Div). The extra ridges and woods don't have a vast effect on gameplay, but look much nicer. I also scattered a lot of fields around, which allow infantry to ignore one flag result.

Russian right wing. I spread the Russian defences around a bit more than the standard scenario, with a garrison on Hill 235 and some wire entanglements. The Russians also had four heavy weapons options (2 x AT guns, 1 x mortar and 1 x MG) plus a leader in Ponyri. The massive gap in the defences was rationalised s the result of the opening barrage.

Over on the Russian left, much of the armour was pulled back to the baseline with just a dug in tank battalion and some infantry on a ridge behind some wire. The minefields were left as per the original scenario. The T70s are 'light tanks', firepower reduced to two dice at range 2 and 3, and they have light armour, so any AT weapon hits them on stars.

18th Panzer Regiment. irl it was a sngle battalion regiment with two light and two medium companies so I gave it 2 x Pz III and 2 x Pz IV. As per the original scenario they also had two heavy tank companies, in this case Elefants from the 656th. I gave these heavy AT weapons but didn't score grenade hits in assault (as they had no MGs).  The tank commander is a leader, giving a morale and combat bonus. 

52nd Panzergrenadier Regiment (dismounted). I gave the Germans some support options and they took a unit each of engineers, mortars, MGs and AT guns. They also have a leader in the woods in front of Hill 235. As per the original scenario they have a 'tank' in support, which I modelled as a Stug but on reflection should probably have been a SiG33b or similar. I added the railway line as it was a key terrain feature in the battle, and designated Ponyri station as a city hex.

The action opened with a German preliminary bombardment, followed up by a frontal infantry assault on Hill 235. The Germans led with their engineers but the numerous Russian artillery inflicted heavy losses.

After bloody fighting the Germans managed to break through the defences and the Stugs tried to overrun the remaining defenders.

Hill 235 was eventually cleared with heavy losses to both sides, and the Stugs were driven back by artillery fire.

The Russians promptly counterattacked with the best part of two infantry battalions and retook the Hill.

The Germans neatly sidestepped this and pressed on into the heart of Ponyri, taking control of most of the village and gaining two VPs. The Stugs provided support from the edge of the hill.

The Russians succeeded in pushing the first waves of Germans back, again with heavy losses on both sides. They didn't have the strength to retake the critical centre hex though.

The Russian counterattack on their right bogged own in heavy fighting around the cornfields.

Over on the left, the minefields precluded much armoured action. Some of the reserve Russian tanks moved up, and one of the Elefants moved up to support the assault on the village.

The Germans tried to overrun the Russians in the fields with their Stug company.

Whilst it overran the first company, both sides (with exactly 1SP left each) managed to roll exactly the wrong dice and the attack bogged down.

Meanwhile a sneaky German company had managed to take Ponyri station. The Russians counterattacked with only forces available,  an unsupported mixed tank battalion. Not the ideal forces to use in an urban environment.

Although the T70s took a battering, the T34s managed to bludgeon their way into the town, although once again the movement restrictions meant they failed to retake control of the village.

Sadly the German infantry counterattacked in the dense terrain and managed to destroy the T34s in close assault. Coupled with retaining control of the village, this gave them the last VP they needed for victory.

That was a real bloodbath, with repeated infantry assaults from both sides. The Russians were handicapped with a low hand size which limited their scope for manouvre and managed what they did have very well, and the Germans were very pleased to have kept 18th Panzer Regiment intact (irl they performed so badly that the division was disbanded and converted into an artillery division!). I was pleased with the new artillery rules as it prevented some of the silly long range sniping which standard Memoir 44 encourages, and the players agreed that the leaders also added some colour. Amazingly my shiny new Elefants didn't suffer the fate of most new kit and blow up at the first shot either, which was a nice bonus.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

The hills are alive...

Many apologies to Julie Andrews. As with my bridges, you can never have too much terrain and I noticed that in recent years I have had a great deal of use out of some low profile (0.5" thickness) polystyrene hills I picked on the Bring & Buy at Triples. They just seemed to work better for a lot of games than my older 1" thick hills. Perhaps it is because we are playing games on smaller surfaces these days? Who knows.

Anyway, while clearing out the cellar I cam across some bits of 0.5" polystyrene I'd kept from some packing material so I thought I'd make a few more low profile hills to go with the ones I'd bought.

First off I used the existing hills as templates to do this batch. The long thin ones are particularly useful as the sort of ridges so beloved of military manual writers to show how to conduct a covered approach. I cut the sides vertically then chamfered them off into steep slopes.

Whilst I am aware of the mysterious 'hot wire cutters' that some people use for this sort of thing, I just use a (very) sharp knife. I've been using this old kitchen knife in a knife sharpening block for modelling projects for years. It is very, very sharp as I sharpen it regularly, it cuts polystyrene without making lots of annoying bobbly bits.

When I was a kid I used to make hills out of polystyrene ceiling tiles, and they inevitably broke to bits over time. So, the next job is to cover the bare polystyrene in a layer of undiluted PVA, which stiffens them up nicely and forms a hard protective coat.

Once the PVA has dried (both top and underside) it is time for a basecoat of household emulsion.

This attractive shade of poo brown is vinyl matt emulsion, mixed up at B&Q to match two of my brown basecloths.

Finally it is time for some flock, this is my trusty old pot of Woodland Scenics blended turf. It has lasted over 15 years so far.

Somewhat bizarrely my nice green flock came out distinctly brown on these hills, perhaps the basecoat is showing through too much? They aren't a bad match for old hills (bottom left) but are a lot browner than the new ones (top left). Oh well.

Once they'd dried they are almost exactly the same colour as my old hills covered in builders sand! I might as well have done them in cheap sand rather than expensive flock. It  doesn't really matter though, they look a fair bit greener indoors and are good enough for gaming purposes. Right, that is more terrain done to go in the terrain box.