Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Been a while....

Not doing very well with this blogging thing am I? Rest assured that I am still playing some games etc., just not getting around to writing about it.
Further to my last post about COW, I helped run a few sessions but also put on another big one of my own, in this case alos covering WW1, but simulating a Corps level trench warfare assault. Sadly there was some command and control confusion about when/where/if the session was actually taking place and I didn't have many punters. In the event the handful which turned up managed to come up with a brilliant plan:

Lots of boundaries, phase lines etc. It particularly helped that the wily Corps and divisonal commanders managed to obtain enough heavy artillery and ammunition to utterly flatten the German positions, although this completely tore up the already waterlogged ground.
Just to add insult to injury, the assault was preceded by a heavy gas attack along the entire front.

On the ground it ended up looking like this, as waves of British infantry pushed thruogh the shattered defences. Here the leading troops are passing through the German battlezone against scattered resistance from enemy reserves occupying strongpionts centered on villages to the rear.
To everyones astonishment the tanks lumbered right through to the end, making it as far as the German field artillery positions.
In other gaming news from July/August, we went on a family holiday to the USA. Along with swimming in the Pacific, driving across the desert, having an entertaining encounter with the US medical system via an emergency appendectomy in Las Vegas (seriously!) and riding the cable cars in San Francisco I managed to fit in a visit to a firing range in Nevada with daughter number 2. No restrictions on weapons in Nevada, so she got the 'Coalition Package' - M9, M16 and m249, whereas I went for a G3, M249 and a Sten.
G3 was fun to fire, very similar to an SLR (which I've already fired) and a very satisfying 7.62mm kick. Reasonable grouping and tore the target to shreds.
The M249 was a joy to shoot, really tight grouping, very stable and accurate, although I suspect the bipod and laser sight helped quite a bit.
Sten was....interesting. The range master was a bit nervous about it as he'd had an MP40 explode on him, but in the event it was fine. Very noisy, suprisingly high rate of fire and made nice big 9mm holes in the target. Main thing was it pulled up and left to an extreme degree so even with a three round burst the shots went all over the place. Once you'd got used to it, it was better and you could keep short bursts roughly in the same place. This was the gun I started with and I thought I was the worst shot in the world, but I was heartened to find some holes in the target from an adjacent lane, so at least I really wasn't the worst.
Worth the trip just for that I think.

Friday, 9 July 2010

COW 2010 - pt 1

What a great weekend, despite the sad and untimely death of Paddy Griffiths. A huge turnout and more games than it was possible to attend, I hope Paddy would have been proud of what he had started. To replace Paddys planned plenary game, I adapted my old participation game 'World War One in Three Turns' into a lawn game with real people, which at least kept the planned WW1 theme. People had made a real effort with making cardboard weapons and acquiring suitable hats etc and I'm glad that could all be put to good use.

Me in my 'Young Winston' (or maybe Middle Aged Winston) gear briefing the troops. Before coming outside the players were organised into twelve battalions, each with with own name and a set of 'cunning plans' to carry them through the next three years. Half a dozen Germans manned the enemy defences, according to pre set plans for each year. The game started on 1st July 1916. Oh dear.

Graham Evans leads a brigade in bayonet practice. Clearly the most sensible thing to do when faced with dug in machineguns behind barbed wire entanglements is to walk slowly towards them with rifles and bayonets. In each year of the war, the divisional CO (Wayne Thomas) was presented with a set of tactical options for the attack, and the battalions were committed according to pre set plans for each option. The fate of each battalion for each phase of the attack was determined by their cunning plans.

The sun sets on the field of glory. The attack in 1916 was a bit of a disaster, with only one battalion even making it into the German front line. 1917 went rather better, with some troops breaking into the second German line a few thousand yards in the enemy position. 1918 was crowned with glory however as infantry supported by massed tanks crashed right through the German defences to the green fields beyond.

Thanks to Tom for his excellent photos.

Sunday, 20 June 2010


We spent most of the gaming sesson at the club last week discussing stuff for COW (Conference of Wargamers, 1st weekend in July, held at Knuston Hall). In particular we were exercised by what hats and uniforms to wear for Paddy Griffiths 'Oh What a Lovely War' plenary game, I'm still holding out for 'Young Churchill' style pith helmets and Broomhandle Mausers. We also had a run through of one of Tim Gows new games he is taking, 'Tank Terror'. Don't want to spill the beans, but suffice it to say that it involves tanks.... It will also require special headgear for the umpiring team.

In other wargaming news, I've almost finished my first batch of 2mm WSS figures, some fourteen brigades of British troops, plus HQs, wagons, pontoon trains etc. Quite pleased with how they've come out, although I messed up the flocking on the cavalry, being to lazy to pre-paint the bases brown and now they've come out a bit too dark. I managed to retrieve the situation for the infantry and it is a lesson learned for the future. On to the Bavarians next, particularly looking forward to doing the cuirassiers.

I seem to be getting drawn in by the lure of WW2 re-enacting. A very expensive and time consuming hobby, as if I haven't got enough of those. Well, we shall see.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

A Surprise Encounter

Had a bit of a surprise last night, we seemed to end up refighting Borodino, which certainly wasn't on the game plan at all, just a happy set of coincidences. Tim emailed me asking what the plan was (I'd kind of assumed he was bring something!) but as I had managed to miss the WD Display Team (North) outing to Partisan I felt obliged to put something on. I've been busy painting my new 2mm WSS stuff, so I had Horse & Musket on my mind and rummaging through my file of scenarios I came across Sam Mustaphas Borodino scenario for Grand Armee. With the recent outings to 1914, I'd also got squares on the mind so I remembered my gridded carpet tiles, and then those 6mm Napoleonic Russians I'd got off John Armatys years ago and then the Leipzig rules which Baccus had used for their big participation game a couple of years back. All I had to do was transfer the Borodino map onto the squares (fairly easy as it was already gridded into 1k squares) and translate the OB into from brigades into divisions and job done.

Even at this reduced scale (one stand = 5000ish men) this is a BIG battle in a small area, with several Corps on both sides and the deployment areas absoutely stuffed with troops and guns. I went with Sams OOB but as I was running out of Generals, I assigned some of the Russian cavalry corps in direct support of various infantry corps (as was done historically) and gave the French the option of attaching out Murats four corps of cavalry or leaving them as one huge cavalry wing. The French opted for the latter.

Tim took a series of photos through the game, which hopefully I'll be able to post when he sends them to me, but the main course of events was as follows.

Both sides deployed broadly historically, but Murats cavalry massed on the French left wing. The French didn't like the look of the Russian centre at all with is massed 12pdr batteries, so proceeded to attack both Russian wings. On the left, Murats cavalry rode forward against the Russian IInd Corps, the main forces supported by Cossacks and various Italian infantry respectively. The Neapolitan grenadiers surged forward to suport Murats right flank. On the right, Davout and Poniatowski attacked the Russian left. The Russian left proved fairly sturdy and it required the commitment of the Old Guard to finally break them, but not before Davouts Corps had exhausted itself.

On the right Murat and the Italians finally overcame the Cossacks and IInd Corps, but at the expense of grievous losses. The Russian Guard had moved up to support IInd Corps, and in a final dash for glory, Murat led all four cavalry corps in line abreast against the Guard grenadiers. The Russians repulsed the attack and the French cavalry fell back exhausted. The Russians then counterattacked Borodino itself and drove the Italians back in disarray.

On the Russian left, more Grenadiers supported by heavy artillery attempted to hold off the Poles and Imperial Guard as the Russian Guard counterattacked in the centre, driving off both Neys Corps and the Westphalians as their left wing crumbled.

As night fell the only units left with any offensive capability were the Russian Guards and VI Corps, the Poles and the Imperial Guard. Real wargamers armies! The Imperial Guard and the Poles launched a final assault against the Guardsmen holding the redoubts in the centre, the Poles siezing the moment of glory as they advanced through withering cannon fire and turned the Russian Guards left flank, forcing them back. Both armies lay exhausted amongst the indescribable carnage, but the way lay open for the French to resume their advance. Unlike the historical result, in this case the Imperial Guard had been decimated. Phew.

This turned out to be a really good game, very intense, a surprising amount of manouvre given the constricted battlefield and with plenty of decision making and swings of fortune. Kutusov in particular kept falling asleep at the wrong times, and even the mighty Bonaparte seemed to have trouble keeping control of his concentric attacks on both wings - I suggested that with his little legs he couldn't see what was going on. Maybe it just goes to show you don't need to spend weeks preparing a game to have a good time. One very amusing aspect was the way the John 'Napoleon' Armatys kept referring to the the Russians as 'The French', shades of the Crimea there.

In other gaming news, I'm plodding on painting the 2mm WSS stuff I bought at Triples. I've started with the British (well, who wouldn't?) and the techniques I used on the sample figures seem to work OK en masse. My sequence of doing flesh then hats is slightly cumbersome, but I'll see how I get on as the alternatvie is ot do the faces after I've done the hats, and I can see paint going all over the place unless my hands are rock steady. 2mm faces aren't very big to paint, but really add to the look of the figures. Once the British are done, I'll move onto the Bavarians for a change. The curiassiers will be an interesting challenge, I might go with silver breastplates rather than black ones, have to see what looks best.

I've also been inspired by the WW1 operational games and looking at working up some 1914 and 1918 scenarios, the 'Great War' TV series on DVD has been particularly interesting for the latter. Really I want to do a scenario which will involve Whippets and cavalry, as my Whippets have never seen action before.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

More WW1

TimGow put on another game last night using Ricahrd Brooks 'OP-14' operational WW1 rules. A rather larger affair than last time, The Battle of Gumbingen, with three Russian Corps vs one German Corps (rising to three and a half German Corps plus a cavalry division).

I took the Russians, and having actually read the rules had slightly more idea what I was doing this time, in particular using reserves to keep the firing lines up to strength. The Russian steamroller rolled forward, and managed to bludgeon its way into Gumbingen, smashing one German Corps in the process. The Germans were somewhat handicapped by splitting their small force, the detached elements being then crippled by being out of command which allowed the Russians to concentrate the best part of two Corps against one division with predictable results. One Russian brigade in particular distinguished itself by drawing mandatory attack cards, but rather than being shot down in heaps, it drove almost unaided up to and then past the town.

By mid afternoon the Russianshad pretty much shot their bolt however, and although one Corps was strongly dug in around Goldap, the other two were overstretched with one already exhausted and the other well on the way. Fresh Prussian troops were counterattacking strongly and it looked like a withdrawal at nightfall would be in order.

I thought the game looked pretty good and flowed well. It was particularly pleasing how the firing lines solidified into strange angles and re-entrants, looking very much like the unit fronts in battle maps of the period.

Looking forward to the next outing.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Welcome to the Eastern Front

I managed to put together a game for the club last week, yet another outing in 6th panzer Divisions tour of the Baltic States. This covered the famous tank battle at Rassienie on 25th June 1941 when the Russian 14th Tank Corps attacked the flank of 6th Panzer Div. Only 2nd Tank Div actually made it into contact and sources vary about its exact tank strength, some claim it had 60 operational KV1s! Historically around 200 tanks attacked on the 25th, and Bob Mackenzies strength estimates seemed the most plausible. It was tempting to model the Soviet tank regiments a single entities, but in the end I split them into seperate (small) battalions which went some way to replicating the coordination problems the RedArmy had in this era. This gave the 2nd Tank Div half a dozen tank battalions in two regiments and overall the division was at around 50% strength with 180 tanks, a weak motorised infantry regiment and a battalion of 152mm howitzers. I included 60 T34s and KVs, which subjected the Germans to tank terror.

6th Panzer Recce Abteilung dug in holding the bridge, the divisional Rollbahn runs through the swamp just visible to the NW.
Motorised infantry battalion, 105mm artillery battalion and Regimental HQ resting around Rassienie.
Russian 2nd Tank Division assembled in the woods east of the River Dubsya. 2nd Tank Regiment (T34s and T26s) is towards the bottom, 1st Tank Regiment towards the top. The KV-1s are lined up on the road.
Russians roll forward behing a pre-planned artillery barrage. The Germans were looking throughly fed up at this point.
Motorised infantry, engineers and infantry guns start frantically digging in on and around the ridge east of the town. The first Russian tanks have already forded the shallow river.
6th Recce calls in defensive artillery, but a battalion of T26s overruns the position as the Russian infantry moves up in support. The other Russian tanks bypass the defenders. The Russian artillery decided this would be a good time limber up and move forward.
As heavy fighting rages around the bridge, a battalion from 11th Panzer Regiment arrives from the bridgehead to the north. At this point most of the Russian tanks are over the river and the German tanks are out of sight.
The Panzers overun the Russian artillery while it is still limbered, the 152mm regiment is completely destroyed. Meanwhile the Russian infantry dig in as the 6th recce bn finally breaks and runs. Soviet armoured cars harrass the panzers but fall back.

Further west, more German reinforcements (another infantry battalion plus batteries of Flak 36 and 100mm K18 guns) reinforce the defenders just in time and the Russian assault beats itself to pieces against the Pakfront. The T34s are knocked out by 88s and K18s and the KVs fall back in disorder after a failed overrun attack on the dug in German infantry. Only two companies of the original defenders are left on their feet at this point. Welcome to the Eastern Front!
I was very pleased with the way this game (broadly) followed the flow of historical events, although in the actual battle 11th Panzer Regiment withdrew in disorder after encountering the KVs. 6th recce Bn and a column from 114th IR were overrun by the Russians, but their attack was eventually stopped by a hastily formed pakfront east of Rassienie, which we managed to recreate. The German player was suitable awed by the mass of Soviet armour, but by great efforts did finally manage to stop them. Historically the attacks continued for a few more days as the rest of XIVth Mechanised Corps straggled up to the front, and after the fighting finally ended, some 250 tanks were found scattered in an arc east of the town, many of them out of fuel and ammo. One of the KVs made its way northwards and parked itself on the Rollbahn, where it held out for six days before being destroyed.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

The Guns of August

Tim Gow put on a small session last week to try out Richard Brooks new Operational WW1 rules. Tim has already reported in some detail on the various games he has run with these, but I was pleased to get a chance to try them out. Suffice to say I was robbed, even if the Russian airforce did distinguish itself. The rules themselves look very promising, and in due course I'd like to try them out with my various WW1 armies.

Speaking of WW1, I finished painting and basing all the heavy artillery I bought at Triples and that is now safely stowed away. I was particualrly pleased with the 6" howitzers, they look very imposing pieces and I managed to get that sort of stained metallic look on the steel wheels by heavily drybrushing steel paint on the rims followed by a heavy brown ink wash.

I had promised to run a game this week at the club, and as I've been working on the next scenario for 6th Panzer Divs tour of the Baltic States, I finally sorted the terrain for that out yesterday. The toys are all sorted and I just need to finish typing up the briefings.

Next major painting job is all the 2mm WSS stuff I bought, but I haven't had time to make a start on that yet.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The guns, the guns

I see my resolutionto keep the blog up to date is flagging already! Oh well.

After our efforts at Triples I took a small colonial game along to the club last week to help everyone unwind without too much mental effort. This was run using my colonial version of Battle Cry and which looks a lot like Rudi Geudens Afriboria, but is somewhat simpler. I rolled up a scenario, the British attacking a Mahdist hilltop position, but the Mahdists didn't skulk and hide, they came charging down on the British. The Brits never really got a chance to deploy properly before the Mahdists were all over them, and although they shot down hundreds, their right flank collapsed and the Mahdists were into the baggage train in no time. A shattering defeat and a very quick game!

I've meanwhile been working on some of the stuff I bought at Triples. First priority was all the WW1 heavy artillery, I really didn't mean to buy quite so much, but I need it for my COW sessions. Irregular Really Useful Guns, a variety of 6" (ish) howitzers, they all went together reasonably well although I had to resort to plasticene for a couple of the Schneiders. The guns themselves are painted up and I'm working on the crews. Unfortunately I hadn't noticed that I've been supplied with early war French gun crews rather than German ones. I couldn't be bothered to send them back and wait for replacements, so I hacked them around a bit and now they are a passalbe representation of Germans in field caps. Well, I'll paint them field grey and see if anyone notices.... The 2mm stuff is on hold until I get these sorted, but they will be up next. I did a quick check of the castings and they are astonishingly crisp.

Speaking of COW, I've finally booked my session in. I'll be running Drumfire and a mid-late war corps level trench assault. I'm hoping to run it as a split session, with the senior comanders coming up with the plan in the bar and then run the attack a day or two later. It may be a bit ambitious, but we'll see. Paddy Griffiths is threatening to run an 'Oh What a Lovely War' game including dressing up, so I have spent some time seeing if I can assemble enough bits to look like a WW1 uniform. My olive green utilities and shirt don't actually look too bad, coupled with a repro haversack, biggest problem is headgear, as however much I pretend, a Mark V helmet with hessian cover still doesn't look like a WW1 tin hat. I do have my pith helmet I suppose. My 1980s era puttees aren't long enough to go up to my knees either. Oh well, have to have a think about that.

Looking for helmets led me into a terrifying new stream of madness..... WW2 re-enacting. Well, the gear isn't actually that expensive, and it looks cool, and I 'need' a WW1/WW2 helmet, and and and. I'll have to see if this is a passing fad, if it isn't then the poor old wallet is going to take quite a bashing. It will of course be an ideal excuse to buy an SMLE, and a Bren, and a Sten and even a Thompson. Judging by my internet searches, the prospects aren't looking good.

When not drooling over uniforms, webbing and WW2 weaponry, I managed to fit in the Sheffield Half Marathon. Ran it in my best time ever for that distance (sub two hour), which was very pleasing.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Triples 2010

Not done much gaming in the last couple of weeks, I was away at Easter and nothing much happened at the club this week although we had some useful conversations. It was however Triples 2010 this weekend at its shiny new venue at the English Institute of Sport. There were a few minor niggles, but in general it was a really good venue, spacious and airy and a welcome change from the Octagon Centre. The traders I spoke to all seemed pretty pleased and the numbers were good.

WD Display Team (north) put on our new game, 'The End', covering the last year of WW2 in Europe. I could only go on Saturday, but the game was well received and we ran it many times, leaving all the umpires with rather sore throats! I had already ordered a load of 2mm Horse & Musket stuff from Irregular and I supplemented it with some WW1 heavy artillery from their Really Useful Gun range. I also picked up some dirt cheap Roco tanks on the Bring & Buy (for AK47) and haggled a bit for a hardcover version of CS Grants 'From Pike to Shot'.

Monday, 29 March 2010

This is the End

Had another run through of the new WD Display Team (north) game for 2010 at the club this week. It is called 'The End' and covers the last year of WW2 in Europe.

We made a few fiddles and changes and now the basic mechanisms, units and map are set. There is some production work to do on the toys and the final version of the map, and a bit more research on timelines for the briefing material, but it is all looking good. Its first outing will be at the Sheffield Wargames Society show, Triples, later in April.

Otherwise not much gaming activity. I've finalised my lists of 2mm figures and phoned the order into Irregular for collection at Triples. It ended up being a surprising amount of gear, but to do something like Blenheim you need British, Dutch, French, Bavarians and Imperialists, and by the time you've added in horse and guns for all of them as well as foot, HQs, baggage etc it all adds up. I am particularly excited by the prospect of painting the Army pontoon trains. Well I suppose it takes all sorts....

I'm still working on a scheme for base labelling, at the moment I'm going with national coloured paint dots on the rear base edges, but I'll see how distinctive the flags are when the figures are assembled en masse.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

To the Green Fields Beyond

Well, perhaps not quite the green fields... Ran another game of Drumfire last night, Spring 1917 this time (so Arras/Vimy Ridge sort of thing). A smaller game than before, one British and one French division against the new 1917 style German defence in depth.

More lavish support assets were available, and the Allies are definately learning how to do it right. Some 300 guns were available for an attack on a two mile front including some 15" rail guns, as well as gas shells, mines, British tanks and the first outing of some French Schneider CA-1s. The Allies had a very brief bombardment, concentrating on counter battery fire and wire cutting, and most important, leaving the ground relatively uncratered. The short bombardment surprised the Germans who did not have time to move up any significant reserves, but left the chains of concrete pillboxes intact.

Lt General Elsmore set some quite ambitious objectives, planning to break right through the Germans second line positions and into the field gun lines around a hill in the centre. There was a bit of grumbling about this from the division commanders, but the sheer masses of guns and other equipment on such a narrow front brought their grudging acceptance.

The initial assault went swimmingly, shrouded by the morning fog, and the entire German outpost line fell with fairly light casualties as the Allies maintained a tremendous barrage against the German positions and field guns. A pause ensued while the Allies reorganised, and then pressed on through the German pillbox line. This image is the German front line after mines had detonated, the gas had landed and the barrage lifted.

The next advance was a little more ragged as the Allies still hadn't quite got the hang of advancing with successive fresh waves to maintain the momentum of the advance. Some of their reserves had been delayed by the fog as well. The French tanks outran their infantry, forcing a number of blockhouses to surrender and then the Germans rather hesitently attempted to counterattack. Half the Germans didn't leave their positions and the rest were mown down or surrendered. On the other flank the British also easily repulsed a German attack but their advance in the centre had stalled as it hadn't proved possible to regroup the mopping up parties. In this image the French infantry have stalled still clearing the trenches and tanks have driven on ahead, detachments of British and French infantry have pushed on each flank but the British mass is delayed by some pillboxes still holding out.

The French attacked the German second line, driving back the defending battalion at some cost to themselves, but the retreating Germans were mown down in the open as they ran back. The British far right reached is zenith however, as the attack faltered on uncut wire. The British are here seen massed in front of the German second line and French infantry are forming up for an assault too, but in the centre a handful of poilus and thesurviving Schneiders hav ecarried the second line and are preparing to attack the village. Unfortunately this is out of range of the French 75s, so the barrage has ended in this sector. More heavy guns could have continued to support the attack.

As the day dwindled, there was a final magnificent effort. The French infantry on the extreme left managed to advance right through the German reserve line, but their tank attack on the defended village faltered as the last tanks broke down and the leading waves of infantry failed to penetrate the defences and were shot down. The survivors huddled in the captured German positions to hold their gains. In the centre however, the British cavalry came galloping up and a combined infantry/cavalry/tank attack crashed through the German reserve line, ending at the foot of the hill. This the high water mark as the French and British push through the gaps between the defended villages, there is very little left in front of the French as most of the German field batteries in this sector have been destroyed by counter-battery fire. Sadly, time had run out at this point.

As night fell, the Allies were left having taken the entire German front line and comms line, penetrated the second line on a front of one and a half miles and had pushed two thrusts right the the reserve line up to the German gun positions. A glorious victory! The French in particular had excelled themselves, considerably exceeding their assigned objectives, although the Britsh had fallen short. The only problem was that although the French flank was secure, the British right was hanging in the air, and they were forced to withdraw from their salient in the centre, leaving the new front line running diagonally back to the southwest.

So, a pretty historical result, certainly in line with Bullecourt. The game seemed to work OK for this form the Allied point of view, but I need to have a further think about the German counterattacks as my plan for them to use heavy weapons for suppression etc just didn't work.

Tim Gow has published some nice photos of the game, which have come out rather better than mine:


Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Slipping already

Argh, I forgot to post last week, I see my New Years resolution is already going out of the window. I was away for work last week anyway so there wasn't much gaming happening.

I've finally finished 7th Armoured Brigade, and I was very pleased to find that the white gel ink pen I found in Rymans is the right diameter for writing unit tactical codes on vehicle markings. They are now safely stored in their box waiting for me to rebase 26th Panzer Div and then I've got a game in mind.....

I've been trying to track down a copy of 'Twilight of the Sun King' published by the Pike & Shot Society but sadly it is OOP. There is a free web based version but there are some significant differences. I contacted the Society and they are going to print more, so I'll just have to be patient.

Otherwise I've been wading through Chandlers 'Art of War in the Age of Marlborough' for some inspiration for my 2mm WSS project, and it has also rekindled interest in my long planned eighteenth century logistics game. Maybe one day.

On John Salts recommendation I recently purchased Steven Biddles 'Military Power' which applies economometric analysis to various modern conflicts to examine the influence of differences in troop deployment on combat effectiveness, a sort of modern Dupuy. It looks fascinating but I must be disciplined as I have to finish Chandler first, and then Patrick O'Briens 'The Wine Dark Sea' (which I started on the train).

Anyway, hopefully we'll be doing 2mm ACW tonight, so I'll get a chance to look at some 2mm strips for my shopping list, and we'll maybe do some prep for a WW1 game next week.

Finally, many thanks to those people who let me know that my blog had been corrupted. A bad widget, which I've removed and the problem has been fixed. Many apologies.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Raus, Raus

We played the first scenario of my '6th Panzer Division in Russia' mini campaign yesterday. This covered Kampfgruppe Raus and its rapid advance to the Dubsya River in Lithuania on 23rd June 1941. The Russians are essentially static targets in this one, so it seemed easier for me to play them (deployed hidden) while Tim Gow and Jon Armatys played the Germans. The only real tweaks to RKKA Commander I'd made was to simplify the morale rules (back to a D6) and to modify the requirement for pre-assault morale checks so that tank units only take a morale check if the enemy have effective anti-tank weapons. This makes a very big difference in early war scenarios as tank units can simply drive over units without anti-tank guns (and they are then also subject to the penalties for tank shock). For this scenario I used random morale for the Russians, so they could be anything from nervous to fanatical, which models their historical behaviour in this period.

The 'tank shock' and random morale rules worked very well, two battalions of Russians surrendered to overunning German tanks, however another battalion located in the town of Rasseinie rolled up fanatic morale and fought to the last man, inflicting heavy casualties on one of the German motorised infantry battalions. The Russian gunners fought to the last man, one battalion eventually being destroyed by counter battery fire, whilst the other was overrun by a panzer battalion from KG S coming up the main road, but not before knocking out some tanks firing over open sights. The Russians also sprang an effective ambush on the track coming in from the west, cunningly waiting until the leading elements had passed then bushwhacking some motorised infantry in their trucks. Unlike their real life counterparts, they failed to make their escape as the Germans vengence was rapid and overwhelming.

The Germans eventually crashed to victory, elements of KG R taking the bridges over the Dubsya as the sun was setting, in both cases manging to capture them intact. The first bridge failed to blow and an entire battalion of Pz 35(t)s forded the shallow river and smashed the covering engineer platoon before they had a chance to try again. At the second bridge a detached company of tanks managed to surprise the engineers who promptly surrendered as the panzers burst in amongst them. The commander of this latter company was awarded the Iron Cross First Class as they'd also single handedly overrun and forced to surrender a Russian infantry battalion.

I thought the game went pretty well and I was pleased with how the scenario turned out, so we'll probably have another trip to the east in a few weeks to se what happens next.

Otherwise I've been doing a bit of painting, finishing off some Cromwells I got last year. I had an unfortunate black wash disaster as my black ink had dried up so I made up a wash of water, black acrylic paint and washing up liquid. It all looked fine at first, but I obviously hadn' t mixed enough washing up liquid in as suddenly the 'wash' extended all over the vehicles and they dried black! Oh well, back to layers of drybrushing, which retrieved something from the disaster. Must buy some more black ink.

I've also developed a sudden enthusiasm for the WSS in 2mm, a period I've put off for decades due to the compelexity of all the different flags and what passed for 'uniforms' in that period. I suddenly realised that in 2mm I didn't have to worry, so I need to do some shopping lists for Irregular, maybe pick the up at Triples. Tim is bringing his 2mm stuff to the club in a couple of weeks so I can have a closer look at some of the different strips.

No gaming next week as I'm away, but hopefully 2mm ACW the week after.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Finally got to play something

Despite the weathers best efforts (snow every day this week, but luckily it hasn't settled much) we managed to play the game we'd postponed last week. A quick outing to the Sudan using Bob Cordery's new nineteenth century rules. Fairly fast and furious with a 'bang you're dead' type style, I can see it working for the ACW or similar but some of it could do with a bit more work to make it specific to Colonial warfare as the combatants are so asymmetrical and the terrain rather less dense.

Otherwise we had a chat about the next impending WD Display Team (North) game, with its debut in a few weeks at Triples. We don't seem to have quite managed to do the map, or the toys or the rules yet, but it does at least exist in everyones heads! I expect we have a bit more work to do on that yet.

I've also been having a look at early Eastern Front WW2 scenarios, one of my particular interests about ten years ago, so I have tons of stuff for it in 6mm. I've come up with a linked scenario mini-campaign (similar to the Tarnpol 1944 mini-campaign I ran a couple of years ago), but in this case following the exploits of 6th Panzer Div on its summer tour of the Baltic States. Got the first scenario sorted, although I had to rebase and repaint a few toys for it. Hope to run that at the club in a couple of weeks.

Now I've finished my WW1 French, I've been slightly casting around for a painting project. I've got some undercoated WW2 20mm tanks I could do, but I suddenly feel strangely drawn to 2mm WSS. I might actually stand a chance of getting the uniforms right in 2mm, as I really can't be arsed to paint them in any bigger scales, one of the things which has put me off painting any figures for the period for the last 30 years. Anyway, I'll have a little think about that, if I'm still keen in a week or two I'll order some Irregular 2mm stuff for collection at Triples. To fill in the time I've discovered I got the DVD boxed set of the 1964 BBC 'Great War' TV series that I'd quite forgotten about. The soothing tones of Marcus Goring now fill the air in the evening. Great stuff.

No trip to the club planned next week (the main hall is in use), so not sure what I'll be writing about then. Probably will have decided to do 40mm Star Wars or something.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Bad weather delays the attack again

Not much game playing this week. We'd planned on trying out Bob Cordery's nineteenth century rules with out Sudan figures at the club, but snow started hitting the ground at 4pm and Sheffield instantly collapsed in gridlocked chaos so we decided to give it a miss. Shame as I was looking forward to it. Anyway, the stuff is all packed up for next week.

I finished off basing my 20mm WW1 French, and they've come out OK. I otherwise felt a bit wargamed out WW1 wise as it has been full on Western Front since late last year, so a trip to WW2 last week was a nice diversion. I've jotted a few notes down specific to German offensive operations for Drumfire, but otherwise I was wondering what to do for a game in the next couple of weeks. I waded through Jentz's Panzertruppen Vols 1 and 2 over Christmas and felt vaguely inspired by that, so an outing to the Eastern Front I think. I pulled out my book of Spearhead scenarios but none of them particularly grabbed my imagination, well maybe one of them. Anyway, I'll have a think about it, probably end up somewhere in 1941 I think.

In an exciting development I bought a new ruler for measuring the bits of magnabase I'm endlessly cutting to put on bases. The old one was completely worn out, and as I'm a cheapskate and insist on using 8mm strip, I need to cut perfect 8mm squares to go on the back edge of the bases. I also bought a new tube of polystyrene cement. Will wonders never cease.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

The Corinth Canal

Played a small WW2 game at the club last night with Tim Gow using his WW2 version of NATO Brigade Commander, very similar to my WW2 version, but also different.... Tim has managed to retain the snappy NBC ancronym for the title.

I took the Allies (a mixed force of Greeks and New Zealanders) and proceeded to fight the mother of all battles against a regiment of grizzled German Fallschirmjaeger who very unfairly landed all over the canal bridge in gliders and by parachute, blocking the retreat of the entire Allied army. My chaps attempted to retake it, and in the process both sides were virtually annihiliated. The game ended with my brigade reduced to a company of infantry and a weak squadron of Vickers Light Tanks, and the German regiment reduced to a company of Fallschirmpioniere still grimly (and very annoyingly) hanging onto the bridge.
Highlights of the game for me were:
  • The Greek Infantry refusing to move from Corinth for several turns, then finally advancing only be be virtually wiped out in a desparate battle around the railway station.
  • Stukas managing to bomb their own troops, putting them to flight and saving a Bofors battery from being overrun.
  • The Vickers Mark VI tank company dominating the battlefield like a small Tiger tank. Well, it helps if your opponents don't have any anti-tank weapons....
Great fun and resolved fairly quickly.
On the rest of the gaming front, I'm fairly happy with Drumfire now after last weeks test game. I've made a few minor revisions, but I think the system is now essentially set and I've just re-worded a lot of it to make it more internally consistent. I need to do some work on French and German attacks, but that is more on the scenario side than mechanisms, and I expect this will be the game I bring to COW 2010. We'll probably give it a rest for a while, but at some point we'll try out a 1917 attack in the ongoing campaign.

I'm still doing the rest of my 20mm WW1 French, just finishing off the paintwork on the infantry before varnishing and basing. They are all inkwashed and drybrushed now and I've just been finishing off details. Now I need to work up a scenario so all three French divisions can attack something!

I've still got a load of 20mm vehicles left from last year which are assembled and undercoated, but I need to finish them off. Mainly late war NWE stuff, and I've got a few more scenarios in mind for Megablitz. Thoughts are now turning to Triples which is only a few months away, so I need to start on my shopping list for this year.

Just downloaded some WW2 Divisional rules by Pz8 http://panzer8.webs.com/ which look interesting. Another KISS Rommel variant but with more of a DBA type combat system with step losses. I'll give that a go at the club at some point.

Finally, I went to Venice for a few days before Christmas, and in between dodging the floods and admiring the thick snow over everything, found time to pop into the Naval History Museum. Plenty of exhibits about the exploits of Italian frogmen and manned torpedoes!
There was also this rather interesting 37mm trench gun, I might have to build one of these. It is absolutely minute.

Lots of scale models, as you would expect. This was a rather beautiful one of the Roma.

Something you don't see very often, a piece of Austrian battleship . This is from the stern of the Monarch class SMS Wien, torpedoed in 1917.

Along with the military wonders there was stuff like St Marks Square, the Accademia etc, but I'm sure you don't need any photos of those.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Drumfire report

A brief report on the Dumfire playest game we played on 21st Jan. The game was set in late 1916 (so, around the Battle of the Ancre) which meant that German defences were fairly light as they were hastily constructed, however the weather was awful with thick mud constricting movement and fog and rain grounding aircraft and obscuring vision. The Allies had been given a limited objective attack, just to push up the German second line, capturing the Germans front line and communications zone.
The Allies had two British and one French infantry divisions with fairly limited support outside divisional resources. Five brigades of heavy artillery, one of field artillery, an extra infantry brigade, a company of Mk 1 tanks and a brigade of cavalry in Corps reserves. Both British Divisions had one mile frontages and the bulk of the support assets, whereas the French had a rather sticky wicket with a one and half mile frontage but only one extra groupe each of 75s and 155s. They also had a strongly fortifed redoubt on their front. In the foreground above you can see General Gows newly arrived division with its company of tanks, formed up two brigades up, two back. Beyond that is General Ellsemores experienced division formed up tow up one back with the Corps cavalry deep in the rear. In the far distance is General Armatys French division, three up one back and with distinctly thin artillery support (one gun per 24 yards, the British had one gun per 13 yards). Much of the Allied air arm was grounded by bad weather, and the British have cruelly grabbed all the available spotter planes.

The German defences look rather thin, but are typical for 1916. Two wired trench systems a few kilometres apart with the front line strongly held. Each regimental sector (approx one mile) is held with two infantry battalions and the regimental machineguns in concreted emplacements in the front line, suported by the regimental mortar detachment (36 minenwerfers and granatenwerfers) from entrenchments to the rear and the second line thinly held by one infantry battalion. The immediate tactical reserves are the regimental stormtroop companies, but amply warned by the week long bombardment, in operational reserve are three eingrif regiments ready to counterattack and regain any lost ground 'at all costs' (as the manual says). This brings the defenders close to the recommended strength of one division per 5km supported by another in reserve. Defensive artillery density is one gun per 26 yards, quite sufficient to lay down a devastating SOS barrage in nomansland unless suppressed.

The British offensive opened with a week long barrage. This utterly devastated the German second line, and also succeeded in smashing up the infantry, mortars and pillboxes in the front line although not decisively. Wire cutting was patchy, in some areas it was cleared altgother, but in most sectors it was partially cut. Importantly for the French, the dense wire in front of the enemy redoubt facing them was at least reduced. The ground was heavily cratered throughout the depth of the defences, which didn't please the tank commanders.
In the picture (view north to south) the first wave rolls across Nomansland covered by the creeping barrage as Germans lay down their own defensive SOS barrage. In this case, fog greatly aided the attack. In the south the French chose to delay the assault until they had thoroughly suppressed the defenders, but in the north the British attacked. General Ellsmores troops lay out in Nomansland and by and large managed to surprise the German defenders, as did General Gows men although with further to move they suffered heavily from the barrage and their tanks lagged behind the infantry in the cratered ground, also losing vehicles to the intense defensive barrage.
After a pause for regrouping, the British pressed on in the south behind the barrage. In some sectors the troops began to straggle quite badly, hampered by the mud. In the south the French assault had limited success, although they managed to break thruogh in the centre, the German defences on each side held and the French infantry were massacred in nomansland. In the picture Generla Gows right wing and General Ellsmores left wing have managed to take the German communications zone against patchy resistance while the rest of their troops are stuck trench clearing or straggling up in the mud. In the far distance the big blue mass is the French preparing to press on in their centre.
Initially the German reaction was limited to local counterattacks by the stormtroop companies, but as they day wore on, the Eingrif regiments began to arrive. The British were quite content to push up to the German second line and hang on to their gains covered by the barrage. There was some talk about trying to push into the devastated German second line, but this came to nothing. In the final positions above both British divisions have consolidated in front of the German second line and in the far south a lonely French infantry battalion has also pushed forward, but its flanks are hanging in the air and it will have to withdraw at nightfall. One German regiment is massing in the centre, but faced with the British barrage, its attack is likely to fail. Astonishingly there are still some tanks left in action at this late stage. The German artillery position is also looking quite ragged, counterbattery fire during the bombardment and in direct support of the attack having taken its toll, and the Allied fighters have swept the German airforce from the sky.
In the end, quite a succesful operation for a limited attack. Allied losses were quite steep, particularly as they pushed their massed infantry brigades right through the unsuppressed German artillery, some 16 battalions being rendered ineffective (out of the 36 they started with). The Germans also suffered heavily as they lost almost all their infantry and most of their heavy weapons, in the line holding division at any rate, the Eingrif division never really got into action. Historically that was the major problem with this form of defence. It formed a very tough crust for the Allies to pierce, but by massing their forces forward in the trench system, they presented an excellent static artillery target and by the end of 1916 the Germans decided the losses suffered were unsustainable and adopted new methods.
On to spring 1917 next, when the Allies will fin dout waht the new system of defence entails!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Drumfire, playtest #3

Finally got to run another scenario for my latest set of WW1 rules, 'Drumfire', we had to postpone the game last week due to the bad weather. Very culturally appropriate.

This newer version went rather quicker than last time, we managed to get through both a seven day bombardment and made it into the afternoon of the assault, at which point a likely outcome could be predicted. I was a bit disappointed that we didn't make it right to the end of the day, but I am still trying pack a lot of activity into a couple of hours. The revised move and combat mechanisms are rather slicker than before, and halving both the German troop density and effectiveness of their artillery made for a slightly more enjoyable game for the attackers!

In the light of the latest playtest, there aren't really any fundamental mechanisms I want to change as I think if I strip out any more it will just end up as a newer version of my old 'Cambrai' game, which in the absence of massed 20mm tanks, will make for a very trivial game. One observation made by Jerry Ellsmore was that if the players could run more of the mechanisms themselves it would go a lot faster, and having been through so many re-writes I am tending to turn up with a great mass of notes and jottings which I have to leaf through. Unlike a lot of operational games, every unit is heavily engaged each and every turn, so the level of abstraction needs to be high to keep things moving. Things I can actively do though are:

  • Do some proper playsheets for the players.
  • Do an umpires playsheet with the information I actually need on it to run the Germans, rather than hunting through various bits of paper. Better presentation of key information will make the game run faster.
  • Get rid of even more dice rolling, particularly for movement. While this introduces plenty of friction, it is still too time consuming. I need to keep it for the assault phase though and I will keep some sort of activation roll for reserves.
  • Simplify the creeping barrage resolution even more, or at least make the mechanisms more transparent so the players can resolve it themselves.
  • The German defensive barrage strength calculations are as simple as I can make them without losing key aspects of the simulation, however I can simplify the way the barrage reacts to the British advance, as well as make it more transparent so the players can resolve it themselves.
  • Make the suppression and disorganised combat outcomes internally consistent. Essentially this means making them the same, so suppressed units will have to rally. Not such a good simulation but easier to manage.
  • Reduce or even eliminate some of the low effectiveness ranged fire. The easiest thing is to say that suppressed units can't conduct ranged fire. Similarly, don't let battalion remnants fire.
  • Make the level of unit representation more consistent, just have infantry battalions, stormtroop companies and outposts, ignoring half battalions. This will help simplify the resolution of defensive fire. Again, it isn't very realistic but it will make the game flow quicker. An alternative would be to up the ground scale to 1 square = 1 mile (which is what I did for Cambrai) but this makes a typical divisional assault frontage 1 square!
  • Aim for simultaneous resolution of movement and combat rather than one square at a time. Clear playsheets and presentation of key information will help this. The aim is to execute the assault phase in one hour, or an average of ten minutes per move. Inevitably the earlier turns will be slower than the later ones. Half an hour setup, half an hour bombardmant, one hour assault and half an hour takedown would actually be a playable game.
  • The victory points seem to be a bit screwy, so I might have another look at the scenario generator again. I'm fairly happy with the generated German setup, it is just the VPs which might need some tweaks.

I did take some photos of the game, as did Tim Gow, so when I've got time I'll upload them and do a photo report. Thanks to my long suffering playtesters for undergoing yet another trial by fire! At least none of them got sacked this time.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Rain stopped play

Well, not much gaming this week, we had to postpone our next battle in the ongoing WW1 campaign due to heavy snow (again) in sheffield. We have at least sorted out who has what, who is attacking where and what they are supposed to be trying to achieve. The drawn out planning process all feels quite realistic, particularly having to postpone due to bad weather! In the next game my long suffering Corps and Division commanders are conducting a bite and hold operation, amidst the mud choked crater fields of the Somme in Autumn 1916, game report next week if it isn't postponed again.

I've played a few turns of a PBEM minis game now. Really very interesting, we send out orders in each turn and the umpire sends us a back a report including photos of what we can see from where we are. The hardest thing I've found as a player so far is 'navigating' the units around, particularly as this scenario is set in a rather featureless bit of desert. I've ended up setting course, speed and turning points, rather like a naval comander. First blood to me at any rate, as my plucky chaps have managed to shoot up a Panzer II, but one cockrel does not a dawn make.

Inspired by the fevered email exchanges around the WW1 game, I've dug out some more bags of mouldering French 20mm figs (mainly Ian Russell Lowells old stuff) for reconditioning. Another couple of French divisions is the plan, and I just 'had' to go and buy some more stuff, in this case a box of Airfix French (I can't resist the blokes with sacks of grub or riding bikes) and some more HaT 75s. Unfortunately the shop had run out of French ones so I had to buy the US box, I've got enough French gunners left over and US figs will come in handy as British at some point. The biggest blow was finding I'm short one mortar, I need nine and I've only got eight. I'll scratch build one tonight and then it is prep and undercoating, hope to get the base coat done later this weekend.

Tim Gow mentioned he's tried using my 'Rifle & Kepi' rules for Napoleonics. I've been thinking about what mods are needed for this earlier period, but it is mainly about re-balancing the various arms as Napoleonics was very much rock-paper-scissors, whereas later in the nineteenth century it is more a case of rock-rock-scissors, with the cavalry as scissors....

My early 1980s British Army puttees have arrived, very exciting. My wife rolled her eyes in despair as I paraded around the kitchen in them, she did however ask why they didn't come right up to my knees, so all those years of exposure to uniformology haven't been wasted.

Monday, 11 January 2010

New year and new start.

Gosh, I haven't posted any updates for a while. Well, lets see if 2010 is going to be better.

I can't really remember what I've been doing wargaming wise since last June. Main things would be:

  • Attending the Conference of Wargamers in July 2009. Always a very enjoyable weekend and this year was no exception.

  • Making some revisions to 'Red Army Brigade Commander', mainly to streamline it a bit and cut down the number of different dice in use for different things.

  • Ran a fairly big Megablitz game at the club, Operation Vitality, clearing the Scheldt Estuary. This was mainly an excuse to get Tims shiny new Canadian 4th Armoured Div out, plus my new K18 costal defence gun (in this case, busy defending Bergen-op-Zoom). The usual traffic jam of 20mm tanks as the Allies drove north heading for the Waal.

  • I finally managed to run Koeniggratz using Rifle and Kepi, been hoping to do this battle for years. The Austrians lost (so no surprises there).

  • Spent a fair bit of time working on various versions of what I've called 'Drumfire', Corps level trench warfare in the First World War. The long suffering members of Sheffield Wargames Society have undergone repeated onslaughts as I've tried to come up with an enjoyable yet realistic yet fast game covering this. Well, maybe this week will go better than last time.

  • Played a very enjoyable WSS/SYW rule set by Steve Thomas, 'Twilight of the Sun King', sort of DBAish treatment but it worked very well, thanks to John Armatys for that.

  • Did a spot of painting. Refurbished some old Revell and Aifix WW1 French infantry, fleshed out with HaT armour and artillery, plus a card model Schneider CA1 which I was rather pleased with. Did a divisions worth to start with, but aim to work up to a Corps.

  • I've had fairly lengthy correspondance with Doug Southwell in the US about using my Panzergruppe/Sinai 67 rules to refight WW1 on the Eastern Front. An interesting project, which hope comes together successfully.

  • Tim Gow has continued to refine and tweak his NATO Brigade Commander rules, and we've had some good games of that. He's also treated us to some modern naval warfare games using his 1/6000th scale ships.

  • I've just started playing an online miniatures game. You give orders out each turn, and get back reports from the GM plus photos of what you can see. Very interesting, quite a different experience.
Umm, that is pretty much all I can recall. Well, hopefully a fuller post next week.

Operation Vitality. Poles and Canadians break through the German defences, then push up to the canal as the Germans fall back blowing the bridges. Finally having conducted a successful opposed river crossing, they press on northwards to cut off Walcheren Island.