Wednesday 29 January 2014

Into Void (Part 1)

This was another outing to my fictional 1981 Third World War. One element I wanted to pick up during the narrative was the role (and fate) of the various deep operational air assaults the Warsaw Pact intended to carry out. These were aimed at siezing key strategic terrain locations to both impede NATO and also facilitate the advance of GSFG wth the airheads being relieved in 2-5 days depending on depth. Classic 'A Bridge Too Far' stuff!

The operational area, Hamelin, on the River Weser.

I originally set this up as two sided game, but there is so much that can go wrong with an air assault it seemed to fit better as a team game and I also thought NATO has had quite enough of being stomped all over by the opening Warpac attack. In this initial game I just wanted to set the scene for this particular airhead and make sure they had a reasonable chance of getting on the ground, we can pick up any counter attacks/reliefs etc in later games.

I ran it as a team planning game by email with the actual drop being executed on game night, with a bit of 'run up to war' stuff thrown in. Main soviet briefing is reproduced below.

Into the Void, June 31st 1981

General Briefing
The Soviet invasion of Iran a week earlier and subsequent exchanges of fire with US forces in the Gulf prompted the Soviet leadership to initiate an all out attack on NATO to preserve the integrity of the USSR. In the BAOR sector covering Hannover, NATO forces had barely had time to mobilise to war strength and their assembly positions before Soviet tanks were rolling over the border and the sky was black with Warpac aircraft.

Warpac briefing
In support of the counter offensive against NATO aggression, the VDV is conducting a series of deep operational (50-75km deep) and strategic (100-150km deep) air landings to sieze key terrain locations. In support of the attack by 3rd Guards Shock Army, 34th Air Assault Brigade will size a bridgehead designated by the Centre over the Weser.

These units will attack prior to the main offensive, and the initial parachute wave of the deep air assault will conducted along the entire front will be conducted using fast transports including hardened civilian airliners. The depth of the attack renders helicopter insertion impractical. The initial attack will be conducted within 30 minutes of dawn (either way).

Secure a bridgehead on the west side of the Weser in the vicinity of Hamelin, secure bridges over the river both to deny them to the enemy and allow our own forces to use them, clear out any enemy local defences forces. Prepare a secure defensive perimeter and plan on being relieved by ground forces  in 2-3 days.

Forces (D8, high morale unless indicated otherwise)

34th Air Assault Brigade
Bde HQ plus motorised engineer, atgw and recce companies.
3 x parachute battalions (2 companies ea), 1 x mechanised battalion (2 x company BMD)

Paras delivered via paradrop from fast transports. Antonov transports for BHQ and Mech Bn, Antonovs may land on open roads (minimum 1km length, ideally 2km) if they are prepared by paras first.
Fighter escort will be available for the Antonovs.
Ground attack aircraft will be available for ground support, including preparatory airstrikes if desired.  

Intelligence may be gathered prior to the op by air recce, ground agents, inspection teams. A spetznaz team may be inserted a few days prior to hostilites, including German speakers if desired. Excessive interest in the area may provoke a defensive response.

Villages and towns provide concealment and cover (-1 to hit), woods provide concealment.
Hills are rugged and are bad going, stationary units may find concealment on them. Marshes are a serious impediment to vehicular movement.


The weather is good.

Sunday 26 January 2014

Sten Mark II

I recently acquired a  new toy, an Airsoft Sten Mark II. I've been meaning to get a Sten for a while, even though it is a relatively niche piece of kit compared to a Lee Enfield or a Bren. It at least means I have now have a reasonable collection of Airsoft versions of WW2 British small arms. Not sure how much use it is going to get, but it is nice to have and doesn't take up much space as it is essentially just a piece of piping!

The replica looks the part, even if it is a bit clean and new. 

This particular gun is manufactured by ASG, and airsoft stens have been around for a few years now, although the early AGM models only took lipo batteries and didn't have adjustable hops. The perforated barrel jacket is also often held on by a teeny tiny screw, so tends to fall off. On my second hand one, this seems to have been solved by the green gaffer tape. I'll have to do something about that.

The stock is thicker than the original to accommodate a standard NiMH stick battery. The garish weapon marks are also quite evident.

Unfortunately the the airsoft innards is clearly visible and the slider behind the bolt isn't very long so doesn't cover it. Not much I can do about that, maybe blacken it so its isn't so obvious.

The ejection port is closed as if you open it yet more airsoft innards are exposed including bits you really don't want to get grit or dust in. A shame is it could have been used to access the hop adjustment mechanism, instead you have to swivel the magazine mount through 90 degrees.

The sling mounting is one reason why the barrel jackets fall off as it puts a lot of strain on it. This is an original sling, I'll need to do a more permanent fix for the barrel jacket than green tape.
The gun itself seems to work fine and takes my tuned MP40 magazines without any problems (just as the originals were designed to do), decent rate of fire, and good range and grouping but no fancy gizmos like a safety catch. The magazine lock is very solid though.

I just need to do some reinforcement work on the barrel jacket and then the bit I really enjoy on airsoft guns, modelling work to weather it. I have been fortunate enough to fire a real Sten, and the blueing on that was so worn it was almost silver. This particular one just needs some work on the metallic finish and I need to think about how to disguise the cylinder and tone down the weapon markings, then it should be good do go.

Thursday 23 January 2014

Airfix Mark I

Ah, the good old Airfix Mark I. A surprisingly good kit despite its age. I did a couple of these to go with my Emhar Mark IVs as 'looks like' Mark IV males. Hardly a difficult conversion, I just left the steering wheel thingies off the back. I could have done a better job I suppose, but I really couldn't be bothered.

A pair of Mark I/IVs

A nice solid kit which really looks the part.

Plenty of raised detail and panel lines to take washes and drybrushing.

The vestigial steering equipment can be seen here.

Side by side with an Emhar Mark IV, the hull dimensions are almost identical.

A slightly odd photo angle, but I managed to assemble them so the turrets still rotate. Here seen with the guns pointing in different directions.
I enjoyed building these two, I think my original (and long departed) Mark 1 was originally purchased from Bovington when I was on holiday with my parents a very, very long time ago.

Saturday 18 January 2014

Captain Bertorelli's Drum

John kindly put on this late nineteenth century colonial adventure in darkest Abyssinia. It was the first outing for his colonial Italian Bersaglieri purchased at Triples many years ago. The game was run using Wessex Games 'Voyages Extraordinaire' and covered a mission entrusted to Captain Bertorelli to retrieve the sacred 'Drum of St Ursula' from the local church and return it to Rome for safekeeping. Tim got to command the Bersaglieri, I got the Askari, and Mark the bishop and his retinue, Kayte the congregation and bringing up the rear, Jerry was an Italian journalist along for the ride. The situation was complicated by the multiplicity of languages in use, few of which were familiar to the other participants.

The Italian askaris under the command of the multi-lingual Sergeant Welboy. Here seen chatting to a shifty Italian journalist. Our main job was to keep the Italian officer safe and avoid them making fools of themselves.

The church of St Ursula with the bishop in attendance.

The Italians march on, with the Bersaglieri rushing off ahead.

The bishops congregation in the distance, here seen being manouvred by 'the hand of god'.

A priest intervenes as an unfortunate shooting incident thins the worshippers ranks considerably.

The journo approaches the bishop.

Hot on his heels is Captain Bertorelli, with Sgt Welboy and his bugler not far behind.

Captain Bertorelli investigates the remains of the church band,  the victims of another unfortunate shooting incident.

He returns clutching not one but two drums as the bishop and Sgt Welboy arrive on the scene of carnage.

Ignoring the bishops protestations of ignorance, the Captain sets off while the journalist sniffs around.

The Bersaglieri scamper back to their base, proud possessors of the 'Drum of St Ursula'. Meanwhile Sgt Welboys conversations with the bishop have determined that there is no such thing.

The bishop is left rather disgruntled at having his congregation and band shot by the Italians, Sgt Welboy is left despairing at the ineptitude of his colonial overlords but Captain Bertorelli is rather pleased with himself. At least until the journalist gets back to Rome...
So there we have it, poor Sergeant Welboy is left having successfully protected the Italian officers from harm, but not from a slavish obedience to silly orders. I suspect the game turned out to be more bloody than John anticipated, but it was good fun nonetheless, particularly the bishops numerous and loud interventions.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

BF Sdkfz 250/9

I 'needed' some of these for the Skirmish Campaigns 'Operation Epsom' book, but they are fairly common vehicle later in the war comprising a full company in panzer and panzergrenadier division recce battalions. They were often (mis)used as light tanks to provide armoured support as well, so make an interesting option for an infantry support vehicle.

These are one of the better offerings from BF, really neat and crisp castings which went to together very easily. The usual resin body with metal accessories.

The finished article.

Well proportioned from the front.

The crispness of the casting is evident from the side.

The finished model sits very well. It is very small, the base is 30mm wide.
A lovely little kit and highly recommended. Finished in my usual dunkelgelb with brown/green disruptive with an ink wash and a light drybrush of pale tan to pick out the highlights.

Saturday 11 January 2014

Emhar Mark IV

The 20mm French WW1 tanks seem to have garnered some interest, so although we've had some brief glimpses of these before, here are some British ones, Emhar Mark IVs. These really are fantastic models, slightly fiddly to assemble some bits (the unditching beam rails mainly) but they come with options for both male & female versions as well as more markings than you can shake a stick at including the inevitable Beutepanzer markings.

Three of them lined up, two females and one male.

Not a sight the Germans want to see.

Male version, finished with enclosed barrel MGs.

Female, with exposed barrel MGs.

Masses of rivets, panel lines and sharp edges  to pick up washes and drybrushing.

These have a really solid look to them. Unlike their Airfix pals, these have solid plastic tracks.
I finished these in dark green even though they should be 'khaki', which as we now know was actually brown. Brown heavy tanks just look wrong to my mind, too many years of Airfix box art I suspect. The profusion of rivets make putting the decals on a bit tricky, but as long as you are careful to eliminate air bubbles, it is OK. These were finished with an inkwash and layers of drybrushing, although I went fairly easy on the mud.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

BF Grille

15mm toys again, this time the Battlefront Grille. Yet another SP gun on a Pz 38(t) chassis and also quite a useful bit of kit for supporting panzergrenadier battalions as late war PG regiments typically had a battery of these (of their equivalents) replacing the towed infantry gun battery. The model was the usual BF mix of resin chassis and metal accessories. There weren't many parts and it went together quite easily. The biggest problem I had was fitting the crew figures in, which was a  bit odd considering that there are only two of them and the fighting compartment is huge. I ended up with one of them looking over the side when he should probably have been crouched over the gun, but perhaps I didn't line something up properly.

An open topped armoured box on tracks with a huge great howitzer in it. What more could you want?

The BF vertical scale distortion is less evident in this model.

It has quite a business like side profile. The relative roughness of the track castings compared to e.g. PSCs plastic offerings is fairly evident here.

As usual BF supplied crew figures, very useful with such a huge fighting compartment.
This particular model has seen a fair amount of tabletop action in various Normandy actions in particular (at one point SS Hohenstaufen deployed a converged company of 12 of these things to support its remaining Grenadiers). It just finished in basic dunkelgelb and a bit of green/brown splinter, then inkwashed and drybrushed. The standing figure has Italian pattern camo and the seated gunner probably has the wrong colour cap, but perhaps he blagged it from one of his mates in a panzer regiment. Or something.

Saturday 4 January 2014

Treading in Murats steps

This was a CnC Napoleonics game put on by Tim  covering the battle of Wertingen in 1805, at the outset of the Ulm campaign. It has already been covered on Tims blog here and was the first outing of Austrians in the game system. John and I landed the French, and from where we were sitting the main feature of the Austrian army was that there were an awful lot of them and they seemed to have many five block infantry regiments.

Just to add to the fun, it turned out we were commanding Murats cavalry Corps against a mass of infantry, and the subordinate commanders included such luminaries as Lannes and Oudinot. Not much to live up to there then! Luckly Oudinot had remembered to bring a few regiments of Chasseurs and Grenadiers with him.

The French left. Lannes's light cavalry division faces off two entire Austrian infantry divisions.

The French right. Oudinots infantry and two heavy cavalry brigades versus yet more Austrian infantry. Those chaps lurking in the distance are Austrian grenadiers and Cuirassiers.

Two more brigades of heavy cavalry in the centre.

Opening moves, French heavy cavalry charge the Austrians, forcing them into squares, but losing a base in the process.

The Austrians menace the French left.

Lannes drives off the impudent Austrian light cavalry.

Artillery fire and Oudinots grenadiers whittle down the Austrian squares.

Lannes renewed battle with the Austrian cavalry does not go well. Ideally the dice would show four cavalry hits, not four infantry...

The squares finally succumb to the Grenadiers, but the Austrian Grenadiers move up.

Oops! One French Grenadier regiment is destroyed and the other pinned in square by the Austrian cuirassiers. A subsequent counterattack by the French cavalry supported by horse artillery drove the cuirassiers off again.

The Austrian infantry push Lannes back.

He opts to charge the Austrian artillery, but the bold stroke fails. Fortunately the Austrian riposte just forces him back. Again, looking for gun hits here, not infantry and cavalry!

Lannes is finally able to save the day by wiping out his opposite numbers.
Plan B was for the other brigade to take out the enemy general (1:6 chance), but fortunately that wasn't required.
So, a hard fought struggle. The French had to make good use of combined arms to overcome the inherent disadvantage of cavalry against infantry squares, but eventually managed to pull off a victory so I don't think we did too great a disservice to Lannes, Oudinot or Murat!