Friday, 27 September 2019

Battle Ravens

Tim has already commented on this game on his blog, but I missed the first outing so he kindly brought it along to try again. I have a certain interest in Dark Ages warfare (mainly prompted by 'Vikings' and 'The Last Kingdom' and I've always been intrigued about how you make a game out of a period with only one tactic..."Shieldwall!"

I have never taken the plunge into painting any Vikings as after painting far too  many Ancient Gauls, I swore I'd never paint irregular warband ever again, especially if they were riding horses. Anyway, Battle Ravens solves this problem by providing lovely cardboard stand up soldiers for each side. 

Here is what you get, a board rammed with hairy Vikings and Anglo-Saxons. Not much scope for tactical manouvre here. So not hugely different to the Western Front in 1916 then. The main troop types are well armed and trained warriors, and a some rather less well armed farmers hastily thrust into the line. They did have specific game names, but I can't remember them. 

These are the guys who stand and the back shooting arrows over the Shieldwall. Thralls? Anyway, they are quite handy as they let you re-roll some attack dice, but they are an expendable resource so use them wisely. 

Along with the chaps, you get a pile of tactics cards and a pile of Battle Raven counters. The counters are what make the game work, as they essentially function as command points. You allocate them to sectors to make attacks, move units etc. More points is more attacks (or more defences). 

One of the tactics cards. These are also self explanatory, but like the thralls are an expendable resource ie you only get to play them once.

What makes things interesting is that each player takes it in turns to allocate their command points to each sector. Once you've allocated to a sector, that is it, no going back. So if you telegraph your intentions with a huge stack, expect the opponent to counter it. A certain degree of poker player bluff is required at this point.

Once the counters are all allocated, there is lots of dice rolling. Attacking dice generate successes, and the enemy cany try to counter some (by throwing dice). Unsaved hits then translate into losses, the farmer types being worth 1 and the warriors 2. Individual stands can also shuffle around, and you win a sector by destroying all the opposing enemy, so shuffling into weak sectors is a good idea.

In the picture above the brave Anglo Saxons have blown a hole in the Viking shieldwall.

And they've managed to create another hole. Isn't this a great set of rules? (You've probably guessed I wasn't playing the Vikings) 

A certain degree of Viking shuffling plugs some of the holes, but not enough to stop my brave boys surging forwards. At which point they take no further part in the proceedings, being busy drinking ale from the skulls of their enemies etc.

The breakthrough in the centre allows me to pile all my raven counters against what is left of the Viking left wing. The Vikings find it hard to counter as losses reduce the number of raven counters.

And with Anglo-Saxon dice rolling like that....

The remaining Vikings are despatched.

And although they chop my left wing up a bit, it isn't enough to stop their line breaking.

So, that was a lot of fun and an interesting approach to attritional warfare. It reminded me to a degree of the Somme card game 'XV Corps' where you play various cards to mount divisional attacks along a fairly static front. Recommended to anyone with an interest in Dark Ages warfare, and more generally, anyone interested in high intensity combat on narrow fronts. The mechanisms would migrate across quite nicely to Verdun, Third Ypres, Kursk, Stalingrad or the Battle for Normandy.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Bits and pieces

If regular readers are concerned that all I'm buying are various types of super heavy German tank destroyers, then fear not, I've also bought some crap. The Peter Pig July special offer was very generous, so I shelled out on several packs of bits and pieces.

First up were a couple of Nebelwerfers. I've been meaning to get some for ages and Peter Pig guns always go together so easily.

These were no exception, with only four pieces and nice big locating holes so hardly any blu tak was needed to hold them together.

The crew are old figures from the spares box, the standing gunner being an old PP DAK figure from the mid 1990s. It is interesting how much smaller and cruder they are than modern offerings. The kneeling gunner is an old SS figure from around 2000, but I just slapped field grey all over his smock. You wouldn't stand quite so close to the werfer if you were going to actually fire it, but maybe they are busy reloading. Artillery pieces without crew just look a bit odd.

I also bought some more bicycles to make up some stands of Fusiliers and recce troops. It is a shame PP don't make actual German cyclists, but hey ho.

I bodged up a few PSC early war Germans into poses where at least one hand was on the handlebars. Converting them into riding figures was beyond may patience (I've converted a few 20mm riders but couldn't be bothered on this occasion).

I also got a pack of stretchers. I'm really not sure why but I guess they'll come in useful. I bodged up a few medic stands using various kneeling figures.

Here a kneeling Soviet gunner tends his wounded pal. From a distance he might be mistaken for a US soldier. I was actually looking for one of the PSC female adjudent figures to use as a medic as they have a handy bag, but I seem to have used them all as AA gunners.

And I've got the inevitable German medic with his helmet painted white.

I got a few other bits as well, including some extra German cavalry and some more Cossacks. A vital ingredient of modern mechanised warfare is a load of blokes on horses. I may also have accidentally bought another PP Tiger 1, but I'm sure you've all seen enough German heavy metal recently.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Bourbons and Garibaldis

Sadly, not a review of biscuits, but a trip to the stuggle for Italian Independance. After Garibaldi took Sicily in 1860, he marched north and met a large Bourbon force after crossing the Volturno. This is a vaguely bodged up scenario based on the engagement, Garibaldis enthusiastic Red Shirts against the reluctant conscripts defending the Neapolitan Ancien Regime.

Maps are a bit hard to come by for this engagement, so I just had some woods and valley snaking between rugged hills following the rail line north from Naples. Presumably Monte Cassino was somewhere nearby, but that was stretching my cut up carpet tiles a bit.

We played this using my grid based and simplified version of Neil Thomas's nineteenth century rules. John took Garibaldi, Tim C and Jerry the reactionaries.

The rugged valleys of central Italy. Rome is off to the right, Naples to the left. The Neapolitan advanced guard and first division have pressed forwards along the railway.

Three infantry brigades, artillery and a cavalry brigade. Two battalions of skirmishers have already occupied the woods in the distance. These are all my Irregular 6mm figures. The Bourbons look suspiciously like Austrians close up. Well, they are wearing white coats, that will have to do.

Garibaldis 1st Division, two brigades of Red Shirts and some Bersaglieri. Garibaldi is on his horse in the distance.

Garibaldi leads a charge to clear the woods, driving the Bourbon skirmishers back.

The skirmishers fail to disengage quickly enough and are overrun, however the rest of the Bourbon army is now moving into line.

More infantry and artillery pull into line. The poorly trained Garibaldini weren't allowed to form line, but they were allowed to charge any and everything.

The Garibaldini have cleared the woods and their Bersaglieri are harrassing the Bourbon lines. The reactionaries position is starting to look quite strong though...

More Bourbons move into line. The central regiment is shaken by fire. 

A lusty charge and the Bourbon centre largely collapses! Once the Garibaldini get the upper hand, the fragile Bourbon units melt away. The problem is closing against massed percussion muskets.

Sadly, the Red Shirts victory is short lived as the Bourbon cavalry put in a flank attack.

This melee really isn't going the Bourbons way.


Another regiment flees.

Invigorated by this success, Garibaldi leads his mean up the slopes. And dies in a hail of musket balls! 

The add insult to injury, the Bourbon cavalry survive withering fire into their flank, and overrun another Red Shirt regiment.

We called it a day there as the Garibaldinis had run out of steam and the shaken Bourbons breathed a sigh of relief. Historically, Garibaldis headlong advance was stopped at the Volturno and he sued for peace, leaving Sicily independant. IRL he didn't die in the attempt though, so that is history changed once more.

I was please with how the game went, the modifications seem to work well and the game rattled along at a fair pace. I am tempted to use hexes in future as the squares are both a little small for deployed units, and produced some slightly amibguous results at times, but overall it was very satisfactory.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Zvezda Jagdpanthers

My love affair with Zvezda continues as I thought it would be good to add to my ever increasing collection of German tank destroyers with some Jagdpanthers. It was prompted partly by my recently
acquired Jagpanzer IV/70(V), as Jagdpanthers were used in a similar role - to equip panzerjaeger battalions, but also as ersatz tanks as supplies of Panthers ran low. Panzer Lehr in particular had a large complement of Jagdpanthers in the Reichswald, as did 12th SS Panzer in the Bulge (widely misreported as Tigers, naturally).

For some odd reason some of my favourite Churchill units (9th RTR and 107th RAC) had a series of unfortunate encounters with Jagdpanthers in their journey across Northwest Europe, so they also give me a chance to recreate Thomas Tomneys feat of knocking one out at 1000m range near the town of Nispen in Holland. He won the MM for that, and I'm not surprised.

I thought it best not to be greedy and just bought two. Here they are advancing across the dining table.

These are lovely models, even nicer than the Ferdinands, and they look very business like from this angle. They are a bit simpler to assemble than Panthers as they have fewer, larger pieces, but there are still separate parts for every major bit of armour plate on the upper hull. In the end they went together very cleanly though. 

The only slightly fiddly bit was fitting the plate on the rear of the fighting compartment as it slots in behind the engine deck, but if you put both bits on together, it works fine. From this angle there is lots of nice detail and hard edges to pick up a drybrush.

They look really sleek and deadly from the side. I did them both in just plain green and dunkelgelb camo, inspired by the example in the Imperial War Museum. As usual I did the running gear and tracks in mud, gave the whole thing an inkwash and finished it off with a light drybrush.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Amphipolis 422BC

As we hadn't had an Ancients outing for a while, Tim revisited the Peleponnesian Wars once more.

This time the Spartan General Brasidas had been ravaging bits of Greece in a somewhat out of control manner and managed to annoy the Athenians so much they sent an Army under Cleon to stop him. Brasidas sat in Amphipolis behind the city wall and after a while Cleon decided to head for home, at which point the Spartans poured out of the city and attacked them in the flank.

John and Tim C took the Athenians while Diego and I took the Spartans.

View from behind the mighty (resin) walls of Amphipolis.

Spartan left.  A whole bunch of Spartan hoplites, plus some auxiliaries and medium cavalry.

And the Spartan right, yet more Spartans, supported by auxiliaris and light cavalry. This lot led by Brasidas himself. The Spartans in red on the right of the line are Tims very first 25mm metal wargames figures, so veterans in every sense of the word.

The Athenian right, more hoplites. Cleon is with the medium cavalry unit.

The  Spartans had a decent mix of command cards. We had an option to engage in skirmishing with our light troops, but given that the Athenians were trying to escape, we opted for an immediate attack on our left.

First blood to us, albeit not without losses.

Over on the right, the Athenians tried to slip off the table (the red blobs are exit hexes), so Brasidas led his wing forward, supported by the cavalry.

It was all very messy and horrible, but after a few turns pushing and shoving, to everyones amazement, the Spartans managed to destroy the required six units for victory. Despite monumental losses on individual units (see above) the Spartans only lost one.

Well, that was probably the fastest CnC Ancients game we've ever played. Not quite sure what happened there, but the Spartans managed to get stuck in very quickly while the Athenians didn't seem sure whether to fight or try to withdraw.  Oh well, home early at any rate.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Pegasus Bridge, June 5th 2019

John put on his long planned Pegasus Bridge game on the 75th anniversary exactly, 5th June 2019 (although we didn't stay up until midnight for the correct jump off time!) . It was my first trip to the new club venue and I was pleasantly surprised by the spacious venue.

John had put loads of effort into the briefings, issuing copies of both the original orders given to Major Howard in March 1944, and then the revised intelligence briefings issed in May 1944. They were somewhat alarming, I hadn't realised there were quite so many tanks from 21st Panzer so close in nearby Benouville!

The table was laid out as the immediate area around Pegasus Bridge at a scale of 6" to 100 yards, with the Orne (and the bridge at Ranville) forming the far edge.

John had scratchbuilt some terrain especially for the game, including Pegasus Bridge itself. The external layout of the German defences was well known from air photography. In this case three trench systems, a concrete pillbox housing the demolition control gear and a static 50mm gun.

He'd also built this model of the nearby chateau (which will feature later in the engagement).

We'd all made an effort to source suitable hats, Tim had his Pay Corps beret.

Jerry was in a complete maroon outfit and Para beret.

While I had my trusty South Staffs Air Landing beret.

John did the initial briefing. We had 25 minutes to plan both the attack to take both bridges, and then to hold them until relieved. This included the loading plan, task allocation and building our own gliders. The latter also involved a few test flights into the target LZs (marked by pipe cleaners).

One we were sorted, off we went. No 1 platoon with Major Howard went in first, and managed to land smack up against the German wire as intended.

Tim also managed a decent landing, albeit a bit too close to the trees. 

Eventually we all got down, 4 Platoon vanished somewhere in the direction of the Dives and wasn't seen until the next day, and my Six Platoon narrowly avoided crashing into the Orne.

1 Platoon was ideally placed to storm the bridge. This photo also gives a really good view of Johns scratchbuilt 50mm beach gun.

We all piled out of our planes. To cope with the overloading we'd left the 2" mortars and all non-essential kit behind. To allow for possible losses in the landing, we'd also split the sapper platoon between all the gliders, so every platoon had a few people who knew something about explosives. The also had some folding assault boats. 

Richards No 3 Platoon included the MO.

My platoon was tasked with taking the bridge at Ranville, so we set off down the road and put up an all round defence at the river bank having driven off the sentries and cleared it of explosives. Mission accomplished!

Back at Pegasus, Jerry, Tim and Richard stormed the defences. The East bank was cleared easily, but a sentry firing a flare pistol alerted the defenders on the west bank.

Many of the defenders sloped off at this point (Ostruppen), but their German NCOs were made of sterner stuff and manned a pair of MG42s.

Tims platoon stormed the AT gun and found it to be undamaged.

Jerry (and Major Howard) made short work of the MG42s.

My chaps meanwhile intercepted a German staff car contained Major Schmidt, the garrison commander. He was very put out, and I sent a detachment to escort him to Company HQ for interrogation.

There was a certain degree of excitement when a pair of Pz IVs cautiously approached the bridge. One of our two working PIATs managed to knock one out, a good job as we'd left the Gammon Bombs behind at the last minute. The other withdrew. We captured one of the crew and it turned out they were from a local repair workshop and manned by repair crews. 

Tim C had meanwhile been patrolling to the south and came across some Italian prisoners erecting anti-glider obstacles. The words horse and bolted come to mind. The prisoners were sent away.

The destruction of the tank seemed to have put the Germans off a bit, although annoying sniper fire was coming from the south. We managed to get the AT gun working and started shelling suspicious looking spots. 

The Chateau came in for a good deal of fire, as did the water tower nearby. It didn't stop the snipers though.

Various Germans naval efforts appeared, including this gun boat (scratch built specially for the game). 

We managed to disable it with a PIAT and captured the crew. It was followed up by an attack by frogmen, who we drove off with rifle fire.

Tim Cs platoon pushed across the river to link up with Churchills pushing down from the north, as well as Lovats Commandos who marched to join us from the east.

The final German effort was a boatload of infantry from the south, who were driven off with the AT gun. The Germans certainly put together a rapid response to our attack. irl the entire 22nd Panzer Regiment was assembled to obliterate 6th Airborne, but was then hastily diverted west of the Orne to attack Sword beach instead. So, good news for us.

At game end we were firmly in control of the bridges and losses had been pretty light considering the amount of fighting. 

A view of the other side of Johns chateau.

That was a great game and a fitting tribute to the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry. Fairly light on rules, fairly heavy on umpire interaction so it really rattled along. Making us build our own gliders was a brilliant touch and the 'test flights' were suitably hilarious.