Friday, December 22, 2017

Not another project?

Sometimes you feel like a plaything of the gods.  The muse of wargaming seems to be following me around and whispering stuff in my ear at the moment.

Back in 2010, with the considerable help of SOTCW colleagues, I finally managed to get to the table the long-cherished idea of a big game of Rapid Fire based on the US Rangers’ and RM Commandos’ landings on the left flank of the September 1943 Salerno landings.

I needed some extra kit to complete the Ranger battalion I was contributing and so I went out and purchased the Revell US infantry.  I knew they would give me the 50cal HMG and the mortar I needed to add to my Italeri yanks.  What I’d not checked was that the Revell chaps, lovely though they are, are in distinctly wintery garb.  As a result they mostly stayed unused.

Cut to a few years later and I’m in a second-hand bookshop.  I find a copy of Lise M Pommois’ book on the fighting in Alsace over the winter of 1944/45. It’s full of detail and, while I have no plans to wargame Operation Nordwind, it’s from a small French publishing house and I’m unlikely to ever see another copy on sale.  I grab it.

Later still, a family holiday is mooted.  After surprisingly little discussion we settle on a week in the Northern Vosges region of Alsace.  It’s a lovely place and I especially enjoy our visits to the Maginot line at Schoenenbourg and to the magnificent 18th century Citadel of Bitche.

All goes quiet until a couple of weeks ago. Tom Davis has borrowed and now returns my copy of this Osprey book:


I looked anew at the cover and thought, “I could use those old Revell figures and do a winter 44/45 platoon for Chain of Command!”

Looking at the platoon organisations for the Americans in the rules, though, I’m short of about a dozen riflemen so I go back to the model shop that provides for my plastic soldier needs.  They haven’t got the Revell winter Americans but they do have a similar pack from Italeri.  I take them home.

The Italeri chaps prove a very good match for the Revells in terms of stature and sculpting style so I’m happy.  But what’s this?  Three of the figures are armed with the rather rare M1919A6 .30cal light machinegun with bipod.  Who were they issued to?

Well it turns out there are two US army divisions that get the M1919A6.  One of them sees action in Brittany in summer ’44.  The other is the 100th Infantry Division.

The 100th Infantry Division?  What can I find out about them?  Well, they saw action in the Vosges during the winter of 1944/45, they stood up to German attacks during Operation  Nordwind and they are now known as the Sons of Bitche because of their fierce fighting for that town in early 1945.

I think my destiny is clear don’t you?   

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Christmas Games part 1 - X-Wing

I think we're close enough to count this as a Christmas game for 2017 don't you?

Gus and Arthur came over on Saturday to join Charlie and me in a game of X-Wing.  I planned a scenario to take advantage of the models I own.  The Empire was launching a strike on a rebel base.  To complete the mission they had to get a strike package off the far end of our nearly six foot long table.

The strike package consisted of two TIE Bombers with a Lambda class shuttle as electronic warfare support.  Escort for the bombers was in the form of four TIE fighters from the Black Squadron under the command of Gus.  I ran the bombers as it was easier than explaining the bombing rules to someone else at the start.

I kept the TIE Fighters pretty vanilla so Gus could concentrate on flying them in what was only his second game.  The TIE Bombers were loaded down with exciting ordnance including concussion and fusion bombs, which I was keen to try for the first time.

Of course the strike mission had to get through an asteroid field to get to the mission location.  The Rebel forces could come on from any of the other three edges of the table.  Charlie picked three Z-95 Headhunters while Arthur had Luke Skywalker and his rookie wing-man.  Again, for ease of play I avoided too much in the way of enhancements to these ships, though some of the pilots had spiffy abilities.

The Rebel leaders chose to both come on from the same edge...

The Rebels seemed to be a bit hypnotised by the bulk of the Lambda class and concentrated their attacks on it. This left the faster TIE Bombers free to make a dash for the bombing line.

Luke's wing-man seemed not to have paid too much attention to the "wing-man" part of his brief and proceeded to get well stuck in going after the Lambda class.  This left Luke to deal with two TIE Fighters.

In the picture above the TIE Bombers are at the half way mark and there's no-one handily placed to stop them so I decided that Han Solo and Chewbacca should intervene.  The Millennium Falcon entered from the edge nearest the Empire's objective.

Just as the shuttle had attracted fire from the Rebels, so the Millennium Falcon was a bullet magnet (plasma magnet?) for the Empire forces.  Gus developed a tactic of throwing TIE Fighters into the path of the Falcon to keep it from firing while I shot at it with missiles and dropped bombs in its path!

In the pic below the Falcon has already met an explosive end!  Also Rookie Pilot (who seemed to be something of a bomb magnet) has joined Han and Chewie in being spread thinly across the Galaxy Far, Far Away.  Quite frankly I detected but a minor disturbance in the Force.

As you may notice, there are two Z-95s and an X-Wing (Luke) on the shuttle's tail.  Just moments after this was taken the shuttle also broke up in a flaming ball of expensive special effects.

However, next move the Bombers were off the table to give the Empire a marginal victory.

On the whole, I'm not entirely unhappy with the scenario balance.  I wasn't sure how many players I was going to get so I broke the available models into roughly similarly pointed packages.  We ended up using five out of the eight.

I have to admit that the Bombers did get rather more points as they were supposed to be the number one target for the Rebel side.  If the Rebels had started from both sides of the table they would have had more chance of slowing down the TIE Bombers.

An enjoyable game and we finished in time to get in a couple of games of Tsuro afterwards.  My thanks to the players; we must do this again some time!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Another Mini-Kursk

On Friday evening I took a couple of boxes of tanks and some terrain down to the Christmas Fair of the local primary school and gave my simplified tank game another run for its money.

This time I planned a simple campaign with up to four stages.  In the first game the Germans had to cross the remains of the Soviet minefield and get off the far end of the table.  If they did so the Soviets wouldn't have time to blow the bridge in the second game.

Here's the first table:

In the event the Germsn managed to get a few tanks through the minefield belt but didn't penetrate to the edge the table. 

As a result the following game saw the bridge destroyed.  This was a more exciting affair.  There were no fewer than three German tanks within a move of the far table edge when the last card came up....

... unfortunately for the Germans the last card to come up was a red so they didn't quite make it.

And that was it.  Sadly I didn't have time to take any more pictures.

The kids had a good time and we raised over £20 for the school which can't be bad.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Flashpoint Potsdamer Platz

Chris Barnes came over on Wednesday evening and I introduced him to Arc of Fire to give him a chance to use his new Cold War-period British platoon.  Chris is building Berlin Brigade models so a Berlin-based scenario was called for.

I designed an introductory scenario in which a KGB operation to snatch back an important defector from under the noses of British intelligence has gone wrong.  At the start of the game the KGB snatch squad is heading for the Wall (the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart if you wish) at Potsdamer Platz where a VDV Spetsnaz team waits to activate the emergency extraction plan.

The area of the action- the Wall at the top with viewing platform and
refreshment kiosk. The wooded area front and left is the edge of the
Tiergarten. The green VW Beetle at the junction carries the KGB team.

A camera crew was filming interviews at the Wall

Fortunately for the British a platoon from 1st Bn Royal Hampshire Regiment (The Tigers) is patrolling nearby in the Tiergarten.  Even more fortunately, I forgot the scenario set-up I myself had written and allowed Chris to deploy his men well forward through the wooded area instead of starting them from the edge of the board.

This meant that Chris was able to open fire almost immediately on the fleeing KGB team who had the drugged defector in the back of their Volkswagen.

This fire proved to ill-advised in the extreme. Three rounds from the fusillade of shots found their mark. All three of them hit the defector killing him instantly.  In that first moment Chris had technically lost the game!  However, he could at least prevent the KGB agents from escaping.

The British in NATO T-formation on the edge of the Tiergarten.
As the KGB agents got out of the immobilised car, their would-be rescuers arrived by truck on the eastern side of the Wall.  This was a first chance to use the enormous 8-wheeled truck I got from The Works.

First VDV squad debusses
A shaped charge was rapidly placed and exploded...

By this point the KGB agents had taken cover behind the VW but the incoming fire from two British sections and the platoon HQ's 51mm mortar was too much.

The female agent was killed but her male colleague made a successful dash into the frightened crowds milling about around the viewing platform.

At this point it became apparent that my initial error in the British set-up meant that the game wasn't going anywhere.  With an entire platoon's SLRs aimed at the breach in the Wall any Soviet attempt to move through would be suicidal.  We agreed to wrap it up there.

It was nice to get some new toys on the table and I was reminded how much I enjoy Arc of Fire.  With over thirty games played or umpired it's well clear in second place (behind HOTT) in the list of my most-played games.  

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Bacaudae Insipiration

My Bacaudae project is unusual that the original inspiration was a single picture; this one:

It's by Angus McBride from Tim Newark's book Medieval Warlords.

I looked up "bacaudae" and found to my great surprise that much of what is now Brittany was, for several decades in the fifth century, effectively independent of the Roman Empire.  It's not clear whether the bacaudae were proletarian revolutionaries or petit bourgeois tenants of Roman absentee landlords trying to retain the existing social order in a chaotic world but either way I could envisage an interesting setting for skirmish wargames.

This all sat in abeyance for many years until serendipity decided I was to be given a kick up the pants.  Within a couple of months I'd discovered Lion Rampant and found myself at Vapnartak where the bring-and-buy included some cheap Arthurians and a trader was selling another inspiring Newark and McBride book.  The Barbarians - Warriors and Wars of the Dark Ages gave me two more pictures:

Well after this one and the previous picture I knew I'd need a Roman villa to be a centrepiece of any Bacaudae-oriented game...

... and the fact that the central Roman government was handing out (already settled and civilised) land to any barbarian who would fight for them suggested any number of interesting plots.

And so one of this year's Christmas games will feature a civitas (basically a villa and associated farming settlement) in eastern Armorica beset by multiple claimants to ownership, wandering mercenaries and a fair amount of religious disputation.

Pics to follow roundabout New Years Eve!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Sunday Morning Photo Session

I took advantage of a spare few minutes and a clear kitchen table this morning to photograph a few models I've recently finished.

First up, I've knocked up a bit of the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart (Berlin Wall to you mate) for a game that's planned for Tuesday.

It's a very simple construction - strips of 50mm high foamcore hot-glued to bases made from an old wooden Venetian blind.  If I was building the wall for a public display game I'd have made more effort to capture the curved top that appeared on most sections of the Wall.  As it is I don't suppose it'll be used more than once or twice.

I painted the wall sections with cheap grey artist's acrylic and suggested the sectional construction of the Wall by applying vertical strokes with a slightly paler shades with a large, chisel shaped brush.

My talented daughter Emilia is doing graffiti art as part of her GCSE course so she stepped in with the more artistic details.

In the pic above, one of the panels has been breached by a shaped charge. More on this in a future post!

Finished, for now, is my Andreivian gun emplacement.

Having done a bit of on-line searching, I found that the metal gun's a Britains anti-aircraft gun.  They stopped making them in about the year I was born so, like me, this one's an antique.  I've decided not to paint it.  I may build an alternative (smaller) gun to go here before next April's Crisis Point.

Moving on from 20mm to 28mm, I've made progress on some Arthurians for one of the Christmas games.

From left to right: Foundry, Foundry, Foundry, Gripping Beast, and Essex.
And finally, there's the Roman watchtower. We've seen it here previously but now I've painted and dry-brushed the woodwork.

Gripping Beast Arthurian hearth guard for scale.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The GBP Dark Age Cavalry are here!

I returned from a hospital appointment this morning to find that Mick the Postie had left a box from Gripping Beast.  So here are my first impressions of the plastic Dark Age Cavalry from Gripping Beast.

The box contains four identical sprues, each with parts to make three riders and horses. This means that, with the riders consisting of a main piece (torso, legs, upper arms and lower left arm) to which we add a choice of lower right arms and heads, the choice of rider poses will be somewhat limited.  Slightly disappointing, that.

The riders wear over-tunics with short baggy sleeves beneath which is a tight-sleeved undergarment. This gives them a vaguely Norman look although a quick look through Barker's Armies and Enemies of Ancient Rome and Heath's Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066 reveals no illustrations that match this look.

We get a choice of four right arms with spears and two with swords.  Hands holding axes can be substituted and one of more spearheads could be replaced with a Draco head.  I replaced the spears of my Late Roman Infantry with wire ones.  It was a bit of a faff; I may stick with the moulded-on plastic ones this time.

There are enough shields to give the resulting unit all oval or all round shields or of course you could mix them up.  A quick check shows that the oval shields are identical to those in the Late Roman Infantry set.

Eight heads per sprue are nice and characterful, though I note that Dan Mersey has questioned one of the helmet designs.  Personally I think I'll mix in some heads from the Roman set as I plan to use these guys for the Arthurian period.

Oh and finally, the box contains twelve 50mm square bases.  I'll not be using them. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

New plastic goodness from Gripping Beast

I've preordered!

I shall be combining them with shields and heads left over from the Late Roman Infantry set to produce Arthurian era cavalry.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

On the workbench - November

Almost finished on the workbench at present is my Warbases 28mm watchtower.  This is the second MDF building I've put together and it's proving an enjoyable little project.

I started off building the model straight out of the packet; straightforwardly done whilst I was watching a Rugby League World Cup match on the telly.  Then, when the glue had dried, I proceeded to thatch the roof with flattened worms of Milliput, scored with a craft knife.

As you can see, I've also added some filler to the walls to add a bit of texture.

The first coats of paint are now on and there's just a bit more dry brushing to do on the woodwork.

I'm now debating whether to put it on a base, perhaps on something of a mound.

In production for Andreivia (and perhaps for WW2) is this strong-point.  It's the old Airfix gun emplacement but it's lacking the original gun.  I'm considering using the old spring-loaded Britains gun in its place.  The problems with doing this are twofold. Firstly the gun's a bit big and secondly, it's probably at least fifty years old; should I be repainting what some might consider an antique?

Moving on to yet another period, for Sharp Practice I'm working on a couple of additional groups for the war in the Peninsula.  First up these HaT Royal Marines, who just need their bases completing...

... and then some more HaT Spanish Guerrillas (who may double as United Irishmen for the 1798)....

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Fiasco Purchases

Virtually the whole of my Fiasco spend went in the first half hour and at the Warbases stand.

I've invested in a number items for the Late Roman / Dark Ages game I plan to run at Christmas.  This raeda will doubtless by carrying someone of considerable importance...

I could have go some generic Dark Ages crew for this from another stand but in the end I didn't think the quality of the figures rated a fiver of my money.  I shall have to consider further when it comes to crew.

I've already made up and painted this vallus - a kind of Roman combine harvester.  In use it would have a horse harnessed in the frame to push it through growing wheat.  In my case it'll probably just be set-dressing.

The watchtower was officially in the Saxon range but it'll do nicely in my fifth century Gaullish setting.  More on this soon as construction has already begun.

And finally from the Warbases purchase, the main item was a Roman villa.  I've deliberately gone for a small one without a completely enclosed courtyard as I didn't want it turning into a fortress in the context of game.

And finally finally I picked up a couple of 28mm figures from a 50p bits box.  The chap on the left looks like an early Frank with the scramasax at his belt.  His mate is probably earlier, wearing as he does a short tunic over bare legs.  He carries a staff tipped with two streamers.  I'd love to know what he's meant to be (and who both of them are by) but he'll probably serve as a Gaullish civilian in my game.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A trip to Fiasco

Jamie and I had our usual trip to Fiasco on Sunday (me from Sheffield, he from York).  This time I took along Tom which meant we got to talk gaming on the way up as well as while we were there.

I was planning a shopping trip but I was also under instructions to take some photos for Chris, who couldn't go.  Unfortunately I was so busy chatting to people that I didn't get that many pics taken.

This Seven Years War battle (Zorndorf) was nice:

Interesting way of doing unit status markers...

And I liked the windmill.

An interesting idea was this modern naval game in which the surface ships were on stands and the submarines manoeuvred beneath them.

There was a 28mm game that I didn't pay too much attention to at the time because I thought it was A Very British Civil War (which doesn't really do it for me) but looking at the pics now I see it seems to be Operation Sealion, which is far more my cup of tea-with-condensed-milk.

Finally, as far as my photos go, there was a large Napoleonic battle, billed as Gorodetschna.  Russians, Austrians and French all featured.