Monday, July 17, 2017

On the Workbench: Polybian Romans

I've decided to have a go at running a game of 28mm To The Strongest at Christmas.  I'm planning Carthaginians vs Romans.

My Roman legion is going to be made out of Victrix plastics.  I'd like to get some Agema plastics and Aventine metals too but the Victrix guys are quite big so I won't be mixing them in the same units.

So far I have these guys at various stages of incompletion...

I started off planning on using eight guys in mail with pila as Hastati but as time's gone on I've given it further consideration.

The Victrix box contains 60 figures of which 18 are unarmoured velites.  I only need twelve for my planned three four-figure units so I'm going to use some of the velites, with legionary shields, helmets and pila, as poorer hastati.  I think I'll also give the hastati a larger proportion of men wielding gladii.  My thinking is the the hastati are the first into action so should have thrown their pila earlier than the principes.  

Principes will be distinguished by all having pila (apart from officer and standard bearer) and full armour whilst the single unit of triari will get long spears and the fancier helmets.  I also want to see if I can get a general element out of this box to represent the legate in charge of the legion.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Joy of Six 2017

I had a most enjoyable day today.  I nearly said, "A most enjoyable day's gaming" but to be honest, we spent so much time chatting to each other and to visitors that I don't think the Cold War Commanders got through more than about five game turns all day!

The scenario was entitled LANDJUT 1989 and was a based on the fighting so far in our campaign covering a Warsaw Pact invasion of Denmark.

Soviet and Polish forces were attempting to take the Kiel Canal.  

Phil Gray and I commanded a US airborne brigade and managed to spend the whole game arriving by helicopter and then moving to occupy the large forest in the photo above.

As always the terrain, mostly provided by the Grimsby club and by Richard Phillips, looked great!

We already have a plan for next year's game, of which more anon.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

(Very) Ancient Gauls

At last, after many weeks of painting checks and plaid, the 25mm Gauls are finished!

They are a mixture of 1980s figures; Lamming I bought at the time, and Lamming and Hinchliffes I've bought in recent years from eBay.

I didn't want the same poses duplicated over and over so I've done some head and arm transplants and used shields from a variety of sources.

I've now got the hang of painting "arm's length style" for 25mm and 28mm figures.  That's to say they should look OK from two feet away.  If you want to examine them through a hand lens and make disappointed noises you can sod right off.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Last Week's Purchases

Gauntlet isn't much of a shopping trip; it's more of a gaming event but I did manage to come home from the weekend with some new toys.  The bring and buy got me these two bags:

On the right is a collection of bits of white metal junk that was free to a good home.  I've already identified a severed head that will probably find a use as a battle trophy for my Gauls.

The other bag was a fiver from Paul at the Deeside club and contained these Arthurian /Late Roman types.  Foundry I think and Ideal for my Bacaudae project.

Finally, these chaps came courtesy of a diversion to the War Game Store in Brimstage on the way home. My diversion into the second century BCE in 28mm scale continues.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Operation Archery

On Saturday morning I rose early and headed across the Pennines to North Wales and the Deeside Defenders' Gauntlet show.  A group of mostly SOTCW members were putting on a recreation of the Christmas 1941 commando raid on the Norwegian island of Vaagso using Chain of Command rules.

Will McNally had done a brilliant job on the terrain; an expansion on the work he'd done for last year's Korsun Pocket game.

We had two tables, one representing the island of Maaloy (the -oy bit means island so I guess "Island of Maaloy" is a bit like saying "island of Isle of Man") with its German gun battery:

... and the other representing the main island and Maaloy town (erroneously referred to as Vaagso town in contemporary British accounts).

On the Saturday I played the commando troop landing on Maaloy to destroy the gun battery.  Gary played the opposing Germans.

We couldn't find the organisation of a 1941 Commando Troop so we used standard British infantry platoons instead.  To help make them superior to the Germans we gave the British some smoke and a pregame bombardment, gave them a completed Chain of Command die to start with, and rated them Aggressive in melee.  Apparently Will and Andy on the other table played them as Veteran rather than Aggressive and I think this was more significant.

We used landing craft as the British jump off points and houses and barrack blocks as the German. The coastal guns were initially unmanned because of the bombardment.  The game developed into a race to reach them first.

I managed to reach two of the gun positions and destroyed the arriving German squad and crews in melee. Unfortunately I lost too many troops doing this and soon had nothing left to hold off German counter attacks. Clearly we'd not balanced the scenario correctly.

Having reached a bloody conclusion before lunch we decided to reset and have another go on Saturday afternoon.  We left the remaining Germans in position but reset their Force Morale and removed their accumulated Chain of Command Dice.  I played a second wave of commandos with the same (lack of) supporting elements as before.

I launched two sections on a right hook manoeuvre away from the line of guns before trying to throw my third section into a piercing attack on my left. Unfortunately, while we were making about the game number of rolls for loss of Force Morale, I was rolling badly and although Gary's rolls were only average, it was enough to see me defeated for a second time.

On Sunday we decided the Commandos needed more support (Andy's lads had failed to make much progress against Will's Germans in the town).  We agreed formally to up the Commandos to Veteran and gave them much higher levels of support.

At this point I was hoist by my own petard. Having done the maths to estimate what I thought the command support "should be" if this were a standard Chain of Command game, I now found myself playing the Germans!

This time we stuck to the big table...

The fighting was fierce and this time the Commandos successfully fought their way into the town.  My defenders held the Ulvesund Hotel almost to the last man whilst Gary's reinforcements just failed to get through to us due to the crippling effect of a Command mortar barrage.

My only problem with the game was that for the last hour or so I had no opportunity to manoeuvre, merely rolling a few dice to fire and making decisions about how to divide command initiative between rallying off shock and directing fire.

On thing I did learn was that it's more efficient (in CoC rules terms) to have a section split over two floors so both teams can fire out of the same face of the building rather than on the same floor but firing at different targets.

It was a very enjoyable weekend despite my getting thumped three times.  I got rid of some stuff on the bring and buy (I'd priced it to go) and bought a few new toys, of which more anon.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Where There's Smoke

Sometimes serendipity seems like an unavoidable force.  We're playing a Big Chain of Command game over the weekend at Gauntlet.  We're doing the British 1941 commando raid on Vaagso and for it we need plenty of smoke markers.  For CoC these should be 3" in diameter.

For a while now my terrain building drawer has contained a number of round promotional fridge magnets given out by a local company.  They just happen to be 3" in diameter.  I've previously used a few of them to make smoke markers using stuffing from a cuddly toy that had been eviscerated by our puppy.

This week, the realisation that I needed to make more markers coincided with my coming home from work to be met with, "The dog's destroyed that old duvet of Charlie's. I've saved you some of the stuffing; I thought it might be useful for something game-y."

A bit of brown paint and some work with the hot glue gun and we have...

With the four I'd already made these additional nine should give me enough to represent the smoke screen dropped by RAF Hampden's on Vaagso and to have a few left for the Commandos' 2" and 3" mortars.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Return to the Reichswald

On Thursday evening the newly constituted Sheffield Lardies had their first game.  Tom and Chris came over to Stately Counterpane Manor and we played a game of Chain of Command.

The terrain was roughly as for my previous (solo) Reichswald action but this time we played scenario 5, Flank Attack, from the CoC rule book.  The jump off points are shown as red circles (German) and white stars (British).

Most of the table was wooded with the exceptions being three clearings and the green lanes that run across the area.

Chris played the British attackers and had a force based around a Motor Platoon from 11th Armoured Division.  He elected to reinforce the platoon with a carrier section (two Universal Carriers with Bren guns) and a flamethrower team. He also had a pre-game bombardment, a medical orderly and the battalion adjutant off-table guiding his troops to their jump-off points.

Tom commanded a defending German Heer platoon and he took three lengths of barbed wire and two minefields as his supports.

Chris was lucky when it came to the rolls for Force Morale; the Germans ending up on 8 whilst the British had 11.  This would prove crucial in the events that followed.

Tom sealed off his right flank with some of the wire and both minefields wire and put the remaining  wire in front of his left in an attempt to channel Chris's forces into a killing ground by one of the green-lane junctions.

Chris deployed a section centrally and advanced it towards the gap in the German field defences. Tom immediately deployed a squad in the trees behind the junction and demonstrated the superior firepower of the MG42. In short order the British section had taken more casualties than it inflicted and the Bren section fell back (though unfortunately for Tom without any loss to British Force Morale).

Among Chris's particular interests is the First World War and he took what seems to me a rather Great-War-ish approach at this point, swapping out the depleted section before it broke completely and putting a fresh one in its place. Reinforcing failure?  Well perhaps but the opposing Germans were taking some casualties and Chris's carrier scout section was moving up the lane on his left despite some wayward delivery of smoke by the platoon's 2" mortar.

All this time Tom was unable to bring on reinforcements thanks to the continuing effect of the British preliminary bombardment.

View from the German side as the first British sections Bren team breaks (top centre)
and the Carrier Section enters on the green lane (top right).
The carriers moved cautiously up to the first junction before turning the corner and charging, light-tank-style towards the German position with their Bren guns blazing.  As they did so two rockets shot towards them.  A Panzerfaust round shot harmlessly overhead but the German Panzerschreck team were better trained; one of the carriers was thrown into the air by a violent explosion...

At about this time Chris managed to throw three sixes thus ending the first turn.  In rules terms the ineffectual 2" mortar smoke dispersed and Tom was no longer under the influence of the pre-game bombardment. 

Tom took advantage of this by deploying one of his remaining sections from the ump off point on his left flank.  They moved cautiously through the trees (moving with 1d6 and going Tactical).  Unfortunately they found themselves just within 16" of one of Chris's JOPs. This was exactly the distance that would allow him to deploy a unit to fire on them before Tom could respond.

Chris threw a one among his command dice and was therefore able to deploy his flamethrower team and send a jet of flame at the flanking section.

In CoC, hits are evenly allocated between adjacent teams but before rolling for the effect of the hits.  The hits on the rifle team of the German section were ineffective but the LMG team took two kills and four points of shock!  The one remaining gunner took to his heels.

By this point Tom's Force Morale was plummeting.  A couple of teams had broken (the LMG team of the first squad had also pulled back) and one of his junior leaders had been wounded.  Chris decided to press the attack and the one remaining carrier charged into the middle of the German position and occupied one of the JOPs.  You can just make it out above the puff of white smoke in the picture below.

Tom wanted to close assault the carrier with the remains of his nearby section but the rules as written didn't allow this.  Given that it was now gone 11pm I tried to cut short debate on the point and we pressed on to roll for Force Morale losses for the couple of Tom's teams that had just broken.  The Germans' morale did indeed reach zero giving Chris the win. Well done Chris.  

It was hard luck for Tom. The Force Morale differential was unfortunate and in retrospect he ended up defending against an assault on the exterior corner of his position.  This is where the defender's firepower is most limited; it's the reason for fortresses having external bastions after all.

 It was an enjoyable game and it turned out a win for Chris in his "first real wargame".  We were all keen to play CoC again now that we've got our heads around the rules.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Research for a new acquaintance

Not much to report yet on the painting front as I’ve gone back to painting Celts and I want to get to the point where they are all done before I post pics here.  However, I had an interesting encounter this weekend at a (most excellent) folk gig.  One of the performers (Gavin Davenport) told a story of, and sang a song inspired by, his grandfather’s service during the Second World War. 

As Gavin tells it, his grandfather was a member of a patrol in a Bren Gun Carrier near the Scheldt towards the end of the war.  On the occasion in question, the carrier rounded a bend and the crew found themselves nose to nose with a Tiger tank!  They feared that were all goners but the officer in charge of the team (a Canadian Forward Observer) got out of the carrier, ran along a roadside ditch and destroyed the Tiger with a point blank PIAT shot into its side armour. The officer was killed by the resulting explosion.  Sadly Gavin’s subsequent research hadn’t identified the man in question.

I spoke to Gavin after the show and he filled in a few blanks.  His grandfather was a Forward Artillery Spotter in 191st (Hertfordshire and Essex Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.

He always said that the finest soldiers he fought alongside were the Canadian “Timberwolves”.  But Gavin hadn’t been able to tie this name to a Canadian unit.

I decided to do a bit of digging and a combination of Google and the HMSO official history (L F Ellis, Victory in the West, Vol. II) allowed me to tie things down somewhat more precisely.

Timberwolf, it emerges, is the designation of the 104th Infantry Division; an American rather than Canadian formation. 

So why would Gavin’s grandfather have thought they were Canadians?  Well it turns out that for a period of about three weeks in late October and early November 1944 the Timberwolves were attached to 1st Canadian Army. In fact the particular unit within 1st Canadian Army they were attached to was I (British) Corps, of which 191st Field Regiment was a component unit!   

During the time it was attached to the Canadian formation, 104th Division was capturing the Dutch town of Zundert and then advancing to the line of the Mark River.  

We have, then, a date range (15th October to 5th November, when the 104th was handed back to US command with First Army) and a location where the fateful encounter with the Tiger likely took place.  The additional complication, of course, is that Gavin's Canadian officer might turn out to have been an American!

I’ve told Gavin that I’ll go on digging. It’ll be interesting to see if I can make any more progress.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Sharp Practice Deployment Points

I've had a go at creating a couple of Deployment Points to use in my 20mm scale Sharp Practice games.

At a pinch they would both work for the 1798 Rebellion in Ireland (something I plan to game eventually) and I think the one on the left would work for the Peninsula too (as a soldier's wife accompanying the army).

The British infantry (who may pass as county militia in old uniforms for the '98) are from the Airfix Washington's Army set. I bought a small bag of spare figures from Will McNally at Crisis Point with just this kind of project in mind.  Their coats are painted in Vallejo Scarlet - a new colour for me.  I quite like it and will probably use it for all my British infantry from now on.

The woman and her camp fire are from the very useful IMEX American Pioneers set.  Her dress is probably not quite in period but I figure a soldier's wife would be unlikely to follow the latest in late-18th or early 19th century fashion so I can live her appearance.

The IMEX plastic is quite rigid and her right hand broke off as I removed her from the sprue.  You can see the join in the rear view but on the whole I'm happy with the repair job (Uhu clear glue and a coat of PVA did the trick).

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Numidian General

When I got to the end of painting my Numidians, I found I had one body left over. I say "body" because it was lacking both a head (transplanted onto a late Roman archer) and a right arm.  However, I had plenty of spare arms and heads from the Victrix plastics set of Numidian infantry. A little surgery gave me a rider with a raised sword and a helmet.

I then needed a horse. None were immediately forthcoming but then I happened upon a 25mm scale unicorn in my box-of-things-that-might-be-useful-for-Glorantha-one-day. Yet more surgery, this time of a veterinary flavour, produced a suitable mount.

Married together with a little Green Stuff and superglue we end up with this chap:

I've called him Arabio after the last of the Numidian kings. I figure he can serve as a commander of light horse in future games of To The Strongest!