Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Return to Laritsa

Stately Counterpane Manor saw its first game of Blitzkrieg Commander yesterday.  We returned to a scenario called Many Rivers to Cross that I originally ran using Tac:WW2 rules on New Year's Eve 2004.

The scenario's title comes from the period following the victory at Stalingrad when the Stavka, realising that having to await permission to advance beyond each river line was slowing down the front-line troops, made commanders aware that medals would be awarded for each river crossing seized.  The Mariupa River at Laritsa was (in our fictional case) deemed worthy of award of the Order of Kutuzov, Second Class.

Our Soviet Commanders were Jamie Crawley (Major Korolski) and Andy Sangar (Colonel Sangarov).  Here we see Korolski and Sanagarov contemplating the task ahead.

Stuck on the wrong side of the river and hoping to escape when their engineers had repaired the bridge were Colonel Sangrescu of the Romanian 17th Infantry Regiment (Richard Sangar, left) and General Grau, commander of 59th Infantry Division (Phil Gray, right).

The table had the Mariupa River at the western end.  It was crossable only at the bridge but this had been destroyed by a previous Soviet air raid.  Engineers struggled to bridge the shattered spans while the Romanians prepared to sell themselves dearly.

157th Tank Brigade (forming the Forward Detachment of 51st Tank Army) began the battle split into two columns.  Korolski, with a weak battalion of tanks, half a battalion of motorised infantry and a below-strength regiment of Cossack cavalry, advanced on the right towards the ridge held by Romanian infantry and German Marders.  Sangarov, with the rest of the tanks and infantry advanced on the left.

Almost immediately, the Soviets got lucky.  A flight of patrolling Il-2s bombed the position on the ridge, causing damage and casualties among the Marders and the infantry.  The resulting suppressions would prove crucial for what was to follow.

Whilst his T-34s finished off the Marders, Korolski launched his cossacks in a sweeping manoeuvre to slaughter the cowering Romanians.

At this point, the German 88mm FlaK36 east of Laritsa started to cause heavy casualties among the T-34s.  However, if Sangarov could advance and draw fire onto his battalion, Korolski would be able to swing around the open northern flank and cut off the defenders.  Unfortunately, Andy chose this moment to embark on a run of failed command rolls and his tanks stood still while Sangrescu's Renault R-35s caused heavy casualties among the, still celebrating, Cossacks and the 88 severely weakened Korolski's tank force.   With time running out it looked like the Soviets would be unable to reach the river in sufficient force.

However, even now the Red Air force could yet tip things in their side's favour.  A flight of Pe-2 dive bombers suddenly appeared over Laritsa.  With long lines of trucks and horse-drawn wagons drawn up in the streets of the town waiting to cross the river, slaughter looked inevitable.

Every sidearm available joined the Moebelwagens by the river bank in putting up a storm of fire.  Phil rolled his five dice and...
... the Pe-2s went down in flames.

At the start of their game turn five the German engineers completed the repairs on the bridge.  Colonel Sangarov tried one last throw of the dice (literally) revealing that he had a company of partizans in the large wood west of the river.  Sadly he was unable to make contact with them and order them to attack the bridge.  The rear area elements of 51st Infantry Divisions HQ began withdrawing.

By now we were short on time and the Soviets were within one loss of their break point.  We called the game a narrow Axis victory but noted that Korolski was at least likely to reach, if not cross, the river.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday's Random Picture

Latvian Army soldier guarding the Freedom Monument in downtown Riga, August 2006.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I have turned from the Dark Side

Fast painting ain't too fast when it comes to 20mm Napoleonics.  Sitting at my painting desk last night, part way though another batch of French infantry I remembered why I stopped considering massed battle games in 20mm in the first place.  Too much like hard work!

Needing some guidance I took out my box of individually based Napoleonics.  I then went and looked at the Too Fat Lardies' demo videos of Sharp Practice on YouTube.  I then went and bought Sharp Practice and decided that my new Napoleonics are going to be skirmish based.  Black Powder?  Maybe it'll be the way to use my 6mm Great Northern War collection if I can't get my head around Polemos?


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Orta Be Useful

Just painted and about to have their bases "glooped" is this unit of Ottoman Janissaries in 6mm scale.

As usual they are Irregular Miniatures.  The flag bears the symbol of the 59th Orta.

Having looked at these (hugely magnified) photos, I think I might have a go at painting in the sword scabbards on a few of these guys.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

As requested...

A couple of shots of those speed-painted French Napoleonics after a little highlighting:

I've added highlights to face and hands with Games Workshop Elf Flesh and repainted the cross-belts and rucksack straps with pure white.  I think this looks OK.  I shall probably do another dozen or so and see what they look like en masse.

The Ottoman light horse are halfway through the basing process.  They had their bases glooped with tile group and then painted in patches of two shades of brown.  They've then had dry-brushings with GW Graveyard Earth and Vallejo Camouflage Orange Ochre.  Next will come Khaki, Iraqi Sand and then finally a mix of Iraqi Sand and White.

Finally, also underway is what will be my sixth base of Janissaries.  More Irregular Miniatures, they're at the gloop-on-the-base-paint-colours-you-can-pick-out-the-detail-later stage.

On the Workbench - December 2011

The big forthcoming event at the moment is the big Cold War Commander game in April so I should be preparing for that.  Of course, I'm not.  As soon as such a project comes along my brain decides to go of in several other directions...

First up it's 20mm Napoleonics.  These guys are a first attempt at doing a dip type of approach.  I've added some chocolate brown paint to a jar of Humbrol acrylic matt varnish and applied with a brush over figures that were roughly block painted (OK I couldn't resist a bit of highlighting on the coat sleeves).

I'm not sure about the effect.  Do I need to add more brown paint?  Will I like the impression more when I have a mass of figures?

And, yes, that's an old Humbrol Authenticard in the background.

Next up are a group of Arab light horse for my 6mm scale Ottoman Turks.  Irregular miniatures.  They're halfway through having their bases painted.

Finally we have some 6mm scale Cossacks for my Great Northern War collection.  These guys are from Baccus 6mm and just need static grass and other vegetation adding to the bases.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bye Hitch!

We lost Christopher Hitchens today and the world is a lesser place.  

In memoriam here's another chance to see my model of the prophet Mohammed.  Some would say I must not depict him for fear of offending Moslems.  Well guess what; you don't have a right not to be offended and your religious strictures don't come close to trumping my freedom of speech.

I'm off to enjoy a whisky (not, alas, Johnny Walker Black Label) in Hitch's memory.

Random Picture

I did one last Friday so let's have another.

It's an 1896 Nordenfeldt machine gun on a naval mounting.  Theoretically capable of firing a thousand 0.45" calibre rounds per minute.  This one's in the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Remind me never to buy Tamiya acrylics again!

I bought a couple of jars when I couldn't make time at lunchtime to get to Wargames Emporium and knew I needed some dark blue to replace my old, dried out tube of artist's Ultramarine.  

All I need it to do is act as the shade coat for the cobalt blue I tend to use for French uniform jackets and suchlike.  Unfortunately, as I've just found again when painting some 6mm Arab light horse for Polemos GNW, it's got a horrible slimy texture that tends to slide off even the most grease-free of surfaces.  Trying to get it on in thin coats is soul-destroying.

Back to Vallejo and Games Workshop paints for me!

Monday, December 12, 2011

British Author Uses British English Shock!

In researching for our planned Cold War Commander Big Game I've been reading up on sources relating to General Sir John Hackett's The Third World War.  I've just come across one review (written in 1983) that I just have to share.

In this review a Major Steven Cady of the US Air Force manages to criticise the book because it uses lots of abbreviations and doesn't explain them.  In a technical book on military matters? Never!  Major Cady presumably didn't think to look them up in the index, where he would have found them. In alphabetical order no less.  

A second criticism is that Hackett uses unfamiliar words like exiguous, rapprochement, and Taoiseach.  As well as unfamiliar place names.  Of course, how silly of him not to have set the book in New England!

Perhaps the most bizarre objection is that Hackett's narrative of the events of 1985 is mathematically unlikely given the multitude of possible events that could occur between his writing it in 1979 and the events of 1985.  Indeed some events had already occurred by the time Cady was writing in 1983 that Hackett had not foreseen!  

And finally we come to the ultimate sin: Hackett uses British spellings like programme, gaol, and manoeuvre and gives measurements in (whisper it) metric!  It's all so damned unAmerican!

Saturday, December 10, 2011


For many years my Rules have stood me well when it comes to not buying too much wargaming stuff that I won't get around to using.  They are:

1. 20mm is skirmish scale.  If you do 20mm gaming it's with individually based figures in skirmish games.  If you do skirmish gaming then you do it in 20mm.

2. 6mm is massed battle scale.  If you massed battles, do them in 6mm scale.

3. Rules 1 and 2 are waived when building Hordes of the Things armies.

These rules, as I say, have helped keep me focussed.  They are, of course, very personal.  However, I've already broken them pretty solidly of late by rebasing all of my WOTR stuff for Impetus and now I'm weakening further.

I've been reading reviews of Black Powder and thinking "that sounds like the kind of game I'd like".

I also have loads of unpainted plastic Napoleonics lying around and this morning I found myself putting them on 40x40mm bases and going, "Hmmmm...".

Friday, December 9, 2011

Random Photo

I thought I'd share a random picture from my collection.  This is an experimental German vehicle the EXF 8x8 Radkampfwagen 90.

I photographed it in 2008 at the Wehrtechnische Sammlung in Koblenz.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sore Throat!

After a little over two yours of constant talking I'm feeling a little rough.  The Song of Blades and Heroes session at the school Christmas fair was fun but hard work.  Seven year-olds have butterfly attention spans and keeping them focussed on the game was sometimes a struggle.

However, in the end we got five or six of them playing for most of the two hours available.

The scenario was the Plains of Chaos - a fairly simple get-in-grab-some-treasure-and-get-out scenario.  The problem was that the dimensional gateways people had to get in an out through would move around the perimeter of the battlefield!

I provided six or seven warbands varying in complexity so players could use a set of rules that would suit their abilities.  The Pirates of Pan Tang, for example, were a force of fairly low complexity.  Below the picture is the information I provided to the player.

The Pirates of Pan Tang are renowned for their fearsomeness and for the vicious tigers they train.  This gang are searching for the legendary rune-sword Tempestbringer.
Three Pirates 
Quality 2+
Combat 4
Special Rules: none
Two Tigers
Quality 3+
Combat 5
Special Rules: Animal, Savage, Long move
Special Rules
Animals  automatically rout when the last non-animal model in their warband is killed. 
Long Move
Models with the Long Move rule use the Long measuring stick when moving. 
A Savage model in´Čéicts a gruesome kill just by doubling the opponent’s score (i.e. they don’t need to treble it - every kill counts as gruesome).

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Big CWC Game!

Not content with organising a game for the kids on Friday I've today started making arrangements for a huge Cold War Commander game next April!

The event will be at Dungworth Green Hall, Dungworth, near Sheffield on Satuday 21st and Sunday 22nd April 2012.

The game will be a refight of the Battle of the Lippe and the actions around Roermonde from John Hackett's books The Third World War and The Untold Story.  I hope to get around twenty people taking part playing on at least eight full-sized tables.

To cover the costs of setting this up (hall hire and insurance mainly) I need to charge £10 per person for the weekend but any surplus will be donated to the local branch of the Royal British Legion as a contribution to their excellent work for HM Forces veterans and their families.

Please let me know if you can make it to the event because I need to know if it's viable so I can confirm the booking and make arrangement to cover the insurance costs.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Plains of Chaos

At the moment I’m working on something a little different - a Song of Blades and Heroes multiplayer game for the kids attending the Christmas Fair at my daughter’s primary school.
The basic principle is that parties of adventurers and the like from all across the multiverse arrive through dimensional gateways on the Plain of Chaos in search of certain magical or otherwise valuable items.  
There will be four gateways; red, blue, green and black as shown here:
The aim is to get from your gateway to the centre of the board, pick up a treasure (preferably the one you came for) and make it back to your gateway.  However, there will be a random event table that allows for the gateways to move!  
I’m planning on bringing about half a dozen warbands and my young neighbour George has a copy of the rules and is looking into how he can produce a few more from his Warhammer armies.
I’ve decided that the best way to make sure everyone gets a go whilst keeping the game suitably chaotic is to use a very simple card-driven initiative system.  I shall put one card in the deck for each currently active player and a card to remind me when to roll for random events.  I’m not going to use what the Two Fat Lardies would call a Tea Break card (i.e. one that ends the current turn) as I don’t think youngsters will appreciate the idea of not getting a fair crack of the whip.
We’ll be playing on a standard 90cm square board so there should be plenty of scope for clashes with up to six warbands on the table at one time.
At present I have the Ronin (for simplicity I’m dropping the Ninja).
The Goblins used by Jamie in our try-out game have been redesigned to make them more fun to play and more Goblin-like (i.e. more likely to activate but less individually powerful in combat).
There are also some Phugs (Peter Pig aliens; notionally in 15mm scale) of which there are five Warriors (Quality 4, Combat 3, Short Move, Tough) and the Queen (Q2, C2, Magic-User, Leader, Short Move).

Then we have my Pantangians: three Pirates (Q2, C4, no special rules) and two Tigers (Q3, C5, Animal, Savage, Long Move).

A couple more Warbands are going to be needed.  There’s a group of Orcs and another of Dwarves that I need to stat up before the weekend.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I've Been to the Pub...

... and I've arranged for next year's Hordes of the Things Royal Tournament to be held at the Royal Hotel in Dungworth, near Sheffield, on Saturday 23rd June 2012.

Add this date to your diary at once!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Battle of Charlbury , 14 hundred-and-something

Today's Saturday Afternoon Wargame (TM) was a Wars of the Roses bash using Basic Impetus rules.  We had four players; Carl and Jamie were available from the start whilst Andy and Richard would be along later.  I decided that the best way to handle this was to make the battle an encounter one with Andy's and Richard's commands arriving later.

The battlefield was largely open with a village and woods at the eastern end and a hill at the western end.  I'd been sneaky and allowed the Yorkists to deploy one unit hidden in the woods (Jamie chose his light horse) whilst on the opposite flank the road which appeared to run behind the hill (as the Yorkists saw it) in fact ran in a gully in front of it.  Carl positioned the earl of Wiltshire's bills hidden in the gully.

Jamie, as Richard, duke of Gloucester, and Carl, as the earl of Northumberland ended up facing each other at the western end of the field.

Jamie charged forward and managed to rout Northumberland's borderers with well-aimed archery but then started to take casualties from Carl's superior numbers of missile troops.

Andy and Richard arrived and joined in at the eastern end of the battlefield as the earl of Warwick (Yorkist) and the duke of Buckingham (Lancastrian) respectively.

Here, Carl and Richard ponder their next move.

Whilst Jamie and Andy stare defeat in the face!

With Jamie's command disintegrating under a storm of archery, Carl decided to reveal the true course of the road and deployed the earl of Wiltshire's bills.

In the centre Gloucester and Lord Howard pushed forward.  The larger markers with shields or discarded livery jackets show "disordered" status whilst the numbered rocks show losses of strength points (VBU under the Impetus rules).

Meanwhile Andy's organ gun advanced s l o w l y.

At this point Carl prepared to face Richard of Gloucester's men at arms with his archers and declared, "I really need to roll three sixes"...

Shortly after this feat of dice rolling Jamie lost his light horse to a charge by the Lancastrian knights and was forced to flee to keep the remnants of his last archer unit intact.

Meanwhile the Lancastrian men-at-arms fought an epic back-and-forth melee with Warwick's billmen.  This fight saw Impetus at its best with repeated falling-back and pursuing before the two sides fought each other to a standstill.

Finally, the Lancastrian knights ploughed into the Yorkist line causing heavy casualties.

The Yorkists broke and fled the field leaving Carl and Richard to contemplate their victory.

We had started at 1 o'clock and were finished by 3:30 despite none of the four players knowing the rules.    We agreed that the game had looked good, had captured the feel of the period and had been fun to play.  We shall definitely try Basic Impetus again.  Carl was even speaking of sabot-basing his old ancients with a view to trying to the rules at home.