Sunday, January 30, 2011

Crisis in the Middle East

One advantage of my newly fitted-out games room is that I can now set up small games and leave them in play for days or even weeks at a time.

I've decided to have a go at one of the advanced scenarios from Sixth Fleet.
This is one of my favourite board games. It covers the whole of the Mediterranean basin from Gibraltar to the Black Sea at 50 miles to the hex. Counters are individual ships or squadrons of aircraft. I like Sixth Fleet and the other games in the series because they put naval combat into its proper strategic setting. Ships enable you to deliver troops where they are needed to secure your military-political objectives. Aircraft and ships enable you to sink the enemy's ships to prevent him doing the same. Logistics ships and bases allow you to maintain your fleet at fighting strength while you do all this.

I'm solo playing scenario 9: Crisis in the Middle East. Syria has just launched a surprise attack on Israel. The situation in the Med has got hot fast and a US/Soviet shooting war has broken out.

So far I've managed to play two turns (16 hours of game time) Game Turn 1 was characterised by rapid dashes out of port by light, missile-armed patrol craft. Algeria and Libya have joined the Soviet/Syrian alliance and their missile boats have attacked Cartagena in Spain and Sigonella in Sicily damaging the Spanish Frigate Asturias and sinking the USS Aylwin.

Game turn two saw several of these boldly attacking missile boats wiped out when the larger NATO ships stirred from their harbours. The big news, though, has been the sinking of two Cruisers. First the Nimitz's air wing sank the Slava (and an ammunition carrier called the Voronezh - mistaken by me for the amphibious assault ship Vilkov) in a bombing raid on Tartus harbour in Syria. Then, after the Nimitz's protective Combat Air Patrol (CAP) had been forced to land (by an unlucky die roll), USS Texas was first damaged by Tu-22 Blinders from the Crimea and then finished off by Libya Mig-23s and Su-22s of all things. The Libyan jets were flying at the limits of their range having exchanged half their bombs for drop tanks.

The eastern Med is full of ships and subs and control of Beirut is looking likely to decide the issue. In the west, US convoys are forming up in Naples or around Gibraltar but they look likely to run into strong Soviet naval forces reinforced by the Libyans in the gap between Italy and the Libyan coast. Control of Malta could also be crucial.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Big Nostalgia Trip

Back in the early 1970s the old Birkenhead Market (it would burn down a few years later) had a stall selling second hand magazines. It was there that, aged ten or so, I spent my pocket money on a pile of old copies of Meccano Magazine.

A particular edition had an article on how to go about building up a model collection. Some basic tips on building kits, the merits of adopting a theme, and some thoughts on storing your masterpieces.

I was mesmerised by this idea. I spent ages rereading the article and building my own models. Some were better than others, any sense of a theme was largely limited to their being small scale as that was what my budget would run to, and they were never stored as securely as I’d have liked. Nonetheless they gave me hours of enjoyment.

Last night, the best part of forty years later, I was delighted to discover that the whole run of Meccano Magazine has been digitised and made available on line. You can find it at the marvellous nzmeccano site.

Could I find that very magazine article? Was my memory faulty? Could I perhaps be recalling another article from an entirely different magazine? I know that later on I’d buy Airfix Magazine, Scale Models and Military Modelling from the same stall. But no, there it was. From January 1971, two years before the death of Meccano Magazine as a glossy monthly, “16 year old Michael Day describes how Readers can start and maintain a … MODEL COLLECTION”.

A few years later I would realise that I could make tanks better than I could make aircraft. From there it was a small step into wargaming but I don’t have such a clear memory of a moment that tipped me over into a new hobby.

So thank you nzmeccano team and thank you Michael Day, wherever you may be now.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Second Fleet

My newly refurbished games room isn't quite tidied sufficiently that I want to take the "after" photos but one of the jobs was to repair the plan chest I got through Freecycle. With a new top and mounted on casters it makes a handy, if a little low, small gaming table.
Just the right size, actually, for the maps from Victory Games' Fleet
series of board games. I found Second Fleet whilst I was clearing space for the work and decided I wanted to have a go as I'd never actually played it before even though I've had it since sometime in the late 80s.

I've just played through, solo, the first scenario - Standing Naval Force Atlantic. This pits the eponymous unit (a small task force consisting of frigates/destroyers from the American, British, West German, Dutch, and Canadian navies) against a couple of powerful Soviet vessels, the missile cruiser Frunze and the powerful destroyer Ottuk. There's also an American force that has just landed some marines in Norway.

In my game, thanks to some lucky die rolling as the Soviets, the reds got away to Pechenga having sunk the amphibious assault ship Ogden and the frigate Hawes for a substantive victory.

This pic shows the final positions.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Lippe Crossing - the playtest

A somewhat truncated battle for the River Lippe was fought out today. Preparations were interrupted by work on the games room and by Saturday morning shopping so we were a bit late starting. Also one of our players had managed just one-and-a-half games of Cold War Commander in the past three years so some time was spent on a rules reminder session.

The scenario sees Soviet forces swinging south towards the Ruhr and attempting to force a crossing of the Lippe, which is held at the moment by elements of II (British) Corps. The Soviet force was an under-strength Motor Rifle Regiment (two Motor Rifle Battalions in BTR70s and a Tank Battalion with T-62s) commanded by Colonel Sangarov.

The British had a mechanised infantry battalion (1st Cheshires) reinforced by a squadron of Chieftains from Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. Brigadier Connolly was in the tactical command post.

The table was bisected by the river with the Soviets deployed on the northern (right) bank (on the right hand side of the following picture). The countryside is mostly farmland but with a light industrial areas and one village. The river bank is often tree-lined so in some places it was possible for the attackers to get close to the bank without taking fire.

In the River Crossing scenario both sides start with fixed deployment. In this case they alternate deploying commands. Andy spread his battalions along the river and so forced Rob to follow suit. Rob took the decision to deploy his Chieftains in “penny packets” (one troop reinforcing each company). The only fixed crossing point was the railway bridge.

Andy decided to ignore this and send his tanks across the river where it flowed between wooded banks and where a factory unit partly covered his approach march. This being the case he was able to get his MTU-20 AVLB up to the river bank and laying its bridge by game turn 4.

By the time we ran out of time, the Soviet forces had established two shallow bridgeheads thanks to the amphibious BTR-70s and were about to complete the bridge that would allow the tanks to cross.

I'm reasonably pleased with how the game went. The players were happy to call it a draw and I think this was reasonable albeit I think the likely result would have been clearer in another turn or two. The scenario is worth exploring further with a little more time and will form the basis of the SOTCW game at Hammerhead on February 14th.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lippe Crossing

This Saturday I'm running another game of Gold War Commander. The Lippe Crossing game will cover Soviet attempts to establish a bridgehead on the south side of the River Lippe, a right tributary of the Rhein just north of the Ruhr.

It should be an interesting game for a couple of reasons. One, both sides are largely made up of mechanised infantry and two, the game provides us with the opportunity to set up some of the starting positions for the Big Game that will hopefully be played later this year.

With my games room still in a mess, it's not going to be possible for me to send out scenario details in advance and have either side choose from a range of force options but I'll try and give the attacking Soviets an option on whether to take smoke ammo or other special munitions for the artillery.

Brigadier Connolly will be in charge of the British force. Colonel Sangarov will be his opponent.


I nearly have a finished games room!

There's a shelf above the window that can carry the Ikea boxes that hold many of my 20mm vehicles. There's a long worktop under the window under which are mounted more Ikea boxes containing my Gloranthan HOTT armies. Three shelves the length of the opposite wall will store my terrain and my plan chest now has casters and will soon have a completed top.

I can't wait to start reorganising! Pictures soon.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Redevelopment Underway

Mark and I spent a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon in various DIY shops acquiring materials and I then spent Saturday evening and Sunday morning clearing "stuff" out of the games room. So no painting or gaming this weekend!

Of course, clearing the shelves has reminded me of games I want to play. I haven't tried the Victory Games Fleet series of games for years. Now I really fancy a game of Second Fleet.

Next week will have to see a break from construction work as I've scheduled in advance a game of Cold War Commander. This time we'll be returning to the 1980s and trying an opposed river crossing.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Having recently received some money from a relative, I've been persuaded of the wisdom of getting my games room / workshop organised. Our friend Mark is a whizz of a cabinet maker and is going to construct some shelving and work surface for me.

So, for posterity - here are the "before" shots.

Star of the show, I'm hoping, will be my ex-V&A plan chest which will get castors and a new top so that it can store my 20mm figures and act as an occasional gaming table.

I've decided the room is too small to hold a permanent gaming table. I shall continue to annex the kitchen table for large games.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Great Northern War - part four

My current rush of Great Northern War painting will come to an end soon, if only because I have to organise the SOTCW game at Hammerhead in February.

But for now I'm stating on the Ottoman Turks I ordered from Irregular Miniatures between Christmas and New Year.

I've ordered enough to make four more units of Janissaries, three of European Sipahis, a horde of irregular light infantry, and four or five units of Arab light horse. There are also two guns and three General elements.

One units worth of Janissaries are already mounted on wine bottle screw caps and undercoated for painting.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Great Northern War - part three

I'm thinking that there might be some mileage in the idea of running a small early 18th century campaign using my GNW armies. The setting needs to be somewhere the Russian and Ottoman Empires met and given that the only GNW-era campaign ended in something of a damp squib (The Pruth Campaign, 1711) I think a semi-fictional setting is called for.

Fortunately, in Andreivia I already have a suitable setting semi developed.

So for a campaign I'll need some logistics elements and I think these could be useful.

They're 1/300th scale Arab Dhows by East Riding Miniatures.

Nice castings. Now I just need rules for boats in Polemos GNW.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Great Northern War - part two

Another project sort of completed during 2010 was my Ottoman Turk force for Polemos. I say sort of completed because today I took delivery of another consignment from Irregular Miniatures.

My new batch includes some command elements but for now I have these figures cut from a block of Irregular's Sipahi of the Porte.

You can't have an Ottoman army without Janissaries. These are a mixture of Janissaries and repainted Prussian J├Ągers, both from Irregular Miniatures.

I'm quite please with the effect of them en masse.

I've had great fun producing Turkish light infantry bases. This is a rocket team. I've no idea whether the Ottomans used gunpowder rockets in the early 18th century but it was too good an idea to resist. I may add some cotton wool smoke to the end of the rocket's trail. Sorry the rocket's out of focus but at least you can see the crew and baggage camels.

More light infantry - irregular musketeers.

And some more...

Sipahis form the main cavalry striking force of the army. Three or four Irregular strips per element on 60x60mm bases.

Also on 60x60mm bases are these Arab light cavalry.

And finally, some artillery. The Ottomans tended to use big guns - field artillery in Polemos terms.

I'm not sure yet how this force will perform against my Russians. I don't have a feel for how Polemos plays and balances. Going to need to try it out in one of our Saturday afternoon games noon.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Great Northern War - part one

The year 2010 has been, I think, my most productive ever in terms of getting stuff finished. The most recent completed project is my small Russian force for the early eighteenth century - the period of the Great Northern War. The army is made up from a Baccus 6mm army pack with a few additions.

The Baccus pack contains enough mounted officer models to make up several General stands. This one, on his prancing grey horse, will be my CO. I've been forced to add some Green Stuff undergrowth to strengthen his horse's weak ankles. Do horses have ankles? Fetlocks or something?

Another command stand features an Irregular Miniatures farm wagon.

This General receives directions from a friendly peasant boy. I think he's a Roman ballista crewman - not sure from which manufacturer.

The infantry are based and painted as four, two-battalion regiments.

These guys in the red-trimmed tricorns and grey coats are Gulitz's Regiment. I've still got to add a flag to the front rank command figures.
Next come the Semionevski Guards in their blue coats and yellow-trimmed tricorns. Again, a flag is to be added.
The Baccus pack doesn't include any figures for dismounted dragoons so I've based the cavalry as "Horse". These are Viatski Regiment. The plain flags are until I can find the historically correct colours.

My other, larger Dragoon regiment is that of Meierfelt.
The Baccus artillery is lovely. Definitely my favourite elements.

Finally, I've added some train - wagons converted from Irregular Miniatures Hussite war-wagons.
Actually, that's not quite final - I've just realised I didn't photograph the Cossack allies. Maybe next time!

Design Innovation!

In a major departure from previous Land of Counterpane practice (and following Tom Zunder's advice) I have instituted a major revision to the design of this blog. You can now see two buttons linking to the other two blogs I administer!

The SOTCW Events Blog is used in developing games to be put on by members of the Society of Twentieth Century Wargamers. We're currently working on a Boxer Rebellion game for the Gauntlet show in North Wales in July 2011. Dig back through the archives, though, and you'll find details of previous games too.

Andreivian Tales details the events in our fictional Black Sea coast nation. Several games over the past few years have explored the history of the 1990s civil war in Andreivia. Next I might be going back to explore Andreivia in the 18th century.