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!

Who are these guys?

Can anyone help?  I have a few of these 20mm scale plastic figures. They wear bicornes and have curious jackets with long tails and twin rows of buttons up the front.

I started trying to paint them up as late 18th century British County Militia but I'm beginning to think they may not be worth the effort.  If, as I suspect, they are meant to represent Spanish troops they might be more useful painted up as such.

Sorry about the washed out effect of the white undercoat; hopefully someone can recognise them from the poses.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

What I did instead of Celts

A couple of pieces for Chain of Command...

... first up a Jump Off Point for the late war British...

This is a Raventhorpe figure I've had, unpainted, for many years. It represents Sidney Maxted, the Canadian war correspondent who went into Arnhem with the Paras.  He's wearing the red beret and a Denison smock and he's speaking into his disc recorder as he watches our boys going forward to give Jerry a damn good kicking.

And then we have...

A radio operator.  He came from an artillery crew set I picked up on the bring-and-buy at Gauntlet.  I painted him up when it looked like I might need a forward observer for a forthcoming Chain of Command game.  He may or may not take on that role in the future.  Don't know the manufacturer.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Too Many Celts!

I've spent far too much of the last ten days resurrecting old and knackered 25mm Celts.

I have getting on for forty old Lamming and Hinchliffe figures bought from eBay. I want to put about 16 on each of two 120x80mm bases and I've created a couple of four-man skirmisher units too.

However, with most of the figures requiring both conversion work and painting and said painting heavily featuring plaids and checks, I've reached a temporary personal limit.  The Celts are going away and for a couple of evenings I'm going back to 20mm WW2 Brits.

No pics tonight but I'm most of the way through finishing a forward observer and a jump off point for a forthcoming game of Chain of Command.  I'll go back to the Celts in a week or two, I think.

Friday, June 2, 2017

More Numidians

My recent trip to the Wargames Store at Brimstage (Wirral) allowed me to pick up a pack of plastic Numidian infantry by Victrix.  They are lovely figures and I was sufficiently enthused to get them finished within just a few weeks.

I've made two units of light armoured troops likely to be found in the line of battle (Javelinmen in To The Strongest! terms, probably CLs for Basic Impetus).

I've given most of these guys the optional helmeted heads and in each case I've added a metal casualty figure to the base.  The chap in the front rank above has picked up a captured Roman shield but he's using it upside down!

The remaining eight figures, using round shields and bare heads form two units of skirmishers (Light Infantry, Javelins, in To The Strongest! terms).

The Victrix figures each come in four parts; body and left arm, head, right arm, and shield. There are numerous right arm options; several positions with a javelin, one with a sword, one with a trumpet and one with a standard.  There are also a few separate left hands clutching spare javelins. You can slice off the cast-on left hand and glue one of these in its place (see the figure second from right above).  There are four different bare and four different helmeted heads.

Using some of the spare parts I've managed to resurrect a broken remains of an unused horseman of whom more anon.

Finally, a couple of pics of the whole force.  Probably enough to play Basic Impetus and a start towards, perhaps, a Punic Wars collection for To The Strongest!