Sunday, July 24, 2022

Somewhere Down the Crazy River

Richard and Ron came over today and we played a first game of Sharp Practice with my new 28mm American Civil War collection.

The introduction to the scenario was as follows:

It is May 1863 and for nearly 12 months the Union has been unable to establish complete control over the Mississippi River. While the Confederates continue to hold the fortified heights at Vicksburg, the Union plan to cut the Confederacy in half remains incomplete. 

Despite patrolling by Union gunships, vital supplies from the West continue to cross the mighty river. However, difficulties in coordinating cross-river and overland traffic mean that supplies often wait in riverside warehouses and barns while onward transport is arranged. These temporary stashes of supplies represent targets of opportunity for the Mississippi Marine Brigade.

It is believed that Confederate smugglers have been moving supplies across the river near Hackspit, Mississippi. A Marine Brigade unit under Captain Daniel R Rosebush is ordered to identify and destroy any supplies in the area. A barn full of supplies near Hackspit, Mississippi, is guarded by a small unit of Confederate infantry under the command of Sgt Salmon H Wartner.

The left edge of the table (above) is the levee. To the
right is a road along the side of a bayou.

Ron (in the guise of Sergeant Wartner) ran the Confederates, starting with just two line infantry units guarding the supplies in the barn. Richard (as Captain D R Rosebush) commanded the Marines; two groups of line infantry, two of skirmishers, and an artillery piece. One of the skirmisher groups was of dismounted cavalry armed with breech-loading carbines.

Richard's deployment was delayed by the need to get his artillery piece onto the top of the steep-sided levee. I informed him that this required him to keep one Group of non-artillery troops off the table until they had used up an activation helping the artillery into position. Given the random nature of Sharp Practice game turns, it was well into the third turn before the Union troops had completed their deployment.

Ron, meanwhile, was hoping for the return of some Confederate cavalry who had recently passed through the area and who would hopefully ride to the sound of the guns. In the end that would take a damned long time!

The dismounted Union cavalry were deployed on the left and moved into a patch of woodland. Their breech-loading carbines would prove powerful but not game-breakingly so.

They came under fire from Wartner's infantry around the barn.

Eventually Rosebush managed to get his main force deployed, artillery on the levee, infantry advancing to their right.

The Marine Brigade infantry shook themselves out into a line and started exchanging shots with their Confederate opponents. Shock and casualties started to build up on both sides.

Ron, in this early stage of the action, was desperately short of men, having only two groups of eight infantry, each led by a non-commissioned officer.

The cavalry who had passed by earlier in the day would return at an unpredictable time (though at least Ron knew which road they would arrive on - we'd diced for it at the start). The rule I used was as follows:
  • As soon as shots are fired, place the blank chit in the discard pile
  • When the blank chit has been drawn twice, place red leader 3 in the discard pile
  • When red leader 3 is drawn, the Confederate cavalry may deploy on table treating the relevant road entrance as their Deployment Point.
This worked really well. One of Ron's units had been forced to flee and the other was hanging on by its fingernails when the cavalry arrived.

The Confederate cavalry, led by Louisiana-born Captain Pierre Napoleon Cassoulet, were 24-strong and made for a stirring sight as they galloped across the open ground towards the Union line.

I'd been keen to try out massed cavalry in Sharp Practice 2. Penny packets are often not worth having as they tend to get shot to pieces whilst unable to properly manoeuvre among the often dense terrain. 

This time the charge was effective. Ron rolling three sixes for the distance covered by his galloping cavalry helped! 

Despite losing men and picking up Shock as they advanced, the cavalry crashed into the marines' line and sent the survivors fleeing back up the steep flanks of the levee.

However, Richard had, by this time, sent his skirmishers forward on the right. They reached the barn. By now it was blazing as a result of a random event and shortly the first of three Chapter End events would see the roof collapse destroying the supplies within! 

Repeatedly forced back by the intensity of the Union fire, Ron's Force Morale was plummeting. As his cavalry milled about at the base of the levee...

... his remaining infantry were closely engaged by Richard's skirmishers.

By the end, the Confederates were down to one point of Force Morale while the Union still had seven. With virtually no command chits left in the bag, Ron decided to quit the field and a Union victory was declared.

I'm really pleased with this first foray into ACW Sharp Practice. The game was nicely balanced and we weren't sure which way it would go for a long time. I think a narrative campaign portraying the adventures of the Mississippi Marine Brigade could be great fun.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Back to Riga

As Yorkshire steams in temperatures approaching 40 degrees, I've discovered that my workshop is among the cooler rooms in the house. Having recently acquired some more wooden coffee stirrers (thanks Costa!)  I thought I'd have a go at building another part-burned barn for the suburbs of Riga.

Usual construction - PVC board base, balsa wood uprights and coffee-stirrer planks. Hot glue gun to get things started and then clear Evostick for much of the construction work. Tetrion filler then PVA and sand for the interior ground cover/ashes. Seal with Modpodge and then spray with Army Painter matt black. In this weather the spray paint dried really quickly!

I'll get on with painting it tomorrow.

While the barn was drying, I started on a building to use particular piece of PVC board that I happened to have left over. It was a narrow rectangle but it occurred to me that I could use it to make the frontage of a building that could stand on the edge of the board.

Vecriga, the old centre of the city, is known for its marvellous old dwellings and merchant guild buildings with decorative gable ends.

The Three Brothers on Maza Pils iela

Now I don't know for sure that there were buildings of this style in the suburbs but I figured something like this would add some visual impact to what will otherwise be a fairly monochrome table.

This is where I've got to today:

Clearly it's not an exact copy of any of the buildings pictured but I think it captures the overall style. I'll probably paint it in a yellow ochre shade and possibly add some smoke marks to the exterior.

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Joy of Six purchases

I didn't take any pictures at Joy of Six last weekend because I was too busy running Cold War Commander participation sessions. 

I did have time to do a bit of shopping though. From Richard Phillips's Scotia stall I bought some 1/300th scale German armour as part of my plan to be able to run all of Bob Mackenzie's Great Patriotic War scenarios. 

The nice thing about 1/300th is that you can get it painted and based really quickly...

From left to right that's a pair of Tiger Is, a Jagdpanther, two Hetzers, and two SdKfz250/9 recce halftracks.

I'm quite pleased with how the Jagdpanther turned out...

Richard also had a box of assorted second-hand micro models and I picked up five M60A2 "Starships". This variant of the M60 entered service in 1979 and carried the same 152mm gun-launcher as the M551 Sheridan. This would fire low velocity 152mm rounds for anti-personnel use or Shillelagh anti-tank guided missiles.

Unfortunately the missiles were hugely expensive so crews rarely got to train with them and firing 152mm ammunition tended to damage the delicate fire control gear. As a result the M60A2s were phased out by 1982!

The ones I bought were already painted but I've repainted them to match the version of MERDC camo that I've used on my other American models.

With the exception of a pack of Heroics and Ros modern American infantry, my entire force is made up of models found cheap on bring-and-buy tables around the country.

It appears that these particular M60A2s may be 1/285 scale. They are larger than the M60A1s I already own but painted and based they don't look too bad. The model at the extreme right in the picture below is a 1/300th scale M60A1 I already owned.

I also picked up some 1/300th scale buildings by Battlescale Miniatures. More on those when I get them painted.