Saturday, 10 March 2018

Wurst Case Scenario

As promised, pictures of our last game, this one was fought on February 25th. 
"Hans!  Ich muss dringend mal pinkeln"   
 Prussians by Old Glory.  Painted by James Kelly, now in Chiba.  
He used to paint for Old Glory magazine back in the day; these are now in Giovanni's collection.
A vengeful force of Prussians, along with their sausage-scoffing, beer-swilling acolytes, the Bavarians, had entered into an unholy alliance with some Italians and Poles.  In a short and brutal engagement they effectively wiped the floor with the hapless French- although it must be said that les bleus went down fighting. 

The Allies were assisted in no small measure by the Dice Gods, who on this occasion clearly decided that they hated Gallic Guts with a real passion.

This was another one of our usual brigade-sized games using a scenario from Neil Thomas' One Hour Wargames, this one a very entertaining and challenging "not-Leuthen" scenario based on an original by Charles Grant (it can be found on p.78: Scenario #7 Flank Attack (2) in Neil's book).

Most importantly, we may have successfully initiated a new gamer, Erik, into the mysteries and joys of Napoleonic wargaming. 

Erik had been toying for a while with the idea of trying out some horse & musket gaming (he hails from Maryland, and in the past had been taken around many an ACW battlefield).  Unfortunately, fate was to show no mercy to new recruits, and would deal him a cruel hand when it came to die throws.

Giovanni commanded the Germans, Erik had the French. Erik had never played Napoleonics before, and Giovanni was rusty after months and months of playing mainly Bolt Action.  

I was the one with, by far, the most experience with the rules. So I thought it best to sit this one out, and instead I would act as chief rule-looker-upper and scenario umpire.  
Le Champ de Mars; note the Martian.
The sleepy town of Not-Leuthen.  It was untouched by the horrors of war for the duration of the game.
The Germano-Italian-Polska Alliance assembles.
Doomed French await their dreadful fate.

My ill-used 7e Chasseurs à cheval were- yet again- to have their lives uselessly sacrificed by a callous high command.

The Ducal Lancers of Prince August Vztmrk of Cyrntzkvystk, direct descendant of the legendary prince who, in 1423, banished the vowel from the Polish Language.
The scenario has a defending force of six units ensconced on hill.  These are facing a small force of two enemy battalions (although as the Prussians were fielding one average-sized and one small battalion, and the French battalions were deemed large, we added a small contingent of Bavarian Schutzen). 

Suddenly appearing on the French left is a flanking force of four Allied units, taking the defenders unaware- Merde!! 

The defenders have to quickly re-orient their lines to face the new threat, while at the same time holding off the small force to the front.

It's a challenge for the defending force, but it can be done.  Provided, of course, you don't position your artillery uselessly on the right flank for the first few turns. And, of course, it does help if your troops can actually hit the broadside of a barn- while inside the barn.

As I mentioned, Erik had the most appalling run of luck on the dice, while Giovanni's Germans were pulling rabbits out of their lucky shakos, allowing him to get away with suicidal maneuvers and unnecessary risks that should really have been punished by a quick trip to the battlefield abattoir.  Just proving that there is no justice in this world.

Despite being umpire, I confess to secretly wanting to have seen my beloved French succeed.  But I needed to remain fair and utterly neutral, so was kibitzing with both sides.

On numerous occasions I found myself having to talk both commanders out of making some obvious Bad Move.  I did this with commendable impartiality (I think), although there were many occasions involving mental face palms, eye-rolling, and barely-restrained sucking of teeth.
"Mais non! C'est incroyable!  Mes pauvres soldats!"
French line seen from the front.  Note how uselessly placed the guns are.
The flanking force.  The similarly poorly-positioned Bavarian hussars never saw action, nor had a shot fired against them.  
View of the start positions from the French right.  They needed to quickly see off the Prussians to the front, and then turn to face the Italo-Polish-Bavarian menace to their left.
The French should have won this one.  
They didn't...
Disorder markers start appearing, as welcome as acne after a chocolate cake binge
The French finally did see off one of the Prussian battalions.  But it's a case of too little, too late, and at too high a cost.
"Stop making all that damned bloody noise!"

No mercy...
The cavalry spent most of the game charging each other to little effect.  
Late in the game the Poles managed to destroy a French square that was already well beyond its break point.

A rather heavily-mauled French brigade finally manages to form a perpendicular line to face the flank attack.
Time to roll up the French flank
"Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!"  Scratch one French line unit.  
When playing games this small, you can ill-afford any losses.
Bavarian infantry take the high ground; the Allied objective was to be in control of the hill by the end of 15 turns.
End game for French fortunes.  Their artillery about to be routed, one remaining infantry unit pushed back off the hill with its back to the river.  
Time to throw in the towel- Sauve qui peut!

All in all, a fun game and a very good scenario, one we'd all like to try again, with some small tweaks in deployment, set-up conditions, ranges, and with perhaps more uncertainty as to when the flanking force appears.

We were originally planning on trying out some of the rules in the new Warlord Games' Black Powder supplement, Clash of Eagles. But other than reduced ranges and move distances to fit our table, to keep things simple we decided to just play the game as per the basic rule book. No point in complicating things.

As it was, we could probably have gotten in another game in the time available to us, given that this one was over in a measly seven turns. But the game took longer than what I have been used to; as mentioned Erik was new to the game, and Giovanni hadn't played in a while.

In addition, Giovanni- bless 'im- tends to approach every move, of every unit, in every turn like some golfer lining up that final critical putt on the 18th hole in the PGA. I'm not sure whether to introduce a stopwatch for turns, or just rely on a subtle hint followed, if necessary, by a quick gentle kick up the butt. Both solutions have their appeal.

Mind you, to be fair we did take a long break for a rather excellent pizza and some beers. An army marches on its stomach.

Erik is a great guy to game with- as he was when he graciously snotted my IJA with his Afrika Korps during our Bolt Action tournament last October- and will fit in well with the old crew. Despite the outcome, Erik took a great interest in the rules and period.

It seems he enjoyed Black Powder a lot, despite Lady Luck throwing him to the wolves whenever he had to make a critical roll. In his words, Black Powder hit a sweet spot of simple, easy to remember mechanics, along with providing a clear and quick outcome.

To ensure that he was pushed over the edge, at the end of the day I gave him a present of some gateway drugs, in the form of a box of plastic Warlord Landwehr, to help get him started. Pimp those Prussians.

The next post will feature the latest additions to my Napoleonic collection- once I get them based. It's been a while! 

(And apologies for having to upload this a second time- Blogger was being temperamental and corrupted the previous post when I tried to edit it.)

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Battles for Bridgeheads

Finally found the energy for a new post, this time getting around to putting up pictures of some of our previous games.  
My veteran 7e Chasseurs à cheval were not needed on the day- let those haughty Guard Lancers earn their pay for once!

First up are some shots from a very enjoyable day of Napoleonic gaming back in December, There were two games, actually- the first was our usual Black Powder bash; and having enough time left for a second game, we decided to make it a true skirmish; our first outing with Ganesha Games' Songs of Drums and Shakos
Tools of the trade.
Thinking about it, I'm surprised I haven't posted this earlier, as the French were actually victorious! Twice!  Doesn't happen often in our games.

The BP game was admittedly a nail-biter; Matt and I played the bridgehead scenario (#5 from One Hour Wargames), and it proved both a challenge and lots of fun, with the British bridgehead eliminated as their forces were steadily pushed back over the river in twelve bloody turns.
Forces of Liberty, Fraternity, Equality, and Justice.
Forces of Hooliganism, Warm Beer, and high-fat Chip Butties.
We decided that this should count as bad going in the rules.
French advance into the fray.
The game featured a rare appearance of Matt's solitary Neapolitan unit, resplendent in white with pink facings, fighting on the side of the French. 
British cross the river.  For some reason Matt held back one line regiment as a reserve on his side of the river.  Mistake.
I had taken the courageous decision to rely on my French Guard Dutch (Red) Lancers for my cavalry.  These scarlet-hued and overpaid poltroons had so far let the side down miserably in virtually every game where they found themselves actually having to commit to combat. 

This would be their one last opportunity to redeem themselves; I had hinted darkly that if they failed me yet again, there would be some Prince August moulds under the Christmas tree this year, and let's just say I wouldn't be finding myself short of casting metal... 

But for once my lancers performed, if not brilliantly, at least competently; the punitive threat of immersion into the hot metal crucible has been averted- for the time being. 
Une pression impitoyable
French take the fight to the English point d'appui.
The Neapolitans also put in a creditable performance, as they often do in our games.  On this day they made several determined charges against the formed-up 60th Rifles.  After a number of inclusive rounds of intense hand-of-hand combat, the two adversaries fought themselves to mutual destruction, both having managed to fail their break test at the same time.  

But exchanging an exhausted unit of line infantry for one of the enemy's crack rifle regiments was a good trade-off in my books.
Broken Neopolitans.  Matt's grin soon faded as the Rifles failed their own break test.  Snap!
Actually, he's safer with the miniatures than are some gamers I've known. And he doesn't get greasy paws from dipping into a bag of potato chips.

We had time for a second quick game, so we decided to make it a skirmish using Songs of Drums & Shakos.  A British RN landing party's attempt to take the same bridge from a small detachment of voltigeurs- six figures a side.  

My first time non-solo with the rules, and I hadn't the time to get up to speed with them much before the game, so to some extent we were winging it.  

However, it didn't take either of us long to get comfortable with the basic mechanics.  I'm sure we made lots of mistakes, and omitted some parts of the rules.  In the interests of time, we were just concentrating on the essentials of movement, firing, and hand-to-hand combat.  
Alarme! Gaston and Pierre manage to wound a marine, as they bravely try to hold off the attack.
Lt. Alphonse de Martinet rushes the rest of his piquets to the bridge. Would he be in time?
Gaston and Pierre seek cover behind the parapet of the bridge.
After initial British success, and despite the wounding of their gallant lieutenant, the French were able to retake the bridge and slay the impertinent- and, as it turned out, fatally impetuous- Mr. Midshipman Stringplucker.
A fierce mêlée on the bridge sees the Jack Tars repulsed and their impetuous middy slain. Vive la France! 
SDS was great- a real hoot; easy to grasp mechanisms made for a fast-paced game, with not a dull moment. We will definitely be trying them out again.

We had another Napoleonics game on February 25th, and I'll add those pics to this blog later this week.  

Other hobby activities have been mostly building models.  Along with working on the 15mm Desert War British armour, I've been building an M36 Jackson & M4 Sherman Jumbo for my WW2 Yanks.  

I've room at the painting table for plastic kits or painting, not both.  But this weekend I tidied away the modelling equipment and will be taking up the paintbrushes again.  I have had a long period of time where the painting mojo had gone completely AWOL, but recently I've been feeling it returning again, so hopefully there will be a few new Napoleonics gracing the table for our next game.

I also need to work on some more terrain; I'm getting tired of fighting over the same farmhouses every game!

Monday, 8 January 2018

New Toys for the Sandbox

Happy New Year, everyone.
In a Qattara Depression; where has that painting mojo gotten to?  Nothing like a new project to pump up the enthusiasm.
This year's obligatory set of resolutions on the wargaming front are simple; play games, paint figures, build models.  

Simple, concise, and likely to be achieved by the end of 2018.

But the new year means a new project- two in fact- as well as continuing/ finishing old ones.

Bolt Action is still big here in Tokyo, and as my IJA enters the home stretch as far as painting goes, I was thinking of where to go next.  I have my Leathernecks, but much as I enjoy working on them, I think I'd like a break from the jungle for a bit.  So, wanting something out of the ordinary, I resisted the Tigers, Shermans and T-34's and decided on... WW1 French.

More on this later, but the truth is I've already had all the figures and models I need for it, it's not so much something new as it is moving the box up to the front of the queue. 

Also, I really don't want to spend money on another 28mm army- especially a duplicate, as I already have loads of Soviets and a US tank regiment in 20mm.  Anyway I prefer the Battlegroup rules over Bolt Action for WW2 in Europe. 

Certainly, BA can be used- practically as is- just as well for WW1 as it can be for WW2. Bolt Action is, I feel, best as an infantry game using the minimum of armour assets, where I feel it serves very well when approached with more than a passing nod to history.

But I does likes me some waves o'tanks a' hurtlin' across the horizon.  So in December I took the plunge into something that has been on my wargaming bucket list for decades: 

North Africa, Operations Brevity and Battleaxe, 1941.

Using Blitzkrieg Commander II.

In 15mm

And-hold on to your argyle socks- the British Army! 

While at the back of my mind for years, it got a kick-start from once having been sent the wrong models from PSC.  I had received a box of 15mm Pz-IV's when I had ordered the1/72 version for my Germans.  They soon sent me a replacement, but told me I could keep the 15mm kit.  And my, in 15mm these tanks were darned cute... 

Thin edge of the wedge.  I ended up giving the box to Matt, who has decided to do the Afrika Korps (the only acceptable WW2 German army in his eyes).   

For me though, I've always loved the early British cruiser tanks- the multi-turreted A-9's, boxy A-10's and rather sleek A-13's, which in 1940 and early 1941 were perfectly able to hold their own against the Italian armoured formations

Indeed, with their 2 pdr. guns the cruisers were still able to take on the older and lighter Pz-I and Pz-II tanks of the DAK- just so long as their engines and tracks cooperated.
The A-9 Cruiser; an ungainly, tracked shot-trap with paper-thin armour; individual crew saunas provided.  What's not to love?

I can also field what is, along with the Soviet KV-1, my very favourite WW2 tank; the Matilda II, Queen of the Battlefield.  The only British tank to see combat service for the entire length of the war, and a tank to be reckoned with when in her prime.

This all wasn't just an impulse decision, and I've long thought of what scale would best suit the subject.  For us, the image of  Western Desert warfare is the cut and thrust of armoured combat. Especially with BKC-II, which plays fast and furious.  And given the size of my ping-pong table 15mm appears to be the best way forward.

The cost in plastic doesn't break the bank; the models are small enough so that we have the space on our table to actually maneuver, and yet the vehicles and infantry are big enough for me to actually see them, paint them, and to enjoy the modelling aspect.

And painting desert sand makes a change from all that khaki green. 

Phase I is the 2/RTR (with its mix of reconditioned cruiser tanks) and a squadron of Matilda II's from 4/RTR, who will eventually support some Indian troops.  Should all go well, Phase II is some motorized infantry with transport, a battery of 25pdr's, and some air support.  I may even get some Italians later if the enthusiasm is still there. 

I've been making a very good start. My painting mojo may have been AWOL lately, but at least the plastic modelling drive has still been showing up for row call.

This lot all arrived on Christmas Day! Santa's Elves were slacking, so I have been having to assemble them myself.  Just as well, they would probably have used gloss paints anyway.
On the left, three squadrons of the 2/RTR, with HQ represented by a CS A-10 Cruiser.  Three Matilda II's of 4/RTR to accompany the infantry.
I don't much reference material here on the Western Desert campaigns, which had to be remedied.  The first to arrive was an excellent second-hand copy of the old classic Tank Battles in Miniatures Vol.1 by Donald Featherstone.  Primarily for the background info, although we won't be using the rules.  

Can't beat the Don for ideas, inspiration, and insights; after all, he was there!

Finally, Napoleonics are never far off the radar, and in fact I have an AAR from a game last month (two of them in fact) that I need to post soon.  And if I can find my missing mojo and lift up a paintbrush in earnest, some new cavalry for inspection.

So, lots happening this year.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

First FUBAR competition come and gone!

Time for an update. There has been a lot of gaming, purchasing, painting, and just idle daydreaming on all things hobby related since my last post.

Everything except blogging, which is simply because I spend much more time on the iPad these days than I do on the computer, and Blogger isn't very tablet-friendly. 
Japanese SL in Russki livery.  The train made choo-choo noises- what more could a gamer ask for?
Anyway, here is an account of my mixed fortunes at FUBAR, our first ever Bolt Action tournament held way back on the 1st of October, and held at the community centre at Seiseki-sakuragaoka here in the west of Tokyo.

I have to be honest and admit that I actually enjoyed it much more than I ever thought I would. I had never played in a tournament before, in fact I've tended to be quite suspicious of them in the past, due to those stories you hear out there of overly-competitive, unwashed basement dwellers who delight in sucking the fun and energy out of gaming.  

Now that's unfair stereotyping to be sure, but I had never been much for competitive play, preferring my games to be scenario-driven, firmly grounded in at least some historical context, and played against plausible historical opponents.  

I'd heard horror stories about tournaments where one finds Japanese flame-thrower teams darting around the front lines in Kurogane field cars, or unlikely mixed platoons of SS, paratroopers, and- for all I know- COBRA troopers; win-at-all-costs power gamers busy mini-maxing points with not even a cursory nod towards historical plausibility.  

Each to their own, but I wanted nothing to do with that scene.

But I needn't have worried.  There were no such excesses evident, the air was redolent of soap, and as a change from my usual gaming fare it actually proved a nice break.  

It turned out being a very enjoyable tourney, with great people to game with.  There was loads of enthusiasm, with everyone playing to win but not wanting to do so at the expense of everyone having a good time.  Lots of good humour and nobody taking it all too seriously.  

In fact it was surprising just how much we were all able to learn about the finer points of the rules through accessing the group's "hive mind", especially given the range of experience when it came to playing Bolt Action.

In my case, all my experience had been against Matt's Far East British, so I was not at all confident about my chances.  I duly managed to come in 9th out of a table of 12! 

But better than I thought I would, given that the Japanese would be up against all manner of Axis and Allied mechanized nastiness.

For a one-off day of gaming I can live with any of the historical anachronisms, and I have to say I really like the second edition of the Bolt Action rules, which seem to play much better than the first edition. Hurrah to that extra dice for LMG's and MMG's.

We had five, very nice tables laid out for the games. 
Jungle table- The sun doesn't shine in jungle; neither did my IJA.
Giovanni was responsible for this rather nice desert table.  This was much more to my men's liking on the day.
Fear, loathing, and weirdness in Peenemunde
My mountain fort finally saw combat!  I didn't have the chance to play on this table, though.
Psyche Ops.
I liked this one; very "Market Garden-y".
I had decided to risk all and go for what was very much a light infantry force. No tanks or vehicles. Japanese armour would most likely get toasted by anything the Germans or Soviets could bring to the party, so why bother?

Instead, I would spend the points on what was my army's strength; being able to throw wave after wave of good-quality infantry, in large squads of twelve or more, straight at the enemy and to get in close with the bayonet.  And shrugging off any pins or casualties, as was the done thing.  

With just about all my troops being fanatics, no one can better my IJA as far as force morale goes.

I've been gaming long enough to realize that numbers often count, both in being able to absorb casualties and in the number of dice to be rolled; the more dice, the more things average out.  Just being able to roll a dozen dice in a firefight means I'm bound to hit something, let alone unleashing them in a Banzai! charge.

So in the end I went for a very vanilla infantry platoon- straight by the book. My only luxuries were a sniper team, a suicide A/T team, a 70mm light howitzer in support- and the combat debut of my new pointy stick guys- bamboo spearmen.  

To be honest I doubt the historicity of being able to field spearmen in separate squads.  In reality, it's most likely that any army troops finding themselves reduced to having to wield spears instead of rifles would have been skeletal, emaciated, malaria-ridden, poorly-supplied waifs, so it seems to me that having them as a separate troop type seems kind of gamey  (as, I suppose, they were...).  

But for game purposes, they would do; I could get a lot of them, and they were as cheap-as-chips. 

When first putting together the list, I had most of what I needed except for that squad of bamboo-spear armed infantry and  70mm light gun. These were ordered, and came mercifully quickly from Warlord Games.

The morning of the tournament I was knackered, having been up until 2 o'clock the previous night furiously trying to get them ready for the day (some things never change...).  I probably could have had them fully finished, had I not decided to break out the epoxy putty and do a few conversions, which took time.
So I ended up just block painting them, with no shading or highlights, so I knew they wouldn't be winning any painting prizes. But at least they were table ready, and after the game I would take my time to dip them, go over the highlights, and tart up the bases.

I'd rather do it this way then try to do a rush job with the basing just for the sake of the competition.

On to the tournament.  I played three games, all against people I've never played against before; all were good sports, and everything went smoothly, with very little in the way of rules clarification or refereeing needed. 

First round, and I ended up being butchered badly in a face-off against a platoon of Soviet combat engineers- and that in what should have been my natural habitat, jungle terrain. 

Faulty tactics and deployment on my part- my opponent was more focused on the objective.  I dithered around, and I paid the price.  Some nasty hand to hand combat was to take place, so it was no bloodless walkover; but it still came to an end rather embarrassingly quickly!
Reach out and touch someone- with a T-34/76.
Sub-machine guns; don't leave home without 'em.
The only army I really fear is the Russians. My strength is in the number of infantry I can field, and the Soviets can match as many boots on the ground as I can- and have exponentially better quality tanks and support kit, even if their morale can be suspect.

And I'm here to tell you that their veteran SMG squads are fearsome things.

Chalk one up for International Bolshevism.  


Next round, and I went on to again lose the second game, this time fought over a Russian factory complex against- as one does- a reinforced platoon of the Afrika Korps. 

It was a lovely table, and a challenging scenario.  And did I mention that the IJA didn't have any AA assets?
Still, I only lost by a very slim margin due to my opponent being smarter than me meeting the scenario conditions first.  

This despite the fact that not only had I managed to thumb my nose at his Pz-II, but that I had actually ended up dishing out more casualties than I received- admittedly helped in part by a DAK "own goal" from its own air support. 

Shades of Matt and his Royal Artillery, as regular readers of this blog will remember.
Fear not, the train was just a static wreck.
Humiliation came in the form of Erik's DAK sending a motorcycle combo down the flank of the table, where I had nothing to counter it.  Thus he was able to seize the objective and hold it right up to the point when time up was called. 

Didn't see the Hun in the sun.  Be sure to check your six next time, Robato-san.
The spearmen did manage to wipe out a squad of over-confident Jerries.
Damn these internal-combustion engines, anyway.
Quite unsporting, and just the thing I would have done had I had the chance! Next time I will get my bicycle squad painted.

Erik was a great opponent, and despite the disappointing outcome the game was a lot of fun.  And it was fought against a good-looking army; I have to admit I find myself tempted to do a DAK force one day.


The third and last game, fortunately, was much more to my liking; a delicious triumph, one against none other than the much-vaunted late war Germans.  And what's more it was largely won by my bamboo spear-armed, inexperienced troops at that. 
By this time I had gotten into my stride. In the second game I had figured out how better to coordinate my all-infantry force, and this scenario, coupled with a relatively open desert(!) terrain, allowed me to play boldly and aggressively.

Despite being pitted against a late Wehrmacht army armed to the teeth with assault rifles and other nasties, the Japanese launched an assault that ended up wiping out two German squads plus a Nebelwerfer, and in doing so the spearmen- underfed, malodorous, yet valorous-  led the Japanese army on to victory!  

Banzai! indeed.

It helped that James, for all his high-tech Teutonic instruments of frightfulness and death, had no tanks- or any armour at all- with which to crush Imperial Japanese dreams. 
I had dreaded the prospect of facing just a Pz-III, let alone a late-war nasty such as a Pz-IV or Panther.   I've had enough trouble in the past with Matt's M3 Lee-Grant.  Against a Panther I would have been Kat food; all I had was my suicide A/T squad. 

Fortunately, they were to remain under-employed, holed up in a small building and no doubt relaxing with a few games of Go, or getting in a bit of Karaoke practice.
Through the swamp and on to the Nebelwerfer!
Loved James' dice bag; luckily this was the nearest thing he had to a Panther or Tiger.
It was evident to the both of us that with the Japanese being fanatics, the opposing player has to destroy all my squads virtually to the last man, as they rarely rout.

This meant that while the enemy is having to take two turns or more concentrating fire from several of his own units to try and actually wipe mine out, I was able to leapfrog my larger, relatively unscathed squads around the rest of the table, flanking weapons teams and mopping up his smaller squads here and there in hand-to-hand combat and/or firefights. All the time adding more victims (and victory points) into the bag.

Love it when a plan- finally- comes together.  Third time lucky.


great way to spend the day.  There were some wonderful modelling and painting in evidence, good sportsmanship in spades, and it was clear that everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves- really positive vibes all round.   

We had an excellent turnout, and both Giovanni and James Kelly did a fantastic job organizing the day- many thanks to both of them for their hard work.

On top of all that, we were also able to recruit a new player for our Napoleonic games as well, so all in all it well worth attending.  I'm looking forward to the next one.

In the meantime, it's more Napoleonics at my place on Dec. 10th.  Need to get some painting in.