Monday, 29 September 2014

The Sentinel of Cap Guano

Just a quickie post from my iPad. 

I've been in terrain-building mode over the past month, churning out bunkers and jungle vegetation for our Bolt Action games.  But I've also been working on this; a harbour defense gun tower.
This was intended to be a tutorial/ commission job for Giovanni, who originally just wanted a terrain piece to feature a plastic Italeri farm house.  Well, as we discussed it the concept grew from the original one of a fortified farmhouse, into something much more imposing! 

The baseboard is a sheet of MDF and foamboard.  I took a round cardboard gift box and added a tower and stairs from foam offcuts and wooden craft blocks.  The gun is a 24pdr naval cannon from Brigade Games.

The plastic building will be placed in the courtyard to house the garrison, so the finished model should be quite compact.  It will be finished in a warm, buff-yellow stonework suitable for the Med.

Which means Spain, inspiration, and a return to Napoleonics!  Giovanni and I have boats, Matt has Royal Marines and some Jack Tars, so in November we will be putting on a game where the entrepreneurial British descend on the Spanish coast to spike the guns and to see what other merchandise and prizes may be within their reach.

Time to re-read Hornblower and The Aubrey/ Maturin books for scenario ideas.  We'll need a wharf too.

Monday, 8 September 2014

With Enemies like This...

Who needs friends!

Gaming day was this past Sunday, and our Napoleonic miniatures sat pouting on the sidelines like jilted teens at a high school prom, as instead we had my third, and Matt's second, game of Bolt Action.   

We diced for one of the scenarios in the book, and this turned out to be Hold until Relieved. As I had a smaller force than Matt, we agreed that I would be defender.   

It was to be the stuff that legends are made of. Here is an excerpt from the King's Own Academicals' Regimental History. (Thanks, Matt!)
"Early in September 1944, the 1st Battalion was thrown deep into the Kabaw Valley as the pursuit of the Japanese stalled temporarily (?!? -Ed.) at a defensive line of bunkers, thinly manned by some sickly, but fanatical rear guard troops. (Ha! -Ed.)
On the 8th of September a general attack was launched by the 1st battalion of the Academics on six of these bunkers. A company was ordered to attack two bunkers nicknamed Annie and Angus, B company was ordered to capture Bernie and Brutus, while C company was given the targets nicknamed Clarabel and Chummy.
While a success overall, (Ha, again! -Ed.) the battle was to become famous in the 14th army and Academical folklore for the events surrounding the battle around Angus Bunker."
Not 100% finished, but hopefully they will be the next time we play. Ragged soldiers, but bright bayonets.
The rest, as they say, is history. What follows is the version without the Imperial whitewashing by the British official historians. A ripping good yarn indeed.   

The unit activation mechanic of Bolt Action means that the game moves very quickly. One of the unforeseen consequences of this was that I frequently forgot to take pictures of the action as it unfolded, so that this report doesn't have as many pictures as do most of my posts on our Napoleonic games.    

I had placed an MMG in the bunker, supported by a squad of infantry with another squad and various support teams coming on in subsequent turns. 

The British were tasked with turfing the Japanese out and destroying the bunker, the Japanese with making sure they didn't. The river was fordable all along its length, but with the onset of monsoon season in the highlands the river would soon become a raging torrent making it much more difficult for the British to eliminate the Japanese position. So time was of the essence (six turns in fact). 

The British horde:
A jungle-green tsunami...
I had recently painted up a Grant tank for Matt, and on top of that he had just finished working on his new Daimler armoured car. So it was evident that my pathetic, under-armed and under-armoured Type 94 Tankette- whilst being well-painted and undeniably as cute as a button- would be outclassed to an exponential degree in this game. 
In fact, other than some anti-tank grenades and lots of Seishin (a.k.a. "I-do-believe-in-fairies!"), I had pretty much sweet Fanny Adams' worth of anti-tank capability, especially as I wasn't able to find the time before the game to finish my recently acquired Japanese anti-tank team.   

Matt had sent his own ATR team forward to flank the tankette. I had the recce rule, but instead of fleeing decided to brave the shot. He hit it with a a pin, but failed to cause any significant damage beyond having loosened my bowels a bit. His ATR team was subsequently shot to pieces by a squad of my infantry for their impertinence, which was satisfying. 
A Lee-Grant Looms Large. I had painted this for Matt at the expense of time available to work on my Japanese, but the fates were to reward me for my sacrifice.
But at the next draw of the dice, a jungle-green monster appeared menacingly on the road directly ahead of the tankette. Having had placed his infantry to cover the river, Matt ordered the Grant on the table for the first time, providing cover for a following section of infantry tasked with taking out the bunker. 

With the range to reach out and do me some potentially fatal GBH with both its turret and hull mounted guns, discretion was the better part of valour.   

Thank the Gods, I had elected to go with the recce rule; the tankette almost tore its gearbox out while roaring into reverse, and ended up parking itself behind a thick piece of jungle. There it was to remain for much the rest of the game, the crew suffering from terror and diarrhoea while all the time refusing to pass their order rolls.  

And who could blame them, when in a vehicle with all the shell-stopping protection of a sheet of kitchen foil?
Like bringing a plastic spoon to a machete fight.
After the first few turns, things were not looking good for the Japanese. My mortar spotter had been gunned down by the Daimler; we had come out the worst in some sporadic, yet inconclusive and wasteful, firefights. Finally we were just horribly outgunned, with nothing to counter the tank apart from just making nasty faces at it. 

I considered sending a squad of my infantry across the river to attack it in flank; but there were still lots of order dice to be drawn in the turn (most of them Matt's), and it was clear that once my men splashed into the water, they would have been shot to pieces by the British squads lying in ambush along the opposite bank. Aside from having a Vickers MMG in support, the British had the special rule for being good shots. I'd faced them before and knew how devastating Lee-Enfield fire could be. 

In the event, I was able to count on an unexpected ally in the shape of the Royal Artillery. The scenario gave Matt two opportunities to call in off-board artillery. He had held off on the first turn, and called for it on the second, targeting the bunker itself. 

Unfortunately for him, there must have been some kind of administrative snafu at HQ, so the barrage ended up being delayed by not just one, but two turns while all the time his troops worked their way closer to the bunker. When the order did go through, the barrage landed right on top of the bunker. 

However, it would also take in everything within an 11" radius around it. This resulted in the rounds coming down and plastering not only the bunker and any Japanese in the vicinity, but also Matt's tank- along with his infantry squad advancing right behind it. Pins and hits galore; the tank was knocked out and the battered squad came out with four pins, with the survivors hunkered down in fetal position while their ears bled.
...and closer...
BOOM! An almighty eruption of tissue paper (we forgot to bring the kapok).
In contrast I got off lightly, with the "woodpecker" in the bunker only receiving one pin- which it later shrugged off. A nearby sniper team copped three pins, but as there was nothing in their neck of the woods they could shoot at that didn't have several inches of armour plate protecting it, this was no big deal. 

I must confess to not being overly demure and restrained at the moment of victory; I was bloody ecstatic. Matt, for his part, learned the hard way not to get too close to incoming of any side. He took it- and my gloating- as a gentleman and sportsman should, hey, what? 

In one fell swoop, this effectively tore the guts out of the British attack, as without a honking great HE gun at their disposal, the bunker was to prove well-nigh impossible to take out, given that there were only a few turns remaining.
Empty space showing area of mutual annihilation.
There was some further action along the river, where as I mentioned my infantry had taken plenty of hits. In desperation, one of my depleted squads fearlessly banzai'd a squad of British infantry as they got close, and destroyed it. My men paid the price as the few survivors were then mowed down by fire from the British units on the other side of the river, but in doing so they delayed the British attack on that flank back by a precious few turns. Eggs, omelettes and all that. 

In the twilight moments of the battle, the British managed to flank the Japanese command group and massacre it to a man, but too little too late, and anyway there are plenty more officers to be had off the Ichigaya assembly line. 

Time was soon up, and with the river rising the British would have to pull back. This left the Japanese in possession of a thorn in the side of the British advance, and able to consolidate and strengthen the salient, while conversely the British would have to commit more resources into assaulting it sometime in the future, with the prospect of heavy casualties against a well-entrenched enemy position.  

Ah, the sweet smell of success. A glorious victory for my Japanese, due very much to the spectacular "own goal" by the British artillery (clearly Indian or Glaswegian gunners with fifth columnists in the ranks). You'd have to ask Matt for details about the great "Rangoon Rumble", an almighty brawl between the RA and the Kings' Academicals that took place after the war.

We both really enjoyed the game and the scenario. In the three games of Bolt Action we've played so far, it has been one Japanese defeat, a draw against the US Airborne, and now a Japanese win. I'm doing a lot better with these guys than I usually do with my Napoleonic French.

The mechanics are simple and there are no reams of charts to look up, so we can concentrate on the tabletop tactics rather than the rules. And we are really liking the order dice system; it makes for interesting decision-making and maintains the tension. Things can change fast, and Fortune is always a fickle mistress.

In fact, we are wondering if we can adopt something similar for our Black Powder games.

NB- To be fair, Matt has informed me that while his tank was well and fairly toast, since the game he checked again and found out that if anything the damage was underestimated. Aside from probably wiping out all his infantry rather than just pinning them, the MMG in the bunker should have been sent to Nirvana as well.

Chalk it all up to experience- oh, and pass me another shot of celebratory sake. 


Finally, I would like to remind everyone that La Bricole- our small but ever-so-friendly Napoleonic wargaming forum- is up and running again after yet another cycle of migration (and neglect- I kept failing my morale rolls for some time after the damage it did, and the migration couldn't have come at a worse time given all the stuff I had going on in my life at the time).  
We'd like to make it more than just a Napoleonic forum, and widen the scope to anything that falls within the Horse-and-Musket period (with a little corner of the forum for other projects as well!)

Here is the address; please update your bookmarks if you haven't done so already!