Sunday, 25 June 2017

Upstairs and Ready*

Previously, on Wargaming for Grownups...

I had cunningly ordered three armies (Khmer, Thai/Siamese and Burmese) at the same time to provide opponents for each other and to save on postage. The genius part of this was to order only three crossbowmen for a unit that required four, so I had to submit a follow up order to Irregular of some bits and pieces to justify the extra figure.

The excellent Mr Kay responded promptly to my need for an extra crossbowman, so I was able to finalise the third part of my South East Asian trilogy over the weekend. This one is DBA III 9b Burmese 1044-1525AD.

This meant I had to leave the last unit until the figure arrived to ensure they all had the same paint job.

I've been annoyed with the depth of field in recent pictures, so I got the camera manual out and had a look. I've set it to Aperture Preferred and set it to F29. This means a longer exposure with camera shake an issue. Luckily I have a small table top tripod, and using this with the timer solved the camera shake problem. To bring out the colours I've used forced flash as well.

The Burmese Army is top heavy in elephants. In fact, the elephants are top heavy as well. When I mentioned I was going to do this one Phil remarked "Oh, that's the one with the double-decker elephants". As I hadn't researched the army at all at that point this all came as a bit of a surprise. The elephants also have escorts. The army list say "large crew or escorts". Well, I thought I'd go for both.

The central elephant is the General, of which more later.

The battle line elephants are Irregular Miniatures V57, with V58 as escorts. They're quite a cluttered model, and there's a lot going on in the poses. They are a bit fiddly to paint, as I decided to stick all the crew on before I applied the brush to them.

Irregular don't do a Burmese Command elephant. I could have used one from another range with a howdah, but instead I decided to stick with the double-decker. To make it commander-y I added V63 & V64 (Burmese Infantry Officer and Standard Bearer respectively), and hid the bases with Miliput. The army list has the option of putting your general on a "Dragon Horse" and having a Cavalry (CV) unit instead. Yeah. Right. I took the elephant.

I have to say at this point that I had issues with colours and designs again, so this is all made up or based upon best guesses.

The army does have a Cavalry (Cv) unit. These are Irregular Miniatures V59, which come in a mix of styles. I think  the Burmese used wicker shields, so I've had to paint lines on the shields, with mixed success.

Next up with have 3 "Spears", or, in this list, 3 x 3Ax elements. These are Irregular Miniatures V60, together with one each of V63 & V64 again. The figures have quilted armour (as do a lot of the elephant crews), which I've undercoated in black and dry brushed with a pale green.

The army has two units of "Guards". These are the "3Bd" element, using the same figures as the Ax elements. As some of the figures come with cloaks I kept them back for the Guards.

The other Guards are a "4Cb" unit, - those chaps who were a man short and held me all up. These are Irregular Miniatures V62. I would have liked a more active pose with the crossbow, but those can be a bit of a pig to cast, so I understand why Ian has done them like this. Again quilted armour, but this time dry brushed with red leather.

The army has quite a bit of firepower as it has a couple of elements of Archers 3Bw. These are Irregular Miniatures V61 and there are a few variations in the selection so we have a man with a cloak and a few different shield shapes and sizes.

Lastly we have a unit of Psiloi (Ps) Archers, using the same figures as the 3Bw elements.

And here they are all assembled.

They're a nice looking army, - well they've got three elephants - with a bit of colour. I shall be intrigued to give them a go. Perhaps in a three cornered round robin solo tournament.

* For those of you who don't get this reference, then you need to watch this: link

Saturday, 17 June 2017

DBA Double Header

With the outside chance I might be playing some DBA seriously in the near future, I took the time to fit in some practice games.

The event I'm thinking of attending is the Portsmouth and Allied Wargamers Summer DBA event. These are themed, and this year's theme is "The Decline of the Sarmatian Tribes, 201 – 300 AD". I can put together quite a few armies from the list, depending on how accurate I want to be (eg all my Parthian cataphracts are mounted 3 to a base, not 4 and my Romans are a bit early for the proposed list).

Phil was able to pop in on the way back from family duties in the South, so I put together a few armies to choose from. The Germans were quickly discarded (too many opponents with "Knights" that quick kill Warbands) so we ended up with Middle Imperial Romans (Phil) and Sassanids (me).

Phil was defending and made the most of my terrain collection for DBA, which isn't big. I don't often play DBA as she is written, and my major contribution on the subject was the Cannae scenario for the DBA Big Book of Ancient Battles, or whatever it ended up being called. Any how, that hill with the building is a built up area, and the other item is a Difficult Hill.

With the defenders going first I decided not to fight left to right, which was my first thought, as despite my army being faster it wouldn't get out of the terrain in time.

I was helped as Phil only rolled a 1 for his PIPs in turn 1.

With a 3 for my PIPs I was slightly better off, enabling me to chose where the fighting would take place. My Light Horse are double depth to give me a +1 on frontal contact, or expand to give me an overlap, or hopefully both. The cataphracts are lined up with the legionnaries to give me most opportunities for a quick kill, which I did in two contacts, so good news there. Trouble was out on my right every contact was drawn.

What proved to be decisive (apart from a rookie error by me later on) was that Phil's Bows on the difficult hill first recoiled then killed some of my Light Horse, breaking up my line and making it harder to move with few PIPs.

That meant, in this move, that I had one main choice. Either shore up the left flank with the single unit of LH, or go for the jugular out on the right by doubling up some LH. I went for the latter, and got another load of draws. My combat dice were poor. I didn't roll a single 6 in the whole game. Phil's weren't much better, but he did get a 6 on the combat most in my favour.

So I got no kills out of this round, and got some annoying knock backs. In Phil's turn he took advantage of the flank I hadn't closed off, and rolled me up. I had another terrific round of combat rolls and didn't kill anything else. Phil came out a winner 4 elements to 2.

Next up we switched to a non-themed game and blooded the Khmer and Thai armies. At random Phil took the Khmer. We had to improvise the tropical terrain a bit.

The Angkor Wat model looks good with some added palm trees. Phil insisted on the palm trees, even tho' the foliage out there doesn't have much in the way of them. He took the Artillery option, so he has the bolt thrower mounted on an elephant.

Again Phil defended, and although he set up first I made the mistake of putting my elephants in front of his bolt thrower. I could also do with some Psiloi to screen the elephants, but the army only gets one element of them.

It also is a bit of a surprise that elephants are disadvantaged in Bad Going (like all the terrain on the board in a Tropical set up) which is bizarre as Asian elephants are forest creatures, and for the armies in that region formed their centre piece. The idea of not wading into jungle to duff up the enemy with your elephants is a bit odd.

We closed tentatively, not wanting to be the first to get into bow range and not be able to shoot.

Then Phil killed one of my Auxilia with his bolt thrower. My elephants were already dropping behind, due to the double PIP rule for them.

I had to pull more infantry in front of my elephants to shield them...

....which lead to them being killed instead. Meanwhile I shifted one of my beasts across to support my other wing. I was having the usual PIP problems (not a roll above 3), but I did succeed in shooting one of Phil's units with my archers.

That was my only win. The next round we got into the hand to hands, which I lost comprehensively. Oh well. Win to Phil 4 to 1.

So, a good showing by the Khmer, more thought to go into how to use the Thais. Possibly should have picked them as Blades not Auxilia as they'd have been more resilient against the bolt thrower, and even fighting in the jungle they'd just have been on evens against their opponents.

I am clearly in need of a lot more practice, and I need to re-read the rules and work out what they are trying to do more deeply.

BTW I know they aren't the done thing these days, - insufficiently elaborate - but the stockade camps do hold up well for pretty much any army you choose. They're made from matchsticks glued to old smart cards.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Thai for second place

My Khmers now have some opponents. These are Thai/Siamese, (DBA IV/40) using Irregular Miniatures figures from the same range as those I used for the Khmers over on this posting.

I regret that this is a "minimal research" army, unlike the Khmers*, meaning I used the army list and the catalogue listing to put it together, plus a bit of internet "research".

I finished these a week or so back, but I've been off for a week catching some sunshine on a last minute break on a Greek Island. Today was a lovely sunny day so I took advantage of it to get them photographed under natural light.

This is the Elephant General and an Elephant element (Irregular Miniatures V53). I used the same model for both and as it is a one piece casting decided not to do any conversion work on either of them. The main difference is a lot of gold on the General figure, nearest the camera.

Next we have two elements of Archers "3Bw". These are Irregular Miniatures V48. The figure has a lot of variations in pose, costume and equipment, so they make a good light unit. Most of them are posed drawing an arrow in the selection I got, which is a nice dynamic position. These figures also pop up in the Khmer army.

The bulk of the army is made up of "Warriors" or "Levies" or "Soldiers", which are respectively "3Wb", "3Ax" or "3Bd". All of them are on the same sized base with the same number of figures, so they're fairly interchangeable. The figure is Irregular Miniatures V55, which also appeared in the Khmer army. It has a few variations. Some have spears, some have swords and the shields are at different angles. I've painted them in pairs so I can distinguish between them if I want to mix the troop types. I probably should have got some lighter armed figures for the levies on reflection, but these look just fine.

Here they are from the other side, so you can see the shield variations.

Lastly we have a unit of Psiloi (same figure as for the Archers above) together with some cavalry. The cavalry are Irregular Miniatures V54. Again there are variations in the figures. The one in the middle with the spear/lance  stands out quite well. Mostly the costume is the same as the main infantry units.

Here they are, all arrayed ready for action. A good colourful mix if figures.

I probably need to make some jungley terrain pieces to go with them, but then they're good to go.

* 'Cos, like, I bought an ACTUAL book about them.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Soak far, part three

Honestly, the Coke experiment was a disappointment. The paint that did come away needed a good scrape to remove it, and anything in undercuts was immovable.

So, back to the drawing board. Clearly I needed to get a bit more professional. In the last post on this subject Rumblestrip recommended "Nitromors", which is a paint and varnish removing gel so should do the job.

My visit to the local DIY superstore, Homebase, revealed a profusion of potential products, In the end I went for their own brand, for two reasons:

1) It seemed to have the same active ingredients
2) It was less than half the price of "Nitromors" (£3.25 v £8.99).

The main downsides seem to be:

1) It is more expensive than Coke
2) You can't drink it, even with rum in it.

This stuff isn't exactly liquid and isn't exactly gel. It's more like the consistency of PVA glue, a fairly slow moving fluid.

Anyhow, I put the figures to be cleaned in a jar and topped it up with the cleaner. And put the top on, because this stuff gives off fumes.

As you can see it's a sort of white colour.

After a few hours it started to go a bit browny/greeny, so I gave it a shake to mix it all up. It was clear that flakes of paint were coming off.

You are supposed to leave it for 40 minutes. I took a few samples out with tweezers after an hour and gave them a quick scrub with an old tooth brush and they came up nice and clean. I think I have a difference between figures that were undercoated in grey car paint primer and those where I used thinned black Dulux, but I'm not sure. I couldn't tell at this point if the metal on some of them had become pitted by the process. However on reflection they looked okay.

So I left the jar overnight and by the morning it was definitely
that green/brown vomit colour you got at primary school when you mixed all the colours together during an art lesson to see what it would look like and then got told off by Mrs Stuart because no matter no hard you try there aren't any new colours in the universe for you to discover through the random mixing of poster paint..

I strained the mixture through a sieve and they do seem to have been sneezed out of the nose of the Great Green Arkleseizure. I then attended to them one at a time. I should probably have used gloves but I couldn't get a grip on the figures properly. I tried holding them with clamps or tweezers, but that didn't work either. In the end I scrubbed them under running water and I've still got most of my skin left.

The paint came off really easily on most of the figures. Some of those which were a combination of car undercoat, premium varnish and lots of under cuts still have a few remaining scraps that won't come off, but that won't be a problem.

The annoying side effect was that there were a few figures in the batch that I'd had to repair after their first painting. Mr Irregular does sometimes make figures with thin ankles and a few had come off their bases. These are usually easily fixable with superglue. Well, this stuff dealt with the superglue too. And it may have dissolved some Miliput or similar I was using as a base supplement. It certainly did for the polyfilla.

So a success, I would say, with some more figures back into the lead mountain.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

"Am I Boring you?" The Wednesday Worthing Ambush

As I have written before my grandfather was wounded on the First Day of the Somme, and left a set of memoirs of his experiences. He also left us with a good selection of photographs and documents. In addition to being interviewed by Martin Middlebrook he also took part in a BBC radio documentary in 1976. What we were less aware of was that he was also interviewed at length by a local history teacher in Worthing, Peter Barker, who in the mid-1980s tracked down and interviewed all the Great War veterans he could find who lived or had retired in the West Sussex area, of which there were 32. These tapes were then used in history lessons at the school where Peter taught.

A couple of years ago, contemplating his retirement, Peter offered the tapes to the Worthing Library Service who were only too happy to add them to their archives. Their reaction, in fact, was beyond creditable. Not only did they take the recordings, digitise them and store them, they also decided to create an oral history project to obtain further interviews from veterans in West Sussex from any other conflicts of the 20th century. In addition they also researched the original 32 veterans to provide further background. During this research they came across me (through the blog postings) and my brother, through The Great War Forum. We were able to share further details and photographs.

After all this hard work the project had a book and website launch last Wednesday in Worthing Library, so we headed down south to take part. I haven't visited Worthing for nearly 30 years now, not since my Grandfather's funeral. It was a bit emotional, although a lot has changed.

So many people were involved that they had to do the launch twice, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. We got to say something on behalf of the family, - me in the morning and my brother in after lunch. I hadn't written anything specific down, but I'd got my thoughts lined up and made 5 bullet points in my pocket notebook. I only had 5 minutes anyway.

We had the usual introduction from the Project Sponsor and the Project Manager who explained about Peter's tapes and how they'd gone about getting the funding from the National Lottery and the Armed Forces Covenant and expanding the project to the whole 20th century. The project has two parts, a website with clips of audio and also a book, which has biographies and further information on all of the interviewees. The book is almost like a user guide for the website, and there'll be copies sent to every school in West Sussex, and also held in all West Sussex libraries and museums. It's intended as a reference work, and the initial intention wasn't to sell any (there are rules about using Lottery funding for a commercial enterprise, apparently).

After all of that the techie lady got up to do the website demo and play a few audio clips. There's one from a woman who was a code breaker at Bletchley Park, a pilot running Exocet drills for the Navy during the Falklands Campaign, a marine reflecting upon being given his Green Beret and then finally she says something like "This last clip is of Walter Evans. He was our favourite and we all came to love him, particularly the way he asks the interviewer 'Am I boring you?' part way through".

Then she clicks the link, and my Grandad's voice comes out crystal clear, like he's sitting next to me "You see whistles blew at 7.30am, zero hour. Whistles blew and they said 'go on, over the top, over the top' and of course we got up the short scaling ladders we had...." and it's like he's never been away. I'd never heard the recording before, and didn't really know anything of Peter and his project, and then there's tear's filling my eyes, and he describes being shot and trying to crawl to safety, and he pauses and says "am I boring you?" And I can see his eyes twinkling as he teases the interviewer and I've gone to pieces. Then it stops and Emma says "And now a few words from one of Walter's grandsons..."

I'm not often lost for words, but that was tough. Everything I was going to say seemed irrelevant, so I said some other things, about how only 110 of his regiment got back  out of 650, and he wasn't one, how he lay in no-man's land for days before being found by some stretcher bearers, how the ambulance driver who took him to hospital was a Quaker who couldn't abide swearing so they didn't swear, and how you can never know what someone who has gone would want, but that this is what he would want, for the story to be told, and how he inscribed my brother's copy of Middlebrook's book with that well known quote from the philosopher George Santayana "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" and how we all loved him as did anyone who met him. And a load of other stuff too.

Apparently I went on for more than 10 minutes. Normally I can talk for an allotted time precisely, but having been ambushed by my Grandfather through a recording I'd never heard before I was not completely in control of myself.

And then they presented all the veterans and volunteers with copies of the book (I got one too, but felt a bit of a fraud accepting it). It's a weighty book, over 500 pages. A brilliant job done by the project team

They've put together a website with some of the choicest bits of oral history here.  My grandfather's picture is on the front page. That's him on the left, in 1915 at the age of 22 or 23.

My grandfather's testimony about the first day on the Somme that reduced me to tears is here.

The book is available for £10 from libraries in West Sussex, which is a ludicrously cheap price for something with so much information and work in it. They weren't sure about postal sales, but if you contact West Sussex Library Services through this link I'm sure they can sort it out for you. They've only got 400 copies spare, so don't hang about.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Khmer Khollection Khomplete

My DBA army for the Khmer Empire (III/23) is now finished. I used Irregular Miniature figures, and purchased all the options, because I'm like that. And who wouldn't want Maiden Guard and Cavalry or a bolt shooter on an elephant or men waving what looks like a garden hoe.

First off we have an Elephant with a General on it (Irregular Miniatures V36). Whilst we have good information of the physical look of the medieval Khmer Army because of the wall carvings at the various temples I wrote about earlier we don't really have any information on the colours. In the end I based mine on the colours worn in traditional Cambodian ballet performances. Kings are usually depicted in Gold/Yellow. We also have a report that one of the Khmer kings as encased in metal, so he's got an iron breast plate. Traditionally only Khmer Royalty could carry a White Umbrella, so that rounded him off.

Alas on my figure the umbrella pole broke off during cleaning, so I had to drill out a hole and insert some wire. Probably for the best any way.

Next we have an Elephant (El) element (Irregular Miniatures V37). As the Khmer army reportedly based its tactics on a solid mass on elephants drawn up n the middle of the army, only having two in the army (this one plus the General) is less than generous. The overall colour theme for the army is red as, again, soldiers in Cambodian ballets seemed to be dressed in red. The King's trusted councillor is often in Green, so command type figures in the army are in green, like the chap on this elephant.

The army allows you to have a bolt-shooter (Art), and as the carvings at Angkor have one on a elephant (Irregular Miniatures V38) it would be rude not to have one.

At least in that way it looks like you are fielding 3 elephants.

The main body of the infantry are spearmen with long shields (4Ax). These are Irregular Miniatures V38, plus V49, V50 & V51 making a command stand. These are mainly in red, with a green officer but wearing plain linen loin cloths. There's really nothing on Khmer heraldry but they did seem to use flower like symbols, so my army has interlocking figures of eight to give that impression on shields and such like, or clusters of 4 dots on clothing. By  the way I don't see why these would be classified as Auxilia (Ax) and not Spears (Sp). I've read the same sources as the list designer and looked at the same pictures and they look like formed foot to me.

These are Ph'kak men (3Bd), Khmer warriors armed with the traditional axe like implement (Irregular Miniatures V47). As you can see in the one code Ian Kay of Irregular gives a variety of poses and clothing. This is an odd looking weapon and it is hard to see how it would be of much use in any walk of life. Not sure why these are Bd and not Wb.

These are one incarnation of the Maiden Guard (4Ax). I don't recall much evidence for these in the carvings we saw (Irregular Miniatures V45). The army list desciption says that they were armed with ph'kaks but not a lot of evidence about. The ph'kak may well have been ceremonial rather than practical.

For the two bases of crossbow armed psiloi (Irregular Miniatures V52) I departed from the red colour scheme and went sort of blue. Watching Cambodian folk dancing as opposed to traditional ballet the men usually wear blue, although a deeper shade than this one, so I thought that would do for irregular type foot..

These are "archers with pavises" (4Bw) in the army list, but as you can see I didn't bother with the pavises as the figure (Irregular Miniatures V48) doesn't come with one. Don't know why the list insists on the pavise as it comes from one single carving and there are more pictures of them without.

There'll be more of these fellows in my next army as they are Thai (Siamese) mercenaries (3Wb). I can't see me ever using them as they're in the queue behind the elephant bolt thrower and the Maiden Guard. These figures are Irregular Miniatures V55 - "Thai Spearman" although the castings have swords not spears, mostly.

These are the compulsory cavalry unit (Cv). I have a problem with this in the army as the jury is definitely out as to whether the reliefs show cavalry units or command staff. They don't seem to show units, and the Khmer had many elephants and few horses, which had to be imported from India. This group are mounted on "Dragon" horses and also have a "standard bearer", who has a parasol. (Irregular Miniatures V39 and V40). The evidence for Dragon Horses in Khmer armies is pretty thin as well, but having once been mentioned it becomes something "every wargamer knows", so they're accepted. Personally I think these should be an optional element, allowing the way for another elephant. I painted them in green tunics to indicate their officer status.

Finally we have the mounted version of the Maiden Guard (Cv). The evidence for these as a unit is even weaker, but hey-ho, that's what you've got (Irregular Miniatures V41 and V42)

For reasons beyond my comprehension these fellows got missed from the original photo shoot. They are "small shield spearmen" (3Ax). They are wearing the curious tubular armour you see on the carvings, held in place it seems by cords or ropes. I have chosen to paint the armour as buffalo leather, and the helmets likewise, as I think the accounts such as we have point to the King's metal armour being quite a thing, so not likely to be seen elsewhere (Irregular Miniatures V44).

Finally here's all the chaps (and chapesses) all lined up together, with my mini Angkor Wat in the background.

I think it's a nice looking army, and my painting and photos haven't really done justice to it. As indicated above I have an issue with the army list, which I think should look more like this:

1 x General (El)
2 x Elephant (El)
4 x Long shield spear (Sp)
1 x Small shield spearmen (3Ax) or Ph'kak men (3Bd)
1 x Archers (4 Bw)
2 x Archers/Cross bows (Ps)
1 x Bolt shooter (Art) or Cavalry (Cv)  or Maiden Guard (4Sp or Cv) or Thais (3Wb)

Given longer time to thing I might change it even more.

BTW I see that the DBA list covers both Khmer & Cham (the Muslim rules of the Vietnam area of the time). I can't see why that is the case. They each deserve to be treated separately and the Cham as depicted on the reliefs are distinct, - mainly from their helmets/head pieces which look like they are made from overlapping scales. These are ubiquitous, and aren't worn by the Khmer. This means you can't use the same figures for both armies. Reading the description in the army list and having possession of all the quoted references, I feel that this list and the statements about it are pushing our knowledge to the boundaries.

Anyway, on now to the Siamese,  who sit under coated on my painting desk.

It's Raid!-ing Again

I had Shedquarters newbie Gary over for a game or two on Thursday. We had resolved to play SPI's "Raid!" as Gary likes SPI games, and I transposed it into a toy soldier game, because I like them.

WE played a couple of the simple scenarios to get a hang of the rules.

First of was "Raid on Entebbe". This is a two turn game where 6 Israeli fire teams try to destroy 3 Ugandan equivalents. It's fast and furious and not as dumb as it sounds.

The Ugandans are in the airport buildings, the Israelis out on the runway. I assume as this is classified as "Medium" terrain that there are supposed to be aircraft and such like on it. I just put out my black Mercedes Dictator car for show. If memory serves the Israelis took one with them on the raid to dupe the defenders into thinking Idi Amin was paying a visit.

I was the Ugandans and got first fire, which was lucky, and suppressed two bases in the middle of the runway (red markers) and hit one base on the right hand end (white ring, - and also a suppression marker). Suppression prevents movement and gives a negative modifier on fire.

Gary returned fire with his suppressed units, hitting one of my bases (it may have been two, - one out of shot at the other end) and then close assaulted my left.  After a few rounds of fighting my base had been eliminated, leaving the Israelis in possession of the left hand end of my line.

I can't quite get the sequence here (pathetic, I know, for a two turn game) but I was able to use opportunity fire on the group attacking the control tower and kill it. Either that or I did for him in close assault. Probably the latter.

In turn two the two Israeli units from the left hand end then stormed into the next square of buildings, and did for the defenders. They had earlier managed to shoot at and suppress one of the bases on the runway.

The bases in the middle had shot in support of the central close assault and so couldn't fire at the control tower. This had greatly helped the central assault, but condemned the group attacking he tower to being gunned down on the runway as they charged the building.

Win for the Ugandans. Then we swapped over to see how we would do with the other side each.

Gary spread his opening fire fairly thinly, so I was able to close assault in turn one, after a solid round of suppressive fire from the units he had hit but not killed. This meant I was mostly going into action with an advantage for the first round of combat. I had wins at the left and right hand ends, and took a beating in the middle.

Not a problem as I then rolled him up in turn two, having comprehensively shot up the defenders. Solid win for the Israelis.

We realised we weren't quite playing the firing correctly. The Israelis are armed with "Auto" weapons, and the Ugandans with "Semi", so have a CRT* shift advantage, as well as a DRM**. We also came across one of those stupid situations where a base can't do any more damage but the enemy has to get a 6 to kill it. In theory hand to hand like that could go on forever. I'm not sure you should ever be in a position where you can't do any damage at all. In practical terms we were talking about one individual firing at very close range at a group of three people in a building and completely unable to kill any one at all. Doesn't feel quite right for a tactical game.

Anyway, having mastered the basic scenario (we thought) we moved onto something more complicated, - the raid on the Son Tay camp by US forces to free prisoners from the Vietnamese.

The US force of 6 fire teams and one platoon commander are delivered by four transports, supported by one gunship. The Vietnamese have 12 fire teams but no command. The US forces have to break into the compound, free any prisoners there***, kill all the defenders then escape having only lost the equivalent of one fire team.

I started by attacking the compound buildings with my helicopter gunship rockets.

My forces then landed, - bottom left, top right and top left. The black markers are demolition charges for the walls. As the Vietnamese have no command structure they can't fire in the direct fire phase. They also aren't allowed opportunity fire in the first couple of turns. That's pretty good for the US forces, but the killer is they are allowed overwatch fire. Consequently the moment the US forces open fire they get absolutely swamped with small arms fire.

I blew in the wall of the compound, and attempted to shoot my way in. However the returning overwatch fire wiped out the groups outside the base. By this point I had lost more than four men (ie one fire base) and the best I could hope for was a draw. I fought my way into the compound and did a lot of damage, but eventually everyone ended up dead.

We reset and played again. I swapped my tactics slightly, making better use of the gunship and not firing until I really had to and only close assaulting after the gunship had softened up the target. Alas the gunships only get three rounds of HMG fire and two rocket attacks. Still got beat.

It was when we were tidying up that Gary noticed we'd been playing the HMGs from the gunship wrong. They actually hit three squares/hexes in a row, not just one. That means that if you line it up right, and don't do anything with the infantry for the first three turns you can take out 9 defending fire teams with the gunship as you are guaranteed to destroy a base per shot. The rockets them can badly damage another two. That takes 5 moves of time, so you probably need to be fighting your way in as well as you have only 7 turns to blow in the compound wall, search it and then exit. It's a tight scenario as the Vietnamese only need to be lucky once or twice and you've taken 4 hits. I may replay it solo.

Although this isn't the most complicated tactical game - the rules are shorter than PBI, IABSM and Crossfire - they are quite involved and it is easy to forget stuff as I have in all the games I've played. Clearly repeated playings are needed to learn the game, but I think Gary is less inclined to do this than he was previously. He prefers strategic/operational games, and I'm good to go with those on my gaming outings with him, as I can get enough tactical stuff from my local group.

There are quite good things in the game. I like the simple command and control system and the way that units out of command can only react through opportunity/overwatch fire. The single CRT with simple modifiers is handy, but in the end there isn't enough variation. When things are most favourable you can't miss, and when things are bad you can't hit. It is also odd that when firing into a zone you can completely wipe out one base in the square/hex, but the others are unaffected, - not suppressed or pinned at all. And the close assault system rolling to see who hits first in each round of combat is nearly unworkable at times.

Other thoughts? Well, it transferred okay as a figure game, and possibly if I had Hexon tiles I'd look at it more. My squares were a little tight once I'd popped terrain on them. It looked good, however. Helicopters on wine glasses is always a winning combination. And the scenarios are interesting. I think I might revisit them for games with PBI or perhaps even an "AK47 Republic" variant.

But it has certainly made me wonder even more why our group has never developed our own rules for such games.

* CRT - Combat Resolution Table
** DRM - Die Roll Modifier
*** There aren't any