Monday, 29 September 2014

Just keep rolling along.

Spent some time making some new river sections over the weekend.

They may not look much but as I start to do more square based operational games it is increasingly clear that rivers need to run along the edges of squares not through the middle.  This means I need some 90 degree turns and some straights cut to specific lengths. For example:

This means I can now do this:

What this proves to me, of course, is that I actually need to make a few more, and that some of my older sections need some surgery. 

I had to buy a new tin of my basic blue paint, and also some new clear household varnish, so they're not quite a perfect match. I shall have to leave them out to fade.

Now, back to the hard board and the fret saw.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Modern life is rubbish

A non wargaming post.

The car started making a squealing noise when I was parking it and/or backing out. And the brakes were squeaking too. It's funny sometimes how the less you drive a car the more problems you get. Up and down the M6 daily for months and nary a problem, a few months of pottering about and I start getting issues.

So I took it round to the local garage in the village to have it looked at. Turns out the alternator was jammed and the squealing was the belt running less than smoothly.

So I approved the repair then walked down to pick up the car at 5pm.  All fixed. Except. ..

Whilst doing the work they noticed that one of the rear shock absorbers was leaking. And one of the front tyres was worn flat on the inside.

Six months old that tyre is. They don't do tyres and it's too late to have the shock done today.

So next day down to the tyre supplier to discuss why a tyre with only 10,000 miles on it has worn so badly.

Oh  It's your tracking mate,  innit?  And you need that shock doing and your springs. .....

So that's how I'm spending my morning.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Shipping in some new ideas

Phil has had these ideas for 1930s/early 40s naval warfare rumbling around in his head for a while. He took a simple try out to CoW as a "pop-up" game and we had a brief demo earlier in the summer in Shedquarters as well. He's making some more progress but wanted to have a proper workshop session on them so we had a look on Wednesday afternoon, with him, me & Chris A.

He's still got a few things to think about, - principally ranges and move distances. And he needs more ships, so a couple of my ACW Ironclads stop in as torpedo destroyers. However we still had a good session.

The core mechanism is that each ship has a deck of cards with its vital components on them, - eg "Big Guns", "Rudder", "Engine Room", "Main Magazine" and so on. The bigger the ship, the more cards you have, mostly. When you move you can play cards, such as "Engine Room" if you want to go faster/alter speed, "Rudder" if you want to turn and "Torpedoes" if you want to launch torpedoes. The ship playing most cards goes first.

You can see the ships with the cards next to them in the above picture. The cocktail sticks represent the ship's wake, showing it is moving.

Firing is done by drawing golf tees from a bag, blind. The number you draw depends upon the cards you can play, - adding "Big Guns" gets an extra tee and some ships have two "Big Guns" cards. Using "Fire Control" also adds tees. Red tees are hits, blues are misses and whites may be hits depending on the type of ship involved.

You can see in this picture that I've played both "Big Guns" and "Fire Control" plus I'm at close range so lots of golf tees round this destroyer.

The number of hits is the number of cards your opponent takes from your full hand, (face down, so he doesn't know what he's done). You can then swap some of these out (eg for your "Damage Control" card or "Drill") and then you can try to fix them. Your chances of fixing depend on having your "Damage Control" team active. Those cards are then not available until next turn when you get a chance to fix them again.

If you get the wrong combination of cards and can't swap or fix it can be quite serious, especially if one of the hits is on the "Main Magazine"..... happened to me.

There's more to it than that (it has a neat air wing system for aircraft carriers as well), but what Phil has done is produce a system where hits mean real things and ships are affected in proper ways. I've never really liked the crossing off of "hull points" or whatever as it doesn't strike me as what happens in naval conflict. What happens is the ship's systems degrade until it no longer can fight. Or it just blows up. Like me.

I hope Phil is able to finish the design and publish it some how. It's a unique take on the subject to my eyes, and what's more could be applied to other forms of conflict using crewed vessels.

Babylon 5, anyone?

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Russo-Turkish Rumble

By way of a bonus game last week Chris A brought along his Russo-Turkish war figures, which he games using Neil Thomas' 19th Century Europe rules. We've tried these before, but Chris has added quite a few bits and pieces since then. He's also been reading more widely on the war mainly due to being trapped in hotels whilst away on business.

In this scenario, laid on for Phil and I to play, the Turks have followed up on an earlier victory and are landing a considerable invasion force on the shores of the Black Sea to free their co-religionists. The Russians are advancing rapidly to throw them back into the water.

Chris is a habitué of charity, one world and toy shops and favours a simple look to his terrain. Hence he has cornered the market in our area in toy wooden buildings, that give the game a definite "look" and fit in scale with the 15mm figures. I provided the road, water and ridge line.

The game opens with the Turks having a foothold in the central town, hoping to hold off the massed Russian forces that have just appeared over the hills.

There are rather a lot of Russians, aren't there?

But then there were hordes of Turks, waiting to cross on their landing barges. These natty little boats were scratch built by Chris using modellers block wood, large foam dominoes and hit markers from "Battleships" for funnels. As I said above, he spends too much time in charity shops.

The Turks were also supported by an ironclad.

My first objective as the Russians was to clear the town in the centre of the table. I therefore massed my artillery and subjected it too a heavy bombardment.

I then assaulted it with a column of infantry.

 Meanwhile the Turks were starting to land in numbers.

My main force was on my right, and I drove back the Turkish skirmishers and pressed on towards the port, ignoring the desertion of half of my locally recruited skirmishers. There's not a lot of tactical finesse here. The Turks are armed with proper rifles, the Russians with more of a rifled musket whose main purpose is to provide an extension to get the bayonet closer to the enemy.

As the Turks were mainly landing on my left, I sent a few columns over there to slow them down, whilst I put my right hook through the other side of the port.

I'm pressing on closely here, but taking fire from the ironclad. Alas for me I have outrun my artillery support which is struggling to catch up and deploy.

A view from inside the right hand port buildings. My chaps look quite threatening, don't they?

My attack is driving in against the Turkish left. The ironclad and rifles are starting to inflict casualties (NB I'm using clear plastic casualty rings rather than my normal white ones, so you can't see the level of damage quite so easily in the pictures).

On my left I charge in on the town. (BTW Sometime around now we had taken a break and Phil had left us to go to a committee meeting or something like that, so Chris took over the Turks)

The defensive fire is devastating and some failed morale rolls rather clear me out. Yes, I know the tower from the mosque has moved. War artists, eh? They just make it all up.

The other side is going a bit better, as I manage to get a flank charge in on the defending infantry line on the water's edge.

Even though that attack is a success, I'm still taking lots of casualties from rifle fire. Luckily the Ruskis ignore the first morale test and just press on.

We storm into the port, but even if we succeed here I suspect I may not have enough troops left to exploit the victory.

On my left I've got very little remaining, and the Turks start to break out. A counter attack by me down the road has driven the Turks back a bit, but at the cost of a lot of casualties.

The attacks in the right hand port buildings go quite well, and the Turks are left holding on by their finger tips.

The game ends with me in possession, just, of one half of the port, and Chris well in control on the other side. My main strength is the gun line off to the left in the picture. This has proved to be very effective whenever it has had a target, and the Turks are reluctant to close with it.

So, in summary, the Turks have been made to think twice about the invasion but at the cost of pretty much the entire Russian army in this area. Good job the Russians aren't short of men and the tactics they favour don't require a lot of training.

Another exciting game. NT's rules were expanded from the 8-12 units he suggests, but they cope okay with a lot more. They seem to work well and provide a good range of possibilities and problems to the players. They are decidedly not Napoleonics+ nor are they ACW with add-ons.

I may pick up a copy for use with my next project.

Monday, 22 September 2014

It's my blog and I'll write what I want to (part 2)

This weekend was my birthday weekend. The Peronne game I reported a few days back was my birthday game for this year (although there's also another game to write up if I ever get round to it).

Anyhow, birthday treat this year was a visit to London.

We started (after finally getting there, - transport issues) with a trip to the Imperial War Museum. I haven't been there for years, so a catch up on the general collection & the WW1 stuff was well overdue.

Well, we had a few issues. The place was heaving with people. The Great War is so fashionable now everyone has to have a piece of it, and where better to get your piece than the IWM?

What this means in practice is that the access to the brand new WW1 galleries is restricted to a certain number of people, and you have to get a ticket from the desk, even though it is free (like The Ufizzi in Florence). Next available access 3:45pm, by which time we needed to be well away. Humph. Still we could look at the rest of the stuff.

Well, the museum still has some cracking exhibits (Monty's staff car, bits of a Lancaster, nuclear bombs etc), but it's gone a bit modern-y. It's been zoned, and there's lots of audio visual and the exhibit descriptions are on post-it like things. It must have looked great in the design, but it's impossible to look round when it's busy.

And the general level of ignorance isn't helped by a general lack of understanding and the widely held belief that everything is a machine gun. I quote:

"What's that Dad?"
"It's a machine gun"
(No it isn't, it's a 25pdr howtizer)

"Oh look a machine gun!"
"So it is dear"
(No it isn't, it's an anti-aircraft gun from the Falklands War)

Ah well, enough of the appetiser. Off to Hammersmith for the main course of the day:

Yup. Ms Kate Bush performs live, just for my birthday. We meet up with our son & his girlfirend (he had to get the tickets as our internet access is so rubbish).

In accordance with her wishes, no pictures of the show were taken (a practice followed by pretty much EVERYONE in the theatre) but here's the opening band set up:

And this is the half time curtain:

I didn't go and see her on the original tour in 1979. I was doing A Levels and thought they were important. Anyway, it'd be easy enough to see her on the next tour, wouldn't it? Didn't think it would take that long.

The show is a performance, - it isn't a concert. There's an opening 30 minute set, then a theatrical interpretation of "Ninth Wave" from "Hounds of Love", followed by a 20 minute intermission.

After the break you get a show based on "Sky of Honey" and then an encore including "Cloudbusting"

It is simply a brilliantly imaginative show. Slightly bonkers, as you'd expect, but totally professional. She started on time, she finished on time. The sound was perfect and the visuals stunning. 

I know a lot of people (including most of America) do not get Kate Bush. For those who do, there's both so much and so little to say. She's unique (she's only a few weeks older than Madonna, but so, so different). Despite all the genius and madness she comes over as really normal. Her interaction with the audience carries the air of someone astonished she can't believe her luck and amazed that people care about what she is doing. Her delivery is self deprecating, and her delivery so, so, English. She describes her band as "Shit hot" in a middle class Kent voice in a way no one else could do. She's not pretending to be anyone else except for herself.

And then at the end of the show she has us all sing Happy Birthday for one of the crew. Okay, so it was for someone else, but it was my birthday too.

And I bought a T Shirt.

It's in the Trees, it's Coming.

Then it was here, then it was gone. Except in memory.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Battle of Peronne - 23 March 1918 (Op14)

One of our MNG irregulars had a week off work, so we had a chance to have a game during the day. Phil, Chris A & I have been discussing Op14 for a while and following the last trial game we went for a historical refight, using a scenario prepared by Martin Rapier of the Sheffield Club.

Having agreed the day and time for the game Phil discovered that for him the Gasman Cometh. So I started with the Germans and Chris A took the Brits. Phil arrived in time to observe the final turn.

So, we are two days after the opening of Kaiserschlacht, and we're looking at Gough's Fifth Army VII & XIX Corps defending the Somme crossing at Peronne. The map looks like this:

The crosses on the right indicate the old (1916) Somme battlefield which is, frankly, a real mess and difficult to move across.

British VII Corps has 6 brigades with 18 battalions and a couple of field and howitzer brigades. XIX Corps has 6 brigades with 16 battalions, two field artillery brigades and one howitzer brigade. They've also got a tank battalion and a cavalry division.  8th Division has moved up overnight with two full strength infantry brigades and a field artillery brigade.

The Germans have:

XXIII Reserve Corps: Strength 28 battalions in 9 infantry brigades plus 3 x field artillery, 2 x howitzers .

XIV Corps: Strength 18 battalions in 6 infantry brigades, 2 x field artillery, 1 x howitzer.

LI Corps Strength 14 battalions in 5 infantry brigades, 1 x field artillery, 1 x howitzer.

The Germans are trying to breakthrough and cross the Somme/Canal du Nord. The British are trying to evacuate Peronne and conduct a fighting retreat to the Somme/Canal du Nord where they expect to hold the German advance

Translated to the table the British set up looked like this:

Chris has gone for a fairly heavily defended "Green Line". His attempts to dig in overnight have had mixed success. The game starts at 6:30am (dawn). There is a heavy mist, so aircraft can't fly and artillery can only fire at targets adjacent to units in its own corps.

The German left is a bit light. LI Corps moves up to assault the British line, however, expecting a whirlwind breakthrough. However they are caught by a very effective British barrage and falter on the attack start line.

The German right looks more promising, however.

This view from behind XXIII and XIV Corps shows the masses of German forces moving up. If we were to replay this scenario then these should be deployed two squares in, rather than coming on from the table edge.

So, according to the turn track, this is the situation at the end of turn two:

XIV Corps artillery opened up with a devastating barrage in the centre. This is only a holding barrage to pin the defenders. No assault planned.

The first successful assault goes in on the right in XXIII corps area. A heavy barrage inflicts a lot of hits, so the British drop back out of line and the assault is a walk over. As all the artillery of the corps was focussed on one square the two flanking brigades did not attack.

This aerial shot gives a better view of the position. The German left has stalled quite badly, and the British are moving up both cavalry and tanks in anticipation of a counter attack.

The photo below is at the end of turn three. The British on the right are dropping back under steady pressure, trading ground for casualties. They are leap frogging backwards, hurriedly digging in where ever they have the chance. On the left the cavalry move up, contemplating a wide outflanking manoeuvre.

At this point I thought it was going rather well. On the right my casualties are quite low.

This picture above is just a low level shot 'cos I think it looks cool.

End of turn four and the mist still hasn't cleared. I could really do with my aerial spotters as I'm losing touch with some of the British units, so I can't shell them.

However, I have finally managed to get myself sorted on the left with LI Corps, and the British are limbering up and pulling back towards Peronne. Looks like quite a traffic jam is in prospect (NB I only have British limbers. You'll have to guess when the German artillery is being moved)

This panorama shows the Germans are making progress, but typically we are outrunning our artillery, so have to hold up before making any further assaults. It's still misty, so no help from ground attack aircraft either.

On the left we're pressing forwards, but not with any great speed or confidence.

End of turn 5, and the mist clears. Alas it starts to rain, so still no aircraft.

My right wing stalled this turn, There's one of my units under that smoke on the right, but the hastily improvised British defences have held me up. Trucks are leaving Peronne unhindered (you can see one on the road, top centre), and the British right is conducting an orderly retreat.

I struggle in the following move too, although I have broken the left of the British line. It's becoming clear that I've not got enough daylight left to make it to Peronne, or across the canal.

So, turn 7. I continue to press forwards, but it's getting tough. Everybody, with the exception of XXIII Corps is in danger of becoming exhausted.

It looks pretty bad from the British side of the table, as they are in full retreat and have taken lots of casualties. Alas it has all been a bit slow for the Germans.

Unfortunately it is LI Corps that first succumbs to exhaustion (see yellow markers denoting exhausted units below). I've come close a couple of times to seriously disrupting the British by shelling both Corps' HQs in the last couple of moves, but to no effect.

It's still crowded around the Peronne river crossings, and the tank battalion is suffering major mechanical breakdowns. More armour for the Kaiser in prospect?

End of turn 8, and as night falls XXIII Corps finally gets its leading unit across the canal. A success, sure enough, but too little too late, perhaps?

We didn't play a second day. The Germans had made less progress than they did historically. The British are still East of the Somme. This may prove to be a problem as the Germans may be able to destroy them completely. Alternatively, they could slip away overnight.

The game played really well, although we are still working on our understanding. I wonder if there should be any further tweaks for the end of the war. The game only features field artillery, and I for one have got a 60pdr in my British artillery park.

Thanks must go to Martin Rapier for sharing the briefings. I think we have a taste for this now but I think it works best for historical refights. Best go off and do some research then, hadn't I?

And may be dig out my RCW kit.