Sunday, 23 October 2016

Gaming Weekend: ACW

I am sitting relaxing after a hard weekends wargaming along with keeping my son and mate Dave Toone happy while at the same time trying my hardest to deliver crushing defeats on both. First up was the ACW game Cool Springs, I got it wrong on the last post, Castleman's Ferry is the second part of the scenario and will have to wait until next year.

Dave took the right flank Confederate division while my son took the left, which arrived on table on turn one, I think their plan was to pin me with Dave's while Stewart attacked what looked like a weak Union right. I had a dilemma at the start, the bridges had been damaged by unexpected high water and were unsafe for my artillery to pass over, and I had a lot of guns, so this was a bit of a blow to my idea of a bolstering my weak line with cannon, my infantry could cross, but slowly and carefully. I was therefore forced to advance my less than enthusiastic, amalgamated ex-cavalry regiments with even poorer weapons to hold my extreme right, I had three regiments already in the wood in the path of Stewart's division and hoped they would hold until I could get men across the river. On the other flank I had to advance my green brigade at the wall into the wood otherwise when Dave came at me he would have me at a disadvantage in a firefight, I would have preferred a long range firefight but I had to meet force with force, the country behind me was too open to withdraw and I wouldn't have had the time to do so safely. I had another green brigade behind these troops and it would have to move to the left to prevent any outflanking movements, as most of my troops would need personal leadership my officers had their jobs cut out for them and would be unable to shirk their duties.

I move into the woods.
 Sure enough Dave came on in the same old style and from the start furious and deadly volleys of musketry cut threw the woods as both sides stood toe to toe and traded shots, despite some excellent shooting by the Rebs my large green regiments took the fire and incredibly their morale held up. The Rebs however began to suffer and several regiments lost stands, but despite this to my amazement they also remained in the firing line, although one officer did take a serious wound and had to be relieved of command. Meanwhile on my right Stewart slowly brought his division onto the table but was loathe to test my mettle before he had damaged my line, but as this was not happening I retreated further into the woods and gave the dismounted cavalry the opportunity to come up and expand my line thereby closing down any hope Stewart had of outflanking me.

Stewart forms up.
The Union right flank defence hardens.

My guns took the odd long range shot and did manage to inflict the odd casualty but the Rebs shrugged these off.

I prepare to get out of the woods.

Now came the best point in the game for the Confederates to gain their victory. A couple of regiments on my left bolted and left a large gap in the line, another on my right did the same, I also noticed that Stewart had a fleeting chance to throw a wild charge into my line which was engaged with Dave, thankfully he did not see it or see the significance of the move, this knowledge forced me to retire out of danger giving the wood up to Dave. This opportunity for the Rebs did not last long and soon I had rallied the routers and filled the gap with reinforcements, Dave continued to press my withdrawal and left the shelter of the woods as several of his regiments gave the Rebel Yell and charged forward. These brave men suffered grievous losses as they found themselves confronted by a fresh Union line, their charges faltered and eventually broke for the rear.

The gap opens up.
I desperately bring troops up to plug the hole.
The last Confederate hurrah.

The gap plugged, the brigades will advance!
 Stewart had by now brought up his artillery but it was too late, I had built up a second line of defence in the woods to my right and he decided not to test me, he instead sent some regiments to the aid of his compatriot, but it was too little too late, the Confederate attack had been blunted, the Federals had recovered and were about to take the offensive, the Union commander breathed a sigh of relief.

The Union line bolstered.
The price of war.
We called a halt after about seven leisurely hours playing, chatting and sinking the odd beer along with if I say so myself, an excellent homemade curry. The fight in the centre and left had been a real slugfest and balanced on a knife edge as to who would break first, Stewart could have thrown his men in with the same abandon as Dave, however he knew better than Dave what usually happens when you attack a line in a woods which is waiting for you, but the aim of the game really did not give him that choice. A comical moment came near the end when Dave threw morale for a regiment and passed the test only to be told by Stewart that that was one of his, he duly re-rolled and failed! We did not have the time for anything else and by the time we played the blame game, cleared away and got the table ready for the next day it was midnight, a great days wargaming and I retired very pleased with myself, the morrow however promised a different outcome.

Friday, 21 October 2016

At the Movies

I have watched two war movies in the last two days, one I was looking forward to and the other I thought might pass an hour or so but if not I could always watch iPlayer, in the event although I enjoyed both the second was by far the best for me, and all the more so for coming as a complete surprise.

Many moons ago when I was doing my part to keep the West Indies safe from the Soviets as Windies Guardship, we used to have a fleet or a squadron at the very least do that, I wandered into a bookshop in Hamilton, Bermuda and bought a book on the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, not for me Louis Lamour, JT Edson or Sven Hassel. It was a strange book written in a strange style and it took me a bit to get into it, but I do remember being fascinated by the story and forty five years later I still have it.

So when I heard about the new movie of the event I really couldn't wait, I managed to see it on Wednesday night, was it worth it, yes and no. The film keeps pretty much to the facts and the filming while not brilliant was fine although wartime Prague seemed to consist of one street. What was missing for me was the sense of doomed fate for the parachutists and their helpers, the film seemed to take it for granted that we all knew the horrific events which followed the ambush and therefore brought them on in a matter of fact style and very rushed as if it was time to get to the end. I have to be honest and say the characters seemed one dimensional to me and I never really connected to them the way I did when reading the book, and there were some very brave people involved and dragged into this story. The assassination itself was promoted for political purposes and nothing else, in the end all it achieved was misery and murder for a lot of innocent people.

The next film turned out to be a little gem and a story which deserves a wider audiance, it is like a modern Rorke's Drift and again points out the perfidious character of politicians, I did some digging on these paragons of decency, one a Noble prize winner and like Lady Di and Nelson Mandela virtually untouchable but flawed nonetheless.

It concerns an Irish UN unit of peacekeepers completely ignored at an outpost in the Congo and left to deal with an attacking force which outnumbered them 20 to 1, without any back-up whatsover as it suited the politicians and the events at the time. Incredibly after six days fighting the Irish did not lose one man while inflicting some 300 or more casualties on their attackers.

Because they were eventually forced to surrender the whole episode and the reputations of the men involved were swept under the carpet and it is only recently that they have been given due praise and thanks for their actions. I recommend this movie and I for one will be getting the book which started it all off.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Preparation is all

Strike while the iron is hot comes to mind, the missus left for Glasgow yesterday and as you know I have some games organised for this weekend, I will also be chef for the weekend as well so I had a lot on my plate today. First thing was the Doctor, a quick run down and then back to the shops this afternoon, wait a mo thinks I, sign up, door locked and off I went early, do the shopping before the Doc then spend the afternoon mucking about with toy soldiers, genius! Customers, meh, the word Doctors should get me some sympathy.

When I did get back there were no irate villagers with pitchforks waiting for me and I only served about three before I closed for the afternoon, OK maybe a little more than three, eight, ish.

I set up the table tennis table and dug out my Geo-Hex which hasn't seen the light of day for some time, I have loads of it. The scenario is a Reb attack on a Union bridgehead at Castleman's Ferry and like the movies this is 'based' on that scenario, I had to simplify the terrain a bit and some of the troops take up more ground than in the map as they are not to scale on there, but overall it will certainly work. I decided to give the Rebs a couple of extra regiments as reserves but looking at the disparate Union forces 50% of whom are Poor or Green perhaps I shouldn't have, I have also given them a few larger regiments than shown in the scenario, again in the spirit of fair play, I may live to regret this because now that I put some thought into it I don't think the Union have ever won this battle.

Almost there.

 I have all sorts of little vignettes for ACW games which have no bearing on the game so as my opponents are making an effort to come here then I am making an effort to make the table a bit special, so you will see some of these groups here and there on the battlefield. I think this is the first outing for those pontoon wagons since I got them in the '90's. I also used my bridges which also don't get out much, the crossing are supposed to be fords and we dice for the state of the river before the game starts but they look good, better than a wee bit of mud coloured paper anyway.

Rebel HQ.
Union HQ.

The troops are ready.
  I decided to put everything up today rather than wait until tomorrow as I would not be disturbed and I have maps to do and a curry to prepare tomorrow or all we will be eating is lead.

It's the waiting that gets to you, steady, steady.

It is very pleasurable to spend some time with troops which may not have been in action for a while, memories flood back of past glories and defeats, of stalwart defenders and cowardly routers, and like Napoleon as I look at my regiments I see figures who seem to be old friends and I know them well. Whatever happens on Saturday it will be a good day for me.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Private Schmitt not General Guderian

Club night last night and I agonised all afternoon on a 750 point army list for the upcoming Bolt Action game against Simon's Russians, no matter what I concocted I never got what I wanted, I always felt short changed. The 750 limit was due to the game being on a club night, it is better to get a game fought to a conclusion than put on something huge which ticks all the boxes except a satisfying finish, another reason is that we are still getting to grips with the rules as no sooner did we feel we were getting somewhere than 2nd Edition landed on the mat.

The Russians get an extra inexperienced platoon because they are, eh, Russians, so I knew Simon could match my infantry and also get a nice tank, I cannot get decent sized squads and a tank, and don't talk to me about the Stuka zu Fuss appearing any time soon. So I was back with my trusty Marder, I might have to look at getting one of those half tracks with the anti-tank gun for smaller games, anyway I also gave all the squads a couple of panzerfausts, I also took a mortar to hopefully give Simon's inevitable sniper a bit of bother and keep his head down.

I didn't need to take any buildings to the club, as I have mentioned before we now have some WWII houses for use so I took all the ancillary stuff, trees, hedges, walls etc. We set up a simple scenario from the book where whoever held the most objectives at the end of the game won, I felt good and had the choice of which side to approach from, so off I set for several buildings to hide in. The Russian tank was on my right so I put the Marder behind a house to wait for a good shot at it while also hoping that it might take the odd pot shot at Soviets in buildings.

A very smart objective marker!
 Early on I had to move the Marder to get a shot at the sniper hiding in a nearby building as my mortar was dropping shells everywhere but on the pest, I thought I was safe but the Russian monster moved and got a shot on me, it missed, thankfully, as it was near the end of the turn my infantry could not attempt a shot at the enemy with their 'fausts as they had already been activated. Simon also took this opportunity to send a squad scurrying towards my extreme right, possibly to assault the house or the Marder, I needed two German dice to come out of the bag next, a big ask but my luck has to change at some point.

First die out, German! I was now left with a dilemma, reverse the Marder and take on the infantry, shoot the infantry in the open with my squad, or shoot the tank with either the Marder or the infantry, take out the tank the enemy infantry will probably shoot up or destroy the Marder, damn open topped vehicles, take out the infantry the tank will shoot again at the Marder. I shot at the infantry with my boys and wiped them out, sadly the next die out was Russian.

The Marder was indeed hit, but wait, a fire only, would the trusty crew put it out and remain in the fight, no they wouldn't, deciding discretion being the better part of valour, live to fight another day or whatever, they fled. Up until this moment Simon had had no luck, his shooting barely gave my men more than a slight cut but now the pendulum swung with a vengeance, in quick succession I lost two more squads and failed several morale throws while my men dropped like flies. I cannot tell a lie, I was a bit dejected, I was going to rush the objectives to get a good score on the last turn but that plan went south and Simon grabbed the win with two of them while I had none.

We are planning a much larger game with plenty of time to spare a week on Sunday, it may simply be a scenario I come up with or if it is points it will be much larger than 750 so that all that lovely stuff I have in the boxes can come out to play.

Elsewhere we had a LOTR game, a Roman Civil War clash with To The Strongest and some players were having an introduction to Scythe, a sci-fi boardgame, a full house just about.

I have managed to save a few quid from repairing the Batmobile to get twelve Saxon archers from Gripping Beast, a lot of the time I provide both armies for anyone I can rope into playing WAC locally so I need to have a better choice of numbers for my skirmishers, hence the new archers. Feeling the hurt from last nights game I may also have to look, as the Germans did themselves, to a cheaper alternative to my tanks, a StuG in other words, where did I put that Christmas list.