Friday, 10 July 2020

A weight off my mind

Fairly quiet week where the lockdown really got on my nerves, I had to put a rictus smile on my face as people came in wanting to be served and further annoyed me while I sat falling asleep in the corner in my 'Frasier's Dad's Chair'.

I did manage a few things, the Paras are ongoing with the 1st Squad complete, the second ready for varnishing and the third next in the queue. Not difficult to paint and lovely figures to boot so I may have them dropping into Nazi held Europe fairly soon, even if it is solo.

In between the above I kept going back to my station, I decided to make some place names, so that I can get the most use out of it I made three, French, German and Russian, I was also tempted to do a Polish one as my Red horde close in on the Reich, but that can wait for now. I also managed at last to get the foam ballast I have been looking for, this is lovely stuff as the rails fit into it and you get 5m of the stuff for a reasonable price. I had wanted a textured ballast but that remains unavailable and having no patience I took the basic one, considering how often we have rails in our games I could have waited but no.

On the same subject mate Stuart designed and printed off a pile of luggage for my station, I had asked for a couple of suitcases but he has outdone himself and has produced some excellent pieces. They are waiting for me at the local PO depot as there was not enough postage on the package, and here was me thinking I was in 'the trade' so to speak and these things were irrelevant to me, wink, wink.

 Up until recently I have had no mapping projects, I got a small one in a couple of weeks ago, but this morning I have gone to the opposite end of the scale with the publishing house open for business. The Atlas now has a completion date of February 2021 so this means at least seven maps a month until then, however these have to be done in between other work and I have to rely on the author sending maps far quicker than he has done so far. Hard on the heels of the Atlas news I received eleven maps to be drawn for "Eighth Army versus Rommel" by James Colvin, there will be no falling asleep in the chair now.

As you can see the end of the week has brightened up for me, I also managed a haircut, I had to jump through several easy hoops to get the cut and hold a mask on throughout but I managed, so with a weight off my mind (come on) I skipped back to Casa Anderson. Oh and one grateful customer mentioned my new look today, oh pleeease.

Ugly Duckling.
Beautiful Swan.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Groundhog Month

No wargaming again this week solo or otherwise, the main reason being I have gone back to normal hours and only have a Thursday afternoon to myself, and weekends of course, although to be honest the footfall in the afternoons is pretty pitiful and I could probably manage a solo game. As usual there is confusion, despite notices, as to whether I am open or not, there is also a bi-annual rumour of the PO closing down completely from some demented local who knows more than I do seemingly.

Anyway for the past week I have been busy building my railway station from Sarissa, they have several but I went for one which I hoped looked generic and could be used both in the West and East. It turned out to be quite a large kit but went together without a hitch, I didn't want it to stand out as I said so went for muted colours, once finished it still looked rather plain and obviously needed some posters, so, Russian or French, or even perhaps German or Polish, I had to make my mind up, I went with French. I also thought that I would nevertheless make some station name plates in French and Russian, unless you get really close you cannot tell the writing is French, so from a table top view the station can be anywhere. The platform looked a bit bare so I put a couple of pieces on and will paint some more later, my friend Stuart who runs Magpie Designer very kindly offered to print some 3D suitcases for me so they will also be done later. All I need now is some ballast for the railway tracks, there is a foam one which would be perfect but I cannot source it anywhere as it is sold out, so keeping my eye on that for now, I really don't want the hassle of making my own.

The Paras are now organised, cleaned and primed and I should be getting to them tomorrow, especially if this dreadful weather continues, heavy rain, high winds and cold here, but that is actually normal here in July now, summer has come early for several years. As usual I looked at the Para organisation in Chain of Command and found it did not measure up to the actual organisation in the field, I always start with CoC as I find Bolt Action is not conducive to historical units, you can use them but have to ignore the books. The Para platoon for late war consists of three squads armed with 3 SMG's, six rifles (one a sniper), a Bren and one 2" smoke mortar. The mortar guy has an SMG and a cut down version of the 2" mortar, the sniper has a rifle with a scope and is more than likely a marksman rather than a real sniper, I believe the real snipers were held at Company level, I am not mocking the marksman just putting him in a wargaming context, I was a good shot but not a sniper by any means. I once pointed a rifle at my CO and got hit over the head with it as he frantically jumped aside and grabbed it, but that's another story. I read that not all squads took their mortar along so to save me several pounds I only went for two figures with the mortar, thinking that I could swap it out for the extra Bren, if I so need a third I can requisition a regular army one. The platoon HQ also had a reserve weapons pool, mine will have a Bren which can be given to any rifleman in a squad, now I have read that there may have been a PIAT here as well but I lean towards these being Company level weapons so support rather than integral. There are several ways I can deal with the marksman and I have decided that if he gets a 1 on rolling to hit he can roll again, that seems to be the simplest solution, the same could work in Bolt Action a reroll for a miss.

 The Paras will keep me busy for the next three to four weeks I think, WWII figures are not hard to paint although I am waiting for the bases from Warbases who have only just returned to work. Rubicon will be releasing their new PzIII kits near the end of the month, I have an idea to at least get the command tank version, I may also get the late version as these turn up in odd places during the fall of the Reich and even in Normandy in '44. After that probably another few SYW battalions.

I could have finished the station a day earlier but I was dragged to a garden centre, why do sane people have the urge to go to these places and spend a small fortune while being asked for £20 for a tea and scone. I just kept schtum for a quiet wife and set off, on the way we stopped in Lancaster and I nipped to my favourite sweet shop for my liquorice fix, duly waiting my turn at the door, two packets of Zoots, one Catherine Wheels, one Jelly Bellys and I was made. Things got better at the Garden Centre when I noticed a £1 range which has excellent Liquorice Comfits or Torpedoes, oh and the missus got some plants.

Not much going on on the entertainment front either at the moment, I have tried a few things but nothing which made me want to repeat the experience, apart from two, Money Heist and Kingdom. Money Heist is a Spanish production and is a bit different from your normal bank robbing movie and very clever with it. Yes I have a moan, the production is dubbed and a couple of the voices don't seem to fit the characters, but that is a minor complaint, I am now on Part 4.

Kingdom is a Korean zombie movie but set in what I guess is the 16thC, it is typical of Eastern movies, the acting and expressions in places a tad OTT and at times comical, but like a snake it has drawn me in and I cannot shake it. A perfect piece of nonsense for a night locked down.

Saturday, 27 June 2020

The New Normal

No such thing, once again a week goes by where you need lawyers to work out who you can see or cannot see, whether you can get a haircut within shooting distance of an actual hairdresser and Elf 'n' Safety put out a 43 page tome on how to get a pint in a pub, and don't get me started on the other stuff.

No games at all this week, and at the beginning I finished off a little limber and it's handler for the Seven Years War, a grey blue limber so he will be British, I did want to put a rider on the horse but ordered the wrong horse, I don't think he would fit anyway as his legs would prevent the poles going along properly. With this complete I was left once again with nothing in the bottom of the barrel, I had ordered up a couple of buildings but was not sure when they would turn up. So, like a true wargamer I ordered up more guys I do not need. I decided on British paratroops as they would do for Normandy and the upcoming Lardy special on Arnhem so I got a full platoon and some supports from Artizan, they will be here next week.

While ordering the paratroops I also bit the bullet and got a railway station, a must really as mate Matt had given me a railway signal, it arrived yesterday. On Thursday my Russian Church turned up, I just thought it would complete my little village. The instructions I found a bit challenging, I glued pieces as shown only to turn the page and find I shouldn't have and now had a problem fitting parts in, yes I should have taken more care but I plunge ahead with MDF kits as if they are from Ikea. Another small bugbear is that the roof and other parts are very delicate and it would seem the laser sometimes went completely through and this caused me to have to glue pieces before I could glue them to the building, not many but a few. Now the good news, it is a very clever and beautiful kit, faithfully representing a wooden Russian village church, I am tempted go get some other buildings but having a complete village already I really cannot give in. My attempt I think is nice but I am sure someone with better modelling skills and more patience could really make this kit pop.

My son called me up as he has just finished painting and organising his study, he knows I have several military prints in storage at the moment because I do not have room for them all now that the Memsahib has banned them from the dining room so wondered if he could have a loan. My eventual plan is that they will all go up in my wargame room when I close the Post Office, so once he signs the papers he can have a couple. He reminded me he also has some ink drawings I did a long time ago which I had forgot I loaned in the mists of time, they too will have to come back.

I have completed my first map commission since the lockdown started, maps for the rebellions against Henry VIII in the West Country, nothing fancy but a start, I may be back on to the AWI atlas next month as well.

The Post Office is not busy at all at the moment, locals still have not grasped that I am open again in the afternoons so it is a long day, the missus has not deigned to do her bit yet and if she is happy in the garden then I shall suffer for her for a week or so yet, no, please, it's nothing. I may therefore get back to some solo gaming on a Thursday afternoon until some brave soul ventures into my den.

Friday, 19 June 2020

Another Introduction

Duncan came down yesterday for another game, eager to play any period, any army I decided to take him to the other end of the spectrum from WWII skirmish, a Dark Age battle Saxons vs Romano-British.

Duncan duly turned up at 12.30 and I took him through setting up a game and introduced him to the Romano-British, I had organised two forces at 2,000 points and to all intents and purposes each mirrored the other apart from the British having larger shields, a hangover from the Romans, so a typical Dark Age slog was on the cards. It takes a few games to work out how a system plays but these armies are far less complex than Romans or Seleucids to handle and using them is a good way to learn the rules.

On deployment I put my Hearthguard, Duguth and Pict warband in the front line, on the right I put mounted and foot skirmishers with my Ceorls at the end of the line also on the right. My idea was to assail the British left and then close with my main line, I would hold off attacking the hill until victory was assured. Duncan deployed with his cavalry and skirmishers on his right and the main battle line anchored on the foresaid hill, he had quickly grasped that the hill was good for him but I also knew that and would stay away until I felt an attack was warranted.

Saxons on the left, Romano-British on the right.

 With my left in the air I had to advance and also send my cavalry and Ceorls to defend that flank, my archers made an effort on my right and managed to have the British Pedyts chase them which kept them out of the main battle. Duncan struck first and his Welsh and a Milites unit crashed into my line, despite this my boys held and then routed the enemy within a turn or so, the Welsh ran first as my King and his bodyguard cut them down. The British Milites on the hill advanced to take on my Picts, the Jocks held but only just, however as the British leaders Comitatus had not advanced I was able to help the Picts by flanking the Milites and having failed their morale for being attacked in the flank the Milites were routed and dispersed.

The Romano-British cavalry had had to give up their attempt to flank my battle line as my cavalry got within javelin range and my Ceorls also arrived on the scene, both cavalry forces now set about each other with neither winning a victory. In the centre only the Dux and his companions were left almost surrounded on his hill, banner fluttering in the wind and disaster all around.

This game could have went either way with forces of the same ilk, my dice just happened to be better then Duncan's, also I had managed to hit the Welsh warband with my elite Gedriht who were more than a match for the Taff's. Duncan did manage to hit my warband but it held out long enough for support to come to its aid. I have know for some time that my warbands are not large enough and as they have no armour and only a shield they really suffer and do not get their warband advantage, I may have to look at recruiting more men.

What else this week, well I finished my terrain pieces, an oil tank, water tank, railway signal and fountain, I had hoped they would last me a bit longer but they were all simple builds and easy to paint. I do have some simple railway lines and am trying to find a ready made ballast, there is a foam type you can get which would be perfect but it seems to be sold out everywhere. This brings me on to getting a railway station, well if you have a signal you may as well get the station, no?

On the tray for now is one figure, a draught horse and a small Seven Years War limber, probably a couple of hours worth. I am getting a vision, it's coming closer, I can see it now......British Paras!

My followers have dropped from 80 to 79, has someone 'cancelled' me, have I been banished from the platform or whatever the expression is, has the train left without me? I have had a couple of run ins of late on Social Meedja so perhaps the mud slinging of me coveting weapons of destruction have stuck. Or perhaps the guy has just given up with Blogger, and why do I care because I am 67 and lived on a planet far far away........

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Lockdown Week ............... whatever.

What's happened this Groundhog Week, not a lot, I finished the Road to Bremen campaign and didn't want to start a new one as Duncan the Pakman (geddit?) wanted to be introduced to modern wargaming as he hadn't done anything since he was a teenager. I decided Bolt Action would be better than Chain of Command so got mate Matt to put an army list together for Normandy Germans that Duncan could use, I took the British, the forces were around 1,000 as when I looked at the 1200 point armies I decided they were too big for an intro game and cut out a few units on either side.

I chose a simple scenario from the rule book where a briefcase full of important papers had been left in a jeep in no mans land and both sides wanted to retrieve them. I haven't played BA for a while, maybe since last year so might have got some rules wrong but I made a mental not to look them up later as I didn't want to spend most of the game buried in the rulebook and put Duncan off. I decided to take things easy and then about mid game make a run for the jeep from an orchard I had been hiding behind, I made a small foray on my far left with one squad and a Sherman, to find myself in a duel with a Puma and a Marder IIIM, as usually happens with my armour the Sherman came off worse and duly exploded after initially having the turret jam. Duncan meanwhile had taken possession of a large building directly overlooking the jeep, he was a bit cautious of trying to get to the jeep and the squad he did send was none too keen and even less keen as casualties and pin markers climbed.

I now advanced all my troops and was getting close to the objective, however time was up and as the Puma ran riot in my rear area and the Marder moved to cover the jeep it was obvious I was not going to get the papers back, but also the Germans despite their armour also would not be able to reach the jeep, a draw.

We also managed a lot of chatting while playing the game and one of Duncan's friends turned up to tell him he was going to work on an engine recovered from a Russian BRDM personnel carrier, I think I have that right. He is perhaps going to replace the engine with an electric one and then hire it out as an eco friendly war machine. Thankfully the wargame did not put him off and he will be back at Casa Anderson for more games in the future, his mate also promised to get the Kettenkrad up to Duncan's so I can have a spin in it at some point, result!

I had a really good day yesterday, mate Julian came all the way from Kendal to bring me a pot of white paint which I am in danger of running out of, so he gave me the paint and I gave him eight Perry Highlanders which he wanted to paint up, Julian is an excellent painter and I did not need the figures having ordered too many. We had a coffee and a chat over the table for the afternoons game while customers came in and stared. I then had the game and in the evening I had a Zoom 'Show and Tell' with the guys from the club for an hour or so which was good fun, a lot of busy wargamers and a lot of enthusiasm for various projects when this nonsense is done with.

If we do get down to a 1m social distance I would like to do more games here as my table is 9'x5' and Duncan and I were on opposite sides all afternoon so there would be no problem in upsetting anyone.

I am back to normal hours from Monday, a real shame as I have been enjoying my afternoons off due to the lockdown, every cloud etc. I have had my first map commission in since lockdown, the book is about the rebellions against Henry VIII in the West Country, there are 11 maps to be rendered. On the tray are the 88th Foot to be based so they should be complete tomorrow, then I have a SYW limber to do, a few hours worth and then some scatter terrain, an oil tank, water tank and a fountain. I also have on order a beautiful Russian Church from Scenic World and a small round, brick well, I don't need them but with a full Russian village why not a church?

Just had Rob from the club pop in to post a parcel from a PO with no queue, I gave him a discount and put the secret Postman's mark on his parcel.

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Road to Bremen VI (Bob loses out on the girl)

As Colonel Bob and his men approached the industrial outskirts of Bremen only the old men and youngsters of the Volksturm stood in his way, would they surrender or fight, Hauptmann Krosbi had survived several combats and evaded the squads carrying out summary executions of 'traitors' in the rear areas and managed to convince the local Gauleiter that he had to make a stand.

I am glad the Volksturm were going to fight otherwise my new industrial buildings would have remained on the shelf until 2525 when the lockdown is lifted. These forces were much weaker than the army and Waffen-SS troops which had gone before and consisted of two infantry squads variably armed with SMG's, assault rifles, rifles and panzerfausts (sadly the old type), in support they had a Pak 36 upgraded with the steilgranate and a panzerschreck. The area was too large for this small force to defend so Krosbi decided to use his forces in the complex nearest the rear and abandon the other. The British kept 1 Platoon in the spearhead as it had taken very little casualties in the last fight, this time two of the infantry squads were carried in halftracks while the heavy support involved one of the remaining Shermans, the plan was to be aggressive and rush forward to overwhelm the defenders.

As the Germans waited for the British to show their hand one enemy platoon advanced quickly on the left flank towards the empty complex, once that had arrived the halftracks were ordered forward covered by smoke and the Sherman. Krosbie now brought on his anti-tank assets and they both opened up on the Sherman, over a couple of phases when the smoke cleared they managed to damage the gun sight and kill the gunner while inflicting some shock, but never managed to knock out the Sherman which still managed to support the British attack. It was now time to bring on the Volksturm, however one squad trying to make for one of the buildings took heavy casualties on the way and only just made it to cover, the other defended against the debussed British infantry who had managed to close the gap to the defence line due to smoke cover. These brave men put up a gallant fight against larger odds but soon found themselves whittled down until only Krosbi and the Junior Leader remained standing.

With the writing on the wall the Germans surrendered amid the chaos, in a later interview a wounded Krosbi confirmed there were no more troops between Hope's men and Bremen, the British were relieved. Sadly though the Germans had managed to sneak a minor victory due to their tenacious defence of the Hedge of Death for three turns, well done Matt. The maps are a work in progress, I hope eventually to cover all the vehicles etc. I have and to tart up the terrain, I didn't have time to work with a Pak 36.

A fitting end to a great little campaign, I was very happy that both my new buildings and Fall of the Reich units made it into combat and very pleased the old men had fought so well considering the odds. The campaign is a very fitting fight for solo gaming as the Germans have to commit all their forces apart from possible reinforcements to certain tables so the onus is on the British to clear the way, my thanks to friend Matt for allocating these. The mechanic whereby the Germans might think twice about dying for Hitler and surrender is also quite brilliant. Could anything improve the game, possibly, I think some of the maps are a bit too open and would have liked more choices for my British support but perhaps as they start with three platoons that would be a bit greedy. This Campaign is in the Lardy 2017 Special and is well worth the few quid, I would like to play this again in a face to face encounter.

I have played quite a bit of Chain of Command since the lockdown and during these games introduced several house rules from the Lardy Forums, some worked, others I dropped. The big one is how to reduce the effect of one side getting two or more phases in a row, I tried dropping a die for every subsequent phase but all this did was limit the amount of orders you could give and actually stopped you taking advantage of the double or triple phase. I found the best way to limit this was not to let anyone fire twice, this means you cannot simply wipe out an enemy squad with impunity and you can focus on maneuver more, both players are then happy, or happyish. I also made the mortar blast area a 9" circle rather than a square, not a huge difference but a bit better, I might also try an 8" beaten zone, again a circle at some point. I also allow pinned troops to move away from the enemy without losing movement to shock. I had also at one stage introduced a sixth die for the attackers, this really didn't work for me mostly because I was just unlucky with the throws, managing to get 4, 5 or 6 with it which in the event were useless, but I still think in some games it is worth considering, especially in games where the attacker has a lot of support, too much to manage with five dice.

As you know I did not have a Pak 36 to use with this campaign so just had to buy one, and as luck would have it Matt rolled one for support in the last game, so I spent a couple of days getting it ready. The kit is from Rubicon and is an excellent model, a lovely little gun with five crew, it is marked as early war but I wanted it as a last ditch weapon used during the late war by garrisons and ad hoc units in the paths of the invaders. To this end I gave it a late war camo scheme and painted two of the crew in camo jackets so that they fit better with my existing Volksturm and Volksgrenadiers, I am happy with the result. You get a steilgrenate with the gun which is what allowed it to be used until the end of the war and the new ammo could penetrate 180mm of armour (basically all Allied tanks) at close range, I decided not to fit the grenade but leave it on an ammo box just to remind me the gun had one.The crew are also far better than the normal 'Ken doll' types you get with Rubicon, and you get five!