Monday, 31 October 2016

Beware the Bear

I had the chance for a large Bolt Action game yesterday and was hoping for a multiplayer but in the end it was Simon and myself, Simon furiously painted more of his Russian forces on Saturday hoping to use them on the Sunday, his missus was away as well. He didn't manage to get them based properly but they were perfect to add to his existing forces so we ended up with 1700 points worth each, I upped this a little by giving both sides a truck and an armoured halftrack because transports hardly ever get used in a normal game and as I had them I wanted to use them. I now have a lot of stuff which probably will not turn up in a normal game but I will be ensuring its use here at home even if I just put everything on the table and shout Charge!

I went online to find some scenarios I could use, as usual I didn't have a lot of time but I was really surprised at the dearth of ideas for WWII games, even the Scenario section on TMP is more of a discussion page than a go to for game ideas. I really must put more effort into this for my next home game.

I went for a theatre specific list for the Eastern Front 1943-44 which at first glance was not much different from the other selectors but, like in Normandy, I don't get a flamethrower, one of the most beastly weapons in the game, no idea why. Simon goes for the generic list so he can have just about anything and he always takes a sniper and flamethrower. I made two lists up, one with a Panzer IV and one with a Panther, as the Panther had yet to make an appearance I went for the big cat, mind you I usually find I can't afford a Panzer IV either, hence the Hetzer winging its way to me. I ended up with three regular infantry squads and one veteran, the Panther, sniper, Panzerschrek, mortar, medic, two MMG's a PAK 40 and of course a truck and halftrack and a partridge in a pear tree. A nice balanced force covering all the angles, the Soviets of course went for numbers, five squads including tank riders, SMG's and rifle squads backed up by a T34/85 and a bog standard KV1, sniper, flamer and artillery observer, truck and halftrack. Game on.

Kampfgruppe No Luck (geddit?)
 There were three objectives and on I came, I set up my PAK first to command the centre of the town and then the odd squad way over on my left a couple in the centre and the rest I put on the right, my small armoured Kampgruppe with the Panther, veterans and Hanomag. I also put an MMG team on a small hill to command the village but this quickly became a target of the damn sniper, so I turned my mortar on him to flush him out, once again I would have been better rushing the crew up and throwing the bombs in the window, but he did go down until he realised how useless my shelling was, even my own sniper could not kill him. Simon opened his battle with an artillery barrage, it looked dodgy for a moment but when it came it was a miscalculation and only blew some dust over my PAK tow, I breathed a sigh of relief. Between the Panther and the PAK the Soviets were forced to keep their tanks to the right of the village, the T34 did manage to get much nearer but still hid, it also stayed back from my infantry who all had Panzerfausts. About half way through I lost one squad to the flamethrower, this really annoyed me as it only killed three men from a ten man squad but my guys failed their morale and scarpered never to be seen again, across the way their mates were assaulted by the tank riders and were decimated, I lost control of the village. I now threw, or rather shimmied my Kampfgruppe towards the centre of the table, despite a huge volume of fire being poured on the Russian squad to my front it took forever to kill them. It was now nearing the crises point, I moved my left flank squad out into the open to try and knock out the KV1 which was going to destroy them if left alone, the 'shreck team failed three times to hit it, then I found I was just out of 'faust range, these boys too went south. Simon moved the T34 out for a fight with the Panther, I opened up, a hit, yes, no, ding the shot ricoched off the front hull, thankfully he too missed.

In the dying moments of turn 5 Simon threw his vaunted tank riders at my veterans, yes they got minced as well, at this point I threw the towel in, I had no infantry left, the PAK, mortar and the Panther couldn't hit a barn door between them, my sniper was trapped upstairs in a house surrounded by Russians and my own morale had plummeted. Well done Simon.

The wargame, well I don't think I have ever thrown so many one's for a long time, nearly everytime I had a single die throw it came up a one, and my morale was the opposite, the rolls were too high hence the loss of at least two squads. My shooting as well was abysmal which is why it took over three turns to wipe out a soviet squad, OK they have twelve men but they were hit by four MMG's, two LMG's and several rifles each turn! Some of my post match moans were my own fault, granted, but there were a couple of things which riled me, one is the effectiveness of the sniper, every sniper was a good shot but they were not all supermen, or women Reg. He ignores cover, gun shields etc. when they are the obvious things to mitigate against getting a bullet in the brain and if he hits a team weapon it is  removed as being useless, he is not aiming at the weapon, just the man using it, so if he goes his well trained mate should take over until perhaps he is unlucky enough to also fall victim. You therefore have to concentrate an inordinate number of your resources into killing or shifting him, resources which should be more concerned with fighting the battle. There was one more fairly ludicrous thing which happened, yes possibly I made it worse but much more a failing of the rules. The truck I used to get my grenadiers into the village was on the road, it can only pivot 90 degrees once, it was blocking line of sight for my PAK, not alltogether but it needed to move, I turned it 90 degrees and moved it into the big house's courtyard, road cleared. I then found I could not back it up and turn down the road as you cannot pivot when reversing, I could only pivot 90 degrees in the courtyard so it was going to take me two turns to get it out of there, in the end I drove it into the estate's garage, howls of derision from the Soviets. Yes I could just have accepted that those were the rules or driven it through the village, past hordes of Russians over on to the left flank where I didn't want it. The thought crossed my mind that the rules author has never been in a car never mind a tank.

So there you are, despite this it was a good game and had a lot of nice troops on the table, I shall continue to look for 'proper' scenarios or try and come up with something myself, yes it may be unbalanced but it is war. I also need to up my WWII game, my all arms approach failed against the Russian steamroller. In Normandy in 1944 21st Panzer had a Kampfgruppe commanded by a Hans von Luck, now do you get it?

Sunday, 30 October 2016

View from the Window

Vegetarians look away now, what better way to start the day than a bacon sarnie, the food of the gods followed by a double espresso to kick start my internal engine. I wasn't caught out by the clock change but the missus who is 'away' with her friends still emailed me to see if I had, she also tried to organise my whole weeks meals so I didn't starve without her, despite being left the Batmobile, my debit card and three supermarkets within walking distance. The anger against the road closure is reaching new levels as people are now, too late I might add, wondering why there was no traffic management put in place at the beginning of the work, also the 'workers' do not work of an evening nor at the weekends. The road jams outside the PO is a sight to see and I have to keep my eyes open in case my wall again gets taken away by some SUV, truck or caravan. It is dull and grey outside and slightly damp, there is a promise of rain which to be honest we have not had much of over the past month or so.

In the pub on Wednesday a man in the know was telling me about the modifications to the so called overflow works on the river Keer which is causing the havoc, in layman's terms it would seem that it will still dump raw sewage into Morecambe Bay but it will be diluted so therefore will pass the limits for dumping raw sewage. Mind you, you only have to look at Morecambe's seafront and you would be suicidal to paddle or swim in it as hordes of people actually do, yeuch.

You have probably never worked in a shop before but you will know that a lot of things wind me up and I learned a long time ago to quickly forget that 'the customer is always right' because nothing could be further from the truth. I had one this week who came up for a parcel then asked if she could open it, take the contents home in her bag as she didn't want the hassle of getting rid of the cardboard, guess what, neither did I and I told her so and that she could put it in the bin outside if she didn't want to save the planet and put it in the proper recycle bin at home, all that weight. I handed a knife over to cut the tape and she even asked me to do it in case she cut herself, the dear, luckily she didn't. She wanted an awful lot considering she has never so much as bought a stamp here before. Then there are the ones who lick their fingers and make a big show of thumbing a note with a loud snap in case two are stuck together and as my eyebrows are too close together I would obviously keep this fact to myself if they were unlucky enough to hand me two, he is Scottish you know, the previous owners are probably buried in the garden.

Mind you perhaps I was a tad miffed above, we went into Lancaster for some shopping and decided to save time we would have lunch as well, we went to a pub the missus thought might be OK, the menu looked meh, but I didn't particularly fancy something burgerish or Italian, you don't have a lot of choice in Lancaster, so in we went. The bimbo behind the bar saw us enter, watched us approach the bar then proceeded to a side kitchen where she commenced to wash some plates or glasses or whatever, she was on the clock as my ire rose. She made it by seconds to tell us to take a menu and a seat, which was a shame as the meal was less than mediocre, although I had to smirk at the wife's fish goujons, which actually consisted of one goujon comprising half a fish in batter on a piece of bread, a fish buttie in other words. The chips came in their own little cage, the peas in a tiny bucket, the only saving grace was that I actually had a plate on which to do the cooks job and plate up.

As I looked in the mirror last night I was brightened up by thinking that if those refugee 'children' in Kent looked 24 but were twelve according to the authorities then on the same basis if I move to Kent I could get back twenty years and pass for 43. All those millions spent by the cosmetic industry to make people look young again and fight off the ageing process and all you have to do is throw away your passport.

Yes, this is one of the 'children'.

Good news for all the hypochondriacs out there but bad news for the NHS is SAD, a new condition to add to the lexicon of illnesses, it is Seasonal Affective Disorder, seemingly if the cold, grey mornings, occasional mist, rain, snow, hail etc. you know, the stuff that comes with Winter, makes you feel down then you may be suffering from SAD. Now they may have a point there because on the mornings I know I have to go to the PO I am particularly sad and amazingly this does not affect me on the other mornings, go figure.

There is possibly a light at the end of the tunnel for SAD sufferers because it has been worked out, how do you get a job like that, that if the clocks were not tampered with twice a year we would find ourselves enjoying loads of benefits. People would have more time for jogging, football and tennis among other sports, so take that obesity, the elderly would be more likely to have a late afternoon stroll, business' would stay open longer, crime levels would reduce, the benefits are endless, why haven't we done this before. All joking aside would you be likely to do any of that with an extra hours daylight, no, nor me. Not only that but as usual there are two camps with completely opposing statistics for leaving well alone or changing and I cannot be fussed to bother with either, I got a lie in this morning, end of.

What about those Russians eh, trying to refuel their warships where they have been refuelling them for years, it's not as if they would run out of fuel on the way to the eastern Med and are now adrift, that'll teach them. We refuelled all over the world, I remember on our way to the Far East we fuelled in the odd African country which was a bit dodgy on their human rights and stayed a week in Apartheid South Africa without a hitch, twice, we took onboard everything we could as well as fuel. We backed the overthrow of an elected government in the Ukraine, we allowed nearly everyone on Russia's borders into NATO or the EU while telling the Russians to go sing, our press attacks them for bombing in Syria while we happily bombed Libya and are doing the same in Iraq. The press are warning about Russian flights and ships around us, they have been there since the '60's, I have seen them, we have also been sending troops to Poland and the Baltic states for exercises since those countries joined NATO, what's the big deal now? And as usual we are first in the door while our erstwhile NATO allies are not quite so keen as usual, I don't want to glow in the dark because the politicians can't get the job done or some mess in the Middle East.

When I was a kid you knew it was Halloween because you could get Monkey nuts (peanuts in their shells) in the shops, you couldn't buy a costume you had to make it, and if you did go out you usually got a handful of those Monkey nuts or an orange but you had to tell a joke, dance a jig or do something for them, not threaten the houseowner with mayhem. No one knew what a pumpkin was and if you carved anything it was a tumshie (turnip) which is a lot harder than a real pumpkin let me tell you. I hated it then and I detest it now. Of course we now have Trick or Treat not our own old fashioned Halloween, already houses are beginning to sprout skeletons, ghosts and fake spiders webs, it has been a boon for the big supermarkets and it isn't going to end anytime soon. Thankfully there are no children who live near me and we do not have the shop any more which was a big attraction for kids who thought we would be happy to give away all our stock to them and they came from far and wide, some taller than me sporting only a bin bag on their heads.

Ed Balls is becoming something of a reality star, I had expected him to crash out weeks ago but a lot of people are keeping him in this show so it can't be the Labour Party.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Slow Week

Having been fired up with a weekend of wargaming I was looking forward to my Tuesday night jaunt until I was informed that the School where we meet had an event on and we were therefore moved to another section. I had organised a War and Conquest game so it would be a struggle to get the terrain from one place to the other, even if that were possible, and the lighting in the new room I was told was not good, so I cancelled.

All is not lost however as I have a game of Bolt Action organised for this Sunday, the missus is away for a week and Simon has a free day so we are spending it on the Eastern Front circa 1944, we will have more time than usual so we are going for a large points game and I therefore hope to get some of my more fancy vehicles on the battlefield. To sort out my problem having to take the open-topped Marder as my go to armoured support I have ordered up a Hetzer which has the same gun and is cheaper than a Panzer IV, a little research however has shown that this vehicle first appeared on the Eastern Front in July 1944 so will not do for Normandy battles, which gives me the opportunity to get a StuG III for that period. I have a crazy idea to paint the Hetzer in a late war scheme then give it a slight white wash as the residue of a winter coat.

On the tray at the moment are twelve Saxon archers, usually I have to bring both armies if I game at the club so I do lack a greater choice for skirmishers, also the archers I have are actually Romano-British so grate a little when I use them for the Saxons.

I have also gotten into the habit of having the telly on in the background when I paint, usually something I am not too bothered with and can listen to rather than having to watch every second in case I miss a crucial backward glance or knowing look. I am enjoying the second season of Narcos at the moment but it is no good for painting as you have to be aware of the Spanish subtitles, so I usually leave this until I am done for the night and can concentrate, if you haven't caught up with this then do yourself a favour and start now. I also have to revel in the dark ambience of Gotham so that too is no good.

So I went looking, I like comics so tried Marvels Luke Cage, this is an almost all black show where if there is a white guy in it he is either a dope or is there simply for Mr. Cage to beat up, payback maybe, whatever it is it was not for me. The main actor was from the P Lank school of acting and I was overwhelmed by the Motherxxxxxr and N word use, so no go there, swiftly on to another comic book inspired series, Stan Lee's Lucky Man. I had got the impression the earthy James Nesbitt was the main actor in this however the guy pictured on the advert looks like someone who has been to a plastic surgeon to make him look like James Nesbitt would have looked thirty years ago with a plastic face. Anyway it was James Nesbitt, his talents wasted, and the the series is dreadful, has a cheap feel to it and will not do even for painting. While searching I came across The Jim Gaffigan show, Jim is a fantastic comedian, well, I like him, so I thought winner, sadly the show revolves around Jim and his family and friends, there are 5 kids and a bubbly mum and it all looks rosy in the household, no tantrums, no shouting and no slapping, I thought it was comedy not fantasy. Also chucked out was The Good Place, Fresh off the Boat and several other 'not to be missed' series.

James Nesbitt never looks this plastic.

So I ended up with Ripper Street, and I managed to get the guys fleshed and started on their tunics, so a result in part, it is early days, the good news is that if I do continue with this it is up to series six or something and that is some amount of painting.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Gaming Weekend: WAB

Despite a late turn in the night before we all mustered on the parade ground at 0800 hrs ready for a completely new experience, well Stewart and I did as Dave was going to introduce us to Warhammer Ancient Battles which we had never played before. I now realise I should have taken a photo of the excellent Scottish breakfast I prepared, especially for a certain blogger who enjoys his breakfasts, black pudding, haggis, tattie scone, mushrooms, beans, square sausage and egg but I digress.

Dave had brought a Scots/Irish army to the field consisting of four very large warbands all with their own leaders, characters, standard bearers and musicians, an important addition to units in WAB, in support were some slingers and a unit of elite cavalry led by even more characters and the army general, a very powerful unit. Stewart was playing the first game and was using his Carolingians as Western Franks, he also had four infantry units, slings and bows with a cavalry reserve, Stewart had not cottoned on to how important the extra leaders etc. were, Dave magnanimously gave him the chance to rectify this but he turned it down and stuck with what he had.

Terrain was almost non existent and played no part in the game, both lined up in typical Dark Age fashion and set too, Stewart was hoping to wear down the enemy cavalry before impact and started off well with a kill but thereafter his arrows missed or fell short. Dave's main problem was that despite possibly having a plan his warbands had minds of their own and they were difficult to control as several of them went hell for leather at their opponents. Stewart threw his cavalry in and they were easily destroyed by the Scots/Irish nobility, I think at this point Stewart had an infantry unit rout as well but they managed to outdistance pursuit, the Frankish Rex was not amused.

On the other flank a warband had chosen the wrong people to mess with, Stewart's favourite troops and not a bunch to take lightly, sure enough the warband bounced off and ran for the hills, the pendulum began to swing, the routing warband took another with it and very soon Dave was left with only his cavalry and one warband to face three victorious Frankish units which included the fearsome hearthguard. After a decent beginning the Scots/Irish morale had crumbled and Dave called a halt to the slaughter, the score after the previous days Union victory now stood at 2/0 for Clan Anderson.

Stewart's boys.
The Scots/Irish break.
The end.
It was now my turn and the pressure was on, I felt I had to get a win but of course was unsure of how my army would perform, although the warbands had failed against Stewart I knew they could be fearful in that first clash, I had chosen a Romano-British Civitates army, the Twilight of Britiannia specifically. I had done my homework and received intel from someone who had played a lot of WAB before, I knew to put all those leaders etc. into my units which I did with the infantry, I had  four blocks of infantry, one elite, one average and two mediocre, again like the others I had two skirmish units, slings, and one average cavalry command.

I lined up in typical fashion, like Stewart I hoped to kill off some cavalry before taking them on but Dave had decided to put his horsemen in the centre of his army, I was nonplussed to say the least, I then decided I would hopefully use my cavalry to catch him in the flank as he advanced his right. My best troops, my Comitatus, were on my extreme right and I wanted them to destroy the opposite warband and then flank Dave on his left, my general went with them.

The lines clash.

I deliberately advanced into the Scots/Irish charge reach hoping to entice the warbands to come at me which they did and again to my surprise so did Dave's cavalry, no subtlety in this battle. My first Pedyt unit was ridden down by the cavalry and things looked bad but I should not have been worried, although one warband held I was confident of destroying it in the second round, my Comitatus as planned beat their opponents, I was on a high. I had tempted the gods, my second Pedyt unit were stalwarts and made their morale for my rout but even as their enemy ran so did my Comitatus!

Things are looking dodgy.
Dave's right flank is destroyed.
The next turn was mine, my cavalry flanked the warband facing my Milites and off it went, the Comitatus, shamed, returned to the fray, another of Daves warbands failed its morale and off it went while my remaining Pedyts turned to neutralise the Noble cavalry, this turned out to be unnecessary as the cavalry also failed their morale and left the field taking their general and his heroes with them.

The Scots/Irish were in an extremely bad position but I still needed to get at least one more unit to run, my victorious Milites found themselves again attacked by a new warband and the combat turned out to be a draw, as we both had full commands it was down to a die throw, I threw a 2, if defeated I don't think the course of the battle would change but I still didn't want my boys to run, Dave smirked and threw .... a 1! I allowed myself a small victory jig which I know annoys Dave, in a nice way. We shook hands and the score ended 3/0, which gives an overall score of 5/0 against Clan Toone, Dave will have to bring son Dan next time. A great weekends gaming and three excellent games.

You can stop reading now if WAB vs WAC does not interest you but for the benefit of a number of my gaming mates here is my opinion. At first glance the games look the same, there is no getting away from that and for the most part they play the same but once the combat starts the difference is stark, in WAB it is brutal and quick, in WAC it is a steady grind with eventually one or other giving way, morale is also totally different and again WAB tends to be black or white while with WAC you can try and influence morale, in the games above Dave had some shocking morale and command throws which did not help his situation but them's the breaks and it is up to your generalship in both games to make the best of a bad deal. I don't know the politics behind the demise of WAB but I find it incredible that such an excellent gaming system with a huge community disappeared almost overnight.

I did like the effect of skirmishers in WAB they are much less dangerous than in WAC and against my conservative leanings I did actually like the characters, their effects were not as overwhelming as I had originally thought, I do prefer the WAC combat and morale systems these seem more realistic.

I now have to come off the fence, I prefer WAC although I have to admit that if I had been part of the WAB community which I never was I may have seen no reason to change in the same manner that although John Hill designed Johnny Reb III and Across a Deadly Field being a JRII player I saw no need to change for the sake of it. I would however have no problem playing it again.

I also have to say that the WAB supplements, Dave has all of them, are fabulous, the information contained in these could be applicable to any ruleset and the army lists easily converted, whatever you play if you can get your hands on the one for your period I would recommend getting it, some are already commanding ridiculous prices on eBay etc.

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 through 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.