Friday, 29 May 2020

Road to Bremen IV (I get frustrated playing myself)

This time the gloves were off Colonel Bob asked for help and got it, along with the refreshed 3 Platoon he got three Shermans, a pre-game barrage, a FOO, an extra 2" mortar and a small mine clearing team. I realised I could simply smash through the hedge and take the chance none of my tanks would bog down but knowing there were mines in the area I really could not not take the engineers.

Things started very well, the Germans as usual were playing a waiting game, however one squad had to be deployed to cover the open ground in front of the hedge, the Pak40 also turned up hoping to take at least one tank with it before the British wave washed over the German position. In the end the Pak turned out to be ineffectual and was soon rendered powerless by a smokescreen, shortly after down came the British artillery right on target, the German defenders were all neutralised, this was looking good. I gave in to impetuosity and deployed as much force as I could, almost everyone apart from the engineers with the intention of closing the gap, stopping the barrage and letting loose, in the meantime the panzerschrek turned up and tried a sneaky shot but he didn't manage to hide this time and they were soon wiped out.

The Germans were getting bucketloads of CoC dice and the barrage was halted, I tried to get it back but comms were down, Jerry took advantage and more squads turned up, my boys were caught with their pants down again. I used smoke, plenty of it but the black CoC dice soon dispersed it, casualties rose while my tank crews sat twiddling their thumbs, all three of them, there was the odd duel with the Pak when the smoke cleared but no one could land a lethal punch. Once again what looked like a good opportunity turned sour, I was actually getting frustrated by my fantastic die rolling for the Germans!

As time passed comms were again established with the artillery and give them their due when they did fire they were right on target, sadly this did not last very long as once again Jerry threw a spanner in the works ending the turn, yes we used our only die to keep things going but within the space of a couple of rolls Fritz had another CoC die.

Just made a brew Dave......

I left the game overnight and returned thinking it was all but over, no it wasn't, when will I learn. I played all morning between customers and on into the afternoon. It took ages to whittle the defenders down and my casualties mounted steadily, Colonel Bob however was not going to let 3 Platoon withdraw, it was last man and last bullet time. At one point it looked like Kampfgruppe Krosbi would pull off another win by the skin of their teeth as both sides Force Morale raced for zero, but no the PBI eventually manged to pull it out of the bag, the survivors managed at last to route enough Boche  to get a win with the tankers still observing from the safety of their steel mounts.

Pretending to be Sherman V's
At last the Jerries break.
Writing on the wall for the Pak.
Horrendous casualties.

God that was hard going, I think after playing for about three hours today I could count on two hands how many 3's I got to use the tanks and perhaps one to count their actual hits. In truth the Germans had some dire rolls as well and if not had been very close to tipping the scales in their favour. Just as the British looked like getting a walk in the park everything went south and they were caught in the open, the dire efforts getting communications with the artillery also hurt, obviously not a RN operator on the line.

I have to sort the campaign stats out for the next 'leap' forward and will do this  tomorrow as the weather is gorgeous and too hot for anything else apart from lazing around. Hopefully I shall meet Germans who want to live and not give all for the Fatherland.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Road to Bremen III (Hedge of Death)

'Bob' Hope's second run at the hedge of death. I am not a fan of using the mortar barrage rules in this game as they can be so devastating so this time I went with a second Sherman and a pre-game barrage. The German defenders remain the same as before and as their only casualties were two men with headaches they have a full set, for the British I have brought up No. 2 Platoon giving which also gives me a full complement.

This time I thought I would use the Shermans to pound any defenders behind the hedge and force the enemy back before attempting to clear the mines. I managed to put a nice line of smoke on the front line and get both Shermans on the table, the Jerries countered with the Quad which moved to the left flank to open up from the tree line on a British squad cautiously moving along their right flank. I moved one Sherman to take out this troublesome gun and suddenly the Jerries got a double phase and it seemed right to use a command die. The smoke lifted, the panzerschreck team moved up and fired, the Pak also showed up and let loose and an infantry squad set up behind the hedge, the AT team missed but the Pak did not and up went one Sherman, I had counted on this tank brewing the Quad and then turning back to face the hedge while the pre-game barrage stopped or delayed the German deployment, but no, British morale fell, as did the Quad crew from small arms.

Wait, what's this, the Pak 40 suffers a build up of shock and an MG42 team are wiped out perhaps, just perhaps the pendulum has swung Hope's way, a run of phases and the Pak looks in danger of routing and shock begins to mount on the infantry. Hauptmann Krosbi turns up just in time to instill a bit of backbone into his troops and the danger passes, as does the second Sherman. My own fault, I got so carried away trying to kill the Pak I forgot the 'schreck team was behind the hedge and far more dangerous, Jerry got a one and boom.

Bob's boys however did not want to give up and a third squad along with the engineers turned up to pour fire into the hedge, but the Germans also got a third squad on and this now ensured that the British infantry were not going to clear the Hedge of Death. It would be down to No. 3 Platoon to bulldoze these pesky 'to the last man' types from the route.

                                                       Colonel Hope scratches his head.

This really is an excellent defensive position, the enemy JOP's can be close to the hedge so no one needs to turn up until needed and when they do they can line the cover and shoot, the British armour has to arrive from the road or just to the right of it and this is a death trap, use smoke, yes I know but the Germans have managed to successfully disperse this on several occasions with some envious die rolling. 3 Platoon will be getting a shed load of support and will probably call in some artillery.

I have started painting the tartan on my Highlanders, I am going for a muted design, it is dark green and I think will give the desired effect when looking down, friend Rob can do tartan in several colours but I can't so the overall impression will have to do. Besides once their blue bonnets and chequered socks are done no one will take them for anything but Jocks. I shall just say they are subtle, another week I think before they are ready.

Monday, 25 May 2020

Road to Bremen II

The roller coaster the British had been enjoying as platoon after platoon of Jerries went into the bag finally stopped, a small wood on the main road had turned into a festung for some veteran troops who were determined to save the Fatherland.

We had a fight on our hands and as half the area was alive with minefields I took an engineer section and gave them an M3 halftrack as transport, I also chose a Sherman and a Bren Carrier, the latter for machine gun support as I had a half baked idea it could run up along with the engineers. Like most British halftracks mine do not carry machine guns and are merely transports. Matt had an army platoon and in support was a 2cm Quad AA on a halftrack along with a Pak 40, four minefields cut off the solid ground and the road on the battlefield. The sodden ground on the British left could be heavy going for vehicles and they might end up bogged down if they attempted to cross. Matt's plan was to hold off for as long as possible then deploy his defenders.

I rushed up my engineers led by the carrier, this parked at the side of the minefield on the road while the engineers debarked and got to work under cover of smoke shells, two infantry squads cautiously moved forward in support on each flank. The minefield proved particularly dense and the engineers were taking their time, the Germans now moved most of their men up to the hedge along with the Pak and a Panzerschreck team, the latter concentrated on the carrier and it took several turns before the little vehicle burst into flames. The Pak meanwhile carried on a dual with the Sherman, neither were particularly accurate.

The smoke lifted and the engineers now took some heavy fire from German infantry and the 2cm Quad, so much so that very soon only two men and the Junior Leader were left to fumble with the mines. Although one German squad had lost its LMG British casualties began to mount so Colonel Bob decided to withdraw, get more help and try a different approach.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Mixed Bag.

I hit the deck running when locked down, I ran/played more campaigns than I have done in years, I also managed to try out a new set of rules (Honours of War) which I really enjoyed and which gave me a bit of a boost for the dormant SYW project. I also completed several things for WWII, the addition of more troops, a case of topping up troop levels than the addition of whole new platoons, the same applied to vehicles. I went a bit crazy with the addition of a small industrial complex which I can use for both Eastern and Western Fronts, I cheated and used mainly spray paint for these and may return at some point for more ambitious weathering and grime.

I can't recall now how many weeks it has been but I hit a bit of a slump last week on completing the Konigsberg Campaign, I also found out that a couple of guys I had worked with offshore had died and my enthusiasm dried up, I hadn't talked to either for some twenty years but it was sad nonetheless.

It didn't take much to put me back to my normal self as on a trip to Tesco my wife and I were told we could not shop together but had to remain 2 meters apart because there had been 'complaints', then I was shouted at for daring to go up a down isle to reach some butter rather than take a long detour along the dog food alley. My blood pressure resumed normal high status.

Konigsberg you ask, well the Soviet counterattack had retaken the small station at Seerappen and this meant that with three tables to go and only two games to play the Germans could not win, the civilians trapped in the city would have to suffer the wrath of the Red Army. I took a little rest and then decided to continue with another campaign, this time it was the British who were putting the lid on the Third Reich as they steamed along the road to Bremen, Colonel Robert 'Bob' Hope in charge. The campaign is quite different from the normal in that you do not have a battle on each table, there are eight possible games but as the British turn up a die is thrown and if the table is defended, they do not all contain Jerries, you may find the defenders lined up to surrender. This happened on the first two tables as into the bag went an infantry and a Waffen-SS platoon, even the fanatics had had enough. Bob's men however have come up against some resistance on table three. I am having to substitute some of the forces for my own, the SS were supposed to be Fallschirmjager but I don't have any and as the platoon make up is almost the same here they are.

Colonel Hope's boys.

Kampfgruppe Krosbi

As I mentioned above I have decided to add another four battalions to both sides of my small SYW forces, I have just completed two Irish battalions in the French service and have started on my first Highlander battalion, Perry's opened up a week or so ago so I jumped for their figures. I got two battalions and they are nice figures and go well with Front Rank, I will have to paint tartan for these two units but it will be military tartan so I don't foresee a big problem, anyway, they will look fine on a wargame table. That will leave four more battalions to get, I really should get a couple of bog standard French types but I lean towards the foreigners mainly because I like the flags. I use GMB Designs where I can and have had no problem so far in choosing, I highly recommend them.

My boys at school, dress tartan.
My boys at school.
I have had a bit of a clear out while under lock and key, I don't tend to have a load of spares lying about but I am giving away some Dark Age figures and skirmish bases to lads at the club, lads, apart from a couple they are greybeards. Anyway I have also gifted around 10 Highlanders due to my inability when ordering to count to twenty.

Postage, that old bugbear of mine raised its ugly head again last week, I ran out of spears quite a wee while ago as I had used them all up on my Ancient and Dark Age armies, but if not using Front Rank figures who supply wire for standards then you have to find your own for the SYW. I popped on to eBay and although the price was a bit high needs must, a couple of places wanted £5+ postage for them, I looked for them again today to back this up but can't find them, I forget what I searched for, possibly "Spears, most expensive postage", no matter I got them from Magnetic Displays postage free and within a day or so, they even threw in a couple of dice. Great stuff.

I am kind of stuck with the TV at the moment, I have just finished 'Fauda' season 4, the Israeli show involving special forces, in the same vein I started 'Caliphate' last night which is a Swedish television show which was recommended, again with terrorism at its heart, despite the fact that Sweden seems to be full only of women and is shown as spectacularly multicultural I did not switch it off which is a good sign. Both are on Netflix. One of my favourite superheros along with Batman was Spiderman, in fact these are the only two I ever really liked, perhaps because both were more or less human in their characters, I saw a Spiderman movie while trapped in a metal tube flying to China and only watched it because of this, against my better knowledge and stuck for something the other night I put on the latest Spidey movie. I lost the will to breathe after ten minutes, I could go on but I won't as the Old Bill might pay me a visit to check my thinking, it was awful. I will leave you on a bright note, Code 404 (NowTV), clever and very funny, I actually laughed out loud at some of this which is a rare occurrence with today's take on comedy, an inspired piece of entertainment.

Almost done. Although playing a lot of small campaigns solo with Chain of Command I continue to plow money into Bolt Action which I also enjoy so I bought their new campaign book "Stalingrad", why not with a new Russian army to play with. The book has twenty-two scenarios all well explained with accompanying maps, it also has new troop types and army lists pertaining to the campaign for the city as well as a look at the overall situation and how the Germans became bogged down trying to take something which really was of no strategic use to them. I have four of their new, large version campaign books and have played one scenario, it is not the content but time which is my enemy here. No, there is one more thing, you need a lot of terrain for many of these scenarios from D-Day defences to the cityscapes of Budapest and now Stalingrad, these are battles which any WWII wargamer no matter the ruleset used would love to fight, but in some you would have to put a lot of effort in beforehand or pretend and make do, when I do find the time it will probably be the latter for me, or divorce.

If you are a regular reader you will know I went to see new friend Duncan's weapon and vehicle collection a week ago and thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon, I decided to share some of my pictures on two WWII Facebook pages. two people from literally hundreds took umbrage at this and called me a 'gun nut' or said I was akin to a 'pantie-wetting gun fetishist'  or words to that effect. I am of course neither, but the attitude behind these claims did make me wonder if they were so annoyed, upset and triggered (10 points) by these why did they play games involving World War II? I was hit three times last week by such types, thankfully they mean nothing to me. On the plus side I eventually got an answer from Lindybeige re the Kickstarter and a nice apology from the boss of one of the FB pages, despite the brouhaha having nothing to do with him. Back on an even keel I think.

I don't know what they are doing with Blogger at the moment but it is becoming a real pain jumping between different interfaces, and the new one is rubbish.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Seerappen retaken.

During the breakout campaign the Soviets once past table three can mount a counterattack, I deliberated whether to do so as the later maps might prove more conducive to an assault but then decided no, it would be Seerappen. The map showed the ground to the west of the little station compound to be open but with a wood in the top corner, I did some checking online and found out there had been an airfield there, but where I was unsure. I settled on a farm complex of a few buildings west of the station and some trees.

The extra support for the attack had to be used on armour so I went all out for armour and took an SU122 and the mighty T34/85 which had proved so formidable at Metgethen, I went for the assault gun as I wanted to clear the buildings in my path which the Germans would naturally sit in. I also retired my initial squad due to high casualties and proceeded with a new platoon, this now has to last the Soviets for the rest of the game. Also in support I took an MMG and an HMG, again the latter was to help, hopefully, clear the buildings. Matt also had a new platoon, he had a choice of infantry or volksgrenadiers and chose the former, he also took a second panzerschreck and a StuG III.

Matt wanted to hold off until the Russians had shown their hand, despite this I brought on the StuG early and positioned it to command the center of the table, both sides now suffered from pre-game barrages and had a hard time getting troops on. As time passed the Russians ended the turn and with a couple of double phases rushed a squad up the left flank to take cover behind a stone wall, their armour turned up on the right and edged forward to get firing positions on the large yellow station house. I expected with the amount of firepower being sent into the building that it would be abandoned very quickly but yes, that did not happen, the Russian shooting was dismal and the forward squad began to suffer badly despite being behind the wall.

On my right I deployed the heavy squad and as the tanks crawled along the road I set the infantry off to advance further into German territory and perhaps capture a nearby JOP, despite the double phases they seemed to be running through treacle. The two panzerschrecks now deployed and fired at the SU122, both missed and suffered accordingly from the retaliation, both these teams broke for the rear. I now offered Matt the choice of withdrawing or moving the StuG to take on the Russian armour, the StuG edged forward, the SU122 took shock and retired, it managed during the next turn to hide from the German vehicle which now moved on the T34. Before the StuG could take a shot the T34 interrupted and convincingly knocked it out. This now left the German infantry with only panzerfausts to take out the Soviet armour, so they wisely decided to retire.

I think this counterattack along with the stubborn defence of Metgethen has put the kybosh on the breakout however as I have nothing better to do I may continue to see just how close the Germans can come, I may take pity if they win the next two games, a hard call but a fair call.

I have 99.9% finished my latest SYW unit, an Irish battalion (Rooth's) in the French service but can go no further as I have not received their flags yet, nor the flags for the next load of Irishmen (De Clare's) on the tray or the ones for the Highlanders on their way from Perry Miniatures, I do hope they turn up soon.

Rubicon were doing 25% off for VE day and I jumped and got a Kettenkrad, why, because it was cheap, I stopped myself just in time from getting a mortar carrier for the Jerries, you can't really use it in Chain of Command and it would be too expensive in Bolt Action, so commonsense won out, for now. The Goliath guided bomb had two pins to hold it in place but I could see these breaking very easily so glued the little tank to the carriage as if not it did not sit well, after all when would you see it on the table and supposedly it could not take a lot of damage.

I posted some of my photographs from my visit to Duncan's place this week on Facebook, smiling and happy to be holding several pieces of history only to have my Rambo poses described as pandering to 'gun nuts' and therefore perhaps I was a gun nut. Two people who have no idea at all about me and obviously did not take in the blog post re deactivated weapons and that they were used as props for movies and television, nope I was a gun nut. The last time I fired a gun was around 1975 when defending the Empire and even then it was against a paper target, I did enjoy it but all that was left behind in 1979, my services no longer being required having fended off the Red Menace and the Yellow Peril, can I say that?

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Small guns and big guns.

I made date to go and see neighbour Duncan today as last week did not work out, I was a bit wary as the forecast had promised rain and it had indeed tried to this morning although there were bouts of sunshine, so I kept my fingers crossed. My duty to the great British public done I had my lunch and headed off, the weather had held and although bit cold the sun was shining.

Duncan greeted me and asked what would I like to see, he mentioned guns and I said yes. He has some kind of old nuclear or biological shelter on his property, possibly a mobile one from off of a truck because that's what it looks like anyway it is locked up and secure. Once the door opened for me it was like Aladdin's Cave, crammed inside is all sorts of military gear, guns, uniforms, helmets, ammo boxes, bits of armour and stuff in boxes I didn't get to.

First up was the weapons and the Sturmgewehr 44 which we had talked about before, it is a hefty piece and heavier than I thought, it was also larger than it looks in photographs, it is a solid piece of engineering, I was really chuffed at getting to hold it, hell I was chuffed at holding all of it!

Next up was an AK47 then an MP40, ever since I was a kid I have admired the MP40 or Schmiesser as it was know in the Commando comics, it just looked cool, then there was a selection of rifles German and British along with a Russian PPSH-41 SMG. After that came the machine guns, an MG34 and MG42 Duncan has quite a few of these, once again I marvelled at how heavy they were and I for one would not have liked to lug one around for too long. He showed me around both weapons and how the bipod mount can be taken from the front to much nearer the trigger, he also has an MG34 on a tripod, you cannot use the same tripod for both guns. Just behind the MG34 tripod was a Maxim on another tripod.

Duncan left me to look around and I browsed through the boxes containing uniforms, zeltbahns, helmets and the rack of uniforms, until right in the corner I spied a nice piece of kit, a Panzerfaust 60, complete with firing instructions.

As the good weather continued we decided to take the tarpaulin off the Pak40 for a decent look, I think Duncan mentioned it has been used in A Bridge Too Far, we also got a close look at a German made Ford truck with 2nd Panzer Division insignia on it. He mentioned that Henry Ford tried to sue the American government for bombing his German factories during WWII, chancer. In the back of the Ford is a 20mm FlaK gun, I got up into the Ford and sat in the firers position but it was still under the tarpaulin, maybe next time we will get it completely uncovered, this was one of two used in Saving Private Ryan. I would also like to see the M8 armoured car without its cover.

I jokingly mentioned to Duncan that my latest acquisition was a Kettenkrad albeit 1/56 scale, he then surprised me by asking me if I wanted to see a real one, of course says I, there is one in Burton ten minutes away, so that is a trip for later hopefully.

I left again having spent a fantastic few hours in Duncan's company with his collections and with some more of his photographic books on WWII to browse through.