Sunday, 30 August 2020

The tide turns.

Having held off the panzergrenadiers at the church just outside Ranville in the last game I had a hard choice to make, I could hold my ground and hope to inflict a second defeat on the Germans or I could counterattack into Ranville itself. I was loathe to counterattack as our forces would be on a par with each other and I knew this time Matt would bring some armour, also the terrain favoured the defender with all the high walls in the village, it would be an almost impossible task I thought for the Paras to win, but simply fighting in the village would put a second delay on von Luck win or lose.

Matt chose his supports and did indeed bring a Lorraine Schlepper assault gun along with an extra squad and MMG, I managed an extra squad and MMG along with my only anti-tank a PIAT team, I had high hopes I could use these guys in an ambush. Just as we had sorted this mate Rob popped in for a visit, he saw the table set up and volunteered to help me play the game, this was really good news, Matt had made his choices and I passed his orders on to Rob, all that was left was to play the game.

Rob turned up on Saturday around noon and we set to. Rob came through the orchard with three squads and the MMG, the last squad made for the Cafe Normandie on the left flank. I had meanwhile set up my MMG in a house at the edge of the village and therefore had the Jerry left flank covered, hence most of them ended up on the right flank. I also set my two Bren squad in the ruined house also on the edge of the village, during the game this house got the moniker 'the house of death'. The squad in the house began trading fire with the main German line and slowly but surely started to wither without really handing out very much punishment on the grenadiers. I brought a second squad on and started to use the mortar to bring down smoke to help the defenders, a little later I brought on a third squad on my left and made my way through the woods to near the surrounding wall.

House of Death
More Paras turn up.
SPG turns up and targeted by smoke rounds.

At this point the self propelled gun turned up and added its considerable firepower against the ruined house, I now had no choice but to get my surviving men out of the line of fire and therefore withdrew the few still standing down to the ground floor. I now deployed my last squad in the empty upper floor, and yes they too began to suffer from the sheer volume of fire aimed at them. Thankfully I managed to keep putting smoke down in front of the Schlepper preventing it from dominating the battlefield. I at last managed to get a full Chain of Command dice and launched  my PIAT team in an ambush, the lads hit the monster but only stunned the crew for one phase, I was a tad disappointed. Rob now took an aggressive stance and moved two squads forward, one I think he wanted to assault the surviving Paras in 'the house of death' with. This came at the same time I advanced my own left flank squads (getting a very handy double phase) and the resulting fire halted and eventually broke the rash panzergrenadiers, German morale fell.

Germans advance on their right.

Grenadiers heading for the ruined house.
Paras advance and clear the field.

Despite this my own morale also fell as the last defenders of the ruined house fled for the rear, my PIAT team also died as Rob interrupted their last chance at taking out the SPG, I needed something to happen quick before his armour once again dominated. I managed to advance and clear out most of the enemy on the north/south road and was very close to an enemy Jump Off Point, with his last phase Rob got ready to repel this move. It was now my turn and I got an exceptional run of luck, I got three sixes, ended the turn (lifting off all non rallied troops and leaders) and of course getting a second phase with which to take the JOP and get into a good position to attack the last German squad on the road. German morale now failed, we shook hands and I gave a sigh of relief, the Orne Bridges were now safe, the engineers can remove the demolition charges.

Behind British lines.
Behind German lines.

The tide turns.

So ended a very good game, casualties were very heavy on both sides being around 30%. We both took advantage of opportunities to advance on the enemy and it was just fate that Robs ran into trouble while I managed to take advantage of a couple of decent double phases. I think this campaign would be more suited for face to face play rather than solo, having said that it has again been enjoyable and a big thanks to Matt for playing von Luck and Rob for taking part yesterday. 
Duncan 'the Pakman' turned up in a Willys Jeep to watch the proceedings, god knows what the neighbours thought of it parked outside.

Right, my new tanks are now finished, I really enjoyed building and painting these, Rubicon have more models on the way which I might pick up but not for now. Next up is the extra para Squad and the Prussians for the Waterloo exhibit, what will it be after that, we will see.

I see the Covid scaremongering continues so I am resigned to not playing at the club until possibly late next year, if this changes I shall be very surprised.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

A dreich week

A fairly lazy week so far, I based my new Paras but still have not made a move on getting some primer, I hope to persuade the memsahib to come in here for an hour so that I can get to town today and then get moving on everything that needs primed.

I finished the second of the Panzer III's this morning, no I am not impatient I just left some bits and pieces off last night and it was only going to take a few minutes to glue them. These kits are very good and cover every PzIII you would need to take you from the invasion of Poland to the odd few left in the ruins of Berlin. I chose an M and a command tank. The panzerbefehlswagen of course has several aerials, now two of these are to be modeled in the down position but you can change this and put the aerial base in the upright position. That sounds good but a brush bristle as recommended or thin plastic I suspect are not going to last long on a wargame table, I therefore used wire for my aerials and had to drill the holes on the two at the sides close but not on the aerial base, once painted I suspect no one will notice. I was hoping to be able to build the Flammpanzer turret from all the spares but you do not get two turret base plates, you could bodge it but I won't, what a lot of useless plastic you are left with, better hope Extinction Rebellion don't get a whiff of it.

Sprues from about four kits.
 I have also completed my Kriegsmarine squad, a nice little group of figures from Warlord, while reading Bloody Streets I now might add Spaniards, French and another German Waffen SS squad which I use as panzergrenadiers and need, would like, a reserve squad for them.

My next Von Luck game is a Para counterattack back into Ranville, possibly a bad move for the Red Devils but it is needed to put a delay on the panzergrenadiers and some pressure on Matt. I hope to build the table today and get started this week at some point.

The missus had booked us away for the weekend in the North Lakes, as you know I am not an outdoor type but I did need a break from the PO, don't laugh, we arrived at 1692 near Gosforth and it was first class, a five bedroom farm conversion finished to a very high standard. Did I mention it was raining on the way there? We were very close to the Roman Fort in Hardknott Pass and I said I would like to see it before our intended walk along Wastwater lake. What a desperate journey, the roads are very narrow and in places you have to back up if you meet anything coming the opposite way, the road up the pass was simply horrendous, thank god we did not meet anything on the way up, it was only suitable for a Roman cart. We eventually pulled in at a little sign which if you blinked you would have missed it, the laughable parking space needed some TLC from some Roman engineers. You cannot see the fort from the road but I took charge and headed up the hill to the crest, and yes there was the fort. It is a very good example of an Early Imperial fortress, I suppose it does protect the pass but I suspect that the Wall made it redundant, it was abandoned soon after building and only used once again for a short time thereafter. It was manned by a cohort of Dalmatians for whom I suspect it was a dire posting having come from the sunny Mediterranean. Oh, yes and it was raining.
The downpour at the lake prevented us getting out of the car so we gave up and went back to base.

On the Sunday we headed to St. Bees and a walk along the beach, I have never been so wet, despite all the foul weather clothing the rain eventually began to seep through. We managed to get a coffee and the high wind dried us out a bit in between the rain showers. Off to Seascale and another sodden tramp, a rather nice ice cream cheered me up but it was no good, out came the white flag and back to base. If our accommodation had not been so good we would have gone home. And the day we returned to civilisation, beautiful!

Friend Rob has just popped in and for a change we were not overly disturbed by customers while chatting. There is a huge diorama of Waterloo being planned and the organiser has asked for volunteers to paint up the figures, Rob has asked the club and we are doing a Prussian Landwehr battalion, he popped in my contribution so I can get started, 25 figures for now. He also volunteered, real life permitting, to join in the Ranville counterattack above, so watch this space.

Thursday, 20 August 2020

At Last!

Having thrown the British out of Ranville Kampfgruppe von Luck has decided to seize the church outside the village to protect their right flank from possible counterattacks. So far the boys from 21st Panzer have had things all their own way and Para morale (mine) is low, this time once again support is lacking for the Paras albeit they have a full platoon. Considering they have no real choice other than to put men into the churchyard I had no real hope in this game either, my support amounted to a PIAT team with which I hoped to ambush the inevitable German self-propelled gun, a big ask but I was out of ideas. Matt surprised me and did not bring any armour, the usual flood of panzergrenadiers this time were supported by an extra squad, sniper and artillery observer, a good choice really as the Paras were bound to be set up in the church environs.

Matt wanted to blast the churchyard with mortars and advance two squads quickly while the others gave covering fire, I decided to hold my guys back where possible so only deployed a squad in the ruined house. The German forward observer must have missed a few lessons at school as it took three ranging shots to get on target, Matt wanted to cover two of my Jump Off Points, which he eventually managed albeit one was right on the edge of the barrage. Meanwhile despite the covering fire the Paras in the house managed to inflict quite a bit of shock on the grenadiers behind the hedge and smoke eventually nullified them. The barrage lasted a few phases and allowed the two right hand squads to run across the open terrain without interference, it looked like more than a walkover for the Jerries, but wait.

The Red Devils got a double phase and some nice command dice, so I stopped the barrage and deployed a second squad and then shot up the advancing troops. Soon after as one German squad almost got to the church I deployed my last squad with a double phase and poured fire into the lead grenadiers. To counter this the artillery observe once again put down a ranging shot and although off target managed to get a good position for the barrage, this left me with no choice but to assault the survivors of the previous volley before I was pinned. The attack was hugely successful and routed the few Germans left, enemy morale plummeted and the Paras chalked up their first win, just in the nick of time as the mortar shells whistled in.

The tables seem to have turned somewhat, Matt has three games in hand now to take two tables, I may be forced to launch a counterattack to blunt the advance and gain some time, this requires some thought.

I have been fairly quite for the last week or so, I have had grandchildren visiting and the heat has been debilitating so I had not picked up a paintbrush for a while and only just managed to play the game above, thankfully I have not had a great many customers and I also have air conditioning in the Post Office. I have been painting for the last couple of days though and the Kreigsmarine squad are being varnished today and based soon after. I also realised I needed more Paras so that I could call up a reserve squad if required, they were ordered and turned up the next day, they are based and awaiting priming. I usually use GW primers because I like them and mate Julian usually gets them for me, but he has gone dark recently so may be on holiday, I looked online and the postage is almost the same as the can itself, so I may just go back to car primer for now. Julian has just messaged me, how creepy is that.

My Panzer IIIs have also turned up from Rubicon, I have been uncharacteristically patient with these as they have been on the desk for nearly a week. With the sailors nearing completion I opened one up yesterday and got it prepared, there are about four different marks you can make so I have gone for the late war command tank, I am looking at replacing the aerials with wire to make them more robust. The second tank will simply be a late war type.

I am getting an urge to do more terrain, city ruins actually. There are several bundles out there you can get to cover a decent area, the best I have seen are the 4Ground Stalingrad kits, but they need a bit of work on them as they are very 'clean' for ruins. I have seen these weathered up and they look fantastic, but not so sure I could do them justice but it would be a nice project for the long, cold winter. Watch this space.

Guy comes in yesterday, bald, thuggish looking, asks me if I do Wiggle, never heard of it says I, really says he, yes really. Anyway we handle the package he puts it through, it is not taped up, I say you can't send it like that, he says I will have my receipt, that will not stop the contents ending up all over the floor says I, so what, put some tape on it then. Oh, oh, my foot nudges my four rolls of tape further under the counter, I have no tape, not my job mate. Small tantrum follows, then I give him the bag back and tell him to go away. Two hours later I am back to normal and my feet are back on the ground, customers, gotta love em, oh and guess what, he found tape at home.

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

In Normandy everyone can hear you scream

Fourth game of Kampfgruppe von Luck and with a complete Para platoon I thought it was time to turn the tide, the village of Ranville offered some great defensive terrain and I had chosen a roadblock so that the possible introduction of a self-propelled gun would keep the machine from dominating the whole table. That of course was the plan.

Matt took his normal firebase of four squads, supported by a sniper, a MMG and of course the Lorraine Schlepper with a formidable 15cm howitzer mounted on the old French chassis. There was also a demolition team to tackle the roadblock, but with four Para platoons in the area these guys had to basically hide until they could get on with their work without interference.


As the battle began the Paras took up defensive positions along the middle of the table behind walls and in two houses, the Germans took over the Cafe Normandie on their left flank and set up a squad on the wall to the front. Bullets began to fly and although the one German squad was hit repeatedly none of the shooting was deadly, merely shock, which although they became pinned a couple of times they managed to reduce this and stuck it out on the front line. These guys were then reinforced on their right as the German commander took advantage of a double phase to get his remaining three squads on the table.

The volume of fire now hitting the Paratroopers continued to rise as squad after squad was targeted, Paras began to fall like leaves, their return fire was dire and had virtually no effect on the enemy. With the British in disarray the Germans brought on their self-propelled gun which turned its fire on the nearest houses, more Paras became casualties, it now seemed prudent to withdraw the Paras and hide them from the mounting pressure. My brave PIAT team got into a position to get a clear line of sight on the Schlepper but before they could fire they were cut down by enemy fire. the Germans were now in a position to clear the roadblock and using fire and movement advance into the town, I threw in the towel.

What a one sided game, the discrepancy between the losses on both sides was over the top, the Paras dealt out shock and the Germans kills. I was blaming myself for being useless but forgot that I was also commanding the Germans who had not put a foot wrong. Possibly not as good a choice for a solo campaign as the previous campaigns, you have to be quite canny as the Paras but of course you cannot really do that against yourself. I shall play the campaign out but I do not hold out much hope for stopping Hans.

I got my Panzers in Berlin 1945 the other day, what a lovely book, a real treat. Thanks to technology some of the pictures contain QR codes which will show you the modern view of where the tank was photographed in '45 or just after. Where possible every piece of information on the wreck is given to the reader, the crew, what happened, when it was photographed and what happened to it, some of this is hard to come by of course but they do a good job of rooting out what can be found.

I have started on the sailors despite the heat and willingness to just lie in a darkened room away from the world. I have also ordered up one more Para squad for extras which I had not thought of needing until playing in the campaign above. Not sure when the Panzer III's are due to be sent out, looking online I get the impression it will be any day now but not entirely sure.

Sunday, 9 August 2020

Lucky von Luck

For our second game of Kampfgruppe von Luck I called in the heavy guns in the shape of a naval bombardment which broke up the German attack before it got off the ground. So on to game three and this time a few more of 12 Para turned up, sadly still not a complete platoon, Matt again went for an overwhelming force of Panzergrenadiers supported this time with an MMG and a halftrack, again his plan was to simply overwhelm the defenders.

The Jerries wanted to start from the nearest orchard and managed to get a Jump Off Point exactly where they wanted it, I on the other hand decided to concentrate the defenders in the farm complex and allow the Germans to get as close as possible before showing my hand. Obviously things went well for the bad guys at the start, they managed to control their deployment area with almost no intervention from the Paras. I did deploy a sniper and started taking pot shots at one of the squads, I managed a couple of kills but nothing which remotely bother the enemy.

I got scared and deployed my first squad behind a tall wall and a Bren team in the barn, the poor Bren team attracted a lot of fire and I had to drop smoke on them to try and save them, this was stopped by a German command die and the Bren team broke for the rear. The Germans now advanced and threw caution to the wind, I managed to deploy my second squad and shock began to rise on the attackers, however it was not enough to prevent the returning fire whittling my squad down and breaking the Bren team. I then managed to roll four sixes with the command dice, oh good thought I, but no, it ended in disaster, I had to roll on the events table and the farm house went up in flames, a tracer bullet perhaps, whatever it was the sniper had to leg it sharpish and a large cloud of smoke began to waft over the British front line. At the same time the last survivors of the second squad fell to a wall of lead. My plan to ambush the halftrack with my PIAT also went south. I could almost see the smiles on the faces of the little panzergrenadiers. For 12 Para the war was over.

Although the farm complex looked like a good defensive position the high wall surrounding it and the orchard to the front of this really ruined the chance of getting good fields of fire, my plan to take on the Germans at close range also did not work as they had plenty of support waiting to ruin the day of any brave Paras. The British have to hold out for another five games, a tough order.

I used to be on the other end of the fire orders from the spotter to the ship, I really enjoyed that part of my job and I was good at it, so much so that after a course at a Royal Marine base in Poole I was asked to join Combined Ops and be the radio link ashore. The thought of doing a commando course put paid to that idea, I didn't join up to work that hard.

Still not moved on the sailors, primed and ready to go but I don't feel the need to hurry. As I continue with my book on Berlin I am proved wrong as 'U-Boat' crews are mentioned with the Kriegsmarine guys. I am finding some really good wargaming tips in this book, several companies of young women turned up in one defence area, the Brandenburgische Frauenschaft, fanatical nazi's they patrolled and fought for several days until there were none left, something for a Kickstarter perhaps but maybe a tad politically sensitive these days.

I have taken a leaf out of Chancellor Rishi "Spend, Spend, Spend" Sunak's book and made a daring raid on the LMF (Legendary Map Fund) this week. I spoilt myself with the Panzers in Berlin book from Panzerwrecks, a hefty tome with a five star rating, Rubicon also got in touch so I have pre-ordered two Panzer III's, one as a command tank and the other just a late war version, there were quite a few other things which intrigued me but unlike Rishi my money runs out.