Wednesday, 30 June 2021

The Eastern Front for you matey

 Club night and getting back into the old routine, my first foray into WWII since my solo games at the beginning of the present nightmare, well, for 90% of us. Hey ho, Rob was up for a game and we settled on a German/Russian spat somewhere in the Ukraine in '44 as Operation Bagration rolled over Army Group Centre, quite a jump from two platoons going at it but that's wargaming.

I had taken some buildings along and simply threw them down along with clumps of tall wheat/corn/grass (delete where applicable), it was my first foray into the club terrain cupboard since the old Queen died and I gave no thought at all to trees, tracks or roads. The terrain then was pretty open and Rob choose his side which was a good choice as it gave him enough cover to set up several fire bases, I on the other hand found the country quite sparse. The rules were Chain of Command and the scenario was The Probe where I had to get a unit off the opposite table edge, support points were not growing on trees but for a moment I thought a nice little armoured car could scoot up and off the edge with bullets pinging off the sides but then thought, no, they will have panzerfausts and that damn panzerschreck they get for free and that thing could knock a hole in the door of hell under these rules. I settled for a Scout squad and a lady medic.

 I did not get far with the Patrol Phase and only gained about 18 inches, so sure enough Rob popped a squad down on his left flank in some long grass and settled in for some long range mayhem, a second squad followed on the right, ensconced in houses this time. Once he had let rip with the MG42's I realised caution would not help me here so shortly had all my squads on the table, 4 against 2, but I had not counted on the ferocious die rolling of Robs men, I have never seen so many fives and sixes in one game. I did not lose a lot of men but the Shock began to climb alarmingly on all my squads my own morale began to tumble, there was no end to the rain of lead. Then, out of nowhere I managed to get a couple of double turns and I pushed my Scouts as far as they could go and started to hit back at the enemy in the long grass with my heavy squad. My shooting was not great but I had soon broken the rifle section and my Scouts moved in close to finish off the MG crew, German morale began to tumble, especially as the Junior Leader had bit the dust. The Scouts followed this up by wiping out the routing survivors and I brought the turn to a halt so that Rob had to take another couple of tests. 

 The Scouts were supported by an infantry squad but I lost my heavy squad, it was not enough at the end to cause me any hassle so they gave their lives for the Motherland while my Scouts made a bee line for the win. If I had not had the elite Scouts I don't think I would have even got halfway across the table, no matter I got back into the swing of things and next week it is Eastern Front Bolt Action.

Our Atlantic WWII naval campaign has just finished today, there was a climactic battle just off the coast of Iceland where despite heavy losses the Royal Navy won a decisive encounter which has left most of the German fleet at the bottom of the Atlantic. We began the campaign seeking to counter the Scharnhorst and Gniesnau which were supposedly breaking out into the Atlantic, to this end I ordered a submarine and cruiser watch on the likely routes while keeping my heavy units at Scapa Flow until I got decent intelligence on their whereabouts. Reports came in of several heavy cruisers spotted all over the North Atlantic, then out of nowhere news of a German landing in Iceland and a British brigade there falling back under attack. Although we lost the Hood we sank all of the German heavy cruisers and damaged the Gniesnau badly enough that she fled to Brest. The Scharnhorst and her escort were spotted by aircraft and the battleship badly damaged and slowed, now was the time for a final battle as I set my battlegroup to intercept. I got reports of the action on Facebook and mobile phone as Stuart and Rob fought the battle out under a blazing sun across the bay in Cumbria. The full report has still to be sent but the Scharnhorst went to the bottom along with the Repulse and at least two of my cruisers, the Luftwaffe put in a supreme effort against my ships but did not do enough to save their own ships. A satisfying end as the British invasion fleet nears the island and my gunners destroy everything German in Reykjavik harbour, a disaster of Stalingrad proportions awaits the Germans ashore, eat rotten shark Jerry. A big thanks to Rob who ran the excellent campaign and the players Simon, Dan and James, also to Stuart and his beautifully printed 3D ships and for his efforts in fighting the battles.

 I  still have some French to complete as I have been overwhelmed with map projects recently, however I am seeing the end of the tunnel, or at least a slowing down and as my new tanks arrived today (PzII and StuH42) from Blitzkrieg I need to get painting again.

 I was going to pop up to Duncan's tomorrow as I have not had the time recently and I especially wanted to see his new 'little tank' an Sdkfz 222 armoured car, a replica but if the photo is anything to go by a super machine. Sadly he is not available and neither is the armoured car as it arrived on the Monday and was immediately hired for the next four months on the Friday once it got a coat of panzer grey. One day. 

Monday, 28 June 2021

Cool Springs

 This may be my longest period without a post, I went to the club last week and we played our second game in the Aliens campaign, it is the kind of game where you had to be there. The movie cliches, quips and attempts at acting in character from the players is the real fun, basically we moved around a complex and killed a lot of bugs. We of course had the rules wrong and the bugs had four or five arms tied behind their backs, it will be different next time for the Colonial Marines. We decided to give Aliens a rest for at least a week and I opted for a Chain of Command game with my British against Rob's late war Germans, the rest of the guys are taking to the high seas during the same war.

Fran and I had a game organised for Sunday just gone, there was a slight hiccup with Covid regulations but as the Health Minister showed how the restrictions worked we followed his lead and went ahead. The scenario was from the original Johnny Reb book and was the action at Cool Springs, Virginia where the Union are attempting to make headway in a bridgehead across a creek while one of those surprise Confederate attacks comes out of the morning mist or it might have been the afternoon murk.

 I was the Rebel commander in this game, in the past I have been the Union commander. I decided to advance my extreme right and hopefully disrupt the Federal left flank while keeping the whole of Rodes' arriving division on the left and pressurising the Union right. The scenario calls for the Rebs to inflict 60% casualties on the Union force and drive them back across the creek, in game terms this is a big ask and in my experience almost impossible the best they can hope for is making the Union position untenable leaving them in the grand scheme of things with retreat as the only option. The ground work for my excuse has been laid.


The Federals are ready
The battle opens

Patton's brigade moves on Union left

Fran pulled back to the main road while I followed up to the edge of the woods in the centre, I pushed Patton's brigade to hit the extreme end of the Union left, the Federals also pulled back on my left and lined a stone wall, the Provisional Brigade moved up to cover the Yankee far right. My opening attack on the Federal left was spectacularly successful, within a move the Union line here had collapsed, only two stubborn regiments remained slugging it out with the Texans, and these only by the skin of their teeth. Rodes had been given room to bring his brigades on and began to shake out into a battle line, it was looking like a pincer move would bring Confederate victory.

Union left about to disappear

Routers rally behind solid blue line

Rodes prepares his assault

Rodes moves up to deliver close range musketry

  Of course nothing can be relied upon in a wargame, just as I was getting ready to wipe out the Federal left Fran surprised me by a desperate charge, flank fire hit the 2nd Minnesota but they still went forward and as the 4th Texas had already lost two stands they ran from the bayonets, but not far enough and their colours were captured. The 6th Texas also fled as did some Arkansas boys a little later, all of a sudden I had no right flank and the position of the doughty 3rd Arkansas around the little farm looked tenuous, I made a decision to peel off a regiment from my assault on the left to help. I was not actually afraid of the Union forces on my right and believed they could be contained but any further aggressive movements there were over.


Union right falls

Federal defense thickens

Oh dear

  Rodes was now ready to launch his attack, and as Fran had had to move his poor Provisional brigade into the line to help hold it I smiled inwardly as surely these remnants would not stand up to Southern steel. A volley of close range musketry, then the order to fix bayonets went out, Thoburn's brigade began to fall back, it was all looking good. The New York Fire Zouaves (11th) threw back the 17th Georgia and the 9th Veteran Reserve Corps counter charged the 2nd Georgia, beat and captured them. Rodes was not pleased. This brave interlude did not help the Provisionals as another close range volley sent the 11th and the nearby 44th NY running while an advancing artillery battery unlimbered and destroyed the disordered 9th.

We had been gaming for six hours by this point and although things had generally went well for the Rebs and the Federals had now been forced back to the fords and the edge of the creek the cost to my forces had been heavy. I had lost three regiments completely and two more were routing one of which had no chance of rallying, several others were close to losing stands or had been reduced to three or four, with the union almost two deep protecting the fords and now with their entire artillery reserve in position I had asked enough of my brave boys and we halted for the day. Fran had defended well and caught me out a couple of times with his desperate charges which were spectacularly successful, his morale always seemed to just keep him out of trouble when all the odds were against him.

I have fought this scenario several times and it always gives a good game, as I said before it is a hard ask for the Rebs to fulfill the victory conditions and perhaps these should be amended, having said that my boys looked like being the victors for a couple of moves. The Rebs can then be victims of their own success, as the forward Federal regiments retreat a large defensive line forms around the fords covered by the 'grand battery' on the nearby hill and the terrain to their front is open and a killing ground.

So close yet so far, a great day of wargaming and a thanks to Fran for coming along and playing a good game.

Thursday, 17 June 2021

View from a small window...

 I have not done one of these for a long, long time as I had used up all my white flags on the vagaries of modern life but this past week and today I have had it.

Someone I know booked a gardener (it turns out he only slept with one) to clean up the back yard, "give me a week" says Wurzel Gummidge, the week consisted of turning up at 10am and leaving at 3pm with lunch and breaks included. It also consisted of his van breaking down, being unable to hire a skip anywhere north of the Watford Gap, not catching Covid but got to be sure, then taking his imbecilic helper to hospital for a self inflicted wound. Needless to say the garden remains to be turned into something usable.


 With my house being built in 1699 it has problems, there has been a bit of damp in one corner of the living room since William III was on the throne, the house has a lot of problems like this that you just have to live with. However the leak got worse and we noticed water in a cupboard, it was coming from the toilet so had to be sorted. Dyno Rod, through British Gas, promised action in a week, cue the Membsahib and they turned up the next day, they dutifully found the cracked pipe, fixed it and cleared off leaving us with two new leaks and the neighbours drain devoid of its concrete surround. We were ignored today until the missus let loose her contempt and anger once again so expect our second visit in an hour or so, the wonder of being able to take photographs before and after jobs leaves these people with nowhere to hide, A third visit is also now in the offing for the nearby drain. Why couldn't they just do the job right the first time, I am sure that is what I pay the fee for or did I miss that bit.


I get an annual scan of my gallbladder to check on some polyps which are in there, I had to fight for it last year due to the plague and this year I phoned up to get a jump on things. I had to wait a day as the surgery was having a staff training day, I found this absurd as they have done almost nothing nor seen anyone apart from on the end of a phone for the past fifteen months. Anyway, once I had listened to the five minute dirge on how terrible things are and did I really need to bother them, I wiped my tears away and asked to be referred for the scan. I then got a letter telling me to report to Lancaster General at such and such a date/time but no info, also it was for the General Surgery department, not the scan people.


I phoned up and the woman explained it was to take out my gall stones! I don't have gall stones I informed Tracy, I need a scan, they know what they are doing says Tracy and wants to know if I want to cancel the appointment. Oh No, and wait another year, no thanks, we will see what is going on and they are not getting a knife near me. I now await a call back next week for the original doctor sitting at home in his comfy chair to explain what he actually asked for. Oh, and the Westmorland General sent out a nice letter delaying all Outpatient appointments for six months, I still await an answer as to why this should be.

And after Freedom Day was consigned to history I wrote to my MP to tell him he can sing for my vote in the future, it would seem from the silence he doesn't care. Fifty years of democracy and I have only ever got what I voted for twice, and one of them turned out to be wrong.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Back to the Club

 I was dithering about going to the club last night, after months of sitting on my bum on a Tuesday night I was curiously loathe to get off it. Mate Stuart then put a post up that he was bringing 'Aliens: Another Glorious Day In The Corps' and had three slots, now this is one of my favourite movies and I had read an interesting review on the game so I was in.

On arrival we all wore masks but these were very quickly dispensed with as the two tables in use were more than the required 3.28 feet apart, which I was very pleased about, plus I suspect we had all had two jabs. The game comes in one of those nice new boxes boardgames come in, with nice art and the contents were all of a very high standard, mountains of cards and tokens along with the superb figures, I noticed two boxes and quickly found out that Stuart as normal now has the original plus all the expansions.

We set up the first scenario which is easy and only comprises four game boards. I will be making references to the movie which I suspect most readers will be familiar with. Anyway, Newt, the annoying little girl was in hiding in the complex and a small team of Marines and Ripley had to find her and get her to safety. I played Jenette Vasquez armed with my M56 smart gun, badass I think is the word in the Corps, alongside her was Gorman, Hicks, Hudson, Ripley and Frost. You choose different weapons and equipment before the mission starts and then each character has their turn, non player characters can be controlled through the chain of command, after this the Aliens get their chance.

 We had a good idea which part of the complex the child was in so we quickly made our way there, Hudson hacked into the computer system and with a stroke of luck identified the girl's location almost immediately, we let Ripley go in first as the Marines would have spooked Newt and she would be off. Again we did well and Newt bonded with Ripley and we then headed for the exit. Now, three turns in think of those hand held scanners in the movie, I couldn't help myself hearing pings as the bug's cards were turned over and I looked nervously at the ceiling, another sound effect we could not help making was when the sliding doors opened, someone would give us a 'pssssshhhh', I think we are stuck with that one. Anyway, the first Aliens died very quickly but as we progressed down the corridor more and more tried to block our way, we tried welding some of the doors shut but they did not hold and the horrors broke through. It was Vasquez's turn to shine, the brrrrrrrpp of the M56 filled the corridor and the bugs hit the gratings. More and more turned up as we arrived within arms reach of safety, but again our favourite Latino saved the day, even Gorman took one down with his pistol. Psssshhhh, as the door closed behind us and the mission was over.

 A good first night back at the club, we had a good laugh mixing the movie with the game and yes, the team had it easy this time but the potential to be overwhelmed in larger games is certainly there, we are continuing next week with the second game of the campaign. The game is run by cards and if you cannot complete your mission before the main deck runs out you fail, you can at times replenish the main deck but of course you then may miss out on something else, it seems complex at first but we all understood it by the end, even me. For the movie buffs, I managed to draw a card which was made for Vasquez, it recreates the scene where she and Gorman set off the explosive and kill themselves and a swarm of bugs, I was desperate and tempted to play the card as the clock ticked down, I could have killed almost everyone on the board, but, maybe next time.

 I have got a PzII and StuH 42 coming from Blitzkrieg, one for 1940-42 and one for '42 on. I was going to add Dragons Portes and Colonials to my French but they only come in platoons, and suffering an attack of commonsense I have ordered some extra LMG's to turn the bog standard infantry into motorised if I want to, oh, and an extra MMG.

And lastly, which is appropriate, I have a little used football shirt for sale.

Friday, 11 June 2021

All Quiet on the Home Front

 I have had a busy time since my last post, I now have seven map projects lined up which should keep me occupied up until October with at least two more on the way and a couple of independent commissions on top. From the deserts of Ethiopia to the forests of Japan.

I cannot seem to shake free of Berlin over the past year or so, I am just completing the second volume of a book on Cold War Berlin and have one on the 33rd 'Charlemagne' Waffen-SS division in the wings, who of course were famous for their last stand in the ruins of the city. I have been asked to do several drawings as well as maps for the Cold War book, I do hope the author does not do a third volume.

East/West German Border.

Towers on the Wall.

For God and King.

Italian Wars Vol. 2


Siege of Vienna.

With all that work on it is just as well I have now completed a full platoon with light and heavy supports as well as armour for the French. As usual this has taken me a lot less time than I expected, I find WWII figures so easy to paint after Seven Year War British. I am unsure of whether to add a motorised and colonial squad to the 'army' just to give a French commander more choices, I also wonder if I should get a Panzer I or II for the Jerries.

 The club opened up this week, I could not go nor could several others as only two games were played. I am unsure of the mask situation although social distancing was carried out, which is not difficult with two tables. Of course here in the wilderness of North Lancashire we find ourselves twinned with all the Covid hotspots in other parts of the county and are already being punished, and of course the possible two week delay is now morphing into four weeks, you heard it here first.

I have an ACW game organised for 27th June but not sure what else will happen before or after that.

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

The real Elkhorn Tavern

 Readers will remember that earlier this year I ran a campaign based around Pea Ridge/Elkhorn Tavern and there was indeed a battle around the Tavern, Fran, one of the players has got interested in the ACW and we arranged to meet up when the plague had retreated, well that was Sunday. I thought it would be a good idea to fight the real Elkhorn Tavern battle as he already knew most of the background and as it is not a huge battle it would be a good introduction to Johnny Reb II, the rules which I have used for around thirty years.

On setting up the terrain I did not set up the 'hollers' as this would have meant another almost complete layer of Geo-Hex and at the end of the day the Rebs would advance away from them so I cheated, I managed the rest of the battlefield fine. I have fought this battle a few times, mostly as the Rebs I think so on setting up I realised I had given myself quite a task as the Union commander, my forces were already stretched and badly outnumbered, although my weaponry and morale in places were better than the enemy my regiments were in the main smaller and reinforcements were going to have to get a move on to get to the 'front'. My plan was to hold around the Tavern while pulling my right back, the arriving troops would be placed to bolster both flanks.

The Rebs came on at a fast rate and I dithered whether to leave the Marines and Battery E in the woods or bring them into the clear ground, I eventually moved them back and I think this was a mistake, however, left where they were they were in danger of being outflanked, I set the 15th Kentucky and the 12th Illinois cavalry to bolster the left, the 76th New York I sent to the right along with Battery B 1st New York, I was hoping to anchor my right on Clemon's Farm. The Rebs opened up with their artillery and the 54th Massachusetts took the first casualties of the game, after this their infantry surged forward.

Union reinforcements along the Telegraph Road.

Confederate line.

Federals await onslaught.


My opening volleys were pretty ineffectual and this helped the Rebs to get closer with their smoothbores, the return fire was devastating and my boys began to lose stands. A lot of pressure was now being put on my right as the mass of the Missouri State Guard bore down on the 54th and the 76th's thin line in Clemon's field, I tried to give the Rebs a pause by dismounting the 3rd Indiana cavalry into a skirmish line but it would not hold for long. I tried to get my latest reinforcements the small 3rd West Virginia and the 9th Michigan Battery to race to help but it was beginning to look like too little too late.

Rebs advance.

The Tavern under pressure.

Clemon's Farm about to be overwhelmed.

Desperate fight in the Tavern grounds.


 A crises had been reached, I charged the Rebel right with the 12th Illinois and 15th Kentucky and swept away two Confederate regiments but it was a desperate move. The Rebs overwhelmed the defenders at the Tavern and the Marines and 84th were swept away, on my right the 3rd Indiana skirmishers were also swept away in a hail of buck and ball. I felt I was left with no alternative but to retire, so ordered my whole line, or what was left of it, to disengage, in my head I thought I could build another line to the rear just as a couple more extra troops arrived. As the turn ended I looked at the mass of Rebs coming across Clemon's field and decided to keep running, the game was over, a win for Fran.

Federals disengage.

Too little too late.



 The thought that I could have fought on niggled at me later, but on going back to the table and looking at where we left it I made the correct decision to hand over my sword. A very good game and always a pleasure to play Johnny Reb, Fran is up for a rematch in a couple of weeks and I shall peruse my scenario books to see what I can find. I used my original scenario map and superimposed the troops I used on the top, also of course the regiments are stand ins for the originals and it was easier to identify them this way.

I continue with the French, another tank is nearly ready as is the first batch of supports along with three infantry squads, next on the tray will be the heavy supports, a machine gun and mortars. This will leave one tank and one reserve squad before they are finished, well sort of, they now have a Phase Two, two more squads and two trucks, not needed but wanted.