Thursday, 29 July 2021

Dawn at Chickamauga

 Last week Fran and I started this 'what if' scenario from the original Johnny Reb II rule book and after four hours of heavy fighting decided to leave the game up and finish it this week as the result was still very much in the wind. The Confederates had to inflict 40% casualties on the Federals or capture a crossroads, the Union had to stop them. At the beginning the Federal forces are widely spread out with one brigade a long way away heading north while another was nearer the Rebs but in disarray, only one was in a fit state to receive an assault. The Rebs on the other hand had to try and sweep away the nearest Union forces in order to make room for their reserves and make some movement towards the objective before the Union line solidified.

 As the Union commander I decided to hold as far forward as possible and began to rearrange my right flank brigade and send orders to the one disappearing to the north to come back as quickly as possible. I got away with this as the Rebs decided to bring up a decent firing line with artillery before assaulting. The opening volleys gave me hope as the 4th Va. ran for the rear and a Confederate gun was lost to counter battery fire, I also moved Sirwell's brigade along to meet with Stanley and form a much stronger line. Before long however I was forced to move back as the pressure built to my front, The Rebs were now concentrating on my right flank and more and more of them were turning up, both sides stood trading volleys in the woods. 

The battlefield.

The Rebs appear from the morning mist.


The Rebs advance.

 I was very nervous as my thin line began to suffer, but somehow my two defending regiments, 8th NYSM and 11th Mass. stood like rocks under the pressure and refused to budge. The 8th eventually broke but nothing the Rebs could throw at the Massachusetts men could shift them, the log jam of Confederate troops behind the line did not help as they maneuvered to get to the front. Just in time Beatty's brigade arrived behind my shaky line to close off the Confederate flanking move, as I looked over the field of battle I was feeling more and more confident as a solid line of blue now stretched into the distance.  

Union line forms up.

Log jam in the Confederate rear.

Beatty arrives.

Federal line under pressure.

 Now I got carried away, I ordered my left flank brigade to move forward and engage the enemy around the small farm, the lure of cutting the Rebs off and encircling them beckoned. What I did not notice however was that although many of the Confederate units were taking heavy casualties, and I was knocking out their artillery none of them broke. With Beatty now in position and the Rebs scrambling to build up a decent firing line I decided to start pushing in the centre as well. Hubris.

 Just as my confidence reached meteoric levels the Bucktails took a hit and fled for the rear leaving a hole in my line and the 11th NY out on my right with no support at the same time a sharpshooter took out Stanley. Taking advantage of my bad luck in the next turn Rebel Yells broke out from the smoke enshrouded woods. One after the other I lost the 11th NY, 12th USCT and 13th KY along with a gun battery, my right flank was now shattered and my left didn't look too hot either, the 44th NY held on in an island of Confederates but was being flanked. I was reduced to calling on the stalwart 11th Mass. whom I had pulled out of the line to give them a break, the survivors moved gallantly forward but I doubted whether this time they could stop the grey flood. Two moves before I thought the battle was mine and now the lead Rebs could almost touch the crossroads. 

Advance boys.

Bucktails flee.

Union left collapses.

Confederate festung.

Over the two evenings we had spent eight hours fighting this game, at a leisurely pace mind you and although we could have spun it out for another couple we decided to call a halt, Fran offered a draw but on looking over the ruins of my line this morning it was going to be a Confederate victory. There is no time limit to this game as it starts at dawn so I reckoned my line failed some time just after noon, all my brigades had lost one regiment and at least another couple were teetering on the brink, this would eventually prove fatal to the morale of the remainder even if they stood. The Confederates had not got off lightly and out of fourteen regiments only three still had their full complement of men, I too only had three, but although many of the enemy were down to two or three stands or teetering on losing another none of them routed.

 This has been the third Johnny Reb game we have played and like the last one it was a tough but exciting tussle. The 11th Mass. were the men of the match for me while the 42nd Penn. (Bucktails) will forever live with the shame of precipitating the Union defeat.

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Vive la France

 Seven Years War at the club last night, French vs Prussians in 10mm using Black Powder, version 1 as Dan does not have version 2 using the extra rules for the period from "The Last Argument of Kings". I have played large Napoleonic games with BP but this would be a first.

I opted for the French and commanded a brigade of five battalions and two cavalry units along with a battery of guns, Stuart had roughly the same on my right flank but without the big gun. The Prussians had one less battalion but of course being the super troops of the SYW it meant the game was still balanced. I was up against veteran BP player Rob and as the game started we both made a beeline for the village to our our front, I managed to win the race and took two thirds of the buildings while the Prussians managed to grab the church. I had put my cavalry on the left but as the Prussians were not inclined to attack here I sent my second cavalry unit to the centre to perhaps threaten Robs left flank or support Stuart if needed.

French left, my boys.

French right, Stuart's men.

 Stuart's men were very keen and two battalions had raced ahead into the teeth of Dan's Prussian line and suffered for it as both units were cut down and dispersed, Stuart managed to stave off disaster by holding back the Prussian cavalry and forcing a temporary retiral of an enemy battalion on a nearby hill. The Prussians recovered but the threat of my cavalry played on Dan's mind and he settled in to pounding the French line with musketry. I meanwhile had had some success against Robs left flank and dispersed a battalion and forced his battalion guns back, I had earlier saw an opportunity to attack Dan's right but my troops baulked and refused to move and the chance slipped away. However I had more success against my opponent as another battalion fled and his cavalry found themselves too close to my lead infantry and suffered for it, the Prussian centre had a large hole in it.

The village of death.

Stuart's men advance into the gates of hell.

 Sadly as I looked to my right I saw the remnants of Stuart's brigade being overwhelmed by the enemy and as we looked over the battlefield and the clocked ticked we settled for a draw, a generous result I thought as despite my success against Rob I could not now advance to take advantage of his disorder as this would open my flank to Dan's successful and elated troops. I was happy and quickly shook hands on the result.

A good game with some lovely troops and enough excitement to keep us all happy. I was quite happily surprised that my troops had met and despatched the Prussians as they were not as fearful as I had imagined. I must also continue to moan about my dice luck, I picked up a set which I knew are rubbish but do not belong to any particular army (yes I am that superstitious) and found my shooting in the beginning to be dreadful, however this did change during the latter part of the game, but I will not bring those dice again.

I had a long weekend off and went south and stayed with my son for a few days, the weather was glorious and the journey down did not hit any problems and was a leisurely four hours just as it said on the satnav, it took double that the last time I ventured south in the car. No wonder most people live down there, the small towns were all charming, busy and prosperous, rose tinted glasses perhaps but I felt relaxed and enjoyed my outing. On the way back we made a stop at Bosworth Heritage Centre, I had been there before decades ago but since then the battlefield had been proven to be elsewhere and the Centre had been refurbished. You cannot get on to the battlefield as it is farmland but there are a couple of walks a year where visitors are allowed. You can drive down Fenny Lane (I think) which crosses the centre, the main thing about the place is how flat it is, so no sweeping downhill charge by Richard's bodyguard here. As a Richard III fan this battle has always fascinated me and I have my own ideas on how it was fought, OK, I'll tell you, I think the Stanley's were not instrumental in changing the course of the battle but merely stood off until they knew who was winning and simply nailed their colours to Tudor. I do have one big question which will of course never be answered, why did Northumberland sit out the battle, I have read several theories but none has been satisfactory for me, the simplest of course is that he just decided to do nothing, anyway he got his just deserts later on as did Stanley. The Centre itself I found disappointing, yes I am hard to please, that is a given, like many exhibits and museums these days it has a lot of child friendly guff which of course does not interest me, nor the children if what I have seen is anything to go by, one little darling merely wanted to play on the disability lift when I was there, I was two minutes away from giving him a fright as the whine went on and on.


Herne Bay.


Henley on Thames


Apart from my FW190 terrain piece I have done nothing else for a while but this morning ordered up three of the new Rubicon models, a British truck, a German 2cm flak gun and the SdKfz 10/4 halftrack on which to mount the gun. I had planned to get a BA-20 armoured car and the Soviet tractor but the prices are funny money, these two are resin kits, the armoured car is £25 and the tractor a whopping £30, these are both small models and even with the fabled LMF behind me I cannot countenance spending that.

 Entertainment is pretty scarce at the moment, I watched another new piece of nonsense called 'Jolt' the other night, some woman (size 6) has anger issues and is very dangerous if she gets annoyed, but of course the movie forgets this when it needs to and a knock on the head and some plastic ties seems to incapacitate her for several minutes, rubbish. All is not lost however, I can recommend 'City on a Hill' where Kevin Bacon plays an FBI agent superbly walking a tightrope between what is right and what is wrong in Boston. I have nearly finished the second season and it is even better than the first. I am now reduced to waiting on several good things to start again, probably a desert until the Autumn so am back to binge watching 'The Shield' not the best actors in the world but an exciting and different police drama.

 The second part of my Chickamauga battle is being fought tonight, the Federal line begins to form but can the Confederates breakthrough before it does, we will see.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Black 13

 For a long time now I have wanted to add more interesting scatter terrain to my tables and a downed aircraft has been on the list for a couple of years since diving into WWII. I looked around for quite a time for a cheap 1/72 plastic kit to destroy but eventually settled on a proper, but more expensive 1/48 kit as these reputedly look better on the ground while 1/72 is fine for a quick run across a crowded battlefield. I have always had a soft spot for the BF109 but instead decided to go for something different, so I ended up with a FW190A3, yes, that guy, will be able to point and say that Mark didn't come out until 1400 hrs, August 12th '43 so your whole set up is wrong, well I don't care.

The kit arrived pretty quick and it is the first aircraft kit I have built in easily 50+ years, it was fairly straightforward with a surprisingly small number of pieces compared to say Rubicon tanks etc. At this point I had to make my mind up just how badly the aircraft had hit the deck, not being a proper modeller I decided the pilot had got it down without too much of a problem. There is a BF109 in the IWM Duxford which crashed in 1940 without even a bullet hole in it, this was my inspiration. I made a small raised platform of earth from some tissue soaked in plaster, then some ridges leading to the crash site which no doubt the propellers had gouged out. I soaked the props in hot water and bent two of them. The base was then painted a dark brown and drybrushed with a lighter shade, tufts and flowers were added along with static grass, it was now ready for the plane.

I do not have a problem with portraying things as historically accurate as possible, having a swastika flag on an early war tank as an air recognition symbol or the same design on the tail of any Luftwaffe aircraft does not make the owner a card carrying member of the NSDAP in my book. I was quite surprised therefore to find the swastika on the decal sheet, but this saved me buying a sheet or painting it myself. I do have a couple of things which are beyond the pale for me as a wargamer but that's my business.

 Moving swiftly on I chose a generic mid war colour scheme, the decals were for three different pilots so I attempted a nice set with a large black eagle along the front fuselage, I quickly ruined that so moved on to a less difficult one, if you want to know it is an aircraft from JG2. I added a bit of dirt, grass and smoke stains to the whole thing and then some bullet holes, not a lot, just enough to suggest either the engine gave up or the pilot was wounded. And there you go, a nice addition to my scatter terrain and a warning not to get into building model aircraft and to stick to tanks.

Club again last night and my alter ego once again commanding HMS Achilles with two new small ships, HMS Juno and HMS Jupiter (both the names of Leander frigates I had hoped to get as my first ship back in 1970 but did not). Simon was in command of the second squadron, again one frigate and two brigs, a large Spanish merchantman had run aground on a small island near a Spanish coastal fort, the ship contained important cargo and an unspecified amount of silver. A small Spanish squadron was anchored near the fort and a powerful French force of two frigates and a brig had just arrived in the area as the British bore down on their objective. I made straight for the grounded vessel and had a rude awakening as several very large broadsides erupted from the 'lame duck', Jupiter took the burnt of it losing a gun and most of her command cut down on the quarterdeck, I decided to keep the ship back from the main action and proceeded with Achilles and Juno.

 I took more damage as I closed with the Esmerelda but was now in a position to pass her stern and rake the whole ship with both of mine, just as I was congratulating myself I had inadvertently got too close to the fort and again Juno suffered a couple of hits. No matter, as I tacked to come back around the Spanish merchant suffered more raking fire and burst into flames striking her flag as the crew leapt off for shelter on the small island. Simon meanwhile had engaged the Frenchies and was giving as good as he got, the pendulum shifted as the Spanish squadron now joined the action and one of his brigs went to Davy Jones' locker. The Sea Wolf meanwhile now began to close and added the fire of Achilles and Juno to the battle, signals also brought Jupiter back into the fight and a desperate battle ebbed and flowed. One French frigate struck but was then boarded by one of their brigs to put backbone back into the crew but all it did was put these ships out of action as they argued on the ruined deck. Broadsides from my ships now forced a Spanish brig to strike, just as they were pulling their flag down Simon's flagship blew up as flames reached her magazine, on the nearby island the merchant also erupted and the force of these explosions sent the surrendering brig to the bottom. The upshot was that the French were left with one almost fully functioning frigate and a brig while the Spaniards were left with two badly damaged ships and were intent on running with the wind. 

 If we had had time I think we would have taken or sunk both the remaining Spaniards and then either made our escape or taken on the Frenchie, but I think we would have lost Jupiter and Simon's remaining brig was in no state to stay in the battle. So a win of sorts for the Royal Navy, despite the odds being against us we had destroyed the Esmerelda so that no one was going to benefit from her cargo. It would seem the hope of a dukedom for the Sea Wolf will have to wait for another day.

I have to head south to the big Smoke or nearby for the weekend and although I hate driving south I am not wearing a mask on public transport for anyone so will simply get on with it, I am now looking forward to the three day break and will eat, drink and be merry despite my natural inclination to be dour.

Because I am heading south I had to cancel the game I had lined up for Sunday, but I have managed to salvage this and will fight it tonight as Fran has agreed to come round this evening. The scenario is a 'what if' based on the battle of Chickamauga in 1863. Breckinridge's division at the southern end of the battlefield was ready to attack an unprepared Union line but was subsequently drawn out of the line and sent north. Could Breckinridge have crushed the Union flank and then turned and rolled up the main line, who knows, but we should know tonight. I visited Chickamauga nearly 30 years ago, a well looked after battlefield and hardly touched by modern times.

Typical terrain at Chickamauga


Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Down Mexico Way

 Back into the old routine, Tuesday night and back to the club, it was supposed to be Bolt Action but we had a no show and with some advance warning I went for Deadman's Hand as new club member Jimi had just bought the rules and some figures.

I have far too many terrain pieces for DMH and have mothballed half of them, I would prefer just to sell them but can't muster the enthusiasm, maybe a job for when I retire. Anyway, I set up a small street and we each picked our 'gang', Jimi took Lawmen, Simon Cowboys and I went for my usual Mexicans, these are a bit like my Franks, I just know they will make me proud some day, the Franks at least have turned their reputation around, as for 'El Aranya' and his mob, not yet, but I digress.

We simply went for a last man standing game and we got points for however many guys we sent to Boot Hill. I was nearer to the Lawmen so drifted towards them while leaving a couple of guys in an alley to keep an eye on the Cowboys who had crossed to my side of the street and were moving towards me. Jimi split into two groups, one came for me and one went for the Cowboys. As the first shots rang out I realised The Spider had not turned up with his best men as bullets went wild and hit nothing, however I got most of my men into the bank and behind it ready to pounce on a few Lawmen who had taken an aggressive move towards me.

The quiet streets of Carefree

 My planned assault on the Lawmen fell apart as shot after shot missed spectacularly, only Miguel the sniper was managing to hit anything but only with wounds, no killing shots. The Law hit back and Fat Pedro who I had been lining up to give a shotgun blast at the Gringos hit the floor of the bank as bullets shattered the windows. Nearby my two Vaqueros in the alley behind a fence traded shots with the Cowboys, wounded they held on and gave me hope for some points, sadly it was not to be and they too bit the dust. Having narrowly failed to bring down a bunch of Cowboys I did have some close range success against the Lawmen and got two of them. Time was up and Simon narrowly claimed victory by one point. My shooting had been dire and only offset by the same kind of results coming from the Lawmen, in fact no one had much dice luck in this game but my muchachos really were bad, they still remain in the bad books.

The Spider comes to town

 Next week it is Black Seas and my alter ego 'The Sea Wolf' will be taking to the high seas again to wreak havoc on the French and Spanish and hopefully to gain the admiration and rewards from a grateful country.

If and when I get around to playing the Gembloux Gap campaign with my early war stuff I would need two culverts, you can buy them online but I wasn't keen on the look of them so I decided to make my own, how difficult could it be. I cut some foam for the walls and painted them grey while also sticking some sand to them, I had planned to drybrush these when dry but they turned out just fine so I left them. I then built up the bases with tiling grout leaving a flat channel in the middle, I glued sand all over and painted with brown paint, added static grass and large tufts along with some gloss varnish in the centre for water. I was more than happy with my efforts.

 I have one more terrain itch to scratch and that is a downed aircraft, I have avoided this for a long time but with nothing left on the tray I may not be able to stop myself.

Sunday, 11 July 2021

Country Roads....

 Lucky for you I am not singing or ruining a famous song, however I bought my country roads several years ago and have never liked them, for one they are a bit stiff and the edges tend to turn up, also having bought them in two batches there is a slight difference in the colour which has also bugged me. I changed all the static grass edges but it didn't help to make them more alike. So, yesterday at B&Q having plucked up the courage to go near the place to get a socket set to fix a leaking tap, overkill perhaps but I didn't want to attack it like the last time with my scissors and screwdriver which almost brought me to the brink of divorce and/or a breakdown, I also got them to mix up a tester pot of an earth colour for £3.

I was a bit wary when I had them all on the table and painted, the colour looked more like a yellow than earth, but once dry I liked it. This morning I drybrushed them with a sand colour, spread grass along the middle of the roads and then added flower clumps here and there. They are now far better and they are all the same.



The old roads.

I was supposed to be playing War and Conquest today but Mike from Leicester is a football fan and the Euro final has left that high and dry. I usually have Talk Radio on in the background of the PO while I am drawing maps but this week I have been unable to listen due to the constant banging on about football. But you are Scottish and jealous I hear you say, but no, I really do not care one whit about sport of any kind, I really would sit and watch paint dry (on soldiers) instead. Having said that and in preparation for my English passport should Wee Kranky ever get her way above Hadrians Wall, I would like to see a British team win if just for the hell of it.

I continue my detailed reading on the Eastern Front and after the first few months of Operation Barbarossa I am hitching a ride with Army Group South and 1st Panzer Group as it heads for Kiev. I grew up with how brilliant the Germans were at war and how they were cheated of victory in Russia by the madman Hitler. The whole thing has turned 180 degrees now and the more I read the more I realise, as did some Germans, how the whole invasion was basically a one shot weapon, if the Soviets had not been brought to the table by the end of July there was nothing left in the bag, Barbarossa had to succeed or all was kaput. Despite crippling losses which would have had the Western Allies begging for an end the Russians kept going and merely became stronger and stronger, the country itself, with its lack of proper roads, vast distances, mud and dust wore down the panzer and motorised spearheads of the German army. It has also come to light, to me at least, that even the 6th Army as it arrived at Stalingrad was in a shocking state before it was surrounded. The Russians too made mistakes, many of them, but they deserve more appreciation than they get for winning the war. Once I retreat from Moscow with these books I think a closer look at Stalingrad might be on the horizon.

 So, what next, well Deadman's Hand at the club on Tuesday and an ACW game penciled in for the 25th, I hope to organise some Chain of Command games after that. I also need to built or buy some culverts for the Gembloux Gap mini campaign which I need a volunteer for.

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

Green as Grass

 Club night and Bolt Action, time to get some of those Lockdown painted troops on the table. I dug out an early war Eastern Front scenario from the Ostfront Campaign book where the Russians were defending a bridge and the Germans had to take it, sounded good, I also liked the idea that the Germans were forced to take transports, the spearhead of a motorised division perhaps. My first mistake was I had not read the notes properly and instead of one Russian unit being dug in near the bridge they all were, this meant that with Bolt Action all these units were almost invulnerable and not the speed bump they were in reality. 

I had chosen my forces to blitzkrieg the bridge and gain an early advantage, I had a halftrack, truck, armoured car and for back up a Panzerjager 1 to counter the inevitable Soviet big tank, I also had one veteran squad and two regulars, oh, and an MMG. I wanted to rush forward with the first wave and have the second to counter a Russian flank attack which they were allowed, sounded good to me. It was now I found they were all dug in. The game settled into both sides hugging the ground with the odd casualty on the German veteran squad who were ensconced in a farm near the bridge. I got fed up and brought on my little tank with the intention of firing heavy explosives into the Russian fortress, I had forgotten the Soviet 45mm anti-tank gun, the first shot stunned my crew and put two pin markers on them, oops.

 After some failed morale tests the Soviet flank attacks turned up, an infantry squad on my left and a T-28 on my right. My armoured car and halftrack soon cut the infantry down to a few men as they had been caught in the open, but just as I was about to wipe them out my guys ran out of ammo, or at least that was the excuse for the rubbish shots. Meanwhile I tried to get the Panzerjager to move on the T-28 which was failing to make an impact on the Down veterans in the farmyard but the crew had been so traumatised by the hit earlier they refused to move. Lady Luck had deserted the Jerries. As the bell was about to chime and we had only completed half the moves, we had two new players who had joined us and were introducing the game to, I called a halt as they way things were going our Veterans would eventually succumb to either pins or death and a last minute jog forward would give the Soviets the game.

 Not having played in almost eighteen months showed and getting the notes on the scenario wrong didn't help, but I think Jimi and Edward at least got an inkling of how Bolt Action played. I don't mind playing Bolt Action but they have some really annoying traits, why would an inexperienced squad suddenly turn to regulars when shot at, where did that come from, aaaagh! Anyway, we have another Bolt Action game next week, a bit larger and another 'training' game.

I finished off my French LMG teams this week so the only think left for these guys is a couple of trucks, which I am in no hurry to get. I also finished my two new tanks, the StuH 42 simply because it is there and a Panzer II because I cannot wait for the Rubicon model to turn up. The 42 was OK, the resin part was fine but the metal hatches were too big and didn't fit, also Blitzkrieg show you the CAD file or whatever it is on their site, not an actual resin cast, so the cupola doesn't look as good on the model, I now realise I should have got the Rubicon model. The little Panzer II (Warlord) by contrast is lovely and very nicely cast. I decided on the normal three pattern camo for the StuH as they turned up in numbers just as the new scheme came in in February '43, I also added some foliage that I had lying around and a spare commander.

 Now that my French are ready I needed to sort out a couple of things for Chain of Command games, I could not find division signs for 1940 so went for the Tricolour and used the tactical signs for armoured units. 

 The Tomorrow War, a new movie on Netflix starring Chris Pratt, one of the dumbest sci-fi movies ever, yes some of the special effects are nice but the plot is so ridiculous right from the start the questions start to queue up in your brain. Let's put it this way, our hero, the only white male on the planet just about, needs some info on volcanic ash, does he email a renowned volcanologist, no, he remembers a kid in primary seven who liked volcanoes, he is a teacher. Oh yes, and in 2022 or whenever it starts all positions of authority are taken by, yep, you guessed it, size 6 women.