Tuesday, 22 February 2022

Painting and building demon

 No club this week, I have been recruited to cook a 'birthday' dinner for my wife and her friends, I am no Cumbrian Chef like club member Julian but I can turn out a decent Polla alla Marsala with the best of them.

The 11th Dragoons and Languedoc Dragoons have now been added to my Seven Year War cavalry squadrons so that is all the cavalry finished, I managed them in record time which surprised me as I do not like painting horses. I did cheat with these guys and they are both 'black horse' squadrons. I am now moving on the last of the infantry battalions, I eventually got my full order after the Royal Mail lost the first one and the second contained only British, so well done North Star. 

The 11th


With the inclement weather this weekend and the Met Office running out of alphabet soup to name the storms, we got one of them every ten years when I was young. I decided to build up the kits I got as Christmas presents. They are all from Rubicon, the SdKfz 7 and little Dingo are very nice, the Dingo is resin and is so good you would think it was a plastic kit, the 8.8cm is again a beautiful kit but for me a bit complex. The Dingo is of course for the British in NW Europe while the other two will be for pre 1942 and finished in panzer grey this is my second Acht Acht and I want this one to be on the carriage as if having to open fire in a crises.

I have not waxed lyrical about entertainment for a while, the reason is quite simple, I have seen nothing which has inspired me for a long, time, I am at that point where you dig out your old box sets for something decent and pre-trigger warnings. I am painting to the superb 'In The Thick Of It' at the moment and contemplating watching Seinfeld, Frasier or Rising Damp for the umpteenth time. I did see several recommendations for Netflix's 'Midnight Mass', it was hailed as a first rate shocker and a terrifying watch, who nowadays really finds vampires scary (I'm not van Helsing but it's looking like the undead from here). I now play Woke Bingo with everything I watch and as the first episode ended I had only one box left on the card, twenty minutes in to the second episode, BINGO! We rented the supposedly brilliant 'Boiling Point' with the excellent Stephen Graham in it last night, Stephen now owes me £4.49. I can't say too much apart from I felt I was watching the old Play for Today. I will say that over the hour and a half the restaurant with 100 covers actually cooked one pan of duck fillets in the kitchen, the rest must have been brought in the back door by Just Eat. The first half was punctuated by shouts of "Nut allergy table 13" so guess what happens........ I have just finished watching 'The White Lotus' by recommendation, I am still unsure of whether I enjoyed it or not although it did provide several belly laughs, there is a warning of nudity, I closed my eyes twice!

I am getting through my pile of books with only two (Holland's Brothers in Arms and Helion's take on Bosworth) left now that I have started the last novel in The Expanse series. I have some Christmas money left on Amazon and feel the need for a decent book on the fall of France in 1940. Just yesterday I received the third volume in Helion's Italian Wars series dealing with the battle of Pavia, I am not a big fan of the artwork but it serves it's purpose and the information on banners, flags and heraldry at the rear is first class.

I should be back at the club next week where I promised I would take on Jimi's upgunned British army at Bolt Action, his poor Airborne suffered the last time we met so he will be out for revenge, my Intelligence has revealed the presence of a Churchill with a howitzer which should see a run out, what will I take to counter it, we will see.

Thursday, 17 February 2022

Lace and Steel

 Another miserable, dark, wet night so it must be club night. This week I decided to once again bring my SYW troops out to play so they remain sharp rather than take it easy here at me casa waiting for visitors. I looked online for something simple but found the scenarios too small for four players or too big needing more than a 6x4 and oodles more troops than I have, so I settled on a scenario from the Honours of War rule book as a basis for the game.

The British were attacking a French force defending a long ridge line, Simon and I were the French while Duncan and Rob were the British, two brigades each of four battalions, two squadrons of horse and one light gun made up each army. Needless to say the British came bravely on with drums beating and Duncan's brigade headed for the small hamlet of Kunzdorf to anchor his right flank. I decided to march forward and meet him, Simon looked puzzled and thought we should have stayed on the ridge, but I was out for blood, I also thought I would throw my cavalry forward with typical French elan and take out the British cavalry.

I advance my brigade

Duncan marches to intercept

My doomed cavalry

 Sadly I had mis-timed my cavalry attack and Duncan countered by putting an infantry battalion in a position to rake them as they thundered past, this upset my garcon's and they fled and dispersed, my second squadron now became the target of the British cavalry and this too routed from the field, however by this time I had brought up my own infantry and the victorious enemy cavalry were forced to retire. Over on my right Simon was now brought under fire from Rob's brigade and as casualties mounted he retired his infantry to rally and extend the range, the small village was now occupied by the Scots Guards. I moved my brigade forward hoping the volume of fire would offset the cover of the walls, it did not.

 As the action heated up and the British slowly advanced they had the upperhand as we had now lost all the cavalry and one of our infantry battalions, as the light faded the British closed to close range and the Scots charged out of the hamlet into the French line. When the smoke cleared it was obvious both sides had suffered dreadful casualties, too many in fact and both withdrew bloody but not bowed. A draw.

Festung Kutzdorf

The last volleys

 A furious game and very bloody, both had reached and passed their army breakpoints with six units lost, up until the last volleys it seemed that the British would emerge victors but it was not to be. I did not cover myself in glory as I messed up the cavalry and then failed to inflict decent casualties on Duncan. Rob had been winning until he got carried away and advanced to close range, Simon recovered and pulled a draw from an impending defeat with accurate musketry.

I was supposed to have a third game tonight with Matt over Zoom, to continue our Gembloux Gap campaign, he has had an accident to his knee and is of to A&E as I type, so that is not going to happen. My bad luck started much earlier in that an order from North Star did not turn up, I let them know and although they asked me to give it more time they sent a replacement almost right away, I got them a day ago. This was the package to complete my SYW project and contained the last two infantry battalions, sadly I got the men for two British battalions instead of a French one, I have once again had to get in touch and sent two of the packets back today as I do not need them and as they have already taken a loss did not want them to take another.

I see no Germans

I see no Frenchies

Time is flying by, I shall have the British cavalry I got at Vapnartak finished and based tomorrow while the French are already on the tray, I am cheating slightly as all the horses in these squadrons are black which allows me to get right on with the riders.

 I went through my paints today and chucked out some which were almost done and others which are not used anymore, I also re-ordered a few more to have a full set when I do move on to the next project. In keeping with this I also ordered Helion's Volume 3 on the Italian Wars, which again contains my maps for the battle of Pavia. I also believe a Volume 4 is coming later in the year.


The Steel part of the title obviously did not turn up, but I thought it was catchy.

Monday, 14 February 2022

Teeth do have skin

 Big day arrived yesterday and despite the dreadful weather Fran, Simon and Ed turned up in time for my second Operation Chariot, the raid on St. Nazaire game, the original idea coming from Little Wars TV. I made a few tweaks to the rules after the first game, I lengthened the time from eight turns to ten so that the demolition teams could physically manage to get to the furthest away objectives, I also increased their movement from six to nine inches, again so that they could at least try to get to the far objectives.

Fran and Simon made their deployment rolls and succeeded in bringing on just over two thirds of their forces, so many in fact that they had trouble fitting them all in to the landing zones, with at least one unit remaining in their (fictional) boat due to lack of space. The harbour garrison then showed up, three patrols and one MMG on the eastern half of the harbour and one more with one patrol across the basin in the west. One MMG was put on the Pump House roof with the patrols spread around while the other was again put on the roof of a building covering LZ81 while the last patrol hunkered down in the Officers Quarters.

 As the raiders began to land everything seemed to go to plan, the Pump House MMG and one patrol were quickly put out of action, a squad ran for the shelter of the Winding Hut walls where the AA gun placed on the roof could not depress to hit them, it did fire across the basin at the troops disembarking at LZ81 but the fire was ineffective. Another patrol and the Harbour Commander took position in a large shed to await the British move on the Pump House. On the other side of the harbour the commandos were taking up positions near and around a large house near the Officers Quarters, while trying to keep out of the line of sight of the nearby 8.8cm gun, German defensive fire was failing to make any impact on the raiders.

The 8.8cm target.

Traffic jam at LZ81

As the second wave of British troops turned up so did trucks from the nearby German barracks, these men were regular troops and not the battle dodging, wine swilling part timers of the harbour defences, the trucks raced from west to east to set up a proper defense as the British now cautiously made a move on the remaining patrols ensconced behind their walls with overwhelming force. Meanwhile charges had been set at the Winding Hut and the demolition team was getting ready to clear the area.

Back at LZ81 Fran had whittled away at the MMG team but one man stubbornly refused to die and still covered the main road, the British sniper was targeting the 88 but the crew were only slowly succumbing as every other shot missed. Deciding to force the issue a squad was detailed to advance on the Officers Quarters only to be caught by the German gun and suffer horrendous casualties which put them out of action for a couple of turns while they regained their composure. The gun now turned on the troops in the house and again landed a devastating hit, the troops in the house failed throughout the rest of the game to recover their morale so were effectively lost. Fran now took on the Germans in the Officers Quarters and with their demise managed to get a demolition team into the building and set the explosive charges.

LZ81 and LZ82

The Winding Hut is taken

More troops arrive at LZ82

 Simon's men in the east having laid charges and blown up the Winding Hut now managed to wipe out the Harbour Commander and his small patrol in order to advance on the Pump House, the rest of his men moved forward to test Ed's defences which were ensconced in a large factory building protecting both the train and the AA objectives. In the west we had one squad in a building which could cover any attempt by Fran to move on the AA gun along the road and also if needed fire across the basin to defend the said gun, while I dismounted a second squad as our defences were a tad weak in the west. They got weaker as Fran made a move on the AA position, in preparation for his demolition team he picked away at the crew of the 88 until the last man dropped, but he still had to blow it up, the other AA objective had also lost its crew earlier and was sitting abandoned in the middle of the battlefield. Casualties mounted on both sides and every die roll counted, my boys took the heat thrown at them and at last the demolition team made their move, right into a hail of German fire, all three hit the dirt.

In the east the British were taking quite a few losses now that they had run up against Ed's factory and in a moment of madness three survivors assaulted the building while we got ready to chalk up another British unit removed from the game. The result was a draw, but the second strike would be overwhelming, nope, Ed failed to kill the one remaining Tommy and instead his men fled, needless to say this episode will go down in wargaming history in these here parts.

The 88 has reinforcements

The Officers Quarters go up

The Winding Hut explodes

 Everything now depended on the British getting a fourth objective and as three others burned furiously this only left the abandoned AA gun in the middle of the basin within reach of a British team. Simon sent a protection squad along with the last demolition team running for the gun. Fran helped by focusing fire on the German squad in the house on my side of the harbour which could fire across to anyone moving on the gun, the pins mounted up, Ed now opened up on the protection squad and in an effort to make amends he managed to cut down 50% of the men causing a morale check, with bated breath we all watched the dice, a pass, jubilation and curses bounced off the walls of the Post Office.

 The men in the house now managed to cut the demo squad down to two men but we had shot our bolt, we could not stop them getting to the gun, a last fusillade of shots failed to strike.

The 88's crew are shot down

The harbour in flames

The Tommy's get to the last objective

 Right on the tenth move the game ended, although the gun had not yet exploded the charges had been set so we ruled it was as good as dead. Although Ed still had two decent squads and a surviving harbour patrol left in the east in the west we had two beaten up squads and nothing else. As the clock struck Fran's men would be returning to their boats as would the survivors in the east but four objectives had been claimed. Although it did not matter we agreed that had their been more time Fran's men although having no more charges could have rigged an 88 shell to destroy the gun, something to bear in mind for another time.

How did the game go, well the British did very well on deployment with almost all their troops turning up, this meant the poor inexperienced and small harbour patrols hiding from the Eastern Front did not stand much of a chance although one at least went down fighting. It also did not help that the initial defensive fire was fairly underwhelming. It takes time for the Germans to build up their defences, they cannot possibly save the Pump House or the Winding Hut but the other objectives are a worry for both the attackers and defenders with the possible exception of the Ammo Train, which may be a train too far. The excitement generated in the last couple of turns as both sides fought over the AA gun objective was electric.

I play both Chain of Command and Bolt Action, they both have good and bad points, but with a game of this size you cannot beat Bolt Action for sheer excitement. This scenario may play well with Big Chain of Command but the normal rules I think would be struggling to contend with so many units. 

As I lay awake at 05.30 hrs this morning in the dark I eventually caught that elusive straw, in the to and fro of battle I had forgotten the important rule that if a German squad gets wiped out a replacement immediately enters the table, with three moves left since Ed's men had fled this would have meant that the last objective would have had a full squad to defend it. However it would be churlish not to let the brave Tommies have their win after all it was my own fault, but you and I know what really happened dear reader and I can now sleep easy.

A big thanks to Ed, Fran and Simon for taking the time to devote seven hours to a great days entertainment.

Wednesday, 9 February 2022

Vapnartak and stuff

 After my fiasco at FIASCO I was looking forward to the York show, I had my doubts about how many traders would turn up as Helion & Co. have been trying to get in for years and managed it this year, which suggested someone was not turning up and there was space to fill, also the organisers had actually phoned mate Rob to see if he was putting on his usual participation game (he wasn't).

Julian along with Stuart picked me up early and off we went, we got there around 1030hrs and were surprised at the length of the queue, however we got in fairly quickly and the first thing I noticed was the lack of any wargames on the ground floor. Now I know Vapnartak is mainly a trader show and I have no problem with that but as a wargamer I do like to see wargames. It was also apparent that some traders were not present as the space was fairly open, there was a good crowd in attendance but again not as busy as previous years but not by much. What I did see was that by 1330 hrs when we left the crowd was thinning out quite noticeably.

I discovered there were some games but these had been shifted to the fourth floor, there were only about half the usual participation games, a couple of large exhibition types and no tournaments. The guys on the Lance and Longbow Italian Wars game were very helpful and engaged me for a good 10-15 minutes, the guys playing the imposing big desert type back of beyond game were too engrossed to offer any commentary while I was there and I saw at least one intrigued youngster aimlessly wandering around the table. Sorry but I didn't take many photos.

 I did manage to get a word with Andy and Andrew on the Helion stand and caught up with Andrew on some projects. It is also nice to actually see the finished products which contain my maps of which there were quite a lot. Wandering around I bumped into Ken Reilly of Yarkshire Gaming fame and berated him for turning my gaze towards the Italian Wars and the future bankruptcy which attends such a move, 48 figures for one pike block! While on the subject I got to look at Foundry's range for the period and was very impressed, so much so that despite the rise in prices I suspect I shall get the core of  my army from them. Julian has decided to paint some figures for the period and although mainly a fantasy wargamer he does have some historicals and is an exceptional painter and wants to try his skills on the colourful units. He bought at least three boxes of Perry figures for the period.

What did I buy, tufts, bases, some dice as if I don't have enough, some rubble for my city ruins and I picked up some Seven Year War cavalry which I had ordered online from Gripping Beast. I was prepared to be tempted should I see anything interesting and although I did see some nice pieces my wallet stayed firmly in my pocket.

Covid is still having an effect about maybe 25% continue to wear masks and I am sure others simply decided not to turn up. I don't know what happened to actual games, perhaps it was a deliberate policy of the organisers to limit the number or people just decided to give it another year. I confess to being slightly apprehensive myself but I feel fine and am all the better for getting to the show.

Club night yesterday and a visit to the Eastern Front with Chain of Command, the Hitlerites attacking once again. I had a typical army platoon and decided against a tank for support and instead took an infantry gun and a 250 halftrack with a small reconnaissance team onboard, I also had some defences for the gun to keep the crew safe. As each of my squads had a panzerfaust and the platoon gets a panzerschreck I decided that was enough to tackle any small Soviet tanks which turned up, if they did. Simon defending the Motherland took a T-70 and an MMG team.

Not very inspiring but it suited the time limit.

 I started with one squad on each flank, Simon was being cautious and put one squad in a small wood on his left opposite my boys and a firefight ensued which would last all game, he also put his MMG in a ruined building in the centre of the small village and it too began to pick on my left flank squad. This meant I had to deploy my infantry gun and start lobbing shells at them. The Russians now decided to make more of an effort and the T-70 arrived as did two more squads, one of which was caught in the open, they lost their leader which put an end to their advance. I now brought on my halftrack with the intention of moving it forward and deploying the recon team so that two machine guns could join in the hurt on the Soviets in the wood, but I never did manage to dismount the team and relied only on the 250's machine gun. 

 I now managed to get a double phase and pushed a squad up to take on the MMG and they wiped it out while a second turned up to support them, frustrated, the T-70 was now advanced to try and take out my infantry gun. An evil smile lit my face and just when I needed it I managed to bring on my panzerschreck, the team quickly identified the little tank and up it went in a thousand pieces, Soviet morale now failed and the Jerries advanced to take their objectives. A good little game and we got it finished in record time for Chain of Command.

I have started the cavalry and just this afternoon took delivery of three buildings from The Grand Manner, again for the SYW, I have also completed the penultimate British battalion, His Britannic Majesty's 11th Foot alongside some civilians and an artillery limber. All I have to wait for now is the last of the infantry battalions from Crusader and that is it, or rather that will be me on to the Italian Wars, a long project and a lot of troops, my retirement project.

 I have started reading "Like a Brazen Wall" on the battle of Minden and the author mentions a couple of maps of the battle drawn shortly after, the best by a William Roy of the British army. I was intrigued because as a boy growing up in Carluke I used to pass a signpost labeled 'The Birthplace of General Roy'. It transpires that Roy is the founding father of the Ordnance Survey and the first man to completely map Scotland, the main reason being so that British soldiers could march quickly through the country should the Jacobites ever cause any more harm after the '45. Now here I am centuries later, also from Carluke mapping the battle of Minden, I very much doubt as well as General Roy.

I once again have Little Wars' St. Nazaire game on the table and will be playing on Sunday, looking forward to it.

Wednesday, 2 February 2022

The Sea Wolf lifts the curse

 I got the chance to play with Rob last night, the first in a while as I have been a wargaming butterfly playing quite a few different periods and people, the club is booming at the moment and we are now taking up two classrooms instead of one. Anyway, Rob had organised a game of Black Seas which I have not played for two years, that was a surprise to me when I looked it up, bloody Covid.

I took the British, James the French and Rob the Spanish. My small squadron of the frigates Achilles (flagship), Ajax and HM Bark Sheraton were sailing to intercept a wrecked vessel loaded with supplies of gunpowder while a French squadron of the same make up were bent on destroying the beached vessel, two small Spanish privateers had also heard of the booty and wanted a share. The French and Spanish made straight for the wreck amongst the shoals while I sent Ajax ahead and turned Achilles and Sheraton to port with the hope of raking the sterns of the French as they manoeuvred to come upon the wreck. The French flagship managed to reach the wreck at the same time as the Spanish and both fired on the beached vessel starting a raging fire, Ajax could do nothing to help but in the true traditions of the Senior Service set battle ensigns and charged into the fray. A deadly broadside caused one privateer to strike her colours, the French flagship having completed her task now turned for the open sea, Ajax now took aim at the second privateer and sent her to the bottom, it would now take time to tack and pursue the enemy.

 Meanwhile the other two French ships seeing the flaming wreck now turned to confront the Sea Wolf and Sheraton in an effort to escape, broadsides crashed out from all vessels but the British gunnery won the day and soon both French ships had struck. Ajax gamely tried to catch the French flagship and managed a few long range shots before her superior speed took her out of harms way. Although the French had completed their objective the British had claimed three prizes and one vessel sunk, the supplies aboard these would more than make up for the loss of powder on the blazing wreck. The captain of the Ajax and the British squadron are building up a terrifying reputation amongst their enemies. There is a rumour of an Earldom in the passages of Whitehall. The engagement had not lasted long so Rob and I took a frigate and bark each for another tussle, once again the Royal Navy won the day as the French bark escaped and the frigate struck.

There was a moment there as Ajax took on three of the enemy and the Achilles seemed to be facing an empty sea where I thought once again this year a defeat was staring me in the face, not that I believe in superstition. But somehow the pendulum swung in my direction and the curse was lifted, the rest of the year now holds no fear win or lose.

 There was a big Napoleonic game organised in Grange last Sunday but I could not attend being away in sunny Darlington for a delayed birthday dinner with my son and his family. I did however manage to get a game of Blood Bowl in, my third since spending the GDP of a small country on it. 

The Coach of the local team was taking no prisoners having lost the last two games to the Lanark Lemmings and brought his first team, the Swamp Boys, to the pitch, the home fans were of course delighted. The Lemmings received the ball in the first half and instead of taking advantage while half the Lizards were on the ground the Lemmings played a cautious game and then lost the ball. The home crowd went wild as their team broke through and made a run for the touchline with nothing to stop them. The applause turned to anger and boos as the Croc played to the crowd instead of scoring, Karma bit him on the tail and the Lemmings managed to foil the scoring attempt in the closing minutes of the first half. As the teams lined up for the second half the Lemmings were down four players, three knocked out and one fatality, the writing was on the wall, the Lizards crashed through in the opening turns and this time took no chances and smashed a touchdown, the fans forgave them, there were several fracas in the crowd between home and away fans. Time however was against us and we had to call a halt early, which is just as well as the Lemmings were heading for a fate far worse than 1-0.

 No matter when I have a coffee break a bus load of customers turns up, it has ever been thus and needless to say it annoys me, it is also never someone wanting a stamp, it is always a problem customer who doesn't know what's in the parcel or it has to go to Camp Polar Bear in the Arctic and will it need a customs label or is hand gel really a liquid while my coffee freezes. I had a bit of a moan, in a friendly way, with Ben who banks the cash from the Old School Brewery in the village and now when they turn up they bring me a lovely cup of Mocha just in case it is coffee break, how nice is that.

 I have had a quiet time with maps over the festive season and what I have worked on were not complex and involved only a few maps, the English in Tangiers in the 17C, battles in India in the 18C and the Jacobites at Preston in 1715. I received two new projects just yesterday, Jagdgeschwader 52 in Hungary 1944-1945 and the Battle of Rossbach 1757.



Almost forgot, I am off to Vapnartak in York on Sunday, I have a small shopping list and some figures to pick up from Gripping Beast. I will also take the opportunity to have a look at some Italian Wars bits and pieces. Helion have also managed to get a stand this year so I will be popping in there to have a word with the editors and maybe spend my fiver.