Tuesday, 30 April 2013

10mm Early/Mid-Imperial Romans

I recently dug out a Warmaster Imperial Roman army that I bought from Pendraken at a show, along with an Ancient British army, about 10 years ago.  In a rush of enthusiasm, I painted up the entire army, but ran out of steam when it came to the Ancient British, so never got a game in.  At Deeside Defenders, Black Powder  and the various related rules Pike and Shotte and Hail Ceasar are all enthusiastically played.  So, after discussing with Ian whether he had a suitable opposing army (which he did having Sassanids in 10mm), we scheduled a game for this coming Thursday using Hail Ceasar.

The entire force, at the back two stands of Scorpion bolt throwers, five legionnary cohorts (a veteran legion in the centre representing the Praetorian Guard), three cohorts of auxilia, one ala of cavalry, one unit of archers and three German javelin-armed skirmisher units, plus a tribune and a legate.
 The Germanic tribes skirmisher units
 The unit of Archers
 The three cohorts of auxilia.
 Two cohorts of legionaries
 One veteran legionary cohort - the Praetorian Guard
 Two more legionary cohorts
 The small unit of Scorpion bolt throwers
 The whole army on parade.
The shields could do with some detail either painted on or as decals - not sure which way I'll go yet.  In any case, they should be able to put up a decent show on Thursday night.  All depends how quickly I can pick up the rules as I've not played HC before and my rules haven't yet turned up from Amazon.

Thanks for looking

Monday, 29 April 2013

English Civil War in 10mm

This last couple of weeks I have been mostly painting part of a Pendraken 10mm ECW Parliamentarian starter pack that I picked up at WMMS back in February.  I needed a change from all the browns, greens and black of the cold war gear.  I've decided to set them up for Pike and Shotte, as I really like Black Powder.  Initially I based them 8 infantry to a 40x20mm base, with two bases of shotte and one base of pike.  On reflection and after discussions at the club with Ian and Rick, I'm going to add another stand of pike to each unit to give the impression of bulk that the pike deserve.  The horse are based three to a 40x20mm base and initially I thought two stands per unit, but I'm leaning towards three stands per unit.

The whole group painted so far, three units of infantry (2 stands each of shotte and one of pike) and 2 units of horse(each 2 stands).
 Detail of the three units of infantry.
 Old Pendraken "Ironsides" horse, orange sashes.
 As above, blue sashes.
 Detail of command pike stand with commander and drummer plus standard bearer and pikeman.
 The "redcoats".
 The "greencoats"
 The "bluecoats".
 The units of horse.

In the starter pack, for £25 (as of April 2013), you get enough infantry for seven units of two shotte and one pike stand, plus some spares, and seven units of two stands of two horse, plus a single piece of artillery.  Good value in my opinion.  For an additional £8, I should be able to add enough pikemen to base up the extra 7 stands of pike.  With some commanders, that should be enough to field a couple of "brigades" of 3 or 4 battalia of infantry, plus a couple of battalia of horse and an artillery piece.  Enough for a medium sized engagement!

Thanks for looking!

Monday, 15 April 2013

Crisis Point 2 Arctic Strike 2013 - AAR

Well, after months of preparation, Arctic Strike raced by in the twinkle of an eye.  I arrived later than planned, due to some heavy Friday afternoon traffic, the fact that Dungworth appears to lie within the South Yorkshire triangle and the local council had decided to close several local routes for repair.  After a great evening of beer and chat in "The Royal", it was down to the village hall on the Saturday morning to finish setting up and organise our command groups.

From the pre-battle maps and scenario documents, I was expecting my USMC 4th Marine Amphibious Brigade to be pitted against either or both Soviet paratroops and Naval infantry around Bjerkvik on the middle table.  During the pre-game briefing, that quickly changed and I found my marines being tasked with retaking Bodo from what appeared to be a paratrooper and a naval brigade, including at least 10 batteries of salvo rocket launchers.  A follow-up force on Sunday included motor rifle and tank battalions.  Fortunately, the British armoured regiment and a Dutch mechanised battlegroup were also assigned to the table, coming on from the eastern end and pushing west for Bodo.  My marines would be able to land amphibiously anywhere along the southern table edge.  The key terrain feature in the mid-part of the table was a bridge on the main road, close to the coast, which crossed a north south flowing river that cut the table in two.

The first couple of turns saw my marines floating offshore waiting for something to happen.  Having air superiority on turn 2 and some nice marine corps air assets available, I tried to bring on a Bronco FAC spotter, only to see him brought down by SA-7s firing out of the Bodo Lidl store. The Brits made enough progress in the first 2 turns to see their advance group of armour and mechanised infantry advance onto the bridge half way across the table, but their advance was slowed by a skirmish line of Spetsnaz infantry, backed up by salvo rocket barrages.  This was the time, I thought, to bring on the USMC to help take some of the heat off the Brits at the bridge and help them and the Dutch break through towards the eastern end of Bodo, thus allowing the marines to occupy Bodo airport and mop up the Soviet rear areas.

Alas, it was not to be.  My marines landed on turn 3 in relatively good order on the beaches between the lighthouse and the old WW2 German fortifications.  The scouts moved inland, one revealing a hidden minefield which split the bridgehead into two parts.  Two infantry battalions landed in LVTP-7s and one on foot, with a reinforced M60 company in support.  Unfortunately, there was no artillery support available - the Dutch were throwing their lighter artillery at the Spetsnaz around the bridge and the heavy stuff was shelling the Soviet paras around Bjerkvik.  My marine air wing had already been added to the general NATO air pool, so there was no integral air support, except the Sea Cobras, and NATO air assets were giving support in the Tromso area, rather than further south.  Net result, no smoke, no bombardments, no air support.  The marines ran into a whole bunch of trouble.  Initial op fire from BMD mounted Spigots and infantry was bad enough, but at least that provided some targets, with the M60s taking care of several BMDs and three Sea Cobras, reduced to two after one was forced to abort, taking out or suppressing some other paratroop infantry.

Unfortunately, in the Soviet turn 3, an air strike delivered a persistent nerve agent/irritant chemical attack, which effectively neutralised the bulk of the M60 company and a whole bunch of infantry on foot and in LVTPs.  Then came the salvo rocket artillery - 10 batteries worth on my tightly concentrated USMC beachhead.  Although deviation was quite large, the larger beaten area, coupled with the sheer number of tubes, was devastating.  By the end of turn 3 (all the turns we managed to cram in on Saturday), the marines had reached breakpoint.

Saturday evening saw a worn out bunch of wargamers eating excellent pies (steak and oyster in my case) and drinking good Yorkshire Ales.

The next day, I struck lucky in returning infantry from the front line aid stations (30% infantry) and armour from the repair shops (50% armour including two of the gassed M60s).  My elation was short lived.  The infantry managed to get off some shots at the infantry either side of the beachhead, but most of the armour was still supressed.  Any chance of artillery support disappeared when the Dutch artillery blundered off the rear edge of the table with no opportunity to return for 2 turns.  Then, in the Soviet turn, in came the salvo rocket artillery, plus a whole bunch of other artillery - not to metioned the advance of at least one battalion of improved T55s.  Attrition on the USMC forces was horrendous.  By the end of turn 4, my forces were reduced to a breakpoint modifier so low that it was impossible for the surviving CV9 HQ to pass a break test and my battle group broke.  I like to think those at the beach made it out on LVTPs and LCACs, but suspect a lot had to surrender - hopefully, their sacrifice earned them some decent treatment from the Soviets.

So, what was the experience like.  I suspect I know how a WW1 general must have felt.  I had spent the previous 8 months buying, painting and basing the USMC force, the last 4 months including various practice games with Ian and solo, trying to hone my skills as the battlegroup commander.  I then found myself throwing them at some pretty impressive soviet assets, including regular and paratrooper infantry, armour and massive amounts of artillery backed up by anti-air artillery.  They did well to last 2 turns!  So, 8 months in the making, 90 minutes in the breaking - an experience more like the Somme or Paschendaele.

Setting that aside, it was great to play a part in such a large game.  Our games so often take place in isolation as a single club evening game, so it was really good to see how the performance of each battle group effected the final outcome on each table.  The tables themselves looked excellent - I felt really privileged to play on such high quality terrain, and against forces that had been so meticulously researched and painted up to such a high standard.  It was also a great opportunity to meet and chat with wargames gliterati from all over the U.K. over a few beers.

My suggestions for improving the experience would probably echo others;

In general
  • better pre-game planning - detailed maps and pre-allocation of forces to allow pre-planned artillery fire programmes and air attacks.
  • team briefings carried out before the event so players know the situation on the table and what is expected of them
  • as early a start as possible, with a 10-15 minute briefing ahead of kicking off the first turn.
  • breaking larger tables into smaller sectors or fronts managed by a single player on each side - at times dring the game I was playing for considerable amounts of time against two soviet players, while two other NATO players were waiting to get on at their end of the table.
USMC specific
  • next time they go in to action, my Marine Air Wing will need to be prised from my cold dead hands
  • next time they go into action, my marines will have full naval fire support, including at least one Iowa class battleship firing preplanned barrages on map targets
  • next time they go into action, if the Dutch (no offence to any real citizens of the Netherlands living or dead) swan around touring the countryside, they'll find themselves the targets of the air wing, if not a couple of tac nukes.
  • next time I'll have the full M60 battalion with me.
  • large scale D-day type landings are a thing of the past, especially if contested.  Marines are best off seizing objectives by coup de main and then holding them.
The Future
Looking forward to Ian's Stalingrad game at Gauntlet.  Also interested in looking at any follow up games for Arctic Strike and for a 6mm megagame in Chester in 2014 (name and period still to be confirmed), plus the possibility of a 20mm modern game, Crisis Point 3, at Dungworth next year.  Just need to know what forces I'm doing and start the next arms race.

Bodo table looking west
 Bjerkvik table looking north
 Tromso table looking east
 The Bodo coastline looking west.  The choke point bridge inthe right foreground and USMC landing beaches beyond lighthouse
 Oil drilling platform off Tromso
 Tromso, scene of a gallant resistance by Nick's Norwegian forces
 Hamlet on Bjerkvik table
 Bodo airport
 Downtown Bodo
 The bridge choke point on the Bodo table
 The chemical cloud - all that remains to make the destruction of the USMC brigade.
 The E6 heading north towards Narvik and Bjerkvik (thanks Richard)
 Bodo looking east
 The choke point bridge outside Bodo
 Soviet perimeter of Bjerkvik
 Tromso bridge (actually Baggage Train Arnhem Bridge - a nice model)
 Bjerkvik from north
 Oil platform with Soviet disguised helicopter on pad
 Tromso bridge
 View looking south on Tromso table - vital road junction by red roofed buildings top right.
 The vital junction south (to left) on the Tromso table, contested by Jamie's Finns to the end of day 2.
 Airstrikes on the road from Murmansk.
 View west on the Tromso table near the end of day 2

Monday, 8 April 2013

1/300 scale Drilling Rig for Arctic Strike scenery

Well, after much debate, lots of soul searching, frantic scouring of the garage for raw materials, and a whole bunch of procrastination, I figured it was time to get moving on the promised oil drilling platform due to be seen stacked outside Bodo harbour in the upcoming Arctic Strike game this coming weekend.

So, here she is - the "Ocean Fortune" (made up name bearing no similarity to any existing vessel or platform of a similar name).  Legs are dowel rod from B&Q, deck is 4mm mdf sheet, derrick is plastrut and cardboard strips, infrastructure is balsa/pine offcuts, base is a bit of random hardboard I had lying around.

Sea scape is Vallejo desert basing medium applied with a house brush, washed with Vallejo dark sea blue and dry brushed with the house brush again in Vallejo white.  Legs and base of deck are in B&Q Colours Tangerine Dream, deck is Vallejo Gunship Green, helideck in Vallejo Uniform Green with Tamiya yellow markings.  Derrick is Tamiya NATO black, infrastructure in Vallejo white with windows and doors in Tamiya NATO black.  All varnished in Wilkinsons matt acrylic varnish, which is still drying in the photos.

Not the most professional of models, but I like it - as the first attempt at a bit of scratch model making in c. 35 years, I did better than I feared.  So, who's up for a duel between US Marine Force Recon and Soviet Spetsnaz for the observation vantage point from the top of the derrick - or is it too exposed a location to be any use militarily?

Thanks for looking!

Friday, 5 April 2013

Black Powder Prestonpans - First engagement of the '45

We didn't manage to fit in a CWC game at the Defenders last night as Ian's car was on the blink.  Did, however, manage to get in on a Jacobite vs British Government game for Black Powder, based on the Battle of Prestonpans, the first major engagement of the '45.

We used Will's plastic figures from Strelets (Jacobites) and Airfix (AWI figures doubling up as an earlier generation).  We drew lots for sides with me taking on the Jacobites and Frank the Government forces.  I had three brigades of clansmen, on the right flank three clans led by a commander with ability 7, the right flank again with three clans and a leader with ability 8, and two clans in the centre (reserve) under the leadership of the overall commander, Bonny Prince Charlie himself.  The Government forces facing me had their backs to an impassable wall (the boundary of the local manorial estate).  They deployed 5 infantry regiments in line, with two units of dragoons on each flank and an unreliable unit of loyal highlanders in woodland on my right flank.  Two government commanders, each rated an 8, were present.  Opposite my left flank, a battery of artiillery crewed by naval personnel was also deployed.  The forces were initially drawn up such that the Highlanders couldn't charge home in the first move and they had initiative and moved first.

Or rather they didn't.  I ordered each formation in turn to advance to just outside musket range of the government lines and all three commands failed to move - a sign of things to come!!  The government troops were even more reluctant and equally did nothing in the first turn.  We waived pleasantly to each other.  In turn 2 my forces again failed to move.  For his part, the government troops tried to move a unit of dragoons to screen the flank of his artillery - and failed, and tried to move his unreliable hbighlanders to the edge of the woods, again without success.

At last, in turn 3, I managed to motivate my left flank clansmen to advance to just outside musket range, but within artillery range.  The rest of my forces were taking root.  The government forces got their dragoons to screen the artillery and straightened their lines to face the clansmen.  Ineffective artillerty fire bounced over the heads of my left flank clansmen.  Turn 4 saw my right and centre units advance to form a line, still outside musket range.

In turn 5 my left flank clansmen charged the government lines, contacting the artillery battery and an adjacent infantry unit.  The artillery was swept away, but fighting between clan and government infantry was fierce, but the infantry stood firm.  The government response was for the melee to continue, with two dragoon units charging home into the fray.  These melees were also inconclusive, both sides trading hits, but standing firm.  In turn 6, the melees continued an my left, with Bonny Prince Charlies clans blundering and charging the centre of the government line, but failing to make contact.  On the left flank, a dragoon unit was swept away, and the infantry unit pushed back almost to the wall.  The government response was to concentrate fire on the centre clans, causing numerous hits.  The surviving dragoons on my left swept away a clan, but the infantry held.

For turn 7, my right flank clans blundered and retired to the edge of the table, where they sat out the rest of the game.  On the left, my unengaged clan fired on the surviving dragoon unit, which broke and fled, killing the attached commander, but the poor quality government infantry actually pushed my ferocious clansmen back, breaking them.  The government line then charged home into my centre clans, which held for this turn at least.  Turn 8 saw the end, the right flank clans did nothing, the left flank clan did nothing and, in the centre, Bonny Prince Charlies clans broke and fled carrying the CinC with them and ending any effective Jacobite action in the game.

The right flank clans would have been able to retire in reasonable order, although the two units of surviving government dragoons would have been harrassing them.  The surviving left flank clan would have melted away into the hills to the south.  While the Jacobite cause may not have been finished, it would certainly have been massively damaged, with little chance of the chain of events which led the Jacobites to Derby and back to Culloden, although Charles Stuart would have done his best to raise more support.  For the government troops, the way to Edinburgh was open and they would have relieved the beseiged garrison there.

All in all a very enjoyable game, lots of fun and period flavour.  I based my command style on a cross between Mel Gibson and Russ Abbott (I used to live in the same street as Russ), although I didn't have the ginger wig, blue face or 6 pack of Special Brew, but did my best nonetheless.  The game was finely balanced throughout - at first I thought the charge on the left flank was going to sweep the field, but some resolute use of the dragoons and infantry stalled any gains there.  The blunder on my right flank sealed the end as it left the CinC's command exposed and isolated.  I have to say this was one of the most fun games I've had with Black Powder, helped no end by Will acting as a very competent umpire and fount of all knowledge.  A big thanks to Will for setting it up and for allowing us to use his brand new Jacobites.  Pictures of his Jacobite troops, along with loads of 20mm plastic goodness, can be seen on his web site:

Thanks for looking.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

AAR Soviets vs USMC Denmark August 1985

To try and get in the swing of playing CWC again, Ian Shaw and I played a game last week at Deeside Defenders between Ian's Soviet Tank Regiment and part of my USMC Brigade.  The game was based on a hasty defence by two battalions of USMC infantry, supported by an overstrength M60 Company, a company of Jeeps with TOWs and a LAV battalion.  In support the USMC had three batteries of M198s, three AV-08 Harriers and three Sea Cobras.  The Soviets first wave comprised a tank regiment from a Motor Rifle Division, comprising three batallions of T72s with ERA, plus various artillery and anti-air assets.  The Soviet objective was to exit a battalion off the western edge of the board, which was set up as shown below.  A massively shell damaged or "nuked" town in the northeast corner of the board lay close to an east-west motorway.  The rest of the board was relatively flat, with occasional low hills and stands of woodland.

View of the board looking west
View of the board looking east
I chose to deploy one infantry batallion in the woods on my left flank, opposite the ruined town, with the other batallion in the woods in the centre of the board.  The tank company was strung out on the right flank behind a hedgrow with the Jeep TOWs deployed around some shallow hills on the far right.  The LAV batallion was deployed in the rear, around the gas handling plant on the left flank.

Left flank infantry and LAV batallions

Central infantry batallion

Right flank M60s and Jeep TOWs

The first turn saw the Soviets bring on three tank battalions, but fail to bring on any air defences.  I saw my opportunity, three Harriers scrambled, only to find the FAC was out to lunch.  The scouts and HQs were unsighted, so no opportunity to call in Cobras.  Turn 2 saw the three tank batallions advance, one towards my left flank along the motorway, the other two towards my right and centre, but this time the SAMs turned up on table too.  The SAMs saw off my Harriers and the Cobras struck the tank batallion on my left flank, taking out attached BMP-1 platoons, but failing to do anything decicive to the T72s.  In turn 3, Cobra and Harrier attacks continued to be ineffective and the Jeep TOWs attempted to open up, but were spectacularly ineffective as well.  Not only that but they failed to "get out of Dodge" and were blasted to pieces by the approaching tanks firing on the move.

Start of turn 4, looking east.

 Start of turn 4, the low hills lower left were where my TOWs had been!!

Cobra attacks did a little bit of damage, but nothing decisive on my right flank.

Air attacks on the left flank were more effective, but only in clearing up the attached BMPs.

 In turn 4, the Soviet tank battalions to my centre and right advanced rapidly, the right flank company coming in range of my M60's.  Using opportunity fire, the M60s damaged the two platoons on the far right flank, while return fire was largely ineffective, given the M60s excellent save values.  In the USMC turn, the M60s opened up, as did a strike by three Sea Cobras.

Start of turn 5, looking east.

Turn 5 looking west

The Soviet batallion on the right flank after Cobra strikes and M60 fire.

In Turn 5, the Soviets brought fire to bear on the M60s from what was left of his battalion on the right flank, but also his centre batallion, resulting in the loss of two M60 platoons.  He also brought counter battery fire on to my M198s, knocking out one battery - not a great loss as their fire had been less than devastating to the T72s.

At this point, before the USMC took a 5th turn, we agreed to call a halt for the evening, with the Soviets claiming a victory, arguing that there was little credible anti-tank defence left - certainly on the right flank the M60s weren't going to last long and I didn't expect the LAV TOWs to last long on the left flank - given the performance of the Jeep TOWs.

I must admit, I expected the Cobras to be more effective than they were, but was pleasantly surprised at how effective the M60s were.  The Jeep TOWs were poorly positioned at the start of the game and they lacked their own HQ, so couldn't "shoot and scoot", something to put right before Arctic Strike 2.  The other advice for infantry would be to "dig in", rather than relying on concealment to do the job.  Once they fire, units can expect artillery to rain down on them and the dug in save and harder hits are essential for survival on the game board/battlefield.

So, a scenario in keeping with the back story for Arctic Strike 2 with NATO being ejected from Denmark.  The performance of my USMC just contributing to NATO's frustrations on the northern flank.  Hopefully, there shouldn't be too may T72s in Norway to deal with!  Got another game with Ian planned for tomorrow - don't know what yet but will try and take photos again.

Thanks for looking.