Tuesday, January 20, 2015

On The Workbench...Naps, SYW, WWII and WWIII. Something for everyone!

It's been awhile since posting but that doesn't mean nothing is going on!  In spurts of free time, I've been able to get a grip on some long-standing projects that needed completion.  Over the next few week I'll (hopefully) get to finish some of these projects and post them.

Lots of Horse & Musket work going on here as I finish up Austrian IR 33 Nikolaus Esterhazy, and Prussian IR 5 Alt Braunschweig.  Additionally, I'm finishing up a Foreign Regiment for my Napoleonic French Forces, the Italian 2nd or  3rd Infantry Regiment to serve alongside their French cohorts in Spain.  Painting foreign troops in French service is fun as they have a spattering of interesting uniforms.  From what I understand, the colorful uniforms were part of the French recruiting efforts to attract foreigners.

Couldnt get blogger to upload this counterclockwise so you'll have to tilt your head...

2 Seven Years War heavyweights, the Austrians (foreground) and their nemesis, the Prussians (background).  The Armies are growing!
All of my new regiments are sans colors for the time.  Working on that.

Austrian (Hungarian) Infantry Regiment #33 Nikolaus Esterhazy

Prussian Infantry Regiment #5  Alt Braunschweig.  Their Regimental motto?  "Real men wear pink facings!"
 Ideally, I can split these regiments up into either 4 groups of 3 stands for large games, or I can make 3 units of 4 stands, with one of those having mixed ranks.  I can handle that.

Talk to the hand...
On the WW2 and WW3 fronts, a buzz of activity going on as well.  Finally starting my Armor for my Battlegroup Overlord "Bloody Buron" scenario and a test shot of an M10 TD is provided as well.  This is more of a concept for my Canadian Armor as they will be all Shermans and Fireflies.

Battlefront M10 Tank Destroyer.  Base coasted in Krylon light olive then Army Painter dark tone applied.  Dry brushed with buff.  Pretty simple so far.  Needs some kit and it'll be done.

And the best for last!  Taking Paul from Plastic Warrior's example, I'm kit-bashing these Old Glory "Command Decision" 15mm Vietnam range troopers, and turning them into battle-hardened West German "Bundeswehr" troopers.  That has been an exceedingly fun project as I've been swapping WW II heads out with Vietnam "boonie" caps and sawing off M16 carrying handles all morning before making them look like the good old H&K G3 battle rifle!

Note the rifle.  Looks like a G3 doesn't it?  Well maybe not but it will when it's painted!

I like the look of these guys.  They were formerly LRRPs with soft "boonie" caps on.  I had plenty laying around and thought they'd find new purpose as West Germans.

Lots of head swapping.  World War 2 US Paratrooper helmets with the netting make excellent Bundeswehr 1980s helmets!  M16s also make excellent G3s when you shave down the carrying handle.

going to look much better painted.
Currently I have a platoon's worth of West Germans including 3 rifle squads, 2 LMG/MMG sections, and some light anti armor weapons.  No Milans yet.  I'm going to put one together somehow.  Stay tuned.

I'm about to jump back into World War II after taking a break with these Prussians and Austrians.  There's tons of Commonwealth troops that need painted, and I have a large gaggle of Panthers, and Panzer IIIs that won't put themselves together!

That's all for now.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Neil Thomas Napoleonic Rules

My recent descent into rules madness all started when I received some Neil Thomas books for Christmas and decided that the rules in them looked pretty neat.  (read that as simple).  Since I played a game or 2 of them in some spare minutes here and there, I played some games with the same scenario but other rules to see how they played out and which rules I liked best.

The rules are simplicity themselves and would be great to teach someone how to play wargames.  A very old school feel to them, but still satisfying.  My thoughts were that if I had the miniatures and time, they would be awesome to try and stage some large battles.

By the way, played these games on my new Cigar Box Heroes game mat.  I think it looks pretty nice!

French Battalions march off to the attack!

Brigade Commander

The British wait.

Small Battlefield.  This measured about 3 feet by 4 feet roughly.
 The great thing about the Neil Thomas rules are you don't need tons and tons of miniatures to play.
The new gaming mat.  What do you like better?  The previous flocked table or this mat?  (the flocked board is still underneath)

So I played a game of Neil Thomas' Napoleonic rules.  British (defender) victory.  And a second game.  British (defender) victory.  Then I played a game of Mark Sims' Rank & File.  That was fun.  and also a British (defender) victory!  Starting to see a pattern?  In all these cases, the defender was winning the engagements.  Even with different rules sets.  Starting to think it's better to stand and shoot it out with the defender?

French Battery firing on the British.  The objective is the old, dilapidated church

French battalions approaching!

Bicornes!  Heresy!  Sorry but they're so nicely painted I just couldn't exclude them.  So I am using all Bicorne troops in a reserve role!

This was a comfortable British victory.

Neil Thomas Napoleonics.  Once you close to musket range, things start to move quickly and units disappear fast!

Neil Thomas' Napoleonic Rules.  Simple but not simplistic.  Great rules and an excellent book as well.  The British soundly defeated my French lines and columns and my experience so far with these rules is that the defender, behind cover needs almost 3 battalions shooting at him each turn to dislodge him...    Excellent "Beer & Pretzels" horse and musket rules.  If I had scores more units to put on the table, this would make a truly "epic" game.  Maybe one day?

Guess I'll get to painting...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

John Hill, Squad Leader, and Me.

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Mr John Hill, wargame designer and the writer of one of my all-time favorite games, Squad Leader.  Squad Leader will always hold a special place in my heart as a game that taught this once young cadet at military school the actual difference between cover and concealment like no lecture could!

Squad Leader perfectly articulated the US Army's infantry rifle platoon and squad battle drills to me , and taught me skills that would later be used on the battlefield in Iraq.  It's true and I can reference it in my journal from my first tour as a Rifle Platoon Leader in Iraq in 2003-2004.

Here are some basic tenets of combat that Squad Leader helped teach validate:

  • The fireteam or squad that makes contact, returns a high volume of fire while the team not in direct contact bounds, flanks, and assaults the enemy.  (Squad Leader prep fire phase)

  • If you can be seen, you can be hit.  If you can be hit, you can be killed.  (Squad Leader defensive fire!)

  • Risk is part of the job.  No risk can be mitigated to the point where you are not taking a risk.  (think of the advance phase and that leader, the only guy you have left on the table who can do anything, moves up 1 hex to throw a satchel charge into a room or fire at the rear deck of a Panzer IV.  It's the last turn of the game.)
  • Things really do break down and at the most inconvenient times, and in the "real Army" it happens much more frequently than rolling "Box Cars."  (Squad Leader's brilliant "breakdown roll" occurring when you roll 2 sixes.)  Once upon a time, I was leading a convoy of vehicles in heavy fog on a very long road march from Balad to a small base outside of Nasiriyah.  As convoy commander, I was in charge of all of the vehicles from our Battery, and that morning when I woke up, I must have rolled double sixes because my radio would constantly shut itself off.  Yes, my state of the art, digital SINCGARS radio would constantly need to be turned off and turned back on just so I could send 1 quick message before it f***ing died again.  So we used motorola "walkie talkies" and I communicated with the vehicle directly behind me, who would send messages to the entire convoy.  (There was no time to switch radios and hey, the radio worked during the pre combat inspections we did.  We just had no idea it stopped working immediately after.) We also had a trailer literally break an axle and it had to be towed to the nearest US Forward Operating Base.  So imagine that, a recovery operation occurring during the middle of a large movement.  The brilliance of John Hill's work is apparent in this mercurial equipment breakdown roll.  

Mr Hill has been criticized for Squad Leader's lack of a "fog of war" mechanism in that troops do exactly what you want but I will tell you that you'll be hard-pressed to find a better game that portrays infantry combat and is so rich in detail and texture while maintaining its simplicity.

Rest in Peace, Mr Hill.  And thank you.  Your work helped shape this officer's impressions of the battlefield.  I hope that when it's my time (whenever it may be) I'm sure they'll have a copy of Squad Leader at Fiddler's Green.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Game Models 15mm Eastern Front Reinforcements!

I received my second batch of 15mm reinforcements from Craig at Game Models and wanted to post them as soon as I could.  The batch was a trio of Ferdinand (Elefants) and SU-122s that I certainly did not want to pay Battlefront prices for!  These were actually purchased for the Hill 235 Ponyri Station scenario.  Since the actual battle for Ponyri has not yet occurred, I'm still safe and these will all be put to very good use.  That being said, the wife was not happy when these arrived...

I will be painting these big fellas soon as they will be staples of my eastern front forces.  I love the detail of Game Models' stuff and for 5 bucks a model, you can't beat them.


Mighty SU-122s!

For scale next to a PSC T-34.

Tune in tomorrow for a glimpse of my Cigar Box Heroes mat and some 1/72 plastic Naps re-based for "old school" wargaming!!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Massive Hill 235 Battlegroup Kursk Game Part III ENDGAME

Lots of news on the hobby front as of today with the arrival of my Game Models reinforcements (Ferdinands and SU122s) but I know everyone is just on the edge of their seats waiting to see how the Hill 235 game ended...

The Germans put up quite a struggle but in the end there were just too many Soviets still in the fight and the position on Hill 235 was lost, even as both the Soviets and the Germans approached their morale breakpoints.  Some truly amazing reversals of fortune occurred as well, with the Soviets losing a tank to a mine strike in almost the exact same location as they did in the first part of the game and the Germans wiping out all of their own friendlies on Hill 235 with a "lucky" heavy bomb strike from a Stuka that arrived.  

falling bombs are indiscriminate and knock out Tigers and T-70s and T-34s alike!

Soviet objective marker surrounded by Soviet troops!

Both tanks lost to mine strike in almost the exact same location but at different ends of the game.  Weird.

The Soviet infantry finally swarmed up Hill 235 with barely any resistance after the airstrike occurred and firmly surrounded the objective.  Ivan holds the hill!  The Germans failed twice to call in their own Artillery on the hilltop position and resistance on the German left flank broke down completely.  Gerry pulled back to the safety of the right flank and the objective south of the "First of May Collective" where they still had an operational StuG and a Tiger-I along with a good-sized grouping of infantry all on ambush orders.  
lower right hand corner, the last objective held by the Germans.  Lower left hand corner you can see the Tiger I holding the First of May collective.  There is a significant grouping of Soviet infantry in the cornfields and Hill235 is just one big mess.  If you look at the far back of the board, that is the casualty pile.  This was a real meatgrinder!
The Soviet command elements remained in the cornfields along with infantry reinforcements, gathering for a counter-attack against the "First of May Collective".  The German airstrike against the position on Hill 235 was the final straw that broke the German's morale, and they reached breakpoint only holding 1 of the objectives.  Still, given the victory conditions, this battle was a draw.

The Germans are still postured to push onto Ponyri but with less forces than before now.

It's been awhile since I posted any lessons learned from a battle but given that this scale of a game with these rules are still relatively new for me, I thought I'd write down my thoughts.

Prepare the Objective.  If you're going to launch an infantry assault, destroy as many of the troops you're assaulting prior to moving in to actually begin the assault because if you don't, you'll most likely end up bleeding your own assaulting force white in the process.  The Germans lost more squads this way than to actual enemy fire.  

Plan your Fire Support.  Some turns you will not get all of the orders you need to get everything accomplished.  Given the awesome firepower of your fire support assets, you need to come up with a real plan to incorporate them, and use them in the fight.  Direct fire accounted for way more casualties than it should have in this game, especially with the German guns sitting there silent for most of the game.  An entire battery of 105s just sitting around during a major infantry assault is a great sin and likely to get you banned from Valhalla...

A word about specialty troops.  Nothing hurts worse than a wasted order.  In this case, the use of a signals team to help with artillery fire mission requests would have been helpful, albeit expensive, for both sides.

Give Ground if you can afford to.  For the Germans, the smartest thing they could have done would have been to withdraw off Hill 235 after causing a few casualties, then launched a swift counterattack.  There was just too much Soviet pressure for them to successfully hold onto the hill.

Thanks for reading - next up will be showcasing the Game Model 15mm reinforcements that arrived yesterday in the mail, ironically to serve in the Ponyri game...ooops.  Also I ordered a Cigar Box Heroes game mat for my table, much like you saw in the Teugen-Hausen battle at Ken's house.  While this was a direct violation of the "Lisbon Treaty" with my wife (who is Portuguese) I have to say the mat is well worth both the price I paid for it, and the beatings I will surely receive later.  It's enough to say my hobby purchases through January and February are done!

Tune in tomorrow for the Game Model Reinforcements, then Sunday for a highlight of the Cigar Box Mat (which is perfect if you game on your dining room table or have limited space - looking at you Mr David F!).  I also have a Napoleonic surprise for you plastic fiends out there.  My Neil Thomas' rules have breathed new life into my 1/72 escapades.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Massive Hill 235 Battlegroup Kursk Game Part II

Played another set of brutal Battlegroup: Kursk turns for Hill 235.  We left off last time with the Germans attempting to get a toe-hold in the "First of May" collective and also right as German armor was swarming up Hill 235.

As I said in my last post - the hill was easy to take but is proving ridiculously hard to hold!

The Soviets were able to hold on along the road until turn 9 at which point a massed armor counter-attack began from elements of the 125th tank brigade arriving as reinforcements.  The Tigers on Ambush orders gave a good accounting of themselves, knocking out the lead tanks with excellent gunnery but Ivan came on.  Subsequent turns saw the arrival of a T-70 company as well as lots and lots more infantry, all surging towards the hill with a vengeance!

Meanwhile on the German right, the First of May collective farm was cleared after brutal house-to-house BUA fighting, losing almost an entire German infantry platoon in the process.  The German StuG cross-attached to that flank finally started earning its pay and the German CO moved a Tiger over to help things out.  By the time the big cat arrived, the village was already cleared and the Germans began consolidating to move towards the objective.

Soviet T-34s originally left guarding their left objective mount a hasty counter-attack on Hill 235.  The KO'd vehicle in the lower right had a mine strike counter played against him!

Lonely at the top.  The Germans consolidate their position as the first infantry squads arrive.
 While the Germans had a tough fight clearing out the First of May collective, they just weren't getting the orders in to move all their units.  Unfortunately the infantry lagged behind.  Too little, too late!
Last Soviet element in the collective farm.

Another Soviet squad falls back and prepares an ambush position.  They would knock out an HMG team trying to set up in a house to their front.  
 Units began dropping left and right as both sides drew counter after counter.  The Soviets had a AT Rifle gunner who, after losing his comrade, went nuts and attacked every vehicle in sight, eventually KOing a Panzer III from behind by forcing a pin one turn and forcing the vehicle to abandon next turn.  Rallying rolls were just not happening for the Germans this game.

Failed close assault against the Panzer III!  Just in time for the ATR on the left to knock him out!  Great rolling, Ivan!

A StuG goes on ambush orders as they wait for Ivan's counter-attack.  Aerial recon radios in a very large concentration of Soviet Armor approaching from the east.  Mein Gott!

Meanwhile at the collective farm...

Infantry swarm through the village and occupy the houses.
The Soviets finally got their 122mm tubes to point in the right direction and all of the die rolls happened without a hitch.  Unfortunately for the Germans, 122mm HE started falling all around Hill 235.  The spotting round deviated from the top of the hill right over where all the German infantry and AA were concentrating.  Uh oh!  Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of the before/after but this makes me want to make really cool impact markers for incoming artillery.

farm secured herr oberst!

View before the artillery strike and before the Soviet reinforcements arrive.  Note the SPAA unit moving up!

Tanks approaching from the east!!

The Soviets lose tank after tank and keep coming.

The second wave.  The T34s are no match for the 88s on the Tiger Is.

Meanwhile the Soviet "cossacks" light tanks arrive and cut into the advancing infantry, pinning some squads down.  

T-70s race around the flanks to draw fire and attack the infantry.  

Soviet armor from the opposite flank moves up and gets a solid flank shot into the Tiger's hide.  Tiger I destroyed!
 The Soviet counter-attack is slow to get started, but 2 turns of great orders-rolling sees a swarm of activity as all of the Soviet infantry battalion shows up and forms in the woods for the attack against Hill 235.  Mortars, MGs, tanks will all participate!  Everyone forward for the motherland!

Germans getting ready to push onto the second objective.

Soviet infantry massing in the woods for the push against Hill 235.  The final assault has not started yet. 

The first wave moving up the hill!

Meanwhile Soviet high command attempts to stabilize things on their own left flank as they notice more German vehicles attempting to seize the objective.  Note the NKVD men behind the mortar crew.  "I can concentrate much better if you weren't holding that pistol Comrade Kommissar!"

German situation at the end of the Soviet turn.  The "Ranged In" FOW marker marked the location of the spotting round and the Fire for Effect right on top all that German infantry!
 The Soviets are massing for a large push against Hill 235 and the Germans are moving out to secure the other objective.  This is pretty much were the action stopped today as I have some Swedish furniture to assemble...

First of May collective in the lower right.  Hill 235 with a ton of burning vehicles is visible in the upper-center part of the pic.
In case you were wondering, no one has even come close to their breakpoints yet of 56 for the Germans and 67 for the Soviets.   The victory conditions call for both objectives to be secured for 3 turns with anything else being a draw.  I'm no expert, but I predict a draw for this outcome!    Probably won't get a chance to finish the rest of the game until Friday afternoon but I wanted to get the pictures out.  This has been a great game so far.  I think I like playing BGK with historical scenarios.  Stay tuned!