Saturday, September 28, 2019


Lately I've been planning the rules for the upcoming "Firestorm: Ponyri Station" campaign and I'm wanting to get the rules, maps, and other products out to the respective commanders soon. 

Last night after putting the kids to bed, I took Brian's advice, retreated to the gaming bunker with my tablet, laptop, and a six sided die and put the Ponyri campaign into motion on the map in order to see how it played.  (wife sees me - "now you need a tablet, laptop, and dice?  for what??  I thought you just gamed with miniatures!!"

I learned some things and would like to share the outcome thus far but first, here is a play by play of the first 4 turns!  Grab a cup of coffee or strong tea and settle in for this roller coaster of a campaign!

Turn 1 Jumping Off

The Germans have the initiative guaranteed until turn 4 and got to lay their 2 x attack arrows first, attacking the "Tank Hill" and "Buzuluk" sectors.  The Soviets pick a target that will become a serious thorn in the Germans' side, Ochki, which is a German jumping off point and also important for ensuring tactical flexibility and supply for the Germans.

The Germans are allowed to commit up to x 2 Firestorm troop units to help decide the outcome and the Soviets may only commit up to x 1 Firestorm unit and until turn 4 those units are mostly assets which would be organic to a Soviet rifle Division or Corps.

All attacks are successful.  The map is updated in PowerPoint and we're ready to start turn 2.  Of note, the Soviets in Kleninskoye have been cut off and will need to make a supply roll if they want to do something.

Turn 2 Bold Advances

Note that the Soviets place their arrow towards the German "rear area" of Arkhangelskoye and naturally the Germans press on towards Ponyri.  The Germans are enjoying their superiority for the time being with committing 2 x FS troops per battle to the Soviets' 1, as well as placing the Attack arrows first with guaranteed initiative.  This is dramatically helping the Germans in their drive.

All attacks on turn 2 are successful.  The Germans commit Nebelwerfer Corps Artillery and aircraft against Hill 242.2 while the Soviets commit additional infantry assets.  Against Hill 253.1, the Germans commit heavy tube artillery and Ferdinands against while the Soviets commit tube field artillery from Division. 

The Germans are getting smart and shepherding their resources for crucial battles while could prove fatal if lost, now.  The Germans hold their Tigers for the Soviet attack, which naturally comes against the German rear area in Arkhangelskoye.  The Tigers gain a +4 in the battle roll and all the Soviets can put in the field is a tank company of +2 at the moment.  UNbelievably the Tigers are bested by tricky Soviet maneuvering and good dice rolling and the Soviets capture a German rear area!

No one has lost a Firestorm unit yet.

Turn 3 High Noon

Turn 3 is a very important turn with high drama as the Germans quit messing around in the rear areas of their divisions and commit 2 FS resources to the Maslovo battle.  They also seek to cut off Soviet forces which have broken out into Arkhangelskoye by seizing Ochki.  It's a good move, but one that the Germans do NOT have the time for as they are under the gun to seize Ponyri and the surrounding objectives!

The German Corps commander commits Nebs and Stukas against the Corps' main D+1 target - Shirokoye Bulotev and the Soviets commit additional infantry assets which are wiped out under the pressure.  We have lost the first FS troops of the campaign!  The Drive on Shirokoye Bulotev is successful and the Germans are right where they're suppose to be on Turn 3.  The Soviets step up their support to hold on to Ochki and commit IL-2 dive bombers!  The Germans commit the heavy Ferdinands and 150mm artillery!  The Germans seize Ochka back and have also manage to kill the IL-2 unit! 

In the northern sector, the Soviets are STOPPED cold at Maslovo as well with the commitment of Tiger tanks and more PanzerGrenadiers to the fight there.

Coming up, however, the Soviets may now place 2 x attack arrows, in addition to committing 2 x Firestorm units to battle.  While the Soviets have only been able to commit infantry and fire support resources so far, they now have access to heavy armor courtesy of the 57th Tank Corps!

Turn 4 The Turning Tide!

Incredible drama and excitement now with the addition of an initiative roll and the additional resources which the Soviets now have and as you can see from the map, they have embarked on an ambitious counterattack  with 2 goals on turn 4 - open a route to supply Arkhangelskoye and re-take Shirokoye Bulotev. 

This is will put some real hurt on the Germans and throw off their timetable dramatically.  The Germans need to seize Ponyri this turn in order to be set up to assault "1 May" sector the following turn.

Observations:  Originally, the plan was to reduce the number of attack arrows the Germans could place starting on turn 4, but I'm thinking that's a bad idea if the game is to have equal chances of winning.  Looking at the number of victory points, it's literally impossible for the Germans to capture more than the Soviets.  Additionally, I'm thinking total victory points might be a bad idea as well as it favors the Soviets too much.  Handicapping the Germans' firestorm troops is hard enough.

The Germans keep the initiative this turn and place their attack arrow against Ponyri Station, committing heavy Tiger tanks into the attack.  The Soviets counter with KV-1 heavies of their own from the 57th Tank Corps!  The Soviets storm in with everything but the kitchen sink into Shirokoye Bulotev committing Katyusha Rockets and heavy artillery.  The Germans are running out of good options and defend Ochki with Corps level AT gun units.

The Soviets successfully seize Shirokoye Bulotev and, worse for Fritz, they tie the German attacks in Ponyri!  Thrown out at the gates of the town! 

More drama as the battle for Ochki goes the Germans' way and the Soviets are repulsed!  The Germans keep Ochki but fail to seize Ponryi on turn 4.  Additionally, the AT gun unit committed by Corps HQs is wiped out in the Ochki fight.

Situation at the end of Turn 4

Pretty grim so far considering the Germans have 3 turns and can only attack 3 times.  The Soviets can now attack 6 times by the end of the game, which is why I'm considering allowing the Germans to place 2 x attack arrows until the end.  This gives them a fighting chance and they're still handicapped by restricting their firestorm committments after turn 3, and rolling for initiative after turn 3.

So while the German Corps was able to stabilize the line, he's still far behind his goals and the Soviets earned a vital buffer between the forward edge of the battle area and the 3 x Ponyri objectives (Ponyri Station, 1 May, and Hill 253.3).

I am really liking the drama and the excitement so far and I cannot wait to refine the rules a bit more and play with the team.  I'm hoping the guys like this as much as I do.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Soviet WIP and Shipping an Army!

Happy Sunday gaming fans - not much gaming going on this weekend however a flurry of activity in the gaming bunker!

I finally finished up those Soviet Corps AT gun assets for the upcoming FIRESTORM: PONYRI campaign.  Now I just need to complete the German guns and Nebelwerfers and we'll be all set!
I really like how these guys turned out - and all with leftover figures for crew.  They don't look too bad!

 I had been wanting / needing more Anti Tank firepower for my Soviet infantry to hold out against the Panzers and these guns will be just what Dr. Stalin ordered!  The models are resin casts from "Game Models" (link on the right hand side) and the price is definitely right for these bad boys.  Crew are mostly Plastic Soldier Company from the Soviet infantry and heavy weapons boxes, and some command decision figs in there for good measure.

Next up - Shipping an Army - or rather several Armies!  As I put my Napoleonic 15mm all up for trade with "Just Jack."  Turns out Jack was looking for a "Ready to Fight" Army right out of the box and I was looking to unload my 15mm Naps for quite some time now.  It's interesting to note that the French and British here I've owned since 2004 and were my first-ever Napoleonic minis!  I'm happy that they're going into good hands and am hoping Jack gets some good use out of them.  Split into 4 "march serials" or "march columns" will be my 15mm French Army, 15mm Anglo-Allied Army (Peninsula/Hundred Days), 15mm Bavarian Army based for 1809, and a small Spanish contingent.

Look at all those figures!  L to R - Bavarians & Spaniards, Anglo Allied, French, and individually based skirmishers and officers

Also hundreds of loose painted and unpainted figs are headed down to Texas.  Jack will have everything he needs to fight right out of the box, he'll just need to add some heavy cavalry for both sides if he wants.  He'll also need to provide some Austrians to fight the Bavarians, unless he wants to do 1813 campaign, in which case the Bavarians can fight the French as-is!

French marching to....Texas?

Brunswick officer on the march!

Also - you will notice my lights/skirmishers are individually based for ....well...skirmish fights!  I've always loved the idea of some Sharpe-esque action fighting for a bridge or a farm or some other small unit action.  Jack will be able to have a great skirmish action set in the Napoleonic era with these guys.

Now here's hoping they all get there in one piece!  The units have all been glued to a massive sabot to go into the box.  Next step will be gluing the sabot to the box and putting bracing materials in the box.

So that's all for now.  I still need to play a Firestorm: Ponyri campaign game and see how it turns out.  I plan on posting that next.  I also finished another batch of US WWII infantry, and Team Yankee microarmor!  

Monday, September 16, 2019

Soviet God of War and other WIP

Wow it's been a long time since I dusted off the Soviet big 122mm guns that I ordered last winter but with the impending FIRESTORM: PONYRI campaign coming up, they'll be of the utmost importance, serving as a Rifle Corps or Army level fire support asset!

 Models are Game Models resin castings.  Figures are leftover PSC 15mm Soviet infantry and heavy weapon crews.
Soviet Gunners serving their pieces.

Even more Soviet steel coming up - heavy AT guns and their crews behind the 122mm artillery.

AT gun crews.  The bases are painted and drying now.
Some MERDC Micro-Madness as my Team Yankee / NORTHAG / etc Americans take shape.  These are the second batch - there are many more M60s and M1s waiting on their paint.  Yes, NORTHAG will likely not have American stats, but a guy can dream, can't he?  These guys need their tracks painted and the black gull wings added and they'll be all set.

Speaking of which - sleek M1s waiting for their crack at Ivan and loving their new bases.

Needs flock and he's all set.
and saving the best until last, here are some Work-In-Progress shots of my American WWII infantry.  Most are battlefront with some Peter Pig and Command Decision in for good measure.  This will be 3 full platoons along with a heavy weapon platoon, and AT gun crews.  LOTS of firepower, courtesy of your Uncle Sam and "the Green Machine."

The foreground stands (in a diamond formation) are my rifle teams, counting for 7 guys with M1 Garand rifles in Battlegroup.  Or just Rifle/MG teams in FOW.  The guys in wedge formation in the background are the BAR teams, counting for 5 guys in Battlegroup. Still very much a WIP.
 The Americans need their kit and weapons painted, along with gaiters and boots, unit patches and some rank but so far the project is coming along nicely.  Once the infantry is finished I can start on the tanks. 

My completed Americans waiting for their comrades to be finished.

Shake a leg, guys!  I smell Germans!
That's all for now!  Gratifying progress so far!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

BLUCHER Game: Along the Danube, 1809

Dave and Ken were over to fight "half" a game of Blucher today, playing the 1809 introductory "Along the Danube" scenario with my 10mm miniatures.  Brian also made a short appearance as an observer.  I say "half" a game because we got through 15 out of 30 rounds, which is a pity because the action was really heating up towards the gaming day's end!  So settle in with some schnapps or brandy and let's get to it!

All set up for Blucher last night.  Terrain placed, blinds in position and the Army are fitfully sleeping within cannon-reach of each other with 1 Army on the fireplace and the other on the windowsill.
I should note this was the first appearance of Napoleonic French and Austrian reinforcements from "JustJack" on my table.  I'm a little self conscious because they're painted way nicer than mine!

Dave, the Austrian commander, placing his ArmeeKorps.  Ken, playing the French commander, will set up second.

I Corps d'Armee activates and moves out!  In Blucher, units are revealed when they activate.  Dave kept as many units unactivated as he could although he activated all of his artillery to shoot at the French

French II Corps moves out!

Ken's I Corps and Cavalry Corps become intermixed while testing the Austrian right flank.  Dave would anchor his right on a hilltop with a "prepared" brigade.

In a very surprising move, the Austrian reserve cavalry corps moves out to meet the French!  Dave's aggressive strategy is to meet the French in a series of spoiling attacks, trying to take the fight to them and not allow them to deploy.  It's a good move, but seriously costly for him.

A good portion of the French have not activated yet

French Cavalry surges over the hills to attack the Austrians!

What a mess!  The Cavalry are stacking up and can't move while the infantry move forward to fight the Austrians.

Note the heavy Cuirassier attack in lower left.  Dave quickly learns the lesson of being "prepared"

Heavy Combat!

Illegally dressed Hungarians  (with helmets) move up, revealed by French probes close to the lines.  Note the avant garde brigade behind them.

JustJack's Grenzers or Jaegers or whatever!  They look awesome.

Speaking of Jack's forces, this entire corps is Jack's splendidly painted stuff!  Which looks WAY better than mine!!!  This is an outstanding picture, by the way.  It's what Napoleonic gaming is all about!

Ken trying to launch spoiling attacks against a spoiling attack!
 Dave is battering Ken's lead elements.  It's a risky move but it's paying off as Ken has lots of problems on his side of the table to deal with.  Heavy fire though will wear down Dave's cavalry he used to launch spoiling attacks.  Dave loves using his cavalry like a battering ram and Blucher allows you to do that perfectly.

Meanwhile the Austrian I ArmeeKorps remains comfortably behind the Danube!  They would go the entire fight quiet without discharging a single musket.

Red-hot muzzles of the Austrian guns as weary gunners hump crate after crate of powder and shot!

Dave continues to push into the French lines but he's starting to take casualties.

Infantry reroll successes against cavalry if they're not prepared....ouch!

Dave continues to try and push into the French.  The French I Corps is taking a heavy beating.  III Corps on the French right is trying to contain a cavalry breakthrough, and II Corps can't come up yet!

French III and II Corps containing the Austrian Cavalry attacks.  They'd take fire from 3 separate French Brigades!

Cuirassier battering ram!

More French heavy horse.  They'd charge right at the hill against the Austrian gunners, destroying that battery.

French III Corps still dealing with the Austrian Hussars

Meanwhile more Austrian Heavies coming back!

French Cavalry Corps traffic jam!

Horse artillery leapfrogs back up to the front line and opens fire on the Hungarians

Ken had to leave and I take over for a couple turns.  I use a command order and am able to form a solid line back with the I Corps.  unfortunately the cavalry are arrayed to overrun Austrian infantry, but will take a bunch of small arms fire before doing so.

I Corps' situation

II Corps sorting themselves out.  With 15 turns left, I'm ready to use them to over-run the hill objective, then hopefully turn the ArmeeKorps that's blocking along the Danube.

Those Hussars would be the first French unit to break.

Confused fighting in every direction!

The Butcher's Bill - 5 Broken Austrian units by Turn 15, mostly consisting of the Austrian Reserve Korps, whom Dave used to spoil the French movements.  It was definitely out of character for the Austrians, but very effective.  While there were 15 turns left, It would be interesting to see how the Austrians counter the French advance from here.  Dave had 2 Artillery units retired.  

French II Corps and III Corps awaiting orders!

French Cavalry and I Corps!  Still plenty of fight left.

Wow, what a great and fun game.  A real battle!  This game was thrilling and full of reversals of fortune on both sides.  We all fumbled through the first couple turns and gradually things started to really sink in, and then the business of attacking and moving began in earnest.

Some thoughts - Blucher is an attritional game and players really need to keep reserve forces.  There is a price to pay for attacking and it will wear your troops down quickly.

I love the various types of activation possibilities and the unknown MO system.  I also like the "look" of the battlefield as the action unfolds.  It certainly conforms to my thoughts of what a Napoleonic battlefield "should" look like, if that makes any sense.  I also instantly see the possibility of running a very large battle with these rules, more so than a more conventional rules set like Age of Eagles or even Black Powder.

Also, I like that you need to think like an Army commander as 15-30 turns is a long time and alot can happen!  Like CCN, the Army needs a battlplan to try and stick to, and Blucher lets you carry out that plan.  In fact I like the flexibility that the commanders have with these rules.  The battle also creates a fantastic narrative that unfolds just like a Napoleonic battle!

This game is a winner in my book and I will definitely play Blucher again. I rank it up there with CCN as one of my favorites for more grand tactical action.  Black Powder is still my go-to for tactical battles.