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Saturday 30 August 2014

From the ministry of gardening and sand

The amount of buildings and terrain is slowly reaching an acceptable level, but I have been very busy looking for a good terrain mat. There are several good products available in UK/USA, but the shipping costs are usually prohibitive. So we have been experiementing with several things. Kallistra Hexon's are nice lego'ish solution and terrain mats made from either faux-fur or acrylic caulc plus flock produce very nice effect.

Hexons have been waiting for a long time for someone to flock them and the faux fur was a brilliant success until the point when a cunning summer storm crept up to me and drenched the just painted mat..

So today it was time for acrylic caulc terrain mats and hexons. I was basicly following this example, using a ready artists' canvas (with some sort of acrylic basepaint), using 2 tubes of acrylic caulc per 1*15m mat. Sienna/burnt ochre brown paint was mixed with caulc, which was the spread to mats using latex glowes and paint/mixed flock was the generously sprinkled on the top. This was then left to dry outside (while yours truly was looking at the clouds very suspiciously.)

Here is the result, drying in the sun. Most of that flock will be dusted off, so the effect will not be as pronounced.

The hexons were just painted with acrylic latex mixed with fine sand and then a generous dose of mixed flock and sand was poured on top of them. The base color was much darker and redder than with the mat, so result looked much more like dried mud. Darker brown would probably have worked better.

2 boxes of hexons.

So we are ready to go for African/desert games and 2 more mats with a northern greenish theme should cover us for most other things. WIth maybe a fur mat for Russian steppes. I assume I will tomorrow hear we are switching exclusively to space/sea-themed games.

Tuesday 26 August 2014

From the Ministry of Housing and Ruins

A while back I decided that the battle of Stonne (May, 1940) during the German invasion of France would make a suitable Chain of Command mini campaign and give me a reason to delve to a period of ww2 history which I did not know that well. The usual picture people have of the blitzkrieg in France is about the French army just throwing their weapons away and running. It is true that their higher echelon was still fighting the previous war - actually quite like most of the German higher ups, too. Germans just had few generals who were able to see the future and disregard orders when it suited them. Some of the French troops melted away when the panzer terror gripped them and rumours were saying that general evacuation was ordered. But then there were places like Stonne, de Gaulle's counter attack or Dunkirk, where they fought like lions. French army was probably the most (or second most, the Russians also had quite an arsenal) technologically advanced, but they were sorely lacking in details like radio equipment and that would hurt them time after time.

So the battle of Stonne (aka Verdun of 1940) would be an interesting project. I already had basic infantry for 1940 Germans (ok, uniform cuffs are wrong for IR Grossdeutchland, but scale is 15mm, so there.) and armoured units mainly consisted of PzIII and PzIV, so easily sourced via Zveda. And friend is (ever so slowly :) painting his French troops, so map was the next question. Google maps shows the modern day Stonne, where the layout of roads, map contours etc are correct, but the village itself was totally levelled during the days of attacks and counterattacks, so details about buildings were lacking. Several games and books have published maps about Stonne, but they rarely agree and do not show their sources. I was fortunately able to find some pictures of Stonne. The one below is from 1900 which I assume is reasonably well representative. (And I also assume that Stonne being 30-40 miles north of the ww1 front lines was not completely levelled and then rebuilt between the wars. I might be wrong.)

It shows the main road, flanked by 2-3 story buildings, one higher building behing it and then the spire of the church in the background, just visible. It also might be that the tall building is part of the church, but to my eye it is aligned to different direction and churches in the area seem to have the bell tower connected to the main building.

((Stonne around 1900. Copyright unknown.))

The road in both 1900 and 1940 pictures seem to be just a gravel road, with some maps shoving a small paved central plaza.

Ministry of Housing and Ruins is happy to present the plans for tabletop Stonne. First in 1:100 scale for CoC and the in somewhat reduced scale for IABSM.

German scouts entering Stonne. (No really, roads are still under production. And most of roofs do actually fit..)

Overview from a scout plane. Not a single painted French in sight, operation delayed.

Mayor's house and the smithy. Testing different ways of making doors and windows.

Few days later.

What used to be a shop.

Buildings are made from 3mm foam core. Pumice and plasticard for wall details and roofs. Many a good idea stolen from Derek's  excellent blog, all implementation mistakes purely mine. Roads, telegraph poles and chimneys still mostly missing.

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Another victory for the revolution!

Pravda, sometime in the 80s.

Today our comrades in Bongolesia delivered another nail to the capitalist coffin. The brave workers of Bongolesian Peoples' Democratic Liberation Front (not to be confused with misguided tribal assembly of Bongolesian Freedom Front, nor the capitalist supported Bongolesian Liberation Army.) were supported by few of our own tourists, who in the brave revolutionary spirit joined the cause and took the arms against the oppressive regime. The capitalist pig had fled from our first attack and left a T55 tank on the roadside, which our brave volunteers promised to capture and bring back to home.

Area around the Wilson Farm and the new village. BPDLF arrives from the top.

Tank, not so abandoned.

The enemy had left only a token force by the abandoned Wilson Farm and they promptly fled when our brave men arrived. The volunteers manned the tank, in the true revolutionary spirit comrade Vladimir, having lots of expertise driving various tracked vehicles, was elected the commander and he guided the crew with a fatherly hand. Our braves quickly formed a firing line, protecting the precious steel beast and started their advance.

End of the patrol phase, regular markers in a tight line across the road.

Enemy was sighted in the rough terrain a bit too close to the tank, so the 1st squad deployed on the left flank in the tall elephant grass, taking the enemy point under fire.

Both open fire. Regulars suffer greatly from their deployment, most being unable to fire.

9 shock after first regular phase, not so good.

As expected, this forced the hated enemy to reveal his forces; a tank killer team and another squad took position on a hill overlooking the farm.

More regulars deploy.

 Platoon sergeant arrives and sorts out the firing line. Note the fancy measuring stick borrowed from son's craft box.

Unfortunately for them, a DShK aa machine gun was sited at the village - capitalists did not have time to even get scared, as tracers mercilessly cut them down. Even the enemy armoured car cancelled its' support mission and drove to safety.

DsHK and supporting squad deploys.

DsHK opens up.

Dabir, ex-medicine man, now a commissar of the revolutionary army, took over the wavering 1st squad and without any regard to his own life kept enemy under fire. Our brave men were taking fore from at least 3 enemy units, not yielding an inch before Dabir gave them the signal to slightly withdraw.

1st BPDLF squad stays in the firing position, more afraid of their medicine man that enemy.

More troops deploy, ready to close in.

At this stage comrade captain Ibrahim gave the signal to deploy 2 remaining squads on the hill and in the elephant grass, aiming to punch through the suppressed enemy line.

Forwards, for the revolution!

Unfortunately the enemy artillery finally got online and started a barrage, enveloping both his own lead squad and our men. For a brief moment confusion reigned, but the Vladimir's team finally managed to start the tank. Enemy RPG7 team tried to knock the socialist steel behemoth down, but as expected, were found wanting in both manhood and accuracy. Our rifle troops surged forwards; making sure that the tank could disengage into safety.

Arty arrives, tank engine rumbles to life.

Many a brave worker fell, but the capitalist oppressors lost the battle.

Enemy repulsed with almost no casualties, but a tank lost. A loss of face (and head) for platoon leader, an opportunity for his 2nd-in-C.

((A test game for modern CoC. 4 green 10 squads and DsHK against 3*8 men regular squads supported by an old armoured car and 81mm battery. Regulars had squad-level walkie-talkies, allowing the platoon leaders to use CI to active subordinates - this was a very powerful ability, but really helped to differentiate the units. BPDLF troops on the other hand had superior field craft, so in patrol phase could move up to 14" and had 14" max distance. 2" difference was quite marked, so also a good addition. Huge amount of firepower on close range meant that using cover and tactical movement was even more important that in ww2-era. BPDLF very deliberately sacrificed one squad to pin the enemy flank, while another squad and hmg made sure regulars would not advance on the other flank.  Regulars on the other hand tried to maximize cover, so lost quite a bit of firepower - this seemed to be a good trade. As soon as the flank was suppressed, BPDLF sent in remaining 2 squads to punch through, aiming to be so close that enemy arty could not be used. Unfortunately 81mm mortars landed 1 phase too early, halting his advance. But all this bought him time to activate the T55 (he could activate 1 position per CoC dice, representing very inexperienced crew being guided by a "visiting tourist" from soviet army.). Regulars suspected that something was amiss with the tank they were saving, but decided to have a look instead of just shooting it outright - this cost them the game. All in all, very different from early ww2 games, but still very enjoyable.))

Thursday 17 July 2014

Springtime in Massilia

Sun is merciless, crowd is cheering and asking for blood, as magister opens the gladiatorial games honouring the Vernalia in Massilia. 5 new provincial ludus were invited to share the honour of the games. Senators of Rome had invested sizable sum of money into two of them, so hopes were high.

Waiting for the games to begin

First of the fights would be Lugurix the Gaul of the house Toppius against Taranena of house Proptius. The giant Gaul fought as a secutor, while the slender Spaniard carrier javelin and shield of a hoplomachus. Both of the gladiators had been sold as seasoned warriors and crowds roared wildly as they entered the arena. The Gaul moved slowly forward, letting Taranena to attack first.

Let the games begin!

Hoplomachus' spear flashed forwards, but was met by Lugurix' stout shield. The Gaul parried the strike effortlessly and slashed a feint at his opponent’s leg, drawing first blood. This distracted Taranena's next attack, and Lugurix entered for a kill, cleaving a mighty blow to Spaniards left arm, just above the shield. Muscle was cut and bone broke, the brave Spaniard bleeding badly. Lugurix gave his opponent a moment of respite, as two fingers were raised, signalling surrender. Fight was a short one but bloody, so the crowd was pleased and spared Taranena.

First of the many

The giant Gaul was one of the most promising new fighters of the season, so he would see the next match too. This time it would be against a retiarius of ludus Vlodius. Scribonarius was a poet and learned man, thrown into the life of a gladiator after a very unfortunate series of accidents. He was humming and old poem, just concentrating on getting out alive and looking lively enough to be spared by the crown. He threw his net, saw the Gaul nimbly dodge it, and suddenly understood that his role in the bloody ritual was the same as the one the prince of Troy, Hector had. To be lured by gods to his destruction. "My doom has come upon me; let me not then die ingloriously and without a.." was his last thought, as Lugurix closed in and with one blow severed retiarius' neck before he could even react. The enraged Gaul turned towards the crowds and roared "Massilia, bring me men to fight in the arena! These are women and gaols enjoy them at bed!", and then walked away. He was given wine and a willing slave girl and escorted back to ludus, to wait for the final fight of the games.

Meanwhile at the arena, Iles of Toppius was to meet Cormack of Harkimus. Iles was a black Numidian fighting as a retiarius, while the Celt bore the crested arbelai knife. Heavier armoured Cormack was a clearly favoured in the betting, but the black Numidian calmly stood his ground. Cormack was able to evade the net, but Iles as easily sidestepped his wild swings, and braced his trident to ground, catching the arbelas of house Harkimus just below the navel. For a brief second it looked like the Celt would just ignore the trident, but he failed to cut the stout wood and the silently fell to ground, pronounced dead by the surgeons. 

((Players were promised a system, which would not be overtly deadly. At this point we had 4 blows that connected, 2 were fatal, 1 was maiming and only one produced a minor wound..))

Brave Amos, the only independent gladiator of the games.

Final match of the day was between  cataphractarus Amos  and murmillo Perpex of Proptius. The crowd knew neither of them, so the fight started slowly, everybody waiting. Minutes passed, men lunged at each other and parried incoming flurries of attacks. No one could say who drew the first blood, but after series of exchanges both fighter were bleeding from multiple wounds. Then Perpex hew a mighty blew and broke his opponents shield into two - Amos did not flinch at the slightest, but returned the honour with a blow of his own, almost breaking the sword of Perpex, while crowd was yelling for more blood. A cunning series of blows forced Perpex back a few steps, but the Celt parried his opponent final blow by hitting the sword in the flat, bending it unusable. Amos lunged at him, wanting to take the fight to ground, but Perpex was ready and countered with a thrust to chest. Amos' fingers closed on his neck, but soon lost their strength and brave cataphractus fell to ground, last of drops of lifeblood colouring the thirsty sand.

The final match of the game was fought the next morning, celebrating the great battle of Pydna, where the Roman heroes vanquished the Greek barbarians. Fighters of house Vlodius and Toppius would play the part of the heroes, while Harkimous and Franciscus would supply the villains. Crowd was agitated, wanting to see much blood on the sand.

The greek phalanx

And the legion of heroes

Cautious advance, greek hoplomachus tries to flank

The battle opened with everyone advancing cautiously, with Iles throwing the first blow, trying to skewer the thraex Scrianon. Scrianon was not easily fooled; he deftly parried and broke the shaft of the trident with a quick kick. Bonius the murmillo, suffering a major wound to leg, but bravely pressing on, in turn engaged him. In the centre, secutor Germanicus saw his opportunity for glory and attacked Lugurix. The Gaul grinned, blocked the flurry of attacks and took the German down with one might blow.

On the other flank, provocator Taurus fought Conrad, Palaemon of Harkimous in turn engaged a hoplomachus of Harkimous and after taking him down.

In the centre, it momentarily looked that Lugurix might be in trouble, as retiarius Tymon disabled his shield. Unfortunately for Tymon, Lugurix parried his trident and quickly dispatched the poor Corinthian. At this point the Greek phalanx had 2 men standing, one of the bleeding heavily, so situation was not looking good.

Thraex Scriannon gave as good as he took, but finally had to succumb to loss of blood and raised two fingers. Bonius was bloodied, but victorious!

For a brief bright moment Palaemon the dimachaerus stood alone against many. He probably would have won against Taurus alone, as the provocator hurt his back badly in close fighting, but after Lugurix and friends entered, he was too badly outnumbered and outfought. After a stout blow the giant Gaul broke his sword, blood flowing from multiple wounds, Palaemon was forced to raise 2 fingers, too. Unfortunately for him, crowd wanted to see Lugurix spill more blood and were chanting "jugula, jugula!".

The last of villains standing.

The games were over and crowds pleased. And the white sand was coloured crimson, satisfying the gods of the arena.

Players were quite satisfied, too. The game (Habet Hoc Habet) was much bloodier that we thought it would be, but much fun otherwise. A single exceptional roll in the beginning dominated game (Lugurix being exceptional slave and rolling 10/10 for quality. He has more skills that the rest together, it seemed.) but he earned so much reputation that he is well on his way to be granted freedom, too.

Gladiators of ludus Toppius

Tuesday 13 May 2014

Near Chemont (Blenneville 3A)

2nd July, 1944

American OOB:

4th Tank Company / 21st Armored Division

Company Headquarters / Tank Company (3. Armoured Platoon)
BM 6: Captain Peter Williams (Level III)
2 x M4 Sherman

Platoon One (1. Armoured Platoon)
BM 7: 1st Lieutenant Hank Beuagard (Level II)
1 x M4 Sherman 76mm
3 x M4 Sherman

Platoon Two (2. Armoured Platoon)
BM 8: 2nd Lieutenant John Hendricks (Level II)
1 x M4 Sherman 76mm
2 x M4 Sherman


Company Headquarters / C Company / 830th Armored Rifle Infantry Battalion

Company commander BM: Captain Michael St. Croix (Level III)
BM 4: Staff Sergeant Bill Oakland (Level II)
FOO (in contact with your off-table artillery)
1 x Bazooka Team (2 crew)
1 x M3 Halftrack with 0.50cal AAMG
1 x Jeep

Platoon One
Platoon Leader 1 BM: 1st Lieutenant Erroll Allen (Level II)
2 x Rifle Squad (10 men each)
1 x LMG Squad (2 LMG with 3 crew each)
1 x 60mm Mortar Team (3 crew)

Platoon Two
Platoon Leader 2 BM: 2nd Lieutenant Hugh Travis (Level II)
2 x Rifle Squad (10 men each)
1 x LMG Squad (2 LMG with 3 crew each)
1 x 60mm Mortar Team (3 crew)

Platoon Three

Platoon Leader 3 BM: 1st Lieutenant Carlton Jenkins (Level II)
2 x Rifle Squad (10 men each)
1 x LMG Squad (2 LMG with 3 crew each)
1 x 60mm Mortar Team (3 crew)

Weapons Platoon (Support Platoon)
BM 5: Master Sergeant Hal Shannon (Level II)
2 x Bazooka Team (2 crew each)
2 x MMG (5 crew each)
2 x M2 Halftrack
2 x M21 MC Halftrack


Off Table Artillery
4 firemissions, 3 x M7 Priest (105mm gun)
Air Support
Roll D6, appears on a 5 or 6: fighters with rockets

German OOB

Abteilung Imgemberg / Kampfgruppe Engel

Abteilung HQ

BM 5: Hauptsturmführer Fritz Imgemberg (Level IV)
1 x Panther
2 x MG42 tripod-mounted MMG (5 crew each)

Panzer Zug (1. Armoured platoon)
3. Platoon Leader BM: Obersturmführer Walter Wensauer (Level II)
2 x Panther

Kompanie HQ (German Headquarters)
Company Commander BM: Oberleutnant Wilherlm Dorr (Level II)
2 x MG42 tripod-mounted MMG (5 crew each)

1. Grenadier Zug (1.Platoon)
1. Platoon Leader BM: Oberfeldwebel Hubert Hack (Level II)
2 x Rifle Gruppe (8 men each)
1 x Panzerfaust 30

2. Grenadier Zug (2.Platoon)
2. Platoon Leader BM: Feldwebel Otto Felzmann (Level II)
2 x Rifle Gruppe (8 men each)
1 x Panzerfaust 30

Panzer-Abwehr Zug (Anti-tank gun)
BM 4: Unterfeldwebel Hans Riesle (Level II)
2 x PaK 38 Anti-Tank Guns (5 crew each)
2 x SdKfz 10 as tows

Leichtes Infanterie Geschütz (Artillery 1)
1 x le.IG 75mm Infantry Gun (5 crew)
1 x SdKfz 10 as tow

Artillerie Batterie (off table artillery, Artillery 2)
4 x 15cm Howitzer (2 firemissions)

Granatwerfer Zug (off table artillery, Artillery 3)
4 x 8cm mortar (unlimited firemissions)

26 days since the Allied stormed the Normandy beaches. Allied forces have been trapped to their bridgeheads and Führer has given orders that they are to be destroyed there, thrown back to the Channel. In their credit it must be said that they fight on tenaciously and have started another big offensive to break out. Part of the attack comes along the Ribeaux river valley defended by the 750th Grenadier Division supported by the SS kampfgruppe Engel. This far the 750th has given ground and our forces in Pierrecourt are facing encirclement before our own counteroffensive can be launched to cut off the head of the allied attack. 1002nd regiment of the 750th has dug in around the Pierrecourt, with the 4th company defending the crossroads between Chemont and Pierrecourt.

Lacking motivation, poor leadership and insufficient trust in the general situation has weakened the morale of the company and Hauptsturmführer Imgemberg has been ordered to reinforce the company with a platoon of panthers and assume command of the defence. Enemy attack was imminent, recon indicating that enemy attack is spearheaded by a tank company supported with at least a company of mechanized infantry. Weather was unfortunately clear, so strong enemy air activity could be expected before own air forces arrive and clear the skies.

Initial plans, panther locations marked by ovals.

Young Hauptsturmführer was not very happy with his assignment, armour was not supposed to be committed piecemeal, nor support infantry in static defence. But one does not ask, one obeys. Upon arrival, he quickly readjusted the defence (as original defender has set up the defence in wrong direction, confused by French maps.), told troops to occupy more forward defence to lure attacker towards registered artillery targets and immediately received news that enemy scouts were sighted. The footsloggers were still running towards the church when first enemy tanks crested the nearby hill. So the plan required improvisation and aggressiveness. Infarry would pin the attacker while arty and panthers would deliver the finishing punch.

His own panthers guarding the left flank immediately opened fire, brewing one sherman and driving other 2 back with multiple hits. Enemy jabos were unfortunately awake, as one immediately swooped down and attacked his armour. Fortunately his troops reported no direct hits and no damage, so panthers were still free to operate. Young commanders aggressive training took over and he told the panthers to hunt forward, making sure that the infantry in church would be supported.

Shermans show themselves.

Big cats

Aggressive German recon by blinds.

More targets

On the other flank US infantry was spotted and as soon as they passed the last line of bocage, defending infantry opened fire, with one US squad gutted, platoon leader dying while  trying to get his men advancing and rest of the unit suppressed behind the bocage.

Lead US platoon finds MLR

Attacker tried to bring more of his troops forward, but unfortunately halftracks revealed themselves to the panthers and half of the 2nd US platoon was soon withdrawing between burning halftracks. Better part of a US company was either burning or dead and this far Hauptsturmführer had suffered no casualties!

One shot, one kill! Halftracks start to wish their commander was not so aggressive.

Stuck behind bocage, under 81mm barrage. Platoon had seen better days.

And supporting tanks suffer, too.

But the attacker pressed onwards, disregarding the mounting casualties. Jabos came screaming from sky time after time, but mostly failed to hit their targets. But slowly the amount of fire directed at the defenders started to tell. First Imgemberg's own tank lost its' main gun to jabo attack, next attack went wide and hit the PaK50 squarely, meaning that the right flank now had only on IG 75mm for long range anti-tank work. And the artillery observer in the church steeple was finally spotted and killed just before the spotting rounds from 150mm were to land.

Jabos! Where is the promised air cover?

And while the panthers on the left flank were turning to unleash their fire at the newcomers, another platoon of shermans made a glorious dash to flank them. (US player got exactly the right combination of cards and rolled very well for the movement, so suddenly the there were 2 shermans facing the vulnerable side of panthers. A vicious short range fire fight developed, with finally  one panther abandoned, 2 shermans ablaze and one panther with damaged main gun and broken track. (Turn ended with neither having fired and all within 9", so we let them fire simultaneously.)

Cavalry charges!

Big cat prevails, just.

And to add to the insult, the original surviving sherman had limped to the bocage, survived few hits from sIg with main gun barely functioning and finally shocked the remaining panther out of action. With no AT assets remaining, Hauptsturmführer Imgemberg had no other course of action but to withdraw his troops deeper to the forest. American attack was bloodied and blunted, but there was no question that they had the control of the crossroads.

After FOO died, mmg tried to use church as firebase. Bad idea with all those .50" hmgs around..

75mm infantry gun gave a good showing, but could not engange half a dozen shermans alone.

Until turn 12 it looked very clear that Germans would win a clean victory. But the US player kept pushing on, ignoring casualties and probing for weaknesses with great audacity. And that finally paid off, after the panthers diverted their attention for a moment. It took just one turn whole the whole defence to crumble as all AT assets were disabled. We almost played the game along the wrong table axis, as it never occurred to us that the topside of the map was not north..

Halfway through the campaign and I must say I like it more and more. This campaign also shows that regular games combined with a short debriefing sessions actually make players better. It used to be that many of our games were decided when a player first suffered a serious setback or first (and only ) defensive line was breached. So we are seeing players continuing as long as there is a chance (or as long as it is not silly o'clock) and there is at least serious thought for a reserve.

Avaux! (Blenneville 2A)

Spring has been very hectic, so very little time to write here, even if we have played 2 more scenarios from Blenneville pack and I have finally painted the early war German schützen platoon and some armoured support for them. But badly lagging behind with the AARs. So onwards to Avaux.

After the successful recon action near Pierrecourt, the allied force pushed forwards along both flanks of the valley. Main thrust was supposed to be with the armoured division, but the infantry decided that they would not be playing a supporting role and their feint turned to a real attack. A company of infantry under captain Stromberg supported by a company of shermans against unknown German force. More bocage than you can shake a stick at, so plenty of opportunities for the defender.

US player decided to do recon on a broad front with mostly dummies and then commit the main force where resistance was weakest. As soon as resistance was found, 105mm arty would start hammering it.

German kampfgruppe Steinhart had reasonably weak force of infantry squad, some support weapons and a platoon of StuGs. These held a broad frontage with the assumption that parts that were not under assault would form a mobile reserve.



3rd Tank Company / 21st

Company Headquarters / Tank Company (3. Armoured Platoon)
BM 6: Captain Bruce Hannigan (Level IV)
2 x M4 Sherman

Platoon One (1. Armoured Platoon)
BM 7: 1st Lieutenant Graham Osprey (Level II)
1 x M4 Sherman 76mm
3 x M4 Sherman

Platoon Two (2. Armoured Platoon)
BM 8: 2nd  Lieutenant Martin Belowitz (Level II)
1 x M4 Sherman 76mm
3 x M4 Sherman


Company Headquarters / A Company 1st Battalion 425th Infantry Regiment

Company Commander BM: Captain Bob Stromberg (Level II)
BM 5: First Sergeant John “Preacherman” Nolte (Level III)
Forward Observation Officer: Lieutenant Jack Woodpecker
4 x Bazooka teams (2 crew)

Platoon One
Platoon Leader 1 BM: 1st Lieutenant Wayne Churchmoore (Level II)
3 x Rifle Squad (10 men)

Platoon Two
Platoon Leader 2 BM: 2nd Lieutenant Simon Hightown (Level II)
3 x Rifle Squad (10 men)

Platoon Three

Platoon Leader 3 BM: Staff Sergeant Timothy Marchant (Level II)

3 x Rifle Squad (10 men)

Weapons Platoon (4. Platoon)

BM 4: Sergeant Bradley Whitaker (Level II)
3 x 60mm mortar team, (2 crew)
2 x 0.30 MMG team, (4 crew)
1 x Jeep with 0.50 HMG

Off Table Artillery

Unlimited fire missions from 4 x 105mm

Air Support

Roll D6, appears on a 5 or 6: strafing fighters with MGs

And Germans:

Abteilung Steinhardt /
1001. Infanterie-Regiment

Kompanie HQ
Company Commander BM:
Hauptmann Hans Steinhardt (Level IV)
2 x MG42 tripod-mounted MMG (5 crew each)

Grenadier Zug (1.Platoon)
1. Platoon Leader BM: Leutnant Karl Freimanis (Level III)
4 x Rifle Gruppe (8 men each)
4 x Panzerfaust 30 (one per gruppe)

Panzer-Abwehr Zug (Anti-tank gun)
3.Platoon Leader BM: Leutnant Arved Bercken (Level I)
1 x PaK 40 Anti-Tank Gun (5 crew) with SdKfz 11 tow

Sturmgeschutz Zug (1. Armoured platoon)
2. Platoon Leader BM: Oberfeldwebel Gottfried Karow (Level II)
2 x StuG III G Assault Guns

Panzer-Abwehr Kanone (off table artillery 1)
1 x 8.8 cm Flak (can shoot along the main road. Only targets tanks.)

Granatwerfer Zug (off table artillery 2)
3 x 81mm mortar

Plans, red showing German MLR, blue US real advance and dotted blue US recond effort. This picture  probably already shows where and how it will end.

The battle started slowly, with US recon pushing forwards but not finding much anything.

Recon on broad front, something moves in the orchard. Tigers?

Base of fire, contact imminent.

This made the commander of the first sherman platoon a tad careless - shermans cleared yet another wall of bocage, this time without waiting for scouts and StuGs behind the next wall opened fire.

1 brewed up immediately, second was abandoned and the whole platoon was saved only because Sgt Wilson believed in some extra armour and had hoarded anything looking like add-on armour to the front of his turret. (The sherman model with some track links as extra armour took half a dozen direct hits without as much as a point of shock..)

2nd lt Belowitz made a brave dash in his 76mm Sherman to outflank jerries, but was intercepted and barely got out of his burning tank.

It worked this far, but when you cannot get a penetrating hit, you cannot get one.

On the other flank, 2 blinds were staring at each other very menacingly, but nothing else happened. (1 US blind managed to tie the other half of German infantry, so no mobile reserve.) US player tried to push some recon troops through along the road in the middle, but was stopped cold by the hidden ATG.

To break the StuGs, US player brought forward another platoon of shermans and a platoon of infantry, only to find out that few squads of veteran Germans supported StuGs. 1st US section was mangled badly and others started to take casualties, too. 

US player finds more targets, unfortunately they shoot first.

Finally the breakthrough was achieved by spirited 2nd infantry platoon. They used the bocage and burning tank as a coved and dashed past the confused defenders to the next bocage. So now Germans were faces by a dilemma - their position was strong, but they had a platoon of infantry behind them, heading for the town, which was very lightly held. (At this point US player noticed that he had forgotten to hand out he bazookas to individual platoons, so he spearhead platoon had bayonets and grenades against StuGs..)

At the double, boys!

Spread out! Where are the bazookas?

So a command to withdraw was given, with one StuG heading to backfield to hunt infantry, another trying to duke it out with yet another platoon of shermans and hard-pressed infantry dealing with amis. This worked for a moment, as the StuGs seemed to be invulnerable. They shrugged off grenades, solid AT shots from 76mm guns and gunned the attackers down. (Even took a critical hit from 76mm, with no effect) Until the inevitable happened, the StuG helping infantry lost its' gun and US player launched an assault, clearing out the German infantry. And simultaneously 2nd lt Belowizt had found another tank, directed it to drive "just between those 2 burning shermans!" and finished the other StuG. 

US infantry takes a belting

But cavalry arrives

And casualties are light

German managed to stabilize the situation for a moment by bringing the ATG to village plaza and withdrawing some remaining grenadiers. Cafe by the plaza was declared a festung and men prepared to sell their lives dearly, as long as there was wine remaining. (It did help that ltn Hightown leading the US assault lost his head to scattering 105mm artillery at the moment of his victory.) But unfortunately 60mm mortars got a fix on plaza and after an order for "rapid fire!" knocked out the ATG and shocked the remaining infantry so badly that they routed.

Preparing a last stand.

Not a step more, we drink and die here!

Heading home.

The end. Germans had 2 almost full squads on the other flank, but they were pinned by a single dummy blind.

This time the game was not so lop-sided, both sides fought hard. German tanks had hard time hurting anyone, but their armour also kept the crews safe, so fortune favoured both. The decisive action was the brave outflanking manoeuvre by the infantry, which forced Germans to create ad hoc reserves in a situation where there were none available. So the lesson probably is "no matter what the situation is, part of your troops form reserve behind MLR."

Thursday 30 January 2014

Report from the ministry of housing

The next game of Blenneville will feature the center of a small town, so more buildings were in order. My mail-orders have had the habit of being delayed a lot lately, so after ordering various building from Frontline games  (good service, recommended), I also started building my own from foamcore and acrylic caulc, with printed paper buildings as a backup. The mail order of course arrived with German promptness, so I now have upwards of ten buildings under construction - 2 weeks to go, still need the buildings, bocage and some dirt roads, all is under control, I tell you! So a very quick review of each of these, before the paint job. More pictures to come as I get things painted. I could happily recommend all of these: the resin buildings are cheap but require quite a lot of work, paper buildings are very cheap and with 4Ground money means less time is spent building things. Although, with resin I would still recommend the excellent Kerr&King.

  • Wolf Terrain brick house made of Linka pieces. In theory this is very nice and good quality/price ratio, but it has very much resin flash (pain to clean) and building instructions were, shall I say, somewhat limited, with only a few pictures of the ready house. (Linka site contains some instructions, too.)
  • Mainly Military Scenery's cottages, barns and water mill. Basic resin buildings with most items having a removable roof. Simple kits, with my only complain being the scale. If you market yourself as 15mm, buildings should actually be of that scale. If I want 10-12mm scale for visual effects, I am quite capable of buying them myself, thank you. Fortunately these are all buildings where small variance in scale can be explained away, but warning would be nice. (Mostly noticeable with very low doors, partly salvaged by building having a stand.
  • Battlelands 15mm paper buildings, printed on a heavy hobby paper stock. These are very cheap and reasonably easy to assemble (I did not try the church, though.) so a good way to create a whole town quickly. They clearly need basing and some reinforcing with plasticard to stand up to gaming wear and tear.
  • Scratch built houses. I used 3mm foam core, printed building design on paper, cut the core and assembled, with exterior being covered in acrylic caulc, roofing from 3d printed tile paper from railroad model shop. The plaster effect is too coarse for 15mm and doors particularly would need more effort, but this is quite painless way of making durable buildings with custom layout.This is probably a good approach for desert buildings.
  • And the clear winner, 4Ground pre-painted houses. These are much more expensive than the unpainted resin ones, but I decided to take a couple just to see how they look like. The scale is correct and whole assembly took less than an hour, so well worth the money.

The central plaza of Avaux, still missing few buildings and the fountain. Ofnthe left a scratch built rowhouse, 4Ground on the top and on the right 2 paper buildings. (Phone cam autosharpening doing something wild with clean geometric shapes..)

Corner cafe under construction. Plaster applied after reinforcing internal structures.

Windows under construction.

Friday 24 January 2014

From the workbench

As I was less than happy with the simple weathering with a wash, I decided to spend few euros on a Tamiay Weathering Stick (mud). 3 of the Shermans got a light brushing with that. Results can be seen below - it actually does look like a mud, both the color, very slight 3D effect and the close-up texture. I am not sure how it will stand up to gaming and people picking the models up, or if it is worth the effort at this scale, but I do like the effect. Pictures below do no justice, but at least show the effect and how it builds up batches of mud.

Tank on the left has several layers, one on the right only one.

I also started a prototype of a bigger rowhouse of 2 stories. This wonderful page has pictures from 1944 and then pic from same place today, so can be used both as a rough model and for painting example. I started with a simple 4 2 story apartments model with no shops or anything on the ground floor. Cut the walls from 3mm foamcore, and made window and door silhouettes from 0.5 polystyrene sheet. A light coat of acrylic caulc for plaster. Tomorrow will show how it takes paint, but at least I am once gain reminded that foamcore always needs support or it will warp.

View from the back yard.

IIt always warps..

Thursday 23 January 2014

Getting ready for more Blenneville

As some of you know, I have also registered for the TFL Game Ready Campaign, a non-competition to see how many miniatures members of the mailing list get ready this year. My first submission is below, 10 PSC Shermans, 2 76mm and 8 75mm. Partly painted last year, but finished and decaled this year. (And I must say that while decaling was not fun this time, either, decal medium to soften them up worked wonders. But please note that it also makes some paints run even after thorough drying.) I wanted to try my hand at weathering, remembering how the tanks and IFVs looked after few days of muddy training during the conscript period  - it looks like too much, but in reality one probably should not see any green from below the mud.. Also, it looks more like hastily applied camo than mud, which is not good.

Monday 13 January 2014

The last stand

The Italian recon unit "Falcon" had received orders to double back and attack suspected enemy supply depot - little did they know that the small fishing village of Mait hide the HQ units of the Sikh battalion amongst the small brick huts and white washed mission. Italian had sent small blockading/piquet units along the road to both directions and on full platoon of gun trucks supported with a dismounted platoon would make a lightning raid - or so was the plan.

Attacker had
  • 1 company HQ gun truck
  • 1 platoon of AS 37 gun trucks with various weapons (regular, 4 trucks)
  • 1 regular infantry platoon supported by an armored car.

while the defending force had:

  • 3 senior leaders (presenting the battalion command)
  • 1 team of smg armed troops (few Sikh volunteer NCOs, elite)
  • 1 Sikh section (elite)
  • 1 A militia platoon (4 sections, of which 3 had lmgs) - green. Of very low initiative/motivation, so did not have any integral junior leaders
  • 1 boyes ATR
  • 1 sniper (elite)
  • Ample supply of barbed wire

Most houses looked like only light cover, but were internally supported with sandbags, so actually offered hard cover A system of slit trenches connected houses, so defender could use most of them as jump-off points.

Gently rolling sandy hills, beach immediately behing the stone building. Smoke presents burning gasoline/dung pits. Outer perimeter of the village had some barbed wire and the "almost road" leading in from right had 2 improvised mine fields. Italian infantry had jumpoff points at the far side.

This basically pitted 2 regular platoons with huge amount of firepower against one very green platoon with very motivated commanders.

The attackers' plan was to envelop the village from 2 sides, using infantry to lead the attack while gun trucks provided cover. Defender was hoping to lure the attacker inside the village and then blunt the attack, hoping to break attacking commanders' morale. Trenches and gasoline-soaked burning dung provided lots of cover, forcing the attacker to close.  (I never thought I could break their force morale, just to make the attack too costly in campaign terms. This had worked twice before.)

We played the patrol phase twice, as one of the attackers was unfamiliar with the system and flanking attack scenario gives attacker somewhat hard situation with 2 sets of patrol markers. As expected, during the first run defender very quickly locked his markers, forcing all jump off points for attacker to remain at the table edges. The second go saw the defender to fall into a trap, locking his flank markers, keeping the center unlocked but unable to move much. This allowed the attacking infantry to gain a nice flank position - the attack would now come from 3 directions, with the closes jump-off point almost in the village.

Italian infantry advanced quickly, taking positions by the building on the British left flank. This gave them view over the whole village and easy access to push further. When planning defense I had not foreseen them getting a jump off this far, so this called for some drastic measures - I committed my elite Sikh section to counter them, machine gun teams on the open were an easy target. Both the Bren and rifle sections fired from close range - inflicting a whopping total of 1 casualty! The return fire was not much more effective, but the Italian rifle section was now inside the outer barbed fire and initiated a charge with AvantI! Savoia! - their grenades scored multiple hits and combined with the fore from 2 mg teams allowed the attack to close. The Sikh rifle team fought well, killing 5 of the attackers but were themselves cut down to a man, their leader being wounded and taken prisoner. First victory to the Italians!

Both sides starts deploying troops. Fortified buildings come as a surprise. At this point attacker is joking about every building being fortified..

Italians go in with grenade and bayonet. Savoia!

Militia deploys to plug the gap. A lewis team and rifles.

On the other flank, a gun truck with platoon leader was a tempting target and the Sikh sniper was deployed. He promptly missed a clear shot, was instantly spotted and first machine gun burst killed him. So much for that ace..

So I started deploying the militia sections - they did not have junior leaders, so I had to commit one of the battalion staff to both flanks to keep the morale up. On the right flank they mainly died in hail of machine gun fire, but a brave boyes gunner bagged 2 gun trucks, both going up in flames. Some measure of vengeance, ATR was finally useful! Unfortunately flanking fire from the Italian infantry cut down the brave ATR.

Militia starts deploying, many a men lost their lives arond those huts.

And against them Italian base of fire, very effective. Taking cover at the reverse slope of the hill.

On my left flank, militia section shocked the Italian assault troops and it was time to commit the smg team. They easily deployed to close combat from jump off and a ferocious attack had no problems wiping out the depleted Italian team, freeing the captured NCO and capturing an Italian caporale. For a moment it looked like I could grasp even victory, as I next caught the mg teams running in open within very close distance from 4 smgs. Multiple clips later all the mg teams were safely behind the hill, only their platoon leader slightly wounded. So much for that victory..

"Easy target ahead, boys! Fire at will!"

And then the Italian mg sections opened fire against the militia section and the Sikh officer leading them. 12 dice scored 11 hits, which resulted in 5 kills and 6 shock. It was a small consolation that one of the bullets killed the officer, so he did not take part in the ensuing rout.

At this point the remaining British senor officer, battalion CO dubbed "Indian-Jack" deployed himself in the stone house acting as the HQ and recalled the few remaining Sikhs to him. The defenders hunkered down with one Bren team and the smgs remaining, daring the attacker to come and root them out.

At this point the Italian CO almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. He had been trying to get the dismounted scout patrol to move rapidly and apparently his own driver mistook this as an order. (He forgot to specify how far to move, so 12 rolled on a driving roll brought him to open. Every remaining British weapon opened fire at his unarmoured truck - smoke cleared and some of the crew were mildly shocked and none worse for the wear.. At this point we called the game a clear victory for the Italians. They outmanouvered the defenders, they outshot him and they outlasted him.

"You said fast forward, boss!"

Then come and get us!

Well ventilated but alive.

The player commanding the Italian infantry gave Chain of Command very high praise. "I had no idea about the rules. I just started applying tactics as I have been taught and they worked. These chaps are doing something right here."
The first part of the campaign is closing fast. The Italians have punched through the hasty line of defense, but the cost was high and it took a while. We'll have a debrief a bit later, at this point it looks like a draw or marginal victory for the Italians.

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