Category Archives: World War Two

Thunder at Cassino!

I had the opportunity to playtest one of Grady West’s fantastic 1/285 adaptations of old Avalon Hill board games this past weekend. This one was Thunder at Cassino-a project he’s been working on for at least a year (and, to me, that’s a LOT of progress in a year’s time). Thunder at Cassino covers the campaign to break through the German defenses at Monte Cassino, and the particular scenario we played covered the third battle. Click here to look at the previous game I played in, covering Turning Point Stalingrad.

The Germans were fielding panzergrenadiers and fallschirmjagers, while the allies were a British and British Commonwealth force consisting of British regulars, New Zealanders, Indians and Ghurkas (GHURKAS!!)

I was on the allied side, and was nominated (read forced) to be the overall commander. My fellow allied commander was Ralph, and he took the New Zealander force, which would do the hard slogging through the town below the Monte Cassino monastery, while I took the British regulars, Indians, and GHURKAS!!

This game is platoon level, meaning that each counter/stand of infantry represents a platoon. There are rules encouraging company cohesion, but nothing addressing higher levels of command.

P1090147

The Avalon Hill box cover art

The allies had the numbers, while the Germans had the edge in troop quality and a big advantage on the defense, due to the heavily rubbled terrain. The next couple of photos cover the preliminary allied bombardment, and illustrate why the terrain is so heavily rubbled!

P1090144

P1090142

Grady painted many a B-17 and B-25 to illustrate the rubble generating preliminary bombardment. This is a man dedicated to his art, as the bombers go away after the preliminary bombardment, never to return!

P1090151

The allies do have another air asset, though…a fighter bomber group (or maybe it’s just a squadron…not sure on the scale of the air assets) that definitely got its licks in over the course of the game.

P1090153

Hurricane in action

P1090149

Ralph’s New Zealanders spread out into the town, watched over by Nazis in the castle above. There was a little armor on the table, but this was decidedly NOT tank country. Hard fighting ensued.

P1090155

Many a bloody close combat was fought in the zones below the monastery…

This entire battle went really well for the allies. The Germans made a huge blunder in not moving to immediately occupy the monastery…instead they focused on counterattacking the New Zealanders down in the town. On turn two, my fast moving mountain climbing Ghurkas were able to sweep into the monastery virtually unopposed. Ghurkas are extremely good at close combat, and there was no way that even highly trained fallschirmjager engineers were going to dislodge them.

P1090154

How sweet it is!

I’d like to claim that it was my tactical acumen that lead to our landslide of a victory, but really it was a mixture of the players not knowing the gaming system, and not fully grasping the vulnerabilities inherent in the initial setup. I will give us allies a little credit for fully exploiting them, though.

P1090157

Not only did we take the monastery, but Ralph’s New Zealanders were able to storm the castle after a particularly heavy bombardment from his corps artillery tubes. This position had a commanding view of the town below, perfect for calling down artillery, but the Germans never really exploited it.

P1090158

Just because I needed to show the Union Jack flying ‘over’ Monte Cassino.

This is an excellent set of rules, and Grady’s miniatures adaptation is top notch. We didn’t finish our game, but we had some extremely slow moving players, particularly in the first couple of turns. I don’t think the open-flanked Ghurka attack will be a problem again-Grady has stated that he will make certain the defenders are aware of the danger in the future.

If you get a chance to play this game at one of the conventions Grady will bring it to, I HIGHLY recommend it.

 

Progress Report

I haven’t been super productive over the past weeks, but I have accomplished a few things. See pictures below.

Test basing for Spearhead (1/285 microarmor)

Test basing for Spearhead (1/285 microarmor)

Microarmor bases for Spearhead

Microarmor bases for Spearhead

The Spearhead bases were a lot of fun to put together. I’m using the direction the turret (or fixed gun) is pointing to indicate the front of the base, which gives me quite a bit of freedom to run roads and other terrain features against the grain. Should keep things from getting too samey. The towed Pak-40 is too ambiguous, in regards to front-of-base; it was a dumb idea to point the prime mover directly at a corner.

Based a few of Thomas's extremely well painted Essex figures for Regimental Fire and Fury command stands.

Based a few of Thomas’s Essex figures for Regimental Fire and Fury command stands.

Leader stands for Lasalle. Divisional commander on the left, and a sub-commander on the right.

Leader stands for Lasalle. Divisional commander on the left, and a sub-commander on the right.

I’m supposed to be working on finishing up my battery for Lasalle, and have, in fact, painted limbers and a howitzer, but I’m dragging my feet on painting crew and horses for the limbers. I don’t know why, exactly, but painting artillery is my least favorite part of horse and musket gaming.

Somewhere in France…

The hedges are in horrid shape. Obviously the gardener has been off with the Maquis...

The Sherman has totally got the drop on this poor Stug. The hedges are in horrid shape around the chateau. Obviously the gardener has been off with the Maquis…

This brief interlude is serving as a palette cleanser for my Napoleonics project. I picked up a copy of Spearhead a few weeks ago with a view to doing something (anything!) with some microarmor I painted up a long time ago for Normandy. I like the idea of gaming microarmor at the operational level (Spearhead can handle about a division per side, with each player commanding around a battalion). I haven’t totally committed to the rules so I haven’t based any troops or vehicles, yet, but I thought it would be fairly safe to develop some of Spearhead’s 3″x3″ abstracted built-up-areas using some buildings I painted last year.

German anti-tank column pushes through the village.

German column pushes through the village.

I’ve been using Vallejo fine pumice, mixed with paint, for all my basing needs, but it’s a little rough for this scale. I’m ok with the results I got on these two bases, but maybe there’s something more appropriate out there? Also, even the finest model railroad ballast is too chunky for 1/285 gravel, as I’ve used it at the circular drive in front of the chateau. I think play sand would be the thing to use for that sort of application.

Back side.

Back side.

Der Kaput!

The Scarlet J and I had our second game of Jim Day’s Panzer this afternoon. As you may guess from the bad German of the post title, it was a resounding allied victory. I talked enough trash on poor old TSJ at the actual game, so I’ll be a little decorous here, and not rub it in. At least not too much.

 

capcapcap

I pursued a ‘hammer and anvil’ strategy. This is the anvil.3 Daimlers, 3 Grants, and two platoons of Shermans move down a desert track in column.

 

This game is the debut of the new desert mat I’ve been working on for the past few weeks. It looks ok-still needs some work. Overall it’s a bit too dark and brown. It’s a little tricky getting the right amount of grit in the caulk mixture, when you’re intending to use the mat for 1/285 gaming. Kitty litter is enormous at that scale, but playground sand is a little too fine to get excellent texture out of. I may add some grass tufts, although that might prove difficult at this scale, too. The new mat is 6’x9,’ and took around 13 tubes of acrylic caulk to coat! The tarp I used as a backing material was around $7, and the caulk was around $50. Add in miscellaneous supplies and paint, and you’re looking at around $75 to do a similar mat. Of course, the cost goes up if you’re doing something that will require flocking.

capitycap

The hammer, light, agile, but hard hitting. Crusaders advance over a hill on the left flank. Erwin’s not-as-bright brother, Elwin, looks on.

capitycap

More Crusaders, because they’re fun to look at.

capitycap

The Scarlet J’s column of panzers. These roads need work. In fact, I may just start using some sort of fine model railroad grit for roads. I don’t think the caulk roads are ever going to look decent at this scale.

capitycap

More of the allied column. The Daimlers are pulling away in the distance, trusting to their speed and agility to keep them safe. Or safe-ish.

capitycap

The panzers deploy from the road, but the plucky (they’re always plucky, right?) Brits draw first blood.

capitycap

But the Germans return the favor, with interest. Quickly knocking out a Crusader and a Grant.

capitycap

Said knocked out Grant. But here comes trouble for the Germans.

capitycap

These are the sort of angles you want. Crusaders preparing to take some side shots into the mass of German tanks.

capitycap

Another view.

capitycap

This little wheel measures the shot angle, and is placed on the target tank. The blue shaded areas are side shots, obviously. The Sherman is a pretty tough tank in 1942. The Germans had a very tough time penetrating her armor, particularly with any sort of oblique shot.

capitycap

Things go very badly for the Germans, as the Shermans get into the action. Ironically, TSJ won the initiative at the critical moment, but at least a half-dozen hits on the Shermans pinged off into the distance, instead of causing damage.

capitycap

More Crusaders, keeping watch and taking the occasional falling shot onto weak German top hull armor.

capitycap

Even more damage is done to the Germans.

This game turned into a disaster for The Scarlet J. The Brits got position on him, and his Mk IIIs just couldn’t deal with the Shermans’ heavy armor. His long-barreled PZIVs were quickly knocked out by the concentrated fire of my Crusaders and Shermans. Without their hard hitting canons he didn’t stand much of a chance. Final score was two knocked out British tanks, and one disabled vs….um….all but three of the German tanks. Great fun for me!

TSJ and I haven’t played a game in quite some time. I’d like to develop a greater understanding of these rules, so we can begin to incorporate some of the more interesting elements, like force quality, morale, hidden movement, offboard artillery, AT guns, infantry, and, well, you get the idea. It’s all in there, and we will start adding the various sections of rules over time. I’ve also got a lot of work to do on terrain. I have the supplies for palm trees and some desert-appropriate buildings. I think we need to have a fight over an oasis, next, instead of these boring old crossroads!

Panzer Day

Boy meets Panzer…

I finally got to use some of that Microarmor I’ve been working on the past few weeks, as we had our first game of Jim Day’s Panzer this weekend. I will do a full review of the rules once we’ve played a few games, but my first impression is quite favorable. The game has lots of chrome, but moves along at a decent clip, and both players are fully involved at every step of the game (which is SUPER DUPER IMPORTANT, YOU MINIATURES RULES WRITERS. Seriously).

I’ve complained in previous blog posts about slow moving, overly detailed games, but I really don’t mind a detailed game, if I feel like I’m being rewarded for engaging with the detail. Well, I felt rewarded! We didn’t use all of the advanced rules, and didn’t have any infantry, indirect fire, towed guns, or air support (can’t wait to paint a couple of Hurricanes or P40s up in a desert scheme!), so I certainly haven’t gotten the full broadside of Panzer goodness, yet. In the state we were playing the game, I’d say it’s about 80% of the complexity of the basic infantry portion of Squad Leader. Which is a very sweet spot for me, as long as my caveat about detail being rewarded is applied.

As stated above, I’ll do a full review at a later date, but I feel like I should give a little background on the rules. Panzer was originally developed as a miniatures game, but was published in 1978 as a hex and counter board game set on the East Front, because the publishers (Yaquinto) weren’t complete idiots, and wanted to make a little money. 88 followed Panzer, and moved the action to the North African desert. These two games are made of unobtanium, and go for ridiculous money on Ebay. Fortunately The Scarlet J has a copy of Panzer, and has a good assortment of the useful bits and pieces of 88.

Fast forward to 2004, and Jim Day published a new version of Panzer, known as Panzer Miniatures. Which was, obviously, intended as a miniatures game. Panzer Miniatures was set on the East Front, and has a multitude of supplements. Two of the supplements cover various aspects of the campaigns on the Eastern Front, another two cover from Normandy to the end of the war from a UK/Commonwealth, and US perspective, respectively, and I think there’s even a supplement for ’39-’40.

Moving on to 2012, Panzer was published AGAIN, this time by GMT, in the form of a boardgame with their typical high quality components. This version of Panzer, following pattern, was set in the Eastern Front. There are several supplements out for the GMT version, which add additional detail for the Eastern Front, and late war on the Western Front. The base game is currently out of print, but is on GMTs P500 list for reprint. Notice that I didn’t mention the desert after talking about 88? That’s because the desert hasn’t been covered since! There are plans for a North African expansion for the GMT version. I kind of doubt it will ever happen for the miniatures game, but I’d love to be proved wrong. Panzer’s miniatures roots run quite strongly through all three versions, so conversion shouldn’t be all that difficult, but if you’re interested in giving Panzer a try, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to develop your project for the Eastern Front.

You can pick up the miniatures rules in PDF and Print-on-demand form from Wargames Vault.

Boy plays Panzer…

On to the game. I’ve been working on some desert terrain, and have twenty, or so, feet of roads done, but I haven’t made a desert mat, yet. I tried laying out the desert roads on my existing mat, but it just looked totally crazy and wrong. So…instead of being in the serious desert outside of El Alamein, we take you to some lovely not-so-desolate portion of Tunisia, where there are fragrant olive groves, and funny looking evergreens. And, for some reason, the locals have built their homes from stone and stucco, rather than mud brick. And they have pitched roofs. And it looks a lot like France in 1944. Ok. The terrain is completely wrong, but I wanted to give the game a shot, so I rolled with what I had. Note that I’ve hacked up my usual roads for ACW and Chain of Command to work with 1/285 scale. It’s ok, I never really liked those roads, anyway.

This battle is a meeting engagement at a crossroads (how many times have I typed that sentence over the past couple of years? Sheesh!), which is occupied by a sleepy village of olive tree farmers. Coming to disturb this idyllic scene are tons upon tons of fire breathing armor.

I fielded.

10 Sherman IIs
3 Crusader IIIs
3 Daimler Armo(u)red Cars (portrayed by Humber IIs)

The Scarlet J had

5 PzIIIs of some variety. Js, maybe?
5 PzIVf1s
5 PzIVf2s

The observant among you will note that the TSJ cleverly decided to bring 15 real tanks against 13 British tanks and a handful of armored cars, which have tin foil mantlets and paper hulls. No comment from me on this, though!

The terrain setup. I forgot to notate the 'scrub' area, which is indicated by the scattered clump foliage on the front slope of the level 1 hill at the upper left corner.

The terrain setup. I forgot to notate the ‘scrub’ area, which is indicated by the scattered clump foliage on the front slope of the level 1 hill at the upper left corner. The fields don’t cause any trouble for tanks. Obviously.

My current mat is roughly 6’x4′, and we ran this game long-ways, so that we’d have room to maneuver a little. When I make the desert mat, I will make it 6’x8′, because 4′ was too narrow for the amount of equipment we had on the table (about a company of armor each).

Shermans roll out...The red pennant is supposed to be the squadron commander. The yellow pendants indicate troop command tanks. I need to do some more research, but I don't believe that Panzer really deals with chain of command in detail.

Sherman IIs roll out…The red pennant is supposed to be the squadron commander. The yellow pendants indicate troop command tanks. I need to do some more research, but I don’t believe that Panzer really deals with chain of command in detail.

Panzer uses order markers to get units to move, fire, fire and move, go on overwatch, and so on. Limited command and control is modeled by the fact that you don’t have enough order markers for every unit in your force. For instance, I had 16 vehicles, but only 10 order markers. Tanks within 3″ of each other can share command markers, so this encourages the player to use formations. Recon units have tremendous initiative, and their orders do not count against the total number of orders. Which is pretty cool, I think!

The Scarlet J's assortment of panzers take advantage of road movement...

The Scarlet J’s assortment of panzers take advantage of road movement…My next game mat will NOT have all of these undulations and wrinkles. They’re infuriating, at this scale.

Moving to contact...

Moving to contact…

blahblahblah

The squadron command tank, plus one of the three Sherman troops takes up position on a hill on my right flank, while the rest of the squadron moves into position at the olive grove.

Perhaps I’ve been playing too many infantry games, because the very first thing I did was send 3/4 of my Shermans straight for the olive tree grove, and the cover contained therein. One troop actually moved into this grove, which slowed them way down. Moving through a grove/orchard/light woods costs double movement points. I also moved some Shermans up onto a hilltop, which wasn’t really all that great of a move…everything on the board, practically, can see you, and the MkIV tanks that are armed with the long 75mm gun can easily punch through a Sherman’s armor at long range.

Crusaders move to the crest of the level 2 hill, where they'll attempt to control the left flank with shots from their 6lbers.

Crusaders move to the crest of the level 2 hill, where they’ll attempt to control the left flank with shots from their 6lbers.

My Crusaders, however, had the advantage, at least in terms of guns, of the PzIIIs they were facing. So the hill strategy wasn’t such a bad idea, in that case.

Crusaders do some damage and get the first kill of the game. That's The Scarlet J placing a cotton ball to indicate a KOd tank. There are also brew-ups which cause a column of smoke, which can affect line-of-sight.

Crusaders do some damage and get the first kill of the game. That’s The Scarlet J placing a cotton ball to indicate a KOd tank. There are also brew-ups which cause a column of smoke, which can affect line-of-sight.

Which is proved by me getting the first kill! <does a little happy dance>

I advance my Daimlers (played by my Humber MkIIs) in the face of a bunch of PZIIIs and start to pay the price. Even moving at top speed, armored cars are quite vulnerable.

I advance my Daimlers (played by my Humber MkIIs) in the face of a bunch of PZIIIs and start to pay the price. Even moving at top speed, armored cars are quite vulnerable. I’ve had one armored car knocked out, and the other has take a track (wheel) hit, which immobilizes it.

Using armored cars in a responsible manner (responsible meaning in a manner which encourages their survival) is going to take some work on my part. I’m not really sure what to DO with them. They move fast, and have tremendous initiative advantages, which makes them really good for spotting enemy units, but tanks have a tough time killing anything at 24″, or more, in this game. ACs that are way out front aren’t going to survive contact with the enemy’s tanks. Maybe they’re more useful when you have off-board artillery, some serious AT guns, or other long range assets. Or maybe I’m just an idiot. The latter is the most likely answer.

P1080376

My last Daimler makes a suicide run to try and get a flanking shot on one of the German tanks. I don’t quite have the movement to get a REAL flanking shot, though. The Armored Car is immobilized by the PZIII, but seconds later manages to return the favor. If we had been using the morale rules, there’s no way this little guy would have thrown himself to the wolves. I admit, it was very unrealistic play. But, hey, first time out with a ‘new’ set of rules!

asdfsdf

The engagement is heating up. One troop of Shermans has advanced to the edge of the olive grove, only to be met by a platoon of PZIVfs. I’ve come off of the hill with my Shermans on the right flank, as those panzers way up there in the upper right corner of PZIVF2s, and they can really reach out and touch someone with their high velocity 75mm guns. Fortunately TSJ rolled really poorly for them the entire game. Poor Scarlet J.

idunno

Knocked out tanks everywhere! The point blank fight in the olive grove is going badly for me, but in the meantime, my flock of Shermans there at the bottom of the orchard have killed three German tanks.

We ended up with some quite close range engagements, especially in the now-infamous Olive Grove. Ranges in the Grove were down around 150′. The Sherman vs. MKIVf2 fight was taking place at ranges of around 1500′, which is also quite close. Predictably, the casualties began to mount. I’m pretty sure gung-ho charging Shermans is NOT the best tactic for WWII armored combat, though it worked out ok, in this instance. I’ll work on it.

hmmmmm

Meanwhile over on the left, a PZIV takes advantage of road movement to try and come up on the flank of my hill-topping Crusaders. He puts a round through the compartment of one Crusader, damaging it, but then pays the ultimate price when two of the three Crusaders turn their attention his way. Not sure why The Scarlet J didn’t take advantage of the little village, and use it to screen his advancing tank and get into a 1 on 1 situation with a Crusader. I CERTAINLY wouldn’t be so sloppy with my tactics. No. Never.

this is it?

Looking back into the olive grove from the German side. Those IVf2s are sitting on top of a hill, and taking falling shots at my Shermans. This increases the chance of getting a top of hull hit. Which is very bad for the shottee. Almost as bad as TSJs luck when firing with his IVf2s!

P1080382

State of the game at end of play looked something like this, minus my left flank. We had killed an equal number of each other’s vehicles. I lost 4 Shermans and 3 Daimler armored cars, and TSJ lost 7 panzers of various flavors. We called it a draw. We certainly could have finished this game, had it not been our first time playing the rules.

Boy likes Panzer…

So….yes to more Panzer. I had a great time playing the game, and am looking forward to more of it. I’ve got a lot of work to do on terrain. Goodness me.

The End of the Beginning

I’m about halfway through my little Microarmor project for North Afric(k)a. We’re playing this weekend, so I’d better get an un-Montyesque move on!

Here’s what I’ve got, so far.

Grants, Humber MkIIs, and good 'ol Shermans in disruptive camo. Sorry about the droopy barrels...I'll straighten them out before the next photo shoot!

Grants, Humber MkIIs, and good ‘ol Shermans in disruptive camo. Sorry about the droopy barrels…I’ll straighten them out before the next photo shoot!

I’m not so sure pennants were attached to aerials like this, historically, though I have seen photos on the internet that suggest they were. They sure will be handy for me to identify command units on the table, though.

More of the same, at a different angle. More flattering for the droopy-barreled. Next I'll be painting Crusaders, more Shermans, and a couple of 6 lber guns. Fun stuff!

More of the same, at a different angle. More flattering for the droopy-barreled. Next I’ll be painting Crusaders, more Shermans, and a couple of 6 lber guns. Fun stuff!

I finally figured out/remembered/asked what rules we are using, and they are Jim Day’s “Panzer.” This game was originally published in 1978 (and is about as crunchy as that date would lead you to believe), but there’s a version (Panzer II) from 2012, that was published by GMT. Of course, this being the wargaming world, even this recent version of the game is currently out of print. It’s on GMTs P500 list, which is a pre-order system they use to gauge interest (and reach a certain minimal level of sales).

The Scarlet J PROMISES me this is a fast playing game. We’ll see.

Looking at these photos, I have to get another lamp so I can get better lighting. That’s a constant refrain of mine. A lamp is, like, $7.99. I don’t know why I haven’t taken care of this, yet.

I’ll Grant You That…

I have just set a new landspeed record for altering New Year’s plans, having diverged from mine before the new year has even started! The Scarlet J has lured me into cranking out a few MicroArmor (1/285 scale) tanks for some upcoming North Africa, armor-centric gaming.  If nothing else, these little guys provide a nice palette cleanser from having been painting 28mm Napoleonics for the last month.

Advancing Grants

Advancing Grants

The Scarlet J is going to be fielding portions of the Afrika Corps, while my force will be loosely based on elements of the 8th Armoured Brigade, 10th Armoured Division around the time of the Second Battle of El Alamein. I hope I spelled El Alamein correctly, for once. The core of the force will be Sherman Is of the Nottinghamshire Yeomenry, but in my typical bass-ackwards way, I’ve started out with a platoon of Grants from their buddies in the 3rd Royal Tanks.

The view from a bold Storch?

The view from a bold, low-flying, Storch?

I have yet to decide if I’ll be attempting to add squadron, regiment, and divisional markings. I have decals for the squadron markings, so that wouldn’t be too tough, but things could go VERY badly trying to free-hand the other stuff.

Parting shot (sorry for the pun)

Parting shot (sorry for the pun). I really did a poor job of cleaning up the turrets.

As is typical for my microarmor painting, I more or less follow the method outlined in the excellent Fritzkrieg tutorial. I think his method produces a decent result, in a modest amount of time. I think I have around 3 hours into these 5 tanks, not counting drying time. Maybe less.

I have a pair of 6lber AT guns, scout cars, a few Crusaders, and then the main body of the force, 10 Sherman tanks, yet to paint. Oh, and I’ll need to make a desert gaming mat. And I ordered a few buildings. Yep. Seriously off the rails, here in Arkiegamer land.

I still don’t know the name of the rules we’re using. Something ancient (that means anything pre-1984) from TSJ’s archives of rules, but he assures me they’re fast and fun.

Addendum:

This Wikipedia article has a TO&E for 8th Armoured Brigade during the attack on the Mareth line in Tunisia. Apparently the Sherwood Rangers had Grants, Shermans, AND Crusaders during this operation, as well as an attached company of infantry from The Buffs. Which is way cool.

Addendum 2:

Great information from The Miniatures Page. Note to self: grab a copy of Bevis. Eschew Butthead.

All the Way!

I haven’t been painting much the past couple of weeks, but I did manage to finish off my company of 82nd Airborne troops in the M1942 uniform (suitable for Normandy). These minis are 15mm Command Decision figures, as sold by Old Glory, and I’ll be using them with Crossfire and possibly Fireball Forward. 15mm US Airborne are SO much quicker to paint than the 15mm Confederates I’m used to-I can easily do 20-30 figures a week.

I have their Wehrmacht opponents based and ready for primer, but I expect the Germans will be a little slower to paint, what with water bottles, gas mask canisters, and the like.

Full Company

Full Company

Company commander and forward observer team are in front. Three platoons are arrayed in a line (three stands of three figures, each), with platoon commanders behind. In the rear are 60mm mortars and some ‘heavy’ machine guns. It was pointed out to me that the water cooled 30 cals wouldn’t have been a part of any operation involving jumping out of airplanes, but I painted them, so they’re making an appearance here.

Right flank detail

Right flank detail

Left flank detail

Left flank detail

Center detail (out of focus)

Center detail

Not So August Progress

It’s been a slow couple of weeks around here at Arkiegamer HQ. I did manage to finish up my 251/D, and knock off a regiment of Blue Moon 18mm ACW figures for Regimental Fire and Fury, but have only now gotten around to photographing them. I had posted earlier progress work on both of these little projects here.

These panel gaps are more 1980s General Motors than any-decade vehicle of German manufacturer.

These panel gaps are more 1980s General Motors than any-decade vehicle of German manufacturer. Still, those MG-42s should prove fearsome to my Chain of Command opponent.

No tripod!

No tripod!

Possibly ahistorical placement of Panzer Lehr division marking.

Possibly ahistorical placement of Panzer Lehr division marking. + Panel line gaps.

Troop compartment.

Troop compartment. I’m particularly happy with the weathered wooden slats on the benches. Not that I managed to record the recipe for future use.

I think the Hanomag turned out OK, painting wise, but I need to do a MUCH better job of modeling on the remaining two halftracks from the Plastic Soldier Company box. I’m still a bit baffled as to how I got the panel lines so off, when it came to final assembly! Better track weathering and stronger use of color, overall, are two other areas that could be improved.

General's View

Yank general’s view

The Yank View

The private Yank soldier’s view

I like these Blue Moon figures. They’re not particularly realistically proportioned, it’s damned hard to get three of them on a 1″x3/4″ RF&F base, and they require more cleanup than the AB figures that I’m used to, but I like them. You’ll probably see more figures of this manufacture on the blog in the future, when I finally get around to starting my Union force.

This is not my best painting job-I’m regressing! Maybe I need to invest in a pair of glasses, or just be a little more patient. They look decent on the tabletop, though.

This particular regiment appeared in last week’s game as the 6th Mississippi. They acquitted themselves quite well for a newly painted unit!

—————–

That’s all for now-I should have a couple of terrain projects to show in a few weeks, but updates are going to be iffy in the immediate future due to real life interruptions. Bah!

Ch..ch..chain

In my unending (and potentially ill-advised) quest to interest some of my non-wargaming friends in miniatures wargaming, I set up a game of Chain of Command, which I refereed, while two of said friends played.

The scenario was a simple patrol, centered around a crossroads (as usual). The western side of the board was dominated by a stone bridge over a decent sized creek (represented by some stones and clump foilage lined banks) and a small orchard, while the eastern side was chock full of bocage, and other hedges. Both ends of the battlefield featured commanding heights, which were, for one reason or the other, ignored by the players.

We only made it through about three phases of the game before having to call it a night. I played the game out to what felt like a conclusion this morning and afternoon. The game was a close-run thing, with both sides force morales dwindling considerably.

In the end the Germans won, despite a couple of blunders on my part. The weight of all those MG-42s was too much for the Americans to overcome. Of course, the best part about playing solitaire is you always win!

On a somber note, I still need to build more bocage.

Patrol Phase

Patrol Phase

Panzergrenadiers deploy

Panzergrenadiers deploy

Sniper in a commanding position (but unable to hit anything the entire game)

Sniper in a commanding position (but unable to hit anything the entire game)

PzGrs defend a low stone wall.

PzGrs defend a low stone wall.

A US fire team moves out.

A US fire team moves out.

Overview

Overview of the 4’x4′ battlefield

The Luchs prowls the table.

The Luchs prowls the table. Interestingly, the presence of armor (at least armor this light) didn’t have an immediately decisive effect on the game. By the time the Lynx appeared on the table, the Germans had some command and control problems due to low force morale, which limited the number of opportunities to get the tank into action.

fierce fight at the crossroads.

fierce fight at the crossroads.

An ill-advised assault...

Dear readers: Don’t assault a full strength American squad in cover behind bocage with a half-dozen Panzergrenadiers. Not that you were stupid enough to try such a thing in the first place…

Lieutenant and Panzerschrek team try to slow down the US advance

Lieutenant and Panzerschrek team try to slow down the US advance

German Jump-off Point

German Jump-off Point

Lieutenant rallies the Panzerschrek team, after they were driven off by heavy US fire.

Lieutenant (red band around his base) rallies the Panzerschrek team, after they were driven off by heavy US fire.

Overview of table at game end.

Overview of table at game end. Note the bazooka team just down from the Luchs. It might have had something to do with the lack of impact by the armor.

I don’t think my friends hated Chain of Command, but they certainly didn’t love the game, either. Chain of Command is just too complicated to use as a vehicle for introducing new players to miniatures wargaming. Or at least it is with my nascent command of the rules. Maybe it would be different with new players who are highly motivated about the period and the idea of playing miniatures games. Obviously, it’s entirely my fault for trying to use them as an introduction to the hobby. Especially since I’ve now made the same mistake twice!

————

I’m still trying to formulate my opinion on Chain of Command as a potential regular part of my gaming diet. Bear with me while I throw out some random thoughts from my experiences.

There are a lot of fiddly parts to the rules-the mechanics are modular, meaning the armor mechanics aren’t the same as the infantry mechanics, aren’t the same as the sniper mechanics, aren’t the same as the artillery mechanics, aren’t the same as the morale mechanics, etcetera. There are numerous exceptions and clarifications, which make it difficult to play from the cheat sheets available online. Finally, in certain circumstances, you have to roll a TON of dice. Mega-dice rolling is fun occasionally, but over the long term I’m finding the large dice pools to be a pain in the butt. On the other hand, I loathe single-die-hit-a-target-number systems, because, to my mind, they’re far too unpredictable. You just can’t please some people, can you?!

I really admire the stated goals of these rules-emphasis on command and (lack of) control, period flavor, and mechanics that reward historical tactics, but the rules overhead required to get to those goals is significant. I’ve played three times now, which equals 9-10 hours of play, and while I have a decent grasp of the general flow of the rules, I’m still constantly referring to the book, or one or more of the dozens of tables, to figure out particulars. Even with a complex game, I would expect to have gained significant facility with a set of rules in that amount of time. I wonder if I’ll ever memorize the rules well enough to support the once every month or two months that I’ll get to play the game. That’s a shame, because I can imagine how great the game could be with sufficient rules mastery. The myriad of design-for-effect subsystems all work really well as individual systems, AND the effect of the aggregate feels quite good. If only stitching it all together weren’t such work!

I’m going to continue on with the rules set for at least a couple more tries, hoping everything will start to gel in my brain. For the next game, I may tone it down on the bocage a bit, and see if a simplified terrain situation might help things go a little more smoothly. In fact, I have another game tomorrow with The Scarlet J. Hopefully he has actually gotten around to reading the rules, and will be some help in that department. I give it a 5% chance :/