Tag Archives: WW2

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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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Hurricane in action

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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!

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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 :/

 

CrossFireball Stands

I made some basing decisions for my 15mm WWII figures, based on the highly scientific method of rummaging through one of the ever-growing collections of stuff in cardboard boxes squirreled away in my closet and seeing what steel stands I had on hand. So, squads are mounted on 1″x 1 1/2″ stands, and all others (outside of AT guns, and such) are mounted on 1″x1″ stands.

These should work equally well for Fireball Forward and Crossfire, which are both fairly basing-agnostic.

I like these Command Decision figures. They’re a little vague in the face, and the sergeant with the mohawk looks like he’s suffering from some rare bloating disease, but, in general, the sculpts are easy to clean up and paint, and the poses are fairly dynamic. The flag detail is molded into the figure, so you have to make at least some sort of attempt at painting it. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not.

Lessons learned from painting these figures? Thin your paint. Thin thin thin. Actually, the paint doesn’t look near this thick in real life, but the thickness sure bugs me in these photos.

Without further to-do, here are a few pictures (Really this is all about padding my post count to get to 100 posts. This is #99!):

Squad Stands

Squad Stands

Squad stands in a line (duh)

Squad stands in a line (duh)

Left to right: Forward observer, HMG, Platoon Commander, LMG

Left to right: Forward observer (desperately in need of antenna and handset cable), HMG, Platoon Commander, LMG

Command and 'special' stands

Command and ‘special’ stands. I’ve been trying to think of some appropriate bric-a-brac for a platoon commander stand, but I’ve come up with zilch, so far. Maybe a map on a tree stump, or something like that?

Bocage Finale

I finished up my test pieces of bocage. Looks like this.

I accidentally broke my gate. But, turns out that actually breaking your gate is a pretty good simulation of a broken gate!

I accidentally broke my gate. But, turns out that actually breaking your gate is a pretty good simulation of a broken gate!

You can't do much with 21" of bocage. (TWSS)

You can’t do much with 21″ of bocage. (TWSS)

My bocage is a little short, and could do with less flock, which would make it look a bit more spindly and wild. Also, more variety in height would be good. Actually, I swear it used to be taller. I guess the weight of the glue and flock compressed it. Oh well,thankfully, I’ll have PLENTY of opportunity to practice while building enough of this stuff for a 4’x6′ playing area.

C’est Bocage

I decided to start a few test pieces of bocage this past weekend, and while I’m awaiting an order of ‘coarse turf’ to finish up the foilage, I thought I’d post a few progress shots. Before I forget, all this work is based off of a tutorial by another Tim.

The bocage banks are extruded polystyrene insulation board (3/4″ thickness) carved and shaped with an x-acto knife. The insulation sculpting takes the bulk of the construction time-A saw or hot wire might be a quicker/better/more expensive option. The trick to cutting this stuff cleanly, no matter how sharp your knife, is to go slowly with your cuts-otherwise, your knife will ‘drag’ and rip the insulation. Don’t sweat it too much, though, as you’ll have to sand the insulation pieces afterwards anyway, to smooth out harsh edges.

The polystyrene is based on sheet plastic, glued with white glue. I ‘feathered’ the banks into the plasticard with wood filler, which has a nice earthy texture to it and dries quite hard. Toothpicks are embedded in the banks and will help in attaching the foilage (which will be glued down with a hot glue gun).

There is a crazy person on TMP who, in a great example of how you can be right AND wrong at the same time, angrily types about how bocage NEVER EVER EVER EVER has rocks showing on the banks. Most of the photos I’ve seen back him up, but, in a pique, I threw in a few strategically placed kitty litter stones, anyway.

It turns out that my ACW roads can do double duty for Normandy. They'd look better with more relief, and less grass, though.

It turns out that my ACW roads can do double duty for Normandy. They’d look better with more relief, and less grass, though.

The growth on top of the banks is made up of a generic blue colored air filter. I cut jagged strips out of the filter of roughly the same length as the banks, then strategically hacked it up and teased it out. It’s painted with dark brown spraypaint and a highlight of a tannish color. Ultimately the filter material will be sprayed with watered down white glue and flocked with the ‘coarse turf’ material I mentioned earlier.

Reviewing these photos, I think the filter material could be hacked up and teased out quite a bit more to get that wild and unkempt look that you see in photos of the bocage. I’m also a little concerned that the base of the filter stuff is too coherent and narrow…seems like it should spill down the banks, at least a little. Also, you can make out a bit of the original blue color of the filter. I should probably re-spray the material, but I’m lazy and almost certainly won’t. Some flowers and greater variety of grasses might help them come alive.

What the bocage would have looked like, had the allies possessed agent orange in WW2?

What the bocage would have looked like, had the allies possessed agent orange in WW2?

A 'special' section of bocage with an (unpainted) field gate.

A ‘special’ section of bocage with an (unpainted) field gate. You get a better sense of the wood filler texture on these relatively bare banks.

I think I’ll need to do 15-20′ of bocage for my 4’x6′ gaming mat….quite an undertaking. I’ll need various corner angle pieces, and want to do a variety of  ‘special’ sections. I’ll need some man-gates, some penetrated areas (Shermans with cullen cutters, don’t you know!), and some sections with trees sticking out. I hope to find some images, descriptions, and/or diagrams of German defensive positions in the bocage, so I can replicate them. If anyone has any thoughts on other interesting bocage pieces, please chip in!

Distractions!

I’m supposed to be painting up a regiment of ACW cavalry, but then a few 20mm AB World War II figures, and an order from MMS in the UK showed up on my doorstep…

You can tell they're officers because of all the pointing. These are simply the best 20mm figures I've laid hands on. My painting is a little dark at gaming table distances-I'll probably lighten my basecoats for future figures, and do a bit more highlighting on these guys.

These are my ‘test’ figures. You can tell they’re officers because of all the pointing. To sum up AB WWII figures, these are simply the best 20mm figures I’ve laid hands on. The detail is absolutely fantastic, and at the risk of sounding like an idiot, I’ll posit that the detail makes painting the figures easier. My painting is a little dark at gaming table distances-I’ll probably lighten my basecoats for future figures, and do a bit more highlighting on these guys.

 

 

This little guy is a PZIIL recon tank. Rarer than hens teeth, but perfect for support in a platoon-level skirmish game like Chain of Command. These models are VERY nice, though they do require some cleanup and modeling skills (not much, though, as evidenced by the fact that I was able to complete the model in about 2 hours). I'll soon ruin it with paint...

This little guy is a PZIIL recon tank. Rarer than hens teeth, but perfect for support in a platoon-level skirmish game like Chain of Command. These models are VERY nice, though they do require some cleanup and modeling skills (not much, though, as evidenced by the fact that I was able to complete the model in about 2 hours). I haven’t quite figured out how to do the big triple antenna that mounts on the starboard side, yet. I’ll soon ruin this model with my painting…

Please excuse the iPhone pictures above. I have been making progress on those ACW cavalry, but it’s slow going, and I don’t have much to show for my efforts, yet.  I did make up another 30 trees, as well, but who wants to see that?! Not me.

The Campaign(s) Continues

No big news, but there’s been positive movement on both the ACW and 6mm WW2 fronts. Unfortunately, I’m fighting a four or five front ‘war,’ but there’s no one to blame for that, except myself.

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First up, some terrain progress with the 6mm WWII IABSM 3 (that’s a lot of acronyms. TALOA, everyone!) project. I painted up two small houses, a barn, a cottage, and a manor house, all by GHQ. These buildings paint up so easily, and so nicely-a little paint, drybrush, a sepia ink wash, and you’re set! They look even better in person, where every little flaw isn’t exaggerated by zoomed in digital camera. By the way, I discovered that if you use future floor wax as a component of your ink wash, applying Vallejo matt varnish by brush afterwards reactivates the wash, and swirls it around in a not-unpleasing, but still alarming and unintended, manner.

Cottage and Villa

Cottage and Villa

This is the Villa de GHQ

This is the Villa de GHQ

Dilapidated barn and two small houses

Dilapidated barn and two small houses. Here’s where you see how incredibly lazy I am about cleaning up flash and mold slippage. It’s a little annoying that GHQ puts their trademark on the outside of the buildings (grey house, right side), but I’ll forgive them.

Houses and barn from above. My road is way out of scale.

Houses and barn from above. My road is way out of scale.

I have 10 Sherman tanks about 80% done, crops to plant on the terrain board, and a few British infantry to paint up, and this puppy will be ready to go. Unless I decide to base the buildings and make little vignettes out of them. Which I might.

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On the ACW front, I’m still mired in the long process of finishing up my Confederates. I completed a couple of limbers, disored/silenced markers, wrecked gun markers, and out-of-ammo markers, but still need to paint up an ammo wagon and an ambulance. It’s neverending! I also need to base up a brigade of the famous Danish volunteers of Texas. Oh, and I have a regiment of cavalry to paint. Woe is me! Our next scheduled game is the 15th.

Is it strange that these dead horses and wounded men make me feel a little uncomfortable?

Is it strange that these dead horses and wounded men make me feel a little uncomfortable?

These wounded Confederates are the first Blue Moon figures I’ve ever painted, and I have to say, I really love them. The anatomy isn’t quite as good as the best of the AB, but the poses are just fantastic. The wrecked gun markers (dead horses with caisson wheels) are all Blue Moon, as well. The wrecked gun ‘diorama’ style bases are kind of bugging me, now that I’ve done them. They don’t look particularly naturalistic. I’m sure it’s a skill that will develop with application and time, though.

A better shot of the wounded.

A better shot of the wounded.

The Blue Moon casualty pack includes a few accessory muskets, which is a really nice touch. Really, those figures made enough of an impression on me, that I plan to do quite a few Blue Moon figures when I switch over to paining Union troops. Oh, that unpainted 15mm resin house in the background is by JR Miniatures. Cheap, but it’s a real pig-bad flashing and pock marks everywhere. Maybe it will look ok painted.

Ok, that’s all for now. I’m going to try to finish up my Brits for IABSM in 6mm next week. Also, there’s some new stuff coming down the pike, that may be of interest.

I Have a Blog and I’m Not Afraid to Use It

Here’s an almost completely useless, yet absurdly long, post for you all.

On or around the new year, I wrote about 2014 being the year of finishing projects, and today I took some steps in that direction. Way back when, I had planned to create a terrain board for the TooFatLardies scenario from I Ain’t Been Shot Mum called “Action at Galmanche.”

“Action at Galmache” takes place in Normandy, July 8, 1944, as a part of Operation Charnwood and the British and Canadian attack on Caen. The terrain is farmland, consisting mainly of orchards, although there’s a smattering of cultivated land, as well (currently represented by a brown blotch at the upper right of the first photo).

Forces consist of a couple troops of Shermans and an infantry company on the British side, and a company of SS Panzergrenadiers and a PAK40 on the German side. No STuGs, though they feature prominently in my photographs.

Anyway, I had gotten to the point where the terrain board was flocked, but stalled out due to school and indecision on how to represent bocage at 1/285. Well, I cheaped out and just spent a couple hours hot-gluing clump foilage directly to the terrain board. It will work, even if it doesn’t really look like bocage.

My trees, which were created for 15mm ACW really don’t work as an orchard. Unless maybe it was an orchard of gargantuan Pecan trees. Which I’m quite certain they historically weren’t. However, in the interest of expediency, the action will take place in what looks like a particularly well ordered and sparse antediluvian forest. I actually have a couple more bags of “We Honest” Chinese trees that should work at this scale, but I’m not sure I can muster the energy to fix them up, at this particular point in time.

The whole thing fits on my drafting table

The whole thing fits on my drafting table

Those gleaming silver buildings are from GHQ, and just arrived yesterday. They’ll be primed and painted just as soon as I can clear my table of some ACW stuff I’ve been working on. Like all things GHQ, they’re just little gems of wargaming perfection. Or almost perfection. There’s some pretty bad mold slippage in a couple of the buildings. Which might bother someone who is more discriminating than me.

I would (and probably will) like to put a bit more time into making this board look like a real place, as I’ve moved away from the idea of doing terrain boards (lack of space, lack of flexibility, lack of time) and probably won’t have the chance, again.  I need to paint a few Sherman tanks, and print up the cards I created for the scenario, plant some crops in the corner of the board, and then this project should be ready to roll.

I plan to use the whole setup as a way to introduce people to historical miniatures wargaming. I mean, nothing’s cooler than these little bitty tanks. The sheer miniatureness of it is compelling, somehow.

Stugs advance down the road from the manor house.

Stugs advance down the road from the manor house.

I was so mad this shot was out of focus that I decided to use it anyway.

I was so mad this shot was out of focus that I decided to use it anyway.

This orchard holds death!

This orchard holds death!

Oh, all miniatures are GHQ except for the infantry, which are the wonderfully bobbleheaded Adler figures. I really do like them!

Accessories

I’ve built a few jump off points for Chain of Command. These are made out of some stowage from Academy’s “Light Vehicles” kit. Unfortunately there weren’t enough to do the Allied side, too. I may have to pick up another kit! Note: the jerry cans are modeled totally wrong, if that sort of thing bugs you…

Those barrels are full of schnapps...

Those barrels are full of schnapps…

These jump off points serve as points to distribute forces from. They’re placed through a rather clever abstracted ‘patrol phase.’ Watch the video I’ve linked above, if you think you might be interested in the rules set.

The tree on the leftmost base is by the amusingly named “WeHonest” from China. You can find their fine day-glo trees on Ebay. Trust me, they’re bright. If I hadn’t painted and dipped the tree in flock I wouldn’t have needed any other light source. I may add signs or some more greenery to these bases. Who am I kidding, I’m way too lazy to re-visit these.

Ain’t Gonna Work on Maggie’s Farm No More

Long time, no post. Believe it, or not, I have been busy!

It’s far from perfect, but my Normandy farmhouse is coming along fairly nicely. It needs further weathering, and the stone lintel isn’t working so well, but I’ve learned a lot, and it will definitely work for my gaming table. Finishing up those couple of details and creating a ‘yard’ and a couple of small outbuildings to go with it is next on the agenda. Anywho, here’s a before and after shot.

Two Story Farmhouse and Silvered Decals

You might remember this early progress shot

 

HOUSE1

I’ve also been working on a terrain mat for some wild west game (and it’s largely done) and a few cacti for said game. That’s all nearing fruition, and there will be a post about it soonish.

In the category of REALLY BIG FREAKING NEWS I’ve found another historical wargamer in Northwest Arkansas. Oh happy day! He’s totally into doing 20mm WWII skirmish and likes the Lardies’ rules. His favorite subject is the American Civil War, and that’s also totally cool. I’ve bought figures for it. And Rules. I have a lot of catching up to do on the ACW front. Expect to see an acceleration in completion of projects here at Arkiegamer, now that I have an actual opponent on the line. One that’s willing to paint his own stuff, even!

I’m a bit excited.