Monday, May 3, 2021

(Minimal) Austrian Progress

 To keep me pushing on, I decided to post where I've gotten to since last time. In short: not far!


Everyone now has both hands painted and the helmets as well. I originally mixed  shade that matched the Isonzo braun examples i found online, but then realized I'd have to mix enough for all of my Austrians and promptly went with a shade of Vallejo brown green (or is it green brown?) that I had on hand.

I won't even attempt to make a guess as to when these will be finished. Maybe this month?

Monday, April 26, 2021

A Bridge - Maybe Too Far, Maybe Not

The Khan, pleased with the showing the two great powers had made for his favor, presented a second objective. There was, he said, in a small village, another strategically important bridge over the river Blast. The Russians would occupy the village with the task of blowing the bridge. For their part, the British were to prevent its destruction. 

Whether fueled by personal ambition or out of earnest belief in the glory of their respective empires, commanders on both sides relished the opportunity presented. With both sides fueled by jingoist sentiment for the other, it was perhaps inevitable. Certainly, that is what the Khan had anticipated, as modern historians have since uncovered.

Of note, for the concerned, the village (its name and location lost to history) was properly evacuated prior to the start of hostilities to ensure none of the Khan's subjects fell victim to the European soldiers.

Early troop dispositions.

The latest in technology.

Russian forces hold their positions.

To the surprise of many, Lady Pennington, late of the Royal Geographic Society, sporting an ensemble from Grace Brothers of London, led the British mountain gun battery.
 

In the distance can be seen the Russian general riding out to inspire the men under his command.


A crowd forms on the British left.

Eager though he was, the Old Man was late to the party.

Lancers badly riddled by the Russian artillery charge into the fray. Better to die in glory than idly standing by.


The sound of the bagpipes resounded to the alarm of all concerned.
 

Moving a Gatling without horses is a long and tedious process.

Lady Pennington, with her eyes keener than any man, rained destruction on the Russian defenders.

An overview of force dispositions.

An again the bagpipes loomed close.
 

A violent scrum for possession of the bridge.

Cossacks and Highlanders collide!

A sacrifice by the sons of Scotland to push back the Russian battery.

Things got a bit sparse at the end. It was the British Gatlings that carried the day.

 

On this occasion, it was the Russians who were forced to concede. The British, thanks to their Gatling battery taking out the Russian engineers, managed to stave off the destruction of the bridge, but only after the first attempt to blow the bridge failed.

*******

Saturday, I fielded a reduced size version of Table Top Teasers #1 : The Bridge Demolition. The table was reduced to 3' x 3', and the forces reduced as well.

Attacker: two infantry, one cavalry, one gun, one Gatling, one commander.

Defender: one infantry, one cavalry, one gun, one Gatling, one engineer (a single figure), and one commander.

For the rules, I used my own Lancer Rifle Gatling, albeit with some on the fly modification for formations, as I played.

As I always play solo, that is not unusual, but in this case I played the British and diced for decisions for the Russians (their commander had diced as Aggressive). I was sure the British had lost until the die roll for the bridge's destruction gave them a few more turns.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Mid-Week Update

This is something of a catch-all update post.

Although I have not played a figure game in a few weeks, I did play Scenario 5 from Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kit #1 earlier this month, so it hasn't been a total gaming drought. However, with the first quarter of 2021 on the books, and the first third nearly so, I decided to take a look at how I'm doing with my declared goals for the year.

That tall stack of Germans is a mix of squads, squad weapons, and DM markers.
 

Painting-wise, the late 19th C. Russians are done and they have already been on the gaming table. The WWI Austrians are well underway - which, I've realized, is usually where my desire to paint begins to wain. I think it's painting the little bits and bobs that I find tiresome.

I am happy to paint the trousers, tunic, boots, flesh , helmet, gun and even packs (although not the straps so much), but the other kit - grenades, scabbards, canteens...yawn. It's probably not surprising my favorite figures to paint are the Marx and Airfix WWII Russians, as they have almost no kit to speak of.

Not painting the bits and bobs isn't an option however, unless it's a "paint conversion". My OCD, perhaps not as intense as in others, is still noticeable. Not painting at all is an option but that ship has mostly sailed.

On the gaming front, counting everything together including some homebrew playtesting, I've played some 27 games or so.

Battle for Moscow. I really need to clip these counters.

I have managed at least one hex-and-counter game per month (Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kit  (ASLSK) #1 and Battle for Moscow). I really appreciate the all-in-one nature of the board games. I don't need to paint anything or build terrain or even provide dice in some cases. Scenarios are always ready to go. Everything is in the box or ziplock package. The rules can require some serious study (ASLSK I'm looking at  you) but that's not true of every game and certainly isn't unique to board games.  The more I can make setting up and playing miniatures like setting up a board game the better, I think (I have ideas about this) .

Speaking of figure games, I haven't put one on the table in April yet, but that will be rectified shortly. I have played quite a few this year with a variety of rules including my own homebrew (WW2 and Late 19th C.), One Hour Wargames, One Hour Skirmish Wargames, Disposable Heroes / Coffin for Seven Brothers, Panzer Kids, and Crossfire.

A play test gladiator match using a D&D tile box as the arena.

I even managed to play an aerial game which was just a pie-in-the-sky idea (no pun intended) back in January. Since then, I've doubled the size of my plane collection (from two to four!), but have yet to get them back out. Too many options, not enough time.

There's still plenty of time though until the halfway point of 2021 and my plans remain basically the same:

  • Play 1 figure game per month.
  • Play 1 hex-and-counter board game per month 
    • May's entry will be a replay of Burning Mountains, which will require 7+ hours of gaming time.
  • Finish painting the first WWI Austrians.

Outside of gaming, I received my first Pfizer vaccine jab, and I'm going next week for the second. I don't game in person with others, so it really doesn't relate to gaming but still, kind of important.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Austrian Progress

Fifteen minutes here, fifteen minutes there and the troops are coming along. Straps are kind of sloppy because I haven't cut them in yet.

I need to dig through my selection of brown paints to see if I have anything resembling Isonzo-braun for the helmets. 

With any luck, I will finish these the painting this weekend.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Another Panzer Kids Deluxe Eastern Front Edition

Tuesday night, my son and I held another game of Panzer Kids Deluxe. This time I set it somewhere on the Eastern Front in winter.

 The Soviets had three T-34/76 tanks, while the Germans had a Tiger I and two PAK-40 anti-tank guns.

The mostly immobile Germans were no match for the speedy Soviet tanks, who also rolled better when it came to shooting.



 


 

At the cost of one tank, the Soviets captured the village.

This one wasn't a nail biter by any means -  the forces were mostly balanced cost-wise, but the lack of mobility and low defensive values for the PAKs was too much of a difference.  I should have given the Germans just one PAK and a PzIV. Still we had a fun time - plenty of sound effect making and dice rolling hi-jinx, and we can't wait to play again.

It was also nice to try out the winter table. The ground cloth is a military surplus poncho I acquired for performing at noise shows - it's far too hot to wear under lights on a stage, but it does make a decent winter landscape I think.



Monday, March 29, 2021

Crossfire 2x2 : The River

I had another go at Crossfire this weekend. This time, I fielded a scenario that gave me fits when played with my own rules - The River. It works much better using Crossfire! As a note, my table is 3x3, because the bases are 2" x 2", which is slightly larger than standard.

Pictured below is the second game - the first wasn't supposed to happen, I was just setting up the table late Saturday night, in advance of Sunday's game, and thought, "Well, maybe I'll just move some stands around for fun." Before you knew it, I had played an entire game.

 The Germans got off to a poor start - no smoke landed and their recon by fire failed.

So the Soviets popped up with their MG and started firing. Fortunately for the Germans they were mostly ineffective.

After several short initiatives of failed smoke arrival, the Germans managed to land some which allowed the river crossing to begin. That brought the Soviets in the bunker into the action.

The German engineers walked right into the minefield and started clearing it. Fortunately the Soviets in the bunker were incompetent.

I didn't feel like getting out the cotton batting to set up the smoke so I used these "markers" I created years ago. I think they fit the look of my table.

With the mines cleared, and with some help from their 50mm mortar landing smoke,the Germans were waded their infantry into the river.

 

 The Soviet mortars gave the attackers some trouble when the smoke cleared

But using the woods as cover, the Germans were able to storm the building. Fierce close combat followed. In the end, the defenders were wiped out to a man: heroes of the Motherland, all.

I used the Bogged Down markers to indicate "no fire".

The Soviet FOO and mortar turned their attention to bombarding the formerly-held building.

While the Germans launched an attack on the bunker, supported by their mortars.

Having cleared that obstacle, they moved on to capture the Soviet FOO and wipe out the Soviet mortar in close combat.

End of the game,the Germans held the objective and the Soviets were completely eliminated.

As a solo game, Crossfire, like most games, works well- although the hidden units in these scenarios takes a little effort to setup in a satisfying way. I think the hardest part about solo play with Crossfire is the need to always be aware of when the inactive side has an opportunity for reactive fire. Unlike some games, where a missed opportunity for reactive fire isn't the end of the world, in Crossfire it's the difference between stealing the initiative and not getting a chance to be the active side.

The solo player is forced to dedicate some brain power to examining every action from the perspective of both sides. It's not insurmountable, and I find the mental involvement enjoyable, but I can imagine some solo players would find it less so.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Austrians Begin to Muster

There's not much to see yet, but the painting process is underway for my Armies in Plastic WW1 Austrians (which are just their late war Germans in a different color plastic). 

The coal scuttle helmet was introduced on the Southern Front in 1916. If I recall correctly, the sturmtruppen used it first, but it soon spread to the entire army. Because all of the figures wear coal scuttle helmets, equipment and poses will distinguish the stormtroopers from the regular infantry.

 

Only two of them rock a mustache. I find this shocking.

I tried something different this time: using a candle to heat a pin, which was mounted in a hobby knife handle, to remove mold lines. Honestly, I'm not sure it's worth the effort or if it is any better result than my usual hack job with a knife. 

Figures were then primed with black gesso. On top of that went a coat of Delta Ceramcoat Hippo Grey because the uniforms will be Vallejo 905 (for grey) or 943 (for the early war blue) and I didn't want to use a lot of paint to cover the black.

I'm also trying something different with the painting this time - normally my process is sort of two steps forward, one step back, with lots of touch-ups on previously painted bits. Hopefully, spending a little more time on each individual step on caution will result in less time spent overall.

For basing, they will be based in pair on a 2" x 2" square -same as my WWII Eastern Front collection. 

This will suit Trench Hammer where the bases are "sections" or "patrols". The bases can be combined to form larger units - two bases for a company or battalion for example, for The Portable Wargame or Neil Thomas's One Hour Wargames machine-age rules, or rules of my own devising. Finally four bases together can form a battalion for Field of Battle WWI.


Saturday, March 20, 2021

Battle for Moscow

Saturday, while my son was engaged in video game pizza making (I kid you not), I managed to get in two plays of Battle for Moscow.  If you're unfamiliar with it, it's a game ostensibly based on the 1941 German drive to capture Moscow. More than a history lesson, it's intended introduce people to hex and counter wargaming (perhaps I should have started here myself!). 

I first came across it in the wilds of the internet years ago when I was just getting into wargaming, albeit with miniatures. You can view the components or even download the entire game, legally from Grognard.com.

I'm not a fan of printing my own counters - they never feel right to me - so, I've been on the look out for a copy of the game ever since. When I happened to find a copy for $5 at the 2020 Atlanta Military Figure Society Show (one of the last things I did pre-COVID-19 lockdowns but of course, I didn't get around to playing it until January 2021.), I scooped it up.

It's a simple game, no doubt about it. 

Still, it introduces the basics like turn sequences, moving and terrain effects, zones of control, combat and a result table with the requisite odds calculations, step reduction, lines of communication, etc. It has no particular solo mechanisms but as it's an attack-defend scenario, it works well for solitaire play.

Initial setup locations are printed on the map. All of the Russian units, save one, are the same, so their setup doesn't matter. The Germans have more options and it does matter.

A later turn illustrating the step-wise reduction of unit strength.

I rather like it as a way to get in a quick game when I have time, but not time enough for anything involved. It has a minimal number of pieces, it's quick to setup, and the rules are quite short. Even O.G.R.E. Pocket Edition feels more complex!

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Scenes from Some Crossfire Games

I finally tried Crossfire - using the 2x2 Small Crossfire scenario "The Farm" - and I have to say, I wish I hadn't taken so long to try it!

Due to the small scenario size, I was able to play three times, over a total of two hours. The first game was very much a nose in the book game. The second and third were decidedly less so. The rules are not complex, but some things will trip you up if you fall back to your default interpretation of concepts such as "group move". 

In Crossfire, initiative is held until lost or given away (unlike most games), so, maintaining the initiative is crucial to getting things done. As a result, the player has to think ahead a little, as well as weigh the likelihood of success and failure of a given action. This is fun and involving decision making, rather than tedious and off-putting.

Movement is from terrain feature to terrain feature, no rulers required. As someone who prefers grid-based gaming for that reason (among others), this appeals to me, but it does mean you need a lot of terrain. That's something my toy-soldiery tables tend to lack, but fortunately the small scenarios are manageable with fairly minimal terrain. That said, I still need to make more.

The images below are from all three games, I think. The Germans (attacker) won two of the three. In the second game, the Germans rushed the farmhouse before they knew what was inside. It was the Soviet MG - who had a field day mowing down the enemy. HE fire made the victories possible in both cases by suppressing the farmhouse occupants.

Smoke screen size varies according to the source.

Engineers lead the way.

The farmhouse - the enemy within was always randomly determined. And was the MG in all cases.

Close combat in Crossfire is brutal and it's possible for an outnumbered side to win. Not this time.

While the objective was the farmhouse there were other elements on the table. In this case, the Germans managed to capture the Soviet FOO and engage the support squads who could have contested German control of the farmhouse. It was not to be.

There is the need for status markers - which, while not my favorite thing, is just something I've learned to accept. The rules are also kind of expensive(around $28 USD) if you just look at the production values - a reprint from a scan (these rules are old). However, the contents are well worth it.

In the US, they're available from On Military Matters (I order from them at least once a year - great service) and Caliver Books in the UK (I've only ordered from them one, but also great service) .