Saturday, July 30, 2011

EAA Airshow - Oshkosh, WI

I attended the EAA Fly-in for the first time Friday.  Being an aviation enthusiast I had always wanted to go but distance or timing had kept me away.  Now I live 25 miles up the interstate so no excuses could be made.  I got to see a great many classic warbirds up close, some for the first time.  Although the ticket price is somewhat high at $37USD for an adult, it is still first class entertainment as well as a chance to see a vanishing part of our collective history.  Various pictures and a film clip or two follow.  Hope you enjoy it as I did.

F7F Tigercat

Fw-190 "Butcher Bird"

Me and a P-40 Warhawk in Flying Tigers paint scheme

My favorite, the F4U-4 Corsair

F4F-4 Wildcat

The business end of a B-25H with a 75mm cannon

Yak-9D (I think)

The showcase machine, "Fifi" the only flying B-29

Harrier VTOL jet in still mode

A6M "Zeke" from the Commemorative Air Force

Fairy Swordfish torpedo bomber

Two old enemies go nose-to-nose

A fly-over by a mass of planes.

My beloved Corsair in action.  They used lots of ground charges.

The Harrier jet drifted into view and danced a little before flying off.

A huge crowd enjoyed the show and sights.  I think I'll go back next year with better shoes for all the walking and more time to spend.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Downed in Flames of War

Today seven of us gathered for a planned Flames of War game, hosted by Gnome Games East in Green Bay.  

The game was to be Russians vs. Germans in some sort of mid-war scenario.  The lists were made and we started play.  As far as I remember, the Soviets had five T-34s, a SPAA truck, six 47mm ATGs, 6 120mm mortars, a Katyushka truck, HMGs, recce, a cavalry element and maybe 100 stands of foot.  The Germans had six MkIVh panzers, four 75mm ATGs, five 81mm mortars, HMGs, three armored SPAA 20mm halftracks, and thirty-six panzergrenadier or falschirmjager stands not counting command.  Totals were around 2200 points per side.

Things began to unravel at once.  For the third game in a third tries the Russians were massacred.  I'm not sure there were ANY Soviet stands around at the end.  German losses were triffling.  One ATG, maybe eight or nine infantry stands.  Now tactics could have been better for the Soviets; four of five Soviet tanks were killed by the end of the second turn but I'm really beginning to wonder if something is broken in the game system.  If this was just a one off game I could rationalize it, but three?

Is it the point system?  The fact that it's always veteran Germans vs. conscript Soviets?  Or are we doing something wrong?  I'm not a big fan of the game in the first place, having some goofy shortcuts or Hollywood mechanisms, but this is the game in the Fox Valley and it needs to work.  I frankly enjoyed putting together my force off the points list more than slaughtering the Soviets.

I'd welcome suggestions or ideas.  We want to make it work.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Battle of Hervir Enconada Part II - Empire Napoleonics

As the battle re-commenced with the second tactical impulse of the hour, a clear shift in fortunes began to be felt.  Although the French had run off several British and Portuguese battalions and temporarily captured some guns, their troops were badly shot up and now facing fresh battalions.  Click to enlarge photos.

The French have broken through.  The second line must attempt to maneuver while caught in column.  The artillerists await their chance to re-man the guns.

A French assault on the left retires while routing

British left center stabilized, some guns re-manned

Desperate action as the French try both close action and firepower

As both sides drew a deep breath before continuing, a hesitancy ran through the ranks of Claparede's division to right-center.  Formations became ragged, ammunition was not brought forward and confusion reigned supreme.  [Empire translation: during the ME Determination phase the division fell into disorder.]

Disordered and hurt, an unkind cut

Disordered batteries, incapable of fire

The guns re-manned and the ridge re-occupied

1/48th and 1/57th finally win their duel with the "Terrible 57th" thanks to a large degree to the disorder result

The Portuguese hold firm in the center

The Westphalians attempt on Hamilton's Portuguese falls short

The French cavalry hastily redeploys over the new pontoon bridge

The hammering continues but progress is minimal
And then disaster struck to finish the battle.  Claparede's division, which had been disordered the previous hourly round had suffered even more.  Slowly at first, then steadily the men began to fall back.  Then picking up speed, tossing aside weapons and weight.  In a twinkling the whole remaining division routed.  [Empire translation: the maneuver element failed their "Determination Test" as badly as possible.]  Before checking to see the effect on other elements the French conceded the game.  No application of cavalry would make a difference now.

It was a difficult day for the French.  They tried close action and after some initial success, lost.  They tried to shoot it out and lost.  Despite an excellent force and the heroics of the Westphalians who repeatedly assaulted the Portuguese only to fail to close for push of bayonet, the French did not succeed.  In retrospect, poor placement of artillery and failure to use their inspirational leaders led to the Allies having a tactical advantage in most places.  Two of the French players were totally new to Empire and relatively new to horse and musket gaming, so it was a learning experience.  In Empire terms the British held the tactical initiative every hourly round, which is an unexpected result.  Honors to all, awaiting the next encounter.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Battle of Hervir Enconada Part I - Empire Napoleonics

Six brave players gathered to play Empire (V) at the specific request of the three total newbies to the period and rules.  Two experienced and one new player controlled the British and Portuguese while one experienced and two new players took the French and Westphalians.  (Yes, I know they didn't fight at corps strength in the Peninsula but it's a fantasy game anyway.)

My idea of introducing new players to the game is to have each player control a division with no cavalry or "grand tactical" movement, just get to the playing.  As usual though that went by the wayside as we had the French show up with such an army as to go table edge to table edge.  They didn't even have room for the 200 cavalry!

Anyway, after many delays because of schedules or miscommunication, we started the action.  Here are the initial looks at the table.  Clicking the images enlarge them.

The French and Westphalians (foreground) are ready to step off.  The Portuguese (foreground) and British (stretching off camera) await in quiet ranks.  The table is 9x6' so about 30" separate the two armies.

The Westphalians approach the Portuguese on the right.

On the French left they reach engagement range.
Mixed Order is the French tactic of the day.
Action is fierce and quick.  The French wasted little time attempting to bring mass into play during close action attempts.

Daunting numbers make a French victory look inevitable.

Here some Spanish guerrillas slow the renowned "Terrible 57th."  They fell back in good order after the first charge.
A break through as broken Brits stream back, guns overrun.

Fortunately for the Allies, the French artillery was largely ineffective at first.  Only later did they begin to exact a toll among the defenders.  A see-saw battle began with the French bravely charging again and again, the defenders knocking many down and grudgingly yielding ground.

Allies in depth with room between lines for force-backs.
The "Ogre" looks on, indifferent to the losses.
 It seemed like the first French rush was running out of steam.  Although losses had been hard among the out-numbered allies, the counter-attacks were breaking many of the exhausted French.  The allied second line had been committed, now it was the time for the French second.  And always, off table, awaited French cavalry reserve.

Some French recoil, but others sit on captured guns.

The guerrillas are gone, but two battalions in line await the 57th now.
Desperate hammer and tongs fighting on the French left.

 With the new players needing a lot of coaching and runs through the charts the game started slowly.  We will continue it this coming Wednesday.  It is also way too large a game for an introduction to Empire so I should have exerted more control as the host.  Yet, excitement runs high as the result is poised on the proverbial knife edge.  A final report will follow.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Painting joys

In my wasted youth I can remember painting a 54 figure battalion of 15mm Austrians in one evening by the expediency of a spray can of white paint.  Then I became wise and sophisticated in my painting techniques and forgot about it.  Now it has come around again.

Of late I've been painting a large number of 15mm WWII figures and vehicles.  I had noticed at my local game shop a large spray can of paint advertised as the exact color for this or that.  A great idea I thought, but being of a "frugal" nature I balked at the 15USD price-tag.  So I went to my local craft store, Hobby Lobby and found RUST-OLEUM American Accents.  I first tried a can of khaki color which they called "Soft Wheat."  I found that it covered naked lead/pewter very well and most importantly, with a dark brown ink wash could be darker and with detail that jumped out at you.  For 5USD and the same sized can, it was much more to my liking.  Today I got a can of "Oregano" paint and tried it on vehicles.  It makes a wonderful olive drab and with some high lighting after the ink wash will look dandy.

While there is nothing wrong with buying products specifically intended for the hobby, and supporting your local game shop is ALWAYS a good idea, it is still worth looking for materials in less obvious places.  Having gotten to the point where I am highly satisfied with my inks, this will speed up the process immensely.  Now I wonder if they make a French Napoleonic blue?

PS. I can't post pictures at this time as my camera has self-destructed, but I will try to in another post, another time.

Diving Eagles in Russia - FoW

A Flames of War 1800 point game recently attempted in my basement by four players.  The Soviets deployed first with a reserve off table.  Germans were fearless/veteran and the Soviets fearless/conscript.  A click or two on the pictures will enlarge them.

The (Hovels) village was the objective for the para/glider attack by the Germans.  The Soviets deployed first and then the Germans picked their drop points.  Six mortar stands in the middle with six anti-tank guns in the lower left.  A mass of infantry on the opposite side.

A company of Soviets was marching towards the village and were surprised when a stick of Germans dropped nearby.  The rest of the Germans landed off camera to the left.

Here is the German main force and their arms canisters after the drift and landing.  One squad landed off table and was lost for the game.  You may note that the canisters have not been cooperative and most lay in a open area swept by six Soviet anti-tank guns.

The opposite side of the village with a huge mass of Soviet naval and regular infantry.  I suppose the sight was too intimidating for the Germans, however easy to hit the conscripts might be.

The rules allow for an extra move for the paratroopers to make it possible for them to recover their weapons.  As they learned at Crete in 1941, fighting a modern battle armed with pistols is highly undesirable.  The race is on to get the 37mm anti-tank guns set up along with the 75mm recoilless rifles to neutralize the Soviet guns.

The German heavy machine guns grab the top of the high in the left foreground where they ply their trade with an observation team that lived a charmed life.  Ahead of them in dead ground is their opposite number, the Soviet Maxim machine guns.  Troops begin to emerge from the village to take up position next to the anti-tank guns who for now have only infantry to engage.

Luftwaffe!  The first of three appearances by the Luftwaffe in support of their paratroopers.  He survived the AA fire and eliminated three Soviet stands.

The German guns are in position and, along with glider borne mortars begin to exact a toll of the Soviet guns in the open.  The pace of the action was such that no one attempted to dig in all game on either side.

Uh-oh.  Turn five sees the arrival of five T-34s and the dreaded rocket battery.    This could be bad since the biggest anti-tank weapon the Germans have is their "door knocker" 37s.

But suddenly in turn six, like a flash from "Saving Private Ryan," the lead T-34 explodes!

Ach ja, ich verstehe.  This was the third and most timely appearance of the Luftwaffe in the game.

At this point I got too wrapped up in the game and forgot to take more pictures.  The game quickly reached a stalemate point where the Germans, who had lost too much precious infantry,  couldn't make any progress against the surviving Soviet infantry and tanks.  Although the mortars and aircraft pinned the Soviets repeatedly, their fearless nature and fear of their Commissars (who shot one stand that was falling back) kept them coming back for more.  The Luftwaffe was unlikely to reappear and little else was going to give the Germans the chance to break through.

A satisfactory game for the four players as we continue to learn the game and nuances.  At least, I still need to.  Another game is coming soon.