Sunday, November 20, 2011

ReCon - Nov. 19

The Minnesota Miniature Gaming Association holds a quarterly one day con at the VFW post in Coon Rapids, MN.  Yesterday I went to renew old friendships (now living in WI) and play some games.  The attendance was one of the higher gatherings in my memory with a nice variety of games to be had.  Here the St. Paul Irregulars get started with Impetus round robin play. 

 Some games are scheduled and many are just "show up and play" types.  I saw a Fields of Glory tournament, Sci Fi action, Wings of War, WWII micro armor, zombies, etc., plus the games I played in and ran.

First up for me was the Battle of la Belle Famille in 1759 using a play-test version of Wilderness Wars.  Todd Powell was the always capable referee and he modified his scenario to accommodated the unexpectedly high player interest.  Lovely figures did battle in an attempt to relieve Fort Niagara from the British siege.  Results were remarkably historical and tragic for the French.  The revisions were an improvement over past games but the troops are still very fragile and difficult to have charge, even from behind.

Next up I ran an introductory game of Naval Thunder: Bitter Enemies.  The premise of the game was that the French sortied rather than be shelled to oblivion by the British at Mers-el-Kebir in 1940.  We didn't use any optional rules and I did not allow the French to fire till fired upon.  Although I let them reply to fire it allowed the British to set the engagement range.  The French had the two old battleships Bretange and Provence leading the two modern battlecruisers Dunkerque and Strasbourg  along the coast, with six destroyers on the outside.  The British had the Hood, Valiant, and Resolution along  with the light cruiser Arethusa and five destroyers.  I decided the Enterprise and other destroyers would be off table with the Ark Royal.

Of the six players, two were playing their third game, another owned the rules, and the rest were new to it.  However, within a couple of turns they were reminding me of modifiers and such.  I had a short easel with an enlarged reference chart and I strongly encourage others to make the effort.  They greatly speed up an understanding and grasp of the game mechanics IMHO.

So I told the players about criticals and noted that in all the games I've played, I've never seen a magazine explosion.  "Admiral Sommerville" told me his plan, we made a double move and the British opened fire.  Not much happened.  One 15" hit on the Bretange from the Valiant that penetrated, and of course.....

Abruptly the game changed drastically with the capital ship odds even and the French pinned against the coast.  I allowed the Dunkerque to catapult off a prepared seaplane (felt like they were going to need a boost) as the French destroyers and destroyer leaders began to make smoke.  Now I had warned the players repeatedly about the low survivability of destroyers in the game and they would quickly see how fragile they are.

The British had the Valiant, Resolution and Hood in line approaching the French on a diagonal intercept course.  The Arethusa trailed the destroyers and the British placed great hope on her eliminating the big French DLs. 

The French started laying smoke right away which served to disrupt the British firing to some degree.  However, they shifted to eliminating the source of the smoke and were quickly effective.  However, next blood went to the French as the Arethusa was hit by a lucky 13" salvo and sank on turn three. 

The spotter plane helped the Dunkerque for a time, but then was shot down by AA.  After four turns of firing the French were down a battleship and two destroyers, the British a light cruiser and two destroyers.  Recognizing the limited life expectancy of the destroyers, both sides began torpedo runs on the opposing lines.  Few would make it to launch point.

The French got to launch first and put torpedoes into the Hood and Valiant.  Hood took serious damage and developed a list, but Valiant's submerged armor absorbed half the damage.  Strasbourg, as these French ships are prone to have happen, lost half her main guns with a single main gun critical.  These French 13" guns are great weapons but the two turret arrangement has serious drawbacks.

Next the British got in torpedo attacks and did serious harm to Dunkerque.  Strasbourg continued to take critical engine room hits and slowed to a crawl.  Hood had a rudder hit that coupled with the list that wouldn't go away was slowing and compromising her effectiveness.

In the distance 12 biplanes appeared which manifested themselves at swordfish torpedo bombers from the Ark Royal.  As the guns continued to roar they split to have six each attach the Strasbourg and Dunkerque.  The latter managed to drop one of the bombers but they bored in and four fish found homes.  This same turn Valiant succumbed to flooding and fire.  As we quite, the Dunkerque was a mission kill and would never fight again.  Provence, who just chugged along at her slow speed would escape along with one destroyer.  Hood and Resolution, who had been slowed to less than the French, would limp home for the grisly report.  No other British ships survived.  A British victory but the French could be consoled by doing much better than historically thanks to being at sea.

The weather was closing in so after an enjoyable meal with our friends we headed for Appleton and home.  Arriving safely at 1:00AM, weary but well pleased with a good day.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Autumn in Litharus

As the first snowfalls occur, Litharus can look back on the year with some satisfaction.  The rule of Grand Duke Orzepovski has been relative benign and the harvest was good.  Only recently the people gathered to celebrate the autumnal equinox and harvest festival, Dozinkyoi with the traditional burning of a wood and straw structure throughout the land.

For now the people feast on the diet of bread, potatoes, cabbage, pork and mushrooms.  War and the disastrous attempt on the East Prussian city of Colburg are largely forgotten and few know of the major efforts of the diplomatic corps lead by Count Lippe.  Many invaders have crossed the borders over the centuries.  Swedes, Poles, Danes, Russians and Cossacks from the Ukraine; but for now Litharus stands independent.  Many centuries since the Teutonic Knights were invited in to help repel invaders.  What a mistake that was!

No, the common people go about their business, unaware of the pending storm of war.  Unaware that in St. Stanislaus Cathedral in Vilnius the faithful among the nobles and military gather to pray for wisdom and strength.  A winter campaign beckons and the grand old man of the army, General Gruboaboyshichow signs documents mobilizing the army, enlisting the fishing fleet at Klaipeda for transport.  But where to best deploy them?  Perhaps here.....

Monday, November 14, 2011

In the Ukraine, 1943

The gang gathered Sunday for some Flames of War, set in Russia, mid-war.  We decided from the terrain rolls that it must be in the Ukraine because so little was generated.  The Germans were attacking the Soviets, points somewhere over 2000 per side.  Being a "good" German facing the Godless Communists (just rhetoric fellows) I know that we had a panzer company with seven MkIV tanks, five StuGIIIg and five MkIIIj, with a company of panzer grenadiers, four tubes of 8cm mortars and four tubes of 12 cm mortars, all rated Confident/Veteran.  The Soviets had a pair of KV1 tanks, six T-70 light tanks and something like five T-34s.  Masses of infantry supported them along with six 45mm ATGs, four Katyushas and six tubes of 12 cm mortars.  Neither side could start the game dug in nor gone to ground.  The Germans had to spend the first turn setting up mortars.

Soviet starting, end run facing you

German start, infantry and mortars
behind a railway embankment
Turn one the Germans advanced their armor all or nearly all of their move.  Only the main guns could reach the infantry though to our shock and the Soviet dismay, one KV1 was killed and the other forced to bail.  A few stands of Soviet infantry were eliminated while the mortar crews rushed to get set up.  The Soviet turn saw them engage their anti-tank guns, advance the T-34s and begin an end run on the Soviet left by the T-70s.  (Don't worry about the model on the table, we "knew" what they were.)  One Panzer was brewed up.  The Soviet infantry all tried to dig in and most succeeded with their Confident/Trained rating.

Soviet right, German left

Turn two the other KV was finished and a major engagement began between the German Mk IVs and StuGs versus the T-34s.  In short order three of the T-34s were burning and the other two decided to bug out.  The German mortars started counter battery fire with no initial success.  On the German right the MkIIIj tanks advanced to chew up some infantry that hadn't been able to dig in yet.  On the Soviet half of the turn they started to execute damaging fire against the German panzer grenadiers by heavy machine gun fire.  Rockets and mortars rained down on the Nazis as well.  The remnants of the scout platoon dug in. 

Burning StuG

Turn three the MkIII group pulled back out of range, anticipating the T-70s coming through a narrow gap on their turn.  It was hoped to get the drop on the larger Soviet force next turn.  With no other Soviet tanks the Germans concentrated on eliminating the enemy anti-tank guns and two of the Katyushas and mortars.  In return the Soviets killed more infantry, making it a tank vs. dug in infantry game for most of the table.  As expected the T-70s showed themselves but were out of range.  Mortar fire rattled the interior of the MkIII tanks but didn't go more... yet. 

End run starts to round the turn while infantry waits dug in marshes and woods

Turn four the German Mk IIIs raced in to engage the T-70s, fully expecting to kill two or three of them.  Alas, their armor was better than expected and the 50mm German gun less so.  They managed to force a bail out.  In their "Stormtrooper" move the tanks pulled back.  Elsewhere, facing dug in infantry the Germans stopped to shoot and shoot and shoot and mortar the Soviets.  The Soviets retaliated by advancing and killing one of the Mk IIIs with the T-70s and another with mortar fire.  Suddenly all that stood in the way of the T-70s and their objective was three Panzer Mk IIIj and a dug in platoon of panzer grenadiers.

Bad odds

Turn five the fire against the main Soviet line was getting their company close to half strength.  The Mk IIIs held their ground and forced a bailout of a T-70.  The first bailout never did regain their tank.  The remaining two bravely/foolishly continued the advance but missed.  The Soviet rockets were eliminated this turn.  Looking very bad for Uncle Joe's troops.

Situation before the Germans fire

Turn six the T-70s were hit again and failed their morale test, with the remaining crews abandoning their tanks.  The company facing the German left hit the half-strength level, took their morale test, failed it, shot their commissar and routed away.  Nothing was standing between the Panzers and their objective now except a few Cossacks.  The remaining Soviet infantry could only wonder their fate.  On the Soviet half another MkIII bought the farm and the resulting morale test meant a pick up, but the issue was decided.

"Tovarich, sword not good against armor..."

Even though we started very late due to figuring the Soviet points, we were still done on schedule.  Thanks to everyone who brought toys, yummy snacks and a positive attitude.  It's just Flames of War after all.  :-)
Last scene with remnant of German infantry cowering

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Garrison Regiment to Muster

With word circulating of a pending winter campaign by Gallia against Hesse-Seewald, Grand Duke Orzepovski of Litharus has authorized the raising of two Garrison regiments to ensure domestic security should the main army march off again.  The first two companies of the slightly smaller than normal battalions completed their muster and paraded for the Grand Duke today.

Each battalion will have six grenadiers and 48 musketeers.  It is expected that they will not be expected to serve beyond the borders of Litharus though the requirements of the State may supersede that.

Here the Grand Duke (center) looks on as the new soldiers receive salutes from civilian dignitaries.

Figures are Wargames Factory WSS musketeers in 28mm.  Uniforms are based on those illustrated in the Funcken Lace Wars book as the Semenowski Regiment.  Since they aren't intended to be front-line troops, it seemed reasonable for them to wear an older style uniform.  Two 54 man battalions are planned at this time.  The Grand Duke has not yet decided whether they should have the honor of carrying standards. 

I did not expect the multi-pose figures to be an issue assembling for this old-time modeler, but I did find them more "fiddly" than expected.  When I switched from Super Glue to plastic modeling glue (duh!) it went much smoother.