Friday, March 23, 2012

The First, First Alamein

January, 1941.  In the far distance, the lure of Alexandria.  Standing in the way of the invader is the battered remnants of 7th Armoured, 4th Indian Division and the scrapings of an army.  Seeking passage is the typically victorious Italian Army.  "What's that?" you say?  As part of a loosely structured campaign the Italians have not only NOT been run back to Tunisia, but are contemplating final victory in Egypt.  When I say loosely structured I mean by that the results of a tabletop battle are considered and each side given options.  They make their decisions and in this case, the Commonwealth troops decided to make a stand along the ridge at el Alamein.  The Italians could opt to assault the hastily prepared position at slightly better than 1:1 odds or wait for the first division of the Afrika Korps to come up in a month.  During that time the 6th Australian division would be coming onto line for the Allies.  It seemed like too good an opportunity to pass, so with 8000 points vs. 5900 points for the Allies, the Italians attacked.

Rules used are Blitzkrieg Commander II (BKCII), with 15mm figures and centimeter distances increased by 50%, plus some other house rules.  O.B.s were generated using the online "Battlegroup" resource.  Players were nine in number and the game was played to a conclusion in spite of the large numbers in five hours which included a lunch break.  BKCII is an "IGO-UGO" game where your activity is determined by successfully rolling your command rating or less.  Multiple attempts lower your chance each turn.  Unlike Black Powder where you only roll once, in BKCII you roll for each activity w/o knowing whether there will be a second.  Under certain conditions if you fail your activation roll you have some options.

I'll let the pictures speak for themselves with only minimal comments till the end.  The table is 12x6' with back tables for both sides that ARE in play.  Click the pictures to enlarge.

Italian left

Italian right

Italian center.  Where is the enemy?

Air strike!  And successful too.

The right advances, seeking the enemy.

The left rushes forward, with only observers in front of them.

Recon probes the center.
The right continues... enemy sighted!

The sees mostly dust from light tanks driving back and forth.

A large engagement begins on the right.

Results.  Dice represent hits, reversed models are suppressed.

The center finally starts moving.  What is waiting for us?

Closing on the thinly manned trenches.  What does the dust cover?

Italian infantry over-running the center.

More air support, and annoyingly effective too!

But we roll on.  There seems little to oppose us.

Combined arms take out an emplaced anti-tank gun

The right is a shambles, but their sacrifice will guarantee victory.
And then it all fell apart.  The right-hand battlegroup failed their break-point test and headed for the rear.  In the center suppression kept the infantry heads down.  On the left the opposing British had already passed one break-point test and we would push them even harder in this turn.  But nothing happened.  Ennui seized the Italians (multiple command failures) and the dust settled to reveal a line of cruiser tanks in gun emplacements.  One, two, three rounds of shooting later and the Italian tank force was no more.  Of our 2000 point loss for the day around 900 occurred in that one turn.  No photos were taken to record the horror and scope of the disaster.  Time to throw in the towel and wait for the DAK.  We made some important mistakes with the rules, but that is to be expected since no one regularly plays BKCII except for these campaign games.

I think most everyone felt the Italians, against all expectations, were going to carry the day.  It seemed like nothing could stop the armored juggernaut rolling towards Alexandria.  But.... that's why we use dice.  And for the second week in a row I am left to conclude that God really is an Englishman.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A notable Spanish victory

So after gaming the grand tactical we shift to the micro tactical.  20+ years ago I wrote "Tirailleurs en Grande Bandes" for skirmish level Napoleonics.  Something to use my original  and much beloved Airfix figures with.  Now it is still a work in progress, but makes it for a dramatic and bloody game.  Hope you enjoy our see-saw affair from yesterday.
French and their plunder, I mean baggage on the move.
Long view of the table.  Spanish guerrillas lurk in the distant woods.

Each side had four infantry units ranging from 18-30 figures and one medium gun apiece.  The French were burdened with three wagons or coaches to exit off the table.  All the British and Spanish had to do was wait.

Redcoats and Spanish lights block the road.
95th Rifles in line look to flank the French in time.

Each unit had two cards in the deck assigned to them with possible actions on a card being; fire, reload, stand up, charge, etc.  The deck contained two jokers as well.  The first jokers would allow a free action to be assigned by the commander in chief to any unit depending on whether the card was French or Allied.  The second joker went to the other side.  This often had a critical effect in the game.

The effects of rifle fire, even on skirmishers.
Guerrillas emerge from the woods to attack.
French push on as their gun deploys behind the skirmishers.
French grenadiers engaged the guerrillas and though outnumbered quickly had their way with the ill-armed if surprisingly motivated Spanish.  In the center the rifles continued to decimate the French and it was clearly going to take some serious action to get the wagons through.  Cannons employed a "bounce stick" as shown in Charles Grant's "The Wargame."  Although they had several chances during the day, they only took out one man.
The French goal is in the upper left corner.
A trophy perhaps?!  The gun is eliminated.
Impacting the British in close order.

It seemed that despite the horrendous casualties to the Rifles, that by leaving the road the wagons might escape.  The British gun was neutralized and although a rump of survivors rallied, the redcoats were gone too.  Then came the Spanish to the rescue.

Rifles advance, Harper survives a cannon shot.
Rightly judging the French were getting away, the Spanish charge!
After a melee.  Red pipe cleaners indicated wounded men.
The Spanish over-run the French skirmishers, even defending higher ground.  They drag the teamsters from two of the wagons and rejoice!  The third wagon escaping seemed to matter little.  Vive el Rey!
The Spanish strike the ill-prepared French.
Over-run!  Wiped out!  Captured!
The French grenadiers and some few surviving French attempt to retake the wagons as the Rifles slowly advance.  Although the grenadiers, most of them carrying wounds with them, manage to drive off the Spanish they in turn are forced to retire (run). 

Grenadiers hit the Spanish lights while others advance.
This left the virtually unscathed Rifles to hold the field (the French gun made off the way it came) and probably write that they won the day.  But it was a Spanish victory!  At least in this Frenchman's opinion.  A most dramatic action with the advantage see-sawing back and forth.  In the end it seems God is an Englishman because the cards came up exactly as the Allies needed.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

New stuff!

For a change of pace I thought I'd show off some newly painted toys.  There is a big North Africa game pending where the Italians, all by themselves, are one victory away from Alexandria!  Il Duce shouldn't book his plane tickets yet though, as the Australians have arrived.

Anyway, here is a trio of Battlefront M13/40 tanks.  I was pleased with the finished product and especially the ease with which they painted up.  Click to enlarge the pictures.

First I primed them in Rust-Oleum American Accents "Soft Wheat."  Then I painted the treads, always a tough call for me what coloration to use, and then I applied the (in)famous dip.  A mix of Future Floor Wax and Duncan Decorator Acrylics paints "Espresso."  I don't concern myself with a mix ratio, I just go until I get the consistency and color I want.  Liberally applied with a cheap and disposable brush, about the only thing I did was to brush over collection points repeatedly as it dried so as not to get big brown blotches.  Decals were applied to the turrets before dipping.  Durable and rugged looking.  I don't dip a lot of my stuff, but WWII items seem to lend themselves to it.

Next up some SYW Austrian guns and gunners.  The gunners are 15mm Essex and the guns, IIRC are Battle Honours.  The guns are actually Napoleonic era but since I don't have Austrian Napoleonics anymore, they volunteered for duty.  These were primed black and have the paint layered on.  I don't strive for museum pieces, just ones that look good are arms reach.  These will supplement my modest (for the time being) collection of Austro-Hungarian infantry and cavalry.

Last up some WWII era ships.  The ships themselves are fairly unremarkable.  Panzerschiffe models painted according to what information I could find, but the bases are a new touch for me.  After gluing the model to the base I took a glob of SidingPro Acrylic Sealant (comes in colors) and with a toothpick applied the crests and waves.  Just get some on the toothpick and dab the length of the toothpick onto the base, rather than the tip.  The dabbing effect tends to leave a raised edge or crest to each wave.  I think paint them a blue appropriate to the theatre (I treat Mediterranean differently than North Sea) and then dry-brush highlights with Delta Ceramcoat Light Ivory.  I've been pleased with the effect, hopefully you will be too.
Fubuki class destroyers.

Japanese light cruiser.

WWI Austro-Hungarian dreadnought.

Good night and good painting.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Empire Wreckers

Marechal Oudinot snapped shut his telescope.  "Who the hell are those?  I thought we were fighting Wellington, not Bagration?"  "Oui, mon Marechal, Russians.  And we seem to have fast-forwarded three years."

So five valiant players gathered for Empire today, to give new troops some table time and introduce a player to the system.  It was supposed to be six, with the missing player bringing the British and Portuguese to support my modest collection, but a no show and no call meant we had to quickly adapt.  We lost about an hour setting up as we found the necessary Russians to give the French a run, but did play. 

Russian left looking toward the center.

Great-great-great grandson of General Toddovitch ponders.

Into the fight!

In total there were 42 French battalions of 12-16 figures with five cavalry in support and numerous batteries.  Facing them was the 2nd Army of the West with 48 battalions of 8 figures each with nine cavalry regiments and the inevitable cloud of Cossacks.  144 ill-crewed guns provided the Russians with a redoubt of iron.

To get "at it" we essentially started in engagement range.  It became a two-on-two game with me acting to expedite play.  The long and short of it is that the Russian cuirassiers on their left dominated the elite French division they were facing.  The "Terrible 57th" and 10th Legere failed to break through, they were mostly stymied on the Russian right though a serious threat was developing, and the French morale broke.  Despite legends to the contrary about Empire, the Russians had the first tactical initiative more often than not and occasionally even had three impulses.  We played an hourly round in a squeak over a real hour which is quite acceptable considering one totally new player and it being since last July that we last played Empire. 

I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

The French used a combination of le ordre mince and lines to maximize firepower.  The Russians awaited in regimental clumps behind their guns. 

French view of the Russian right-center.

A developing threat.

2nd time cuirassiers got to ride down a French line.

Nasty threat, but the division failed a determination test.

Despite my being a major-league grump for the last-second change in plans, it went well.  We have a new player painting Empire units and our stuff got some use after a long spell immersed in the SYW and WWII.  Till next time gents.