Monday, November 25, 2013

Tanksgiving 2013

On Saturday the 23rd we brought a tank battle, the likes of Prokharovka to Fire for Effect Games in Oshkosh, WI.  Six "regulars" and five new players put 18,000 Flames of War late-war forces on the table.  Dan Wideman and I had brought some extra companies of 1500 points each and all but two ended up in use.

The premise is simple.  All companies have to based on armor, only one infantry platoon per company, and such gun platoons as needed to round things out.  Special reserve and aircraft rules were in place.  In the end we learned the same hard lesson found at many the game table: never go against a little kid.  Especially not a cute little girl.  While Cheyenne was there rolling for her Dad she dominated the battlefield. 

We started with three German against four Allied companies (British and American).  As things became shot up or new players arrived we just added them in.  Last to arrive on table were Soviets and Americans as we learned how effective the new ISU-122 could be.  However, in the end the Germans won on objectives held and tank platoons destroyed.  A good time for the regulars and a fine introduction for the new-comers.  I heard something about "dropping buckets of money" now that they saw it was a fun and easy system.  Click to enlarge pictures.

But to the pictures:

Initial Allies dispositions from the north edge.

German side looking up from the south edge.

First blood!  Strangely enough from artillery.

The Allies did most of the early advancing.

Both sides risk bog rolls in the ruined village.  David Graffam buildings.

Really big Kats vs. really big rockets.

With predictable results.

The Cromwell company really begins to suffer.

But the Panther/MkIV mix is wrecked, so Tigers from reserve.

Newly arrived Churchills are greeted by the Luftwaffe.

With minimal effectiveness.

Now the Soviets arrive.  You get a lot of armor for 1500 points.

And Americans in the north.  Finishing off a panzer coy.

So we counter with Trained Panthers.

The battlefield is starting to look like a junkyard.  Several motivation failures occur.

Soviets advance using wrecks as cover.  A lone Panther opposes them.

A Jadgpanther company enters in the center to oppose the Soviets.

More splendid Kats burn.

But a run of good shooting halts the American advance.

One of the final views of the carnage.

And with the pictured crush of destruction it was clear the Allies weren't going to break the Germans and retake the lead in points or objectives.  Still, a most enjoyable time with enough wreckage to satisfy the biggest destructive urges.

Thanks to Teddy for hosting us at Fire for Effect.  Many of the new(er) players asked when we could come back.  That's the spirit!


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ring around a Nazgul...

As a radical departure from our normal stoic historic gaming the group undertook to pull out my old fantasy figures and try a Lord of the Rings scenario. 

Forces of Gondor, led by their future king Aragorn are coming to the relief of a detachment penned up in a tower, unable to light their signal fire to alert Rohan of their need.  Against them was a force Orcs (no matter what the figure looks like), accompanied by a few Warg riders (from another world).  At their head was a dread ringwraith.  So vile that his name was only whispered... Fred.

The forces of Good had twelve turns to get to the fire stack and light it.  Evil needed only deny them.

"Good" deploys and rushes to rescue the tower and start a fire.

Warg riders move through the woods.

Orc hordes pushed forward by Fred.

The prize is in sight.

Archers pick off some of the wolves.

Clashing across the front.
View from the other side.  The struggle intensifies.

Pikes push all but the numbers are beginning to tell.

Aragorn is surrounded and "transfixed" but survives!

Superior numbers are slowly winning over superior armor.

A lonely end for a warrior of Gondor.

Aragorn plunges in but can't beat the numbers.
At the end on the ground, there were but three Gondor warriors and a badly wounded Aragorn (2 of 3 hits taken).  The Nazgul was out of spells but lived(?) along with 2 Wargs and 11 Orcs. The archers in the tower were not allowed to sally forth.

A fun time given the years that have lapsed since last any of us played.  I suspect more games will be in the future.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Leipzig 1813-2013

It was my great honor and pleasure to journey to Germany with other Americans form up with our parent unit, the 21eme Regiment d'Infanterie de Ligne and participate in the 200th anniversary reenactment.  Attendance reports vary as always, but on the French side we counted six battalions of roughly 500 men each, plus numerous artillery, some artillery, and lots of gold lace.  Since we were outnumbered in every arm, I conclude that there were up to 8000 reenactors on the field.

Despite a day of rehearsing the battle, little went right.  But that is okay with me because it was an amazing experience.  I've been to Europe for five events now and have never seen such a spirit of unification and camaraderie.  As the fierce Prussian line charged into contact with fixed bayonets they pulled up the tips, pushed a little, and then began exchanging handshakes and even hugs with their erstwhile opponents.  To the estimated 40,000 spectators some distance away I'm sure it just looked like heavy hand-to-hand combat.

Below find and enjoy some pictures from the event.  Some taken by my wife, who portrays a vivandiere, others shared with me and a few gleaned from the Internet.  Now we wait for 2015 and Waterloo.

A portion of our battalion

Four pelotons in the battalion, this is #3 and 4
Me, a 58 year old sous-lieutenant
One of many overhead views
Wargamers view of squares

Meal time the day of battle

A portion of the huge diorama present

"grumble, grumble...."

Prussian artillery (BBC photo)

Prussian line (BBC photo)
Russian uhlans (BBC photo)
And finally a movie clip from the web.  My unit appears several times and gives a sense of the magnitude of the engagement.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Damn the Passaic, full speed ahead!

The three monitors and their accompanying wooden ships moved slowly against the current.  Drawn close together the captains reviewed their plan by megaphones.  "We'll move directly ahead then make a turn to port to skirt the worst of the Rebel shore batteries.  Get through and we'll reduce that Rebel hotbed to ashes before sunset."

Ahead they could see wisps of smoke rising from stacks as the defenders awaited their approach.  In line abreast were the Milwaukee, a double-turret monitor; the Passaic a fine modern monitor; and the Keokuk, which didn't really belong on such a mission.  A pair of Ellett rams, the Monarch and Mingo, along with 90-day gunboat Itasca made up the formation.  Somewhere astern was the monitor Tecumseh, but they just couldn't wait.

At the other end of the wide channel were three casement ironclads.; the Neuse, Albemarle and massive Tennessee.  Two Maury gunboats and the Gaines supported them.  Action would be joined soon.

As the two "fleets" moved to meet each other, the Union forces advanced at a steady six knots, the best the Milwaukee could do.  The Rebels meanwhile had the fast(er) Tennessee pulling farther ahead every few minutes.  The Neuse with her poor top speed of only four knots was left to follow.  The Rebel wooden ships moved to sweep around the main channel island, under cover of the guns mounted there and physically shielded from the Yankees.  The Union wooden wonders held back, looking for an opportunity to dash out for a ramming attack.  At least for the Mingo and Monarch.

The 6.4" Brooke Rifle on the island opened the engagement, though to no effect.  The height of their position was such that they could not be engaged without special efforts by the Yankees, so they were ignored in favor of the waterborne company.


As the fleets closed a few shots were scored, but in general shooting was poor on both sides.  As the Union ships began their planned turn to port the Tennessee accelerated to close and use her powerful ram.  Aboard the Monarch, gallant Captain Hamburger saw an opening and poured on the steam.  The powerful side wheeler shot forward and with a quick turn to port the ram crunched into the side of the Tennessee.  Far from a perfect hit, it did manage to induce limited flooding.  But the fire from the Tennessee as her assailant lay helpless was devastating.  Worst of all was a hit to the pilothouse that turned the structure and Captain Hamburger into... well... hamburger and toothpicks.

As the engagement became general, the Neuse with her low speed hung back and didn't get into the dance of death, content to blaze away with her two good guns.  The Albemarle attempted to thwart or delay the advancing Yankees.  The wooden Confederates swept around the island and began an annoying fire on whoever was in view.

In the next few minutes of the action several ramming attempts were made, but all resulted in just glancing blows.  That is until the Milwaukee swept up on the stern of the Keokuk.  The latter was in pretty good shape considering all the shot and shell fired at her; at least until the Passaic came roaring up and hit her from behind.  This too induced a limited flood, something the Tennessee had not been able to control yet.

Just as the Monarch was getting up some speed and was looking for potential targets, disaster struck.  A solid shot from a 9" Rebel Dahlgreen tore through the startboard side wheel.  As she began to absorb a mass of attention from Rebel gunners, there soon was little above the waterline intact.  Most of the crew lay dead or incapacitated and while the hull was mostly intact, the upper services didn't even look like the former vessel. 

As the crew of the Tennessee struggled to contain the flooding, things turned very bad for the Itasca.  A large fire was started on deck and the well intentioned crew, forgetting which as a bucket of turpentine and which was water, made the fire into a raging inferno.  As the water swept over the gunwales as she sank, the crew understood the fire-fighting methods they should have been using.

As the battle drew to a close, the Keokuk (which had stopped the flooding) and Passaic headed upriver and their appointment with a burning town.  All the while a Maury gunboat nipped defiantly at their heels.  The other gunboat was no so fortunate as the managed to drift in front of the Albemarle during the engagement.  While she represented just a speed bump for the Albemarle, the other command would not be moving on.

As the action ended the suddenly mindful Tennessee attempted to run aground, but settled with her main deck submerged.  An easy salvage, but by whom?  The Gaines was badly damaged and a strong gust of wind might sink the remaining Maury.  Neuse and Albemarle were damaged, but only mildly. 

The Monarch was still afloat but was looking for someone to strike her colors to.  The Itasca was of course gone though the Mingo still had plenty of fight left.  The monitors had managed to get past the Rebel ironclads and shore guns and now were using their speed to get into position to shoot up town.

A fun little game that introduced the system to new players and finished in the afternoon.  The game system is Smoke and Black Powder by Neil Stokes, ships are 1/600 Thoroughbred Miniatures with two scratch built gun positions to supplement the Thoroughbred one.