Saturday, 30 April 2016

Duel in the Sun - Sicily - Bolt Action Campaign

The invasion of Italy, beginning with the Sicily landings in May 1943, are a part of WW2 that doesn’t seem to get as much attention as say Normandy or the Eastern Front but I cannot understand why?

It has everything a wargamer could ask for: amphibious operations, airborne landings by glider and parachute, large scale assaults against well-prepared defenders, small scale house-to-house attacks to capture remote villages, colourful characters plus a huge variety of troops, equipment and terrain.

So… when Orange Dave suggested we use the Bolt Action supplement “Duel in the Sun” to re-fight the Italian campaign, I couldn’t wait to get started! Game one in our six stage campaign represents a glider attack by airborne troops to capture a bridge a little way inland from the beach landings on the south-eastern coast.

The Germans/Italians have rigged the bridge for demolition but, before they can blow it up, a glider full of angry airborne troops (in our case Paras coz that’s what we’ve got) arrives near the bridge – their mission is to take the bridge and defuse the explosives before Axis troops can blow them.
Here's the table ready for turn 1
My Germans were ready to give the Allies a warm welcome.
These chaps have the bridge covered

Dave is a genius with paper model kits... One Horsa glider. Dave very kindly gifted it to me after the battle :o)
Dave's superb glider made from a paper kit

Now, I’m not going to do a turn by turn account of the action as (a) I didn’t take enough photos, and (b) the write up is never as exciting as the game – and this was definitely an exciting game.

I deployed just over half my force on the table to start with; these were basically the regulars whilst I kept my three veteran squads in reserve – effectively I had two platoons: regulars as the bridge garrison and veterans as a counter-attack force.

Dave also had two platoons: the Paras (veterans obviously) in the glider plus regulars heading up from the beach – the latter were not due to arrive until turn 4.

In the first couple of turns some of Dave’s Paras made heavy work of getting out of the glider so I was able to inflict a few casualties, notably taking out the recce jeep – it raced out of the glider straight in to a hail of bullets from one of my MMGs!
The Paras get moving

It soon became clear that firepower from my garrison troops was not going to hold back the determined Paras so I brought up my own reserves. I should have done this sooner.
German veteran Grenadiers move up to contest the bridge ...
Dave played quite aggressively (in his usual very gentlemanly and sportsman-like way of course!) with the Paras. He took a lot of casualties but they passed their morale tests and pushed on to the bridge.
... but the Paras get there first.

British reinforcements begin to arrive from the beaches. The truck is a paper kit too!
Here come the regulars

One of my veteran squads raced for the bridge, bayonets at the ready! They stormed the barricades and ripped through a section of Paras as they were about to defuse the explosives. But more Paras were close behind.
Only two lots of explosive remain

More British reserves were arriving which alleviated some of the pressure on the now rather battered Paras. Turn 5 was terrible for the Axis, everything that could possibly draw a bead on the Allied troops on the bridge opened up, yet somehow barely any casualties were inflicted.

With just two demolition charges left on the bridge it couldn’t be closer as we started turn 6. Thankfully the Paras had to move to reach either charge so could not defuse them this turn (that required a ‘down’ order plus a command test). I brought up two veteran squads and the CO to clear the bridge if we rolled a seventh turn – even then it would come down to who got the first dice out of the bag!
Lots of Germans ... not many Paras

Turn 6 finished with Paras in contact with one of the two remaining demolition charges (the Germans would need both if they were to blow the bridge). Those brave Paras had taken a terrible beating from the Germans but their morale had held – just! Now Dave rolled to see if there would be a turn 7… we both held our breath as the dice spun on the table – it couldn’t have been closer!

The D6 came up with a ‘2’ and the battle ended with the German CO pulling his men back and ordering the destruction of the bridge. But would just two charges do the business?


As the dust and smoke cleared it was obvious that one of the charges had not detonated properly. The bridge was badly damaged but still intact. With more troops arriving from the British held beaches, the Germans had no choice but to withdraw.

You really couldn’t have asked for a closer and more dramatic game – pretty much evens all the way with the result coming down to the last few dice rolls.

So what’s next? Well, we’d agreed that from a campaign point of view that if the bridge had been blown then the Allies would not be permitted any vehicles/armour in game 2 – so Dave is looking forward to fielding a Churchill next time. We also decided (to keep the narrative going) that he would be able to include a small amount of Paras in his force rather than just regulars. The next scenario sees the Allies push on to try to capture a fortified village.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Romans ... Re-based!

Every wargamer worth his salt should do a little re-basing from time to time ... Here I've started re-basing my Early Imperial Roman figures with view to multi-basing them to suit a range of rules.

This is how I posed them to get an idea of how I wanted the finished unit to look.

Then out came two pairs of pliers to try to 'pop' them off the bases by twisting opposite corners. Foolishly I had super-glued them to the bases (do not do this!) but with a little application they came off okay.
Unpainted sand

These 8 figures are actually taking up the space of 10 figures, but as I have 16 I'd like to use them as two "troops" of archers for my Kingdoms of Men "Kings of War" army. For historical games they would simply be two detachments from an Auxiliary cohort.

My Romans were originally organised and based with a view to campaigning in the newly conquered province of Britannia, but I've decided to abandon it to the barbarians and head East to the flesh-pots of Syria and look at first century action in Ephesus, Antioch and beyond, hence the desert themed basing.

Basing recipe: VMC Gold Brown (877) base then highlights of VMC Tan Yellow (912) and VMC Dark Sand (847). This was followed by a few grass tufts, flowers and some tiny bits of dark clump foliage. The edges were tidied up using Foundry Bay Brown shade (42A).

This basing will also go very well with Colin's stunning 'Empire of Dust' Undead army.
My shonky photography does not really show these fellas in their best light

The level of detail in Colin's army has to be seen to be believed. The skellies have individually painted teeth for goodness sake!! Don't even ask about the skeleton giant - he could almost qualify as an orthopaedic surgeon after that conversion. Anyway, back to the bases ...

Friday, 22 April 2016

Forthcoming Gaming Goodness

I expect many of you will have already seen the Facebook advert from Gripping Beast about their forthcoming massed battle rules "Swordpoint" ... Well, I'm rather intrigued by this. Penned by Martin Gibbins etc along with all the creative input from the GB team, it has to be worth a look!

There was a demo of it at Salute, but I couldn't make it along this year. There's also some vague info from Guy Bowers on the WSS blog here. In the FB comments/replies there's talk of books of lists, etc. They've supported SAGA very well so it looks promising for Swordpoint.

Talking of SAGA ... The campaign supplement "Age of the Wolf" was previewed at Salute and will be available generally next month. I'm very excited about this too. SAGA has been crying out for a campaign system and if this review is anything to go by then it looks very promising indeed.

Also, in the FB discussion were comments about a forthcoming Arthurian supplement for SAGA. This is music to my ears!! :o) A box of plastics should give me enough Arthurian/British to build a force, whilst the wilder looking figures in my Anglo-Saxon army should work well as Early Saxons. The scale of SAGA suits my own view of wargaming for this fascinating if somewhat shrouded period of British history.

Both lots of rules aren't due out until later this year; November (for Swordpoint) to be precise, which is good as it might just give me enough time to get all my WW2 figures, vehicles and buildings built and painted before I'm pulled back to a much earlier era of gaming.

Added to that will be the opportunity for me to get my Vikings sorted - which will also double up as ferocious Men of the North (or possibly Varangur) for Kings of War.
I've played a few games of Kings of War now and it really is sublime. My old Bretonnians will hopefully make an appearance as The Brotherhood. Or my Romans might get an overhaul plus some new painting? Anyway, Kings of War ... Highly recommended!

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Happy Birthday Your Majesty!!!

Yes, Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her 90th birthday today!

Your very good health ma'am!


Monday, 11 April 2016

Great War Demo Game at Daffcon

Wargames Table chum Dave took along his Great War demo game (for Zero Hour) to Daffcon recently. Now, I wasn't available to attend but I was pleased to be able to help out with a few bits of terrain, etc. Dave sent me these photos which I was keen to share.
The game all set up and ready to 'bully off'
As mentioned before the Zero Hour rules are currently being re-worked to provide a more streamlined reading experience. The actual game mechanisms have been in place for some time and work very well. But as any rules writer will tell you, trying to turn ideas in to written rules can be quite challenging.

This battle was themed around part of the British attack at Cambrai in November/December 1917, hence the Mark IV tanks and bare trees. More specifically the bridge crossing the St Quentin Canal at Masnieres.
The British advance
The Forces
  • British
    • 1 infantry battalion (3 companies of 2 platoons) supported by a tank company (2 male + 1 female, Goliath, Apollo, Gordon)
    • One squadron of 2 troops Indian Cavalry
    • 1 HMG and 1 Medium Mortar.
  • German
    • 2 companies of regulars in the trench + 2 HMGs, 1 mortar + 2 x 77mm  guns.
    • In reserve, 2 companies of 2 platoons Storm troopers (each platoon with flamethrowers).

  • British
    • Tanks and cavalry: take the bridge.
    • Infantry: destroy 75% of German formations.
  • German
    • Regulars: destroy 75% British.
    • Stormtroopers: clear the British from the German deployment zone (the trenches).

The Germans had a thinly held trench line with more troops available in reserve - as per their famous Eingreifentaktik strategy.
Through the wire
Some notes from Dave about how the game played...

Turns 1-2
British deploy 1 tank + 1 company in left flank (Goliath), centre (Gordon) and right flank (Apollo) Cavalry in reserve.  Left and centre advance through woods to take trench, right flank head along road towards the distant bridge.  By end of 2nd turn, right flank company wiped out, and tank limping with one damage marker.  Centre and left flank had advanced ok though, and part of the wire breached (by a German dropped shot). Various attrition on Germans along the trench line.

Turns 3-4
Germans have about 1 squad left in trenches, British centre and left have been chopped a bit, down to one squad (although it has picked up stragglers, so a fair size now).  Successfully charge and take trench, but lose the left flank tank (Goliath) in the process.  Gordon in the centre progressed to the wire, breaking some down, before suffering a breakdown.  On the right Apollo also ditched form artillery fire - just short of the wire.  With a wall of intact wire, the cavalry had no choice but to abandon right flank, and head for the break created by Gordon.  By the time they got there, they were down to a handful of troopers, who decided to abandon their objective (the bridge) and dismounted to shelter in the trench.

Turns 5-6
With the British in the trench, the Germans were allowed to unleash their reserves - the Stormtroopers.  Two platoons were deployed to take out the British in the trench, one platoon held in reserve and the 4th platoon sent to reinforce the only surviving German regulars guarding the bridge.  The entrenched British managed to take out one platoon of storm troopers, but the 2nd platoon advanced under cover of a small copse and made their charge, with flammen werfen flaming everyone!  In the centre Gordon stood protectively over the Indians, until it succumbed to a combination of mortar and artillery fire.  The Indians supported by my HMG from the woods, managed to trim down the advancing Storm Troopers, but the final platoon of German regulars left their post at the bridge, and managed to sweep into the trench.   The Indians failed their stand-to order, missing their chance to strike first, so the combat was simultaneous and with the Germans outnumbering them 2:1, the outcome was inevitable.

Dave gets all 'arty'.
A panoramic view

The forward elements of the British attack reach the trench line.
The trench is ours!

Cavalry and tanks move up to exploit the 'breakthrough'. The black skull marker on the road denotes an artillery aiming point, so they'd best giddy-up!!
Here come the cavalry!

Mounted troops are great for dashing about the battlefield but tend to baulk when it comes to crossing wire, so the rules allow for mounted troops to dismount when needed.
But then they dismount

The German counter-attack begins as Stormtroopers start to reclaim the trench.
They think it's all over ...

They may have reached the trench but these British troops are lacking support and reinforcements so become easy targets for the fresh German reserves.
... it is now!
  • Advancing with tanks, the British were able to take the Germans trenches.
  • Over time the tanks were picked off by artillery and support weapons.
  • The battered British were then driven out by a strong German counter attack.
  • Everyone back to square one.

By all accounts it was a cracking game and generated plenty on interest from show-goers.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Envelopment in Normandy

Wargames Table chum Dave has recently bought himself a new gaming table from TSS. Now the boards are initially aimed at hosting a Great War demo game for Dave's Zero Hour rule set, hence the trench line. However some of the figures and scenery for that are still in the pipeline, so we decided that the best thing to do was to give it a run out with a quick game of Bolt Action. Dave led my Paras whilst I had Panzergrenadiers.

The trenches will have added duck-boards, revetting, etc to go with the sand bags. The latter were just resin pieces that I picked up at a show a few years back. For now they were just placed on the lip of the trench; Dave will incorporate them when he customises the boards.

When I picked up the boards I had a natter to chap at TSS and he's working on a range of boards built using the slightly more durable styrofoam material. I would just like to say that the boards have a lovely flocked finish and were a pleasure to play on - even the sound of the dice rolling on them was good! Didn't actually help my dice rolling ability though, as you will see if you read on ... !?

Turn 2 and both Dave and I are pushing troops forward towards and around the château. Yes, that is a Churchill!

On the other flank the Paras hold the hedge line backed up with a 3" mortar. A squad of veteran grenadiers advance along the trench line, whilst a German sniper in the farmhouse keeps the Paras heads down.

I bring on my Panzer IV to deal with the Churchill (pre-game, both Dave and I agreed to try out a tank). The gunner took careful aim and scored a direct hit on the British tank! However, I scored just one pip less than needed to penetrate the armour and shot ricocheted harmlessly away.

Following that exchange Dave yelled "left stick, left stick!" and the Churchill bull-dozed it's way through the grounds of the château - so much for the tank duel! ;o)

BOOM!!!!! Dave's forward observer successfully calls in the artillery before the Germans have any chance to move away from the target. Rolling a 6 for the range meant that the blast covered an area 24" in diameter - ouch! None of the units received any direct hits but then he rolled well for the effects of pinning. The Platoon CO, the Kubelwagen, the Panzershreck team, a Grenadier squad and the MMG - a third of my force - were now badly pinned and crawling about looking for cover.

Back on my right flank I was feeling that at least part of the battlefield was looking better for the Germans. The veteran squad in the trenches moved up and (with some help from the sniper) continued to chip away at the Para section behind the hedgerow. But the veteran grenadiers behind them clearly had other priorities - with just one pin marker I needed 9 or less to activate them but up came a double six... FUBAR! A subsequent roll of 4 meant that they had panicked so they just turned and fled a full 12" back to my baseline ... Grrr!

Amazingly, I managed to activate the kubelwagen so it sped towards the Paras to give them a good blast of machine gun fire. But alas the aim of the crew was less than stellar. Next dice was German too so I tried to activate the badly pinned Grenadier squad ... another FUBAR! This time followed by a 1 which means Friendly Fire ... oh dear. Dave choose the kubelwagen as their target. My terrible rolling continued as the squad failed to inflict any damage.

With his blood clearly 'up', Dave pushed a small section of Paras along the trench line and assaulted the Veteran Grenadier rifles. No closing fire was allowed as the Paras had the blood-curdling charge special rule. Amazingly, the Paras did little damage whilst the Grenadiers fought back hard and wiped out the Paras!!

By now the Panzer IV was parked outside the château gates forlornly looking for something to shoot at... when up pop Dave's PIAT team. Right here we go I thought ... but despite being at almost point blank range the Paras botched the shot AND the tank had still to be activated. Next dice was German. Bwah-ha-ha-hah. The turret clanked around and BOOM!!! Just a smoking crater in place of the brave Paras.

With time pressing on and nearing the end of the game it was clear that the Paras had the upper hand. We played turn six and then stopped rather than roll for turn seven. Well done to Dave. Here you can see the Paras consolidating their grip on the château.

All in all a great fun game played with good humour on lovely terrain against a splendid opponent.