Sunday, 15 October 2017

Get off the fence !

No not a complex political statement. After our recent Barbarossa game I felt we needed some more fences to represent Eastern Europe, hedges are fine for Kent and to some extent Cumbria but not Latvia or the Baltic where plentiful timber encouraged proper fencing. Ever mindful of my on going ACW project I went quite generic in making these and I am sure they will turn up in lots of games.
Now I don’t normally do WIP type stuff but I know some like these, if you do read on 😀
The kit assembled, the sticks are from one of those cheap Japanese effect place mats it was free, the matchsticks are from the hobby store and also very cheap, for the bases I use a piece of architectural timber from our local DIY store. This gives some weight and is nice and rigid.
First job drill roughly some small holes using my hand drill for the matches, I find they don’t need to be exact then glue them in I spaced them at 5 sets across a fence section which is about 8 inches long, the reason for this was the sticks were this long and so one less job cutting them down 🙂
Then stick the cross pieces, if you have drilled the holes carefully this is easy as the uprights hold them fairly well
If like me you are a bit sloppy you need lots of pegs to hold them while they dry....I use ordinary bostick type glue but then put some ‘super glue’ to finish them off.
Then sand the bases
I sprayed the whole lot brown again coz I had an old tin and I am lazy, then some cheap artist acrylic on the bases to differentiate them colour wise and some lighter brown/drab dry brushing, finishing off with a lighter dry of this done very carefully
Finish off with some static grass and a few clumps for variation. All a couple of evenings effort and about £5 or so.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Barbarossa tag : 22nd June 1941

For those interested in WW2 the invasion by Germany of Mother Russia is perhaps the most climactic, devastating and ultimately tragic campaigns of the war. Putting aside (as we gamers do) the horror and futility of modern conflict on this scale is it one of the most interesting and fruitful parts of the war. We have already, and plan to continue, fighting the major tank battles which characterised much of the conflict in 6mm scale. Most recently some of the major tank battles in 1943.

However, we have been looking at options to expand our gaming using my ever growing early war german army. Given uniform variations were common and the general equipment remained the same it is an easy leap to use my Wehrmacht infantry on the Russian front. Much of their armour would also be the same with the addition of the latest Panzer III's and more heavily armed Panzer IV's. Luckily Steve a regular in the dungeon is quite obsessive with all things Russian so a new project has been born.
One area of the Campaign that we both know little about is Army Group North so we have chosen to very loosely base our battles around the exploits of the 18th and 16th Armies as they advance towards Leningrad and are then thrown back. This very broad campaign setting allows us to play a wide range of scenarios and collect yet more lovely stuff 😀

We are both planning the inevitable expansion of forces and of course terrain to give that Eastern European feel. But we thought we would dive in for a first battle. Somewhere on the Lithuania Border in the early morning of 22nd June a small mixed force of Germans have caught the Russians napping, their objective is clear to breakthrough as quickly as possible. We played a very standard scenario from the Bolt Action rule book, the preliminary bombardment pinned some of the defenders but the rest would require real determination.
Russian infantry alerted by the early morning bombardment move tentatively forward, urged on by thier units Commissar, these troops are the front line against the invasion but have had little time to prepare any significant defence.
Eastern Europe a rural agricultural land of almost medieval appearance (I need to create some different roads)
Blitzkrieg in action, infantry of the 18th Army with support swarm across the Russian border, thier objective to breakthrough the thin line of defenders
Awaiting reinforcements Stefanavich the Commissar urges his troops forward with political dogma !
German mortars start to rain down shells
On the right flank the ground is poorly defended and the infantry soon make it to the road with no casualties
But the reinforcements are now starting to appear.........a dubious vintage armoured car which is immediate blown to pieces
But more worrying for the Germans two BT7 light tanks and an anti-tank gun
On the german side the current king of the battlefield a Panzer III moves gradually down the road looking for more targets
On the German left flank, rather than siting back disillusioned the Russian infantry have been encouraged to recklessly advance, taken by surprise the Germans are caught on the back foot ! Things are not going to plan 😬
Russian tanks spread out but their guns are pretty ineffective against the heavier Germans tanks.
On the right the german infantry continues to push forward to attempt to break is not clear at this stage whether in their enthusiasm the Russians have taken their eye of the ball ?
In the nick of time the the german commander realises his position is being out flanked....
The only option is to run !
On the road the tanks exchange shells but in the smoke and early morning mist nothing seems to hit home
In a futile vodka induced attempt to throw the invaders back Stefanavich charges the front of the Panzer.....armed only with his pistol and a home made hand grenade...needless to say the Tank barely registers the attack
German forces are regrouping on the left flank to hold back the Russians
The StugIII is supported by an MG34 hidden in the longer grass, but in the distance more infantry are massing to assault
Staggering from his assault Stefanavich hasn't noticed the german commander rushing towards him...
Breakthrough ? The german infantry is getting closer to the finish line
Unable to knock out the Panzer the BT7 has closed the range but still is unable to take it out, the German commander after a brief fight has finished Stefanavich off and is attempting to rejoin the main infantry units.
On the left the second BT7 is now burning having been hit by an HE shell from the Stug the Infantry advance has been slowed as they get pinned down
Patriotic fervour under the Red flag ......
The Russians continue to advance bypassing the Stug and assaulting the machine gun position
A final shot of the battle, one unit of Germans managed to break through completely, the second was almost wiped out by Russian cross fire. A single BT7 stubbornly survived the battle and was able to pull back with increasing numbers of advancing Germans.

We totalled up the points, a draw ! we didn't care as we had a lot of fun, the Russians clearly drank a lot of vodka before the battle and their enthusiastic and crazy advance against the odds paid off. I am sure they can recruit another Commissar soon, Stefanavich having been awarded his posthumous 'Hero of the Soviet Union' medal. I am off to make some more fences and Russian buildings 😀

Saturday, 7 October 2017

The Rescue of Faramir : a Lord of the Rings Tale

In their previous battle Faramir had been unhorsed whilst he valiantly killed a giant cave troll. Having been knocked senseless he staggered about for some days unclear on where he was. Surrounded by hordes of the enemy all he could do was hide and hope for rescue. Having regrouped and gathered his forces Boromir realising that his younger brother was missing and nobody had seen him fall in battle realised a rescue mission must be mounted. His small force heads into the wilderness knowing that all around them the forces of the dark lord are gathering. (You can get an Orc eye view of the engagement on the Hobby Horse blog see side panel.)
Returning to wilderness the horn of Gondor heralds the advance, but a large host of Orcs has gathered determined to oppose the men in their search
As always the household Knights move to the front
Faramir's own elite Rangers immediate start to search the first of six possible hiding places but there is no sign of Faramir their Commander
The enemy has sent forward scouts to deter the advance easy prey for the mounted Knights
Desperate for his younger brother Boromir rushes forward as well to take up the search
He is supported in the rear by archer from the White City
Under a hail of black arrows the Rangers push on to the bog and start the search again
Orc scouts have now climbed the fallen statue, it is not clear if they are searching or simply looking to deface the monument, one thing is certain Faramir can't be found till they can be thrown back, in the distance the few remaining knights can be seen charging off to glory and death
Supported by spearmen Boromir chases them away easily but then spends several turns failing his command roll, eventually he realises that Faramir isn't amongst the rocks
The Rangers are gradually being cut down and only a few remain but they will not give up thier commander that easily despite the arrows they continue to search..................a shout goes up across the field
A slightly dazed and wet Faramir is fished out of the bog, but there is no time for celebration a pack of fast moving Warg riders have suddenly got wind of the situation and are circling around the bog.
After a brief rest the remaining Rangers lead Faramir away but the small group is being closed in on all sides, once and then twice Boromir charges in to protect the escaping party
Almost there the spearmen have managed to hold back the Orcs on the left, but Boromir spent with his efforts and heavily wounded has fallen to the ground knocked out of the battle
............but Boromirs' sacrifice has bought just enough time for the Rangers to get Faramir to safety

Excellent game fun right to the end. I can almost feel the next scenario writing itself. Boromirs prone body carted away by the enemy forces !

For those interested we played Dragon Rampant with I think 32 points each side. It is a standard scenario from the rule book with the chance of finding Faramir increasing as each of the six hiding places is eliminated.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Battle for the Merchyk : 12 August 1943

Back to the Eastern front and the Tank Battles of 1943. This I think is our 4th battle of the Rumyantsev offensive (you could play many more as the campaign provides an almost limitless list of scenarios) However on the 12th August 1943 Hoth counter attacked the Russian offensive south of the River Merchyk. Historically he had three SS Panzer Divisions at his disposal Wiking, Das Reich and Totenkopf. All reasonably well equipped and with numerous Tiger Tanks. These were facing Katukov's 1st Tank Army and the 5th Guards Tank Army. Alhtuogh the Russian had superiority of numbers they had extended their position across the Merchyk River. The Panzers of Totenkopf took the town of Vysokopol'ye and pushed all the way to the river, surprising Katukov, when he sought to bring reinforcements up as the river crossings were already in German hands. The Russian line was stabilised by the intervention of a brigade of the 29 Tank Corps.

So to create an interesting scenario I planned to fight the advance of Totenkopf upto and crossing the River Merchyk. We gave the Germans considerable superiority in points as previous battle have shown it very difficult to stage any kind of attack without this advantage. The Russians have been forced to deploy south of the river but can pull back if they get the chance...Stalin of course wouldn't be happy with this defensive approach. The Germans must attempt to drive to the river and seize the crossing.
The River Merchyk, Russian forces have pulled back to the three bridges to hold the Germans back
Russian T34's in considerably numbers out of the river but their range still can't match that of the better german tanks
The Germans advance with Panzer III's , IV's Stug's and Wespe artillery support, the artillery is moving into the wooded hill to give cover and better line of sight
The SS have deployed a strong force of anti tank guns to the other hill but they mistakenly delay getting into the woods the Russians make them pay and quickly blow up tow of the guns. 
The Russian have dug artillery in around the bridges and pull some of their tanks back across in case they need to counter attack
The Germans have some air support in the form of Stuka Dive bombers, these can be called in by a forward observer unit this immediately causes problems for the Russians knocking out an SU76 gun close to the town.
Close up action as the screams of dive bombers fill the air !!  
A general view down the advancing german line looking West a strong Panzer formation is heading directly for the town and although it is hard to see they have already knocked out two SU 122's so the defence of the central crossing appears wide open 
However, the initial success is not the whole story, in the foreground the anti tank unit without adequate support has been completely wiped out, due to a command blunder the Heavy Tiger tanks have been delayed reaching the battle and in the distance the Russians have staged an audacious sweeping out flanking movement completely catching the advancing Germans by surprise.
An overview of the battlefield, the initial fast advance of the SS has been slowed
The german commander is screaming into his radio "where are the Tigers" ......well the answer is on the first turn they rolled a double six command blunder causing them to be delayed by one turn. Ok not a disaster with their long range coming in on turn three they can still be effective. Turn three UNBELIEVABLY they roll a second command blunder, this is unheard of they still don't arrive on the battlefield and when they do their leadership is no reduced.😱
So without the heavy Tigers the Russian T34's are able to outflank the german line to the west catching the Panzers in the open on the flank, this is not good news 
The artillery from the wooded hill by the road have regrouped to provide support but the Panzers in the middle ground are being picked off one by one before they can reform
At this point the german commander realised the Wespe's range was too short !
Desperate measures the German commander has split a unit of Panzers off to attack the far bridge only protected by a single 85mm gun. To support this he calls in more air support !!!!!!! Another command blunder (you really couldn't make this up) causing the dive bombers to target the advancing german tanks in error. Two are blown up the third immobilised! 
The smoke in the centre of the picture shows where the Germans have been caught in the open, they are at least now being supported by the Artillery form the wood which has advanced down the hill to shorten the range.
FINALLY the Tigers arrive on the battlefield with superior range and killing power they immediately start to cut into the Russian flank attack but instead of advancing across the table they are having to stabilise their own german lines
To the East The Russians have knocked out the diversionary german attack and are now moving west to close the pincer movement
T34's heading along the banks of the river to support their infantry dug in in the town
Just a close up the T34's close in for the kill !
The german commander called a halt at this point the german advance simply hadn't made the progress needed and we can assume the Russian will be able with the delay to bring reinforcements up to stabilise their position on the river.

A very enjoyable game, we thought the Germans would steamroller over the Russian forces. We worked out the Germans had an incredible SEVEN command blunders in something like six turns of combat. The two delaying the Tigers had a big impact as they were delayed getting into the battle. Somebody will no doubt pay for this ! The blunder on the dive bombers was a classic and will live in our memories for a long time 😀😀😀