Friday, 21 October 2016

At the Movies

I have watched two war movies in the last two days, one I was looking forward to and the other I thought might pass an hour or so but if not I could always watch iPlayer, in the event although I enjoyed both the second was by far the best for me, and all the more so for coming as a complete surprise.

Many moons ago when I was doing my part to keep the West Indies safe from the Soviets as Windies Guardship, we used to have a fleet or a squadron at the very least do that, I wandered into a bookshop in Hamilton, Bermuda and bought a book on the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, not for me Louis Lamour, JT Edson or Sven Hassel. It was a strange book written in a strange style and it took me a bit to get into it, but I do remember being fascinated by the story and forty five years later I still have it.

So when I heard about the new movie of the event I really couldn't wait, I managed to see it on Wednesday night, was it worth it, yes and no. The film keeps pretty much to the facts and the filming while not brilliant was fine although wartime Prague seemed to consist of one street. What was missing for me was the sense of doomed fate for the parachutists and their helpers, the film seemed to take it for granted that we all knew the horrific events which followed the ambush and therefore brought them on in a matter of fact style and very rushed as if it was time to get to the end. I have to be honest and say the characters seemed one dimensional to me and I never really connected to them the way I did when reading the book, and there were some very brave people involved and dragged into this story. The assassination itself was promoted for political purposes and nothing else, in the end all it achieved was misery and murder for a lot of innocent people.

The next film turned out to be a little gem and a story which deserves a wider audiance, it is like a modern Rorke's Drift and again points out the perfidious character of politicians, I did some digging on these paragons of decency, one a Noble prize winner and like Lady Di and Nelson Mandela virtually untouchable but flawed nonetheless.

It concerns an Irish UN unit of peacekeepers completely ignored at an outpost in the Congo and left to deal with an attacking force which outnumbered them 20 to 1, without any back-up whatsover as it suited the politicians and the events at the time. Incredibly after six days fighting the Irish did not lose one man while inflicting some 300 or more casualties on their attackers.

Because they were eventually forced to surrender the whole episode and the reputations of the men involved were swept under the carpet and it is only recently that they have been given due praise and thanks for their actions. I recommend this movie and I for one will be getting the book which started it all off.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Preparation is all

Strike while the iron is hot comes to mind, the missus left for Glasgow yesterday and as you know I have some games organised for this weekend, I will also be chef for the weekend as well so I had a lot on my plate today. First thing was the Doctor, a quick run down and then back to the shops this afternoon, wait a mo thinks I, sign up, door locked and off I went early, do the shopping before the Doc then spend the afternoon mucking about with toy soldiers, genius! Customers, meh, the word Doctors should get me some sympathy.

When I did get back there were no irate villagers with pitchforks waiting for me and I only served about three before I closed for the afternoon, OK maybe a little more than three, eight, ish.

I set up the table tennis table and dug out my Geo-Hex which hasn't seen the light of day for some time, I have loads of it. The scenario is a Reb attack on a Union bridgehead at Castleman's Ferry and like the movies this is 'based' on that scenario, I had to simplify the terrain a bit and some of the troops take up more ground than in the map as they are not to scale on there, but overall it will certainly work. I decided to give the Rebs a couple of extra regiments as reserves but looking at the disparate Union forces 50% of whom are Poor or Green perhaps I shouldn't have, I have also given them a few larger regiments than shown in the scenario, again in the spirit of fair play, I may live to regret this because now that I put some thought into it I don't think the Union have ever won this battle.

Almost there.

 I have all sorts of little vignettes for ACW games which have no bearing on the game so as my opponents are making an effort to come here then I am making an effort to make the table a bit special, so you will see some of these groups here and there on the battlefield. I think this is the first outing for those pontoon wagons since I got them in the '90's. I also used my bridges which also don't get out much, the crossing are supposed to be fords and we dice for the state of the river before the game starts but they look good, better than a wee bit of mud coloured paper anyway.

Rebel HQ.
Union HQ.

The troops are ready.
  I decided to put everything up today rather than wait until tomorrow as I would not be disturbed and I have maps to do and a curry to prepare tomorrow or all we will be eating is lead.

It's the waiting that gets to you, steady, steady.

It is very pleasurable to spend some time with troops which may not have been in action for a while, memories flood back of past glories and defeats, of stalwart defenders and cowardly routers, and like Napoleon as I look at my regiments I see figures who seem to be old friends and I know them well. Whatever happens on Saturday it will be a good day for me.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Private Schmitt not General Guderian

Club night last night and I agonised all afternoon on a 750 point army list for the upcoming Bolt Action game against Simon's Russians, no matter what I concocted I never got what I wanted, I always felt short changed. The 750 limit was due to the game being on a club night, it is better to get a game fought to a conclusion than put on something huge which ticks all the boxes except a satisfying finish, another reason is that we are still getting to grips with the rules as no sooner did we feel we were getting somewhere than 2nd Edition landed on the mat.

The Russians get an extra inexperienced platoon because they are, eh, Russians, so I knew Simon could match my infantry and also get a nice tank, I cannot get decent sized squads and a tank, and don't talk to me about the Stuka zu Fuss appearing any time soon. So I was back with my trusty Marder, I might have to look at getting one of those half tracks with the anti-tank gun for smaller games, anyway I also gave all the squads a couple of panzerfausts, I also took a mortar to hopefully give Simon's inevitable sniper a bit of bother and keep his head down.

I didn't need to take any buildings to the club, as I have mentioned before we now have some WWII houses for use so I took all the ancillary stuff, trees, hedges, walls etc. We set up a simple scenario from the book where whoever held the most objectives at the end of the game won, I felt good and had the choice of which side to approach from, so off I set for several buildings to hide in. The Russian tank was on my right so I put the Marder behind a house to wait for a good shot at it while also hoping that it might take the odd pot shot at Soviets in buildings.

A very smart objective marker!
 Early on I had to move the Marder to get a shot at the sniper hiding in a nearby building as my mortar was dropping shells everywhere but on the pest, I thought I was safe but the Russian monster moved and got a shot on me, it missed, thankfully, as it was near the end of the turn my infantry could not attempt a shot at the enemy with their 'fausts as they had already been activated. Simon also took this opportunity to send a squad scurrying towards my extreme right, possibly to assault the house or the Marder, I needed two German dice to come out of the bag next, a big ask but my luck has to change at some point.

First die out, German! I was now left with a dilemma, reverse the Marder and take on the infantry, shoot the infantry in the open with my squad, or shoot the tank with either the Marder or the infantry, take out the tank the enemy infantry will probably shoot up or destroy the Marder, damn open topped vehicles, take out the infantry the tank will shoot again at the Marder. I shot at the infantry with my boys and wiped them out, sadly the next die out was Russian.

The Marder was indeed hit, but wait, a fire only, would the trusty crew put it out and remain in the fight, no they wouldn't, deciding discretion being the better part of valour, live to fight another day or whatever, they fled. Up until this moment Simon had had no luck, his shooting barely gave my men more than a slight cut but now the pendulum swung with a vengeance, in quick succession I lost two more squads and failed several morale throws while my men dropped like flies. I cannot tell a lie, I was a bit dejected, I was going to rush the objectives to get a good score on the last turn but that plan went south and Simon grabbed the win with two of them while I had none.

We are planning a much larger game with plenty of time to spare a week on Sunday, it may simply be a scenario I come up with or if it is points it will be much larger than 750 so that all that lovely stuff I have in the boxes can come out to play.

Elsewhere we had a LOTR game, a Roman Civil War clash with To The Strongest and some players were having an introduction to Scythe, a sci-fi boardgame, a full house just about.

I have managed to save a few quid from repairing the Batmobile to get twelve Saxon archers from Gripping Beast, a lot of the time I provide both armies for anyone I can rope into playing WAC locally so I need to have a better choice of numbers for my skirmishers, hence the new archers. Feeling the hurt from last nights game I may also have to look, as the Germans did themselves, to a cheaper alternative to my tanks, a StuG in other words, where did I put that Christmas list.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Here's for a better week

A new dawn and let's hope a better week with no hidden surprises.

I now have time on my hands again of an evening and am looking at my Bolt Action terrain again, my friend Colin at Charlie Foxtrot Models threw a few little out buildings in with my last order and I duly painted them up as forgotten and unloved garden sheds etc. I decided this was not enough and they needed some basing, having some plasticard lying around I set too, nothing too over the top, simply a base of sharp sand, painted in Flat Earth and drybrushed Gold Brown and Dark Sand, a little concoction courtesy of Matt at Wargames Table, and a smattering of Late Summer Grass. A little more was required of course so out came the grass tufts and a few things from the odd pile, oil drum, tyre, barrel and sack. I am going to put all my houses on bases and want to do a couple of garden bases to fit at the back or side but for this I need to get to a show and pick up some 'veg' and anything else you might find in a garden, barrow, bicycle etc. I have looked online but not found anything I like yet.

My son and a friend are coming over and up for a weekend of wargaming, it was supposed to be the week after when the missus was away but the two of them got it wrong and there isn't a court in the land which would listen to their side of the story, so this weekend it is.

I am introducing Dave to the American Civil War with Johnny Reb rules on the Saturday, I have chosen the battle of Cool Springs, it is a Confederate attack on a Union bridgehead across the Shenandoah River in 1864. The game is big enough to be aesthetically pleasing but not too big that we will not finish it in one sitting nor is it too big to overwhelm a new player, they will be Rebs and I will be the good guys. If we finish this between banter and beer then I have a three way Dead Man's Hand game waiting in the wings.

Believe it or not on the Sunday it is Dave's turn to be the teacher and he is introducing, wait for it, Warhammer Ancient Battles! You will probably know that this was a phenomenally successful set of rules which now that I know more about it, most of my War and Conquest mates are ex-WAB players, I am sorry I missed. The game imploded with the introduction of the Second Version which was universally dismissed and the community disappeared almost overnight, hence the birth of Clash of Empires and War and Conquest which have never caught on to the same degree.

Anyway Dave has gone back to WAB and with his unbounded enthusiasm is trying to once again build up a core of players and is trying to organise a tournament in August next year, if you are interested look here. So, in the spirit of tit for tat and curiosity he will play my son on Sunday morning and me after I serve up a full Scottish breakfast, defibrillator standing by. My son is using his Carolingians as Western Franks, I will have Romano-British Civitates and Dave is bringing Scots-Irish, Dave has never beat an Anderson before so he is looking forward to it. My army will be typical, a core of household troops, backed up by militia with a small unit of cavalry and one or two skirmish units.

Although WAC is my rule choice for my Dark Age and Ancient battles it will be interesting to play its parent system and especially against Dave, roll on the weekend.