Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 1961- How It All Began

As I have said many times, my parents were both very supportive of my wargaming hobby from the beginning. Here is a picture from 1961 of me opening one of the most important gifts of my life, the Marx "Blue and Gray" set, on Christmas morning.

This wonderful set of figures included EVERYTHING! There were infantry, artillery, cavalry, medical personnel, all types of small accessories, and scenery, including buildings, bunkers, trees and a model of Burnside's Bridge.  The lesson was clear to me. Toy soldiers should occupy a diorama. I still spend almost as much time of scenery as I do on figures.

I still have about twenty of the stalwart 54mm figures in my collection. They are painted and based, and will make an appearance this summer when I run an outdoor Not Quite Portable Wargame of the Civil War. (More on that later).

Over the years, Christmas usually meant a new period or theme for my gaming.The D-day landings, also in 54mm: Charge of the Bengal Lancers, in 25mm, hand-painted plastics; Fort Apache, also in Marx painted 25's; a wrapped box filled with ROCO mintanks that got more attention than a new bicycle. When I discovered board war games, my parents made sure there was one new one each year.

Even in my forties, Christmas would see me opening an envelope, with a check and a note saying"Go get something at Sword of the Phoenix" or the War Room, two now departed meccas for the hobby.

My parents have both passed on, now, but I look back on a lifetime of love and support of a hobby that has so deeply shaped and enriched my life.  I know that they would be very happy to see the friendships that have grown out of  a gift that had a small lad spreading out his armies on Christmas morning.

Merry Christmas, to all my friends!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tigers in Tunisia:Big Battlle Portable Wargame

Tonight I played two battles featuring the 2nd US Armored Division versus a German kampfgrupe featuring two Tiger tanks. For the first game, I used the modified M3 Medium from my previous Tunisian battle. Finding it to be too effective, I changed the rating as such:

M3 Medium: Tank, SP-3, Move-3, Armed as a light tank(range 3) AND a tank(range4). If it moves, it may fire with either gun. If it DOES NOT move, it may fire BOTH. Because of its high profile and doors in the side armor, it subtracts 1 from any Resolving Hit rolls.

The  Tiger-: SP-4, Move-3, Range-5, plus 1 on Resolving Hit rolls.

Here is the German line up. Two Tigers, two Mk III's, two armored cars, five trucks carrying a commander, two machine guns and two units of infantry. They are rated average.

The still green American forces. They are rated poor. Five M3 mediums, a SP 105 medium howitzer, a SP AT gun, three scout cars(counting as half tracks) carrying a mortar, an AT gun, and an infantry anti tank team. There is also a jeep carrying a spotter team. Flying overhead is a P40 fighter plane.

My noble dog, "Boye" had to get in a picture. The starting terrain channelizes movement.

The German used long range fire from their tTigers to knock out some  US tanks early.  The American medium gun started to hammer the Tigers, while the fighter plane disrupted the movement of the German support troops.

Things get very intense at the pass. Still, the Americans get good service from their artillery. The spotter on the hill does fine work. The German command team takes great risks to point the two Tigers onto targets.

One of the supporting MkIII's brews up, and the Americans move there SP anti tank gun to fill a gap in the line.  The P40 continues to harass the German left flank.

The AT gun takes one Tiger  Unit out. The remaining German armor pours fire into the M3 holding the right hill, to no avail.

Just a s the German armored car destroys the AT gun, the second Tiger is hit by flanking fire from an M3.  Both sides hit the critical point on the same turn. It is another hard fought draw.

A FEW NOTES: I was much happier with the second version of the M3. My earlier attempt, allowing the hull gun to fire in the artillery phase, often wrecked a German turn before initiative was rolled. In this version, there were only a few turns where the M3 got to fire both guns, and the tanks were very vulnerable to enemy fire.

The Tigers were tough, but not at all unstoppable. 

Again, air power played a very dramatic roll. The strafing fighter, and the US SP 105 Unit, kept the Americans in the game most of the way. If you haven't tried the Air Rules, do so. You will enjoy the results.

All modes are from Battlefront, except the Tigers, which are by Old Glory.

Next Week:  Some Early Action in the Western Desert.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Kasserine Pass

I played out the battle at Kasserine Pass tonight. Here are the forces involved:

US Army, quality-poor.                                  DAK, quality-average
  3 infantry Units-12SP                                       1 Command Unit-2SP
  1 Machine Gun-2 SP                                        3 Infantry Units-12SP
   1 Mortar Unit-2SP                                           2 Machine Gun-4SP
   1 Inf AT Unit-2SP                                            4 Tank Units-12SP
   1 AT Gun-2SP                                                  1 Armored Car Unit-3SP
   2 M3 Medium Tanks-6SP                                1 SPG, Heavy Artillery-2SP
   1 SPG, Medium Art-2SP                                  6 Trucks-12SP
   1SPG, AT-2SP
   1 Single seat Fighter Plane-3SP
Total-33 SP                                                          Total-47SP
Critical morale-11 SP lost                                   Critical Morale-16 SP lost
Initiative Dice-3                                                   Initiative Dice-4 (I did not count  trucks for Init)

Special rules-To reflect the unique qualities of the M3 Lee Medium Tank, I gave it some special abilities, both good and bad.
1) It can fire its hull gun in the Artillery Phase, as an anti-tank gun(range 4).
2) It can then, in the US player's phase, EITHER move, OR fire its turret gun as a "light tank gun"(range 3).
3) Because it had a high profile, and side doors weakening its armor, ANY hits on the M3
 are rolled on the Hit Results table with a -1 modifier. (There is a reason the Soviets called my favorite tank the "grave for seven brothers").

This was my first game using the Aircraft Rules for BBPW, and I truly enjoyed them. The American P40 went after the German trucks before they could unload, but without success. The German's had to unload their machine guns close to the Command and SP artillery Units to keep the strafing plane at bay.

The Americans used their SP artillery, and their two anti-tank guns to keep the four panzers from supporting the German infantry assaults. The M3s had some early success against the German armor, but soon found the awkward layout of the tank to be a detriment (The Germans engaged the M3s at a range of four, and if they drove them back, the Americans could not fire in their phase, after having fired as artillery, then moved up into light tank range.).

The Germans managed to shoot down the P40 as it homed in for a damaging attack on the German "Bison" SPG.

The Germans finally launched a series of assaults down the American ridge line, knocking out several tanks and smaller units. however, when the dust cleared, both sides had reached their breaking point. The battle that looked so promising for the German's, early on, was an expensive stalemate.

GAME NOTES: Aircraft add a lot of flavor to the game. I plan to try out Stukas and recon planes very soon. Aircraft WILL get your enemy out of his transport, one or two stops ahead of his schedule!

Initiative rolls can certainly be good for representing command SNAFUs. The Americans, with all their artillery firing without the need for initiative points, STILL had a turn in which they had only four Initiative points, and six Units, including the fighter plane, needing them.

The M3 could have been left as a regular tank, and the results would probably have been the same. One of the joys of PW is the ability to tweak a Unit or two for a particular game, without throwing the whole thing out of balance.  I plan to continue playing a short campaign in Tunisia, and plan to give the Germans one Tiger in most games. It will have 4SP, and a range of 5 squares. I'll let you know how it works out next time!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Building a Game Board in One Day

Last week I built a scenery board for my Portable Wargames set in the desert or Tunisia.  Last night I began one for "greener terrain". Here is how it was built.

I started with a sheet of two inch thick blue insulation board. I have used one inch pink board as well. This was covered with strips of fiberglass reinforcing tape, used in drywall repair. Both of these items are available at builder's supply stores like Home Depot. I use a large sheet of box cardboard to protect my work surface, which is also my game table.

The tape can be a bit tricky to get off the roll, but the strength it gives the playing surface is worth the trouble.

The paint I chose for the undercoat is Behr Premium Plus Ultra, Flat finish, "Grape Vine". I had the attendant in the HD paint department mix me a 7.25 ounce sample jar. That was enough paint to cover two 2x3 foot boards, and touch up some dents and dings on a few pieces of scenery in the collection.

I painted the edges over the tape first, then began filling in the middle.

Taco Bell Nacho plates make excellent paint trays.

After allowing the paint to thoroughly dry,  the messy part begins...You will need PVA white glue, Woodland Scenics blended Turf, and a cheap paint brush. The Nacho Tray is good for glue as well.

Again, I'm edging everything. Then the center gets filled in with white glue.

I then sprinkle flock near one edge, spreading it back to cover that edge completely. Keep sprinkling flock and gently spreading it until the board looks covered.

It is a slow, boring process.

When everything is covered, turn the board on its edge and tap it against the work table, most of the extra flock will fall off, onto your sheet of cardboard. Scrape it up and use it to touch up any spots that were missed. I had about a half dozen worthy of attention. Now give the glue time to dry.

Finally, measure off your board and apply the grid size desired. This board got   three inch squares, marked off with a black permanent marker.  Now I can set up Normandy, 1944.

Tomorrow I will post a report on BBPW: Kasserine Pass, using my desert board made using the same basic techniques.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Brief Update

Just a brief update tonight. Hopefully, over the next week I will get a few regular post up. Spike and I have spent most of our off time from work during the last three weeks stripping wallpaper and then painting our kitchen. Between work, re-modelling and trying to mend a fractured ankle, I just have not been able to get much accomplished.

I did build a 3x2 foot blue-foam board, painted and sanded for Tunisia and the Western Desert. i tried a few "new" techniques, and I will be passing them along. I also got to play a quick BBPW pitting a German Panzer Group against a team of green US troops at Kasserine.  I'll file a report on that one soon, with some thoughts on "scenario specific" tweaks on tank stats (the M3 Lee, in this case).

I have just about finished writing up the Trench Mission cards, and will hand them over to Spike for formatting.

PW:ECW has me still debating how best to represent the different tactics and usage of cavalry.  I did take a couple of hours one evening, while the paint was drying, to build a Fiddler's Green paper model of Stokesay Castle, which will stand in for Basing house when I attempt a PW:ECW Storming Party. I am re-reading Bill Protz's excellent "Wargamer's Guide to the English Civil War" for the wonderful section on fortified places and sieges.

Again, thanks for checking in, and your comments are always appreciated.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

How I Built my Trench Blocks

I have not been able to game this week, between overtime at work, and Spike and I re-modelling our kitchen. I did find time to put together a quick tutorial for everyone asking about my trench blocks that have been regular scenery on these pages.

Materials needed are several sheets of corrugated cardboard, white PVA glue, sand or flock, latex paint, paper masking tape and hot glue sticks. My tools of choice for this work includes a cutting mat, steel ruler, a square, razor knife, and hot glue gun.

First, cut the cardboard into a lot of squares. Mine  are 3x3 inches. Plain blocks are made my stacking and hot gluing four of them. I try to "cross-hatch' the grain of the cardboard so that warping is less likely.

Here is a hill (6 plain squares, topped by two smaller squares), and several blocks that will make up a river (2 plain squares, topped with two layers, cut to shape).

After the glue is firmly set, I wrap the block in paper masking tape. This seals off the "pores" in the corrugation. Next, paint on a layer of PVA white glue, to seal and strengthen the surface.

After painting the block with a basecoat of latex paint, give it another thin layer of white glue, and dip it in sand or flock.  Allow it to dry, and it will be ready to use.

A few pointers:

Use the framing square to cut your angles sharply.

 Make your cardboard squares  SLIGHTLY under  the desired size. The layers of tape, glue and flock WILL add a little thickness that adds up when you line up eight or twelve of them.

Make sure that your figure bases will fit the channel you cut for your trench. Then double check...some of my original 'one inch' bases were actually 1-1/16, and the dreaded "rebasing evening" resulted.

I built a frame to hold an 8x8 block layout. This one was light duty, as an experiment. A piece of light plywood, with sides made of lattice wood, should be all that you need.

NEXT WEEK: Mission Cards for the Trench Raid Game.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Portable Wargaming The Storming of Brentford

I have another blog, dedicated to the English Civil War , Forlorn Hope .
Last night I put up a battle report on trying to recreate the Storming of Brentford, using my adaptation of the Portable Wargame. I found that cavalry did not have the impact that I though it should, so made a couple of modifications. This afternoon, I re-played the scenario, and found the results much more to my expectations.

To summarize, Cavalry and lobsters are now 3 strength points(formerly 2) and both get an additional dice pip to NOT be hit in Close Combat.

I also tried and liked a rule suggested to me by Arthur: Cavalry that has no enemy in movement range, and no one between themselves and the enemy start line, must roll on the hit Results table to check morale.  A roll causing a casualty will compel them to move off the enemy's baseline, looking for the baggage train. They are out of the game, but do not count as Unit;s lost.  A "retreat" result represents the Unit reforming after their charge.

I will post in "Forlorn Hope" every Thursday. I welcome comments and discussion, both of Wargaming and the history of the English Civil War.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Night Raid on the Trenches

Caught under a flare!

 Tonight Spike and I tried a few house rules to allow the chaos of a night action in No Man;s Land. I will run through the "scenario rules' here, and later this week post a turn by turn account of  a game using them.

First, no figures begin play on the board. Both sides were given sixteen wooden blocks, marked as such:one Commander, one Engineer, two Machine guns, six infantry, and six blanks. These are deployed, with their labels facing their baseline, like the pieces in Stratego.

The game is played using the standard rules in BBPW. As your side gets to move, roll for initiative, not counting your blank pieces.  The blanks can be moved on your turn, using an initiative point, though they can not fire, and if adjacent to an enemy Unit, they are removed. They are also removed if hit by enemy fire, or " Illuminated" by a flare.

Any "real" Unit may move on its turn. Firing  Units are revealed, and are placed on the board in place of their blocks.

Commanders have a new function; They can fire Flares, using the rules for Mortars. A flare does no damage, but the square it lands in is Illuminated, and any Unit that is in the square or moves through it is revealed and placed on the board. Units firing at a Unit in an Illuminated square receive a plus 1.
Flares stay in the target square for two turns.

Units firing at an unrevealed block DO NOT get a plus 1 bonus for not moving.

A pair of sample blocks on the table

The mechanics worked well to reflect the tendency to "fire at nothing"  or be pinned by a parachute flare.  What is missing, at this point, is a purpose for leaving the safety of your trench.  Over the next day or two,I plan to produce a set of six "Mission Cards" allowing slight variances in the force composition, and a Victory Goal for the individual player.  Both sides COULD be out trying to take a prisoner, by winning a close combat. One Could be trying to remove wire, while the other is trying to lay more.....You get the idea!  Once these are done, Spike and I will play one and give a turn by turn account with pictures.

I will also post an English Civil War battle report on Thursday.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Trench Assault 1917:The Tanks

A year later the lines have changed but little.  it was time to use different methods. This time the attack would have support from Mk IV tanks, and the breakthrough would be built around Whippets , armored cars and cavalry.

The lumbering behemoths proved their worth immediately, crushing wire so that the infantry could move on.

German 77mm guns did some damage to the tanks, but they had allowed the infantry to pass through. Their 6-pounders kept the German machine gunners off balance as well.

The left-hand tank assaults an entrenched artillery position. The British losses are far less than anticipated.

The right hand tank is hit again, but overruns a German Maxim Gun, then turns left, and advances along the trench line...

...destroying a 77mm gun. The German front is in peril.

However, a bold unit of Jagers assaults the flank of the Mk IV with stick grenades, finally stopping its foray. on the left flank, the other tank falls to the machine, gunners.

While the Germans have been moving to stop the Mk IV's, the British infantry has turned the German right flank. The Whippets and armored cars are on the move.

Crossing the first trench, the lead Whippet pours machine-gun fire into German positions. Cavalry begins to follow the light tanks.

Relentless pressure is applied to the German right flank. Slowly, the Austin Armored Car crosses the first trench line.

The "arme blanche" await their mechanized partners.

Finally! The lead Whippet breaks through the German second line. Cavalry helps to scatter the survivors. The Austin and remaining Whippet move forward.

As the German line crumbles, the light forces move up the road toward the German rear areas.  There would be no talk of  "dig in and hold" today!

Watching for a counter-attack that did not come.....

A salute to the brave men who pioneered the use of tanks and armored vehicles!


The Armored car is a Peter Pig model.
The Whippets and Mk IV's were hand-carved and cast in resin several years ago.
I found the rules for Close Combat worked very well for the chaos of a trench assault. The side that
   has the last fresh reserves available will probably win the day.
I hope you enjoyed this one Arthur!

NEXT WEEK: A Night Raider Variant for WW1.

Draft Version of Portable Wargame: English Civil War

Here is a draft version of my English Civil War adaptation of Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame . I am playing on a grid of 11x11 squares.  I welcome any comments and questions. I hope to post a battle report using the rules this week.

Here is the link to the rules:
 Portable Wargames ECW rules pdf at Google Drive

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Trench Assault-1916

"This time it will work. We will smash our way through the thin German line, pass through the village, and get our cavalry in to the green fields beyond...." At least, that was the British plan.

This week's battle report features a British force of  8 Units of infantry, 2 Machine gun Units,  4 field artillery Units, and 2 units of cavalry.

On the German side were 6 infantry units, 2 machine guns, 2 field guns, 2 heavy guns, and a command unit in a concrete bunker.

The opening artillery barrage brought a quick response, including an unwelcome one-GAS! The right flank British artillery was disrupted from the start.

The British infantry "jumped off' heroically, moving up to begin the work of removing wire. Their machine gun companies moved up with them to lend support.

The German front line troops used the wire-imposed delay to cut a swath through the assault troops.

Still, the British troops pushed into the first line of trenches, trading lives for real estate. The Germans began to rush reserves in to counter-attack.

A brave Subaltern and his lads hold their just-won trench.

Casualties begin to mount. A contest of flanking attacks begins in the center. Who will be left holding the line?

Sensing a breakthrough, the British commander begins to deploy his cavalry.

Still, the German jagers hold their ground.

British troops begin to waver under the counter-attack. As they break off from assaults, German fire begins to inflict heavy loses.

The Germans hold the line....for now.

"Next time we will get them".  Maybe those landships will help....

TOMORROW NIGHT; Be here as we move the calender ahead one year to see the British attack the same section of line with the support of tanks and armored cars.

 All of the figures are Peter Pig, except the German Heavy Guns, which are hand carved.
The building ruins are from Old Glory.
The "trench blocks" are 3x3 squares of cardboard, wrapped in paper tape, painted and flocked with
"earth" and cat litter .
Barbed wire is made from thin picture hanging wire, braided and coiled around a dowel.
The game took less than an hour. The outcome was in the balance until the minute the British broke.
Spike took all of the pictures.