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.