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Thursday, 24 April 2014

Wargames Magazines - The Road To Success

I have written previously in this blog about the positive role that the current 3 glossy magazines play in our hobby. I continue to hold to that position, yet I don't subscribe to any of these publications. Furthermore, the current issue of each one was checked out recently online (a great facility to have - thank you editors) and rejected for purchase. Why would that be? 

After some reflection I came to the personal conclusion that the problem could easily be summed up - too much diversity. Our hobby has become a very broad church and editors are sensitive to the criticism that they are leaving out one branch or other of the pastime. So we have modelling articles, painting articles, sci-fi articles, steam punk articles, articles about wars you've never heard of... you name it.

It's time to get back to basics. Every wargamer knows in his heart that playing battles with model soldiers has just three periods - ancients, horse and musket, and modern. Don't they? After all, this is what we learnt from Mssrs. Featherstone and Grant in the 60s and 70s. Come on, even my dog knows that wargaming is divided into three periods.

How much more proof do you need? Good boy Biffy!

So the lesson is obvious. Every issue of a wargames magazine should have at least one decent article dedicated to each one of these periods. And when I say decent article, I mean a good historical or fictional scenario with some solid background that can be adapted from one part of the period to another (say, from Napoleonics to Seven Years War), and including a nice little battle report. With a well drawn map or maps. And none of that skirmish nonsense or other diversification - I'm talking about solid, mainstream wargaming.

But what about sci-fi, fantasy, or steam punk fans? Perhaps they should get their own magazines going. For steam punk, you could call it Nutcase Monthly, or some such. Oops, sorry guys. Only joking. I appreciate that to most of the population we're all nutcases.

So there you have it. Gather in your traditional, core audience and all will be well. Our future lies in our past.

Editors, ignore me at your peril!


Monday, 31 March 2014

Operation Pulawy

I've been concentrating quite heavily on the SYW for the last few months, what with the new rules in development, so I decided it was time to take a break and try some WW2 to refresh my mind.

Looking for a scenario, my purchase at the recent WMMS show of Jumping Into Hell by Frank Kurowski (about the German Fallschirmjaeger in WW2) reminded me it was time I used those gliders I bought a while back. A quote from early in the book concerning a cancelled operation during the Polish campaign gave me all the inspiration I needed,
Generalmajor Student had wargamed a number of employment possibilities for his small number of paratroops. One of them was to be employed at the bridge over the Vistula at Pulawy. The paratroopers would jump into the area around the bridge, eliminate its security, remove the charges and hold open the route for the advancing armoured forces.
The soldiers of the battalion were already sitting in their transports when the operation was called off. Cursing, they got off the aircraft. It was later found out that the German armoured forces had already taken the bridge in a coup de main. (p.16)
Well, who'd have thought it? General Student a fellow wargamer! Anyway, looking in my copy of Case White, by William Russ, which gives a detailed breakdown of German operations day by day, the nearest I got to any extra clues about the operation was the map shown below. As you can see, there is no indication of tank units crossing the Vistula at Pulawy, which seems to have been taken by the 13th Infantry Division. So where the idea of an armoured coup de main came from I don't know. I found no further clues after the usual trawl of the internet, so I had to go with the scanty details I had. To make a good game, I picked the nearest armoured formation on the map that didn't have Czech tanks (2nd Light Division) as the unit racing for the bridge, which was to be captured in advance by a battalion of Fallschirmjaeger. Alright, not the most original airborne forces scenario, but reading Kurowski's book showed it was a surprisingly common mission in real life, though the number of cancellations was high. Rather like the Allies at the other end of the war.


Scenario - Operation Pulawy, 10th September 1939.
A bridge across the Vistula near the town of Pulawy, south east of Warsaw, has become a vital objective. Retreating Polish forces west of the Vistula are aiming for it as an escape route, whilst German mobile forces seek to cut them off by taking Pulawy themselves. A battalion of German paratroops has been detailed to capture the bridge and hold it, preventing its use by the Poles until friendly armoured forces arrive to relieve them. The map below shows the table setup (6' x 5'). The terrain is fairly flat, with just some low bluffs near the river, but quite heavily wooded.

A reinforced Polish company is deployed in each of the 2 indicated areas.
A German glider company arrives at the LZ on move 1 to start the game,
then on move 2 the paras drop on the DZ, provided they make their command roll for mobile deployment.
Then on move 5 the Panzers should arrive at A and the final Polish company at B.


The present day crossings of the Vistula at Pulawy
Closer shot of the older road crossing.
Built in the mid 1930s, this bridge was destroyed in the war but rebuilt post war.

Polish Forces

Infantry Battalion, 39th Infantry Division (Regular)

At Pulawy
Infantry Company:  HQ CV8, 3 infantry units, 3 mg units (2 in bridge pillboxes), 1 40mm AA unit.

At Road Junction 
Infantry Company:  HQ CV8, 3 infantry units, 1 mg unit, 1 37mm ATG.
Artillery Battalion:  FAO CV6, 2 75mm artillery units (off table)

Reinforcements. Arrive move 5 at 'B', mobile deployment.
Infantry Company:  CO CV8, 3 infantry units, 1 mg unit, 1 37mm ATG (all in trucks).


17 units, BP = 9

German Forces

II/FJR.1 (Elite)

Glider Company, arrive move 1: HQ CV9, 3 infantry units, 1 engineer unit, 4 gliders. 

2 Parachute Companies, arrive move 2, mobile deployment. 
CO CV10, 6 infantry units, 2 mg units, 2 engineer units, 6 Ju52s. 

Elements of 2nd Light Division (Regular). Arrive move 5 at 'A', mobile deployment.

Panzer Battalion: CO CV9 4 PzI, 4 PzII.
Recce Company:  HQ CV9, 1 Sdkfz 221 (recce), 1 Sdkfz 222 (recce), 2 infantry units (m/c), 1 mg unit (truck).
FAC:  CV 7, 2 HS-123 units, 2 assets.

27 units, BP = 14


The Game

The gliders land north east of the bridge.
One glider veers away from the Polish AA fire and is placed on the table edge.
On move 2 the paras suffer a disastrous drop due to an epidemic of 1s, and most are placed on the table edge north of their DZ. Here they make their way back over the wooded hill towards the bridge. The sole platoon that landed on target has already been destroyed by Polish fire.
The paras struggle forward, but take heavy fire from the bridge area and from the road junction
and farm area on their right flank.
The cavalry arrive on time on move 5. The recce company moves round through the haystacks
to outflank the Polish position to the north.
The Polish reinforcements are delayed by failed command rolls for a couple of moves,
but then advance straight onto the bridge.
The German armoured troops allow themselves to get bogged down confronting the Polish blocking position.
An all-out advance to the bridge, bypassing the defended area, would have been more profitable.
HS-123 prepares to attack the Polish-held farm area.
End of the game. It was 2300 and bedtime, after 8 moves had been completed. The Germans had lost 12 units, the Poles none (yes, none). The paras and glider troops had been annihilated and the advancing panzers were stuck at the junction, whilst the Polish reinforcements had arrived and secured the bridge. So make that a German failure!

Debrief
Overall, the Germans (me) ended up with a fiasco on their hands. The airborne troops cocked up their landing (oh that stream of ones! Unbelievable!), and then were shot to pieces. The reinforcements needed to race for the bridge at all costs, but I got fixated on the Polish blocking position.

In my defence, I think the Polish forces at the bridge were a bit too strong. The heavy fire of 3 machine guns and the Bofors, plus extra flanking fire from the farm area, gave the German paras little chance. This was exacerbated by our use of the 'static hits' rule, meaning no hits came off at the end of the turn. A more sensible bridge force would be a company of 3 infantry units and an mg unit, reinforced by an AAmg unit. 

Airborne Deployment
BKC II is a little lacking on rules for airborne deployment, and as in my Airfield Attack game I developed my own. In fact the ones used in this game were a little flaky, so I have now updated them. This is the current version, for early-war Fallschirmjaeger:

Fallschirmjaeger Deployment

Formations arriving by parachute or glider use mobile deployment in their command phase but may be deemed to arrive on schedule if preferred. They always count as attackers. Two units per Ju-52, one unit per DFS-230.
Parachute troops. Mark the intended drop point before game start. Carry out AA fire against transport aircraft using the drop point as the aiming point. Units in aborted aircraft are placed on the nearest table edge; units in destroyed aircraft are destroyed. For each remaining unit (including command units), roll 3D6 and a direction dice and place the unit this distance and direction from the drop point. Then roll a D6 per unit. On a 1, 2 or 3 the unit has not recovered its weapons containers and for the first move has no ranged attacks. It will close assault with 3 attacks only.
Glider troops. Mark the landing point and carry out AA fire against gliders as for transport aircraft. For unit deviation use only 2D6. 
Terrain. Any glider or parachute units landing in high area terrain take 6 attacks as if in the open. If landing in deep wet terrain or impassable terrain they are destroyed.
Command bonus. As normal, 2 actions are allowed.
Command blunder. If a blunder occurs, roll a D6.
1, 2 – roll one die for each unit. A score of 6 indicates the unit is knocked out. No saves allowed.
3, 4 – land this turn, but move the drop point or landing point using 3D6 and a direction die. 
5, 6 – move drop point as above, but land on the displaced point next turn.


And that, as they say, is that. Good to get the WW2 toys out again, and congratulations to Paul on his victory (the bugger). See you soon.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Spendin' cash, talkin' trash...

With Colours 2014 not taking place, The In Crowd decided we owed ourselves a visit to another wargames show. Therefore, Craig, Steve and myself made the journey north to the West Midlands Military Show in Wolverhampton on Sunday 9th March. Many thanks for the lift Craig - you're a star.

Talkin' Trash
So - three wargamers who hadn't met up in a while confined in a car for a couple of hours. Naturally, the conversation quickly turned to... yes, wargaming. If I remember correctly we discussed painting standards and how many hours one could reasonably spend painting a figure, as well as the relationship between painting competitions and wargaming. And then what latest temptations we were trying to avoid, and some stuff about what made a good wargames show. I'm afraid Salute got a bit of a hammering (too big, too crowded, too far away, too expensive to visit), but we all agreed Colours would be sorely missed this year. With myself and Craig contemplating house moves, there was some wistful dreaming about having separate wargames rooms in our new homes, and some discussion of the merits of erecting a big shed in the garden versus going for a proper extension to your home. We concluded that a nice big conservatory makes a lovely wargaming space.

Spendin' Cash
And then we were there. A lovely sunny day, and we celebrated the spring-like feeling by joining other wargamers driving over the newly sprung bulbs to park on the grassed area of the car park. Well, it might not actually have been part of the car park officially, but needs must when spaces are at a premium. No time for sentimentality when there is a bring and buy waiting!

The show is in a large, modern sports hall. The ad promised 50 trade stands and 25 games, and we were not disappointed - this a good size show. The games were just about universally excellent, with a great variety in period, type and size. There was perhaps some space for a few more tables, but generally the hall was well filled, whilst not too overcrowded. Overall, plenty to keep you inspired and interested for a good few hours. Traders were also varied and numerous. We were all glad we went, and will very likely go again. Well done to the Alumwell Wargames Society.

Picture This
And so to the photo report. This is by no means exhaustive, and the pictures were mainly compiled to test out my new camera. Therefore the names of those putting on the games, and sometimes the nature of the games themselves, are mostly missing. If by chance you recognise your game here, please leave some details in the comments section. Personally, I noticed the modest but significant number of quite small games, which might be a trend. And in general, when talking to participants, it was interesting the number of people who were using their own rules. Well done chaps.

Negatives? None to speak of really, except for the continuing grim determination of some wargamers to spend months on modelling a marvellous wargames terrain, then come the great day bestrewing it with playsheets, coffee cups and fizzy drink bottles. Presenters and organisers need to get together to prevent this by requesting/providing more room than the game itself actually requires, so that side tables or vacant space can be used for rules and refreshments.

Overview. A nice light and airy hall

Beautifully modelled game of Norway 1940 - except that  information on what
the game represented was noticeable by its absence.

A lot of effort had obviously gone into producing the game.
A pleasure to behold.

Snow. I like snow.

Battle of Britain game. 

Cabbage crates over the briny.

Hex terrain, models balanced on house roofs - I should hate this game...

...but I didn't. Looked extremely tempting and I wanted to join in.
Love the bright green terrain colour - sets off the figures well.
Oh yes, this was The Battle of the Marne, 1914.

Cracking Hougomont game set up by some local gamers.

Inside the courtyard.

The defenders prepare.

Aha, tricornes!

Behind the display boards were a host of lovely 40mm AWI figures.

Oh dear, a great looking game I forgot to record the details of.
Move those playsheets gentlemen!

This is what we want - good size figures and lots of colour!

One of three Zulu Wars games present. Note the PC being used for the rules.

Crikey - a Flames of War game that actually looks like a real battle.
Oops - sorry to be patronising. A very nice presentation, I thought.

Yes, another unidentified game with some lovely units - as you can see here.

Two very friendly gentlemen were overseeing a participation skirmish game
set in Poland 1939, which naturally drew my attention.

They had assembled some lovely early-war armour in 1/32nd scale.

The future of wargaming? (1). A small but nice looking game
of something sci-fi in progress.

The future of wargaming? (2). The Society of Ancients also chose
a small but perfectly formed game to tempt new recruits.

One of those post 1945 WW2 games, apparently set in 1947 with walking tanks and
Shermans with some sort of las-cannon. These were mixed in with ordinary 1945 stuff.
Interesting and fun. That's a lot of technological advance in 2 years, though.

Eagle Figures stand, with some lovely SYW stuff on display.

Outstanding 20mm Arab-Iraeli game.

Great work, but I dislike that (currently popular) style of burning marker.
Looks very artificial to me. 

I've been pining for this particular model for some years, as transport for one of my SYW generals.
But there's too much other work to be done first. Get thee behind me Satan.
An alternative from Warlord Games is also now available.

Excellent, more tricornes. A game set in the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion.

As the Scots weren't wearing tricornes I didn't bother to photograph them.

More redcoats in the same battle.

Finally, a small band of 18th century re-enactors were present, and so yours truly couldn't resist the temptation to
handle a replica Brown Bess. And yes, it's just as heavy and unbalanced as it looks. Shit!

Oh yes, purchases. Steve and Craig contented themselves with picking up some pre-orders from Pendraken. I bought a couple of books - reviews may well follow. I did however shell out about £55 on 20mm WW2 stuff for my friend Paul. Always a pleasure to spend other people's money!

And remember - if it's square, we ain't there.


P.S. Another blogger has captured some of the games my camera missed. I think the demo games at the show really were of a great standard, so for more proof go to:

http://willwarweb.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/wmms-good-day-out.html