Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Hittites: The Gathering

As promised, this post provides an amalgamated review of the Hittite Army completed this week.  The twelve units (BMUs) for either Impetvs or To the Strongest! came in far ahead of schedule.  While I allowed myself a leisurely pace of twelve BMUs for 2020 or on average one per month, this project was started and completed in almost exactly three months.
12 BMU Hittite Army
The 12-BMU army contains the following elements:
3 x heavy chariots
2 x light chariots
2 x heavy infantry with spear
2 x bowmen
3 x light infantry with javelin
The army is a mix of Newline Designs and Wargames Foundry figures.  Of interest is that the Wargames Foundry chariots are the smaller two-crew chariots on right of the battle line and the Newline Designs chariots are the larger and heavier three-crew carts deployed on the left.
With the goal completed ahead of schedule and with about six months remaining in the year, I accept Peter's (Gonsalvo's) challenge.  The challenge is to field another six BMUs and increase my original goal by 50%.  Tackling an additional six elements puts me back into the one BMU per month mode which is, as seen by this example, attainable. 
What can be expected for these half-dozen units?  Well, sufficient figures linger in The Lead Pile to field the following six units:
3 x light chariots
1 x heavy infantry with spear
2 x bowmen

A quick rummage through the bins and count suggests I could also field,
2 x light chariots
1 x heavy infantry with spear
2 x light infantry with javelin 
With no gaming beyond a little bit of solo board wargaming, painting has occupied my hobby time.  Given this focus, units are stacking up at the photo booth.  Next time, two skirmisher stands for the 28mm Peninsular War project as I clean up a few loose ends.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Last of the Hittites

Last of the Hittites. Yep.  For now.  Units 11 and 12 of the planned 12 element Hittite army are finished.  While I gave myself 12 months to finish the twelve elements, the army was completed in half that time. 

First off the workbench is the fifth chariot in the army.  Figures are from Newline Designs.  The Newline Design chariots appear a little heavier than the Foundry chariots but they look fine on the table together. Next time Newline offers a sale, a few more of the vehicles will be picked up. 
Last off the painting desk for this army is a third unit of javelinmen.  These figures are from Wargames Foundry.
So, what is the composition of this twelve unit Hittite Army?  The breakdown is:
5 x chariots
3 x javelin
2 x heavy spear
2 x bow
This is a good start and accomplishes my 2020 goal but I could add a few more units to the project before the year winds down.  Increasing the Hittite force from an army of twelve to eighteen is not out of bounds.  I may have the figures necessary to make that happen if I remain focused.

Next time, I plan to parade these Hittites on the game table for a group photo once I clear some table space.  Until then, back to the painting desk.    

Thursday, July 2, 2020

A River Runs Through It

Upper Spokane Falls
As a reprieve from the seemingly endless parade of Hittites, I offer a brief diversion.

One benefit of the current pandemic situation is that social commitments have been reduced in both number and duration.  With bigger holes in our schedules (well, specifically Nancy's social calendar), we find more time for hiking and urban walks.  One such walk that is a favorite of mine includes a stroll around Riverfront Park in downtown Spokane.  While I pass through Riverfront Park via the Centennial Trail frequently while cycling, I rarely take the time to stop and enjoy the scenery. 
Footbridge spanning the Upper Falls
The city of Spokane is bifurcated by the Spokane River.  Through the center of the city, the river plummets through a series of waterfalls.  There are two main waterfalls: Upper and Lower Falls.  The combination of these two falls represents the largest urban waterfall in the USA.  Two islands divide the flow of the Upper Falls.  The river is united by time the Lower Falls is encountered.  The downtown area bordering these urban waterfalls has been set aside as a public park of 100 acres in size.
Upper Falls
A number of bridges, both for foot and vehicular traffic, crisscrosses the river in the downtown area.  Many offer stunning views of the falls and access to the two, midstream islands.
Upper Falls with old power plant on the left
Spokane hosted the 1974 World's Fair Expo.  At the time, it was the smallest host city to be awarded a World's Fair.  While transformed since the Expo days of 1974, some of those legacy artifacts remain.  One such leftover structure is the US Pavilion.  Once housing an ice rink, IMAX, and amusements, the recently renovated pavilion offers a modern and serene gathering place.  
Former US Pavilion
Another legacy holdover from the Expo is the floating orchestra barge with riverside, tiered seating.  During the summer months and festivals, this is the site for many a concert.  Well, maybe not so many outdoor concerts will be seen in 2020.  With the clock tower as a backdrop, a lovely venue, nonetheless.
Floating orchestra barge
Besides the US Pavilion tent, another easily recognizable park landmark is the Great Northern Clock Tower.  Before redevelopment began for the 1974 Expo, the railroad station was situated on Havermale island where the clock tower stands today.  During redevelopment, the railway station was relocated in a land swap but, fortunately, the tower remained.  The tower is an elegant structure.    
Great Northern Clock Tower
Heading downstream via the walkways and observation platforms, the Monroe Street Bridge looms large overhead.  To me, the sight of the bridge presents an elegant, engineering marvel highlighting form as well as function.  The gondolas provide an aerial view for passengers as they make the round trip journey from embarkation point near Post Street Bridge to the gorge spanned by the Monroe Street Bridge.  A second bridge of similar design and construction spans the Latah Creek gorge about two miles to the west.    
Monroe Street Bridge and Gondolas
Viewed from the observation platforms at the Lower Falls, the elevation drop is dramatic.  Before the days of dams, the Lower Falls was a congregation place for salmon as they made their way back upstream to their breeding grounds.
Lower Falls
I hope this brief look at Riverfront Park in downtown Spokane provided an enjoyable distraction from the long parade of Hittites.  The final two units of the planned twelve BMU Hittite army are up next time.

Monday, June 29, 2020

A Pair of Hittite Chariots

The twelve element Hittite project is in the home stretch now.  Off the workbench this weekend are two chariots and supports.  This brings the total for the project to ten of the twelve planned BMUs finished. 

Up first is Chariot #3 in the project.  The chariot and crew are Wargames Foundry.  The runners are from Newline Designs.  While the earlier Newline Designs' Hittite chariots maintained three figure crew, the Wargames Foundry chariot carries a two-figure crew complement.  
Foundry chariot/Newline runners

Foundry chariot/Newline runners
Up next is Chariot #4.  This stand features Wargames Foundry chariot with Foundry runners.  The Foundry Hittite chariots are slightly smaller than the Newline Designs' chariots.  The Foundry chariot team is slightly smaller too.  Given that the Newline Designs' chariots allow a crew of three vs a crew of two, it seems reasonable that the Newline chariots would be slightly larger.  On the table, there is little difference. 
Foundry chariot/Foundry runners
Foundry chariot/Foundry runners
What is left to round out the dozen BMU Hittite Army?  One more chariot and one more unit of javelinmen are all that is holding me back from declaring victory on this 2020 goal.  Both units should be mustering out from the painting desk soon.

Even before putting the finishing touches on the last two units, thoughts have already turned to expanding the Hittites.  One unit of spearmen is in queue with construction beginning on three more chariots.  Enough archers are present to field one or two units of Neo-Hittite archers.  If I stick to those plans, the Hittite army will see a 50% increase in size over my original goal.  Perhaps an 18-BMU Hittite Army ought to be a revised 2020 objective?

Before tackling more Hittites, a number of other projects see additional units winding through the painting queue.  Some of these include Afghan/Pathan warbands and Russian artillery for the 19th Century Great Game, ACW Federal infantry in 28mm (finishing off the last of a Federal brigade), and two regiments of French for the FAW in 18mm.  I bet a few more items are in work too.   

Friday, June 26, 2020

Hittite Javelinmen x2

Today, out from the painting desk, sees two units for the growing Hittite project.  This time, two 12-figure units of javelinmen.  For those readers keeping count, the addition of this pair of units brings the total to eight of the planned dozen units.  Figures are Wargames Foundry.   
What remains in the painting queue to finish off the first dozen units?  Well, I see one more unit of javelinmen and three more chariots.  Once the initial twelve are completed and if tempted by expansion, The Lead Pile holds five more chariots, two units of spearmen, two of javelin, and two of archers.  Still plenty to field if I want keep focus on Hittites.  Of course, plenty of other projects are seeing action at the painting desk too including a few projects not seeing work in a long while.  When the first dozen Hittites are finished, expect projects to return to a more typical, mixed rotation at the painting desk.     
One item often overlooked until almost too late is my supply of Litko bases.  A few of the bases used in my various projects are running low on inventory.  Of particular concern are the Impetvs/TtS! size bases including the little raised label holder on the trailing edge. Looks like I need to make an order this week to resupply before the painting production line grinds to a halt.  I wonder if Litko is having a July 4 sale this year?  Off I go to check...

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Hittite Halfway

The sixth unit for the Hittite project marches off the painting desk.  With the completion of today's fourteen figure stand, the 2020 goal of fielding a 12-element army of Hittite's reaches the halfway point.  Figures are Wargames Foundry.  The sculpting style of the Foundry Hittites are much different from the Newline Designs' Hittites.  While the Newline Designs' figures are rounded and chunky, the Foundry Hittites look to be hard campaigners and are downright skinny.  Fine sculpts both.
This week marks a major milestone for this homebound wargamer.  That is, Face-to-Face gaming is returning to the Palouse. With no in-person gaming since early January, offers for Thursday and Saturday gaming are on the table.  Having only one or two other gamers in attendance, I am tentatively committed to testing FtF gaming again.  Thursday offers up a Field of Glory game while Saturday will see Fire & Fury in action.  Having not played either in a very long time, the relearning curve to Fire & Fury will be much less so will likely pick the Saturday game.  Actually, playing F&F is almost second nature so the relearning curve ought to be relatively flat. Relatively flat in comparison to Field of Glory, that is.  I have never quite understood that game and it always seems like work rather than recreation.  

On the cycling front, weather has improved this week with temperatures expected in the mid-80s all week.  Typically, as the temperatures rise so does the mileage.  We will see if I can stick to that correlation.  Only two days into the week and mileage has already topped 60 miles.  A 32-miler is planned for Tuesday.  Below is one photo from a recent ride while descending into a little valley.  The photo shows the upcoming short and sharp climb on the far side of the valley I must overcome to drag myself up and out of the valley.
           

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Hittite Chariot #2

Hittite chariot #2 emerges from the painting desk.  As chariot #1 (see The Hittites are Coming!), this chariot, crew, and entourage are from Newline Designs.  Fine figures in the chunky style of sculpting.  I like them a lot.  Without any empirical evidence, painting the chunky and more rounded sculpts seems easier to paint than Wargames Foundry.  We will see if that holds once I paint a Foundry chariot or two.     
For the initial goal of fielding a 12 element Hittite army, the plan includes five chariots in this 12 element mix.  In this first tranche, three chariots will be sourced from Newline Designs with the remaining two chariots from Wargames Foundry.  Most Hittite Army lists suggest a chariot heavy force.  I will not veer far from that concept.  In the Impetvs terminology, the remainder of the army will be composed of two heavy spear FP BMUs, two archer T BMUs, and finally three javelin FL BMUs.  Once the initial twelve are finished, I may add a unit here and there into the painting queue to add a little more might to the Hittite collection.

On the painting front, May turned out to be OK in number of figures painted.  I managed to just slip past the 100 figure count for the month.  June looks like it may produce more of the same unless a 39-figure pike block can be successfully tackled before month end.  Begun yesterday, my confidence is high, for now.  With figures from a number of different manufacturers as I press into service leftovers in The Lead Pile, this weighty block may take more time than the typical pike block.  Large, Landsknecht pike blocks, are not so easy for me.  Luckily, this may be the last one to hit the painting table for some time since I have emptied the bin!  Of course, there are still several 30-figure bags of Old Glory arquebusiers and crossbowmen and at least one more BMU of Gendarmes in the bin.  Still, plenty to paint if the Italian Wars project calls. 

Lots more new units to share in the coming weeks including work from a few projects not seen in a very long time. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

US Marines, Cuba 1898

While rummaging around in The Lead Pile to come up with the two bags of US commanders painted recently, I found a handful of US Marines.  Before returning back to work on the Hittites, fourteen US Marines for the Spanish-American War muster off the painting desk.  Figures are 25mm Old Glory. 
Included in one of the mounted officer packs was a mounted marine.  Now, the marine contingent will have one of its own to lead them into battle.  As always, the Old Glory SAW range is a good one.  With simple uniform, the figures can be painted and fielded with little effort.  When my seven-year old grandson saw the figures on the painting desk, he identified them as policemen.  You know, these could be used as either cops or even prison guards from the 20s and 30s in a Pulp setting.
Also surfaced in the dig through The Lead Pile were several more packs of SAW infantry.  One bag contained Spanish infantry in sun helmet.  At least 30 of these figures are already present and ready for duty in their white tropical uniform.  While looking up some other matter on the SAW the other day, I came upon the illustration below:
The work by Murat Halstead is entitled, The Last Stand of the Spanish Garrison in Cuba.  From my readings, the Spanish typically wore the tropical whites or rayadillo in Cuba.  If this particular foreign service uniform was worn in Cuba, this would add a lot of color to a Spanish army in Cuba.  Expect to see some Spanish infantry in blue tunic and red pants one day.

Ok, back to the Hittites.  

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Cycling the Palouse

Despite talking with Jake about riding the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes during our irregular gaming sessions for at least five years, this week we made good on that goal.  Having not seen Jake since early January due to my broken leg and then COVID-19, our schedules and Mother Nature finally gave in.  Yes, we finally made the proposal stick.  The plan was to rendezvous at the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes' trailhead and take the trail to the small resort town of Harrison and back for a mid-afternoon ride.  Other than the seven mile descent to the lake from the trailhead (and ascent on the return), the route is primarily flat following an abandoned and converted rail line.  The planned round trip totaled 31 miles.  Actual miles logged were 38.  
The planned route
One of the highlights of the route is crossing Lake Coeur d'Alene on the old railroad bridge and causeway at about the eight mile marker.  The railroad bridge and causeway effectively segregates the top of the lake from the the remainder of the lake stretching to the north. 
Old Railroad bridge
Causeway
Being an old railway line, the route is flat as mentioned before.  Surrounded by mountains, there are a number of railroad cuts carved through the hills to maintain the desired grade.  These many cuts are narrow and, in places, dramatic.  A sampling of the railroad cuts are below.


As one would expect of a mountain lake in North Idaho, the scenery is beautiful and the weather pleasant.



We even came upon a number of fellow cyclists out for a ride.
The full Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes runs from the trailhead at Plummer, across Lake Coeur d'Alene and 73 miles to Mullan near the Montana border.  All is paved.  Following our brief stop at Harrison, rather than turning back for the return trip, we pushed on north for a few more miles.  After returning to out starting point at the trailhead, talk turned toward doing this again on a more regular interval; more frequently than once every five years.  The next goal is to take the trail from Plummer to the Cataldo Mission.  That ride would be about 75 miles roundtrip.  I cannot remember the last time I road 75 miles in a single day.

Reaching the trailhead at Plummer is about equidistant for us.  I have a 45 minute drive south from Spokane while Jake has a 45 minute drive north from Moscow.  Once on the trail, with beautiful scenery and good companionship, the miles clicked by with little effort.  This was a good afternoon out on the bike.  I look forward to the next time.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Tretten in Flames - Batrep #2

With the Germans narrowly missing a victory in Game 1, the table was reset to exercise the scenario a second time.  In my post-game notes from the earlier battle, I wondered if changing initial deployments would make a difference.  Also, would playing the Germans more aggressively in the center aid their cause?  Those are two of the tactical changes made in Game 2.

11:00 Both sides deploy their forces with a few changes from Game 1.  The German MMG is placed behind the wall in the center so as to bring under fire much of the British positions.  The rifle sections having the extra LMG firepower are circled (these extra LMG wielding rifle sections I note as heavy).  Note the British place one of these teams in the deep snow on the high point of the battlefield.  This ought to improve this section's LOF to the German positions.  The risk to this position is that in deep snow, this unit may not be able to extract itself if pressed hard. 
Initial dispositions
At the start, the Germans lay down a covering fire from the MMG, infantry gun, and mortar and then step off on the assault of Tretten.  Both British heavy rifle sections are pinned in this initial fire.  On the German left, infantry advances under the cover of smoke toward the unoccupied building.  
Laying down fire before the advance
The British counter by placing the two heavy rifle sections in command.  The section on the heights recovers but the section in the building remains pinned.  This is a dangerous result for heavy rifle section in the building since another pinning blast from the enemy and it will be gone.  As the British advance on their right, covering fire pins the German heavy rifle section. 
British advance
11:10 German sections reach the southern most building unopposed and one of the mountain rifle sections eliminates the British rifle section on the heights.  The extra LMG is left to be picked up by another British rifle section if possible.  The MMG finishes off the pinned rifle section in the building in the center of the British positions.  Ouch!
Action heats up in the south
Destruction of two British heavy rifle sections
The British rifle section holding the building at the base of the hill, moves quickly up the slopes to take up the position vacated by its departed comrades. 
Quick reposition onto the heights
11:13 While fighting is intense all across the battlefield, not much noticeable damage is done.  Both sides have a bout of bad luck in scoring hits.  
A lot of fire but nary a scratch
The Germans use this brief lull to prepare their troops for an assault against British positions on the southern approaches to Tretten.
Preparing for the attack
11:18 In preparation for an assault on the southern buildings, the Germans soften up the defenders holed up in the walled garden.  One British section is pinned from the fire. 
Heating up in the garden
Wanting to concentrate on the northern sector, the British commander puts the pinned section and the heavy rifle section into direct command.
Taking command in the north
In the southern sector, the German defenders suffer casualties having two rifle sections pinned.
Payback!
In the center, the heavy rifle section on the heights pins one of the German infantry sections before it can make much headway across the open ground.
Caught in the open and pinned
11:27 After several minutes of hard fighting, both sides take a breather as the firefight finds no new targets.  The Germans in the south pull back to recover before assaulting the British positions yet again.  It was not so much that the firefight reached a lull by mutual agreement but that the many out of command units failed to pass their initiative command roll.  Fatigue must be setting in.  
Battlefield lull
British outnumbered in the south
11:35 As the German attack presses on, the British give the Germans a bit of a sting.  Both sections in the southern-most building are pinned as is the ski troop in the woods near the northern-most building.  The British on the right are holding firm in the walled garden with support from three rifle sections to their rear.
British holding firm
Close up of the action in the southern sector
British reserve is ready
11:42 Still in a quagmire on the German left, the German command puts its emphasis on the center and right.  While the enemy advances upon the heights, the British heavy rifle section falls back in search of better cover.  
Germans advance in center and right
11:54 With a time advance of 12 minutes, Random Events are triggered.  For the Germans, they roll an Infiltration.  With that result, the Germans push a rifle section into the building at the base of the heights.  For the British, Sniper result is rolled.  The sniper immediately pins the section that just occupied the building.  Take that!
Random Events
With only two of the five objectives in German hands and time low on the clock, the Germans make a last ditch effort to secure two more objectives.  They target the northern-most building and the walled garden.
Heavy fighting in the south
Firepower from multiple sources pins both British rifle sections in the walled garden.  Not yet destroyed, they fall back into the adjoining house.  The Attackers move up to occupy the walled garden.  In the north, the ski troop is repulsed from its attack on the defenders.
The walled garden is unoccupied
Having run out of time on the clock and having taken only three of the five objectives needed, the Germans fall short of victory a second time.
Final tally
Looking at the table, with three objectives in German hands, the Germans really are close to victory.  Having pinned British in two remaining objectives, one more turn may decide the issue.  With attackers in place to assault both remaining objectives, I opted to play one more turn. 

In that final, extra turn, the Germans took both of the remaining objectives in their part of the turn only to lose both southern and central objectives in the British half of the turn.

Another very close battle that went down to the end.  The battle turned into another nail biter.  With a little better shooting and avoiding a twelve minute clock advancement at the end, one more turn could have been squeezed into play.  As my extension demonstrated that extra turn did not bring a German victory but it may have.  Casualties were much lighter in the second game than in the first. British lost three units to the Germans' two units. One facet of Tigers at Minsk, a player cannot do everything with each unit each turn.  The primary effort for the turn must be decided and those three hexes put into command.  Everyone else is on the his own to act or stall at the whims of the initiative command die roll. 

Having a loss for the Germans in both games, is play balance off?  No, I do not think so.  In both games, the German could have reached the five objective count within the 60 minutes on the game clock.  If not for some poor rolls from the MMG in the center, the outcome could have been much different.  Still, the PzII barely got engaged in the action.  Perhaps, its arrival timetable should be advanced so that it can have a chance at participation?  Also, an earlier arrival for the tank provides something for the ATR to focus on.  All in all, a very challenging contest that suits solitaire play well.