Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Tigers at Minsk - Takes 2-5

Following my first attempt at Tigers at Minsk, (see: Tigers at Minsk - First Play) and having given force placement and plans of attack some thought, I returned to the table.

While the Germans came close to reaching the French baseline, the last-gasp, German section was cut down before it could make a successful exit from the board.  With that close call, I figured the German player might have a good chance of winning the scenario.

With only a handful of units in the game, initial deployments are critical and loss minimization paramount.  Given the small size of the game and lack of covering terrain, few viable options present themselves for force set up.

For the French, I see only one real option for deployment.  The wire must go in the hex on the far left of the French line to block a German section from sneaking to the baseline under the cover of the scrub.  Each village hex gets one HMG and one infantry section.  No other option seems reasonable.  The village provides cover and the infantry sections provide support for the HMGs.  With this deployment, all French troops are in command every turn.

For the Germans, set up must be in and behind the three woods hexes.  How the German forces are deployed is up to the player.  One force could represent a main attack and the other secondary with troops deployed accordingly.  However the Germans deploy, if in two groups centered on the woods, only one group will be in automatic command each turn.  The other group will need initiative to act.

Given the French have the First Turn, the German player cannot afford to stack his troops within LOF at start.   In this game, I deployed the Germans as two and five with the bulk of the Germans on the right.
Initial deployments
German right with two sections in reserve and out of LOS
 On to the game!
French opens up on the German HMG
 pinning the supporting infantry
German HMG provides covering fire as infantry advances
 on the right under the cover of smoke.
French infantry is pinned in the village.
Under cover of smoke,
advance on the German right continues.
  French pour fire into the HMG hex, pinning the gun while
a German section moves up in support.
The smoke clears and French fire opens up.
One German section KIA and a second pinned.
German HMG returns fire into the village
 hoping to weaken the defenders 
The firefight continues as one section in the woods is KIA.
Infantry section advancing under cover of smoke escapes,
 for now.
With smoke gone, the advancing Germans
are cut down in the open.
Coming up to support the HMG,
 another German section is KIA.
With four units destroyed, the German morale breaks and the remnants of this dismal affair withdraw.

This was a quick battle and barely consumed 30 minutes on the game clock.  With the French hunkered down in the two villages and clear lines of supporting fire to the German positions, the German attack seems doomed.

Was it the dice?  Die rolls were average with few extremes.  Given French firepower, almost two hits per turn can be expected even when firing into cover.  I set up the game again with same starting positions.  The result?  The same.  This time, the Germans broke in about 15 minutes.

I tried two more games, all ended in the same result.  I tried putting more force on the German left.  I tried reinforcing the woods hexes at the outset.  All ended in brutal German defeats. 
A different German deployment
With the French commanding the central position, intersecting Lines of Fire, and the First Player turn, this scenario seems very difficult for the Germans.  Perhaps since the Germans are attacking, they should be awarded the First Player turn?   Still, an engaging action. 


Sunday, March 29, 2020

Spanish Infantry 1898

During these uncertain times, off the painting desk advances an element for a project that faces uncertainty, itself.  My Spanish-American War project is one of those undertakings launched in anticipation of great gaming but has rarely seen the table.  Begun in 1999 (just over 20 years ago!), the SAW collection last saw any paint work back in 2018.  Still, I hold out hope that the project will see action on the gaming table in the not too distant future.      
Originally planned to be gamed with Fields of Honor (FoH), I am undecided if those will be the rules I return to when the collection next sees action on the table.  Twenty years ago, FoH seemed to capture much of what I wanted in a Cuban adventure.  Having not read the rules of late, I wonder if my perception still holds.  Good question.

Within the last year, I picked up a copy of S&T's The Santiago Campaign.  My goal was to investigate whether this magazine game might make a useful battle generator for tabletop scenarios.   
Having played through the campaign. solo, over the Christmas Break, I think it would make a very useful battle generator for the 25mm troops.  I played the boardgame as the USA player and utilized AI to govern the Spanish forces.  A low complexity game, the mechanisms would not get in the way of generating a number of battles.

The boardgame heavily favors the attacker.  However, bringing the might of the US Army to bear in the jungles of Cuba poses several challenges.  The initial landing sites are fraught with peril too.  Still, the campaign I waged across the map did not seem to give the Spanish much hope.  The Spanish can be spoilers, for sure, and forcing the Americans to take too many casualties can cost the Americans the war.  Fighting through the entire campaign would offer a number of interesting battles within the overall context of the war.
Section of map
Today's fifteen Spanish figures are Old Glory 25s.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

A Mix of German Vehicles

For something completely different from the regular figure offerings, I dug deep into The Lead Pile and pulled out a stack of 15mm Zvezda plastic vehicles.  A moderate stack of these models has lingered around for exactly five years.  Looking back in my invoices, I see I bought fifteen models (three copies of each model) for $2.99 apiece.  Each is a neat little snap together model with crisp detail.  

Having received two sets of Vallejo Pigment sets two years ago as a Christmas present from a gaming buddy, I finally had reason to give them a try.  Not knowing what I was doing, I mixed up a little 'mud' to slap onto the wheels, tracks, and undercarriages of the models.  I like the effect it offers and adds some interest to the predominantly grey of early war German vehicles.  Jake, sorry it took two years before I pulled these pigments out for a trial run.  Glad I finally got to it!  I think I will go back to a pair of 1/48 Shermans and muddy them up a bit too.

One final decision in the building of these models was whether to base or not.  With the only recent 15mm WWII action an infantry only affair, no need to address vehicle basing at that time.  Now that WWII gaming has piqued my interest, I want to try expanding the collection to include a vehicle or two.  While indecisive for a time, I finally rationalized that since the infantry was based on 3mm thick bases that the vehicles should be mounted on 3mm thick bases too.  This allows for all stands to lay on the same plane during a game.

On to the individual models...
Sd Kfz 222 Armored Car
Sd Kfz 251/1 Ausf B
Opel Blitz Truck
Panzer II
Besides the ten remaining unbuilt Zvezda models, I also have a number of Command Decision models to add into the collection.  I may begin adding these into the project over time.  Perhaps I should strike while the iron is hot?  First, back to the figures with two units of Spanish-American War Spanish infantry off the painting desk next.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Tigers at Minsk - First Play

I pulled Norm Smith's Tigers at Minsk (TaM) rules down from the bookshelf and settled in for a Saturday night read and think.  Having quickly sprayed a stack of four inch hexes with a coating of green paint in the bright afternoon sunshine, my plan was to give the rules a go for a solo battle on Sunday.  With a minimalist playing surface (maybe I will flock the hexes to cut down on the glare?) and a handful of troop stands, I set to work.

With no armies for the eastern front circa 1943, I pulled French and German troops from the box and set up Scenario 2.  With no requirements for eastern front armor, this would be a perfect infantry-only introduction.  The battle venue is transported to France, 1940. 

Scenario 2 - Following the Elefants 
  • German: 6x infantry sections and 1x HMG.  Can make smoke.
  • French: 2x infantry sections and 2x HMGs.  No smoke.
To win, the Germans must exit at least one infantry stand off of the French Baseline.  Otherwise, French victory.  Game begins at 11:00 and ends at 11:50.  French first player. 

I will provide my First Impressions in another post but for now, straight into action.
French open up with fire from the villages into the woods.
One German infantry section destroyed and a second pinned.
Very tough start for the Germans.

Two more losses and German morale will be zero.
One French village defended by an HMG and infantry section
Germans put the left into command.
Laying smoke, one section advances on the left.
On the right, fire from the woodline pins a French unit
 positioned in the scrub.
German left in command.
Command stand encircled to denote status.
French put left in command.
Fire from village pins a German section.
German puts right into command.
With a hail of bullets from the treelines,
two French sections are destroyed. Ouch!
With French morale at zero, morale tests are taken.
One HMG team withdraws from a village
while the HMG on the French right holds.
French dispositions.
Only two HMGs remain of the French force.
As the German section moves into the woods,
the French HMG opens up with Op Fire.
German section is pinned in the woods.
French HMG deployed in the village is pinned
while the Germans advance on the right
 under cover of smoke.
Masked by a thick bank of smoke
As the second French HMG moves back into the village,
Germans advance on the right.
French Op Fire pins the German section in the scrub.
German section on the far left advances in the
woods to see victory within its grasp.
French HMG recovers from pinned.
German section in woods fails to activate.
Both French HMGs open up on the enemy.
German section in scrub is destroyed.
German section in woods is pinned.
German section rejoins its HMG while
the German section near the French baseline advances
toward the French baseline and victory.
German infantry in center lays down a withering fire
 into the HMG in the village.
Two hits = one kill!
The French stationed in the village on the French right
 has one final chance to prevent a German victory.
The German is destroyed but the HMG breaks!
With the loss of the German section,
 EVERY German unit fails its morale check.
Out of game time, the French win the battle even though
the French HMG is broken.

The victor.
Well!  That was a quick, exciting, and bloody battle.  A few lucky rolls but luck was impartial.  Both sides saw some well-timed shooting. Had the Germans held position and fired rather than withdrawn on the last turn, the French HMG may have been destroyed. If so, victory would have gone to the attacking Germans.

This is a very interesting scenario with much to think about with respect to force deployment, strategy, and tactics.  With the Germans setting up first, the French can place their outnumbered forces to their best advantage.  The Germans have difficult deployment choices to make.  Placing most of the weight on one sector guarantees that the French will do the same.  With villages near the center of the table, the  French can take a central position and keep most German advances in a cross fire.  Where to best place the French wire?  I opted for the hex adjacent to the scrub to prevent a German outflanking on the right.  I am sure other placements are appropriate.

I think I will reset and give this another try.    

Friday, March 20, 2020

Spanish Crossbowmen and Spinning

Following closely behind the Moorish crossbowmen, a stand of Spanish crossbowmen departs the painting desk to oppose them.  Crossbowmen are Black Tree Design and the spearmen are two leftovers from a pack of Casting Room Miniatures' Normans.  Fine figures all but the CRM figures are especially characterful. 
Next off the painting desk will likely be a small variety of 15mm WWII armor.  Some are newly built; others are newly rebased.

On the cycling front, just as the leg break has mended and light indoor training can begin, the State shuts down almost every business to reduce risk of spreading the virus.  For indoor cycling in a controlled environment, the gym was my preferred venue.  No more.  Until my foot and ankle are fit for cycling outdoors (no cycling outside until I can safely and painlessly unclip from the pedals), I turn to a gadget Nancy presented to me for my 60th birthday.
While I set it up a year ago in the garage, the torture device remained unused.  Well, I finally made the effort to reacquaint myself with the machine, attached the bike, and gave it a whirl.  You know what?  This fluid trainer works great!  The machine is super quiet, rock solid, and provides a great workout.
How do I overcome the potential monotony of indoor cycling?  Audio.  Typically, my listening tends toward the Great Courses when riding indoors.  This week, I turned to Dan Carlin's Supernova in the East.  I am up to episode two and Dan's storytelling is as riveting as ever.  Recommended!

With the arrival of Spring and temperatures warming, perhaps, I can venture outdoors next week?  That is, unless we are all ordered into lockdown.   

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Back to the Reconquista

After a very long hiatus from the painting table (almost two years!), a unit for this long neglected project was pushed into the painting queue.  Why so long of a layoff from the project?  Good question.  I suppose so many projects and not enough time.  Coupled with my more active projects, du jour, and the long time since the Reconquista troops last saw the gaming table, this absence is really no surprise.  
Off the painting desk today is a BMU of twelve Black Tree Design Warriors of Islam figures.  The seven crossbowmen are flanked by two spear-wielding guards to discourage enemy cavalry while they ply their trade.  Up next is a similar unit of crossbowmen but for the opposition.  

Friday, March 13, 2020

Last of the Assyrians (for now)

The recent parade of Assyrians finally comes to an end with a bang.  Up today is a four-horse chariot with its complement of spear-wielding supports.  
The horses, chariot, and crew are from Newline Designs.  The infantry support are from Black Tree Design.  Say, did anyone notice that BTD has pulled all of its ancients' ranges for retooling?  I wonder when we will see these figures again? 
The chariot is the first Newline Design chariot I have built and fielded.  I think it looks great; big and beautiful.  It will make an impressive sight when arrayed for battle.  I may want a few more of these beasts.  There is a lot of metal in the cab and horses.  When this piece gets up to speed on the table, it may be difficult to stop.   
Staying on the topic of Newline Design chariots, a three-pack of Hittite chariots will be in work soon.  Hard to believe that it is nearly the middle of March and I have yet to complete any units for the month.  A few units are in work but time down at the painting desk has been limited of late.  Do you supposes there is a correlation between my wife retiring two weeks ago and my hobby time dropping off?  Perhaps, I need more data?  

That, and the 15mm SYW Bavarians, front and center on the painting desk, are not painting themselves.  For some reason, working this battalion of Lancashire infantry has become somewhat of a chore for me.  I should be able to kick it into gear and get them off the work table this weekend.  After that, time to push some Hittites into the production line.