Still Not Over By Christmas- an annotated bibliography.

I was chatting to one of the attendees for the upcoming Pennine Megagames’ Still Not Over By Christmas  game in a few weeks through FB; Rob was asking me for reading suggestions to get in the mood for the event. Now asking me for book recommendations means you’ll end up with a big list as an answer. I thought it would be useful to share what I said to him here. I’ve focussed on those books that I have read; I know there is a list on the game’s webpage but I’ve added my own comments.

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Paddy Griffith – Not Over By Christmas (1983).

The obvious place to start is with the book that gave the game its title. The late Paddy Griffith gives us an academic analysis of the then contemporary stand- off across the Inner German Border and suggests a new flexible mobile defensive plan for NATO to adopt that does not rely on the use of tactical nuclear weaponry. Some have claimed that this led to a reduction in the tensions of the time but I’m not sufficiently knowledgeable to comment on that in detail.

 

Paddy Griffith- Ultimate Weaponry (1991).

By the same author but aimed at a completely different market this coffee table book written at the very end of the Cold War gives us a run down of the weaponry and tactics of a modern army and how it fits together. A useful (and, at the time of writing, cheap) way to get the details on the basic tactics and the state of the art at the turn of the decade.

 

David Miller- The Cold War: A Military History (1998)

This makes a good companion piece to the above as it covers the whole Cold War but at the higher operational and strategic levels. Taking in both the narrative history as well as technological changes it makes an ideal primer.

 

General Sir John Hackett- The Third World War (1978).

General Sir John Hackett- The Third World War: The Untold Story (1982).

The Third World War really kicked off the 1980s trend for fictional accounts of a possible war between East and West. Covering the war at a fairly high level it charts the deployments and combats, the second volume expands the narrative to cover some of the more minor theatres. Whilst the scenario is well thought through it is a little dry at times.

 

Harold Coyle- Team Yankee (1988).

Coyle’s story is set with in a larger conflict but really concentrates on the lower tactical level of a US armour group: the eponymous Team Yankee as they try to delay the Soviet advance. It makes for a great action filled story with M1 tanks and mechanised infantry being pushed hard by T72s and BMPs filled with infantry.

 

Tom Clancy- Red Storm Rising (1987).

To my mind this is the best written novel of the fictional wars, coming from the prolific Clancy it is one of his few novels that is stand- alone not set within the Ryan-verse that you may know from his other books and many film adaptations. The main story concerns itself with the US attempts to get a convoy across the Atlantic in the face of attacks by Soviet Naval Aviation leading to a second Battle of the Atlantic and the invasion of Iceland. If you were to read one book to get a feel for the setting I would recommend this one.

 

Kenneth Macksey- First Clash (1985).

Macksey wrote this book to be used as a training aid to the Canadian army, as a result it is a rather detailed account of a 48 hours delaying action by the Canadian 4th Mechanised Brigade (they were to be a reserve for the US forces in CENTAG). Despite this it is still a good read, giving some insight into how the army could see such a mission being carried out.

 

Ralph Peters- Red Army (1989).

Second to Red Storm Rising this should be on all the Soviet players reading lists, unlike the vast majority of the novels listed here to focuses telling the story from the Russian side, whilst not an insider’s account (warning treat Suvorov with suspicion, I’ve not included him here for a reason) it gives an insight into Soviet ways of thinking about how they approached war in the 1980s.

 

Cyril Joly- Silent Night (1986).

The fiction of the time tends to fall into two camps, those who show how NATO’s technological edge will ultimately prevail of those which portray the Soviets as an unstoppable force that could steam roller over us; in both cases there is a point (usually linked to defence spending or the lack thereof) that the author is trying to make… Silent Night takes the idea of the Soviets as unstoppable to frankly ridiculous levels in its account of a Christmas time surprise attack. Avoid this propagandist drivel.

 

Michael Palmer- The War That Never Was (1994).

An interesting and slightly meta account of a fictional wargame after the Cold War. Interesting as it contains a lot of detail of actions and naval confrontations on those theatres that are peripheral to the other stories i.e. anywhere that isn’t West Germany.

 

Peter Tsouras (ed.)- Cold War Hot (2003).

 

A short story anthology of different ways in which the Cold War could have turned hot. The last light- hearted Vodka based one stands out in particular.

 

Bob Forrest – Webb- Chieftains (1982).

Very similar to Team Yankee in that it follows a tank unit on the tactical level but differs in both tone and nationality: downbeat and British. Tough fights and a feel bad ending make this one a favourite.

 

Steven Zaloga- Red Thrust (1989).

Steven Zaloga- Tank War Central Front (1989).

 

The ever prolific Zaloga offers a mix of fiction and analysis in this volume detailing in turn how the component parts of a Soviet offensive would work. Worth looking out for.

 

The second volume comes from Osprey publishing so most of you will know what to expect from this format. The title pretty much explains what it covers, making this a good primer for those in a hurry.

 

Alfred Price- Air Battle Central Europe (1986).

 

A nice little book that focuses solely on the air war (a volume I’ve been looking at again given my role in a few weeks). Interesting as it is written by a former Cold War aviator turned historian based on interviews with contemporary serving pilots. The basic take home from this is most of the aircraft would be used for interdiction, that and the differing approaches that some of the NATO countries take. The USAF going for Vietnam style strike packages whilst the RAF sneaking planes in in pairs under the radar.

 

Harvey Black – Red Effect, Blue Effect, Black Effect (2013- 2014).

 

These are very recent entries into the genre and as such seem a little nostalgic in a strange way. The first one was for me the best focussing as it does on the build up to the war and the activities of the BRIXMIS operatives that went behind the Iron Curtain as military observers, the real life job the author had at the time.

 

All of these books are fairly easy to get hold of through the usual channels, Amazon’s marketplace, ebay and abe books, some are available on kindle too. I hope that this proves useful to some.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

http://www.penninemegagames.co.uk/

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The Pirate Republic Megagame- the view from the side room.

On Saturday Pennine Megagames were back in Manchester to put on a 60-player game set in the Caribbean in the early 1700s based around the golden age of piracy. Erring more towards historical facts than the pure fantasy of recent films players took on the roles of pirates, colony governors or nation teams. The game was John Sharp’s first design and it filled that very popular slot of having something for everyone in as much as most play styles could be accommodated, from a combat heavy game to colony management to those who just want to roleplay and interact with the other gamers. The players really got behind the idea of the game; most were dressed up; the gender balance was much closer than in previous games and lots of rum was drunk throughout the day leading to an almost party atmosphere.  That many players needed a fairly substantial control team, of which I was a member. As seems to be my usual role in this was to be intelligence and dirty tricks control. Quartered in a side room, players would come to me if they wanted to spy on another player, gain intel on a colony or port or come up with their own cunning plan. I would adjudicate on this and make a decision based on how good their plan sounded and how much they were willing to spend to make it happen. Additionally, I was in charge of giving out quest to players- these were a nice idea from John to give the pirate players who didn’t want to – or whose characters weren’t so good go for a combat heavy game.

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The game started off with a lot of action at the map which made the game system creak somewhat; I think it is a testament to how far Pennine Megagames has come as a control team that all the control umpires made a decision in the first two turns as to what rules to keep, what rules to get rid of and what rules to modify to make the game work, none of this was done by having a control meeting, everyone just drew on their experience to make it work and it did.

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I knew that the game would be a good one as on the first turn players were asking about the possibility of poisoning a water supply to reduce the ability of the garrison of its fort to fight. From then on it was steady stream of players coming in with their plans and spy missions. A couple of highlights for me were they French colony team who paid to spread false rumours that lead to a stream of irate players landing in Philadelphia asking where the treasure could be found- as a tactic to keep people away from their colony it was quite effective. Just before lunch the Governor of Havana came to me as he was worried about arson attacks in his port, he wondered if it would be possible to have extra night watchman patrols to guard against it. I decide that was a very reasonable plan and charged him a modest fee for it. I also noted down on a card rules to the effect of being able to spring an ambush on any would be attackers. I did think that he was wasting his money somewhat as I had had no-one come to me requesting intel on Havana. I had forgotten about the incident as I was mainly dealing with the quests in the afternoon until at about 4 o’ clock a player comes in wanting more intel and complaining that his attempted attack on Havana was foiled by night watchman patrols he was not expecting, I remembered the card I had written and had to laugh (the Governor of Havana did pop by a minute or so later to say thanks too).

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The quests were very popular with the players, so much so I had to quickly come up with some more as the nine original one had all be completed. Whether it was searching for wrecks, mapping rivers or hunting albino crocodiles it added an extra dimension for those who didn’t fancy mixing it with the navies on ship to ship combat. Some of the quests were based on emergent technologies of the time such as the Marine Chronometer. It was nice to see that once they had been discovered or captured they were then fought over by players who were not involved in the original action of the quest for possession of them. Talking to John later I think that it would be something that could be expanded upon should the game be reprised, possibly with multi part quests and an overarching story to them.

 

All in all it was one the most fun megagames I’ve been to, the atmosphere was excellent making for a very enjoyable day.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

http://www.penninemegagames.co.uk/

PS- I know my photos are a bit crappy I really recommend looking on the Pennine Megagames Facebook page for better ones.

Trench Raiding- a new project perhaps.

On Tuesday Evan and I had game session of PSC’s The Great War, its a cracking game and always fun to play. It did lead to a conversation over a cup of tea post- game about gaming WW1 in general, this lead to us both wanting to do some trench raiding. Obviously the biggest requirement for trench raiding is a trench system itself and this is the usual stumbling block for me as I’ve not more room for major terrain projects. Whilst in an ideal world I’d invest in a set of the great vac- formed trench systems from Early War miniatures link . I then remembered seeing a blog post on a Russo Japanese War trench raid here and thought that it looked like a decent solution. The trench tiles can be found here . I printed out a couple of pieces; one full size which would be fine for 28mm (I am tempted as there some very nice 28mm ranges but again there is a storage issue) and a couple scaled down a bit for 20mm, these last two I mounted in my usual vinyl tile and clear sticky backed plastic style.

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I grabbed a couple of 20mm figures from the shed (UFM’s RAR as it happens and I think it looks spot on.

I’ll put in an order with Frontline Wargaming for some suitable WW1 figures link : Brit, French, German trench raiders as well as bombers, some basic riflemen to act as opposition and possibly some mortars to act as objectives for the raids.

It should be a fairly cheap project and also make a game that it good to while a way a spare hour or so too.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

Print and Play board game Tutorial.

I recently bought YAAH! magazine number 9 as I was interested in the game based around the battle of Donetsk Airport in 2014-15, rather than pay a lot to have the printed version shipped across the Atlantic I bought a PDF from Wargames Vault:

http://www.wargamevault.com/product/214499/Yaah-Magazine-and-Complete-Wargame-9?src=hottest

I thought I’d share a quick tutorial on how I made the game.

First things first is to print the relevant game components and counters, I think that YAAH! uses American rather than British paper sizes which makes things a little more complicated.. I don’t have an A3 printer so I tiled the game board across three sheets, likewise the counters were spread across two pages. I printed them out using the highest print settings on to matte photo paper.

Next I assembled what I needed:

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Scissors, metal ruler, cutting mat, glue- I used Fast Tack glue, I find it better than PVA for gluing paper as it is less runny, Craft knife- use a new blade; the usual caveats about sharp things apply, clear sticky backed plastic- very Blue Peter I know, and a seam roller – meant to press the seams of wall paper flat it is great for getting things properly stuck down, I used mount board from the local arts and crafts shop as a base for both the game board and the counters.

Firstly I tackled the game board:

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When I tiled the board for printing I allowed for an overlap, I then trimmed each page down for gluing onto the mount board. I decided to work from right to left overlapping as I went, so cut the print outs down accordingly.

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Squirt some glue on to the back of the first piece.

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Then spread it out into a thin layer to get a nice even coat of glue using an off-cut of cardboard.

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Then using the roller ensure that the whole piece is firmly stuck down.

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Repeat the procedure for the next, middle piece…

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… and also the final piece, get the pages lined up whilst the glue still allows you before pressing the page into place using the roller.

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The three pieces stuck down together.

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Carefully trim the excess off to leave the game board.

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Layout a section of the clear sticky backed plastic, sticky side up and the carefully place the trimmed game board face down on to it. Once again use the roller to ensure good adhesion.

Next I moved on to making the counters.

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One page was roughly trimmed, then glued and rolled as before on to the mount board.

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Then both sides of the counter sheets were carefully trimmed to the exact, same size before they were stuck together. Makes sure that the glue is spread everywhere on the counter sheets as they will be cut up into small sections, and blank un- glued patches will cause problems later on.

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Now you should be left with the two faces glued to either side of the mount board properly lined up.

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The final job is to cut out the counters, an sharp bladde is essential here to ensure a clean cut.

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The finished result, not bad for an hours work, with the thickness of the card and the sticky backed plastic the components are surprisingly durable.

Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

 

 

Back to Africa with 5core Skirmish.

Last week I hadn’t had the time to prepare a game like I usually do so Evan had an idea for a skirmish based, I think, on the ‘Tears of the Sun’ film he is a fan of… I’m not sure I’ve not seen the film.

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(Apologies for the picture quality as I was using the camera on my phone.)

 

He had a group of 6 SOF (2 M203s, 2 M4 Assault Rifles, 1 Light Machine Gun, 1 Sniper) types whilst I had a group of African militia (Mostly AKs with a RPD, a RPK and a few PPSh SMGs). After entering the village Evan’s figures had to search the buildings until the Doctor was located, I wrote down where I had hidden him.

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This was the table. I set up in a rough circle protecting the centre of the village whilst Evan’s forces could enter from any side.

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Evan moved his men in carefully clearing as the went covered by a sniper he put up a tree.

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I tried to slow their advance with my RPK wielding figure but he was taken out by the sniper.

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At times the fighting degenerated into a violent melee as I tried to force the SOF back. With 12 figures to his 6 I tried to win by a bloody process of attrition.

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At the games end Evan had searched all the buildings which have had their roofs taken off in the above picture. Unfortunately he didn’t find the doctor; I had hidden him in the toilets which is where Evan said he’d have put him too.

My attritional tactics worked in the end just. Evan failed a squad morale roll before I did and withdrew from the field.

In retrospect it was a good fun game but would need tweaking a bit if we were to play it again. Both the SOF types and the African militia had the same chance of shooting each other which seemed wrong given the vast difference in marksmanship skills so I think that more use of the skills and benefits that are in the rules will give a better feel for the game.

The plan is to try a stealth type game next.

Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

This War of Mine- the board game.

A few years ago a small indie computer game came out that became a bit of a cult hit and broke the stereotypes as to what a ‘war’ game was all about. Based on the experiences of civilians trapped in Sarajevo amongst over places, This War of Mine is a survival SIM where you direct a group of survivors trying to scrounge for food, barter for goods and fend off bandits. Whilst the game was not graphic in the gory sense it pulled no punches as to the mental breakdown and hardships suffered by the civilians under your control. Having a character commit suicide whilst under your control is an emotive experience that is simply not present in most other games. It should go with out saying that this is a pretty powerful game rather than a bit of whimsy.

A years or so ago a board game version was launched via kickstarter and I backed the campaign. Yesterday my pledge for the base game and a few expansions arrived. I’ve not had the chance to play or even read the rules yet but I thought I’d share some pictures.

 

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The basic game and the kickstarter extras in the brown card box.

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The components seem high quality. A nice touch is the pad of mini maps to record your progress in the game allowing you to ‘save’ your progress so you can spread your game over several sessions.

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The game board; the art style has been directly lifted from the computer game.

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The plastic figures that come with the game are pretty decent.

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A bit of an empty box but it made sense for shipping purposes. Other backers may of had more in their box as didn’t get all the extras that were on offer.

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Some of the stretch goal extra figures and a rather nice statue piece of terrain.

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The the paper extras were safely packed in a stiff envelop.

 

I’m really looking forward to giving the game a go, it came with a ‘ read this first book’ (something that I think is always a good idea so it should be an easy game to pick up. I’ll blog again when I’ve had a chance to play it.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.