Mad Scientists and BIG guns.

One of my favourite archetypes is the ‘mad scientist’: perhaps it was too many Hammer Horror films at an early age I don’t know but it is a trope that continues to get my attention (Less said about jokes about me going mad before I finished my Physics degree the better…. 😉 ).

Anyway during one of my bouts of insomnia I was watching the UK cable channel Yesterday in which they were showing an oldish series of US documentaries ‘Secrets of War’, the episode I caught was on big and I mean big artillery and the man who built the Iraqi supergun Dr Bull. That got my attention so I whiled away the small hours watching it.

Like everything else these days the full show is on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9eG9U13jb8

I remember years ago when I was in the ATC I found a section of the supergun stashed away on an RAF base post impoundment. It was a massive piece of steel, 1m diameter with such a smooth bore it seemed mirrored.

It’s inventer was the former child prodigy Dr. Gerald Bull. The documentary made reference to a biography called ‘Arms and the Man’ by William Lowther. A quick look on the net had a cheap copy winging its way to me. Throughout the book Bull (who ended up being assassinated for his troubles (the smart money is on Mossad)) comes across as idealistic possibly to the point of nieveity in his pursuit of a gun launched satellite, taking the Iraqi money to build his gun whilst helping them out on Saddam’s ballistic missile ‘problems’. One thing that comes across is how he distances himself from his product, not seeing the real cost- probably what killed him in the end.

With the 2003 Iraq war behind us ending the chapter on Saddam era Iraq; the narrative really did feel like a glimpse back in time to the 80s, the Iran Iraq war and the end of the Cold War. Either way the book is highly recommended.

Cheers,

Pete.

[If you like me like real life mad scientists I can also recommend you pick up ‘Wizard’ on Tesla (who should need no introduction) and ‘Sex and Rockets’ on Jack/John Whiteside Parsons (who probably does- long story short NASA rocket scientist by day and occultist by night….)].

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Operation Cold Feet.

Possibly the Cold War at it’s coldest… in 1962 two men parachuted into an abandoned Russian base floating on ice in the Arctic to steal it’s secrets.

I was familiar with the background to the mission from a couple of good aviation books I read a few years ago: ‘By Any Means Necessary’ and ‘Twilight Warriors’ both are highly recommended. For those who are not the Wikipedia entry is a good as start as any other: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_COLDFEET. That said I hadn’t considered making a game of it until I read Nugget 245 from Wargames Developments: http://www.wargamedevelopments.org/nugget.htm . Mr. John Basset did a great job of turning it to a Roleplay-cum-free kreigspiel. Inspired by that I decided to do my own version as a roleplay-cum- table top game.

I had the chance on Monday to run my version for Chris, Brian and Evan. I split the game into 2 parts: a quick planning part where the players sorted out their characters, got their brief and then came up with a plan. The a 4 foot square table was set out representing the Arctic drift station. Once the game had progressed beyond the planning part we used Twilight 2000 mechanics to resolve the rest of what happened.

The characters were taken from the original game; Brian took on Capt. Cadwalader, Evan was Maj. Smith and Chris played Lt. LeShack.

The planning phases went very quickly. Aircraft were dispatched northwards into the Arctic to look for the drift station. A lucky roll meant that the station was found on day 2. Planning was quickly wrapped up as all 3 PCs decided to parachute down with as much equipment as they could manage to fit in the B17.

The landing site selected was a bit further out from the base on its ice floe. The idea being they would trek in. Here Brian really rolled badly on his parachute jump in. He probably should have died to that would be too easy so I gave him a compound leg fracture. Evan went on a head whilst Chris stabilized the casualty and had to call in the medic.

Evan reached the base and started the work of exploring the abandoned structures for intelligence. I mapped out the base with a few cardboard cut outs.

Once the medic had arrived and stabilized Brian, he was moved up by toboggan to the drift station proper. It was here that a polar bear chose to investigate, Chris managed to dispatch the bear before it could do too much damage- Brian in a toboggan would have been the arctic equivalent on meals on sledges….

Chris/ LeShack defending against the polar bear.

The exploration of the base went smoothly until Evan/ Smith found out that their was a booby trap in one of the labs. It was spotted in time but not defused. Given that their were now 4 people on the ice it wasn’t possibly to recover anything heavier than the notebooks and manuals already found.

The team huddle in one of the huts to check over the intel. Figures by Elhiem.

The next day the pick up was requested. Brian/ Cadwalader went up first and was safely taken on board by the Fulton Skyhook equipped B17. However a problem with the system and low fuel meant that the B17 turned back around to Alaska and left the remaining 3 with another 24 hours on the ice. With the base explored all they could do was wait and hope no more Polar Bears appeared. An early morning overflight by a Soviet MIG21 provided some consternation for the survivors. The next day the B17 picked up the 2 player characters succesfully but a rigging error meant that Dr. Daniel Walker the medic fell to his death on the ice…. Ultimately the players got the intel and papers they were after but did not, due to the casualty, recover any hard ware. That and they’d better hope that the Soviets don’t follow up the MIG 21 flight and find the medic’s body… it might heat the Cold War a bit more.

Cheers,

Pete.

AAR- Carentan.

It’s normally my job to organize the game for our regular Monday night sessions. As there would be all four of us present (Brian, Chris, Evan and myself) I decided on a nice little urban battle set in Carantan, and everyone loves the Band of Brothers TV series right?

The scenario was simple: each player would control an 8 man squad of paras, 2 German , 2 US Airborne. A limited range of reinforcements would be available too.

Evan and Brian took on the role of the US whilst I started the game with a squad of Fallschrimjager set up half way up the table whilst Chris’ squad enter on turn 2 to support me.

The rules used were NUTS! but with the new in sight test from Chain Reaction 3.

A general view of the table.

An overview of the table with a rough outline of how the game progressed.

My MG42 team set up to cover my right flank. The team didn’t last long as a burst of Brian’s LMG killed the gunner and sent the assistant scurrying back into the building.

The aforementioned LMG team.

Brian’s infantry advance cautiously.

Followed by a repositioning of the LMG team. Both Brian’s and Evan’s advance was pretty much textbook. Both split thier squad in two and advanced in bounds. This rigours approach, combined with good shooting rolls meant that the first half of the game went well for them.

However the activation dice favoured the Germans more often than not. Giving us another FJ squad as reinforcements. These were moved up quickly to take advantage or mine and Chris now greater numbers.

Evan’s LMG team covers his advance.

FJ defend the central corner building.

The state of play at the end of the board.

At this point yet another FJ squad was generated as a reinforcement. The tide had turned. Evan and Brian whilst initially doing well were now outnumbered 2 to 1 and were beginning to take casualties themselves. They decided to withdraw from the field leaving the board to the Germans; so a win for Chris and myself but our KIAs were very heavy 10 men. Again another fun little game for an evening’s entertainment.

All the terrain and FJ figures are from my own collection whilst Evan provided the US paras, all in plastic too.

For those who may be interested I’ve posted the full briefings for each side below:

American Briefing.

Date: 10 June 1944.
Location: The outskirts of Carentan, France.
Situation: Elements of 101st US Airborne Division are approaching the vital town of Carentan. Taking this junction will open the way to cut off the Contentin peninsular.
Victory Conditions: Control more buildings than the enemy at the end of the game.
Initial deployment: Enter from your board edge.
Support Level: 3.
Special Rules: Game length is 10 turns. All men carry grenades. All reinforcements are REP 4 and can only come on once, if rolled a second time you get nothing.

Forces:

Para squad: Sgt REP 6 SMG, Cpl REP 5 SMG, Gunner REP 5 LMG, Assistant REP 5 M1 (SA Rifle), 4 men REP 4 M1s.

Para squad: Sgt REP 6 SMG, Cpl REP 5 SMG, Gunner REP 5 LMG, Assistant REP 5 M1, 4 men REP 4 M1s.

Reinforcements:

1- LMG team of 4 men.
2- Rifle team of 5 men (1 SMG, 4 M1s)
3- Full squad of 6+D4 men
4- Full squad of 6+D4 men
5- Platoon HQ of 4 men (Lt., Senior Sgt., 2 Runners).
6- Bazooka team of 4 men.


German Briefing.

Date: 10 June 1944.
Location: Carentan, France.
Situation: The vital city which underpins the defence of the German right flank is being held in the most part by 6th Fallschrimjager Regiment.
Victory Conditions: Control more buildings than the enemy at the end of the game.
Initial deployment: One starting squad can start up to halfway into the board. The other enters on the start of turn 2.
Support Level: 3.
Special Rules: Game length is 10 turns.All men carry grenades. All reinforcements are REP 4 and can only come on once, if rolled a second time you get nothing.

Forces:

FJ squad: Sgt REP 6 SMG, Cpl REP 5 SMG, Gunner REP 5 LMG, Assistant REP 5 BA Rifle, 2 men REP 4 FG42, 2 men REP 4 BA Rifle.

FJ squad: Sgt REP 6 SMG, Cpl REP 5 SMG, Gunner REP 5 LMG, Assistant REP 5 BA Rifle, 2 men REP 4 FG42, 2 men REP 4 BA Rifle.

Reinforcements:

1- MG42 team of 4 men.
2- Rifle team of 5 men( 1 SMG, 1 FG42, 3 BA Rifles).
3- Full squad of 6+D4 men
4- Full squad of 6+D4 men
5- Platoon HQ of 4 men (Lt, Senior Sgt, 2 Runners).
6- Panzershreck team of 4 men.

Cheers,

Pete.