Cockroaches, Copper and Cows: A Mexican Revolution megagame.

This Saturday saw the first game of the year for Pennine Megagame. Jonathon Pickles gave us ’Cockroaches, Copper and Cows’ based on the Mexican Revolution of 1913. Set in the world of Pancho Villa and the film ‘The Wild Bunch’, I have to admit it is something I know nothing about.

 

Unlike most megagames that I have seen that have the players, representing different historical characters, organised into teams in advance CCC only had a few players in a single team at the start of play. The remainder were free agents who could form join or leave as many teams (representing different competing political parties) as they wanted over the course of the day, this was one part of the game I was a bit unsure of as I’d not seen it done before. The individual briefings that each player got outlined their characters background and political orientations; the onus was on the players to get out there and talk to each other and find common goals and form parties/ teams around that. To facilitate this the half hour turn was split into two parts: the first fifteen minutes was the time that players could act on the map. Moving their guerrilla base, attacking and capturing facilities, making money and fighting each other, the second half of the turn was where the players could move about and talk to each other and hold conventions where they were assumed to be meeting up face to face. It was at these conventions that players could help each other build up support (a logarithmic scale that represented a mixture of political following and military might that was the key statistic for the players and also try sneaky things like assassination.

 

My role for the day was to run one of the 7 maps that made up Mexico, mine was the very north east of the country up by the Texan border. It was a simple role really. I had to monitor the actions of the players as they took their turns. In the early stages of the game the players were finding their feet and expanding their territory on the map trying to get the best resources nailed down under their control whilst sounding out nearby players for their character’s political leanings.  Some of the resources were oil plants or other industrial/ economic sites that were run by American companies. Trying to take these over had the potential to cause a minor diplomatic incident, taking them over completely and kicking out the Americans altogether had the potential to really anger the Americans. In fact, the first invasion of Mexico was at Vera Cruz to secure American interest. Those players who had angered the American had to pay reparations and make a public apology.

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North East Mexico at the start of the game.

The players on my map were quite civil, they were happy to fight the federales for territories to capture but were reticent to fight each other early on. This changed towards the second half of the game as they joined parties and coordinated their activity with what was going on other tables. Rail road links to border towns and ports being vital to generate large amounts of income as goods sold there were worth double.

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Pickles had a very nice and simple mechanism to limit the number of actions at the map that each player could make. Apart from a few free actions, anything major that the players did gained them a fatigue marker, to take any action after the first they had to pay $10 per fatigue marker that they had. Consequently, taking more than four actions was very rare.

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To keep the players informed on what was going wrong Becky bravely took and the role of three different papers, one revolutionary, one reactionary, one American and published an A4 page a turn. Some of which I’ve reproduced here with her permission; go check out here rather good blog here: http://www.beckybeckyblogs.com/ it has loads of megagame material on there and much more besides including some great recipes. This became especially important as elections were being held to put up a president and stabilse the country towards the end of the game.

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About to look for arms on a cross border raid- what could go wrong?

In a bold display of obstinance and nationalism one of the players on my table, Tes, decided to raid across the border to the American town of Laredo in search of arms. This brought Tim over to my table, he was plumpiring all the different American interests in the game and accordingly was wearing four character cards pinned to him. This time he was ‘Black Jack Pershing’ leading a punitive expedition to get the guns back. Combat between players was done by a card-based system, both player put down a card with a numerical value and the added it to their support rating, highest winning; the cards had different suits and they could cancel out some or none of the other suits. In such cases it was an instant victory. Given the might of the US army Tes was lucky to get this result with her first combat. At this point I mentioned to Tim that he needs to do enough in the raid to get a tank named after him… Although after this Tes wasn’t so lucky losing heavily. The US advanced just into Mexico and occupied Nuevo Laredo. A couple of turns later Tes decided to push her luck and appropriate an American run oil field. This time the US forces launched a big raid deep into Mexico to bring her to justice.

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The results of America’s punitive raid after the seizure of an American oil field.

Whilst this was going on a vicious back and forth battle erupted between a Zapatist player and a Constitutionalist for control of a couple of key road junctions, both were needed by the players respective parties to get goods out of the country. Using all manner of artillery, machine guns and even armoured trains; the fighting went on for a couple of turns.

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The game was wound up with an election, often a bad way to end a game as it produces a clear “winner”, something that megagames usually try to avoid, partly as there would be nothing to argue about in the pub afterwards. However, in this situation if seemed right. The constitutionalists were put in office and the American observers declared it free and fair so the result stuck. This wound up a great days gaming, it was a good game to umpire and the players seemed to really engage with it putting paid to my early reservations.

 

As always look at Pennine Megagames on both the web and on Facebook:

 

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

 

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

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Of plastic kits and modelling shows….

On Sunday I popped into the local IPMS (International Plastic Modellers Society) show held at the leisure centre in town before I hit the gym there for an hour or so. I had quick run round the display tables- the standard of craftsmanship was very high and a bit of an impulse shopping spree on the trade stands.

 

Whilst there I also made a decision about my current and future gaming collection. !/72nd scale aircraft are just too big- I’m going to pare down my collection of them and go for 1/144 for those models that don’t need to land on the table. Helicopters will be kept in 1/72 though to match up with my 20mm collection. This should free up quite a bit of space. To this end I’m starting to list my kit collection on ebay- the money I make will be invest back into 1/144th scale kits or other toys.

So what did I buy?

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As you can see I’ve started on my 1/144th collection. The paints are for a 6mm project, new sprue cutter- always good to have a sharp pair, the now out of production MMS Russian AT gun will be used for a Megablitz/ Crossfire project. The two diecasts were cheap and the impulse purchase, one is a limited edition but I’ll take it out of its box and use it in a wargame….

My painting has been quite slow due to the weather. I paint in a shed which is rather cold; not that the temperature bothers me but my breath condensing on metal figures makes it hard to paint. However I did mange to finish these 28mm Soviets:

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I’ll do better pictures when all of them are finished.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

 

 

Great customer/ rules support from A and A Game Engineering.

This past year I have been getting into Russo- Japanese War naval gaming using the 1/2400th ships from Tumbling Dice and the Tsushima rules from A and A Game Engineering that came with the starter pack that I bought. I during the New Years Eve Gameathon that I would speed things up to have a ship record card pre-printed and laminated for every ship that I own. Granted that isn’t very many at the moment but it saves printing off record sheets and filling them in by hand every game. I fired off an email to Andrew (one of the ‘A’s in A and A) to see if he could share the template that was in the rulebook. It is fair to say that he has gone above and beyond that. Over a course of a few emails he has created a set of editable PDFs that allow you to fill in stats for any ship you desire. The rules page is here and the support page with the download link to the editable PDFs here .

It goes without saying that this level of customer support is fantastic and come with a very big thank you from me.

I made up the sheets for the ships I own and printed them out.

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Ran them through the laminator.

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Then cut them out.

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This way I can quickly set up a game. In fact I think I’ll have one next week….

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

Normandy trip: Pegasus Bridge and Museum.

Thursday was the last day Dad and I spent in France. After packing our backs we left the cottage and drove up to the coast; the plan was to go to Pegasus Bridge and then the Merville Battery before driving to Le Havre for the overnight ferry to Portsmouth.

 

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Cafe Gondree: the first building to be liberated on D Day. We popped in for a bite to eat and sat outside in the late summer sun.

 

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A 50mm PAK38 anti tank gun on the fortress mounting on the eastern side of the bridge.

 

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The current bridge: not the original but a one of a very similar design but a little larger now crosses the canal.

 

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Memorial to Maj. Howard who led the Parachute assault to take the bridge.

 

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Three stone pillars mark where the three gliders touched down, their closeness is testament to some incredible flying from the pilots.

 

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The Pegasus Memorial museum- this was the most modern and well appointed museum that we visited in France.

 

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It had the usual display cases of artifacts: here a case of German weapons and equipment.

 

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Another case had items pertaining to the French Resistance and SOE. The pistol on the left made from stamped metal is the Liberator Pistol clicky.

 

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A contemporary photos show just how close the gliders got to the bridge.

 

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Larger items were set in tableaux, here a jeep and a brace of machine guns. The museum had a very good audio/ visual display based around a large scale diorama of the area.

 

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The original bridge has been preserved in the grounds of the museum with assorted vehicles and guns.

 

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Bullet holes show the ferocity of the fighting.

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A Bofors 40mm anti aircraft gun.

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An US halftrack.

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A Maxon quad .50cal anti aircraft turret- taken from an M16 halftrack.

 

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One of the best British inventions: the Bailey Bridge.

 

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A mock up of a Horsa glider, only a single original airframe exists now.

 

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The remains of a Horsa glider are on display showing just how fragile they were.

 

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A British 17pdr anti tank gun.

 

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A British 25pdr field gun.

 

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Another British gun: this time a 5.5inch Howitzer.

 

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Finally a Centaur IV with the 95mm howitzer. This is of the same type as the one just behind Sword beach that I featured earlier but is in much better condition.

Cheers,

 

Pete.

Urban scatter terrain and winter PMC/ SOF figures.

To break up the long running series of posts of my holiday photos I thought I’d throw in some bits I’ve been working on.

I play a few PC games- I’m not a hardcore gamer by any means but I like a good co-op session with my friends, its good to relax chat and shoot stuff online for a few hours every now and again.

One of the games that I’ve been playing a bit of recently is ‘Tom Clancy’s Division’, set in a disease ridden anarchic New York city with gangs and a rogue Private Military Contractors running about. [I’m pretty sure Tom Clancy had nothing much to do with the game, it was released after his death, but his name still shifts units…]

 

Inspired by the game I’ve been making some bits and pieces for my modern gaming collection all in my usual 20mm size/ 1/72nd scale.

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A large barricade I made up from various bit and pieces: skip, shipping container, truck cargo bed and resin cast rubbish bags.

 

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Back view: the base sections came from old Matchbox kits.

 

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A couple of rubbish piles and skips mounted on Wills plastic scraps.

 

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Some sections of modern concrete barriers, these and the rubbish piles came from Anyscale models clicky.

 

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Some wooden barriers, MDF kits from Blotz clicky.

 

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These are my PMCs inspired by the game’s Last Man Battalion protagonists: I used Elhiem Minitatures clicky US Rangers from their Somalia range. White helmets and jackets, trousers in UCP and webbing in Olive green mean they’ll do for US SOF types if I need some in winter bases.

 

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For transport they get two HMMWVs. These started of as toys, a gift from Tim at Meghablitz and more clicky but scrubbed up very nicely. I painted them with spray cans using blu tack as a  mask. They were then finished with acrylics for detail and oils for weathering. A big thanks has to go out to Tim for them.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

Normandy Trip: Omaha Beach.

After Dad and I had been round Pointe Du Hoc we drove the couple of miles down the coast to the most westerly part of Omaha beach, one of the two American landing beaches and the beach that saw the greatest casualties on D Day. The road down to the beach was down one of the draws that the US infantry fought so hard to clear to open the exits off the beach.

Our first task was to get a bite to eat, unfortunately the restaurant was closed so we made do with the burger van. It also gave me a chance to try out my abysmal French, despite studying it for 5 years at high school I never mastered the language but I always try my best to make the effort when in France.

Sitting down on a plastic chair enjoying my food looking at a mostly deserted beach with a distinctly ‘Blackpool- at- the- end- of- season’ feel to it I was struck by the incongruous situation trying to imagine in my mind’s eye what had occurred on the beach some 73 years earlier, it certainly gave me pause for thought.

After we ate we walked back up the draw to the fantastic little museum ‘Omaha D Day museum’ that was the late work of a local who had grown up in the area immediately after WW2.

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The painted sign for the museum with a 150mm German infantry gun in front of it.

 

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The outside grounds of the museum had a variety of bits of equipment, mostly guns,  in various stats of repair and conservation including this American 105mm howitzer.

 

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This naval gun of unknown provenance had seen better days.

 

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The well known German 88mm FLAK 36 mounted on its wheels.

 

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The inside of the museum was crammed with every space taken up with exhibits including this selection of German weaponry.

 

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A large diorama of  6 June 1944.

 

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A selection of Allied radios

 

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A German LMG on an anti aircraft mount.

 

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An American M29 Weasel and other American weapons.

 

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A Flakvieriling 38 without its gun shield.

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A pair of mannequins in German Luftwaffe uniforms and the engine of a Focke Wolf 190. The MG barrel that can be seen, the one stacked vertically, is from a Messerschmidt Me410 remote control rear facing mount. 

 

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Down the left hand side of the draw back down to Omaha beach is a long section of Mulberry roadway.

 

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Omaha beach had its own Mulberry harbour that was wrecked and not rebuilt after the storm of 19 June, the surviving caisson is used for a pedestrian pier.

 

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The view from just behind an Anti Tank gun bunker looking eastwards along the beach. The bunker has now been rebuilt as a memorial but it is clear that it was sited in a commanding position.

 

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Walking along the beach it was clear how much of an obstacle the bluff would have been. The houses had been cleared  as part of the beach defenses but these post war buildings give a sense of scale.

 

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The 4km beach is very flat and it is easy to see why it was chosen as a landing beach, however with the exits from the beach being limited to the draws it is easy to see how easy it would be to defend it.

 

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In the rough centre of the beach is this recent sculpture…

 

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… and this slightly older memorial.

 

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On the way back we paid our respects at the site of the first US cemetery. It was not intended that one be placed on the beach in front of the bluff but such were the casualties at Omaha beach one was established as a temporary measure. The bodies interred were subsequently moved to the large US cemetery further inland.

 

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As the tide receded further on the now quiet beach more remains of the Mulberry harbour became visible.

Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

 

Normandy trip: Pointe Du Hoc.

Wednesday saw Dad and I drive up to the coast to see some of the American contribution to DDay. Our plan was to first visit Pointe Du Hoc then head to Omaha beach.

Our trip to France was after the main holiday season was over, UK schools had returned for the start of a new year and I didn’t see and French children of school age wandering around; the sites with an American connection were noticeably busier than those that were purely British affairs.

Pointe Du Hoc was a DDay objective for the US 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions. It was believed that the site held six 155mm guns of French origin that could bombard either of the two American invasion beaches. The plan was for the Rangers to scale the cliffs and take out the guns. On 6th June, after the difficult cliffs had been scaled, the gun pits/ casemates were found to be empty. The Rangers had to hold the site against vigorous counterattacks until relieved.

The site today is very well kept, paths link the various shattered bits on concrete and a memorial right on the edge of the cliff.

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The view from the car park/ visitors centre, the devastation caused by bombing and shelling is very extensive, there is hardly 10m square that is undulated or cratered in some way.

 

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The light FLAK bunker that was used Lt Col Rudder as a command post during the battle.

 

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A tobruk (probably MG) next to a crater- the crater was 2m deep and one of the smaller ones.

 

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The rear of a bunker- it was open to go in and explore: consisting of ammunition stores and sleeping quarters.

 

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One of the shattered open gun pits- now home to some scraggy sheep.

 

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The Ranger memorial- modeled after the blade of their combat knife.

 

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The cliffs up which the Rangers had to assault. I’ve done a little climbing in my time and these loose overgrown cliffs do not look appealing. To do some wet, tired and under fire was no mean undertaking.

 

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Although it was not marked up in any way I’m assuming that this is a barrel of one of the guns of the battery that were found hidden a little way inland.

 

After a couple of hours wandering round the site we went back to the car and headed east along the coast a little way to visit Omaha beach.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.