Another quick post. Just finished on each of the Under Fire Miniatures 1980s Bundeswehr figures.
The national flags are a little over scale but I think that they set the figures off nicely.
Another quick post. Just finished on each of the Under Fire Miniatures 1980s Bundeswehr figures.
The national flags are a little over scale but I think that they set the figures off nicely.
A couple of Saturdays ago I was in Sheffield for another Pennine Megagames’ event, one I had been particularly looking forward to for a long time (in fact since the game first ran down in London) Rob Cooper’s Still Not Over By Christmas.
As you’ll have gathered from my previous post it was that classic scenario of the Cold War going hot with the Soviets invading westwards. I choose to play the Soviet Air Commander (thus fulfilling a wish I’ve had since I started megagaming 6 years today of overseeing the aircraft) I had two players underneath me who would do the actual fighting as well as an assistant on the day. Things had started a few weeks before the game day with an online planning game run through Facebook, various groups were set up for the players to plan their initial attacks and starting dispositions. I had been fortunate enough to attend the pre- game briefing for game control so I had a good understanding of the game mechanics (not that much of an unfair advantage as one of the NATO air players was present too). From this I was acutely aware that the NATO planes had a threefold advantage. Firstly, their best planes such as F15s and F16s were rated highly, the only thing I had that could equal that was the MiG29 and I had fewer of those than NATO had of eagles and Fighting Falcons. Secondly, their repair rating was better meaning that had much more chance to come back from damage, in the rules things were only permanently lost when they failed a repair roll. Thirdly, NATO had abundant stocks of advanced air to air missiles meaning that they fired first in an engagement, again the Warsaw Pact had some but nowhere near as many. Accordingly, my strategy was to hammer the airfields that the aircraft were being staged out of being as it was easier for us to defeat them on the ground rather than in the air. The number of airbases that we took out affect the number of aircraft that could be flown. By doing this I hoped to keep the balance to contested in our favour, not so much to provide CAS to our own troops but to deny the enemy the same, especially as this would protect the bridges that our follow-on Corps and Divisions would be using to get to the front. Not losing in the air meant we could win on the ground.
Photos of the counters taken at the pre- game briefing.
Air combat was fought with a dogfighting stage leading to an assessment of who had air supremacy, superiority or whether it was contested, this then determined the number of aircraft that got through to perform Close Air Support, Recce or Deep Strike missions, the gamble was that you had to commit aircraft to these tasks before the dogfighting took place; assessing your likelihood of victory was key.
My main job in the preplanning game was to decide upon the initial strategic attacks as the air forces were pretty much set into their north and south groupings. My suggestion was to hit hard and first with a two-day Chemical Weapon strike, we were only allowed to use them for two successive days so I figured a devastating strike on the airfields would get us off to a good start. Also by using them at the start it was be seen, hopefully, as less escalatory than going to WMDs mid game. If anything, we could step down and de- escalate… Similarly, the Spetsnaz cards I had to use were targeted on HQs to give us a slight edge.
Jason (CinC) and Adrian (my 2iC) plotting on the mini map.
On the day itself as I had a high command roll I was with the CinC sequestered in an upstairs room a long way from the map the game was being fought on. As such we had to make do with second hand reports and camera phone photos in the guise of recce pics; this was aided by a WhatsApp group set up of all of the pact players for quick messages. We were fairly confident that our initial attacks would go well as we had activated a lot of our reserve forces to get as much possible forward as soon as possible. The down side to this was that the NATO forces facing us would be aware that something was coming.
The first CW strike went disastrously, all 6 SCUDs that were delivering the chemical agents to airfields in the northern half of the map missed their targets, causing significant civilian casualties. The second round were more successful but by then the fallout was not just radioactive. The US President, represented here by control, authorised the firing of a single tactical nuclear weapon as a punishment for and a warning against any further civilian casualties. Accordingly, one of our Corp HQ units got vaporised. In the command room there was a rather hurried discussion on how to respond; to go by the doctrine in the handbook we should have responded with 24 weapons targeting HQs and airbases. This, quite obviously, would be a big escalatory step, so with one eye to the meta game we decide to just ask for permission to respond with a single tactical weapon. This was granted and a NATO HQ went the way of ours.
For the rest of the game however I made sure that a list of potential targets and enough planes to carry out the missions were kept in reserve by my two air commanders, a few SCUDs were kept back for that purpose too.
For the rest of the game my job mostly consisted of deciding when and where to put the reinforcements. This was tied to where Jason as CinC wanted the main effort to be focused. At the highest levels of command in a megagame I find that coming up with a plan then reacting to the enemy and keeping on top of them with good decisions makes for a less stressful and more enjoyable day than the frantic activity at the map. One of the assets I had at my disposal was the Long Range Aviation aircraft, this could be potentially used to attack the UK mainland, the advantage of doing this was that it would hopefully withdraw some aircraft from the main European theater as well as take out some of the very capable F111s too. However, I was only prepared to launch such an attack if I had seen evidence that the RAF aircraft that had been slated for home defence had moved to join the European fight. My two Mig31 Foxhounds would be no match for all the Phantoms and Lightnings I expected to find there and if they then went on to shoot-down the Tu22 Backfire bombers I’d have a lot of explaining to do to someone before a reassignment to Siberia. Instead I just added them in to the normal fights to give a boost, although one Foxhound was given the special mission to try and breakthrough the fighter screen and go after a NATO AWACS aircraft, this would give us a big advantage in the combat. This, against all the odds, worked, medals all round for the pilots. In fact, making medals for the players at the map did seem to have the desired effect, quite what the NATO players made of them is another matter.
On the ground the war went well, Denmark fell to a small, under- resourced but well-handled force and was removed from NATO, there should have been bigger political ramifications from this imo. Also, some VDV had a very short stay in France getting as far as Strasburg. In the best megagame tradition if it had gone on for another turn things would have decisively turned in the Soviets favour, our 2nd wave of ground forces would have entered combat, the anaemic Dutch counter attack would have been defeated and what’s more NATO was running out of all those fancy high tech weapons that were giving them the advantage. In fairness to NATO their deliberate targeting of our Warsaw Pact Allies meant we had political troubles of our own to contend with the resulting dilution of force. Also, a bit more could have been made of the big but narrow salient we created in the NATO centre. One of the differences between an open and closed map is that clever manoeuvres are harder to pull off: everything is visible to the observant player. As such concentration of force and a determination to follow things through often rewards more than an outflanking march that will be spotted.
After the game we had a debrief: this blurry photo is the closest I got to the main map all game.
I really enjoyed SNOBC, very glad I played it and if the rumours of a follow- on game the year after next come to be true I’d love to reprise my role.
These last three months saw me paint 52 20mm figures, 80 15mm figures, and 9 28mm figures. I finished 10 1/72nd kits, 9 1/300th aircraft and 8 1/2400th ships. I also read 30 books. Not bad really.
A few weeks ago King’s College in London hosted the Connections professional wargames conference. They have released slides and audio recording of the presentations here:
A few highlights that are worth your time following up on…#
Pennine Megagames’ own Paul Howarth amusing talk on games in schools- hearing how the games cut through gender and social boundaries and gets children enthused is really great.
Dr. Nick Bradbeer and David Manley’s talk on improving Maritime engineers’ design through game play is interesting- especially as David Manley has blogged on his involvement with the games here:
I was surprised at the lack of military knowledge that was alluded to of the students on the course but given that we are a maritime nation dependent on sea trade and our Navy it is something that takes a very low profile in our modern world.
Finally Paul Strong’s talk on the Western Approaches Tactical Unit gives a great insight into how wargaming helped to win the Battle of the Atlantic, including a rare example of wargaming being conducted mid- battle and influencing its outcome.
I’d have loved to attended- and played in the megagame as well as the other games sessions but I was on a bit of a road trip with my father (a post on that will be forthcoming) so missed it, will look into attending next year.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
PS- I know my photos are a bit crappy I really recommend looking on the Pennine Megagames Facebook page for better ones.
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.
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.