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.
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.
This will just be a quick post…
Just finished painting these 28mm West German Border guards from Under Fire Miniatures and am rather pleased with them, I didn’t do my half arsed rushed job on them.
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:
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:
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:
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.
Squirt some glue on to the back of the first piece.
Then spread it out into a thin layer to get a nice even coat of glue using an off-cut of cardboard.
Then using the roller ensure that the whole piece is firmly stuck down.
Repeat the procedure for the next, middle piece…
… 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.
The three pieces stuck down together.
Carefully trim the excess off to leave the game board.
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.
One page was roughly trimmed, then glued and rolled as before on to the mount board.
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.
Now you should be left with the two faces glued to either side of the mount board properly lined up.
The final job is to cut out the counters, an sharp bladde is essential here to ensure a clean cut.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
Evan moved his men in carefully clearing as the went covered by a sniper he put up a tree.
I tried to slow their advance with my RPK wielding figure but he was taken out by the sniper.
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.
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.
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.
The basic game and the kickstarter extras in the brown card box.
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.
The game board; the art style has been directly lifted from the computer game.
The plastic figures that come with the game are pretty decent.
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.
Some of the stretch goal extra figures and a rather nice statue piece of terrain.
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.