From the shed: IS 7 Heavy tank.

One of the silliest things a gamer can do is get stuck in an arms race… trying to get the biggest/ most powerful unit… it is even sillier when this is with yourself. Bearing that in mind I present my IS7: a Soviet prototype that should give the Germans with their dug in E100 pause for thought.

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This beast of a tank, aka Object 260, was design in December 1945 and weighted in at 68 tonnes. Armed with a massive 130mm gun fed by an autoloaded it also carried 8 assorted machine guns (2 in the hull, 2 in the turret rear 3 co axially and 1 on an anti- aircraft mount). The behemoth had up to 300mm of armour and was proof against the german 128mm PAK (the main armament of the Jagdtiger and the planned armament of the E100) from the front.

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Seven protypes were made but it was not, for many reasons, decided to put the type forward for full production. It remains the heaviest tank the Soviets/ Russia has ever made; a surviving example is in Kublinka museum. It was followed by the IS8 which eventually entered service as the T10 (the name being changed after Stalin’s death).

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This 1/72nd kit is by Trumpter and was a pleasure to put together. I painted it with the usual acrylics. It should hake a decent opponent to all of the silly German experimental stuff I’ve got if I could only find somewhere big enough to take advantage of its main gun. It will probably be used as an objective in a skirmish game…. it may even face the Western Allies in a very early Cold War game… why not I guess?

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Cheers,

 

Pete.

Megagame Report: Czech mate ’38.

Czechmate ’38 was an operational megagame put on by Paul Howarth in October.  As can be guess from the name it is a what if? Exploration of what could of happened had the Czechoslovaks militarily resisted the attended annexation of the Sudetenland.  It was designed to test out some mechanics before they were used in other, bigger, games; as such this game was run as a small affair through Paul’s Story Living Games.

I got the chance to be the overall commander of the Czechoslovak forces. I came up with a simple plan. A crust of defences that would be held doggedly and the reserves held centrally to respond to the inevitable breakthrough. With only one good mobile division I kept it near the capital as I figured that this would be the main target for the Germans on the day to try and force the Czechs out of the game. I did know that the Germans only had about a fortnight’s worth of supplies, so it was a question of just holding on and trying to not give up any more real estate than I could.

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The plan forms.

On the day because of the small numbers of players I would also be running the air forces for my side. I had helped Paul with playtesting this part of the game quite a bit, so I was confident that I could do both jobs easily.

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A close up view of the air game board.

What really made my day go so well was the sterling work gone by Nick who was my aide de camp who kept me up to date with what was happening on the map, relaying messages and generally keeping things going along.

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My reserves looked impressive stacked up until I saw all the German cubes….

The previous playtesting of the air game had given me a slight advantage even though the Czechoslovak Air Force was greatly outnumbered by the Luftwaffe: I knew I could go toe to toe so put very little up in the early turns conceding air superiority on the basis that I’d never be in a position to seriously contest it anyway. I fully expected a massive German offensive, so my plan was to only fly 50% of my force at any one time, keep stuff cycled through quickly and concentrate on targeting the command and control links of the Wehrmacht.

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General shot of the room: the two smaller tables are for the air game.

The main game was played on an open map with 5cm polystyrene blocks. Each block represented a regiment with the face uppermost indicating that regiment’s current status. The blocks also showed the combat value in each state. Players were given and then had to spend command points to activate their units. It was my responsibility to assign from my pool of points allocations to each player.

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See what I mean about all the red German cubes…? Good job they took so long to clear the border fortifications.

In the plenary briefing of the game I got a little worried when Paul said that if the Czechoslovaks got wiped out and defeated by half past 12 would could just reset, swap sides and go again… it got me expecting a whitewashing. Fortunately, the bunkers that most of my troops started in were pretty tough and the fact that the German Heer was trying to advance whole Corps along a single mountainous road in October meant that they struggled to get the command points to activate.

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Fall back positions were organised.

When the Germans made their first breakthrough I called a tea break to sort out the allocation of reserves and to speak to each commander to see how likely they were to hold out and for how long. At this point I assigned some fall-back positions trying to make the best use of natural obstacles. I was prepared to give up some areas rather than risk having any forces encircled.

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An army marches on its stomach so I brought tea lof to sustain my Czech team.

In the end the reserves, at least those that were rifle divisions, were parcelled out quite early. Hindsight has made me consider if a bolder strategy would have been to have released them to players at the start to make the initial crust of defences very strong indeed. It would have left me with only the Fast Division to act as a reserve which wouldn’t have been very much at all…

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Towards the end of the game the Germans did start breaking through.

I got the chance to do a little roleplaying/ politicking to try and appeal to the French to apply diplomatic pressure. I knew a full-scale invasion of Germany wouldn’t be possible (and outside the scope of the game) but when it was announced that the Poles were mobilizing to take advantage of our misfortunes I appealed to the French to call them off. I knew that this would be easier if we managed to put in a decent counter attack. I knew that I couldn’t turn back the German tide, but I could definitely put a dint into the main thrust. It is worth remembering that the German tanks at this stage were quite poor, mostly Panzer I and Panzer IIs with the better Panzer IIIs and IVs being quite rare. Easy prey for the LT 35 and LT 38 tanks with their 37mm guns I could field. The attack went in as I planned and managed to stall the main German thrust to Prague. It wasn’t a game winning manoeuvre, but it should that will still had fight left in us and saved the capital for a few more days. In the end the game ended after ten days/ turns; certainly, much of the country was occupied but we still had units in the field and a functional government. The Germans had paid a heavy cost to get this far, especially in materiel. So much that a further invasion of Poland the following year would have been doubtful.

The game system seemed pretty solid and I’m looking forward to it being used in next year’s Poland game. The only thing that needs to be added would be a better fog of war mechanism so the location of my reserves would of have to have been discovered in the game by the Germans but that is a minor thing. The only down side of the day is that I now want to raise a 20mm collection to fight out some of the battles the game generated with toy soldiers.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

The French invasion of Ireland, 1796, a Napoleonic What if? Megagame.

Last Saturday I went over to Leeds for another megagame, this time however I got to be a player rather than acting on the control team. I was looking forward to the game as I really enjoyed the game designer Rupert’s previous Napoleonic outing Jena 1806 (where I got to indulge my megalomania as ‘N’ himself) and in the game, I got to play an intelligence/ political/ counter insurgency role which I knew would be fun. As with the previous Jena game movement was blind, players wrote down their daily orders and the control team adjudicated any moves on a hidden map reporting back any items of interest or when contact was made with the enemy. When two armies met, the players moved to a series of generic battle boards that were used to fight the ensuing battle out face to face. The game however continued around any fights allowing delaying actions to be fought or reinforcements to be rushed up to support.

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Ireland’s long troubled history with Great Britain doesn’t really need to be retold here but suffice to say that a growing nationalist movement, centred around the Protestant Wolfe Tone, wanted to take advantage of Britain’s distraction of the burgeoning Napoleonic wars on the continent to make a push for Irish independence. For the French, an invasion to provoke an Irish uprising would draw British attention away from the continent to ease their strategic situation. A French invasion fleet was assembled and slipping past the Royal Navy’s blockade sailed to the Irish coasts getting as far as Bantry Bay before being hit with a storm that scattered the fleet and ended any hopes of invading. Rupert’s game starts the storm abating and the landings taking place.

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There were three teams on the game, the British, the French and the revolutionary Irish.  On the British team the players were split between the regular units and fencibles, the militia and the yeomanry. I commanded the last group as the Duke of Leinster. Rather than having any units in the game that could stand in open combat I could activate 5 groups of yeomanry across southern Ireland to spy, sabotage, try to drum up support for the British or conversely stamp out any signs of insurrection. I was pleased to be assisted in my task by a young lad on his first megagame that had first been introduced to them at one of the demo games that I’ve helped Pennine Megagames put on at various wargames shows in the North. One area in which this game differed from the previous one was in the intra- team communications. A letter had to be written and placed inside an envelope and handed to control. They would then deliver it, after a suitable amount of in game time had passed, to its intended recipient.

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After a somewhat ineffectual briefing I had only a vague idea of the operations of the British that I was to support so our team had to work on what we thought best.  An initial attempt to get the Irish population on side was met with very little enthusiasm which left us with a bit of a dilemma over how to proceed with the game. Counter insurgency warfare is difficult enough as it is but being faced with a hostile population and no ‘carrot’ to bribe them with we were only left with the ‘stick’. We had to find a path that saw us being effective enough against any uprisings but not so severe that it brought the peasantry out in open revolt. The sectarian divisions in the population just added to this difficulty. This problem would be tricky enough on its own but it was made even more difficult as the revolutionary Irish team had an equivalent team of players trying to ferment the very revolution with were trying to damp down.

 

One thing that became clear quite early on was the postal system between teams was very slow. Information was coming to us several turns after it would have been useful or were requesting information from us that would be out of date after the time had passed for us to collect the information and to dispatch a rider to get the report to them. A lack of direction from the Commander in Chief didn’t help either; we were on our own. It felt a bit like we were playing a separate but parallel game, not a criticism per se rather than it didn’t have the communications that is common in most games. This wasn’t helped by the revolutionary Irish interfering with our mail, we just couldn’t work out if our letters weren’t getting out (which would indicate a problem close to us) or our replies were getting to us (which could be a problem further afield). We did get in on the postal interference act intercepting the French Commander in Chief’s letter. Sadly, our overzealous Yeomanry captured some of our post too so that was sent on its way.

 

The real fun started when I received a letter from someone signing themselves as ‘Celtic Soul’- I wasn’t sure if this was a wind up to waste my time or a player who was going against his team and trying to put out peace feelers. Either way I thought I’d best reply and try to get them onside. This prompted a game long exchange of letters which I kept a record of.

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Later, I got a letter from Wolfe Tone which made me think that ‘Celtic Soul’ was a genuine player going against his team, but perhaps according to his own personal brief? The paranoia was beginning to set in. The Duke of Leinster was a sitting member of the Irish parliament as well as Commander of the Yeomanry so I could offer Wolfe Tone some degree of political appeasement (especially as I noted in my player briefing that the Duke of Leinster had previously supported Catholic emancipation. The letter writing and debating with the two other players whose characters were sitting MPs meant that towards the end of the day I had left the day today running of the counterinsurgency side of the game to my teammate. It did pay off though as an Irish player did swap sides with a large number of troops and took to the field against his previous comrades.

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The politicking and letter writing was good fun and a role that I had not previously done in a megagame. The game ran its course with the French winning every military engagement they fought but unable to provoke a widespread Irish rebellion, partly because their slow movement meant they had to requisition lots of supply from the local population turning them against them. So, it was probably a tactical/ operational win for the French but in strategic terms they failed to create a big enough problem in Ireland for British to withdraw troops from mainland Europe. As with all megagame it is best to decide in the pub afterwards who the real winner was.

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Over a pint in the pub it was good to catch up with my opposite number on the revolutionary Irish, we had a good laugh over similar attempts to steal each other’s letters. The ‘Celtic Soul’ pseudonym was a wind up (still something I couldn’t afford to ignore in game). One bit of gallows humour came from him trying to spread a false rumour in Wexford that protestants were hanging catholic priest at the same time I had sent the yeomanry in to check on seditious preaching, they had exceeded the brief I had sent them with and decide to hang the priests….

 

The control team did a great job, special thanks to Holly for having to decipher my poor handwriting all day. Another enjoyable game and a role that I would like to try again in a later game.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

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