Megagame Report: Hold the Line, Poland 1939.

Due to illness I had managed to miss two games in a row that I was due to attend… I was really hoping it wasn’t going to be three in a row as the next one on my calendar was Paul Howarth’s Hold the Line ’39. Based on the invasion of Poland that kickstarted the war in Europe, it was to be played using the block based rules set that he had developed last year for Czech mate ’38 (see previous blog post). For a bit of a change I decided to sign myself up as a tactical player at the map. Usually I prefer command roles in these types of games but I fancied a change.

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As a lowly German player I was assigned my sector and given my order: advance through the mountains from the south then sweep round the back of Warsaw to apply pressure on the capital. This was to be the diversionary attack with the main effort coming in from the west to trap and defeat the majority of the Polish forces whilst a push down from East Prussia would take the capital. At least that was the plan that the high command team had come up with. They had also opted for a longer build up and mobilization. This gave us more units and resources to start with but gave away our intentions to the Polish players: quite what bonus that gave them we were unsure. Still, for once, such decisions were above my pay grade.

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The setting for the game was once again the wonderful, and fitting, Encliffe Hall in Sheffield. Paul had done a great job with the blocks and maps, shame our deployment onto the maps was a bit hamfisted… due to the Poles taking too long then some of the blocks being ‘tidied’- as such my deployment ended up being suboptimal with ramifications for the rest of the game.

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As you can imagine it was slow work trying to force the mountain passes. Whilst they were lightly defended it did take much for the combat modifiers to stack against me, also my mountain troops weren’t where they should be due to the botched deployment.

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The game system is now fully mature and was very nice to play. Given I was on a side map I didn’t see much of the rest of the game other than watching the growing amount of blocks being committed in the centre, that and the shouts of either joy or despair coming from the other side of the ballroom where the attack from East Prussia was going in.

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By the end of the game the Germans had managed to get units into the capital of Warsaw; but with much heavier casualties and in a longer time span than what the Germans achieved in 1939. Nice to be rolling dice at the table for a change but on balance I prefer the command roles. As such I request one for when the next version of the game system is rolled out next year for the invasion of France.

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I did take Nicola along as an observer- she was really interested in the idea but felt she lacked enough game experience to take part. I explained that the higher command roles are more about decision making rather than game rules; she seemed more taken with that. Hopefully I’ll persuade her to take part in the France game.

Thanks to Paul for putting the game on, and extra thanks as always to the control team who helped out.

Cheers,

Pete.

Book Review: Guerrilla Nightmare.

I’ve been playing a few games of the old (1980) Strategy and Tactics magazine game ‘Tito’ so when I saw a copy of this book for a decent price I jumped on it.

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Basically it is an operation history of the Stuka units and their time in Yugoslavia. Whilst the Stuka dive bomber is synonymous with the German’s Blitzkrieg* by 1940 and the Battle of Britain it was found to be rather vulnerable it contested air space. Whilst it did serve on the Eastern Front for many years, including as a dedicated tank hunter, it had reached its high water mark in the German opening attacks of the war.

One of these attacks was the 2 week invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941; details of which open the book’s narrative. Once the Partisan movement in Yugoslavia started to actively resist the Nazi occupiers the Stukas were deployed there to offer air support to the Germans fighting on the ground. Given the paucity of the Partisan anti- aircraft capabilities it was the ideal enviroment for the Stuka.

The books draws heavily on squadron recoreds and log books whilst it charts the deployments and notable missions of the different Stuka squadrons. A couple of chapters stoodf out: that which covered the German’s attepmts to disarm and demobilise the Italians after their 1943 capitulation and the Stuka’s role in Operation Rösselsprung, the attempt to kill Tito in 1944.

Until the end of the war the Stukas could fly with relative impunity, losses to ground fire were rare and there were also chances to continue terror bombing of civilian targets. However, as the Western Allies advanced up the Italian mainland the time came when Stukas were being engaged and shot down by the RAF, Spitfire Vcs on one occasion. Additionally the Stuka airfields were bombed as part of distractionm efforts when Italian based bomber units went north to bomb parts of Austria.

The book is rounded off with a nice selection of colour plates showing profiles for German as well as allied Axis operated aircraft. Their is also a single example in Partisan colours which would make for an interesting model (One of my 1/300 collection will end up like that probably).

Overall, this one gets my recommendation if you want to dig a bit deeper into the Yugoslavian campaign in WW2.

Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

*A problematic term given recent scholarship, it could quite easily be a blog post in itself….

From the Shed: Dodge Ambulance and air field equipment.

I’ve just finished this rather smart little ambulance in 1/72nd scale from Academy.

dodge ambulance

I struggled a bit with decals, even after all these years of making models it is still something I find problematic.

The tractor and bomb trolley makes for some nice extras- they’d go well with the old Airfix figures on a air base set up.

Both should be good for my WW2 games or even into the Korean War.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

A new look at the Battle of Kursk.

A bit back Bill of Under Fire sent me this news article that he had found:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-48963295

I looked for the journal article that it mentioned, and at the time of writting, it is available for free here:

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/16161262.2019.1606545 (just click on the PDF tab) which is always nice to see as so much academic work is hidden behind rather expensive paywalls most of the time.

It is definately worth taking the time to download and read if you have the slightest interest in the Eastern Front of WW2. I will flag up a few quick points though…

Although the Germans are now believed to have lost signaficantly less tanks than previously, although I don’t think the attritional strategy suggested by the author would have worked in the slightest: the economic output of the Germans was dwarfed by that of the allies. Even for the duration of the summer I don’t think it could have forestalled the Soviet offensive, leaving aside the human cost the Soviet materiel losses were replaceable.*

The battle was still an operational defeat (the salient was not reduced) and a strategic defeat as the Nazi forces never regained the initiative on the eastern front for the rest of the war.

For those of us who like to play wargaming campaigns with our tanks it does seem that retaining possession of the battlefield at the end of an encounter, thus allowing you to recover/repair as many tanks as possible, mitigates the majority of losses as relatively few tanks that are knocked out in combat are reduced to flaming wrecks. That is definately something to factor into future games.

The strength of the SS divisions vis a vie the Whermacht ones, far stronger, nearly twice as big in some cases. Whilst the early SS formations suffered from a paucity of equipment by this stage it seems clear that that trend had been reversed.

I hope you have found that of interest and if you read the articles and have any comments I’d love to hear them.

Cheers,

Pete.

* Some rough numbers to argue my case. The Panze IV, Sherman and T34 are roughly comparable. Between 1939-45 the Nazis made 9000 Pz IVs, between 1940- 45 about 50,000 T34s were made, in slightly less time (1942-45) about 50,000 Shermans were made.

Partizan Wargames Show.

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Yesterday (Sunday) Paul and I headed down the A1 to Newark Showground for the first of the Partizan shows of the year. We like to go to the local wargames shows to spread the word about Pennine Megagames and hopefully attract more players. Whilst Newark is not really part of the Pennines it is pretty close to Sheffield; hopefully we’ll get more gamers to the games we run there.

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The game we took with us was Stalingrad: Block by Block, a mini game born out of two previous games. Given I had a very nice 6 foot by 4 foot map of Stalingrad from my Case Blue game that didn’t get used I thought it would be a good excuse to use it. Paul is running a game in September, Hold the Line, based on the invasion of Poland; the mechanisms of which he used for last years Czech Mate game. I thought to myself it would be nice idea to run a game with his mechanisms based around the city fight.

Paul was kind enough to give me the polystyrene cubes and stickers needed so I got to work and knocked up what was needed. We ran the scenario as a participation game, so players could try out the mechanisms in advance to give them a taste of what to expect if they attend out events.

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The game proved very popular with the attendees of the show, lots of people were asking questions and taking photos, so much so that the two of us were hard pressed to run the game and chat to everyone at the same time at one point… We were the only none toy soldier based game there so we stood out as doing something a little different. Paul game design was described as ‘inspirational’ and I was pleased to see several people bring their friends over to show them saying ‘This is the game I was telling you about, I’ve played one and it was really good’.

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The game should get a few more run outs this years and there are a few tweaks I want to it, some of the rules need tightening and it would be nice to come up with a set of scenarios for the board that are suitable from anywhere from 2 to 6 players so we can be more flexible about the size of game we can run in the day. It would be nice to be able to give people a taste of the layers of command that the megagames have, one of their stand out features for me, but it is difficult to do in small scale for obvious reasons. I have some ideas of how to do it but it will need more work.

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I managed to do a little bit of shopping for myself (oddly no books) and managed to chat to some gaming friends I hadn’t seen in years. The newer venue for Partizan is much better than the stygian gloom of the old one too. All in all a great day and both Paul and I agreed it was the best reception Pennine Megagames has had at a show.

I’m quite looking forward to the next show for us which will be the Phalanx show at St. Helens in June.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

1944: Race to the Rhine- board game.

With three run throughs of the boardgame under my belt now I thought I’d offer up a few observations of the game.

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1944: Race to the Rhine  by Phalanx Gamesis a wargame who’s main focus is on logistics rather than the intricacies of combat. The game is set after the Normandy breakout and the fall of Paris in 1944. Three players (full disclosure time- all three games I’ve played have been three player I know that there are rules for playing solo or with 2 players but I don’t know what they are) take the roles of the Army commanders Montgomery, Bradley and Patton; each with their own ‘path’ to the Rhine.  Each player has three or four wooden blocks which represent their subordinate Corps, wooden counters are also used to indicate what supplies each Corps is carrying (fuel, ammo or food) as well as the path that the logistics trucks take to resupply the subordinate units. The winner is the first General who pushes a Corp block across the Rhine, if all the German units are deployed before that happens the winner is the General who has earned the most medals.

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When a player takes a turn, they can perform two actions: move a Corps, move supplies, take trucks or take supplies. Once all the trucks have been used the game pauses and the logistics trucks are reset.  Movement is point to point and a card is drawn for each point entered. One deck is used for ‘unoccupied’ areas and is unique for each player whilst a common deck is used for areas with a German presence. Cards may indicate a German formation, a historical event that is used to change the weather or interactions with the local populous. Combat is deterministic and is just a case of having the right resources to beat the Germans. The hard part of the game is ensuring that the right resources are there where they need to be at the right time. Once each player has finished their two actions they place a counter, starting with anywhere adjacent to Dusseldorf, and working outwards from there. Of course, the placement of these counters can be used to hinder the progress of your rivals.

Each of the Generals has their own special abilities, this combined with the different starting loads for Corps as well as the hazards along each available route makes for a different game strategy for each General. Some of the basic decision that you have to make are similar, do you push forward straight away, or do you load up with what you think you might need… Montgomery’s route has the channel ports to consider, clearing them is difficult but supplies can be brought in from them once they have been taken; If Antwerp and the Scheldt estuary is cleared it is an even bigger bonus. Similarly, Patton can draw on supplies from Allied forces advancing from the South (post Operation Dragoon) once he has advanced sufficiently far. Air power is simple but effective when it is used carefully. Likewise, the use of Airborne assets, needs careful handling. If used badly they might cost you the game but you can still try for your own Operation Market Garden.

Deciding when to push forward and when to consolidate and bring up supplies are the key decisions in the game, keeping and eye on how your rivals are doing means the pressure to keep going piles on. The game is a great blend of euro style mechanics married to a strong military theme. There are very few flaws in this game. The only one that is really apparent is the game-y way you can stich up your rivals by placing the German counters- rather ahistorical, I’d have preferred a random or semi- random guided placement bot.

 

Regardless, it is a minor quibble, I highly recommend this game.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

From the Shed: bits and pieces (WW2, Science Fiction and Terrain).

Some more from my shed- some assorted bits that I had lying around finally finished, all in 20mm too…

 

Firstly:

 

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A set of WW2 British Commandos, these are from Wartime Miniatures (seemingly defunct now). These ones are wearing the Denison camo jacket, a similar pattern to the airbourne one, making them emminently suitable for a game set on Walcheren Island as part of the operations to clear the Schelt esturary. Shame that it looks like more poses with different weapons won’t be forthcoming.

Sticking with WW2 we have these:

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A small group of Honved (Hungarian Army) from this set of plastics. I did these as paint testers for a bigger Crossfire/ Megablitz project, more of which later. Not the best sculpts in the world but they paint up very nicely.

Staying with plastics I have done these:

stalker figures

A set of figures by Dark Alliance inspired by the popular S.T.A.L.K.E.R. PC games. I’ve got several of each pose in the box so for the first lot I picked out a few poses to do with a winter theme (I’ve a fondness for winter basing at the moment). Not sure what I’ll do with them but they make their way into a game some how.

 

Sticking with PC games I made this:

firing range targets

A set of firing range targets after seeing similar ones in the co-op shooter Insurgency that I played with friends a while back. Bits of foam, ground texture and scrap from the bits box went into making this. Should be good to suggest a camp or base somewhere in MENA.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.