Wednesday, February 29, 2012

From RayR: 'I'm a Lumberjack, and I'm Okay' 15mm French & Indian Wars Quebec Militia

Well, these are much, much better than 'Okay'. Ray sends in these twenty Quebec militia to add to his French & Indian Wars collection.

 These are 15mm Essex castings.

Essex currently does not make officers for these models so Ray's going to have to bodge something together to get that sorted out.

These twenty lads will add 60 points to his total! Well done, Ray!

From Curt: 28mm Norman Archers (60 points)

Have you ever had those figures that just sit on your table, half-completed for months on end? You know, the ones that you started with the best intentions of cracking off in a few days? But the days turn to weeks, the weeks to months, and as time wears on you slowly begin to loath them. Sometimes these same figures act as that inexplicable 'block' where you can't move on to get other stuff done because these are just sitting there, staring you in the face. For me its been these freakin' Norman archers...

Its not that I hate the figures, because I don't. They are nice Gripping Beast castings. I dunno what it is, but I can tell you one thing: I'm certainly happy to see the backs of them! I was hoping to do a little more detail work on a few but I really can't bear it. One good thing that came from working on these is that I experimented using GWs 'Devlan Mud' as a alternate to the AP Dip effect. I admit I was a bit heavy-handed with its application but I liked the effect it gave on the whole. I certainly appreciated the quick drying time as I usually like to motor-along when I'm painting. I think I'll give it another go with an upcoming group to see how it works without me being so angry.

So, sixty excruciating points for me... 

Now, on to other things. I think I have a hankering for some Colonial Brits and perhaps some 20mm Vietnam stuff for 'Force on Force'...

From MilesR: 15mm WWII German Nebelwerfer and Jagdpanther (86 points)

Its been a while since we heard from Miles but he's been very busy supporting his son in his robotics competitions. (So when 'SKYNET' becomes self-aware you all know who to blame...)

First up is a battery of three German Nebelwerfer rocket launchers and crew. These are 15mm castings from (I believe) Battlefront.

Next is that perennial favourite: a German Jagdpanther. This too is a 15mm Battlefront model. Miles has done a very nice job with the late-war camouflage.  

...and the preferred parking space for any discerning heavy panzer commander, a wrecked building -again,  preferably one without a basement...

These guys will give Miles 86 points. Nice to have you back, Miles!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

From ScottB: 15mm WWII German Gepanzerte Grenadiers in SdKfz 251s (Part II), (400 points)

Scott makes up for time and sends in this massive and beautifully executed submission of  twenty (20!) German halftracks painted in mid/late-war camo.

These are all 15mm Plastic Soldier Company models. They will be used for a variety of duties, from towing PAK anti-tank guns to serving as command halftracks. 

From Scott:

Painted in the usual acrylics - base coat sprayed from BF Spray paint tin
Middlestone. Camo pattern hand painted on; Vallejo Luftwaffe green and GW
Dark Skin. Washed in a 50/50 mix of Vallejo Black / Dark brown Wash.
Highlighted with drybrush of Foundry 9b ( a mid cream colour).
Tracks painted GW Dark Skin, drybrushed 50/50 mix of Gunmetal and dark grey.
Washed in 50/50 vallejo Black/Dark brown. Heavy drybrush Vallejo german camo
brown for mud.

Crews and passengers painted separately and glued in to place.
Same for Stowage. Decals by DOM.

Again, beautiful work, Scott. Your camo turned out excellent - I really like the muted, semi-opaque tones you achieved with it.

This group of vehicles, with their crews, will give Scott a very impressive 400 points. Fabulous job!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Guest Post: Tip Of The Spear(head) - 6mm WW2

The Germans roll out toward the Soviet lines.
Hello once again to everyone on the Analogue Hobbies blog. I recently visited founding conscript Curt C in Regina for a weekend jam-packed with gaming. The weekend's main feature was a massive 28mm Napoleonic game (see here for the report and pictures), but we also sat down to play Spearhead, the wonderful WW2 division-level rules.  The scenario was set in the opening days of the Kursk offensive in the summer of 1943 on the Eastern Front, and pitted the elite troops of the Grossdeutschland Panzer Grenadier Division against the vast defensive reserves of the Red Army.

German forces pre-game.
"Quality of Quantity" for the Russians.
View of the table pre-game.  The German entry is at the top right of the photo, and the Russian table edge is at the lower left.
The table was a 6' x 6' set up, bisected by a road and a rail line, and also a small stream. Some areas of rough going dotted the table, along with a couple of hills and a few forested areas/copses.  Built-up areas were limited to a number of collective farms and one-sector town.  The Germans had 20 turns to exit the majority of their battalions (they had four) from the opposite edge.  Any other outcome was a Russian victory.  Curt took command of the Panzers while I took control of the Russians.

Stug IIIs give the German foot sloggers some armoured support.
Russian 76.2mm guns take defensive position behind the rail line.
The Russians got to start two infantry battalions with some attached AT guns dug in on the table.  They had voluminous reserves in the form of two Guards tank brigades, an independent heavy tank regiment, and an independent heavy assault gun regiment. They also had slim hopes that the Red Air Force could intervene.

The Russian infantry await the German assault.
The German forces were comprised of two panzer battalions, a gerpanzert panzer grenadier battalion and a battalion of regular grunts.  They had support from off-table 10.5cn howitzers and the Luftwaffe.

This was a variation on a scenario I last played in 2007 with the gang here in Winnipeg.  I switched it up to better reflect the elite status of the GD Panzer Grenadier division, giving them more Mark IVs in place of the late model Mark III panzers that filled the Panzer battalions of most other line units in this period.  Besides I had just painted a bunch of Mark IVs and wanted to get them on to the table...

One of the aspects of Spearhead I enjoy so much is how well it reflects the relative flexibility (or lack thereof) of the different nations' command and control.  Curt put the German flexibility to good use, creating four different Kampfgruppen by cross-attaching companies among his battalions, so all the tanks had infantry support, and the infantry had some big guns to help. The Russians can't really do this kind of thing (or they can't in 1943).  On the other hand, you have lots and lots of them.

Germans prepare to run over the Russian infantry.
The German engineers punch a hole in the Russian lines.
Curt's troops demolished the on-table Russian infantry with clinical precision.  The Russian infantry gave the German mechanized troops a little trouble at first, but once the German engineer platoons got involved (hello, flamethrowers) it didn't last long.  The destruction of the initial Russian forces brought the reserves on to the table.

Here come the Russian reinforcements....

A Russian tank brigade races to engage the Germans.

Light tanks (aka "ablative armour") lead the Russian advance.
KV-1s rumble into battle.
It starts to go pear-shaped - T-34s fan out, but can't find the range...perhaps all of the burning wreckage obscures the view...
The tide of Russian armour looked dramatic, but it simply did not have the range needed to match the gun power of all those 75mm (and a few 88mm) guns on the German side.  The high-velocity 75s engaged at a range band the Russians could not match, and the Russians were not able to get very close in order to counter-punch.  The steady stream of visits from the Luftwaffe did not help. And while the KV-1 might have been scary in 1941-42, it was pretty lame in 1943. Even the ISU-152s had only a pop-gun range with their weapons.

Luftwaffe makes a visit - the KV-1s are no match for the twin 37mm cannons on the wings.
ISU-152s deal a small check to the Germans.
This Russian brigade is on fire - but not in the good way...
End result was a ton of burning Russian tanks, and a win for the German side.  The Russian did achieve a Thorpian Moral Win with a last-turn air strike by the Sturmoviks that mowed down most of a heavy tank company, but the fact is the Russian defences were going to need a lot more "depth" to stop the GD Panzer Grenadiers that day....

While the game went a little pants for my side, it was a real thrill to play another big Spearhead game.  The rules are outstanding.  Sadly the scenario books available for the game are chock full of unplayable encounters (a problem not limited to Spearhead, unfortunately), but the rules themselves are simple, elegant and fun.

Thorpian Moral Victory as the IL-23s light up some Tiger Tanks....

Big thanks to Curt C and his wife for their incredible hospitality in Regina.  Can't wait to game with the group out west again!

Before I leave, one more quick note.  I believe Juan M had asked at one point for a photo comparing these models to a coin - here is a shot of some stuff beside a Canadian dime.

From top to bottom - a Russian 76.2mm gun team, a German Pz IVH, a German Pz IVG, a German Tiger 1E.

From DaveD: 28mm Naval Gatling Gun (60 Points)

Dave challenges you not to say 'DAKKA DAKKA'  when looking at these. He was inspired by Juan's Nordenfelt Gun and so sends in this impressive set of Naval Service Gatling Guns to up the ante.

These are 28mm Perry models from their excellent Sudan range.

Dave's only embellishment to these is the addition of the spent brass cartridges - how he managed to restrain himself is beyond me.

Lovely work, Dave. These lads and their infernal coffee grinders will get you 60 points.

Napoleonic Scenario: Vandamme's Assault on the Stare Vinohrady, Austerlitz December 2nd, 1805

Last weekend Greg and his lovely wife, Linda, came for a holiday weekend visit to which we all ate and drank to excess and caught up on our sleep. Greg and I also took the requisite time to game like men possessed. On top of a suitably bloody game of SAGA, and reacquainting ourselves with 'Conflict of Heroes' we also played a cataclysmic 'Spearhead' scenario set in the opening hours of Kursk. These were all great fun, but undoubtedly the main event was our Napoleonic scenario based on the French attack on the Allied center at Austerlitz in December 1805.

Historically, Vandame's assault on the Stare Vinohrady was virtually a non-contest. The remnants of the mauled Allied IV Column, composed of six battalions of the IR#23, five severely reduced Russian battalions and their attached artillery, tried to hold the heights, but the French had both the numbers and the quality to quickly overwhelm them. Nevertheless, in reading the numerous accounts of the engagement I thought there were a few 'what-ifs' that  if cobbled together could make a viable, if somewhat asymmetrical scenario. The following is what piqued my interest:
  • Scott Bowden's 'Napoleon and Austerlitz' describes the Austrian and Russian contingents as separate actions even though they occurred very close to one another on the Pratzen Heights. I think much of this had to do with both the difficulty of communication between the Austrian and Russian partners along with the fact that the Allies wanted to cover-off as much of the heights as possible. Nonetheless, what if the Allies had drawn themselves closer together to better support one another, would it have helped?
  • Bowden further describes that the two Allied contingents did not make good use of the available ground, which had several vineyards below the summit (thus the name 'Vinohrady'). These would have slowed down infantry attacks and pretty much nullified threats from cavalry. Historically the Allies deployed well back from the vineyards, surrendering their advantages to the French light infantry. So what if the Allies had positioned their forces to take better advantage of the available ground, could it have aided their defence of the heights?
  • In David Chandler's 'Austerlitz, 1805' he obliquely mentions another unit of Kolowrat's command, Infantry Regiment #24, being in support of IR#23. Reportedly this was a depot battalion of around 400 conscripts, but I reasoned that every man would have helped to spread out the line on the Heights and so included them in my Order of Battle. I also added cavalry support to both sides. The French had access to Boye's Dragoon brigade (which was historically on-hand) and the Allies now have two regiments (Dragoons and Hussars) originally from Liechtenstein's V Column of cavalry and Wodiansky's Advance Guard. So, finally, what if the Allied High Command had released more cavalry assets to the defence of the Heights?
So for our scenario I incorporated the above conjectures and worked with the hypothesis that Kolowrat and Miloradovich have decided to concentrate and coordinate their efforts thereby bringing their forces together - forcing Vandamme to engage them as a combined force on the summit, on advantageous ground of their choosing. 

A map of the rough dispositions of the two armies as seen at the start of the action. 
For our game we used our home-grown rules, 'Food for Powder', which do a very good job of reflecting unbalanced engagements. This battle was actually fairly large for a battalion-level game (24 battalions, 4 regiments of cavalry and 3 batteries of guns) so we played it on a 6x10 surface to give us enough room to maneuver. Some may notice that I did not model the Heights on the tabletop - in my reading it seemed to suggest that the path Vandamme took on his assault was along a very gradual slope and therefore would not have granted much tactical superiority to the Allies so I decided to leave out modeling the Heights for sake of clarity.

The Stare Vinohrady today as seen from Vandamme's initial positions.
For our battle we had John and Dan on the French side, while Greg and Sylvain ran the Austrians and Russians respectively.

Here the French commanders, Dan and John, look on with Stacy (on the right) assisting as umpire.
Greg and Sylvain commanded the Austro-Russian force.
The first turn was fairly quiet, seeing the French move towards the heights along their entire front, including their guns. For the Allies, they stayed in place but were very lucky in their reinforcement roll and an composite brigade of cavalry (Austrian Hussars and Dragoons) arrived on their right flank. Greg formed them up in column of squadrons, with the Hussars leading and the Dragoons in support.

In the second Turn the French brought in their own cavalry in the form of Boye's bigade of Dragoons (under Dan). They deployed on the French right flank, in extended column of squadrons, diagonal to the Austrian cavalry. This choice of deployment had a critical impact in the following turns for both sides as the cavalry had free reign in each of their sectors. Eyebrows were duly raised with this heap of snorting cavalry showing up on the tabletop all at once.

Boye's Dragoon Brigade heading towards the Russian line.
Amongst our group, Sylvain is legendary for his caution so you can imagine the hoots of derision when he began to retrograde his Russians in response to the arrival of the French Dragoons. (As you will see Sylvain had the last laugh as his refusal of the left flank probably saved the Allied line.)

Shown here are three of the five understrength and exhausted Russian battalions that held the Allied left flank.
The third turn was a corker. First thing you have to understand that Dan is the antithesis of Sylvain. I like to think of Dan as the General Haig of miniature wargaming. To Dan's way of thinking 'If the first assault does not break them then the twelfth will certainly do the trick...' As such Dan's French Dragoons duly charged the Russian left flank as soon as they got the chance. Since the charge began from a long distance away (practically in Vienna) the Russian battalions had enough time to form squares. Undeterred, Dan noted that most of the Russian squares were not well-formed (our rules differentiate between 'solid' and 'hasty' squares) and so sent in the leading regiment of Dragoons to see if the Russians would loose their bottle. It was not meant to be. The Russians held their position and repulsed the Dragoons, but not without suffering some casualties and disorder in their ranks.

The nervous Austrian line, jammed full of conscripts and raw troops.
Meanwhile in the center, one French battalion decided to take the bit by the teeth and move ahead of the advance in line formation... While up the slope the two Allied artillery batteries hammered away at the approaching French columns, who inexplicably neglected to shake-out into less target-rich line formations and so consequently paid the price.

Back to the Allied left, Greg noted the impetuous advance of the solitary French battalion with an arched eyebrow, and thought it was too good of an opportunity for his Austrian Hussars to pass up. Greg knew he'd have to 'roll Vegas' to get the requisite moves in order to close, but he rolled the dice hoping they'd be kind to him. Well, the dice gods were smiling on Austria and Greg managed change formation, sound the charge and head for the French battalion.

The Austrian Hussars receive their order to charge...
Several French squares watch apprehensively as the Austrian Hussars begin to move across their front...
Again, as the charge originated from so far away the French battalion had a very good chance to form square. In 'Food for Powder' there are Impetus Dice (good mojo) and Friction Dice (bad mojo). Both Impetus and Friction are drawn from unit quality, officer rating and environmental conditions. Both are rolled simultaneously and you literally have to take the good with the bad (or vis a vis). Well, John rolled well enough with his Impetus dice, but the Friction roll was completely off the register - to the extent that the French battalion continued to trudge along, wondering why the ground was shaking, trumpets were blaring and their comrades to the rear were waving their arms and shouting...

'Ah! Zee target is in sight - Sound ze Charge!!'
A French ADC tries to warn the battalion of its imminent danger...
As John would say later, his battalion 'had the distinct misfortune of being ridden down by the 'flyboys' of the Horse & Musket era'. The only thing that saved the French battalion from complete annihilation was that the Austrian Hussars were at the end of their tether and very fatigued, so the mauled survivors were able to make their escape.

... but too late - the Hussars are upon them!
Turn four saw the French grind forward, closing with the Allied positions while the Russian and Allied guns gutted a French column. Nonetheless, the 1st of the 57th 'Le Terribles' got into action against the Russians and quickly broke a battalion that had been forced into square by the nearby French Dragoons. The French guns were dragged forward 'by bricole' and unlimbered in preparation to punish the tightly packed Russian formations. I'm sure there were many muttered prayers in those formations...

In the center Greg knew his victorious Hussars were desperately exposed and winded so he committed his remaining cavalry, the Dragoons to try to cover their retreat.  This turned out to be a little Pyrrhic as the Dragoons were shot to pieces by every French battalion's voltigeurs on their 'Death Ride' to the Hussars' support. Nonetheless, the exhausted 'flyboys' of the game managed to get extricated and began their ride back to Austrian high command to present the French colours they had captured.

Kolowrat receiving the news of the capture of a French eagle.
I'm sorry I cannot give a final account of the scenario as this is where we decided to break for the evening (we spent a lot of time laughing, eating and drinking.) Nonetheless, we looked over the field at 'halftime' and surmised that while the French had certainly been rebuffed in a few areas they were still in an excellent position on the Allied left flank to start an envelopment with combined arms. The fragile Allied line composed of reduced battalions and conscripts had not yet been truly tested and it would be touch-and-go to tell how it would turn out for them. It was really anybody's game.

Looking from the French left across the battlefield.
It was great fun, and all of it due to an excellent bunch of guys to game with. I extend my thanks to them all for making the night so entertaining. A special thank you goes to Greg and John who both travelled great distances to attend and brought many beautiful toys from their own collections in order to make the game that much more colourful - bravo! 

I had such a good time that I'm already planning for the next Napoleonic weekend...