Sunday 30 June 2013

Battle Report - 24-Jun-2013 - Chain of Command

Another Chain of Command play test with Gary and Carl. This time I got to play, co-commanding the British with Carl. As before, British platoon + Firefly vs German platoon + PzIV + Panzershreck.
The patrol phase was interesting: the Germans (approaching from the west/left) wound up with jump off points at A, B and C. I got over interested in making sure I denied Gary a patrol marker in the field top dead centre of the picture, and having done so, continued to remain too interested in it and placed a jump off point at Z, which what pretty useless. Why? Because my jump off points at X and Y were pretty much isolated from each other by the buildings between, and the one at Z (on the edge of the table because there was no cover behind the patrol marker) got me pretty much nothing useful that I couldn't reach from Y.

As an aside, the letter of the rules makes Y a legit jump off point - it's in cover from the nearest two German patrol markers, which were in the open field just north of the middle of the road. It prompted some discussion on the list as to whether that was really meant to be, and the rules will probably be clarified such that it's not in future, and I should have moved it back to the hedge on the road. (Aside, before anyone accuses me of being a rules lawyer: I have found in the past that the Lardies' rules do tend to be written such that the letter and the spirit are usually very close together. :) )

So, in short, I made a right pig's ear of the patrol phase. It didn't help that the two buildings Gary could deploy in had windows overlooking the fields and .... well, the other two in my half of the table didn't.

I held off deploying much until Gary had committed pretty much everything: the Firefly came on top right, and I deployed a section at X and then promptly hid it behind the house. What I really wanted deployed was the 2" mortar, to try and lay smoke - unfortunately, it got the living daylights machinegunned out of it the first phase it showed up, and that was... pretty much that, really.

On the good side, the first a German rifle team from C saw of any of my troops was when a full section deployed behind the hedge from Y and close-combatted the bejaysus out of them! But that was pretty much the only good. We were excessively cautious with the Firefly, trying to avoid getting shot at by the PzIV and the 'Shreck, and ... all in all? This fire and movement thing needs work.

Having said that? Still loving it :D

Start saving your pennies/Paypal balance, because Chain of Command is not far away - it's entering final proofing/typesetting right now.

Saturday 29 June 2013

Google Reader is closing!

For those of you who missed it last time I posted about it, or had forgotten, Google, in their infinite wisdom, will be closing one of the few products of theirs I make extensive use of really very soon indeed! - namely Google Reader.

After a fair amount of trying (and often swearing at) the available alternatives, I've decided I'm going with Feedly. On the plus side, it imports your existing Google Reader feeds, works with most browsers, and has an iOS app. The only downside is it isn't quite the same in look and feel, but it is pretty close, and certainly a lot less annoying than several of the alternatives I've tested.

Friday 28 June 2013

Book Review; "Tank Men: The Human Story of Tanks At War" by Robert Kershaw

Time for another book review - this one is Tank Men by Robert Kershaw, once again recommended to me a while back (my son 'bought' it for me for Christmas) on the TFL Yahoo group.

It's not dissimilar to a lot of the Forgotten Voices Of... series of books, consisting of a series of chapters on various arenas of tank conflict (not just restricted to World War 2), largely described by drawing on letters, interviews and other forms of first hand experience.

Particularly worth a read (in a similar way to Stuart Hills' "By Tank Into Normandy") if you want to see tank warfare from a perspective that's largely inside the tank. Also a major winner because it doesn't just cover Normandy, with extensive chapters on the initial German Blitzkrieg into France in WW2 and the Eastern Front. It helps that the author has a military background and knows what he's talking about, too.

Read if you're into tanks, basically :D I loved it.

Thursday 27 June 2013

Photgraphing miniatures part 4 - aperture and depth of field

As I promised in part 3 (gosh, that seems a while ago - Henry's beaten me to the punch with a great article in Miniature Wargames 361 since then!), I'm going to show off some of the compromises you have to work between aperture and other things. The subject is my unfinished 15mm British and German infantry.

Here we go then. Let's start at ISO400 (to handle the artificial light in my workshop). You'll need to click on these to see them at full resolution, or they're all available in a Flickr set.

f2.8, 1/250 sec

Aperture as wide as my 28-75mm zoom will allow, which in the available light gets me a decent 1/250 sec exposure. The lens is zoomed in at 75mm.

Note that the fourth and fifth figure bases in, the point I focussed on, are in focus, and as you move away from that point they become less so.

f/8, 1/50 sec

So, we've closed the aperture by three stops - f/2.8, f4, f5.6, f/8 - and opened the shutter for longer to compensate. It's not quite perfect as I let the camera's automatics do this, and it only actually set the shutter speed two stops faster!

Note that with the smaller aperture, maybe four of the figure bases are now nearly in focus. We're also, at 1/50sec, pushing the limits of what I can shoot handheld - the rule of thumb is for a 50mm lens, 1/50th or more, for a 250mm lens, 1/250 or more, etc etc

f/16 1/13 sec

As you can guess, at this shutter speed, I really had to hold my breath and hold still - we're two f-stops up from f/8, and two stops slower on the shutter speed.

All the bases are pretty much in focus, but it's marred by slight camera shake

No matter. We can fix that.

f/11 1/100 sec.

"Wait? What?" I hear you say.

Simple. ISO 1600! So that's two stops faster film and one stop wider aperture, which means we can speed the shutter up 3 stops to 1/100th. Almost everything's in focus, too, except maybe the frontmost base.


Let's look at closeups:

f/11, ISO 400
f/11, ISO 1600

Regrettably, these aren't perfect. But I think you can see that the ISO1600 shot is a bit noisy compared to the ISO400. You can see it more in the brown edge to the base, which if you look closely has some greenish speckles in it.

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Essays, archaeology and history

Apologies for a slightly terse and late post today - I didn't leave work till 7, and I had an essay crisis :D

This online course thing is hard work. It's only 750 words, peer review of five other students work, and about an hour of video lectures a week, but I'm quite surprised how much effort goes into that. It is, after all, nearly three decades since I last did any work that could be described as academic, and my degree's in a subject which really didn't require serious essay writing, namely Computer Science

I'm currently being awfully tempted by DigVentures 'Dirty Weekends' - well, with a name like that, who wouldn't be! A weekend (or a week) doing hands-on archaeology with the pros. I'm really sorry I missed a shot at this weekend, which is a weekend with the Geophysics team at Leiston Abbey in Suffolk - I could have been an archaeologist and a computer geek at the same time!

It's odd - when I was a teenager, I hated essays, and I didn't get history, other than the bits of it I liked through being a wargamer. Nowadays, as I take great delight in pointing out to my son, I write more on my blog most days than he does for homework (about ten times more tonight, in fact!). I have a theory that proper history, by which I don't mean a dry regurgitation of Sir's list of facts about whatever period we're on this term, is difficult for younger kids. History is about people, when it comes down to it, and there is a degree to which you can't necessarily understand what motivates the movers and shakers of the period you're studying unless and until you have the emotional maturity to at least understand where they're coming from.

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Professor Mick Aston, July 1, 1946-June 24, 2013

L-R: Tony Robinson, Professor Mick Aston, Guy
de la Bedoyere.
It's hard to have an interest in historical wargaming without, obviously, having an interest in history. It's not a very big step from there, especially when you live in a country steeped in the artefacts of history, to an interest in archaeology.

As such, you can imagine my considerable delight when, 20 years ago, the Channel 4 show Time Team popped up on British TV screens. For the majority of its career, it effectively had a two-pronged front. The charismatic and genial Tony Robinson was, if you like, the 'everyman' presenter, asking the questions we the viewers wanted to ask. His long suffering and expert foil was the wild-haired, rainbow-sweatered Professor Mick Aston, the team's Archaeological Consultant. His aim in participating in the show, to quote from a recent interview, was:
"[...] to get as many people as possible interested in archaeology, because we [in the profession] all enjoy it and think it interesting. That was my personal aim… and on that basis I think it is a success."
Time Team's had a lot of flak, and sadly deservedly so, in recent years, for Channel 4's dumbing down and mishandling of the last few seasons (read archaeologist Raksha Dave's take on it for an idea), and in fact I fully understand why Mick chose to leave the show. But, certainly from where I'm sitting, with the perspective of 20 years of the show to look back at, he succeeded in his initial aim. In another interview he protests that he doesn't feel he has a legacy to leave, but I think that looking at the obituary thread on my current short archaeology course's forum, he would be wrong. There are 37,000 people doing that course, and I would suspect that a surprisingly high percentage can cite Time Team as a reason, even from outside the UK.

Let's not forget that he was a professional archaeologist outside of Time Team, too, and a published author, and as such, respected and missed by the archaeological community as well as those of us who just enjoyed our Sunday afternoon fix of something that actually engaged our brains and our curiosity.

Thanks, Mick, for making me notice the things beneath my feet. Rest in peace.

Monday 24 June 2013

Chain of Command on much more open terrain

It's been nice getting the favourable comments about the terrain we've been using for our CoC playtests, but, as folks have been pointing out on the TFL blog, not every battlefield is crammed with fences, hedges and walls!

Rich and Nick have played (and are currently replaying on the blog) a battle on very open ground, which I'm watching with keen interest to see how the rules (and the tactical manuals!) handle an attack across much more open terrain. If you're interested in Chain of Command and not following the blog, I strongly suggest you do!

We're running a playtest this evening - depending on how the Lardies' one goes, I may well consider some much more open (Dutch, Market Garden) terrain for tonight's game.

Sunday 23 June 2013

Free Kindle Books!

For a while now, I've been using FreeFeedRead to keep an eye out for good free Kindle books - since Amazon do clients for PC, Mac, iOs and Android in addition to the Kindle itself, it's a good source of reading matter.

If anyone else is interested, go to (or your equivalent country!) and plug in some search terms. I find the best approach is to select 'Pick From A List' for 'Genres', pick 'History' and also select 'Also in P-Back', as I find that can weed out a lot of the dross. (Having said that, a couple of my last few acquisitions were Kindle-only :D)

Today's grabs:

Saturday 22 June 2013


Having been a little side-tracked by Chain of Command-related stuff, and being suddenly inspired to write the next heraldry post, I should catch you up on the rest of what I've done this week!

The 15mm Brits and Germans are progressing slowly - the British have painted helmets and faces, and aren't that far from done. I also have a batch of Shermans to paint, but due to wanting to run another CoC playtest on Monday, the deadline for those has moved a bit! I've just picked up some MiG pigments to use with those.

I'm involved in a game of the Fantasy Flight Star Wars RPG, Edge of Empire... over Skype, of all things. It's being run by Rich Jones, with Neil Shuck (of Meeples and Miniatures fame) and Mike Hobbs (Gripping Beast's SAGA ambassador) among the players. The short review? Fantastic system - it's very much an RPG, not a wargame - very little need for figures, and as Mike puts it, it uses the best HD display of all - the human brain. Fortunately for my already busy schedule, we're working on playing only alternate Wednesdays, which, since that's my essay deadline....

My archaeology course is on week 3 (of 8). I'm just about caught up, having been a bit last-minute over weeks 1 and 2: I have a 750 word essay to submit by Wednesday which I'm hoping to get done tomorrow. And so far? One essay peer-reviewed, maximum marks, and it's great fun and I'm learning quite a bit.

Friday 21 June 2013

Heraldry 101 part 11 - Marshalling Coats Of Arms

Ok, I lied. There are actually four subjects still to cover, and this is the first, namely: when two families entitled to bear arms intermarry, what happens to their coats of arms?

Good question!
The arms of one branch
of the Cromwell family.
The arms of a branch of
the Tattershall family

The first answer is the ever helpful 'it depends', but like most bits of heraldry, it is largely driven by some core rules. The various forms of combining arms are known as marshalling.

To be more specific (and note, these rules are most common in British heraldry): if two people whose families are both entitled to bear ams, marry, their respective coats of arms are impaled, which is to say placed in the left and right (dexter and sinister) halves of a shield divided per pale, with the male arms on the dexter.

Cromwell impaling
For example: suppose a male Cromwell marries a
female Tattershall. Cromwell is argent, a chief gules, over all a bend azure. Tattershall is chequy or and gules, a chief ermine. Note to the observant reader - yes, we didn't mention chequy - that comes later, but you can guess. While they are both alive, they'bear each others' arms impaled: per pale: argent, a chief gules, over all a bend azure; chequy or and gules, a chief ermine. As a shorthand, it could be referred to as per pale, Cromwell and Tattershall.

The husband would have used the arms on a shield (or escutcheon), If the lady had to have her arms depicted, they'd be on a lozenge, i.e. a diamond standing on one point. (This applies generally, not just to impaled arms.)

 Formerly, instead of being impaled, arms were sometimes dimidated, in which the dexter half of one was placed next to the sinister half of the other. The end result could be oddities like a lion with a fish's tail, which may have been one of the reasons it was dropped.

There's a special case of this - if the lady was due the arms in her own right, i.e. was a heraldic heiress, for example because she had no surviving brothers, her husband would generally not display his arms and hers impaled. Instead he would display hers on a shield on top of his to indicate that he and his descendants would claim those arms, known as an escutcheon of pretence. Annoyingly, the free version of Coat of Arms Studio won't let me draw this for you, but you can work it out.

Now, their children won't display those arms. Instead, they'll display the father's, under typical English rules[1], except if their mother was a heraldic heiress, in which case they could display their parents' arms quartered, with the father's top left/bottom right. Quarterings can get considerably more complex as time and inheritance goes by, of course, and often lesser arms get dropped or edited out. See the Wikipedia entry on marshalling for more detail and a couple of extreme examples.

If you want a brilliant example and practical tutorial on this, go take a trip to Tattershall Castle in Lincolnshire, go up to the top and walk down through the various levels of the keep, looking at the windows. From top to bottom there's a sequence of arms covering multiple families, marriages and inheritances with all manner of quarterings, impalements etc. Fantastic fun.
[1] They'll display something different while their father's alive, but we'll cover that next time!

Thursday 20 June 2013

More Chain of Command

I wasn't going to post more CoC today, but this is too good to miss:

Anyone interested in CoC should watch Rich and Nick of TFL's blow-by-blow game at

It's an eyeopener. For example: (and they're 11 phases in at this point):
Phase 11. British. 66642 [command dice roll: Mike]. The three 6’s mean that this is the last phase in this turn and that I will get the first phase in the next turn. This is good because all tactical and overwatch markers are removed on the turn end. It represents a break in the action. That is great because Rich’s Puma is no longer going to get the drop on me if I head up the road. I do nothing in this Phase.

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Following on from yesterday

While Monday's game of Chain of Command was great fun, I'm still a little frustrated on two counts.

One is easily fixed - next week, we're having another game, and I'm reasonably happy that the folks who play regularly can manage without me solely umpiring, so I'll finally get to play a game!

The other really demonstrates why I like Chain of Command, paradoxically. If you apply proper period tactics, i.e. fire and movement, then you will do well. If you follow man's natural tendency, which is to take cover and blaze away at the enemy till one of you is driven away or killed, then the rules portray this pretty well, too! So far, our battles have been a bit 'line up and blaze away', sadly. To quote Rich Clarke:
"Becoming pinned down is not something your enemy does to you, it is something you allow to happen. You take fire, you respond with fire, you fail to move because you are "too busy" firing. This is not an enforced morale effect, this is you convincing yourself you should just keep firing."
So, for the keen/wannabe Chain of Command player, I present a couple of handy links:

The 1944 British army Infantry Training manual.

Particularly worth a good read and absorb from about page 53 (in the original page numbering) onwards, as it starts to cover the use of a section as two fire teams to take on an objective, and goes on from there.
Then we have the US equivalent - FM 7-5. Part two, chapter one, section III is probably a good place to start!

There's a whole bunch of US manuals here, too.

My German isn't up to finding the Wehrmacht equivalent, but if you want a combined look at all three armies' approaches, I recommended a book a few months ago - Stephen Bull's "Second World War Infantry Tactics", which includes facsimile pages from several training manuals, and is well worth a read. If you're feeling poor, it's possible someone may have scanned the Osprey he wrote on line, but I'm not providing a link to that!

To quote several folks on the TFL group (predominantly Rich) -  Chain of Command is a wargame, not a game. It is designed to reward period tactics, so get out there and learn them!

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Battle Report - 18-Jun-2013 - Chain of Command

Another playtest game - Gary and AndyB as the Germans, with a platoon plus a Panzer IV, against AndyM and Paul with a platoon of Brits plus a Sherman Firefly. Advantage British in armour, but they do only have one measly PIAT against three Panzerfausts and a Panzershreck.

Story mostly in pictures - major points of note were
  • the attritional nature of the infantry fights (very little fire and movement). To quote Rich Clarke on the TFL list: "This is an interesting parallel with reality. Human nature is to get stuck in a firefight, which is why armies teach them to combine fire and movement."
  • the amazingly jammy dice rolling for the PIAT (two hits, first one knocked the gunner for a loop (-1 to hit) and the second immobilised the PzIV)
  • the amazing rubbish dice for the Firefly AND the Panzerschreck - three phases of missing a lot
All in all? Fun game, some useful feedback to Rich for the playtest, and a hotly contested draw.

Jump off poimts after the patrol phase: basically two each in the
village, and one on opposite flanks in a wood.

The German tank shows up on the
southwest road into town.

Ze sleepy village, she is in for ze rude awakening, non?

"Jenkins! PIAT, damnit! Tiger tank behind that hedge! Take it OUT!"

"Hans? Why do the British always think we are a Tiger..."
"I don't know, Jurgen, but..."
BOOOM! PIAT round glances off turret, knocking gunner for a bit of
a loop.

Everyone seems to be taking cover...

The Jerries in the wood debate how to deal with the lumbering
Firefly approaching up the road.

Monday 17 June 2013

WIP - 15mm Brits and Germans

For next Monday's IABSM game - more work on the British and Germans. Yesterday I based the rest of them, and assembled the two Battlefront plastic PAK40s. The figures are BF metals except for the two extra sections of Germans (BF Open Fire plastics) and the two Panzerknacker platoons (Peter Pig German pioneers/tank killer figures).

The PAK40s are quite nice to put together, except that I broke one of the shields and had to glue it together. The barrel's scale thickness, which means getting it off the sprue was a little nervewracking, as was true for the trail legs.

I'm out of Tamiya Dark Earth textured paint, and worse, so is Trains4U - I did consider mixing up a PVA/sand/paint gunk, or using a lightweight filler ('spackle' to you Americans), but in the end I went for a layer of PVA and some Javis dark brown scatter. I'll do the rest of the painting next, and then add static grass.

Sunday 16 June 2013

A few bits of metal...

Progress yesterday:

I got my paints sorted, and established I have far too many! Sorted out the Citadel ones I'll likely not use again, worked out which Vallejo and/or Warpaints I need, and clearly need to buy a rack of some sort to store them. Also sorted out some newly arrived Peter Pig 15mm figures to make a couple of German Panzerknacker teams.
While tidying today, I finally unearthed a small brown envelope belonging to my son James, which we've been looking for a while (yes, it was in one of those 'really safe' places you don't think to look in - in fact, I'd forgotten there were any drawers in the dining room there!)

Longer-time readers of this blog may remember my first mention of visiting East Kirkby, where James and I got talking to a lady whose father (Jack Marsden) was a flight engineer on a 166 Squadron Lancaster, ME749, code letters AS-Z. He had been shot down during the Mailly-le-Camp raid in May 1944, and managed, despite being badly injured, to make it back to England (eventually). It's a great story, and I'd recommend Googling for it, or reading the book about the raid (mind you, given Amazon's current prices, you might be better off trying or visiting the East Kirkby shop!). I have a Revell kit waiting to be made as a replica of ME749.

The contents of the envelope - several pieces of Jack Marsden's Lancaster, collected by his daughter from the crash site and sent to James for his school project, and a covering letter telling the whole story. The one thing the photo really doesn't do justice to is how scarily thin the outer skin of a Lancaster is!

Saturday 15 June 2013

Book Review - "Love Company", John Khoury

To give it its proper title, Love Company: L Company, 399th Infantry Regiment, of the 100th Infantry Division during World War II and Beyond is a memoir of a Private in the above US Army Reserve unit during the US attack on the south of France (Operation: Dragoon), although it was a late addition to the forces.

I picked this up because the Kindle version was (and still is as of the time of writing) going free. Compared to some of the other memoirs I've read recently, it's lacking a great deal in descriptions of actual battle: reading between the lines, that's a deliberate choice on the part of the author, I think.

So, after yesterday's challenge: what did I do yesterday?

I got a 15mm British rifle company (Battlefront) glued to bases and undercoated with PSC Warspray. On which topic - it definitely doesn't cover as well as the Army Painter primers - you seem to have to get a lot closer to be sure of covering all of a figure.
As such, it's not a book from which one can really extract scenarios for WW2 games, but it does give an interesting feel for what life as a GI was like on the front line. Khoury's humour is dry, and his writing style is somewhat terse: the book (a Kindle-only release) is only 140 pages long.

Certainly worth the money :D and an interesting read.

Friday 14 June 2013

Motivation, and A Call To Arms

Sharing from a different hobby, prompted, apparently, by a number of very petty forum squabbles, but nonetheless a challenge:
And as for time, what on earth are people doing with their days? By the time the computer is loaded up, the internet connected to and your first post typed out you could [have] easily stuck some brake shoes down on a Dundas chassis.
So this is a call to arms. Stop typing, find those old models, take 10 minutes out of the day, cut a bit off, stick something on. Modelling is our hobby. Please try it, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Part of my aim with this blog is to try and post every day, and I try and do that by setting aside a time to post when I get in from work or club, or during my lunch break or before I start in the morning (depending on when in the day I know what it is I'm posting). Some days, if I'm on a roll, I'll draft posts several days ahead.

But I'll freely admit, I do spend far far far too long trawling the Interwebs to read what, to be blunt, is a whole pile of completely random crap that doesn't enhance my life or knowledge one jot, and often has sweet Fanny Adams to do with any of my hobbies or interests (which are many and varied). Last week, I made a point of spending at least an hour every day when I got back from work in the workshop: result? I got six terrain tiles, a hill, and a company of 15mm Germans finished in time, and almost all the junk on my work desks tidied onto the new shelving. I'd have like to have done some hedges and roads as well, but my experiments on those were a failure, and I'm starting to really like the looks of the Terra Firma 15mm offerings (AND he's just dropped his prices!)

Personally, as should be obvious by now to regular readers, I work best to deadlines. Preferably the kind that come looming up, horns blaring, with far too little time to go! :D So, this weekend, I have another couple of German sections, a British company and some Shermans to do in 15mm. Let's see how I get on!

How do you motivate yourself?

Thursday 13 June 2013

Battle Report - 10 Jun 2013 - Dux Britanniarum

A new year, as I said in the previous post. With the capture of Linnius by (my) Saxons, the British have moved their capital to Caer Lerion, and the Saxons are raiding from Linnius into Cavsennae - not least because they're broke, having built a new Hall!

(As an aside, for those new to Dux Britanniarum, do check out Rich Clarke of Too Fat Lardies' introductory video on YouTube.)

We forgot to roll the end-of-year 'who dies' rolls, so hopefully no-one has! We did though use my terrain rules from the 2013 TFL Summer Special, and then rolled up the Border Tower scenario, which immediately resulted in us removing the stone circle from the top of my nice new hill and replacing it with Andy's lovely Grand Manner watch tower.

The Saxons' mission is to capture a British noble, before he can reach the safety of the tower: deployment for the Saxons is random, and just my luck, involved entering in the middle of a thick wood.

I managed to get my hearthguard out on the first turn (we forgot the British watchtower rules AGAIN, which meant I should have been a turn later), and on turn two had a glorious hand (Bounding Move, Carpe Diem, Aggressive Charge, Goad) with which to smack into Andy's levy (this time out commanded by Geraint, as Maximus Minimus was out on patrol with the warriors).

It was nasty (if you were British), although my Gehdriht took a fair amount of shock. Meanwhile, my warriors under Ecgwine burst out of the wood in an attempt to chase down Maximus Minimus, who was skirting warily around in an attempt to get to the tower.

I blew my first movement roll, with one of the last moves of a turn, and wound up 5" away. The next run through the deck got me a few more good Fate cards, and it actually came down to two cards left in the activation deck: British Lord 2 (Maximus) and Saxon Lord 2 (Ecgwine). Tense, since victory was going to whichever activated first, as we both had decent hands... except that Andy didn't know I was holding a Step Forth, which meant the turn was mine, come what may.

As it turned out, I didn't need to use it, as Ecgwine's card came up and he and his warriors laid into the British. Rather too well, actually, as the unit Maximus was with (we're trying to capture him, remember), lost its amphora, taking Maximus with it and fleeting back out of range.


The problem at this point for me is threefold:

First, it's now Maximus' turn, so he can extract himself from the wreck of his unit and run for safety. And a lone Lord is almost impossible to catch.

Second, I'm out of good cards, so I can't easily chase Andy's levy and hearthguard back up the hill.

Third, Andy's hearthguard are behind Ecgwine's flank, and it's time to reshuffle the activation deck.

I have to blow the Step Forth to avoid being hit in the flank, and from then on it's all a bit meh from the Saxon viewpoint: we're not outnumbered, but Andy has all the good cards, and all he has to do to win now Maximus has gained the safety of the hill and the British hearthguard is leg it off the board by the nearest table edge. Which happens to be his.

I have, pretty much, one chance, which is to hope he rolls badly and I can get what's now a formation of four groups up the hill after him now he's with the hearthguard.

So. Time to roll an 18.

Or not.

A couple of turns of retreat and drawing Fate cards later, Andy wins, as he's denied me my objective.

Cracking game, and once again an illustration of how cool the Dux B raid system is - compare this to the last time we fought this scenario and see just how different it is!

Wednesday 12 June 2013

"To Britain's Shores" - Chapter 9 - A new year

"They got away." Ecgwine was, clearly, annoyed, tossing his shield into a corner of the new Hall with a clatter. "Cowards."

I couldn't resist a chuckle. "Not for want of trying. You and yours were too good."

He snorted. "Never seen their little man run that fast."

I grinned at the memory of him fleeing for the safety of their hearthguard after his own warriors had been routed. "Aye. And it was a good plan."

Ecgwine brightened, his mood lifting visibly. "Really? You think so?"

At times like this I'm reminded he's still a youngster, that one. "Aye. That patrol was slowed up by the swamp, and you got through the woods to them before the rest could come off the hill and help. Was well done." I chuckled. "Almost too well. If they'd stuck around for the fight, we'd have had him."

He actually smiled. "I guess. Still annoying that they got away."

I couldn't argue with him there. "Truth. But they were lucky. And they'll know it."

"Mm." He paused. "Did I hear right. Cormac's leaving?"

"Aye. Says he and his have earned enough off us, and 'sides, they got a fair amount of hurt in that raid."

Lavinia, who'd been listening, and for once leaving her man to fight his own battles, sighed. "That's a shame. I liked their music."

I laughed. "Not at all sure some of it was fit for a lass's ears, mind."

Tuesday 11 June 2013

RIP Fred Panton

[Again, not the post I was planning to make.]

It should be pretty obvious to most of you by now that I have a soft spot for that big four-Merlin engined beast, the Lancaster bomber, and a heck of a lot of respect for the men of RAF Bomber Command.

I'm therefore saddened to note the passing of Fed Panton, one of the two brothers who set up the East Kirkby Aviation Heritage Centre, home of "Just Jane", one of the few surviving Lancaster bombers in the world. The centre was set up as a tribute to Fred's brother Chris, who was killed during the Nuremberg raid (30-31/3/44) while Flight Engineer aboard a Halifax of 433 squadron. He was only 19. (And it's a trifle ironic that this comes up the day after my previous post.)

There are plans afoot to return "Just Jane" to flight. I will be contributing, by joining the supporters' association: as a tribute to Fred's determination, Chris' sacrifice and that of 55,000 others, and a means to get a grand old lady in the air again for the enjoyment of many people, I can't think of a better one.

In the meantime, here's a video I shot a few years ago of "Just Jane" taxying. I recommend a good pair of headphones, or speakers with lots of bass, and turn it up.

Monday 10 June 2013

The Nuremberg raid - 30-31 March 1944

Completely random digression, prompted by my lunchtime reading.

Apparently (via a link on Facebook from someone involved in the production) there's a new documentary coming out:
...Timeline Productions, of New York, USA, are at present well advanced with the pre-production stages of a 90-minute documentary which will at last dispel the many myths surrounding this night...
The Nuremberg raid was the worst single night of losses for the RAF in WW2 - 96 aircraft shot down - and it would appear that with the desclassifying of the WW2 Ultra crypto efforts, there were theories afoot that, in the same way as is claimed for the German raid on Coventry, it went ahead despite being compromised, so as not to reveal what Bletchley Park knew.

Judging by the 'source' material they appear to be drawing from, and the fact that the person promoting it seems to want to challenge the research in Martin Middlebrook's excellent and impartial book on the subject, and run with the Ultra angle, I'm a little wary of this one. There's a bit of the 'my theory is right, the burden of proof is on you' attitude, as well.

However? See what you think.

This document contains a 'first person' account of the raid, which (and I quote):
...[seems to have] originated in Australia, it was in fact given to me by a British airman, then serving with RAF Germany, and its route from Down Under to Deutschland remains a mystery to this day. 
Hrm. Mysterious. Having read it, and being something of a writer myself, it feels wrong. The crew it's attributed to did exist, and did fly on that mission (aircraft DV407), though. I can't exactly put my finger on it, but even if the writer is Australian, the writing feels... contrived. Too much verbatim dialogue, too much slang.

Thoughts? I'm quite surprised at my own reaction, which is... actually... annoyance.

Sunday 9 June 2013

Battle Report - 9 Jun 2013 - IABSM3

You're probably wondering what the all-fired hurry was with those terrain tiles.

Let me explain, (No. Is too complicated. Let me sum up.) Today was a club all-day game, and Carl and I thought we'd try and get a good long game of IABSM in, since from experience the rulebook scenarios don't usually fit in an evening. This is partly because we don't play often enough, but also because most of the scenarios are very much two phases of operation, and it's a shame to miss out on this.

We went with scenario two from the rule book  - basically the Americans have to capture the road off the southwest corner of the map (past the house on the hill, top centre). [The roads, BTW, are the club's Battlefront roads, which I don't like, and will be replacing with someone else's flexible roads.]

For me, fighting as the Germans, things started well - Carl's first American blind waltzed down the road, got spotted by the MG42 and big man in the house, and got one squad ripped to shreds, and then close-assaulted to heck and back, Needless to say, he was a bit more circumspect with the rest!

After a few runs through the activation deck, I had the river bridge (which with hindsight was a dumb and stupid place to deploy a section), Carl had a platoon in the walled courtyard by the house at the junction and most of the rest of his forces in the woods, and I was trying desperately to find cover along the road back towards the hill.

In short? Not a long term tenable position,. With hindsight, I should have deployed at most one platoon and an MG42 where I could give his advance blinds a bloody nose, and set the remained up in and around the hill.

As it was, I wound up hightailing it back to the hill with the surviving forces, which was a trifle hairy. The platoon on the bridge got caught trying to cross the river, and the rest fetched up (under some woefully inaccurate mortar support from the FOO in the big house) in the scrub on the hill.

For a couple of runs through the deck, I got the upper hand - I'd have done better if one of my MG sections wasn't clinging on to life by a thread, but the other did get a blistering enfilade shot or two on one of the American sections, helped by the mortars finally landing a stonk in roughly the right place.

 Unfortunately, weight of numbers and firepower told, and the Americans basically blasted away at the remains of the Germans and that was, as they say, all she wrote.

Great game, with an excellent opponent - my thanks to Carl. Hopefully we can get another game in a bit sooner.

But... tomorrow - more of the Linnius campaign! If you missed it, Andy's report on the Battle of Linnius is finally up.
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