Friday, 16 March 2018

Bolt Action with Mike

I cannot quite express just how much fun this game of BA with Mike was. Absolutely thrilling from start to finish. Mike and I met up at Bristol Independent Gaming where James gave us a very warm welcome, plus he kindly provided most of the scenery. It's been a while since I went along to BIG but I shall certainly be back as soon as I can - highly recommended! Anyway, we played the Top Secret mission, so again my trusty wrecked 251 model was the objective. Mike was using his lovely US Paras and I had my Panzergrenadiers.

Turn 1 saw a steady advance of troops with emphasis on the centre, funnily enough. Here I've deployed a squad on the road plus squads in the fields to either side. Mike has deployed his Paras in a broadly similar manner.

The superb light blue building is the Charlie Foxtrot Models Boulangerie. Lovely! ;o)

Turn 2 and the first German squad reaches the 251. Predictably the US MMG in the ruins showered them with lead, killing several and inflicting a pin.

Since this was pretty much the only weapon with a direct LOS I wasn't too worried. I knew his spotter (for the 60mm mortar) could draw LOS but Mike assured me that his dice rolling had been terrible recently... Out came an Allied dice and bang went the mortar... which dropped the shell plum on top of the squad at the 251! So, 2 more pins and another couple of men killed. With 3 pins I knew the battered squad would need all the support it could get next turn, so the German HQ moved up (and shouted encouragement!)

The spotter is in the upper floor of the ruined house (top of pic)

Turn 3 and the tankers are keen to add some weight, but I'm mindful of both the bazooka in the ruins beyond the Boulangerie de Normandie to the right and the 57mm AT in the fields beyond the Church to the left.

On the right here you can see my Grenadier squad sheltering in the cover of the garden wall behind the Boulangerie. There's US squad in the road (just out of shot) and I think they're aiming to draw my troops away from the objective. I had planned for this squad to enter the back of the Boulangerie and then (if needed) dash out to the objective from the cover of the building.

This turn continued with a series of Allied dice coming out of the bag so the US Mortar fires again (remember it hit previously so only needs a 2+) but amazingly Mike rolls a 1... and I heave a sigh of relief. The Germans on the 251 have only 5 men left out of starting 9 and are already on three pins so another mortar round would have seen them off. But the US MMG keeps up the hail of bullets and another pin is accrued. Thankfully the US sniper team took their lead from the mortar and missed too!

Even with their CO shouting orders, the battered Grenadier squad searching the 251 fail to activate (they are on 4 pins!) so go Down instead. Can't really blame them having been hit by both a mortar round and a hail of machine gun bullets.

A US squad enters the central farmhouse with a view to using it as a jump off point for assaulting the objective, but as they do so the carefully sited German MG42 opens up and inflicts casualties.

The tank commander advances to bring his MMGs to bear on the US squad advancing behind the Church. I had considered the 57mm AT as a target but they're well-sited being behind a wall with a gun shield too, plus the infantry were far more of a threat to the objective. It was a risk for the Panzer as it would clearly expose itself to the dreaded 57mm gun but the tankers had to earn their schnapps.

The next dice out of the bag was an Allied dice. Mike rubbed his hands as he picked up the dice and prepared to fire the 57mm... Bang! But it was yet another 1 from the US C-in-C.

In the pic above you can see that the US Paras behind the Church have been whittled away by shooting from the tank and the central Grenadier squad (near the walled field) plus out of shot to the left is another smaller squad with an LMG and the sniper too.

On the right my Grenadiers have crossed the wall whilst under fire from the US Paras in the road but again Mike's chaps couldn't quite find their targets. I want to get the squad in to the Boulangerie ASAP.

Turn 4 and the tank rumbles forward to give the Grenadiers remaining at the objective some cover. This time it puts an HE round in to the ground floor of the farmhouse, battering the US Paras sheltering inside.

The Para's Bazooka team make a mad dash around the wrecked 251 to fire at the Panzer's flank. The shell hits but Mike rolls a 2 to penetrate the armour (he needed a 3). But it is another pin, bringing the total to two.

The pic above shows only the NCO left of the squad at the 251. That's because the Mortar team got their act together and dropped an accurate shot! However, the squad leader (to my surprise) rolls 3 for his morale and passes!

The 57mm fires again and hits, then penetrates but rolls a 1 for damage, the crew are stunned but the turret is fine. However the tank now has 3 pins.

Turn 5 and again Mike gets the early dice out of the bag but his rolling of D6’s is still not so good. The brave bazooka team tries again but Mike (somehow) rolls another 1. Then the 57mm has another go at the tank... and misses again!

The US mortar tries for the squad searching the 251 (or more accurately the NCO 'hiding' in it)… Yet another 1 to hit when there was only the NCO left to kill.

At last a black dice comes out of the bag. Passing his morale test, the NCO wastes no time running as fast as he can for the German lines, yelling to his CO that he has the precious briefcase.

But… the US HQ group are upstairs in the farmhouse, two men fire and miss but the US CO carefully takes aim and brings the German NCO down. What a shot!

So the papers (denoted by the silver token in the road) are still not quite safely back in German hands.

Having been shot to pieces by the Germans in the ground floor of the Boulangerie, the remants of the US Para squad hop over the garden wall in to the fields, but Jerry is waiting behind the nearby hedge where they blaze away with assault rifles and MP40s.

Turn 6 sees more Allied dice come out of the bag first so the crew of the 57mm finally get their eye in. The shell rips in to the Panzer IV setting the beast on fire. The crew (with 5 pins) fail their morale check and bail out. Meanwhile behind the smoking wreck of the tank, the German CO unit and squad head for the briefcase of vital papers that are still clutched in the bloodied hands of the brave Grenadier NCO.

The scenario dice roll decreed that it was now the end of the game, so technically a draw, but Mike and I decided to ignore that and play on. On both flanks the remnants of the US and German squads traded shots but it was the action in the centre that counted.

The battered remains of a German Grenadier squad had the papers at this point but it was possible that some more crazy shooting from Mike might just save the day! And (astonishingly) this began to happen as the US MMG (now brought up alongside the Boulangerie) killed several, then his HQ unit killed a couple more. Finally the US mortar makes another incredible shot to drop a shell plum on the target, wiping out the Grenadier squad. Again the vital (and somewhat battered) briefcase fell to the floor

Now only the German CO and his trusty sidekick have the chance to retrieve the papers and make it off table. At last, on turn 8 a black dice comes out of the bag and the German CO, with the briefcase tucked under his arm, heads for the board edge!

Wow, what a game that was! A proper roller-coaster of a battle. Mike was, as ever, an absolute gentleman to wargame with, my thanks sir! I'm very much looking forward to our next encounter.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Some Very Enjoyable Sharpe Practice

Funny thing is I wasn't going to post this as our collections are very much a "work in progress" in the sense that some of the scenery isn't finished and only a few of the models are painted, etc.  But it was so much fun, plus I want to keep a record of our developing campaign.  So here goes... look away now if lots of unpainted lead offends you!

Top chums Paul and Colin have got me in to Sharp Practice in a big way, so Paul and I started with a straightforward encounter between his French and my Anglo-Portuguese.  It was a jolly good fun game and an ideal re-introduction to the rules for me.  Interestingly, just one moment from this first small-ish game led to the scenario for the game I'm blogging about below... right at the close of that first game the young Light Company Lieutenant Archie Carruthers was knocked out during a French attack and his men forced to retreat.  We decided that he'd been captured. After some discussion (and possibly a few beers) Paul and I agreed that the next game would be a rescue mission.  You see, Archie's uncle is none other than Colonel The Honourable Sir Horace Barkinge-Madd, a senior member of Sir Arthur Wellesley's staff.

The Battle of Capela do Campo das Estrelas

The French, led by the newly promoted Captain Pierre d'Escargot, have removed young Carruthers to a nearby Chapel whilst they decide what to do with him.  His wounds have been treated and he has been fed, but French Intelligence led by the shadowy Major Côdu want to 'talk' to him, so he remains under guard.

The Anglo-Portuguese Force
Captain Richard Blunte (III)
Sergeant Patrick Cockburn (I)
Two groups of 95th Rifles

Lieutenant Hugh Jercock (II)
Two groups of British Light Infantry in Line
The above two formations are the Light Company of the entirely fictitious Royal Somerset Regiment.

Capitão Jorge Vincente (II)
Sargento Macedo (I)
Three groups of Caçadores in Line

Açougueiro - "The Butcher" (I)
One group of Portuguese Partisans

Lieutenant The Hon. Humphrey Gore (I)
One group Light Dragoons

The French Force
Capitaine Pierre d'Escargot (III)
Three groups of Line Infantry

Lieutenant Victor Feu (II)
Two groups of Line Infantry

Lieutenant Rennie Lescun (II)
Two groups of Grenadiers

Lieutenant Francois Rapido (II)
Sergent Hector Soixante-Neuf (I)
Three groups of skirmishing Voltigeurs

Sergent Paul Galop (I)
One group Dragoons

Sergent Louis Souple (I)
Light Cannon

Plus one group of infantry tasked with guarding Carruthers in the church

The intrepid exploring officer Major Bruce Colborne and his contacts amongst the Portuguese partisans have located the missing Lieutenant, so Captain Richard Blunte has been tasked with leading a rescue mission.

The Light Company of 1st Btn The Royal Somerset Regiment (a mix of Rifles & Redcoats), Vincente's Caçadores, Açougueiro and his partisans, along with a detachment of the 16th Light Dragoons were marching to the rescue.  However, a Bonapartist spy (the rogue, Grasiento Bastardo) has informed the French and they are making ready!

The French quickly deployed both line troops and numerous skirmishers to hamper the rescue.  This forced Lt Hugh Jercock to bring his redcoats on to protect the primary deployment point.  This was quickly followed by a stunning series of cards for the French that meant Rapido's Voltigeurs were able to inflict a tremendous amount of shock on Jercock's light bobs.
Lt Jercock holds the hill as Voltigeurs advance through the wood

This in turn led to Capitão Vincente bringing on some of his men to shore up the right flank and give the redcoats some time to rally off the shock.  This really shifted the balance of the game with four groups of allied line troops struggling to hold off three groups of French skirmishers.
Vincente arrives to relieve Jercock's men

Across the table, Major Colborne and the Partisans expertly guided Blunte, Cockburn and the Rifles to the church.  The green-jackets wasted no time and a furious battle quickly ensued.
The first attack goes in!

To my astonishment the first attack by the rifles was thrown back in disarray - have those Frenchers not seen Sharpe on the telly?  With French cavalry and artillery now being brought up it was clear that the Rifles needed help, so Capitão Vincente directed Sargento Macedo to lead a detachment of Caçadores to assist the rifles as they prepared to storm the church again.
Right lads, let's try again!

As the battle at the church raged on, the Partisans and the rest of the Light Company tried to stem the French advance as d'Escargot's men sought to close the door on any Allied escape route, whilst the cavalry waited for Blunte to extract Carruthers.

The fight at the Church continued with the valiant defenders retreating to the roof and barricading the stairs.  Covering fire from Blunte's men on the ground outside the church helped to keep the French busy but alas a stray rifle shot grazed Carruthers' shoulder - poor fellow!
Carruthers is wounded!

The Caçadores proved their "fighting cocks" reputation and the few battered French defenders, duty done, finally surrendered.  Hearing the call that Carruthers was freed, Gore's dragoons moved up to collect him.  In doing so they drew the attention of the rapidly advancing French line and suffered terrible losses from d'Escargot and Feu's coordinated musketry.
Cavalry were waiting just out of shot by the wood

With the light failing and the French drawing in on all sides it was every man for himself!  The allies slipped away but in the whirling confusion the Dragoons mislaid Carruthers.  He was last seen by Blunte galloping for the higher hills.

What a superb game that proved to be!  Some tense and dramatic moments along with some real comedy too.  Paul was, as ever, a splendid opponent and was kind enough to point out a few subtleties of the rules as we went along.  I certainly felt that I played much better in this game now that I'm getting a firmer grip on the rules.

Our next game will see both sides searching a remote mountain settlement for the errant Lieutenant.  I set the table up but we didn't really have enough time to play so we agreed to postpone rather than try to rush things.  Here's the tiny village of Vila Nova de Capelo.

Each force will enter from one of the short table sides.  Carruthers will be hiding in one of the buildings.  Each building will have 3 cards (4 for the church) and Carruthers will be represented by the joker.  The cards are shuffled then dealt out to the buildings.  To search a building, one or more groups must enter the building but cannot shoot as they are busy searching.  If the British are searching then they may look at all the cards for the building - Archie will hear English voices and reveal himself.  The French must search for him; each group searching may draw one card, if it's not the joker then discard it.  The group may remain in the building to search again next time they are activated.  If found by the French then Archie will automatically be captured, place him next to the leader of the group.  The winner is the first to escape with Carruthers by moving back to their primary deployment point.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

More Peninsular Scenery for Sharp Practice

These two lovely little features are more of Paul's expanding collection of scenery for our Peninsular Sharp Practice games. I think I've mentioned how he likes to get me to paint his terrain, haven't I? ;o)

Both are from Grand Manner. Here's the village fountain.

A roadside shrine

I really enjoyed painting these! The recipe is basically the same as for the Spanish Church and Grain Store I did a while back. The red for the plinth and jars is Foundry Conker Brown A/B/C. The base for the shrine is Americana Honey Brown, followed by highlights of VMC Tan Yellow and WMC Dark Sand. The grass is Colonel Bill's Winter Grass.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Vineyard Test Piece

I've wanted to make a little vineyard for Peninsular battlefields for a while but with modelling projects I often like to make a test piece before launching a bigger effort. Anyway, here it is.

The figure is not very Napoleonic but he was very conveniently available! In the pics below you can hopefully see that I made the frame from a kebab stick held between two upright off-cuts of MDF which are glued to a strip of plasticard.

The anchor cables at each end are simply thin bits of electrical wiring.

The vines are more pieces of wire folded over the stick and twisted to look like gnarly vine stems.

The base was sanded and the whole lot painted in a dusty brown/sand/cream scheme. The vines were painted in a much darker brown. Then I glued small pieces of Woodland Scenics clump foliage along the entire stick. I aimed for a slightly irregular look. This piece is about 6 inches long. The 'full' vineyard will have 8 to 10 inch sections, probably half a dozen. I think for the next pieces I'll add a little textured paint to the vine stems to make them look less wiry and more gnarly. I reckon some of Colin's pantile walling would look good with them too :o)

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Bolt Action with Orange Dave

A change is as good as a rest - or so the saying goes... It's been all Sharp Practice here on the table recently so Orange Dave and I decided to have a big(ish) game of Bolt Action. It's 1500pts per side, so fairly busy for my little 6 x 4 table. We agreed to play the mission "Top Secret". The wrecked 251 is in the centre of the table and contains a dead senior German officer with a bundle of very interesting papers, maps, etc. Here's a couple of pics I took whilst awaiting Dave's arrival (thanks to all my FB chums for the kind words when I posted these on Saturday afternoon).

Those pics weren't too bad, but I must apologise for some of the rest of the photos as they're not as good as I'd hoped. The lighting in my lounge plays havoc with my camera.

For this scenario all troops begin the game as reserves but can deploy from turn 1, following a successful Commad check. My two platoons gave me a total of five Grenadier squads (4 regulars and 1 veteran) and the scenario states that only infantry can claim and carry the objective, so I pushed as many chaps towards the objective as I could.
There's another German squad out of shot to the left... Get the objective!
In the pic above you can see that Dave has a Churchill. Seeing this I deployed my own armour (Panzer IV and a Stug) as soon as I could.

Here are a couple of shots of Dave's line. He also has two tanks (partnered by two Bren carriers) along with plenty of infantry behind those hedges.

Turn two and first dice out of the bag is a German dice. I push my Stug around the farmhouse where it has a good line of sight to the flank of the Churchill... Bang! A lucky shot causes maximum damage and the great armoured beast brews up spectacularly!

In the centre I push my men (perhaps somewhat recklessly) forward to grab the secret papers. Dave is a little more cautious, using the the farmhouse as good cover. His shooting really hammers the lead German squad who take several casualties and accumulate 4 pins. Ouch!
The Germans are almost there!

On the British left flank, a shot from Dave's Stuart bounces off the Panzer IV's formidable front armour. In return the Panzer IV takes out the Bren which had moved up to screen the allied tank.
Tank "ping-pong"

Turn three saw the Germans get closer still to the 251, but the closest squad was just too shot up to get moving. Two other squads are now poised to jump over the orchard wall and get the secret dossier.
Dave has brought on a truck full of angry Kiwi nutters. Best try to keep them at arm's length! How many times have my poor Germans been shredded by those fearsome veteran antipodean soldiers. In this turn Dave also calls in the artillery support. Now why did I put all those chaps in one place...?

Turn four and "Boom!" in comes the allied artillery. The marker is the skull token at the base of the tree in the pic below. Mercifully Dave rolls a 1 for the D6+6" radius. The kubelwagen and the CO (my planned "snatch squad" to get the dossier off table asap) take direct hits and are obliterated whilst the squads and the tank pick up a heap of pins.
As turn four ends the situation (see pic below) is getting pretty chaotic. The Kiwis have de-bussed, the Stug blasted them (to almost no effect), the badly pinned Grenadier squad passed its morale check and reached the objective. Plus another squad has moved up the road to try to help. Across the table troops converge on the centre!

Turn five starts in fine style. As with turns 2, 3 and 4 there was quite a bit of tension as to which side's dice would be first out of the bag. I *really* needed the first dice so as to get my (still rather badly pinned) squad away safely from the wreck with a firm grip on the secret papers. To my delight it was a black dice... I grabbed 2D6 feeling confident that my chaps, with their tails up, would smartly bring the papers back to German lines... I rolled ... two sixes, FUBAR!

The next pic (with flash due to the shonky lighting in my lounge) shows that the squad decided to leg it as fast as they could - which wasn't very fast as they were in a orchard which we played as light cover and no running. Dave could sense that the squad was still within reach of his Maori-turbo-nutters.

The next dice was also German so I moved the remains of the other squad in the orchard forward to try to hold off the Kiwis but, with their blood boiling, they tore over the wall and slaughtered my Grenadiers, consolidating to a point just behind the fleeing Germans carrying the papers. I cannot tell you how much drama and fun this was creating for us as players!

Turn five ends with the Stug chasing the the Kiwis through the orchard but again barely doing any damage with its MG42, and the Kiwis hot on the heels of the fleeing Germans.

Turn six ... more "first dice" drama and again the Germans get the first dice so I manage to activate the still pinned squad to carry the papers just a little further to safety. The Kiwis have to charge the Officer who has bravely (madly?) stepped forward to try to save his men.

As expected there is another one-sided slaughter and again those angry Maoris consolidated right on to the heels of the Germans.

At the end of turn six we rolled for turn seven and the dice decreed it was game over. Officially a draw then.

But we couldn't stop there!

Turn seven and yet another German dice comes out first! Another morale check and only two pins this time ... but that was it for the Germans as they failed and went to ground. The Maoris closed in and tore them to shreds.

What a game! Full of drama, tension, comedy, heroism and some really cinematic moments. Dave is always a first class gentleman-wargamer, so it was a pleasure to set this game up and play. Thanks matey!