Monday, 23 December 2013

Release the Tankettes!

I am now getting close to actually finishing the whole Malaya/Singapore project which began life in 2007, when I went to Singapore for work and had the opportunity to visit museums and battlefields of the British defeat there in 1942. As part of this project, I have just finished four Type 97 (Te-Ke) tankettes for the Japanese armour that accompanied the invasion force.

They are from Peter Pig and as usual with Mr Pig, they are excellent little models. With their thin armour, these shouldn't pose too much of a problem for the British 2 Pounder AT guns that I already have and the Boys AT rifles that accompany the British and Indian forces.

These are the tanks I mentioned in this previous post about frosting and they had to be stripped with Dettol and repainted, but second time lucky and I had no problems with them after the varnishing this time.

I have seven more tanks to paint (which I am waiting to arrive in the post) and then I think we can get this campaign under way!

As it's close to Christmas here's an extra bonus, recently Dean gave me a Battlefront Sd.Kfz. 231 (6 Rad), I painted it up in no time, but it is of little use to me at the moment as they went out of service in 1940...

In related war news, as a graduation present, I was bought a 1000 piece jigsaw of World War One Aircraft. It took two of us a week of flu to finish it and here it is in all it's glory!

And as today is the great day of Festivus, I will assume you all have your Festivus poles at the ready for the airing of grievances and feats of strength. If you don't know what I am talking about then it is best explained by Frank Costanza: 

I'll be back in 2014, so until then, keep your heads down and have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year!! 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Gas! Gas! Gas!

Recently, I decided to take my games of Square Bashing up a notch. Instead of just playing the basic rules for a quick game of SB, Dean and I thought we should try out the extra stuff that the quick game leaves out. In the first instance, there is the whole pre-amble which involves working out who is the attacker and who is the defender. This is done by a series of dice rolls, with tied in events, which give the armies attacking points. Dean, as the British, had events including having the French fight on his flank and his forces being bolstered by the Canadians. The Germans (me), on the other hand, got results like 'the Americans are on the way!' 

The result of this was that Dean was deemed to be the attacker, but with only an attacking point difference of four points and this meant he was carrying out a reconnaissance in force. I had given us equal armies worth 620 points each, but as defender I was forced to endure depletions. Each unit was rolled for to see if they made it to the field but thankfully good rolling meant that I lost only a single gun, a single base of soldiers and a battalion was forced to go into the reserve pool. Also as defender, a third of my force had to be moved into the reserve pool as well and this amounted to two battalions.

So the starting forces for both sides were:
1 x Higher Command
2 x Professional Battlions
7 x Regular Battalions
2 x Heavy Tanks
5 x MGs
5 x Field Artillery
(remember the Germans were down by a field gun and had three battalions in reserve)

For ease I had chosen the forces before Dean arrived, just to get the game started quicker, so the next thing to do was set up the scenery. I set up the scenery as I wanted and Dean rolled to see if he could move any pieces he wanted to. With this done, we finally placed our forces on the table:

Another thing that the quick game leaves out is assets, which allow for things like barrages, aircraft attacks and similar other things, so we were excited to try these things out. Dean opened the battle by dropping a point effect barrage on my front line defenders in the woods. Unfortunately for him, the 108 Fuses must have been dud as the barrage dropped short of the target, only managing to damage my gun battery in the woods.

He began his advance across the open areas and I replied in kind with a point effect barrage in the midst of his soldiers. However, this had even less effect than the British barrage, it must have been the conscript artillery crew being badly trained in fuse setting.

As the British soldiers advanced under fire, their artillery dropped another point effect barrage and this time it was dead on target. One of the advantages of this form of battery is that a square being assaulted cannot claim support from those squares around it, so in effect he was weakening my defence.

Meanwhile on my right flank a larger group of British soldiers moved up to positions to assault. This was a big force, but I had two tanks on my right flank, which I pulled back ready to launch their own counter-attack against the British.

The point effect barrage was still thudding around the ears of my professional soldiers in the wooded objective and making it hard for me to hold the objective.

And what looked like a immovable behemoth of British soldiers was pressing down on my right flank.

But, a desultory assault against the German defenders in the ruins blunted the British attack.

Also, matters for the British were not helped by my tanks making a dashing attack on the flank and pushing the British back towards their own lines.

The rubbish British artillery was being true to form, when a gas barrage failed to land in the correct spot. Some landed too far forward, some of it fell too short, but none fell on the Germans...

A successful British assault into the woods under the cover of the artillery fire on my left had forced the German defenders out and I was taking casualties at an alarming rate.

The British soldiers kept the pressure up on the German defenders and they were forced back into the gas clouds! The men failed to get their masks on in time and were forced  to flee off the field! I'd lost the central objective, two battalions and a machine gun, with barely a scratch on the British. (at this point I actually made a mistake, the Germans that were forced from the field should have returned to the reserve pool, but in the heat of battle I forgot that particular rule and they were deemed to be out of the game!)

Things did look better for me on the right, my men were hanging on tenaciously to the rubble of the ruined village. No amount of British assaults seemed to be moving them out. I was also getting reinforcements to bolster the defence and further strengthened the hill objective by using an asset to dig hasty defences.

I was having great luck with the A7V and Mark IV which were also pushing the British further and further back. There seemed to be no let up here!

At about half way through, the situation looked like this, my right flank was strong, my centre had collapsed but I still held the objective on the left flank. Not great, but not terrible either.

But then the sound of aero engines could be heard as Bristol Fighter dove in on a ground attack mission. Dean had used one of his assets to bring the aircraft in to help him out.

However, the Germans in the rubble were still grimly holding on, fighting off every assault the British could throw at them.

Then my luck changed on the right flank and the tanks were put on the back foot as the British went for them.

The BrisFit flew in low and strafed the defenders of the ruins, but still they stood their ground.

After what had seemed like an eternity the two British Mark IVs had made their way through the shattered woods and rough ground to get into a position to assault my defenders in the left flank ruined château objective.

This is when it seemed like the game tipped definitely in favour of the British.

His tanks rolled effortlessly over my defenders, Dean told me this was only meant to be a diversionary attack, but it was the most successful of the game! Again, my men were forced off the table edge.

Then came the final assault on the ruins in the centre. The British assault amounted to no less than twenty attack dice!

I was pressed in from all sides and after such a hard and long battering...

... the result was inevitable, the last of my soldiers were killed in the onslaught, but they would rightfully be awarded the Iron Cross, albeit a posthumous award.

And with that collapse, I threw in the towel, I had lost the A7V on the right flank, the Mark IV was damaged and all I had left was my higher command base along with a battalion to support it.

We didn't tot up the victory points as it was pretty clear who had won. Despite losing it was a really enjoyable and exciting game of Square Bashing and I'm glad we got to try out the assets and pre-game bits and I will be using them for every game from now on. It makes the game a bit longer, but add an extra depth to the battle and makes it feel less like a stand alone engagement.

Overall, I'm not sure what else I could have done with my defence in the circumstances. There was some points where I had a few moments of extreme bad luck with the dice, I missed a couple of asset rolls, for example. But the defenders of the ruins in front of my centre really were the men of the match, beating off assault after assault, until they were finally ground down.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Assault on Mars (or Yuggoth)

Ninjasaurus Rex has been writing his own version of Cross Fire for the better part of a decade, I never thought it would see the light of day in finished form. It took him two years just to write the communications rules. Dedication to a cause, I guess. Anyway, it is a set of rules for anything from post-1945 up to and beyond moderns and right into science fiction territory and are called Cross Fire of Irony (CFI). 

The emphasis is on troop movements rather the effects of specific weapons and most of these are lumped into categories to make the game run faster, rather than get bogged down with individual weapon stats. Anyway, he had got the rules to such a state that they were able to be Alpha tested. He had also actually finished some figures and some scenery! The fact that these three elements were ready to go at the same time is such a monumental occurrence I cannot begin to describe it. Somewhere in the Philippines a butterfly must be flapping its wings.

The pillars of Mars (or Yuggoth) and the temples were all built from scratch and you can see how he did these amazing terrain pieces HERE and HERE.

He'd also finished off these skeleton robots and humanoid figures. The latter also had drones operated by the squad leader and mounted with Squad Assault Weapons.

I took the army of robots, they were split into three squads of five stands of two 'riflemen', a single sniper, a flamethrower team and a Squad Assault Weapon team. The rules use stands as the basic element, with single figure stands having a disadvantage in close combat. The humans had fewer in number, but we decided they would be elite for the purposes of the game.

As the rules use no measuring and units move from cover to cover until spotted or fired upon by the opposition, I hugged the rocky outcrops (again, all scratch built...).

As it was a tester game we set up a meeting engagement with the ruined temple in the centre being the objective for both sides. This would give us something to work towards.

With this objective in mind, I started moving one unit on my right flank towards the safety of the intact temple. They sought cover behind it as I manoeuvred my other units.

The central unit hugged the rocks, looking for a chance to get to the paved area between the temples.

And my third squad on the left flank inched their way above the ruined temple but still out of sight of his forces.

My troops on the right flank had come under fire from his units and I had lost the turn. In CFI you take as many 'turns' as you like until you fail to achieve a dice score for firing, or rallying your troops, for example. Similarly, if your opponent fires at you as you are moving and causes a suppression (or better still, a kill) on any of your troops, then they get control of the game. In this way the game flips between the players quickly and you have to think carefully about your next move, do you try to rally your suppressed troops, knowing that failure will give your opponent the initiative, or try to lay down fire? Also the fact that your opponent can fire at you when you are spotted in the open means that terrain features become very important and any rush over open ground will have the inevitable results of failure.

I digress, we had exchanged some fire, he had managed to move some of his soldiers up to the pillars and sought refuge there. This is when we were invaded by the four legged Martian and I stopped planning to give him some fuss.

Fuss over and back to the matter in hand, my robots grimly hung onto their positions in the temple and exchanged fire with his soldiers hiding in the rocks in front of them.

He used his covering fire to manoeuvre another squad to the objective and hugged the edge of the ruined temple structure.

And then they occupied it.

Which gave my left flank squad a chance at blasting them. The game is quite cinematic, in that the action moves quickly, but occasionally can become centred on a particular spot until one side or the other decides to do something radical and attack another area. It's almost like a camera concentrating on one particular aspect of the battle.

I decided that since he was in the objective, there is no glory with no guts, even robot guts and charged the temple in order to close assault him out of it.

So this was the situation a few moves in. He was in the objective, with one squad and the command, I was assaulting it, whilst moving my central squad in to try and help where I could. Meanwhile, two of his units were exchanging fire with my unit still in the other temple.

My robots won the first round of assault and managed to get a foothold in the temple, but he still had his command squad in the other room of the building.

The much needed support arrived in the form of my central squad getting ready to assault as well.

It looked pretty grim for the human defenders at this stage.

But it wasn't all going my way, the temple on my right flank was receiving heavy fire from two of his squads and I was losing robots to suppression like nobodies business!

Then it was his turn for the assault, with all my robots in the temple suppressed it was a one sided fight.

He now had control of the temple after destroying my unit in hand to hand fighting. It just goes to prove that you need to lay down a heavy fire before attacking in CFI.

I didn't need to assault in the ruined temple as he thought it better to retreat in the face of the oncoming attack. However, I still managed to get some shots in as his command squad dashed across the open ground.

My unit in the temple continued the firing and killed one of his soldiers and suppressed the other. This also put his drone out of operation temporarily.

I had control of the ruined temple, but his soldiers were still packed into the other temple. Bristling with weapons, this was going to be a hard nut to crack...

In order to break the stalemate Ninjasaurus moved a drone out of the temple and started taking pot-shots at my unit. It caused suppression on my SAW gun.

Using this as cover he was able to bring more men out into the open to fire down the long corridor by the side of pillar ruins.

It created a perfect firing line!

I managed to get control of the turn and moved one of my units to the safety of the outlying temples. I also moved parts of an other unit around the side of the ruined temple, getting ready to assault the humans in the pillars.

I moved them into a better position and closer to the human defenders.

On my right flank fire was exchanged between the units in the temples. There was a few losses but little gained on either side.

My assault against the pillars went badly wrong, with the humans laying down a heavy fire against my robot attackers.

More fire suppressed my attackers, rendering them immovable.

He took his chance and assaulted my suppressed units.

Close assault in CFI is pretty brutal and quick and I had lost my foothold in the pillars, very quickly!

He followed up his success by moving into the ruined temple, which was only surrounded by my suppressed soldiers.

I had a flamethrower that was still operational, but it had very little effect on his soldiers in the temple.

Then the other beast of Mars attacked!

I lost two more units on my left flank after another successful assault from his elite soldiers.

The game balance had now shifted in Ninjasaurus' favour, I had a group of soldiers in the right hand temple who were still exchanging fire with his soldiers in the opposing temple, but not much else.

He was quickly clearing my left flank, with more assaults.

And moved into a better position to cover my robots in the temple.

I had been firing away at the drone between the temples, with very little effect...

...until I managed to knock it out of the sky! Finally!

Meanwhile he had worked his soldiers through the rocks to be able to provide more firepower against my beleaguered defence.

Over the next few turns I lost a lot of my defenders, but I was also able to bring down some of his troops in the temple opposite. But in a strange twist of luck I was able to recover my robots from their adverse morale and I took a chance to move my flamethrower soldier closer to the building.

But, I lost control of the game and he rushed the temple for an assault!

I evened the odds by shooting the controller of the drone.

But he won through and took control of the temple!

But luckily I had used the flamethrower to destroy the remaining troops in the other temple.

I then turned it on his lone soldier. Mano-a-mano.

He was burned out of the building and my robot was the last man standing. It was all over!

As a test this was a good game, it played well and the rules made sense where they needed to. I did think that when my troops were under fire in the temple they should have broken and at least sought other cover rather than standing and taking fire. The rules are still at a testing stage, so we discussed this at the end of the game and will see what happens in future engagements. Overall, great fun and a good result (for me at least...)
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