Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Unpacking and Repairing

Since the move at the beginning of the month, I've had a chance to inspect my wargaming kit and I'm pleased that my figures came through, if not unscathed, then lightly scathed. The worst of it, and this always seems to be the case, was flags and banners. A quick trip to the hardware store for a fresh bottle of superglue, and work begins. With this command stand from an ACW Texas regiment, Foundry figures, originally painted about ten years ago, I noticed some painting errors. I never painted the tension straps on the drum, and there was some basing slop on the drummer's gray uniform. So that got all fixed, and the flagpole touched up. Now they're ready to take on the bluebellies.

< Next up in the repairs queue is a Dixon casting of General Hood (the intact version, before he had various bits shot off) and his faithful colour sergeant, a Foundry figure. The banner bearer had a lot of old glue in his hand that needed to be removed with a pin vise and a knife, and then his gloves needed to be repainted and treated with a wash. Now he's ready for his banner so he can follow Sam Hood into the storm of bullets.

Lots more command stands to be redone, but this is a start.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Sack and Cleansing of St. Mikhail's: A Maurice After Action Report

My mate James dropped by last Wednesday to christen the Mad Padre's Wargames Chapel. We both have an interest in Sam Mustafa's Seven Years War rules, Maurice, and since I just happened to acquire a copy of the rules and spiffy cards, we broke out my 28mm Russian and Turks and gave them a go. A simple set up, but I have a thing about putting churches on my tabletop, so this battle would centre on my fine Faller church model, St. Mikhail's, which happened to be in the path of a Turkish raiding force.

Here James surveys his Russian army, drawn up to defend the borders against the Ottoman hordes.

My Turks in array of battle. Crap light cavalry on the flanks, my jannissaries and spahi heavy cavalry in the centre, with the infamous love slaves in the rear, as a sort of disco version of the Imperial Guard. I only had two guns against the might of the Russian artillery, but felt that elan and sharp pointy things could prevail.


The tabletop:

Stanley the Cat auditions for the role of Russian sub-commander, though sadly, his attention span wasn't quite up to the challenge. A helpful chap while he lasted, though.

James advances his pandours and five regiments of regulars as one force. James quickly showed that he grasped the idea of combining and maneuvering multiple units in one force, a force in Maurice being defined as homogeneous (all foot or cavalry, all regular or irregular - we opted to count the pandours as regulars for this game.

I took the opposite tack (which proved to be disastrously wrong) and deployed most of my units individually rather than as forces. Here a unit of my crap light cavalry on my right moves forward to lurk in a copse of trees, hoping to pounce on some unwary Russians.

I try to grasp this Force thing. Two of my crap irregular infantry units make a rush for St. Mikhail's, with visions of gold chalices and loose nuns in their sordd heads.

James combines two of his guns on his right and very unkindly begins pounding my irregulars as they try to go to church.

Too late, the Turks break into St. Mikhail's and begin looting. The church is soon in flames.

Emboldened by my church ransacking, and hoping to stop James' advancing infantry from breaking up the party in the nave, my crap cavalry rush out of their woods and fall on one of the Russian regiments. However, as we discovered, this is Maurice, and in Maurice, infantry are pretty robust when hit from the front by cavalry. In fact, Sam M even has a little paragraph in his rules, saying that "This is not Napoleonic cavalry; it does not have much chance of breaking a line of regular infantry from the front". I didn't read that paragraph in advance, and so my horsemen were treated rather roughly by the Czar's lads.

With my scurvy horse cleared out of the way, the battle for the church now began in earnest. The Russian force, a whole brigade, surged forward, while my lads threw candlesticks and burning nuns down on them. At this point, James and I began to appreciate one of the nuances of Maurice, the Volley phase. Once units are in either small arms or cannister range, the phasing player has the option to declare a volley phase, which given that I was outnumbered by three regular units in line against two irregulars, gave James the advantage. I soon realized that in my turn I had best not declare a volley phase, hopefully forcing James to go in with the bayonet. This tactic worked for a time, as using the Rally Order and, once, a lucky card, was able to rally my church ransackers several times when they were almost on the point of disintegrating at 4+ disruptions (Maurice uses disruption levels rather than figures removed as casualties to measure a unit's cohesiveness and closeness to breaking).

My force of three jannisary regiments moves forward to the relief of their unruly comrades in the church, taking stick from the Russian guns as they do. Sadly, it will be too little, too late.

Borrowing a tactic from Dino de Laurentis' film Waterloo, we hired a helicopter to record the final cinematic units, as James' elite grenadiers and two of his regular units charge into the burning church, evicting the sacreligious heathen, and extinguishing nuns and icons. Losing two more of my units took me to the breaking point for my army, so the battle went to James and Mother Russia.

So that was our forst head to head game of Maurice and I have to say that we were both quite impressed. The use of cards to interrupt your opponent's plans and to generally annoy him is entertaining but doesn't feel too gamey. At the heart of the game is good linear tactics, and victory goes to the player who can maximise the effectiveness of his units by grouping them into several powerful forces, rather than scattering them about the table as I did. I also learned again what a fragile army the Turks can be. I need to paint more jannisaries and artillery to give them a stronger regular core to allow them the chance of an army morale similar to the Russians (starting morale is based mostly on numbers of guns and regular horse and foot units). To be fair, we just dumped a lot of figures on the table. It would have been more interesting for the Turks we purchased units from a set number of points. We will definitely Maurice it up again soon, and try some of the advanced rules. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Slugfest At The Crossroads: An IABSM3 After Action Report

My buddy James Manto, also known as Rabbit Man, invited the local Gang In The Basement over to Rabbit HQ on Saturday night for a game to welcome me back to our Wargames AOR, which was demmed nice of him, demmed nice. He has already described the game here but here is my take on it.

Myself, Dan and Mikey agreed to the onerous and morally challenging job of taking on a kampfgruppe of the 12th SS as we prepared to hold the key crossroads and village of St. Pierre Lapin against Canadian forces advancing out of their beachhead. We were given two platoons of panzer grenadier infantry, a troop of three Panzer IVs, another of three Panthers, two PAK 40 AT guns, and a small HQ group including two HMGs and a group of tankhunters.

Here are the German initial dispositions. We had a platoon of grenadiers in the orchard forward on our right, strengthened with one of the HMGs. The Panzer IVs were in the village in the centre, along with the remaining elements of the company HQ. Our second platoon of grenadiers held the hedge on our right, supported with our two PAK 40s. Also anchoring our right were the Panthers, led by our best Big Man, a dynamic leader who was soon christened Dynamic Panther Man.

We didn't have long to wait to see what was coming at us. To our astonishment, the Allied player henceforth referred to as WW sent an entire infantry platoon through the hedge at Mike's platcon of panzer grenadiers. To be fair to WW, he hasn't played IABSM before, and didn't realize that the game rewards historical tactics and punishes bad ones. In IABSM terms it was the best possible target at close range, served up on a platter, or to mix metaphors, it was a hanging curveball over the plate.

Mikey's troops draw a bead (15mm Battlefront figures from my collection).

The sad aftermath. Between three German sections and the MG, the infantry melted away like snow on a hot day.

So that was our home run, but the game was still in early innings. Allied armour advances on the right.

While on our right, more armour rolled up to avenge their fallen infantry supports as a kind of tracked firing squad:

And began shelling poor Mikey's grenadiers to blazes. The plan was for Mikey to fall back on the village, but unfortunately several turns passed before he was able to activate his platoon, which was shortly ruined and badly shocked. I guess the young lads chose to hug their foxholes and scrapes when all that armour appeared before them.

On our left, we opened up with our PAKs, but not all at once. I mistakenly held one of our AT guns and two of the three PZ IVs in concealment, allowing the surviving Canadian armour to focus on a few threats when we might have overwhelmed the survivors with threats and increased our survivability. We lost one of the PAKs early on, thanks in part to some unfortunate dice rolled by Dan, but we also dealt out some punishment and soon the Canadian HQ troop was in ruins.

Undeterred, James continued to try and push his surviving armour around our left flank. Since my Panthers had duelled briefly with the Allied armour before them before Canadian smoke rounds masked them, I decided to pull our Panthers through the village to face the Allied threat on our other flank.

Alas that move was probably another bad call on my part, as it made our precious Panthers a target for Allied air support, which finally decided to show up after finishing a leisurely breakfast in England. The first two times the air support card came up the rockets missed, though the overhead threat kept our grenadiers pinned to their orchard and thus spelled their gradual doom. For a while the Jabo was just annoying, but on the third pass he nailed one of our Panthers, brewing it up. Fortunately, Dynamic Panther Man, who had by now acquired a theme song (to the tune of the old Spider Man cartoon show theme), survived.

Finally the Allied attack was getting some traction. On our right, their armour pushes forward along lines no longer covered by our Panthers.

While their second platoon of infantry push through the orchard, hard on the stumbling and shocked few of our infantry who were finally falling back on the village.

Could we hold? By now it was in the wee hours of the morning and we were all yawning, so we decided that with half the attacking force knocked out, the attack would likely be called off and a more organized assault teed up for the morning. If the Allies had pushed on to the village, it would have been a stiff fight, as we had our second platoon ready to go in to the counterattack in support of our HQ and remaining HMG, and still had five tanks operational, so who knows how it would have played out. A great evening with a robust set of rules that left new and old (me) players thinking of how they could improve their tactics, and a great reunion with some old friends and fellow Lardies.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

End Of The Road: Time to Unpack

So the road trip is over and Madame Padre and I have been in our rental house for just over a week. The moving truck came on schedule, nothing seems to have been broken (every military conversation on the subject of moves and postings covers horror stories of lost and broken furniture, so we are lucky) and only a few small things are still infuriatingly hard t find.

We have negotiated with the landlord to paint the place and deduct the paint from our rent (he gets free labour so it is a bargain for him, but Mdme P cannot abide the pink walls so painting it is) but I have had a little time to set up the new Mad Padre Painting and Wargames Chapel.

Here's the start of it as of last week. Our second morning here I couldn't sleep so starting at 3am began setting up this Ikea shelving I've been lugging around since my grad school days. In the last few houses it's been too tall for the rooms I've wanted it in, but there is about 10mm of clearance in our basement, of which Mdme P has graciously ceded me possession in return for an upstairs bedroom as her study.

A few nights back James Manto visited and we toasted the room with a beer and some long overdue conversation. Here's the state of play today.

Some order has been established. Lighting is going to be a problem. I'm going to need a robust lamp pole down here to shed light on the game table. But there's also room for my painting table.

So all told I consider myself a lucky chap. Much work to be done, but this space is a great joy to have and I hope it gets used.

Since returning to Ontario I find myself today in the novel situation of having to choose between gaming invites. Grenzer John invited me down to St. Thomas for a day of Napoleonics gaming, which sounded great fun, but alas, today was painting walls and then off to Stratford tonight to do IABSM 3 w James and the gang. I am told that the first Sherman brews up around 20:15 so I had better get a move on. AAR to follow.

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Zombies On The Road

Well, not on the Trans-Canada Highway, fortunately. We covered over 600 kilometres yesterday, starting in Thunder Bay and ending up in Sault Ste. Marie, with no zombies. We did see many breathtaking views of Lake Superior as we traversed its northern shore.

We had a few hours rest in our hotel last night, after an excellent Italian meal washed down with some so so vino collapso, leaving me in the mood to try this recently acquired boardgame from Victory Point Games, the second edition of Herman Luttmann's Dawn of the Zeds: The Battle for Farmingdale.

Don't let the curious pizza box and paper slip cover fool you, what lays inside is a very clever and beautifully produced game. The components are clever and whimsically designed; for example, the tokens for the zombie hordes each have little bite marks taken out of the top corner. The map is double sided, allowing for a basic game and an advanced game with more tracks ad charts.

Dawn of the Zeds is part of VPG's solitaire series, but it could be played cooperatively with several human players. The Zeds are controlled by cards, with hordes trying to move up five tracks to the town centre, which would immediately end the game in a human defeat. The humans have very slender resources, a few bands of armed civilians led by individual heroes (including Pickles, the dog!) and have to hold on until the National Guard arrives. Advanced rules include medical and scientific research, refugees, a mad scientist, marauders and super Zeds.

I tried a few turns of the basic game last night, and found the mechanics fairly easy. We have a few easy days now while we wait for the moving truck, so I'll try and get a complete game in and will report back on whether I could save Farmingdale.

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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Zoning Out On The Road

Zoning out of time zones, that is. Madame Padre shows our progress as measured by the second time zone we've left since beginning our trip. NW Ontario is bloody vast. Today we made Thunder Bay, on the edge of Lake Superior, having completed 1750 of our 3000km trip. Tomorrow we aim for Sault Ste. Marie, a 900km long haul clear around the north shore of Lake Superior, and then the last few days will be easy, slow and scenic stages

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Location:Zoning Put On The Road

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Visit On The Road

While Madame Padre and I travel eastwards to our new life in Ontario, and while stopping in Regina, Saskatchewan, we had the good fortune to be hosted by Curt Campbell of Analogue Hobbies fame and his lovely wife Sarah.

We passed a delightful evening of good food and wine, a cigar yand excellent conversation. Curt and I sampled this beer, Dark Island from the Orkney Islands' Sinclair Breweries and quite enjoyed it. As Curt remarked, with a pickle and an egg it would make an excellent breakfast.

I was interested to see signs that Curt is planning for the next Painting Challenge, having acquired a very interesting piece of scenery, but ai'll leave it to him to say more about it.

Here we are this morning, Curt the tall chap on the left, in front of his charming house. I hope our paths will cross again soon, perhaps at next year's Hot Lead con in Stratford, ON?

Tonight Kay and I rest in the historic and gracious old Fort Garry Hotel, having finished 1000 of the 3000kms to our new home in Ontario. Hopefully we'll be there by the 7th.

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Last Day Of Work And On The Road

This relaxed looking fellow celebrated his final day of duty at CFB Suffield last Wednesday, July 24th, posing beside his Officers' Mess departing gift. It should hook nicely onto that shiny new red Kia SOUL (what else would a chaplain drive?) in the background. Just kidding, the 25pdr stayed behind, but I did get a nice framed print.
The final few days in Medicine Hat were a flurry of work as we got ready for the movers, who arrived on Monday to begin packing. For me the nerve wracking bit was getting my miniature collection - boxes of soldiers, models, and bits and pieces that clearly mystified the young Filipino guys who packed us. For Kay it was selecting the plants that she would take with her. The weekend before the packers arrived, we moved three unhappy kitties to their temporary home, the Calgary Cat Clinic, prior to their air adventure to join us in Ontario on the 10th. The three hour drive from Medicine Hat to Calgary with a chorus of unhappy, mutinous felines was enough to convince us that trying to drive the 3000 kilometres to Ontario with them would have been a disaster.

Here's the same car yesterday, packed with Kay's plants. Our personal possessions, such as they are, will go on the roof rack. Several friends have already commented on the portable grow-op, but if the guy from Breaking Bad can hide in plain view, I figure so can we. Who would ever suspect a mild manned chaplain and his lovely wife?

Our final view of our lovely old house in Medicine Hat. We were privileged to have three good years here.

So today we're on the road, and I'm writing this from Swift Current, Saskatchewan (200 kilometres down, 2800ish to go). Tonight we are guests of Curt (of Analogue Hobbies fame and his lovely bride Sarah. Looking forward to that very much. Thanks to all our social media friends for the good wishes for travelling mercies!
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Location:Last Day Of Work

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