Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Assorted oddities

From time to time, events take place and things happen. If it's tragic or unsettling, I find there's no sense in me posting, although most of you, my esteemed readers, would respond with support and sympathy. If it's fun, I find there's no reason to keep it to myself.

Can you hear the dump truck backing up here?

My wife and I went to the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) store and she bought me this bottle of beer. I was brewed by Trappist monks in Belgium and I'd be willing to bet that the recipe is either the original one or is based on it. I found the flavour to be very, very deep and satisfying. I'd never tasted anything like it before. I also hope I'll taste it again. Not cheap, but very nice.

Tea and conversation and Playmobil

... and a different sort of meal.

At our monthly Lutheran pastor's meeting for the Thames Ministerial Area, this little guy showed up. Actually, two of them did. It's a Playmobil Martin Luther, marketed for the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Reformation. A pastor had been in Germany (I think) and brought back a number of these figures. It was cool to have this little guy present during our conversation... and with us at the Mexican restaurant where we had lunch.

Put the pen down, Martin, and pass the pico de gallo!
I'm out of time right now, but there are gaming and reenacting events I'll be blogging about soon.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Panzer War

This past Saturday at the Hamilton Road Games Group, we tried out a new (to us) set of WWII rules called Panzer War. Martin and Kevin have been eager to try out the rules so we set up a game set in North Africa after the Torch landings, with US armour and infantry doing a fighting withdrawal in the face of the Afrika Korps in the battle of Kasserine Pass. I skippered the US forces while Bear ran the Germans. Martin and Kevin handled the rules, a good idea since they were the only ones familiar with the rules. Andy supplied a lot of the German vehicles and Martin brought most of the US stuff with a small contribution from my collection.

The board - three villages, two held by US forces.
This was my first time to field M3 Lees, which I dug in hull down just beyond the town in the centre.

The US position - Lees, Stuarts, Greyhound ACs, M2 & M3 halftracks and infantry with mortars and bazookas.

The Stuarts back up the Lees' position.
My collection included M5 Stuarts which we declared to be M3s for the day.
The rules called for an initiative roll and Bear moved his Pz. IIIs and IVs forward, holding back his truck-bourne infantry on Andy's advice. One platoon of infantry went into the houses in the first town. In my turn, I mortared those troops and took out their command stand. The 37mm guns of the Lees' turrets disabled two of the five Pz. IVs while the one 75mm main gun that could be brought to bear merely kicked up some sand. Since we were unfamiliar with the rules, shooting took quite a while. (Visibility? Targeting? Range? To hit? What area on the vehicle? Penetrate? Damage? On fire? Tank commander kill? Stun? Bail out?) Bear's return fire on the second turn took out ALL of the Lees. ("Coffin for seven brothers" indeed.) I was able to slow down this advance but not for long. Bear had to leave in the mid-afternoon for an appointment so the game only when two turns. Looking back, I should have begun a withdrawal really early.

M8 Greyhound armoured cars at a distance...
... and up close. From Martin's collection.

Mortars and their halftrack - from my collection.
Figures by Quality Castings. halftrack by Old Glory

M3 White Scout Cars and Jeep
More Old Glory originally painted for Canadian and Russian use.

In the town

Battle taxis await the word to withdraw.

Martin's infantry, vehicle and buildings.

Bear's Pz.IVs advance.
the D4 indicates the phase of the turn in which this unit may fire.

The Pz.IIIs advance on the other side of the hill.
German infantry in the village.

In a later turn, Bear brings up his undamaged tanks to take on the M3s.

The other Panzers round the hill.
"Ha! Those rules are no hindrance to my tanks!"

Infantry in trucks wait their turn on the back side of the hill.
They are supported by a Pz.III, a Pz.III½ (III hull/IV turret), and a Sturmgeshutz.
As Bear had to leave early and had cut up my defending force badly, we declared him the winner and I agreed I should have started a withdrawal earlier, although I suppose I was playing a delaying force while the main force made a run for it.

In all honesty, I found the rules "clunky", with 8 pages of charts and variables that you had to access for just about every shot. I agree with Kevin who felt this game allows for more realistic results in armoured combat. I just felt that it could become an exercise in calculation, accounting, and hair-splitting since a long check-list might be needed to adjudicate every turn. Realistic, no doubt. Playable? I have reservations. I studied business and economics in university and economics is not called "the Dismal Science" without reason. Ultimately, in my dotage, I think I prefer simpler, quicker games. As always, it was worth a try. The vehicles looked good!

The defencive line outside the middle village.

Bear's Pz.IVs advance past the first village.

My M3 Scout Cars and a Jeep.
The nearest scout car has an illegible Cyrillic slogan painted on the side.

The Pz.IIIs and some Pz.IVs do the end around.

The M3 Lees from Martin's collection and infantry from mine.
The beads show the condition of the tank - yellow means the crew bailed, black - the tank is on fire,
purple - I don't remember.
By the end of the game, all four M3s were in flames.

Infantry from my collection - from Quality Castings
Originally they were based for Command Decision so I glued them to a cardboard sabot base.
This coming week -
The Gaming Group's Birthday Bash, including Big Stompy Robots in Quebec City.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Epic... It was a simple epic!

Who plays that anymore? Well, me... and Martin... at least on Saturday.

The "Epic" version of Warhammer 40K was one of Games Workshop's best games, in my opinion. For whatever obscure/obtuse business reasons, GW discontinued the game or sent it down to the minor leagues, along with some of their other great games, like Warmaster and Man-of-War. Before my move to Canada, my buddies and I played Epic a lot and we had most of the usual armies covered - Space Marines, Imperial Guard, Eldar, Squats, Orks, and Tyranids. I have a Tyranid army but I feel I should shower whenever I touch it. We had a few great games. Then GW changed the rules and I found the game unplayable. (Again personal opinion.)

A while ago, Kevin, one of the Panjandrums of the Hamilton Road Gaming Group, told me of the Net Epic discussion group on-line. The rules seemed to be a slight variation of what I considered the classic Epic rules. The usual armies were available, but they added a few others - including the Ecclesarchy (The Church of the Emprie), Slann, "Evil creatures" (somewhat weird, I think), and Tau. Oh, Tau! I've been converting and dummying them up.

Finally, Martin and I agreed to try the rules. We laid out small forces - Dark Angel Space Marines vs. an Imperial Guard force. The Marines were outnumbered but were of much better quality. The IG was wave upon wave of expendable infantry with heavy armour support and loads of artillery. We weren't sure how the game would be, but it ended up to be a real nail-biter of a see-saw battle - quite satisfying all around. (Martin grasps rules very quickly and we're both quite amiable at the table, so we have fun.

The objectives included a small town and a large power-plant. The Guard was to hold both and the Marines were to take both. Simple goals for a simple game. (Martin and I took the photos.)

Your humble blogger measures something or at least appears to.

The massive power plant, where the power-techs burn compost, leftovers, and old manuscripts
to provide power for the masses. (An end-of-game photo)

It ended up that only Martin and I played a game.
The rest of the group discussed the merits of sand-bagging heavy machine guns,
the M3 Lee, the Deuce-and-a-Half, pulled pork, and how to run a hobby shop.
In other words, the usual conversation.
We also bid farewell to a member of the library staff who was always helpful to us.

Early in the game, the Big McLargehuge* Memorial Power Plant was held by an Imperial Guard
heavy weapons section, backed up with a company of infantry.
Martin attacked and noted that because of the size of the forces, he should have defended. He kept up that chant until he saw how easily my troops were taken out. The Imperial Guard infantry have no saving throw! Neither of us could throw good dice for the entire game. Martin sent the Dark Angels infantry (two sections) toward the power plant, supported by three sections of Land Speeders and four Dreadnoughts. Another Marine tactical section, a section of Terminators, and a section of Assault Marines in Razorback APCs headed for the town backed by bikers, heavy weapons, and a battery of Whirlwind missile launchers. I had a heavy weapons section in the town and another in the power plant. Two companies of tactical infantry were in support, one to each heavy weapons section. A third company took the far right flank with a Baneblade super-heavy tank in support, to preclude a Land Speeder end run. In the centre, an entire company of Leman Russ tanks were set to move forward. Three artillery batteries - Whirlwinds, Basilisk cannons, and big rocket launchers - supported the entire force. Three helicopter gunships ("Death Pigeons") and bomber planes ("Vultures") could come on to support as well.

My third infantry company moves forward to engage the Land Speeders.

An early game photo of the heavy weapons guarding the Big McLargehuge* Power Plant.
The building is a chunk of wood with two old film canisters attaches as cooling towers
or maybe deep fryers. 

Heavy weapons in town, setting up in the post office or some other official building.

Leman Russ tanks with company HQ and a Commissar's tank.

Razorbacks! Land Raiders! Rhinos!

Land Speeders.

Dark Angels Devastators/Heavy Weapons.
Martin's advance came on quick and hurt my heavy weapons sections. His Razorbacks smashed my Rough Rider cavalry and cut up an armoured infantry detachment. I was able to hurt the Space Marines that were advancing toward the power plant, taking out about half of them before they could dismount from the APCs. His Land Speeders actually destroyed the Baneblade super-heavy tank and wiped out the heavy weapons section in the power plant, using their Flamers which ignore cover. When my Leman Russ tanks came up, they really damaged the advancing Space Marines and the Terminators' Land Raiders, although those big tanks gave as good as they got. The Space Marine advance supported by the Dreadnoughts finally took the power plant, and I was sure I'd never dig them out of that place. Just for a trial run, I brought up a company of infantry and after shooting for two turns, I charged the place... and re-took it! Not without losses, however.

Baneblade on the rubber road. Now you see it.

Now you don't. I've got to remember to pack cotton balls to show brewed-up vehicles.

The Leman Russ company come forward.

Dark Angels Whirlwinds.
These models were always among my favourites,

Slowly taking losses, the armour still advance.
The real strengths of the Imperial Guard troops in this game are the armour and the artillery.
I almost felt that the infantry was a side-show... until they retook the power plant!

There they are! Fighting hand to hand with Rhinos and an HQ stand.
The figures are from a BattleTech range. Not totally "orthodox", I know, but they add so much variation.
AND they're cheaper!
By the end of our time, I had lost and retaken the power plant. Martin had troops in the town and was grinding up my infantry there. My bombers and helicopter gun ships were doing damage and had taken losses from AA fire. The Dreadnoughts had been firing on the rear of the Leman Russ tanks and had done plenty of damage to the company, about two platoons worth. The bombers and the artillery finally did them in.

In the end we called it a "bloody draw", which I don't consider a bad thing, since I hadn't played there rules before and the figures hadn't seen the light of day in almost 10 years. I left both of us with an appetite to play again, and do do micro-armour moderns.

As Martin moves his Razorbacks, you get a good idea about the size of these models.

One of my infantry companies prepares to enter the forest and defend the power plant.

Helicopter gun ships... with a news chopper from the local news Tri-vid outlet.

I have fun painting flags, mostly free-hand.

Another infantry company in the town. Again BattleTech figs in the Russian green-and-cream cammo.

Martin's Terminators, Tactical Marines, and Assault Marines de-bus to annoy my peaceful town.

As to the name of my power plant, you can find it here in an MST3K rif.
* The origin of the Big McLargehuge Memorial Power Plant*
Thanks, MST3K!
Next week - Casserine Pass in 15mm.