Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Where to go from here?

The battlefield, looking east along to autobahn towards Kustrin.
Just off the table to the left is the river Oder.
I've been thinking a lot lately about my WW2 inventories, and what to do with them all.  Although I have a fondness for Command Decision, especially in its second incarnation, there are too few accessible like-minded gamers in this town.  The other drawback is that you really want a biggish table to play the game.
A small town that is the immediate objective of the German
right hand column.
This set-up has been cluttering up my back room for over a month now - I've visited my daughter and son-in-law in Brisbane, Australia, since laying out this table.  This is not good.  I haven't begun to play the game on it.  The intention was by way of an experiment: re-scaling the ground from 1:1800 (1 inch to 50 yards) to 1cm to 50 yards, a scale of 1:4500.  Seems an unlikely conversion, but may be worth a try.  But I also need to find my rule sets and  ORBATS, and to download and print the CD3 stat sheets before beginning the action.
The main German objective: this large town.  Possibly it
is Kustrin.
The scenario laid out here is based by a dim memory of something from the computer game Steel Panthers: World At War.  Set very late in the War, March 1945 - in fact there ought to be patches of snow here and there about - this is a German counter-attack to recapture the sizeable town and railway station in the northeastern corner of the board.  The defenders comprise a Soviet Rifle Brigade, hastily dug in and  reinforced with small groups of T34/76 tanks.  However,apart from the organic field artillery and mortar battalions they are supported by powerful heavy artillery and rocket batteries off table, with pre-programmed fire missions.
The Soviet rear areas, just west of Kustrin.
The Germans are to make a three-pronged attack with armour and infantry - panzer-grenadiers - with some artillery support, mostly again off table.   On both flanks, the armour comprises a mixed company of Tiger II and Panthers; in the centre Jagdpanther and Jagdpanzer IV with a StuGIV  to arrive from off-table.   The whole rather polyglot battlegroup is supported by Quad 20mm AA, towed anti-tank guns and assorted oddments.   The centre column is led by armoured reconnaissance.
Looking along the line of the stream and the Soviet
defences.  The rather orphaned infantry gun wants a base
and a crew.
The pictures you see here depict the battlefield, with the Russian Rifle Brigade in situ, awaiting the worst.  The Germans are just crossing their start lines.

Russian infantry, armour and anti-tank
covering the autobahn.
But I am seriously looking in future to going the Not Quite Mechanised or possibly the Megablitz route.  Back in January I picked up some second-hand equipment - mostly German - and, after a rethink, grabbed a job lot of plastic Russian infantry.  I don't know the makers (observant readers might be able to tell me) but they are very nice figures.  Whoever had them before me picked out a few bits and pieces, and I got the rest.
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From them I was able to assemble 5 groups of 6 stands each comprising 3 'rifle' bases (one with LMG), 1 MMG base, 1 Mortar base and 1 Antitank Rifle (PTRS) base.  It seemed to me these groups would make fine battalions in the Not Quite Mechanised (NQM) style.  The complete sprues would have given me a sixth such group, but the absent support weapons can be supplies easily enough from my existing inventory.  You will observe that I haven't been over-consistent with the base sizes.  At that they will not fit on the 'standard' NQM 'stands' as I infer them. I'll probably go for stands 10cm wide by 5cm deep (ground 'footprint' 250m x 125m.  The temptation is to make them 12cm by 6cm, to match the 'real estate' of a battalion in defence, as per spec.  There remained some command and comms figures, and more SMG armed fellows that seemed to suggest SMG-armed fighting bases for Rifle Brigade SMG platoons/companies, or tank 'desantski'.
Grouped plastic infantry - see text.  The flagged command
stand is metal, the flag home made from paper.  The flag
was machine generated - I had to design the hammer and sickle
motif pixel by pixel.
Chris Kemp's own NQM ORBAT for Soviet Rifle divisions call for slightly smaller battalion groups, with 3 'fighting' rifle bases and 2 'support' bases, one of which is a command base. I think that my own battalion group 'fits' a rifle or mechanised brigade's battalions as well. I am very tempted to add a seventh 'base' as a separate 'command' ('C' with 1 strength point or possibly 0 SP) or maybe 'command/SMG platoon' (CF1).

A NQM  Rifle Battalion?  Figures undercoated black
and dry-brushed white over the top.  Up coming painting
My tentative Orbat for a Rifle or mechanised Brigade looks something like this:

Brigade Command*: 
  Commander, car/jeep or GAZ,
  Signals stand with appropriate comms vehicle
3 Rifle Battalions each with:
  1 command + support bases: 1 50mm or 82mm Mortar + 1 MMG + 1 PTRS/PTRD (SP=3)
  3 fighting bases (armed with rifles, SMG and LMG) (SP=3).
  Total battalion SP=6
1 Artillery Battalion:
  0-1 FO; 1x76.2 field artillery (SP=2, or SP=3 for Guards Brigade)
1 Mortar battalion:
  0-1 FO: 1x120mm or 82mm mortar (SP=2, or SP=3 for Guards)
1 Organic Anti-tank Guns
  1x37mm, 45L46, 45L66 or 57mm AT (SP=2, or SP=3 for Guards)
1 'Motorcycle/Recon' Battalion**
  1x recon Motorcycle (SP=2), 1x recon jeep with (opt) AAMG (SP=2), 1x armoured car (SP=2)
1 Tank Regiment (Mechanised Brigade only)***
  1xT34 or Sherman tank (SP=3); 1x command T34 or Sherman (SP=2)

* As I have more in the way of command and comms figures than vehicles for them, I'm as likely to filed them as personnel stands rather than vehicle stands, or, probably, both.

** The Motorcycle unit seems to have been a mixed bag, so much so that one can't really speak in terms of a 'typical' such unit.  Some even had tanks.  However, my own seems to be a reasonable example.  I suggest that one might whack in whatever takes your fancy up to a maximum SP of 6.  So the 76th M/C Battalion of 4th Guards Tank Corps might be depicted like this: 1 x m/c (SP=1), 1 x BA32 (SP=1), 1 x M3 halftrack (SP=1), 1 x light tank (SP=1), 1 x Anti-tank Gun (SP=1), 1 x Field gun (SP=1).  A rather special unit!

***In NQM terms the first tank would count as 'F3' the second as 'CS2', for the rest, I have left off the fighting, support and command designations for the time being.  I have not yet determined what the logistics (LOG) elements should be.
And NQM battalion in road column, marching past a
potential LOG element.
But in the picture above, I have offered some indication that infantry units might well include a pack horse stand with, say two horses, or a wagon or cart drawn by a single horse.

All of this is so far quite tentative, and something to think about in the cold winter months...

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

BMC revisited.

My painted inventory before march.
About 6 years ago, I (re)discovered my BMC American War of Independence (Yorktown) figures my daughter had bought for me a long long time before.  This was through reading a blog by 'Uncle Thor' and finding out about his 'toy soldier art' and 'OMOG - One Man One Gun' rules for non-war gamers' war games that I could at last see how I could get some fun out of them.

Shortly after that their numbers were increased by a friend unloading his small inventory of BMC figures. Not knowing much about the figures, I painted the 'mitre-hat' guys as British Grenadiers, forgetting that at that time they rather favoured the fur cap, for some reason.  All the same, I made no attempt at reproducing the elaborate designs, or even just the 'GR' cypher on the fronts of this headgear.  The tricorn guys became US Continentals.

Back in about March, a friend ('Jacko' - he of the Painting Little Soldiers blog spot) was visiting Colorado (USA) on business.  There being a store near where he was staying he bought a couple of packs.  The larger of the two - a very generous gesture - was for me.  

In it were a cannon and mortar (now I have two of each), a whole bunch of guys with the metal front mite cap and ... eleven chaps with fur caps!  How was I going to 'fit' these into my existing forces?  I wanted the forces to remain more or less equal, but I am fairly sure the Americans didn't go for the mitre caps all that much.  Nor did I want 'all British' on one side; and a split force on the other. 

That left this solution:

Grenadiers of the Saintonge Regiment

The fur cap guys became French grenadiers of the Saintonge Regiment.  The choice of unit was based on the flags available. as much as anything.  The flag bearer was made from one of the 'hatted' guys with a pistol (the castings of the pistols was pretty poor, but that can be dealt with).

There being just 12 of these fellows - one of them stopping a fast moving object - they got the mounted officer.

A splendid little 13-figure company.

The dozen or so other troops became, to develop the theme, what they were supposed to be: German mercenaries.  I painted them up as Brunswickers of the Prinz Friedrichs Regiment.

Fusiliers of the Infantry Regiment Prinz Friedrichs
 I rather regret using the flash when I took these pictures, as it rather tends to bring out the worst in the figures.  But, otherwise,  I very much like the way these guys turned out.

Their numbers have been eked out to 15 figures by the 'Lafayette' (hatless) and 'Cornwallis' figures, and, of course, the obligatory flag bearer.  

Along with the cannon and mortar in the pack came some artilleryman, one of whom is carrying a powder barrel. Much appreciated: I didn't have one of him already.  I painted these guys up that they could be used for any army, even the British - the gunners' uniforms being so similar among the belligerents. For the ordnance, rather than paint the whole piece, I just painted the gun barrel brass, and the tyres and mortar my special gloss-black-and-silver mix for burnished metal.  The same formula was used upon the musket barrels and swords of the figures. 

Having painted these new guys up I held a grand review of all the figures, as if arrayed for battle.

Grand review...
There are enough gunners to provide all pieces of ordnance with a crew of 3.  But I've kept them and their crews, but for 3 red-coated gunners, sufficiently anonymous to represent artillery for either side. With roughly 45 figures a side overall, I reckon there is more than enough for der kleine kriege...
These forces are not designed for big battles, but for something more in the line of 'affairs of outposts'.  I dare say light troops and irregulars would be better suited, but I'm more than happy to see grenadiers, lini infantry and fusiliers take up these duties...


Travel Battle Campaign Map

Looking at Bob Cordery's Travel battle Napoleonic campaign maps, I was quickly struck by the rotational symmetries of the 4-piece quadrants in both maps.  I wondered if there was an easy way of eliminating, or at least reducing those symmetries.

To save a bit of time, I copied one of Bob's printed campaign maps onto a picture file, and, using Microsoft Paint (it might be primitive by industry standards, but it has the features I want and use often) made certain modifications.

1.  Selected the leftmost column of four, and transplanted it on the right hand  side.
2.  Observing that the top and bottom centre blocks of four were rotationally symmetrical, rotated one only piece in each, left 90 degrees..

Here is the map thus produced:

I agree, many would like symmetry as offering a fair and even playing field, as in chess.  But others will prefer asymmetry as posing problems of its own.

The above map offers useful  4 entry points on three sides; 3 on the north side if you discount the farm driveway at the top left.

North-south there are two distinct through-routes, but east-west there is but one.

Note that the above 4x4 array contains 24 gameboard pairs. The gameboard pairs offer 16 permutations.  So of the pairs above, at least 8 must be identical, however oriented (e.g. top left vertical and top right vertical; bottom left and right vertical, and I can see one other pair that appears four times.  

Interesting, this sort of thing...