Organisation, Dog issues and wargaming

Yesterday I spent a lot of time installing shelving units to my shed, during which I dropped my best screwdriver into an inaccessible position.

After eventually detaching the magnet elements from an LED work light, I was able to attach them to a line of linen thread and retrieve the driver,

I then set to to mow the front grass area, during which Sparky managed to sprain his front right ankle.  One trip to the vet, a pain killer injection, a dose of pills for the next week, and a fifty quid bill later, he is jumping about like a young puppy, while I am supposed to keep him on bed rest.

And so back to the wargaming:  I started a confused solo tabletop urban battle this morning between elements of 1st and 4th Parachute Brigades of the British 1st Airborne Division and elements of 2nd SS Panzer Division and local forces in the Arnhem area.

The result, after 30 minutes game time and a morning’s gaming and documentation, hangs in the balance.

Arnhem 18th September 1944: forces

It is 06:00, dawn on the second day of Operation Market Garden.  The British airborne forces hold the main road bridge at Arnhem, but are under severe pressure from German forces of 9th and 10th SS Panzer Divisions.

Forces deployed are as below:

British forces.

1st Airborne Recce Sqn. with machine guns, 1 rifle company of 2nd Bn, Parachute Regt., 2 rifle companies of 3rd Bn, Parachute Regt. (one supported with 3” mortars).  These forces hold the northern approach to the road bridge across the Rhine.

1st and 11th Battalions, Parachute Regiment, approaching from the west.

German forces

1st Panzer Grenadier Battalion, 9th SS Panzer Regt., approaching from the north:

16th SS Training Battalion, now including the Bridge Defence Company,  in the centre of Arnhem:

1st Artillery Battalion, 10th SS Panzer Division, in the east of Arnhem, north of the Rhine.

Purists will note that many of the German forces are equipped with 1940 period uniforms and vehicle paint schemes, and that some of the British airborne forces, particularly machine gunners,  are represented by regular infantry.  Also that many bases still need to be scenically completed.

In the interests of pushing the campaign forwards, I intend to overlook these minor issues for the time being.

Landscaping in two scales, and random thoughts

Inspired by spotting the last available item of steel racking on display in our local Homebase yesterday, I have ordered some “special offer” racking for the shed and for the lock-up in which all our camping stuff is stored.

I hope to better organise this stack of boxes housing my Kallistra terrain hexagons, and at the same time to get the tents and awnings off the sometimes damp floor of their storage facility.

Terrain production for the next Arnhem game proceeds with painting the last two railway hexagons.

While the paints were out and the railway sleepers drying I took the opportunity to paint a few bits of other wargaming projects: some 6mm MDF cavalry horses and the musket stocks of the US “Toy soldier” style infantry extracted from the box game of the American Civil War.

I have discovered that my bench in the shed is really not suitable for early Autumn morning painting.  The amount of sunlight is brilliant, but directly into my eyes! 

But while I have been painting the sun had dried the grass in the back garden so I had a go at mowing what is humorously referred to as a “lawn”.

The weed collection having been trimmed to an acceptable level I ventured out to the garden centre for some restorative grass seed for the bare patches.

One Kilo of grass seed and three bags of mixed soil and horse dung later, covered with a protective grid to keep dog and pigeons off, I could return to small scale landscaping.

(Sparky is not pleased with this new arrangement of his playground.)

While applying a steel metallic surface paint to the top of my model railway lines, and then applying the same to the ACW infantry barrels and bayonets I was reminded of an encounter some years ago at Kirby Hall (a multi-period reenactment event staged by English Heritage).  

 – Returning to the camp from our Napoleonic era display we encountered a Sealed Knot musketeer carrying a somewhat rusty matchlock musket of dubious safety.

– He asked us if our firelock barrels were “dummies”, made of aluminium.  We replied: “No, proper steel, proofed for shot, but clean.”

 – Our cleaning method was to scour the barrel, inside and out, using tools available in our chosen period, followed by an application of olive oil to lock, stock and barrel.  We learned the “olive oil” trick from some French re-enactors at a somewhat wet event on 30th August 1997.  (The date remains in memory because the Princess of Wales died the next morning and our weekend was spoiled.)  Returning to the subsidiary topic, an oil-soaked cloth in a small leather bag, used to wipe the metal parts of the weapon at the first sign of rain prevents rust and keeps the musket working in most weather conditions.  It works equally well for swords and pole-arms.

Before adding the newly-painted tiles to the wargame table I watched the film “Stalingrad” in the original German language, and it reminded me what a total shitty waste of lives real war is.  Reminders of H G Wells comments at the end of his book, “Little Wars”. 

Somehow the Germans are able to show the gritty reality in their anti-war films so much better than the English-speaking countries.  Maybe it is something to do with the comparative suffering of their countries?  The only film coming close to depicting the horrific reality of war that I have watched is the Russian “Come and See”, where the director even used live ammunition to enhance the reality!

And with all that in mind, this evening’s plan is to set up the townscape of Arnhem for yet another table top representation of historical futility.

Arnhem battlefield construction

Arnhem battlefield construction

Work continues on my table for the next engagement at Arnhem.  Here is the basic layout on a grid of 11 x 9 hexagons on a 4ft x 3ft board.

There is a lot of built-up area here.  The city hexagons are plain Kallistra tiles, most of which are sprayed with a stone effect aerosol paint.  Some are my previous method of covering with printed adhesive  paper or vinyl labels.

The roads are Noch Z scale self-adhesive cobbled road, except in the country where I generally use painted glass paper cut to fit.  They represent the major thoroughfares shown on the master campaign map.  When gaming the player can use the city roads for faster movement by sacrificing the protection offered by city areas.

Railway lines are from Leven Miniatures, cut and shaped to fit the hexagons.  They are made from very brittle resin, so a great deal of swearing goes on during the cutting/shattering process.

The three swamp hexagons represent flooded polder.  One is a home-made effect, the other two are as bought from Kallistra, but with the blue plastic painted dark muddy blue and covered in diluted PVA glue.

All the grey tiles, including the four inverted blue tiles currently sitting in for more stone-painted tiles drying in the shed, must be covered in “6mm” buildings and ruins.  All of the green area to the right of the railway will be heavily wooded.  While writing I noticed two more tiles are needed at the far right side of the board.

Watch this space for progress. Continue reading Arnhem battlefield construction

Market Garden and Memoir ’44

The campaign game, modelling

Work continues on preparing the gaming table for the next engagement at Arnhem, 18th September 1944.
It seems that the consistency of the stone effect spray paint from B&Q has been changed (or as they say in the trade, “improved”).
It is now thicker in texture and does not cover the surface as well as the first batch that I used. The shade has also darkened somewhat. The new spray paint requires two coats, 24 hours apart, to effectively cover a single plastic Kallistra tile. The result is also a rougher texture.

And so I hope to finish the final four city tiles tomorrow, ready for deployment of buildings and the ruins thereof.

The completed version of this part of Arnhem city will not be the same as the same area in previous games. All that matters for the game is that the overall terrain effects conform to the master map.

The Campaign game, operational

This is similar to the way that I roll anew to determine the exact composition of the available troops in each “battle”, reflecting the variable availability of specific arms at any time in this campaign, where both sides made use of ad hoc forces as available to the local commander.

Thus infantry companies may benefit from or be deprived of mortars, machine guns and anti-tank weapons; armour may be PzIVs, Panthers or StuG assault guns (or appropriate Allied choices); and so on, according to the scenario set-up dice rolls.

Before each engagement, the relevant players in command are given a map overview and a list of their forces, together with the estimated overall strength (in companies) of the enemy, with area locations for each battalion unit.

The Campaign game, rules.

I play the battle using “Memoir 44” rules with some local additions, to the best of my ability for each side, according to tactical plans from the opposing generals and the cards drawn during the game.

Notes on application of Memoir 44 rules in the campaign.
Victory Points
An individual engagement (game) ends when one side achieves the number of Victory Points (VP) required.
This is normally set at half the number of companies in the smaller force.
One VP is gained for total elimination of an enemy company.
VP may be allocated for possession of specific hexagons (e.g. bridges), or for leaving the table via specified “exit” hexagons.

Tactical cards.
Each standard battalion unit of 4 companies rolls 1 average die (233445) to determine how many cards are held.
Understrength units roll a D4 (1234) for 3 companies, a D3 special (112223) for 2 companies, or a D2 (coin flip) for 1 company for their card allocation.
Overstrength units roll a D6 (123456).
If a unit has an HQ company/platoon, 1 card is added to the total.

Combat cards.
Each side rolls a D3 special (112223) for the number of combat cards issued.
These cards are generally used to add combat bonuses, but may be used to cancel “retreat” combat results.  (The original intention in the Memoir ’44 game was to use these cards for “winter wars”, specifically the Ardennes battle in 1944/5, but they work well for city combat too.)

Nationality and other cards
All US airborne troops benefit from the US Marines “Gung-Ho” rule, which allows one extra unit to be activated within the tactical card rules.  This reflects the attitude of the US airborne forces after their efforts in Normandy on and after “D-Day”.

All airborne and SS troops are “elite”, which means they may move 2 hexagons (500m) and then fight. (Regular troops can move only 1 hexagon and fight).

British troops have the “Stiff Upper Lip” rule, allowing them to counterattack when a company is reduced to one platoon.  British parachute troops are elite, but not as “Gung-Ho” as the Americans.

House rule.
Polish paratroops are “elite”, may ignore the first “retreat” result and may fight back with 1 die against any enemy attack.  This reflects their hatred of and determination to kill Germans.

Market Garden terrain building

Setting up the latest scenario for Operation Market Garden.

As usual, despite owning several hundred Kallistra hexagon tiles, some of those required for this battle are not yet in the collection.

This scenario, set within Arnhem and to the north of the road bridge, requires more city hexagons than I have used in any previous game, so I had to buy a new can of “stone” spray paint from B&Q.

The chances of spray painting the tiles today are slim as we are currently experiencing the first decent rain for about six months.

However, I have been able to start work on the railroad crossing.  My other crossings are all in the wrong direction!.

Rail crossing hex in preparation

Railway sections from Leven Miniatures are glued to a Kallistra flocked hexagon tile, after wetting and scraping away the central section for the road bed.

The ends will be carefully sawed off, and then a Noch roadway applied across the appropriate diagonal.

Then the tile will be painted and detailed, maybe with fences and gates -we shall see what develops.