A storage solution

Over the last few years I have bought several of Richard Borg’s games based on the “Commands & Colors” format.  These games contain a lot of cardboard terrain hexagon tiles, but are not very good at providing storage for them, particularly once one begins to acquire expansion sets.

My particular bug-bear is Memoir’44, which does provide storage boxes, but made in a way that makes the tiles difficult to extract, and they are quite flimsy.

And so I have pressed my 3d printer into service, and using the online free design program “Tinkercad”. I have created my own boxes.

Each of these holds 36 double-sided tiles, and should fit nicely into a Really Useful Box (we shall see when I have printed enough of them).  I might get organised enough to label them, but that’s a job for another day!

The downside is that each one takes over four hours to print.

When I have enough of these I will try making boxes for the rectangular terrain elements like bridges and bunkers, and maybe even circular ones for the counters.

Unintended Consequences part 2. The best laid plans…

South-east of Nijmegen

18th September 1944 13:30

Played to Memoir ‘44 rules, with local scenario special rules.

In this report I will elaborate the game mechanisms, followed by a creditable narrative of the battle action. Extract from it what you will…

Situation

406 Landesshützen Regiment, now reduced to three companies, is facing an estimated two companies of US parachute infantry holding a crossroads near their observed supply drop zone.

With no definite orders from Corps HQ, I rolled a die for the local commander’s decision. A 6 showed that, with odds of 3:2 in his favour, he would order an attack.

Unfortunately for the Germans, when I rolled for the detailed force make-up, one of their company units was no more than a battalion HQ, which can be useful if there are a lot of units under command, but possibly not so useful in this case. The rest of the force was made up of six rifle platoons, one mortar platoon and one platoon armed with Panzerfausts.

The second potential problem was that there turned out to be three American companies rather than the expected two; two with mortar platoons and all elite forces. I use the US Marines “Gung-Ho!” rules for US parachute infantry, which is effectively about the same as giving them a free HQ unit, allowing one more unit to be activated than the number allowed on the command card.

The picture above is looking from the south (US) side. Rough heathland to the left, flooded polder to the right with a farm near the crossroads.

The Germans, with 9 platoons, start with 3 command cards. The Americans, with 12 platoons, start with 4 command cards.

Victory points. Side with the lowest units, with number of units divided by two, rounding down. Both sides have 3 units, so 1 VP ends the battle.

Both sides win 1 VP for eliminating an enemy unit. The Germans will win 1VP by exiting the field at the crossroads.

13:30

The German player, with orders to attack, must make at least one aggressive move. But with no useable cards, he must surrender one card from his hand and take another. The initiative is lost.

The American player has only one playable card: Recon with 1 unit. “Gung-Ho!” rule increases this to 2 units.

The left flank company advanced half-left and opened fire on the enemy, supported by the mortars of the 2nd company. 1 hit and 1 retreat.

Narrative

Observing the strength of the enemy, the attack stalled.

The Americans initially opened fire with mortars, then advanced a rifle company on the left flank which drove the Germans back with light casualties.

13:40

The German player was still not able to use any of the cards in his hand. Nor was the US player.

13:50

Still no useful cards for either player.

Narrative

After the initial engagement there was a lull for 20 minutes before…

14:00

The German player still had no playable cards.

The US player used “Direct from HQ”, allowing orders to any four units.

I use this in the campaign to include off-table reinforcements within one map square, so the four companies of 3rd Bn 508th PIR arrived on the left flank.

This brought the US strength up to 25 units, and thus 8 command cards, so 4 more were drawn from the pack.

Narrative

At around 14:00 US reinforcements arrived from the south-west in the form of 3rd Bn 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment: HQ, 10 Rifle platoons and 2 mortar platoons.

14:10

Finally the Germans had a useable card. Attack Center. The right flank company advanced to fire on the US left flank company, supported by the mortars of the other company. 1 hit and 1 retreat.

The US played Attack Center. 3 units. The mortar platoon attacked the enemy to the left with 1 hit. The two rifle companies advanced and fired. 2 hits and 2 hit respectively. One German company eliminated. 1 VP. End of game.

Narrative.

The Americans advanced both rifle companies, supported by mortar fire. One of the enemy companies broke and ran. The remainder began to fall back.

Result. US victory.

Casualties.

2/508 PIR. 1/12 = 8%

406 LS Rgt. 5/9 = 56%

Fascinated with Technology

 

Maybe it’s a personal thing, but I have always found watching machines producing things fascinating.  In my working life I always enjoyed factory visits, just to see how the machines, designed by humans, could make parts ad infinitum, and then combine them into meaningful artefacts.

When I bought a 3d printer the effect was the same.  I can sit for ages watching a project brought to life by intricacies that I will always fail to understand.

My latest project is a simple storage box for hexagon tiles of about 6cm (for several board games and my own wargame tiles).

Each box is designed to fit with a number of others into a specific “Really Useful Box”.

Each storage element will take 4 hours to print, so it will be about two or three days before I will actually know if a group of them can fit the storage box and incorporate the hexagon tiles in the intended way.

Here is the first one under construction.  Not very interesting for most of you, but I could watch it for hours…

Sorry!

General Whiskers.

Unexpected Consequences

It is very easy when playing a wargame to lose sight of the objectives.  When playing a campaign it is easier to focus on what needs to be acheived rather than the obvious quick results.  When playing a game within a campaign to other people’s instructions it focuses the mind even more.  When the game involves a card-based order system this complicates the situation.

This was my latest challenge, west of Arnhem on 18th September 1944.

Orders:

The British troops [green tokens] from 1st Airborne Division have an overall objective to push through the town towards the Arnhem road bridge in support of the troops holding the bridge.  They were also tasked with doing maximum damage to enemy armour.

The Polish battalion [yellow tokens] was in defensive mode, protecting the southern end of the railway bridge across the Rhine.

The Germans [black tokens] were initially on the defensive.  Their objective was to destroy as many allied units as possible, and to retake the railway bridge.

Allied forces:

2nd Bn South Staffordshires (Glider Infantry):

     1 HQ Platoon, 3 rifle platoons, 1 MG Platoon.

10th Bn Parachute Regiment:

     1 HQ Platoon

7th Bn King’s Own Scottish Borderers (Glider Infantry)

     9 rifle platoons, 3 mortar platoons

1st Battalion Polish Independent Parachute Brigade

     11 rifle platoons, 1 MG platoon.

Off-table artillery support from two batteries of 75mm Howitzers of 1st Air-Landed Light Battery Royal Artillery.

German forces:

9th SS Armoured Recce Bn.

     3 platoons SdKfz222 scout cars.

2nd PanzerGrenadier Bn, 9th SS Panzer Div.

     9 rifle platoons, 2 mortar platoons, 1 panzerfaust platoon.

3rd PanzerGrenadier Bn, 9th SS Panzer Div.

     1 HQ platoon, 11 rifle platoons, 1 MG platoon.

I use the Memoir ‘44 game system, with some house rules for equipment types not covered in the game.  For example, light armoured cars move like supply trucks but fight like half-tracks. Off-table artillery is activated by “barrage” cards, and if appropriate by artillery order cards.

Game set up

For campaign games I allocate command cards by dividing the number of platoon elements by three.  As casualties are suffered or reinforcements arrived, the hand of cards is recalculated.   This reproduces the friction of battle: as casualties are suffered the number of command choices is reduced.

Victory points are calculated by the number of company units of the smaller force divided by two.  But points are won by achieving goals for the battle or campaign as set by the remote generals.For this battle, Victory points were set at 4.  Allies win 1 VP if the enemy armoured unit is destroyed, and 1 VP for each company that leaves the board by the eastern edge, towards the Arnhem road bridge.  Germans win 1 VP for every allied company destroyed and 1 VP for possession of the rail bridge.

Battle Report

The South Staffordhire’s opened the action with a surprise assault against about a dozen light armoured cars (SdKfz222) in the yard of the Arnhem railway station.  Leaving three or four ablaze they then moved on into the town itself, heading for the road bridge.

South of the river the 3rd PzGren Bn charged the Polish paras south of the bridge.  The Poles fell back with light casualties.  They called in artillery support which pounded the Germans and caused heavy casualties.  The Germans attacked again at close range, this time inflicting heavier casualties, and the Poles retreated, followed up by the victorious Germans.  One Polish platoon counterattacked, inflicting light casualties on the Germans and halting their chase.

Back to the north of the Rhine 2nd Bn commenced mortar fire on the KOSBs. Light casualties were inflicted.  The KOSB mortars replied, and the Germans lost about one third of their number.

The Germans’ answer was to advance to closer range and use the rifle platoons against the KOSBs.  One British company fell back with light casualties and another took several hits.

South of the river the 3rd Bn kept up the pressure on the Poles, effectively wiping out two of the three companies defending the bridge.

\With the situation south of the river getting desperate the KOSBs pressed on with their objective.  The mortars fired again causing very heavy casualties on the enemy and opening up the possibility of breaking through.

In the Polish sector the Germans attacked again and drove the remaining Polish paras away from the bridge, taking control of the railway line.

The KOSBs pushed eastwards and fired at the defending Germans with minimal result.

The Poles charged the Germans on the railway line and retook the south end of the bridge.

The Germans now launched an all-out assault, wiping out the last of the Polish defenders and driving the KOSBs back.  The KOSBs began to dig in where they stood.

In the final act the Germans moved their last remaining company south of the river onto the railway bridge, achieving their objective.

Summary

A battle which the British initiated, with the idea of pushing forwards north of the Rhine, but which was ultimately lost to the south of the river.  Each player started with a wide range of options from the command cards (10 and 9 respectively), but the Germans managed to play aggressively on the south flank, forcing the Allied player to respond to his moves.  When the allied player had a chance, his cards were used well to break down the enemy force, but that, in this battle, did not score him any points.  It may help for the future, but we shall see…

Eventually both sides were reduced to only 4 command cards.

Casualties:

Allies 18/30 = 60%

Germans 16/28 = 57%

Not good news for the newspapers on either side!

The “Good Old Days”?

Today I watched on  the “Talking Pictures” channel a Rank short film from the 1960s instructing us all how to use the telephone properly for business purposes, with preparation and politeness.

Other communications available at the time (referred to in the film) were letter, memo or telex*.  No mention of the “sneakernet”, whereby you walk up to the message recipient’s desk and actually talk to them!

One of the major points of this film was that you could not be seen while making a ‘phone call, and would it not be so much easier if you could be seen by the caller.  In the meantime we had to adapt our behaviour to make allowances.  Well, now we can see each other, is it actually better???

If anything, we have got so used to being available telephonically that both caller and recipient are less courteous, and with the advent of worldwide call centres many of us now detest the telephone and use other communication methods, like this blog for example.

—————

*in the early 1970s I became by accident a telex expert, and could translate between numbers/symbols and letters on the frequent occasions on which the telex tape broke.  Telex tape was punched with a sequence of 2 and 3 holes (above and below the line), and each group of 5 holes represented one character, either alphabetic or numeric/symbolic.  If the tape broke or the telephone signal was corrupted for a moment (as frequently happened) then the rest of the message could be transcribed by the system into the wrong alpha or number format, and had to be reinterpreted.

English as she is spoke.

If you wish to read or hear examples of some of the best current creative use of the English language, you only need to read Hansard reports or watch the BBC Parliament Channel.

Yesterday there was a demonstration in the Public Gallery of the House of Commons, in which several people removed their clothing.

The current orator, not to be confused with the Speaker, continued his speech after encouraging fellow members to maintain their gaze in his direction rather than any other, and resumed his speech with the phrase “The BARE truth is…”

Within the next ten minutes, I heard: “the Government has been STRIPPED of its powers” and “We would not wish to send the Prime Minister NAKED into the conference hall…”

The protest itself was, apart from those references, ignored and business continued as usual – or what passes for usual in Parliament in these turbulent days.

More about toys and serendipity

LEGO has a very clever marketing department.

I recently ordered some parts from their “pick a brick” service with the idea of using them to make model aircraft stands.  I have previously used this service to source the bricks for the dam in my “Dambusters” playtest game.

Every online order gets a free gift set.  As it happens, my free gift arrived today before the main order, but that’s another tale.

In the gift set you will find some unusual and unorthodox bricks that you never knew existed.  My set was a vase of tulips, illustrated here with the quirkier bricks used in the construction.

Having seen these I have revised my ideas for how to build better aircraft stands, so another order may well be sent, and yet more unusual bricks will be revealed…