Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Borodino: Practice for Hot Lead

Right flank French are repulsed from the redoubt and capturing Borodino on the other side of the river.
On Family Day, a group of us gathered to try out a scenario for Hot Lead. The scenario was a refight of Borodino on a grand scale using Sam Mustafa's Blucher rules.

The game is intended for 6 players at Hot Lead but we had to make do with two players a side. The set up had the Russians defending with scattered bits of corps, which were generally smaller in size to the French corps.

(Unfortunately, we forgot to take pictures until half way through)

The game started with a general advance by the French across all fronts. The one difference was that a French corps on the other side of the river changed direction to cross back over the river, leaving one division and artillery to try to take Borodino, which was held by a Russian division.

Russian left where things were going well,until they weren't. French corps in middle being worn down
The Russian response was to advance and take a village on the left and generally get ready to receive the French. As the French closed, they suffered a couple of devastating cannonades followed by a couple of cavalry charges. This action disrupted the French attack on the centre-left, but didn't slow them down much on the centre-right.

The arrival of the French reserves made a huge difference on the far left, where the combined impact of French infantry, artillery, and cavalry began pounding the Russian forces. It was looking decidedly grim for the Russians by the time I left to return home. In the center-left, the Russians were doing well and were more than holding their own. The only real concern was the emergence of French cavalry from the woods and onto the left flank. I think the Russians could hold out with the arrival of a fresh division of cavalry and Russian guard. 

Just before the Grand Battery wipes out the French garrison in Borodino and the Russian cavalry charged
On the centre-right, the Russians hold the town and ridge were suffering from French bombardments and several divisions had to retire. However, the troops in the redoubt in front of the town managed to fend off two charges and looked to be able to hold for another attack or two. 

On the far right, the French managed to take Borodino, but suffered the loss of their artillery to marauding cossacks. The division that took Borodino was then wiped out by a couple of massive bombardments from a massed grand battery. The grand battery also hammered at the French hordes that were flanking the redoubt. A cavaly charge vapourized one French division and caused some of the horde to beat a hasty retreat.

When I left, the Russian left was in real trouble, the centre-left was holding out but there was cause for concern. In the centre-right, the Russians were being thinned down but still holding out. The real question was whether Kutusov's fresh infantry and the grand battery could deliver the hammer blow before the Russians gave out in the centre and far left. I'm not sure they could because there were still a lot of French troops there.

I had a lot of fun with this and we learned a few things about how to run the scenario in Hot Lead, so that is a bonus.

Monday, November 29, 2021

O Group Test Drive II

Midway through, the Germans below have already lost a platoon. Top, the German advance begins.
 So we returned to Frank's place again to do another introductory scenario. This time the Germans attacking on the same map but in the other direction. Once again, I was on the defense gusrding the left with the objective of holding the town. Frank was on the right defending the hill and another built up area. We each had a company. I assigned both AT guns to Frank's side with one in ambush in the town and the other back in the centre to guard down the road. I took the MMG and one platoon in ambush on my far left.

German attack succumbs to mortars, fire from the upper village and tanks on the road, 

The German attack came unstuck pretty quickly due to a hesitant company, a couple of timely and effective ambushes, and some horrendous die rolls at the worst moments.

We made a number of mistakes that I know of:

  • I should have rolled for the effects of mortaring on my HQ and a combat patrol when the Germans mortared the town a couple of times. In my defense, they did specify that the MMG was the target so I didn't think about area of effect. This would have meant that the Canadians would probably have had to spend a couple more orders to rally off shock or replace combat patrols.
  • The AT gun in the town should not have gotten the defensive bonus for being in a town. This was something that the rules author cleared up in the Lardies forum.
I know that there's a bunch of other rules that we missed or forgot. I'll have to make a post summarizing them to help me remember them.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

O Group Test Drive

Starting positions with the British attacking from the left and the Germans defending the wood line
 On Thursday, Frank invited a few of us over to try out O Group using a starter scenario. The scenario was primarily about how to scout using recce and combat patrols and how to deploy units. In this case, the British were trying to locate three hidden German units and capture a building near a road junction. I took command of the 2nd German company on the left. I hid one section as far to the left as I could and hid the MMG in the centre in the back woods. I felt the front woods were a little too exposed. 

In the foreground and background the Brits advancing to the woods where Germans await
I had hoped that the British would overlook my far left and attack more down the centre. It was not to be. The British on my side headed directly towards the far left, so I switch plans and decided to make a stand in the woods and run out the clock (the ritwas 8 turns long). There was a general back and forth happening with one of the highlights being a British section running into my hidden unit when the were charging another unit. Things went rapidly south for the British at that point, although we may have played it wrong in ruling that the British section would continue its charge after the ambush.

Post ambush with a Brit platoon down to one section. Background shows Brits reeling from artillery
On the other flank, the British made slow progress. The did manage to force the Germans to expose one of the hidden German units, but the British attack became completely unstuck when a German artillery barrage caught them bunched up. One section completely disappeared and the rest had to retreat back to where they started.

The scenario is tough for the British to win. Their only chance is to move quickly and scout aggressively. It would have been nice if the scenario had pointed this out to help the British. I would like to try it out playing the British next time to see how being quick and aggressive would work out.

As far as the rules go, they seem very interesting. They could be better organized and the missing page numbers are a major pain (one that I will fix by writing them in myself). But the system itself seems to make sense and work out well.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

The Guns of Cape Spear

Last month, I had the opportunity to visit St John's NL. I landed midday and since I had a vehicle, some decent weather, and some time on my hands, I decided to visit Cape Spear. Cape Spear is famous for being the eastern-most point of land in Canada and for it's iconic lighthouse.

It also has two gun emplacements. They were built in 1941 to protect the approach to St John's harbour.

 Each emplacement consisted of a single gun with hide-away carriage that would drop the gun down behind concrete and earth embankments while it was being loaded. 

The emplacement had a ready room where the on-duty crew could relax and a small magazine to hold the ready shells and powder. I'm not sure where the main magazine was.

I don't know any specifics about the guns themselves other than they must have been fairly well discounted. The guns were second-hand because they had been installed in an American fort in 1891. There's nothing left of their carriage, but at least the guns are still there.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

KEGSCON 2021 (Better Late Than Never Review)

This quite a bit later than I had planned, but I've had a busy October.

So it's been a very long time since I went to a gaming event. The last one was the Trumpeter event in March or April of 2020. (Trumpeter has resumed as of this October but I'm no longer in BC.)

I knew that KEGS is in my area, and I've even gamed with some of its members in various Hot Lead conventions. But I learned that they planned to hold a one-day event at the end of September and I was all for it. 

Come the day, I set out for Chatham early in the morning. I arrived in time to see a huddle of people waiting outside and for the GMs to be setting up. There were some interesting games on offer but I decided to go with Seven Spears, which is a Japanese variant of Sharpe Practice.

The scenario was two mirror image forces were to loot a village for rice and livestock. My good friend Stephen took the two groups of Red Ashigaru and I took the Red Samurai and archers. Stephen took his forces to the right to enter the village from the back gate. I took my forces to the left to cover the front gate. 

As I was opposed by the Blue Ashigaru, I kept my Samurai back to minimize their exposure to the Blue archers. I was able to have far more success with my archers against the Blue Ashigaru than the Blue archers were having against my Samurai. Meanwhile, Stephen proceeded to thoroughly loot the village.

Opportunity came in the form of a nice hand and my Red Samurai charged the Blue Ashigaru, who were not in shield wall (or the Japanese rules equivalent). Quality told and eventually the Ashigaru routed for the cost of only 2 Red figures. 

I then tried to pursue the Blue Samurai, who had looted the livestock. I could not get the chips to come out in a favourable way, so the Blue Samurai got away.

My second game was a Franco-Prussian battle using Bloody Big Battles. The French objective was to capture three villages, spread across the battlefield. 
Turn 1 with green French on the far left. Prussians are capturing the middle village in the upper right.

The Prussians had a small force defending a hill on the close left edge. The French came on from that corner and later arrivals would echelon a cross the battle field. The Prussian later arrivals would similarly echelon across their edge.
Rolling up the Prussians on the left with French reinforcements arriving on the right

While my troops had better long range weapons, they were inferior in quality and lacked skirmishing. The Prussian artillery was also much better, so I figured that duking it out in a shooting match was not going to work out. I barreled forward and, to my surprise, was able to push the Prussians out of their defensive lines with relatively few casualties. It seemed that the greener my troops were on that flank, the better they did, with them eventually rolling up the entire Prussian flank and capturing the furthest village, for the cost of a brigade of cavalry and a couple of stands of the better troops.

The Prussians got to the central village first, but I managed to turn it into a reverse Verdun. I put two full brigades and their artillery against a weakened brigade defending it. Numbers eventually told as I first removed the supporting units before routing the defenders.

Rolling on the left, massing to attack the centre village, and reinforcements arriving on the right

On the right, I had basically conceded the right-most village to the Prussians, who had detached a regiment from the central brigade. My plan was to overwhelm the Prussians with my reinforcements. But the Prussians hesitated, so I occupied it instead. I instead concentrated on making enough room so that I could deploy all of my troops against the oncoming main Prussian force. The Prussians made an attempt to capture the village but they didn't sufficient numbers at the point of attack and got overwhelmed. At this point, the French controlled all three objectives and the Prussian left and centre were almost non-existent, so we called the game with a decisive French victory.

Capturing the left village, wearing down the Prussians in the middle, and defeating them on the right.

The French certainly benefitted from luck at two key moments: the mad rush against the Prussians on the first turn, especially by the green troops. I had expected them to hammered while I attacked with my better troops, so I was essentially using them as distractive cannon fodder. But they lived a charmed life throughout the game and bulldozed whatever unit happened to be in front of them. The second key moment of luck was the hesitation before the village. It meant that I didn't have to expend time and units taking the village and I could instead set about attacking the other Prussians.

Final position with the French in control of all 3 villages

My thanks to both Mitch and Brian for putting the games on. It was so nice to go to a con and play games in person.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Canadian Aviation Museum

I took my dad to this gem of a museum this week. The Canadian Aviation Museum is not in Ottawa or Hamilton. It is in Windsor and is run by the Canadian Historical Aircraft Association out of the only remaining building of RCAF 07 Elementary Flight Training School. This base came into being on the Walker airfield during World War 2 as part of the scheme to train pilots. The Walker airfield is now Windsor Airport.

The museum's general focus is telling the story of the base and on the aircraft that the novice pilots would fly. To that aim, they have a Fleet Finch, which is very similar to the Fleet Fawn, which was the aircraft that this base had. 

They also have a Tiger Moth and a Harvard. All of these aircraft are flight capable. They are reassembling a second Tiger Moth.

They also have a couple of other training aircraft such as the Boeing Stearman, which was a trainer for the US Air Force.

dditionally, they have a WW2 flight "simulator" and a Vickers Viscount flight simulator. 

Basically, the museum is bursting at the seams and has more aircraft and exhibits. They don't have enough room for their T33 Silver Star, a Korean era jet, so they have to put a tarp over it and park it outside.

What really makes this museum worth it is that it is a working museum. That is, they are actively building and restoring historical aircraft. In addition to a 1/2 scale replica of the Silver Dart and repairing wing damage caused by a deer strike to a training aircraft that they acquired last year, they have two ambitious projects: restoring a Lancaster bomber and building a replica Mosquito.

The Lancaster is in a lot of pieces. We were able to wander around the parts to do things like put our heads up into the bomb bays and look down inside the tail of the Lancaster.

The nose of the plane is in the background.

One half is painted up as the "Bad Penny", which was the first humanitarian aid flight to the Netherlands in Spring 1945.

The bomb aimer/front gunner position

The main wing span with the crawl route over the wing near the centre of the picture.

The bomb bay from the inside.

The view up into the cockpit.

As a working museum, there were a number of guys tinkering on the two planes. We talked to a couple of them about what they were doing.

The Mosquito is a completely new aircraft, although the engines are authentic. Built in 1945, they were crated and left that way until the museum acquired them.

The aileron under construction.

A wooden plane requires a woodshop.

A Merlin being serviced.

The museum recovered a few pieces from a wrecked Mosquito in Canada's far north.

Parts being built.

If you are in the Windsor area, I highly recommend a visit.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Rough Weekend

Given my lack of progress in getting my hobby storage constructed, my next post was going to be about KEGSCON on the 25th. I have all the cabinetry but I need to assemble it. That was the plan for this weekend but life intervened.

On Tuesday, my dog picked out the kibble in her kibble and moist mix and scattered them around her bowls. She did this for all three meals. She did this on Wednesday but now added the occasional ke-ke-hork strange cough. On Thursday, she didn't eat at all and started to cough more frequently. We started to be a little bit concerned but other than these symptoms and a bit of lethargy, she seemed OK.

Friday was different. Surie was completely uninterested in food, which is highly unusual. Any sort of exertion was leading to the strange cough and extended panting. We were debating taking her to the vet, but she would settle and go back to sleep, which she was doing a lot of.

Finally, we decided that we had to take her. I went to a 24 hour animal hospital. An hour later and quite a bit lighter in the wallet, we got news. The doctor said that the X-ray showed some sort of mass near her heart. My dog has beaten cancer twice already, but this sounded really serious, especially in a 12 year old dog. 

We decided against doing anything else that evening other than a steroid injection to deal with any swelling and an antibiotic. The vet said that she was not in any immediate danger but he did recommend an ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis. We booked it for the earliest slot, which was Sunday afternoon at 4. 

Saturday was very weepy. There was a lot of cuddling and I was taking a lot of mental snapshots, just in case she went downhill fast. I was mentally readying myself to take her the vet for the final time on Monday because she seemed about the same as Friday. We did get some good news in that a cancellation meant that we could get the ultrasound that afternoon. We also noticed that she finally ate a little.

The ultrasound turned everything around. There is no mass. Instead, her heart is a bit enlarged because she has bronchitis or pneumonia. This was a huge relief. She is a tough little dog and she can beat this.

As a bonus, on Sunday she was back to normal, almost. She had an appetite and she had some energy. The strange cough was gone. The cuddles were back but for a different reason.

Today, we took her to our normal vet for a follow up. Surie has relapsed a little bit, in that she does the occasional strange cough and she has moments of panting. But we found out that she had gotten a substantial steroid dose on Friday and we think it had worn off today. Her appetite is mostly back though and she has more energy, so we are optimistic that she will beat this and continue to be in our lives.