Tuesday, July 30, 2013

More HaT 8095 Goodness and Sabot Movement Trays

This is the latest battalion of French troops for IV Corps. As the title suggests, they are all from HaT set 8095, although most of them have received head swaps, including the two with the metal bonnet de police. Only 2 have their original heads; the officer and the marching figure next to him.

As I'm going to have in excess of 20 battalions to move in my corps alone, I've decided I need to make some movement trays. I have some made of sheet metal glued to balsa wood, but even with texturing they're a bit hard to pick up. I've made a prototype put of thick (2mm) cardboard with a lip made from polystyrene foam, painted and textured. This prototype is probably a bit too high (It looks like they's got their own mobile bocage!), so I'm going to try to make the lip a little lower on my subsequent attempts.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Book Review - The Bernie Gunther Series

The first books in the series

These books have nothing to do with wargaming or warfare in general  (and nothing at all to do with Napoleonic wargaming!), but as a series of murder mysteries firmly rooted in a historical setting, these books are second to none. The mysteries are your standard whodunnits, but the details of the period are what set these stories apart from your average crime novels.

The protagonist, Bernie Gunther, is your typical hard, cynical, wise-cracking cop/private eye with an eye for a dame in distress, but the setting of early/mid twentieth century Germany is what makes me come back for the next installment. Bernhard Gunther has seen and done it all; his early adult life was spent in the trenches of the Western Front in the First World War, his young wife died in the Spanish Flu epidemic in the early twenties after which he joined the Berlin police force. The stories span the period from the Weimar republic when Bernie has to investigate murders against the backdrop of political violence and the interference of well connected colleagues. After the Nazis take power in 1933, he resigns rather than be forced out as his anti-Nazi, socialist politics make him persona-non-grata. After a short stint as the house detective at the Adlon Hotel, he sets up as a PI. His private investigation business flourishes with the spate of disappearances of socially and politically undesirable people under the pre-war Nazi regime. Obviously this line of work is dangerous, but his skills as an investigator and his lack of political connection bring him to the attention of the Nazi head of police, Heydrich, who, after giving him an offer he can't refuse, uses him as his own tame detective, before ordering him back into the police. With the coming of the war Bernie is drafted into the SD, the SS police, and is shipped off to the Eastern Front where he witnesses all the horrors of that theatre of war. Taken prisoner by the Soviets after the war, he manages to escape and re-establish himself as a private eye in Berlin, before he is forced into exile in Argentina after he is set up for a murder he didn't commit. Forced out of Argentina when he learns too much, he ends up in Cuba where he finds himself entangled in the murky world of organised crime and anti-communist espionage, reluctantly ending up as an informer/enforcer for the mob in Havana. Whether or not Bernie manages to make it back to his beloved Berlin is not yet clear, but I'm hanging out to read the latest installment A Man Without Breath (I suppose he must, as the novels are narrated in the first person).

The stories aren't a chronological recounting of his career, but dip forwards and backwards through time as characters appear and re-appear, contrasting their pre-war roles with what they did during the war and how they have reconciled the two in the post-war era. There are a host of historical characters that appear, from the Weimar police hierarchy and (in)famous faces of the decadent Berlin scene of the roaring twenties, to political figures of the period. Incidents like the burning of the Reichstag and Kristalnacht make appearances almost as important as the historical characters themselves.

These stories make me want to find out more about the Weimar period and how a seemingly democratic and otherwise liberal society managed to end up under one of the worst totalitarian regimes Europe, and the world, has seen.

Highly recommended!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Italeri French Conversions

This is my latest battalion for IV Corps for Borodino. This time the figures are from Italeri, but with head conversions to improve on the ugly mugs the figures were cursed with. The figures are from Italeri set 6092 (French Infantry 1798-1805), but I've given them mainly heads from surplus figures from HaT set 8095. The wounded head and the one wearing the bonnet de police are special metal conversion heads produced by Lancier Bleu, which help vary the same figure, ie. the two voltiguers and the two march attack figures.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Once More Unto the Breach, Dear Friends...(or try around the side if you can't make a breach)

In the latest instalment of pre-Borodino preparation games, I took on Tim last Friday with another 1500 point force. This time I was supposed to be getting practice on assaulting a fixed position, but somebody didn't tell that to my troops! They tried the easier option with a flanking move, but left the troops facing the Russian big guns to be slowly whittled down in a death by 1000 cuts. By the time my flanking force got into position, Tim had managed to counter the manoeuvre and I didn't have enough oomph to push through.

If I'd done what I set out to do and attack his guns frontally with a concentrated force, I probably would have had a success, but I stuck to my tried and true recipe for failure and dispersed my forces across the board! Also, hiding in the woods might provide cover from artillery, but it doesn't help if you're trying to launch a charge...just sayin'!

The setup: my French forces are nearest the camera, while Tim advances in 3 brigades furthest from camera

The Russian Big Guns!

Setting up the battery on my left flank...

...and in the center

My Chasseurs à Cheval were keen for action after the last game's heroics!

My first move was to send the cavalry around the flank and advance infantry through the woods to try to outflank the guns in a pincer move.

In the centre and right, I wanted to hold the central position and prevent Tim from outflanking me.

Italians and Spaniards in reserve behind the centre

Hussars out on the left wing

Chasseurs à Cheval using the terrain to shelter from the artillery on their flank movement

The other Chasseurs à Cheval regiment in echelon formation to try to hind behind the wood-line

The troops moving on the flanks of the wood in the open begin to feel the folly of approaching too close to 12lber batteries without a particular aim in sight!

30% casualties and a failed morale test in one firing from the battery!
Ouch! Run away!

My veteran regiment march over the rough terrain in the centre...

...while my Italians and Spaniards move to the left to take on the threat.

Tim's Cossacks lurk in the woods to stymie any chance of using the hussars offensively. 

The infantry start their long march around the flank

I try massing the infantry in between two artillery batteries in the hope that my forces on either side would distract them from a potential attack, but Tim's infantry massing in between put paid to that.   

My veterans trying to form a diversion on the artillery's flank, but Tim's reserves await an opportunity to interfere 

The Italians and Spanish JN Regt. occupy the woods on the left to block any further advance by Tim's flank force.

The Croats face the advancing reserves in the centre, while one of the Spanish JN battalions attempts to flank the Russians from the other side of the hedge.

Meanwhile, the broken unit reaches the edge of the board and is rallied by the general

The light cavalry shield the advancing infantry around the right flank

The tempting scene: despite the apparent open flank, Tim had a couple of battalions in closed column just out of frame to hold up my advance.

The general attaches himself to a battered unit to steady their nerves.

Tim advances a battalion through the graveyard to neutralise my flanking threat

The wider view from that flank.

Tim got in before I did, launching a charge with what turned out to be a brigade of converged grenadiers!

Fortunately for me it resulted in only a minor loss and my artillery had a nice juicy close range target.

My chasseurs advance past the protective infantry squares...

...while the infantry advance behind the cover of the other chasseur regiment.

In the woods, the infantry backs off after copping a pasting from close range artillery fire.

The center resolves into a stalemate with the lines getting the most artillery attention...

...with the inevitable results!

The flanking infantry move forward behind cavalry cover, but they are copping a pasting from the artillery.

Now the artillery is absorbed with the action to the flank, it's time to advance again so that I can get into the flank of the artillery.

I line up my healthiest battalions on the right flank in preparation for movement against the artillery.

On the left flank, the JN Spaniards have turned to face the threat from the cemetery, while the 2nd battalion has deployed into line.
I had spotted an opportunity that I thought might be a little desperate, but might take the pressure off on the left and force Tim to react: the Spaniards had a direct charge line down the road at the Russian battalion that had left its head on the outside of the cemetery wall.

The charge went in successfully, and forced the Russians back to the other side of the cemetery with disorders and losses. The Croats came up in support onto the flank of the main Russian force on that flank.

My artillery forces back the jaeger line and has battered the converged grenadiers.

After the Russian guns had battered my centre (evidenced by the shrinking battalion sizes), I attempted to form a line to support the advance on the right flank.

The infantry finally get into action on that flank with a two battalion charge on an infantry square.
As the infantry square runs off in the distance, Tim brings up reinforcements to fill the gap.

On the left flank, a Russian battalion occupies the church on the flank of my successful Spaniards, who ignore the flank fire and carry on harassing the Russians on the other side of the hedge.

Tim retires that force behind the cover of the cemetery walls.

Tim's closed column tried to move, so I took the opportunity charge to try the same heroics I managed last game, but got a bloody nose and ended up retreating.

Run away!

I try to apply pressure to the hinge of Tim's line; two battalions face off against the line, while the weaker battalion moves around to position itself on the artillery's flank,

More infantry moves up on the left flank of the woods.

Disaster! The general is killed!

In the ensuing morale check, two nearby units panic and retreat!

That was the signal for the combined grenadiers to charge the Croats...

...who fail their pre-melee and end up flat footed, failing to counter-charge!

The Italians take on the remaining grenadier battalion who were aiming to take out the Spaniards from the rear.

Both the Italians and Croats ended up being forced back, but stopped the grenadiers from causing greater damage.

Back on the right flank, Tim went on the offensive, charging one of my battalions, which met him and ended in a minor victory, forcing me back with losses and disorders.

Gearing up for action in the woods on the right

The far right two battalions engage the Russian line covering the artillery's flank.

The other battalion moves up in the lee of the other two battalions and fires on the flank of the artillery. The gunners ignore the danger and continue to see to their guns!

My last hurrah was a charge on the Russian line. In an epic failure of dice rolling, the charge falls apart!

After the failure of the charge on the line, the infantry attacking the flank charged the square, but with chasseurs running away and enemy on the flank of the charge approach, the charge failed. I had no more chances to break Tim's dogged defense, so I conceded the field to the Russians....This time!

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