Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Grand Opening & Game On

Now we have our first ever game under our belt, which we played over the Easter weekend from the Thursday evening until the Monday afternoon. After months of planning and anxious thoughts about how things would look and play, it was a relief to get started. We were also helped by phenomenally hot weather for this time of year, not surprisingly alcohol consumption seemed to match!
The first piccy shows the actual cutting of the ribbon, yellow in our case from the bunch of flowers that Adam (you'll see him later) brought for Anne. It was only poignant that the opening honour fell to Anne, literally without her whole support and enthusiasm this project would never have happened!

There are no games without intrepid commanders and this game was no different. We had 3 a side for the first few days, Brendan would be an extra player on the Saturday. The next two piccies show the gamers and a "special guest".
Left to right is Bryan Anderson, a medic from Lincolnshire. His forte is falling over head first into the bath when he is drunk! (and I'm not kidding!). Next is John, my special guest. John is my neighbour and a through and through Yorkshireman. He is responsible for all the table build in the situation room and more. He started with the bare steel, welded the support brackets on, cut all the timber to length..........MDF........gluing............grinding.............lots of  grinding.... ..fixing..........levelling............redoing things to perfection............etc. He claims not to be a joiner, he may not be but he is certainly a genius!!!!!! Anyone who plays on these tables will be doing so only because of John's expertise and hard work!!! I did help a little, like stand there and carry bits and bobs, but the construction is really his.
Next is Anne who I constantly mention. Must be love or something! but we will have been married thirty years this August so maybe my infatuation is understandable (yes would be the answer). Then there is me with the booze in my hand (typical I hear people say). Then Pete Hogarth from Leamington Spa, trying to hide in the background, but being 6' 83" makes it difficult for him to blend in (and the ceiling inside is only just high enough!). Next is Gordon Hamilton, a Scotsman who teaches me bad drinking habits, now living in Derby working as a material testing manager (I think) in the local council. He's the only man I know who drinks in his sleep! (saw him do this on Easter Sunday). He'll claim he was only deep in thought, but I remain unconvinced. Lastly is Graham, another Scotsman from Edinburgh in the Nuclear power industry. We often associate him with a reputation of being able to point in a given direction and say "kill", a bit like a guided missile. You then sit back and watch Graham grind his way forward relentlessly, but in a gentlemanly manner!!!!
Lastly, again on the left, in the next piccy is Adam. He is one of our bankers from Cheltenham. We could only persuade him to drink half a lager in the pub (some suspicion that he was trying to stay more sober than us as a tactical move!).

No doubt they can all think of anecdotes to describe me, but they are all great guys! I should also mention who also did what in supplying figures, painting etc.
The WWII kit is all from Pendraken miniatures. It was all painted by Neil Sheardown who unfortunately couldn't make the game. The trees and hedges were supplied by S & A Scenics and all the rivers, roads & bridges (scratch built) were supplied by Andrew Saunders from Terrafirma Studios.

Now to get to the game. As a recap, the game is based on a German Panzer Corps (2 Panzer divs & 1 Mot div) trying to force a major river crossing on the road to Smolensk in August 1941. The river line is defended by 3 Russian infantry divisions and 2 tank divisions. The first terrain piccy shows the main river line as the Germans approach from the right hand side, making the nearer edge the German left flank.

The river is unfordable and there are only 2 bridges. The first bridge is at the far end of the table, just visible. The second bridge is to the left of this piccy on the other main table.

Unknown to the Russians, both German Panzer divisions had bridging columns so it was going to be a race between the Germans crossing at suitable points and the Russians trying to cut off the bridgeheads. All German troops started off table and had to arrive by roads. The Germans also had a restriction in that the Motorised Div wasn't allowed to cross the river.
The Russians could start anywhere on the table or keep troops off table in reserve. Reserves could pick their arrival road as they pleased, with some delay between electing to commit reserves and then arriving. Troops starting on table had chances of being dug in, more so if they were on their side of the river. The Russians only found out if they were dug in after a die roll and after they had deployed on a map.

Rather than try and give a blow by blow account, I have compiled some piccies that show action that was typical of the game.

This shows the German 5thPanzer trying to cross the river. You'll notice there is no bridge, this Div was using its engineers to try and force a crossing. In the middle ground you can see German infantry that has already crossed by dinghy and its engineering bridge column blown up on the river line. The Russians had elected a defence based on the actual main ridge line, the German infantry had to move quickly to minimise the artillery and mortar fire that they became subjected to.

This is on the far left flank and shows the German 5th Motorcycle Btn, with a Reconnaissance squadron, engaging Russians forward of the river. The German idea was to persuade the Russian to tie down troops against this feint, rather than recognise the main river crossing attempt.

Here we are all engaged and Brendan has made an appearance. The Russian left is secure, but the German bridging actions in the centre/left centre are making inroads.

A view of the intense fighting in the centre and left centre, near the main ridge line. German armour is now getting deployed to support infantry that has already crossed.

German Stukas attacking Russian tanks on the Russian right flank. Gordon became convinced that there was a conspiracy, because the first 3 times the Luftwaffe turned up, they always attacked Gordon (where they arrived was randomised).

This shows the last Russian tank counter-attack from the main ridge. It comprised a mix of T28s and T26s with some BT7s. The attack was halted by German Pak 35s supported by the odd Pak 38.

Adam senses victory, having secured the bridgehead and now also broken the Russian centre. The Russians are also contemplating the next battle to be held where they hope to reek revenge.

The commanders have broken for lunch to reflect on their tactics and plan their next moves. The next game will be in June, it will still be on the Eastern front and either later in 1941 or earlyish 1942. Depends on the arrival of T34s from the factories.

I thought I'd finish on the silly face and pretty face. Doesn't take much guessing to work out which is which!
The next item might be WWII Naval, we played 4 games as well over the weekend and I 'll report this in a separate post.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Prelude

We are now very close to the first game in the Situation room. In the past three weeks, all the soldiers have arrived and terrain pieces as well. At this point, inspiration is required and this has been provided by Anne. Really just an excuse to put her piccy in again!
The soldiers were painted by Neil Sheardown and just required basing and dry brushing. Whilst doing this we also discovered Matt enamel varnish (as opposed to acrylic) which seems to work as ink in some respects. We discovered this because some tanks that arrived suffered the dreaded "milk" affect where the varnish has moisture in it and "goes off".
Recovery is simple, you paint more varnish on and as you watch the milkiness disappears. As we were using Matt varnishes, I automatically went for an enamel type. The affect is striking. The next two piccies show all the kit on the table, being worked on methodically.

After all the basing was completed, the rest of the terrain arrived at the weekend, lots of rivers, lots of road in addition to over 500 trees that arrived mid-week. As always, help is appreciated and at the weekend Anne's Mum was drafted into work to carefully position some of the trees.

To give an idea of what the terrain looks like, I've selected a close up shot of a small area and then two long shots that include both the tables. For this game, the small back tables aren't being used, one reason being that I've run out of terrain and it isn't actually needed as the table is huge!

Finally, there are two pictures with me in them, the first is a full length shot again to help show perspective. The terrain includes over a dozen hills, 60 feet of road, 60 feet of river and over 500 trees in 20+ woods.

Lastly, I couldn't resist some champagne. Technically, I should have waited but the excitement won through. Its odd having spent a year to get to this position and then to actually play a game. There still remains work to do. One technical issue remains, condensation, but this seems limited to one area and we have a fix if needed. It still surprises me how much water is still evaporating from the timber and the concrete. Then there is the carpeting of the floor and exactly how to do it.
But hopefully by Thursday we will be putting kit on the table. And I nearly forgot, the game!!!!!!
Its a WWII Eastern front 1941 game, based on the crossing of the Dnepr and driving on towards Smolensk. German forces are based on a Panzer Corps of 2 Panzer divisions and a Motorised division. The Russians are based on an ad hoc reserve army comprising 3 infantry divisions and a 2 tank divisions. We'll see how it goes.