Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Plague Update #29 - Building a Wall

A ragged tide of desperate humanity surges towards the river, on the other side grim faced border guards backed up by the army deploy drones and sophisticated military hardware to prevent their passage. Yep just another day on the NSW/Victoria border. 

Melbourne has gone back into lockdown and the premier of NSW who just days ago was bitching about the slowness of opening interstate borders has slammed shut the gates and deployed as many police and such soldiers as she can borrow from the federal government to make sure no Victorians sneak across the border in search of a better life.  Like rats from a sinking ship various sporting teams block booked the last flights out of Melbourne before they ploughed up the runways and cleansed the terminal with fire and acid.

Meanwhile In those states fortunate enough to not be Victoria police chiefs have issued dire warnings about Victorians swimming rivers and hiding in trucks.  I'm amazed they didn't mention the possibility of tunnels and hot air balloons.  For the first time in Victoria's history its inhabitants aren't even pretending that they wouldn't prefer to be in New South Wales instead.

Things have gone from bad to worse in Melbourne with new cases popping up like mushrooms and occupants of social housing locked up in grim, high rise prison towers.  I mean they always were but up until now we've usually let them out to look for work.  Now the towers are ringed by police and the only people being allowed in are medical teams and people dropping off food.  Cries of outrage are coming from the residents, or at least I assume they are.  It's a bit difficult to hear anything with the buildings locked off and surrounded by police.  Still despite the protests the government can be grateful that they're largely poor and without influence.  Can you imagine what might happen if you tried treating rich people like that?

It was only a week or so ago that I was thinking of shutting down these plague updates.  It seemed there would be nothing left to report on except the gradual opening up of society.  Suddenly we have lockdowns, border patrols, semi incarcerated citizens and the premier of Victoria telling the NSW police chief piss off, not in so many words but that was definitely the subtext.  Said police chief suggested that Victoria might like to help pay for all of the border protection measures that New South Wales is currently putting in place.  The Victorian premier responded in much the same way as the president of Mexico did when Donald Trump made the same suggestion.

This blog is uniquely positioned to give you, dear readers, an insight into the tribulations of Victorians in this their darkest hour as we have not one but two plague reporters embedded within the death zone.  OK they're not so much embedded as incapable of leaving but the point remains. I spoke with the first of them earlier today.  I noted that Melbourne was about forty eight hours away from descending into Mad Max levels of anarchy and he might like to stockpile leather clothing and firearms.  He told me he'd been doing that for years anyway.  I nodded politely and mentally put off my visit for another decade.

My second reporter was in despair.  She had finished off all the wine during the previous period of home schooling and foolishly had not restocked supplies.  She was gloomily swigging beer and contemplating risking the dogs and police patrols to make a supply run to the bottle shop.  I asked if her family was well and she replied that the kids were in serious danger if she didn't get more wine.  She was about to say something else but she choked on a mouthful of beer and while she was coughing a medical hit team kicked in the door and dragged her off to an undisclosed location.

So with one reporter digging a survivalist shelter in his back yard and the other currently being hosed down with disinfectant in a sterilised room there is little more for me to do except wait on events.  Fortunately I'm a fair way from the border so my sleep won't be disturbed by the sounds of sirens and helicopters as they chase down yet another desperate refugee from the Deadlands (as I believe Victoria has officially been renamed).

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Paddy's Markets

We're entering the home stretch now as the light rail finally abandons Darling Harbour and swings into the city trundling up Hay Street to my next destination, Paddy's Markets.  The light rail spat me out onto the street directly in front of the eponymous market.  Despite knowing better I decided to go inside.

Paddy's Market was once Sydney's premier fruit and vegetable market supplying both wholesalers and individuals whose hatred of vegetables had reached such a peak that nothing less than the ability to tear them apart with their teeth would satisfy their unreasoning malice.  That has gone for the most part to larger premises out at Flemington which has the twin advantages of being (slightly) closer to the source of most of the produce and situated on land that is considerably cheaper.  In its place is Market City.

How best to describe Market City?  Imagine if you made the mistake of feeding a two dollar shop after midnight.  It's like that.  Stall after stall of tacky, useless crap that only serves a purpose when you have forgotten the birthday of a relative that you dislike but can't ignore.  There are also clothes stalls where you buy the sort of garb that you wear when you want to impress the welfare officers with your poverty and the kind of souvenirs that make the folks back home rather glad that they didn't come with you.  At present you also need to get your temperature taken before they'll let you in.

Once you've struggled past all of the above there is still a small vegetable market out the back selling somewhat dishevelled farm produce.  Some of it was also part eaten although I'm not blaming the vendors for that, I suspect a customer (to use the term broadly) decided to sample the wares before purchase.  Across the road there was a small restaurant whose sign announced "Japanese Dining" but I looked closely and I'm pretty sure there weren't any.

Having exhausted the delights of Market City I emerged blinking into the sunlight and crossed the road (and light rail line) into Chinatown.  Every city in the world seems to have a Chinatown.  Sydney's is quite modest consisting of a couple of streets that parallel Darling Harbour (the light rail hadn't got too far away from it).  Dixon Street is the main drag, it has been converted into pedestrian access only and as you walk along it you can almost think that you're in, pretty much any city with a lot of Chinese restaurants.  There weren't a lot of people about because there aren't at the moment.  I don't think it had anything to do with the specific appeal of Dixon Street per se.

The place is called Chinatown for the same reason there is a suburb in Western Sydney called Blacktown.  I'm pretty sure both these places would have different names if they were being titled today.  Chinatown runs north until it merges with the rest of the city and the CBD a change that can be noticed by the gradual dropping off in Chinese lettering on the shop signs.  I wandered up Dixon Street and down Sussex Street and by that time I was pretty much done with Chinatown.  If you're not hungry and there isn't a festival happening there isn't a lot of point in visiting.  I did notice the occasional Korean restaurant lurking modestly among the Chinese so I've made a mental note to return at some more hunger intensive time.

To make the experience complete I hopped on the other light rail (the bigger, slower, more costly one) at its Chinatown stop and very slowly made my way into the remainder of the city.  Light rail blogs are all very well but I had a dressing gown to buy.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Silly After Action Report - French Civil War in Gabon

Capitaine Raoul Oveurfluor crouched and crept silently through the jungle.  Every nerve was alert, every sense strained to penetrate the gloom.

"Hey Raoul, whatcha doing?"

Oveurfluor screamed and leapt several feet into the air before landing in a particularly recalcitrant patch of sticky mud.  Struggling to free himself he glared at his opposite number.  Sous-lieutenant Recalcitrant watched with polite interest as the capitaine hauled himself free of the sticky goop.

"I am trying," hissed Oveurfluor between clenched teeth, "to sneak up on the shy and incredibly rare Gabon lowland gorilla."

"I'm more worried about the pushy, depressingly common Gabon Vichy soldiers.  You do know we're on a reconnaissance mission right?"

"Of course," snapped Oveurfluor, he waved a hand vaguely, "they're in that direction.  Feel free to go back and tell the others."

"I think they might expect your presence in the attack as well."

"In the name of God why did I join the Legion?"

"Wasn't it something to do with outstanding arrest warrants?"

"Shut up.  It was out of love for La Belle France; and outstanding arrest warrants.  I swear to god that donkey looked sixteen."

In keeping with a recently discovered taste for exotica Dave Wilson and I decided to play FT161 - French Civil War in Gabon.  As scenario descriptions go its all in the title really.  In late 1940 General de Gaulle was still trying to prove to the British that he wasn't an ill tempered irrelevance and attempted to persuade the French colonies in West Africa to rally to his cause.  Success was mixed, French Congo was enthusiastic and French Senegal did their best to kill him.  Which left Gabon.  Imagine being so desperate that the accrual of Gabon to your side could be counted a success.  The governor of Gabon being less than enthusiastic about joining up de Gaulle sent in such troops as he had at his command.  The Vichy garrison of Gabon resisted, hence the scenario name.  Given that de Gaulle's troops were Legionnaires and the garrison was mostly colonial the number of actual French people involved in this civil war was probably about three.

Dave will command the Vichy troops rallying to the defence of oppression.  He has nine first line squads, two leaders and three crews.  The crews are to man an hmg, a pocket sized 37mm gun and a 20mm gun filched from random bomber.  Lest this force prove inadequate he receives three squads of first line reinforcements on the fourth turn carrying an lmg and guided by another officer.  He also got five trenches to shelter his cowardly troops from fire.

To light the flames of resistance and inspire the souls of the French people (most of whom had probably never heard of Gabon) I command eleven and a half elite squads (represented by British counters which must make de Gaulle turn in his grave).  They have two medium machine guns, an lmg and a 60mm mortar.  These forces must brush aside the no doubt feeble Vichy resistance and capture half a dozen huts inconveniently located at the other end of the map from their start point.  Lest this seem too easy I have to do all this without suffering 10 CVP.

Below is my at start set up.  As you can see I weighted heavily on the right hoping to punch through his defences there and head for the huts while my kill stack (two squads, both mmgs and a 9-1) and my mortar dealt with his defenders in the centre.  Over on the left I had a pair of squads and a second rate leader to divert attention and tiptoe down that side of the board.

Subtlety didn't play a big part in my set up
I was certain that Dave's hmg would be in the centre to sweep the airfield and,for once, I was right.  Sadly the cheap French mortar I'd been equipped with didn't have any smoke rounds but I banged away and gained an acquisition.  This would be my mortar's sole contribution to the game.  Shortly afterwards Dave's sniper broke the manning halfsquad and, in case I couldn't take a hint, subsequently killed him.

Elsewhere there was a bit of a disaster on my left where Dave managed to break a squad ploughing through the kunai but a half squad managed to avoid all fire to charge into the bamboo (totally illegally, we had forgotten we were playing PTO rules).  On the right I eschewed movement for firepower and smashed his forward defenders and pushed an lmg team forward.

End of (Free) French turn 1.  Not too displeased
It was a modest beginning but one which seemed to auger well for the future.  What I didn't know was that I was running headfirst into one of Dave's strongest positions.  I was about to find out.  In Dave's turn I managed to break one of his squads in the centre and would follow that up in my next turn by breaking the hmg crew.  Dave's centre was falling apart, unfortunately I had absolutely nothing to capitalise on that.  Virtually everything was committed on the right.  On the right they would fight and on the right they would die (spoiler alert).

End of (Vichy) French turn 1
With the forest on the right denuded of enemy troops I brought up my main force.  I knew he had more troops just behind but I didn't realise exactly how many.  Things started to go wrong when Dave unveiled his baby 37mm in the trench just behind the woods and started peppering my force.  I wasn't too concerned, ok I might take some casualties but I had numbers, surely I would be able to roust them out.  But that wasn't all that Dave had there.  As well as the gun he had another two squads as well and, as I rapidly and painfully learned, behind the trench was his 20mm gun.  I had walked into the entrance to Hell.

Over on the left my half squad continued on its lonely journey largely because I couldn't think of anything else to do with it.  I think I had some visions of snatching a hut or two despite the fact that a pair of squads were now bearing down on him.
OK that's a bit ugly
Despite some casualties I still thought I was in good shape on the right.  I had built up a powerful force in the trees and the fall of his position was surely just a matter of time.  Have you ever seen a 37mm gun go on a rate tear?  In one fire phase Dave crushed my hopes and dreams.  At the end of it a squad and a half were dead and a squad and a half were broken.  The sniper having taken out my mortar team in back play meant that I was already halfway towards to casualty cap.  I did eventually manage to break the other squads in the trench with the 37mm and Dave finally boxcarred a roll and broke the gun but the tattered remnants of my force that now faced his 20mm were in no shape to go further.

I did manage to slip one squad around the gun, simply because Dave disdained to fire on it in favour of better targets but this sole unsupported lunge in the direction of the huts was never going to win me the game.  Over on the left I rallied the squad and his sniper promptly broke it again.  My deep roaming halfsquad fell to fire and absent any decent terrain put their hands up in the air.

I finally rallied my squad on the left (again) but by this time we were four turns in, I hadn't got through Dave's first line and his reinforcements were due.  Also I was desperately close to the CVP cap (the prisoners didn't help) and there seemed no chance of getting through.  Dave had forgotten his reinforcements until I reminded him (I should have kept my mouth shut) and felt that despite my casualties I was on the verge of a breakthrough.  When I reminded him my concession became understandable.

So defeat for me.  I had thrown what I hoped was an unstoppable force at what turned out to be an immovable object.  Not the cleverest game I've ever played.  Bugger the exotics, next time Dave and I will be playing a thoroughly normal game of Germans vs Soviets.

A shy and incredibly rare Gabon lowland gorilla moved cautiously into the clearing.  There had been a lot of noise and screaming but that was gone now and the beast was curious.  Approaching the sprawled figure of a legion officer it stared in disbelief.  Surely this was the shy and incredibly rare French gorilla enthusiast.  The gorilla fumbled for its camera, the wife and kids simply wouldn't believe this.


Bastards; sneaking, two bit, duplicitous, backstabbing, ungrateful avian Benedict Arnolds!  How could they do this to me?  For some time now I have noticed a distinct absence of pigeons on my balcony.  Oh the occasional bird wandered past but none seemed inclined to stay.  In my innocence and good nature I thought that they may have retired to some secret pigeon laboratory to work on a vaccine for the coronavirus but no, apparently my balcony just isn't good enough any more.

The reason for the sudden absence of pigeons, and the concomitant absence of pigeon shit, from my balcony is sadly different.  The treacherous airborne plague rats have simply moved one balcony over to my neighbour.  There they are cooing, making nests and raising children.  This is despite the fact that my neighbour has placed anti pigeon spikes on pretty much every exposed surface.  Apparently the wretched feathery vermin have decided that the comfortable nooks and plant hangars that decorate my neighbours balcony are a more upscale address than my bare, windswept expanse and the opportunity to settle down there is worth having the occasional one of their number impaled on anti pigeon spikes.

I am outraged!  When I think of everything I did for those thankless, selfish airborne deadbeats.  OK, I guess I didn't do anything for them but there were a lot of things I could have done to them but I nobly refrained.  And this is how they repay me.  My faith in humanity is long gone but I was hoping my faith in pigeonity would last until the grave.  Sadly no, I will have to meet my end faithless and despondent while one balcony over generation after generation of plump, happy pigeons coo in endless mockery of my trust.

Given that an almost disturbing amount of this blog has been given over to bitching about pigeons you may be a little surprised at the depth of my feelings.  Personally I think its Stockholm Syndrome.  I have been captives of these flying dirtbags for so long that I don't know what to do without them.  My stuffed puffin is attempting to fill the gap (please don't let your imagination wander at this point.  I did and now I can't get the images out of my head) but there is only one of him and lets face it, a man has needs.

Of course there are advantages; my balcony is cleaner than it has been in months and the Health Department is no longer considering declaring my flat a hazardous waste zone.  Also I can eat breakfast without hundreds of beady eyes peering at me through the balcony window while I do so.  On the other hand the absence of pigeon crap has ruined my retirement plans as I had intended to set up a phosphate mine on my balcony.  I was expecting to turn my flat into a second Nauru now the only way I can do that is if I rent my balcony out to Home Affairs to intern asylum seekers.  Incidentally am I the only person who thinks that "Minister of Home Affairs" sounds like a fancy title for a pimp?

I'm going to have the last laugh though.  My neighbour has been away but having survived her sojourn in a plague camp has now returned to her apartment and is greatly wrath at the unexpected explosion in the pigeon population.  Steps, quite vigorous steps, are being taken to persuade the pigeons to take their child minding facilities elsewhere.  Pretty soon those pigeons are going to be slinking back to my balcony cooing for forgiveness.  I shall not be kind!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Plague Update #28 - Catching the Wave

Well there we were patting ourselves on the back, congratulating ourselves on how well we were handling the coronavirus when suddenly a pack of inconsiderate Victorians starting getting diseased and making our numbers look bad.  Recently reopened borders have been hastily amended with crayon additions saying "except Victoria".  Suddenly Victoria is the state nobody wants to associate with which at least makes a refreshing change from Queensland. 

It is important not to take this out of context.  This is definitely not a "second wave" as Victoria's Chief Plague Doctor assured disappointed journalists looking for a headline.  No, it is simply a large and unexpected increase in cases after we thought we had things under control.  Definitely not a second wave at all.  In fact we don't even have a definition of a second wave and it might not actually exist, so there.  Possibly we could call it the First Wave A.

I only have one friend who lives in Victoria and I'm pleased to say that he's a picture of health despite living in a suburb where apparently the dead carts rumble through the streets on a daily basis.  I was thinking of dropping in to visit him but after immature reflection I've decided to wait for a year or two.  After all, I saw him eighteen months ago and I don't want him to think I'm clingy.

The sudden (definitely not wave related) explosion of cases in Victoria is particularly disappointing to me because my Tasmanian correspondent excitedly informed me recently that Tasmania is intending to open its borders quite soon and I could visit.  Unfortunately flights to Tasmania tend to go through Melbourne and anybody arriving in Tasmania from Melbourne is currently being "made safe" with a controlled explosion at the airport.  I may have to delay my visit for a while.  Since the "attractions" of the visit according to my correspondent involved bushwalking in midwinter, psychotic dogs and a bath full of fish its probably fair to say I'll be able to contain my disappointment.

Back in my home state the premier announced that she wouldn't close the border with Victoria.  She simply suggested that we let the Victorians know that they aren't welcome here.  She didn't put it quite like that but it was a lot closer to that than you might expect from a professional politician.  The problem with the NSW/Victorian border is that there are a lot of places where you can cross.  Western Australia was able to seal its border largely because there's only about two roads going in to the state and if you leave them not only will you die but it will take the authorities up to a year to find your body.  Assuming they bother to look.

With social shunning of Victorians now escalated as an official response to the outbreak (rather than the amusing passtime that it used to be) our premier also took the opportunity to demand that all the other states open their borders to NSW and pointed out, rather ungraciously, that most of their economies depended on ours in some way.  I don't know if that's true, I do know its probably not particularly helpful to be stating it publicly.

My war gaming club which meets at Paddington RSL will have the opportunity for its first face to face meeting this weekend.  I'm not sure if I'm going to go.  Most of the people there are only a gentle breeze away from the grave in any event and I'd hate it if one of us were responsible for a sudden cluster in Paddington.  They'd probably close the place down again for several months and delay us even more.

In the meantime if you see any Victorians don't look the other way and treat them as though they didn't exist.  Show some compassion.  Give them a wave.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Silly After Action Report - Out of Their Element

In response to his commanding officer's irritated summons Hauptmann Dieter von Teeze struggled over and gave a reluctant salute.

"Now pay attention von Teeze."

What his commanding officer said after that is unknown as von Teeze was busy ruminating on the unfairness of life in general and his in particular.  He had joined the skijaeger with definite assumptions; glorious alpine scenery, vast expanses of white powder (and snow) and hot Norwegian ski bunnies up for a little "collaboration".  Instead he was stuck in a muddy field in a low rent section of Poland while an increasingly large number of distinctly surly Russians did their best to kill him.  To be fair they were trying to kill a lot of other Germans as well (and probably wouldn't have shed too many tears if some Poles wandered into the crossfire) but von Teeze couldn't help taking it personally.

Suddenly von Teeze became aware of the silence.  His CO had stopped speaking and was looking at him expectantly.

"Yes sir," said von Teeze.  That usually worked.

"Well then join your men.  The attack jumps off in ten minutes."

As von Teeze shambled away the CO called after him,

"And for Christ's sake take those damned skis off!"

For our latest session Mike Sexton and I decided to play FrF74 - Out of Their Element which sees a group of elite German ski troops inexplicably committed to the battles in Poland (not really that inexplicably, by this time the Germans were desperate for warm bodies.  They would probably have committed the Salvation Army to the attack if they were around).  I would command the geographically challenged snow warriors attempting to destroy a Soviet bridgehead over the Vistula River.  Mike would have the job of throwing me back.

To do said throwing Mike has an at start force of eight first line squads equipped with an lmg, an mmg and an antitank rifle all led by two officers.  To back up these arms and legs he also had a 76mm gun hidden discreetly somewhere about the board and a trio of foxholes.  On the third turn he gets a pair of first line squads toting a mortar and another officer.  On turn five he gets two more 5-2-7 squads and finally on turn six another pair of 4-4-7s.  To win Mike had to have at least three good order squads within two hexes of 40AA5 (rubble) and/or 40CC8 (a building).

I command a tight little force comprising seven elite 5-4-8 squads with a pair of lmgs and an mmg of their very own.  I have three officers including an impressive 9-1 and to provide added, if not entirely reliable, fire support I have two sIG38(t)M rolling artillery pieces where the Germans managed to cram a massive 150mm gun onto the chassis of an old Czech tank by the simple expedient of removing most of the ammunition stowage.  I would have heart palpitations every time they opened fire.  On turn two I received a pair of 8-3-8 squads with a demo charge and flamethrower (plus another officer).

Mike set up reasonably forward in the woods which effectively screened the objectives.  I set up the bulk of my force on the left (Mike's left but let's just say left since that's how the pictures have come out) looking to slide down that side of the board towards the building that was of such great interest to the defenders.  Over on the right I had a couple of squads and a second rate leader to hopefully occupy some of Mike's attention.  This was also where my reinforcements would come on.  I allocated a sIG to each force and prayed they wouldn't run out of ammunition.  Below is the scene at the end of turn one.  Sacrificial halfsquads are teasing Mike in the hopes of getting him to drop concealment while the sIGs lurk modestly in the background.  The badly rendered red circles show the locations that Mike's endgame force has to be hanging around.

End turn 1

I told Mike that I'm never crazy about playing with eight morale troops as my dice seem to take it as a challenge to see if I can still fail morale checks.  Mike thought I was joking, by the end of the scenario he was eating his words.  Still things weren't going too badly.  I had wrong footed Mike somewhat with the sheer weight of my attack on the left and he hastily started shifting forces leftwards to try and hold it off.  This opened up opportunities for my much more modest force on the right.  My right hand sIG lurched forward and Mike decided to hasten his departure.  This sIG would be the absolute standout for me.  His compatriot wasn't so lucky.  I rolled it forward a hex and Mike promptly revealed an atr and immobilised it.  A good result for Mike but not for the squad with the atr.  Most of the rest of Mike's force had sensibly slunk into the woods but the guys with the atr couldn't and, burning with a desire to avenge their drive chain, the crew of the sIG put a 150mm shell into the hex occupied by the offending atr; bits of that squad are still coming down.

End of German turn 2.  My reinforcements have arrived and a sIG is conducting its own private flanking manoeuvre

Things looked quite good at the end of my second turn but things slowed down a bit from there as Mike managed to hustle a decent amount of his force to block my attempted breakthrough.  While a brutal slugging match ensued on the left I was starting to take advantage on the right, slipping down through the woods towards the bridge.  In this I was aided by my doughty sIG which managed to remain below its low ammo number (admittedly frequently not by much) the entire game.  Hits weren't required.  A simple acquisition counter was enough to give the defenders an overwhelming desire to be elsewhere.

Yep, things look good but that girl in the car honking her horn is Nemesis

I managed to dispossess Mike of his medium machine gun early on in the piece and was cheerfully carving up his troops on the left however the clouds were gathering.  I had survived so far largely because Mike was reluctant to drop concealment by firing back.  One he bit the bullet though my troops started biting the bullet as well.  Passing morale checks became a rarity to be commented on and much discussed.  Fairness forces me to admit that I was handing out punishment as well but Mike's routs took him closer to the places he had to defend whereas mine took me further away.  Also I wasted a turn surrounding and encircling a dummy stack which was distinctly irritating.

Surely victory is in sight

Mike's turn four reinforcements turned up just as my rather skimpy right hand force looked like it was going to break straight through.  Before my right hand troops there was open space and the pile of rubble which was all that was left of the original bridge.  Also before them were a couple of defending squads in foxholes and the often feared but, until now, rarely seen 76mm gun.  Mike rushed his reinforcement squads forward to thicken the line while one of my units brave enough to step into the sunshine met a 76mm shell coming in the other direction and lost all interest in proceedings for a while.

On both the right and the left Mike seemed to be hanging on by the skin of his teeth.  He would continue to hang on by the skin of his teeth for the next couple of turns aided by some murderously accurate mortar fire and the blind raving panic my troops displayed whenever anyone fired a gun in their general vicinity. 

Well maybe not
Still I was pushing forward and to aid my guys on the right my hero sIG trundled down the right side of the board to start taking his defenders under fire.  I parked somewhere I was reasonably sure the 76mm couldn't see me and started slaughtering squads in earnest.  We checked the line of sight after the game and it was actually clear but at the time neither of us dared take the risk so I got away with it.  Until this point I had been pushing forward but now a brief pause ensued as I tried to rally enough troops to make a credible assault and Mike tried to rally enough troops to make a credible defence (the poor morale checks weren't a one way street).

Finally I wasn't so much ready as out of time and I made my final push.  On the left I drove his forces out of the remaining forest and snuggled up to the hill containing the victory building while simultaneous swinging around the brush on the left.  He had defenders covering that approach so I came up with a bright tactic.  I let a halfsquad go first.  While it fled yelping towards the rear a machine gun team moved up in their place.  Over on the right my sIG had literally blown his defending squads away and now I had another task for it.  I sent it on a wide sweep around behind his 76mm gun to beat up more infantry while what was left of my right hand force tiptoed nervously forward.  Mike tried to hit my sIG with the 76mm but missed twice (having to change covered arc each time helped) and before he could try again return fire mangled his crew.

The luckiest sIG in the world
Over on the left I panted up the hill with a squad and an 8-1 leader and very soon had a halfsquad and a wounded 8-1 but nevertheless I was on the hill.  I pushed the halfsquad into CC for the building and took advantage of the absence of fire to bring up another squad.  Meanwhile the guys I sent around to the left had done sterling work breaking the troops he had lurking there.  Still as we approached the final turn I thought Mike had this one in the bag.  He still had three good order squads within the required space and I was quite simply running out of troops.  My guys on the right until now held up by fear of the 76mm would have to rush forward and I needed something special from my sIG as well.  

At the last minute I remembered the victory conditions, I didn't have to kill his guys or even break them.  Holding them in melee would be enough.  My sIG managed to pin a squad in the rubble and my right hand force charged forward.  There were two halfsquads, a recently created hero and an 8-3-8 squad. On the left I pushed troops towards his remaining squads.  What ensued was one of the most horrifying fire phases I've ever undergone.  I made four morale checks.  My rolls were 12, 12, 10 & 12.  I had one squad and the wounded leader remaining on the left and on the right a single halfsquad had survived the slaughter of his comrades and Mike still had three good order squads within the appropriate distance.  The final close combat phase rolled around, I had two chances.  On the left a single squad and a wounded officer survived to jump into CC with Mike's squad.  Mike put an end to that by rolling snakeeyes.  With fear and trembling I advanced my sole remaining halfsquad into CC with his pinned squad in the rubble.  Of course I didn't manage to kill anything but neither did Mike.  Victory literally on the last roll of the dice.  Including my half squad in melee I finished the game with precisely one and a half unbroken squads, Mike had three but I had the victory conditions.  If that's a win I don't want to see a defeat.

End game.  The red circles show Mike's surviving good order squads.
Mike and I had an immense amount of fun playing this game.  There were swings of fortune and at different times each of us was confident of victory and sure of defeat.  A special shout out must go to my sIG which must have been manned by the best crew in the Reich.  They aimed well, rolled low and didn't run out of ammunition.  You may notice I didn't mention the flamethrower.  Boxcarred the first shot.  Many thanks to Mike for the game, it will be hard to top this one.

Hauptmann von Teeze looked around at the wreckage of battle. Nearby a sIG, its gun barrel glowing red hot, bulked over an abandoned gun.  In front of him a Soviet soldier lay impaled on a ski pole.  Von Teeze nodded in approval.  That's how they did it in the skijaeger.  He made sure that his own skis were firmly in place and shuffled over to report to his commanding officer who appeared to be the only other person left alive.  Surely this was got be worth a weeks leave in Gstaad.  His commanding officer handed him a shovel and told him to start digging defences.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Exhibition Centre

A (very) few minutes down the light rail line from Convention station is its sister Exhibition Centre.  For the last few stops the light rail has been trundling down the side of Darling Harbour waiting patiently for the water to stop so it can take a hard left turn towards the city.  Now finally its succeeded, the rail line does indeed swing left just after Exhibition Centre and plunge into Sydney's tangled road network.  I hopped off just before the turn so I could sample the delights of Exhibition Centre.

There is indeed an Exhibition Centre literally just across the road from the station although you're not seeing it at its best.  The Centre was set up to face onto Darling Harbour which means that when you get off the train you're looking at the rather shabby rear of the building.  Possibly for that reason (but I wouldn't rule out sheer perversity) I got off on the other side where, instead of the rear of the exhibition centre I could enjoy the Ultimo sewage pumping station and the rear of the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre.  For the record "aquatic centre" is a fancy way of saying "indoor pool".

I wasn't interested in the aquatic centre and the sewage pumping station was locked so I wandered down the street towards the Powerhouse Museum.  I remember going to this museum as a child and being fascinated by the machines and technology housed within (although not so fascinated that I set out to understand any of it).  The museum won't be around for much longer as the government is planning to move the museum to a smaller, less convenient site situated on a flood plain at Parramatta.  Moving things to Parramatta is what our state government does when it would dearly like to destroy them but doesn't want the political backlash.  This will leave a prime chunk of inner city land ripe for property development.

Various members of our cultural community have railed against the shortsightedness and vandalism inherent in this act and they're probably right but it is worth remembering they would say the same thing anytime a cultural institution was moved more than fifteen minutes drive away from where they currently live.

I said a last goodbye to the Powerhouse and turned back towards the light rail tracks having determined to give the actual exhibition centre its day in court.  The exhibition centre was built in the eighties when Australia's bicentenary was looming and there was a desire to cover the older, more shabby looking parts of the city with eye pleasing concrete.  The site fronts on to what was the old goods marshalling yards back when the light rail line was part of a significant freight haulage network.  Having built the exhibition centre and ancillary buildings and ringed the whole thing in flyovers, and expressways the designers had to come up with something to do with the marshalling yard shaped hole in the middle.  Possibly out of desperation they turned it into a public precinct with parks, recreation areas, restaurants and a Chinese Friendship Garden although given the current state of our relations with China its more of a Chinese Frostily Polite Garden.

Protected from the bustle of the city by ribbons of concrete, multirise carparks and large buildings the area is actually reasonably quiet and enjoyable.  When I walked along there was even a scantily clad young lady roller skating which I thought was a stereotype reserved for movies set in Venice Beach, California.  Strolling along I just managed to avoid getting back into Pyrmont and even saw the front of the exhibition centre which is considerably more impressive than the rear.  I've no idea what they exhibit there but I'm going to assume "stuff".

With that done I jumped the tracks for the third time and wandered along the Goods Line.  The Goods Line is another hangover from the days when Darling Harbour was a working port.  It was a rail line leading from the marshalling yards out to Redfern and beyond.  When freight stopped coming over the Darling Harbour docks it was essentially abandoned but now has been converted into was is referred to as a linear park.  A linear park is essentially one that is long and skinny.  The park runs along the back (or possibly front) of Ultimo.  I had a pleasant walk along the park, entered a tunnel and wound up at Central railway station which was a little surprising but convenient as I wanted to go home