Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Human Race is Saved

Cockroaches like coffee.  Believe me you don't want to know how I discovered this but it's true.  It also has to be admitted that this discovery while personally rather icky was also very reassuring in a general sense.  Why is it so reassuring that cockroaches like coffee?  Read on (I'm sure you're desperate to know).

Some time ago I wrote a blog entry in which I posited that creatures like rats, pigeons and cockroaches ruled the world.  Of all of these the cockroaches are definitely top dog (well top cockroach really).  I also mentioned that I was a little concerned about what might happen if we displeased our chitinous overlords.  Now I feel as though a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders.  We have a purpose; we have value; we are baristas to the cockroaches.

All right, some might argue that this is a pretty poor ambition for any self respecting species to have but we can do all of the "building a glittering civilisation to last through the ages as a beacon to future generations" crap in our spare time.  Just as long as we get the coffee right.  For every architect, surgeon, engineer and reality television star guiding us on our journey to enlightenment (some admittedly by showing us what not to do) there must be coffee artisans brewing liquid salvation for the human race.  These gentle heroes run interference for our entire species ensuring that the rest of us can continue with our lives without fearing cockroach inspired doom.

There is a tendency to mock coffee culture and the increasing sophistication and pretentiousness associated with what is, when all is said and done, little more than hot flavoured water.  However such a view is short sighted at best.  Think of it instead as honing a craft which will keep us alive for centuries to come.  No more will we have to fear the displeasure of our lords and masters not while we're the only species that can make a decent soy latte (and I threw up a little into my mouth just typing those words).

The most favoured slave is the one with an irreplaceable talent.  As our coffee skills improve we shall rise higher and higher in the opinion of those that rule us.  Sins will be forgiven, liberties excused just as long as we can continue to pleasure the cockroaches palate with ever more delicious coffee.  And let's face it, if we live in a world ruled by cockroaches we should probably be glad that it's only their palates that we need to pleasure.

Sillly After Action Report Part 1 - Going Postal

After the First World War the formerly German city of Danzig was made a sort of "free city" by the victorious allies to give the newly created nation of Poland some decent harbourside property.  It's fair to say that Danzig's nebulous status didn't really please anyone and it definitely hacked off the various German types who still made up a large chunk of its population..  In such circumstances extreme nationalist movements found fertile ground and various discontented Germans gathered to drink beer, damn the Poles and mutter darkly about how much better it would be if they were part of Germany.  Despite this these street brawling wannabees were probably a little shocked when, on the 1st of September 1939, they were given steel helmets and ordered to drag their beerguts into the front lines.  The Poles had similarly been recruiting sympathetic material from the locals and when war broke out their collection of rabble occupied a number of buildings, including the post office.  Determined that mail delivery be the purview of the Reich alone the German high command ordered the somewhat heterogeneous collection of manhood strutting around with swastika armbands to capture the buildings.

This is Scenario BfP-106, Going Postal.  On our third Poland in Flames outing the Germans finally make an appearance although its fair to say they're hardly sending their best batsmen in first (to quote Montgomery).  Alternating between attack and defence as we are this means I got command of some of the shoddiest SS troops you're ever likely to see while Ivan took over the defending Poles.  My job is to direct my "soldiers" to capture three important buildings; the railway station, the signal building and the post office.  To do this I have some highly dubious material backed up by some top quality army engineers.

My force can be broken into four main components.  Eight 4-3-7 squads, these guys are lax, green and dubiously led.  Beerhall heroes of the purest strain.  Secondly I have six 4-4-7 squads, marginally better but not exactly stormtroops.  In fact they're mild squall troops at best.  Coming on to back up this ramshackle collection of humanity are three 8-3-8 army engineer squads complete with flamethrowers and demolition charges.  If any heavy lifting is to be done these are the guys to do it.  Finally I also have a trio of three armoured cars filched from the Austrians after the Anschluss and three artillery pieces (being towed by trucks) to provide my guys with some much needed firepower.  Four light and two medium machine guns of doubtful provenance and reliability will provide extra fire support if they work.

Ivan's force consists of five partisan squads (3-3-7) and seven first line squads (4-5-7) plus a hero, ten concealment counters and a trio of light machine guns just as bad as mine.  Four of the partisan squads (plus their 7-0 leader) have to set up in or around the forward most of the victory buildings.  The remainder can set up anywhere on the other board.  Perhaps Ivan's greatest advantage is that the two other victory buildings are at the far end of the board and one of them is fortified (and the troops therein are fanatic) thus making it a very difficult nut to crack.  Ivan also gets to set up his entire force concealed.

I had different bunches of soldiers and I gave them different jobs.  Over on the right I set up my beerhall heroes to capture the first building from his partisans.  On the left my squalltroopers were to push forward vigorously and clear out Ivan's delaying forces.  Behind them my army engineers would hopefully advance unscathed to where they could bring flamethrower fire down on the fortified building.  The armoured cars would trundle along helping with any strong points (their MA and machine guns combined give them an IFT factor of 12) and the guns would, well I wasn't sure what to do with the guns to be honest.  dropping smoke in useful places seemed to be the best option.

At set up.  My beerhall heroes on the right, squalltroopers on the left.  Army waiting to enter.

Incidentally the photos will be a little misleading as VASSAL doesn't have the special (crappy) officers and troops Bounding fire came up with for this game.  The 10-2 on the right is actually a 10-0 and the 4-3-6 squads are actually 4-3-7s.

What is the great thing about crappy troops?  You don't mind risking their worthless lives.  After the awesome kill stack I built on the right totally failed to even strip concealment from his foremost troops I simply charged halfsquads at them.  I had numbers and a World War 1 attitude towards casualties.  On the right my beerhall heroes charged out into the street possibly as much at risk from sudden heart failure as they were from the Poles.  A pair of half squads swiftly disposed of some dummy stacks and on the extreme right I seized a building as a launching point for future attacks.

On the left my squalltroopers moved boldly forward.  Ivan had nothing that could see them and they gobbled up unimportant territory and brought themselves closer to the sharp end.  Behind them the army engineers also charged forward but a little behind the squalltroopers.  Let the expendables catch the bullets.

At the end of turn 1 I have surged forward on the left and started to feel out his defences.  On the right small gains have been made but things are looking bad for the partisans.

Shamelessly using my numbers on the right I crowded up to Ivan's defenders, giving them the option of dropping concealment for a shot or remaining in disguised impotence.  Whatever else can be said about my beerhall heroes they have firepower and I used it inelegantly to shove forward against his partisans.  Over the course of the second turn I shoved him out of one of the victory building locations and advanced a halfsquad into CC with the squad holding the other (it was pinned so this wasn't quite as silly as it sounded).

Over on the left my squalltroopers pushed forward to his first line of defence, challenging him for position.  Some losses were taken (who cares) but the squalltroopers were well placed to drive on and the army engineers kept pace, discreetly out of the firing line.  I unhooked one of my guns and managed to drop a smoke round on some of his defenders in the post office.  I also managed to break the main armament on one of my armoured cars.  Fortunately their supporting machine guns are sufficient that I don't have to risk repair die rolls.

His position on the right is slowly being squeezed, on the left turn 3 promises great things.

Things got a little messy from there.  Certainly on the right the beerhall heroes seized my first objective and (painfully slowly) pursued the surviving partisan rabble into the trees.  On the left I got just a little cocky with my advancing and lost a halfsquad killed and a squad and leader broken from my squalltroopers attempting to press the pace.  Still my armoured cars were up and his flank beckoned and behind them the engineers were ready to cut loose.

The beerhall heroes managed to destroy most of the remaining partisan force and ooze forward on the right towards the flanking buildings.  One of my trucks is also hauling an artillery piece around in that direction in the hopes I can think of something to do with it.  In the centre striking back after my bloody nose  I pressed forward aggressively once more wiping out some dummies and forcing his other troops back.  On the far left  an armoured car has gone on a flanking foray and troops are trotting up behind.  The army engineers are starting to shake out and check the fuel gauges on their flamethrowers now that I'm almost in a position to reach the fortified building.  Vigorous advancing (and some lucky shooting) have shattered his position on the left.  Although just to prove fate is not to be trifled with a second shot at his broken troops generated a leader and battle hardening for him and I had to break them all over again.

It's cost a bit of blood but I'm closing in on Ivan's final defensive position
I am now ready to move inward and capture the buildings that will be the platform for my final assault.  Two things raise concerns in my mind.  Firstly I have only three turns left to winkle fanatic troops out of fortified buildings and secondly there is a hidden squad around the place somewhere which has yet to present itself.  I may have left myself a little short of time.  We shall see when Ivan and I pick this up next week.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Formula for Success

There is a television ad on our TV screens at the moment for an baby formula company.  They're no doubt attempting to persuade you to purchase their particular brand of powdered baby silencer.  The ads all begin with a cute little statement extolling the superiority of breast milk before adding "but when I'm ready to move on..."  Am I the only person who gets the impression that what they're actually saying is "Breast milk is best but if you're prepared to go for second rate then permit us to recommend our product?"

This could be the start of a whole new marketing line.  For example "For children going to school shoes are the best thing to put on their feet.  But when they're ready to move on, may we suggest our brand of hessian bags" or "Nothing beats a parent's love, but when they're ready to move on, our parole officers are the most professional in the country."  As marketing gimmicks go the cheerful acknowledgement that their target audience is too busy, too tired or too disinterested to do what is best and should just settle for the least worst alternative is refreshingly honest.  The only danger is that people take them too seriously and just start filling up the baby's bottle with tap water.

I just wish one of the formula manufacturers would have the honesty to come up with a tagline something along the lines of, "When you're sick and tired of having a mewling brat swinging off one of your breasts...".  Unfortunately such honesty in advertising is rarely rewarded.  It would appear that the consuming public actually wants companies to lie, or at least exaggerate, about their products.  Possibly we just don't think they're putting in enough effort to persuade us otherwise.

Despite this some people (disputatious lackwits all) rail against this mutually agreeable deception, bitterly complaining about the commercialisation of society and corporate duplicity.  Such people fail to realise that telling outrageous lies to persuade people to spend money they don't have to buy crap they don't need is pretty much the cornerstone of our entire economy.  The day everybody buys only what they need and pays close attention to price and quality while doing so is the day that we all wind up living in caves.

Naturally no matter what rubbish we ourselves purchase there is always something else that we consider a ridiculous and irresponsible waste of money.  And this too is useful as it allows us to feel superior to other people for their halfwitted purchasing decision even as we tug our monkey down foot pacifiers a little closer to our bodies (mine is a mixture of rhesus and colobus, worth every penny).  And for providing us with this array of luxuries, granting us happiness and permitting us to feel superior to people otherwise indistinguishable from ourselves the companies in question request nothing else except staggering amounts of money (which, let's face it, is getting more worthless by the day) and the ability to run their profits through a trust in the British Virgin Islands to avoid paying any tax.  Cheap at half the price I say.

Monday, April 18, 2016

These Boots Are Made for Being Decapitated in a Monstrously Expensive Car

I wondered briefly today why nobody had revived the TV series "Dukes of Hazzard" then I remembered, it was crap.  They did do a movie version starring Johnny Knoxville.  What can I say about that?  Possibly the kindest thing to say is that it didn't quite reach the same level of character development and plot quality that was evident in the Jackass movies.  I remember watching the Dukes of Hazzard (the tv series, not the movie) when I was a small boy.  I enjoyed the car chases well enough but I was puzzled as to why everybody was so stupid.  I thought they must have been pretending.

Hard on the heels of my brief consideration of the Dukes of etcetera my attention was grabbed by a low slung, gunmetal coloured, growly thing on the road.  It was a Ferrari or a Lamborghini or something like that.  Expensive, low slung growly thing seems to cover it pretty well.  I couldn't help think how utterly ridiculous it looked lurching through city streets at approximately ten kilometres an hour while its engine sounded like it was feeding itself through a recycling plant with an intermittent electricity supply.  I do have to admit that the owner gained some kudos for that classy gunmetal colour scheme.  Normally such cars are painted street hooker orange, gold digger yellow or, at best, midlife crisis red.  Still the car looked and sounded miserable attempting to batter its way through the collected traffic.

Watching its suffering made me reflect on what was the appropriate setting for a Lamborari or whatever it was.  Obviously not the city, and not the suburbs either since the entire population would be lining up to steal the car or at least let down the tires.  The dirt roads and open bush that make up most of our countryside wouldn't seem to be ideal either.  If a Ferraghini encountered a dirt road it would probably have a nervous breakdown until revived with eau de Monte Carlo or something.  Of course the ideal place for such vehicles is a long straight stretch of motorway to enable the car to do the only thing it does well, drive very fast in a straight line.  It is also the only place where the driver can avoid looking like a complete wanker.  At least on a motorway such a car looks like you may have bought it to drive on that motorway.

At random intervals in this otherwise dead straight, flat motorway there should be occasional curves and slight rises.  This is to provide the rest of us with the amusing sight of a wildly expensive sports car twisted into mangled wreckage or soaring majestically (but briefly) through the air en route to being twisted into mangled wreckage.  You may think this is jealousy or a petty minded dislike of expensive sports cars from someone who doesn't even drive a cheap non sports car but strangely you would be wrong.

I think these ridiculously overpriced, utterly pointless cars are just fine.  My favourites are generally Lamborghinis because all the others give the impression of taking themselves seriously.  Somewhere inside Lamborghini headquarters they have a lunatic who is required to make an appreciable contribution to any car they manufacture.  However my appreciation for these cars (as a non driver) is the spectacle they present.  Their appearance is part of it, the sound of the engine another.  Definitely the understanding of the ridiculous amount of money the owner paid for it is its own contribution as is the sight of the vehicle doing what it does best.  Among all the other contributors to the spectacle is the sight of such expensive magnificence ripped into mangled bits and scattered along the sides of roads you can ride a bicycle down if you want.

Its like watching formula one racing.  Nobody actually wants to see a hideous, spectacular accident but if one happens its all everybody talks about.  I think that's what was wrong with the Dukes of Hazzard movie.  Nobody died, especially not Jessica Simpson.  So instead of a gruesomely spectacular movie we're stuck with a relentlessly stupid one.  Oh yes and a cover of "These Boots Are Made for Walking" which makes me nostalgic for the Megadeth version.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Silly After Action Report - Poland Gets Somewhat Charred

Scenario Two of Ivan Kent's and my journey through Poland in Flames.  After singeing Poland in the previous scenario the Slovaks were eager to capitalise on this success.  To do so apparently involved scattering their forces thinly across a number of buildings and waiting for a larger Polish force to counterattack.  This the Poles, apparently filled with a burning desire to recapture this tiny sliver of their rapidly disintegrating country, obligingly did.

With Ivan and I alternating attack and defence I was given charge of the Slovaks once again in Scenario BFP-117 - Silent Bayonets (you know as opposed to the noisy kind we're all familiar with).  I hold a bunch of stone buildings at the beginning of the scenario and have to have retained hold of at least six of them at scenario's end.  I start with eight squads (half elite and half first line) guided by a lowly 8-0 officer with a medium machine gun and a light machine gun for support.  Scenario rules say I can't set up in woods, brush or orchards and can only have one multiman counter per hex.  This means I effectively have to set up either in buildings or out in the open.  There is a graveyard but I don't like setting up troops there as I'm afraid of the effect it will have on morale.  In turn two I get another eight squads (again four elite and four first line) herded towards the front by three officers the best of which is an 8-1.  The rescue team brings a pair of light machine guns and another medium along with them.

Ivan's force consisted of twelve first line squads, a trio of officers, a pair of medium machine guns and fourteen concealment counters.  He could stack his troops and set up pretty much on top of me.  Ivan's job was clear, he had to use his superior (in numbers and quality) force to smash my on board troops, seize the buildings and then hold off my reinforcements coming to the rescue.  Somehow I had to cling on to enough of my position to give my reinforcements something to aim at.

My plan was to set up an arc of largely expendable troops forward (although not so far forward that everyone of them could be killed in the first fire phase) and hopefully cost Ivan casualties as he bulled forwards.  The officer, mmg and a squad or two sat back in the south hopefully protecting my reinforcement route.  The remnants of my forward force would pull back to support these rear area heroes.

I was on the record as not being very keen on this scenario; the scattered Slovak set up, the shortness of the scenario (five turns) and the fact that the Poles had plenty of opportunities to plaster my boys with fire from the outset meant that I envisaged that the scenario would be lopsided, brutal and short.  I was absolutely correct, the only thing I got wrong was which side got brutalised.

At start, I've tried to avoid setting up in areas where Ivan can kill me immediately but it hasn't really worked in the north

From the start nothing went right for Ivan.  His dice didn't just desert him, they sneaked back in the middle of the night and cut his throat.  His very first shot was a 16+3 prep fire attempt in the north which resulted in absolutely nothing.  My 6+1 return fire was enough to break a squad.  This set the scene for how the scenario unfolded.  Ivan's dice weren't flamboyantly appalling, they were just bad enough.  Mine (with a couple of exceptions) weren't staggeringly great but coupled with Ivan's rolls in response they were good enough.

To win Ivan had to push forward aggressively, that meant taking risks and he needed some strong prep fire to help him get there.  He didn't get the strong prep fire and his first line Polish troops wilted under normal morale checks left and right.  On the occasions that they didn't break they pinned slowing his progress even more.

I didn't have the strength to defend all the buildings and Ivan captured a number of them in the centre but I was hanging on to enough to achieve the victory conditions.  In the north every single unit he had there eventually broke except for the ones that outright died.  Casualties to me in the north?  One 6+1 leader which I had previously generated by rolling snakes in close combat.  That's right close combat, normally my mortal enemy, decided to kiss and make up with me for this scenario.  Odds of two to one, three to one, four to one?  Who cares, my Slovaks went in hand to hand and more often than not emerged out the other side covered in glory and little bits of  Polish soldier.
End of turn 1, doesn't look too bad for Ivan you might think.  This is about as good as it got for him
As stated Ivan managed to edge forward in the centre and capture some forward buildings but the cost was murderous and every attempt to improve on the situation cost him more casualties as his troops proved unable of standing up to the most lowly of morale checks.  The principal casualty I suffered was a half squad in close combat and a squad which I killed myself through ineffective attempts at rallying.  Meanwhile my troops in the south had swept away the forces Ivan had there just in time for my reinforcements to pile in.  I barely needed them but they probably shortened the game by a turn or two as, with the tattered remnants of his force effectively surrounded Ivan conceded. 

Towards the end.  Slovaks everywhere.  The few remaining Poles are soon to die.

Ivan's calm and good temper as fate hung him up by his thumbs and beat him until he was soggy was a shaming comparison to my own hysterical raving when the same thing happens to me.  So, a victory to me but not one I'm inclined to boast about.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Ghost in the Tap

The "ghost in the machine" is a phrase first developed by British philosopher Gilbert Ryle primarily for the purpose of taking the piss out of other philosophers.  Specifically he was lambasting the idea that the mind is separate from the body which at the time was apparently the prevailing view.  Personally I would have thought that five minutes with a willing subject and a hacksaw would be enough to test this idea but philosophers like to make things difficult for themselves.  After all if philosophy were easy then any halfwit could be a philosopher.  As it is, it requires a fiendishly sophisticated halfwit to be a decent philosopher.

Cheap shots at philosophers not withstanding they are entitled to be a little bit aggrieved at the free and easy way with which others (particularly second rate science fiction writers) have pinched their concepts and then abused them for profit.  Has anybody not heard the term "ghost in the machine"?  How many of you realised that it didn't actually refer to a machine at all?  I didn't until I started researching (well, googling) the term for the purposes of this blog entry.  Generally whenever the term "ghost in the machine" appears on tv or a movie its in the context of some computer going crazy (think Hal from 2001).  In Johnny Mnemonic they went one slightly better.  In that movie the ghost in the machine was an actual ghost in a machine.  Neither however came anywhere near Ryle's original intent.

What has me waxing on about things philosophical?  Like most other people I thought of ghost in the machine as essentially referring to some unintentional gremlin in technology of some sort and that led me to the haunting of the building I work in.  Yes my office building is haunted.  Buried somewhere within the fabric of a sixty one story building there is the spirit of a malevolent llama (as if there were any other kind).

Glaring hatefully from behind mirrors and through access ports the disembodied llama loathes the living and, as llamas do, desires to spit upon its enemies.  So far all the llama has managed to do is control a tap in the bathroom which blurts long streams of water at random intervals whether anyone is using it or not.  This has been repaired twice to my knowledge yet as I worked late last night with not a colleague around the tap was splattering water against the basin without the intervention of human hands.

At present the llama's anger is largely impotent (unless you're the sort of person deeply worried about water wastage and if you work for my firm you're almost certainly not) but I feel that it's soggy reign of terror has just begun.  So far the llama has only a managed to possess a tap but we have hoses, fire sprinklers, water coolers, dishwashers, coffee machines... in short for a non amphibious species we have surrounded ourselves with enough water dispensing devices to recreate the great flood.  I know that the llama is there, gathering strength, reaching out across the fabric of our building, seeking water wherever it is stored.  One day the dam will burst and my colleagues and I will walk into the office to be hit with biblical streams of water erupting from all directions.  Until that day the llama remains the ghost in the tap.

Friday, April 8, 2016


They say; you know, the mysterious all knowing "They" whose collective wisdom make Aristotle and Confucius look like a pair of special needs kids drooling over their rusks and fingerpainting with their own faeces.  The anonymous, omnipotent They who, more than any other factor, have been the motive force for humanity's journey from the predator haunted plains of Africa to the glittering pillars of civilisation that now grace our planet.  They; guiding, watching, warning, encouraging, always in the shadows, never claiming the credit that is their due.  It's as though the human race has a benevolent stalker one hand always ready to rescue us from disaster.

Who is (are?) this mysterious They?  So nebulous and insubstantial yet so wide reaching and powerful extending into every facet of our lives.  Not a single act, endeavour, idea or emotion is untouched by They now holding us back, now propelling us forward.  They envelops the whole of humanity and yet we are completely ignorant about They.  Or are we? 

Consider this; we do not go to heaven when we die.  There is no paradise, no virgins, no celestial bureaucracy, no serried ranks of ancestors waiting for us to take our place amongst them.  There is only They.  On death we leave our bodies and become part of They residing in the minds of the living guiding their thoughts and actions, bringing a fractious and disparate human race together.

We are our own Gods.  Without temples, without worship, needing no tithe, hearing no prayers yet always present.  The worship is subcontracted to deities created for the purpose to satisfy the human need to have a spiritual focus for their prayers.  In this as in everything else They have provided without giving more than the slightest hint of their own presence and power.  Even as we invoke them we do so half mockingly or with an implied roll of the eyes yet invoke them we do.  We don't even have a name for them, they are just They and  They have never demanded more.  The wisdom of They is apparent in even the most mundane of circumstances.

They say you should never shop for food when you're hungry.  This would explain why I walked out of my local convenience store last night with a bottle of milk, a piece of baklava and a packet of twisties.  Somewhere They are shaking their heads in despair.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Silly After Action Report - Poland Getting Mildly Singed

My frequent opponent Ivan Kent has recently taken delivery of Bounding Fire's latest product, Poland in Flames.  We've decided to go through each scenario until Poland is little more than a pile of ash.  In keeping with my predilection for second rate combatants we have decided to do all of the scenarios involving Slovaks first before coming back to the more incendiary German and Russian scenarios.  So, not so much Poland in Flames as Poland Gets Mildly Singed.

First up is Scenario BFP 105, The Winter City.  On the 1st of September the German army exploded across Poland's borders.  Being in an expansive mood they didn't limited themselves to Poland's borders with Germany but exploded across the Polish border with Slovakia as well, the Slovaks having rented out their backyard to their German neighbours.  As a battle hungry wehrmacht stormed towards things Polish a few Slovakian divisions tiptoed along as well to snatch the fifteen odd square kilometres of Poland that Slovakia, for reasons best known to itself, coveted.  The Poles barely noticed but here and there some of their second line troops found themselves inexplicably locked in battle with an enemy that didn't speak either German or Russian.

I (naturally) commanded the Slovakians, 17 squads of deeply mediocre infantry, a heavy machine gun, a pair of mediums and a pair of lights.  Direction was given by four officers ranging from an inspiring 9-1 to a "why did you bother turning up" 7-0.  Fire support was provided by a single 81mm mortar.  My targets were buildings and level 3 hexes in the Polish set up area.  There were 20 victory points worth of these and I had to seize at least twelve.  Standing firm in my path was the 1st regiment of Poland's Border Defence Corps commanded by that grizzled veteran Ivan Kent. To stop the mighty Slovak surge he had 9 squads, a pair of half squads, a heavy machine gun and two mediums.  He also had 18 concealment counters to help confuse me as to his set up plus four trenches and four foxholes just in case sitting at the top of cliffs and almost unclimbable hills wasn't enough of an advantage.

The first picture shows the set up.  Ivan has set up mainly in the east and centre protecting the bulk of the victory locations but (in my view) leaving himself open to a flanking manoeuvre in the west.  I have detailed a flanking force climb onto the plateau from the west and hopefully sweep all before them.  In the east I have a large force which was designed essentially as a pinning formation to press slowly forward and stop Ivan from reinforcing the west.  Any gains I could get here would be a bit of a bonus.  What with a dry stream acting as a gully and double crest lines any attempt to climb would exhaust my troops and lay them open to devastating fire.  A half squad with the hmg and an 8-1 leader sat back on a hill in the west to hopefully pour some fire down on his units on the plateau.  In the east the mortar set up on pretty much the only useful level 3 location under my control.  Its job would be to pound his ridge forces which I suspected (correctly for once) would be nestled in trenches at the top.

But first, smoke.  I intended to drop a smoke round on top of the ridge and hopefully blind his troops for a couple of turns.  Unfortunately my very first roll of the game, the weather check, was boxcars resulting in gusts.  My mortar dutifully produced the smoke but the gusts meant it wouldn't be hanging around for long.  Things went quite well in the first turn.  Certainly a sacrificial half squad died moving in the open in the east but others slithered and sleazed up to his forward position in the woods and their supports piled up behind creating a somewhat embarrassing traffic jam.  Over in the west my flanking force did indeed flank and made its way up onto the plateau without loss.  Over in the far east a pair of squads sallied boldly forward and mounted the first ridge in the hopes of teasing Ivan into dropping concealment by firing at them (he didn't).

End of turn 1.  Flanking going splendidly but a bottleneck in the east as I try to squeeze a battalion through cover meant for a platoon.
Both Ivan and I were entitled to feel a little hard done by with our heavy machine guns.  Mine proved incapable of so much as stripping concealment from his guys in foxholes in the centre and Ivan's sat under a rain of mortar shells which twice broke the various units manning it.  I obviously had less emotional attachment to my Slovakian soldiers than I do to Italians because I expended them ruthlessly (and sometimes carelessly) sending half squads out to strip concealment by drawing fire.  A number of them died but little by little Ivan duly revealed himself.

In contrast to my "herd the soldiers towards the machine gun fire" tactics in the centre and east I moved my flankers cautiously, easing forward and ensuring a strong base before moving forward again.  Ivan pulled back his forward units as I approached allowing me a good position to (hopefully) lunge forward and seize some locations.  In the east things were more brutal.  We both took casualties and at one point each of us took an enemy half squad prisoner but finally I cleared out his forward position in the woods.  This just left me with the interesting problem of how to climb a very steep hill in the open with a bunch of guys shooting at me.

Heavy casualties in the east but my western flankers close in

Over it all the mortar was my ace in the hole.  It didn't always score a result but a couple of nice rate tears and not one but two critical hits on units manning his heavy machine gun certainly shot my troops forward to a great extent.  Since Ivan was trading space for time in the west I oozed gently forward, occupying what he left but not really challenging his positions until I had built up a powerful force.  Except for one half squad which I sent on a suicidal death run in front of his foxholes to seize a victory location.  My theory was that he wouldn't drop concealment for a mere half squad.  Eventually he did and sent the half squad yelping back in shattered confusion but not until after the location had been taken.  If Ivan wanted it back he would have to hop out into the open.  He decided he didn't want it back.  Things settled down for a couple of turns.  From my firebases in the west I shot at his locations without much result while in the east I got a little cocky after his heavy went down and tried climbing the hill.  They didn't find enough of those guys to bury.

There were twenty victory locations, ten were located on the plateau in the west and centre, the other ten were located in the east on the top of or behind that damned ridge.  Ivan obviously intended to sacrifice the ones in the west as long as he could keep my flankers occupied there and relied on his ridge top trenchline to deny me in the east.  For quite a while it worked.

Gathering victory locations in the west and dying in the east.  Could be an analogy for Germany's entire war.
Slowly my mortar pounded away at his ridge line troops, switching occasionally to hit the plateau when I thought the ridge had suffered enough.  Still Ivan kept a presence on the ridge, slinking away in his movement phase and advancing back.  A second attempt to climb the hill was punished but not as brutally, a half squad survived and with a lodgement I redoubled my efforts.  I also decided bugger climbing the hill and sent a pair of squads trotting down the dry stream bed into the rear of Ivan's position.  My own ridge dwellers in the east charged forwards taking advantage of Ivan's preoccupation with the surviving half squad on the hill side and managed to press up to a trench.  Over in the west I managed to to pile up a large number of squads outside one of his few remaining buildings and sent them in to close combat.

I'm on the record as not liking close combat as it always seems to turn out badly for me.  This time not so much.  Granted there were no swift results but over a couple of turns I managed to kill a couple of squads in the east for the loss of only one in return.  Even better with the game drawing to a close my heavy machine gun decided to do its job and finally managed to break one of his foxhole dwellers on the plateau.

The end of Ivan's turn 4 and things are starting to look up for me
My stream travellers hopped out and captured the building in the rear of his ridge position and the remnants of my pinning force (now severely mangled) finally dragged themselves into a couple of trenches on the ridge.
At the end of my turn seven I had fourteen locations, having seized most of the ridgeline and Ivan didn't have the troops left to recapture them.  The last of his force in the east gallantly died trying but then it was all over.

This was a very enjoyable scenario and a good introduction to Poland in Flames.  The next scenario sees me commanding Slovaks on the defence, a situation which has unpleasant memories for me.  Ivan is positively licking his lips at the prospect.

Nearing the end. A litter of support weapons on the hillside marks where brave Slovakian soldiers died to ensure victory.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Gurgle, Hack, Wheeze, Sniffle

My lungs are currently full of fluid.  I slosh gently as I walk and rolling over in bed puts me in danger of drowning.  For a bit and active person this would be a crippling inconvenience.  For me it just means some aches in the joints and getting tired rather easily.

Incidentally note the flamboyant and overly dramatic way I announce that I have what is, in essence, a cold.  Like most males I'm an irresponsible hypochondriac.  That is I firmly believe that a minor headache is a symptom of an undiagnosed brain tumour while at the same time neglecting to go for the tests that might save my life if it turned out I was right.

Naturally since I acquired my cold (it was on special, everybody had one) my thoughts have been moving along the lines of pneumonia and pleurisy.  This is slightly more plausible as I have had both of these in the past so obviously I have history.  Naturally I haven't gone to the doctor about this either.  In fact the only thing I have done is bought some cold and flu tablets which I'm viewing with suspicion as they no longer have pseudoephedrine in them.  Hopefully whatever their molecule meddlers have come up with in replacement is equally good (and slightly less addictive).

One of the problems with being a hypochondriac nowadays is that suddenly there's a hell of a lot more sick to get.  My brother recently came down with whooping cough for God's sake.  That's something I thought went out with the middle ages.  The problem is that my brother lives next door to a teacher, that teacher educates children, some of those children have parents who are moronic deadbeats and refuse to immunise their offspring.

In theory there is nothing wrong with people refusing to immunise their children.  In fact I would go so far as to say its a very handy way of removing some inferior product from the human gene pool.  The problem is, it isn't only their children who die.  If it was, there wouldn't be a problem.  However a lot of the immunisation we have built up over the years and that I for one took for granted relies on herd immunity rather than specific immunity.  That is nobody is completely proof from the disease but rather we rely on the fact that the entire of society is relatively immune to prevent diseases taking hold.  The only problem with this is it doesn't actually take too many halfwits refusing to vaccinate their children before that ceases to be true.

Some have claimed that herd immunity is a myth in which case the remarkable absence of scarlet fever, whooping cough, diphtheria and various others from our society over the past fifty years or so is just a wild coincidence.  Even if vaccination is pointless obviously whatever it is we're doing now is working so let's not stop. 

For those people who are violently opposed to vaccinating their children I do have some sympathy.  It is never good when officious people start turning up on your doorstep and telling you what to do and forcing vaccination on the unwilling is pretty intrusive.  To those people I ask simply for a little consideration.  If you really hate your children that much kill them in a way that doesn't endanger others.  May I suggest drowning them in the bath.