Saturday, March 25, 2017

Silly After Action Report - Tanks For the Memories

"A Knight's Cross", Hauptmann von Kummerbund muttered to himself, "I can't believe they gave the mad bastard a Knight's Cross."

Junior Officer, his own uniform adorned with the ribbon of the Iron Cross, 1st Class marched up and saluted.

"The armoured units are in position as the Oberst ordered," he reported.  Von Kummerbund stopped contemplating the manifestly unfair nature of warfare and looked at the line of grim, squat armoured vehicles stretched out before him.  Suddenly he frowned and peered closer at one of the vehicles.

"Is that a half track?" he asked pointing at a combination of wheels and caterpillar tracks that rather gave the game away.  Junior Officer nodded eagerly,

"Yes sir, no armour to speak of but they've got a very sexy 37mm that can make a nasty mess of an infantry platoon."

"For god's sake hide them man.  The CO hates halftracks, if he sees one he'll probably have a fit.  Paint extra wheels on the side or something and be quick about it."  von Kummerbund glanced around quickly but Oberst von Kattelrussler was still sitting happily on top of a PzIV tank sucking his Knight's Cross like a pacifier and staring vacantly into the middle distance.  If one were charitable one could say he was examining the enemy positions.  Spotting von Kummerbund before the latter had a chance to duck behind an armoured car von Kattelrussler beckoned him imperiously.

"Wqf dd you hckf weprf?" he asked

"Perhaps if you were to take the Knight's Cross out of your mouth sir," suggested von Kummerbund attempting to ignore the sniggers of the panzer troopers nearby.

"What do you have to report?" repeated von Kattelrussler wiping saliva off his new decoration.

"They have antitank guns sir, and heavy machine guns.  Intelligence suggests that an armoured force may be coming to their assistance."

Von Kattelrussler grinned manically, "Leave the armour to me my dear von Kummerbund.  I shall lead our tanks to triumph, ah why does that man have a bucket of paint?"

"I really couldn't say sir."

"Well tell him to do his interior decorating later, there's a war going on.  I'll command the tanks.  The infantry is yours von Kummerbund.  Lead them to glory!  It should be marked on the map."

Despite himself von Kummerbund glanced at the map his CO had produced.  There was indeed a big X in marker pen with the word "GLORY" written beside it.  Well this couldn't go badly wrong, could it?

So this is the latest Poland in Flames scenario BFP 119, Real Steel.  Here Ivan Kent will attempt to seize a combination of buildings and high ground from my gallant Polish defenders.  To assist him in this obviously futile endeavour Ivan will have fourteen squads of infantry (three elite the rest first line), a flame thrower, a demolition charge, six machine guns of various types and a small mortar.  This force is led by five officers and backed by an impressive armoured force.  A very impressive armoured force actually.  He has a collection of eighteen vehicles ranging from PzIVs all the way down the panzer numbers plus armoured cars, a couple of armoured trucks and a pair of unarmoured halftracks.

To oppose this force I have eleven first line Polish squads, a pair of 37mm anti tank guns, a large mortar, two heavy machine guns and two antitank rifles.  I also have four foxholes and four wire counters to help the defence.  On the second turn I get armoured reinforcements of my own in the shape of ten 7TPjw tanks (with a nice 37mm gun) and a pair of trucks mounting heavy machine guns.

Victory points are allocated for capturing single hex buildings (1 point each), level 1 hill hexes (1 point each) and multihex buildings (15 points each).  There are 87 points worth of locations at the start and Ivan has to capture 50 of them.  In a practical sense this means Ivan has to capture at least one and preferably both of the multihex buildings both of which lurk at the very rear of the board.

Initial set up
Above is the initial set up.  My plan centred around attempting to delay his force rather than halt it at any one spot.  To get the VPs Ivan would almost certainly have to go for the two multihex buildings in the north (just out of shot in the photo) and I set up to impede his progress.  I placed a concealed halfsquad in each of the multihex buildings as a forlorn hope and set up everything else further forward.

Aside from the multihex buildings there were two other VP rich locations; a cluster of single hex buildings on the left and a large hill mass on the right.  To guard the right I set up an hmg team (commanded by a doughty 7-0) and an AT gun on the hill.  I also wired the gap between the hill and the board edge in case he tried a flanking move that way.  A pair of squads (and some dummies) went into the forward buildings near the orchards on the left and I wired the orchard to try and persuade him to either come down the road or cross open ground.  My remaining 37mm I placed in a building to cover the open ground on the left, I didn't expect it to last long but hoped it could take out a tank or two before dying.

On the small hill in the centre of my set up I placed my mortar and my other hmg team where I hoped the could intervene on either flank and I put a couple of squads (one with an antitank rifle) covering the road through the grainfields.  The remainder of my troops went into the village on the left.  This was my delaying force, I intended my reinforcements to bolster my rear around the multihex buildings.

Ivan set his troops up for a strong push on the left with somewhat lesser forces going up the centre road.  Over on the right he had a collection of AFVs apparently going for a flanking manoeuvre.  His left hand push went without incident for a turn or so.  Infantry accompanied by AFVs made it into the orchard and started menacing my forward positions.  A pair of half squads that tried to scoot up the left side of the board got spanked but my AT gun didn't make an impression on his vehicles.  It was a different story on the right where the AT gun managed to take out an armoured car and Ivan didn't help his cause by breaking the MA of a PzI rolling towards the centre.

Then in the second turn all hell broke loose.  With Ivan pushing forward left and right my AT guns stood up like heroes and went on rate tears, slamming 37mm shells into everything coloured grey.  An unfortunate sperm whale that just happened to be passing was caught up in the carnage but such are the fortunes of war.  By the end of the second turn one of my gun crews had been broken but six AFVs had been destroyed.  In the centre Ivan had sleazed my squad in the forward building with an armoured car but then rolled out into the next hex apparently forgetting I had an antitank rifle.  I managed to shock the AFV and eventually it was lost to a UK result and now my own armoured reinforcements were rolling on.

About the end of turn 3.  My reinforcements are in place and Ivan's tank force is looking a little ratty

The next couple of turns were about Ivan methodically moving his infantry up through the orchard (and up the centre road).  He eventually drove my guys out of the buildings near the orchard and also dealt with my centre defenders.  Over on the right he attempted to take out my AT gun with unsupported armour and simply got it all smashed up except for a solitary PzIV which fled the scene and decided to conduct a flanking manoeuvre on its own.  I brought on a couple of tanks to try and counter it.  Another pair went to support the centre hill and four went to the left to shore up an increasingly dubious defence.

Despite his armour losses Ivan looked in reasonable shape.  He had seized the buildings near the orchard and cleared the centre road.  Things weren't helped when I pounded a squad in the wheatfield with an 81mm mortar and only succeeded in battle hardening them to elite status and generated a hero into the bargain.  My mortar proved good at that, a little later in the game it would battle harden one of his elite squads to fanatic status as well.  However then my AT gun crew self rallied like the heroes they were and Ivan's hope of shepherding his troops forward under tank cover melted away.

Mind you my tank force was doing a little melting as well.  He took out a tank on the left with machine gun fire and his flanking PzIV killed one on the right..  Since my boys had to move by platoons that was a little awkward and it was made more awkward as Ivan's surviving PzIV rolled around to challenge the remaining tank on the right.  The odds of my hitting him through a mass of grain were spectacularly low and we had a bit of a duel over there which to my astonishment I won (temporarily) with a shock result on the PzIV.  Sadly it eventually recovered but it was out of action for a couple of turns.

On the far right hill I'd finally pushed my luck too far with the other AT gun, trying to hit one of his halftracks I broke the damn thing and destroyed it on the repair die roll.  However the hmg was still hanging tough (although the officer broke under fire from the halftrack) and I eventually managed to immobilise and then kill the thing.

On the left Ivan made his move, trying to get his tanks forward to help his infantry do likewise but my newly recovered AT gun smashed up pretty much every vehicle he had left while my mortar was gaining useful acquisitions on the buildings he was occupying.  Of course I had to push my luck too far and fire the AT gun at some infantry as well and I promptly broke that gun too.

Ivan's tank force is pretty much gone but his infantry are still strong
With most of his vehicles out for the count Ivan could have been forgiven for cursing the fates (or at least the dice) but instead he settled down and grimly prepared an all infantry attack.  In this he wasn't helped by his flamethrower squad which broke everytime somebody fired a weapon within a hundred yards of them and his only shelter was targeted by my tanks and mortar.

Still he managed to stun the tank carrying my armour leader and I didn't help by breaking the MA of another tank and then recalling it on the repair die roll.  My ATG was also out of action.  Ivan's newly created hero went on a one man flanking attack while his other units in the centre managed to break the mortar crew.  I remanned the mortar with a surplus squad and managed to kill the hero but not before he had used a captured antitank rifle to destroy another of my tanks.

Having successfully rallied the bulk of his infantry (its amazing what a turn or two's respite from mortar fire can do) Ivan launched his final bid for victory on the left.  Meanwhile on the far right his PzIV rolled forward, perhaps in the hope of killing a tank or two before the inevitable end.  His squads in the centre veered left to help the main attack.  Meanwhile my right flank gun crew (now without a gun) trotted unharmed across open ground and recaptured a building.  As counterattacks go it wasn't stellar but it gave Ivan something else to think about.

On the left Ivan didn't charge forward across the road as I had hoped.  Rather he pushed left out of the covered arc of my protecting tanks, captured my recently repaired AT gun and in subsequent turns provided himself with a covered approach by the simple expedient of advancing into close combat with tanks and tearing them apart with his bare hands.  Naturally his flamethrower squad didn't take part in these heroics, they broke on the first piddling fire they received and spent the remainder of the game whimpering in back play.

The end, Ivan is cheerfully ripping my tanks apart with his fingernails but it shall avail him naught

Finally though it wasn't enough, although Ivan took out a couple more of my tanks and captured a couple more buildings I was able to shuffle my village defenders around so that he couldn't capture enough to make a difference.  This was a pretty fun game (for me) characterised by ridiculously low rolling on both sides.  Sadly for Ivan the low rolling started a turn earlier for me when both my AT guns went on a rate tear and took out about five AFVs in one turn.  From then on he was playing catch up.

Hauptmann von Kummerbund ran his hands frantically over Junior Officers body looking for the wound.  He stared at his hands which were soaking wet and strangely grey.
"I got hit in the paint tin," explained Junior Officer with some embarrassment. "The paint got in my eyes and I fell off the tank I was riding."
Von Kummerbund threw up his hands in frustration, all around was the wreckage of a failed attack; burning vehicles, twisted chunks of armour plate and medical personnel attending to the wounded with an enthusiasm that bordered on ghoulish.  He stared at the shattered wreck of the PzIV that Oberst von Kattelrussler had ridden into battle and a desperate hope rose in his breast.  That hope was dashed a moment later when he saw his CO sitting on a fuel drum having his mouth and chin bandaged by an overly cheerful medical orderly.

"Is the Herr Oberst all right?" he asked the orderly praying for a negative answer.
"He'll be fine," replied the orderly.  "Apparently he accidentally choked on his Knights Cross and cut his lip on the edges.  I'm planning to plaster his head as a precaution."
"Carry on," von Kummerbund replied and turned back to the battlefield.  Behind him Oberst von Kattelrustler did a surprisingly accurate charade of a half track being beaten with a stick by a senior officer.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Just Die Already

There comes a time when every species has to call it a day.  Possibly the climate changes or a disaster occurs or some other malevolent species (Humans, I'm looking at you) goes on a killing spree and wipes them all out.  Whatever the reason there comes a time when the world just has to get along without one species or another.  Dinosaurs, sabre toothed cats, dodos; they all had their hour on the stage and when the curtain came down they all retired gracefully to the wings.

Then there are other animals that just won't take a damn hint.  Take the black rhino for example.  This malingerer has been teetering on the edge of extinction for decades but stubbornly refuses to take the final step.  And now, just when it looked like the black rhino had finally summoned up the courage to take the final plunge a bunch of interfering busybodies are getting in the way.  At this point the black rhino could be forgiven if it gave up on extinction and went on a manic breeding frenzy.

But it looks as though it isn't going to come to that.  The latest "let's prolong the black rhino's inevitable death agonies" scheme involves kidnapping a whole bunch of black rhinos (seventy eight at last count) , transporting them to Australia and then dumping them in Dubbo with orders to reproduce until their genitals wear off.  Think of it as a form of involuntary black rhino sex tourism.

The important thing is to get the rhinos out of Africa.  With the horns from a single rhino worth up to $50k on the ivory black market the pressure on desperately poor Africans to supplement their income with a little light poaching is overwhelming.  Removing a large chunk of the surviving rhino population from Africa is their best chance of survival.  Another way of looking at it is to say that wealthy Westerners are removing en masse one of the few methods of economic advancement for some of poorest people on the planet because a selfie with a rhino baby is far more important than the life of an African child from the same region.

I know all of this because the other evening a young lady with an impenetrable Scottish accent came to my door and through skilful use of sign language managed to convey to me that she was raising money to help make this a reality.  I let her continue because I quite enjoyed her hand puppet depiction of a black rhino being shot by poachers but I didn't actually give her any money. 

Still if the scheme is successful then Dubbo will soon be overrun with black rhinos.  Once numbers have risen to plague proportions I believe the intention is to ship them back to Africa and release them back into the wild.  Assuming any of them escape the locals who will no doubt be waiting at the docks with rifles.  That's if everything goes according to plan.  Personally I suspect the black rhinos will be stuck on Nauru for several years while our prime minister attempts to persuade President Trump to resettle them in America.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Come for the Snakes, Stay for the Antivenom

There is a village by the sea.  Nestled between the Eastern Tiers Forest Reserve and Moulting Lagoon Game Reserve (no I didn't make that up) the small village of Swansea looks out onto Great Oyster Bay just south of Dolphin Sands.  An idyllic little spot where the locals spend their time watching the lagoon moult and dolphins run themselves aground on the pristine beaches.  If this palls they can wander along to Kate's Berry Farm for a cup of coffee and (presumably) berries.

Old people retire here and children play here while those between the two these two ages quietly fume at the misbehaviour of their children and parents and count the hours until they can decently return to civilisation.  Before they do they turn out their pockets and shake their bags just to be certain that a tiger snake hasn't slithered in there while no one was looking.

Every Eden has its serpent and if it doesn't its because that serpent has slithered off to Swansea to be among friends.  I called this blogs Poisonous Reptile correspondent and told her to stop covering parliament and get herself down to Swansea.  She responded that she was already there.  Apparently a traditional part of Tasmania's "toughen up the children" programme is to expose them to venomous snakes at an early age.  For this and other reasons Swansea gets a lot of tourists.

My correspondent had brought her children to Swansea on a reptile irritating excursion; just another one of Tasmania's hidden gems that we on the mainland with our "civilisation" and our "life expectancy" cannot hope to appreciate.  To be fair it has to be admitted than in addition to the possibility of poisoning her children my correspondent banished her parents to Swansea some years ago and now feels obliged to make the occasional visit.

Swansea apparently has a plague of tiger snakes.  They slither down the main streets, drop on you out of trees and take the best spots on the beach.  Last year one of them was elected mayor.  My correspondent will admit that visiting her parents has become a slightly higher risk activity than she is comfortable with.  It's not that she doesn't like tiger snakes "lovely people, some of my best friends are tiger snakes" she just doubts our ability to successfully integrate so many of them into the society at Swansea.  It won't be long before disaffected gangs of tiger snakes are roaming the streets making trouble.  Actually according to my correspondent they already are.  Since she came across two of them on a weekend visit I'm inclined to take her word for it.  I'm certainly not going to fact check it myself.

You may wonder, with the streets of Swansea knee deep in tiger snakes, why nobody is doing anything about it.  I indeed put that same question to my correspondent.  Actually what I said was, "What the hell is wrong with your state?" but the tiger snake issue was implied.  But I had underestimated Tasmania in general and Swansea residents in particular.  Something is indeed being done.  Swansea has its very own tiger snake catcher.  If you encounter a tiger snake you simply call this guy and he turns up and takes the snake away, but not very far.  Apparently he tosses all the tiger snakes he catches into an above ground swimming pool on his property in Swansea.  There is at least a suspicion that many of the tiger snakes currently menacing the town are escapees from this pool prison.

This certainly ensures repeat business for the snake catcher and instills a small frisson of excitement into what would otherwise be a tedious trip to the seaside to visit the near dead.  Also, with a pool full of tiger snakes the local stocks of tiger snake antivenom are at an all time high.  Which is convenient because the snake catcher uses most of it himself.  Some people have suggested he might like to wear gloves, or shoes when wrestling with tiger snakes but apparently it's simpler to simply stick antivenom into himself afterwards.  I wonder if its addictive?

Despite her best efforts all of my correspondent's children and dogs survived the trip to Swansea and are currently chasing each other around the (relative) civilisation of Hobart.  I understand she plans to take them all swimming with sharks over the next school holidays.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Oh the Gnumanity

Are you a motivated self starter?  Can you hit the ground running?  Are you willing to undertake long distance travel at short notice?  If so you may be a wildebeest.

Wildebeest are migratory animals.  In fact they seem to do nothing else literally from the moment they are born.  Five minutes after birth a baby wildebeest is able to run with the herd which is handy as the herd won't be waiting for the kids to grow up.  Basically the kids are spat out of the womb, land on their feet and trot off with all the other wildebeest.  All wildebeest (well all the female ones anyway) give birth at roughly the same time.  This is done largely to convenience predators.  For a period of two or three weeks all a lion or hyena has to do is lie on its back with its mouth open and a wildebeest baby is likely to drop into its mouth.

Those that survive join the herd which is moving off.  The southern Serengeti where the wildebeest are born is just about to run out of wildebeest supporting vegetation at exactly the same time as several hundred thousand wildebeest are added to the population.  Fortunately the wildebeest are nature's storm chasers (as well as being nature's idiots).  They head west and then north following the thunderstorms that promise rain and thus fresh grass sometimes moving in small groups, other times in scenery blanketing herds heading towards Lake Victoria.

Sometime around late May a wildebeests mind turns to sex.  For the record a wildebeest's mind goes something like this "food, food, food, food, sex, sex, food, food, food, food, food, food".  The males engage in vigorous and sometimes vicious dominance battles which are completely pointless since the females choose their mates rather than the other way round.  Nobody said wildebeest are smart.  In fact most learned people are prepared to admit that wildebeest are morons.  Or as we would say nowadays "special".

Several hundred thousand "special" wildebeest the females among them now pregnant push on towards Kenya.  By September they're spread across the northern Serengeti eyeing the Mara River which blocks them from Kenya.  Wildebeest are terrified of water.  Water means drowning, crocodiles and the ever present danger that their mascara might run.  Eventually wildebeest wind up stacked seventeen deep along the Mara banks.  Then, with a spot selected, there is an explosion and more than half a million wildebeest take their courage in their hooves and hit the river like a JATO assisted battering ram.  The crocodiles are waiting of course, this is their version of fresh grass after the rains.  Sometimes the wildebeest find a ford, sometimes they hit precipitous banks (they really are rather dumb) but whichever it is they're committed and they go for it.  Crocodiles take many, mud, loose footing, exhaustion, drowning and the like take many more but ultimately no amount of predators or terrain are going to stop two million hooves and one million horns from getting where they need to be.

Once across they pause to play a walk on role in Big Cat Diary and then they're off again.  Heading east now to the forest fringes of the Serengeti and then south again where the rains have returned to the area they were born (and they really were all born there).  They turn up to take advantage of the fresh grass and waterholes provided by the rains, give birth and then with incipient starvation threatening wander off again.

If you think your life is going in circles, if you seem to be stuck in the same routine, well maybe you're a wildebeest.  Pointer signs are a meaningless, repetitive life, an affinity for storms and the mockery of all other animals (except the warthog which is arguably dumber than you are).  Oh yes and occasionally getting eating by a crocodile.  If this sounds like you then you may be able to make money from a nature documentary.  You could call it "My Boring Life".

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Gamble Irresponsibly

Gamble responsibly!  That's the message that seems to be spewing from my television more than any other at the moment.  "Our new gaming app allows you to wager your daughters kidneys on whether or not the horse that comes in first will be grey!  Gamble responsibly!"  Presumably once you get past two kidneys you should stop, or at least have another child.

It's such an exciting time to be alive for the responsible gambler.  A combination of the Internet, creativity, human greed and moral bankruptcy have combined to allow you to bet your house on a Mongolian archery contest from the comfort of the living room that the bailiffs will very soon be throwing you out of.  Apparently you can bet on penguins breeding in the Antarctic while you're hiding in a Kentucky coal mine trying to avoid those unpleasant heavy set guys who seem determined to remove your corneas.

There really do seem to be a lot of gambling commercials on TV at the moment.  Part of it is because I've been watching a bit of sport lately.  There was the Australian Open tennis and now the cricket in India.  And sport and gambling go together like, well like banks and bank robbers really.  You can imagine one without the other but where's the fun in that.  At what point do we decide that the sport itself isn't that important and just sit around throwing money into a hole?  Every single betting company in the world is competing to come up with sexier and more exciting ways of encouraging people to throw their money into a hole.  Responsibly of course. 

I shouldn't really fixate on the "Gamble responsibly" message.  That isn't the gaming companies fault.  They have to put it in there so that the various regulatory bodies that pretend to oversee this stuff can claim they've done all they can.  I'm sure if it was left to them the gaming companies would come up with something a little more plausible.  Something along the lines of "Gamble until you die, you can afford a second mortgage,  steal money from the wife's purse when she isn't looking, the kids don't need those school fees, give us all your money you stupid bastards, dance puppets dance!"  Although their marketing people would probably come up with a snappier version that would slot nicely into their television commercials.

And let's not call it gambling, gaming is a much nicer term if completely inaccurate.  Gaming implies that you're playing a game.  You're not, somebody else is playing a game and you're simply putting side bets on whether the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys is going to come out as gay before Mitchell Marsh scores a century against Bangladesh on a month with an "r" in it.  But gaming has a nice inclusive feel to it.  You're practically part of the team.  You can almost imagine Steve Smith winding up a victory speech by saying, "And we couldn't have done it without those great guys at home betting on whether the stumps would be eaten by woodworm before the thickness of the bats reached two metres.  You're heroes guys!"  And you would bask in reflected glory at least until your in-laws discover that you've sold your wife to sex traffickers to pay off that unwise woodworm bet.

As you can see from the above I'm not crazy about gambling.  I'm not crazy about gambling, I'm not crazy about gambling companies and most of all I am utterly furious at the impotent turd baskets who insisted that the gaming companies put the words "Gamble responsibly" on every single piece of advertising they produce.  People who will gamble responsibly will do so without encouragement from people who desperately want them to gamble irresponsibly.  People who won't gamble responsibly will blow the family fortune on a chook raffle if that's the only game in town. 

It has to be admitted that a lot of my irritation at gambling comes from the fact that its a vice I don't understand.  I get the appeal of pretty much every other addictive, socially destructive, financially ruinous activity, even the few that I haven't actually tried myself.  But gambling is a complete mystery to me.  As such I think I feel even more affronted by it than would otherwise be the case.  I actually understand the motivation of a heroin addict better than I do a chronic gambler.  At least when a heroin addict spends money they get heroin.  A gambler spends money, and that's it.  Show's over.  Move along folks nothing to see here.

Although, now I come to think about it there is something to be said for gambling.  It is addiction in its purest form.  There can't be a way of extracting money from the moronic that requires less effort.  Drug dealers need to source and distribute drugs in order to get money.  Alcohol companies need to make and sell alcohol for the same reason.  They're practically gainfully employed. A gaming company needs to do nothing more than provide a sack for people to throw their money in.  And the best part of it is, that is all they're expected to do.  Never have people paid so much to so many for nothing at all. PR firms and social workers are productive members of society by comparison.

OK, the gaming companies can stay.  If nothing else they serve as a handy moral lesson.  I just wish they'd stop sponsoring sport.  Or to put it another way I wish sporting bodies were less enthusiastic about whoring themselves for cash.  It leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.  Although if you are going to whore yourself you should totally do it for cash.  It turns out betting slips are not transferable, yet.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Very Silly After Action Report

Hauptmann Felix von Kummerbund and another officer too junior to have his own name peered down the road as it ran between a couple of hills.

"Do you think they've got it bore sighted?" asked Junior Officer.

"I would," replied von Kummerbund grimly.  "I wonder how the new CO will want to play it?  It's a shame that Oberst Gehrig came down with that unexpected attack of motor neurone disease, we could do with his wisdom.  That must be his replacement now.  Oh dear Christ!"

A staff car skidded to a halt and a depressingly familiar figure leapt from the back seat, his new rank markings gleaming in the sun.  Oberst Heinrich von Kattelrussler struck an heroic pose and smoothed down his uniform perhaps accidentally emphasising the bright pink and yellow medal ribbon on his chest.  The image was spoiled when the staff car backfired and von Kattelrussler screamed and hurled himself into a convenient ditch.  It took von Kummerbund and Junior Officer ten minutes to coax him back above ground.

"Welcome back sir," lied von Kummerbund, "we thought you were with the Slovakians."
"My work with the Slovaks is done," replied von Kattelrussler proudly, "see they gave me this decoration."
"Ah yes, I'm not sure if I..."
"It's the Order of St Dymphna.  Not many of those get handed out."

"Isn't Dymphna the patron saint of mental illness?" asked Junior Officer in a hushed aside to von Kummerbund.

"Yes and I believe the Order of St Dymphna is traditionally awarded to noblewomen who knit socks for the troops."

"So we have tanks do we?" asked von Kattelrussler breaking in on their private discussion.  "Excellent, I've learnt a few things from my time with the Slovaks, you should see what they can do with an armoured car.  Although believe me you don't want to see what they can do with a cavalry horse."

"The Poles are holding some buildings we need to take," said von Kummerbund trying hard to banish the mental pictures von Kattelrussler had just conjured up.  "They have tanks, a gun or two and a bunch of troops.  We'll need a stealthy reconnaissance and a well thought out plan..."

"The hell with that," retorted von Kattelrussler, "we're doing this Slovak style.  You; Junior Officer, get in that armoured car and drive down the road.  Everybody else, up over the hills and into them.  I'm gonna ride me a tank!"

The Junior Officer watched as von Kattelrussler strode to the nearest tank and wrestled the commander out of it by sheer force.

"What should I do sir?"

"Write a letter to your wife telling her how much you love her and then get in the armoured car.  It might seem silly now but if you survive this day a time will come when you will be glad to say you were just obeying orders."

So this is the next Poland in Flames Scenario; BFP118 Kazina Klash.  Here Ivan Kent will command the recalcitrant Poles still unaccountably clinging to small bits of the motherland while I lead the lebensraum hungry Germans to victory, I hope.  The objective is two small buildings in the centre of the map.  I have to capture both, either that or destroy all of the Polish armour.

To do the destroying I have nine first line squads with three officers and a trio of light machine guns plus an assortment of eight armoured vehicles, a PzI, four PzIIs and three armoured cars of various stripes.  I also get to choose an additional force from a pair of options, either a 75mm artillery piece with a squad and mmg to back it up or a pair of truck towed 37mm anti tank guns.  I chose the latter.  With a ROF of 3 and an IFE of 4 when they're not killing tanks they double as awesome medium machine guns.

On the other side of the hills Ivan has five first line squads, an elite half squad, a pair of officers an anti tank rifle and a hero.  He also has a 37mm antitank gun and five AFVs of his own; a Vickers Ejw(b) (with an impressive 47mm gun), a Vickers Edw(b) (with two turret mounted machine guns), a TKS(L) and a pair of TKS light tanks.  He also got to choose whether he wanted to add an 81mm mortar or a hmg to his force.  He chose the hmg.  Coming on as reinforcements were another squad and another Vickers Ejw(b).

Ivan set up the bulk of his infantry along the tree line, bolstered by the occasional tank.  On the east flank he placed a pair of tanks to cover that approach while he also had a couple of squads forward in the woods to the west and sitting up on top of the western hill.  My troops all came in from offboard.

My plan was to seize both hills and position the ATGs there to take out his armour.  My armour would roll forward dropping smoke to conceal the guns (and hopefully my infantry) as they approached.  A pair of squads with an officer and lmg would move into the trees on the eastern hill to protect my flank while the main push came in the west across the open ground and through the woods.  It all went disturbingly well at first.  Blowing more smoke than a dragon with hiccoughs my tanks rolled forward providing a protective shield for my trucks to haul the guns up onto the hills.  In the west I sent a tank on a suicide run (it was the PzI, expendable) to try and strip concealment from his troops in the woods and followed up with the bulk of my infantry.  First blood came somewhat unexpectedly when Ivan revealed his hero with the ATR which took a potshot at the PzI.  Fortunately it didn't hit and approximately 150 Germans clubbed the hero to death in the close combat phase.  Ivan also had poor luck as a couple of the Polish tanks broke their main armament while firing on my vehicles.

End of the first turn, things are going disturbingly well.

The next couple of turns went well for me, Ivan declined to fight for the western woods against half the German army and pulled back.  As he pulled back I pushed forward, cheerfully risking a few vehicles to get around behind him.

Despite the favourable signs Ivan's main defensive line was intact and all I had done was push forward towards it.  The forward building he needed to hold was stuck in the middle of open ground and in the long term was probably indefensible.  He placed a squad in there so I couldn't simply walk in but a combination of smoke and burgeoning vehicles made the place untenable.  I had almost surrounded his forward troops in the west and had a swarm of vehicles in the centre.  Up on the hills the ATGs were in place and ready to take out some Polish vehicles once the smoke (which I had laid) cleared.

Pushing through in the west (bottom), things are a little more problematic in the east.

In the western forest a close combat raged (and would rage for several turns) but I pushed troops, an lmg and a leader with an atr past them towards the wheatfield.  With the first building in hand and a half squad with nothing to do I sent it on a deathride to the other building.  I didn't expect it to survive but I hoped it might persuade Ivan to drop some concealment.  These heroes stormed through a rain of steel and seized the second building leaving me in the somewhat embarrassing position of not quite knowing how to reinforce them.

Up on the western hill my atg managed to take out his Vickers Ejw in the northeast while on the eastern hill after a couple of false starts the atg there managed to hit and kill one of his tiny TKS the other promptly drove into the gully and tried to look like scenery.

Meanwhile my own armoured casualties were starting to mount.  One of the armoured cars was stunned and another was shocked and in due course killed.  In the west an lmg squad was circling around stalking his Vickers Edw while the officer tried (without success) to hit it with an atr.  I lost some troops trying to get forward and they slunk back to be rallied in the rear.  Far forward my half squad heroes withstood everything thrown at them which was good as relieving them was a little problematic.  Still I was forward and with plenty of tanks left tasked them with taking out his remaining armour and defensive points.

Ivan revealed his antitank gun and started shooting up my tanks, fortunately I could afford to lose a few.  My half squad heroes couldn't win the game by themselves and eventually broke allowing Ivan to recapture the building but in the meantime I had built up a formidable force of tanks and infantry in the centre.  Feeling nervous at my approaching lmg team Ivan sent his Edw out into the open to beat up/divert some of my tanks and I pressed forward.

Then it went to hell for a turn.  I had two squads and an officer plus supporting tanks bearing town on the final building.  Ivan immobilised one of the tanks, another broke its main armament and then his hmg which had been noticeable for its impotence woke up and crushed a pair of squads in a single fire phase.  Suddenly grabbing the last building looked unlikely despite my managing to kill the TKS in the ditch and break his atg crew.  Still, immobilised tanks are cover and I managed to shoot him out of, and slip another halfsquad into, the second victory building.  He had plenty of troops left though and the game teetered on a knife edge.  He had brought his reinforcing tank on to cover the building and would retake the building for the second time.

On the second last turn things weren't looking desperate but they were less than certain.  Then I rallied both squads the hmg had broken and generated a hero into the bargain.  These guys plunged to the rear hunting the tank Ivan had placed there to keep it out of harms way.  In the centre my atg shocked and then killed his second Ejw (although it then broke itself) and my surviving tanks bulled forward sleazing the final victory hex.
Bounding fire pinned the defenders and advancing fire from my suddenly brave infantry broke them.  Meanwhile I overran his hmg team and rolled a couple of tanks to the rear to menace his one surviving tank.

With the building doomed, his surviving tank surrounded by battle hungry infantry and vehicles and with only one turn remaining Ivan conceded.

See Mum, I do win occasionally.

This was a tight enjoyable game.  I think I got the better of any luck that was going but I'm still quite glad to have pulled off a win.  Thanks to Ivan for the game, next up; Real Steel.

Hauptmann von Kummerbund shook his head in disbelief.

"I can't believe that worked.  Dear god, he's going to be unbearable now."

He looked past Junior Officer who was brushing bits of armoured car off his uniform and filling out the Massacre of Prisoners (Surrendered) paperwork to where Oberst von Kattelrussler was doing a victory jig on top of a Panzer II.  As von Kummerbund watched he leaned forward and planted a large kiss on the gun barrel.  Apparently he had forgotten those things get hot when firing.  The ensuing scream was high pitched but somewhat muffled. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Give Me Dopamine

I had fully intended to write a superb blog entry today.  It would have been a blog entry for the ages. There would have been romance, existential angst and a bold challenging of the nature of civilisation itself. Think Jane Austin meets Kafka meets Joseph Conrad.  Then I realised I would do better pitching it as a sitcom to CBS.

So instead we have the usual collection of half baked idea, irrelevant tangents and dubious assumptions cemented together with increasingly laboured attempts at humour.  At least it will make a change from the after action reports which seem to be littering this blog in increasing numbers.  And speaking of which I have a confession to make; this blog entry exists only because I have another AAR to write and I didn't want to post two in a row.

I have to admit that I'm a little concerned that my blog is morphing into a gamers blog by stealth.  The first AAR I wrote was largely a joke to see if I could do it but since that time they've been relentlessly expanding their territory.  At least I haven't quite got to the point of writing impassioned fifteen thousand word essays on the merits of one particular type of counter clipper over another.

So why continue to write the AARs you ask.  At least I imagine you asking just as I imagine you reading this blog entry in the first place.  I have a rich but oddly specific fantasy life.  The answer is; the hits.  More people read the AARs than any of the other entries I post.  For those bloggers with a vast following this probably doesn't matter as much but I get terribly excited every time there are more hits on a blog entry than I possess immediate family.  It's like a shot of dopamine straight to my brain.  Actually it is a shot of dopamine straight to my brain.  I'm not quite sure whether to be depressed at how wretchedly sad my life is or grateful that I'm so easy to please.

So the AARs stay as they are helping to provide a tiny bit of validation in my life.  My friends say I should get out more, meet people or at least wash and put some clothes on.  Perhaps they're right.  If I met people I might be able to persuade them to read my blog.  Come on, Daddy needs his dopamine.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Silly After Action Report - It's Cold, Dark and I Don't Want to be Here

The new year dawned dark and gloomy for the German army in 1943.  Mind you this is northern Europe we're talking about so the new year dawned dark and gloomy for everyone.  Still the German army were the ones being all whiny ass babies about it.  You know the old saying, "If you don't like freezing to death in a semi-barbarian wasteland, then don't invade the damn place."

While the German army was resetting itself from arrogant triumphalism to snivelling self pity Hitler was helping by designating everywhere in the Soviet Union inhabited by more than three people as a "Fortress City" to be held to the last.

"What about Kharkov?" asked Jodl, ever the practical joker.

"Absolutely," replied Hitler with a roll of the eyes and a light spray of spittle.  "Total fortress city, never seen a more fortressy city in my life.  Defend it to the death."

"Actually, the Soviets hold Kharkov," interjected von Manstein trying to build evidence for his later claim that he talked sense to Hitler.

"So take it back and then defend it to the death," bellowed Hitler the spittle quotient increasing noticeably.  "No wonder I'm going mad, I have to think of everything round here."

No doubt von Manstein could have argued and no doubt it wouldn't have done any good.  Instead he dutifully set about the recapture of Kharkov because ultimately it's far easier to condemn thousands of your fellow countrymen to death in pursuit of an insane and morally depraved cause than it is to have an unpleasant conversation.

Where there's a piece of lunacy inspired bloodshed there you will find an ASL scenario.  Eric Fergusson has crafted a scenario entitled Opening Gambit about the German attack on Kharkov which found the 3rd SS Panzer Grenadier Division "Totenkopf"  slogging through snow towards buildings full of Soviet troops determined to defend the only buildings with central heating east of Berlin.  Eric will command the Germans while I will command the brave Soviets defending home and, more importantly, hearth from this collection of murderous thugs in uniform.  It's night, there are snow drifts everywhere and it would be easier to find a warm spot in Stalin's heart.

Eric's forces consist of the notorious Totenkopf division recruited from concentration camp guards and other such touchy feely occupations.  Even for the SS their atrocity record was pretty impressive.  Possibly they were given point on the push into Kharkov on the very reasonable assumption that if they all died they wouldn't be missed.  Eric has eight squads of tough SS assault troopers, four half squads of the same commanded by five officers ranging from a modest 8-0 to an impressive 9-2.  He has an almost embarrassing number of machine guns, several DCs a pair of flame throwers, eight halftracks, a pair of PzIII and four PzIv tanks.

Mind you my troops are no shrinking violets either.  Ten 4-5-8 elite squads, four 6-2-8 assault engineers, a couple of DCs and a flamethrower of my own plus a couple of light machine guns plus one medium and one heavy.  All this firepower is under the command of four officers including my own beefy 9-2.  On the first turn three T-34 tanks roll on to share the love. 

There are twenty victory locations on the board and the Germans need to take eleven of them to win.  My guys set up snuggled in buildings while the Germans must roll on through the snow and darkness.  In the no mans land between the lines an abandoned factory is getting pounded by Russian artillery.  This is totally out of my control.  Higher command has demanded this factory be flattened, the artillery will do that and then stop but it does mean that the Germans can't just roll down the main street.  Oh yes and I have an 85mm AA gun set up in a position carefully designed so that it can have no influence on the game.  If the Germans can capture the centre building and destroy that gun its an automatic win

Below is the first turn.  I've set up with a strong force in the south and a smaller, essentially throwaway force in the north.  Anchoring this in the centre are two squads with the hmg and the mmg under the command of my two best officers.  The NVR is three so a lot of the first turn consisted of peering into the gloom and praying that the Germans get lost on the way in.

I'm not very familiar with the night rules and such complexities as starshells and the like are beyond me.  I dealt with this by simply pretending I was playing in daylight except for the fact that I couldn't see further than three hexes.  Oddly this worked quite well.

Eric started with two main forces, one north and one south and rolled halftracks forward to sneak around behind me and start cutting rout paths.  I had no counter to this in the north and in the south I wasn't worried as very soon I would have three T-34s that could easily deal with such nonsense.  Oh Neil you overconfident fool.

The first couple of turns were light on action as Eric worked his way into position.  In the north he skirted the artillery fire and started systematically dismantling my defences.  It took a few turns but soon all I had there was a broken elite squad in the far north a collection of dummies and another elite squad I had raced up to reinforce.  In the south I rolled a T-34 up to a marauding half track and promptly broke the main armament.  My tank force reduced by a third.  With little to lose I pushed that tank forward on suicide watch so its machine guns could bolster my forward defences.  Fortunately for my blood pressure a second T-34 did manage to kill the damn half track.  With only two functional tanks left I held them back waiting for the Germans to come to them which they obligingly did.  One PzIV looped round the south and I managed to destroy it but nemesis was arriving with the rest of his tank force.  

The north is more or less gone and Eric is pushing through in the centre/south

A combination of smoke, vehicle bypass and close range firepower swept me away in the north but it was different in the south where Eric had difficulty bringing his full force to bear.  It didn't seem to matter as the price I had paid for a good forward defence was to be weak in the centre.  I had hoped my heavy and medium machine guns would be able to help here but while they were good at holding their own building Eric managed to sneak significant forces past them to tackle the southern building clump from the north.

Outnumbered and out manoeuvred I had to commit one of my tanks to cover a withdrawal to the south, conceding a victory building virtually without a fight and losing the tank into the bargain although it did manage to immobilise a PzIV in the process.  In the south Eric destroyed my useless tank and rolled another PzIV into a building where it promptly bogged.  Unfortunately it bogged in a useful position and destroyed my remaining tank.  It also prompted me to withdraw a little in the south.

Still I wasn't entirely downhearted.  I still had a solid defence in the south.  My tank sacrifice wasn't in vain and I solidly controlled the two southern victory buildings.  My machine gun teams held the centre building and as for the north, well I had a little plan for that.  In the first couple of turns one of my squads had broken and routed to a building in the far north.  Then I forgot about it for a couple of turns and so it would appear did Eric.  With the north virtually won Eric detailed troops to move south against the centre building whereupon I self rallied the squad and snatched back a victory hex or two.  Eric had to commit some troops to retake old ground.

The north is pretty much gone but the centre and south hold for the moment

Sadly although I was hanging on tough with my tanks gone Eric could use his with impunity and it didn't matter how many he lost.  He had been rolling for starshells every turn and in turn five he finally got one he could use, blinding my troops in the centre building and then advancing into the street and placing DCs on both stacks.  For good measure he rolled tanks into the building as well which turned out to be a good move as neither DC actually managed to do me any damage.  Down in the south my defence hung solid and I would hold those buildings until the end of the game but with my centre troops fighting tanks with their fingernails he was able to capture most of the building.

In the north my brief renaissance had come to an end as he pushed my troops out of the recaptured hexes and advanced into close combat with my final defender there.  A quick count up put Eric one short of the victory hexes he needed so this close combat would decide the game.  He had a 3-4-8 SS half squad and a 9-1 leader against my own 2-4-8 half squad.  I made all sorts of outrageous promises to the dice gods but they've heard it all before and Eric won the close combat and the game.

The end.  Eric has the north and most of the centre. The south is mine but the south is not enough

This turned out to be a very close game with some good swings of fortune.  Kudos to Eric for designing a fun scenario and much thanks for the game.