Sunday, April 30, 2017

Upgrade or Possibly Delete (just a little Cyberman humour there)

Well the time has come.  I know many thought this day would never arrive but there seems to be no help for it.  I am replacing my computer.  Yes that noble box of circuits and, er, whatever the hell else a computer contains, is about to be retired.

To be fair the writing has been on the wall for a while.  There is only so long that one can keep using a clapped out XP operating system which ceased being supported in 2014.  And it has to be said that the computer itself has been making known its desire for an honourable retirement for some time.  On start up it's healthy hum, redolent of bees in the springtime, has changed to a clattering whine which would indicate that one of the hamsters in the wheel has died and got its leg caught in some of the cogs I fondly imagine exist inside my computer.

Actually I know there are no cogwheels inside my computer.  The last time I opened it up the most exciting thing I found was a family of spiders who cursed at me and demanded I turn out the light.  Somewhere in there amongst the dust and a littering of spider corpses is whatever it is that makes the computer work.  I try not to touch it in case it decides not to.

I've got to admit I'm not crazy about this replacement.  It means I've got to figure out Windows 10.  I use it at work and I think the whole thing was designed for (and possibly by) autistic five year olds.  It also means I've somehow got to get all of the stuff on my old computer (hopefully less the viruses and evidence of criminal activity) onto the new one.  Finally I've got to plug in the modem and beg it to work.  All of this would be standard for most people but my computer skills end at being able to turn the thing on and I am not looking forward to the inevitable hysterics and tears that will accompany my efforts to upgrade.

The first step in this personal technological renaissance is get a new computer.  Fortunately I've subcontracted that job out to a convenient seventy five year old who knows a lot more about computers than I do.  I like to think these occasional chores help keep my father's mind active and stop him from sliding into senility.  Something else that stops him sliding into senility is the fact that he is constantly having to come up with new ways to bemoan the fact that he has managed to raise a son who can't work a computer, drive a car, change a light bulb or indeed function as a normal human being for more than twenty minutes without stopping for a rest.

An indication of my disfunction is the fact that I thought it would be clever to change the name of my blog.  Since I did that the number of hits on my blog has dropped to pretty close to zero.  This may be because the old links don't work any more or because people don't want a term like "shooting kittens for food" all over their browser history.  I wouldn't worry about that last bit.  If you google the term most of the hits relate to firearms attacks on a strip club in Melbourne (with which I had nothing to do, honest) and nothing more normal or ordinary can be imagined.  Police suspect an outlaw bikie gang might be involved.  Well I'm glad to see they've ruled out all those law abiding bikie gangs out there.

At some point in the future I will take possession of a new computer.  Some considerable time after that I will have all that I require up and running.  Alternatively the computer may find itself being hurled out a convenient window as I collapse sobbing onto the floor or, to be strictly accurate, just before I collapse sobbing onto the floor.  If nobody hears anything from me ever again it will be obvious that my tech upgrade didn't go the way I wanted it to.  Or possibly you're just not prepared to type "Shooting Kittens For Food" into your search engine.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Silly After Action Report Part 2 - Hot Guns and Cold Infantry

My third turn started with a bang.  Specifically the bang of my 100mm getting another critical hit on an infantry squad.  Ivan survived this one rather better with only a K/4 result but it put another German squad out of the picture.  Keeping rate I eagerly fired at a neighbouring squad and of course broke the gun.  I suppose if half your rolls are dreadful and the other half spectacular it balances out as even.  I followed this up by shocking a PzIV with the 40mm and things looked a little better in the north.

Still I was desperately short of infantry and greeted the arrival of my reinforcements with relief.  Feeling unjustifiably confident about the situation in the north I loaded my six squads of infantry into trucks and raced them up to garrison the buildings in the centre.  In the north I brought on a tank and my dinky little 47mm SP gun plus a truck towing my 75mm.  Hopefully this accumulation of firepower might slow his onslaught.

Meanwhile far to the south he had a lonely halfsquad with an atr guarding the southern board edge.  I decided to take this challenge head on and brought on four tanks (plus an infantry squad) on the southern edge to hopefully overwhelm him with metal, that sort of worked.  I felt a little silly when two tanks each toting a pair of 6FP machine guns couldn't hurt him with pointblank 12FP shots but fortunately Ivan decided to flee rather than fight and I broke him while he attempted to withdraw.

Finally up in the north I decided to try and preserve my hmg team by pulling it out of its heavily acquired hex to the next building hex along.  Whereupon Ivan revealed a squad and mmg team guided by a 9-2 leader who promptly killed them all.  Not quite the result I was hoping for.

With my final reinforcement cards played Ivan moved to consolidate his gains in the north and centre.  Up in the north he rolled a PzIV behind a wall where it could sight onto my newly arrived armour and sent a squad to take out the crew of my newly broken 100mm.  Fortunately these guys proved to be pretty hot stuff even without their gun and they broke the squad with their personal weapons and clung to their broken ordnance for another turn.

Somewhat to the west my remaining infantry in the north was clinging to a multihex building while Ivan built up around it.  Now Ivan decided it was time for the building to fall.  A mortar dropped smoke on a squad in a foxhole while a pair of half squads cut off all retreat from a broken squad nearby, this would soon garner him another batch of prisoners.  With that taken care of he drew the attention of the squad defending the building and with its fire expended moved a squad forward.  He was confident my concealed unit was a dummy stack.  It might as well have been as an 8-1 shot gained no result and Ivan was able to advance into the building now seen to be defended by two squads.  Meanwhile just below it he raced a leader led squad/lmg team forward to the hedge overlooking the north south road.

In the centre he inched forward over the hill.  My hmg team wasn't really hurting anyone but they were at least inducing a level of caution.  He rolled a tank around the hill in the south and pushed it forwards towards the building behind.  Here I revealed a squad and an atr and managed to shock the damn thing much to my relief.  Unfortunately he also pushed a halfsquad next to these guys.  In the next turn a 4+2 shot would break my defenders.

My next turn started off auspiciously when my little SP gun managed to punch a hole through the turret of Ivan's big, mean PzIV that was threatening it with death.  Down in the centre my atr squad managed to shock his PzIII again (before succumbing to the 4+2 shot mentioned earlier).  With this as a starter I set my plan in motion.  I intended to completely reverse my fortunes in the north.  My two little tanks which had spent the entire game hiding in a wheatfield rolled up, overran a broken squad in the street and took up guard positions near my 40mm gun.  Ivan helped by breaking the MA on his one remaining PzIV.  Meanwhile to in the south one of my reinforcing tanks took a low odds shot at a PzII and blew the thing up.  I was getting quite excited but the best was yet to come.  In the centre my mighty gun truck went on a demented rate tear and broke the lmg squad and leader that had penetrated to the hedge.  Thanks to my guys in the western building these boys would die from failure to rout.

Up on the hill in the centre things got a little iffy.  Ivan through enough metal at my hmg team to build a tank and as a result the leader went berserk.  Sharing the love he sent the halfsquad manning the hmg berserk as well.  Fortunately this happened in the defensive fire phase so I've got another turn of use out of them but after that it has to be admitted I envision nothing but death for these guys.  I'm literally hanging on by my eyelids there and Ivan is getting another eight squads of troops (plus some more tanks) at a time convenient to himself which I somehow have to fend off.

After a truly glorious turn it was only to be expected that it would end in tears.  I mentioned I had a plan.  Yep, I would clean out the enemy in the northwest.  I had two squads to his one in the victory building there and all two lots of 8+2 prep fire had been able to do was pin them.  No problem, they would be easy prey for close combat.  Meanwhile my one remaining squad, choking on smoke in its foxhole advanced into CC with the halfsquad Ivan had sent round behind me.  So I was depending on close combat to clear out the enemy, somewhere in the distance I can hear God laughing at me.  My attack on his halfsquad was sort of successful.  I killed him and he CR'ed me in return.  Still a halfsquad gone and a German lmg for me to pick up.  In the victory building I had two full squads against a single pinned squad.  He would attack me at 1-4 and I would attack him at 2-1.  Despite being pinned he ambushed me.  Then he rolled snake eyes.  Two squads of mine wiped out for absolutely no loss to Ivan and a victory building conceded by default as there were no longer any living Poles in it.

Ivan may have mistaken my silence for a stroke because he suggested we end for the night after that.  Once I regained the power of speech I agreed.  In one close combat phase I lost two and a half of the three squads I had left in the north.  Ivan doesn't have to beat me, he can just move in unless my armour can somehow fend him and his mass of reinforcements off.  I won't say I can't win from here but a hell of a lot is going to have to go right.

Let's see if I can defend without infantry

The picture above is blurry because I was weeping on to it.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Silly After Action Report Part 1 - Not Another Polish Village

Oberst von Kattelrussler's command staff crouched a little lower in the damp bog he had chosen as his headquarters and waited for their CO to arrive.  Hauptmann von Kummerbund took the opportunity to pour a stream of water out of one of his boots while dodging shrapnel.  The large sign the oberst had ordered erected saying "not a German command post!" in Polish was serving as a useful registering point for enemy artillery.  Von Kattelrussler's staff had a history of wound and bravery decorations that put most assault units to shame.  When the shelling subsided a little von Kattelrussler joined his subordinates for the morning briefing.

"Well gentlemen," he announced, "it's another Polish village."

"Just for a change," muttered von Kummerbund.  He strongly suspected that von Kattelrussler was selecting their objectives from a street directory.

"Simple enough," continued von Kattelrussler, "we've done it all before.  The infantry will just charge in and beat up the Poles.  Any questions?"

"What about the tanks?" asked von Kummerbund.

"The what?"


"You're welcome," replied von Kattelrussler.

"No sir, our tanks."

"You're welcome."

Von Kummerbund took a tight grip on his rapidly disintegrating sanity,

"What about our panzerkampfwagen?"

"Our what?"


"What are they?"


"You're welcome."

Von Kummerbund gave up,

"No further questions oberst."

"Excellent, von Kummerbund you'll take in the infantry.  I'll lead the tanks."

"You're welcome," said von Kummerbund and then hated himself intensely.

Ivan and my latest foray into Poland in Flames is BHP121 - Old Friends.  This pits elements of the Polish 10th Motorised Cavalry brigade against the German 2nd Panzer division in defence of yet another of the interminable Polish villages that need to be captured so the newsreels can show triumphant images of PzIIs crashing through hedges.  In this one Ivan will lead von Kattelrussler's long suffering troops attempting to winkle my gallant Polish defenders out of the village of Trzciana.  Due to what can best be described as  breathtaking incompetence I either forgot or ignored the fact that Ivan's reinforcements could come on from three sides and set up to defend against an attack coming solely from the west.  I had already decided to concede the buildings in the centre (although not without a fight) and hold those in the north with maniacal determination.  I set up my foxholes in the north linking up with the westernmost multihex building and garrisoned them strongly.  A halfsquad with a little mortar took position in a wheatfield and a leader plus an hmg team went upstairs in a multihex building to the rear.  On the ground floor I placed my 40mm AA gun sighted down the road.  My 100mm gun I placed in some forest near the boards edge in what turned out to be a rather dangerous position.  Some dummies and a couple of squads were forward in the forest.


At start set up
In the centre I placed a squad in the stone church at the front of my setup area, mainly so I didn't concede a victory building without some sort of fight.  Another leader plus hmg team was in a building up on the centre hill.  The small wooden buildings to the south of the hill were occupied by a squad and more dummies.  Finally at the very south of my line another halfsquad with a mortar guarded the approaches and my 37mm gun hid in a building nearby.  The rear multi hex, multi material buildings were guarded by one of my machine gun toting trucks and in what turned out to be a fortuitous piece of positioning the other was placed behind a hedge looking straight down the centre.  My two small tanks were in a wheatfield in the north awaiting events.  I boresighted a couple of totally irrelevant hexes and was ready.
Ivan promptly invalidated my entire plan by driving hard towards the centre with the bulk of his force and detailing lesser troops to start pressing in the north.  Two of his armoured cars shepherded the bulk of his infantry towards the church and my defenders on the hill while another, accompanied by some infantry headed south likely to block the approach of my reinforcements whose arrival I had completely forgotten.  This southerly move gave me my first chance to inflict casualties.  Ivan always gets great results with the Polish 46mm mortars when he has them and it was with a cocky smile that I dropped concealment and fired at his approaching infantry.  I rolled an eleven and malfed the mortar.  I tried a little more defensive fire and failing to roll lower than ten subsided into sulky silence.  I didn't fire my guys in the church.  With half the German army bearing down on them I figured concealment was the best thing for them. 

My own turn was modest in its achievements.  I tightened up a little in the north and hid under concealment counters in the south.  Naturally I failed to repair the mortar.

The position at the end of German turn 1.

The next turn arrived and Ivan pressed on.  In the south he rolled his armoured car directly into the path of my 37mm and barely able to restrain my excitement I managed to punch a large sized hole in it.  In the centre he attempted armoured assaulting forward but my well placed machine gun truck (brilliant deployment Neil) broke the squad nevertheless.  In the next turn the same gun truck would blow up the armoured car in a ball of flame.
Ivan brought a pair of tanks on to support his troops around the church and swarmed all round the building but my guys maintained stern fire discipline and survived all prep fire without losing concealment.  Finally Ivan ran an entire squad in front of the defenders and I took a 4-2 shot, and rolled another eleven.  Up in the north Ivan brought on another pair of tanks and a group of mortar toting infantry.  Suddenly I felt rather unwell, the game wasn't two turns old (well it was, just) and what I intended to be my main strongpoint was under threat from the front and rear.  I didn't panic (I was too busy crying), I just sat there and hoped for the best.  There was one sliver of good news, Ivan had brought his reinforcements on on either side of my 100mm gun hiding in the trees.  Unfortunately neither group actually placed themselves in my line of sight.  Still he has infantry heading towards my machine gun post (he doesn't know about the 40mm yet) and surely an opportunity will come soon.

Well the church is doomed but I'm more worried about the north

With turn three Ivan brought on a couple more tanks in the north (but is obviously holding his infantry back for something special.  He finally shot my church defenders out from under the pews and they fled yelping into a graveyard to surrender.  He offered me a glorious target for my hmg team up on the hill but I totally failed to hurt them.  With halfsquads leading the way he pushed forward and I grudgingly retired.  Up in the north though there was a brief and unexpected renaissance of my fortunes.  My hmg team in the rear building managed to break the crew of one of his mortars and I finally got a target for my 100mm when he pushed another mortar toting squad forward directly into its line of sight.  The ensuing critical hit vaporised squad and mortar both and allowed me to swing the gun round to engage the infantry now pushing towards my hmg post.  Since my other mortar crew died attempting to get away from a PzIV Ivan had rolled up near him its fair to say this game has been rather hard on the mortar teams.

This is more or less where we left it for the night.  My reinforcements arrive next turn and with any luck I'll be able to deploy them in such a way as to buy myself a few more turns of wretched panicked existence.  I'm burning a small wax doll of Ivan before the we resume and hope for great things.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Parking Technology

I wandered along to the Australian Technology Park the other day.  For those not familiar with this concept a technology park is sort of like an industrial estate for smart people.  It is packed with research institutions, high tech companies and Channel 7 in what I can only assume is an act of unconscious irony.  Some years ago the state government decided it would be a great idea to create a precinct where just institutions could operate.  Apparently being a cutting edge innovator doesn't mean you can innovate yourself a place to work.

So the word went out from on high (Macquarie Street actually);
"Let there be a technology park that Australian ingenuity and creativity shall have a home where it can be nurtured and thrive.  And just for laughs, let's chuck Channel 7 in there as well."
But where could such a precinct be placed?  Hastily the government shuffled through such of its property portfolio as hadn't already been earmarked for casinos and toll roads.  In some desperation they selected one at random and said, "This is the place!"

Just near Redfern there was a wide swathe of post industrial wilderness littered with sheds, rails, workshops and derelict rolling stock.  This tangled piece of industrial decay dated from a time when Australia was deemed capable of building and maintaining its own trains and was thus very surplus to requirements.

Without a hint of irony the state government decided to build its technology park on the grave of what was once one of the largest and most cutting edge centres of heavy engineering in the southern hemisphere.  Quite a lot of the old buildings were still solid so they kept them.  They then picked up all of the old tools and equipment lying around and, finding enough for a museum, dumped them in one of the buildings.  The intention is to turn it into a museum one day, maybe.  With space cleared, grass mowed (and then covered in bricks) and the remnants of yesterday's technological achievements herded onto a reservation the way was cleared to put in plazas and new modern looking buildings.  At the moment they're building a car park.  How technological is that.

I dropped by the technology park for a visit last Saturday to check out this home such of our brightest and best who aren't working overseas.  It was quite pleasant to walk about with its broad plazas, repurposed old buildings of red brick and brand new buildings totally failing to blend in.  All in all it was rather impressive.  It was also deserted, apparently innovation doesn't work weekends.  The only activity came from the centre of the site where the property developer that the government sold the place to was, as previously mentioned, engaged in digging a relatively non innovative car park.  Still once development is completed (in just a few years into the future, honest) the developer claims it will be a vibrant, lively precinct for people to work and play.  They've just got to finish the car park first.

In ninety or a hundred years time when our insect overlords decide to build a new technology park to highlight the achievements Australia has made under cockroach domination I'm sure they'll be able to repurpose the old railway sheds again.  The more modern buildings will probably have to be demolished though.  And we'll need more parking.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Birthday Greetings #65

OK, hands up anyone who expected this blog entry to be entitled "Shooting Kittens for Food".

Nope, I just loved the title but I've played with it enough so that a blog entry could only be an anti climax.  So instead; happy birthday to Flavius Gratianus, Roman emperor known to us (or at least to me) as Gratian.  Gratian was the son of Valentinian who came to power when his predecessor made the mistake of eating mushrooms without asking who prepared the food.

Valentinian divided the empire in half (as was now more or less traditional) and settled down to rule the western half while tapping his brother Valens to take over in the east.  Gratian was made co-emperor by Daddy at the age of eight and took over the top job when Valentinian burst a blood vessel while yelling at some barbarian envoys (this is why you employ a foreign minister) at the ripe old age of fifteen.  A few days later he appointed his infant younger brother, Valentinian II, as co-emperor.  The last sentence is a diplomatic fiction (see, this is why you employ a foreign minister).  In actual fact Gratian was with his armies in Gaul and the armies on the Danube, irritated at the idea of an emperor with no connection to themselves simply appointed Valentinian II without any reference to the man who was supposed to be their boss.  Wisely Gratian accepted the situation, it was unlikely that Valentinian was going to have much input on policy for a number of years.

The first couple of years of Gratian's reign were occupied by the sort of murderous court struggles that take place when a young inexperienced monarch is learning his job.  Gratian learned fast though, the court struggles ended when he executed the leaders of both rival factions.  After which he turned over running of the empire to a convenient poet.  Gratian was definitely the man in charge though and he announced his new found maturity by slaughtering a bunch of handy barbarians (well his army and his generals did the slaughtering but Gratian was aware of the events in general terms).  He followed this up by personally leading his army across the Rhine (the last emperor to do so) and stomping the barbarians in their homeland.

All of this was well and good but there were grim tidings from the east.  Uncle Valens had got himself into a horrible mess.  Briefly speaking his empire had come down with a severe attack of Goths.  A combination of corrupt officials, self serving officials, incompetent officials and just officials generally had managed to convert a group of asylum seeking Goths into a massive, predatory army marauding through the Balkans and stealing all of the bits not nailed down.  Valens was nobodies idea of a genius but one sight of the Goths made him realise this was a threat that needed a full scale imperial response from both halves of the empire.  Dialing in his army he marched for the Balkans and sent a message asking Gratian if he wouldn't mind turning up with as many soldiers as he could spare.

Unfortunately Gratian, busy beating up the barbarians on the Rhine, was going to be somewhat late for the meeting.  On hearing this such good sense as he possessed deserted Valens and he took on the Goths single handed.  One brief afternoon later and the eastern empire had neither an army or an emperor.  Gratian was appalled.  His own army was more or less sufficient to handle the threats faced by the western Empire, now somehow he had to scrape together a force to defend the eastern one as well and, oh yes, appoint a replacement emperor.  The second part was significantly easier than the first.  A bloke named Theodosius was currently living in discreet retirement in Spain after falling foul of court intrigue.  He was a capable general and a distant relative so Gratian sent him an "all is forgiven" telegram and appointed him Emperor of the East.  When Theodosius saw the condition of the east he must have doubted whether anything had been forgiven at all.

Still between them Gratian and Theodosius managed to present a handful of successful skirmishes and some desperate negotiations as a major triumph.  To replace the eastern field army, most of whom were dead, they hired the nearest available source of manpower; the Goths.  So basically the Goths were rewarded for rampaging through the empire by being given government jobs and (most significantly) allowed to maintain their own rulership structure within the empire.  This meant that the empire suddenly had a powerful and largely independent ethnic minority living inside the borders.  Multiculturalism being in its infancy at the time this was not considered a good thing but its difficult to see what else Gratian and Theodosius could have done.

With something vaguely resembling peace established Gratian returned home to the west and things started going downhill.  Gratian was a Christian which was fine in the east but a lot of the west was still Pagan.  His father (despite being an ill tempered bastard) had treated the Pagans gently and generally given them little cause for concern.  Gratian, under the influence of a meddling priest (his name was St Ambrose of Milan if you're interested), took a distinctly harder, pro Christian line.  This delighted St Ambrose of Milan and pissed off a lot of other people.  Quite a lot of those other people had swords.

But Gratian wasn't finished.  All of his earlier decisiveness and battle skill seemed to desert him and he spent his time favouring Alan mercenaries over his other troops and lounging around dressed up as a barbarian warrior.  This would have been socially dubious at the best of times but when half the empire's army has just been slaughtered by a group of barbarian warriors dressing up like one was not exactly clever behaviour on the part of the emperor.  People started to mutter.  Specifically the soldiers started to mutter.  And what they muttered was "Wouldn't Magnus Maximus make a much better emperor?"

Magnus Maximus duly raised the standard of revolt and Gratian roused himself from hunting and playing dress ups to lead his army against him.  He met Magnus but no battle happened due to the fact that virtually his entire army deserted to the enemy, he really was unpopular by this time.  Following the example of his army Gratian deserted himself and fled to Lyon where one of his few remaining supporters turned out not to be and stabbed him to death.  He manged to achieve all of this before his twenty fifth birthday.

Not Quite an Easter Blog

Those of you who follow my blog with a devotion bordering on desperation will no doubt have noticed that I have not made an Easter blog entry.  Yes, for once the holiday has passed without my comments on Paschal the Lamb or the creative use of crucifixion to get a couple of days off work.  Just on that topic I would point out to those attempting to stretch the public holidays further than they should that although Jesus may have used his condemnation and hideous death to get out of a long Friday's carpentry he was back on the job again on Monday.

Frankly I think a career in carpentry is good preparation for being crucified.  Every time Jesus banged a nail into his hand he was inadvertently readying himself for the tough times to come.  He probably gave the Romans tips while they were doing it.  How to hold the nails, where to position them, possibly having a quiet chuckle to himself when the centurion accidentally hit his thumb with the hammer and muttering "amateur" under his breath.  Jesus seems like a glass half full kind of guy.

Now, a couple of thousand years later we (and by "we" I mean the notionally Christian, those who live in notionally Christian countries, agnostics and atheists who just want a holiday and the occasional genuinely religious person) commemorate this event by giving each other chocolate eggs, and diabetes.  Some of us go to church.  I would advise against that personally.  It isn't that I dislike churches per se, its just that they're always so crowded at Easter.  Churches are much more fun to walk through when there's nobody else around.  If the church is old enough its like being in a well directed horror movie.  And yes I realise its a little disturbing that that's my idea of a good time.  If the church is modern it gives you an opportunity to shake your head over the decline in religious standards in recent centuries.

Basically a religion can either be modern, relevant and useful to its believers.  Or it can be religious.  Nobody seems to have yet squared that particular circle.  The simple fact of the matter is that religious faith is old, incredibly old.  It's one of the oldest things that humans invented and is still one of our most spectacular creations.  It guided people through times when we had no science and we had no knowledge and we had no hope and somehow it persuaded enough of us to keep on going so that we got to somewhere better, ie; here.  What it isn't is modern.  When it tries it just becomes another semi useless social services organisation and frankly we've got enough of those already.

But all of this doesn't explain the lamentable absence of an Easter blog to entice my readers off the ledge they no doubt crawled out onto when they saw the absence of said blog entry and give them a reason to continue with their lives.  I could claim ill health or pressing business or sheer disinterest but the truth of the matter is I was just lazy.  While I sprawled in my armchair sneering at the television (but not prepared to go to the effort of reaching for the remote) it did occasionally occur to me that I should drag myself before the computer and bash out a few ill chosen words. But that would have involved getting up and moving a bit.  I decided against it.

Now, having been forced by the circumstances of employment to get up, wash, get dressed and actually leave my flat for several hours I find that I might as well complete the entire experience by sitting in a darkened room (the lights in here haven't worked in years) and typing some random nonsense in the hopes that people will accept the bare minimum of effort and keep reading said blog.  Since my readership numbers about three and I haven't managed to get rid of you yet I have high hopes for this approach.

It has been suggested that if I want more readers then I should select topics of broader interest.  Topics such as food, kittens and guns have been suggested as hooks to boost my readership numbers.  I would like to assure anyone still reading that I will not lower myself to such shameless pandering.  By pure coincidence my next blog entry will be entitled "Shooting Kittens for Food".

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Silly After Action Report, Part 2 - Sock Puppets Triumphant

After a break of a week or so Ivan and I resumed our playing of Defiant Resistance.  Keen observers will notice that this crop of pictures are upside down when compared with the first part.  That's because we were playing on VASL rather than face to face.

We started turn five with me dominating in the centre and desperately clinging to existence on the left while Ivan's reinforcements tried to overrun me from the rear.  That's pretty much how turn five played out.  In the centre I made my position more emphatic by shattering his last troops in the church, Ivan made a pathetic attempt at delaying the inevitable by routing into the church steeple.  In the other centre victory building the inevitable delaying attempts almost sent me raving mad.  This little contretemps pretty much requires its own AAR so here we go.

Ivan had two 1-2-7 mortar crews in the victory building.  He also had a broken squad and a concealed leader in an adjacent building.  With control of the other buildings and the church I moved in for the kill.  Things went well originally with a mmg team breaking one of the crews allowing me to slip a half squad of my own into the victory building.  Sadly no amount of firepower could harm the other mortar crew and the concealed leader also seemed to bear a charmed life. 

When the leader finally revealed himself in an unsuccessful attempt to rally his squad I brought in more troops to capture the broken units and kill this isolated stopout.  Over in the victory building I raced a squad across the street and into the building.  I now had a squad and a half in the building and surely victory would soon be mine.  Nope, I still couldn't hurt the crew and, losing patience, I pushed a squad (accompanied by a hero thanks to an HOB roll) into close combat.  I boxcarred the CC roll and the crew withdrew.  Over in the other building I'd also pushed a squad into CC with his now wounded (thanks sniper) leader, he promptly ambushed me and withdrew as well.  Two units with a combined firepower of 1 were tying down four and a half squads.  Fortunately things were going better elsewhere.

Over on the left I desperately tried to rally something from the wreckage of my flanking force.  The squeals of delight that accompanied the self rallying of a single half squad would have embarrassed Ivan if he were in the same room with me.  As it was he just sighed and reassured himself that his children couldn't hear what I was saying.  With my newly empowered halfsquad I got very brave.  I charged it towards the rear victory building guarded by a crew with an hmg.  I was obviously trying to tease Ivan into firing and thus free more important troops to move but Ivan sternly maintained fire discipline.  Which turned out to be not great tactics as he botched his attempt to take out my flamethrower troops and in turn they scorched him out of his position leaving the hmg behind.  My halfsquad was able to advance in without harm.  Up on the hill I laid down a lot of firepower on Ivan's troops with only a couple of meagre pin results.  Then I fired on a concealed stack in the woods and broke two elite squads.  I fired again and reduced each squad to a halfsquad.  I may have done a little jig.  I certainly did some moderately offensive trash talking.  Ivan sighed slightly more deeply than usual.

A half squad goes on the charge and my hill defenders get nervous

I had ten squads of reinforcements to bring on and I pushed five squads up the centre, three up the left and two up the far right.  These guys wouldn't actually get into the game but their menacing presence obviously unnerved Ivan.  With the church now mine I started filtering forces along the trench line towards his final pockets of resistance and with troops to burn I didn't mind taking some risks.

Feeling the heat (literally) on the left Ivan pushed a halfsquad forward to my flamethrower unit, it got toasted and fled for cover but this was mere drawing fire for with the flamethrower having fired Ivan pushed a squad into the trees next to them.  There was nothing I could do and I trembled for my flamethrower.  Ivan had brought his three reinforcing squads on to the hill to bolster his attack.  I had a leader with a pair of squads in a building barring his way but prep fire broke the leader and a squad.  The other squad (and his nifty mmg) promptly evaporated two halfsquads which ran forward but a concealed unit managed to assault move next to them.  Close combat (my nemesis) beckoned. 

Up on the hill his concealed squad advanced into CC against one healthy squad and a broken squad and leader.  Down in the woods near the victory buildings Ivan advanced his squad into CC against my flamethrower team.  This was the moment of truth for Ivan, if he could sweep the hill of my troops his reinforcements could pour down towards the victory buildings.  In the building his concealed squad did indeed kill my surviving squad but was locked up in melee with the broken guys.  Down in the woods my flamethrower half squad survived CC and a melee ensued there as well.
Close combats rage as Poles and Germans have it out with bayonets

I saw my chance.  With two squads locked in CC and his reinforcements still back on the hill I raced my other troops forward towards his now slender defences.  I plunged into CC myself with a defending squad (and promptly got CR'ed for my trouble).  Over on the right I moved reinforcements up to the melee in the woods, I would reinforce that battle with a squad and a leader giving me a 3-2 advantage and a -1 modifier.  What could go wrong?  How about everything?  I failed my attempt to kill him and in return Ivan rolled snake eyes killing a squad and a half of my troops plus the leader.  The only tiny bit of relief was that he also destroyed the flamethrower thus it didn't fall into his hands.  On the plus side the next turn I would break that squad with his own hmg.

My piece de resistance however was reserved for the building on the hill.  Here I had a broken squad and leader in melee with a squad of his, unless I did something they were doomed.  I did something, I moved a leader and squad around the base of the hill and advanced them into CC.  Just for once the CC gods smiled at me and I killed his squad with no casualties of my own.  The building was mine again and I once more dominated the hill.  To the right of the hill Ivan attempted to push forward, moving a leader carrying a DC next to my units guarding the woods.  I pinned him before he could place the DC.  In my next turn I pinned him again and, growing bored with the pinning, advanced into CC and killed him

As a demonstration of how many troops I had to spare I walked two squads worth of troops down the road into the teeth of one of his heavy machine guns.  They both died, outright and he kept rate thus invalidating the entire purpose behind that gruesome drawing fire technique in the first place.

Back in the centre, despite the ghastly losses inflicted by Ivan's hmg team I managed to push up enough troops to win the CC and the first of my reinforcements managed to break the hmg team as well.  That was when Ivan conceded.  There were still a couple of turns to go but he had no unbroken troops left around the rear victory buildings.  The victory building in the centre was being defended by a single crew which surely couldn't have survived the rest of the game and his reinforcements were stymied by my position on the hill.  Even if he did push past it he would have had to cross open ground swept by machine gun fire to get anywhere useful.  So another victory to me.

When Ivan conceded.  I think he should have pinned his hopes on the crew surviving on the left

In our post game analysis Ivan admitted that he wasn't keen on this one.  The sheer volume of German reinforcements seems to make it hard for the Poles to win.  For my part I agreed, I was able to move aggressively from the first secure in the knowledge that there were sufficient troops coming on to replace any I lost.  As an example in the second last turn I lost three and a half squads killed outright in the course of one turn without it affecting either the result or even what I was going to do.  I deliberately walked two full squads into hmg fire for no other reason than to fix his CA and hopefully exhaust his ROF (unsuccessfully).  Certainly there wasn't a moment when I didn't feel completely in control of the game.  Ivan, of course, was his usual well behaved, gentlemanly self.  I, of course, spent most of my time swearing when the dice didn't go my way.  Speaking of dice I noted in the first part that Ivan and I playing face to face seemed to be congenitally rolling high.  Obviously the dicebot on VASL heard me because both of us rolled ridiculously low during the second part of this game.  I lost count of the number of sniper opportunities that Ivan's propensity for rolling fours gave me and for my part I managed to battle harden two separate squads on consecutive morale checks to give me a pair of elite units and a hero as the only consequence of a pair of 1MCs that Ivan had achieved.  The next game apparently has the Germans attacking yet another village (Poland seems to have a lot of them).  This time I will be the defending Poles.

Hauptmann von Kummerbund gazed around at the village, there were prisoners everywhere, being chivvied out of the church steeple, bunkers and various buildings.
"Dear god," he murmured, "there's almost too many to massacre."  Reluctantly he looked around for his commanding officer hopeful thoughts of reporting von Kattelrussler's heroic death running through his head.  Junior Officer marched up and saluted.

"Ah, Junior Officer, where is the oberleutnant?"

"Regret to report Herr Hauptmann, Oberleutnant von und zu Pfordamages was leading in the reinforcements when he tripped over his own name and took a Polish bullet to the head."

Von Kummerbund shook his head sadly,

"Let that be a lesson to you Junior Officer.  If you ever get promoted go with a name like Schmidt."

A slight disturbance caught his attention and he was disappointed to notice that Oberst von Kattelrussler,  was standing unharmed in the street staring at the ground.  Apparently his Knights Cross had finally got dislodged because he was speaking to a gefreiter who gave a worried salute and hurried off.  Reluctantly von Kummerbund crossed to his CO.  To his surprise von Kattelrussler wasn't raving or doing a victory jig on a pile of Polish corpses.  Indeed he looked sad, restrained and as von Kummerbund approached he noticed the glisten of a tear in the oberst's eye.

"Ah von Kummerbund," rasped von Kattelrussler, his throat obviously not fully recovered from its recent meeting with Germany's highest bravery award, "have you heard the news?  A sad loss."

"Indeed," replied von Kummerbund surprised and a little impressed at his CO's display of emotion.  "I thought he had real potential."

"True, true," agreed von Kattelrussler, "taken from us too soon.  I've put him in for a posthumous bravery decoration.  I think it's the least we can do and he earned it a dozen times over."  He beckoned von Kummerbund closer, "Would you like to pay your last respects?"

Von Kummerbund stepped forward and stopped in sheer disbelief at the sight of a bullet riddled sock puppet lying in the street before him.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Silly After Action Report - Part 1 Defiantish Resistance

Parties of grim faced German infantry moved silently through the trees quietly assembling in their jump off positions for the assault.  Hauptmann von Kummerbund watched in approval as they shook out, deployed and prepared their weapons.  Ahead of them the steeple of a church dominated the Polish village and von Kummerbund stared at it with suspicion; if the enemy commander had any sense he would have eyes up there.  It would be too much to hope for that the enemy commander would be of a calibre similar to their own.

Junior Officer made his way to the forward command post.  No, remembered von Kummerbund, Junior Officer no more.  After his heroics in the last disaster he had been promoted to Oberleutnant and as such had his own name.

"Congratulations oberleutnant," said von Kummerbund holding out his hand.  "What is the name you have been promoted to?"

"I am oberleutnant Hildebrant Wolfgang Rutger Anton Claus Pfefferbracht von und zu Pfordamages," replied the new minted oberleutnant almost bursting with pride.

"Holy shit," replied von Kummerbund faintly.  Before he could say anything more the oberleutnant looked around nervously.

"He's up at the forward position," replied von Kummerbund answering the unasked question.

"Have they managed to remove that Knight's Cross from his larynx yet?"

"No, he's deploying the troops with the assistance of sock puppets."

A sudden, harsh blast on a whistle interrupted them.  All around grim faced figures in field grey were rising to their feet and moving towards the enemy.  Up at the front von Kummerbund could clearly see a sock puppet on a stick leading the way.  Presumably somewhere underneath it was Oberst von Kattelrussler.

"You know oberleutnant," said von Kummerbund wearily, "sometimes having the best disciplined army in the world is a damned nuisance."

So this is ASL Scenario BFP120; Defiant Resistance (you know as opposed to that lackadaisical easy going resistance the kids are into nowadays).  Here I shall command von Kattelrussler's long suffering troops as they attempt to seize a village from its Polish defenders.  There are no vehicles in this one but we each have infantry to burn.  Since we each also have flamethrowers that term could be literal.

There are four victory locations and to win I have to capture them all.  To do the defending Ivan has twelve squads, three heavy machine guns, two light machine guns and two small but irritating mortars.  He also has trenches and pillboxes to form strongpoints with.  On turn four he receives another twelve squads plus a flamethrower and a demo charge.  Finally on turn five he receives another three elite squads of reinforcements.  Apparently half the Polish army has turned up to play.

I start the game with sixteen squads (including three assault engineers), two medium machine guns, six light machine guns, a flamethrower and a demolition charge.  On turn three I get another dozen squads with machine guns and another flamethrower and on turn  five I get ten more squads with yet more machine guns.  Each of us also has a plethora of officers to herd the mob forwards.

As opposed to our usual online games we started this one face to face at the April Bears meeting.  Ivan had prepared a defence and I organised an attack.  We were just about to begin when a fellow gamer walked past, took a quick look and pointed out that we had both misread the setup rules and had set up completely wrongly.  Carefully thought out plans were tossed in the bin and we both cobbled together a new strategy in about five minutes flat.

Ivan had set up strongly garrisoning the church in the centre of the village which was one of my victory targets with a sprinkling of troops in the forward buildings and others hanging on the flanks.  My plan was to divide the village up into chunks.  With loads of reinforcements coming on I figured I could lose a few of my at start force.  So the starting force would push up the centre with a weaker and largely diversionary force on the left (where the other two victory buildings were).  I hoped to grab the two central victory buildings with this force and use my reinforcements to go for the other two on the left.  Hopefully my diverters would have at least revealed some of his defences by the time they arrived.

I deployed like crazy and sent half squads forward on suicide runs to feel out the defences.  This worked at some cost in blood, a cost needlessly increased when I moved a full squad next to one of his and had it vapourised by defensive fire.  They won't find enough of those guys to bury.  As the even worse than usual photo below shows I was taking advantage of such tree cover as I could find in the centre trying to get forward relatively unscathed.  The clutch of Polish troops in the centre of the board are protecting two buildings I need.

I feared he had an hmg in the church steeple but it actually turned out to be a spotter for one of his mortars.  The other was over on the right flank but, in answer to my prayers, broke before it could do any harm.  I have bad memories of Ivan using 46mm mortars and this seemed justified when the other broke my flamethrower squad before it could do any harm but the rest of my troops pushed forward.

Turn two saw my main force pushing forward and gradually closing up with his main defences.  Progress has been slow over on the left with the exception of one half squad that has dashed forward thinking itself impervious to bullets.  Subsequent events would prove it wrong.

Note the shadow of my hand taking the photo.  It's fair to say I'm not great at this

I eased forward in the centre, perhaps not being quite as bold as I intended (the death of an entire squad had made me nervous).  Still with halfsquads leading the way (and catching the bullets) I was gradually gaining ground while Ivan fell back on the left and abandoned his useless mortar on the right and pulled his troops over to reinforce his centre.  There was a squad with an hmg on the ground floor of the church but I overwhelmed it by giving it so many targets that it couldn't kill them all (awesome tactics huh?).

Ivan and I frequently have cause to rave (well I rave) about the dicebot on VASL but this face to face game proved that we're no better at rolling actual dice.  Many troops on both sides survived simply because we proved to be incapable of rolling low enough to hurt them.  I think this worked somewhat in my favour as it allowed me to get in close and finally capture the church (and a heavy machine gun) while taking out the defenders in lopsided close combats.  I had hoped to grab the other centre victory building (the wooden one just behind and to the right of the church) but a single squad with an lmg in a forward building resisted all fire and covered the approach long enough for Ivan to race both his mortar crews in there.  I finally managed to break the damn squad but we're hitting turn five now and I need that building.

Over on the left my diversionary force had taken the bit between its teeth and had found a mess of bunkers and trenches covering the other two victory buildings.  Still my troops had pushed well forward and I decided to bring my first lot of reinforcements on the north (left) edge of the board in the hopes of capturing those buildings before Ivan's reinforcements turned up.  Silly, silly Neil.  Instead Ivan had an awesome firephase and broke pretty much all of my left hand force.  Suddenly my reinforcements were on their own.  In the next turn Ivan brought his reinforcements on directly behind them, I suspect these guys are going to be busy holding off the raving Polish hordes for the next few turns while I try and patch together my left flank and finish the business in the centre.

This is pretty much where we left it for the day.  I'm dominating the centre but my dreams of a rapid seizure of the left hand buildings has died in a welter of broken units and hysterical weeping (me again).  In the north east a private battle is developing as Ivan's reinforcements slam into the rear of my own reinforcements and it looks like my battered flankers are on their own for a while.  In the centre I should be able to clean out the church in the next turn and hopefully push his mortar crews out of the other victory building.  Plus I have another ten squads turning up that I have to find employment for.  I'm hoping to squeak a victory out of this one.  Come on guys, von Kattelrussler needs a win.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Hair Today

The economy is booming in my neck of the woods.  At least that is the message I get from all of the construction currently happening in my neighbourhood.  Between my home and my local railway station there was a rather sad little collection of shops and a clutch of elderly houses.  Now most of them have gone and have been replaced by a large and visually unappealing block of brand new flats, and beneath the flats are a collection of gleaming new shops.

While the shops are indeed gleaming and new it can't be said that they will be awarded any prizes for originality.  So far the shops consist of a bottle shop (replacing a grotty old bottle shop), two cafes and four hairdressers.  Apparently the inhabitants of my suburb spend their few sober moments swilling coffee and getting their hair done.

I have to admit that does sound like me, except for the "getting the hair done" bit.  I also wonder whether, even taking all of the denizens of the new apartments into account, there are sufficient needy scalps to sustain four hairdressers two of which are literally next door to each other.  Oh yes, there's also a child minding centre presumably for the type of people who don't mind dumping their kids in what is effectively the basement of a block of flats while they go on a combined coffee and vodka binge and get their hair done.  Again this does sound like me apart from the "get the hair done" part.

Despite my earnest, some would say febrile, desire to contribute to the local economy it must be admitted that I will not be subjecting my increasingly scanty hair to the tender mercies of the local snip merchants.  As a young man I was clever enough to befriend a lovely and highly talented hairdresser and have somehow managed to maintain that friendship despite the fact that she is a woman of integrity and good judgement.  I must have got her on an off day.

For those of my neighbours who weren't clever enough to make strategic friendships in their youth the sudden explosion in hair manipulation establishments must come as a godsend.  Never again will they collapse weeping into the street because they have only two hairdressers to choose from.  Now they can stroll with confidence up the three hundred metres or so of street that constitutes the shopping strip near my home secure in the knowledge that if they so much as pause for breath someone will drag them into a nearby shop and have their head in a basin before they can say "Just a little off the top please".

Meanwhile their kids have been tossed into a nearby basement and are currently in the process of forming an escape committee.  Fortunately with all the construction going on there are plenty of opportunities to hide the dirt from the tunnels.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Birthday Greetings # 64

There seems to be some sort of a rule that states that once an empire reaches a certain point in its decline then the ruling family, no matter how much talent they may have displayed in preceding generations, will produce nothing but morons and irresponsible halfwits to shepherd said empire through its declining years.

With that as due warning, happy birthday to Andronikos IV Palaiologos; Byzantine emperor, sort of.  Andronikos was the son of the reigning emperor John V although "reigning" is a generous description of how John spent his time.  Much of his career seemed to involve being tossed into prison by either people he owed money to or his own relatives.

In keeping with tradition Andronikos had been made co-emperor with his father in 1350 which seems to have kept him happy for a while but he watched with increasing disgust as his father mismanaged the war ravaged remnants of empire that were left to him.  Finally in 1373 when John submitted as a vassal to the Turkish sultan Andronikos had had enough.  Moving swiftly and decisively, he made a bad situation worse.  Andronikos hooked up with a disaffected son of the Turkish sultan and the pair of them revolted against their respective fathers.  John wasn't really able to do anything about this (he was only the emperor after all) but the Turkish sultan carried the banner for the older generation and crushed both uprisings.  He then blinded and executed his son and sent a very heavy hint that John should do the same with Andronikos.  Unfortunately taking good advice wasn't John's strong suit.  In fact it's difficult to identify any suit John was particularly strong in.  He half blinded Andronikos (one eye only) and put him in prison thus managing to completely alienate his son without actually having done sufficient to stop him rebelling again.

A few years later Andronikos was sprung from prison by the Genoese.  The cities of Venice and Genoa had been circling the empire like vultures ripping off the few remaining economically viable bits for themselves.  Naturally they expected payment for their services.  Once free Andronikos fled to the Turkish sultan and begged for aid.  In return for Turkish military help to overthrow his father he offered to hand Gallipoli over to the Turks.  Byzantine possession of Gallipoli was the only thing stopping the Turks from flooding across the Sea of Marmara and overrunning what was left of the empire's European territories (they'd already captured all of Asia Minor), to hand it over was a breathtaking combination of barking stupidity and criminal irresponsibility.

The Turks gave our boy some troops and he promptly went back to Constantinople, tossed daddy into prison and settled down to rule those bits of the empire he hadn't given away.  The first thing he had to do was pay off the Genoese.  They demanded the island of Tenedos which had a strategic position near the Turkish coast.  Andronikos handed it over despite the fact that his father had actually sold it to Venice some time earlier.  This prompted the local governor to revolt and hand the island over to the Venetians anyway.  Meanwhile, displeased at the presence of a Genoese patsy on the imperial throne the Venetians managed to organise the escape of John V from his prison.  John promptly fled to the Turkish sultan (who by this stage must have thought he was caught up in an extended soap opera) and in return for more concessions was given Turkish troops who threw Andronikos out of Constantinople allowing John V to resume what is increasingly inaccurately referred to as "his reign".

Andronikos fled and hid out in Galata for a while (a Genoese outpost just across the water from Constantinople).  Eventually, showing the sort of judgement that had marked his entire reign John V forgave Andronikos and reinstated him in the succession.  John was, however, just sensible enough not to let him come back to Constantinople.  Instead he was given the seaside resort town of Selymbria as his own little territory.  It is, of course, not unknown for rebellious princes, if politics or sentiment dictates that they can't actually be executed, to be sent to a far off part of the empire to get them out of the way with a face saving title.  It's an indication of how low the Byzantine empire had sunk that this particular "far off part of the empire" is now about forty kilometres from downtown Istanbul.  It would be rather like the Queen of Britain exiling a rebellious son to govern Brighton.

Fortunately for everyone (except of course Andronikos) he predeceased his father thus allowing John's second son Manuel to inherit the wreckage of the empire.  Manuel was actually quite competent, by comparison with his father and brother he looked like a genius.