Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Yet Another Silly After Action Report

Oberst von Kattelrussler stopped his inspection of the men's foxholes as a disturbance further down the hillside caught his attention.
"What the hell is that?" he muttered.  He looked around but von Kummerbund was nowhere to be seen.
"Damn the man, honestly why can't I get decent subordinates?"  He hastily signed off on a lice readiness report and handed it to the gefreiter.
"Where the hell is von Kummerbund and what is all the fuss about?"
"I believe a new Junior Officer has arrived sir," replied the gefreiter carefully tearing the report up and stuffing a cushion with it.  "Major von Kummerbund is greeting him."

Greeting may have been technically what von Kummerbund was doing but he had abandoned most of it in favour of simply staring in disgust.  In front of him was a short flabby man in an ill fitting uniform.  The greasy rolls of fat around his collar were not enhanced by an apparent disinclination to shave and the eyes that peered at him with indifference were yellow where they weren't bloodshot.

"Dear god," muttered von Kummerbund as Junior Officer scratched at his choppily shaven head, dislodging a partially completed cigarette from behind his ear as he did so.  "Where the hell did you come from?"
"Potsdam, I was in a mail sorting unit when the word went out that this regiment needed a Junior Officer.  Sorry, I guess I should have saluted."
"Yes, and stood to attention, and got a clean uniform, and shaved, and washed!"  Von Kummerbund was about to develop this promising line of communication further when something Junior Officer said caught his attention.  "Wait a minute.  Do you mean you volunteered?"
Junior Officer smiled revealed irregular, nicotine stained teeth.
"That's right Herr Major, eager for action that's me."  He looked like any sort of action might give him a heart attack.
"I don't know whether to be appalled or, no actually appalled is my only option.  Welcome aboard Junior Officer, I'm sure you'll fit right in. Here comes the chief."

Oberst von Kattelrussler made his way towards them chewing on his swagger stick as he dodged from bush to bush.  Junior Officer brightened up and waved enthusiastically.
"Hi Uncle Heinrich!"
Von Kattelrussler gave a horrified smile and waved back weakly.
"Right," muttered von Kummerbund, "we are all definitely going to die."

So this is our latest Poland in Flames outing. BFP 131 - Zboiska Heights.  Here I command a tough batch of gebirgsjager backed up with some impressive looking guns as they try and hold a hill against a mass of Poles who seem to be coming from all directions.  To hold the hill I have eight elite squads, four first line squads and six crews.  To back this lot up I have a 105mm gun, a 75mm gun and an 81mm mortar plus a pair of mmgs and an hmg.  I also get fourteen foxholes and a bunch of concealment counters.  Leadership, too, is good (von Kattelrussler must have had the day off) with four officers headed up by a 9-2 and a 9-1.  I also get four more elite squads as reinforcements on turn four.  Ivan gets a massive force, to the north facing a lot of open ground are eight first line and ten green squads with a 75mm artillery piece, a truck, an hmg, a mmg and three 46mm mortars.  Entering from the south on turn one are ten elite squads with some very impressive leaders, four dinky little tankettes (one mounting a thoroughly respectable 47mm gun), a pair of machine gun armed trucks and a couple of normal trucks for reasons neither of us could determine.  Oh yes, he also got some 100mm OBA.  To win Ivan had to push me off the level 3 hill hexes.

At set up.  North is to the right
I must confess I didn't like my chances on this one.  I could see myself being crushed between two fires.  I decided that the west (top) would be my main defensive position thus hopefully covering my reinforcement route (they came in on the west edge).  Down in the east I had a squad and a half with an lmg and a bunch of dummies to pretend I had a defence.  In the west I had four elite squads, nestled in foxholes with a squad and lmg commanded by my 9-2 leading the defence.  Facing north I had a crew with my hmg in the centre (guided by the 9-1) with a couple of other squads nearby.  Behind my main line in the west I had a mmg crew and the 81mm mortar team sitting in foxholes with a clear line of sight to the open ground Ivan's northern troops would have to run over.  The other two guns I placed facing south hoping I might be able to get some armour kills as his guys rolled on.

Things were pretty quiet in the north.  Ivan inched his troops forward pretty much unseen by my boys while he brought his (perfectly accurate) artillery down on my hmg position.  One of my squads nearby broke but my hmg team would sit cheerfully under the steel rain without consequences despite Ivan adding his 75mm to the firepower against them.

It was in the south that the action started at a frantic pace. Ivan brought on a pair of tanks and both gun trucks along the west edge supporting a trio of squads toting an mmg and led by a fearsome 9-2.  I couldn't do much about the the tanks but small arms fire took out one of the trucks and the other parked to return fire while the tanks attempted a little flanking.  One of them rolled up onto a hill in line of sight of my lmg team and was promptly set on fire.  It's fair to say I was quite happy with the way the first turn went.  His infantry eased slowly forward and a pair of tanks rolled on in the east as well.

End turn 1.  First blood to me while Ivan's northern troops are still slogging towards the battlefield
In the centre Ivan brought on two trucks laded (two squads apiece) with infantry.  Unfortunately he brought them on directly in the line of sight of my 105mm gun which promptly vapourised a truck and two squads.  Its fair to say this slowed Ivan's progress in the south centre as his other truck promptly stamped on the brakes and told the infantry to find their own way forward.  In the west a probing squad by Ivan was broken but the remainder of his troops there bulked formidable.  In the north he crawled forwards and the artillery continued to hammer me without much result.  Aside from that there was little to report.  In the east his green troops limped slowly towards what (had he but known it) was a very sketchy defence.

Thanks to my 105mm Ivan's tanks in the east are looking a little lonely
In the face of a killer stack three squads strong I pulled back a squad in the west from its defensive position.  My intention was to send it over the hill to take a reverse slope (from the south) position but Ivan followed me into the orchard.  This allowed me to reveal my 75mm to take a shot at this massive kill stack.  I gacked the shot and the kill stack lived up to its name by killing the 75s gun crew.  One of my most potent weapons gone.  I wept and cursed of course but in actual fact that moment was the worst in the game for me.  After that it rapidly unravelled for Ivan.  He spread his three squad kill stack in the east out to deal with my squad that was dancing around above him "protected" by orchards.  These heroes then broke two of said squads and pinned his 9-2 leader.  To add insult to injury he boxcarred one of the morale checks and an elite squad was suddenly a broken first line halfsquad.  In the south centre he pushed forward against limited resistance but I managed to break another squad as it took the risk of dashing across a road.

Ivan's northern force is getting killed

The remnants of that centre force managed to break the mmg team supposedly defending the 75 and captured that position but they didn't have anywhere to go where they wouldn't be exposed to fire from my remaining troops.  His remaining tank in the west rolled up to my mmg post and the two of them spent the rest of the game firing on each other without effect.  When he attempted to start up his remaining truck small arms fire took care of that as well.

Which just leaves the north.  With a couple of squads, my 81mm mortar and my hmg all still operating I quite literally slaughtered Ivan's force trying to come across a hill bare of cover.  The only unit that got close to me was one that went berserk on a morale check.  Literally everything else broke and then died.  Far down in the east his green troops had suffered their own casualties but had finally butted up against my less than magnificent defence.  It didn't really matter, they had neither the movement or the numbers to break through.  Ivan conceded on turn four before my reinforcements arrived.  His southern infantry was chopped into two mutually unsupporting groups both under pressure, the bulk of his northern infantry were dead and he had lost a tank and two gun trucks in addition to shocking infantry losses.  I held the west solidly and my reinforcements were due.  There was no point beyond simple masochism in continuing.

The end.  Some gains in the east (bottom) can't compensate for Ivan's appalling casualties elsewhere
Strangely both Ivan and I approached this game with trepidation.  I looked at the sheer number of Polish troops and the fact that they hit me from two sides and felt like the meat in a sandwich.  Ivan looked at the vast amount of open ground to the north and the cluttered terrain in the south which restricted his tank options and felt under pressure as well.  With this over we've decided to take a break from Poland in Flames for a while.  We feel like we need a bit of a change.  For some reason Ivan has decided to pander to my Italian fetish so for our next game I'm digging out the rather ancient Showdown at Tug Argan Pass.

Major von Kummerbund stared at the road where a yawning crater adorned with a single tire marked where a truck had briefly been.  Junior Officer had produced a couple of cans of beer from somewhere and was drinking with the gefreiter in the shadow of a 105mm gun.
"Junior Officer," said von Kummerbund faintly, "where did you get the 105 from?"
Junior Officer belched, "Oh I won it in a game of skat from some artillery boys behind the line.  It was nice of them to set it up for us though."
Von Kummerbund stared at Junior Officer with suspicion,
"You're the smart one in your family, aren't you?"
Junior Officer grinned, "My aunt engineered my transfer so that I could keep an eye on uncle Heinrich, he can get a little excitable."
"Believe me, we've noticed."

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Silly After Action Report

"Junior Officer!  Junior Officer!!"  Oberst von Kattelrussler stared around in irritation.  "Damn the man, what's happened to him?"  A familiar figure failed to evade his line of vision, "Ah von Kummerbund.  Where the hell is Junior Officer?  I need a sample of his lung tissue."

Major von Kummerbund looked at the long handled, none too clean tongs his commander was holding and decided not to ask.  Instead he controlled his temper as best he could.

"Junior Officer, sir, died like a hero fighting incredible odds while you were wrestling a beech tree."

"Oh yes, that's right.  So, I guess no lung tissue then.  Wait a minute what about his replacement?"

"We don't have one yet sir.  Do you remember that massive burst of firing that broke out all along the line the other day?  We all thought it was another Polish counterattack."

"What about it?" demanded von Kattelrussler.

"It turns out it was every junior officer in the army shooting themselves in the foot to avoid being posted here."

Von Kattelrussler thought for a moment, scratching his head with the tongs.

"I know, take out an ad in the local paper.  Junior Officer required for elite army regiment.  Applicants must be young, fit and prepared to travel.  Loyalty to the Greater German Reich preferred.  Healthy lungs essential.  Oh and point out that the German army is an unequal opportunity employer."

"I'm sure that will go down well in the Warsaw Gazette.  Getting back to the war for just a moment sir do you happen to know what our next assignment is?"

Von Kattelrussler wasn't listening, he was staring at something over von Kummerbund's left shoulder.  Pointing he asked,  "What on earth is that?"

Von Kummerbund turned, "It appears to be an entire Polish armoured regiment charging in this direction."

"Well carry on von Kummerbund.  I'll pop back to the rear area and see if there's any news."

This is ASL Scenario BFP 130 which involves a scratch bunch of Germans defending against a Polish counterattack supported by a large but rather eclectic bunch of armour.  Ivan "the Bane of Neil's existence" Kent will command the defending Germans while I shall attempt to lead this Polish Panzerkeil to victory.

To achieve this no doubt inevitable victory I have fourteen first line infantry squads guided by three officers with a trio of medium machine guns and an anti tank rifle for no other reason than because I think the scenario designer has an unhealthy obsession with them.  Providing mechanical noises are nine armoured fighting vehicles of various types.  A pair of dinky little TKS tanks with a trivial machine gun, a couple of decrepit armoured cars, one of those awesome tanks carrying a pair of hmgs in twin turrets and four pretty decent tanks mounting 37 and 47mm guns.  Still its a pretty heterogeneous bunch and it would take skill to use them properly.

To defend Ivan starts out with eight first line squads, a pair of leaders, a 75mm gun, a medium machine gun and (with more than usual relevance) an anti tank rifle.  Starting on turn three Ivan can bring on his reinforcements, four more first line squads, two more officers and three half tracks each towing a gun; two 47mm AT guns (don't laugh, they're genuine tank killers at this stage of the war) and an 88mm AA gun which seems just a little over the top.

This is the set up.  I have to push through the Germans, get across the creek and capture the buildings on the other side.  I had a plan which I really should have stuck to.  I kept back my best tanks and set up the two little TKS clunkers at the top.  The plan was to use these to plunge through the trees and create trail breaks for the remaining armour to follow.  The bulk of my infantry (shepherded by an armoured car and another tank) would come through the centre and hit the German defences while a single tank and a handful of troops would keep Ivan busy in the bottom.

Things went well (harbinger of doom).  The two TKSs rolled forwards and obediently created the required trail breaks while the bulk of my infantry pushed forward in the centre.  Ivan revealed a squad with the anti tank rifle in the woods but the TKS are so damn small its difficult to hit them.  Sadly I was seduced by ephemeral success at the bottom.  My tank rolled forward and I took some risks with my infantry and concluded (correctly) that his defences down there were largely dummies.

So far, so good.
This seemed to be an opening and I changed my plans and decided to bring my remaining tanks down along the bottom and plough through the stream.  I had fond dreams of establishing my tanks near the victory buildings before Ivan could either retreat his main force or bring on his reinforcements.  Of course Ivan had anticipated this and had placed his 75mm gun to cover this approach.  He actually let my lead tank splash through the stream and roll up next to the gun before revealing himself to hit the more formidable tanks coming behind.  I still wasn't terribly worried, I had three tanks in position and he had one gun.  I might lose a tank but I figured I could take out the gun and then the way would be cleared.  Ivan took out two tanks in the first fire phase (honestly does he ever get punished for intensive fire?) and suddenly I had precisely one tank left parked right next to his gun.

Things are about to go to hell down the bottom.  Meanwhile despite armoured support my infantry are getting nowhere

Over in the village my infantry were making heavy weather of getting forward due to the fact that I was finding it difficult to hurt his infantry inside the stone buildings.  Suddenly bereft of a role my little TKS tanks decided to at least put the fear of god into Ivan.  I rolled them round behind his defences.  At first I just intended to block rout paths but then I realised I could at least get these guys into back play and threaten his reinforcements so they charged boldly across the river into the orchard.

Ivan's gun towing halftracks have arrived but my TKS tanks will be coming to meet them

Meanwhile Ivan had simply ignored the tank sitting next to his gun and had turned it around to shoot into the rear of my armour still attempting to help my infantry into the village.  I had rolled a tank into bypass on a building hex to lock up the troops there.  Ivan promptly immobilised it with the 75 but the crew stayed in and I finally managed to get some troops up close and personal.  I think I fumbled the infantry moves a bit but I finally accumulated a decent amount of firepower and was systematically dismantling his garrison.  I was also systematically dismantling medium machine guns.  I managed to malf and then break two of my three in successive fire and rally phases.  Just for the record while Ivan's 75mm was tearing my tank force apart the tank sitting next to him was blasting away at him for all he was worth, he just wasn't getting any results.

Things seem to have slowed down a little

Ivan brought on his troops and half tracks and my reception committee proved incapable of stopping them from getting where they needed to go.  He sent the two 47mm guns down the bottom of the board and looped the 88mm up around the top to cover the bridge.  His infantry reinforcements ignored my pathetic 2FP shots from the TKS and made it to the victory buildings.  But one of my TKS was about to cover itself in glory.  In a manner of speaking.

Things look good, briefly

Still I was grinding slowly forward in the village backed by remaining armour (one tank and two armoured cars) and finally I managed to break the crew of his damn 75mm thus releasing my tank down there to charge for the victory locations.  Sadly it was a turn too late.  Ivan had positioned a 47mm gun to guard the approaches and when a snake eyes shot killed the crew he promptly moved the other 47mm into the same location.  I had plans, however, for the 88.  Relying on the difficulty in hitting the little TKS I rolled the pair of them around behind the 88.  Or rather I rolled one of them because despite the difficulty in hitting them Ivan managed to take one of them out with an anti tank rifle immediately.  The other trundled up to his 88 and overran it.  For no result.  Ivan then fired from within his own hex and reduced the TKS to flaming scrap.  Which meant that the 88 would now be firing out of smoke for the rest of the scenario.  Posthumous decorations are already in the mail to family members of the crew.

I started feeling hopeful again.  I had pretty much cleared the garrison and surely I had enough armour left to shepherd my infantry across the bridge and into the victory buildings.  Sadly that evil bitch close combat was about to ruin my hopes.  I looked to clear out his remaining troops by overwhelming them with superior numbers in close combat.  You know how this goes.  He managed to slaughter a bunch of my troops with a mere handful of his.  The absolute prize going to the officer who took out a half squad single handed and suddenly I was thin on the ground and running out of time.

I'm in position or would be if it wasn't for the CC

Fresh from its overly prolonged struggle with the 75mm my tank rolled up to his 47mm gun and was reduced to scrap (in fairness there was little else I could do, in honesty I had forgotten the damn thing was there).  Still it provided me with a little cover and I rolled my machine gun tank across the bridge to give a little more protection.  So Ivan's 88 fired out of smoke and killed it.  Nevertheless I was getting a decent amount of steel protection for my advance.  Sadly interminable close combats had eaten up the time to the point where I couldn't take a cautious approach.  To be blunt I simply charged forward.  It didn't really need Ivan's predilection for rolling threes when he needs them to turn my surge into a bloody mess but by that time it was little more than a forlorn hope anyway.  When his 88 managed to get a critical hit on one of my squads despite firing out of smoke I took the hint and conceded.

Underneath the acquisition counter and in the stream is a mess of shattered troops that mark the end of my dreams

I made a couple of mistakes in this one (although strangely I don't think overrunning an 88 with a TKS was one of them).  I should have stuck to my original plan which might have put a formidable amount of armour in the rear area.  Even so I think this is rather tough on the Poles.  They have a fair way to go and quite a bit of opposition to overcome.  Next week I'm taking the Germans who are defending against another Polish attack.  I'm honestly starting to think Poland invaded Germany.

Major von Kummerbund watched as the remnants of the Polish force limped off the battlefield.  A smoke grimed gefreiter (let's face it the regiment only has one) limped up to him and saluted.
"They're pulling back sir."

"Excellent, where's the oberst?"

Wordlessly the gefreiter pointed to where a Polish tank was burning furiously, strangely there was an AA gun positioned directly underneath it.  Oberst von Kattelrussler stumbled out of the smoke in a badly charred uniform.  Strangely losing his eyebrows hadn't made him look any more unusual.

"Bit of luck my running into these guns while I was inspecting the supply lines wasn't it?" he said cheerily.  Behind him the crew of the AA gun had abandoned their position and were attempting to put out the flames on their uniforms. 

"Yes sir," replied von Kummerbund evenly.  "And may I commend you on their positioning."  As if the emphasise his point there was a dull roar as flames reached the ammunition stacked around the AA gun.

Von Kattelrussler blinked, "Oh dear, I hope they didn't want that back."

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Have A Pie

Can you guess what day it is today?  Have you possibly missed the bunting, the public holiday, the massed crowds cheering in the streets?  Of course you haven't and of course you know without me telling you that today is Pi Day.  "No it isn't you idiot,"  I hear you cry, "it's Wednesday."
Well yes it is Wednesday but this is a special Wednesday for this is the day set aside to celebrate Pi.  Pi, of course is that irritating number that seems to exist solely so that people with eidetic memories can amuse themselves and irritate others by reciting it to several million decimal places.  Sometimes some sadly underemployed computers are used to do the same thing calculating the number to literally trillions of decimal places.

Here's the thing.  If knowing the seven trillionth decimal place of pi was actually important to the functioning of the universe in any way then we would probably have vanished in a mathematical catastrophe by now.  Despite the utter pointlessness of pi some physicists desperately in need of a date managed to get March 14th semi officially recognised as Pi Day.  Feel free to visit the official Pi Day website for more details (http://www.piday.org/).  US Congress totally failed its collective responsibilities as responsible adults by giving pseudo acknowledgement to this pitiable attempt at scientific celebration by passing a non binding resolution recognising 14 March 2009 as National Pi Day. 

For the record a non binding resolution is when legislators want to show themselves vaguely in favour of something without actually committing themselves to doing anything about it.  It's sort of like joining the United Nations or desiring world peace.  Nobody expects you to do anything but you look like a bit of a dick if you don't sign up.

So with Congress indicating its benevolent disinterest Pi Day was off and running.  Mainly it was running around the circumference of a circle.  Not a good mathematics joke I know but anybody who saw my high school maths results would be surprised that I managed to make it without assistance.

How is Pi Day celebrated.  Well a lot of it involves pies.  This is proof if proof were needed that not even physicists or mathemeticians actually know what to do with pi.  Pies are made, shared and doubtless enjoyed.  Hopefully in smoky taverns (which are a thing of the past damn anti smoking laws) hard drinking scientists are slamming down shots, gorging themselves on pies and listening in rapt delight as the star attraction; cigarette in hand, pie juice dribbling down his chin shotguns a beer and belches pi to seventy thousand decimal places.

In Japan and Korea of course this isn't Pi Day it's White Day.  A celebration which would sound a lot more disturbing if it was going on in Arkansas for example.  This is basically Valentines Day payback where men who received gifts of chocolate or whatever from women on Valentines Day are supposed to return the favour.  Traditionally the value of the gift should be three times that received by the man.  I say traditionally, but since Japan and Korea have been around for centuries and White Day has only been celebrated since 1978 I probably mean "non traditionally".  Since Valentines Day isn't traditional to Japanese or Korean culture either you'd probably guessed that.  You also probably won't be surprised to hear that the whole thing was got up by Japan's National Confectionery Industry Association.

Speaking of which we should probably check out whether Sara Lee had any involvement in Pi Day.