Thursday, December 31, 2020

Plague Update #45 - Holiday Edition

 A new year is upon us which is fortunate because we were pretty much finished with the old one.  It would have been slightly embarrassing if we had been sitting about on December 31st as the clock hit midnight and a new year hadn't turned up.  We would have had to pull 2020 out of the bin and run it past its use by date.  Judging by 2021 so far we may indeed have done that.

This blog took a brief sabbatical over the holiday period.  It wasn't deliberate, I'm just lazy.  While I idled and spent a little time in the bosom of my family (it was great guys, we should do it again next year) Britain left the EU but coronavirus didn't take the hint and has stubbornly hung around.  Sudden outbreaks in my home state put the kybosh on New Years celebrations and allowed the Victorian government (with more than a hint of schadenfreude) to lock down our mutual border from the other end.  So far our state leadership has stubbornly refused to make face masks mandatory and is relying on really, really strong recommendations that everyone wear them.  I've taken to wearing a mask at all times myself.  That's nothing to do with coronavirus, my puffin insists.

Still there is light at the end of the tunnel.  The race to produce a vaccine is gathering pace with the Pfizer vaccine entering the last stage of human testing (its being distributed in Great Britain).  If there are no unfortunate side effects it may not be too long before it becomes available elsewhere.  COVID-19 faced up to this challenge with the cheerful enthusiasm that we have come to expect from this most gregarious and flexible of viruses.  It has started throwing up new, even more contagious variants of itself even faster than we can develop vaccines.  This isn't surprising really as COVID-19 doesn't need to undergo all of the safety testing we insist on before unleashing a vaccine, even in Britain.

On more important topics the next cricket test in Sydney is apparently still going ahead despite the miasma of disease hanging over the state.  When I say "the state" I mean of course Sydney.  Very little of the rest of the state seems to be badly affected.  To the best of my knowledge there have been no sudden outbreaks in Wilcannia or Ivanhoe (to pick two names I literally selected at random from the map).  For most of the population of NSW, and virtually all its politicians, Sydney and NSW are pretty much interchangeable terms.  Which is why that part of the population that doesn't live in Sydney sometimes gets annoyed with us.  Fortunately there aren't many of them since most people live in Sydney.  At least most of the people I know do.

Meanwhile I can't help noticing that the current outbreaks in Sydney seem to be creeping ever closer to the rather dilapidated block of flats where I spend most of my time.  I have injected my puffin with a vaccine of my own devising and so far the side affects have been manageable.  Anyway, I think bright green is a rather handsome colour for a puffin.  He disagrees but is a little more concerned about his extra tentacle.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Silly After Action Report - Armoured Probe at Sidi Nsir

 German and French negotiators stared at each other with mutual distrust.  Eau de Cologne clouds had reached Geneva Convention violation levels and for their part the Germans literally oozed suspicion (Suspicion for Men by Hugo Boss).  Outside the hot sun of Tunisia bathed the guards in their own sweat although the atmosphere was still probably preferable to the indoors.

The French general stared up at the hard eyed German negotiator.

"If we let you into Tunisia," he announced, "I must insist on one thing.  We have no objection to surrendering our arms to German soldiers but there must be no question of the Italians involved."

The German negotiator, in the happy position of a pathological liar being able to tell the truth, nodded in agreement.

"You have my word Herr General.  This will be an agreement between the two great nations of Germany and France.  No Italians in Tunisia."  At that moment a German staff officer entered the room, gasped, choked, saluted and presented his report.

"The Italians have landed in Tunisia!"

The German negotiator stared in horror before turning to the Frenchman babbling words of apology but it was too late.  His moustache quivering with outrage the French general drew himself up to his full three foot nine and flung out a heavily bemedalled finger.

"J'accuse!" he bellowed.  "Perfide!" And a lot of other melodramatic French words (which let's face it, is most of them).

The German negotiator was almost in tears, "I had no idea Herr General, you must believe me!"

"You will receive my answer on the battlefield," replied the French general before turning on his heel and leaving.

The German negotiator slumped back into his seat while the staff officer opened a window.

"What does 'you shall receive my answer on the battlefield?' mean," asked the staff officer.

"With the French it could mean either a mass surrender or a fight to the death."

It is Tunisia late in 1942 and for possibly the last time Mussolini has managed to toss a handful of grit into the gears of the German war machine.  With Rommel retreating from El Alamein and the Allies securely ensconsed in Algeria Tunisia took on great importance as the only part of North Africa left.  The Germans moved in to occupy it and much to the annoyance of literally everyone so did the Italians.  Then it was time to push the suddenly irritated French out of the positions they held before they could be reinforced.

This is scenario FT239 - Armoured Probe at Sidi Nsir which pits a small group of German assault engineers and a somewhat larger group of Italian troops backed by self propelled guns trying to capture some hills from the soon to be no longer Vichy French.  The French troops were equipped for a war in 1940 which was convenient as the Italians had just caught up.

I, naturally, am commanding the brave Italians (with some German hangers on) looking to capture (and hold) one of the two forward hills from Dave Wilson's French.  To do this I have four squads of German assault engineers with a pair of lmgs an atr and a DC.  I also have seven squad equivalents of elite Italians with two light machine guns, a heavy machine gun and a 45mm mortar.  The whole infantry force has to enter mounted on trucks.  Supporting them are six self propelled guns, two little SMV L40s and four quite respectable SMV M41s.  I scoured the OB for a single L3 but found nought, I should have known then that I was doomed.

On the defence Dave has a plethora of superannuated firepower to call upon.  Up front he has six first line squads garrisoning the vital hills with a pair of lmgs.  Each hill must have at least two squads and one lmg.  Somewhat to the rear are another ten more first line squads with a pair of medium machine guns, a 60mm mortar, a light machine gun and a 25mm AT gun.  He also has a pair of only just armoured cars sporting a short barrelled 37mm and a 47mm AT gun with its own truck to haul it around.

On the second turn he receives reinforcements in the shape of two D1 tanks which move at about the same speed as a snail with arthritis.  On turn three he gets a pair of somewhat better armoured cars carrying a 12.7mm machine gun and a wholly unarmoured truck carrying a 75mm artillery piece.

At start, as you can see I have decided to go for the top hill

Above is Dave's set up.  I decided to ignore the bottom hill and concentrate my forces against the top one.  It was my intention to throw enough force at it to overrun the hill early and then challenge Dave's no doubt demoralised troops to try and recapture it.  In the centre I planned to put sufficient of a flank guarding force to prevent Dave's troops on the other hill from successfully intervening.

The first turn didn't go too badly for me although I did make one mistake that would rapidly come back to haunt me.  I sneaked my Germans and a number of Italians behind the woods near the hill I wanted and dispatched no fewer than four semovente to prepare the way by climbing the hill and beating up its defenders.  In the centre I sent one SMV L40 and one M41 forward to ward off the big concealment stacks which were his guns and armoured cars while a bunch of Italians (including the mortar and the hmg) formed a defensive line in the woods.


First turn and things are going not too bad-ish

The one silly thing I did was race a SMV right up to the hedge where it could take on the French.  I had forgotten about the 47mm gun which could tear any of the armour I had to scrap.  I was more sensible with the little SMV L40 which I parked in a reasonably secure location.  The L40 would survive for several more turns while the M75 would go down in the first French turn.

I was fortunate in my choice of target as Dave had expected me to go for the other hill and had set his defences accordingly.  This meant his 25mm gun spent the first two turns being laboriously pushed into a position where it might be effective.  Dave revealed his mortar team which promptly broke a squad and a half of Italians in the woods but when he tried to follow it up with an lmg shot I had the most effective result of the game.  Line of sight was actually blocked and Dave rolled a snake eyes which was my sniper number.  I fatally wounded his best officer in charge of an mmg in a foxhole.  The squad manning the mmg failed their LLMC and for a while I was free of that concern at least.  On the target hill Dave largely forwent firing in order to maintain concealment and hope to live a little longer.

End of French turn 1

The "hope to live a little longer" theory didn't hold much water as my second turn saw me clear the hill of unbroken French (except for one very significant squad, see below) and the death of a couple of them for failure to rout.  This was probably the high point of my game, I invite readers to note that this is turn two of a six turn game.  I did however manage to break the MA of another of my semovente and a six on the subsequent repair roll sent it limping towards the rear.  My infantry, happy now most of the French were gone, were climbing the victory hill while in the centre I actually managed to rally a squad and started assembling support weapons.

Down in the centre one of Dave's armoured cars had been banging away at my little SMV without success so I decided to return the favour, and broke the MA.  Meanwhile up on the hill Dave's sole remaining squad threw caution to the wind and charged into CC with another of my M75s and tore it apart with their bare hands.  At the end of the second turn I had precisely two functional AFV.  Dave's D1 tanks turned up and started making their slow and painful way towards the battlefield.

End of French turn 2. Things are not going well for the Italian armour

Despite the mutilation of my armoured force I did have one consolation.  I had the hill and Dave had to take it back in order to win.  Unfortunately he did have the forces to do so especially now that a significant amount of my firepower had been destroyed.  Still my German troops had entered the battlefield and even my Italians were pushing forward, snuggling into French foxholes.  I sent a pair of squads from my centre forward to occupy the next patch of woods to provide some more flank guards.  This worked for a little while and a couple of French squads from the unmolested hill were broken trying to push forward.  Unfortunately his other medium machine gun took these squads under long range fire.  A two flat shot broke one squad but that didn't worry me as I pushed its comrade forward in its place.  The next two flat generated a morale check which I passed with my only snake eyes of the game.  Heat of Battle, with Italians.  The subsequent roll was an eleven and they broke and disrupted.  So much for my flank guard.

Dave's armoured cars turned up and rolled towards the battlefield while his gun truck found a convenient hill to climb.  Back on the target hill he had pushed a pair of squads forward from the rear to challenge my Germans but surely eight morale troops, led by a 9-1 could hold their own?  Nope.  Dave was getting very bold now that most of my armoured force was gone, he rolled his two tanks and both his armoured cars forward against my lone SMV L40 with the busted MA, once that was gone he could carve up my infantry in the woods at leisure.  He had also pushed forward more troops from the other hill.  My hmg broke a squad but as an encore broke itself thus leaving me a little short of firepower.

Things are getting worse

In desperation I attempted to repair the MA on my SMV and actually succeeded.  I felt a trickle of hope.  Dave's tanks were in motion so possibly not best placed to shoot and it would take a good roll from the 37mm on the armoured cars to actually kill the SMV.  So Dave got a good roll and the newly repaired semovente went to the vehicle graveyard in the sky.  At this point desperation does not adequately describe my feelings.  I had sent my other little semovente looping around towards Dave's mortar team as much in the hopes of scaring them as anything else but having a 47mm gun on the high ground could still be an advantage.  Particularly since it was overlooking Dave's two reinforcing armoured cars which he had sent along to support his troops (who were happily carving up my assault engineers without any help).  Dave's response was to drive both armoured cars up and park in front of me.  I missed the pointblank defensive fire shot and Dave promptly got a critical hit in the advancing fire phase.
OK, I'm going home now


At that point I conceded.  My force wasn't entirely broken but I was.  The simple fact was Dave now had a mass of firepower to help shoot his troops forward to the hill and I had a single SMV41 left to support such of my troops as had survived.  It was a six turn game but I only lasted four turns.  Not it has to be admitted particularly impressive.  Thanks to Dave for the game and the lacerations on my soul.  If the therapy is successful we shall return again next week.

The German negotiator looked up as his staff officer entered.

"Well," he asked without much hope, "how did the Italians do?"

"It's difficult to tell," replied the other, "there aren't any left to ask."

"I don't suppose we could persuade the French that there aren't any Italians left in Tunisia now could we?"

"Doubtful, do you want some dinner?  I know a good pasta restaurant."

"In Tunisia?  When did that open?"


Travelling Pathetically - Berry No Longer an Island Edition

 In the latest of my increasingly desperate attempts to fill the yawning void in my life during the time when I'm not at work I have boldly struck out across the harbour to examine some of the lowest parts of the Lower North Shore.  To be strictly accurate Berry No Longer an Island should really be named Berry Never was an Island Except for a Brief Period in the Nineteenth Century When We Accidentally Made It One.  I think we can all agree that this is a little much to put on a business card so for the purposes of convenience we call it Berry Island.  For the record Berry Island sits in Sydney Harbour but was connected to the mainland by a little isthmus.  In the nineteenth century our habit of dragging boats across said isthmus carved sufficient of a groove for the harbour to flood in and make Berry Island a genuine island.  Sometime after that we filled it in again and turned the former isthmus into a park thus solidly anchoring Berry Island to the mainland.

The former island is located in the suburb of Wollstonecraft.  Wollstonecraft was named after a guy who was related to somebody who was related to the person who wrote Frankenstein.  This is Wollstonecraft's big claim to fame.  The suburb itself is charming, leafy, village like with harbour views and close to the city or to sum it all up in one word "wealthy".  The population of Wollstonecraft falls into that category of people who are sufficiently wealthy to be in the highest tax bracket while not being wealthy enough to avoid paying taxes at all.

My knowledge of Wollstonecraft was actually limited to how to spell the word until my Tasmanian correspondent mentioned Berry Island.  I was suggesting that with most internal travel restrictions lifted I might visit her in Tasmania.  In desperation she suggested I visit Berry Island instead.  With the seed thus planted I checked out Wollstonecraft to reassure myself that I didn't need a passport to visit it (technically no although the inhabitants might prefer it if I did).  A quick glance at the map told me that Wollstonecraft's railway station was at the opposite end of the suburb to Berry Island but also that there appeared to be an extended stretch of green (at least it looked green on google maps) that would take me from the station to my not quite an island destination.

In contrast to my previous excursion the day was grey, overcast and always seemed to be teetering on the edge of pouring with rain.  Fortunately it settled for a light drizzle.  I hopped off the train at Wollstonecraft and set off, making my way past a stationside pet cafe called Chew Chew.  Shortly afterwards I consulted google maps again, turned around and walked in the opposite direction.  A neatly trimmed park rapidly turned into what is referred to as "remnant bushland".  Remnant bushland being code for "it was just too much bother to actually bulldoze and build on this".  A creek ran through this bushland and since the name of the creek was Berrys Creek it seemed propitious for eventually turning up in the vicinity of Berry Island.  A sign requested that I keep to the path and invited me to look out for all of the exciting animals that lived in this tiny shred of nature.  Eels and lizards were particularly mentioned.

I kept a close eye out for eels but there were none on the path.  In fact I was looking for eels so assiduously that I almost missed a rather handsome lizard overcasting itself on a convenient rock.  As you can see he is the perfect colour to be camouflaged against the background if he hadn't picked a bright green rock to sit on.

The photo is fine.  It was the lizard that was blurry


The path and indeed the bushland essentially followed the creek down to the harbour.  It was a narrow sliver of nature sandwiched between housing which was frequently so close that I could probably have held conversations with people in their back yards if I was so inclined.  I wasn't so inclined.  Despite this the area still managed to give off that calming vibe that comes from being in a part of nature not famous for its carnivorous animals.  The only sounds were the gurgle of the creek, the trill of birds and the gentle rattle of the trains in their natural habitat a couple of hundred metres away.  If you tilted your head thus and were careful with your camera angles you could imagine that you were alone with nature (let's not think about how terrifying that would actually be).

Totally unspoilt by the houses approximately ten metres on either side of this picture

Encouraged by my lizard triumph I carried on eager to see if eels would be equally photographically accommodating.  They weren't and my trip would be eelless nevertheless I forged onwards making my way from the Lower North Shore to the Even Lower North Shore.  Along the way, possibly under contractual obligation, a brush turkey wandered out from wherever it had been hiding and posed for photographs.  Apparently being bright black and red is the perfect camouflage for a largely green and grey background because I didn't see the thing until it was about five metres away and prancing back and forward in the hopes I would produce a camera.  Produce a camera I did but once the photo-op was out of the way each of us thankfully went about our business.  We're unlikely to stay in touch.

Can you see the brush turkey hiding in this photo?

Having rid myself of the pushy brush turkey I continued on down the creek until I hit a small snag.  The creek disappeared.  One moment there was trickling water and then a couple of small pools and then nothing.  Fortunately the path was better informed than I was, a mess of boulders later and the creek leapt out again with just a hint of smugness.  I looked carefully but there were still no eels.

So far I had navigated myself through the untamed wilderness of Wollstonecraft with aplomb but now the path had reached the sea.  Or more accurately it had reached a cove which in turn reached the harbour which (several kilometres away) did indeed impact with the sea.  In celebration of this fact the path split in two and a helpful sign pointed the way to Berry Island.  I promptly managed to walk in circles for ten minutes and was also terrified by a stealth spaniel.  It is embarrassing to be terrified by a spaniel.  It's like being mugged by a pensioner.  Still after a few deep breaths (and the possibility of several years of therapy) I managed to continue getting lost.  Since there was essentially only one path this required a special effort on my part but fortunately as I passed the signpost for the third time I noticed the direction I had to follow lurking modestly among the undergrowth and, only slightly dizzy, continued towards the island that isn't.

The sea beckons, now to steal a boat and make my way to freedom

And just like that I was out of the bush and onto a street.  A helpful sign had a map pointing out the direction I had to travel to get to Berry Island (just down the street) but I still studied it for ten minutes to make sure I wasn't going to mess it up again.  Thirty seconds walk down the street brought me to the aforementioned park that had been built on the isthmus we destroyed and in front of me loomed Berry Island in all its glory.  In fairness it probably looms a little more gloriously when it isn't grey and drizzling with rain.

That clump of trees is Berry Island

One of the many traits that I share with Field Marshal Montgomery is my habit of bringing a packed sandwich when journeying far from home (I'm also socially inept and a pathological liar although I do like to think I would not have dropped a parachute unit right on top of an SS panzer division).  I sat enjoying the drizzle and my sandwich while Berry Island issued its siren song.  Finally I could bear it no longer and drawn by forces I could not explain set out on the path that would enable me to circumnavigate the "island".  I had to stay on the path as a thin rope fence formed an impenetrable barrier to plunging through the bush.  Signs informed travelers that the bush was being regenerated (apparently a slower and less convenient process than Doctor Who would lead us to believe) and could we please stay on the path.  Oh yes and please not drop dog faeces anywhere.  Reluctantly sticking my dog faeces back in my pocket I trotted obediently along the path.

To my left was a tangle of (apparently only partially regenerated) bushland while on the right I gazed across the water to massive fuel tanks lurking near the shore.  Lurking near the fuel tanks was a rather shabby looking vessel called the ICS Reliance.  The ICS Reliance was built in Vietnam, is flagged in the Bahamas and is apparently cleaned by nobody.  The only reason why I didn't think it was derelict is because I googled it and apparently it is still operational.


Some rather handsome looking fuel tanks.  The ICS Reliance was too grotty to photograph

Berry Island was once a popular location for the Cammeraygal Aboriginal people due to the abundance of food that could be procured.  The views were pretty good as well.  Along the path is an Aboriginal rock carving of what might be a whale or might not.  Despite the fact that it is well signposted its actually difficult to identify the carving.  Being exposed to the elements the carvings naturally erode over time.  Traditionally Aborigines would continuously maintain and redo significant carvings to ensure they weren't lost.  Sadly, for depressingly obvious reasons, there is no one left with the skill or the knowledge to maintain this carving.  We're not even really certain what its a carving of, whale is just our best guess. 

With Berry Island under my belt there were decisions to be made like "how am I going to get home?"  Despite my problematic relationship with maps in general it appeared that if I continued my journey I could wander through some more bushland and wind up in the general vicinity of Waverton railway station.  Strangely this actually worked.  I walked through what appeared to be virgin bush.  At least it would have appeared to be virgin bush if it weren't for the signs popping up every so often to inform me that this was by no means the case.  In the nineteenth century and presumably before it became a home for the wealthy there was a certain amount of industry in this part of the North Shore including a timber works, a sugar refinery (which didn't last long) and a gas works (which did).  Once these industrial behemoths had been swept aside by the tide of history parks and sometime bush were inserted in their place.

I trotted through the not so virgin bush until I hit a fence with some very serious invitations to keep out posted on it.  For a moment I was outraged then I saw a whole bunch of floating stuff painted grey and decided not to challenge the navy for this part of the foreshore.  Instead I climbed parallel to the fence until I found myself on a street only five minutes from Waverton station.  How's that for navigation?

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Octopus Interlude

"Does this octopus look angry to you?"

This question is quite a typical example of the things my Tasmanian correspondent and I talk about when we've finished discussing blog business but convention and common politeness demand that we each pretend to take an interest in the other's life for a few minutes before signing off the call.  In this instance my correspondent presented me with a photo of a random cephalopod and asked me to pronounce on its emotional state.

The back story to this sudden excursion into octopus analysis is quite simple.  In an increasingly desperate attempt to maintain discipline among her rapidly growing offspring my correspondent has taken to scattering terrifying pictures about her home in the hopes of scaring her recalcitrant children into obedience.  At least this is the excuse she presented for having mural of a great white shark on the ceiling of her youngest daughter's bedroom.  Before the octopus picture she has acquired goes up on a wall she wanted reassurance that the subject looked adequately terrifying.

The invertebrate under discussion

While disavowing any deep understand of the octopus psyche I had to confess that the octopus didn't look particularly angry to me.  But it does most certainly have a decided look about it.  Once glance is enough to assure you that this particular octopus is taking no crap.  This seemed to satisfy my correspondent and the picture is now adorning a wall within eyesight of her beloved children.

I have to admit that I have always thought that octopuses (octopi? octopodes? octomum?) do look somewhat creepy and menacing.  I'm rather fond of octopus (in a non garlic butter sort of way) but a lot of that is due to the low probability of bumping into one in the street.  I suspect it has to do with the fact that they bear absolutely no resemblance to humans and yet manage to give the impression (accurately) that they're quite intelligent.  Once can sense purpose in an octopus which tends to give us the shivers in something that looks so much like an alien.

Actually that previous sentence needs to be reversed.  Octopuses do not look alien.  Aliens look like octopuses.  When, in our demented fever dreams we have come up with pictures of what aliens look like we seem to derive their appearance from the octopus.  I'm not even going to get into daleks which are basically octopuses driving tanks.  HP Lovecraft didn't help matters either.  It would seem that when we seek out stomach churning menace we immediately dial in an octopus.

Possibly its because despite being so thoroughly different octopuses actually have quite a few things we should recognise.  They have arms, they have eyes, they quite obviously have brains yet they've managed to squeeze these things into a package so utterly different from our own that the sight of them sends us climbing the curtains with squeals of terror (I do that anyway but for completely different, puffin related, reasons).

I rather suspect when we do make first contact the alien species we encounter better not look anything like an octopus otherwise I foresee nothing except grim and bloody warfare until one of our two species is extinct.

But back to the octopus de jour.  It is in fact a drawing of a maori octopus which hang about in the waters around Tasmania and New Zealand.  They aren't the biggest of octopuses but they are aggressive and fearless.  They also have the usual depressing reproductive cycle that nature seems to delight in.  The male ambushes the female (we would call that rape but apparently octopuses are unenlightened beings for all their intelligence) and impregnates her.  The effort of this apparently destroys his brain as he then goes senile and dies.  The female produces countless thousands of eggs which she tends fanatically, constantly fanning her tentacles across them to ensure a constant flow of clean water.  To help assure that the water is clean she stops eating so as not to produce any waste products.  The result is that after the baby octopuses hatch the mother usually starves to death.  I'd love to see a remake of The Lion King with that as the cycle of life.

Deprived of parents and surrounded by predators the few of those maori octopus that survive quite naturally grow up surly and overly aggressive, with a tendency to start fights, get into trouble and not ask for consent before initiating sex.  In short, its an entire species of juvenile delinquents.  Thank god they can't drive cars.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Gone Fishing

 Things are looking up on the environmental front.  People who keenly watch the doings of Australia's internal waterways may recall that nearly a year ago there was a mass die off of fish in the Murray River.  This came as a surprise and a shock to me as I honestly didn't realise anything lived in the Murray at all.  I also have a bit of a problem with the term "internal waterway".  What is an external waterway?  I think we call them oceans.

To compensate for the Murray's sadly fishless state the NSW government has taken time off from bitching about koalas to dump a couple of million fish that they apparently just had lying around into the river.  So the Murray is once again alive with fish, until they die then the Murray will be dead with fish., again.

The intention, of course, is that the fish thus dumped will ignore their new, low rent surroundings and breed like crazy thus removing the requirement for the government to keep half an ecosystem in ornamental ponds at the back of government house.  This has worked in the past but it usually requires that the water the fish are being dumped into be somewhat liveable.  There has been some rain so the Murray is marginally more liquid than it has been in recent times but other than that nothing much has changed.  Essentially we're simply shovelling in more fish in the hopes that we can beat the death rates by sheer volume.

One of the reasons why the government is eagerly reinpiscinating the river is economic.  Most of the communities along the Murray Darling survive by sucking water out of the river but some of them are centres for sports fishing.  Encouraging anglers to attend your location is a little easier if you can at least plausibly pretend that there might be some fish for them to catch.

Personally I think that these communities (and the state government) have rather missed the point.  Catching fish is time consuming and has no guarantee of success.  Imagine how many anglers would flock to your town if all they had to do was scrape floating dead fish off the surface.  None of that buggering about with rods or hooks.  You could just go out with a net, scoop up your bag and spend the rest of the day in the pub.  Mass fish kills could be the economic recovery plan these towns need.  The only trouble with this plan is you need a constant fish churn to make it succeed.  My personal suggestion is, given the levels of salt in the Murray we should just toss potatoes and oil in with the fish and set the whole thing on fire.  

Still pasting a level of pseudo healthiness over the ecological disaster zone that is the Murray River provides work for fish wranglers if nothing else.  We're going to need more jobs as we come out of the pandemic.  Once we've finished stuffing the rivers with fish we can hire the same people to paint the bleached bits of the Barrier Reef.  With any luck once the thing finally dies nobody will notice.  As long as we don't use water paints of course.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Silly After Action Report - Easy Meat

subtitle: In Dust We Trust


Two squads of American soldiers advanced cautiously through the dust.  Despite the irritating up and down nature of the terrain there didn't seem to be as much cover as they would like.  Somewhere up ahead a German machine gun nest was waiting, barely visible through the gritty sky.  Suddenly the youngest squad member stopped, his mouth falling open.

"What the hell is that?"

The lieutenant who had already fielded far too many questions from this pink cheeked babe in arms rolled his eyes.

"What does it look like?"

"It looks like a tank with a tumour," replied the young man.

"M3, don't worry they're on our side."

The squads carried on, on the hill above the German machine gun post opened fire.

"Are you sure we're safe?" squeaked the young man nervously.

The lieutenant sighed and contemplated a little reverse fragging.

"The air is full of dust, they can't see a damn thing now get forward."  There was no response.  The lieutenant looked around, in place of two full squads of infantry were a few streaks of dust stained red.

"Oh shit," muttered the lieutenant just as approximately three hundred and forty eight machine gun bullets collided with his body.

Well the above intro should give you an idea as to how this one went.  Dave Wilson and I don't play too many desert scenarios.  Given our respective stages of advanced mental decay there are just too many extra rules.  However, just for a change, we decided to try a home grown classic; Easy Meat which was designed by a fellow member of the Paddington Bears wargaming club for a competition far back in the mists of time when the world was young and there were wolves in Wales.

Easy Meat is set in Tunisia 1943 and involves an American force looking to push a considerably smaller German force out of a recently occupied village.  Lest the Germans feel hard done by the Americans have got some unpleasant ground to cover (half of it rough and the other half completely open) and the Germans are reinforced by a Tiger tank plus assorted hangers on in turn two.  As it was designed for a competition there isn't just one set of victory conditions, dear me no.  Rather both sides can win a marginal or decisive victory.  There is also facility for a draw.

I would take the Americans and find myself in command of a dozen first line squads with four leaders (including a 9-2 and a 9-1), a medium machine gun, a 60mm mortar and a pair of early model bazookas.  Rolling on in support were three M3 tanks.  What is an M3 tank? It might help to think of it as an M11/39 on steroids.  The job of this mob of olive green was to advance through the dust and push the Germans out of four stone buildings at their end of the map.  If the Americans capture all four buildings and have eyes on hex 25GG6 at game end that's a decisive victory.  Capturing the four buildings is a marginal victory.  If the Germans hold all the buildings that's a marginal German victory.  If they hold them all while suffering fewer than 14 CVP that's a decisive victory.  If the Americans capture one building its a draw.

To defend this little piece of Tunisia that will be forever German Dave had six first line squads, a light machine gun, a heavy machine gun, two officers, two trenches and two wire counters.  Grinding slowly but formidably to the rescue on turn two was the afore mentioned tiger, backed up by a couple of 20mm flak trucks, an armed kubelwagen and a truck carrying a pair of elite squads and a medium machine gun.  By SSR light dust is in effect for the first three turns and the wind is coming from the south.

As you can see my main push would come across the open ground trusting to the dust to keep away the bullets.  In the centre I placed my mortar hoping I might be able to take out his hmg team obviously up on the hilltop and also my 9-2 with a pair of squads and the mmg looking to find a useful firebase to provide support.  To the east I had a pair of squads and an expendable leader to conduct a flanking maneuver hopefully in conjunction with the trio of M3s which would spend the first three turns (of six) getting to somewhere useful.

Things started rather badly when my entire flanking maneuver was killed by his hmg (dust be damned) leaving my tanks alone and my mortar started what turned out to be a long career of complete impotence.  Elsewhere though things went somewhat better.  My main force dashed through the dust and buried themselves in a gully peering through the dust at the small collection of stone buildings that were, unaccountably, their objective for this game.  In the next turn my tanks, now in splendid isolation rolled forwards against no opposition heading for the road that would actually allow them to climb the mountain while my main force swarmed forward towards his building defenders.  The dust actually started working in my favour and I got troops into close combat with a horde of others lining up behind.  Which was good as the Tiger was coming, the dust would soon vanish and the good times were nearly over.

End of turn 2, a building will soon be mine

Unfortunately the combined efforts of my mortar and mmg "kill" stack proved utterly incapable of so much as creasing the uniforms of Dave's hmg team up on the hill.  If I wanted to win I would have to do it under the baleful gaze of a heavy machine gun.  Oh yes, and the Tiger was coming.  Unlike me in the last scenario Dave did not send it plunging forward to be surrounded by enemies but rather moved it up to the rearmost of the victory buildings securing his hold on that structure if nothing else.  I ultimately triumphed in the first close combat and pushed him out of the adjacent victory building as well.  This can be considered the high point of my game.  Now, with the dust gone and Dave's hmg team reigning supreme any attempt to move forward was likely to receive brutal punishment.  I attempted to move forward.  I received brutal punishment.

My high point

While Dave had sent his Tiger (and one of the flak trucks) around to solidify the village defence he had brought his reinforcing infantry (and their mmg) up onto the hill to support his hmg team which made matters even worse for me.  My M3s, I decided, were expendable.  After all if the Tiger was shooting at them it wasn't shooting at infantry (as it turned out all four tanks survived the game).  Two I sent on a painful trip up a mountain road which rather resembled a length of small intestine but the third I sent looping around his rear in the hopes of shooting up that damned hmg post from behind.

Time was running short and so was the life exepectancy of my soldiers.  I had kept them alive so far by cramming the survivors into the two stone buildings I had captured but if I wanted to win they would have to step out into the open.  At this point Dave made his one false move of the game by driving one of his flak trucks up onto the hill to support the hmg team.  My own mmg team which had proved useless at taking down his soldiers suddenly proved that a truck was just big enough for them to hit and blew the thing up in a cloud of smoke and flames.  Suddenly I had a little cover to replace the dust.  Meanwhile the forward most of my M3s was trading shots with his Tiger, fortunately we realised there was a building blocking our LOS before any damage was done.

Ignore the acquisitions, the two tanks can't see each other

At some point around this time I broke my mortar.  It can't be said that I noticed the difference.  I also managed to break the 75mm on an M3 and the cmg on another.  The Tiger was slowly pounding my infantry although so far casualties had been bearable and things looked briefly up as one of my M3s managed to kill his lmg team which had been guarding the road which at least reduced the number of things which could shoot at his forces.  

Time for a last desperate push

With time running out and my weapons showing a disturbing tendency to fall apart in their owners hands I had to take risks.  Trusting to the smoke of the burning truck I pushed my mmg stack down from its position towards the village whereupon the hmg team fired through the smoke and broke the lot.  By the time they recovered things really were over.  Dave had placed a wall of troops in front of the final victory building, easy meat but it meant that I couldn't get through them and into the target building.  His garrison of the other building was broken but attempts to actually capture it ended in bloody chaos and the Tiger managed to break the half squad stalking it with a bazooka.  That's pretty much where it ended, in a stalemate.  Since I had captured two buildings the game was officially a draw.  Which it has to be said is a better result than I usually achieve.  The next game will take place in a non desert part of Tunisia with Dave pandering to my predilection for Italians.  I'm sure things can't go badly wrong there.

"Look at it this way," suggested the captain hopefully, "we got half the village."

"Since we've only got half our force left that does have a certain symmetry," admitted the major shaking some dust out of the creases in his uniform.

"Oh look, the Tiger's leaving," said the captain.  "Do you think we drove it off?"

"No, I just think it was finished.  But I'm definitely saying we drove it off in my report."

"Well done sir."

"Are you patronising me?"

"I would never patronise a man as brave and talented as yourself sir."

"Just as well."

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Plague Update #44 - Damp Squib Edition

 So the sudden outbreak in Adelaide turned out to be far less of a concern than most people thought.  I say "most people" because, since it happened in Adelaide, I wasn't really concerned at all.  I suppose it is good news for the people of Adelaide and I shouldn't really be churlish because I've been deprived of dramatic material for my blog.  I had hoped to fill a couple of these plague updates detailing Adelaide's desperate struggle against infection and the human tragedy involved.  As it is it turns out it was a false alarm and the human tragedy levels barely rose above what is normal for people forced to live in Adelaide.  At least my Tasmanian correspondent will be pleased.

When for a brief, glorious moment it looked like the word Adelaide might be synonymous with hecatomb I had formed a crack journalistic team to cover events on the ground.  Spearheading this blog's reporting efforts would be my Tasmanian correspondent (swiftly renamed Tasmanian and Parts of Australia so Remote they Might as Well be Tasmania correspondent).  Unfortunately those plans ran into a slight hitch.  The conversation with my Tasmanian etc etc correspondent went something like this.

Me:    Pack a bag, you're being deployed into the field in twenty four hours.

TC:    How the hell did you get this number?

Me:    My tech support are tracking you by satellite.  Get ready, I'm sending you to Adelaide.

TC:    The hell you are.

Me:    May I remind you of certain videos in my possession?

TC:    In the name of God please don't send me to Adelaide!  Think of my children.

Me:    Are you afraid of catching COVID?

TC:    Is there COVID in Adelaide?

Fortunately before I had to activate the mind control chip my tech support installed in her skull under the pretext of a neck injury news filtered out from Adelaide that the whole thing had been a misunderstanding and they weren't dying like flies after all.  I let my correspondent off the hook on the understanding that she tell me the next exciting thing that happens in Tasmania, I may never hear from her again.  Just on the subject of mind control chips, I've got a bit of a stiff neck myself.  I took the opportunity created by transferring all my assets to a trust under my tech support's control to ask them if they had done the same thing to me.  They assured me they hadn't and sent me instructions on how to remove one of my kidneys almost painlessly.

With nothing much happening in Adelaide (and there you have the history of the city in a sentence) I cast around for something else to pad out this blog entry.  Fortunately Big Pharma has stepped up to the plate.  Suddenly we're almost swamped with vaccines.  Pfizer, has announced that its vaccine is 90% effective and is good to go as soon as those interfering busybodies at the FDA stop asking awkward questions.  The elderly will be prioritised once a vaccine actually starts hitting the shelves (some still non specific point in the future).  This is in keeping with Pfizer's usual business model.  They should label the vaccine "from the people who brought you Viagra!"

Not to be outdone the Russians have announced that they have a vaccine even more effective than the Pfizer model (but does it help you maintain an erection?) whereas the Chinese haven't bothered announcing how effective their vaccine is, they've just been sticking it into their population anyway.  You can do that when you have a billion people to play with.  If it works you're a world beater and if not, plenty more where they came from.

I must admit I would be slightly more inclined to trust a Russian vaccine over a Chinese one and not just because my tech support were probably consultants on its development.  Russia has already proved that it can introduce foreign substances into the human body from halfway across the world and while admittedly this one is actually trying to save lives surely once you have something fatal it can't be too difficult to reverse engineer it so that it's less so.  I wouldn't be astonished if the Russian vaccine turned out to be a polonium derivative.

The vaccine won't arrive in time to "save Christmas" but it might turn up in time for me to take a holiday next year.  Because that's what it's all about of course.  A ghastly pandemic sweeping the earth and tumbling the innocent headlong into the grave is essentially an inconvenience on my journey to building a decent bank of frequent flyer points.  It's actually possible that my tech support's mind control chip might make me a better person.  I have to go now; I have some detailed instructions, a kitchen knife and some short handled tongs so its time to make my contribution to the organ bank of Belarus.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Travelling Pathetically - Pushy Peacock Edition

 I didn't take my puffin with me on my latest excursion, he's in disgrace.  The sadistic little bastard deliberately ignored my safe word and by the time I had picked the lock with my teeth muscle spasms had set in and certain items were lodged in certain places.  At least I gave the staff at the ER a story to tell their friends (although probably not their children).  I might have accepted his apology if he hadn't been laughing all the way through.

So my next journey was solitary.  It's probably all for the best as he would definitely have got into a fight with the peacocks.  In keeping with the "tours of random green spots I've seen from the train" motif of my recent travel I decided to go and have a look at the Duck River.  The Duck flows through the high rent neighbourhoods of Auburn, Granville and Clyde before falling, battered and defeated into the Parramatta River in the general vicinity of Silverwater.  The train I catch to my parents place crosses the Duck and I have often noticed the rather insalubrious ooze making its way through the industrial areas of the aforementioned suburbs, the murky waters fringed with trees that exhibit a certain amount of astonishment at still being alive.  

Duck River hit the news earlier this year when its water turned a pleasing purple colour.  Nobody seems to know why but we are assured that there was no danger to any of the bird or fish life in the river.  This news was greeted with some skepticism by those of us who couldn't believe there was any bird or fish life in the river.  It is good to know that if there are any they are totally fine with a purple based interior decoration scheme.

After my experience with the Alexandra Canal I didn't really expect to be able to walk along the river but while conducting research (googling "Duck River") I discovered that not only was there a Duck River Walk but that this walk was apparently convenient to the Auburn Botanic Gardens.  I also discovered that there was an Auburn Botanical Gardens.  There and then I decided I would travel to Auburn, wander through the gardens and cap it with a gentle stroll down the river.  I detailed this list of exciting activities to my puffin but he just muttered and struggled against his fetters.

The day was cool and cloudy when I left home and by the time I arrived in Auburn (not really too far away) the day was stinking hot and humid.  Leaving my hat at home was a poor decision based apparently on a fleeting trick of the weather.

I am bad at reading maps.  Specifically I am bad at reading google maps.  Thus it was with a tremendous sense of personal achievement that I guided myself from Auburn train station to the Botanical Gardens with only a couple of hysterical swearing fits and no more than half a dozen changes of direction to compensate for earlier, misguided changes of direction.  Having arrived at the gardens I spent another ten minutes trying to find a way in.

My experience with botanical gardens is limited to Sydney's and Singapore's both of which it is fair to say are on a different scale to that on display at Auburn.  Nevertheless for the most part Auburn has made the most of what its got.  I entered through the Japanese garden which was very pleasant.  I'm not entirely sure any Japanese tourists would see it as a welcome slice of home but it was pleasant nonetheless.  It was centred around a lake which (like all the water in the garden) was a bizarre aquamarine colour.  I'm sure there was a reason but I couldn't find anybody to ask.  It didn't seem to bother the fish or the birds disporting themselves on it.  I suppose once you've dealt with purple aquamarine is perfectly acceptable.

I think this is a goose.  Or a duck on steroids.

As I've noticed before the presence of greenery seems to drop the ambient temperature by a couple of degrees at it was pleasant to wander about the trees (some of which in a nod to the theme were Japanese maples) and popping into small vaguely oriental looking shelters along the way.  I ate my lunch in one of these while some children stared with rapt fascination through the vision holes that had been cut in the wall.  The most immediately obvious sight through these holes was a bird that had obviously collided quite violently with the final stage of the "cycle of life" so beloved by the Lion King.  It was lying in the foreground while a colony of insects were enthusiastically "returning it to nature".  I went back to my seat where I had a vision of a thoroughly alive lizard (or a very good animatronic mock up) that was shading itself about six feet from my chosen dining location.

This lizard moved just enough to make me unsure as to whether it was real or not.

With lunch completed I made my way over one of the little decorative bridges that permitted me to gaze down into the eyes a large fish that was staring up at me in an expectant fashion.  There are signs telling us not to feed the animals but I get the impression the fish might get out of the water and beat us up if we obeyed them.  I shouldn't have been surprised at the fish of course.  You can't have a Japanese garden without a water feature stuffed with morbidly obese goldfish.

Honestly is this a natural shade for water?


Next along on my trip was the pool of reflection.  it was more like a trough than a pool but I presume its the thought that counts.  Also due to the amount of pollen and feathers floating on the surface there wasn't very much reflection happening.  On the plus side it was the only water in the park that wasn't a vivid blue-green.  Along the way I passed a peacock posing photogenically by the side of the path.  I obligingly took a photo and then had to pause while the peacock presented its best side and took the photo again.  The results pleased both of us and I was permitted to continue my journey to the trough of reflection.

the damn peacock made my retake the photo three times to ensure I got his "best side"

 After finally escaping from the peacock and spending an obligatory thirty seconds reflecting I made my way (journey time thirty seconds) to the scented garden.  The scented garden was small but a pleasant olfactory experience.  Have you ever walked through the perfume sales area at an airport duty free zone?  The atmosphere was much the same but was enriched by the absence of smartly dressed women with bright smiles and hollow, dead eyes desperately trying to sell you perfume.  After inhaling for what I felt was a socially acceptable period I wandered along to the sunken rose garden.  This was the only disappointment.  Possibly I had come at the wrong time of year but I got the impression that the rose garden had sunk under the weight of its own shame.  There were a handful of desperately scraggy roses that looked like they had chosen this location to crawl away to die.  On the other hand there was a very handsome crow lurking about the outside.  I say crow, I got the impression he doubled as garden security.

From there I passed to the Australian bush section which included a "billabong" also in a vivid shade of aquamarine.  I'm pretty sure the Jolly Swagman didn't camp by something that looked like a lake of listerine.  Should anybody wish to correct me at this point and say that such colouring is perfectly natural and I am displaying my ignorance they may do so with impunity, I don't really care.

I rounded off the Garden visit by dropping in on the fauna centre.  Here they had rounded up a handful of native animals and dropped them into a fenced enclosure for the amusement of passers by.  There were wallabys, betongs, wombats, cape barren geese and of course peacocks.  Not really sure what the peacocks were doing there but they seemed to have the run of the place.  They turned up in pretty much every enclosure regardless of what was supposed to be there and as noted earlier turned up outside the enclosure as well.  I saw a sign saying "cape barren geese" and literally standing next to the sign was a peacock.  Some kids are going to go away very confused.  I did manage to see a cape barren goose, it was sort of standing in a corner gloomily aware that it was overshadowed by the peacocks.  I took a photo of it out of sympathy.

Let's face it cape barren geese aren't the most exciting of birds

Then I took a photo of this because, well damn...

and then this

which is the same peacock but from a more, er, "accessible" aspect.

As I walked away from the enclosure I heard a single gunshot as the cape barren goose put an end to its misery.  I was reflecting on the prevalence of peacocks (they were literally everywhere) in what was supposed to be an Australian fauna display and was so engrossed in this that I almost walked face first into an emu.  For the record an emu has got to be at the top of any list of things you don't want to walk face first into.  I recoiled in surprise (and survival instinct) while the emu sneered at me with dumb insolence.  If you think an animal with a beak can't sneer check out the next photo.  Also I'm pretty sure that the term "dumb insolence" was only fifty percent correct.

Not something you want to meet head on

I stared at the emu nervously for a moment while it stared at me contemptuously.  Fortunately there was a fence between me and it.  Unfortunately the fence certainly wasn't high enough to stop the emu beating me to death on the spot if it wanted to.  Essentially the owners were relying on laziness to overcome malice.  I skirted around the emu while it mocked me with its gaze.  Then it turned its attention to the next visitor, a woman who thought it was a bright idea to reach out a hand as if to stroke it.  I fled before her screams got too bloodcurdling.

Having spent an enjoyable couple of hours wandering around what was essentially a collection of plants held in captivity the time had come for the actual purpose of my trip.  Duck River awaited.  It would wait a little longer as I tried to figure out how to get to it.  The river actually flowed behind the botanic garden but getting to it seemed a little more problematic.  Eventually by leaving the garden and crossing the river via a road bridge I wound up on the other side of the river and apparently close to the Duck River Walk.  I say apparently because actually accessing the river was surprisingly difficult.

My first view of the river, also my only one for a while. For the record this is Auburn

When I first decided to check out the river I was prepared for failure.  Since the river flowed through housing estates and industrial areas I fully expected a lot of it to be blocked off.  But when I heard of the Duck River Walk my assumption veered in the other direction and I anticipated a path through remnant bushland beside the river.  As it turned out I was wrong or I had picked the wrong path.  The path was a sealed walkway that ran along houses on one side and the aforementioned remnant bushland on the other.  The river was definitely there somewhere but it wasn't actually visible from the path.  Also the path itself wasn't continuous which meant I found myself in much the same situation as I had with the Alexandra canal, walking down streets in a heavily urban environment in the hopes of finding access to the river eventually or at least another part of the walk.

I did eventually find the walk again and there were a couple of occasions when I was able to make my may through the undergrowth to the rivers edge.  Despite the inevitable plastic junk it looked surprisingly idyllic.  Water birds (or at least water adjacent birds) fringed the edges and while I didn't see any fish there were hopeful bubbles rising to the surface so I could at least convince myself that there were fish in there somewhere.

Fleeting glimpses of the river were all I got

On the other hand I did manage to walk past the Turkish Cypriot-Australian Friendship Association and the Burmese Christian Association headquarters within five minutes of each other.  It was Saturday and both appeared closed.  In the patches of walkway that did exist there were signs announcing the fact and the significance of the trees as the last survivors of various species that our ancestors had swept from the earth a century or two ago and invited us to watch out for the male superb fairy wren which has beautiful blue colouring and, as I discovered, is very difficult to photograph.  Signs also invited us to watch out for snakes.  A picture of a snake was helpfully provided.  It looked like a special needs caterpillar.

This is, I think, a male superb fairywren. Or possibly just a random bird

Despite the absence of immediately available river I perservered walking besides endangered trees and plunging riverward whenever it looked like the undergrowth was sufficiently scanty to minimise the dangers of treading on snakes or superb fairywrens.  In contrast to the flighty fairywrens the other birds didn't seem to mind their pictures being taken or possibly, since I was on the other side of the river, they just didn't notice me.

I feel obliged to toss in the occasional river photograph


My journey along (or at least in the general vicinity of) the Duck River came to an end when the path ended and various industrial buildings stretched very obviously down to the river.  Fortunately I was also very close to Clyde railway station so I hopped on the train and went home.  I may have embellished my accounts of the river when speaking to my puffin on arrival.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Silly After Action Report - Paper Tigers

 By April 1945 Germany had reached the bottom of the manpower barrel and started to dig.  Eager to "help" the SS stepped forward and, at the recommendation of their resident cave specialist, (because every gang of militaristic right wing thugs needs a cave specialist) created the 24th Waffen-Gebirgs (Karstjager) Division der SS by recruiting everyone on the border between Italy and Slovenia with a vaguely German sounding name.  It was commanded by officers from the SS Geological Corps (because every gang of militaristic right wing thugs needs etc etc).  Having thrown together the most unpromising personnel they could find and backing them up with some dubiously effective Italian tanks (and I just described every Italian tank) the karstjager were unleashed on an unimpressed public.  Part of the reason the public were unimpressed was the fact that the public in question were largely Italian and Slovenian.

Of course a desperately under strength anti partisan unit with a silly name doesn't maintain itself and to ensure an inadequate flow of replacements to the under manned field regiment (there was only one) a replacement company was established to train whoever happened to be walking by its offices and could be persuaded to put on a uniform.  This "unit" was based in the Italian town of Cividale which by April 1945 was one of a dwindling number of urban centres in Italy still controlled by the Germans.

While the actual division (which in a concession to reality had recently been downgraded to a brigade) was off jagering across the karst the replacement company practiced dropping their rifles, buffed their nails and hoped that the war would come to an end before they were sent to the front.  On the 28th of April the front was delivered to them.

This is ASL Scenario FT255 - Paper Tigers.  I desperately wanted to play this one and Dave Wilson was kind enough to pander to my childish pleas.  The reason I wanted to play it is that it is the only scenario I have encountered where one of the combatants fields the Italian designed (but German manned) P26/40 tank.  In order to get the full P26/40 experience I took the Germans in the form of the Karstjager's understudies while Dave led a collection of partisans and Italian light armour.

The victory conditions are simple.  If the partisans capture two of the three ground floor stairway hexes in building 45J3 they win.  If they capture or eliminate both P26/40s they win.  If they inflict 10 or more CVPs in personnel casualties they win.  In fact it would be simpler to detail ways they can't win. Should none of these things come to pass the Germans win another day or two in Cividale before succumbing to the inevitable.

To ward off the unwashed masses I have nine squads of sturdy volksdeutsche who range from bad (six second line squads) to worse (three conscript squads).  These deadbeats have a pair of light machine guns and are led by two of the Geological Corps finest.  Supporting this barely human material are two of the finest products of Italian tank design (and that statement is sadly true) in the form of a pair of the P26/40s I was fangirling over.  Dave's panzer partisan brigade consisted of eight 337 partisan squads, seven 227 partisan halfsquads, three leaders, two lmgs, an mmg, an atr and a bazooka.  Driving them to the battlefield was a ramshackle collection of Italian armour who had been collaborating with the Germans a couple of days previously and had decided it might be a good idea to get some brownie points from the winning team.  There are four trucks, five L3 light tanks (its 1945 for god's sake) and an AB41 armoured car.  These vehicles all set up in one long column stretched out along the road with the partisans clinging to the outsides of the vehicles.

My plan was to try and defend a little forward of the victory buildings with the two tanks guarding the most direct approach roads.  I didn't actually expect Dave to take this approach but you would look silly if you didn't guard them and your enemy simply drove up next to you.  I would discover much more creative ways of looking silly as the game went on.

At start, I have to set up within one hex of the building while Dave looks like he's doing a remake of Convoy.

Dave started his run when a truck sagging suspiciously low on its suspension drove up and deposited a load of partisans a couple of streets to the south of my sturdily defended building.  three more trucks did much the same thing while my defenders discussed the weather and the dangers involved in hunting karst (its a fearsome beast when its cornered).  With the trucks having delivered their cargoes they promptly went into reverse and fled the scene.  At this point a kindly observer to our VASL game pointed out that Dave appeared to have placed three times as many squads into the first truck as its portage capacity would permit.  Not the worst mistake we've ever made, last week I fucked up my set up so badly we literally couldn't play the game.  After an anguished conversation we agreed that since the other trucks could collectively carry the surplus in addition to their own passengers we dumped the excess near where the other trucks had parked and pretended that was the plan all along.

While his truckers were stumbling around in confusion Dave's armoured punch (armoured swat would be a better term) lurched forward, driving due north across the gunsights of both my tanks to outflank me to the north.  Technically I could have shot at them but double small targets, fleetingly glimpsed as they rattled forwards?  I stood a better chance of breaking the gun or bringing down a random pigeon by mistake.  So the first Allied turn ended with suspiciously eager partisans leaping from trucks, tanks and an armoured car athirst for victory.

End Allied turn 1

Although a little unnerved at how close the partisans had got in one turn I put my plan into action.  I shuffled some troops forward, brave under their concealment counters, to put at least one stone building between Dave and his target.  In the south I backed up my bold karstjager with a tank.  Then I did something stupid.  In fact if you're getting tired of these AARs you can pretty much read the previous sentence and leave it at that.  With Dave's L3s (and armoured car) pretty much nose to tail along a road I gunned the dubious engine of my other P26 and sent it charging forward.  My only excuse is that I really wanted to use the thing.  The tank was pretty much immune to such fire as the L3s and the car could produce.  I figured his infantry were going forward and for some reason it never occurred to me that they might turn around.  I did manage to break a halfsquad and for a brief moment things looked good.  A very brief moment.

A picture of a very brief moment

Over in the south things Dave broke an lmg which I chose to view as a portent of things to come.  It wasn't but straw grasping is a talent of mine.  His other troops skirted such locations as could be hit by 75mm fire and cheerfully trotted around my forward defenders to plunge into CC with guys further to the rear.  This is when I realised another issue with my defence.  Dave charged into close combat every chance he got.  Even if we traded squad for squad it wouldn't take me long to hit that ten CVP cap.  I lost a half squad in the first melee and that was just a harbinger of things to come.

Back at the doomed P26 Dave demonstrated exactly how silly my tank move was by racing a squad with a bazooka up next to the tank.  He also moved a half squad forward as well but the tanks mg managed to pin it.  He missed with the bazooka in the advance phase and piled into close combat or rather he tried to. His squad was more than happy to fire a bazooka but actually closing with a tank was more than they were prepared to do.  His 7-0 jumped in alone while the squad studied the sky and talked amongst themselves.  Naturally I couldn't kill the officer in CC which left me without options next turn.  Tank fire broke the officer and then the squad blew the thing up with its bazooka, sigh.  

Normal service resumed

Eager to build on their sudden tank killer reputation Dave sent his bazooka squad looping around to sneak up on my remaining tank.  For support he sent a platoon of L3s to park right behind my tank as well.  I should have ignored the damn things, even with a rear shot the chances of them taking out a P26 were minimal but the temptation was too great.  The P26 blew one up and an lmg shot from the victory building destroyed the other.  If nothing else my tank would have one armour kill to its name.

I say I should have ignored them because it was all about the infantry really.  That 75mm would have been better used shooting at, or at least threatening, his advancing squads.  Dave demonstrated this by sending a pair of squads into CC with another of my forward defenders.  He also tried to dash him squad with the broken lmg across the road but this resulted in a casualty reduction and the surviving halfsquad going berserk.  It charged at the one unoccupied squad in my front line but it turned out that 4-1 odds was something my guys could deal with.

L3s doing what they do best, attracting fire meant for better targets

Close combat suddenly became my friend.  I had a squad tying up two of his in melee and in the next CC phase I killed one of them.  Dave reinforced with another squad and I killed another all without harm to myself.  At this point things didn't seem too bad for me.  Despite the loss of a tank and Italian armour swarming all over the battlefield his main thrust in the south had been slowed to a crawl my main defence in the victory building was solid and his casualties were mounting.  I saw his bazooka squad coming and moved back my one unattended squad to provide some close protection for the tank.  A good idea but imperfectly executed as you will see.

As you can see from the above I moved the squad back under the tank.  I may have done better to move it into the building.  Meanwhile the melee raged on soaking up an ocean of partisan blood.  Dave then did something quite sensible, he ignored it and moved his remaining troops around it.  Having decided the building was beyond him he was quite simply gunning for my tank.  To keep me honest up in the north he sent a flock of halfsquads forward against the scanty defenders there.

But it all came down to the tank.  Dave moved his bazooka unit forward shrugging off my defensive fire and moved more squads in from the buildings.  One of those squads carried a pair of panzerfausts.  Dave fired them both in the advancing fire phase without result but he didn't really need to.  He advanced a squad and leader into CC with the tank and accompanying squad both.  In CC he managed to immobilise the tank meaning it couldn't drive away and the next turn his bazooka team destroyed it.  Automatic win to Dave.  It was all my fault, I threw away what is actually quite a potent tank asset on a piece of quixotic stupidity.  After that Dave was able to swarm the survivor.  But I have played a scenario with the P26.  Much thanks to Dave for the game.

Both tanks gone and game over.

Two nervous looking karstjager slunk out from behind a building.  The first looked around quickly and ducked back into cover.

"There are Italians everywhere," he whispered.

"Non parlo Tesdesco," replied his companion.

"Don't give me that bullshit," said the first. You grew up two houses down from me."  He watched nervously as the other stripped off his SS insignia and picked up a rifle.

"You absolute bastard," he muttered raising his hands.

"If its a choice between you and me it is definitely going to be you," replied the other, "start running.  If you're lucky I'll miss."

"I've seen you at rifle practice, you're more likely to miss if I stand still."