Friday, January 31, 2020

CanCon AAR

The journey to our national capital was a rather sombre affair.  Cows were depressingly few and far between and even those that presented themselves to my gaze were thin, scrubby and desperate looking.  Once in Canberra I discovered that a haze of smoke does not improve the city's appearance (although it does reduce the distance at which you can see it which is a plus).  A visit to the war memorial improved our spirits and I got the opportunity to see a captured L3 first hand.  As I admired its brittle, riveted armour and tiny, inoffensive appearance I felt myself uplifted.  I would go forth to CanCon and do mighty deeds in the name of this L3 and all its kind.

So how did that work out?  Better than expected to be honest.  Please enjoy the self serving revisionism below.

Hurricane Biak
The first scenario was Hurricane Biak (which sounds like a Pacific Rim pool hustler) which saw me commanding a bunch of American infantry of the elite and first line variety attempting to prevent (and by "prevent" I mean "kill") a group of Japanese commanded by Simon Spinetti who had decided that the shortest distance between two points involved trampling a bunch of Americans into the dust along the way. The Japanese and the Americans both have ten squads each at start but each side gets a few more as reinforcements partway through the game.

The Japanese need to exit 7CVP off the board and must plough through kunai, light jungle and what turned out to be a less than heroic American defence to do so.  I set up a skirmish line in the kunai to inflict early casualties while I deployed the bulk of my force further back in the jungle in the centre of the board as my main line of resistance.  My reinforcements would hover menacingly around the Japanese exit locations

It's fair to say things didn't work out quite the way I'd hoped.  Simon went around and occasionally through my skirmish line without really slowing down and things didn't really get better when he bumped into what I had (in a fit of outrageous optimism) designated my main line of resistance.  On my left his reinforcements charged towards my rear most defender.  On my right my forces out numbered Simon's two to one.  A turn or so later and they didn't.  In the centre the remainder of my force proved frighteningly mortal. 

Close combat was the American's friend (not quite the way its supposed to be) they died at an atrocious rate but at least took some Japanese with them.  At the end of the fifth turn (of six) Simon was yet to exit any troops.  Unfortunately functional American forces had been reduced to the equivalent of one and a half squads while half the Japanese army was jostling for position around the exit locations.  I conceded while some of my force was still alive.  L3s everywhere sobbed oily tears at their champions fall.  0-1

Checkmate Kaiapat

The second scenario kept us in the jungle as a bunch of frighteningly good Australians charged forwards to do battle with a group of terrifyingly inept Japanese.  I don't think I have to tell you which side I had.  This was a meeting engagement the Japanese weren't expecting and to simulate their lack of preparedness special rules dictated that they were not stealthy, couldn't deploy, couldn't HIP, had to set up and enter without concealment and didn't get their usual ambush bonus.  Pretty much the only thing left was to stuff the whole lot of them into a sack and beat them repeatedly with seal clubs before the scenario began.

My opponent Tim Reade and I both thought the Australians had it made in this scenario but only Tim had the courage to put his money where his mouth was and bid Allied 1.  This left me with the Japanese while Tim swapped out an 8-1 for an 8-0.

The Japanese force consists of a handful of squads and an equal number of halfsquads defending against a more powerful Australian attacker.  The Australian's had to capture a hill and a majority of huts in the village nestling behind it.  Both sides got a bunch of reinforcements, the Australians were good, the Japanese not so much (plus they entered CXed having used half their movement).

My set up was constrained by having to set up on or very near a path somewhat forward of the village I had to protect.  My first move consisted of fleeing as much of my force rearward to stick them behind the distinctly flimsy walls of the huts.  Simon's onboard force moved to outflank my defenders while his reinforcements charged straight for the handful of throwaway troops I had left on the hill so that he couldn't just waltz onto the victory locations.  Fortunately for me Simon got a little drunk on HtH CC.  Another special rule stated that the Australian's could declare hand to hand CC if they so chose.  Simon so chose as he attempted to sweep my defenders from the hill.  This in my view was a mistake as my expendables stepped up heroically and slaughtered Aussies by the bucketful.  I mean, they died as well of course but the body count was well in my favour.  This kept the hill in my hands for a turn longer than would otherwise have been the case and in my view was the difference between  defeat and victory.

The remainder of his force swung around to my left and started assaulting the village but my reinforcements puffed their way into the unoccupied huts before he could push through what was left of my at start force.  The remaining turns were a remorseless grind as the Australians slowly drove the Japanese back but when the final turn came Tim was still two huts short of his target.  He would have to lunge into two close combats and win them both or so it seemed.  The first CC resulted in mutual obliteration thus leaving the hut in my possession but it was adjacent to the other hut in dispute.  If Tim could ambush me here and kill me outright he could withdraw into the other hut for the win.  He didn't ambush me but did kill my boys in the ensuing CC.  He pointed out that if I rolled a boxcars on my return attack he could still infiltrate forward into the other hut.  I picked up my dice cup and rolled...eleven.  Has anybody ever won a scenario by rolling an eleven before?

So a victory to Neil.  L3s everywhere revved their engines in approbation.  Of course being L3s a number of them promptly broke down but there was approbation nonetheless. 1-1

42nd Street Boys

The next day with a not entirely undeserved win under my belt I sat down opposite Dave Wilson to play 42nd Street Boys.  This is another meeting engagement set on Crete where a bunch of German mountain troops pour onto the board and try and grab so many stone buildings that the bunch of Maori and Australians coming the other way can't snatch them all back.  By SSR the ANZAC troops can launch banzai attacks if they want.  As it turned out Dave wanted.

I had the Germans in this scenario played on half of board 42 (nothing to do with the scenario title).  I tried to snatch as many stone buildings as I could.  This spread me out but I had reinforcements coming on on the second and third turns to build a solid defensive platform while Dave's troops ploughed their way through my first boys.  Dave had eight squads of Maori divided between elite and first line coming on at start and another five squads of Australians hitting me in the flank from turn two.

Things didn't start off so well as Dave sneakily used mortars to drop smoke on my forward defenders who ran or died depending on their proclivities.  In return my mortar laminated one of his mortar crews across the forest.  Still Dave was off to a good start but I had used my reinforcements to build up a solid position while he was struggling through my outliers.  The the Australians turned up with blood in their eye and Banzai! on their lips.  Perhaps if they hadn't had so much blood in their eye they might have thought twice about the banzai.  It certainly carried them across the open ground to the heart of my defences without loss.  The problem came when they plunged into close combat with my defenders.  They died, a lot.  I don't think there was actually an Australian left by the end of the scenario.

Which left it all up to the Maori.  Sadly (for Dave, not so much for me) they came up short and I was left clinging to an ample supply of stone buildings.  L3s drove in circles, firing into the air and inadvertently surrendering to each other. 2-1

Jackpot Jones

The next scenario was from the Hatten in Flames CG and pitted a powerful force of Germans (commanded by me) against a pretty impressive bunch of Americans commanded by Dave Wallace.  He had troops, bazookas and M18 tank destroyers but it didn't matter.  The most important thing he had was a 60mm mortar which went on a rate tear in the second round and wiped out about a third of my force whether they were running in the open or hiding in stone buildings didn't matter, they were smashed and so was I.  There really isn't much more to say about this one.  Technically the Germans had to occupy certain building hexes.  They didn't even get close, with the casualties I'd suffered I could either be cautious and run out of time or be reckless and run out of troops.  I stumbled on for a turn or two until Dave let me concede out of kindness.  L3s raised a wailing cry of despair to the moon which looked embarrassed and tried to slip away under cover of darkness. 2-2

Barbarossa D-Day

And finally an old favourite.  A small group of Soviet soldiers attempt to hold a village from the ravening Germans.  To support them six T-26 tanks turn up on turn three.  The Germans have seven squads of motorcycle troops, led by a 9-1 and supported by an armoured car.  On turn three they get a trio of tanks of their own in case the Soviet ones feel lonely.

All the armour is incidental.  The Germans win by making sure there is no good order Soviet infantry in the village.  They also have to have at least one AFV intact themselves.  I got the Germans in this one and prepared to introduce blitzkrieg to my opponent Dave Shannon.  In turn he introduced a bullet to the head of my 9-1 on the very first movement turn of the game.  My leadership was reduced to a rather lonely 7-0.  He also managed to break two squads of my meagre seven.  I was wondering if turn 1 was a little early to concede.  There was one ray of light.  One of the roads circled all the way around to the rear of his village and with his forces busy raining hell down on the troops directly in front of them a pair of squads (and the 7-0) gunned their bikes and roared up to the village in the first turn.  Not completely without loss a half squad was shot off his bike along the way but the remainder jumped into a building occupied by one of his lmg squads.  From now on Dave would be looking both ways.

Which was good as my frontal troops spent the next turn or two squirming forwards one hex at a time while their comrades sobbed with terror among the trees.  Dave had set up a pair of squads (and his other lmg) forward of the village proper and these proved quite enough to slow me down.  In the back field my flankers proved their worth by killing a squad in CC when he tried to evict them but it was unlikely they could take out all of the garrison on their own.  Then everything happened at once.  I broke not one but both his forward squads just as my armour arrived.  A pair of PzIIIs were sent deep into the rear to cover the entry area of his own armour while the other added its firepower to the armoured car and such of my infantry as could be persuaded to stop hiding under logs and move forward.

Dave's armour rolled on and just for once I won an armour battle (it helped that he wasn't shooting back) with a combination of APCR and rate I took out three of his tanks before they could fire a shot and the remainder scurried towards the village where things had settled into stasis again.  His broken squads had fled back to what turned out to be a 9-0 commisar who rallied them immediately.  I was still short of infantry and the advance slowed to a halt.  But with four AFV only one of whom had to survive the battle I was ruthless and drove my armoured car right up to his newly minted death star and broke them all.  Getting very brave now that the enemy was down my remaining infantry pushed forward too.  When I broke his one remaining squad and forced them to rout away from the village Dave conceded.  3-2

So 3-2 for the tournament, my best result at CanCon which is not too displeasing.  Many thanks as always to Andy Rogers who organised the tournament, provided the scenarios and booked dinner at restaurants.

Serried ranks of L3s roll in a victory parade down the streets.  From somewhere the ghost of Mussolini looks on with a gaze of pride mingled with disbelief.

My inspiration (almost actual size).

Saturday, January 18, 2020

CanCon is Coming

Normally I travel to Canberra with my friend Ivan but this year he took me aside and explained in the gentlest terms possible that he was sick of chauffeuring a narcissistic, cow obsessed sociopath around our national capital.  I looked around carefully but it would appear he was talking to me.  I did a quick canvas of other members of my gaming club.  Would any of them be interested in chauffeuring a narcissistic, cow obsessed sociopath around our national capital?  Strangely one was or, to be more accurate, didn't slap me with a restraining order when I asked.  Suffice to say if I turn up at Hurstville railway station at 10am next Friday I will be greeted with transportation to either Canberra or a heavily guarded "medical" facility.  I'm relaxed, I've escaped from that place before, and the medical facility shouldn't be too much harder.

Prior to linking up with my transport I needed to make my preparations.  This largely consisted of packing my gaming gear and arranging for a neighbour to feed the spiders in my apartment.  They're not pets, I think the best term I can come up with is "squatters".  Andy Rogers who organises the tournament had sent out a list of the boards and nationalities that would be involved in the upcoming tournament with the usual plea that if anyone worked out what scenarios were going to be played would they please keep it to themselves.  Given the nationalities and the boards required it is actually possible to work out the scenarios using an advanced mathematical process called "giving a crap".  I prefer to be surprised on the day or at least I couldn't be bothered going to the effort of arranging anything else.

My dice have been somewhat cruel to me of late and I have informed them in no uncertain terms that if their current performance continues at CanCon then they may receive a visit from Mr Hammer in the near future.  This is actually an empty threat as I own no other dice (or at least no other dice an opponent is prepared to let me use) so I'm pretty much stuck with them even if they produce nothing but boxcars for three solid days.  At this point I'm hoping my dice haven't learnt how to read my blog.

With transportation arranged all that was left to do was gather together the required materials.  This meant pawing through approximately eighty seven thousand small cardboard counters in an attempt to identify the ten or so which Andy had deemed essential to play.  Things weren't helped by the fact that quite a number of the counters had faded making identification difficult.  Things were helped even less by the acquaintance who pointed out (with more malice than the situation really demanded) that it wasn't the counters that were fading, it was my eyesight.  Bastard, I would have hit him if I could have focused on him.

I had to travel light which basically meant filling a bag full of gaming equipment and stuffing in random articles of clothing wherever I saw a gap.  Fortunately its rarely cold in Canberra at this time of year.  The politicians have left and the icy wind which blows off their souls is much abated.  I am now fully packed and prepared and the only thing I have left to do is whatever the hell it is I have forgotten and will no doubt remember once its too late to turn back.

Beware, CanCon for I am coming!

John Street Square

John Street Square was my next light rail stop and it took me deep into the heart of Pyrmont, which is about a hundred metres from the fringe of Pyrmont but whatever.  John Street Square itself turns out to be more of a rectangle and can best be described as a sort of plaza in miniature.  A plazaette if you will.  It actually looked more like a courtyard for one of the apartment blocks around and I couldn't help the feeling that I had come up from the station directly onto private property.

And I did have to come up!  John Street Square is buried at the bottom of a deep cutting into the hill that Pyrmont is largely built on.  The resultant shady gloom makes the place an ideal pigeon roost which is why I had to navigate my balcony levels of bird crap in order to get out.  Once one has ascended to surface level it is only fair to say that Pyrmont improves.  There's less visible pigeon crap for one thing.

Over the course of its history Pyrmont has been a quarry, dock, industrial site, slum and largely abandoned.  Now it is the most densely populated piece of real estate in Australia with thirteen thousand people per square kilometre which means that thirteen thousand people live in Pyrmont.  The remaining old industrial buildings have been repurposed as residential buildings and are surrounded by new apartment blocks most of which are also home to shops, offices and the occasional light rail station.  With the exception of a couple of large parks down at the waterfront the largest open spaces are the roads.  All of this contributes to a look I like to call ultra modern medieval a style that appeals to me almost as much as genuine medieval but with better plumbing.

Pyrmont tends to be hilly (until it meets the water where it becomes flat, wet and difficult to build on) and what with elevation changes, quarry remnants and high rise buildings it is difficult to find any part of Pyrmont that isn't overlooked by some other part of Pyrmont.  Somewhere in amongst all of this are the headquarters of a number of our media outlets but I didn't seek them out because I don't really give a crap.

What few parks there are tend to be small to the point where the largest part of them is the sign from the local council inviting you to enjoy the park as long as you don't do anything antisocial like light fires, drink alcohol or perform informal autopsies on deceased relatives.  There was one such sign which had me looking around in bewilderment honestly wondering what on earth it was referring to.  Eventually I worked out that what I thought was an ill kept nature strip was in fact a city park.  It would have been difficult to do anything antisocial there, there simply wasn't the room.

This "park" actually overlooked the light rail line snaking towards the city in its cutting below us.  A fence had been thoughtfully provided so that park enjoyers didn't inadvertently plunge to their doom.  On this fence was a plaque which gave me serious concerns about the intellectual and technical level of the people who ran this little part of our nation.

In tones of breathless adulation the plaque announced that there was a "tunnel" ("No," I hear you cry).  What's more that tunnel was made of brick.  Brick, children can you imagine it?  Ask your grandparents.  This mighty tunnel crafted from miraculous awe inspiring brick had once been a vital part of Sydney's industrial heritage.  Gaze upon it and be amazed!

OK, to be fair the tunnel does in fact serve a vital role in ensuring that the goods trains of yesteryear and the light rail of today don't plough headfirst into a rock wall when attempting the journey from Pyrmont to Darling Harbour but the plaque managed to imply that this was the biggest miracle since the second coming.  If nothing else it gave me an insight into the likely results if the local authority were to attempt a similar engineering feat today.

Having goggled in awe at the stupendous tunnel digging feats of our ancestors I trotted back down through the pigeon crap to await the second coming of the light rail.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Dead Goats and Blood Sausage

Yesterday the heavens tried to compensate for the previous dry weather by throwing half an ocean at me.  Naturally this was the night I chose to have dinner with friends.  Despite urgent representations from their lawyers I'm going to stick with that definition although I am legal obliged to publicly affirm that the designation of Amanda and Dan as "friends" should in no way be considered to carry a legal obligation to associate with me in public in the future nor to provide me with company, advice, guidance, support or CPR should any of the preceding become necessary.  Once I had signed the paperwork and my security deposit had cleared we settled down for pre dinner drinks.

The conversation, as is traditional, started with the minute dissection of the moral, intellectual and character flaws of mutual acquaintances who weren't present.  Once these necessary preliminaries were dealt with the conversation quite naturally turned to the circumstances under which you can legally kill a goat.

Apparently, if your are on your own property and that property is enclosed you are legally entitled to kill any goat that wanders on to it as long as that goat is not marked, tagged or branded.  Dan raised concerns as to how this dovetailed with the legislation restricting the discharge of firearms in residential areas but we eventually agreed that there was nothing to stop you from spearing or clubbing the goat to death or, for that matter, simply running it down with your car.

You cannot, however, kill a goat farmer who wanders onto your enclosed property.  Indeed a drover is legally entitled to enter your enclosed property as long as it is for the purpose of retrieving animals that have strayed.  Further examination of the legislation confirmed that this stipulation applied to drovers, farmers, herdsmen and anyone else who molested animals on a professional or semi professional basis.  This led to a vigorous debate as to whether a farmer could enter your enclosed property for the purposes of retrieving a goat that you had just legally killed.  Dan, with visions of a goat dinner receding over the horizon, argued for the negative but we finally came down in favour of the farmer on that one.

The odd thing about the legislation is that it applies specifically to goats.  Apparently sheep, cattle, horses, alpacas and small children can roam your enclosed property with impunity even if they haven't been marked, tagged or branded.  Amanda suspected there must be some cultural or economic reason behind the singling out of goats in this fashion but I rather suspect that this was slipped into the law by a nineteenth century legislator to retrospectively justify an unfortunate goat related incident on his property.

With the goat situation resolved to our mutual satisfaction (although I wouldn't want to be the farmer trying to retrieve a dead goat from Dan's enclosed property) we took advantage of a break in the showers to cross the road and eat tapas.  I was a little unsure about the tapas but once Amanda assured me that it did (or at least could) contain dead animals I was on board.  Since this was a Spanish restaurant I ordered a pina colada to wash it all down (I'm not sure if that makes any sense).

We sat outside watching the sights of Glebe and occasional torrents of rain.  We were deeply concerned that we wouldn't order enough food so we ordered about twice as much as we actually needed.  We were still making comments about how we could order more if we needed it when it became painfully apparent that we didn't have the stomache capacity to eat what was already in front of us.  The chorizo in wine was a great success but the blood sausage was an unfortunate choice (of mine).  It managed to be both bland and unpleasant, a combination I would not have thought possible.

Conversation, which until then had been a scintillating insight into the minutiae of goat murder, flagged as more and more of our bodily resources had to be allocated to the simple task of digestion.  We finally acknowledged defeat when Dan slipped into a food coma and I burst into tears at the thought of eating one more slice of chorizo.  Up in the eaves a pigeon had been watching us with increasing contempt and now rather pointedly went to sleep.  At this stage a close was called to proceedings.  Amanda used various sharp things to revive Dan (he was driving her home) and we staggered out into the night.

Things I learnt from this evening?  Under certain circumstances I'm entitled to kill a goat.  Also apparently I like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Baked Pea Crisps

It all started with the humble crisp.  A thin sheet of potato deep fried beyond recognition, dusted with salt and sealed into bags for easier sale.  But of course we couldn't leave it at that could we?  God no!  One of the most unfortunate characteristics of the human race is our inevitable desire to take something good and continually improve it until it becomes a ghastly misshapen nightmare.  Think iPhones or Star Wars.

So it should come as no surprise that some misbegotten fool, may a forgiving posterity shelter his name from the execration of future generations, came up with the idea of the sweet potato crisp.  This was just like the original potato crisp only worse.  However the creation of this wretched sliver of unpalatability was only half the damage done.  With the floodgates thus opened random maniacs the world over (but predominantly in those parts with an overabundance of food) started throwing whatever vegetable was nearest to hand into a fryer and marketing the consequences.

Of course it wasn't long before the humble fryer was replaced with other means of reducing vegetables to dried husks of their former selves ostensibly in a healthier (or at least less actively fatal) fashion.  All of which explains why this morning as I laboured nobly in the service of my employers I was sustaining myself with a packet of baked pea crisps.  The packaging was at pains to tout the healthiness of the product contained within by comparison with regular potato crisps.  There are many things healthier than regular potato crisps including, quite possibly, smallpox  The packet boasted that the baked pea crisps had less sodium than regular potato crisps.  Sodium has less sodium than regular potato crisps for gods sake. 

Naturally the pea crisps are gluten free because I honestly think the makers would have been taken out and shot if they had ever considered anything else.  They also have less fat and are baked not fried.  Indeed no more healthy example of reducing a vegetable to a wizened remnant of its original self could possibly be found.  The package also notes that it was marketed under licence and the strictest quality control of a company in Japan.  What does "strictest quality control" mean when we're talking about baked pea crisps? 

"Is that a baked pea crisp?"
"I think so."
"Well, before we sell it you'd better be certain."

So what were the baked pea crisps like?  Well not bad actually, they tasted mainly of salt and very vaguely of peas.  They were sort of long, greenish ovoids and enjoyment was greatly enhanced if you could keep out of your mind the thought that it looked rather like you were eating Yoda's fingers.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Fish Market

Well there are no prizes for guessing what the centrepiece of the next stop on the light rail is.  With a name like "Fish Market" it was unlikely to be the setting for Sydney's only colony of wild flamingos.  What the station is the setting for is motorway ramps.  If you look towards the water when you get off the light rail you'll see a motorway ramp, beyond that is a motorway ramp.  Beyond the second motorway ramp is a motorway ramp.  If you look directly up you will realise that the station is directly under yet another motorway ramp.  If you look to the right you will see the headquarters of the National Parks Association of NSW which has been built there apparently without any sense of irony.

In an attempt to ensure that the National Parks staff don't completely forget what trees look like there is a narrow park just across the lane called Paradise Reserve.  Frankly that name is writing cheques the reserve can't cash but it actually refers to the name of a quarry.  I'm now in the suburb of Pyrmont which is about fifty percent motorways and fifty percent high rise residential.  In days gone by, however, it was the source of Sydney's stone.  In fact the best way to see Pyrmont is to wander around the CBD and check out all the old buildings.  The honey coloured sandstone that most of them are built from came from Pyrmont.  There were three quarries named according to the difficulty in extracting the stone; "Paradise", "Purgatory" and "Hell Hole".  Now Pyrmont's history as a quarry is largely to be seen in the fact that about half of it seems to be about fifty feet higher than the other half.  I walked up a quiet (except for the everpresent roar of the motorways) residential street and came to a park which ended at a sheer cliff on top of which were more houses.  The cliff was fenced off, apparently to stop it biting people.

With my stroll through the park brought to an abrupt halt by the fence there was nothing for it but to somewhat reluctantly wander back in the direction of the motorway ramps.  Nestled in amongst these was Sydney Fish Market.  I've never been to a fish market before for the very good reason that I don't eat fish.  However given the name of the light rail station and that fact I'd run out of other things to do decided to brave the carbon monoxide and the concrete dust (remember the cement works I mentioned in a previous blog entry?  Well, its right next door) to deliver a report to my loyal readership.

The smell of seafood assailed me as I approached.  At least I presume its the smell of seafood.  Its always present around seafood.  Possibly its the smell of salmonella breeding.  The markets themselves look rather like a large warehouse surrounded by an even larger carpark.  Dotted about the carpark at more or less random intervals are fish shops which sell direct to the public (unlike the market itself which I presume sells direct to the fish shops).  The wholesale fish auction took place at 5.30am (ie well before I was out of bed) but if buying fish in ocean depleting quantities isn't your interest then you can take the guided tour which starts at 6.40am (well before etc etc).  If a guided tour of somewhere you have no interest in doesn't take your interest either you're reduced to wandering around a large carpark looking at people wandering in and out of fish shops.

To show willing I also wandered into a fish shop.  What can I say?  There were fish of all shapes and sizes (incidentally nothing looks creepier than a whole dead fish) and for some reason the place was also selling lemons at $1.50 each.  Forget fishing, start up a lemon orchard and you'll make a fortune. 

Once I had exhausted the amusement value of walking around a cold, wet shop full of things I didn't want to buy or, in the case of the lemons, couldn't afford I stepped back out into the carpark and straight into the middle of a drama.  A savage brawl had erupted between about fifty seagulls (and one ibis) for possession of several inches of something.  What I'm not entirely sure but I'm going to assume it was organic.

Tucked in next to the auction house was a food court where a bold attempt was made to pretend they sold things other than fish.  There was a bakery and a bottle shop and a place selling cheeses.  Unfortunately it was all buried waist deep in fish.  Having had enough of our finny bretheren for a while I left them to it and made my way back through the cement dust to the light rail station.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Silly After Action Report

The Italian front was a theatre of secondary importance for both the Allies and the Germans in the Second World War.  As such, particularly as the war drew to a close there was an increasing effort by both sides to get third parties to take as much of the strain as possible.  For the Germans this involved herding their reluctant Italian allies to the front.  For the Allies this involved herding their reluctant Italian allies to the front.  In April 1945 these two shepherding operations ran face first into each other.

This is ASL Scenario FT 252 - Fratelli which pits a group of British equipped co-belligerent Italians from the Cremona battlegroup taking on a distinctly third rate gaggle of Germans (actually from Turkmenistan) only to be counter attacked by a suspiciously enthusiastic pack of fascist Italian paratroops steaming to the rescue.  Richard Weilly will command the Italians and I will command the Italians (plus a bunch of disinterested Turkmenis who by this stage had come to the realisation that whoever won the war they had definitely lost).  Richard has to launch his Italians across a canal and snatch a bunch of buildings from my Turkmenis.  I would have to try and hold the buildings or, with the aid of my battle crazed Italian paratroops, recapture them.

To do the snatching Richard had a force of fourteen first line Allied Minor squads with three bren guns a pair of 51mm mortars and one honking big 76mm mortar plus a PIAT.  On turn three he would get another four first line squads as reinforcements coming up from the south and on turn four he would get "armoured" support in the form of four bren gun carriers one of which was also toting another 51mm mortar.

Grimly holding the line (because Turkmenistan was too far to walk and anyway Stalin wanted to give them a severe talking to) I had eight second line "German" squads with a medium machine gun and two lmgs plus a 50mm mortar and ten concealment counters to spread the love.  Starting on turn two there was the chance that three slightly higher quality German squads would turn up on bicycles supported by a pair of Italian built (but German manned) armoured cars.  On turn three I would get eight elite Italian squads hauling a hernia inducing 81mm mortar, a pair of heavy machine guns and two lmgs.  This was my counter attack force.

Richard had to set up west of the canal and move east.  By SSR only the bridge 23P7 existed if Richard wanted to cross anywhere else he would have to get his feet wet.  The victory buildings were all those located within five hexes of the bridge on the east side of the canal.  With that in mind I set up the bulk of my initial defenders to defend those buildings against a full blown thrust across the bridge and placed a couple of outliers to the north and south to delay any flanking movement Richard might attempt.

My set up (north is to the right)
Richard, of course didn't charge across the bridge into the teeth of my defences.  Instead he set up a small force in the buildings opposite the bridge to keep my boy's attention while the bulk of his troops splashed across the annoyingly shallow canal in the north.  All three of his mortars were set up to fire smoke rounds to ease this advance.

It has to be said that the mortars in this scenario were a big disappointment for all concerned.  Richard's first three shots were attempts fire smoke rounds and not one of his mortars turned out to have any.  My own mortars when they got their opportunity would prove equally useless.  We eventually wound up breaking or dropping pretty much all of them.  Nevertheless despite the absence of a smokescreen Richard's forces splashed across the canal without much opposite from the mere two squads I had defending the area.

Richard is across the canal with barely a shot fired
His attacking in the north did give me enough time to shuffle squads from my main defences to the right and by the time he had pulverised one defending squad and bypassed the other I had a reasonable defensive line in place.  This was augmented when I got my bicycle troops and armoured cars on the earliest possible turn and was able to slot them into my defensive line.  Of course I couldn't forget that his reinforcements would be turning up from the south.

I totally forgot his reinforcements would be turning up from the south but for the moment things didn't look too bad despite the fact that one armoured car broke its MA virtually immediately.  My own mortar crew broke its weapon pretty much immediately and then destroyed attempting to make repairs.  With the useless ironmongery out of the way I had another half squad to add to the defence.  I had every confidence of being able to hold until my paratroopers arrived.

Then it all fell apart.  My Turkmenis proved incapable of hitting a barn from the inside and Richard calmly and methodically dismantled my defences and pushed through getting to within shouting distance of the buildings he needed with virtually no casualties.  His reinforcements came in from the south but took sufficiently long to get into position that I had defenders ready.  They proved equally useless at shooting and things became a little tense.

Yep, definitely a little tense
Things looked bad but I wasn't too down hearted, my paratroops had come on and were puffing their way to the battlefield, surely when they arrived I would be able to turn the tide.  Well, not so much.  With his northern force gobbling up victory buildings while my Turkmenis fired into the air and looked for places to hide and my southern troops losing a battle with his reinforcements his carriers swooped in to seal the victory.  I'm always a little nervous using armour, particularly open topped armour around infantry but Richard showed no such qualms.  The carriers raced through my position, stunned one of my armoured cars and generally played merry hell with my defence.  Now his troops in the centre who had lurked modestly on the other side of the bridge charged forward against an attenuated defence and suddenly every single victory building was under threat.

Oh well, I'm screwed
My paratroopers did eventually come up and reestablish a solid line slowing Richard down in the last couple of turns but with the victory buildings in hand he didn't actually have to move very far.  With a turn to go, my original garrison in shreds and nasty amounts of open ground separating me from the victory buildings I conceded.  If I had a couple more turns I may well have been able to mount an effective counterattack but Richard had ripped through my defences and established himself solidly leaving me with no time to react.  Congratulations to Richard who handled his forces with skill, fewer congratulations to me who didn't.