Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Plague Update #32

As Victorians start to get comfortable with phrases like "charnel house" and "necropolis" it is time to take a look at one of our near neighbours to see how they're doing in the whole pandemic.  To the north of Australia is a large, mountainous island the right half of which is occupied by the nation of Papua New Guinea.  So far Papua New Guinea has managed to keep reported cases of COVID-19 to a minimum by the simple expedient of not conducting any testing.  PNG authorities are also fortunate that there are so many other reasons why people might suddenly die ranging from tuberculosis to tribal warfare.

Unfortunately it has proved impossible to maintain this positive start.  According to this blog's tropical hell hole reporter the government has been forced to introduce strict limitations on human contact and social gatherings.  For the first time in the nation's history they have banned crusades.  So if you were planning on gathering your vassals, raising the Banner of Christ and making war on the infidel I'm afraid that you're going to have to give Papua New Guinea a wide berth.

At this point it might be instructive to mention that due to quarantine requirements our tropical hell hole reporter is currently doing her reporting by looking out a hotel window.  More specifically she is looking through the bottom of a wine bottle and out a hotel window.  Nevertheless she was adamant that no crusades were taking place in the street her hotel was situated on.

It isn't just crusades that are going to suffer either.  Pretty much every sort of war is going to become incredibly difficult when you have to observe social distancing rules.  It's difficult to launch a bayonet charge when you have to stop 1.5 metres from your objective.  Airstrikes will be needed to drop hand sanitiser on the enemy simply so we can come to close quarters.  Occupational Health and Safety Officers are going to be the most feared people on the battlefield. 

With peace in our time thus inadvertently achieved I took a quick look back at how my homeland is doing.  The answer is, patchy.  Some parts of it are doing rather well, specifically those parts that are refusing to let the other parts visit.  As an inhabitant of one of those other parts I feel somewhat miffed while guiltily admitted I would be demanding the same if I lived in a more disease free zone.  In NSW new cases are still popping up but even with the fresh outbreaks we've seen nothing on the scale of Victoria where their infection rate has has if nothing else given some of our dodgier retirement homes an excuse for their death toll.

I tried to contact this blog’s mounting death toll reporter for a complete update but she’d called in sick.

Tales of 1001 Posts

In the dim and distant past a young woman, so the story goes, managed to persuade a drooling psychopath not to kill her by telling him stories.  She would break off the story at an interesting part and said nutjob would have to postpone her execution in order to hear the rest.  This went on for a thousand and one nights which indicates that he was a remarkably tolerant and patient psychopath or alternatively, deeply stupid.

Without any such literary critic hanging on my every word it has taken me considerably longer to produce my own little milestone.  Yet here it is, my thousand and first blog post and I've managed to achieve it without having to marry a sword waving maniac or, for that matter, create anything novel, exciting or imaginative.  Fortunately such things aren't necessary for fame nowadays.  Having said that fame still manages to elude me.  A colleague who has writes about nutrition actually gets paid to hawk various products on her blog, it is fair to say the likelihood of that happening to me is rather on the low side.

It must be admitted that this blog is, well "designed" isn't exactly the right word, for a rather niche audience.  Said niche audience consisting largely of those who share my sense of humour and are interested in my goings on.  That translates to the three surviving members of my immediate family.  In fact this isn't so much a niche audience as a cranny audience.  From time to time I try and hector, persuade, beg and emotionally blackmail my friends and colleagues into reading my blog.  Sadly most of them would rather perform dentistry on themselves than do so.  I feel pretty secure in slagging them off as they aren't going to read it.

There is no structure or guiding principle behind this blog, it literally is whatever my brain happens to vomit out at any given moment.  Nevertheless over the years certain themes have developed.
  • Birthday greetings for historical figures (mainly various emperors).  These are easy to write as I simply cut and paste wikipedia and add my own commentary.
  • Travel commentary.  Again dead easy, you just have to go somewhere even if its only a light rail station
  • An intermittent series about the doings of a Tasmanian cow which ended with his sad demise
  • After action reports from a war game that I play.  These are actually the most popular as I hawk them around various gaming sites and people click on to them before they realise what they're doing
  • My interactions with a colleague in Tasmania who provides me with material so I don't have to think of anything original
  • And recently taking advantage of the coronavirus outbreak to add to the level of disinformation surrounding the pandemic
The flesh on the above skeleton is provided by an adhoc collection of mind spittle that I toss in whenever I have spare time, could be bothered or really have nothing else to do.  There are one or two entries that I'm genuinely proud of (don't ask for examples) and a number I now find deeply embarrassing (too many examples to mention) but I've decided not to remove any of them as I feel that would somehow be dishonest.

Along the way I have learned a little more than I really wanted to about my fellow human beings.  I wrote a post entitled "Dinosaur Snuff Porn" which turned out to be one of the most popular I ever wrote.  Imagine what someone must have been googling to come across that by accident.  Another post on archaeology gained a reply from someone who had a disturbing intimacy with the minutiae of human burial.  I'm hoping he was a funeral director and not a serial killer.

The person most to blame for the preceding thousand posts is my father in law, Herry Lawford who suggested I start this blog in the first place and held up his own much more coherent and intelligent blog as an example.  Herry is now in much the same situation as Doctor Frankenstein when his monster started terrorising the local villagers.  Fortunately social distancing rules preclude the organisation of a torch wielding mob to storm his castle.

Thank you to everyone who has read this blog (Mum, Dad, Geoffrey) if there hasn't been anything to interest you yet there probably will be in the future.  Given the scattergun way my mind works I will almost certainly touch on a subject close to your heart eventually.  Then I will mock and misrepresent it for posterity. This is the great thing about the internet.  It may not teach you anything but it allows you to be ignorant on an almost infinite variety of subjects.

Monday, July 27, 2020


And finally I've done it.  I have reached the end of the line.  The light rail crawls painfully up the incline leading to Central railway station and collapses gasping from its exertions as its passengers crawl infant like from their metal womb.

Yes here I am at Central the ultimate destination of the light rail (unless you're travelling in the other direction of course in which case the ultimate destination is Dulwich Hill).  It has to be admitted that the light rail stop is a little bit of an afterthought for NSW's premier public transport hub.  I believe it used to be a bus terminal.  One gets off the light rail and slinks through an ill lit side entrance before entering fully upon the magnificence that is Central Railway Station.

And what magnificence it is.  Built back in the days when public buildings were supposed to be impressive rather than hateful Central has lots of handsome sandstone, a wacking great clock and a domed roof.  In fact the only really aesthetically displeasing thing about the original station is the people milling about inside it.  Like most similar venues around the world Central railway station performs two vital public services.  It is a transport hub and an impromptu homeless shelter.  The disturbing thing is that the homeless are neither the worst dressed nor the most obnoxious people you will find there.

Of course Central has undergone a lot of additional work since the handsome sandstone building was unleashed on the general public in the early years of the twentieth century.  You can mark the age of each additional update largely by how displeasing and visually repugnant it is especially by comparison with the original building and earlier additions.  By the time one gets to the latest platforms we're talking clapboard walls, narrow tunnels and a tiling system that seems to have been inspired by mid twentieth century public toilets.

I'm being a little unfair of course.  Central station is currently being renovated and therefore doesn't look quite its best at the moment.  As I cast back over the weed choked fields of my memory I realise I can't remember a time when Central wasn't being renovated.  Parts of are always blocked off, detoured around or have that helpful yellow and black tape that tells you either work is in progress or a gruesome murder has been committed.  I literally cannot recall a time when the entirety of Central station was open for the general public to frolic in.  Possibly to bring a little unpredictability to our otherwise routine riddled lives the particular parts that are boarded off or surrounded by tape change from time to time.  I rather suspect that there isn't any renovation work going on at all and the whole thing is an elaborate ruse to help justify the ongoing inconvenience.  It's also possible that I have misidentified very cheap and tacky permanent fixtures as being under renovation.

Still for all its flaws Central is still the only place in NSW where you can absolutely guarantee that you will see a train.  It might not be going where you want to go but at least it gives the lie to the persistent rumours that our entire train fleet was sold some years ago to an amusement park in South Korea.

And Central isn't finished yet!  Renovations may be more notional than actual but new work is definitely proceeding apace as workers hack out new tunnels and stations for the upcoming metro line.  I'm not sure why they bother as Central has two underground stations already built that have never been used but I suppose they have their reasons.  In the meantime I will stride past handsome sandstone walls, down a flight of stairs into what looks like a repurposed maintenance tunnel and then along until I get to another flight of stairs that will lead me up to a platform tastefully decorated in the most fetching particle board offcuts you can find in a Bunnings leftovers bin and wait for a train to cart me home.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Silly After Action Report - The Tiger of Toungoo Part 2

As Dave and I started our second session of the Tiger of Toungoo I was cautiously optimistic.  On my left my forces were somewhat tattered but still pushing forward while on the right I had managed to shepherd a sizeable force towards what was obviously Dave's main defensive position albeit more by luck than judgement.  The weeks break had given me time to formulate a strategy to carry me to ultimate victory.  Even as I type this I can feel readers rolling their eyes.

I had plenty of time and decided it was time to hasten slowly.  On the right I would prepare myself for a final assault on his bastion.  The major difficulty here was his his squad/hmg combo sitting snugly in a pillbox guided by that mighty 10-2.  Between smoke and my flamethrower I hoped to at least neutralise them.  On the left I would pause, reorganise and then launch a renewed assault once everything was in position.  It will come as no surprise that a lot of this didn't happen.

The first order of business on the left was to tidy up (ie; win) the close combat still raging in one of the buildings.  The surprising self rally of a half squad helped with this and I pushed it forward along with another (striped squad) to join their doughty comrades already fighting with the bayonet.  On the far left having definitely determined that neither of my mortars had any smoke I pushed forward dispossessing some dummies of a building and, drunk with success, sent a mortar carrying halfsquad into the large building.  Success was somewhat mixed and by mixed I mean absent.  The melee raged on and in the next turn Dave would wipe out my entire force for the loss of a halfsquad.  The halfsquad I sent into the large building was sent to join its ancestors by a squad Dave was keeping apparently for that purpose.  Things on the left were, if anything even worse than when I started.

In the centre and right though surprising success was achieved.  I discovered one of his fortified building locations but nevertheless managed to break the squad occupying it.  At the cost of only a couple of sacrificial halfsquads I managed to distract the remainder of his defenders and snatch the fortified location for my very own.  Now my troops would have the benefit of the +3 defence, which was good because there was a squad sitting in the very next building hex and so far all I had managed to do was make it fanatic.

In defiance of the prevailing trend my mortar on the far right managed to find a smoke round and dropped it neatly onto his hmg pillbox.  I wasn't quite ready to launch a full assault but I did sent my elite halfsquad forward with a demo charge on a sort of "recon by taking fire mission".  This halfsquad had proved to be a disappointment so far.  It had taken two morale checks so far and failed them both.  Kicked back into action by an officer it stepped forward.  It didn't break, this time it was killed outright and good riddance to the worthless bastards.

End of Chinese turn 5

The building on the left which had been the scene of epic close combat now had so many discarded Japanese support weapons that you could have opened a shop.  Possibly with that in mind Dave sent his remaining squad on the left back into the building leaving me with the irritating task of pushing him out of it all over again.  In the centre I managed to pin his fanatic squad (we checked carefully but we could find nothing to say fanatics don't pin) and then wipe it out in close combat.  With the centre thus reasonably safe (despite a pillbox commanding the street) I shuffled forces led by by 9-1 to the left.  They would recapture the Japanese weapons store or die trying.  I think you can see where this is leading. 

On the right with his hmg pillbox choking under a cloud of smoke I tried the same trick with his other fortified building location.  Unfortunately the mortar crew had only brought one smoke round (those things are heavy) but managed to drop a WP round into the location instead.  Greatly daring I pushed a couple of squads across the street (aided by the fact that Dave managed to break an lmg in defensive fire) and seized a toehold in the building that was obviously the soul of his defence.  Just for laughs I sent a halfsquad that had spent pretty much the entire game hauling a broken mortar about the place in as well.  Sneering at such opportunism Dave sent a 7-0 into close combat with these hapless mugs and killed them.  I did manage to kill the owners of the broken lmg and maintain a hold on the building.

End Chinese turn 6 - things could be worse

On the left my 9-1 proved an invigorating presence, swiftly rallying a rabble of half squads and leading them forward to challenge for possession of the weapons store.  Into close combat they plunged, Japanese and guided by a 9-1, no more fearsome sight can be imagined.  They all died.  Every last one of them.  The scream I uttered when this happened was probably audible to Dave without skype.  The weapons store added more items to its inventory. 

Honesty compels me to admit that despite the soul crushing losses It left me in a good position for Dave's squad died as well and with that the left flank was cleared.  Such forces as I had left (about two squad equivalents and a 10-0 leader) could now move forward against what little remained of Dave's centre defenders (after gathering up all of the weapons).

Over on the right I achieve a solid result when my my last -1 leader guided a kill stack of two Japanese elite squads and lmgs and managed to break the squad in his last fortified location.  I also dropped a WP round onto the hmg pillbox to replace the recently departed smoke.  Dave was now running out of places to rout to.  In return and despite the WP currently obscuring his vision the hmg team managed to kill the halfsquad carrying the flamethrower.  I wasn't too concerned.  Splitting my kill stack I sent one squad out into the street to join their comrades in the large building while the other squad and the 10-1 moved in to collect the temporarily unowned flamethrower.

Things are looking disturbingly positive

Of course it couldn't be quite that simple.  As I tussled for the main building on the right with the remainder of Dave's defenders his hmg team earned their pay once again, firing out of the WP into the building containing my 10-1 and an elite squad.  When you have a 10-1 officer and an elite squad you can laugh at a 1MC right?  Not so much.  My 10-1 promptly rolled an eleven and wounded down to a 9-0.  Challenged by this the squad went one better and rolled boxcars.  My elite squad was now a broken, first line halfsquad.  I shrieked, I moaned, I may have wept.  In the centre the remnants of my left flank were industriously killing what little was left of Dave's force in those parts but my attention was gripped by the sudden tragedy on my right.

Fortunately the god of bastard dice was about to prove that he was an equal opportunity psychopath.  In the next fire phase my wounded officer wiped the blood from his eyes and hoisted the flamethrower sending a stream of liquid burny stuff (if you want technical details read a different blog) into the pillbox.  Dave's 10-2 took a normal morale check and rolled an eleven.  That was pretty much the end.  With nowhere to run the 10-2 died a tigers death (alone in the woods killed by a human) and my surviving troops cleaned out the handful of remaining buildings.  It took until the very last turn but I managed it.  At the end I had captured every building.  From an at start OB of twenty three squads I had seven remaining, a number of them rather battered halfsquads of various types.  From twenty one squad equivalents Dave had precisely one.  Thanks to Dave for the game and for putting up with the hysterical shrieking and raving that is an integral part of playing me.

The end, at this point we had both suffered so many casualties we could have held the battle in a phone box

Corporal Adingi cautiously pushed aside the desperation morale counter he'd been hiding under and ventured out into the street.  There was smoke, blood and splintered wood everywhere but things seemed to be remarkably quiet.  There were also bodies, lots and lots of bodies.

"You there!"

Adingi turned abruptly raising his rifle only to lower it somewhat reluctantly when he saw an officer striding towards him.

"All right corporal," barked the officer, "round up whoever's left alive and send a message to headquarters telling them of the glory we've won."

Adingi ripped off a smart salute and waved over the half dozen or so remaining soldiers.  The officer glanced swiftly around to make sure none of the others were in earshot and whispered,

"How did you survive?"

"Spent most of the battle hiding under a desperation morale counter.  You?"

"Lurked in the background until everybody had killed each other then charged forward waving a sword once we ran out of enemies."

"Nice, how's Mum?"

"Hoping both the Adingi boys make it home from the war."

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Plague Update #31 - Special Mask Edition

Well wearing a mask is absolutely not mandatory in New South Wales, oh deary me no.  Our premier merely suggests that it might be an excellent idea if one has to indulge in any activity where social distancing is difficult.  For me that means leaving the house.  For those sharing their life with more than a stuffed puffin it could mean going to the bathroom.

I am nothing if not a socially responsible individual so when I stepped out of my flat today I had my mask securely in place.  The police who escorted me home politely pointed out that a gimp mask wasn't quite what the premier was referring to and why did it have a puffin beak on it?  Then they saw my interior decoration and decided not to ask any more questions.  In fact they seemed quite desperate to leave.

With my attempt to venture into the great outdoors thus thwarted I decided to reach out to my various correspondents to see what was happening in their disease riddled necks of the woods.  My first attempt wasn't too successful.  I might have mentioned I have a friend who has been using the outbreak as an excuse to justify his survivalist leanings.  I called him on skype and he put a bullet through the computer monitor.  At least I know he's still alive.

I wasn't too concerned as I really wanted to see how the outbreak was impacting those with families so I called up my colleague in Melbourne to ask how home schooling was going. Unfortunately she was passed out over her keyboard.  It's my own fault, I should really call her before ten o'clock in the morning if I want her at her best.  Undaunted I reached out to my New Zealand correspondent who I only remember in times of extremis.  For a moment I thought that I had reconnected with my survivalist friend.  He was dressed in camouflage gear, a face mask and was carrying a baseball bat.

Apparently he was sallying forth to do his civic duty.  Those in this country are aware of the ghastly failure of the hotel quarantine system in Melbourne.  In New Zealand things have been much better managed but there is still the issue of the occasional person slipping out of the hotel and making a break for freedom.  The response of the ordinary citizens has been thoughtful and restrained; they're organising lynch mobs on Facebook to hunt these malefactors down.  I wanted to speak more but I could see the bloodhounds were getting restless so I left him to it.

Which just left my Tasmanian correspondent.  Since its early hospital related COVID disasters Tasmania has been doing quite well.  I rather suspect its because the earlier issues have convinced those few Tasmanians who still had any faith in their hospital system that they were better off dying at home.  As such Tasmania is pretty much COVID free.  Which means I didn't actually have much hope that my correspondent would have any news for me.  As it turns out I was wrong.

One of the amusing things about this pandemic has been various sporting bodies making bold announcements about when they would start playing again and where those venues might be.  Pretty much every such announcement has been met by a response from the responsible political authorities pointing out that if they tried everybody would be arrested.  If it were you or me that would persuade us to be a little more circumspect in our announcements and possibly get clearance from the relevant authorities before making plans.  Not our sporting bodies.  They seem utterly determined to broadcast to the public at large exactly how disorganised and idiotic they are. They're doing a good job.

The latest foolishness came from the AFL (that's the Australian Football League for those of you who don't live in Victoria) who announced that given Tasmania's relatively COVID free status they would be transferring some teams and games down there.  The response of the Tasmanian premier was, "the fuck you are!"  The state's happy and hard won COVID free status has been gained by shutting the borders and pretending the rest of Australia doesn't exist.  This strategy seems to have worked and they see no reason to alter it now.

Besides as my correspondent pointed out AFL is a slightly sensitive subject in Tasmania.  The locals are crazy about the game and would dearly like to have a team in the competition.  The AFL governing body has reacted in the usual way people do to a statement of undying devotion. They have treated the Tasmanians with absolute contempt and preferred to spend their money establishing teams in places that have barely heard of AFL and in some cases are barely in Australia.  Since Tasmanians will watch the AFL anyway there is no benefit to the AFL in giving them their own team.

It is rare for Tasmania to have the whip hand over their mainland counterparts but I truly hope that the Tasmanian premier doesn't let the AFL in until Tasmania is guaranteed their own team in the competition.  Since Tasmania has pretty much destroyed its own economy (such as it was) with the lockdown anything that gets a little money changing hands will certainly be welcome.

With the sports update completed I sat down with a needle and thread and attempted to make myself a facemask out of paper towel and some nylon cord that I (ahem) just happened to have lying around.  My puffin was mocking my attempts until I started looking at his plush covering with a speculative eye.  Now he's hiding under the bed until my impromptu arts and crafts evening is complete.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Capitol Square

Just a few minutes up the line from Paddy's Markets and still (according to wikipedia) in the Haymarket area of Sydney is my next light rail stop, Capitol Square.  I must admit I expected a square (or possibly a capitol) and looked around in some bewilderment at the square bereft collection of buildings that greeted me.

Which just goes to show how first appearances can be deceiving.  A ten second walk from where the light rail had spat me to the pavement is the site of where one of Sydney's first open air markets was established.  This was the Hay Market that gave the area its name.  The reason why I had difficulty finding it is that in the intervening time the place has been roofed over and thus from the outside looks like just another building.  Apparently some years ago the place was seriously run down.  Then some developers came along restored the heritage (ie somewhat older than everything else) buildings surrounding the site, put a glass roof over the top and created what its website claims is "a unique combination of business, retailing, hospitality, restaurant, recreation and special functions facilities" but which we would probably call a shopping mall.

The ground floor has the usual combination of restaurants and other similar things but the first floor proudly (and somewhat grandiloquently) proclaims itself to be Technocity.  Technocity is a collection of computer shops (and a nail salon for reasons which aren't entirely clear to me) plus a recreation area containing a whole bunch of Asian style computer games, booths and an endless array of those coin operated machines that allow you to use a claw in a futile attempt to grab a stuffed toy.  Said stuffed toys also have an Asian theme and hover somewhere on the border between cloyingly cute and deeply psychologically disturbing.

The whole area is lit by competing strips of multicoloured lights and suffused with the sound of dozens of video games all playing slightly different electronic music.  If you are an epileptic I would strongly recommend avoiding the first floor of Capitol Square.  If you do struggle through the square and out the other side you are rewarded (if that's the term to use) with the presence of a Starbucks coffee shop.  On reflection "rewarded" is definitely not the term to use.

Flanking Capitol Square on one side is the historic (ie "slightly older etc etc") Capitol Theatre a grand old building that suffered somewhat when I was there from the fact that it was a) closed and b) had bags of rubbish piled up on the pavement, presumably awaiting collection.  This is one of those heritage buildings that was restored, possibly it looks better inside.  One would hope so anyway.  On the other side is the Palace Hotel which is in an old building that actually looks like it has been restored.  At least it doesn't give the impression that bits are going to fall off it if you lean against the walls.

Handsome, or at least structurally sound, though the Palace Hotel might be I wasn't in the mood for eating, drinking or (in these COVID times) associating with other people any more than I had to so I gave it a miss and wandered up George Street.  This is technically Chinatown but apparently the Chinese are an inclusive bunch and this portion of it was crammed with Thai massage establishments. I might have been tempted but if I'm going to be rubbed down with sanitiser but somebody wearing a mask I already know an establishment that will cater to my needs.  Across the road was a Vietnamese restaurant called Pasteur's.  If I were running a restaurant I probably wouldn't name it after a specialist in bacteria.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Silly After Action Report - Tiger of Toungoo Part 1

A seething mass of Japanese infantry bubbled towards the town.  Waving guns, knee mortars and the occasional satchel of high explosives they formed an unruly but apparently unstoppable tide.  Here and their officers could be seen not so much leading as getting carried along for the ride.  As the shabby wooden buildings got closer the Japanese momentum slowed and suddenly the entire force stopped a camel's spit away from the nearest structure.

Corporal Ito Adingi took the opportunity to huddle under a bush and light a cigarette. He offered one to the man next to him who recoiled in horror.  A slightly extreme reaction but perhaps understandable for a man with a flamethrower strapped to his back.  In deference to his comrades terror Adingi turned his head to one side.  Around the outskirts of town officers were arranging their men into battle formation.  They did this by shrieking hysterically and waving their swords around.  Fortunately everything was organised before more than half a dozen were decapitated.  Adingi sighed, it had to be admitted these were not the emperor's finest.  Except for the man beside him.  A battle hardened expert with a history of heroic service to the emperor.  His reward was to have several gallons of flammable liquid strapped to him and be made the point man for every advance.  No wonder the poor bastard looked a little green.

"Corporal," there was a definite tremor in the flamethrower man's voice.

"What is it son?"

"I hear they've got tigers."


"They say the Chinese have got tigers guarding the city."

Adingi frowned, he'd heard some stupid rumours in his time, had started most of them if truth be known but this was the silliest yet.  Still the man next to him looked genuinely worried.

"Do you want to know how to deal with tigers?  It's simple, you just grab them by the ears and kick them in the balls."

"Does that work?"

"I'd pay good money to see you try."

As it turns out the Chinese have only one tiger but he was so impressive that he gave his name to an ASL Scenario.  Dave Wilson and I are playing Deluxe module A10 - The Tiger of Toungoo.  Here a tough force of elite Chinese commanded by the Tiger himself are defending some of the lower rent sections of the Burmese city of Toungoo from a horde of not particularly impressive Japanese who for some reason want to claim occupancy.

As scenario attacker I command twenty six squads of Japanese infantry, twenty three of these are second line and the other three are elite. This mob are led by no fewer than seven leaders including some of the most capable sword wavers the Japanese army possessed.  To help them blast their way through the no doubt fanatical resistance they have six 50mm mortars (and a whole mass of WP ammunition), half a dozen demolition charges, six light machine guns and a flamethrower.  Victory will go to me if I capture (or burn down) every single building on the board.  Not so much as an outhouse can be left in Chinese hands.

Determined to defend every outhouse to the last Dave has twenty elite Chinese squads plus a pair of half squads (mortars, for the firing of) and a whole mess of concealment counters.  Leadership is scanty but headed up by a mighty 10-2 (the Tiger) while support is provided by two 50mm mortars, three light machine guns and a heavy machine gun.  Additionally the Chinese can fortify two building locations and have a pair of pill boxes.

Below is the at start set up which didn't exactly help me gauge where Dave might have the bulk of his forces as he had enough troops and concealment counters to cover pretty much everything in fetching brown and blue.  Some of those troops had to be dummies but which ones. The Japanese have only one method for finding out.

At start, half the population of Japan is in the wings waiting for their cue
My plan, and I did have one, involved essentially carving the board into bite sized chunks and dealing with them one at a time.  The road in the centre seemed like a good boundary line and I divided my troops into two unequal parts.  To the left of the road I had a decent sized force, well led with a trio of mortars and a couple of demo charges and lmgs spread out so that I could present a decent front.  On the right was much the same but here I also had my three elite squads (one deployed to tote the flamethrower and a DC) guided by a 10-1 leader.  I don't know why I chose the right but I'm glad that I did.

With ten turns to cover not really very much ground I decided that my progression would be slow and steady rather than a maniacal banzai rush towards the enemy.  Virtually no shooting took place in my first turn as I AMed and advanced into position for the most part, preparing for the hard days to come.  There were a couple of exceptions, on the right a DC toting elite halfsquad stepped out into the street trusting to its eight morale to protect it from harm.  It was promptly broken and crawled snivelling back to its comrades who shook their heads in embarrassment and pretended they'd never met.  On the left things were better and worse.  I sent a halfsquad forward to draw fire and to my surprise he survived to plunge into a building sweeping away a couple of dummies in the process.  That went well so I decided to help him. That didn't go well.  A half squad stepped out into the street and braved final fire to jump into the building.  There was two residual in the street but I had a squad encouraged by a mighty 10-0, surely they could handle a miserable 2-2.  Nope, the 10-0 died and the squad pinned.  I did send my halfsquads into CC but didn't manage to kill the occupant (yet).

End Japanese turn 1.  One officer dead but otherwise ok
The Chinese turn one was even lighter on firing as Dave decided to skulk virtually his entire front line despite my hysterical shouts of "come back and fight".  One of the few targets he left me with gave me the opportunity to break one of my mortars which I accepted with alacrity.  I did manage to kill a halfsquad in close combat though.  Hurray!

My second turn saw my push really begin.  One of my mortars on the right dropped a WP round on some convenient defenders and my troops swarmed forward and around his front line cheerfully plunging into CC at every opportunity.  On the left I again turned to a mortar for a little cover.  Unfortunately when these guys were given their WP and smoke rounds they put them all in a sack and dropped them in the nearest well.  Nevertheless the advance went disturbing well on the left too and I started making building gains.

End of Japanese turn 2
Lest the previous paragraph sound a little too much like an excerpt from a propaganda sheet it has to be admitted that this advance cost me as much as it did Dave, a 9-1 and a few squads joined the ranks of the heroic dead and an 8-0 was converted to a blood spattered 7+1 but Dave took equal losses and I had more troops than he did.  If we traded squads one to one at the end of the day I would have six squads left and Dave would have none.  As a proud graduate of the Douglas Haig School of Infantry Tactics I know you can't make an omelette without killing thousands of your own troops.  

Again in his own turn Dave skulked where possible and shuffled some troops in back play.  No doubt he was coming up with some evil genius plan that will ruin my hopes at game end but I decided to ignore it and live in the moment.  The mortars are causing me some irritation.  There is almost nowhere you can place them where they won't get shot to death the moment they turn up.  Still I'm hoping they'll prove useful at the end.

With the front line broken and Dave deciding that cowardice was the better part of valour I reverted to the cautious incremental advance of the first turn.  Sneaking forward where I could and tiptoeing nervously around flanks.  I can hear serried ranks of deceased Japanese soldiers sneering at me with contempt but there's a reason they're deceased.  Keep an eye on the Chinese halfsquad in the left centre currently being monstered by Japanese all around.  These enterprising little bastards would neatly ambush the troops who jumped into close combat, withdraw towards my rear and charge happily for the buildings I had captured but left behind.

Moving forward and getting closer to where Dave will have to stand and fight
I had to detach a squad from my unstoppable surge forward to go back and chase those little pricks down.  Fortunately I succeeded in doing so before they had an opportunity to capture more than a couple of building locations.  Over on the far left I had finally found a use for a couple of mortars and started gaining acquisition counters on building locations in his left rear.

The red circle marks where Dave's enterprising halfsquad got after ambushing me.  This also marks where they died
It has to be admitted I had taken a bit of a battering on the left.  Not only were casualties high but my remaining troops were scattered and disorganised.  I should have paused to regroup, instead I pushed on, capturing some more buildings but at the price of more casualties and disorganisation.  Over on the right I was in somewhat better shape, concentrated and pushing forward to his last line of defence.  A pillbox was revealed in the centre with its covered arc pointing to the right direction and I would soon discover the other pillbox in a patch of woods on the far right with its covered arc pointed in the other direction.  The result was a cross fire covering the street I would have to cross to get to the last buildings.  In the forest pillbox was the hmg guided by the Tiger himself ready to apply his -2 modifier with extreme prejudice to any Japanese foolhardy enough to wander out into the street.

Over on the left my sloppy and disjointed attack was punished when a squad and a 10-1 leader were slaughtered in close combat leaving me embarrassingly short of troops to get forward.  

Yep, the left is a bit of a problem
To add insult to injury Dave then got a little keen on close combat and pushed a squad and a half against my forwardmost surviving squad.  Fortunately these guys managed to survive and kill the half squad so the melee rages on.  On the right having carefully shepherded my flamethrower half squad forward under a concealment marker for most of the game I took a shot at his pillbox with the 10-2.  There was no result of course but I hope for better things next turn.

Even more of a problem now
This is where Dave and I left it for the week.  We'll pick it up next week at the start of my turn five.  I have time to burn and three defensive clusters to take out.  The large building on the right will no doubt be the toughest nut and I'm going to have to do something about the damn pillboxes.  My sniper has made a start by wounding the 9-1 commanding the squad lmg combo in the centre pillbox.  Dare I hope for a better sniper result on the other one?  Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion to my two part blog series Hunting Tigers for Fun and Profit.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Plague Update #30 - Here We Go Again

I sit cringing in my icy home, I could have heating but my puffin doesn't like it, waiting for death (or mild respiratory issues) to strike me down.  Yes all of the triumphalist mocking of Victoria in my previous blog entry is coming back to haunt me as it turns out that going to a packed pub isn't the best way of social distancing.  One night's piss-up at a pub that nobody had ever heard of before and suddenly New South Wales is back on the COVID radar.

States that were just about to allow denizens of NSW across their borders are starting to backpedal as we attempt to corral everybody who has ever walked past that pub and lock them up in a barbed wire enclosure.  Still things are mild compared with Victoria where they are learning the folly of using night club bouncers as emergency first responders.  Still its not all bad news (unless you live in Melbourne).  We seem to have rounded up the diseased pub goers and the source of the infection (a traveler from Victoria) has been identified and pilloried.

Of course it is grotesquely unfair and beneath our dignity to demonise our southern neighbours simply because they are travel happy plague rats spreading disease wherever they go.  Outrageously the Queensland government is refusing access to citizens of NSW who hail from the hotspots identified in the latest outbreak.  Apparently they consider us travel happy plague rats spreading disease wherever we go.  Can I just say that that sort of language is unhelpful and deeply inappropriate and better directed at Victorians.

As you can see the cracks are starting to appear in our happy little Commonwealth.  One of the things that will save us is the fact that we didn't particularly like each other anyway.  It is unlikely that the spread of coronavirus will make relations between the various states much worse than they usually are anyway.  Of course there will be the occasional bit of friendly kidding; one of our state government ministers offered to hold the Melbourne Cup in Sydney if Melbourne was still under lockdown.  The Victorian premier responded with a two word answer.

For those citizens in quarantine time is obviously dragging heavily.  Police in the ACT have issued an appeal to those answering the door when police check on them to put some clothes on first.  Either these people really like the police or two weeks isolation brings out deeply buried facets of ones personality that rarely see the light of day. Given the time of year I wouldn't have thought inhabitants of the ACT would ever want to be naked.  I've been in Canberra in Winter and the only danger police would be in if they knocked on my door is the likelihood that I would skin them to provide myself with an extra blanket.

Five healthcare workers in Melbourne have testing positive for COVID in an outbreak linked to a sushi outlet.  They might want to test again.  It's entirely possible they just have salmonella.  More concerning (not for me but for the inmates and their relatives) is the fact that clusters have been popping up at aged care facilities.  Talk about gathering the low hanging fruit, coronavirus.  Come on, you're better than that.  I tried speaking with one of my embedded reporters about the issues but she hasn't left the house in a week and neither have her children, the last time I saw her she was embedding kitchen knives into her limbs.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Silly After Action Report - After the Disaster

Captain Dmitri Takhetov inspected his men's foxholes with approval.  They had dug deep into the woods, in fact one or two of them seemed to have started tunneling back towards Moscow.  He was about to move on when the smiling face of private Rokosocksov popped up from a beautifully crafted foxhole. Rokosocksov ripped off an impressive salute.

"Good morning Comrade Captain, and a beautiful day it is."

Takhetov nodded, Rokosocksov was so relentlessly cheerful and optimistic that Takhetov frequently wanted to bludgeon the man to death with an entrenching tool.  Rokosocksov was a bit of a mystery, he had served since the very beginning, his chest was plastered with medals and yet, despite his obvious efficiency and positive outlook promotion had eluded him.  Takhetov would cheerfully have given the man any rank he desired simply to get that smiling face posted somewhere else but the company commissar had taken him to one side and urgently advised against it.

"I know he's a pain," the commissar had explained, "but he's the only man here who knows how everything works.  Do you honestly think that idiot of a colonel commands this regiment?"

A creaking mechanical noise accompanied by the bellow of a somewhat underpowered engine suddenly split the air.

"What the hell's that?" demanded Takhetov looking around wildly.

Rokosocksov cocked his head to one side,  "A couple of late model StuGs, a panzer grenadier regiment and a pair of King Tiger tanks."

"That's amazing," said Takhetov, impressed despite himself, "how do you know that?"

Rokosocksov pointed to where a combined total of about 180 tons of armour plate were rolling towards their position.

"Where are our antitank guns?"

"The colonel dropped them in the river on the way across," replied Rokosocksov calmly.  "Don't worry, I've got a mate in the 16th Heavy Tanks.  I told him last night we might need help and he agreed to send us some back up."

"Last night?"  Takhetov looked at the soldiers cheerful, thoroughly innocent expression and decided not to ask any more questions.

So Dave Wilson and I decided to play scenario OA22 - After the Disaster.  This is set in Poland 1944 where a bunch of Germans decide that a minor counter attack on a Soviet bridgehead will swing the war in their favour.

I play the heroic Soviets nobly defending what they fully intend will soon become Soviet soil.  I have fifteen first line squads, commanded by three officers including an impressive 9-2.  These guys have a medium machine gun, two light machine guns and a 50mm mortar plus some concealments and five trench counters.  Lurking in back play are a pair of 122mm artillery pieces.  On turn three I am reinforced by four IS2 heavy tanks, also carrying a 122mm gun.  All Soviet troops in eligible terrain can set up in foxholes.

On the wrong side of history Dave has an awesome force of elite Germans.  Twelve elite squads with four machine guns and a panzerschrek, three officers, a pair of StuGIIIGs and two King Tiger tanks.  Just in case that isn't enough to be going on with he gets reinforcements on turn four consisting of five more elite squads, two more officers, three Panther tanks and halftracks to haul the infantry around in plus one carrying a 37mm gun.

To win Dave has to capture a building in the centre of the board and also take out the two guns that are part of my at start OB without losing 40+ CVP.

I thought about a forward defence but decided that was a recipe for dying in place so I set up my troops in the woods with what I thought were cunning trench lines reaching back towards the victory building.  The two guns I set up deep in the rear and set up a couple of dummy positions using the concealment counters which confused absolutely no one.  David set up the bulk of his force to punch straight through the middle while flanking units came round the sides (as flanking units are wont to do).

My set up and Dave's entry

The first turn was light on shooting as Dave took advantage of rubble and some self generated smoke to roll forward without giving me too many opportunities.  Not that I wanted to take them with monstrous tigers rolling around with impunity.  I had a bit of good luck when one of his StuGs broke its MA firing for acquisition on some of my infantry (unfortunately he would soon repair it).  In my turn I felt that discretion was the better part of valour for the most part and tried to keep out of his way, not entirely successfully and a couple of squads were broken.

So far so good, my line was holding but on the other hand Dave had only just started.  My tank reinforcements came on from the east (right) and Dave had positioned a Stug and a tiger to wait for them.  They passed the time by pounding away at my infantry on the right who shivered under their concealment counters and prayed, not entirely successfully it must be admitted.  Even with concealment counters my men could not handle the weight of metal and fled down the trench but as it happened not far enough.

In the centre patience was the order of the day as Dave's infantry incremented through the rubble while smoke rounds robbed me of an opportunity to fire back effectively.  Not that I'm sure I would want to with seventy tons of fire belching monster sitting nearby.  Meanwhile his flankers on the left moved through the trees and closer to my position.

End of German turn 2.  My left and centre are intact but my right is a mess
On the right Dave had effectively shattered my defences and his infantry were moving up to take advantage.  Such of my force as had survived, and I use that term in its loosest sense, were cringing in the last woods hexes they could find while a decent part of the German army beat the trees and bushes as if on a grouse shoot (no I've never been on a grouse shoot, all my information comes from watching a single episode of Poirot).  He started to push infantry around the right of the woods but stopped when I unveiled one of my 122mm guns and gained an acquisition on a squad.  After that he decided moving through the trees was the wisest course of action.  In the centre things got better and worse simultaneously as another defender was broken but Dave also broke the 88mm gun on his other tiger (the second of three gun malfunctions he would suffer in this scenario) sadly this one too would be swiftly repaired.

If I was disappointed by my flank guards on the right Dave was entitled to be disappointed by the flanking force he sent round my left.  These heroes proved that I'm not the only one who can gack morale checks with eight morale troops.

End Soviet turn 2, clinging on
After two turns out of seven I wasn't entirely disappointed.  My centre was battered but holding, my right was a mess but four IS2s would be turning up shortly.  In the right hands they could repair the situation.  All I had to do was hang on for another turn, oh and find the right hands.

Well I did cling on.  My troops on the right died as his forces pushed through the forest and with the woods on the right now secured Dave rolled one of his StuGs forward to provide firepower to assist his forces in crossing the open ground to the victory building.  In the centre the time had come to abandon my positions and such of my troops as survived moved back through the trees to the trench line I had prepared earlier.  Dave now had an arc of troops spread across the centre and right while I had (a much smaller) arc curving around from the left.  On the left flank one of his squads stepped out into the open and was sent yelping back into the forest, the other two were a little more circumspect.

On my turn three my Iosef Stalin tanks arrived to secure victory or die trying.  I leave it to your imagination as to which is the most likely.  My entry was constrained by the fact that I didn't want to run under the 88mm gun of the Tiger he had parked waiting for me.  Eventually I sent two far to the north (where they buggered about bypassing various things for a couple of turns) and brought one up directly opposite the StuG he had brought forward.  The final one I crept on near his Tiger and parked behind a convenient clump of trees.  The Tiger couldn't see it but maybe if the Tiger moved I could kill it.  At least this is the line of thinking I'm producing in retrospect.  Along the way it managed to vaporise a schreck toting half squad that thought it was safe in the forest.

My tanks have arrived and one StuG is not long for this world
Things now paused in the centre.  Dave was readying himself for an assault on the victory building which was manned by three squads including one upstairs holding a medium machine gun and led by my awesome 9-2.  These guys greatest achievement was breaking their own weapon while my 9-2 managed to get himself wounded by a sniper and became a rather slow moving 8-1.  It has to be said that this wasn't a good day for Russian officers.  An 8-0 who had been commanding the defenders in the left centre ended his life as a wounded 6+1 while the third was caught up in the carnage of the right and is buried in an unmarked grave.

Despite the tribulations of their leadership team the surviving Soviet troops proved to be of sterner stuff.  A pair of squads in the trenches on the left covered the open ground with a light machine gun and managed to incrementally kill a squad and induced a certain amount of caution in Dave's attackers.  Over on the left for a second time Dave thought that eight morale troops should be able to withstand a normal morale check and for the second time was proved wrong.  But that ceased to matter for now Dave's reinforcements were coming.  Three panthers, sleek and strong plus squads and halftracks to burn.

Dave's reinforcements have arrived
My defence on the far left fell apart as one squad was broken and the other went berserk to die the next turn in a hail of bullets.  His panthers rolled forward to take the victory building under fire from the rear and, eventually seal its fate.  A force of squads and halftracks slunk along the bottom edge of the board aiming for my guns.  My doom was approaching as it rapidly became obvious that the forces I had left in this area were nowhere near enough to stop them.  

On the right Dave decided to deal with the IS2 I had parked by sending in an officer and a halfsquad toting a DC.  The half squad missed twice with panzerfausts and the officer was broken and wound up dying for failure to rout (another CVP, thank you) but eventually luck ran out and a faust sent my tank up in flames.  With the destruction of my tank in progress Dave decided to start up his Tiger and promptly immobilised it.

In the north I had finally squeezed another tank through various improbable bypass locations and parked where I couldn't be seen by either Tiger but had a clear line of sight to his remaining StuG.  It is a measure of my increasing desperation that I actually went CE to improve my chances of a hit.  Dave promptly dropped a smoke round onto the hex thus decreasing my chances of a hit by a depressing margin.

Things are falling apart in the south
There was some good news in the south where Dave had parked a Panther where he was pretty sure I couldn't see it.  I thought he was wrong and just for once I was correct and my right hand 122mm gun mangled it.  The crew survived sadly but I managed to kill it later.  That was it for good news in the south though.  Dave swiftly overwhelmed my left hand gun crew with a combination of halftrack sleaze and CC and then pushed forward to do the same thing to the other.  Meanwhile his two remaining Panthers were pounding the victory building.  

My other northern tank I had pulled out to support its doomed colleague in the centre.  This was a death run which attracted the attention of both his Tigers and simply resulted in a second tank kill for Dave but at least it drew attention away from my smoke shrouded tank in the north which finally managed to fire out of the smoke and kill his second StuG.

Turn six was my final turn (Dave had one more) and things looked grim.  Both guns had been lost and Dave had finally managed to get the forces necessary to swarm the victory building.  Close combats were not kind and by turn six my sole force in the building was a single conscript squad locked in melee.  It was obviously not going to survive.  I had lost unless, unless...  I had accumulated nine CVP worth of infantry kills in addition I had taken out both StuGs and a Panther.  If I could kill another couple of tanks surely that would bring me close to, if not past, the forty CVP cap placed on the Germans.  

In the south my tank rolled forward and placed itself behind a wall a couple of hexes away from one of Dave's surviving Panthers.  Being hull down helped and I survived the defensive fire.  In the north I roared out of the smoke and circled round behind another wall and (not coincidentally) one of his Tigers.  Realising what I was up to Dave sent one of his Panthers north on a seek and destroy mission but my doughty IS2 survived all fire.

Dave's turn seven rolled around.  Stuff happened but the only thing of importance was my two defensive fire shots.  In the south, guided by my armour leader my tank smashed his Panther.  Which only left the north.  Dave had slewed his tank round so I was facing the Tiger's frontal armour.  The hull was too tough, I had to hit the vulnerable turret.  I hit the vulnerable turret.  I needed to roll less than seven to get the kill.  I rolled seven exactly.  A UK result on the Tiger but no CVP points for Neil.

The end.  I have come up somewhat short

So victory to Dave at the last. We both had a blast playing this game and for once I don't think I made too many egregious errors.  Thanks to Dave for the game, now I have to come up with a scenario.

Captain Takhetov stumbled away from the battlefield, his uniform stained with smoke and blood, some of it his own.  To his horror a pair of NKVD troopers appeared in front of him fingering their weapons (those NKVD guys are real perverts).

"Well looky here," said the first NKVD man, "a deserter.  You know how we deal with them."

Takhetov prepared himself for death when a familiar cheerful voice interrupted him.

"Leave him alone guys, he's with me."

Smiles creased the faces of the NKVD men, they didn't look like they belonged there.

"Rockosoksov, good to see you man.  How's you're great patriotic war going?"

Takhetov stared in bewilderment as Rockosoksov somehow managed to negotiate a meal, a lift to headquarters and a bottle of vodka from men for whom the term "mass grave" was more than just an abstract concept.  It is possible this did more damage to his psyche than the entire war so far.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Plague Update #29 - Building a Wall

A ragged tide of desperate humanity surges towards the river, on the other side grim faced border guards backed up by the army deploy drones and sophisticated military hardware to prevent their passage. Yep just another day on the NSW/Victoria border. 

Melbourne has gone back into lockdown and the premier of NSW who just days ago was bitching about the slowness of opening interstate borders has slammed shut the gates and deployed as many police and such soldiers as she can borrow from the federal government to make sure no Victorians sneak across the border in search of a better life.  Like rats from a sinking ship various sporting teams block booked the last flights out of Melbourne before they ploughed up the runways and cleansed the terminal with fire and acid.

Meanwhile In those states fortunate enough to not be Victoria police chiefs have issued dire warnings about Victorians swimming rivers and hiding in trucks.  I'm amazed they didn't mention the possibility of tunnels and hot air balloons.  For the first time in Victoria's history its inhabitants aren't even pretending that they wouldn't prefer to be in New South Wales instead.

Things have gone from bad to worse in Melbourne with new cases popping up like mushrooms and occupants of social housing locked up in grim, high rise prison towers.  I mean they always were but up until now we've usually let them out to look for work.  Now the towers are ringed by police and the only people being allowed in are medical teams and people dropping off food.  Cries of outrage are coming from the residents, or at least I assume they are.  It's a bit difficult to hear anything with the buildings locked off and surrounded by police.  Still despite the protests the government can be grateful that they're largely poor and without influence.  Can you imagine what might happen if you tried treating rich people like that?

It was only a week or so ago that I was thinking of shutting down these plague updates.  It seemed there would be nothing left to report on except the gradual opening up of society.  Suddenly we have lockdowns, border patrols, semi incarcerated citizens and the premier of Victoria telling the NSW police chief piss off, not in so many words but that was definitely the subtext.  Said police chief suggested that Victoria might like to help pay for all of the border protection measures that New South Wales is currently putting in place.  The Victorian premier responded in much the same way as the president of Mexico did when Donald Trump made the same suggestion.

This blog is uniquely positioned to give you, dear readers, an insight into the tribulations of Victorians in this their darkest hour as we have not one but two plague reporters embedded within the death zone.  OK they're not so much embedded as incapable of leaving but the point remains. I spoke with the first of them earlier today.  I noted that Melbourne was about forty eight hours away from descending into Mad Max levels of anarchy and he might like to stockpile leather clothing and firearms.  He told me he'd been doing that for years anyway.  I nodded politely and mentally put off my visit for another decade.

My second reporter was in despair.  She had finished off all the wine during the previous period of home schooling and foolishly had not restocked supplies.  She was gloomily swigging beer and contemplating risking the dogs and police patrols to make a supply run to the bottle shop.  I asked if her family was well and she replied that the kids were in serious danger if she didn't get more wine.  She was about to say something else but she choked on a mouthful of beer and while she was coughing a medical hit team kicked in the door and dragged her off to an undisclosed location.

So with one reporter digging a survivalist shelter in his back yard and the other currently being hosed down with disinfectant in a sterilised room there is little more for me to do except wait on events.  Fortunately I'm a fair way from the border so my sleep won't be disturbed by the sounds of sirens and helicopters as they chase down yet another desperate refugee from the Deadlands (as I believe Victoria has officially been renamed).

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Paddy's Markets

We're entering the home stretch now as the light rail finally abandons Darling Harbour and swings into the city trundling up Hay Street to my next destination, Paddy's Markets.  The light rail spat me out onto the street directly in front of the eponymous market.  Despite knowing better I decided to go inside.

Paddy's Market was once Sydney's premier fruit and vegetable market supplying both wholesalers and individuals whose hatred of vegetables had reached such a peak that nothing less than the ability to tear them apart with their teeth would satisfy their unreasoning malice.  That has gone for the most part to larger premises out at Flemington which has the twin advantages of being (slightly) closer to the source of most of the produce and situated on land that is considerably cheaper.  In its place is Market City.

How best to describe Market City?  Imagine if you made the mistake of feeding a two dollar shop after midnight.  It's like that.  Stall after stall of tacky, useless crap that only serves a purpose when you have forgotten the birthday of a relative that you dislike but can't ignore.  There are also clothes stalls where you buy the sort of garb that you wear when you want to impress the welfare officers with your poverty and the kind of souvenirs that make the folks back home rather glad that they didn't come with you.  At present you also need to get your temperature taken before they'll let you in.

Once you've struggled past all of the above there is still a small vegetable market out the back selling somewhat dishevelled farm produce.  Some of it was also part eaten although I'm not blaming the vendors for that, I suspect a customer (to use the term broadly) decided to sample the wares before purchase.  Across the road there was a small restaurant whose sign announced "Japanese Dining" but I looked closely and I'm pretty sure there weren't any.

Having exhausted the delights of Market City I emerged blinking into the sunlight and crossed the road (and light rail line) into Chinatown.  Every city in the world seems to have a Chinatown.  Sydney's is quite modest consisting of a couple of streets that parallel Darling Harbour (the light rail hadn't got too far away from it).  Dixon Street is the main drag, it has been converted into pedestrian access only and as you walk along it you can almost think that you're in, pretty much any city with a lot of Chinese restaurants.  There weren't a lot of people about because there aren't at the moment.  I don't think it had anything to do with the specific appeal of Dixon Street per se.

The place is called Chinatown for the same reason there is a suburb in Western Sydney called Blacktown.  I'm pretty sure both these places would have different names if they were being titled today.  Chinatown runs north until it merges with the rest of the city and the CBD a change that can be noticed by the gradual dropping off in Chinese lettering on the shop signs.  I wandered up Dixon Street and down Sussex Street and by that time I was pretty much done with Chinatown.  If you're not hungry and there isn't a festival happening there isn't a lot of point in visiting.  I did notice the occasional Korean restaurant lurking modestly among the Chinese so I've made a mental note to return at some more hunger intensive time.

To make the experience complete I hopped on the other light rail (the bigger, slower, more costly one) at its Chinatown stop and very slowly made my way into the remainder of the city.  Light rail blogs are all very well but I had a dressing gown to buy.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Silly After Action Report - French Civil War in Gabon

Capitaine Raoul Oveurfluor crouched and crept silently through the jungle.  Every nerve was alert, every sense strained to penetrate the gloom.

"Hey Raoul, whatcha doing?"

Oveurfluor screamed and leapt several feet into the air before landing in a particularly recalcitrant patch of sticky mud.  Struggling to free himself he glared at his opposite number.  Sous-lieutenant Recalcitrant watched with polite interest as the capitaine hauled himself free of the sticky goop.

"I am trying," hissed Oveurfluor between clenched teeth, "to sneak up on the shy and incredibly rare Gabon lowland gorilla."

"I'm more worried about the pushy, depressingly common Gabon Vichy soldiers.  You do know we're on a reconnaissance mission right?"

"Of course," snapped Oveurfluor, he waved a hand vaguely, "they're in that direction.  Feel free to go back and tell the others."

"I think they might expect your presence in the attack as well."

"In the name of God why did I join the Legion?"

"Wasn't it something to do with outstanding arrest warrants?"

"Shut up.  It was out of love for La Belle France; and outstanding arrest warrants.  I swear to god that donkey looked sixteen."

In keeping with a recently discovered taste for exotica Dave Wilson and I decided to play FT161 - French Civil War in Gabon.  As scenario descriptions go its all in the title really.  In late 1940 General de Gaulle was still trying to prove to the British that he wasn't an ill tempered irrelevance and attempted to persuade the French colonies in West Africa to rally to his cause.  Success was mixed, French Congo was enthusiastic and French Senegal did their best to kill him.  Which left Gabon.  Imagine being so desperate that the accrual of Gabon to your side could be counted a success.  The governor of Gabon being less than enthusiastic about joining up de Gaulle sent in such troops as he had at his command.  The Vichy garrison of Gabon resisted, hence the scenario name.  Given that de Gaulle's troops were Legionnaires and the garrison was mostly colonial the number of actual French people involved in this civil war was probably about three.

Dave will command the Vichy troops rallying to the defence of oppression.  He has nine first line squads, two leaders and three crews.  The crews are to man an hmg, a pocket sized 37mm gun and a 20mm gun filched from random bomber.  Lest this force prove inadequate he receives three squads of first line reinforcements on the fourth turn carrying an lmg and guided by another officer.  He also got five trenches to shelter his cowardly troops from fire.

To light the flames of resistance and inspire the souls of the French people (most of whom had probably never heard of Gabon) I command eleven and a half elite squads (represented by British counters which must make de Gaulle turn in his grave).  They have two medium machine guns, an lmg and a 60mm mortar.  These forces must brush aside the no doubt feeble Vichy resistance and capture half a dozen huts inconveniently located at the other end of the map from their start point.  Lest this seem too easy I have to do all this without suffering 10 CVP.

Below is my at start set up.  As you can see I weighted heavily on the right hoping to punch through his defences there and head for the huts while my kill stack (two squads, both mmgs and a 9-1) and my mortar dealt with his defenders in the centre.  Over on the left I had a pair of squads and a second rate leader to divert attention and tiptoe down that side of the board.

Subtlety didn't play a big part in my set up
I was certain that Dave's hmg would be in the centre to sweep the airfield and,for once, I was right.  Sadly the cheap French mortar I'd been equipped with didn't have any smoke rounds but I banged away and gained an acquisition.  This would be my mortar's sole contribution to the game.  Shortly afterwards Dave's sniper broke the manning halfsquad and, in case I couldn't take a hint, subsequently killed him.

Elsewhere there was a bit of a disaster on my left where Dave managed to break a squad ploughing through the kunai but a half squad managed to avoid all fire to charge into the bamboo (totally illegally, we had forgotten we were playing PTO rules).  On the right I eschewed movement for firepower and smashed his forward defenders and pushed an lmg team forward.

End of (Free) French turn 1.  Not too displeased
It was a modest beginning but one which seemed to auger well for the future.  What I didn't know was that I was running headfirst into one of Dave's strongest positions.  I was about to find out.  In Dave's turn I managed to break one of his squads in the centre and would follow that up in my next turn by breaking the hmg crew.  Dave's centre was falling apart, unfortunately I had absolutely nothing to capitalise on that.  Virtually everything was committed on the right.  On the right they would fight and on the right they would die (spoiler alert).

End of (Vichy) French turn 1
With the forest on the right denuded of enemy troops I brought up my main force.  I knew he had more troops just behind but I didn't realise exactly how many.  Things started to go wrong when Dave unveiled his baby 37mm in the trench just behind the woods and started peppering my force.  I wasn't too concerned, ok I might take some casualties but I had numbers, surely I would be able to roust them out.  But that wasn't all that Dave had there.  As well as the gun he had another two squads as well and, as I rapidly and painfully learned, behind the trench was his 20mm gun.  I had walked into the entrance to Hell.

Over on the left my half squad continued on its lonely journey largely because I couldn't think of anything else to do with it.  I think I had some visions of snatching a hut or two despite the fact that a pair of squads were now bearing down on him.
OK that's a bit ugly
Despite some casualties I still thought I was in good shape on the right.  I had built up a powerful force in the trees and the fall of his position was surely just a matter of time.  Have you ever seen a 37mm gun go on a rate tear?  In one fire phase Dave crushed my hopes and dreams.  At the end of it a squad and a half were dead and a squad and a half were broken.  The sniper having taken out my mortar team in back play meant that I was already halfway towards to casualty cap.  I did eventually manage to break the other squads in the trench with the 37mm and Dave finally boxcarred a roll and broke the gun but the tattered remnants of my force that now faced his 20mm were in no shape to go further.

I did manage to slip one squad around the gun, simply because Dave disdained to fire on it in favour of better targets but this sole unsupported lunge in the direction of the huts was never going to win me the game.  Over on the left I rallied the squad and his sniper promptly broke it again.  My deep roaming halfsquad fell to fire and absent any decent terrain put their hands up in the air.

I finally rallied my squad on the left (again) but by this time we were four turns in, I hadn't got through Dave's first line and his reinforcements were due.  Also I was desperately close to the CVP cap (the prisoners didn't help) and there seemed no chance of getting through.  Dave had forgotten his reinforcements until I reminded him (I should have kept my mouth shut) and felt that despite my casualties I was on the verge of a breakthrough.  When I reminded him my concession became understandable.

So defeat for me.  I had thrown what I hoped was an unstoppable force at what turned out to be an immovable object.  Not the cleverest game I've ever played.  Bugger the exotics, next time Dave and I will be playing a thoroughly normal game of Germans vs Soviets.

A shy and incredibly rare Gabon lowland gorilla moved cautiously into the clearing.  There had been a lot of noise and screaming but that was gone now and the beast was curious.  Approaching the sprawled figure of a legion officer it stared in disbelief.  Surely this was the shy and incredibly rare French gorilla enthusiast.  The gorilla fumbled for its camera, the wife and kids simply wouldn't believe this.