Saturday, November 28, 2020

Silly After Action Report - Easy Meat

subtitle: In Dust We Trust


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

"What the hell is that?"

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

"What does it look like?"

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

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

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

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

The lieutenant sighed and contemplated a little reverse fragging.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of turn 2, a building will soon be mine

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

My high point

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

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

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

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

Time for a last desperate push

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

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

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

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

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

"Well done sir."

"Are you patronising me?"

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

"Just as well."

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Plague Update #44 - Damp Squib Edition

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

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

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

TC:    How the hell did you get this number?

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

TC:    The hell you are.

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

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

Me:    Are you afraid of catching COVID?

TC:    Is there COVID in Adelaide?

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Travelling Pathetically - Pushy Peacock Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honestly is this a natural shade for water?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and then this

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

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

Not something you want to meet head on

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

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

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

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

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

Fleeting glimpses of the river were all I got

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

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

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

I feel obliged to toss in the occasional river photograph


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

Friday, November 20, 2020

Silly After Action Report - Paper Tigers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End Allied turn 1

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

A picture of a very brief moment

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

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

Normal service resumed

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both tanks gone and game over.

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

"There are Italians everywhere," he whispered.

"Non parlo Tesdesco," replied his companion.

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 16, 2020

Plague Update #43 - Where the Hell Do You Think You're Going?

 The vulture of death circled lazily, the updrafts catching its lice riddled wings and keeping it aloft like the hopes and dreams of a malevolent sociopath.  Suddenly with a croak of triumph it folds its wings and plummets earthwards filthy talons extended as it seeks its latest prey.  Apparently its latest prey is South Australia.

There are a lot of things wrong with the previous statement and that's without getting into the muddled up tenses.  For starters vultures don't tend to plummet earthwards to seize their prey.  They just gradually descend onto somebody else's prey and start tearing at the already slaughtered carcass.  They do circle lazily though, I've seen them.  And I don't actually know about the lice and the filthiness of the talons but lets face it; they spend a goodly amount of their time neck deep in mutilated animals and there aren't many pedicurists on the Seregeti.  What's more a number those that do exist have a strict "No Vultures" policy.  I mean they don't come right out and say that of course but the hints are there if you can read between the lines.

This rather lengthy (and completely irrelevant) preamble about vultures might make you think I have nothing to put in this plague update and you would be completely wrong.  I just don't have much to put in this plague update and the entire vulture sequence padded out a couple of paragraphs.  As did the paragraph you have just finished reading.

So on to plague news.  It has to be admitted that we were starting to get a little cocky, numbers were down and even Victoria had finally managed to get a grip on its spiraling death toll before it became a serious demographic issue.  Things were looking up then suddenly dramatic news came out of South Australia.  The phrase "dramatic news came out of South Australia" is not one that anybody gets to write too often to forgive me if I wallow in for a moment.  Having said that it is slightly less of a surprise that when dramatic news did come out of South Australia it involved something potentially fatal.

There has been a cluster of seventeen new cases mostly centred around one family but COVID-19 is nothing if not gregarious and I'm sure it will be getting around.  The South Australian government has reacted with speed, shutting down schools and reintroducing all of the various "stay the hell away from each other" regulations they had spent the last couple of months rescinding.  Twenty four hours after South Australia graciously informed the surviving inhabitants of Victoria that they would have to come up with their own reasons for not visiting South Australia the government of Victoria slammed the gates from the other direction.  If you want to know the definition of schadenfreude you just have to look at the expression on Daniel Andrew's face.

I don't blame Victoria, the last couple of weeks have been positive to the point whereby the rest of Australia was prepared to accept them as fellow citizens again (grubby, possibly diseased citizens but citizens nonetheless) and the last thing they need is for a stream of infectious refugees fleeing South Australia overwhelming their borders.

Personally I don't think Victoria needs to worry that much.  The fact that the population of South Australia didn't flee the place decades ago is an indication that they are inured to suffering and are determined to make the best of things.  The one good thing about South Australia in lockdown is that neither the population of South Australia or the rest of the country is likely to notice.  Has any ever met anyone from South Australia?  Neither have I.

The greatest irritation has been suffered by our Federal politicians.  They had been making snarky noises about the states locking down their borders and then the second wave hit Victoria and they had to change direction pretty much in mid sentence.  With Victoria apparently recovering the snark had been returning and now SA has an outbreak and another reversal has had to be implemented.  If this were you or me we might stop offering suggestions at this point (well I wouldn't but I have a blog to fill and I don't expect anyone to take me seriously anyway) but I doubt if our politicians will take the hint.

In defence of our nation's politicians I will admit that when virtually your entire job description consists of talking about things you have no knowledge of it's actually very difficult to stop.  I intended to finish these plague updates at #11 (ten too many for the level of knowledge I have on the subject) but I just can't help myself.  I would run for parliament but thanks to the inconvenient birth location of my father that involves more faffing about than I'm prepared to go through simply to serve my fellow human beings.

In better news my Tasmanian correspondent has resurfaced and reluctantly conceded that she can't physically prevent me from coming to Tasmania for a visit.  If I catch the next plane I might be in time for the goldfish funeral.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Silly After Action Report - Just A Drive Along the Beach

A scene of devastation stretched across the beach.  Dead marines, bits of weapon and general detritus clogged it to the point where it was difficult to see any sand.  Offshore LVTs bobbed upside down on the waves and stuck up through the water from their new positions on the seabed.  Foxholes stretched across the edge of the beach providing shelter to such of the marines as had managed to travel the previous ten metres or so without losing any major body parts.  Sandwiched between a foxhole and a 37mm gun position was a small house.  Inside it the command group for the force currently stretched out on the sand was having an urgent meeting.
Three or four characters from central casting (US Marine Corps section) stared grimly at the tattered map in from of them.  They had shaven heads, hard eyes and chins that jutted into the next room.  An entire generation of Hollywood movies stars would make careers out of looking a little like them.  The map was largely irrelevant, a quick glance out the window would provide the observer with a view of the entire island.  Unfortunately a quick glance outside the window would also provide the observer with a detailed but very brief view of a Japanese 37mm shell traveling in the other direction.
"Well we're ashore," said the most senior jutted chin.  As the CO he was allowed to get away with stating the obvious.  "Now they want us to capture the rest of the island."
A lower ranked chin indicated his displeasure, "We're clinging to this beach by our eyelids and they want us to capture the rest of the island?"
"If it helps, we're getting reinforcements," announced the CO.  Assault engineers, more marines and tanks.  They should be piling in from the north any second now."
A second chin put us his hand, "Let's let them take the strain.  If they've got assault engineers and tanks they can deal with the goddam Japanese."
"Here they come!"  All four chins rushed to the window to see their salvation.  As they watched one tank went up in flames and a sword wielding maniac decapitated half a squad of assault engineers.  The commanding chin sighed.

"Get the men together and prepare them for the assault."

"Do we really have to?"

"If we don't capture this island I have it on good authority that we'll be sent to the Aleutians for the rest of the war."
"Where the hell are the Aleutians?"
"Ever seen Deadliest Catch?"
Without another word the marine officers returned to their men and prepared to attack.

As you can see my grasp on both the US Marine Corps and the Pacific War in general is a little shaky.  Despite this I am continuing in my attempts to get my American on and plucked this scenario more or less at random from a bunch offered to me by Dave Wilson.  After carefully checking to make sure the Japanese didn't get Tigers I took the somewhat battered heroes of the 2nd US Marine division as they expend both blood and sweat attempting to capture an island barely big enough to build an airfield on.

This is part of the Blood Reef Tarawa campaign game.  For someone who doesn't play campaign games I seem to spend a lot of time playing scenarios from them.  All of this involves not learning the special rules that apply and staring in puzzlement at the bespoke maps that appear to be designed to confuse people who didn't bother to learn the special rules.

In this scenario the job of my Marines is simple.  At game end there must be three or fewer good order Japanese MMCs south of the airstrip.  This means killing those who are currently geographically inconveniencing me.  To do this I have a rather shopsoiled collection of Marines, a dozen 558 squads buried at the bottom of foxholes dug in the approximately ten square feet of Betio they have managed to capture so far.  Three of the squads start out broken and under DM.  To support them I have a bazooka, two 60mm mortars, two medium machine guns, a .50cal and a pair of guns; one a 37mm AT gun and the other a 75mm Infantry gun.  These guns have a circled breakdown number of ten and use red To Hit numbers.  

Steaming simultaneously to the rescue and the attack are my reinforcements turning up on turn 1.  Another ten squads of Marines (including two 768 assault engineers) supported by another .50cal, a flamethrower, two demo charges and a pair of medium machine guns.  This combined force is led by six officers whose quality ranges from reasonable to high and are supported by four tanks (three Stuarts and a Sherman).  What could possibly stand in my way?

Standing in my way is Dave Wilson commanding the Japanese of the 3rd Special Base Force.  That doesn't sound particularly impressive but they're actually the 6th Yokosuka Special Naval Landing Force who (being pedantic and literal) changed their name once they'd finished landing.  Dave has sixteen Japanese squads (nine elite and seven first line), five crews, four officers, two heavy machine guns, a medium machine gun, six light machine guns, three 50mm mortars, their very own flamethrower and a couple of demo charges.  In support is a multibarrelled 12.7mm anti aircraft gun (used here as an anti Marine gun) and a 37mm antitank gun which had a small chance of killing the Stuarts and pretty much no chance of killing the Sherman (experienced readers will already know what to expect at this point).  He also has trenches, pillboxes, wire and land mines. Also by a special campaign game rule Japanese squads may fire mmg/hmg without penalties.  This is either to demonstrate the elite status of the 3rd Special Base Force or a realisation by the BRT designers that they have to toss in a couple of special rules to justify their paychecks.  Some parts of the island were also on fire.  On two occasions gusts sprang up to scatter the burny stuff far and wide.

Below is the scene at the end of my turn one.  Dave has set up the bulk of his force at the very tip of the island as far from my reinforcements as possible without actually using another mapboard entirely.  However, he has also set up two very important speedbumps.  Based on some huts in the middle of the airfield (very sensible airfield design that) he has a pair of mortars and his 37mm AT gun.  Behind them flanking his main defences are a series of trenches.  This would turn out to be brilliant placement.  I for my part brought the main bulk of my reinforcements to roll south of the runway and reinforce my at start force while a small diversionary force dealt with the scattering of squads he had on the island's north (which is about a three minute walk from the island's south but never mind).

Keen observers will note that my reinforcing Marines seem to have got a little further than perhaps they should have.  That's because we forgot the special rule that noted that Betio's sand is particularly soft and takes a long time to slog through (two MP per hex).  Sadly for me we remembered it after the first turn.  Laughing his 37mm to scorn I have sent a Stuart charging down the runway to try and add some muscle to my diversionary forces while the rest of my armour shepherded the marines forward.  

I set my at start forces the job of clearing out his speedbump in the middle of the airfield and further south to try and start whittling down his forces in the main defensive area.  I wasn't particularly successful at either attempt but I did manage to generate two heroes while rallying or passing morale checks.  If nothing else this gave Dave more things to kill.

Things started to go wrong in the first Japanese turn when Dave's 37mm gained a critical hit on a Stuart and burnt it.  He would follow this up by killing another Stuart in the next turn.  This was terrible news because I needed that firepower to reduce his fortifications and provide some protection to my infantry so they could trot down the runway rather than struggle through the sand.  The only good news was that my 60mm won the duel of the mortars, killing the crew of one and striping the other.

That was it for good news as in the north my Marines proved once again that giving me 8 morale troops is merely a challenge that the dicebot was more than happy to accept.  With the 37mm and a remaining mortar still dominating the centre my reinforcing infantry shuffled forward capturing unoccupied buildings while waiting for my at start forces to complete dealing with them.  Only one of the buildings turned out to be not unoccupied.  Rather it was occupied by a HIP elite Japanese squad and a 10-0.  Dealing with these cost me both my 768 squads, not really a trade I was happy with.  Meanwhile my at start force having decided (accurately) that they were going to have to drive the Japanese out on their own had started repositioning south to see if they could filter through the palm trees towards the main Japanese defenders.

Oh yes, things are going swimmingly

With a pair of heroes leading the way and supported by a newly fanaticised squad (despite my bitching the dice weren't all bad) I started shuffling towards Dave's main fortifications.  Back in the north the 37mm had killed another Stuart and his squads had handled my diversionary force so roughly that I actually diverted troops to help them out (who is diverting what exactly?).  I also got thoroughly sick of the damn 37mm and drove the Sherman right up to it and challenged it to do its worst.  Fortunately it didn't and my 75mm gun (now under a low ammo counter) managed to take out his remaining mortar crew which allowed me to charge a squad across the runway and menace the gun crew.  I wiped it out in CC.

Now finally things could get moving towards the real battle but we were already three turns in, Dave's main defences hadn't been scratched and I had lost two tanks.  Without enough metal cover to charge down the runway some of my reinforcements instead trotted along the beach (hard sand) and arrived while the bulk of my reinforcements were still dicking about in the north.

I flooded the gap between my at start positions and Dave's defences with troops.  Despite the lost tanks, lost time and lost sanity things did look pretty impressive as a solid wave of olive green inched its way towards his collection of foxholes, pillboxes, wire, huts and bunkers.  The most you could say was that the Japanese were probably in there somewhere.

This newfound surge of hope lasted approximately fifteen seconds as I discovered Dave's minefields.  My forward troops were blown backwards (the "fanatic" squad wound up as a broken halfsquad although still technically fanatic I suppose).  The only person who survived unscathed was a single hero who jumped into close combat with a striped Japanese squad in a foxhole because the only other alternative was to sit around in a minefield looking stupid.  I would attempt to reinforce this melee but my troops kept treading on exploding things.

You may say, "why not go around the mines?"  That's a very good question; shut up!  The reason was time.  Dave had (very cleverly if I may say so) arranged his defence so that his trench dwellers in the centre covered the runway pretty much forcing me to go through the palm trees if I wanted to survive at all.  Having lost about three turns (and all my assault engineers) before my reinforcements even started heading south I didn't have the time left to dismantle that position and also attack his main defences.  This is also the reason for what happened next.

With my at start troops being blown into orbit and my reinforcing troops somewhat lackadaisically trotting south I turned in desperation to my tanks.  I should have had four of them but two hadn't made it this far.  I raced them down the runway to add their firepower to my struggling assault.  This wasn't wise and I knew it wasn't wise.  It had been my intention to cluster the tanks with infantry as protection against tank hunter heroes but I just didn't have the time.  I was essentially hoping for a miracle.  Unfortunately the dark god that alternately protects and tortures me was exercising his second option that day.

I did slowly start to pick apart his trench line in the centre and given a couple more turns might have been able to suffer horrendous casualties in a final assault.   As it was I didn't get anywhere and when a pair of tank hunter heroes charged through a wall of American lead and dismantled my two remaining tanks with their bare hands I decided to call it a day.

In retrospect that could have gone better

I did a couple of silly things, I should have advanced my tanks and reinforcements down the beach (its right there in the scenario title for god's sake) and I should have started trying to beat up on his centre trenchline before I did.  Nevertheless Dave set up a flawless defence (ie one good enough to defeat me) and never once did I look like I was going to actually win.  Thanks to Dave for the humiliation, I mean game, I shall try and do better next time (spoiler alert, I didn't.  In fact I did so badly I'm not even going to do an AAR).

"So, what are the Aleutians like this time of year?" asked one of the few surviving chins from our introduction.

"Cold, wet, bleak, miserable, frigid and uncivilised."

"What are they like in Summer?"

"Exactly the same but more so.  I hope you like crabmeat."

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Birthday Greetings #83

 Sometimes one encounters a person or situation that simply due to its absurdity creates a level of interest far in excess of what is actually reasonable.  With that as an introduction, Happy birthday to Heinrich XXVII Prince Reuss Younger Line.  Heinrich was the son of Heinrich XIV and the father of Heinrich XLV (they were princes not mathematicians).  He was the last man to rule Reuss Younger Line before the German monarchy was placed into receivership at the end of the First World War.  He was  also regent of the Principality of Reuss Elder Line due to the mental incapacity of its ruler Prince Heinrich XXIV of Reuss Elder Line.

At this point you may have worked your way through all the Roman numerals and all of the Heinrichs and arrived at a very pertinent question; "What the hell?"

When you encounter something this bizarre in Europe the Holy Roman Empire has pretty much got to be involved somewhere.  It all began back in the dim distant days of the eleventh century when the eastern border of the empire was also the dividing line between the largely Christian Germans and the largely pagan Slavs.  To protect the empire from the depredations of these Slavs (and to facilitate a fair amount of depradation on their own account) the emperors set up what were essentially marcher territories along the border but rather than hand them over to the nobility to rule they appointed their own officials to rule them.  Human nature being what it is it wasn't very long before these jobs became hereditary and hey presto the officials were nobility after all.  The Reuss house (house is a fancy word for family once you've got a title under your belt) were descendants of one of these border guards.  They ruled an area populated largely by Slavs who had converted to Christianity ("converted to Christianity" was eleventh century code for "we killed all the ones who weren't Christian").

Some time later Emperor Henry (or Heinrich) VI did the family a solid and in return the family decided to name every male child in the family Heinrich, forever.  Subsequently the Reuss house (or family) split into two lines; Reuss Elder and Reuss Younger but all the men were still named Heinrich.  German inheritance practices meant that every surviving son got a title and an increasingly small patch of land to rule over as their very own.  The only thing stopping the collective Reusses from having more descendants than territory was the odd burst of dynastic exhaustion which meant that the area they ruled merged, separated, merged again and generally twisted itself in knots as various Heinrichs died without issue or produced a dozen more Heinrichs for the future.

By the time the Holy Roman Empire was wound up in 1806 the Reuss had resolved themselves into two main groups Reuss Elder Line (descendants of Heinrich XIV the Elder) and Reuss Younger Line (descendants of the previous Heinrich's brother Heinrich XVI the Younger).  By this time the descendants of the middle brother (Heinrich XV the Middle) had died out so we don't need to worry about Reuss Middle Line.  The Elder Line subdivided several times but was eventually reunited in the person of Heinrich XI in the eighteenth century.  The family tree of the Reuss (and indeed most German nobility) looks likes the labyrinth of Crete with names and dates attached.  I'm amazed the producers of the Almanach de Gotha didn't go insane.

When Bismark united Germany in the 1870s the two Reuss lines became part of the German empire (although Heinrich XXII of Reuss Elder Line wasn't particularly happy about it, he had backed Austria-Hungary in the preceding war).  So, how much territory was our boy Prince Heinrich XXVII of Reuss Younger Line actually in control of?  Well, you could have held a football match there but if the spectators had wanted parking they would have had to invade a neighbouring state.

Coming as he did at the tail end of empire there wasn't much opportunity for our birthday boy to distinguish himself.  He joined the army, as one did if one was a German prince, and served in the XI Corps during the First World War although how much he actually did is a little harder to determine. In 1918 when he was sixty years old the German empire came to an end and, taking the hint, he abdicated himself.  Sometime thereafter he became simply Prince Reuss of no particular line when Heinrich XXIV of Reuss Elder Line (remember him) died without issue.  Heinrich XXVII's son Heinrich XLV took over as head of the house, joined the Nazi party and disappeared without trace once the NKVD got their hands on him in 1945.

This might have left the world Reuss bereft but fortunately there was an obscure branch of Reuss Younger Line (may I be the first to suggest it be called Reuss Branch Line) called Reuss Kostritz and the descendants of that line carry the Reuss name (and of course the Heinrich name) into the twenty first century.  The current head of house is Heinrich XIV of Reuss Kostritz.

For those who may be wondering about the somewhat bizarre numbering system its actually very simple.  Every male child of the house is named Heinrich.  Reuss Younger Line numbers its Heinrichs (whether they became rulers or not) starting from one at the beginning of the century.  When a new century turns over they start back again at one.  Reuss Elder Line numbered its Heinrichs from one to one hundred and when they got to a hundred went back to one again.  This is laid down in the House Law of 1688 and so far they have seen no need to revise it.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Plague Update #42 - Fur Coat Edition

 Are you a lover of fashion?  Are you upset that the whimperings of various animal freaks have prevented you from adorning yourself in the pelts of all things small and furry?  Good news, the coronavirus has come to your rescue!  In a selfless act of public service COVID-19 has expanded its reach to Denmark's mink population.  The immediate result of this is that pretty soon Denmark won't have a mink population.  On the other hand that fur coat you've been guiltily eyeing is about to get a whole lot cheaper as the pelts of some seventeen million mink suddenly turn up on the market.

Of course this is not great news for the mink.  The coronavirus has jumped species from humans to mink, mixed itself up a little and is now in the process of jumping back into humans in a new, improved, mink flavoured form.  The reaction of the Danish authorities has been measured and appropriate; they're going to kill all the mink.  It was either that or kill all the humans.  Sadly, despite criticism from the international community Denmark has not yet granted its mink citizenship so there are fewer votes to be lost in killing them.

COVID-19 has certainly caused misery and despair with over a million deaths world wide but frankly the human race is coming out of this rather well.  Compared with what's happening to bats, quokkas, seagulls and now mink we'll be lucky if there's a single animal species left on the planet by the time this is over.  Let's hope the thing can't spread to plants.  The Danish prime minister has issued a minkocidal rallying cry to her people announcing that "the eyes of the world are on Denmark".  Can I just assure any self conscious citizens of Denmark that the eyes of the world are not upon you.  The eyes of the world have never been upon you.  If it wasn't for Lego the rest of the world wouldn't even know your nation exists.

Such national anonymity is however very useful when you want to conduct somewhat morally dubious activities such as carving a blood spattered swathe through your mink population.  Such publicity as there has been has been broadly positive.  Even the Humane Society seemed to find it a good thing announcing that hopefully the sudden absence of mink will hasten the demise of the mink fur trade.  Yes, its amazing how effectively wiping out a species will end trade in that species' products.  Look for Humane Society hit teams to start targeting whales, rhinos, tigers and any other endangered animal harbouring saleable merchandise about its person.  With any luck they'll have them all exterminated by Christmas.

Back in Australia far from the piles of mink corpses accumulating on every street corner in Denmark things have got so good that we haven't had to deliberately exterminate a species for weeks now.  Even the population of Victoria is reveling in several consecutive days without infections.  More accurately, such of the Victorian population as has been left alive is reveling etc etc.  Tasmania whose own COVID disaster was really just a pitstop on its slide downward into survivalist anarchy has indicated that it might soon be permitting denizens of my state to resume visiting.  I informed my Tasmanian correspondent of this and was rewarding with the sound of a door being bolted and an escape tunnel being dug. 

Of course it isn't all peace and harmony among the states.  My premier and the newly re-elected God-Empress of Queensland have been having a bit of a spat about the fact that Queensland is still refusing to permit the entry of citizens from the fifteen percent or so of New South Wales that hasn't already been unofficially annexed by Queensland.  To make matters worse Queensland won the first State of Origin match so there was a definite air of smugness in the unreturned phone calls to our premier.  Speaking personally I must say it is good to see natural relations between the states returning after the somewhat terrifying show of unity they were displaying earlier in the year.  I don't like it when politicians agree with each other.  Generally its an indication that someone else is about to get it in the neck.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Plague Update #41- Special Belarusian Edition

 Freedom!  Yes the population of Melbourne have finally been released from their durance vile.  Imagine having to stay in your own homes and associate with your spouse/children/parents?  Frankly I'm amazed they haven't all murdered each other.  Of course this freedom is of a strictly limited nature.  The population of Melbourne have been told they're free to leave.  Unfortunately nobody else (including rural Victoria) is particularly keen to let them enter.  Essentially the people of Melbourne can journey to the city limits and stare longingly at the world beyond while the inhabitants of the world beyond glare at them menacingly and stock up on firearms.

Before we go any further with this blog entry I'd like to address the elephant in the room.

"Hi Jumbo!"

Sorry about that, I've started an ivory export business out of my apartment.

Back to the disease stalking our land.  It has become apparent to me that I have perhaps given a little too much attention to Victoria and Melbourne in particular in recent entries.  Part of this is due simply to the fact that if a car crashes right in front of you you're going to devote a lot of attention to it.  Of course another part of it is simple laziness.  With Victoria essentially holding Reaperfest 2020 in Melbourne I didn't need to bother coming up with any material myself.

Now that Melbourne has the outbreak under control (either that or COVID was simply finished) I thought it was only fair to reach out to those of my correspondents who haven't spent the last three months under house arrest.  Unfortunately it proved a little more difficult than I expected.  The last time I attempted to contact my Tasmanian correspondent I got an automated message that basically said "sod off disease bag".  This isn't actually an uncommon response when I try and contact her but there seemed to be a little extra edge in the recording this time.

I was able to contact my New Zealand correspondent unfortunately he didn't have any COVID related news for me.  In fact, being based in New Zealand, he didn't have any news of any sort for me.  Not much happens in New Zealand and most of what does happen is of limited interest to those of us who live in the real world.  To give you an example, they recently had an election in New Zealand but compared with the shambling democracy train wreck currently being conducted in the United States the impact on the outside world is likely to be minimal.  To be fair when compared with the recent Queensland state election the impact of the NZ election on the outside world is likely to be minimal.

Which left me with no one else to contact except my tech support.  I've been avoiding them recently due to the fact that its difficult to speak over gunfire and tear gas was starting to seep into my apartment.  With no other options except creativity I reluctantly put in a call.  Mercifully all was quiet in Belarus.  I'm tempted to use the term "quiet as the grave" if I weren't afraid of being literal.

Once we'd got past their usual surprise at the fact that I was still alive (apparently their flesh eating bacteria experiments aren't going as well as they'd hoped) I asked them how things were going in Belarus.

"What have you heard?" they demanded suspiciously.

"Absolutely nothing," I assured them with well simulated sincerity.

"In that case everything's going well."

Apparently Belarus has grabbed COVID-19 by the neck and beaten it into submission.  Oh wait, that's pro democracy protestors but they also gave COVID a quick kneecapping on the way through.  COVID-19 in Belarus is treated with tractors, ice hockey and vodka so pretty much the same way Belarusians treat everything.  It seems to be succeeding, COVID-19 deaths in Belarus are very low although there has been a thoroughly coincidental rise in the number of deaths from arteriosclerosis at the same time.

With COVID under control the future is looking bright for Belarus if only because of the new nuclear power station they're slapping together with Russian technology and infected workers.  If the accident rate during construction is anything to go by my tech support are going to be very busy for the next seven hundred million years.