Sunday, August 29, 2021

Silly After Action Report - Under A Sky of Lead

 Capitaine Ternynck was everything a French officer should be; dashing, courageous and impeccably dressed.  His moustache glistened in the sun.  Even the bandage wrapped around his hand added to his appeal.  His men worshiped him which was handy as he was about to send them to certain death.  Signing off from the radio he turned to the caporal his finely chiselled features bore the mark of bad news.

"Are we getting the reinforcements?" asked the caporal nervously?

"One company only," replied the capitaine heavily.

"One company," said the caporal.  "There are more Germans out there than I can count.  Where are the rest of them?"

"Reassigned," said Ternynck, "apparently there's been an uprising in the asparagus mines in Laos."

Ternynck raised his voice and addressed his men, he needn't have bothered there were only a dozen of them.

"Brave remaining soldiers of the 10th company we must keep this village out of German hands.  Our duty is stern but I am sure we will acquit ourselves well.  Grab as many buildings as you can and move around a bit to make it look like there's more of you.  Have no fear, despite my injury I will stay with you to the end."

The soldiers looked at the village, there were more buildings than there were soldiers.

"Let's hope our reinforcements arrive soon," said one to his comrade who was staring at the capitaine admiringly.

"What a man," said his fellow, "despite his injury he stays with us on the front line.  How did he get wounded?"

"He chipped a nail opening a pot of moustache wax."

So because apparently I have an issue with learning from experience DaveWilson and I sat down to play the next offering the Provence Pack had to show us.  This is PP6 - Under a Sky of Lead.  My job as the Free French is to end the game with control of more buildings south of the dry steambed on board 41 than the Germans.  Complicating this task is the fact that I only control the buildings I set up in and my at start force consists of precisely three elite halfsquads and a wounded, heroic 9-1 leader.  At least my set up won't take too long.  Entering on turn 2, should I survive that long are my reinforcements; ten squads, eight first line and two second line led by a 9-2 and three other officers of lesser distinction.  They carry three lmgs and are hauling a 60mm mortar which can best be described as both heavy and useless.

Dave's force consists of ten German squads split evenly between first and second line plus four crews.  No guns, just the crews.  These guys have four machine guns, two medium and two light.  They are led by three not particularly good officers.

Because it wouldn't be a Provence Pack scenario without some special rules insanity let me tell you about the artillery.  There are six predetermined locations (which we marked with shell holes).  Starting on turn 3 a mission of 100mm harassing fire will drop on one of those locations each prep fire phase.  The specific location is determined by whoever's turn it is.  Accuracy is N/A error is measured normally.  We don't have any choice in this, there is no radio contact or battery access the stuff is coming down whether we like it or not.  Also just to emphasise the importance of this nameless village in southern France both sides can declare HtH CC.

With three halfsquads and a limping leader (apparently a wound to the hand has deprived him of the use of his legs) there isn't a heck of a lot I can do to deny buildings to the Germans.  All of my forces have to set up on or adjacent to 41Z7 so I can't even spread them around a bit.  There seemed to be two options.  Form a knot around said hex and hope to hold off the Germans until the reinforcements arrived or round around madly trying to grab as many buildings as possible to at least force the Germans to spread out and capture them.  I chose option two, it did not end well.

At start, all the Germans have to enter on the red circle, French reinforcements on the blue

The first couple of turns were downright peaceful due to the fact that both sides are a fair distance from each other.  I sent two halfsquads running around the backfield sticking little French roundels on every building they could find.  The third I sent forward in splendid isolation to see what it could do about delaying the Germans, nothing as it so turned out.  The hero limped along behind, as it will be seen he did a better job of German delaying than his comrades.

End of French turn 1. Just to make things a little more difficult the Germans move first

By the end of the second German turn I had given up whatever faint hopes I might have had of delaying the onrushing Teutonic horde.  The one halfsquad that had tried was broken and Dave was now pretty much free to start snatching buildings on his own account.  While said halfsquad set out on an ultimately fruitless journey to "safety" I moved my hero, the only part of my force remotely near the Germans out into the street adjacent to one of his squads and with a line of sight up the olive grove lined road.  Yep, orchards are olive groves quite thin ones beside the road apparently.  Wheat is vineyards.

It takes the French reinforcements quite a long time to reach the battlefield.  The end of French turn two saw them panting, dust covered and sweaty along the road.  They wouldn't be in a position to make a difference until around turn four.  In the meantime Dave had moved troops around the initial cluster of buildings and was heading for those in the rear defended by a sum total of one halfsquad.  The rest of his force suffered unnecessary delay when he tried to kill my hero.  Despite being encircled my hero survived all fire and next turn moved a hex up the road.  The hero had his moment of glory when a German squad accompanied by a 7-0 trotted across the road.  The squad passed the morale check my 1-2 shot inflicted but the 7-0 broke and ELRed to become a near worthless 6+1.  This, no kidding, was the highlight of my game.

But now the artillery took a hand.  In its only semi accurate positioning of the game harassing fire came down trapping my broken halfsquad and a German squad under a rain of steel which did absolutely nothing.  For the rest of the game the artillery of both sides was so off the mark I suspect they were trying to shell Paris.

Both of us feared the artillery, completely without reason as it turned out

My reinforcements were still puffing and blowing up to the battlefield as Dave went about occupying largely undefended real estate.  I had a brief fillip when he foolishly moved a squad past one of my remaining halfsquads and I managed to break it (the squad not my halfsquad although by this time you are forgiven for assuming the latter).

By the time the third French turn had ended things were in a dire state.  My reinforcements were only now trickling onto the battlefield.  Dave had put together two separate forces that were very effectively overwhelming the precisely two halfsquads that were trying to defend the entire battlefield.  The only thing I could do was push reinforcements onto the central hill and look for opportunities to counterattack.

My at start force is gone save for one broken halfsquad
 It will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with this blog that the opportunities to counterattack didn't actually present themselves.  The first priority was to move up onto the central hill and solidify my hold on those buildings there.  This my reinforcements managed to do until Dave starting shooting at them.  Then they didn't.  My 9-2 fled shrieking for the rear at the first sound of gunfire and took no further part in proceedings.  For the rest it was a litany of failed morale checks and ineffectual fire.  Having dragged the mortar all this way I broke it on its first shot.  The game didn't so much end as peter out.  Half my reinforcements were still out of position.  Those that got into position broke.  Dave had occupied sufficient buildings to make hanging on to what I had left insufficient to win the game.  I conceded, a position with which Dave had some sympathy.

Not a particularly long AAR but then it wasn't a particularly long game and I was never in it.  From the start I was losing and this simply carried on until I got sick of it.  Despite this we're sticking with the Provence Pack, I'm determined that the Free French win at least one.  Or failing that put up a better show losing than they did this time.  Next up I'm charging German antitank guns with Shermans, what could possibly go wrong?

Battered and traumatised the remnants of the Free French force huddled in the couple of buildings they had managed to cling on to while roaming Germans shot everything that moved.

"You know what I could do with right now?" asked one of the soldiers.

"A ticket back to North Africa?"

"No, well yes, but what I could really do with is some asparagus."

"Good luck with that, I hear its being rationed."

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Silly After Action Report - Today We Take Hyeres

 A runner handed Sous-lieutenant Raoul Outlebarrel a message.

"It's from the commandant."

Outlebarrel cast his eye over contents,

"Sous-lieutenant Outlebarrel, you are without doubt the most wretched officer I have ever had the misfortune to command.  Your actions alone have set the cause France Libre back more than six months.  Our allies snigger behind their hands and the Germans are emboldened!  Never in all my years of service have I encountered anyone with as little aptitude for warfare as yourself.  You are stripped of your command and will be posted to Indo-China immediately for guard duty in the asparagus mines of Laos.  Hand over your command to the nearest officer and report to the nearest coal barge for transit to your new posting."

Outlebarrel handed the message to the sergeant.

"Have that decoded sergeant and then report back to me."

For some reason I persist with attempting to gain a victory for the Free French despite the fact that they would obviously benefit from almost anybody else in command.  We have passed the halfway mark on my road of pain and have now played PP5 - Today We Take Hyeres.  Having got past the Golf Hotel on the outskirts (not really) I am now expected to capture an entire town.

Once again I command a formidable collection of Free French fighting material that is once again divided up into various bits and pieces.  The victory conditions appear to have been designed to force the players to spend more time with a pen and paper than rolling dice.  The Germans win if they exit 30VP or more off the west edge.  Failing that the Germans win if they inflict 60CVP or more on the French.  Failing either of the above the Germans win if they control two or more multi-story buildings at game end.  Failing all of the above the French win.  But wait, there's more.  For every French AFV destroyed the Germans can deduct the number of exit VP required by one.  For every German gun captured the German exit VP requirement goes up by three.  I hope that's clear to everyone.

To capture Hyeres I have twenty four squads (holy crap), sixteen of them elite and eight first line.  These are goaded into combat by seven leaders the best of whom is a 9-2.  They have eight lmgs, four mmgs, four dismantled 60mm mortars and (for no reason whatsoever) two PIAT launchers.  Rolling on in the first turn just sufficiently far away to make a combined arms attack impractical is my armour.  Four Stuart tanks led by a 9-1 armour leader, four M3A1 scout cars led by an 8-1 armour leader and four M-10 tank destroyers who are apparently leading themselves.

Dave's Germans are equally plentifully equipped.  He has eighteen squads (two elite, four first line and twelve second line).  These guys are short of leadership with two 8-1s and two 7-0s between them.  They do have three hmgs, an mmg, three lmgs and two panzerschreks to distribute amongst the ranks and a grand total of thirty concealment counters.  But I mentioned guns didn't I?  In addition to the above he has three 88mm guns, three 20mm guns (which by SSR can lay firelanes) and two 81mm mortars.

The French infantry have to set up north of hexrow R on board twenty.  Oh and they can't set up on roads.  The three German 88s have to set up on board 18.  The French armour has to enter on the north edge of boards 18 & 22.  Below is my set up.  My plan involved punching hard along the east edge while moving somewhat more circumspectly in the middle.  My tanks would enter as close to the infantry a possible in the hopes that their canister rounds could help rout the Germans out of the buildings.  The scout cars would roam far and wide shamelessly trailing their coats in the hopes that the 88s would reveal their position by firing on them.  The M-10s would move more circumspectly, hoping to get into a position where a couple of them could gang up on an 88.  Some parts of that plan worked.  Most of it didn't.

Here is our at start positions.  Check out the unit I've circled in red.  This one squad would be the rock on which all my hopes would break

So things didn't start off too badly.  Along the east (bottom) I poured troops into his first defended building and once that was done started infiltrating troops past them as well.  In the centre things were more modest but I hopped a road in defiance of a firelane from one of his 20mm and started challenging for that building as well.  Further west my troops snuck around behind woods hoping to encircle his defenders and meet up with the armour rolling on in support.  My scout cars were spattered all over the board but so far only one 88mm has revealed itself.  Ominously my casualties started mounting when a squad was caught in the open and killed to death leaving an lmg homeless and bereft.

A modest start but surely promising better things

In Dave's turn his 88 dutifully fried one of my armoured cars and somewhat embarrassingly a 2+2 shot stunned another.  You will note in the picture below that the German 447 in 20O8 which was in CC the previous turn now isn't.  This one squad killed five French squads in CC and tied down three more.  The only effect on it was the generation of an 8-1 leader.  Literally a third of my infantry was removed from contention for the entire length of the game.  The CC was still going on when we finished.  The only time it faced 1-1 odds was when it had already killed some of the French in the hex.  At the time it seemed like a temporary issue that would soon be solved.  Meanwhile my troops elsewhere pushed forward.  Dave had obviously decided the centre buildings were indefensible because once I got through his outliers I was able to push forward and grab a few multi story buildings (dear god there were so many).  With the way at least partially cleared my Stuarts rolled forward and took his 20mm under fire.  

End of German turn 1

Way up on the hill to the east I had an unexpected and totally undeserved success.  In keeping with my ethos that the scout cars were expendable I rolled one up onto the hill and parked it next to his 88.  My intention was that while he was destroying the scout car my M-10s would position themselves to hit the gun.  As it turned out Dave missed the shot against the scout car and return fire broke the crew of the 88 who fled scene in terror.  Of course I pushed my luck just a little too far when I tried to unload the inherent halfsquad to take possession of the gun.  A German hmg opened up from across the way and broke them, they would spend the next couple of turns cowering in some convenient trees.

With tanks far down the board I was able to discover his mortars, both of them located in the same hex lurking behind a rowhouse guided by a 7-0 spotting from an adjacent building.  Before we go on just a word on the mortars generally.  Totally useless!  OK that's two words and more than they deserve.  Technically mine have WP but the one time I tried to use it it turned out that they didn't.  I had four mortars, I fired one of them twice.  The other three didn't fire at all.  Dave had two mortars they also fired about twice.  The most useful thing one of my mortar boys did was to stand well away from the action and attract Dave's sniper to him.

Moving on.  I was indeed.  Still suffering under the delusion that the CC in my rear was a temporary issue I pushed forward.  A blast of canister from a Stuart broke the crew of the one 20mm I had found.  My troops in the centre pushed towards the next obvious batch of defenders while to their east a tank and some troops tried to get around behind them and others pushed for the clutch of multi-story buildings that seemed temptingly poorly defended.  To the rear I knew he had a pair of squads with heavy machine guns but I hoped a combination of M-10 firepower and infantry attacks would deal with them.  The scout cars invigorated by the 1-1 88 to scout car ratio puttered around likely looking places other 88s could be hidden but first wanted to make sure that the crew of the one 88 I had found stayed broken.  This turned out to be a mistake, I brought a second scout car up to join the first.  Dave had two hmgs in buildings across the way.  They killed one car and stunned the other.  Not a great outcome but I had also brought up an M-10 which happily killed the crew next turn.

I do seem to be getting somewhere but time is passing
Oh yes and I overran his two mortar crews in the street.  I didn't really intend to.  I moved my tank out of the smoke to where I could take them under fire and then figured why not keep on going.  I broke one crew but the other hung tough.  I didn't have enough movement points left to get to safety so I stayed in the hex in motion and hoped for the best.  The best did not eventuate.

Despite mounting armoured casualties I was pushing forward but now I started glancing uneasily at the turn counter.  There were many, many multi-story buildings still in front of me and that damned melee raging behind me.  In the centre I started moving forward for what I intended to be the final push (two full squads with hmgs in front of me but I had four M-10s, what could possibly go wrong?

Forward to victory mes ami

As it turned out a fair bit could go wrong.  As is traditional a goodly amount of what went wrong was boneheaded idiocy on my part.  For right now let's focus on what went right.  In the centre under the watchful gaze of not one but two M-10s I pushed forward and grabbed another building.  Down on board twenty I was shuffling along the rowhouse and had finally brought a squad or two around the melee to move towards the the large building in the southwest.  I "discovered" another 20mm gun when it started taking potshots at a convenient Stuart, fortunately without success.  I also beat up on his nearest defenders to challenge for another building.  So far so good.

What went wrong?  Well with my troops in the centre encroaching on his heavily defended rear most buildings I brought up my M-10s for close fire support.  I roared one right up to the wall and parked it next to a German unit on the other side.  That German unit had a panzerschreck.  My excuse, I had overlooked the unit entirely because it was under a WA counter and I completely forgot that there must be some troops under that counter.  I didn't deserve what happened next.  Dave rolled boxcars with the schreck and my M-10 lived; for about three seconds until he revealed an 88mm gun a couple of hexes away.

Not good

Yeah, well that was awkward.  I had an M-10 on the hill where it could (and did) pound the 88 but to little effect.  Meanwhile back in town Dave had reverted to a skulking strategy.  With two turns to go and his troops lurking under concealment counters in the rear of the buildings it was obvious that I didn't have the time left to capture all but two.  And even if I did I scarcely had the troops.  A significant chunk of my force had been swallowed up trying to kill a single second line squad.  Five squads and an officer were dead in the attempt and three more squads were locked in melee.

And that's a wrap
 With about a turn and a half to go I gave the concession to Dave and slunk off in defeat.  I think this one is a bit tough on the French (although I would say that wouldn't I?) but I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Much more than the previous couple.  I had been prepared to give the pack away but now I'm invigorated to try one more so tune in next time when we play Under a Sky of Lead.

The sergeant looked across at Sous-lieutenant Outlebarrel and shook his head.

"You are going to love the asparagus mines."

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Plague Update #54

 I stared with increasing despair at the information flooding my computer screen.  Then I flicked from an assessment of my cryptocurrency investments to check out how my state was handling the latest covid outbreak.  Not well, seems to be a good assessment.  We are paying for a sluggish lockdown and an even more sluggish vaccination program.

"Look at this," I said to my puffin.  "Five kilometre limit, outdoors for shopping and exercise only and I can't even have any visitors."

"Nobody visited anyway," replied my puffin.

"You're not helping."

"Don't worry, you've still got us," chirped my platypus cheerfully.

I may have suffered a slight psychotic break at this point.  When I recovered such of my senses as hadn't packed their bags years ago I was just in time to stop my plague doctor opening a vein in an attempt to balance my humours.  I assured him my humours were as balanced as the rest of me which didn't comfort him as much as I had hoped.

We really have made a mess of this.  The states daily infection rates climb inexorably towards the four figure mark and our premier seems to be getting increasingly irritated at the fact people are persisting in getting sick.  I personally have never felt healthier possibly because sitting on a couch staring at the ceiling doesn't really require much in the way of physical fitness.

Still there is good news of a sort.  As an individual living alone (a collection of pushy plush toys apparently don't count) I am entitled to a bubble buddy.  This is a random individual (although preferably someone you know) who is permitted to visit you to ensure that you don't go completely insane.  I'm currently checking to see if there's an escort agency within five kilometres of my home.

While I await the visit of what I shall euphemistically describe as a mental health services professional I am scanning the news from our immediate neighbours.  None of it seems good.  There were violent protests in Melbourne and on the border with Queensland a crowd was threatening to surge across the border.  Seriously, to get into Queensland?  Why?  Even New Zealand has seen a sudden outburst of covid courtesy of a visitor from NSW.  Sorry guys, our bad.

Our national unity, always more notional than real, is fraying at the edges as various parts of the nation ostracize other parts with somewhat more justification than they can usually trot out.  I personally don't think that the NSW outbreak will get under control until we've reached an appropriate vaccination level.  At that point we'll be able to leave the house again as long as we don't try and leave the state assuming that we're not the independent republic of New South Wales by that point.  Meanwhile, just for context, over eleven thousand people died of covid in the last twenty four hours.  Three of them were in Australia.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Travelling Pathetically - Wetlands Edition

 My puffin interrupted me in the middle of planning my next walk.

"What are you doing?  And what the hell are those things?"

"This," I announced flourishing exhibit A in one hand, "is a map of the local area.  The other is a pair of compasses.  I'm attempting to measure out a ten kilometre distance I can walk from my home."

"Or," suggested my puffin with a smartarse grin, "you could just look online."  It hopped up next to my computer and tapped out a couple of keystrokes with its beak.  True to its word a map of my local area appeared with a shaded circle indicating the limits I was currently permitted to travel.  My puffin exuded an air of unbearable smugness or at least it did until I impaled the little bastard to the wall with a pair of compasses and set out on my walk.

I measured the distance with painstaking care.  While my journey might be longer than ten kilometres a straight line from my home to my destination would be within the limit, just.  In keeping with the random greenery (usually associated with water) motif of these walks I would be walking through a series of parks, nature reserves and random bits of scrub that people hadn't got around to building on yet.  I would start at Wolli Creek and head south.  After a certain amount of suburb crawling I would (I hoped) encounter some wetlands and a creek that would take me towards San Souci.  The word "towards" is very important here.  San Souci is just outside the ten kilometre radius from my home so I would actually have to stop a couple of hundred yards from my putative destination and turn back if I didn't want to have COVID related hell rained down upon me.

Just getting to Wolli Creek was difficult enough.  I hopped off the train at Sydenham and was promptly accosted by police who demanded to know why I wasn't huddling under my bed in virus induced terror.  I didn't think it was wise to say that the last time I did that my puffin and platypus didn't let me out for a week so I just muttered something about exercise and they reluctantly let me proceed.

Wolli Creek is, of course, the centre of Sydney's vibrant Mongolian community.  I didn't know Sydney had a Mongolian community but apparently we do and its located at Wolli Creek.  Despite the deep personal connection I feel with the Mongolian peoples I had other things on my mind and headed to Discovery Point Park to start my walk.  This park was originally the grounds of a private home of some prominent local citizen who decided that what was really needed in this area was a half hearted attempt at classical Greek architecture.  There's even a small pile of rocks called Mt Olympus.  It is implied that you can climb Mt Olympus but unfortunately dogs are forbidden from that sacred place and it seems like they just decided to extend that to humans as well because the place was hidden behind locked gates.  I wasn't bothered, any gods living at the top of that would be of the distinctly low rent variety and besides this was a starting point, not a destination.

The aforementioned home now open to the public should the public have any interest in visiting.

Leaving the park I redonned my mask and strode down the street to the next patch of green, Cahill Park where I could stroll along the bank of the Cooks River until I couldn't any more.  Once fate and architecture intervened I once again returned to the suburbs until I came to well it wasn't exactly a park.  Kogarah Golf Course had been built and the M5 freeway had been built parallel to it and in between the two was a thin strip of land which was obviously too small or too inconvenient to build on.  In desperation a bike and walking track had been placed there presumably for the amusement of those for whom driving and golf are of little interest.  I am such a person and I strolled along in eager anticipation of the wetlands that I was sure would soon be presenting themselves.  The walking track moved off to dip under the motorway but the thin strip of land continued and so did I.  Then the strip of land ended and I discovered a golf course.  The next thing I discovered was an international airport.  Finally I discovered that the golf course ended at a creek that I couldn't cross without swimming and I had to retrace my steps.

This may look like a charming piece of nature but its actually a water hazard

And the aforementioned international airport

Feeling a little foolish I retraced my steps and followed the path where it dipped under the motorway.  It was just as well that I did so because I crossed under the motorway and walked into a wetland.  A sluggish creek oozed gently between the trees who, perhaps encouraged by the easy going nature of the stream had extended out a little into the water.  I was literally standing under a motorway as I looked over it.  It was good that I did so because it was the closest I would get to a wetland for a while.

I took this photo from underneath the M5 east motorway which is directly above my head

The reason for this enforced divorce from all things wetlandy is because the wetland is fragile and is being restored.  Restoration consisting of not actually digging it up and trying not to pump as many pollutants into it as we used to.  This does seem to be working, at least on a modest level.

Instead of strolling through the wetland which would have been environmentally harmful and hard on my shoes I instead walked up Eve Street which borders the strip of trees which in turn border the wetland.  Happier times were coming because Eve Street petered out at round about the same time as a path started snaking through the bush and now genuinely surrounded by trees I could push on through something approximating nature.

Something approximating nature

For someone as ignorant of nature as myself the approximation was perfectly satisfactory.  There were even bits of water which, if they didn't count as wetlands, certainly counted as damplands.  

Definitely damplands

The bush came to an end at a road but the path started up again on the other side and now I was in genuine wetlands.  Or at least I was wetlands adjacent.  The path was muddy and the place stank like an open sewer.  This probably means it was wetlands or maybe an open sewer.  A sign optimistically proclaimed the former.  The same sign also pointed out the importance of the area to migrating birds.  They must have been still migrating because there didn't seem to be any around.

Wetland, dampland or heathland.  One of those
I carried on across what now resembled somewhat soggy heathland.  There were grasses and shining pools of water undisturbed by the presence of birds.  Before I could get used to it though I was back among trees ploughing my way slowly but steadily south.  Then I came across Eve Street.  For a horrible moment I thought I had walked in a complete circle but a quick check of google maps assured me that Eve Street dropped in and out of existence like a non perennial stream.

Recharged I set forth once more now walking across what was essentially a park alongside the appropriately named Muddy Creek. Eventually this path spat me out on to West Botany Road that would be my somewhat less inspiring companion for the next part of my walk.  I clumped along unforgiving concrete hoping that my half remembered view of the map before I left my apartment hadn't been wrong and I would be able to leave the road again soon.

Finally I took a hard left at the UFC Gym and wound up in Rockdale Bicentennial Park.  Eschewing the trimmed grass with a sneer I plunged towards the ragged grouping of trees which I, correctly, surmised concealed a water way.  It wasn't so much a waterway as an algaeway.  The water was a deep rich green.  This may not have seemed terribly healthy but the birds would disagree.  The water teemed with birdlife.  While the wetlands were squatting in an avian free sulk this green stretch of slime was neck deep in birds burrowing through the surface to find the water beneath.

Birds, lots and lots of birds

In my previous blog entry I made mention of the astonishment I had felt on seeing an ibis in a tree.  As if to mock me the branches of the trees around the stream were bent low by the weight of the ibis resting on them.  If there had been any more the trees would have toppled into the water under the combined ibis bulk.  I took photos of course.  I took photos of birds until they were bored and asked me to move along.

Ibis in trees

Not an ibis

Somewhat glutted with birds I moved on.  My time in anything approximating actual bush was pretty much over.  The remainder of my journey lay through well manicured parks and the occasional piece of ill manicured scrubland.  There was still the occasional patch of trees such as the one where I encountered a pair of young teenagers enthusiastically digging a hole in the path.  They greeted me politely and I politely pretended that I hadn't seen their two comrades who had fled into the bush at the sight of my approach.  I didn't take photos of them, I didn't think it would be polite or wise.  

A far better subject for a photo than two young men digging a hole that I'm pretty sure wasn't for a dead body
Part of the the park I was walking beside was an equestrian park which helps explain the below photograph there being no pet food factories in San Souci to the best of my knowledge.  I took a picture of the more photogenic of two horses on offer while the other blew flies off itself in disgust.

Equestrian Park, for use in.
Bado-berong Creek had been my companion for the past twenty minutes or so and now it paused while it gathered its strength for the last run to the sea.  I followed cheering it on until the sea itself was visible through the trees.  Then I stopped.  I had reached the end of my piece of elastic.  One step further and certain COVID death awaited me.  I gave a wistful wave to the sea and turned around and caught the bus home.  Considering how long the walk had taken me I was almost depressed at how quickly the bus covered the ground.

There are few places where Bado-berong Creek looks this good.  This is one of them


Saturday, August 14, 2021

Silly After Action Report - Peak Hour at the Golf Hotel

 The hotel sat in its grounds, mute testimony to a happier time.  Here people had laughed, played and cheated on their wives all in a comfortable setting of peach trees and lush greenery.  Now the halls which had once played host to the infidelity of France's elite echoed to the crash of boots on the tiled floors and in place of laughter, music and the occasional screech of outrage when a spouse returned unexpectedly was badly accented German and some linguistically perfect Armenian.

Sous lieutenant Outlebarrel shook his head sadly.  It genuinely hurt him to see how low this magnificent building had fallen.  

"I remember this in the good times," he murmured nostalgically.  "Oh the balls they had and the food, it was exquisite.  All was perfect."

"Did you stay here often?" asked a sergeant currently engaged in pouring lighter fluid into a flamethrower.

"No I was a parking valet."

"We're ready," announced the sergeant.

"Let's try to do as little damage as possible."

Right on cue an artillery barrage slammed down on the hotel.

"That'll help," replied the sergeant.

This is the fourth scenario in the Provence Pack - PP4 Peak Hour at the Golf Hotel.  Keen observers will note that there has not been an AAR for the third scenario.  Nor shall there be.  Suffice it to say that I never want to hear the name of that scenario again.

This one looked a little more promising.  As the Free French desperate to liberate their nation's beach resorts I have a pretty impressive force with which to seize the aforementioned hotel currently playing host to a bunch of Armenian gastarbeiter.

To do the seizing I have a force of twelve elite 648 squads urged into battle by a mighty 10-2 a pair of pretty nifty 9-1s and an 8-1 making up the numbers.  These heroes have seven lmgs and two mmgs between them.  Backing them up is a thinly armoured motorised force consisting of a trio of halftracks, a scout car and an armed jeep supported by a pair of M-10 tank destroyers.  A squad and a half of elite troops come along for the ride.  On turn two I get six more 648 assault engineers with four DCs, a pair of flamethrowers and a pair of lmgs into the bargain.  I also get bespoke artillery support with a preregistered hex in the form of OBA which manages to combine HE and WP into a glistening storm of low visibility pain.

Preparing to die to maintain their hold on southern France's vital room service assets were Dave's troops of the 4th (Armenian) Battalion of Grenadier regiment 917.  Since they were based in Provence rather that the Soviet Union these troops have already won the most important battle.  Anything else will be jam.  Holding the three story hotel itself are two first line and four second line squads (not exactly Germany's finest but definitely in Armenia's top three).  These reluctant heroes have a pair of light machine guns, a heavy machine gun and a 75mm AT gun.  They also have two officers, a 9-2 and a 6+1 on balance you can say their leadership is average.  Defending the grounds are another eight squads evenly divided between first and second line, another hmg, two medium machine guns and a second 75mm gun.  Possibly of greater importance are the twelve wire counters, ten foxhole counters and sixty minefield factors scattered about the place to add a little emphasis to the "No Trespassing" signs.  There are also twenty four concealment counters just in case my job looked too easy.

To win I had to clear the Germans out of both the hotel and a secret tunnel that officially was there to allow troops to sneak into the building but which I suspect the Armenians dug to give themselves surreptitious access to the hotel's wine cellar.  Below is my set up.  The armour and their hangers on have to enter via hex Y1 on the east (top) side of the board.  The turn two assault engineer reinforcements have to enter on the west (bottom) edge of the board.  

At start

 I decided the main attack would come from the west while a smaller force in the east would perform a diversionary task and hopefully split his defences.  Since my armour had to enter via a woods line road I was certain (correctly for a change) that one of his 75mm guns would be in building X5 to cover the road.  I led with the halftracks hoping Dave might disdain to fire on them in the hopes of bagging an M-10 instead.  I would roar up next to the building, unload troops and hopefully give his gunners something else to think about.  My diversionary troops in the east would push into the woods and from there to the outbuildings making scary noises while the bulk of my force pushed through the orchards, captured the outlying building and prepared a launchpad for my assault engineers.  Sounds good doesn't it.  Read on for the sad reality.

End of French turn 1

So I tried the halftrack end run trick.  This came unstuck when a German squad got a 2+2 shot which managed to pin the passengers and break the crew bringing the vehicle to an undignified halt.  I moved up a second halftrack and Dave had no problem unveiling the gun and turning it into a ball of flame.killing the squad and officer riding in it.  Maintaining rate he managed to shock one of the M-10s.  The only slight trace of relief was when, apparently deciding it had done its duty for the Fatherland, the gun then broke.  My diversionary force diverted quite a lot of bullets into itself.  A squad and an officer plunged into the trees, stepped on some mines and then got shot to pieces by an inconveniently placed hmg which shot a squad to death on a spectacular rate tear.  The 8-1 officer guiding them was made of sterner stuff and battle hardened himself into a 9-1 before immediately breaking and spending the next three turns failing to rally.  I was left with precisely one functional squad on the entire top of the board which understandably did little except hide behind the trees and pray for their lives.

Things went a little better on the southern flank if only because it would have been difficult for them to go worse.  A couple of guys (naturally another 9-1) broke but I swarmed into the building and, eventually, managed to kill the occupants in CC.  Except for the mines, barbed wire and wine primed Armenian defenders the way seemed clear for my assault engineers.  My artillery spotting round had been wayward but I had hopes of correcting it next turn.  At this point Dave asked what happened to my preregistered hex.  My response was "Preregistered what now?".  One of the major difficulties I have with this game can best be summed up with the phrase "shambolic incompetence".

Finally correcting my artillery I brought it down in my second turn.  The twelve firepower factor HE attack followed by the mandatory WP morale check didn't do any harm (inside a stone building I didn't really have any hopes) but now the area was blanketed in smoke.  All I had to do was worm my way through the barbed wire and enter the building while my engineers came up from behind.

That was all I had to do. All I actually did was get hung up on the wire and allow Dave to prove that firing out of WP didn't actually affect him all that much.  My second turn ended with my point troops wrestling with barbed wire while under disturbingly accurate fire from troops that were supposedly blinded.  My engineers were slow moving forward (my fault, I was concerned with mines and was trying to tippy toe around the edges of the set up area).  Things weren't helped when Dave generated a hero in the hotel.

End of French turn 2

My armoured force (what was left of it) proved disappointing.  That is I was disappointing.  Dave had a squad with an mmg and a pair of crews with a malfunctioning gun.  This proved quite sufficient to hold off two M-10s, a scout car and a jeep while managing to kill my one remaining halfsquad there into the bargain.  I felt I needed to take them out so that they didn't shoot my M-10s in the back with panzerfausts but in actually fact it took them so long to clear the defenders out that they might as well have done.  The only sensible thing I did was run my surviving halftrack past their position.  This would swing up the drive to the hotel to "menace" from the rear.

End of German turn 2.  I've broken the mg on my jeep.  Also the halfsquad next to the concealed unit used to have a flamethrower until he tried to use it.

The next turn saw me try and improve my position.  Translation the next turn saw me try and wriggle underneath barbed wire while Dave shot at me.  At least my assault engineers were now moving forward.  Dave unveiled his other 75mm gun and blew up my surviving halftrack although for some reason not before the squad they carried had jumped out and plunged into CC with some defenders in a foxhole.  Meanwhile my two M-10s were still in the rear painfully trying to take out a handful of German defenders.  

End of French turn 3.  I like to think I'm making progress

Finally enough of my force squirmed and wriggled through the wire and managed to plunge into close combat with his defenders (well except the ones that got blown up on the minefield that he had placed in the building hex).  I finally thought I was getting somewhere.  I had managed to get a decent sized force into the hex and the hotel itself was short on defenders.  Then Dave ambushed me and cheerfully withdrew.  In the next turn he scattered his forces across the multilevel building to a point where I would move into pretty much each hex in order to drive him out.  I had two turns and the bulk of my force was completely out of position.

As it turns out I was entirely wrong about that making progress thing

I couldn't see any way I could do it.  Dave concurred and I gave what is rapidly becoming a very common concession speech.  Next week we try PP5 Today we take Hyeres.  If there isn't a reversal of fortunes soon I might give the rest of the pack away.

The Commandante peered through the still smoke filled halls of the hotel.

"How did that idiot manage to capture this place?" he wondered.

"He didn't," replied his adjutant.  His attack was cut to ribbons and he led the retreat to the woods.  Fortunately the Armenians broke into the wine cellar and we managed to take the hotel while they were drunk."

The Commandante looked across at where Sous-lieutenant Outlebarrel was being perhaps a little too attentive to an attractive, well dressed woman standing next to him.

"Who on earth is she?"

"She's the wife of the Mayor of Hyeres."

"What was she doing here?"

"Having an affair."

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Travelling Pathetically - Coffee Edition

 If you couldn't be bothered reading the rest of this blog entry here's the one sentence synopsis.  "I went out for coffee."

I have now pretty much scraped a hole through the bottom of the barrel and started to dig.  I had been casting around frantically looking for somewhere to walk to and simultaneously had run out of ground coffee without which life is simply not worth living.

"I have it!" I announced in triumph.

"Well don't give it to us," replied my platypus as he and the puffin backed nervously away.  The plague doctor on the other hand produced a disturbingly lethal looking piece of equipment and asked if I'd like him to remove it.  I did a little nervous backing away myself at that point.

"I shall travel into the city and walk back to the cafe which provides me with coffee thus gaining the elixir of life and material for a blog entry along the way."

"You really are getting desperate aren't you?" asked the puffin.

I hung my head.

"So freaking desperate."

Well it seemed like a good idea at the time.  No, actually it seemed like a rather lousy idea but as my puffin had noted I was getting desperate.  I equipped myself with mask and camera,  hopped onto the bus and rode in the direction of the city.  I would get out at Broadway and make my way back through quiet surburban streets to the cafe in Newtown.  I could simply have walked up the main road but where's the fun in that.

Getting out at Broadway was the easy part.  In fact it might have been difficult to get any further because the place was swarming with police.  I had apparently decided to travel into the city on a day when the authorities were preparing for a protest from pro-disease advocates.  The result of which was that most of the people failing to observe social distancing were actually police officers.  I could have taken a photo but I didn't.  The start of my walk didn't seem like a good place to lose my camera.

I left the main road and headed down a promising looking side street.  I did have a rough idea of the route I would take and I credit google maps with the fact that I only got lost twice in a city I have lived in for thirty years.

An example of a side street.  Don't worry the rest of the photos are equally exciting

The moment I stepped off the main road I was in unfamiliar territory.  I don't drive which means that my journeys tend to be along main transit routes with a definite destination in view.  Literally a hundred metres either side of these routes and I'm in unfamiliar territory.  I gazed about with what I fondly imagined was well simulated interest at the collection of crisp inner city apartment blocks, the occasional more elderly left over of a somewhat more industrial past and absolutely empty streets.  I like being alone in the bush but to my mind cities are supposed to have people, there was a post apocalyptic hint to the entire scene although, given the quality of the buildings, a well organised and distinctly tidy apocalypse.  Along the way I saw a church surrounded by larger, more modern buildings.  I took a photo more for something to do than anything else.

At least I think this is a church

I was wandering through Chippendale which is apparently a bit of an artists hub with galleries and a methadone clinic.  Inner city living at its finest.  I have to admit the flats looked nice, certainly better than I would have expected a struggling artist to afford but maybe they commute from horrible squats elsewhere to display their work in all the galleries I didn't notice as I was walking along.

I tried to avoid main streets and for the most part was successful although I had to venture on to them occasionally if I wanted to reach my destination.  My destination incidentally was Wilson street which runs alongside the railway line from Redfern to Newtown.  All I had to do was navigate myself successfully from Chippendale to Redfern (it's literally the next suburb).  I wandered past a pair of cats sitting on the pavement who didn't even bother to acknowledge my presence as I strode by confident in my sense of direction and navigational skill.

The house they belonged to was being renovated. They were waiting patiently until the workmen were finished.

So I did get a little lost but fortunately a chance encounter with one of the aforementioned main streets managed to get me on the path to Redfern after which it would be an easy stroll with no need for confusing turns left or right which seem to leave me more than appropriately disorientated.  

Redfern is part trendy inner city living and part grotty warehouses.  Due to a certain amount of building repurposing it is sometimes difficult to tell which bit is which.  I was on the right track now and stepped out with a confidence and sense of purpose somewhat alien to my normal way of life.  Terrace houses, nicely renovated crowded the streets and the occasional warehouse (or possibly trendy inner city flats) bulked with a certain impressive dilapidation.

This might be a warehouse, an apartment block, an office building or a crack den; or indeed all four

I strolled past a rather handsome building set in its own grounds with trees and other green stuff in the garden (I think it was a railway building of some sort).  I glanced at it vaguely but kept on walking. The need for coffee was overwhelming any aesthetic pleasure I might have taken in a handsome colonial era building.  However a ferocious rustling in one of the trees did catch my attention.  Looking up I noticed that one of the branches was thrashing around as if in a storm while the rest of the tree stayed still.  Intrigued (and by this stage more than a little desperate for something to pad out this blog entry) I peered as closely as I could through the iron railing fence to see if I could identify what it is that was apparently attempting to separate this particular branch from its parent tree.

To my utter astonishment it was an ibis.  Seeing an ibis in Sydney is nothing unusual.  The avian bin rats are everywhere but I had never actually seen one in a tree before.  I took a photo and, just to be sure, took several more.  Subsequently an acquaintance pointed out that ibis are birds and where the hell else did I expect them to live.  To be honest I thought they slept under sheets of cardboard below bridges and motorway overpasses. Frankly if the ibis kept brutalising the branch at its current rate it wouldn't be in the tree for long.

An ibis in a tree

Still blinking in surprise I hurried away from what seemed like a distinctly unnatural sight and pushed on towards my destination.  Along the way I went to the farmers market.  The farmers market was a bit of a surprise because a) it was still open despite the COVID ravaging our state and b) I didn't realise it existed in the first place.  The farmers market is at CarriageWorks which is (according to wikipedia) a multi-arts urban cultural precinct.  It used to be a railway workshop.  Now it isn't.  One of the urban cultural multi-arts that the place plays host to is a farmers market.  More people than I had seen on my entire walk were cautiously moving about attempting to buy quite small amounts of highly specific agricultural produce.  No, that isn't a euphemism for drugs (although it's possible that it might be).

I didn't so much go to the farmers market as not turn aside when doing so would have enabled me to avoid it.  I spent five minutes wandering past small stalls selling small amounts of things I didn't want and out the other end.  To my left were the historic brick buildings of CarriageWorks, to my right were houses but most importantly, directly ahead and getting closer by the second was coffee.

I paused in a park for a few minutes along the way.  I don't know why but possibly because it was the first time on my entire walk that I had seen a patch of grass and more than one tree at a time.  There was a handsome house parked on the other side so I justified my presence by taking a photo of it.  Then I took another photo and finally left before the owners complained.

The only thing that surprises me more than the fact you're still reading this is the fact that I'm still writing it   

With my inner city journey behind me my Mecca awaited.  With mounting excitement I covered the last couple of hundred metres.  A slight moan of ecstasy escaped my lips as I saw the sign which certainly creeped the hell out of a woman walking her dog past me at the time.  I didn't care, my mask was in place so she certainly couldn't describe me to the police.  Finally, triumphantly I arrived at my destination where coffee could be obtained and salvation assured.

The Holy Grail

Once my coffee was grinding I asked permission to take a few photos.  Since that was by far the least unusual request I've made in this place the owner agreed with something close to relief.

Somewhere in here there are chairs and tables

My condiments to the chef.  I can't believe I just made that joke

With coffee in hand and sanity, or at least stability, assured for another week I caught the bus home.