Sunday, February 27, 2022

Silly After Action Report - Taking Some Flak

 Two SS gebirgsjager were talking to a war correspondent who had come to document the heroics of these northernmost bearers of the standard of National Socialism.

"Is it hard being a gebirgsjager?" asked the correspondent.

"Not really, they're easy to identify and they don't move very quickly," replied one of the gebirgsjager.

"It's a bugger mounting them on your wall though," added the second.

"What about the Finns?" asked the correspondent, greatly daring.  The "awkwardness" with Finland was strictly off limits as a topic.

"Mountains don't have fins, they have outcrops," said the first.

"Yeah," said the second gebirgsjager, "we're just about to be surrounded by outcrops."

"Really," the correspondent looked around in alarm but the mountains didn't seem any closer.

"Yep there are outcrops all over the place.  I'd stay close to the flakwagen if I were you."

The correspondent thanked them and hurried off.  The first gebirgsjager turned to his comrade,

"That damned flakwagen is a rolling target.  Why did you send him there?"

"He's the bastard who writes the crosswords for Signal.  Have you seen some of the clues he's come up with lately?"

After a series of heartbreaking defeats I ventured north in an attempt to revive my ASL fortunes.  This time we would play Scenario J192 - Taking Some Flak.  Here a group of elite German SS mountain troops (commanded by me) are attempting to discreetly exit their no longer ally Finland while a force of Finns commanded by Dave are trying to curry favour with their distinctly impatient Soviet neighbour by stopping them.

A single road winds through a northern Finnish forest.  Said forest is occupied by SS gebirgsjager, hastily rebadged as waldjager for the occasion.  The Finns can win at the end of turn three by controlling the road.  Otherwise its by gaining 5CVP more than the Germans.  This can be done by the standard killing Germans method but on the last turn there is the opportunity for exit VP as well.

My Germans are essentially trying to stay alive and fight off a Finnish encirclement attempt.  I command seven and a half elite SS troops commanded by a pair of reasonably competent officers.  They have one medium and two light machine guns and a 50mm mortar.  Providing an unreasonable amount of firepower in support is an Sdkz 7 flak halftrack with a quad 20mm AA mount which can generate 20FP on the IFT by itself.  This vehicle will henceforth be known as the rolling disappointment.

Dave commanding the Finns has nine squads, five first line and four second commanded by a pair of leaders.  They have a couple of light machine guns and an 81mm mortar in support.  Given a choice of two Dave went for the bespoke smoke mortar.  On or after turn one Dave receives reinforcements in the shape of three more first line squads, a leader, an lmg and a few concealment counters.  These can turn up in the German rear.

At start

Above is the at start set up.  I've pushed a couple of half squads forward to act as speed bumps while the rest of my force hangs on the edges of the forest to hopefully punish the oncoming Finns.  In the rear is my best leader with a squad and the mmg to try and hold off his reinforcements.  The rolling disappointment controls the road.

 Dave struck in two directions, a flanking attack directed at my lonely halfsquad at the top of the board and the other, protected by smoke pushing towards the centre (while trying to avoid the rolling disappointment).  His reinforcements slunk onto the board cringing under concealment counters rather than bravely charging the guns.

End of Finnish turn 1

My speed bump halfsquad down the bottom fled under fire and swarms of Finns occupied the forest and gully facing my main position.  At the top it was a different story however. My halfsquad survived all advancing fire and began to write a story of heroism and sacrifice that would last for as long as reindeer survive to tell it.

For the most part I held my fire.  If the Finns wanted to strip my concealment they would have to give me better targets than they had so far.  My halfsquad fled to the rear and I moved an officer back to rally him.  For the rest I kept proud and silent.

End of Finnish turn 2

So as you can see from the above the entire "proud and silent" thing didn't last for long.  Dave decided to brave the bullets and I was more than happy to provide them.  My mortar crew didn't last long and soon a grey swarm was headed towards my positions at the bottom of the map.  At the top though his attack had been if not shattered then distinctly cracked.  Finnish troops had fled well placed German fire and his surviving squad jumped into CC with my half squad who defied the odds by surviving.  In my rear his reinforcements were menacing and I edged another rearward squad in their direction.  For the moment though I was hoping to break the frontal assault and then turn my attention to the rear.


End of German turn 2

Well break the frontal assault I did.  Dave's Finns were crucified trying to cross the open ground in front of my defences.  At the top of the board my gallant halfsquad casualty reduced his opponent in CC and the melee ground on while the rest of his flanking force hid in the trees and attempted self rally.  Yep it's fair to say that I was on top of the world.  Unfortunately I would discover that I suffer from vertigo.

In the next Finnish turn Dave would rally his flankers, reinforce the melee and send the rest circling around the forest.  The flanking move was on albeit a little delayed.  Down the bottom of the board it was true the remnants of his force were just grateful to be alive but in the rear my 9-1 led mmg stack proved utterly inept and wound up broken and in CC with battle hungry Finns.  As it turned out the battle hungry Finns turned out to be a little inept at close combat, my broken squad managed to withdraw (leaving the 9-1 alone to face the wrath of their opponents while my hero halfsquad killed another halfsquad and carried the melee forward to another turn.

OK, not quite so good.

So my rear was suddenly collapsing (insert your own tasteless joke here) but things weren't too bad.  I had seen off a portion of his attack and I could now start pulling back troops to deal with the upstart Finns who had snuck round behind me.  Besides I still had the rolling disappointment (yet to earn its title), surely victory would still be mine.  After all, due to the carnage I had inflicted in the early turns I had a comfortable CVP buffer or so I thought.

Yes, all is not lost

The rolling disappointment rolled towards the rear and its date with impotence while I shuttled such troops as not absolutely essential to keep his forces away back to deal with the impudent flankers.  My gallant halfsquad finally went down in CC but the moral victory was theirs.  A squad killed and two others tied up for the best part of three turns.  It was up to me to capitalise on their courage and skill.

OK so I didn't capitalise on their courage and skill.  The rolling disappointment's sole contribution to the game over several fire phases would be a single pin result which the Finns passed.  Despite that and the inevitable loss of my 9-1 in CC I was still in a good position.  Dave had taken such heavy casualties early that he would need to exit troops off the board and score some spectacular CVP to win the game.

Despite inevitable defeat Dave persists

As the final turns rolled around I was nervous but hopeful.  Dave on the other hand was desperate, he pushed troops through my fire to approach the exit location.  All his troops survived, I was sanguine he would still need something more impressive than that if he wanted to win.  Then his flankers who had so far been conspicuous by their absence from the battle stepped forward, advanced into CC with one of my squads, rolled snake eyes and killed it.  The next turn they did exactly the same thing again.

Weeping in desperation I raced such of my troops as remained alive towards the exit locations but most of them didn't make it.  Those that did couldn't hit a barn from the inside.  The rolling disappointment sprayed the area with minable quantities of metal without achieving anything.  Heart stricken and with the CVP cap now firmly against me I conceded, hot tears flowing down my cheeks.

Yep defeat was indeed inevitable

This was actually a tight and exciting game.  For the first three turns I was all over Dave and held serious hopes of victory.  Unfortunately it was the last couple of turns that are important.  I can't even complain about the back to back snake eyes since my halfsquad had all the CC luck in the early stages.

Next time Dave has agreed to play Cautious Crusaders which is a scenario I've always wanted to play (because I like quixotic scenarios with Axis Minors, Italians and the like).  I'm playing the Slovakians so tune in to what will no doubt be more self pitying whining in the next entry.

A wild eyed gebirgsjager threw himself into a hastily dug foxhole as Finnish troops carved up what was left of their unit and the flakwagen threw metal seemingly at random into the atmosphere. His comrade was taking a little down time and was peering at the army's propaganda sheet in annoyance.

"Hey, what's a nine letter word for 'big lumbering mammal'?"

"I don't know, how many letters in Reichsmarschall?"

Friday, February 25, 2022

Travelling Pathetically - Way Out West Edition

 A few weeks ago my Blue Mountains correspondent contacted me and demanded to know why I hadn't used any of her excellent contributions on my blog.  I pointed out that the sole contributions she had made so far consisted of 283 different photos of leaf mould and a seventy six thousand word "manifesto" the most socially acceptable components of which included a demand that all lyre birds be rounded up and shot and that earthworms be given citizenship.  I'm starting to think that all my correspondents are mentally unhinged.  I tried looking for a pattern but the only thing they have in common is that they know me, so I guess it will remain a mystery.

"Why don't you come up and stay the weekend?" she suggested, "I'm sure you'll get material for a blog entry then.  Against my better judgement I agreed, partly because I thought I might get a blog entry out of it but mainly because her husband is an excellent cook.  I did entertain visions of bushwalks through the more photogenic portions of the Blue Mountains and brought my camera to capture such excitement.

I turned up on Friday night with rain descending in a distinctly unbushwalk friendly way. My correspondent greeted me with bad news.

"I won't be around tomorrow." (well she thought it was bad news).  "But, I have good news," (well she thought it was good news).  "Dave is riding out to a bike show in Bathurst tomorrow, would you like to go?"  Dave is her husband and he sweetened the deal by cooking an excellent meal.  My knowledge of motorcycles is limited to a knowledge of how many wheels they have and the last time I was on the back of a bike was thirty odd years (said bike being ridden by Dave).  Dave assured me that he had got considerably more risk averse since the last time I'd been on the back.  This happens as you get older, the less life you have left the less inclined you are to risk it which is odd because you would think it would be the other way round.

Dave also assured me that if it was raining we would take the car instead (another sad marker of mortality, thirty years ago Dave would have ridden in a hurricane and I would have been happy to be his passenger).  I have never been to a bike show and only once been to Bathurst and a lack of interest in either didn't seem to be a great reason to say no, so I said yes.  Dave promised to wake me at six the next morning if we were taking the bike.

I woke at eight the next morning to find Dave staring at the rain with disfavour.  The weather seemed like a good reason to call the whole thing off but before I could make such a mealy mouthed suggestion I was showered, dressed and sitting in a car which Dave proceeded to point in the direction of Bathurst.  We wound our way through and eventually over the mountains and headed for the Western Plains pausing only to have breakfast in Lithgow.  Once out of the mountains the weather immediately improved and I could hear Dave grinding his teeth as we were overtaken by bike after bike obviously heading for Bathurst.

I say we headed for the Western Plains but Bathurst is pretty much where they start so we got to the edge of the Western Plains and then stopped.  In actual fact there was still a fair bit of up and down along the way and once we arrived in Bathurst Dave suggested that before we saw the bike show we could head for Mount Panorama.  If you're a motor racing enthusiast this is holy ground.  If you're not its a hill with a race track on it.  So anyway Mount Panorama is a hill with a race track on it.  Nevertheless even I've heard of it and was quite amenable to a suggestion that we drive the circuit at a modest pace appropriate to our years and the condition of the vehicle we were in.

Gazing down on Bathurst from Mt Panorama

Drive the circuit we did, we even paused for photos.  The day wasn't exactly bright but it was pleasant by comparison with the Blue Mountains where the more religious inhabitants had started building arks.  With our motor sport itch appropriately scratched we headed into the centre of Bathurst to find the bike show.  At this point it was discovered that neither of us knew exactly where said show was located.  Dave knew the street but it turned out to be rather a long one that went through the entirety of the town.  He suggested we head for the heaviest accumulation of parked vehicles on the theory that the bike show couldn't be far away.  I agreed that this sounded logical and towards an endless stream of parked cars we went.  Certain we were getting close we rolled past what was essentially a huge parking lot scanning for a gap in the serried ranks of vehicles.

Then the road ended at a park where large numbers of children were playing sport.  Weekend sport is apparently quite popular in Bathurst to the point where we wondered if anyone would actually be at the bike show.  Reversing our direction we drove back through Bathurst and almost ran into the bike show which was being conducted on the street.  A swift sacrifice to the gods provided a parking space not too far away and we alighted to walk in the direction of all things motorcycle.

But first we walked through a park.  This wasn't exactly intentional it was just that the park was between us and the bike show.  It was quite a handsome park however with an ornamental pond an interesting shade of muddy green.

In the park

We're now about nine or ten paragraphs into this entry and you must be wondering if there is going to be a single photo of a motorbike.  Yes, yes there is, your wait is almost over.  Once through the park we stepped out of the tedious greenery and onto more appropriate tarmac and concrete.  Stretched out along the length of the street were motorbikes all primped and polished and looking their best gleaming under the sadly overcast sky.  One person had gone to the trouble of placing a chain around his entry and put up a sign imploring people not to touch.  I had no intention of touching and I have Dave's word for the fact that it wasn't anything particularly special motorbike wise anyway.

Most owners were more relaxed, proud to show their charges and accepting the compliments that came their way with modest self deprecation.

Look, a motorbike

And here's another

We spent an enjoyable couple of hours wandering up and down the ranks of motorbikes.  Or at least I did.  Dave seemed to be muttering something under his breath.  As he continued along the collection of bikes the muttering grew louder.  Finally he could take it no more, having inspected what was on offer he announced his certainty that the bike he was planning on riding here would have won a prize.  But sadly we had come by car and the potentially prize winning bike was back in his garage.  Dave seemed inclined to blame me for this since he would certainly have braved the rain if he hadn't had to shepherd me (no he wouldn't).  Things were a little awkward for a while and I left him to stew while I putatively studied motor bikes a little distance away.  When I returned he had quite sensibly come to the conclusion that it was all my correspondent's fault and he would blame her extensively when we got home.  That seemed entirely fair to me.

My particular favourite

And for some reason a fire engine.  None of the bikes caught fire while I was there

In all honesty neither Dave nor myself were particularly impressed with the bike show.  There were indeed some nice looking bikes there and all cleaned and polished til they shone but there wasn't as much of a selection as I was expecting and almost none of the vintage bikes I had been hoping to see.  Dave picked out a few things which impressed him mightily but overall thought the selection a little lacking as well.  I didn't suggest this was the reason he thought his bike might pick up a prize as Bathurst is a long way to walk home from.

After a couple of hours of not being quite as impressed as we hoped we jumped in the car and headed for home.  Along the way we were passed by bike after bike and Dave's temporarily ceased muttering returned.  Then we reached the Blue Mountains and drove into what was essentially a vertical flood.

"Oh shut up," muttered Dave when I raised an amused eyebrow.

When my correspondent and I were younger we shared a house where we partied hard, drank deep and stayed up so late that it wasn't worth going to bed before getting ready for work.  We decided to revisit those glory days and indeed we did until 10.30pm when all three of us decided we needed to go to bed.  The next day my correspondent introduced me to a selection of rubber snakes.

Two of the aforementioned rubber snakes

I am not the person who can criticise a fetish but this seemed a little odd until she explained that they were there to scare the lyre birds away from her garden.  I don't know if they were having any effect on the lyre birds but they were confusing the crap out of the kookaburras who kept trying to kill them.  Fortunately they were a little too big to eat.

With my time coming to an end and no sign of a let up in the rain my correspondent showed off her garden.  I wasn't particularly crazy about this because well, rain.  My correspondent however would work in her garden if it was raining concrete so I smiled and took photos of some rather damp plants.

Damp plant #1

Damp plant #2

And so on

All good things must come to an end.  At least that's how I worded it to my correspondent who had unexpectedly produced some nylon cord and duct tape.  Finally she agreed to drive me to the train station.  Which was very kind of her or at least it would have been if the trains had been running.