Saturday, June 25, 2022

Silly After Action Report - Nameless Hill

 A small detachment of Marines moved cautiously through a grove of palm trees towards a suspiciously unoccupied looking village.  Above them a jungle covered hill loomed pregnant with malice.  Insects droned lazily in the moisture laden sky.  A heavy metallic clatter filled the air causing every Marine to wince and look desperately around for the enemy.

"In the name of Christ will you stop typing," snarled one Marine.

The war correspondent paused, fingers hovering over his combat typewriter.

"Sorry but I need to get all of this down."

"Ever heard of a pencil?"

The correspondent stared rapturously at the hill dominating the landscape.

"What's that hill called?"

"How should I know," replied the Marine, "I've literally been here as long as you have."

The metallic clatter started again.

"The Marines moved silently towards the Nameless Hill," said the correspondent.

"I didn't say it was nameless," protested the Marine, "and silently would work a lot better if you weren't typing all the damn time."

"I'm not typing," replied the correspondent. 

"Oh shit," replied the Marine and dove for the nearest piece of cover.

With my usual opponent still in self imposed exile in a foreign land Richard Weilly kindly stepped up to ensure my run of defeats would continue without interruption.  At his suggestion we played Scenario AP168 - Nameless Hill from a recent action pack.  Here US Marines are trying to capture an apparently nameless hill and the collection of hits that shelter at its foot.  Complicating the situation is the fact that the lead platoon has walked slap into the Japanese positions and is now more concerned with surviving than capturing anything.

I shall command the Marines attempting to simultaneously capture the huts and the hill and, if possible, extract their comrades from the mess they've walked into.  Despite being on the attack the Marines set up first and move second.  My at start force consists of a pair of 668 Marine squads, three half squads a 9-1 leader and a medium machine gun.  These all have to set up in a narrow area near the huts and overlooked by most of the Japanese force.  On the first turn come my reinforcements, eight more 668 squads, two half squads, a trio of leaders led by another 9-1.  Collectively they are carrying a pair of dismantled medium machine guns and a pair of dismantled 60mm mortars.

Richard's Japanese consist of twelve squads, five first line and seven second line plus three crews.  The crews are to man a pair of medium machine guns and a 75mm infantry gun.  Defences are present in the form of two pillboxes and two foxholes (which by SSR cannot be HIP).  Two officers, a pair of lmgs and a single 50mm mortar round out the Japanese OB.

I made my first mistake immediately when I did my initial set up.  I placed a squad with the mmg and leader up on a hill (not the nameless one) in the hopes that I would be able to suppress some of the Japanese firepower I correctly thought would be on the (nameless) hill across the way.  Below them the rest of my at start force huddled under palm trees.  In actual fact my machine gun team simply made themselves a target for most of the weapons in the Japanese arsenal and while this did take a little pressure off their comrades among the palm trees it didn't bode well for their life expectancy.

Below is the scene at the end of the Japanese first turn.  Richard has dispatched units to cover likely entry points for my reinforcements while simultaneously raining steel down on my hapless machine gunners and occupying all of the huts I need to capture.  Not a good start for yours truly.

End of Japanese turn 1

Now however my reinforcements would arrive.  Thanks to Richard's skillful positioning they had the option of entering directly under the noses of the defenders or probably too far away to be useful.  I chose a combination of both.  The bulk of my force would enter from the west pushing towards a hill mass known I think as the Hill Behind the Nameless Hill.  From here I hoped to drive down towards the victory locations on the anonymous hill itself.  Another force entered on the southwest to try and drive east through his defenders on the hill line.  Finally a token force of a squad or so would enter from the east and try and occupy the defenders attention.  It didn't occupy them for very long, the handless clowns blundered straight into an ambush and died.  From my at start force a squad and a half tiptoed through the palm trees to take up positions behind his eastern defenders (and very close to the victory area).  The rest of my at start force was doomed.  By the end of the turn my mmg stack was reduced to a single broken officer weeping in the trees.

 Things went better in the west.  My southwestern force entered without lost and made its way to the hill without exciting the attention of the defenders who were too busy carving up the remnants of my at start force.  Further north things went even better.  I had hoped to deploy a squad but apparently 8 morale with a -1 leader modifier wasn't good enough so my OB provided halfsquads would have to be the scouts despite carrying dismantled mortars on their back.  One halfsquad and leader charged straight at the squad Richard had in the vicinity.  Defensive fire broke the halfsquad but the leader went berserk and promptly took the halfsquad with him.  Newly enthused for battle they jumped into the Japanese squads hex and slaughtered him in close combat.  The way was clear and the rest of my force swept forward.

A bit of a disaster in the south but things look better in the north

Richard's second turn saw him reposition troops to ward against the threat from the north while simultaneously virtually annihilating what was left of my at start force.  To add insult to injury he pushed forward and captured my mmg as its sole remaining guardian a broken 9-1 fled howling into the jungle.  Speaking of howling into the jungle I dropped concealment on my troops near the victory location to take a shot at his border guards now returning but gained nothing but a pin result.  His mortar was plastering what I now referred to as my "victory stack" but so far without result.

Once again Richard has managed to insert a squad directly where I need to go
I spoke too soon with regard to the mortar. In my very next turn he managed to break a squad and the 9-1 leader (any leader with a morale of 9 or more is always utterly useless).  The rest of the force pushed forward through the jungle towards the victory locations.  Richard had sent a unit along the path to try and slow them down and it became a race for the victory locations.  In the southwest my troops, lathered in sweat, had reached the hill and were contemplating the unpleasant task of rooting out concealed Japanese troops.  Over in the east I had a brain snap and sent a squad and a half against a Japanese second line squad.  "Three to one odds" I thought,  "What could go wrong? I thought.  Richard was more than happy to inform me.  My at start 9-1 by the way would spend the rest of the game wandering around the jungle trying to pretend he was still relevant.

Hmm, could be better

I had also tried my halfsquad/leader charging at the enemy tactic again but it didn't work so well this time and Richard took them both out although an adjacent squad did managed to stripe his squad.  For the rest Richard pulled back, tightened his lines and presented me with a wall of concealed troops to plough through.  Oh yes and the squad and half squad I sent against his second line squad?  I finally managed to kill the squad and in return Richard killed a full squad of marines.  Not really a good return on investment.

Time is running short
Time was starting to run out as the game is only five turns long but my forward movement was now measured in single hexes as I tried to steamroller over his defence.  I apparently didn't know how to use the clutch on my steamroller as it lurched forward, stopped and lurched again.  Meanwhile Richard calmly withdrew what troops he could while leaving enough to prevent any swift movement on my part.

Progress is now being measured in single hexes

It was true that Richard's force was starting to look a little tattered but nowhere near as tattered as mine and while he reluctantly gave ground on the hill his grip on the victory hexes was as tight as ever.  For me I could find no alternative to simply pushing forward into his locations and hoping CC would be kind.  Sometimes it was, sometimes it really, really wasn't but what it certainly wasn't was rapid movement.  I conceded at the end of turn 4.  With one turn left to go and only one victory location captured it was obvious that barring a sudden outbreak of plague in the Japanese ranks I wasn't going to win.  Oh yes, and I had taken none of the huts which also needed to be captured for an American victory.

Congratulations to Richard on the victory, he handled his troops well and fought a good defensive battle.  I did a couple of stupid things (particularly the early set up of that mmg team) but basically I just didn't do enough smart things to win.  In fact I'm not sure I did any smart things at all.

The end, one victory location is all I would get

A group of Marines clustered round the figure of the war correspondent stretched out on the ground.

"Is there any hope?" asked one of them.  A second shook his head sadly.

"Five rounds straight through.  No chance of surviving that."

The war correspondent opened his eyes and looked around.

"Hey guys, what's happening?"

One of the Marines stepped forward, "We have bad news about your typewriter."

Friday, June 10, 2022

I've Been Violated by a Robot!

 About eighteen months ago I was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  At first both the specialist and my GP were very sanguine.

"Don't worry," I was told.  "It's a very lazy and unambitious cancer.  With any luck we'll never have to do anything about it."

Some nine months later my specialist looked at the results of my latest biopsy and said, "That thing's got to come out." 

Apparently in the course of nine months the cancer had a long hard look at what it was doing with its life and decided to be the sort of ambitious, hard working cancer that would make its mother proud.  Since its place of work was my prostate we simply decided to outsource the prostate to the nearest medical waste bin.  It did take a few months to get all of the arrangements in place.  My specialist did me proud, getting me onto a new trial programme for a super sexy robot that would perform the actual surgery (under the guidance of my specialist of course).

I must admit when I think of robots doing surgery I tend to think of the robot from Lost in Space with chainsaw blades attached to its arms.  It's probably a good thing I didn't see the actual robot.  I would either have been disappointed or terrified.  Some of my friends wondered whether I was comfortable with having a robot attacking me with sharp things.  Actually I preferred it.  Even the best human surgeon can have an unfortunate sneezing fit.  All I needed to worry about was whether the robot decided that this was the time to strike a blow against the fleshly overlords.  Fortunately my specialist was on hand with his finger on the self destruct button in case of this eventuality.

Before the operation my specialist had a less than reassuring conversation with me about the side effects of the surgery.  These are, in no particular order; loss of bladder control, erectile disfunction and penis shrinkage.  At this point it sounded less like medical side effects and more like an ancient Gypsy curse.  I was assured that in "most" cases the bladder control would return after anything between three months and two years.  It was when we got on to erectile disfunction that my specialists eyes really lit up.

Apparently the medical team were really keen that I get some sort of erectile function back.  Not out of any concern for my sex life but because there are apparent health benefits in doing so.  My specialist went through all of the things that could be done to help in this regard starting with "tactile manipulation" which I hope is a euphemism for masturbation, then viagra.  When he started talking about jabbing needles into my penis I called a halt.  In a manner I considered calm but firm I informed him I had absolutely no intention of sticking sharp things into my penis.  He told me to lower my voice and get down off his desk.

With all of the arrangements in place all I had to do was wait for the robot to have a gap in its apparently busy schedule.  That happened a couple of weeks ago and I presented myself at the hospital and placed myself in the metallic hands of my surgeon.  Shortly before I was due to be sedated a very human nurse turned up, informed me that he was a specialist prostate nurse and that he should have had the opportunity for a two hour conversation about what to do afterwards and the recovery process.  Instead he had to condense it into about forty five minutes.

In my ignorance I had thought that recovery would consist of lying on a couch for a couple of weeks until I was strong enough to return to work.  I wasn't entirely wrong but first there would be a week or so with a catheter, and then there are exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor and physiotherapy (ditto).  Once all of that was underway we could move on to doing something about erectile function (or the lack of same).  The end result of which was that my recovery period has actually been more tiring than I expected.

The robot apparently performed its role well, the prostate was removed, nerve endings were saved and the only proof of the robot's attentions is a series of scars across my abdomen.  Seriously I look like I've been in a knife fight.  At the suggestion of the physiotherapist I'm currently rubbing sorbolene cream into them.  He has promised to deal with a couple of stitches that haven't dissolved the next time I see him (I had mistaken them for scar tissue).

About the first few days at home with a catheter as a house guest I shall say nothing except I think I was happier when that was removed than the actual prostate.  For the first fortnight I was injecting myself with blood thinners and the unsightly bruises and marks across my thighs emphasised my desire to have nothing to do with needles near the penis.  The prostate nurse (who is just as keen on my erections as my specialist) assures me that's the last resort if nothing else works.  I really, really hope something else works.

Now I'm pretty much recovered from the surgery and can look forward.  I'm sitting here, slightly damp with a disfunctional penis.  However the cancer is gone and I haven't had to do any chemo or radiotherapy.  I'm actually working on the exercises in the hopes that my pelvic floor (or at least my bladder) gets a little more enthusiastic about its job.  I find myself a little disappointed about the erectile disfunction which actually surprised me.  It has been a long time since any woman has looked at me with anything remotely resembling interest (as it turned out she had indigestion but I was hopeful for a moment) and I honestly didn't think it would be that big a deal.  It turns out there is a difference between not doing something and not being able to do something.  Besides removing the prostate doesn't actually impact your sex drive all that much (after you've recovered from the surgery of course) it just impacts your ability to do anything about it.

Apart from the obvious the only lingering affects of the surgery are tiredness and a certain lack of ability to concentrate (probably connected).  Hopefully that will go away with more sleep.  In the meantime I am reluctantly shelving half formed plans to travel to West Africa and am investigating river cruises and train journeys more in keeping with my newly enfeebled status.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Silly After Action Report - Silesian Interlude

 Senior Lieutenant Mikhail Turnitoff saluted as the major arrived in a jeep that was definitely not made in the United States.  

"Bad news Turnitoff," the major announced.  "The damned Germans are going to be dropping tanks onto us by parachute."

Turnitoff blinked, "Could you repeat that Comrade Major?"

The major flourished an intelligence briefing.

"Our opponents are a parachute panzer division.  How on earth do they get them onto the planes?"

"I don't think the panzers necessarily parachute..." but the major wasn't listening.  Instead he was bustling from one defensive position to another.

"I want all of the antitank guns pointed at the sky and everyone keep alert for the sound of aircraft."

"Or the Germans laughing," muttered Turnitoff but the major didn't hear him.  He was too busy arguing with the commander of an IS2 tank whose gun barrel remained stubbornly horizontal.  Turnitoff turned and almost walked over the regimental commissar who was smiling the sort of smile that made you wish he would stop smiling.

"Are you going to obey the major's orders Comrade Lieutenant?" asked the commissar in such a friendly tone that ice trickled down Turnitoff's back.

"I, well, um that is I think it would be wise, or at least not unwise if we didn't entirely discount the possibility that the Germans might just drive their tanks at us."  The commissar pulled out a notebook.

"Deliberately disregarding a direct order," said the commissar making a note.

Defeated Turnitoff said, "What would you have written if I had obeyed the order."

"Conspiring with a class traitor to undermine the war effort," replied the commissar cheerfully.

"Is there any way I can get out of this?"

"Oh yes, if you die in action I guarantee a posthumous Hero of the Soviet Union decoration."

"And the major?"

"Oh he's definitely going to die in action."

In a pathetic and transparent attempt to avoid defeat at my hands my usual opponent Dave Wilson has fled overseas using a holiday as the flimsiest of excuses.  Before he did so we played one final game and when I flipped through a scenario list this is the one that came up.  Here I shall play the Soviets uncharacteristically on the defensive in March 1945 as they get attacked by a monument to a bloated drug addict's vanity.  To win the parachute panzertroops of the Hermann Goering must control all four buildings on board 38 and also exit 11VP off the board.  My doughty Soviet troops are tasked to stop them.

I have quite the impressive force to do the stopping it must be said.  Infantry consists of eight squads, six elite and two smg squads with a pair of not completely hopeless leaders, three light machine guns, a medium machine gun and an antitank rifle (it's 1945 for God's sake).  Also present is a 45mm antitank gun.  Six concealment counters and five foxholes add a small measure of protection.  Armoured support is provided by a T34/85 and an IS2 tank.  Lest this seem insufficient on turn 4 a pair of SU100 tank destroyers trundle on accompanied by a pair of smg squads as escort.

Dave, commanding the Hermann Goering has 12.5 squads of infantry, four elite and eight and a half first line equipped with four light and two medium machine guns oh yes, and a panzerschreck.  They are led by three officers including a none too shabby 9-1.  Dave's armoured support is mildly terrifying, three late model Panthers with a PzIVJ making up the numbers and no doubt feeling slightly inadequate.

Below is my set up.  The T34 goes up on the hill to guard the German entrance area.  The IS2 does the same from ground level at the bottom of the board.  The 45mm goes in a convenient clump of trees hopefully positioned for side or rear shots as Dave's panzers roar past in search of the exit.  You may notice a couple of odd things about my set up such as why are there so many troops on the hill and what is that large concealed unit doing behind the hill?  The answer is; "stupidity".  I didn't read the entrance requirements closely and didn't realise that the German entry area is quite restricted.  I had nightmare visions of being flanked by Panthers while infantry swept up the hill to overwhelm my hapless T-34.  Fortunately I wasn't a complete moron (opinion is divided on this point) and the large concealed unit is in fact a dummy.  Still it did mean I was a little skimpy on troops down in the village, you know the victory locations.  At least the mmg was there with my best leader.

Honest to god I need a keeper sometimes

Realising that he had to take his lumps early Dave rolled his panzers on in a compact wedge hoping the presence of nearby trees would protect them from my tank on the hill.  This worked for one turn while his infantry infiltrated through the trees.  A sizeable force of infantry also entered towards the south no doubt headed for my IS2.

The German first turn ended without too much harm done by anyone except for a German half squad in the south who got a little eager and was broken.  I did have a squad down with my IS2 to protect it from onrushing infantry and I congratulated myself on my good sense.  Aside from that my T34 naturally discovered it had no APCR but was drooling over the possibility of side shots on the menacing Panthers.

German turn 1, the Panthers are coming

In my first turn I took that good sense I was congratulating myself on and threw it out the window.  The squad/lmg combo I had protecting my IS2 was sitting in some trees and I decided it was time for it to move to the foxhole I had preprepared.  Of course this meant exposing it to a shot from the German troops looming up but with eight morale and a number of hindrances I thought the risk worth taking.  I was wrong, so very very wrong.  The squad broke and suddenly my IS2 was alone in the world with a pack of battle crazed fallschirmjager ready to fall on it in the next turn.  Perhaps sensing that its time was running out the IS2 punched a hole through the front of a Panther and set it ablaze.  First armoured blood to me.

There is a disturbing amount of infantry eyeing off my IS2 but one Panther will roar no more.

As previously stated the Germans just have to take their lumps early and push through the killing zone.  Push they did, my T34 nailed a second Panther but down in the south my gallant IS2 breathed its last as it was swarmed by German infantry.  I did my best to protect it at long range with my mmg team in the village and did manage to break a couple of units but the IS2 went down in a flurry of arms and legs and the whoosh of a panzerfaust.  I have no idea if panzerfausts go "whoosh" but it seems like an appropriate noise for them to make.

In the centre of the board Dave's infantry pushed towards the village, now able to be supported by a mass of infantry pushing up from the now tank deprived south.  For my part I started moving some of my ill placed infantry out of their foxholes on the hill and sent them a little nervously in the direction of the village.  Dave's surviving Panther swung around to engage my T34 presenting its near impenetrable frontal armour in doing so.

Two Panthers down but the writing is on the wall for my T34

Focus now shifted to the infantry battle as Dave pushed his troops forward.  Somehow my T34 survived the turn and it and the 45mm managed to break a couple of his squads in the centre.  In the south Dave's troops seized their first building from a heroic dummy stack which managed to fake out the attackers for two turns.  There are a large number of Germans in the south just waiting to be rallied by the 9-1 but for the moment I'm holding firm.

The Germans push forward

Another bad turn for the armour followed as Dave's remaining Panther finally took out my T34 which had been cheerfully carving up German infantry left, right and centre.  Revenge was gained by my 45mm which destroyed the Panzer IV which Dave had brought up to support his infantry.  With the Panther temporarily the lone queen of the battlefield Dave pressed forward with his infantry of which he seemed to have a disturbing amount despite his losses so far.

I've even taken some prisoners, bad times are coming though

With freshly rallied troops Dave launched his first assault on the village breaking my mmg team and pushing into another building.  The close combat was complicated by the German prisoners running in circles trying to avoid being killed by both sides.  The surviving Panther rolled forward more to menace than harm.  It was fearsome but next turn I would have a pair of my own beasts arriving to face off against it.

Turn four ended with my situation looking a lot better than it actually was.  I still held all three building hexes in the village and my SU100s had arrived to bolster the defence (actually to prevent an exit).  In truth there wasn't a single unbroken Soviet unit left in the village and with my usual armoured skill I had rolled one SU100 directly into the line of sight of Dave's remaining Panther.  It is sometimes difficult to distinguish my tactics from an explicit attempt at suicide.

One SU100 is not long for this world

Dave's fifth turn started with the Panther killing the SU100 and then mopping up the rest of the village.  He had the victory locations and now just needed to exit the 11VP required for the win.  My reinforcing smg squads did manage to pin or break some of his troops as they headed for the exit but still things looked gloomy.  Dave had a game winner in the Panther, roll that off and the relevant victory points were pretty much assured.

End of Soviet turn 5

Turn six rolled around and Dave made his move.  The Panther started up and headed for the exit.  Up on the hill my remaining SU100 waited for it.  There wasn't time for finesse Dave barrelled directly towards the board edge and as he did so my SU100 put a round into its side which reduced it to plasma.  That was the game winning shot.  Dave could, and did, exit enough infantry to garner the necessary exit victory points but in doing so left the village vulnerable to a counter attack.  I only had to recapture one building and capture it I did for a not entirely deserved victory at the last.

Endgame, a Soviet squad is poised to recapture a building in the advance phase and there is nought the Germans can do about it.

Many thanks to Dave for the game which went right down to the wire.  Despite set up mistakes and general idiocy I managed to pull out a victory at the last and, more importantly, send Dave off on holidays with his shoulders bowed with defeat.

"We did it," muttered Lieutenant Turnitoff staring around at the recaptured village in disbelief.

"Indeed we did comrade," replied the commissar suddenly appearing at Turnitoff's elbow.  Turnitoff did his best not to scream but wasn't entirely successful.  "A triumph of Bolshevik fighting spirit over the fascist dogs."

"Yeah, triumph," replied Turnitoff nervously.  "Ah, where's the major?"

"He died fighting like a hero."

"Really, I didn't see him in the action."

"He was killed by a sniper," replied the commissar.  "Took a bullet right through the back of the head, chance in a million."

"So," said Turnitoff hesitantly, "are we good?"

The commissar gave a smile best described as "carnivorous".

"I would really like you to think so."