Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Russo-Japanese War Fleets

I finally got a little painting mojo back and started to paint up the ships I got from War Times Journal for the Russo-Japanese War.  First up are the Russian fleets based in Port Arthur (upper left) and Vladivostok (lower right).  These will have the following paint scheme (all Vallejo paints)

Hull: Olive Drab
Deck: Deck Tan
Superstructure: Khaki Grey
Funnels: Ochre Brown
Life Boats: White

The ships will get a very thin black ink wash and then get based up.

The second picture shows the rest of the ships, well I picked up models for every ship involved in the conflict - On the right side is the Russian Baltic fleets that came over to reinforce their Pacific forces in the form of the 3rd and 4th Pacific Fleets.  These fleets will have a paint scheme of:

Hull: Black Grey
Deck: Deck Tan
Superstructure: Medium Grey
Funnels: Ochre Brown
Life Boats: White

Of course, if one has Russians, one also needs a Japanese opponent, which you can see on the left side of the second picture.  These have just been primed grey and had their decks painted (Iraqi Sand).  I used a different deck color form the Russians to make it easier for players to identify the two sides.  The Japanese paint scheme will be a medium grey for both the hulls and superstructures and white for the life boats.

In addition to the Japanese Warships, I purchased 8 freighters/transports which can be seen at the bottom of the line of Japanese ships.

These models are 1/2400 scale and are resin prints.  They are superb and paint up really well.  I highly recommend War Times Journal - these little ships are fantastic.

The WTJ line is extensive for this period and I have a model for every capital ship in the War.  I also have models for all the Destroyers and Torpedo Boats but those are still in their bags and will get painted when the bases arrive.

At 1/2400 scale, each capital ship is 2 - 2.75 inches long.  The destroyers and torpedo boats are .75 - 1.0 inches long and still have a lot of detail.

Once these fleets are done, I'll need to finish up the land armies - I'm a little over halfway there. 

My goal is to put on a Russo-Japanese War convention game with both land and naval engagements.  The next big convention here in the US is Fall In, which is scheduled to for October 22-25 of this year.  I've got hotel reservations set for the con but think it's a 50/50 chance it can be held.  I actually need two things to be true (1) The Convention can be held and (2) My lovely, yet fierce Dr Wife grants me the OK to attend for health reasons.  If Fall In isn't viable there's always Cold Wars in March'21.  The main point is I have a lot of time to both get ready and procrastinate.  I  wonder which one will be in the majority?

Monday, May 25, 2020

Holland'44: Turns 10 -13

The see-saw struggle continues

Turn 10:
 30 Corps continues to reinforce the assault on Nijmegen.  They also get an engineering unit along the bank the Waal river allowing the 82nd airborne to cross and support an attack with the poles that cuts-off Nijmegen.  The attack on Nijmegen wears down the garrison but it is still holding out.  With their access to reinforcements effectively cutoff, their days are numbered.  At Arnhem, the Germans continue attacking the same 2 points but roll 1's - their dice luck has been atrocious this turn in the North.

With the Panzer Brigade's attack in the south stymied, the Germans FJ's launch a desperate final attack and succeed brilliantly - the cut the highway again, which means all of 30 corps to the north is out of supply and attacks at half strength.

Turn 11:
 Despite being out of supply, 30 corps renews its attack on Njimegen and the worn down garrison succumbs - 30 Corps is across the Waal River in strength.  Two battalions of tanks are detailed to beat back the southern German attack, which they do.

At Arnhem, knowing the rail bridge is really the only bridge the germans can recapture, fresh, full strength troops are moved into the line, including one of the Polish battalions to replace the worn down paratroopers.

The Germans attempt to attack the now stronger British/Polish garrison at the rail bridge and fail to dislodge them.

The most recent incursion into the Highway is beaten back with severe losses to the Germans.  It's doubtful they can be of any major threat in this sector.

Turn 12:

30 Corps continues the advance towards Arnhem and the not one but two bridges held by the Brit and Polish paratroopers.  They have reached the banks of the Rhine.

One last attempt is made to retake the railway bridge but it fails as the results is an exchange.

Turn 13:
30 Corps has moved 5 battalions across the Rhine and is moving up artillery to support the enlargement of their bridgehead.  A quick check of the games victory conditions indicates the allies have achieved their needed 10 VP's and the germans concede.

Market Garden was a resounding success (at least in this game).

Well that was fun (for me).  I'll do a full review of Holland'44 in a few days but I really like the game and look forward to trying it against a real opponent over vassal or even, one day, in person.

Playing this game was very nostalgic for me and I'll likely do another one (maybe Paths to Glory?).  After really not looking at board wargames for 30 years, I am amazed at the selection and quality of titles are available.  I guess my assumption that wargaming died when SPI went under was a bit off-the-mark.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Thanks Woodworkers Source!

Woodworkers Source is a small Arizona based retailer of hardwoods and other supplies for woodworking.  They are my "goto" source for any wood I buy.  Once you've played around with a little woodworking is that the big boxes (Home Depot / Lowes) are great for basic supplies but really bad and expensive for any wood other than construction grade pine.

I stumbled across this company via a woodworking you tube video and pretty much will not buy hardwood from anyone else - even though they have to ship to me all the way from Arizona! 

Like all businesses they are struggling with operating under social distancing rules.  There was a minor issue on my most recent order, which was resolved without a problem.  My interactions with the customer service rep were great.  What socked me was they sent me the above hardwood cuts offs and a hat for simply "not being a jerk".  These cutoffs are very high quality and will likely be used for this years Christmas present projects.  It was a very nice gesture and greatly appreciated.

It also caused me to ponder something.  I think it's kind of sad that being polite warranted an award - theres really no excuse for bad manners when trying to resolve an issue.  Just about every business I know is really struggling now and mistakes are inevitable, as customers we can only choose how to comport ourselves when those mistakes happen.  Take a deep breath, don't vent your frustrations in life on the poor customer service rep and maybe you'll get a cool hat too.  It's also just the right thing to do so don't be an ass. 

Thanks Woodworkers Source - you have a very loyal customer.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Holland'44: Turns 7-9

 Turn 7:
This turn saw a very successful drop of the Polish Airborne brigade in between Arnhem and Nijmegen.  Upon landing 1 battalion moved off towards Nijmegen while the other two launched an attack that cleared the west side of the Arnhem bridge.  The 82nd also received some desperately needed glider troop reinforcements to stem the growing German counter attack.  Advanced elements of 30 Corps reach the Son bridge

The Germans continued their attacks on the 82nds southern front and made progress while the German troops around Arnhem repositioned to drive on the railway bridge.  The Paras in the Urban hexes are just too strong to dig out before 30 Corp arrives so the battle will be won or lost at Nijmegen.

In the West 30 Crops continues to push troops toward Nijmegen but now needs to peal some off to deal with brewing German attacks on Hells Highway - where the hell did those Panthers come from?

Turn 8:
 The 82nd finally launches an attack on the german garrison at Nijmegen bridge and the both sides exchange step losses.  The US Paras also complete the encirclement of the garrison which means the only source of german reinforcements will come from Arnhem.  The Germans must break through the either the railway or Arnhem bridge soon.  A single Polish battalion moves up and will be in a supporting position for any potential river crossings.

30 Corps has reach the outskirts of Nijmegen!

The Germans continue their attacks on the airborne divisions - making slow but steady progress against the 82nd - this may cause some of 30 corps troops to be diverted which was the objective of the attack.  The German drive to the railway bridge is stymied by a very bad role - no losses and both sides are just engaged.  Time is running out.

To the west, the Germans launch a series of desperate counter attacks and the Fallschirmjaeger succeed in cutting the highway for at least one turn.

Turn 9:

In Nijmegen, a combined tank and paratrooper assault reduces the german garrison but does not eliminate them - it may take at least 2 turns to clear them.  But 30 Corps has reached Njimegen in strength.  I also realize the Poles (ok, me) made a strategic mistake by not moving to the bottom of the map to block the ferry, which the Germans are using to trickle reinforcement into Nijmegen.  As you can see in the picture the Germans are using that ferry to sneak over 88 flack units which I think the chaps in 30 Corps Shermans may struggle a bit with.

The Germans make two large attacks at Arnhem - the northern does break the British line in is very close to re-capturing the rail bridge.  The Southern attack makes no headway in the dense urban terrain of Arnhem.

A combine attack by elements of both 30 corps and the 101st push the Germans FJ's back and inflict heavy casualties - the highway is reopened.

As for the Germans, their panzer brigade finally launches its own attack but makes little progress.  The Germans may be a spent force on this section of the game board

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Hex Terrain Slope Cutting Jigs

One I had a bunch of hexes cut out, the next step is cutting some sloped shapes for hills.  Since the sides need to all line up, I needed to make some jigs - 3 jigs to be specific.

In order to make the three jigs, I needed to cut 10 wall sections.  The length of each of side of a 4" wide hex is 2.3094 inches (just under 2 and 5/16 on an inch.  Each end has a 30 degree bevel so when they're all placed together they form a perfect hex.

In order to aif the assembly of the jigs I cut some 4 inch wide hexes out of 1/8 plywood and glued them down on some plywood.  Each jig would be assembled around the hex base.

The height of each segment is 1 and 5/8 inches - 1/8 for the base they are built around, 1/2 for the standard hieght of a terrain hex and 1 inch for the height of the slope.

 I cut these using my Incra Mitre gauge on my table saw.  It allows my to dial in very exact angles.  I cut the first piece at 3 inches interior length and then snuck up on by shaving a way a little bit a time until it was a perfect match and locked it down with a stop block.

Given the height of the blade and shortness of the piece being cut (less than 3 inches) this set up is VERY DANGEROUS and you need to use clamps to hold both the stop block and the piece being cut.  DO NOT use your hand to hold the piece in place or you may be making a sacrifice to the blood gods of woodworking.  Also stand fully behind the mitre gauge as when you cut the smaller cutoff pieces they can get caught by the blade and flung at you with impressive force.  Like all power tools a table saw should be treated with extreme respect.  If you're setting up a cut that you are uncomfortable with just don't do it.  Step away and think of a safer way to accomplish the task at hand.
To make the three jigs, you'll need to cut 10 wall segments

six of these segments you need to cut the slope on.  I took a piece of 1 inch foam and used it to trace a line from the top down.  I then drew a diagonal line - 3 from the top left to bottom right and 3 from the top right to bottom left.  The where rough cut on my band saw and then sanded to match.

The three jigs all assembled.  The difference between them if the number of wall segments between the slopes - none, one and three.  Because I'm a completist I'll probably bang out a fourth jig that has two wall segment in between the slopes.  I went the this configuration because thats what the GHQ materials suggested are required

The full set of extra pieces in the back are there because once I get this fully set up, I'm making a set of jigs for Ed.

To use the jig, pop a 1/2 inch high base piece into the jig.  It's a snug fit, which is good.

place the 1 inch high section on top an then pass the hot wire cutter over the jig

and, boom, a slope section stater to take form.

As you can see from the first picture the jigs worked pretty well.  I did screw up one thing.  The interior span of my hand held hot wire cutter (and old Woodland Scenics model) is less than the width a the jig.  The same goes to the hot-wire length on the trusty Proxxon.  The jigs are intended to be use with a single pass of hot wire for the base cut and it's a little cumbersome doing multiple angled passes.  It still works but I can't believe I forgot to measure the gap before building these things.  This conundrum is best summarized by a quote from the great philospher and social commentator, H. Simpson: "Dooohhhh!!!!"

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Holland'44: Turns 3-6 - Oh the Germans do have guns

 Turn 4
Arnhem - Turn 4 saw the 1st Airborne receive another brigade in reinforcement - the drop was messy with two of the three battalions taking a step loss.  Losses from airdrops go into a replacement pool for the division so it might not be all that bad.  After the air drop, 1st AB began to collapse into a more concentrated defensive position along the river.  The Germans launched the first of what will likely be many attacks on the unit holding Arnhem bridge - managing to inflict a step loss at the cost of an armored battalion.  1st AB is starting to get worn away.

No combat in the 82nd's zone.  They did waive off the planned air drop of the divisions artillery assets given the proximity of a german unit next to the airfield.  The germans also advanced an infantry unit along the river to the west which will need to be dealt with.

In the 101's sector, the Germans are building up to assault the highway.  30 Corps has secured Eindhoven and will accelerate their move forward

Turn 5:
The British have used one of their 3 replacement steps to restore the battalion holding Arnhem bridge.  More importantly, they have shifted resources south and now have 2 battalions at the bridgehead.  Those para's will be hard to dig out.  The Germans continue to get reinforcements and are moving single steps units (who can use the ferries to set up blocking positions between Nijmegen and Arnhem.

The 82nd launched a successful attack to clear their drop zones during turn 5 and moved a battalion to block the the German advance along the river.  The Germans are shifting reinforcements to begin prepare renew their assault on the ridgeline

Lots of activity in the 101's sector as 30 Corps passes through the paratroopers and make it to the intact railway bridge at Vehgel.  They'll need to get that bridging equipment to the front of the column - currently it's way back in Eindhoven.

The Germans launch their counter attack and push the Americans back to along the highway.  How long can they delay 30 Corps is now the question?

Turn 6

A combined view of the 1st and 82nd area of operations.

The German noose tightens on the 1st airborne with two succesful attacks.  At the Arnhem bridge, the Germans are reinforced with more armor and launch another assault on the two battalions - the attack is low odds but the dice Gods are kind to the Germans and they get a DR: Defender Retreat option.  The paras have nowhere to go and elect to take a step loss and roll on the desperate defense table to try and hold the bridge.  They are successful but incur another step loss.  They can't hold the bridge for many turns trading at that level of losses.  To the far north the SS launch an attack backed by captured French tanks and manage to cut off three battalions of para's. More importantly, they are close to recapturing the intact rail bridge.  This has not been a stellar turn for the 1st Airborne.  Hopefully radio reports of 30 Corps being no more than 12 kilometers from the Son bridge will restore their morale.  How many turns can they hold out?

In the 82nds area, the Germans renew their attacks from the south and push back one battalion causing another step loss.  Glider reinforcements are expected next turn and their landing zones are clear.  They are desperately needed to both stem the German offensive to the south and start wearing down the German defenders at Nijmegen bridge.

As for 101st are of operations, the German northern attack has been beaten back with losses on both sides, but the highway is partially clear.  The German attack from the south has made significant headway and will require some 30 Corps resources to be with or the Allies may loose one of the critical bridge crossings.  The allied bridging equipment continues to trundle along the road but traffic jam markers are really slowing its progress.

Momentum seems to have shifted in the favor of the Germans - the critical question is how long will it take 30 Corps to get to and fights through Njimegen.  If it take more than 3 turns, I'm not sure 1st para can hold out.  I am very much enjoying how this game is swinging back and forth between the opponents.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Holland'44 Turns 1-3: Maybe this is a Splendid Plan General Montgomery

The first three turns of the game are complete,  I'll do a walkthrough starting at Arnhem and moving to the east.  I may have gotten a few rules wrong but don't think I've made any material errors.

As the title of this post suggests, things have gone well for the Allies - so far.

Turn 1

After a successful paradrop the British 1st Airborne moved to secure the landing zones for their reinforcements (at the top) and also moved smartly onto to Arnhem.  There was one attack on the SS Kraft battalion which was forced to retreat but took no losses.  Another big success for the allies is the roll to destroy the rail bridge (just north of Arnhem) failed so they have an alternative crossing over the Rhine - at least for now.

The Germans are limited to just tactical movement this turn (2 hexes) and moved to contest the drop zone in the upper right and shore up their Arnhem defensive line in preparation for a counter attack.  The SS recon group in between Arnhem and Nijmegen decided to send one battalion to each bridge.

The 82nd Airborne was able to secured the Son bridge (upper left) and a minor crossing over the Waal Canal (center).  They also advanced a battalion into the outskirts of Nijmegen.

The German response was limited as only one battalion of the 406th activate to enter the map and was moved to support Njimegen

The 101st saw the Veghel bridge collapse into the river but did capture the adjacent railway bridge.  They also captured 2 intact bridges over the Whilehmenia Canal (just to the west of Eindhoven.

The German response was to form a line to the north and await reinforcements to launch a counter attack.  They're also moving up some Fallschirmjager battalions from the south to threaten the bridges

30 Corps had a very successful opening assault - blowing a fairly large hole in the German defenses thanks to the very nice 2 shift artillery support advantage for turn 1.  The also started repairing the northern most canal bridge.  The Irish Guards tank battalion did take a step loss in the initial assault

The Germans are attempting to fall back along the road and did place their "Traffic Jam" markers.  These increase the movement point cost to enter a road hex by 2 and likely may be more effective in delaying 30 Corps than the German troops.

Turn 2 (Night)
The British have managed to grab Arnhem bridge, in force.  Perhaps they were aided by the fact that the unknown German defending unit turned out to be zero strength.  Oh well, lets just omit that fact in the official dispatches.  1st Airborne now has 2 crossing over the Rhine and seems to be in good shape. 

The SS recon unit has moved to block the road to Nijmegen and is now considering dashing across the rail bridge to wreak havoc in the rear areas of the British.

The 82nd penetrates further into the Nijmegen outskirts but takes a step loss in doing so.  The Germans seem to have been using better explosives this turn as 3 crossings over the Waal canal go boom. 

For the Germans, 4 of the remaining 5 battalions of the 406th activate and move to contest the 82nd's landing zones and to support the defense of Nijmegen.  critically, they also get an artillery unit which will likely prove to be very helpful in supporting the garrison.  Lastly, a small mechanized unit managed to zoom up to an intact but unguarded bridge and will attempt to re-set some explosives.  Maybe the Americans should remember that once a bridge has been taken, it should be garrisoned....

The 101st sends 2 battalions towards Eindhoven and forms a defensive line to await the inevitable German counterattack.  It's not called "Hell's Highway" for nothing.

30 Corps continue to drive up the road to Eindhoven but looses another step - to a mechanized infantry unit.

The German defenders to the North of the road elect to move off-map - they will likely re-emerge to attack the 101st.

The British are also repositions some of their artillery as they moved out of range of the guns

Turn 3 (AM):
The weather for turn 3 dawns overcast - there will be no airdrops or ground support aircraft this turn.  The weather is expected to be clear for the next turn (PM)

 The 1st airborne is stretched pretty thing trying to defend both the landing zones and the bridges.  There will be no airdrops this turn but next turn 3 battalions are expected to land and those battalions will be desperately needed.  The supply head has been moved to guard the rail bridge - its a risky move but desperate times....

The Germans continue to build up strength in Arnhem
 The 82 puts more pressure on Nijmegen and now limit the garrison to just one hex.  They take another step loss doing so but it's critical to keep pressure on the bridge

Turn 3 went well for the Germans in this sector - the 406th division moved up to contest the drop zones, making any future landings rather risky.  Even better for the Germans is the charges were reset at the Mook bridge and successfully detonated as the Americans moved up.  The unit the set the charges moved off to the upper left and will use its mobility to keep the Americans guessing.

The 101 managed to get two battalions into Eindhoven but took step losses to each for doing so.  Maybe this will be a case of the Americans getting to the 30 corps first?

As for the Germans their strength continues to build to the north and now include the 2 battalions that retreated last turn.
 30 corps continues to make steady progress and there doesn't appear to be any way for the germans to prevent them linking up with the 101st.  Realizing this fact, the German units in the south begin an organized withdrawal.

Overall 3 very successful turns for the allies - I wonder how long there lucky streak will run?

Turn 4 (PM of Sept 18th)
The weather is clear and the German defenders can hear the distant drones of both of DC-3's and P-47's.....

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Holland'44: A Solitaire Play-through: Initial Air Drops

It's been years since I've played a physical form of a hex and counter game.  With a little time on my hands I decided to go all old school on you and give one a go.  So on a whim I picked up a copy of GMT Game's Holland'44.  For me, Market-Garden is one most interesting battles of WW2 and one that I have a high level of knowledge.  I can also remember hours of play trying to finish the old SPI title "Highway to the Reich".  That was one of the "Monster" SPI games we all loved, said we played to the end and but I'm pretty sure never really did.  HTTR was at the company/ platoon level and had 4 22x32 inch map sections.

Holland'44 is set at the Battalion level, with a handful of companies and a map thats about 50 inches long and 22 wide.  The game is designed by Mark Simonitch and has an elegant ruleset.  It's also very highly reviewed and said to be good for Solitaire play.  Setting up the game was easy as set up locations or entry turns are printed on the counters and there's a handy sheet to organize the initial forces on.  Still it took me about 45 minutes to set the game up.  Vassal has spoiled me on this front.

Any game of Market Garden is initially 4 separate little drama's, that, if things go well for the Allies, merge into one big battle - or, if things don't go so well, stay separate.  I'm sure all of you know the history - Montgomery devised a plan to drop 3 airborne divisions along a 60 mile corridor to seize a series of bridges.  The British army, lead by 30 Corps, would charge across the bridges and end the war by Christmas.  At least that was the plan.  Faulty intelligence grossly underestimated the strength of the German forces in the area and we have the well known "Bridge to Far" outcome.

I think I've read almost 20 books on the battle - starting with the Cornelius Ryan book "A Bridge to Far" when I was 15 or so.  To this day my thoughts on the battle range from it was a brilliant idea to it's so complex WTF was Montgomery thinking.  In the end hubris and over complexity doomed the operation but was a gallant effort.

So on with the game:

The first photo shows the entire map with the initial forces set up including the airborne units in their drop zones.  The terrain is varied but not really ideal for mechanized operations.  30 Corps is on the far left and Arnhem to the far right.

A shot of the turn record track obscured by the reinforcements that come in over the course of the game.  There are a lot of German forces coming on the map.....

As four the 4 separate "theaters" on this Operation we have:

The British 1st Airborne Division - their goal is to seize the bridge at Arnhem or the railway bridge just to north of Arnhem if they get lucky and the bridge doesn't get blown.  As allied forces move next to a bridge the german player can choose to try and blow it up.  On turn 1, the charges go off on roll of 4-5 (D6).  For turns 2+, the charges detonate on a 3-6.  The game also allows for the Germans to recapture bridges and attempt to re-wire the charges.  I suspect the Allied engineers will be very busy rebuilding bridges this game.  The Arnhem and Nijmegen bridges can not be blown - you saw they movie and the charge didn't go off!

Here is the US 82nd Airborne's drop area.  General Gavin has been criticized for not moving more aggressively on the Nijmegen during the initial landings - theres some truth to that but he also had to contend with the 406th  German infantry division just off map which was perfectly poised to overrun his drop zones.

The last airborne division is the 101st and their associated drop zone.  Im hoping the drops here go well as I want this divisions to move on Eindhoven (to the left) ASAP to help get 30 Corps moving.

The 4th and final area is the front line where 30 Corp will try to break out along a very narrow front.  There are some special rules that govern traffic and mobility that will be explained as I encounter them.  It will be a tough operation.  The light green terrain is called "Polder" (think bog) and is a no-go for mechanized units.  Maybe I can get Michael Caine to roll the dice for my 30 Corps attacks - I'll need all the help I can get.

Initial Drop Results:
1st Airborne:  The drop rolls were pretty good - only two units rolled poorly "Scattered" but each rolled a 6 so also took a step loss.  Step losses for airborne units on the initial drop go into a replacement pool so they get those back eventually.  Johnny Frost and his 2nd Para are well situated to make a run to Arnhem.  Lets hope we get lucky and the railway bridge doesn't go boom.

Landing Grade: B+

82nd Airborne: The drops rolls for the 82 were excellent - just one unit scattered but no step losses.  The only downside is the scatted battalion is one of two the can launch an attack on Nijmegen early.  This shouldn't be too big of an issue but we'll see.

Landing Grade: A-

101st Airborne: Well lady luck finally caught up to me and the drop rolls for the 101st didn't go so well with 3 scatters and 2 step losses. 

Landing Grade B-

All in all it could have been worse. 

Now to re-read the rules one more time and get turn 1 done

Until next time