Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Bruneval Raid Documentary

The Bruneval Raid - AKA Operation Biting. 

This is Lewis, who goes by the name of TIK on YouTube.  He got extremely browned off with the sort of nonsense the History Channel were broadcasting and decided to try his hand at making his own Second World War documentaries. 

The production values are very good for a one man band and his presentation is good.  What makes Lewis stand out is that he goes into considerable depth on his subject (the link above is 90 minutes long) and is upfront about his sources (all of which are listed in the video description).  I particularly liked the section at the end of this video where he discusses the discrepancies between his sources and his own interpretation of the evidence. 

Here's another of his pieces on Operation Battle Axe.  There's also stuff on Eban Emel, the Soviet Purges and Operation Barbarossa as well as (computer) wargaming. 

Definitely recommended. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Raid on the Safe House

The Safe House

We managed to get another Black Ops game in last week, which was great fun. The game was set in my "London Calling" setting.  It's 1979, the Soviets have rolled across the Central German Plain and it's all gone wrong.  The UK has been invaded and occupied.  Resistance is scattered and disorganised and has only limited contact with the government in exile in Canada. 

This is, of course, an excuse to pit the boys from the Sweeney, the Professionals and various TV favourites against the Soviets in a manner similar to the old Invasion! 2000AD comic strip, mixed with a good dollop of the Garnet books and some Secret Army. 

You can see some more of our London Calling games here. 

The Tooting People's Popular Front

The mission was a joint operation between the Tooting People's Popular Front (a Trotskyite group not popular with the Soviets) and the Baker Street Irregulars (a group of disgruntled former coppers and soldiers).  They had learned that an isolated farmhouse was being used by the MVD to interrogate prisoners and store intelligence. They've had the site under observation for several days and determined that there is only a skeleton crew present as there are no prisoners.  The plan is to get in, destroy or steal whatever intelligence is present and get out. 

The Baker Street Irregulars. 

The Bakers Street Irregulars are a group of disgruntled former police officers (many of whom bear a striking resemblance to a certain programme known as "The William") and army personnel who have decided to take up arms against the occupation. Led by the hardnosed DI Burnside, they approached the rendezvous.  One point which I really enjoyed was that Mr E was bemoaning the fact that he couldn't bring a vehicle on the board without raising the alarm.  We were talking about it and he realised, "Well, I could just turn the engine off, leave off the handbrake and push it onto the board." 

On the approach

This is the sort of semi roleplaying approach to wargaming that I find really interesting, so Mr. E's lads duly pushed the car on, covered it with brush and scoped out the rest of the terrain.  The discovered three things; all unpleasant.  

1. There were a number of blinds scattered around the table and they weren't where he expected them to be.  These turned out to be undergrowth laced with trip flares.  

2. There was a guard tower that wasn't there tree days ago. This was manned by a lad with a PKM.  Anyone who set off a flare was going to have a very bad day indeed. 

But thirdly and most importantly, the Tooting Popular Front hadn't shown up.  Mr E and I were chatting and having some dinner and then we began to wonder where Capability Savage was.  He was an hour late, so I called him to find out where he was.  It turned out that he had been busy with work and had completely forgotten about the game.  He couldn't make it. 

We reckoned that the Tooting Peoples Popular Front had gotten in an argument on the way to the rendezvous and had to convene a full council to discuss the distribution of ammunition to each man ("Or woman." "Thanks Stan, or woman") The result was a long row, they became distracted and didn't make it to the rendezvous. 

Mr. E decided to go it alone. This was an interesting decision as while I scaled down the garrison a bit, I couldn't do so completely.  Consequently, Mr. E ended up taking on more than he'd initially bargained for. 

Raymondo takes up position

I'm afraid I was too distracted playing and enjoying the game to take enough photos.  But you should be able to get some sort of idea of what was going on.  

Raymondo, the Baker St Irregulars sniper, moved forward, while the rest of the team busied themselves identifying and disarming the flares. It was only half way through this process that we realised that without a turn limit (which this scenario didn't have) this was only really a time wasting exercise for the attacker.  I was happy with how the mechanics worked, but I think I will have to think more carefully about how they integrated into the scenario. 

Raymondo took out the sentry in the tower with a single shot.  The attackers held their breath, but while several of the other guards moved in that direction - they weren't certain enough to raise the alarm. 

Burnside and the lads kick the door in

With one side of the safe house temporarily uncovered, the "Spud" and his GPMG team and Raymondo covered the other two sides.  Meanwhile, I moved my sentries around to try and get a bead on Burnside and his team. They decided to take a calculated risk and kicked the door in. They were lucky.  They had located the interrogation room (of which, the less said the better, but I took some inspiration from here) and the filing cabinets.  

A short firefight with the surprised Soviet occupants generated a great deal of noise and the alarm was raised. 

RIP Chalky

While Burnside and his team were grabbing intelligence files and setting incendiaries on everything that they could not carry, Chalky decided to run to the next section of the safehouse.  Mr. E knew that my Ace (commander figure) was there and had raised the alarm (not hard considering the racket coming from next door) and was now calling for reinforcements. 

Unfortunately for Chalky, he didn't realise that it wasn't *just* the Ace in the radio room and the four guards came as a complete and very lethal surprise. 

With Chalky down and the Soviets on full alert, the GPMG team opened up and poured suppressive fire on that portion of the safehouse, pinning the guards within. Raymondo managed to take one of the guards on other flank, but his mates managed to spot him and return fire. Both sides ducked down and the Soviets made a run for the cover of the buildings. 

The firefight hotted up as the sentries that escaped Raymondo, roused the rest of the garrison. Meanwhile, "Spud" brassed up the side of the house again, pinning the Soviet commander, Major "Zmei" and his bodyguards.  I took a risk and took a hit on "Zmei" so that I could make another reinforcement roll.  I managed to pass the save, but did very well on the reinforcement roll. 

This put me on the horns of a dilemma.  I had done so well on the reinforcement roll that I could call them in now, but it would effectively amount to an infantry patrol.  Probably enough to mess up the partisans day, but not necessarily wipe them out.  However, I had done so well, that if I waited a turn and managed to roll even reasonably, I could call in a vehicle (likely a BDRM) which would be invulnerable to Mr E weapons.  Thinking ahead, he sent Raymondo back to start the car. 

I gambled and Major "Zmei" kept calling for reinforcements, while his escort hunkered down.  

Meanwhile, across the courtyard, a desperate battle was taking place.  The building on the left was occupied by Soviet troops, while the BSI were holed up in the one on the right.  This was really heating up and I was finally able to get my numbers to tell. I was hoping to pin them in place, so that my flanking force would be able to finish them.  Unfortunately, "Spud" and his GPMG team managed to keep up the fire and effectively suppress the flankers. 

Taking their opportunity and as the files started to burn, Reg Hollis threw a smoke grenade into the yard and the team made a dash for the car.  Lofty was hit as they made their escape, Burnside and Reg dragged him out of the burning building as the game entered a new phase.  

The smoke is Teddy bear stuffing with a couple of Euro Shop LED candles chucked underneath.  As we had done justice to the drinks cabinet at that point, Mr E and I decided to see if we could thicken up the smoke with extra cigar smoke.  It seems to have worked. 

At this point, I'm afraid I forgot to take any more pictures because I became too wrapped up in the game.  Raymondo managed to get the car up, while Burnside and his crew jumped aboard.  I rallied the remainder of the garrison and brought on my trump card, a BDRM.  This was where it got interesting.  The turning rules in Black Ops are quite strict for vehicles and what followed was nerve wracking. 

The game turned into an approximation of this scene from everyone's favourite educational programme.  Burnside and his boys struggled to get everyone into the car, while I executed a textbook Soviet forward dash.  The lads ran forward in a rough line, firing from the hip, those that could see shot at the car, those that couldn't suppressed likely escape routes, so that they would be channeled into the waiting arms of the BDRM. 

Reg Hollis was hit as they broke for cover, whereupon the BDRM opened up with it's 14.5 MG, which left the passengers unharmed, but shagged the engine.  Burnside and his team, decamped from the now dead car and ran into the woods.  They were pursued by the BDRM, but managed to lose it in the trees.  With many casualties of their own and with no night vision, the BDRM crew decided that discretion was the better part of valour.   Major "Zmei" was not best pleased. 

Gone, but not forgotten. 

The Baker Street Irregulars had accomplished their mission.  They had destroyed the intelligence cache and managed to escape with some files.  However, it had cost them dearly, losing three, very hard to replace men, Chalky, Lofty and Reg. 

Worryingly, Burnside and Chris had been trying to stabilise Chalky before the car was knocked out.  Now all three men had fallen wounded into the Russians hands, which given Major "Zmei"s hobbies was a pretty dreadful place to be. The look on Mr E's face when my troops swarmed the car and I announced that they were going to try first aid on his wounded men was priceless.  Chalky had already expired, the motor riflemen were unable to stablise Lofty, but they managed it with Reg. 

Poor old Mr. E was looking distinctly queasy when he picked up the die to see how Reg fared. Fortunately for Reg, Mr. E rolled a one and Constable Hollis expired peacefully in a hospital bed before the MVD could get their claws on him. 

In conclusion,  this was a tough game for both parties, with wild swings of fortune. The luck was with Mr E for the first half of the game and began to slowly turn against him as things wore on.   I was unlucky not to vaporise the getaway car with my BDRM, but the result was a hard fought and engaging game which resulted in a phyrric victory for the partisans. Looking forward to the next one. 

Your file Sir

One idea that I've used for a couple of games now is the personnel card.  This is a standard 4 by 6 file card with the stats for the unit (in this case a sniper team) written out and the points included. This is handy because it keeps all the stats in one place and you can quickly assemble a force by flicking through a few cards. Tot up the points and you are done. 

An unexpected benefit is that it gives continuity between the games. Each card gets a name and they persist over time, which has led to some interesting moments in play. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017


Airfix Coldstream Guardsman

The latest arrival from our man in Budapest, an Airfix Coldstream Guardsman.  This fellow is well kitted out and I reckon is probably about to set out to defend Hougomont.  No doubt he would look rather different by the end of the battle. 

Knapsack, all present & correct. 

Some of the old Airfix sets can be quite wooden, 
but the pose works very well in this case. 

The classic Belgic shako shown off to good effect. 

The false fronted or Belgic Shako, I think our American friends call it a tombstone shako, is always evocative of Waterloo for me.   He's a lovely piece of work and is currently guarding the Joseph Roth section of my bookshelves.  Very happy with him. 

The Medicis

Mrs. Kinch and I have been watching this on Netflix and it is really very good.  Mrs. Kinch studied Italian and knows the people and the period rather better than I do, so I cannot speak to its historicity. None of it felt wrong to me and the city of Florence certainly emerges as a character in her own right.  

It is excellent television.  Annabel Scholey is magnificent, while Richard Madden gives a wonderfully nuanced performance.  The development of their marriage over eight episodes is one of the real pleasures of the programme.  But all the cast turn in excellent work - there isn't a duffer amongst them. 

This may sound like damning with faint praise, but one thing that really stood out to me was the quality of the incidental music, most of which is variations on the main theme composed by Paolo Bounvino and performed by a lady called Skin.  It is an ambitious soaring symphonic piece of work that got under my skin in a way that little else has in quite a while. 

Two thumbs up.  I'm looking forward to the second series.