Back To The Blog

With the arrival of 2021 after the long dark night of 2020 I looked at the blog and realised I hadn’t posted since March of last year and asked myself the question why?

The most obvious answer was “well there was a lockdown dummy!” and still is of course, with the obvious result of there being no shows to talk about, no games to post pictures of and no projects to bore everyone about – well not quite but that’ll be another post 🙂 But actually I think it was a bit more than that, partly depression – what’s the point and all that, partly lack of will – who am I going to play with, but mostly the lack of the creative spark engendered by being around others. Personally the death of a close family member early in the pandemic was a blow which was probably not properly dealt with and the ‘sadmin’ took a lot longer to deal with than normal and the clearing of the deceased belongings and property is still with us as a family and as anyone who has been through this it does grind you down.

For us as a Group the initial lockdown stopped us stone dead, we squeezed in Hammerhead (well me and Dave) which was a slightly surreal experience, but as most of the gang are in the vulnerable age group they went into isolation and I haven’t seen them since. That left Dave and I to make the best of the various versions of the rules to meet occasionally in the usual venue socially distanced and with the windows open and when that became untenable create a version of meeting outside where we gamed in Dave’s shed (it’s a big shed!) with the door and windows open but then of course it became too bloody cold and that was the end of that.

Wargaming in the shed did manage to keep us reasonably sane and gave Dave a chance to fully utilise the large playing surface (10 foot x 6 foot) with big set piece battles using a lot of our collections – “bang ’em all on!” No skirmish games here! Just like in the usual venue we could leave the game up and subject to Dave’s shift patterns we meandered our way though several of our big periods (Renaissance, ACW, Carlist & Sikh Wars) allocating 2 or 3 days per battle – what else were we going to do!

The problem with just two of you of course is that you do get a bit comfortable, there isn’t the variable of someone else saying “hold on, what about……” and the banter/argument is two dimensional. On the plus side we did have the time to sit in the garden and just chat, mainly about the hobby, but life under lockdown generally and made some plans for a future we had no idea of when it would arrive. The big decision was us deciding to go full on for Successors in 28mm, no skirmish gaming, no few element bases pretending to be an army but full on; completely mad but that’s what a pandemic lockdown does to you! Original plan was to be well on the way by now but the prolonged pandemic has meant we haven’t been able to get together to really plan it out but I’ll save the full story for the next blog post.

The big decision for me personally was to get a Syrian city scape done to further utilise the 4 foot square road intersections I did for the Sicario games. This was something I’d wanted to do for some time to further enhance our Spectre games so I contracted the job out and was over the moon at the result; this too will be a follow up blog.

That’s enough I think for a getting back to the blog mind set. More to follow – what else am I going to do?

Away Game With Welsh Chechins

This game came about thanks to an invite from Gareth Lane, fellow twitterite, who suggested I came down to south wales for a game on his excellent Russian terrain of Russian Federation v Chechins using the Bolt Action Modern rules. So leaving the rest of the gang behind, mainly due to shift patterns and ‘real life’, I battled through the torrential rain to fly the Westbury flag in far off Wales.

I took on the role of the Russian Federation fielding a force of regulars – 3 infantry sections plus HMG, Grenade Launcher & Sniper support mainly of Inexperienced morale with a range of transport  – BRDM, BYT80, BMP2 & ZSU23-24 all of Regular morale. On top of this was the good stuff being a Spetsnaz section plus Light Mortar & MMG support with an Mi17 transport helicopter and HIND gunship. Both had a dog team assigned to sniff out booby traps (of which Gareth kept telling me there would be many and deadly – psychological warfare!) – more of the dog teams later.

Gareth took the Chechins fielding a mixed force of Veteran Mujahadeen & their warlord Arbi Barayev, Regular Chechin Wolf Pack infantry sections and Inexperienced Chechin rebels plus HMG, Grenade Launcher & Sniper support and a captured BMP2. Also an array of anti personnel & anti tank mines that would be positioned prior to game start.

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Federation objectives were to seize both ends of the tram line and hold at the end of the game thus denying the rebels a vital supply life line and as a bonus kill the warlord Arbi Barayev. The Chechins had the rather simpler objective of protecting the supply line and bloodying the Russians.

The rules were new to me. Gareth had advised me to watch some YouTube play through videos, which I duly did, and to be frank wasn’t too impressed but my golden rule is ‘your house, you rules’ so decided to go with the flow and rely on Gareth to walk me through what could and could not be done.

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The Federation troops were deployed on the eastern edge of the board having three possible entry points at which at least half of the troops must start the game. The Spetsnaz were air mobile and couldn’t enter until turn 3 in what was a 7 turn game (with a random option for an extra single turn). With an abundance of caution (inspired by fear of mines and ambush) I deployed one infantry section plus the the HMG and the ZSU at the northern most entry point – a mistake in a limited turn game as they couldn’t cover enough ground. At the centre point I deployed (over two turns) the other two infantry sections one in a BTR80, one in the BMP2 – the right tactics I think but see later rookie error. At the southern entry point was the BRDM containing the command element leading the way followed by the other BTR80 holding the Grenade Launcher team, the Sniper team and the dog team. The  Chechins were all unseen until Gareth deployed them at pre configured positions and some were in Ambush – a rules mechanism thing.

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The initial moves naturally belonged to the Federation. The northern team moved at Advance speed to start but realising this was too slow I had them Run and to hell with booby traps! Their objective was the northern end of the tram line where a unit of Chechins had materialised but desultory firing didn’t have much effect, the ZSU however which had moved down a parallel street was much more effective – 4 x turret mounted auto cannons at 3 dice a piece are great fun, definitely getting one of these for our Syrian games!  The centre forces moved into the broken terrain and the BMP2 disgorged it’s section and gave covering fire as they crossed the street under fire from Chechins further down, the BTR80 however didn’t deploy it’s troops (oops!) and so when a Chechin RPG came whizzing up the street it brewed up pretty quickly taking half the section with it. The southern force managed to deploy into some buildings to flank the Chechins at the end of the street opposite them with the dog sniffing out a booby trap, the sniper team getting up high and the Grenade Launcher team setting up nicely. The BTR80 got itself in an alley between two buildings which meant that though it couldn’t get hit it was no use in providing fire support so this role went to the BRDM once the commander had debussed.  At this point I was thinking ‘well I’ve drawn him out so I know where most of his stuff is but I’m not winning the fire fight and the tram line is a ways off’

Turn 4 saw the arrival of the good stuff. The HIND deployed to hover over the main street to support the Federation regulars – I didn’t quite get the hang of this to start with and the Mi17 hovered over the northern end of the tram line for the Spetsnaz to rappel down relatively safely due to the ZSU chewing up the Chechins at this end. The plan was now for the Spetsnaz to mop up so the regulars could secure this end and then proceed down the tram lines to the other objective but in the way were a Wolf Pack section in the adjacent street and the veteran Mujahedeen cunningly using the ruined factory as cover. It was going to be a race to the finish!

The HIND wasn’t as deadly as I thought it was going to be and I did have some heart stopping moments when the ambush HMG & Grenade Launcher revealed themselves on the roof top of a large apartment building and tried to bring it down – I could see the markers but couldn’t do anything until Gareth revealed them which is a bit of a clumsy rules mechanism as it could lead players avoiding a spot they wouldn’t necessarily avoid, however mutual good spirit avoided any problem. The plus of the volume of fire the HIND could deliver did however did ensure some judicious pin markers on the Chechins which prevented them overwhelming the Federation regulars at the southern end of the street who had by now lost their BRDM to an RPG and were holding on rather than advancing although this did mean the sniper team could get off some effective kills on the HMG and Grenade Launcher teams on the roof opposite.

In the centre of the action we had an exchange of BPM2 losses; the Chechin vehicle took out the Federation vehicle when I foolishly deployed side on which left the infantry sections there a bit in the air but a turn or two later, the ZSU, having run out of infantry to chew up poked its head round a corner and tore up the Chechin vehicle – love this vehicle!

At the northern end of the table the on foot regulars had got themselves into a bit of a firefight with a sniper they couldn’t hit and couldn’t really move due to the rebel BPM2 (soon to be brewed up) and the HMG team had triggered a booby trap and lost half their team. Spetsnaz to the rescue! They finished off the opposition using the MMG & infantry section while the Mortar team started lobbing shells into the ruined factory and the dog team used the available cover to loosen off a couple of shots which took out Arbi Baryev – spectacular! Now it all came together as the Spetsnaz raced against time; the Chechins advancing up the street alongside the tram lines were taken out and the HIND now hovered over the factory (narrowly avoiding a SAM missile fired on the last turn) raining fire on the Mujahedeen who although not all killed were so pinned they were going nowhere.

Time was called and a minor Russian victory declared having seized one end of the tram line and killed the Chechin warlord. I of course claimed that with the HIND hovering over the other end of the tram line and with most of the Chechins being eliminated – we counted around 40 dead, it was a Federation victory. What it was, was a victory for the hobby, two people who had never met, playing in the right spirit, no rule mongering but equally no silliness and having a thoroughly great day. Thank you Gareth for being a great host I hope we can have a repeat performance sometime soon in the Midlands.

A note on the rules. I’d never played them before but after a few turns they were surprisingly easy to pick up and despite my misgivings played well. Are they perfect? Well no, but what rule set is? They are not as nuanced as say Spectre but for a squad based game where you are effectively ignoring the individuals and concentrating on the whole they give a good game. Would I play them again? Yes.

Derby Day!

No not the horse racing  but our experience at the new venue for Derby Worlds this past weekend and what better way to get back into doing the blog after a prolonged absence – too busy, too tired. too everything.

Now we are well aware from the gossip on the day and tweets since then that the traders were not happy but this is written from the perspective of a gaming club who put on a demonstration game and briefly got to wander around the show as a break from pushing figures around.

Before we got to the show we have to say that the level of organisation was impressive; multiple e mails with maps, times, bring & buy sheets, do’s and don’ts, etc; all very professional so high hopes.

A taste of potential problems was when we came to set up on the Friday night; the table area allotted was wrong and the other games did look a bit close. But table size sorted after a little bit of tension and the closeness of the other games was perhaps just a reaction to the abundance of space at Donnington?

Continue reading “Derby Day!”