Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Playing as the Germans for a Change

Had to postpone our Gallipoli game, as I'm bone idle and unable to get my painting groove at the minute. But the lads wanted to come over last night so I had to rustle up something in a hurry. So we went back to the Western Front in 1914. Not part of mine and Sickly's Rommel campaign, just a one-off thing thrown together at the last minute. As Sickers is usually the French in our campaign, he fancied being the Germans for a change. Wakey joined with him and they teamed up on Chronoglide as the French, as he wanted to be on his own, and to compromise for no man.

(Click on pictures for a slightly bigger version)
The game depicted a fictional French village somewhere in Lorraine. Retreating French troops decide to stop and make a stand here. The Germans reach the place, and are determined to drive them out. Both sides have limited artillery support.

The rules we used this time were Iron Ivan's Price of Glory.

The Players. National stereotypes abound. Left to right we have Wakey, depicting the jovial German of the Beer Hall. Next is Sickers, revelling in the glories of Prussia's military past (and practising clicking his heels). Meanwhile Chronoglide attempts to encapsulate his view of the entire French nation with a facial expression and a hand gesture (he really needs a pack of Gauloises to pull off that look).

The Germans emerge cautiously from the woods on the edge of the village. They also had a fifteen-man assault detachment. Wakey, given the option, rather than keep them with the main force, had sent them around the village to approach from the northern flank. Would they arrive in time to be of use?

The French lookout/sharpshooter was ensconced in the windmill, and signalled the approach of the enemy. Chrono had been given the choice of placing him here or in the campanile of the church...

...St. Grimm's where the resting French soldiers suddenly had to get their shit together and spring into action.

A desperate race to occupy the buildings on the edge of the village began.

The German attack had it bad from the outset. First of all the sharpshooter in the windmill took out 1st Squad's sergeant, and then the French 75s on the ridge behind the village spotted the Germans in the open and started dropping shells on them. Contrary to expectations (off-table arty in Price of Glory doesn't have a great chance of doing much other than demoralising the enemy) they scored a direct hit, instantly putting out of action much of the squad. The remainder, somewhat discouraged, cowered in the shell craters for a bit.

Not long after, the German artillery began shelling the main street. At first it had little physical effect, but it did make them get their heads down...

...But then they found their mark. A devastating succession of hits wiped out the platoon HQ, and thinned out one of the squads somewhat.

Sickly really took to the Pickelhaube. Wore it all night, not just for the photos. Even continued to wear it when Chrono and Wakey had gone home. In fact, I can't get it back off him. He's been wearing it all day today, and as I type this he is still wearing it, while dancing round the living room listening to Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London" on my iPod. I should start calling it the Sicklehaube.

The German 1st Squad were the first to regain their composure, and so won the race to occupy the stone house, leaving the Frenchmen in the street somewhat exposed.

Meanwhile, thanks to their artillery support slowing down their foes, the other French squad had reached the safety of a house. But this was not enough for them. Seeing the enemy pinned down in the open, they fixed bayonets and charged out from cover. En Avant!

The German platoon HQ was close enough to the conflict to lend support to their comrades (according to the Price of Glory rules) and so Wakey bravely joined in with his personal character, the German leutnant, hoping to add enough to the fight to tip the balance in his favour.

Melee in Price of Glory is brutal, bloody and decisive. We like it that way. A desperate, pitched fight developed.

Eventually the tide turned in favour of the Germans. A single valiant Frenchman remained. The intervention of the German platoon HQ perhaps had been decisive. But Wakey paid for this victory with his life. The last act of the lone Frenchman before he fell was to bayonet the German leutnant through the throat.

Back on main street, a combination of artillery and rifle fire forced the remaining French back to St. Grimm's. Their numbers were steadily dwindling.

At this point, just in time to do nothing in particular, the flank-marching assault detachment arrived.

For realistically, it was all over. Probably it was the frenzied melee that had tipped it in their favour, but it seemed obvious that the Germans had won. They had paid for their victory dearly, and it had been quite close at times, but the French were not going to be able to hold the village. The last of them abandoned the church, and some were cut down as they tried to retreat across open ground. The sharpshooter had quietly slipped away, after the German artillery had used up the last of their shells using the windmill as target practice. The original Germans were mighty glad to see the flank marchers turn up though, for they were severely depleted and perhaps could not have finished the job on their own. The German players (getting rather too much into the spirit of things I fear) now started to talk of deflowering the local maidens and emptying the wine cellars, but I had to remind them that they weren't in Belgium now so they should behave themselves, and besides, it was still a long way to Paris.

Once again Price of Glory had delivered a fast-paced, brutal and challenging game that everyone said they enjoyed. Could have been very different, especially as the artillery seriously punched above its weight with some pretty flukey dice-rolls for both sides.

The only trouble I anticipate now is getting my Pickelhaube back off Sickly and persuading him into going back to being French for the remainder of our campaign. Now he has experienced the delights of being a pointy-headed Teuton, I don't think he wants to relinquish his new identity.

Figs were from Renegade and Great War Miniatures. Scenery was a mix of stuff, but the buildings all came from Germany, courtesy of ESLO and our dear old LAF chum the Grimmster.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Manu Forti

(Click on pictures for full size version)

Extracts from "Manu Forti: A history of the Herefordshire Regiment 1860-1967" by Lt-Col. T.J.B. Hill MBE, KSLI.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


Okay, this is what I did today when I was supposed to be working on finishing off the latest member of my LAF club, the FFFFF. Let the side down a bit there, sorry about that. But at least I wasted the afternoon doing something with a Great War aviation theme, rather than just watching sport on the telly.

My good friend Wakey added to my Wings of War collection by giving me the "Burning Drachens" set as a Christmas gift. As young Whatisname was staying for the weekend again we thought we'd give it a long-overdue play-test. A spot of balloon-busting, fine thing for a snowy sunday in April.


As we haven't played the game much in its simplest form yet, we decided to leave the optional altitude rules for another day. It's quite tricky enough as it is for now, thank you.

My opponent opted to be the attacker, and choose a Spad in Italian livery, equipped with rockets. So I would be facing Arturo Benedetto Giovanni Giuseppe Sickleoni, noted Italian air-ace, opera singer, sculptor and part-time maniac.

To defend my precious Central Powers observation balloon I had a measly couple of anti-aircraft guns. But help was on its way in the form of the Graf von Plynkenstein in his Albatros.

Sickleoni gave it some welly, speeding towards my balloon at full speed, lining up his attack run to unleash his rockets. The counters are the shell bursts of my somewhat ineffective Archie.

Whoosh! went the rockets, seriously damaging my balloon but luckily not destroying it. But pay heed to the above picture. There isn't a card in the game that can get Sickleoni out of that one. In his eagerness to down the balloon, he had given no thought at all to his own safety. A serious miscalculation gave him no room to pull away...


Ah, a mid-air collision 'tween balloon and plane. Sickleoni's plane exploded, but, to much chuckling from myself, somehow the balloon survived. Well, that was a quick game. I didn't even get to do anything except make a couple of little black clouds with my Archie.

So we thought we'd have another go...


Determined to avenge his brother's death, and complete the mission he failed, noted race-car driver, pasta chef and full-time maniac, Giuseppe Benedetto Arturo Giovanni Sickleoni immediately volunteered to give it another go.

Sickleoni, that stick in your hand: If you move it to the left or right it turns the plane, I think. Nice idea, but I think you need to turn a bit more than that...


Tricky game, this. Ha! Ha! Once more the balloon survived while the Spad exploded into little bits. Real bad luck for Sickers with the damage cards there (chuckle).

With that, the Sickleoni family, having taken their first steps in forming a dynasty of Kamikaze pilots, decided to give up on the whole balloon-attacking lark. The last surviving brother, professional footballer, former Catholic Priest and not at all maniacal (but rather cautious and sensible) pilot, Giovanni Giuseppe Arturo Benedetto Sickleoni was going into the balloon-protecting business...


Yes, it was time for the Graf von Plynkenstein to make an utter fool of himself, or alternatively, show these bumbling Italians how one goes about destroying a balloon.

I relied on trusty machine guns, none of this rocketry malarkey. It had caused the Sickleonis to fatally take their eyes off the ball. I would have none of that. You see, Sickers? TURN AWAY, not at the last minute, but slightly before. Riddled the balloon with rounds. Unable to tell what effect it had, but didn't look like much.

As I, von Plynkenstein banked away for another run at the balloon, the last of the Sickleoni brothers arrived on the scene, hell bent on revenge.

There you see an anti-aircraft artillery shell exploding exactly where I had been the phase before. That's the closest we came to scoring a hit with those things all day.

He was coming at me, but I couldn't let that divert me from the mission.

I zoomed past him on my attack run on the balloon just as he opened up on me himself.

(Must admit I was making engine, rocket and machine gun noises right throughout the game)

Don't know how badly I hurt the balloon, but Sickleoni hit me, all right. Nothing significant to the airframe, but a hit to the engine sent oil spraying into my face and seriously impacted on my card choices for the remainder of the game.

Still, must soldier on as best we can. We veered away from each other in opposite directions, and then both turned back towards the balloon.

An attack run right down the length of the balloon. Come on, Sickleoni! You're supposed to be defending it from me!

Verdammt! These bullets don't seem to be doing anything!

Banking away again, I gave the Archie gunners a taste of their own medicine, strafing them as I passed by.

Oops, he was coming up on my tail now.

But no one can out fly the Graf von Plynkenstein, not even with a coughing and spluttering engine! Ha! Incompetent Italian fool! Catch me if you can!

Another attack run by our dashing Thuringian hero. Unfortunately at this point his guns jammed. Oh Shit.

I would like to apologise to all our viewers for the loss of pictures at this point. Battery on the camera out of go-juice. Only took a minute to charge up enough power for a few more shots though, so you didn't miss much.

I had once again banked away from the balloon. Sickleoni had totally misguessed my intentions, and found himself speeding away in exactly the wrong direction, not a difficult thing to do in Wings of War.

Spinning the ailing crate around again I gave the Archie gunners a bit more what-for. Drat and double drat! Guns jammed again!

Come on, come on. Clear, damn you!

That's got it. Now you buggers can have some, too!

Trying to get a bead on me, Sickleoni almost emulates his brothers by crashing into the balloon, but thankfully misses by the skin of his teeth.

As for myself, things were getting desperate. This was the last turn. The Italians on the ground had been frantically winching the balloon down. It was now almost on the ground, and they would no doubt scurry off with it to the safety of some cover or something. Whatever was happening, the game was about to end. I had been pumping the damn thing full of lead all game with seemingly no result. I had to do something.

So, inspired by the Sickleoni brothers I did the only thing I could, and swerved directly towards the balloon, all guns blazing...

...Miraculously, it exploded! What a bloody fluke. So I zoomed through the smoke looking every inch the hero, and as if I knew that was going to happen all along. Phew. Talk about jammy. Victory to the Central Powers again! But at least Mama and Papa Sickleoni's youngest had survived. That would be a consolation for them.

Well, Wings of War proved to be a tricky prospect once again. It's a very simple and easy game to play, but as this afternoon's events have shown, quite hard to get the hang of. Trying to predict where your cards will land you can be difficult enough, never mind managing to get the enemy lined up in your sights. Still, lots and lots of fun, and I'm sure practice will make perfect.

Definitely want to play this again some time.