Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Hicky's Bengal Gazette
(under new ownership)

1st August 1882

Dire news from Anarakistan

Massacre at Shawadi-wadi
Spliffers wiped out!
Empire mourns loss of magnificent military moustache

Hicky's Gazette delivers an exclusive report on the sad fate of our gallant boys as they raided Anarakistan for the glory of the Empire. We have eyewitness accounts from the only surviving officer, Lieut Knobsworth who barely escaped with is life and sideburns intact, and a nameless Guides cavalry trooper. We have added sketched drawings of the action from a local Reuters correspondent who had been heliographing us from his hidden cave until his disappearance at the end of the battle. We wish him well in whatever dungeon he is now chained and thank him for his rudimentary yet functional reports and pictures.

Our readers will recall that the dastardly Amir of Anarakistan, Wali Riffraffi, had once again failed to pay his subscription to the Gazette and compounded this heinous crime by forgetting to sing "God save the Queen" on her majesty's official birthday. This caused outrage at Calcutta's Luncheon, Bridge and Sherry club, where it was decided that a full-scale invasion would be a proportionate form of retaliation. 

Tasked with gathering the overdue subscription was the infamous Capt Cockanney (6+) of the Corps of Guides Cavalry; noted as a meek and cowardly man by the footman of the Sherry Club. This is the same Cockanney who refuses to charge in battle and has earned the nickname "snake eyes" at the club for his dastardly low rolling. He was joined by Capt Randy Rummage (6+) of the Guides Infantry, a noted weakling who can barely raise his sword-arm. Alongside them, the gallant 13th Punjabi Regulars were led by Lieut Knobsworth (6+) described by the Brigadier's daughter as an "Up and At Them" kind of man. Rounding things off, a detachment of Ghoorkas was commanded by that damned fine fellow and my bridge partner, Capt Clutterbuck (7+), with his memorable military moustache. Quickly dubbed the "Southern Punjab Light Infantry Fighting Force" (or "Spliffers" for short), this raiding force had been cheered out of the barracks and city on their way north. Rumours that everyone was happy to see the back of these underwhelming officers were both unkind and ultimately true.

Having invaded Anarakistan, it seems that the Spliffers had been caught on the hop by Riffraffi and a motley collection of Mullahs before they managed to collect the vital subscription. Short on ammunition and outnumbered, the Spliffers had no choice but to retreat in good order towards a small farmstead and hold out to the end of the day. This sounds similar to Scenario C in MWWBK but any resemblance is surely coincidental. 

Above - our Reuters correspondent makes a reasonable effort at sketching the opening deployment, although some of the trees are not exactly to scale and the hills are perhaps a more verdant shade of green than in reality. Also, the rocks seem to have little bases on them which surely cannot be worthwhile? Anyway, please excuse any inaccuracies as it is notoriously difficult to relay drawings by heliograph. 

Note the Spliffers were arranged around the centre of the battlefield and Riffraffi's surprisingly professional army are arriving in the far distance. We showed this sketch to Knobsworth who is lying in the Calcutta hospice whilst he recovers from wounds. The poor man has lost his senses after days without bridge or sherry. He snorted rudely and stated that Riffraffi's army was at least twice the size and that he surely did not deploy out in the open and centre of the field as the hordes advanced.

Despite his wounds, Lieut Knobsworth clearly recalls Riffraffi (5+) leading a large group of tribal cavalry onto the field of battle (top right). In our injured hero's words, "That man was so ugly I could recognise him at any scale and distance". The names and characteristics of the Empire's other dire foes will be revealed as the story unfolds. 

The next sketch shows how the initial phases may have panned out, with Clutterbuck's Ghoorkas digging in on top of a hill (mid-left), the Punjabi Regulars in the open in the centre, flanked by the Corps of Guides infantry who have skedaddled to a handy building. Cockanney's cavalry was just off the picture to the left of the Ghoorkas on the hill.

Knobsworth recalls, "There was a terrible hullabaloo top left, where Derek's Mullah Nuttah and his veteran, fierce, tribal Ghazis bounced about, slapping their heads and hurling crude insults at our Empire's finest." Unfortunately despite (or because of) Nuttah's "fine bushy beard" they activated on a terrible 9+ and spent much of the game rooted to the spot. "Once they did move," recalled Knobsworth thoughtfully, "they were pinned and then forced to retreat off the field." Mullah Nuttah later admitted, "my boys are really quite the shite."

A passing balloonist witnessed this fuzzy scene (above) which shows Mustafa Wazz (5+) and his red-coated sharpshooters (rated irregular) moving up to the infamous Shawadi Wadi, accompanied by Riffraffi's tribal cavalry. They can be seen to the right of the sketch. Stumped by this piece of scenery, they stopped to admire the view until the following turn. Meanwhile, the unmistakable noise of squeaking wheels and knees heralded the arrival of Guzzlah's regular artillery (6+) outside the walled house. Choices, choices ... would he fire at the Punjabi regulars in the open or the troops in the house?

After examining the battlefield, our Reuters correspondent concluded that there was some fierce skirmishing up to this point but nothing spectacular came of it. Of course, unbeknownst to the Anarakistanians the "British" forces were using up some of their limited ammunition.

Suddenly, the action swung around to our left flank. A straggler from the Corps of Guides cavalry describes the action (above). "We was rounding the hill, waving and cheering lustily to the Ghoorkas, when we was hit by a very excitable charge from Fayiktahn's red-tunic'd irregular cavalry in their funny beehive hats. As everyone knows, we was led by that coward Cockanney who would not move within charge range of the enemy. So being charged was pretty much the only way we could actually get stuck into combat, which was a stroke of luck." A confused melee seems to have ensued, with Fayiktahn's troopers eventually being thrown back in disarray and they subsequently routed after taking hits from the Ghoorkas and the Guides cavalry carbines. First blood to Spliffers but would they rest on their butt-ends?

Above two pictures ... Knobsworth vividly recalls the boom of Guzzlah's screw gun and the whine of shells as they arced over his company and exploded into the house. "This persuaded the Corps of Guides infantry into a tactical withdrawal from the aforementioned dwelling," explained Knobsworth grimly, "and left us rather rudely hanging in the breeze, so to speak, with Mustafa Wazz's redcoated sharpshooters moving along the Shawadi Wadi and closing in on our exposed flank - damn their eyes."

Knobsworth fainted at this point of the interview with the Gazette but from other accounts we can piece together the ensuing action. Knobsworth's Punjabis and Clutterbuck's proud Ghoorkas delivered telling shots on to several Afghan units and pinned them down (both units no doubt inspired by Clutterbuck's quivering moustache.) 

But slowly the Punjabis were whittled away by a combination of fire from Guzzlah's artillery and sharpshooting irregulars from the wadi (of Shawadi.) The coup de grace was delivered by Mullah Bushtuqqa's (7+) tribal jezails (whose longer range was amplified by the good fortune that Bushtuqqa was actually Riffraffi's favourite nephew and had chosen the sharpshooters upgrade for free - ed.)

The picture above attempts to depict the moment when the last brave Punjabi Regular fell. At this point, Knobsworth was muttering incoherently to us about his troops being wiped out and how he was forced to retreat to safety. How he survived the battle is a mystery, particularly given that he emerged back at barracks accompanied by a harem which he certainly did not have at the outset of the campaign. Turn to page 23 of next week's issue for that particular scandal and whether he has "gone native", dear reader.

We are fast heading towards the conclusion of this grim affair. Fire continued to be exchanged and Cockanney (6+) failed the first of 8 consecutive activation tests. Coward indeed ... but in fairness those dice had been cursed in a pre-game ritual by the dastardly Anarakistanis.

Above, we might just make out the ugly visage of Riffraffi leading his tribal cavalry on a swift flanking move. Note he is safely hidden behind a hill. The noble Rummage and the Guides infantry are embedded in a light copse (mid-left) which is also protected by the Wadi (of Shewadi). Riffraffi was heard to think about what to do next. 

At this point, Derek was receiving clear "advice" from Jack and John to charge into Rummage's company. The British also goaded him a bit - sledging, really. Derek expressed his deep concerns at the wisdom of such a move. But being outvoted, he threw caution to the wind, advanced to the wadi (of Shawadi) and the next picture says it all.

Ouch. 8 dead. And Riffraffi will be running away, then.

Undoubtedly the Anarakistan bards will sing long songs about the bravery of this charge, which in fairness did stop the Guides from shooting the red-tunic'd irregulars in the wadi (of Shewadi). In turn, this allowed those red tunics to fire into the Guides. Our Reuters correspondent captures the moment perfectly in the next two sketches. The sharp crack of well-aimed but outdated rifles was met with the muffled groan of Capt Rummage as he slumped to the floor, very much dead. The remaining Guides infantry would only activate on an 8+ which rendered them pretty ineffectual. Although they wisely decided to leg it back to the safety of the farmstead in a heroic last stand, they never quite made it. The tattered remains of this unit have not yet been located.

Oh, and just for completeness, top left = Derek's absolutely "pish-poor" (direct quotation) Ghazis wave goodbye as they rout off the table, having moved forward once in the whole battle.

And now, dear readers, the finale of this sorry episode. Whilst Cockanney studiously avoided moving by failing to roll 6+ on 2D6 yet again, the Ghoorkas clung gallantly to the top of the knoll. They pinned Mullah Pohtt's tribal infantry (6+ but cowardly - not exactly a helpful attribute for another close-combat unit) and sniped at both Arfanarz's Brown Trousered Irregulars (6+, Up and At Them) and Bushtuqqa's OP jezails. But there was to be no happy ending for the heroic Nepalese. The words, "Never give a sucker a chance" were heard to drift across the battlefield in broad Pathan. Yes, we are sad to report that the brave but headstrong Clutterbuck was cut down by a hail of bullets, defending his post and men to the last. He was heard to utter, "At least I'll be mentioned in the Gazette," with his last breath. We would whisper our sympathies to the Brigadier's daughter, but she must maintain a stiff upper lip. There are rumours that Clutterbuck will be recommended for a VC for his actions, according to his father at Horse Guards. Meanwhile we are left to weep at the untimely loss of a fine military moustache and excellent bridge partner, the likes we may not see again.

It seems that the end came swiftly after the fall of doughty young Clutterbuck. It saddens me to report that the final message relayed by our heliographing correspondent included the words, "Cockanney failed to activate again ... surrounded on all sides ... no bullets ... might be home for tea," as the Spliffers threw in the towel. No word has reached us about the whereabouts of the liability of a man that is named Cockanney, but there are garbled reports that he and his men remain motionless on the field of battle to this day.

And there we must leave it. We hope to have relayed some of the drama that unfolded around the wadi of Shewadi, where the free forces of Anarakistan delivered a bloody nose to the British Empire. Yet do not lose heart, for this was a noble sacrifice in the name of honour, capitalism and civilisation!

Now, on to more important business. The Polo match between the Gin Club and 13th Punjabi Regulars was abandoned as a scoreless draw owing to several tigers gaining access to the refreshment area and elephants being discovered in the ladies salon.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

2a - Osen

Campaign Scenario 2A - Osen

With the Soviets scoring the victory in the first encounter, we followed the scenario tree for the next encounter. Full details and forces can be found in Bashnya or Bust campaign book. In brief, this clash takes place around the small town of Osen. The Germans are holding out whilst their engineers set charges on the last remaining bridge (bottom left in the picture below), before withdrawing their remaining troops over the river and blowing the bridge to bits. They are outnumbered and face a swift Soviet attack that features plenty of T34s and SMG-armed tank-riders. They need to drive through and capture the bridge.

All figs and tanks by the ever-reliable (and recently relocated) Heroics and Ros. Buildings, roads, etc by Timecast.

Overviews of the battlefield before any blinds were dropped:

Opening phases:

The Soviet blinds chip made a couple of appearances and they began the engagement. In an unexpected move, the Germans deployed a single "dummy" blind which shot up and spotted the tank HQ and accompanying T34-85s with (invisible) tank riders.

 It's a trap! Or ambush. Or ambuscade. Whatever word you choose, the Soviets are now in a spot of bother. Two Hetzer tank-killers open up on the Soviets at extreme close range.
Predictably the T34s take a pounding but remarkably none explode! Nice dice rolling by the Don. "Fritz" Freddie tramped outside to burn his dice. 

Trying out a new system for tank damage - yellow dice for shock and red dice for number of actions remaining next turn (a common thing in IABSM).
Chits explain nature of damage. It's a bit messy, so maybe a return to pen and paper for those details?

Aha, found you! A second Soviet tank zvod (the much-maligned T34-76s) plus tank riders spot a blind in the town. This is auto-spotted at the end of the turn. A German rifle zug with attached PaK40 support replete with extra Big Man to command it (special German rule). 
At this point, it might have been a painful and quick end for the Russkis! 

The Tank Riders dismounted and, after a quick think and a spot of yodelling [why?], decide on the time-honoured charge into the face of the entrenched enemy. The thing is, it worked. Very much. 

Well, ok, one section fled after suffering extreme machine-gunning and mega-shock (mid-right) but the PaK40 was massacred. Can you massacre a gun? 
Cue question about Russians using captured German weaponry. 

Ouch! White dice were Russian (that's a lot of dead and shock). Black dice are German. That'll be a fistful of nothing, then. And just like that, the German centre started to evaporate.

The mid-game

More Russian blinds - a dummy followed by more tanks and riders.

After a lull we return to the original ambush, where the Hetzers brewed up / bailed the T34s this time. But they ran out of actions to attack the lone HQ tank. Would this be costly in the future? 
The tank riders got lucky and dismounted - they then scooted past the Hetzers and dug in on the far side of the wood. Over the next hour or so they crawled their way towards the bridge with grim determination ...

See that smoking house? It used to be intact and feature a section of German rifles plus NCO. The "useless" T34-76s got lucky with a double-6 with High Explosive. Boom! In the house directly above this, another High Explosive shell sees off another squad. 
Have we found out what the 76s should be doing? I think so ...

Meanwhile, Germans were racking up the demolition points whenever the Turn Card was drawn. 
Just 14 more to go ...

Nein! HQ tank gets a bit of revenge on the Hetzers who are now somewhat screwed (technical term).

Fritz got a bit nervous as his advanced guard disintegrated and he had no troops left on the table. Out plopped the blinds chit a couple of times and the Germans showed their hand. Mind you, the troops would be dug-in and had a few more surprises up their sleeves.

Pooofffph! Another High Explosive shell from the 76s gets the lucky "66" and a house collapses around another squad. Ouch. Yup, load the HE boys!

No, I'm not quite sure what happened below either. 
Russians a bit strung out but heading en-masse for the bridge and to hang with the casualties!
Germans seem to have deployed their Stug IVs in the wood (mid-left).

Ah yes, the end is nigh. The Russian blind got this close to the bridge (below) before the Stugs revealed themselves on a chip - the result was catastrophic for the last zvod of T34-85s. Once again the best Soviet tanks in the force go up in flames. The Soviet players began a dismal communist hymn to the fallen and prepare to throw in the towel.

The situation deteriorates for the Russians as their infantry is slaughtered in the open fields by a rifle gruppe and 2 MG teams activated by the CO Big Man (level 4 - powerful!)

SMG vzvod going, going, going, gone ...

Just a few more chips ... it seems to be drawing to a close. 
The Russians score some revenge on the centre rifle gruppe, rendering it useless.

Human Wave! Urrrraaaaaaahhh!
A run of unusual Soviet chips emerged, allowing the remaining infantry to scoot into position and charge the remained PaK40, German CO and associated MG teams in the rear/flank. Painful.

Heroic Leader! 
After a discussion, it seemed fair that the Russian CO (who finally arrived on the scene) could organise a last-ditch charge into the German rifle section that was guarding the bridge. 
It was swift and bloody.
Now the Soviets had control of the bridge!

The sideshow continued as the Soviet tank HQ zipped about and dispatched the final Hetzer.

Back at the bridge. One SMG vzvod was wiped out by the German rifles supported by Stug fire.
But the remaining SMG group plus Big Man dig in on the opposite bank.

German rifles come under fire from T34s and SMGs.

And that was where we decided to end it. Time was pressing on and the Germans were in a right old mess. Even the Stugs were being hit in the flank by now as they desperately tried to rescue the bridge. So, out of thin air, the Soviets pulled the win out of the bag!

German dispatches:
Urgh. It was all going rather well until the final few rounds. It was another great scenario which was evenly balanced despite the uneven forces. The Russian steamroller was hard to stop. The Hetzer ambush did a decent job but their chip stubbornly refused to re-emerge and so they could not pull back to help defend the bridge. The Stug ambush also worked a treat. I think the exploding houses probably swung it as that weakened my defence in the town and allowed the Russian infantry to get to the bridge. If I had it over again? Get the FOO onto the table sooner (attach him to a forward platoon before the battle); place at least one AT gun on the flank to make the Russians think about diverting to deal with it; I'd be tempted to deploy nearly everything near to the bridge, just to see how that panned out. My force was defeated in detail, really. That said, we were sitting pretty comfortably until that cinematic Uraaaahhh! turned the tide. You've got to love that. But with 2 losses now, the campaign is in danger of ending pretty quickly for the Germans. Next time? It's off to Zima. My Tiger Is make an appearance and we have some hard-hitting troops to play with.

Russian regimental history:
Kolbasa! This was an epic battle. The newspapers have no need to make up a story this time! Mind you, they might want to gloss over the inept T34-85 displays. Did any of them fire a shot? At all? After our surprising discovery that Russian scout cars can lay down some serious firepower in a previous battle, it was interesting to see what the much maligned T34-76s achieved. The fast steamroller (swiftroller?) tactics seemed to work well enough and we had enough hardware to waste a few tanks here and there. Tank riding worked well and they can hop off pretty effectively if they come under fire. I also loved how the COs on both sides intervened dramatically and decisively. Of course, bragging rights go to our boys for the charge that overwhelmed the German command stands. The next "Zima" scenario looks tough. We have swarms of infantry again and the ISIIs make a pleasant appearance but other than that the support is pretty thin ...

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Bashnya or Bust - the forces are ready

Bashnya or Bust - the forces are ready

My first foray into 6mm inspired by lardy IABSM Eastern Front c1944 - Bashnya or Bust. We played a Normandy game of IABSM before Christmas and I'm hooked. If I'm honest, I wasn't sure at first when 6mm models appeared on the table and the rules could do with a re-draft for clarity, but every game has been a cracker so far. It's a good change of pace to CoC or SP. I like this scale for IABSM (10mm also works very well) as it lends the game a good sense of a larger battlefield without needing a football pitch to play on. It's a cost-effective way of getting into another period too.

All the models are from Heroics and Ros. Great price, service and safe delivery so a big thumbs up from me. . I wasn't sure how these models would come out but in less than 6 weeks I seem to have two sizable forces! Just a few basecoats, washes and a drybrush highlight plus some transfers. The basing took almost as long as the painting. I decided to use some old Perry/Renedra plastic bases cut to size and these worked out well. I tried thicker bases but the tanks seemed to hover above ground.

I also enjoyed painting the scenery from Timecast (again, great products.) Their Eastern Europe range looks good and I like their bushes (not bocage!), walls, roads and rivers. I maybe would go up a size/width of river if I was doing it all again to "go large".

German forces - 30th Panzer and 30th Panzergrenadier.

Schwerer panzer zugs: Tiger Is and Tiger IIs. A recon Puma has photobombed the gathering. 
There are some extra 8-rads and another Tiger I on the painting table at the moment.


Assault guns - Hetzers, Stug IVs - supported by Wespe SP artillery at the back.

Wirbelwind AA guarding the Jagdpanthers (which have probably broken down.)

Ubiquitous Panzer IVs plus command tank on circular base.

Trucks. They tend to appear for 5 seconds in a game but hey, they're done.

Hanomags/Halftracks. Featuring command, mortar, 7.5cm cannon, Pak 36 and regular 251/1s.
No, I can't remember all the numbers (so I wrote them on the underside of the bases.)

Mobile HQ - on the left is the c-in-c.

Far too many Big Men! 1, 2, 3 figs per base to represent levels 1, 2 and 3. It seems to work ...

A bit of support - FOOs and Panzerschrecks

Rifle / Assault Rifle zugs

Close up just to prove that you can paint these little fellas.

The Russian Steamroller. 
Bykovski's Rifle Battalion, Dushkin's Tank Company and Shansky's Motor Rifle Company

SU-76 and SU-85s. An AA on truck has snuck into shot. 
A second AA truck is on the painting table.

Recon vzvods: M3A1 Scout Cars in a field and the underrated BA-64B Armoured Cars on the road. The star on the BA-64B is to designate the Big Man.

Little and Large. T-34/76s and IS IIs

T34/85s - I think a few more of these would be handy. 
The German tanks tend to out-gun the Russians ...

Sample infantry vzvod - Rifle and SMG as needed. There are two more full vzvods somewhere ...
Big Man levels indicated by the number of figs on a circular base. 
There's a selection of snipers, flamethrowers, ATRs etc on odd bases.
Bottom right is the c-in-c.

MMG vzvod - the Germans have an equivalent on the painting desk.

Nearly done?

Never? Just like, "Work will be better next year," the words "I've nearly finished a project" will be carved onto my tombstone. Tombstone? That reminds me, there's some Apaches ... no ...

On the painting desk:

- 5 German MMG teams
- Another Tiger I for scenario 5 where 4 are needed
- 5 Sdkfz 10s for pulling stuff around
- 2 Ie.IG 75
- 2 PaK 38
- 2 PaK 40
- 4 Sdkfz 231 8-rads
- 2 88s just because

- Another Russian AA truck
- 2 45mm ATG
- 2 76.2 Inf Guns
- 2 Zis-3 ATG