Saturday, October 12, 2013

Snap Shot: a Blast from the Past

Last week the boy asked if we could play a game.  "Sure," I said, "what do you want to play?"  He goes up to my room and brings down Snap Shot.  I tried to explain to him that it's a pretty complex game for a 7-year-old, but he would not be deterred.  So through the week we set up the characters and the animals (we played the introductory scenario, where the animals escape from their cages on the scout ship).  This morning, we finally had time to play it.  He decided he wanted to be the animals, so I was the four crewmen.  Since their starting positions are set by the scenario, there really wasn't a lot of choices to make, but I did make sure that the three crew with heavier weapons were in the forward part of the ship, while the guy who only had the snub pistol was in the drive room, since he was likely to either be attacked first, or get locked in the drive room when the iris valves were shut from the bridge. 

The boy didn't have a bad strategy and I was able to lock one animal in a stateroom, although they had full control of the Common Area.  One also got trapped in the Air/Raft Berth by the closing of the iris valves.  Once my crew had weapons, I opened the stateroom to work on taking out the beast in there only to realize that I was too close to effectively hit him with the weapon that I had.  Same thing happened when I opened the iris to the Common Area and started fighting the animals in there. 

A little later in the game, you can see the guy in the Drive Room and the beastie in the Air/Raft Berth are still whole, while there has been a lot of action in the corridor between the staterooms and into the Common Area.  The counters that are upside down show the unconscious animals and crew members.  I think, crewman C had escaped the corridor and closed the iris valve, unfortunately sacrificing one of the two crewmen in the corridor. 

In the end, I had one crewman dead, one unconscious, one wounded and one unwounded, while he had two animals dead outright and four unconscious, which I was able to finish off at my leisure.  It was a fun little game and the boy enjoyed it.  His first question after the game was, "Now can we play Traveller?"  I am afraid that will have to wait for another day, but I'm thinking of ways to cut it down to a 7- and 10-year-old's level so the kids will enjoy it and want to play it over time, growing with the game so to speak.  I'm sure he will keep bugging me about it until we do play it.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The National Electronics Museum

Yeah, I had never heard of it either.  I passed it several times before I realized it was a museum.  What clued me in were the military radar arrays and the American WWII-era 90mm AA gun sitting outside the building. 

And, of course, the small sign at the corner of West Nursery Rd. and Elm, near Elkridge Landing Rd., in Linthicum, MD saying, "The National Electronics Museum".  It sounded deadly dull, but I was intrigued by the outside displays so thought there might be something inside to see.  I had one hour after class to get through the museum.  It was only $3 to get in, which sent up warning flares - government agency owners, but actually it was apparently started by Westinghouse, and continues to be funded by them, among others. 

The initial exhibits in the museum are actually pretty interesting and allow the visitor to recreate the great experiments that led to important advances in our understanding of electricity and electronics, and which trace the history of the development of electronics up through wireless telegraphy, radio and television.  The GPS device from the '90s looks positively archaic compared to modern units and the first carphone was the size of a suitcase.  But it traces the development of military electronic technology side-by-side with the equivalent civilian technology, displaying things like the WWII SCR-300 and "Walkie-Talkie", up through radar arrays from the F-15 and F-16, and, in fact, the F-22 and F-35.

There was really too much there to detail, but some of the more interesting things were a trailer (unfortunately, they don't have all the components for a complete trailer) and radar aerial of the type that tracked the in-bound Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. 

A radar set from a P-61

A Wurzburg array

A camera from an SR-71

Debris from a Scud missile (note the reliance on vacuum tube technology)

A cross-section of an AWACS array

ECM, chaff, noise and deception, and other pods from modern aircraft

And the list goes on.  They really don't have any weapons - other than the 90mm AA - but the electronics are just as fascinating.  It really turned out to be an interesting museum after all.  It doesn't make up for the fact the U.S. Army Ordnance Museum moved from Aberdeen to Fort Lee, reducing the chance that I'll get to see it anytime soon, but it was a wholly unexpected opportunity to see another side in the development of military technology.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Man on a Mission

I was originally going to tack this post onto another one I have planned for later in the week (or month), but on reflection I decided to go ahead and make it its own post.  I'm out of town doing some Army training, and though staying in a very nice hotel with a small suite, I don't have any desire to cook my own meals so I've been going out to various restaurants.  I'm not one to turn down bar-b-que when I come across it, so when I ran into Mission BBQ, I had to give it a try. 

Now, you might think it strange that I'm reviewing a restaurant on a miniatures wargaming blog, but I'll explain that here.  Having never deployed in 12 years of service, I'm always a little embarrassed when I get the "thank you for your service" treatment.  I do appreciate it, but I just haven't done anything.  I was genuinely touched and appreciative, however, when I walked into Mission BBQ and got what they were about. 

First, let me talk about the food.  Since I'm not a local, I don't have the opportunity to eat there regularly (which I would do, if I was local), but being on an extended TDY, I've eaten there a couple of times so far (and plan to eat there a couple more times before I leave) and haven't had anything that wasn't absolutely top notch.  You order your meal from an a la carte menu which includes meat (either by itself or on a sandwich), sides and your drink.  Each meal comes with cornbread as well. 

So far, I've had the brisket and pork and both are delicious - perfectly smoked with a dry rub that, if anything, is slightly understated.  It is very tasty, without a lot of heat.  There is no sauce on the meat, which some bbq fanatics might consider heresy, but don't despair - there are six home-made sauces that you can try.  I like to separate the meat into bite-sized portions and sample the different sauces at my leisure. 

The sauces are modeled on the typical flavor in various bbq regions around the country - they have a Memphis, Texas, Smoky Mountain, Carolina, Mississippi and I know I'm missing one (and might have one wrong - erk!) and I think Mission scored big with their system. 

I've had the cole slaw, baked beans and fries as sides.  The cole slaw is pretty typical, but the beans are unusual.  They are not spicy or plain - rather, they have a pleasant sauce on them and chunks of brisket mixed in.  The fries were just about the best fries I've ever had outside of poutine, which is its own experience altogether. 

Now don't get me wrong, from what I've written you might think that I don't appreciate spice or heat.  I like both as my wife (who has learned to appreciate a little spice and heat since marrying me) and my kids (one of whom is wary of anything dad barbeques and one who is the true defender of his father's cooking) will attest, but I find that restaurants typically overdo both, if they even do either, but Mission has it down perfectly. 

The cornbread is just about perfect, too.  It is sweet and moist with bits of pineapple, I believe, without being too heavy.  In fact, it reminds me of the cornbread the my black cooks used to make when I was first in the Army.  Now, they knew how to cook despite the confines of the Army system!

Now, the real 'meat' (pun intended) for why I'm writing this.  Mission BBQ is a big supporter of the military and emergency services in this region.  Walking in the restaurant was a surprise - its covered in emergency services and military patches that have been given to the restaurant, along with photos and even some memorabilia and other militaria.  There's a sign on the door offering a free sandwich to emergency services personnel and they are big supporters of the Wounded Warrior Project, which becomes clear at the restaurant, but without being blaring or self-serving.  Their website, found here, gives a fine tribute to the people who serve us - both military and not. 

In fact, seeing it hearkened back to Campagno's, a sandwich shop just down the street from DLI, which had the best sandwiches and cake at reasonable prices, and both loved the military and was loved by it!  There wasn't an inch of that store that wasn't covered in something military related.

Currently Mission BBQ has three stores - two in the Baltimore area, another further south, and two building with another going up in MD and one in York, PA. 

As I said, being military and having previously been in law enforcement, I was touched by what they stand for, and I call on you, dear readers, to give Mission BBQ a try if you're in the Baltimore area or if you're just visiting for any reason.  You won't be disappointed and you'll be helping to support people who really care and who really 'get it'. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Day at the Museum

I'm doing some military training near Baltimore and my family came down for the long weekend since we're only about three hours away.  My wife and daughter had come down to DC (which is only about a half-hour drive from Baltimore, if you aren't familiar with the area) for my daughter's birthday a few weeks ago, but they didn't have time to do everything they wanted so had some unfinished business.  We spent an afternoon at the International Spy Museum.  It was interesting and they had some pretty cool stuff in it, including the US seal in which the Soviets had hidden a bugging device.  It hung in the ambassador's study for six years before it was discovered.  Actually, if you knew anything about the spy business of the '60s through the '80s or '90s, you already knew about many of the artifacts, or could read between some of the lines to understand what they weren't saying.  They also had a special display on James Bond, which was pretty cool, showing artifacts from a number of the Bond films, such as Jaws' teeth, Bond's Aston Martin and a lot of other things.  One neat thing was a film of former CIA agents telling their best "Bond Moments". 

While there were some cool things at the Spy museum, it was the next day that really made the weekend for Lynn and I, if not for the kids.  Unfortunately, because we had not really planned to do two of the three things we ended up doing, I didn't have my camera with me, and neither did my wife.  Only my daughter had thought to bring hers and her memory card was almost full because of some video she had taken at the school field trip last spring.  In fact, Lynn didn't even get the idea to snap a couple of pics with her phone until we were pretty much done with the personal tour that follows.  She got a couple of random pics, and both she and Julia got some nice photos at Arlington.

My family and I found ourselves in Annapolis with some extra time on our hands.  It had been a long-time goal of mine to pay my respect at the tomb of Revolutionary War naval hero John Paul Jones in the crypt of the chapel at the United States Naval Academy, and being so close I couldn't pass up the opportunity.  We pulled up to the museum and it being my nature to never pass up a museum (especially a free one) without a browse inside (regardless of how quick), we went in. 

My daughter pre-decided that she would be exceptionally bored here (as she is by EVERY museum that daddy drags her into!) and having no interest in listening to dad explain any of the absolutely awesome things we were looking at in the display cases, she zipped on ahead and breezed through with just a glance at the items in the cases.  A couple of times, she came back to me and said, "Daddy, I found something neat!  Look at this!"  I think she actually did find the items more interesting when she let me explain a little about them to her - like happened when I told her the story of the USS Maine - but she wasn't going to admit that to me.  At one point, we were sitting on the floor in front of a case talking about what we were looking at, and a museum employee came by and commented on our discussion.  We chatted for a bit and I thought he'd move on, but he stuck with us as we looked at a couple more cases and talked about what was in them.  I mentioned to him that Julia was determined to be bored and after a minute he asked if my family and I would like to visit The Attic, where they store all of the items that are not on display.  I don't know whether he recognized my knowledge of and love for naval history, or just thought he'd be doing Julia a favor in making the experience more interesting, but I was stunned, to say the least, and of course I said yes.  Julia was still dubious about it, not understanding the rare opportunity and treat she was in for.

We followed him out of the elevator into a large room that looked like it was under construction.  He stopped at a large crate, opened the top, and pulled a flag out of it, which he unfolded and held up for us.  It was a 13-star flag from the Civil War, which had flown from one of the ships at the Battle of Mobile Bay.  And we were *that* close to it, even able to touch it.  It had protective stitching to preserve it all over it, but it was still quite beautiful.  EDIT: While reading my blog post, my wife reminded me that he mentioned this particular flag was made by the same woman who made the Star Spangled Banner.  END EDIT.  We then went through a set of doors where he stopped to flip on a whole bank of lights.  A quick glance around didn't reveal anything too amazing, but as we began walking and he started pointing things out or holding them up for us, the amazing was revealed. 

Even as I write this the next day, I can't remember all of the cool things we got to see and hold.  Model ships from all over the world and all periods of history were everywhere, trays of medals (foreign and domestic), cabinets of uniforms (including a full-length, fur-lined, leather jacket worn by a naval officer on Arctic duty during WWII), drawers of recruiting and propaganda posters through history - there is so much to recall, I can't think of all of it.  There were some items from Perry's visit to Japan.  A wall full of paintings by N.C. Wyeth depicting various events in the American Revolution.  One of the most unique items was a smoking set presented to the Academy by the Royal Thai Navy made out of a tiger skull.  He showed us several stand-up cabinets full of 1/700 model ships - they have the entire US and Japanese fleets of WWII in that scale - and another couple of cabinets of 1/1200 and 1/2400 models.  He seemed interested when I mentioned to Adam that 1/700 was a great scale for gaming, and was impressed that I have several hundred ships in 1/6000 and another hundred or so in 1/1250 for coastals. 

One of the things that my daughter really, really loved were the knick-knacks made for Admiral Hyman Rickover out of spent nuclear reactor fuel rods, including a desk-top pen and pencil holder.  (If you don't get the connection between Rickover and nuclear energy, you need to do some reading!)  She loved the color and random crystallization of the metal.  They were very pretty in an industrial sort of way.

One of the highlights for my wife and I was when he opened a cabinet of documents and pulled out a random document.  Opening it and laying it on the table, it was an order from the Continental Congress releasing the captain of the ship Ranger from duty (basically for being a jerk) and replacing him with a fellow by the name of John Paul Jones.  It was signed by some guy named John Hancock, who was President of the Continental Congress.  EDIT: Again, my better half reminded me that the important part of the document was that it described what the new flag (i.e., the national flag) was to look like.  You can see where my brain is, forgetting that part of the document.  END EDIT.  When he pulled this out of the cabinet, he did not know that I had done a lot of research during my Master's work on various Revolutionary War naval issues, or that had I continued with my Ph.D., my research would have focused on John Hancock.  To touch a document bearing his signature and dealing with naval matters was almost more than my heart could bear.  And I didn't need my spectacles to read his signature.

He pulled out a couple of other random documents, one an order from an admiral to a couple of gun-boats during the Civil War, but none held a candle to the Hancock signature. 

Another of the highlights for me was when he opened the weapons vault.  He began pulling weapons off the racks and handing them to me or the kids.  We were able to hold and inspect Chief Red Stick's carbine, presented to him by the Prince of Wales and captured from him by a Marine (if I remember correctly - could have been naval) officer serving under Andrew Jackson, Sharp's and Spencer's carbines, flintlock muskets, a German 1898 Mauser (no, not the K.98 of World War fame, a full-length 1898), and a whole range of WWII weapons including an M1, a Thompson, an MP 40, an Austen, a PPSh, and I don't remember what all else.  He pulled the Holy Grail of WWII machineguns - an MG 34 - out of a rack and "handed" it to my 7-year-old boy.  As he slowly released the weight, Adam's arms sunk lower and lower until he couldn't hold it.  He then handed it to me.  It was a beast - weighing in at nearly 27 pounds - but what a beauty at the same time. 

We held weapons from the 1600s through Vietnam (he gave my son an RPG launcher to hold, and a home-made Vietnamese zip gun), including a shipboard wall gun, a Japanese Tanegashima, and others.  We were *that* close to and could touch a Japanese heavy machinegun from World War II, a WWI British Vickers off a US Jenny, a German Parabellum with the water cooling shroud installed, and the twin MG from the rear gunner of a Japanese light bomber.  He opened drawers and handed us pistols ranging from a Navy Colt, a Spanish pin gun, various pepperboxes and boot guns to a Webley, a broomhandle Mauser, a Walther PPK, and a whole slew of others.  It was awesome to say the least.  Probably close to half of our time in the museum was spent in the vault.

On the way back out, he stopped and opened a cabinet drawer and began pulling out prints from the 1600s depicting contemporary naval battles that were so pristine they looked like they could have been printed yesterday. 

My 45-minute foray into the USNA museum turned into a 2-hour-plus marathon.  My daughter decided that it was pretty cool after all, though both of the kids were ready to go after that.  John Paul Jones' tomb was almost a denoument after all that, but it was still an incredible sight for me, having taken so long to get there.  (Being in the Army National Guard, you might not get my love for the Navy.  My father had been a Marine in WWII and was in the Navy during the Korean War.  I had considered applying for the Naval Academy when I was in high school and had twice taken various exams to go into the Navy as a Nuke.  I chose not to for stupid reasons and often still wish I had gone active duty in the Navy when I was young.) 

Following that, we went to see the Lincoln Memorial in DC, another bit of leftover business from Julia's visit the previous month.  We were all hot and tired and cranky at that point, but again, we were so close, I couldn't resist crossing the bridge to Arlington.  I knew the kids just wanted to get back to the hotel, but Lynn and I kept cryptically talking about a visit to Arlington, and it was driving Julia nuts because she didn't know what was there.  I told her I wouldn't explain it to her until we were in the car on the way over.  She said that was fine as long as it didn't have anything to do with the Civil War, World War I or World War II.  Little did she know...

When I explained what Arlington was to her, she actually thought it sounded pretty interesting and was excited to go see it.  When we got there, I didn't realize we were going to have to walk so far to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as everyone was already hot and tired, but everyone soldiered on, so to speak.  As we walked, though, I was talking with my daughter, and since she had pointed out John F. Kennedy in the USNA museum, I mentioned that he was buried at Arlington and gave her the choice of going to see his grave as well or just going to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  She decided to go see his grave as well, which I was proud of her for.  After that, we just happened to get to the Tomb of the Unknowns a few minutes before the Changing of the Guard so we got to watch that too.  Lynn and Julia were both enthralled by it.  It turned out to be an extra bonus and something that Julia will remember for a long time.  I don't think Adam really understood the impact of row after row of tombstones, mostly of people who had served their country - many who had died while serving it - but Julia and I talked about it and I think she had at least an inkling of what it means.  One of the things I hope to develop in them is a strong respect for those who have served or are serving our country, and for those who gave their lives serving us. 

The kids are still at an age where they don't really realize what an amazing day they had yesterday.  The things they got to see up close - and handle if they wanted to - at the museum are things people don't even ordinarily get to see.  I mean, to hold a one-of-a-kind artifact like Red Stick's carbine or to be *that* close to a document signed by John Hancock without a sheet of fracture-proof plexiglass between you and it is just out of this world.  I think Julia is starting to get it at 10, but Adam is still a world away at 7.  He thought it was cool, but in a different way than Julia.  He got to hold real guns - couldn't care less the history behind them, he just got to hold them.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

More Family Time

So, as you know, I've been a couple of weeks late in reporting my gaming.  Something that I have finally been able to remedy this week.  First of all, here is the reason that I was unable to report at least one of the games earlier:

This is me (in the BCGs) and two of my guys on top of the 'hill' that took us two and a half hours to climb.  This was when we were about to descend it after a 28-hour mission (that unbeknownst to us was about to turn into a 36-hour mission and which followed a 24-hour mission with a 2 hour 'break' in between) - thus the joyful looks on our faces. 

I do have to admit that we at least had some nice scenery to enjoy while feeling like a rewarmed pile of miserable doggie doo-doo. 

And the week did start with a 20-minute 'insertion' by Black Hawk. 

Funnily enough, I was not told we were being 'inserted' prior to the flight so it came as something of a surprise when I was told to determine my location and call in the 8-digit grid for a pickup.  Instead we just told them we were at the village and ready to be picked up, but then got lucky when a passing motorist on a different mission gave us a ride back to base. 

The week after that, I traveled across the country to attend a class then returned home.  The class was held on a joint Army-Air Guard post and I never bothered to venture onto the Air side of it, but passing the Air side on the outside, there is a B-29 sitting near the gate.  Next time I'm there, I'll have to take a pic to add to my collection.  So that was part of my big adventure and why I was unable to post at least of my game reports on time.  But enough of that.  The real reason I was posting here today was to tell about some more family gaming. 

The day after I got back (late Friday night - so on Saturday), my 6-year-old wanted to play a game.  When I asked him what he wanted to play, he said, "Robo Rally!"  Really?  We had tried playing it once before and decided it was beyond both the 6- and the 9-year-old (perhaps a year or so younger at the time), but my wife and I both love it.  Well, I thought, we'll see how long this goes on.  I pulled out the game and set up a simple 3-point race covering  two boards.  I also modified it so that instead of laying out all five segments (a difficult concept for a 6-year-old brain to keep track of) I let him play his cards one at a time, based on the results of his previous move.  The result?  The little bugger almost beat me!  I got to the final flag one segment ahead of him!  He was then enamored with the game and spent the next two days laying out impossibly difficult courses.  We tried to actually play one of them and several hours later we still weren't done.  He eventually put the game away on his own initiative admitting that he needed the table space for a game of Milton Bradley's The Lost World: Jurassic Park with the daytime kid-sitter. 

So, as pleasant as that turned out, even more heart-warming was my 9-year-old daughter asking me that same evening if she could go to game night with me.  You see, she had had a sleepover spa party with several of her friends the night I got home (it was actually for her birthday, which isn't until August, but one of her bestest friends is moving tomorrow and she wanted to make sure the girl was included) and was so wiped out, she spent most of Saturday afternoon asleep.  When bedtime rolled around she was wide awake.  I recognized this dilemma and consented to taking her to game night with me. 

At game night, there were only five of us, including her, and we ended up playing Risk - one of two choices that were decided upon prior to us arriving.  This was her first experience playing Risk.  She had decided a few weeks previously that she didn't want to play it with her brother and me.  She ended up doing all right and holding her own for most of the game.  Unfortunately, she was strongest in North America (which wouldn't have been a bad choice for a base) and Asia (which, as everyone knows, is almost impossible to hold early in the game).  She tried to reinforce everything evenly across the board and ended up thrown out of North America (by a sixty-something-year-old man who found it appropriate to taunt a 9-year-old girl when he beat her by the luck of the dice).  She and I were peaceably cohabitating in Asia for the moment so I built up my forces and quietly trashed North America via Alaska.  The boob sat there dumbfounded as his superiority failed him and he lost all but one possession.  Doug, bless his soul, knocked out the last possession in his turn immediately following mine. 

Anyway, we ended up calling the game a few turns later as we were playing on the porch and she was both chilly and finally feeling the effects of tiredness.  Looking at the board, we proclaimed Perry victor (his base was Africa and he had just taken South America from Doug, had a solid presence in Europe and was holding firm to the Middle East; while I held Australia and roughly half of Asia, Doug having thrown me out of North America in turn).  Fortunately she enjoyed the game time with daddy and his friends (the second or third time she's played with us). 

So, the point is two new gaming experiences resulted in positive results for the kids and a lot of fun.  It won't be long before they are both gaming more hard-core games.  Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of either of the games described above, but I assure you they were as described.  I don't know when I'll have another battle report - I'm training for a new job and they're working me nearly 60 hours a week for the next couple of weeks and at the same time, I'm supposed to start some extensive on-line military training.  At any rate, Happy Gaming and I'll see you around the table.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The HMPS in Norway

Had a small battle with an unusual force three or four weeks ago.  Here's the set-up:

Two HMPS trawlers (His Majesty's Patrol Service - made up of fishing trawlers converted for M/S and A/S work) are anchored on opposite sides of a narrow inlet in a fjord, when they are surprised by a Ju-52 fly across the inlet - almost directly on the line between the two trawlers.  In the few seconds they have, they open fire with their Lewis guns and are quite surprised to see the Ju-52 begin to smoke as it clears the second mountain range and disappears from sight.  They think nothing more of this, aside from gloating that it was their fire that hit the plane, but a short time later, a Norwegian fishing trawler sails up, hails the boats and announces that they saw a German transport crash and asks if the Brits would you like to investigate the wreckage.  The HMPS sends six armed men (five with rifles and one with a Lewis gun) from each trawler, all under the command of a lieutenant, on the Norwegian boat and it takes them to the site of the crash (on an island in the fjord), where they hope to capture the pilots, if they survived.  It chugs up to the shoreline near the plane, which, aside from having skidded some distance on its belly, appears to be amazingly intact. 

As they begin to disembark, all seems eerily quiet around the plane and they are disappointed, believing that the pilots must have died in the crash.  (This was a real event - described as closely as I can recall it.)

As the HMPS men get halfway up the beach, they see German heads disappearing from sight over the crest above them and begin firing. 

The Germans return fire with gusto and the British sailors, stalwart though they are, find themselves stonewalled, and eventually, they begin to get Out of the Fight results at an alarming rate as the firepower of the MG34 begins to tell.

As it is the British are outnumbered 3 to 2, but since the Germans completely misread the situation and set up two-thirds of their force on the plateau above, and only one-third on the crest, it looked like the sailors might have a chance.  Unfortunately, in the end, the British are almost wiped out to a man advancing towards the crest and trying to take down the German half-squad that they can see, while the Germans only lose most of the men on the crest.  The Germans had two more half-squads, plus the three aircrew (one of whom was wounded) from the Ju.

That's pretty much what happened in the real battle as well.  All of the sailors were captured or killed, except for two who jumped back onto the Norwegian trawler as it pulled away from the shore just after the fighting started.

In the pictures above, you might notice a couple of Germans in light brown coveralls - those are Peter Pig German aircrew.  The British Lieutenant, highlighted in the picture below the trawler, is a repurposed Peter Pig U-Boat officer.  The HMPS sailors are Eureka Early War US Marines.  I cut the American canteens off their heinies, but otherwise painted them up as is and they worked wonderfully as sailors in civilian clothes (the 'uniform' of the HMPS) and enough kit to get themselves in trouble with.  The Tante Ju is from Armaments in Miniature and the trawler is an HO scale resin model. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Meanwhile, in the Channel...

So it's been a while since I've posted despite having two games in quick succession a month or so ago.  I'll post the first game here and the second game in a separate post.  Unfortunately at this point, I don't remember much of what happened in the first game except that everyone enjoyed it.  It was our second coastal game, but our first using Action Stations (for the first game, a few years ago, we used The Quick and the Dead).

We had a small German convoy, escorted by four R-boats, attempting to transit an area when they were accosted by a British patrol of two MGBs and two MTBs (below). 

The British came in from the German port quarter and in the initial exchanges of fire, a couple of the R-boats were damaged and forced to slow. 

This played havoc with maneuvering and timing, and resulted in the starboard R-boats not even really getting into the action aside from long range shots.  In the shot below, the good order R-boat is trying to pass the damaged one on the starboard, but can't get around it in time to affect the British attack.
In the end, the MTBs fired torpedoes at the freighters, which either missed or ran deep.  The port-side R-boats were in the thick of things from the beginning and both were heavily damaged in running fights with the British boats.  Here, two MTBs are closed by an R-boat, while an MGB turns away. 
I'm not sure we really decided a victor for this one, but I'd give it a marginal British victory.  They did more damage to the R-boats than they received, but the coasters - the real target of the attack - received no damage whatsoever.
We'll probably play some more coastal games in the near future.  It was quick and fun - it was actually the second game we played that evening.  Not to mention that I want to learn these rules well enough so that I can use them at conventions.  I have a pretty extensive collection of ships and can put together a convoy of fifteen or so freighters and trawlers, plus escorts, so the variety and replayability are pretty high. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Claim Jumpers

A couple of weeks ago we had another Old West shootout.  Usually we use Desperado, but this time we tried Six Gun Sound since we used NUTS! a few weeks ago for the battle for the Hornet and I use ATZ for zombie gaming.  Seemed to work fine - all we did was sit there and shoot at each other 'til one side was dead. 

Perry took this very nice picture of my Dixon wagon
(used with his permission). 
Basically, two miners were hanging around outside the mine, waiting for the wagon to return from town with supplies when three claim jumpers rode up and tried to finish them off. 
One of the claim jumpers stopped on a hillock in front of the mine (above) to try to hold the miners down while the other two rode up each side to outflank them.  Here's one of them taking cover behind some scrub (below).

If we had thought it out and done some prior planning, we (I was a claim jumper with Perry, while Doug and John were miners) might have at least been able to run off the miners pack mule, if not gotten control of the wagon and headed it off, also.  


In the end, if I recall correctly, one of the miners ran away and one was wounded, while one or two of the claim jumpers ran away and one died.  The miners saved their claim and went back to digging gold, while the surviving claim jumpers had to find their way back out of the hills without their horses.

Below is an overall pic of the table, also courtesy of Perry.  This is actually the third or fourth game we played on this particular table set-up, including a 28mm Sci Fi game and at least one other.  The mine entrance is at the top of the picture, behind the wagon, fire and mule.  You can see one claim jumper on the hillock in the center, one behind the bush to the left of the mine entrance and one partly behind the hill the mine is in, along with one of the miners.

We couldn't play tonight, but I'll be running another WWII game next week using NUTS! so stand-by for more action.  Next week's game will be Brits vs. Germans in Norway...with a twist!  In the meantime, though, happy gaming!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A New Generation Meets an Old Game

I frequently peruse the local Goodwill stores.  You wouldn't believe some of the books I've come across in them and at .50 to $1.50 or so per, it's a good deal for me.  I'm a book junkie and have actually read most of the hundreds of books that I own.  I never stopped to count, but I would guess in my life I've owned well over a thousand books, but have paired the collection down to pretty much just military history and the stuff I was studying in grad school.  My wife says I should get rid of them once I've read them, but I frequently go back to books looking for scenario ideas, details of battles or things of technical interest mentioned in them so I hang on to them.  But I digress.

On my last few trips, I noticed a Stratego game in good condition on the shelf, but passed it up despite fond memories of playing it against my older brothers as a kid.  I finally decided to go ahead and get it, and fortunately it turned out to be complete.  When I got home, I just left it on the piano bench in plain sight.  The kids saw it sitting there but didn't show much interest in it for a day or two until my 6-year-old asked me about it.  I took it out, explained the pieces to him and we set up and played.  I have to admit I slaughtered him, which wasn't too difficult, but each game got a little better and a little more difficult as I explained different strategies to him and he started to put them into play.  This was the final location of all the remaining pieces on our third game.  The little bugger almost got me!

I was blue; he was red.  As you can see, it wouldn't have taken much for him to win.  You can also see, he didn't quite get the idea of 'surrounding your flag with bombs'.  After seeing us play, his 9-year-old sister decided she wanted to play too, so they set up a game and played three straight with him winning each one.  A day or two later he won another one, but she beat him in the fifth game using his own strategy.  She complained loudly that he was putting his best pieces in the front line and killing her with them, because she put her weak ones in front.  I explained to her that rather than trying to make him change how he was playing to suit her, she needed to adapt her set-up and play to challenge him.  Obviously she put that advice to work for her. 

I guess some people would question my parenting, slaughtering my kids in games like that, but when I was a kid we were taught to play the game, then you played it to the best of your ability win or lose.  My parents never threw a game for our benefit and we had to fight long and hard to start to win games, which also carried over to playing against my brothers, seven and nine years older than me.  You learned to be a modest winner and not to be a sore loser.  I played my father in chess for five years before I finally beat him at age 12.  It was another two or three years before I could beat him fairly regularly, but no game meant as much to me as that one when I finally won.  I don't remember the placement of the pieces on the board, or the winning move, but I remember how good I felt. 

On the other hand, my daughter loves Settlers.  As a family, we have been playing it for a couple of years now and she has won a few games against the rest of us in it.  I think she even beat one of the guys in my game group when he came over to play with us one evening.  That is a source of pride for her.  The little guy regularly gets to 5 or 6 points by the end of the game and typically all he does is build a road in a circle around a tile with two or three settlements on it, then spends all his resources buying pick-a-cards.  He regularly has to or three victory points from that, and sometimes gets the Largest Army card out of it.

I'm getting ready to start teaching the girl some actual war games.  She played a game of Check Your 6! Jet Age with our game group, but it was her first game and she didn't really understand it.  I'm going to start her on the Blue Sky series (actually a World War I on-line variant of Blue Sky, then move on to Blue Sky WWII proper because the WWI planes are slower - I think that might help her learn to judge maneuvers against another moving plane) and work her up to CY6! and then JA.  Although the movement charts are right there in front of you in CY6!, I think it's a little more difficult to maneuver than in Blue Sky and the other rules aren't as intuitive unless you're a little more experienced and familiar with the game.  I also want to teach her Action Stations (mainly because I'm itching to do battle with my 1/1250 Figurehead ships and CAP Aero planes that I've worked so hard to paint). 

I have another post I'll put up later this week on the Old West game we played Saturday night.  Until then, happy gaming!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Hornisse in their Midst

A couple of weeks ago we played our first all out NUTS! game, based on a real situation that took place in Russia around 1943.  Three Hornets were helping defend a small village against Russian counterattacks.  If I remember correctly, the village had changed hands a couple of times and they had been fighting over it for a few days.  At the point where the Russians were finally going to overwhelm the German defenders, two of the Hornets pulled back, the third having been disabled.  They had knocked out several T-34s amongst the attackers.  Concerned that the Russians might be able to fix the Hornet, or have another one that they could use to cobble together one functional vehicle, the crew volunteered to sneak back into the village that night with satchel charges and completely put the Hornet out of action.  With a covering force of a squad of grenadiers, they snuck in and blew up the Hornet, while the covering force had been discovered and got involved in a firefight with the Russians. 

The village included half a dozen buildings and two knocked out T-34s. 

The Russians only knew to expect a counterattack so set up in a 360 defense around the village.  Just by chance, they set up a full squad in the yard where the German objective was located.

The Russian HMG was located in the back of a smashed church on the opposite side of the village.  It ended up not playing a role as the Russians didn't know what to expect and kept it in place even after the attack started expecting an additional attack from another direction.

Half of a Russian squad set up in a demolished building.

The Russians in the other half of the demolished building.

The Germans made a direct assault with one MG section and the Hornet crew against the wall. Most of the game was trading shots back and forth across the wall (see below).  They shot at each other without hitting anything for a long time.  Then the Russians got the idea to prep grenades.  The Germans beat them to it and one grenade cleared the wall. 

 That solved most of the Germans problem.  The Russian in the Hornet pulled a grenade but was shot before he could throw it, dropped it in his death throes and rolled a 2, destroying the Hornet in the resulting detonation of the vehicles ammo.  Game over.  Since the Germans then retreated, both sides accomlished victory conditions of sorts.  It was a fun game and we'll definitely be doing NUTS! again. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Painting, Part I

I finished up the truck and 20mm AA guns.  This will be pretty easy since Perry wants them in early war gray.  First, I prime them with whatever's handy.  I used to mostly use Testor's gray primer, but it's hard to cover with some colors.  I can't tell you how many coats of white I had to put on to cover my AWI figures.  Flesh tends to be a problem with the gray primer as well.  I was out of Krylon flat black, which I also use to some extent, especially with aircraft and microarmor, but I had some Rustoleum brown so I used that.

Then I gave everything a good solid basecoat of Vallejo German Grey.

Even so, I find as I paint along that I often have to touch up spots I missed with the base color as I go.  After the base coat, I add some white to the German Grey and drybrush the equipment to lighten up the color and highlight the details on the model.  Couldn't get a good picture of this so we'll just move on.  I think you can see it to some extent in the last picture.

Since Perry likes the 'lived in' look that I give my vehicles, I dabbed some Vallejo Green Ochre in the wheel wells to look like dried, caked on mud.

I then painted the tires on the truck and the AA gun trailers Vallejo Black Grey, and the guns themselves Gunmetal Grey.


I then dabbed some Green Ochre on the wheels and chassis to simulate splatter.

Finally, I picked out the details on the truck, such as the seats, the driver, the tarps, Jerry can, and other stowage in various appropriate colors.  When finished, I sprayed them with a matte fixative.  I think I used Grumbacher Matte for artists, which seems to work pretty well.  I've used Krylon's clear matte and Testor's also.  The Testor's tends to be a little finicky.  I haven't had too much trouble, but I did have a batch of ACW I was painting for on commission turn white on me and I pretty much had to start over.  That was frustrating as all get out.

Next, I'll finish up the Sdkfz. 7/1 in the same way.  Perry and I tentatively talked about crews for the AA guns, as well, so I might have a Painting, Part III, showing how I do the figures. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Models built...

Yesterday I started a small commission job for a friend of mine.  I had really envisioned the blog as just a place to put games played or items of interest, and I've been tempted to put up pics of minis I've painted, but just focused on the games.  But he asked if I could do a step-by-step of the models I'm doing for him so he could get an idea of how I do it since he has a pile of miniatures, but is pretty much a beginner when it comes to assembling and painting.  I'm going to do this as a two part series so we'll start with cleaning and assembling in this post, then do the painting in the next post.

He brought me a Krupp 4 x 2 Boxer, a package of 3 Flak 30 20mm AA guns, and an Sdkfz 7/1 - that's the real flashy one with the fold down sides and the quad 20 on the back (the Flak 38).  These were all by Quality Castings/Battle Honors sold by Old Glory 15s.  The Krupp and the 7/1 went together surprisingly easy (still working on the quad 20 for the 7/1).  The Flak 30s took me a little bit of time because there were no instructions (such as Old Glory 15s instructions are) and I had to study some on-line photos to make sure I had a handle on how to assemble them.  There were three Flak in the box and we decided to do one in travel position and two in firing position. 

First, we need a work area.  My work area is the last foot or so of the dining room table.  My computer and job search stuff occupies the adjacent one foot edge so it's handy for when I get frustrated and need a break. 

Second, we need our tools.  I have a couple of sets of hobby files, though the best ones I've found are the Xacto set.  I just can't afford it at the moment.  I also have a flush nipper, three different pairs of tweezers, single edged razor blades, a craft knife, superglue of one brand or another, toothpicks and miscellaneous other items. 

With this, we can get a start on cleaning and assembling the models.  First thing I do is use an appropriate file to clean flash and molding lines off the models as much as I can.  Sometimes you really have to look and poke and prod, because some of the stuff that needs to come off can look like it belongs there - until you start to paint it and you suddenly realize that you should have filed this or that bit off - and some of it can look like it should come off when it doesn't.  I always like to check out photos of the real thing so I have an idea of what belongs on the model and what doesn't.  I also try to fit the pieces together to see how well they go together and to see if I know where they go as well.

EDIT:  From a comment left for me on TMP, I should add here that after cleaning up the parts, you should check the fit of the parts to make sure they go together properly.  Sometimes you have to file a piece down a bit to fit properly.  Thanks for the suggestion, Marcus!

Here are the truck and AA guns cleaned and ready for assembly. 

I put the wheels on the undercarriage first (as can be seen above).  Turned out to be a mistake as the one wheel was too far to the inside for the cab to fit over it.  I actually had to break the wheel off (Shhhhh!  Don't tell Perry!) then glue it back on once the cab was in place.  The gun barrels went on the frames pretty easily.  One I glued all the way down for the travel position, the others, I tried to point skywards at various elevations within the limitations of the molding.  They don't look too bad and you get the idea that they are shooting upwards.

I didn't glue the guns down to the ground mount for the two in firing position, but I did glue down the one that goes on the trailer, but first I glued the ground mount to the trailer because it actually goes under the trailer.  After the glue dried, then I glued the mechanism to the ground mount.  With that the AA guns are actually done since on two of them there was only one thing to glue.

The cab and truck back went on pretty easily. They just glue down to the chassis. There is a slot in them that fits the chassis fairly well. 

After the cab and back were secure, I glued in the driver and the windshield and the Krupp was done.

Next we assemble the 7/1.  First thing is to clean the pieces. 

Then we assemble the halftrack body and the the gun platform. 

Once the two separate pieces are dried, I glued the platform to the back of the halftrack. 

Finally we add the details to the halftrack and assemble the gun.

Glue the two gun halves around the center console.  I keep trying to glue this so that the guns can elevate, but so far, I've been too heavy handed with the glue and always glue the guns to the console.

Then we glue the gun assembly to the floor plate.

Next, we add the gun shields and the ammo handlers' seats.

Voila!  We're done with assembly.  Next time we'll work on painting the models.