Wednesday 27 June 2012

Do not be put off by the cover art!

During a short trip to the local branch of Tesco's this morning I happened to see a DVD on the shelf which interested me ... so I bought it.

The DVD was entitled AMONGST HEROES and the cover art seemed to depict a soldier dressed in a British World War II uniform (but with a German gas mask case!) being over flown by a number of Supermarine Spitfires. Even more confusing, the back of the cover had a picture of a modern Russian tank and some World War II Germans.

Reading the cast list and the names of the production staff, it became obvious that the film was probably made in Russia or the Ukraine.

As it was priced at less than £6.00 I bought it ... and watched it this afternoon ... and must admit that it was better than I expected ... but also not what I expected.

Let me explain.

The film starts in modern-day Russia with a group of Russian battle re-enactors going of to a battle site in the Ukraine to take part in a re-enactment. There is tension between the Russians and the Ukrainians, and this culminates in a fight between two Russians and two Ukrainians. During the re-enactment on the following day these four are caught in an explosion ... that throws them back to 1944 when the real battle was taking place. The rest of the film then deals with their attempts to survive the real battle and return to their own time.

One thing that was not obvious whilst I was watching the film was why one of the Russians (who is a professor of military history) seems to be recognised by some of the people in 1944, but subsequent research provided the answer ... this is the second film that involves this particular character travelling back in time to the Second World War!

What I actually bought was not an ordinary war film ... it is a film about historical time travel to a recent time of war. The latter goes some way to explaining why one of the comments on the front of the cover was written by Kim Newman, a well-known journalist, film critic, and fiction writer who specialises in horror and alternative history.

My opinion of the film ... well I enjoyed it because I like war films and science fiction/time travel stories. Some of the action was very entertaining to watch and the film makers had tried to make things reasonably authentic to look at ... unlike the artist who produced the DVD cover art!

There are one or two 'clunky' bits ... but for £6.00 I thought that I got my money's worth ... and I will watch it again ... in spite of the subtitles!

PS. Subsequent research shows that the film was originally released as a DVD with a different title (PARADOX SOLDIERS) and cover art.

Memoir '44 solo – third (and hopefully final) attempt!

In the light of various feedback and comments I have simplified the solution even further, and now only a single D6 die is required.

I have also been working on developing the extended version of the MEMOIR '44 rules to incorporate some additional types of unit, and I feel that I am almost at the point where I can playtest them alongside my solo-play Command Card system.

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Memoir '44 solo – second attempt!

In the wonderful TV series 'Dad's Army' Captain Mainwaring always covered up his mistakes by saying 'Ah, just waiting to see who'd be the first one to spot that!' I just wish that I could say the same today ... but I cannot!

Ross Mac pointed out a rather obvious flaw with my original solution for using the MEMOIR '44 Command Cards in my forthcoming solo battles. My solution was not so much simple as simple-minded ... and I have had to re-think it. That said, I think that the newer solution is probably better. I have modified the playing aid so that it now looks like this:

The left-hand location has a 1-in-6 chance of being 'selected' by the two D6 dice, as does the right-hand location. The central location has a 2-in-3 chance of being selected.

My 'new' solution works in the following way. Side A deals a card into each location face up.

The player then selects which of the three Command Card options they would prefer and they place it on the central location. The other two Command Cards are placed in the left- and right-hand locations. (In this example the player has swapped the left-hand and central Command Cards.)

The two D6 dice are thrown, and score determines which of the three Command Cards is selected. (In this example the score of 5 means that the Command Card the player preferred was the one that was 'selected'.)

Once the player has completed the actions on the Command Card, all three Command Cards are discarded and Side B then repeats the procedure.

This solution gives the player more influence on what might happen, but there is still a degree of randomness and unpredictability ... which is what I want.

Memoir '44 solo

I had hoped to playtest the extended version of the MEMOIR '44 rules this week, but circumstances seem to be conspiring to prevent this from happening.

One thing that I need to address is the problem of using MEMOIR '44 as a solo game. I have looked at several alternatives, and in the end I have come up with the following solution. It is not perfect, and is probably too random for most wargamers ... but it has the benefit of being simple and it makes use of the Command Cards that come with the game.

My solution uses two D6 dice and a simple playing aid that fits onto a piece of A4 paper or card.

The deck of Command Cards is shuffled and a single card is dealt onto each of the three spaces on the playing aid thus:

Side A rolls two D6 dice ...

... and the score determines which of the three Command Cards is turned over.

Once the player has completed the actions on the Command Card, that Command Card is discarded and another Command Card is dealt onto the vacant space.

Side B then rolls two D6 dice ... and the process is repeated.

Monday 25 June 2012

Getting my sums right

I have spent a large part of my day sat at my computer trying to get my accounts to balance ... and I finally managed it!

My day started with a trip to the branch of the bank that holds my business account ... and before anyone asks, it is part of the banking group that has been having all the problems with its computer system!

(For the benefit of regular blog readers from outside the UK, one of the major banking groups in the UK – the NatWest Bank, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and the Ulster Bank – has been unable to get its computer system to process all account transactions for five days. This has left businesses unable to pay their staff, people unable to get money out of ATMs, and – in some cases – not be able to move house on the day they were supposed to. The banks have stayed open for extended hours since the problem began and even opened on Sunday morning to try to help customers who were having problems.)

I eventually managed to pay money into the business's bank account (something that took far longer than normal) and after returning home for some lunch, I began to sort out my business and personal accounts and – more importantly – the end-of-year accounts for Wargame Developments. They are all set up on MS Excel spreadsheets, and it usually takes less than an hour to do the lot ... but not today!

It took me less than thirty minutes to get my business and personal accounts up to date and reconciled, but for some reason I just could not get the Wargame Developments accounts to balance. They were 45p out.

Now most people would not worry about 45p ... but my father trained as an accountant after his service in the Army, and he drummed into me from an early age that accounts must balance. As the amount was 45p – and was thus divisible by 9 – it was likely that I had transposed two digits when entering an amount. A cursory look through the accounts showed no obvious errors, so I had to go through every single transaction since the last reconciliation to find the mistake. The problem was that I could not find it.

After two hours of fruitless work I took a break, but even coming back to the problem somewhat refreshed did not immediately yield an answer. I finally decided to check each calculation manually ... something that should not be necessary if the spreadsheet has been set up correctly.

I found the answer after almost two more hours of looking ... and it was something that I had never come across before. One of the calculations on the spreadsheet was producing an incorrect result, but when I checked the formula I could find nothing obviously wrong with it. I deleted the existing formula and typed it in again ... and the correct answer appeared. I have no idea why this happened ... but it did ... and the 45p error had disappeared.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Memoir '44 revisited

My recent attempts to revise my MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOMBAT) rules had not been very satisfactory and I had put the project on the back-burner until I felt ready to look at it again ... and then I read one of Ross Mac's recent blog entries about a battle he had fought using Richard Borg's MEMOIR '44 rules.

My starting points for MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOMBAT) had been the original MEMOIR '44 rules and Joseph Morschauser's 'Modern' wargames rules, and it was not until I read Ross Mac's blog entry that I realised that Richard Borg had added additional rules in the later MEMOIR '44 supplements. Buying these supplements would have been a very expensive way to find out what the additions were ... but the publishers have very kindly made them available online, with the result that I was able to download them and print them off. (The free downloads can be found here.)

Armed with these additional rules, I created a single-page Combat Chart for my own use. This outlines the main, salient points of the original and additional rules ... and creating it was a very useful way to understand the way the main combat mechanisms work and interrelate.

(Click on the image to make it bigger. Please note that I use the expression 'engage in Combat' rather than 'Battle' throughout the chart, and refer to the dice as Combat Dice.)

The most important changes that I noticed were the increased diversity of Infantry Units that were now available and the introduction of anti-tank and self-propelled artillery. It was these very things that I was having most problems with when revising my MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOMBAT) rules, and here were some possible ideas as to how those problems could be solved.

I therefore decided that it might not be a bad idea to fight one or two battles using the extended version of the MEMOIR '44 rules. To do so, however, I need to decide whether or not to use single-figure bases or multi-figure bases.

In the games that he had recently fought, Ross Mac used figures mounted in pairs. By going down this route I could easily use part of my existing collection of MEGABLITZ armies. On the other hand, single-figure bases might be more adaptable in the long run and would be more in keeping with the original design of MEMOIR '44.

I help me to decide which of the two alternatives I should use I took a look at some of the basic Infantry Units that I would need. In the following photographs the Unit made up of single-figure bases appears first and the multi-figure bases are second.


Infantry and Machine Gun

Infantry and Mortar

Infantry and Anti-tank Weapon

I suspect that the anti-tank weapon in the last two examples should be something smaller than an anti-tank gun (e.g. a Panzerfaust or Bazooka), but it was all that I had available when I took the photographs.

Although the single-figure bases are in keeping with the original rules, I prefer the look of the multi-figure bases. The latter also have the advantage of being multi-purpose as I can also use them for MEGABLITZ battles. I will probably use the multi-figure bases for the trial battles I intend to fight using the extended version of MEMOIR '44, but any final decision as to which I will choose will have to wait until later.

Saturday 23 June 2012

Keeping busy ... and listening to my father

I seem to have been very busy for the last two days. On Friday my wife and I went to the local shopping centre, where she traded her old iPhone 3G in for a new iPhone 4S. As a result we spend quite some time last night and this morning trying to transfer data from her old mobile telephone to her new one ... with only a partial degree of success.

Whilst we were in the shopping centre I managed to squeeze in a visit to Waterstone's bookshop and bought ITALIAN LIGHT TANKS 1919-45 by F Cappellano and P P Battistelli. The book is illustrated by R Chasemore and was published by Osprey in 2012 as No. 191 of their New Vanguard series (ISBN 978 1 84908 777 3).

This morning the post brought the latest issue (No. 149, June 2012) of S.O.T.Q. (SOLDIERS OF THE QUEEN).

This is the journal of the Victorian Military Society and I have yet to read a issue where there was little of interest to me. This one has an article by Richard Stevenson entitled 'Garibaldi's Englishmen' and I am looking forward to reading that later tonight.

At lunchtime today I visited my father in his residential care home. For once he was quite lively and seemed much more aware of things than usual. We talked for nearly an hour, and towards the end of our conversation he had a spell of lucidity that was stunning. It came about because I made a chance comment about the visit of Aung San Suu Kyi to the UK. In a flash my father's eyes became very alert and he said quite clearly 'I knew her father, Aung San.'

I knew that my father had served in Burma after the Second World War as part of the British Training Mission that was sent to help set up and train the Burmese Army prior to independence, but I was unaware that he had ever met Aung San. (The new Burmese Army was created from units of the former British Burma Army and the Burma National Army (BNA), which was led by Aung San. My father helped to train the Chin Hills Battalion to become a Divisional Anti-Tank Regiment.)

With considerable clarity my father described his involvement in the events of 19th July 1947, the day when Aung San was assassinated by paramilitary troops led by former Prime Minister U Saw. My father was in Rangoon at the time, and was only a few blocks away from the Secretariat Building where the Executive Council (the 'government-in-waiting' set up by the British in preparation for independence) was meeting. Aung San and six of his cabinet ministers were killed during the attack. My father and a squad of soldiers were sent to protect Aung San's family, and he recalled carrying a young girl (possibly Aung San Suu Kyi?) to safety during the operation.

The effort of this feat of memory tired him out and I left soon afterwards, but the fact that he can still recall events from so long ago with such clarity despite his dementia made me feel far more positive about his condition that I have after recent visits. I know that he will never get better, and will get worse as the condition progresses, but it was so nice to see just a glimpse of the father the way I remember him.

Friday 22 June 2012

Veteran ships in Stavanger

Until relatively recently most Norwegians who wanted to travel from one part of the country to another had to do so by sea. As a result a large number of coastal ferry services were set up and ran between the towns and cities on Norway's coast. Two of the ships that plied that trade are currently based in Stavanger, Norway. They are the MV Sandnes and the MS (formerly SS) Rogaland.

MV Sandnes
The MV Sandnes was built in 1950 and up until 1974 it operated an overnight ferry service from Bergen to Stavanger and back. She then became a school/training ship for young people who wanted to become sailors, but in 1995 she was deemed to be too small to continue in this role, and she was put up for sale. In 2007 she was bought and moved back to Stavanger, where she was refurbished and given a grade II listing by the Directorate for Cultural Heritage. She is now Norway's largest preserved ship and is used for overnight fjord cruises and social events.

MS/SS Rogaland
She was launched in 1929, and was originally fitted with steam engines, which were replace by diesel engines in 1965, hence the change of designation from steamship to motorship.

Like the MV Sandnes, SS Rogaland began life operating an overnight ferry service from Bergen to Stavanger and back. SS Rogaland was in Bergen on 20th April 1944 when an ammunition barge exploded, causing serious damage to the central part of the city. The ship suffered considerable damage as a result of the explosion, and she required extensive repairs before she could be returned to service.

After the War she transferred to the Bergen to Oslo route in 1947, and continued to operate on that route until 1954 when she switched to providing the Sandnes/Stavanger to Oslo service. She was finally withdrawn from that service in 1964 to be sold. She was named Tungenes from 1964 to 1965, but remained unsold. She finally changed hands in in 1965 and then renamed Stauper. In 1990 she was found languishing in Gothenberg when she was bought by the Veteran Ships Association of Stavanger, who renamed her Gamle Rogaland (Old Rogaland). She was returned to Stavanger for restoration and use as a museum ship, and currently she undertakes occasional fjord cruises.

Guns, Guns ... and even more Guns!

Whilst I was on my recent cruise I came across a number of artillery pieces in different locations. As a collection, they are quite eclectic ... but I am sure that some of my regular blog readers will find them of interest.

Akureyri, Iceland: The 'Peace Guns'
I found these two cannons under some trees near the local Folk Museum. According to a nearby notice they were made in Sweden for the Danish Army in 1864 for use against the Prussians during the Schleswig-Holstein War, but were delivered too late to be used. They were sold to Iceland in 1925, and the barrels were half buried and used as bollards in Akureyri's harbour. They remained in use until 1988, when they were dug up, restored, and mounted on locally constructed gun carriages. They are now used to fire blank charges to mark important events.

It is apparent from looking at the open end of the barrels that both guns were given hexagonal rifling. It is also apparent that they were both fitted with sights and some form of percussion ignition, and that they have suffered some damage whilst being used as bollards.

Bergenhus Festningsmuseum (Bergen Fortress Museum), Norway: 7.5cm GebK M.11
This mountain howitzer is one of 36 supplied by Erhardt of Dusseldorf to the Norwegian Army in 1910. Several were captured during the German Invasion and were used until 1945 by German mountain artillery units stationed in Norway.

The howitzer weighed 509kg in action and could fire a 6.5kg 75mm shell up to 6,900m. It could be broken down into six separate loads to enable it to be transported.

Stavanger, Norway: Decorative pieces
I found several old smooth-bore cannon barrels mounted on ancient-looking reconstructed gun carriages in two different locations in Stavanger. Three were located at the base of the Valberg Tower (the former fire-watching and observation tower used by the City's Guard) ...

... and two more next to a statue of Vice Admiral Thore Horve (a senior officer of the Royal Norwegian Navy during the Second World War) in the 'Old Town' district of Stavanger.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Nugget 254

I posted the latest issue of THE NUGGET (N254) to members of Wargame Developments today, and it should be delivered to them by the middle of next week.

I have uploaded the PDF versions of THE NUGGET and THE NUGGET COLOUR SUPPLEMENT to the Wargame Developments website, and they are now available for members of Wargame Developments to read online or to download and print.