Sunday 31 March 2013

Nugget 260

The editor of THE NUGGET emailed the original of the latest issue (N260) to me last night, and I will be taking it to the printer on Tuesday morning. I intend to collect it from the printer on Thursday or Friday and post it out to members of Wargame Developments over the weekend.

This issue is the fifth of the new subscription year, and if any regular blog reader would like to subscribe, they can do so via the link on the Wargame Developments website (click here).

Operation Sealion

Back in 1974 Paddy Griffith ran a wargame at Sandhurst about Operation Sealion. The whole thing was sponsored by the Daily Telegraph, and the German team included General Adolf Galland (Luftwaffe), Admiral Friedrich Ruge (Kriegsmarine) and General Heinrich Trettner (Wehrmacht). Some years ago John Curry followed Paddy's example and ran a second wargame about Operation Sealion, and I was asked to be the Naval Umpire.

As part of my brief I prepared a number of documents for both sides, and I re-discovered them today. As I thought that they might be of interest to other wargamers I have made them available as downloadable PDFs.

Saturday 30 March 2013

Even more rules added to the Free Downloadable Wargames Rules page

During the ongoing search of my archive of home-grown wargame rules I have found the version of RED FLAGS & IRON CROSSES that I demonstrated at SALUTE 2006 and the subsequent COW2006.

I have added the full text and the playsheet to the Free Downloadable Wargames Rules page on this blog, and I hope that readers will find them interesting.

More rules added to the Free Downloadable Wargames Rules page

Feeling at a bit of a loose end and unable to concentrate much on anything serious, I have been going through my computer files to see what I can delete.

Amongst the numerous wargames rules that I found during this exercise are REDCOATS AND DERVISHES ... and I realised that I had yet not added them to my Free Downloadable Wargames Rules page on this blog. I have now rectified this, and the rules are now available for readers to download, should they wish to.

Les Miserables: finished at last

I have not been sleeping well for the last month or so, and more particularly so since my father died, and this has given me the opportunity to finish reading Victor Hugo's LES MISERABLES.

It has not always been an easy book to read, and some of the long asides do sometimes seem rather too long and too detailed. (I could probably guide people around the sewers of 1830s Paris without any problem now!) That said, the story is a classic of tale of redemption, and as such it is little wonder that it is still being told and re-told today.

I am glad that I read it, but I doubt if I shall read it in its entirety again ... but you never know, and I shall be certainly keeping it in my Kindle collection for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Making progress

Today saw us make significant progress towards sorting out our father's funeral and his estate. My brother and I booked the venue for the post-funeral wake, visited my father's solicitor and collected his will, ordered the flowers for the funeral, and visited two banks to notify them of our father's death.

We also managed to visit the Registrar in order to make an appointment tomorrow afternoon so that we could register our father's death. Once that is done we can go back to the banks to begin the process of winding up our father's affairs. All that will then remain to do is to send out funeral notices to family and friends, finalise the details of the funeral, print the Order of Service for the funeral, and apply for probate ... if it is necessary.

Then we can relax ... until the day of the funeral.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

An answer at last!

I think that it is Murphy's Law that states that 'if something can go wrong, it will do' ... and today has been a fine example of this.

I was wondering why the previously helpful Coroner's Office was not answering their telephones this morning ... when they telephoned me ... and apologised for the problems I might have had contacting them. It transpired that late yesterday the entire computer system in the Coroner's Office had stopped working, and that this had knocked out the telephones as well. They had only just got the system back online at about 10.15am, and were trying to make up for lost time.

They now had the results of the post mortem, and a certificate of death has been issued and will be posted to the Registrar later today. With luck my brother and I will be able to register my father's death on Thursday, and then we can begin to sort out his funeral and his estate.


I am growing more and more frustrated with the bureaucracy one has to deal with when someone dies.

Last Friday my brother and I had all sorts of problems even contacting the Bereavement Office at Queens Hospital, Romford, and when we finally made it through the hospital's security system they were singularly unhelpful ... and very unsympathetic.

We were eventually informed that because the cause of my father's death was 'unknown', the Coroner would have to determine the actual cause of death. This might require a post mortem examination, which we were told would be done on Monday. I was assured - by the Coroner's Officer I spoke to - that the results should be available on Monday, and that I would be informed of them that afternoon by telephone.

I was not.

I have been trying to contact the Coroner's Office since 8.00am this morning ... but when I get through to the number I have been given, all I hear is a recorded message that tells me that they are very busy, and that I should call back later. More than two hours later ... and after more than twenty attempts ... I am still trying to find out what the results of the post mortem are. Until the Coroner determines the cause of death, my family and I cannot register the death or begin any of the definite arrangements for my father's funeral.

It is all very frustrating.

Monday 25 March 2013

German Megablitz collection

Having managed to get all of my Soviet MEGABLITZ collection out of its storage boxes and onto my tabletop, I decided to do the same for my much smaller German collection.

The full collection can be seen in the following two photographs:

The figures and vehicles in the front have already been organised into formations. These are (from top to bottom):
  • 384th Infantry Division
  • 389th Infantry Division
  • 15th Field Division (Luftwaffe)

The figures and vehicles at the back have yet to be organised into larger formations and include:
  • 4 Motor Transport stands (2 half-tracks and 2 trucks)
  • 6 Light Transport stands (all Kubelwagens)
  • 1 Infantry Gun stand
  • 3 Rifle Infantry stands
  • 5 Machine Gun stands (4 Wehrmacht and 1 Luftwaffe)
  • 3 Mortar stands (2 Wehrmacht and 1 Luftwaffe)

I am not quite sure what I can do with these 'odds and sods', although they would make quite a formidable coastal defence force.

Please note that the pictures used in this blog entry are quite large, and can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Soviet Megablitz collection

I managed to get all of my Soviet MEGABLITZ collection out of its storage boxes and onto my tabletop ... and then realised just how much I have.

The full collection can be seen in the following two photographs:

The figures and vehicles in the front have already been organised into formations. These are (from top to bottom):
  • A Tank Corps
  • An Artillery Division
  • 66th Army (bottom right)
  • A Naval Infantry Corps (bottom left)

The figures and vehicles at the back have yet to be organised into larger formations and include:
  • 14 Motor Transport stands
  • 4 Horse-drawn Transport stands
  • 2 Artillery Limber stands
  • 1 Anti-tank Gun stand (+ 1 limber stand)
  • 1 Field Gun stand (+ 1 limber stand)
  • 2 Cavalry stands
  • 6 Command/Artillery Observer stands
  • 28 Rifle Infantry stands
  • 1 Machine Gun stand
  • 1 Mortar stand

This is certainly enough to form the basis of quite a sizeable 'army', although it is a little light on artillery.

Please note that the pictures used in this blog entry are quite large, and can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Sitting and waiting

I have spent much of today sitting and waiting for the results of my father's post mortem examination.

Until the Coroner has a definite cause of death, my father's body cannot be released ... and until this happens all the arrangements for the funeral and sorting out my father's estate have to be put on 'hold'. I have managed to write a few letters thanking people for the help and care they gave to my father whilst he was alive, and I have roughed out the design for the Order of Service and invitations for the funeral, but I am fast running out of things to occupy my mind. On top of this I have a feeling of lethargy and fatigue, which I understand is common when people are dealing with bereavement.

I am thinking about having a proper look at my MEGABLITZ collection, and sorting out the unassigned bases into larger formations. It will give me something to do, and will hopefully keep my mind occupied for an hour or two.

Sunday 24 March 2013

The Good, the Bad, and the Indifferent

The past few days have made me realise how many good people there are in the world ... and this throws into stark focus those who are bad and indifferent.

The Good
  • All the people who have sent their condolences to my family and I in response to my blog entries, my recent status reports on my Facebook page, and to my personal telephone calls and emails. A thank you to you all ... and an apology as well; I just wish that I had the time to thank you all individually.
  • The staff at the Chaseview Nursing Home, Rush Green, who made my father's last few hours as comfortable as possible, and who did all they could to keep him alive as his breathing problems became worse.
  • The paramedics from the London Ambulance Service, who helped the staff at Chaseview Nursing Home resuscitate my father when his heart stopped, and who got him to the Accident and Emergency Department at Queens Hospital, Romford as quickly as they could.
  • The staff of the Accident and Emergency Department at Queens Hospital, Romford, who made my father as comfortable as they could, thus enabling him to die with dignity.
  • The staff of the Co-operative Funeral Care branch in Upminster, Essex, who helped (and continue to help) my family and I to arrange my father's funeral so that it is exactly the way he would have wanted it to be.
The Bad and the Indifferent
  • The staff of the Bereavement Office at Queens Hospital, Romford, who did not answer their telephones for nearly two hours (the 'phones just rang and rang without being picked up or a recorded message being left), and who - when we finally managed to get through the security system that 'protects' them from having to deal with directly the public - showed little or no consideration for the bereaved families they were dealing with. (The reason they gave for not answering their telephones was that they were all attending a meeting, and were 'unavailable' to deal with bereaved families and to issue Certificates of Death.)
More Good
  • The Coroner's Officer who patiently and carefully explained that my father's death was going to require a post mortem examination because the doctor who had dealt with my father in the Accident and Emergency Department at Queens Hospital, Romford felt unable to sign the Certificate of Death. (The reason for this was that the doctor had not known that my father had only been discharged from hospital less than 24-hours beforehand. The Coroner's Officer had also not been informed of this by the hospital.)

Operation Varsity

Today marks the 68th anniversary of Operation Varsity, the largest single airborne operation of World War II.

My very recently deceased father took part in the operation as a member of 53rd (Worcestershire Yeomanry) Airlanding Light Regiment, Royal Artillery, and he was the only veteran who attended the special commemorative event held at Firepower, the Royal Artillery Museum, in 2006.

He was treated as an honoured guest by the museum staff and the members of the 89th (Parachute)/317th (Airborne) Field Security Sections re-enactment group. The latter were portraying 53rd (Worcestershire Yeomanry) Airlanding Light Regiment, Royal Artillery at the event, and my father had several photographs taken with them.

At the time my father had not begun to show signs that he was developing dementia, and he thoroughly enjoyed the entire day. In fact it was probably one of the most enjoyable and memorable times that I ever spent with my father. He was reliving his youth ... and for a few brief hours he was eighteen again.

Friday 22 March 2013


I have a very busy day - or days - ahead of me. I have a feeling that sorting out the details of my father's funeral etc. alongside the other members of my family is going to take up a lot of my time.

Our thanks go to everyone who has expressed their support and condolences on Facebook and Blogger. I wish I had time to thank you all individually.

Thursday 21 March 2013

Sad news

My father died today as a result of a heart attack.

He had settled into his temporary care home, and had had a good night's sleep. This morning he ate some breakfast and was washed and dressed. During the late morning he began to have problems breathing, and whilst he was being given oxygen by the on-site nursing staff, he had a heart attack. An ambulance had already been called, and the home's nursing staff and the paramedics resuscitated him. He was then taken to the Accident and Emergency Department at the local hospital, where he was made as comfortable as possible. He was, however, very weak and he died at approximately midday.

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Settled at last ... for the time being

After some confusion (someone from the hospital telephoned me to ask when my father was being discharged, and seemed surprised to hear that I was expecting them to tell me!) my father was finally taken by ambulance from the hospital he has been in for the past three weeks to his temporary placement in a nearby care home. My wife and I were able to be there when he arrived, and we stayed with him until he was settled in.

Hopefully we will be able to get my father moved to a permanent placement in a care home closer to where my brother and I live, but that is something that we can sort out in the near future. In the meantime I am satisfied that he will be well cared for in a care facility that has an excellent reputation.

Hexblitz II ... or Memoir of Modern Battle with knobs on?

In the midst of dealing with my father's future care, I have still been plugging away at drafting HEXBLITZ II. To be honest I have wasted a lot of time on this project ... but it has given me something to think about at a time when my mind needed some form of diversion.

Currently my draft looks less like HEXBLITZ and more like MEMOIR OF MODERN WAR (MOMBAT) with knobs on! I started by grafting the system for calculating a unit's strength or combat value from HEXBLITZ onto the MEMOIR OF MODERN WAR (MOMBAT) game structure. I also added the playing card tile-based Turn Sequence from my PORTABLE WARGAME: WARGAMES RULES FOR THE LATE 19TH CENTURY, and the stacking limits and support rules from OPERATIONAL ART. The resulting draft still needs some work ... but I can at least see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Although this was not what I originally set out to do, it seems to work ... and once my father is settled into his temporary care home placement I hope to play-test the completed draft.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

The Grand Old Duke of York

I have spent a lot of the past few weeks feeling like the Grand Old Duke of York ... and today has been no exception!

This morning I was expecting a telephone call from the hospital to tell me that my father had been assessed by the care home he would be going to temporarily, and that he would be transferred there either this afternoon or tomorrow morning.

The call did not come, but my wife and I continued the necessary preparations in the hope that it would. By 3.00pm I had given up waiting, and I telephoned the hospital to find out what was happening ... only to be told that the person I needed to talk to was in a meeting.

I telephoned again at 4.30pm, and was informed that the assessment had taken place ... but no decision had yet been made as to if and when my father would be discharged into the care of the home.

Just before 5.00pm I was called by the hospital sister overseeing my father's discharge, and she informed me that the care home has assessed my father and were going to accept him into their care tomorrow ... but she was not sure when.

This was followed up a few minutes later by another telephone call, this time from the nurse responsible for my father's care ... who informed me that my father was going to be discharged tomorrow afternoon, but that he was not sure when. He did say, however, that the hospital would telephone and inform me as to the time my father was going to be discharged before it actually took place.
Oh, The Grand Old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men;
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.

And when they were up, they were up,
And when they were down, they were down,
And when they were only half-way up,
They were neither up nor down.
As an aside, some years ago my deceased father-in-law's lady friend was discharged from a large hospital in Canterbury, Kent into a smaller cottage hospital in Whitstable. This was supposed to happen before lunch, so we drove my father-in-law to Whitstable mid-afternoon to see her, only to be informed that the lady had not arrived, and that she was still in Canterbury. We drove to Canterbury ... and we were told that she had been discharged from the ward she had been in some hours beforehand and was on her way to Whitstable. We drove back to Whitstable ... but she was not there either. She finally arrived at Whitstable at nearly 11.00pm, having spent nearly twelve hours waiting in the Canterbury hospital's Discharge Area, during which time she had not been fed or give anything to drink.

I don't want something like this to happen to my father ... which is why I seem so obsessed with knowing when he will be discharged from hospital.

Monday 18 March 2013

Going round in circles

I have spent over an hour this morning working on my third draft of HEXBLITZ II ... and have just realised that I have metaphorically painted myself into a corner. From past experience I know that when this happens I need to leave things as they are and have a serious re-think.

The problem is that I am trying to bring together features from a number of my previous wargames rules (HEXBLITZ, OPERATIONAL ART, and MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE (MOMBAT)) ... and I cannot seem to get the elements to gel together. They almost do ... but not quite.

What I now intend to do is to print off copies of the rules I want to meld together and highlight the various elements I want to use. I will then literally 'cut and paste' the highlighted passages together, and then I will have a basic draft to work from.

Sunday 17 March 2013

I have been to ... Skirmish in Sidcup

I managed to set aside enough time this morning to visit the Skirmish Toy Soldier and Wargames Show in Sidcup. I try to go to this show every March and September, and I do not usually come away disappointed. Today was no exception, and besides having a good look around (and not actually buying anything!) I was able to have a long talk with David Crook as well shorter chats with Alan Abbey, Postie, Big Lee, Ken Smith, and Mark Ashby.

As I entered the school building that acts as the venue for the show, I saw that Armourfast were running one of their 'Build a Tank' sessions for children.

The kids get to build and take away with them one of Armourfast's model tanks ... for FREE(!). This is an excellent idea, and one it would be nice to see other wargames suppliers doing as well.

The rest of the entrance hall was taken up by two stands selling a range of toy soldiers and wargames figures and model vehicles as well as representatives of one of the English Civil War re-enactment groups.

The main hall was its usual bustling self, and I could easily have spent a lot of money if I had had it!

There were quite a few wargames on show, some of which were demonstration games and others were participation games. (If I get any of the names of the games or groups that were running them wrong, please forgive me. Signage of some of the games was not very easy to see ... so I did my best to work it out for myself.)

Assault on San Juan Hill (54mm Spanish-American War participation game): SELWG

Skirmish in the hedgerows (South London Warlords)

Operation Sealion (Crush the Kaiser)

Wild West Gunfight (Skirmish Wargames Group)

The road ends at Falaise: World War II North West Europe (136 Brigade)

Sharpe's Challenge (The Old Guard)

Weird World War II (Medway Wargames Society)

Warhammer 40K (Gravesend Gamers Guild)

Bolt Action (Hornchurch Heroes Gaming Club)

Warhammer 40K (Gamers Hub Wargaming Section)

Operation Harpoon (The Privateers of London)

This was yet another great little show to attend ... and I only wish that I had had more time and money!

Saturday 16 March 2013

A change is as good as a rest

After the events of the past week or so, it was nice spend the day doing 'normal' things.

Despite the fact that the weather was not very good (it was cold, wet, and very windy), my wife and I went to Canterbury, Kent to do some shopping. Most of what we bought was new clothes for my father. He has lost so much weight over the past six months that we decided that he needed some better fitting clothes.

We then went to Herne Bay, where we ate fish and chips in a seaside restaurant, Mackari's.

Although the ownership of the restaurant has changed over the years, and the restaurant has been modernised to bring it up to modern standards, it is still very typical of the sort of seaside restaurant I can remember from my youth ... and for some reason fish and chips always tastes better by the seaside!

Real life ... seems to be getting a bit better

The situation regarding my father seems to moving towards a temporary resolution. The charity-run nursing home we hope to place him in is processing his application as a special case, but the trustees will not be able to make a decision to approve it or not for at least two weeks. In the meantime the hospital needs to discharge my father as soon as possible, if only to avoid him catching any infections from other patients.

After discussions with the hospital - and with their help - it looks as if my father will be discharged into an interim care facility that it is near to the hospital. This is part of a nursing home, and it has been specifically set up to handle cases like my father's (i.e. it is for people who need access to nursing care whilst awaiting a permanent placement elsewhere). The nursing home has an excellent reputation, and passed its recent Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection with flying colours.

This interim care placement will give us the breathing space we desperately need, and will ensure that my father gets the best care possible whilst we await a decision by the charity's trustees.

Friday 15 March 2013

Real life ... again

Having railed yesterday against Google's decision to axe Google Reader, I had hoped that the rest of my day might be spent looking for an alternative. I tried Feedly, and was quite impressed, but I am not sure that it will be my final choice as it seemed to produce a few odd results when I wanted to look at some previously read blog entries. Thunderbird has been suggested as an alternative as it handles both emails and RSS feeds ... but I had problems setting it up when I tried it out this morning. (It needed information about the settings on my email accounts that I did not have to hand, and its automatic system for finding the settings did not appear to be able to do so.)

The quest for a replacement for Google Reader continues.

Most of my day was actually spent dealing with matters relating to my father. He will be discharged from hospital soon, and we will need to find a care home that can take him. The problem is where to find a home that will be able to provide for his needs and that has space available and that is nearer to where my brother and I live and that has a good reputation, excellent staff, and extensive facilities. This is not an easy task ... and by the end of the day I had a very unpleasant headache to show for my efforts.

Last week, in anticipation of my father's discharge from hospital, I applied for a place for him at a home run by a charity. It meets all of the requirements, and when I visited it I was very, very impressed. It felt more like a hotel than a care home. Unfortunately, as they are run by a charity, all applications have to be approved by the trustees ... and this takes time ... and lots of time is one thing that I do not have at the moment.

As a backup my wife and I have spent hours looking for alternative care homes that we might be able to place my father in, but almost all of them fail to meet one or more of our selection criteria. I need to come up with a solution soon ... but I am not sure if I will be able to.

There are times when I feel that I live in a world where everything does not quite fit together ... but I live in hope that it all will. As the saying goes, 'Everything will turn out right in the end ... and if it isn't right yet, it is not yet the end'.

Thursday 14 March 2013

Google Reader is going ...

I may be a bit of a saddo (the truth is that am not a bit of a saddo, I am a full-blown one!), but one of the first things that I do most mornings is to open Google Reader and look at the writers of blogs that I follow have been doing. But I won't be able to do this much longer.

I almost missed the announcement that flitted before my eyes this morning. It stated that Google Reader would be no more as of 1st July, 2013 ... and my first reaction was that they had been hacked, and a spurious announcement had been added. So I checked ... and on the Google Official Blog I read the following:

Two points were particularly noteworthy from my point-of-view; Firstly that they stated that usage of Google Reader had declined (I cannot dispute that fact, although my individual usage has certainly not fallen) and secondly that Google was pouring all its resources into fewer products.

The latter statement rather surprised me ... and if I were a Google shareholder it might just begin to ring alarm bells. When companies make these sorts of announcements during a recession, it sometimes means that they are beginning to lose market share and are on the way down. I hope that this is not true ... but it makes you wonder whether or not one should begin to look around for alternatives to Google’s products. I already use Safari rather than Google or Google Chrome for most of my web browsing, and I have found Google Documents can be a bit 'clunky' at times, which is one reason why I have stopped using it to ‘host’ my most recent downloads.

More importantly, however, is working out how I can continue to keep up with the blogs I like to read. I am sure that I am not alone in feeling that I have been let down by Google ... and that I will be looking for a replacement for Google Reader in the very near future.

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Bad Day on Shooters Hill

Today has not been a good day.

Firstly my father's health continues to give my family and I cause for concern. The doctors know what is wrong with him (dysphagia) and have begun a course of treatment that should help his health improve ... but despite everyone's best efforts he seems unwilling to co-operate.

Secondly our Internet connection has been extremely 'flaky' for most of the afternoon, and neither my wife nor I have not been able to 'surf the net' or send or receive emails. I think that I have finally fixed the problem ... but who knows how long the 'fix' will last.

Finally I have spent quite a bit of time today trying to write the first draft of what I hope will be HEXBLITZ II ... and after three or four hours of work I have realised that everything I have written is over-complex and very 'clunky'. I have therefore walked away from trying to complete this task today. I have done this in the hope that a break will clear my mind, and that when I return to this task later in the week, the results will be a much simpler (and workable) set of wargames rules.

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Battle of Warsaw

Whilst I was doing some shopping last Saturday I saw a DVD on sale that looked interesting, so I bought it ... and I managed to watch it today.

The title was BATTLE OF WARSAW, and it appears that this is the most expensive film ever made in Poland (it was originally made in 3D) and having seen it, I can see why.

The film tells the story of the war between Soviet Russia and Poland that took place just after the end of the Russian Civil War from the point-of-view of a newly-married Polish cavalry officer and his wife. The latter begins the war as a performer in a Warsaw night-club and ends it as a nurse. The young officer is captured by the Soviet Red Army (after being sentenced to death on trumped up charges of Communist agitation and hitting a superior officer), from whom he later manages to escape - with the help of some Cossacks - so that he can rejoin the Polish Army. The film culminates with a depiction of incidents from the Battle of Warsaw.

The battle scenes have been rightly described as spectacular, ...

... and it was nice to see some Polish FT17s ...

... and Russian tchankas in action during the film.

The version of the film that I bought has subtitles, and I know that this will not appeal to everyone, but I think that despite this anyone with an interest in the interwar era will enjoy watching this film.

Les Miserables: still reading ... and less than 50% of my way through it!

I tend to read for about an hour or so each day (usually in bed, just before going to sleep) and I am still reading Victor Hugo's LES MISERABLES.

I read somewhere that it is one of the longest novels ever written ... and I can believe it. The problem is that Hugo tends to keep going off at a tangent for several chapters at a time. These 'excursions' or 'essays' do give useful background knowledge or information to the reader, but for someone who just wants to get into the 'action' of the story of Jean Valjean I can imagine that it could be quite tedious ... and I am making this observation whilst I am still less than halfway through the book!

Valjean is turning into quite an escape artiste, and other than the escapes he attempted whilst serving as a convict at the beginning of the book, he has been captured and escaped three more times so far!

I would still recommend this book to potential readers but with the proviso that they might wish to miss out some of the literary excursions/essays if they want to crack on with the main thrust of the story.

Monday 11 March 2013

Megablitz Soviet Tank Corps

Some years ago I created a Soviet Tank Corps as part of my collection of MEGABLITZ units. It has yet to take part in an actual battle, but I decided that it was about time that it was taken out of storage and saw the light of day ... and boy, does it take up a lot of space on the tabletop!

The Tank Corps has:
  • 1 truck-borne Command Group.
  • 3 Tank Brigades, each comprised of a Tank Regiment and a Submachine Gun Battalion (these 'ride' on the tanks when going into action).
  • 1 Rifle Brigade with 3 Motor Rifle Battalions.
  • 1 Armoured Reconnaissance Battalion.
  • 1 Motorised Engineer Battalion.
  • 1 Motorised Anti-aircraft Battalion.
  • 1 Mechanised Anti-tank Battalion.
  • 1 Submachine Gun Battalion.
  • 6 Motorised Transport Columns.
That is quite a lot of transport ... and in reality I doubt if a Soviet Tank Corps would have been so well provided for.

Modelling note:
  • The T-34/76 Tanks are all old ROCO Minitank models.
  • The T-60 Light Tank, the 45mm Anti-tank Gun, and the Komsomolets Armoured Tractor were all cast by Skytrex.
  • Most of the trucks are die-cast Majorette Ford A trucks that have been modified (i.e. reduced in width by having their mudguards and running boards trimmed) and given new wheels.

Hexblitz II?

I am just about to start drafting what I hope will be HEXBLITZ II (that is the current working title, anyway). It will be a set of rules that fall just below the level of command covered by my OPERATIONAL ART rules and at about the same level of command as HEXBLITZ and MEGABLITZ. In other words the main playing pieces will be battalion-sized units (or their equivalent), and these will be represented on the tabletop by a single base of figures and/or model vehicles. The tabletop will be divided into a hexagonal grid (in my case this will be Hexon II terrain) and all movement and weapon ranges will be expressed in hexes.

I had hoped to use the Battle Dice from MEMOIR '44 for the combat system, but yesterday's comparative tests were not encouraging, and for the moment I have shelved that idea. I may well return to it as it is very simple to use ... but for the time being I will carry on using a combat system that uses traditional D6 dice.

Sunday 10 March 2013

Hexblitz meets Memoir '44: comparative tests

The test scenario that I set up so that I could compare the outcomes of the HEXBLITZ and MEMOIR '44 combat systems was a simple one. I envisaged two Russian Rifle Regiments (rated as 'Trained'; each has an SP = 3) supported by an Artillery Regiment (also rated as 'Trained' and with an SP = 2) attacking (and hence 'Moving' against) a German Infantry Battalion (rated as 'Trained' and with an SP = 3) that was in a defensive position (and therefore 'Defensive'). (The ratings and order 'states' do not affect the outcome of the MEMOIR '44 results but do affect those generated using the HEXBLITZ system.)

First I recorded the outcome of twenty five combats using the existing HEXBLITZ combat system. Under this system each side totals up the SP of all the units involved in the combat and throws a D6 die for each SP. The results are read from the following table:

The results were as follows:

Under the existing HEXBLITZ combat system, although the Defenders are at a numerical disadvantage (3 SP as against the Attacker's 8 SP), their Defensive 'state' more that equalises the disadvantage. The Defenders had a 96% chance of inflicting a 'hit' on the Attackers whilst the Attackers only had a 76% chance of 'hitting' the Defenders. In none of the Test Turns would the Attackers have prevailed over the Defenders in a single turn.

I then recorded the outcome of twenty five combats using the MEMOIR '44 combat system. Under this system each unit 'battles' in turn. The procedure used is as follows:
  1. Identify the unit that is attacking (i.e. the Attacker) and which unit it is attacking (i.e. the Defender).
  2. Verify that the unit being attacked is within range or in contact with the attacking unit.
  3. If the attacking unit is Infantry or Armoured, verify that it has line-of-sight to the unit being attacked.
  4. Count out the number of Battle Dice to be thrown, based on the attacking unit's type (Infantry, Armoured, Artillery) unit and the range to the unit being attacked. (In this test scenario all the attacking Infantry normally throw three Battle Dice, as does the Artillery; the defending Infantry also normally throws three battle Dice.)
  5. Make any Battle Dice reductions due to terrain.
  6. The Battle Dice are thrown, and the icons on the battle dice determine the number of 'hits'.
Because the unit being attacked (i.e. the Defender) is behind sandbags, the number of Battle Dice thrown by Infantry (and Armoured) units is reduced by one.

I have aggregated the results to make the comparison somewhat easier. (Please note that I specifically only selected those results where the icon was either the soldier or the flag. I did not count the grenade icon as a 'hit'.)

The results were as follows:

Under the MEMOIR '44 combat system the numerical advantage enjoyed by the Attackers more that outweighs the fact that the Defending unit is behind sandbags. The Defenders had a 116% chance of inflicting a 'hit' on the Attackers whilst the Attackers had a 248% chance of 'hitting' the Defenders. In thirteen (!) of the twenty five Test Turns the Attackers would have prevailed over the Defenders.

These comparative tests are by no means conclusive (the test sample was too small) BUT they are indicative of the fact that replacing the existing HEXBLITZ combat system with the MEMOIR '44 combat system would seriously change the nature of the rules. This does not exclude the possibility that the MEMOIR '44 Battle Dice could be used in place of the standard D6 dice currently used in the HEXBLITZ rules BUT it would require a completely revised combat system.

Saturday 9 March 2013

Hexblitz meets Memoir '44?

I have been thinking about the suggestions that David Crook made to me in a recent email ... and how they might influence any potential HEXBLITZ II rules that I might write.

I like the idea of using my existing MEGABLITZ figures and vehicles, and I like the combat system used in MEMOIR '44 ... but I am not sure if they are compatible. If time allows I might run a few comparative tests of the two combat systems (HEXBLITZ and MEMOIR '44) using the same scenarios to see if they are. If the tests are successful the results may well influence the direction the design of HEXBLITZ II might take.

Les Miserables ... and the Battle of Waterloo

Amongst the things other than wargaming that I do to relax is to read and to watch films. The recent release of a film version of the musical LES MISERABLES made me realise that I had only ever read an abridged version of Victor Hugo's book, and so I downloaded a translation onto my Kindle and began to read it.

It is a very, very long book ... but so far I have enjoyed the experience, and I am coming to understand why, some years ago, a colleague of mine told me that you could not understand the history of France in the era between the two Napoleons unless you had read LES MISERABLES.

Victor Hugo's style of storytelling is ... interesting. It does not follow a linear path, but seems to go backwards, forwards, and even sideways ... but it works. It also contains what can best be described as essays about philosophy, human nature, and historical events.

One of the essays that describe a historical event deals with the Battle of Waterloo. It is told from the point-of-view of a visitor to the battlefield some years after the battle. The narrator describes what the battlefield looks like whilst describing the events that took place in each location. In one part of the narrative it concentrates on the fighting in and around Hougoumont, in another the French cavalry charge against the British squares. The description has a French bias, but is none the less well worth reading because of it.

Two things in particular stand out from what Victor Hugo wrote. Firstly he describes Waterloo as a 'first class battle won by a second class captain' (a comment that quite a few people might describe as being contentious); secondly he names the true victor at Waterloo as being Cambronne, to whom Hugo attributes the comment 'Merde!' when the remnants of the Imperial Guard are called upon to surrender.

N.B. According to Rougement, Cambronne replied: 'La garde meurt et ne se rend pas!' ('The Guard dies and does not surrender!'). I must admit that I prefer Victor Hugo's version.

I have yet to finish LES MISERABLES (I am about one-third of the way through it), but as I wrote above, so far I am enjoying reading it.

Friday 8 March 2013

More real life

The search for a nursing home for my father seems to be gathering momentum. The one that was top of our short-list is run by a charity, and they have accepted and begun processing our application for a place for my father. This may take some time (the application has to be approved by the charity's trustees) and for the foreseeable future my father will have to remain in hospital.

During today's visit to see my father in hospital I managed to speak to one of the doctors who is treating him. He explained why my father keeps getting chest infections; he is suffering from dysphasia, which is a medical term for difficulty with swallowing. This is a fairly common amongst people suffering from dementia and can lead to loss of weight and a tendency to develop chest infections, such as pneumonia. The treatment they are using in my father's case is speech and language therapy to learn new swallowing techniques and changing the consistency of the food and drink he is given to make them safer and easier to swallow.

It is too early to judge whether or not the treatment will be successful, but it is encouraging to see that the hospital has at last identified a possible means by which my father's quality of life can be improved.

Real life just got a little bit better.

Thursday 7 March 2013

The Battle of Alderstadt: the Hexblitz play-test battle

When I originally designed HEXBLITZ in 2007, I play-tested the rules on my 'new' Hexon II terrain using part of my collection of MEGABLITZ figures and models. It was only very recently that I realised that I had never written a blog entry about the battle ... so here goes.

The map represents an area approximately 33km x 21km, and is orientated with west to the top of the map.

The Germans hold the town (Alderstadt) and the area to the west of the range of hills that run north to south across the map (i.e. the top half of the map).

The Russians are advancing from the east (the bottom of the map).

The terrain (looking south).
In view of the deteriorating situation to the north and south of your current position, it is imperative that your troops do not give ground to the enemy in any circumstances. It is hoped that reserves will be available to counter attack the Russians within three days. Until that counter attack can be mounted, and the enemy driven back, the road that runs through Alderstadt must be kept open as it will form one of the main axes of the counter attack.

Forces available: 15th Luftwaffe Field Division
  • Divisional Commander (Officer, 1 SP)
  • HQ, Staff, & Signals (Car)
  • 15th Supply Column (Truck, 2 LOG)
  • 15th Fusilier Company (Infantry, 1 SP)
  • 29th Jager Regiment
    • I/29th Jager Battalion (Infantry, 2 SP)
    • II/29th Jager Battalion (Infantry, 2 SP)
  • 30th Jager Regiment
    • I/30th Jager Battalion (Infantry, 2 SP)
    • II/30th Jager Battalion (Infantry, 2 SP)
  • 15th Artillery Regiment (76mm Mountain Gun + Pack Mules, 2 SP)
  • 15th Panzerjager Battalion (37mm PAK Gun, 2 SP)
Total = 14 SP, 2 LOG

Troop dispositions

  • A: I/29th Jager Battalion
  • B: I/30th Jager Battalion
  • C: 15th Panzerjager Battalion
  • D: 15th Artillery Regiment
  • E: II/29th Jager Battalion, HQ, Staff, & Signals
  • F: II/30th Jager Battalion, Divisional Commander
  • G: 15th Fusilier Company, 15th Supply Column

The town of Alderstadt controls the main junction on the local road system and must be seized as quickly as possible so that our continued advance can be maintained. Denying this road to the enemy will also foil any possibility of a counter attack. You are to use all the assets of your Army (and the attached 7th Artillery Division) to mount a vigorous attack on the enemy positions. Delay is unacceptable, and you are expected to capture the town and the road junction by the end of D+2.

Forces available: 66th Army
  • Army Commander (Officer, 1 SP)
  • Army HQ & Staff (Officer, 1 SP)
  • 661st Supply Column (Wagon, 1 LOG)
  • 662nd Supply Column (Wagon, 1 LOG)
  • 663rd Supply Column (Truck, 2 LOG)
  • 91st Tank Brigade (T34/76, 3 SP)
  • 121st Tank Brigade (T34/76, 3 SP)
  • 64th Rifle Division
    • 433rd Rifle Regiment (Infantry, 2 SP)
    • 440th Rifle Regiment (Infantry, 2 SP)
    • 451st Rifle Regiment (Infantry, 2 SP)
  • 99th Rifle Division
    • 1st Rifle Regiment (Infantry, 2 SP)
    • 197th Rifle Regiment (Infantry, 2 SP)
    • 206th Rifle Regiment (Infantry, 2 SP)
  • 116th Rifle Division
    • 441st Rifle Regiment (Infantry, 2 SP))
    • 548th Rifle Regiment (Infantry, 2 SP)
    • 656th Rifle Regiment (Infantry, 2 SP)
  • 226th Rifle Division
    • 985th Rifle Regiment (Infantry, 2 SP))
    • 987th Rifle Regiment (Infantry, 2 SP))
    • 989th Rifle Regiment (Infantry, 2 SP)
  • 299th Rifle Division
    • 783rd Rifle Regiment (Infantry, 2 SP)
    • 804th Rifle Regiment (Infantry, 2 SP)
    • 811th Rifle Regiment (Infantry, 2 SP)
  • 343rd Rifle Division
    • 1151st Rifle Regiment (Infantry, 2 SP)
    • 1153rd Rifle Regiment (Infantry, 2 SP)
    • 1155th Rifle Regiment (Infantry, 2 SP)
  • 22nd Artillery Regiment (76mm Gun + Limber, 2 SP)
  • 1029th Artillery Regiment (76mm Gun + Limber, 2 SP)
  • 406th Anti-tank Regiment (45mm Anti-tank Gun, 2 SP)
  • 875th Anti-tank Regiment (45mm Anti-tank Gun, 2 SP)
  • 237th Mortar Regiment (81mm Mortar, 2 SP)
  • 903rd Mortar Regiment (81mm Mortar, 2 SP)
Total = 56 SP, 4 LOG

Forces available: 7th Artillery Division
  • Divisional Commander & Staff (Officer, 1 SP)
  • 701st Supply Column (Truck, 2 LOG)
  • 7th Artillery Division Reconnaissance Group (Officer, 1 SP)
  • 7th Howitzer Regiment (152mm Howitzer + Tractor, 2 SP)
  • 11th Howitzer Regiment (152mm Howitzer + Tractor, 2 SP)
  • 25th Howitzer Regiment (152mm Howitzer + Tractor, 2 SP)
Total = 8 SP, 2 LOG

Troop dispositions and exploitation plan
1st Echelon – 0800 hours, D1

  • A: 433rd and 440th Rifle Regiments (64th Rifle Division)
  • B: 451st Rifle Regiment (64th Rifle Division) with 22nd Artillery Regiment and 237th Mortar Regiment firing in support
  • C: 1st and 197th Rifle Regiments (99th Rifle Division)
  • D: 206th Rifle Regiment (99th Rifle Division) with 1029th Artillery Regiment and 903rd Mortar Regiment firing in support
  • E: 7th, 11th, and 25th Howitzer Regiments firing in support of A and B (0800 – 1000 hours) then C and D (1000 – 1200 hours)
  • A: 116th and 64th Rifle Divisions with 22nd Artillery Regiment and 237th Mortar Regiment firing in support
  • B: 226th and 99th Rifle Divisions with 1029th Artillery Regiment and 903rd Mortar Regiment firing in support
  • C: 91st and 121st Tank Brigades with 783rd and 1151st Rifle Regiments in support
  • D: 7th, 11th, and 25th Howitzer Regiments firing in support of A and B
  • A: 299th Rifle Division with 116th Rifle Division, 406th Anti-tank Regiment and 91st Tank Brigade in support
  • B: 343rd Rifle Division with 226th Rifle Division, 875th Anti-tank Regiment and 121st Tank Brigade in support
  • C: 7th Artillery Division in support of 66th Army
  • D: Army Commander, Army HQ & Staff, 64th and 99th Rifle Divisions, 22nd and 1029th Artillery Regiments, 237th and 903rd Mortar Regiments, 661st, 662nd, and 663rd Supply Columns
Day 1, 0800 – 1000 hours
During the previous night the Russian forces had moved up to their jump-off points.

The initial positions (looking south).
The 64th Rifle Division, supported by 7th Artillery Division, 22nd Artillery Regiment, and 237th Mortar Regiment, attacked I/30th Jager Battalion. The combined Russian attack totalled 16 SP whilst the defenders only had strength of 2 SP. Despite this the Russians were only able to inflict a loss of 1 SP on I/30th Jager Battalion whilst the 433rd Rifle Regiment also lost 1 SP.

I/30th Jager Battalion under attack by 64th Rifle Division, 22nd Artillery Regiment, and 237th Mortar Regiment).
The 99th Rifle Division, supported by 1029th Artillery Regiment and 903rd Mortar Regiment, attacked I/29th Jager Battalion. The Russian attack had strength 10 SP and the Jagers had strength 2 SP. The attackers were able to reduce the Jager Battalion to strength 1 SP, but in the process both 1st and 206th Rifle Regiments both lost 1 SP.

I/29th Jager Battalion under attack by 99th Rifle Division. 1029th Artillery Regiment and 903rd Mortar Regiment can be seen supporting the 99th Rifle Division.
The German defences in and around Alderstadt.
Day 1, 1000 – 1200 hours
Fighting continued between 64th Rifle Division and I/30th Jager Battalion, but neither side was able to inflict further casualties on the other. However, the 99th Rifle Division – now supported by artillery fire from 7th Artillery Division – inflicted a further loss of 1 SP on I/29th Jager Battalion, which was force to withdraw a hex to avoid immediate destruction.

Day 1, 1200 – 1400 hours
The 64th Rifle Division, again supported by 7th Artillery Division as well as 22nd Artillery Regiment, and 237th Mortar Regiment, continued the attack on I/30th Jager Battalion. The Jagers suffered further losses – 1 SP – and were forced to withdraw 1 hex to avoid immediate destruction. They did, however, inflict casualties on 440th Rifle Regiment, which was reduced to strength 1 SP.

99th Rifle Division pushed forward and attacked the I/29th Jager Battalion, which was destroyed.

According to the plan of attack, 91st and 121st Tank Brigades, with 783rd and 1151st Rifle Regiments in support, began their advance on Alderstadt.

91st Tank Brigade – with 783rd Rifle Regiment in support – lead the advance. 121st Tank Brigade and 1151st Rifle Regiment can be seen following them.
Day 1, 1400 – 1600 hours

The general situation at 1400 hours on Day 1.
The 64th Rifle Division, supported by 7th Artillery Division as well as 22nd Artillery Regiment, and 237th Mortar Regiment, advanced on Alderstadt, destroying I/30th Jager Battalion in the process.

99th Rifle Division also advanced on Alderstadt, coming under fire from 15th Artillery Regiment in the process. The artillery fire was ineffective and did not hinder the Division’s forward movement.

Day 1, 1600 – 1800 hours
By 1600 hours the 64th Rifle Division was on the outskirts of Alderstadt, and in contact with II/30th Jager Battalion. During the ensuing fighting both sides lost 1 SP, The II/30th Jager Battalion and 451st Rifle Regiment both being reduced to strength 1 SP.

The 99th Rifle Division also reached Alderstadt, and attacked the II/29th Jager Battalion, which occupied extensive defensive positions in the town. The fighting was inconclusive, and neither side suffered casualties.

The 91st Tank Brigade and 783rd Rifle Regiment, which were leading the flanking movement between the hills to the north of Alderstadt, ran into the 15th Panzerjager Battalion. The Germans had deployed this unit to prevent such a move, and the 15th Panzerjager Battalion was able to inflict casualties that reduced the strength of both 91st Tank Brigade and 783rd Rifle Regiment by 1 SP each.

91st Tank Brigade and 783rd Rifle Regiment ran into 15th Panzerjager Battalion.
Day 1, 1800 – 2000 hours
The 64th Rifle Division continued its attack on Alderstadt. The artillery support from 7th Artillery Division proved decisive, and both II/30th Jager Battalion and 15th Luftwaffe Field Division’s CO were forced to withdraw to avoid destruction. The Russians also suffered casualties, and 440th Rifle Regiment was reduced to strength 1 SP, and withdrew 1 hex to avoid being destroyed.

The situation around Alderstadt at 1800 hours.
116th Rifle Division, which had moving towards Alderstadt in accordance with the Russian plan, began a flanking move over the hills to the south of Alderstadt. At the same time 99th Rifle Division again attacked II/29th Jager Battalion, but to no avail as the fighting continued to prove inconclusive.

In the north 121st Tank Brigade and 1151st Rifle Regiment was able to assist 91st Tank Brigade and 783rd Rifle Regiment in their attack on 15th Panzerjager Battalion. Their additional firepower inflicted casualties on 15th Panzerjager Battalion, which was reduced to strength 1 SP, although the cost to the Russians was the loss of 1 SP by 121st Tank Brigade.

Day 1, 2000 – 0000 hours
Fighting continued into the night.

The situation at 2000 hours.
The 64th and 116th Rifle Divisions were now advancing steadily through the southern half of Alderstadt, destroying the remnants of II/30th Jager Division and killing the 15th Luftwaffe Field Division’s CO in the process.

In the north of the town, 99th Rifle Division, which 226th Rifle Division had by now joined, was unable to press home its attack with any vigour, suffering casualties to 983rd, 987th, and 989th Rifle Regiments. These were all reduced to strength 1 SP. The main cause of these casualties was fire from both II/29th Jager Battalion and 15th Artillery Regiment, the latter just having sufficient visibility to engage the Russians during the night time gloom.

The fighting in the north between 91st and 121st Tank Brigades – supported by 783rd and 1151st Rifle Regiments – and 15th Panzerjager Battalion continued, but poor visibility hampered both sides and no casualties were caused.

The situation at 0000 hours on Day 2.
Day 2, 0000 – 0400 hours
The II/29th Jager Battalion was the only German unit left in Alderstadt, and the 64th, 226th, and 99th Rifle Divisions, supported by 22nd Artillery Regiment and 237th Mortar Regiment, now attacked it. The fighting was intense, and both sides suffered casualties. The II/29th Jager Battalion was reduced to strength 1 SP, but the 987th, 989th, and 260th Rifle Regiments were reduced to strength 0 – and thus forced to retire 1 hex to avoid total destruction – and the 197th Rifle Regiment lost 1 SP. These casualties were caused both by the II/29th Jager Battalion and 15th Artillery Regiment, who were firing in support of the Jagers.

To the north of Alderstadt 91st and 121st Tank Brigades – supported by 783rd and 1151st Rifle Regiments – finally overcame 15th Panzerjager Battalion, which was forced to fall back. This victory was not without cost, and 1151st Rifle Regiment was reduced to strength 1 SP.

Day 2, 0400 – 0800 hours
The Russians finally took Alderstadt by 0800 hours on Day 2. The II/29th Jager Battalion, surrounded on all sides and unable to withstand the combined attacks of 64th, 226th, and 99th Rifle Divisions, supported by 22nd Artillery Regiment and 237th and 903rd Mortar Regiments, was destroyed, although it was able to cause casualties to 451st Rifle Regiment, which was reduced to strength 0, and was thus forced to leave the front line.

The advancing Russian forces in the north destroyed the 15th Panzerjager Battalion, and by daybreak of Day 2 the Russians had achieved most of their objectives.

By 0800 hours, Day 2, the 15th Fusilier Company and the 15th Artillery Regiment are all that remained of 15th Luftwaffe Field Division.
Day 2, 0800 – 1400 hours
The 15th Fusilier Company was attacked and overwhelmed by the Russian forces advancing from Alderstadt and the armoured flanking force. The 15th Artillery Regiment was all that remained of 15th Luftwaffe Field Division, and by 1400 hours it had also been destroyed.

15th Luftwaffe Field Division was given an unachievable goal. It was under strength – it was closer to a Brigade in size than a standard Division – and immobile. All it could do was to stand and fight – and hope for the best. The fact that some of its units were still fighting 24 hours after the battle started is testament to their tenacity and the defensive positions they occupied. Ultimately it failed to hold the line for the necessary three days, but it did manage to cause substantial casualties to the Russian forces, and this might ensure that the planned counter attack might achieve some success.

The Russian force was vastly superior to the defenders, and had time not been so pressing they should have been able to secure victory at a lower cost. The plan that was laid down was reasonably realistic, and there was no need to extemporise alternatives as the battle developed. The 66th Army should be able to regroup before any German counter attack and dig in to substantial defensive positions within the next 48 hours.

German losses (by 0800 hours, Day 2):
  • 15th Luftwaffe Field Division: 11 SP
Total = 11 SP
Russian losses (by 0800 hours, Day 2):
  • 91st Tank Brigade: 1 SP
  • 121st Tank Brigade: 1 SP
  • 64th Rifle Division
    • 433rd Rifle Regiment: 1 SP
    • 440th Rifle Regiment: 2 SP
    • 451st Rifle Regiment: 2 SP
  • 99th Rifle Division
    • 1st Rifle Regiment: 1 SP
    • 197th Rifle Regiment: 1 SP
    • 206th Rifle Regiment: 2 SP
  • 226th Rifle Division
    • 985th Rifle Regiment: 1 SP
    • 987th Rifle Regiment: 2 SP
    • 989th Rifle Regiment: 2 SP
  • 299th Rifle Division
    • 783rd Rifle Regiment: 1 SP
  • 343rd Rifle Division
    • 1151st Rifle Regiment: 1 SP
Total = 18 SP
Attack to Defence Ratios:
  • Initial forces: 64 to 14 (4.6 to 1)
  • Casualties: 18 to 11 (1.6 to 1)