Thursday, 28 March 2019

Bolt Action Fortress Budapest Campaign. #1

In The Beginning There Was Scenario 8...

     Well this month saw the actual, genuine, much anticipated release of the Bolt Action Campaign Fortress Budapest supplement! I am pleased to report that all that I had heard and read about it has proved correct; it is an excellent tome; chock full of well researched, interesting and relevant background to the battle (or should I say battles as the book covers the retreat of the Germans from Romania, the tank clash between the Germans and Hungarians against the Russians near the city of Debrecen as well as the siege o Budapest itself as well as the Germans last ditch Operation Spring Awakenning) scenarios relating  to the major points in the campaign and lots of shiny new units for the four main combatants; Romania, Hungary, Soviet Russia and Germany.
      This post isn't going to be a review of the whole book but rather a combination of narrative batrep and a review of one particular scenario. There will be more of these, never fear, as we work our way through the book in a similar manner to our Market Garden campaign. Suffice to say that we; Danny, Richie, Laurence and I, are enthused with gaming in the cold, winter gripped Eastern Front, particularly in this last, great battleground of the war.

Decisions, Decisions   
     So, with the froth hot upon us (not as disgusting as you might imagine; we're just excited!!) we poured over the book and decided to play Scenario 8 Street Fighting In Pest as our first Fortress Budapest battle, mainly because we had enough units for the theatre selectors this scenario calls for(the scenarios with the Panzer Kampfgruppe Armoured platoon will have to wait till I paint my third Panzer IV and a couple of sdkfz 251Ds).
     This scenario pitches an Allied force from either the Soviets or Romanians theatre selectors in the book against a force of Germans and/or Hungarians similarly chosen from the book in the smashed urban terrain of Pest on the eastern side of the Danube.

       The battle is designed to be fought with equal forces. Each side must choose its forces from specific theatre selectors in the book (which are damned tasty looking, let me tell you).
     Danny who was playing Soviets (Comrade Laurence couldn't make it so Comrade Danny had to fight for the glory of the Motherland all on his lonesome) gets to choose from the Soviet Urban Assault Group Reinforced Platoon which has at its core a platoon commander and two full strength Soviet Sub Machine Gun squads to which can be added only two HQ options; 0-1 Captain, 0-1 Medic. The infantry selection includes the 0-4 Infantry Squads; Sub Machine Gun Squad, Guards Squad and/or 0-1 Assault Pioneer squad (without body amour) beyond that it starts to get interesting, 0-3 Direct Fire Support units, either/or  MMGs or light howitzer, 0-2 flame thrower teams, 0-1 sniper team and 0-3 anti tank team or anti tank rifle team. There are limited choices for late war artillery with the Urban Assault platoon; 0-1 ZIS-3 Divisional gun, 122mm Heavy Howitzer or Medium Howitzer. For their armoured support they can add 0-1 SU-76M assault gun, T34, T34/85, OT-34 or Lend Lease M4 76mm Sherman (though Danny, who doesn't possess the book yet, took an IS-2 as opposed to any of those choices and it didn't break the game or make the game any less fun: in fact the IS-2 looked brilliant on the table as you can see above).
     The Soviet Urban Assault Group theatre selector special rule is Specialised Unit which cancels out the "Quantity has a quality all of it's own" national rule as the role of the Assault Group was a tough job and no place for inexperienced troops so the Soviets don't have access to the free Inexperienced squad. As well as that the Soviet player cannot take any Inexperienced infantry or artillery units for this force selector.

       So what about the Axis forces in this scenario, well they have access to the Budapest Pocket Defenders Reinforced Platoon which can be a mixed force of Hungarian and German units or a purely Hungarian or German force with a dizzying assortment of units such as the Vannay Battalion Flying Squad, Arrow Cross Militia Section, University Assault Battalion and the Danube Flotilla Infantry Section (Bryan Cook, the author of this book, has created 12 new infantry units for the Hungarian Army, all of which are in this supplement) but as neither Richie or I have any Hungarian units we went with the Germans instead.
Set Up
     Unusually for Bolt Action this is fought on a 4'x4' table rather than the usual 6'x4'. The scenario call for particularly dense urban terrain to give the tabletop a suitable sense of claustrophobia. The table is divided into quarters; the two German/defenders quarters are each worth 4 victory points whilst the two Soviet/attackers deployment zones are worth two points each.

      The Axis player deploys at least half of his forces on the table, the rest being in reserve (or working their way through the sewage system). The Allied player starts with all of his forces off the table and must bring on at least half of his units in the first wave. The remainer are held in reserve. There is no outflanking in this scenario unless a player has chosen the Sewer Infiltration special rule. What's that, I hear you say; well.....

City Siege Assets Special Rules 
      To give this and other scenarios in the book a little something extra to the urban conflict each side can access the City Siege Assets special rules. Basically for each 500 points you can take one of the city siege assets free. Some you can take more than once if you wish.
     The City Siege Assets are broken down into three categories; Attackers Assets, Defenders Assets and Neutral Assets.
     The Attackers Assets choices are;
1) Preliminary Bombardment which lands automatically,
2) Smoke Screen as per the Forward Observers entry in the Bolt Action rulebook though the aiming         point doesn't require a line of sight from an observer.
3) Big Push which allows the attacker to take a free infantry squad identical to his cheapest infantry         unit (Danny chose this).
4) Night Infiltration means two of his squads can deploy forward in the same way that snipers and           observers do.
5) Prisoner Interrogation means D3 of the defenders force, as chosen by the attacker, lose their                 hidden status.
      The Defenders Assets comprise;
1)Fortified Building in which the defender chooses a building and all infantry and artillery units              inside add a further +1 to the extra protection the building already offers.
2) Street Barricades. The defender receives D3 6" linear hard cover obstacles that can be deployed           anywhere outside the opponents deployment zone before any forces deploy.
3) Minefields either anti personnel or anti tank as per the rule book and can be chosen multiple                 times. These are also set up before deployment. 
4)Tank Traps. D3 6" anti tank obstacles which are deployed in a similar fashion to the minefields.
      Lastly it's the Neutral Assets as follows;
1) Sewer Infiltration. Infantry units may use the sewer movement rules, outflanking Infantry units in       reserve can enter the table anywhere outside 6" from the nearest enemy with an Advance or Run         order. This is done at a -2 penalty for the reserve roll rather than a -1. If a FUBAR is rolled the             unit is lost in the sewers (I chose this asset, despite my characteristically naff dice rolling).
2) Sniper, a free sniper team! (Richie went with this option).
3) Molotov Cocktails: one of the players units is upgraded with Anti Tank Grenades. This can be            chosen multiple times.
4) Ammunition dump. A chosen building contains an ammunition dump; When given an Fire or              Advance order one infantry or artillery units in it or within 6" get to re-roll ones when resolving          it's shooting attacks. A different unit may benefit from this roll each turn.
5) Frontline Aid Post. Chose a building on the table, all infantry and artillery units in or within 6"             gain the same benefit of having a medic within 6".
      We also employed the rules for Shooting In Rubble for this game.

     The Allied side are taking control of the city block by block. They must seize and control as much area as they can. The Axis player must stop them.

      Each of the two Axis quarters are worth 4 victory points each whilst the Allied ones are worth 2 victory points each.
The suggested layout a la book

Our interpretation, mid battle, with the Germans deployed
on the left and the Soviets on the right

  Our Forces: 
Rich took his Waffen SS and I, my Heer. We had 750 points each to play with and, as befits the Waffen SS and Heer fighting alongside one another we didn't consult on our force choices before hand but got on with organising our platoons in isolation. Danny, playing the Soviets, and getting suitably carried away, chose his list from the Armies of the Soviet Union (he hasn't got a copy of Fortress Budapest...yet!!) 

German Defenders
Waffen SS reinforced platoon. 750 points
Platoon HQ: Veteran 2nd Leutnant Helmut Strokur and Oberscharfuhrer Heinz Beanz. 
Infantry Squads: 2x SS Squads-LMG and panzerfausts, 
                            1x SS Squad with assault rifles and (faulty) panzerfausts.
Veteran Sniper
Veteran Medium mortar, 
Veteran light howitzer
Veteran 251/16 Flammpanzerwagen. 
City Siege Asset-sniper 

Panzer Grenadier reinforced platoon: 750 points
Platoon HQ; Regular 2nd Leutnant Wilhelm Pumpf plus runner.
Infantry Squads: 2 Regular Grenadier Squads; 7 men+NCO w SMG,  LMG
                           2 Veteran Grenadier Squads;  6 men w 2 LMGs
                           1 Veteran Grenadier Squad;    NCO w SMG, 5 men w Assault Rifles
Regular Light Howitzer
Regular 250/9
City Siege Asset-Sewer Infiltration

Soviet Attackers
Urban Assault Reinforced Platoon; 1500 points (not wholly from the Urban Assault Reinforced Platoon but close enough for us not worry too much)
Platoon HQ. Veteran 1st Lieutenant plus runner
                     Veteran Captain
                     Veteran Medic
Infantry: 3 Veteran Squads with SMG and LMG
               1 Veteran Assault Engineer Squad
               1 Veteran Tank Riders Squad
Veteran Sniper
Veteran Medium Machine Gun
Veteran Heavy Mortar
Regular IS-2 (on loan from a nearby Guards Division)
City Siege Assets-Sniper, Big Push free squad equal to one veteran infantry squad

     (The more perceptive of you will have noticed that we have only taken two City Siege Assets per side; this was due a break down in communications; in the end I don't think we missed it as the game was excellent as was.)

So, now we know our forces, let's join the battle......

View of the German deployment zone
       The sewer was foul smelling. The stench was a different stench from the city streets above their heads. Up there the smell was a foul blend of burning flesh, burning houses and vehicles mixed with the smell of cordite, bloated corpses left to rot in the street, in wrecked houses and buildings. Down here it was decades old filth and rain water that had recently  washed down into the drain the spilled blood of the dead and dying and fuel from the destroyed vehicles that littered the streets of Pest.  In the narrowed, dimmed beam of his torch, the light of which barely reached the walls of the sewer either side of them, Gefreiter Winkler watched the Hungarian guide as he and the dog walking by his side unerringly led them through the gloom toward the exit behind the suspected location of the Soviet heavy mortar. Cold water seeped into the holes in Winkler's boots and dripped from the roof of the cavernous sewer onto his cap and shoulders. Though metres of earth separated them from the battle raging above them the tremors of explosions, tanks and collapsing masonry could still be felt down here.
      Behind him he could hear the splashing of the boots of the men following him wading quickly through the ankle deep water, the rasping sound of their breathing as they drew in the cold, fetid air of the sewer through their mouths in a hopeless attempt to avoid the smell. Advice given in gestures by their Hungarian guide. The guide, a tall, emaciated looking bean pole of a man, grinning a toothless grin through weeks old beard, accompanied by a small, scruffy terrier with a collar and lead made from a piece of string. Across the guides back was slung a pre-war vintage rifle and he was dressed in a mix of civilian work clothes, ragged uniform and web equipment with an armband on his left arm and a worn, threadbare peaked cap on his head. 
      He had been introduced to them by Leutnant Pumpf, Winkler's platoon commander. 
     "Here, Gefrieter Winkler, are two of our trusted Hungarian allies; Paulus, a sewer worker lent to us by the Vannay battalion and his sidekick, Artur" Here Pumpf indicated the dog. 
     "Paulus and Artur will show us or rather you, the way to get close to that damned mortar of the Ivans. You know the drill; hit them hard and fast then get back. Paulus will wait for you at the exit; he knows the sewer system like the back of his hand so be nice to him in case he forgets to bring you back" 
     Winkler, uneasy about the whole thing but who knew better than to argue with the tired, unshaven platoon commander, thrust his hand out in greeting to Paulus and shook the proffered grubby, begrimed hand before handing the Hungarian a fistful of Makhorka cigarettes as insurance. Paulus' slightly mad smile, unintelligible reply in Hungarian and gesticulations towards the dog did nothing to relieve Winkler's misgivings. 
     "Best get going, Gefreiter Winkler; Ivan will be with us soon" urged the young officer. 
      "Jawohl, Herr Leutnant" replied Winkler. He gathered his squad and gestured to Paulus to lead the way. There were six of them altogether in his squad, all that was left of his platoon of thirty of two months previous. They were armed with the new assault rifles except Winkler who had clung onto his trusted Soviet machine gun; ammo for that was more easily found, the Soviets appearing to have unlimited reserves of it.
      Besides their small arms the men carried stick grenades and wicked looking sharpened entrenching tools tucked into their belts.  The squad had followed Paulus and his scruffy looking dog at the trot to a sewer entrance where Paulus had descended first followed by Artur, carefully handed down to Paulus by the German soldiers into the sewers just as the latest Soviet attack had begun, not by an artillery barrage as expected but by the arrival of one of their massive tanks in the street before the platoon's position, brown clad infantrymen clinging to it's hull. As it's massive gun had barked out it's fury, Gefrieter Winkler had hurried them down into the sewer, the foul smell distracting him momentarily from the noise of nearby battle. 

The Soviet's right hand quarter

The first to fall. Lt Pumpf's 2nd squad, wiped
out to a man by a direct hit from the IS-2s main gun. Practically
the first shot of the game...bummer!

One of the two light howitzers sets up in the street.

The German's heavy support; a light howitzer,
attempts to silence the Soviet sniper on the upper
levels of the building across the street. It
eventually took three shots to zero in and two rounds
to wipe them out
German infantry massing in the centre
of their defences

Leutnant Pumpf redeploys his other veterans, 1st squad to
cover the gap in his lines that has appeared after 2nd squad are
wiped out. Also manning the ruins in this sector are a squad of
 Waffen SS 
The IS-2 and its accompanying all female tank riders squad advance
up the rubble strewn street. These girls were to prove themselves in
combat in a most deadly efficient manner.
     Sparks from where the fascists bullets struck the rough armour of the IS-2 tank and the resultant sounds of ricocheting bullets sent the soldiers leaping from the tanks hull. 
     Sergeant Maria Theodorovich landed roughly and stumbled against the wall of a ruined house. Picking up her PPsH machine gun from where it had fallen from her hands she quickly checked the weapon. It was undamaged by the fall, it's drum magazine still firmly in place. She crouched low and moved towards the rest of her squad. Most of them, like her, were getting to their feet, crouching low and keeping in cover from the hated Germans. Tracer bullets cracked over head, small clouds of dust and pieces of masonry from the wall marking where the bullets struck. 
     "Ha! The fascists are wasting their bullets!" she cried to her squad who, like her, were all women. "Lets go!" Theodoravich shouted "Over by the tank..move..move!" 
     The soldiers moved quickly and without hesitation into the lee of the giant tank, keeping it between them and the German infantry small arms fire. A sudden explosion above their heads sent a pile of masonry and what looked like a body tumbling from the building to their left. The masonry landed with a crash; the sound mingling with the crescendo of battle. Sgt Theodoravich loved this noise; it was the grand  finale of the Fascists empire and they knew it. She had seen enough of their prisoners and the look of abject fear and disbelief as they were led away to the rear; their fates uncertain but the fate of their homeland all too obvious; they were losing the war and would pay the price for their attack on Mother Russia. Next to her the tank had stopped and she saw the turret slowly turn then stop, moment later the whole vehicle shook as it's main gun fired at an unseen enemy....

The SS men make their way forward into the cover of
the ruined St Stillain's Church. Behind them the 251/16
Flammpanzer grinds its way towards the enemy

SS in the shadow of St Stillian's
On the other side of St Stillian's, Soviet Assault engineers make
their wary way forward, harassed all the way by German MMG
fire. (we followed what appears to be a popular "house rule" trend
by giving all MMGs a D2 pins instead of the usual one. This feels
right to it does many other wiser heads)

Making the most of the cover afforded by the IS-2s bulk, the
Soviet infantry work their way closer through the rubble to
the German lines.
The Germans too, are taking an aggressive approach. Pumpf's 3rd
squad advance in defiance (or was it ignorance) of the lumbering
tank to their right flank.
Aware of the Russian tank on the other street, the German 250/9
moves up in support of the SS men. Unfortunately, due to the
proximity of their own forces they were unable to engage with
the enemy for most of the battle.
Urged on by their platoon commander, a Soviet rifle section
advances, eager to get to grips with the fascist invaders the 251/16 Flammpanzer noses it's lethal way forward. From
 this position it was able to destroy most of a Soviet rifle squad. The
remaining two men were so embittered against the Fascist invaders
that they clung on tenaciously in hope of retribution...

Soviet Assault engineers move recklessly into the open...

....where they meet a deadly fusillade from the SS squad in the
ruins of St Stillian
The SS dominate the German left flank; stemming the Soviet
advance there
The last of the Leutnant Pumpf's reserves arrive
in the ruin on the German right flank. Another
squad of infantry who move to fill the gap in the
Germans thinly held defensive line
Reaching the junction and spotting the German half track,
the Russian tank gunner draws a bead and....misses!!
Much to the Germans relief

The Germans attempt to clear out the central ruin on the Soviet
side of the square

     Rottenfuhrer Bauman watched as the giant tank rumbled down the street, it's gun pointing menacingly forward. As it reached the junction it's turret began to turn. Baumann risked a glance in the direction the turret was turning; at the far end of the square a Flammpanzerwagen drove past the ruined church.
     "Achtung! Panzer action front!!" cried Baumann and as one his men rose from behind the cover of the fountain; the four men with the panzerfausts aimed at the nearby tank and discharged their weapons. Almost at the same time, Soviet soldiers appeared over the top of the fountain, charging towards the SS men; machine guns blazing as they did so. Baumann felt an agonising pain in his side; clutched at the wound, feeling the warm blood seeping out before he blacked out. Around him the rest of his squad were overwhelmed by the Soviets soldiers; recognising the SS camouflage smocks, the Soviets gave no quarter, wiping them out to a man, losing three of their number in the process...  

Rottenfuhrer Baumann's squad moving into position
before they were cut down. The fired four panzerfausts at the
IS-2, one at short range which rolled a 6, and three at long range,
all of which came up 1s!! The dice gods then added insult to injury by
turning up a 1 on the damage dice from the panzerfaust that hit. This
was the only anti tank capability the Germans had on that flank!! 

Sgt Theodoravich's squad charge the SS men

..and wipe them out. Theodoravich's squad then assaulted the
veteran grenadiers in the ruin and did the same there

With the SS Squad by the fountain and the panzer grenadier
squad by the ruin cut down the commander of the 250/09
moves to a fire position in the main square and attempts to
inflict enough casualties on the enemy infantry but to little
...other than to draw fire from the IS-2. As the huge tank
gun turns towards the recce half track, the German driver
slams it into reverse gear and drives it into cover
     Crouching in the darkened corner of the ruin, eyes blinking from the daylight, Winkler signalled Paulus to wait then, to his men, to make ready. On the far side of the rubble, the crew of the Soviet heavy mortar were oblivious of the danger they were in. Winkler had ordered no grenades to be used, the noise of the explosions would be too obvious whereas the sounds of their shooting would be less noticeable amidst the sounds of battle surrounding them. 
     Creeping forward over the rubble, the squad moved in for the kill. As they neared the top, Winkler leapt over the top of the mound and started firing, followed quickly be the rest of the squad. The mortar crew had little time to react, the bullets riddling their bodies. As the last mortar round left the tube the Germans were on them, bludgeoning the last two remaining crew.
     As one of his men brought the butt of his assault rifle down onto a shrill ringing field phone next to the mortar pit, Winkler searched the bodies quickly for maps and documents. Collecting all that he thought might be of use to their intelligence officer, the men dropped two grenades down the mortar tube then made their way swiftly to the sewer entrance where the grinning face of Paulus met them. He gave them a thumbs up sign to them which Winkler returned before they descended back into the sewer.

Emerging from the sewer Gefreiter Winkler and his squad
assault the heavy mortar position...

...too late to save the light howitzer crew

Position cleared!!

On the Soviet left flank, the troops pour forward..

...whilst the panzer grenadier squad on the German right flank
are unable to react as they are one pin....
for two turns....two pretty crucial turns

Meanwhile, Sgt Theodoravich and what remains of her squad,
having cleared the Germans out of the ground floor of the ruin,
remain untroubled by the attentions of Leutnant Pumpf and his runner 

...and the SS light howitzer and medium machine gun. All three of
which  missed their target! Theordoravich's squad were definately
the (wo)men of the match

     Phew, what a corker of a battle! It's been a while since we had one run so close and have so much drama in it, especially from a game that regularly delivers drama in handfuls.
     The scenario is excellent. Initially I had my doubts about the equal points for the attacker and defender as usually an attacker needs to have a greater ratio of men and units to stand a chance of getting across the table and into grips with the defenders. So I had suggested the Soviets take an extra City Siege Asset but in the rush to get playing, both sides only took two assets each which still panned out fair. So in the end I needn't have feared as the terrain helped balance it out.

     Playing 1500 points per side on a 4'x4' table was always going to be different, especially one with such dense terrain, narrow arcs of fire, lots of cover especially when you factor in the Shooting In Rubble rule (Winkler's squad were practically on top of the heavy mortar team when they fired but since the mortar team hadn't activated then they were at a -3 to hit hence the reason they managed to get their last, fatal mortar round off that did for the doughty light howitzer crew before Winkler's crew assaulted them) and the victory conditions. This scenario calls for a lot of close quarter battle with SMGs and Assault Rifles, flame throwers, HE and men (and women!!). There were certainly more units lost to assaults and flame throwers than firing. HE also accounted for three units too.

     To my mind, it's the City Siege Assets that make this scenario though. Personally I think the most useful one being the Sewer Infiltration rule (and I intend making a model of Paulus and Artur. I have a couple of figures in mind that will fit the bill nicely). The other rules certainly have their worth but for me that one tops all though it comes with it's risks. However that can be offset by taking either the Vannay Battalion Flying Squad if you are the Axis player as the Vannay Battalion in reality drew many of it's members, like Paulus, from the city municipal workers who were well acquainted with the sewer system. If they use the Sewer Infiltration rule then they are only at a -1 rather than a -2 on their outflank roll.
      The attacker does have access to the Night Infiltration rule which allows two of the players infantry units to forward deploy like snipers and observers. Pop an ambush order on them and they will be at -3 to hit whilst in the rubble and they are an obvious threat to the defender from the start. So lots on offer from the City Siege Assets if chosen wisely.

     With the victory conditions stating that a quarter is considered taken if one side has an artillery or infantry unit with the majority of it's models inside the quarter and the enemy has no artillery or infantry units with the majority of their models within the quarter  we quickly totted up the results. We played 6 turns and all quarters were contested so that was an honourable if bloody draw.
     However if we had played one more turn it was possible, just possible that the Germans would have came out on top, though at a price. In the German right hand quarter there was only Lt Pumpf and his runner who were within assault range of Theodoravich's squad. The remaining grenadier squad was pinned in the ruins and at the mercy of the IS-2 and another squad of approaching Soviet riflemen.In the facing Soviet quarter, there was an MMG team to contest the quarter against Winkler's squad. So the Soviets would have gained 4 points for the German quarter.

     On the other side, the SS still held their quarter with a medium mortar, an MMG and a medium howitzer whilst they were within a whisker of wiping out the remaining Soviets in their quarter. So, with honours even and the rosy glow of satisfaction from a battle well fought we packed up, having enjoyed the Street Fighting In Pest scenario a lot. We fully intend to revisit it and also relocate it; already I can see this working great for a Stalingrad scenario and I have just the German assault pioneer platoon to fight it the attackers of course.
     And hat's off to Bryan Cook for writing such a really good (first?) Bolt Action supplement.

     Postscript. Damn that rosy glow of satisfaction; that mingled with the process of writing this blog post's excerpts from the Soviet side has caused me to do something I had always that I would never do; I've bought a Soviet Army....well, a Soviet Army starter set to be precise. I really want to recreate one (or two, who knows) of the Soviet theatre selectors from this book so watch this space as I juggle yet another project.

Pip pip,
The General

Friday, 8 March 2019

Another Irregular Update...could this be coming a bad habit?

  It, the blog, is certainly at the risk of becoming a neglected habit!!; playing third fiddle to my painting and gaming...or even fourth fiddle in the trio if you include my general day dreamy frothing about gaming which often get's between me and putting actual content into the blog. So let's me try and remedy that whilst fiddling (I'm not really fiddling nor playing any other musical instrument, folks, but it makes the blog that wee bit more amusing if you play along, if you'll pardon the pun. And, of course, if some of you are musically "gifted" and wish to play an instrument while you read this, that would be fabulous....erm....where the bloody hell was I? Oh yeah, the blog post; well here it is <tunes fiddle....sounds of cat like wailing....just in case your imagination hadn't kicked in yet>
      So what's new and what have I been doing or, sticking with the musical theme, what wargaming things have I been putting to the fiddle. Well, first up some Eastern Folk Music might be appropriate for the general frothing about the forthcoming Bolt Action supplement Fortress Budapest. My particular jazz folk intro for this book a la Stephane Grappelli has been the painting of the first of my (many) winter Germans.

     Richie and I have gone slightly Gonzo on this with, perhaps, me having the edge as I plan on doing the platoon's supporting vehicles; armoured and wheeled, in a winter cammo scheme but both of us intending to play Fortress Budapest (and the Battle Of The Bulge too) as soon as possible with appropriate terrain and figures. With only another 24 figures to build and paint from the Warlord box set and then the various other support troops and some very tasty figures from Empress Miniatures wearing Kharkov smocks I should have a fairly complete winter themed force which, of course, I swore to myself once upon a long ago, that I would never, ever do; so much for my steely self discipline; more like cheap kitchen those figures and getting my hands on any related published material; in this case the Battle For Budapest and The Armourer magazine, have been sustaining my Magyarian froth.
      Krisztian Ungvary's Battle For Budapest is taking a little bit of effort to get into; mostly because I am as thick a whale omlette but also because trying to follow the flow of the advance and encirclement by the Soviets has been a bit of a bind. The book is littered with maps but, crikey, some those Hungarian place names are a mental mouthful and the places named don't always appear on the maps which meant jumping onto Google Earth to find out exactly where they are in relation to other towns noted on the maps as well as the topography. However, I am now at the point were the Soviets have completed their encirclement and the actual battle is about to begin; more on the Battle For Budapest later

     The Armourer magazine I bought on a whim whilst slumming it in Tesco (normally I shop in Harrods, folks, or M&S; the Lidl bag is just a cover, I tell you) as it has The Siege Of Budapest writ large across the cover (Am I alone in always being on the lookout for wargames related stuff when they are being dragged around the shops? I wonder; answers in the comments below, and lets see if we can maybe set up a support group for people who think about wargaming almost constantly...a catchy title if ever there was one...anyhoo...the blog...the blog..) and a few interesting related articles within and lots of nice photos of weapons, medals etc......

....a very interesting magazine, besides the Budapest stuff, for the historical wargamer, methinks, This being the only copy I have bought but I might keep an eye out for it for future frothing.

     Next up, re-tuning my fiddle, and to the sound of a badly played excerpt from Elgar's Violin Sonata, I recently added another tutorial on the Paint All The Minis website, showing how I paint vehicles using the dry brushing method. I also have a similar post about the dry brushing method elsewhere in the blog. I used a Warlord Games/Italeri M10 Wolverine as the example vehicle and it looked fine; painted the British crew for it, posted my tutorial then thought "time to get this bad boy weathered" and, rushing and taking a rather slapdash approach to it, I  ended up making a right pig's ear of the whole thing. By the time I finally accepted I had ballsed it up it looked like this; really bad...a real bum note in my virtuous though not virtuoso efforts at Elgar's violin sonata, as it were...if we were to employ my fiddling theme..

Don't do this at home, kids. My slapdash attempt at weathering, after making such a mess of the weathering it was back to the painting desk and a quick repaint (with a jig and reel on the fiddle for good measure) and all was well. Just need to get the blighter finished off. I just can't decide whether to put Allied stars on the sides of the hull or not. Also, and as an aside, I'm sure I have the parts somewhere to make an Achilles turret too for a bit of variety.


     Gaming wise, and this time to the tune of Paganini's Caprice No5 played in such a manner that Paganini no doubt spun a few revolutions in his grave, I managed to play another game of In Her Majesty's Name, this time using my Imperial Nightwatch company against Jamie's electrifying (pun intended...just saying..) company from Tesla's Travelling Exhibition, the rules for boith being found in the IHMN Gothic supplement. We had a cracking, fun and very hard fought game and the batrep will follow soon; promise. In the meantime here's a couple of teaser shots
The Imperial Nightwatch in action

Tesla's oddities come to town

     Now, applying my rosin to my bow, and scratching out Annakin's and Marton's The Longest Day theme in such a fashion that the Longest Day seemed to drag even longer, something else I really enjoy about gaming is digging into the back ground of the units and conflicts in which they took part in (and I am certainly not unique in that respect but, hey, it's my blog and it's all about!! ) to try and get a feel for that unit or that campaign especially when it comes to narrative batreppipping.
     So, this June, Warlord are releasing their D Day campaign supplement and they have organised a campaign day down at Warlord HQ in Nottingham and Richie, Danny and I are heading down to take part. Danny and Richie are playing on the Allies side while I have plumped for the chance to play the fiendish Hun. After humming and ha-ing about whether to make up a 21st Panzer Divison platoon or maybe go for a Panzer Lehr force instead using Arizan Designs very nice looking, very tempting Panzer Lehr figures, I decided against both and am, instead, taking my Fallschirmjager.

My Fallschirmjaeger on parade. There's supposed to be a PAK40
in there too as well as an Opel Blitz mounted Flakvierling. Just
a Stug III to add 

     Primarily the decision was one of cost; I couldn't really justify getting a new platoon in the Panzer Lehr as it would have meant, and I am sure I wouldn't be alone in taking this approach, buying and building more vehicles just so I could add the Panzer Lehr symbol to them to make them "Panzer Lehr" doubt I will do that at some point in the future as the Artizan Figures look great and I am daft enough.
     No, my Fallschirmjager it is and I'll tell you why (whaddya mean "Must you"?)  They were the second Bolt Action platoon I bought and I want to revisit them with the paint brush as my painting skills now are way better than the ones I possessed back then. I want to do them some credit. The only thing I plan to add to them is a Stug III with a Fallschirmjager crew...well, crewman with Fallschirmjager helmet.....and foliage on the Stug III. But in the meantime, and getting back to my mention above of books, I have bought myself a copy of The Lions Of Carentan to help get me in the mood, as it were; to help maintain the froth level to just below the rim of the pot, if you will.
     And I must admit, from flicking through it, it looks like a corker. More about that and the Fallschirmjager platoon I take in the near future

     Lastly, and laying aside the fiddle as the strings have bust, the tuning pegs popped, and, surprisingly, a random elephant has sat on the fiddle (I say surprisingly as, around here, we are normally quite selective about which elephant gets to sit on our fiddles...but I digress...the blog...the blog..this way to the blog) and crushed it , I have bough yet another book, this time for some back ground to the Baltic Crusades where Danny and I will be locating our games of Lion Rampant and Hail Caesar (narratively speaking, because it's all about the narrative, dahlink!); Osprey Publishing's The Scandinavian Baltic Crusades 1100-1500 with illustrations by, in my humble opinion, the best illustrator they had, Mr Angus McBride. As Danny and I are planning/hoping/intending to play more Lion Rampant games and, maybe soon, our first game of Hail Caesar too, using the same miniatures  I thought I should get some background material for the setting of said games (any excuse to buy another flipping Osprey book, as the missus will tell you. But she'll tell you I am tall, dark, handsome and funny so I wouldn't trust her word ) It seems a slightly obscure period from the British perspective though apparently, back in the days of crusading it became a more popular, cheaper and fruitful place to go on crusade as opposed to the Holy Land, if you were a young knight out to win your spurs. There's a good discussion about it on the BBCs In Our Time programme on BBC Radio 4 if you are curious about it. 

     And that is that for this blog post. Lots more to come from the General's mess including painting these chaps and their vessel.... stay tuned....

pip pip,
El Generalissimo

Bolt Action Fortress Budapest Campaign. #1

In The Beginning There Was Scenario 8...      Well this month saw the actual, genuine, much anticipated release of the Bolt Actio...