Showing posts with label ww2. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ww2. Show all posts

Friday, 12 January 2018

Memoir '44 Maleme

Only Gary and I seemed to be available for gaming last night, so we abandoned the University and held the club meeting at my place. Gary brought us food, we ate, and then we played Memoir '44.

When I asked him what he fancied playing, he said that in the past he'd enjoyed a set of scenarios based on the German invasion of Crete in 1941. Funnily enough I'd found them and printed them off just before I went on holiday in November, so I dug them out and we gave them a go.

Actually we gave one of them a go - the first one covering the attack on Maleme airfield. Basically we decided that setting a new game up each time was too time-consuming. We didn't even swap sides; Gary played the German in all three games, whilst I played the plucky New Zealanders.

This is the basic setup, with loads of German infantry (all with the Special Forces ability), but with the New Zealanders dug in across the board.

When Gary made his first few moves I wondered how long the New Zealanders would last; the move two hexes and still fight that all of his units has is very useful indeed. But you're only as good as the cards you draw, and the ANZACs have a good defensive position. They also have the Commonwealth Command Rule, which allows them to battle back in close combat. This contributed to whittling down the German forces almost as much as my own actions.

The first game saw Gary attack strongly on his left and capture the airfield, but in attempting to score points elsewhere he lost it, and the game. 6-2 to New Zealand. In the second game I picked up some useful activation cards early on, whilst Gary held back trying to get a decent hand together. When he attacked I was able to hold the line and pick up another 6-2 win. I think this was the game that I advanced the 2-strength armour unit right onto the German baseline.

The final game was a lot closer. Gary attacked the forward hill, and took it fairly quickly, whittled down a few units elsewhere, and ended up rolling for the game - he just needed to hit an artillery unit. He failed, and I used my next turn to pick up my last victory medal instead for a narrow 6-5 victory.

We think the New Zealanders do have an edge in this scenario, but it was an interesting one to play, and we'll move onto the rest another day.

After he went I set up the Gazala scenario from the Terrain pack so I could try out the desert board I'd bought ages ago but not used yet. This is a great scenario for tank fans, consisting entirely of tanks and artillery on a basically open board. The Western Desert rules allow them a bonus overrun move as well, so the action if fast, fluid and deadly.

Despite a superiority in numbers, the British are up against it in this game; the Germans have loads of artillery that can pick off damaged units from afar, whilst the British tanks are limited to a two-hex move. In addition they only have four command cards to the Germans' six.

The Germans won an easy 6-1 victory in the first game (only needing five medals, but picking up the sixth out of spite). The second game was closer after the British left held the initial German attack and then decimated it by swinging reinforcements across from the other flank. A fun feature of this scenario is that both sides start with virtually nothing in the centre, so you are almost fighting tow small battles on opposite edges of the board. The Germans won the second game, but it was 5-4.

If you look closely at the first Gazala picture you can see that I fielded a mix of tank models, some of them ahistorical, for sure, but the added to the variety of the game.

Note to self; I need some khaki Commonwealth figures. I either need to pick up the 'proper' set, or get hold of some Airfix or Matchbox 8th army and 3D print some suitable tanks and artillery.

Update: We played the Commonwealth Command Rule from memory. Bad idea. We got it wrong. We allowed any NZ unit that survived a close assault to battle back. In fact it's only a unit reduced to one figure that gets the bonus,

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Two Holiday Museums

One thing I'm getting very bad at is going to museums that would make the subject of a good blog post, and then only realising that fact after I've been and not taken any decent photos.

And that's precisely what I did whilst we were on holiday. Twice.

So in this post you get some half-arsed photos of two museums which are worth the effort of visiting if you're  travelling along the NSW/Victoria border.

The first is the Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum, which is near Swan Hill and was the site of Australia's secret flying-boat repair base during WWII. Like a lot of museums of this nature, it's volunteer-run, on a shoestring budget, so the quality of the displays can be a bit iffy at times. There's a lot of random items in display cases, and a feel that the place could do with a little more organisation or curation, but it does the job of showing the work of this installation during the war, and what life was like for the hundreds of men and women stationed there.

They have a model of a Catalina flying-boat, of course ...

... as well as the real thing.

Lake Boga was selected as a base because it is large enough to land flying boats, whilst also being almost circular (thus allowing take-off and landing regardless of wind-direction). Being well inland it was basically safe from Japanese attack. Over 400 planes, Australian, US and Dutch, were repaired or serviced there during the war.

You can even climb up a rickety step-ladder and get a view along the interior of the fuselage.

Next to the main museum is the command bunker, which has some great wartime radio kit on display.

In a series of display cabinets in the foyer is a collection of 1/48th aircraft models bequeathed to the museum. These cover WWI and WWII, and include a complete set of all Spitfire marks. However the highlight for me was the collection of WWI aircraft. I took a few photos for painting reference purposes.

A Morane N

Morane L

Albatros DIII (I think)

Fokker DVIII

Fokker DVIII

A week later we found ourselves further west, in the town of Wentworth, which is where the Murray and Darling rivers meet. The Murray/Darling river system is extensive - the fourth largest in the world, and one of the most navigable - and was key to the opening up of the interior of Australia during the late 19th century. And where you get river you get riverboats. We'd seen the real things in Echuca earlier, but in Wentworth is a small museum run by a man named Rodney Hobbs who builds scale models of Australian riverboats.

There's about 30 in the collection at present, all completely scratchbuilt in roughly 1/32nd scale.

He admits that the accuracy of some of them is suspect; in many cases all he had to work from is a single photograph, newspaper illustration or written description, so some elements of the models are based on conjecture. In other cases, however, he has full plans, or even the actual boat itself.

This is a model of the Pevensey.

The actual boat has been restored and operates out of Echuca, taking tourists up and down the river. We went on it, and it's well worth the trip. The Pevensey starred as the Philadephia in the 1980s TV mini-series 'All The Rivers Run'.

As you can see, along with the models the museum has pictures, newspaper cuttings and all kinds of other ephemera.

I spent a good hour chatting with Rod about riverboats, both Australian (his passion) and those from the US Civil War (my passion). He showed me his workshop, and the model he currently has under construction, although I didn't take any photos there. He uses thin MDF strips for the hull planking, whilst the interiors and superstructure and largely built of balsa. Like any good modeller, he salvages all kinds of crap for future use.

This collection of models is truly worth a visit if you're passing through Wentworth.

A final bonus photo. Wentworth also has a Pioneer Museum, which not only houses artifacts and ephemera from the town's history, but also has a collection of fibre-glass models of some of Australia's extinct megafauna. Particularly impressive is this model of the giant monitor lizard, Megalania. It's a constant source of amazement that these things possibly overlapped with the presence of humans in Australia. It's not something you'd want to encounter, ever.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

A Visit To Cowra POW Camp

Back in April I went camping in Central New South Wales. On the way back we paid what we assumed would be a quick visit to Cowra POW Camp, and ended up staying longer than we anticipated.

The camp was built during WWII and housed about 4000 prisoners in four compounds. Many were Italians, there were some Koreans who had served in the Japanese military, a group of Indonesian civilians, but there were also just over 1,000 Japanese prisoners.

In August 1944 word was leaked of a plan to move all of the Japanese prisoner who were not officers or NCOs to another camp at nearby Hay. The prisoners were informed on 4th August. On the night of the 5th August, just over 1,000 attempted a massed breakout.

Armed with improvised weapons, they stormed the guard posts en masse. Four Australian soldiers were killed, along with numerous POWs. Just over 350 actually escaped the camp, disappearing into the surrounding countryside. A number committed suicide either during the breakout, or after it. There are stories of prisoners attempting to hitch-hike, and cases of local civilians giving them food and shelter. The prisoners themselves had been ordered not to harm the local civilian population. Within 10 days all of the surviving escapees had been recaptured.

The final toll was 4 Australian soldiers killed, along with 231 prisoners dead and 108 wounded. Many died by suicide or at the hands of their fellows.

The camp itself continued to operate until the end of the war.

Virtually none of the original camp structure survives, but the area it covered has footpaths and numerous interpretative boards which explain life in the camp, and the lead-up to the breakout as well as the events of the breakout itself. These photos show some of the surviving structures and foundations. Sadly I don't have much in the way of notes as to what most of these pictures are of.

This is a reconstruction.

The layout of the camp.

The Italian prisoners had numerous craftsmen in their ranks. They built two fountains in their compound, parts of which still survive. They also worked in the local community; indeed they seem to have been lightly supervised, with an expectation that they would work outside the camp during the day and return at night. Some even used this freedom of movement to carry on romantic relationships with the locals.

Near the camp is a Japanese war cemetery; initially this held the dead from the breakout, but in 1960 it was expanded to house the remains of all Japanese war dead in Australia. In addition Cowra has a magnificent Japanese garden, built  in part by the Japanese government in gratitude for the town's respectful treatment of both the prisoners and the war-dead. It exists as a symbol of peace and friendship between the people of Japan and the people of Cowra.

Saturday, 4 November 2017


It's been a few month since Rommel was released, but Thursday night was the first chance our group had to play a game using the finished rules. We were one of the playtest groups, so we knew what we were doing, but it was great to actually play the finished product.

Rommel is a WWII operational game, which uses reinforced company-sized units and a square-grid, each square being a kilometre in size. This table, for example, represents 8km by 12km.

We played the Counterattack at Deir el Tarfa scenario from the rules, with an Allied force defending against a strong German armoured force. Ralph and I took the Allies, and immediately botched our deployment; our desire to have a strong attacking right flank, loaded with armour (Valentines) we left our centre with a great big hole.

The attacking Axis troops were a mix of Germans and Italians.

The Italians attacked first, driving forward quickly and seizing one of the objectives under our very nose.

German an Italian tanks moved up in the centre.

Our Grants suffered badly, as the Axis army drove into our centre and cut the supply line to most of our force.

On our right the Valentines attacked some isolated German infantry, who were able to withdraw before things got too serious for them.

However we pushed through and cut the German's supply as well.

We even overran their artillery. On the downside this was basically our only success of the game.

Our last Grant unit made a desperate attempt to grab a German-held objective.

Meanwhile our infantry was managing to hold out defending another objective marker. But our position was untenable; we had no capacity to replenish resources, and our command and control was al over the place. So we conceded the game.

Our mistake was the big hole in our centre which left the Germans able to cut our supply. This basically made it more costly in terms of resources to activate our units, and slowed our response. Tactics for combats are also a resource which needs to be renewed, and we couldn't afford to replenish those either, leaving us seriously disadvantaged.

Everyone seemed to have a good time, and the game certainly achieves what it sets out to do, giving you a battle of reserves and resources rather than details of weaponry and armour.

On the other table, Geoff and Peter played DBR. It looked very impressive, with Geoff emerging victorious from a battle which pitted his Florentine quantity against Peter's quality.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Tank Thursday

It was a quiet club-night last night. I didn't have a game organised, and the planned large game fell through, so I ended up as an observer. But that was OK as I also ended up as a taxi service for my daughter and had to leave early.

There were two games on display. First up, Geoff and Peter played GHQ's micro-armour rules. These looked quite interesting, although some of the mechanisms, and the proliferation of markers, betrayed their apparent board-game roots. Each 1" base represents a platoon, and the game has an interesting orders system where you select a mode for each group of bases, but then roll to see how many of those groups you can then automatically activate.

Geoff's Russians were defending a farm.

Peter's Germans were attacking them.

As I left the Germans had just reached the defences, I don't know what happened next.

Bryan and Ralph were on the other table, teaching Daniel the ins and outs of Team Yankee.

Next week sees more Maurice, I believe.
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