28 August 2020

Beneath the Med


A couple of weeks ago I ordered a copy of Beneath the Med, a solo World War II submarine game. This is way out of my wheelhouse but it looked interesting and since face to face gaming opportunities are a bit less common than usual, I figured it would get some attention. The last time I played a game like this was in the mid 1980's when I was in middle school - B-17 Queen of the Skies by Avalon Hill. 

Being utterly unfamiliar with the Italian submarine program during the second world war, this game would prove to be rather educational as well. You start by selecting or randomly determining what class of ship you're assigned to and you assume to role of the captain. The game begins in June 1940 and you are assigned missions until you are sunk or until you survive until August of 1943. 

For my first go at the game, I selected a Brin-class submarine, based on alphabetical order. She was christened the Boyardi.There are twelve different submarine classes represented in BtM. 

For my June 1940 mission, I was assigned a minelaying mission in the Central Med. Wonderful! As it turns out, these subs carried the mines in their torpedo tubes so I'd be essentially unarmed until after I dropped off the mines. No sooner had I left port than an Allied aircraft buzzed me. I dove out of view and carried on to my target, the cruise was uneventful and the mines were laid. Torpedoes were then loaded and I was on the prowl for my first target on the way back to port. We located a tanker which had an escort with it. My salvo was way off target and the escort located my ship quickly. One of the Boyardi's engines was fouled up, necessitating an immediate return to port. Of course a British plane took the opportunity to strafe us on the way home. We made it in safely and ultimately our first mission was a success!

Repairs took some time and the Boyardi was not ready to sail again until October. Our second sortie was to the Eastern Med on a pure hunting excursion. It wasn't long before we stumbled upon a British submarine, the HMS Triad! Fortune was with us and we were able to catch it with a torpedo before they had time to react. Those sailors terrible fate could have easily be our own. The Boyardi slinked off, the crew in a mood equal parts elated and stunned. The following morning we caught a massive silhouette in the periscope. We carefully closed with it and it was quickly apparent this was a battleship! They must've been responding to the Triad's emergency call. Although escorts were present (they always are with capital ships), this was too much of an opportunity to pass up. Four torpedoes were loosed at close range. Moments later a trio of explosions. The crew cheered as the Boyardi dove. The cheering was short-lived as altogether different explosions began. The depth charges took their toll early and often as multiple systems began taking damage. The Boyardi was crippled but did escape as the escort turned back towards the old dreadnought, the HMS Valiant, to rescue sailors. It was a slow voyage back to Trieste but uneventful. A hero's welcome awaited the crew of Boyardi. She would take four months to repair and refit.

My third voyage was to the Western Mediterranean. Not long after arriving on station, a British cruiser, the Sheffield, was discovered heading out to the Atlantic. Without an escort, it was an easy target. This cruise was shaping up nicely. A week later we were blessed by Neptune, the carrier HMS Eagle was located at night. What unbelievable luck! All four torpedoes connected, though one failed to explode. Nonetheless, the mighty ship was done for, just as a squall started up, helping mask our escape. Absolute textbook, in and out. Returning to base after another incredibly successful mission, we encountered another cruiser, also without an escort! The last of the Boyardi's torpedoes were launched at the unfortunate vessel which sank rapidly, even though only a single torpedo had struck her.

She sailed back into port at the end of February and another celebration followed. In its short career, the Boyardi had become legendary.

More next time.

By the way, I'm very happy with the purchase and the game offers a wonderful, easy-to-manage gaming experience. I like the campaign aspect and the career tracker. I'd recommend the game to anyone looking for a nice distraction while social distancing.

16 August 2020

It's a Trap - An AK-47 Republic AAR

After an unflattering radio interview with "Colonel Lion," President for Life Johnson was out for blood. Lion, a suspected MCC leader, had managed to get himself broadcast on Litumsian Radio One. While Johnson's troops ransacked the radio station, Lion himself was safe, miles away. The interview had been pre-recorded and an MCC sympathizer had gotten the tape into the radio station earlier in the day.

The furious President Johnson issued orders for a purge of leadership and other sensitive positions. In an unfortunate mix-up, Major Charles Courbet, a savvy leader in the eastern province of Bazinga was executed as an MCC infiltrator. 

Days later, government forces began rolling through Bazinga. Colonel Lion assembled a group of fighters and put together a trap.

The battlefield. The WPA objectives were the crossroad, the redoubt and the observation tower.

WPA militia with an armored car and a group of Type 59 tanks. Their focus is the crossroad which is currently held by a large group of MCC militia. At the top of the frame you can see some rebel tanks in the redoubt .

Far off to the other flank, government regulars advance on the tower, protected by traitors and an armored car.

Early into the proceedings. The WPA tanks advance on the crossroad and begin blasting away at the communist sympathizers guarding it. The tankers are sure to stay back out of line of the way of the rebel tanks they'd gotten wind of. You can see Colonel Lion taking pictures to send to the worldwide media to gain support for the MCC uprising.

WPA tanks take their toll on the militia.

Over on my right flank, a firefight erupts between former compatriots.

Apparently fighting against their erstwhile cohorts was too much for the WPA regular army troops and they fled the field. Curses!

Or perhaps it was a football game about to begin? The rebel militia holding the crossroad also headed for home, having been the subject of the tanks' attention for too long.

Just then, another platoon of President Johnson's soldiers arrive. Not a moment too soon, but way out of position. We don't need reinforcements over here!
 Meanwhile just ahead of them, the slowest platoon on earth finally reaches the village. 

The hits keep on coming for the WPA force. More reinforcements arrive in the form of some field artillery. Hopefully with their transports, their terrible location won't but a major disadvantage.

During this time there was a significant lull in fighting as the WPA forces got into position while the MCC cautiously stood their ground, hopeful that reinforcements would arrive.

No government troops at all on the southern 2/3 of the table! 

But they got it in gear (literally!) right away and the infantry and artillery began making great strides. The tanks still held still, hesitant to expose themselves to a fusillade from the rebel tanks.

The reinforcement infantry keeps up its strong pace. One of the Type 59s pulls out to provide some covering fire for the ground-pounders. It's swiftly pinned by the distant M46es.

But now was the time! With too many targets for the three rebel tanks to deal with, the tanks and infantry flooded forward. 

Infantry close in on the crossroad.

And the artillery is close to it's destination!
 Rounds swiftly rip through two of the President's tanks. Return fire was ineffective

The MCC tanks continued to pour shots into the WPA forces near the town. The third tank brews up and a gun crew is taken out.

But all of that that shooting comes at a price! The MCC tanks run out of ammunition and flee the battle while they can still get away safely. Things are looking up for the Workers' Party Army.

Right place, right time. The artillery batteries' transports gun their engine and make a bee-line towards the recently-abandoned redoubt. Fortune smiles on the righteous!

The armored car over on the train tracks begins lobbing shells at the cannons as they start setting up. No casualties are caused but the militia crews are getting quite nervous!

The lone MCC unit.

The explosions are too much. The gun crews abandon their equipment and flee the field! Tragedy for the President!

A strange sight appears in the sky.

Time expired and the battle ended. 

At the end of the day, the MCC rebels had held and President Johnson's raids in Bazinga suffered a setback to be sure, especially losing three good tanks and an artillery battery.

What a fun game. AK-47 is easily one of the most entertaining miniatures games ever put to paper. Simple, effective, fun. What more do you want? My wife game me a good whipping, 63-43. There were a couple of things that could have swung it in my advantage easily that just didn't go my way. The crossroad objective was only worth 10 points and was the only one I managed to capture. The center objective that I captured for about 10 seconds was worth 30. If I hadn't flubbed three morale tests in two turns with the artillery unit, that would've won the game for me.

Of course, the real game changers we the pre-battle political tables with gave my wife a free armored car w/ cannon (that AMX13/75 on the train tracks that ran my artillery off) and screwed me with an unfortunate political purge, allowing my wife to choose where my reinforcements would arrive.

Wifey did very well, especially considering the complete lack of reinforcements she received. In AK-47 Republic, you can start rolling for reinforcements / late arrivals on turn 4. The game went on for ten full turns and my bride was 0-for-14 on rolling sixes to get additional units into the battle!

Another fun chapter in the running history of the Litumsian Civil War.. or will it be the Litumsian Revolution? The way things are going, revolution seems more likely!

10 August 2020

Seeing the Forest

 I had a productive Sunday morning and afternoon yesterday, putting together some sci-fi jungle scenery together. I had picked up the components a month or so ago. Sunday, with two extra rugrats in the house, it seemed like a fine time to be a little anti-social and get in a bit of time with the hot glue gun.

I cut, sanded and painted the plywood bases that same month ago. The plastic flowers came from Michael's craft store - 90% off is hard to resist. I also mixed in some aquarium plants. I snipped the foliage apart and then spent maybe an hour and a half hot-gluing them to the plywood bases.

A bit of carpenter's glue and sand... a bit more cheap paint and voila!

They'll look nice mixed in with my other jungle plants, 28mm or 15mm. I have another 12" x 12" sheet of 3mm plywood. I've got half a mind to cut it into geomorphic strips to make some streams. I have some 4" wide river sections I made back in the FOW days that have served very well, but living in a flood plain / saltwater marsh, it occurs to me that more water isn't a bad thing. Plus, thinner water features would work nicely in 6mm games and I could finally replace the ugly felt strips I currently use.

09 August 2020

Updated "Blogger" Controls

 I'm curious... for those of you out there who use Google's Blogger platform for hosting your own blogs, what are your thoughts about the new interface and controls? There are enough small changes to just really irritate me. I won't be changing to a different platform; that would be too severe of a shift. Having been in the IT industry since 1991, I've seen many cases of "change for change's sake," and I'm having a hard time picking up in the value created by these changes.

If I didn't mention it in an earlier post, my usual gaming buddy Ziggy is currently deployed in the Middle East. He's a loadmaster on a C-130. Expected home in mid-October. Here's to him and all of you service-members out there. Stay safe! No more nasty ISIS jackasses shooting at your plane!

08 August 2020

Teen Titans and the Kobra Kult

 Mark and Wayne came over for a game of Batman Miniatures lase weekend. It was the first outing for both the Teen Titans and the Kobra Kali Yaga. I used the Titans, a small group of Hawk, Dove, Beast Boy and Robin. Wayne and Mark split the 8-member Kobra team between them. It was an ambush scenario with my heroes in the center of the layout, surrounded. 

The layout. Hawk and Dove are in the center. BB and Robin are on the roof of a building towards the back. They're both very mobile and can get anywhere very quickly.

Hawk and Dove move over to engage Eve and three of her henchmen.

Meanwhile, Robin and Beast Boy, in hawk form, descend upon the Void Priest, intent on a quick knock-out.

The original Hawk tangles with Eve. He may have underestimated his opponent.

Eve's goons lend a hand. Hawk's in big trouble now.

Robin leaves the Void Priest to Beat Boy and dashes over to assist Hawk and Dove. He intercepts Nagas who is closing in.

Beast Boy has shifted form into a Tiger and takes out the priest.

But things just are not going well for our heroes. Dove is taken out by a Kobra soldier and a Hybrid snake-man. 

Poor Dove.

Robin and Beast Boy run for it. They've lost both Hawk and Dove and time's nearly up! 

But then, Robin doubles-back, impetuously trying to get the last laugh. But it's the Kobra Kali-Yaga who prove to be a tough nut to crack. They're ready for Robin and leave him thoroughly embarrassed in the street. 

For an epic butt-kicking, it was rather entertaining game. I made the classic mistake of splitting my force even though I was outnumbered. I should have kept the crew as a four-man wrecking crew. BB, Robin and Hawk could have smashed any single opponent in one round but instead I ended up with split-up, scattered attacks that didn't really do much. Fate conspired to deal poor dice rolls against the Void Priest who lasted way longer than he should have. By the time he was dealt with, Hawk and Dove were on the ropes. 

That said, the Kobra gang are very solid and Mark and Wayne played a solid game. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

02 August 2020

More Ghouls, Sir!

One of the more significant painting projects I've had in the hopper over the last couple weeks was a batch of Age of Sigmar Ghouls. Ironically, now that I've got a "proper-sized force," the fellow at work who was encouraging me to go down the AoS path is about to have his first child and his gaming opportunities will be drying up very soon! The previous batch of ghouls was completed well over a year ago and can be seen here.

What I painted up this time was a box of 20 "Flesh Eater Courts Ghouls" and a box of Warhammer Underworlds "Grymwatch" which can be used as a stand-alone group in AoS. I also located a Ghoul King model on the "start collecting" sprues from last year and put him together as a leader for this rabble.

The whole shebang. Grymwatch models are on the right and include the pair o' bats.

That's the big boss-man in the back there.

And here are a few shots of the Grymwatch models:

They do a fine job of "mixing up the assortment." Same theme, different poses. The big axe and bats are nice. I need to try to get a hold of Landon for a game while he can!