Monday, November 12, 2012

I Remember, Veteran's Day, 2012

Below is one of my favorite articles by Ernie Pyle. It is very appropriate for Veteran' Day.

The Death of Capt. Waskow

AT THE FRONT LINES IN ITALY, Jan 10 (1944) (by Wireless) — In this war I have known a lot of officers who were loved and respected by the soldiers under them. But never have I crossed the trail of any man as beloved as Capt. Henry T. Waskow of Belton, Tex.
Capt. Waskow was a company commander in the 36th Division. He had been in this company since long before he left the states. He was very young, only is his middle twenties, but he carried in him a sincerity and gentleness that made people want to be guided by him.
“After my own father, he comes next,” a sergeant told me.
“He always looked after us,” a solder said. “He’d go to bat for us every time.”
* * *
I was at the foot of the mule trail the night they brought Capt. Waskow down. The moon was nearly full and you could see far up the trail, and even part way across the valley. Soldiers made shadows as they walked.
Dead men had been coming down the mountain all evening, lashed onto the backs of mules. They came belly down across the wooden backsaddle, their heads hanging down on the left side of the mule, their stiffened legs sticking awkwardly from the other side, bobbing up and down as the mule walked.
The Italian mule skinners were afraid to walk beside dead men, so Americans had to lead the mules down that night. Even the Americans were reluctant to unlash and lift off the bodies, when they got to the bottom, so an officer had to do it himself and ask others to help.
The first one came early in the morning. They slid him down from the mule, and stood him on his feet for a moment. In the half light he might have been merely a sick man standing there leaning on the other. Then they laid him on the ground in the shadow of the stone wall alongside the road.
I don’t know who that first one was. You feel small in the presence of dead men, and you don’t ask silly questions . . .
We left him there beside the road, that first one, and we all went back into the cowshed and sat on watercans or lay on the straw, waiting for the next batch of mules.
Somebody said the dead soldier had been dead for four days, and then nobody said anything more about him. We talked for an hour or more; the dead man lay all alone, outside in the shadow of the wall.
Then a soldier came into the cowshed and said there were some more bodies outside. We went out into the road. Four mules stood there in the moonlight in the road where the trail came down off the mountain. The soldiers who led them stood there waiting.
“This one is Capt. Waskow,” one of them said quickly.
Two men unlashed his body from the mule and lifted it off and laid it in the shadow beside the stone wall. Other men took the other bodies off. Finally, there were five lying end to end in a long row. You don’t cover up dead men in combat zones. They just lie there in the shadows until somebody else comes after them.
The uncertain mules moved off to their olive groves. The men in the road seemed reluctant to leave. They stood around, and gradually I could sense them moving, one by one, close to Capt. Waskow’s body. Not so much to look, I think, as to say something in finality to him and to themselves. I stood close by and I could hear.
One soldier came and looked down, and he said out loud:
“God damn it!”
Another one came, and he said, “God damn it to hell anyway!” He looked down for a few last moments and then turned and left.
Another man came. I think it was an officer. It was hard to tell officers from men in the dim light, for everybody was grimy and dirty. The man looked down into the dead captain’s face and then spoke directly to him, as tho he were alive:
“I’m sorry, old man.”
Then a solder came and stood beside the officer and bent over, and he too spoke to his dead captain, not in a whisper but awfully tender, and he said:
“I sure am sorry, sir.”
Then the first man squatted down, and he reached down and took the Captain’s hand, and he sat there for a full five minutes holding the dead hand in his own and looking intently into the dead face. And he never uttered a sound all the time he sat there.
Finally he put the hand down. He reached up and gently straightened the points of the Captain’s shirt collar, and then he sort of rearranged the tattered edges of his uniform around the wound, and then he got up and walked away down the road in the moonlight, all alone.
The rest of us went back into the cowshed, leaving the dead men lying in a line, end to end, in the shadow of the low stone wall. We lay down on the straw in the cowshed, and pretty soon we were all asleep.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

War of 1812 Reception and New Orleans Game

This past weekend was the War of 1812 Reception at Indiana University's rare books collection, the Lilly Library. My friend, Jim, and I presented our Battle of New Orleans game as part of it.

The Lilly is a little swankier than where we normally play with food and drink available at the reception.



 Friday evening's game was the historical set up with an historical result. The players and spectators were quite impressed with the terrain and figures.
On Saturday morning we played the game again, with free set up for both sides. The Americans reversed their line, putting Jackson's "Brigade" on their left, next to the cypress swamp, correcting anticipating that the British would make their main assault there.
The British set up their artillery in front of their infantry lines and bombarded the American line before launching their attack. This allowed them to create a few holes in the American line which required Jackson to commit part of his reserve. The British attack on the US right was a pinning move which worked very well. Two British brigades hit Jackson's left flank and exhausted that command. The American artillery exhausted the British artillery, but it continued to support the attack as best it could. The British crossed the canal and threw back the US left flank. On the other end of the line, the Americans annihilated the British facing them and started to move units toward the threatened flank. Due to scheduling at the Library, we had to stop at noon. On the last turn of the game, the 44th US charged the closest British unit and routed it, sending it back and causing disorder and routs in it's path.
The game ended with the issue still in doubt. One US command was almost gone, another was exhausted and the third was still able to fight.
The British has suffered one command eliminated, another one loss from being exhausted and the last one still in the fight. We will fight this again with plenty of time and see what happens. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

New Orleans Play Test

My friend, Jim and I have been working on our New Orleans project as part of the Indiana University Lilly Library's War of 1812 Open House. We had our first play test game this afternoon. Jim and I played the US and Troy and Brady commanded the British.
We used the battalion scale version of Volley and Bayonet. I painted one unit, built the model of the Macarty House, Jackson's HQ, and created the OB; Jim created the terrain board, and painted almost all of the figures.
The game was actually close. The British crossed the American line once and almost created a three unit wide breach further down the position. The dice were in our favor and we held the line. It is definitely a tough fight for the British, but winnable.
We will run this game at Advance the Colors next Friday and then again the next Friday at the Lilly Library. Don't be surprised if you see it at Origins and GenCon next year.

The American Line, looking toward the advancing British

Another view of the American Line

Keane advances at the bottom and Gibbs at the top

The British advanced the rockets and 9 pounders and unlimbered in close range on turn 2

The first British assualt

The 5th West Indian Rgt forces it's way through the American line

The American line broken!

Gibb's first wave thrown back in confusion

The Americans counter attack and restore their line

Lambert's Bde, the British reserve, goes in

Last of the British are thrown back.

Monday, August 20, 2012

GenCon 2012 Report

I attended GenCon this year on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; an easy 50 mile drive each day. I carpooled with my friend Craig. We gamed a lot in the past, but our schedules have prevented this for years; it was good to reconnect and catch up. It was the first time I've done more than just briefly walk through the Convention Center. It is quite impressive. My only real frame of reference is Origins, which I've attended many times. GenCon is much bigger. The vendor area is probably three times as large as the one at Origins. I walked through it each day and am still not sure that I saw everything. I did buy 8 Ospreys for $2.00 each and a very good copy of the Funken uniform book covering uniforms through history. It's in French, a language I neither speak nor read, but it has a lot of great illustrations.
There are many more folks in costume at GenCon, at times it seemed that as many as 30% of the people moving around were in costume.
I played the newly released Spartacus board game; fun game. A friend demoed the game at the con and received a copy for his effort. It will be a better game with friends as a big part of it is to hamper the other players by any means available, and we all behaved in the demo game and didn't treat anyone too poorly.
I also played a game of the new Bolt Action WW II skirmish rules. Not really my cup of tea, I'll stick to Command Decision, Battleground WW II, and Flames of War for this period.
The highlight for my gaming was a two part Borodino game using Volley and Bayonet, my favorite period and rules. Played French in both games, two victories!
On Saturday night, I played a game of Free Blades, the new fantasy rules by DGS games. It is a great system.  I will do a full review of Free Blades in a few days, but until then, I highly recommend them. I would have bought a copy, but the vendor area had closed, they only had one copy for sale at the game, and Craig bought it! I'll order a set this week. I will definitely be back next year, maybe running a few games.
Haven't posted in a long time, but I plan to be a little more involved in the blog world.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Book Recommendation; Blunders on the Danube

It's been a very busy month; I started a new job on March 5, and I've had pneumonia for the last week. The job is great and the pneumonia is better. A few days ago my copy of "Blunders on the Danube," by Peter Anderson arrived. Peter, aka Gonsolvo from the Blunders on the Danube blog, has done a good job with these scenarios and I very much recommend this for the Napoleonic gamer.

There are 23 scenarios, including one for the entire Wagram battle, and then three smaller scenarios that break the battle into smaller pieces. The size of the scenarios varies from a few divisions to Wagram.
I don't play Field of Battle, but it will be quite simple to convert the OB's to Volley and Bayonet.
One of the features I like about the scenario format is that each comes with two maps; one with only the terrain, and a second with the troop deployment. Nice touch.
I haven't decided which of the scenarios I will play first, but I will be painting more Austrians. I also recommend the Blunders on the Danube blog. It is a great resource.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Generous Gift

I have worked at my current job for 11years; Friday will be my last day here at the County. I have taken another positon with more oportunity, and money. My staff took my wife and I to lunch last Friday and presented me with a gift card to the local gaming store. They only carry Warhammer and WH40K. I haven't played Warhammer since 1991, but I want to buy an army and paint it to remind me of my hard working staff. There is a local group that plays WH, my doctor is a member, so it appears the stars are aligning.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Battle of Mokre, Command Decision AAR

 We played a game of Command Decision-Test of Battle yesterday, the Battle of Mokre. The scenario is from Bob MacKenzie's excellant website. If you aren't familiar with it, please stop by and have a look.

There are many good scenarios and game pictures.

Jerry brought his camera with the new macro lens, so the quality of the pictures is much better than normal.

The Germans have launched a counter attack, just as the Soviets are reinforcing. Historically, the Soviets ambushed Kampfgruppe Collins as it entered the area. In our game, the Germans pushed their Panthers and Tiger II toward Mokre and engaged and destroyed the Soviet armor there. On the other end of the table, the Germans were unable to withstand the Soviet reinforcements. Their one StuG platoon was destroyed before help could arrive. At the end of the day, the Germans conceded.

A fun game; good scenario and good company. In two weeks I will run the Battle of Smolensk, 1812, at my home and our club game for March will be Flames of War.

The table, before the Germans deply

Kampfgruppe Collins

The Engineer Company attacks with flamethrowers!

T-34's lined up hub to hub in Mokre

Suddenly a stand of knights appears and charges the SU's

Monday, February 6, 2012

First Game of Flames of War

I played my first game of FoW this weekend and really enjoyed it. To be perfectly honest, I was not expecting to like this system at all. I have played Command Decision in it's different versions since it was first published in the late '80's and it is one of my favorite rule sets. It still is for the level of play it represents, the battalion commander.
FoW on the other hand is one level lower, the company commander. It is a fun system. If you haven't played this system, don't be narrow minded as I was, play it and have some fun. Richard provided the figures and terrain (and the coffee.) We played a meeting engagement between a mobile German force and and US paratroop force supported by arty and M-10's. I used the German mobility and zipped all over the place. In the end, I knocked out all of the US tank destroyers and most of an airborne platoon. Great fun, we will be playing more of this.

Richard has already purchased quite a collection, so I have offered to paint some infantry and vehicles as my contribution to this scale. All of my WW II collection is 20mm, plastic for the most part.

Kampfgruppe Mike

M-10's appear at the top of the photo, recon leads the way.
250/9's zip over to shoot at the US arty

End of the road for the M-10's

Recon on the flank!

Our next club game will be a Command Decision game. In March we will do a FoW game for the group.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

More Austrians

 I have been painting Napoleonic Austrians. I plan to play the battle of Raab from 1809 and need to add some specific units. The first is a stand of Hungarian Insurrection infantry. In an army of white, these guys in their blue will break up the landscape. Each large, 3"x3" base in Volley and Bayonet is either a brigade or large regiment. I need three of these Insurrection brigades.
I added some landscaping to this base. The plowed field is one of my wife's blouses that she no longer wanted. I looked at it as I put it into the charity pile and decided it would look good on the tabletop as terrain. I'm working on larger plowed fields in my spare time. The stone wall was created with air dry clay. I still need to put the flag on this unit and ink their faces.

 Next is a stand of Hungarian Insurrection cavalry. This specific base is a one strength point "skirmish" stand. Normal cavalry stands in my armies have 6-8 figures on them. The skirmish bases have only three figures. I need to paint one more of these bases.

Finally there are three infantry skirmisher bases. In Volley and Bayonet, these 1.5"x1.5" bases represent detachments of light infantry or small units of other infantry. There are two jager bases and one landwehr detachment.

Time for more painting.