Sunday, May 19, 2013

Solitary Soldiers Campaign Progress

As I mentioned a few posts back, I've been getting in some solo or co-op games following along with Britton Publishing's Solitaire Soldiers campaign book. There are ten missions, which I'm going through in order, which start from D-Day and follow a squad of 12 men through three months in 1944 with the 29th Infantry Division.

I've just completed the fifth scenario, this one solo (my son is my co-op partner, and he's in and out). I've been using Savage Worlds (Savage Showdown, actually) as the rules set. These rules are awesome for these kinds of scenario driven games. They have their downsides, but overall I think they fit the bill.  Showdown is incredibly deadly, and solo/co-op friendly.

Seeing how I'm halfway done, I thought I'd share a peek into the campaign diary I'm keeping. I take pictures during the game and jot down notes so I don't loose anything later on. When all 10 scenarios are done, I'll probably print the diary and bind it. I'll also link it up online, but doubt anyone but me would find it interesting.

So right after this, will be the excerpt from the diary. There are three parts to each entry. There's the set up that I copy right out of the book. Then there's a POV after action report I do as the player character. (The writing is pretty lame; I don't put much effort into it, since it's just for me really). Finally, I'll record casualties, victory outcomes, and any other notes. Right now, the diary is up to 23 pages, but that's with lots of pictures.

Be warned, there's lots of reading ahead! 

Mission Five: Self Propelled Gun

Something startles Kiefer from a deep sleep. He brushes the dirt from his face, closes his eyes and settles back into a rhythmic breathing pattern. Suddenly, more dirt falls on his cheek and he swats the air. This time he sits up, annoyed that his sleep has been interrupted. He holds his breath to listen for the source of his discontent. He hears the birds and a few insects, but nothing more. Then dirt from the top of his foxhole breaks off all around the perimeter, and he feels the ground begin to tremble. Then he hears the distinctive sound of clanking treads. The continued tremor from the massive weight of several armored fighting vehicles causes him to peer out of his cover.

Kiefer rises and whispers, “LT?” With no response, he says it louder, “Lieutenant, I hear enemy armor!” The men begin to scramble for their weapons and one soldier yells, “Tiger!” As the squad scans the road, a large self-propelled gun is observed following a half-track. Closer examination reveals a Sturmhaubitz 42. The half-track most likely contains a security element. They seem to be unaware of the squad’s presence and are moving to establish an artillery position that will enable the SP gun to fire on the Battalion CP.

As the Panzergrenadiers disembark and take up defensive positions, the StuH 42 comes to a stop just to the left of the half-track. The tank commander opens his hatch and stands up tall in the cupola with his binoculars. He scans the horizon and calls out coordinates to his gunner.

After Action Report (POV is PFC Dickie Summers)

The early morning sun was at our backs, and probably made it hard for the Germans to see us. They had cruised past, one Tiger and a halftrack.  Hollis told me later it was an infantry gun called a StuH. They all look the same to me.  We were on patrol in a hilly patch of land, following a road and scouting for Gerry, and he ended up driving right past us.

 Lt. Freeman (we still haven't taken to calling him Curly to his face) lined us up behind a hill and sent Jay Shannon up it to see what the Krauts were about. We call Jay "Shy Shannon" on account of his not saying much, but he had a lot to say after he had a look. The StuH had stopped on top of an outcrop and the halftrack was unloading a squad of Panzergrenadiers. 

Lt. Freeman broke us into a fire and maneuver team.  The maneuver team included me, Shy Shannon, Kiefer (with the rifle grenade), Cpl Becker, and Allen Owen. My job was to kill the tank commander and hopefully stop that tank from taking action. Keef and the others would lay down fire on the Panzergrenadiers and hopefully chase them off.  The LT and Sgt Markham would take the rest of the squad to a ruined farmhouse and create a firebase to cover us while we tried to flank the Germans. 

Sounded like a plan from boot camp. What could go wrong?

I got off my shot and the German TC slumped over in his cupola. The rest of the crew bailed out. Keef and the others didn't do as well. The Krauts were in a cluster by their halftrack, but Keef's rifle grenade went wide. They spotted us right away. To make it worse, we were on the hill with no cover.

Despite the fleeing StuH crew, the Panzergrenadiers went to work. They turned their halftrack around and used it for cover, while a team of them slipped into the hedgerows along the road to get a firing position on the hill.
With all the German MGs we were torn up pretty bad on that hill. We had to hit the dirt. Owen went down right away. He didn't even cry out, just collapsed like a sack of potatoes. Sgt Markham and the BAR weren't doing much to relieve pressure on us. Their position didn't give a good view of the Germans, though they managed to snipe a Kraut officer hiding behind the halftrack.

The hill was a goddamn nightmare.  The entire German squad had us pinned. Keef fired a few grenades, but both went wide. Too much lead whizzing overhead to line up a shot.  A bullet grazed my helmet and I went blank from fear. I actually thought I was dead. I'm sure it wasn't long, but in that time Corporal Becker was rolling on his back while Shy Shannon lay face down with blood pumping into the grass. Only Keef seemed to have it together. But that wasn't going to last. I started saying my prayers, hoping someone was listening to me.

 And He was. An M10 TD showed up. Sgt Markham had friends in the tank destroyer platoons, and I suppose somehow he managed to have one in the area. I don't ask too many questions about lucky breaks.  That it showed up when it did is a miracle.

The StuH crew, seeing how well the Panzergrenadiers were doing, decided to jump back into their tank. Our TD had a shot at its rear armor. That TD was flying ahead like it knew just where to go. I kept down, but raised my head enough to see the TD take a shot and miss.  The StuH started to lumber around to face its gun toward the farmhouse.

Doc Anderson had sprinted across the open field for us up on the hill. Looking back, his brave run probably saved his life. The Krauts were more aggressive now that their tank was back.  Corporal Becker raised his head to shout something to me.  I crawled back to hear him over the noise. My shoulder and left leg burned with fire, and I felt like Joe Lewis had used me for a punching bag.  Becker screamed and rolled down the hill.  Keef dragged me back down the slope, while Doc worked on the others. He was a true hero, standing out there while the Germans shot at him, working on the wounded like nothing more than mosquitoes were flying around him.

The StuH lined up a shot on the farmhouse and blew the top floor to pieces. Charlie Mayer and Hollis Woodard were up there. Charlie had the BAR and so drew the StuH fire. The halftrack crew used their MGs to keep up the pressure, and Sgt Markham got hit as well. I thought we were going to break off, but we held.

Our M10 angel came through for us. I could hear the TD commander shouting for his gunner to hurry up. The moment they lined up their shot, I heard a gigantic clang and the StuH went up in flames.

The Krauts decided they had enough with a fresh M10 and no anti-tank capabilities. They pulled out, firing as they went. Lt. Freeman wisely didn't pursue them. We didn't have the fire power to handle them, and so Gerry slipped away. 

Without that M10 to shift the tide, I don't think I could be giving you this report. As it is, I'm going to be laid up for a while as these wounds heal. I'll never know the name of the place where we fought, but I won't soon forget that hill and all the blood my buddies and I left on it that day.

 Casualty Report
KIA: Sgt Paul Markham, Pvt Allan Owen, PFC Charlie Mayer,  Pvt Jay Shannon
WIA:  Cpl Gene Becker
WIA (fit for duty): PFC Richard "Dickie" Summers, Pvt Hollis Woodard

Mission Outcome: Draw (2xp) StuH eliminated, 2 enemies killed

Notes: PFC Richard Summers awarded Purple Heart and promoted to Corporal.  Congratulations, soldier!

Now only three soldiers survive from the original D-Day squad.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Air Combat: Wings of Glory

I've always thought I'd enjoy Wings of Glory (formerly Wings of War) but never got around to trying out these rules. Recently a friend of mine agreed to get into the game if I would, and of course I was up for that.  There are rules for both WWI and WW2, and they are similar but different games. I decided on WW2, and picked up two of their game mats and four Japanese planes for the Pacific War. 

I've played a few games of the WW2 rules and really enjoyed them. I have yet to play scenarios or with the advanced rules for altitudes, but I'll probably be working those into future games. We played two-on-two dog fights, US versus Japan. The game mats really enhanced the experience, though the water color was a little too intense. Maybe that's how it looks from high altitudes.

The miniatures look great right out of the box. Each plane has its own maneuver deck that models how agile the plane is. You also get some cards for special moves.  There's a serious amount of counters involved with this game, but they are fortunately kept off the board on a special "dashboard." Your planes are not cluttered with markers and doo-dads while flying around.

So my Japanese planes were a bit more agile than the US planes. However, the US got lucky and shot down my Zero in one go. After that, they chased me around while I managed to pick away at the US planes as I zoomed around the board.

I actually managed to shoot down one of the American P-40E Warhawks and I had my Kawasaki Ki-61 in position behind the last plane. Unfortunately, I pulled an illegal move and therefore a took a damage token. Since I was at my last point of damage, my plane pulled apart under the stress and the Americans won.

The WW2 rules did a great job modeling the speed and the greater mobility of the planes of that era. We didn't use half of the special rules or the pilot "ace skills".  However, the Ki-61 pilot was injured early on in the fight and his flying abilities were impaired. So there was some "pilot presence" in the game. I look forward to adding pilot skills to future games.

After that, since my friend had invested in the WWI bi-planes we put those on the table. Like I said, it is a different game because the planes fly so differently. The basics are the same, though in this game you plan out three turns in advance all at once. In the WW2 version, you're adjusting all the time. Also there's not speed variability in this game either.

I played Germans, flying the famous Red Baron!  I was pretty excited about that and felt the Red Baron was going to clean up the table!  Across the board were the despised British, just waiting to be shot down.

It must have been early in the Red Baron's career.  He went down in a blaze of glory, his plane on fire, pretty much right from the start. His buddy didn't do much better. He was also set on fire and had his left rudder jammed. The fire had an interesting effect in that I could no longer fly in a straight line. I was too busy trying to put out the flames to do fancy flying.

He didn't last long either, and he spun to earth a few more turns after the Red Baron. At least it was a quick defeat.  I actually liked the WWI rules a little better than the WW2 rules, though that's really splitting hairs. Both are great games with enough similarity between them. You unfortunately do have to buy two different accessory and rules boxes for each game.

Right now I only have the mats and the four Japanese planes. I will definitely be buying more planes for both Pacific and other theaters, as well as forces for both Axis and Allies. At some point, I'll have to get the WWI stuff too.  If you are looking for an air combat game that's easy to get into, then I really suggest this game. It's simple to learn and not too expensive to get started.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


This is a 20mm WW2 German field latrine set, complete with officer reading the paper while taking a dump.  Why is this model set necessary?  Why would you paint such a model? Why would anyone create this set in the first place? 

There are too many questions.  I will go to the can and think about this for a while. Maybe an answer will come to me.

Find this lovely set here, about halfway down the page.