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Archive for November, 2012

Cold War Missile Crisis

‘One Hell of a Gamble’  was John Bassett’s anniversary Cuban Missile Crisis dual location crisis game.

Wargaming the ungamable?    Well, it worked very well.

Washington (most of the rooms and corridors) and Cuba (the shared social space – a bit like Uncle Sam’s back kitchen) were in London, populated with a big US Administration team (White House, Pentagon, CIA etc.), a handful of Soviet players (ambassador, KGB bureau chief, arms convoy commander etc.)  and Bob Castro …

The Kremlin was in Sheffield hosted by Tim Gow.

There was an open Skype line connecting the two locations, plus the various players had their line contacts and moles on mobile links.

I played Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador in Washington, and my most regular game contacts were Gromyko in Moscow by phone, and the Attorney General (Robert Kennedy – my best line to JFK), face-to-face, in the Washington corridors …

The communications were a bit clunky, which seemed appropriate, and real time events could rapidly overtake the process of reporting back and waiting for Politburo decisions in response.   This felt very plausible.

Did we save the world?  Yes – of course … a telephone hot line was set up and the warm war cooled down again.

I have played in a number of these Committee/’crisis’ style games, and having the remote players in another city really enhanced the feel of it.    I think, 50 years on, this was a good time to play a Cuban Missile Crisis game – and this format suited it well.

We were able to play the vital days over a few sociable (if fraught) hours before repairing to the pub for an essential post debrief ‘debrief’ …

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PBI – Battle for Bastogne …

(2 PZR’s armoured recce runs into the northern sector around Bastogne …)

This was very much a ‘work in progress’ game.  My (Late War) Aufklarungsschwadron company is from the 2nd Panzer Division, and Richard has been working on a US Airborne Company (one of PP’s Black Boxes) … the inspiration for the Americans has, all along, been Dick Winters’s Band of Brothers.

Fortuitously, it is entirely possible that the two forces ran into each other round about the 19th – 20th December 1944.

BASTOGNE – northern sector

Lead units from 2nd Panzer ran into the Bastogne perimeter around Foy and Noville on the 19th December 1944, by which time the 101st had been trucked in to shore up the bare defences of the hub town.

From what we know, 2 PZR’s recon battalion pushed around the north of Bastogne (in order to open up the road and by-pass the defences), while Easy Company was sent up to their celebrated fox holes in the woods around Foy.

So, historically, my PBI company force and Richard’s may have missed each other by half a mile or so, and maybe half a day … but it may be that some elements of the respective units did fight each other on or around the 19th/20th December …

Company Command, E Coy, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry

(Work in Progress: Peter Pig figures painted by Richard Lockwood)

We are both working on some frozen terrain for the winter scenario, but this was very much a test game  … so we gave the units a trial on a more generic battlefield.

The game itself was relatively quick … these German reconnaissance companies deploy a massive amount of firepower, and the Americans had deployed a little too far forward.   They just took too much incoming MG42 fire in the opening phases to be able to get off the back foot,  and the main attacker objectives were seized almost before the defenders could respond.

Armoured Recce troops overrun the objectives

I suspect all fellow wargamers will know what happened when the paras hit their ‘5 down’ break test … After all, they were rated as Veterans

(Bastogne: how the test game actually looked)

So, although the game clock showed plenty of time left for the action, time was running out for Easy Company who were falling back to find a less exposed position on which to make a more determined stand.

(Bastogne: a bit of cheating which gives a better indication of the plan)

So this was a one-sided but useful test game: Richard is going to make some tweaks to the American organisation, and we will be working on some winter terrain tiles to get the look and feel right.

Nevertheless, an inspiring game of an action very close to the historical narrative – and one which left us both browsing and investing at Warfare the following morning …

We need more trees …

By the way … I caught a film on Satellite the other day … Battleground – a close parallel to the modern Band of Brothers TV adaptation with which so many of us are familiar.    I suspected it would be a load of old ….  But I found myself quickly drawn into a very engaging treatment of the story.  Well worth a look if it pops up on your listings.

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My 15mm ex-Matchbox M17 Lend Lease Quad 50 cal

There are a lot of shows, competitions and heritage events cramming the early Autumn, but in the quiet moments I have been chipping away at a number of projects.

I now have a multiple gun motor carriage to add to my Red Army inventory – and give some added air defence.  The model is an extreme revitalising of an old Matchbox toy half track – the first military vehicle I ever bought (and one which hasn’t seen service in over 30 years) …

Bet you wouldn’t have guessed from the picture!   Welcome back, old friend …

For more on the makeover, see the modelling page

(Welcome material from the arsenal of democracy: Jeep by Peter Pig, SU-57 by Battlefront, M17 built on a Matchbox original)

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