Sunday, May 25, 2014

Kursk - Part Five - Moving Picture Show

Tigers burning in the fields outside Ponyri

I'm working all the hours that God sends at the moment and frankly I've been neglecting the blog.  In the vain hope that I can distract the public with gimcrack gimmicks and moving picture shows, I offer this footage. 

Michael Bay better watch out, I think you'll agree. 

An overview of Prokorhovka - the final game in the campaign. 

And for those of you that made it this far - Kittens!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Advances in framing...

...though as Doctor O'Connor pointed out, 
that's hopefully personally rather than professionally. 

I've been meaning to get motoring on framing for quite a while now and to be honest, I faffed around for far too long because I was afraid to make any mistakes. This is not the first frame I have put together and it's certainly not perfect, but it is getting there. My cuts are good, but my mitre box is a little loose and that's making it difficult to make a completely flat surface.  

I'm going to try again with a chop saw and see if that works. But once again, it's been proven that the best way to learn how to do something is to do it. 

What's in the box? 

Also a very pleasant surprise arrived yesterday, the result of a trade with David Crook


These are Lledo "Days gone by" brand trucks which will be useful for my Very British Civil War and Operation Sea Lion games.  There's a very interesting assortment, though the scale seemed to wander a bit.  Most of the vehicles seem to match up with 1/72 figures or at least don't look unreasonable.  The largest appear to be about 1/50, so I could use them for 40K Rogue Trader games. I envision my version of 40K being a TV series shot by Granada in the 1970s, which is why all the battles take place near a ruined Gothic abbey and the bad guy always has his base in a country house or an industrial estate.  The extras always wear the same uniforms too. Makes perfect sense to me. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Kursk - Part Four - The Battle of Ponyri

German infantry moving past a knocked out KV 

The battle of Ponyri was our second game of the day.  It was different from the Assault of Cherasskoye in that the deployment was set from the beginning.  The players got to determine where their reinforcements went, but beyond that they were pretty much stuck with the scenario as written. 

But, to go back to Ponyri for a moment.  This battle was like the first taking place in the northern axis of attack, the Germans had advanced deep into the Soviet positions, but kept running into yet more lines of defences. Ponyri or more particularly Ponyri station was a vital rail link between Kursk and Orel. The XLI Panzer Corps was tasked with taking the town, while the Soviet 307th Infantry Division heavily supported with artillery and other assets, had to hold it.  The fighting was fierce and the town changed hands over a dozen times.  The fighting was compared to Stalingrad in intensity. 

Combat Pioneers advance

The German advance in the centre was spearheaded by four units of Combat Pioneers armed with flamethrowers, demolition charges and harsh language. The seven hexes of the town were a majority medal objective for the Germans, if they could control more of the town than the Soviets they would gain two medals.

Meanwhile on the right...

...the Panzers are revving their engines. This was a different kettle of fish from the last game.  While the attackers would have to advance into the teeth of the Soviet defences hidden in the fields and woods around the town, this time the Soviets would have a mobile reserve of armour to counter any breakthroughs.

On the German left, the advance was led by two units of Tigers.

I was not looking forward to this one little bit as unlike Sydney on our left, I didn't have an armoured reserve.  All I could do was hang tough and try and outlast the Germans, doing as much damage as I could before they ground me into powder. As it happened, I managed to nail one of the big cats with a lucky shot in the first turn, much to Krisztians dismay.

But his retaliation was savage and emptied some of my forward defences.

The Red Air Force gets it's act together

After it's poor showing in the first scenario, the Red Air Force pulled its collective socks up and set to laying about the German armoured reserves in fine style, hitting them before they could get into the fight. This weakened the German armoured thrust on the German right and made it difficult to convert their superiority in armour into a decisive advantage.

Dakka dakka dakka 

Not to be outdone, the Luftwaffe attempted to return the favour, but poor dice rolling and a canny Soviet dispersal of their armoured reserves prevented the Germans from causing too much damage. 

General Von Kerrigan moves forward in the centre

The Germans pushed hard in the centre, while the Soviets held back, letting the Germans spend their momentum while they shelled them with mortars and artillery. The Germans bought ground, but at terrible cost and the casualty list was rising in the Soviets favour.

General Von Kerrigan pushes forward, just before the Germans make a fatal mistake

General Von Kerrigan took the town of Ponyri, albeit at great cost. Unfortunately, his success was undone by a breach in operational security.  General Von Kerrigan had quite rightly divined that the Soviet players had no idea that the German objective was the town and had been remaining very tight lipped about it.  While the Soviet players had some inkling, one of the German generals who shall remain nameless, blurted out the German objective.  This led to an immediate and concentrated Soviet counterattack, which not only cost the Germans badly in casualties, but also lost them their extra victory points.

The German advance stalls

On the Soviet right, with no reserves and a seemingly unstoppable tidal wave of German armour coming at me, I had battened down the hatches and determined that my lads would sell their lives as dearly as possible.  Curiously enough, with some luck as the Panzers tried to penetrate my minefields, I was able to hold them at bay.

Here comes the Red Army

With the German advance on the Soviet right stalled - the Soviet counter punch on the left started. It had just started going wrong for the Germans at this point - but this was really where the wheels began to come off the wagon. Comrade Sydney, never the most offensively minded of generals, confounded expectations, by just putting his head down and going bald headed for the enemy. 

General Von Kerrigan views the ruins of his plans and his panzers

In the fields the Panzers are burning. 

The battle on the Soviet left raged for several turns, but the Germans were unable to recapture their previous momentum and were reduced to tried to contain the Soviet counter attack.  Even though the Soviet infantry wasn't able to get into the fight, they prevented the German armour outflanking the main position. Meanwhile the artillery kept firing and that made all the difference. 

The final German push

In the centre, General Von Kerrigan attempted to wrest possession of the town from the Soviets in a last gasp attempt to wrestle victory from the jaws of defeat.  Von Kerrigan pushed his Ferdinands forward supported by the remainder of his infantry, but it was too little too late.  The defenders concentrated their fire on the infantry, stripping the armour of its support, and then a swift counter attack did the rest. 

This was a tough game and hard fought. The Germans did so much lose as the Soviets won it.  We improved our play, bringing combined arms to bear, relying more on our artillery and making much more inteligent use of our airpower. The tighter Soviet play meant that the Germans had far fewer weaknesses to exploit and that and a little bad luck ultimately cost them the game.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Modified Overlord Rules

A Company, 2nd Battalion, Royal Ulster Rifles, 
inland from Queen Red, Sword Beach, Normandy 1944. 
(image nicked from 

As I mentioned over on Bob Cordery's blog the other day, we play Memoir '44 Overlord often and greatly enjoy it. However, after ten years of play, we have taken to using a slightly modified version of the rules that we think works a bit better than the Overlord rules as written.  They certainly suit our group better. The tweaks are small, but significant. 

Capability Savage on his holidays

Capability Savage ran us up a playsheet while he was in Parkhurst for Sodomy, Fraud, Impersonating a Clergyman of the Church of England and Misprision of a Felony, though I'm told it was reduced on appeal to Community Service and a Ten Shilling fine. 


I hope you find this useful.  We've found this playsheet invaluable for keeping new players onboard. Most can abandon it after a game or two, but it certainly helps at conventions.

Sunday, May 18, 2014


A flight of four Airfix Harrier GR 3s 

These are being used for my "Bombers over Sulphur River" game at the end of the month.  I will have to get a wriggle on and get some paint on them though. 

The last thing a Mig pilot ever sees

Each plane has had a five cent join glued to the bottom, which serves as a point of attachment for the rare earth magnets mounted on the Corsec Engineering flight stands. These are really something and allow the plane to be manipulated in any way you like. Very, very impressed with these. 

Action shot!

"Bombers over Sulphur River" is an old Games Workshop game that we used to play in school. Best described as Space Orks meets the Dambusters, it's good fun and I've adapted it for the Cold War. Harriers will be standing in for the Ork Fighter Bommaz. 


I intend to get some crocodile clips to allow me to attach black puffs of flak to the flight stand. That will allow me to mark hits without damaging the model. This is an unusual game in that I haven't had to play test it at all - the game itself is rock solid, I'm just changing the set dressing. 

(click to embiggen)

And lest you think that I've forgotten the horse and musket completely, the Crimea came to mind again on Sunday. I was wandering through the Cathedral after service when I came across this fellow.  One rarely thinks of logisticians, but they also serve. 

It still remains a fact though that I've yet to be entirely satisfied with the portrayal of logistics in a toy soldier game. Someday perhaps. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Catching up

First of all, thank you to all of you who took the time to send best wishes to Mrs. Kinch.  She is on the mend and should be back in action within the week.  I've mainly been running around after her (though to be fair that mainly consists of running around her at present) for the last few days, though it must be said she is bearing this extremely frustrating illness with her usual stoicism. 

In the meantime, as I have a game at the end of the month, I have gotten motoring on my Harriers. These are Airfix GR 3 kits, two of the old tooling and two of new.  I seem to be doing a lot of work on planes at the moment.   There's something nice about painting them, the instructions are always pretty simple, multiple coats of paint are required and there are a lot of flat surfaces.  They are a lot less nerve wracking than painting the human form. It's like painting a wall - it's quite restful. 

These fellows are still with us and you see them here in an uncharacteristically relaxed pose.  They are getting big and bold and thunder around the room like a herd of elephants.  Trying to teach them not to use claws is an ongoing project and not a battle I'm entirely sure we're winning. 

Traditions are important.  

Mrs. Kinch wasn't able to attend to this particular tradition this year, so I took up the task. For some explanation as to what the hell I was doing in the Pheonix Park last Monday, you will have to take a look at a previous Joy & Forgetfulness post. 

Have a good weekend. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

On the mend

Mrs. Kinch at present (artist's rendering) 

We had a spot of drama in the Kinch household over the last few days.  Poor old Mrs Kinch had a bit of a turn in the front room a couple of days ago and we ended up taking a trip to Accident & Emergency.  Fortunately, while there were a lot of awful things that it could have been - meningitis being the most obvious - it turned out to be a complication from a previous illness.  Fortunately, it emerged that on this occasion, while Mrs Kinch has a spinal fluid leak there is no exterior wound to provide an avenue for infection. The result is a condition which is very unpleasant and painful, but not lethal.  She'll be laid up for a few days and the forecast for the weekend is medium cranky with a boredom front rising, but all things considered it could have been a lot worse. 

I am very grateful to the extremely patient and hard working staff who looked after her while we were in A&E.   It was a long old stint, but their kindness and good humour made a trying situation more bearable. God bless them all. 

Don't they look dashing

The last few days have not left much time for anything really, but one of the things that is happening at the moment is that Tim Gow is working on a set of rules called "Very Little Cold Wars", a Cold War turned hot version of HG Wells "Little Wars". I'm quite excited by this as I think it will allow me to play garden games with my 20mm Cold War stuff, which I think is probably the only way to play a convincing game involving modern tanks.

You'll find a battle report on Tim's blog here. He's also started a yahoo group to discuss the rules and the period, which you'll find here.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Cousin Bill

A man with a very impressive flag

One of the advantages of having married into old nerd is that Mrs Kinch's family is wonderful. We were over at Cousin Bill's for dinner and I got the chance to have a look at some of his wonderful Warhammer figures. Bill has a particular affection for the Empire, mainly because he likes Landsknechts. 

I should have gotten a better angle on the flag - but look at that horse. 

These are not the best pictures ever taken - but in my defence, I hadn't expected to get a chance to ogle his Warhammer collection.  Even taken by a somewhat squiffy Kinch, I think even an Iphone picture shows what a wonderful job he does. 

And the barding. 

I should have taken a better close up of the flag which is amazing in the flesh. 

Silly Imperial Knnnnn-ig-its!

Bill is more of a painter than a wargamer, but I am slowly but surely trying to drag him to the dark side. He's played some Napoleonics with us and seems eager for more. 

Chaps with spears - I rather like the fellow in the centre, he looks like he's just seen Alan across the otherside of the battlefield and is trying to attract his attention

Bill has done some cracking work with these GW figures.  Though it does make me wonderful, what sort of job would he do on some historicals, particularly some of these guys. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Kursk - Part Three - Assault on Cherkasskoye - An Alternative View

The field of Mars

One of the advantages of running a multi-player game is that sometimes you can learn things about the game after the fact. As the Duke famously put it, the account of a battle is like an account of a ball, everyone may know something of it, but no-one knows everything of it.  

These are a collection of pictures sent to me by Krisztian, one of the players. They are all from the first battle and include something that I'm afraid that I missed completely. 

General Du Gourmand studying the airpower available. 

We had set up the table, but hadn't put any of the Soviet troops out yet.  The German players knew that the minefields were there and the location of the Soviet main line of resistence, but they had to deploy their troops without knowing exactly what was where.

The village of Cherkasskoye

The Germans also had two preliminary bombardments, which they were able to call in before the first turn of the game. I completely forgot to mention this in my previous post.  The Germans used one to hit the Soviet front line and then debated whether they would drop the second on Cherkasskoye, where they believed the Soviets would mass their reserves or in the main line again.  I can't remember exactly what they went with in the end. 

The central position

The Germans were tasked with driving straight up the middle and breaking through the Soviet position in order to get troops past this defensive line.  This was a bit of a change from the usual emphasis on destroying the enemy's army.  Still the swath of minefields gave them considerable pause. 

German Panthers

These were painted by Krisztian and a very nice job he did too.  They represented one of the three classes of German army at the battle. 

Another Panther

We used Tigers to represent Tigers (obviously enough), Panthers for Elite Armour (four strength units) and anything in Panzer grey (an mixture of Panzer II, III and IV) for regular Armour.

A Panther preparing to more forward

I had tried to work out special rules for the Soviet defences and ended up tying myself in knots to no good purpose.  One of the things that came up again and again from my reading about the German side was the idea of blundering into these concealed defences and not being able to work out what going on before they were plastered with artillery and anti-tank fire. 

In the end, I simply ruled that the field blocked line of sight and equiped the Soviets with artillery and mortars that could fire without line of sight.  This managed to give the right impression to my mind, without needing to mess with the rules. 

German infantry supporting a Tiger

Infantry-Armour co-operation was key, where the Germans were able to practice it on the left and in the centre, they were generally successful.  On the right, where they managed to separate them, the Soviets though eventually defeated were able to extract a far higher toll. 

Soviet Reserves

The Soviets brought on Katyusha batteries from their reserves and supported them with infantry.  Unfortunately, they weren't able to make best use of them, I think because the player got distracted by the savagery of the German attack. As mobile artillery, they could have been a lot more powerful if they could have been kept in the game.  

Fighting through the fields

This a picture from the German perspective on the Soviet left.  The tanks are moving through the fields supported by the infantry.  What the picture doesn't show is the concentration of airpower that was kept going on this flank.  The tanks are more powerful in open country, but they need to kick the Soviet defenders out of their prepared defences before they can really start to dominate. As the Soviet infantry ignore retreats in their defences, this was a tough proposition. 

Infantry in the centre

The German infantry was a bit more successful  at booting the Soviets out, but they weren't as capable of capitalising on the breakthrough and were often slaughtered as soon as they tried to move through the position. 

A Panther with a hit marker, just after the breakthrough on the Soviet left. 

Here, the German attack was a lot more successful, mainly because Krisztian to co-operate with Von Fatzington to hit my line with Air, Armour and Infantry in successive turns.  The airpower hammered my reserves and drove my main line from their defences, the armour then broke through and the infantry consolidated on the position. It was almost impossible to defend against.

Where Tigers come to die

In the centre on the other hand, the story was very different. The Germans had suffered badly from artillery and mines, in part no doubt because they were concentrating so many resource on their right. This was a scenario where the Soviets had the odds stacked against them, but I think we might have done better if we'd counter attacked here rather than trying to shore up the areas where we were losing. In the end, the German left wiped out everything on the Soviet right and was able to support the centre.

General Von Fatzington watches as a Sturmovick begins its attack run

Towards the end of the game, the Germans were far ahead on points, but couldn't claim a victory because they were unable to get their troops off the back of the Soviet line. They shifted armour into the centre in order to make that breakthrough and the Soviets used their last remaining airpower in an attempt to stop them.  It was an interesting demonstration as it showed that while the airpower was important, it damaged the German units trying to breakthrough, it wasn't decisive. Without the support of troops on the ground, it wasn't capable of stopping an attack in its tracks. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Kursk: Part Two - The Assault on Cherkasskoye

The Nazi war machine begins to roll

So, the campaign day kicked off with a planning session. Each team was given a briefing covering the three battles to be fought and the number of reinforcement and air sortie tokens they had to play with.  The Soviets because of their superior intelligence apparatus (to say nothing of Ultra intercepts) were told where the German reserves were being put before they had to assign their own.

Field Marshal Von Fatzington led the German team up to the bar where they did their planning, while the Soviets luxuriated by the board.  Now, normally Memoir '44 scenarios come with the troops pre deployed. everybody has a position on the map before the game begins, for the first game, I deployed the Soviet troops pretty much as they were in reality.  The Soviet players were allowed to pick and choose where they put their reinforcements however.  The Soviets also had the advantage of being deployed behind a 26 hex by two hex deep minefield.

The game was beginning on the second day of the assault, so the Germans had already been beaten back once, were aware of the minefield and had sent engineers forward during the night to knock gaps in it, so they were allowed remove seven hexes worth of mines from each sector of the battlefield.  This was a surprise to the Soviet players and monkey wrenched their plans somewhat.  The Germans also were allowed a considerable degree of latitude in deploying their troops, though in the end, they settled for the same plan - a heavily armoured wedge spearheaded by Tigers designed to blow a hole in the centre of the Soviet line.

The German Team surveying the field of Cherkassaye

Note the position of the central road.  The Soviet board edge by the road were exit hexes for the German players, which means that they were able to claim victory points by exiting units from the board via those hexes. The Germans had to reach 16 victory points to win, but three of those needed to be from units exited from the board. 

Soviet defences facing the fields 

As we were a player short, I took up the cudgels for the Soviets on the right flank and faced Krisztian leading a combined combat group of German armour and infantry at my defences.

German armour advancing in the centre

General Von Fatzington opened the ball with an infantry led assault on the centre. He used infantry units to clear the way for his heavy armour with the plan of bursting the Soviet centre wide open. 

General Von K on the German right led with his armour. Time would tell how effective that would prove to be. 

Despite some casualties, Krisztians armour charged through the gaps in the minefields to dispute with the Soviet defenders. I had concentrated fire on his infantry, but it remained to be seen whether it would be enough. 

Airpower over Cherkasskoye

A key part of this battle and the battles to come was the use of airpower.  The Germans put their airpower into play first before the Soviets really grasped what was going on (it was the first time we'd played with these rules) and were able to achieve near total aerial dominance for several turns before the Soviets managed to assemble an appropriate counter. 

Interestingly, the Germans chose to focus their attacks on the Soviet reserves and second line, rather than supporting the immediate attack.  This proved to be a very successful tactic as it crippled the Soviet ability to plug gaps in the line. 

Comrade Sydney reflects as Stukas pummel the Soviet left and the Soviet Katyusha launchers in the centre. 

Meanwhile over the German right, General Von K's advance has gotten hung up on the Soviet minefields.  The infantry eventually breakthrough, but not before the panzers have taken a severe kicking and the Germans have been punished by the Soviet artillery. 

The game ended with the Germans breaking through in the centre. In the end, the score of 19-12 was an interesting one. The Germans only needed 15 medals to win, but couldn't break through the Soviet centre despite decimating the Soviet left and right. This meant that despite racking up plenty of kills, the score line was 16-8 at one point, they weren't able to claim a win immediately. The Soviets managed to claw back some German units, but the combination of German heavy armour supported by air power was just too much and they managed break through.  

This was the longest game, in part because the campaign setup and the pre game deployment.  The German players had to do quite a bit of homework. It was rewarding, but it did take time and I don't think the day would have benefited from a second dose of it. It would have disrupted the pacing rather too much. 

But after the first game, the Germans were one campaign point ahead and were looking like they were in good shape heading into the second battle.