Wednesday 31 December 2014

Happy 2015

It's close to noon here in Madrid, so 2015 is now just 12 hours away. May all your wishes come true and your wargaming projects too in the coming year.

Somewhat belatedly, I'd like to thank Ian from the Blog with No Name the beautiful house sent as part of the Secret Santa project organised by Chris Stoessen. Unfortunately I had a problem with my phone camera and have lost the photos of the unwrapping on Christmas Day (actually, I lost all Christmas Day pics, not only the opening of presents) ... but nonetheless here you have the model.

Sunday 28 December 2014

Last Game 2014: A Normandy Big Chain of Command

Every year by Christmas we usually arrange a large full-day game at the club. Following some mail exchanges, it was clear that we would play Chain of Command and the only aspect to decide was the theater: North Africa, Spanish Civil War or Normandy. Considering to availability of both, players and painted armies, the latter was the winner.

As 5 players would be attending, we decided to make a Big Chain of Command game, opposing 1 US regular infantry, 1 US elite paratroop and 1 US Sherman tank troop to 2 German regular infantry and a Panzer IV troop with three tanks. We chose an Attack & Defend scenario from the main book, with the Americans needing to break the beachhead and get into the interior of the Normandy peninsula

US Infantry Patrol

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Planning 2015

As usual in this season, we wargamers enter into a frenzy state to plan the year ahead although most of the times it ends in frustration while not in tears. I'm not different to the average aficionado in this sense and like also to make plans.

Looking at this same post in December last year, I can rate my performance with 7 (may be 8) over 10,  not bad if your trail the long track record performance. 

First, a recap of 2014 and achievements:

- North African Desert Project (coded as "Afrika CoC"): accomplished 100%; painted Italian platoon with supports and I have almost finished a DAK platoon (not considered in the planned pipeline). And I did not only paint my toys but also did actually play a lot thanks to the campaign during the first half of the year.

- Spanish Civil War: another major achievement (or almost!) with a full Republican Army platoon and supports painted, but the vehicles still needing a hand of paint...

- Participating in a major wargaming event: failed! Financial constraints and a new professional project kept me away from accomplishing it (no money and, frankly, no time!)

- Collaborating in a wargaming publication, accomplished!! I must admit mostly thanks to my friend and wargaming mate Alfredo, the designer and (tough!) umpire of our Bloody November 1936, Spanish Civil War campaign for Chain of Command, finally printed in the recent Christmas Special issue of TooFatLardies.

Monday 22 December 2014

Merry Xmas World Wargamers!

On this very special season, my family and I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas in the company of your beloved ones and peace, health and prosperity for the coming year... and of course, a most busy wargaming 2015!!!

Sunday 21 December 2014

Villers Bocage Campaign - Game 4

Today we played the third scenario of the Villers Bocage campaign for Chain of Command  (all the campaign details can be found in the first game post).The first  game were won by the British,  who reached the outskirts of the city; in the third game these were rejected and we went back to the second rung of the campaign. 

Another defeat today would have brought the end of the campaign but, alas, this was not the case and a British fierce armoured counterattack sent the Germans reeling back to Villers Bocage. As in the previous games, I was the German commander.

As we were four players, we decided to make it "Big", and to the regular infantry units used in the campaign, we added a British tank troop (2 Shermans and 1 Firefly) and Panzer detachment (2 Pz IVs and a Pak 40 ATG)

Saturday 13 December 2014

TooFatLardies Xmas Special Out!

When do you know that Christmas is around the corner' When TooFatLardies issues its bi-annual Special magazine. This year is even better for two reasons: you have 126 pages of content and (more important) includes our Spanish Civil War campaign for Chain of Command!!... and all this stuff at the princely sum of 6 bucks!!

Jokes aside, the issue this year is spectacular, with wide variety of articles covering most of the popular TFL rule sets (CoC, IABSM, Dux, Sharp Practice). And some important headline news: the main project for 2015 is a Coc ultra-modern covering the most recent conflicts in the War Against Terrorism. Clearly not a favourite period of mine at all... but I also said the same about Vietnam, until Charlie Don't Surf convinced me about the contrary.

Among the articles, two very interesting variants:  WWI  with Chain of Command; and cowboys vs Indians with Sharp Practice

See the full content below:

Monday 8 December 2014

Facultad de Medicina - Bloody November Campaign Grand Finale

Fascists! Surrender or  be annihilated!!
The Bloody November 1936 campaign in the Spanish Civil War for Chain of Command concluded today with a major game depicting the assault of the Medicine Faculty at Ciudad Universitaria. In fact, the campaign concluded a few weeks ago, with the victory of the Republican arms when the Nationalists players failed for the second consecutive game to cross the Manzanares; but nevertheless we wanted to play this grand finale of the last scenario, involving 5 infantry platoons with supports between both sides (3 Nationalists and 2 Republican).

Unfortunately, I had to leave this morning in a rush the game sometime after the start, as I was called and informed that a very close friend's mother unexpectedly passed away in the early hours of Monday. This battle report includes my initial photos and another  batch taken by the other players, as well as the information emailed by the contenders.

Carlista Jump-Off Point

Sunday 7 December 2014

A Battlefield Walk at Ciudad Universitaria

Graffitti in the Ciudad Universitaria - The fight continues 80 years later?

I attended on Sunday last week a guided battlefield walk organised by GEFREMA (a non-profit organisation fighting hard to keep the last remaining sites of the Spanish Civil War in Madrid) focused on the Ciudad Universitaria. It would not have been more timely after finishing our recent Chain of Command campaign Bloody November and the incoming publication of a related article in the TooFatLardies Christmas Special in December.

The visit was intrinsically interesting, but also provided a good feel of the battle terrain and a great understanding of the very deep changes operated in the landscape since the mid 30s. As a matter of fact, the site today has almost no resemblance with the topography of the war period as I will explain later.

I will support the narrative and photos included in this post with the attached map, scanned from the book written by Col Martínez Bande in the early 70s (La Marcha sobre Madrid) part of the official military history of the Spanish Civil War published before General Franco passed away in 1975.

(Click to enlarge)
To put you in the historical picture, the Nationalist troops arrived to Madrid in the first week of November. The attacking plan was to enter Madrid through La Casa de Campo park, cross the river Manzanares and penetrate trough the Ciudad Universitaria.

Saturday 6 December 2014

Winter is coming...

Another of my "view from my window" series. The mountains of the Sierra de Guadarrama hidden by thick clouds and already cover by the first blanket of snow this year. Temprature is not expected to break the 10ºC level today. Winter is finally coming...

Sunday 23 November 2014

Villers Bocage Campaign - Game 3

Today we played the third scenario of the Villers Bocage campaign for Chain of Command  (all the campaign details can be found in the first game post).In the past two games the Germans had been defeated and the British were now reaching the outskirts of the town itself; it was a critical moment on the campaign. As in the previous games, I was the German commander.

According to the scenario instructions, this was a Delaying Action scenario (the number 4 in the main rules book) and the victory conditions states that the attacker must take control of an enemy's jump-off point in its deployment area (victory objective).

Saturday 15 November 2014

Chain of Command Tactical Book

Richard Clarke Chain of Command author and TooFatLardies Big Man has been posting over the last week, a set of very interesting articles in the official TFL blog explaining some critical platoon tactical topics for those interested in military matters.

The booklet is presented as typical IIWW infantry training manual and covers the following aspects:
  • Patrols & Reconnaissance
  • Deployment: attacker notes
  • Deployment: defender notes
  • Fire and Movement
  • Resource placement
  • Combat in buildings

These posts have now been compiled and edited in a single pdf document 30 pages long and deliver for free to anyone interested. If you like to download your copy just click here from my own Google docs area.

Note the this booklet is NOT required to play Chain of Command and onthe contrary it can be of interest for players of other altrernative rules in the market

In any case Tactical primer  is a very welcome complementary addition to the series of publications of this II World War platoon-size engaments rules set that currently includes the campaigns handbook (At the Sharp End), the large games rules (Big CoC) and more recently, the 29 Let's Go! Normandy-based campaign book.

Monday 3 November 2014

Beach Landing ***UPDATED****

Source: Barrage Miniatures website

Following on my previous post, you may be interested to know that Barrage Miniatures is now selling the British Thorneycroft landing craft, completing the II WW series (US, British and Japanese). There's a special offer for limited time, with a €5 discounted on the normal selling price.

Sunday 2 November 2014

Puente de Los Franceses - Bloody November Campaign Game 3

"Overcast... Good!" said sargento García, the young communist who have raised in a just a few months from clerk in a colmado (food store) of Tetuán to tank commander. "No bloody fascist planes". While he was brewing his ersatz coffee daily ration, a sudden rush of activity around indicated that something was going on, down the Parque del Oeste and probably across the Manzanares. The voice of the capitán shouting left no doubt: "¡A los tanques! ... ¡Arrancar los motores!" (to the tanks, turn on the engines)    

This is the battle report of the third game of our Bloody November-Madrid 1936 campaign for Chain of Command, set in the context of the Spanish Civil War. You can find all the necessary details to play in  a previous post of the blog.

Puente de los Franceses
This third game is based on the Scenario 3-Attack & Defend of the Chain of Command main rules book. To win this scenario, one side must force the other to leave the table, either voluntarily or due to a reduction in its force moral.

In the past two games, the Nationalists had fought their way across the Casa de Campo and arrived to the wall separating this major natural space west of Madrid from the city. The only obstacle now is the Manzanares a so-called "river", much despised by the madrileños due to its short width and hardly more dangerous than a children's swimming pool.

Saturday 1 November 2014

Beach Landing

A few weeks back my friend Alf, owner of Barrage Miniatures, brought the prototypes of the new series of landing crafts in 28mm to the club. After seeing these beauties, I could not resist ordering a couple of American landing craft (LCVP Higgins) for my US Army units of Chain of Command.

Mid this week, I was called by Alf to collect my order, and I have to say that the final product is awsome. As you can see in the photos below, each model comes with two HMGs, and several parts to make yoiur own configuration (drivers hatch, open or close ramp, etc)

Sunday 26 October 2014

¡El Manzanares! - Bloody November Campaign Game 2

It was late at night on Novemeber 15th, but a light still could be seen in the building of the Junta de Defensa de Madrid. Colonel Rojo was leaning on the maps extended over the table in the operations room. Asensio's columns have made important inroads in la Casa de Campo during the day and now there was no doubt that the river Manzanares crossing at Puente de Los Franceses and Puente Nuevo was a  key objective. 

He put his finger on the map line representing the wall of La Casa de Campo and said to himself: "Ni un paso atrás, el tiempo del sacrificio ha llegado" (not a step back, this is the time for sacrifice). He picked up the telephone and asked for Comandante Romero...

This is the battle report of the second game in our Bloody November-Madrid 1936 campaign for Chain of Command, set in the context of the Spanish Civil War.  You can find all the necessary details to play in  a previous post of the blog.

Saturday 25 October 2014

No Time for Picnic at Casa de Campo - Bloody November Campaign Game 1

The first dim lights of this mid-November morning showed the green and damp carpet of grass from the top of the hill where the milicianos squad took positions the night before. The early morning fog traces moving along the trees created phantomly figures of all shapes which the scared men took for the "moros", those apparently invencible men brought by the rebels from North Africa..  

 A strange quietness surrounded the men behind the stonewall,  not even the sound of a bird that probably had left by now for the warmer southern regions of Spain... and when the men thoughts were probably turning to the  past idle summer evenings spent picnicing in that same Casa de Campo, a cry from the advanced outposts was like a force landing jump into the grim realities of a battle  about to start ... "¡Cuidado, ahí vienen!"

This is the battle report of the first game in our Bloody November-Madrid 1936 campaign for Chain of Command, set in the context of the Spanish Civil War.  You can find all the necessary details to play in  a previous post of the blog.

Republican Patrol markers and Communist Dice

Sunday 19 October 2014

Villers Bocage Campaign - Game 2

Today we played the second scenario of the Villers Bocage campaign for Chain of Command after a very long spell (first game played in August). All details of the campaign and background can be found in the previous pots.

If you wonder the reason for using the photo above to illustrate the post, just read through to the end...

I played the Germans and after taking into consideration the casualties of the previous engagement  (7 casualties and the squad NCO), I ended up with two full squads and a small 4-men team with an LMG. My force moral was adjusted by -1 after rolling all the effects of losing the battle (all information available in At the Sharp End, the campaign supplement for Chain of Command).

¡Viva la República! - Heavy Weapons reinforcements

I spent Saturday morning finishing some  heavy weapons additions to reinforce my Repuiblican forces. Very handy considering the hard times coming defending Madrd form the fascist agression in our Spanish Civil War campaign.

I painted a Maxim HMG with a crew of 3...

... A Hotchkiss MMG with 2 crew...

... and a heavy 81mm mortar.

The latter are unlikely to see a lot use on the table (heavy mortars are considered off-board assets in Chain of Command) ... but who could resist buying such a beauty!!

All models are from the Empress Miniatures SCW series

Saturday 18 October 2014

Bloody November - Madrid 1936: Reading and Information Sources

Following the publication yesterday of the introductory post to our Spanish Civil War campaign for Chain of Command, I have received several communications requesting recommendations on information sources for the Battle of Madrid in 1936.

I may have to disappoint my English-speaking readers, but unfortunately I haven't been ablo to find any good reliable source in the language of Shakespeare, so what follows are references to bibliography in Spain.

Another warning: I’m not intending neither to be exhaustive in my suggestions, nor pretending that I’ve read every single book published on the topic. I consider myself a serious history aficionado (in fact for me is the other side to enjoy wargaming as a hobby) but I try to balance deep studying a period and using that information for my game.

In no particular order of preference, but these are most of the books/publications that I did use to get to know the period and on which I have some opinion:

1#  Desperta Ferro Contemporánea 4: Madrid 1936
This is the 4th issue published by Desperta Ferro in its new series of magazines focused on modern (XX and XXI century) conflicts. I really like this magazine and its approach to combine popular military history with wargaming, providing an excellent background when undertaken a new period or a specific event within a period of your interest.

Thursday 16 October 2014

Bloody November: A Chain of of Command España Campaign in Madrid 1936

After the failed previous July coup, Franco’s colonial troops in North Africa had reached the outskirts of Spain’s capital city by early November 1936, in an unstoppable drive, overcoming without contempt all armed opposition found on their way up from Sevilla.

The Republican Government has shamelessly left to Valencia with the enemy at the gates, escaping at night and without notice. But just before leaving, it appointed the dull and grey General Miaja commander of the garrison defending the city.

However the orders left to him in a closed envelope at the War Ministry office, opened during the early hours of November 6th, made it clear that the Government lacked any hope of the city surviving the Nationalist steamroller, suggesting instead to put a token resistance at best and then to pull back with the garrison remnants towards a new defensive line on the road leading to Valencia.
Original Italian CTV 1937 Map of Madrid Area

But miracles exist, and against all odds the city resisted the attacks of the rebel columns. The milicianos surprisingly (and unexpectedly) put up a fierce fight in the southern suburbs of Madrid.
In the left flank, a Nationalist column was expected to take La Casa de Campo, a popular natural park west of Madrid and across the Manzanares, used by the madrileños to shelter from the hot summer afternoons and to picnic on the bank of its famous artificial lagoon during weekends. 
The attack was launched in the early hours of November 8th but quickly petered out, although not before conquering a dominant hill within the park called Cerro Garabitas. This elevation will allow the Nationalists observers to direct the guns and to merciless pound the central area of Madrid over the next years.
 However, the failure to enter Madrid in this first push also represented for the Republicans a much needed infusion of moral and the cry of ¡No pasarán!  now reverberated across the city and Miaja unexpectedly became the people’s hero and the symbol of the resistance like Petain in Verdun during the Great War. 
Defending La República, Winter 1936
The following days saw renewed Nationalists efforts and much hand-to-hand fighting among the trees of Casa de Campo woods until on November 13th they finally reached the river Manzanares. 
They now were in control of a 500 meters strip along the river's west bank, extending from El Puente (bridge) de los Franceses and Puente Nuevo on the right, to the crossing overlooking La Ciudad Universitaria (the University District) on the extreme left.
On the 15th General Varela ordered Asensio to take these bridges and to move into Madrid, allocating a squad of Pz Is, also called negrillos due to its dark grey panzer colour, to provide more weight to the attack. 

29, Let's Go! New Campaign Supplement for Chain of Command

TooFatLardies has released the first of its (hopefully) many campaign books for Chain of Command in new series called "Pint-size Campaigns" (the "pint" being the cost of a standard beer drink in a British pub, which is the actual price charged for the book: GBP 3.50)

29 Let's go! was the motto of the 29th US Infantry Division, who fought all its way from Omaha Beach (yes, the guys at Saving Private Ryan) to deep into the Third Reich.

And for this princely sum you get in a typical TFL fashion a pdf document with 32 pages, of which around 1/3rd being a description of the forces and the background history of the first days in Normandy, following the trail of the US 175th Infantry Regiment and its foe at the other side of the hill, the German 352nd Infantry Division. Ony for the amount of historical research put on the book it would be worth buying.

The campaign setup are the actions of the US 175 from D-Day to D-ay+3 to link the Omaha with the other American beachhead at Utah that involved the attack on the key bridge at Isigny

After the historical section, the rest is material for the campaign, to be played in principle using the At the Sharp End CoC supplement but that can be easily adapted to any other favourite skirmish set of rules.

In conclusion, a very welcome release from TooFatLardies and hopefully this will be just the appetizer of a long series of publications for any WWII wargamer fan.

Sunday 5 October 2014

When Bravura is not Enough - A Big Coc Battle Report

Source: The Imperial War Museum

Today marked my return to the battlefields after a long spell since mid-August. My gaming mates had been intensively testing Big Chain of Command mixing infantry and armoured units over the past weeks and it was time for me to catch up.

 Our initial intention was to play a Normandy battle, but the late-minute absence (due to a family incident, thank God not serious) of the Fallschimjager platoon commander forced us to change on the spot to a North African scenario, as we had most of our stock of models in the club.

In this game, an Italian infantry platoon and a troop of tanks (3 x M13) were  ordered to retake an oasis recently conquered by forces of the 4th Indian Division; the Empire forces also received the support of a tank troop of Matildas. We used the “Attack & Defend” scenario 3 conditions of the Chain of Command book for this game.

Friday 26 September 2014

From Empire To Revolution - The I World War in the East

TooFatlardies has just released From Empire to Revolution, a supplement to its popular WWI rules set Through the Mud & the Blood for company-sized and skirmish actions. As usual by TFL, the book is available in pdf format from its website at the princely cost of GBP7.0

This 80-pages long book covers 
  • A full section dealing with the Austro-Hungarian and Russian armies of the war, including OBs, tactics analysis, etc.
  • 16 historical scenarios between 1914 and 1917
  • A bibliography section to allow readers digging deeper in the topic
I have just downloaded my copy and therefore did only have time to rapidly skip through it. But written by Chris Stoessen, a very familiar name already in the TFL circles and active blogger,is more than enough guarantee of quality to me. 

Chris other works for Sharp Practice  in the American War of Independence or more recently "In the Name of Roma" for I Ain't Been Shot Mum and Chain of Command are thoroughly researched, solidly base on historical events, well written and this last publication, beautifully edited.

I really appreciate, on the one hand, that Chris has waded through this muddy and less well-known front of the Great war; and I hate him, on the other, because he's opening my appetite to engage again in the period (after a long absence!!)  and to start a new project, distracting me from my current endeavours (Spanish Civil War and WWII Chain of Command) 

Saturday 20 September 2014

Visiting El Alto del León: The Republican Fortifications

This a long due post from a second visit in August to El Alto del León, this time to see the Republican lines  (see here the post commenting the first visit to the Nationalists line in the same area). In the opening photo of this post you can see the communist symbol (hammer and sickle) followed by the incription "1937" that we found carved in stone next to a major resting area of the Republican line located at Peña del Cuervo.

The map above shows the the battle-front lines, the Nationalists in blue and the Republicans in red; the black ellipse covers the focus of our visit. The map and many more interesting materials can be found in Domingo Pliego's blog, a veteran mountain trekker who has explored in detailed all the Guadarrama area.

Friday 5 September 2014

Ejército Popular de la República - The Reinforcements are Here

This is my second (and brief) post-holiday blog entry. I spent most of my painting time preparing the core nucleus of my Republican Army platoon for Chain of Command España. You have above the HQ section with an officer (Superior Junior Leader), a runner (with a flag) and a NCO (Sargeant).

The platoon has three sections:
  • A mortar section with 2 squads (that usually doubled as a pure rifle section due to the scarcity of these weapons in the Republican side)
  • Two rifle-grenadier sections each made of 3 squads (at 5 men each squad)
I managed to paint the 2 full rifle sections (a total of 30 models))...

together with a couple of supports: an LMG team...

... and a Russian-supplied 45mm AT Gun with crew

All figures are from the excellent albeit somewaht short in references, Empress Miniatures models (currently the only active supplier of 28mm models for this conflict).

On the painting desk still lie two light and one heavy mortar squads, one heavy machine gun and a few LMGs. I hope to make some progress on this through September, ready for the November campaign that we are planning. Note that I also have (for a later stage) a T 26, a Bilbao armoured car and a UNL wheeled armoured vehicle waiting in line.

NOTE: the flag showed in the photos is not a regular EPR model, but belonga to a 5th Regiment battalion; lacking a proper one I could not resist putting it there. The flag is from the superb Adolfo Ramos models range.    

Monday 1 September 2014

Non-stop to Madrid - A Chain of Command España Battle Report

I’m back after a short 10-day break. As you’ll see over the next days, I’ve been all except idle having used this time to make a second visit to El Puerto del León (this time visiting the Republican lines), painted an initial batch of Spanish Civil War forces and even played with Chain of Command España.

This is the first post with the battle report of a game we played last weekend. The setting is the summer of 1936, where a column of Requetés (Carlists) Nationalists is confronted by a group of local Republican militias at a key cross road in a rural area.

Thursday 28 August 2014

The Republican Army in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939

Just to bring your attention to this high-quality book review of Michael Alpert's classical must-read work at the IIWW Military Operations Research Group blog (one that I strongly endorsed and you should follow in any case).

This book has an interesting story in itself:

The first edition  was published in Spanish in the late 60's but not in Spain;  this was the type of topic obvioulsy disliked by the Franco's regime censorship office!!  The edition was undertaken by Ruedo Ibérico, a France-based editorial group run by a group of  Spanish Republicans exiled in the country after 1939. 

Incidentally, my father (who was not exactly a great Franco fan) used to "smuggle" books from this editorial any time he had the opportunity to travel abroad ... and I'm now a proud owner of a first edition copy :-)

A second and greatly updated edition, after the declasification of some of the Civil War archives, was released a few years ago... and yes this time it was publised in Spain. 

Nonetheless, I must say  that the English edition is surprisingly pricey (GBP 65!!), specially compared to the Spanish edition (€25) and I don't understand why the price differential; although the book is highly recommendable, think twice before commiting to such an investment.