Sunday, 17 April 2016

Bretons for Saga: The Dark Ages

6pts of Bretons for Saga
This is an army that has significantly jumped my painting queue - I had no plans at all to paint Bretons, but my local club ( decided to start a Saga campaign (you can look at the battle reports at and so I chose to use this as an incentive to build an army I don't have rather than use one I already own. For the record, our Saga campaign does not use the Age of the Wolf rules, as we started it before these were published.

After some thought I decided to go for Bretons, partly because they are so completely different to every other Saga army I own and also because I had a couple of boxes of Conquest Plastic Normans that I thought would be relatively easy to convert at minimal cost.

There's not a lot known about Breton armies from the Dark Ages. Most of what I have been able to find out has come from less than an hour's worth of material from Wikipedia. The Bretons of the Dark Ages came from Celtic and Roman origins influenced through their interactions with the Franks and their neighbours to eventually become very like the Normans. They fought against the Franks for independence, and made alliances with Vikings and Normans.  Documented battles against the Franks describe their use of mounted warriors throwing javelins - and this is I presume the basis for the Saga list - but it is likely that by 1066 they had fully adopted the Norman method of fighting. Certainly the Bretons depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry are visually indistinguishable from the Normans they are fighting alongside.

My intent was to make up an army that looks good (and look a bit different to Normans) and to paint it fairly quickly, and then to learn a lot by playing a force that is completely different and that I am totally unfamiliar with.

With the expedient of getting an army on the table top as rapidly as possible, my core army list was initially 24 mounted Hearthguard and a Warlord. For a little more flexibility I would paint one mounted banner bearer. The campaign rules, though, meant that if I chose this I would be stuck with it against all comers and in all scenarios, without any option of foot troops. So after a quick rethink my list changed to include a couple of units of Warriors as well:
4 points of Hearthguard
2 points of Warriors (who can be deployed either mounted with javelins or on foot).

Although Bretons of this period are most likely to have been very similar in appearance to Normans, I've taken a few liberties with history and opted for a slightly more Celtic/Gallic impression to give my Breton army its own distinct appearance and sense of identity.


Hearthguard #1
Hearthguard #2
16 figures and 2 standard bearers (see below) made from Conquest Plastic Normans. Because I am not aware of any contemporary depictions of Breton knights (other than those that are indistinguishable from Normans) I've allowed myself some artistic licence in the look of these fellows. I chose to use armoured Norman knights with kite shields painted with designs favouring animals, and a couple of shields that mimic older Gallic patterns. They are all of course equipped with javelins. I chose to add cloaks to them as well as I like this effect.

I cut off their plastic spears and drilled hands to take javelins that I made from 1mm brass rod. Javelin points were made by flattening the end of the brass rod with a blow from a hammer, clipping it to a point, and filing off rough edges, then cutting the rod to suitable length. The javelins are all approximately 25mm long, which I think looks about right.

From a practical point of view, if you are reliant on throwing javelins as your main method of attack, it is reasonable to assume you would have a ready supply of them. While peasants might simply carry extra javelins with them in their left hand, it stands to reason that any well-equipped knight who wants to control his horse would have his personal supply in some sort of quiver, either attached to the saddle (probably) or on his back (in the manner that Roman javelinmen of a much earlier era are thought to have done). I therefore scratch-built quivers to contain spare javelins. After some trial and error I made two different types of javelin quiver, one style for Hearthguard, one for Warriors. And if anyone reading this knows of a better name for these than "javelin quiver"please correct me!

Hearthguard figure showing scratch-built javelin quiver
I made javelin quivers for the Hearthguard from plastic approximately 1.5mm thick. The plastic was actually cut from some of the bases that came with the Plastic Normans that I wasn't going to use. The main quiver body was cut out and filed to shape and drilled at the top to take three spare javelins. I glued on small strips of paper to give some raised detail, then made some extra javelin heads from offcuts of brass road and glued these to an appropriate length in the drilled holes to finish.

Javelin quivers were added to figures on the right hand side of the horse behind the rider, as after thinking about it for a while this seems to me the most practical position to access your supply of javelins if you're on a horse and carrying a shield in your left hand. I decided not to attach quivers to the backs of figures as it seems to me more practical for the quivers to be attached to the horse rather than the rider when mounted. Using strips cut from plastic card I made a sort of harness for the rear of the horses to which the javelin quiver would be attached. Also, it's practical that if a horse was equipped in this way some sort of counterweight would be required for the other side of the harness so I added pouches to fulfil this role on the opposite side of the horse. I know it's all speculation, but at least it is reasoned sensibly.

I filled in any small gaps I could find on each figure with green stuff, and finally added cloaks made from green stuff to all the riders.

To add a little bulk to these figures, which are otherwise very light, I attached two 1p pieces to each mounted base (Renedra 20mm x 50mm) before attaching the horses. Bases were then textured with a mixture of PVA, filler and builders sand, textured on the surface with sprinklings of small stones and Chinchilla dust.

When dry the models were primed with off-while emulsion and painted.

I'll write an article about the approach I use to painting horses at some point, but essentially I have done my best to get a representative mixture of different credible horse colours. There's nothing special to painting the men themselves - I do the faces, starting with the eyes and working outwards, then gradually colours are blocked in, shaded and highlighted. I printed out a selection of what I thought might be appropriate shield designs as templates, and did my best to paint these designs on the finished figures.


Warriors #1
Warriors #2
I made up 16 mounted Warriors with 1 standard bearer. If I am to field these on foot then for the time being I will use my Anglo-Danish Warriors as these look reasonably similar, but I might make  up some specific Breton foot figures in due course. These figures are all converted Conquest Norman Knights, but I've only used the unarmoured figures or the ones without chain armour - these are the few figures in every box wearing what appears to be lamellar armour, which I am assuming is made of leather.

I made the mounted Warriors distinctive from the Hearthguard by giving them round shields, a different quiver design, and bare heads.

West Wind heads
These heads are brilliant and excellent value, from West Wind Games, intended for their Arthurian range. These were attached to the plastic Norman torsos using small lengths of wire inserted into holes drilled in the neck and top of the body. Green stuff cloaks hide the inevitable imperfections.

Warrior showing the cylindrical javelin quiver
I made less fancy javelin quivers for the mounted Warriors. I used a cylindrical design, made by cutting lolly sticks into approximately 15mm sections, to which I added surface detail made from paper strips. I drilled three holes in the top of each quiver and attached extra javelin heads made from brass rod offcuts cut to length to the top of each.


Breton warlord
To make my Warlord stand out from the crowd I used a spare caparisoned horse from the Fireforge Mounted Templar set from which I cut down the saddle to fit the body of one of the Norman knights. I bent the horse into a more dramatic rearing pose. The rider was given a crowned head cut from one of the Perry miniatures personality figures from their Crusades range, attached by drilling head and neck and pinning with a small section of metal rod and glue. Despite my initial fondness for a Warlord called Conan (historically plausible for Bretons, who had at least two kings of that name) and the idea of using a suitably bemuscled barbarian figure, a Warlord with a crowned head is more accurate, mimicking the earlier Duke Salomon, (self-professed) King of Brittany, who was given a crown by Charles the Bald of the Franks and wore it with pride along with a purple cloak. He's depicted in a stained glass window in Rennes Cathedral.

I armed my Warlord with a javelin but decided not to give him horse harness or a quiver - as a king he would almost certainly have a servant carry his javelins anyway. Small gaps were filled with green stuff and I gave him a particularly large green stuff cloak (to be painted purple, of course).

The painting challenge with this figure - which I think from a distance I have achieved (but don't look too close) - was to paint the caparison of the horse in typically Breton colours. This means in heraldic ermine.

Heraldic ermine
I'm completely unsure whether this is actually a pattern that would have been worn or a representation of wearing real fur - or even just tassles - but there are illustrations of this design on horse caparisons of a later time so, well, why not? The finished effect, along with my efforts to paint a rather more complex Celtic-style shield design, I think looks OK.

Standard Bearer

Standard bearers
Made generally in the same way as the Hearthguard, but each holding a standard rather than a javelin.  I could find no contemporary illustrations of Breton banners other than those that are identical to the Norman ones - these it appear come from the Bayeux Tapestry. I therefore painted two flag standards using the ones provided in the Conquest Plastic Normans in designs broadly in accordance with the flag of Brittany (essentially black and white designs). I'm happy with the finished result.

All completed figures were varnished first in gloss (for strengthening) and then in matt (for effect) using Vallejo varnish. I added flock (Army Painter) and grass tufts (Gamer's Grass, from Great Escape Games) to the bases to finish them off.

And off to battle they went...

Sunday, 13 March 2016

29, Let's Go! - Turn 2: La Cambe

D+2, 8th June 1944

"Where the hell you heading, boy?"
Staff Sergeant, First Class, Jonas J McKenna was as proud of his uniform as he was his Irish-American heritage. The war was straightforward as far as he was concerned. He was here to do a job and that was to drive the Nazis back to Berlin where they belonged. He didn't care to understand or even waste time on those who didn't feel the same way, so one of the things he really hated to see was an American soldier on the retreat. It didn't matter that the GI had obviously been in action, and by the look of the mud and smattering of blood on his left sleeve, very recently. Wasn't good for anyone to see Americans on the run. The GI, flustered after realising he was the one the Staff Sergeant was shouting at, stopped, looked up, and saw a fat man standing behind the turret of a Sherman tank, pointing at him with the stub of a cigar.
"You're going the wrong direction, boy. Pretty sure the road to Berlin's thisaway." The Staff Sergeant gestured along the road to Isigny, the line that the column of tanks was moving. "Get your men and join the line", he said calmly. "No damn Nazis going to stop us now. We're gonna get them back for what they done to our boys at Omaha."
The US platoon is supported this time by 25 support points, spent on additional BARs in each squad, a medic, a forward observer from an off-table 60mm mortar battery, and three Shermans. The Germans spend their 12 points on a sniper, an adjutant, a forward observer from an off-table 60mm mortar battery, and an MG42 on tripod mount. The Americans begin with 10 Force Morale points, the Germans 8.
The patrol phase ends with American jump-off points in roughly the same positions as for the previous game, one behind the manor house and the other two along the main road. The Germans have one jump-off point at the house, one along the orchard hedge line and one positioned slightly forward behind a hedge along the main road.
Almost an hour had passed since the Americans had pulled back. With some relief, reviewing the situation, Lund saw that the damage had not been as bad as he had originally thought. Light wounds for the most part, and bandaged but relieved, the majority of his men had now returned to their foxholes behind the hedge, and were watching for the enemy. The guns were out of action, though, which was a problem, and intermittent interference on the radio, which two of his men were frantically doing their best to fix, was causing difficulties contacting the FlaK battery. His defensive line had held, but it was unlikely to last for much longer.
There was one piece of good news, though. HQ had called, advising that a mortar battery just over a kilometer behind his position had been ordered to give him support. Good news indeed, as long as that radio could be repaired soon.
US infantry squad No.1 deploys
Turn 1, Phases 1-2
The Americans have the first turn and deploy squad No.1 in front of the house on the left flank and squad No.2 and the Platoon Sergeant behind the manor house. The Germans deploy their senior leader, sniper and forward observer in the house on their right flank, and infantry squad No.1 behind the hedge line in front of the house.
The Germans deploy beside the house
The sniper rifle had been lying on the floor as if placed there deliberately. A few scratches, but no serious damage - unlike the body of its former owner which must have protected it when the roof fell and part of the wall of the house had collapsed in the explosion of a direct hit from an enemy shell. The sight had needed adjustment, but that had been a simple task for its new owner. Gunter had been considered a good shot during basic training. "Bullseye", they'd called him, but he'd never had the chance to use a proper sniper rifle. So of course he had raised his hand when the Unterfeldwebel had asked for a volunteer, and now here he was, crouching over a heap of brickwork with his rifle poking through a hole in the wall staring at the La Cambe manor house, where there was some movement. As he made out the enemy soldier pushing through the hedge, he fired, missing, but forcing the surprised GI to jump back into cover. Then, as the sniper reloaded, he could see the Americans scrambling rapidly across the open ground and into the relative protection of the manor house itself.
US infantry scramble for the safety of the manor house
Turn 1, Phases 3-6
US squad No.1 moves tactically forward to positions behind the hedge, while the German squad No.2 deploys along the orchard hedge. The sniper shoots at US squad No.2 inflicting shock while the forward observer calls for a mortar barrage. The Americans control the shock, deploy their forward observer and medic and advance into the manor house. Squad No.1 goes into overwatch and squad No.3 is deployed behind the house on the left flank.
There was an explosion in the field and spout of muddy soil was thrown into the air as a mortar shell - a mere ranging shot - hit the ground, several yards off to the right from where the Americans had been scrambling and a good distance away from the manor house, its intended target. Gunter turned to the right now that his target near the house had disappeared into the building. Peering down the road he saw a broken line of American soldiers moving cautiously around the edge of a house to take up positions behind a hedge on the opposite side of the ploughed field.
US forces steadily build up on their left flank, waiting for support
He took aim. Perhaps he would have better luck against this target. More men were joining them now, edging cautiously around the house. It seemed like the enemy were assembling their forces ready for an advance across the fields on that flank. Opposite, in their positions behind their own hedges, the Germans waited, watching expectantly, as the mortars of both sides exchanged ranging shots that fell wide of their targets.

Turn 1, Phases 7-11

The German forward observer calls in a ranging shot onto the Manor House but it falls widely off target. The sniper changes target to shoot at US squad No.1 and deploys the MG42 team in position to fire at the same target. The third German squad deploys along the orchard hedge. The US forward observer calls for a mortar barrage. A second ranging shot on the Manor House is closer but still off target. The Americans deploy their platoon leader in the house on left flank and a US mortar ranging shot falls wide of its mark. All German squads are put on overwatch.
Germans defend from the cover of the orchard hedge line
The Americans were waiting as well. They had learned that crossing that open ground was fraught with peril, but this time their advance would be better supported. Wheels squeaking on the tarmac, a Sherman was moving up along the road, the head of a column of armour.
The Germans behind the hedge ducked as another ranging shot from the American mortars flew overhead, much closer, this time crashing through the upper storey of the house, and exploding in a cloud of shattered masonry, which rained dust and brick fragments on the men in their foxholes. The house, which had already suffered earlier today, held together despite the damage, but the sniper had been silenced, killed remorselessly before even having the chance to prove his worth. Though no-one spoke, the mood along the German lines was sullen.
Turn 1, Phase 12
The first Sherman enters along the road. A second ranging shot from the US mortars is a direct hit on the house and kills the German sniper. The Germans suffer -1 force morale.
A crescendo of mortars commenced, both sides' barrages commencing at the same time, and the battlefield was plunged in smoke and dust. Two tanks had moved alongside the house and were firing on the German lines as well. The smoke and dust was everywhere. Men could not see or hear and kept their heads down, close to the ground, their hopes and prayers focused on survival. It was the break the Americans needed, and infantry moved over the hedge and across the ploughed field, advancing to the German lines, taking advantage of the cover of the smoke and the enemy's preoccupation with the barrage.
US armour advances along the Isigny road
Turn 1, Phases 13-19
A German mortar barrage opens up on the manor house causing minor casualties and shock. The US mortars return the favour as another Sherman arrives and both tanks advance down the road. The US mortar barrage continues, and shock and kills begin to mount. Shock caused by German mortars is more successfully managed by the Americans. US squad No.2 advances into the ploughed field.
Without warning, the enemy barrage suddenly ceased. Lund did not waste time giving the order to fire, and his men were quick to react to the situation. Their enemy, unexpectedly caught in the open expanse of the field, dropped to the ground, seeking cover in the ridge and furrow of the ploughed soil, while their own tanks and mortars returned fire on the German lines in an effort to protect them. Ignoring the explosions of mortar shells, Lund shouted encouragement at his troops, doing all he could to maintain morale.
US infantry advance under heavy fire across the ploughed field 
Turn 2, Phases 1-9; Turn 3, Phase 1
The turn ends as a result of command dice. Units are unpinned and the smoke clears.
The Germans desperately try to reduce the shock on their teams while they open fire on the US squad No.2. Both tanks advance with machine guns firing. While the German fire is sufficient to pin US squad No.2, they are suffering from accumulated shock and kills themselves. US mortars fire again, but off target. The Germans use a Chain of Command die to end the turn and another to maintain their own mortar barrage, but the American mortars are successfully called on once more.
Tended by medics, a wounded soldier was groaning with pain near the wall of the house, a heap of broken timber, plaster dust and brick debris left behind after machine gun fire had torn through the upper storey of the house. This unfortunate man must be the forward observer - he had been the only one still inside the building. That was a setback, for now Lund had no means of calling for mortar support, which he desperately needed. It seemed there would be no reprieve for Lund's platoon. The guns of both Shermans were firing again, tearing branches from the hedgerow and forcing the German defenders to flatten themselves further into the damp soil, wthdrawing even deeper into their foxholes. Lund felt an unexpected surge of pride. Although the faces of his men betrayed their fear - their desire to be elsewhere, loyalty to their duty kept them in their mud-sodden positions even as their companions were being wounded and killed all around. Even now, the intensity of enemy fire was increasing, with American mortars shells raining relentlessly on their position. And above all this Lund felt a far deeper resonance that shook the ground every few moments. Heavy artillery, possibly naval guns, had begun firing - not at them, thankfully, but at some distant target.
The taller of the radio repair men appeared suddenly by his side, spattered with mud and dust, leaping into the safety of the rubble pile beside the house where Lund was crouching. Taking barely a moment to catch his breath, he shouted his report above the noise of the barrage.
"Sir, the radio is repaired," he announced. Good news, but he spoke hesitantly. Lund could sense there was worse to follow. "But we have lost contact with headquarters. The lines are down." Probably the naval bombardment, Lund reasoned. The sky behind their positions, in the direction of Isigny, was glowing, flames from the burning town tinting the overcast clouds with an orange glow. There were few options left now. Behind the smoke and dust raised by their mortars the enemy were advancing, and they would soon reach the German lines. Too many good men had died already today. It was time to go. Lund gave the order to fall back. The relief in the eyes of his men was obvious as they moved cautiously out of their foxholes, back from the hedge line and through the orchard to the comparative safety of positions further to the rear.
Turn 3, Phases 2-4
The Americans use a Chain of Command die to interrupt and shoot one Sherman with full effect as the Germans attempt to manage shock. The US mortar barrage then falls directly on target as both Shermans open fire and the German forward observer is killed. The Germans make the decision to withdraw to safe positions rather than continuing to fight a losing battle, and as all their troops are close enough to jump-off points to retire, the game ends.
Campaign Management at the end of Game 2
US forces win the scenario and take the hamlet of La Cambe.
The Germans suffer 12 dead which is more than the Americans. Because there is no radio contact, the change in the German CO’s opinion is unknown  at this stage, but may be resolved later. The opinion of Lund's men’s opinion moves from +1 to -1, while Lund's own outlook moves down one on the table to “Worried”.
"Damn it to Hell!" Colonel Goode gazed at his desk, deeply troubled. For a moment, during that call, he had felt less worried, but then the same man who had informed him that La Cambe had been captured had told him that while pursuing the retreating enemy his brave boys had been bombed by some stupid American pilots who had mistaken them for Germans. They 'weren't expecting friendly troops that far inland from Omaha', apparently. Disappointing, annoying and stupid, but just the sort of thing he had expected after being given the order to advance his men that fast. He couldn't let that happen again, his men deserved better. They would hold and consolidate their positions at La Cambe for the time being. His mind firmly set, Colonel Goode picked up the receiver and gave the order to halt.

Colonel Goode’s opinion moves up by one after La Cambe is captured, but an immediate attack on his advancing troops by friendly aircraft reverses his opinion which drops by two to “Nervous”. Because of this, he makes the decision to delay for one Campaign turn at La Cambe.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

29, Let's Go! - Turn 1: La Cambe

D+2, 8th June 1944

The sun rose, golden light low across the open fields, casting the long shadows of orchard trees, barns and scattered farm buildings. The road was the highest point in this flat landscape, though only one or two feet higher than the ground on either side. Clouds of midges rose from the flood water that filled the fields to the south. On any other day, a calm, tranquil place.

 The 175th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division advanced slowly through the Normandy countryside along the line of the main road to Isigny. For these men, their war so far had been quiet, even disappointing. Late to land at Omaha, the long wait out at sea hadn't been fun, but they were lucky. The guys first off the boats had had it hard. By the time of their own arrival it seemed at first that all the hard work had been done and there was little resistance left. The Germans, it seemed, were on the run.

Not that Colonel Goode was pleased, though. Disaster was always just around the corner as far as he was concerned. So it was fortunate, the men knew, that Brigadier General Cota was there to provide a counterbalance.

Colonel Goode's outlook at the beginning of the game is "Concerned". This is the only campaign opinion tracked for the Americans. The Americans begin the game with 10 Force Morale points.

This morning the men of the 175th marched with confidence. They had been given an objective - the bridge over the Aure river at Isigny. Capturing this would block the retreating Germans and open the way into the heart of France. A line of Shermans of the 747th Tank Battalion had joined them, steadily crawling toward the same objective.

La Cambe seen from the US table edge
And so, just over 5 miles inland from Omaha, US forces approached the quiet hamlet of La Cambe.

La Cambe seen from the German table edge
The morning had not started well for Unterfeldwebel Lund. Two days since the Invasion and he still hadn't had more than a couple of hours sleep. There were no tanks anywhere, and only a handful of support weapons. Morale was low. And while flooding the fields to slow the enemy down might have worked, it had blocked German lines of retreat as well. Someone, somewhere, had failed them. So much to do, and so little to do it with.

The German Senior Leader, Unterfeldwebel Karlheinz Lund, starts the campaign with an outlook of "Worried". His commanding officer, Hauptmann Krauss, begins with a starting opinion of 0, and the men in his platoon with -1. The Germans begin the game with 9 Force Morale points.

Yesterday, Lund had received orders from Hauptmann Krauss. Like all Prussians, the old officer, a veteran on the last war, hid his fears behind a calm and methodical exterior. "It seems we have very few options. The bridge at Isigny must be held, so that our troops may withdraw to stronger positions," he had explained. "Lund, I don't like to give you the order but I have little choice. The Americans are already on the road to Isigny. They must be delayed as long as possible. This order is of the highest priority and be assured you will have my every assistance."

Every assistance turned out to be two small field guns that had been left behind by retreating troops, and their makeshift crews, reassigned by Krauss from who knew where and provided with barely enough ammunition to last half a day. But that was the situation, and since before first light he had been organising impromptu defences along field boundaries around what in other circumstances he might have considered an idyllic country retreat. A typical French estate with a manor house set among fields and orchards in the Normandy countryside, called La Cambe. A position made particularly defensible given that a FlaK36 battery some miles away had a view of the road at this point, and had promised him support from one of their 88's.

Lund reviewed his own force. Three sections of ten men, each with an MG42, each led by a reliable NCO. Reliable meaning he hadn't deserted his post when it was clear the enemy wasn't going to be held on the beaches after all. Two sections were digging in behind a hedge, watching and waiting for the enemy advance along the main road. The third, under his own watchful eye, would cover the same area from the protection of a small house in which he had set up his HQ. One of his men, a former athlete, apparently, had taken a sniper's position in the attic. And he'd been impressed at how well the impromptu gun crews had set up in positions either side of the house, where they would have reasonable views along the road and over the fields the enemy would have to cross.

German deployment, defending from the hedge line

The main Isigny road runs along the length of the table, with the manor house of La Cambe to one side. Most hedged fields, scattered buildings and trees are at each table short side. It's a
probe scenario, so all the Americans need to do to win is to get one unit to the German base table edge. There is no time limit.

American forces comprise one infantry platoon with 19 support points, spent on three Shermans and additional BARs for each platoon. The Germans have 12 support points, spent on one LeIG18, one PaK38, and a sniper.

The Patrol Phase ends with German jump-off markers beside the house and along the hedge on their side of the table, two American jump-off points near the Isigny road and one behind the manor house.

Turn 1, Phases 1-16
The three Shermans deploy and advance in column along the road, while one section takes up position in the manor house. The Platoon Sergeant (senior leader) is deployed behind one of the houses beside the road on the left flank. The Germans deploy all three squads and the panzershreck team along the hedge line, and one LMG team, a sniper and the senior leader in the house.

The column of Shermans advances along the Isigny road
In the old bedroom, between mildewed curtains that stank of damp, Lund squinted through binoculars over the sill of one of the broken windows towards a haze of diesel smoke in the distance. A column of tanks - at least three Shermans - steadily moving along the road towards them. Beside him, Obergefreiter Schmidt had already managed to contact Flak-Sturm Regiment 1 on the radio and was passing on instructions to the gunners through the static crackle. Lund gave the order for them to fire at the first opportunity. A second's pause between the radio crack of the 88mm gun and the whistling of the shell overhead, and the explosion of dirt and vegetation in the distance. A moment of optimism - and then as the cloud of dust settled, disappointment, for the shot had missed all three tanks and only succeeded in removing a few branches from a large oak tree beside the road. Lund yelled at the Pak38 outside the house to fire once their line of sight was clear. Another miss, but it must have taken the Americans by surprise - or perhaps they were still recovering from the 88mm shell - enough time for a second to find its target before the inevitable shot came back in return. The second Sherman in the column moved around the first, which was clearly in difficulty. The Pak38 fired again. This time the lead tank brightened the horizon, exploding in a pillar of flame.

PaK38 deployed so as to fire along the road
Turn 1, Phases 17-20; Turn 2, Phases 1-8
The Germans spend one Chain of Command die to fire with the off-table 88mm gun and miss. They deploy the PaK38 in cover beside the house looking down the road. Because of poor US dice and several consecutive phases going to the Germans the PaK38 is able to fire multiple times on the lead Sherman, immobilising it and repeatedly inflicting shock. The tank shoots back only once, ineffectually, and is then destroyed. The Americans lose 1 Force Morale point.

The lead Sherman is destroyed
Moving around the burning Sherman, the hull machine gun of the second tank opened fire. As Lund watched, one of the gun crew fell dead under the hail of bullets, but the PaK38 fired again. Lund never heard that shot, though, as the Sherman exploded in the same moment, hit by a second shell from the Flak battery. A brief cheer came up from the German lines, but this was just the start. Through the dust Lund could make out another enemy tank moving forward.

Turn 2, Phases 9-12
An exchange of fire occurs during which one of the PaK38 crew is killed and the second Sherman is knocked out. The Americans lose a further 2 Force Morale points.

In the loft of the house, almost completely hidden from view, barely breathing, Jakob Mas was watching movement beyond a gap in the hedge behind the manor house. As the first man stepped through, his shot missed, only just, but had the desired effect as the Americans ducked for cover. From the window to his left, the MG42 opened up on the same target as Mas watched the enemy officer, standing, ignoring the gunfire, shouting angrily at his cowering men, pulling them up and urging them forward.

Caught in the open, the US third squad come under fire
Turn 2, Phase 13
The German sniper shoots at the American third squad who have deployed and are now moving out of cover towards the manor house, giving them 2 points of shock. The LMG team in yhe building opens up on the same target and lightly wounds the third squad’s Junior Leader. The US second squad is deployed and advances into cover behind a hedge on the American right flank.

Without warning, the bedroom below exploded with gunfire. Both men manning the MG42 were knocked to the ground as the glass and wood of their window fragmented, bedroom furniture and the few remaining pictures on the wall abruptly shattering. In the roof space, Mas remained calm, observing without moving, the instinct of the sniper. Behind a fallen tree along the far hedge line two BARs were firing at the MG42 now they could identify its position.

Turn 2, Phase 14
Having seen gunfire from the building in front of them the two BARs of the American second squad return fire on the LMG team in the building and kill 2.

Lund, in a daze, found himself in the doorway of the room at the top of the stairwell. The room was destroyed and two men were badly injured, but somehow he had escaped the damage. Already manned by new crew, he saw, the MG42 was back in position and firing again.

Caught in the open, the Americans weren't moving, despite the frantic urgings of their officer. They knew they were vulnerable but didn't seem to understand that staying still where they were didn't make them safe. As if to prove it, one of the cowering men abruptly jerked, shot by a stray bullet, and almost simultaneously, their NCO flinched and fell to the ground, hit a second time.  Two men tried to stand and advance but were felled before they were even half upright. They were going nowhere.

Turn 2, Phases 15-16; Turn 3, Phase 1
The Germans get two turns in a row, and then interrupt using a Chain of Command die to concentrate fire from the MG42 at the American third squad still exposed in the open. This kills 3 men, wounds the Junior Leader and leaves the unit with 8 points of shock. The Americans end the turn with one of their own Chain of Command dice so that the Junior Leader can function, and attempt to move them at the double into the manor house. A poor roll and accumulated shock reduces their move distance to zero.

Mas kept his balance as the house shook, a shell exploding somewhere below. His last two shots had missed, and he realised his gun sight wasn't working properly - the settings seemed correct but his aim was out. It must have been damaged somehow. He peered down the sight, taking careful aim now, as the MG42 below began firing again. A perfect line on the American officer, he thought, but before he could squeeze the trigger his target folded, crippled, and fell to the ground.

Turn 3, Phases 1-2
The third Sherman moves off the road to the left flank and shoots at the MG42 team causing 2 points of shock. The German sniper shoots twice to no effect, while shock on the MG42 is reduced and they open up again on the third US squad. 1 kill, 1 shock, and the Junior Leader receives a second light wound, and so is removed from the game. The Americans lose 1 Force Morale point, and the squad is pinned.

Adjusting his rifle, Mas waited, silent above the gunfire and the sounds of destruction below. Again, the Americans had found their mark, and the MG42 team were taking a beating. And as abruptly as it had started, the shooting stopped, but this time the room below was silent. Through the gun sight Mas saw an American head looking his way, straining to take in the scene. This time his bullet hit its mark. Another GI down. Only a handful of them left now.

Again, Lund had been lucky, standing on the stairs when the room was filled with gunfire for the second time that morning. He'd seen the carnage though, and the damage to the gun itself, which looked beyond repair. Schmidt was lucky too. He'd been wounded, for sure, but he would live. The engines of the Sherman sounded very close, and Lund hurried down the stairs to take in the situation. That last American tank needed to be dealt with. He shouted to the PaK38 team to move to the other side of the tree where they would have a better view of the tank across the ploughed field beyond the gate, and open fire.

The PaK38 is repositioned
Turn 3, Phases 3-4
The US Senior Leader orders the squad on the left flank to fire on the MG42 team, which they do with devastating effect, killing the last 2 of the team, adding 1 point of shock, and wounding the Junior Leader. The Germans lose their first point of Force Morale. The sniper shoots at the third squad inflicting 1 kill. The German Senior Leader moves to the ground floor of the building and moves the PaK38 to a position where it has line of sight to the US second squad.

Just as the gun crew moved into position, the tree shook with a shell from the Sherman and a shower of leaves and small branches. The gun crew returned fire, but wildly, too fast, the shot falling short by twenty feet or more, harmlessly raising a spout of muddy soil from the ploughed field. Worse, the gun could now be seen by the enemy and was under fire from the manor house as well. Crouching behind their gun shield, hiding from gunfire and shell explosions, the Pak38 fired once more, but again the shot fell short. Lund shouted encouragement, but it was too much to expect the crew to last, and another shell put the gun out of action, those of the crew who were able running for cover.

Frustrated, Mas adjusted the sight on his rifle yet again. The Americans weren't moving, but his last four shots had all missed. He'd have to get the rifle repaired, or better still replaced, when he next had the chance. To his relief, his fifth shot didn't fall wide, and as that man fell, others stumbled back into the cover of the hedgerow, some of them in panic even leaving rifles and helmets behind. It was a relief to shift position. Mas turned in the direction of the Sherman and the men in the cover of the hedge in front of the tank, looking for a new target.

Turn 3, Phases 5-9; Turn 4, Phases 1-11
The surviving Sherman moves into position behind the squad on the left and there is an exchange of fire. Shock and kills build on the PaK38 after several rounds of US shooting. The Germans use a Chain of Command die to end the turn so that the wounded Junior Leader recovers. The US Platoon Leader is finally deployed behind the Manor House and attempts to remove shock from the third squad. The Germans cannot remove shock from the PaK38 faster than it is accumulated. Finally, the Americans expend a Chain of Command die to interrupt the Germans and inflict the final blow to the gun, which breaks. The Germans lose 1 Force Morale point. The Germans deploy the leIG18 against the hedge opposite the US second squad. The sniper, who has missed four times during this period, finally kills one man in the US third squad which breaks. The Germans expend a Chain of Command die to end the turn such that this squad is removed from the table. The Americans end this period with 5 remaining Force Morale points and are reduced to 4 Command Dice.

The defensive line of the US second squad, with armoured support
Now that he could clearly see the Americans behind the hedge on the other side of the ploughed field, Lund gave the order to aim the infantry gun in their direction. The crew, who had seemed nervous up to that point, fell immediately into their routine, and oblivious to the incoming fire launched shot after shot of high explosive toward the distant hedge line. From a broken ground floor window, Lund shouted encouragement as every round exploded on the horizon. The enemy infantry were being held, but that tank was a problem. Twice the ground beside the gun errupted with the explosion of one of its shells. The infantry gun would not survive a direct hit.

Lund pointed at two nervous-looking men carrying a Panzershreck and its ammunition who had recognised the foxholes they had dug were dangerously close to the infantry gun position. "You and you," he shouted, "Get inside the building where you can see, and do what you can to that tank with that drainpipe!" As he gave the order, though, his heart sank. The men were far too young. Sixteen, perhaps, maybe even younger. This year's war was very different to the one he and so many like him had eagerly awaited in that hopeful summer of 38. That seemed so long ago now.

The boys with the Panzershreck were in the house now, feeling safer inside as they clattered up the stairs, and just in time, it turned out. Finding its mark at last, a shell from the Sherman exploded in the hedge beside the gun position, almost exactly where they had been lying a moment before. The crew on one side of the infantry gun took the full force of the blast, both men killed instantly, torn apart and scattered along with branches, leaves and soil from the hedge to rain down over the line of dug-in infantry . The gun had rolled over, useless, its wheels bent and carriage broken, the two of its crew who were not instantly killed thrown, helpless, bloody and stunned, into the ruined garden in front of the house. Gritting their teeth, the infantry remained in position, Teutonic discipline held.

Turn 5, Phases 1-15
Both sections of the second squad are put on Overwatch, to try and spot the sniper. The sniper shoots twice, and is spotted by the BAR team after inflicting 2 shock and 1 kill. With a lucky shot the sniper is killed. US shooting is concentrated on the infantry gun, which inflicts 3 more shock on the infantry. The Panzershreck team moves into the top floor of the building to shoot at the Sherman. The infantry gun continues to shoot at the second squad but is accumulating shock at the same rate as its target, and it finally breaks. The Germans spend a Chain of Command die to avoid testing Force Morale.

Looking up, Lund could see the open end of the Panzershreck tube protruding beyond the window ledge. Not the safest position, perhaps. He hoped those boys would live long enough to learn. The sound was like a sudden draught of wind, opening a door against a hurricane, then closing it quickly, as the weapon fired, the distant explosion if its charge almost immediate. A plume of oily, black-brown smoke rose from the Sherman. A good first shot, but not enough to put the tank out of action, and it continued to fire back in their direction. One miss, whistling over the top of the house, but a second shot exploded in a burst of broken tiles through the roof, and the Panzershreck team were silenced. Lund sighed. A lot of his men were suffering in that house today, but it was still the strongest defensive position and had the best field of fire. Aware of the danger, Lund ordered the riflemen to move from their foxholes into the house. The American infantry were slowly moving through the hedge to advance across the ploughed field, and Lund knew that now was his chance to stop them.

Turn 5, Phases 16-24
The Panzershreck team and the Sherman exchange shots several times. The Sherman is hit but only suffers engine damage, while a hit on the Panzershreck team eliminates it. The Germans test Force Morale, but there is no points loss. The US Platoon Sergeant removes shock from the second squad and they advance across the hedge, while the German rifle squad moves to positions upstairs in the building.

Amongst shattered furniture, fallen joists and piles of broken roof tiles, Lund watched with his men as a line of crouching American riflemen cautiously made their way across the centre of the ploughed field.

A brave advance leaves the US second squad very vulnerable
"Hold your fire," Lund encouraged, his voice calm, assured. It had suddenly, eerily, become silent, the only sound the occasional crunch of debris as men shifted position to improve their aim. Lund was surprised by the steady sound of his voice now that there was no need to shout. "We fire when they are furthest from safety. Half way across the field, no sooner." He held his breath, watching as the enemy advance continued.

Half way across the field was the perfect place. An opening in the roadside hedge meant there was a short distance - ten yards, no more - where they would be exposed to enfilading fire from the other two German squads positioned behind the orchard hedge. Most importantly, this would leave them in the field of fire of one of their MG42 teams. The Americans, edging slowly forward, seemed unaware of their vulnerability. Beads of sweat formed on Lund's forehead as he watched their progress, silently willing them on.

The enemy did not disappoint. As they advanced a few yards further, crossing the centre-point of the field, Lund ordered his men to fire, and at the same moment, the remaining two German squads opened up on them as well. In the field, the enemy tried to find every small piece of cover they could, their danger recognised too late. With some hope, they saw the guns in the manor house respond, laying down a steady fire at the German positions, but it was a token resistance as the onslaught continued relentlessly.

Turn 5, Phases 25-26; Turn 6, Phases 1-3
The American second squad advances across the ploughed field. Reaching the centre-point of the field, they come under fire from the second German squad, positioned behind the orchard hedge roughly at the table centre-line. They accumulate shock, and rapidly become pinned. The Americans respond with fire from the manor house and are themselves shot at by the third German squad and at last, all on-table troops are involved in the firefight.

Lund saw the Obergefreiter of his second squad flinch, but remain standing, taking a hit as he directed MG42 fire at the enemy troops in the open field. They had stopped shooting back, helplessly waiting for relief that wasn't coming. The manor house was taking the full fire of the third squad's guns as well. Its windows were shattered, the plaster of the building peppered with gunshot, responding enemy gunfire becoming more sporadic. The tide of events was moving in his favour, Lund saw, and for the first time today allowed himself a grim smile. Some of the Americans in the open, those furthest to the rear, were running now, and as they disappeared, more joined them. And so they ran, sporadic gunfire in their wake, to the safety of distant cover.

Turn 6, Phases 4-13
The Junior Leader of the German second squad receives a light wound. While the German first and second squads concentrate fire on the American second squad in the open, the German third squad fires at the Americans in the manor house. They have a couple of lucky phases of shooting, kills and shock on the Americans reducing the effectiveness of their return fire. The squad in the open accumulate kills and shock, lightly wounding the Senior Leader and pinning the squad. At Phase 13 with a roll of three sixes the turn ends, and in that turn the US second squad breaks. The Americans are reduced to 0 Force Morale points and retire to regroup for another attempt. A victory to the Germans.

"Yes, I understand". Worried, Colonel Goode put down the receiver. He had always been concerned because he knew they had overstretched the line, and now this. Without artillery support, he reasoned, this sort of thing was inevitable, but nothing he said seemed to count with his superiors. It troubled him deeply, the way that his men were expected to throw themselves into the fire without being given the support they needed to do the job properly. A little more caution, a little more patience was what was needed, and surely they could afford that. He'd give it one more try now, though, because they had stressed the urgency. Because they had insisted. But if that didn't work he'd make sure his men got the artillery support they needed next time around, no matter how much time it took.

When the wounded had been seen to, it wasn't anything like as bad as Lund had thought. It was true that the gun crews were in a bad way, but for most of the others shock and superficial wounds accounted for most of the damage. The men's confidence seemed to have improved, for the time being at least, but Lund remained cautious, though this had proved itself to be a good position. It would take more than they had witnessed today to force his men to retire. For the time being, they had held their position, and slowed the enemy advance. But the Americans would be back, very soon, Lund knew, and there would be more of them, that much was certain.

Campaign Management at the end of Game 1
German losses are light and fewer than the Americans. The Germans end the game with 5 Force Morale points, the Americans 0, so are able to return 5 men immediately to their core force. The remaining one man lost from the platoon will return later, but will not be available for the next game.

Colonel Goode's outlook moves to Worried. The German CO's opinion changes from 0 to 1. The attitude of Lund's men moves from -1 to +1 while his own remains Worried.

29, Let's Go! - Introduction

29, Let's Go! pint-sized campaign from toofatlardies
This is the first in a series of blog posts following the progress of play through the pint-sized campaign for Chain of Command - 29, Let's Go!  It's a short introduction to the way we are playing the campaign and a brief note on the format and style of the posts that will follow.

29, Let's Go! is a mini-campaign comprising a series of linked scenarios for Chain of Command that recount one small part of the American advance inland a few days after the D-Day landings. The 175th Infantry Regiment of the US 29th Infantry Division have been given orders to advance and take the town of Isigny, thereby capturing the one bridge still standing that will link the landings at Utah and Omaha beaches. Scattered German forces attempt to delay them as long as they can.

Our Chain of Command games are played in 15mm. We like the sense of realism this gives because figure and ground scales match. It's also a lot more convenient as many of us have armies made up previously for Flames of War (for which our interest has waned) small parts of which, with a little re-basing (onto 1p and 2p pieces), are easily adapted. It looks and feels fantastic.

The Wehrmacht attempt to delay the US advance
We didn't play the campaign with an umpire, so there were no surprises as we both knew the details of the campaign and scenarios beforehand. This didn't mean it was any less enjoyable, though if you're intending to run this yourself, using an umpire will allow both sides to be surprised and would definitely reward both players as the campaign progresses.

The campaign is ongoing and my intent is to post battle reports after we have completed each game and campaign turn. I don't intend to repeat the Chain of Command rules, nor do I want to reproduce anything specific from the campaign material. Anyone who wants this should get hold of copies of the Chain of Command rules and the supplements At The Sharp End and, of course, 29, Let's Go!  from the TooFatLardies web site. They're well worth it. Where necessary, however, I will refer to the rules and material specific to the campaign. So if you intend to play this campaign using an umpire, beware - there will be some spoilers. My intent, though, is to present our campaign in narrative form for the entertainment and enjoyment of the reader (I hope!)

The main text of my blog posts will be the story of our campaign, as it might have been seen from the point of view of the characters concerned. Because of the way 29, Let's Go! pans out, with its seemingly inexhaustible supply of American troops, and only the attitude of the high level command being tracked, the narrative will tend to follow the German point of view, where more personal detail is monitored and characters are developed. As well as the narrative, I will also describe some of the game mechanics of what has happened. I will set this out in italics and indented from the main narrative, for reference, but also so that it can be easily skimmed over or ignored. Also, for the sake of readability, I don't intend to go through every single phase of the game in detail. Rather, I will summarise events into what I consider appropriate blocks. I hope you find it entertaining and enjoyable.

So, without further ado: "29, Let's Go!"