Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Nikephorian Byzantines verse Later Parthians

A club competition game against Russell's Parthians.

Quiet a lot of terrain: two woods, a gentle hill and an impassable lake.

Byzantines advance.

Byzantines get in some lucky shots.

Byzantine luck holds.

Parthians in trouble.

Game over.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Hearts of Iron - Australia and New Zealand - Part 8

From the desk of the NZ PM, the Right Honourable Mr Bruce.

3 January 1942

Japan declared war on the Allies.  With years of war experience in China, the Imperial Japanese Army is expected to be battle hardened, formidable and aggressive.  That shifts the focus from Africa to the Asia/Pacific region and from offence to defence.

In political developments, Australia declared its independence to better mobilise its resources and convinced the Dutch government in exile, which has its homeland occupied by the Germans, to transfer effective control of its East Indies colonies to Australia.  New Zealand is 94% of the way to losing its Dominion status – it just needs a bit more successful fighting.

ANZAC forces defend Malaya and Singapore with 14 divisions, which is also close enough to assist with the expected defence of the oil fields in Borneo, Sumatra and Java.  Three Australian divisions are in Rabaul and Port Moresby.  The remaining six divisions are guarding the homelands but ready for quick deployment overseas to counter expected invasions. 

Japan invaded and conquered the Phillipines but never ventured further south.  Was it deterred by the ANZAC defence?  While the Australian navy has sunk about 300 Japanese conveys around the East Indies, ANZAC ground forces have not yet been engaged.

Instead, there is fighting around Hanoi where the British are pushing for a port to get supply.  In the Pacific islands, most of the contest is around Truk and Guam (shown by the square), which New Zealand decided not to defend but has been occupied by many US and UK units. 

Where shall the ANZAC forces strike?  The Pacific islands around Truk and Guam don’t yet have the Allied naval supremacy needed for relative safety.  What about the shorter and less-contested route from the East Indies to Palau?  Or what about an invasion from Malaya to Cambodia across the Gulf of Thailand to eventually link up with UK forces around Hanoi?  Only time will tell…

C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas Napoléon

Having seen the shorts and one interview I was keen to see Ridley Scott's Napoleon.  I have very fond memories of The Duelists.  I read one very good review, but then there came a stream of rather negative reviews, so my expectations were not high.

I was both impressed and disappointed by the movie.

On reflection it is ridiculous to think that the span of 20 plus years of turbulent history can be rendered in two and a half hours.  To accomplish this too many liberties had to be taken and that spoilt it for those of us with some knowledge of the subject.  

Napoleon's military greatness was based on strategy and operational manoeuvrer.  Watching the film it is reduced to various tactical ploys that just didn't happen. A great pity as a lot of effort had gone into the battle scenes which were magnificent, but not Napoleon.  

The romance between Napoleon and Josephine was a key part of the movie and I think it would have been better to concentrate on that and make the war aspects into a separate companion movie which would have been innovative.  In fact the whole thing should have been more structured like Game of Thrones to cover the full breadth of the historical subject.  I would be interested to know how the budgets compared.  Of course doing it in that format maybe entertainment, but it is not necessarily art.

More interesting still in these modern times would have been to have Josephine played by an actor of colour which would be perfectly in keeping with English propaganda of the time.

Joachim Phoenix's portrayal of Napoleon was mixed.  In fact if that was all you had to go on you would be wondering why Napoleon is such a great historical figure.  A real negative for me, and I am a confessed Bonapartist, was how they made Napoleon appear Trump like.  Yuck!  

They went to all the trouble to set up the Egyptian campaign and after a few minutes must have come to some decision about what to do now and some bright spark said "let's fire on the Pyramids".  Obviously he had read the chapter headings in his research and noted the "Battle of the Pyramids" and took it literally!  Again, magnificent cinematography, but not Napoleon.  And as to the the bit with the mummy, wtf?  Egyptology was a major trend in those times, but I don't think that was the right way to portray it.

The scale was grand and I thought the coronation scene was particularly impressive, although I understand the sequence might have been a bit different, but that's what you get when you condense 20 years of history into 180 minutes of entertainment.  Pity.

Not a patch on Waterloo or Rod Steiger's Napoleon which brought true gravitas to the man who was involved in so much killing.  Why they had to list all the deaths at the end I am not sure.  Napoleon wasn't always the aggressor and it was more the aristocrats of Europe not wanting the foundation of their political systems threatened by an alternative.  While it was imperial splendor that Napoleon created, he did so to deal with his contemporaries who other wise wouldn't engage with a republic.  That was something I got from the movie and maybe true. It then of course generated the need for an heir and all the trouble that caused.

I was really irked by the chap playing Wellington, not a patch on Christopher Plummer.  I wonder if the people involved in this movie watched Waterloo?

All the same, looking forward to taking my partner to see it and find out what she makes of it all.

Best part was I found a really good Japanese restaurant near the theatre complex. 

Sunday, November 26, 2023

World in Flames Withdrawal Symptoms - Turn 5

Reinforcements are placed. 

Germany lends Italy oil. 


Axis roll a 9, the Allies a 3 which means the Axis have the initiative and will be going first.

First Impulse

The weather roll is a 4, Fine everywhere except North Monsoon which is Rain.

German takes a paid land, Italy a paid naval and Japan a paid combine.

Japan moves some transports around.

Italy sails Trento out into the Red Sea, smoothers the Med in cruisers and sends subs into three sea lanes.  Searches are conducted: a find in the North Atlantic (rolled a 1, Allies a 7); fail Cape St Vincent (5/7); fail Bay of Biscay (8/6); fail Eastern Med (8/5); and fail Red Sea (7/6).  But the Battle of the North Atlantic sees 6 CP damaged and 3 aborted.  The sub also aborts.

Japan conducts some strategic bombing, successfully hitting Chungking.

Japan conducts three ground strikes plus a bombardment.  Having seen what happened last time, China uses its AA unit, but only manages to drive off one factor.  Japan gets two flips out of seven, not bad for needing 1s and 2s.

Italy strikes the French on its front.  It misses all three targets.

Germany conducts four ground strikes and two bombardments.  The much reduced French air force ventures out to intercept two. In one combat the French clear the bomber through, but then bounce on the German fighter, shooting it down and killing the pilot before aborting. In the other air combat the French fighter clears through the German bomber and is shot down, but the pilot survives. There are 14 attempts to flip units, but only 3 successes.

Japan moves troops up, knowing the Chinese are not going anywhere.

Germany, disappointed with its ground strikes decides just to attack Metz.  It is a 10.4 assault.  HQs are not committed.

The die roll is 11.10 for a final 21. One French unit is eliminated (providing a cadre point) and the other sent to the spiral.  Half the attackers are inverted.  Metz falls and Guderian reinverts the flipped units.

Von Leeb reinverts the artillery.

The Commonwealth will take a paid naval, France hopes it can getaway with a free land, as does China.  USA and USSR do free combines.

Commonwealth tries hard to plug the convoy gap in the North Atlantic.  Escorts are deployed and the Med Fleet goes searching for the Italians in the Red Sea. CW roll an 8, It a 5.  The Italians find the convoy with 7 surprise points.  This inflicts 2D1A.  The two damage results sinks the one convoy.  The Italian cruiser then aborts.

The Commonwealth naval moves provides three air actions.  The French beg the British to ground strike the Germans.  The Brits say no, but then relent allocating one mission to that end, but first bombing Prague and Nuremberg gaining one hit on the latter. The Luftwaffe intercept the ground strike and shoot it down (3 rolled), the pilot at least bailing out to safety.

France can readjust its front without giving ground.  Germany will have to fight for every hex. Their artillery have better luck in flipping at least one German unit.

But China has a real problem.  Almost paralysed by fear, they partially pullback to protect Chungking and hope for either bad weather or bad die rolls by the Japanese.

Pull back would provide easy targets, but to stay might create a bigger problem.

USSR moves troops to the border with Germany and also starts to plot a move against Iraq.

The USA wonders what to do.

Second Impulse

The weather roll is an 8, Fine everywhere.

Germany takes a paid land as does Japan.  Italy does a free combine and searches in the eastern Med.  In a reverse of the Red Sea battle it throws a 10 while the Commonwealth roll a 2.  As the CW had not committed its sub, there is no combat.

The Japanese try some ground strikes but they are ineffective.  It has however two attacks. The first is a +8 blitz lead by Umezu.  The second is a +11.1 assault lead by Yamamoto.

Umezu rolls a 15 producing a perfect TOTT.  Yamamoto rolls a 10.1, not quiet a TOTT.  The Chinese console themselves with 3 cadre points.

Italy captures Sousse in Tunisia which is proclaimed as a great victory.  In the horn of Africa Italian troops rush to defend Italian Somaliland.

The Germans conduct ground strikes and bombardments.

They follow up with a +9.6 blitz heading for Paris defended by Prételat and a +10.7 assault on Strasbourg.  

The blitz rolls a 14.5 TOTT!  The assault is a 7.7 roll which produces an 18 which is 1 loss to the defenders and all attackers flipped.  The French get 2 cadre point from the Blitz losses.

Rundstedt and Bock are used to reinvert units.

The Commonwealth take a paid combine, France takes a free combine, China a free land, USSR and USA free combine.

The Commonwealth attempt a port strike on Asmara.  They roll a 7, the Italians a 9.  This gives the CW two surprise points.  The Italian cruiser has 2 AA factors, but against one bomber it does nothing.  The Baffin launched from the Eagle has 2 Air to Sea factors, there are two ships (the Trento and a CP), and using the surprise points to go up a column the result is 1D1A.  As they are the attacking player, the CW choose the Trento for the damage.  It survives.  As the CP is already marked as used and so the abort result does nothing.

The Commonwealth (now that I know the Port Attack rules) contemplate striking Kiel, but decide against it.  Similarly in the Med they feel that their subs are a better force in being that will require the Italians to react each turn.

The US send another sub to Pearl Harbour.  Whoops!  This can't happen until a specific Entry Option is chosen.

The French send their transport to Senegal in case there are more militia to collect.  The Commonwealth move their transports from Liverpool to the safety of Scarpa Flow.

The Commonwealth conduct a major strategic bombing run on Essen, but all five factors miss.

The Kenya Territorials threaten Italian Somaliland, the Cape Town militia arrive in Rangoon and the South African Territorials work out their chances against the partisans.  It would only be a +1.5 assault.  Miserable!  (The Partisan gets an extra factor in jungle and a -4 adjustment).

The USSR looks at Iraq and wonders what it should do about Rumania and Finland.  Finland is easy, it is not positioned to do anything.  Rumania can be dealt with promptly (it will save a resource so the question is why haven't they made their demands already?).  Troops start moving to the border with Iraq.  That just leaves the Baltic states to resolve.

Third Impulse

And the weather is 8 again, Fine everywhere.

Whoops.  Just noticed that it is a road not rail line that goes west from Changsha, that means the two Japanese 3 movement factor units would have to flip moving into the mountains.  So it goes and good I spotted this now before any damage was done.

Japan will do a free land, Italy a free land and Germany a paid land.

The Germans use their artillery to bombard the French forward positions.  The Italians even send help.

The Germans succeed in flipping one corps and the follow up attack is a +10.4 blitz.  The die roll is 11.3 producing a 22.  The French lose the Paris militia which provides 1 cadre point and the other two units go to the production spiral.  The Germans are one hex closer to Paris.

The Italians conquer Tunisia and win the race to Mogadishu.

Japan shuffles units around.

The Allies have a problem which might be solved if they all passed which would provide a 20% chance of the Turn ending.  As there is not a lot they can do they decide to pass.

The die roll is a 5.

Impulse Four

Weather roll is a 3.  Rain in the Arctic, Storm in North Monsoon, Rain in South Monsoon and Fine everywhere else with a plus 1 to the next weather roll.

Germany takes a paid combine, Italy and Japan free combines. 

The Kormoran slips out of Rio and heads to Cape Basin.  Its search roll is a 1, convoys found.  But the convoys roll a 2 so only 5 surprise points.  The three CP represent one ship and with two shifts the Kormoran manages to inflict a damage on them. 

Italy searches in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.  This time the Commonwealth include their submarine.  Italy rolls a 2, the Commonwealth an 8. The Gorizia in the 4 box hunts the Trion which is in the 3 box with 7 surprise points.  That gives 2D1A on the sub.  The sub is sunk.  The Gorizia aborts.  The Commonwealth aborts its convoy. 

Germany then bombs Glasgow, but misses.

Japan contents itself with covering occupied China with ZOCs to avoid partisans.

Italy invades Algeria.

Germans makes a +17.5 Blitz against Pretelat.

The roll is 3.8  making a 20, the French HQ goes to the Production Spiral 
and half the Germans are flipped.  
A great French victory.

But the turn doesn't end.

The Allies try to end the Turn again.  A 4 or less is needed, they roll a 7!

Impulse Five

Weather roll is 6 which is Fine everywhere except North Monsson which has Rain.

Italy will take a no cost combine, Germany a paid land and Japan a no cost land.

Italy continues with its conquest of North Africa, the Sardinians arriving in Constantine.  Italy sails a sub to Cape of St Vincent, but declines to search.  There is debate within the Italian High Command over whether or not now is a good time to invade Egypt.  They decide more planning is required.

Germany attacks the other inverted French HQ, Georges.  It is a +20.5 blitz. 

They don't care what the die roll is (a 14.5) as even with the minimum roll it would produce an excellent result.  Georges is eliminated.  The French find little comfort in picking up a cadre point. The breakthrough result now gives the Germans three good hexes on Paris and also cuts off the French armour south east of Lille.

Does the Turn end?  Almost.  3 needed, but a 4 rolled.

Can the Commonwealth launch a counter attack? It would be either a 8.4 or 6.8 blitz (German choice, but that would be the way to reduce the risk of a loss). BUT I don't think the Commonwealth are in supply unless they can get a transport or convoy into the North Sea.  Whoops!

Establishing supply and then attacking reduces the offensive to a 6.4 or 5.2, but the Germans would choose an assault.

All passing means there is a 60% chance of the turn ending.

I resolved by rolling a dice.  The Allies decided to pass.  They rolled a 6.  Turn over.

End of Turn Phase

Partisan roll is a 3 (again). Not a chance in Belgium and supressed in Indo-China.

US entry... I might have been doing this wrong.  I thought the Entry Level was just the value of the chits in the pool, but I now think it is 1.5 times the chits in one Entry Pool plus half the value of the chits in the other entry pool.  So I was working on a level of 14, but it should now be 25.

The US choose option 16 Gift of Destroyers to the Commonwealth.  Tension is avoided due to Edward R Murrow.  Their second choice is option 13 Embargo strategic materials to Japan.  No tension.

China 3+3 BP 1xWorker, 1xInf, 1xCav Div

Commonwealth 16 BP (using 5 oil) 1xTerr, 1xMil, 1xCVP3, 1xFTR3, 2xPilots, 9xCP Repair, 1xCV FU (US BP), 1x CA FU (US BP)

US 10 BP 1xPara, 1xCVP3, 1xFTR2, 1xPilot

USSR 15 BP 1xMech, 2xInf, 1xGar, 1xCav

France 2+4 BP 3xMilitia (I think France should have been storing Iraqi oil in Syria?)

Germany 16 BP 2xInf,1xArm,1xFTR2, 1xPilot

Italy 5 BP 1xInf HQ

Japan 16 BP 1xInf, 1xMtn, 1xCVP3, 1xNav2, 2xPilot, 2xCV FU

Start of Turn Six

With the resumption of our regular face to face game I might leave this Vassal game at this point.

One mistake I have made is failing to remove the poor quality subs from the Italian force pool at set up.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Hearts of Iron - Australia and New Zealand - Part 7

From the desk of the NZ PM, the Right Honourable Mr Bruce.

18 March 1941

Italian East Africa is entirely conquered! 

Australia suggested one last push to finish off the isolated pocket.  Carefully preparations and planning maximized every available advantage.  When the ANZAC attack started in one area the British launched a series of attacks on other areas that pinned down any potential reinforcements.  This time, the ANZAC attack succeeded.  Once the Axis started retreating they were pursued by armour and motorised units so they had no opportunity to regroup. 

Meanwhile, there have been the developments in Italian North Africa where ANZAC motorised and armoured units played a small but important role.

At 16 May 1940 the front was stuck near the Egyptian border due to a lack of supply.

By 7 November 1940, the British had invaded Benghazi by sea 
and expanded their bridgehead so that Tobruk was isolated.

18 March 1941, the Tobruk pocket was closed, the Italians had been chased back to Tripoli and outflanked around their southern flank, and Tripoli was captured from the west.

The few remaining Axis troops were isolated and out of supply.  Presumably, they would be quickly destroyed.

What then for the ANZAC forces?  Invade Sicily?  Defend against the Axis invasions in Norway or Greece?  Or defend somewhere closer to home given the Japanese gains in China?  Only time will tell…

Friday, November 24, 2023

La Belle Époque Encore!

We gathered again to play this game.  Simon was Great Britain, Jeff the Central Powers, Richard Russia and I was France.  Took us around six hours to complete, the game ending when Archie Duke shot an ostrich.

The scores were France 141, Central Powers 113, Russia 107 and Britain 72.

The previous game AAR can be found here:



From the pen of Imperial Russia suitably redacted to protect the innocent.

Another great game. I felt it would play faster and it did, we raced through 6 turns in 4 hours and then the last two turns took an hour or so as everyone tried stretching their turns to secure the optimum play order in the next turn.

I felt the penny dropped for us in terms of some of the game tricks with this second game, although I feel there is much more to explore.

1) Make sure you really want to target a player with a particular card as this shields them for the rest of the turn.

2) Stretching out your turn can work to your advantage, unless there is a pressing reason to perform 2 actions.

3) The turn 6 scoring phase is the most critical in the game. Possibly the last chance to use powerful national cards, and going last in this turn can be crucial. If you want to make a move, then this is the turn to do it. France locked in a game winning lead in that scoring phase with approximately 60 VPs to the next nearest of 30 VPs that turn. That was the final VP differential.

4) If you have a cunning plan, make sure you read your cards correctly, before implementing the first half and then realising you can't implement the second half. (i.e Russia selling arms to Japan). 

We've probably had too few games to tell if any power has it easier than the others.

Russia seems quite resilient, finishing a close third despite neglecting to secure Rumania and the easy cash cache, which would have been handy. In both games Russia has been the dominant power in China. Each power can get a maximum of 12 VPs and Britain 15 VPs for China. The Central Empires probably have a trickier time accessing Asia, but Britain and France do not. It's interesting that a lot of effort was expended by Britain and France on Melanesia and Micronesia for perhaps a maximum of
half the potential gain (or one third in the case of Britain) for going after China.

Great Britain has finished last in both games, however, in neither game was any effort put into securing the Cape Colony which locks Britain into a negative VP at game end as well as not achieving national
objectives for Colonies in Asia and Africa in the scoring phase. Too Eurocentric perhaps? Going after too many Euro alliances might be a nice short term sugar hit, but hurts Britain long term. I feel Britain cannot win without at least 3 colonies in Africa. Something the next British player can explore...

France seems to have a big advantage with 4 DM cubes after the Eiffel tower is built. It's effectively a free extra turn or free army if you sell and purchase. Not sure what the foil to that is just yet.

Central Empires and Britain have powerful resources in diplomatic attack, but you have to be prepared to use them and have the financial clout to back it up. Not having money sucks as I found out!

Ironically, for a game about diplomacy, in neither game was this pursued overtly (well at least not while I was at the table). Perhaps something to consider in the future. Making limited deals on certain areas.

Huns versus Sui Dynasty Chinese

Dave volunteered his Chinese to fight my Huns,

Not only were the Chinese out scouted, one terrain piece they had placed to cover their left flank,
an impassable swamp, turned out to have dried out and was just open terrain,

The Huns waste no time in advancing.

The Chinese skirmishers become entangled
and block the Chinese cavalry.

The Chinese cavalry is free, but coming under heavy fire.
The Huns are trying to keep their distance from the Chinese archers,
in the centre.

The Huns are buys encircling the Chinese.

And the Chinese losses are starting to increase.

But the Chinese infantry still has to be dealt with...

And this is happening.

The Chinese heavy infantry is surrounded.

And routed.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Hearts of Iron - Australia and New Zealand - Part 6

From the desk of the NZ PM, the Right Honourable Mr Bruce, who has now caught up with all his paperwork.

16 May 1940

The Axis forces in Italian East Africa are now much reduced.  More importantly, they are cut off from Europe, having lost their last port, and must rely on local supplies.

Progress in Italian East Africa: 19 February 1940 on left and 16 May 1940 on right


After that, things became more difficult.  The Axis units were all defending in mountains.  They had just enough local supply from their new capital to keep them going.  The Axis were now more concentrated in their pocket.  Their interior lines allowed them to reinforce just enough new units to keep battles going a long time.

As the weeks rolled past and the ANZAC losses mounted, commanders wondered whether this was really the best place to deploy the few ANZAC troops.  Perhaps they should leave the British to grind out the last mountain strongholds.  Perhaps they should redeploy north to push the Italians out of Libya.  Perhaps they should relocate to assist the brave Norwegians defending against the German invaders where, though outnumbered, they would have the advantage of the mountainous terrain.  Only time will tell…

Barbarossa Turn 36 Part

Dry weather in all theatres meant a busy time for the Axis and so we were only able to complete that part of the turn.

Army Group North tries to slow the Soviet build-up on its eastern flank.

Army Group Centre still intent on reaching Moscow.

Army Group South has Kiev surrounded.

But AGS is now pushing east 

As well as trying to reduce Odessa and break into the Crimea.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Hearts of Iron - Australia and New Zealand - Part 5

From the desk of the NZ PM, the Right Honourable Mr Bruce.

16 May 1940

The Axis forces in Italian East Africa are now much reduced.  More importantly, they are cut off from Europe, having lost their last port, and must rely on local supplies.

Progress in Italian East Africa: 19 February 1940 on left and 16 May 1940 on right


Initially, ANZAC units mounted a naval invasion of the northern port of Massawa, but the Axis reinforced faster than the ANZAC units could gain a secure footing and the invasion was called off after some losses.

Much more successful was a land assault from the south, then along the border with (Vichy) French Somaliland to the coast and port.  Australian infantry first engaged, then New Zealand armour joined and finally motorised units were added to be ready to exploit any success.  Once a breakthrough was made, the armour and motorised were able to race north while infantry followed to hold the area taken.  Massawa was only lightly held and was quickly taken from the land side.

Finally, special mention must be made for the Australian navy in the Red Sea that, assisted by the air forces of both countries, killed 230 Axis transports this year.  That is more than the 200 transports that Italy started 1939 with! 

What fresh ANZAC triumphs await as the pocket in Italian East Africa is closed?  Only time will tell…

Back to Plancenoit

This time I inflicted the test playing of this scenario on Simon, putting him in command of the French so that I could try various options with bringing the Prussians on.

The French have had three turns to get in position.

The first Prussian unit arrives and quickly deploys out of march column.
It is 1500.

The French are ready.

But it is going to take a while to get the Prussians into action.
It is 1530.
Note one Prussian Brigade (Division equivalent)
has been diverted to enter by the northern route.
This takes two turns or an hour.

It is now 1600 and the Prussian artillery is starting to be brought up.
The presence of French cavalry has meant the northern approach
 is being careful to come out of march column.

The first clash.


Prussian infantry advance and have the foresight to quickly form square.

The Prussians are still trying to deploy,
shielded by their cavalry.

The attack might start getting underway now.

Prussian cavalry lead the way,
charging the French centre.


Prussian infantry again advance and quickly for square
as the French counterattack.

The Prussians are closing in,
but the Young Guard have arrived to further occupy Plancenoit.

Plenty of action now.

1930 (or thereabouts)
The Prussians have met with some success, but...

A unit of Old Guard have now arrived.
Plancenoit is secured.

This was the start of the 2000 turn, the Old Guard should have arrived at 1900 but are not really needed.  At this stage Simon and I concluded the game.  The Scenario certainly presents a different type of action and an historical one.  The start of the game could be trimmed by starting with the French deployed at the 1500 turn rather than marching on at 1400.  

Amending the Force Marching rules might be needed to help the Prussians, but my current thinking is to drop March Column altogether and have the Prussians moving in column.