Sunday, May 29, 2011

Kokoda campaign - patrol action Naro and Fowani Creek

Following the retreat to Deniki by the Australian militia and the accompanying Papuan Infantry Battalion (PIB) troops after the desperate action at Pitoki (the ambush that nearly wasn't!), there was the briefest of lulls as contact with the Japanese was lost.  Some of the survivors (two sections of PIB and a depleted one of 39th) had to go the long way 'round to avoid being cut off by the Japs.  The Australians of the 39th are being led through the jungle by a section of PIB, but have yet to reappear at the next Australian post on the Kokoda track, Deniki.

Guided by PIB, the surviving Aussies abandon the track to avoid being cut off at Pitoki.
Having to go the long way around, they are yet to emerge from the bush and make it to Deniki. 

To find out just where the Japs are and how close they may be to Deniki, several patrols of PIB with accompanying 39th sections were sent out.  Doug took the right flank at Fowani Creek and I took the left at Naro, very gingerly probing our way forward.  The Japs were doing the same and it wasn't long before we ran into one another!

PIB patrol carefully feels their way forward through the jungle

Crafty Jap commander Greg concealed (or rather didn't commit) his larger section to the patrol, but rather sent a two man scouting party forward to find us.  It didn't take long.  While I have an issue with ANYBODY spotting motionless Papuans in the jungle (as its been my experience you just don't unless they want you to see them!) at the end of the day, my dice rolling with additional factors for PIB failed to spot the Japs before Greg's better rolling enabled his scouts to spot me!

Contact at Naro!

Perhaps it was the clumsy white man with the Papuans that gave the game away (all PIB sections have Australian NCOs in command) but we all opened up on each other, the Japs missing their targets and the Papuans hitting both Japs but only killing one.  The Jap predictably failed his 'gut check' (morale) and charged the nearest Papuan.  Amazingly the Papuan stood his ground and a short but indecisive melee ensued.  The Papuans can  actually fight as well as shoot as long as their NCOs remain alive but once he's killed, their fragile morale means they usually break and run into the nearest jungle - an all-to-familiar occurrence in the campaign so far!

Bit of 'cut and thrust' in the jungle!

After the brief encounter in which the brave Papuan didn't run - the PIB were ordered to fall back on the second PIB section immediately behind them.  I fully expected a full section of Japanese to appear on top of my position by the canny Greg did not oblige, his scouts having done their job of spotting us, withdrawing themselves.  It was a smart move as we had several sections of PIB and even an ANGAU (Australian New Guinea Administration Unit) section waiting to ambush any significant force of Japs that should appear.  The mutual withdrawal signaled the end of the first patrol action at Naro.  

PIB carefully withdraw from the contact

The second patrol action at Naro was an even shorter affair with my PIB stationary in the native gardens north west(?) of Naro and once again spotted first by the Japanese (absolute bollocks I say - but them's the rules and I only have my own crappy dice rolling to blame!)  This time Greg had pushed forward a few snipers, one of whom my PIB did manage to spot!   

PIB in the native gardens managed to spot a Jap sniper

The Jap sniper also spotted the 39th section next to the PIB and firing soon commenced.  Here Greg's usual good rolling deserted him and the sniper hit nothing whereas the PIB managed to 'pot' the sniper - huzzah! One up for the (usually) luckless PIB!  At this point Greg announced he had seen all he needed to see and was withdrawing whatever he had back toward Pitoki.  Our PIB scouts had performed well and we assessed that a platoon-sized Jap patrol had probed the northern (flank) approaches to Deniki.

Aggressive patrolling - the Japs decide to show themselves at Fela

The real action was between the more aggressive Japs under Cameron at Fowani Creek and the more 'European oriented' (ahem) Australian commander Doug.  Here the PIB and Japs once again ran into each other without the 'extra' factors in the jungle helping the PIB to spot the Japs - both the Allied commander's rolling for this was consistently appalling.  Doug managed to account for about one section of Japanese and about nine PIB and five Australians he lost (so the 'honours' roughly even).  I'm sorry to say I didn't get any pics of the action.

I was pretty happy with my PIB who accounted for two Japs without loss themselves.  As a result of these actions, the Allies have assessed platoon-sized patrolling by the Japs but no sign of the main force.  We think they may be digging in around Pitoki or even Kokoda itself to await Horii's main Jap force which historically arrived mid August - in our campaign its only the end of July - so there's a long way to go yet!

Just to make things difficult, we have just received a rocket from Blamey (Australian commander under MacArthur) to retake Kokoda.  Just great.  The Allied High Command who had absolutely no idea of the conditions on the ground in New Guinea are ordering exhausted, ill-equipped (Allied logistics were a disaster) out-numbered and inexperienced militia to attack the 2,000 veterans of the Jap advance force who now appear to be digging in.  They also ordered a road to be built over the Own Stanley's to Kokoda - they really had no idea that it was an impossibility.  Nearly seventy years on, there's still no road to Kokoda!

The Allied commanders contemplate yet another rotten situation at Kokoda 
(earlier game, Yours Truly closest to the camera)

I've just noticed this blog has now passed its 50,000 hits milestone - yaaaay!   Anyhow, enjoy the pics (click to enlarge) and feel free to leave a comment.  

Now back to some yard work before the real Supreme Commander (aka She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, Minster of War & Finance etc etc) grants permission to paint some more Prussians!


Thursday, May 12, 2011

FPW - the Prussian High Command

Finally got around to finishing the Prussian High Command stand.  To compliment the French one I've made it similarly with an MDF coaster, command figures gathered around a table under a tree.  But there the similarities end!

You'll notice that apart from a few less figures, the Prussians appear considerably more relaxed than their French counterparts!  That is entirely Foundry's doing. Instead of having his head in his hands like the French general, the Prussian one is calmly puffing away on an enormous Meerschaum.

My only addition to the Foundry vignette is the conversion of a standard bearer to that of a courier by putting a wedge of official documents (bound with a leather strap) into his hand instead of a flagstaff, trimming off the bearer's holder and shaping a plastic pack from the Perry's French into a sort of courier's satchel.

To round off the group I added a pair of infantry officers observing the action through binoculars.  I've got one  brigade command stand to re-do then get stuck into another battalion of infantry.  At 24 figures each - now only about half a dozen of those left to do - Achtung! Ich muss verrückt sein!


Friday, May 6, 2011

Interlude with table and Tigers (and T34s)

Right at the moment I'm painting up my FPW Prussian High Command stand, having finished the figures.  I tried photographing the individual figures with my own little light box but it didn't work - couldn't get the focus right.  So I won't persist but just do the command stand once its finished.  Meanwhile I thought I'd post some shots of the new gaming table I built (and shot the last post on the FPW figures) as a sort of 'how-to'.  I made it out of three old doors, with one cut down to fit across the other two.  The end result is a nearly 3 x 2 meter table that fits nicely over the top of my rickety old table-tennis table but can be easily broken down and packed away.

Interestingly enough, the manufactured doors are not exactly plum so the joins are not completely seamless nor do the doors lay totally flat for that matter. To fix these otherwise annoying anomalies the trick is to keep the three pieces flat and together firmly with latches and dowel guides.  Nice and solid.

The olive green paint is given a matt varnish finish - Cabot's low sheen polyurethane - which makes it tough and scratch-proof.  Bits of terrain can be plonked directly on it without terrain boards or sheets if you like.

OK - that was very boring, especially if you don't have some spare doors and the inclination to turn 'em into a wargaming table!  So to make up for it I have some really cool photos of some Tiger tanks in action!

My wargaming mate Greg Blake, some of whose photos I have used previously in the Kokoda campaign posts, recently sent me some photos of a game he played - an Eastern Front Kursk-type tank battle pitting 25 T34s against 3 Tigers and 2 PZW IVs defending a village, using slightly modified Disposable Heroes rules.

Greg is a bit of a whizz at Photoshopping the photos he takes into action scenes ( have a look at what he did with my Aircobra straffing the Japs in my last Kokoda post).  He suggested the game was a lot closer than his photos suggest.  Not that it matters, the action photos Greg has created are brilliant in my opinion.  Enjoy.

Achtung! Der Ivan kommt! Macht schnell!

Greg's Tiger Ace strikes again.

Cop that Ivan!

Good shooting Hans!

The Ivan's T34s copped a pasting but Greg reckons they dished it out too, turning one of the Tigers into a bit of a colander after knocking off one of its tracks and immobilizing it.  Looks like it was a terrific game - and I love the atmospheric feel of the action shots he has created.

We're having the next phase of the Kokoda campaign towards the end of the month consisting of a few patrol actions and our first pitched battle.  I will post the result as soon as I can afterwards - if there are any of the Allies left this time!

Well, a big footy game tomorrow with the lad and my Prussian command stand also awaits my attentions.