Monday 24 February 2014

Helicopter Magazine 29: Westland Scout

A nice treat came in Issue 29 of Helicopter Magazine, the Westland Scout. Every boy worth his salt in the 1970s had built one of more of these from Airfix, together with squadrons of Folland Gnats and de Havilland Chipmunks.

The model is very nice but exceedingly fragile. You need to exert a lot of care removing it from the packaging and again when trying to get the bloody rotor blades on. Lest you break the frail skids, aerials, blades of rotor shaft itself.

I eventually resorted to paring out the connections where the blades meet shaft and gluing the damn things in place. Still, a lot less hassle than the Airfix kit, and it comes pre-painted with very nice RAF roundels.

The Westland Scout was a very versatile little beast. Both the British Army Air Corps and Royal Marines deployed the Scout in various "light" roles including reconnaissance, aerial surveillance, light transport, special forces insertion, CASEVAC and ground attack. 

It could carry 4 passengers if they all breathed-in and When armed in the light attack configuration it carried either two skid-mounted forward-firing machine guns (L8A1 GPMG) packs or a single pintle-mounted machine gun in the rear cabin. The pintle mount was available in both port and starboard mountings. The gun-packs carried 200 rounds of ammunition each and were both aimed at a pre-set convergence angle. They were mounted on a tubular spar that was fixed between the front and rear undercarriage legs. A Browning M2 machine gun was also tested on a pintle mount in the rear cabin.

The Scout would see action in the Falklands in it's anti-tank helicopter role, carrying 4x SS11 anti-tank missiles. Three Scouts stationed 100m apart fired 10 SS11 missiles at an Argentinian gun battery dug-in west of Stanley Racecourse. Twelve aircraft operated in the Falkland Islands in 1982, six each with 3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron and 656 Squadron Army Air Corps.

In Ulster, Scouts would take part in 2 or 3 aircraft Eagle Flights. Two Scouts would each carry 4 men and set down impromptu VCPs (Vehicle Check Points). The third aircraft when available carried an Observer with the Hele-Tele aerial surveillance system.

Another great addition to the Winter of '79 air arm.


Saturday 22 February 2014

Mae pont yn rhybyell:1979 - After Action Report

Emergency Government forces are being lured into an anti-armour ambush by Welsh troops north-west of Abergavenny. Terrain was dictated by finding my old 1970's Bellona vac-formed bridge.

Government Forces

Government troops
RH Models, Maff C.O.

1x Motorised patrol from 5 Para: (3x Q4, longs, dashing)
1x Armoured Car patrol from Benson & Hedges Yeomanry (2x Q4, support, armour, dashing)
1x Eagle Flight, 5 Para (2x Q4, longs, dashing; 2 Helos, inc 1x Gunship Q4, support)

Free Wales Forces

Free Wales Territorials
Elhiem Figures, Mark C.O.

1x Cadre of Royal Marines (Q4, longs, steadfast, LAW)
1x Monmouthshire Territorials (Q4, support, Regular, Gun Group)
2x Monmouthshire Territorials (2x Q4, longs, Regular)
1x Monmouthshire Territorials (Q4, Headshed, Regular, Charlie G)
1x Welsh Guards Anti-tank section (Q4, support, Regular); 120mm Wombat
1x Militia 'Come on' party (Q5, longs)

The Game 

Maff began with Initiative but uncharacteristically advanced cautiously. Normally his 'inner Para' exerts itself in very aggressive tactics with the slightest whiff of a red beret. I could tell he was barely holding himself back from rushing the bridge all guns blazing. Nevertheless, the Ferret entered the table first and had an immediate success! The commander instantly spotted and killed the militia 'come on' party at the 'red' bungalow. This loss hurt as I was hoping to use them to lure the paras into my ambush.

The rest of the force came on, paras extending into the fields either side whilst one rifle group move down the road in the wake of the Ferret, which moved up to the bridge whist the Fox armed with a 30mm Rarden cannon provided overwatch.

The Government forces move forward

The Ferret came a bit too close to the bridge. I thought I had him. The bootnecks unpacked their LAW and fired straight at the Ferret. I rolled texpecting a kill. They couldn't miss.... NO! They could! The roll was low, Maff rolled high and the unscathed Ferret lashed the marines with fire from it's .5 cal MG, killing one and making another flinch.

 ex-Hotspur Bootnecks fire their LAW

I revealed a rifle group of Welsh Territorials on the other side of the road to the marines and went for two activations. Won both activations with a double 6 and turned them into 5 rounds 'rapid fire' on the exposed paras coming up behind the Ferret; killing one and flinching another.

 Welsh Territorials

The para rifle group on the left made it into the copse and laid down some ineffectual fire on the Terriers. Next turn the Terriers win this firefight killing one para and flinching another whilst only gaining a single flinch in return. In SWATTERS, flinching is basically a suppression. It's a nice little mechanic within the combat results. At this point Maff decided to bolster his base of fire and moved the Fox forward from it's overwatch position which by now had no view of the enfolding action on my left.

"Action Front!"
Platoon 20 Wombat and crew

The high profile of the Fox caused it to come into the sights of my Wombat. With  one die activation I revealed it and in the next activation sent 120mm of bad day straight into the Fox, which erupted in flames.

 The Fox is brewed.

I tried to rally my marines, but they were having none of it. I lost the activation rolls and Maff won back the initiative. Luckily his unscathed paras by the 'red' bungalow failed activation after activation and would not come into the fight till the very end. The Ferret laid down a withering fire which killed another marine and the last marine standing to flinch. Maff now de-fliched one of the paras on the road and sent them straight for the bridge.

 Marines in a sticky wicket, the paras rush the bridge

 Welsh Territorial Gun Group take them on

The Territorials gun goup could come into play now. Winning two activations, GPMG rapid fire killed two paras. But that distraction allowed a shadow accompanied by the classic whoopa, whoopa, whoopa, noise as a Wessex gunship opened up on the Wombat, and a troop carrier landed its load behind the Welsh (on the very last bit of playing surface available).

The table

 Terriers outlanked by the Eagle Flight

The Terrier gun group are forced to redeploy but luckily cause a flinch on the paras deploying from the helo. Just as things seem bad, the Headshed 'Charlie G' gunner earns his pay today and stuffs a round into the Wessex from the Post Office/shop, destroying both the helo and the rifle group inside.

The balance is back in my favour! Im thinking now that I can hold my own if not actually win the game. But the next die roll loses everything for me and seals the fate of the Welsh. Instead of using my Territorial rifles at the river bank to fire at the remaining paras on the opposite bank, which would have caused Maff to take a morale test, I instead try to unflinch my Marines again. NO! I roll low and lose initiative. So much for being 'Steadfast'!?! My Terriers at the river gain a casualty forcing a morale test which causes them to withdraw, allowing Maff's Ferret to roar over bridge in pursuit, followed by his Landie with back up rifle group.

 Resistance crumbles, Welsh withdraw in fighting order

 All the paras are now across the river. At this point whilst my gaming head told me to fight out a Rourke's Drift in the garden of the brick and pebbledashed house, Men of Harlech et al, but common sense and a glance at the clock told me the best course was to withdraw the Territorial Headshed and Gun Group at the double. Their rifle chums who had so valiantly held the riverbank are effectively surrounded and forced to give up.

What a game!

Summing Up

The game was played using our Winter of '79 house rules for SWATTERS, providing a surprisingly challenging game, yet one that was quick and fun to play. I say "quick", but tonight the game took almost an hour and a half to play through but it felt as though it was quick. I honestly thought we had only been playing for 45 minutes.

This was in part due to how the pendulum swung both ways throughout the course of the action creating a roller coaster of tension and excitement from one game turn to the next. Even within game turns. Due to the dice based 'Activations' you simply couldn't predict how things would turn out. This makes it a perfect wargame, as a bad Activation decision/die roll, stops your opponents steamroller dead, allowing you to hopefully capitalise on it.  My marine cadre simply did not perform due to a string of poor die rolls, yet the Territorials shone. Maff had a similar problem with one of his rifle groups and he couldn't budge them from the 'red' bungalow, making them effectively hors de combat for much of the game without a shot being fired.

Maff and I now both have iPads, so the game was played using Facetime which appears to be far superior to Skype in terms of connection and picture quality. The iPad is also much easier to move round the table, send instant  "recce" photos where required and can sit close enough to the action for your opponent to be able to view the table in detail.

'Man of the match' definitely goes to the Ferret. It had the luck of the devil when being fired on and consistently high combat die rolls of it's own. 

So there we have it. A surprisingly memorable game despite being thrown down as a 'quickie' for a Wednesday night after work and deploying no more than 20 figures on each side. And maybe there's a lesson in that.


Wednesday 19 February 2014

Mae pont yn rhybyell: 1979

Just a taster of tonight's Winter of '79 bash. This was a ding dong match between Emergency Government forces and Welsh Territorials, stiffened by a small Royal Marine cadre.

 Terriers redeploy to meet unexpected threat from rear

More Territorials hold their own
Yes, that's a Bellona Bridge

Close up of a Monmouthshire Territorial
painted for me by Jim Brent

Have to say that tonight's game was everything I wanted from Winter of '79 and I know Maff would say the same. Part-time TA soldiers take on Paras, bolstered by armoured recce elements. Despite and unashamedly 1970's Airfix feel to it all, we had great fun as the actioned see-sawed along over one and a half hours to an epic finish.

Was it a "Bridge Too Far" for Maff? More on Friday once I get a chance to write up the AAR.


Monday 17 February 2014

IHMN: Perry New 1860s Victorian Military Company

Our IHMN adventures are on hold whilst we look forward to Perry's forthcoming range of Mid-Victorian (1860s) British Infantry. Very 'Torchwood Institute' and perfect for In Her Majesty's Name games, but still with loads of historical potential from Canada to New Zealand at a not so 'extraordinary' price.

 Perry Miniatures

I've got a handful of Foundry's Indian Mutiny officers who may be perfect to add a touch of dash and local colour to these chaps.


Friday 14 February 2014

The Winter of the Year of The Dragon

Taking a short break from the modern era, you may have noticed Mark's occasional references to the Valley of the Fire Dragon, a "Thirteenth Warrior" inspired bit of Arthurian-Norse fantasy. I'm more than a bit infected by this but have a vaguely different take on it - influenced by the fact that I just love the 15mm fantasy Barbarica range by Mark Copplestone. By my calculation, '79 in the Hyborian calendar is the year of the Dragon. So, without any more ado, it's hej for the North and beware....Winter is coming....

"Seeker....Strangely north of the Great River, beyond the lands of the Vikingr folk is the Endless Glacier of we see the White Ice Wyrm, an ice witch, some winter kobolds and vengeance driven Picts are locked in warfare with the Nords and their great snow bear allies....."

"Despite seizing the initiative from mankind, the kobolds and their allies utterly fail to close with the Nords...."

"Which Lo! Leaves them open to a charge by the ferocious Nords and their legendary fury......a clan of kobolds is cut down bloodily, it's only their first loss and the winter alliance stays in the field..."

"The battle rages long and hard" - the wound markers show where a unit was destroyed bloodily.... "the Wyrm bites a swathe through a nord berserker cult, the nord rune caster foretells the doom of another kobold clan, drastically reducing their combat roll. The Nord hero and his shield brothers charge home screaming their war cry ...... more kobolds are cut down and their comrades falter and then run......the pursuit lasts many leagues until the kobolds reach their icy tunnels. The Picts, fuelled by the hatred of the Nords, hold their ground until ripped down by iron swords and claws...."

Apologies for going off message here, but with shiny new figures, some cracking snowy rocky terrain and some rules to test.....well it's not all about SLRs, DPM, M4s and landrovers. Oh, it is? I'll get me coat. 


Thursday 13 February 2014

Benelli - post op pics and action close ups!

Leaked footage from an unidentified recon drone reveals ISOF SF in action......
The Kholkarzi before it all kicks off
ISOF in position to jump off - Zulu at the N, Blue in the S. Soap and Price in the middle
ISOF start to make their way across the beet fields....Blue slot a tango by the hedge
Zulu get into a bit of bother with a sentry.....
As Chrissie Hynde would say, "Here come the dogs, grrrr woof woof!"
Igor the sentry faces down Zulu team, brave lad....
It all goes LOUD, LOUD, LOUD. Militia pile out of the buildings
Capt Price gets stuck into the militia with brutal results....
Meanwhile Blue team tangle with more militia
Militia leg it as Blue sweep forward.....
More militia hoof it across the beets and move up behind the farm.....
One of these guys has a MANPAD, honest, he's just out of the picture....
Piotr and Joern stack up quick and clear the potato shed
Baz and Chaz cover the flank while Daz and Gaz flash bang the farmhouse and pile one home
The far end of the farm, militia are firing at ISOF and the chap with the Grail is listening for a clatter of rotors...
FLASH-BANG!! Bang-Bang! Capt Price nails the gunman and secures Benelli
The MANPAD is ready to go and the helo is inbound. Soap, just up the lane draws a bead and readies his UGL. Threat removed....
Exfil. Blue takes point while Soap and Price cover Benelli; Leif carries Ron while Piotr and Leif bring up the rear. Home for tea and medals. As the pics show, this was a riot of a game which really went back to its Ghost Recon / CODMW roots. The SWATTERS/SAGGERS engine ran smooth with most of it from memory (apart from the result of a triple when shooting...). Man of the match? That crazy stubborn sentry for stuffing it all up; Piotr and Joern for clearing a building in a turn flat on the spur of the moment; Price for wiping a squad single handed and securing Benelli (I decided if he didn't win big time, the gunman would pull the trigger) and Soap for taking the shot on the MANPAD team. Cheers Maff

Wednesday 12 February 2014

The Benelli Rescue - Soap reminisces...

Soap recalls:

"Yeah, Benelli. That was a good one. We dropped off the helo and split - ZULU, the NATO lads, to the N, Red to the S. Me and the Boss took the middle as a reserve. The lads in Red had had a quick curry and had gone down with sudden D&Vs so we were short handed.

Blue sneaked over the beet field and Chaz spotted this tango bimbling our side of the hedge. He got banjoed nice and silent. Zulu meanwhile had walked into LOS of another sentry - Ron nailed him and moved up, except the joker got back up having played possum.

Meanwhile Daz hears this "grrrrrrrr" and a pair of bloody half rabid mastiff ridgeback crosses come charging out of the hedge. We all open up - still suppressed - and give em their bob martins. Rons tango however gets a shout off before they can slot him.

That's when it all got a bit loud.

Two squads of NH boiled out of the farmhouses. We give them a good brassing up and Piotr and Joern steamed up to the little outhouse and cleared it. This couple of tangos come around the corner but the Boss banjoes them no sweat.

Blue team move up to the hedge and engage these guys coming from the far house - I join in and they go to ground.

Zulu decide to press on and sweep the N of the farm but run into a new bunch of NH and Ron goes down. The other lads keep up the good work and the NH get the message.

To the south blue team split - Baz and Gaz put fire out at some tangos that are moving up from the area of the RV while Chaz and Daz stack up and clear the building. No bloody Benelli. I noticed that one of these new jokers has a sodding STRELA and in the distance there's a faint WOKKA WOKKA. So I take him out and his chums. The Boss, draws the obvious conclusion that Benelli is in the remaining house and is probably under the gun already, so he piles in, flash bang through the window and slots this NH spetsnatz wannabe who's about to give Benelli a bit of inner ear surgery.

Result, RV clear, Benelli secure and Leif carrying Ron to the helo, torn playboy I think, he's off the next op anyway. Mines a large Jack, nice one cheers!

Capt Price: not a bad op really, Zulu got a bit carried away and Ron almost got chopped but we lifted Benelli and wrote off a lot of NH manpower. Box reckons they're going to have to merge with their rivals, the National League of Honour who think they're splitters. Doesn't bode well eh? My main worry was that those reinforcements were in regular kit and DID have a MANPAD. So Box was right; we let him out of the basement for an hour so was happy . I'll have a theakstones, cheers!

So that's a result for ISOF. Mark was stuck in a train so I went for it solo - lots of randomly ambling sentries and a question - what does a TRIPLE do in shooting in SWATTERS? Answer - clear the area!!

Pics to follow, Cheers


Monday 10 February 2014

The Benelli Rescue: Briefing

Soap: Right lads, here's the set up.

The NH are holding Benelli somewhere at Kholkazi 161, a former collectivised farm. A helo can drop teams off to the N and  SW giving fairly well covered approaches to the target across beet fields with scattered trees. On recovery of Benelli or if it all goes to ratshit, RV for extraction is to the SE where a line of trees gives cover from the target. Box has updated his intel on NH and has concluded that they have better connections than previously suspected - so some MANPADS may be on site. That's made the crabs nervous, so make a crab happy and slot any tangos with a Grail, right? 

We are deploying a brick against each of the two buildings in the farm and one brick back as a reserve. Call signs are Uptown, Midtown and Downtown with four serials to each. Draw your favoured kit but each brick needs one MOE as a minimum; any longs take a 203. Me and the Boss with Dud and Pete will be midtown;  Gaz, your lot are Uptown, Leif, your guys are Downtown. Midtown is the reserve; the Boss is on the secure line getting some top cover- Ron, get in there and work the phone with him. Piotr and Joern - run through the usual rural greetings with everyone. If saying "hey, goat boy" gives you a second to slot a tango its worth it.

Any questions? No? Right, lets run through it again before a final kit check."

Ron: HOO-AH!

Joern: You can do that, Ron, if the flash bangs are not working? 

Plan is to play this one out Wednesday evening, Skype willing.......



Thursday 6 February 2014

A Welcome in the Hillsides AAR

Hendre Faen Uchaf, Black Mountains, 1979, just after crow fart..........

 Free Taff Support Group
RH Models

Initial Setup

Using the clock dial the Free Taff setup their rifle teams at 1 and 2 O'clock.The Support team deployed in broken high ground at 4 o'clock and the Headshed at the 5 o'clock position.

The SAS were inside the farmhouse readying for a patrol. One last wet before the off. Outside Daz and his Command team were fixing the Lannie in the small farm shed to the back.


Maff and the Free Taff would whack the farmhouse with fire. The rifle team at 2 O'clock would try to take advantage of the side wall of the farmhouse house and stonewalls dissecting the valley to assault under cover. The rifle team at 1 O'clock would flank the house to cut off any escape.

My plan for the SAS in the event of an attack would be to maintain a fire base on the upper floor of the farmhouse and execute an aggressive counter-attack.

So much for plans.....

The Game

A quick check and Baz led his patrol out the front door. They were looking forward to some good hunting in the valleys. Just before dusk a Scout helo had reported suspected Free Taff movements a few clicks away.

Turn 1

Free Taff had initiative. As Baz's boys swopped insults and jokes as they moved to the front gate, Maff opened a barrage of fire from the Free Taff support team and Headshed. Immediately dropping one trooper and making the other flinch (represented by turning the figure backwards). Baz returned sporadic fire from cover to no effect.

There's a clocktower in Hereford......
First blood to the Taffs
RH Models

As the first shot ricochet off the farmhouse walls, Daz swore WTF! out loud. Spotting Taff rifle team 1 racing to outflank their position he shouted "Action Left!". Successfully rolling two Activations allowed his Headshed to pour rapid fire on the hapless Taffs. One went down another flinched in fear.

Daz and the Head Shed: Quality Counts
ex-Hotspur (luvvly!)

Meanwhile Taff rifle team 2 over extended themselves a bit recklessly and opened fire on the shadows now moving in the upper windows of the farmhouse. This provoked an immediate fusillade of rapid GPMG fire. One fell another, flinched.

 Free Taff rifle team 2 rushing the farm
RH Models 
Turn 2

The SAS stole the initiative. This would prove decisive.

Baz rallied his troops and they poured fire in the Free Taff support group for all their might taking down a luckless Taff and making another flinch. But retribution was quick in coming. The Free Taff sniper felled a trooper,making the other flinch, leaving Baz alone to hold the front garden.

At the back of the farmhouse the SAS quality began to tell. Daz pulled a couple of Activations on the dice and directed the resulting rapid fire from their M16s into the hapless Welsh who had been trying to outflank them, leaving just a shaken (flinching) sole survivor.

 Uncompromising lethality
RH Models

The second Taff rifle team had unwittingly placed themselves in a killing zone.Again, the SAS quality told. A double Activation allowed the SAS support team to belt 'rapid' machine-gunfire into the bunched Taffs. 

 Hendre Faen Uchaf moving towards the the end game
Derelict Farmhouse by Hornby

At this point half of the Taff were down, the SAS were putting out withering firepower and the Taff morale cracked. The game was uncompromising in its lethality. In just two game turns fate had see-sawed from the Taffs having the upper hand to the SAS giving them a drubbing. It was tense, it was fast paced and it was exciting stuff, leaving us wanting more.

We spent the next hour dissecting the game and coming up with new mechanisms both for W'79 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare on the tabletop. Whilst ostensibly a Sci Fi bug hunting game, and ok the whole CD thing is a very 1980s novelty but clumping figures or even 'skirmish trays' works just as well. The core rules offer so much more if you are prepared to put the effort into taking them outside their published parameters. Long and short of it, they work.

 The number of figures we deployed was too small in all honesty, though if we'd played this with Cold War: 1983 numbers would have been fine. being bloody, this game was over in 20 minutes, but what a 20 minutes! I'd suggest at least double the number of teams for a club night game.

In retrospect the Taff should have had a LAW and I suggested a mechanism to Maff for introducing LAWs next time round. Looking forward now to an encounter battle between regular platoon sized forces to give them a more thorough run through.


Wednesday 5 February 2014

There's a Welcome in the Hillsides

The farmhouse at Hendre Faen Uchaf is suspected to be the LUP for a series of SAS patrols pushing into the Black Mountains. A Free Taff SF team has observed it covertly from a distant sheep pen for several days and an assault party has been formed to eliminate the LUP, isolate any SAS on patrol so they may be tracked and thus remove the threat.
 Hendre Faen Uchaf

The Free Taff force is now ready to jump off.

Meanwhile, SAS teams are still in the field and may be drawn to the sound of action. The game is played with our digested, mangled, spat out, rebuilt then do it all over again version of SWATTERS from Ganesha Games.

Government Forces

Headshead Team 3 figs, shooters, CQB, steadfast Q3 in farmhouse
Brick A - shooters, 4 figures, CQB, steadfast Q3
Support team - 3 figures, treat as missile launcher, CQB, steadfast
Plus Brick B as Brick A

Elements other than Headshed set up anywhere within farm environs up to 6" from farm.  They are visible if in LOS but nature of unit cannot be determined.
One unit CAN be concealed but if so, the Headshed start in the farmhouse shed faffing about with a broken down landrover.

Wandering SAS team - as Brick A above. Will appear either on random chance from a random direction or from fixed point within a 1-3 turn time frame if triple Activation dice rolled.

Free Taff Forces

Sniper OP Q4sniper
Off table with LOS on front of farm and yard

HQ Element - 4 figs, Q3, shooters, leadership - one adjacent team acts as Q3
Support team - 3 figs, Q4, treat as missile launcher
Rifle Team 1 - 5 figures, Q4, shooters
Rifle Team 2 -  5 figures, Q4, shooters

 Free Taff SF support team.....ready up
RH Models

Optional Additional Forces:

Gun group 1 - 3 figs, Q4, treat as missile launcher
Assault Group 1 - 5 figures Q3, small arms, CQB, stealth - -1 to shoot at if they only move once an activation


SAS repulse the attack, inflict heavy losses
FREE TAFF either take the farm OR cause heavy losses

Losses are an objective here as both sides see the opposition as a valuable enemy asset and this as an opportunity to achieve an ascendancy over the other.

The Game

Fully illustrated After Action Report tomorrow night.