Saturday, 21 June 2014

First Five in Normandy - AAR

So, Five Men in Normandy, what's it like to play?

Preparing the squad only took five minutes, using about three simple tables for Troops (lists are provided for Commonwealth, Germans, Americans, Soviet Union, Free French, Free Polish, Italians and Fins), Gear and Special Skills.  My first squad ended up being 7 men in Normandy with a mix of Garands, SMGs, a BAR and a .30cal, so I re-rolled something a bit simpler for my first game.  There are also a series of tables to flesh out the squad's members with more background, which don't necessarily have any impact on the game but help build a narrative.

The squad I ended up using was:

  • Sargeant Hanratty - Thompson and 2 grenades, Inspiring leader
  • Corporal O'Keefe - M1 Garand, 2 grenades, Entrenching tool (helps in Brawls) 
  • PFC Scott - M1 Carbine, 4 grenades
  • PFC Michaels - M1 Garand, 2 grenades, Rapid Fire skill
  • PFC Mitty - BAR, 2 grenades

I rolled up a Capture Mission, which would happen at a landmark between the lines, and would start out as a stealth mission.  Opposing the GIs would be 5 German soldiers in a defensive position, including an MG and loader, with the rest armed with Kar98s.

So the situation is that a German outpost is holed up in a pumping house overlooking a minor road. Battalion want to know more about what's facing the, so Sarge Hanratty's squad have been order to infiltrate the position and take prisoners.  Oh, and if they can take out the MG as well, that would be just fine as well...

Aerial recon of the area.  The pump house is on the left.  The US squad will arrive on the right.  

The MG providing overwatch on the road

Rifleman guarding the MG's flanks

The plan was straightforward.  Hanratty, Mitty and Scott would use the hedgerows as cover to approach the pump house on the opposite side of the road, and open up with the Thompson, BAR and grenades to try and suppress the MG in the pump house.  Michaels and O'Keefe would approach the back of the pump house through the orchard, and try and snatch the guard watching the back of the building.  What could possibly go wrong?

 Mitty, Scott and Hanratty, the fire team
Michaels and O'Keefe, the snatch team

The first few turns saw the US squads gradually advance, leapfrogging on either side of the road (in a normal turn in 5MIN, only two of your squad will move and/or fire per turn).  Turn four saw a hairy moment, when the die for the German forces rolled a 6 ('Forward!') and one of the riflemen moved out to check out the road, covered by a second.  Luckily for the US, the next German roll was a 1 ('Dig in') and, satisfied that the road was clear, they withdrew back behind the pump house wall.

A lone German checks that the road is clear, covered from behind the pump house wall

The fire team lurk behind the hedgerows... 

 ...while the snatch squad move up through the orchard

The next turn saw the US roll a 6 for their activation, 'Firefight'.  Normally this would allow every member of the squad to fire at once but, as no one had line of sight to the enemy, it was converted to a 'Scurry' result, with everyone moving up closer to their positions.  A couple more turns (and another Scurry activation roll) saw the US troops all in position.

Everyone ready... 

The snatch squad eye up their target behind the wall

Hanratty kicked off the assault, popping his head up from behind the hedge to spray the MG position. The MG and one of the riflemen got first shot in, being on guard fire, but could only roll shock dice (weapons in 5MIN roll a mix of kill dice and shock dice), with no successes.  Hanratty proved to be of different stuff, spraying the MG with 3 shock dice, and forcing the gunner to bail right off the table!  The BAR opened up as well, but to no further effect.

The German MG gunner remembers an urgent appointment elsewhere!

However, despite losing their MG, the german response was savage.  The rear guard re-positioned to cover and opened up on the BAR gunner, scoring a 'knock down' result on him ('Knocked Down' models have a chance of recovering during the game), while another rifleman responded by hurling a stick grenade over the hedge, knocking down the rest of the fire team!

In an attempt to take even the score, the snatch team went in at the back of the pump house, only for Michaels to be put Out of Action (not necessarily dead, but unable to recover during the game) by their target, but O'Keefe managed to drive him back with a flinch result.  Meanwhile the MG loader and one rifleman repositioned themselves to cover the rear of the pumphouse, leaving another to cover the hedgerow.

The Germans reposition to cover the threat from the rear

The next turn saw the US roll a 'Firefight Activation', and the Sarge and BAR gunner dusted themselves off and got back up (Scott, unfortunately, was out for the count).  The US poured on the fire, resulting on 'Flinch' results on two Germans, while the two at the back of the pump house were put Out of Action by a grenade thrown by O'Keefe.

O'Keefe then followed this up by charging over the wall and knocking out one of the two remaining germans in a Brawl (helped by his trusty entrenching tool).  The BAR gunner tried unsuccessfully to flank and take out the remaining German...

...Who responded by putting the BAR gunner Out of Action! Score one for bolt action over automatic!

Deciding enough was enough, the Sarge and O'Keefe moved up and used grenades to flush the last German out of position and off the table.

In the end, a tough fight for the US, but ultimately they succeeded in capturing their prisoner and taking out the strongpoint, although Mitty and Michaels would be out of action for a few days with light and moderate wounds respectively (Scott was just concussed and recovered after the fight).

So what's the verdict on the rules?  On the whole I found them really simple to learn and the game played fast and furious.  The use of a mix of kill and shock dice puts the emphasis on the use of suppressing fire, and grenades play a big role up close, but aren't devastating, which feels right.  You have to work out how to push the enemy out from where they want to be.  The way cover is used takes some getting used to as well, as it works differently to most games.  Basically you're either hidden behind it, or completely vulnerable for a brief period when you poke your head out to fire.  I'm sure a few times I missed out on certain rules or misinterpreted them, but that was partly as I was reading them on my ipad and the battery gave out in the last couple of turns!

All troops are the same level of experience, there are no elites or veterans here, but it would be easy to create them by using appropriate skills.

Would I recommend them?  If you want a short, easy to pick up game that has a few nice RPG elements as well?  Yes, definitely.

Five Men in Normandy Available

I'll admit to being a bit of a fan of Ivan Sorenson's rules.  Fast and Dirty has become my go to set for platoon level SF and WWII games for a while (on the rare occasions I get to play a game).  So I was intrigued when he released a set of small scale rules for WWII skirmishes, 'Five Men in Normandy'.

Whereas FAD was free (and remains so), 5MIN has instead been released for download at a small cost through Wargames Vault.

I downloaded the rules earlier in the week and had a good read through.  The base mechanics look commendably simple, with a lot of the (still short) rules given over to fleshing out the character of a squad and a campaign system.  There's also some basic rules to cover solo gaming, which is nice for someone like me.

First impressions, therefore, are good.  This looks like a set of rules that does that rare thing: (a) makes me want to immediately try them out, and; (b) look straightforward enough to do so with minimal fuss.

So, on to my first AAR...

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Afrika Korps

Testing out colours for Airfix Afrika Korps.

More to follow...

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Revell US Infantry Heavy Weapons

Here are the heavy weapons from the Revell US Infantry set.  Most Revell sets seem to include some form of multiple base with a heavy weapon and crew on it, and in this set there are two, a .50cal and Mortar (and two of each to boot!).

Apart from both being woefully under-manned (one man to run a mortar, really?), which is pretty normal for most sets of model soldier, these two are really rather good.  The weapons are nicely detailed (the mortar bomb actually looks like one, which is rare). the .50cal in particular is outstanding, the ammo belt the loader is feeding twists in a nicely realistic way, and his Garand and water bottle are on the ground in front of him.  There are even spent shell cases moulded onto the base to the right of the gun itself (although you can't really see them in the photos).

The only downside is that, being made from the usual Revell Soft plastic, assembly was a bit of a pain, even superglue doesn't like sticking these together and the mortar stand particularly had a tendency to try and bend away from wherever I was trying to put it!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Revell US Infantry

Here's the first batch of Revell US Infantry finished, painted for the late war period.

Not always a fan of the balancing grenade thrower type, but this is a good one, looking like he's winding up for a baseball throw rather than a cartwheel!  Guy on the left looks cold, wrapped up for sentry duty!

Three nice figures here.  All look like their weapons have real weight.  Particularly like how the Thompson gunner seems to be leaning forwards ready for the recoil.

The weakest three of the set (although still pretty good), starting with the usual sniper bait officer with pistol (although at least he's also doing something useful).  The other two seem to have unusually small heads, and almost look like they were from a different sculptor.  I do like how they're wearing their jackets for the cold though (one with the hood up, the other with an upturned collar), and that the one on the left is loading his M1.

Family shot.  I went for a darker colour for the helmet than usual, to provide some contrast with the green fatigues.  Seems to have worked OK.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Stocking up

Getting some painting done, although never as much as I'd like.  But of course that hasn't stopped me from picking up more future projects over the last couple of months to add to the lead and plastic pile.

First up, infantry from ebay!

Revell US Infantry.  I thought this was an OK buy, given some were already painted, but when it arrived I realised that there was actually the content of two boxes there.  Result!  Some of these are on the paint table at the moment and should be complete and photographed soon.

Old Airfix British Infantry for 99p.  Bit of a mixed bag, some poses are missing (no officer or stretcher bearers, a pity) and some are frankly pretty poor.  But there is a high proportion of Bren gunners in there; which is good as these are probably the best sculpts of the set and something I'm short of variety on.  Fodder for a few conversions I think: head swaps, added packs and maybe some turned into crews for guns.

Las but not least for the footsloggers, after much hunting and being outbid, I managed to pick up a box of the old multi-pose plastic Esci Bristish Paratroopers.  Been looking for these for a while.

Meanwhile the Military Vehicle collection has supplied a few more bits and bobs, although I have no idea what I'm going to do with a Sturmtiger...


Sunday, 1 June 2014

D-Day, then and now

Some pretty impressive photos from the Guardian today.  Can't believe how well these have been matched up.

I found the first one, of the harbour in Weymouth, particularly striking as it's a place I know really well, having grown up nearby, and a view that my grandparents would have been very familiar with at the time.  The Lifeboat is even in the same spot (albeit a bit more modern these days).