Friday, 3 November 2017

Monte Cassino Update

The mountain, topped by the Benedictine Abbey of Montecassino, towering high above the town of Cassino in Italy, was the linchpin of the German defensive line at the end of 1943. From January through May of 1944, the Allies tried four times to break through into the Liri valley and highway 6 that led from Cassino to Rome.

I have designed scenarios for all four of these historic battles, as participation games, in 6mm scale, using Brigadier General Commands rules.  They played successfully in October at Texas Broadsides and are on the program again at MilleniumCon in November. Montecassino will also be at OwlCon in February.

Making the terrain has been a labor of love. Carving of the mountains, sculpting the hairpin bends that wind up to the monastery, building the fort half way up that road, which the Germans have reinforced to be practically indestructible. The piece-de-resistance is the monastery, which I have both in pristine condition and wrecked by the Allied bombing.
In the first battle, U.S. 36th Texan Division (yes, we’re playing at home) attempts to take a bridgehead across the river downstream of Cassino, around the town of Sant'Angelo in Theodice. Historically, this was a disaster, inciting an investigation by Congress to establish responsibility. Crossing a rapidly flowing river in wooden assault boats, when opposed by a well-prepared enemy took courage, yet cross they did. The battle continues with a right hook by U.S. 34th Red Bull Division, aiming for the monastery.
The German defense in the first battle was successfully conducted by 15 Panzer Grenadier Division. They had prepared their positions, clearing fields of fire and digging in, not to mention many concrete fortifications. For the subsequent battles the Germans brought in the elite parachute unit, 1st Fallschirm-Jäger Division and on the fringes 5th Mountain Division. These are tough nuts to crack.

Prior to the second battle, the controversial massed bombing of the monastery took place. The Germans had declared they would not occupy this historical building, but once it was in ruins, they made a fortress out of it. Now, the second attempt was made by 4th Indian Division, repeating that right hook up the mountain.

I have a personal interest in 4th Indian Division battle, as my Dad was there. It was one of the few war stories he ever told (and he told it with pride). As a Royal Artillery spotter, with his radio, he was amongst the first to reach the top of the mountain above the monastery. Although that was a dominant position from which to call in fire, they couldn’t hold it and had to fight their way out!

For the third battle, the air-force was once again called in to assist, with the bombing of Cassino town, before New Zealander Division moved in. Up on the hills, still held by 4th Indian, an ad-hoc armored column had been assembled, but this too was to no avail.

Finally, in the fourth battle, British Royal Engineers pushed Bailey Bridges across the rivers, to facilitate the thrust towards the Liri valley. Meanwhile, despite horrendous casualties, Polish 3rd and 5th Divisions, took the monastery, forcing the Germans to withdraw beyond Rome.

I hope this summary has sparked your appetite to play and see how well you fare.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Check Point

Today, while experimenting with the scenarios for the Battle of Montecassino at Texas Broadsides, we had what my wife calls a "Check Point" moment. A party of people passed by and asked if we would have the Polish in the battle. YES, of course, on Sunday for the Fourth Battle, the Poles will take center stage. At the time, we had the Texan Division attempting the Crossing of the Rapido.

And what about Wojtek they asked?  I needed to confirm the pronunciation of Wojtek, but fortunately knew the story of the bear.

The Anders Army were the Polish soldiers whom Churchill had negotiated release from the Soviet Union to fight Nazis. On their way through Iran, they adopted the Syrian Bear, that they named Wojtek, which means "Ordinary Soldier". For administrative reasons, he had to be enlisted and went on to serve with the Polish 2nd Corps in Italy, where he proved useful loading ammunition into lorries. Hence he was adopted as the emblem for the 22nd Artillery Supply Company.
As it turned out, the party were Poles from Boston in Houston for a wedding. They knew about the bear and the Polish memorial at Montecassino. They told us the grand-daughter of Wojtek now lives in Boston Zoo.


What a check point for our game.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

I love 6mm, so why don't others?



Peter, of Baccus 6mm, raised a strong discussion topic. I love 6mm, so why don't others? I've a few answers to contribute:

Never under-estimate the power of sex! For example, take a look at the Salute painting competition pictures. Yes, there are a few "historicals" there. However, in the main, if they are not scantily clad females, of which there are many, then certainly the majority include bare flesh. The hunky hero can be just as thrilling as the godess. Sadly, such features, even if you wanted them in 6mm, just don't come over with the clarity of 28mm. Publishers need an audience and know what sells.

As a new entrant into the commercial world of wargaming, I'm learning slowly about marketing. We, in the 6mm domain, are pretty bad at it. Take a look at the JoyOf6 website, for example. I'm pretty sure there will be another event next year, but is there a webiste for it? Maybe just a date? Even if we are trying to build the conversation with our prospective audience, we are not making it easy for them. [I should take a look at my own websites tomorrow, with the same cricism in mind!]

Content is king. I put on many participation games, traveling to clubs and shows, including some great historical battles fought at JoyOf6 this year. However, writing them up is low on my to-do list, overtaken by my desire to get the next show on the road. (Incidentally, that will be Montecassino 1944 at the Texas Broadsides show, local to where I live in the USA - www.txbroadside.com).

Now, follow the money! If the evil giant of Warhammer had on average one new customer each day, they wouldn't be the giant we know. Peter sounds pleased that Baccus6mm has that running rate. I conclude 6mm is a niche in the market. Ok, let's not forget it.

Many comments in this thead have expressed how little wargamers spend on their hobby, often figuring at less than a hundred (Dollars, Pounds, or Euros) for a project. That wouldn't buy you two tickets to a decent concert or sporting event these days. So what do you think you are buying? A hobby or a pass-time?

The specialist magazines take money for advertising and naturally publish articles to support the adverts. Logically, even if they have "free" content, they will favour content that has advertising money behind it. Don't complain - they have to earn their keep too.

For me, 6mm is the ideal scale for fighting historical battles. My game rules (Brigadier General Commands), including explanations about how to make historical wargames from battle narratives and maps, took far more effort to compile and publish than I had imagined. I have projects to publish the scenarios that I've played at clubs and shows, but wonder if the market would reward my effort.

I'm not giving up. In deed, Peter's thread encourages me to do a little bit more to push the 6mm agenda.


Daniel T Shaw

Games At War


This post originally published on the Baccus 6mm Forum

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

More Joy of Six

Very pleased with the Baccus 6mm write-up of BRIGADIER GENERAL COMMANDS coming to The Joy of Six show (Sheffield 16 July 2017).

Looking forward to playing the Battle of Montélimar.




Have a read at https://www.baccus6mm.com/news/26-06-2017/JOS17FeaturedGame-Montelimar1944/

Friday, 16 June 2017

Joy of Six



We are on the programme to run the Battle of Montelimar at the Sheffield show,
The Joy of Six.
Sunday 16 July 2017 at Heartspace at Sheffield Hallam University.
The opening times are 10am-4pm and the entrance fee is £3.

This is a specialised wargame show dedicated to the 6mm scale, so it is a natural venue to demonstrate BRIGADIER GENERAL COMMANDS - the wargame rules for the Second World War designed for re-creating historical battles with miniatures in 1/300 or 1/285 scale.

Copies of the BRIGADIER GENERAL COMMANDS will be on sale alongside the game.


The rules are simple enough to pick up, so do join in this participation game. 

There is more on the Joy of Six Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TheJoyofSix/

Hope to see you there


Tuesday, 10 January 2017

OwlCon February


I will be showcasing two BRIGADIER GENERAL COMMANDS games at OwlCon in February.

 OwlCon Program


Both games will be on the Saturday and will be parts of Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of Southern France in August 1944.

“Battle of Digne” Morning Game 

August 1944, Brigadier General Fred Butler has an exciting new assignment to lead a Task Force in Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of the South of France. His mission is to lead a breakout from the bridgehead deep into enemy held territory in the French Alps. There’d be some help from the French Resistance, but an armored thrust into mountainous terrain is a challenge. Are you up to it?

“Battle of Montelimar” Evening Game

August 1944, Brigadier General Fred Butler’s advance has gone better than expected and his task force has circled around behind the German positions. Can this force block the German retreat? Elements of the 11th Panzer Division will be tough to bottle up!

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Getting Units Moving

In several games with new players, we spent quite a bit of time working out how best to get a stationary company or battalion moving.

The order system is key to the play of BRIGADIER GENERAL COMMANDS and you will want to use it effectively to achieve your objectives.

So let us consider an example battalion and talk through the options.

Our example battalion consists of
- The battalion HQ
- One battalion mortar platoon
- One battalion heavy machine gun platoon
- Three companies (A,B and C) each comprising a company HQ and three subordinate platoons

Initially this battalion had been dug in where it was expected to have an effective field of fire, with "Aim" orders.  However, as the battle progressed, it becomes evident that it is needed elsewhere on the battlefield.

The quickest way to move everyone is for all the platoons to change DOWN to the "Follow" order, which will result in them following their respective HQs in the next movement phase. The snag is that the HQ platoons will be leading and if this move takes then danger, the HQs would be hit first.

An alternative is for each HQ to issue "Move" or even "Double" orders. Because these orders are UP the sequence of orders, each HQ must spend time explaining the intention of the orders and can only do so for one subordinate platoon in each order phase. Thus in the first order phase,
The battalion HQ orders the machine gun platoon to "Move"
A Company HQ orders the first A platoon to "Move"
B Company HQ orders the first B platoon to "Move"
C Company HQ orders the first C platoon to "Move"

In the movement phase, therefore, just four platoons move. They may move between 1 inch and a full move. The choice of how far to move will depend on whether the Brigadier General wants to keep the battalion together or not.

In the next orders phase, in the next (or second) turn, 
The battalion HQ orders the mortar platoon to "Move"
A Company HQ orders the second A platoon to "Move"
B Company HQ orders the second B platoon to "Move"
C Company HQ orders the second C platoon to "Move"

In the movement phase of that turn, eight platoons have orders to "Move" and again may move between 1 inch and a full move.

In the next orders phase, in the next (or third) turn, the last three platoons get their "Move" orders.

If it is urgent to move the units quickly, to get them back together promptly and the risk of attack by the enemy is minimal, the second and third turn orders could be "Double" which would allow them to catch up the first wave of units. Those at "Double" will be able to drop down to "Move" orders in subsequent order phases, without needing further instructions from their HQs.

Once the moving units arrive at their destination, they will be able to change down their orders to "Aim" also without another intervention from their HQs.

So we had basically four choices:
1) Immediate "Follow" orders
2) Three turns of issuing "Move" orders
3) Three turns of issuing "Double" orders
4) Three turns, first of issuing "Move" and then of issuing "Double" orders.

Remember also that the HQs are always free to move in any movement phase, but often they will wait, because of the risk of loosing radio communications and needing to be adjacent to issue those final orders. Thinking though the sequence of phases, in the second phase communication phase, if the battalion HQ rolls successfully, then in the movement phase of that turn, all the HQs could move, because they are sure that they will have radio communications in the order phase of the next (or third) turn.

Let us return to the "Follow" option and think about what happens when the units arrive at their destination.  If the move was not very far, some of the platoons will still have "Follow" orders. That is OK, because the HQ can stop and all the subordinate platoons stop too. In subsequent order phases, the HQs will have to issue UP orders to "Aim". It takes some time to get the troops that were hastily moved to set up their new defensive positions.

Everything I have said thus far assumes that the enemy does not interfere with the action.  If some of the troops suffer steps down that take them below their move orders or need to bug out and find themselves with "Back" orders, the HQs will have to spend more turns issuing new orders. This is the beauty of the BRIGADIER GENERAL COMMANDS rules.

It takes time to issue action orders or to recover from disruptive enemy actions. The rules reward those who have a plan and stick to it.