Friday, January 24, 2014

Shifting Sands 2014 Kursk

Last weekend I have the privilege of playing in the Shifting Sands 2014 Kursk event.  Shifting Sands is an annual Flames of War tournament hosted by the Arizona Desert Rats Flames of War group.  These are 2 day, 5 game events that have a theme and frequently include a strategic campaign.  This year was Kursk and the event included a modified Firestorm campaign.

Ideally, an event of this size and scope should get a very in depth report.   Frankly, I forgot to take pictures of most of the event and without the pictures the report just isn't the same.  Instead of the detailed blow by blow I will cover this at a high level.

There were 38 players for the even an there was almost and exact balance between Germans and Soviets.  One German player volunteered to play on the Soviet side to even things out.  This, of course, resulted in some blue on blue games.

Before the first game each side divided up and nominated their general.  This turned out to be an exercise in avoidance for most of the German players.  I might have been willing to be the general if I had had any idea what they might entail.  Having never played in a Firestorm campaign I really had no idea how this would work.  As it turns out the campaign aspect was one of the weaker parts of the event.  So much so that after the first round I had no idea what was happening and very little concern for it.  I just focused on my games.

Being a Firestorm campaign, there were, naturally, Firestorm units.  This was a cool part of the event as these Firestorm units were provided by the event organizers.   Each one was on a paper plate with the unit details glued to the bottom.  This made a nice carrying tray as stat sheet in one.  The types of units available ran the gamut from armored trains, Heavy Tanks, air support and dice roll bonus.

The assignment of these units was a bit of a mystery.  There was no rhyme or reason to it.  The decisions were more or less arbitrary decisions by the General.  There was a rule (for the Germans, not sure if it was an event rule) that you could not have the same unit more than once in the event.  Fair enough but it was not universally observed.  Oh well.  For me these units were of little consequence and I will get into that more later.

Another cool aspect of the event is how air support was handled.  Air power was a big part of the Kursk battle but our 1500 point lists could not include any air support.  Instead, in the 4 of 5 games that included air support each player rolled on a chart provided by the TO to determine what level of support.  This would be a basic air asset such as a Stuka.  If you had a Firestorm unit that was air it was an upgrade and you rolled to see the support level.  This was really cool as it basically gave everyone an extra 100+ points to their force. I would end up having mixed luck with air all weekend but anything it did was a bonus.

As some of you may know I took a Panther Company to the event.  At 1500 points there is really only one way to build this army.

HQ - CO Panther and 2iC Panther
Combat Platoon - Three Panther
Combat Platoon - Three Panther

That is it, exactly 1500 points.  I wanted to take this list as it really fit the theme as Kursk was the combat debut of the Panther and I did not want to spend a bunch of money on a new army.  I was advised by several good players that I might want to stay away from such a one dimensional list. This seemed like good advice but I really wanted to play this army.  After my first couple of test games I started to feel like 'that guy.' This list just eats Soviet armor for lunch. It seemed like the army was almost unfair even with only 8 tanks.  Then I tested against some Soviet infantry armies and realized that things would be MUCH tougher than I thought.  I did not beat any infantry armies in testing.  This thing was far from automatic and now I was worried.

As fate (or the TO) would have it my first match up was against a huge Soviet Strelkovy Battalion.  I don't remember exactly what was in it other than a BUNCH of troops and a full Artillery Battalion!  The mission was No Retreat with the Germans attacking.  This was the only game where I would get a proper Firestorm unit - Gepanzert Pioneer Platoon with Otto-Ernst Remer.  A nice little 350 point bump to my force but, unfortunately, I had no idea what to do with these guys and ended up wasting them.  In the end I lost this game 1-6 but really felt I should have been able to get one or two of his units.

Because the Germans had done so poorly in game one game two had the Russians attacking in Breakthrough.  I was up against a Rota Razvedki company.  This was going to be very tough.  To make matters worse the Russians got a full battery of 85mm Heavy AA guns for the Firestorm unit.  My Firestorm was +1 to reserve rolls - yeah!  The Soviets started with both scout platoons on the table dismounted along with the 85mm AA and a battery of heavy mortars.  In reserve was an M3 Stuart company, an SU-122 company and a company of Sappers.

My plan was to use my air support to pin down the Soviets and maybe take out the guns and mortars while I fell back onto the objectives.  Once out of range of the immobile guns I would be able to take on the Soviet reserves.  The fight was epic! and as it would turnout my plan worked - 6-1 win.

Game three was against a Soviet Assault Gun Battalion, which was one of the custom lists for the event.  The scenario was a modified version of the Blind Domination scenario (found here).  I will not spend much time on this one.  I lost and manage one Soviet platoon destroyed 2-5.  Good opponent but not a very good scenario.  Oh yeah and I didn't get a Firestorm unit for this game.

After the first day I was sitting at 1-2 with 9 points and about 900 kill points (total value of enemy units destroyed).  Not a bad showing but not quite as good as I had hoped.  All in all it was a great first day and I was excited about day two but I really had no expectations of placing.

Game four turned out to be Surrounded with the Soviets defending (good!).  This was due to the fact that the Germans had managed to regain the strategic initiative after games 2 and 3.  This time I would play against a Guards Heavy Tank Regiment with Churchills!  This was a match up I could really do well against.  The Soviets did have a Sapper company as well as a Firestorm unit of Cossacks (dismounted).  Once again I has no Firestorm unit.  No worries.  I killed the CO and everything on wheels and won 6-1!

Game 5 would be Fighting Withdrawal with Soviets defending.  For this game I was matched against a Tankovy Battalion.  This would be a very interesting.  We both got air upgrades for Firestorm units and these would be key to the game.  Conscript T-34's are really no match for Panthers and I was able to methodically destroy the Soviet force.  I did loose one Panther to air strikes (and might have lost the game if I had lost any more) and one platoon to a well placed Soviet ambush.  German win 5-2!

After 5 games I was beat but happy with a 3-2 showing.  I really had no idea how everyone else was doing but I was sure that with 38 players 3-2 was not going to be good enough to place.  The first place, best overall, was a German player but I did not see his results.  Then places 2-11 were all Soviet players!  Wow, the Germans got punked.  I was in 12th place overall and as luck would have it I was the second place German and since German won best overall I won Best Axis!  Wow, not at all sure how that happened.  Pretty damn cool!

I played 5 fun games against 5 good guys I had never played against.  Then I won some Soviet tanks and basically had a great time.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

15mm Panther D

This is my 1500 point Panther Company for the Shifting Sands Kursk event.   This army is a mid-war army from the Eastern Front book.  It is exactly 1500 points and is the bare minimum for a legal army.

The models are all Plastic Soldier Company Panthers and were quite fun to build.  As I mentioned in a previous post, you need to be careful when building these as the instruction are not correct when building the ausf D and A.

So far I have played 4 test games and I must say these things are hell on wheels, especially for Soviet tanks.  The only loss I had was against a Soviet infantry force (Guards) and even that was a bloody slugging match.

Hopefully, this will perform just as well at the event as it has in the test games.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A New Year, A New Milepost

It is time, once again, to take a step back, take a deep breath, and think about what the heck I am doing - hobby-wise.  For me, this is an important annual exercise that helps me mark the passage of time as well as the evolution of my hobby interests.  Like most gamer bloggers my ability to predict the future is not very good but that does not reduce the value of the effort.

I want to start off by reminding myself that this is about my hobby.  This is what I do to keep the, sometimes oppressive, real world from taking me over.  Modern life moves fast and we are confronted with real (or first world) problems everyday.  Sometimes our ability to exert control over these 'real' issues is limited.  My hobby is one part of my life where I can feel like I am in control (even if it is just an illusion).  OK, enough of the metaphysical BS.

Flames of War

Looking back it has been nearly 4 years since getting into Flames of War properly.  I did try to get started in the game back in 2004 or 2005 but I only managed to collect a few tanks and a couple of books.  2009 is when I really got to play.  In the years since Flames of War has replaced Lord of the Rings and Warhammer 40K as my main game and I don't see it loosing the crown anytime soon.

This year I expect big things from this game but I must admit that I don't really have any specific plans.  Tim and I have been talking over what direction we would like to go this year.  So far Northwest Europe in 1944 is winning with the Arnhem battles being the focus.  The new Bridge by Bridge and Market Garden books are really great and allow for some of the most interesting forces I have seen for the game.  The setting also has the benefit of lots of supporting materials for inspiration.  Late war is always easier to get new players into and we have a couple people who might be joining this year.  It helps that the Open Fire set is specifically for this campaign and there is a Firestorm Campaign also (if you can find it).

Tim and I have committed to playing in Shifting Sands 2014 which is a two day themed event.  This year the theme is Kursk.  Since both of us will have new mid war German armies it would not be too difficult to add some Soviet stuff.  At some point the Eastern Front will have to be done.

The new Fate of a Nation stuff for the 6 Day War is probably going to get some of my money this year.  The new models are amazing and I would love to eventually have an Israeli and an Egyptian armies.  Most likely I will buy a few things this year but not make a big push...but who knows.

Battlefront has a teaser for a new period and I think it will be World War One.  This is an era that I have wanted to game for a long time but have failed to jump in.  If BF does WWI it might be a good thing that I doing already have a big collection.  It will be fun to see what this turns out to be.

28mm World War II

Bolt Action will continue as a good alternate game for me this year.  I will be playing in the Gathering in the Desert event in February.  I will be playing my Fallschirmjagers and I don't really have much to add to this army right now. I am sure that as the event gets closer I will get in a few more test games.

As for painting and collecting I have lots of stuff in the paint queue already.  I would like to flesh out my British Paras this year as I already have models to paint for this.  I would like to get some of the Warlord plastics and try them out.  I will probably get some of the Germans as my old Black Tree Germans are getting a bit long in the tooth.

As much as I have enjoyed BA it is far from my perfect 28mm WW2 game (don't ask me what my perfect game would entail as I don't know).  This means that I will keep my eyes open form other rules.  Chain of Command is very high on my list and will likely see the table (as soon as I get the rules).

Black Powder

This game will continues to be a popular group participation game this year.  Hopefully, we can get in several ACW games this year.  I still have lots of ACW figures to paint so I am sure I will make some progress with that.  Our group is also looking at expanding into Napoleonics later this year.  I will be expanding my French collection.  Stay tuned for something in the 1814 campaign.

Hail Caesar

I need to make a much stronger effort at converting my Dark Age armies over to this game.  I already have the figures I just need to work out the units and perhaps rebase some figures.  I am sure we will get in a few more group games of this and I really need to spend more time with the rules.  It is a much more detailed game than BP and takes more time to get familiar with the rules.  I hope to get a 28mm Dark Age battle on the table this year.

This game is inspiring me to add a new 28mm army to the collection.  For the last couple of years I have been dreaming of a plastic Greek army.  This year I will try and at least collect the figures.


I played a coupe of games of this last year and really had a great time.  I purchased the rules and one of the expansions and I really hope to play this a lot this year.  I already have figures so it is just a matter of putting on the table.  If this one catches on I might build a new army specifically for the game.  The Gripping Beast plastics must be purchased and used.  I am unsure how I have managed to resist this long.

Kings of War

Tim and I have talked about this game for a couple of years now.  It seems like a fun and fast game that does not take itself too seriously.  The models that Mantic has produced are really nice.  I have a strong need to build an Undead army.  This nice thing about this game is how easy it is to adapt an existing collection or a collection of other companies minis to the game.  I can see using my WAB armies for this or even building an ECW army to fight against an Undead army.  I might even be able to use this as a way to get some of my LOTR figures back on the table.  If time permits I just might get to this.


What can I say about this great little game?  It is a blast to play and easy to learn.  There is not painting required and no super expensive upgrade mechanism to get tons of cash from you.  Just buy the box and whatever ships you want and go.  Fortunately, I now have almost everything for this game so it will be easy to get in lots of games this year.  The wife and the kids like it so I should get in lots of games this year.  Some of the local shops have been running events and I might have to try that part of the game out.  The older I get the more a game like this appeals to me.

Other Game Goals

Over the last couple of years if have been thinning out my collection of unpainted minis as well as terrain.  Since I no longer has a game table at home I have no need to lots of terrain, or not as much as I have in the past.  I have also been coming to grips with the fact that I have lots of projects that will never see the light of day and I just need to get rid of some of this stuff.  Much of the money freed up by this has been reinvested in the game hobby some has gone to other interests.  I see this downsizing continuing for this year.

Other Personal Goals

These are probably the most important goals I set for myself this year.

First of all, I need to a be a better person and a better friend.  I got into gaming years ago, as a way to make friends and enjoy common interests.  Gaming has introduced me to some of the best friends I have ever had and lots of other really great people.  When I got in to miniature gaming 15 or so years ago I was very active with local game groups.  I made it a point to get to the shop to game a couple times a week.  I worked hard to find new people and introduce them to the games I loved.  I was not an extrovert but I was much more social.  Then personal tragedy struck and suddenly gaming seemed so silly.  My depression made me push people away and I kind of pulled into a shell.  I began to loose touch with lots of people that I have been friends with for a long time.  I stopped going to the shop on a regular basis and I stopped trying to meet new people.  The new people I did meet I did not make much of an effort to make a connection.

This year I hope to change that.  It will take time as I have managed to take my reason for being anti-social and I have turned it into an excuse.  Being a recluse has become a habit.  I need to make time for people who are important to me and I need to be more outgoing.  I need to stop waiting for someone else to kick me out of this funk.  I need to stop compartmentalizing my friends and I need to find ways to interact with them that is not strictly game related (sounds like a good reason to have a BBQ).  I am not a big fan of situational friends and I need to stop treating people that way.  I feel that I have already been making progress on this towards the end of last year but I still have a long way to go.

Another personal goal for this year is fixing my 'gamer physique.'  Yes, I have a weight and conditioning problem much like others in our fine hobby.  I am getting to an age where this is impacting other areas and I need to fix it before the real problems start.  I won't waste your time with the gory details (you are probably familiar with them).  I doubt I will spend any time on this topic on the blog but it is something that I will be working on and maybe at the end of the year I will have some good news to report.

On that note, I need to take a walk.  I hope everyone has a safe and Happy New Year!