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Saturday, September 26, 2015

First Post

So welcome to my modern blog.

On this blog I'll be journalize my modern wargaming hobby efforts. I'll be posting pictures of my small but growing 6mm and 15mm modern collections, AARs, rules ideas, and whatever else comes to mind.  I'm mainly doing this for my sons who are into the whole blogging thing and who love to read my sci-fi reports from the days of yore!  Maybe they'll take up the challenge of posting and running this blog for me?!?

Anyway, here's some background on my interest in this period.  The modern period is really my first miniatures period.  Heck, it introduced me to miniatures gaming!  So yeah, modern gaming does hold a special place in my gamer's heart.

Many years ago, in 1985 to be exact, I started to get interested in the Cold War.  Like anyone in my generation I lived with the threat that WWIII could star=-65432 at any moment and that the world we knew would disappear in a nuclear firestorm.  Fun eh?

Anyway,  I got interested in the conventional side of this nightmare though an old magazine that exists to this day: Strategy & Tactics.  It all started when I made a trip to the local game store and found a copy of Nr. 98 Central Command!

The cover totally hooked me in.  Later that afternoon while my mom was visiting with my grandmother I took out my new game, punched out the counters, and ran through the rules and played the opening scenario that pitted a Marine division against some Soviet motor rifles just north of Bandar Abbas.  I had a blast!  I realised that I enjoyed modern era games however I just couldn't seem to find anyone who would play Central Command with me, so my interest faded beyond the occasional book on the subject.

The very next year I started high-school and joined the band.  One day while I was in the band director's office I saw this game on his desk:

He noticed me looking at the game and broke it out to let me see it.  It was first modern tactical game I had ever seen and I was really curious about it.  He graciously allowed me to borrow it so I rushed it home, broke it out, and tried to play it solo.  Not the easiest of games for a high-school kid, but I got the hang of it and played out a couple of scenarios.  But again, I ran into the old problem- no opponents.  My band director played a match or two, but usually we had musical work to do so again my interest in gaming the Cold War faded.  However the late 80's were full of movies, books, and other games that kept my attention.

One of my favorites was Twilight 2000.

My friend Darryl introduced me to it during a trip back home.  It took forever to roll up a character and I don't think we ever figured out the combat rules completely, but we had a lot of fun shooting up Soviet supply columns and thwarting evil marauders.  I think we even save the Black Madonna once!

It was a nice diversion between rounds of D&D and Battletech.  But that was a RPG and a fantasy one really!  Wargaming the Cold War was something I thought about but never got to do.

One day when my family visited the mall in Baton Rouge I saw this book at the hobby store:

I think this was the second miniatures wargame I had ever purchased.  My first was the old AD&D Battlesystem.  The picture on the cover caught my attention, that's for sure.  I had never seen a miniatures game before, let alone played one.  You see, in the US in the 1980s everyone played either RPGs like D&D or they played map/counter games like Fire Team and Central Command.  And while I did play a game or two of Battlesystem it was ALWAYS with the counters provided.  After all, who had any miniatures beyond the rich kid or two who had a figure they used in occasional D&D games?  I was intrigued!

Weeks later, after pouring though the rules, I decided to hit the model shop in Jackson MS (I forget the name of the place now) to price up some "miniatures" (actually HO scale models).  I found packs of modern US and Soviet infantry (I picked up a pack of each) but very few vehicles of any type beyond a couple of M1 and M3 kits.  And those were expensive!  At least they were for a high-school junior who only go $5 a week for an allowance.  Worse still Command Decision assumed that you had a battalion or so of vehicles! Granted that's only 1 vehicle in four (the game was platoon based), but you needed like 12+ vehicles to play any decent game and that's just for one side.  So my dreams of miniatures games faced the stark reality that I simply couldn't afford this style of gaming.  So I went home, crestfallen, and put my HO scaled troops away.  I think they are still in a box in my parent's garage, somewhere...  I would have to wait a few years before I could play my first miniatures game.

Fast forward through high-school, girl friends, graduation, and Army Basic Training to 1990.  By January I had wrapped up Basic and was off to AIT.  A lot of that time is a blur to me because we had to take a ton of classes and were tested like crazy.  However there's one memory that really sticks with me and that was the Vehicle ID class we had.  Our instructor was a seriously pretty female LT from some MI battalion and she got stuck having to set-up everything for her class.  I guess after batting her eyes and tossing her rank around she got our platoon sergeant to cough up a couple of us "cherries" to give the L-T a hand in setting up a couple of hands-on vehicle displays.  I think she gave me the best job- she had me open boxes of miniature tanks and had me set them up on her display.  I vividly remember opening those boxes and finding pack after pack of GHQ Micro Armour!  I was amazed at the size and detail the things had.  For months afterward the guys in my platoon were still talking about that pretty L-T... not so much with me.  I remembered those tiny tanks!

After the '91 Gulf War, I was sent to Ft. Riley, KS where I joined the 1st ID.  Specifically, the Second Battalion of the Thirty-Fourth Armored Regiments, aka the Dreadnoughts!

I was assigned to Charlie Company, better known as the Fighting Aces!  Hooah!! (sorry, it's a reflex even to this day).

I was still a "cherry" even though I had a combat patch!  So not even a couple of months after returning from the "sand box" we were told to prepare for a rotation through the National Training Center!  Gee, more fun in the sand...

One of the things we did in preparation for NTC were sand table exercises.  Most of the time that involved the whole platoon grouping up around a huge table full of sand and watching as the officers and NCOs walked us through quick terrain studies and general maneuvering models.  So times the L-T would walk us through up-coming training ops so he would mold the table to show the general terrain features and sketch out phase lines.  Nothing special really.

Sand tables weren't anything elaborate.  Honestly most of the time they were just mounds of sand with lines drawn by finger to show different things.  I think our L-T brought yarn and rocks to point out things of interest.

That changed when SSG Shaffer joined our platoon.  Shaffer was fresh from Germany and he was a serious miniatures wargamer.  The sarge really loved his toys!  He had a full battalion of tanks and mechanized infantry with all of the trimmings.  He also had nearly a full regiment of Soviet armor and mechanized infantry too!  And he had terrain too!  Barbed wire, trees, painted hills, houses, you name it.  He brought them  to every sand table and later became responsible for building them for the L-T.  While most everyone in the platoon snickered at him about his "toys" I noticed that he never had problems getting extra hands out to the sand table (it was in our day room) to help him set-up for the L-T's briefings.  I know I was one of the very first to volunteer!

One day the L-T had to brief us on an upcoming FTX that seemed like a Desert Storm deja vu all over again.  It was a breaching drill!  Yes, the same op we had drilled over and over and over and over again in Saudi.  It was the same basic battle drill we even used when we breached the Sadaam Line and trashed the Iraqi 26th Infantry Division.  Arty would start the routine by pounding the enemy's front line and would drop smoke in our sector.  Then the engineers would roll up and toss MICLICs to create lanes, then the assault platoons, with a plow tank in the lead, would roll through the breach and lay down suppression fire on enemy strong points to cover the mech infantry as they assaulted the enemy's defenses.  Simple as pie and we knew this drill by heart.  In fact we knew it so well that Shafer tossed out a funny suggestion.

"Hey L-T, why don't we let the junior EMs take over the company's command slots and wargame this out?"  I remember some amused looks on our NCO's faces but the L-T was game.

"Why not?  Some of them may have to step-up to take over command slots if we have casualties," he said.

So that's what we did. It was a company level assault ran by us corporals, specialists, and even privates.  I was the senior of the juniors (!) so I got to command the whole company!  Well, not the whole company as half of us were yanked over to command the OPFOR.  The L-T pulled me off to the side and showed me the company's axis of advance, phase lines, and fires plan and I had to brief my platoon leaders!

Shaffer took up the mantle of referee and judge and off we went!  I have to say it was one of the most fun wargames I had ever played.  We gamed out the whole assault and it was brutal.  We didn't face a 3rd rate Iraqi infantry force this time.. it was a reduced motor rifle battalion supported by a company of T72.  We hit them with two company teams with me commanding C Company.

Really, everything fell apart as soon as the artillery dropped.  We had some really bad runs of the dice and watched our artillery scatter really badly, in fact that absorbed a lot of my time.  When H-hour arrived I had to throw my company into action without out half of our targets getting hit.  So we really suffered when we plowed down the engineering lanes.  But we made it!  My command section and 3rd Platoon put down very effective overwatch fires that allowed 1st and 2nd platoons to make it to the other side, however we lost nearly half of our tanks and infantry carriers making it through the breach.

That's when I committed the rest of the company.  I split my remaining forces into two elements and we crossed through two breaches and arrived in time to repulse a counter attack launched by a motor rifle company with a tank platoon in support.  I guess the other guys got ancy and decided to take it to us.  Bad move...

We trounced that company and pounded the crap out of the first objective.  That opened the door for the mech heavy team to roll over the survivors and to move on to the next phase line.  We took it on the chin though, 50% losses, which is what they told us that we would suffer in Saudi.

After the fight the L-T debriefed us.  He gave me a tip of the hat and told me that I fought our company pretty well.  But then he pointed out something that I had completely missed!  I was DEAD!  It turned out that me and my crew bought it in the breach.  My tank, C14 was one of the burning wrecks that the M88's had to clear out after the battle.  Nice eh?  Win the battle but die personally.  I did point out to him that C66 (my actual tank in the game) was intact though!

It didn't matter though.  I was totally hooked and have been a miniatures junky every since.  I later collected my own figures (all GHQ) and painted them up in our units colors (desert beige).  I even wrote the bumper numbers under the hulls and those were the miniatures we used for other sand tables in later months.

Too bad I don't have those figures now.  I know I gave some of them to guys who ETS'd and others got lost in various moves. But on the other hand maybe I should be grateful, I was a terrible painter!

Anyway here I am over 20 years later going back to my roots: modern gaming. This time though I have my boys to play with.  So here it goes, a trip through the Cold War and beyond with my beloved 1/285th and 15mm scaled miniatures.

More later!  Time now Charlie Mike.

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