A stroll in the dark

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Days away from any moonlight, Jones and Webber started off cross country on the second night of their French adventure. The low light and rough terrain slowed them considerably. Trips and stumbles abounded. After midnight, they felt safe enough to use the roads.

“We will make much better time Mr. Jones, on ze roads.”

“And trip far less often,” Jones complained as he stumbled into the roadside ditch.

They picked up D 924 east of Saint-Jean-des-Champs. The long, straight road gave them plenty of warning of oncoming traffic. Only twice in 3 hours on the road did they have make a hurried entrance into the nearest hedgerow or field. They skirted Beauchamps to the north, running into pavement again and following it all the way to Villedieu-les-Poeles. Each time they had to go around a town, they had to avoid farms. Farms had dogs. Even in war time. As dawn approached they had to avoid farmers, as well. Early risers bringing in milk cows or horses to ready the journey into town. The pushed hard, arriving at the Forét domaniale de Saint-Sever as dawn was breaking. The forest allowed them to continue traveling for a time, the heavy cover and lack of traffic providing a safe area, at least for a time.

Weary from their forced march, they finally found a thick area off the road to rest in. Both ate in silence, and quickly fell asleep. Jones woke in early afternoon. He sat up, and listened for a long time. The forest was quiet, the sounds of life too distant to hear. He leaned back against a fallen tree trunk, and pulled his Fedora low.

He was awake again when Webber sat up, looked around, and then stood up.

“Morning doll.”

“What time is it?” she whispered.

“Just before 1.”

“We should go. I need to make contact.”

“Now? Not after dark?”

“No. Now. We are an hour or so from the edge of the forest. Raymond Farm is just beyond.”

“From there to Vire?”

“Two hours on foot. Less if we can go by car or bicycle.”

“Five hours or more? I don’t like it.”

“It is ze only way. I can blend in.”

“Your sister is in Vire?”

“Or someplace close.”

“Hopefully she has information we can use.”

Oui. What should I ask her?”

“About extra workers in the area. Diggers. Maybe an earthmover. People who don’t belong here.”

“I was thinking, maybe, local legends?”

“You didn’t grow up here?”

“No. But Bernadette has been here for over a year now.”

“Yes, ask her about any legends or burial myths. I have been thinking about possible hiding places for something like this. It didn’t originate here, so it must have come well after. Why? Maybe with a returning crusader? It could be buried with them or a descendant. Or, hidden in or near a church.”

“So many possibilities. How will we ever find it?”

“Yes. They are many places. But, I feel confident it is probably a burial item.”

“No one would know.”

“Exactly. No one knows what is in a casket.”

“Then how did ze Germans find out it was nearby?”

“A diary. Or a letter. Something left somewhere else telling what was planned, or what occurred. Maybe it was just a phrase in some other work. Something like ‘René or Vire carried the blade of legend home. It rests with him still.’ It doesn’t mean much, unless you are looking for something in particular.”

“That phrase makes no reference to Durandal.”

“It isn’t supposed to. It is cryptic to keep treasure seekers looking.”

“So, you are a treasure seeker?”

Jones was silent for a long time. Webber was about to ask again when he finally spoke.

“In some ways, yes. I recover lost treasure sop the world can see and enjoy them. To protect them. To keep them from disappearing into private collections.”

“Hmm. I see.” Her tone said she did not.

“The wealthy and powerful like to horde things of antiquity, and of beauty. I try and beat the other treasure hunters. We will need to look at parish records.”

“Look at what?”

Registres paroissaux.

“Ah, church records. Why?”

“Death and burial records.”

“That could take weeks!” Webber looked over with a startled expression.

“No. We only have to search a few hundred years. In that time many burials were not in church yards. Any reference to a knight or crusader, or nobleman should be easy to pick out. With any luck the parish register may know what we are looking for.”

“Would a genealogist or heraldry expert be of assistance?”

“Is Vire big enough to have either?”

“I do not know, but I will ask if it will help.”

“Possibly. Ask. They might know something that could help.”

“Are you hopeful we will beat the Nazis, Mr. Jones?”

“Please, Mr. Jones is my father. Call me Indiana.”

“Ok, Indi…”

“Indiana.”

“Indiana, do you really believe you can find the sword and escape ze Germans? And you may call me Elle.”

“Of course. I’m not insane. I wouldn’t have come if I didn’t feel confident we can pull this off.”

“Such optimism. All you Americans are the optimists.”

“We win a lot. And you Europeans keep asking for help when the Jerries come.”

Laughing, Webber stood. “Well then, we should get to Monsieur Raymond’s farm Mr. Optimism.”

“You’re the boss, doll. Er, Elle.”

Webber shook her head, always with the ‘doll’. Who was this Indiana Jones?

 

Jones sighed. Absentmindedly carving on a small branch, he tossed the crude carving aside and stood again to peer out of the brush. There wasn’t much activity on the farm closest to the forest. There were enough trees and hedges, though, to block much of his view. He could see her enter the farmhouse, but never saw her leave. He watched the two farms for a few minutes, then went and flopped down again. He picked up another branch and attacked it with his knife, shaving the bark off. Several minutes later he rose, and repeated his stand and scan, before sitting in the leaf litter and undergrowth.

He repeated the steps over and over, his patience stretching as time passed. One hour became two. Two became four. Even though he knew that was the minimum time to travel to and from Vire, he still was agitated and restless. Five hours passed, and still no Webber. He ate his supper and tried to nap. He paced. He sat. Nothing. No Webber. No trucks full of Germans either, he had to admit.

Another hour passed and Jones jerked awake. He looked around slowly, listening to the quiet forest. A quick glance at his watch told him he had only been asleep twenty minutes. Satisfied nothing had changed, he stood and stretched. Moving to the edge of the forest, he looked beyond for the hundredth time this evening. The fading light limited what he could see. Few lights burned in the farms.

Still nothing.

Settling back down for another night in the open, he nibbled a D ration bar and sipped from his canteen. Bored. Frustrated.

Thirty minutes passed and he heard a rustle, or disturbed brush, from the direction they had arrived from. It was close. Crouching behind the log he had been leaning against, Jones slipped his revolver free of its holster. He slowly cocked the hammer, willing the metal on metal sound to be as quiet as possible. His other hand loosened the cord holding his bullwhip, a slight nudge and the coiled leather fell free, handle gripped loosely.

Another rustle. Then the sound of a branch breaking. Probably stepped on.

Someone was approaching. Slowly. Jones had moved from the spot where Webber left from earlier. One more precaution to ensure his safety. He was close enough to observe that area, but concealed from immediate view. If someone was looking for him, he held the upper hand.

The sounds of movement became louder as the person or persons moved closer. Most likely one person. Moving carefully, but not an expert at field craft and stealthy movement. He caught a flash of movement. A flash of dark in the dim forest. Brown cloth? Too quick to identify. Jones shifted to settle lower behind the fallen tree, his legs under his body, ready to spring out or stand quickly. Closer. Another flash of brown. A red brown. Webber was wearing a leather flight jacket. Moments later, a brunette stepped into the clearing he had been in early, looking around in the dark.

“Jones?” she called in a hushed voice. “Indiana? Where are you?”

Releasing the hammer, Jones stood and called out.

“Webber. I’m here.”

Elle Webber jumped when he spoke. Turning towards the sound of his voice, relief was evident on her pretty features.

“You moved.”

“You didn’t come from the farm.”

Touché. I did not want to draw attention coming and going to the same place.”

“In the dark?”

“Perhaps. But how do you say it? Better safe than unhappy. And, I brought bicycles. They are hidden near the road north of here.”

“Sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?” Webber looked confused.

“The phrase is ‘better safe than sorry.’”

“Oh.

“The bicycles were a good idea. That will shorten our trip into Vire.”

Approaching Webber, Jones holstered his pistol.

“Shoot, or whip?” she asked.

“Depends.”

“Depends on?”

“Do I want to kill you? Or catch you?”

“I am glad it was neither.”

“Me too. Your contact?”

“Oh. Yes. I am sorry it took so long. Travel is so hard with ze Germans everywhere. But they are not out at night so much. There have been attacks, I was told. We are safe to travel all the way to Vire.”

“Attacks?”

Oui. Someone, or some thing has killed Germans in the night. It is not the Maquis. But the Germans are scared, which is good.”

“And your contact?”

“Yes. Sorry. It took me some time to get to Vire. And more time for them to find Bernadette. Then she took me to the college. We are in luck Mr. Jones.”

“Luck? How so?”

“The college has a department of medieval literature. I met with the department head.”

“And?”

“He has been questioned extensively by the Germans about the sword.”

“They are here already. I had hoped we would beat them here. That changes things. Did he tell them anything?”

“Yes. He told them that his research has lead him to believe the Vire spoken of in the sword legend is actually Vire-Su-Mont, not the modern town of Vire.”

“Where is that?

“300 kilometers south of here.”

Jones whistled and pulled his Fedora off. “300 kilometers in occupied France.”

“Then it is good that we do not need to go so far.”

“Why not?” Jones looked up.

“He lied.” They spoke simultaneously. Jones smiled and Webber laughed.

“They’re looking in the wrong place.” Jones’ smile broadened.

“Yes. He told them it was not here.”

“Did they buy it?”

“Buy it? Buy what?”

“Did they believe him?”

Beaming, Webber nodded. “The whole team left the next day. They have been in Vire-Su-Mont ever since.”

“The professor knows something.”

“Yes, he does. The history of the sword has been a hobby of his for many years. He believes he knows where it is located.”

“Will he tell us?”

“Better. He will take us to it. Tonight.”

“Do you trust him?”

“No. But he has no love for ze Nazis. And he did lie to them once already.”

“Did you happen to mention that if we find the sword we are taking it out of France?”

“I did. For safe keeping. It will be returned once the Germans are gone. It will be, yes? I told him it would be returned.”

“It is a piece of French history. I would assume so.”

“Assume?”

“Look, I don’t get to decide what happens after I find an artifact. I just find them.”

“If he asks…”

“I will tell him is to be returned.”

Nodding, then smiling, Webber unbuttoned her jacket and slipped it off.

“It will be a very long night.”

“Then we should get some rest.”

“Oui. We meet our guide at ten. At a house just outside Vire.”

“A guide? Not the professor?”

“No Mr. Jones, a 69 year-old man is not up for late night strolls.”

“I suppose not.”

“Oh. I have something,” Webber said as she unslung a satchel. “Bread and cheese. And a sausage. Freshly made. Much better than stale chocolate or cans of, what do you call it?”

“Mystery meat.”

“Yes, much better than that.” She broke a hunk of bred off and handed it to Jones. “Do you have a knife?”

“Do Boy Scouts tie knots?”

“What?”

Nothing. A joke. Yes, I have a knife.” Jones slipped his folding knife out and opened a blade, handing it to Webber.

She sliced a piece of cheese from the small block and handed it to Jones. “Good French bread. And rich French cheese. Better than what the British have. Mmm, merveilleux!” she sighed as she took a bite.

Jones looked at the pale yellow cheese before taking a bite. Savoring the rich, soft cheese he closed his eyes and sighed also.

“Wow. This is fantastic,” he mouthed between bites. “What is this?” he asked before finishing the piece.

“Brillat-Savarin.”

“It’s delicious.”

“It is. This is one of my favorites.” Webber sliced two more pieces, one for each of them.

“Any chance you brought a bottle of wine?” Jones joked.

“We are in France, Mr. Jones!” Webber smiled as she produced a wicker wrapped bottle. “I even brought cups,” she added before producing two small glass cups.

They ate in silence. Soft clinking of glass on glass as Webber refilled their glasses. Birds and scurrying animals the only other sounds. When they finished Jones rolled his jacket into a pillow and lay back, setting his fedora on his face.

“Remind me to visit France more often” he said, contentment in his voice. In minutes his breathing was deep and regular, and he was asleep. Webber lay awake a few minutes longer, the excitement of the day buzzing in her mind. Finally she closed her eyes and drifted to sleep.

Knowing that the night would be full of danger and possibilities.

 

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Missing in action

Its been several weeks since I have posted, and this is my excuse/explanation post.

Late May to early June in the U.S. is graduation time. The end of the school year, and all those activities that accompany the end. If you have a high school child, like I did, spring is also very busy. School sports dominate. Track meets for us. Every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, many Saturdays, the occasional Friday, and even a Monday. Whew.

We had little time for much else. Then came graduation. Followed by a dance recital. And a school trip. All of which led to very little hobby time.  What time I did have, I dedicated to actual gaming. My son is off to university in the fall, so my time is limited. So we gamed. Out came Bolt Action. We laid out and played out first game of Wilderness War. He invited some friends over and we play Axis & Allies:1914.  And finally rolled out the giant map for a game of 878 Viking. Plus I fit in three viewings of Solo and was guest host on the Credulous Nerds Podcast in a Solo review show.

Really busy.

Here is the proof.

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And a stock shot of Wilderness War, since apparently I didn’t take a picture.

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It was a busy couple of weeks, and i did get some gaming in, just not much blogging. I have been plucking away on several parts to Dr Jones’ adventure in France. Just a little more polish and the next part can be posted.

How about those games?

In Bolt Action we learned that crossing a long open field in front of a MG42 is suicide. Even at a run, if the field is too big you cant get across fast enough. GIs on attack in both games were pushed back by hidden snipers and machine guns. This was a good thing. Exposed movement in front of an emplaced machine gun was a dangerous move.

And mortars are kinda useless for troops on the move. You never get the benefit of ranging in as each time you are shooting at a new target point. We did throw out what I guess would be interdiction fire. Shooting at a choke point, and ranging in as normal. You know, dropping rounds to keep troops from moving through an area. We play fast and loose with the rules, adding interdiction fire and a form of hidden deployment that makes it very difficult to find shooters in daylight. We need to play some more to see if it is too hard.

So far, we are refreshing ourselves on the rules and have yet to add in artillery and vehicles. Nothing says “Go ahead shoot me Mr machine gun, i don’t mind” like a tank rolling down the road!

We had fun, and I do think Bolt Action can be a fine game if you stick to the basics. infantry troops with support weapons. I need to pick up Battleground Europe to get the minefield rules, since it seems like mines were a daily fact during the war. We will continue to play and mess with the rules to see how it goes. It is a platoon game with battalion assets. I’m trying to roll with that. I do like mortars. Who doesn’t? But I am struggling with lone medium mortars. Shouldn’t there be at least a pair? They are too heavy and take too much ammo for a platoon to drag them around. And are too valuable to be too close to the main line of resistance.

Let’s look at mortar ranges in World War II. I am only looking at U.S., British and German mortars, since those are the armies I have models for.

Light Mortars                        range                                         rate of fire (rounds per min)


US 60mm                               1.1mi (1.8km)                                     18


British 2 in                              500yds (460m)                                     8


German 5cm                          557yds (520m)                                 15-25

Medium Mortars                 range                                             rate of fire


US 81mm                                 1.9mi (3km)                                     18 (sustained)


British 3 in (mkII/mkII LR)   .9-1.6mi (1,500-2,600m)                 15-20


German 8cm                          1.5mi (2.4km)                                   15-25

Heavy Mortars                     range                                                rate of fire


US 4.2in                                   2.7mi (4.4km)                                    5 (20 minutes) 1 (indef)


British 4.2in                            2.3mi (3.7km)                                    20 (1min) 15 (3min) 10 (sust)


German 12cm                        3.7mi (6km)                                        8-10

Most of these ranges are over a mile. That is a heck of an engagement area. And at that range, a battery of mortars could be supporting several platoons or companies in the attack. One medium or heavy mortar is not up close supporting a platoon engagement. Even if a commander could deploy it, how long could it keep up the fire without pre-planning and stock-piling ammo? I guess I need to look at time scale in the various rules, but if i am playing platoon or company level gaming, in my opinion, medium and heavy mortars are off board fire units. Maybe plan in a set or variable number of fire missions? Range in per the rules of choice, but the actual fire missions are limited. Ammo shortage, getting called to support a beleaguered unit, crew exhaustion, what ever, you have limited fire support.

Don’t get me started about artillery pieces on game tables. If it is not a Defend the Artillery Piece scenario, please, keep it off. I know the manufacturers want to sell models, but if you think the ranges of mortars are long, look at even light artillery ranges.

I dug out Chain of Command and flipped through those as well. We both need to do a full read through and give them a try. Those rules seem sort of popular. They also have a few interesting mechanics. The next time we play WW2, it will probably be a stab at those.

878 Viking was pretty cool. It is a card-driven game representing the Viking invasion of England I picked up from a Kickstarter last year. I went all in and got all the expansions and extra models that were released. The rules are pretty straight forward. Not really too complicated or weird. It played through pretty quickly, and we were able to find the answers to our questions pretty quickly.

To be honest, when that first Viking army landed, I thought I was doomed. There were so many troops piling out of long ships, and my troops were scattered the length of merry olde England… There are two factions for each side. The Vikings only reinforce on the first Viking player or faction each turn, while the Anglo-Saxon defenders reinforce on each faction’s dice draw. Slowly the Anglo-Saxon forces built their strength. On top of that, each time the Vikings attacked a town, the Fyrd were called out in defense to bolster the standing troops. A card was drawn and a random number of troops joined the battle for that turn. Each faction has unique dice for combat. Results are run away, command choice and hit. Fled troops return on your next turn. Command choice lets you move a unit out of combat. Hits cause casualties. It wasn’t unusual for an army to melt away with a string of flee results. A quick and easy combat resolution, for sure.

The Vikings pulled of a victory. I was forced to play cards that invoked the Treaty of Wedmore at a time the Vikings were controlling a superior number of towns. It was a gamble, and I lost. 878 Vikings is produced by Academy games and is a fun addition to the pile.

Wilderness War is a grand strategy game representing the French and Indian War. A beautiful map with play aids printed on depicts the Americas from Virginia to Nova Scotia, and the Atlantic coast to the Great Lakes. Movement is by road, trail, and water. Mountains limit movement in places. Much of the map is Indian Territory, the various tribes holding villages and some key locations marked by circles. Settled land is marked by squares. Some have a fortress icon to show the fortified areas. Forts and stockades can be constructed during the game. They provide defense bonuses against linear troops and can disrupt Indian raids.

Individual leaders like Montcalm, Vaudreuil, Wolfe and Loudon are represented by stand-up counters. Troops are the typical flat squares with full and reduced strength sides. These represent individual battalions or companies like the 60th Royal Americans, the 51st Highlanders, Roger’s Rangers, Les Companies Franches de la Marine and regiments like de Béarn, Artois and  Languedoc.

Things like supply lines and winter quarters factor heavily. I lost a large number of troops to disease in overcrowded forts while under siege. A realistic and interesting item to have to deal with.

We played the initial scenario, Annus Mirabilis (1757-59). It assumed certain events had occurred and had a deployment list. This game is also card driven. Cards have both an activation point and another scenario play function. You choose which to use. Some cards are discarded when played for their scenario function.

We played several seasons of the game. Each season is a set of action phases, each player alternating turns until their hand of cards is expended. It has a bit of a learning curve and has some rules that I think probably make more sense to anyone who has played a GMT game, or other games of this complexity. We really enjoyed our game and want to play the full campaign. The rule book claims that takes at least 8 hours, That seems like a fine way to spend a rainy day. I am glad I finally ordered a copy of this game. Crazy thing is, I am waiting for another FIW game from GMT that passed the P500 goal last year. When that gets here I will have 3 board games for the FIW, and a rule set for minis gaming the same war. Yes, it might be one of the wars i am most interested in.

Its been a great couple weeks. We never even put away the minis from our last Bolt Action game. Tonight, after a game of A&A:1914 one of the late comers begged to play another game. Any game. I excused myself from the teenage boys after showing off some models and pointing out that Bolt Action was practically still set up with a squad and machine gun for each boy. I pulled out action dice, a couple of boxes of 6 sided dice, and a couple of measuring tapes and left them to discover the joys of miniature war games.

A perfect couple of weeks.

 

Forgotten Heroes, Pt 1

I’m jumping the gun a bit, as this challenge doesn’tt officially kick off until next month. But… When I have an idea I need to act on it before it flits out my tiny brain.

My choice for the miniature challenge was from a tv series I barely remembered until I was looking through Artizan’s Thrilling Tales minis and wanted to buy the whole lot. The minis triggered a long lost memory and the show resurfaced.

Tales from the Golden Monkey was a single season show about an American pilot in the South Pacific in 1938, before the US entry into WW2. I remember it vaguely, enjoying the sets, locations, the Grumman Goose amphibian plane, and the adventure.

When Roger and Jez invited me to participate in the Fogottem Heroes 2018 competition, I had a bit of a think. I’m not that into comic books to know about some forgotten hero or villain. Plus, I have zero use for a hero mini like that.

What, you say? No need for a mini? Who are You and what did you do with Borderguy190?

Seriously, I might have a slight overabundance of miniatures. But each was purchased with a plan. A role to play. Nothing “just because its cool”. Maybe. I do have minis I forgot about.

Regardless. I was stumped. Didn’t want a hero or villain. I might get into 60-70s spy stuff someday, but I’m not getting into new areas until I paint stuff for SAGA, Muskets & Tomahawks, Bolt Action, Triumph! and Warhammer Fantasy. Then ACW. THEN… Maybe I’ll get some movie minis and try 7TV. But that is years away.

So, who can I paint? Lightning bolt. Jake Cutter from TFTGM. A bush pilot hero. Perfect for my WW2 pulp stuff. He can be Indiana Jones’ pilot friend. A daring pilot flying OSS and Jedburghs and Commmandos into hostile places. Pistol on his hip and a crazy attitude. Hero found.

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Off to find a model. Easy. Artizan had a rougish fellow in a bomber jacket and pilots cap. With a pistol even.

The model is wearing long pants, though.  Hmmm. How to fix that? In many of the stills I found on the interwebz Jake is wearing form-fitting,  laced knee boots. Trousers tucked in. And carrying a Webley revolver. Pants I can fix. My Jake lost the Webley and replaced it with a Colt 1911.

The boots. At first I had the dumb idea to add them with green stuff. Huh? Over baggy pants?  What was I thinking?

Then, the epifany. Carve the trousers into boots. Ah ha! Diwn to the work bench I hustled, the finished product fixed in my mind. 20 minutes later, some razor knife carving and sanding stick sanding, I had a transformed model! Here are the before and after pics:

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Can you see the difference?

I cut a cleft chin, and started work on the cap. Jake’s is well-worn and the sides are sagging. The model had a crisp, new cap. I sanded and carved to remove the sides, now I need to get some Green Stuff and make the sides say. Easy. I carved off the cap device as well. I think the chin cleft and the cuts marking the top of the boots need to be bigger to catch washes, but basically I have a Jake Cutter model.

The back of the jacket has a box molded in. Was there amything on Jake’s jacket? More interwebz searching and I found the answer. On the show Jake was supposed to be a veteran of Claire Lee Chennault’s American Volunteer Group. The famed Flying Tigers. If you know your history, you will notice a problem with this… Nonetheless, Jake had a Chinese blood chit on his jacket like the AVG pilots wore. It tokd the peasants the pilot was a good guy, and promised a reward for assistance in event the pilot was shot down. Could I find a picture? Of course!

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Not terribly difficult to paint in a 1/4″ or so square.

Now to find a 28mm Jack Russell Terrier…