Christmas coffee sale!

Scroll down for new posts.

I’m a hobbyist coffee roaster, and I have some extra stock which I’m selling off. All of the coffee I buy is imported in small batches from small farmers around the world, and hand-roasted with an eye toward bringing out the most notable flavors of each coffee. I have a bunch of coffee available, and (if you live in the continental US) you can buy it here.

Posted in Blather | Leave a comment

Breaking Fortress Holland No. 3

Mill: Day 1, 1200-2000

1200
It’s noon, and I take care of some business first. I send the new bridging company, the pioneer company that came with it, and one of the pioneer companies from the bridging operation at Cuijk to Gennep to build a new crossing point.

It can’t come too soon. Gennep is still a mess, traffic-wise.

At Haps, I plan my attack on Mill. An important aspect of attacking well is finding a covered position where the attacking force can form up. I played around some with the area line-of-sight tool.

The Command Ops engine works in units of 100-meter grid squares, and the red square is the square from which I’m checking visibility. It’s on the southeast edge of Mill. As I expected, because Holland is very flat, the town of St. Hubert screens me from view from Mill. I give the orders, sending II/456 and I/481 to Mill, and III/456 to support Peel-Raam 2.

1245

At the Peel-Raam 2 objective, III/481 is very heavily outnumbered.

1310

Between Gennep and Cuijk, I/454 cleans up some more defenders. The unit under fire here is shortly obliterated, and in half an hour or so, the battalion is on the march toward Cuijk proper.

1330

Peel-Raam 2 is heavily pressed. Unfortunately, the artillery is too far back to fire in support. I’ll have to move it up to support.

I/454 is almost done at Cuijk. I have a number of motorized pioneer companies in the backfield, which will serve nicely as security—they’re fast enough to move between Gennep and Cuijk relatively quickly, and strong enough to beat back attacks by whatever the Dutch have left between the Maas and the canal.

1400

Our last wave of reinforcements arrives. II/454 has been waiting for III/454 to arrive, and now the 454th Regiment HQ will be leading them both to Haps. I/454 will be joining them soon.

A long line of units heads from Gennep to Haps. Once I/454 has advanced to Cuijk, it’ll be on the way to Haps, too.

1430

In the west, I/476 receives orders to move from Haps to support the Peel-Raam 2 objective. I/476 is a reinforced battalion; it has its usual complement of three infantry companies, plus two pioneer companies.

1450

III/481 is ever more heavily pressed. We get an airstrike, which immediately goes to support that valiant battalion.

1500
III/456 begins its attack on Peel-Raam 2, and the other two battalions start pushing toward Mill, making good progress to the outskirts of the town.

1530
The artillery arrives at Haps, and immediately begins to fire in support of the defense at Peel-Raam 2 and the attack at Mill.

1600
I/454 is officially en-route from Cuijk to Haps.

1650

Not a lot of note happens for the next hour and a half. The Mill attack runs into determined resistance, and isn’t able to push across the canaal yet.

1715
Five hours late, the 481st Regiment HQ arrives at Haps. I send it on toward St. Hubert. If we have to regroup, we can organize I/481 and II/456 into an ad-hoc regiment under the 481st HQ.

1800

The attack at Mill has bogged down, but the extra battalion at Peel-Raam 2 has helped to push the Dutch back a little. I/476 is on the way, and with its extra weight, will be able to push down the road toward the exit.

1820
The bridging detail at Gennep finishes its work. Since it’s a moderately large formation (two pioneer companies at 200 men each, two bridging companies at 60 men each), I assign it to guard the bridges at Gennep, freeing II/481 to head toward Haps.

The Dutch still have three or four companies of infantry behind the front lines, but I doubt they’re in very good supply at this point, and the little security forces I have left ought to be able to hold them off.

It’s becoming clear that Mill will need more men to achieve a significant breakthrough.

1900

The eastern portion of the map is full of reinforcements streaming forward to Haps. The current security detail at Cuijk is the 254th Infanterie-Division headquarters with two pioneer companies. At the Gennep crossing, there’s the 256th Infanterie-Division headquarters, along with two pioneer companies and two bridging companies.

1945

Sneaking in one last order before the deadline, I notice the situation at Peel-Raam 2 has improved somewhat. I/476 is advancing implacably, so I order III/456 to make a flanking attack into the defenders at Mill.

2000

In the west, all five battalions are committed—two attacking Mill, two securing Peel-Raam 2 and pushing southwest, and one flanking at Mill.

In the east, reinforcements are assembling. At Haps is the entire 454th Infanterie Regiment, with three battalions and all supporting elements, along with two-thirds of the 476th Infanterie Regiment (I/476 is at Peel-Raam 2.) II/481 is marching to Haps, but won’t be there for a few hours more, and it isn’t worth the waiting.

Here are your options:
Guderian – Move the 476th Infanterie to Mill, joining the attack on the southern flank of the town to seal it off. Under cover of darkness, march the 454th Infanterie in its entirety through the gap between Mill and Peel-Raam 2, then northwest to the northern exit point, hoping to dodge the defenders entirely.

von Rundstedt – Move the 476th Infanterie to Mill, joining the attack on the town. Move the 454th Infanterie south toward Peel-Raam 2, then flank the town, eliminate the defenders, and march on the northern exit.

Paulus – Move the 476th Infanterie to Peel-Raam 2, pushing southwest with I/476. At the same time, move the 454th Infanterie to Mill. While they begin an attack, withdraw the current force, turn it into a provisional regiment, and sneak through the gap between Peel-Raam 2 and Mill.

Posted in Breaking Fortress Holland | 2 Comments

Breaking Fortress Holland No. 2

Mill: Day 1, 0500-1200

0500, Day 1

We’re off to the races. I and II Battalions of the 481st Infanterie Regiment attack across the two crossings at Gennep. III/481 pushes south from its starting positions on the train tracks west of Mill, while I Battalion of the 454th Infanterie Regiment attacks opposite St. Agatha.

0630

Companies have pushed across to establish bridgeheads at the Gennep and St. Agatha crossings.

0645

Our infantry pushes the defenders at Gennep away from their prepared positions.

0700

III/481 captures the Peel-Raam 2 road bridge, but its support and command elements have come under heavy artillery bombardment, and are having a hard time organizing their march down to the objective.

0705

Engineers begin to construct a bridge at Cuijk.

0715

II/456 arrives as reinforcement. Since the attacks at Gennep have the defenders more than well in hand, I send it straight through the lines to Haps.

0740

II/481 secures the bridgehead west of the Maas at Gennep, while III/481 sets up defenses at the Mill bridge. I/481 is on its way across the Gennep bridge. Since II/481 will be more than sufficient security for the bridgehead, I order I/481 to Haps as well.

0800

I/454 secures the bridgehead at St. Agatha, and currently has orders to attack Cuijk. If Cuijk proves to be unoccupied, I’ll split it into its component units and use them to provide security behind the front lines.

Since there will be at least two battalions at Haps, I order the 481st Infanterie Regiment’s headquarters up to Haps, too. It may make sense to use it to organize an attack with the forces at Haps.

0845
I/481 is across the Maas and marching to Haps.

0900
III/456 arrives as a reinforcement, and is also ordered to march to Haps. We’ll have a full three battalions there, plus the headquarters of the 481st, once everything en route arrives.

0940

III/481 continues to take a beating from artillery, and will eventually need to be relieved.

1100

It’s been quiet since 0940. The Cuijk force is finally lining up to attack. At Mill, III/481 has finally managed to get all its force to the bridge, where it has established a defensive perimeter. The crowd of units crossing at Gennep has turned into a traffic jam—the 481st Infanterie Regiment’s HQ has gotten stuck, and is now re-planning its movement.

The bridge at Cuijk is finished. I send two of the combat engineer companies forward to Haps, where they’ll join the assault force. The remaining combat engineer company and the bridging platoon sit back for now. They’ll help build another bridge as soon as the next bridging unit arrives at noon.

The 476th Infanterie Regiment HQ and its I Battalion arrive as reinforcements, and are sent to Haps; we’ll have four battalions and two regimental headquarters there when they arrive.

1200

More reinforcements arrive. The battalion from the 454th can cross at Cuijk, while the bridging unit and the pioneers will head down to Gennep to build another bridge.

Spoiler for Current situation maps


What happens next? Voting will be open through Thursday, probably.

Guderian – Momentum is the most important consideration! Immediately strike Mill with the three battalions at the staging area at Haps, sending the 476th Infanterie Regiment’s battalion to join the attack as soon as possible.

von Rundstedt – It is folly to throw one’s entire force at the enemy’s positions head-on! Attack Mill with two of the three battalions at the staging area, sending the other south to assist III/481. The 476th Infanterie will spearhead the flanking maneuver from the south.

Paulus – We have men in tenuous supply holding open a breach in the enemy’s line! Use one battalion from the staging area to probe Mill while sending two south to relieve III/481. The 476th Infanterie will join the other battalion at Mill to make an attack once it has arrived.

Voting has now closed.

Paulus – 3
von Rundstedt – 4
Guderian – 1

In the absence of any other votes, I called upon my designated tiebreaker, parvusimperator, who’s only voting in case of ties.

He chose von Rundstedt because, in his opinion, one battalion is sufficient to relieve III/481. I’ll play through the next eight hours tonight. The update might go up tonight, or it might go up tomorrow.

Posted in Breaking Fortress Holland, Writing | 2 Comments

The Long Retreat No. 12

Sif shifted from foot to foot and tried to breathe quietly. The seconds slipped by, and she felt a deepening uneasiness. The tower of smoke from the city rose across the sky and blotted out the stars, lit eerily by the fires consuming her home. There, she could take care of herself. Here, she was at a loss. “Wake up already,” she said, though she doubted Arnarsson could hear her. Another minute or two passed, and finally, he opened his eyes.

Slowly, he hauled himself to his feet. “This way,” he said, heading downstream.

“What did you just do?” she asked.

“I’ll tell you later.”

She shrugged and set off after him.

 

“Stop here,” Alfhilde said.

Hrothgar turned to face her. “Do you need a rest?”

Alfhilde shook her head and pointed at the ground. “The diviner will be looking for us here.”

“How could you know that?”

Alfhilde looked around. The landscape spoke for itself. The stream cascaded down a steep run, and the ground around it sank gently to meet it a few hundred yards further along its course. Rising fifteen feet above the near bank was a cairn, flat stones piled in an interlocking pattern. Alfhilde raised her eyebrows, and Hrothgar shrugged, conceding the point. “I have seen diviners work before,” Alfhilde added, “during the last war. We learned to make the move they can foresee best.”

Posted in The Long Retreat, Writing | Leave a comment

Breaking Fortress Holland No. 1

Welcome to this year’s wintertime wargame Let’s Play. It’s an audience-participation AAR of Command Ops: Battles from the Bulge and a scenario pack called Brabant Breakthrough. Authored by Matrix Games forum user tukker, it comprises three scenarios covering the mad dash from the German border to the city of Rotterdam in 1940, prior to the invasion of France. They’re loosely continuous, with the option to fiddle with reinforcement and supply schedules to make performances in one scenario affect the next, and we’ll be playing through all three.

I say we, and here’s what I mean. Every eight hours of time on the game clock, or whenever something happens to disrupt previous plans, I’ll post an update, and we’ll decide democratically what to do next. You’ll get to choose among three strategic directions to take for the next eight hours, or until the next major upset to our plans. To simplify things, I’ll distill the full spectrum of potential actions into three options, roughly corresponding to the command personalities of three German generals. To vote, reply to the post with the name of the general: Guderian, von Rundstedt, or Paulus.

Your options in detail


1. Friedrich Paulus
A longtime staff officer and noted battle planner for many years before the war, Paulus has a fine grasp of deception and a distaste for throwing away the lives of his men. He prefers testing the enemy and striking at his weak points. Will his more measured approach cost too much time in this fast-paced operation?


2. Heinz Guderian
A pioneer of motorized tactics, Guderian tends toward breakthrough and exploitation, no bad thing in an invasion. The divisions we have to work with move almost entirely on foot, though. Will his experience with mechanized forces bog down when applied to our infantry-heavy force?


3. Gerd von Rundstedt
A long-serving officer with a history in command reaching back to the Great War, von Rundstedt favors grand plans: vast flanking maneuvers and encirclements covering the whole of the field of battle. He lacks a sense for the finer details of his battle plans, though. Will the battlefield turn into a slaughterhouse as it did in von Rundstedt’s last war?

Spoiler for Unfamiliar with Command Ops?

Here’s the short version: it’s an operational-level wargame, which means you command forces ranging in size from a few battalions to a few divisions, in scenarios ranging from a day to two weeks. Its major shtick is that command concerns usually glossed over in wargames are major gameplay elements: orders take a while to reach your subordinates, and more time again to be executed. Nor can you control every unit on the map directly: you can only issue so many individual orders before your staff gets overloaded, and frequently, those orders have to go to larger formations: battalions, or alternately, task forces of several companies to several battalions, to free up your staff capacity to issue orders elsewhere.

I’ve previously written a few AARs about it. Have a look:

Return to St. Vith chronicles my playthrough of the tutorial scenario. As such, it goes into more depth on the mechanics of the game, and it would be a good place to go if you’re looking to come to grips with the minutiae of playing.

The Battered Bastards of Bastogne and We Fight and Die Here cover two scenarios from the Battle of the Bulge, combined with passages from A Time for Trumpets, a history of the battle. Learn the real story through anecdotes from men who were actually there, and see how I fare comparatively.

On to the first scenario!

Scenario briefing wrote:

On 10 May 1940, the Wehrmacht started “Fall Gelb”, the attack on France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The 18th Army formed the northern wing of the attacking forces, tasked with breaking through Dutch defenses. The focal point of the 18th Army was its XXVI Army Corps. It consisted of two infantry divisions (the 254. Infanterie Division and the 256. Infanterie-Division) and a Panzer division (the 9. Panzer Division) in its first echelon, and three more i nits second echelon.

The Dutch defenses consisted of two lines: a forward line on the River Maas, only a few kilometers from the German border, and a main line in the marshy area of the Peel, the so-called Pell-Raamstelling.

The Germans had landed airborne troops in the Rotterdam-Dordrecht area [ed. We’ll be headed there in the third scenario], so it was imperative that the Dutch resistance be broekn quickly. In order to achieve this, the Germans concocted an original and daring plan. A special force called the Bau-Lehrbattalion 800 (later known as the Brandenburg Battalion) was to attack the bridges across the Maas dressed in Dutch uniforms and assisted by Dutch Nazis. As soon as the bridges were secure, armored trains carrying regular infantry were to cross the driver and drive through the Peel-Raamstelling, unloading the troops beyond the Dutch lines.

Most of the attacks failed, but at Gennep the Germans secured the bridge, the train rode across it, and a battalion of German infantry was unloaded west of the German positions. This was achieved before 5:00 a.m., which is when the scenario starts.

Map and Objectives

Spoiler for Map


This is the field of battle. It’s ten kilometers tall, and twenty-two kilometers from east to west. The terrain is mainly flat and clear, with some patches of woodland and a good deal of polder—land enclosed by dikes. Good roads run in between the Maas River and the Defensiekanaal, the two watercourses which cut the map into rough thirds north and south. There are three quick paths between the river and the canal: the Gennep-Mill road and rail line, which run through the town of Haps (the road cuts through the Peel-Raam line further to the south, past St. Hubert), the northern roads, which run from Cuijk through Beers to Mill, and the southern roads, from Beugen on the Maas’s west bank through Rijkevoort and Ham to St. Hubert.

The grid squares visible on this map are 1 kilometer by 1 kilometer. (Black lines signify 10km squares.) At standard march pace, infantry move at about three kilometers per hour on good roads. (Motorized troops, of which we have very few, move at about 12 kilometers per hour.)

All of the objectives which involve holding territory are scored based on time held; there are no extra points granted for occupying territory at the end of the scenario. We have from right now (Day 1, 5:00 a.m.) to noon tomorrow (Day 2, 12:00pm).

0. Destroy the Enemy (21 pts): needs no explanation.
1-2. Mill Rail Bridge, Mill (11 pts): this town and its rail bridge sit in the middle of the Peel-Raam line. Control of Mill yields control of the major roads from the northern part of the map to the southern around the Defensiekanaal, which will be important, as you’ll see in a bit.
3-4. Gennep Rail Bridge, Gennep crossing point (5 pts, 4 pts): as you can tell from the green outline on the objective marker at Gennep Rail Bridge, we’ve already captured it. Our forces, on the east bank of the Maas, will need to hold crossing points, ferries, and bridges for resupply and reinforcement.
5. St. Agatha crossing point (4 pts): the crossing point at St. Agatha, between Cuijk and Gennep, is a secondary objective. The map says ‘Ferry’, which represents assault crossings as the German infantry historically made.
6-7. Peel-Raam 1 and 2 (4 pts): these two objectives sit on road bridges north and south of Mill. Peel-Raam 2 is important, as you’ll see in a bit.
8. Cuijk Bridge (11 pts): the Cuijk bridge is a primary objective. It will carry supplies and forces across the river, and after this scenario ends, it plays an important role in pushing from Mill toward Rotterdam. Late activation.
9-10. Exit troops toward Schaijk and Volkel (21 pts): get troops to these exit points, on the west edge of the map, at the middle and toward the southwestern corner, then clear the exit points and exit troops off the map to continue the operation further west. Late activation.

Forces and Reinforcements

Spoiler for Map


At present, we have elements of two divisions on the map. Neither division has all its elements present; another seven infantry battalions will be joining us, along with some miscellaneous support units. The last arrive at 2 p.m. on Day 1. The first arrive starting at 7:00 a.m., with the bulk arriving between 11:00 and 12:00.

The 256. Infanterie Division occupies positions east of Gennep. Two battalions of infantry from the 481st Infanterie Regiment are lined up facing the Gennep crossings, while the 481st’s third battalion is past the Peel-Raam line near Mill, having taken the armored train over.

The 254. Infanterie Division is well below full strength. Its headquarters, and the headquarters of its subordinate the 454th Infanterie Regiment, occupy positions opposite Cuijk. Only one battalion from the 454th is currently on-map and ready to rumble.

That brings you up to speed. Voting has closed.

At the Maas
Guderian – 2
Paulus – 1
von Rundstedt – 1

We’ll attack the the north and central crossings with as much force as we can manage.

Beyond the Peel-Raam line
Paulus/von Rundstedt – 3
Guderian – 1

The battalion beyond the Peel-Raam line will attack the road bridge south of Mill.

I’ll be playing the first seven hours of the scenario today, ending at noon, Day 1. I’m traveling on Tuesday, so it might be Wednesday or Thursday before I have a result.

Posted in Breaking Fortress Holland, Writing | 2 Comments

The Long Retreat No. 11

Night descended over the forest. The moonlight filtering through the branches was barely enough to stay on track, but Falthejn could hear the flow of the stream now. A few minutes more walking brought them to its bank.

“A cairn is a pile of stones, stacked tall,” Falthejn said. “If you see one, or if you see the others, tell me.”

Sif, baffled, opened her mouth, but no words came. Self-consciously, she closed it.

Falthejn stopped, drawing a three-food circle with the toe of his boot, then adding a few scribbles inside of it. Sif had never had the time or the opportunity to learn to read, but she still thought the letters looked odd. She didn’t think she’d seen any of them before. Finally, she managed, “What are you doing?”

“Finding the way.” Falthejn sat cross-legged, facing the circle, then gave Sif an intent look. “If you think we’re in danger, tap me on the shoulder.”

Sif nodded, and the magiker closed his eyes. Flickers of expression crossed his face every few moments, interrupted now and then by a twitch. Experimentally, Sif crouched across the circle from him and waved her hand back and forth. He didn’t react, and Sif stood. Things seemed to be moving all around her, whispering through the needles carpeting the ground and darting out of her sight. Whenever she looked straight at them, she saw nothing but trees shifting in the breeze and wisps of moonlight filtering through the branches.

Posted in The Long Retreat, Writing | Leave a comment

Commentary, The Long Retreat No. 11

It’s actually going to be relatively busy, this December, thanks to a lot of pre-existing content from collaborator parvusimperator. We’re kicking off a two-week special over at the Fish Bowl, the first part of which you can read here. There will be more content in the Procurement Games on Saturday, and probably some sporadic blog content both here and at the Fishbowl.

In other news, a poster at the Something Awful forums has started a real-time AAR of War in the Pacific: Admiral’s Edition, which is almost certainly going to be worth the read.

Posted in Blather | Leave a comment

Missed update update

I was too busy raising my eyebrows in perplexity at the Peter Pan Live! special last night, so I forgot to type an update for you.

Fortunately, collaborator Parvusimperator had some content ready to go tomorrow, so I pushed it up to today. You can read his thoughts on procuring fighter aircraft over at the Fish Bowl.

Posted in Blather | Leave a comment

The Long Retreat No. 10

Sif sucked down air in gulps, legs wobbly as she slowed to a walk. She felt herself calming—her mind still sang with fear, but she had a lid on the panic that had driven her this far. She became aware of a voice calling her name, and turned to see the man with the sword walking toward her. Smugly, she noticed he was breathing harder than she was. Almost immediately, she felt guilty. He had, after all, just saved her life.

He stopped a step or two away, then put his hands on his knees. Between breaths, he said, “Are you alright?”

She nodded, watched him for a moment, and ventured, “Are you?”

He snorted, then briefly looked up to catch her eye. “I will be in a minute. It has been a long day.” He smiled wearily, took another breath, and added, “My name is Falthejn Arnarsson. I’m a magicker, fighting with the old royal army.”

She’d spent more than a few wintry evenings before the common hearths of those lodgekeepers kindly enough to let a nobody like her keep out of the cold, listening to tales of the legendary magic-weaving heroes of times and wars long past, who had fought the aelfr and the jotun alike. They came flooding back now, and she couldn’t help her self. “What kind of magicker?”

“I see the future.”

“Oh.” She’d also heard tales of diviners.

“We are often misunderstood,” Falthejn said, straightening. “Come with me. The others will be—”

He stooped suddenly at the edge of the road, picking something up. Sif peered over his shoulder. He held a black-fletched arrow, crudely made, and wore a frown. “Quickly. If their scouts are this far already, more will be close behind.” With a quick glance to either side, he set off into the forest. Sif kept close on his heels.

Posted in The Long Retreat, Writing | Leave a comment