Category Archives: Wargames

Hexblitz First Game

Hexblitz 55 Rifle Div Closes on 4 Pz Div

Hexblitz 55 Rifle Div Closes on 4 Pz

With a couple of hours to set up and play Hexblitz, I wanted a simple set-up to get to grips with the rules. Trebian and YesthatPhil took the Soviet 5th Army and 4th Panzer Division respectively. 4Pz has been facing of against 5th Army for the last 2 months of winter as the Germans concentrate on their problems around MOSCOW, and the Soviets build up the necessary offensive power in the region.

The game set up is as above. In order to progress things, we adopted Ugo-Igo early on, until it became apparent that the card activated system was important.

LIPETSK

LIPETSK

I had underestimated the importance of  the defensive, static and moving state, which is why the game suddenly sprouted markers (and trees¹). Phil is very keen on markers being hidden, bringing his experience of Megablitz to bear. I am not keen on markers at all. Treb loves markers and cards, owning an impressive collection suitable for all occasions. For this game the red party balloons represented strength points and were removed when lost. White ones represented LOG points.

By this time, we were using all the game systems, and had identified a few questions regarding who fights whom in a free-for all brawl. I suspect that Bob organizes attacks so that anyone who is going to do so attacks a target at the same time, commanded by an HQ in command radius.

Hexblitz 20GR approaches the Outpost Line

Hexblitz 20GR approaches the Outpost Line

We were not quite as well coordinated as that, so had a few attacks going in piecemeal. That was the point where we learned that if you are going to be hit by several wavelets of the enemy, don’t be caught in flank or rear if you are not in a defensive position.

At the close of the battle, the Germans had taken a heavy beating, but the Soviets had not captured LIPETSK (Липецк). The game probably only ran at half speed, so any comments about it being faster or slower than other systems are really not valid at this stage. There is more structure to Hexblitz than NQM, so gamers who like proper rules will really like Hexblitz and Megablitz. Players who want flexibility or a framework to hang house rules on will probably prefer NQM.

Hexblitz 55 and 56 Rifle Divs attack 4Pz

Hexblitz 55 and 56 Rifle Divs attack 4Pz

I’m greatly encouraged by the run-through and will try it again, but we need to use fewer SPs next time (40 and 80 for defender and attacker was too ambitious for a first game).

My first thought is that the rules are perfect for solo play, so I will solo a game next before inflicting my imperfect umpiring of someone else’s rules on other players.

  1. Everyone knows that Russia in winter is full of fir trees
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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Axis War Diary, Eastern Front, Land Battles, Soviet Army, Soviet War Diary, Wargames, Wehrmacht, WWII

Bob Cordery’s Hexblitz

This excellent little gem of a rulebook landed on my doormat a week or so ago, courtesy of Bob Cordery. Bob has published it so that he has a set of rules to wargame the Eastern Front in WWII, but it is a worthy addition to the small library of operational tabletop rules that I know of, and if you have an interest in this period, I heartily recommend that you buy a copy.

The rules are 43 pages long, with the meat explained very succinctly in four pages. This is rule writing at its most elegant. Yes there will be instances where the rules do not cover a particular situation, but that happens in even the most closely-worded rulesets written in quasi-legalese that run to many more pages. Twenty pages are taken with a very helpful example battle and orbat. Eight pages are devoted to setting the scene with scales, organisation, designing orbats  and hex facings. The game uses a stand to represent a battalion or specialist company, so follows Megablitz, rather than  Chadwick’s bathtubbing approach.

The move sequence uses a card-driven system, and combat follows Megablitz’s point counting system rather than NQM’s risk-derived L,M,H attack and defence. The rules will work well for a solo game.

It would be simplicity itself to take Frank Chadwick’s hex map and fight Barbarossa using these rules. I ran a short test game on Trebian’s staggered squares, using about 40SP for the German 4th Panzer Division and about 80SP for the Soviet 5th Army. Being WHELKS¹ we eased into the rules from a position of what we knew already, introducing Bob’s rules in stages. Using 15mm toys and 3″ staggered squares, everything fitted comfortably. Trebian has written an offside report already. He thinks that there was a stacking problem with the sizes of bases and squares that we used, I’m not so sure at this stage. Interestingly, each of the players wanted to see rule mechanisms that they were familiar with from other rulesets, and I feel that Bob’s framework could absorb these comfortably without losing its character. The rules need playing a few more time to gain familiarity, but I’m sure that once we are up to speed with them, they will prove to be as good as they look at first glance.

Finally, declaring an interest, I’m credited in the dedication, along with Tim Gow, which is generous, because Bob’s rules are far tidier than anything that I’ve ever produced!

 

  1. Wellingborough Historical and Ever-so Loosly Kultural Society

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2nd Alamein – NQM Squared – The South

44 Inf Div and 7Armd Div

44 Inf Div and 7Armd Div

Having walked through the northern third of 2nd Alamein to see if the real estate fitted (it did), I worked through the head-to-head infantry attack of 44th Infantry Division against Folgore.

Folgore Defence in Depth

Folgore Defence in Depth

The battle commenced with a divisional barrage that put serious disorganisation of 1/3 onto the dug in division (25pdrs M against dug-in infantry M). The infantry then followed this in, winning the firefight and evicting the first line of defences with 100% disorganisation in the close assault.

Ramke Falschirmjaeger Brigade

Ramke Falschirmjäger Brigade

 

I ruled that, being veteran, Folgore could immediately counterattack with its second line of defence, during the second close assault phase and pull its first line of defence out to reorganise. 44 Div were allowed to do the same in the third close assault phase, ending the turn. In future though, I shall restrict immediate counter attacks in the enemy’s turn to veteran troops.

Pavia and Folgore

Pavia and Folgore

This produced a very satisfying to-and-fro battle that left both sides’ infantry at about 50% casualties, with all artillery ammunition exhausted by the end of 4 rounds of fighting.

Folgore and Ramke from Allied Lines

Folgore and Ramke from Allied Lines

Other rulings were that:

Infantry could not pursue beyond their one square range.

Infantry could attack a diagonal square, but only if they were able to attack it orthogonally from the front or flank without interference from enemy on their own front or flank.

In other words, they could not ignore an enemy to their front in order to concentrate an attack on an enemy to their diagonal front, and they can only do this because the one free diagonal move per game turn that they are allowed places the square they wish to attack in reach.

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2nd ALAMEIN – NQM Squared – Trial walk through

Advance To Contact 9AUS 51HD 1SA

Advance To Contact 9AUS 51HD 1SA

Suzanne is the uncommonly intelligent kind of girl that H.G. Wells had in mind, in his preface to Little Wars. Her interests gravitate to the people behind the great events, so persuading her to roll dice  involved gin. It also called for a good deal of exposition as to how the 8th Army found itself fighting a set piece battle that would have been familiar to WWI generals, in a desert war that had hitherto been characterised by movement.

51HD Winning the Firefight

51HD Winning the Firefight

Squaring the table off just exaggerated the whole “over the top with fixed bayonets” nature of the battle plan. Suzanne has a wargaming record  that Attila the Hun would be proud of: In the past, her tank famously machine-gunned my supporting infantry off a bunker that we were both attacking. She sacked Northampton and executed any rival claims to the throne, and I regularly get thrashed at GUBs, usually after she has innocently asked

“What does this card do?”

The battle trundled forward as NQMs usually do, when there is no room to manouvre. Thompson’s post was taken, head on by 9AUS, then lost to a Bersaglieri counterattack. 51HD got stuck in. 1SA seemed to be chilling with cold beer and Breifleis; this was a walk through, after all!

51 HD Break into the Advanced Outposts

51 HD Break into the Advanced Outposts

Tonight however, the post – game conversation veered towards wondering which tunes would characterise each of the opposing forces.

We came up with this:

9AUS Welcome to Australia (You might accidentally get killed)

51HD Corvus Corax I would get out of the way if I heard this coming!

1SA  – we struggled with this one, skipped the Spitting Image Song, and thought that die Stem van Suid Afrika was a bit slow if you were marching into the teeth of a German defence, but liked the Piano Guys . The tune that made the final cut for Bashing the Boche though, was this one though – Sorry Arthur!

The Bersaglieri totally rocked this one from 52 seconds in.

The Germans,  Lili Marlene ,of course, but Peanut Girly was tempting.

I firmed up one or two questions in principle about defence zones of control – necessary in something as stylized as this:

  1. Infantry only close assault stuff in the square that they are in. To enter a defended square, they must win the firefight across the boundary with the next square. No Diagonals.
  2. Infantry, tanks and anti-tank only fire at stuff in the square that they are in. They can place their defended location across a boundary and defend two squares. Of course, this means that they can be shot at from two squares at once. No Diagonals.
  3. For ranged artillery, squares are three kilometers across.

To conclude, ALAMEIN is a goer at this scale.

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, 8th Army - British and Commonwealth, DAK, Italian Army, Land Battles, Rules Examples, The "Rules", Wargames, Western Desert, WWII

2nd Alamein – NQM Squared – The North

Allied 9 AUS - 51 HD - 1SA looking North

Allied 9 AUS – 51 HD – 1SA looking North

Before committing too heavily to squares, I set up this scenario as a TaGWiT (Tactical Game With Toys), to see what the real estate looked like, and to see if 2nd Alamein fitting into 22 squares from top to bottom was a realistic proposition.

The top third of the battlefield (7 squares) fits three Commonwealth divisions – 9 AUS, 51 HD and 1SA, and a third to half of MITEIYIRA RIDGE. This gives two squares or 6Km per division, which is fine, as the frontage of 51HD started at just over a mile wide and spread to about 2.5 miles.

el_Alamein_51HD advance

el Alamein 51HD advance

Axis North Front Line at 2nd ALAMEIN

Axis North Front Line at 2nd ALAMEIN

It all looks very crowded on the tabletop, but like KURSK, this was a head-on WWI-style frontal attack with little room for manoeuvre.

2nd Battle of El Alamein - 001

2nd Battle of El Alamein – 001

 

An Allied division fits nicely into 4-5 squares. I have some work to do on the look of contours, they are  too high-rise at the moment and Iwould like to avoid the square platform with cliff-edge look. There is nothing wrong with that approach – I’m just not fond of it. My first attempt was to just take a band saw to some of the squared cowboy terrain pieces that  seen little real wargame use over the past five years.

7 Bersaglieri in Thompsons Post Looking East

7 Bersaglieri in Thompsons Post Looking East

 

Thompsons Post and Breakout

Thompsons Post and Breakout

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NOVOGOROD Mar ’43 – NQM Squared

 

31 Rifle Div in the Attack on a 9 km Frontage

31 Rifle Div in the Attack on a 9 km Frontage

VELIKY NOVOGOROD sits  astride the River Volkhov, at the northern tip of Lake Ilman. The Command decision Hex Grid Europa map runs a straight rail line between LENINGRAD and MOSCOW, and ignores this inconvenient piece of geography to put NOVOGOROD on the rail line.

33 Rifle Div Assaults 126 Inf Div in NOVOGOROD

33 Rifle Div Assaults 126 Inf Div in NOVOGOROD

For this game, finishing the Soviet winter offensive, I put the city and rail lines back where They should be. It was also the first outing of the new squared board, and a chance to see how a Wehrmacht Korps defence in depth fared against a Soviet army of 3 divisions.

30 Inf Div Defend the River Volkhov

30 Inf Div Defend the River Volkhov

To the south, 126 Infantry Division held NOVOGOROD, and to the north, 30 Infantry Division held a line 9 km deep.

 

33 Rifle Div advances on NOVOGOROD

33 Rifle Div advances on NOVOGOROD

32 Rifle Div Moves up to the VolKhov

32 Rifle Div Moves up to the Volkhov

Facing them was 34th Army with 31, 32 and 33 Rifle Divisions. As in Phil’s original game, we used Tim Gow’s Megablitz SMART counters to codify the tactical stance of the two sides, but we retained the NQM table 12 winning the firefight for resolving combat. Phil’s movement table was used.

First Bridgehead over the Volkhov

First Bridgehead over the Volkhov

During the course of the game, 33 Rifle made no progress attempting to break into NOVOGOROD, contenting itself with demonstrating outside. 32 Rifle forced a crossing over the River Volkhov, and broke into the main line of 30 Inf, but was forced to withdraw as a spent force. 31 Rifle was more successful, with one of its regiments finding the northern flank of 30 Inf, and bypassing it.

Hier ist die Luftwaffe!

Hier ist die Luftwaffe!

The Luftwaffe  was more active than over LENINGRAD, and succeeded in driving off Sturmovik regiments and inflicting some damage on one of the river crossings, but failing to destroy either.

They Couldn't Hit a Barn Door at this Dist....

They Couldn’t Hit a Barn Door at this Dist….

The month ended with NOVOGOROD surrounded but the Wehrmacht falling back in relatively good order until the Rasputitsa halted all movement in the north for a month.

High Water Mark

High Water Mark

Post Game Ideas that were Discussed:

  1. Allow attacks from troops that share a square edge in common, but not corners.
  2. Ranged support troops (artillery, AA) can be further back.
  3. Air assets can be placed on airfields or baseline at the start of the game. They must roll an appropriate number to activate a sortie (or perhaps get the first one free), then return to base and reactivate when they reach an appropriate score – perhaps reducing the number by one on each subsequent attempt, perhaps not..
  4. Recce and Engineers show hits on their main (E3) or (R3) stand, but the markers can show where the actual effort is going in.
  5. Defences need to be shown in a fairly abstract manner

 

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How is ALAMEIN Shaping up?

7 Armd Div before being slimmed down

The collection of models for ALAMEIN (and later, Tunisia and Italy) is coming on nicely, but I’m hitting some hard limits on (a) storage space,  (b) how much board space I need to lay ALAMEIN out, and (c) the sheer numbers of infantry needed . YesthatPhil previously posited that the players would be happier with a more formal game sequence and squares to help with directions (I believe the original armies had similar problems with maps and compasses), so there may be some mileage in going to NQM Squared.I’m still not a fan of rectilinear military thinking, but if it gets the job done, it’s a compromise that I’m willing to make.

Phil has paved the way there with Megablitz Squared in an elegant blend of NQM and Megablitz, using PBI 6″ squares. In addition, the work that Bob Cordery has put in with The Portable Wargame concept has made squares much more acceptable to players.

My initial sums on the back-of-a-fag-packet led me to believe that the ALAMEIN front of 40miles (65Km) could fit onto a 6.5m tabletop at 10cm per Km (1:10,000). Trebian’s Shedquarter table is 11 feet, or 22 x 6″ (150mm) squares. If the scale is halved to 1:20,000 then that makes a square about 3Km across. A battalion normally holds a frontage of about 1Km or 50mm.

Megablitz divisions are roughly half the size or smaller than those in NQM, but I have been fighting the Eastern Front at between half and 1/3 scale anyway. It would make sense to write orbats for  these army-level games that more accurately reflect what we are actually doing. This makes a lot of sense for 1943 onwards, where on the Eastern Front, the numbers of units increased along with their firepower, but the manpower shrank as the battlefield emptied in response to the increasing lethality of the weapons employed.

This halves my problem for ALAMEIN. It means some sacrifices in orbat chrome to achieve game room for higher level functions, but the die-rolling grind should be halved:

The first simplification is to remove the distinction between support and fighting stands within the infantry battalion. If a battalion is now S3 instead of S6, this no longer matters. The support will sit at regimental level, and headquarters will sit at divisional level.

I will need to make explicit the defence tactic of dispersed defence in depth to reduce the lethality of artillery barrages, whose main effect seemed to be to impose disorganisation on defenders, and disruption/delay on attackers with casualties as a by product. The German defenders at ALAMEIN do not seem to have suffered excessive  casualties from a heavy set piece bombardment conducted to WWI standards of planning by a highly professional artillery arm, but it did stop thenm from interfering with minesweeping and the initial advance.

Divisional supporting battalions such as Anti-aircraft Anti-tank and artillery will have to express their effect over the area of the division. squares should make this easier. This should free up time for logistic matters that are usually ignored when the combat becomes heavy. I have felt for a while now that I only need to track artillery ammunition and fuel for armoured divisions: no-one else ever really reported running out of stuff down at battalion level.

Small markers that don’t really play a part in the came or occupy real estate can be subsumed into units – namely RMP and FOOs. Single figure markers may be useful here.

7 Armd Div Corps Scale Orbat

7 Armoured Division. Corps-Scale Orbat (March 2018)

The first stage is to play a trial game to make sure that the balance between infantry, armour and artillery is still intact.

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Leningrad Counteroffensive (4)

LENINGRAD 4 Guards Rifles North 1

LENINGRAD  – 4 Guards Rifles Assault from the North

As the battle for LENINGRAD moved into the centre of the city, heavy guns from the captured icebound Soviet Fleet came into play.

 

Not Your Run-of-the-Mill Wargame

Not Your Run-of-the-Mill Wargame

LENINGRAD SE

LENINGRAD SE

On the Soviet side, no fewer than three B-4 and B-2 regiments laid down a sustained bombardment of the shrinking German lines. This was the largest concentration of heavy artillery seen since the siege of MOSCOW.

Engineers came into their own, with two bridges proving harder to demolish than their size would suggest. Rolling two successive ones didn’t help either!

LENINGRAD Failed Demolition

Anything but a one!

Second Bridge Demolished in the Nick of Time

Second Bridge Demolished in the Nick of Time

The LENINGRAD garrison continued to be pressed from the north, east and south.  Soviet siege artillery pounded the centre of  the  City into rubble with no respite.

13 MR Assault

13 Motor Rifle Assault

Retreat at the Pace of the Slowest

Retreat at the Pace of the Slowest

The survivors that streamed out of the city were shell-shocked and reduced in numbers by 30-60%, And the attackers fared little better as General Zhukov fed more divisions into the meat grinder.

LENINGRAD City Centre

LENINGRAD City Centre

LENINGRAD City Centre is Retaken

LENINGRAD City Centre is Retaken

The Commander of I Infantry Corps received a LittleFuhrer directive ordering LENINGRAD to be held to the last man. It was already far too late for that, so after ordering a breakout and fallback onto the Oranienbaum position, The Corps Commander joined the final few survivors clinging to the Docks area.

I Corps Commander's Final Stand

I Corps Commander’s Final Stand

He was last seen ordering the destruction of fuel oil and ammunition on the jettys, before being overwhelmed.

I Corps Commander's Final Stand

I Corps Commander’s Final Stand

The Soviets, too, were at the end of their resources, so consolidated their position against counterattacks. A final assault on ORANIENBAUM was repulsed. As the Rasputitsa began its thaw and ice on the NEVA broke up, an uneasy peace settled over the  ruined city of LENINGRAD.

 

Nose to Tail on the ORANIENBAUM Road

Nose to Tail on the ORANIENBAUM Road

Game notes:

The new bases speed things up by making it clearer which battalions belong where in attack and defence. I don’t quite know if I approve of the tidiness, but it makes things faster for the players, so that’s good.

Engineers were vital in this game. Neither side had enough. Normally an engineer base is 1SP; I tripled this to 3SP and things were still tight. I ruled that breaching minefields under fire needed a 4-6 on 1d6 in the first turn, with an accumulating one reduction in second and third turns to 2-6 as a minimum die roll on subsequent rurns.

We started by recording hits by placing a die next to the unit affected, then by placing pin markers at the end of a move. It helped to show the situation during attacks. It is easier to place pins on the new larger bases.

The total playing time worked out at about 8 hours, with an hour at each end setting up and packing down. You are not imagining it if you think that the paint jobs on some of the units became more complete during the game. I took advantage of the layout to touch up a few of my own units during the intervals between games.

I need more ambulances and radio trucks for both sides.

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Axis War Diary, Eastern Front, Land Battles, Soviet Army, Soviet War Diary, Wargames, Wehrmacht, WWII

LENINGRAD Counteroffensive (2)

28 Rifle Div Cross the NEVA with HQ 8 Army

28 Rifle Division Crosses the NEVA with HQ 8 Army

Soviet 8 Army began the offensive from its bridgehead over the Riva NEVA, leading with 27 and 28 Rifle Divisions, and with 4 Guards Rifle Division flanking to the north.

1 Infantry Division defends OSERKI

Resistance from 21 and 11 Infantry divisions was resolute, but the combined weight of air and artillery bombardment, with waves of infantry steadily pushed the defenders out of the position.

 

 

1 Infantry Division Counterattacks Fail to Retake OSERKI

21 Infantry Division Counterattacks Fail to Retake OSERKI

I Infantry Division Repels 4 Guard Rifle Division, but not 28 Rifle Division's Flank Attacks

21 Infantry Division Repels 4 Guard Rifle Division, but not 28 Rifle Division’s Flank Attacks

Regimental level counterattacks failed to regain OSERKI, so a disciplined retreat by bounds of these two largely East Prussian  divisions began, back to the outskirts of LENINGRAD. Meanwhile, the remnants of 21 Infantry Division were reforming in LENINGRAD itself.

I Infantry Division loses OSERKI to 28 Rifle Division and 4 Guards Rifle Division

21 Infantry Division loses OSERKI to 28 Rifle Division and 4 Guards Rifle Division

9 Cavalry Division and 13 Motor Rifle Division Advance

9 Cavalry Division and 13 Motor Rifle Division Advance

On the ORANIENBAUM axis, 9 Cavalry and 13 Motor Rifle divisions made steady progress, against 58 Infantry division.

9 Cavalry Division Pounds 58 Infantry Division with Airstrikes

9 Cavalry Division Pounds 58 Infantry Division with Airstrikes

Ground was given up grudgingly by the Lower Saxon Landser, but in the winter landscape, the Soviet cavalry were in their element.

9 Cavalry Division in Pursuit of 58 Infantry Division

9 Cavalry Division in Pursuit of 58 Infantry Division

LENINGRAD from the South

LENINGRAD from the South

To be continued …

Game Notes:

Observant readers will notice that the Marder III from “Prelude to Leningrad” has morphed into a SiG 33. Phil generously gave it to me, so it only seemed fair to use it against him!

Spot the T-28 and T-35s. They have been sitting patiently in their boxes waiting for LENINGRAD for ages. Don’t they look splendid?

We counted minefields as Medium due to the snow, rather than their usual heavy attack when units cross them.

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Soviet Winter Offensive Jan 1943 Desantny

The Soviet Winter Offensive taxed the Luftwaffe to the limit, with servicability dropping as ground crews struggled in atrocious conditions to keep airframes ready for operations, and airstrips clear for flying.

Tante Ju

One such airfield (Flugplatz Lotti) near VELIKIE LUKIE, was thought to be safely beyond the reach of the enemy. It contained four Geschwäder : JG 54 (Bf 109), KG76 (Ju 88), StG 1 (Ju 87), KG zbV 102 (Ju 52) and a NaGruppe with Uhus.

Flugplatz Lotti

See Phil’s blog for his thoughts on the use of Soviet desantny forces. The two regiments that he deployed brought with them T-60 tanks and the spearhead of the tank and mechanised corps that had broken through from VYSHNY VOLOCHYOK.

The Outer Defences of Lotti are Assailed

Although the Airfield was defended by two reduced regiments of well-armed Luftwaffe ground troops, their morale was simply not up to the task of holding the airfield. An undignified scramble of aircraft and logistic units exiting the base was observed as the unlucky defenders desperately hung on to the perimeter

Logistic Units Scramble for Safety

Before long, Soviets were swarming over the airfield. They have been doing that a lot of late. Casualties were heavy

Game Notes

YesThatPhil got the chance to showcase his new Peter Pig Soviet Scouts. I gave my rebased Luftwaffe field division its second airing. It behaved commendably badly, as one might epect. The air base was laid out in advance and Phil’s brief was:

“commit what you think that you need to take the airfield.”

He finished the job in about an hour of playing, which enabled the whole scenario to be finished from start to finish in about two hours. Coffee, chocolate, cheese and biscuits stopped anyone from starving.

I rated the Luftwaffe division as conscript and the Soviets as veteran.

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