Reading Roundup

Summer is now long past but I haven’t as yet resumed painting toy soldiers and I don’t have much inclination to do so at the moment. However, I have acquired some new books over the past few months. The first of these was “Great Military Disasters from Bannockburn to Stalingrad” by Julian Spilsbury. It proved to be an accessible read that gives some interesting perspectives on how great military disasters arise. While the causes prove to be many, good old human incompetence tops the list. Of course the book equally demonstrates how great victories were achieved by the opposing forces, and it certainly proves what a perilous undertaking it is committing your forces to battle.

Great Military Disasters

Next on my list of new books is “Wargaming an Introduction” by Neil Thomas. As the name suggests it provides an introduction to wargaming the major periods from Ancients to WW2. It also provides some excellent rules for gaming each of those. I read this book some nine years ago when I borrowed it from the local library. I enjoyed reading the book then and appreciated the elegance of the rules. The book still stands up as an enjoyable read and rules are still well-designed even all these years later.

I was prompted to buy “Wargaming an Introduction” after reading some online reviews of the WW2 rules it contained. I had been looking for a set of WW2 rules that weren’t too tortuous to play. I have played the WW2 rules contained in “One Hour Wargames” by Neil Thomas and enjoyed them immensely but I wanted to try something that could handle larger and more varied forces. I haven’t as yet used the “Wargaming an Introduction” WW2 rules but I look forward to doing so.

Wargaming an Introduction

“The Battles of Tolkien” by David Day I picked up in a local bookshop. It is a beautiful book to behold with its many gorgeous illustrations and faux tooled leather cover. The book came plastered with the warning “This work is unofficial and is not authorized by the Tolkien Estate or HarperCollins Publishers”. However, it proved an interesting read that more addressed what inspired Tolkien’s depictions of warfare in Middle Earth than an analysis of the weapons and structure of the forces involved. More care should have been taken in the preparation and production of the text in “The Battles of Tolkien” as there are some issues with its clarity and typography. The battle maps could also have been clearer. Despite that, the book is a handy reference and would bejewel any bookshelf.

Battles of Tolkien

My most recent acquisition is “The Soldier” by Chris McNab and was procured from ABE Books for a tiny sum. I bought this book after reading a very comprehensive review of it on the Man of Tin blog. The edition I have was only published last year and is very up to date. The book endeavours to describe the personal experiences of soldiers from the Seven Years War to present conflicts. It is a really well put together book filled with useful information and excellent illustrations and detailed colour plates of uniformed soldiers. It is best described as an “Eyewitness Guide” style book for adults.

The Soldier

Advertisements

Napoleonic Voltigeurs and a Small Mishap.

I completed the 40mm French Napoleonic voltigeurs some time ago but only finally varnished and photographed them in December of last year, so I thought it was about time I actually posted them. I am very pleased with how they turned out as they capture the shiny toy soldier look rather well. The figures are home cast from Zinnbrigade moulds and painted with acrylics and then gloss varnished.

voltigeurs-front

voltigeurs-rear

The voltigeurs will join the nascent French army opposing the equally growing Tasmanian and Imperial forces.  They will of course, and despite any anachronisms, participate in future battle games involving a fictitious Victorian conflict after the fashion of “The Great War in England in 1897” by William Le Queux.

voltigeurs-march

voltigeurs-advancing

On a more frustrating note, a few hours before I prepared this post I was moving stuff around and managed drop a tin full of the 20mm WWII British that I posted about last November. It proved to be something of a disaster as I now have a tin full of figures with chipped paint and bent weapons. There is also one figure that will probably require some deft work with the soldering iron. The temptation is simply to ditch the figures and buy replacements to paint or to strip them back entirely and repaint them from scratch.

I have, for the moment, set them aside until I can do an assessment with a calm analytical eye. I may simply get away with careful retouching of the damage but it is still immensely disheartening. Needless to say it will be a long while before my WWII British will be ready to take to the field again.

Battledress Brown, Hedges and a Highland Fling.

With an impending WWII game, I felt that I should finally finish some British for Normandy and the European theatre.  The figures are, I believe, old Hinchcliffe 20mm that I bought of EBay a couple of years ago and promptly stored them. Most of the figures are riflemen in various poses, with one officer and a PIAT. I originally had not intended to paint them as I thought they were already painted to a reasonable standard but I noticed the paint work was worn in a few places and one thing led to another. I completed the repaint back at the start of the year but have only just flocked the bases.

ww2-british

advancing-british

british-firing

en-garde

piat  british-officer

I have also recently completed some hedges. I made four lengths of hedge from an old unused luffa sponge.  It had been knocking about in a draw for quite a few years while I worked out the best way of turning it into a useful piece of terrain. I cut the sponge into quarters along the axis and then glued the pieces to MDF. I added some gravel to texture the bases and help conceal the bottom of the hedge. I spray painted the lot in dark brown and then over painted it to provide some contrast. Finally I flocked the top of the hedge and the base. The photo below is a sample to show how they turned out.

hedge

Last weekend my wonderful wife and I went to see the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards in concert and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, my darling wife being particularly enamoured with men in kilts. The theatre was fully packed and the audience very appreciative of the performance, resulting in two encores. There was plenty of singing, sword dancing, piping and drumming, to stir the blood. Indeed it has taken a full week to get one my favourite tunes, “The Black Bear”, out my head.

Airfix Bren Gun Carrier and 6pdr Anti-Tank Gun

I am generally not keen on building model kits as I don’t normally find the process relaxing. It is something to be endured. However, late last year during a rare trip to Launceston I acquired the old Airfix Bren Gun Carrier and 6pdr Anti-Tank Gun in 1:76 scale with the intention of adding it to my small WWII British force.  I thought the process of putting the kit together would be particularly painful as the sprues for such old kits are often derived from somewhat less than perfectly engraved moulds.

I was surprised to find (amidst a wave of nostalgia) that I pleasantly enjoyed building this model kit, even with its wonky parts. I suspect the simplicity of the kit made making adjustments to the parts so they fitted together less of bothersome.  The kit was an easy build and a delight to paint. I am pleased with how the carrier and gun (with crew) turned out. So now they are completed, the carrier and 6pdr anti-tank gun are ready to take on the might of the German panzer divisions.

6 Pounder and Carrier

AT gun and tow.jpg

Bren Carrier

One Hour Wargames Double Feature AAR

I have previously reviewed on this blog “One Hour Wargames: Practical Tabletop Battles for those with Limited Time and Space” by Neil Thomas. Last week I was at last able put some of the rules and a couple of scenarios from the book to the test with my friend John of Jacksarge’s Wargames Ramblings. Our field of battle was a round dining table just under four feet in diameter and covered with a green blanket and terrain features. We played two games; one late morning and one in the early afternoon. I photographed both games, although some the pictures are a bit blurry they do show the general course of the battles quite well.

WW2 Game
Our first action of the day was fought using the World War 2 rules and scenario 14 from “One Hour Wargames”. The premise of the scenario is the static defence of two terrain features; one a hill and the other a town. The defenders had to remain in control of both for fifteen turns, with two units always within 12” of each of the features. Both sides consisted of six units of 1/72 tanks, support weapons and infantry. The resulting game was an all-out firefight that ended by about turn 8. John had the British force while I had the Germans.

At the start of the game the British occupied the ruined town with one infantry unit, with support provided by the nearby mortar and AT gun. One infantry squad held the woods in the centre of the table, while another was held in reserve near the hill at the back of the battlefield. A Cromwell Mk IV held the hill.

Turn one after the Germans have deployed.

Turn one after the Germans have deployed.

First turn of the WW2 game saw the Germans deploy onto the table and immediately come under heavy fire from the already deployed British. Turn two saw a general German advance with one infantry unit attacking the British occupied town, while the other two attacked the defended woods. The two stugs moved forward to engage the lone Cromwell.

Turn two and the Germans attack.

Turn two and the Germans attack.

By turn four the British had eliminated one of the attacking German squads. One German unit had entered the ruined town and attacked the British unit entrenched there. A second unit entered the wooded area and took on the British there. The two German Stugs had moved forward and engaged the Cromwell on the hill top doing significant damage but failing to destroy it. One Stug was destroyed by return fire from the Cromwell and the rapidly redeployed AT gun.

Turn four and the German attackbegins to falter.

Turn four and the German attack begins to falter.

By turn six the second Stug had fallen prey to the combined fire power of the Cromwell and AT gun and the German squad fighting in the town had been destroyed. Turn eight saw the last German infantry squad eliminated and a British victory.

Turn six and the German attack is stopped.

Turn six and the German attack is stopped.

Turn eight and British victory!

Turn eight and British victory!

Napoleonic Game
After a quick change of scenery we played the second game using the horse and musket rules found in the book. We used the army generator also found in the book to create both forces of six units each of 15mm Napoleonics. This game, scenario 9, was a double delaying action based on the Battle of Wavre. John’s British had the difficult task of remaining in control of the town while withdrawing 3 units. A unit had to be withdrawn of the table by the 4th, 8th and 12th turns respectively. The French were tasked with delaying the withdrawal or seizing the town. This game was hard fought and ran almost the full 15 turns, with final victory for the British resting on the success of one last volley.

The British began the game already deployed with one unit of skirmishers and one unit of infantry in the town. A second unit of skirmishers occupied the woods further up the river, overlooking a ford. Support was provided by another infantry unit near the ford. A gun battery was placed on the hill to the rear of the British deployment zone and a further infantry unit straddled the road to the rear of the town.

Turn one British positions.

Turn one British positions.

During turn one the French arrived on the battlefield and immediately advanced three units of infantry towards the town. An artillery battery held the French centre while a unit of French cavalry and a unit of infantry advanced towards the ford. The British responded by opening fire with the artillery and the units deployed in the town and further up the river.

Turn three saw the French flanking force reach the ford, putting the cavalry within striking distance of the British infantry situated there. The British infantry unit reacted by forming square. The British defending the town kept up the exchange of volleys with French infantry endeavouring to assault the town.

Turn three and the French reach the ford.

Turn three and the French reach the ford.

The fourth turn saw one of the French units involved in the attempt to take the town destroyed. One of the other remaining French infantry units was sent to support the more successful advance of the flanking force. The British infantry in square was also eliminated by the fire from the French flanking force and the artillery battery. The British infantry on the road withdrew off the table in accordance with the scenario requirements. The French cavalry, after crossing the ford, kept up their advance towards the British artillery on the hill.

During turn five the British skirmishers in the wood retired towards the hill at their rear. The French cavalry charged the British gun battery, while the rest of the flanking force followed on. The town remained hotly contested. Over the next couple of turns the French cavalry repeatedly charged the British artillery and were repulsed. The British skirmishers continued their withdrawal to the hill.

Turn five and the French Cavalry charge!

Turn five and the French cavalry charge!

The British battery withdrew off the table during turn seven and was replaced on the hill top by the skirmishers. These were also able to beat off a further attack by the French cavalry before continuing their own withdrawal off the table. The British skirmishers in the town succumbed to French artillery fire, leaving only one British infantry unit holding on.

Turn seven and the French flanking force breaks through.

Turn seven and the French flanking force breaks through.

The French infantry unit attacking the town from across the river was eliminated by turn eight. With turn nine the French cavalry left the table in pursuit of the escaped British, while the remaining French flanking forces and the artillery turned their attention to capturing the town. Despite being out numbered the British stoutly defended the town and inflicted punishing casualties on the attacking French during turns ten and eleven. The French artillery limbered up during turn ten and forded the river.

Turn nine the French attack the town.

Turn nine the French attack the town.

Turn twelve saw the intense fight for the town continue with one of the remaining French infantry units being eliminated. The limbered French artillery kept up their advance. By turn thirteen the last British unit was only three points away from its break point of fifteen. However they managed to survive the French fusillade and in return delivered a devastating volley that destroyed the last French infantry unit. So with the French no longer able to seize the town, the British were victorious.

Turn thirteen and the British die hards are victorious!

Turn thirteen and the British die hards are victorious!

My Further thoughts on “One Hour Wargames: Practical Tabletop Battles for those with Limited Time and Space” (see my earlier review).

“One Hour Wargames” proved great fun. The rules, although simple and relatively abstract, do manage to convey some sense of playing a particular period while delivering a fast paced game. The scenarios provide some depth to the games and present real challenges to the players. “One Hour Wargames” are a very practical solution for those wanting to play an engaging wargame to a conclusion, while having a good laugh. “One Hour Wargames can also be a useful “toolbox” for those wanting to produce more detailed but still (hopefully) fast play variant rules such as those currently to be found on the Ancient & Medieval Wargaming Yahoo Group which is the discussion group for all of Neil Thomas’s rules and books.

A WWII Mule

It has been a few months since my last post as I generally take a break from martial pursuits over the summer months. However, I have still managed to indulge my interest in wargaming. First off, I have finally completed a German Opel Maultier (the mule of the title) that has been sitting around for ages.
The Maultier (pictured below) is a resin kit that I bought some time ago and which then sat around in a draw for about a year as I am not fond of building vehicle kits. I built and painted it six months ago before finally giving it a coat of matte varnish recently. This particular vehicle will be added to my logistical train and is destined to pull guns for my WWII German force.

Completed Opel Maultier

Completed Opel Maultier

The Opel Maultier was a halftrack conversion of the Opel Blitz truck that was widely used by the German Army in WWII in both the eastern and western theatres. The Germans began to convert some trucks to halftracks in 1942 after their experience in Russia where they found that tracked vehicles coped better with the winter snow and poor roads of Russia.
My collection of WWII armoured vehicles was also increased a few weeks ago by the purchase of two new diecast tanks. The first was a Cromwell Mk. IV that will support my small WWII British force. The second vehicle is a Panzer IV G and will be added to my German army. I have developed quite a decent sized German armoured division and if it ever manages to be fielded all at once is likely to make its opponents quake in their little lead and plastic boots.

Achtung!

The Propaganda Ministry is pleased to announce that German arms have won a great victory for the Reich. I was going to write further about my 15mm Napoleonics but recently my old friend John, of Jacksarge’s Wargames Ramblings fame, came over for a game of “Battlegroup Overlord”. It had been quite a while since either of us had played any WWII games, in my case over a year. So it was an instance of relearning the rules all over again. It was to prove a long, slow task for the permanently befuddled. Despite that, it was all good fun.

Operations started well for John’s British as they had the most reconnaissance units and out scouted the Germans. They quickly occupied the two closest objectives and proceeded to use their mortars to inhibit the initial German deployment and pinned the lone Puma that had seized an objective located within an old German defence work. Fortunately, due to John’s woefully poor dice rolls, the British shelling achieved very little. However the German response did a surprising amount of damage even though their mortar shells went wildly off target. It certainly made the British scatter. The Germans speedily deployed from their hanomags, occupied a second objective and formed a defensive perimeter.

The most interesting encounter of the entire game occurred when my lone Panzer IV was unable to get a clear shot at a Churchill. My command hanomag, equipped with a 37mm gun, was sent forward in hope of a lucky shot to destroy the Churchill. The shot completely failed to penetrate but still managed to disable the tank when I rolled a double one on the dice (snake eyes). This was a situation that we hadn’t encountered before. Sadly the hanomag was blown up by return fire.

After some hours of gaming, and despite a leisurely lunch, both of us were quite fatigued (neither of us being young men any more), so called it quits. We totalled the chits drawn during the game and found that John’s British were ahead by 5 points; however our forces were both a long way from their break points. In reality the game could have gone either way if we had kept playing but the Propaganda Ministry is claiming it as a victory.

I took photos of the game in progress but due to my extremely limited photography skills only a few were worth putting on the blog. John also took some photos and can be viewed on his blog Jacksarge’s Wargames Ramblings .

A view from the British deployment zone.

A view from the British deployment zone.

The British begin moving out from their deployment zone.

The British begin moving out from their deployment zone.

A view of the German deployment zone.

A view of the German deployment zone.

The kubelwagen is a vintage diecast from my childhood wars, while the two Mat

The kubelwagen, on the right, is a vintage diecast from my childhood wars, while the two Matchbox figures beside it are also veterans of those same wars.

German mortar fire went wide but still inflicted serious casualties.

German mortar fire went wide but still inflicted serious casualties.

The Germans rapidly deployed from their hanomags.

The Germans rapidly deployed from their hanomags.

The Germans using the cover of the bocage and formed an effective perimeter.

The Germans using the cover of the bocage formed an effective perimeter.

The command hanomag takes  on a Churchill.

The command hanomag takes on a Churchill.