Sunday, 31 May 2009

Invasion! Operation Sealion 1940

Living in Kent and with a fascination for the Second World War I have been interested in Operation Sealion, the planned German invasion, for some time. Accordingly, I keep an eye out for any new material on the subject. I actually bought Martin Marix Evans' book a little while ago but have had quite a few books ahead of it on my reading list (as you will have noticed if you follow my Shelfari shelf).

I finished reading it yesterday and so I thought I write a quick outline of the book and my thoughts on it.

The book is split into two parts; Part 1 covers the history leading up to the planned invasion and Part 2 is a conjectural description of the invasion itself had it been launched.

The first part begins on 1 September 1939 and covers the successful invasions of Norway, the Low Countries and France. At first this might seem to be widening the scope of the book somewhat, or if you are a bit of a cynic padding; however, the narrative is clear and provides a useful context to Sealion.

The second part assumes a September invasion and covers the period from 9 to 29 September 1940. It makes a number of quite plausible assumptions and tries to weave real deployment, defences and plans with the conjectural landings and subsequent advance inland.

Whilst the book brings together a good amount of useful information and the conjectural invasion is interesting it doesn't really add very much to the material already published. The invasion is nicely described, although some maps would have made following the narrative easier, and provides some nice low level encounters which anchor it.

Overall I was a little disappointed, not because this is a bad book, it isn't, but rather because it could have been so much more. As it is the book is worth reading if you don't have a library of other material on the subject (which I do) although I did think the ending of the second part could have been handled a little more imaginatively.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Onwards from Beersheba, November 1917

I managed to get along to the club on Thursday and Eric the Spy put on a 15mm WW1 game using Great War Spearhead.

I like the basic WW2 Spearhead rules (although you do need to turn the Germans stats down from invincible!) and the Great War amendments are interesting but the way they have laid out the supplement is just a pain! Unlike Modern Spearhead they chose to produce a separate supplement which isn't stand alone. You are constantly finding yourself being referred back to the original rules which, for in game reference, is hopeless.

The game itself was fun with me taking command of the camelry and attacking up the right flank with Ben and Crazy Dave advancing with the infantry and artillery in the centre. We also had a slightly sneaky flank march by the cavalry (which was very late arriving many due to my dodgy dice rolling).

As we started our attack at night visibility was initially restricted and so I managed to stumble into some barbed wire fronting some entrenched Turks (with machine guns of course!). We took some serioud casualties on the lead unit both from artillery and the infantry who were in the trenches but managed to dismount and start to hit back. Fortunately the Turks had anchored their flank on a wood rather than running their line through it and so my dismounted infantry were able to advance through it an outflank their position.

Meanwhile our main thrust was encountering some resistance from the Turks in the centre but giving as good as they got.

The Turks chose to aim their reinforcements at my outflanking troops rather than bolstering the centre and so the game ended in a British victory albeit a costly one.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

SELWG is back!

It looks like the SELWG show at Crystal Palace will be back on this year on the 18th of October. It has always been one of my favourites with a good range of traders, games and not too crowded. Unfortunately the leisure centre in which they have traditionally held it hasn't been available for the last couple of years (due to asbestos or something) and I have really missed the show.

There's not much on the SELWG site, other than the announcement that the show is back on, at the moment but it will be worth keeping an eye on if you're interested.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Project Update

I thought I would give an update on the progress (or otherwise) of the various projects for this year:

28mm Winter War
The Soviets are now complete and I finished the second Bolt Action Miniatures building for Lenin's last visit but I still have the Snapdragon revetments to paint up, mainly due to running out of suitable undercoat - something I hope to remedy this week.

28mm Spanish Civil War
I have the Assaltos, Carlists, Moroccan Regulares, the Falange and a few Republicans on the workbench at the moment and hope to make some progress on finishing their basing today. I also have the armoured truck to finish painting, although I'm not entirely happy with progress to date. The Grand Manner church is still on the wish list!

28mm WW1
With virtually all the figures now complete and based - I only have to finish off a couple of HMGs and the German field artillery piece (which is proving more difficult to assemble than its British counterpart) - its clear that putting on a game does provide the impetus to getting this stuff done.

The new Lardies supplement, Stout Hearts & Iron Troopers, has prompted me to review the figures I have and, as usual when you get a new supplement, I've found I need a few more figures. This is mainly for my late war ranges, which is a shame as they are all Brigade figures and the exchange rates is somewhat less favourable than it was. But I can sense an order coming on...

28mm Irish War of Independence
I still have the Sloppy Jalopy armoured car to assemble as it is needs a lot more work than the other vehicles I have made up recently. The resin is a pretty coarse moulding and lacks anything in the way of holes or marks for the white metal parts to be fixed to. Plus the white metal wheels simply don't fit onto the axles and so they will require drilling out. I'm hoping it will be worth the effort.

I do now have my Musketeer BEF, which just need basing, which can be used for regulars as well as for the 1938 project. I won't be able to mix them with the Renegade early war figures though as they are markedly different in size. The Lancia armoured truck is going together pretty well and I hope to have that finished soon - although the steering wheel doesn't have any mounting point and a couple of the smaller parts are a bit fiddly.

28mm Tudor Irish
No real progress here again. I have had some ideas about the rules - some prompted by the Lardies new sets, Sharp Practice in particular. But, being honest, I can see this not really progressing until later in the year.

28mm Early WW2
The Foundry and Crusader British and German figures are back now and I have started the basing process, although they are now in the queue behind the SCW stuff. I am hoping to get the French figures back shortly too and I can see a game in the offing. Although I'm not sure whether it will be France or Sealion - the latter being the most probable since I am reading a book on the subject!

28mm 1938 A Very British Civil War
I am hoping to get the Musketeer BUF and Police back shortly and am slowly amassing a militia force as they make new releases. I think I will probably put a game on with these figures for Lenin's next visit using a combination of the Crusader WW2 (as regulars), BEF (as Territorials) and some IRA plus SCW figures as the opposition. With the possibility I may throw a few suitable Pulp figures in too. Rules and the current question as to whether to go with Chain Reaction 3.0 or to go for a larger game and use Through the Mud & the Blood given the content of the Triumphant Standards supplement.

28mm Wild West
Having put on a game for Lenin's last visit I think I've really got this where I wanted for this year. Six Gun Sound worked well as the rule set - even though I did get a pasting in both the games we played! My next task is to review the Dixons figures I have and see which ones will fit with the new Brigade ones and whether any rebasing is necessary.

28mm Polar Bear Expedition
This really hasn't advanced since I got the HLBS figures - although I see Tiger have bought the range now so they won't be going away. I'm thinking this will become a wider RCW project using the Musketeer WW1 Russian figures for whites and probably getting some Copplestone figures to add to Lenin's for the Reds. I'm waiting for Musketeer to release the Russians in greatcoats before pushing this one forward too much. TTM&TB is likely to be the preferred ruleset which will dictate the figure numbers needed

28mm Greek Myth
Still no real progress here as Lenin is snowed under with other stuff and so they'll be a little while yet.

28mm Napoleonics

I am currently packing up the Front Rank figures for dispatch to the painter having cleaned them up a little. After having had another go with Sharp Practice recently I'm keen to get these ones to the table.

Other Ideas
I am having my usual problem of spotting new projects before I have finished the current ones. I have been good and haven't yet bought any new figures but the time will come. The new ideas include:

WW1 Italian Front: Using the new Brigade Games figures (Paul Hicks again!) which look superb. I understand that North Star may be stocking these later in the year so I am using that as an excuse not to progress this at the moment. My only investment here so far has been in a book.

WW2 Eastern Front: This has been an idea since I picked up my winter Germans and so far I have a couple of figures and a T34 but have been holding off until I decided which range of Soviets to go with as each of BAM and Artizan have their advantages; however, only Black Tree seems to do figures with specific winter coveralls - other than scouts. I would like to plan this out so it will provide me an other opportunity to use my Brigade Gebirgsjaegers too.

Freikorps: Having some late WW1 Germans gives me some of the figures for this but I would need more appropriate civilians and also have to make up some suitable urban terrain too. I have spotted some potential figures from Copplestone and Artizan but the urban terrain is likely to hold this one back for a little while anyway.

WW2 Normandy: I have a couple of books on the US troops which have provided plenty of inspiration and I do have some suitable vehicles already but this could be an expensive project as I will need some more appropriate opposition as the Germans I do have a really focussed on early war.

WW2 Poland: I would love to get some Poles as I already have the appropriate SkimishCampaigns book, albeit that no one really does the suitable figures for the Black Brigade. The BAM Poles are nice but without some anti-tank support they're not quite complete enough for me to start this yet (well that's the excuse I using at the moment!)

WW2 Norway: I may try to do this with my existing figures but it would be nice to get some more suitable ones to mix in and I'm not entirely happy about using Finns as Norwegians but since no-one seems to do the figures in 28mm...

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Workers Militia

Paul Hicks and Musketeer Miniatures have been at it again. Here are some pics of their upcoming workers militia for 1938:

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Stout Hearts & Iron Troopers

Having liked Through the Mud & the Blood after our first playtest I was keen to get the first official WW1 scenario booklet from the TooFatLardies when it came out.

Stout Hearts & Iron Troopers is available PDF direct from the Lardies and packs quite a lot into its 88 pages. After a brief introduction the next section is entitled "Basic Training" and provides some background and basic WW1 tactics. This is followed by "Training the Entente" which encompasses four training scenarios which allow you to get familar with the different Allied troop types and the appropriate tactics. These scenarios cover an attack on a strongpoint, attacking between trench lines, clearing a village and an infantry assault with tank support. The first three are at platoon strength whilst the latter involves at least two platoons and three tanks although a larger version could also be played.

The next section, "Training the Imperial German Army", includes two scenarios designed to introduce you to the German troops and tactics. These cover attacking a strongpoint and an entrenched position.

Following the introductory scenarios are fourteen historical scenarios spanning the full length os the war with two from 1914, one from 1915, four in 1916, two in 1917 and the remaining four in 1918.

Each scenario contains an introduction, a briefing for each side, the units available, a map, some umpire's notes, the cards required and an outline of the historical outcome. The scenarios do vary in both size and composition, so they may not all be playable with the troops you already have but make interesting reading nonetheless.

Unfortunately the use of coloured page backgrounds throughout do not make the booklet particularly printer friendly and some minor typos are annoying; however, this is a very nicely researched and presented book packed with useful and interesting background information and scenarios.

New Boardgames

After playing yet another enjoyable game of Commands & Colo(u)rs: Ancients with Lenin during our last wargame weekend, I decided it was time to upgrade the weakest part of the game - the board. Unfortunately, GMT Games decided to include their usual thin card board with the original game and it does let it down a bit - not least by not laying flat.

Fortunately both Expansions 2 and 3 both contain the thicker board and so you do have some options in this regard. I did consider getting Expansion 3, which at £15 is the cheaper of the two, on its own but as the scenarios in it need the blocks from Expansion 2 it seemed a bit of a false economy; however, Expansion 3 does contain the epic rules and four epic scenarios which needs two board put together. Another dilemma.

In the end I decided to throw caution to the winds and bought both. Possibly a little extravagant but it does give me the better board I wanted and the option to play epic games, with up to 8 players, as well as all the new scenarios which can be found in both sets.

Expansion 2, Rome vs the Barbarians, has the new thicker board, around 330 new blocks, some additional terrain tiles, a couple of quick reference sheets and a rule book with 23 new scenarios including several with Spartacus and also a couple in Britain.

I have to say I don't relish having to apply the stickers to the blocks, one to each side, and decided to start on the smalle number of blocks in Expansion 3 first.

As with all the Expansions you need a copy of the original game to play as you don't get the dice, cards or sufficient terrain tiles in these ones in order to play the scenarios.

Expansion 3, Roman Civil Wars, has somewhat less in it than number 2 which probably shouldn't be a surprise as it is half the price. It still comes in the same sized and very good quality box though.

This one has the new thicker board, an additional 120 or so blocks, 19 scenarios for the traditional game, the epic rules and four epic scenarios along with another two quick reference sheets.

The epic rules allow you to place two board together (they have one side as the traditional board and one designed to marry up with another board to make a new wider, 26 x 9 hex layout needed). This allows you to play with up to 8 players, three field commanderS (left, centre and right) and an army commander per side. The rules are the same as the original game with the exception that the army commander can select three cards and distribute them to the field commanders to use. In addition, some of the cards are designated as army cards and so can only be played by the army commander. You don't need 8 players and could play with just two if you wanted though.

I'm really looking forward to getting an epic game arranged but, in the meantime, the new board and scenarios will make a big difference.

Whilst I was ordering the C&C expansions I decided to pick up a copy of the new Days of Wonder game, Small World. This is their version of the game Vinci but with slightly simpler rules and a fantasy theme.

Scott Nicholson has done one of his excellent reviews on Board Games with Scott and it was this which persuaded me that Small World would be worth getting. The game is essentially a land grab but with some difficult decisions to be made as to which race to take (each has their own strengths) and with special powers which change each game. You also need to decide when to put a race into decline and move onto a new one. Scott has a very through run through of the game play if you would like more detail.

We've only had one game so far but it was a lot of fun.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Battle of Madrid: First Day, 08 November 1938

I managed to get along to the club on Thursday to play some Spanish Civil War in 15mm using the Triumph of the Will rules. Bronze produced his superbly painted Peter Pig figures, including some nice Falange conversions, and we set up the table for the first day of the Battle of Madrid.

Playing to type I elected to fight on the Nationalist side under the command of Eric the Spy. We were playing across the table with our objective being the capture of one of the three bridges over the River Manzanares, one bridge at each end of the table and the third in the centre. We were attacking across the Casa de Campo, an old royal hunting park, which was lightly wooded. Accordingly to our intelligence Republican resistance was expected to be light, something we took with a heavy pinch of salt!

Our plan was to advance two battalions through the Casa de Campo towards the central bridge with the main thrust with the main force of infantry, artillery and tanks aimed at the northern bridge. Our aim was for the central force to pin down any Republican forces defending the central bridge and delay any reinforcements that they could redeploy from either their or the southern bridge towards our main point of attack.

As it turned out the intelligence had somewhat underestimated the Republican forces and all three bridges were defended with troops heavily dug in at the central bridge.

The Santiago de Compostela Carlist Requete leading the central assault took heavy casualties from the Republicans but managed to keep their attention. The Juventud Cristiana Falange battalion reinforcing them also came under fire, both from the same source and from troops they tried to redeploy from the southern end once our plan became clear.

We began our assault on the northern bridge with the Avila and Sevilla Peninsular Army infantry battalions followed up by the 1st Foreign Legion bandera and an artillery battery. The third wave consisted of the 2nd and 3rd Tabors of Tetuan Moroccan regulares, the Condor Legion tanks and a second artillery battery. The Avila battalion ran into heavy fire from Crazy Dave and his anarchists, who were defending the bridge, and suffered some serious casualties. The Sevilla battalion was slightly behind having to advance through part of the Casa de Campo. But with the help of the Legion in the second wave we managed to inflict some serious damage to Dave and resistance on our side of the river in front of the bridge began to fade. We were still taking fire from the forces dug in defending the central bridge and from the other side of the river though. However, once the tanks got into action their machine gun fire was pretty devastating.

In the end we managed to clear the anarchist resistance and Peter advanced the Moroccans across the bridge for a Nationalist victory.

In the post battle analysis it became clear that the Republicans only had a poorly rated CinC which really hampered their ability to change orders from hold to a more aggressive posture and hence to redeploy them. Had they been able to we would have been in for an even stiffer fight. As it was we had sustained some serious casualties.

There was some debate as to the effectiveness of the PzIs which, with their twin MGs, were a potent fire platform especially as I was using all three together. The big weakness with armour is usually in close assault but with the Republicans being cut down before getting to that point they became a very effective tool.

Our plan had been influenced by my experience from having used the rules before for Russian Civil War where concentrating your forces and using wave attacks had been most effective. I was a little concerned as to whether this was entirely appropriate for SCW but Bronze outlined that, in the original battle, it was the tactics which had been used on the second day after the Nationalists had been defeated on the first because they had spread their forces too thinly.

All in all a fun game.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Gaming Weekend - The Photos

Here's a slideshow of the photos from our recent gaming weekend:

The Picasa album can be found here.

Gaming Weekend - Day Three

Air Assault on Cemetery Hill, 20 May 1941
For our third and final day we used Lenin's desert terrain mat and the figures he had been frantically painting on the day before the weekend.

The scenario was an adapted version of one from the SkirmishCampaigns booklet and involved a German parachute drop where the drop zone was between some Greek and New Zealand troops (whose presence and strength were a bit of a surprise to the Fallschirmsjaeger) with the objective of capturing the nearby cemetery hill.

The drop went well with the Fallschirmsjaeger not too widely scattered but unluckily for them a large number landed in the open in front of a Kiwi bren gun team. Their main problem was that the German dropped with only small arms with all the larger weapons (SMGs, riles, LMGs etc.) in separate containers. The paras took some serious casualties trying to retreive their weapons before being able to supress the Kiwi squad overlooking their position and using the cover to avoid the attentions of the bren gun team. With only about half of their number left they then advanced on cemetary hill which was being held by the Greeks. Fortunately these were lower rep troops and, after a short firefight, the hill was taken.

In this case the troops were all from Crusader and the rules were Two Hour Wargames' Chain Reaction 3.0.

The Third Droid
Our final tabletop game was a three act scenario using Rattrap's Fantastic Worlds rules and some figures from Lenin's extensive collection of 25mm Star Wars miniatures.

According to the scenario Episode 4: A New Hope failed to show that a third droid had been jettisoned from Princess Leia's ship with other Imperial plans. This one had made planetfall in a remote hidden valley on Tatooine.

The first encounter saw a unit of stormtroopers and another of rebels looking for a guide to lead them to the hidden valley. With both sides wanting to avoid a confrontation which might have eliminated the guide in the crossfire the rebels found the Gamorrean guide first and left being followed by the Imperial troops.

The second act opened with the two groups looking for the rock formation which showed the way into the hidden valley. Unfortunately there were a number of Tusken Raiders waiting to ambush unsuspecting visitors. After a little skirmish the rebels managed to find the rock formation and the two groups made their way into the valley.

The final act saw the rebels and stormtroopers in a desperate race to find the droid amongst some ancient ruins. Unfortunately they were not alone in the ruins. It turns out that Jabba the Hutt didn't have the only Rancor on the planet! The stormtroopers stumbled into some more sand people and whilst they were fighting them off the rebels found the droid. A heroic fight between a Jedi and the Rancor gave the rebels time to escape with the droid despite taking, and indeed causing, some casualties.

We finished the weekend of gaming with a game of Ticket to Ride using the original rules but with the larger USA 1910 expansion cards (including the Mystery Train ones).

I'll follow up with a post linking to the photos from the weekend.