Sunday, 31 May 2009

Colonial Wargaming website update

Whilst at Firepower (the Royal Artillery Museum) today, I noticed a new exhibit – a 2-barrelled 0.303” Gardner machine gun on a tripod mount. I have added what little data I could glean about it to the Machine Gun page in the Edwardian and Victorian Military Miscellany section of my Colonial Wargaming website as well as images of this very interesting weapon to the Machine Gun – Images page.

I was also able to add an additional image of the early Maxim machine gun that is on display at Firepower to the Machine Gun – Images page.

Finally, I was also able to photograph the maker’s plate on the Bergen and Company 10-barrelled machine gun.

Wargames at Firepower - A photo-report

This morning I went to the SELWG (South East London Wargames Group) wargames show at Firepower (the Royal Artillery Museum), and spent a couple of very pleasant hours wandering round looking at the various games that were being put on, browsing the items on sale on the trader's stands, and talking to lots of fellow wargamers.

The entrance to Firepower
Whilst there I took several photographs, and these should give those of you who were unable to attend the show a flavour of what was on offer.

The Museum's main hall; this is where the trader's stands and some of the games were located

Another view of the main hall

A Wild West participation game

The 'Berlin or Bust!' participation game: this was, in fact, two games played in parallel, with the Russians and the Americans trying to capture the centre of Berlin before the other could.

An American War of Independence battle

A Franco-Prussian War battle

Fighting in the Bocage: the rules used were 'Flames of War'

An Ancients battle that used the 'Field of Glory' rules

A group of armoured elephants and cavalry advance on the enemy

Saturday, 30 May 2009

A ‘make and mend’ afternoon*

This afternoon I had a couple of hours of uninterrupted time to myself, and so I decided to take stock of what needed to be sorted out, tidied up, and put away in my wargames room.

I try to keep the room reasonably tidy, and to put things away after I have used them, but inevitably some bits and pieces get left lying about, and other stuff – for example model kits that might have been put to one side for a project that has yet to come to fruition – have begun to pile up on the available flat surfaces. When this happens – and before my wife can complain about the mess – I have a big tidy-up session.

So far I have ‘re-discovered’ (i.e. found things that I had forgotten I had bought):
  • Two AIRFIX Opel truck and towed PAK40 75mm anti-tank gun kits
  • Two AIRFIX StuG III assault gun kits
  • Four AIRFIX Bren Gun Carrier and towed 6pdr anti-tank gun kits
  • A ‘spare’ copy of the HORDES OF THE THINGS rules book
  • Some 10cm-long pieces of N gauge railway track, two small N gauge buildings, and two pieces of N gauge rolling stock
  • Several rolls of dolls house 'grass' (this is like the normal grass matting used to cover model railway and wargames terrain but it has a self-adhesive backing)
The room now looks a lot better than it did – I find the process of tidying up strangely therapeutic – and I can go to the small wargames show that SELWG (South East London Wargames Group) are organising tomorrow at Firepower (the Royal Artillery Museum, Woolwich) with a reasonably clear conscience.

* This is an old naval expression for time that sailors were given to make and repair their own clothes. In recent times it has come to mean time off (usually an afternoon) away from work, to ‘do your own thing’.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Key ring artillery

Whilst at Houghton Hall I paid a visit to the gift shop. I had hoped to buy lots of toy soldier-related items, but for some reason that don’t stock any.

One thing they did stock was king rings that had small model cannons attached to them as fobs … so I bought a couple.

The key ring cannons photographed with an Essex 15mm figure for comparison purposes
They are ideal to use as heavy cannons by my 15mm native colonial armies – after they have had the key holder removed and been suitably painted and based – and at a cost of £1.25 ready-made they were a bargain.

A trip to Norfolk

I have been staying in Hunstanton, Norfolk for the last few days, and yesterday I was able to visit Houghton Hall, the home of the Cholmondeley Collection of Model Soldiers.

The collection contains over 20,000 figures and is displayed in a series of dioramas including:
  • Lord Wolseley reviews the Anglo-Egyptian Army – the display is made up of modern replicas of traditional Britains-style 'Toy' soldiers
  • The German Emperor reviewing his troops in Potsdam in 1900 – 2,000 figures representing every branch of the German Imperial Army
  • The Battle of Culloden Moor (1746)
  • The Battle of Isandlwana (1879)
  • The Charge of the 16th Lancers at Aliwal (1846)
  • The War in Algeria (1890)
  • A skirmish between British, French, and German troops in 1914
  • The US Cavalry rescuing a wagon train from and Indian attack (c.1873)
  • The North West Frontier, India (1890)
  • The Charge of the 21st Lancers at Omdurman (1898)

  • The Battle of Waterloo, 18th June 1815 – this diorama has to be viewed from its four sides, each of which depicts a separate incident during the battle:
    • The defence of La Haye-Sainte by the King's German Legion
    • The Charge of the French Cavalry against the British infantry squares
    • The Charge of the Royal Scots Greys

    • Napoleon surveys the battlefield, surrounded by the Old Guard
  • Spanish guerrillas attack a party of French Hussars – The Peninsular War (1809)
  • The Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava (1854)
  • A skirmish on the Frontier of India (c.1880)
  • The Fight for the Windmill – The Franco-Prussian War (1870/71)
  • Field Marshal Lord Roberts VC reviews the British Army at Aldershot (1895) – 3,000 figures representing many different Artillery, Cavalry, and Infantry units
  • A French column setting off to attack Arab tribesmen – Algeria (1880)
The collection was started in 1928 by the late Lord Cholmondeley and was put on public display in 1980. Many of the figures were made by Edward Suren and Greenwood & Ball.

Houghton Hall is open from 11.30am to 5.30pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays, and Bank Holiday Mondays from Easter to the end of September, and this collection is well worth visiting if you are in North West Norfolk.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Taking a break from gardening

With the threat of rain looming, I got down to finishing the gardening that I started yesterday as early as was reasonable this morning … after all, it is a Bank Holiday!

Having finished, my wife decided that we needed to do some shopping at the local garden centre. Unfortunately they did not have what we needed – a new cat flap for the kitchen door – and so we had to go to one of the smaller out-of-town retail parks nearby. Luckily there is a Hobbycraft store almost next door to the pet store, and I managed to sneak in and buy a couple of AIRFIX Bren Gun Carrier sets. I have a sneaky feeling they might well end up being ‘converted’ into self-propelled anti-tank guns as part of my current wargaming nostalgia trip but you never know …

We also went to the local shopping mall, and again I managed to get some time to myself, which I used to visit WH Smith to buy the latest copy of MINIATURE WARGAMES (No.314).

Since WARGAMES ILLUSTRATED and MINIATURE WARGAMES changed ownership both have gone through a bit of a metamorphosis. The layout of the magazines has improved, and they seem to have regained a bit of lost vitality. I suspect that this is due to the new owners wanting to ‘make their mark’ and because they have some ground to make up on WARGAMES SOLDIERS & STRATEGY. Time will tell as to which of the three will end up as ‘top dog’, but in the meantime I shall continue to buy all three.

Aggressor – the precursor to OPFOR

Whilst thinking about 20th century imagi-nations I remembered an article that I wrote some time ago for THE NUGGET (the journal of Wargame Developments) about what can only be described as a government-approved imagi-nation – Aggressor. The following is a revised version of that article, and it provides enough background information for anyone who might want to base their own 20th century imagi-nation on a 'real' imagi-nation.

Introduction

The Aggressor concept came about because of the Cold War. The US Army’s existing training films were either out-of-date or showed the Germans or Japanese as the ‘enemy’. Genuine uniforms and equipment used by the main potential enemies that the US Army would face were almost impossible to obtain. The result was Aggressor.

The Aggressor army were not just standard US Army units dressed in different uniforms. A complete background raison d’etre was created for Aggressor; it had a history, a language, and a flag as well as its own tactical doctrine.

The history of Aggressor

The chaotic conditions in Western Europe, which had resulted from major disagreements between the victorious allies as well as the failure of the United Nations Organization, led to the creation of a new nation, Aggressor. A small group of ruthless and determined men who were committed to the concept of a totalitarian nation-state formed a political party – the Circle Trigon Party. It took over the control of the weakened Spanish government, and established the Aggressor Republic.

Once it had consolidated its control of Spain and Spanish Morocco, it began to infiltrate political activists, agitators, and argent provocateurs into neighbouring countries. It coupled this with a robust propaganda campaign aimed at its neighbours. This emphasised the need for political unity and strong government in the current uncertain political climate.

This message was well received in southern France, northern Italy, Bavaria, and the Tyrol, where United States occupation forces were weak or non-existent. Strong secessionist movements quickly grew in these areas, fuelled by money, arms, and political support from Aggressor. The weakened governments of France and Italy and the occupying Power proved powerless in the face of increasing calls for self-determination, and after a series of short but violent uprisings in early 1946, these areas gained independence. Their new governments were all led by Aggressor sympathisers and immediately requested union with Aggressor, which was granted.

Having secured a powerbase, the leaders of Aggressor concentrated their attention upon improving the economy of their new nation. In parallel with this campaign the country underwent a period of intense political reorganisation and re-education. The result of these initiatives was national unity and economic self-sufficiency, and by the late 1940s Aggressor felt able to deal with what it perceived to be its main enemy – the United States.

Map of Aggressor

Population of Aggressor

By the end of the 1940s the population of Aggressor had reached 110,000,000. In addition the government encouraged suitable immigrants and displaced persons from other European nations to settle there. In particular scientists, soldiers, and professional men of all types were encouraged to emigrate to Aggressor, and they were afforded preferential treatment when they arrived in their new home.

In addition a variety of strategies were adopted to increase the population by raising the normal birth rate. This included offering bounties to families who had more than three children. A result of these policies was a rapid growth in the population, which in turn made territorial expansion a necessity.

The language and religion of Aggressor

At first Spanish was adopted as the official language, although French, Italian, and German were still spoken in the eastern provinces. However, as part of the campaign to develop a unified nation it was decided to adopt Esperanto as the official language. All Aggressor personnel were expected to speak Esperanto whenever possible, although total fluency was not common, and English was an acceptable alternative.

There was no state religion in Aggressor and the population enjoyed complete religious freedom. This policy had the distinct advantage of not antagonizing or alienating any religious group.

Example of Aggressor vehicle markings

M41 Tank showing the position of the Aggressor vehicle marking
Aggressor uniforms

The uniforms worn by Aggressor were similar in style and cut to those worn by the contemporary US Army, but with several subtle but significant changes. The basic uniform colour was Dark Jungle Green, with Olive Drab webbing/Black leather belts and Black boots. The helmet was the same as that used by the US Army but with a distinctive crest running from back to front. This was about 8.5 inches long, 1.5 inches wide, and tapered from 1.5 inches high at the front to 0.5 inches high at the back.

Each branch was indicated by different coloured scarves and collar tabs, and – in the case of NCOs – piping on the outside seam of the combat trousers. Elite units including Fusiliers (the Aggressor equivalent of Soviet Guards units), Airborne, and Armoured also wore coloured Garrison Caps:
  • Rifles (including Mechanised, Mountain and Ski troops): Red branch colour, Dark Jungle Green cap
  • Fusilier: Red branch colour; Red cap
  • Airborne: Blue branch colour; Red cap
  • Armoured: Yellow branch colour; Black cap
  • Artillery: White branch colour; Dark Jungle Green cap
  • Engineers: Green branch colour; Dark Jungle Green cap
  • Signal: Tan branch colour; Dark Jungle Green cap
  • Chemical: Purple branch colour; Dark Jungle Green cap
  • Other services: Orange branch colour; Dark Jungle Green cap
Formations (Divisions, Corps, and Armies) were indicated by rectangular coloured patches worn on the upper right arm.
  • Rifles: Red rectangle
  • Airborne: Blue rectangle
  • Armoured: Yellow rectangle
  • Artillery: White rectangle
Officers had coloured shoulder straps that denoted status and/or rank.
  • Fusilier: Red shoulder straps
  • Airborne: None on shoulder straps
  • General: White (with Red edging if Elite) shoulder straps
  • All other Officers: Green shoulder straps
Examples of Aggressor uniforms

Officer of a Fusilier Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment in a Fusilier Tank Army (Yellow collar tabs indicated an armoured unit; red shoulder straps indicate an officer in a Fusilier unit, as does the red Garrison Cap; the yellow arm patch indicates the unit belongs to an armoured formation)

Soldier of a Mechanised Rifle Regiment in a Mechanised Rifle Division (Red collar tabs indicated an Rifles unit; the red arm patch indicates the unit belongs to an Rifle formation)

Officer of a Tank Regiment in a Tank Division (Yellow collar tabs indicated an armoured unit, as does the black Garrison Cap; the yellow arm patch indicates the unit belongs to an armoured formation)

Soldier of an Artillery Regiment in a Mechanised Rifle Division (White collar tabs indicated an artillery unit; the red arm patch indicates the unit belongs to an Rifle formation)

Officer of an Airborne Regiment in a Airborne Division (Blue collar tabs indicated an airborne unit, as does the red Garrison Cap; the blue arm patch indicates the unit belongs to an airborne formation)
Badges of rank

Ranks were indicated by downward pointing chevrons (some with ‘rockers’ and pips), pips, bars, leaves, and crossed cannon barrels.

1: Senior Private; 2: Corporal; 3: Section Sergeant; 4: Platoon Sergeant; 5: Senior Sergeant; 6: Staff Sergeant; 7: Sergeant Major

A: Warrant Officer; B: Sub Lieutenant; C: Lieutenant; D: Captain; E: Major; F: Commandant; G: Colonel; H: General of Brigade; I: General of Division; J: General of Corps; K: General of Army; L: Marshal

Sunday, 24 May 2009

The ‘lost’ wargames armies of my youth

My recent entry about 20th Century imagi-nations seems to have struck a cord with some of my readers, and whilst gardening this afternoon (those of you who know me will know that this is not one of my hobbies, and that I only do what is absolutely necessary under duress!) I had time to muse on the ‘lost’ wargames armies of my youth.

I have already mentioned the continual state of war that existed between Opeland and Upsland, and the armies that I built for both sides. Whilst I was emptying the troughs and pots of their unwanted plants and time-expired compost, I began to remember some of the ‘conversions’ that I made from existing models. Most were based on AIFIX and ROCO military vehicles and included:
  • A squadron of tanks that combined the body and tracks of ROCO cast armour Sherman tanks with HVSS suspension (No.101) and ROCO Sheridan light tank (No.254) turrets armed with AIRFIX Tiger gun barrels in place of the Shillelagh gun/missile system
  • A battery of self-propelled 25pdr guns on AIRFIX Bren Gun Carrier chassis (very overloaded!)
  • A squadron of tanks that combined the body and turret of AIRFIX Sherman tanks with the HVSS suspension from a ROCO 155mm self-propelled gun (No.104); the turrets had large stowage boxes added to the back and were armed with cut-down 155mm gun barrels from the self-propelled gun – the result looked vaguely like the Israeli Isherman
  • Numerous AIRFIX half-tracks armed with different weapons (e.g. the quadruple 20mm gun from the ROCO Armoured Half-tack (No.128) or the 6pdr anti-tank gun from the AIFIX Bren Gun Carrier set)
  • Infantry guns that used the short 75mm gun from the AIRFIX StuG on a cut-down version of the AIRFIX 6pdr anti-tank gun carriage
Thinking about these old and now ‘lost’ armies almost makes me want to raid the large collection of unmade models and spares box that are in my shed and start again from new but … well, perhaps one day, but not today … unless I can be persuaded otherwise!

Operational-level Wargame Design 11: Some thoughts about the play-test

Although the play-test went well, and none of the mechanisms used in the rules failed to work, there were some aspects of the play-testing that I was unhappy with. These are:
  • Prepared defences were not strong enough. The results of artillery fire seemed to be much more effective than I had expected. Admittedly the Russians were fielding considerably more artillery than the German (a ratio of 6:1) but I would have expected that troops in prepared defences would have suffered fewer casualties than they did. I am therefore considering increasing the transient effect of a unit being in defence works from - 2 to - 4. This change would not have altered the results obtained during the play-test but would have made the results much closer than they were.
  • The length of the battle was very short. The play-test lasted one turn*, although I could have played out at least one more turn to obtain a definite result had I needed to. At present the battle should last 12 turns; I think that this could easily be reduced to 6 without any serious impact on the overall game.
  • The number of activation cards does not give tactical flexibility. There are two ways that I could go with this. I could either have activation cards for each regiment – which might have made the battle somewhat more disjointed than it was – or I could follow the example set by SOLFERINO IN THIRTY MINUTES and have several activation cards for each formation in the pack. Once the pack was used up, the game would be at an end. The latter would make for a more interesting and less predictable game but might not be to everyone’s taste.
Other things that struck me were:
  • It would have looked better if the bases had a larger number of smaller figures and vehicles on them. Possibly I could have used 15mm or 10mm models and figures on the bases to make them more aesthetically pleasing to look at. I don’t have either but it is worth thinking about for the long-term if I decide to fight lots of operational-level games.
  • The use of both a D12 and D10 for the different nationalities worked without any problems but did not have too significant an impact on the results.
  • The game was enjoyable … but it lacked the Old School ‘fun’ element of RED FLAGS AND IRON CROSSES – TARRED AND FEATHERSTONED. It is usable for re-fighting historical operations but may be too serious for everyday wargames.
*After finishing the play-test proper I did play the battle to a conclusion before packing everything away. In fact the Germans managed a fighting retreat off the tabletop although it was a close run thing. This was possible because their activation card came out first during the second and third turns, which allowed them to move away from the attacking Russians. In addition, the Russian threw some appallingly bad dice scores for the rest of the game.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Operational-level Wargame Design 10: Play-test 1

Having re-read the draft rules – and finding no obvious anomalies or typographical errors – I decided to play-test them today.

Scenario

A Russian Army is mounting an offensive against the German front-line. In this particular sector a German Luftwaffe Feld Divisione is defending a vital gap in the range of hills that cross the Russian main line of advance as well as the only asphalted roads in the area.

The battlefield
To capture it the Russian Army Commander has allotted:
  • Two Rifle Divisions each with an Average General (CV = 2) and:
    • Three Rifle Regiments (CV = 2 each
      A Field Artillery Regiment (CV = 3)
      Divisional morale = 6
  • Part of a Tank Corps commanded by an Average General (CV = 2):
    • A Tank Regiment (CV = 4)
      A Motorised Rifle Regiment (CV = 3)
      An Anti-tank Artillery Regiment (CV = 3)
      Tank Corps morale = 6
  • Army assets commanded by a Poor General (CV = 1):
    • Three Heavy Artillery Regiments (CV = 3 each)
      Army asset morale = 5

The Russian Rifle Divisions

Part of the Russian Tank Corps and the Army assets
The German defenders are dug-in, are commanded by a Good General (CV = 3) and include:
      Three under-strength Luftwaffe Rifle Regiments (CV = 2 each)
      A Luftwaffe Mountain Artillery Regiment (CV = 3)
      Divisional morale = 6

The Luftwaffe Feld Divisione awaits the attack
The Russian have a total CV of 23 and the Germans have a CV of 6, giving the Russians a superiority of almost 4:1.

The Play-Test

The activation cards did not favour the Germans as the first one turned over was for the Russian Army assets. They immediately opened fire on the left-hand German Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment. The first Russian Heavy Artillery Regiment achieved a Combat Power of 12 (9 [dice score] + 3 [Artillery Regiment’s CV] + 2 [for the presence of the General in an adjacent hex to the attacking unit] – 2 [the defending unit is in defence works] = 12) and the German Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment achieved a Combat Power of 13 (11 [dice score] + 2 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] = 13); the Russian artillery fire had no effect.

The second Russian Heavy Artillery Regiment achieved a Combat Power of 9 (6 [dice score] + 3 [Artillery Regiment’s CV] + 2 [for the presence of the General in the same hex as the attacking unit] – 2 [the defending unit is in defence works] = 9) and the German Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment achieved a Combat Power of 10 (8 [dice score] + 2 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] = 10); again the Russian artillery fire had no effect.

The third Russian Heavy Artillery Regiment achieved a Combat Power of 13 (10 [dice score] + 3 [Artillery Regiment’s CV] + 2 [for the presence of the General in the same hex as the attacking unit] – 2 [the defending unit is in defence works] = 13) and the German Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment achieved a Combat Power of 9 (7 [dice score] + 2 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] = 9) and it lost one point from its CV. The Luftwaffe Feld Divisione lost one point from its divisional morale.

The second card that was turned over activated the right-hand Russian Rifle Division. Its Artillery Regiment opened fire on the right-hand German Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment. The Artillery Regiment achieved a Combat Power of 12 (9 [dice score] + 3 [Artillery Regiment’s CV] + 2 [for the presence of the General in an adjacent hex to the attacking unit] – 2 [the defending unit is in defence works] = 12) and the German Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment achieved a Combat Power of 9 (5 [dice score] + 2 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] + 2 [for the presence of the General in an adjacent hex to the defending unit]= 9) and it lost one point from its CV and the Luftwaffe Feld Divisione lost another point from its divisional morale.

Two of the Russian Division’s Rifle Regiments advanced into contact with the right-hand German Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment and initiated combat with it. The combat was decisive: the Russians achieved a Combat Power of 11 (9 [dice score] + 2 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] + 2 [for the presence of the General in the same hex as the attacking unit] – 2 [the defending unit is in defence works] = 11) and the Germans only achieved 6 (2 [dice score] + 1 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] + 3 [for the presence of the General in an adjacent hex to the attacked unit] = 6) thus forcing the German unit to reduce its CV by one – which destroyed the unit. The Luftwaffe Feld Divisione lost another point from its divisional morale, which was now reduced to three.

The Luftwaffe Feld Divisione was then activated. Its Mountain Artillery Regiment opened fire on the leading Rifle Regiment of the right-hand Russian Rifle Division, and achieved a Combat Power of 17 (11 [dice score] + 3 [Artillery Regiment’s CV] + 3 [for the presence of the General in the same hex as the attacking unit] = 17) as opposed to a Russian Combat Power of 6 (2 [dice score] + 2 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] + 2 [for the presence of the General in the same hex as the attacked unit] = 6). The result reduced the Russian Rifle Regiment’s CV by two – thus destroying the unit and reducing the Russian Rifle Regiment’s divisional morale by two.

The centre Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment engaged one of the leading Rifle Regiments from the as yet inactivated second Russian Rifle Division. Its Combat Power was 14 (9 [dice score] + 2 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] + 3 [for the presence of the General in an adjacent hex to the attacking unit] = 14) as opposed to the Russian Rifle Regiment’s 4 (2 [dice score] + 2 [for the presence of the General in an adjacent hex to the attacked unit] = 4). The result reduced the Russian Rifle Regiment’s CV by two – thus destroying the unit and reducing the second Russian Rifle Regiment’s divisional morale by two.

Finally the left-hand Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment engaged the Russian Tank Regiment, but to no avail. The German unit’s Combat Power was 6 (4 [dice score] + 2 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] = 6), and the Russian unit’s Combat Power was 8 (4 [dice score] + 4 [Tank Regiment’s CV] = 8).

It was then the turn of the Tank Corps to be activated. Only the Tank Regiment was in a position to engage the Germans, which it did. The combat was ineffective because its Combat Power was 3 (1 [dice score] + 4 [Tank Regiment’s CV] – 2 [the defending unit is in defence works] = 3) and the Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment’s Combat Power was 12 (10 [dice score] + 2 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] = 12).

The final formation activated during the turn was the second Russian Rifle Division. Its Field Artillery regiment opened fire on the central Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment but with no effect because its Combat Power was 9 (6 [dice score] + 3 [Artillery Regiment’s CV] + 2 [for the presence of the General in an adjacent hex to the attacking unit] – 2 [the defending unit is in defence works] = 9) and the German unit’s Combat Power was 7 (5 [dice score] + 2 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] = 7).

The two remaining Russian Rifle Regiments rushed forward – accompanied by their Divisional General – and attacked the central Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment. The Russian Combat Power for this engagement was 8 (6 [dice score] + 2 Rifle Regiment’s CV] + 2 [for the presence of the General in the same hex as the attacking unit] – 2 [the defending unit is in defence works] = 8) whilst the German unit’s Combat Power was 3 (1 [dice score] + 2 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] = 3). This resulted in the central Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment losing both its CV points and being destroyed. It also reduced the Luftwaffe Feld Divisione’s morale to one.

The situation at the end of the play-test
At this point I ended the play-test. The mechanisms in the rules had been tested, and seemed to work quite well. There were some areas where a little bit if re-design might be necessary, but on the whole the play-test had been very satisfactory.

Friday, 22 May 2009

20th Century Imagi-nations - a memory stirred

A recent discussion on the Old School Wargaming group about 20th century imagi-nations stirred a distant memory of some wargames I fought many, many years ago.

At that time plastic models were relatively cheap ... and I had lots of them. I had created a couple of what would now be called imagi-nations – Opeland and Upsland – who were in a constant state of war. Their armies were equipped with whatever I had available at the time, although the Opelanders were vaguely Russian-looking (their main troops were AIRFIX Russian infantry) and the Upslanders were more a mixture of Americans and British (AIRFIX US Marines for the infantry; most of the vehicles were American and British, with the occasional German AFV).

Being a bit of a ‘tinkerer’, I did a lot of conversions. For example, the Opelanders has self-propelled anti-tank guns created from the AIRFIX Bren Gun Carrier set. The resulting vehicle looked a bit like the Russian ASU57.

The Upslanders had a group of assault guns that combined Sherman tracks (from some damaged ROCO models that I had been given second-hand) with AIRFIX StuG III superstructures. The results looked something like this:

The vehicles looked vaguely like one of the Swedish self-propelled guns that were built in the 1950s, and served for some time in the Upslander Army before I moved on to ‘proper’ historical wargaming.

Ah! The joys of youth when I didn't know any better ...

'VOLLEY FIRE!' - a nice set of generic rules

I managed to read the copy of the rules that Ogrefencer sent to me by post. They are entitled 'VOLLEY FIRE! and were written by Nick Bouette in association with Irregular Miniatures. They are generic in that they can be used for almost any 18th to early 20th century conflict, and use:
  • A very simple 6 x 6 grid of 6 inch squares
  • A playing card-driven system for terrain placement
  • A playing card-driven activation system
  • A playing card-driven combat system
  • Individual figures for large scales (42mm and 54mm) and small stands of figures for smaller scales
  • 24 figures/stands of infantry, 4 figures/stands of cavalry, a machine gun/cannon, and a commander per side
They contain simple examples that show how each aspect of the rules work, and I found it very easy to follow. The rules also contain an option for using more figures on a large playing area (e.g. 48 figures/stands of infantry, 8 figures/stands of cavalry, 2 machine guns/cannons and a commander per side for an 8 x 8 grid and 72 figures/stands of infantry, 12 figures/stands of cavalry, 3 machine guns/cannons, and a commander per side for a 10 x 10 grid).

Like lots of seemingly simple rules, I get the feeling that they will produce quite subtle and sophisticated results, and I am looking forward to trying them out sometime soon.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

A day for rest and recuperation … not quite!

Today being Thursday, I was not at work. It is the first chance I have had to spend some time resting and recuperating after the traffic accident I had two days ago, but events – as usual – conspired to prevent a complete day of doing nothing.

After taking my wife to work I had to do some of the weekly food shopping. This involved my driving to two separate shopping centres in order to get what was on the list that my wife had given me. I was, however, able to spend a few minutes in a branch of WH Smith, where I bought the latest issue of WARGAMES ILLUSTRATED and a book about the Spanish Civil War – Max Arthur’s THE REAL BAND OF BROTHERS – FIRST-HAND ACCOUNTS FROM THE LAST BRITISH SURVIVORS OF THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR.

This is the first issue (No. 260) of the re-vamped WARGAMES ILLUSTRATED. Besides being much thicker, it seems to have undergone a complete transformation. Despite concerns that it would contain nothing but articles about Battlefront’s FLAMES OF WAR, it contains an eclectic range of articles that cover figure painting, several different historical periods, wargame show reports, and product reviews. I bought this issue to see what the ‘new’ magazine would be like; I will probably continue to buy it as long as it maintains its present balance of articles.

The book is a very different kettle of fish altogether. There are very few British survivors of those who took part in the Spanish Civil War, and there numbers are dwindling. In fact one of the people featured in the book – Jack Jones – died recently. These are their reminiscences, and I look forward to reading this book over the next week or so. I have had a long-term interest in the Spanish Civil War, and although I may not have shared all the political views of many who went to fight in Spain against Fascism, I can respect the fact that they were willing to lay down their lives for what they believed in.

When I got home from shopping, the post had arrived, including a copy of a set of rules set to me by Ogrefencer. They are entitled VOLLEY FIRE! and were written by Nick Bouette in association with Irregular Miniatures. They are designed to be used with a square gridded playing surface, and I am looking forward to reading through them later this evening.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Not a good day!

Whilst driving home today I had a road traffic accident. I had stopped because the car in front of me had stopped, but the pick-up truck that was behind me did not ... with the result that my car was hit and pushed forward into the car in front.

The damage to the rear of my car will take some repairing, as the bumper (fender to my American readers) is badly out of shape, and the tailgate has several large dents in it. A rear light cluster is also damaged. The only damage I can see to the front end is a broken number plate.

The driver who drove into my car admitted that it was his fault ... but that the sun had blinded him ... which is a bit odd as we were driving directly eastward, and it was late in the afternoon!

As a result of all this I am now faced with the prospect of having to make an insurance claim and being without my car for at least a week.

Let’s hope tomorrow is a better day!

Monday, 18 May 2009

A nice surprise in the post

After a very busy day at work, it was nice to come home to find that two books that I had ordered from the Military Book Club had been delivered.

They are published by Amber Books Ltd as part of 'The Essential Vehicle Identification Guide' series, and are both written by David Porter. The books are:
  • WESTERN ALLIED TANKS 1939 – 45

and
  • SOVIET TANK UNITS 1939 – 45.

I look forward to reading them over the next week or so.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Operational-level Wargame Design 9: Re-reading and correcting the first draft

One thing that I have learned from writing many different sets of wargames rules over the years is that it is a good idea – when the first draft is finished – to put them to one side for a few days and then to re-read them. Because of the time gap, you read what you have written, not what you thought that you have written.

This is the stage I am now at with my operational-level wargames rules; I have not looked at them since I finished the first draft on Saturday 9th May and I am about to print them off and re-read them. I will then correct any mistakes I find, put them to one side again until later in the week – probably Thursday – and then begin play-testing the various mechanisms.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Colonial Wargaming website update

I have added what little data I can find about the Bergen and Company 10-barrelled machine gun to the Machine Gun page in the Edwardian and Victorian Military Miscellany section of my Colonial Wargaming website.

I have also added images of this very interesting weapon to the Machine Gun – Images page.

Royal Arsenal Community History Day

Firepower – the Royal Artillery Museum – hosted a community history day today. The museum, which is located in the old Royal Arsenal in Woolwich, is putting on a programme of events this summer – including two wargaming shows – and as both my wife and I are interest in the history of our local area, we went along to see what it was like.

Besides a small re-enactment group, there was a talk by Brigadier General Ken Timbers about the history of the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, and a guided walk – led by local historian Frances Ward – around the main buildings on the Royal Arsenal site.

Of particular interest to me was the presence in the museum of a new exhibit – a multi-barrelled, crank operated machine gun built in Germany in 1881.

The weapon looks very similar to the Nordenfelt and Gardner machine guns of the same era but the only details I could glean were that it was built at Gussstahl und Waffenfabrik in Witten.

Naval wargames … where did I get that idea?

The reference by Ogrefencer to NAVAL WARGAMES – WORLD WAR I AND WORLD WAR II by Barry J Carter on his blog made me scurry off my bookshelves to look at my copy. I knew I had one … I just did not know where!

I found it in the storage box that I use for those wargames books that I want to keep, but that limited space on my bookshelves does not allow me to have on show. I have re-read it over the past two days … and have come to the conclusion that it must have had a lot more influence on my thinking than I had ever realised.

I bought my copy back in 1975 when it was published, and at the time I remember reading it with considerable interest. However I had just moved from a job in Harlow, Essex to one in London, and my time for wargaming was rather limited. The book went onto my bookshelves, and I have probably only glanced at it a dozen or so times since – hence its relegation to the ‘to keep for future reference’ box.

The book contains sections on how to create wargames navies as well as a set of rules for re-fighting naval battles from the First and Second Word Wars … on a squared playing surface. Having looked at the diagrams that illustrate certain aspects of the rules, they must have stuck in my memory because some of the diagrams that I have produced over the years are very similar.

This book now occupies a place of honour on my bookshelves … and I am very thankful that I kept it for all those years!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

If you go down to the shed today … again!

No work today, so after doing all the chores I had I set off again to examine the contents of the shed.

This time I managed to get all the storage boxes out and was able to spread them out on the lawn. In addition to what I already knew that I had, I found the following:
  • A boxful of assorted die cast vehicles including nine agricultural-style tracked tractors of the sort used by the Red Army to tow heavy artillery, at least a dozen saloon cars suitable for use as staff cars, and various generic 1930s and 1940s trucks.
  • A box that contained enough painted vehicles to equip a MEGABLITZ Panzer division and two painted WWII Hungarian infantry battalions (plus supporting artillery) based for COMMAND DECISION (2nd Edition). The latter could easily be re-based and would provide enough figures and equipment for at least four or five MEGABLITZ Hungarian infantry divisions!
  • Two more boxes of unmade 1:72nd and 1:76th scale military vehicle kits
  • Another boxful of various unmade plastic kits, including two 1:350th scale models of the American battleship USS OREGON, three 1:87th scale barges/coasters, three 1:87th scale Tugs, and six AIRFIX 1:72nd scale warships (three Vosper MTBs, two ASRs, and an E-Boat).
  • A boxful of ‘bits’ – mainly spare parts from models, but including some complete unmade kits.
  • Two 1:300th scale painted Spanish Civil War armies (a real bonus as I thought I had lost them long ago!).
  • Two boxfuls of unpainted lead figures in plastic bags, cardboard boxes, and loose, including some original Minifig 25mm Crimean War Russian infantry.
  • Two boxfuls of board games – including Avalon Hill’s GUNS OF AUGUST – and gaming equipment. The latter included numerous game counters and dice.
I just had not realised how much stuff I had stored in the shed, and it has given me pause for thought as to what I will do with it all. In the meantime I have put it all back, but this time I will have my blog to remind me of what is there!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

What to do with my Minifigs Warships?

After a very busy day yesterday, I have had a somewhat less stressful day today.

The only wargames-related task I managed to do yesterday was to help Ogrefencer with his adaptation of Phil Barker’s DAMN BATTLESHIPS AGAIN for a gridded square tabletop. He had created the original in Microsoft Excel, and I re-typeset them for him in Microsoft Word with the addition of several diagrams that I produced using Microsoft Visio.

Doing that set me thinking about what I want to do with my Minifigs World War I model warships. Because I have eight battlecruisers and only three Dreadnoughts, my options are somewhat limited. Also, because further supply of the models is non-existent, any project must use what I have and not reply on future ‘reinforcements’.

After some thought – and a look at Conway’s ALL THE WORLD’S WARSHIPS 1906 – 1921 – I decided that I could create three ‘South American’ navies, based loosely on the Argentinian, Brazilian, and Chilean Navies of the 1914 to 1920s. They all had at least one or two Dreadnought battleship, a couple of cruisers, and a flotilla or two of destroyers. I could easily manage this from what model warships I have, and I would still have a few models over.

The models are not exactly right but … with a little bit of alteration here and there they might pass muster except in the eyes of real rivet counters.

The Brazilians were the least problematic as their battleships – SAO PAULO and MINAS GERAIS – were very similar to the original DREADNOUGHT.

The Argentinian RIVADAVIA and MORENO were very distinctive designs with two funnels separated by two en echelon turrets, but after looking at my model of HMS INVINCIBLE I realised that I could get the general ‘look’ right if I removed the centre funnel. Rather than do that and then discover I have made a terrible mistake, I used SERIF PHOTOPLUS to manipulate the existing image of the model … and in my opinion it passes muster.

I then did something similar with the image of the model of HMS LION/PRINESS ROYAL. By ‘removing’ the rearmost funnel, I have produced something that looks like the Chilean Super-Dreadnoughts ALMIRANTE COCHRANE and ALMIRANTE LATORRE.

I am still thinking about this project, but having seen the possibilities the models present, it has become a very attractive proposition to be added to my list of ‘to do’ projects for later this year.