Monday, July 21, 2014

Preparations for the big drop!

Myself and fellow club member Michael Stringer have been playing world war 2 games in 15mm using the popular Crossfire rules system by Arty Concliffe. For this year's club Open Day we decided we would "go big" and run a demonstration/participation game focused on the Battle of Arnhem in September 1944. 

When looking at the battle of Arnhem we had to decide what offered the most options and fun for a public participation game. We decided to focus on the initial landing of the 1st airborne and their attempts to secure the bridge. The latter parts of the battle are really a slug fest where the SS try and prise out the paras from their positions in Oosterbeek and around the Northern end of the bridge. Certainly a hard fought heroic action but not much fun to play as a wargame.

The first day landings offered more potential for movement, hidden movement, ambushes and general confusion as the Germans tried to find the paras and stop them getting to the bridge and the paras looking for gaps in the defences to increase the forces holding the bridge.

For a game of this size we had to do some "bath tubbing" or scaling down of the battle. We decided that companies would represent battalions, platoons representing companies and so on.
We also had to scale down the battlefield. It was around 8 miles from the landing zones to the bridge which is a much larger area than typically covered by a standard crossfire game.

We started designing the layout for the game, following historical maps. One club night we got out some terrain and using masking tape blocked out where roads, railways and villages, towns and the Arnhem bridge would be located. We then took photos as a reference for when we set up and ran a rehearsal of the game.

Here are the initial mock ups.

You can see we have clearly identified the landing zones and the nearby village of Wolfheze.

At the next club meeting we got serious and based on our initial layout ,set up what terrain we had.
We still have a few things more to make to complete the terrain for the big day but already you can see the table is going to look terrific when done.

The railway track is a special HOm gauge. It is normally used for narrow gauge railways but is pretty close to 1/100 scale for 15mm miniatures. The track will eventually be mounted on a embankment made from balsa as it runs through Wolfheze and Oosterbeek.

A lot of the buildings are actually printed card stock buildings and on mass look terrific!

The bridge is a laser cut MDF kit I can't remember the manufacturer but will post it when I find out.

Another special rule we had to add into the game was to limit the amount of movement allowed per initiative. With normal crossfire you could theoretically move, if unopposed, from the landing zone to the bridge in one initiative. This was not realistic given the ground scale and it would not allow the German player to move units to intercept. We therefore limited the movement of infantry squads to a maximum of 2 feet per initiative and vehicles like the jeeps to 3 feet. Jeeps of course would operate on the roads. If they moved off road, then they would be limited to two feet as well. 

This is a great view of the landing zone with the paras looking ahead to their target..The Arnhem Bridge!

The Paras are all Old Glory Command Decision range with a few Peter Pig thrown in.

One of the big "What if?s" of the first day is the fate of the reconaissance jeep squadron commanded by Freddie Gough. The division commander Urqhaut was worried about landing so far from Arnhem so he organised for a squadron of jeeps manning Lewis guns were to make a rush for the bridge in a coup de main attack to seize the bridge and hold it until the paras travelling mainly by foot arrived.

As it turned out, unluckily for them ,they were ambushed early on by a German machine gun and were unable to get to the bridge. Some elements did end up finding their way to the bridge but not until Frost's battalion was already there.

I had to paint up the squadron for the game and here they are.

And lastly, what's an airborne battle without my favourite bit? Gliders!

I wanted to have a few gliders to scatter around the LZ to really make a nice scene including a big Hamilcar glider. I found a great little company that makes really stunning gliders called Arnaments In Miniature

Here's some pictures before I paint them they really are quality all over.

Horsa Glider. There is a deluxe version with detached tail and unloading ramps.

The mighty Hamilcar that could carry two Bren Carriers or a light Tetrach tank! No light tanks were used in the Arnhem battle.

Stay tuned for the battle report on the big day coming very soon!


Friday, July 11, 2014

First blood is drawn in the Battleroom

One of the conditions of moving into our new house last year was that I got my own gaming room. Okay it wasn't quite like that, it was more like, "Honey, you know that media room in the new house, that would make a real neato gaming room for me and a few chums to while away a few hours of an evening or weekend playing with our toy soldiers and downing a few bevvies, what d'ya think?"
My wife didn't exactly say no so that was good enough for me and so the Battleroom was born!

Currently the room is a work in progress as we settle into the new house and my time is mostly devoted to getting the gardens sorted out so that "She who must be obeyed" is content but I have been able to set up a nice painting desk, get all my historical books in place and even a couple of display cases for showing off some of my armies. Unfortunately I have to share the room with my son's piano but that should be moved into the front room soon to give me more room.

Eventually I will have enough room for a 8' x 5' gaming table which is more than enough for 99% of all my gaming and if I ever ran a big game I have plans afoot for that out side in the new decking area.
I will build a dedicated gaming table but for now I get by with some plastic trestle tables which work fine.

So finally I was able to christen the new Battleroom by inviting over fellow club members, Tom Brake , Jon Bunce, Richard Bradley and Ian Hemmings for a big ECW game. We decided to play a scenario instead of a pitched battle and I chose the "Blood on the Danube" game from the Black Powder Pike and Shotte rule book. In this battle Jon, Richard and myself were Scots defending the armies' pay chest which was hidden in one of the three buildings while the Royalists commanded by Tom and Ian attempted to capture it.

I cannot remember everything about the battle but in a huge turnaround in form Tom's Curaissiers were able to smash through the Scot left flank held by Richard and attack the centre while Ian doggedly pushed ahead against the centre and right flank eventually breaking both Jon's and my brigades and sealing an decisive Royalist victory.

A great afternoon of gaming with generous opponents and a good hard game played in good spirits I am looking forward to our next outing.

And now for the pictures....

The battle lines are drawn. Scots on the left defending the war chest (hidden in the windmill) and the royalists on the right. The Scots have a battery of guns placed ahead of the main battle line on a small hill. The game length was fixed at 8 turns and the Scots were hoping to play for time and delay a major action while the Royalist pressed forward to get stuck in.

Massed Royalist cavalry on their right flank including the dreaded Curaissiers. Normally they are terrible but today they justly earned their title of heavy cavalry as they smashed the opposing Scot horse.

I commanded the centre and took up a defensive position behind the wall. I hoped my forward battery of artillery would break up any attack to my front.

The Royalists advance and first blood is struck by my artillery as the lead regiment of commanded Shotte is smashed by grapeshot. Meanwhile on the left the Royalist commander Tom orders the local farmer to get his cattle off the battlefield!

Royalists close in ready to charge the artillery and clear it from the hill.

The Royalist left flank advances on the Inn faced by some Scottish horse and mad highlanders. My infantry look on from the centre behind our wall.

The Scottish left flank as the Royalists advance. The brigade commander Richard attempted a delaying action by not offering battle besides a small force that occupied the farm house.

The highlanders give a rousing yell and charge the royalist Shotte who respond with a volley. Unfortunately the highlander's fighting prowess doesn't match their enthusiasm and they are routed from the field.

The artillery on the hill is overwhelmed and the Scots that are sent forward to offer support soon suffer the same fate.

The Scots in the farmhouse hold on doggedly but the royalist swarm past the building to engage the left flank at push of pike and force the Scots back.

The Scottish cavalry finally charges the opposing horse but are swept from the field.

With all three Scot brigades breaking in quick succession the army calls it a day and abandons the field to the Royalists who get to divide up the loot. The battle was over in around 6 six turns and a bit over 2 hours of playing time. I love the Blackpowder rules, they give a quick fun game without losing historical feel and are perfect for group play.

To finish Richard Bradley has performed some magical photo manipulation to give this great shot of the armies at push of pike.

Bye for now.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Getting ready for Arnhem

Next month is our club's open day and I am planning on running a demonstration World War II game with fellow club member Michael Stringer. We have decided on the battle of Arnhem. We will be using our WWII rules of choice for company level battles , Arty Conliffe's Crossfire rules. These rules are very simple but provide an excellent simulation of this level of combat. Over the years we have added a few house rules but the robustness of the rules allows these minor modifications. The game will be played in 15mm scale.

We plan to focus on the first day of the battle with the landing of the 1st Airborne division and their battles towards the bridge. There are quite a few "What ifs?" to explore on the first day of the battle and the game should be quite fluid. We plan on the use of dummy markers to represent hidden movement as well as hidden deployment. It should prove to be a fascinating scenario.

Now when it comes to WWII I am fascinated by airborne operations and Arnhem is the pick of the bunch in my opinion. My particular favourite of airborne operations is glider borne forces so for Arnhem that means Horsa Gliders!

I had a 15mm glider sitting in a box for the past year or so waiting for its turn to be painted and now was the time. The model is from a small Aussie company called Battlefield Accessories which I think has now closed down. The model itself was pretty poor. To be fair the mould was very old so the casting required a huge amount of sanding and filling with milliput to get the model in a fit state to paint but I think after it was painted it has come up quite well.

I have also ordered some more gliders from a US company called Arnaments in Miniature. Their Horsas look fantastic, a lot better than this glider so I may end up selling this glider after the game as it will probably not match the AIM gliders. The AIM gliders look a lot more accurate models. AIM also make a Hamilcar glider so I had to order one of those too! So for the display game I will have 4 Horsa and 1 Hamilcar. I'll post pictures of them when they are done.

Bye for now.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The wargamer's curse returns; yet another period and scale

Oh no I've gone and done it again. I couldn't help it. Those terrible brothers Perry seduced me with their sculpting magic. This time it was their delightful Eigth Army desert rats.

I already play World War II in 15mm using the Crossfire Rules by Arty Concliffe (with some additional house rules) but that is exclusively late war North East Europe so I can make the argument that since this is actually North Africa I am not playing the same period in another scale. Why that would surely be folly! (I won't mention how much I am tempted by Bolt action Late war Brits for NE Europe!)

The figures themselves are terrific. They go together well and offer enough variation to make a truly personal army which is unique to me, a necessary requirement in skirmish or squad level gaming IMO.
You get enough men in one box to field a fully equipped platoon but I spent some extra cash on a Vickers MMG and 3" mortar to give my guys some added firepower. I also bought the backpacks as the guys seemed a bit under dressed to me.

Lastly I picked up a Vickers light tank but I need to order some decals before painting that.

I also have a box of Afrika Corps but I will hold off painting them for the moment as some unfinished Napoleonic Russians (Oh I haven't told you about them have I?) require my attention, but another member at the club is already painting his own Afrika Corps platoon so we hopefully will be able to play a game of Chain of Command soon.

So here are the stout hearted Brits ( or Aussies) for your enjoyment.

The platoon arrayed.

The first section

The second section

The third section.

2" mortar team

Boyes anti tank team

The command section of the platoon including Lieutenant and platoon Sargent with radio operator and medical orderly. The medical orderly was a simple conversion of the radio operator figure by modifying an arm to hold the stretcher which was made from stretched plastic sprue and tissue paper. Green stuff putty filled the gaps and made the medical arm band.

Vickers MMG team to give the platoon some extra firepower.

The 3" mortar team and forward observer for the mortar or off table artillery.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Hordes of the Things (HOTT) Undead army.

Hello again,

In the next few posts I will put up pictures of a collection of armies I have had for quite a while that fall into the Fantasy genre.

The genesis of this first army harkens back to my very early days of wargaming. Back in the early nineties I like a lot of young gamers, was drawn to the fantasy games of Warhammer and the Citadel miniatures range. Being brought up on a healthy dose of Tolkein and Dungeons and Dragons I loved the idea of commanding an army of dwarves against orcs, skeletons etc.

However even back then the cost of acquiring a warhammer army was beyond the finances of a poor university student so my grand plans for a warhammer army ended up being a few painted dwarves and a "Skeleton Army" box set. This "army" box set was hardly an army set. It offered around 30 skeleton infantry, half a dozen knights and a chariot rider, not even a third of what I would need for a proper Warhammer Undead army.

Pretty soon I was drawn to historical gaming and all my wargaming efforts went into those pursuits. Somewhere along the way I sold my dwarves and my Skeleton Army box set sat in my cupboard waiting for its time to shine.

That time came when I was introduced to the fantasy ruleset " The Hordes of the Things" or HOTT as it is more commonly referred to.

HOTT based on the very popular DBA (De Bellis Antiquatatis) system enabled me to put together a fantasy army using a lot less miniatures than a warhammer army and the generic nature of the army lists enable me to feature a undead army that suited what "I" thought a undead army should be and not have to strictly follow someone else's interpretation. Finally I had the motivation to pull out my old skeleton army box and get painting. In the end I did quite a lot of modification of the standard miniatures. Using heaps of green stuff I sculpted on chain mail, helmets, rotting clothing etc. to make a truly unique army.

Also I could grab any make of miniature I thought would suit my army. No worries about OOP stuff or Tournament compliant armies (don't get me started on tournaments!).

The highlight of the army, that which I am most proud of, is my zombie elephant and Howdah. I always thought a zombie elephant would look very cool so with left over skeleton bits, a cheap $2 plastic elephant, and liberal amounts of green stuff and imagination my zombie elephant was given life!

Lastly every army needs to have a stronghold or camp. I was able to scratchbuilt an impressive necromancer tower from foam board, card, and paper clay.

Enjoy the pictures!

The army arrayed!

Five bases of dire wolves classed as Beasts (2AP each) in HOTT

The Grim Reaper made from a leftover skeleton cavalry figure and green stuff to make his ragged clothing. He is classed as a Flyer (2AP) in my HOTT army.

Skeleton Archers , again green stuff made the rotting clothes. Classed as Bow (2AP) in HOTT.

My Skeleton General classed as a Hero (4AP). Made from the skeleton chariot, green stuff for horse clothes and cloak and crown. The mummy itself is from the old game Heroquest. I am quite happy how here turned out.

Lots of Hordes! These were the skeleton infantry again with lots of green stuff for clothing and some helmets. I picked up some GW zombies second hand to bolster the ranks of Hordes.
Hordes (1AP) are the cannon fodder of HOTT. They are expendable and can be recycled by spending PIPs during the game to bring them back onto the board if destroyed. They are weak, but can overwhelm an isolated unit. I use my horde to tie up my opponents best troops while I strike on the flanks with my heroes.

My homage to Ray Harryhausen's Jason & The Argonauts skeleton fight scene, with some left over skeletons emerging from the ground. The unit is called a Lurker (1AP) and occupies bad terrain hidden and appears when the enemy enters the terrain feature in a surprise attack. 

Skeleton knights (3AP) Nuff said!

The evil necromancer himself, classed as a Magician (4AP) and sometimes I also make him the general of the army.

Another magician used as an alternative magician or sometimes in tandem to make a powerful magic combo! He originally was to be a magician for a proposed Chaos army which I will get around to one day.

The mighty Zombie Elephant with Howdah and Skeleton crew. Made from a cheap $2 dollar shop toy elephant and some green stuff. He is classed as a Behemoth in HOTT (4AP).

Lastly my greater demon that I class as either a. God (4AP) or Aerial Hero (6AP).
He does seem a bit out of place in a undead army so he will eventually form part of my proposed Chaos army.

And lastly my evil necromancer tower that is my Stronghold for the HOTT army. In HOTT the stronghold is your armies headquarters and of course it is very bad for you if the enemy capture it.

And that's it! It is quite a flexible army which I can vary the composition to try different styles of army. It actually proves to be quite a tough opponent in battle.

Over the coming weeks I will post more of my HOTT armies.