Monday, 18 January 2021

Ancients project begins again and three influential wargame books

After a brief break over Christmas from my ancients project. Painting of Romans began again last week. The first 3 of some 20 planned Roman units are completed and based.

Work begins on the Roman units. All figures are HaT.

Back in December 2020 Nundanket on the Horse and Musket Gaming blog posted about three books which had a major impact on his wargaming. See link below...

This got me wondering which three books would I chose, and what was the reason for them being influential to my wargaming.

The first book on my list is "Introduction to Battle Gaming" by Terry Wise.

The first wargaming book I ever owned and I still have the book.

In a sense the first wargaming book you read is in most cases going to be influential. I my case it was this book, and I still have the book in my library. It was a present from my Mother when I was 11 or 12 years old. What made it so captivating, other than the idea of moving toy soldiers around with a defined set of rules, was all the photographs of the games and figure conversions were using Airfix figures. I already had a number of Airfix figures and model kits, and they were affordable with my pocket money and readily available at the local toyshop and model shop.

The second book selected is "One-Hour Wargames" by Neil Thomas

Get me back into wargaming

I purchased this book in 2015 and got me back into wargaming with its pared back rule approach, gaming with a small number of units, and 30 scenarios. Prior to this book I had given wargaming a miss for some 25 years with the exception of an occasional Warhammer 40K game with my son. The complexity of wargaming rules of the 1980's had turned me off the gaming side of the hobby and I had retreated to the occasional modelling and painting project. Moving countries and having a young family also meant my focus was elsewhere.

After reading this book and enjoying the approach to wargaming rules. I finally, after some 35 years, finished painting my old Peter Laing WW1 and AWI armies and got them onto the tabletop. Since then I have slowly increased the periods I wargame.

My third book is "War Game Campaigns" by Donald Featherstone.

The source of many campaign ideas.

The third choice was a book I remember getting repeatedly on loan from the local library in my youth. However, it is a book I have appreciated more in recent years after returning to historical wargaming and becoming interested in stringing together a series of wargames into a campaign. It is a book with many suggestions which I enjoy re-reading and 19 campaign ideas for various war-gaming periods.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

SciFi terrain mat made from curtain material

Last weekend was a nice sunny day so I took the I took the opportunity to make a new sci-fi tabletop mat. The material used is curtain material, it is a heavy material with a backing so sits well when laid over hill features and does not move around when playing a game. 

The base colour began as a light green. My intention was to overlay this with mid-green, brown and grey colours so it would fit in with my existing terrain. Unfortunately I did not take pictures of the process to make it, but here are the step I took in creating the mat:

  1. Sponged on a watered down green paint (a sample pot from the hardware store).
  2. A second sponging of the watered down green was applied to get different depths of green.
  3. Sponged on a watered down brown (a tube of kids acrylic paint from the Art store)
  4. Carefully sponged on a mid-grey (which was not watered down) over areas of brown. This had to be carefully done so it did not look splotchy and in many cases I had to return a second time to build up the grey.
  5. Lightly sponged on a sand/cream colour on parts of the grey (a sample pot from the hardware store)

The finished mat on the tabletop.

A close up of the sponging effect.

An overhead photo of the mat.

Terrain and models added

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

WW2 Western Desert - Turn 10 Game 1

As the campaign moves into its 10th turn. I thought I would take the opportunity to write up my notes on the game setup rules as the setup approach has morphed somewhat from when I originally drafted the rules.

There are 3 steps to determining a game setup. These are:
  1. Decide what type of engagement will be fought (e.g. flanking attack, escalating encounter, or frontal assault.)
  2. Decide tabletop layout, adjustments, and defender's position
  3. Allocate objectives

1. Type of Engagement

The game number within a campaign turn will influence the type of engagement to be played on the tabletop. Roll a D6 dice and consult the list below.

Game 1
1 = Flanking attack
2,3 = Escalating encounter
4,5,6 = Frontal assault

Game 2
1 = Escalating encounter
2,3 = Frontal assault
4,5,6 = Flanking attack

Game 3
1 = Frontal assault
2,3 = Flank attack
4,5,6 = Escalating encounter

Encounter Engagement

Both sides deploy a third of their units on their tabletop edge with remaining units coming on as reserves.
1-3 Objectives determined by D3 dice are positioned on terrain features equidistant between the opposing tabletop home edges (or as close as possible depending on terrain features).

Frontal Attack

Defender deploys two thirds of their units on their half of the tabletop with remaining units arriving as reserves. The attacker deploys all units on their table edge.
1-3 objectives determined by D3 dice are positioned on terrain features in the defenders half of the tabletop.

Surprise Attack

Defender deploys all units on their half of the tabletop. The attacker deploys half of their units on their edge with the remaining half arriving as reserves on one tabletop edge. The edge must be decided before defending units are deployed.
1-3 objectives determined by D3 dice and positioned on the defenders half of the tabletop.

2. Tabletop Layout

The terrain is decided by placing nine terrain cards from a deck of terrain cards. Before shuffling the cards I remove some terrain cards which do not apply or reduce the number of a certain type of terrain. Essentially, I stack the deck to better reflect the type of terrain being fought over.

Example - If there are no salt marshes in the zone being contested, then all salt marsh cards are removed from the deck.

Example - If the engagement is between divisions close to the coast, then I have all the escarpment cards in the deck.

Example - If the engagement is between divisions more inland, then I reduce the number of escarpment cards.

In the first game layout the cards in a 3 by 3 square. The defender chooses the side to defend and is allowed to switch any 2 terrain cards which are side by side to their benefit their defensive position. Then setup the tabletop using the terrain cards as a guide.

In the second game layout the cards in a 3 by 3 square. The defender chooses the side to defend, the cards are not adjusted in this game, and the tabletop setup using the terrain cards as a guide.

In the third game layout the cards in a 3 by 3 square. The attacker chooses the side to attack from and is allowed to switch any 2 terrain squares which are side by side to their benefit their attack. Then setup the tabletop using the terrain cards as a guide.

Example of the terrain cards laid out and two adjacent cards being swapped,

3. Allocate Objectives

The defending player always places the first objective on a terrain feature, then players take turns to allocate any remaining objectives. Objectives must be placed on terrain features such as hills, escarpments, broken terrain, buildings, and wadis. However, where roads (or tracks) cross or join they also can be considered features when allocating objectives. In a very featureless desert all features can be useful as a point of reference and objective.

Campaign turn 10 game 1 report

Both forces involved, 21st Panzer division and 7th Armoured division, are at full strength so 15 units from representing elements of these divisions may be available. However, they will be subject to wear and tear losses which are decided by a D3 dice, and the owning player selecting which units are removed. The only constraint is none of the units can be of the same type (e.g. only infantry units) and must be a mix.

In game 1 of campaign turn 10, Axis forces roll 3 and Allied forces 2 for wear and tear.

Selected units (HQ markers not shown)

21st Panzer Division Force
  • 1 x Wespe
  • 1 x 88mm Towed Gun
  • 1 x Marder
  • 1 x Armoured Car
  • 1 x Pz IV
  • 4 x Pz III
  • 1 x Pz II
  • 2 x Armoured Infantry
7th Armoured Division
  • 1 x Honey
  • 1 x Bren Gun Carriers
  • 3 x Crusader 2 Pdr.
  • 3 x Sherman
  • 2 x 25 Pdr. Towed Gun
  • 1 x 2 Pdr. Portee
  • 2 x Motorised Infantry
This rather brief action report is of an escalating encounter between forces. Both are aiming to control a single objective, the oasis in the centre of the tabletop.

With a single objective the plans were similar for both forces. Get to the objective quickly and with the most units.

The 7th Armoured force was able to occupy the oasis early and supporting reserves were moved up quickly. Axis forces pushed along the road while they struggled to bring up reserve units.

The action escalated and both sides were taking casualties with reserves being thrown into the action as quickly as possible. The new Shermans moved along the road and soon joined the action with their longer weapon ranges.

The battle began to turn in the Allies favour with the Shermans proving very useful.

A victory to the 7th Armoured division forces

A good start for the campaign turn with the Allies achieving an early victory.

Friday, 8 January 2021

More 17th century buildings

Having completed a wooden block windmill a started painting a couple more of the buildings I had undercoated.

A 17th Century House Completed

As I went through the painting steps of these very simple wooden block buildings, I took photographs of the process for those of you who may be interested.

The building features are pencilled in and the roof painted a dark grey with some brown added

A very light brown wash is applied

Doors and windows are painted a dark grey

Wood timbers are painted dark grey again. I mixed up enough for the roof, windows and timbers.

A red-brown is dabbed on the roof, keeping them in rows as much as possible.

The cream colour was added to lighten the red-brown and most, but not all the gaps, are filled in.

A yellow-orange dab is added. Making sure not to over do it with this colour.

Corner stone and stonework around the lower doors are added. Again these are just dabbed on.

Windows and door are painted on with slightly watered down colours and over painted again where necessary.

Addition details are added to areas with flat colour just to give some colour texture.

The completed buildings

Sunday, 3 January 2021

A windmill and War of the Spanish Succession game

I have started the New Year with a small War of the Spanish Succession campaign. With these games hopefully I will finalise the recent set of rules I posted, to which there have already had a couple of minor tweaks and clarifications. 

I am using a campaign called the "Emperor's Balls" created by Old Trousers on his blog (here). It is a simple three game tree campaign with some tongue in cheek narrative which suits me perfectly, and all the games use One-Hour Wargames scenarios.

A WSS paper soldiers game in progress as part of a small campaign

Because I wanted to use 8 units on a 6x4 foot tabletop in the games. I used the OHW table for determining an army make up with the two following amendments:

  • 2 cavalry were always added
  • Dragoons replaced skirmishers

This change always gives armies a good number of cavalry and dragoons in line with the high percentage (30-50%) typical of battles of the time.

One second change to the campaign rules was the winner of the last battle gets to roll 2 D6 when determining the army make up and can select the force composition best suited for the next game.

On the modelling side of the hobby, I am in the process of preparing some cheap 18th century buildings as I am a bit short of buildings for this period. For this I am used my current building approach of using blocks of wood simply cut with major features (eg chimneys) stuck on and painting all other details such as windows and doors. They are very robust models which can be thrown into a plastic tub after a game without any worry of breakages.

Simple wooden blocks are sawn and chimneys added (and sails in the case of the  windmill). They then get an undercoat of light sand or grey depending upon the paint effect being applied.

First off the painting table was the windmill.

Opening battle moves

On to the game report. You will notice the windmill gets to make an appearance along with a small hill I added for it to sit atop.

Alliance order of battle:

  • 3 x Foot
  • 1 x Gun
  • 2 x Horse
  • 2 x Dragoon

French order of battle:

  • 3 x Foot
  • 2 x Guns
  • 3 x Horse

The objective for the Alliance was to control the hill before French reinforcements put a stop to their preemptive attack.

The attack on the hill has begun

The Alliance quickly pushed up their horse on the right flank in an attempt to stall the deployment and advance of French reserves. While on the other left flank, dragoons move around to outflank the defenders of the hill and threaten their rear. In response, French defenders refused the flank on the hill and a detachment of horse speed their way to support the defenders of the hill.

The Alliance attack is progressing well

The Alliance attack on the hill was progressing and their horse on the right flank had the upper hand in a tough engagement with their French counterparts. The French at this stage were still reacting to the Alliance moves and had deployed their reserve foot early expecting a loss on their left flank. On a positive note, their artillery was proving effective and wearing down some of the attacking Alliance units.

Both sides were starting to use their commanders to rally units. One of the rule tweaks was to commanders and rallying.

  • Commanders and generals are able to rally units (except artillery units) which are wavering by attaching themselves to the unit. Upon joining a unit their number of hits is halved (rounding up any fractions). The Commander must remain with the unit for the remainder of the game.
  • Generals are only able to rally a unit once all their commanders have rallied units and are attached to units.
  • Only one commander or general may perform a rally per turn and a unit can only ever be rallied once during the game.
  • Note - units no longer need to be within a command range to move.

French horse see off the Alliance attacks.

The engagement between the horse had become very close and would be decided by the order of activation cards, which went the way of the French who won the engagement by counterattacking first. This turn of events meant the French would no longer be just reacting to the Alliance moves and could take limited offensive actions with some very weakened horse. Meanwhile, the Alliance foot were contesting the hill.

The battle is in the balance as Alliance forces try and take the hill before any meaningful French attacks begin.

The battle was in the balance and almost tipping in the favour of the French. Their foot were now facing the Alliance foot on the hill exposing their rear to an attack from the remaining dragoon unit. The turn of the activation cards would determine whether a nearby French horse would be able to intercept the dragoons before they could mount a charge.

Can the French intercept the dragoons and stop their attack on the hill?

Fortune favoured the French for a second time in this battle and the dragoons were intercepted. Allowing the French foot to rout the attacking Alliance foot. Alliance forces were now too weakened to mount any further attacks and had to retire from the field of battle.

The campaign begins with a French victory.

The dragoons are intercepted.

A victory to the French

The next post will have a WW2 Western Desert campaign game report and also the updated rules.

Edit - The D3 WSS rules have been added to the tabs at the top of page.

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Cardboard Toy Soldiers

I have had the rules "Men Who Would be Kings" by Daniel Mersey for a while now and with the intention of doing some colonial wargaming. Apart from other projects, one thing that was holding me back was which colonial area to cover? Should it be Zulus, Dervishes, Northwest Frontier, etc. In the end I settled on North Africa and the French, and in particular those activities of the French Foreign Legion. I suspect in the back of my mind was the idea of recreating those old Beau Geste style Hollywood films.

The next question was what figures to use. I did notice there were some ranges in 1/72 plastic which were reasonably priced, but I was thinking the larger figures, possibly 1/32 scale would be fun. I don't have any 1/32 scale figures for wargaming, and I really enjoy a number of blogs which show the larger traditional old style figures, and often cast the figures themselves. Not that I want to get into home casting, but I do like the idea of making my own figures somehow. Particularly figures looking like the old toy soldiers.

Over the last couple of years I have been creating Paper soldier armies from Peter Dennis' books, these include: Jacobite armies, Norman and Saxon armies, and most recently War of the Spanish Succession armies. I have become quite fond of the paper armies which are flat figures. So the question was how could I create some flats with a traditional toy soldier look.

To get some inspiration I looked through "The Collectors Guide to Toy Soldiers" which was a present from many years ago. It has lots of nice pictures mainly of Britains figures, but near the front there are some wonderful pictures of simple flats produced in France and Germany which got me thinking. Could I create something from cardboard?

The source of possible inspiration

A few  prototype figures were created and some discarded before I came up with the following approach. In the back of my mind was always the question - is this a quick and easily repeatable process? As whatever I make I will be doing a hundred or more times over to produce a wargaming army.

Lots of inspiration was found in the pages

The first step to assist with building a prototype was to take a few photos of a figure I want to use as a model and load it into Google Slides (or PowerPoint would work) to resize, duplicate and flip the image. The required figure was then cut out and stuck to card (note - 600 GSM weighted card was found to be best so far, but more on that later). This included the arms which are also cut out from a separate image and stuck on card.

The body and arms cut out and stuck to the card.

The body is stuck again to card to get double thickness. A glue-stick is used for gluing at this point. Later PVA all purpose glue is used.

Once the body was cut out it was stuck again to the card and cut around. This aim of this was to create more stiffness, and it is easier to cut out two thinner pieces are card and stick them together than cut out one thicker piece of card.

Once the thickened body was cut out the single thickness arms are stuck on and the figure attacked to a stand. The stand again is made from card with the figure stuck between two bits of card to provide stability.

The arms are stuck on and the figure based

Once all dry the figure is given a couple of coats of PVA glue and a final grey undercoat.

Once made the figure has two generous coats of PVA glue and an undercoat of grey acrylic paint (from the hardware store) 

The figure is then ready for painting. I am sticking with the toy soldier look when it comes to painting, but do use a little bit of shading on the legs and highlighting on the dark jacket. Anyway, here are the second and third prototypes. (We don't talk about the first prototype, no salvage opportunities there.)

3rd prototype on the left and 2nd prototype figure on the right.

Looking head-on at the figure
The figure ended up being just over 2 inches or close to 54mm tall

Next up I am going to try just one sheet of card for the body as this will simplify the making of these figures, and then create a figure using tracing paper with just the outline and key parts of the uniform to help with painting, almost a paint by numbers approach.

The figures have a very toy-like appearance that I quite like the look of. I will be progressing with this as a background project.

If you are wondering about the Ancients project, it is still on the go. All the Roman forces have been washed and are now ready to start painting.

Roman figures getting a wash and soak.

Friday, 25 December 2020

WW2 Western Desert campaign rules and turn 10 begins

There have been a few changes to the WW2 Western Desert campaign rules as the campaign has progressed. In some cases I over complicated things and adjusted them after a turn or two. So I am posting them here in their current state. The campaign has been running on and off now since March 2020 and I have played 22 games over 9 campaign turns. 

A game in progress

A quick reminder of the objective of this campaign which was to:

  • Provide a narrative for a series of tabletop games using my 1/300 Heroics and Ros models. 
  • The campaign needed to be easy to set aside for a while and return to pick up where I had left it. 

The tabletop games are played on a hex grid using a variant of "Tank on Tank" boardgame rules. I will be posting the updates to these rules in a later post as these to have been adjusted as the campaign progressed.

A linear campaign approach was used and I used the KISS Rommel campaign rules to get inspiration for the map layout and approach. The question for linear campaigns is always how many steps to have in the campaign? I decided on 9 zones and a map was drawn.

WW2 Western Desert Campaign Map

Each side has five counters representing their forces grouped at a divisional level. This is where there is unfortunately one bit of paperwork to track just the number of losses and recovery throughout the campaign. At the start of a turn one both players line up their counters on the board face down. The campaign begins with Allied and Axis forces positioned at Tobruk, the centre point of the linear campaign.

Each campaign turn represents 1 month. During each month’s turn players receive an unpredictable flow of supplies determined by a D6 dice. Players are then able to direct their supplies (D6 pips) on the following:

  • 3 pips - Re-equipment a division back to their original strength.
  • 1 pips - A unit can prepare defense positions (I allow upto 6 hexes worth of mines and 3 units in improved positions)
  • 1 pip - Increased reconnaissance activities to reveal up to a maximum of two enemy divisions before an attack.
  • 1 pip - Interdiction of enemy units to remove a maximum of one enemy division from the attack or defensive line.
  • 1 pip - Air support for a division.
Supplies cannot be carried over to following turns.

Sequence of campaign play

Determine who is the attacking player. The attacking player is the player who won the most games in the previous turn. (For the first campaign turn flip a coin to determine who is the attacking player.)

  1. Dice for supplies to reequip divisions, interdict enemy movements, provide air support, interdict enemy movements, or add defences.
  2. The defending player notes which divisions will benefit from defences.
  3. If the defending play has available interdiction they indicate which of the hidden attacking divisions cannot participate in the attacks.
  4. The attacking player now flips over their division’s counters and indicates which divisions will benefit from air support.
  5. The attacker selects the first division to make an attack and the defending division counter opposite is turned over. The game is moved to the tabletop.
  6. The attacker selects the second division to make an attack and the defending division counter opposite is turned over. The game is now moved to the tabletop.
  7. If the attacker has lost the two previous engagements the attacks are called off. Otherwise they select the third division to make an attack and the defending division counter opposite is turned over. The game is moved to the tabletop.

After each tabletop game, which represents a key engagement between elements of the two opposing divisions rather than the whole division, the losing division is reduced by 3 units which need to be recorded. A division with multiple losses keeps reducing the number of units they can field until reequipped when they return to their full strength of 15 units. Note, the wear and tear of desert conditions comes into the set up the tabletop games where between 1 and 3 units cannot be fielded.

Up to a maximum of three games can be played during the campaign turn. If the attacker wins two games they advance one zone on the campaign map the loser retires one zone. If the attacker wins all three games they advance two zones on the campaign map the loser retires two zones. 

If a defender wins two games the attack is called off and neither side moves on the campaign map, and the defender will become the attacker in the next campaign turn.

The rules for transferring a game to the tabletop will be posted with the next game report. First though here is a recap of the current campaign status as turn 10 begins.

Situation after turn 9 and starting turn 10...

After turn 9 which saw a minor Axis victory (2-1) the Allies have retired to take up defensive lines at Mersa Matruh. Both armies are suffering from losses, some carried over from turn 8, and they will be hoping for sufficient supplies to help reequip at least one of their divisions.

An Axis convoy had recently arrived and they were able to reequip two of their weakened Italian divisions (Ariete and Trieste). Supplies were also reasonably plentiful for the Allies who are in more urgently need with three weakened divisions. One armoured division was reequipped and the remaining supplies went to improving the defences of the weakened 2nd New Zealand infantry division and interdict Axis forces.

Tracking Supplies - Supply situation after turn 9 and resupply undertaken for turn 10. Axis scored 6 to reequip 2 divisions and the Allies scored 5 to reequip 1 division along with beefing up their defences and disrupting the Axis attack with interdiction.

As I am playing this campaign solo all divisional counters began placed face down. Normally I would have the attacking Axis divisions revealed, but I need to remove from the attack one of the divisions due to interdiction.

Divisional counters placed face down

One Axis division is removed from play due to interdiction

The Axis will use their three armoured divisions to try and breakthrough the Allied defences. The 21st Panzer division will be leading the attacks and the defending division is the 7th Armoured. This will now be transferred to the tabletop.

The Axis divisions are revealed and three are chosen for the upcoming attacks

The first attack by the 21st Panzer division will be against the 7th Armoured division. 

The game has begun and will be the next post along with the approach used for determining the tabletop layout and order or battle.

Part of the action to come. The sharpe-eyed may have noticed the Allies now have some Sherman tanks instead of the usual Grant tanks.

Anyway that is all for now as Christmas lunch is in the making...Have a good Christmas.