Monday, 20 November 2017

A Mark IV for the Cambrai Centenary

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Cambrai, known mostly for it's use of mass tanks, in particular, Mark IVs. Over the last few months, I have been building a Mark IV that was bought for me for my birthday back in July. I wanted to make a vignette using the model and wanted to add a couple of figures to emphasis combined operations. The figures came from Tamiya and they are lovely minis, really nice poses and sharp detail. 

I based the plinth with Pollyfilla, covered this in actual mud from my garden and grassed it with static grass. I used matt varnish to fold the static grass in place and fortuitously, this slightly frosted as it dried and gives the scene a slightly cold late in the year 1917 feel to it. You may wonder why this landship isn't sailing over a sea of mud, shellcraters and body parts? Well, Cambrai was partially chosen for the tank attack due to it's relativity unbroken ground. Anyhow, enough waffle, here are the pictures:

I may add more things to the base in the future, but I'm happy with it for now!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Rommel Solo AAR

I've had Rommel for a while now and have been itching to try it out properly. All my chums have been busy for the last few weeks though, so I thought I'd try a solo game using a Soviet and German force, each of 100 points. I used the scenario number three in the book, which is the meeting engagement, with four objectives to be captured. 

The Germans had three elements, two infantry brigades each supported by a StuG and a Panzer Brigade mainly of Panzer IVs, but with a couple of Marders thrown in. The Soviets faced them with four elements, two rifle brigades, a small motorized infantry brigade and a armoured brigade of T-34s, KV1s and T-26s. As per the scenario, I separated each force in half and left one half off the table as reinforcements. Then I set the table up:

The first couple of moves saw the German infantry advance on their left flank, whilst the armour sped forward on the right. Meanwhile, the Soviets inched forward, using mutual protection.

Then the first clash occurred outside the small village. The first German assault was repulsed by the Soviets, who immediately counter attacked. You can see that some of the German units are 'tipped' which means they have taken an action (in this case an attack) which means that they are now at risk and half their combat values. Units untip at the start of their turn, so it means that you have to act fast to attack a tipped unit.

Although the Germans were tipped, they stood the Soviet armour assault and the Soviets fell back. The stacking value of a square is three units, so the KV1s had to fall back behind the other tanks. The motorised infantry could stay where it was as it was already in a square with two other motor rifle units (the trucks).

Then as the Germans were untipped at the start of their turn, they went into the attack again, this time supported by StuGs. In armour attacks, one side ha the armour advantage depending on how good your tanks are compared to the enemy, in the attack the StuGs are as good as the T-34s, so neither had the advantage. However, StuGs, along with other tank hunters are better in defence and had the Soviets attacked the Germans would get an advantage, which means that they cause an extra casualty on enemy armour.

In this case, the attack was repulsed. The game is a game of attrition, given it's high level and it means that attacks seem desultory, especially when there are the maximum amount of units in a square. However, units soon take hits and get slowly ground down to breaking point.

On the German right flank, the Panzer IVs and motor infantry were grinding away at the Soviet defenders with little luck on either side.

Back on the other flank the fighting was still vicious with little gained, but everyone taking plenty of hits.

Until the tipping point occurred and a combined attack from infantry and StuGs broke the defending Soviet motor infantry!

However, the Russians rolled for their reinforcements and they appeared on the table!

I stopped the game at that point, it was five moves in, the German's right flank was crumbling as the Panzer IVs were battered and broken, but the Soviet right flank was also starting to give under the continual pressure.

It was a very enjoyable game as a tester, the rules were simple enough to be held in your head for the most part (there was a few things I forgot, like the optional extra tactical movement phases, for example) and the grinding of attritional warfare works well at this scale of game. I found the Command Post sheet to be too big to sit on my table, especially when it was full of dice, so after this game I remade the German and Soviet ones as a deck of cards instead (you can find a link to the PDF of them on this blog post HERE, print them in their nations colours and laminate them for use). 

I also found it helped a defence by packing a square with the maximum amount of units (three) as they hold on for a long time, and the attacker needs to have fresh waves of units, plus artillery support, plus the support offered by the tactical Ops choices to have a good chance of breaking the line. Basically, it needs combined operations, as the Second World War did. 

I'm looking forward to trying the game out properly against another opponent. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 11 November 2017


They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Photo of two German soldiers found at Bullecourt, June 2017, almost exactly 100 years since they were killed. Copyright Harvey Mills 2017

Saturday, 4 November 2017

The Maus That Roared

Back at Derby Worlds,I bought myself two Maus tanks by Zvezda. As there was only ever two built and never got beyond prototype (don't believe those folk that tell they fought, they didn't...), this was way too many for Rapid Fire! and Rommel. I bought the first one to paint and sell on EBay, this is it here:

This was weathered with the excellent Flory washes that I bought a while ago:

And if you are interested in buying it, CLICK HERE to see the listing on EBay. The second one, I based and will be using myself:

Now, the Maus is one of those things most beloved by wargamer, the stupidest Panzer pr0n ever created. A tank that barely was able to move even had the Third Reich had been able to scrounge enough fuel to fill its tanks and was the biggest target for miles around.

I bought it, to use in a 'what-if' game to see how badly it would do in a combat situation, if it even got out of its factory. So stay tuned and one day you may see and AAR where the Maus gets pranged in the first turn.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Fiasco 2017

This Sunday was the the Fiasco show over in Leeds, but before I get onto that, I have some Rommel tinkering for you. The game of Rommel is governed, in part, by events and tactics that can swing the odds in your favour. These are printed on each side's Ops Sheets and you have up to ten dice to show which one you are using. I was looking around on blogs and I saw that someone else had decided to turn their Command Post Sheet into game cards. I thought this was an excellent idea and came up with my own set for the Germans and the Soviets (I will do the other Allies soon, I just wanted to create a set to use immediately). There is a lot of crossover between the Germans and Soviets in what actions they can take, so I created a file of generic cards for this purpose. Then I created the two sets of specific cards for the Soviets and Germans. Then I labelled them with Early (E), Mid (M) and Late (L), to specify which period your force is. So, you decide the period you are playing and take only the cards with that period's letter printed on it, even if it has other letters on, so a early period force would have cards with E, EML, EM or any other combination. There are a couple of cards (like the German airstrike) that occur twice in a period, in this case take all the appropriate period cards, this is because sometimes the force has the choice of using the event or tactic twice. Each card also has the cost in Ops printed on it (be careful as some of these change over the periods) and I will use tokens for the maximum ten Ops instead of the dice recommended in the rules.

I have uploaded the PDFs of the cards on Google Drive, click the links below to access them. I printed mine on grey and red paper (about £3 from Amazon) to differentiate the sides and laminated them. You will need to print two sets of the generic deck and one each of the Germans and Soviets.  

The beauty of doing it this way is that you can discard the cards as you use them, then draw them back together when you reset your Ops at the start of the turn. Obviously the cards marked with (one use) can only be used once in a game. They will also take up less space on the table as the A4 Command Post sheet and can be organised into the events, offence, defence and general decks to make it all easier! Let me know if you use them and how they worked out for you!

Anyway, back to Leeds and Fiasco, this was held next door to the Royal Armouries as last year. Below are some pictures of the games on show. I didn't get a program, so I am not sure what everything is!

Bolt Action, Invasion of Britain scenario:

This was an interesting naval game, using submarines below the waves attacking a convoy of ships.

The Ukranians (I think) in Helmand.

An excellent 6mm Lord of the Rings siege game:

And my favourite: The Battle of Gorodetschna 1812. It just so happens that I am currently reading about Napoleon's invasion of Russia, so this was nicely appropriate for me!

There was very little that I wanted this time, so I only came away with some 10mm Russian houses that were on sale, which will work very well with my 15mm WW2 figures and a turn counter.

And a chocolate bun!

Fiasco always seems a little small compared to Derby earlier in the month,but it's definitely a tightly packed show!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

'They Got the Rose and Crown'; Battle of Britain First Play

On Sunday Ninjasaurus Rex and I got together to have our first game of the new Plastic Soldier Company board game Battle of Britain. Obviously, this was a chance for me to break out my vinyl of the Battle of Britain film soundtrack.

Each turn is split into seven phases, beginning with the British production and repair phase. This allows the RAF to use the functioning cities to help repair any damaged aircraft, airfields and radar stations by rolling dice. Next up was to deal out the squadron cards for each flight of each RAF Group and Luftflotte. Here the British get three cards per flight and the Germans get six. These cards represent the different aircraft used by the opposing sides. Then the Germans deal out their mission cards, check them and assign the missions to their flights. Obviously, the idea is to try to give the mission to the flight that is most likely to achieve it, by being close or having the hitting power to knock out the target.

With all this over the Germans get to move. The German aircraft have a three token fuel limit that dictate how long they can stay on the board, but they get to move up to five squares for one the use of one token so most places are within reach. Actually, this isn't the full story because when the Luftwaffe aircraft move into a square covered by British radar they have to stop. The RAF player then gets to decide if they want to intercept the German flight with an RAF flight that is close enough. If the RAF decide not to, the Germans can continue moving towards their targets. However, the radar screen covers the entire British coast and the Luftwaffe have missions to knock out these stations and create gaps in the defence. Until gaps are made, they are halted at the radar screen wondering if the RAF will pounce.

Next phase is the RAF movement, this applies to all RAF squadrons that haven't intercepted the Luftwaffe at the radar screen. The RAF can move up to three squares, but don't have a fuel limit. The RAF use their movement to move into a dogfighting position with the Luftwaffe, but they are limited to five combats per turn, so they have to choose their targets carefully.

Once the RAF movement is done, the game moves onto the aerial combat, consisting of the previously mentioned interceptions and dogfights. The dogfighting combat rules are simple and elegant. Each player chooses a squadron to fight with and they reveal them at the same time. Each aircraft has an attack strength and damage strength and the attack strength is the number of special dice you roll in combat. These dice are in two colours, white for the RAF and black for the Luftwaffe and on each dice are a set of symbols, three RAF roundels and one cross for the Germans and three crosses and one roundel for the British, the remaining two faces being blanks. In dogfighting the player who rolls the highest amount of their opponent's symbols is the winner and they inflict damage on their enemy's aircraft. If this amount equals or exceeds the enemy's damage strength, the squadron is shot down. The Germans lose their permanently, the British planes go into the damaged pile of their group (and may be repaired in the first phase of the the next turn). If there is a tie or not enough damage caused then both planes go back to their flight's box in the player's area. Otherwise, the winning side's plane stays in the dogfight and fights the next opposition squadron. This continues until one side has no planes left in the fight.

If the RAF have any intercepts then the fighting is vicious and devastating. The RAF player uses the three cards in his flight and draws three random cards from the German player's flight. The attack strength of the three cards on both sides are counted and this is the amount of attack dice rolled by both sides. In the intercept any amount of damage is enough to destroy the enemy. In a typical three squadron versus three squadron intercept, two squadrons on both sides will be downed. In a dogfight only one squadron will potentially be destroyed, in an intercept all six squadrons could be downed! It's particularly nasty if the RAF player manages to draw three German bombers!

Once the combat is over, the RAF have the choice to land their squadrons, this will help them in future to re-equip the flights with more aircraft, or continue patrolling. Obviously, if you have suffered casualties in the combat phase it's a good idea to replenish your flights. 

Then, if the German aircraft are over their mission targets they begin their bomb runs. Each bomber has a bombing level and this equates to the number of dice rolled to see if hits are scored on the target. Airfields and radar stations are knocked out with one hit, cities take three hits. After the bombing run has been calculated the Luftwaffe reach for home and this is dependent on how much fuel they have left, so a long time in the air means a perilous flight home!

That concludes the turn and the game cycles back to the British repair and production phase again. Each turn is long and took us about half an hour to forty minutes to complete each, but with only four turns per scenario our game took about three hours from beginning to end. In our game, I took the Germans and won with a score of 50 points to 28.

Overall, our first game was a success and it was really enjoyable and fast flowing once we had gone through one full turn. 

However, I do have a couple of gripes, one is about the aircraft. It's not that they were bent when they arrived (this was easily fixed with two bowls of boiling and cold water, dip the planes in the boiling water, bend them back into place and drop them into the cold water. Mine took about ten minutes to do.), but that the Roundels and Crosses are etched on so they stand proud on the models. This may help with free hand painting, but using decals may prove a little tricky. It's a minor point really and doesn't affect game play at all. 

The second issue is the lack of reference sheets. There is one for the turn sequence, which is very useful, but one for the combat rolls that are required for the dogfighting, interception and bombing would have also been useful. It's all in the rules, obviously, but they get lost within the wider paragraphs and a succinct reference would help to keep the game flowing. 

Thirdly, we were a bit confused as to what happens with German bombers that go through a dogfight and survive. Are they driven off from the final attack run or do they stay with the bomb run unaffected? We played it as the latter, which put the RAF at a disadvantage instantly as, odds are, there will never be enough RAF planes to shoot down all the bombers before they reach the bomb run. This may be because the RAF are supposed to intercept the German squadrons as soon as they can to carve them up, but this has the effect of also putting the RAF planes at high risk of being destroyed as well! 

I'd rather not end this review negative, the three things mentioned are minor gripes in what was a very exciting and fast flowing game that we completed within about three hours. I'm looking forward to trying it again but as the RAF.

And in other news, I have been tinkering with some of the bits and pieces for Rommel. First of all, I tried a few turns out (a quick review will come in the future) and I realised that the firing charts are slightly too small for my eyes. So, I redrew them and have saved them as PDF file which I have uploaded to my Google Docs. Click this link to download them: Firing Charts There are two fitted onto an A4 sheet so you can print them, laminate them then cut the page in half and have one for each player.

My cards on the left, Sam Mustafa's on the right

Also, I came up with my own version of the Unit Cards, again, I found the official Sam Mustafa cards too small to read, so I made them a bit more obvious. You can find mine here on my Google docs: Unit Cards. They are coloured in red and grey for the Soviets and Germans, but if you want to, change the colour schemes to suit your own needs. It's a Word doc so it is easy to change what you need. And finally, I built two forces of Germans and Soviets, of 100 and 99 points respectively. These can also be found here: Armies. I realised that I gave the Soviets one too many of each of the field guns (76mm and 122mm) in each of the Divisions, so just remove the extras. As a final extra point, I used the free font STENCIL for all the writing on the cards, so you might want to find that online and download it as my cards are formatted for using that font. 

Phew! A long post! But thanks for reading to the end!

Saturday, 21 October 2017

1/35th Scale British Mark IV

For my birthday this year, Martin, a chum bought me a Emhar 1/35th scale Mark IV tank kit. That my birthday was in July and I have only just finished it shows you how much I have been faffing about with it. The main issue was the tracks. The kit comes with some rubber tracks which are a bit of a pain to actually put on. However, after much faff, I had the basic kit built, painted and decals on.

I based the colour on the Racing Green tank that I was involved in recovering part of back in June, at Bullecourt. The tank that we found was a Mark II, but I didn't think it too much of a stretch that a Mark IV could be painted in the same way.

(Picture copyright Harvey Mills 2017)

Another reason that I paused this project was that I was working out how to do the weathering. After a recommendation from another chum to check out the Flory clay washes I tried them out on this model. Having only used the washes on smaller tanks the effects on this bigger kit were spectacular! This was a simple addition of a wash which was then streaked with a dry soft brush. I also added some rust and other grime washes to specific areas.

Not all the advice I was given was so useful, as another chum (who shall remain nameless) then mentioned I should drill out the gun barrels. As I did, the superglue that I had initially used (I had no polystyrene cement when I started... More faff...) broke and the gun and bracket fell inside the tank body!

Out came the drill again and I bored a hole in the base to get the gun out and reattached it, this time with polystyrene cement...

At this point, I had done the penultimate weathering on the model. I used Flory washes throughout and I am very impressed with how the tracks turned out. I had also used some weathering gel on the exhaust, this has some very fine sand and grit in it and gives a good rough texture like rust. Ninjasaurus Rex gave me this gel and I am not sure where he got it from.

I wanted to add a little more mud the tracks and around the running gears, so I took some dirt from the garden, mixed it with water and PVA glue and slopped it on. Well, there's nothing more realistic for mud than real mud!

I declared the kit finished, for now. I have ordered a set of Tamiya First World War British figures and I am going to make a diorama using the wooden plinth that the tank is on in the pictures above. But that's all in the future for now!

Thanks for reading!
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