Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Skirmish Campaigns

Over the last few months the time I have to dedicate to hobby projects has been severely limited - our family moved into a house that needed (and still needs) a fair amount of renovation. So almost all my recent building and painting has been of 1:1 scale terrain.*

But I have managed to keep playing weekly games at the local club. Between September and November I was in involved in their Fall of Berlin campaign. Using the Bolt Action ruleset, and based directly on the Iron Ivan "Battle for the Reichstag" publication, the campaign comprised 16 games played out in the rubble of Berlin.

Written for the "Disposable Heroes" ruleset, each scenario comprises a brief introduction; a synopsis of objectives, game length, and special rules in play;a map and deployment rules, TOEs; and a "Campaign Events Chart" that slightly modifies deployment or TOEs based on ongoing campaign results. For interest, each scenario lists the historical outcome.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Bolt Action @ 6000pts+ per side

Pic courtesy of Richard Trevor
Recently I suggested (here) that it was only a matter of time before the lads at the Peninsular Wargames Group were going to test Bolt Action at 6000pts a side. It happened sooner than I thought - in the form of a demo game at the annual University of Cape Town Dragonfire gaming convention last month.

I wasnt involved in the game, but I can report that 6000pts gets you over 70 dice if you have a Soviet Army horde, and over 50 if you are German Heer regulars and SS veterans, and each turn took about an hour to 90 minutes to play. I have put a selection of pix in a gallery and more (as well as a brief synopsis of the action) can be viewed at the Cape Town Wargamer blog.

German reinforcements

Here be the some additions to my 28mm Axis forces: a Flakvierling 38 and PaK 40 from Warlord Games, and a Horch 1a from Company B.

Flakvierling 38

As far as I can recall (it was a project that was spread out over months due to numerous interruptions) this kit was built "out of the box" without any extra detailing aside from the ammo crate on the base. I decided against taking the time to add details as I found the original kit, although quite fussy and intricate, lacked some definition and detail in places. The magazines, and magazine racks, for example, were devoid of detail. And each pair of autocannons suffered from casting defects or poor mastering.

I think the result is passable. However, when I compare this kit to plastic models of the same weapon in 1/72th and 1/48th scale, I cant help but think that Warlord could have produced a better kit without putting too much more time into the master.

I debated magnetising the bases, the weapon and the trailer, so that it could be depicted towed and emplaced, but decided against that once I realised that there was no easy way of magnetising the crew without compromising the strength, or the detail of the seating. In most rule sets and games this weapon will be deployed emplaced, if not from the start of the game, very soon into the game, so the usefulness of have it depicted towed would be limited. However, I was sure to model the trailer to ensure that opponents cant claim that the weapon is a fixed and cant be manhandled...

Horch 1a

Loved this kit from Company B. Very clean castings and crisp detail. I havent had a chance to compare it with the Warlord offering of the same vehicle, but on the face of it the difference is that this kit has plenty of little details that are cast separately, while the Warlord kit has fewer parts and lots of the detail cast on. Whether that is a good thing or not is up to the individual  - more to knock off the Company B kit during a game (in fact, the eagle-eyed amongst you will notice the later pix of the Horch show one of its side mirrors knocked off) but a more detailed representation.

I added a bit of stowage in the cargo area, but apart from that, the kit is built as sold. A really neat staff officer which was included in the kit was left off, given that this vehicle would be in most cases be use a little colser to the front than the staff would car to get - most likely as as a tow for various light AT and AA guns.

As with most of my German vehicles, I have deliberately left off any unit insignia, as the vehicle will be used to represent various units in various campaigns.


Pak 40 (7.5 cm Panzerabwehrkanone 40)

This was bult a while back, but didnt make it onto the blog pages for some reason. Its the Warlord kit, and if I recall correctly, was built with a few tiny detail changes - head swaps and the like. It a neat kit - seems to me to make a good of job of representing the substantial size of the Pak 40.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Panzer IV

28mm, 1/56th. 1:56, PzKpfw IV Aufs. H with schurzen, Herman Goering Division, 1944, Italy, Warlord Games, Company B, Westwind Miniatures
Here are some images of my latest addition to my German armour - a PzKpfw IV Aufs. H with schurzen. I tried to depict a vehicle of the Herman Goering division in Italy 1944, which explains the commander's choice of headgear. The fallschirmjager helmet might not be particularly plausible for a tank commander, but I like to think it imparts a touch of the unit's flavour to an otherwise "vanilla" vehicle.

I have to admit it was a rather unsatisfying project. Maybe because the Panzer IV isnt a vehicle that appeals much to me - but which I chose to build only because its practically an obligatory addition if you hope to represent a German army in WW2. And maybe because I wasnt very happy with the job Warlord did with the kit - the overly-thick schurzen and their clunky rail assemblies, the crude detail and lack of depth in the running gear, and the poor fit of the parts. I keep looking at it and seeing things I would do differently if I could start again.

That said, I am happy to have built it. It has already proved its worth in my collection, being used a number of times in scenario-driven games which call for a German medium tank.

Its very much an out-of-the-box build - the only modifications were the replacement of most of the schurzen brackets, and the only addition was the aerial. Decals by Company B. The commander has a Westwind SHS fallschirmjager on a Warlord tank crewman torso.

28mm, 1/56th. 1:56, PzKpfw IV Aufs. H with schurzen, Herman Goering Division, 1944, Italy, Warlord Games, Company B, Westwind Miniatures

28mm, 1/56th. 1:56, PzKpfw IV Aufs. H with schurzen, Herman Goering Division, 1944, Italy, Warlord Games, Company B, Westwind Miniatures

28mm, 1/56th. 1:56, PzKpfw IV Aufs. H with schurzen, Herman Goering Division, 1944, Italy, Warlord Games, Company B, Westwind Miniatures

28mm, 1/56th. 1:56, PzKpfw IV Aufs. H with schurzen, Herman Goering Division, 1944, Italy, Warlord Games, Company B, Westwind Miniatures

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Walking tour: Battle of Blaauwberg

Battlefield Walk & Talk - Battle of Blaauwberg 1806

The Friends of Blaauwberg Conservation Area invites you to join us on a guided Battlefield Walk and Talk on Saturday 27th July.

After months of painstaking research and analysis Ian and Roy will be conducting for the first time in 207 years a walking tour of the Battle of Blaauwberg 1806.

The 4km hike is an easy walk on a sand track. On the hike you will see:
  • Where the English manhandled their artillery into position under the blistering sun
  • Walk in the footsteps of the Scottish Brigade as they charged the Batavian line. Visit the place of Pelegrini’s stand where 19 gunners stood firm long enough to allow the retreating Batavian forces time to escape.
  • Walk the Batavian line where the crash of thunder was mixed with the flash of bayonets, where the casualties fell.
  • Walk across to the high dune where the Batavian artillery tried to stem the red tide.

The hike will start at 9h00 on Saturday 27 July 2013 and finish by 13h00.
Meet at Zonnekus Resort, Morningstar at 8h30

Bring a sun hat, sun cream, a bite to eat and something to drink, wear comfortable clothes and shoes. The event is free for Friends of BCA members. Cost is R20 for non-members. New Family Members may join on the day R60 per family per annum. For more information call FoBCA Chairman Roy on 071 671 9552 or Ian on 076 315 7713 and to book e-mail Ian at built2scale@iburst.co.za

Reblogged from http://gosouthonline.co.za/59046/whats-up-down-south/

Monday, 22 July 2013

28mm Heer Infantry

Of the 28mm vehicles currently on my painting bench, more seem to be German vehicles than any other nation. Which is a curious thing, as I didnt set out to collect a German force - I just needed a few representative troops to provide ready-to-play opponents for my South African 6th Armoured Division forces. The army started as a single squad of mid-war Germans, and over time I have added figures from a variety of ranges, in a variety of uniforms, selected simply because I liked the sculpts. Despite developing without plan or list, they form, together with the armour, support and transport I have since added, a viable and fairly balanced Bolt Action force. And the collection now has a bit of its momentum, and I find myself wanting to add particular weapons teams and vehicles to allow more diverse list lists to be fielded.

The figures dont represent any particular unit. Purists might shudder at the mix of uniforms and equipment, but I enjoy the somewhat ragtag appearance. My rationalisation for their appearance - if asked - is that towards end of the war the German forces were suffering from massive supply and manpower problems, and looked anything but uniform. And besides, the SA 6th Armoured Division fought such a mix of German forces (ranging from elites like the Fallschirmjager Divisions, the Herman Goering Division, and the 5th Mountain Division, through veteran Panzer and SS divisions, and Lehr Battalions, to reluctant Osttruppen and garrison divisions) that there is no way to represent them all. So I would rather build a "generic" force that could be used to proxy any of them.

These then, although painted a while back, are a selection the most recently completed Heer figures. Most of the infantry are Artizan, with a few additional specialists from Warlord.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Bolt Action: How big is big enough?

Pic courtesy of Richard Trevor

Saturday 13 July saw the biggest (at least in terms of the forces deployed, if not in terms of the number of players) Bolt Action game yet attempted by the Peninsula Wargames Group. We didnt tally up an exact points value on the day (we unpacked forces until it "looked about fair") but the Soviet general estimated about 4500-5000pts, and a rough calculation of the German list after the game reached 4000pts before I stopped counting.

Three Soviet players commanded a horde of Siberan regulars, supported by divisional artillery (Zis-3s), 120mm mortars, two T-34s and KV-1. They shared over 40 order dice between them. Two German players mustered a force comprising 8 squads of SS Veteran fanatic panzergrenadiers with all their toys: assault rifles, flamethrowers, panzerfausts and panzershrecks, MMGs, 81mm mortars; and supported by a Pz IV, two snubnosed StuG IIIs (proxied by Hetzers) and a Pak 40, totalling 30 order dice.

"That looks about fair" ... the quick and easy list-building approach. Pic courtesy of Richard Trevor

30 order dice worth of Waffen SS veterans. Pic courtesy of Richard Trevor

The scenario was an adaption of Mission 5: Top Secret. In addition to the movable objective (The unfortunate Captain Biggleson Esq, shot down while ferrying some rather important papers to Moscow) four other fixed objectives were placed on the 8 x 6 table: one in a farmhouse on the north edge of the table, one at each of the road intersections in the table centre, and one in an intact building in the town on the south edge. Deployment zones were set 12 inches into the table on the long edges (so instead of reserves arriving right on the table edge, they arrived 12 inches into the table) - an attempt to ensure the forces got to grips immediately from Turn 1. The movable objective was worth 2 victory points - the others 1pt each.

Looking south. Objective 1 in ruined farmhouse in foreground, Objectives 2 and 3 at road intersections, Objective 4 (Captain Biggleson) in white and red ruin at top right, and Objective 5 in left-hand apartment block. Pic courtesy of Richard Trevor

Each player was assigned a separate order dice colour, and in an attempt to speed up the game, there were always two dice kept in play. It worked well: on such a large table the near simultaneous activations seldom conflicted, and when they did we reverted to dice draw sequence and resolved activations one by one.

The Soviet High Command plotting their next move, while a German spy assesses the state of the order dice bag. Pic courtesy of Richard Trevor

The game took from about 10.30am to 4.30pm to play, with about a 30-45 minutes break for lunch. We managed to get 6 turns in, but the option to go to a seventh turn as allowed for in the scenario was never entertained - we were running out of time, so the players agreed at the start of the 6th turn that it was the last.

But six turns provided plenty of swings of fortune and swings of momentum. The Germans refused the north flank and conceded the farmhouse objective, preferring to castle up in the town. However, they managed to conceal their deployment plan (read, the dice favoured them) until after the Soviets had committed a healthy percentage of their force to the north flank, which meant the fierce Red Army attack through the town was blunted while the Soviet centre and northern force took a few turns to swing their axis of advance towards the German defensive line.

The centre of the Soviet advance, with the southern force just visible making good progress through the town. Pic courtesy of Richard Trevor

When the Soviets did get to assault the Germans, the attrition on the precious German squads looked unsustainable. The Tough Fighters rule of the Siberians meant that even if they lost an entire squad in each assault (and there were plenty of assaults as buildings were cleared room by room and floor by floor), they whittled down the SS troops very rapidly. The Red Army pegged the Germans back in a tiny quadrant of the table, but which happened to contain 2 out of 5 objectives, including the unfortunate British pilot. The deciding objective - the southernmost one in the intact apartment building - was contested by squad after squad, and changed hands several times.

A brutal street by street fight. The two intact apartment blocks each had 2 floors of 4 rooms: a lot of real estate to defend or attack. Pic courtesy of Richard Trevor

Wargames Tactics 101: "Always secure your flank with a table edge"... Pic courtesy of Richard Trevor

Panzer Grenadiers prepare for their next building assault. Pic courtesy of Richard Trevor

But by the end of Turn 6 the full force of the Russian northern force had yet to hit the main German positions (marching through forests is never fast). And Germans also held the contested objective, and thus sneaked the win. If the game had gone on one more turn, the result was likely to have been very different.

I have previously expressed some concerns about playing large games of Bolt Action, because played in the way the designers intended, there is an assumption that a single unit activation needs to be completed before the next order dice is drawn, resulting in a lot of "passive" time for all except the active player. However, this game seemed to flow fairly well, and undertaking more than one activation at a time seemed to make a significant difference to the speed of the game without compromising the order dice dynamic too badly. Can a Bolt Action game get any bigger and still stay managable? I dont know. But given the Peninsula Wargames Group preference for large multiplayer games, I would think it might just be tested to a new limit soon. 6000pts a side, anyone?

Saturday, 22 June 2013


Here are some images of a recently-completed Hetzer, or more correctly, a Jagdpanzer 38(t) (Sd.Kfz. 138/2). Ever since I started WW2 skirmish gaming, I have been slowly adding to my Heer force, which acts as a ready-built OPFOR for my Partisans, Soviets and South Africans. Given that using 28mm figures to game WW2 encounters is fairly new to the local gaming groups, the German force has seen plenty of action. This models was rushed into a game a month or so ago with just primer and a Dunkelgelb basecoat, and then withdrawn from service to get its camo finish.

I enjoyed the challenge of trying to replicate the early factory-finished scheme, which stands in contrast to the more common sprayed redbrown/olivegreen armour patterns.

The kit is from Warlord games: Its built pretty much out of the box: I only added the skirts, periscope, antenna and a one piece of baggage.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

On the road to Monte Sole: a Bolt Action game

For the most recent Saturday meet of the Peninsula Wargames Group, I was involved in a 1500pt Bolt Action game, depicting a typical encounter between advanced elements of the SA 6th Armoured Division and a mixed force of Heer and SS defenders in the foothills of the Apennines in late 1944/early 1945.

I was looking forward to the game, as it was the first time I could field most of my South African force, the first time I had 1500pts under my command, and the first time both forces on the table had been drawn from the appropriate theatre selectors in the "Armies of..." books, as opposed to the abbreviated rulebook lists.

The official history of the Natal Mounted Rifles includes the full text of a 1944 report to divisional HQ, describing the methods of, and challenges facing, the dedicated reconnaissance unit as they picked their way carefully through successive layers of German defences. Based on the report, I put together a representative force: two reinforced platoons of 2 sections plus command each; medics; the ubiquitous FO; support weapons (2 mortars, 2 sniper teams, a Vickers MG, a PIAT and a towed QF 6-pdr) and transports (a 15-cwt truck and a Jeep). Armoured elements consisted of a Stuart Recce tank, a Sherman V 75mm and two Universal carriers in the recce role. With all selected as regulars, the list generated 21 order dice.

Facing the South Africans was a mix of Heer regulars and Waffen SS veterans (with the fanatic upgrade and all the relevant toys - a flamethrower, an MG42 in sustained fire mode, assault rifles, panzerfausts, panzerschreks etc) and supported by a PzKPfw IV, an Sd.Kfz 251/1 and a 120mm mortar team. Being expensive units, they generated 16 order dice.

Looking East. Objective top centre.
Looking West. Objective center of frame. In foreground is the village, through which the South African planned to attack.

The scenario was "Hold Until Relieved", with Germans set as the defenders and the objective set as a pair of ruined buildings on the crest of a hill, overlooking a village to the east and an road intersection to the west. A hedged-lined road ran parallel to the North (German) table edge.

The German commander deployed a Veteran SS section and an MMG into the objective. Assuming an armoured counter-attack, I deployed a platoon on the west flank of the table to act as a stopper group and firebase, and another platoon in the village, tasked to attack the objective through the village. The scenario dictates that all the attacker's armour is kept in reserve, and I specified that a Stuart recce and a Carrier would enter from the South (Allied table edge), the A/T gun from the West, and a Sherman and the second carrier from the East, supporting the main attack.

A PIAT team keeps an eye out for Gerry armour, while the rest of the platoon advances eastwards.

Bolt Action has its detractors, but once again the rule set produced a tense and enjoyable game, with lots of ebb and flow of fortune as the game unfolded.

Initial successes by the South Africans in pinning and reducing the defenders on the objective were matched by successful counter-battery fire by the German mortar team. The South African HQ called for an artillery strike to support their attack, and disaster struck - a miscalculation by the FO brought the strike down on his own troops in the village - killing the platoon HQ and pinning the advancing sections. Exploiting the opportunity, the German commander called in his SS Panzergrenadiers and Panzer IV from reserve, and the shellshocked and leaderless South Africans in the village collapsed in the face of determined German attacks.

Heer regulars call for support as they advance to contest the village...
... which arrives in the form of a Panzer IV Special.

Despite coming under small-arms fire, Heer mortarmen stick to their task, while their armour is pinned by accurate but ineffective a/t fire.

I attempted to reorganise the attack from the west flank, and the South Africans succeeded in briefly occupying one of the buildings on the objective, but the SS veterans immediately counter-attacked from the village to reclaim the hill. Despite sustained suppressive fire from the SA armour, and the loss of the Panzer IV to the Springbok 6-pdr, the fanatical Waffen SS held their ground and beat off all the South African assaults. With the game going into the 7th turn, the South Africans were lacking viable infantry units to contest, and the game was conceded. By my reckoning it had taken between 4 and 5 hours to play out.

Regimental HQ co-ordinating the ill-fated attack on the objective.

Too late... the Sprinkbok armour arrives after the primary infantry attack had already failed and the village had been lost.
An NMR Stuart Recce brews up, hit by a panzerscheck round at maximum range...