Saturday, 14 January 2017


One of the lesser known games in Phil Sabins 'Simulating War' is Kartenspiel, partly because it is buried in the appendices. It is an attempt to model a Napoleonic battle as a card game, in the style of Clausewitz (who observed that war is very much like a game of cards, with its mix of calculation,bluff and limited knowledge).

The game system is designed for ten(!) players, but I reckoned as a minimum I could get away with four. This was good, as I had four players at the club Christmas games day. The battle is abstracted out as four (opposing) Corps sized engagements, and the forces are allocated to each side as playing cards, each representing a division of infantry or cavalry. Initially the CinC holds all the cards, but then allocates some of them to each Corps. Once allocated, they are committed and cannot be recalled so the CinC has to deploy his forces wisely and keep a reserve. The Corps commanders then simultaneously  decide whether to attack or defend, and once all attacks are declared, the battles are resolved. It is only at this stage that the forces allocated to each Corps are (briefly) revealed. Battles are entirely deterministic, the side with the most combat power wins and if they double the enemy, they inflict an extra loss. An attacker can never lose more than three divisions in a battle and a defender can never lose more than two, so combat tends to be quite attritional.

I couldn't resist having a tinker around with it, one major thing missing was any consideration of terrain (something which shapes any battle) and also explicit representation of artillery which was assumed to be factored into each division. I added some simple terrain rules, and also allowed each side a single 'grand battery' which didn't greatly affect the outcome but did explicitly represent the third arm. I also couldn't resist using some toys, so I marked up a battle board into four zones and dragged out my Austrians and French.

Tim and Russell took the French (on the left above), Graeme and Jerry the Austrians (right).  

After a few turns of pounding,this was the French left/Austrian right. Lots of forces sucked into the IV Corps sector, while a couple of Austrian divisions hold a village opposed by the French grand battery.

The slugfest in IV Corps merely resulted in lots of casualties. The French had more luck against the village, gradually whittling the defenders down with repeated assaults supported by their guns. Alas it was in the woods of I Corps that the battle was decided. The French committed all their reserves in IV Corps in a huge effort, but the Austrians opposed them with enough strength to hold them up, while attaining a critical force superiority against the lightly held woods. With no reserves left, the French could only watch as they eventually managed to break through.

The saving grace was that as neither side had any reserves left at all, there was  no French rearguard, but neither was there an Austrian pursuit, so the French just fell back to lick their wounds and reorganise.

This seemed to go swimmingly well, and the rock/paper declaration of attacks/defences and cavalry charges was hugely entertaining as the Corps commanders thumped the table and the respective Army commanders looked on and hoped  they would make the right decisions. Russell actually threw away a chance to take the village on the last turn, much to 'Napoleons' fury, but c'est la guerre.

Thoroughly recommended, and one of the better simulations of mass nineteenth century warfare I've seen, especially the ability of subordinates to utterly mess up the CinCs carefully laid plans, and with not a dice in sight. Great stuff.

This will probably be making an appearance at COW.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Zvezda Pz 38(t)

I felt the need of a spot more early war German armour, partly with an eye to Arras, partly with an eye to Barbarossa. I just could not resist these beautiful Zvezda Pz 38s, after all, who doesn't love a Pz 38, with all those lovely rivets. At £2.50 each (in a special deal) these guys were hard to beat.

I was only going to get three, but then I thought, what the hell, and got six. Coupled with my Pz IIs, Pz IV D/Es and PzBehfl III, that is enough for a whole battalion.

More of a close up of its angular loveliness. As with all the Zvezda kits this snapped together in a few minutes, the only slightly odd bits are the machineguns, but they look fine from a distance.

Engine deck, turret rear etc. The rivets stand out quite nicely here.

For this one I bodged up a commander from a PSC kit and just made up a hatch cover from plasticard. The hatch aperture is pretty small in real life, so I just cut the figure off flat and stuck it down and you can;t see that there isn't an actual hole in the turret.

I just did these in plain Panzergrau over a black, so good for 1939 to early 1943. I used Vallejo Panzer Grey, but it is ludicrously dark so I ended up lightening it with some added white. The turret decals are Battlefront, and otherwise I just heavily drybrushed the tracks and running gear in mud and finished the whole thing off with a very light overall drybrush of Vallejo Iraqi Sand.

These are lovely models and I'd recommend them to anyone. In fact I liked the some much, I then went and bought a load of Zvezda Pz IIs and Pz IVs to replace my elderly metal Peter Pig ones. Oh dear, that is going to be a slippery slope...

Saturday, 10 December 2016

The Man who would be Rich

Tom put on this Afghan Wars skirmish game using a variant of the 5Core Skirmish rules. It was set up on the frontier and featured a stuffy and unimaginative British Colonel, a horde of revoltighmn natives and a daring and raffish ex-Lieutenant, Ahem. The good Lt had got it into his head that it would be a great idea to kidnap the Colonels wife, and demand a ransom for her safe return whislt holed up in an Afghan village. The Colonel duly set out to retrieve his wife, whilst various dubious looking Afghan tribesmen assembled in the hills. 

The village in the distance. The cloth, river and hills are my own, the palm trees are mainly Tims and the buildings came out of the club terrain box. The profile mountains are also mine, and the whole thing looks rather smart I think.

The brave Lt and his mutinous gang in the village with lookouts posted. The Colonels wife is in the courtyard with her pet dog.

Rebellious Afghans assemble on the other side of the river.

The Lt leads the Colonels wife out for a parley with the British relief column, only to be gunned down in a hail of Martini-Henry fire! War crimes! Fortunately the wounds are not serious, however I suspect the Colonel will be in for a  bit of trouble when his wife gets home.

The British troops close in from the east and the Afghans from the west. The Colonels wife is left bleeding outside the compound while the Lt is retrieved by one of his men. The mutinous riflemen manage to bring down some Afghan horsemen.

With enemy closing from all sides, the Lt makes good his escape, pausing only to gun down another Afghan as the enemy start to break into the buildings.

Sadly he doesn't run fast and far enough. His accomplice is caught by angry Afghans and the Lt is left lying wounded in the hot sun by long range British rifle fire. Oh dear, we all know what happens to the Remains on the Afghan Plains. 

This was all great fun and very much in the spirit of Flashman et al. The Colonel retrieved his (somewhat shot up and very cross) wife, the Afghans got to chop up some infidels, and the Lt showed that crime really doesn't pay.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

To Boldly Go..

John laid on a Star Trek type game using his Planetside Sci-Fi skirmish rules. The USS Illustrious had detected an anomaly in the space-time continuum and went to investigate, but some wicked Space Goblins were also interested in the mysterious artefact. Jerry took the goblins, and myself, Tim and Tom the plucky Federation.

As is traditional, the entire bridge crew beamed down, accompanied by some red shirt security guards. This did not go very well as hordes of Goblins emerged to gun down the red shirts. 

Another party beamed in behind the Goblin firing line. This also didn't go very well as the tightly clustered target came under fire from rocket launchers.

The goblins formed a hedgehog around the mysterious artifact.

And despite (rather limited) planetary bombardment, stayed there. The artifact did not like being bombarded and disappeared making a strange grinding noise.

Well, that could have gone better. In fact we should have done almost anything apart from what we actually did, which was essentially to conduct a 'helicopter assault' into a hot LZ - with the bridge crew of the Enterprise. Maybe try scanning the area for life forms first, perhaps talk to the goblins, maybe beam the goblin commander up into the brig, maybe show them what 'kissing' is...

Oh well, that is that happens when you approach a scenario with 'wargame' in mind. I'd really like to try this again, and approach it with more of a Star Trek mindset. Lovely figures from John, which sound like an appalling ballache to put together.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

PSC 75mm LeIG

I already have a couple of  Peter Pig 1/100th 75mm infantry guns, but they are done up in late war colours and I felt the need for a few more suitable for the early and midwar period. I picked up one of the (astonishingly good value) PSC German heavy weapons boxes which includes four 75mm LeIG with a number of options including the Gebirgsjager variants.

I only made up a section of two in the standard tyred configuration to start with as I may want to make some spoke wheeled ones in future. Here they both are, lined up to provide fire support from the dining table.

These are beautiful, crisp models with loads of detail, and unlike metal guns, are really easy to stick together. I hate assembling metal guns, I wish they were all made of plastic.

I just did them with a couple of crew as these guns are tiny. I was fortunate enough to handle the real example at Shrivenham, and I'm not sure I could crouch down behind the miniscule gun shield.

The crew are from the figures included in the box, I just did a gunner and loader. For plastic figures these have quite deeply moulded detail, which takes a drybrush very well. The helmets are a little squashed, but at normal gaming distances this isn't noticeable.

I'm never really sure what colour to paint early war German equipment, I used to paint mortars, guns etc faded panzer grey but the Shrivenham LeIG is done in RAL 6006 (Feldgrau) so thats what I did these in. I rather think an 88 or 105 would look a bit silly in RAL 6006, but these look ok, and with a bit of a dust highlight, it all sort of blends in anyway.

I really can't recommend these highly enough, and as with all the PSC heavy weapons offerings they are astonishing value and very high quality, at least compared to their metal counter parts. If only Zvezda did their guns in 1/100th too, I'd be a happy bunny.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Merry Men of Sherwood

John put on this interesting medieval skirmish game using Jim Wallmans Men at Arms 'one brain cell' rules. It was a complex multi-player featuring myself as the Sheriff of Mansfield and Graeme as the local Reeve of the Manor upholding the peace against a distinctly dodgy looking  band of outlaws led by Jerry.

Messing things up for everyone was local dignitary Sir John Bassett who had invited the King to go deer hunting.

The field of strife. Jerrys outlaws were supposed to be up to no good in the vicinity of the mill. Some deer are grazing peacefully in the distance.

The Kings hunting party comes thundering, oblivious to everything else. A large hunting dog is in attendance.

Meanwhile, in the village my chaps and the Reeves men mill around. I suppose if we were trying to lure the outlaws into a trap, this was probably not a good idea...

After a while we figured out where the outlaws were and formed up outside the village. The white cards are order chits for the leaders. They can only issue very simple commands, the main one being 'follow me'.

Over on the edge of the forest, the outlaws have shot some deer and hope to grab the carcass before the knights can intervene.

On the other half of the battlefield we continue to plod along

By the skin of his teeth Friar Tuck manages to grab the deer and make it back in the forest while the knights look on.

This was really good fun, and the command system worked extremely well. Only being able to do one 'action' per turn meant the leaders had to really focus on the important things and the forces of law and order probably spent far too long sending each other messages to try and co-ordinate our forces. Even though not a great deal 'happened' it felt very busy and there was always stuff to do. I'd recommend the system to anyone, and many thanks to John  for putting on such a pretty and enjoyable game.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Pull up to the Bunker..

With huge apologies to Grace Jones for the post title....

I was sorting out some stuff I needed for a game recently and reflected on the large number of times my fortification terrain pieces have been used. Although I have plenty of trenches, barbed wire, pillboxes, dragons teeth etc one thing I'm lacking is actual bunkers, either of the shelter type or the artillery variety. On occasion I've even had to borrow bunkers from other people, oh the shame! So given the amount of re-use I get from terrain items, I thought I'd finally knuckle down and make some.

The mini-Maginot Line takes shape. The finished bunkers all lined up.

They are modelled on crude versions of WW2 German beach defence bunkers, albeit minus the extra concrete arms protecting the embrasure. Most of them I did as partially buried with the sides built up and some earth and grass on the roof.

At the rear, they all have a small door so attacking infantry don;t necessarily have to try and climb in through the gun slot. This example also has some air vents on top, made from Brodie helmets cut off from some spare Emhar WW1 British figures I had.

They all started life as one of these, a plastic end piece from a roller blind container. I have accumulated a fair collection of these over a number of bedroom renovations, and I picked a bunch of the more reasonable sized ones (approx 50mm each side). They were stuck down on 60x60 bases and textured with PVA, sand and static grass in the normal manner.

Some of them were very deep, so I cut them in half horizontally with a razor saw and made up new roofs from mount board, you can see the roof on this one. The embrasures were also cut into the plastic sides with a (very) sharp knife. To cover up the plastic-ness of them (and gaps in the roofs and walls), I slathered each in a thin layer of flexible builders filler, which also produced a pleasing concrete texture. 

To be used as shelters, the intention is to cover up the gun embrasure with lichen, as above.

And by placing a pillbox on top, they can be used as sheltered observation and command posts.

For an afternoons work and minimal expenditure, I was pleased with the results, and I can think of a number of scenarios where they will come in very handy, so I'll have to plan some games to make use of them.