Friday, 19 January 2018

Thomas the Tank Engine

Regular readers will have noted that my games often feature railway lines. Now, I do have my ancient Irregular 6mm train set, but for larger scale games I have felt the need for some slightly bigger rolling stock.

I did some research into N gauge and was horrified to discover I'd need a second mortgage, and even toy train sets were rather more than I was willing to pay. Imagine my delight when I came across this in Waterstones for a mere tenner.


A train set in a tin. What a great idea. It even comes with its own track (a little larger than N gauge). 


The train itself is a rather jaunty US style loco, with a coal truck, goods wagon and caboose in various garish colours.  It even has a battery operated  electric motor so it can propel itself along. 


A little bit of light conversion and repainting turned it into something rather more martial. 



For the engine I just cut off the cow catcher and strange funnel mounted light to make it a bit simpler. I thought about adding some armour plate to the boiler but I rather like the pipes and things so I left it plain. 

I repainted it panzer grey, and the red trim is based on the train in the TV series Babylon Berlin. 


The caboose already features slit windows and is ideal as an Armoured carriage. I just stripped off the labels with label remover and repainted it panzer grey. 


The goods wagon is a bit redundant. I basically just painted it green and drew in a door and slit windows. At some point I'll convert it to a flat car, but I was too impatient to do that this time. 


The tank car took a bit more work, as it started life as the coal truck. The hatches were already moulded on, and here it mounts a PSC T34 turret.  It can take any old turret though. 


I had to saw off the coal with a razor saw, and just filled the gap with a plate made of plasticard. The hole is 4mm, which takes most tank turrets. It was a bit fiddly sawing off the top and I discovered a critical structural piece attached to the coal, so some repairs were necessary. 



The whole thing fits neatly in its tin, with the railway track stored underneath. Coming to a wargame near you soon!

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Eric Ravilious exhibition

We were fortunate enough to have the travelling Eric Ravilious exhibition in Sheffield, featuring not only Ravilious but a number of other early twentieth century artists including Paul and John Nash, Enid Marx etc. Ravilious was killed in 1942, one of three war artists to die in the war.

Among the interwar landscapes and beautiful lithographs were a number of war paintings by Ravilious, and I was particularly taken by these three from the Norway campaign.



'Ark Royal in Action'. I'm not quite sure what Ark Royal is doing here, apparently setting large bonfires on the decks (or firing heavy AA at dusk), but it is wonderfully stark and evocative painting. 


HMS Glorious flying off her Hurricanes under the northern sun.


A Norwegian Fiord, which brilliantly captures the colours of the far north.

The exhibition was originally from the Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne and is at the Compton Gallery in Warwickshire next.  Thoroughly recommended.


Sunday, 31 December 2017

Berlin to the Baltic Part 2. WW2.

Back in summer we cycled from Berlin to the Baltic along the Oder via Poland. Germany is of course littered with WW2 stuff, a few highlights here.


Many of the surviving buildings in Berlin are still riddled with bullet holes and shell splashes. This shot up pillar is abut half a mile from the Reichstag.


Part of our cycle route took us through what was described as an 'industrial area'. I was a bit surprised to discover that this was actually a satellite concentration camp from Sachsenhausen. First signs that things were amiss was this information board about the SS Bakery, part of Himmlers economic empire.

The main camp was a brick works, and the 'industrial area' referred to is still a brick works albeit no longer functioning as a death camp, just a rather rundown bit of ex DDR industry.




The main memorial to the camp.


The terrain east of Berlin was fascinating, the plateau dropped about 36m down to the Oder valley, and the ridge in the distance is a extension of the Kustrin Heights, which run for a considerable distance.  This was taken from the top of the Oder canal ship transporter bridge, which was built in 1904(!) to carry barge traffic up and down the drop, instead of a series of locks.


The Oder valley itself was a huge expanse of waterways and marshland. I really can't imagine getting tanks across it unless it was frozen solid. Now it is a massive nature reserve, and full of very hungry biting insects.



Our travels eventually took us to Peenemunde, and I was very pleased to find this old V1 launch rail base in the woods. A genuine secret Nazi rocket base! The woods were also full of biting insects.



Some bits of the site were a bit less easy to ramble as they are still full of unexploded ordanance. There were some fairly impressive craters, but the photos didn't come out very well of those. This particular sign is on the site of another concentration camp, used to house the factory workers (the old concrete perimeter posts are still there.



At the main museum are some rather grand exhibits.


I just couldn't resist...


The only surviving major installation is the base power station, which is now the museum. There is something very Germanic about the whole structure. It functioned as a power station until reunification, but the Russians helped themselves to some of the original generators.



This sail training ship was moored in Stralsund. It was used by the Kriegsmarine, sunk, then raised by the Russians and taken as reparations. It eventually ,made its way back to Germany after the breakup of the USSR.


The holocaust memorial in Berlin. Very fittingly, this is built on the site of Goebbels house.


This dodgy car park is the site of Hitlers bunker. Just down the road from Goebbels house and  around the corner from the Luftwaffe and Gestapo HQs. 


The top of the Reichstag, with the Brandenburg gate in the background. No Russian sergeants up there today.

The Soviet war memorial in the Tiergarten.


One of the gate guards. I was rather taken with this 1943 model T34 as it has mixed road wheels, although my wife failed share my excitement. Over on its twin, someone was demonstrating why trying to climb the glacis of a tank in flip flops is a very, very bad idea.


Friday, 22 December 2017

One Hour WW2

Shortly after One Hour Wargames came out, I had a go at converting the system to hexes, and in particular, re-working the WW2 rules to what I felt was a more appropriate level with battalion sized units. I'd solo played it, and as with so many rules development projects, having developed something which apparently worked, immediately lost interest and moved on to something else.

Some months later, I was in need of a quick game to take down to the club and I thought I may as well try them out. The scenario is from OHW, and is 'Bridghead'. It starts with Blue having one unit over a river, and various Red units turn up from random locations while the rest of the Blue army rushes to save them.

I set this game in Normandy in 1944, loosely based on the Battle of Brieux, 49th Infantry Divs bridgehead over the Orne and famous mainly for the unfortunate fate of 107th RAC at the hands of the Panthers and Tigers of KG Wunsche. 


Both sides rolled up similar forces. The Germans got a tank unit, a mechanised infantry and four leg infantry who nicely stood in for KG Wunsche and the regiment of 272nd ID who took part in the battle. The British rolled up a tank, a motorised infantry and four leg infantry too. I elected to make the German tank and Panzergrenadiers elite (18 hits), and downgraded two of the leg infantry to green (12 hits). 

In the photo above, KG Wunsche is attacking the unfortunate battalion holding the bridge. Each unit is a battalion, and each hex is a kilometre or two.


KG Wunsche is repulsed as 107th RAC runs to the rescue. If an assault fails to clear a hex, the attackers fall back.


Later in the game, KG Wunsche continues to be engaged while the British fend off hordes of German infantry moving through the woods (historically, the Foret de Grimbosq).

In the end, the Allies held on by the skin of their teeth and it was quite a decent game. It was very useful to play with some actual players and I realised afterwards that I'd forgotten how the assault system was supposed to work. With short ranges and long move distances, I'd intended that assaults could only be conducted if starting the turn adjacent to the enemy to give a chance for some defensive fire. In the game I completely forgot this stipulation with the result that tanks went charging about assaulting with merry abandon. It was all very heroic, but not very WW2.

At some point I'll try them again, with a slightly tighter interpretation this time, but it was a reasonable bit of fun. If anyone else is interested in them, they are in the One Hour Wargames variants subfolder in the AMW yahoogroup.

Strangely, the result ended up being somewhat historical, with 107th RAC obliterated by the Germans driven off in some disarray. No Lt 'Deadshot Dick' Foley sending the SS Panzergrenadiers packing with his Webley in this though.






Saturday, 16 December 2017

Neil Thomas Napoleonic

John brought down a game of Neil Thomas's Napoleonic rules from Introduction to Wargaming. We've not played these for a while, more focussing on One Hour Wargames and Simplicity in Practice. It was a fictional bash between some French and Russians, and featured Johns  nice new grass mat, purchased second hand at the club bring and buy.

I got to command the Frenchies, and Tim and Graham got the Russians.


The French right wing, guns supported by the mighty Battenburgers resplendent in their pink and yellow uniforms.


The left wing, more cavalry on this side. There are an awful lot of Russians in the distance!


The Russians put most of their strength on their right. Clearly falling into my cunning trap.


The French sported multi-coloured uniforms and a had much better hats than the Russians.


Over on the left I occupied the wood and pushed some cavalry forward while the Russians set up  a grand battery on the hill.


Over on the right, my outflanking columns pushed forwards, covered by artillery.


A rather messy cavalry action forced back my Chasseurs and the French infantry formed square.


Over on the right, my infantry shook out into line as the Cossacks came over to play, pursued by my Dragoons.


The cavalry melee continued, with neither side able to gain the upper hand. The Russian artillery meanwhile pounded the wood.


The Dragoons kept the Cossacks busy while the Grenadiers formed up into an assault column.


 Over on the left, the Russian cuirassiers kept pushing forwards, inflicting heavy losses on the French.



But over on the right, the moment of decision! The Dragoons piled into the Cossack and Grenadiers piled into the Russian infantry.


Sadly fortune didn't favour the brave on this occasion and La Garde recule (as did the Dragoons), at which point the French ground to a halt and the honour of Russia was saved. Oh dear.

This was good fun and we had a real laugh, Tim even admitted that was the first NT game he'd actually enjoyed. John had removed some of his earlier revisions and it made it into a cleaner, faster game. It also looked like a proper toy soldier game, and reminded me of the photos in Charles Grants 'Napoleonic Wargames' book.