Thursday, 3 December 2020

Sudan Colonial part 1. British

This little project demonstrates the perils of eBay browsing. While I've had a vague interest in Colonial warfare, when it comes to chaps in Khaki Drill I've more been playing Mesopotamia and Palestine in WW1. Well, sadly a very cheap lot of  unpainted 15mm Mahdist Wars figures appeared on eBay, and purchasing and painting duly followed.

Here are a couple of British units, with a heroic command base. I really like the look of KD with white webbing so I went for later period figures in Khaki rather than 'Zulu' style redcoats.

These figures are Two Dragons 15mm. I did them on my usual 30x30 bases but with three figures in line, which I think looks rather nice.

The commander is on his horse. I can't remember where I got the flags now unfortunately.

You can't do without artillery support, so one of the first things I got to supplement the eBay figures were some guns. A couple of RBLs in this case.

I think these are Essex, certainly I ended up buying quite a few Essex figures to supplement the Two Dragons ones.

You also have to have a Gatling Gun, so it can jam when the Colonel is dead. Also Essex I think.

A lovely little model.

I did some individually based officers for heroic Harry Faversham type activities. These are a mixture of Two Dragons, Essex and possibly some Peter Pig.

Where the British Army goes, so does its baggage. I got some pack mules, probably Essex, possibly PP. 

I didn't give them any handlers so I could use them for multiple periods. Burma or Italy anyone?

I also got a few pack camels, which add some tone to the proceedings. Along with the pack mules, they are all ideally suited to panicking and disrupting any well ordered square they happen to be standing inside.

Saturday, 28 November 2020

Table Battles - Bosworth

 Tim put on a game using an interesting card game called 'Table Battles' which lets you recreate biggish engagements ranging from Ancients right up to late nineteenth century.

To my mind the rules have something of a heritage of Waterloo 1815 in that the forces are represented by cards, which then describe what the units can and can't do. These include not only the obvious 'attack' type options,  but also things like screening, bombardment etc. There are restrictions on which cards can attack other cards, and unit skill and resilience is modelled by varying the number of hits they can take and the loss ratio they inflict in combat.

Here is the Yorkist battle line for Bosworth. The number in the top right corner is how many hits they can take. The key thing is the number in the squiggly line. This is what dice scores can be used to activate the cards. C3 is modelled by the players throwing half a dozen dice and allocated them to a card based on the scores. In Richards case. Norfolk can take 5s and 6s, Richard himself can only take 5s and Northumberland can only take 4s.  So if you throw a bunch of 1s and 2s, you are stuck.

What is nice is that you can build dice up on a card, so e.g. Norfolk could build up a pile of e.g. 6 dice over a few turns. This would allow him to make a much stronger attack (inflicting one hit per dice, but only suffering one hit overall) at the cost of time.

In this scenario, Northumberland is in reserve, and can only be activated by Richard who needs to build up a whopping five dice to carry out that action.  Richards strategic choice is then essentially to try and fight with the cards he has got at a force disadvantage, or play a longer game and hope he can hang on until Northumberland activates. He only needs to rout one Lancastrian unit to win.

The Tudor army is a real contrast. Oxford  is similar to Norfolk, able to use 5 or 6, ad attacks in a similar manner - losing one hit and inflicting one per dice used. With a strength of eight though, Oxford is a tough nut to crack, and he has to be attacked first by Richards Army. Richmond can use 3 or 4 dice, and has the huge advantage that he can inflict one hit for no loss in combat, even though he only has two strength points. Essentially he is launching short, sharp attacks screened by Oxford, which can chip away at Norfolk and Richard. As he can use 3s and 4s, the Lancastrian Army will also have an advantage in C3 rolls over Richard. The Stanleys, like Northumberland, are lurking in reserve and need to be activated by Richmond.

The Lancastrian strategy is far more straight forward, attack Norfolk as soon as possible. If Norfolk is routed, the Lancastrians gain a morale chip and only need to rout Richard to win (Richards morale is two, the Lancastrians only one).

We ran this game twice over two successive nights and it went really well, although both were Lancastrian victories. Tim even managed to arrange things so multiple players took part (despite each side only having three cards!). Bosworth is just an introductory scenario, and the series includes cards to cover some pretty big historical battles, including e.g. Gettysburg. For the larger battles the armies are divided into wings, with the dice allocated across the wings. It is an interesting take on warfare up until the end of the nineteenth century, and well worth a look.

The boardgame geek entry is here: if you want some more info, video reviews etc.

Thursday, 19 November 2020

20mm Sturmtiger

This one is a bit of an oddity, a Sturmtiger converted from the Airfix one. Although I've done a fair few 20mm conversions, I can't claim the credit for this one, as it came my way via Mr Gow (originally built by his friend JR I think) . 

I gather it was based on an article in Airfix magazine which I must have missed or I might have been tempted myself!

It is essentially just a huge armoured box on a Tiger chassis and armed with a 380mm (!) rocket propelled mortar. Its closest Allied equivalent was the AVRE Petard. This conversion captures the heft of the thing quite well. Unlike the Petard, this one is a breech loader, but the huge size of the rounds meant the internal storage was very limited, so the crane on the back was to help load new rounds through the rear hatch.

The gun barrel here has been converted using a biro pen. The real thing wasn't quite so wide bored as 380mm is only 15", but it does look fairly terrifying.

It sits nicely on the suspension. The turret numbers came out of the spares box.

And the rear deck is suitably imposing with nice dep engine grills. I didn't dirty it up too much, just a bit of mud and drybrushed dust.

All I really had to do with this model was some minor repair work and a new paint job. This example is based on one captured by the US Army in 1945 (several platoons of Sturmtigers fought in the Bulge and at Remagen where they were tasked with destroying the bridge with gunfire!). It has a well defined 'ambush' scheme although the real one had a slightly more dense pattern of spots.

Saturday, 7 November 2020

Norfolk Part 2

 Along with my visit to Muckleborough on our break in Norfolk this summer, we were regular visitors to the local shingle beach, we even swam in the sea a few times although the North Sea is fairly chilly at this time of year. The odd seal came to say hello too, which was a nice bonus.

On the dykes through the salt marshes and on the beach itself were various old defences. Most of the pillboxes had succumbed to the relentless sea, however... 

There was this rather fine specimen half buried in shingle. I'm not convinced North Norfolk would have been the best place to invade Britain, but it was nice to see some of the old defences left. 

Further back in the marshes was this delightful pre fabricated steel pill box, still in its concrete pit. It was missing its hatches but was otherwise in great condition, plenty of space inside for a Bren team plus a few home comforts. 

Along with coastal excursions (which generally seemed to feature eating cakes or scones at some point) we went to see the Anish Kapoor exhibition at Houghton Hall South of Kings Lynn. Along with the permanent and visiting exhibitions, there is a magnificent collection of toy soldiers, well worth the admission price alone. 

The house was established by Walpole in the 1700s and is  close to the Royal Estate at Sandringham,  but the toy soldier collection was started by the 6th Marquess of Cholmondley in the 1920s and now has over 20,000 figures. 

I couldn't really do the whole thing justice, but here are a few things which caught my eye. 

Mounted bandsmen

The British Army in Egypt in review. 

Charge of the Light Brigade 

Camp scenes

British Army review (again). In Britain this time. 

I think this is the relief of Khartoum 

Napoleon and his HQ. 

Wellington (we already met Copenhagen at the Muckleborough Collection) 


21st Lancers charge at Omdurman. I expect young Lt Winston Churchill is among that lot but I couldn't pick him out. 

Another mounted band. 

Various large scale Napoleonic French (with another Napoleon) 

There is a huge diorama of Waterloo, and unlike the Siborne one, it shows different stages of the battle from each of its four sides. This one is the attack of the Guard. I'll let you work out the two above. What a clever idea and very effective. 

Another camp scene. 

Lots of the dioramas featured flats, here are two examples. 

This is what we actually came to see, more magic from Anish Kapoor. This sky mirror was just astonishing, true interactive public art, like The Bean in Chicago. 

Even if you aren't that bothered about the art (although the gardens are beautiful and worth visiting for the Henry Moore alone) the toy soldiers are just fabulous. 

Saturday, 24 October 2020

Sidi Rezegh

 The latest outing in my series of NBC WW2 games was a trip to the Battle of Sidi Rezegh during Operation Crusader in 1941. 7th Armoured Div faces off against 21st Panzer Div on the route to Tobruk, this covered the battle on the 22nd November when 7th Armoured Div finally concentrated against 21st Panzer Div. It was also the day Jock Cambell won his VC, which says something for the ferocity of the fighting.

In a bold experiment I ditched my Samsung tablet and phone combo over Skype, and instead used my laptop webcam over Zoom. Well, if you don't try new stuff you'll never improve.

We had a big turnout for this one, Tim G, Pete and Jerry were 21st Panzer Div (KG Stephan 5th Panzer Regt, KG Knabe 104th Schutzen Regt and Div CO von Ravenstein respectively). Tim C ws Jock Campbell commanding 7th Support Group, Graham had the three RA regiments of 7th Armoured Div, Simon had 7th Armoured Brigade and John reprised his role as Brigadier Scott-Cockburn, dashing commander of 22nd Armoured Brigade. So we essentially had two entire armoured divisions on the table.

View of the battlefield from the east. The escarpment runs up the middle of the table, with the airfield on the left. The Axis Bypass (the road constructed around Tobruk) is the metalled road running along the base of the escarpment.

Map of the battlefield (North is up). The critical objectives are circled,from L-R, Sidi Rezegh (tomb), Supply dump, ridge overlooking the Axis Bypass and finally the Airfield. 

1 KRRC deployed at the Airfield, supported by two batteries of 2pdr portee. 

2RB deployed to cover the other wadi breaching the escarpment with another RHA 2pdr battery. 60 Field Regt and Jock Campbells HQ, deployed behind. The remains of 7th AB with their elderly cruisers took up Hull down positions on the rise covering the Track. 

8MG Bn deployed in a wadi on the German left, with the Regimental HQ and motorised engineer and AT companies up on the ridge. One of the supporting 105mm artillery battalions can be seen, as well as a battalion of heavy artillery from Gruppe Boetcher. 

Over on the German right, II Schutzen Bn deployed near the tomb , with another 105mmArty to the rear and the FOO for the heavy artillery and DivHQ just behind. 

Irl the Germans led off with an infantry assault, but in the game the Germans were more cautious and waited an hour or so for 5th Pz Regt to roll up.  Two panzer battalions arrived on the western flank, plus various supporting assets, including a battery of 88s.

This was the cue for the Germans infantry to advance and II Schutzen set off down the road, while 25pdr fire dropped around them. 

8 MGBn also shuffled forwards to the Axis bypass, the wadi in D7 looked inviting. 

German infantry approached the escarpment fairly rapidly, while CB fire landed around 60th Field Regt. The Germans had an unusual amount of artillery support as they were close to the Tobruk siege lines. 

Both German  Infantry Bns were well on their way to the escarpment now, 2RB was looking a bit outnumbered. 

Over on the left flank, 22nd AB intervened with a torrent of Crusaders! Oberst Stephan was now in a semi circle of British tanks. Fortunately the British tankers morale was low after their heavy losses on previous days and one Regiment broke. 

View from the supply dump. 22AB has taken the Hill to the left and has one of the Panzer battalions thoroughly pinned. 

The 88s have what might be called a target rich environment. Unfortunately the Crusaders are far too close for comfort. 

View from the North. 8MGBn is right up at the escarpment now,, II Schutzen is not far behind. 

KG Knabe climbs the escarpment in front of the Airfield, and the RHA  portees head off to face the Panzers further west. 60 FA has taken some losses now. 

 In bloody fighting, 2RB are overrun by 8MG Bn. The Germans take 50% losses but the British break and run. The Airfield is in German hands! 

In the centre 60th FA and  the RHA 2pdrs retreat in disorder after beingoverrun by Panzers. 1KRRC is assaulted by II Schutzen and a melee ensues. 

22AB has great success and overruns the 88s while reducing one of the Panzer Bns to platoon strength. The British  lose a regiments worth of Crusaders in exchange. 

John led 22AB HQ and the remains of one regiment up the road to Sidi Rezegh and engaged Jerry (von Ravenstein)  and 21st PzDiv HQ in close combat. In the close range fight, the last of the Crusaders were knocked out, leaving the armoured HQs to duke it out. 

The RHA 2pdrs were dispersed by German heavy artillery fire and 60 Regt was looking decidedly shaky. Back on the escarpment II Schutzen and 1 KRRC were still slugging away,  but both sides were suffering extremely heavy  losses (75% each) and effectively eliminated each other. 

The airfield was firmly in German hands now. 

1st Pz Bn meanwhile engaged 7th AB in a very one sided fight. 

Over in the west though, the supply dump was in British hands and the way was (almost) open down off the ridge to the tomb. German IInd panzer Bn had been destroyed, and the British had one undamaged regiment left. 

The sneaky Germans had their motorised engineers and Pak 38s enroute to Sidi Rezegh tomb though, so whether 30 odd Crusaders would be enough to break the Pak front was anyones guess. 

We called it a day at that point. The Germans held three of the four objectives but both sides had suffered brutal losses. Irl the Germans overran the British position and destroyed the bulk of their armour, so in game terms the British actually did better than their historical counterparts. It was a shame we didn't have time for a couple more turns as the battle for the tomb would have been interesting. I suspect Veteran German AT gunners and engineers supported by three battalions of artillery vs one weak regiment of Crusaders wouldn't have gone the tankers way though. Zoom worked fine and the players commented on the superior picture quality, so that was a success. 

Jock Campbell was awarded the VC for his heroic defence in the battle, while Scott-Cockburn ended up commanding the records office High Barnet. Von Ravenstein was wounded a few days after this and Command of 21st Panzer  passed to Knabe, who commanded the infantry in the battle. 

That is probably the last of the NBC desert battles or now.  Although they work OK they are a little bit big for remote play and in future I'll focus on slightly smaller actions. It has been fun to run them sequentially though, and it is such a shame Frank Chadwick never published 'Decision in the Desert' covering 1942 although I expect I could bodge together some Gazala and Alamein scenarios. Many thanks to the players for indulging me, and for the fine array of hats on display!