Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Defending Dunkirk

The recent release of Christopher Nolan's epic movie Dunkirk has meant that everyone is talking about the 1940 Battle of France.  As a wargamer, this has been great news - from the Sunday Telegraph to Wargames Illustrated, there has been a huge amount of information published that should be enough to spark anyone's interest in the campaign. There are so many actions that are ideal for reproducing on the tabletop, but the battle that resonates most with me occurred at Hazebrouck.

At the end of May 1940, with the BEF in full retreat towards the channel ports, a ring of positions around Dunkirk represented the shield behind which thousands of men could board the ships to take them to safety.  On the 25th May 1940, the 1st Buckinghamshire Battalion, The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry moved into Hazebrouck to defend the town and delay the German advance towards the channel.  Over the next few days, the 1st Bucks defended so valiantly that the German Army said of them "the defenders of HAZEBROUCK not only delayed the advance, but resisted in a manner truly worthy of the highest traditions of the British Army."

I am a lifelong resident of Buckinghamshire in the UK, and I come from High Wycombe where the 1st Bucks was partially raised.  If that were not enough, this is the very battalion in which my Grandfather served a generation earlier.

Will at The Plastic Soldier Company has been helping hugely by releasing a number of models in 15mm. Here are some of the the latest additions to my collection...

18/25 Pounder and limber from The Plastic Soldier Company (PSC).  I understand 
that 4 such guns supported the 1st Bucks at Hazebrouck.

This is an early StuG III.  Most of this kit is the PSC StuG III, with the gun and 
mantlet from the Zvezda kit.  It's not 100% accurate, and there were few 
enough StuG IIIs in France, but I like the kit!

A bit of a departure from France 1940 - I made this one just for fun.

My to-do list still includes 15mm Universal Carriers and German armoured cars, and I have a brace of other soft-skin vehicles to paint.  More of these soon...

Bye for now.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

France 1940 - Progress so far.

I may have been away, but I haven't been idle.  I have been focused on creating forces for Too Fat Lardies' Chain of Command rules, but that has the added advantage of making my forces suitable for Rapid Fire if I ever get a table big enough.

Anyway, here's a little on my progress so far.  I have a reinforced platoon of German infantry in 15mm from The Plastic Soldier Company.

To beef up the platoon, I have heavy weapons support in the shape of an MG34 team, 5cm mortars, anti-tank guns and infantry guns, and an AT rifle team.

Armour support comes in the shape of a pair of Panzer 38t (with more on the way - I'll be able to field nearly a full company).

Alongside these, I have armoured cars and soft-skin transport, a combination of Forged in Battle and Flames of War.  All told, it's a pretty capable force.

Trying to hold them back, I have a platoon of British Infantry.  So far, I have been using Late-War Brits from The Plastic Soldier Company.  I know they're technically not right, but I like them, and I will get round to replacing them with Early-War Brits from Forged in Battle eventually...

To fight alongside the infantry, I have a Carrier platoon from the Flames of War range, and a choice of armour support...

The pair of Matildas are from Flames of War.  The A10 is one of three from Plastic Soldier - this is a CS version, the other two are armed with 2 Pounders. 

Bye for now

Friday, 16 October 2015

Resources for France 1940 - Too Fat Lardies

My France 1940 project has taken inspiration from several sources. Today, I want to take a look at Chain of Command from Too Fat Lardies. These are an innovative set of platoon-level rules for World War 2. The core strength of any set of TFL rules is the depth of research that Rich and his team invest in each publication.  The basic rules concentrate on the later WW2 period, but TFL offer some of the best resources in the business.  The first is a supplement called At The Sharp End, which provides a framework within which a whole campaign can easily be created.

The other TFL resource is actually a series of resources.  Twice a year, TFL publish specials that are packed with all sorts of interesting content.  In particular, the Summer 2014 and the Summer 2015 Specials each include a potted campaign for France 1940, designed to be used with At the Sharp End.  

The Summer 2014 edition includes a campaign called Strawberries for Elephants which follows the exploits of the 2nd Durham Light Infantry on the River Dyle that I mentioned in my last post. This time it is covered in more depth with 11 scenarios (more if the first battle is inconclusive). The Summer 2015 edition then looks at the retreat of the Welsh Guards towards Boulogne.  Each of these campaigns provide background, force lists (although Chain of Command doesn't use a points system) and some brilliant maps.  

I can't recommend TFL products highly enough.  The rules allow the player to think about the problems with which a small-unit leader would have to contend, and are also of the right size - I can easily play these games of a 3' x 4' table.

Bye for now.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Resources for France 1940 - Battlegroup

My current project isn't my first attempt to re-fight France 1940.  Back when I was at school, I had a small selection of models in (sort of) HO Scale.  I had an Airfix 25 pounder, Panzer IV and Bren Carrier, along with a Matchbox Matilda II and PAK 36 anti-tank gun, and not much else.  In the days before disposable income and the internet, I had little information to go on.  For rules, I remember having a choice between the Donald Featherstone books I could find at the library or a selection of WRG publications.

Moving forward about 30 years, I was afraid that wargaming resources would still be thin on the ground. It didn't take me long to realise that I would be spoilt for choice.

In the next two or three posts, I'll take a quick look at the resources that I have been using to plan my campaign.  I don't plan to review these in any detail - there are people out there more eloquent and insightful than me who would do a better job. These are just the books and websites that I have found useful.  Today I want to take a look at the Battlegroup rules and supplements from Ironfist Publishing

Ironfist started publishing in 2012 with a book called Battlegroup Kursk.  Focused on the Eastern Front in 1943, the book is a lavishly illustrated, hardback book which contains all of the rules, army lists and scenarios to recreate the battles around Kursk. Following this book, Ironfist took a slightly different approach and starting publishing supplements. They next focused on the later periods of the war with Overlord and Fall of the Reich. Each supplement provides the history, army lists and scenarios for each period, but in order to play any of these supplements you will need either the Kursk book or the smaller, rules-only book which is also available as a PDF.

I happen to like this approach.  I am a sucker for books, and the book lover in me really likes these supplements.  Publishing the rules separately allows more space for the specific content - artwork, photographs, maps and data - that will give each game the right flavour.  And I must say, the quality of the army lists and research is top notch.  

I was delighted when Ironfist published Battlegroup Blitzkrieg earlier this year.  This book covers not just the fall of France but also the invasion of Poland in 1939, and is packed with some great stuff.  It includes all of the equipment and forces that were involved (Belgian and Dutch armies included) and the example battles are presented beautifully - the maps in particular are great. One of the highlights is a scenario covering the 2nd Durham Light Infantry on the River Dyle, and in particular the award of the first Victoria Cross to the British Army during the war.

The publication of the rules as a separate book has actually helped me enormously as it has allowed me to learn the core rules more quickly, and only then dive into the detail of the period. I was very pleasantly surprised by how the Battlegroup rules work.  They offer different scales of encounter, from squad/section level all the way up to battalion-sized actions. With a 3' x 4' table, I'm not going to recreate the entire retreat to Dunkirk, but the rules seem to work really well for a platoon-sized action. 

Even for those not interested in the Battlegroup rules, I can thoroughly recommend Battlegroup Blitzkrieg as a sourcebook for any early WW2 campaign. The research appears very complete to me, and the artwork is stunning.  The books in print and PDF format are available from The Plastic Soldier Company.

As inspiration, both of the photos in this article are of the stunning Battlegroup Blitzkrieg demonstration game at Salute 2015, taken by me.  If I could only get my games to look this good...

Bye for now.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Painting stuff

I haven't been entirely inactive over the last few years. Here's a selection of what I've painted, and then subsequently sold.

All of the Vietnam stuff has gone...

 The ACAV's are 1/72 scale  from Britannia, the 
waterline ACAV is a converted Trumpeter kit.

These 1/72 scale M548s are old Liberation resin 
kits, each with a driver from Britannia.

The start of my Spanish Civil War collection has gone...

1/72 Scale Panzer 1s from Minairons.

I also did a few random bits to keep me occupied...

This was a Britannia T-55 in 1/72 scale.  I enjoyed this one.

These were part of a batch of four M5 halftracks 
in 1/100 scale from The Plastic Soldier Company.

It feels like I'm improving.  I hope it looks that way too!

Bye for now.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

A New Start

Well, the last few years have flown by.  I'm told that tends to happen when you have kids, but I guess you're never fully prepared for it.  Anywaaaaaay...

My mini-board as I'd originally planned it never actually happened, mainly because something better came along! My father in law listened to my plans and said "What if I made you a bigger board?"

Well, I wasn't going to say no, was I?

So, a trip to Wickes and a couple of hours in Ted's shed resulted in a 3' x 4' table made up of two locking 2' x 3' boards. I finished them with a bit of flock, and I'm quite pleased with the result.

Once the table was completed, I needed to start gaming.  When I last posted all those years ago, I had a collection of 20mm Vietnam stuff, but I came to the conclusion that I couldn't play the kind of game I wanted to within that period.  I started looking around for a new challenge.  

Chain of Command is a platoon-level skirmish ruleset from TooFatLardies, and is designed to be played with 28mm figures on a 4' x 6' board.  I worked out that if I scaled everything down and used 15mm figures, then my 3' x 4' board would be perfect. At about the same time I discovered the early WW2 figures and vehicles from The Plastic Soldier Company, and so my next project seemed to decide itself - France 1940.

As a result, I have sold all of my Vietnam stuff and I now have a complete platoon each of German and British infantry already painted, along with some supports.  I've even had a game or two.

Here's a quick shot of some of my first efforts, I'm hoping to improve!

Bye for now!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Building Work Begins

The raw materials for my mini-board have arrived!  

Not particularly inspiring, I know.  However, I have a dream...

The kids are in bed asleep, my wife is out for the evening, so I've been able to make a start.  As you might be able to see, the board is actually an old piece of marine ply.  Completely intact, but a little grubby and filled with screw-holes.  So task number one is to use filler to plug the holes, then a coat of thinned PVA glue to seal the wood.

The next task on the list is to start texturing.  My plan is to scale up my basing technique, which textures the base with builders sand, and then use static grass to provide colour.  I'm hoping it's going to work!  This is what it looks like in small scale...