Friday, 29 July 2016

Next Project Underway

I will of completed all my WW1 stuff in the next week or two which includes the time cast trenches and another 12 ft of barbed wire so what better time to decide on a new project!

I was initially thinking of delving back into ancients but have decided to buy and paint up the 1944-45 British Airborne Division which I know I will get my teeth into and enjoy.

Figures will be Adler as I loved Phil's winter war Germans last night plus Adler do some very quirky stuff including a landing zone set which has parachute canopies and supply canisters.

Adler also cover all the Bren gun units and vickers HMG plus PIAT's and mortars which is handy.

Artillery on this occasion will be courtesy of GHQ but I am asking Ian to order any tanks, jeeps plus Horsa gliders from my favourite H & R

Quite a lot to paint up and base but this Division will be used in a lot of future games for sure including Operation Birkenhead Market.

Winter Rules revised

Its not France in 1940 that's for sure!

War in winter definitely gives a different challenge!  I have been working on scenery, troops and basic rules for warfare in winter in WW2.  We tested some elements of house rules last night and found them to be reflective of the challenges facing commanders during WW2 - notably struggling through the conditions.

The initial set of ideas I had were too complex and bitty.  We found that the idea of variable movement worked much better and reflected troops coming across deep snow or hard packed ground.  Each time a battalion wanted to move, they rolled a d6.  The lower the score, the lower the movement (see below).  In playtesting, we found that vehicles stayed to the roads as long as possible as straying into the countryside had a big effect on movement.  Russ had Tiger tanks which only move 6" per turn in good conditions.  Rolling low on the movement dice meant that they never managed to get into combat at all.  Similarly an American flank attack similarly stalled to a crawl allowing the German defenders to pivot around and face the oncoming threat which they would not have been able to do in 'normal' circumstances.

As vehicles are forced onto the road, they become easier targets for aircraft (all nicely lined up!) but we also felt that a simple weather rule (a d6 rolled at the start of the game) would determine the prevailing conditions in the battle area and could have a profound effect on the battle (for example heavy snow hampers movement and spotting - so a dug-in defender may find his job easier as the enemy blunders upon them.

I also wanted to balance things up to offset the power of the German army in Spearhead.  Certainly in the non-winter months the Germans dominated the battlefield until late in the war.  However, I wanted to give advantages back to the Russians when General Winter was in charge.  This is done is subtle ways.  Russian tanks were generally better suited to harsh winter conditions so they get a +1 on variable movement dice rolls,  That can make a big difference - especially in the event of heavy snow hampering their opponents movement.  

Similarly as the Russians operated better in winter conditions, their opponents (indeed all armies apart from the Soviets) add a +1 to their dice roll for order changes,  So the Germans (who normally need anything but a 1 on a d6 to change orders now need 3+ to change).  The Russians are still difficult to get order changes for but now Germans become harder to control.

Wooded areas and hills are much more difficult to traverse so for wheeled and half-tracked vehicles they become no-go areas.  This means the larger guns cannot be deployed in the woods as normal but out in the open (as they must be dragged along by a towing vehicle).  This provides a headache for commanders who normally place their big guns on hills or in the woods.

Ski troops can move normal speed everywhere - making them a potential game-winner.  They can only be 'spotted' at 3" and get first shot (SMG armed) meaning they can swish around the battlefield at will and cause mayhem in the opposition ranks before swooshing off again.

The other balancing element for the Russians relates to air assets.  Based on the profligacy with men and machines that WW2 Russian generals were renowned, they took risks that no Western general would take with their personnel.  For aircraft, I generally allowed Russian aircraft to be more willing to fly in conditions that would ground Western aircraft.  So if cloudy, German (and Allied) aircraft will not fly but for the Russians 50% of their allotted aircraft are still available,  This may encourage Russian commanders to allocate more points to air assets and risk them in the hope of catching a column of German tanks rolling down the road.

Anyway - below are the house rules (simplified) for Spearhead but are easily adaptable to any rules system for WW2.

1. Variable movement.  In the event of movement each battallion rolls a D6 in the movement phase. 1-2 = 33% (1/3) movement, 3-4 = 66% (2/3) movement, 5-6 = normal movement.  All movement on roads is normal movement.  

2. Russians get +1 on movement rolls (all theatres, all years).

3. Wooded areas are impassable to trucks and half-tracks and reduce all tracked vehicle movement by 50% when in / touching a wood.

4. Wheeled and half-tracked vehicles on hills move at 1/2 speed AFTER the variable roll above is made (e.g. normal movement is 12" but roll 2 on a d6 for battalion movement = 4".  Then halve that for movement on a hill = 2").

4. Order changes - all combatant nations EXCEPT Russians add +1 to the required die roll (representing adaptability to winter conditions).

5. Weather (optional) : roll for weather conditions on a d6.  

   6 is clear (all air assets available) 
   5 is variable (50% air assets available to all countries except Russians. 100% Russian air assets only), 
   4-1 means poor weather so no air cover except Russians - 50% air assets (see below) but affects spotting and movement)

   4 - low cloud - does not affect ground visibility. Russian air assets 50%, all other 0% 
   3- misty - spotting reduced by 3". 0% Russian air assets..
   2 - heavy snow - spotting reduced by 3" and all movement dice at -1
   1 - fog - spotting reduced by 6" and all movement dice by -1

6. Ski troops - can only be spotted at 3" (as per recon) and have no movement restrictions.  

We will try these out more fully in the next couple of weeks and I'll report back on how they play out.

Monday, 25 July 2016


Thursday night game
French attacking, British trying to hold the line as the rest of the army embarks onto ships nearby

British just managed to hold on as the French rampaged through their lines.


Thursday night game of fast play Grande armee
French V Prussians

The French just did enough to hold off the Prussians as their left flank was enveloped.
The French still had reserves to counter the envelopment.

acw cavalry

Proof that miracles do occasionally happen, I was left alone to paint on Friday. The result was over thirty stands of mounted and dismounted union and confederate cavalry (4 brigades) and a number of command stands. Just need the correct flags which I have ordered from Stone Mountain Miniatures in the U.S.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

DIY battle mats and 6mm winter war

For a long time now I've looked for the best material to make boards for 6mm battles.  I've tried MDF which is ok but heavy.  I've tried polystyrene which is light but breaks easily and warps. I've tried just material like artificial grass or bedsheets painted in earthy colours.  But none have done the job.

I've looked at neoprene and even shop bought battle mats but here come in at £65 each usually and have featured like roads, rivers or trees on them which look daft when viewed from the side or which do not correspond with the terrain you want to lay out.  Not only that but if we want to run an operational game over 8-10 tables that would mean shelling out over £600 on mats alone.

Then a few weeks ago I was in B&Q and saw the perfect thing. It's called super underlay and costs £35 a roll but it's 8 metres X 2 metres (2 metres being 6 feet wide this means enough to make around six mats of 6 X 4 feet - so each may comes in at £6 or 10% of a shop bought one.

The material is very thin (see photos) and light. The only problem is the 'textured' side is wrapped in a foil like material which gas to be peeled off gently. This leaves little indentations in the mat - not a bad thing as these break up the uniform look but takes time before you can do anything.

The mat sprayed up with winter scenery trees and hills

The other advantage is they can be painted on both sides.  I advise paint rather than gluing talus or flock because the cost of doing so would outweigh the benefit of the cheaper mat and also the material would soon rub away unless stored and used carefully.

I've already made two winter mats.  Rather than just spraying it a uniform white I wanted a scheme that could apply for all potential theatres in WW2 winter (Eastern Front, Ardennes, Balkans etc) and different parts of the season (from first frosts in October to late thaws in early March).  So I went for a combination of dark grey, light grey and white in a mottled effect to denote iron-hard and frosted ground with a dusting of snow.

The spray paint requires about 1/2 can of dark grey, grey and white (from Wilkinsons) which works out around £8 per mat.  Its just a case of spraying then stepping back to check the effect then spraying again.  The second mat only took me about 10 minutes to spray up.

One thing I can see is that I need to make up a lot more winter trees.  A lot more.  For an operational game (8-10 tables) I will need around 100 trees per table.  The Chinese tree making companies will be getting another order soon but these are only around £4 per 100 so not too much to worry about (I probably need around 600 base fir trees to make up the required number).

In the meantime I'm now painting up a host of German WW2 winter uniform soldiers - all German vehicles have already been done in winter camouflage. I then need to repaint a couple of divisions of Russians in winter colours and we'll be ready... 

The underlay close up.  Texture on one side - flat on the other.  Rolls up easily as well.
6 x 4 mat wider view so you can see the mottled effect more clearly.

The gouges are where the foil peeled away and took some material with it.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Bridge at Remagen battle report

Well it came and it went.  Loads of interest in the battle before, during and afterwards.  But what transpired?  Who did what?  How did it turn out?  read on...

Most of the set up had been done by the time I arrived from Wallasey after a gruelling 2 hours and 30 minute drive over the misty mountains.  I just plonked a few hundred trees down as the battlefield was set up. 

As myself and Russ had won as the Germans last time, it was time to switch sides and take the Americans.  Our plan was simple - run EVERYTHING up to the ridge overlooking the railway station as soon as possible to blat the 15th Army train before it could disgorge the Panthers.  Then take the town and let Hartman and his Recon boys storm the bridge.

The boys rest after a mammoth tree laying exercise and before the battle gets underway,

We set up the information boards (so people passing by knew what was happening on the table).  These proved quite popular and as we were in a 'high traffic' area there always seemed to be 2-3 people around at all times.

Our information board so passers by know what's going on
The board is ready - with lots and lots of trees
I'd made another 300 bases of trees for the event - in the end we found we only used about 1/3 of the trees available so someone (me) miscalculated.  You can see the general overview here - go down the river road, the 'back streets' road or cross-country.  We need to get to the railway track (top middle) by turn 8-9.

The lads then all disappeared to have a look at the other tables and stalls so I did a bit of PR by talking to curious visitors for half an hour.  Then we got down to it.

Mark gets into character as Maj Kruger. "Club!"
And we're off...

Our plan was simple - go down the back road to get away from the German guns across the Rhine.  The tanks took to the road as the armoured infantry took to the country rout.  Meanwhile Hartman's recon went down the river road but being recon are virtually invisible.  Our other cunning plan was to bring on the reserve straight away.  This gave the Germans 1 point (they needed 4 or better to get a result as good as the movie) but the idea was to swamp the defenders.

German anti-tank shooting was brutal and the Chafees were soon being whittled down before they'd gone any distance at all!

The first two objectives - the farm and the village

Hartman ploughed up the river road as the tanks and armoured infantry converged on the farm and village guarding the back road.  The anti-tank guns across the river could shoot to any distance based on line of sight and they were joined by the ATG in the farm.

Didn't we start with more Chaffees than that?
The tanks by-passed the farm - leaving the armoured infantry to mop up.  But they were still being shot to pieces.  The armoured infantry lost a couple of stands on the way in (including one to the Hitler Youth) but sheer weight of numbers told.  The farm and village fell - but such had been the damage inflicted that the Chaffees failed a morale roll and they routed (as did the Germans holding the village).  The road to the ridge was clear BUT it was down to the armoured infantry to now stop the train carrying the German 15th Army.

Hartman's recon meets some Germans
Hartman completely failed in his role as hero.  His recon troupe bounced a German motorcycle recon unit but then found themselves in spotting range of the town and lost a unit.  The Germans now had 2 points so we decided to park Hartman near the bridge but out of spotting range and wait for the armoured reserve to assault the town.

We also got a couple of bombing runs onto units on the bridge.

Hartman's recon hides as the bombing run goes in.
The armoured reserve appeared from the American lines and followed Hartman up the same road as the armoured infantry carried on around the back.  This had the added bonus of deflecting fire away from them meaning more stands would survive to attack the train and then the town / bridge.

Here comes the reserve

The armoured infantry swung around the rear of the town.  The objective was to hide behind the ridge (and so be out of 88mm fire) UNTIL the train arrived and then they would pop out and shoot it to bits.  The Germans saw the danger and blew the bridge with their poor quality explosives - cratering the approach.  They then sent off for better quality explosives to do the job properly.

First attempt to blow the bridge.

The armoured infantry get into position behind the ridge overlooking the railway.  The Germans blow the bridge but its intact - for now.
Bridge is blown - but not blown up.  Hartman stays well away

The 15th Army could still get across and we were informed that the arrival was imminent.  The Americans therefore braved the 88mm fire and breasted the crest. Hartman sensibly backed away from the town (not wanting to lose stands to fire and give the Germans easy points) - and also to avoid the smoke from the blown up bridge!

The Americans crest the ridge to get ready to pour fire on the incoming train as their colleagues assault the church to knock out a mortar and the rest line up to take the town.

Basically all the action boils down to this...
The 15th Army arrive!
The train turned up just after the Americans had lost a stand or two to 88mm fire.  Mark insisted in lining up the Panthers even though just one hit on the train would kill them all.  And so it proved - Russ rolled a few dice and the train blew up - taking all German hope (and potential points) away. 

Smiles all around on the American side - it was all coming together.  Meanwhile the military grade explosives had turned up and the German engineers had them rigged in record time.  Just as well as the American armoured reserve was minutes away and the town was in severe danger of getting swamped on three sides.  The past German troops were holed up there and if the town fell, the bridge would soon follow.

Another two airstrikes came in - there was some argument about who the planes could bomb (the rule said ANY unit within 12" of the bridge).  As it turned out Hartman was more than 12" away (the cowards!) and so the Germans got another bombload on their heads. 

The 15th Army departs - in a mass explosion.
With the train blown up, the only way the Germans could now score points to win was to kill Hartman's recon team.  However, they were lined up way out of town and any Germans foolish enough to come out of the town to attack them were likely to get a) mowed down by Hartman's team or b) run over by the Chaffees coming down the road behind them. 

In the end it didn't matter.  The Germans decided to try to blow the bridge again and rolled a 6!  Success!  The bridge went up with no Americans on it or even near it.  The Germans in the town were doomed (as was any unit on the American side of the bridge).  Kruger was on the German side of the Rhine and so safe (and indeed had followed the Fuhrer's orders to the letter - at the cost of the 15th Army).

Boom!  Kruger (on the German side of the Rhine) throws honour and respect of his CinC out of the window to save himself from the firing squad.  Similarly Hartman's recon team were nowhere near when it went up.

So basically we got nowhere near the film's result.  The Americans failed to take the bridge intact but did trap and kill the 15th Army.  Kruger failed to save the 15th Army but blew the bridge.  Hartman's recon team had only one casualty so lived on to fight another day.  As the train was killed the Germans got no points for keeping the bridge open for each turn after 15th Army detrained.

The Germans therefore only secured 2 points (Americans bring on the reserve and lost 1 unit of Hartman's recon).  The result was essentially worse than the film so the Germans lost and the Americans survived. 

I love it when a plan comes together!

Monday, 18 July 2016

WW1 Timecast Trench Painting Tutorial

Here's how I paint up the trenches.....

1.  "wet" brush with Vallejo Green Ochre....

Use the paint neat out the bottle after a good shake

Dip an old "dry brush" into the paint and then lightly dab off the paint from the brush on some kitchen roll. don't remove too much.

Apply the paint firstly by a light dab, you want to deposit like this below, you will know if you overdo it, it won't look right. Then as the paint gets taken up begin to apply more pressure until you are spreading it over as a dry brush. Don't be afraid to apply more pressure as this will create a subtle effect.

2. Flat Earth "wet" coat...

Use the same technique here as above but just dab this on wet and undiluted again straight from the paint tub.

3. Back to the Green Ochre....

Repeat step one again but less is more with this coat, you just want to blend this in with the still wet flat earth.

 It should end up looking like this...

4. Ink wash your trench walls and floors.....

Use Winsor & Newton nut brown ink for this wash. Use the ink neat and coat the trench walls and floor areas.

5. Ink wash the shell holes the same.....

6. Coat D Arms Russian Green coat....

You'll be dabbing on this colour using a no 1 or 2 brush. You now want to be applying the layers in smaller areas.

Apply neat from the tub and for a darker green just apply one hit. If you blend the green will mix nicely with the ochre colour below to create some contrast.

7. Highlight that green....

Vallejo Deep Yellow here

a 60 /40 ratio of yellow to Russian green is about right.

You want to be looking at this sort of shade...

You want to remove a lot more of this highlight colour from your brush before applying, it's a dramatic shade and only needs a subtle application. Again if it;s too light blend it in with the Russian green you are painting over.

 8. Final highlights....

Use Vallejo Buff to dry brush your final highlights over the green ochre areas only. Try to avoid getting this on to your green areas too much. A little is okay as it brightens the look up.

You can see the areas picked out here

9. Final Ink Washing....

Back to your ink and you want to apply a second hit on your trenches. The earlier ink will of nearly dried so a second coat will add depth. After you have done this it's just time to carefully ink in the debris such as dead trees and scuff marks which are all nicely defined and easy to pick out. Don't overload your brush with ink for this, you only need to literally paint it on. If you overdo it the ink will run into areas that you don't want.

Finished articles....

There you go, two done in no time. Once these are dry (leave overnight) I will apply a matt varnish spray to kill the shine left by the ink and give a nice even finish plus a protective coat.

I think you will agree that these are acceptable for use on table and easy to knock up.