Sunday, 30 December 2012

Contact! AAR

I played out a Falklands War scenario using Cold War 83 rules yesterday. I’ve been working on a set of scenarios that I’ve adapted from Rules of Engagement so they would work with the Falklands and Cold War 83 rules. This has meant I’ve had to produce Army Lists as the scenarios allow the players to choose a value, generally an understrength platoon, force which has a ‘combat effectiveness’ and then strengthen it using additional ‘support points’. The principle is that the better quality the force is, as expressed through its ‘bottle’ value, the fewer troops you get. There are also deployment, game length and victory criteria rules for each scenario.

The simplest scenario is ‘Advance to Contact’ as it doesn’t involve any ‘extras’ like hidden deployment, supporting artillery or fortifications. The premise is that two opposing patrols have bumped into one another in no-man’s land and win by inflicting enough casualties on the other side to break them before they reach their own break point.

Here’s the table I used.

  For my game I pitted a platoon of British Paras against Argentinian Commandos. The idea was that this could be the sort of encounter that could have happened just after the British landing at San Carlos with the Paras probing out of the beachhead and Argentine Special Forces reconnoitring to try and assess the strength of the British presence.

Both sides were of good quality with base bottle values of 8 although the British did have the advantage of 3 GPMGs and 24 men as opposed to 1 GPMG and 21 men for the Argentines, although the latter did have a sniper and a couple of grenade launchers.

The British had the initiative and got to choose which table edge they would deploy on and also whether this was a day or night action. They elected to deploy on the top table edge in the picture above and went for a daytime patrol. The roll for weather indicated this was a clear day but the roll for time of day gave me 12 turns to dusk. Given that the scenario is 12 turns long if the opposing forces deploy on the short table edges that fitted with a late afternoon encounter that would end with reduced visibility allowing one or both sides to slip away.
The Argentines had one full strength section of ten men, armed mainly with G3 Rifles and Grenade Launchers, together with a GPMG. The HQ group (commander, NCO, sniper and radio operator) was supported together with an understrength section armed mainly with SMGs. The lack of long range firepower and the terrain were to be the Argentinian’s greatest handicaps. To close with the British they had to bunch in the dead ground in the lee of the central hill in the picture, which meant that once the paras started getting rounds down from their GPMGs the risk of suppression was increased. This is exactly what happened – a few failed bottle rolls for movement meant one of two Argies got caught by GPMG fire crossing open ground with the result they became casualties and the men in proximity were suppressed.

In the picture above all the figures with a red band are suppressed and two have reduced bottle values, as denoted by the dice. The figure in the foreground has been hit so badly that any further reduction will mean he’s removed from play. In reality he’s probably severely wounded and about to die…sobering thought.

It wasn’t all one sided though. The Argentinian sniper killed one para outright with a single shot at long range and a couple of others fell victim to ‘double taps’ from commandos with G3s who got themselves into good firing positions.

Weight of fire told in the long run however and by the end of turn 7 the paras had gone firm on two pieces of high ground that dominated the battlefield and had effectively pinned down their opponents who were steadily taking more casualties.

In the above picture, taken from behind the Argentine position, the funnelling effect of the dead ground can be seen. With exception of the figure with a double 5 die next to it, all the figures with dice next to them have suffered a reduction in bottle, either because they were caught in open ground by British fire or because they were close enough to a comrade who was hit by GPMG fire. Senor Double Five has had his bottle increased as a result of a clean kill at extreme range. All the figures with a yellow marker are prone. In the background the British dominance of the two hills on the left and right respectively can be seen.
The Argentinians had taken seven casualties removed from play by turn 7, meaning they’d reached their break point (one third of starting strength rounded down) and had to dice against the commander’s bottle to see if they fought on. He was still on his starting value of 9 and easily passed. The paras had eight men removed from play but their break point was at half strength rounded down.
I’d been playing for a little over two hours and couldn’t see much happening for the remaining turns. To cross open ground to try and close in daylight was suicide but the long range firefight was proving inconclusive as nearly everyone with a clear line of sight had gone prone and/or had lost a point or two of bottle. The Argentine GPMG was out of action and neither of the grenade launchers had been able to get within range.
Accordingly, I took a decision to end it there as a draw. The encounter had been violent and bloody with lots of fire and movement to begin with and then everything slowing down as the troops became more cautious.
Lessons from this are that machine guns in daylight quickly close down a battlefield and that Argentine Special Forces are more than capable of giving a good account of themselves.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Decision Games: 'Border War Angola Raiders'

Part of the map - the top is west
Border War is part of the Commando mini-game series. Once a battlegroup is organized, you move it across the border. When a force enters certain points an Event Card is picked. Events can include anything from special intelligence information to the appearance of major enemy forces. There’s a range of foes, from SWAPO insurgents and Angolan government regulars to powerful Cuban armored formations. Combat is resolved via a quasi-tactical procedure in which both tactical superiority and firepower play their parts. There are special rules for helicopter reaction forces, PSYOP, and leaders.

The above is from the blurb on the Decision Games website and it's all true. This game, and another in the same series 'Congo Merc', were waiting for me when I returned form holiday today. There had been a bit of a hiccup in them getting here - I originally ordered and paid for these games back in August and when they hadn't arrived by November I contacted Decision Games. Anyway, after a bit of tooing and froing they finally got here.

The games are specifically designed to be played solitaire in about an hour. My original motives for buying them were that I might be able to take them away with me when I'm travelling with work and secondly, I may be able to adapt the system to allow me to play a campaign that would add a bit of structure to the narrative of my alternative timeline and tabletop games.

On opening the ziplock package, I thought the map will be useful if nothing else. It's part of Southern Angola from the Atlantic Coast in the west to Jamba in the East and extends as far north as Caconda.

I've played one game and read this quite critical review: It's hard to knock a US$13.00 game and the only criticism I agree with is that the victory conditions are a bit bland - 'recover x number of "real objectives"'...

What this means in practical terms is that you move one of your 'forces', which can be made up of one or more company sized units, onto an objective marker and, depending on how lucky and/or successful you are in dealing with the card generated events that subsequently occur, you get to see if it's 'real' or a dummy. The card generated events may mean you have to fight off SWAPO or FAPLA or the Cubans (you're commanding the SADF troops here...) and that can be bloody.

If the designer had taken the trouble to add a bit of flavour to the objectives - for example, defining these as PoWs or simply trashing a SWAPO base then it would be more believable. It is a mini game though and the system is applicable to the other game in the series, 'Congo Merc', and maybe there are more to come?

My other criticism is that I'm commanding the South Africans - and this is a bit creepy given the repugnant political system my boys are fighting for. And while I'm at it, the rules do nod towards the 'unsavoury' nature of what 'my' commandos are up to in this and 'Congo Merc', but what about a solo game where the player is the FAPLA  or SWAPO commander/ I appreciate that neither of these organisations fought for a completely noble cause either but they were, on the scale of things, fighting for something better than the Apartheid regime.

Anyway, back to the game...

I played out Operation Reindeer form 1978 and dropped a battalion of paras on Cassinga, supported by airstrikes and helicopters as well as sneaking a special forces unit across the border at Ngiva. The Ngiva operation was a success - SWAPO base destroyed, lots of prisoners taken, documents captured inciminating the Soviets and Cubans - but the Cassinga airdrop turned into a bloody disaster. The objective turned out to be a dummy so the paras had to fight their way to Caconda where they did succeed in neutralising the SWAPO base (I'm editorialising here - in game terms it was merely a 'real objective'...) but were wiped out in the process.

This was good fun and gave me plenty of ideas for a table top game or three and was all over in less than an hour so it does have potential to fill in the odd bit of spare timeif I want to generate some ideas or just have a game.

The solitaire system works quite well and their appears to be enough variety in the scenario generation system to keep things interesting for a while. So, on balance I'd say 8/10 - after all it was only thirteen bucks...

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Fiddler's Bottom AAR

Fiddler's Bottom: the village is at the top of the picture - the Scots attacked from the right - if you look carefully you can just make out the deployment zones of the two sides marked with dice. We played 300 points each on a 3 x 4 foot table.

The armies lined up at the start of the battle. The Scots in the foreground, mixed pike and shot in the centre, lancers on the right flank, pistols on the hill on the left flank and a reserve of pike in front of the baggage.
Grimstone's three new modelled infantry regiments are in the centre with 400 ironsides deployed as a refused flank on the left of the picture and his dragoons and remaining Ironsides on the right.


Early moves - the Scots pistoleers have moved forward off the hill to support the attack in the centre by the massed infantry. The Scots right flank stands firm while keeping a wary eye on the advancing Ironsides opposite them.

The Scots have (improbably) made havoc amongst the New Model horse on the left, in the centre they are winning the firefight and on the extreme right 150 lancers have bravely charged 400 Ironsides

Lancers have died bravely - the Ironsides withstood the shock of their charge and then set about them with sword and pistol. The Scots are hurridly trying to redeploy their infantry before they are rolled up from the shattered right flank. In the centre though the New Model is collapsing as the rolling volly fire from the Scots infantry takes its toll. On the right the Ironsides charge in but are stopped by heavy fire from the Scottish horse  and supporting musketeers.It's a close run thing but panic grips Grimstone's army as the losses in the centre leave a gaping hole and his right flank is shattered. Ferguson is triumphant!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

True and Happy Newes from Fiddler's Bottom

Vpon Wednesday last Colonel Grimstone marched towards Chester with his Army, being in number 900 Horse and not not above 2000 Foot, and at his comming thither our gallant Sir Alexander Ferguson stood in opposition against him, where Colonel Grimstone caused his men to discharge so fast, insomuch that there began a great skirmish betweene them, holding for the space of two houres: Colonel Grimstone with his Forces began to retreat, and at that time the Colonel lost 300 men, and Sir Alexander 200 men. The said Colonel Grimstone was put to flight, to the great hurt of his Masters Cause, and he hath already spoiled his name amongst them. This Newes was sent to this scribe upon the Saturday last, which signified that the Kings cause is not lost, and that more men are marching to his banner. Sent in a letter from the Honourable Sir Alexander.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Battle of Fiddler's Bottom 1648: Preliminaries

Harbottle Grimstone, living up to his name

A little known encounter between the invading Scots and a detachment of the New Model Army in Cheshire, a few days after the defeat of Langdale's Royalist army by Cromwell and Lambert at Preston.

The Scots were widely dispersed, as many of the men were foraging and news of the disaster that had befallen their English allies to the north had yet to reach all of their detachments.
One such detachment, fewer than 4000 strong, had made good progress deep into Cheshire, unencumbered as it was by an artillery train or much by way of baggage. The men were cold and wet, it having been a typical English summer. Although they numbered 3000 foot, their cavalry were weak, being only 750 strong and mounted on small nags. Barely 150 were lancers, trained to charge at the gallop, the remainder being pistoleers who had the unhappy reputation of 'burning much powder to no great effect'.

Their Commander was Sir Alexander Ferguson, a veteran of the wars in Germany and the first civil war in England, where he had fought alongside his opponent in this war, the redoubtable Harbottle Grimstone.

Ferguson takes his standard and plants it in Fiddler's Bottom...

Grimstone, one of Cromwell's 'plain russet coated captains' chanced upon Ferguson near the small village that gave this battle its name - that of Fiddler's Bottom.

His men had been 'new modelled' and numbered some 3000, around a third of whom were experienced cavalry or 'Ironsides'. He had a couple of hundred dragoons, armed with firelocks and the remainder were the solid but unremarkable parliamentary infantry.

Ferguson would have preferred to avoid battle, despite his numerical superiority. These men were not the doughty old veterans of Marston Moor, rather they were young lads, much reduced by the hardships of campaigning. Harbottle's force sat astride the Scots' line of retreat however, and rumours of the defeat at Preston led him to conclude that he had little option to fight in the hope that he could open the road north and unite his small force with the main Scottish body.

In other words, a game of DBR is scheduled for tomorrow evening...

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Glossy and Colourful...

Force on Force Rulebook

Was away all last week at a conference but managed to visit a very good book shop and get hold of a copy of 'Force on Force' and the 'Cold War Gone Hot' and 'Bush War supplements.

I didn't know much about the rules and I usually resist the temptation to splash out on glossy, colourful copies of rules - I'm much more a monochrome Cold War 83 or DBR kind of chap. However, I've wanted a copy of this set for a while though as what I little I did know appealed to me greatly i.e. the emphasis is on the men not the weapons.

So there is an intriguing method of reflecting troop quality using different types of die (D8, D10, D12 etc) - not too sure about this - and no weapons tables for infantry weapons - like this idea.

Since the accent is on infantry combat that means no tables or a very minimal one for a few vehicles. The idea of different quality troops firing at different 'optimum ranges', whilst all weapons can fire across the table (line of sight restrictions notwithstanding), is really good. Shades of Phil Barker's 'Inferior' shot firing 100 paces whilst "Ordinary' and 'Superior' blast away at 200 paces.

The game is designed to be played around scenarios which means more work than a pick up and play set of rules but that's not necessarily a bad thing. And anyway the supplements provide plenty of suggestions in that department.

Davai! Davai!
 The Cold War Gone Hot supplement has been extensively reviewed in far more detail than I will here. It's unusual in that it covers a hypothetical war - but one which looked very likely for all that. I remember that by the mid eighties, with SS20s and Cruise Missiles being deployed in Europe and Reagan and Thatcher in office and CND out on the streets, the prospect of a conflgration in Europe seemed all too real.

The scenarios are in three groups. The first is the Cold War heating up as the West feared it may, with a massive Soviet led invasion of Western Europe and thousands of T-72s trundling across the north German plain towards the Rhine. The second is more realistic given what we now know, with NATO taking on a Warsaw Pact that is more of a military version of a Potemkin village. The third is a bit silly even for the nerd that I fear I may be - it's Hollywood's version of the war between the West and the Soviet bloc. Mid -western college boys resisting a Soviet occupation of the USA... 

There are handy ORBATs, some interesting scenario ideas that could be easily tweaked to be fought by different forces than the predominantly US versus Soviets ones that are listed and a few additional rules to go with these.

'We had joy we had fun, killing floppies in the sun'

The Bush Wars supplement is a useful addition to my library of African War rules and scenarios. If I'm going to get serious about playing these rules I'll have to consider re-basing my Cuban, Angolan and South African armies as the rules are designed for individual figures. That said, it wouldn't be too hard to amend the rules to play with my figures as they are based now, with three figures to a base for SLRs, Assault Rifles, LMGs etc and two for RPGs, HMGs etc

Again, there are plenty of good scenario ideas which can be easily tweaked to be played out between different forces.

The politics of the war(s) being played out is more evident in this book than in the main rule book or Cold War Gone Hot. The reality is that there is even less of a consensus in the West about African wars of de-colonisation and the Border War than about the current war in Afghanistan and the war that never happened in 1980s Europe.

I'm sure I'll buy a load of dice and give these rules a go. It's only a question of time.

Like Cold War 83, the basic rules would work equally well for any 20th century conflict with a little adpatation - how about the Russian Civil War?

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Chetequera March 1976

'We start training next month, by the beginning of the rainy season you will have ample supplies of weapons and ammunition and we'll be in a postion to overwhelm the Boers.'

'They know that with the victory here in Angola that the liberation movement will intensify its efforts across the border. We can expect an elevated state of readiness on the part of their security froces, they won't give up wihout a fight.'

'We'll use the winter to put all cadre through a programme that will prepare them for an intensified struggle. Our Cuban comrades will provide instruction and we've been promised that shipments of Czech manufactured small arms and ammunition will  begin to arrive via Luanda from April. The first batch left Constanta last week.'

'The new recruits should start arriving next week, they need to begin basic training immediately. Our Cuban comrades arrive the week after next - I want them to see that we're not completely incompetent...'

'Any questions?'

'Of course comrade,  I appreciate your question. I am confident that together with the support of our brothers and comrades from across the Atlantic and with the new weapons that our fraternal comrades from the north are sending us we will strike a decisive blow against the racists.'

Saturday, 1 December 2012

'This War Without An Enemie'

Periwinkle Brushes Aside a Rebel...

I have managed to get a fair amount of gaming in over the last few weeks, not that you'd know from the posts on this blog.

This is partly because every game I've played has been set during the 17th Century English Civil War - and it has been English - Royalists versus Parliamentarians in 1642, '43, '44 and 45 - with the exception of one game as the Royalists against an Allied Parliamentarian-Scots Covenanter Army, but that been the extent of the participation of the other kingdoms in the struggle.

We use DBR rules and play 300 point games in 15mm on a 4' x 3' table using pre-set terrain. This is a departure from DBR's recommended table size and 'Preparing for Battle' terrain placement and is an innovation thought up by Keith McNelly at The Wargames Room Keith is a regular opponent of mine and a gentleman to boot - the breadth and depth of his wargaming interest is vast and he is also a real
contributor to out hobby, developing scenarios, organising competitions, actively promoting rules systems and welcoming newcomers. This little tweak to DBR has been a revelation- no more fluffing around before getting stuck into what most wargamers really want to do: pushing toy soldiers around and rolling dice.

We're now getting an enjoyable game inside 2 1/2 hours, which makes for a relaxing evening even if it is mid week and we have to go to work in the morning.

I've enjoyed limited success in my games and made some spectacular unforced errors - marching a column of Royalist cavalry across the face of Scottish cannon and then letting the survivors get charged and destroyed by the Scots Lancers being by far the worst.

Another of my regular opponents, Chris, has just moved out of town and will be sorely missed. Our games over the last few years have been great fun and no one could predict who would win. Chris has a great sense of humour and never took playing too seriously, just seriously enough to make our scraps entertaining and absorbing. On the good side, now I have an excuse for a holiday in his new home town

Jeff has recently started playing DBR in earnest and acquitted himself well as General Harbottle Grimstone, commanding a detachment of the New Model as they routed Sir Lancelot Periwinkle's cavaliers in an action in the environs of Much Snogworthy - this was a little known engagement battle fought prior to the decisive encounter at Naesby the following month. Harbottle's Ironsides rode down the Royalist Horse on his left flank and his infantry held their nerve and their ground despite the right giving way to a combination of galloper guns and cavalier charges. Jeff is another true gent and our games have been a pleasure.

I've been sketching out a little narrative to accompany this 'War Without an Enemy' featuring Grimstone, Periwinkle and Sir Henry Dudhop and others. We've yet to involve the Irish or the Scots, but, as I have armies to represent them it's only a matter of time before the war in England spills over into the other kingdoms. Over the summer I may write this up in more detail.

No photos of the toys soldiers in the battles I'm afraid, but here's a couple of others to be going on with.

New Model Pike Steeling Themselves For the Royalist Charge

Scots musketeers massacre my cavalry...

Friday, 23 November 2012

The Future As It Used To Be...

This leapt off the shelf in a second hand bookshop last weekend. I last read it when it was published - I was 15 and the world hadn't experienced Thatcherism and Reagonomics, Iran was still under the Shah, the Soviets hadn't invaded Afghanistan, the Internet wasn't even thought of (or maybe not - after all it was a network designed to survive a nuclear attack so perhaps it had been dreamt up by then).

At the time this book made quite an impression on me. I swallowed the argument about Soviet expansionism, although I didn't fully understand the subtlety of it. Later on, while studying Russian history, I could put the thesis in some sort of historical context and it still appeared compelling.

Of course, we know much more about the challenges the Soviets faced in the late eighties and early eighties now. I assume the people who wrote this book were amongst all those experts that failed to predict the disintegration of the Eastern Bloc and final collapse of the Soviet Union.

Re-reading this, with the obvious benefit of hindsight, it's apparent that the authors were sincere but ever so slightly barking mad.

The Third World War breaks out in Europe with a massive Soviet conventional offensive on 4th August 1985, the 71st anniversary of Britain's entry into World War One, and is effectively over three weeks later with the Warsaw Pact forces stopped in their tracks and a tit for tat nuclear exchange in which Birmingham and Minsk are incinerated before the Soviet Union collapses. Oh, and the boys are home for Christmas...

Of course, the book was a polemic designed to persuade the policy makers to ramp up defence spending and lend weight to the deterrent in the hope this very thing would never happen. So, as the imagined future unfolds, the West spends up large on armaments and increases the size of its armed forces, not enough to deter the Soviets, but enough to give them a drubbing after some initial successes.

Their are some setbacks for NATO, but everything goes pretty much according to the script of an exercise. Nothing (of substance) unpredicted happens.

Even without the benefit of knowledge unavailable to the authors at the time, I think a more plausible account of war in Europe in the mid-eighties would have featured far more chaos than this neat and tidy narrative. Look at just about any modern war and the outstanding feature is that it didn't play out as planned and predicted by the General Staffs.

From the perspective of my wargaming interests I found the chapters that touched on  Southern Africa  fascinating. Namibia is liberated (although the authors describe this as a 'loss') in 1980 by combined SWAPO-Cuban-Nigerian-Angolan forces who defeat a 50,000 strong South African army equipped with modern weapons,  and by the summer of 1985 the Boers are facing a four pronged invasion from Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia.

Given that War for Slow Readers has reached early 1976 and the MPLA are seeking to consolidate their newly acquired power in Angola there is scope to play out a timeline very different from the so called 'Border War' that eventuated. Anyone on for a massive invasion of Namibia once UNITA has been contained?

The accounts of fighting on the Central Front in West Germany and beyond are pretty bland. The authors avoid naming formations below corps level, and whilst there are some fictionalised eye witness accounts, they're unconvincing by the standards of the real thing. Read just about anything by Anthony Beever and my point should be clear. Ralph Peters 'Red Army' is much better written and far more convincing, in my view.

That's not to say this isn't a valuable resource for anyone wanting to play out the war that was never fought. I doubt I'll ever get round to that although I find accounts written by gamers who are doing it very absorbing. For me, one of the real plusses of this book is comparing the performance of the British in the Falklands with how they fare in 'The Third World War'. Looking at the imagined events of 1985 through the prism of the lessons learnt in the South Atlantic has made me realise what a shock the Falklands must have been for the British and for NATO. Probably for the Soviets too.The effect of Exocets on naval strategy and tactics, the high quality of the British infantry, unforced errors by both sides and the impact of logistics on all aspects of the war make for interesting speculation.

I don't know enough of the aftermath of the fight for the Malvinas to make any sort of judgement about whether the lessons were heeded by NATO and the Warsaw Pact but I'm curious.

I'll finish with this quotation from a review written at the time of publication:

'Towards the end The Third World War degenerates into pure fantasy, the pipe-dream of Cold Warrior too old to stay on the front line but too fevered to give up the good fight. China and Japan have formed a "co-prosperity sphere" in Hackett's rosy future, and play no part in the war. Valiant Afrikaaners defend their homeland from the incompetent assaults of Soviet-supplied Namibians and Zimbabwians. As the Soviet drive into West Germany falters, Soviet satellites rebel, soldiers stop fighting, and a high-level coup in the Kremlin leads to a break-up of the entire Soviet Union--the internal contradictions of Marxism-Leninism, y'know? '

Says it all really...except of course the Soviet Union did break up just over a decade later...

Sunday, 23 September 2012


Day off today, I've been working flat out for what seems like weeks and decided I needed a long weekend to partially recover. An opportunity to think about what I want to do over the next few months on the gaming front.

The Falklands

  1. Finish the Wessex helicoptor I've started assembling and begin on the Gazelle I have sitting in a box.
  2. Order one of each of a Scimitar and Scorpian light tank
  3. Paint up the Paras MILAN section
  4. Paint the Argie Marines, Commandos and the bazooka teams
  5. Sort out some rocks to make up 'stone runs'
  6. Make a couple of marshes (these could double for DBR and AK - 47)
  7. Make up some minefield markers
  8. Order a UH-1 so the Argies have a chopper too
  9. Finish the rules adpatations, army lists and scenario
  10. Finish the trenches and gun positions I've ordered from Gamecraft when they get here.

  1. Paint up the 3 x BRDM-2s that have been sitting on my desk for months
  2. Paint up the 3 x Ratels that have been sitting in my desk drawer for months
  3. Get back on track with the narrative and actually play a game or two (I have a set of guerrilla campaign rules that could be adapted for SWAPO vs SADF and/or FAPLA vs UNITA
  4. Order and paint up a Puma helicopter
Other Stuff

I have, and play with, enough figures to field sizable 15mm (400 pts plus) British Civil Wars DBR armies - Early Parliamentarian, English Royalists, Scots Royalists, Scots Covenanters, New Model, Irish Confederate. I've been idlely thinking about a campaign of some sort with this lot for a long time (it's probably years rather than months). Given I have all the figures and the terrain you'd think it would be a relatively quick matter of sorting out a framework to give my battles some narrative context...I've even written up a few generic DBR scenarios: 'encounter battle', 'surprise attack', 'flank march', 'key point' etc but to date have only played the flank march solo..

I also have sizable Russian Civil War armies in 15mm and a set of rules (Komrade Commissar!) I adapted from the latest AK 47 Reloaded. Again they're crying out to be put into a campaign narrative...

Then there are complete late war Soviet and German armies in 6mm (but hardly any terrain).
Richard III
Finally I have three medieval armies for DBA and am toying with getting three more for the 1066 campaign. This lot get used frequently as I can set up a game quickly on a weekday evening without too much hassle and, as anyone who has played DBA knows, it's easy to fit in a couple of games after dinner.


Writing this has certainly crystalised my thinking. I enjoy painting and modelling and reading about the wars I want to game. Like everyone, real life means I often can't work on stuff at the rate I'd ideally want to but then I tend to have 'blitz' sessions over holidays and the like.

I am starting to feel a bit concerned at a growing tendency to paint large quantities of figures and equipment only for them to sit in cupboards unused. Time for gaming is by definition limited and with the exception of DBA I need at three hour clear slot to run a game whereas the odd hour of half hour even is fine for painting or modelling. It should be the same for campaigning, particularly as I like to do this solo and then invite friends to play the battles, but I tend to be lazy and just play whatever we feel like on the night without putting it in a campaigning context.

One thing I have learnt is that this hobby is most satisfying when I just get on with it in whatever time I have available. I have three regular opponents who I enjoy playing against and I like playing solo so it's just a question of chipping away at the research, modelling, painting and rule/army list/scenario writing if and when I have the time.

Comments and suggestions welcome (even from, especially from, the lurkers).

Friday, 21 September 2012

Rewriting History...

Victor's banner: John Liebenberg's photograph showing an SADF convoy entering Namibia, August 30th, 1988
I stumbled on a couple of very good articles on the History Today website this week’s-forgotten-war

Some very astute comments on the way former SADF veterans are remembering their war. I encourage readers to have a look...

Monday, 17 September 2012

MJ Figures 20mm Argentinians

A bit of a plug for this outfit. I've painted up a couple of packets of their figures as Paras and very good they are too - crisply moulded and well proportioned. I particularly like their command figures, including the signaller, and the chap with the Bren gun and the fetching moustache.

I've been after some of their Argentinians for a while but missed out when I placed my last order so I was delighted to see they were back in stock when I surfed into their site last week .

I immediately ordered two packets plus a packet of British officers (I thought these would make good FOs and I alos have a cunning plan fro some scenarios involving protecting senior officers from marauding Buzo Tacticos...). I especially wanted these guys because they have a bloke armed with a bazooka and I wanted to give my Argentinians something they could use against Scorpian or Scimitar light tanks in addition to their Recoiless Rifle and anti-tank mines.

MJ Figures 20mm Argentinians
I got home from work today to find an envelope with the figures sitting in my mailbox - less than seven days from placing the order online and I live at the other side of the world! So, well done MJ Figures for first class service.

Checking their website just know I see that the 20mm Argies are no longer up - probably sold out again. This company really have a winner with these figures, I encourage you to order some if you're building an army of little fascists fighting in southern seas...

Monday, 10 September 2012

AAR A Hill West of Port Stanley

Big Tony and his GPMG...

The last couple of weeks has been flat out on the day job - lots of travelling and not enough time at home for gaming related activity.

I did manage to squeeze in a solo Cold War 83 game yesterday afternoon though. I've been working on adapting the army lists and scenarios from Great Escape Games's 'Rules of Engagment' to the Falklands and Cold War 83.

My adapted 'Hold the Line' Scenario pitched a platoon of Paras with on call fire support in a night attack on a fortified Argentinian position held by a couple of infantry squads supported by two HMGs and a mortar.

Here are the Paras on the start line in canonical two up-one back formation (rather like England playing 4-4-2). In the foreground there is a firebase of two GPMGs in sustained fire mode.

The Argies used hidden deployment. The six elements in their force (1 x Pltn Command; 2 x rifle Squads; 2 x HMGs and a 81mm mortar) were deployed using hidden unit markers together with 3 dummy markers to add a bit of suspense. Given the Argies historically used a poorly deployed all round defence in most for the set piece battles I wasn't too worried where their troops popped up in the event. Here are their markers: the Brits are attacking from the right.with objective of capturing the central rocky hill. The white die marks the objective.

 It was a great scrap with the Paras going in silent on a cloudy night with no moon. Visibility was down to 100m so when the shooting started it was at close range. Things went noisy very quickly and the Paras soon moved in for some pretty desperate close quarter combat. The rules worked well with entrenched Argies holding out until the Para's platoon commander called in artillery right onto their position. The picture below shows the effect of this with the red circled figures suppressed and the pink dice showing their bottle rating (the Argies started on 6, except for their commander and squad NCOs who were on 7).

The picture below shows another British salvo hitting home - I got these markers from Early War Miniatures and I really like them.

I called it a day (night?) when the Argies started to take such heavy casualties that their position became hopeless. They had lost six killed, nine wounded and another dozen taken prisoner while the Paras had three dead and four wounded. The three British fatalities all falling to one surprise burst of HMG fire as they crossed the field of fire of a hitherto hidden machine gun...

I need to work on the orders of battle and tweak the rules for artillery support so it's not quite as devastating as it was in this game but I'm pleased with this little project so far - with a bit of work I'll have a good scenario based campaign going. And I have plenty of Argie marines and commandos to paint, not to mention the British marines and the SAS/SBS as well as some helicopters.

Now I just have to work out how to spend more evenings at home instead of in hotels like tonight...

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Fighting Patrol, somewhere south of San Carlos

Yesterday evening we had our first foray into re-fighting the Falklands war. Using Cold War 83 rules, two fighting patrols clashed on a rainy night a couple of days after the British landed at San Carlos.
The British Paras force consisted of a platoon headquarters with a recently graduated 2nd Lieutenant, and a signaller both armed with Sterling SMGs and a veteran sergeant with an SLR, together with a rifle section with GPMG, Bren Gun, Corporal with Sterling and five toms with SLRs. All the Paras had bottle ratings of 8 (experienced regulars - they'd all done tours in Northern Ireland) and with the exception of the officer and sergeant who were rated at a bottle of 9, to reflect their leadership qualities, and a tactics skill of 2. Eleven men all up.
The Argentinians fielded a platoon command group of one pistol armed officer, a radioman and NCO, both with FALs plus four other soldiers armed with FALs. A sniper armed with a Mauser bolt action rifle completed the group.
A full strength section of ten men led by an SMG weilding NCO completed their force. One MAG LMG, a rifle grenade launcher and seven FALs equipped the balance of the section.
The Argentinians were rated at a bottle value of 6 as conscripts, with the exception of the officer and the NCOs who were rated at 7. The Argies lack of training and experience was partially offset by some better kit, particularly night sights and goggles.


The paras' platoon sergeant follows two toms as they advance to contact. The leading para is armed with a Bren gun.

I'd not had time to write up a formal scenario so the two forces were simply instructed to advance to contact and to try and inflict enough casualties to break their opponent. The Brits had to roll against their leader's bottle once they sustained 50% casualties rounded down i.e. six men and the Argies had to do the same at 33% or six casualties. A failure meant the force broke. Further rolls were to be made at 66% and 50% casualties respectively and so on.

The two little armies could only see one another at around 100m on a dark, wet night so we only diced against bottle for movement once contact was made. Until that point both sides were walking. There was a little positioning as this occurred - obviously the players could see their opponent's figures - but by alternately moving units no-one gained an advantage and we felt that the two sides knew the enemy was about and could probably hear them on the wind so this wasn't entirely unrealistic.

GPMG gunner Big Tony goes 'firm'.
Once contact was made the initial exchange of fire was brutal. Barry the Bren Gunner tried to fire the first burst as an Argentinian emerged out of the darkness in front to him - critical failure! Dud rounds meant he pulled the trigger and nothing happened!
After that debacle the paras reacted characteristically and got plenty of rounds down range and moved quickly and aggressively to close. Barry ran straight at a terrified Argie conscript swinging his Bren like a club and was promptly shot dead at point blank range...
Argies taking fire
The Argies were taking hits though and a number were suppressed and one killed- SMG fire being particularly nasty at short range. Our intrepid young para officer climbed up some rocks above three of Galtieri's finest and pulled the pin out of a grenade...which promptly exploded killing him instantly. Sergeant Watson immediately assumed command and the toms began working round the Argies right flank in a series of hand to hand fights. It wasn't at all a pushover - another para was down, wounded by a desperate Argentinian conscript literally fighting for his life. There was a nasty little episode as two paras bayoneted their opponent in revenge.
The action began to slow as both sides drew breath and nearly everyone went to ground. NCOs on both sides could be heard shouting orders and as dawn approached the Argentinian casualties reached their first break point. The bottle roll was duly passed but, using his night vision binoculars Lieutenant Tevez had spotted a para armed with a GPMG hiding in a cluster of rocks. He rightly decided that it was time to break off before the light improved and his men were both outgunned and out ranged.
The butcher's bill was two paras killed and one wounded and two Argentinian dead, three wounded and one missing. The missing man was later found hiding behind a gorse bank half way down the road to Darwin...
Thanks to Chris and Jeff for being so sporting and patient as we worked through the adaptations we'd made to the rules and learned about the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing sides.
Next time we might introduce mortar fire and hidden deployment and once the slit trenches and foxholes arrive that I've ordered then the Argentinian prospects of survival will increase.
What was realistic was that with poorer quality troops the Argentinian ability to manoeuvre was heavily restricted and they did better if they simply got their heads down, stayed put and fired when they could.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Falklands Project Introduction

Corporal 'Dobber' Dodd off on a nice walk to Teal Inlet...

I have considerable ambivalence about gaming the Falklands War

Aside from the fact that a number of my contemporaries fought in it, I'm uncomfortably aware this short victorious war cemented Thatcher's second election victory and gave her Government the confidence to take on the miners.

The war is fascinating nevertheless, and as time has passed the jingoistic tub thumping has been replaced by what passes for a more considered analysis in the literature.

Also, I can't ignore the black humour - as exemplified by Private Eye's spoof 'Sun' front page. Apparently Sun editor Kelvin McKenzie's response to the 'Kill an Argie and win a Metro' strapline was 'why didn't we think of that?'...

So, I've been painting up some paras and marines in 20mm from Platoon 20, FAA and Stonewall miniatures as well as some Argies from for them to fight.

Pictures to follow.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Islands of No Return

War for Slow Readers is tabbing out of Angola and fighting fascists in the southern sea - check out our new page 'Falklands 1982'...

We're still going to be fighting in Africa, but expect excursions to Goose Green and Longdon as well...

Saturday, 11 August 2012

The People's Tank

The T-55 is the VW Beetle of tanks: as far as I'm aware more of these behemoths have been built than any other tank.

This weekend, thanks to a birthday present from my wife, I had the opportunity to drive one. Specifically a T-55 AM2 of doubtful provenance. Possibly built under licence in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic and upgraded in the 1980s, this vehicle had instruments with Czech, Polish and Magyar language writing on them.

Wherever it came form and wherever it served it is uncompromisingly  a piece of classic Russian Cold War armour. This T-55 is 42 tonnes of  powered by a supercharged 39 litre V-12 diesel putting out 620bhp. Armed with a 100mm gun and kitted out with a laser rangefinder and spaced armour it it very similar to the tanks that took on the SADF in Angola in the 80s.

Driving it was an experience. Not built of comfort, the driver's compartment is very cramped. The pedals and levers are heavy and unforgiving but once you get used to using both hands to change gear and bracing your back against the seat so you can get enough leverage to depress the clutch, the overwhelming impression is one of power and manoeuvrability.

Me in the driver's seat. Spaced armour on the turret makes access and egress very difficult. Note the laser range finder above the main gun, the co-axial machine gun and the smoke discharger.

And we're off,.Matt instructs me in the finer points of steering - to turn you pull one of two levers which, when it goes into a 'notch', disengages the drive to that track and you abruptly start to turn. It's not graduated or smooth - but it works...

 Full speed ahead and damn the ATGMs!

We're heading for the treeline across a muddy field. The T55 takes bumps in it's stride - it was surprisingly well sprung - and mud poses no problem - as you'd expect from a Russian design.

 This shot could well be described as a NATO gunner's eye view - the exhaust smoke and noise is a bit of a giveaway - you're not going to sneak up on the capitalists in one of these.

Side view - gives a good impression of the low profile of this tank

Slowing down to stop. At this point I was very disappointed Matt didn't do an impression of Oddball in 'Kelly's Heroes'...
Off to celebrate with some Havana Rum and Cuban Cigars...

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Ambushed on the Way to the Border AAR

The day job has been getting in the way of gaming lately, although I have been doing some painting for a project that will see War for Slow Readers move into another this space.

Three of us did play a game using the modified Cold War 83 rules a couple of weeks ago though. This pitched a mercenary led platoon of the FNLA against an advancing Cuban company.

The Cubans were spearheading the FAPLA offensive in northern Angola and their objective was to cut the dirt road that can (just) be seen on the extreme top left of the picture below. The FNLA had three entrenchments located on the low ridge between the road and the advancing communists. HMGs were positioned in the flanking trenches and a couple of assault rifle stands were in the central trench. Behind the ridge the mercenaries, armed with FN SLRs were positioned so they could co-ordinate the defence. The only reserve was a stand of assault rifles and a GPMG armed technical.

None of the FNLA were revealed to the approaching Cubans until they opened fire or moved while in line of sight.

Comrade Chris duly tried to walk his troops on the table in a two up one back formation right into the killing zone. One platoon took casualties in a hail of .50 cal fire straight away, the survivors were suppressed.

It looked like it was all over for the Cubans. One platoon was decimated and had gone to ground, their comrades on their left knew someting very bad was happening and the third platoon hadn't even got over the start line i.e. on the table.

Chris kept his cool though and got his left flank platoon moving using the cover that was available. He managed to reconfigure his advance and push his third platoon up on the extreme right where thick bush gave some shelter from FNLA spotters.

Jeff opened up with everything he had and what followed was a desperate firefight as the relatively poorly trained FNLA attempted to get rounds down from the security of their trenches while the Cubans tried to suppress their tormentors and move forward.

The FNLA committed the Technical on their right when the .50 cal entrenched there was suppressed. A couple of Cuban RPGs went astray and it looked like another Communist platoon was going to be shot up as the FNLA gunner prepared to fire. He got off one burst before his weapon jammed, and then the technical exploded! One can only assume that the crew was careless with a cigarette butt in a vehicle that was loaded with live ammunition and gasoline...

By now the Cubans had abandoned all pretence at battle drill. Instead of fire and movement it was a case of pouring as many rounds into the FNLA as possible and anyone who could move was running flat out at the ridge.

Not subtle and not pretty, but it worked.

The Cubans suppressed each postion in turn and when they got into close quarters they were not taking prisoners.

I'd placed a 10 turn limit on the game as an arbitrary way of modelling exhaustion of ammunition and men. It was close but the Cubans got a fireteam across the road on turn 10, having killed or routed all but two the FNLA stands.

Another Cuban victory but at a high cost - a whole platoon's worth of Havana's finest were killed or wounded. The FNLA took another pounding - their poorly trained troops failing to old their ground. Another blow to FNLA morale and four more mercenaries were killed along with a dozen Angolan fighters.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Air Support...

Quick Reaction Force MiL 8 - not a particularly good model - the quality of the moulding wasn't high but I'm happy with how it's turned out. This represents the one of the first helicoptors supplied to the MPLA forces by the Soviets in late 1975 and maintained and crewed in our alternative timeline by Cubans and East Europeans

MiG 21 from the same manufacturer. Again, not a high quality model, but it'll do. I've not put numbers or national insignia on these aircraft because the suppliers are trying to rwmain incognito and er...because I don't have any Angolan MPLA decals...

Finally, and moving forward to the '80s, a Hind MiL 24 Gunship to take on the SADF Olifants should the South Africans try another invasion of Angola...

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Update 31 December 1975


The last couple of weeks have been busy on our alternative frontline.

The arrival of Soviet supplied aircraft has begun and East German and Cuban air and ground crew are being flown in to commission the MiGs and helicopters and to commence operations in support of the Cuban and MPLA ground froces.

Despite western propaganda to the contrary, the only foreign communist combat troops deployed are Cuban.

Luanda is secure for the time being and Cuban troops have spearheaded the advance north and north east against the FNLA and their mercenary led forces. Whilst the advancing troops have made steady gains, there have been unexpectedly high casualties. We played a couple of games pitting company strength Cuban forces against FNLA rearguards using the adapted Cold War 83 rules ('Fireteam Angola') and whilst the communists have won, they've been bloody encounters.

In central Angola South African instructors are training UNITA cadre, and supplies of Bulgarian manufactured small arms and ammunition is being flown in via Zambia in specially adapted cargo planes crewed by mercenary pilots.

In the South, an unexpected development has been the emergence of a Portuguese settler faction centred on Benguela. This group is lobbying Zambia and South Africa for support and it may have already secured covert aid from the CIA.

The SADF is in full retreat and heading for the southern border, although it is rumoured that arms and munitions are being handed over to the Portuguese in Benguela.

On the modelling front I've finished a MiG 21, a MiL 8, a MiL 24 and am half way through painting a Dakota (for those covert flights supplying UNITA).

Look out for games involving civilians and media soon - also a mini campaign based on a UNITA insurgency.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Work to Rule: Cold War 83

I've been trying out a variation of these rules for the lst three games in War for Slow Readers.

The variation has largely been prompted by the fact that my figures are not individually based, rather they are 3 or 2 figures to a base as I originally based them up for AK47 Reloaded. The few games I played with the latter rule set were good fun but I’ve not enjoyed them as much as the three games I’ve played using Cold War 83.

Why is this? I like the ‘Bottle’ mechanism that Cold War 83 uses to model training, experience and morale and how this is used to influence the chances of troops’ success or failure at just about anything they try and do. To my mind this far better than separating out factors like morale and subjecting troops to ‘morale checks’ as part of the turn sequence. The CW83 turn sequence is stripped down to alternating unit activation, after an initial die roll for initiative, within which individual stands of figures (in my games) or vehicles, attempt movement actions and/or combat actions. These can be attempted in any sequence, for example a fireteam may fire as a combat action and then move or vice versa, or all the fireteams in a unit may fire before they move or some may fire and some move in any order the player chooses.  You can keep things simple and confine movement actions to crawl, run and walk and combat actions to ranged firing and close combat or you can add as much complexity as you like – figures can attempt to jump, climb, hide, observe, set or defuse a demolition charge, radio for artillery or air support, or just about anything else you can think of.

I’ve adapted the rules to include command and control and to average out a fireteam’s weapons factor if the figures are armed with more than one type of weapon (e.g. two SLRs and an LMG per stand) then they still only perform one combat action.

One potential problem is the requirement to  keep track of Bottle as it changes, usually downwards, during the game. Also stands come suppressed as a result of mortar or artillery fire and er…suppressive fire from machine guns. With a couple of dozen bases per side this can still get complicated. I’ve resolved this by:

a)      Giving all stands in a unit the same Bottle with the exception of the leader’s stand which has the rear base edge painted to signify his exalted status.  This means that until contact you simply have to remember that  9 Platoon has a Bottle of 8

b)      Placing small dice next to the stand to show its Bottle once this changes from the value it begins the game with.

c)       Putting very small rubber band (I found these at Early War Miniatures) around the base of a suppressed stand.
I don't feel the need to make any cahnges to allow Crossfire' style reactive fire. I think the the alternating unit activation and the requirement that initiative passes to th eopposing player when a unit suffers Bottle failures to the tune of one third of the number of figures it has means there is scope for reaction and overwatch.
I played another game last weekend so look out for an AAR soon.