Tuesday, April 25, 2017

BATREP: Somewhere in Normandy 1944

It's been just over a year since I played my last miniatures wargame - so my gaming life is barely registering a pulse. To top matters off, I am extremely likely to be getting posted to the Pacific in five weeks for a period of not less than two years so the pressure was on to get a game in so I can still call myself a wargamer. So, it was my great mate Grant's choice and he opted for Rapid Fire WWII Northern Europe in 20mm. Who could argue?
Shot taken from Church side - what became the German entry point.
A panic set it when I realised I had thrown all my old-fashioned chip board terrain tiles away without yet having replaced them. So as I was hosting, it was off to Spotlight haberdashery: cloth bought, pieces sewn together and then sprayed four different colours care of my trusty compressor and spray-gun. The rest of the features had been made and slowly accumulated over the years and before I knew it, I was ready to rock'n'roll.
Thunderbolt strafes deploying infantry company, taking some casualties.
We determined to play with potential forces up to supported battlegroup size but as usual, randomised if and when elements came on per turn.

The Scenario
The town was ostensibly held by US Paratroopers (up to battalion strength) who had dropped in overnight and the Germans were scrambling together a response force to eject them before sufficient Allied elements crossed the battlefield and pushed further on to the next strong-point. Each turn both sides rolled 4-6 (d6) to get an element on table - if failing, the odds increased in subsequent rounds until successful, then the odds commenced over for the subsequent elements and so on. Only one element could arrive per turn. Each element (company usually) had a arrival number which was also diced for - if one of us diced for a unit already arrived - too bad, we lucked out. We also randomised entry points across the table edges divided into eighths - once secured for the first time that player owned that entry point and the opposition must roll for another. So, we didn't know if or when we would be reinforced, by what (exactly) and from where they would arrive.

Grant diced for the Allied cause and he achieved first blood swiftly with a successful strafing run over my first arriving motorised infantry company.
Glider born jeeps with infantry following up race to the bank (left).
We both succeeded in a semi-regular dribble of reinforcements. My Germans came in initially on the table edges at the church and the adjacent fields whilst Grant's glider born supports came burning up the main road right into the centre of town - gutsy play but it paid off as he beat me to his respective cover and opened up a covering fire from the roof-top of the bank (grey building).
That bloody dive-domber again!
I determined to concentrate my forces when they arrived about the church and worked my way to the other side of the road. My Kampfgruppe HQ arrived early and tore up the road, came screeching to a halt and decamped immediately into the blue building. The total Allied air-superiority made itself felt but was shot down by my Flakpanzer 38t thanks to what prove to be some consistently heroic dice rolling by this otherwise famously Unlucky General.
Innocent looking Hotel and an invitingly open flank.
I was starting to enjoy the upper hand in reinforcements with a company of infantry arriving at the church which I crossed right over the road to flank wide. An MG company arrived at the field to the right of the main road on what had become my side of the table edge. I off-roaded my HQ armoured cars past the CO taking cover and observation from the blue building, hooking the cars right ahead of my flanking infantry toward the above hotel.
Nasty surprises is what recce unit are for - I suppose.
 At the start of the game Grant had up to four US Paratrooper companies assigned to this location with orders to hold it. His consistently appalling dice rolling saw to it; however, that he commenced the game with only one - the rest being mis-dropped - but the company that was here was concealed. Who knew they be at that damned pub? ... well not me, obviously. A sharp engagement ensued when contacting with my recce car and a missed bazooka round caused me to throw into reverse rapidly. I withdrew to a safer distance and engaged in sustain machine gun fire on his occupying paras. Over the next three to four turns adequate casualties were inflicted to thin down the para company, his survivors escaping out the back. So, the flank was finally mine after all.
Achtung Panzers!
Or so I thought. To my shock and utter horror, a troop of Cromwell tanks including a close support variant appeared - a drastic game-changer. I had virtually nothing on the right to stop them. The only assets available to me were my artillery which had arrived by this time on my far left - a 105mm howitzer and a 150mm SIG 33 SPG.
A shaky flank prepared for infantry assault - not tanks!
Prior to starting the game we agreed the hedge-rows would be randomly breechable or impenetrable bocage - to be determined on contact. Wouldn't you know it but fate was with the Allied armour as they were able to crash through the single obstacle between them and my vulnerable infantry with only a 1d6 movement penalty.  Things were getting desperate quickly. The only thing holding my forces together was my dice rolling and I managed to lay down smoke from my 81mm mortar which saved my now retreating armoured cars from annihilation.
A mighty and timely brew-up
Just after the Cromwells started clearing the hill of my troops, my HQ company from their vantage of the blue building called in some IDF from my two guns and one of them hit it and then KO'd it on a d6 roll. A subsequent and abominable morale roll by Grant sent them packing two full moves to the rear leaving the way open for me to cross the open ground and push onto advanced cover. This episode also reminded me I need to revisit my effects markers - I can do a lot better than that!
Field of death
Meanwhile the left flank was active also. I had an armoured infantry company arrive on my far left so pushed it to the end of a large and long crop. Covering their advance, the Hanomag took up an over-watch whist my infantry moved cautiously forward. In no time the second third of the British relief force arrived in the form of two armoured infantry companies, further supported by a company of US paras who revealed themselves at point blank from behind the hedge. A fierce firefight ensued, I even lopped a stick grenade or two but not a single German reached the end of that field or made it back to the vehicle.
Before I knew it, the surviving tanks were back but by than time my extreme right was secured by my support company and a PAK75 ATG now nestled in good cover. Splitting their advance, the CS Cromwell went to breach a standard hedge row lining the central road when contrary to my wildest expectations, I repeated the same IDF trick, laying down a cripplingly effective barrage and knocked it to a burnish stand-still. I didn't know my dice even had it in them.
Having relocated his glider infantry toward the hotel, my advance there was checked. This time Grant's bazooka found it's mark on my other car. Small arms through the field to their front and from the other car to their flank saw the glider infantry suffering heavy casualties.
Although now suffering two vehicles lost, Grant's remaining Cromwell did not break but at least he withdrew it to regroup in the rear ... thank heaven for small mercies. So, I was taking the ground but paying a price for it. Little did I know the game was about to be decided on the other flank.
The final and decisive play.
After the massacre in the left flank field, Grant's realised (not immediately) that the had an open run hard down my extreme left flank for his British armoured infantry. Carried in half-tracks with mounted .50 caliber machine guns they only had a single, unsupported 105mm gun before them - my mistake. Realising what was up, I desperately deployed my Flakpanzer and turned my SIG33. If Grant was to get just one element of the Brits off the opposite table edge to their entry points, they would link up to the next zone and game-over. I had one turn before they were off so I opened up with everything I could muster. Well, my luck finally took a turn for the worse and I missed with everything. Even a blocking manouvre by a Hanomag would hold him up. He easily eliminated the opposing gun crew and pushed on - so the battle was both won and lost.
We played a second game the next day (Anzac Day) which I also lost very badly indeed. I lost so badly in fact that I capitulated by about turn 10. It came down to a very poor choice on my part for an order of reinforcements - tragically poor in fact, but it made for a couple of nice photos of which the following is one.


Friday, March 31, 2017

Command Base: Orange

Well not before time, here is my first posting for 2017 - my latesr command vignette for the Papelotte/Waterloo project ... one of too many. I present William Prince of Orange.

William II, by Nicaise de Keyser, 1846.
If others like me have one blind spot in building their armies, then allow me to confess mine - the Command stands. I normally start with infantry and after a brigades worth I move on to cavalry, then artillery and at the end it's the generals. Black Powder rules somewhat force my hand insomuch as they are integral to everything and I have had to move on them for my 100 Days Allied army earlier than usual. So I have now moved to complete my Prince William of Orange command stand - my Corps commander.

Keyser's painting above from 1846 depicts the Prince on a grey but it seems more likely he was mounted on the day atop Waxy, who was later killed in action and is immortalized through the craft of taxidermy and resides forevermore at the Rijksmuseum (pictured left). Thus my depiction using Perry's figure is on a bay

The Prince of Orange staff included the following: principle ADCs Lieutenant Colonel (brevetted from Major) Ernest Otto Baron Tripp (60th Rifles); Captain Lord John Somerset (half pay - unattached); Capt. Hon. Francis Russell (half pay - unattached); Extra ADCs Captain The Earl of March (52nd Foot), Captain Viscount Bury (1st Foot Guards); and, Lieutenant Henry Webster (9th Light. Dragoons). 
I have elected to depict the Prince with Jean Victor de Constant Rebecque, accompanied by three ADCs: Lieutenant Webster, Ernst Otto Baron Tripp and an unnamed Netherlands Staff Officer. The two ADC 'personalities' are depicted in their originating regimental uniforms, thus we have one mounted 60th Rifles Lieutenant Colonel and a Lieutenant of the 9th Light Dragoons. The Staff Officer has a mixture of the old 1813 uniform (gold lace and epaulettes) with grey overalls. My basing convention allows for five figures for my Corps Commander base. I chose this group as they make the most colourful bunch.
Otto Ernest Gelder Trip Baron Tripp was a Major of the 60th Rifles from 10 November 1813 and veteran of the Peninsular campaign. He was brevetted Lieutentnt Colonel and as he was on the Staff would have been uniformed at his brevettend rank. At the time of the 100 Days campaign, the 60th Rifles were eight battalions strong but none were present for Waterloo. He was 41 years of age and did not survive long after Waterloo: he died of unrecorded causes in 1816. 
Sir Henry Vassall Webster 1814 by Martin Shee
ADC to the Prince was Lieutenant (later to become Lieutenant-Colonel) Sir Henry Vassall Webster, a Knight of Wilhelm and veteran of Portugal, Spain, France and the Netherlands campaigns. He had been a Lieutenant of the 9th Light Dragoons (British) and had stayed on in the Peninsular after the regiment was shipped home in 1814 as ADC to Brigadier Ballard Long - the duties for which he was to render the Prince at Waterloo.


Based on 5 millimeter MDF, this command stand has my Rebecque on foot at a boundary fence directing movements to the Staff Officer whilst the Prince scans for the French. The two ADCs are conversing with each other in the meantime - in English of course as neither has any Dutch and can't follow Rebecque's or the Prince's strategy. The ground is sodden and the previously breached fence-line divides a grazed pasture from a fallow field - the breach being caused by troopers the night before prizing apart a section for their feeble fire in the overnight downpour.


A regimental chronicle and list of officers of the 60th, or the King's Royal Rifle Corps, formerly the 62nd, or the Royal American Regiment of Foot by Wallace, Nesbit Willoughby, 1839-1931 Published 1879.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Celtic Command: Boudicca and Besties

I shudder to even guess how long these models have remained half built and it's taken me three pushes over years to finish them off. What can you do? I just have to be in the mood to be creative for certain projects at certain times. I haven't played with my Celts for years so that may be some reason for the lethargy. Anyway, here they are and done - finally.
The first model is my rendition of Boudicca "Warrior Queen" and my first challenge was what she would have looked like. My imaginative rendition has her adorned with acquired gladiatorial half-mail which she picked up after the sacking of Camulodunum. We are told she led the army so for me she a noble warrior also. We have no idea how old she was but we are told that she had two daughters. We know not how old these daughters were except the unverifiable story has them raped (according to Tacitus) which might suggest they were of a certain age but it remains highly speculative. So, she could have been in her twenties or thirties or as old as you like really. I have her in her fighting prime.
The next model is my chariot unit standard bearer. All three chariot models are from Old Glory except the Boudicca figure which I'm sure is an old ShaddowForge casting which I added a shield and spears to. I added reins by cutting thin strips of heavy foil (from my scotch bottles) and gluing them in holes drilled in the driver's hands and horse harness.
 I have the drivers in two different positions - two forward on the rig and one on the main platform. I covered the two bare-chested drivers in woad painted runes and painted the lime plaster where appropriate. 
I struggled for a long time about what sort of army standard I wanted and this sort of evolved. I had an old heroic looking fantasy Roman centurion figure which was too ridiculous for my army but his head gave me an idea. I fixed an auxiliary's shield which was repainted and - well, the rest is obvious. A bit gruesome but then ... they were weren't they?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Idea Forming: Scutum Mock-up

I could have continued stuffing about on a computer but sometimes it's just easier and more fun to break out the sketch pad and pencils. This is an options draft for what I think the 'standard' scutum design might look like for my speculative Cesarian XI Legion representation.

As previously posted, I've gone for the horse and trident imagery for the Legion's identification with Neptune: god of the rivers, sea and creator of the horse. I think malachite green or Egyptian blue. The green is for the grasslands and the sea whereas the blue could be representative of the rivers or the sea.

Earlier republican scutum are always simple designs - in this instance it might have been represented by only the horse. By the time of the early imperial period, more complex conventions are in evidence with eagle wings, lightning bolts and other devices providing a more cluttered and identifying design. So, I am aiming for a mid-point in evolution of the scutum devices with unenclosed legion number in large numerals and the cohort in smaller font.

My partner says she prefers the green - so this is where I'll go. Besides, I have a thing these days for green and red combinations and the vexilum, red cloaks and occasional crests should stand out even better.

I have today ordered two test sets of Veni Vidi Vici decals from the ancient horse range in black and white to see how they match on my Warlord shields - here's hoping. I think I'll have the tridents hand painted with variation in styles primarily because I think they will be simpler to paint.

Monday, July 18, 2016

SHIELDS ON ME!: SCUTUM on my mind.

Another viewing of HBO Rome and I finally cracked and bought a small stack of Warlord Games Caesar's Legion figures - six cohorts of 24 figures including the first double strength cohort. Now, decisions decisions. How to paint them?

I am attracted to the Lego XI (emblem: Neptune) because of their history with Caesar before and during the civil wars and the fact that the historical Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo were both Centurions of that legion. I'm also drawn to the Legio XII (emblem: thunderbolt) because of their length or service and battle record down to 45BCE.

The subject of uniformity for this period is wide open to interpretation but as a general principle, I believe there needs to be some form of uniformity within a cohort as well as relative unity between cohorts of the same legion. Through re-reading Julius Caesar's Civil Wars, it is very clear that specifics of fighting strength was measured in his mind by numbers of cohorts present. In this way it seems that legions were as a modern division - seen more as an organisational rather than tactical structure or accurate measure of fighting capability. A cohort is formed and reformed, merged and disbanded to maintain a necessary fighting strength which is understood and calculated. A legion, it seems can be under strength in numbers of cohorts but by and large, a cohort was fixed.

As the tunic beneath the armour is only partially displayed, the biggest single identifier is the scutum. So, this for me is where uniformity is to be found in my representation. I rationalise that a fighting man knows is mates and enters the fray in formation but if order breaks down, how does any man on your greater side (say from another cohort) know who you are? So, there will need to be some form of uniformity on a legion level at least. Given that the legion makes camp and has all the necessary support elements with the baggage, there should be a higher degree of consistency in supply and repair when it comes to the shield than not. So, what are my options?

Imperial period XI idea
Reds (earth end of the spectrum) and yellow/ochres were in the widest use in all manner of painting and dyeing. But a malachite green was readily manufactured as well as Egyptian blue. Bearing in mind the surface of the plywood scutum was covered in leather and painted linen or parchment, any unpainted shield is likely to be white or even bare leather - always an option anyway. It seems likely that stencils provided for consistent patterns and there is no reason why generally this would not have been maintained on the march and on campaign.

So, given the occasional shortage, wastage with the use of battlefield detritus and the presence within the ranks of recent defectors during a civil war, I will have a sprinkling of non-standard shields through the ranks except perhaps the first cohort. So, some white, some leather, some of plain colour, some with a white or black stencil on white or leather but the vast majority uniform stencil on base colour - albeit with some variation of hue.

The horse is of interest but I'd do it in white - mostly.
At this stage I am leaning heavily toward Legio XI for additional reasons. Neptune is universally associated with the sea, so I'm inclined toward blue or green - everyone else goes for red! A white stencil on dark blue or green, muddied and battle damaged can be very effective and the standards and any red tunics stand out all the more. Also, Neptune is long associated with the horse and a white horse either stenciled (represented by transfers) or occasionally hand painted across some units can look most striking. More typical would be representations of a trident and the dolphin is definitely one of Neptune's chief symbols. Neptune was one of the few gods to whom bulls were sacrificed and he is is strongly associeted with this symbol also. This choice will give me variety within uniformity and may allow greater differences to be displayed between cohorts. I might even throw in a sea horse or two - perhaps for the signifers?
Another Imperial period XI concept: more cluttered than my ideas
If I go Legio XII then yellow eagle wings and lightning bolts are more probable but the shield could also be a dark blue night sky - green and yellow are out for me.

Probably fifth from the top left
My transfer options are somewhat limited and I may have to design and make my own. Most decals provide the colour background to the shield which I personally find restrictive and unhelpful. Anyway, if you've read to the bottom of this, tell what you think? Help me make my decision.

Another XI concept
Jona Lendering in his article on the Legio XI states, "Since this legion was constituted by Caesar, its emblem may have been a bull, but this symbol is nowhere to be found. Instead, the soldiers may have worn badges showing the sea god Neptune." http://www.livius.org/articles/legion/legio-xi-claudia/

Imperial period concept
Well, rather than 'showing the sea god' I rather think representing him through symbolism and representing Neptune's earlier association with horses rather than his assumed domain of water is more appropriate. Given that Legio XI was raised for Caesar's campaign against Gaul which was very much an inland war, the horse would appear more appropriate still. 

Neptune is primarily identified by the trident so I'm inclined toward a horse and trident. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Observer Section: Part Two ... DONE

I checked how long ago the first part of this build was posted and my heavens, it was over three years ago! I've had the model back on my painting desk for over a year to remind me to finish it but I have been pre-occupied with my anniversary Waterloo enthusiasm - until now. Every year I begin with a flourish of completing long standing little jobs to tidy up my haphazard hobby habits and this year has been no exception.
I think everything that really needed to be said about how I kit bashed and contructed these models was said in part one. The only things to observe is that the unit markings are all hand painted and I used at least three lightening shades of weathering and dust to go for that dusted desert worn look.
When it comes to playing WWII, I tend to rush at tanks and infantry figures first but it's elements like transport and artillery which are extremely vital which often get left til last. Earlier period wargaming is about big battles with three arms and we tend to think WWII games are simpler and smaller. I play Rapid Fire rules which is really about battle-group sized games around one or two fully supported battalions of infantry. Truth is, once you throw in on table artillery, observer elements, observer elements for off table assets, air support, reconnaissance, transport to mobilize your infantry and so on, that simple supported battalion becomes quite the miniature army. Just as well we love painting and model making - oui?  
I have the unit mobile as well as in deployed modes. Given the effcetiveness of the British 25pdr Artillery as well as it's diversity, these fellows should seriously value add to my battery's presence on the table-top.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Colonel Prince Karl Bernard of Saxe-Weimar

Colonel of the 28th Orange Nassau regiment, Prince Karl Bernard found himself brevetted to Brigadier by the battle of Waterloo. Interestingly, or perhaps frustratingly depending how you look at it, there are few specific references to how the Prince was attired. We must therefor logically infer .
I have seen these Perry figures painted up with the Prince depicted (I presume) as the Colonel of the Nassau Usingen regiment in green with black facings. In reference to Voices from the Past: Waterloo 1815 by John Grehan the Prince's own letter to his father after the battle could not make it plainer; however, that he was the Colonel of the Orange Nassau regiment (two battalions) and that he was field promoted.

I therefore believe that the Prince must have been attired as the senior officer of the Orange Nassau regiment, with white breeches or grey overalls, blue French style coat and red facings. He is depicted as such by Hoynck J. Papendrecht above, albeit drawn in the late nineteenth century, many decades after the fact. Admittedly, there is not a lot of difference between a Dutch General's uniform and the Colonel of the 28th. A happy coincidence for the Prince?
I researched the uniforms on the run and it was because of the above picture that I have elected to run with a farmyard theme for the command base. I have the Prince with a staff officer and an officer of the 2nd Usingen Nassau regiment similar to the figure on the extreme left of Papendrecht's image. I've done a few bases of wet earth, puddles and the like for my Waterloo armies but this time I want them in the yard of a farmhouse.
I delved onto one of my many boxes of odds and ends and dug up a length of pre-printed and embossed paper - a scenic product from Noch. To be precise it's from Noch's HO scale range and is the 57710 mauerplatte "Dolomit" stone wall effect which will serve as well for a rough stone faces farmhouse yard. I recycled an old wood barrel I bought so long ago I know not from where and flanked it with a couple of 1/48th scale chickens from Pegasus.
The real trick was the time consuming afterthought of shearing the horses from their bases, drilling and fixing steel pins through the hoof and then drilling and gluing them through the surface of the base. I had to build up some foliage around the base of the staff officer's mount as this horse figure was imperfectly cast which you can see. Anyway, something a bit different for me and I like to imagine this Brigadier might be visiting Papelotte.