Sunday, February 05, 2023

Dispatches from the front XXVII - Care Packages & Testers.

The first dispatch of 2023.

The desert campaign is progressing at pace, but a distraction arrives in the post. Fighting over the same land a mere 832 years earlier. An excellent kickstarter campaign from Footsore Miniatures with their latest release for the Baron's War rules.


I may have gone a little OTT with my backing, sooooo much lead and a resin fort, enough to keep me going well into the summer of 2023....



I am looking to strike a balance between the Baron's War campaigning option but also recreating Standard Games Outremer from the 1980's. 
With a couple of projects now in the pipe I need to focus but the urge to get these on the paint table is strong despite a growing pile of WW2 Western Desert forces for the Exporter Campaign.


On the subject of Exporter reinforcements arrive from the Perry Twins in the shape of more Vichy French and the crew for an 88, as if the Allies did not have enough to worry about.

On the painting front the first of the German's clear the paint table, these are from the Gentleman's War set from Warlord Games and bolstered by several freebies donated by club members, plenty more to do which will eventually bring the number of German squads to 8 plus supports.


I was a little uncertain as to the right palette so tried a couple out, I am really pleased with the results, I wanted a mix of the Olive Green Tunic for some and the locally bleached tunics to blend in with the desert terrain for others.

Both were dulled down with with an Army Painter flesh wash, the mix of tunics should look great on the table top and give that lived in campaign feel.


For those interested this is the paint guide.

Tunics, Caps - Vallejo Iraqi sand or Vallejo Yellow Green.
Helmets Gasmask Container - Vallejo Green Ochre.
MG Strap, Rifle Pouches - Foundry African Flesh
Boots, Water Bottle - Vallejo Flat Earth
Gaiters, Water Bottle Top, Entrenching Tool Cover - Vallejo English Uniform
Webbing, Bread Bag and Shirt - Vallejo Stone Grey
Rifle - Foundry Tan 13B
Flesh - Foundry  125C Med Light Flesh
Bayonet, MG - Black

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

WW2 Narrative Campaign - Initial thoughts.

We have all been down this road one or two great games leads to a discussion about a campaign, the initial enthusiasm wains after the delay between games, players lose interest and the whole campaign falls apart.

With several players in our group currently amassing forces for the Western Desert, I was looking for a way to link games at a local and wider theatre level. I have been toying with a number of ideas around a narrative campaign but weaving in a number of command decisions for the officers on either side of the conflict.

Steve over at Wargames With Toy Soldiers: 1685 - 1985: recently posted his thoughts about running a campaign in France 1940 and striking a balance between sweeping campaign moves and games on the tabletop.

Given the challenge maintaining on going campaigns, logistics, book keeping and maintain momentum,  the best route is likely to be a narrative campaign as mentioned previously Platoon Forward has some very useful mechanism for low level units and the introduction of personality traits for each leader.

But I want to expand on the post battle follow up and it lead me to think about what's next and what choices would be available to a leader after an engagement. If you have a successful encounter what does that mean for you as a leader of men, if you fail or receive more than acceptable casualties what does that do for your career and reputation amongst your peers?

Everyone has some one they report in to. Commanders at all levels want to showcase there successes, be it keeping their men safe, seeking promotion or covering their own backs if things don't go to plan. Anthony King latest book Command, The 21st Century General is an excellent book on some prominent battlefield leaders.

With a number of players in a potential campaign, how to keep them interested in between games and give them command choices after each encounter.

I thought back to the early 80's and Ian Livingstone's Fighting Fantasy series where 'adventurers' chose their own path with a dice-based role playing element, each choice taking you through a different path to victory or an untimely death. The reader would typically follow a non-sequential numbered section fighting monsters along the way. I wonder could this mechanism be adapted to WW2 gaming?

I wondered if it had been done before and searched the web and found an interesting number of publications from Col John Antal such as Armor Attacks in the story you are the leader of a U.S. Army Abrams Tank Platoon, you are forced to make a number of important tactical and operational choices.

This feels like something that I can use for my campaign, where depending on the tabletop outcome players are given a number of simple choices.

Reflecting on the last game - what choices would be open to the opposing commanders?

Allied

  • Offensive - You now picture of have a clearer of the enemy defences, send in your men again. (This would show your tenancy and would build on your reputation, but only if you can keep casualties to an acceptable level and succeed.)
  • Defensive - After being beaten back from the town, send a portion of your command to the northern flank to encircle the town and cut off and reinforcements. (This would show your initiative despite the earlier set back.) 
  • Static - Hold position and await reinforcements before assaulting the town again, (The higher ups might view this as a failure given the urgency of the need to clear the town, but it could be seen as understandable given the opposition.)

Vichy

  • Offensive - With the Allies beaten back - Follow up taking the high ground to the south of the town where a battery of artillery has been shelling the town. (This shows good initiative but be careful to not weaken your defences so much to expose the town.)
  • Defensive - Withdraw from the town reforming to stronger positions. (You gave the allies and bloody nose and kept your command intact.)
  • Static - Hold your position - Dig In - For the expected further attack. (This is our soil the higher ups recognise how you brought them time to organise their defences deeper in country and to perhaps reinforce your position.)

Each commanders simple selection might lead to an alternative encounter on the table.

for example

Defensive vs Static - The Vichy forces slip away - when the allies enter the town they find it empty.

Offensive vs Offensive - Players might dice off to see who has the initiative perhaps totalling battlefield casualties from the first encounter or by asking players to pick a time of day to launch their sortie? What if the French are out when the Allies attack?

Defensive vs Defensive - The French are forced to fight a running battle to escape the table or are ambushed trying to leave the town?

Giving the players limited campaign choices will allow me to control the broad direction of the campaign but giving the commanders some interesting challenges which link directly to the battlefield encounters whilst focusing on their career goals, nurturing their forces, growing their command and building their reputation.

Right back to the brushes, both the Commonwealth and Vichy are in need of reinforcements.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Operation Exporter - Deraa June 08 1941 - Advance of the 3/1st Punjab and the 4/6th Rajputana Rifles

To keep the momentum going on the painting front, thoughts turn to campaign games and how events in the wider theatre could impact the tabletop battles.
I do like Platoon Forward as a mechanism and blending with Bolt Action should make for a number of fun encounters in the the assault on the Vichy held Levant and perhaps even an intervention of the Axis forces. But for now let's assume Operation Exporter took place as planned. 

Scenario

On the 8th of June the Allies invaded Vichy Syria and Lebanon. On the desert flank, in Syria, the 3/1st Punjab and the 4/6th Rajputana Rifles, moved across the border and had surrounded the town of Deraa by 6 a.m. after having met little opposition.  

A flag of truce was sent into the town with a demand for surrender. When the car carrying the party was fired on by artillery and hit by a shell which did not explode the envoys bravely continued on foot, but their demand for surrender was rejected. 

Rolling up a couple of Officers within Platoon Forward to give me certain character traits.

At 7.30am the Indian artillery opened fire. After a brief bombardment the Allies send in two Indian companies to attack and occupy the town.

That's the fact now for the game.

Captain Leonard Salter of the 6th Rajputana Rifles a 'sensible' officer but motivated by and a respecter of wealth, he will seek it out by all means legal.

Captain John Preacher of the LRDG a Scholarly man, Pious and Devout, holy text comes before the drill book, imagine finding yourself in the holy land.

Within the game each have orders from headquarters to seize the town but also have a personnel sub plot to achieve. Salter has heard that Deraa has a stash of Chateau Musar, he has a buyer back in Cairo who will pay good money for these bottles. Meanwhile Preacher is on the look out for a local cleric who has been stirring up the locals, if he was to be killed in any house clearance, that would be quite the accident.

The Allies plan for a two pronged attack from the North and South it can be assumed that the preliminary shelling had supressed some of the defenders but their strength is unknown.

Captain Salter leads his command up the wadi, immediately Senegalese Infantry are encountered in the main dwelling who open up with little effect on the Indian troops.  


Wasting no time the Indians rush forward to take the fight to the Vichy. In a hard fought battle the Senegalese are beaten back room by room.


The Indians have their foothold in the village.



On the far northern approach Preacher and a section of Punjab's make there way through the tents when they come under from French Infantry defending the outskirts.


Preacher and his men work there way forwards and secure a building (no cleric in here.) across the street from the French defenders and a vicious fire fight breaks out, with neither side showing no quarter. The Vichy French would not budge, these legion guys were tough.


On the north the Indian's had hit a wall the French were well dug in and were pinning the Allies every time they attempted to move forwards.


Disaster strikes - Salter knew he needed to urge his men on, they were hunkered down. He crossed the lines of olives rushing forwards when the French LMG team from a nearby roof top caught him in a withering fire. There will be no expensive wine for Captain Salter.


A plucky sergeant moves his section forward to grab another house which had been home to a sniper team which had been causing the allies all kinds of problems. 


With Preacher heavily engaged on the far side of town and with additional French bolstering the defenders. The Allies lacking senior leaders were forced to fall back.

A Vichy French victory as Deraa remains in the defenders hands.

After the engagement and back behind their own lines the Allies regroup.

Captain Preacher is asked to take a formal leadership role within the 6th Rajputana's replacing Captain Salter whose body was still lying out there on the outskirts of Deraa. 

Reinforcements are scraped together bring the unit back to fighting strength, a MG is attached to the unit for the next engagement.

Meanwhile in Deraa Captain Belette, an idealistic support of the Vichy Government was not having things all his own way. His men were reporting that they were down to 50% of there Rifle Grenades. Belette had also a rather angry exchange with the commander of the Artillery a greedy man who claims that headquarters had other priorities than Belette's command, but for a price he might find a way to give him some support his beleaguered command.

An enjoyable encounter which was touch and go through out the battle, the loss of the Allied senior leader really knocked the wind out of the allied attack, they might not be so bullish in the next engagement, but with plenty more on the paint table across a number of players the force make up could change significantly.

Options for both commanders to consider before the next game.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Western Desert - Commando's

Back to the brushes. A free gift from a good friend, one of those sprues that comes with Wargames Illustrated, what with these and the extra Germans donated by members of the Wyre Forest Club I have enough to make a couple of extra units.

These come from Warlord Games Commonwealth Infantry Range, picking from their mix of headgear they represent Commando's or SAS in the Western Desert.

Ideas are bubbling away on the campaign front, I am thinking about a narrative type campaign within which players will be given a number of command choices, each success or defeat will lead to a different set of choices. All backed by a wider campaign map which allows broad campaign moves to be made.

I will probably look to mix in 'Platoon Forward' from by Joe Legan this introduces a number of character traits and potential sub plots for the senior leaders on each side.


In true commando comic fashion I rolled up the leader of this section.

Captain John Preacher of the LRDG a Scholarly man, Pious and Devout, holy text comes before the drill book, imagine finding yourself in the holy land. Could this be his calling to deliver a fresh Crusade.

Preacher is accompanied by 5 other veterans to disrupt the German war effort or that of the Vichy French.

TTFN.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Barons War - Footsore Miniatures.

In a break from the Middle East a trip back to Ye Olde England for the first run through of the Baron's War over at the Wyre Forest Club.

With the Kickstarter pledges likely to start flowing from Footsore miniatures in the next couple of weeks for their Outremer release the pressure is really on to get other stuff finished before these hit the paint table.


Paul over at movealongnownothingtoseehere  was hosting with his excellent set up. The Angle Saxons faced off against the Norman invader.


Despite early successes forcing the Normans back, the Norman Crossbows stripped the Saxon Leader of his body guard (they are rather nasty at close range). Before he was ridden down by the Norman Heavy cavalry, very unsporting. Although it felt realistic as I was standing in the middle of an open field and one Dane Axe was unlikely to stop five knights charging at the gallop.


The rules had a good feel to them the idea of forcing units to take with compulsory actions makes the use of commanders really key and rewards those that can pressure enemy troops early on.
The use of command order forces you to keep your commander close to the action to use their orders to command units into combat and other actions however these extra actions for troops makes them 'weary' which can significantly impact their performance and put them at risk from fresher opponents.


I am still a little undecided on which rules to use for the Outremer project, I still have the hankering to turn the old Standard Games - Cry Havoc/Outremer to miniature but Baron's War is that obvious step up from one on one to small units....

Plenty to ponder when the postman comes knocking.....

Friday, January 13, 2023

Operation Exporter - Allied reinforcements - Indian Troops.

Hot off the heels of the Vichy French, a few more Indian Troops to bolster the Commonwealth forces. These came within the Carrier Patrol from Warlord Games.

Another 10 man section, containing an NCO, LMG team and 7 Privates, the carriers will follow once all the Infantry are complete. 

The Warlord sculpts are some what bulkier than the Perry offerings. Height wise there is little difference but the Perry castings are thinner and slightly better proportioned to my eye.



Wandering around the desert can be dangerous who knows what could be hiding under rocks or in the scrub. I found this viper in the spares box, which could come in handy.


For those interested this is the colour guide used for the Indian Infantry.

Helmet - Vallejo Dark Sand.
Tunic - Sand Iraqi Sand, Dark Sand Highlight
Leather Jerkin Brown Mahogany Brown.
Jumper - VJ English Uniform
Webbing & Pouches - VJ German Camo Beige
Socks - VJ Flat Earth
Anklets VJ English Uniform
Boots - Black
Flesh - Foundry Butter Fudge Shade 55A
Rifle - Foundry Tan 13B

Friday, January 06, 2023

Operation Exporter - Indian support elements

Nothing like a pending game to drive the painting queue on.

These were the last of the Commonwealth forces representing elements of the 6th Rajputana Rifles who were part of the Right Hand Column and the advance into Syria.


Boyes Anti-Tank Rifle always useful to take on the nasty French R35's not sure how they will match up against the German Pz III's in any what if scenario.


A 2" Mortar with a couple of head swaps from the Perry metal range together with a Perry Miniatures Vickers MMG this will be handy in keeping the Frenchies heads down.

Meanwhile the prep is underway on the Germans you get a lot more for your money with plastics over metal but the preparation takes that little bit longer, I opted to base each of mine on 2p pieces to make them a little sturdier on the gaming table. 
The Warlord plastics are very nice with lots of different webbing combinations and head gear ranging from Cork helmets to field caps which makes for plenty of variety but watch out for the little bits, bayonets, pouches and the like, they really take their toll on the old eyes.... I definitely stuck one head on upside down before I realised. 


Until next time....