Sunday, August 26, 2018


Some time ago I sent a few surplus 15mm 11th century Byzantine figures (mostly cavalry) to one Mark Haughey of Western Australia , author of this blog spot: One Sided Miniature Wargaming Discourse.  Mark's Byzantine armies are look very nice already.  The flags set off something special, I think.

Expecting nothing in return, after all I have received stuff with no expectation of a return - a kind of pay it forward thing - I was surprised and appreciative of what Mark offered to send me by way of reciprocation.  I rather think he went the second mile on this.
The trove arrived a couple of days ago:

  • 3 ROCO schwere wehrmachtschlepper half tracks (plastic)
  • a 6-barrel nebelwerfer (plastic - survived the 3000 mile journey intact)
  • a light 7.5cm infantry gun (German, metal))
  • a limber (metal)
  • a RSO tractor (metal)
  • a T70 light tank (Russian, metal)
  • a BA64 armoured car (metal)
  • a 122mm field howitzer (Russian, metal)

It took me a while to identify the howitzer.  Thinking it was German,  I am very pleased to find it to be Russian after all. My only other 122mm was scratch built from cardboard around a kit-set barrel and breach moulding. These metal kits were actually unassembled 'mint in packs'   so I 'dummy ran' assembly for the pictures.  The howitzer I certainly assembled wrongly, but that has since been corrected.

This trove sure fills in some glaring gaps in my inventories!

My first thought for the armoured half tracks was for transport or command vehicles.  I even thought (briefly, and not very seriously) of going down the Charles Grant track and giving them to my Russians.  It appears that these vehicles were used as carriages for various AA and panzerwerfer weapons.  The vehicle seems not quite right for the 10-barrelled panzerwerfer, though if I simply roofed over the tray and mounted it in top, it might look the part.

But the thing was also used to mount the Uhu infra-red  light - something like this:
Image result for German Uhu searchlight

A 'Shapeways 1:285 scale 3D printed model.

Most images of the Uhu carriage have the angled sides and roof mounting, but this picture seems to indicate alternate mountings are possible with the vehicles Mark sent me.    Definitely a doable project, I think.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Still working on Operation Crusader

Ariete Division.  'First draft'.
Well, I'll tell you what: this project is proving a deal of harder work and searching than I originally thought.  I had what looked like a very good and detailed source for the Orders of Battle (OOB)- and discover I have reason to doubt its veracity.  On the other side of the coin, working out the SP values for the scale of game we're looking at is also being subjected to a review.
Italian XX Mobile Corps.  Ariete on the
mat. Trieste behind it.

One who has been following my progress so far has obviously been down this same road before, and amassed a deal of knowledge (thanks Neil).  Against that I have a source that, owing to comprehensive and circumstantial detail seems persuasive.  For a wild moment I thought the OOB referred to a later time, but the presence of Savona Division (surrendered at Bardia, January 1942 and never rebuilt) and RECAM (disbanded not long after the Crusader Operation) indicated I wasindeed reading a November 1941 Orbat..

On the other hand, it would appear that the inclusion of the Semovente group is mistaken (552 and 553 Battalions).  I have two OOBs printed out, one that includes the assault guns, one without.  The latter I unearthed buried among other bits of paper.  Pity: I would have liked to include them.
Having said that, since I took the photos a couple of nights ago, I thought I'd post them here anyway, as a kind of 'first draft' of what Ariete division and XX (Mobile) Corps will look like.

The Order of battle of Ariete Division will henceforth be based upon this:

132 Armoured Division 'Ariete' Gen Mario Balotta

32 Armoured Regiment 
  • I Lt Tank Bn
  • II Lt Tank Bn
  • III Lt tank Battalion detached to RECAM
132 Armoured Regiment
  • VII Md Tank Bn
  • VIII Md Tank Bn
  • IX Md Tank Bn
8th Bersaglieri Regiment
  • III Battalion
  • V Battalion
  • XII Battalion
132 Artillery Regiment
Battalion/ 26 Artillery Regiment (attached from Pavia Division
Battalion attached from 24th Corps Artillery Group.

No: no armoured cars, no Semovente.  'Jacko': I hope you are not disappointed!

But the Corps Troops do have truck mounted 102mm AA/AT.


On a personal note, I have very likely another operation in train. For the last thirteen years the vision in my left eye has been badly impaired by cataracts.  And at last, in the last few weeks I have noticed a marked deterioration in the vision of my right eye.  Yep.  Cataracts.  Confirmed by a visit to the optometrist last Thursday.  I now have an appointment for a consultation at the St George's Eye Care on Monday, 1 October.
Mixed plate.  Toothsome?  Oh, yes!

In a species of 'anti-celebration, Karen and I followed that evening's grocery buy with a feed at the 'Food Court' at the Eastgate shopping ... place.  This is what I got.  Mixed plate (lamb and chicken) with salad, chips (fries) and topped with BBQ sauce, sweet chili sauce, and yoghurt.

A unsolicited, unapologetic plug.

It was a bloody dam jolly good feed!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

'Operational Art' - and other stories...

These are just my German AFVs and artillery
I have been fascinated by the World War Two operational level game developments by a number of gamers and game designers who began exploring such game systems for several decades now.  Names such as Bob Cordery, Tim Gow, Chris Kemp and Martin Rapier come to mind, each with their own signature stamp on the concepts.  One ought not perhaps overlook Neil Thomas's One-Hour Wargames, and perhaps I have rather neglected to investigate further into the Sam Mustafa Rommel game system.

I'm a newbie to this type of game, for years being an aficionado of the Command Decision systems.  But when a couple of years back I set out a CD game, it remained on the table for several weeks with just two or three moves played, and was then put away again.  It was just too much effort.   Since then I have played several Not Quite Mechanised (NQM)/ Hexblitz/ Megablitz games and found them a lot of fun.

BUT... I know it not what you'd call 'good form', but I do feel the need to adapt such systems to my own inventories.  Although I know of at least two collections in this town that are orders of magnitude larger than mine, I have over the years amasses a fair inventory of kit...

You know what they say about gondolas, eh?

Of course I want to use it (it is also high time I organised it all).  It just wasn't happening with Command Decision, and the formerly popular Panzer Marsch! wasn't getting any traction lately, neither.

'Jacko' (Paul Jackson) and I have been much taken with the upscaled 'version' (insofar as it has any 'formal' existence) of  NQM, and have conducted some experiments along those lines.  We tried adapting the system to a hex grid game, using some Hexblitz mechanics, and we got a pretty exciting game out of it.

Continuing the saga, Bob Cordery has revisited his earlier Operational Art game system with a view to conducting an Operation Barbarossa campaign.  Exciting stuff.  Meanwhile, Jacko and I have been working on a game based upon the 1941 Western Desert relief of Tobruk, called Operation Crusader (18 November - 20 December, 1941.

So far I have been working on the Orders of Battle for the belligerents, and have come up with something that looks like this.  This is only the New Zealand Division and the Ariete Armoured, by way of sample ORBATS.
New Zealand Division setting out for Tobruk

2nd New Zealand (NZ) Division: Maj-Genl B. Freyberg  car SP=1
     4th (NZ) Bde:
          18th, 19th, 20th Bns - 3 stands (1) - 3SP + 1 (Veteran) = 4SP
     5th (NZ) Bde:
          21st, 22nd, 23rd; 28th (Maori) Bns = 4 stands 4SP + 1 (Veteran) = 5SP
     6th (NZ) Bde:
          24th, 25th, 26th Bns - 3 stands Basic 3SP+ 1 (Veteran) = 4SP
     27th (MG) Battalion (2) - 1 Vickers MMG stand - 1SP +1 (Veteran) = 2SP
     4th, 5th, 6th Field Rgts each with:
          1 x 25pr gun/how, Quad tractor; 1SP, 1 LOG (or grouped as 1 piece 3SP)
     7th Anti-Tank Rgt:
          1x 2pr AT gun with portee mount; 1SP
     14th LAA Rgt: 1 x Bofors AA gun, tractor: 1SP, 2LOG
     Divisional Cavalry: 1 x bren carrier, 1SP Recon
     Divisional Engineer Companies: 1 Engineer stand, 1 truck, 1SP, ENG
     Reserve MT Company: 1 truck, 4T,; 1 POL/Ammo truck 1LOG

Note 1:  I'm considering add a command figure to this 3-stand formation.  This figure
  would bring no SP to the group.  See infra)

Note 2: I'm thinking of modifying for quality and training by +1 (experienced, Soviet Guards) and +2
(Veteran or Elite); +1 for AFV or Medium-heavy artillery and mortars, and possibly rockets; +1 for AFV
armed with cannon (so not L3s or Lt Mk VIs); +1 for heavy AFV: +1 for superior equipment at any level
(the idea being that a Panther, Firefly and T34/85 gets the +1 for superior medium tanks only

Note 3: I see that I gave 2SP to the artillery and AT stands.  That was actually a mistake, but I am
 considering letting it stand, with a premium for certain weights or characteristics of artillery
 (+1 Quick Firing; +1 100mm-140mm; +2 149mm and heavier.

Total Strength: 23SP; 18 stands (excluding transports).  Exhaustion point: -8SP  

This formation would look. I believe, practically identical to a Bob Cordery or Tim Gow set up. 
But instead of SPs assigned to every stand, they are assigned (this applies to infantry, cavalry,
 and some recon units) to groups of stands representing regiments, brigades, and sometimes Divisions.

At the beginning of the Tobruk relief operation in Novemkber, 1941, the New Zealand Division
comprised nearly 20,000 officers and men, according to the Official History,  By this time, the average Russian Rifle Division could consider itself fortunate if it had as many as 5000.

Now, let's have a look at some of the opposition.

Ariete Division:  HQ: CO, car, Sigs vehicle 1SP

Supply Column:  Medium or heavy lorry LOG=3
POL Column: Medium or heavy lorry or fuel tanker LOG=2

132 Armoured Regiment:
     7th Armoured Battalion53xM13/40  1xM13, 2SP +1 (Tank) -1 (Poor Equipt) = 2SP
     8th Armoured Bn53xM13; 1xM13 2SP
     9th Armoured Bn53xM13; 1xM13  2SP

8th Bersagliere Regiment
     2 Rifle stands, 1 MG stand, 1 Mortar stand; SP=4
     2 trucks, each 2T
    1 AT stand (47mm AT gun), 1SP, truck or portee mount 1T

132nd Artillery Regiment

     (24 x 75L27 field arty; 10 x 105L28 light arty, total 34 pieces)
     1 x 75L27 @ 2SP OR
     1x 105L28 @ 2SP
     1 x 75L27 @ 1SP PLUS 1 x 105L28 @ SP=1

552nd/553rd Semovente Battalion: (4 ACVs and 16 AFVs): 1 x Semovente; 1SP +1 AFV = 2SP.

4/132 AA Battalion/ 2/24 AA battalion: (18 Hvy AA) 1 x truck portee 90mm AA OR 1 x 8.8cm FlaK SP=1; 2AA

Divisional Troops:

     3rd ‘Lancia di Novara’ Battalion: 33xL3.35 – 1 x L3/35 1SP Recon
     3rd Regiment ‘Nizza Cavalleria’: 40xAB41 – 1 x AB41 A/Car 1SP Recon

Total Strength = 19SP, 13 stands, Exhaustion point -7SP

1.  I am counting 30 tanks or assault guns as 1 SP; 24 guns as 1 SP.  This is double the Cordery system, and I do admit is not altogether commensurate with the upscaling of the infantry.  This will require testing, but I have hopes it will work out..
2. Each line represents a unit.
3. The Bersagliere Regiment may include a command figure to which the SP marker is assigned.
If used, this will apply also to the NZ and other brigade groups.  
4.  Multi-stand units may occupy two adjacent or 3 (hexagonal) or 4 (square) co-joined grid areas
5...Recon units:
My thinking is this, and owes something to the Chris Kemp game system.  It is intended as an aid to attack, can fight a little, but is really designed to improve attacking chances.  At the moment a units attacking a defensive one requires (in 'my' system) a 6 to hit an enemy in 'D' mode - defending or 'dug in'.  But suppose the enemy position were not reconnoitred ahead of time?   This should give the defenders the chance to get their licks in before the attacker can (so the attacker takes losses before rolling for its own attack).  This applies only to the first turn of the attack, subsequent turns will be held to have developed the enemy positions well enough for more effective attacks.  I am considering also bringing back the 5-5 and 6-6 hit requirement for the first round of an un-reconnoitred attack. 
6.  MG, infantry gun, mortar and heavy weapons (HW) stands that are integral to infantry and cavalry units I am considering allowing distance combat out to 1 grid area, at 1SP per stand.  This will be allowed only if the unit as a whole has no enemy in an (orthogonally)  adjacent grid area.

As I don't have the Italian inventory, I'm hoping to take some pics of 'Jacko's' kit to show what the Ariete Division would look like.
Should the NZ artillery comprise 3 gun stands, or just one?


Friday, August 10, 2018

Welcome diversion

Action on the Mahogany River
A week or so ago my copy of Bob Cordery's latest, Gridded Naval Wargames: Naval Wargaming in the Age of Steam, Iron, and Steel, arrived by courier, just as I was sitting on a mild winter's day (Antipodean late July) at my garden table attempting to put together some metal German WW2 15cm howitzers I recently discovered in my inventory.  The glue wasn't 'taking' for some reason, so the long awaited volume was a welcome break from frustration.
Confederate Shore guns getting ready to repel an attack by
Union Gunboat USS Lafayette.
I don't know how Bob shoehorns so much in so few pages - just 122, and yet there are ideas for six different war games - blockade running, battles between wood and iron, fleet actions and single ship duels, combined operations..  I makes for a great read, a fine source of ideas. plenty of meat and potatoes to chew on.  These little books make great bedside companions.  
The gun mountings are not glued to the turntables, so are free
 to swivel behind their barbette fortifications
The final chapter, "Coastal Operations", proved the inspiration for knocking together a couple of shore guns, possibly a touch anachronistic for the American Civil War riverine setting of the pictures accompanying this article.  This pair have been made from plastic tube, buts of felt colouring pen, balsa wood and the plastic top of a herb or spice jar (pieces I collect for their myriad 'recycling' uses).  
Having developed the strength of Island Number Nine,
The Union gunboat draws off.  Perhaps a landing will be required?
They are not perfect, by any stretch - pretty rough, withal - but they will do for my purposes.  Now, all that remains is to set up, carry out and report upon the Union attempt to capture or destroy the Confederate batteries of Island Number Nine.