Thinking Out Loud

3mm wargaming for WW2.

Many moons ago I started to game using WW2 3mm models on 10cm hexagons, and occasionally on the 6cm hexagons developed for my 2mm Napoleonic and 1700 period games.

I decided to base them as platoon strength on 15mm x 20mm bases, treating one base of 1 vehicle or 5 figures as a platoon, which has worked so far. But recently I have started to play 3mm games using 1” gridded boards, some with fixed terrain. The 20 x 15 bases do not fit well.

So I am faced with three alternatives:

1. Reduce individual model bases to 15mm x 10mm with 1 vehicle or up to 5 men. I could no longer fit labels with unit information beneath, merely a small ID number, but the bases would fit into the terrain.

2. Create 20mm x 20mm bases with up to 3 vehicle models or 10 men per base. In close terrain, representative markers would be needed, or individual bases as in option 1. Strength reduction would need small markers, which I abhor.

3. Make a base up to 25mm x 25mm that could accept bases as option 1, with casualties reduced as necessary.

The main issue is identifying tank types, or the nationality of infantry at arm’s length in this scale, but with a unit ID list it is not insurmountable, and I am planning to use rules that broadly categorise types for combat purposes.

In 3mm I do not care that a 75mm gun firing tungsten-headed AP shot is firing at 37° at hardened armour of 48mm thickness. It’s an AT gun shooting at a medium tank, or even 2 AT guns firing at 3 tanks.

I think I have decided on option 1, using the thinnest possible bases, probably transparent, with option 3 as a reserve. This means rebasing all my 3mm WW2 models as needed for upcoming games – and maybe using tweezers for moving models, thus more varnishing for protection.

Ah, well. Something to keep me occupied. Here are the first batch, with some additional models, waiting for some trial rebasing material to arrive. At the rear are 20mm x 15mm bases. At the front, some trial 12mm x 10mm bases.

A bit of politics

Warning! Political content. All opinions are my own

Anyone who does not wish to read my rant on U.S. politics should look away now.

When foreigners (i.e. not U.S. citizens) make comments on Twitter, and occasionally Facebook, in reply to the imbecilic bleating of the outgoing “POTUS” (or “President” as the office used to be known in the days before real language was abandoned), they tend to be assailed by replies such as: “You don’t live here.  You are not entitled to a vote/an opinion.”

Well, I am entitled to an opinion and I will express it publicly.  I am also entitled to a vote, but fortunately that vote is in a country where the outcome of an election is rarely disputed, although occasionally recounted. The loser concedes and government is handed over immediately.  In my country we benefit from the continuity of a civil service organisation rather than a complete change of administration when the government changes.

We don’t get it right either. I believe our Prime Minister is doing the best with a difficult situation, but the repetitive shilly-shallying on policy and his presentation style make him look like a buffoon. But, better the buffoon you know…

As for whether my opinion or my vote counts in the U.S.A., I will experience – suffer? – the consequences of the U.S, election because the new President will directly or indirectly influence the fate of much of the population of my planet.  Therefore, if I cannot vote, I can still, as a voice crying in the wilderness, express my opinion to those who are eligible to vote.

From an outsider’s perspective, it does not seem to matter nowadays whether or not one is entitled to vote in the U.S.A.  What matters is whether you voted the way the currently absentee President wanted you to vote, and how many lawyers can be recruited to prove that your vote was either legal or illegal, without any supporting evidence.

And so, with despair, I anticipate four years of an aged professional struggling to re-unite his country and make progress relating to the pandemic, climate change and world peace, or – God forbid – four more years of bellicose isolationism, rejection of scientific evidence, and moronic untruths spouted onto social media while people die as a result of ignorance and misplaced belief.


And, with that off my chest, I can now start sorting out my army to invade another unfortunate country – but in miniature and with no actual consequences.

More battle boards

Today I have been adding to my ten-inch square gaming boards compatible with “Travel Battle” for my 3mm wargaming. I started with a set of textured vinyl floor tiles.

A 12” tile, straight from the box

The first step was to trim four tiles down to 10” square and scribe the 1” grid with a sharp-pointed modelling file. The 2” off-cut pieces were saved to make hills.

After preparing four tiles I cut two of them with heavy-duty scissors to produce a river shape and stuck them back-to-back with the other two. Two tiles together make the same edge height as the original plastic tiles from the Travel Battle game.

The next step was painting. So far I have only done the river sides, but on the reverse are two more plain tiles. I used several shades of green spray paint. I painted the rivers a muddy blue-grey and added roads to align with the Travel Battle road layout, using a paint tester pot, “Pebble” mixed with “Terracotta”. Below are a couple of the possible configurations using these two boards.

I tried to lay out the roads so that I could use bridges if required, or use the wide part of the second river section as a wharf or dock.

I need to spray them with matt varnish (when my order arrives), and then add some more detail to the roads and gloss the rivers. Then I can start on the reverse side and make some more hills and woods.

The effects of artillery

One thing I find lacking from many wargames is the lack of visual representation of the effect of artillery and bombing. For my 6mm games I have a large collection of ruined buildings, some of which are ruined versions of the intact version, for example:

Lately I have been playing games in 3mm using the “Travel Battles” game boards with a 1” square grid. I have no ruins as yet, but have pressed into service my 6mm shell craters and some smoke and flames markers that I sourced from Early War Miniatures.

I decided that I needed suitable markers for shell-pocked ground which would fit the 1” grid and indicate difficult terrain. I experimented with Milliput modelling and repair material.

Having mixed a small quantity I rolled it into balls and flattened them out, making sure they were no larger than 1” x 1”. The problem was to make them as thin as possible, but not fragile.

After making the splodges I dug out some shell holes with a sharp tool, leaving the surrounding edges of each hole proud of the surface.

Someone commented that they look like cookies after stealing the chocolate.

Next step, after allowing 24 hours to dry, was to prise them from the work board. I broke some. I decided that next time I will use greaseproof paper as used by cooks to help the separation process.

Next I painted them with a coat of Coat d’Arms “Muddy Green” brushscape paint.

I followed this by dropping wet black acrylic paint into each hole and then wet-brushing various greys and browns over the surrounding upturned earth to create the following:

And here is the result on the gaming board:

This morning I smoothed off the undersides with a metalworker’s file. I would have spray-varnished them, but found that I have run out. A new order sent to Amazon. Now I just need to make about another two dozen, based on my last game which involved a creeping barrage by nine batteries.

Stable stories – new skills

Fun and games at the stables over the last few days. Christine’s horse Tristan is lame. He has an abscess on the base of his hoof. He has been kept on “box rest” (i.e. living indoors) for the last three days with occasional excursions to the small paddock just across the yard. Yesterday the vet took a look.

Tristan’s hoof has been bound up with a poultice, and he does not like walking, or receiving treatment. Because of this, and for other recent activities with his stablemate, Cesar, I have discovered new skills and seem to have become the de facto wrangler of difficult horses.

Yesterday Chrissy was trying to lead Tristan from the paddock to the stable block when he planted himself. After trying to assist from the rear I suggested we swap places and he started to move almost as soon as I took the lead rope.

This morning he absolutely refused to lift his injured leg for Chrissy. I had a go and he picked it up, rested it on my knee and kept it there almost without demur while Chrissy applied the soaked cotton wool, elastic bandage and gaffer tape.

A poorly foot.

I don’t know why the horses respond to me – a total amateur – rather than to those who know what they are doing, but Chrissy is now threatening to take me to the yard every time in case of problems.

June 1940. Germans attack northern France

The attack on Normandy/Bordeaux from Belgium/Holland.

Attackers: 2 Infantry, 3 artillery, 2 tank, 1 fighter. Defenders: 1 Infantry, 1 artillery.

The game was played with 3mm models on 10” boards with a 1” grid.

Standard ground units were of battalion strength, at approximately 1 figure per 8 men, and 1 vehicle or gun per 3 or 4.  The orders of battle were based on the Panzerblitz game and other data.

The Germans attacked with (based on 7th Panzer Division 1940):

2 tank battalions each of 2 x PzIb, 4 x PzIIc, 6 x Pz38T, 2 x PzIVd.

2 infantry battalions, each of 9 x rifle platoon, 1 x mortar platoon, 1 x towed 37mm AT platoon, 1 x towed 75mm gun platoon, 1 HQ

1 motorised artillery battalion of 3 x 105mm howitzers with half-tracks. 1 HQ, 1 OP,

Supported by:

2 horse-drawn artillery regiments each of 3 x 105mm howitzers and 3 horse teams

1 Staffel of 4 x Me109 fighters (1 per Schwarm)

The French defended with:

1 battalion of 12 x rifle platoon, 1 x 25mm truck-towed AT platoon.

1 artillery battalion of 3 x truck-towed 75mm guns.

The French defensive plan.

The three 75mm batteries were deployed, emplaced, around the hamlet near the rear centre.  One battery was in the village and one either side, across a frontage of about 900 metres.  The regimental CP was in a farmhouse to the west end of the village and a spotter team posted on the central high hill.

The infantry battalion was deployed with three companies occupying defensive positions on the right flank and centre, with the 25mm AT gun platoon guarding the left flank road from an entrenched position on the facing hilltop.  The fourth company was in reserve in a wood behind the hill in the centre.  Battalion HQ was established in a farm to the left centre.

The French infantry battalion dispositions and German attack. A creeping barrage has begun.

The German attack plan.

The objective was to break through the French defence and push on to the west via one of the two roads.

The Germans had nine batteries of 105mm towed howitzers available, and decided to commence the attack with a creeping barrage for 12 turns from the guns off-table, followed by a broad front attack by infantry until the enemy defences were located.  The batteries were spaced at 350m intervals across the front.  The two infantry battalions would attack with two companies up and one in reserve.  Heavy weapons were reserved until the enemy was contacted.  Each battalion was to be followed by a company of Pz38T tanks at a distance of 500m to be called upon as necessary.  Further armoured support was held in reserve until enemy strength and response was determined.

I added a rule for ammunition supply.  Each artillery battery has an adjacent supply point with 1 average die worth of points.  Whenever a 1 is rolled for shooting effect, one point is removed from the dump.  For other unit types, if a 1 is rolled they are marked as “Low Ammo” and may only shoot in defence until supplied from the store, either by a transport unit or my moving to the supply point.

In turn 2 the French infantry spotted the first enemy infantry advancing on their right flank.  They were out of range for the infantry but also seen by the artillery OP team on the centre hill.  Artillery fire was ordered for turn 3 against map squares 02080202 – 02080204, one battery to each grid square, reducing range by one grid square per turn.

In turn 3 the French guns fired and scored a hit directly onto a German platoon in the open.  The German went to ground, taking cover wherever they could find it. Two platoons were hit in turn 4. The German barrage had so far not hit anything.

The German infantry, advancing behind their artillery barrage, take fire from French artillery.

The French spotters now halted the fire on the enemy infantry to the right for fear of hitting their own men, switching the fire orders to the enemy infantry on the left flank. The German artillery scored a hit on French infantry in a hamlet, scattering it and setting alight to the house they were occupying.  Another hit was scored on a rifle platoon within a walled enclosure, wiping it out. The German infantry continued their advance, followed by the first of the supporting Pz38T companies on each flank.

German Pz38T tanks arrive to support the infantry. The barrage begins to take effect.
Grey and brown counters are artillery aiming points for next turn.

German artillery fire continued to creep forward, followed by the infantry. One German platoon attempted a close assault against enemy infantry in the village, but failed. The French artillery spotters again switched targets, this time to the extreme right flank. The 75mm batteries all failed to do any damage.

In the next turn several close assault attacks took place along the front with limited success. The French spotters were now struggling to find targets that were not too close to friendly troops, but also in danger from the enemy barrage and called a ceasefire before withdrawing.  In their last volley the 75mm guns stopped the German attack on the right, wiping out one platoon and scattering a second.  On the left flank one German platoon was thrown back from its attack on the walled enclosure.

At last the German barrage had some real effect, managing to wipe out one infantry platoon on the far left.  Otherwise no damage was done. Several infantry assaults were carried out, resulting in the disruption of three French platoons.  The only effect of this was to prevent them withdrawing, as the French force, aware of its deficiency in the face of enemy attacks, began to fall back.

Several French platoons, including the 25mm AT guns, were disrupted and pinned by German close assaults.  The remainder continued to retreat.  After an attack on the hamlet towards the centre the two attacking platoons were spent and needed to retire to replenish ammunition.

The struggle for the Hamlet. The French are already pulling out.

One of the German artillery batteries used up the last of its ammunition and ceased fire. One of 1st Panzer Battalion’s Pz38T platoons had managed to outflank the last French platoon defending the stone walls on the left flank.  They opened fire to no effect. Two platoons of PzIV tanks with the short 75mm gun arrived to support infantry attacks.  The Regimental HQ also came onto the board in the centre. Further close assaults by infantry platoons had little effect.

The French continued to withdraw in the face of greater opposition.  One of the 75mm batteries opened fire on the approaching PzIV tank platoons on their right flank and stopped it, blocking the road.

PzIV tanks stopped by French artillery fire.

A close assault by an entire German infantry company suppressed the emplaced 25mm AT gun company.  A gradual advance by tanks and infantry continued.  The Luftwaffe was called in on a “seek and destroy” mission. The French artillery now had no enemy in sight.  The infantry continued to withdraw by alternate platoons with covering fire.

The German RHQ spotted one of the enemy artillery batteries and requested fire from three batteries on the next turn.    One platoon of Pz38Ts on the left flank made an over-run attack on a French infantry platoon, suppressing it, while two more platoons circled round to cut the company off from its line of retreat.  Towards the right two platoons of infantry poured suppressing fire on a French platoon (with no effect), then their third platoon charged the enemy, disrupting their retreat.

I diced for the arrival point for each Schwarm of ME109s (one model), then they flew in a straight line across the table, dicing to identify each unit encountered, with misidentification on a roll of 5 or 6.

The Luftwaffe arrives.

All the targets were correctly identified as French.  First a 75mm gun, emplaced, then three infantry platoons, one sheltered by woods, were strafed but with no effect.  The aircraft flew on and left the board.  The location of the French artillery had been established and reported.

One French artillery battery had a PzIV platoon in its sights, which it managed to hit and wipe out.  This battery had now run out of ammunition and prepared to limber up and withdraw.  Infantry continued to pull back, with the surrounded unit trying to fight their way out.

Three 105mm howitzer batteries fired from off-table at the enemy gun battery identified by the RHQ unit.  Two scored hits, wiping it out. Attacks all across the front had little effect.  The French 25mm AT battery was again suppressed.

On the right flank the French infantry company continued their break-out attempt.  The artillery battery that was out of ammunition retired to the rear, leaving just one battery with the regimental HQ.

German HQ called in artillery fire on withdrawing enemy infantry between the two central hills.  Three Pz38T platoons and an infantry platoon attacked two French infantry platoons intercepted during their withdrawal on the left flank.  Elsewhere the steady advance continued, except at the hill on the right flank where the AT gun platoon was now almost surrounded in their entrenchments.

The remaining 75mm gun battery now had a platoon of Pz38Ts to its front that had just crossed over the hill 900m away.  This was stopped, literally, in its tracks.  The French infantry maintained the fighting retreat.

The French left flank retreats under pressure from tanks and infantry
French right flank infantry under directed artillery fire.

One surrounded French infantry platoon came under fire from a platoon of Pz38Ts, a platoon of PzIVs and a rifle platoon.  Once again they were pinned down but not eliminated. 

At this point the French conceded the game.  Two infantry platoons and the 25mm gun surrendered, being virtually surrounded.  The remaining 75mm battery, together with the HQ units, escaped, as did the remaining infantry in the centre.  This would have taken several moves to play out.

Final losses.  French: 5 infantry platoons from 12, 1 artillery battery from 3. Germans: 1 infantry platoon from 24, 1 tank platoon from 20.

For campaign purposes the French infantry battalion was deemed destroyed, but the artillery survived and were reinforced.  On the German side both units had their losses made up.  Method:  roll the appropriate dice according to the number of original platoons (D12 for infantry, D10 for armour).  If more than the losses is rolled, the battalion is reinforced, otherwise it is destroyed.


These rules are OK, but the combat results table gives too many occasions wherein a unit is dispersed, recovers next turn and is again dispersed, and so on.  The French infantry are under-rated by the designer.  Their rifle platoons have an attack of 1 and defence of 5 against a German platoon of attack 2, defence 8.  So the combat ratios are 1:8 (reduced to 1:4 minimum) against 2:5 (adjusted to 1:3).  Adding more French platoons to the attack does not help much, giving odds of 2:8 (1:4 again) and 3:8 (1:3).  So an entire French company is needed to equate to a German platoon in attacking an enemy platoon.

I think the rules work in their original environment – a hexagon based board with the ability to stack units – but even there they are better for armour than infantry or artillery.

For the next game I will use a version of “The Portable wargame”. I need to more easily identify the infantry of opposing sides, maybe with a paint stripe at the rear of the base. Future infantry will be based more randomly than the straight lines seen here.

These rules may work for armoured engagements, but infantry are only useful in defence of strongpoints.

Remembrance Day thoughts

I have just, belatedly, listened to the Remembrance Sunday podcasts from Dan Snow’s History Hit and We Have Ways Of Making You Talk.
Both affected me in different ways. Listening to a man coming face to face with a reconstructed aircraft of the type and squadron in which his father died was moving because of family connections to the aircraft. The conversation about the Commonwealth War Graves Commission brought back other memories.

Related to the Hampden bomber in Dan Snow’s podcast: My father serviced these aircraft at RAF Patricia Bay (now Victoria Airport) on Vancouver Island, Canada. As a young man I assumed that my dad had a “cushy billet” far away from the war. Only after retirement when visiting the museum at the site did I realise that in fact this was the front line against the Japanese. I blame Anglo-centric maps for the misconception. I must search out this reconstruction, for Dad’s sake.

I’m not sure if this is a HP Hampden or an Avro Anson. Both were used on the station.

I applaud the CWGC for their work. I have visited several cemeteries in France and Belgium. Alas, I had to cancel my plans to get to the one at Oosterbeek for the 75th anniversary. Four things that particularly hit home to me:

  1. A gravestone inscribed to “Three Soldiers of the Royal Tank Regiment” and “Known unto God”. You have to stop and understand what must have occurred, and what is actually interred.
  2. A cemetery in Normandy where, from the dates on the gravestones and the changing regimental badges, it is clear how the village was attacked several times over a couple of weeks with new troops being fed into battle. Many were from my local “Dorset” regiment.
  3. The German cemetary a few yards away, with the same dates. German soldiers (as I recall) received a simple grey stone cross with name, birth date, death date. It was about the same size. Honours even?
  4. A large German memorial, arranged as a horseshoe shape, with bronze plates commemorating three soldiers to each “box”. I do not remember where this was or how many soldiers commemorated, but it was as moving as the list on the Menin Gate.

And speaking of the Menin Gate, I was touring Belgium with a friend in 1995, before taking part in the 180th anniversary of Waterloo. We had visited several cemeteries, and always looked at the visitors’ book. At the Menin Gate, the last entry was: “Found you at last, you old bastard. Ian Challender.” Ian Challender was a close friend, and from the date of his entry, in town that day. Wandering through the main square we were suddenly assaulted with hugs and kisses by him and his wife Jean, who had been dining as we walked past the window of the restaurant, and abandoned their lunch without warning. What the Belgians made of this sudden impetuous display of affection by “Brits” we will never know.

I had an idea…

Following a social media post from Mark Backhouse showing his 2mm woods we had a short conversation about how to depict troops in woods that are too well represented to accommodate the models.

I have a problem with small-scale wargaming (6mm or less), when troops have to be placed in solid model buildings or closely wooded areas and overnight have come up with a solution.

Take pack of cheap miniature playing cards (the sort you can get in the better Christmas crackers). Cut off one edge as shown below.

Now the edge piece may be trimmed and folded as necessary to be placed in small spaces or slipped under a building to show the presence of a unit, while the actual unit is placed on the remainder of the playing card off board.

For example, from my current 3mm game, I have a unit of infantry in a house. The folded off-cut is slipped under the house and the unit placed on the card (normally off table).

It does not overly detract from the game, speaking as one who likes to see a token-free battlefield.

Incidentally, I am working on a less obvious artillery target marker than the Lego tiles in the photo’. Also the card “craters” are simply there because troops have passed over the original 3d versions, of which I have a limited supply.

In a two-player game, this can help to conceal your hidden troops, and in a solo game it is a useful reminder when there is so much else to think about.

I hope other gamers may find this useful.