Are we missing something?

Wargamers will be familiar with the idea of battalions of 24 or 36 models – or even “big battalions” of up to 60 figures – manoeuvring around the table top.

But what should they really look like?

As an experiment today I laid out some models to represent an English battalion at the time of Marlborough in 1 model = 1 man ratio. I ran out of redcoats and had to substitute a few others at the far end of the line.

In 6mm a line of 700 men in 13 companies deployed in three ranks is 34”/86cm from end to end, but only a half inch or 12mm deep.

In 2mm the battalion is 14”/35cm wide.

One thing is for sure. Whatever your favourite rule set says, it’s going to take more than “half a move to change formation”! Makes you think.

I am trying to create some 1:1 company/squadron sized units for the period in 3mm to try out a few gaming ideas. Don’t hold your breath…

Poland. 4th September 1939

A very disappointing solo game, considering the work put into creating the terrain. I had to wait a week ir so to start this game while new slope hexagons arrived.

I played the game twice. Both times the Polish side suffered from the sequence of German activation cards. Had the Polish infantry made it into the woods before facing the MGs of the enemy half-tracks and tanks they might have stood a chance.

Serendipity strikes again

I often use Avalon Hill’s “Advanced Squad Leader” game boards, either for direct gaming or as a template for a hexagon based table-top wargame layout. i never did get my head around the original game but I have quite a collection of the boards gleaned from various sources. (All donations gratefully received.)

My gaming table is a former desk, but is located in the corner of the room, against two walls, so when playing a solo game I am always looking from the same viewpoint. But I have found a solution to my problem.

I found in the Shedquarters the other day a good strong notice board that used to grace my wife’s side of our home office.

As luck would have it, two Squad Leader boards fit exactly onto this notice board.

Also lurking in the Shedquarters is a pack of self-adhesive felt in various shapes. A bit of cutting and sticking and- hey presto! –

I now have a gaming board that can easily be rotated on the wooden table, allowing me to see the game from either side.

So now my problem is what to do with the 39cm diameter “Lazy Susan” turntable that is arriving later this week?

An interim game.

So, what do you do when your next game is waiting for a box of hexagonal slopes to complete the terrain?

You move to the next game in the “to do” list. This happens, in my case, to be a “hex and counter” game, using home-made counters on Avalon Hill Squad Leader game boards.

This is a continuation of my “Normandy 1944” rolling campaign at company level, but I created a new rule set loosely based on the old board game “Combat” produced in the early 1970s.

In my game, each hexagon on the board is 20 yards of real ground. By extrapolation, using reasonable wargame move distances, one action takes only 10 seconds. But I calculate a campaign game turn as the number of elements activated x 10 seconds, so if 12 elements each make an action that represents 2 minutes.

Having played a large part of the action I am considering adjusting the time frame to 30 seconds, but I may need to adjust the shooting effect.

Each counter represents 10 infantry or one vehicle.

The best laid plans…

Having finally worked out my terrain contoured layout for 4th September 1939, I went to the lock-up to retrieve the necessary hexagon tiles.

I need as basic flocked tiles: 37 flats, 6 slope A1, 19 slope B1, 7 slope C1, 2 slope A2, 10 slope B2, 12 slope C2. As for special, converted tiles: 1 60° stream, 7 60° curved rough country road , 6 straight rough country road, 1 special rough country road junction and 2 swamps. In addition I need 171 “stackers” beneath the contoured slope tiles.

Some of the stackers can more easily be made from the 6-hex tiles, but as yet I did not work out how many. Of course a sensible person like Bob Cordery would make his board something like 12 x 8 hexagons to fit these tiles, but not me. Mine is 13 x 9, so there will always be extra single pieces somewhere.

To add to my issues, although I organised the last two boxes of hexagon tiles moved to the lock-up last week, two of the three boxes waiting there were a jumble of random stuff. I really must make a proper database.

So, yesterday I (re)made about 15 sanded country roads from my old glass paper versions by the method of peeling off the existing road, scraping down with water and craft knife to the bare plastic, painting with emulsion “pebble” shade and sprinkling builder’s sand while wet, finishing with matt spray varnish.

Polish country roads, 1939. Suitable for other periods. I may add some painted “ruts” later.

I need to order two more packs of slope B2, flocked before I can make progress, so I will use the time to start a database of what I do have available.

An old project revived

When I retired six years ago I began a wargame project encompassing the whole of the second world war, to be played in the form of individual battles in 6mm (1:285-1:300 scale) day by day.

Well, 78 months later I have reached 4th September 1939 and the Poles are launching a counter-attack against the Germans. At the current rate of 1 game day per 26 months it will take about 4,000 years before I finish this campaign!

Anyway, back to the game in hand. By rolling a few dice I determined that the battlefield is the “numbered end” of Squad Leader board 39, oriented as below.

Tricky terrain

I need to recreate this terrain using 10cm hexagon tiles. I enjoy a challenge.

After several abortive attempts over about four days I finally came up with a game map that I can create using Kallistra hexagon tiles. I can only fit an area of 13×9 hexagons on my 4ft x 3ft board, so I selected the area to include the road at the north side of the map.

I came up against numerous issues with contours, and I have asked Kallistra if they can produce four new tiles which currently are only possible by cutting and glueing existing tiles. These are slopes with one high point and four low edges or one low point and four high edges.

But using existing available tiles, my schematic planning map, with the number of tiles of each type needed, is shown below.

The planning map

I have needed to adapt the map to create plateaux where there should be ridges for the reasons explained above. Also I have no sloping marsh hexes – and why would I? I wonder why Avalon Hill designers included such a terrain feature in the first place.

The next step is to rummage about in my storage boxes to find (or buy) the 282 hexagon tiles (or 6 hex combinations as “stackers”) and model any extra roads needed for the game.

More news as it develops.

Something Old, Something New

Having brought the first stage of my 1940 6mm WW2 game to a conclusion I checked the “outstanding game projects” list and found that next up was my board game campaign of the Revolutionary/Napoleonic wars, called “Conquest of Europe”

Background: While waiting for a cross-channel ferry many years ago I discovered in the shop a Risk game: “Edition Napoleon”. I was at the time a Napoleonic period re-enactor, so I bought it. It has some very attractive miniatures as gaming pieces and is based around Europe on the period 1790-1815.

I have never been a great fan of Risk, and even with the addition of fleets and commanders the game was not enough for me. But the game-board and the models were.

I have also enjoyed games of Axis and Allies, the Second World War (or half of it) game. I set to and created (still evolving) a set of rules combining the aspects of both games, and a little of Diplomacy too. Thus, in a player’s turn he/she must first consider alliances, then spend money on development or immediate conscripts, make his/her strategical moves, including invasions, resolve combats, deploy new recruits and collect new revenue.

The current rules (after some play today) are here:

As an example of how the rules work, I will play through one player game turn. Britain starts the turn with each of the four Iberian provinces occupied with 1 infantry; Ireland and Scotland with 1 infantry; North England with 1 infantry and 1 cavalry; South England (capital) with 4 infantry, 2 cavalry, 1 artillery, 1 fleet (at Plymouth) and General Hill..

The game in progress

The focus of battle is the expeditionary force in Belgium (Spanish Netherlands?), consisting of General Uxbridge with 3 infantry, 2 cavalry and 2 artillery, aided by an empty fortress and a fleet at Zeebrugge.

The French opposition in Picardy is 3 infantry. 1 cavalry and 1 artillery – possibly sufficient to repel an attack. Actual combat odds are 15:7, thus enough for the British to launch an attack.

But the British must also look to their rear. In the four provinces to the south and east of their European lodgment, from the Prussian army, are 2 generals, 4 cavalry, 7 infantry and 2 artillery. Prussia has already occupied French territory, and must be considered hostile.

Thus a proposition is put to Prussia. 1. A non-aggression pact within Europe. 2. Britain will be given free reign to take northern France and Prussia may take the south. 3. Britain will aid Prussia against Russian aggression in Scandinavia.

Prussia considers the offer. In terms of resources, Prussia is slightly junior with 46% against 54%. So far about 50/50. Freedom from British attack +1. Ability to attack Paris or Provence +1. British support in Scandinavia rated as negligible. A final die roll was decided: 1= no, 2-6 = yes. 3 rolled, so Prussia agrees the treaty.

Britain, with an agreed treaty, decides on spending, The treasury is €170,000. The operational plan, given the agreement of the Prussians, is for General Uxbridge to attack Picardy while General Hill leads an infantry attack from South England, supported by the Royal Navy, on Normandy. Reinforcements must be allocated to Uxbridge or Hill. It’s decided to recruit 5 infantry at €30,000 each, leaving a balance of €20,000.

Britain sends a fleet from Zeebrugge, Belgium to bombard the French fortress in Normandy. With a 6 the fort and garrison are destroyed. return fire has no effect. The force of 3 infantry with General Hill transported from south England occupies Normandy.

General Uxbridge attacks Picardy from Belgium with 2 cavalry, 1 infantry and 1 artillery, using the general bonus and combined arms bonus. 3 defending units are eliminated. The defenders reply with 1 cavalry, 2 infantry and 1 artillery using the combined arms bonus and eliminate 2 units.

A second attack is launched, scoring 2 hits against the defenders’ 2 hits. Britain occupies Picardy.

Reinforcements: 2 Infantry to Normandy (Hill), 3 infantry to Picardy (Uxbridge).

The “loose cannon” in Belgium ought to be in Picardy.

Collection of revenue. 2 new cards for provinces captured: Norway (heavy cavalry) and Saxony (artillery). These were added to the infantry card already held and traded in for €100,000. 11 provinces @€10,000 = €110,000, added to which UK @ €30,000 and Iberia @€30,000. Britain starts the next turn with a treasury of €290,000.

Technology – uses and abuses

Modern technology is wonderful – if you understand it. I have been searching for a way to take “eye-level” view photographs and video from my 6mm/1:300 battlefields.

With the naked eye I can get superb views using this cheap periscope used upside-down.

A “Looky” periscope, found on Amazon.

I also use dentists’ mirrors. But photographs are not so good.

What the eye sees, the camera does not.

I have tried using a mobile ‘phone camera, but cannot get into the gaps as I would wish, so they are generally “drone view” pictures.

Typical ‘phone camera shot

I have tried three “endoscope” inspection cameras for i-Phone connection with limited success. Trying to keep the cable camera level is extremely difficult.

Nice setting. Shame the bloke with the camera was drunk.

They all seem to rely on wi-fi connection, and the latest (just returned to Amazon), disabled my normal wi-fi settings when connected, then refused to work because “there is no internet wi-fi”.

And so I have bitten the bullet and bought for twice the price a stand-alone inspection camera with an illuminated side-view lens. This will record onto a chip to be processed through my lap-top PC. I will need to cope with 5m of unwanted cable, but maybe one day my drains will be blocked and I will be grateful. We shall see.

More information with illustrations – I hope – from the next battlefield.

Unternehmen Launenhaft – end of first day.

The time is 11:33. Rather than a blow-by-blow account I will leave this battle, for the time being, with a shaky video tour of the battlefield.

Starting at West Bay we move up the road towards Bridport, passing the Brandenburg Company defending the north of the town to see the devastation caused by the shelling from the offshore destroyer, which halted the British counter-attack.

Then we move across the river Brit, pulling back to the coast where several burnt-out tanks litter the landscape. From there we move to the surrounded Radio Transmission Station, where A Company 4th Dorsets surrendered after being surrounded and then shelled by enemy tanks.

After a view of the confrontation between a squadron of A-13s and a company of Pz IIIs we see the British heavy artillery that never quite deployed before the camera pulls back through Lower Eype, the village held by the Gebirgsjäger Company.

The British will now withdraw to the next map square to the north and automatically receive all the reinforcements from the pool to deploy. The Germans will receive all their reinforcements but begin off table.

But this will have to wait. For the time being I move to my next game in the list, stalled since early last year.