Wednesday, 19 April 2017

More Scenery - Narrow Roads

My social calendar has been pretty hectic recently but somehow I've still managed to squeeze in a bit of terrain building! I already have some roads that are about 3 inches wide but I wanted to add some narrower roads, i.e. lanes or tracks if you prefer.

Incidentally, I need these for the next game in the Normandy campaign - this provided the real spur to make them.

As with my other roads, it all starts with a 300mm x 300mm cork tile, 3mm thickness. My tracks are about 2 inches wide so I simply cut a number of strips, plus a couple of angled sections so that it could join the main road at a variety of angles. Trim the edges to about a 45 degree angle to better help them blend in to the table.

Painting: Texture the cork with fine masonry paint (add in a little fine grit for extra texture if you like). Drape the strips over thin paint brushes to prevent any curling as it dries. Then base coat with Americana Milk Chocolate, followed by dry brush highlights of Americana Honey Brown then a light cream colour, B&Q Harvest Field (DIY store tester pot) in this case.

The final stage is applying some flock to the edges and a bit in the centre. I used two different colours of grass, but that may not be clear in the photo.

To follow this is the bocage ... I need this as the next campaign table also includes a sunken lane. Thanks for looking :o)

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Normandy Campaign - Game Two

The Paras were initially repulsed in game one of the campaign, so we've moved forward a few hours on D-Day to just after the initial Allied foothold was gained on Sword Beach. It was imperative that the first forces to arrive quickly neutralised the beach defences and pushed inland. Our game is just one such Push Inland (Battleground Europe - Scenario 5). To fit our game (and to be honest, the forces we have available) nicely in to the campaign we’ve devised a vaguely plausible ‘what if’. The village that Steve and I will be attacking is going to be Hermanville. It’s just half a mile inland from Sword beach and was officially captured by late morning on 6th June 1944.

Now, as you'll see we've had to "adjust" the forces slightly from exactly those that would have been there on the day - this is simply due to the fact that these are the figures we have available ;o)

Troops of the 3rd infantry division took this route inland towards Caen. I can’t find any info about exactly which units took the village, so Steve’s chaps will be 2nd Btn Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

How to fit in my Paras though? Well, 7th Btn Parachute Regiment was originally intended for Operation Tonga (capturing the bridges on the Allies eastern flank) but Pine-Coffin’s men were very badly scattered. In fact many of these chaps helped reinforce the 2 Btn Ox & Bucks at the bridges during D-Day. So they’ll be helping the Warwicks take the village.

Mike kindly hosted the game at his house - many thanks for the tea and biscuits too!

As it was such a fun and absorbing game, the photos are not quite turn by turn but hopefully you'll get a flavour of the action with the key events.
The sleepy village of Hermanville, Normandy, June 1944
Steve and I decided to keep very little in reserve - we both wanted to put pressure on the Germans right from the start. Here are our forces beginning their advance.
The Allies begin their advance on the village

My force was basically a reinforced platoon of three sections, a mortar, a Vickers, sniper, flame-thrower and an armoured car for that extra bit of punch.
My Paras supported by an armoured car
Steve also had a similarly reinforced platoon but with a mighty Churchill in support. Shermans might have been more appropriate but this is Steve's favourite tank so he simply had to use it.
Steve's British Regulars along with their armour!
Early in the game Mike brought on his Stug to try to knock out the Churchill. The ensuing duel lasted for much of the battle providing some fine moments of entertainment. For most of it the Stug had the upper hand but the shots kept ricocheting off the Churchill's heavily armoured skin. Eventually the Stug was knocked out.
Tank Duel!

Whilst much of Mike's force weren't the finest the Wermacht could offer, he used his few elite troops to excellent effect, pouring shots in to the oncoming British Paras and forcing them to halt their advance and use a turn to rally off a heap of shock.
Mike's troops prepare a warm welcome! But come under heavy fire too.
Here's a wider shot of the Allies left flank. With the Germans accumulating shock, the Paras make the best of the cover to close in on the buildings.
The Paras move up to begin clearing the house and church
Steve's troops in the centre were keen to use the slow moving Churchill as cover whilst a section on the flank rushes towards the barn, with the Vickers helping to keep the German's busy.
Steve's chaps rush the flank whilst his centre pours fire into the buildings
Mike brings on a couple of squads of regulars to reinforce his centre as the Allied artillery barrage (note the target maker on the crossroads) continues to be delayed.
The German centre. Note the marker on the road for the Allied artillery barrage!
As I mentioned earlier, the Stug's shots were bouncing off the Churchill but that did mean that the Allied behemoth was accumulating shock. Steve tried to activate the tank and rolled the dice for the command test ... however the crew had other ideas! It was FUBAR - the crew rapidly shifted in to reverse and gunned the engine ... what they were not aware of was the Lieutenant standing right behind them! We treated this as a tank assault as there was no way the officer could see what was going on. Steve rolled for the morale check on his leader - thankfully he was as cool as a cucumber and dived out of the way.
F-U-B-A-R... Look out, Sir!!
Back on the left, our elite forces traded shots but it was slowly going in favour of the red berets.
Mike's right flank comes under increasing pressure ...
With the tankers taking a short break, the infantry got on with the job. On the right flank Steve's foremost section has reached the barn.
... and his left too!
Couldn't resist this little picture with the sun casting a dramatic shadow on the barn.
A little bit of "cinema"
The next few pics are a bit 'shonky' but we simply couldn't bear to shut out the lovely sunshine! Anyway, with Mike's right flank thinning out rapidly, the Paras bring up the flame-thrower team.
Get that flame-thrower up front! (in front of the wood)
The plan was for the flame-thrower to get in to the now empty building and use it to launch a surprise attack on the Germans in the graveyard. The other Para sections would try to keep the enemy busy by pouring yet more shots in to the enemy.
Bring up the rest of the lads too!
Steve also wastes no time in rushing forward with his men to claim the village!
Steve rushes the buildings
The flame-thrower team used the house as cover from which to hose the Germans in the graveyard. Those hardy fellows took two blasts (along with plenty of LMG shots) before they fell.
Paras use the house as fire base to batter the Germans in the graveyard
A special mention must go to Mike and his Panzershreck team (sorry no photos!). They very boldly pushed forward to get within range of the Churchill but the shot missed. Of course, next turn Steve shot everything he could at the German tank-hunters!

With time pressing we wound up after 8 excellent turns of play. A clear victory for the Allies but Mike and his Germans had put up a very tough fight indeed!


Summary
An enormously enjoyable game with two splendid chums! It was a highly entertaining and enthralling game. The Allied win was a bonus. Our plan of giving the attackers an advantage (20% here) seemed to work but perhaps next time we'll consider reducing it to 15% or even 10%. The buildings held by Mike turned out to be something of a double-edged sword for his men. Superb cover against small arms fire but with both Steve and I packing some HE they could just as easily be death-traps as the shells blasted holes in the walls.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Making Field Tiles

I've decided to make some complete field tiles, as opposed to just putting hedge/fence around areas of the battlefield. I think it adds depth and interest - plus they're fun to build! This is what I've come up with.
The finished article... With Para mortar team for scale

If you're interested in finding out how I made it then please read on. It all starts with a piece of MDF 40cm x 48cm, 3mm thickness. I've sketched on roughly where I want the hedges and gates. Hopefully you can make out my scribbles in the pic below.

The next step is to apply some texture. These are the areas that will not be covered in flock or foliage. The left area will be bare earth whereas on the right I wanted more of a meadow effect. This is just a mix of small stones, grit and sand.

The remaining bare areas of the board are given a coat of textured masonry paint (to which I added some light brown paint). This gives a better base for the next stage; painting! Note British Para for scale. I've also glued a short section of branch to look like a tree stump.

Two of the three 'openings' would be gated. These are from Warbases and I've added gateposts by carving some balsa. Looking at old pics (or just around the countryside now) you can often see wooden gates hung on substantial stone posts, so that was the effect I aimed for. It also makes the gates slightly more robust.

My initial idea was to have all of the field boundaries as hedge (using clump foliage) but as an experiment, and to add interest, I decided to try out a few short sections of rough wooden fencing and corrugated iron.

The fence sections are simply coffee stirrers with match-sticks for the posts. The corrugated iron is an off-cut of plastic-card, again with match-stick posts on the back. The wood is painted a very dark brown, then highlighted with a mid-brown, followed by a very faint highlight of light cream just to bring out the texture. The posts are painted using the Foundry Stone palette. The corrugated iron is the Foundry Slate Grey palette. The rust patches start with Vallejo Leather Brown, then Foundry Conker brown, then dark red, then a mix of ochre and red to get the orange areas.

Next, I attached the gates and fencing to the board. They're quite fragile at this stage so be gentle! The brown was painted on the base first to save fiddly painting after gluing them in place.

The rest of the textured base is covered in a mid brown. Here, I've used Americana Milk Chocolate (you can mail order these from Hobbycraft, for £2 a 59ml bottle). You could also try your local DIY / hardware store to see what tester pots they have.

The highlighting has begun! The milk chocolate areas (without sand/grit) were highlighted with Americana Fawn Brown. The sandy/gritty areas were first painted in Americana Dark Chocolate then heavily dry-brushed with Americana Milk Chocolate.

Further highlighting on the sandy areas with Fawn Brown then a very light dry-brush of a cream colour (DIY store tester pot).

Next, pick out the rocks and some larger stones using Foundry Slate Grey and white.

Now the tile is ready for the flock and grass. Hopefully you can see that I've used a variety of colours to give a good contrast and perhaps add a bit more realism? The little 'paths' around the edges have been left bare so as to make it easier to attach the clump foliage for the hedges. Try to avoid these being too straight.


Here the clump foliage (Woodland Scenics FC57/58/59) is glued in place. I use all purpose glue, but a glue gun would be useful! Start by adding the larger pieces so as to get the basic shape.

Then I add lots of smaller pieces. This makes the hedge a little stronger plus it helps to blend the colours together better. Here's the completed hedging.

Finally, I apply some tufts and flowers.



I didn't quite get the field tile ready for the most recent game in our Normandy campaign - an absolutely brilliant 3,000pt+ battle between Mike, Steve and me - more on the that soon!

I've also got some cornfields ready to go thanks to my beautiful girlfriend Emma! That's 60cm x 90cm for just £6 (from Aldi) :o)

More about this in future posts too.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Bocage Test Piece

I've been thinking about making some bocage for a while now and have seen a number of excellent examples on t'web and at shows; so I thought I'd try out a small test piece to see if my ideas were okay. It's simply a thin strip of blue styrofoam glued to a piece of card (to protect the edges). I've shaped the foam to give more sloping sides then applied a good layer of gritty sand.

Styrofoam is best sliced with a bread knife
Shaped, textured and painted in earth colours
A light garnish of your favourite flock or grass
The earth colours are my usual recipe followed by a mixture of Woodland Scenics clump foliage much like the hedges I made a couple of years back.
Hans posing ... the hedge is about 45mm high
A better height comparison

Further pieces will have more tufts and flowers plus incorporate tree stumps, bushes, fencing, old bits of farm junk, etc. Longer sections will allow for a greater variety of height too - some of the real bocage is 15-20 feet or more! But this was just a 'proof of concept' so I kept it quite modest. One of the future Normandy campaign games requires a sunken lane leading in to a village, so a few feet of this should do the trick nicely!

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Our Normandy Campaign Kicks Off!!!

I’m delighted to report that Dave and I have kicked off our Normandy campaign!! We’re using a mix of scenarios from the Battleground Europe Bolt Action sourcebook, adaptations of scenarios from the CoC supplement Kampfgruppe von Luck, and just some of our own ideas.

Ideally I’d like to bring others (I’m thinking Steve, Mike, George, Rob, Dave, etc) in to the campaign so as to have a series of ‘simultaneous’ battles with linked outcomes. My ideas are still somewhat ephemeral at this stage so we’ll see how it goes. Some campaign notes are shown in typewriter font below.

List Restrictions
Forces should be selected based on their approximate historical formations; suitable support options are noted below. Depending upon the scenario, further restrictions may apply.

The Paras are very lightly equipped, so no AFVs.
Infantry sections plus MMG, Medic, Car/Jeep, Light Mortar, Medium Mortar, PIAT, Flamethrower, Sniper, AT Gun*.
*later in the campaign as the guns arrived in the second lift on the evening of D-Day.

The Germans are in a slightly better position in terms of a variety of equipment but access to AFVs should be limited to the later battles in the campaign.
Infantry sections plus MMG, Medic, Car/Kubelwagen, Truck, SdKfz 251, Light Mortar, Medium Mortar, Flamethrower, Sniper, Self-propelled gun**, Tank/Stug**
**later scenarios, as the German bring up reserves and mobilise more decisively.

(If we bring in other allied forces such as regular British or US, etc then I’ll sort out further notes)

Scattered Drop (N)
Due to the dispersed nature of the Para forces they must hold all but N unit(s) in reserve and all deployment morale checks *are* affected by the -1 modifier. Reserve units become available from turn 2 onwards. Any units failing two consecutive morale checks for deployment are considered lost and will not appear in that battle.
Additionally, the ‘free’ Forward Artillery Observer must roll a D6 before checking for deployment; 1-3 Lost in the countryside or perhaps the radio was damaged in the drop, may not participate in the battle, 4-6 Available as usual.


Game One – The Paras Arrive!
Scattered groups of Paras are trying to form up on their objectives whilst the surprised Germans attempt to hold their positions.
Play Scenario One, Airborne Night Fight, from the Battleground Europe supplement.
Forces are 600pts per side.
The Scattered Drop (2) rules apply for the Paras.
The Germans must include at least 2 squads of inexperienced troops (for example, to represent some of the less motivated troops incorporated from conquered territories).


Anyway, Dave and I started with a fairly modest sized game; the Airborne Night Fight from Battleground Europe. Set in the early hours of June 6 1944, this scenario pits an ad-hoc force of newly dropped and lightly equipped British Paras against the German occupiers of a Normandy village.

We assume that the Germans have been alerted to some degree by nearby fighting, so will not all be fast asleep in their beds, but in the absence of orders from senior officers, the German commander is holding his position. The Paras are seeking to drive off the Germans, capture vital supplies and then re-group as more men arrive from the widely scattered drops.

British Forces
In order to represent a small, ad-hoc force I came up with this 600pt list. The only officer has organised his 26 men in to 4 under-strength sections, after all it is likely that they would have come from different platoons and companies which had become mixed in the chaos of the drop.
2nd Lieutenant & NCO
Para Section #1, NCO & 6 men (incl Bren team)
Para Section #2, NCO & 6 men (incl 4 with SMGs)
Para Section #3, NCO & 6 men (rifles only)
Para Section #4, NCO & 4 men (incl Bren team)
Medic
Light Mortar Team

German Forces
Dave will correct me if I'm wrong here, but he selected
Officer & NCO
Regular Heer Squad, NCO & 7 men (incl MG42)
Regular Heer Squad, NCO & 7 men (incl MG42)
Inexperienced Luftwaffe Squad, NCO & 7 men.
Inexperienced Luftwaffe Squad, NCO & 7 men.
Light Mortar
Sniper Team
2 x MG42

Here's the quiet (and entirely fictitious) village of Saint-Jean du Grenville.
You can almost hear the Germans snoring!
A little photo fun... Paras sneak up on the enemy.

Right, on to the action! The scenario has three objectives on the table that the Paras must capture, 1 is a draw, 2 or more is a win. So, perhaps a little optimistically, I decided to go for all three ... with my four sections! Below we have a section moving through the orchard next to the stone barn. However, the Germans gave them a warm welcome and they quickly accumulated pins whilst trading shots.

The Night Fighting rules really added an a extra dimension to the game! Definitely enhanced the tension and drama; highly recommended. When troops move they make themselves easier to spot and if the open fire then the muzzle flashes really highlight their position!

Dave had an early success with my free FO. A great spotting roll meant he could just reach them behind a hedge with one of his MG42s. So there'd be no artillery support for this game. Ironically the observer had just failed his spotting roll to rain shells on the MG42 team in the farmhouse.

Below we have an SMG armed section close in on the objective in front of the cafe. Dave had (very sensibly) put a lot of his men in the buildings which made them very tricky targets. So I decided to try to flush them out with bayonets.

Along comes Dave's light mortar (okay these were pretty rare by Summer '44, but shhh!). He promptly makes his night spotting roll to see the Paras and then lobs a shell over the cafe... Dave neatly rolled a natural 6 and three Paras including the NCO were blown to pieces! He also inflicted maximum pins too!

I brought up my Lieutenant and NCO to help steady the men as they recovered from the mortar blast - especially as an objective was so close. But, next turn the remaining SMGs FUBAR-ed, and with enemy nearby, they spun around and hosed their CO with bullets! Miraculously he wasn't hurt but the shooting clearly gave away the SMGs position. Who says that troops always act as you want in BA?

Back over by the barn the Paras and Heer continue to trade shots in the dark. The German sniper in the barn (i.e. at point blank range!) continues to hit absolutely nothing.

The third objective was between the two farmhouses. I had a section of rifle armed Paras approaching from one side, with another smaller section on the other. Between was a squad of Regular Heer. But I just couldn't make the spotting roll to see them!

The last few SMG armed Paras were shot up by the inexperienced German troops (no, really!) and yet another plum shot from the light mortar. The FUBAR had left them in the open with muzzle flashes, so they were easy targets. So the CO and his mate set about taking the nearby objective. To do that they'd need to clear out the MG42 in the upstairs of the cafe....
In the first edition rules, SMGs gave 2 shots in combat, but I forgot that it's different in 2nd edition. I was expecting my two veteran chaps to have 4 attacks compared to 3 German regulars... But Dave set me right. We rolled off and the Paras won the day - but only just - at least the nearby objective was theirs!

At the barn the Paras had despatched the Heer but at a heavy price. Just the NCO and one Para remained. They could hear booted feet approaching in the darkness.

Next turn Dave got the early dice so advanced the squad along the road. We agreed that only the front two chaps with rifles could see the Paras next to the barn. The made their spotting roll and Dave rolled two dice ... two sixes ... to more rolls to wound ... another two sixes!! Gah!?

We played one more turn before Dave had to go. I had one objective (by the cafe), Dave had one objective (by the barn) and the other (between the farmhouses) was contested by both sides. That was enough for a draw. But after the fire-fight in the cafe the Para officer had remained upstairs, so Dave (playing the role of dastardly Hun to the full) moved his light mortar team in to the ground floor to contest the objective. A win by the narrowest of margins for Dave with the last move of the game!

What a great game with a splendid opponent! Thanks matey :o)

Lessons Learned
This is simple. With just four sections I should have concentrated my efforts on just two objectives, even claiming just one would have been a draw. My troops were spread too thin. Although Dave's amazing dice skills did rather help the Axis cause! I did try to boost my forces by getting my youngest, Katie, to help with the dice rolling - I should have done that from the start! Indeed, Dave suggested next time that not only do I get her to roll the dice, she should also do the thinking! :-D