1940 Ramblings

September has provided something of an opportunity for some games of WWII Spearhead. Further with one of my opponents having recently completed his 1940 French the period of our game was almost predetermined.

While previous games set in 1940 have involved engagements between British and Germans the French would provide additional challenges. For example the French in the early period use random morale. That is the morale of any particular French battalion is determined randomly when they come under fire. This certainly provides challenges for the French commander, though the larger French forces create plenty of challenges for the Germans.

Equipment wise each army has its strengths and weakness. The French tanks for example can be a mixed bag. They can range from Great War era FT-17s to more modern and powerful Somua and Char B1s. Above, French Somua tanks advancing in our most recent game.

The Germans are not free from challenges either. Their Panzer Battalions each contain a large variety of vehicles, from Panzer I and Panzer IIs to more efficient vehicles.

In addition to the Panzer Battalions I have also taken the opportunity to use more unusual battalions. One such is the Aufklärungungs-Abteilung or Reconnaissance Battalion, shown above. This battalion is terribly light on offensive firepower, yet it has been entertaining to use. If you are interested you can find some thoughts on these battalions and their use on the wargames table here.

Perhaps most importantly I have taken the time to record our most recent encounter, complete with a selection of photos, here. Certainly the game was a little different, yet I trust it is of some interest.

A Little Painting & Basing

As regular readers know I have been using the Volley & Bayonet rules for many years for my 18th and 19th Century wargaming. In my view they are an excellent set of rules and a level that aligns to my reading of the great battles of the period. Indeed, the rules have allowed me to refight many of the great battles of the period. Some that spring to mind are Aspern-Essling, Ligny, Waterloo, Antietam, Gettysburg and Chickamauga, along with many others. All possible due to the very clever period specific rules.

Each historical refight has provided a fascinating game, but also they have provide an opportunity to further understand these battles. These refights have also been supplemented by many fictional encounters, ideal when time is lacking. These of course lack the historical background yet provide their own interesting narrative. Not unlike  the narrative of historical battles of the period. For me that’s a sign of a good set of rules.

But of course playing these battles requires miniatures to be painted. Our lockdown, due to the pandemic, provided a little more time to dust of various miniatures in my burgeoning lead pile, pick up a paintbrush, and paint what ended up being rather a lot of miniatures.

Now, some background. Over recent years I have been slowly focussing my limited painting time on the refurbishment of several of my miniature armies. All of which use 1/300th or 6mm miniatures from Heroics & Ros. This typically has meant a combination of rebasing miniatures – including increasing the number of figures per base, increasing the figure variety on bases, changing my labelling system and painting additional miniatures.

Some armies, such as the Anglo-Dutch and Brunswick troops shown above, have newly painted figures to supplement those previously painted allowing rebasing to continue.

Other projects have been relatively small, a sub project if you like. An example being the expansion of my Napoleonic Russians which were woefully short of cavalry. These can be seen above and below.

Now of course the pandemic ensured I couldn’t order more miniatures, or at least expect them to arrive quickly. So as mentioned the focus was on the lead mountain. Over the years I have collected a lot of odds and ends in second purchases. So one day I sat down and lay out all the second hand unpainted French Napoleonic figures purchased at bargain prices. After some thought I realised that I had almost enough for another large expansion project.

Above and below Napoleonic French cavalry for my Waterloo project. All are newly painted. Each cavalry stand represents a brigade of 1000 to 1500 men.

Here I’ve opted to model two regiments per brigade using the Hundred Days Orders of Battle. So any brigade here will have the correct facings for its historical equivalent. Above are four brigades of Dragoons in front, each brigade having two Dragoon regiments. Behind are four brigades of Cuirassiers. In total above there are the equivalent of 8000 French cavalry.

Below, another eight eight French cavalry brigades also for Waterloo, many of which are light cavalry. There include Lancers, Chasseurs and Hussars to name a few.

Currently on the painting table are the infantry, an additional 400 French infantry. This project, when added to previously painted miniatures, will see all the French units present in the Hundred Days campaign completed. This will allow the battles of Waterloo and Wavre to be refought on one long table. A project I’ve often pondered, but that really seemed unachievable.

However, I’m getting ahead of myself. Before starting the French I started on my American Civil War armies.

Above and below a portion of the Confederate reinforcements.

Like the cavalry previously each infantry stand is 1.5″ square. Now however each brigade stand typically represents 1500 to 2500 men. Each stand has between 25 to 28 figures per base with additional figure variation adding, I feel, to the overall visuals.

Returning readers may also note the use of white text on black labels, something that I am increasingly pleased with. Of course changing labels in part of the army means doing all the bases.

Of course the Union army also needs reinforcements and these too have had some focus. In addition to several Union infantry brigades I have added artillery.

Below, a massive Union deployment of rifled artillery. In Volley & Bayonet an artillery stand typically represents 12 guns. With a frontage of 0.75″ per stand at the ground scale we are using each artillery stand frontage is around 150 yards.

Combining all the painting, the photos being just a subset, over recent months many hundreds of new figures have been painted and merged into the existing armies. A very pleasing result.

Of course painting is one thing, getting them on the table is another. Long delayed by the pandemic over the last few weeks we have finally returned to some rewarding multiplayer games using Volley & Bayonet. These games have of course provided an opportunity to deploy portions of my American Civil War armies. You can find a short game report of one of these games here.

A Return to the Skies

Last night the gaming room hosted its first multiplayer event as our little part of the world returns to something of a new normal. While I have had a few games over recent weeks, as social distancing here in New Zealand has now ceased, the return to a multiplayer game is something of a milestone.

What better way of marking the occasion could there be than a light hearted evening of Wings of Glory? While a few regulars where unable to attend we still managed a respectable six players.

Our first scenario was a traditional dogfight with three German players, flying two Fokker Dr.Is and an Albatross, taking to the sky against three allied pilots flying two Spads and a Camel. Trying to recall the aircraft involved is hard enough, but the antics involved are for me, the following day, all but impossible. However as machines clawed their way through the skies and the burst of machine gun fire filled the air it seemed only the smell of oil and burning canvas that seemed to be missing.

One new pilot ventured into the sky for the first time, yet to his surprise Pilot Officer Shield, flying the Camel above, had an outstanding first encounter. A sharp contrast to one German pilot whose machine exploded when first coming under fire!

Our second scenario involved a bombing mission where a Belgian Breguet was escorted by a Bristol F.2B and Camel. Opposite them the three German pilots flew a combination of two Fokker D.VIIs and a Albatross D.Va. Above, the Albatross D.Va and below one of the two Fokker D.VIIs.

Below, a Bristol F.2B is hoping to manoeuvre against an Albatross in the foreground. Meanwhile while a Fokker D.VII, just visible in the background, has similar intentions on the F.2B.

Expert flying by the Belgian pilot found the bombs being successfully dropped, However, his return towards Allied lines was more difficult. The German pilots stuck to him like glue, despite him evading and repeatedly dropping altitude. Unfortunately the Germans could finally claim a victory as the Breguet went down just feet above the trees.

Our final mission of the evening was an Allied balloon busting mission. A Nieuport armed with rockets was to be the main attack closely supported by a Camel and a Bristol F.2B.

However, such plans quickly come adrift as the Nieuport pilot repeatedly failed to line up his attack. Further, the various machines soon become increasingly crowded around the German balloon as allied fighters attempted to escort the Nieuport, while dodging the Germans. My own machine, the F.2B, managed to fire several bursts of fire into the balloon and this increasingly this became my focus.

Then on the second pass a well aimed burst of fire from the front guns hit the balloon and ignited it. In a moment a massive explosion erupted which destroyed three other aircraft, two German and one British!

A dramatic, if somewhat abrupt ending to an excellent evening of gaming in the sky. I must say these rules really do provide a most enjoyable evening of entertainment.

Gaming in a Pandemic

Like many in the world the COVID-19 pandemic curtailed my regular gaming. Gone were the weekly DBA gaming evenings and the larger Friday evening games and multiplayer events. But what did I replace my evening games with during our very restricted lockdown?

Well like many my painting increased and more units marched off the painting table into my various armies. However, one of the most interesting aspects was our Friday evening virtual wargame video meetings. Friends around the New Zealand, and from overseas, joined to discuss painting projects, books as well other wargame subjects. Some of my favourite topics were the in-depth presentations.

These included the history of wargaming in France, which looked at developments from the 19th Century, to the 1980s – truely fascinating! This was followed by the equally fascinating presentation on depiction of World War II in French cartoons, all published in 1944 and 1945. Finally, there was most interesting look at the Battle of Bir Hakeim drawing on French and German sources which will soon be published in France by the presenter, a professional historian.

Anyway, feedback from those joining the video conferences each week was that they were all very successful.

In addition to these virtual meetings my son and I played a number of DBA games during the lockdown using Skype. Starting as something of an experiment we quickly found the games worked well, at least for experienced players. A summary of some of these games can be found here.

Finally, I hosted a multiplayer Spearhead game that ran over several weeks. Involving nine players from around the country it provided a rather unique gaming experience. If you are interested in reading more about the game you can find a report here.

All these initiatives provided a little distraction in what is a very challenging time. Fortunately I live in New Zealand, and with the situation improving here finally I find my gaming also returning to normal. However, for those readers still in the thick of the pandemic I hope that your hobby is providing you with something of a distraction, even if friends aren’t catching up in person. Most importantly I hope you can enjoy your hobby without compromising your safety.

Exploring the Seven Years War

Finally, after quietly sitting in the lead mountain the first of my Seven Years War Austrians have taken the field against Frederick the Great.

The Seven Years War is an interesting period and one which has appealed as a miniatures project for many years. However, stirred by my visit to the battlefield of Kolin and Hapsburg Vienna a couple of years ago I finally made some progress. Yes, its hard not to be taken by the period with so many fine statues of those great Austrian generals proudly marking the tenacity of Austria to Prussian aggression.

Fortunately one of my regular opponents had previously completed a significant proportion of a Prussian Seven Years War army in 6mm. However, with no period opponent these Prussians were used to represent the Prussians in 1806, a role that they have fulfilled diligently for many years.

I have of course posted previously on painting the Austrians. However, if you are interested there is now a selection of photos and description of our first 6mm Seven Years War engagement fought using Volley & Bayonet, you can find it here.