Two different types of SAS in 20mm.

First up I’ve painted some of the recently released Under Fire Miniatures’ Rhodesian SAS. Formed from a nucleus of Rhodesian men who volunteered to go to Malaya in the 1950s the Rhodesian SAS served throughout most of the Rhodesian Bush War performing some of the famous external cross border raids. A good read on the men and their operations is Barbara Cole’s The Elite.

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The full range painted up in standard Rhodesian Camo.

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Two more painted in plain green fatigues for external ops.

 

The next SAS figures are from Elhiem’s excellent Cold War ranges. Ever since the publication of Bravo Two Zero there has been a deluge of books on UK special forces, although recent change mean that members of the elite regiment are now barred from writing memoirs; they are so well known for a special forces unit it is hard to separate the good books from the hyperbolic fawning ones but Mark Urban and Leigh Neville have done the topic justice if you want to move beyond the memoirs . I wanted these figures as they have got a wide range of weapons (MP5 SMGs, Shotgun, M79, GPMG, M16, M203) as they’ll be ideal for a raid game I’ve got planned as the first game in a small Cold War campaign I’m planning.

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You’ll next see these figures raiding a Soviet HQ in a Cold War goes Hot game.

Both sets of figures come highly recommended.

http://www.underfireminiatures.com/index.htm

https://www.elhiem.co.uk/

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

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Normandy trip- Longues – Sur – Mer Gun Battery.

Tuesday morning saw Dad and I drive back up to the coast and go to Arromanches first which I have blogged about here:

https://spprojectblog.wordpress.com/2017/12/10/normandy-trip-the-mulberry-harbour/

After we had been to the museums and had a bit of lunch (dinning was much better at Sword beach for what it is worth) we drove a couple of miles up the coast to the gun battery at Longues Sur Mer.

Built by the Todt Organization in 1943 the  four gun battery is noteworthy in that it is the only one left in Normandy that has kept its guns in situ. The guns from other batteries were taken by scrap dealers post war. The gun bunkers are set back from the edge of the cliffs but there is an observation post there that would have once housed a rangefinder to provide firing solutions to the battery.

The guns and bunkers are set in a free to enter country park that you can just wander through as you wish, this is combined with a refreshing lack of commercialization and very little modern health and safety. The only bunker fenced off was the one that had suffered extensive damage.

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The damaged bunker.

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A 155mm gun of French manufacture with damage visible on its side.

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A view of the gun’s breach from inside the bunker.

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Another view of a gun- the notches in the concrete on either side were to give the guns as much traverse as possible.

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There were lots of smaller tobruk pits and fighting positions around the site to provide local defence such as this medium mortar pit.

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The two floor observation bunker.

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The very thick concrete roof was held up by four very thin iron rods; although it does not look like it from this pictures there was stand up head room inside.

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The view back from the observation bunker to the gun battery.

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The view from the observation bunker back towards the Mulberry harbour remains at Arromanches.

After this we took the scenic route back to our holiday home taking in the the Goodwood battle area.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

 

 

New Years Eve game-athon.

Last weekend for NYE my friend Simon came up for a weekend of gaming. We tried to fit as many in as possible and in that regard we did pretty well.

Starting things off on Saturday we played a ‘Cold War goes Hot’ game of 5core: Brigade Commander. Bill had an early finish from work so he brought round a late 1980s British armoured  brigade which he has been working on recently. I decided to umpire so I gave Simon a reinforced Soviet Tank regiment and a pair of Mi24 Hinds. The game went back and forth, with heavy losses on both sides.

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An overview of the table.

The battle swung back and forth with heavy casualties on both side although all of the helicopters survived until the end of the game which is unusual in itself. The brace of Hinds found their role as a QRF. Simon used them to plug the gap when ever Bill’s Challenger tanks opened up a hole in his lines.

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Russian tanks and mech infantry take cover in a wood.

Brigade Commander is a great game imo. It plays really well and is easy to pick up with everyone I’ve shown it too being really favourable to it. I’ve plans to try a large multiplayer game of it soon -ish so watch this space….

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A pair of Hinds covering the tank company in the wood.

Later on that evening Simon and I looked at Nuts! publishing’s Urban Operation boardgame. It started off life being developed as training aid by a serving French Officer before being released as a commercial project. Being a block game it adds a nice bit of fog of war combined with nice chunky playing pieces. The use of generic blocks combined with unit cards allows a large range of scenarios and campaigns to be included. We decided to look at a one off game based around the Russian attack into Grozny in 1996.

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My initial defending positions as the Chechen player.

 

The game handbook suffers a little in its translation and the jargon heavy military style of the rule books could also be looked at for the civilian market but it does provide a good playable modern warfare simulation. It can be frustrating to platy as the rules punish mistakes quite harsly but I suppose that is the point. FIBUA  has never been described as easy. However, the forces in a scenario do provide you with the tools you need to win… as long as you use them wisely.

The next morning, suitable fortified with a fry up we looked at ‘War Plan Orange’, a C3i magazine game that takes GMT’s Empire of the Sun board game of WW2’s pacific war, trims it down and sets it 10 years earlier. It is quite a heavy game requiring a lot of careful planning to get your fleets in the right position.

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Simon’s IJN fleet spreading across the pacific, with suitable reading material to hand.

My luck was not with me. I won the unimportant encounters but 5 of my 6 attempts to take central pacific islands were rebuffed. In the end I ran out of time in the game to either retake territory of inflict an attritional victory. That said I really enjoyed the card driven mechanics and look forward to a second game. Also I’ll keep an eye out for Empire of the Sun too.

Following a trip to WW2 in the pacific we went right up to date and looked at a print and play game that I had made from Yaah! magazine (it was the one I featured in my tutorial a bit back). The game is set around the Russian separatist attempts to take Donetsk airport from the Ukrainians in 2014. For a magazine game the rules were very well laid out and played nicely without the errors that tend to creep into these things.

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The separatists force their way into the airport buildings.

About halfway through the game I had to break off and get some food on te go. Fortunately Chris had turned up so I delegated the defence of the airport to him. With beginners luck and a few judicious decisions he completely pulled around the course of the defeat I had been staring into and won the game. Finding my carefully placed ATGM that I had forgotten about and using it effectively seemed to turn the tide, that and rather aggressive moves with BTR80s. Another game to revisit soon.

After tea and with some beer/cider/whisky we set up another GMT game: Andean Abyss. The first and in some ways the simplest entry into the popular COIN series. Four factions battle for control of Colombia in the late 90s/ early 00s.

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Mid game, FARC are ascendant with two areas designated as FARC zone so no-go areas for the government. 

Playing as a threesome Simon took the government forces, Chris the AUC and myself the FARC. The drug cartels themselves were run through the games flow charts- something that always provides a tough game. Mid game we all called a truce to beat them so we wouldn’t be beaten by a game mechanic. In the end both Simon and I were over our victory conditions but as he was over by the bigger margin the victory went to him.

As the night was still young we dragged out my favourite ‘fun’ game then a laugh: Twilight Creation’s Innsmouth Escape.

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Trying to rescue trapped students from hordes of deep ones.

The human player, me in this instance, has to navigate the board trying to rescue the requisite number of students before escaping the board. The game uses a nice hidden movement mechanic and the waves of re-spawning deep ones generate a tension as you always seem to lose more health than you can heal. In the end I had rescued enough people but was killed before I could exit the board.

On Monday Simon and I had enough time for one final game. We decided upon returning to the naval theme and getting my 1/2400th Russo Japanese ships out. Taking the Japanese I had 2 battleships with 3 cruisers and 3 destroyers to Simon’s 3 battleships and the same number of cruisers and destroyers. My collection is pretty small still so rather than fight out a particular historical battle I just pulled together what I thought would make an interesting game.

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Destroyers may get a lucky hit with their torpedoes but they don’t last long when under the guns of bigger ships.

The rules we used were ‘Tsushima’ from A and A game engineering. Fast playing bckets of dice style rules that give a nice fast game. The opening stages of the game where you move by counters provides a nice tense mini game where you try to jostle for position.

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Right at the end of the game Simon got a critical hit on the bridge of my flagship… even though the battle had gone in my favour the fate of my avatar had to be determined. We gave me a 50% chance of death and a 50% chance of heroic scarring… the dice were kind and after a painful recovery I have some impressive battle damage to show off around Tokyo.

 

On the subject of the Russo- Japanese Naval War I picked up White Bear and Red Sun rules/ campaign system in the Wargames Vault sale, so when I’ve got more ships in my collection I’ll look at running a campaign on the conflict.

All in all a cracking few days gaming- we managed to get seven different games in.

Simon has put his thoughts on four of the games over on his blog, have a look here:

http://lestradesgame.blogspot.co.uk/

Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018 – Plots and Plans.

First of all: Happy New Year.

 

Again I’m not going to make any concrete plans, I’ll just womble through as before though I took up Russo- Japanese Naval Gaming which was fun and I intend to do more of it.

The Spanish Civil War figures I mentioned this time last year have still stayed in their boxes so I shall see if I get round to them this year coming.

Operational gaming didn’t quite happen but I’ve been doing a lot of prep work for my next  operational megagame: ‘Case Blue ’42: The Drive to Stalingrad’ that I’ll be running in Sheffield in June:

http://www.penninemegagames.co.uk/case-blue-42.html

I’ve also got plans for a few more multiplayer games too so I’ll blog more on them as I develop the ideas further.

To be honest 2017 in gaming terms was one of the best it terms of vareity of games played from tabletop games in various scales, air and naval too. Board games and megagames of different genres. Long may it continue into 2018… I hope yours is as good too.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

Progress Report- 4th quarter and 2017 round up.

A bit of a varied quarter this time. I painted 48 28mm figures, 17 20mm figures and 58 6mm figures. 3 1/72nd scale kits, 3 1/300th vehicles and 11 1/2400th Ships. I also read 31 books.

 

As for the total for the year:

Painted figures: 6mm- 88, 15mm- 80, 20mm- 217, 28mm-63.

Kits finished: 1/2400th- 33, 1/600th- 25, 1/300th- 67, 1/72nd- 33.

Books read: 128.

 

Slightly more than last year which is good.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.

Normandy Trip- Sword Beach.

After a late night drive from Oiustreham ferry port through Normandy to our holiday home on the Sunday evening, Dad and I had a relatively lazy morning before heading back to the coast to see Sword Beach and Ouistreham in daylight. Staying as we were a good drive south of the coast I had a long drive to look at the scenery as we headed north on Monday morning passing so many familiar place names.

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Looking west down the invasion beach.

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A memorial built upon an Atlantic Wall cloche.

After a short walk on the beach we headed into the No. 4 Commando museum: it celebrates the French Commando unit that landed on D Day and the part its Frenchmen played in liberating their own country.

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The museum entrance.

I didn’t take any pictures of the inside- it was rather dark and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t allowed. It is a nice little museum featuring plenty of information on the French Commandos and their role in the invasion. It was full of the usual artifacts and mannequins dressed in uniforms as well as a pleasing array of models and dioramas.

After spending a pleasant hour in the museum we then headed across the town to the Atlantic Wall Museum: The bunker which is located in the distinctive German HQ bunker that housed a large rangefinder in its upper levels.

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The entrance: flanked by a British 25pdr and German Flak 18.

Outside were a few larger items: a pair of guns, a landing craft, a M5 tank, an M7 Priest and an M3 halftrack.

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I made you think looking down the ramp of the landing craft to the time when they approached the French coast in 1944.

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The trackless M7 Priest.

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The M3 halftrack, actually it is the M16 Antiaircraft version with out a gun. The giveaway is the presence of the fold down sides, check your old Matchbox model kit and you’ll see what I mean.

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The M5 is a pretty small tank- I certainly wouldn’t want to cram my 6 foot 19 stone frame into it.

The inside of the museum is fantastic, I really enjoy exploring old bits of concrete and bunkers in general so this was right up my street. The displays inside give a great impression of what it would be like to did your time in a bunker such as this. The close confines and tiers of bunks brought to mind submarines in the way that the manaquins were jammed in. Information displays gave a potted history of the bunker and the Atlantic Wall in general as well as the capture of the bunker itself on D+3. Right at the top a rangefinder (not the original) has been installed which you can look out to sea through.

To finish off our visit to Sword beach we drove westwards looking for what the majority of the guide books said was a Churchill AVRE, however when we got there it was clearly a Centaur (Cromwell with 95mm gun) even the plaque said it was a Churchill, when and why it was swapped of mislabeled I’m not sure.

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The Cromwell is set back from the coast facing the road that runs parallel to the beach.

Whilst I’m mentioning guide books I took along as many as I could, both my own and some which were borrowed. I found the Battleground Europe range the best for describing the history and narrative of each place but the Battle Zone Normandy range far better as tourist guides. I also picked up the free visitor guide in the first museum that we went to- invaluable for up to date information on the museums (opening times, costs, etc).

Cheers,

 

Pete.

Normandy Trip- Bletchley Park.

As I posted earlier to break up the drive down from Yorkshire to the New Forest we called in at Bletchley Park.

It is a nicely presented modern museum, telling the story of the site as you move round the complex. To make the most of the visit we used the free audio guide and followed the suggested route.

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The modest scale of the code-breaking work at Bletchley was such that at the start of the war the country house and its various outbuildings were all that was required. Very quickly this was insufficient and the sprawl of huts was built up.

As I’m pretty sure that you are all aware of the stories of Bletchley Park I won’t go into too much detail of what happened there. The thing that really surprised me however was the absolutely massive scale of the operation that was there. Round the clock large scale breaking of German and other Axis codes. It required thousands of mostly women working very hard with no recognition for decades afterwards to produce a quality of signal intelligence that shortened the war by several years.

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The audio-guide led me to this memorial to the work that the Poles did before the war that enabled so much to be done during the conflict years. In general I feel that the Polish contribution and sacrifices to WW2 has been undervalued for many years and it was nice to see this tribute to that nation.

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The majority of the museum is made up of the huts with little displays set up in them  to given an idea of the spartan conditions people worked in there.

The audio-guide leads you through the huts and you can listen to the development of the site and the functions of each hut. It is a good use of the buildings and in someways reminiscent of Eden Camp. However they do get a little same-y with the 1940s style set dressing, but that is a small price to pay for the preservation of the site. The majority of the artifacts are held in a separate building. The centrepiece of this is a magnificent rebuilt bombe that was used to decode the engima intercepts.

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This wonderful machine (not a computer) is demonstrated by the staff there- the gent who did our presentation did a great job and was very knowledgeable, especially passing this on to the younger people there.

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These two example in different conditions were what it was all about: The Enigma Machine. Used by The Germans in their thousands, the encrypted messages were transmitted in Morse and picked up by listening stations, transcribed and then sent to Bletchley. So fast was the process , that by the end of the war, Allied commanders were getting decrypt translations at about the same time as the intended Nazi recipient had got it.

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The bombe didn’t produce a definitive answer: machines such as this were needed, as well as plenty of brain power to test possibilities that the machine threw up.

Sadly our visit was cut short by the closing of the museum. Fortunately the entry tickets are valid for a year so I plan to go back down there to have a decent  look at what I missed sooner, rather than later. I also might visit the National Musuem of Computing that shares a site with Bletchley Park.

Next- on to France….

Cheers,

 

Pete.