Friday, June 2, 2017

French Foreign Legion - Légion Étrangère - WWII

I know it has been a long while since my last post so I'll try to get back up to speed now that we are entering the summer months and I should have a bit more hobby time. I planned for 2017 to be spent mostly working on World War Two miniatures. Northwest Europe mid-late war to be exact. I have had some deviation to other periods to break it up a bit but I have remained somewhat focused on my project. I didn't really plan on doing anything desert related but I was trolling the web looking for reference photos on painting some StuG III's and came upon some desert photos. Well a couple of clicks later I saw a post about the French Foreign Legion's 13th Demi-Brigade defense of Bir Hakeim. One thing led to another and soon I found myself trying to find metal miniatures in 20mm. Just for a small side project I told myself. Besides, who doesn't love the mystery and intrigue of the legion?
Now how to establish a harem in the Laundry Room Barracks and slip this lass past General ze Wife.
There are some nice offerings in 28mm but if you are interested in 20mm (1/72) figs like I am,  you will really need to do some digging or plan on doing plastic conversions of your own. I found a guy in France who does conversions/sculpting for this period and he casts his miniatures in small batches. I quickly purchased the three sets of miniatures he had on hand totaling about 61 figures including command, mortar teams, artillery teams, MG teams and fighting men. Most of the poses are unique with little repetition so you get a wide variety of useful figures.
Yes I know they didn't all fight in their Kepi Blanc but hey, it's the legion and they look cool.

The more I dug into and researched the 13e DBLE I realized I would be expanding this project from painting a few squads to creating the full brigade (well, a representation of it anyway). I am now on the lookout for figures to use for French colonial forces at the time including some pretty cool units that I will get to in future posts.
Defense of Bir Hakeim 26 May-11 June, 1942

e Demi-Brigade de Légion Étrangère

The brigade was created in 1940, and with the Senegalese Tirailleur Regiment of Tchad became one of the two regiments which rallied as a constituted unit of the Free French Forces. The 13e DBLE would be part of most major campaigns the armed forces of France during WWII.
The legion's defense of Bir Hakeim along with the 1st Free French Brigade against the DAK and Italians had lengthened the Axis supply route around the south end of the Gazala line while causing them losses. It also gave the British time to recover in the wake of their defeat at the Cauldron and regroup and set up a defense for the First battle of El Alamein. 
Bir Hakeim, Libya
Their are some fun story lines that could be used as wargame scenarios or objectives like French General Marie-Pierre Koenig's affair with English nurse and ambulance driver Susan Travers, the only women to formally be enrolled in the Legion Etrangere. She was an Adjudant-chef which is similar to the rank of lieutenant. Perhaps  a victory condition or points is to capture her (sorry, just thinking out loud).
So after searching and finding my first figures, doing some research on the unit, finding some reference photos for painting/modeling I have completed about thirty of my guys thus far. Not huge progress, but steady progress as I continue my year of World War Two. I have also bought and painted a fort I can use for them to defend as well. It is Italeri's African House. A great model although a tad pricey but I think it was worth it. I will get some use out of it for my moderns as well I think and perhaps 19th Century Legionnaires on their quest to colonize north Africa. Did I just say that? Slap me. I really don't need another period. Arghhh, to late. I already ordered some figures. Oh, well...more to come on this.

So here are some photos of what I have completed so far. If you have any questions please feel free to ask. I'm not expert in WWII or specifically the desert campaigns but I've done a bunch of research to date and can hopefully steer you in the right direction for information. Thanks for checking this post out.
Italeri 6139-African House. Aprox $50 US.

A few of the 20mm Guilhem Dalou figures for scale of the Italeri model.

Not a fighting set-up, just wanted to show how many figures the fort could hold. This is about 30 figs on the walkway. The roof also is removable to allow figures to shoot out the windows and there is a nice courtyard where more figures, vehicles, etc. could be. My guess is you could get about 100 figures total inside the fort if you wanted to.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Santa was good to me this year.

I've been a bit absent and have neglected the blog in the past few months. Real life tends to sneak up on you that way. I can't complain though because I was able to take a nice holiday break with my family and spend some good quality time with them all over the last few weeks.

Mrs. Claus and her elves, a.k.a. General ze Wife and the Teenage Spies, were good to dear old dad this Christmas. I compiled my wish lists with great care to hopefully ensure whatever was decided might possibly be a bit heavy in hobby related items than the traditional socks, pajamas, ect., etc, that my loves thought I needed. I can say this year was a complete surprise and more than I could have ever hoped for. Perhaps the General is warming to the idea of me spending all my time in the Laundry Room Barracks or perhaps she just wants me out of her hair in the evenings, either way, a small victory for my men and I was won this season.
I spent the better part of last year doing modern 20mm and decided that 2017 would be dedicated, for the most part, to WWII. With that in mind a platoon of Shermans, a couple of StuG III's and some Tigers were part of the Christmas gifts. I did also receive plenty of Land Rovers to convert for my modern gaming as well as a variety of paint, a platoon of WWII US Paratroopers and a platoon of German Fallschirmjager.

Not only did the General give me a set of the coolest bookends ever, but added to the military library.

The Queen Mother also contributed to my hobby pursuit this year. The platoon of German WWII paras were from her and the Father-In-Law General. Much, much, much to my surprise they also felt I needed to add to my collection of militaria. This was not as welcomed by General ze Wife who protested that I had already acquired more "old junk" than I needed. The Queen Mother just smiled and with a wave of her royal hand the General had to stand down. Sensing victory, I quickly stashed my loot out of site of the General and fetched a glass of her favorite fermented grapes to ease her temperament.
The gifts from the Queen Mother and the Father-In-Law General were absolutely amazing. I could have never imagined receiving such amazing and well preserved items. They span the range from WWI to modern civil war. The photo below shows some of the items and include a JNA/Serbian helmet used during the civil war in the former Yugoslavia. There are multiple original photos including one dated December 1, 1917 showing Company C, 118th Infantry at Camp Servier in Greenville, SC. There are a smattering of original WWII documents, a small hand made wooden child's toy ship and a cast toy of a WWII motorcycle. The old photos even included one of a girl in a bikini that had an old love letter to a GI with it. My WWII gaming is going to be mostly Europe, but going through these items just might spur my interest in the Pacific theater.

I hope everyone had as blessed a Christmas and Happy New Year.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Modern Bolt Action

I have watched tons of online videos and read countless blogs about everything from painting, basing, rules, terrain, how-to's, how-not to's (I'm sure I'm leaving something out) since I got back into wargaming historical miniatures last Christmas. It's almost a full-time job just trying to absorb the information. I have learned much to say the least, especially that there are more opinions about rules sets than I would have imagined. I've also learned to stay pretty quiet about the subject myself because if you do make a reference about a particular set, you are very likely to find yourself in a back alley knife fight with some rules lawyer. That said I have discovered one thing, I enjoy my models based individually and I like more of a skirmish style game.

My go to rules so far have been Force on Force and Danger Close. Both offer me the kind of quick, modern skirmish game I like to play. I am still experimenting with various rules and have also learned that having an open mind can be rewarding in this adventure. Many of the guys in my wargaming group on Miniature Modeling Mayhem play Flames of War and Team Yankee. I have not played those yet but I enjoy learning about the history of WWII from them during our video chats. I have recently been looking at options for WWII games and 20mm miniatures for WWII skirmish style games. I have a few moderns in 28mm, but I prefer 20mm just for the fact that I can store the models, terrain and vehicles more so than 28mm. During my search I stumbled upon Jay's Wargaming Madness blog. Jay is in California and plays a lot of Bolt Action as well as moderns with some really cool terrain and models. While digging around his blog I found a version of modern rules Jay has created using the Bolt Action rules.
 I downloaded the files Jay posted for free and gave them a try this weekend. They are easy to learn, fast play and very fun. I don't own the main Bolt Action rulebook or the associated order dice but I was able to use some dice I had laying around for this purpose. The rules are fairly complete as they are but I think I might pick up a copy of the main rules as well. I really enjoyed the mechanics of the game and like I said it was really easy to pick up. Of course (this is the part where rules lawyers should close there eyes and skip ahead) I added a few elements from other rules like Random Events ie: Fog of War to add some spice to my solo game. You can download his ruleset for free and he has also created some army lists to go with them. If you are looking for a fun, quick modern rule set I would encourage you to give them a try. That said, I am no expert on anything rules or even weapons for that matter. Some of you might find these rules to simple for your taste, etc, etc. I found them to be fun for me so that is about the extent of my approval. Below are some photos from the other night. Sorry for the quality of the pics. I was more concerned with picking my way through the rules.

Scenario (generic middle east to keep it simple): 
A 5-man US Special Forces team are entering a village to extract a high level warlord from his compound. His compound is guarded by his personal six-man security force. The SopF are entering the town on foot from the west. The plan calls for the team to drop a sniper on a rooftop with line of sight to the warlords' compound as an overwatch element. Once the SopF sniper is in place two Ranger fire teams will enter the town from the main northern road. They are tasked with securing the street and bazaar in the middle of the village and acting as a blocking unit for the SopF. The village is controlled by the warlord and has three cells of militia present. Due to the value of the target of interest, the US forces also have two Apache gunships that can be mobilized if needed for Close Air Support.

Board size: 2'x2'    Scale: 20mm    Rules: Bolt Action Modern w/house rules for Random Events

Turn 1 action 1 saw the US Humvees get hit with a random event (red markers) right out of the gate (this is not a part of Bolt Action). The first Humvee takes incoming sniper fire.

Another action die draw for the US gets the SopF guys activated and running toward their objective.

 I was feeling pretty good about the US forces drawing the first three order die from the bag. It gave me the momentum to get my forces set-up. The fourth one went to the insurgents and the US was back with the fifth order dice which allowed them to get the SopF sniper on the roof. Everything was going well and then I realized that the US would only have one more order this turn while the militia still had four (each unit get's one order die). Yikes. Pretty nerve wracking to know that all hell is going to break loose and you are kind of out of options. Just two order die later would see the demise of one of the humvees and the four Rangers occupying it. I'm not sure I could have played that out any differently, perhaps concentrating on moving my SopF guys but that would have left them totally exposed on the street without the cover of the Rangers. I think what intrigues me about the way the basic order of play unfolds is that once you have played a turn or two, you realize very quickly that every single move you make needs to very strategic. Especially if you only have a few units and they need to get from point A to point B. You can find yourself in a really bad place if you don't think your way through each order.

I'm pretty positive I missed a bunch of stuff during this first game, I hope not. But I stress, although the rules might not be to your taste, I found them to be a very fun game and really quick to pick-up the basics.

Here are some additional photos. Not my usual AAR as I was trying to use the game to learn the rules but I didn't become bored or over confused when playing so I'll be trying this one out a few more times.