Saturday, July 8, 2017

First Normandy WWII Bolt Action game

I have been a bit busy these last few months painting my first World War Two figures in 20mm. I hadn't actually considered WWII, but since most of my painting time is spent with other members of the Miniature Modeling Mayhem community during almost nightly Paint & Chat sessions, I was soon intrigued by our historical discussions about the period. Much thanks or perhaps blame to MadTinHatter and Hengist for this diversion they set me on. Also a shout to Jack Sarge down in Tasmania for parting with a large assortment (at great deal) of AB Wehrmacht to get me started.

During the Christmas holiday last year I was able to read a couple of excellent books (well, I read one just before the holiday) written about the United States 82nd Airborne division and the German 6th Fallschirmjager Division.

I can't recommend these two books enough. I really enjoy painting both sides of any period/conflict I plan on gaming as well as researching both armies to broaden my perspective. These two titles won't disappoint if you are interested in the parachute slugfest that preceded the D-Day landings.

When I started down the World War II road I knew I wanted to stay with my favorite scale of 20mm. I already had some terrain I could use and the price and place to store my armies would be a bit more reasonable in 20mm than 28mm. It's no secret I am a fan of skirmish style games with figures based individually. I had already been playing a modern version of Bolt Action thanks to Jay's Wargame Madness who took the time to modernize the system so to speak. So Bolt Action would be my rules of choice for my World War Two gaming. A very generous infusion of military budget from General ze Wife and the Queen Mother during the holidays helped supply the troops and some basic armour needed in the Laundry Room Barracks. The majority of the figures are from AB Figures which are absolutely stunning figures and a pleasure to paint.

Sometimes keeping up ones motivation can be hard when you are working through an entire army, let alone two.
Motivation is a good thing.
This is now actually four because of an errant click in Google that sent me spiraling into the desert war in North Africa. Well at least I am know the proud owner of a  totally unique French Foreign Legion force and some of the Perry's 20mm Afrika Corps figures from their days at Wargames Foundry. Anyway, back to France. I knew I was going to need a good terrain board for France. After reading about the battles for the hedgerows in northwest France I was going to have to get busy. Plus Mark (Hengist) is always talking about the importance of a great 'set' as he calls it. It's true. The more detail your board has, the more immersive the game experience becomes. The only problem was I had never made a terrain board before. Up to this point I have always used some sort of terrain cloth and a few trees and odds and ends scattered around the board. I have made a few buildings for my moderns and my F&I War projects but never anything like a church or multi-level stone buildings. This was going to be interesting. As I do, I started with some research. This only led me to be more confused at how I wanted to create my own board. So after looking at copious pictures I just went out into the barn and started drawing out some roads etc. Just a small note-I have created pieces of grass/field that will cover my road(s) so I can use the board for different periods and such. I wanted a board that would not totally lock me into just playing the same patch of grass every time.
Carentan was a bit of my inspiration.

Early on in the board build. This is the first 4x2 panel. Key ingredients are loads of white glue (PVA), sand,
flock, fake grass, bits of carpet and a bunch of fake fur.

What WWII action didn't involve some in-town fighting and machine gun fire from the bell loft?

A beat up old stone house. 20mm AB figure for scale. The house and the church are made from those tile cork boards you can buy in packs 1'x1'. They are easy to cut and harden right up once given a good coating of 50/50 pva & water.

An early view of the second 4x2 panel.

 The base of the boards are those pink foam insulation panels each measuring 4'x2'. When put together the board measures 4'x4'. I tried to create the road system so I can add additional panels and they would line up to create different terrain or enlarge the playing surface at some point. I should have taken more in progress photos but I never intended to do a tutorial or anything. I wasn't even sure I would be able to pull it off. But I do think I was able to get it into a playable state.
The hedgerows are removable but the hills, fields and roads are
built onto the board.

The race was on to finish the board for late June and early July because General ze Wife and the youngest Teenage Spy had been granted two weeks of r&r at the Queen Mother's home with a small side trip and beach siesta at Colonel Sis N. Law's compound. I was tasked with guarding the fort and minding over the other two Teenage Spies. Furious evenings were spent in the barn preparing the table and finishing off some Sherman's.

Finally the day had arrived. Board set-up day! This actually started exactly 10 minutes after arriving home in the General's staff car after her departure from the airbase in New York. I was giddy. Two glorious weeks for terrain to be spread out on the dining room table complete with air conditioning, coffee, beer, a bathroom! I had hit jackpot and it included a five-day stretch of no work to celebrate our independence from those opium hawking, tea drinking island dwellers with their penchant for fried fish and curry (no offense Gary and Mark you know I love you both dearly). FREEDOM! and victory were mine for the taking.

"Dad, what's for dinner?" a voice echoed like a blast from a mortar. I was startled. Confused. I had to think quickly. "There are hot dogs in the fridge", I said, "poke a few holes in them and then nuke for 30 seconds." Crisis averted. The raven haired eldest spy glared at me but sensed now was not the time to melee with me over rations.

Now that I had the models painted, board set and the house to myself it was game time.

The scenario called for control of the crossroads to declare a victory. The German 6 Fallschirmjager were garrisoned in the town and it was heavily fortified with MG teams, artillery and a StuG III. The American 82nd Airborne division were tasked with taking the town and securing the vital road link needed to move inland. We decided that starting with turn four each side would roll to see if they could add reinforcements. The Germans could add an additional veteran FJ team while the Americans would have an additional regular infantry rifle team and tank support from three Shermans from Company C of the 756th Tank Battalion. I would be controlling the 82nd Airborne while my opponent Old Man RPG would be in charge of the German 6FJ defending the town.
The forces were set. It would be a paratrooper slugfest. We got a tad over zealous fielding three rifle teams each with support weapons, tanks and a German artillery piece. Go big or go home I guess.

The first go on the board would be scenario two from Bolt Action
which was to control the crossroads. Here was some inspiration I used for setting my own board up for the game.

My first 4'x4' game board.
A member of the Generalstab des Heeres heads to a meeting in the controlled Abschnitt.

Germans on a patrol.

StuG III makes his way toward the center of the small town.

The first American paratroopers move cautiously through the hedgerows.

A German Pak 36 mans a defensive position in the town.

The Americans spread out and entered through three separate fields with their command taking a position in an old farmhouse on the northwest corner of the board.

A German patrol halts just prior to entering the open ground of a plowed field. Turn one was spent activating and advancing troops into position. Not much action really.

FJ6 struck first with a patrol firing on the third para team resulting in two quick KIA's.

An FJ6 MMG team in the second story of a bombed house was able to add to the 82nd's problems delivering another KIA to the Americans.

The German Pak 36 team keeps a close eye on their defensive position as the day begins.

The 82nd had a slow go through the hedgerows and realized very quickly that the bits of elevated terrain they needed to cross would cost them dearly. 

The Germans took advantage of the hedgerows and had set up some very good defensive positions.
FJ 6 had the 82nd in the southern most hedgerow zeroed in and were able to take out the Americans bazooka team and a MMG team in turn three.

The Germans were able to turn from the defensive and now were bringing the fight to the Americans.

The 82nd tries to hang on with everything they have.

An American rifle team enters the fight from the tree line at the start of turn four to try and support the badly beat up 82nd.

Unfortunately for the American's and additional team of German FJ6 join the fight.

The Germans are surprised when their StuG is taken out from a Sherman that had broken through the tree line onto a road leading into the town.

A squad of paras jump in behind one of the Shermans for a bit of protection from the German offensive.
Little did the Americans know that a German MMG team had them in their sights.

A second 746th Sherman approaches the German left flank.
The Americans were hoping the tank support would get them back in the fight

The Germans backed off their defensive position across the road for a bit more hard cover of the building.

The 746th left flank and center were closing in on the town.

The Germans kept up a heavy counter attack on the Americans.

Trying to maneuver into the crossroads and seeing the German staff car to his front left this Sherman exposed and gave a well concealed Panzerfaust a close range side shot.

A deadly oversight for the Americans.

The Germans were also able to move the Pak 36 into position to defend the left flank and destroy the second American tank threatening to enter the town.

At this point we were now entering turn seven and with most of the elements of the 82nd eliminated as well as most of their MG support and two of the three tanks from the 746th destroyed the Americans withdrew from the board.

It was great to get the board out and give it a go. I didn't think the hedgerows would be as hard to fight in and get through as they were. They really slowed my attack on the town. I did enjoy having the large variety of troops because it forced me to think about every move and shots were coming in and going out from just about every direction of the table. The hedgerows also created a situation for me, as the Americans, of really splitting my forces and each rifle team was fighting on their own where the Germans were able to move and create blocking positions with much more cohesion. I guess in that regard it played out fairly close to the history.

Sorry for the long post but hope you found it entertaining.

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.