Sunday, 15 January 2017

SdKfz Frame Aerials

I bought a new SdKfz 250/3 from Heroics & Ros to replace the one which was first painted in Afrika Korps Airfix desert yellow (that's how long ago it was!) and the new one came with a frame aerial so I decided to have a go at making some for the SdKfz 223s & 263's. The workbench photos were taken on my phone, sadly.

I've got loads of single strand wire (probably steel) from out of telephone cabinets for model railway wiring (the multicoloured insulation makes it easy to trace it under the layout). About 0.5mm in cross-section it was the thinnest I had.

Some square jawed pliers made it easy to get good corners by simply pulling the wire tight

I tried putting in the slight angle towards the front of the frame but it was difficult and just looked wonky, so I just bent the sections into rectangles, butting together on a short side and a blob of superglue bridged the gap. 

A 1mm drill bit was the smallest I had so I used that in a pin drill to make locating holes for the supports.

The supports initially stuck out perpendicular to the body panels. I realised that if I left the insulation on, the supports fitted the holes better but the wire needed supergluing in place or it could twist within the insulation.

Supports were bent to the vertical for the 223s or at suitable angles for the 263s and reglued where it had come loose.

A good way to get the supports on the SdKfz 223s level for the reasonably horizontal frame was to upend them and snip off the excess.

Frames were perched gingerly on top and half droplets of glue applied (I didn't have the gel variety). (The insulation was a bit long in places but once painted, it disappeared).

The aerials for the 8-rads started off rectangular, then a longitudinal central section was dropped in & glued. Cross pieces between the vertical supports were omitted as they were only about 3mm long and were too fiddly for me. The whole was bent slightly over the curved handgrip of a pair of pliers, balanced atop the support and glued. 

They all got 2 coats of Humbrol 27, an ink wash (1 drop black Windsor & Newton + 8 drops water + drop of washing up liquid) which was dabbed off, Humbrol 26 highlighting.

Trafalgar Models balkankreuz from Heroics & Ros were added where possible

Tuesday, 3 January 2017


Treating myself to a big game as I haven't played for a couple of months. Started off with a low ridge going diagonally across the board with high ground in the other corners. Gaming cloth spread over, roads drawn  in the vallies and saddles and placed a river in a flood plain and a village, which I decided the French were going to defend. A back lane was chalked in as a possible outflanking route and a few pillboxes & casemates scattered about for fun.

Bétonville from the South.

One of the lengths of Fat Frank's road (which were an unexpected Christmas present from Robert of 2D6 Wargaming) was used as the cobbled high street, blended with the dusty country roads a bit at the ends with the oil pastels.

French defensive positions

Sufficient platoons of French infantry and penny packets of tanks were dotted about to cover the diagonal front with one or two in reserve, along with some AMRs. Another gift from Robert was a pack of his objective cards (available through Wargame Vault) which are an excellent tool for any wargamer, let alone solo player. Unsurprisingly, The French had to hold three buildings, one of which had to be the tallest, as well as destroying a Panzer troop.

German on-table forces

With the amount of French men and materiel on the ground, I plumped for light and medium Panzer companies (somewhat under strength as I can't be arsed with all those Panzer Is) and succumbed to the temptation of SiG33, BunkerFlak & PanzerJäger SPGs with several platoons of Schützen and motorised infantry following on. As luck would have it, their objective cards called for the destruction of a tank troop, infantry platoon & AT battery.

Softening up

While the cavalry, recce and light Panzer company cross the flood plain, the BunkerFlak concealed in the woods target Casemate Nord at a range of 350m and the French 75s, just visible to the spotter for the off-table 105s, come under some nasty counter-battery fire.

Medium Panzers & PanzerJägers on table

The 88s make depressingly short work of the blockhouse and turn on the S35s who are shooting particularly badly but are under orders not to fall back without making a few kills. 80mm mortar rounds begin plunging down onto the Panhards on the high ground.

The art of Crossfire

The French cavalry tanks and armoured cars finally get some good kills as the Panzers press on through the crossfire (dropping to a morale level of 45%) towards Pillbox 3 and a 47mm AT position.

Mobile reception

AMR33s arrive from HQ to help stem the oncoming Feldgrau hordes streaming between the woods but the Kradschützen hook around the last wood, heading for the French rear area.
Back Lane

The French field artillery reposition themselves down the back lane in the path of the mauled Panzers with an infantry platoon to look after the flanks.

Very clean & shiny FCM36s emerge from under the tree canopy

Spewing blue smoke from their cold engines, the FCM36s block Rue du Pont like geta lumbering mechanical tortoises, to allow the Panhards to fall back. With their spotter moving up, the German 105mms begin shelling the village.

Motorised infantry are hastily despatched to aid the Panzer IIs peppered by grenade shrapnel.

SPGs rumble forwards

Sole survivor of his troop and possibly rattled by the howitzer rounds detonating all around him, the S35 CO can't seem to hit the oncoming 13mm steel barn doors.

The FCM36s, angling 40mm glacis plates away from the closer in Panzer IIIs, plink away with impunity at the hapless German tanks, helped by a 25mm AT gun and Hotchkiss HMG who is particularly adept at finding vision blocks. The Aufklärungs companie skirt the area while trying to find a weak point in their sector.

The advance is in full swing

8-rads on the skyline!

German armoured cars probe the upper meadows, protected from the FCMs by the slope of the hill, hoping to outflank the strongly defended wood.

All quiet on the Western flank...

Motorcycle madness

Rebuffed by the French in the wood, the Kradschützen are further harried by the AMR33s & R35s. A lone PzB38 team acts as rearguard.

Fox cubs caught in the open

Shaken by their earlier casualties, the motorcycle troops cannot advance any closer. As they try to rally, French cycle troop reserves and the last remaining AMR push them off the edge of the battlefield.

'Surprise butt sex' for the Panzer commander

The Somua emerges from the tree canopy and gets the Panzer company commander in the rear but is one-shotted by the PanzerJägers to his right.

Ferme de Colline

1st Schützen platoon take the farm on the high ground and the assault on Bois Centrale begins.

Pretty woodland scene

But after 25 moves, the Germans have only destroyed three penny packets of tanks and armoured cars, at a cost of triple the amount of hardware to themselves. It is true that nearly all the SPGs have survived to support the as yet uncommitted infantry and Bétonville will be taken eventually but the German advance has unfortunately not gone as swiftly as was demanded.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Vallées Boisées

Testing the Enemy Generator rules today, which grew out of my thinking about how to do 'blinds' for solo players.

The concept so far as I have taken it, is that the solo player picks his force and simply makes his way across the table from the starting edge to the opposite side or alternatively, towards any objectives. Initially there are no enemy units on-table but there are also no blinds or tokens of any sort, so the solo player is essentially exploring a landscape devoid of any known threats or clues.

I hate to use the term but it's a kind of pop-up WW2 skirmish game, if you will.

My army selector charts obviated the decision about what 'friendly' units to use (which is what I call the starting forces of the 'active' initial side):

Motorised Infantry Platoon
  • CO group; 2" mortar; Bren
  • 3 x NCO group; rifle group; Bren
  • 4 x Bedford OY trucks
Medium Cruiser Squadron
  • HQ: A13 Mk II; A9 CS; 3 x Mk VIB
  • 3 A9
  • 3 A13 Mk I
  • 3 A13 Mk II

4 x 47mm AT & Renault UE Carrier

[My light cruiser squadrons are A9s & A13 MkIs and my heavy squadrons are A13 MkIIs and A10s, none of which existed in those combinations, strictly speaking. Confusion prevalent in France at the time and tank availability allows some artistic licence.]

Ground scale was increased from the usual 1" = 100m (which I had used since my WRG 1925-1950 days), to 1½" = 100m, a slight increase for aesthetic reasons. Entry point was diced for, conveniently enough where there was a road. I immediately decided there should be a safe zone of 1,000m to get the 'friendlies' away from the table edge, so the leading MkVI tanks would get to the farmstead before I started dicing for enemy units.

No enemy were immediately rolled on leaving the farm courtyard. First contact came in a battering of 20mm cannon from the treeline to the right where a detachment of SdKfz 222s & an 8-rad were lurking. One MkVI brewed up and the others sped off, a PzIVD troop generating in the wood round the corner as they approached. The German armoured cars backed off... the cruisers fanned out across the fields. Only the speed of the light tanks saved them from the point blank Panzers' guns.  

The tougher A13MkIIs squared up to the PzIVs manoeuvring in the village back gardens and other cruisers attempted a pincer movement: A9s struggled up onto the high ground on their and the A13MkIs followed the trail of smashed saplings in the wood. Meanwhile, the armoured cars had circled around in the dead ground behind the hill crest.

Taking care not to expose any more than their turrets, the cruisers nearing the top of the ridge find their way barred by enemy infantry.

The A13s now on 'round hill' and the PzIVs slug it out at 500m; an A9 on the ridge lurches to a halt, surprised by a Panzer IV nestled in the bracken at the foot of the slope. Luckily for the British tankies, no enemy are spawned in any of the areas of concealment to the right of 'round hill' or towards the village.

A Feldwebel began to lead a section in a sneak attack around the back of the A9s.

Some good shooting from the British cruisers despatched the outnumbered and wavering Panzers to their Valhalla.

[The morale markers are 20mm clear counters from Patriot Games in Sheffield, the same place I got the 16mm green ones that I used to use and the 12mm counters in a multitude of colours for reaction and other markers (eg: pink = shaken). They are excellent people to deal with, especially if you have odd requests. The new ones are a bit bigger so easier to write on and being clear, they disappear on the table quite well].

Convinced they would get some of the AT guns facing the opposite way, the 8-rad commits himself to his surprise attack but the French gunners get the drop on him.

Partially idyllic scene.

End exercise

The enemy generator rules worked exactly as anticipated. The Germans were simply unlucky in repeatedly not spawning anything in the South East of the table in spite of the two A13 troops well within spotting distance of some good hidden positions.

Some possible tweaks:

  • Like-for-like AFV units: When triggered by infantry platoons, or gun and AFV troops, enemy will probably spawn in 'penny packets' but in squadrons when faced by such. This will quickly bring parity of forces and might push the friendlies onto the defensive.
  • Trigger roll adjustments depending on parity of forces: greater chance of enemy generation if outnumbered, less if they become more numerous.

Saturday, 27 August 2016


I needed a tabletop layout as a basis for my introductory video on the 6mm France 1940 YouTube channel and had recently seen one with a canal centrally featured.

The hill shapes gave me high ground to the North and something of a flood plain to the South.

There were a number of crossing points over the canal as well as the silted-up part to the East, with a natural stream (traversable with care by most units) around the South of the town. The bridges were set for demolition by the Allies but I decided later that only a random number of them will detonate correctly as the German forces approach. All woods were 'open'.

(Sharp-eyed readers might notice the Panhard 178s in their old positions before I decided the marshy area was fordable.)

As the 222s neared Pont à l'Ouest, only the two Easternmost bridges directly in front of the German advance crumbled in the ensuing explosions. I decided the German CO was going to be a bit contrary and have the schwerpunkt over towards the marsh. 

The concealed 18 pdr (top right in the wood by the Pont du Marais) gets a Pz 38t long shot kill. This was unfortunately not to be repeated very often as the Panzers rolled down the open ground.

German cavalry filter through the trees like some kind of modern day mechanized timberwolves, on the hunt for prey. The 18 pdr by the pillbox plugs away at the advancing Panzers.

Various standing orders were in place in the event of certain bridges remaining intact. However, this resulted in a great deal of confusion with radio problems when new orders were issued. The briefly incommunicado Renaults began acting on their standing orders (for a couple of turns before comms was restored) and infantry with fresh instructions, were intermingling in opposite directions and seemingly with conflicting or false orders.

Medium mortars zero in on the plucky field gun crew 

Armoured cars lay down suppressing fire on the South bank to the West.

Panzers pour through the gap and the dismounted cavalry sneak into the marsh. French infantry fan out into the fields, their Hotchkiss tanks "hurtling full pelt" around the back of Horseshoe Wood.

The 2 pdr, H39s and second French platoon move towards fallback positions.

The Panhards are overrun but not before their 25mm cannons take out some Panzers first. The H39s fall back losing one tank for two and the R35s with a commanding view from near the wood pick their flank shots.

At the other side of the battlefield, suppressing fire from the 222s and platoon MG34s enables the riflemen to cross the canal but with some losses from the pillbox Vickers.

The Carrier Platoon drops back to it's 2nd position. The German HQ arrives in the area (after taking a wrong turn) to boost morale.

The German advance in the East slows in the deadly crossfire. Round after round of 2 pdr & 37mm AP slams into the Panzers.

Overlooked from two places of high ground on both sides and their morale shaken, the Germans cannot make any headway across the stubble field.

The view across town

Stubble field of destruction

Final Positions

In the West, the Carrier Platoon and a 47mm AT gun pretty much hem in the German advance on that flank; on the other side of the battlefield, insufficient room to manoeuvre has trapped the Panzers into a crossfire zone, the Allies falling back all too effectively into dominating positions. 

Unit movements

There was a lot of terrain on the board as I had only laid it out for visual effect initially. Then the restrictive nature of the canal crossing made the game even more claustrophobic for the Germans who would have benefited greatly from having even only one artillery battery of any calibre available.