Sunday, 24 April 2016

City Blocks, 2: windows & doors

It's a horrible job trying to paint windows & doors neatly on plain wooden blocks.

I reckoned the easiest way (other than a template) would be to stamp window reveals and door openings onto the wooden building shapes then I would have something a bit 3D.


Mk1
The Mk1 range of architectural stampers consisted of plasticard window shapes superglued onto an old flat bracket in a line so I could stamp one vertical column of windows in one go without having to do a lot of lining up. But it was all very well having them in the middle of a good bit of metal but it was impossible to see if they were in line. 

There was a Mk1A for full height windows for single storey buildings but this was quite hard to impress on the wood due to the pressures needed.

Mk2 & Mk1A
A square doorknob spindle (only 1mm wider than the window shapes) was used instead which meant you could easily see how the plasticard bits were lining up with the other windows.



Mk3

The Mk3 stamper had a bit of plasticard big enough to be a door glued onto another part of the spindle to extend any of the windows down to floor level.




If you hit too hard (I was using a club hammer but gently), the pine would splinter a bit as the window shape was pushed in and also you cannot stamp windows & doors where there are knots in the wood or on the ends of the grain as the wood is just too hard. Hopefully any splintering might be hideable at the painting stage or put some flock on it like ivy. By some fluke I got a regular window arrangement all down some of the city blocks but it was easier to do them in coumns of 2, 3, 4 or 5 and then convert some of the lower windows into doors.

(fairly) Regularly spaced, square windows & doors

Then I started using the slightly rounded end of the spindle to make arched doors which actually looked slightly better than square ones. I gave up on doing chimney stacks for the time being as cutting the plasticard was fiddly but I'll keep an eye out for any suitable scrap as the roofs look bit plain otherwise and I really did want a lot of chimnies running down the apex of the roofs.

Off for some tins of spray paint tomorrow...

Sedan, May 13th 1940, 1: Scenario Research

All my games have been 'typical' battles as the terrain tiles did not lend themselves to recreating anything but an approximate setting for a real engagement. Now that I've got a nice gaming cloth and a selection of land forms to put under it, I've been on the lookout for a suitable battle.

Colonel Goutard's "Battle Of France" and Alistair Horne's "To Lose A Battle" are my staple reads for overviews of the invasion of France. Together, I think they give me enough information on actions in the campaign to be able to produce recognisable “based on” simulations without referring to unit unit histories (none from the French seem to have survived the war and probably this is just as well).

Working my way through chronologically, one of the earlier actions that took my fancy was the crossing of the Meuse at Sedan on 13th May.


An excellent find was "The Blitzrieg Legend" by Karl-Heinz Frieser which added more detail to this scenario (and the rest of the French campaign) and a fine map from which it was possible to imagine the area as it was in 1940 without the modern waterpark on one side of town and industrial area on the other shown on Google Streetview. Apart from enabling the gamer to see the lay of the land more less first hand, Streetview was very useful for finding landmarks and points of interest in the town which I will try and have on the gaming table for local colour. For instance, the rail line towards Bazeilles (built over when the waterpark was created) and crossing-keepers cottage or small halt at the main road; the Chateau Bellevue on the way to Frénois; the large cemetery above town on the SS Regt Großdeutschland approach; and the pretty Église Notre Dame above Wadelincourt. All good features to help get into the scenario

Approach route for SS Großdeutschland

SS Großdeutschland crossing point

Site of level crossing towards Balan

Chateau Bellevue near Frénois

Église Notre Dame, Wadelincourt

The battle was predominantly an infantry affair, which I think will be an unusual basis for a wargame, there normally being a dearth of foot troops in Kursk-like "typical" battle tank swarmings. Crossings were attempted at six points in the area as seen on the map, notwithstanding all bridges were blown by the French:

  • Donchery 2nd Pz Div Panzer, Schutzen & Kradschutzen Rgts
  • Isle des Iges 1st Pz Div Kradschutzen Rgt
  • Gaulier 1st Pz Div Schutzen Rgt
  • Sedan NW 1st Pz Div Grossdeutschland Rgt
  • Sedan SE 10th Pz Div Schutzen Rgt
  • Wadelincourt           10th Pz Div Schutzen Rgt

The first and last of those listed were unable to cross the Meuse because of covering fire from bunkers and enemy artillery shelling respectively. The 1st Pz Kradschutzen, although managing to get onto the Isle des Iges, were prevented from crossing the canal between Glaire and Villette until the division's Schutzen cleared the overlooking bunkers here and at Donchery from the rear. The two Schutzen regiments crossed at and followed the NW & SE edges of the town and went on to secure Frenois, Wadelincourt, the Marfee Heights and Cheveuges.

Isle des Iges across the Meuse

Casemate 104 near Donchery

The bridge in Donchery

The scaled down units I decided to use (which I hope will still preserve the feel of the battle) were thus:

GERMANY
  • Donchery heavy tank company + schutzen platoon
  • Isle de Kradschutzen platoon
  • Gaulier Schutzen platoon + StuG III + Bunkerflak
  • Sedan NW Schutzen platoon
  • Sedan SE   Schutzen platoon
  • Wadelincourt Schutzen platoon
  • Off-table Stuka flight, 105mm battery x2
  • Reserve          Schutzen platoon x2

FRANCE
  • Donchery (S bank) Foot platoon
  • Glaire Foot platoon
  • Wadelincourt-Frenois  Foot platoon
  • Numerous bunkers MG, MMG, HMG
  • Marfee Heights 75mm & 105mm battery
  • Off-table                          150mm batteries
  • Reserve Motorised infantry, light tank squadron

There are a few things I need to get done in the meantime:
  1. repaint old country houses & cottages and finish city apartment & office blocks and municipal buildings
  2. one or two French artillery batteries (in the past, I always assumed incorrectly that they mostly scarpered or did not receive any 'fire orders') which I could get away with 'off-table' but some ought to be on the Marfee Heights
  3. decide how I am going to model rivers
  4. get a load of railway track off Leven Miniatures
  5. make lots more hedge sections and flock my tree canopies
This will be an ongoing campaign series of battle recreations which will give my games a bit more structure than usual.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

La Ferme de Tisserand

In spite of being in the middle of painting new miniatures, repainting old ones, trying to tart up others without doing a complete rehash and making a new set of terrain as well as playing catch-up with painting buildings, I wanted to have a game using my new hills, cloth and what terrain I had.
Contours used

It's an imbalanced forces encounter battle where the protagonists are out to secure the area from randomly determined approaches. I diced for the forces as well, giving the Allies two tank squadrons (1 cruiser, 1 infantry) and two infantry platoons and the Germans, one motorcycle platoon, an armoured car platoon and then a PanzerJager troop and Bunkerflak battery (to 'up' the guns & support which was also rolled).

Starting points & initial orders

The wood canopies have not been painted & flocked yet but at least they are fairly organic coloured (if a little dried up and twiggy looking for May in France). I screwed small twigs in to keep the rubberized horsehair off the minis but they are massively oversized (if they were supposed to be actual tree trunks and you can be bothered to look that close). I'll probably use painted cocktail sticks eventually because they can be stabbed in without ripping any of the structure to bits and maybe glue them in place. I used fence sections as giving soft cover due to not having many bits of hedge. All woods were 'open'. Ground scale 1" to 100m.

The Kradschützen quickly passed through the mill area and secured the farm and soon afterwards, the 8-rads & Bunkerflak got into position on the high ground. Cruisers on each flank moved into the churchyard and onto the plateau with their infantry. German recce is spotted moving about near the mill.

(Green markers remind me that a unit has been spotted and light blue mean the unit (in this case, the Bunkerflak) is on overwatch)

Kradschützen observing Cruisers

As the Cruisers nose through the gravestones, the Bunkerflak open up at 750m, brewing up two tanks in the space of so many minutes. I nearly always forget about using smoke but this time I had no excuse having an A9 CS in the CHQ so it was despatched to blind the 88's. On the common to the South, the A13s and armoured cars continue on their collision course.

First contacts

As the CS tank struggles up Chapel Hill, the Kradschützen fan out into the nearby farm outbuildings, still not spotted by the oncoming Cruisers. The Bunkerflak, with no armour targets but suspecting an infantry attack, shell the churchyard to little effect.


The mixed SdKfz 232 & 222 unit has been informed of enemy movement in the direction of the small common. PanzerJagers trundle through the mill works.


There is a fierce exchange of fire between the 8-rads (hoping for a lucky shot) and the last A13 sheltering from the 88's behind the chapel who, one by one, picks the armoured cars off.

(The tree canopy was moved back a bit to make measuring easier here and the purple marker denotes 'shaken' morale status. The green marker has the unit morale score written on it when required)

The CS tank inexorably crawls up Chapel Hill. The assault on Hill Wood must wait for smoke to be laid. Kradschützen sneak into the farmhouse. Infantry in the churchyard begin to cross the open ground, unnoticed at that distance.


The battle of wits begins on the small common and the PanzerJagers continue down the lane, the Cruiser CHQ tanks as yet unobserved.


The 8-rads in the wood finally notice the enemy infantry heading their way but the last survivor is shot up by the Matildas, who then wheel to take on the Bunkerflak 88's.


The CS tank makes it to cover but the slower A10 is still grinding up Chapel Hill when the tank destroyers finally notice and swing around for snatched shots. With two misses and one hit, the Sqn CO is saved by 2mm of armour. Unbeknownst to the A10s, the German infantry is moving around to their rear in the hedgerows.


Back in the field, the 222s try to get the Cruisers to 'come on' but a 'hull-down' slogging match begins.

The A9 CS begins laying smoke on the treeline. Luckily for the Brits, the wind from the South East, is perfect. The last A13 pops smoke too in case it helps protect the Matilda Is as they clank past. The A10s line up on the SP guns who have done for their CO before he could get hull down and the MkVI switches flanks and triggers the infantry ambush.


Infantry lurks in the dead ground to the South as AP zings over the crest of the small common. The 2nd troop of Matilda Is at left rumble inexorably on towards the farm. Being crucial to the assault on Hill Wood, the Colonel steps up to bolster the morale of the CS tank.

Overview so far

Outgunned, the German armoured cars throw smoke and bug out.


The Czech guns on the tank destroyers turn their barrels toward the A10s who spot and kill an encroaching anti-tank rifle team.


The Bunkerflaks give up Hill Wood and try to change position.


The lone Cruiser in the churchyard takes careful aim on the receding 88 SP guns.


In the mad scramble to back away from the grenades of the Kradschützen, an A10 misses with both machine guns but his comrade rolls 3% against one of the SP guns.


The CS tank up on the hill tries to blind the PanzerJagers with smoke but here the wind direction is not as favourable. The Mk2 Cruiser down the lane is too slow in reverse and over hedgerows to escape even the very first grenade thrown.


In this case revenge is a dish served hot!


Looking a bit untenable for the Germans on this flank.


Matildas heading for the remaining PanzerJagers...


The Bunkerflaks were going to take up positions (if they had time, which is doubtful) in the treeline at the back of this picture but would have probably ended up smoked up again by the CS tank. Matilda IIs & A13s were closing in on the PanzerJagers & armoured cars. Eventually the Kradschützen would have probably been isolated in the farm but finally cleared out.

West to East

Final scene.

South to North

I expected it to be quite an unbalanced game but when I added the Bunkerflaks I assumed they would wreak carnage but when it came down to it there weren't that many long sight lines. Possibly they would have been better where they were ultimately headed for.

I suppose the Matilda Is did what it says on the tin: plod on at walking pace. However this meant they never fired a shot as they didn't even get close to the thick of it. Hard to imagine how they could be used to any great effect.

First time I thought to fire smoke; was rather useful, will do again!

The cloth washed well; the oil based pastels (roads, stream) came right off in a cold wash and the various spray coats of paint stayed on! No rule tweaks to speak of.

Game time: 6 hours 

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Tree Canopies, 1: Shaping Them Up

I am bored with the rubbery lichen I was using for woods as I only have two colours, a very Autumnal coppery brown and a light green. The former isn't applicable to the Continent in early May and lichen isn't even very practical.

Tank barrels and figures invariably get tangled up when lichen is lifted off the models and the stuff is starting to fall to bits anyway.

I didn't want individual trees on weighted bases or something denoting a wood but was very impressed with the efforts of gamers who have modelled the entire tree canopy which lifts off en masse to gain access to miniatures underneath.

The Mailed Fist's "Hungry Legions" game at Joy of Six 2015

The Terrain Tutor, among others, uses rubberized horsehair (used in upholstery), teased out into tree shapes and fitted to armature trunks for larger scales but I was pretty sure it would be cuttable into tree canopies for 6mm.

A visit to Graham Watson upholsterers in Sleaford netted a 30cm x 90cm offcut of rubberized horsehair for just a few quid. It's £4 for a 12" square on eBay!

Cut to shape
Cut off whatever shape you want for the wood. One side of the horsehair had a slightly denser look so this will be the underside as it won't snag miniatures as easily. I may even glue a sheet of card discreetly underneath.

Trim off corners















Then I trimmed and rounded off all the edges to make the top vaguely dome-shaped.



Cutting channels
Although the crown of the canopy was looking pretty good it was a bit too smooth and needed a few undulations. I tried gluing bits of horsehair onto the top but it looked like...there were some bits of horsehair glued on top. Instead I cut channels in from various angles to create the variations in growth that I wanted.

Cutting the undulations


Then smoothed out and rounded off all the flat cut edges once again. The canopies will be painted in some way and probably be flocked overall a darkish green with a lighter green on the upper areas for highlights.

Tree trunks will be removable tiny twigs from the garden (or possibly cocktail sticks) which could be inserted at an angle if the wood is going to be on a slope.




Tree canopies ready for decoration



City Blocks, 1: Roof Shaping

I was looking at my buildings thinking that they are all OK (at least they will be when they are all painted) for country farms, villages and towns but in Sedan and many other French cities you have long blocks of municipal buildings, hospitals and apartments and multiple occupancy blocks for small offices.

Avenue Phillipoteaux, Sedan

Avenue Georges V, Paris

So I routed the roofs off some wood offcuts using some bog standard bits from Toolstation and as a quick cheap fix to pad out a larger town I think there is potential.


I only had two router bits that gave a suitable profile, one at about 45° and another that gave a sort of domed hipped roof. I might even use some thinner wood to reduce the footprint of the buildings.

The plan is to find some metal bar with a square or rectangular profile to use as a punch for doors & windows and maybe make some porticos, dormer windows and chimney stacks out of plasticard. The cut ends of the wood will need some filling to hide the grain and some sanding overall as paint will raise and roughen the surface.

We'll see how I get on with them. I'll certainly need some longer buildings for the Sedan scenario I've been researching for a while.