These Italians are for East and North Africa in the early part of the war, covering 1940 and the first half of 1941. They provide a really interesting and challenging force with their unique organisational structure and tactical doctrine. They lack much in the way of tactical flexibility and are short on command assets. However, their organisation into two very large squads, each comprised of a powerful firepower elements and a strong manoeuvre squad makes them a very powerful force if well-handled.
As always, this list is a work in progress. If you see something we have missed then please do let us know.
November the 2nd saw a gathering of US gamers at Gigabites Cafe in Atlanta, Georgia, to celebrate the gaming life of our old friend Terry Haney. Lard Island’s representative on the scene, Mark Luther, send us the following report:
Terry was an early adaptor and advocate of the Lard philosophy. When I was looking for a set of WWII rules that seemed to have more of the confusion of combat, I came across IABSM. Because the rules seemed so foreign to the standard IGOUGO or ‘simultaneous’ phases that I’d played before, I put the word out that I was looking for a local player to run an introductory game. Terry and Chris consented to run a France 40 game at a now long gone FLGS and got me hooked on the way of the Lard.
Over the years I had the opportunity to game with Terry a few times. He played in a couple of my SP F&I and Seminole war games. I had the honor of playing in one of his Franco Prussian War games at his house. He was ever the gentleman and a great source of information.
Chris, who spent more time with Terry, had this to say:
“Terry was a very deliberate gamer. He gave plenty of thought behind his strategy and tactics. He loved to talk about the history of the troops that we commanded in miniature. He definitely had a love for the Pacific theater which stemmed from his father’s service as a hump pilot supplying troops in India and China. He was passionate about history and was a good friend.
So it seemed quite appropriate that we would fly the TFL banner locally for the first time at our Game Day to honor the man.
Two games getting ready to start. Bill running the Nappy Ship of the Line game with Greg, Brian, Steve and Eric. And Jim’s Korea air game in the back with Chris and Rob.
During the first session we had a nice looking Napoleonic Naval Game run by Bill Amick and Greg McCluskey.
Tim OÇonnor and his sons, Henry and Edward, ran a post Apocalyptic near future skirmish game.
Jim Schmidt ran a Korea War air game with Soviet flown MiG 15s against some USAAF F-86s.
The second session had a couple of TFL games. Chris ran a CoC game from his In the Name of Roma book.
Jim ran a fun Coastal Patrol game set in the Med in 1943. He ref-ed and ran the German convoy which was the target of a lot of Allied attention.
I entertained some folks with a Balloon Busting game of Wings of War/Glory set in 1916.
By the time the last session came up we were down to just a few diehards so Chris passed on his Desert game of Bag the Hun and played in my SP TSS game. It was based on the Lewinsvile scenario from his Coming Thunder book
We had a very nice turn out with at least 20 gamers. Some folks from north Georgia even came by a ran a SAGA game. Players came in from as far away as Murphy, NC and Columbus, GA.
And we also raised money for Cardiac Services Sibley Heart Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
We think Terry would’ve been happy to be honored with a fantastic day of great looking games and gaming by his buddies.
Chris has a nice write up on his blog:
And more on my flickr site:
(Flickr is best viewed by double clicking on the first picture and then hitting the next arrow).
Thanks to Mark for not only this comprehensive report, but also for organising the event. I can also report that Chris Stoesen was able to present Terry’s wife Sheryl with a copy of Chain of Command which contains a dedication to his memory as a staunch member of the Lardy community. Sherly sent a very kind message of thanks to us and, most generously, his Chindit forces for I Ain’t Been Shot Mum – a force I know he was very fond of due to his family connections, his father having dropped supplies to Chindits operating in Burma during the war. “El Tel” can be sure that his memory will live on here on Lard Island.
During the attack and subsequent actions of 1 LOAM. R. in the area of the village of BRETTEVILLE-SUR-ODON on the 16th July, this Officer showed outstanding gallantry, leadership and devotion in command of his Platoon. During the initial approach to high ground to the south of BRETTEVILLE-SUR-ODON, he displayed great steadiness and determination in keeping his men advancing in the face of enemy fire, although casualties were being suffered from well entrenched German forces. On advancing forward to clear the road for supporting armour to push through the enemy outposts the Platoon came under heavy and accurate small arms fire at short range. Lieut. ST CLAIR at once utilized his Platoon’s full fire power, gained the initiative and pushed on towards his objective. He showed the greatest determination in driving forward through the difficult and confusing wooded country and handled his Platoon weapons with exceptional dash and skill against an enemy well concealed and firing strongly. As enemy resistance became firmer, Lieut. ST CLAIR took the lead and advanced at the head of his force. Lieut. ST CLAIR saw a German Officer with a M.G. Team taking up a position about fifty yards to his front on the edge of a field. Lieut. ST CLAIR at once took five men and, without hesitation or regard for personal risk, rushed the enemy post. By his quick and bold action, this Officer undoubtedly removed a serious threat to his Platoon. Unfortunately, in the course of this action, Lieut. ST CLAIR was killed. His personal example was an inspiration to his men and maintained morale in the most difficult of situations.
So ended the military career (and, ahem, the life) of Lieutenant Sandy St Clair of the 1st Loamshire Regiment and with his demise ended our first Chain of Command campaign. It made for an intriguing story, as we watched his promising start fade away, his men begin to have worries about his abilities and then a complete collapse of confidence. This in turn led to the C.O. to begin to question his ability to command, and set us up for a final two games where Sandy was desperate to restore his good name. This led to some rash (some would say heroic) actions which ultimately ended in his untimely death. However, in that death he restored his name in the annals of the Regiment, as one can see from the medal recommendation submitted by Colonel Rawlinson. Did he get the Military Cross posthumously? In the end we didn’t want to know. The fact of his passing was a poignant moment in a campaign where we had all come to “know” the men involved. I think we’d rather presume he did.
The campaign provided us with an increasingly poignant tableau of events, at the core of which was the impact of war on the men involved. From a game perspective this added many different dimensions to our games. Issues which simply don’t appear in your normal weekly club game, fought in isolation, become paramount. At its most simple this makes us consider manpower losses from the long-term perspective rather than the false heroic. There comes a point in any game where it becomes better to surrender ground rather than lose more men.
But then one must add to the mix how that will sit with one’s commanding officer. There are times when there are additional pressures to stand (and die) if one is to maintain good relations with one’s superiors. But equally it is important to consider the opinion of the men when it is they who will be putting their lives on the line for your reputation in future.
In essence we have attempted to distil the key issues of command down into several component parts which may be tracked simply but together provide a result where the total is greater than the sum of the parts – specifically an accurate representation a platoon in action, with all of the stress points therein.
How Did the Campaign End?
In truth, we terminated our campaign in the Odon valley slightly early. The campaign scenario had a twelve game limit, the British had to achieve their objectives by that point or the Germans would automatically win. As it was we had reached a point where the British could at best secure a draw, but where their force was now much reduced, the platoon being commanded by the Sergeant. Most importantly, we had to take into account that whilst we were having fun, this campaign was a component part in the development and testing of the campaign mechanism and from that perspective it had done its job. So we ended it a few games early, secure in the knowledge that what had begun as a fist-full of ideas was now a robust system.
What Next? Bring me Sunshine…
Now we have the campaign system in place we are going to test it with a new campaign. This time set in the desert of North Africa. I’m going to be writing up a preview in the Christmas Special with all the nuts and bolts. Last night we had a warm up game to move the players from the rolling verdant close terrain of Normandy to the wide open spaces of the Libyan and Egyptian deserts. We rolled up our characters with some very interesting individuals emerging, but the prime concern of the evening was to allow the players to acclimatise to their new surroundings.
Whilst Nick and I played some very open terrain games in the playtesting of the main rules, this was the first time the players had experienced such terrain and, as viewers of our Twitter feed will have seen last night, it really was flat ground with broad sweeping fields of fire. Readers of historical accounts will recall how the veterans of North Africa initially found the terrain in Normandy a confusing conundrum. We had precisely that situation in reverse last night.
We very soon established that the desert is an unforgiving place to fight in. The German machine gun teams really come into their own when they are allowed very long fields of fire, and the British must be careful to play to their own strengths in order to counter this. To a very large degree, such open terrain creates a rarefied atmosphere in which tactical successes and failures are magnified in equal measure. The smallest error can have the most painful implications.
For the Germans, there is the imperative to follow the doctrine of the schwerpunkt. If they fall into the oft-seen wargaming trap of simply spreading their forces across the breadth of the table “because it’s there”, then they will leave themselves at the risk of being defeated in detail. However, if they pin with part of their force whilst concentrating effort at the critical point they will reap the benefit of their firepower advantage and ability to finish aggressively with a hail of grenades.
For the British, they must attempt to wrong foot the Germans. It is critical for them that they do not surrender the initiative by simply forming static defensive lines against which the Germans can manoeuvre. If they do that then the Germans can use their better firepower to destroy them in salami slices. The British must use the terrain to their best advantage. Unlike Normandy there will be a limited number of possible “quality” positions on the table. They need to ensure that in the patrol phase they can secure positions which will allow them to best cover potential German avenues of approach. This may well mean holding back and securing a smaller perimeter which is more defensible rather than spreading their jump-off points on a broad front where they can be targeted individually with little inter-connecting fire support.
With such positions secured, the British must carefully select support options to suit the situation. They will normally get decent support options as the German basic platoon value is +2 over the British, so that will allow some fairly generous choices to stiffen resistance. This selection should be focussed on support weapons which can break up the German cohesion in a defensive situation or provide mobile firepower in an attack. So that puny looking Bren carrier is potentially a game changer!
The diplomatic bag has just arrived on Lard Island with a report in from Neil, one of our Australian Ambassadors. He and Shane visited one of their local gaming stores, The Games Cube in Parramatta, New South Wales where Shane introduced two new players through the game while Neil had a bash with a return customer. We had two games on the go, one set on the western front with US Paras taking on some German Falschirmjaeger and the second set on the Eastern front with Russians taking on a German Grenadier platoon.
Neil tells us that the gaming group has really taken a shine to these rules, and he’s looking forward to them becoming a regular fixture on the gaming calender.
The Games Cube sounds like a cracking venue for gaming and browsing a wide range of products. Neil tells us that they have a wide range of miniatures from all of the leading brands, both historical and others. The hames tables are free to use most days and they have a considerable amount of scenery which gamers can use. You can read all about them on their web site: http://thegamescube.com.au/
We’re back on Lard Island after a superb trip to Antwerp in Belgium and the Crisis, the annual show run by the Tin Soldiers of Antwerp every November. As always we had a truly great time, with the joys of visiting this fantastic show – what for us is without doubt the BEST show in the annual calendar – combining with the fact that Antwerp is a really buzzing city with a great selection of historic bars and restaraunts.
To really put the icing on our cake (or Belgian Bun) the TSA judges very kindly awarded Chain of Command the award as the Best Participation Game award, a real feather in the cap for the rules. We played three participation games throughout the day, with action in the Western Desert in early 1941 as the Afrika Korps and 8th Army clashed around the Egyptian border. We got some superb compliments from the people playing the rules, so a great day all round.
To compliment Chain of Command, our chum and Lard Ambassador to the Court of St Alex, Wee Derek, was present with his chums from the South East Scotland Wargames Club demonstrating the forthcoming Raiders supplement to Dux Britanniarum which covers the Picts, Scotti and Irish. Dux Britanniarum is tremendously popular in Belgium and much interest was raised as the hairy wild men of the north took to the table. Naturally that’s the figures we’re talking about. Not the blokes in the photo!
Smashing as the award was, for us the highlight of the weekend was seeing old friends, many of whom come to the show from right across continental Europe. It is a true Mecca for the wargamers of France, Holland, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain and Britain as well as the local Belgian gamers and this always shows in the quality of the games present and the polyglot nature of the traders. If you haven’t yet been to Crisis you really do need to add it to your wish list of things to do; the friendliness of the show means that people come back year after year to enjoy what we think is a really uniquely friendly environment.
So, many thanks to the Tin Soldiers of Antwerp and our chums in Euroland for making our weekend so enjoyable.
Incessant rain in St Albans has meant that my Perry 8th Army are still naked as the day they were born; not even an undercoat applied. So, rather than waster time I cracked straight on with Jerry in the shape of the Afrika Korps figures.
As the reader may have spotted during my piece on the 8th Army, I went through something of a transformation in the way I viewed making these plastic figures, and that certainly affected the way I approached this project. Whilst I did keep thinking “I should really log the time taken to do this”, in truth I failed totally to do that. Why? Well, because when I began making the Brits I was treating it as a time and motion exercise and weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of plastic when compared to metal figures. This time, I just had fun making the figures. Who cares about time spent when you’re having fun?!
Yes, I had recognised the real advantage of plastic, and that is the variety which can be achieved with this medium. So once again I set out to create a unique platoon with quite a few “conversions” to make it different. Now, as stated before, I am NOT a military modeller, so don’t be looking for kit bashing of the extreme form, but I had discovered that I can put half of one arm with half of another with relative ease and that was sufficient to make some really varied toys. For example, the German Pioneer team I made with British arms, so they have their sleeves rolled up for a bit of hard graft. The 50mm mortar team and the PzB39 AT rifle team were, like the Brits, made both prone firing and standing moving. The sniper was again made using the end of a Bren barrel for a scope.
What I did learn was that I am using the wrong glue. Apparently some plastic kits work well with one glue, others with another. In the end anything that fell off I just whacked back in place with some superglue. Job done.
Things I liked in particular. Well, the ability to provide each MG team with two ammo carriers was great. In metal one seems to get the obligatory single ammo carrier, which is nowhere near enough for the greedy MG34. I liked the fact that as these are modelled as early Afrika Korps I can have plenty of them in the solar topee as opposed to other headwear. The fact that I can kit bash any amount of support options from the Chain of Command lists is an absolute God-send. Indeed you’d think that the figures were tailor made for Chain of Command with their contents being structured i an historical manner, reflecting the rules perfectly. And then there is VARIETY. Nuff said on that.
What didn’t I like. I still worry about the robustness, but I might be dead next week, and I have always lived for today anyway so why worry about what might happen. My ACW plastics, also from the Perrys, have been robust enough and saw some heavy duty service around the shows, so I am obliged to give them the benefit of the doubt on that one.
Heft. My old chum Henry at Miniature Wargames Battlegames has had much to say about the criticism of plastics when it comes to weight. He makes the excellent point that what on earth does weight have to do with wargames figures, and my own experience has been that when playing with plastics or metals it is the game that matters, not what the figures are made of. My only nod in this direction has been to base the individual soldiers on pennies, tuppenny bits for the leaders, so that they are bottom heavy. The Perrys’ actually provide some very nice plastic bases which are roughly penny size, but I went with coins.
Size. They don’t I am told, fit with other ranges. Well, that is not an issue for me as I am doing all of my desert forces with this range, so that isn’t an issue. I do not need my Afrika Korps and 8th Army to fit alongside other makes as this theatre is discrete and separate from what was happening in Europe, so this is not an issue for me. I am also of a mind that men are different shapes and sizes anyway, so if figures differ slightly in size then so what? Again, as soon as the game begins you should be immersed in the story which unfolds.
All in all I can report that I am very pleased with these so far. My opinion of them has changed as a result of this process, to the point where I would certainly recommend them for Chain of Command. Don’t think about saving pennies, just think about how your force will be unique and you can get a whole load of supports perfect for the rules with very little effort. I have plenty of spare parts now, so as I get additional support weapons I can make the crew from these. All I need to do now is paint them and get playing!
Just in at Lard Island News is a bit of a scoop from our New York correspondent, Jon Davenport. Jon and his gaming group have been enjoying a bit of Dux Britanniarum in his superbly equipped basement gaming room. They sent us this report of their latest game when they reconvened after a summer recess.
The Next Chapter in the Annals of Civitas Novo Eboracum: All Along the Watchtower
After spending some months recovering from his losses at the Battle of Pandemonium, gathering new warriors to his banner, Supefluous has sent a patrol eastwards from lands of King Caractacus, Y Mae ei Merched a Basiwyd Gan [Whose Ladies had just passed by], to see why no attack has come from the Saxons over the summer. Having failed to find any Saxons, only burnt out and abandoned Romano-British settlements and a wandering churchman, Pius, the patrol has just crossed the ford back into friendly territory to re-join the rest of Superfluous’s band at the watch tower at Tir Wraig Trydan. The men have struck up a song of rejoicing when, all of a sudden …
A long day’s march to the east Hectic, the Saxon chieftain, had heard that Britons were abroad in the land he had wrested from their fathers. There was little for them to find other than burned homesteads and empty land awaiting the new settlers expected across the Grey Sea any day. Still, Hectic – always swift to anger – could not countenance such a trespass and, gathering his warriors and henchmen, Heretic and Septic, and his champion, Pubic, about him, he set off towards the setting sun to punish these Britons. Moving swiftly to cut off the patrol, the Saxons stealthily crossed the River Wrin, that separated their lands from the Britons’, near the watch tower at Tir Wraig Trydan, which they believed the Britons were making for, and hid to observe the foremost post of the Britons. Who knows, a small force might be led by a Briton of distinction – one who might be ransomed for a pretty sum. Wait, do you hear someone singing “Sospan Fach”?
And so we began our next game of Dux Britanniarum – after a long lay off during the summer as I have been travelling way too much. We decided to play the Raiding a Border Tower scenario as I had just completed the 4Ground Roman watchtower which I thought looked rather splendid . We did this straight from the book – although we set up the table without dicing at random and added a wandering churchman whom the patrol has rescued from Saxon territory. The forces were, as last time with the following characters in charge: The Saxons – Hectic (III, 26, Average Build, Honourable, Wodenborn; Heretic (II, 28, Tall and Strong, Lustful, Wodenborn); Septic (24, Average Build, Iron Liver, Wodenborn) and Champion, Pubic; The Romano-British – Superfluous, the Last of the Romans (III, 22, Tall and String, Dutiful, Exile); Rictus (II, 21, Short and Wiry, Devout, Son of an Honestiore); Crapulus (II, Tall and Strong, Constitution of an Ox, Exile) and Champion, Acrimonius.
In our previous game Howard and Roger had commanded the Saxons and Tom and Dennis the Romano-British so, for this exchange we swapped around although, as Roger couldn’t make it, I took Superfluous’s part. The Romano-British rolled a 5 and the Saxons rolled a 6, bringing the two forces into almost immediate contact. On that basis, once the dice for arrivals had been made that the result was a foregone conclusion and all the Saxons had to do was turn up.
There are two fords below the tower of Tir Wraig Trydan and Crapulus, with his patrol of warriors with the monk, Pius, took the right hand, still keeping up a quick pace and singing their battle song to celebrate their return without loss.
No sooner, though, had the patrol broken the wood line by the stone of the Old People that marks the ford but, from the treeline away to their right came a mighty roar as the Saxon host burst from the trees. Each Briton ceased his song and took a firmer grip on his shield and on his sharp spear. In crossing the ford Crapulus’s two groups became separated and could not form a shield wall, instead, the brave Britons of the first group turned to face their attackers the first of whom, an elite group, can bounding towards them.
Superfluous, the Last of the Romans, and the rest of his force could only look on in dismay as, or so it seemed, Crapulus and his men would be butchered before their eyes before they could intervene.
On the Saxons came, baying for British blood, hammering steel-tipped spears shafts on their shields, barking their guttural cries and taunting their foes.
Crapulus and his men, crouched and braced and waited for the tide to break. They hurled their javelins into the oncoming Saxons, who faltered just a second, before rushing on ands the two groups clashed. And God was with Crapulus!
In the initial clash, two Britons fell and only one Saxon but the Saxons, not expecting such resistance were massively shock and as swords and spears and shields of the two groups rang again in combat, again the Saxons were shocked, losing another man and losing, in an instant, the amphora of their courage.
Shocked that their best troops had failed in such spectacular fashion the whole Saxon force shuddered and, despite the calls to their gods, the morale of them all shrank from the cold steel of the Britons now hot with Saxon blood. The Saxon elite fled from the field and Septic, his face flushed with shame, ran with them.
In a disjointed fashion, the remaining Saxons under Hectic’s goading tried to assault Crapulus and his men but the respite given by Septic’s ignominious failure gave Crapulus enough time to pull his second group, with Pius, out of the trees to face the second onrush of Saxons. Also, the alarm had been raised at the tower of Tir Wraig Trydan and Superfluous, the Last of the Romans, was leading his men down onto the flood plain of the river to assist his liege man, Crapulus.
This advance prevented Hectic massing his men against the patrol as he had to send men to oppose Superfluous. He decided to take his own elites, a group of warriors and his archers to face these Britons as he could see that most of them were poor levy who had already banded together in a hasty shield wall. He could also see Superfluous’s standard and his household and champion but he knew that these hearthguard would not deign to stand in a wall with mere levy.
Again Hectic’s confidence was misplaced as again his warriors could not shake Crapulus nor the courage of his men. Again Crapulus defied him.
Again Hectic’s warriors failed and in his rage and desperation Hectic gathered his hearth guard, the follows of his mead hall; the his champion; and his standard bearer about him and flung himself – biting the edge of his shield in his wrath – directly at Superfluous and his hearthguard. Three brave warriors of each side went down under the blades of their foes but again it was the Saxons who were shocked – mightily shocked – while the Britons shrugged off their losses and stepped over their dead to advance on the Saxon. But the Saxons would not stand and they recoiled before the anger and the rage of the Britons, the hearts of every man falling into his boots at the sight of Hectic, their chief, running before the British sheep.
Again, the cheeks of the Saxons glowed red with shame and tears of frustration and, dare it be said, fear sprang from every Saxon eye where before there had been only the gleam of anticipated victory and riched. And the shame was multiplied a thousand-fold as the war song of the Britons rang in their ears:
“Sosban fach yn berwi ar y tân
Sosban fawr yn berwi ar y llawr
A’r gath wedi huno mewn hedd.”
And so ended our second game of Dux with this group with Saxon defeat out of certain victory. Truth be told, the Saxons had had some rotten luck with their dice, killing Britons but failing to inflict much, if any shock, whereas the Britons were able to match with number of dead Saxons but inflicted many more shock in every combat – including five against none in the final melee between the two leaders with their elites. The other problem the Saxons had was over-confidence and, as a result, they failed to coordinate their attack on the patrol as they assumed they would win – frankly, so did the Britons – and they didn’t think they needed to.
In campaign terms, the Saxons would probably not have made the last charge but it really was a bit of frustration from Tom which fitted very well with the character of the game.
This game really demonstrates the genius of Dux Britanniarum as both sides assumed it was a question of when, rather than if, the Saxons would complete their victory as would have been the case with standard IGOUGO, fixed movement rules. Instead, the Britons were better able to organise and to defeat the Saxon attacks in detail. On top of which, everyone had a fantastic time.
Honours must go to Howard as Crapulus who brought his patrol home safely and defeated the best of the Saxon army in the process.
We’ll be doing it all again in a couple of weeks.
“Ah, good morning Sergeant McKie, thank you so much for coming. Please stand easy. In fact, sit down man, this isn’t official, just an opportunity for a chat while Lieutenant St Clair is away getting that nasty bump seen to”
“I’d prefer tae stand sir, if I may, sir”.
“Of course, of course. But please feel free to smoke”.
Colonel Rawlinson looked at the young Glaswegian. What was going on in his mind. Just how much of the truth would he get from this notoriously tight lipped young NCO.
“So McKie, tell me, in your own words what happened.”
“Well sir, I cannot rightly say how things developed at first. Mr St Clair was very keen to lead from the front, and as such he left me back with the reserves to begin with. What I do ken, is that when I went forward with Bairstow’s section…”
“Aye sir, he was Davis’ Lance Jack. I’ve had my eye on him, he’s a good soldier. Yorkshireman. A dour fellow, and nae too interested in standing his corner in a roond, but a good soldier at that. When Stoney went into the bag I suggested to Mr St Clair that we put him in charge of 3 Section. They’re largely the replacements we got in two days ago, and a couple of the old lads back from yon infirmary, sir”.
“Ah yes. Carry on”.
“Aye, well, when I came forward I could see Mr St Clair trying to get his men to move forward down the slope to the road. I dinnae think they were terribly keen if I may be so bold sir.”
“Bold as you like Sergeant. It’s the truth I’m after!”
“I could see Joey Capstan and his lads on the hedgeline up the hill. They were exchanging fire with some Jerries right across the valley. They were nae getting too badly shot up, but I could see they were not getting the best of it.
I told Barstow to move tae support Mr St Clair, but then we were ordered to join Capstan on the hedgeline and engage the enemy across the valley. Mr St Clair said he’d gae on wie just Davis and his men, sir.”
“May I ask sergeant, how far away were the enemy on the flank, the ones with whom you were ordered to exchange fire.”
“About 200 yards sir”
“And were they an immediate threat to the flank of the attack?”
“Well, they were on our flank, but the country was largely open ground. They could’nae have advanced without getting shot to bits. As far as I could see it was just a few men with a machine gun. sir“
The Colonel paused, taking in the information. His brow furrowed. He packed his pipe from a small leather pouch, carefully tamping down the wad of tobacco before lighting it with a match. He sucked violently, encouraging the match to flare up as the tobacco caught. For a moment his attention was entirely on the pipe, then it took. Satisfied, the Colonel exhaled and then sat back in his chair.
“So, let me get this right Sergeant. Mr St Clair seems to have planned to push forward towards the road, presumably with a view to find a route through the enemy outposts. Would you say that was correct? It was certainly what he was ordered to do!”
“Aye, I would say that was the case, sir.”
“And at the same time he diverted two sections to exchange fire with a distant enemy.”
“That is so sir.”
“And this, presumably, was when Lieutenant St Clair ran into the main Jerry position?”
“Yessir. He shouted back for the Wasp to move up and give the Germans something to think about while he moved forward to keep them pinned in position. The problem is that the wasp had no sooner gone through the gate into the open field than a bloody great explosion tells us that Jerry has ambushed it with a bazooka, sir.”
“And Mr St Clair was now rather exposed. Tell me sergeant, what would you say he ran up against on the road?”
“I’d say two Jerry full sections. Dug in probably. They certainly made mincemeat out of Davis’ section. I could see men falling, and I saw Davis himself try to get the Bren back in action when that went down. But it was nae good sir”
“And this was when Mr St Clair was seen to fall?”
“Aye sir. I cannot say that the wee man lacks bravery, for he was rallying his men when we saw him fall.”
“And what happened then sergeant?”
“Well, it is difficult to say sir.”
“Oh, come now sergeant, you were there, from what I hear you were less than fifty yards away, let us have the truth man. Out with it!”
“Davis and his men broke sir. What was left of them turned and fled back to the hedge where I was standing, sir. Ye cannae blame Davis sir, it was run or die! I’d hae done the same.”
“And Mr St Clair?”
“He was still down sir. He’d fallen back from the hedge away from the road. I’d not say that Jerry could see him. Well, that was when Private Theakstone ran forward. He was yards from me, sir, but on the other side of the hedge. He ran thirty yards, and three of his mates followed him. If I may be honest sir, I was about to signal for a general withdrawal. I’m afeared to say that rescuing Mr St Clair was not my main thought at that time. I believed that to risk the lives of any more men of the platoon would be wrong. However, Theakstone took matters into his own hands, and it is due to him that Mr St Clair is now in the care of the MO and not a Prisoner, sir.”
“Have you spoken to RSM McGilliculley about this?”
“I have sir”.
“And your recommendation?”
“I recommended only that his actions should be recognised, sir.”
“Sergeant. I must be frank. From what I hear Mr St Clair could not be described as a popular officer. Some would say, unfairly of course, that the platoon may have been better off if Private Theakstone had not done what he did. Would you not agree Sergeant McKie?”
“Aye, some may say that sir.”
The Colonel paused, sucking on his pipe as though the tobacco aided the crystallisation of his thoughts.
“I don’t suppose the men are happy?”
“No sir. They are not.”
“Well, I am sorry McKie. I can tell you that I have my eye on Mr St Clair and I will do all I can to assist you and your men. You know you’re going to have to go back and try again. Let me see if I can’t get you a bit of support which will make things a bit easier for you. Mr St Clair will be back with you within a few hours. He’ll be commanding the platoon, as before, but I am relying on you to do all you can to keep up morale. Let the chaps know that I am looking favourably on Private Theakstone’s actions and will be submitting my recommendations to the top brass. I can do no more than that.
You’re a young man McKie, the youngest Sergeant in the Battalion by a country mile. If you continue to do your duty as you have done then you must be aware that it will not go unnoticed. I’m relying on you, understand? I think that’s all. Dismissed.”
“Very good sir.”
Sergeant McKie saluted, turned smartly and left the small front room of the French farmhouse which served as Battalion HQ.
Colonel Rawlinson drew on his pipe and watched the smoke as it trickled from the corner of his mouth and dispersed in the direction of the blackened fireplace.
“No Sergeant McKie.” he said to the empty room “It is not very good.”
This was a real milestone game in our campaign. The British defeat here means that they no longer have sufficient time to achieve their primary objective. The best they can do now is to take and hold their black line objective; that for the first phase of the operation, the German front line positions. In historical terms this is still important, putting pressure on the German defences here will draw reserves from elsewhere when the operation may be going better. From a campaign game perspective this will still allow the British the chance of a draw now that outright victory has alluded them.
What the game really showed was that to win one must develop a plan and then adhere to that. It is very easy to be side-tracked by events, and in this game the German deployment of a single weakened section on the hill across the valley – a deployment which I though highly questionable when it was made – was successful in drawing two thirds of the British force into a long range fire-fight which was never going to reach any conclusion other than to tie down troops who elected to become thus engaged.
Had the British foregone their ridge line and pushed all three sections down with Lieutenant St Clair then the Germans would have had only two under-strength squads to counter an advance by three sections with a Wasp in close support. As it was their two squads ended up facing one British section and, with the superior German firepower, they literally tore the British to shreds.
From a campaign perspective St Clair’s men are deeply unhappy. The Lieutenant is approaching the point where he should be fearful of his life, and it is unlikely that Private Theakstone will get much thanks from his mates for rescuing such an unpopular platoon commander. In truth, St Clair was already at the point (just) where the campaign rules say that his men would abandon him in such circumstance; however, our British player, Sidney, could not make last night’s game, and in such a situation, with other chaps running his team for him, I felt it unfair to kill off his primary character in his absence, so I bent the rules and St Clair lives on. Next time there will be no such hesitation on my part.
St Clair’s reputation with the C.O. has now reached a point where the level of support his platoon will get is reduced by one list. The C.O.’s opinion of his subaltern is nowhere near as bad as what the men think of their officer, but he has a different perspective on things, being more focussed on raw results. However, it isn’t a good place to be.
The men are very unhappy, and this is really affecting the force morale. We saw that in this game, with the British having just a 1 in 6 chance of starting the game with a morale of 9, and a 5 in 6 chance of starting at 8. This isn’t a total disaster, but it isn’t great. Starting with a low morale means that force will lack the “stickability” it really needs. It also means you cannot take chance, you simply MUST plan and then work through the phases to achieve your goal. We need to see more of that from the British. Much more in fact.
As for Sandy? Well, poor old Sandy seems to be on a bit of an emotional downward spiral. His anger of last week has now turned to self-pity. Not a great place to be. What has been interesting has been to see the reactions of the players to the characters. On the one hand Sandy is seen as a bit of a Jonah, a bad luck charm, but on the other people are genuinely wanting the poor old sod to succeed. The best way to describe the mood table is to think of a dartboard. Characters begin in or around the bullseye and then move about north, south east or west according to the game results. As long as you stay inside the trebles you should be pretty stable and fine. Sandy is now out around double 8 and not having a good time at all.
On the German side, the unflappable Kellerman remains firmly relaxed. Interestingly whatever his results, win, lose or draw, Kellerman’s mood has not changed at all. With the low casualties he has taken over the past few games his me are really appreciating his leadership. His C.O. is rather more neutral in his opinion, but Kellerman is certainly “In the right place”.
This was a review piece which, if I am honest, never got written. I make it my policy to be honest in my reviews, but if I cannot find anything good to say I take my mother’s advice when, as a child at her knee, she told me in her direct northern manner, “if you can’t find something nice to say Richard, say nothing at all”. After an hour and a half assembling the first ten men from the Perry Miniatures 8th Army plastic set I was far from having anything nice to say about anything. But hold a moment before dismissing this review, or indeed these figures, out of hand.
So fed up was I that the first ten figures sat on my “things to do shelf” for the best part of a month before I returned to them. I had bought my first box of these some months ago, and then at Colours I bought three boxes of Afrika Korps and got another box of Brits thrown in buck-shee. This is far more than I need for Chain of Command, but I had in my mind the opportunity to cut, shunt, and generally convert my way to having a completely unique platoon of chaps on both sides. And let’s face it, we all like unique.
Thus over supplied I dived in with, as mentioned, the Brits on the Sunday after I’d been to Colours with considerable enthusiasm which, as also mentioned, wilted as the temperature rose alarmingly due to the steam coming from my ears. Indeed it was only yesterday when I returned to my task, having cooled down sufficiently to have another go. To tell the truth it was a dismal rainy day and I was pretty down in the dumps anyway, I figured that it was unlikely this could depress me any further. And so, after a further three hours, I had completed all but four men to make the full platoon and I decided to end it there. My reasoning was that even I could face doing the final four blokes in the morning and then the filthy job would be done.
It was at that point the missus decided that she was going to watch some abomination on TV and, with little else I fancied doing, I returned to my desk to complete the final few figures. Now, I am not sure what happened, but as part of the process I had suffered thus far I had picked up a few techniques which, all of a sudden, seemed to be working where before they had not. The key one being that I had sussed out how to use the glue (more on that later) and this allowed the figures to now go together rather more easily than before. Indeed, I finished the last four figures very rapidly and looked around for more to do. “Aha”, I thought, “that anti-tank rifle team lying down firing, I can make a version of that moving”, so I did, followed by the 2″ mortar team doing the same. The latter involved me cutting off one forearm just north of the wrist and attaching it to another upper arm similarly trimmed. All of the sudden I was feeling the love for what previously had been plastic abominations!
With the second box of British infantry barely started I now consulted the support lists for British infantry in the early desert. A medic, an FOO team, a sniper team, an Engineer team. Well, none of these were included in the box, but now what was before me was a box of endless opportunities. I removed the head of the radio operator and put that on the body of a kneeling figure. I found a couple of arms in my spares box from Tamiya 1:48th figures which had come (unwanted – I am NOT a Military Modeller) with a set of infantry which I had bought in order to harvest bits of kit with which to adorn my 1:50th scale Corgi vehicles, these fitted remarkably, even without much squinting at all, and from the same set I found a couple of pairs of binoculars, one of which went to the FOO officer, the other to the sniper’s spotter.
The medic found arms from the same source, as well as a medical bag. Later with green stuff I would convert his shirt to a “wooly pully”. The Perry box set contains plenty of spades and picks with which to arm any Engineers, and one figure I had one his knees with a bayonet, about to probe for mines whilst his shovel armed comrade looks on.
The sniper was simply the prone figure which is the base for the Bren gunner, the 2″ mortar and the Boys gunner/ I used a set of standard arms and then hunted for a scope, without luck. I then came to the conclusion that no bugger would be looking that closely, and cut the end off a Bren gun, turned it round so that the flared muzzle flash suppressor was at the sniper’s end, and stuck that in place. If I don’t tell anyone nobody will notice!
By the end of the evening I was sorting out the Afrika Korps boxes and planning my next foray into the world of plastic kits. At some point, unknowingly and unintentionally, I had experience an epiphany in the form of plastic soldiers. So let us see some of them. Here’s the platoon as a whole:
In detail we can see the Boys team with both prone and moving figures:
The 2″ mortar team similarly employed:
The FOO and the Engineer team. The grey plastic is 1:48th Tamiya. You can make your own mind up about fit. If when painted it looks odd I shall shove the radio operator in a clump of desert grass!
The Sniper team and medic:
And finally a snap of the platoon commander and his sergeant:
Here is a snap of the tools I used for the job.
I uses the hefty blade to remove the figures from the sprues. This was not an easy job and I broke one very sharp blade in doing so, only a minor cut resulting. So please note, this is not a job I would give to a youngster. I used the smaller blade to trim any bits and the pointy thing (technical term alert) to sculpt the green stuff. There was not much filling on any of the figures, but there was a bit on most. Clearly certain sets of arms have been sculpted to go with certain bodies, and if you go off-piste you can hit issues with fitting. However, this is only to be expected. If you are prepared to get the green stuff out and do some minor alterations then the world is your oyster. This is a HUGE plus for these figures, and plastic generally.
The glue you can see in the bottle is paint on stuff. I had never used this before but the bloke in the local model shop told me it was “the Rolls Royce of glues” and assured me it has caused more miracles than Christ and all of his apostles combined. And he lied! Yeah, it is a good glue, but it is not a cure-all. In the plastic modelling I had done in the past I had always used the bog standard Airfix type “cement” in a tube. It was always a messy result, so trying something new appealed. The trick with this stuff is, I learnt as I had nearly completed the platoon, is to paint both surfaces of the bits to be joined, leave it for 30 seconds, the paint one side again and then slap them together. This seemed to melt both surfaces sufficiently for them to knit together tightly. If you just painted it on one side and then put the tow bits together the joint was incredibly weak.
To get to this stage has taken me 14 hours of work. I had two reasons for going with plastic: variety of poses and cost. On variety of poses they hit the mark perfectly. Cost is a moot point. As a full time wargamer I don’t have an endless supply of cash, but what is less available for me is time. It just happens that I am taking a few days off, so this has been pretty unique for me to have such time to burn on getting figures to the stage where they can now be undercoated. Normally I’d expect to have a metal platoon prepared to that point with an hour’s work with a file. So I saved probably fifteen quid, but lost thirteen hours. Not a good exchange rate. When you add to the mix that I bought TWO boxes then they probably end up costing the same as metals, and I also bought a box of the Perry metal packs which are designed to go with this box set and without which I think the platoon would have looked under-dressed. So not cheap at all. BUT I DO HAVE A TOTALLY UNIQUE PLATOON! And that’s worth shouting about.
Any concerns? Yes, if I am honest I am worried about transporting these around. I tend to run games across the length and breadth of the country doing demos with clubs and participation games round the shows. I am concerned that plastic won’t stand up to the rigours of my life on the road. But that is an issue which is possibly peculiar to me. If you game at home with the odd trip to the club then you’ll probably have nothing to worry about. I would have preferred to see more options with open hands, particularly the right arm where there is a very limited choice.
My advice is that if you fancy doing a bit of modelling and making something yourself which nobody else has, and you can find the time to do this then this box set is a great buy. If you are looking for a pure cost saving then my experience is that you won’t get it, and if you are an “I don’t care what they look like, just get them on the table” sort of bloke then you’ll possibly be better off with metal.
So, am I pleased with my British force at this point? Too bloody right I am. I am just waiting for a break in the weather to get them undercoated, then I’ll be posting some updates as I take my platoon through to completion.
Earlier this year we learnt of the sad passing of Terry Haney, a long-time lover of Lardy rules and a great contributor on our Yahoo Group for the bets part of ten years. To honour Terry’s life his friends are organising a Games Day at Giga-Bites Cafe in Marietta, Georgia on Saturday November 2nd.
Terry loved his gaming, and this should be another fun day of historical gaming with a big variety of games, scales, rules, and periods getting played. So far there are at least 9 games on the schedule. Gaming begins at 11,00 and run three sessions into the evening.
So far the following games have been confirmed:
Napoleonic Naval combat
Near Future skirmish
WWII Small Boats
Chain of Command WWII skirmish
Korean war air gaming
WWII air gaming
WWI air gaming
The organisers would welcome local gamers to coma along and join in the fun, try new periods and rule sets and generally have a great time. Giga-bites has plenty to eat and drink and there is no charge for the event. We at TooFatLardies will be sponsoring the day with some prizes.