The 1940 Handbook: We Talk to the Author
It’s been nearly a month since the 1940 Handbook for Chain of Command was released so with all of the interest in the Blitzkrieg phase of the war, we though we’d talk to the author to get a feel for what is inside especially as this is the first Handbook produced for Chain of Command. In fat, that was the first question we asked Richard; is this a one-off or is there more to come?
“Much, much more.” was his response. “We are going to roll out theatre handbooks for the whole war, from September 1939 to 1945 and, actually, even earlier as some of the Chinese and Japanese content planned goes back before that. We are keen to start early and then work through in some kind of logical sequence, but not everything is quite so easily packaged as WWII diverges off into different directions. One of the earliest Handbooks we have planned will cover the Far East and that will stretch right across the conflict. That said, we will also be filling in the gaps. Norway and Denmark 1940 is on the drawing board and Barbarossa will be early in the list.”
So, what can we look forwards to with the Handbooks in terms of content?
“When producing any set of wargame rules you need to make a decision. You can cover everything badly or cover a small bit well. With the main Chain of Command rules we wanted to provide a game which could be used for any phase of the war, but the lists were very much 1944 and 1945 focussed. Let’s be frank, I could list you a dozen or more types of German units operating in that late war period but it’s impossible to represent all of these in the main rules. The Handbooks allow us to do just that.”
“It would be very easy to produce a generic French list and say that it works for all French troops, or maybe just add the odd really sexy force in there to provide some variety, but we were keen to do a proper job, offering the gamer a much wider choice of units to select from. If you want to fight Moroccan Mountain Infantry then you can and they’ll be different to the Chasseurs d’Alpin. Why? Because they were. In the 1940 Handbook there is a huge variety of unit types for all of the nations concerned and that gives the gamer a great choice in what the force they want to game with. Each one has its own peculiarities and that’s important. Each unit type behaves or operates in a slightly different manner and that’s much more interesting than a plain vanilla approach.”
“What’s more, the great thing is that often a relatively small number of figures can represent a number of different units, so you could buy one core force but use it for a number of different unit types. That gives a fabulous variety to our games. The forces often have to fight very differently because of the way they are made up. You can select one that suits your playing style or try out several different unit structures with the same figures.”
But what about the weapons and tanks? Are they very different to those in the main rules?
“They certainly are. Each nation has its own arsenal table and that allows us to be very specific about them. The main rules give figures for “belt fed MGs” for example. We can now get really specific and reflect the weapons present. If you have a unit of Belgian reservists fielding a 19th century machine gun it is not going to get the same stats as an MG34. Once again that gives a great variety and really feels very different.”
“As for tanks and AFVs, they feel is quite different. Lots of people like playing Very British Civil War as armour is not so dominant. It’s the same with the early war. Tanks are less monstrous, but at the same time dealing with them is no cake walk because the Panzerfausts we are used to getting haven’t been invented. It makes for a really different balance.”
Do the Handbooks include any new rules?
“Yes. Again, the handbooks give us a great chance to look at what made that theatre really unique. Indeed, the difference between what happened in Norway and Denmark and what happened in France, Belgium and Holland is what made us decide that they needed two separate Handbooks. This one allows us to focus on the campaign of May and June 1940. We’ve been able to cover all of those aspects of war which were first unleashed in May 1940, so parachute and glider landings are covered, but also the use of boats and assault craft to cross waterways, different transport like Motorcycles, horse and bicycles. We have a full section on German dirty tricks based around the actions of Brandenburg Commandos and fifth column collaborators and, of course, there are comprehensive rules for specific weapons such as the French VB grenade launcher or the Belgian DBT.”
What about any national specific rules?
“Not so much rules as National Characteristics. We have taken a drill manuals for all of the nations covered and worked out what was different or unique to that force. We then incorporate those key drills into the rules to allow our tabletop armies to replicate the skills and drills of their historical counterparts. It’s not huge, but it does just give a tweak that allows bags of historical flavour.”
What about any new scenarios? The main rules contain six generic scenarios but are there any more here that are 1940 specific?
“There are another five scenarios in the 1940 Handbook. However, we didn’t want to tie these to specific historical battles, instead we make suggestions for where each one might be set but these are again generic scenarios. So the ‘Going With a Bang’ scenario which sees allied forces attempting to delay the Germans while they conduct demolitions could just as easily be used in Germany in 1945 or France in 1944. As for historical scenarios, we have plenty of Pint -Sized Campaigns planned which will give lots of very specific actions for people to enjoy,”
So, what’s your favourite of the new armies to game with?
“It’s not easy to choose one favourite out of sixty options. That said, French Motorcycle troops are a big hit, It’s a small unit so I get to choose plenty of support. Crusader Miniatures make some great models for these. The Chasseur Portes are great as they have fantastic firepower that can match the Germans and really give them a shock. These guys are effectively French Panzer Grenadiers who fought alongside the bug Char B tanks. Again, I use Crusader for this; the Dragon Portes figures are perfect. I can add some blue trousers to the mix to show they are Chasseurs.”
“The Dutch are a revelation. We have even list for them and I am painting my force up now so that I can use it for most of these. Most importantly, our big game at Crisis this year will see a Dutch defensive position trying to hold off the German onslaught. That should be a great looking game and I plan to do a series of articles on showing how that develops.”
“Who couldn’t love German glider forces, attacking silently from above. Very modern in 1940, but I can also balance that with some of the poorer German formations who were still equipped with weapons from the Great War. For me the fun thing is that there is HUGE contrast in the army lists and that can only mean a whole lot of fun playing with different forces.”
France 1940 seems to be popular at present, so your timing is good
“Well, I think that a new Handbook is always going to raise levels of interest in a period that people hadn’t considered before. There are some great figures out there in everything from 10mm to 28mm, so its a greta time to dip into something new. We hope that the Handbook will be a great reference piece for anyone playing platoon level games.”
You can find the new handbook here: 1940 Handbook
or if you prefer to get the hard copy AND the PDF version, then it’s here: 1940 Bundle