Sunday, March 23, 2008

From My Workbench: Tanker Burial in NW Europe, 1944 - Vignette for Easter

The military funerals for the lads coming home from Afghanistan are big affairs, done with ceremony by troops immaculate in their dress uniforms. The funerals at the front in the World Wars were hasty affairs, just a few words of comfort and prayer offered over a hasty grave before those assembled returned to the fighting. Somewhere in Normandy in 1944, a tank crew gather to bury their commander, killed in action that morning. A hasty grave has been dug near a stone church, and a padre is conducting the field funeral. (You can click on any picture to see a larger view).

"I am the resurrection and the life" begins the padre, while birds sing in the trees nearby. In the near distance, the crump of shells remind them all that the war is continuing.

Gunner "Smudger" Smith struggles to hold it together. His pixie suit is stained with blood from trying to help his commander after he collapsed back into the turret.

Driver Alf Harris and radio operator Swede Jensen look on impassively, guarding their emotions.

Another view of the padre. He wears the patches of 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and, unlike the tank crew, is wearing infantry battledress.

This set is manufactured by Lammercraft from their true 1/76 scale line of WW2 figures. I got it from Duanne at Syr Hobbs, who I heartily recommend for service. It's mostly painted in Vallejo acryllics, with some Games Workshop paints as well.

It's dedicated to all our fallen lads, then and now. Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon them.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

From my workbench: 15mm Canadian Trucks

Trucks (or lorries as Canadians stationed in England in WW2 probably were conditioned to call them) aren't a first choice for wargaming. They aren't glamorous like most tanks (who would paint a truck when they could be painting a King Tiger?) and they don't do much on the table except draw fire (hence the term "softskin" as in "softskin targets). However, armies need trucks to get troops and supplies to the front. Read Christie Blatchford's Fifteen Days and she'll tell you that the real heroes in Afghanistan are the troops of the National Support Element who drive convoys to the forward bases day after day, risking IEDs and ambushes day after day. No one can eat, drink, or shoot without the NSE convoys running.

These models are 15mm Old Glory CMP (Canadian Military Pattern) heavy trucks. They were a pain to glue together, came with no instructions, and God knows if I got them right. The decals are from Dom Skelton (Dom's decals) and show that these trucks are part of 3 Canadian Division, the first Canadian infantry division to land in Normandy. I've drybrushed them with Tamiya paints.The little ruined building in the background is from Scott Washburn's Paper Terrain line of products, which I'm also happy to plug here.

Hopefully these will get used on the tabletop as they are seen here, delivering reinforcements to the front and moving my infantry into action. Remember to click on the images to get a larger view.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

From my Workbench - 20mm British Churchill Tank

Plastic model tanks bring back all sorts of memories, especially of sniffing glue as a kid (wait a minute, that's not a memory, I'm still sniffing glue!). Mmmmmm, glue.

This is a British Churchill tank, which saw use from mid to late World War Two in Allied (and Canadian) service. The kit is from Italieri, and went together quite well, except for the treads, which come in several dozen bits and require tweezers and (sniff) glue. The tank commander is from AB Miniatures, my favourite figure manufacturer.

To see a larger image, click on any of the pictures.

I put a lot of work into painting and weathering the tank - I think I went overboard on the chipping and scrapes to the paint, but I am happy with the end result, the impression of a veteran tank and crew that have been in a lot of tight scrapes.

Here's the same model with another crew figure, also from AB Figures. The crew commander, Sgt. "Chalky" White, taking a rest at the end of the long day, enjoying the sunset and wondering if it's the last one he'll ever see:

White Death in Southern Slovenia, 1943 - a Partisan Warfare Game Report

Saturday night my mates in Stratford, ON, put on another game from the crazed imagination of Dan Hutter in James Manto's Basement O'Rabbits. The scenario was an episode in the Yugo partisan war - a local villager, upset that the partisans have stolen/liberated three of hs milk cows, have ratted them out to the Germans. A scratch force of SS Prinz Eugen infantry and German-friendly Domobranci thus descended on the hidden partisan farmstead in the mountains.

Regulars here might remember my pics of Dan's "Polikarpov Down" winter game from earlier on this blog. Again, the real star of this game was Dan's winter terrain, but this time it was seriously upgraded.

Remember to click on the pictures below for a larger view.

James (Rabbit Master) Manto with the complete table. The trees and the mountains are all Christmas village stuff that Dan bought at post-Xmas clearance sales from local department stores:

The partisan-held village - models include the Airfix ruined house/command post and the Faller/Model Master forge/barn. The long structure is I think a covered bridge from a Christmas village set. The yellow discs are poker chips marking the partisan blinds:

German scout's view of the village from behind the mountains:

e over the stream (both are Christmas village stuff - the stream is a series of ceramic tiles). Someone said that this would be a great setting fora Samurai game, and someone else thought the bridge would be a great setting for a sword fight between Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu, and we all fell into a reverie for a while:

The German scouts see a sign that the partisans are indeed in the village :)

OK, the game. Dan used homebrew rules with lots of blinds and spotting rules. Brett took the Domobranci (pretty crappy troops) infantry and LMG sections and came at the village from the right table edge (across from and to the left of where James is sitting in the first picture). Brett also took one SS infantry section and an SS sniper. I took the other SS inf section plus the SS LMG, mortar and HQ sections and our AFV asset, and went up the little road for the bridge. Our plan was to put pressure on the village from both sides and keep them guessing where our main attack was coming from as long as possible.

Walter, James and Lorenzo concentrated the partisan forces in the village, though Walter had one small section on the far side of the river as a picket.

Figures are all Dan's. I have no idea what make they all are - bit of everything.

Domobranci come out of the woods as the first attackers:

They engage a partisan section holding a ruined house:

Partisans are also harrassed by Brett's sniper in his mountain aerie:

Walter's partisans began skirmishing against my advance:

Prinz Eugen infantry return fire from cover:

Captured French Renault in German service tank advances on the village, as seen through the trees by the Partisan ATR team that spent much of the game trying to stop it:

o make a long story short, the Domobranci did better than we hoped, pinning down and eventually eliminating one partisan section - definitely the Axis stars of the game. Brett's SS section uncovered a partisan bunker, and spent the rest of the game trying to reduce it. Gefreiter Hans Klutz fumbled a grenade and eliminated himself, but the rest of the section got stuck in and at game's end the defenders had no where to go. My SS section skirmished with Walter's partisan pickets, and then closed on the barn, where a large partisan section was identified. The partisans slowed the Renault (James was terribly unlucky with his Anti-tank rifle), but by the end of the game concentrated fire from the Renault, the SS LMG, mortar, and infantry were whittling down the barn's defenders. After four hours we called it a night and the partisan players slipped their surviving forces away. The Domobranci liberated a supply of slivovitz and were hopeless for any pursuit.

Some good lessons learned, which Dan will incorporate into his reprise of this game at Hotlead (Canada's Finest Miniature Gaming Event - TM) in Stratford at the end of March ( Hope to see you there. Look for the padre with the frostbite and the Slivovitz.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Requiem for a Dungeon Master - RIP Gary Gygax

I experienced a moment of sadness and nostalgia a week ago. I was sitting in a Second Cup in Ottawa, reading the Globe and Mail over breakfast, and came across this piece on the passing of Gary Gygax.

Gary Gygax was a big part of my teenage years the way that rock stars and sports figures were big with other kids. He was one of the creators of Dungeons and Dragons, or D&D, the game that has garnered such pop-culture tributes as the song "It's Great to Be A Nerd" by Canada's own Arrogant Worms (We hate watching sports ’cause we’re reading carl sagan / But we’d watch the olympics if they played dungeons and dragons (I’m a hobbitt! ha ha ha ha!).)

If you played Dungeons and Dragons in high school, you were a happy defector from the cliques and blocs that ran your social world. With some like-minded friends, you could retreat to an alternate universe of the imagination, albeit, a world that was drawn on a template from Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings or Robert E. Howard's Conan books.

I recall the spider-infested room in my parents' basement in Courtenay, BC, where my bemused mother would kindly bring down trays of tea and hot biscuits to "her boys", as my brother and our friends would gather for role-playing sessions that lasted late into the night. We explored dungeons, battled ghouls, searched for treasure and told stories about our alter-egos. It was great fun. The investment in equipment was fairly minimal, graph paper and polyhedral dice at first, but as the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons books came out, along with miniature figures, the owners of Courtenay's Roundel Hobbies made some money off us. We painted the figures, at first in clumsy oils, and I remember my astonishment when I saw what you could do with acryllics and drybrushing.

My daughter Anna pointed out on the phone the other day that she owes her life to Gary Gygax, as I met her mother at a D&D game while we were both undergraduates. I hadn't thought of it that way. Anna, who marches to her own drummer, is curious about D&D but hasn't found anyone to play with.

Anna once asked me if I had any of my D&D books left from college days. Sadly not, though if I had I might have tried to flog them on Ebay, as I recall once having some of the first edition Gygax books. However, I did recall still having somethign in my wargames library, and found this.

Chainmail was first published in 1975. This edition, the 3rd, is from 1979. I've never used these rules - if you have, let me know. And no, they're not for sale. In glancing through them, I was delighted to find that there is a fantasy section, if one wants to see how Swiss pikemen do against elves or such. It got me thinking of a conversation I had with my friend Pete about the inadequacies of the Games Workhop Lord of the Rings rules for large-unit combat. (A lot of D&D players, I am sure, wanted in their hearts to graduate from scuffles with orcs in some narrow dungeon to refighting the battle of the Five Armies or some such Tolkein epic -I know I did back then). One day, God knows when I'll have the time, I'll put my Uruk-Hai and Rohirrim down and try these rules. I'll certainly report the results here.

So rest in peace, Gary Gygax, and thanks. It's great to be a nerd (and the father of a nerd)!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Civil War Reeneactors To Reinforce Troops In Iraq

Thanks to my friend Raivo for sending me this link from the I'm allowed to laugh because I've been (and still am, I guess) a civil war reenactor, which ranks slightly lower on the scale of attractiveness to women than being a miniature wargamer.

For proof of this assertion, I offer as evidence a photo that another friend took recently while at Gettysburg. Apparently some sort of reenactor appreciation day was happening and these fellows kindly offered to pose for the camera.

I suppose it would be worse if these fellows were wearing "Liebstandarte Adolf Hitler European Tour, 1939-1945" T shirts, eating Doritos, and debating who makes the most kick-ass 20mm King Tiger tank. Or maybe if they were Waffen SS reenactors at a wargaming convention, crammed into XXXL Oak Leave camo smocks, eating Doritos. Send 'em to Iraq, I say.

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