Monday, September 7, 2015

To The Strongest!.....Christians v Moslems, c 12th century

Near all the guys at the club turned up for a ‘big bash’ to put To The Strongest! under a stress test! For those unfamiliar with To The Strongest! it is an ancient/medieval game system designed for BIG games though it can handle modest 1 v 1 clashes as well. 

To that end, the forces of Christendom decided to invade north Africa as a pre-preemptive move to stop the Murabit expansion, circa 12th century…every figure was required to be on deck!

The Christian king assembled his motley band and attacked.... his faithful Norman ally on his right with a stalwart companion to his left and the remaining cavalry contingent on his extreme left protecting his flank..

On the Moslem side Christian knight was opposed by a cavalry horde led by two Emirs that opened the engagement a burst of activity, while the Caliph and his offsider held the centre with the cream of the Murabit footFurther along were dependable Emirs to hold the right flank (refused) and let the left and centre smash the Christian forces.

Initial glory went to the Moslem left with the left flank Emirs making good headway... the centre was hampered as the Caliph and son were late from prayers... while the moslem right cleverly remained dormant (as planned) awaiting the Christian onslaught. 

Alas the surge of arab horse from the left ran out of steam...with both looking to make the essential breakthrough but to no avail ...while the Christian centre skillfully or fortuitously held of the Murabit foot...

On the extreme Christian left a slow start was made by the soldiers of God with the opposing moslem emir noting the imbalance of forces he opposed.

Despite urging from Allah the Caliph and his loyal lieutenant couldn’t exploit their superior numbers against the Christian centre despite routing a unit of Christian knights and taking some foot in flank... while on the Christian right the tables turned against the moslem left!..exposing the centre left of the Moslem battleline.

On the extreme Christian left the Christian commander had to leave and was replace by another who lacked energy and was bluffed by the ‘ confidence  of the moslem right wing emir who ably held on despite the odds! Meanwhile the left of the moslem line was a spent force and its attacks petered out.

One last push tried to break the centre of the Christian line but the moslems faltered, lost several units and with that the game was called in the Christian's favour with a weakened moslem centre and left showing signed of crumbling...Deus Vult!

So this was the largest game we had played at the club and it involved 14 players, 15 if you count the late replacement! We went for a ‘throw it all down and get stuck in approach’ so there was no victory medals used to determine the victor, this best left to Allah to decide ;-)

Overall an impressive looking game with over 1500 mainly lead 28mm figures. A post mortem of making it deadlier which would’ve sped things up a bit and we have some easy fixes for that.. but overall the system works...for this scale/scope….and it is big!

Kudos goes to Christian king and the right wing Moslem Emir for his successful stalling and the Christian right wing commander who turned around a losing sway the battle.....again!!

To The Strongest; quite simply the only way to really play a truly epic battle in a club night or pretty much anytime!…well done Mr Miller!

Here are a number of shots of the action...

(note - apologies for the poor quality shots and minimalist terrain...a knock up low-light club affair)

..preparing the table.

...yet more troops to add. We used small tufts to make the table into 6" squares.

Troops are down...Christians on the left, Moslems on the right

The moslem centre, caliph in his tent 

Into it! Near ground shot has the moslem right flank (near the beer!) refused, while the other end of the table sees the moslems advance in a rush!

...forces lock horns across the line.

centre right moslem cavalry launch into the attack...allah ahkbar!

Moslem centre advances, under cover of a barrage of bow fire into the Christian ranks...flags waving and drums beating...

...left wing arab horse pushing into the Christian right wing...before they finally collapse!...messy players on that end of the table :-(

...overview of the moslem centre...

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

AAR - Battle of El-Kayeb.....Western desert, 1940

A big game.

Over the past many weeks the forces of Graziani and O’Conner have been building for a big game in Egypt, 1940. We finally got a lot of troops on table and had a right ’ol bash. I was able to field both my Italians in M33 Helmet and the new Blackshirts in Sun helmet and the English served up their best.

For the multi player action we default to Bolt Action as the rules of choice mostly for convenience as everyone is pretty much across the game and it's easy enough to pull together for all the players concerned.

The forces in the game were quite large, involving 30 or so individual units per side. This makes individual command dice ‘pulls’ to slow and impractical as per the standard rules. Therefore we fiddled with the command element of BA by using dice designated as being able to activate 2 units of the same type (infantry, armour, artillery, etc), a 3 dice that enables any three units to activate and a ‘blitzkrieg’ dice that enabled any 4 units to activate at a time. This allowed for some level of combinations and co-ordination to be put together as well as keeping the number of dice in the bag down to about 10 per side, this keeping the game moving along.

This all worked out pretty well. The game was about 2800pts per side in BA speak and was done and dusted in an afternoon.

The scenario revolved around an Italian Blackshirt platoon deployed in a small town on the outskirts of the larger town of El Kayeb somewhere near the Egyptian/Libyan border. This town was key to controlling access to the town and thus needed to be defended. The game had flank marches and reserve force deployments from both sides, juxtaposed with an attack/defend on the small town of Al-El-Kayeb resulting in a very fluid engagement.

So, with that here is a brief AAR to show off the new desert table layout, a rather handsome 14’ x 6’ of lovely terrain and miniatures, with the garrison Blackshirts assailed by a mechanised British Western Desert Force.

El Kayeb in the distance, Al-El-Kayeb (with tents) on their outskirts. Note a small pre game British recce section in carriers. 

Close up of El-Kayeb.

Italian Blackshirts deploying town to man the defences for the expected assault.

Initial deployments. A 75/27 Field Gun deployed to the south of the town. A MG detachment is deployed as the 'link' unit between the main town and Al-El-Kayeb. Italian armoured forces, CVs, move on from the western edge to tangle with the enemy infantry.

British infantry come on from the East.

CV surprise...a Lancia-fiamme tankette leads the push...

Close up of Al-El-Kayeb. Blackshirt command group in small building with vexillia.

Pre game Bombardment - British artillery pound Al-El-Kayeb. For the most part, a desultory outcome. ....poor bloody infantry are going to have to do the job.

75/27 gun prepares to open up, with Blackshirt 'security detachment' in support...

Left flank Italian forces. The barrel marks a victory location and a MMG is emplaced there (hidden on a map).

British infantry work they way up in the wadi...

75/27 gun opens up with long range fire at the enemy 2pdr anti-tank gun..first shot...ready...aim!!

British infantry surge in for the assault. Units have been taking casualties from the Italians in the village. The Blackshirts, required to take their Camici Nere 'commitment test' are rated 'fascisti' and thus will fight hard today...

Italian reinforcements...Bersaglieri push up to support the Camicie Nere...

CV tankettes skirt the wadi (shown by the location of the brush). The wadi more or less isolated the left and and centre flanks.

Advancing on the outskirts of El-Kayeb a Bren carrier with British infantry moving on the town edge in rear.

BOOM!!....that plume of black smoke marked the spot where the 2-pdr was unlimbering. A direct hit destroying the crew, weapon and ammo....a hurrah goes along the line in Al-El-Kayeb!

...a fly by from an aerial recon plane showing the battlefield from above....

...and shortly after a pre attack artillery fire mission - note the pin markers on the Italians....

..hands point to the spot!...The British infantry move into the assault. Their ranks have thinned but the pull of the dice resulted in them 'rushing' the town as their armoured support arrived.

On the outskirts of El-Kayeb a fierce infantry clash occurs with the British finally having the better off it. The Italians however are still dug in on their objective...not yet ready to give up the fight.

Now with Vickers Mk II and A9 tanks on-table they face off against the Italian M11/39s that have arrived....the Italians are starting to look out gunned... begins the armoured engagement between the town and the village...

...close up of the British armour. We used the BA Tank War rules and the Mk II gun crew gained experienced crew to hit bonus....

...much to the disappointment of this Italian tank crew....burn, bambini, burn...

Italian armour takes a pasting from the British armoured forces. The CV 'flamer' is immobilised, the other 'pinned' but still in the game...these small tankettes can't make an impression on the British armour at all...not that they were ever expected to!

British infantry now move into assault the MG dug in position. Their infantry on the town move forward to sweep the Italian mortar crew near the town's outskirts.

The Italian IZM armoured Car, luckily has avoided being hit by both a carrier with a Boyes anti-tank rifle and the attention of an A9...lucky!

CV hit again!.....both vehicles are now abandoned...

..the IZM finally succumbs to a 2-pdr direct hit...

The fighting in Al-El-Kayeb. A desperate struggle. The Bersaglieri have moved into town just as a British barrage from an off table battery arrived. Good fire direction has the Italians get many suppression markers with a direct hit against a lone Italian flamethrower team - needless to say there wasn't much left!  Several close assaults have resulted in the Bersaglieri losing a unit with one very near break point. The British have also lost forces as well.

The Italian CV flamethrower tank was able to pour fire, even though immobilised, into the north-eastern corner of the town and take out an unfortunate infantry unit.

The town itself remains contested as the day starts to peter out and the sun begins to set....

These Bersaglieri need to rally before the British can bring fire on it next turn and finish it off...the black smoke flames are where the flamethrower team was!!

...on the southern flank the British pull out their ace....a flying column of armoured cars, carriers and infantry.

The lone 75/27 gun is going to have to hold of this lot....

...Southern flank assault. Despite some late arriving Italian armour further to the south of the British flanking force, they overwhelm the lone gun battery and its infantry support..though the picture doesn't show it one of the RR armoured cars is subsequently brewed up by the field gun in a desperate close range defence...a small consolation for the Italian battery commander...

In the background the Italian Bersaglieri grimly hold onto a foothold in the village of Al-El-Kayeb though the British seem to have the better of it....

...not alot can be done now...

..last roll of the dice. The Italian commander calls on his ally Sennusi tribesmen to charge the British who have now overrun the MG position.

These horsemen immediately drew fire from all British small arms that could shoot. They rolled for their quality...shirkers!! they rapidly disintegrated from the effects of fire much for the cavalry charge...and ally status!!! darkness descends on the battlefield the Bersaglieri now only hold the north-western corner of the town.  The British are otherwise in control....

...the British also hold the left and right objective points completing their victory...a hard fought fight that had many, many twists and turns...

Darkness falls on the battlefield whilst Graziani's remaining forces fall back and the retreat to Bardi commences....

An excellent game, with many high points and low points for both sides. The Italians had a nice early run at it but the British were able to move on Al-El-Kayeb through a succession of dice activations and assault the Blackshirt defenders. 

The British armour then made their presence felt and the overrun of both flanks sealed the victory for ol' blighty....

Despite the apparent 'easy' British victory the game was in the balance right up to the last turn...

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Italian troops - Spanish Civil War and WW2

As intermittent as ever, a number of projects have been bubbling away. Here we have some recently completed Italian troops that have been a good while in the painting queue. 

These figures are mostly Perry Miniatures from their WW2 line of Italian metal figures. Very nicely proportioned and styled though the figures are a bit ‘rough’ when using the Army Painter style of painting I like to use. Up close their detail is not as crisp, sharp and smooth as those of Empress Miniatures although off course the M33 helmet figures are not made by Empress so unless doing head swaps tit was Perry all the way for this problem there!

I wanted to get double use out of the Italians ie usable for the Spanish Civil War as well as North African Campaign. After much looking about I settled for a paint scheme that was something of a hybrid as many of the uniform combinations were possible during both conflicts. A major reason for this was the parlous state of Italian logistics and supplying Mussolini’s ‘eight million bayonets’.

The story of the Corpo Truppe Volontarie, (CTV) is long and fairly superficially covered in English (unfortunately...come on Osprey!). A very nice primer of Italian armoured forces is located here. For those wanting to get a thorough treatment the best source in English is still Coverdale’s book ‘Italian Intervention in the Spanish Civil War’. This has been hard to find and costly over the years however a recent Google search uncovered what looks like a re release so its worth looking at the Google preview to see what it has inside. There is also this interesting site that discusses some of the impact of the Italian intervention in Spain as well…worth a read.

However back to the figures. As I mentioned in a LAF thread the reason for the two tone color look, or more correctly the mixing of the North African and European uniforms was so I could use them for both theatres. For North Africa such blending of uniform types was quite common and coupled to the M33 helmet look, the figures mostly give the feel of WW2 troops. 

However, the North African, or summer uniform, was used in Spain but is best taken to represent the reformed formations after the battle of Guadalajara.  So I intend to use these mostly to reflect those sort of troop organisations, such as the XXXIII March MVSN Division and the Spanish Flechas formations as well (which I described in the above LAF thread). With the constant reorganisations of the Spanish troops a fairly degree of latitude is appropriate in my view and no one really knows!

So without further ado, here are a good selection of action shots depicting a force size of a platoon as used in Chain of Command or Bolt Action.


"On to Madrid!"

Road column - the truck is a Lledo models AA Ford...a nice generic interwar truck for any army really.
There is a good review of Empress mini CVs vs the Perry CVs...worth checking out.

Republican Polikarpov on its attack run...time to buzz the tower!

Empress 75/28 gun....there is an excellent construction guide here...thanks to Mr Empress Miniatures himself...Paul.

Typical Italian gun group in WW2 - Breda, loader and three riflemen

Guadalajara all over again!!

An Empress Miniatures CTV figure for the earlier period leading up to Guadalajara.

He can off course be used for the whole war as well, as the Adrian helmet was in use throughout the conflict.

A Platoon HQ and one of the platoon squads as depicted for Chain of Command Espana rules by TFL for the Spanish Civil War... authored by Arlequin ( a must view site) and yours truly.