Monday, 19 September 2011


Over the course of the last few weeks I’ve been working (on and off) on a small terrain making project. It’s a Russian windmill, not an uncommon site on the Russian steppes (they had to grind all that wheat somewhere).

I did a bit of research before starting, and it seems that in 1940s Russia windmills really hadn't moved on much from medieval times – like a lot of things. Unlike their European equivalents, windmills were still made entirely of wood (rather than brick or brick/wood combined) and where still quite small. Here is the Google reference I used.

I first planned to scratch-built the entire thing from coffee stirrers, but a little investigation on model railway websites revealed than a 1/76th windmill was available. If you look hard enough just about every type of building imaginable is available at HO/OO scale for model railway enthusiasts. The main structure of the windmill and its sails (the most fiddle part to scratch build) would be perfectly fine. So, instead of scratch building I ordered the Dapol kit and converted it.

The main building work consisted of replacing the bottom of the windmill with a lattice work of logs and railway sleepers (at the Battle of Kursk the Russian sometimes hid MG teams inside them). These were cut from balsa wood and kebab skewers all super glued together, not very accurately – such is the Russian way.

Having cut the windmill’s gables triangular rather than curved, I made a new roof from thick cardboard  (to prevent warping) covered it in modelling clay, then the thatch was crudely scored into it as it dried. As wargame’s terrain I left the new roof detachable, and added a new wooden floor inside the building for a few 20mm soldiers to take cover in (or no doubt an artillery observer team). 

After undercoating brown and liberally drying-brush with light browns and light grey, the final model was based up, with a few spare old fences added, and then scattered  with long and short flock and a few spare bushes.

It’s not actually for me, it’s a birthday present for my brother, so I’ve had to delay this article until after the day, but I look forward to seeing it on a battlefield soon – and driving through it with a Tiger tank!


Sunday, 11 September 2011


Just to show that it’s not all WW2, here are some shots of 11 modern US infantry I’ve just finished.

The models are Caesar Miniature plastics, and they are excellent, good poses and well proportioned. After undercoating, the soft-ish plastic took the paint well. The only drawback is that a few of the weapons won’t straighten due to the plastic’s memory, but it’s a small price to pay given the small price on the miniatures.

I set myself the task of finishing this squad in a single evening of work. With the radio on I started by spraying them all black, then giving them a light over-spray of mid-brown. That obscured some of the detail so I washed a mix of Devlan mud and black liberally all over, to give me the basic undercoated models. 

Looking at some Google reference I mixed up a basic uniform colour from drab green, grey and light brown (various manufacturers), and once the first wash was well dry, carefully dry-brushed this base colour all over. Next, I picked out the black guns, goggles, boots (some I left as tan desert boots), gloves, equipment etc. Then the flesh was added to faces (and few gloveless hands). By now they were already looking good, but a few more details were needed. First kneepads, gloves and support weapons in grey/green and then, with my finest brush, dapped on some light earth coloured spots as extra camo. This was by far the most time consuming part.

The final touch was ,thin, wash of Devlan mud on faces and over the armoured vests and webbing.

The repeated washes had made them look a bit shiny so it was back the spray cans for a quick (and careful) overspray with matt vanish.

Whilst the miniatures were drying, I dry-brushed 10 pennies with sand yellow, (having prep them earlier with sand, black spray and mid-brown again. Then I added flock and various bits of scatter.

The dried men were scalpeled off their moulded bases and super-glued to the heavier pennies, so they should stand up better now. In all, two and a half hours had passed, 11 men were complete, an England had beaten Wales 1-0.

Above, Kilo Squad ready for action. Eleven men including a SAW, Javalin missile launcher, Stinger AA missile launcher, Officer (kneeling) and 2 M203 grenade launchers - in an evening.

Up close they won’t win any painting competitions, but on the table, at a gaming distance, they look the business – which is what I was aiming for.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

AAR - Meeting Engagement at Zysbirkova

 This is a brief After Action Report on a recent World War II Eastern Front game.

We were using Kampfgruppe Normandy as the basis of the rules (what else?) - with my adaptations and special rules for both the German and Russian sides. The game was a small platoon-sized action at 300 points per side. The scenario was the ‘Highway to Hell’ from the KGN rulebook, with a road running up the centre of the table, passing through a village (the mythical Zysbirkova - with a church and brick factory building) halfway across. Surrounding the village where various woods and crop fields.

The Russian Tank Corps Battle Group consisted of:
Battle Group HQ in Gaz jeep
1 Supply Truck
Infantry Platoon (deploying as tank riders)
57mm Zis2 AT gun and truck tow
2 T-34 squadrons, both of 3 x T34s
2 lend-lease M2 Grants
Forward Artillery Observer in a Jeep
2 x BM-13 rocket launchers

The German Infantry Division Battle Group consisted of:
Battle Group HQ in Kubelwagon
1 Supply Truck
1 Sniper
1 Infantry Platoon on foot or tank riding
88mm gun
1 Ferdinand (eek!)
STuG squadron of 3 x STuG IIIs
120mm mortar team

The Battle
With only a single recce unit to place (in Ambush) the German sniper climbed into the church bell tower and was placed on covering fire. From his lofty perch he would harass the Russian Zis2 anti-tank gun crew with suppressing fire for most of the game.

First to arrived on the scene was the Russian AT gun, forward observer and a single T34. The AT gun set-up covering the length of the main road, whilst under sniper fire, as the FAO moved into position to call Katyusha fire on to the village from the right.

The Germans responded, moving STuG riding infantry up the road as the others followed behind. The lead STuG instantly took the first of about 4 glancing hits from the Zis2 throughout the game, becoming suppressed but lucky to survive (as it continued to).

The Russian plan involved an initial attack on the left by three T-34s and mounted infantry, seeking to bypass the village and to capture the church objective. Meanwhile a flanking force of two more T-34s, plus the deployed one, and more mounted infantry squads arrived from the right, with the aim of quickly enveloping the village from the other side, which would also be under fire from the Katyushas, Zis 2 and both the loitering lend lease Grants’ 75mm howitzers.

The Russians raced forwards on the left only to meet two deploying STuGs head on, and loose the long range duel as one after the other all three T-34s exploded. In the centre the Zis2 AT gun duelled with the other StuG, and the Grants even managed to suppress the Ferdinand with HE fire as it arrived (slowly) on the scene. By now the first infantry squads were engaged house to house as MG34s and DPs blazed from windows and doorways.

The Russian FAO found himself the subject of repeated suppressing fire from the distant 8 and, hugging cover, was thus unable to call his artillery strikes.

The right flanking T34s at last arrived and raced forwards, only to encounter lethal fire from the 88 themselves. One, two and then three T34s where hit and destroyed in successive turns - ouch! This accurate anti-tank fire at least freed the FAO to unleash his Katyusha battery, with a devastating strike that smashed into the factory building and wiped out the German infantry squad within.

Still, this was but a small victory, as the Ferdinand became active again, hitting and destroying a Grant at long range, leaving the entire Russian attack in tatters. They had lost 7 tanks, the Germans had lost 0 (I counted them twice). The Russians withdrew, heavily defeated, leaving the village firmly in German hands. 

The suppressed STuG on the main road in the village, behind the mighty Ferdinand approaches! Note the German infantry occupying the large factory building, before the ‘better-late-than-never’ Katyusha strike wiped them out.

The Russian first attack on the left looses its second T-34 to STuG fire.

The flanking attack on the right sweeps past the factory, infantry dismounting. Note the imperilled German supply truck on the main road before it made a pell-mell dash up the road into the village. This shot was taken just before the 88 opened up to devastating effect.

STuGs in defensive positions behind the church, supporting a deployed machine gun team.

The beast unleashed! The Ferdinand moves into the centre of the village. 

The German 88 makes mince-meat of the three right flanking T-34s across a cornfield. Add three new kill-rings!

Just checking a rule! Suffice to say the Grant is very dead after being hit by the Ferdinand.

The game did throw up some debating points. One was the (feeble) power of the T-34s, loosing all 6 for no gain. They seemed underpowered and very vulnerable to those long German guns. The German player did report a feeling of being threatened to be swamped by them as they all boldly pushed forwards, but once engaged my standard tanks got massacred. I’ll be taking a hard look at the T-34’s profile.

Generally, the Russian anti-tank fire struggled to hit and then to penetrate. The Zis 2 is about as good as it gets, but it glanced off a STuG 4 times, mainly due to some very unlucky dice rolling. The 76.2mm guns on the tanks felt like pop-guns!

Note: Having some camera problems too, can’t seem to get the thing to focus as I wish. It has now been replaced, and hopefully the new one will provide less blurred pics.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Kampfgruppe Normandy - a Q&A

 Since publication of the game I've been keeping a log of question I've been asked personally or that have been posted on various forums, etc. I thought it would come in handy so I should 'get it out there'...


1. The game does not represent the US Army’s general issue with the M1 Garand semi-automatic rifle. Surely they should have an advantage in firepower?
Yes, US infantry did have semi-automatic weapons, but to boost their firepower would just make US infantry better than British or German infantry, and this just wasn’t the case. In general US infantry struggled badly in Normandy, especially when forced to advance in the bocage fighting. Think of it in these terms – they might have good guns, but they don’t use them that well – so it balances out. 
Also, I made a conscious decision to eliminate special rules and exceptions as much as possible, to help smooth out game play.

2. Likewise, the German Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle isn’t included as an option for the SS, any reason?
They were present in Normandy but not in large numbers. If you include them as an option then everybody takes them, and suddenly most of the SS units encountered have assault rifles, which just wasn’t the case. I’ve saved the SG44 as an option for later in the war.  Feel free to still have a few models with them in your units though.

3. The smallest US tank unit wasn’t a ‘squadron’, it was a platoon, and a German ‘squadron’ was also a platoon. Also, they didn’t come as three tanks, but five instead.
Historically correct and in the unit organisation sections this is covered with the correct terminology and numbers. Here, ‘squadron’ is used as a game term in the army lists to describe buying multiple tanks together. For game balance they always come in threes as standard, but the additional tank options allow players to build-up to full strength squadrons or platoons. Of course, such units didn’t always fight at full strength anyway.

4. In the army lists tanks bought in squadrons are cheaper than those bought individually - why?
This is a deliberate game mechanic. The most efficient way (points-wise) to purchase tanks is in squadrons, and this is to encourage players to do just this. So, if you encounter a single Sherman or Panther then you are likely to meet more, because tank units generally have the same vehicle. It is also the only way to get the command tank and (for the British) also the only way to get Fireflies (again a deliberate restriction to prevent the unrealistic over-use of Fireflies). 

5. In the Armoured Assets of the American army lists, the Light Tank squadrons and Sherman tank squadrons are only allowed one choice from the support per squadron section. Is this correct or is it a mistake/errata?
This is straight errata. The line is missing from the army list entries. US tank squadrons should be allowed three support choices just like other nations.

6. A US infantry platoon is allowed five support choices. Everybody else gets four. Is this a typo?
No, it’s deliberate. It is a nod towards the fact that the US Army was generally very well equipped, so you can get a bit more ‘heavy stuff’ to support the ground pounders.
7. Is there a reason why range isn’t a factor in spotting enemy units?
The thinking is this. Everybody has access to some form of optical equipment; officers and NCO have binoculars, tanks have their gun sights, etc, and they’re all using them. Everybody is constantly observing and on their radios passing on and receiving information. It is not a separate action because it’s assumed to be happening all the time.
There is a level of abstraction here. Spotting isn’t just seeing things, it is seeing them at the right time, identifying them and being in a position to engage. It might seem obvious from the miniatures on the tabletop that they can see, but there are bullets and shells flying about as well as dust and smoke (including a vehicle’s own smoke dischargers) affecting visibility which can’t be represented on the tabletop. Everything is in a state of flux and way more is actually happening than is literally represented by the actions and dice rolls of the game. Think of them more as the key moments of an engagement.
Spotting is modified by firing so there is an advantage to holding fire, especially for infantry and small teams. It’s a way of giving infantry an advantage over tanks, and achieving a better balance between the two in the game – men are harder to spot and thus harder to engage, because they are assumed to be using any and all available cover (even that not actually represented by model terrain) as best they can. Even being prone in long-ish grass makes an infantryman hard to spot (and you would be prone when the enemy started shooting!).

8. Does direct HE fire require the use of the 8" blast rule as per indirect HE fire?
No, direct fire always targets one enemy unit and can only damage that target (if it hits). Larger shells have a higher HE rating against the target. The 8" spread is the general area a bombardment is impacting in, not the size of the explosions.

9. How do you resolve fire from a unit occupying a building?
We say that everybody in a unit can fire from a building. Don’t be too literal about the location of doors, windows, shell holes, etc, on model scenery as the troops inside will move round to find a position from which to shoot, make loopholes, etc.
Of course, if you prefer to be literal about your terrain model (and both players agree), feel free to restrict units in buildings to firing two infantry models per window or door as a house rule.

10. Can I play the game using different basing, or does it have to be played with individually based men?
Basing really doesn’t matter too much. You do need to record individual losses, but if you are happy to do this with a dice then multiple basing is fine. Just remove the base when the squad or team is destroyed or withdraws. 

11. Can I play the game at other scales?
Yes, the game should work just fine at 10mm, 15mm and even 28mm – although I’ve never tried it. I think the weapon ranges might seem short, so try doubling them. Some people are even playing it at 6mm by swapping inch measurements for centimetres.

12. Why only cover Normandy when there is a whole big war to cover?
As one subject, the Second World War is huge and far too large to cover (well) in one book. I chose the Normandy theatre and period because it covers a wide range of data and army lists, and also because it’s a very popular theatre with established gamers. The army lists will still work fine for other theatres, such as Italy, or even for later war battles such as in the Lorraine or Ardennes (although some of the later equipment won’t be available).
In the future I’d like to cover other theatres and periods (and there is a lot), but that’s the future, so who knows…

13. Is the data for the Humber armoured car right? It should be equipped with a 15mm heavy machinegun and a co-axial machine gun.
The profile is for the Humber scout car, armed with a single Bren gun. The armoured car (Marks I, II and III) has been omitted. Should you wish to include it, here is the profile.

Armour Cars
T, C


* Treat the 15mm Besa machinegun as a turret mounted MG, firepower 6.
The Humber Armoured Car, Marks I-III can be taken by a British Armoured Division and Infantry Division battle group, as an Armoured Car. It costs 18pts, 1 MV.

14. Why isn’t smoke included in the game? It was commonly used, and is mentioned in the weapon descriptions.
Smoke is not a specific action in the game because I didn’t what to include a weapon that effectively stops players having a battle by blocking everybody’s line of sight. It is assumed that it is in use, from vehicle dischargers, smoke grenades and mortars, etc, so it is there, it just isn’t represented as models (like other ‘atmospherics’ such as smoke from burning vehicles or dust from vehicle tracks and explosions, etc). It is ‘included’ as one of the reasons why a unit might fail a Spotting test, ie, because there is smoke deployed.
I also assumed that such specific tactics as large smoke screen barrages have already happened prior to the engagement – they helped get your battle group into position for this fight, for example. The same goes for rolling barrages or saturation bombing from heavy bombers – it’s not suitable for a game at this level, mainly because it just flattens the tabletop and ruins the game!

15. Are demolition charges single use weapons?
Yes, although engineer units often have more than one.

16. Can two engineer units combine their efforts on the same engineering task?
Yes, I see no reason why not.

17. Do bridging units have a maximum distance they can span?
I was imagining perhaps 6" - 8" when crossing streams and ditches, but obviously not when crossing the Rhine! Large bridging operations aren’t really part of a tactical game.

18. Is the rocket size on the SdKfz 251 Wurfrahmen 40 ‘Stuka Zu Fuss’ correct?
These are listed as 150cm rockets and this is incorrect. They should be 280cm rockets (treat as 210cm) and the equipment data should list this. Points and MV remain unchanged.

19. The self-propelled mortar half track, SdKfz 251/2, isn’t included in any of the German army lists. Is there any reason why?
No but the data is included though. The SdKfz 251/2 should be available to SS Panzer Divisions and Panzer Divisions as Infantry Support. They are 14 points and 1mv and count as (Rare).
Note that the 80mm mortar was often dismounted and used from the ground, especially whilst the Germans were fighting on the defensive in Normandy, where mobility wasn’t so important. So using a 80mm mortar team to support armoured panzer grenadiers is just fine.

20. The article about captured French vehicles only deals with those on the German side, but captured vehicles were used on all sides. What about some rules for these?
The main rules and army lists only deal with the generic and standard issue forces. Yes, all sides utilized captured vehicles, but including them in army lists isn’t appropriate. There is nothing to stop players including them as scenario specific units for historical refights, which is probably where they best belong.  Otherwise, you risk most British Armoured units having a captured Panther on their strength – when only one actually did! These were only ever meant as ‘get you by’ rules, rather than being definitive.

21. Do you need ‘true’ line of sight to using suppressing fire on an enemy unit?
It’s not ‘true’ line of sight per se, you don’t have to actually see the models to use suppressing fire, although you should at least see the terrain they are hiding in or behind.

22. If a unit voluntarily leaves the table does it count as destroyed for morale purposes?
No, just as with soft skins withdrawing, it doesn’t cost any morale for units to run off the board.

23. Can the Germans claim all objectives secured victory in the Panther Hunt scenario?
No, otherwise the Germans win on turn 1 – not much of a game!

24. There is no data  for the British 240mm and 8” gun in equipment data,
An 8” howitzer has a penetration value of 10 and is Very Heavy 8. This is listed in the American gun data. The 240mm howitzer has a penetration value of 11 and is Very Heavy 9.

25. In the Panzer Division army list there are only 2 Panthers in the squadron, is this correct?
It should read 1 Panther (command) and 2 Panther A or Gs. The points and MV are correct.

26. What are the points and morale value for the Veteran Recon Platoon Command in Fallschirmjäger army list?
Lost in the text formatting, they should be 12pts and 1MV.

27. The Forward Aid Post in all armies has 4 men and an ambulance. Must the 4 men stick together as single unit or can they split up and join other units?
 The Forward Aid Station aren’t the combat medics, they are a surgeon and orderlies. They stay together, usually in a tent, and the ambulances would then bring casualties to them.