Friday, May 31, 2013

Off to Church

L'Église Saint Vigor du XIIe et XIIIe siècles
After the last AAR, a few of you have asked about the church. Looking through my blog, I realised that despite posting a thread over on the guild forum, I'd never actually posted anything up about it here. Well, time to set that right.

The model is my rendition the Église Saint Vigor du XIIe et XIIIe siècles, a Norman constructed church built during the 12th and 13th centuries. This church (it IS a church, not a cathedral, despite it's size!) is in the town of Cheux, just north of the river Odon in Normandy. Cheux was  fought over by the 15th (Scottish) division and the 12th SS Hitlerjugend during Operation Epsom, and as Epsom is what I have loosely based my collection around, it seemed fitting. And every gaming collection needs a church, right?
I didn't take any work in progress photos, which I often a problem of mine. (That said, I have documented my recent bocage building exercise and will try to get a tutorial up shortly)

So, in lieu of pictures i'll have to try to describe the process as best as possible. 

The project started, as most do, with research. The superb Over the Battlefield volume on Operation Epsom provided the inspiration, having a few decent shots of the church.  The Battlezone Normandy on Epsom, along with the Battleground Normandy (confusing, isn't is) also provided several good modern day photographs from a variety of angles.

The model's central structure is built from foamcore board, with cereal box cardboard and blue foam used for the butresses and other raised details. The semicircular apse at the end of the nave is from heavy card, bent, taped and glued.

The most difficult thing was working out scales, and it involved a bit of research and cross referencing between photographs and google earth. Perhaps surprisingly, it wasn't actually that difficult once I got my head around the dimensions and drew up some templates. Lots of repetitive cutting though, and I must have gone through 20 hobby knife blades. I toyed with the idea of making cardboard tiles for the roof, but as I wanted it finished this century I decided on lightly scoring the cardboard to give the impression of tiles.

That done, I mixed up some dark buff emulsion paint with fine sand, and slapped a heavy coat on the lot. Then it was simply a matter of an ink pinwash to bring out the details, then drybrushing in progressively lighter colours.

The stained glass windows are colour photocopies made onto overhead paper, which i ended up backing with white card to make them stand out. The gravestones are metal offcuts from the shed, and the crucifix in the graveyard is from a plastic necklace I found in the dollar store.
The church is 1:72ish scale, and consequently it’s a bit large, but works well for the skirmish games I usually play, and provides a nice objective. The belltower roof is removable for snipers, FOOs and such. I did toy with the idea of making a full interior but then realised I like my sanity a little too much. That said, I may go back and make the central nave roof removable, adding a basic interior.

So, some pictures… First off a comparison between the real thing and my model. I must say I’m well chuffed with the result. Unfortunately I wasn't able to replicate the dismal looking weather :)

L'Église Saint Vigor du XIIe et XIIIe siècles in Cheux, Normandy

My attempt at posing a similar photo. Except for the weather, not a bad match

Front view, Lloyd carrier and 6pdr in defensive positions
Lt. Harry Macleod leads the No.10 platoon PIAT team into action
6 pdr and an Lt. MacLeod's No.10 Platoon await the dastardly hun

Churchill Mk III in the churchyard.

Top down shot to show scale. The bell tower is great for snipers or FO teams
Speaking of... A sniper and an FO team in the belfry

No.10 Platoon defend the churchyard
RAF Liason Morris LRC 'Limejuice' in front of the apse. You can see the details made of blue foam and card in this shot.

The church and the churchyard. the wall is blue foam.

Church from behind. This shows the semicircular apse made of heavy card.

M10 3" Self Propelled gun provide some anti-tank suppport for No.10 platoon.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Chain of Command AAR: Battle of Route Nationale 66

British troops charge along RN66
Two posts in as many days. This must be some kind of record for me. Tomorrow I have to get stuck into the last round of assessments for my degree, so thought I should get another after action report posted before I descend back into the abyss. Over the weekend I had the chance to again get stuck into some play testing of the up and coming Toofatlardies skirmish level Second World War ruleset, Chain of Command. For those of you who may have missed it, my first AAR may be read here. After a couple of play throughs, the basic game mechanics are now all but second nature, and the game flows quickly and smoothly. If I had not kept stopping to snap photographs, this game would have taken less than an hour.

On a related note, the latest Summer Special from the Lardies has just been released. For those not familiar with the biannual specials, I'd highly recommend you to check it out. The pdf files offer a plethora of articles and scenarios on topics ranging from close air support in the Vietnam war to an excellent Sharp Practice amendment for the War of the Roses, courtesy of Pat of Wargaming with Silver Whistle fame. This latest special also includes a superb looking campaign for I Ain't Been Shot Mum by Lard-in-Cheif, Rich Clarke. The campaign is based around the Irish Guards battlegroup's attacks towards Valkenswaard during the initial stages of Operation Market Garden in
1944. The campaign breaks the action down into ten game able actions, with the british player racing against the clock and the overstretched German team struggling to stem the onslaught with their overstretched forces. I'm already planning to expand my forces to allow the local club to get stuck into this campaign. While designed with IABSM3 in mind, it seems that this would port easily to Battlegroup Overlord or Flames of War. Anyway, I'd highly recommend you check it out. 

Now, I was going to post an AAR, wasn't I? Without further ado, the battle of Route Nationale 66. I thought I might use a bit of a creative narrative this time.


The Battle of Route Nationale 66, between Caen and Villers-Bocage, mid-June 1944. 

The battleground. Brits entered from the left
The 15th Scottish Division had only landed at Gold Beach four days earlier and already they were being ordered into action again. This time their objective is to sever  Route Nationale 66, a tarmac road which German forces have been using to link forces around Caen with troops facing the Americans north of Vire. At the afternoon's O group, Lieutenant Harry MacLeod of the 6th King's Own Scots Borderers had learned that his No.10 Platoon was once again to lead the company's advance. H-Hour was set for 0530 the following morning. A half troop from the divisional recce regiment was to support MacLeod's advance. Sgt Arthur 'Neddie' Seagoon's half troop comprised two Humber armoured cars, one a mark IV armed with a 37mm gun, the other a bren gun armed LRC. Both cars were fast, but would be up against it if Jerry had any armour or '88s in the area. 

Sgt 'Neddie' Seagoon atop his mighty steed

MacLeod ordered Sgt. Arthur Campbell, his veteran platoon sergeant, to take a small group and patrol the enemy position. Shortly after nightfall, Campbell led his men towards the main road, eyes peeled for the inevitable enemy patrols. The clanking of metal and hushed conversation in German announced that enemy were located in a ruined farmhouse across the road. Campbell was experienced enough to realise that Jerry had spotted his patrols as surely as he had theirs. Returning to the friendly lines, the sergeant informed MacLeod of the enemy locations, and with this information in hand the lieutenant decided on jump-off points for tomorrows action, locations where he knew he could safely feed his sections into the coming fight. Having done all he could, MacLeod joined his men in a night of fitful and restless sleep.

The men rose in the darkness and as the sun began to broach the eastern sky, the men formed up into sections and moved off towards their forming up area. MacLeod ordered Sgt. Campbell to take Cpl. James Robson's section up the dirt track and to seize the ruined house. As Campbell and Robson;s section advanced cautiously towards the house, Seagoon's Humber IV whirred down the road past them before halting in the middle of the tarmac road. Seagoon saw the German machine-gun team covering the dirt track down which Campbell and Robson were advancing. He traversed the turret traversed towards the building and opened up on the Germans with the 37mm and coaxial BESA. He saw 2 Germans go down hit by tracer, and then Campbell and Robson's section were around him. The rhythmic chatter of the Bren gun joined the staccato crack of his BESA coax as the section's bren team, directed by Campbell, laid down covering fire. Campbell led his rifle team in a charge across the road, but just then the sound of tearing canvas erupted from the church yard down the road. A tripod mounted MG42 ripped into the rear of Campbell's men, sending the survivors running for the cover of a nearby bomb crater.
Campbell orders Robson's section forward

The textbook British advance reaches the crossroads
MG42 team fires into the British flank
Seagoon edged his car closer, cutting down the German survivors. He could swear he saw the German gefreiter fall when from nowhere a panzerfaust round slammed into the hull. His ears ringing and coughing from the smoke, he soon discovered that Hitchens, his driver, was badly wounded. Exposed and under enemy fire from a newly appeared section, Seagoon chose to rotate the turret and keep firing.

The Humber LRC joins the fray
Harry MacLeod had heard the dull metallic crash as something had slammed into the armoured car, but after only a brief pause the rhythmic chatter of the BESA had started up again. The horrifying sound of a spandau came  from down the road to his left. It was wiping out Campbell's force by degrees, so he  ordered Corporal Bill MacLaggan to take his section, cut across the road into the churchyard, and to outflank the machine-gun position. MacLaggan, still recovering from his recent wound, led his section off through the fields to the left. 
Another German section is fed into the fight.
Seagoon was giving Jerry hell. A second panzerfaust had slammed the ground only feet from his car, and still the BESA chattered its death song at the German section. He glanced behind him to see that Cpl. Bluebottle had reached the crossroads with his LRC. Good, he thought, soon we'll have these Jerry blighters on the run. So elated was Seagoon at the prospect that he never even saw the panzerschreck team which, having crept around the flank of his car, fired the round that turned the Humber IV into flaming ruin.
The panzerschreck makes short work of Seagoon's Humber

MacLeod glanced down the dusty track towards the house. He had heard the explosion and say the oily black smoke trail which was the funeral pyre for Seagoon and his crew. Christ almighty he thought, why had that bloody armoured car gotten so close to the German positions. The battle was swinging against him. He could see Sgt Campbell trying desperately to rally down the tattered remnants of Robson's section, but they all remained hunkered down in bomb crater. Worse, the bloody spandau was still firing from somewhere down the road. Suddenly, Private MacIntyre, Robson's Bren gunner came staggering down the track, blood streaming from his forehead.
"Its bloody murder sir, they're gone, they're just all bloody gone."
Lt MacLeod grasps the nettle

 MacLeod tried to get more sense out of the man but he was too badly dazed, so the Lieutenant sent him back to the RAP to have the headwound seen to.

So Robson's bren team was gone now as well. The Humber LRC sat immobile on the crossroads. He had to take the initiative or his platoon was lost. He drew his pathetically underpowered Webley revolver as he rushed towards Corporal Angus Duncan.

"Duncan, get your section and follow me. You too Peters." Duncan and his section set off at the run, with Private Peters grabbing the 2" mortar and following.

Chaos reigns at the crossroads

Sgt Arthur Campbell was not having a pleasant morning. He'd seen the armoured car go up, and the air was thick with thick acrid smoke as the car burnt itself out. Jerry had taken up position in the walled yard of the ruined house and were laying down a relentless fire on his position. He glanced around the crater at the shaken remnants of Robson's section as bullets spattered against the earth bulwark. What good could three men do anyway, he thought as he peered carefully over the rim of the crater. The other armoured car was still sitting there, engine idling and now he could see more movement beyond the ruined house. If someone didn't plug that gap, he thought, Jerry was going to outflank their entire position. He could see a German section racing across the road, throwing a hail of grenades at the small barn, their dull crump carrying above the noise of the battle. Then from barn erupted with a hail of fire.
German attack moves in on the barn

Duncan and MacLeod lead the defense

Bloody hell, thought MacLeod as he reloaded his Webley, that had been close. He peered out the door of the barn to see five Germans. A grizzled looking veteran was moaning softly and holding his stomach, but otherwise the bodies were still. He spotted movement across the road. He saw the Jerry section split into fire teams and ducked back inside as the MG42 opened up on the barn. He could hear the crump of the 2" mortar shells as Peters tried to stem this assault, but the firing did not let up.
He looked around at Duncan's section. The first assault had taken it's toll on the men, Carlyle and Rogers were dead, and the rest were badly shaken.They couldn't hold much longer, his hands were shaking and he couldn't get the bloody rounds in the revolver. Just then Duncan's voice came reassuringly steady and strong.
The German Feldwebel lies severely wounded
"Right lads, lets get ready, they're coming again. I want rapid fire, we'll hold these Jerry bastards. Let's give it to them."
The enfields cracked a rapid staccato and the Bren took up it's rythmic chatter again. MacLeod glanced out the window and fired off his six rounds in the general direction of the movement.
To his left, the second armoured car had finally gotten moving again. He could see the commander, blood streaming down his face as he calmly fired into the German position, pausing only to reload the Bren with parade ground precision.
The LRC lays down a withering fire
"Sir" It was Duncan. "Sir, I think we've got them on the run. Might be time to have a crack at the ruined house don't you think?"
Gazing in disbelief, MacLeod saw the second armoured car race across the road and towards the enemy hedge line, Bren chattering all the while. These bloody recce blokes liked to live life on the edge. He turned quickly back to Duncan.
"Right you are Gus," he turned to the men. "Right lads, bayonets and grenades. Lets send the rest of these bastards scurrying back to Berlin. Collins, you see to that wounded German, take him back to company."

The Brits take the offensive
The attack moves in as the LRC siezes a jump-off point
He led the men across the road and towards the ruined house at the run. It all seemed to be in slow motion, he saw the grenades explode in the yard like dirty brown smudges, then they were hand to hand with the Germans, he could see men down on both sides, then he saw Duncan take a bayonet in the arm.
Hand to hand in the rubble

The positions at game end, MacLeod and Duncan rally their men in the bomb crater as German morale crumbles
 "Fall back lads, find some cover." The survivors ran back across the road, but they were not pursued by fire. He saw Duncan, the last out of the yard. He trotted over, his sleeve bloody but with a broad grin on his face. He held a Schmeisser out for MacLeod to take.
"There y'are sir. It's not exactly regulation I know, but better than that bloody pea shooter I suspect." The corporal looked across the road and smiled.
"Sir, have a look at that would you."
MacLeod followed the corporal's gaze, and through the smoke and haze he could see the last remnants of the German troops fleeing for their life.


Well, that was the action. The German's eventually broke when the LRC captured a jump off point and they lost their gefreiter in the melee. The action in the other flank, where MacLaggan's section had been sent, comprised mostly of desultory exchange of fire between the Bren team and the MG42, while the rifle section took cover in the churchyard.
MacLaggan's assault moves (slowly) in

The patrol phase is a great game within a game, and played completely differently with this scenario, which was a probing attack. I also got a chance to use some of the nation specific rules, and these do add to the flavour of the game without being overwhelming. The German assaults on the barn were preceded by a hail of Grenades, causing a few casualties and some serious shock which very nearly offset their not quite getting to grips with the enemy. The British rapid fire rule gave that extra edge to the firing, enabling them to decimate the second German attack. The armoured cars were fun, in fact they seemed more useful than the lumbering Churchill in the first game. The diminutive LRC performed admirably, despite the commander being wounded by a panzerschreck round. Again, the Chain of Command dice proved very useful, allowing both the Brits and the Germans to interrupt their opponent's plans.

I've just finished my first section of British Airborne, and hope to have the rest of the platoon finished soon after i've completed this round of assessments. I've also got the blokes from the local club coming round to have a multiplayer Sharp Practice evening, so in between umpiring the game, i'll be endeavoring to snap some photos and get an AAR of this up.

For now, stay tuned for more AARs and updates in the near future.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

21st Panzer division troops

Panzergrenadier Zug mounted up
Apologies for the lack of posts over the last few weeks, but uni has yet again managed to get in the way of more important things! This will be a rather succinct update, just some photos of the latest additions to my 20mm World War II forces for Chain of Command. 

This project has been in the works for a very long time, but now i've finally completed a platoon's worth of German heer panzer grenadiers to go up against my British infantry force. These guys did feature in the last play test report, and the more keen-eyed of you may have noticed in that report a few figures in black undercoat. 

Most Chain of Command games use a full strength platoon with some support. I've chosen to do a panzer grenadier platoon, which comprises a headquarters group of a leutnant, a feldwebel, and a panzerschreck team. Under command are three panzer grenadier gruppen, each commanded by a gefreiter and comprising two machinegun teams, each of one MG34 or MG42 gunner and three riflemen. I have also painted up some extra riflemen so I can field a regular grenadier platoon, which omits the second MG team comprising instead the gefreiter, one MG team and one four man rifle team. 
The figures are a mix of Plastic Soldier Company, AB figures, and Kelly's Heroes. I think they all work well together. 

Their rides are the delightfully ungainly looking SdKfz U-304(f) halftracks, refurbed French halftracks from the mind of Major Alfred Becker. I've included three fully armoured versions and one which must have slipped through. The vehicles are all from Raventhorpe. 

I do love all of the weird and wonderful tanks and armoured vehicles which were the brainchildren of Major Becker of the 21st Panzer Division, and have several other types waiting to be painted up, but these will do for now. 
Panzergrenadier Zug ready for action.

1. Gruppe

2. Gruppe, (the unlucky ones with the soft-skinned halftrack)

3. Gruppe

Command Gruppe, with a 3.7cm gun on their halftrack

I've created sabot bases to show the troops mounted up and allow them to be removed when the figures are deployed.

To provide some support options, I've painted up a tank and an assault gun. Tanks in CoC are useful if used in concert with infantry, but, as in reality, quite vulnerable when operating alone. I've also finished painting up some of the excellent SdKfz 250/1 and 250/9 'neu' halftracks from Shaun at S&S models, and will post some pictures when they're based. In CoC, it's usually more beneficial to have some recce vehicles, an observer team for a mortar battery, or a tripod mounted MG, than a lumbering tank. It's really enjoyable to be able to use some vehicles which in most games last about 2 seconds before they are reduced to flaming wrecks, but which are able to provide an edge to your forces, just as they did in reality.
The Panther is from Raventhorpe's 'Ready to Roll' range, and the StuG IIIG is from Plastic Soldier Company, with a crewman from Kelly's Heroes. 

Well, that's it for now. In the next day or so i'll be posting up another Chain of Command AAR i just finished playing today.

Chat soon
My 21.Panzerdivision force thus far, with a PSC Panzer IVH and a Kelly's Heroes tripod mounted MG42.