Archive for August, 2013

A Battle Lost 10

2 Operational Level wargames within a fortnight sandwiched my trip to the Plassenburg.    NQM is the original ‘event led’ Op Game designed by the Doormouse years ago (even I have been part of the playing group for 20 years, now!).   Megablitz is a more codified game inspired by the NQM project.    When NQM stepped down to 15mm for space reasons a decade ago, much of the 20mm collection went into the Megablitz stables (so even some of toys are the same).

Fall Gabel 04a(Fall Gabel: 4th PD – my 22 PD toys – getting obliterated by a Corps level artillery barrage or unprecedented ferocity)

The two games couldn’t have been more different.   Fall Gabel (NQM) was played amongst a small group on a single evening just on one table; A Battle Lost? (Megablitz) was played all day on six tables with around twenty players.

In Fall Gabel we were channelled straight into the combat zones so spent just about the whole game running higher level combats; in A Battle Lost? the French were determined to dig in, while the Panzer Corps (at least) were given strict orders to by-pass enemy units and not to fight any battles (so the game was mostly a traffic game).

A Battle Lost 04a(A Battle Lost?: Panzer columns navigate around and between French positions)

Fall Gabel 06(Fall Gabel: the Gross Deutschland Motorised Division gets stuck in – my Germans, Chris’s Russians, Treb’s buildings)

Neither game featured any player engagement with the logistics rules.   Which, originally, was what these Operational Level games were about.   What made them interesting.

Air power is another important part of these operations but was Umpire controlled in both games … in A Battle Lost? this combined with an ‘all in one basket’ policy imposed by high command to mean the Luftwaffe played little part in the conquest of France.

A Battle Lost 02(A Battle Lost? Opening Phases … the Luftwaffe take off successfully – one of their better moments)

Here are some more pictures:

A Battle Lost 01(A Battle Lost?: some of Rommel’s recce units – on strict orders from Gen. Guderian – me – to get to the beaches first)

A Battle Lost 04(A Battle Lost?: the BEF about to cop it)

A Battle Lost 05(A Battle Lost?: Cambrai about to cop it)

Fall Gabel 08(Fall Gabel: 4th Panzer advancing confidently into the battlespace)

Fall Gabel 07(Fall Gabel: the remnants of the Division reorganise a safe distance back from the smoking wrecks of its combat units)

Fall Gabel 05(Fall Gabel: nightfall – the tattered Red Army are driven out of all their positions into a confused cauldron around the rail head; Gross Deutschland poised, brimming with confidence, before the morning’s assault)

In truth, blend the two games together, add back the missing logistics and air liaison – and give all the players enough to do … and you would have the perfect wargame.   At the moment the Operational Game seems to have settled into a formula which everyone enjoys (me included) but which runs as much because of the fudges and bits left out as it does because of the rules which are played and work.

A Battle Lost 07(A Battle Lost?: by Day Three my Corps had worked its way to the front and Rommel was headed for the coast)

The games are very well organised and the lunch at Shrivenham was first rate.

My thanks all round.

I played Germans in both games.  In Fall Gabel I commanded 4PD which bounced off, but which had softened the position sufficiently that we took it in the afternoon, and I commanded Gross Deutschland which methodically destroyed everything in front of it.  Unfortunately we were at the end of our (unplayed) logistic chain, so the thrust was doomed to fail.

In A Battle Lost? I played Fast Heinz whose XIX Corps of three Panzer Divisions was allocated a 2nd echelon birth with orders to break through to the coast.

Despite all the traffic trouble, the infantry getting in the way, and lack of allocated road priorities, by Day Two we were threading our way through.   We took 3 or 4 small towns, the main Front airfield, cut off a full enemy Division and were first to the Sea with 2 of our 3 Panzer Divisions (Rommel up front); indeed, at the airfield we were just minutes behind the departure of the French C-in-C!   Job done I guess.

A Battle Lost 08(A Battle Lost?: XIX Corps securing the Albert air facilities just as the lumbering Bloch extracts the French High Command)

I took personal command of the Albert (airfield) exploitation phase so as to free Rommel up for the race to the coast.    Had the Luftwaffe been properly about its business it would have forced the still visible Bloch transport down, enabling us to capture the top brass.   As it was, they ignored air identification flags and flares, ignored the priority messages sent 2 hours earlier concerning the capture of the assets, and instead shot up the German Staff detachments and wrecked the captured planes.   Thanks guys.

Not to worry, of course, it is the kind of hokum Umpires enjoy throwing into games but which doesn’t really happen: my father’s cousin won his DFC in this campaign and always insisted it was easy enough to tell the French from the Germans from a plane in 1940!

Operational games are like proverbial buses (unusually I used a real one recently) … you wait for too long then several come at once.   I am pleased to have been able to join in.

NQM vs Megablitz

NQM has too many stands (you don’t need so many stands at battalion level if they are all going to do the same thing) … Megablitz is better in using company stands for recce (who disperse at that level) but battalion and similar stands for other troops.*   I prefer scaling by relevance, so might compromise by allowing 2 stands to a full strength battalion so I can show a difference between transit and combat moves.

I do like NQM giving different values in attack and defence compared with Megablitz Strength Points – I like the way artillery can be strong supporting an attack but relatively weak if caught unprotected**.

I like Megablitz‘s codified movement concepts but still have a soft spot for NQM‘s variable (event led) length bounds.   One day that sort of system will be harmonised into a working game mechanism that requires less umpire fudge than tradition has allowed.

Megablitz has a very efficient orders/posture system that reduces confusion.   NQM is more ‘old school’ (and free-wheeling) …

Both games are great value and should be played more.


*NQM gives an infantry battalion up to 6 stands, varying strength by the number of stands present.  Megablitz uses one stand per battalion, varying the strength by varying how many strength points the stand can contribute (and absorb) in combat.   Megablitz feels less cluttered as a consequence.

** NQM rates a stand Heavy, Medium or Light for its firepower and similarly H,M,L for its target value.  It means that, say, a Katyusha unit e.g. can be H in its hitting power but only L when taking incoming hits.   Megablitz uses the same SPs for hitting and taking hits (so tough units are equally tough in attack and defence): this is a very useful and quite justified simplification which does the job relatively well – I just prefer the more subtle detail the NQM mechanism allows.

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Plassenburg Collection 02a

Perched above the brewing town of Kulmbach,  Plassenburg castle houses the biggest tin soldier museum in the world, with a claimed 300,000 or so figures in the collection.  The 4 floors cover most periods of history from ancients to the mid 20th Century, and there are plenty of examples of early toy soldiers.

(More info)

Plassenburg Collection 00

Take the bus from the Stadthalle – it takes barely 5 minutes to get up to the top and only costs a few Euros.

Plassenburg Collection 02

Although the collection tells its story mostly with traditional German 30mm flats, round figures and other scales and styles are represented.

The big collections are from the 18th Century and Napoleonics, but much more is mixed in – including a room devoted to early North America.

A few photos can never do such a vast collection justice – but I will attempt to give pictorial impression by way of a review/taste:

ZFB 2013 14

(the museum was obviously busy all day – zinnfiguren clearly appeal to a big audience)

Plassenburg Collection 11

(early figures of different styles)

Plassenburg Collection 14

(do click on the pictures for a closer look)

Plassenburg Collection 10

(wartime German toy soldiers)

Plassenburg Collection 13

(Hyde figures camel corps)

Some of the figures are individual items on their glass shelves, or lined up in imaginary units, some are displayed as composed vignetes either on plinths or in light boxes …

Plassenburg Collection 22

… whilst most of the rooms have vast dioramas featuring thousands of figures recreating famous battles from military history.

ZFB 2013 11

(Prussian infantry drills modelled one-to-one)

The Age of Napoleon

Plassenburg Collection 09

Plassenburg Collection 06

Plassenburg Collection 05

(Crossing the Berezina)

The Age of Der Alte Fritz

Plassenburg Collection 03

Plassenburg Collection 21

… including the famous Battle of Leuthen diorama

Plassenburg Collection 17Plassenburg Collection 15Plassenburg Collection 16

A few other items

Plassenburg Collection 07

(North Eastern Indians)

Plassenburg Collection 08

Plassenburg Collection 08a

Plassenburg Collection 18

(The Battle of Pavia 1525)

Plassenburg Collection 19

(a scene from the Niebelungenleid)

Plassenburg Collection 20

(a cleverly posed boxed Pirate scene)

ZFB 2013 12

(Aztecs and Conquistadors)

Of course, the military collection includes airplanes, tanks, vehicles, balloons and ships …

Plassenburg Collection 24

I cannot recommend the Plassenburg soldier museum highly enough.  The were several other exhibitions in the castle when we visited, from regional history, the story of the castle in the Peasants uprisings, an art show, and the ‘Army of Frederick the Great’ (which boasted a splendid collection of flags and weapons), all of them would generally be worth an hour or so – but (if you share my tastes) the soldier museum is simply without parallel.   Entry to the soldier museum was a modest €4.00 (or available packaged with other exhibitions)

ZFB 2013 15

(central courtyard at Plassenburg – the shop and ticket office is in the far corner, the Zinnfiguren Museum opposite on the right)

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New deliveries …

AMX-13 01

I called this update ‘new deliveries’ rather than new toys or similar as the only thing new is me having done something – they are projects that have been hanging around for … well, let’s say ‘a few’ years.

I had painted but not based-in one of the AMX tanks (for AK-47), and I had only chopped up and collected bits for the 2 AA trucks (for Vichy French PBI use) – so moving the two pairs from junk to ‘done’ (well, ‘usable/done’, anyway – there’s always fiddling and smartening that can be found).

Both are QRF projects.

AMX-13 02

(QRF: AMX-13/90)

The AMXs will doubtless get some washes … they are the AMX-13/90s and I have added a little stowage, plus the aerials, MGs etc. and on the latest one I have added a characteristic rocket rack.  This is a pretty simple mod using half a piece robbed from a Zvezda Katyusha model.   There is more that ought to be done but I think it looks pretty good ‘as is’.

AMX-13 03

Sometimes they are blue, sometimes they are painted a camo drab … so I’ve done blue tips.  Again, the look is acceptable.

They will give a bit of punch to my French-style blue hats …

AMX-13 04

The Chevvies come from an earlier era …  Under the agreement with Germany, the French colonial forces were denied many heavy weapons, but were allowed mobile AA platforms which were essential for air defence.   I got the components together to put some into PBI scenarios, but never really got round to doing the job …

Mob twin 20mm 01

They are QRF Chevvies (from the WWII French range) with the wheelbase shortened and the bed replaced with a shorter one robbed from a couple of Battlefront Zis trucks.   You might not think that essential, but I thought the model as is was too long, and I thought the swap improved it.

In the back is a Hotchkiss twin AA, again from the QRF French (although I have swapped the crew heads for Peter Pig ‘Kepi’ heads.

The other crew figures are Piggies.   I will add a few more when I find some suitable poses.

PBI stock Morocco AA

This one from Marocco was the best picture I could find to work from …

Mob twin 20mm 03

But I put the guns at a more jaunty angle …

I can’t see any clues to pick up for colour schemes so have left the models neutral for the time being …

Mob twin 20mm 02

(QRF: French Chevrolet trucks with twin AA fitted)

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