Archive for the ‘Operational Games’ Category


Of course the next most important thing to completing a reorganisation is getting the troops into action: and the opportunity came very rapidly in an important Winter Offensive in the Northern sector (in Chris Kemp’s ongoing NQM Barbarossa campaign).

Chris had set up a shallow defensive line of dug-in (hopefully ‘winter’) Germans and put me in charge of several divisional waves of freshly rebuilt heroes of the Motherland (not that we’re taking sides, of course ;) ) …

NQMWO 02(my guys are organised 6 half-battalion sized bases per regiment – and 3 regiments per division)

NQMWO 03(Chris has his as 5 or 6 bases per battalion, but misses a level and represents a division with 3 such battalions)

Which is all quite fascinating as it means we have 3 blocks of about the same footprint with the same number of figures in a Division.   Perfect … just the scale logic getting there is not the same.

So in we went in great force, rolling reasonable dice … and mostly the German’s folded … To be fair to them, there were as many overloads as morale failures (on an Eastern Front Winter there really isn’t anywhere to run to anyway).

NQMWO 04(Classic NQM … soldiers everywhere!!! ) …

I have some tank forces in reserve to boost up this attack but opted to put the rifle men in first, to see if the Germans were up for it.   This was a quick ‘working week’ session – and concluded that there is enough left in the game to give another session (so we get all the toys on the table) …

Meanwhile, we had rattled through about a dozen or so firefights, most of which were followed by an assault, and the Russians had pretty much carried the first line and were engaging the second.

In traditional fashion, I did try an impromptu attack, against to see if the next line of Germans were really committed to hold onto this patch of someone-else’s country.  They were, so the next wave of attacks will, indeed, need to be prepared properly.

Late evening, the Vodka was passed out amongst the men who took the key positions …


Whilst I was posting these pictures, Chris put up the annotated story (so for who was who etc. go to NQM blog/storm forecast )

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Rifle Divisions 01

Almost done, now …

I’m waiting for some parts to arrive to add tows/carts for the big mortars but otherwise the infantry guns and limbers are complete and, for Operational Games, 3 divisions of infantry are rolling.

Rifle Divisions 02(I have given a horsed limber to each infantry gun and – somewhat generously – a Komsomolets to each anti-tank gun)

Rifle Divisions 03(each gun is mounted on a shim base which will mate with a magnetic patch either on the tow or the deployed base)

Rifle Divisions 04(I had some walking gunners liberated in the rebasing so these now are loose and can accompany the guns as appropriate)

Rifle Divisions 04a(AT guns hitched up … there is some scope for me to add some riders to the tractor when time permits)

Each rifle battalion has a stand of small arms and a stand of support weapons … one representing the machine gun platoons, one HE type support and one anti-tank.  They all count as infantry in operational games but it gives a nice spread of types and functions.

Rifle Divisions 05(Rifle Regiment in half battalion stands)

Rifle Divisions 06(Rifle Regiment on the road)

Each division has three of these regiments …

Rifle Divisions 07a(Red Army Rifle Division)

And the Corps has three of these divisions

Rifle Divisions 08(Red Army Corps … the Rifle Divisions)

Being for operational games … all these go into a bespoke file box …

Rifle Divisions 09(an exact fit – give or take some space for padding … at right there are some spare wagons but the space will be for mortar carts)

Of course, each Division has its Headquarters, services and Artillery, and the Corps has more of the same … these are all in the next file box (which we will look at in a future episode) …

The figures are mostly Peter Pig Russians, the Komsomolets are either Battlefront or Quality Castings.  The AT guns are piggies, the IGs BF and the big mortars Skytrex.   They all blend together nicely I think.

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Lodz 01

The Battle of Lodz, seen here from the Southern aspect, was fought in 1914 on the Eastern Front … or refought in London (just about) on the 100th anniversary using the Op 14 operational level rules by Richard Brooks.

It was fought in ever harsher conditions as the Germans attempted to destroy the Russian 2nd Army and headquarters in Lodz (while the Russians attempted to encircle the Germans and trap them in a freezing vice).

Lodz 02

Here’s the view from my end of the table – I took the Reserve Corps of XXV and III Guards, turfing the defenders out of the Northern villages and completing the encirclement while XX and XVII Corps annihilated the trapped Russians.

We did not know the Russian plans, and I  had the unenviable task of closing around the position … leaving all that empty space (the whole near, left quarter of the table – around which several unarrived Russian players would deliberately hover) to my rear.

In truth, there was nothing I could do about it: I did not have the resources to police it all, and we did have to crack the enemy position.   Whilst not being naive, I had to run a race against time and hope to get into the position before unseen enemies could trap me against it.  Or so it seemed.

Lodz 11(another depiction of the battle as temperatures drop)

Op 14 is played with 4 stand brigades in 2 Km squares organised around Divisional HQs and artillery support.   If all are in contact then command is a good as whatever is normal for your forces.  For effect, you roll =< than the number of figures in your brigade (so as you lose men your chances of hitting diminish).

Some of your losses are recovered overnight but otherwise accumulate and trigger morale issues at higher levels.

Lodz 03

Anatomy of XXV Res. Corps … 3 4-stand Brigades, a Field Gun support battery (3 figures) and a Divisional HQ with some cavalry attached for liaison duty.   All ‘in command’ (all in adjacent squares).

In the background some outlying Russian units fall back on the main position.

Lodz 04

XXV are gradually sucked into the cauldron … the force is now spread out, using the HQ and cavalry to maintain command integrity.   With just the one battery in support, the chances of these attacks prevailing against men in villages and/or dug in are low – but the actions are necessary to draw troops and support away from the main attacks in other sectors.

The troops activate in card order – so in this sector XXV will go first.  The cards limit what actions are possible.  Hearts are good, but those enemy on clubs would be stalled if they were out of command (and e.g. not dig in) …

I like the simplicity of Op 14 as it lets you get on with the ‘big picture’ … however the squares do allow tactical modifier such as flank and enfilade bonuses which are too often missing from operational level games.  So there is subtlety as well as the grand sweep.

Polen, Lodz nach deutscher Besetzung(Lodz in 1914)

Tape rivers form on the boundary between squares and e.g. affect artillery movement …  and toy town buildings create the convincing illusion of built up areas once you are inside the abstract bubble of the game.

Lodz 06(Traction engines and draught horses bring up the German siege artillery)

As the battle developed the Germans were able to bring up some typically massive siege guns.   They took rather a long time to set up (hence the counting down D8) … the shell holes in that corner square come from the howitzers … they will be resolved when someone assaults the position.

In the example above, the square is likely to be attacked from both directions, giving the attackers extra dice.  Up to 2 of the defenders might be removed when the attack goes in as a card will be turned for each bombardment marker (shell hole) – red is dead – but as the defenders are in permanent trenches (extra dice) the attacker will still probably need the pummelling to have paid off (the defenders still get their extra dice, but, 2 bases left, would need 2 or less for hits, rather than their establishment 4) …

Lodz 07(Spotter aircraft flying over Lodz)

Little by little (square by square) the defenders were squeezed into less and less of the city … Unless spotting is available, artillery is by support only and requires line of sight (so the guns were being pushed through the streets) …

Lodz 08

The game gave one of the better – fluid and dynamic – city battles I have participated in … it felt gritty and brutal but progress was made (though not without reverses and losses) … Meanwhile Russian 5th Army was closing around us …

Lodz 09(the battle for Lodz city centre)

Lodz 10(action to the South of Lodz)

By the end of a day’s wargaming we had pretty much taken Lodz (at least that was what was being said in the German HQ … ) and our flanks had held out … just about (actually a number of divisions were in a mess and my reserves were on the brink of heading home – but don’t tell the Russians that).

We had 8 players in the game running from map moves to table top, including resolving a multi divisional city fight in a single afternoon (whilst allowing a good amount of socialising and a buffet lunch as you go) – yet at no point did the game really feel either rushed or simplistic.  I think that speaks highly of Op 14 for games of this sort.

Op 14 was published in Nugget 236 (June 2010) – the journal of Wargame Developments.

The figures and components were mostly supplied by Ian Drury and include a number of veteran Minifigs plus anything else that suits.

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Warsaw 1920 01

Warsaw 1920 was a higher level multiplayer wargame of the defence of Poland’s capital.    It included Operational Level command (Bob and John with maps and messages downstairs) and tactical resolution (6 players with toy soldiers on a big table upstairs) …

Ian Drury and Richard Brooks umpired and were kept busy all day.

I took the role of Franciszek Latinik in command of Polish 1st Army, tasked with holding Warsaw and somehow tying the Russians down on the Narew/Bug line so that Nigel (as Sikorsky/5th Army) could counter attack round their Western flank.

My Eastern flank was secured by Alex (Roja/2nd Army).

Warsaw 1920 03(The Horror!   Somewhere out there lay Tukhachevsky’s ferocious Red Legions – and I had just a strung out line to stop them)

The game started with map moves on a pin board in headquarters until active umpiring identified that formations were hitting contact ranges – and then, one by one, we were called up to the tactical level and started putting toys out.

Warsaw 1920 02(here is the map to table interface … most of my units/flags are in Warsaw – the Western sector was very thinly held)

The line of the Narew/Bug could only be crossed by marked bridges or in the BUA squares – and although most of the Russians threatening the sector were the other side of the line, there was a weak point that I had to keep control of, stretching me forward.

These three bridges were key in stemming the flow across the Narew (as although there are plenty of the lighter blue rivers, they are not going to hold the enemy up).

Warsaw 1920 04(you can see how Warsaw is defended to the north by the Narew and Bug rivers … the game map shows how this requires me to hold the three bridges – and the gap between my flags which shows that I don’t )

Once the game goes tactical, it is very hard to plug these command gaps and I never did manage to concentrate the troops defending my sector.

Indeed, the movements that called me to the table were precisely against this sector, as occasional over flights confirm … 1st Army is in a lot of trouble.

Warsaw 1920 05(contact!: 4 figures represent a typical brigade)

My game quickly degenerated into a dogfight for this sector with a seemingly endless flood of Russians.

Two things saved me … the action in the game is card driven and the Russians stall on some cards (although I couldn’t stop them, ‘friction’ could)  … and there was no threat directly from the North (so as Roja’s North Eastern defence collapsed back into the City’s entrenchments, it freed me to feed my reserve units in North West of the City to bottle the enemy up on his bridgeheads).  Nice one, Alex!

Warsaw 1920 06(the blast markers show where the Russians have burst through the centre of my sector defence – but you can see a line of 3 brigades who have come out of Warsaw trying to drive them back to the bridges)

This is pretty much how the game ended … we had planned another day’s action (in which an Eastern counter attack would match our Western encirclement, so trapping Tukhachevsy’s armies) but the pace at which we completed the 2 hr turns was never quite brisk enough to take us to the final day.

We played enough to decide the the Poles had held Warsaw but not enough to see if our plan to win the Vistula campaign would be decisive.

Warsaw 1920 07(some more general shots of the toys on the table 15mm, mostly Peter Pig … the plane is a 1/144 from Shapeways)

Warsaw 1920 08(2nd Army falls back into Warsaw drawing the Russians into our trap and relieving 1st army’s reserves so they could be feed into the Western sector)

I think, as a muliplayer game bridging the Operational to Tactical divide, this game would have worked perfectly had we all been familiar enough to churn through the turns quick enough – as it was, some players (me included) needed a little too much Umpire engagement and so we were left just short of a conclusion when we needed to debrief.

But it was clear enough what would have been achieved had we been as adept at the beginning as we were at the end (isn’t that so often the case …?) ..

Nevertheless, this game ticked a lot of boxes and I appreciate all the work that went into staging it.

As a biographical note, Latinik was one of the few survivors from this war, most of the officers on both sides falling to the grim policies of either Stalin or Hitler.   RIP.   I hope we honour them by remembering their part in the history of their countries.

Warsaw 1920 09(Polish 1st Army counter attacks in the River Narew sector)

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One of the key options in preparing for an operation is to use artillery to suppress the enemy’s artillery.  Not easy for the Germans on the Eastern Front as their guns were generally outranged by the equivalent Soviet equipment … Giving them that option was a key function of the 17cm Kanone 18 and the similar 21cm Morser 18.

17cm k18 build 06

Despite the gun’s widespread use and iconic looks, I’ve never found a 15mm model (I guess because most 15mm models are dedicated to tactical wargaming at ranges that are below Counter Battery ranges …) …

So I added one by scratchbuilding around a 17 Cm barrel that comes as an option with BF’s sFH 18.  See the modelling page for some of the nuts and bolts of the build.    Finishing will find this model superdetailed, towed and crewed (and that will be ‘Part Two‘).

For counter-battery fire in Operational wargames like NQM or Megablitz I would apply the simple expedient of reducing the dice rolled by the enemy battery by the score on a die per supressing battery.   This will best achieve the suppressive effect (reducing the incoming damage on the troops the counter-battery fire is intending to protect, rather than inflicting damage on the supporting artillery itself which would all be too late for the troops under fire) …

17cm k18 build 05

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Being the next evolution of Chris Kemp’s NQM … in which lots of toys are pumped into an area deemed by both sides to be of critical importance …

Kharkov 42 05

This was the first of a two part game, so here a some photos to add to what Chris and Treb have said … Map here, Orbats here

I was given notional control of the Axis commanders (though not much around which to construct a plan and, as a consequence we started in a fairly passive mode waiting for what seemed like an endless sea of Russians to bring the battle to us).  Once the attacks began, we moved forward to defend lines ahead of our key centres …

Kharkov 42 02a

That huge pocket of Russians behind Kharkov began a series of pinning attacks on the Hungarian army before hordes of infantry poured out of the Stalino sector, simultaneously with a mechanised assault on Kharkov.

We had to commit many of our reserves to stabilise the front …

Kharkov 42 01(Kharkov: the Red Army attacks the Hungarian sector)

Kharkov 42 04(Breakthrough Artillery at the disposal of the Soviet Reserve)

Kharkov 42 06(Dogfights harass the roving VVS – more numerous than during the previous Summer)

Charkow, Strassenkämpfe(Fierce action in the streets of Kharkov)

Kharkov 42 03(A Stuka dives in to support the defenders of the beleaguered city)

To be continued …

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New Year accessions 01

Happy New Year to regulars and followers … Welcome to newcomers …

I’m sorry there hasn’t been much on P.B.Eye-Candy over Christmas and New Year: I try to reserve the ‘break’ for go somewhere projects – I find, during the rest of the year, with its events, shopping and shows, I tend to focus on the dominant public project whilst only nibbling at other bits and pieces and/or maintaining my commitment to paint and put into service any new stuff I buy.

So, for a magical couple of weeks, I like to pick something that never gets done or has stayed not done for too long, and really tick a box.

This year I managed to shift a number of ancients flats from to do to ticked by configuring them into a ‘displays options’ project (more of which on my FoG Blog ), in addition to which I have cleared up the last remaining German half tracks.

These were originally acquired as Headquarters assets available to send forward to support my PBI Company … so represent various Panzer Division vehicles that might come into play, and come in pairs to suit PBI …

The Rocket Troops had never been built (see below), only one of the Flammpanzerwagens, and neither they nor the Flakvierlings had their basing done properly.    So the Stukas have been done, and the others tidied up.   That leaves nothing outstanding from the original project, and some useful and attractive vehicles allocated to new tasks.  Tick!

New Year accessions 07

New Year accessions 08

New Year accessions 09

In addition to which I have done a Half track ambulance for the unnamed project … I get two ticks for that one as it is one of the delightful little Zvezda models and is a proper NQM reorganisation model all in one.  I have wanted to fit a Zvezda Hanomag in somewhere, but given I still had metal ones to paint (til now) it wasn’t immediately clear where I should go … but searching Medical assets proved fruitful …

New Year accessions 02(Sdkfz 251/8 armoured ambulance – from the Zvezda 1/100 model)

It’s a really nice model to which I have added a canvas made from a piece of plastic bottle which I have covered with tissue to represent fabric (as usual).   The red Cross symbols are hand painted of course (so apologies for that, I need to go back and tidy them up or get some decals I guess – but until the scrutiny of a digital camera they looked OK ;) )

New Year accessions 03

For my on going Operational Games project, I intend  that players will either need – or do better with – reorg/recover facilities in the field … for troops, that means medical facilities or similar, for vehicles that means a repair stand or similar.  I think I may have mentioned that when I introduced 22 PZ’s recovery tractor …

What I did to the Zvezda that wasn’t at all necessary is I swapped the running gear with a Quality Castings model that was waiting to have its rockets attached.    This I did just as a fiddler, and to harmonise the models: the Zvezda is just a littler bit big, and the QC just a little bit small.   Also it adds a little plastic to the metal model and a little metal to the plastic (which I though might make the ‘feel’ similar*)

New Year accessions 04(1/100 SDKFZ 251: QC with Zvezda tracks, left, Zvezda with QC tracks, right)

It was not quite as clever an idea as I thought, as it mean extending the mudguards on the QC vehicle (and now I’ve mentioned it, I suspect you can see what might otherwise count as a gap on the Zvezda) …

That said, it does make it harder to spot the different makes in a line up and I think the QC with Zvezda tracks is probably my favourite 251 of all of the (BF, Skytrex, Piggie, whatever) …

In all, I am particularly pleased with the Stuka Half tracks …

New Year accessions 05(Sdkfz 251/Wurfrahmen 40 – left: Quality Castings mount; right: Skytrex … the rocket equipment is all Skytrex and the crews a mix of Skytrex, BF and Peter Pig)

The 251 Wurfrahmen 40, or Stuka zu Fuss, was available to Panzer Pioneer support companies and could rapidly saturate an area in High Explosive if your first responders got into trouble …

These vehicles took ages.   Although I swapped the vehicles around abit, the gear is all Skytrex and I chose it because it looked sharper and less clumsy than some of the alternatives.   Now they’re done, it was perhaps a good idea.   The disadvantages were …

It is very fiddly: each mount has a fixing and a rocket pack (so 6 + 6 per vehicle) … and like all metal kit, the fit is only ‘so so’.

As ever, there are bits I want to fiddle with – e.g. the Skytrex gear lacks the front and rear cross pieces (added from brass wire – the front one is not straight, so involves a bit of fabrication) … the mounting brackets have spaces in them which are not open in the miniature versions (so would need drilling and filing).  OK – simple enough – but (sigh!) repeat 12 times

After that, paint.   This also takes much much longer … it is just a green bomb in a wooden box … but, again, repeat 12 times**.

So I a so pleased to have finally stopped putting the project off, done it properly and finished!

New Year accessions 06(OK – I did have to go back and repaint the base of all the rocket packs when I saw what they really looked like)

Russland, schwerer Wurfrahmen an Schützenpanzer

(It is ironic that you only seem to find pictures like this when you think you have finished!)

On balance I think the Peter Pig models (which have all the rocket gear cast on) have a lot to be said for them.  Less fine and less adaptable but, trust me, the self assembly versions are quite a lot of work, I have seen plenty that look more than a little (shall we say) wonky, and all those joints are only an accident away from disaster …

Fiddly?  I feel some horse-drawn transport coming on …

*in retrospect I might have added the rockets to the Zvezda model and used the QC for the ambulance: the ambulance is still a bit of a lightweight – I didn’t fill it with plasticine as I thought the weight of the tracks might help (wrong) – whereas the metal vehicles with all that gear bolted on a really hefty beasts!

**each box has 3 visible sides, of course … so even though painting the green bomb is only a dash of paint plus a dash of highlight, that is the repeat 36 times ….

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