Saturday, 27 July 2013

Sidi Rezeg 1941 Scenario

Yesterday, I looked through Benghazi Handicap by Frank Chadwick. This is a Command Decision publication. I have used this well researched book as the basis for many of my army lists. It is absolutely stuffed with that sort of thing, including lots of invaluable stuff on the Italian forces which I have been unable to source, in English, from elsewhere. It does have a high cover price but I can't recommend it too highly. I now feel guilty for buying two copies when I saw it available for a tenth of its usual price on the web - the following day the company I bought them from adjusted the price by putting the decimal point in the right place!

Until  yesterday I hadn't looked closely at the scenarios at the back of the book because I usually enjoy designing my own. But when I read the tenth one, entitled "Broken Spearhead - The Second Day at Sidi Rezegh" I suddenly realised that it was exactly what I was looking for for a combined deployment of 7th Armoured and 22nd Armoured brigades. Yes, I know, I said I couldn't field both together, but I was referring to the other scenario "Shiny Spearhead - The First Day at Sidi Rezegh". [grin]

I will use the map given in Benghazi Handicap (left) as the basis for my set up. It largely conforms to the more detailed map of the battle area in Sidi Rezeg Battles 1941 by Agar-Hamilton and Turner (below). This more detailed map clearly shows the strategic value of this strip of desert - it provides a way of getting a large force, travelling in formation, from the first escarpment to the summit of the third escarpment (it slopes upwards, west to east).

This (left) is my battlefield map. The escarpment is almost a copy of  the one given in Benghazi Handicap, though mine is longer (bigger table - 10 x 6).

I have built the high ground into the line of the escarpment because it was described, when looking at it from the third escarpment, as forming the far side of a broad shallow valley. I have included the wadis running from the escarpment, which form the reentrants that will allow easy passage up it, but I have made them somewhat shorter above the second escarpment than they appear in the original scenario.

Although I have no idea where the escarpment's wadis would go, I have added a fictional wadi complex at the foot of the escarpment. This is an easy way to mark an east to west 'staggered' start line (roughly following the line of the escarpment at 800 - 1000m distance) for the Germans of Group Knabe to form up on.

I have removed almost all of the other high ground, especially that to the north of the escarpment - Belhamed is off table.   Though geographically incorrect, I have  introduced part of the third escarpment to give an indication that this piece of ground is a valley.

And here is how it all looks on my table.
  • Except at reentrants, the face of the escarpment is type IV terrain and requires a difficulty check to climb or descend. The reverse slopes are type I terrain. Reentrants are type III terrain. They can be traversed in column or depth formation. The track to the aerodrome is type I terrain and can be traversed in column without penalty. The escarpments are a superior position when firing to lower elevations.
  • The high ground on the escarpment is the highest ground in the battle area and counts as a superior position to lower elevations. High ground counts as an escarpment for movement. 
  • All wadis are shallow and do not have steep banks. Wadis are type II terrain to all moving along them (in column only) or crossing them. Wadis provide type II cover or hull down to units in them unless the fire is enfilading or from a superior position.
  • The rough ground at the foot of escarpments is type II terrain.
  • The buildings at the aerodrome do not block LOS. They have a three stand capacity. They provide type III cover. The wire around the aerodrome has been flattened during the  previous two days fighting - it merely defines the area of the landing zone in a 'scenic stylie'.

I have largely, but not wholly, gone with Benghazi Handicap for the OOB. There are some differences in the force compositions to cater for my own tastes and my own choice of rules. As per usual, I have condensed them into organisational diagrams.


60th Field Regiment RA: Must deploy within the red boxed area on the scenario map. One battery is dedicated to 1st Battalion, KRRC. One battery is a divisional asset.

7th Armoured Brigade Composite Regiment: must deploy within the red boxed area on the scenario map.

3rd (anti-tank) Regiment RHA: At least one anti-tank battery of 3rd RHA must set up within the red boxed area on the scenario map. Other batteries can deploy anywhere south of the second escarpment and north of the third escarpment.

1st Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps, A Coy. 2nd Rifle Brigade (attached):  Can deploy anywhere south of the second escarpment and north of the third escarpment.

4th Field Regt. RHA: Deployed nearby to the south, off table. One battery is dedicated to Composite Regiment, 7th Armoured Brigade. One battery is a brigade asset for 7th Armoured Brigade.

22nd Armoured Brigade: Deployed to the south, above the third escarpment, off table.


Group Knabe: Must deploy within the blue boxed area on the deployment map. All lorried Panzergrenadier companies start dismounted. Any or all artillery can be deployed unlimbered.

2nd Battalion, 155th Artillery Regiment: Two batteries are deployed to the north, off table. One battery is dedicated to 2nd Battalion, 104th Schuetzen Regiment. One Battery is dedicated to 8th Machine Gun Battalion. One Battery is attached to Group Stephan. It can be dedicated to one of the Panzer battalions of 5th Panzer Regiment or held as a brigade asset for Group Stephan. It can be kept off table or can be used for direct support.

408th Heavy Artillery Battalion: Deployed to the north, at Belhamed, off table. The FOO for these guns can be deployed with Group Knabe or Group Stephan. (Note: Belhamed is 25m higher than the Trig Capuzzo). The guns are a corps asset.

Group Stephan: Deployed to the north, around Belhamed, off table.

For the time being, I will end this blog post here. I will add more scenario information, including two short player briefings and the victory conditions, after the two players have got the game under way - I don't want to give everything away to both player's at this point (Peter and Graham occasionally read this blog).

Saturday, 20 July 2013

New tanks, actually obsolete tanks

Wow, my cursor is back! Onwards and upwards.

This week, I've added a few bits and pieces to my Operation Crusader collection.

Here are the tanks I need to field 7th Armoured Brigade. With the addition of a regiment, plus a company, of Crusader tanks from 22nd Armoured Brigade (painted already), plus their command tanks, I can now field another armoured brigade group. I can't field them  together. This is a pity, as 7th and 22nd did fight side by side, at reasonable strength, on the 21st of November 1941. A day later, 7th Armoured Brigade, following its clash with 15th and 21st Panzer Division had almost ceased to exist; certainly the A9s and A10s of 7th QO Hussars were no longer present - the Hussars were caught unsupported and were annihilated in a brief head on clash. It begs the question: How far should I go down the 'everything' line? I would need 13 more Crusaders to field both formations. Is it worth it?

7th Armoured Brigade was unusual in that it seemingly got all of the old obsolete cruiser tanks that were in theatre: Some A9s and A10s, and a whole regiment of A13s. The rest of the formation had Crusader tanks. This makes it more interesting than 22nd Armoured Brigade and 4th Armoured Brigade, which were solely equipped with brand new Crusaders and M3 Honeys respectively. 7th Armoured Brigade sums up everything that was bad about pre-war British tank design. As machines, these tanks were pants. It's a dream British wargames formation!

I've done them all of the tanks in a Caunter scheme. The A13s and A9s are blue / grey and green. The A10s are blue / grey and a dark winy colour (copied from an old Osprey print) which looks a little different. The red and white markings are 'Operation Crusader Stripes' which were plastered all over some tanks. All vehicles were supposed to sport them during the operation for easy recognition. You can see why the Germans liked them, and why the British crews hated them - "Herr Schmidt, we're over here!" 
Lastly, I've done my German air superiority marker. A Fabbri die cast  FW190. I like these models and they are reasonably priced, though they need repainting for the desert.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

I've seen these troops, somewhere, before........

Some newly painted bits.

I've painted quite a few pieces for my WW2 collection recently, but as it is mostly more of the same, I thought I'd confine this post to dealing with some pieces that are a little different.

Firstly, some A9s for 7th Hussars with red and white Operation Crusader stripes. I have painted them with a Caunter Pattern - which, although accurate, never quite looks right for the desert. It is also a pain to do because Caunter is not a series of random shapes. It is a series of geometric shapes that, when viewed from directly above or from the side, all have straight lines. My only tip for doing Caunter is to do it with turrets off - that way you get the long horizontals along the top of the hull straight, then add the turret to get the verical surfaces right. Fortunately, I only have 44 more tanks to do and 31 of those are one colour Caunter (light blue / grey on the Honeys of 4th Armoured Brigade).

Then there are two newly painted British FOO stands. This bring my British FOO stand numbers up to three, so no more required. The carrier FOO is a Battlefront model - it is a tidy little piece with some character. The other is a Battlefront Bofors tractor with some new modeling to the back and a tower added. The tower is constructed out of  wire 'spears' and thin card soaked in superglue. Possibly the hardest thing to get right was the figure seated on the top. This was my third attempt - he looked like a toddler throwing a paddy in a high chair on the first attempt. It is loosely based on a photograph in one of the Airfix books. Because it is a one off, it has a charm of its own.

Anyway, the cursor problem persists, and it is making this a chore, so that is where I will leave this post. Is anyone else having this problem?

Thursday, 11 July 2013

The Three Kings - first night's play.

Here are a few shots of the positions achieved at the end of last night's play. So far there has been a clash between British armour and the Kradschutzen Btn around the King of Diamonds, an air raid, and several crashes of British artillery. The game is two full turns in. The British still have two units, and the Germans one unit, to arrive next turn. Battle is about to become general.

The Germans are entering on a narrow front of about 2.5km width which is, historically, about right. It looks as though they have chosen The King of Diamonds and The King of Clubs as their primary objectives. Currently, their only opposition is a single British tank regiment, which is slowly withdrawing in the face of superior numbers.

The British have entered on a wider front and are obviously going for The King of Hearts and The King of Clubs. Their right hook is miles from the action, but it is moving up quickly. The first shot, looking towards The King of Hearts shows an infantry battalion in a wadi backed by a regiment of 25pdr (one of which was taken out by Stuka). The second shot shows the British right hook, rounding the King of Hearts, moving towards the Germans advancing on The King of Clubs. 

The above shots were taken today. The following shots were taken last night during play. The first shows the British moving up the wadi, deployed 25pdrs, and Crusader tanks moving on The King of Diamonds. The second shows Germans moving on The King of diamonds just prior to their Kradschutzen Btn. being caught out by the British armour shooting them up whilst 'bussed'. The last shot shows the air raid.


BTW. I'm currently having some difficulty with cursor control on this blog, so please excuse any spelling mistakes, the font, and so forth.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Three Kings. A Western Desert cauldron scenario.

This scenario is a couldron scenario where formations from each side will sucked into the combat area over a several game turns. I will be using my variant of Piquet's Point of Attack rules to fight the battle so the forces will arrive over a three turn time span (in these rules, most troops can move three times a turn).

This picture shows the battlefield. Its dominant feature are three centrally placed hills - these are 'The Three Kings'. Each of the hills is given a code name - King of Diamonds, King of Clubs and King of Hearts. Each side must secretly choose two hills as its objectives. At the end of the game the side holding its two Kings achieves a victory. A side holding all three Kings achieves a total victory. The game will last for a maximum of 6 turns. The battlefield is also cluttered with rough ground, areas of rolling ground (where hull downs can be found), a mixture of the two, a couple of wadis, and a settlement (a Bir).

The British force comprises six on table battalion (regimental) groups each with additional assets. There are three armoured regiments, two infantry regiments, and a field artillery regiment. Off table, with an on table FOO, are three batteries of medium artillery, and access to aircraft (one air superiority and two ground attack), both held at corps level. The force also boasts one brigade level (armour), and one high level, command stand. The British may bring on two battalion groups on each of the first three turns of the game.

The German force comprises 4 on table battalion groups each with additional assets. There are two armoured battalions and two infantry battalions. Off table, with on table FOO, are 5 batteries of guns. Two are attached to the infantry and three are attached to the armour; all are brigade level assets. The Germans have access to two ground attack aircraft held at division level. The German may bring on one battalion group on turn 1, two on turn 2, and one on turn 3. 

All arrivals will be pre-programmed by the players. The turn of arrival, and terrain tile of arrival, being determined by laying a plaing card under the command stand of the battalion group. The card is from a deck comprising diamond, clubs and hearts cards (denoting turn, in that order.) numbered A to 6 (denoting base line tile of entry, each player reading left to right). When a side turns an appropriate move card for the battalion group, on the right turn, it can make a full move onto the table. 

For this battle I will be fielding almost everything I have painted so far. Next up, I'll be painting the tanks to make up 7th Armoured Brigade Group (3 x A9s, 3 x A10s, and 10 x A13s, to go with the Crusader tanks). After that, I'm thinking of painting up the last bits of 15th Panzer Division (115th Infantry Brigade, a battalion of 10.5cm guns, and an anti-tank company) so that one side is, to all intents and purposes, finished.

Friday, 5 July 2013

How I base 15mm for the Western Desert

Newly based, 115th Kradschutzen Battalion swans out into the desert.
 Someone left a comment about how I base my WW2 stuff for the Western Desert, and since then I've received three emails asking for clarification on certain points. It's obviously time I did a "How I" on this subject.

Before I start, as with Eskimos and snow, there a lots of different types of desert, and mine is a specific patch of it.

I am concentrating my efforts on Operation Crusader (November - December 1941), which was mostly fought in Libya on the top of the escarpment that follows the coast to the north. Because of the season (there was torrential rain and sleet during the offencive), and because of the proximity to the coast and the rain showers that proximity brings, my bases are quite well foliated. Perhaps they are a little over foliated, it depends on what photographs you look at. Over foliated, or not, one thing that all first hand accounts attest to is the monotonous colour with subtle variation in texture, especially at certain times of the day. It is the variation in texture that I go for.

 Resin trucks and infantry are stuck to the bases. Tracked vehicles are not glued until after the basing is finished. The bases were cut from 2mm MDF obtained from a picture framing supplier. It cuts well using a steel rule and a Stanley knife. Also to be seen in this shot are my pre-mixed box of, children's sandpit sand and ground oyster shell, a small tub of cat litter in the pink tray (this cat litter is hard granules and is not crumbly; it is Tesco's own brand), and my grey 'cat litter box' basing tray.

 First basing step, PVA the base, with lots of slightly thinned (consistency of double cream) PVA.
  Add cat litter granules in the right places.
 Add the sand and leave until the PVA soaks through, then sand again.
 When basing tracked vehicles I add a further step. Immediately after the second sanding I add a sprinkle of fine sand.....
Then press the tracks of the vehicle into the surface of the base. Then shake off the excess fine sand.
This actually works!
 You can see here, how the second coat of sand builds up the 'top soil' around many of the 'rocks'.
 Next, using ink, watered down about 3 parts water to 1 part ink, I 'wash' the bases. Ink goes on much more easily and quickly than paint and the colour is more consistent. 
 Next I dry brush using cheap acrylics and household magnolia emulsion.
 I do three highlights. The Sd251s that go on these three bases were stuck onto the base with super glue at this point.
 Next up comes the foliage. I use Woodland Scenics coarse turf (chopped a bit finer than it comes) glued on with PVA.
Then, using artists acrylic, I paint the flora dark brown - and it comes out browny green
then I dry brush it so that it blends in with the rest of the basing. Although not shown here, I sometimes add Woodland Scenics clumps - painted dark brown and drybrushed brown, or I add pale coloured static grass shop made 'tufts', or I just leave.

I think the bases have a subtle variation of texture and colour that makes them a little more interesting than the sanded bases you sometimes see.