It’s behind you! I liked The Borrowers style scale disparity in this photo as ‘Mulder’ and ‘Scully’ of The X Files investigate the giant children terrorising the (Babbacombe) Model Village in Devon, Southwest UK.
I have always said The X Files should have been set in the slightly weird, folkloric and legendary southwest of Britain.
Or set it back in the Bronte period, tracking down the godly, the ungodly and the Gothic … although arguably Jane Austen’s Pride, Prejudice and Zombies got there already?
Seven series of The X Files watched over the last few months, over a 160+ episodes down and I still have four more series to go to the finishline of 218 episodes and a couple of feature films. (Maybe I should have gone for charity sponsorship …)
It might explain why I am not painting figures or blogposting every spare hour of leisure daylight. Like our hobby itself as observed by someone in Facebook forum, it is all “Time Well Wasted“.
Others? If I had been very well organised, I should have kept an “ideas from idle viewing” gaming scenarios logbook. I didn’t. It’s all those “To Be Continued” episode cliffhangers. I can always look back through the Wiki lists of episodes to remind me.
Any Toy Soldiers in the X Files?
Lots of Army, Air Force, police and shadowy government figures in this series. And some toy soldiers …
Toy soldiers turn up only once (so far) during an early 1995 X Files episode The Walk about dead or badly wounded US soldiers from the recent Kuwait or First Gulf War (The X Files Season 3, Episode 7 ‘The Walk’).
Poor young Trevor, the US Army General’s son, ends up buried in the sand by a sand pit monster version of the phantom warrior. There is obviously some ‘meaningful’ sandpit / toy soldiers / Desert Storm / Desert Warriors symbolic echoes going on as well. http://www.thexfiles.com/episodes/season3/3×07.html
The Forests of North Gondal, 1870. A stranded wagon, its wheel off and axle broken. Awaiting rescue and surrounded, the small group of defenders listen to their Captain.
Captain Snortt of the Yestershires is busy briefing his Redcoats, drawing lines in the surface of the Forest Road with his swordpoint.
The Forest Road is a glorified name for a track to the Forest Fort and old Trading Post Fort MacGuffin to the North. Its edges were cleared of timber to make the Fort itself and also make it easier to spot an ambush.
Invading and clearing their sacred forests and hunting grounds had caused tension with the usually peaceful Forest Indians who over the years had traded and stolen many Redcoat muskets and rifles.
Snortt: “We can expect reinforcements to march from the Fort to the North here, unless Ambushed en route. Forest Indians may well appear from here and here to the East, as well as travelling in from the West. We will keep a sentry posted in cover at each point of the compass.”
Snortt: “On first sight of the enemy, fire when you sight them. Whilst it will reveal your location, we need to keep them at a distance and away from accurately counting our numbers. We need to keep them at long range and stop them from closing in too quickly. They will be sounding us out. We need to give them an idea that we have troops all around the perimeter.”
“Only when they are too close and you are likely to be surrounded, may you fall back towards the wagon using what cover you can.”
Snortt: “Meanwhile, Private Fuller and you Miss MacGuffin will remain with the wagon and try to fix the axle and wheel whilst we wait for the repair team and reinforcements from the fort. Miss MacGuffin has also volunteered along with myself to make sure you have enough ammunition.”
“We also have taken off the Wagon two small barrels of gunpowder supplied for the Fort’s cannons that we can explode if we need.”
“Good luck, Men. To your posts. You too, Miss MacGuffin.”
Snortt saluted Major MacGuffin’s daughter and hurried off to post his few men at compass points around the Wagon.
Thus began the desperate situation of the Yestershire Regiment’s daily supply column to Fort MacGuffin, broken down with a damaged wheel and axle, stranded at the plank bridge. The Forest Indian Drums have been heard and glimpses of movement amongst the trees.
Addressing his Braves and Hunting Parties – Forest Indian Chief Old Wooden Legs
A big 54mm game in a small space.
Post 2: The Skirmish
Forest Indian Chief Old Wooden Legs spoke to his assembled braves, now arriving in the grove, from hunting parties across their forest.
Translation of Old Wooden Legs’ words: “I will split you into three groups, one to travel north and circle round to delay any reinforcements and appear to the North and the West side.
“The other two hunting parties will split up and approach through the trees and stream valley to their East.”
“We will raid their supplies, take civilian hostages to barter with the Redcoats and make the Forest Fort Warriors fearful of their supply wagons being attacked again.”
“They rely too much on their slow beast of two wheels, rather than hunting the swift beasts on four legs. The Redcoats are foolish and have not learned to live off the land as we can without destroying it.”
“When they see we can strike without warning and melt away again into the trees like spirits of the mist, maybe then they will become fearful and wise enough to leave our Forests in peace and return to their own places.”
“To your places and may the hunting go well with you!”
The Forest Indians disappeared back into the forest.
Pre-dice roll depositions
2xD6 thrown to decide when the Forest Fort reinforcements will arrive from the North forest road. On Turn 6, Snortt’s reinforcements will arrive on foot at the northern baseline at 4A.
The Forest Indians do not know how many soldiers there are with the wagon or how many will be sent to rescue them.
Snortt did not send the Major’s daughter back to the safety of the Fort on horseback as he did not know if his rider will got through with the message until he hears two of the Forest Fort guns fired in recognition. The Forest Indians will also have heard this sound echoing down the valley.
The Relief Party is setting out on foot. There is a shortage of horses and pack animals in general in Gondal in 1870 due to the ‘Tropical Yorkshire’ North Pacific climate and the horse sickness, horses not being native to the island or the four kingdoms of Gondal. The Forest Indians have become adept at stealing and hiding those horses that are imported and bred.
D6 are thrown for letter and number coordinates on the map
Forest Indian Hunting Party 1 starts out from map point D1 on Turn 1.
Hunting Party 2 from map point D4, starting out on Turn 6.
Hunting Party 3 from map point 4C starting out on Turn 10.
Wheel takes 1xd6 turns to repair once the Engineer arrives, in this case six turns.
D6 to decide if the Redcoat Relief Party appearing at Turn 6 is in one or two groups and how many turns apart. D6 1,3, 5 Apart or d6 2,4,6 Together. Dice roll says – They will arrive together.
Close Little Wars Rules tweak 1
Playing on a small corner table 2 foot by 4 foot meant that the generous Wells and Featherstone movement rates of 9 to 12 inches were too big and the game would come to blows too fast. This is stealthy forest movement in cluttered terrain of logs and hills, marsh and swamp. I simply cut movement rates and terrain modifiers in half but kept all weapons ranges the same. The effect is of halving each turn into two turns to reflect short skirmish times.
Going up hills, across streams and marshes really does cut into rapid movement.
Firing from cover or sometimes blindly at cover in confined spaces and cluttered terrain of Bold Frontiers trees, hills and streams requires the dice modifiers of casualty savings throws and extras for cover or no cover. Bullets and arrows get blocked by trees and rocks.
If firer is undercover and target in open, 5 or 6 scores a hit.
Casualty Savings Throws if hit
4, 5,6 – slightly / not wounded, carries on
3, 4, 5, 6 – If target undercover, slightly / not wounded, carries on.
Turn 1 and Turn 2
Close Wars rules. IGOYUGO. Dice thrown for A who moves first, sort out melee, B who moves second, sort out melee, A shoots first, B shoots second. End of Turn.
Redcoats assume their compass positions in cover around the wagon as centre. Sentries at N, NW, E, SE, S, SW and W.
Forest Indian Hunting Party move off from D1 towards wooded hill at B1 /C1.
No shooting – none within range.
First firing by Redcoat sentries to East of wagon – several hits on Forest Indians along the stream bed B3/C3. One killed, others saved by casualty savings throws.
Further exchanges of fire between both sides sees another Forest Indian killed by the stream.
Both parts of Hunting Party 1 are now moving in from the stream bed and downhill from the wooded hill, firing on the Redcoat sentries at E and SE positions. The Redcoat sentry at East by the stream is killed. Third Indian in the stream bed area is killed by Redcoat fire.
However three Forest Indians are closing in on the wagon, close to sentry posts around the E and SE positions.
Aware of the risk, Captain Snortt and Miss MacGuffin draw rifles from the wagon and stand behind it, ready to see off any marauding Forest Indians from raiding the supplies and taking Miss MacGuffin hostage.
Relief party of the Yestershires sighted in the distance on the road coming up the hill.
However the immediate threat remains the three Forest Indians getting close to the wagon. Two Indians engage the Redcoat sentry at SE (the Redcoat with the turban) in Melee.
Point markers for duelling from the old Heroscape Game.
Redcoat sentries to the southeast engage in hand to hand duelling with rifles and bayonets. Three life points given to each, attacker is the Indian. Card each detailing at random which blows and blocking blows are dealt are hit points removed. The Redcoat Sentry at SE sees off first one Indian, then the second Indian closes in.
Melee Duel 2 – cards reset, melee begins and one of the random cards sees the second Forest Indian retreat, his weapon broken.
Over the next few turns, the retreating Indian heads back up the wooded hill for safety to join Chief Old Wooden Legs, where he looks to pick up a spare musket or rifle from one of his fallen comrades.
The sentry due south on the road rushes over to cover the fallen E. sentry and is brought down by the Indian archer.
However Captain Snortt and Miss MacGuffin steady their rifles from behind the wagon and aim at the archer. He is brought down by Captain Snortt’s first shot, removing the nearest threat to the wagon and its defenders.
The Redcoat Relief Party of the Yestershires passes the Fallen Tree across the road. The black helmeted section spread out into the trees, whilst the white helmeted section head up the road to surround the wagon. Amongst them you can glimpse the Fort Engineer in his bush hat, ready to fix the wagon axle and wheel over the next six turns.
The Forest Indian Hunting Party 2, who set off at Turn 6, continue up the stream valley closer into range. They are now outnumbered by the Relief Party.
The Forest Indian Hunting Party 2 in the stream bed fire at the Redcoat sentries at long range but fail to kill one. Fire is returned and two further Indians are brought down.
The chief Old Wooden Legs notices that his forces are now down close to half strength, even with the third Hunting Party due to appear at Turn 10. Should he call them and recall them to fight another day?
A further exchange of fire between the remaining Indians on the Stream valley, including a Redcoat grenade being thrown. There was one further Indian dead, with no further Redcoat casualties, once casualty savings throws and being undercover taken into consideration.
The Redcoat Relief Party and Fort Engineer cross the bridge and begin work on repairing the wheel.
The Indian Chief calls to the Hunting Party 2 and 3 to retreat as they are now past 50% casualties and outnumbered.
The Redcoats fire upon these retreating Indians in the stream valley and bring down these three Indian. The battle is over – for now.
The shadowy stream valley of death …
Whilst the wagon is repaired, the Redcoat reinforcements keep watch on the trees, quickly bury the native dead and recover the native rifles.
Turn 11 onwards.
The Forest Indians regroup further in the woods. Snortt keeps his sentries posted watching for further attacks.
Will there be another attack from different directions?
Snortt keeps his troops quiet and watchful. It’s not over yet until they reach the Fort.
He thinks – There are no signal drums.
The forest sounds of trees and birdsong return amongst the sound of the wheel and axle being fixed.
They know we are still stranded. The Forest Indians will be watching and listening. The Forest is always full of eyes and ears.
Will they face further ambush and sniping on the road ahead?
The Chief recalls his remaining Warriors. They will return to retrieve their dead warriors after dark.
Later that evening
Back at Fort MacGuffin as he writes his report by oil lamp for Headquarters, Snortt reflects on the day and how things went.
From this – the stranded wagon and brave cool Miss MacGuffin …
Captain Snortt and the Major’s daughter Miss MacGuffin as ASC Private Fuller helps the Fort Engineer mend the wheel
To this – Relief or Rescue – and the wagon fixed, his young passenger safe with only two privates dead. Things could have been very different.
Miss Macguffin’s secret weapon … whilst her Guard dog Patch hopes Snortt has biscuits or a ball.
A Captain may dream of promotion – and other things …
I have a feeling we have not heard the end of Captain Snortt of the Yestershires, Miss MacGuffin and the aggrieved Forest Indians of Gondal led by Chief Old Wooden Legs.
The Forest returns to quietness and wild animals – for now.
Eagle-eyed readers may have spotted that I have painted in the top of the shorter flat tree markers with green and white Acrylic paint, as they show when photographed from above.
Close Little Wars Scenario Post-mortem – initial thoughts
Playing solo, I had to work hard not to have favourites. I wanted both sides to succeed in their aims. If in doubt, a dice decided.
The opening turns for the Redcoats were those of stand and wait in cover until first contact and melee, but playing as solo player and umpire, I had to assume for the storyline that the Redcoats could be attacked from any angle and Snortt could not weaken any one side.
The presence of the delayed third Hunting Party who could loopin at the top North and attack from the NW or NE or engage the Relief column had to be borne in mind by Snortt.
Had the outcome of the dice throw for the arrival of the Relief Party been different, say for example Turn 6 plus 1d6, the game could have had a very different outcome.
Firing through cover and related savings throws had a big influence on the events. Strength of numbers and some lucky dice throws (or excellent shooting) made things easier for the Redcoats.
Melee – Duelling by cards – made it feel in places like a skirmish game.
I wish I had taken time to name the initial Redcoats and Forest Indian Hunting Parties, instead of talking about the SE or NW Sentry.
The lumps and bumps of the cluttered terrain of Bold Frontiers trees, book hills and felt streams (with attendant movement modifiers) works well for me. It slows down movement as it would in real life and provides a longer lasting target for concealed riflemen.
Judging Line of Sight (LOS) from the character’s eyeline in cluttered forest was tricky. I used a small mirror from a Christmas cracker to help me see what they could see.
Using a 12 inch ruler in cluttered forest terrain was tricky at times. A ruler half that size would help.
50% loss of strength as part of the Victory Conditions governed the retreat by Forest Indians.
An enjoyable and fulfilling solo skirmish game ImagiNations scenario of which I feel we have not heard the end.
I hope you have enjoyed the game, the terrain and the build up. I look forward to hearing reader’s thoughts and reflections.
Eighty years ago today 14 May 1940 was the founding day of the Local Defence Volunteers, the LDV or the “Look Duck and Vanish” as some unkindly folk called them – you might now them by their Churchillian rebrand as “The Home Guard”.
It would take another twenty five years and a TV sitcom for them to earn their modern nickname of “Dad’s Army.”
Over my last forty odd years or more of shoving tiny plastic figures meaningfully around a felt covered tabletop, vaguely inspired by historical events, the Home Guard has been a World War Two theme that I have often returned to.
Small numbers of Airfix German Paratroops and Infantry frequently encountered the lightly armed Airfix British infantry who were my “Dad’s Army” figures, invading some fictional village or small town, lashed together from spare buildings and scenery borrowed from my model railway making family. Sadly, being the 1970s, no photographs exist of these tiny titanic struggles.
After the 1984 40th anniversary, gaming D-Day with my Airfix landing craft felt a little too close in history. It was well within living memory. My game scenarios often shifted and reversed then to a British setting for the familiar Airfix Beach Head and Coastal Fort play-sets, manned by spindly Airfix British Infantry seeing off tankloads and Landing Craft loads of determined Germans and, after 1976, OO/HO German Paratroops.
Watching the Dad’s Army movie and episodes, then and now often on TV, obviously had some influence on my childhood games. So too did the glimpse of the odd pillbox, dragons teeth by the railway line and occasional blank .303 bullet, found with a metal detector.
The fact that Britain wasn’t invaded keeps the tabletop game of war as one of “what if?” historical fantasy, rather than gaming people’s lived experience as I grew up.
Growing up in the 1970s, there were plenty of older men and women around who lived through the war as children, civilians or service personnel, my evacuee parents included, some of whom had unpleasant experiences.
I wish now I had spoken to them more about this period of history but the general rule of “getting on” and “putting it behind you” meant that if they didn’t readily tell, you didn’t ask. As an older child, I slowly felt slightly conflicted that I did not want to trivialise their real-lived and often unpleasant experiences of war into my ‘games of toy soldiers’.
The Home Guard and the early war period of Operation Sea Lion, preparing for the invasion of Britain that thankfully never happened, were a different matter.
These Sealion and Home Guard games were in many ways an Imagi-Nation of Britain in 1940 and 1941 in much the same nostalgic way many railway layouts are a fictionalised portrait of “Britain in Steam in the 30s to 50s”. “The past” as L.P. Hartley wrote in The Go Between (1953) is a “foreign country, they do things differently there.”
What happened during four years from 1940 to stand down in late 1944 was effectively a series of mostly realistic gaming scenarios, live action role play, played with a deadly earnest and a determined purpose. These are set out in Home Guard training manuals (and often form the episodes of Dad’s Army, drawn out by Mainwaring in chalk on his black board ).
Dad’s Army at the same time on TV also gave me a key that it was possible to explore this invasion scenario in a respectful but imaginative way. It also gave the strong impression of the boredom, bravery and occasional buffoonery of service life.
The training against other Home Guard patrols and regular troops also gives some interesting possibilities for “non-lethal warfare”.
Adapting rules to Home Guard “non-lethal training exercises” against other Home Gaurd or regular units as “the enemy” should prove interesting.
These non-lethal training exercises are quite similar to the Scouting Wide Games that I have also been exploring on the Tabletop, working with fellow blogger and Tabletop gamer Alan Gruber, Tradgardmastre of the Duchy of Tradgardland.
Alan has also been posting recently about gaming the Home Guard.
The inscription reads: “For Freedom. This seat and the path leading to it thereto have been provided as a memorial to the men of the Number [1?] Company (Falmouth) Home Guard who during 1940, 41, 42, 43, 44, after their day’s work, nightly patrolled this coast armed and vigilant against German landings. Thus they watched 1000 dawns appear across these great waters which form our country’s moat.”
There are some excellent reprints of Home Guard manuals around, a short Shire History volume and some great resources for your local area about the Auxiliary Units of the Home Guard from Coleshill House, the British Resistance Archive.
The Home Guard look to be a suitable focus for future WW2 themed games.
As my free 3 Gigabytes of Man of TIN blog on WordPress are now three quarters full or used with photos since 2016, I will give “Look Duck and Varnish” WW2 Home Guard Games for the Tabletop their own separate blogspot as needed, as I have done with Scouting Wide Games for the Tabletop:
Received Bletchley Park Hut 43 (NordAfrika Army section):
Decoded signal sent by the NAK NordAfrika Korps Special Section radio station at Wadi-Yu-Min to General Von Rimmel, NAK Headquarters, North Africa: CLASSIFIED: Despatch rider has been sent with what is is believed to be operational sketch map prepared by enemy forces for the recent raid on our operations at Wadi-Yu-Min, Nord Afrika. Map damaged and it appears attempt made to burn this by Allied raiding party. Map was located amongst Allied equipment left behind by raiding forces and recovered by NAK troops after the action.
It appears or claims to be based on aerial reconnaissance photographs by the enemy’s air forces operating over the desert.
It appears not accurate enough to be based on good local knowledge of the local population or local railway staff.
Damage report to follow. As directed by General Von Rimmel, NAK Special Section operations to continue. HH. [Message Ends.]
——————————- ———————— ———————————————
(Bletchley Park) Station X message – passed to Military Intelligence, Combined Ops and LRDG-D Sections: Summary to be passed to Aerial Reconnaissance Section Desert Air Force, Royal Angrian Defence Forces (West Africa), C in C Yestershire Regiment
Intercept of NAK signal to Von Rimmel’s HQ NordAfrika re. Sketch map supplied to our raiding party at Wadi Yu Min. Map and equipment attributable to allied forces successfully left to make sure that no blame attached to local population or from any informants amongst the railway staff for the raid or reconnaissance.
Advised that enemy NAK Special Section Operations to be resumed.
Further aerial reconnaissance or scouting parties to be advised that following this raid, additional anti-aircraft sources may be installed and further ground defences at Wadi-Yu-Min.
Debrief, casualty and damage report to be forwarded with intelligence reports Section.
Photograph of the pre damaged sketch map (deliberately left behind) attached along with original air reconnaissance Section Desert Air Forces.
Signed – authorised by Major Martin, Hut 43 NAK Section / Station X / Military Intelligence liaison.
Readers can compare the sketch map with the aerial reconnaissance photograph.
Were your observations correct?
We will have to wait and see, to read the Intelligence debrief report on how the raid on Wadi-Yu-Min went.
It’s that clear the decks time of year when half finished drafts of blogposts get polished up for the Man of TIN Advent Calendar – figures, references, websites and other wargaming scenario miscellany.
A website covering in the English language the exploits of many Allied special forces and Combined Ops teams in WW2.
“In October 1940, Greece was drawn to the vortex of WWII, the most catastrophic struggle the world has ever known. Its participation in hostilities was to last, formally, until October 1944, a period during which Greek troops would fight from the rugged mountains of Albania and the numerous islands of the Aegean, to the inhospitable desert of North Africa and the Italian peninsula. In fact, Greek troops continued to fight against the Axis forces in the Aegean until the last day of the war – 8 May 1945. These troops included parts of the famous Sacred Squadron.”
Some of the website information is available from detailed and illustrated sources like this by Nikos Nikoloudis here:
One of this latter blog’s comments by John Begg mentions “recommended reading for the Aegean role of the Sacred Band is ‘The Filibusters’ by John Lodwick, published by Methuen in 1947.” Available secondhand, a reprint of this or similar book by John Lodwick on the SBS is called “Raiders from the Sea”.
Much of the Greek Sacred Squadron equipment and uniforms appears to be British issue, making sourcing suitable gaming figures and vehicles easier for any Desert War and Aegean raiding scenarios. Ditto, use your favourite WW2 Skirmish rules.
Commando hats and berets seem to have been sported in many photos, but maybe steel helmets were worn in action.
Definitely a website worth looking at, alongsid a reread of Donald Featherstone’s SkirmishWargaming and WargamingCommandoOperations as well, recently published or reprinted by John Curry’s History of Wargaming Project.
“In the freezing woods of Norway, dead men leave footprints in the snow. Their SS uniforms are riddled with bullet holes, their hearts frozen solid, and their rotting flesh frostbitten.
What should have been a routine raid took a horrific turn for Commandos Leo Mantelow and Lionel Stone as they faced down something from out of a nightmare. But it’s hard to follow the book when you’re up against the living dead!”
I could and did resist buying this but liked the title.
There’s a weird World War Two scenario for my more battered and broken Airfix German figures that I had never thought of …
Commandos versus Zombies is still in the shops like W.H. Smith.
More about the comic and a few inside glimpses of this title written by a female comic book writer Georgia Standen Battle:
Quick making and PVA gluing of polystyrene Snow Forts
The Snow Forts game in progress …
This was a ‘jolly good fun’ short game, featuring a small force of Gladys and four other Girl Scouts of Daisy Patrol, defending their snow fort with snowballs against an attacking force of eight Boy Scouts of Red scarved ‘Bull’ Patrol.
I will post a full game write up in the next few days, my first playtesting of some simple Scouting Wide Games rules.
It takes three Snowball hits on a defender in the Snow Fort for them to lose their ‘life’ (restored once journeyed back to HQ tent camp), but only one hit to take the ‘life’ of an attacker.
Snowball ammunition is unlimited. One scout equals one figure.
Ranges were set out or measured using lolly sticks, for close range (one lollystick – 4,5,6 is a hit on a d6), medium range (two lollystick distance, 5 or 6 to hit) and long range (three lollysticks – 6 only to hit).
Movement on snow and ice was half normal pace, (so using half a lollystick marker to measure) and no fast Scouts Pace (a strange mix of periods of running and walking) was allowed due to weather and terrain
Alan Gruber, Tradgardmastre of the Duchy of Tradgardland blog is also going to be working on the Scouting Wide Games rules and borrowed RPG elements like individual character cards.
I added some simple RPG style elements like names, age or scout ranking from Tenderfoot to First Class Scout or Patrol Leader, and badge or character achievements.
For example, Gladys the Patrol Leader of Daisy Patrol of the Girl Scouts and young Ernest, Second Class scout of Bull Patrol (Red Scarves) both have Marksman scout badges, adding +1 to their chance of hitting a scout of the other patrol with a range weapon like a snowball.
Jolly Good Fun! The game ended sportingly with three cheers for the winners and three cheers for the losers. Afterwards Agnes and Ginger of the Daisy Patrol of Girl Scouts built a “Snow Scout”.