What, no Soviet women in these 54mm figures? Annie Norman of Bad Squiddo Games is producing a new range of 28mm Soviet women of WW2 on Kickstarter and then via her web shop. I don’t collect or play with 28mm figures at the moment but I have bought several vignette packs of her interesting female figures like her Land Girls. https://badsquiddogames.com
Unusual metal figures for WW1, Interbellum and WW2 in a traditional 20mm scale.
That’s right – not a typing mistake – 20mm. Not 28mm. Not everything has to be 28mm and one day that scale will fade from dominance as much as 30mm or 40mm has done. A few years back it was all 15mm / Flames of War etc … and relax.
In a recent blog post I suggested that in the absence of supporting traders at games shows, if we could, we should support smaller figure manufacturers like Bad Squiddo with the odd order through the pandemic.
I have been buying ahead of time some small orders for my Christmas gifts to help out those in my family who don’t know what to buy me (and they don’t have to post it either!)
I have looked before at the EWM 1940 range of Early War Miniatures. Tempting enough. Do I really need another shiny new project? Playing small solo skirmish sized games of a few dozen figures each side, it is easy enough to have a number of small projects on the go in different scales if needed.
Stocking the Man of TIN Christmas Stocking ahead of time, I chose a few sample packs – 2 rifle squads each of Danish Infantry and of Dutch Infantry – enough for an unusual WW2 skirmish game against my trusty old Airfix German WW2 Infantry.
I had been intrigued by the short lived but hard fought Danish resistance to the German Blitzkreig portrayed in the recent Danish Language film 9 April
I hope to use some of my existing childhood WW2 figures, rather than buy even more tempting EWM figures from their WW2 German range (including paratroops). Whilst I had some of the EWM figures unpacked, I thought I would check them for scale against my other WW2 figures.
In size comparison with my existing plastics, such as the WW1 and version 2 Airfix WW2 Germans, they look a little slender in comparison with EWM but to be fair they are figures without greatcoats.
Now painted grey, at last a use for these odd “big 20mm” Afrika Korps from Esci in hard plastic kit form.
Easy assembly – these are flash free metal figures, some with separate heads, packs and weapons that fit easily in place together with superglue.
I have yet to paint them up but they are crisp, sharp castings with nice animation and detail.
Each online supplier has their individual quirks. Peter Laing added in a few extras, sometimes new sample 15mm figures from new ranges to offset postage and breakages. Mark Lodge at Jacklex packs these 20mm figures in a lovely red box of sawdust. Annie Norman at Bad Squiddo adds in herbal tea bags or scribbled thank you messages and doodles on the compliments forms. Paul at Early War Miniatures added in a complimentary little packet of resin scenics.
I have had the pleasure of chatting by email to the EWM owner Paul Thompson about the disputed WW2 German commando raid in 1943 on a radar station on the Isle Of Wight. This was covered in a recent book by Adrian Searle, Churchill’s Last Wartime Secret. I had reviewed the book in my blog for possible skirmish games scenarios.
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:
Insertion points for different units of the raiding forces were chosen by dice throw from 5 possible routes (see map below) before the game started.
The desert commando forces and two desert jeep trucks Ragtag and Bobtail enter the area from the old airstrip (insertion point 4). The Yestershire Infantry to appear along the rail bridge in foreground (insertion point 5).
Briefing Map, Raid Aims and named personnel set out here:
What the Allied raiding forces do not know is how many NAK forces are stationed in the Station Halt building or that on Turn 7 (decided by 2d6) these troops are on standby, ready to be replaced by fresh incoming troops by train. They also do not know that Meyer, an ADC or adjutant to General Von Rimmel is visiting the Special Operations Section (tented area) for a status report.
What the NAKforces do not know is that they are about to be rudely awakened early one morning by a Commando raid. Only a few sentries and gun teams are posted, a few Aircrew busy at work …
First contact Turn 1
Allied elements appear on the board as darkness fades and dawn breaks in the North African desert.
“As the sun rose beyond on the desert hills, Schutzen Wache on sentry duty spotted a flurry of faded khaki rushing across the railway tracks along the bridge … he raised his rifle and fired some warning shots into the air. Achtung! Alarm! Alarm!”
Whilst the Commandos rapidly and silently capture two Aircrew / Groundcrew without alarm being raised, the sentry Sch. Wache by the Railway bridge does raise the alarm on seeing the Yestershire rifles crossing (d6 thrown to decide if alarm raised) with several rapid shots in the air.
The railway bridge proved a narrow pinchpoint for deploying Yestershire troops – a bunched target.
Private Hunt lobbed a grenade at the sentry but missed, as did the rifle fire of Mulvaney, Mahoney and Sgt Brittle.
Clumped together by the bridge, Privates Mahoney, Hunt and Sgt Brittle were all quickly caught in the LMG fire of the Halftrack (which is part trackless and under repair). Some of the first unlucky casualties of this desert raid.
The Desert Commandos rush the airfield to silence the air crew and armoured car.
Very quickly the Commando rifle fire and the LMGs on Ragtag and Bobtail, the two desert “jeep trucks” silences the two crew of the Armoured Car.
The PAK gun crew on cemetery ridge managed to knock out Ragtag killing its two crew Ptes. Marrion and Foster. Fortunately the demolition charges and explosives did not explode close to Bobtail, the other Jeep Truck.
First major disaster – Ragtag the Jeep Truck is hit by the Antitank Gun and its crew killed.
The NordAfrika Korps garrison was inside the station halt, awaiting relief by train (2d6 thrown to check: train will arrive with replacement troops on Turn 7). They rapidly deployed to the roof, their fire brings down Commando Private Hemingway who is heading down the flank of the station building.
Meyer, the visiting ADC / Adjutant to General Von Rimmel and air crew sheltered inside the barricaded station halt. A small group of NAK troops led by Haupt. (Captain) Fuchs set out to defend the airstrip.
The PAK gun engaged Bobtail the second Jeep Truck and knocked it out for two moves.
Private Grant of the Yestershires guns down the Half Track crewman, although sinister grey uniformed Klang takes over the LMG on the Half-track.
The view from the other Antitank gun dug in on the Hills above the railway halt
From this hill, the Antitank gun engages a group of Commandos at maximum range and kills Private Young and Scruby.
Gefreiter Weigmann was shot by Commando raid leader “Popsy”
Allied and NAK Casualties from melee and rifle fire from the station building roof.
The PAK gun engages the Yestershire HMG crew and wipes it out, killing the crew (Curry, Stonefeather, Blease).
In return, 2/Lt Hyde shoots with his pistol at Sch. Richter on the roof.
Lt. Bath, Cpl Ridley and RE Appleby recrew the Yestershire HMG.
LCpl Mitton is hit by fire from the rooftop NAK troops.
The fight around the oil tanks. Success for the NordAfrika Korps? Maitland may be gone but his time fuse remains!
Three Commandos (Ptes. Steinbeck, Gammage, Dickinson) felled by grenade from above as they try to break in to the Station Halt.
Demolition expert Pte Maitland is shot before he can lay any further charges.
In a deadly melee phase Pte Grant, Pte Faulkner and Capt Young and NAK Sch. Junge and Schroeder are killed.
Jeep Truck Bobtail is back in action, heading down the railway track towards the station. Its LMG hit Sch. Vogel on the station roof.
The Yestershire HMG crew brought down the troublesome PAK crew Sch. Beck and Roth at last.
Train arrives with NAK reinforcements
Bobtail the Jeep Truck turns sharply and retreats down the track away from the train and all its reinforcements.
NordAfrika Korps – Reinforcements detrain in Turn 8
Meanwhile Sch. (Pte) Huber in melee and with rifle fire brings down Commando after Commando including the raid leader “Popsy” before Huber himself is brought down.
With Raid leader “Popsy” dead and Allied numbers dwindling in the face of fresh NAK reinforcements, it is clearly time to leave. Hopefully soon explosive charges will wreck the area.
Abandoning the heavy HMG, RE Pte Appleby, Corporal Ridley and 2/Lt Bath head to the bridge to hitch a ride out of the area on the Jeep Truck Bobtail, along with Ptes. Wallingford and Mulvaney.
Before they climb on board Bobtail the Jeep Truck, it is hit at long range by the NAK Antitank gun on the hill. Bobtail is destroyed, its gunner and driver Ptes. Gough and Smith are killed. Disaster – but at least their remaining mines and explosives do not explode, injuring the remaining Allied troops.
Elsewhere across the airfield, Commando radioman ‘Sparky’ Sissons calls for the far off retrieval teams to meet him at the pre-arranged desert rendezvous point. He quickly leaves with Ptes. Shepperd and Learoyd. Their two captured enemy Aircrew held for interrogation are tied up and gagged but left behind, alive.
As the last of the Yestershires and the Commandos disappear off on foot the way they came …
Boom! The first of the oil tanks goes up in flames.
Private Maitland is avenged.
At this point the Allied survivors melt away into the desert on foot. The explosion of the first tank sends the surviving NordAfrika Korps troops diving to the ground to avoid the flames and showers of stones and metal debris as one after another oil tanks explodes, damaging the track and the engine of the train.
The old biplane is toppled over, made further unserviceable. Warehouses and stores are damaged.
Despite the heavy losses, this first desert Commando raid achieved suitable disruption.
Boom! The retreating Allies see more smoke and hear several more explosions as they head quickly off into the desert heat as the sun gets higher in the sky. Time to find their rendezvous points.
Boom! The Yestershires have their packs of supplies, water and ammunition handy. The small commando group are not personally so well supplied until they reach prearranged supply dumps.
They will hopefully regroup and head home to base to be debriefed. However the Commandos failed to bring any prisoners back for interrogation or to discover the activities of the NAK Special Duties Unit. What was going on in the tent for example? What was Meyer, the ADC to General Rimmel, inspecting?
(Above) Allied Survivors of the Raid on Wadi Yu Min – a few Commandos and some Yestershire Regiment escape into the desert. Yestershire Regiment 2/Sub Lieutenant ‘Tubby’ Bath RNVR , Corporal Ridley, Privates Mulvaney, Wallingford and Shepperd. Commando Radioman Signaller ‘Sparky’ Sissons, Pte Learoyd and Mine detecting RE Private Appleby
Playing solo, this game / scenario worked well enough.
The cluttered terrain amongst the oil tanks and aeroplane made shooting difficult for both sides.
The Commandos and Yestershire Regiment suffered consistently from a series of poor dice rolls throughout on Melee and Firing. No Featherstone Savings Throws in this game. They were given no extra modifiers in Melee or Firing for being Commando troops, opposing tough NordAfrika Korps troops.
Despite the first NAK Armoured Car crew being quickly knocked out, the two anti tank guns on the hill and the half-track LMG quickly did damage to the commando transport and troop numbers. Lots of lucky dice throws. Dealing with these high up entrenched gun positions created many problems for the raiders.
Naming characters does positively change the way you view this game and would be even more effective with a smaller number of troops. Playing both sides with a larger number of characters, it is harder to become attached or show favouritism to any one particular figure.
The element of silent surprise at the beginning needs to be worked on and developed.
In future raids I would include more explosives trained troops, as well as assign rifles and SMGs to those typical ‘useless’ Airfix non-combatant figures without firepower such as the grenade throwers, knife men, observers with only binoculars and gun crew etc.
I used Featherstone based simple WW2 rules from War Games and its Close Wars appendix but with scaled down firing ranges to suit my hexes:
Almost finished my FEMbruary female figure painting challenges for 2019.
The new figures for my 2019 FEMbruary painting challenge are Annie Norman’s excellent WW2 Land Girls series – this year I chose the Land Girls at Work set, sculpted by Alan Marsh. https://badsquiddogames.com/shop#!/WW2
A tractor is newly available in 28mm for this Land Girl range.
To match last year’s effort, I kept with my usual shiny toy soldier style of painting, right down to the pink cheek dots and glossy acrylic paint. This extends to shiny green bases rather than flock. A restricted gloss palette but a cheerful one!
I like the cartoonish element that comes out with this paint style, it is not quite Jane, slightly more Peter Firmin Noggin the Nog / Ivor the Engine for some reason.
Each figure looks like she has a real character. You can name them with suitable 1940s names in your own time.
Grouped together, I wonder what they are chatting about or thinking?
I am thinking possibly of putting these figures in for my local Spring Flower Show in a couple of weeks time under the rarely competed for adult craft section (with very few male entries). There is a local connection – many Land Girls were trained and worked in my Southwest UK area on the hundreds of small market gardens that were once around.
To get an idea how this might work, I bought a couple of wooden fence post caps as simple bases and painted them sap green (the dark green colour of land girl jumpers). A few more coats may be required to deepen the colour.
The addition of a hay stook (once the Mexican woman’s broom from Steve Weston’s Mexican Peasants) and a plastic tree from a recent fantasy figures True Legends set add something to the scene.
I have moved the figures round on the bases several times to get the right arrangement. Still not sure, especially as some of the Land Girl figures could easily intermix between the two rest and work sets.
I have a couple of 54mm Britain’s type Land Girls for repair that gave me ideas for the shiny gloss colour palette.
When Alex at Leadballoony set this year’s challenge,
I still have the Bad Squiddo 28mm Russian Women of WW2 Command set to put the finishing touches to. I found these less interesting to paint, well sculpted as they are, as shades of khaki green just aren’t my thing really at the moment. I shall feature them again when finished in the next week or two.