Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Pleased with the Freehand

Despite my best efforts, all I have manged to paint recently is five Shermans...

In case you are wondering the apparent Italian tricolor on the base is my way of marking out the platoon.

In other news, I have had a fairly major dose of wargaming ADD (stop press, wargamer has urge to buy stuff before the current project is finished).

Now in my defence the First World War has always been one of my favourite periods, and after a sustained outbreak of webwindow-shopping and an intense Golem-like debate with myself, I have held off from actually buying anything. The various psyches with a dog in this fight have agreed to wait to see what fruits the promised Baccus range brings, before making a definite choice on the scale and scope of the game I want to play.

The release of Chain of Command has partly fuelled this desire to build trenches. I haven't managed to play a game as yet, but I am very impressed with the rules, and the mechanics, and could easily be translated to WWI.

At which point it is time to start moaning - and to do an impression of King Canute.

The ennui provoked by my hankering for World War 1 has led me to go in search of books on the period. Which in turn has opened my eyes to just how bad many of the available titles are,

I am currently reading The Price of Glory by Alastair Horne, which is regarded as one of the best books on campaign/battle of Verdun. And while it is interesting and provides a good overview, in other aspects it is frankly bizarre.

For instance, Chapter 4 begins...

"The German national genius for organisation had never shown itself to better advantage."

It then proceeds to describe the artillery build up in preparation for the 'big push'; we can fool ourselves as much as we like - aided and abetted by Horne's dissembling with regard the to Falkenhayn memo - but if this was not a breakthrough battle akin to the much criticised allied breakthrough battles of the previous year, and the Somme later in the year, then why was there such a concentration of infantry; and more specifically why did the infantry attack?

The essential plan is use artillery to destroy the enemy defences on a narrow front, then move the artillery foward and repeat the process. In short the orthodox massed phalanx typical of the early war strategic offensive.

The final orders were drawn up on January 27th, for the vital military reason that it was the Kaiser's birthday. And for a nation with a genius for organisation it seems rather odd to plan an artillery offensive that begins in February.

We are supposed to ignore how the same post war revisionism that led to the 'blame the Jews' narrative also worked to obscure the very obvious criticisms of the German planning. But then they were struggling to understand the realities and operational possibilities of modern warfare as much as the allied commanders; who for political reasons have become historical Aunt Sallys.

Of the eight or ten books I looked at in a book shop today, all of them played up the blunders and the mud, the misery and the futility; which is fine, no one denies that it wasn't a walk in the park, but isn't it time that people went beyond the cliche - which is some hope given that next year is the centenary and no doubt publishers will be churning out celebrity hagiography to add to backslapping triviality of what amounts to the historical equivalent of those child abuse books that were all the rage a few years ago.

None of this would matter, were it not for the way in which the agenda has permeated into popular culture. For instance this piece of total bullshit. Or this nonsense.

Obviously there are exceptions, Paddy Griffiths and Martin Middlebrook, spring to mind,

But as I have already acknowledged complaining about ignorance on the interwebz, and the political agenda within the closed world of university point scoring, is not something that will promote mental health,

Moan over....

I have taken some pretty pictures of my freshly painted tanks.... I really must finish making the rest boards (and scenery) and take some pretty pictures for some AARs.


Monday, 19 August 2013

Real Estate Empire

I mentioned the other day I have been making modular terrain....

And here is the first board...
I used this tutorial on Cool Mini or Not.

It the construction was simple enough, and the edges are magnetised to hopefully hold the sections in place. We don't need to go into my nearly gassing myself with superglue fumes while texturing the sand. My original plan was to build scenery, such as walls, but for reasons of storage I decided against this.

I am rather pleased that the result looks suitably Mediterranean for my intended Italian campaign gaming.

I couldn't resist a few scenic shots....


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Fish in a Barrel

So that's one German and one American platoon finished...

It's a common trope that Americans are parochial, and that they don't know where the South Africa and the Iraqi and such is - as such.

There is an amusing thread on the Warhammer forum that emphasizes this.

And I was reminded of this thread - in part because of the content - by a frankly bizarre interview with Jerry Parsley on Garagehammer. I have no problem with setting up an American version of the Warhammer Forum - if for no other reason that it might allow the Wathammer Forum to have more relevance to UK gaming - or the US Masters or whatever, but I couldn't help but laugh at the notion that Glasgow is somehow within easy reach of Brighton because England/Great Britain/the United Kingdom is smaller than Alabama or wherever. Or that the UK has a single wargaming culture in which everyone knows everyone else.

All that was missing was something about the Royal family being reptilians...


Monday, 12 August 2013

More Germans...

Some heavy support for the Germans...

At some point I really must look back and tally up how many figures I have painted this year.


Saturday, 10 August 2013

Burn the Witch

More German support weapons...

I notice the question of 'realism' in wargaming has raised it's head again.

The discussion kicked off on the TMP pages,was responded to on Anatoli's blog,  has gone back to TMP, and has been mentioned on Lard Island News.

The catalyst for this discussion is Bolt Action - or Warhammer 20k (if you will) - which along with Hail Caesar and Black Powder has brought to the fore what one might describe as the Warlord effect. Namely players who have escaped the niche of 'The Hobby' but appear determined to bring all the unwelcome baggage of the 'The Hobby; to the wider hobby - the 'Warlord effect' is a title which occurred to me whilst reading this post from Der Alte Fritz.

Reading Anatoli's full blog post what strikes me is the number of false dichotomy's that over the years have become ingrained 'wisdom' within 'The Hobby' - lack of simplicity is only rectified by charts, button counters vs fun gamers, nothing is allowed to happen outside of the rules etc. Of all the unwelcome nonsense Warlord is bringing to historical gaming with it's attempts to rebuild Games Workshop in an historical setting, it is this last point that is perhaps the most unwelcome. As contrary to learned helplessness implicit in 'The Hobby', discussion of the rulings arising from a particular game situation should make reference to real world situation, and not rely on grammatical grubbing and word play from within the rule book. And by extension pointing out the absurdity of, for instance, the rifle ranges, or NCO's feeding machine guns, or Bomb Squigs being included in the game in the form of anti-tank dogs, and wanting to change rules for the sake of 'realism' does not require one also to model the pips on a major's epaulettes, or have the slightest impact on the level of enjoyment.

Now in fairness I have no interest in playing Bolt Action, the warning lights flashed up for me when a convert - an ex 40k player - was proselytizing about what a great company Warlord was because they were giving away unit organisations for free - as opposed to the evil empire at GW. When I pointed out that the unit organisations were freely available anyway on sites such as this, the reply came back that there were no points values, so the information was useless.

To anyone who has been in the hobby long enough this situation will be familiar. And is usually settled by giving those wishing to play non-historical historical/proprietorial system games their own section on forums.


Friday, 9 August 2013


While I wait for my copy of Chain of Command to arrive I have been adding more Germans....


Thursday, 8 August 2013

Over There

So I was in Boyes with my oldest lad, and I took a box of Russians and a box of Americans off the shelf and told him to pick.... I had my figures crossed he would pick the Russians.... he choose....

Oh well...


Monday, 5 August 2013

Men and Supermen

My painting has slowed somewhat lately due to the school holidays, but I have managed to finish a tank platoon...

And some heavy machine guns....
And I have started to make some modular terrain... more of which later.

My renewed interest in WWII has also led to a renewed interest in reading history. Which in turn has raised in me a couple of questions.

The first relates to the fetishization of the Germans. It is a curious meme of modern history to paint the German war effort as if somehow the wrong side one. Whilst there is some merit in the argument that the Germans had the best weaponry - at least in terms of tanks (at least in terms of fighting the British and Americans) - there is an odd tendency to overplay the German tactical and strategic achievements.

A case in point is the Normandy campaign. Reading Max Hastings Overlord, one would be forgiven for believing that the campaign was akin to the Battle of the Somme. Yet 3 months after the landings the Allies were fighting the battles of Arnhem to secure crossings into Germany.

The comparison is made with the German invasion of Russia, and the rapid advances achieved in that campaign. Yet for some reason the logistic impossibility of the Normandy campaign achieving anything like Barbarossa is ignored. As is the fact that Overlord achieved it's objectives, and Barbarossa didn't achieve any of it's objectives. One of which was the destruction of the Soviet army. David Glantz points out that at the start of the invasion the Red Army numbered @5 million men, by December the number of Russians under arms was 8 million.

Which leads me onto my second conundrum.

In most wargame rules SS troops are counted as being elite, and therefore have a number of benefits - ranging from higher morale to more attacks etc.

The problem I have with this is that the SS units were not drawn from a pool of supermen, who completed training by letting grenades explode on their heads, they were drawn from within the German army and air force. And that the reason for their 'improved' performance lies more with their being kept at full strength - as opposed the standard practice of keeping shattered units on the OOB for political reasons - than fanatical Nazi zeal.

The same applies to all elite units - I'm not singling out the SS here - which in turn makes me wonder what is being represented on the table top. Because even if the rules include support weapons and the like, the higher rating for elite units - and conversely lower rating for the green troops - is clearly representing something other than an objective rating of the figures on the table.

For instance those 8 million Red army soldiers in late 1941 would in standard wargame rules be treated as less useful than for instance the Red Army troops in 1944. Yet the only real difference is a lack of support weapons, and the perception of their poor performance is based on their poor strategic use within the campaign, They were certainly capable of stopping the supposed unstoppable juggernaut dead in it's tracks, as is the case at Smolensk, Kiev and Moscow.