Edinburgh - Orkney Wargames
Second World War
Fighting the Nazis on every Front
Let's get something straight. I don't play Nazis, or at least I try to avoid it. Every wargame club has its members who glorify anything German, and who field SS units and King Tigers at a drop of a hat. I've not one of them. Give me a Sherman, a Crusader, or best of all a T-34, and I'll try to show those thugs what "total war" is all about!
In the Edinburgh club WW2 is consistently popular. Some game it in 20mm, others in 15mm, while a few die-hards use 1/300 scale kit. I've done all three scales in my time, but like the rest of my lead collection (and me come to think of it) my tanks have grown larger over the years. 15mm is still the most popular club scale, but I've moved over to 20mm, and I now have two armies - the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in 1940, and the Soviet Army in 1941-42. I've also got in to Second World War platoon-sized skirmish games in 28mm, but these games are rare - the period really suits a smaller scale than all my other wargaming periods. We've also started dabbling with 12mm figures, and that's now an established option for desert games.
The BEF is one of my favourite armies - it might be a little outgunned by the Germans, but it still has an early war charm. After all, who could resist such kick-arse tanks as Matilda I's (little more than mobile machine gun bunkers), A-9 cruiser tanks with the armoured protection of a beer can, or my favourite - the Vickers MkVIb - a little run-around which has the armament and armour of an armoured car, but without the speed! Of course the queen of the battlefield is the Matilda II, which is largely impervious to German fire - until they unlimber their 88's of course.
Then there's the brutal carnage of the Eastern front. I've always had something of a love affair with the T-34 - and you can never have enough of them. I'm a firm believer in that good old Soviet military proverb: "Quantity has a quality all of its own". I've opted for the early part of the war in Russia, mainly because I find these games a little more interesting. the Russians have a slight qualitative advantage over the German invaders, but their training is rudimentary, and you really have to think hard about what you want to achieve, and what is actually possible. Still, if you have a few KV-1's and T-34's, then you should be able to cause the Nazis a few problems. That isn't saying that I won't expand into the later war at some stage - after all - who can resist fielding JS-2's and ISU-152's - but of course then you're up against all those German players who go all weak at the knees at the sight of a Jagpanther or a King Tiger.
Then there's the venture into 28mm skirmish games. Although many of the skirmish games I've seen played at the Edinburgh club looked a little ropey due to mediocre terrain, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. I launched myself down this particular slippery slope several months ago, when I bought a squad of nicely painted British paratroopers from a guy at The Other Partizan - just to test the waters. As soon as I got home I went online and whistled up the rest of the platoon from Artizan, but it wasn't until the League of Gentlemen Wargamers invited me to play a huge 28mm Normandy game (on a 14'x14' table) that I was really bitten by the bug. I painted up the rest of my paratroopers for the game, and now I plan to buy the tanks and halftracks of the Irish guards, complete with a Michael Caine character in his Dingo scout car! Both the guys at the club and the ones playing the big Normandy game used a rules set called Disposable Heroes, which seems to have a few quirks, but on the whole looks perfectly useable. At least its simple - there's nothing worse than a skirmish set where you take several turns to stand up, or reload your rifle.
I hate to say it, but rules are all-important in this period. There was a time when WW2 rules had to be ridiculously complicated, with loads of charts and statistics to slow down the game. Then came Rapid Fire, which seemed to be a step back to the simpler rules I used as a kid - Charles' Grant's Battle for instance. It put the fun element back (probably at the expense of some realism), and they've remained popular ever since. Some of my good pals at the club use Rapid Fire fairly regularly for their 20mm games, but for me I find it a little too basic for my tastes. Now this is surprising - my usual approach with rules is the simpler the better. However, in modern warfare there's so much to consider that if you simplify things too much you lose a lot of the flavour of the period.
North Africa in 12mm
If somebody said to me a few months ago that I'd be playing with 12mm figures, I'd have laughed at them. After all, 20mm is my Second World War scale of choice, and I occasionally dabble in 28mm games. Some misguided guys in the club game the conflict in 15mm, but I feel that's a poor compromise, as its neither fish nor fowl - too small to encourage pretty modelling, yet too large for swirling large-scale tank battles. That's really the preserve of microtanks, with their 6mm figure scale. Then I discovered 12mm, or 1/144 scale. Some of the chaps in the club were dithering over this, and were considering trying the scale out - or rather they were thinking of using Pendraken's 10mm figures, which are broadly compatible, albeit a little on the small side. That was when Dougie and I decided to try it out for ourselves, and opted for the Desert battles of 1940-41. He bought the British, while I - even though I loathe playing them - raised a force of Nazis - the panzers of the Afrika Korps. While British will follow, someone needed to do the bad guys, so I stepped up to the plate.
The advantage of this scale is that you get a good feel for those sweeping desert tank battles of 1940-42. Besides, the terrain is easy - a sand-coloured dropsheet, a few bushes, tracks and wadis, and away you go! The models are surprisingly detailed for such a small scale - just as good as the 15mm out there on the market - but there's a really big difference in scale (1:144 rather than 1:100), which lends itself to this theatre with its sweeping manoeuvres and epic tank clashes. OBy the way, all the infantry and vehicles are 12mm Minifigs - really excellent models. ver time we'll expand our forces, and my buddy Chris is raising the Italians (he now has L33 tankettes in three scales), so it looks like this little foray into North Africa "has legs". Watch this space!
I now use Battlegroup Panzer Grenadier, written by Dave Brown, who also wrote General de Brigade. In my eyes he's pitched it just right - just enough detail to provide flavour, but a simple and elegant combat system which means that games flow really well. They keep everyone happy - the realists and the thrill-seekers.
The scale is the same as Crossfire - a base of three infantry represents a squad, while one AFV represents three or four vehicles. Most of the time we play with a reinforced company or two for a regular club night game, although we've attempted much larger games when we have more time. The rules are accompanied by scenario books - one covering North-West Europe (1940-45), the other the Russian Front (1939-45), although a couple of scenarios are included in the main rules. Dave Brown also runs a website which provides updates and a few scenarios.
One of the big things with them is spotting. Most of the time you start with an empty battlefield, with most of the defenders hidden. You have to try to probe and spot as you advance, and half the time you find something you won't like lurking in the hedgerows.
The combat system is very slick, with everything involving the roll of two D6. You really need a "7" or more before modifiers to hit anything, so that keeps things moving quickly. After a few games you pretty much know all the relevant factors, so you rarely need to look up the playsheets, let alone the main rules. The opportunity fire rules are pretty effective and realistic, but use the same firing system, as does artillery and even airs strikes.
In fact any set of rules which incorporates air and artillery missions into the basic system gets my vote - and the vote of a growing number of adherents here in Edinburgh. the whole rules system is extremely straightforward, detailed but elegant, and it makes you act like real commanders would have. I've used a lot of Second World War rules in my time, but these are really the best I've found. I know I sound a bit like an advertiser, which in a way I am.
Try 'em! You'll like 'em! You can buy the rules from Caliver Books.
These two pictures are taken from a 15mm Italian Campaign game - Rochetta 1943 - - the scenario is available from Dave Brown's website.
It'll also be included in Dave's next Scenario Book covering battles in the Mediterranean.
Here's are six more scenarios for Battlegroup Panzer Grenadier:
The Fall of France 1940: Cany-Barville and Caubert Ridge (both featuring the 51st Highland Division)
Normandy 1944: Auville (Americans near Omaha beach) and Gavrus (British during Operation Epsom)
Ardennes 1944: Parker's Crossroads (American blocking force attacked by German hordes)
North Africa 1941: Kings Cross (German assault on Tobruk)
A selection of games using 15mm, 20mm and 28mm figures.
Second World War in 28mm - or you can click directly on the Irish Guards army page, or even the
The Big Normandy Game : a huge game using 1/50 scale tanks and 28mm infantry on a 200 square foot table!
Battlegroup Panzer Grenadier Playsheets
Journal 20 , Journal 37 , Journal 38 & Journal 88
Journal 55 , Journal 56 , Journal 60 ,
Journal 71 , Journal 82 , Journal 83 , Journal 87 , Journal 88 , Journal 90 , Journal 91 , Journal 92 , Journal 93 ,
Journal 96 , Journal 99 , Journal 100 , Journal 103 & Journal 104
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