Another great podcast from the Big Rich, Nick and Sidney.
The lads get together once again to discuss what's new in the world of Lard and what they are working on, and then get stuck into a couple of meaty topics: including political symbols in wargames and how the design of a game can provide a plausible command experience for the gamer.
Please note, the section on Nazi symbols is potentially contentious but they were asked the question and didn't want to shy away from the tough ones. You may not agree with what they say, but hopefully they don't upset too many people.
The usual trip to the library rounds off this episode.
I'm pleased to say that the first of my official early war IABSM handbooks, Blitzkrieg in the West #1: The Frenchseems to have been very well received, even if the news item on TMP showed in full for only about five minutes on Friday, so no one's commented yet!
On the TFL Forum, Arlequin said: "Having grappled with the French organisations and techno-speak for CoC:Abyssinia, I'll give a standing ovation for this concise, detailed and invaluable work. Well done chaps!"
And Archdukek said: "Congratulations, Robert, on an excellent piece of work. Fascinating stuff."
On the Lead Adventure Forum, Powermonger said: "I do not play IABSM...but is perfect for reference. The book is very, very good. Nice historical references and a comprehensive OOB for France 1940. All divisions listed, with their properly attached support units. As the author says, it is perfect to lay down a company and attach to it the suitable, historically accurate supports. Recommended."
On the TFL Group, Benito said the handbook "Looks fantastic" and Tom McKinney said: "Well done! Just had a look at mine. Lot's of great information and well ordered. Absolutely delighted with the inclusion of campaign/division cross-reference."
Those of you who are on Facebook might be interested in the Charlie Don't Surf group that I've just joined. It's been around since July last year but, I must confess, I've only just found out about it.
As a reminder, you can also find an I Ain't Been Shot, Mum group on Facebook as well. Click on the name to go straight there.
When IABSM v3 was published, two late war handbooks quickly followed: Battle for Liberation and Vpered Na Berlin. I am very pleased to say that today sees the publication of the first of the v3 early war handbooks: Blitzkrieg in the West #1: The French.
The handbook is 73 pages long, and covers the French Army from 1939 to the fall of France in 1940. It has twenty-nine force listings in it, all looking at core company structure and then the possible battalion, brigade, regimental, divisional and higher level supports. It also has a guide to rating your French forces, and a comprehensive armoury.
Available only as a pdf from the TooFatLardies website, Blitzkrieg in the West #1: The French costs £8.40.
Handbooks covering the BEF, the Belgians and Dutch, and the Germans follow one per month in March, April and May this year.
Blitzkrieg in the West #1: The French contains the following lists:
Infantry Divisions Infantry Company GRDI Cavalry Squadron GRDI Motorcycle Squardon
Motorised Infantry Divisions Motorised Infantry Company DIM Motorcycle Company GRDIM Motorcycle Squadron GRDIM AMD Squadron GRDIM AMR Squadron
Independent Tank Formations Independent Tank Company (R-35, H-35, D-2 or fCM-36) Independent Tank Company (FT-17)
Colonial Infantry North African and Foreign Legion formations
One thing I don't have in my WW2 collection is any late war German infantry. Yes, I've got Fallschirmjaeger in camouflaged smocks, but no men in a mixture of feld grau and Zeltbaun.
Until now, that is.
My self-bought Christmas present this year was a PSC company of "Normandy infantry" and their heavy weapons support in 15mm, the first of which I painted this weekend just gone:
I've decided that I'm going to use the figures to build an Aufklarungs Company to go with my already-bought-and-painted SdKfz 250's. I'll then pad that force out to make a full Grenadier company.
Now after painting a company of British Paras in their Denison smocks, I did vow never to paint another camouflaged smock again, but painting these chaps wasn't too bad.
For a start, these are first PSC infantry I've painted: a nice change from the Battlefront and FiB Poles I've been concentrating on recently.
Secondly, these are lovely figures: well posed and with plenty of clear detail to work with. I'm not sure I like the kneeling chap in grey with the binoculars - he looks a bit tall to me - but the others are cracking.
Technique was simple. Undercoat in black, then paint the base colours including the basic tan for the zeltbaun. A very light wash brings out the detail, then highlight and paint on the little green and brown stripes that make up the camouflage. I might have highlighted the greys a bit too strongly, but 15s always look a bit better if a bit over-exaggerated.
I wouldn't say I'm looking forward to painting three platoons worth plus the other supports (about another 100 figures) but the first ten weren't too painful and seem to have turned out quite well.
Regular visitors to the site will know that one of my regular moans is that sci-fi figure manufacturers rarely produce a full range of figures: they usually produce enough to build an infantry squad, but after that you have to mix and match from other ranges in order to get support weapons, different types of vehicles etc.
Loud Ninja Games are better than most: their Chuhuac, for example, have a variety of infantry supported by gravbikes, really cool battlesuits, good-looking AFVs and APCs...everything you could need to represent a fast-moving rapid reaction or reconnaissance force. Cracking stuff.
Up to now, however, their Ikwen range has been limited to a set of what Eli has called militia: enough infantry-types to form a platoon but not much more. I use them as the technical support for the Chuhuac, usually having them positioned defending a supply point or landed transport vessel. Some rather nifty Ikwen terrain pieces are also available, but no support weapons, vehicles and so on.
My Ikwen Engineering Types
Late last year, however, Loud Ninja announced a new set of Ikwen figures: hardened fighters. These were another set of infantry, but this time Ikwen in full combat mode. Now I don't need any Ikwen 'hardened fighters', as that doesn't fit in with the way I use them, but I like to support the smaller manufacturers, and one can't moan on about having no variety if you don't buy them when the variety appears! I also quite fancied having my usual engineer-types suddenly morph into wild warriors ("never make the Ikwen angry") with a quick bit of on-table figure swapping.
The figures duly arrived and I've now painted them:
Ikwen Hardened Fighters
They are pretty nice figures, albeit a little rougher than their predecessors.
That, however, is not really the problem.
The problem is that they are a different size to the militia. Look:
You can see that the new Ikwen are about a head taller than their forefathers. The height isn't the only problem: look at the difference in size of the calves, width of the chest etc. The Ikwen were big anyway (fully explained by their background) now they are huge...and they just don't have the proportions of a 15mm figure: they look...wrong for 15mm.
A related, and annoying problem is what this means for the basing. Note how the original militia Ikwen neatly fits onto a 5p piece, as do the vast majority of 15mm infantry. Now look at the billy-big-balls width of the stance of the hardened fighter: his feet are almost as widely apart as a standard 15mm human is tall!
Not a problem, I hear you cry, he's a very tall Ikwen.
Yes, but he doesn't fit on any sort of sensible base any more.
Billy Big Balls
Anyhow, I have them now, and will have to get them onto the tabletop to see whether they annoy me enough to get rid of them.
Scale creep is a problem with 15mm sci-fi.
Khurasan has a couple of lovely ranges that are quite frankly so 20mm as to be unusable (the Soriog for example), and now it looks as if the Ikwen have unfortunately followed suite.
A lot of my time at the moment is being spent on the Battle for France: the period between 10th May and mid-June 1940.
Being a wargamer, I've obviously been concentrating on the military side of things but, as ever, you really also need to know what was happening with the governments of the day in order to fully comprehend what was going on. As Clausewitz said: warfare is an extension of politics...and you only have to look at Calais, or the tragedy of the 51st (Highland) Division, to understand how true that statement was in May 1940.
Given all of the above, it was with great interest that I took myself off to the cinema this weekend to see The Darkest Hour: Joe Wright's biopic of Churchill covering that very same period, with Gary Oldman in the lead role.
I'd heard good things about the film, very good things, including audiences actually standing up and applauding at the end, so was looking forward to it, whilst wondering, however, whether it would be as good as Dunkirk, another film that I thought was very good.
So, is The Darkest Hour any good?
Well, I'll tell you: it's brilliant.
Now whilst the audience didn't stand up and applaud at my local (I don't think we do that sort of thing in the Home Counties), there was definitely a straightening of backs and a few "dust in eye" dabbings going on throughout the cinema as Oldman-as-Churchill delivers the final "We shall fight them..." speech. Some of that is down to Churchill's words, some of that is down to Oldman's delivery: honours even as to which, but it's powerful stuff.
For those who don't know, the film covers the period 9th May to 29th May, focussing on how Churchill became PM in the wake of the disastrous Norway campaign and what then happened behind the scenes in government over that time. It looks at how Halifax, Chamberlain and others faltered in their commitment to war (somewhat understandable when you consider that the First World War had only ended 22 years before, leaving the field of Flanders "stained in the blood of a whole generation") and especially when the Italians offered to mediate a peace between Britain and Germany, and all against a background of terrible news from the front. I won't tell you what happens (!) but suffice to say that Churchill stayed true to his convictions that Hitler had to be stopped.
So why is the film so good? First up, hat's off to the cast.
Oldman is sensational as Churchill, portraying him warts and all. This is not some House of Cards used car salesman, but a hard-drinking, often rude and intolerant, often warm-hearted, often insecure man who knows what needs to happen but is regularly faced with nothing but mountains in his path. Oldman manages to portray Churchill's humanity more than anything else, which makes the fact of his greatness even greater. Yes, I know he was a man wedded to past times, some of whose views could now be considered racist or politically incorrect, but he was the man to take us through our darkest hour...and Oldman shows us that. He's won awards for the performance already: he deserves the Oscar as well.
The supporting cast is terrific as well. Halifax and Chamberlain (Stephen Delaine and Ronald Pickup respectively) are the bad guys without being bad guys: you can understand why they wanted peace even if you disagree with them. Kristen Scott Thomas excels as Clemmie, and Lily James does so also as Churchill's somewhat anachronistic secretary, and Ben Mendelson as King George VI. There's not a duff performance out there.
The film gets the atmosphere right as well. It's all very dark and gloomy. The War Rooms are positively claustrophobic, even on the big screen. The House of Commons looks tiny when packed with MPs. It's all good stuff.
The music also helps: soaring chords to match Churchill's oratory, tenser passages to match the stress of what you are watching on screen...and stressful it is. Perhaps not quite as stressful in places as Dunkirk, but still very tense.
So go see this movie before all the Oscars hype. You won't be disappointed.
It's all very quiet around here lately: must be the January effect as no-one's sending me any AARs or anything else interesting to post. I'm beavering away on my next IABSM publication (no, it's not a third Poland scenario pack!) so haven't any spare time for anything but that.
Allied forces are pushing eastwards into the Low Countries. German resistance is stronger than expected but patchy in places. Defence in many cases depends on ad hoc formations made up from whatever troops are available to counter the advance of the Allied armour.
Here's a battle report from a game I played in last weekend, using the Tally Ho! scenario from the Operation Sealion scenario pack.
The report is not written by me, but by Dave...who had the unfortunate task of referring a game in which I was participating. John and Mark played the Brits trying to re-claim a small corner of the UK for Queen and country; I played the dastardly Hun seeking to expand the Third Reich over England's green and pleasant land.
Click on the pic below to see how it all turned out...
The Brits are advancing through Normandy, the Germans seeking to hold them up. A devastating pre-game stonk is just a preamble to the Germans getting a thorough spanking!
Click on the pic below for the AAR:
Vis Lardica is a website devoted to wargaming and military history, with a special emphasis on the company-sized rulesets produced by the TooFatLardies: I Ain't Been Shot Mum (WW2); Charlie Don't Surf (Vietnam); and Quadrant 13 (science fiction)
Welcome to Vis Lardica, a website mostly dedicated to the company-sized wargaming rules produced by the TooFatLardies, but encompassing my other gaming interests as well.