I like a tabletop battlefield uncluttered by intrusive markers, so like to take any opportunity to replace a marker with something that looks more in keeping with the surrounding.
A good example of this is “Bailed Out” markers for tanks: especially useful when playing early war WW2, when you can expect far more bailed out than destroyed tanks.
I have the TFL marker pack that has some transparent oval disks with “Bailed Out” on them. I have some FoW markers: circular pieces of plastic in a variety of nice colours with little logos on them. But what I really like is a small group of painted crew figures that can be placed next to the bailed out vehicle in question.
I have these for my Germans, Soviets and British, but am mostly playing games set in the September War (Poland 1939) at the moment. Now the Poles don’t have a lot of tanks, but we’re just coming up to the period when those tanks were being used (and lost!) in almost every encounter. Time for me to paint up some Polish tank crews.
Battlefront used to be excellent for this. Every tank came with one or two standing crew figures that were designed specifically to represent bailed out and then fleeing crews. As far as I can tell, they don’t do this any more, which is a colossal shame, but I carefully kept all the ones I didn’t use just for a time like this when I needed some.
Somewhat ironically considering Poland’s fate in 1939, the above are a combination of Soviet and German tank crewmen painted up to resemble Poles. They are not perfect: the commander’s beret is a bit the wrong shape, and the crewmen should be wearing dark green mini-helmets rather than the padded version worn by the Soviets, but at a range of three feet (and just for a marker!) no-one is going to notice.
The last week of September 1939 saw a combined “Northern Front” Polish army join the attack towards Tomaszow Lubelski. Due to bad communications between the different Polish divisions, the result was a series of largely uncoordinated attacks by Polish unis arriving from the north-east, launched in the direction of the city only to be shattered wave-by-wave by the German defenders.
This scenario would represent one such attack: with Polish and German forces brawling for control of the centre of the table. Four objectives would be placed there, with each side entering the table and attempting to take and hold them. The game would end after ten appearances of the Turn Card, at which point victory would go to the side that held the most objectives. If, however, one side managed to hold at any point three of the four objectives, then the game would end immediately, with that side wining the battle.
Click on the picture below to see the extraordinary events that followed…
As part of a counter-attack that had already thrown the Germans back some twenty kilometres, the Polish 16th and 26th Infantry Divisions crossed the Bzura river near Lowicz on the morning of 14th September 1939, and the Polish 4th Infantry Division reached the road linking Lowicz and Glowno.
At this point, however, the retreating Germans were reinforced by the 4th Panzer Division, which had been withdrawn from the fighting in the outskirts of Warsaw, and launched a counter-attack of their own against the advancing Poles. This battle would recreate the encounter battle that followed.
A cracking game of IABSM in which a bold coup de main won the day. Click on the pic below to see all:
It was back to Poland for our latest game of I Ain’t Been Shot, Mum and an extraordinarily exciting encounter that went right down to the wire.
On September 7th 1939, reconnaissance units from one of the Panzer Divisions of General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst’s XXI Army Corps captured Wizna after Polish mounted reconnaissance squads abandoned the village after a short fight and retreated to the southern bank of the Narew. When German tanks tried to cross the bridge, it was blown up by Polish engineers. This game would recreate the German attempt to force the Narew Crossing.
Our last game of IABSM was set in the Tuchole Forest in Poland, right at the beginning of the war. Today’s battle would directly follow on from that encounter, and represent the stalwart Polish defense of Grudziadz. Both scenarios were taken from The September War, Part One, one of the TooFatLardies scenario packs that I have written for I Ain’t Been Shot, Mum!
Grudziadz was a strategically important town as it housed an officer academy, a cavalry school and the several army staffs directing Polish forces in the Polish Corridor region. It was, however, only lightly defended, with its garrison made up of infantry and border protection corps (KOP) along with supporting artillery. The German attack was launched from East Prussia by 21st Corps, mainly infantry and the reserve 10th Panzer regiment (mainly Panzer I and II).
I took advantage of the bank holiday weekend to finally finish the company of early war Polish tanks that I have been working on.
A Company of Polish 7TP (jw) tanks from 1st or 2nd Tank Battalion
I say a company, but actually I painted twenty-two of the little blighters: sixteen as the single-turret model, and six as the double-turret model.
That gives me the flexibility to field a company of tanks from the 1st and 2nd Tank Battalions (all single-turret); most of the 3rd Tank Battalion (one reduced company of single-turret, one reduced company of double-turret); or (given a little bit of leeway in counting 7TPs as the Vickers tank they were based on) the mixed platoons of 12th or 121st Tank Companies.
Either the 12th or 121st Independent Tank Companies: 7TPs used as Vickers
The models are all 15mm from Battlefront via Element Games. Undercoated in Army Painter green, then with the pale yellow and then the brown camouflage on top. The same basic camouflage pattern was used for each tank. Then washed and dry-brushed to bring up the detail.
Note that I had another varnish disaster in the initial spray. Not the varnish's fault, on this occasion, but mine. It was very hot, and I didn't shake the can properly, so got a light frosting of propellant/bad varnish. How did I solve it? As I've mentioned before, a light coat of olive oil got rid of the frosting, then another two sprays brought the models down flat again. A close call!
A few posts ago I mentioned that I had bought a whole company of Polish 7TP tanks, plus six extras for the dw version, from Battlefront via Element Games. It was now time to build the little blighters.
The jw single-turret versions are very easy to build: all you have to do is add a commander and hatch to the top of the turret, the gun to the front of the turret, the correct turret base plate to the main body of the tank, and then the tracks to either side.
There is, however, one thing to watch out for. There is a spot on the left hand side of the hull, towards the front, where the resin is very thin and very weak. Fully six of the twenty-two models I constructed either came out of the packet with this bit chipped away, or broke there as I glued the left hand track on.
Here's a picture to show what I mean:
Now with the turret on, and after painting, these gaps probably won't be noticeable on the tabletop, but it's enough of a hole to make me think about reaching for the green stuff. Six out of twenty-two tanks broken in this way (about half out of the packet like that, about half caused by me until I realised how careful you need to be) isn't a very good score from Battlefront.
In my earlier post, I did mention that building twenty-two of the same type of tank would be a good opportunity to check quality control. You've got the above weak resin spot, but were there any more problems?
Well unfortunately there were. Two of the twenty-two had genuine mis-casts or breakages, as shown in the pics below:
So if we count half the tanks with the weak spot gone (i.e. blame me for the other half) and add the two shown above, that's five out of twenty-two packs or 22% damaged items.
22% or about one in every five.
That's much worse than I was expecting.
So, Battlefront, and it gives me no pleasure at all to say this, you have an amazing range of great-looking kits but, given availability of the tank I want, I will always go for Zvezda and/or Plastic Soldier Company before you: not because I particularly like plastic tanks, but because your quality control is so rubbish. Simples.
On 8th September 1939, German Gebirgsjaegers moving along the Carpathian mountain range bumped into a unit of Polish Border Protection Corps mountain troops near the Dukla Pass. After a short battle, the Poles withdrew, leaving the pass open for the Gebirgsjaeger to continue their advance.
That was the background to scenario #39: The Dukla Pass, taken from my just-published scenario booklet, The September War, Part 2: another thirty of so scenarios for IABSM covering the German invasion of Poland in September 1939.
The game would involve both sides wrestling for control of two objectives, with victory going to side that controlled both objectives on any appearance of the Tea Break card.
Click on the picture below to see who triumphed in the two games we had, and why one of them ended in a Steward's Inquiry!
Whilst I'm waiting for the go-ahead to publish my latest scenario pack, The September War, Part II, giving you another thirty early war scenarios covering the invasion of Poland in 1939, here is a battle report from one of the play-test games.
It's late September, and a mixed bag of Polish troops are holed up in the village of Jablon. They want to slip away over the border, but there's a fast-moving column of Soviet tanks and infantry heading towards them. They'll have to hold out until nightfall...
Find out if the Poles held off the Red Army hordes by clicking on the picture, below, and don't forget to keep a tenner of your Christmas money back to buy the pack once it's out!
Here they are at last: the second Polish infantry platoon. These are a mix of Forged in Battle and Battlefront figures, but mostly FiB.
Love the Poles as an early war army, but thirty-six man platoons are a killer to paint, especially as they're all in khaki! Only one more platoon to go now.
It will soon be time to start on the armour. I'm just waiting for PSC or Zvezda to produce Vickers and/or 7TP tanks, as I need about three squadrons worth, which could get rather expensive if I go the Battlefront route.
Regular readers might remember that the chaps at Gaming Models in the US sent me some of their 15mm Polish models to have a look at. A previous post dealt with the Polski FIAT truck, now let's look at the Ursus wz.29 armoured car.
The wz.29 was supposedly obsolete at the start of the German invasion, having been largely replaced by the wz.34. All remaining wz.29's were attached to Polish units in the Modlin area, and fought against the reconnaissance elements of Panzerdivision Kempf and infantry from the SS Deutschland regiment. Despite their apparent obsolescence, the wz.29's fared better than their more modern counterpart: mainly because in addition to the standard MMG, they had a 37mm gun in what must have been a very crowded turret.
So what of the model? Very nice really, and good value at $5 (£3.80) a time. The detailing on the gun is quite difficult to bring out but, as I said, it is a very small turret, and I'm even considering gluing it in place so it doesn't get lost.
That said, the detailing on the wheels makes the tyres really easy to paint, and you can see how the various doors and hatches come out with a bit of dry-brushing.
The model above was sprayed green, then had the bone and brown camouflaged patches brushed on. A brown wash followed, then a very light bone drybrush focusing on the edges.
I'm not a fan of painting huge numbers of infantry. I love painting a squad here or a squad there, but table-topping an entire company of three platoons of, say, thirty men each, plus light supports, drives me absolutely crazy.
I like to try and do a good job on every figure, but doing 100 good-jobs without going mad is proving more and more difficult as time goes by.
Fortunately, I have already collected most of the WW2 figures that I will ever need (just Afrika Korps and Desert Rats to go!), and as my current non-WW2 focus is sci-fi and moderns, with their smaller, more powerful units, I'm hoping not to be troubled by the 100-plus malaise any more.
So you can imagine how frustrated I was today to finish my penultimate platoon of 1939 Polish infantry (that's three squads of TWELVE men each) and discover that I have run out of 'biscuits of death' bases on which to mount them!
Yes, I had enough small bases to mount the light mortar team, but not enough medium-bases-with-the-holes-in-them for the main platoon.
Obviously I have ordered some bases for tout-suite delivery, but I still cannot get the instant gratification that I require...and require now!
What frustrates you about painting miniatures? Comment below please...
The chaps at Gaming Models very kindly sent me a few samples of their WW2 Polish vehicles to have a look at.
First off the painting table is the standard lorry of the Polish army in the 1930s: the Polski FIAT 621 truck.
This is a very nice little model, cast in resin, that comes with a separate canvas cover that you can glue in or keep separate. The truck comes unbased but in one piece i.e. you don't need to faff around gluing the wheels on, all you have to do is decide what you want to do with the canvas cover.
Priced at $5 (about £4 at current exchange rates) it's good value and, as you can see in the picture above, paints up very nicely indeed. Even better value is the platoon pack, where you can buy eight trucks for $32 i.e. $4 or £3.12 each.
Mine required no preparation (I didn't even bother to wash it in soapy water) and was painted by undercoating in green, highlighting, then washing using Agrax Earthshade, then a light dry-brush in first a lighter green then Bleached Bone or whatever the modern equivalent is. I decided that this one-off truck wouldn't be camouflaged: I have seen paint jobs with very garish yellow and brown stripey effects, but the only appropriate photo I can find with the suggestion of camouflage is the one below:
So, there you have it, a very nice and very affordable model: just what you need to properly motorise your Black Brigade!
The observant among you may have noticed that in my recent early war battle reports, the Polish infantry have been represented on the tabletop by dismounted Polish cavalry. The Adrienne helmets and black boots would obviously have given it away!
Well that's because I hadn't got round to painting any Polish infantry yet. The thought of painting so many figures in just about the same uniform as the Soviets was very disheartening: three platoons of thirty six men each is a lot of troops. However, I finally girded my loins and dived in, buying a couple of platoons from Battlefront.
These arrived after a very long wait (as they are not desert or Team Yankee, they are out of stock!), but my excitement at the moment of un-boxing was soon dispelled by the sight of so many badly cast blobs. I know the Poles aren't flavour of the moment, but please keep the molds as current as possible!
So I put them to one side and bought another couple of platoons from Forged in Battle. Much cleaner casts, and I like the mix of manufacturers in the same platoon that's achieved by taking what I can from the Battlefront pack and sowing them into the FiB platoons.
Here then is the first platoon, with the previously painted Big Man and light support weapons. As the squads are so big, I've chosen to mount them Flames of War stylee on the "biscuits of death": makes such big squads easier to use.
Now a quick break with some desert Chuhuac, and then on to platoon two!
My chosen scenario for Operation Market Larden 2017 (the TFL games day held in Evesham each year) was scenario #06 from the Poland 1939 supplement, The September War: Wegierska Gorka.
Taking place between 2nd and 3rd September 1939, the battle for Węgierską Górką, or the “Hungarian Height”, took place near the Polish-Slovak border and was fought between Polish mountain troops and German infantry. The Polish position included a number of anti-tank bunkers overlooking the valley below, and was therefore of significant strategic importance.
Here are the two AARs from the day: one game in the morning, one game in the afternoon. Click on the pic for all. My thanks to Noddy, Ty, Bob and Vlad for making it a great day's gaming.
The latest unit to roll off my painting table is a platoon of 75mm wz.02/26 guns for my WW2 Polish collection.
When fielded as a two-gun platoon, these will represent an infantry company's division-level Infantry Gun Platoon; when fielded as a three-gun platoon, these will represent a cavalry squadron's brigade-level Horse Artillery Platoon.
The guns themselves were nicknamed "orthodox" by the Poles, as they were old re-chambered Russian guns left behind on Polish territory after WW1. Always good to be equipped with the latest kit!
As for the models, the guns are from Battlefront by special order. I think they are down as Finnish or something as Battlefront doesn't really acknowledge its Polish range at the moment: far too busy in the desert!
The crew are actually WW2 Soviet artillerymen with head-swaps using Peter Pig's excellent range of heads. I've used infantry helmets for most of the crew, with an officer type wearing a rogatywka.
The limbers are general purpose Battlefront limbers, again with the driver having a swapped head.
Finally, I've also now reorganised my Polish cavalry squadron gallery. Click here to see them all (will open in a new window).
It’s off to Poland, 1939, again, as Bevan, Dave and I play another action from my scenario book for IABSM: The September War.
This time, the game was from scenario #03: Charge at Krojanty. Based on an episode from the larger fighting around the Tuchole Forest that took place over the first couple of days of September 1939, the action would involve a large force of Polish cavalry surprising a German infantry platoon that had paused for a rest. Each side would then gradually be reinforced, developing into quite a large encounter.
There are several object lessons here for would-be Polish and German commanders. Click on the picture, below, to read all...
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 not-for-profit website mostly dedicated to the company-sized wargaming rules produced by the TooFatLardies, but encompassing my other gaming interests as well.