The entrance to Firepower
The Museum’s main hall; this is where the trader’s stands and some of the games were located
Another view of the main hall
A Wild West participation game
The ‘Berlin or Bust!’ participation game: this was, in fact, two games played in parallel, with the Russians and the Americans trying to capture the centre of Berlin before the other could.
An American War of Independence battle
A Franco-Prussian War battle
Fighting in the Bocage: the rules used were ‘Flames of War’
An Ancients battle that used the ‘Field of Glory’ rules
A group of armoured elephants and cavalry advance on the enemy
I try to keep the room reasonably tidy, and to put things away after I have used them, but inevitably some bits and pieces get left lying about, and other stuff – for example model kits that might have been put to one side for a project that has yet to come to fruition – have begun to pile up on the available flat surfaces. When this happens – and before my wife can complain about the mess – I have a big tidy-up session.
So far I have ‘re-discovered’ (i.e. found things that I had forgotten I had bought):
- Two AIRFIX Opel truck and towed PAK40 75mm anti-tank gun kits
- Two AIRFIX StuG III assault gun kits
- Four AIRFIX Bren Gun Carrier and towed 6pdr anti-tank gun kits
- A ‘spare’ copy of the HORDES OF THE THINGS rules book
- Some 10cm-long pieces of N gauge railway track, two small N gauge buildings, and two pieces of N gauge rolling stock
- Several rolls of dolls house ‘grass’ (this is like the normal grass matting used to cover model railway and wargames terrain but it has a self-adhesive backing)
The room now looks a lot better than it did – I find the process of tidying up strangely therapeutic – and I can go to the small wargames show that SELWG (South East London Wargames Group) are organising tomorrow at Firepower (the Royal Artillery Museum, Woolwich) with a reasonably clear conscience.
* This is an old naval expression for time that sailors were given to make and repair their own clothes. In recent times it has come to mean time off (usually an afternoon) away from work, to ‘do your own thing’.
The key ring cannons photographed with an Essex 15mm figure for comparison purposes
They are ideal to use as heavy cannons by my 15mm native colonial armies – after they have had the key holder removed and been suitably painted and based – and at a cost of £1.25 ready-made they were a bargain.
The collection contains over 20,000 figures and is displayed in a series of dioramas including:
- Lord Wolseley reviews the Anglo-Egyptian Army – the display is made up of modern replicas of traditional Britains-style ‘Toy’ soldiers
- The German Emperor reviewing his troops in Potsdam in 1900 – 2,000 figures representing every branch of the German Imperial Army
- The Battle of Culloden Moor (1746)
- The Battle of Isandlwana (1879)
- The Charge of the 16th Lancers at Aliwal (1846)
- The War in Algeria (1890)
- A skirmish between British, French, and German troops in 1914
- The US Cavalry rescuing a wagon train from and Indian attack (c.1873)
- The North West Frontier, India (1890)
- The Charge of the 21st Lancers at Omdurman (1898)
- The Battle of Waterloo, 18th June 1815 – this diorama has to be viewed from its four sides, each of which depicts a separate incident during the battle:
- The defence of La Haye-Sainte by the King’s German Legion
- The Charge of the French Cavalry against the British infantry squares
- The Charge of the Royal Scots Greys
- Napoleon surveys the battlefield, surrounded by the Old Guard
- Spanish guerrillas attack a party of French Hussars – The Peninsular War (1809)
- The Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava (1854)
- A skirmish on the Frontier of India (c.1880)
- The Fight for the Windmill – The Franco-Prussian War (1870/71)
- Field Marshal Lord Roberts VC reviews the British Army at Aldershot (1895) – 3,000 figures representing many different Artillery, Cavalry, and Infantry units
- A French column setting off to attack Arab tribesmen – Algeria (1880)
The collection was started in 1928 by the late Lord Cholmondeley and was put on public display in 1980. Many of the figures were made by Edward Suren and Greenwood & Ball.
Houghton Hall is open from 11.30am to 5.30pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays, and Bank Holiday Mondays from Easter to the end of September, and this collection is well worth visiting if you are in North West Norfolk.
Having finished, my wife decided that we needed to do some shopping at the local garden centre. Unfortunately they did not have what we needed – a new cat flap for the kitchen door – and so we had to go to one of the smaller out-of-town retail parks nearby. Luckily there is a Hobbycraft store almost next door to the pet store, and I managed to sneak in and buy a couple of AIRFIX Bren Gun Carrier sets. I have a sneaky feeling they might well end up being ‘converted’ into self-propelled anti-tank guns as part of my current wargaming nostalgia trip but you never know …
Since WARGAMES ILLUSTRATED and MINIATURE WARGAMES changed ownership both have gone through a bit of a metamorphosis. The layout of the magazines has improved, and they seem to have regained a bit of lost vitality. I suspect that this is due to the new owners wanting to ‘make their mark’ and because they have some ground to make up on WARGAMES SOLDIERS & STRATEGY. Time will tell as to which of the three will end up as ‘top dog’, but in the meantime I shall continue to buy all three.
The Aggressor concept came about because of the Cold War. The US Army’s existing training films were either out-of-date or showed the Germans or Japanese as the ‘enemy’. Genuine uniforms and equipment used by the main potential enemies that the US Army would face were almost impossible to obtain. The result was Aggressor.
The Aggressor army were not just standard US Army units dressed in different uniforms. A complete background raison d’etre was created for Aggressor; it had a history, a language, and a flag as well as its own tactical doctrine.
The history of Aggressor
The chaotic conditions in Western Europe, which had resulted from major disagreements between the victorious allies as well as the failure of the United Nations Organization, led to the creation of a new nation, Aggressor. A small group of ruthless and determined men who were committed to the concept of a totalitarian nation-state formed a political party – the Circle Trigon Party. It took over the control of the weakened Spanish government, and established the Aggressor Republic.
Once it had consolidated its control of Spain and Spanish Morocco, it began to infiltrate political activists, agitators, and argent provocateurs into neighbouring countries. It coupled this with a robust propaganda campaign aimed at its neighbours. This emphasised the need for political unity and strong government in the current uncertain political climate.
This message was well received in southern France, northern Italy, Bavaria, and the Tyrol, where United States occupation forces were weak or non-existent. Strong secessionist movements quickly grew in these areas, fuelled by money, arms, and political support from Aggressor. The weakened governments of France and Italy and the occupying Power proved powerless in the face of increasing calls for self-determination, and after a series of short but violent uprisings in early 1946, these areas gained independence. Their new governments were all led by Aggressor sympathisers and immediately requested union with Aggressor, which was granted.
Having secured a powerbase, the leaders of Aggressor concentrated their attention upon improving the economy of their new nation. In parallel with this campaign the country underwent a period of intense political reorganisation and re-education. The result of these initiatives was national unity and economic self-sufficiency, and by the late 1940s Aggressor felt able to deal with what it perceived to be its main enemy – the United States.
Population of Aggressor
By the end of the 1940s the population of Aggressor had reached 110,000,000. In addition the government encouraged suitable immigrants and displaced persons from other European nations to settle there. In particular scientists, soldiers, and professional men of all types were encouraged to emigrate to Aggressor, and they were afforded preferential treatment when they arrived in their new home.
In addition a variety of strategies were adopted to increase the population by raising the normal birth rate. This included offering bounties to families who had more than three children. A result of these policies was a rapid growth in the population, which in turn made territorial expansion a necessity.
The language and religion of Aggressor
At first Spanish was adopted as the official language, although French, Italian, and German were still spoken in the eastern provinces. However, as part of the campaign to develop a unified nation it was decided to adopt Esperanto as the official language. All Aggressor personnel were expected to speak Esperanto whenever possible, although total fluency was not common, and English was an acceptable alternative.
There was no state religion in Aggressor and the population enjoyed complete religious freedom. This policy had the distinct advantage of not antagonizing or alienating any religious group.
M41 Tank showing the position of the Aggressor vehicle marking
The uniforms worn by Aggressor were similar in style and cut to those worn by the contemporary US Army, but with several subtle but significant changes. The basic uniform colour was Dark Jungle Green, with Olive Drab webbing/Black leather belts and Black boots. The helmet was the same as that used by the US Army but with a distinctive crest running from back to front. This was about 8.5 inches long, 1.5 inches wide, and tapered from 1.5 inches high at the front to 0.5 inches high at the back.
Each branch was indicated by different coloured scarves and collar tabs, and – in the case of NCOs – piping on the outside seam of the combat trousers. Elite units including Fusiliers (the Aggressor equivalent of Soviet Guards units), Airborne, and Armoured also wore coloured Garrison Caps:
- Rifles (including Mechanised, Mountain and Ski troops): Red branch colour, Dark Jungle Green cap
- Fusilier: Red branch colour; Red cap
- Airborne: Blue branch colour; Red cap
- Armoured: Yellow branch colour; Black cap
- Artillery: White branch colour; Dark Jungle Green cap
- Engineers: Green branch colour; Dark Jungle Green cap
- Signal: Tan branch colour; Dark Jungle Green cap
- Chemical: Purple branch colour; Dark Jungle Green cap
- Other services: Orange branch colour; Dark Jungle Green cap
Formations (Divisions, Corps, and Armies) were indicated by rectangular coloured patches worn on the upper right arm.
- Rifles: Red rectangle
- Airborne: Blue rectangle
- Armoured: Yellow rectangle
- Artillery: White rectangle
Officers had coloured shoulder straps that denoted status and/or rank.
- Fusilier: Red shoulder straps
- Airborne: None on shoulder straps
- General: White (with Red edging if Elite) shoulder straps
- All other Officers: Green shoulder straps
Officer of a Fusilier Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment in a Fusilier Tank Army (Yellow collar tabs indicated an armoured unit; red shoulder straps indicate an officer in a Fusilier unit, as does the red Garrison Cap; the yellow arm patch indicates the unit belongs to an armoured formation)
Soldier of a Mechanised Rifle Regiment in a Mechanised Rifle Division (Red collar tabs indicated an Rifles unit; the red arm patch indicates the unit belongs to an Rifle formation)
Officer of a Tank Regiment in a Tank Division (Yellow collar tabs indicated an armoured unit, as does the black Garrison Cap; the yellow arm patch indicates the unit belongs to an armoured formation)
Soldier of an Artillery Regiment in a Mechanised Rifle Division (White collar tabs indicated an artillery unit; the red arm patch indicates the unit belongs to an Rifle formation)
Officer of an Airborne Regiment in a Airborne Division (Blue collar tabs indicated an airborne unit, as does the red Garrison Cap; the blue arm patch indicates the unit belongs to an airborne formation)
Badges of rank
1: Senior Private; 2: Corporal; 3: Section Sergeant; 4: Platoon Sergeant; 5: Senior Sergeant; 6: Staff Sergeant; 7: Sergeant Major
A: Warrant Officer; B: Sub Lieutenant; C: Lieutenant; D: Captain; E: Major; F: Commandant; G: Colonel; H: General of Brigade; I: General of Division; J: General of Corps; K: General of Army; L: Marshal
I have already mentioned the continual state of war that existed between Opeland and Upsland, and the armies that I built for both sides. Whilst I was emptying the troughs and pots of their unwanted plants and time-expired compost, I began to remember some of the ‘conversions’ that I made from existing models. Most were based on AIFIX and ROCO military vehicles and included:
- A squadron of tanks that combined the body and tracks of ROCO cast armour Sherman tanks with HVSS suspension (No.101) and ROCO Sheridan light tank (No.254) turrets armed with AIRFIX Tiger gun barrels in place of the Shillelagh gun/missile system
- A battery of self-propelled 25pdr guns on AIRFIX Bren Gun Carrier chassis (very overloaded!)
- A squadron of tanks that combined the body and turret of AIRFIX Sherman tanks with the HVSS suspension from a ROCO 155mm self-propelled gun (No.104); the turrets had large stowage boxes added to the back and were armed with cut-down 155mm gun barrels from the self-propelled gun – the result looked vaguely like the Israeli Isherman
- Numerous AIRFIX half-tracks armed with different weapons (e.g. the quadruple 20mm gun from the ROCO Armoured Half-tack (No.128) or the 6pdr anti-tank gun from the AIFIX Bren Gun Carrier set)
- Infantry guns that used the short 75mm gun from the AIRFIX StuG on a cut-down version of the AIRFIX 6pdr anti-tank gun carriage
Thinking about these old and now ‘lost’ armies almost makes me want to raid the large collection of unmade models and spares box that are in my shed and start again from new but … well, perhaps one day, but not today … unless I can be persuaded otherwise!
- Prepared defences were not strong enough. The results of artillery fire seemed to be much more effective than I had expected. Admittedly the Russians were fielding considerably more artillery than the German (a ratio of 6:1) but I would have expected that troops in prepared defences would have suffered fewer casualties than they did. I am therefore considering increasing the transient effect of a unit being in defence works from – 2 to – 4. This change would not have altered the results obtained during the play-test but would have made the results much closer than they were.
- The length of the battle was very short. The play-test lasted one turn*, although I could have played out at least one more turn to obtain a definite result had I needed to. At present the battle should last 12 turns; I think that this could easily be reduced to 6 without any serious impact on the overall game.
- The number of activation cards does not give tactical flexibility. There are two ways that I could go with this. I could either have activation cards for each regiment – which might have made the battle somewhat more disjointed than it was – or I could follow the example set by SOLFERINO IN THIRTY MINUTES and have several activation cards for each formation in the pack. Once the pack was used up, the game would be at an end. The latter would make for a more interesting and less predictable game but might not be to everyone’s taste.
Other things that struck me were:
- It would have looked better if the bases had a larger number of smaller figures and vehicles on them. Possibly I could have used 15mm or 10mm models and figures on the bases to make them more aesthetically pleasing to look at. I don’t have either but it is worth thinking about for the long-term if I decide to fight lots of operational-level games.
- The use of both a D12 and D10 for the different nationalities worked without any problems but did not have too significant an impact on the results.
- The game was enjoyable … but it lacked the Old School ‘fun’ element of RED FLAGS AND IRON CROSSES – TARRED AND FEATHERSTONED. It is usable for re-fighting historical operations but may be too serious for everyday wargames.
*After finishing the play-test proper I did play the battle to a conclusion before packing everything away. In fact the Germans managed a fighting retreat off the tabletop although it was a close run thing. This was possible because their activation card came out first during the second and third turns, which allowed them to move away from the attacking Russians. In addition, the Russian threw some appallingly bad dice scores for the rest of the game.
A Russian Army is mounting an offensive against the German front-line. In this particular sector a German Luftwaffe Feld Divisione is defending a vital gap in the range of hills that cross the Russian main line of advance as well as the only asphalted roads in the area.
To capture it the Russian Army Commander has allotted:
- Two Rifle Divisions each with an Average General (CV = 2) and:
- Part of a Tank Corps commanded by an Average General (CV = 2):
- Army assets commanded by a Poor General (CV = 1):
- Three Rifle Regiments (CV = 2 each
- A Field Artillery Regiment (CV = 3)
- Divisional morale = 6
- A Tank Regiment (CV = 4)
- A Motorised Rifle Regiment (CV = 3)
- An Anti-tank Artillery Regiment (CV = 3)
- Tank Corps morale = 6
- Three Heavy Artillery Regiments (CV = 3 each)
- Army asset morale = 5
The Russian Rifle Divisions
Part of the Russian Tank Corps and the Army assets
The German defenders are dug-in, are commanded by a Good General (CV = 3) and include:
- Three under-strength Luftwaffe Rifle Regiments (CV = 2 each)
- A Luftwaffe Mountain Artillery Regiment (CV = 3)
- Divisional morale = 6
The Luftwaffe Feld Divisione awaits the attack
The Russian have a total CV of 23 and the Germans have a CV of 6, giving the Russians a superiority of almost 4:1.
The activation cards did not favour the Germans as the first one turned over was for the Russian Army assets. They immediately opened fire on the left-hand German Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment. The first Russian Heavy Artillery Regiment achieved a Combat Power of 12 (9 [dice score] + 3 [Artillery Regiment’s CV] + 2 [for the presence of the General in an adjacent hex to the attacking unit] – 2 [the defending unit is in defence works] = 12) and the German Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment achieved a Combat Power of 13 (11 [dice score] + 2 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] = 13); the Russian artillery fire had no effect.
The second Russian Heavy Artillery Regiment achieved a Combat Power of 9 (6 [dice score] + 3 [Artillery Regiment’s CV] + 2 [for the presence of the General in the same hex as the attacking unit] – 2 [the defending unit is in defence works] = 9) and the German Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment achieved a Combat Power of 10 (8 [dice score] + 2 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] = 10); again the Russian artillery fire had no effect.
The third Russian Heavy Artillery Regiment achieved a Combat Power of 13 (10 [dice score] + 3 [Artillery Regiment’s CV] + 2 [for the presence of the General in the same hex as the attacking unit] – 2 [the defending unit is in defence works] = 13) and the German Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment achieved a Combat Power of 9 (7 [dice score] + 2 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] = 9) and it lost one point from its CV. The Luftwaffe Feld Divisione lost one point from its divisional morale.
The second card that was turned over activated the right-hand Russian Rifle Division. Its Artillery Regiment opened fire on the right-hand German Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment. The Artillery Regiment achieved a Combat Power of 12 (9 [dice score] + 3 [Artillery Regiment’s CV] + 2 [for the presence of the General in an adjacent hex to the attacking unit] – 2 [the defending unit is in defence works] = 12) and the German Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment achieved a Combat Power of 9 (5 [dice score] + 2 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] + 2 [for the presence of the General in an adjacent hex to the defending unit]= 9) and it lost one point from its CV and the Luftwaffe Feld Divisione lost another point from its divisional morale.
Two of the Russian Division’s Rifle Regiments advanced into contact with the right-hand German Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment and initiated combat with it. The combat was decisive: the Russians achieved a Combat Power of 11 (9 [dice score] + 2 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] + 2 [for the presence of the General in the same hex as the attacking unit] – 2 [the defending unit is in defence works] = 11) and the Germans only achieved 6 (2 [dice score] + 1 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] + 3 [for the presence of the General in an adjacent hex to the attacked unit] = 6) thus forcing the German unit to reduce its CV by one – which destroyed the unit. The Luftwaffe Feld Divisione lost another point from its divisional morale, which was now reduced to three.
The Luftwaffe Feld Divisione was then activated. Its Mountain Artillery Regiment opened fire on the leading Rifle Regiment of the right-hand Russian Rifle Division, and achieved a Combat Power of 17 (11 [dice score] + 3 [Artillery Regiment’s CV] + 3 [for the presence of the General in the same hex as the attacking unit] = 17) as opposed to a Russian Combat Power of 6 (2 [dice score] + 2 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] + 2 [for the presence of the General in the same hex as the attacked unit] = 6). The result reduced the Russian Rifle Regiment’s CV by two – thus destroying the unit and reducing the Russian Rifle Regiment’s divisional morale by two.
The centre Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment engaged one of the leading Rifle Regiments from the as yet inactivated second Russian Rifle Division. Its Combat Power was 14 (9 [dice score] + 2 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] + 3 [for the presence of the General in an adjacent hex to the attacking unit] = 14) as opposed to the Russian Rifle Regiment’s 4 (2 [dice score] + 2 [for the presence of the General in an adjacent hex to the attacked unit] = 4). The result reduced the Russian Rifle Regiment’s CV by two – thus destroying the unit and reducing the second Russian Rifle Regiment’s divisional morale by two.
Finally the left-hand Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment engaged the Russian Tank Regiment, but to no avail. The German unit’s Combat Power was 6 (4 [dice score] + 2 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] = 6), and the Russian unit’s Combat Power was 8 (4 [dice score] + 4 [Tank Regiment’s CV] = 8).
It was then the turn of the Tank Corps to be activated. Only the Tank Regiment was in a position to engage the Germans, which it did. The combat was ineffective because its Combat Power was 3 (1 [dice score] + 4 [Tank Regiment’s CV] – 2 [the defending unit is in defence works] = 3) and the Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment’s Combat Power was 12 (10 [dice score] + 2 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] = 12).
The final formation activated during the turn was the second Russian Rifle Division. Its Field Artillery regiment opened fire on the central Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment but with no effect because its Combat Power was 9 (6 [dice score] + 3 [Artillery Regiment’s CV] + 2 [for the presence of the General in an adjacent hex to the attacking unit] – 2 [the defending unit is in defence works] = 9) and the German unit’s Combat Power was 7 (5 [dice score] + 2 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] = 7).
The two remaining Russian Rifle Regiments rushed forward – accompanied by their Divisional General – and attacked the central Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment. The Russian Combat Power for this engagement was 8 (6 [dice score] + 2 Rifle Regiment’s CV] + 2 [for the presence of the General in the same hex as the attacking unit] – 2 [the defending unit is in defence works] = 8) whilst the German unit’s Combat Power was 3 (1 [dice score] + 2 [Rifle Regiment’s CV] = 3). This resulted in the central Luftwaffe Rifle Regiment losing both its CV points and being destroyed. It also reduced the Luftwaffe Feld Divisione’s morale to one.
The situation at the end of the play-test
At this point I ended the play-test. The mechanisms in the rules had been tested, and seemed to work quite well. There were some areas where a little bit if re-design might be necessary, but on the whole the play-test had been very satisfactory.