Red Flags and Iron Crosses

Yesterday I happened to be looking back at the first few blog entries that I wrote. They were about the set of World War II rules that I was then developing … RED FLAGS AND IRON CROSSES: TARRED AND FEATHERSTONED.

Re-reading about my various play-tests, I realised that they were a better set of rules than I remembered them being. Perhaps I ought to give them another try sometime soon? In the meantime, here are some of the photographs I used to illustrate those early blog entries.

For those of you who like to know a bit more about the models etc. that I used, they were:

  • Terrain: Hexon II
  • Trees: Cheap model railways trees that I based after adding additional flock to the foliage
  • Buildings: N-gauge Hornby model railway buildings
  • Walls/Entrenchments: Hovels
  • Aircraft: Pre-painted models issued with a magazine part-work
  • Tanks: Corgi pre-painted models
  • Vehicle: Matchbox plastic kit
  • Artillery: Skytrex
  • Figures: Various manufacturers including Raventhorpe, Tumbling Dice, Skytrex, and Britannia

Going round and round … and getting nowhere

Over the past few weeks I have felt a general lethargy and lack of enthusiasm for almost everything … including wargaming. It may be a result of the change in the season or it may be the fact that I seem to have had a persistent and bothersome head cold for several weeks. Whatever the cause, I have just not felt much like wargaming.

Looking back over my blog entries, I realised that since COW2014 I have only fought three battles … and they were short, solo actions to test a game mechanism. Is this a sign that my disinclination to fight wargames has been around even longer than I realised?

I don’t know … but I suspect that it might.

One thing that I have been trying to do – without much success – is to revise my PORTABLE WARGAME rules … but each time that I have tried, I seem to be making them more rather than less complicated.

At times like these I find that the best thing to do is to look at the work of the ‘Old Masters’ of wargaming for inspiration. (The ‘Old Masters’ I am referring to include Donald Featherstone, Joseph Morschauser, Peter Young, Charles Grant, Terry Wise, Charles Wesencraft, and Lionel Tarr.) I have been doing just that … and it has helped to raise my spirits somewhat.

One thing that has particularly claimed my interest – yet again – is Joseph Morschauser’s ‘Frontier’ rules. In an article he wrote in 1967 he describes using these rules with his famous Roster System, and having re-read what he wrote several times, I think that it points a way forward for me. What is more, it has given me the feeling that I want to try them out … and if it cures my lethargy, so much the better!


The Battle of Novagrad (My Featherstone Memorial Wargame)

The following is a battle report of my Featherstone Memorial Wargame. It was fought using the latest version of RED FLAGS AND IRON CROSSES – TARRED AND FEATHERSTONED, a set of wargames rules that were inspired by the early rules written by Lionel Tarr and Donald Featherstone.

I designed the battlefield using Cyberboard

… and set it up using my Hexon II terrain.

The opposing forces were the Germans (who are advancing) …

… and the Russians (who are defending).

The Russians have been tasked with holding Novagrad ‘to the last man and the last bullet!’ and are heeding Comrade Stalin’s order ‘Not one step back!’, knowing that to do so will probably mean death to those that retreat … and to their families as well.

The battle began when the Germans began their advance through the village of Mayalova …

and on towards Novagrad.

At this point the Russian anti-tank unit fired at the leading German tank unit … and missed!

The Russian field gun unit (whose fire was being directed by the troops in the forward defences) also opened fire on the leading tank …

… and destroyed it!

The Germans reacted by turning off the road and attacking the nearby Russian defences …

.. with quite devastating results.

The Russian anti-tank unit could not engage the leading German tank as it was outside its arc-of-fire, but the Russian field gun unit did fire at it … and missed!

The Germans then split their attack in two. Whilst the tanks and half the infantry moved forward on the left, the rest began to advance on the left of the road.

The leading German tank unit moved into close range and engaged the Russian infantry …

… and caused further casualties.

On the right the German heavy machine gun unit (which had not moved) fired at the Russian troops who were manning the nearby defences …

… and despite the fact that it was firing at long range, it wiped them out!

The Russian response was to move two of its infantry units forward.

The Germans maintained their advance and on the left …

… they overran the Russian defences, killing the remaining defenders in the process.

The Russians response was to open fire on the leading German tank unit with both their anti-tank gun and field gun … and missed!

The German advance continued inexorably …

… and the sound of the tank engines was soon joined by that of a Ju87 Stuka!

The leading German tank unit engaged the Russian field gun unit …

… and killed half of the unit’s personnel.

At the same time the German heavy machine gun unit that was to the left of the road engaged the Russian anti-tank gun unit at long range …

… and wiped out the unit’s soldiers.

On the right a firefight took place between the advancing German infantry and the Russian infantry occupying the defences.

Both sides suffered casualties as a result of this firefight …

… and when the right-hand German heavy machine gun joined in the fighting …

… the Russian defenders were wiped out.

The Stuka flew straight towards Novagrad, diving down as it did …

… and wiping out the remaining personnel of the Russian field gun unit.

The remaining Russian troops charged forward to engage the Germans …

… but they were wiped out in the subsequent fighting. Novagrad was in German hands … but their victory had come at a price.


Tweaking Tarred and Featherstoned

It is quite a few years since I last took a detailed look at my RED FLAGS AND IRON CROSSES – TARRED AND FEATHERSTONED wargames rules … and on re-reading them I was pleasantly surprised to see how they ‘stood up’ in comparison to my more recent efforts.

I could not, however, resist the temptation to make some changes. Some were to insert clarifications that were otherwise missing, some were grammatical or typographical errors that needed to be corrected, and one was to change the turn sequence so that it used playing card tiles rather than small playing cards.

If I get a chance I would also like to re-format the rules in line with the current style that I use. At present the rules look very wordy, and it is not always easy to find various rule mechanisms and any relevant data that might be needed to use them. In addition the first section of the current rules has information about units that should be in an appendix rather than in the main body of the rules. Likewise the examples of each weapon and aircraft type should be in an appendix to the rules and not cluttering up the Movement section of the main rules. This may appear to be an exercise in cosmetics, but I have found that the easier it is to find and use rules mechanisms, the less likely players are to make mistakes.


COW acquisitions

Although there are no trade stands or an official ‘bring and buy’ at COW (the Conference of Wargamers) attendees do bring stuff to the conference to sell, give away, or swop. This year I did rather well and acquired quite a few items.

I obtained two books published as part of the ‘History of Wargaming‘ Project from John Curry. They were MORE WARGAMING PIONEERS: ANCIENT AND WORLD WAR II BATTLE AND SKIRMISH RULES BY TONY BATH, LIONEL TARR AND MICHAEL KORNS: EARLY WARGAMES VOL. 4 (ISBN 978 1 291 19817 1) and DONALD FEATHERSTONE’S WARGAMING COMMANDO OPERATIONS AND REFLECTIONS ON WARGAMING: LOST TALES VOLUME 2 (ISBN 978 1 291 39891 5).


MORE WARGAMING PIONEERS: ANCIENT AND WORLD WAR II BATTLE AND SKIRMISH RULES BY TONY BATH, LIONEL TARR AND MICHAEL KORNS: EARLY WARGAMES VOL. 4

This book is split into a foreword, three main sections, and an appendix:

  • Foreword
  • Lionel Tarr’s Modern Wargaming Rules for 1939-1945
    • INTRODUCTION
    • ANALYSIS OF THE LIONEL TARR GAME
    • RETASOL TARR’S SOLO WARGAMING CAMPAIGN
    • WARGAMING STALINGRAD
    • THE LIONEL TARR PERISCOPE
    • THE SPACE SIZE CONTINUUM BY CARL REAVLEY
    • THE BATTLE OF HOMARD 1956, AN EARLY EXAMPLE OF A BATTLE REPORT BY CARL REAVLEY
    • THE BATTLE OF WAL, A SECOND EXAMPLE OF AN EARLY BATTLE REPORT BY CARL REAVLEY
  • War Games of the Middle Ages and Ancient Times by Tony Bath
  • Modern War in Miniature (1966)
    • PART ONE: INTRODUCTION
    • PART TWO: THE RULES FOR THE PERIOD 1939 TO 1945
    • EQUIPMENT
    • SIMULATION CHARTS
  • Appendix: An early Portuguese Wargamer – Backyard Wars of the 1920s


DONALD FEATHERSTONE’S WARGAMING COMMANDO OPERATIONS AND REFLECTIONS ON WARGAMING: LOST TALES VOLUME 2

This book is split into a foreword, an introduction, three parts, a list of the books written by Donald Featherstone, and an appendix.

  • Foreword by Stuart Asquith
  • Introduction by John Curry
  • Part 1: Introduction to the British Commandos
    • THE BRAVEST OF THE BRAVE
    • CHAPTER 1: AN OVERVIEW OF THE HISTORY OF THE COMMANDOS
    • CHAPTER 2: TRAINING THE COMMANDOS
    • CHAPTER 3: EQUIPMENT
    • CHAPTER 4: OPERATION CAULDRON (1942)
    • CHAPTER 5: THE ASSAULT ON FLUSHING (1944)
    • CHAPTER 6: BRITISH LESSONS FROM COMMANDO OPERATIONS
  • Part 2: Rules and Scenarios for Commando Operations
    • CHAPTER 7: MEMORIES OF AN EARLY COMMANDO WARGAME
    • CHAPTER 8: THE FIRST MEGA GAME
    • CHAPTER 9: THE CLASSIC COMMANDO SCENARIO: THE RAID ON ST NAZAIRE
    • CHAPTER 10: FIBUA RULES
    • CHAPTER 11: WORLD WAR II WARFARE RULES
  • Part 3: Reflections
    • CHAPTER 12: DONALD FEATHERSTONE ON WAR (1939-45)
    • CHAPTER 13: DONALD FEATHERSTONE’S YEAR (1962)
    • CHAPTER 14: DONALD FEATHERSTONE ON WARGAMING (1927-2010)
    • CHAPTER 15: DONALD FEATHERSTONE ON VISITING BATTLEFIELDS
    • CHAPTER 16: DONALD FEATHERSTONE IN THE MEDIA
    • CHAPTER 17: DONALD FEATHERSTONE ON THE LATE PADDY GRIFFITH
    • CHAPTER 18: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A WARGAMER
  • Wargaming and Military History Books by Donald Featherstone
  • Appendix

I also acquired some Minitanks from Tim Gow and John Armatys with the intention that they will form part of the forces that will be fielded in my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War Campaign project.

I also bought some 15mm-scale Napoleonic infantry and cavalry … because they took my fancy!

This is a pathetic reason to buy some figures … but having done so I am now awaiting Richard Brook’s soon-to-be-made-available Napoleonic wargames rules. These are designed to be used with 15mm-scale figures … so it might not be such a stupid purchase after all.


Lionel Tarr’s Wargames

The only pictures I have ever seen of Lionel Tarr’s wargame in progress were featured in the pages of Donald Featherstone’s ADVANCED WAR GAMES and AIR WAR GAMES.

The three that featured in ADVANCED WAR GAMES showed his representation of Stalingrad …

… whilst those that appeared in AIR WAR GAMES showed aircraft in ‘flight’ using his famous ‘over the table’ net.

John Curry has republished ADVANCED WAR GAMES as part of his HISTORY OF WARGAMING project.


Lionel Tarr: Another forgotten pioneer

In today’s blog entry on the Vintage Wargaming blog there is a copy of an article written by Lionel Tarr. It appeared in the September 1960 issue of THE WAR GAME DIGEST, and describes Lionel Tarr’s wargames table and figures.

In many ways Lionel Tarr was one of the most influential wargamers of his day. A version of his World War II wargames rules were published in Donald Featherstone’s first wargames book WAR GAMES, and in my opinion they set the start point for all subsequent wargames rules for that period. A fuller version of his rules have been included in the latest republication of Donald Featherstone’s book by John Curry as part of the HISTORY OF WARGAMING project, and when I recently re-read them I still found them inspiring.