Sunday, August 29, 2010

To the Desert!

Hi - I'm on the brink of a new project, and thought I'd detail it right from the word go - the initial idea through to realising it on the tabletop.

I've never been of the opinion that an army endlessly grows - in fact, I was a bit surprised when I recently mentioned I'd completed my Seven Years' War painting scheme for two armies composed over two years ago, and people thought it'd increase. It never even entered my head to grow the forces over time with the odd extra unit of Grenadiers or Cuirassiers here and there. The size was worked out on day one, and seen through to exactly that! Does anyone else work that way?

Anyway, one of the big advantages of a fixed force size is that - besides giving you a definite finishing point - it can usually be part of a campaign structure that cleverly defines the maximum forces allowed. One of the nicest I've seen is a simple set that was first published in a copy of 'Wargames Illustrated' that I bought back in April 2002 and noticed on a re-reading a year or so ago. For those interested, I've discovered there is an electronic copy of the article ('KISS Rommel' by Norman Mackenzie) available online at freewargamesrules (

The game is large-scale strategic-level World War 2, which is always the level I've enjoyed and found the most fascinating. Not for me the madness of 'Advanced Squad Leader' or any similar company-level games - I wanted to do things on a big-scale, and always have since one of the first WW2 board wgames I've ever played - the classic 'Eastfront' by Columbia Games ( If you've not played it and you like WW2 games, then turn yourself in to the wargames police immediately, as you're doing yourself an injustice!

The KISS (or, 'Keep It Simple Stupid!') Rommel rules covered the Desert War, or North African Campaign 1940-1943, which was of little interest for me at first through ignorance - until I read the book 'Alamein' by Stephen Bungay (yet another recommendation, WW2-fans!) A slim but extremely readable fact-filled volume, the bizarre and see-saw struggle in the alien environment between the two sides began to seem fascinating as I learned more - the crack German units with their '88's and their unstable Italian allies, struggling against lack of supplies as much as with their enemies, the Eighth Army of multi-national Infantry from across the British Empire, excellent Artillery plus a jumble of tanks. A colourful mix, and crucially a situation of two varied sides that regularly had a tally of wins and losses against each other.

I've started out by buying the British Empire & Commonwealth Eighth Army, and decided to do so in 10mm from Pendraken ( - this is my compromise scale as I don't want 15mm armies due to the lack of space & painting time, plus I think 6mm would be too small for what is potentially a visually appealing army. The order has now arrived, and I shall post pics of the figures and details of basing plans shortly.

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