Monday, May 23, 2011

Desert War Top Trumps

The desert war is set to begin shortly, as my second army for it goes into the final stages of painting and basing. In the meantime, I've turned my attention to cards for selecting the sides. For those who have been following this blog but perhaps haven't looked up the 'KISS Rommel' rules I'm using, I should explain - each side has a hand of eight cards and they draw five for each battle, which is a nice way of adding a bit of 'randomness' to it all. Most cards equate to a division for whatever country you're playing, possibly armoured, or motorised, or infantry. Some are only smaller Brigades which can be attached to other divisions, or may even just be a 'blank' with nothing at all!

I decided to make up some proper cards for this, properly printed out from a Word doc with nicely printed text and a symbol thrown in for a bit of colour. Here's an example of what I made up with a little bit of bashing around:

I found most divisions' symbols with a simple dig around on Wikipedia and typing the name into Google Images. Then, for easy reference, I listed the bases that each division consisted of on the card as well. With that, I printed them off, glued them to some thin card, then laminated them. Job done!

Here's the full British/Commonwealth/Multinational hand for the Eighth Army:

The Brits get 2 Armoured Divisions, 3 Infantry Divisions, a Free French Infantry Brigade, an Armoured Brigade, and one Blank Card (troops diverted to Greece or Malaya!)

Here's the German/Italian line-up:
There's actually nine here, as I wound up including an extra card for the optional Tiger Tank battalion I might use at some stage in the future. The basic hand of cards is 2 Panzer Divisions, 1 Motorized Infantry Division (the 90th Light,) An Italian Armoured Division, an Italian Motorized Infantry Division, 2 Infantry Divisions and 1 Blank Card (Planes from Malta sink a convoy!)

So, not long until the off! The Campaign begins at Tobruk, which is the midpoint on a track running from Tripoli to Cairo - victories move you up it, defeats move you back down, until one side loses their 'HQ Space' for total defeat. No timescale is given, but I'm taking things as set around the time of Operation Battleaxe, just after Rommel has arrived and when he and Wavell were first battling around the besieged Tobruk. In fact, with the cards ready, I couldn't resist at least drawing a hand for each side to see who'll fight in the first game. One card can be chosen, but the rest are randomly drawn. The results:

7th Armoured Division (the Desert Rats)
4th (Indian) British Infantry Division
1st (South African) British Infantry Division
(Free French) British Infantry Brigade
Two British Armoured Brigades

German 21st Panzer Division
Italian 132nd 'Ariete' Tank Division
German 90th Light Division
German 15th Panzer Division
Blank! - Planes From Malta Sink Convoy!

Well, quite the decent force for the British - Infantry & Armour divisions, although two cards are smaller brigades. The Axis are really looking for trouble, however - every German card turns up, plus the only Italian unit to show is an armoured one! Shame the other card was a blank, but it does mean that the Axis side, although small, is made up of highly mobile & armoured units. Now I really need to finish the painting and get them onto a tabletop - which I also don't quite have sorted, yet. One light-brown throw-rug or bed-sheet, coming up!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Afrika Korps Underway

Good gaming news arrives from the Tripoli dockside of 1941 - the Afrika Korps miniatures have arrived! One good piece of news from having previously done the British Eighth Army is that I knew what to expect in terms of model sizes, basing, etc. As such, I had the bases ready-cut from plastic 2mm sheets and glued the models down in super-fast time. Below is an overhead shot of the storage box:

The whole thing is about 83 or 84 bases' worth of German and Italian troops, who will soon be contesting the Western Desert of Egypt against the international Commonwealth troops of the British Empire and its allies.

Here's a close-up to try and show a bit more of some of the units. When ordering models, I didn't want to get drawn into large amounts of research about what models & variants of tank were available over the historical campaign period in question - the whole idea is to play a very impressionistic, simplified game of the WW2 desert. As such, I did most of my 'research' by reading up Wikipedia articles and mainly using Google Images to search for pictures of the vehicles. If they turned up in a picture in desert camouflage, that was good enough for me! Shown above are a Panzer Division's tank units. I plumped for two Panzer III models and a single Panzer IV with the little 'stubby' short-barrelled gun.

Above shows some of the rear-echelon support units for the Afrika veterans. Pendraken don't seem to do Italian field guns, so I used the German artillery for them too. (Incredibly fiddly to assemble, I have to admit!) There is also that famous feature of the Desert War, the 88mm gun in its anti-tank role. In the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) Rommel rules I'm going to use, even Italian divisions get an 88. This represents mostly German guns attached to them temporarily, or possibly their own equivalent of the 88mm gun (The 90mm, also lacking in Pendraken's lists - although to be fair I would've probably preferred the famous 88 models.)

I have even got a single Tiger tank model, to give me the option of putting the earliest prototype of that tank into the game (the rules suggest that it can be finally granted in defending Tunis, mainly because Hitler seemed to like only reinforcing disasters, thankfully!) Also in the background, you can see bags containing the one part where I have bought models that also link to the Allied side - air power! I have bought a model Bf109 and a Stuka, to give the Axis a pair of models to show airstrikes (not strictly necessary, but I liked the notion of adding them) and correspondingly I got a Spitfire and a Hurricane for the Desert Air Force (two fighters, I know, but I thought a Blenheim would be bigger and cost more!)

A Speedy paint-job is underway, then 'dipping' and spraying, then finally a bit of sand on the base. Then: next stop Cairo!