Saturday, 22 June 2019

Finished: 15mm German HMG42 teams

Hi folks,

Finishing up the German units which I had squeezed onto the paint desk for the Utah beach game, I've managed to finish my two platoons of German Tripod Mounted MG42's.

Completion of these two units bring my total number of German HMG teams up to 12...

To quote Wikipedia: "The MG 42 (shortened from German: Maschinengewehr 42, or "machine gun 42") is a 7.92×57mm Mauser general-purpose machine gun designed in Nazi Germany and used extensively by the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS during the second half of World War II. It was intended to replace the earlier MG 34, which was more expensive and took much longer to produce, but both weapons were produced until the end of World War II."

These models are a combination of two sets of Battlefront models. Some were from an older 'early war' set, while the others are from a later set. I replaced some of the figures on the right hand teams, as the third figures for them were pretty poor.

The left hand platoons, I have tried to go with a mix or regular uniform and splinter camo kit.

There is a reason for so many teams - honest! With the size of tables we play on and the nature of the games, we tend to use a lot of MG42 teams with Pak and infantry support (although we have had a farm complex defended by a full platoon). As such, four teams just aren't enough. Martin has painted quite a few, but I had also started these for my own collection.

With these guys off the table, I'm on to the Sherman Crabs - hopefully an update on these won't be too long!

Friday, 14 June 2019

Finished?!: 15mm Battlefront Sherman DD tanks

Hi folks,

Still catching up on some of the finished models from last week. This time, I've some DD Shermans to show off - both landed and swimming:

So a couple of things with these chaps:

- I'd initially done the canvas screens Khaki, but having seen Dave's and looked again at my pictures from Bovington, I went with a Desert Yellow drybrush over the Khaki.
- I had planned to put some tufts on the bases, but they just did not look right. As a result, with these tanks I am very tempted to go to Dave's smaller bases (60mm by 40mm, I think) as there is a lot of empty space around the models.
- Bases are Desert yellow with a drybrush of Iraq Sand. I then painted the edges Desert Brown. I recognise that the shade is quite close to the screen colour though, so may have to review if I do switch to a smaller base.
- I've another two of these to do, but might just make them up to a full squadron - because why not. I think I'd need another 3, and 4 Fireflys.

These tanks will be representing Canadian Shermans for Juno beach - possibly the Fort Garry Horse. Lack of places to put decals makes these pretty vague however. I may consider going for 1st Hussars though, as I have plans to do a FGH squadron with Sherman III's later.

To represent these (briefly) on the table while they swim in, I also finished another three swimming DD's. These are cheap resin models from Ebay, and are nowhere near as nice as Dave's Battlefront models. However, they will do for now.

That's it for DD's, unless I revisit the basing. Now onto finishing off the HMG42's and blocking in the colours on my three Sherman Crab Flails!

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Finished!: 15mm Pak36 + Anti-tank teams

Hi folks,

Just wrapping up some of the units I painted for the Utah beach game. I've a load of German HMG42 teams to still complete, but in the mean time I've some anti-tank assets to display.

First up, a small unit of three Pak36 anti-tank guns. These are 3.7cm guns nicknamed 'door knockers' by the Germans. Obsolete by Normandy - they will struggle to take out a Sherman versus even side armour unless at very short range. At almost point blank range they can use a alternative ammunition round with a AT rating of 12. Other than that you had better hope for flank shots or use them versus lightly armoured units like carriers or halftracks.

I know that some of these guns were still in use by second line formations, and thought that from a scenario game perspective a few of these guns would be useful.

They are properly dinky compared to even the Pak38's (the 5cm guns). A 4 man crew makes them a bit of a squeeze on a medium base, but they will do! Annoyingly, I have enough parts to make 5 and a half of these guns. A full unit would be 6, but I am missing the gun trail (same part as for the Nebelwerfer) on one of the models. Meaning I have only 5 full guns. I'm still in a quandary over whether to spend a silly amount of money getting just one more complete gun!

Whilst also looking at useful 'scenario units', I had wanted to do some 'ambush' team markers for those terror's of allied tankers in confined terrain - Panzerfaust and Panzershrek teams. Specifically, small two men teams.

This might be even more useful as it appears that in the late war v4 books, the Panzershreks will be small two men teams attached to platoons - much like the Bazooka's, rather than a medium base with two teams as per v3.

Nothing too fancy about these guys - just more useful additions to the types of game we play. I seem to have a huge number of spares for these guys as well, so using some in this way wasn't too much of an issue. Popping a base of these down in a hedgerow somewhere should give Allied players a shock!

Currently, I've 8 HMG42 teams to complete - which seems a silly amount, but in the scenario games we play these guns form a key part of German defences, as they do in many of the accounts from Normandy.

It is important to note that for German defenders we tend to have penny packets rather than full platoons. So we would be unlikely to have a platoon of 4 HMG's defending an objective (although that might happen, depending on the objective!), but rather some grenadier teams, a couple of HMG's and a Pak or two attached. Effectively forming a full platoon for morale purposes, but made of various units. It's not quite what you would find in the rules, but works for us. We also do not to play competitively, rather running umpired scenarios - so the break from the standard rules works fine.

Lend Lease: Using 'Hit the Beach' Shermans as British Shermans

Hi folks,

I saw an interesting discussion about the new Battlefront starter set, and about the use of the Sherman's within as British tanks*. I thought it was worthy of a little post.

Image used without permission - from the Battlefront website

From a historical perspective, you could use the starter set Shermans to represent a British unit in Normandy, if you so wanted.

In British service, the M4A1 Sherman was known as the Sherman II. While this type of Sherman in British service was relatively uncommon, there was at least one British brigade in Normandy equipped with Sherman II's - the 4th (Independent) Armoured Brigade 'The Black Rats' - some of the original armoured units that fought in the desert as part of the Eight Army.

You can also find some information on this unit on the Battlefront website.

Just to list it here however, for D-Day the brigade consisted of:

Royal Scots Greys (Sherman II & Firefly VC, Stuart M3A1's)
3rd County of London Yeomanry (Sherman II & Firefly VC, Stuart M3A1's)
44th Battalion Royal Tank Regiment (Sherman II & Firefly VC, Stuart M3A1's)
2nd Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps (Motor Battalion)

The brigade was particularly interesting as it included it's own 'armoured infantry' in the form of the Motor Battalion, who would have had infantry in halftracks. The Brigade also had it's 'own' artillery unit in the form of 4th Royal Horse Artillery (equipped with towed 25 Pounders).

They would doubtless have also been supported by attached units with M10's and possibly in the post D-Day battles - M7 Priests (some of the British and Canadian artillery units in the assault divisions had these instead of towed 25 Pounders or Sextons).

Image used without permission - from the Battlefront website

Unfortunately with Doms Decals being down currently, the markings for these units would be pretty hard to track down decal wise.

However, if you did decide to do this, it is important to note that these units would not have used the 76mm armed variant - the British used Fireflys instead (which has a much longer gun, and is generally just more impressive). you could 'counts as' the 76mm Shermans - but you would be a bad person** - just get the Fireflys.

If you then purchased the British starter set, you could build some of the Sherman V's from that as Fireflys (I believe the Firefly option is built onto each plastic sprue). This would give you a British armoured unit of:

HQ - 2 x Sherman II

Troop - 3 x Sherman II, 1 x Sherman Vc (Firefly)
Troop - 3 x Sherman II, 1 x Sherman Vc (Firefly)

Leaving you 3 Sherman V's spare (One could be an OP tank, so 2 spare - build them both as Fireflys and you could have two troops with 2 x Sherman II's and 2 x Sherman Vc's).

Of course, if you swap your German's for someone else's Shermans from the starter set (which seems to be pretty common), and got the British Starter set, you would be able to field a full British Armoured Squadron as at D-Day:

HQ - 2 x Sherman II

Troop - 3 x Sherman II, 1 x Sherman Vc (Firefly)
Troop - 3 x Sherman II, 1 x Sherman Vc (Firefly)
Troop - 3 x Sherman II, 1 x Sherman Vc (Firefly)
Troop - 3 x Sherman II, 1 x Sherman Vc (Firefly)
Sherman V Observer tank

Leaving you 2 x spare Sherman II (I've not seen the Fortress Europe book - some Sherman lists would allow your HQ to be 4 tanks strong, so that might use up these two spares).

In either case you would also have the British Infantry, Universal Carriers, Stuarts, M10's, 25 Pounders and Churchills as add on support options from the British box - which is a pretty damned impressive British army.

Later in the war, some British units did use Sherman II's - possibly the Poles and 5th Canadian Armoured, but I've not done any immediate research on that.

*More easily done for units in Italy, I believe
**you would be a bad person, but it's your hobby...

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Flames of War, v4 - 15mm D-Day Assault - Utah beach

Hi folks,

A lack of posting recently as I've been busy trying to get a number of units finished for a large club game. This has meant that while I am painting, I've not had much to show off. Most of what I have been working on is nearing completion (it was good enough to see the table on Sunday, but still needs work).

However, I did want to share the images from our game!

Myself, Dave, Martin and Ian had come up with the idea of doing a D-Day game as close to the 75th anniversary as we could. We booked the hall in Billingham a few months in advance, primed our Dave and retreated to a safe distance! Martin and myself contributed some scenery, but the bulk of the beach work and all of the American's were done by Dave. Unfortunately, Ian couldn't make it on the day.

As usual, we used 4th Edition of Flames of War, with a few of our own tweaks for random events. On occasion, lip service is also paid to unit coherency, especially for dug in German defenders!

Here's a quick walk round of the table:

And some game start pics:

Uncle Red Sector, Utah Beach - the defences roughly represent WN5 along with WN4 and WN7 defending the causeway ends - we tried to keep this reasonably accurate, but scale and gameplay considerations meant there were some changes. 

The obstacles were impassable to vehicles, as was the sea wall. Dozers could clear the obstacles, while engineers were required to blow the sea wall. 

Causeways 2 and 3 with flooded fields. 

The village of St. Marie Du Mont
The battery at Brecourt manor can be seen at the top of the picture. 
The game began with a night para drop complete with randomly scattered para's, of which more can be found over on Martin's blog.

At the beach end, I was taking the players through a naval bombardment (where we tested to hit every bunker and team in the defences) followed by an air bombardment of three waves of three Marauder Bombers - We used some random scatter tables for the accuracy of the bombing, but historically on Utah it appears the bombers actually hit the correct areas.

The strings of blast markers show where the strings of bombs fell - we used the long (16" by 6"?) bombardment template, laid behind each bomber.

Amusingly, the AA guns got plastered, with several of the bombers scattering over them!

The landings then began, with Dave having pre-planned the landing table. This meant that the chaps commanding the landing forces (Stig, Angus and John) were at the end of a conveyor belt of units arriving, with limited space. Landings involved random tables for distance of drift down the coast, and if this took a landing craft off the table, it had to circle and try again next turn. This resulted in some units being delayed. We also had a similar table for DD's, with a roll of a 1 being the DD has sunk. 

The first wave hits the beach, with all the DD's making it in on turn one. Most of the DD's made it ashore on Utah, so ours only had a 1 in 8 chance of sinking. Each turn in the surf they had to roll a d8, and on a 1 were swamped. Moving up the beach needed a dash move and a bogging check. 

One issue with the layout of the defences was that on the first turn, the shore line was out of range. We just decided the Germans were recovering from the bombardment. Blast markers here show knocked out positions and the effects of the bombing run. Something to consider for next game - might have to shorten the distance but make the infantry move slower. 

The first wave makes it to the sea wall - black skull markers used to show where casualties were taken. The next wave arrives, along with dozers to help clear obstacles. The Engineers circled for 3 turns before they landed. 
The beach assault progressed pretty rapidly, with the US assault platoons getting to grips with the defenders supported by fire from the Shermans. Turn by turn the fire from the defenders slackened, until the last positions were taken out by flamethrower and grenade. 

Eventually the engineers arrived, the sea wall was blown and the tanks started moving to save the paras...

It then became a race to cross the causeways and take out the last defenders, with the Assault platoons leading the way. 

The conveyor belt of landing craft putting more and more equipment on the beach - we were planning to recycle infantry units, but no whole US infantry unit was destroyed, so it was mainly armour and support vehicles arriving.  

Bogging checks and terrain dash only to move on the beach, which slowed movement down for vehicles. 

Beach ends of the Causeways secure, the armour rolls over the captured defences. 

Some casualties are sustained by the US infantry, but nothing that will slow them down seriously (skull tokens in front of HMG bunker)

The armour advances, slowly crossing damaged sections of the causeway. The first para units are in the buildings just ahead. 
The final aerial view:

I did take pictures of the rest of the game, which I will post below. Unfortunately one of the down sides of running a game on a 16' table is that you lose all sense of what is going on at the other end! As such, I would refer you to Dave's blog or Martin's for more details on the Para operations! StiG's blog also has some nice photos.

Other pics:

A view up the table from the end of the causeways. 

Causeway defenders (Causeway #2, I think)

'88' Flak Battery, which had to be destroyed by the Para's to prevent fire on the later arriving gliders. 

Para LZ - lots of pinned units from the drop!

US Glider LZ - red tokens mark pinned units. 

Para assault on Brecourt Manor

US Para LZ - Martin's i think!

Lots of air support in the game, which did very little. Looks great though - not sure how historical!

Causeway defenders (Causeway #3, I think)

Martin's Easy Company slowly clear the guns. I think the 'Winters' command stand won team of the game, having been involved in some heavy fighting, solo, and winning!

Glider (left) and Para (right) LZ's

We had random German reserves, which resulted in one turn having German 'French' Panzers and Marder III's turning up! Much to the Para commanders dismay!

I think David took terrible casualties trying to capture the town and the '88' battery. In the latter stages of the game German FJ reinforcements held the town. 

American infantry from the 4th Division, 8th RCT sweep through the German beach defences!

Armour from the 70th Tank Battalion follow up, along with engineer support in the form of some Dozers form the 299th Engineer Battalion. 

German troops try to flee the beach area. They didn't get far. 

At the end of the causeway, German forces were subjected to several air attacks, which took a long time to whittle them down. 

My scratch built LCT being used in anger. 

View from the bridge! The German defences were actually on a rise built by Dave, to represent the dunes. 

Desperate fighting to control the end of Causeway #3 - there were Para's in some of these buildings, and Germans in another!

The first Shermans reach the Para's - the linkup is complete!

I'm glad to say a good time was reported by all! This is the first outing of this scenario, with some more work to be done getting things right and Dave wants to revisit some of the terrain I think - and paint more beach assault troops!

All in all, I had a great weekend. My mates David and Paul visited from Scotland, and we had a day out on Saturday at the Heugh Battery in Hartlepool where we were shown around by one of the museum directors. This included quite a bit of time in the armoury where we got to handle weapons including a Sten, Bren, Lee Enfield, MG34 and Kar98. We then got shown how mobile a 25 Pounder is and how it operated, the way different Bofors designs worked and a tour of different bits of the museum proper. All more or less by accident! Well worth a visit if you are in the area.

We then went and had a meal in Stockton on Saturday along with Martin, Dave, Stig, Scotty and the three of us - having some beer and talking gaming! Before convening on Sunday morning for the game. A really nice - if hectic - weekend!

Cheers to Dave for being the powerhouse of painting that he is, and getting so much of this done. A real bucket list game ticked off - only 4 more beaches to do ;)

Thanks also to the guys from the club for coming along and being such good sports!