Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Back to Normandy in 1944

4th King's Shropshire Light Infantry, A Company. 4 KSLI were part of 11th Armoured Division, landing on Juno Beach on D+7 and playing an important role in the division's battles through Normandy to taking Antwerp, liberating the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and ending the war on the Baltic coast of Germany to block a feared Soviet advance into Denmark.

After a sustained effort painting a Late Roman army, I have turned my attention back to World War 2 gaming in 15mm

My British and German forces were based for "Overlord" by Barrie Lovell / Firebase Games. Whilst these are very detailed and have the feel of being realistic and grounded in personal experience of military practice, they don't give a very quick game and max out at an infantry company plus support per player. It seems to me that most identifiable actions in this period were battalion sized so I would like to be able to depict that on the table top with a reasonably playable game and a satisfying sense of scale. 

The question then is: which rules? Convincingly depicting scale seems one of the hardest challenges for WW2 rules. Having two or three infantry figures on a base seems common then different rules use a base as an sub-component of a squad, a whole platoon or a company and sometimes there is no easy way to tell from looking at the game whether you are seeing a company or a brigade.

Overlord has an infantry section as three bases - two rifle groups and an LMG team. A British late war platoon is 14 bases, 45 (independently moving) bases plus support for a company. It is easy to see why it bogs down beyond a company per player! I've just bought the new "O Group" rules from Reisswitz Press which look really promising but has just three bases - as few as 9 figures for a platoon and that just seems too few to to me to look like a platoon. 

A regular opponent and I have been trying to write our own rules with one base per section and separately depicted platoon command and support. I'm therefore expanding and rebasing my collection for these potential new rules or O Group, with 5 figures on an infantry section  base - enough for an NCO, LMG and three riflemen so three bases looks a bit more like a platoon of three squads.

Different platoon representationss. Left to right: three bases of three figures; three bases of my new five figure section bases; three sections plus command, PIAT and 2" mortar and an Overlord German platoon - a British platoon would have an additional base for the 2" mortar. 

As well as rebasing, I needed some additional figures. I painted the earlier figures with a lot of dry-brushing and washes but my painting style has moved on since then and I'm trying to use the clean three layer technique, taking advice on paint choices from the excellent Crac des Chevaliers blog. I started off with a lot of enthusiasm for updating the older figures with webbing and packs to match as well as new high-lights and helmets. After the first platoon though I slacked off to just the helmets and a few high-lights on the battledress. Without the closeup lens you only notice the hats and bases anyway.

Another dilemma is basing style. I've stuck with the same style as for my Late Romans and (more importantly) all my scenery, with one small difference. The sand to provide texture for my British bases was picked up off the beach at Arromanches, so Gold Beach, a few miles to the West of where 11th Armoured actually landed on Juno. 

Sunday, 4 July 2021

Late Roman Army for Mortem et Gloriam


One of the invariable rules of wargaming with a competition/points based set of rules is that there are never quite enough points for what you would like to do and choices have to be made. Late Romans seem particularly expensive so this restriction bites especially tightly - a good thing for us slow painters as it reduces the number of figures needed!

To field the figures I have painted so far as an army under the Mortem et Gloriam rules, my draft army list is below. I'd welcome criticism of this from MeG players and suggestions for improvement, both with the figures I have already painted and the additions and alternatives I have further down.

I still have some figures left over, some which I am planning to paint, to give me some more alternatives. 

Top left is three Legio Heroica Ballista so three bases of light artillery, either as a stand-alone unit or as an option for the three Legions, replacing an infantry base.

Below them some lance and bow armed heavily armoured cavalry with half armoured horses. I have 12 of these and was originally thinking of an extra unit of lance and bow armed loose order cavalry but these don't exist in MeG for the Romans so I thought I'd swap in a couple of fully armoured horses and paint up 8 of them as two bases of close order cavalry to give the option of a 6-base unit of Cataphracts. I can't see me ever having enough spare points to field this however.

Bottom left are some heavy cavalry which I want to use to increase the Honoriani Taifali Iuniores to 6 bases. Unfortunately I only have 5 riders so some creativity will be needed to avoid having to pay a minimum order postage charge on a single 15mm rider!

Top right are 4 groups to expand my 3 Legions and the Petulantes Seniores Auxillia to 8 bases, including one with integral archers. Another option is to buy another pack of legionaries and/or auxiliaries and paint one or two more infantry units for an infantry-heavy army.

Finally, bottom right, 4 more archers to give the option of expanding the Sagittarii Venatores skirmishers to 8 bases.

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Late Romans - my original inspiration

In my early days of wargaming I was given the PSL Guide to Wargaming, published in 1980 and long out of print. This contained chapters on various periods, each written by a different person. The chapter on the ancient period was written by Phil Barker, of the WRG, and amongst the illustrations were some photos of his Late Roman army using Minifigs 25mm figures:

'Late Roman artillery with stone-throwing heavy engines and bolt-shooting light engines deployed behind a screen provided by the Batavi. Pack animals and draught oxen wait in rear. The engines are by Hinchcliffe Models.'

'Late Romans in action against their most dangerous traditional enemies, the Sassanid Persians. Persian super heavy and extra heavy cavalry advancing supported by elephants have been countercharged by Roman cavalry. The Persian infantry huddle miserably in the rear, while their light cavalry attempt an outflanking move. The Sassanid figures are obsolete (and that was in 1980!) Miniature Figurines.'

Phil Barker summed the Late Roman Army up with these words: 'Gibbon would have described these as decadent. They would probably have described themselves as up-to-date! Compared with the earlier army described above, they use much more cavalry including super-heavies and horse archers. The infantry have lost their metal armour in favour of moulded leather or none at all, but carry big oval shields painted in colourful regimental patterns, and have added a variety of light throwing darts of very long range to their earlier weapons. Each unit includes a proportion of archers. High quality regular troops can be combined with a variety of barbarian irregulars. A good all-round army and my personal favourite.'

The combination of the rather grainy black and white photos, the captions and Phil Barkers positive comments and personal endorsement had me convinced - I wanted one just like that. The Nottingham Wargames Club, where I was a member, had largely gone for 15mm so I followed suit and started collecting my own Late Roman army but my slow painting, exacerbated by the demands of 'O' and 'A' levels meant that it was still unfinished when I went to University, where other pursuits took over, so it sat in suspended animation for almost 40 years before I picked it up again in late 2018.

'Right wing of Late Roman army formed for battle. Light cavalry of the Promoti and Scutarii on the extreme right, then Catafractarii guard the outer flank of the infantry with the Alani in support behind. Two Palatine Auxilia units, the Cornuti and Victores, form the first infantry line with the Legions of the Lanciarii and Herculiani in support. The Emperor and his bodyguard wait behind the junction of the cavalry and infantry. Figures by Miniature Figurines.'

As I haven't painted my bolt-shooters yet and have neither stone-throwing heavy engines nor Sassanid Persian Super Heavy Cavalry to pose for a photograph, here are some of my Late Romans in more or less the same formation:

Right wing of my Late Roman army formed for photography. Light Cavalry of the Secundo Sagittarii and Promoti Seniori on the extreme right, then Catafractarii guard the outer flank of the infantry with the Honoriani Taifali Iuniores in support behind. Two Palaitine Auxilia units, the Celtae Seniores and Leones Iuniores (probably) form the first infantry line with the Legions of the Lanciarii Galliency Honoriani and Secunda Britanica in support. The Emperor and his bodyguard wait behind the junction of the cavalry and infantry. Figures by Miniature Figurines, Asgard/Table Top Games/Alternative Armies' Isarus, Gladiator Miniatures and Legio Heroica.