Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Creating a 'ghost army'

Fog of war in wargames

During battle-conditions there exist a 'Fog of War' due to consealed units and consealed movement of units, which make a complete overview of the battle impossible. This also makes it difficult to make plans ahead, as all enemy positions may not be known. It's said that no plans survives the first encounter with the enemy. Usually when we're playing wargames we automatically have a pretty good overview of the whole battlefield, as we're usually playing on a table or similar, and usually we can see all the enemy units too. Some units may be in cover or behind obstacles, and the different units may therefore not see each other, but the players know they are there, and what kind of unit it is, and it's strength etc.

Fog of war in miniature

There are several ways to incorperate 'The Fog of War' into a miniature wargame and make it even more challenging. Some simply write down a unit's size and whats in it on one side of a small piece of paper, and a unit-number on the other. Then the pieces of paper are laid down on the gaming-table with the unit-numbers "facing up" and the unit's data "facing" the table, and are moved around at the 'speed' of the slowest unit in that numbered unit on the note. This way the players know that there is "something or someone there", but not the exact size or type before it gets in line of sight or close enough to bee seen by other units. When such a unit comes in the line of sight of another unit, they are both exposed and the papernotes for those units are flipped and replaced with the gamingpieces of those units, which are then placed on the battlefield.

Instead of small papernotes with units numbers, there are another way to move such miniature 'ghost units' around the miniature battlefield. I got some figures left after the army-building from the Tobar-sets reviewed earlier, and decided to use some of them as 'ghost units'. I painted them all solid black, and drybrushed them with khaki. On their stands I painted different numbers, which will go to a reference-note made by each player before the game begins. On such a reference-note each player writes down what kind of unit, size etc. a numbered figure represents. When one such figure are spottet by another or by another enemy unit, the unit (s) is revealed , and all its miniaturesare placed on the battlefield.

Now reconnaissanse units will become usefull in your wargaming, as they will help you to get a better overview of the battlefield and what to expect. This way of adding 'The Fog of War', can be used with a lot of both free and comercial rulesets, eventhough they do not specify a Fog of War"-element in their rules.
The advancing UN-troops are soon to find out who and how many they're facing... 

The 'Fog of War'-miniatures are replaced With the units and miniatures they were reprecenting according to the refrence note made before the Battle.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Improvising some Fighting Vehicles for wargaming

Improvised Fighting Vehicle

As I wanted to add further intrests and challenges to wargaming-scenarios, I decided that I wanted to include some vehicles as well. For combat use Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFV) like tanks, Armoured Personel Carriers (APC) and Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV) seems like the natural and best choise. There are avaiable some models in 54mm/1:32 scale for use with Army Men, and if you add  different 1:35 scale military kits to the list, the range become almost limitless. I want to use the models aimed for the Army Men-use since they are sturdier and takes handeling well, often comming ready assembeled and ready to use, and often cost less than the 1:35 scale kits which are often more fragile and takes time to build. My challenge is that 54mm scale ready made AFVs are not easily to find in Norway, and must be obtained thru the internet. As I'm waiting for finding the right and credible models for my generic 'Green vs. Tan'-armies I decided to do as the real army in the meanwhile; I'm improvising some fighting vehicles...

Prototypes for Improvised Fighting Vehicle

Improvised Fighting Vehicles exists in the real world, and you've probably seen them on the 9 o'clock news; Pickup trucks armed with HMGs, AA-guns, reciolless rifles or some other anti-tank weapons and even missile pods, in use in Libya, Somalia and lately in Syria with the ISIS. These armed Pickups are often refered to as 'Technicals' or sometimes 'Toyota Wars'. The term 'Technical' appeared in Somalia in the 90ies when western organisations there were buying security services from local warlords, and named these expences as 'Technical expences' in their budgets. The somali warlords on the other hand, used their new income to buy Pickup trucks and arm them. The use of Improvised Fighting Vehicles are older than the 'Technical' though, and goes almost back to the vehicle it self, or at least to back when it was possible to combine a civilian or unarmoured vehichle with a machinegun. One of the first might have been the russian Tachankas, a horse-drawn carriage with a mounted machine gun. During the WWI different civilian and unarmoured cars were fittet with machineguns and upgraded to machinegun carriers. During WWII the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) and british SAS-forces in Africa and Europe used Jeeps and light trucks fitted with machineguns. After WWII several Improvised Fighting Vehicles were used in conflicts in Algeria, Vietnam (Guntrucks), Libya, Tchad, Iraq, and Syria and many are in use with some modern armies today as well.


Does these small, unarmoured 'Technicals' gives any strategic advantages? - Yes, I would say so. They are cheap and easy to get, and you can arm them with whatever weapon available. You don't need special training or skills to drive them, and therefore it's easy to replace crew due to casualties. They run on regular petrol, don't use much, and have a long range and can be repaired with regular tools. They usually have OK offroad capabilities as well. Their weakness is also a strength; They are unarmoured and therefore wounrable, but that also makes them light, fast and very mobile. Experience shows that their best in use in conflicts with low troop density, and wide open landscapes. They provide high mobility weaponplattforms with much firepower and can turn up from a direction their enemy didn't expect. This is a modern 'light cavalry'.

Another example that would probably qualify as an early improvisation of a fighting vehicle happened during the German attack on Norway in april 1940. The poorly equiped Norwegian army was facing one of the world's most modern and mechanized armies in battle. Norway didn't have any Armoured Fighting Vehicles at the time, but the German army had several. Since Norway didn't have much anti-tank weapons at the time either, the German occupation forces only needed to bring light tanks like Panzer I and Panzer II to this campaign. During the battles in Gausdal on 26th of april 1940 Major Brock and a Norwegain force was holding Segelstad bridge, as it was important for a planned Norwegian counter-offensive on the German forces. The Germans on the other side was heavily bombarding the bridge with artillery and mortars from a distance. This made the situation untenable for Major Brock and his men who was located at and by the bridge, and he armed a truck with a heavy machinegun for breaking through the German lines, and  planned to drive to and combat those artillery- and mortar positions. They made the breaktrough, but was later stopped by German forces. Major Brock fell in the following hand-to-hand combat.
andreas hauge drawing of major brock's brekthru
Major Andreas Hauge's drawing of Major Brocs dramatic breakthrough in Gausdal towards Aulestad in april 1940.
And the Norwegian Army still uses a variant of this kind of vehicle. Since it is not a purpose-built combat-vehicle, I assume the the Norwegian Army's 'Multi-Vehicle' is considered a Improvised Fighting Vehicle. The vehicle was made as a offroad-vehicle for both the military and civilian market. When the Norwegian Special Forces in Afghanistan needed a mobile attack-plattform, ordinary Mercedes Gäledewagens was converted for this purpose and armed with a HMG (50. cal), a LMG (MG3), a Carl Gustav 84mm reciolless gun and smoke discharges. It has a crew of 4; The driver, the commander, the HMG-gunner and a loader. They are now in service with the Homeguard.
Norwegian army's Multi-vehicle

Improvised Fighting Vehicle for wargame

So there would be suitable to arm my armies with some Improvised Fighting Vehicles while looking for some AFVs to use as well. My best source for looking for usable civilian cars, was through my old toy cars. There I found an about 40 year old Police Pickup truck in about the right size. I removed the police-signs, disassembeled it, painted it, and put it back togheter again. On the truck-bed it's room for placing the standing HMG-figure I converted earlier, among a few other soldiers as well. Now my 'Tan Army' had a 'Technical'.

Eventhough I've seen it on photos, I didn't want to make a 'Tecnical' for my UN troops. I wanted a more military-style light vehicle for them. In my local toystore I found a Jeep almost the right size. It's a little small, but Jeeps are not large vehicles anyway, and it was also a little too modern for what I wanted. But again, it was available. Again I dissasembeled it, removed some parts, painted it and reassembeled it again. A chopped off figure was placed in the driving seat, and again the earlier converted standing HMG-soldier was placed in the back.

So, You don't need to have tanks or armoured vehicles to be able to have fighting vehicles to go with your toy soldiers or wargaming, as Improvised Fighting Vehicles are prototypical for a lot of different campaigns, scenarioes and periods. As they are softskins, they are knocked out when hit by heavy weapons. I'm not sure if a singel riflebullet will stop a such vehicle if it doesen't hit anything crucialor the driver directly. -So unless the rules you're plying by adresses this, you should perhaps allow either 10 rifle hits in the cab or bonnet in total, or 5 such hits in one move.

If I finally find some usable AFVs for wargaming, I think I'll need to add a couple of 'Technicals' armed with anti-tank weapons as well. The best of all; You might allready have some of them in an old toybox or you can easily find them in a regular toyshop. It's all about improvising.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A Toy (soldier) Story

The Toy Soldiers from Toy Story

As some of you might already have noticed in my previous post, there were picture of a MP-figure there which was not from the Tobar's Matchbox clones which I reviewed in that post. The figure is from another "budget source" though.

As mentioned before, I'm planning to use these figures as gaming pieces to play different miniature skirmish wargames, which rulesets are published online and free to use. I'm not an experienced 'wargamer' and I don't want to spend a fortune on expensive, thick and complicated rulebooks, which I have no time to read anyway, nor spending even more on expensive miniatures to go with these spesific games. I want to try to keep this wargaming-edeavour as  easy and simple as possible, on a Budget and most of all FUN. One such free wargame ruleset I plan to use is FUBAR, which covers a lot of different periods. Just go to the download-section to have a look for yourself. One thing with the FUBAR-rules is that is differs between different troop quality ranging from 'green' to 'elite'. If my previously previwed Tobar/Matchbox GIs are going to represent the regular and 'seasoned' infantry, I was going to need some other soldiers to represent a more skilled and better equiped squad on either 'side' representing 'veterans' or 'elite'. I found the answer very quickly at a fleamarket, were someone sold a bucket of 70 soldiers in 10 different poses for just 50 kr, or about $ 5.5 or £ 4.3.
Toy Story bucket of soldiers

This Bucket was actually a licensed 'Bucket O Soldiers' from Pixar's/Disney's Toy Story movies. The figures are about 2.5" tall and a tad bigger than the regular 54mm/1:32 scale and are made of very soft plastic. Therefore they were in pretty good condition as they're made for a lot of handling, but I'm not sure if they're going to hold paint very well despite propper washing and priming before painting. The soldiers themselves are a representation of the army men from the Toy Story movies, and are based upon the M16 Army Men from Tim Mee. Many poses are exactly the same as the Tim Mee soldiers, and some others are from the movie (as the saluting Sarge and a couple of others). The 2 paratroopers were missing in action, and were not in my bucket. I did'nt mind as I was not going to use them anyway, as with some of the other not so suitable poses for wargaming. I was only going to build a 'veteran' squad of 10 men on each side, and didn't need that many figures. The little more modern look with assault rifles fitted perfectly as they are supposed to be higher skilled than the regular infantry, and assault rifles gives 2 firepoints at close range with the FUBAR-rules. These are going to have both more expertise and firepower than the regular infantry, and will fill the role of better trained and capable troops.
All of the 10 different poses in the bucket. The saluting Sarge. and the 2 soldier to the right of him are not identical to the Tim Mee poses, but the rest of the figures are.

They are pretty large

Again I wanted a generic and credible 'Green vs. Tan' approach to these figures. They also needed to go along with the earlier previewed and painted regular Infantry from Tobar, and at the same time be different enough from them to sort the 'regulars' from the new 'veterans'. This time I painted the UN-troops with khaki uniforms, again identified by their blue helmets. I've found prototype for this among both Norwegian and Swedish UN forces. For the opposing forces I did just the other way around from their regulars; Giving them olive uniforms and tan helmets and webbing. I found this suitable for both Israeli paratroopers, Egyptian troops and the Iraq republican guard. To make the assault rifles a little bit different from their UN-counterparts, I painted the butt and foregrip in a wooden color.
Note the base was too small for succesfull wargaming, so I enlarged it a bit.

Even though I washed them, primed them, painted them and sealed them, the figure to the right flakes alleready…

A larger base was also needed on these figures.

Since this bucket also included figures firing light mortars, I decided to include some support weapons to the regular infantry, and painted them like I painted the Tobar/Matchbox soldiers previously reviewed in former posts.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Building an army..... -or two

Building an army for wargames

Building an army, or two, for spesific miniature wargames might be an expencive and daunting experience. As previously posted, I've found this cheap set of 32 toy soldiers of approx 54mm size in the museumstore at the 'Norwegian Armed Forces Museum'. As I plan to use them as gamingpieces for different miniature wargames found online for free, such as FUBAR, 1BC Wargame, OMOG, Burning Plastic, Fighting Plastic and several others, I've bougt 4 sets. -Enough for 2 rifle platoons (accordingly to the norwegian structure), each consisting of 1 HQ-section, 3 rifle-sections, 1 HMG-section and 1 anti-tank-section. And the bounus; You've got figures leftover for other projects as well.

The box of 32 54mm figures from Tobar, which are nice copies of the 1/32nd scale Matchbox american WWII infantry.

Since Iv'e been planning to use them for wargaming, I needed oposing forces. It might seems like a challenge to use only one kind of figureset since they're all of the same type. These figures portrays american WWII soldiers though,but the benefit is that american surpulse equipment after WWII was spread and used in different combinations among a lot of different nations world wide for many years. I've also wanted a generic credible"Green vs. Tan" approach to my fighting forces, and did not have any spesific nation or conflict in mind for my wargaming except for it was going to be 'post war'.

One force, which has a pretty generic approach, and also used a lot of ex-US equipment was forces from different nations joining United Nations in different peacekeeping missions. They're mostly idetified by their blue helmets. I have to admit I had norwegian UN-troops in mind painting these soldiers, but their look is similar for a lot of other nation joining the UN-forces in different missions world wide as well.
The soldier to the left (behind the Bazooka soldier) is actually from the Matchbox 1:76th scale range, and was not included in their 1:32nd scale of the same set.

Now I had to find a credible generic oposing force using both M1-helmets and 'M1 rifles' (not easily recognizable on these figures), to my generic UN-troops looking exactly the same. That seemed like a thougher task, but after som searches on internet and from different Osprey publications I've found some similarities; Green-ish M1-looking-helmets and webbing over kaki-ish uniforms and rifles with wooden stock would be appropriate for postwar forces from Congo, Angola, Haitit, Israel, Syria and Egypt.

There were no figures with Light Machine Guns (LMG) in the sets, and I needed some of those to make the rifle-sections complete. So some 'figurebashing' and modifications were needed. I simply cut the tank and hose off some flamethrower-figures, and added a bipod and an ammunitionbelt (yes, I know it's fed from the wrong side). I think the LMG will pass for a M34, MG42/MG3 or some similar small machineguns.
The tankf removed from the 2 outer figures is not so obvious here as that their LMGs are feed from the wrong side. I considered to have the belt on the right side, but their left forearm was in the way.

I also wanted to add a sniper to each side, and simply just added some plastic-rodding to a kneeling rifleman. If I'm doing this again I would use a little thiker rodding next time.
Since snipers are suppose to hide, I gave these guys a little more camouflaged uniforms than their fellow Brother in arms.

Now the leftover-figures became handy; already in the cutting-prosess I got inspired and added som variations to other figures as well. A kneeling bazooka-guy got new legs from a handgrenade-figure (a kind of figure I find kind of useless for wargame purposes anyway. Who goes to war only armed With handgrenades? -Except for North Koreans during the Korean war).

A couple of standing HMG-figures might also be handy for wargaming, operating either stationary or vehicle-mounted HMGs. Agin the legs from the otherwise useless handgrenade-figure became useful.
Not looking so good by them selves, but they'll probably look better in a watchtower or on a vehicle.

Depending on what (free) rulesets to use for the wargaming, I've though that a couple of medics might be neccesary and usefull on either side. Here the again otherwise useless handgrenade-figure became usefull again as he's not armed and by simply cutting his handgrenades away.
The pose is maybenot so typical for a medic. At least he's unarmed, and gives a possebilitty to use medics in the play.

Since I was a Military Police-officer during my own service, both domestic and abroad, I wanted the possebility to add a small group of MPs to the game as well.

By now, it's not many usefull figures left in the box from those 4 sets, but probably some possebilities to play credible skirmish wargames settled somewhere in Africa, the middle east or in the caribbean.

Generic scenery and wargaming terrain on a budget

Time to finally do som painting It's been quiet from the 'blog-front' here for a while now, but as already mentioned in an earli...