Category Archives: Wargaming

Wargaming Operation Epsom – Creating a Map – Project ’44

The next step on my project to wargame Operation Epsom involves creating a map. You can view previous (and future) posts about this project by going to the Operation Epsom tag.

During my research I found some 1944 road maps that were quite detailed and which have also been used in books on the subject. However, there’s almost too much detail to get your head around in these and they lack useful info such as where were the front lines and forces.

Project 44 map - Operation EpsomBut recently I came across an amazing website called Project ’44 created by the Canadian Research and Mapping Association. Their aim is to recreate specifically the location of Canadian forces during the Normandy campaign, but they have also added other Allied and Axis units as well. The maps they have created include filters for units, front lines and different types of maps – including modern satellite images and original reconnaissance photos. I think this is going to be a real godsend for me when I start putting a map together. I am really looking forward to getting on with the next stage of that process now.

For anyone interested in the history of the Normandy campaign I would really recommend a visit to Project ’44.

Wargaming Operation Epsom – How Big are the Forces?

In this second post on Wargaming Operation Epsom, I decided to explore the basics of what forces would be required to wargame the battle on a single wargames table. As discussed previously this is a battle that could fit onto a 6 foot wide table at a scale of 100m = 1”, the same scale as Fistful of Tows and some other WW2 rules. The frontage of the attack was 4.5 miles, just over 7 km.

My initial findings were that the British were attacking with 3 divisions. Now this seemed to be a lot fit into one battle on one table. However, having read further I realised that these three divisions weren’t all involved at the same time. In fact, the initial assault was by two brigades of the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division, with support from independent Armoured Brigades and elements of the 11th Armoured Division. In effect therefore the battle would start with the British attacking with 6 infantry battalions plus supporting units and tank battalions. That feels much more doable on a six foot table – with each battalion having a foot of table as their frontage. At 6mm or 1/300 scale that would work really well I think. I am planning to use “platoon level” rules, where a stand or infantry represents a platoon. So that means an infantry company would be 3 stands, and a British infantry battalion would be 12 infantry stands plus other bits and bobs.

So slightly relieved by that time to press on and do some more research and start planning out what to do next for Wargaming Operation Epsom. I think that will involve looking at the layout of the terrain – how much of the battlefield will be included on the table and what features will be included – for instance would all the villages and roads be needed at this scale?

Wargaming Operation Epsom – some ideas

I am currently reading Max Hasting’s Overlord book. It’s very well written and has also sparked some ideas for WW2 wargaming – particular micro armour/6mm style games. One of the big set-piece operations of the Normandy campaign was Operation Epsom. It was one of the many attempts to take Caen by outflanking it. The attack failed ultimately, although some ground was gained.

The information that Max Hastings provided about it included the fact that the attack frontage for the three British divisions involved was 4.5 miles. That equates to 7.24 km or 7,240 metres. Now there are WW2 wargames rules where the ground scale is 100m = 1″ on the tabletop (such as Fistful of Tows). That means you could fit the attack onto a standard 6′ wargames table. 7240 metres equals 72.42″ at this scale.

Now most wargames even with 1/300/6mm tanks assume that you’re playing with say a regiment or a brigade – not 3 divisions! I am intrigued to see how a wargame of this size might work on a standard 6′ table. I am going to explore possibilities further and will blog again soon about wargaming Operation Epsom.

Combat HQ 2nd Edition Review

Combat HQ 2nd Edition CoverCombat HQ by Jim Bambra combines a number of interesting game mechanics to produce a satisfying simulation of battalion level WW2 warfare while also providing a lot of fun.

I use 6mm for my games, but it can easily support up to 20mm figures – or maybe even 28mm at a stretch. Each infantry stand or vehicle represents a a platoon and it’s designed for games of battalion sized battlegroups with supporting units. One of the key features are the rules that simulate command – with alternating activations and the possibility of command failure adding to the realism of the game and also providing a challenge to each player on how to use limited command resources. These rules rely on dice chains that can be a bit complicated to get your head around to start with, but are simple enough once you get going and provide an interesting game mechanic.

The other mechanics such as movement and combat also provide a realistic yet easy to understand means to simulate combat. There’s some similarities with dice pool games such as Blitzkrieg Commander – for instance different units or tanks might receive different amounts of d6 to roll – then there’s a target number of hitting on 4+ for example – which is then opposed by the target rolling a dice pool to resist – so very much like Blitzkrieg Commander and other Warmaster style rulesets.

My one criticism is that this book does not come with extensive army lists – but I believe these will be available in a separate volume. You do get stats for the 3 starter missions though for late war UK, US and German forces. The previous edition featured army lists for a wide range of WW2 theatres and armies. The follow on book, Total War includes extensive additional rules and some army lists. However, unlike the 1st edition, only Late War Western European theatre is included – so no Soviets, and no mid or early war stuff, which is a bit disappointing. I am assuming that new supplements will introduce lists for these theatres, but it is a shame that everything isn’t included in one book.

However, despite these gripes Combat HQ is a great system with some innovative rules as well as borrowing some familiar mechanics from other rulesets. For the WW2 wargamer it is well worth getting!

You can order it from Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

The author, Jim Bambra, has a great website called Wargames Design, which is a great resource.

I have a blog post about a scenario using a version of the Combat HQ rules, Armour Battles here.

Flames of War Hit the Beach Starter Set Wargaming hobby project

One of the wargaming hobby projects that I was working on over the summer and autumn was to get the Flames of War starter set Hit the Beach finished. I am glad to say that I now have everything painted and based (apart from the V1 rocket which seemed to be a bit of a weird addition to the set!)

Here’s some photos of the finished minis (in box). I now need to give them a go with the Flames of War rules. I am also thinking that they would be good for other WW2 rules that I have – e.g. Blitzkrieg Commander, Command Decision and Combat HQ. I haven’t settled yet on which WW2 ruleset I want to use. I also have WW2 in 6mm as well so trying to work out what to use for what at present!

Flames of War Tanks and Guns Hit the Beach

Flames of War Hit the Beach infantry

Hit the Beach is a great little starter set for Flames of War value wise. The set provides loads of tanks and enough infantry for a good game. The sides do seem a bit unbalanced. For instance, there are lots of tanks and not much infantry for the US. Also the V1 rocket just seems a weird thing to include – some more useful scenery would have been better in my opinion. I did enjoy painting up the figures and they look pretty cool I think. I am coming round to 15mm as a scale after painting these up.

You can get Hit the Beach quite cheaply from Amazon. Flames of War Hit the Beach - contents

Flames of War Hit the Beach

Wargaming Mindfulness

What is Wargaming Mindfulness you may ask? Surely new age hippy nonsense like meditation, mindfulness and zen have no place in the wargaming hobby?

Well whatever your inclinations to such things and whatever you call it, I think talking about how we approach the wargaming hobby is relevant. I’m not going to suggest a meditation programme for wargaming, that would be a bit weird. But I do want to write about how to approach this hobby in a way that is positive and doesn’t lead to frustration.

What is Mindfulness?

Firstly it’s a good idea to just say what mindfulness is. Mindfulness in its simplest terms is being present in the moment. You can use meditation to help you be mindful, but it’s not essential. If you’re mindful you appreciate the time and place you are in without constantly dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Mindfulness can be beneficial to mental health and help reduce stress and anxiety. And remember mental health doesn’t cover only serious disorders. Everyone goes through times of low moods at some point or another at the very least. Mental health issues are at least as prevalent as physical health issues.

Causes of Wargaming Anxiety

So if mindfulness might help with anxiety and stress, what are the potential causes of those in the Wargaming hobby. Could you be suffering from any of these:

  • Too much lead! The size of your lead or plastic mountain of figures to paint seems never ending. That could be a good thing perhaps, but if it leaves you with despair about ever finishing it then it’s not!
  • Switching between projects. Again that could be good if it helps keep you motivated by bringing variety. But if it’s not intentional then it might mean you’re distracted easily and can’t settle on anything. The result is you get frustrated when you don’t actually finish anything.
  • The new shiny. You see a new product advertised, read an article or listen to a podcast that discusses a certain game or wargaming period  and think “I want to get into that. It sounds great!” So you end up buying it … and then it sits on the shelf for a long time. As well as costing you money it also contributes to the size of the painting mountain never to be finished.

There could well be other causes of wargaming hobby stress – maybe the stress caused by a new Warhammer edition that renders your carefully collected army useless, or concern about what others think about your painting skills. But I guess you probably get the idea.

How to approach the Wargaming Hobby Mindfully

So how might you go about being more mindful in terms of your wargame hobby?

It’s hard to be honest. I often switch between projects – not just because I fancy variety, but because my mental attention gets sparked by something new, and I end up not finishing what I should have been doing. Then several months later I think why didn’t I finish that project, I could be gaming with it by now!

Well actually approaching other parts of your life mindfully can help. I would recommend meditation as a good way of coping with stress.

I think it does help to have a plan as well. Not a plan of how to paint everything you have, but at least a plan of what you are going to paint over the next few months. You can work some variety into that plan as well, so you don’t end up painting 100 of the same figure!

I also keep a Painting Diary to see what I painted each month. When I look back at it I can see what I achieved and perhaps see where I started a project I never finished and then plan to get back on track.

You could avoid news of new products etc to avoid temptation.

But perhaps the main thing is just to take pleasure in the thing you are doing at the moment – don’t be thinking too much about what you want to do after you have finished this project, but enjoy getting done what you are doing. If the hobbying is a bit dull and you start dreaming of a new figure to paint then maybe listen to an audio book at the same time to distract you from planning the next project in your head!

I hope this article has helped. Let me know if you have any other ideas for how to avoid wargaming hobby frustration!

Good Habits for Wargamers (and Writers)

Atomic Habits coverI’m writing about good habits for wargamers today. And also related to that good habits in other areas of life as well.

I think of habits as being something that is fairly unconscious – something you don’t have to write down and plan for. You just do them. A bit like brushing your teeth every morning and evening. That type of thing. I came across the book Atomic Habits by James Clear recently (after listening to an episode of Henry Hyde’s excellent podcast. I’m only part way through the book so far, but it’s certainly resonating with me.

Habits not Motivation

James Clear says that if you want to get things done, motivation isn’t enough. You can aspire to write a novel, or paint a wargames army, get fit, lose weight, etc etc. But unless you have good habits you will never get there. You have to be able to do the work even when you don’t feel like it.

I certainly feel like that about writing and wargame hobbying. I am really bad at getting into a habit of writing every day. Having read the book I’ve realised it’s because I have an aspiration to write lots of books and be a “writer”, but in practical terms I’m not sitting down and doing it enough. I don’t currently have a real habit of writing on a daily basis. I’m trying to correct that at the moment by setting aside time in my daily schedule, but it’s still a bit stop start.

My Wargames Hobby Habits

My habits are now pretty ingrained when it comes to working on my wargames hobby, and in particular painting miniatures. I paint for about an hour every morning, before anyone else gets up. What helps I think is that I set-up the environment to make sure its easy to do it. I don’t have a dedicated painting area – instead using the kitchen table. What I do is bring down all my painting stuff the night before, just before going to bed. I leave my painting box and miniatures case on the table (unpacked though), and then I set it up in the morning while waiting for the kettle to boil for my tea.

As well as making it easy and having the environment right – nice and quiet, and I can listen to an audiobook or podcast at the same time. I think I’m also putting this habit next to another habit I really like – having a cup of tea in the morning. James Clear in Atomic Habits calls this habit stacking. It works really well.

Now I just have to figure out how to get the same good habit for writing everyday as well …

Solo Wargaming: Some Useful Books

If you’re contemplating solo wargaming then there is a wealth of information online – some good and interesting. But if  like me you’d rather get to grips with a subject by reading a good book then there’s also some available too. There are rules books that contain some options for solo wargaming – and indeed some games have been specifically designed for solo or cooperative games in mind – I’ll cover those in another post. But if you want some rules-agnostic ideas, then here’s some good books to have a look at.

Donald Featherstone’s Solo Wargamingdonald-featherstone-solo-wargaming

This the granddaddy of books on solo wargaming – a classic by a well-known legend of Wargaming. I have bought the kindle republishing of this by John Curry and found it an interesting read. I have started exploring some of the ideas in the book, which are inspiring, fun and relatively simple. However, this book won’t provide a concise system for solo wargaming – it’s written in a rather meandering conversational style, which is very charming, but also a bit frustrating if you’re wanting to use it as a resource. Also some of the ideas are a bit tricky to apply nowadays – who has loads of matchboxes kicking around for instance!

But I would heartily recommend reading it – and it’s fairly cheaply available.

Donald Featherstone’s Battle Notes for Wargamers Solo Wargaming Editiondonald-featherstone-battle-notes-for-wargamers-solo-wargaming-edition

Another one from the Don – I’ve not read this one – it’s only available in Paperback and I have only just come across it – it’s been reissued by John Curry as well – so perhaps there will be a kindle version at some point as well? From what I can tell it provides 15 historical battle scenarios of actual battles, together with notes on how to play solo. That sounds like a great resource to me.

Has anyone else read it?

The Solo Wargaming Guide by William SylvesterSolo-Wargaming-Guide-william-sylvester.

This is a more modern book – I think by an American author. From what I have read it seems to be a good resource of different solo methods:

Features methodologies for campaigns (mobilization, weather, logistics, morale, alliances, revolts, sieges, and mutinies), sea campaigns, integrating fantasy, tactical actions (terrain, weather, commander’s competency, concealment, ambushes, and minefields), and air warfare.

It’s in Paperback only though and I haven’t got it – again it would be great to see something as an eBook. I simply don’t have the space to collect loads of printed books!

The Partizan Press Guide to Solo Wargaming by Stuart AsquithThe-Partizan-Press-Guide-to-Solo-Wargaming-by-Stuart-Asquith

Previously published as the Military Modelling Guide to Solo Wargaming, this has been taken on by Partizan. Unfortunately, this is also only available as a printed book, but again it does look really useful. I have read on various forums that it is a useful resource. Certainly one for my wish-list!

Well I hope that was useful to somebody. If you know of any other books, or have comments about these, please add in the comments section below.

 

How to Paint Shields for Wargames Miniatures – a great tip

I have recently been painting some freehand designs on miniatures. This post isn’t about how to paint designs like those, but how to make a fairly standard design look more realistic. I have an Orc archer with a simple quartered design on shield, but I was concerned that it looked a bit flat – it’s quite hard to add highlights to a flat image – well for me anyway!

So I did a bit of Googling and found this great tutorial on how to add realism to shields on  the Pinman Miniature Painter blog. The idea is that you can add marks where the shield has suffered damage from people hitting it with swords. It’s quite a simple technique but really adds to the look of it I think.

Here’s what I managed to do as a first attempt on my Orc archer.

Orc Archer with damaged shield

It’s pretty simple to do – you add some brown and off-white lines, but looks quite good I think! For how to do it see Pinman’s tutorial!