Saturday 28 January 2012

Book review: Italian Army Elite Units & Special Forces 1940-43

Osprey Elite 99, 2011, Piero Crociani and Pier Paolo Battistelli, illustrations by Johnny Shumate, 64 pages.
This book is supposed to cover a lot, and the result is that it doesn’t cover much at all. There are chapters on armoured and motorized divisions, paratroopers, combat engineers, mountain troops, X Reggimento Arditi, foreign volunteers, blackshirt special units and a short segment on uniforms and personal equipment.
A lot of different units, and when I was finished reading the book I felt that I haven’t learned much at all. Describing so many units in one volume means that the coverage is rather shallow, unfortunately. No, I’m disappointed, and will only give this book a rating of 2 of 5. 

Wednesday 25 January 2012

28mm Mummies from Otherworld

Two mummies from Otherworld. Really nice models, but unfortunately I’m not satisfied with how they turned out.
Colours used: Skin: Vallejo 862 Black Grey with a wash of Citadel Badab Black, cloth: Humborl 103 Cream on one, and 837 Pale Sand on the other. The usual coat of Army Painter Strong Coat and Vallejo Matte Varnish.
The skin don’t look all that great. I have seen ‘live’ mummies, in the flesh… or whatever. And they had very dark, almost black, skin, but it didn’t turn out well. Have to think about this until next time.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Book Review – Long Range Desert Group Patrolman

Long Range Desert Group Patrolman – The Western Desert 1940-43, Osprey Warrior no 148, Tim Moreman with illustrations by Raffaele Ruggeri.
I continue to read up on British special forces in general, and LRDG specifically. A book I’ve had a couple of years, and I reread it for the coming project.
So, it’s an Osprey, and it gives what it promises, a short (64 pages) and rather informative description of the unit, its roles, men, equipment, life in the field and descriptions on road watches and the raid on Barse.
The Barse raid was a large attack behind enemy lines on an Italian-held airfield and town in northern Cyrenaica. We plan to make a game of something similar, so this was of course interesting. Rather in-depth, 7 pages, about the raid.
Informative pictures, mainly of the cars and crews, and some not so interesting colour prints.
The usefulness of this book? It is a good primer for LRDG, just like an Osprey is intended to be. I rate it a 3 out of 5.

Monday 23 January 2012

28mm Cultists from Artizan Designs

These evil cultists are from Artizan Designs, and their Thrilling Tales Range, Number PLP555. First time I painted any of their figs, and I like them. I will use them for my upcoming 7TV games.
Paints used: Robes: Citadel Scab Red, yellow circles on robes: based with Citadel Foundation Iyander Darksun and then two layers of Citadel Golden yellow, shoes: Vallejo 940 Saddle Brown. Trousers: 836 London Grey (the boss), 991 Dark Sea grey (sub machine gun) and 988 Khaki (revolver).
The usual coat of Army Painter Strong Coat and Vallejo Matte Varnish.

Sunday 22 January 2012

28mm wights from Otherworld

Two excellent wights from my favourite company, Otherworld. Otherworld produces all those AD&D classic monsters, and they are just fantastic.
I bought a bunch of Otherworld’s figures in November, and now the first are painted.
Colours used:
Skin: Vallejo 884 Stone Grey. Hair: Vallejo 988 khaki, nails: 991 Dark Sea Grey, Cloaks inside: 940 Saddle Brown, Cloak outside (pointing wight) 986 Deck Tan, the other:984 Pale Sand with a wash of Citadel Devlan Mud, loincloth (pointer): Formula P3 Traitor Green, the other: 873 US Field Drab.
The usual coat of Army Painter Strong Coat and Vallejo Matte Varnish.
Really satisfied with these, wouldn’t like to meet them in a dark alley.

Saturday 14 January 2012

Book review – The SAS in World War II

The SAS in World War II – An illustrated history by Gavin Mortimer, published by Osprey in 2011, is a 250 page hardcover book.
As we’re planning to stage a LRDG-attack on an Italian airfield as our convention game this year I’m reading up on British Special Forces.
The book gives a in depth history of the SAS; how they formed and detailed descriptions about the action in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and North-West Europe. I found the very interesting and well written. Of special interest for me was description of the battles the SAS was involved in, and as these are very detailed there is a lot of wargaming potential here. Some of the jeep-borne action in NW Europe does really lend itself to gaming.
Other information is just very interesting, for example the way the men trained for parachuting in the early day. No plane? No problem, just jump from the back of a speeding truck. The downside was rather obvious, broken wrists etc.
Some is just reminds you how awful real war is, for example the description of the men led into the woods to be executed as saboteurs – a couple of them made a run for it, and a few survived.
The photos are first-rate, and are very informative if you’re to model one of their jeeps for example.
All in all a beautiful book and a good read. I give it a rating of 4.

Friday 13 January 2012

Movie review – Tali Ihantala 1944

The Winter War and Continuation War are conflicts that interests me, and the gaming group play Winter War with IABSM.
There are quite a few interesting Finnish movies about these conflicts worthy of more widespread knowledge. They are often far more dark than the Hollywood war movies, something they have common with German films.
I have a few Finnish movies I’d like to share, and reviewing them gives me a good reason to see them again.

Tali Inhantala 1944 (from 2007) is a about one of the final battles to stop the Soviet advance into Finland, the battles to ensure that Finland was able to negotiate a peace that still had Finland as an independent state. This battle is the largest ever fought in the Nordic countries. 
The movie is based on real people and what happened to them. There are five stories going on, about several people, and that makes this film special.
I first saw this movie with my ‘video gang’, a couple of friends having seen ‘videos’ together a couple of times each year for ages. We usually blend movies, pizzas, beer, wine, GT, snacks and discussions into a rather enjoyable evening. We usually see a zombie movie and something else, and in this case the something else was Tali Ihantala. Two of us being something of WWII-nerds we commented gear, tanks, airplanes etc, and we had a rather good time, but after the movie our feeling was: “What was the movie all about?”.  And that is this movie’s problem, there are several parallel stories going on, and you have to concentrate on them. So it is not a beer and pretzel kind of movie.
I saw it again the other day, and it was a completely different experience. If you concentrate on the movie it is much more enjoyable, and will give you a feel of the war. You follow ordinary people, and as it is based on what really happened you never know who will survive, and who will not.
This is not a pretty movie, it is very realistic in places and if you’re interested in these conflicts there is a lot to look at. We will, among other things, see the Finnish Stug IIIG:s in action (see my book review on the Lagus assault guns. This was a treat as you will recognize a lot of the action and people from that book), a lot of small arms and uniforms, Soviet armour (and Finnish too, mostly the same as the Finns used a lot of scrounged soviet gear), German Focke-Wulfs, artillery pieces etc.
Also an interesting ‘Making of…’ as extra material.
All in all, a good movie that demands a bit more of the viewer. I give it a rating of 4.

Thursday 12 January 2012

Dungeons and Dragons campaign

During the weekend we, that is, me and the kids (7, 10 and 13 years old) came back to our D&D campaign.
I have played since first edition in the late 70s, on and off, and I have really enjoyed the game. My role has mostly been as DM. I was rather pleased with 3rd edition, and converted to that at the time, but when the 3.5 edition was launched I was less thrilled. I got the Players Handbook 3.5 and left it at that. We play a hybrid of 3 and 3.5 and are happy with that. When 4th edition came I called it quits, that system simply wasn’t what I was after, and I really think this inflation in editions is a rip-off. Simply not something I intend to support. Anyway I have enough stuff for 3rd and 3.5 editions to last me through decades of gaming.
This campaign is still young, we’re in the first adventure (The Sunless Citadel) and the kids are enjoying themselves (so am I). I’m using paper terrain from World Works Games, (WWG) and that is really very versatile. I still have a lot of printed WWG-stuff to assemble, and I have also bought WWG/Wyrd Miniatures’ Terraclips terrain packs; Streets, Sewers and Buildings of Malifaux. I’m still fiddling around with these, and you will see a review shortly.
Here we see the party deep into the dungeons, discussing where to go. The kobold is their ally, Meepo.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

The Journal issue 74

I just received The Journal, the magazine of The Society of 20th Century Wargamers (S.O.T.C.W). As usual a really good read. I have more or less just flipped through the magazine, but there is a lot of interesting stuff.
Of course, it is all post 1900, as the name suggests. Very WWII-intensive this issue. Lots of scenarios, but even if you’re not interested in that, there are still lots of interesting historical information in most scenarios.

- Kampfgruppe Deák – history and three scenarios on the Hungarian SS Kampfgruppe formed in July 1944 and comprising some 1000 men.
- Clearing Ashar – scenario set in Iraq in May 1941. Commonwealth vs Iraqi troops.
- West of Polanow – A scenario set in Poland 1939, Polish cavalry vs Germans.
- Poland 1939 – Organization of Polish 10th Motorized Brigade and German 2nd Pz Div, for use with Spearhead rules, but could be used for other rules sets.
- Mereküla – Soviet naval landing in the Baltics in February 1944. Article with suggestion for a scenario.
- Amazons at war – article on female warriors during the Russian Civil War.
- Recon Escort – airwar scenario set in Angola 1982, Angola vs South Africa
- Aegean breakpoint – Fictive modern naval scenario, Greece vs Turkey in 2000.
- HMAS Onslow & HMAS Vampire – a walk-through
- Italian Vedette Boat – a conversion in 1/600 scale.
- Starship Martin to the Rescue – Fictive WWIII 1978-scenario in 6mm
- Battle for Ap Bac – Vietnam 1963 for Force on Force rules.
- The Ben Cam Sweep – another Vietnam scenario, this time set in 1969.
On top of this the usual reviews, a battle report and other.

Membership will set you back £18 in UK, £20 in Europe and £25 in the rest of the world. That will give you a subscription of 6 issues, and for this subscription period you will get issues 71 to 76, i.e. pay now and get issues 71 to 74 now and issues 75 and 76 when they are published.
This is very good value for money, each issue is £3-4 and shock-full of interesting articles. S.O.T.C.W is something I think need all the support it can get, as they produce such an excellent publication. Do support them by becoming a member, and you could support them even more by writing articles for them.
As an extra incentive to be a member: you will get membership discounts of between 5 and 10% from a number of traders.
I joined this period, and I’m very pleased with what I got so far. So pleased actually, that I bought a couple of back-subscriptions to get my hands on all the interesting articles.
S.O.T.C.W needs you, so join now!

Saturday 7 January 2012

Battle Report – IABSM v3 Winter War

We, Scandinavian Lardies, met on one of last year’s last days. Winter is a good time to game the Finnish Winter War, but so far this winter has been a joke. That was not the case in 1939.
We use the new IABSM v3 rules, and as were still not fully proficient with them we do make mistakes…
We gamed in a conference room this time, which helped when our umpire and Winter War-scenario writer Thomas showed us where we were using Google Earth.
It’s a day or so after we, the Russians, started our glorious liberation of the oppressed Finnish workers and farmers. The imperialistic White Finns are fleeing, and we drive west, pretty much unopposed, along a small Finnish road. South of us, and parallel to this road, other Russian troops attack along the Raate Road… Where are the oppressed farmers who should be standing by the road cheering us?
Our objective: Drive through and exit along the road as fast as possible. Near us a deep forest with light snow on the ground (-1 pip moving without skies) and beyond the village open ground with a few scattered birches. There the snow is deep (-2 pips without skies).
What’s that?
We attack the imperialists!
An improvised blind bypasses the Finns.
Exterminated. A couple of unfortunate Finns runs away.
About this time we agree that the Russian advance goes a bit too fast, so we ditch the Russian Recce card (this was a recce unit, but that doesn’t necessarily means it must have a recce card) and we remove quite a few Russian leaders, a slight glitch made them far to numerous.
The advance continues.
Opposition! A machine gun on the hill, and infantry behind a wall.
Feel the hordes advancing!
Assaulting while the Finns fall back.
The Finnish MMG was driven away by our own well placed Maxim. Our courageous troops advance over the road.
A view from the Finnish side. See how they tremble.
Our glorious liberators! Soon after this shot a bloody close combat ensured, where the evil imperialists were driven back, and our troops had to, erm, catch their breath. The pictures where so gruesome that the censors had them confiscated…

The cowardly Finns seem to have decided to flee. All units make a run for it. Our liberators pursue them. Here it gets really cinematic, a horde of Russians pursuing a handful of Finns.
Perkele! Ski for your lives!
The last Finnish troops exit the board. A tense ending.
The Finnish objective was to slow us down as much as possible, and then withdraw. That they say they did. A platoon of Finns slowed down a company of Russians (marginally we say, we had to take a break anyway).
We, the Russians, drove the imperialist away and liberated even more pine forest and burnt down peasant houses.
We all felt like winners (especially when we reported back to HQ).

We plan to continue our adventures during the Winter War, with more fighting around the Raate Road, so we’ll probably see a motti next time (we were rather afraid of this actually, now it was a delaying action instead).
Lessons learned for next Winter War-time. Some we discussed, some I have thought of afterwards:
- Less Russian leaders
- Nothing to help the Russians advancing, like bonus cards.
- I think  the Russians should come in on board as they are, i.e. not under blinds. That will give the Finns the advantage they need.
- Finnish troops should be able to go back under blinds, something like in Charlie don’t surf.
- Finns should be able to stay concealed at shorter ranges.
- More?

Tuesday 3 January 2012

2011 – The Books

2011 was a good year for books. I bought too many, as usual, and (surprise) I seem to have read even more. There are less unread books now actually than it was last year-end.
All in all I read more than 50 books this year, and here is a summary of the war-realted. 

Men-at-arms 74 The Spanish Civil War 1936-39 – very short texts on the conflict, really bad maps, decent uniform plates. Rating 2,5.
Men-at-arms 139 German Airborne Troops 1939-45 – it is what it says, as with all Ospreys. I give this book a rating of 3,5.
Men-at-arms 234 German Combat Equipment 1939-45 – rating 3
Men-at-arms 309 The Italian invasion of Abyssinia 1935-36 – an interesting conflict. Rating 3.
Men-at-arms 326 The German Army 1939-45 (3) Eastern Front 1941-43 – rating 3
Men-at-arms 330 The German Army 1939-45 (4) Eastern Front 1943-45 – rating 3
Men-at-arms 336 The German Army 1939-45 (5) Western Front 1943-45 – rating 3
Warrior 38 Fallshirmjäger - German Paratrooper 1935-45 – quite a lot about life at camp and during education. Rather bad and few illustrations. Disappointing. Rating 2.
Fortress 20 British home defences 1940-45 – rating 3,5.
Elite 160 Word War II infantry tactics – tactics, equipment and national characteristics. Rating 2,5.
Raid 9 Rescuing Mussolini - Gran Sasso 1943 – informative about the glider-raid and the ground action. Critical of Skorzeny. Rating 4.

Other English Books (or books available in English (I might have read a version i Swedish))
Channel Islands Occupied, Richard Mayne, a short book about the only occupied part of UK. Rather uninformative. Rating 2.
Fallshirmjäger in Crete, Jean-Yves Nasse. Informative and interesting pictures. Rating 4
Warpaint - colours and markings of British army vehicles, Dick Taylor. Very interesting. Rating 4.
The Eastern Front 1914 – 1920, David Jordan. Interesting on a part of WWI I didn’t know much about, also the Russian Civil War. Rating 4.

Book in Swedish and probably unavailable in English
From SMB:
Hitlers hemliga vapen del1 (Hitler’s secret weapons, part 1) by Igor Witkowski. I think this is a translation of ”Die Warheit über die Wunderwaffe”. Anyway a very interesting book on technical development and with good work done in the archives. I highly recommend it. Rating 4,5.
Rommels krig i Afrika - Ökenrävar mot Ökenråttor (Rommel’s war in Africa – Desert Foxes against desert rats) Wolf Heckmann and a translation of ”Rommels Krieg in Afrika – ”Wüstenfüchse” gegen ”Wüstenratten””. Rather interesting and critical of Rommel. Rating 3,5.
Avgörande ögonblick under andra världskriget (Decisive moments of WWII) edited by Anders Franksson. Well written by several authors, but nothing new. Rating 3.

Striderna i Suomussalmi (The battles of Soumussalmi), HJ Siilasvuo. About the fighting in Soumussalmi and on the Raate-road during the Finnish Winter War. Written by the Finnish commander. Rating 3 (and if you want to wargame this, it’s a 5)
Krigsfångarna (Prisoners of War) Guido Knopp. A translation of ”Die Gefangenen) and I’m not sure if there is a english translation of this book yet. Anyway this is a very important, and horrifying, book about what happened to the millions of Germans that became POWs during and after WWII. Something of a must-read. Rating 4,5.
Adolf Hitler by Bengt Liljegren. I was sceptical, but a lot of my friends said this was the best biography of Adolf Hitler made. I haven’t read the others, but this is one very good biography, by an author who have taken the time to actually look into a lot of archives to find out some truth about the person Adolf Hitler. There doesn’t seem to be an English translation, bad for you! Excellent book! Rating 4,5.
Brödrabataljonen (The battalion of brothers) by Eino Hanski. It’s about the men from Ingermanland who fought in the Soviet Army, was made POW in Finland during the Continuation War, was recruited into the Finnish Army with a promise of Finnish citizenship after the war, and who finally was betrayed when the war was over for Finland. An important book. Rating 4.
Sista striden – Ilomants, augusti 1944 (The last battle – Ilomants, August 1944) by Erik Appel. About the last fights of the Finnish Continuation War in Ilomants. Hard to follow the descriptions and bad maps. Unfortunately a rating of 1,5.


Aspects of Modelling – Scenery, John Hobden. How to build scenery, mainly for railways. Interesting and some good advice. Rating 3.