Thursday, 12 October 2017

Hannut scenario for Rommel

I haven't even played a game of Rommel yet but I have helped to draft an historical scenario, a demonstration of chutzpah that even I find a little embarrassing! It's based on the Battle of Hannut in May 1940.

It all started with the need to decide what to buy and paint in the model area, but with the encouragement and substantial input from RobH this curiosity grew into a draft scenario.

It's a work in progress. You can download all the current files here and follow discussion on the Rommel board of the Honour forum here.

It basically reflects our best attempt to create an historically based map, historical OOBs (mostly the work of Rob) and the historical circumstances. The scenario is completely untested for game balance but we have some ideas in reserve.

Given a map, OOBs and some understanding of a battle, designing a Rommel scenario is straightforward if a little fiddly. Using generic OOBs would have been a lot more straightforward but I have absolutely no regrets about going historical in the detail.

Besides the historical research and game-creation  aspects, this project has also involved resuscitation of graphic and database skills, the latter being utilised to create a set of unit cards. I don't have much free time during the day but insomnia is a great aid to productivity.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Hotz mat for Rommel

Hotz felt mat straight out of the bag. The creases will settle.
I recently received delivery of a Hotz ArtWorks 'Enhanced European Fields' game mat for Rommel. It arrived in the UK from the USA only eight days after ordering - the usual great service and great quality.

It measures 72" x 46" and has 4" hexes arranged 18 x 12. It will serve as a less heavy, less bulky alternative to Hexon for club games. I could have gone for squares but consistency will make it easier to get used to the game and I will be able to use Hexon hills and my planned hex BUAs and hex woods etc.

The 4" hexes are principally for my forthcoming 3mm armies, but my 10mm armies on 30mm wide bases will also fit.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Rommel: Maximum base sizes for 4" hexes?

I thought I'd better test my 40mm square basing idea more rigorously in order to ensure there is enough wiggle room when the surrounding hexes are occupied.

These are actually 40mm x 25mm bases which were surplus from another project. I'm not intending to use these as they don't have enough depth. When more than one Company occupies a hex and they attack a neighbouring hex they can easily be placed in column and pushed across the hex edge to distinguish them from non-attacking companies. There is plenty of room.

40mm x 30mm bases. Still enough room IMO.

40mm x 40mm. These are too crowded.
That conclusively establishes that if using Hexon I need to aim for 40mm x 30mm bases for optimum effect. Now the bases...

40mm x 30mm steel, 40mm x 25mm MDF. The exposed steel area on the back is for mounting a removable magnetic plastic or other label. The MDF is the old mechanically-cut variety. I would now of course use laser-cut MDF.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

3mm hex terrain for Rommel

My epic indecision about what base sizes and grids to use for Rommel has come down to a trade-off between the attraction of multiple vehicles on big bases with a 6" square grid versus the attraction of using Hexon with necessarily smaller model bases possibly featuring only one or two vehicles.

Other than the Hexon itself, the game requires BUAs, woods, bocage, soft ground and rivers. In this post I am looking at BUAs and woods.

The heading picture (top right) shows a mock-up of a 4" hex BUA using a Hexon forest template and some Brigade Models 2mm buildings from the English Village and Terrace sets. I think these are fine for Belgium but Northern France and Low Countries sets are planned and those will be even better. The buildings are roughly the same height and the bases will sit on top of them when the hex is occupied. If I add taller buildings like churches and factory chimneys, these will have to go at the centre or close to the edges. The 4" hex is economical on buildings and looks 'neat' IMO.

For contrast, the next picture shows a 6" square with a very Roman street pattern. It requires quite a few more buildings and doesn't look very organic. Perhaps I could have arranged the buildings more imaginatively, but there is an inevitable tendency for squareness to beget squareness. Put a few of these on the table and it begins to look like a chess board. Of course, you don't have to make the towns square just because they fit into a square, but given that I will be placing the units on top I need to have the areas filled to give even support.

Finally, we have a mock-up of a hex wood using Woodland Scenics Underbrush of various different colours.

I think the combination of these pieces with Hexon flocked tiles will begin to look quite realistic in a hexed sort of way.

Although using smaller model bases is disappointing, I think the game will look good overall. It also provides a very fitting purpose for all that Hexon I've accumulated...

Friday, 8 September 2017

Rommel: 6" grid or Hexon?

40mm square bases on Hexon hexes
I like the aesthetic of depicting a whole platoon of 3mm miniatures on a large base, but I'm still weighing up the practicalities. I now have the rules in my hands thanks to Caliver Books and I got a PDF copy as well for study when I am out and about. I see the conversion to hexes in the Advanced Rules is straightforward, or, at least, left to the player.

It prevents use only of the 'Gaps in his Lines' rule, but Peter Hunt (Bertie on TMP) has suggested the following: "We just made it that if a unit is in the ZOC of two enemy held hexes it cannot move into a vacant hex that is in the ZOCs of those same two enemy held hexes unless it is using "Gaps in his Lines." So you can use the rule for what is intended: going around or through a loosely held enemy line."

So what are the pros and cons of switching from the default 6" grid to 4" Hexon hexes?  First the pros:
  • I already have Hexon (including hills) and thus a ready-made battlefield. Rivers are easy to add on the hex edges using felt strips.
  • It would allow me to use a much more compact playing area or play a much larger game in the same space.
  • Hexes look less grid-like than squares and this carries through into the shape of BUAs, wooded areas and river courses.
  • Hexon is going to look better than any alternatives I'm likely to end up with.
  • BUAs would require much fewer buildings.
  • Smaller (40mm wide) unit bases would be more compact to store and transport.
  • Hexes eliminate the distance distortion on the diagonal which could affect artillery in large games.
The cons:
  • There would be a loss of aesthetic appeal to the unit bases. The AFVs would be and look closer when going head-to-head.
  • Full platoons would be a bit overcrowded on a 40mm wide base, but not impossible.
  • Hexon is bulky and heavy but when needed I would have the option of substituting a 4" hex cloth like the European Fields one from Hotz. Another cloth would give me a desert option.
Anyway, I don't have to decide now. My first game will be with counters and then my existing 10mm armies.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

10mm Normandy armies for Rommel

My 10mm WW2 Normandy armies were collected, organised and painted for Spearhead  quite a few years ago, but have never left their boxes for a game. The prospect of coping with all the different sorts of hardware has somewhat inhibited my WW2 wargaming (except for Crossfire).

The imminent appearance of Sam Mustafa's Rommel has given them a purpose in life. So I decided to photograph all of them for the first time in order to review what I have and what I would need to get if I want to deploy proper painted armies.

British Shermans of various types

Yet more British Shermans

British Cromwells and armoured infantry

British leg infantry

German Panthers, Panzer IVs and Tigers

German armoured infantry

German leg infantry and transport
This looks like more than enough for a basic game, except for the absence of artillery which is not represented at the level for which the armies were originally organised. The armies predate my discovery of Pendraken and consist mainly of Minifigs and Pithead Miniatures when they first produced stuff in resin.

Friday, 4 August 2017

3mm minis for Rommel Part 2

Any intentions that I declare in this blog should never be taken too seriously. When it comes to wargaming I often change my mind or fail to pursue things!

Original 60mm x 60mm bases
It occurred to me that the infantry stand shown in the last post had enough Laffly trucks to carry 30 men but only 10 men were depicted on the base! There isn’t room to add another 20 figures, so it would seem sensible to reduce the trucks to just one, thus making the vignette more realistic. This would create an anomaly in that the tanks would be a platoon while the infantry would be only a section. Is that something to lose sleep over though? I also thought of mounting all artillery in pairs so that SPGs could be readily distinguished from tanks (mounted in threes).

40mm x 40mm bases
Before making any final commitment to a particular base size, I thought I’d better revisit 40mm x 40mm basing. This will allow use of a 4” grid or Hexon. It had always been my intention to use Hexon for a game like this. One of the main downsides is the smaller label which might be difficult to read in a dimly-lit wargames hall. I could increase the size of the label but then the base would be more cramped, especially if I start doing later war armies with bigger tanks. A relatively bigger label would also begin to overpower the models.

But there are pluses. A big advantage of a 4” grid rather than a 6” one is that I will need a lot less buildings to depict built up areas. This may be disappointing news for Brigade Models but there you are. I will be able to use my Hexon scenery of which I have quite a bit. I will be able to game at home with models. Bigger battles with models will be easier to accommodate on club nights. Storage will be more compact.

Rather empty 40mm x 40mm bases
The cheapskate option: single models rather than multiples. If the model is just an icon this approach is logical, and it’s what many people will be doing with 6mm models. It’s a possibility but with 3mm models it looks a bit thin. Don't take too much notice of the labels - the content is just filler for layout purposes. More specific identification of the hardware for future reference (not required for the game) will be on the underside of the bases. Thanks to advice on the Pendraken Forum, I would cover the labels with plastic film so the track could be marked off with a water-soluble pen and cleaned afterwards.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

3mm minis for Rommel

With Sam Mustafa's forthcoming Rommel in mind, I finally got round to ordering some 3mm Oddzial Osmy minis which were very promptly supplied by Fighting 15s.

These are the first samples that I've actually been able to see at first hand and I am delighted by the crisp castings and the detail on the vehicles and even on the infantry. I won't necessarily be painting this detail but it's nice to know that it's there.

1940 French tanks, infantry and artillery.
While eagerly awaiting publication of the rules, I've been thinking a lot about the use of unit cards, rosters, and base labels (or some combination) to carry the unit data and damage track.

Unit data cards create table clutter but I find them very convenient in play. Rosters are straightforward but take your eye off the table. Base labels would need to be quite big and the tracking part would need to be replaced after each game or this would require some workaround.

A related question is how big to make the bases. After a considerable amount of thought I'm currently favouring 60mm x 50mm bases that will sit on cards. The cards will be 60mm x 60mm so that a 60mm x 10mm strip will exposed at the rear with essential data and the track. The cards will be expendable and different sets can be used for different scenarios etc.

The 60mm x 60mm bases would fit 2-up, 1-back on a 6" grid, and if I want to use a smaller grid at home or portray a very big battle I can just game with cards. If using models it's worth making them look good, and I think that big bases look best. The tanks, for example, are spread out more realistically. And while I'm only an average painter of models, I'm quite good at doing bases!

Friday, 14 July 2017

Sam Mustafa's Rommel

Erwin Rommel
As long-term readers of this blog may have noticed, I don't get much time for wargaming in the warmer months, and I've had even less time this year owing to pressure from other interests and commitments. I have, however, been keeping my hand in by exploring Great War Spearhead thanks to Robert Dunlop who has kindly been setting up games and teaching me the rules.

I haven't, however, been pursuing anything on my own initiative until I was recently reminded of Rommel, Sam Mustafa's forthcoming set of WW2 grand-tactical rules. Sam's reputation for analytical logic and extremely well-written, user-friendly rules is enough to persuade me to buy them as soon as they become available in the UK, but whether I will actually prefer them to Bloody Big World War Two Battles or any other alternatives will depend in large part on how well  they cover historical scenarios.

As I said previously, the appeal of the grand-tactical for me lies particularly in replaying historical battles. Having said that, Rommel has a neat army creation system for pickup games.

There are podcasts and downloads about the game on Sam's website. It's played on a grid of squares and doesn't need miniatures.  If using a 6' x 4' table the squares are 6", i.e. the grid is 12 x 8 squares. The game will also convert to hexes. Some will regard it as more of a boardgame but the approach suits me. I like grid games and the game can easily be tried out with cards or counters with the option of adding 3D toys and scenery later.

Four possible approaches have crossed my mind:

  1. Just use the unit data cards on an improvised grid which could be drawn onto butcher paper or just marked out with counters. This is the minimalist option, but should be perfectly adequate for playing purposes. 
  2. Make 30mm game counters and use them on a 3" or 4" grid or Hexon. This will make the game compact enough to fit a small table. (The grid squares need to be large enough to hold three bases which is the 'stacking' limit.)
  3. Use my 10mm Normandy armies on the default 6" grid. This will look like a proper game to people who think wargaming must involve miniatures. I would be short on artillery but can borrow some field-guns from my WW1 Square Bashing armies. 
  4. Raise some new 3mm armies for use on a 3", 4" or 6" grid or Hexon.

There's no point in using models unless they are aesthetically attractive. I've thought about / planned WW2 armies in 3mm for literally years. IMO AFVs are going to look best if mounted at least 3-up on reasonably wide bases, i. e. at least 40mm. That pushes the grid size and is probably too large for Hexon. Some of the grid squares also need to contain scenery, e.g. BUAs and woods, but I would make these fairly level so the stands can sit on top of them.