A blog about miniatures, wargaming, and the people driven to ruin by them....

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Falklands: Special Forces


I recently began working on some 20mm Falklands miniatures.  Now, I started painting 20mm miniatures for the Falklands more than a decade ago, and have painted some off and on, but this recent batch by far is the largest I have done in a long time.

What started this latest frenzy was a couple of very good books I read, combined with some discussion in my local club, and a recent game.   I made plans with Keith Stine ( of This Very Ground and Disposable Heroes: Point Blank fame) to make a scenario for the skirmish at Top Malo House ( here if you need some background ).  Its an unusual battle that saw two groups of special forces types, in a fight with nearly equal numbers.  The British MAW (Mountain and Arctic Warfare Cadre) were and are certainly a very well trained, very experienced, group.  The Argentine 602 Commandos were specially trained Argentine army troops.  The 602 Commandos, however, originally had a much different role than a "true" special forces outfit like the US Navy Seals, or British SAS, and I would not consider them to have been in the same league as the British cadre, but they can still be considered a type of special forces during the Falklands War.

More on that in the future, once we game the scenario.

I looked over the miniatures I had, did some tallying, and decided to broaden the scope of the project.  I made a substantial order with Liberation, including 18 SAS (Falklands era), hoping to mix and match them with other miniatures I already had.  I had some unpainted Platoon 20 British in berets, a single pack of unpainted Combat British SBS, a single pack of unpainted Combat British MAW, a few random Combat Argentine command figures, and a number of previously painted Platoon 20 Argentine Marines in berets (light blue berets).

So, I got to work.  Now, I have a ton of Falklands era British and Argentine miniatures already painted, most of which were painted a long time ago.  I did not feel like repainting all of those.  That being the case, I painted the new British miniatures with colors and patterns that more or less matched the"old" miniatures, rather than trying for something better.  In the end, it worked out, as it wasn't too difficult for me to paint all of this camo.  Since the 602 commandoes would look different from the rest of my Argentine forces, this was not much of an issue.  I simply painted over the old paint.  Not fantastic, but easy and quick.

Enough jabber-jawing, lets see some pictures.

First up, 18 Liberation British SAS.  Notice, a lot of bare headed miniatures, and a lot of watch caps.  Mix of weapons includes mostly M16s, CAR-15s, some '16s fitted with M203s, Brens, and MAGs.  One radio operator is equipped with an SLR.

This guy here, advancing with the Bren gun, is one of my favorites from the bunch.  He has a serious case of the mean-mug, and carries an equally serious weapon.  My photos don't do him justice.

As usual, the Liberation are clean, hardy miniatures.  Weapons are very distinct, and these SAS are gesturing all over the place, looking like the active SFer types they are supposed to be (no one is smoking and joking).  As you can see, my camo is really simple, close up it certainly doesn't look accurate, but on the table, the colors work very well... and these guys will fit in with my older miniatures.

Next are the pack of 5 Combat Miniatures SBS in watch caps, and pack of 5 Combat MAW in Royal Marine green berets.

The Hotspur/Combat ranges were always very nice miniatures.  It was too bad the ranges were not broader.  I would certainly not mind having another pack of each of these (even though I would never need them!).

Next up are the Platoon 20 British in berets, painted as Royal Marines.

This mix includes a Milan, and a Carl Gustav, for a little anti-tank capability.  The nice thing about these, is that I can mix in a few helmeted figures from my regular infantry, to beef them up (though its hard to find many RMs in helmet, they were indeed issued them at times).

Speaking of mixing and matching, I can very easily mix the SBS with the SAS, or mix the SAS, SBS, MAW and regular Royal Marines for a larger force any time I need too.  This was why I decided to order the Liberation SAS, so that my MAW force for the Top Malo scenario would have as many options as possible (the only thing I might be missing is figures with M-79s.... the M-16/203 combinations will have to fill in).

The 602 Commandoes are mostly Platoon 20 Argentine Marines in berets.  As I said, I simply painted over the old paint, trying for a lighter camo pattern that looked slightly different from the British camo.  Also, the 602 berets are a completely different shade of green from the RM berets.  I used 3 command figures from Combat, an officer with pistol, a radio operator, and a sniper.  The officer and RTO are in helmets, but I figured that would be ok.

I really liked an idea I saw on another blog ( here at Dougie's Wargaming Blog ), where the Combat officer was fitted with an FAL.  I bought a pack of MJ Figures FALs for terrain details.  The MJ FAL was a little big in my opinion for the Combat figure, so I compromised and placed the SLR on the ground beside the officer.
All in all I am really very pleased with how these all turned out.  Nothing here to win any prizes, but they certainly look the part, and can be used for all sorts of things. 

Something I definitely want to try, after the Malo scenario, is having an SAS raid during the 1980's Cold War era against rear echelon Soviets.  The 602 commandos could be readily employed in any number of South & Central American scenario.  I like to get the most bang I can for my buck.

One group of Argentine special forces that are missing are the Agrupacion de Comandos Anfibios, for the initial invasion of the Falklands.  I have some, I think its 13 or so, painted already from years ago... but since I never had any Royal Marines painted, I never used them.  I also have 15 more unpainted, so at some point I will finish those, and then post pictures.... after all, the 602s need some help, I think.

OK, on to the next dilemma!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hannibal Barca, a Portrait


This is a slight departure from my normal gaming related posts, so some explanation is needed.  Our local gaming club recently changed venues into a posh private site.  As part of the decorative work, we were all asked to provide portraits of historically relevant (and mostly militarily relevant) personalities.  These submissions are forming a montage of famous military leaders.  This is not a contest for the "best" (whatever "best" might mean) commander ever, simply a choice of someone we have been inspired by, impressed by, or felt some particular connection to.

Here is the wall of faces, slowly coming together....
Recognize anyone?

I chose Hannibal.  I am not an expert in the Punic Wars, and I would not be interested in the great debate of "who was best".... all I can say is that Hannibal's record speaks for itself, that he was certainly a very good commander.  Heavily influenced by an early copy of Harold Lamb's "Hannibal" I have been impressed, and intrigued, by Hannibal since my youth.

What I found to be a problem was the overall paucity of portraits or representations of Hannibal.  Famously, there is a single bust that you see very frequently.  There are also some coin images, which are not too distinct.  There are some other images, but I was having trouble picking one that felt correct to me.

So I looked for the cover of the old Harold Lamb book....
However, there are a few problems with this image.  First, no way I could find a hi-res image to turn into a wall hanging portrait.  Second, well, he doesn't look quite right.

**This is where this simple post gets potentially volatile**

This Hannibal looks very Western European, he doesn't look like what I think of when I think Carthaginian:  Libyan, Pheonician, or Numidian.  He also looks very healthy, and very well fed (admittedly, at the time of crossing the Alps, he was still a young man).  But, in my mind's eye, his skin should be darker, having a more north african look.  Not because I know any better than the next guy, or have run through the genetic testing... but because it seems highly improbable Hannibal looked Anglo-Saxon.

So I looked for more images, and came across one for the Avalon Hill edition of a game, Hannibal Carthage versus Rome.... which looked... familiar....

Ah ha!  I think I see what they did there.  But what about a later edition from Valley Games...
OK, so there are some significant detailing changes, and Hannibal is starting to look closer to what I think he should look like.

In the end, I didn't feel comfortable using a game cover (rendered by someone else) for this portrait.  I also did not feel comfortable choosing a portrait of an actor portraying Hannibal, like Alexander Siddig.
BUT, he looks much, much closer to what I think Hannibal would look like.  So did Ben Maccabee....

So.... I decided to paint my own portrait of Hannibal.

I am not an artist.

I say again, I am not an artist.

With that in mind, I have no misconceptions about what meager ability I have to deal death with a paintbrush.  Still, it behooves the soul to try.  I decided to work off of the now familiar cover image from the Harold Lamb book.  Except, I wanted my Hannibal to have darker, olive colored skin.  I also wanted to portray him as he may have looked crossing back into north africa, perhaps before the battle of Zama.

Older.  Gaunt.  Tired.  With one blinded eye to remind those who viewed him of the price he had paid during the long years he had been at war.  I did the best that I was capable of, and despite my short comings (and never mind the slightly blurry image my camera took), I was happy with the finished portrait...

Not perfect, but it conveys some of the qualities I found lacking in other representations.

As you can see, the portrait (blurred out above) is already in the club awaiting its final placement (as the various portraits are re-arranged for optimal viewing).

Ultimately, I am happy with the result, and am glad to have Hannibal Barca looking over us amateur generals as we push our toy soldiers around.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Napoleonics: Albuera, 1811


We recently fought a 15mm game of Age of Eagles, using a scenario for Albuera.  The combined armies of Beresford (British and Portuguese) and Blake (Spanish) faced the resourceful Soult (who attacked without knowing that the allies had combined forces).  I commanded Beresford's Anglo-Port troops, while "El Guapo" commanded Blake's Spanish.  The players leading the French will remain anonymous....

We had some mixed feelings about the scenario afterwards, but I will hold those comments until the end...

From the French lines.... Albuera and surrounding heights at the top...
From the French right "feint"... Albuera just on the other side of the river, held by British troops.  Portuguese division holding the Allied left flank.

The Spanish hold the heights in number.

Anglo-Portuguese division marching to Albuera, while combined Spanish and British cavalry hold the Allied right flank.

The French begin forward movement, including a strong left punch with cavalry.  In an effort to destabilize the French cav, the lone British cavalry regiment smashes into the center French cav unit, sending it reeling.  A breakthrough attack against the Polish lancers is ineffective.

The Portuguese can not contain themselves, and advance against the French right.  The French are massing artillery on this flank, punishing the Spanish in the center.

The Portuguese Dragoons smash the French cavalry, then coordinate with the Portuguese infantry to roll up the flank...

The French assault in the center continues.  Despite heavy enemy fire, the blue columns advance...

After charges and countercharges, the Spanish cavalry and British cavalry have taken heavy casualties.... but so have the French cavalry. 

The Spanish hold firm, repulsing most of the French infantry attacks.  British and Portuguese units begin plugging holes in the line as needed.

On the French right, the Portuguese have destroyed all 3 batteries and the cavalry unit... they begin lining up a finishing attack on the French infantry.

The Portuguese Dragoons ride home from the rear, while Portuguese infantry close in from the front (for some reason I can not make this image turn).

It is no surprise that the entire French unit is either killed or captured.  the entire French right flank has been destroyed to a man.

There is some fighting near Albuera, with British troops being pushed back, but holding the French from the town, but the battle is over.....

From the French lines.... there is almost no French army left!  That largish unit crossing the river on the right is Portuguese.  Soult will dine alone this night.

In the end. this battle was completely lopsided.  We did not bother to count casualties it was so bad.  I feel a little guilty, as I had chosen this battle and scenario to use.  On paper I thought it looked even enough, and really liked the mix of all three Peninsular Allies combined. 

The Spanish fought well at this battle historically, but for the scenario were perhaps rated too highly across all of the formations.... a single Regular or Elite infantry regiment (Zayas), with the rest being conscripts, would have been better.

The British in this were not all elites (refreshing)... so I don't think that was a problem.  And I liked fielding the British under a commander other than Wellington (again, refreshing!).

I think what may have been lacking was more fog of war for the allies.  As a player I knew the French right was weak, so had no delay at all in launching the Portuguese division in an all out assault.  Perhaps these Portuguese troops (and the British in the center) should have been held in place until released by specific events (attacked in melee, outflanked, or when a specified turn was reached... like turn 5 or something).

As players, gaming historical battles, we should not need or want "even battles"... however, this scenario may have been a bit more uneven than we would have liked.  Historically, Albuera was a bloody, but even, fight for both sides.  Our game was a near complete destruction of the French for very few allied casualties.... and though the French players gamely tried their best, they may not have had any real chance of even a marginal victory.

Since there are so many other Napoleonic battles to be fought, we are unlikely to fight this one again soon.  If we do, we'll change some things up, or, I'll play the same game from the French side as penance :)