Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Some random Poles

Last week I was at a bit of a loose end and fancied painting something so I dug through a few bags of spare 20mm figures and pulled out a random one. It was a Warsaw Past soldier in a beret but not the kind worn by Soviet VDV (airborne troops). Somewhere in the memory banks I knew I'd seen something like it and sure enough, a check on the bookshelves turned up this from the Osprey book Soviet Bloc Elite Forces

Digging through the other bags in the same drawer I worked out that I might have enough models to make myself a platoon of Cold War Polish marines!

Some research suggested that a Polish marine platoon for Arc of Fire would be something like this:

Platoon HQ (Tac 5)

Platoon Commander        Assault Rifle, Pistol        5L

Platoon Sergeant               Assault Rifle                   5L

1st Squad (Tac 5)

Squad Leader                    Assault Rifle                   5L

Gunner                             Belt-fed LMG                 5

Loader                              Assault Rifle                   5

6 Riflemen                       Assault Rifle                    5

2nd Squad (Tac 5)         As first squad

3rd Squad (Tac 5)

Squad Leader                    Assault Rifle                   5L

Gunner                             MMG                              5

Loader                              Assault Rifle                   5

5 Riflemen                       Assault Rifle                    5

Sniper                              Self-loading rifle              5

Here (with judicious use of Green Stuff to convert some Russian-style jackboots to ankle boots) are a couple of squads and the platoon HQ to be going on with:

The platoon command element consists of the pistol-armed officer and the platoon sergeant in the distinctive blue beret.

The squads each have a squad leader (single figure on a 2 pence piece), a machine-gun team with PKM light machine-gun (two figures on a 2 pence piece) and six guys with AKMs (on pennies) one of whom has an underslung grenade launcher. 

I do have a few more figures to add and they'll probably end up forming an under-strength third squad. One of the riflemen needs an SVT sniper rifle, which I have, but I'm lacking RPG-7s for each squad.

I don't know who these miniatures are sculpted/sold by. I thought they might be Platoon 20 but I can't see them on the East Front Miniatures website. Now all I need to do is to come up with a suitable scenario to use them.

Monday, June 10, 2024

A Barn Full of Lard

On Friday, Stella and I drove down to Bristol so I could spend Saturday running the Harpers Ferry What A Cowboy game at Lincombe Barn. This was the first of what will hopefully be a series of Lardy Days rejoicing in the name "A Barnful of Lard".

The day saw five Too Fat Lardies games set up in the Barn's main hall. As usual I was too busy running my game to get more than a few snatched photos of the games.

Lloyd Lewis ran "Bejabbers I Want That Cuckoo" a Peninsular War Sharp Practice game involving attempts to capture, recapture, and, on one occasion, re-re-recapture a French eagle.

Next we had another Sharp Practice game run by our host Carole Flint. This time it was a 15mm American Civil War action.

I'm not usually keen on smaller figures for Sharp Practice as they can end up too widely spaced. However I think for ACW, where firing lines were increasingly "loose" it's probably believable.

Brian Shipp ran a 15mm Chain of Command game with two US platoons, supported by Shermans, attacking against a single German platoon.

Brian and I had a good chat at lunchtime. Lardy Days can be a great opportunity to share ideas on scenario design.

The scenario was from the Pint Sized Campaign 29 Let's Go.

A very nice-looking Star Wars game was run by Kev using modified Chain of Command rules.

And finally there was my own Harpers Ferry game, seeing its third outing at a Lardy Day.

The players in both runs of the game were mostly new to What A Cowboy so things ran somewhat more slowly than they did at Posh Lard but all involved seemed to enjoy it. This was despite my forgetting to allow the victims of the first couple of hits to dodge!

A highlight of the day came in the second game. The player in charge of the townsfolk of Harpers Ferry had struggled to get his head around the use of the "Other Townsfolk" activation card. Eventually things clicked into place with this exchange:

Umpire:    The Other Townsfolk card!
Player:       What can I do with that?
Umpire:    Lay down covering fire, remove opponents' covering fire, or perform a Task.
Player:       What's a Task?
Umpire:    Anything you like.
Player:     Could we build a bomb to blow a hole in the wall of the engine house?
Umpire:    Sure that'll have a Task Value of...  

<grabs a couple of 12-sided dice and rolls them>

Umpire:      ...seventeen! Roll me a D6 to get started.
Player:       One!
Umpire:    OK, the townsfolk are one-seventeenth of the way to building a bomb.

After three more trips though the game deck and three more d6 rolls by the player concerned (all of them ones) we got as far as:

Umpire:       OK, the townsfolk are now four-seventeenths of the way to building a bomb!

Needless to say the bomb didn't get completed before the insurrectionists completed the job of moving their hostages into the engine house. 

Each time I run Harpers Ferry I come up with a couple of tweaks to improve the design. This time I gave Mayor Fontaine Beckham a musket rather than a handgun. The longer range made it more likely that his player might deploy him to the railroad trestle where, historically, he was shot dead by Edwin Coppock.

I also firmed up the rules for what happens when either side tries shooting near the hostages and misses! A table in the rules now allows for the death or wounding of named hostages or non-player insurrectionists including one of John Brown's sons.

Shotgun-armed Thomas Boerley (foreground)
heads towards the hostages...

... who are escorted by "Emperor" Shields Green,
Oliver Brown and Jeremiah Anderson.

In general I was pleased with how the games went. We didn't get to Act Two (the US Marines assault on the engine house) in either case but the What A Cowboy rules engine always gives a fun game. I think the players appreciated the research that went into providing the historical context of the events at Harpers Ferry.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Little buildings

I've finally got round to painting the Battlescale 6mm buildings I bought at Penkridge in January.

They're a bit of a mishmash of styles - a couple of clapboard cabins (ACW or Eastern Front?), a wooden framed, thatched barn (German?), a stone-built farmhouse (Normandy?), and a brick-built church with peeling render (again ACW?)

My plan at this stage is to leave them unbased to use for towns and villages in Bloody Big Battles. The rules are very high level and battles often see units (brigades) marching through built-up areas. The best way to handle this is represent the 'footprint' of the town with a flat base and scatter on some representative buildings.

I should say that I like these models. They have a nice level of detail and a sculpted feel that suits the pre-twentieth century style of architecture. Worth picking up if you see some at a show.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Another early jet

My kit-building enthusiasm has had a bit of an upsurge of late. The latest off the workbench is this Airfix F-80C Shooting Star. 

Built straight out of the box, it represents an aircraft of 36th Fighter Bomber Squadron, 8th Fighter Bomber Wing, US Air Force in South Korea, 1951. 

I chose this paint scheme because both of the build videos I've seen were of the other optional scheme and I wanted something a bit different. In addition, the other scheme has a painted blue nose heading into a decal side stripe and both builders found it impossible to accurately match paint colour to decal colour.

The kit was originally tooled in 1973 and it's now available in the Vintage Classics range from Airfix. The detail isn't bad for a kit of its age. I added masking-tape seatbelts and painted in cockpit detail but to be honest, you can't see much through the bubble canopy.

The modern Cartograf decals are superb and went on with virtually no problems. I did leave off a few tiny stencils on the underside.

We're awaiting delivery of a glass-fronted cabinet that will eventually house my small collection of built-for-display aircraft models

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Dusting off an old boardgame

My daughter has been enthusing about the air combat scenes in Top Gun: Maverick. Personally I sat through the first 20 minutes before I could take no more and I went off to do something more productive like trimming my toenails.

However, she did prompt me to dig out this:

Somewhat horrifically it turns out to be 37 years since I last did anything with this system!

I've now run a couple of solo sessions using the basic rules and reminded myself why I enjoyed the game all those years ago. In both sessions I ran one of the recommended asymmetric match-ups; MiG17s against F105 Thunderchiefs. The MiGs are highly manoeuvrable while the Thuds are fast but useless in a turning fight. 

In both cases the MiGs came out on top thanks to their ability to get on the Thuds' tails.

From what I remember the US planes need to be patient in positioning themselves for a fast, slashing attack. If I recall correctly, the full rules, which give a more realistic representation of 3D manoeuvre, give the F105s a better chance in this match-up.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Syrians for CWC (Revised)

One of the things I occasionally do to relax is to translate Order of Battle information into army lists for  my rules of choice. This time I've had a go at the Syrian Army for Cold War Commander.

Please note that I've revised this post based on feedback kindly provided by Neil Patterson in the comments below. I'm always grateful to be proved wrong as that's the way we learn stuff! The original 1960-68 list was, like the rest of the post, just an exercise in translating from Ian Shaw's Leopard lists to Cold War Commander format. Now I've done a little Googling and reflected a few other sources in a revised list.

1960 to 1968 Syrian Arab Army

Brigade HQ                          1x CO 

Tank Battalion         1x HQ, 9x tank

Mechanised Battalion 1x HQ, 9x Infantry, 3x B10 82mm RCL, 1x 82mm Mortar, 

                13x BTR-152, 1x GAZ with B11 RCL or 1x GAZ with Snapper

Infantry Battalion                    1x HQ, 6x Infantry, 2x HMG, 1x 82mm mortar

Brigade AT Company      2x ZIS-2 57mm AT gun, 2x Truck

Brigade Recce Coy                 3x recce platoons

Divisional AA platoon 1x ZPU-4, 1x Truck

Divisional AT Company         2x SPG

Brigade Mortar Battery 2x 120mm mortar, 2x Truck

Artillery Battalion         2x artillery pieces, 2x Truck

Engineer Platoon         1x Engineers, 1x Truck


Combined arms doctrine was not well applied. Fixed formations should be used.

A mechanised brigade headquarters should be modelled with a BTR-152 and a BTR-40. 

A tank brigade probably has two tank battalions and perhaps one mechanised company in support. The tanks may be mostly T-54s or T-55s, perhaps reinforced by a few T-34/85s. 

The single mechanised brigade commands up to three mechanised battalions and may have had one tank battalion. The tank battalion may use T-34s or Panzer IVs. BTR-152s may be replaced with trucks.

Self-propelled guns may be SU-100 or perhaps Jagdpanzer IV (maximum one model) or StuG III (maximum of 7). 

Artillery pieces are mostly 122mm M1938 supplemented by a few 122mm D-30 or 76mm pieces. Up to one artillery element may be replaced by a single Hummel model. A few Bm-21 may be available.

"Recce platoons" above may be equipped with BTR-40 or perhaps with AMX-13.

Air support may be MiG-17s and (from 1963) MiG-21s. One (model’s worth of) Il-28 remained in Syria after the break-up of the United Arab Republic in 1961.

1970 to 1982 Armoured or Mechanised Regiment

Regimental HQ                  1x CO 

Tank Battalion         1x HQ, 9x tank

Mechanised Battalion 1x HQ, 9x Infantry, 2x 82mm Mortar, 11x APC,

Battalion AT Platoon 2x B-11 RCL or Sagger, 2x GAZ jeep

Regimental AT Company 3x BRDM-2S

Regimental Recce Coy         3x BRDM-2

Regimental AA elements           0-2x ZSU-23/4, 0-1 SA-9

Divisional AT Company         2x SU-100

Regimental Engineer Coy 3x Engineers, 3x BTR-50PA, 1x MTU20 AVLB

Regtl Mortar Battery 1x 120mm mortar, 1x Truck

Artillery Battery         1x artillery piece, 1x Truck

Divisional AA Company       1x 57mm S60, 1x Truck


Tanks may be T-62, T-54B, T-55A.

APCs may be BTR-50 or BMP-1 in armoured regiments, BTR-60 PU or PB in mechanised regiments.

Artillery pieces may be 160mm M1953 mortars, 122mm D74 guns, 122mm M38 howitzers, 130mm M36 guns, 180mm S23 guns or BM24 MRLS. Batteries have six real-world weapons so could at a pinch be represented by two models. An artillery battalion has two batteries.

Air support may be Mi-8 transports, Mi-24 or (from 1977) Gazelle AT helicopters, MiG-17s and MiG-21s, Su-7s from 1968 and Su-20s from 1973, and MiG-23s from 1974.

1983 to 1993 Tank Regiment

Tank Regiment HQ         1x CO (BTR50PU)

Tank Battalion           1x HQ, 1x Recce BRDM2, 9x Tank

Mechanised Battalion 1x HQ, 9x Infantry, 9x APC, 1x 120mm mortar, 1x Truck

Regimental AT Coy          3x BRDM2S, 1x BRDM2

Regimental AA elements         0-2x ZSU-23/4, 0-1x SA-9

Regimental Engineer Coy 3x Engineers, 3x BTR50PA, 1x MTU20

Regtl Artillery Battery 1x 122mm gun, 1x Truck or 1x SAU122

Divisional Artillery Battalion 2x artillery piece

Corps Artillery Battalion         2x artillery piece


The regiment has three tank battalions and one mechanised battalion.

Tanks may be T-55M, T-62 or T-72.

APCs may be BTR50PK or BMP-1.

Regimental 122mm guns may be M1938 or D-30 howitzers. Divisional guns may be 122mm howitzers as above or D-74 guns or 160mm M1953 heavy mortars. Corps level guns may be 130mm M-1946, BM24 MRLs or 180mm S23.

If artillery batteries are on-table they may be protected by 57mm S60 AA guns.

Air support may be Mi-25 or Gazelle AT helicopters, Mi-18 transports, MiG-17 (until 1985), MiG-21, Su-7, MiG-23, Su-17 or MiG-29 (from 1989).

1983 to 1993 Motor Rifle Regiment

Motor Rifle Regiment HQ CO (OT64C or BTR60PU), 1x Recce BRDM2

Motor Rifle Battalion 1x HQ, 9x Infantry, 4x ATGW, 11x APC, 1x 120mm mortar, 1x truck

Tank Battalion         1x HQ, 1x Recce BRDM2, 9x Tank

Regimental AT Coy         3x BRDM2S, 1x BRDM2

Regimental AA elements              0-2x ZSU-23/4, 0-1x SA-9

Regimental Engineer Coy 3x Engineers, 3x BTR50PA, 1x MTU20

Regimental Artillery Battery 1x 122mm gun and 1x Truck or 1x SAU122

Divisional Artillery Battalion 2x artillery piece

Corps Artillery Battalion          2x artillery piece


The regiment has three Motor Rifle Battalions and one Tank Battalion.

APCs may be OT64C or BTR60PB.

ATGW platoons may be equipped with Sagger, Spigot or Milan.

Tanks may be T-54/55 or T-62.

Regimental 122mm guns may be M1938 or D-30 howitzers. Divisional guns may be 122mm howitzers as above or D-74 guns or 160mm M1953 heavy mortars. Corps level guns may be 130mm M-1946, BM24 MRLs or 180mm S23.

If artillery batteries are on-table they may be protected by 57mm S60 AA guns.

Air support may be Mi-25 or Gazelle AT helicopters, Mi-18 transports, MiG-17 (until 1985), MiG-21, Su-7, MiG-23, Su-17 or MiG-29 (from 1989).

General Notes:

This is based on Ian Shaw’s army lists for the Leopard rules. I have updated the aircraft in-service dates based on newer information.

Infantry should be upgraded with RPG-7 throughout.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Revisiting a list

Looking back at the early days of this blog I stumbled upon a post in which I'd listed all the wargames I'd played or run over my first thirty-odd years in the hobby. I thought it might be interesting to revisit the process.

So back in 2010 my top ten most-played miniatures games were:

  1. Hordes of the Things
  2. Arc of Fire
  3. TacWWII
  4. Cold War Commander
  5. Rapid Fire!
  6. Challenger
  7. Firefly
  8. My own Wars of the Roses skirmish rules
  9. DBA and The Fire and the Rose tied in ninth place.
Interestingly there are two more-or-less homemade rules systems in there. The Fire and the Rose were a set of mass battle Wars of the Roses rules from York Wargames Society.

Having moved on 14 years the current top ten is as follows:
  1. Hordes of the Things
  2. Arc of Fire
  3. Sharp Practice
  4. Cold War Commander
  5. TacWWII
  6. Chain of Command
  7. To The Strongest!
  8. Lion Rampant
  9. Song of Blades and Heroes tied with Pulp Alley.
The actual numbers of games played are interesting. In 2010 the last two games only had four plays each. Now SOBH and Pulp Alley both have 14 plays each.

Clearly the big winners are the two Too Fat Lardies games with Sharp Practice having 31 plays and Chain of Command twenty. This is despite my nearly having given up on TFL in disgust at the way the card-driven events system in first edition Sharp Practice constantly conspired to bugger up my carefully crafted scenarios!

Obviously HOTT is still on top. The sheer amount of games generated by 15 years of the Berkeley tournament, as well as a few other events, mean that it'll probably never be overtaken even through I rarely play it now.

Overall the number of games I've played or run of Arc of Fire, Cold War Commander, and TacWWII is nearly double what it had been.

The remaining systems (To The Strongest!, Lion Rampant, Song of Blades and Heroes, and Pulp Alley) are all, I believe, new games rather than ones I just hadn't encountered in 2010.

Also interesting that only the top four of the 2010 list are systems that I play even occasionally these days.

If there's anything else you think it would be interesting to analyse I'd love to hear from you by commenting below.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Just finished

A couple of items have recently emerged from the workshop with their paint jobs complete. First up is this Hawker Hunter F Mk6.

It's built from the Mistercraft kit, which is a complete dog. It's a reboxing of an early 1990s Polish kit that I mistakenly bought for a bit of relaxing model-building therapy. Unfortunately the parts and the instructions don't match, the decals don't allow you to build all of the variants shown on the box or in the instructions and they were also printed out-of-register.

As a result I decided I'd go for a fictional colour scheme using some decals I had in the spares box.

Our Hunter represents an aircraft of the Andreivian Armenian Republican Air Force in the early 1990s. Note the hand-painted national colours on the rudder.

I drilled a hole in the fuselage and glued in place a rare-earth magnet to allow the Hunter to use one of my home-made flight stands. And five days after I purchased the kit we have another addition to the Andreivian armoury!

Also completed in between sessions on the Hunter was this chap:

He's an old Games Workshop AD&D Hobgoblin. 

He was sculpted by Aly Morrison in the 1980s and he's been half-painted in a drawer since that time. Painted, lacquered and matt-varnished, he'll be going on eBay shortly.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Units for Essel

I'm hoping to get in a game of TacWWII at the informal gaming club at one of the local pubs. I've adapted Bob Mackenzie's Breakout from the Essel Bridgehead scenario and found that it needed a few elements I didn't yet have.

These are all 1/300th scale wargames toys; not accurate scale models.

First up the Germans have a low probability of a single sortie by a ground-attack Me262. Fortunately I had a 3D print left over from the ones I did for Crisis Point:

Then there's a Loyd carrier to tow the British 6pdr AT gun. Don't know the manufacturer - it came in a bag of second hand stuff marked "British Support Company".

And finally I adapted an old Irregular Miniatures Universal Carrier to make the Wasp flame-thrower variant. The flames are from painted clump foliage and the fuel and propellant tanks are from plastic rod.


Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Flashpoint Potsdamer Platz

After a request from frequent commenter Pete I did a bit of digital archaeology and found the scenario he wanted to see. It's an Arc of Fire scenario designed that had two ends in mind; to teach Chris Barnes the  rules and to make use of Chris's 1980s British infantry platoon. The plot is perhaps a little far-fetched but Chris had specifically asked for something set in Berlin.

The format is in that used the scenario books by Skirmish Campaigns. In the event we ran the scenario without the variable attachments. 

For those unfamiliar with the rules, troops are rated on a scale from 4 (the best) to 8 (the worst) for Morale (given per figure) and for Tac (tactical competence and training, given per unit).

Flashpoint Potsdamer Platz

Date: 14th November 1985, 1100 hours. 

Location: Potsdamer Platz, British Sector, West Berlin.

History: A KGB operation to snatch a defecting Soviet agent from under the noses of British intelligence has gone wrong. Shots have been fired and the West Berlin authorities are alerted. The KGB officers with the drugged defector in their car make for their emergency extraction point on the edge of the Grosser Tiergarten near Potsdamer Platz. A platoon from Berlin Infantry Brigade is patrolling in the woods on the edge of the Tiergarten.

British Orders: It’s far from clear what’s going on but obviously there’s been some kind of Soviet incursion. It needs to be contained and the Soviets taught that they can’t just swan into the British sector.

Soviet Orders: Make contact with the KGB team and secure their extraction by way of a hole blown in the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart (see scenario rules below).

Game length: Eight turns


1. The Soviet demolition team has two explosive charges. These are intended to blow a hole in the Wall at location X on the map. This location links to a safe path along the GDR side of the Wall, avoiding the anti- personnel minefields.

2. Setting the charge requires a successful TAC roll by a member of the demolition team who must subsequently retire 4”. Roll 1d10 on the team’s next card – on a 1 the charge fails completely, on a 2 it fails partially – the gap is passable by only one figure per card.

3. Should both charges fail the VDV will need to climb over the Wall. Any figure can assist another to cross the Wall, taking a whole card to do so and requiring a successful TAC roll.

4. The Tiergarten consists of light woods at this location.

5. If extraction looks impossible, the defector should be shot. This can be done only by the Soviet CO or by one of the KGB officers rolling anything but a 1.


Helicopter Extraction: A helicopter extraction would be an alternative means of getting the Soviets out of West Berlin if you have a suitable helicopter model.

Battle Taxi: One of the British sections may optionally be deployed in it FV432.

Cavalry: As an option, a Chieftain of 14/20 King’s Hussars can be used to lend tone to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl.

Monday, May 6, 2024

Another Gnat

My flirtation with building model kits just for the hell of it pretty much dried up but I did want to do another Folland Gnat to display alongside the RAF Valley trainer aircraft. 

I fancied the Yellowjacks display team version as I thought it would look great alongside the red trainer. Unfortunately when I did find one things didn't go according to plan. I knew a gloss yellow paint scheme really needed to be sprayed rather than brush painted so I invested in a rattle can from B&Q. Sadly I rather cocked up by spraying the paint on too thick.

However, I found a Airfix starter set of the Red Arrows version, which gave me another go at the airframe. This long weekend has given me a chance to have another go.

It's far from being a perfect job but I'm prepared to live with it. This isn't the easiest kit to get right.

I do like to see the two models together as part of what's becoming a small collection of early British jets.