Remembering Gneisenau

By Rob Morgan

I came upon a three-page article entitled ‘Batterie Austrat’ in the excellent magazine After the Battle, No. 44. Rather an old piece now, it provides an account of one of the 11-inch triple gun turrets from Gneisenau, Scharnhorst’s sister ship, which was removed in 1943 from the unlucky warship, and dragged half way up a cliff near Narvik, where it was emplaced for coastal defence. The article says it didn’t fire a shot in anger, but that the turret was ‘re-activated,’ by the Norwegian coastal artillery, but after 1953, it was gradually left to its own fate. I found on Wikipedia the ‘fort’ with the 11-inch turret intact is still in existence as a visitor attraction.

The article goes on to say that a second 11-inch turret of Gneisenau’s ‘was utilised at Fjeld, near Bergen in Norway.’ However, I can’t find any mention of that battery. Does it still exist I wonder? It must have been an immense task to move this ordnance from the Baltic to Norway. Incidentally, the article, unattributed, says that the three single guns from the ship’s third turret ‘…were earmarked for the Hook of Holland, outside Rotterdam.’ Were they ever emplaced? ‘Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1922-46,’ suggests they were.

The ‘Gneisenau’s’ remarkable misfortunes in war are very well known, but this must be the only case in history where the entire armament of a capital ship was used in coast defence? Or is it?

The photograph is of my vaguely accurate Revell 1/1200th Gneisenau, with all her turrets and guns, in the colour scheme of January 1942.

Posted in Naval gaming, Periods - World War II | Leave a comment

The last zeppelin — a model

By Rob Morgan

I was reminded by a colleague that there’s a decent scale model of a German airship around, one very suitable for conversion into numerous ‘Steam-Punk’ models, and arguably fantasy Third Reich stuff too. The Revell Mini-Kit 06580 is of  LZ129 Hindenburg which met its end a little before WWII. The kit has 10 parts. Discard the stand, it’s useless. Replace it with one of the Games Workshop hexagonal perspex stands,  and the rest is ridiculously easy to assemble. Minimal flash and already coloured silver-grey with black engine nacelles and gondola, and with name and pennant number on the sides. The tail has Third Reich flags, sans swastika.The kit retails at around £2.99p, which is a remarkable value, especially for something requiring so little work and effort to complete.

The original vessel was 814′ long overall, and 135′ in diameter. Placed alongside the slender Navwar WWI Zeppelin model, she looks enormous. The completed Hindenburg being 10cm long and 1.5cm wide, well, she’s not far off 1/3000th scale. The real Hindenburg had a range of 8,000 miles and carried 10 tons of freight and mail at a top speed of 80 knots.

Yes, Hindenburg was a commercial airship, and no, she didn’t see any war service. However, she has some historical wargames potential, I feel, and might have seen service with the Kriegsmarine, or as a transport, even a reconnaissance craft, had she survived into WWII. She might be the target of a propaganda raid in a wargame,and is suitable for numerous ‘what-if’s’, maybe a search for the Grail in Tibet, as in Indiana Jones escapades, but she is of course extremely vulnerable. In the world of ‘Steam-Punk’ conversion possibilities are endless, as are paint jobs.

The Hindenberg model is one of a series of aircraft with some wargames capability.

This is, to say the least, a very simple five-minute job to construct!

The completed airship, substantial in terms of the table top, and very useful for ‘steam-punk’ or 20th century fantasy gaming.

 

Posted in Air gaming, Periods - Fantasy, Periods - Pulp era, Periods - Twentieth century | 3 Comments

Post-apocalyptic map and counter game rules added

Jim Rohrer explains his game system that uses a standard road map and a set of counters, which are provided, ready to copy.

It’s on the Complete Rule Sets page.

Posted in Periods - Fantasy | 1 Comment

A missing battleship?

By Rob Morgan

Over the past few months, a couple of colleagues and I have been discussing the many “what if” battleship projects which litter 20th Century naval history.

One battleship I can’t find a model of anywhere is the “Concrete Battleship” of Fort Drum in Manila Bay. Named after US Brigadier General Richard C. Drum, it was built on El Fraille Island between 1909 and 1918, always, one article suggested, known to the Phillipines Garrison and generally in the US Fleet by the “Concrete Battleship” alternative name.

There’s no model of it around, at least as far as I can discover, which is a pity. With two twin 14″ gun turrets, a compact but sturdy structure, entirely concrete, and with remarkably few external features, there was just a cage mast at the upper point of the works, and a low-level launch landing place and a couple of later A/A guns, it seems easy to model, and in almost any scale.

The old long defunct Fortress magazine (not to be confused with the Osprey series under the same name) back in the early 1990s carried a short item on the Defences of Manila Bay, and a 1/1200th scale drawing of the fort, made in 1935,was included, having been at long last declassified by the US authorities.

It would be so simple for any manufacturer to produce, and I wonder why, unless there’s a model somewhere in the USA I’ve missed, it has never attracted the attention of a model maker here in the UK? It did see action, in the attack on Corregidor and Manila, and later at the end of the war in the invasion of the Philippines. A powerful coast defence fort, set in the sea, and with four 14″ guns as well as two batteries of low set 6″ guns, and some A/A protection, makes an interesting addition to the fleet, and has that subtle difference from other battleships, that it can’t actually steam and avoid shells. Mind you Fort Drum can’t be sunk by torpedoes either, and in the Japanese assault, bombs seem to have caused remarkably little damage, despite some direct hits.

I think it’s long overdue in 1/1200th,1/2400th,1/3000th and even in 1/4800th scales. Definitely on my wants list.

I suppose I could invest in some Milliput and scratch-build one!

Posted in Naval gaming, Periods - Twentieth century, Periods - World War II | 2 Comments

New sample article now posted

A new sample article has been posted. It’s by Kevin White and describes how he adapted rules for an Agincourt campaign based on an original idea from Don Featherstone.

It’s on the Sample Articles page.

Posted in Periods - Medieval | Leave a comment

Amazons!

By Rob Morgan

June 24th in the Year of Our Lord 1542 may possibly have been one of the most unusual in Spanish military history.

On that day, in a prolonged and lively skirmish, rather than a battle, the men of Francisco de Orellana’s ad hoc expedition along the world’s largest river defeated yet another group of tribal warriors. The native force was led by ‘pale warrior women with long plaited hair’ and these natives were armed with bows and arrows tipped with poison. The women ‘fought fearlessly, but were eventually overcome.’

de Orellana’s expedition carried on, after many more skirmishes and encounters with tribesmen, to reach the mouth of the river some two months later. He had left Pizarro late the previous year, sailing down the River Napo to find food and supplies, and finding instead a ‘vision’ of immense wealth somewhere close around him, he sailed into history in his own right. He died in 1545, without, needless to say, discovering the gold and silver he so fervently believed eluded him by only a day’s march … somewhere.

So the river voyage of Francisco de Orellana might well provide a very decent solo map and table-top wargames campaign, with a small Spanish and maybe an allied native force encountering tribe after tribe en route to the Atlantic. He and his soldiers fought at least one river action afloat, on May 12th 1542, when he took on a large canoe-borne force of natives, which caused much suffering to his hungry men.

Yet it’s the ‘Amazons’ which I find interesting.

Ignoring the Ancient Greek legends of the ‘girdle of Hippolyta’ and Achilles despatching Penthesilia in single combat, these Renaissance period Spaniards were hard-nosed Conquistadors, and had their eyes firmly fixed on ‘God, Gold and Glory,’ if not necessarily in that order. What an interesting ‘post-medieval’, but probably not ‘Renaissance’ force a bunch of well armed Amazons would make for a wargame.

Later on, fanciful tales abounded of them, that they worshipped the sun, they lived in stone villages far from the river, stealing men for breeding purposes. Yet Friar Gaspar de Carvajal, the expedition’s chronicler, was sufficiently impressed by the reports of the encounter with women warriors to name the great river ‘Amazonas’ which suggests something at least.

Francisco almost created the first two-way route across the continent, but he died in the attempt, and it wasn’t for another hundred years that the upstream route was conquered. But de Orellana’s last expedition was of course emulated by the rebel

Lope de Aguirre and his band of cut-throats in the 1560s; now that’s yet another ‘print the legend’ wargame just waiting to be played.

In terms of figures, well in 20mm, both Revell and Caesar make sets of Conquistadores, and those on foot are suitable, and there are a couple of war dogs too. Given the apparent hail of poisoned arrows, then the sword and buckler men would be crucial. As for the Amazons, and tribes-people generally, well, I suggest the old Airfix Indians set, and though it’s well over 50 years old, the seven bowmen and three spearmen would, with little effort, make for Amazonians. Much smaller than the Conquistadores, but does that matter? The Airfix Tarzan set has a small armed ‘boy’ figure to fit in, and a decent canoe; use the Peter Pig rowing boat for the Conquistadores, or give them a few pack mules. There are a couple of big cats and a crocodile in the Tarzan set, they’ll turn into additional opponents for the invaders quite easily.

Incidentally, back in the late ‘60s, Bob O’Brien made a dozen ancient armies from these little Airfix figures. Anyone remember that series?

Posted in Periods - Medieval, Periods - Renaissance | 1 Comment

Avalon Hill board games

By Jim Rohrer

Paul Le Long reviewed “Bull Run: First Major Battle of the American Civil War,” published by Avalon Hill in 1983 and designed by Richard Hamblen.  His review gave me hope that other Avalon Hill board games might also be played solo, as Paul did with Bull Run.

Dozens of different Avalon Hill games are available on eBay but I am reluctant to start buying in this line without some reassurances.

Here are my questions for the group: does anyone have recommendations for other Avalon Hill war games that will work for solo play?  And, are the games playable if some of the counters are missing?

Posted in Board games | 6 Comments

Question from a reader

<<A reader submits the following. Can anyone answer his question?>>

Hello, I enjoy your blog. I usually do not play solo but still enjoy all of the articles. I am hoping somebody out there can provide me a way to acquire thru purchase or other means a copy of Stuart Asquith and Jack Alexander’s “Big Wars.” I read the summary on this blog but wanted the full rules. I have searched for them online. I have emailed anybody I can think of that I know who might have a copy and I have come up dry. Call it an obsession but it’s driving me mad that I cannot find a way to come across a copy 🙂

Any help provided will be very much appreciated!

Bradley Dunlap
48-year-old Wargamer who has recently discovered old school wargaming.

Posted in Wargaming | 2 Comments

Its not about …

By Jim Rohrer

Having been involved with Lone Warrior long enough to see two issues of the journal come out, and having read most of the material on the website, and having fought a lot of solo battles using a variety of methods, I have reached some conclusions. These are true for me today. They may not be true for everyone and they may not be true for me next month. But here goes.

1. Solo war gaming is not about the size of the table or the number of figures on it. Bigger is not necessarily better. Fighting a large battle once in a while is fun but often a mid-sized battle or a skirmish is just what the doctor ordered.

2. Solo war gaming is not about the figures. Some hobbyists spend of their time assembling exquisitely painted armies that are perfectly accurate for their historical period. But gamers who are interested in the battle and play it alone do not need to do that. Card board or paper works fine to represent units, as do chess pieces or anything else you find laying around. We do not need to worry about how our opponent views our figures because we get to play without subjecting ourselves to criticism from anyone else. We do it for our own enjoyment and do not need to ‘keep up with the Joneses.’

3. Solo war gaming is not about a particular set of rules. We all have our favorites but most have experimented with different sets. Whatever floats your boat.

4. Solo war gaming is not about a particular scale. Mostly I have used 54mm figures because I can see them better but with One-Hour Wargames rules the little ones will work just as well. In fact, I just realized that my poor painting skills are more visible on the large figures so heck I might as will try a battle with the little ones. Some gamers use unpainted figures. Brilliant. I cannot see the details anyway so why bother.

5. Solo war gaming is not about history. It can be about history for those who enjoy history but the scenario could also be alt-history, hypothetical, science fiction or fantasy.

6. Solo war gaming is not about grand strategy and not too much about tactics. A lot of it is the luck of the roll or the luck of the draw.

7. Solo war gaming is not about managing your opponent. If you try to be fair to an opponent then you can confuse yourself. Game mechanics like blinding yourself to the actions of the opponent and creating hidden areas that you pretend you cannot see might be okay but are not really necessary. My insight last week is this: a clear battle plan for both sides eliminates the need to choose one side as the opponent. Play enthusiastically for each side in turn. Try it; it works for me.

What, then, is enjoyable solo war gaming about? Here is what I think: a well-crafted scenario is important. Off-the-shelf scenarios might work for some people but my brain seems to have trouble with abstract diagrams, even simple ones, so I like to put terrain out on the table and give it a try. A good scenario starts with a mission objective, an order of battle, and specific battle plans for each side. Placement of terrain looks like a random process but actually terrain dramatically shapes the movement of the units in ways that I do not anticipate. Therefore, terrain is just as important as the other elements of the scenario.

That is my rumination for the day. My next goal is to plan a battle with the little guys. The paint is falling off my 54mm figures anyway so they can go to their boxes for some R&R.

Posted in Solo wargaming | Leave a comment

No. 212 is out, and it’s a big one

Issue No. 212 of Lone Warrior magazine is out, and it’s a big one: a record 80 pages, chock full of articles of interest to soloists and non-soloists alike.

Here’s a rundown of this issue’s lineup:

  • “The Spanish Ulcer — Napoleon Solo Squared,” by Kevin White. A set of rules for refighting the Peninsular Campaign, using 3-inch squares.
  • “Lawrence of Arabia — Seven Pillars of Wisdom,” by Rob Morgan. Drawing lessons on insurgent warfare from Lawrence’s own words.
  • “Savage Tales of Imaginary Heroes and Villains,” by Steve Turner. Some ways to run campaigns, battles, even politics, in a make-believe world of the author’s creation and using a “war diary” to record events over time.
  • “My Approach to Playing Solo Battles,” by Brian Cameron. Setting up battles, all the way from choosing terrain and battle plans for both sides to standing orders for different types of units and commander qualities.
  • “First Battle of Barcelona (1898),” by Jim Rohrer. An “alt-history” account of a Rough Rider invasion of Spain and the ensuing battle.
  • “The Three Holy Grails of Solo Wargaming,” by Russell Parkin. Using the three principles of Simplicity, Opposition and Continuity as the basis for solo wargaming, with a sample skirmish battle to demonstrate how the principles work in practice.
  • “Combat Actions of Soviet Forces in the Republic of Afghanistan,” by Rob Morgan. A review of the 1996 book “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” and the application of its lessons to ongoing irregular conflicts in difficult terrain.
  • “Something Old, Something Newer — Revisiting Some Rule Sets,” by George Arnold. A look at some new or revised rules sets that grew from, but further developed the venerable DBA, with a test battle set during the American Civil War.
  • “Kriegsspiel,” by Paul Le Long. Lessons for solo play drawn from some classic Kriegsspiel games with multiple players and an umpire.
  • “Encounters at Ambler Views, 2-13 June 1864,” by Graham Empson. A narrative of a side action that developed in the course of a longer campaign set during the American Civil War, with character sketches to personalize the narrative.
  • “Darts in Warfare in the Ancient and Medieval World,” by Rob Morgan. An in-depth discussion of the use of darts in ancient and medieval combat.

So many ways to approach this fascinating hobby in this issue, plus the usual thorough use of color photos, maps and charts to illustrate the articles.

Non-subscribers? This is what you’re missing — content like this every  quarter. Want to subscribe? (It’s still a bargain.) Go to the Subscribe page and start receiving the electronic version of Lone Warrior immediately.

Posted in Latest issue of LW | Leave a comment