“Objective Saint-Lo” by George Bernage

Anyone with an interest in the Normandy landings would be keenly interested in the action around Saint Lo that happened in June and July of 1944. This book, published by Pen And Sword, who kindly provided me with a copy, goes through day by day accounts of the action. Beginning at Omaha beach it gives various accounts of the American and German actions from there up to the attacks on Saint Lo. George Bernage has collected actual first hand notes from various people who were actually involved as well as his own version of events.

From a factual point of view this book has lots of information, including a lot of maps and a lot of details of units involved in each engagement. So if you want to find out factual information regarding this period then this is a source. Trouble is i found things very difficult to follow throughout the whole book. The text does not flow and the story is often lost as there is no linked narrative that takes the reader easily through the story. I often found myself lost in facts and lists and had no clue where we were. Even when first hand accounts are directly quoted i sometimes found it difficult to place them in context of the overall story. Adding to the confusion are the maps which quite often are very difficult to interpret. Maybe i am being harsh but i found this book very tricky to read and follow exactly what was going  on. As a bunch of individual tales and events from around St Lo it is a informative book. As a story with a beginning, middle and an end, and a feeling at the end of satisfaction that your story is complete, this book fails.

As a bunch of information, historical facts, unit details, first hand accounts of events that happened at that time, plus maps of all the areas involved for reference, this book succeeds. Its a bit like someone making a scrap book with all sorts of relevant information and not really linking them all up together. The abundant photographs are fantastic and well worth having a look at. I think if i want to recreate any engagements from this part of the war on my battlefield this book will come in very useful. But from an enjoyable and exciting reading perspective it misses the mark.

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“Small-Scale Armour Modelling” by Alex Clark Osprey Publishing

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Another great little purchase i found at Book Depository for a crazy price delivered to my door step! Books in Australia are little on the pricey side so i am amazed at the low cost of on line books that are shipped for free to the Southern hemisphere. I think most of the time i enjoy the building, modelling and painting parts of our hobby more than any of the playing. But then i guess some of the time my opinion changes. This book definitely inspires me in the building and modelling section, and will do the same for you too.

Alex Clark is a very talented and skillful model maker and he does his best in the book to pass some of his knowledge onto the rest of us to help us improve and learn in our own missions, whatever they may be. The first thing that caught my eye is the awesome number of brilliant models illustrated throughout the book. There are also many excellent photos detailing all the tips and tricks that Alex writes about. Aimed totally at modellers in 1/72 or 20mm scale this was perfect for me. Everything is covered from building, converting, and detailing all the way through to painting, weathering, finishing and basing. So whether you are making models for wargaming, display or just for fun there will be something in here for you. Definitely inspiring stuff and a volume that you will go back to again and again. Some of Alex’s finished models are so good you will be surprised they are not bigger than 1/72 scale. I would highly recommend anyone with an interest in World War Two or later vehicles to pick a copy up!

 

 

Tanks Of The Second World War by Thomas Anderson

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Let’s face it we all love our tanks. I love building tanks, painting tanks, moving tanks around a wargames table, and also reading about tanks. From the imposing Tiger tank on the front cover i was immediately hooked and swiftly read this awesome volume from the top of its turret to the bottom of its tracks.

The first thing you notice are the abundant black and white photos of every kind of tracked armoured fighting vehicle. Every page has original images of vehicles in combat or lying wrecked on the battlefield. Accompanying the photos are specifications of each tank including armour, armament and speed. I figured these stats would be especially handy if i wanted to design my own wargames rules as they would supply all the relative information needed to come up with each tanks characteristics and abilities. All the photos are a great source of inspiration for anyone with an interest in tanks.

Mr Anderson begins with a brief history of tanks in World War One and the inter war years. He then goes through a chronological history of World War Two and how tanks developed in their design in each period. There is just enough text to accompany the photos to keep you engaged but not bore you with unnecessary information. The book is also grouped by theatre of war, as each had its own impact on the development and use of the tank. Some countries developed their tanks at different times and in different ways depending on how they were involved. Its all fascinating reading. He finishes by briefly touching on tank development after the war and onto the Cold War.

If you have an interest in tanks this book is for you. I would have like maybe some colour plates, plans or illustrations showing camouflage schemes or dimensions, but that would be my only criticism. Lots of great pictures, precise technical info and well written concise historical text. This is a must for anyone with a healthy appetite for a wider understanding of how the tank developed through the Second World War.

 

Notes Of A Russian Sniper by Vassili Zaistev

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Another fine book from Pen and Sword Publishing in the UK. I think they made a movie out of this a few years ago. Its the true story of Vassili Zaistev and his role as the greatest Russian sniper in the battle for Stalingrad. From humble beginnings in the Urals hunting animals he becomes the most famous sniper accounting for a reported 242 German scalps.

It is a great, first hand account of the house to house, factory to factory, close quarters fighting of Stalingrad and the role of the sniper in that fierce and bloody conflict. Vassili goes into detail about sniper tactics and how he learned his art through the rubble and twisted metal of a devastated city. If you are modelling or gaming any part of the Stalingrad period this would be a good book for you for inspiration and information. You get a very real impression of how the fighting occurred and what sort of engagements were fought. Snipers had a crucial role in the city and could swing a battle in their favour.

I think i will have to search out the movie now and watch it again after reading this. Overall an excellent read and one you can certainly whizz through in a few days.

German Assault Guns and Tank Destroyers 1940-1945 by Anthony Tucker-Jones

Another excellent book from Anthony Tucker-Jones, published by Pen And Sword books. For fans of German World War Two armour and all you modellers out there looking for some inspiration this book doesn’t disappoint. All the important tank destroyers are featured within its pages, including the Jagdpanzer, Hetzer and Marder, all copiously illustrated with some awesome photos.

Each vehicle has its own chapter with some history behind its design and creation, its combat performance, production numbers, and distribution. Some tank destroyers were born out of necessity with designs that were a product of what was available at the time with restricted resources, rather than anything else. Plenty of success and failure both.

The photos are excellent, with pictures including vehicles in combat and also plenty of destroyed and wrecked vehicles in situ. This is a great reference book for anyone with an interest in the lesser known German armoured vehicles of World War Two. I am immediately going to run out and grab a couple of Hetzers to start with. I think Unimodel make a 1/72 scale kit i need to find!!!

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“Painting Wargaming Figures” by Javier Gomez

I had read a few very favourable reviews of this book and had to grab a copy for myself. I am old school, well actually i am just old, so by definition old school i guess, so i like having books to read rather than just whizzing through pages on the internet. Its the same with music, i still buy CDs and really don’t like downloading stuff. It’s a hangover from owning vinyl records as a child. So much more fun to have the covers and the sleeves and the words. Anyway this book turns up on my doorstep and it certainly did not disappoint.

Mr Gomez details every aspect of miniature painting in a very clear and concise manner. He covers every technique you could require, all backed up by many examples, and step by step guides. All the text is accompanied by some excellent photographs of his hand painted figures. If you want to improve your painting skills and get inspired then this is an essential book to add to your library. What i liked was the comprehensive coverage of pretty much any colour, texture or figure. If you need some tips or advice its all right here. Aimed mainly at 28mm figure painting and the earlier historical periods such as Ancients and Napoleonic, it still easily translates into other scales and periods. Even though i am heavily entrenched in WW2 20mm gaming i still found the whole book a very useful and worthwhile purchase.

You should charge out like the light brigade and grab yourself a copy!

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“The Dawn Of D-Day, These Men Were There, 6th June 1944”, by David Howarth

Another treat for me arrived in the post from my friends at Pen And Sword Books, a history of the D-Day landings written by David Howarth. First published in 1959, this gives first hand accounts of all aspects of the Normandy invasion from start to finish. Beginning with the training in England, we read many different tales from all ranks of men, all with different stories of bravery and sacrifice. Rather than a very dry, factual account of events from the most important day of World War Two, every man’s and woman’s story is a personal one. Mr Howarth goes into great detail and effort to give each individual a history and a personality, from the British, Canadian and American soldiers, to the German defenders and the French civilians caught in the middle of it all. This makes it a very personal account of the landings, and one anyone with an interest in this huge moment in history should read. We read about paratroopers landing into flooded swamps in the wrong place, British specialized tanks sinking into mud and becoming accidental bridges, and all sorts of other amazing stories of bravery. The first hand accounts cover all the lead up to the invasion, all the different units that had special jobs particular to such a beach landing, and every parachute drop behind enemy lines. There is a at least one account for every beach landing at Omaha, Utah, Sword, Gold and Juno. If you have seen The Longest Day or Saving Private Ryan, no doubt the two greatest movies depicting the D-Day landings, you will soon make connections between the stories in this book and how events were illustrated in those two awesome films.

For any wargamers out there this book will also provide much inspiration for planning any scenarios based on any aspect of the D-Day landings. Definitely worth a read on many levels!!

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“Making Rural Buildings for Model Railways” by David Wright

Sometimes i think that i enjoy making stuff far more than i actually enjoy playing games. A big attraction of this hobby for me is the never ending list of things to build and building techniques to learn. The list is endless and the challenge to improve my creations will never be satisfied, as there is always someone, somewhere who shows you something inspirational to aspire to! In the quest to improve my scenery and terrain, i found this book on an excellent web site called Book Depository and swiftly bought a copy. Published by Crowood Press i picked it up for under $30 delivered to my Australian doorstep.

What a great book. If you are interested in scratch building your own rural buildings then you should run out and get yourself a copy of this. David goes through every step of researching, planning, drawing and constructing various different types of rural building. Even though this is aimed at Railway People its application to wargamers is one hundred per cent relevant. Packed full of tips, tricks, reference material and step by step guides, it gives you all the tools to build your own very realistic scale models.

I had picked up various ideas and techniques from the internet, but this book puts it all together in one place and adds plenty of new ideas. Using foam board, modelling clay, cardboard and PVA glue is all you need to make some awesome looking terrain for your table. This is going to inspire me to rebuild my Normandy village from scratch, starting with a farm complex. I guess i am lucky to have the time to build my own, but ultimately its far more rewarding to see your own creations on the table in front of you.

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“Combat HQ World War Two Wargames Rules” by Jim Bambra

I was very excited to start playing with this new set of rules i found by Jim Bambra. After using Battlegroup Overlord for a while, i felt ready for a change, and to try something i hoped would be a bit more original and exciting.

The game revolves around six sided dice rolls, and sticks to this formula throughout the games processes. For a start this keeps things really simple and fast moving. For every action, reaction and result you throw a few dice and the game moves on. However, what i found most original and extremely playable was the way in which command and control of your units is handled. Traditionally a game would take the form of alternate moves ie each player would move and fire all his available units, then the other player would follow suit. You would probably get some kind of ambush fire order thrown in so moves could be interrupted. In Combat HQ each player rolls a number of command dice, determined by the size and type of force you are commanding, which are then formed into Dice Chains. So a chain can be made up of multiples of the same number, or if you throw 6’s they can be added to existing dice to make bigger chains or used as wild dice to affect orders in different ways. If you throw any 1’s in your command dice these may result in a command failure and end up being donated to your opponent who then can use them to expand his dice chains.

The significance of the dice chains is that players alternate orders or Command Pulses, each using a dice chain to move, rally, attack, disengage or other action, until each player has used up all their dice. The longer the dice chain the more you can do. So if you have a dice chain of say two dice you can make a double move, or you could rally units and then move, or any other combination of orders. So dice chains can be very powerful.

You form up to four units into Command groups and then activate them using a dice chain. So there is great flexibility for each commander to plan and execute his strategy while still affected by some good, or bad, luck. I feel the rules make game play very balanced between good strategy and good luck, rather than being random and annoying. If you roll a command failure and donate some dice to your opponent this can really tip the battle in their favour quickly.

Another excellent, and very simple idea that Jim has come up with, is that every unit may use opportunity fire during a turn. If an enemy unit fires or moves within your Line Of Sight then your unit may interrupt the move and fire, or fire simultaneously, if they have not already fired this turn. This negates the need for “overwatch” or “ambush” orders and is far more realistic i think. If you see the enemy then shoot.

Combat was quick and sometimes brutal, with tanks rolling attack dice against reaction dice, and results being suppression, dispersion and ultimately destruction. Each unit has different stats which are complex enough without being cumbersome. Again Jim reaches an excellent balance between realism, playability and fun!

In my battle from Charles Grant’s book, which i wrote about in my last blog, my British forces made very light work of a German tank group. Only losing a brave little Humber scout car the Brits managed to knock out a Puma, two Panzer 4’s, while leaving a third retreating and wounded. The Germans failed their morale before they could even fire up their troop of Panthers! If you are looking for a new set of rules you should check these out. Below are a few snaps of the game showing mainly burning wrecks.

Charles Grant’s “Battle – Practical Wargaming”

While Gavin Lyall’s “Operation Warboard” was my number one, go to rule book, back in the eighties, “Battle – Practical Wargaming”, by Charles Grant, was my silver medal, or my second most read volume. Actually both books were my big brothers, and i just used to borrow them and read them over and over again. I decided to reenact one of Charles Grant’s scenarios from the book. Its a very simple joust between some Panzer IVs and some T34s. I changed it a bit and had a couple of troops of Panthers and Panzer IVs take on a troop of Shermans and a troop of Cromwells.

I based my terrain on the map in the book which you can see below. It gave me a chance to try out my new folding tables i picked up on Gumtree. I also repainted all my river sections with a paint thickening medium to create a wavy texture, then gave them a coat of greeny brown acrylic paint, plus a top coat of gloss varnish. I was really happy with how the end result came out, far more realistic than my previous bright green and blue artificial looking waterways.

Funnily enough my big brother is lining up as the opposition in this little fight. Only 30 years on since i borrowed his book in the first place……… Will post some action shots when battle commences.