Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Arab-Israeli Wars Scenario Sources

I've recently been looking for good sources of scenarios for the Arab-Israeli Wars (AIW). Mainly the 1967 and 1973 conflicts, but I'm also interested in 1956 and 1982 ... so nearly all of them really!

I'm quite happy to read some history books for scenario inspiration, and try to convert it into a scenario. But I don't feel the need to "re-invent the wheel" if someone else has already written some perfectly good wargame scenarios.

As part of my search I've dug out some of the books and board-games I've collected over the years. And I've discovered that there really are some good ones already out there for AIW scenarios. In particular, now that I use hex-terrain for my gaming, I've found that board games translate very easily to the table-top, provided that the board-game's units are also at the 'level' of your chosen table-top gaming rules. For me, that's rules that use platoons as the counters in the board game.

In no particular order, here's some of the scenario resources I've found:

 Avalon Hill's The Arab-Israeli Wars. As the title probably suggests, this board-game is a gold mine for AIW scenarios! It has 24 scenarios, with most of them being for the '67 and '73 wars.

The scenarios are quite varied in size, ranging from quite small (several companies per side), up to really quite large (with ~ Brigade sized forces on one or both sides). They are also quite varied in the types of actions, with some 'armour-heavy', some combined-arms, and some purely infantry affairs. The scenarios work their way up from basic to advanced, to align with the board-game rules introduced. But this basically means they work up from less troops and troop types, up to those with more troops and variety.

The scenarios all look very good and I look forward to playing some soon. With 24 scenarios to play, this resource alone could keep me gaming for quite some time!

Clash of Arms Games' From Golan to Sinai. This is another great resource, but this one is actually written specifically for miniatures games. Specifically, it was written for the Clash of Armour rules, but the  blurb on the back cover makes it clear that the scenarios can easily be used with any 'tactical' rules systems. For example, I see no reason why they won't work extremely well with Fistful of TOWs and am sure they'd also work with Modern Spearhead. I know they work with another system, as I have actually already posted a battle report for the "Quneitra 1973" scenario, played at our club a few years back, using the Cold War Commander rules.

This scenario book is one of my favourite AIW resources. It has six scenarios spanning three wars (one for 1956, one for 1967, and four for 1973). All include the TOE for the forces involved, as well as maps and special rules.



Game Designers Workshop's (GDW's) The Sands of War module for their First Battle series of board-games is another great resource. In fact, it is a complete games system that can easily be used for miniatures battles, especially with hex-terrain. It uses platoon counters (stands for miniatures) and a hex scale of 250m per hex (using a 10cm/4" hex grid as I use, this converts to 1:2500 scale on the table-top - very reasonable).
For my purposes at the moment, however, I'm just interested in the scenarios. This is where this game is quite interesting, since it aims to cover "Tactical Combat in the Middle East: 1941-1991". It does indeed have several (6) World War Two scenarios, and also has a good number of AIW scenarios for all the conflicts: 1948 Independence War (3), 1956 Sinai Crisis (2), 1967 Six Day War (3), 1973 Yom Kippur War (2), and 1982 Lebanon (3). Additionally it has some very interesting scenarios for the Iran-Iraq war (8), and the 1991 Gulf War (5).
There is also a Sands of War Expansion Kit as a separate module, which includes more scenarios: WW2 (3), 1967 (1), and 1991 Gulf War (4).   
One of the interesting aspects included in the rules is a campaign system. This is very simple, but looks to be eminently playable. The rules are two pages long, covering campaign movement, setting up table-top battles, replacing losses, etc. The campaign map is also a simple double-page stylised map. This is another thing I'm keen to try out.
The Battlezones scenario book for the Challenger II rules system has some AIW scenarios; for the 1967 (2), 1973 (2) and 1982 (1) wars. Several of these are on the smaller side of things for platoon-to-a-base game systems (like FFT and particularly MSH). The smallest scenarios involve several companies per side, but the largest involve Brigade (on the Arab side) against Battalion (-ish, on the Israeli side) sized actions.
I look forward to reporting back on how some of the AIW scenarios from these various sources go on the table-top. They should be interesting, with different terrain, interesting forces involved and very significant conventional battles.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Painting 3mm miniatures


I thought it was time to put a bit of a hobby tutorial up on the blog. The topic is my method for painting 3mm miniatures.

My painting method for 3mm miniatures is pretty simple and quick (I think). The miniatures are detailed enough that they will benefit from as much effort as you're prepared to put into them. However I find this method gives more than adequate results for gaming standard miniatures:

Step 1:
Mount the minis on a stick. Spray paint the miniature in an appropriate base-coat colour. I usually go with a Brown for infantry and a suitable colour for vehicles (olive-drab/green/tan/etc.).
Step 2:
Paint on an appropriate base-coat colour.

Step 3:
Add camouflage colours if required. In this case, it is a few stripes of 'yellow ochre' and 'black-grey' for the Chinese.

Step 4:
Dry-brush with a lighter colour than the base-coat colour. For most armies, I usually just use Vallejo 'Ochre Yellow' or 'Desert Tan'. But for others where this would not be suitable because of the base-coat colour, use something else.

Step 5:
Brush on Army Painter Quick Shade. I generally use the 'Strong Tone'.  I love this stuff, since it provides both the required shading for the miniatures, and also a sturdy coat of varnish.  I find that this varnish is important for the durability of my miniatures in play and storage. I tend to stack my stands on top of each other, or store units in little containers together, so the varnish helps them to retain their paint.

Step 6:
Dry-brush again (very lightly), with an appropriate lighter shade.  For camouflage schemes each colour needs highlighting.

Step 7:
Pick out the details with a small brush.  The aim with 3mm miniatures is the mass effect from distance - don't bother with details that won't be seen on the table unless viewed under a magnifying glass. For infantry, I paint the rifles and faces/hands. Packs, webbing etc will generally have been picked out by the dry-brushing, so there is little to be gained in painting them individually. Most importantly I find at this scale for easy recognition and effect is to paint the helmet a distinguishable colour  (based on nationality), and then dab a second smaller and lighter highlight right on top of the helmet. For vehicles, pick out MGs / Cannon etc. For vehicles and aircraft you can add decals at this stage if you use them.

Step 8:
Spray with Matt Varnish.  This is essential, as the Army Painter Quick Shade leaves the miniatures quite shiny!

Step 9:
Now to basing! Prepare the bases. I use 3mm thick MDF laser-cut bases.

I used to paint them brown before flocking. But then I realised I could skip this step. Now, I just coat in PVA glue...

Then flock with Woodland Scenics 'Earth Blend' fine turf flock.
Then I dab on some more PVA glue in random patches and add a grass blend that I have made myself.

This is my home-brew grass blend - it's mainly Woodland Scenics 'Grass Blend' fine turf flock, but I also add a little static grass, and some Woodland Scenics 'coarse turf' and 'bushes' to provide a bit of additional texture.

Step 10:
Glue the miniatures to the base (I use PVA glue).  Add clump foliage, static grass tufts etc if you wish. I think these details really finish the miniatures off.

The steps above allow you to quickly turn out miniatures that look good on the table and are completely playable. But to make them stand out a bit more, you can go back later at your leisure and add additional highlighting and detail.

Remember throughout that small scale miniatures benefit from using much lighter and brighter colours than real-world colours. This assists them to stand out from a distance and in lower light (many gaming venues seem to lack sufficient natural light...). So if in doubt, always err on the side of lighter colours.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Nomonhan, 2013

I was recently having another look at Bob McKenzie's blog; at the rules, Data, and Scenarios he has written for his Modern version of Command Decision: Test of Battle. A couple of his scenarios intrigued me, featuring Russians, Chinese and Indians, which is something different from the usual Cold War European fare popular amongst modern gamers. I decided I wanted to give some of the scenarios a try.

The first one would be Nomonhan, set in 2013 and pitting Russians vs Chinese in Mongolia! (I'm assuming when the scenario was written that 2013 was safely in the future, but now it constitutes alternate history...). I made some minor 'tweaks' to convert the scenario ORBATs from CD:TOB to Fistful of TOWs, and also worked out some data sheets for a few of the Chinese troop types that (surprisingly) aren't covered under FFT. This mainly involved doing some research for Chinese Infantry platoons and their weapons (eg. PF-98 Recoilless MAW), plus Type-96A MBTs.

The original scenario for Modern CD:TOB is here:

The tweaked Scenario is here: Nomonhan 2013 FFT Scenario

The scenario Data Sheet is here: Nomonhan 2013_FFT Data Sheet

This battle would be the opportunity to debut my Chinese forces. I have been collecting these over the past 6+ months, ever since Oddzial Osmy (O8) started releasing their Modern Chinese. There are now enough different models in the O8 range that a full force can reasonably be fielded, including different options for tanks, APCs etc. On top of this, the quality of O8's sculpts is always improving and as the Chinese are some of the newest models, I think they are some of their best models yet! Other new models appearing in this battle on the Russian side were the new T-90As, and again these are superb.

On to the game itself:
This is the original scenario map from Bob Mackenzie's site...
...and oriented to my table...

...this is my interpretation of the terrain, using my Hexon terrain. The original map's ridgelines confused the heck out of me and it was difficult to replicate the ridgelines exactly, but I think I captured the main elements...

...the new map with the deployment zones marked.

John opted to play the Chinese attackers, which meant I would be the defending Russians. The starting forces were deployed as per the scenario instructions. The Russian VDV battalion and attachments were all dug-in, prepared to defend the bridgehead (featuring my newly minted entrenched infantry markers!).

The initial Russian deployment:
Infantry Battalion E of the river (top of picture), and the SAM Battalion (-) to the W of the river.
The Russian SAM company (SA-8s) was deployed to the S of the Bridge, protecting the site from air attack from beneath their multi-spectral camouflage nets.

SA-8 SAM battery defending the river crossing...
Since the terrain was devoid of vegetation the defenders tried, wherever possible, to use the cover of the hills and ridgelines. I didn’t fancy exposing my troops too much to the fire of the quickly advancing Chinese tank battalions, so I deployed my infantry mainly in reverse-slope positions. They would rely on their short range LAWs and MAWs to destroy tanks forced into close combat with entrenched infantry when cresting hills. For this, I relied on the steely resolve of the Russian airborne forces, with their “Average” quality rating out-classing the “Fair” rated Chinese armoured forces. My longer range AT weapons were sited with the aim of providing long fields of fire into the flanks of where I suspected Chinese tanks might advance. The vast majority of ATGWs of both sides were otherwise pretty ineffective against the enhanced frontal aspects of modern MBTs (the exception being the dangerous Russian AT-14s), limiting them to sniping at APCs only (if allowed).

Dug in Russians on the N flank; a platoon of 9P149 Shturm-S (AT-6C on MTLB) is just south of the infantry.

The whole Russian Position: on right of screen is another Infantry Company and an ASU-85 platoon to their S. The third Infantry Company is near the river on the left of picture.

dug in Infantry

close up of ASU-85s

a battery of 2S9 SP 120mm Mortars was also attached to the battalion

The Chinese tank battalions advanced rapidly, the 1st Battalion (Type-99s) from the NW, and the 4th Battalion (Type-96As) from the NE. In fact the Type-99s really spun up their turbines and could move very quickly indeed!
Type-99 Battalion advanced from the NE

Type-99 MBTs, closely followed by ZBD-04 IFVs

Type-96A Battalion (with accompanying infantry company in ZBD-04s) advance from the SE

Type-96A MBTs
In the first few turns, the entrenched Russians waited for the inevitable, trying to hold on long enough against the Chinese tanks for their own reinforcing tank battalions to arrive. Their forward elements spotted for the indirect fire of the VDV battalion’s battery of 2S9 120mm Mortars. These were quite effective in pinning the attacking Chinese Tanks, reducing the effectiveness of their fire.

The Type 99 battalion advanced quickest in the N. Their target was the northern-most company of Russian infantry, dug-in in the Rough terrain along the river. As they approached the Chinese MBTs suppressed the entrenched Russian infantry, and destroyed a platoon of 9P149 Shturm-S (AT-6C on MTLB). In the process, they were sniped from long range by AT-14 teams from the flanks, losing several Platoons of Type-99s.
Type-99 battalion advances...

9P149 and AT14 ATGMs (bottom centre) snipe the flanks of the Type-99 MBTs in the distance (top of picture), killing two platoons. Smoke covers the Chinese advance...

Type-99s in flames...

return-fire destroys the 9P149 Platoon

The 2S9 battery pins part of the Type-99 battalion with indirect fire...

The accompanying Infantry then dismounted their ZBD-04s and assaulted the Russian infantry company’s attached AT-14 squad. This was easily destroyed and the next turn the Chinese infantry, supported by their IFVs and a Type-99 platoon assaulted into the forward-most Russian platoon. This proved a costly assault. Over several rounds of close combat, the better quality and entrenched Russian infantry destroyed all three Chinese infantry platoons and two of the three ZBD-04s with small-arms, LAW and MAW fire. The Type-99 Battalion’s accompanying infantry company was therefore wiped out, and they also suffered a couple more MBT platoon losses from long-range AT-14 fire. By turn 4, the Type-99 battalion had dropped to the level requiring a ‘unit losses quality check’, which they heroically passed and elected to fight on! 

The Chinese assault goes in - dismounted infantry lead, supported by IFVs and MBTs and roll over the AT-14 squad out in front of the defending Infantry...

The second 9P149 Platoon is destroyed by Type-99 MBTs...

The Chinese push on to assault the forward Russian infantry platoon. The defending Infantry were first pinned by artillery, but still manage to destroy an assaulting Chinese infantry platoon and IFV platoon, as well as pinning others in the first round of combat...  

The second combat round saw the remainder of the Chinese Infantry killed by the defenders, along with a Type-99 platoon...

The defending Russian platoon was also destroyed...
During all of this at some stage, the Chinese battalion’s attached SP Gun battery also rolled a SNAFU result after some ineffectual indirect fire, and got hit by counter-battery fire and wiped out.

Artillery destroyed by counter-battery fire...

Meanwhile, in the east, the Type-96A battalion had initially advanced more slowly. Due to lack of spotted targets, its attached SP Gun battery concentrated on laying covering smoke, to avoid AT-14 fire like the other battalion had suffered. On turn 3, the Type-96As advanced and with a volley of fire destroyed the dug-in ASU-85 platoon that had been positioned on the Russian’s far E flank (it didn’t even get to fire in the game!).

The Type-96 battalion advances in the S, again covered by smoke...
The Type-96A battalion then sent its attached infantry in ZBD-04s to close assault the forward-most platoon of the Russian infantry company on their right flank (E), plus its attached AT-14 squad. The Chinese Infantry company easily rolled through the Russian platoon, then re-mounted and fell in behind the battalion’s MBTs, which had continued to advance and were now systematically destroying more Russian infantry platoons with their main guns.

The Type-96A battalion advances towards the southern Russian Company, after destroying the ASU-85 platoon...


Russian Infantry just before their position is vaporised by Type-96A main gun fire...

The Chinese infantry dismount and sweep over the position, destroying the troublesome AT-14 squad...

The Infantry assault, with ZBD-04s following...

Type-96As continue the advance towards their next victims (left)!...

Amazingly again, this battalion’s attached SP Artillery battery was also destroyed by counter battery fire! (We thought it was amazing anyway, since we hadn’t previously had counter battery destruction of ANY artillery previously, so two batteries in one game was unique…)

Russian counter-battery fire takes its toll!...
Turn 4 saw the reinforcing Chinese 2nd Battalion of the 184th Special Operations Brigade arrive by helicopter. Fearing the AA coverage of the SAMs positioned near the Bridge, the Chinese air-assault troops were landed on the NW edge of the table, in dead-ground, and started advancing on foot towards their objective.
The recon company of the Russian 185th Tank Regiment arrived in their BMP-2s on the road entering the battlefield from the west. These rapidly moved to take up observation positions on the high ridgeline SW of the bridge, in order to call in artillery on the advancing Chinese air-mobile battalion.
Chinese air-mobile infantry land on the NW table edge (left of picture). The Russian Tank Regiment's recon company arrives also (bottom of picture).

By the end of turn 4, the Chinese Type-99 battalion in the east had been halted and had largely become combat-ineffective as it couldn’t afford additional losses (with only three MBT and one IFV platoon left). The Russians had blunted the attack from this direction.
The Chinese Type-96A battalion in the south had destroyed the Russian right flank Infantry company, causing a ‘unit losses quality check’ on the Russian Infantry Battalion. The Russians failed this test, with the Infantry abandoning their positions and dispersing into the countryside.

With the destruction of the Russian infantry battalion, the Chinese attack from this direction had succeeded and they advanced to take up positions on the high ground to the NE of the bridge.

Type-96As take up overwatch, covering the bridge...

Chinese Infantry re-mount their ZBD-04s and follow the Type-96As...

The Chinese SAM Battalion (with Jamming Truck and Smoke Generator Trucks) advance...

The Chinese reinforcements landed by helicopter were now making slow and steady progress from the NW. The Russians desperately needed their armoured reinforcements to arrive!
On turn 5, both the Russians and Chinese Regimental supporting artillery arrived –152mm SP Guns for the Chinese (with HE and ICM), and 122mm SP Guns for the Russians (with HE only). Both, however, failed their availability rolls in their first eligible turn.
The 3rd Tank Battalion of the 185th Regiment (T-80Us) arrived from the W, followed on turn 6 by the 1st Battalion (T-90As). The T-80U battalion moved rapidly to the SE, to engage the Type-96A battalion. The two tank battalions traded fire, with the halted and hull-down Chinese tanks (supported by a 152mm Artillery ICM mission) getting the better of the exchange and destroying several T-80U platoons.

T-80U battalion pushes forward and takes some casualties...

...and some more...
...but return fire accounts for several Type-96As...

T80Us pass an SA-8 battery...

The T-80Us continue their advance...

The bridge is still secure on this flank for the Russians...
The Chinese Infantry Battalion and the Russian Tank Regiment’s Recon elements both faced off across the ridgeline separating them. The ensuing fire-fight resulted in the destruction of the Russians’ BMP-2s by MAWs.

Russian recon elements on the ridgeline - a BMP-2 platoon goes up in flames...
...then the other...
The T-90A battalion moved E, to take up a position where it could defend the bridgehead against the Chinese Infantry Battalion. Faced with the threat of tanks and artillery whilst exposed in the open, the Chinese Infantry (wisely) opted to spread out, halt in place and dig hasty entrenchments.

Russian Infantry in BMP-2s accompany the T-90s...
T-90A battalion advances towards the Chinese Infantry, forcing them to halt, disperse and dig-in...
Chinese infantry company digging in, W of the river. Bottom of picture is the attached HJ-73C ATGM (left) and PF-98 RCL (right) teams.
Having halted the Chinese infantry, the T-90s then moved forward to the river, to engage the remaining Type-99s of the Chinese 1st battalion. Again, the two tank battalions traded short-range fire, with the exchange resulting in several platoons each destroyed.

The remnants of the Chinese 1st Battalion push across the river (left of picture) onto the flank of the T-90A battalion...
Type-99s cross the river...

T-90As advance to neutralise the Chinese threat to the bridgehead...
...kill some Type-99s...

T-90As also take some losses...
The game was meant to go to eleven turns, however as it was late in the evening we wrapped up at the end of turn 8. The result had already been decided in scenario terms:
The Russians had 5 VPs - 1 each for the 3 surviving SAMs, and 1 each for the 2 surviving tank units (T-90 and T-80 battalions), all within 10” of the bridge.
The Chinese had 0 VPs – none of their surviving SAMs or Battalions were within 10” of the bridge. Additionally, the Chinese were unlikely to have been able to destroy the Russians around the bridge with their remaining forces.
Whilst a 5-0 VP scenario looks quite lop-sided to the Russians, it certainly didn’t feel that way. The open terrain made this scenario feel like a real old-fashioned tank slug-fest!!
The losses were pretty steep on both sides. It’s just that the Chinese are up against it trying to destroy better quality dug-in Russian infantry before their reinforcing tanks arrived. I have a feeling that if the scenario were re-played, the Chinese would be better served taking a couple of turns swinging one or other of their tank battalions to the opposite flank and concentrating their attack from one direction. As the Russian defender, I was hesitant to re-deploy my defenders out of prepared entrenchments, so a more concentrated Chinese attack from one direction would probably carve through the defences whilst suffering fewer losses.
Russian SAM radars proxy as Chinese Jamming (EW) trucks!
Lessons learned:

The majority of ATGMs are useless frontally against modern MBTs with ERA, Active Protection Systems and composite armour. They are only of any use from the flanks, or against APCs.
I had the right idea trying to hide my infantry from long range tank fire. But there were still too many opportunities for massed tanks to sit off at range and pick off exposed platoons. Open terrain requires very different tactics than close terrain, since MBTs can very easily just stand off from their objective and reduce the defenders with direct fire (even with low-quality crews).

My ATGM vehicles and teams were particularly vulnerable since I had deployed them forward to maximise their range. They may have been better off being deployed in depth to offer some protection, and look for flank shots as the enemy tanks and infantry assault through the forward infantry positions?

ASU-85s in particular are pretty useless against MBTs – their only real use is for trying to destroy infantry and IFVs/APCs.

Real-world tactics work well in FFT; defenders need dispersion, depth and mutually-supporting positions. Attackers need to approach from a concealed forming up point to reduce their vulnerability to defensive fire, attack from cover, and suppress the defenders.