Monday, 30 August 2010

Scots Wha Hae

Bit of luck this evening. Rummaging in the garage, I found a box of  wargame bits and pieces amongst which was a handful of unpainted Britannia Miniatures WW1 Highland Light Infantry in Glengarries.

Enough to convert a section of Britannia's Cold War BAOR squaddies into a fighting patrol of 1970's Jocks.

These Jocks could salt a platoon of squaddies wearing helmets and provide some distinctly Scottish character to the force. Perhaps as Regulars of the Argyll and Malt Highlanders or a private army raised and trained on the estates of Lt-Col and ex-Member of Parliament, Colin Campbell "Mad as a Badger" McMitch. Hero of Saracen Street and what has become known as the Battle of the Sarrie' Heid.



Back from a couple of weeks in southern Turkey repairing both health and spirit.

It's been a tough year, whilst the last couple of months has been bloody annoying to tell the truth, with hospital visits, work, union business and a string of family guests staying with us over consecutive weeks.

With my health restored to a degree where I can enjoy a normal life, I want to crack on now and make the most of what remains of this year. So where am I with Winter of '79?


Maff and I started this project from scratch with no 20mm resources at all. Thanks largely to Ebay I now have a basic rural terrain with enough buildings for several different table configurations. I still need to work on accumulating some accessories and building lean-to's and tin cow sheds to bring life to the table, so that's my main focus for September.

Inspired by the 28mm 1984 Cold War game put on at conventions by Trev and the guys of SSWG last year (see photo to the right), I've just started putting together a small(ish) housing estate. In my case using Dapol HO/OO plastic buildings.

The most time consuming part will be recreating gardens (front and back) but it will be well worth the effort to create additional cover and manoeuvring space. Take a look at this photo from Trev's blog for an idea of what I'm aiming to accomplish:

Well, sort of, my mind is in a state of flux about what to try and represent. I'm currently thinking more along the lines of an embattled housing estate that's under siege. See the photo below:

I envision a number of buildings in varying states of decay and distress. Some burnt out, some damaged, others fortified by their owners, squatters or local military/urban militia forces. This is one of the reasons why I chose the Dapol kits over more colourful pre-printed cardstock buildings.


The mainstay of my collection currently consists of Britannia Miniatures' 20mm Cold War BAOR & Stonewall Miniatures (ex-Hotspur) Operation Corporate and Urban Operations ranges. With no sign of my order from RH Models, I've decided to push on with my original plan for Britannia's Cold War minis to make up the bulk of the main force Regulars and Territorials for both sides. Whilst those lovely ex-Hotspur Falklands figures from Stonewall will provide shabby rebel forces, SAS, local militias, bandits etc. More about this in more detail over the coming week or two.
Urban guerrillas, terrorists, undercover operators etc come from Stonewall's Urban Operations and Platoon 20's Post War ranges. Maff has this sorted.

I'm keeping my eye on Elheim as the modern Indo-Pakistan War Indian figures have a very British appearance and can become rebels forces with just a paint-job. IND04 Indian officer in turban even provides a great character figure.

Vehicles & AFVs

Largely sorted thanks to both Airfix (& ex-JB Models) and B.W. Models. I need a few more civilian vehicles and Land Rovers. Plus some Spartan CRVTs from S&S Models.


Tempting as it is, even to have a hastily armed Cessna appropriated for the rebel air force, airpower would be devastating at the level of game I currently wanting to recreate. I have an Airfix Westland SA 330 Puma helicopter waiting to be made up as a nostalgia trip, but really want an Airfix Westland Scout or two for SAS incursions. I guess that whilst I play the 'long game' on Ebay for the Scout, l'll have to settle for the readily available Westland Gazelle.


Geezers: Shut IT for the urban stuff. Cold War: 1983 from Wessex Games, plus Force on Force and Ambush Alley from Ambush Alley Games  when it suits or the inkling takes us, for the 'hard' military based games.

Summing Up......

If I wasn't such a miniatures meglomaniac and if I hadn't thrown myself so fully into this project, I could have been up and running with fig painted and on the tabletop in under a month - all done for around £60-£80 including buildings. Hands up, I admit it guv, but that's just not me. I do enough of the rational, planned and thought out business stuff in the day job. Maff and I both agree that we've had tons of fun getting the ball rolling and coming up with the ideas so far, but a tipping point of sorts has been reached, certainly for me personally with my new bill of health.

As September is about to fall on us, I'm keen to put the 'wellie' down now and springboard forward to get some 'hard' military games on the table, even if the games are episodes played in advance of our current stream of unfolding alternative history events. Stay tuned, there's plenty of action to'll be a riot!


Thursday, 19 August 2010

Sir Marcus Dixby MBE today denied rumours that his daughter, Claire, the photogenic leader of Felpersham Students for Socialism, had been kidnapped. "No, no, no, no, no - she is studying hard at home" said the MD of British Pastoid Chemicals, "absolute tosh, I spoke with her just now and she is fine."
Rumours are rife at the College, still the subject of heavy police patrols and repair crews following the recent disturbances. A fellow student - identifying himself as "Stoat" said "Dixie hasnt been around at all, none of her mates have seen her and she has missed three FSS meetings this week. Ask the pigs man, its the violence inherent in the system."
Borchester CID had no comment, "we dont want to comment on this story at this time" said a spokesman.
Readers will remember British Pastoid Chemicals for more than the MD's remarkably pretty daughter; they were involved in financing the Bakonga Coup of 1968 and were linked to the mercenary activities of Major "Mad" Mike Bore. If Miss Dixby were to have been kidnapped perhaps the Police should look towards BPC's African dealings.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The Borough was left reeling today after a town wide police chase which lead to a number of arrests and a least one armed robber dead on the tarmac of Whittington Airfield.
At 11.30 this morning four or five people entered Ranter's Jewellers on Pond Street, according to eyewitness Joe Walker, "I was in Ranter's buying some stuff for the girls, know what I mean? When in strolls these geezers and this bird all armed to the teeth; one bloke fires his nostrils into the ceiling and another points this machine gun at Jerry Ranter and says "give us the diamonds". The bird (and I'd like to see her without her stocking mask, right?) she gives it some verbals about this being an appropriation for the worker's army. I keep shtum and out they trot with a good collection of old Jerry's finest uncuts; they all pile into cars and off they go."
Uniformed officers arrived too late at the scene but the alert had gone out and The Flying Squad were already haring into action. One getaway car was picked up on the Church Road junction and pursued all the way into Briggstown where they were intercepted and driven off the road. One robber ran off but another was arrested by DC "Bammo" Banham. A community spokesman for Briggstown later said "Dey hit dat guy hard and he didn get up easy, de cars were all over de place. One guy he does a runner but dat cop he's no sprinter heheh! Tell you one thing - we aint gonna take it if dey come down here with that policing."
Meanwhile, the second car was pursued to the Whittingham Airfield where they tried to elude the Police in the old hangars; the driving skills of DS Owens held good though and eyewitnesses report the getaway car being rammed, crashing to a halt and two detectives doubling back. Automatic fire was clearly heard in the Airfield Offices "Yes, there was a semi automatic weapon fired" says Reg Curran, Traffic Controller, "a .30 I think may be an M1 carbine. Then several shots from a heavy calibre pistol. I looked out and saw a bloke sprinting off but this ginger chap tore after him, rugby tackled him and then rabbit punched him."
A Police spokesman later said "One armed robber was shot dead by DCI Hacker, two more arrests were made and a number of weapons recovered". There are reports that a man and a woman were seen driving at speed along Mill Lane - just outside Briggstown - on a motorbike; speculation is rife that the diamonds and the ring leaders escaped.
Rob Saunders was arrested and charged with armed robbery, found guilty he was sentenced to 15 years; an appeal is underway on grounds of evidential irregularities
Johhny Ryan was shot by DCI Hacker whilst resisting arrest
Chris Barnes was sentenced to 15 years for armed robbery
Two .44 magnums, a Luger and an M1 carbine were recovered
None of the diamonds stolen from Ranters have been found
DCI Jim Hacker has made the following statement:
"What we are hearing is that these are not decent ordinary criminals, they are left wing loons who are ripping off hard working people. We are goung to bring them in. All of them."

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Cold War: 1983 ......A Tabletop Review

Cold War: 1983
Modern Skirmish Wargames Rules


by Matthew Hartley, Michael Baumann & Steve Blease

From: Wessex Games
Price £5

 24 pages, A5 booklet, including:
  • TO&Es for US Mech Infantry, BAOR Mech Infantry and Soviet Motor Rifle platoons circa 1983.
  • Stats for 20 different types of small arms
  • Stats for 18 vehicle mounted weapons
  • Stats for 33 vehicles from civilian sedans to pickups, jeeps and Challenger MBT.

Modern 1-to-1 skirmish rules primarily designed for section and platoon level combat during the Cold War.

8-40  individual miniatures and 1-3 vehicles/AFVs per side.

This is NOT an armour vs armour game. Vehicles and AFVs play a supporting role so the rules subsequently reflect this.

 None really, all move distances and ranges are in cm's.

The rules are notionally designed for 28mm figures but can easily be used for any miniature scale.

1-4 hours realtime depending on number of sections in play and complexity of scenario.

Normal 6 sided dice (the more the merrier)
A tape measure
Markers/dice for denoting current 'Bottle' rating, 'suppression' etc

All figures in the game start with a predetermined 'Bottle' rating which reflects the sum of their training, skill, experience and motivation.

Bottle can be set for a whole platoon or varied between sections/squads or even individual miniatures to reflect the differences between individual characters and give the game more depth.

The Bottle rating ebbs and flows throughout the game and can be adversely effected by combat results.

Skills are optional, but again be assigned to individual miniatures to create characters and provide a greater level of sophistication in your scenarios. 


The focus of Cold War: 1983 is on the motivations and training of the individual soldier and the 'friction' that occurs in combat. This is reflected in the 'Bottle' rating. The whole game is slick and plays fast once you understand Bottle and the Critical Success/Failure system. In fact it allows you to easily expand the game to suit yourself and any scenario you can come up with by creating your own ad hoc Critical Success/Failure table.

Basically, the degree of success or failure of any combat action is determined by a dice roll against a figure's Bottle rating. I've been playing this system for many years and love it. The other aspects of these rules I particularly like is how fire combat is classified as Single Shot, Controlled Burst, Burst, Machine-gun Burst etc each with their own Critical Success/Failure table; and how terrain is classified by 'Clutter' value.

No set of rules survives first contact untouched in this household. I've expanded the Leadership section and changed the movement from pre-defined distances, to a Crit Success/Failure system I originally used with Crossfire. The player nominates the figure/figures to move, then rolls against the Bottle of the individual or the lowest Bottle within a group of miniatures.  In brief:

  • Critical Success - they make it to destination unscaved.
  • Success - they make it only if they are not caught in the enemy's LOS. Enemy gets opportunity for reactive fire, before moving unit can complete the move.
  • Failure - they don't budge. Perhaps some rounds richoched off the brickwork above them before they moved.
  • Critical Failure - only move the score on the dice and move/initiative ceases (might leave them caught in the open)
The simplicity in design provides infinite possibility for innovation through tweaking the Critical Success/Failure tables or even adding your own to enhance the core game system to meet scenario needs or your own personal gaming requirements. 

To sum up, what you have with Cold War:1983 is a dynamic, fluid game with enough granularity to satisfy the modern enthusiast. The rules are easy to read, very much pick up and play. Recommended, especially for the casual Modern skirmish gamer.


Thursday, 12 August 2010

The 'People's bomb'

Was the military 'siege' of Heathrow Airport in January 1974 a rehearsal for a military coup? Why did Ferret scout cars follow a Workers Revolutionary Party demonstration through central London?

Does this point to an atomic bomb threat to London by Left-wing terrorists that could have precipitated the country into a Winter of '79 scenario? Duncan Campbell provokes a rethink of the 1974 Heathrow manoeuvres in Undercurrents, issue 9 .


Some Talk of Private Armies

What story lies behind The Winter of 79? Is the very idea of revolution or military coup in the UK during the  1970's even feasible?

“I came back from a cruise down the Rhine to discover to my horror that interest rates were 15 percent for one month certain, I discovered that the unions were striking again, the IRA were dropping bombs around. It was no longer a green and pleasant land, England. I thought the BBC would break down for one thing. I thought the trains would fail to run. London airport would not function anymore. The ports would be stagnant. There would be complete chaos in the land. You know the people who work in the City of London were not liking it and people who work as stockbrokers usually come from the best schools and a lot of them have titles and they weren’t liking it at all.

“I know the Queen—she wasn’t very happy with Mr. Harold Wilson—but there wasn’t much she could do about it at that time. And Lord Mountbatten rang up General Sir Walter Walker (NATO Commander of Northern Europe in 1969-72) one evening and said, ‘If you want any help from me will you let me know.’ Sir Walter Walker had prepared a sort of speech, which the Queen might read out on the BBC that asked the people to stand behind the armed forces as there was a breakdown of law and order and the government could not keep the unions in control.”
Major Alexander Greenwood (reitred)

The plan involved Greenwood and others setting up network of private armies including a private army (under Frank Kitson?) within the army in 1974-75. They would seize Heathrow airport, the BBC and Buckingham Palace. Lord Mountbatten would be the figurehead, acting as interim prime minister. The Queen would read a statement urging the public to support the armed forces, because the government was no longer able to keep order.

Fantastical? SAS founder David Stirling, concerned about the political power of trade unions in Britain, established GB75, which he described as "an organisation of apprehensive patriots" which would help the country in the event of severe strikes. Former intelligence officer Brian Crozier admitted lobbying of the army by men behind the scenes of power and that they "seriously considered the possibility of a military takeover".

Prime Minister Wilson was never informed of the troop manoeuvres at Heathrow, billed as a routine exercise then and now interpreted as a possible rehearsal for a coup.

Around that time the talk of private armies was masked in the press by a disinformation campaign including the much publicised release of Top Secret files from WW2 detailing Britains most secret army, Colonel Colin Gubbins and his Auxiliary Units. The Auxiliaries were a mostly civilian force raised, equipped and trained to operate as guerrillas against German forces if they had ever set foot on British soil in 1940.

For more detail, oustanding reportage and tons of inspiration read Wilson, M15 and the Rise of Thatcher: Covert Operations in British Politics 1974-78. Just click on the picture link in the right hand pane for the pdf.


Sunday, 8 August 2010

I predict a riot.

I will be heading back to work soon and as usual haven't done a half of what I wanted to. The only unit I have had a chance to work on is my riot police. They are ex Hotspur figures which are available now through Stonewall. Apart from the Irregular figs they are the only 20mm riot police on the market so will have to do. Although I keep thinking there is something about them I just don't like. Possibly its the firearms and the uniforms very unbritish. Sorry bases aren't done as I am still trying to work out the finish I want.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

In Need of Some Repair..... My OO Scale Property Portfolio

I finally managed to get the OO scale building I really wanted  for the rural aspects of this project. It's an out of production Derelict House from Hornby. It took a month of waiting and a couple of false starts but by playing the long game, picked it up on Ebay for under a tenner!

 Out of Production:  Hornby R8562 Derelict Cottage

What's so special about this model? Hidden in a wooded glen it's rebel headquarters or insurgent's hide. Sited alone on a windy hilltop it's a temporary post apocalypse refuge. With a couple of run down sheds and out houses it's an abandoned farm in no-man's land. Or, it's a restoration project for Sarah Beeney.

After some thought about the relative merits of download and print vs unpainted plastic, I started picking up Dapol OO scale building kits. These ex-Airfix models come as very basic but useful kits, quick to knock together and available at a very reasonable price.

 Dapol CO27 Detached House

This Detached House (CO27) can be purchased direct from Dapol for only £4.39 and you can sometimes see them on Ebay for around £2.00. Worth it just for the windows alone if you are planning on scratchbuilding your own buildings. The style of both the Dapol detached and semi-detached houses makes them jointly useful for both suburban and rural settings. Perhaps as a suburban cul-de-sac or a small modern estate on the edge of a traditional village.
I also bought two of the Dapol Petrol Station (CO32) quite cheaply (99p each). One is to use just as is, it's very similar to the main garage in the centre of my village. The second to convert into farm/cowsheds, replacing the plastic walls with a mix of Wills OO Limewashed (SSMP215) and Random Stone (SSMP228) embossed plasticard.

In a rural setting, this also makes a decent tractor and farm equipment sales showroom. We have several in and around our village.  Just add a shiny tractor or two for flavour.

I recommend looking out for the Dapol General Stores (CO19). In addition to being the typical sort of store you find in a suburban parade of shops, it makes for a decent Post Office or even a Pub with a little effort put into the detailing.


Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Matchbox Vs Oxford Diecast

I know Sapper Joe is a great believer in the Oxford 1/76th cars but I have never been convinced. They always just looked small to me. In my games I want barricades and road blocks of cars, I need something to hide behind. The big chunkier Matchbox cars seemed ideal. However it is getting harder and harder to get period Matchbox cars in good condition and at a reasonable price. So I have revisited the Oxford option (see my previous post). And am gradually coming round. There is a great variety of cars and the prices are reasonable if you can pick them up reduced. They still look a bit small though, no doubt due to my figs all being on Pennies. I am thinking of basing them on some of that Wills cobblestone plasticard. That should bring them up a bit.

Another Hobbycraft buy

I was in Hobbycraft the other day and spotted this pack of 5 trackside cars. Seems good value too for £9.99 and you get to paint them yourself. They come ready undercoated and are packaged with paints and a brush. Although the transit is definately staying white.