Having just finished some early WW2 Russian tanks, the next logical step was to get them into a wargame. That was the plan to start with! But then I realised I had some other tanks that had been hanging round for ever waiting for a game, so maybe I should use them.
Shown above is a British A13 Cruiser Mark IV tank of the British 1st Armoured Division in 1940. It’s a Cromwell Models resin tank in 1:76th (20mm) scale and I painted it sometime round about 1984! I’ve no doubt that when it comes to painting I’d shade, mucky and highlight it better now, but I can’t paint markings freehand anywhere near as well now (only the white number 5 is a transfer, the rest of the markings are freehand), although the mucky wash has obscured some of the markings!
Back then I painted half a dozen British tanks but never got the German opposition done, so the Brits have languished in a box until now! Earlier in the year I finally got some German tanks painted, and I bought a PSC A9 Cruiser tank (shown on the right of the row above) to act as a command tank for my Brits. The A9 is painted in my current style so it looks distinctly different, so I might varnish the three A13s to darken them slightly. Two of the A13s are Cruisers Mark III and one, with the extra, spaced turret armour, is a Mark IV. For scouting I dug out a Cromwell Models Mark VI B light tank (shown at the left of the row) which must have been varnished with gloss polyurethane varnish at some point under its matt coat, because it’s yellowed with age (much like meself)! The A13s carry tactical marks for different squadrons in the 9th Lancers (circle, square and triangle for squadrons, in yellow for the second regiment in a brigade) while the A9 carries a red diamond and tac number indicating a vehicle belonging to the HQ squadron of the Queen’s Bays (senior regiment in the same brigade – it’s confusing).
The opposition, shown above, was all painted this year. From left to right there are a Panzer I, two Panzer 38(t)s, a Panzer III, a Panzer IV and a Panzerjäger I – three light tanks, two medium tanks and a light tank destroyer. The Pz I acts as a recce vehicle, like the British Mk VI, but the German force does not have a tank acting as a command vehicle – this was deliberate, since command tanks have a specific function in my own quick play tank rules, but to balance this out the Germans got the extra vehicle in the form of the Pzjgr I.
The forces are probably reasonably balanced. The British cruisers carry the 2pdr gun, which I rate as better than the German 37mm gun, and the A13s are faster than the German tanks, but British armour is relatively light. However, the A9 and A13s have three-man turret crews, which lets their commanders concentrate on their own tasks and gives them higher initiative scores than tanks like the Pz 38(t) with its two-man turret. Despite its lack of turret, the Pzjgr I is probably the best German vehicle with its effective Czech 47mm gun.
I used rules based on my own WW2 rules but modified to function more as skirmish rules by using initiative scores to work out the order in which the various vehicles fight. Command tanks can fight or boost the initiative dice rolls at the start of the move, whereas recce tanks can boost the initiative values of two vehicles operating close to them. Tank commanders can choose to be “head out” to improve initiative, but this makes them more vulnerable and any tanks suffering a penetrating hit have their initiative temporarily reduced. I also added combat chance cards that can be drawn and used to either improve your own tanks performance or thwart your opponent’s plans!
The scenario was simple. British 1st Armoured Division was launching a desperate counter-attack against the Germans invading France in late May 1940. To win, the Brits (commanded by my mate John) had to get any two cruiser tanks off the opposite board edge from which they started (so they need to travel from left to right over the board shown above). The Germans (under my command) were initially laagered in the farm on the right of the picture, but with the Pz I and a 38(t) forming a security screen at the ruined farm shown bottom centre in the picture.
The Brits started out spread across their starting board edge, but quickly coalesced into two groups. Two of the A13s made the most of their speed and got into the village fairly quickly, backed up by the Mk VI scouting for them. The A9 and other A13 advanced to contact with the German screening force and started trading shots with the 38(t) next to the ruined farm.
In the meantime, the rest of the German tanks started to deploy, the Pz III on the road, the Pz IV on the German right flank and the Pzjgr I and other 38(t) in the centre.
Things started to go wrong for the Germans fairly quickly, the Pz III taking a hit from one of the A13s that knocked it out and started it burning. A firefight broke out across the front, with the Mark VI light tank and a 38(t) both getting hit and blown apart!
A lot of the shooting was lousy and the action got to close quarters very quickly as the Brits tried to keep up the momentum of their attack. The Pzjgr I was destroyed by one of the A13s at very close range, only for the A13 to blow apart after after a fairly minor hit from a 38(t). Then both 38(t)s got knocked out and the Pz I damaged, leaving only the Pz IV in action for the Germans until another 38(t) appeared as a reinforcement.
By this time, the two remaining A13s had got to the far edge of the board and were trading shots with the newly-arrived 38(t). Just when it looked like the two cruisers would get off the board and win the game, the 38(t) put a shot into one of them that killed the driver and destroyed the engine, the vehicle lurching to a sudden stop. The other A13 took its revenge moments later, hitting and knocking out the 38(t).
In the meantime, the A9 had been following and shooting up the Pz I, killing the commander and knocking out its weapons. As the Pz I scarpered up the high street, the A9 closed with the Pz IV and a vicious gun battle broke out. At that range the short 75mm gun on the Pz IV should have proved lethal and the A9 would have been blown apart if John hadn’t played the combat card (that he had just drawn) that cancelled out the effects of a hit (a 1 in 60 chance)! At that point we ran out of time, but the Brits were considered to have achieved their objective since the remaining undamaged A13 picked up the three crewmen from its immobilised sibling and charged off the table edge!
Considering we hadn’t used the rules in this form before, the game went quite well and moved along quickly. We adjusted when players declared that they were “commanding” or “scouting” and in the middle of the game John said it was quite difficult to decide whether the A9 should be commanding or joining in the firefight. I’m going to change some of the effects of penetrating hits to avoid too many instances of vehicles getting hit but no damage being caused, although the smaller guns in service in 1940 might be partially responsible for this (although, by the same token, armour protection is not heavy either).
All in all, it was a good game. I’ve made the change to setting up WW2 games as tank-only skirmishes to try and get more games played and more forces finished. I’m now aiming to work on tanks first and then catch up with infantry and supporting units later, since I find I can make more progress that way. Time to get some of those tank models out that have been stashed away for
decades a while and get on with them I think!
(NOTE – in case anyone’s noticed or wondered about the small light green blotches of paint on some of the horizontal surfaces of the British tanks, it represents gas-sensitive paint, intended to change colour and indicate when poison gas might be present in the air. It was usually painted on a surface close to a vision port so it could be seen when the tank was closed down and alert the crews to put on gas masks. I’d put money on the fact that at least one person has now scrolled back up to look at the pictures more closely!)