Sunday, 6 December 2015

New gang on the block

I have just finished painting up another pack of Pulp Figures - PHP 08 Safari Into Danger. I was quite happy with the way these came out, so I have created a new Pulp Alley gang, based on these five figures. So here they are:
The gang. Left to right: Reggie, Bertie, Milo (hiding), Jim, Jane.

The Leader: Bertie Brook-Smythe
An experienced veteran of many long dangerous expeditions, Bertie now leads his Safari wherever adventure may beckon. His special abilities are all derived from his hunting experience.
Hardboiled - his targets get a -1d dodge penalty
Nerves of Steel - he can discard a card to cancel a -1d penalty on him
Untouchable - he always counts as being in cover

His Sidekick: Reggie Cain
Reggie has traveled with Bertie for many years, and is a veteran and crack shot. Bertie trusts him implicitly, though in dealings with others his moral compass is not always fully accurate. Again, his abilities reflect his long experience hunting in the field.
Veteran - he ignore the multiple combat penalty for shooting combat
Deadeye - he is not limited to shooting the nearest enemy

Ally: Jane Brook-Smythe
Bertie's daughter, Jane has traveled with her father since her mother died when she was a young girl. She was also sent to boarding school and medical college, and now she serves as the medic for the gang, as well as being a key member during a fight.
Doc - she rolls her Cunning (needing one success) to allow her "target" to reroll their next Recovery check

Ally: Milo Milktoast
While he has tagged along with Bertie for many years, Milo's targets are not the mighty and dangerous beasts of the savannah and forest. Milo is a lepidopterist, and is about as dangerous as the butterflies he chases. His special ability reflects this - he may not be a fighter, but being ignored can be very useful at the right moment.
Harmless - can't be targeted or in LoS beyond 6" range. Cannot attack (brawl or shooting).

Follower: Jim Remmington
Jim is the guide, tracker and general all-rounder for Bertie's safari. While he can shoot well, Jim is particularly impressive in hand to hand combat.
Fierce - adds 1d to his Brawl stat.

The gang perk is Call to Arms, which gives them extra Backup resources, depending on a Might roll by Bertie at the start of each scenario.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Tenement Roof

Another building for my Pulp urban setting. This is a terraced tenement, laser-cut mdf from Warbases. Unlike the previous flat-roofed version, this one has a pitched roof, and at this scale the roof is very prominent when viewed from the table-side. So I decided to do a bit more than just painting it or adding a simple paper image, and I also bought some of Warbases' Tiling Sheets. These give you horizontal strips of times which you need to glue down, from bottom to top, to give a nice irregular overlapping effect. The first two pictures show the unpainted tiles after fixing. After that I painted it with various grey shades, base and highlights, then a couple of washes - Sepia and the Antelope Brown (which is actually a deep green). At this point I discovered a small problem. The tiles have narrow cracks between them, which certainly looks effective, but I could not get the paint to flow effectively into the small spaces - surface tension. This means that the pale cream original colour can just be seen through many of the cracks. Next time I will spray the tiles overall dark grey before I glue them down. It is not much of a problem, but I can improve it next time.
Once the roof was done, I added the chimneys - they came with the kit, though I had to make the chimney pots out of dowel. I then added various moss, loose leaves and vegetation from the Lifecolor range, and a base of plastic card with printed paper stone flags.

Saturday, 21 November 2015


I renewed a magazine sub (Wargames Illustrated I think) and got a £25 Warlords voucher as an incentive bonus. I wasn't sure how to use it - I don't do a lot of 28mm apart from Pulp and Old West, and in particular I don't much like WW2 in that large scale. The contrast between the scale and the real ranges of the weapons is too great, and that's especially true when you bring on tanks and other vehicles. At this scale tanks should be fighting across the length of a couple of tennis courts, not a six foot table. Also I am unconvinced by the "reinforced platoon" concept, which seems to me just an excuse to field that Tiger alongside thirty infantry.
Anyway, browsing through the Warlords site I happened upon the "Armadillo" improvised armoured car, basically a box on the back of a flatbed truck, with a few bits of armour bolted on. It comes with a couple of British figures and a machine gun to man the fighting compartment. Although it is in the late war section on the website, this looks to me more like an improvised vehicle from the early war era, perhaps pressed into service against a feared German invasion after Dunkirk. It struck me that this would make good transport for a Pulp league, perhaps adventuring in the Back of Beyond.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Ancient Arch

At Fiasco I picked up a model by Renedra, an old stone arch, a plastic model and just £5 as I recall. It went together neatly and painted up well, good detail to take various shades of grey. But the reason I bought it and the fun part was adding all sorts of moss and lichen with the Lifecolor sets. All good stuff, and I added a couple of hanging creepers with thread soaked in glue.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

I see you have fallen for my simple ruse

What would any Pulp adventure be without an ancient Oriental mastermind, or a philosopher to give our heroes obscure hints and warnings? I got this guy from eBay, he is Doctor Fang from Statuesque's Pulp Alley range, but for me he is going to be Confu Manchu. A nice model which painted up well.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Ramshackle Barn

One of my purchases from Fiasco last week, the Ramshackle Barn from Renedra, 28mm scale. The kit is fine, nothing dramatic, a basic barn with a lean-to shed beside it, and a few bits of clutter - ladders, pitchforks and an old cartwheel. I did the basic paint job with a variety of browns from Foundry, but the fun was adding the overgrowing vegetation. Most of this is from Lifecolor, using two of their sets - Lichens and Moss, which provides more substantial clumps of greenery, and Algae, which gives you finer layers. I also added some real bits of lichen, and other foliage clumps, to give the impression of nature taking back control.


Fiasco 2015

Slightly late, a report on my trip over to Leeds for Fiasco, a show held at the Royal Armoury in the centre of the city. This is a nice middle-sized show, good for a couple of hours or so browsing around the traders and looking at a few of the games being demonstrated. There didn't seem to be a strong common theme this year, so there was a good variety of games to choose from. In terms of traders the show seemed to be well attended - I did not have a particular aim in going around the stands, just looking for various bits and pieces as always. Leven were there with their lovely 6mm castings, and I bought one as usual, even though I am not actively gaming this scale right now. What I am doing is building up a 28mm city collection for Pulp and similar encounters, so I picked up an mdf Tenement building from Warbases, which will fill some space nicely. I also picked up a plastic Ramshackle Barn from Renedra - it won't quite fit into my city but I fancied covering it with weathering and plant growth, and it will serve in quite a few scenarios, Pulp and also Old West. Other than that a few paints and bits and pieces of scenery. A nice quiet day out.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Rumble in the Jungle

In a small jungle town somewhere south of Mexico and north of Brazil, the rumours going around were that Indy, the famous rugged archaeologist, was out in the wilderness and had discovered some important clues to ancient artefacts, but that he was trapped and alone, his local guides and bearers having deserted him. Attentive ears listened to this talk, and brought stealthy reports back, one to the best rooming house in the town (not saying much) and the other to a dark and obscure shack on the outskirts.
The terrain from the south
And so it was that not far away two groups converged on a spot in the jungle – Diana’s Team came from the south and the Hooded Villains from the north. In between them was a broken pillar, and on top they could see not Indy, but Sindy Jones, a much less rugged archaeologist. He was trapped on the column by a vicious hairy spider, half an inch across at least, and his screams for help rang through the trees. They could see now that his guides and porters had abandoned him in embarrassment, but he had discovered several important leads.
Apart from Sindy himself, the major plot point, four other clues were close by. To the south west a pile of crates and baggage, dropped by the porters, included notes on his finds so far. To the south east a graveyard contained a pillar with arcane carvings. In a grove of trees to the north east Raquel the wild woman could be found – she knew something important. And in swampy jungle to the north west a dog was sitting, wearing a collar that had once been a belt for a mummy.
Diana had used her Wealth to recruit a backup for the team – a level 1 Shooter. The random events gave the Master a Friendly Local, a level 1 brawler, while Diana was Well Prepared with an extra Fortune card at the start.
From the east
First to move was Bud, who set off towards the pile of luggage, but almost immediately he tripped over a hidden root, fell onto a rock and knocked himself out for the count. In game terms the Master played a Hidden Peril card, Bud failed the peril and then failed his health check, so as a Follower he was down and out.
In the thick jungle to the north west the brawler and Suit both moved forward towards the dog holding Plot Point 5. To do so they had to move through a stream – all the streams on the board were Perilous, those fish might be carp, or they might not. In both cases Diana played a card, but both characters passed the challenges. All the other characters in both leagues moved forward without much excitement, no more perils and the two groups were not yet in line of sight.
In the next turn the Blonde moved forward through the trees to try to use her Finesse to persuade the Wild Woman to join her. Passing a peril, and then the plot point challenge, she succeeded; the reward gave her an extra Finesse die. In the swamp the brawler tried to catch the dog, but was not cunning enough – however Suit, coming along after him, managed the task and took the plot point. His reward was the scenario extension card.
The Blonde meets the Wild Woman in the grove of trees
Yvette and the Backup shooter had both moved up the road and across the bridge. The red-cloaked Minions came around the west edge of the wood and opened fire on the shooter. He fired back and both sides got one hit, but the Minions saved and the shooter failed his health check, and he went down and out. Failing health and recovery checks would be a theme for Diana’s people today – perhaps they had not taken their vitamin pills. The Acolytes came out of the wood to the east and fired at Yvette, and the results were a repeat – one hit each, the hooded gang passed but Yvette failed her health check, so she too went down and out. Diana now crossed the river and searched the pile of crates – her cunning helped her find the notes that made up the plot point. Gulab also crossed the river, moving toward the shrieking Sindy on his refuge, and Wally moved through the perilous graveyard. He passed a challenge, before searching the pillar and finding the inscription that made up the plot point. The Master on his travelling chair and Braces both moved forward up the road, but things were looking quite balanced at this point.
Diana searches the baggage as Gulab moves towards Sindy on the pillar
Diana had the initiative, and Gulab moved forward to Sindy’s location, using his Cunning to help the petrified explorer down, and taking the major plot point. Diana moved forward and fired at the Master, but she took a wound and he did not. The villains were not going to let Sindy escape easily, and Braces rushed Gulab, but the Sikh was too fast and Braces went Down. The minions also rushed Gulab, but neither side could score a hit. The Master now fired at Diana, and each took a wound. Suit and the brawler both came across the river towards the key central fight – both were hit with perils, Suit went down but the brawler passed his health check. Over in the graveyard the Acolytes advanced and fired at Wally – he took one of them out but he also took a wound and went down. In the recovery phase Suit gets back on his feet, Diana and the master stay wounded, and Wally fails his roll so he is now Out and his plot point lies there for the taking.
Wally finds a clue on the gravestone
The fight was now boiling down to a melee in the centre, around the broken column. Gulab attacked the minions, and knocked one out. Diana used a Fortune card to allow him to attack again, but this time he caused no casualties. Diana fired at the brawler and got two hits, but both were saved. The Master shot at Diana, and both were injured, which meant Diana was down. The brawler attacked Gulab, but only got hit himself. Over in the graveyard the acolytes picked up the engraving from the unconscious Wally. Both Diana and Braces recovered and got up, and the Master used his Rally power to persuade a minion to rejoin the fight with kindly words (“Get back in there or I will toast your skin on a brazier”).
The villains were piling up on their two remaining foes now. Gulab attacked the brawler and knocked him down and out. The minions then attacked him, one more of the gang went down, but Gulab also took a wound. Now Braces shot at Diana – she saved two hits, while he took a wound and fell. Diana ran back across the river, passing the peril, but the Master shot at her – both of them saving a hit. Unlike Gulab, Diana does not have the Hardened Veteran ability, and each successive fight made her weaker. Now The acolytes ran to the bridge and fired at her, she took another wound and went down. Both Gulab and Braces recovered, but Diana did not and she was Down, with the plot point free to be picked up.
It was now turn six. The minions attacked Gulab, but only lost another themselves. Suit and Braces both attacked him, and Suit went down. This was a problem, because he was carrying the plot point which could extend the fight for one more turn. If he failed his recovery roll, not only would they miss out on another chance to put Gulab down, but they would also fail to score the plot point. There was much tension as the die rolled, but Suit recovered and the fight continued. This time he stood back, not making the same mistake twice, and only the minions and Braces attacked. However once again they failed to make an impact, and Braces went down, then failing his recovery he was out. He was the only one of the Hooded Villains to end the fight out, while on Diana’s side only Gulab was still standing when darkness fell.
The end - Gulab fights on in the centre as Diana lies unconscious
So Gulab slipped away in the darkness with Sindy in tow, and the Master took the other four plot points, meaning that he had won, but narrowly by 4 VP to 3 VP. With more plot points the Villains did gain more resources – one point each for Backup, Tips and Contacts and one XP. Diana only gained a single Gear point. One member of each gang had a Harrowing Escape – Braces got Retreat and Regroup and passed the random challenge, so their league will shift the Initiative Die up one in the next scenario. Diana took the Harrowing Escape for her league, but in a fitting end to the day her dice failed her one more time in the Challenge and so she ended Bloodied and Bruised and will join the next scenario one turn late.
This was a good fun fight, nothing subtle and full of clich├ęs, just what a Pulp game should be. I need to put a bit more thought on the terrain – I had several Extremely Perilous areas which played no real part, the characters simply went around them – though the Perilous rivers worked well. Which part of the wide world will see the next meeting of Diana and the Master?

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Two Leagues

After a couple of months fun painting a lot of characters, mostly from Pulp Figures, I decided to put together a couple of leagues (in Pulp Alley terms) and fight some skirmishes. First, the Leagues:

Diana's Team
Leader - Diana Sargeant. Born and brought up in India by her father, Colonel Sargeant, Diana is independent and determined to make her mark on the world. With her small team of adventurers she travels the globe looking for mysterious artefacts and arcane treasure. She is a crack shot (with the Two Gun ability) as well as being Wealthy and having a Danger Sense which allows her to pass the first Peril she encounters every turn. This league has the Intrepid Explorers perk, which means they can Dodge in any direction.

Sidekick - Gulab Singh
Gulab is not his real name, it is the name Diana gave him as a girl, because he was so sweet. Nobody else thinks he is sweet, especially those who threaten Diana in any way. He has been her bodyguard since she was a little girl, and he continues to look after her under orders from the Colonel. He has the Bodyguard ability, which allows him to intercept any attack on Diana if he is close to her, and also the Hardened Veteran ability, which allows him to ignore penalties for multiple combats in one turn. This is a very valuable skill, as would become clear in the first fight.

Ally - Professor Wally Thomas
Professor Thomas (Wally to his friends) is a dedicated archaeologist, determined to make the one big find that will bring him fame in the academic world. He has joined Diana's team in the hope that she will lead him to the prizes he is looking for. No great fighter, his strength is in his brains. He has the Inventor ability, which gives the chance of extra Gear or Gadgets for the team in each scenario.

Follower - Yvette

No-one is quite sure where Yvette comes from, somewhere in middle Europe most probably, but she is happy to travel with Diana, whose entourage perhaps attracts less scrutiny from border guards and customs officials than a solitary traveler. Be that as it may, Yvette is very handy with a sub machine gun, and provides a welcome addition to the team's fire power. She has the Short Burst ability.

Follower - Bud
Cheerful and friendly, Bud is as American as chewing gum, and about as bright. He provides the muscle for the team, carrying most of their baggage and handy with his fists when it comes to a fight. He has the Mighty ability.

Hooded Villains

Leader - The Hooded Master

What better enemy for the do-gooding Diana than the classic hooded arch-villain? Known only as the Master, nobody knows where he comes from or even his age. He travels always in his impressive chair, which is powered and allows him to move no faster than a walk. It also contains hidden jets which can blast out flames creating a 3" Burst around him - in game terms this is the Dark Presence ability. He is also Intimidating, which means lower level characters need to pass a Cunning test to fight him, and he has the Rally ability to help keep his Gangs alive. This league has the Companions perk - so there is no Sidekick (the Master lets no-one get close to him) but all Allies have an extra ability.

Ally - Hooded Blonde
As with all in this League, no-one knows her name or her background. She uses her wits and her gun more than strength, and her two abilities are Sharp - allowing her to re-roll one Shooting or Finesse die per turn, and Finagler - allowing her to improve the dice type on one Finesse or Cunning roll each turn.

Ally - Hooded Braces
Known for his habit of wearing braces at all times, this character is a demon with his shotgun. He has the Burst Fire ability - allowing him to lay down a 3" burst within 12", and also Specialist - giving him a dice type shift for Cunning or Might once per turn.

Ally - Hooded Suit.
Always well turned out, this character is the muscle of the outfit. He has the Brute ability - re-rolling a Brawl or Might die once per turn, and is also Relentless - if he knocks down an enemy in combat, he can then advance 3" and engage another if possible.

Gang - Hooded Minions
No secret evil league would be complete without some hooded extras, and the Master has recruited two gangs. The first is the scarlet-robed minions, who have the Dangerous gang ability - they ignore the multiple combats penalty while brawling.

Gang - Hooded Acolytes
For the female members, we have the gang of Acolytes. They have the Disciplined ability - they always count as being in cover.

So, the two leagues, good and bad, light and dark, are wandering the globe. And inevitably, they will meet ...

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Joy of Six

On Sunday, across the Pennines to the Joy of Six, the only wargames show I know of devoted to a single scale, 6mm. It is run in Sheffield by Baccus and Wargames Emporium, both based in that city. Baccus of course are renowned for this scale, and Wargames Emporium sell GHQ and other ranges. This is the third year I have been to this show, and while I have always enjoyed myself this was the best one yet. The previous ones were held in a rather cramped and scattered venue, but this year they had a new location. It was in one of the University buildings, a four-story atrium with a large floor area which meant that all the games and vendors were together in one bright pleasant space. There were more games than ever, about twenty, covering all periods from Rome to WW2 and modern (1985) and also some sci-fi with Command Decision. All the games were good looking, showing off the visual impact which is one of the things I like about 6mm scale.

There was also a good selection of vendors - Baccus of course and Wargames Emporium plus several others, selling figures and building models mostly. I didn't get very much, as I am currently focused on Pulp and the other end of the scale spectrum, but I was tempted by a couple of Leven's lovely little buildings. These really are nice models, and he maintains an amazing productivity, a wide and expanding range. I also took the chance to walk over to Wargames Emporium itself, only about a quarter of a mile away, where I bought a couple of packs of figures for my pulp games - Sinister Spies from Pulp Figures, and some Beat Cops from Copplestones Gangsters range.

All in all a good day out, and I'd advise anyone who can get there to try Joy of Six in 2016.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Pulp Designs

Quite a long break since the last post, because I have been going through one of my periodic changes of direction. My current theme is Pulp gaming, the classic inter-war stuff - rugged archaeologists in the back of beyond, gang warfare in the Prohibition times, that sort of thing.

I got into this from the Old West games I was playing, and there's clearly a lot of similarity - small scale skirmishes, with 28mm figures at 1:1 scale. Lots of individual figures rather than military ranks, and a fairly stylised (and not entirely "realistic") back story.

I was using the Two Hour Wargames western rules, Six Gun Sound, and the first rule set that I looked at was Larger Than Life - Directors Cut from the same publishers. I bought this (in pdf) and read it through, but I wasn't really inspired. It is very much oriented to reproducing a "film", with a Star, scenes and so on. The scenarios are very rigid in many ways - for example each scene is a 3'x3' board, split into nine squares. Each square is a "scene" and you can't see from one to the next, even if two figures are apparently standing a couple of inches apart in the open. Similarly you are constrained to enter at one corner and fight the big boss in a building in the other corner. No doubt you could use the rules flexibly to produce a wide variety of effects, but it just didn't inspire me. It also has the trademark THW multiplicity of tables for everything.

So I investigated another rule set which is getting a lot of discussion on TMP and similar forums. This is Pulp Alley, published by Phipps & Daughter (that's Dave and Mila). This turned out to be exactly what I was hoping for - your characters are formed into Leagues, with Leaders, Sidekicks, Allies and Followers (in decreasing order of power). You have half a dozen characteristics, with different dice sizes to provide variation. Combat is fairly simple, but not simplistic, and no-one ever dies - the worst that happens is you are knocked out of a scenario. Scenarios are driven by "plot points" - things the leagues are trying to get hold of (typically) in order to win. These may be anything from a secret letter to a person you need to talk to or capture. There is a variety of basic scenarios, which can be used for many different backgrounds, and they have put out two expansions - with extra rules and a connected set of scenarios making up an adventure. There's one for gang warfare in King City, and another called Perilous Island which covers lost world style adventures, including some supernatural effects.

I have played a few small trial skirmishes, but I am now in the phase of most of my enthusiasms when I am painting new models, and assembling scenery ready for the fights. I have picked up a fair number of figures, mostly from Pulp Figures, but including a variety of others which I bought at Salute. I've been painting away at these, and I'll post some pictures soon.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Mandingo the Sheriff

It is Summer 1876, and our hero Mandingo is now Sheriff in the tiny town of Sick Dog's Paw in Wyoming. It's not quite clear why he has not returned to his Ranger duties - perhaps something to do with the ambush by Apaches of a patrol that he should have been with. Be that as it may, he is now the Law in the Paw.
In his first serious encounter, Mandingo had to intervene in a dispute between two Greenhorns, one of whom was threatening the other. Mandingo teamed up with the innocent party, and they went out to search the town. The bad guy jumped out and there was an exchange of shots, then he ran into Daffodil's Place and emerged on the balcony above the street. Mandingo ran into the corral opposite and fired, causing the opponent to duck back. However he emerged again and fired at the other greenhorn on the boardwalk below, causing him to retreat. Mandingo then used his Fast and Agile abilities to race up the rear stairs and into the building, firing out the window and putting his enemy out of the fight.
Mandingo about to fire out of the window and end the fight
 The next fight was a classic one on one shootout. A cowboy with a lot of experience (5-5-5) took on Mandingo. Neither man Flinched, so the draw went ahead - the cowboy rolling five dice and Mandingo six. He scored three successes to his opponent's one, so he rolled for shooting damage, causing a gut shot and winning the battle.

Mandingo shows his cool at High Noon
Mandingo had recruited five deputies, and they were involved for the first time when a group of seven drunken cowboys started causing trouble in Rogan's Bar. Two deputies (Deke and Ernie) were at the other end of town - Mandingo and the other three gathered outside the bar.
The lawmen prepare to break up the rowdy gang in Rogan's
Mandingo went in first and approached the nearest cowboy, asking him to leave quietly. On the Rep roll he passed only one out of two, so the cowboy started a fist fight. His Rep was 3 so he rolled that many dice against Mandingo's five. Mandingo won the first round by one, meaning a "Flurry of blows", depriving his opponent of one D6 in the next round. Down to two dice the cowboy again lost by one, another Flurry of Blows. Not surprisingly with only one dice left he lost by three in the next exchange, and that was that, he was carried out.
Mandingo tackles the first cowboy (in the blue shirt)
 Mandingo now approached another cowpoke, and this time when he invited him to leave quietly, the drunk complied, unwilling to risk a beating. This also caused two others close by to walk away quietly.

Mandingo approaches the last three drunks
While Abe escorted the three cowboys away, Bert and Charlie entered the bar, ready for trouble. Mandingo now tackled the most dangerous cowboy, with a 5 rep, with two others close by. However once more our hero passed both dice, and the leader left peacefully, followed by both his sidekicks. Mandingo had defused the situation without having to draw his gun
The leader of the cowboys decides not to risk the fight.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Tel el Eisa AAR

Tel el Eisa AAR February 2015
After a couple of Panzer Korps (PK) battles in North West Europe, I moved a thousand miles south (and two years back in time) for a Western  Desert encounter. Although I have started collecting figures and models for this theatre, I have not built up a big force, and many of the figures in this battle were substitutes wearing khaki or grey instead of desert sand.  This battle was fought solo, using the PK rules, and 6mm figures, almost all GHQ, on 1” square steel bases. I used the ground scale recommended for the smaller models – 1” in the rules translated to 1cm for all purposes. The table was three feet by five. In practice it was only about two feet wide where all the fighting took place, with the Mediterranean Sea intruding from the north, and a rim of salt marsh. 

The battle of Tel el Eisa was part of First El Alamein; it took place after the first German attacks had run their course, and a fresh Australian Division (9th), supported by 1st South African Division, was tasked with taking two hills (Tel el Eisa and Tel el Makh Khad) which were occupied by Italian troops. Historically the Commonwealth troops chased off or captured many Italians, and then held the objectives against a German counterattack.

Scenario Map
The main defensive unit was the Italian 60th (Sabratha) Division, with two regiments (4 rifle battalions), all with Reservist morale, plus a single Bersaglieri battalion. They were supported by a motorised regiment from the 102nd Trento division – these were Regulars. There were also two 75mm artillery regiments. To the south west, off the map, was a German Kampfgruppe, with five motorised infantry battalions, an armoured car unit and another artillery regiment. These would arrive some time after 10am under the normal PK reinforcement rules, which allow an increasing arrival chance in each successive Day Segment.
Italian front line initial positions - looking north towards the Med
Initial Italian deployment - looking west.
Initial Italian deployment - from the south-west
The 9th Australian Division had three Veteran infantry battalions, 32nd Royal Tank Regimant with Valentines, 25pdr Howitzer support and 9th Cavalry Regt, with two Bren Carrier companies and a Crusader II company. In PZ a battalion takes its statistics from the majority of its core companies, so this one was effectively a carrier battalion. The Australians would be attacking on the right of the UK line, the north, near the coast. The 1st SA Division would be arriving to their left, but they were also counted as reinforcements, and would have to dice for arrival. The South Africans would bring three more infantry battalions, a Recon regiment with Humber A/Cs, and more 25pdrs.

For the first time in my PK battles, both sides had significant air forces. The Commonwealth could deploy two squadrons each of Hurricanes, Kittyhawks and Bostons, while the Axis had Bf-109G and MC 202 fighter squadrons, plus two Stuka squadrons. The air battle is quite detailed. At the start of each day segment, each side commits fighters to CAP, and also allocates ground attack planes to one of the turns in the upcoming segment. If both sides commit fighters then these battle it out, and the victor will be able to attempt to intercept enemy planes if they execute ground attacks in the coming turns. It’s quite hard to remember who is ready, who is rearming and who is arriving on which turn, so I made myself a player aid with boxes to keep track of it all.

The off-board airfield play aids
Day Segment 06:00 – 08:00. Initiative British. Visibility 18”. 3 turns. This first Day Segment represented the half-light of dawn – visibility was reduced to 18” and there was no air activity. The 9th Division moved forward with the Valentines of the RTR on the right (north) flank, the three infantry battalions next, and the carrier regiment (9th Cavalry) to the south. The British artillery had good intelligence about the Italian positions, and was able to bombard them, though with a -1 to their die roll. 

The British had decided to try to break through initially to the north, where the Bersaglieri  were positioned between Tel el Eisa and the marshes. Although they were regulars, the Bersaglieri were not as well entrenched (medium cover, while the other Italian infantry were in hard cover). In the first two turns the British off board artillery hit the Italians, but the damage was minor, 1-2 DMs which were quickly removed. In these turns the advancing Australians were outside visibility range, but in the third turn the Valentines were in sight of the Bersaglieri – they fired, with no effect on the target, but the tanks found themselves low on ammo. This means that they will fire at reduced effect until a supply column can reach them.
08:00 - the Australians advance

08:00 - Australians advance - view from the south
Day Segment 08:00 – 10:00. Initiative Axis. Visibility unlimited. 1 turn. With the weaker Italian general winning the initiative, and rolling low, there was only going to be one turn in this Day Segment. The South Africans could have arrived, needing a 40% chance, but rolled higher than that. Several squadrons turned up on each side. The MC 202s took on the Kittyhawks, and after a number of rounds the Italians prevailed, with the British fighters retiring with 11 Air Damage Markers. However the Bostons then drove off the Italian fighters, also with considerable damage.
In the bombardment phase the Italian 75mm howitzers caused 2DM to the Australian 3/26 battalion, and a Stuka squadron added 1DM, with the subsequent morale check adding one more. The British 25pdrs hit the Bersaglieri for 3DM, and three fighter/bomber squadrons caused 5DM. The result was panic and the Italian troops fled their trenches. Apart from this there was little action – the Italian infantry were mostly not yet spotted in their dug-in positions, and the advancing Australians were still out of range for the infantry.
10:00 - the South Africans arrive
 Day Segment 10:00 – 12:00. Initiative British. 2 turns. The South Africans were now on a 45% chance to arrive, and this time they succeeded. The German Kampfgruppe had its first opportunity to arrive, a 40% chance, and they got lucky straight away – so both sides had their reinforcements available. In the air both sides committed CAP squadrons – the British were Kittyhawks, the Germans were Bf -109Gs. Rather surprisingly the Kittyhawks got the initiative and drove off the German fighters. In the first turn the British artillery hit the Bersaglieri, now out in the open, and caused further panic. Fire was exchanged between the entrenched Italian infantry and the approaching Australians, to relatively little effect. The biggest impact, in fact, was when the Italian 1/86th rolled poorly on their fire dice, indicating potential ammo problems, and then rolled a six, leaving them out of ammo entirely. This was a big problem because in this scenario the Axis forces have no supply column.
The German reinforcements arrive
German reinforcements - KG Keihl covers the flanks of Tel el Makh Khad
In the second turn a Stuka squadron arrived, and in another surprise result, they drove off the Kittyhawks flying CAP. They then bombed the 7th/8th Artillery, causing 2DM. In the bombardment phase the 1/86th were hit twice, and both times rolled a 1 on their cover die (a D10 because of the heavy entrenchments.). This left them with 6DM, and a morale roll forced them to fall back. In the firing phase the Bren Carriers of 9th Cavalry hit them again, causing a further 3DM and they now panicked. The rest of the Italian infantry were keeping up fire on the advancing Australian infantry, who were now starting to accumulate a few DMs, but for now their morale held firm. The German Kampfgruppe had arrived from the south west, but they rolled 1 on their Decision Die on both turns, so progress was slow.
11:00 - Stukas attack the 25pdrs of the 7th/8th Artillery

Situation at noon, looking west
Day Segment 12:00 – 14:00. Initiative Axis. 2 turns. The CAP fight saw the MC 202 squadron, still with 7 ADM from the earlier engagement, take on a fresh Hurricane squadron, and the Italians were quickly sent packing. The Hurricanes then drove off a Stuka squadron in the first turn, while Allied Bostons put 2 DMs on the unlucky 1/86th. Artillery then added another DM, and with three DMs in one phase the infantry had to take a morale check, leading to a further panic. As Reservists they are only allowed to recover from panic twice, so this was their last chance – the next one would be permanent. The British supply column reached 32nd RTR close to Tel el Eisa and they were back to full ammo. However the 1/85th, occupying the hill, fired at the tanks, who rolled a 1, losing them 5DM in total (including the morale test) and killing a Decorated Leader. Just to the south the Italian 2/85th also had success, hitting 3/26th Battalion for 3DM and causing panic.
Situation after noon from the east
After noon - from the south west, as the Germans advance
After noon - Tel el Eisa and the front line
In the second turn Hurricanes struck the 1/86th, and they panicked – so their battle was over and they headed for the rear. However the German artillery was now in action, and their first shots struck three Australian battalions crowded close together, forcing morale checks on two of them. To the south the German armoured cars had reach the east end of Tel el Makh Khad and fired on the Humbers of 3rd Recon, suppressing them. Things were looking relatively good for the Axis, but then 32nd RTR attacked 1/85th on Tel el Eisa; the Italians rolled a 1 on their cover die and then panicked, leaving their trenches, so suddenly one of the main objectives was open to be captured.

KG Keihl faces the advancing South Africans
Day Segment 14:00 – 16:00. Initiative British. 3 turns. In the air the battered Bf-109s were driven off by another Kittyhawk squadron. Bostons and one British artillery regiment attacked the 1/85th, who had fallen back from Tel el Eisa, but did not force a morale check. Two more regiments bombarded the 2/86th, who were still in their trenches on Tel el Makh Khad. They took 3DMs, plus two more from the morale check, but they held firm in cover. However to the north the RTR fired again at 1/85th, now in the open, and panicked them, while 9th Cavalry attacked 2/85th and panicked them as well. Contagion now took over, as the effect of being close to panicking units made things ever worse. 1/85th broke entirely, 2/85th and the Bersaglieri both panicked again. In the next turn artillery fire broke the 2/85th, and now the German reinforcements were battling forward through a stream of retreating allies.
The Valentines capture Tel el Eisa
The Australian infantry was still struggling forward; in the open under artillery bombardment, they had to keep stopping to recover disorder. A unit recovers an extra DM if it does not move in a turn, and it is important to avoid a steady build-up of disorder. The South Africans were also making slow progress against the southern hill, as the armoured cars of KG Kiehl were covering the lower slopes. However with the Italians to the north now broken, the carriers of 9th Cavalry were moving against the flanks of the infantry on the hill (2/86th). Then, in the last turn of the segment, two of the SA battalions hit KG Kiehl for 5DM and surprisingly the Elite unit panicked.

16:00 - South Africans close in on Tel el Makh Khad
The Australians consolidate on Tel el Eisa
Day Segment 16:00 – 18:00. Initiative British. 1 turn. A Hurricane squadron drove off the Italian MC 202 CAP, and then more Hurricanes attacked the Bersaglieri. They broke this unit, which in turn meant that the Italians force group was broken. Their intrinsic command level is only 35%, making them very fragile, so now all the Italian troops started to withdraw. The Valentines established themselves on Tel el Eisa, and as British artillery swept the German infantry struggling across the open ground in the valley, it was clear that the Germans had little hope of assaulting the hill.

The Italians in full flight
Day Segment 18:00 – 20:00. Visibility 18”. Initiative German. 2 turns. With twilight falling there was no air action. The British artillery concentrated on the most advanced German infantry battalion, 1/361, and caused it to panic, making it absolutely certain that Tel el Eisa would not be assaulted. On Tel el Makh Khad 2/86th was retreating slowly, under pressure from the carriers and South African infantry moving forward after the departure of the armoured cars of KG Kiehl. In the final turn the carriers hit 2/86th for 3DM and they panicked away, leaving the hill in British hands.
With the capture of both objective hills, and the breaking of the Italian force, this was a complete victory for the British. It was a little closer than it seems, though – both the Australian and South African infantry had real problems advancing in the open. The key units were the armour, especially the Valentines of the RTR. The Italians were also quite unlucky – several units in heavy entrenchments rolled a “1” on their D10 cover die, and once they had retreated out of cover they were very vulnerable. The many Reserve morale units also gave problems, being much more fragile, as well as less effective in firing.

Final positions - Tel el Eisa
Final positions - Tel el Makh Khad
This was another fun battle, and very different from the previous one in the North Western Europe theatre, with its close cover and limited lines of sight. Out in the open spaces of the desert, infantry are vulnerable, and the armoured units can make a crucial difference.