Last night I pitched my WW2 Free French against Scott Bowman’s Germans in a 600+ point game of Bolt Action. Scott, of course, is famous as being the owner of the Hobby Corner – probably the only pharmacy in the world that stocks wargaming models and paints!
The above mid-game shot shows Scott in action, closely watched by his son. As you can see, he has a large wargames room with three tables. He’s now even adding two more tables in the adjacent garage. A great venue for gaming nights!
The board loosely represented a cultivated area somewhere in the Middle East. Actually, it was just the table still set up after Scott’s last game, but with his pine trees replaced with palms, and a European cottage with a Middle Eastern house. So vaguely Syria or Lebanon or somewhere like that …
My objective for the game was to hang onto the cornfield and the adjacent piece of road situated in the middle of the table. We delineated the actual objective area with some miscellaneous crates and oil-drums. Scott’s objective, of course, was to seize this area.
Before the game started, I was allowed to emplace two units on the objective – I chose a Foreign Legion infantry unit and a 75mm howitzer (you can just see the latter in the distance in the above picture). I would then bring the remainder of my forces onto the table as reinforcements over the next two turns.
My first reinforcement to arrive was this Dodge Tanake truck, which careered in to take hold of the crossroads on the right flank. As it screeched to a stop, the Tanake’s gunners spotted a German sniper team hidden in the undergrowth, and let fly – no more sniper team! Unfortunately they couldn’t also hit a nearby forward mortar observer, which was to prove disastrous later in the game.
At the other end of the table, my white-capped Foreign Legionnaires rushed from the objective area, scattering livestock as they raced the Germans to be the first to occupy a ruined building that could otherwise have threatened the French left flank.
Having taken the ruined building and survived the German unit’s return fire, in the next turn the Legionnaires launched an all-out charge against their enemy. Luck favoured the bold, and the German unit was eliminated after two rounds of vicious fighting – though in doing so the brave Legionnaires lost half their number.
Meanwhile, back at the crossroads on the French right flank the action was also hotting up. A German command car (a captured Jeep) had rushed up the road to threaten another unit of Legionnaires who had just arrived as my second reinforcements. But it was a move too far for the Jeep, which was quickly hit and destroyed.
The red plastic marker is a clever device that indicates a unit is pinned down by enemy fire. You can turn a dial on the base to show how many pins it represents (the more pins a unit suffers, the harder it is to get it to obey orders). Whilst these markers are indeed clever, I do think they look artificial and so detract from the overall look of the game – I would perhaps disguise them with some cottonwool smoke.
Another view of the burning Jeep. Scott’s smoke even contained a little candle-light flickering away to create dramatic effect! In the distance, the French 75mm gun in the objective area was still hammering away unsuccessfully at some German units located on that hillock on the horizon.
Now the Germans brought on their own anti-tank gun to threaten the crossroads. It aimed a potshot at the Dodge Tanake. Luckily the driver spotted the threat. He quickly graunched into reverse gear, and, engine screaming, the Tanake accelerated backwards around the corner and out of danger. Whew!
The second unit of Legionnaires also turned at the crossroads and followed the reversing Tanake towards the objective area. I had just remembered I would lose the game if I left the objective unoccupied through becoming distracted into firefights on other parts of the table. The rules state that the objective can only be claimed by infantry, not vehicles.
Meanwhile, the 75mm howitzer carried on banging away ineffectively, having already lost a crew member from a hidden German mortar fire (remember that pesky spotter the Tanake hadn’t been able to eliminate earlier in the game?!).
Sacre bleu! Disaster as my howitzer gets destroyed by another direct hit from that German mortar!
On the left flank, my newly-painted Conus auto-canon finally made its gaming debut, its Moroccan Spahi crew distinctive in their red sidecaps. The Heath Robinson-ish contraption accelerated up the road to reinforce my men at the objective area.
Remember that first unit of Legionnaires we last saw as they charged and destroyed an enemy infantry unit at the ruined house? Well, off they go again, this time charging a German machine gun nest. Once more luck was on their side, and the machine gun crew was wiped out.
The French began to converge on the objective area. There had been a moment of panic earlier when that blasted mortar got a direct hit on a unit of Legionnaires who had been sheltering behind the Tanake, killing them all.
But once the French commander and his small team arrived, along with the Conus, they quickly regained control of the situation.
All guns now bore on the only remaining German infantry squad hidden behind the stone wall in the distance. There was no way they could stand so much fire, and when the German squad was eliminated, Scott reached over the table to shake my hand and concede the game.
Let’s finish with another quick look at my two rather curious vehicles. Firstly, here is the Dodge Tanake by Perry Miniatures. During the war, approximately ten Dodge trucks were armoured and armed with 37mm anti-tank guns and a couple of M24/29 light machine guns. They were used by the French, Vichy French, Free French and Syrian forces.
And now my latest model – the Conus, also by Perry Miniatures. The Moroccan Spahis used these Conus guns, which were CMP 30cwt trucks with a 75mm M1897 gun mounted on a turret race taken from a captured Italian M13/40 tank. The idea was proposed by a Lt. Conus, hence the name. Twelve Conus guns made up the 3rd Squadron of the Régiment de Marche de Spahis Marocains.