Category Archives: Perry Miniatures

Revisiting a spectacular Battle of Saratoga game

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Some of the games I’ve played over the years really stand out in my memory. From time to time I’ll feature these old games here on my blog.  

This particular game stood out because of the amazing terrain and figures.  To my eye, this was a convention-grade game, but played in a garage! I never recorded the date this game as played, but it would be a good decade or two ago now.

This game impressed me so much at the time that I even put together a website about it, from which I’ve copied the following text and pictures.  Much to my surprise, the site still exists – thought my amateur hand-coded HTML doesn’t seem to have preserved the formatting too well.

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Before the storm.

The year is 1777 – General “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne’s expedition to cut off New England from the rest of the rebellious American states has reached the clearing of Freeman’s Farm. The lines of redcoats form up around the farmstead, whilst a redoubt has been rapidly thrown up on their right. They steadfastly await the Americans advancing from out of the woods in front of them.

Myself and two other New Zealand wargamers, Paul Crouch and Steve Sands, had recently bought a copy of the British Grenadier rules, and we were determined to try them out. One Sunday afternoon the three of us finally managed to get some time off together, and this is the game that ensued.

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British lines around Freeman’s Farm.

This closer view of British redcoats from General James Inglis Hamilton’s brigade around the farmstead shows some of the amazingly detailed 28mm miniature soldiers and terrain owned by Paul.

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British redoubt.

The scenario rules for this battle state that the troops of Brigadier-General Simon Fraser’s brigade can only leave the confines of their redoubt on the British right after a throw of double sixes. “I never get double sixes,” says Steve, throwing the very first dice of the game – you guessed it, double six!

So Fraser’s light infantry and an artillery piece emerge from the redoubt in the first move of the game, throwing the American plan into disarray before they even start moving.

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Poor’s columns advance down the road towards the waiting British.

On the American side, Roly commands General Enoch Poor’s brigade of infantry and artillery. The scenario calls for them to enter by a road on the left of the American position. But instead of heading diagonally towards the British (visible in the distance in this photo), the threat of Fraser’s troops making their sortie out of the redoubt means that the Americans have to change their orders to make a right turn and form their lines more to the centre.

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The American advance in the centre.

Poor’s brigade has now been joined by that of General Ebenezer Learned, played by Paul. Meanwhile, General Benedict Arnold and his aide can be seen in this photo, directing the commencement of the assault on the British line. Unfortunately, another double six means that Arnold is lightly wounded, and so has to temporarily leave the table.

You can also see the amazingly realistic ground-cloth that Paul inherited from the late Jim Shaw. Thrown over a piece of carpet underlay, which in turn is draped over strategically placed objects, it gives a realistic rolling ground effect.

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The British line awaits the onslaught.

After moving their line back slightly to form a better defensive position around the farm, the British lines stolidly await the American attack, with some loyalists skirmishing to their front. The redcoats’ objective in this scenario is to hold the farm position.

All the figures used in this game belonged to Paul. They included castings from Front Rank, Foundry and Perry Miniatures. The exquisite flags were mainly by GMB Design.

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The lines close.

Slowly, inexorably, the American lines advance towards the British. Because of the extended maneuvering that Poor’s brigade has had to do to avoid Fraser’s light infantry and artillery, it takes quite a while to reach this stage of the game, so we “fast-forward” at this point by doubling a few moves to bring the troops into action.

Movement distances in British Grenadier are randomised, and generally must be taken the full amount. This makes coordinating an attack quite difficult, but true to the period.

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Charge!

Finally the first regiments of the assault charge forward.

The mounted officer in the background is not just for show. These rules have an innovative system where units earn ‘disruption points’ from movement, firing and melee. The more such points, the harder it is to do anything. Generals can help units shake off these points, but only one unit per move, so they have to pick and choose. Thus mounted officers realistically gallop to and fro all over the battlefield.

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The second American line in support.

American troops in hunting shirts form the second line.

Under these rules, an attack needs to be well supported, as the disruption points can cause havoc to the first line. On the other hand, you don’t want the second line too close, as they have to move their full distance, so can actually collide with the rear of the first line, causing even more disruption!

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The British line holds.

The American regiment on the far left has defeated a British battalion and forced it back. But the British battalion on the right holds out valiantly, whilst General Burgoyne dashes up to bolster its defence. Here yet another double six is thrown, but Burgoyne survives and it is his ADC who is killed.

In the foreground are Colonel Daniel Morgan’s riflemen and light infantry, who have been in front needling the British lines all during the big American assault. Now they can pull back out of the way to let the line infantry do their job.

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The Hessians arrive.

The Americans have only succeeded in pushing back one British unit, when to their right they hear the beating of drums as Baron von Riedesel’s Hessians arrive on the battlefield, thus extinguishing any hope of the Americans forcing the British out of the Freeman’s Farm position.

So in our game the British win. This would possibly have had a major effect had this happened in the real battle. It was the British surrender at Saratoga that finally induced the French to take part in the American War of Independence. In our game, this might not have happened ….!

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Map of the battlefield.

This overview of the battle shows how the game progressed. You can see where Fraser’s men issued out of the redoubt at the very start of the game, and how they forced Poor’s brigade to make some complicated manouevres instead of directly attacking Hamilton’s position. Meanwhile, the British backstepped to form a better defensive line closer to the farm, and then the subsequent huge American assault on the centre took place. Right at the end of the battle, the Hessians arrived on the British left to cement their victory.

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The players – Paul Crouch (Generals Learned and Arnold), Roly Hermans (General Poor) and Steve Sands (British/Hessian), all members of the [then] Kapiti Fusiliers Historic Gaming Club in Paraparaumu, New Zealand.

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Paul’s son Rylan enjoyed the game too!

 

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Filed under American War of Independence, Foundry, Front Rank, GMB Design flags, Kapiti Fusiliers, Perry Miniatures, Uncategorized

What I did on my holiday

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This blog has been quiet over the last five or six weeks because I’ve been away overseas on holiday.  For the most part, our trip to England, Scotland, the Netherlands and Italy was a non-hobby related holiday that readers will probably not be too interested in –  but there were a couple of moments of wargaming interest.

The first such moment was an overnight stop in the centre of the UK’s (if not the world’s) wargaming industry: the city of Nottingham. There we met up with Alan and Michael Perry, whom I had last worked with in New Zealand on the massive Chunuk Bair diorama project.

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We were able to visit Alan’s wargaming room, with its magnificently terrained table, overflowing display cases, gorgeous battle paintings, and antique militaria.

I even sat on the couch where much of their prolific sculpting is done!  To my readers’ probable disappointment, I was so star-struck at finding myself at the very epicentre of our hobby that I forgot to take many photographs – what you see above is all that we took!

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We were honoured with a sneak peek at the Perrys’ latest project, TravelBattle (a complete wargame in a box). They showed us the original one-off prototype of this game that they had made many years ago (sorry, once again I was too flabbergasted to take a photo!), and which they were now designing as an innovative new product in their range.

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There were a couple of sociable meals with the Perry twins – the first at their local watering hole, the very atmospheric and old ‘Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem’ pub; and the other at a French restaurant with the two Mrs Perrys.

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The other (sort of) wargaming moment was to almost meet Sander van der Ster of May ’40 Miniatures in the Netherlands. My wife and I hadn’t scheduled to visit the Netherlands on our holiday, but the sudden passing of two elderly aunts in Holland meant a quick re-jig of our plans so that I could attend the funerals. This put me within range of a possible meeting with Sander.

However, whilst I ended up only a town or two away from Sander, there were just too many family commitments for me to get sufficient time to travel the final few kilometres to have that face-to-face meeting.

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But Sander did manage to post my order of  his first release of WW2 Dutch figures to where I was staying in the Netherlands, thus saving me a lot of postage costs to get it to the other side of the world. I’ll report more on these figures in a future posting, after I have got over my jet-lag sufficiently to really examine them closely!

Finally, a curiosity (non-wargaming related) from our trip: take a look what happened to the Leaning Tower of Pisa when I photographed it!

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Filed under May 40, Perry Miniatures, Travel, Uncategorized, WW2

Crown forces of the New Zealand Wars (1860s)

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Here are the British and colonial forces to face my daring Māori in games of The Men Who Would Be Kings. They’re dressed in the distinctive blue uniforms worn by the British in New Zealand during the 1860s. Click on the pics for a closer view.

The combined units in these photos total more than the 24 points that the rules recommend for a field force, so I would select from these units for each game.

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Included are three units of British regular infantry, one of colonial militia, and one of Royal Navy sailors. There is also a unit of cavalry or mounted infantry, an artillery piece, and a rocket tube.

They’re a mixture of 28mm Empress Miniatures and Perry Miniatures.

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Filed under Colonial New Zealand Wars, Empress Miniatures, Perry Miniatures, The Men Who Would Be Kings, Uncategorized

Home improvements to 4Ground’s Japanese shogunate houses

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A couple of novels I’ve been reading over the Christmas break have inspired me to do some home improvements to my 4Ground shogunate houses. You can see the result in the above photo, as some 28mm Perry Miniatures samurai warriors battle it out in the garden (click on the photo for a closer view).

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The novels responsible for this burst of enthusaism are David Kirk’s pair of bold and vivid historical epics of feudal Japan, based on the real-life exploits of the legendary samurai Musashi Miyamoto.

In Child of Vengeance, Miyamoto is a high-born but lonely teenager living in his ancestral village. He takes the samurai’s path awash with blood, bravery, and vengeance, culminating in the epochal battle of Sekigahara.

Sword of Honour depicts the feud between Miyamoto and the esteemed Yoshioka Sword School in Japan’s former capital of Kyoto.

Now, I can’t say how accurate or not these novels are, as I am not too knowledgeable about samurai. However, what I can say is that they definitely provide the feel of the place and period. The characters aren’t just western heroes transposed to an oriental setting, but instead act and talk as thought they really are Japanese – helped no doubt by the fact that the author himself lives in Japan.

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After reading the novels, I decided to pull out my existing samurai scenery. I’ve got several 4Ground buildings, which I’ve been very pleased with (see my 2014 review of these kits). But seeing them out of storage for the first time in a while, I’ve realised that the teddy-bear fur thatched roofs look like … er … teddy-bear fur. You can see this in the above picture that I took a few years ago (with a couple of Kingsford miniature figures in the foreground).

I recall in shows where I’ve used these buildings that several little children seemed to take inordinate interest in the roofs of my houses, more than anything else on the table. Now that I think about it, I even heard one of them whispering to her parents that it looked like my roofs were made out of a teddy – can’t fool kids!

So, some home improvements were in order.

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This morning I took a big brush and sloshed a watery burnt umber artists’ acrylic paint all over the thatch. Once this was completely dry, I dry-brushed the roof with a range of ochres, yellows and even white. The results now look a lot more realistic (and certainly a lot less teddy-like!).

Whilst I was at it, I thought the original wooden verandah roofs and ridge decorations were a bit too stark. So they all received a watered-down burnt umber wash as well.

Hopefully the occupants of my little houses are happy with the renovations. Sayonara!

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Filed under 4Ground, Perry Miniatures, Samurai, Terrain, Uncategorized

Colonial New Zealand Wars of the 1860s

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The main campaigns of the colonial New Zealand Wars took place from the 1840s to the 1870s. Over those 30 or more years, uniforms and weapons changed. My NZ Wars wargaming armies have so far primarily  represented the early campaigns of the 1840s, when the British still wore red coats. But I’ve recently painted some Perry Miniatures ‘British Intervention Force’ figures to complete a small  British and colonial army of the 1860s.

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My army consists of two sections of British regular infantry, a group of colonial cavalry, and an artillery piece, along with some officers on foot and on horseback.

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Overall command of my army is given over to these three mounted officers (probably of much too high a rank for such a small force!). The photo makes the blue of these rather plain uniforms look lighter than it actually is – in fact, my paint job is almost black, which I’ve achieved by washing the finished figures with black ink.

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There are also a range of officers on foot, including these three doughty chaps. I don’t think such a dandy as the cavalryman in the middle every fought in New Zealand, but I like him as a figure anyway!

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On the left is an officer busy writing notes, whilst a Maori scout waits patiently. The latter Perry Miniatures figure is actually a Canadian native figure, but I think he works well as a ‘friendly’ Maori as well.

Standards weren’t carried as a rule in the colonial NZ Wars. But there is some evidence that occasionally a plain Union Jack was used. You also probably wouldn’t have seen too many drummers during the bush fighting – but he is a nice figure, isn’t he!

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I’ve painted these cavalry so they can either be used as colonial horse; or as mounted men from the Military Train used as cavalry (as there weren’t any formal British cavalry units in New Zealand).

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Here’s one of the British regular infantry units. During the 1860s campaigns, the British soldier wore a blue serge ‘jumper’ instead of his traditional red coat.

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Don’t ask me what rules I’ve based these figures for. I don’t base to any particular set of rules, but rather to ‘my eye’ – what looks good to me! Actually, with my busy life, my wargames armies seldom get to see action on the tabletop anyway!

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If I ever need to reinforce my small army, these Empress Miniatures sailors from my 1840s army will fit the bill.  Their weapons might not be exactly right for the period, but they give the right look.

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Likewise, my 1840s militia will probably do for a colonial unit of the 1860s.

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The most obviously missing figures for my army, however, are colonial militia wearing the famous ‘shawl-order’. Neither Perry nor Empress make any suitable figures to represent these men. At one stage it looked like Eureka might produce them, but they couldn’t gather enough pre-interest to make it worthwhile. This also seemed to scare off Empress, who had also said at one time they might produce such figures.

My only hope now is the Perry twins, who of course have a good connection with New Zealand through the work they’ve done for Sir Peter Jackson, and who sometimes go out onto a limb that other manufacturers would deem as unfeasible!

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Filed under Colonial New Zealand Wars, Empress Miniatures, Perry Miniatures, Uncategorized

More painted New Zealand Wars coming soon …

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Taking a quick moment to write a brief update. Whilst this blog has been quiet over the last month, I haven’t been idle. I’ve been busy painting another batch of colonial New Zealand Wars figures – cavalry, artillery and staff for the 1860s campaigns.

I’m now just waiting for a chance to photograph them and write a detailed blog post, so keep watching …

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Filed under Colonial New Zealand Wars, Perry Miniatures, Uncategorized

Bolt Action: Spahis and Foreign Legion vs Germans

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Last night I pitched my WW2 Free French against Scott Bowman’s Germans in a 600+ point game of Bolt ActionScott, 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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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?!).

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Sacre bleu!  Disaster as my howitzer gets destroyed by another direct hit from that German mortar!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Filed under Perry Miniatures, Warlord Games, WW2