A Wargamer’s Guide to the Desert War 1940-1943 – Review

Daniel Mersey, a wargame author with an increasing number of publications, has written a few “Wargamer’s Guides”. Previous volumes have covered the Anglo Zulu Wars and the 1066 Norman Conquest. This volume covers North Africa and the Desert War between 1940 and 1943.

The book is paperback of 118 pages, published by Pen & Sword Military on 12 June 2017, ISBN: 9781473851085. It is one of the range of wargame books being published by Pen & Sword.

In many respects, I found this book a better “beginning wargames” book than Iain Dickie’s Wargaming on a Budget as it covers pretty much everything from figure size and model scale, through rules, and figures, and playing the game and setting scenarios.

The book contains six chapters:

  1. The Desert War – an overview of the war covering the early cumsy attempts of the Commonwealth and Italian forces, then the changes broiught about by the introduction of German firces and then lastly the American effect and concluding with Operation Torch and the collapse of the Afrika Korps
  2. Armies, Organization, and Equipment – covering, well, the armies, their organisation and equipment. A generalised discussion of the organisation of the four armies but with references to more detailed Order of Battle. A reasonable equipment list for wargamers is also supplied. There is also a general painting guide for figures and vehicles here
  3. Wargaming the Campaign – it is what is says
  4. Choosing Your Rules – a summary of a number of rules, including: Battlegroup; Blitzkrieg Commander; Bolt Action; Chain of Command; Crossfire; Desert Rats; Flames of War; Iron Cross; KISS Rommel; Operation Squad; Panzer Korps; and Rapid Fire
  5. Choosing Your Models – a look at some of the main manufacturers in various scales including manufacturers of 28mm, 20mm, 15mm, 10/12mm and 6mm. This chapter also discusses scale for each of those figure sizes
  6. Scenarios – setting up some battles to get a feel of the desert war

There is also an index and a list of titles for further reading.

Mersey relies on previous authors’ works as well, such as Don Featherstone, which is not a bad thing.

The book also has a number of colour plates illustrating the subject in the figure sizes of 28mm, 15mm and 6mm. Many of the colour plates are from the Perry Twins.

Being a wargamer and having grown up on stories of the Rats of Tobruk and el Alamein, I have always had an interest in the Desert War. That it was in the first half of the Second World War when the equipment was being developed that would later be used and characterise the late war was  a bonus. Who can not fail to admire the Italians in their tiny tanks or groan at the number of breakdowns of the early cruiser tanks and then marvel at the later Lee/Grant tanks.

This is a volume that should be on any wargamer’s bookshelf. Even now, I am about to post this review, make a coffee and sit in my favourite reading chair and flick through this book again, planning my next Desert War project. Will it be Chain of Command and 28mm or more 6mm and Blitzkrieg Commander? Perhaps even 2mm this time.

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La Haye Sainte – 3D Printable Terrain for Waterloo – Kickstarter

Friend Anthony from Singapore has been experimenting with 3D printing. After a couple of false starts he has learned the ILAR* principle. ILAR was necessary because 15mm, 6mm and 28mm are sizes, not scales. Buildings need scales.

Anthony has it right now and has released the 3D printing plans for La Haye Sainte via a Kickstarter. He notes that:

La Haye Sainte is a complete set of 3D printable .STL files that will allow you to print and assemble a model of the farm at the centre of battlefield at Waterloo.

Using contemporary sketches, watercolours and accounts as the basis, (rather than the current state of the farm), the files will include everything you need to print the complete farm buildings, as they were on Sunday 18th July, 1815, and simulate the fire damage to barn that occurred throughout the battle. Where conjecture and/or doubt remains the files will come in several configurations to allow a variety of solutions, and for each wargamer to decide how they want the farm represented.

The basic farm will look like this:

The plan of La Haye Sainte
The plan of La Haye Sainte

Each of the larger farm buildings (Barn, Stables and Main House) will be made with removable roof sections. Since 3D models are scalable, you can print the model to the limits of your printer, though the files will be delivered optimised for 15mm as shown below. Anthony is a wargamer and has worked hard to make the models both accurate and usable, so the final farm will be table and figure friendly, which means no broken bayonets if you put models “inside” the buildings. All pledge backers will receive a link to his research and the conclusions he made from that research when he created the 3D Models, icluding compromises he had to make to ensure the models remained usable and, perhaps more importantly, printable.

15mm Figures stand ready by the gate
15mm Figures stand ready by the gate

I have seen the model and it is indeed a fine piece that will look the business on the tabletop when printed and painted.

Head on over to Kickstarter – la Haye Sainte 3D Printable Terrain for Waterloo. I can thoroughly recommend this.


* ILAR – It Looks About Right – a naval principle from the 20th century.

The Cheap Storage Boxes

DSC01433In the Polemos Ancient Progress post here in the Hole I mentioned the inexpensive stackable boxes I found at the Stationery Superstore in Funan Digital Mall in Singapore. These boxes are about S$5.00 each and come in colours of yellow (shown to the left), blue, dark blue, black, red and green.

The boxes are cardboard (I guess) and covered in plastic and have nothing inside them. I’ve just stuck some metal sheet to the bottom of the boxes, a couple of sticky labels on on the outside and I have a convenient, inexpensive storage system for my painted figures (er, and unpainted leadpile) Smile

I will be taking a box on tour later this year so I will let you know how the system stands up to international air travel.

For those in Singapore looking for this store, it is at:

109 North Bridge Road
#02-23/29 Funan Digitalife Mall S179097
Tel: 63323870

Stationery Superstore does not have a webpage that I could find although they are on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SStationery.

Cancon 2009

The National Tally Room at EPIC in Camberra
The National Tally Room at EPIC in Canberra

I just got back from Cancon 2009. I drove down to Canberra on Saturday and drove straight to the Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) and the National Tally Room there. This room is where Federal elections in Australia are tallied and decided. In addition it is where the annual convention of the Canberra Games Society is held. Cancon. This year was the 31st Cancon (but I didn’t get the t-shirt). From the outside, the National Tally Room looked quiet, just cars parked around the area indicating that something was on.

It was great to get to the relative cool of Canberra after the heat of Sydney (I left Sydney at 10:00 am and the temperature was already 32 having only fallen as low as 25 the night before). Canberra was also around 32 when I arrived, but without the humidity.

The crowd inside Cancon 2009
The crowd inside Cancon 2009

Once I got inside the hall it was a different matter. There were more people at Cancon this year than I can remember on any of the previous trips I have made to Cancon.

Cancon is one of Australia’s largest Wargames Conventions and whilst small compared to say Salute in the UK or Origins in the US, it is never-the-less arguably the premier wargaming event on the Australian calendar. This year there appeared to be more competitors in competitions (and more wargame rule-sets had competitions around them) than in previous years. This is a good thing for the hobby as a whole and the spirit in which the games were played appeared to be good too.

On top of the increased number of competitors there also appeared to be a larger trader area than in the past with plenty of ways to spend hard earned dollars and even in these days of financial organisation meltdowns the traders seemed to be doing a brisk trade.

WWII demonstration game using Lego blocks and Märklin track
WWII demonstration game using Lego blocks and Märklin track

Over at the competition tables, many of the figures looked superbly painted although with a few exceptions, such as the Aegyptus competition, the terrain was very drab and plain.

However, there were some demonstration games where the scenery was much better. One that took my fancy appeared to be a World War II game set around capturing and holding a dock area. The time was winter, and the scale was 28mm. This was especially memorable as the buildings and machinery areas were made from Lego bricks and the railway tracks were from the Märklin System of model railway tracks. It was an impressive looking game and the Lego actually worked well to help the appearance of the game.

The attacks go in
The attacks go in

Speaking of good scenery and pretty figures, there was a demonstration game based around an amphibious assault of a fortified position. It appeared to contain British and Russian forces (although I will happily be corrected on that). There was a nice headland with beachhead areas, beautifully painted figures and some wonderful scratch built boats and ships. There were the whale boats that were being used to bring troops ashore as well as naval vessels to bombard the position from the sea. Rounding that off were some torpedo boats as well.

The pièce de résistance however of this game was the large cruiser built, I guess, to 28mm scale, that was providing the bombardment of the shore positions. I’ll leave you with that picture, just noting that this Cancon was perhaps the best I can remember and one that will see me heading to Canberra around the Australia Day long weekend in 2010.

The big cruiser, sunk, is removed from the playing field by the hand of god
The big cruiser after being severely damaged in the battle is returned to dry-dock for repairs - actually, this was a very impressive model.