Category Archives: 8th Army – British and Commonwealth

NQM Squared – Bir Hakeim 26-27 May 1942

The last time that the battle of Bir Hakeim was run with NQM was in March 2013, over the course of a day. This time, five of us played it inside two hours on a Tuesday evening, with an extra half an hour for set up and break down. The plan was for Jon Freitag to join us online, but I was too late in setting up the link. Sorry Jon!

Rommel’s plan can be seen on the link above that shows a map. His plan was for 15th and 21st Panzer divisions to loop around the south of  Bir Hakeim, whilst  Ariete armoured division swung north to attack the position from the rear.

L-R Tim Merry, Graham Evans, Steve Churchus and Phil Steele. The camera is looking to the south.

XXX Corps planned to conduct a Mobile defence between brigade boxes and an extensive series of minefields. 1st Free French Brigade anchored the southern tip of this defensive belt at Bir Hakeim (old Man’s Well). Orbats for the battle can be found here.

XXX Corps HQ

XXX Corps HQ.

In order to chivvy such a large battle along and keep it to time, some brutal simplifications were needed. Supporting elements were trimmed down, including artillery support. Several units that were on the battlefield, but which played no part were omitted. Practically every combat unit was classified as light except for the French, who defended as medium. Air support was omitted completely.

DAK Swings north, which is to the left of the picture.

Deutches Afrika Korps swings north, which is to the left of the picture. Facing them are three brigades from 7th Armoured Division.

The battle was fought on a 120mm grid, which seemed to work well and which gave more manoevre space on the table. Each wheeled or tracked element moved three squares per move.

Free French Counterattack to drive off Ariete.

Free French counterattacked to drive off Ariete. I had short-changed the Italians in terms of numbers.

The game followed a historical path with the exceptions that 7th Armoured Divisional Commander avoided capture and the battle in the cauldron was a more concentrated affair, as the British succeeded in coordinating the attacks of its five effective armoured brigades from 1st and 7th Armoured divisions. I could have thrown a lot of umpire grit into the works, but there seemed little point.

DAK ran out of steam in the Cauldron

DAK ran out of steam in the Cauldron.

The game ended with the Germans running short of fuel in the Cauldron as armoured cars from 7th Armoured Division chased fuel bowsers around the desert and Rommel, who was trying to avoid capture.¹


  1. Most fuel was carried in jerricans or “flimsies” but showing fuel bowsers helps players identify the unit on a crowded battlefield that is full of otherwise identical trucks.


  1. I had the impression that players preferred the certainties of a grid system for resolving combats. There were certinly fewer queries as to why this or that extra unit could not be included in a particular firefight. This may just have been due to me bundling everything along at speed, but everyone seemed content to set the matches up and roll dice.
  2. I still don’t like the Napoleonic way in which units form ranks and squares on a grid system, but nobody else seemed to mind much.
  3. Squares make movement quicker. For 15mm figures, a 40mm frontage on 120mm squares and 50mm for 150mm would seem to be the sweet spot for real estate. This only matters if you care about uniformity :  I don’t.


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, 8th Army - British and Commonwealth, DAK, Italian Army, NQM Squared, Western Desert, WWII

Invade Crete in Ten Minutes

After a busy weekend in a shopping centre (Mall) in Milton Keynes, I am claiming victory for NQM’s first exposure to a non-wargaming public. It attracted just under fifty public contacts ranging from  fleeting “Did you make all those little planes?” to rather longer variations on the theme of  “I used to play with those, and my Grandad was in the desert“. In addition, there were a dozen plays-through almost exclusively from wargamers, but with three small to early-teenage children, who were already computer gamers, trying their luck.

As we were on a busy corner, we also spent a lot of time explaining what all the FOG (Field of Glory) and  AdlG (Art de la Guerre) Competition Gamers were doing in the middle of the concourse (“It’s like a national football league of teams of toy soldiers“). Other stands varied from historical, through the Wild West to the Peterborough Club’s Dad’s Army fighting Zombies on the opposite corner to us, which was attracting a lively crowd and which was the source of much hilarity for all concerned. Apparently everyone could outrun the Zombies except for private Godfrey!

It’s heavier than it looks in Lord of the Rings.

Most of my time was taken up on the Northamptonshire Battlefields Trust stand, which was a busy focus due to the medieval hardware on display. The commonest contact there was ” Would you like to photograph your offspring holding a sword and wearing a helmet?” with the caveat “but only if you promise not to stab your brother/sister” and then a hand-off to the parents with a leaflet and an invitation to visit Delapré Abbey if they wanted a good family afternoon out. Anyone who lingered, showing more detailed interest was handed over to Vincent, or to Alex, who has a History Masters degree and actually knows what he is talking about. We may also have recruited a speaker for our 2023 program who has an interest in the English Civil War.

YesthatPhil came along too. He had had the presence of mind to bring a couple of DBA armies along, so we all managed to fit in a game or two during the days’ quiet spots of calm. As at work, when nothing is happening and you make a coffee, it guarantees that you will be interrupted, so some of the battles were rather fragmented. I don’t know if Vincent or Alex are convinced yet, but we are working on them.

You stick them with the pointy end.

As to Crete, I needn’t have worried. Everyone who invaded Crete succeeded, with between 3:58 minutes and 49 seconds to spare, and I handed out just under twenty information sheets: Okay for a first run out. Improvements to come will be better signage, and as YesthatPhil puts it “Some Fallschirmjäger bling” to attract people in from a distance. I did have, as a contingency, the option for two players to sit down, with one player taking the Commonwealth, but in the event, no-one took up the “Would you like to be defeated by your offspring?” option, as I had weighted the scenario in favour of the Germans. Even so, it was still touch and go for them on a couple of runs-through. Forty nine seconds to spare is still a win!

HERAKLION falls to the Germans!

The key to making the game run on time was to have the player roll five dice using the traditional Risk mechanism, rather than using the Table 12 fire mechanism, and to tell the player if they were attacking or defending. Also having a timer counting down, meant that the player wanted things to move along, as they were focussed on beating the clock, rather than winning the die rolls. Telling the children that the dice only counted if they landed in the box helped too!

In other news … the Hobbit expressed disappointment at the lack of giant stompy robots in his last game. See this remedied over on Pigs in Spaaace. Link in the sidebar.


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, 8th Army - British and Commonwealth, CRETE, German Airforce, Theatres of War, Wargames, Wehrmacht, WWII

Hobbit in Tunisia – NQM Squared

The Hobbit came round for a game of NQM some time ago in mid May, but I’ve only just got round to posting the game report. It was a small game with a simple objective … kick the Germans out of a village with a set-piece divisional attack. José, the Hobbit’s dad came along to provide support, and for high tea afterwards.

26 Aus Inf Bde Infantry start line26th and 24th Australian Infantry Brigade start lines, looking from the south.

A lot of the game was spent explaining what tanks and infantry are, and how they interact. Also, when WW2 was. When I started gaming in 1967, WW2 had ended only 22 years ago – ancient history to a thirteen year old, but we had grown up immersed in war movies and comics.

26 Aus Inf Bde moves off26th Australian Infantry Brigade moves off with 24th Brigade to follow, and the divisional artillery in support.

Nowadays, WW2 seems contemporary with medieval knights and the American Civil War, with a puzzling lack of light sabres and robots, to youngsters that have grown up immersed in fantasy and Sci-fi!

Other things that needed to be expained:

  1. Infantry are most successful in set piece attacks if you pound the position with artillery first.
  2. Your plan doesn’t always work the way it does in comics, so …
  3. It is good to have a backup plan, and a reserve.
  4. It is easier to beat the enemy if your recce has first found out where he is.
  5. What battalions, regiments and brigades are.
  6. Where Tunisia is, and why we were fighting the Germans.

26th and 24th Brigades Close assault on Wadi Yawat26th and 24th Brigades Close assault WADI YAWAT.

The game rattled along at a brisk pace, with the village of WADI YAWANT being taken, retaken by a counterattack, and taken again. There was initial puzzlement that “these four men have to be next to the house to shoot at it”. This led onto a discussion about scale and three-kilometer squares.

Artillery moves forward2/7th, 2/8th and 2/12th Field Regiments RAA move forward to support the attack (looking from the north).

“So why aren’t there more houses then?”

Wadi Yawat takenWADI YAWAT falls to a well-coordinated attack by two brigades and artillery.

However, the Hobbit is a bright little spark, and soon picked up the concept of moving elements in concert with each other to concentrate fire. Meanwhile, the division’s recce continued to probe beyond the village to locate ambushes and roadblocks.

Supporting Shermans from 24th Armoured Brigade press forward around the north of WADI YAWATSupporting Shermans from 24th Armoured Brigade press forward around the north of WADI YAWAT, looking from the north.

The Hobbit’s ariel recce successfully discovered the enemy’s divisional HQ and logistic echelon. He pounced on it with Hurricanes, and all the glee that only an eight year-old can muster. There goes the Gulaschkannone!

Desert Airforce finds 15 Pz HQ Desert Airforce recce finds 15 Pz HQ, looking from the south.

15 Pz conducted a counterattack that was beaten off by the Australians’ 24th Armoured Brigade reserve. With this, the game ended as the Germans withdrew across the board. Mission accomplished.

15 Pz counterattack15 Panzer Division 8th Panzer Regiment counterattack fails as it meets 24th Armoured Brigade in a head-on battle.

Tea followed after the Hobbit posed for a victory photo!

The consensus was that the game was ok, but needed more giant Stompy robots and OP characters in it¹ I certainly need to add context more gradually. Perhaps DBA next?


1. Over Powered. It’s an online gamer’s thing. Children like being OP superheroes and huge dinosaurs, precisely because they are usually the smallest one around. It makes a nice change for them.


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, 8th Army - British and Commonwealth, DAK, Western Desert, WWII

Review – BPM India Pattern Carrier


India Pattern Carrier BPM (L) FoW (R)

The Butler’s Printed Model India Pattern Carrier is an excellent model. Here it is compared to the Flames of War offering, which is also spot on the nail at 1:120. The usual comments about print lines apply. Both models have PSC bren carrier crews added, with Peter Pig turban heads.


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, 8th Army - British and Commonwealth, Modelling, WWII

Bishop SPG -Just Needs Varnish


Bishop SPG Left Front Threequarter View

Two light coats of emulsion were enough to cover the Bishop, after a generous sprinkling of stowage boxes, jerricans and fuel tanks.

Bishop SPG Left Rear Threequarter View

Flashes for 121st Regiment, Royal Artillery were hand painted. The painted rivets look pretty ragged in the photo. I didn’t bother with the troop flashes on the sand shields. There is some debate as to whether Chocolate brown or thinned black paint was used, I have hedged my bets on different models and used both.

Bishop SPG Right Front Threequarter View


All in all, I’m happy with how it turned out.

Bishop SPG Right Rear Threequarter View


The Bishops were used to support the Valentine Army Tank Regiments at ALAMEIN. Despite the title, as an homage to John JNV, I will give it a spray of Windsor and Newton Matt Varnish once it dries out.


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, 8th Army - British and Commonwealth, Artillery, Modelling, WWII

Pointless Conversion – Bishop SPG

Bishop Turret floor and Roof

I began a pointless conversion¹ of a Bishop Self-propelled Gun. Why? Because I need one for my ALAMEIN Orbat, for 121st Regiment, Royal Artillery, and because I have a surfeit of Valentine Hulls. The first stage was to build the base and top of the gun casemate. Next, the sides were added on. The front and gun were the last to be built, with filing to finish off before the details such as hatches , were added. I went with sand shields, as first issued, rather than the later stripped sides for Sicily and Italy, and didn’t worry too much about roof vents and the like.

Bishop Turret Sides in Place

Of course, being out of practice with this sort of thing, I made the turret too wide (another pointless fat head) and had to cut a fillet out to bring it down to size. I had no excuse this time, having resized a web plan to 1:100; cheating, I know!

Bishop Turret Details and gun in Place

Bishops were the first British attempt to make a self-propelled artillery piece, if  you discount the Birch Gun. They were soon superceded by the M7 Priest 105mm (90 sent to North Africa), then the Sexton 25pdr (of which 2,062 were built), but they soldiered on through Tunisia, Sicily and Italy, with 130 being built eventually.

  1. Coined by Phil Steele. It describes converting something that is readily available as a kit, because you happen to have a kit that will provide the base for the conversion, and you don’t need another model of the kit that you have.


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, 8th Army - British and Commonwealth, Artillery, Modelling, Western Desert

2nd Alamein Pocket Orbat

8th Army HQ and Army Troops

8th Army HQ and Army Troops

I haven’t had a good parade for some time now. It is easily the best way of managing large orbats. There is no substitute for hauling the toys out of their boxes and putting them into their fighting formations prior to a game, so whilst I heartily disliked true scale parades, 15mm ones are great fun. The troops on parade usually benefit from an extra lick of paint too.  Sorting out the Pocket Orbat for 2nd ALAMEIN took longer than I thought, and it will probably be tweaked after a game or two.

8th Army vs Panzer Armee Afrika

All the toys now fit onto two of my steel Parade Trays¹, whereas before it took six. This looks like a much more manageable way of fighting Alamein in a day with six or so players, and as a bonus, four trays worth of toys are freed up for CRETE, TUNISIA, SARDINIA and ITALY.

The detailed pictures are being added to the Pocket Orbat, and should be published in a week or so.


  1. A very grand name for a Tegometal display shelf backing panel.


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, 8th Army - British and Commonwealth, DAK, Italian Army, Orbats, Western Desert, WWII

Marmon Herrington FAT

Marmon Herrington FAT (2)

Marmon Herrington Field Artillery Tractor (FAT)

The QRF Chevrolet truck with clear windows is a much better model than their solid cab offering, despite some of the flash being thicker than the supporting pillars that it clings to. However, at £4.50 compared to £6.50 the solid cab wins the day for 3 crude models that are going to be chopped about for wargaming, even though the window alignment between the front and sides is cheerfully approximate. I simply added the ammunition storage lockers and seats for the Alamein game, then afterwards cut the rear cargo body to size, and added the canopy struts and soft cab top at leisure. QRF are remodelling their WWII range to bring it up to the standards of their modern stuff. I wait in hope.

This YouTube clip was invaluable for more detail: YouTube  Marmon Herrington FAT with 25 Pdr

Marmon Herrington FAT and Chevrolet Truck towing 25pdrs

Marmon Herrington FAT (L) and Chevrolet Truck (R) towing 25pdrs

It is worth looking at YesthatPhil’s conversion of the open cab kit into a Tanake for the ALAMEIN game at Shedquarters in October 2018.

For Corps Scale Orbat (CSO) and above (Front – FSO) I have been modelling the tractors and guns together on the same base. It is less flexible, but gives players one less opportunity to muddle units up in a large game, and as umpire, I don’t have to keep reminding folk that the tractor goes with the gun, that it doesn’t matter if they show it limbered up or not, and that yes, in a move lasting from four hours to a day, they can move and fire.

Marmon Herrington FAT Work in Progress

Marmon Herrington FAT Work in Progress

Brass rods are a pig to line up for canopies. I used a card jig for the first one, but may use a solid jig for the next ones, or just leave the canopy off! I left off the spare tyre frame, wing mirrors and front bumper as being too fiddly and too fragile respectively.  Card and a thick coat of paint rectify the poor window castings, with some cloth covering the roof of the cab to give an approximation of the canvas cab tilt. Altogether, I think that I need about ten FATs for the whole of ALAMEIN if I am to do it all at once.

Marmon Herrington FAT with 25 pdr

Marmon Herrington FAT with 25 pdr


Marmon Herrington FAT and 25 pdr


Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, 8th Army - British and Commonwealth, Artillery, Modelling, Trucks, Western Desert, WWII

ALAMEIN Operation Lightfoot D+4 to 5 – 27 to 28 Oct 1942

An Exhausted 50th Division is Fought to a Standstill on D+5

An Exhausted 50th Division is Fought to a Standstill on D+5

By now the cauldron had been renamed “Plum Pudding Hill” by the Umpire, as it had turned into a big pile of infantry with tanks poured over them like custard.   I should have imposed some order earlier, but Gary R and Tim G were passing   all their morale tests, and having fun, so it seemed simpler top go with the flow.

Plum Pudding Hill

Plum Pudding Hill

When the combat finally resolved, both 50th Infantry Division and 22nd Armoured Brigade were shattered. 21 Panzer was in little better shape, so when leading elements of 10th Armoured Division appeared to their rear, they were foced to  turn about and fight them off.

Ariete in Position to prevent the Inevitable Breakthrough

Ariete in Position to prevent the Inevitable Breakthrough

Pavia was confident in the deep south that having Ariete supporting them for a counterattack would stave off any threatened breakthrough from 4th Light Armoured Brigade. The earlier failure to stem the northern breakthrough was having consequences though, as Ariete was called north to bolster the Italian withdrawal. There seemed to be a callous lack of sympathy from the German High Command as they efficiently regrouped prior to withdrawing, and Pavia broadcast their betrayal to anyone who would listen.

Ramke had known this for a few hours already, through Luftwaffe channels, but when the order came to pull back, they were still heavily engaged and had to wait until 50th Division and the dashing “Pip” Roberts had immolated themselves on “Plum Pudding Hill” before sloping off in the gathering dusk of D+5.

Pavia Abandoned to their Fate

Pavia Abandoned to their Fate

Finally, 1st Free French had driven off the remains of Kampfgruppe Kiel, and threaded a way through the minefields to the south of Pavia, paving the way for 4th Light Armoured Brigade to break out into the open desert.

Free French - Bon Alors!

Free French – Bon Alors!

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, 8th Army - British and Commonwealth, DAK, Italian Army, Wargames, Western Desert, WWII

ALAMEIN Operation Lightfoot D+3 to 4 – 26 to 27 Oct 1942

Rommel is not Happy

Rommel is not Happy

The game resumed after a convivial and entertaining lunch, with the allies continuing to grind through the Axis defences. Calls for 21 Panzer were becoming ever more strident. In reality, I am not sure if Rommel, a General who excelled in not obeying orders when it suited him, would have tolerated insubordination in his own generals to this extent.

Assault Pioneers Fail Spectacularly

Assault Pioneers Fail Spectacularly

For now though, von Gow and  Steve C (commanding Ramke) were benefitting from the support of 21 Panzer as Gary R’s 50th Northumbrian Division and 1st Greek Brigade pushed relentlessly onward. A local counterattack by Ramke’s assault pioneers failed spectacularly, even rolling white instead of black dice fooled no-one, as they came up with three ones! Gary’s infantry were getting pretty low in strength, so he ordered 22nd Armoured Brigade forward against the final obstacle to make a breakout possible.

DAF over the Cauldron

DAF over the Cauldron

Every NGM western desert game so far has seen a cauldron develop at the point of contact when an Axis panzer division has contacted an Allied armoured brigade. This game was no exception as the two sides fought for supremacy on the ground and in the air.

Dogfight over Ramke

Dogfight over Ramke

Meanwhile to the south, the 44th (Home Counties) Infantry Division commanded by Tim M, was steadily chewing its way through stubborn opposition. Pavia and Folgore were only holding by counterattacking with fresh reserves, then reoccupying positions with units that were already spent. Nevertheless, the NQM-experienced Trebian was forcing the Allies to fight hard for every position taken.

The Cauldron

The Cauldron

21 Panzer Division get the Upper Hand in the Cauldron D+3 to D+4

21 Panzer Division get the Upper Hand in the Cauldron D+3

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, 8th Army - British and Commonwealth, Air Forces, DAK, German Airforce, infantry, Italian Army, Italian Army, NQM Squared, RAF and Commonwealth AFs, Regia Aeronautica, Wargames, Western Desert, WWII