Saturday, 30 March 2013

An Alternative WW2?

My wargaming life started with the Second World War, as the transition from 'playing with toy soldiers' to 'wargaming using proper rules and everything' was undertaken using Airfix models and figures and the ever-useful Airfix Guide No. 15 'World War Two Wargaming'. I eventually progressed onto metal miniatures and non-plastic vehicles, as you do, but that was where it all began for me and probably many others of my generation.

What's wrong with gaming WW2?

I lost interest in the period for some time though. Most WW2 games seem to be set in the later war period, where the most technologically advanced German stuff is pitted against, the largely American supplied, most technologically advanced (but not as advanced as German) Allied stuff. As this is the stage where the Allies were actually winning the war and the Germans have some killer weapons at their disposal, I can see its appeal. How the era is represented in wargames though, you might wonder how the Germans lost.


In the interests of gaming 'fairness', the Allies rarely have the overwhelming numbers, nor the Germans the ever-decreasing efficiency which their real-life counterparts faced; no lack of fuel, no loss of air superiority, no decreasing unit size or cohesion, no desperation or loss of morale - no sense in fact, that the German Army was steadily being obliterated and under severe strain. Oddly I know of few WW2 gamers who field Volkssturm 'armies' either. Out of all proportion to their numbers, the German force most commonly fielded by wargamers, seems to be the SS.

I've heard all of the arguments, like "Oh these were elite soldiers and nothing to do with the concentration camp guards", but the difference is subjective... the inhabitants of Błonie and other Polish villages, the men of the Royal Norfolk Regiment, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, the Cheshire Regiment, or the Royal Artillery, might beg to differ, if they were able to. These were just some of the crimes committed in 1939 to 1940, a full war list would make a post all of its very own. The history of the SS has experienced a degree of revision and rehabilitation within the wargaming community and I want no part of that.

Even the Wehrmacht's elite 'Großdeutschland' Division, another favoured 'wargaming unit' is not free of the taint of war crime and 'special duties'. The infamous AB-Aktion in Poland, also involved ordinary Wehrmacht troops. Germans as a whole aren't inherently bad or evil, nor indeed are the members of any nation or race. It was the political system, which created the environment under which they lived, which made the difference. Having studied the 'Rise of the Nazis' as part of my degree, this has been hammered home to me in no uncertain terms. No surprise therefore, that I don't wish to include any element of Nazism in my 'pleasurable hobby'.


But...

Against this repugnance for all things Nazi though, there is my interest in the vehicles, aircraft and other facets of the inter-war and early war period. This was first kindled way back in 1975, when the late great Terry Wise wrote a series of articles about the abortive German plan to invade Britain in 1940; Operation Sea Lion, in Airfix Magazine (two of the ten articles can be found to view on Vintage Wargaming). I have vague memories of his modelling a gun-emplacement disguised as a seaside ice cream kiosk and would love to read them all again now.

My interest in the Spanish Civil War, my degree studies into the 1930s and of course my writing on VBCW, have also expanded my knowledge and fuelled my interest in the period between the wars, the Munich Crisis, and the early part of the Second World War, but roughly grinds to a halt around the time of the Battle of El Alamein and the Torch Landings.

The accent on this early period is all about transition to me. There is the move from horse-powered to horsepower as a means of moving men and supplies about, along with the arguments against it. There is the evolution of primitive ideas about mechanised warfare and a shift from land battleships, to much lighter and more mobile vehicles. There is also a change from biplanes to monoplanes and the whole expansion of the role of aircraft in war. It's fascinating stuff... to me at least.

Where am I going with this?

Previously I wrote about H.G. Wells's vision of the war he saw was coming (and he wasn't that far off the mark either!), which differed to the reality because of his having to predict future events from a point in time (1934). There was no conception when he wrote of what the Nazis would become (even amongst the Nazis themselves I imagine), but an awareness that Fascism was spreading and that sabres were being rattled over old issues.

For us here in the 21st Century, our hindsight over what actually happened is like a massive mental ball and chain. We are so more capable of imagining the future, than we are of re-imagining the past. Hindsight is also often wielded as a weapon by others, so as to pour scorn over the attempts of those who would like to explore something different.

While this hasn't seen torch-bearing mobs scouring the streets for VBCW players, the huge drop in 'Modern' period settings featuring Soviets versus N.A.T.O., once a very popular setting pre-1991, highlights the gulf between the 'possible future' and the 'set in stone' past, which permeates the hobby as a whole. While the actual games are no different, the concept is now 'silly', compared to being previously 'serious'.

I can't say that I'm immune to this myself. My plans for 'Alternative WW2' forces still rely on real-world organisations and equipment and I probably won't be going down the 'Crimson Skies' route of alternative design paths, or diverging technologies. If I am honest, this is just a blatant re-arranging of alignments of the nations who did take part in WW2, which potentially you could see in any 'Flames of War' Tournament.

Not in my plans, but kind of cool nevertheless. 
Who knows, maybe I will cross over to the dark side?

Initial Concepts

I am still in the outline stage of planning this project, but my initial concepts involve two main changes. Firstly the instability of the Weimar Republic will be solved by the introduction of a constitutional monarchy, thus side-lining influential support for the Nazis, who dwindle and disappear. German rearmament had covertly started in 1928 and many of the plans were in place before Hitler appeared on the scene. Germany therefore doesn't need to be either totally weak, nor the 'big bad aggressor'.

The second and far more important change, is the role and situation in France. The French were not happy with the Versailles Treaty, seeing it as poor reward for their suffering. There was a conflict of interests with Britain as regards trade, with Britain's links with its Commonwealth almost resulting in a 'Free Trade' system, which would have attracted tariffs on imported French goods. The French themselves at one point used a strong Franc to prevent political currency manipulation by Britain and Germany.

There were in fact far more points if disagreement between Britain and France, than there were agreements, which essentially boiled down to just preventing a militarily strong Germany emerging. Take this away and you just have seeds of division left. Britain and France had no formal alliance, they just had an 'understanding' - the Entente Cordial, which was more designed to prevent conflict between themselves over colonial possessions than anything else.

Britain's relations with Nazi Germany were a cause for concern, there was the Naval Treaty of 1935, which destroyed the Stresa Front, formed earlier that year - an agreement between Britain, France and Italy to work together against Germany. While any Germany, not just a Nazi one, would want to re-arm, adjust the terms of the Versailles Treaty and restore its pre-WW1 borders, a non-Nazi one is likely to have been far more agreeable for Britain to treat with.

As things stood, Britain continued to push for a soft approach to Germany, right up to 1939, while France grew progressively more hard-line, yet was unable to push this due to British intransigence. What would be the French position be, as regards a Britain which was actually drawing closer to a Germany without Hitler? There was a rough real-world anti-German alliance formed between France, Italy, Czechoslovakia and Poland, albeit a flimsy one and Poland was pushing for a pre-emptive war on the basis of "sooner rather than later", but this was not taken up by France.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose
(The more things change, the more they stay the same)

In February 1934 France suffered a crisis, popularly perceived as an attempted Coup d'etat by extreme right-wing groups, against the Cartel des gauches (Coalition of the Left), who formed the government. The right wing was poorly organised and pursued differing aims, often at odds with their fellows. A very influential group, the Croix-de-Feu, led by the charismatic Colonel François de la Rocque, decided at the last minute and support the constitutional process and this single act doomed the Coup to failure.


The Croix-de-Feu were right-wing, but more centrist than most of their fellow parties. Although labelled as fascist subsequently, they are perhaps more accurately described as nationalist-conservative. They supported social change and minimum wages, while at the same time supporting corporatism, opposing socialism and communism and advocating and a strong policy towards the 'German threat'. For many French people of the time, a government of the Croix-de-Feu, headed by Colonel de la Rocque, would have been quite acceptable.

With de la Rocque would also come the other parties of the right and with them the influence of people like Charles Maurras, who in the real-world was to argue for a policy of France d'abord (France first) during the Vichy Regime. De la Rocque was also a militarist and a stronger and re-built French Army would have been a certainty. While an expansionist France might not be realistic, a France that pursued a policy of making Germany pay for France's losses in the Great War, was also a certainty.  

Mussolini's Regime in Italy would have found much common cause with a right-wing France. Italy had not received what it had sought, or felt that she deserved, from its participation in the Great War. France was also Italy's foremost trading partner and both nations were determined to pursue their own colonial ambitions. Italy's were in the Balkans, which would require France to abandon its support of Yugoslavia, and in North and East Africa, where both countries were somewhat limited by the British presence in the continent. Just as France and Britain had reached an Entente over the region, then it was not impossible for Italy and France to do the same.

Both nations had no intention of allowing Germany to become strong again, nor allowing any possible unification of Germany and Austria, calls for which amongst native German speakers, were beginning to be voiced. If there is one real-world thing to consider and deal with here, its Mussolini's loathing of the French. While he might in the short-term, swallow his principles for Italy's gain, his fervent belief was that France had, throughout history, contrived to keep Italy away from its place in the Sun by actively ensuring it remained divided.

The infamous War Plan Red - America planned for a potential war with Britain.
Little is said of contemporary British war plans, which stated that France was
its only viable potential European threat and which was to dictate the
positioning of the RAF's airfields in the 1920s and early 1930s.

In the wider world, America had pursued an ambition of ending war as a means of settling disputes between other nations. It had initially had a poor relationship with France following Versailles and the American pressure to not force crippling reparations on Germany and had linked its war debt repayments to the U.S. on those it received from Germany, when the Germans struggled to pay, France reneged on its payments to the U.S.. France had however embarked on what can only be described as a propaganda campaign in the U.S. in an attempt to improve relations between the two countries.

Germany struggling under the weight of French demands for reparations had previously embarked on a similar campaign to win Americans over to their plight under a kind of French 'Shylock', determined to get every ounce of its 'pound of flesh' from a suffering German people. The French effort was successful in negating much of that and was also focused on the top of America's society, its bankers and industrialists. In the real world this led to the sale of American aircraft to a rearming France and even the planned establishment of a factory in Savanna, Georgia, to make S-35 Tanks, although this came too late in our time. The image of a re-armed and strong France was seen in America, as the best chance of peace in Europe.

Britain's stock with the American people, on the other hand, was declining and an influential clique amongst America's elite, was vehemently Anti-British. The reasons for this varied, from the intellectual belief that when one civilisation rises, it comes into conflict with the one it replaces, which they saw as the U.S.A. and Britain in the current age, to the Irish-Americans who were critical of Britain's role in Irish history. The overall belief was however, that Britain would continue to try and block American ambitions, the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 often provided as one such instance of this.

The World of the 1930s

The world of this 1930s is a little different to that of our world, albeit not that much.

The U.S.A. is still isolationist and likely to remain so. It has backed France with material, as the best hope for peace in Europe, but is primarily concerned with the Pacific and its relations with Japan. Japan is heavily engaged within China, but is nevertheless likely to continue on its collision course with the U.S., although it is unlikely to be fighting the British Empire at the same time. China for its part, will still likely benefit from German mercenaries and material support, much as it did prior to the alliance between Germany and Japan in our world.

In Europe, France has become a dominant power and heads a loose alliance of states, who stand to suffer if Germany is allowed a re-birth. These include Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia. The latter two of these states are also in agreement with Turkey and Greece, over national borders in the Balkans, which would be ratified in the 'Balkans Entente' of 1934.

Italy has much in common with France, although there are reasons why a full and amicable alliance, or a 'Paris-Rome Axis' can't be agreed. One of these is Yugoslavia, whose Dalmatian Coast is seen by Mussolini as being 'Italian', but the French are committed to the state's existence (although this isn't set in stone). Italy's own allies include Hungary, who had lost territory to the Czechs, Romanians and Yugoslavs, and Bulgaria, who also claimed part of Macedonia and was frozen out by the Balkan Entente.

Tell me you have never wondered how the Czechs would have got on
in a fight, given the chance?

Both Italy and France have territorial ambitions, to which the British Empire is a continual check to them. Africa is the main focus of these, with the scant British forces in Egypt, the Sudan, Palestine and Iraq, being a somewhat viable threat to their plans. However the Italian presence in Libya and the French presence in Syria and Lebanon, means that the British are sandwiched between two possibly hostile powers. The potential for the British presence to be removed and for the Suez Canal to form a new border between a French Middle-East and an Italian North-East Africa, is there.

Spain has its own problems and it is unlikely that anything short of a Civil War will solve these. While Italy is still on hand and likely to support the Nationalists, as in real life. Whether Germany would still do so, is questionable. France is very unlikely to support the 'Reds' and is an easy shoe-in to replace Germany's support and has a larger supply of obsolete tanks and aircraft to offer too. Naturally the Popular Front government of the Republic has only the Soviets to turn to for help and doesn't even have the short-lived support of France that it enjoyed in reality.

Germany and Austria are likely to be key areas for unfolding events. Even without the Nazis, there are still sufficient factors for them to be concerned about. They will be unsatisfied with their borders, as will the 'ethnic Germans' outside them. The Sudetenland and the Danzig Corridor are still potential flashpoints, as is the question of Austria's union with Germany itself. Non-unification supporters can rely on Italy's support and indeed France, as well as other regional powers,  have no wish to see a 'Greater Germany' formed.

The Soviet Union, who despite having abandoned its commitment to spreading 'the Revolution' outside of its borders, is still perceived as a threat by Europe. In the East, the inexorable spread of Japanese power is an inherent threat, as always, too. In the real-world, the Soviets were able to reach 'understandings' with France, Czechoslovakia and the Baltic States. In this world too, they will attempt to broker as many non-aggression pacts as are possible, although France is most certainly now a hostile power, as is Poland in any case.

Britain sees a strong Germany as a shield against the Soviets, while Germany, itself almost surrounded by unfriendly nations, might consider the prospect of an olive branch from the Soviets as the lesser of several evils, particularly if Soviet influence on the German Communists can be focused on reducing their opposition to the existing government.

Finally there is Britain itself. The confused nature of British foreign policy during this time period is likely to be repeated, although the cracks in its relationship with France won't be papered over this time. The real-world lean towards Germany is likely to be far more pronounced without the general distrust of Hitler to contend with. The memory and bitterness felt by many British towards Germany, resulting from the Great War, is likely to require as much effort as did the maintaining of its relationship with France in the real world too.

Italo-Balbo (peaked cap, centre right) was somewhat more imposing a figure than
Mussolini (to  Balbo's right). He was also less fascist and more republican than
him too. Balbo would have commanded the Italian forces in North Africa had he
not died in plane crash in 1940. It is said that Mussolini was jealous of his
popularity amongst both Italians and the world press. The colony of Libya was
popularly known as 'Balbo-land' to some newspapers. It is also possible that
Balbo might have replaced Mussolini had some accident happened to the Duce himself.

The British are focused on both the preservation of the Empire and control of the seas. Despite this they were somewhat complacent regarding the threat posed by Italian ambitions in the real-world, even to the point of completely missing the deployment of the Italian Army in Libya to the Egyptian Border in 1936, in preparation for any British support for Abyssinia after the Italian Invasion. The 65 tanks the British deployed in the Middle East, along with the Infantry Brigade in Egypt, would have stood little chance against the ten divisions they would have faced, even under the most cautious of the Italian generals.  

Technology

I imagine that in this world, technology would progress at largely the same rates. The spur to develop better aircraft and tanks in reality, came from German re-armament. In this world, a more militarily disposed France would become the same spark. The Germans will have to temper their need for new equipment, with not antagonising the French, although if they have Britain onside and perhaps the same co-operation with the Soviets, as they enjoyed in the real-world, there might be little difference.

The Heinkel HE-51 the original Jagdbomber, or 'Jabo' and 
in 'Imperial Livery' too! 

It essentially boils down to the player's needs and desires. I want to be able to field Carden-Loyd Tankettes, Vickers Medium Tanks, Hawker Furies and Hawker Harts in my British forces, along with horse-mounted cavalry and artillery. In view of this, I need recognition of 'the threat' to appear somewhat later than in reality. For the aforementioned Germans, I want the Heinkel HE-51 and Henschel HS-123 to be the primary aircraft, along with other pre-war designs.

There is the opportunity to make this alternate scenario fit whatever it is you find attractive about the Inter-War era. For me it is obviously about the somewhat primitive designs and the use of items which never survived into the real war. Your own mileage will vary.

That's All Folks!

That is pretty much the end of my somewhat long-winded pitch for an alternate history setting for Inter-War or WW2 wargames, as an option to the Imagi-Nation route. All of the above is obviously just my take on one possible way things could have gone, yours may differ.

The point I have tried to make though, is that if you don't have the time or the inclination to set out an imaginary country, or indeed you are looking for something different to do with your already existing WW2 forces, then the possibilities are somewhat endless.

The real WW2 kicked off more or less all at once, with the exception of the Far-East and Pacific. It might be more probable that WW2 in this Europe, could have been a run of 'proxy conflicts' aided and abetted by the bigger powers, preceding a more general war, much like the Balkan Wars were in comparison to the Great War. The Balkans and Eastern Europe are indeed one such area where there are tensions, which can be exploited by the wargamer at this time too.

I will be exploring this on my blog Europe at War though, should anyone want to join me for the ride. It's early days yet though, so don't expect too much, too soon on it! I will still be posting on here though regardless.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The Battle for Vilnov (Rusland Civil War)

During the Rusland Civil War most of the fighting took place between small forces who were trying to take control of the towns and villages that were spread across the country. A typical small force would comprise six to ten Infantry Units, an Artillery Unit, and other troops that might be available. Such a force would usually be commanded by a Colonel or low-ranking General and could not expect any reinforcements if it found itself fighting an enemy force. Scenario The town of Vilnov was situated in an area of undulating countryside that was dotted with small woods. It had not declared its support for either side in the Civil War and both the Reds and the Whites were determined to take it for themselves. To achieve this both sides sent a small force to seize the town, purge it of any members of the opposition, and construct defences that would ensure that it would be defendable from any possible counter-attack. The Opposing Forces The Red column consisted of:
  • Six Infantry Units
  • An Naval Artillery Unit
  • A Commander
The White column consisted of:
  • Five Infantry Units
  • A Machine Gun Unit
  • An Artillery Unit
  • A Commander
The opposing side were therefore fairly evenly matched, although the Machine Gun Unit did give the Whites a slight advantage. The Terrain
Both sides entered from opposite ends of the battlefield. The Red column's first four Unit entered at 8f, 8e, 8d, and 8c, and White's first four Units entered at 1f, 1e, 1d, and 1 c. Turn 1 The playing card tiles were 'dealt' face down to both Red ...
... and White Units.
These were then turned over by the Reds ...
... and the Whites.
It was clear from this that the Reds would have a slight advantage this turn. Each side then activated its Units by suit and card value, starting with the Red Unit that had been 'dealt' the Ace (or 1) of Hearts, then the White Unit with the 4 of Spades, then the Red Unit with the 8 of Clubs, etc, etc. As no Units were in range of each other there was no combat during the turn, and the Units ended up in the following positions:
Turn 2 Further Red ...
... and White Units entered the battlefield.
Playing card tiles were again 'dealt' to each side face down, and then turned over.
Yet again Units were activated in turn by suit and card value. Both sides moved their forces forward until they clashed in the town of Vilnov ...
... where Infantry Units of both sides became embroiled in a number of Close Combats.
By the end of the turn both sides had Units in the town, but so far the Whites seemed to be in the ascendancy.
Turn 3 The playing cards were 'dealt' out ...
... but before they were turned over, the Red Artillery Unit opened fire on the White Infantry Unit that was directly in front of them in the town. The White Infantry Unit was hit ...
... and was forced to retreat ...
... thus reducing the White hold on Vilnov.
The playing card tile allocated to the Red Artillery Unit was removed and the rest were then turned over and the remaining Units were activated in turn by suit and card value.
The Whites used their advantage to move their Commander forward and then the Machine Gun Unit, which opened fire on a nearby Red Infantry Unit.
The latter was hit and destroyed ...
... which left a gap on the Red force's left wing.
The Reds countered by moving an Infantry Unit forward so that it could attack a White Infantry Unit in the flank, but the Reds threw a very poor die score whereas the Whites threw a high die score, ...
... which resulted in the attacking Red Infantry Unit being destroyed!
This now left a gap on Red's right flank and ...
... and brought them dangerously close to reaching their Exhaustion Point. The White Infantry Unit that had been forced to retreat due to the very effective firing by Red's Artillery Unit now reoccupied the part of town they had previously vacated and attacked a Red Infantry Unit in the flank.
Their attack was not only successful but also caused the destruction of the Red Infantry Unit.
The Red force had now reached its Exhaustion Point and was no longer able to mount any further attacks.
The Whites, on the other hand, were still able to mount offensive operations and attacked in the flank one of Red Force's right-hand Infantry Units ...
... but the attack was ineffective and both sides were unable to inflict any casualties upon their opponents.
This brought the turn – and the battle – to an end.
The Reds were unable to occupy Vilnov, which was firmly in White hands. Furthermore they had been unable to inflict any serious casualties on the White forces and their Commander knew that he would need reinforcements if he were to capture the town. On the other hand the Whites felt confident that they could fortify and hold the town should the Reds mount a further attack. Only time will tell which of the opposing sides will be correct ...

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Shape of Things To Come


History is full of "what ifs", I'm sure you've all come across them in your reading on whatever it is that floats your wargaming 'boat'. You're sat there reading whatever and into your head pops the question "What if that had; gone wrong/hadn't happened/gone differently"? Sometimes they are minor ripples on the historical pool, other times they are veritable tidal waves. The 'Lost Message' that might have stopped the Battle of Gettysburg, or Hitler being executed following the 'Beer Hall Putsch' of 1923, instead of being imprisoned, both have their obvious impacts on history.

Take VBCW for example. Personally I don't think it would have happened they way it's been developed, but of course that's merely my opinion. How I see it, is that the point of departure (POD), would have been Edward's refusal to abdicate and his taking up Churchill's offer of forming a "King's Party". The BUF however was a rapidly declining force after 1936 and its participation would be minimal... but you have to have your 'bad guys' I suppose.

Any resultant Civil War (if it had even actually come to that) might have resembled the English Civil War in its make-up. Quite possibly the 'Parliamentarians' would have seen Socialists and Communists become the modern day equivalents of the 'Diggers' and 'Levellers' and other radicals that became active within their military. It's quite possible that a potentially victorious 'Royalist' regime might have gone extremely right-wing, as seen in Loncraine's Richard III, but not in the BUF style, they had no political credibility or support.

The impact of a British Civil War in the 1930s would have been far more important than the Spanish Civil War, given Britain's position in the World. By 1936 Spain was the 'sick man of Europe', its moment in the sun ended by the Spanish American War of 1898. The messages taken from it; 'Tanks are only useful as infantry support weapons' by the British and French, and 'This seems to work well' by Germany, did have their effects on the subsequent campaigns of 1940, but other than that there was little impact on world events. Overall though the impact of the Spanish Civil War was that fear was spread, via the news reels of the war, of the concept of Total War.

Ralph Richardson as 'The Boss', the local post-war warlord in 'Things to Come' (1936), adapted from Wells's book, directed by Alexander Korda, with input from Wells as screenwriter. Unlike the book, Britain is directly involved after being attacked by an un-named English-speaking enemy. 

In 1933 H.G. Wells's "The Shape of Things To Come" was published. While not his best work, it proved curiously prophetic. A war beginning in 1940, due to German-Polish tensions over the city of Danzig, is obviously perhaps the most uncanny.  Bearing in mind that we are talking 1933, Wells's conception of the World was somewhat different to what it would become. He saw the Germans as militarily weak (which they were in 1933) and the Poles as the aggressor, the Polish Government being itself a military dictatorship.

Italy is the main villain of the piece and with its allies; Bulgaria, Hungary and Albania embarks on a conquest of Yugoslavia. A Central European Alliance is formed between Germany, Italy and Austria, and despite the British, French and Czechs attempting to broker a peace, the war continues. Britain and the U.S.A. adopt a stance of 'impartiality', which produces a period of economic growth and prosperity for them, dragging them out of the depression.

Russia involves itself indirectly, supporting 'partisans' in the Polish Ukraine and encouraging Lithuania to seize disputed territory in Poland, like Britain and the U.S.A. it is likely that it grows economically and spreads its influence, rather than being involved and ultimately weakened, as it was in the real world. France had tried to broker peace, but finally is forced to honour its treaty commitments and declares war on the Central Alliance in 1943, as do Yugoslavia's allies; Romania and Czechoslovakia, becoming allies of Poland in the process.

The war on land and sea resembles that of the Great War, with trench lines and periodic offensives, of limited result. Poison gas, 'slime pits' (sections of chemical 'moat') and barbed wire predominate on the respective 'fronts' and guerrilla warfare in the difficult terrain areas. France invades Italy, but is halted at Milan. At sea the centre of the war is the Mediterranean, where the Central Alliance attempts to break the 'bridge' between French North Africa and France.

It is in the air where the war is being fought however. The watch word is that 'the bomber will always get through' and huge devastation is wrought on cities by the opposition's bombers. There are air assaults, or 'raids' by forces against targets otherwise protected by the heavily fortified front lines, which eventually results in the abandonment of the concept of the front line entirely, in favour of chains of 'redoubts' or 'fortress towns'.  

'Things to Come' was clearly the inspiration for Musketeer Miniatures' BCW08 Brigands... 'The Boss' is there second from right.

It all ends badly of course. The cities of those nations involved in the war become hell-holes, as those who aren't soldiers, essentially become either factory workers, or a slave labour force, which is constantly engaged in digging bomb shelters, repairing or building defences and of course the digging out of areas flattened by aerial bombing. Food becomes scarce and rationing becomes the norm too, in ever-dwindling amounts.

Britain and the U.S.A., whilst initially benefiting from their war-profiteering, suffer economic collapse as their customers default on their war-debt payments, resulting in mass-unemployment, social unrest and eventually civil war in effect. Then 'Maculated Fever' aka 'The Wandering Sickness' appears, whether it is 'germ warfare' or just a natural organism, that is able to take advantage of a malnourished and run-down world population is anyone's guess. Regardless however, the world's population is halved by the time 1960 comes.

Warlord Games's Carden-Loyd carrier, a veritable 'David' amongst the 'Goliaths' of the Inter-War era.

Wells then illustrates the 'World of Tomorrow' of 1960, a world where unburied, and in some cases partially gnawed, skeletons, lie in the streets of abandoned towns. In some areas a formal local government structure still exists, while in many others unpaid soldiers, or local levies, having no work to return to, have set themselves up as a ruling elite. There are no forms of national logistics in operation; no oil being produced, no vast factories at work, no means of food distribution. A new Dark Age descends on the world, as what planes, ships and vehicles survive, become useless, as there is no fuel for them.  

The Copplestone Castings Vickers Medium Tank Mk.II, mighty beast of war H.G. Wells style. 

Okay the book itself is a bit dull and is written as a 'History' from some future point, where all is happy and rose-coloured under the World Government. If I had to recommend bits of it, I'd just say read "The Last War Cyclone 1940 to 1950" and as far as you can stand after that, up to the start of Book 3. It doesn't offer excessive detail, but provides the general concept of the Second World War, as Wells imagined it in 1933. The film itself can be watched on You Tube and is not bad for depicting the 'horror of war' at the start and there's some really cool footage in the first half an hour or so.

T-35 Landship... you know you want one!

From the Wargaming perspective it's potentially brilliant however, particularly if you're a fan of Inter-War vehicles and aircraft. While there's no reason you can't use them, the Panzers, Messerschmitts, Stukas, Cruiser tanks, Hurricanes and Spitfires, can be ignored and instead the Vickers Mediums, Hawker Furies, Heinkel 51s and other 1930s stuff can be introduced in their stead. If you play the Great War, you can supplement your collections with the above, as largely the equipment and uniforms in use in 1918, were still in use in 1936. Britain remains uninvolved in the book, but in the 1936 film, it is one of the nations at war and the action is centred on 'Everytown'.

The Neubaufahrzeug V or 'Großtraktor'. Germany still gets some cool stuff.

If you are 'Dieselpunk' or 'Decopunk' at heart, it's a bit of a dream come true. The U.S.A. militarises, but does not become involved in the war (although it does fight a brief war with Japan). American planes, tanks and weapons supply both sides (as do Britain's). The potential for the establishment of 'air mercenaries', a la 'Sky Captain' or the real world 'Flying Tigers', as well as Pulp Era adventures set on the periphery of a European War, are also there too.

You can take what you will from the setting offered, be it an alternate Second World War, a background to Adventure or 'Back of Beyond' style games, you could even use it as an alternate timeline for a Post-Apocalypse World, without the radiation of a nuclear holocaust. If you wished, the 'Wandering Sickness' could even be the beginnings of the Zombie Apocalypse. All of the potential is there, as viewed from H.G. Wells's view of the future in 1933.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

German Pre-Dreadnought Battleship

I finally finished my 'cartoon' model of a German pre-dreadnought battleship. It is supposed to represent the Schleswig-Holstein, one of the pre-dreadnought battleships that the Germans were allowed to keep after World War I.
I painted her in all over light grey, and I think that it looks quite effective and 'right' for the period.