Monday, 22 May 2017

Oppy Wood at Partizan

On Sunday James Morris and I (ably assisted by Matt Moran) took our Oppy Wood demo/participation games to the Partizan wargames show in Newark.
Yes, you did read that correctly games plural. We took two games in two different scales.
This was inspired by our visit to the battle site of Oppy Wood in France last year after Crisis.
I suggested the action around Jack Harrison winning his Victoria Cross would make an excellent 28mm demo game using Chain of Command and James scenery from his previous Verdun games. Scrivs had gifted James a German force, so all we'd need would be a small British force (I'd already painted some) and we could do it all with minimum fuss shortly after the 100th anniversary of the battle on May 3rd.
However by this stage James mind was already filled with the possibilities of 12mm gaming and so, although open to the idea of playing an Oppy Wood scenario he wanted to do it with small soldiers. He'd already started planning the chateau. I was still keen to portray Harrison's role in the battle, and so countered with the suggestion of running a parallel 54mm game that zoomed in on that piece of the action. What started out as a joke had hardened into a cunning plan by the time we emerged from the Euro Tunnel.

So instead of collecting and painting a handful of Great War Miniatures British, we were now committed to collecting a 12mm British force of three battalions, together with enough 54mm soldiers for a good sized skirmish. And two tables worth of terrain.
Oh, and our discovery that James' Great Uncle Reg had been shot down by the Red Baron in the week preceding the battle meant we'd have to have some planes too.

Astonishingly we managed it.
I painted the tiny British and most of the big soldiers.
James finished off his 12mm Germans and then went on a bonkers building and modelling spree creating a lovely terrain mat from felt, a ruined chateau and village and painting planes in two different scales.
The trees and mat and some craters from the 28mm game were pressed into service for their larger brothers, though I had to paint many more to properly fill the table and, at the last minute I fettled some barbed wire just to add variety.

We  also (as is James' way) produced a bunch of supporting material and maps telling the tale of the battle, Jack Harrison's VC and, of course Uncle Reg and von Richthofen.

But enough preamble - it's the eye candy you're here for.

The Machine-gun team I converted from a de Agostini part-works model with head swaps using spare Armies in Plastic Germans. Players took the role of the British with the German gun activated by the turn of cards.

I also converted this "heroic leader" model to lead the British attack. He had some special rules to make it most likely that he'd hurl the Mills bomb to destroy the German gun and win the game.
Although we based the game loosely on Harrison's actions I didn't want it to be too close in detail - it's more a game aimed at simulating some of the horror and heroism of the war than a strict recreation of one man's self-sacrifice.

Meanwhile on a nearby table...

The East Yorkshires advance (nearest are the 12th Battalion who had more recently recruited reservists than the other two battalions).

The Germans begin to counter through the woods.

An aerial view. James was very careful to match the cloth closely to a shot we had that was taken shortly before the battle by a British spotter plane

Reg's plane in flight over the wood (though in reality Reg had met his end a few weeks before the Oppy attack on May 3rd).

Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutters. Oppy Wood was the first time RFC fighters were used in an organised air support role. Though pilots on their own initiative had made ground attacks on infantry before this battle on this occasion five Strutters were called upon specifically to attack the Germans as they massed for a counter-attack.

On the day the German air force played little part, but James couldn't resist adding a little colour to proceedings.

The chateau and gates. We couldn't find an accurate image of the front of the chateau, so this is a bit conjectural, but looks splendid nevertheless.

Meanwhile back at the big scale battle. Or is this the small scale encounter?

The Hull Pals are making some progress

The Strutters came to grief in the game...

The descriptions of the battle talk about German snipers and even machine guns in the trees. We suspect that Maxims were probably not actually hauled off the ground, but it gave James the excuse he needed to model 12mm men amidst the branches.

The relentless German gun continued to reap a bloody harvest...

As the Hull Pals forced their way forward.

Larry, Curly and Moe...

Big thanks to Martin Hogg who designed the T-shirts. Thanks mate!

Much to our surprise, late in the day we were accosted by an assortment of Wargames' Magazine Editors (well, two) who handed over this rather impressive piece of glassware.
Apparently we'd been awarded "Best Demo Game Partizan 2017"

We were both quite bowled over by this. I think we were quite proud of it all, but thought it was maybe a bit niche and a bit mad. But apparently the combination of games, James amazing terrain building and the thought and effort we'd put into the display materials made us an attractive package.
Looking round at some of the beautiful games around us (photos to follow later this week) I'm very humbled we were thought worthy of the prize.

On the day I mostly played the participation game - I'm pleased to say the British managed to destroy the machine gun every time - although around 50% of the VCs were awarded posthumously.
On the big (or is it small) scale game - the British found the advance tough going. Progress made even harder by us stopping to talk to as many people as we could. James and I are hoping to actually play it through properly one evening soon

All in all a splendid day out. Huge thanks to James for involving me (and agreeing to the 54mm madness).


  1. Well done guys . It did look brilliant , a great reward for your efforts

  2. What a fantastic table and well done on bagging the glassware.

  3. A much deserved award I would say.

  4. Really impressive.....a cold prevented me from coming and i missed a lot. Congratulations on the prize you guys have obviously put a lot of effort in 😀

  5. I wish I went now, congrats Tom :-)

  6. Congrats on the award. Hope to catch up for some gaming char when I'm over in October.