Now what’s he up to? North African campaign?

This category has been lurking in the background for ages, and I’ve finally got something to put in it! So, what brought this on?

Last Saturday afternoon, Dan Mersey paid me a visit. As it happens, he’s a bit of a Blitzkrieg Commander fan himself.

Many moons ago — seriously, it must be over two years now — I bought a couple of GHQ “Combat Command” boxes from Magister Militum at a show in Rheindalen in Germany, for no other reason, really, than that the tiny 1/285 models were exquisite. I got the Italian armoured combat team 1941 and Commonwealth Western Desert 1941. And they’ve sat on a shelf ever since.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I attended the Cavalier show in Tonbridge in Kent, where I again found Richard and Zoë of Magister Militum well-stocked with GHQ micro-armour. As well as a couple of other bits — of which, more later — I came away with two more boxes: Commonwealth Western Desert 1940 (it’s the Matildas, Staghounds and Vickers tankettes that did it!); and Afrika Korps 1941.

Well, as if I don’t have enough on my plate already, I ordered some MDF bases from Warbases and started gluing. Before I knew what had happened, I had cleaned up, stuck together and mounted the lot! And now, after a bit of a flurry of activity, they have been spray undercoated with Army Painter colour (Skeleton Bone for the Brits, Desert Yellow followed by a light dusting of the Skeleton Bone for the Germans and Italians) and given an initial wash of GW Devlan Mud.

My GHQ Blitzkrieg Commander forces take shape
My GHQ Blitzkrieg Commander forces take shape

Before I’d even undercoated these, Dan and I had a terrific little game to refresh my memory about the Warmaster-derived rules. Within five minutes, I’d remembered the basic mechanisms and was sending my A13 Cruiser tanks whizzing around the flanks of his lumbering M13/40s. I’d only played once before, again a long time ago, with rule-writer Pete Jones himself, so it’s a testament to his hard work that the rules are so instantly playable.

BKC is not, of course, to everyone’s taste, as it involves command activation systems and buckets’o’dice, but I have to say that I’ve become a bit of a convert to the Warmaster concepts over the last year or so. This has been reinforced not only by my foray into Warmaster Ancients (yes, I know, sorry Mr Berry but those Greeks and Persians are still not finished yet! Blame Dan for being a traitor and sidling off into 15mm…), but also by a trip to Warlord Games HQ where I, along with others, was treated to a preview game of the forthcoming Black Powder rules written by Rick Priestley and Jervis Johnson and feeling, not surprisingly, quite ‘Warmaster-y’.

To answer some fundamental questions you might have:

Why 1/285? Because they are small, comparatively cheap, easily stored, quick to paint, allow a good game in a small area or a huge game on a big table, and yet are amazingly attractive, jewel-like miniatures. I’m constantly amazed by the quality of GHQ sculpting.

Why Western Desert? Blame Don Featherstone, probably, and my dad. I was brought up to believe that the ‘purest’ theatre in WW2 was North Africa, and Rommel probably one of the greatest generals of all time. And that quirky British armour, the Long Range Desert Group, the DAK (the Pz III with the long 50mm gun is, for some reason, one of my all-time favourite tanks) and, of course, the Italians! (I have an especial fondness for their lovely AB-41 armoured car and ‘Sahariana’ vehicle.) What’s not to like?

Why based? With models this small, it’s sensible! Also, the various base sizes denote their differing functions at a glance. For example, all tanks and transport are mounted on 20 x 40mm, recce on 30 x 30mm, deployed artillery on 40 x 30mm and so on. The command stands are circular, with 40mm diameter for HQs and 50mm for the CO. FAOs are on 30mm diameter. Infantry and support weapons like mortars and HMGs are all on 40 x 20mm — yes, the same size base as armour but turned 90 degrees.

Why do they all look brown? Because the Army Painter primer turned out to have a slightly ‘dusty’ consistency, and the normally well-behaved GW Devlan Mud wash didn’t behave as expected! On every other occasion I’ve used them, these GW washes contract beautifully into the cracks, fissures and folds of the model to give a naturalistic shade/highlight effect, but the surface of the undercoat was obviously just too granular in some way, and so everything just looks rather muddy. Not to worry, a quick dry-brushed highlight will sort that. then I’ll add a little flesh to faces, arms and legs, brown for wooden bits, gunmetal and silver where needed, some rust colour to tracks and some charcoal black for tyres. A quick varnish, then a bit of base scenicking and the job’s a good ‘un.

Aren’t you going to micro-detail these and add that fancy Caunter Colour paint scheme to the British tanks? No! I have enough trouble getting a life as it is!

That’s enough for now. I’ll post a few more pics when they’re finished, which shouldn’t be long, then it’s back to the American Civil War. Roger and I have set the date for our first game, Friday 3rd April, just after Salute, so there’s plenty more news to come.


Oh, sorry, what’s that? What’s the other thing I bought from Magister Militum?

Errr, ummm, just a handful —or two —of GHQ 1/1200 Napoleonic ships to use with Trafalgar

Butterfly? Who, me?  😉


  1. No reason why not, Greg. Just make the ranges inches instead of centimetres. The main characteristic is the command and control system which is very ‘Warmaster’-y. In order to activate your troops, you roll against the local or overall commander’s leadership, and if you succeed, you can then try again, but at a -1 penalty, and then again and so on until you fail. It also becomes harder the further your troops get from their commander. Some people love this, some people hate it. Personally, I’ve had great fun with it so far.

    It’s also quite good for representing more or less efficient command systems, so your Brits and Afrika Korps can expect to move and do more than, say, the Italians (or the Russians with their flag-waving tank commanders on the Ostfront), though their man-for-man or vehicle-to-vehicle combat effectiveness may not be that different.

    The other thing is that intead of lots and plusses and minuses on charts, you get to add or subtract dice from your pile when shooting. Sounds daft, but actually works surprisingly well. Here’s an example.

    Say you have a Crusader tank that has snuck along behind some dunes and managed to get round the flank of your opponent’s Panzer III and within half range.

    Your Crusader, with its puny 2pdr gun, has an attack value of just 2, which means it can roll 2 dice. Being round the flank adds 1, bringing your total to 3 dice, to which another is added for being at under half range.

    You throw your four dice, and for any target in the open, you (or any other vehicle of any nationality) need to throw a 4, 5 or 6. For the sake of argument, let’s imagine your dice come up as 2, 4, 4, 6. Good shooting — that’s three hits.

    The PzIII now gets to try to save, so the German player picks up the three dice that hit and checks the ‘Save’ value of the PzIII, which is 5. However, since you are shooting at the weaker flank armour, this value goes up to 6. So, for every die roll of 6 or higher, he can remove a hit. He rolls 1, 4, 6, which means that only one hit is removed.

    Every unit has a ‘hits’ value, and if the final number of hits scored is equal to or greater than the hits value of the unit, it is knocked out and removed from play (or you can use pretty flame and smoke effects if you prefer). Our PzIII can, fortunately for the German player, take 4 hits, so we use a marker (I use those tiny dice, about 5mm cubed) and place it next to the unit showing 2.

    Now, even if a unit isn’t knocked out, it may be ‘suppressed’. Take the two dice that caused hits, and roll them again. Any score equal to or greater than that which was needed to cause a hit in the first place (4+ in this case) suppresses the unit, and it may not move or fire or do anything else this turn. This represents the shock value of that loud “CLANG!” on the side of your turret and your momentary panic!

    An optional rule allows for a (tough) unit to suffer damage if it received four or more hits in a turn but wasn’t knocked out.

    At the end of a turn, troops recover automatically from suppression and all hits are removed.

    A unit that is already suppressed may be forced to fall back or run away.

    The trick, then, is to try to combine the fire of multiple units on a target so that its hit quotient is reached in a single move to knock it out.

    Shooting with infantry works in a similar way, and there are naturally all sorts of other rules to cover built-up-areas and so on.

    I thoroughly recommend a visit to the BKC website at . The author, Pete Jones, is a thoroughly nice bloke and the forum is both active and friendly.

  2. Henry,

    I’ve no experience with the rules.

    Are they adaptable to 20mm/1:76th?


    Greg Horne

  3. I’ve always loved the Western Desert for a number of reasons – no major cities, no SS (with all of the political ramifications), a self-contained theater with small, mobile forces, intriguing personalities. I had intended to sell off my micro-armor (which I had purchased back in the 80s to use for Command Decision) but may look into BKC to see what all of the fuss is about. Nice work on the miniatures – I will probably steal the basing ideas!

  4. Don’t listen to him Henry – more please!

    You’re description of why you play this period is exactly the same reason that I also play Western Desert, especially the earlier period (I love the armoured prams that the British deployed), and I too love the Italian armoured vehicles – how can a nation that invented the Lamborghini and the Ferrari not have interesting armoured vehicles??? :o)

    I think the only difference in our approach is the figures – I too love the detail on the GHQ’s but I wanted something a little bigger for this period so went with the Minifigs N scale (all here

    …and don’t even get me started on ACW! :o)

  5. Henry, Henry, Henry.

    I am most disappointed in you . . . tsk, tsk, tsk . . . remember the “golden rule” . . . if it doesn’t wear a tricorn, we don’t want to play it.

    Of course we are all free to break this rule (and we do); but you, as an OSW guru, are not allowed such freedom.

    So get thee back to the Eighteenth Century where we all belong.

    — Jeff (with tongue firmly in cheek)

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