As Sue is working at the local university this week and next I took myself out to lunch today. When I got home there was not one, but two surprises waiting for me in the post: an advanced copy of June's Wargames Illustrated, as I have contributed two articles to this issue; an advance copy of Warlord/Osprey's 'Campaign Sea Lion', with the free Winston Churchill too! The two are connected as you will see later this month when both are published officially. I've spent the afternoon looking over the Sea Lion book and thought I'd share a few thoughts for those who are interested in the area of early WWII/Operation Zeelowe/the VBCW.
As you may know the Bolt Action rule set is very popular amongst gamers right now and there's been much chatter about the forthcoming campaign book on Forum Boards and Blogs since it was announced. The book retails at £19.99, including the free Winston, from Warlord, plus £5 P&P if you buy it alone, but post free on orders of over £50! My copy was a gift from Warlord which was unexpected. For those who are thinking of buying it, what do you get besides a Winston Churchill?
The book is a soft back of some 124 pages in full colour. It contains, if I counted correctly, 10 full or part page colour plates from relevant Osprey publications, 51 large pictures of tabletop battle scenes or groups of figures/vehicles, 35 small pictures of individual figures, small groups or a vehicle. I chose to mention these first as they are wonderfully inspiring for the gamer in painting the models and figures and laying out the table top battlefield. Several of these feature future releases for the game from Warlord; my personal must have is on page 54, The Great Panjandrum - think Dad's Army classic episode! These eccentric and unusual weapons will certainly bring something new to early war games and I hope VBCW games too.
For me wargaming is first and foremost spectacle; next it is story, and Operation Zeelowe lends itself to both of these in spades. In order to translate text and rules in a book into games you need a context, otherwise you might as well play a board game in my view. There is certainly a lot to wrestle with here, but it will be worth it to bring games or even a campaign to life on the table. Briefly the contents offer an alternate history summary of how Zeelowe might have gone, from the landings on the Kent coastline to D +15. The booklet then moves on to consider British Anti Invasion Forces - New British Units, Weapons, Armoured Trains, Fortifications and Minefields. Many of the units are readily transferable to the VBCW context for those like us who use the Bolt Action rule set for our games. The next section deals with German Invasion Forces and describes New German Units, Special German Invasion Equipment and New Special Rules. Finally you get several scenarios, both normal Bolt Action sized and new Patrol Scenarios which are smaller actions. They will easily stitch together to form a full campaign outline to play out the 'What If?' of Operation Zeelowe.
New British Units include Light Infantry Anti Parachutist Platoon, British Coastal Defence Platoon, Royal Navy Sections, Airfield Defence Platoon, Home Guard Platoon. Each contains new characteristics, new troop types, additional vehicles and weapons, new rules. Within each are New Units - Royal Navy, LDV, Home Guard, Toxophilists - look it up - Auxiliary Units, Obsolete and Weird Weapons, Vehicles both mainstream and exoteric!
New German types include a Beach Landing Reinforced Platoon, a Fallschirmjager Reinforced Platoon, a Brandenburg Commando Reinforced Platoon, Airborne Raiders Reinforced Platoon - a kind of Folorn Hope unit, a 5th Column Reinforced Platoon, a BUF Reinforced Platoon, a Ganster Reinforced Platoon - the latter three very handy for the VBCW gamer. New Vehicles include Invasion Barges of several types, Sturmboots, Amphibious Tanks, Gliders, Demolition Charges.
All of these innovations in the rules and details look as if they will be fully supported by Warlord releases over the next few months as the figure prominently in many of the pictures! You look as if you will get Smith Guns, Northover Projectors, Spigot Mortars, the Great Panjamdrum and numerous unusual and theatre specific vehicles and boats. The next couple of weeks will see the release of a Home Guard Section, an Armadillo, a Smith Gun and British Snipers in Ghillie Suits amongst others.
Finally I should mention the new personality rules and attributes under the heading Legends of Britain. They include Churchill, Moseley, Mainwaring et al, and Peter Fleming. They bring character and flavour to a game and I am sure gamers will take this up and run with it to create their own personalities, my own Lord Emsworth perhaps and even the Empress of Blandings.