Archive for the ‘World War II’ Category


Wings of Glory has long been one of those games that I’ve seen people play at conventions or on social media, but due their – rather unfortunate – inability to keep starter kits in print consistently, it’s taken until now for me to actually play a game.  For this review, I teamed up with Brick Fury‘s Ian Harmer, who as well as being a Heroclix nut is rather fanatical about military planes, too.  As he also had a few games of Star Wars: X-Wing under his belt, I figured that he’d be a good person to try this game out with.

The game comes packaged very nicely, in a sturdy box that not only displays the figures nicely, but the vacuum-formed insert inside actually also works very well in terms of storing your components after you’ve punched a prepped them all!  If only all game boxes could be this accommodating.


The planes themselves are absolutely superb.  The detail is great, and the paintjobs are excellent.  They feel suitably sturdy, and should endure many years of play with ease.  They have a decent weight to them, and are a joy to “fly” around the tabletop.  My only criticism would be that there’s no way to tell planes of the same type apart – some sort of marker or distinguishing feature would help a lot.

The rules are super easy to get to grips with.  We were playing with the basic game after a few minutes, and after just one game of that, we feel ready to tackle the full blown ruleset – hopefully with some extra planes added in, as well.  You also get a huge scenario book, loaded with ideas and missions that’ll keep you occupied for quite a long time.


The game itself is incredibly easy to get your head around.  Players plot their moves secretly, and once everyone has placed their selected move face down, they then have to simulanaeously move their planes around the playing area, trying to out guess their opponent and get into a good firing position.

Comparisons with its much more successful cousin, X-Wing, are inevitable and – for what it’s worth – I think I prefer Wings of Glory. I enjoy both, but Wings of Glory feels much more streamlined, and simultaneous movement and shooting goes a long way towards making the game much smoother.

I’m looking forward to what else the system can offer, but so far, this Starter Set is superb! Ian shared my views, and was browsing extra planes on eBay within minutes!

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Brad Harmer-Barnes is a games journalist and comedy writer from Kent, England, and has written for (among others) Miniature Wargames magazine, Fortress: Ameritrash, Emotionally14.com and Suppressing-Fire.Com, which he also edits. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @realbradhb.

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Images of War: Fighting in Ukraine – A Photographer at War – published by Pen and Sword – centers on the photographs of Walter Grimm, a professional photographer and conscript in the German army. The book is a chronicling of events in Ukraine between the years 1941 to 1943, but more specifically, an account of the ‘simple soldier’, through their training and eventual service in Ukraine.

To start with then, it is interesting to note the humanising effect the images herein promote. It is perhaps harrowing in a sense, to see the people in these photographs as people; as in some ways it goes against a heavily entrenched worldview that these people had to be inherently evil to be a Nazi. I’m actually very pleased that this is the effect it has had on me, and certainly the largest thing I will take away from the experience.

The book charts the difficulty presented in operating within Ukraine, where it is mentioned that the roads played havoc with the German equipment, and the railways all had to be converted in order for German supply routes to be established. We get the overwhelming sense that such a costly endeavour taxed the men featured in the photographs, and they struggled with the uncertainty of their vehicles, equipment and orders.

There are some absolutely stunning vistas featured in the book, and that is a testament to Walter’s skill with the camera, as he wonderfully juxtaposes machine against nature, which of course, seems to be these Landser’s main foe. As natural as it seems in a chronicle, the collection does feature images of the occupation and aftermath stages of battle. Succinct as it is, for a book to have such a definite start, middle and end, it is in this, that this collection of photographs becomes a poignant example of men at work.

Coupled with this, text elements helpfully indulge the history enthusiast as they contain a large amount of detail, from rifle make, to tractor. Anyone relishing in the minutiae of these details won’t be disappointed.

On a more technical side of things, I do have a few issues in terms of presentation, and these are wholly of my own preference. I do feel that, given the nature of the subject, the photographs could have benefitted from having their contrast bumped up a bit, so as to marry the aesthetics with the topic; but I understand that the want might have been there to feature these photos completely undoctored, so as to remain an authentic account of Walter Grimm.  I do personally think that to transcend this material into a true artefact of wartime, more attention could have been spent on making the text elements work in a far simpler way, as I found it difficult to determine if two text elements became a paragraph, or were separate entities, at times.

Having said that, I can heartily recommend  Images of War: Fighting in Ukraine – A Photographer at War to anybody with even the most cursory interest in WWII, as this book makes the absolute best of its parts, mixing hard information, with the emotion captured in a picture.


Words by Joe Crouch.  You can follow Joe on Twitter.

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We are an astonishing species. Over the past millennium of plagues and exploration, revolution and scientific discovery, woman’s rights and technological advances, human society has changed beyond recognition.  Sweeping through the last thousand years of human development, Human Race: 10 Centuries of Change on Earth is a treasure chest of the lunar leaps and lightbulb moments that, for better or worse, have sent humanity swerving down a path that no one could ever have predicted.

But which of the last ten centuries saw the greatest changes in human history?  History’s greatest tour guide, Ian Mortimer, knows what answer he would give. But what’s yours?

Human Race: 10 Centuries of Change on Earth is really engaging.  The entire concept for the book itself is – as you can see – a very interesting one.  I don’t know of any another book that has tackled a side-by-side comparison of different eras before; certainly on so grand a scale.

As you would expect, the medieval era is where this book really shines; hardly surprising considering that this is Mortimer’s speciality.  The sections on the twelth and thirteenth century, in particular, are worthy of mention.

There are a few glitches along the way.  The pacing feels very off, with Mortimer very obviously playing favourites with the eras that particularly  interest him.  Understandable?  Yes, but a little off-putting.  Overall, it seems to work, though, as the pace of the book overall is a gentle and easy, but highly educational, read.

The plates/photos are okay, but are actually totally unnecessary, not really adding anything to the experience.  There are too few of them to be able to offer any real relevance, and – for my money – the book would have been just as good without them.

All in all, this is a highly enjoyable light read, that offers a very unique take on things, and presents lots of thought provoking observations and stories along the way.  Highly recommended for Mortimer’s existing fans, and worth checking out for fans of Bill Bryson and Tim Moore.

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When the shadowy, notorious Spetsnaz were first formed, they drew on a long Soviet tradition of elite, behind-the-lines commando forces from World War II and even earlier. Throughout the 1960s-70s they were instrumental both in projecting Soviet power in the Third World and in suppressing resistance within the Warsaw pact. As a powerful, but mysterious tool of a world superpower, the Spetsnaz have inevitably become the focus of many ‘tall tales’ in the West.

This new book, from Mark Galeotti and Osprey Publishing, attempts to debunk these myths, uncovering truths that are often even more remarkable. Now, since the chaotic dissolution of the USSR and the two Chechen Wars, Russian forces have seen increasing modernisation, involving them ever more in power-projection, counter-insurgency and anti-terrorism and the Spetsnaz have been deployed as a spearhead in virtually all of these operations.

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The first thing to strike me about Spestnaz: Russia’s Special Forces was how much history was in there. I’d been thinking of the Spetsnaz in terms of a recent organisation, perhaps formed during the height of the Cold War, but Galeotti displays that it’s been around since The First World War – and debatably even earlier.

The Spetsnaz involvement in the Soviet-Afghan War is very interesting especially in terms of how they were used as almost “ethnic infiltrators”. Special squads were formed in terms of those who could physically pass for Afghan/Muslim.  Some of the stories and anecdotes presented from this time period are astonishingly stark and brutal.

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The latter part of Spetsnaz: Russia’s Special Forces moves onto cover the forces in Chechnya, and how the collapse of the Soviet Union affected the military in general.  As we approach the more recent exploits of the Spetsnaz (including the incidents in Ukraine and Crimea), details and information becomes notably scantier…but that’s hardly surprising.

Spetsnaz: Russia’s Special Forces ends with a round-up of the weapons and unarmed techniques currently used by the Spetsnaz, which is interesting, but doesn’t really flow with the rest of the book, and as such feels rather tacked on.

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Unusually for an Osprey book the photos are generally lacklustre, and don’t really show anything particularly interesting (various Spetsnaz members standing around, not doing anything in particular) but the illustrations are exceptionally good, showcasing the different uniforms and combat roles infinitely better than the photographs do.

A light, but engaging read – great for anyone with a passing interest, but may lack substance for those looking for greater detail.

Polish Spitfire Aces

Posted: August 6, 2015 in Aerial, Books, World War II

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Of all Allied airmen, Polish pilots had had the most experience of fighting the Luftwaffe by the time the war came to Britain. As the Battle of Britain raged, they quickly proved themselves as highly aggressive and skilful interceptors, especially when flying the famous Spitfire.

The Polish Air Force eventually became the largest non-Commonwealth Spitfire operator, using some 1,500 Mks I, II, V, IX and XVI to devastating effect. Top scoring USAAF ace of the ETO, Francis “Gabby” Gabreski and a whole host of other Allied and Commonwealth aces flew with Polish squadrons, adding even more to their fighting quality. Conversely, several Polish pilots were attached to other Allied squadrons throughout the war, demonstrating their prowess alongside airmen from a whole host of nations.

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A slightly off the wall topic, but one that Wojtek Matusiak’s new book tackles very entertainingly, and very informatively.  The set-up is handled very clearly, and it needs to be said that Matusiak’s descriptive writing is superb.  As we all know, history books can sometimes (perhaps frequently) be accused of being a little dry – but the descriptions of the dogfights in Polish Spitfire Aces are amongst the best I have ever read.  It would be selling the subject matter short to describe them as “cinematic”, but they are certainly immersive.

Furthermore, the anecdotes and post-combat reports from the pilots themselves are highly entertaining and engaging, on several levels.  The adventure of the pilot who had to find shelter with the aid of some locals and resistance fighters was a particular highlight.

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All in all, a great book on a niche subject.  Recommended to all those with an interest in the Battle of Britain, or Spitfire pilots.

Normandy Tiger

Posted: July 9, 2015 in Gaming, Tanks, World War II

The model warrior

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I have not painted up any German armour for a long while
so on finding a Battlefront Tiger 1 E early still in my
large box of things I have never got round to painting it was game on.
Now the initial impetus came from finally watching the film, “Fury” and
no need to go into the failings of that film. Linked to a recent trip to
Bovington Tank Museum and a new burst of activity on my Normandy terrain
boards it was full steam ahead. Those of you who know your Battlefront
kits will immediately realise I had a problem because the Tiger has rubber
road wheels, no spare tracks and most importantly no zimmerit on it. All
these things are kind of vital for a Normandy Tiger. My first issue was solved
by a few rubber wheeled Tigers still serving in Normandy specifically I went for
tank number…

View original post 257 more words

11693838_10153585386580832_7342236132473556676_nHidden Warships: Finding World War II’s Abandoned, Sunk, and Preserved Warships is a great opportunity to read about and see the unique stories of the combat history, recovery, and preservation of World War II-era combat ships from around the world.

World War II produced many epic naval battles and technologies. The many resulting shipwrecks from this immense war unintentionally created a record of warfighting technologies that today’s armchair explorers and shipwreck hunters can participate in. In an accessible format with over 200 illustrations, Hidden Warships details the combat, recovery, and preservation of combat ships from World War II–beginning with the Japanese midget submarine attacks on Pearl Harbor–to the sinking of the postwar aircraft carrier USS Oriskany.

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In addition to the many combat ships that were sunk across the globe and have been located, a number of submarines once lost in action have recently been found, including the aircraft carrying Japanese sub I-401, the USS Grunion, and the combined fleet sunk while testing atomic bombs at Bikini Atoll, including the German cruiser Prince Eugen.

Hidden Warships is a really fun read.  The format strikes an excellent balance between a detail heavy academic book, and an easy-reading, coffee table book.  This makes it an easy, though thoroughly rewarding read.  The production is simply superb, with brilliant photos on almost every page.

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The section on the Graf Spee sticks in my mind in particular as being an excellent account of the research and dive into the wreckage, as well as what happened to what they managed to salvage – as well as what they couldn’t.

Recommended not only for those with an interest in WWII naval warfare, but also for those with an interest in restoration and preservation work in general.  This will be a book you come back to again and again.

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In Cherbourg 1944: The First Allied Victory in Normandy, Steven Zaloga offers up a study of the first major Allied operation in Normandy after the D-Day landings – the capture of Cherbourg. Blending analysis, artwork and maps, this book tells the story of the bitter struggle to capture this vital point. Cherbourg was recognized by both the German and Allied High commands as crucial to the Allied foothold in Normandy – it was the nearest major port and was desperately needed by the Allies for major logistical operations to support their forces on long stretches of open beach. Hitler, on the other hand, declared Cherbourg to be a ‘Festung’ (fortress), a designation everyone knew to mean that its defenders were to fight to the last man. After a grueling struggle that involved several distinct tactical phases to overcome the different elements of Cherbourg’s defence, the campaign resulted in a bittersweet Allied victory, the drama and significance of which are explained in full in this work.

Osprey “battle books” are usually great, and this one is no exception.  The maps and photos are above average even for Osprey, and the book starts of by introducing all of the key players really clearly – something that a lot of history books seem to stumble with.  The key manoeuvres of the battle are also brilliantly illustrated and are super-easy to follow.

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The specially commissioned artwork to accompany this book is of a very high standard – very evocative.

All in all this is a great summary/overview, covering all aspects of the battle.  Perfect for both wargaming and academic research.

Last of the Lancasters

Posted: June 3, 2015 in Aerial, World War II

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This new collection of pilot and civilian reminiscences endeavours to commemorate the spirit of the almighty Lancaster bomber, with each chapter dedicated to a unique individual – or group of individuals – who took part in its history in some capacity. Be they pilot, civilian, or journalist, each played their own part and their accounts offer a host of fascinating insights.

Episodes featured include the battle for Munich and the Nuremburg and Berlin Raids. Stories of PoWs downed in their Lancasters and captured in enemy territory also feature, communicating a real sense of peril experienced behind enemy lines.

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Last of the Lancasters is a pleasure to read, and a large part of this is due to how well-paced it is.  The anecdotes and experiences are short, to the point, and contain a minimum of the self-indulgent waffle that regularly plagues books of this type.  As a result, everything feels easy to digest, and so you actually feel that you’re learning from Last of the Lancasters without even trying – there’s no wodges of statistics and bumpf here!

It’s nice that everyone who offers up their story feels like an individual.  It’s not as though you’re getting the same engineering story from fifteen different engineers!  Every story contributes something unique, and this all adds to making Last of the Lancasters a joy to read.

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Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in WWII aviation.

105800 It’s hard to believe that it’s nearly two years now since Henry Hyde’s The Wargaming Compendium was unleashed upon wargamers the world over.  Now, it’s back, significantly cheaper, and significantly lighter…yet still bursting with all – if not more – of the content that made its original release so awesome.

There are many great things about The Wargaming Compendium that make it an essential purchase, but one of the things to strike me upon reading it cover to cover for the first time is how useful it is no matter if this is the first thing you’ve ever read on wargaming, or if you’re an old hand who’s devoted his spare bedroom over to a 32mm recreation of The Battle of Stamford Bridge.

Within are tips and guides for choosing which era you want to fight in, how to prep and paint figures, how to build and lay-out terrain…pretty much everything you could need. Complete games/rulesets are supplied, as well as a pretty comprehensive directory of conventions, websites, magazines and publishers.  All periods of history are covered, from Ancients to Ultra-Modern, with a fair amount of discussion also given over to fantasy and sci-fi games. I cannot recommend this book enough.

No matter what your experience level, or what aspect of wargaming you are interested in, there is plenty in here to make it worth your while.  And now it’s lighter, as well. Bonus.

Buy it with your hands.  Again.