Greetings Wargamers and Hobbyists, and welcome back to 1940. This time, we’re in Greece, and it isn’t for a holiday…
A number of months ago, I decided I wanted to do several things in Bolt Action, over and above collecting the German 9th SS and British 1st Airborne Division I already have forces for (you know, as you do when you are a long-term hobbyists and have limited self-control) – I decided I wanted to add a small platoon of Polish Paratroopers to my Market Garden themed British collection (check), I wanted to collect a small force of British Home Guard (still on the list, but it’s Christmas soon!), and I wanted to build a force of Greeks…
I decided on Greeks for several reasons, but the factor that prompted me to collect another force at all was that my gaming buddy Dave was building a force of Italians. Of course I could battle against them with my British force, but to the best of my knowledge the Italians were never particularly successful against the British, and of course both being Axis powers, it wouldn’t sit right with our ‘fans of history’ stance for us to pit the Italians against the Germans, unless in some kind of special scenario to represent what happened after the official surrender of Italy to the Allies.
The second reason is that I am of mixed Cypriot and British heritage, and have family members who are Cypriot, Greek or part Greek, and the Greeks and Cypriots have a modern relationship a bit like the Brits and the Americans – two very similar cultures separated only by a common language and a few fairly minor differences.
Being as during WWII Cyprus was British territory, and those Cypriots that joined the Cyprus Regiment as infantry or muleteers fought essentially as part of the British Army, collecting them as a force in their own right would really be akin to expanding my British further. Perhaps this could be a project later on down the line.
It is something I want to pursue, since having found out that my Great Grandfather on my Father’s side served with the Cyprus Regiment and was left behind on Crete in 1941. With Cypriots not being on the cards at the present moment, Greeks were the option I was looking at, as a natural counter force to play against the Italians, as they had the Greco-Italian war of 1940-41 all to themselves, until the Germans arrived…
Balancing Forces in Bolt Action
One of things I like about playing Bolt Action, which I think makes it feel fundamentally different from a game like Warhammer 40,000, is the notion of balance and relative army strength. It’s no secret I am sure that, though there are some lists which stand out from the crowd in 40K as being very effective lists, in general there is intended to be a level of parity from one army to the next so that players of any army should be able to choose an army from their Codex (continuing the 40K example, but I am sure the same is true of some other games), with a reasonable chance of putting up a good showing, regardless of which army they are playing with or against.
This doesn’t seem to me to be quite the same in Bolt Action. This is a historical game after all, and though you could perhaps mix and match units from different lists in order to create better balance between forces if you really wanted to, that isn’t generally the way players put their forces together.
Most gamers I have spoken to or seen posting about Bolt Action seem to want to give more than a cursory nod to the historical accuracy of their force. This tends to mean that some forces have access to far more powerful units than others, and of course these units can be very costly in points to include in an army, but their impact on a game can be considerable.
Why would a game company make a game that has a degree of imbalance inherent in the army selection? Simply, it’s because that’s what happened. This isn’t the far future, with rules that allow you to take whatever you want in a force, it is history.
On the table, this means that if a Greek force were to face an armour heavy German force, the Greeks would probably struggle to damage the powerful German tanks, as historically their anti-armour capability was lacking, and not able to deal with a concerted armoured thrust.
The Italian tanks that formed part of the invasion force that attacked Greece couldn’t handle the mountainous terrain of the north west Greece/Albania border, and as a result, the armour that was brought to bear against the stubborn Greeks was limited. The Greek armour available to choose from is almost non-existent, and those units you can select are barely deserving of the name ‘tank’, at least by 1940’s standards.
So how do we avoid games that are no fun to play? We select forces that are reasonably well matched, such as the British and Germans that are the main protagonists of my Market Garden theme, or the Italians and Greeks. Armies only have access to the troops and equipment that they were able to field during the war, and this will probably vary even depending on when in the war the army was fielded, so rather than bemoan the units we do not have access to, we simply try to make sure that the forces we are using are going to give us a good game.
The final reason for me choosing the Greeks? I always love an underdog…
Hmm, a bit of a conundrum when my two go-to manufacturers (Warlord Games & Black Tree Design) don’t actually sell a single Greek model between them. I looked around online a bit and didn’t really turn much up, so I turned to the Facebook Bolt Action community for some advice. The gamers over on the Bolt Action group are a sterling bunch from all across the world, and of course I am not the first person to need to identify models for building a force from one of the minor powers.
As it turns out, many gamers pointed out that as their uniforms are very similar, a lot of Greek players use Italian models for their infantry, which Black Tree Design sell a good variety of in metal. As Black Tree have regular sales on their site, I decided to space out my purchases over a period of a few months, which concluded recently, with the purchase altogether of about 48 infantry models, most with rifles, but four with SMGs to act as adjutants for army command models.
Greek infantry squads can’t include SMGs, but they can include LMG teams, and they can also include a single VB launcher per squad. A VB launcher is essentially a rifle fired grenade that acts as a light mortar in the game with a shorter range.
Black Tree don’t do these, as they are specifically Greek models, other than those used by the French, but the French and Greeks don’t look alike, so that wouldn’t really be an option without some conversion work. If I was going to convert some VB launchers, I would be better off using the Italian riflemen as a base and just convert them, as some other gamers have done. Then one of the Facebook Group members pointed me towards some Greek WWII models by Burns Miniatures…
Burns Miniatures have been a tiny bit confusing to track down, as initially I was told to look for Rif Raf Miniatures, and I found their website ok, but it had messages up indicating that the site is undergoing some construction. I dropped them a message through their contact form, but never heard anything back.
While searching for any other retailers of these same Greek models, I came across Templar Wargames & Scenery, and low and behold, they seemed to be selling the exact same minis I had wanted from Rif Raf. Below are some images from the Templar site showing the models that I decided to order to add to my pile of Italian Riflemen – they do also have Greek Riflemen on the site, plus artillery crew and a light mortar team.
Now that I had found some actual Greek models, I could fill out those requirements from these nice looking minis, and was especially pleased to find the VB launchers and LMG teams. This is because the models I needed that were not available as part of this set would have to come from the Italians offered by Warlord, which in itself isn’t a bad thing, but I am confident after searching that I wouldn’t be able to purchase any Italian squad based LMG teams separately from the Warlord metal infantry section boxes.
The other units I wanted to add to the force included some support weapons to go with all of those infantry models. The infantry sections were sorted, and now they had not only riflemen, but also NCOs, LMG teams and VB launchers.
The Bolt Action Greek army list notes that the Greeks used many weapons captured from the Italians, such as the Breda Medium Machine Gun, 81mm Medium Mortar, and ‘Elefantino’ 47mm anti-tank gun, and as Warlord have models for all of these, I went for two of each, ordered from my retailer of choice, R K Studio.
There were only couple of extra things I wanted to add to the force now, bearing in mind that this is intended to be a ‘fun’ third force for Bolt Action, and which would never be expanded to the same degree as either my British or German forces. I read through the army list again and decided to add a couple of snipers to the collection, as not only was the mountain terrain that the Greeks and Italians fought over great for snipers, I was also able to grab a set from Black Tree in one of their sales. As of course they don’t have any Greek sniper models, I went for a suitable alternative that looked the part – Russians!
And with that ‘klack-klack’ of the sniper’s rifle chambering a round ready to fire, that was all of the infantry covered. Now what I wanted to add was a little bit of armour, just to balance the collection out a little. As I said earlier, the armour available to the Greeks was antiquated at best, with the Renault FT-17 being one of few vehicles in their armoury. Initially I wasn’t going to bother with any of these, as they are outclassed by other vehicles in the list, and have as many drawbacks as benefits in-game, but in the end I decided to throw one in for fun.
This is classed rightly as a light tank, of World War I vintage, and of course is no match for any of the more modern tanks of the era, but hopefully would be fun to use, and not out of place facing the Italians. The clincher for going with one of these was that the vehicles it was competing with in the list for space actually fall under the ‘Armoured Car’ section rather than ‘Tanks’, and I could actually include units from both sections in my force.
The other options I considered were the Vickers Light Tank, and the Fiat L3/35, both of which are armed with machine guns. I decided against going for the Vickers, despite the fact that it is probably a little better, because my friend Dave has these for his British force, and didn’t want to duplicate models he already had if I had an alternative option.
Now choosing a model for the L3/35 needed some more research. It was suggested that Warlord have an L3/35 kit, but it is called a CV33, but I soon learned that these are two different models of tankette with different armaments, so the Warlord kit would need converting to have the right weapons.
Again I turned to the all knowing Facebook group, and though I had searched the internet and turned up nothing, the members on FB linked me to no less than four manufacturers for suitable models! After checking them all out, I decided on the offering from Perry Miniatures (the others were Empress, Company B and Army Group North Miniatures), partly because the kit was decent, although not quite the nicest of the bunch, but the price was certainly right, especially considering all of the other items on my shopping list.
The Perry Miniatures model is pictured here, and as you can see, tankettes are well named and rather dinky!
According to the Bolt Action army list entry for the L3/35, the Greeks captured more than thirty of them from the Italians and pressed them into service, bringing some improved armoured support to the fray. Being as Dave is building an Italian force, I thought that this seemed to explain where my bold Greek soldiers must have obtained their tankettes from!
One More Model
There is just one more miniature I have ordered for this little force (I say little, it is pushing about seventy-odd models by now), and this is a model I spotted in the Greek army of another player over on the Facebook group. This is a model from Black Tree Designs from their ‘Men of War’ section, and despite the fact that he is not a Greek miniature, I think that his uniform and bushy moustache look the part, so he will serve as my overall army commander.
Does anyone happen to know who this chap is?
That’s it for this article, and now that everything is ordered, all that remains is for it all to arrive through the post, and provide me with a nice little assembly project over the Christmas break. Next time around I will have photos of the assembled miniatures, and there will be opportunities for me to review some of the kits, especially the armour.
Until next time, thanks for reading, The Eternal Wargamer