Flames of War – The Abyssinian War

I stumbled across this rather nice treatment of The Abyssinian War for the rule system, Flames of War – a very popular WW2 as most people will know.

I don’t know who did it or from what site as the direct link I found didn’t come from a webpage so I can’t give credit to the author, who did a rather good job of it all. Whilst there are a few things that might need adjusting overall it’s a pretty good take on the period for that game system. What it really shows is just how the Abyssinian War can be gamed at what ever scale you prefer, from large multi battalion level battles down to platoon level skirmishes. Flames of War pitches nicely in the company level game providing both low level detail but a big enough scale to bring in many aspects of each combatant’s support arms.

As lots of people have WW2 Italians in sun helmets and perhaps some colonial war period white clad African types then a game using this rule set would be achievable using existing resources or minimal investment. The Imperial Guard would be any WW1 British infantry as well. Drop in some vehicles and guns and you are away! There are many actions that can be portrayed at the company level game scale of Flames of War so this does have some appeal all of its own.

One aspect of this rules supplement that is pretty handy for the Abyssinian gamer is the nice terrain set up system. This is rather good as it divides the terrain types into those of the Northern and Southern theatres of operation so allowing for plausible and agreeable table layouts. The descriptions are generic enough that they can be applied to any game system and thus are pretty handy no matter what scale of game you are playing. I’ve included the text of the terrain layout system below for ease of reference and the complete FOW Abyssinian War supplement can be downloaded here.

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 Abyssinian War terrain Set-Up Method

Ethiopian Terrain Guide

The Second Italo Ethiopian War was fought on a wide variety of terrain, from the jagged mountains of the north to the deserts of the Ogaden, bordering Somalia. The countryside is sparsely populated with villages and farms. Rough trails serve as the only roads across this landscape.

This chart provides an optional way to decide what terrain to place on the table.

Before starting a battle, decide if it is being fought on the Northern or Southern front, as this will determine whether you are fighting in harsh mountains or scrub covered desert. Divide the table into 2’ squares, with each player taking a turn to pick a square and roll to see what terrain is in it. This table is intended to be merely a suggestion, and the final layout of the table is up to the players.

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Northern Front-Ethiopian Highlands

The predominant terrain feature here is wooded hills and ridges, with clusters of farms and villages connected by narrow dirt roads.

1 or 2: Ridges and Hills

roll again:

1 Valley: this area is relatively open, with grassland and a few trees covering the area between two low rises (at least 12” long). The rises are cross-country terrain. It should be tall enough to conceal units on the far side. Try to connect valleys in adjacent squares.

2 or 3 Ridge: A steep rocky outcrop (at least 12” long) provides a good amount of elevation in the area. The ridge is Difficult Going and is much taller than a tank or truck. Try to connect ridges in adjacent squares.

4 or 5 Hills: The area is covered by one to three foothills, descending from the nearby mountains. A hill is Cross-country terrain. It should be tall enough to conceal units on the far side.

6 Rocks: The area is strewn with large boulders, making it a great place for infantry to hide but difficult for vehicles to navigate. One or two areas of rocky ground (at least 12” across) swell from the surrounding grassland. The terrain is Very Difficult Going and provides Bulletproof Cover to Infantry and Gun Teams.

3: Woods

roll again:

1 to 3 Large Wood: A large wood covers most of this area. Try to connect large woods in adjacent squares.

4 to 6 Scattered Woods: One or two small woods (at least 12” across) cover the area.

4 or 5: Villages

roll again:

1 Village: A village of four to twelve houses along a single dirt road. A village must have a dirt road leading to another road or village, or to a table edge.

2 or 3 Hamlet: A hamlet of three to six houses along a single dirt road. A hamlet must have a dirt road leading to another road or village, or to a table edge.

4 to 6 Homestead: One or two houses and a number of crop fields, next to a single dirt road. A homestead must have a dirt road leading to another road or village, or to a table edge.

6: Water Features:

roll again:

1 River: The mighty Tekeze River cuts its way through your battlefield. A treelined river flows across the table. It flows between two table edges through all river squares. The river is Impassable and must have a road bridge or ford (Difficult Going) in each square it passes through.

2 to 4 Stream: A treelined stream runs through the battlefield. The stream must connect to streams in adjacent squares and must meet the table edge or a river at one or both ends. The stream is Very Difficult Going and must have a road bridge or ford (Difficult Going) in each square it passes through.

5 or 6 Marsh or Lake: An area of wetland or a lake (at least 12” across) or three smaller areas (up to 6” across).

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Southern Front – Ogaden Desert

The predominant terrain feature here is shrubland, with rocky outcrops and low, sandy hills.

1 or 2: Desert Features

roll again:

1 or 2 Savannah: The area is flat and covered in dry grass.

3 or 4 Sandy Hill: A hill in this area is covered in soft sand, but careful driving should get vehicles over it safely. A sandy hill (at least 12” across) is Difficult Going, and troops cannot Dig In here. The hill should be tall enough to hide units on the opposite side.

5 or 6 Rocks: The area is strewn with large boulders, making it a great place for infantry to hide but difficult for vehicles to navigate. One or two areas of rocky ground (up to 12” across) swell from the surrounding grassland. The terrain is Very Difficult Going and provides Bulletproof Cover to Infantry and Gun Teams.

3 to 5: Vegetation

roll again:

1 to 3 Scattered Scrub: The area has just enough water to sustain a few shrubs and tufts of grass. Areas of scattered scrub do not hinder movement, but provide Concealment for Infantry and Manpacked Gun teams.

4 or 5 Shrubland: The area is covered in dense brush and tall grass, providing little cover but hindering movement. Areas of shrubland (at least 12” across) are Difficult Going, and provide Concealment for Infantry, Manpacked Gun teams, and stationary Light and Medium Gun teams.

6 Baobab Grove: A handful of enormous Baobab trees tower over the surrounding grassland. A small wood (at least 12” across) is in this area. Try to place this adjacent to areas of Shrubland.

6: Villages

roll again:

1 Village: A village of four to twelve houses along a single dirt road. A village must have a dirt road leading to another road or village, or to a table edge.

2 Hamlet: A hamlet of three to six houses along a single dirt road. A hamlet must have a dirt road leading to another road or village, or to a table edge.

3 to 6 Homestead: One or two houses, with a large fenced area nearby for holding livestock. A homestead in the Ogaden does not require any road connection.

Vickers Medium Mk II tank

This short post will give a few details on a distinctive Interwar era tank used by the British army – the Vickers Medium Mk II tank. There are a few internet based sites with info but here we bring together some details related to the 1936 time period to give you an idea about this  unique looking vehicle at the time of The Abyssinian Crisis.

The Vickers tank, introduced in 1923, represented a significant jump in design concept and execution compared to British designs of the Great War. Featuring sprung suspension, a fully rotating turret and compartmentalised engine the design was quite lightly armoured (6-8mm all over) and really only designed to be proof against rifle calibre weapons as no true anti-tank gun threat was then developed.

Underpowered resulting in a top speed of 13-15mph, the crew consisted of Commander, Gunner, Driver, Radio Operator and Loader. By the time of The Abyssinian Crisis (1936) the vehicle layout had a turret equipped 3pdr gun with coaxial mounted Hotchkiss machine gun, along with one left/right hull side mounted Vickers machine-guns. Numerous variants had a mix of Hotchkiss and Vickers machining-guns which can be confusing, however, for the Mk II tanks in Egypt, they are as described here.

The 6th Battalion, Royal Tank Corps, was formed in Egypt in 1933 and was equipped with ‘tropicalised’ MkII tanks with better ventilation, heat insulation and asbestos plated. This battalion was supplemented by the 1st battalion RTC was also dispatched from the UK to bolster the Egyptian defences because of Italy’s build up in Africa. Complementing the battalion were Carden Lloyd Carriers and Rolls Royce 1924 pattern armoured cars. The vehicles were painted in a desert camouflage pattern of BS.52 Pale Cream and BS.46 Red Oxide disruptive pattern coloration.

6 RTC in Egypt, Vickers Mark II

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Here’s a short video giving a nice run through of the vehicle.

Abyssinian Armoured Field Force -Vickers tank

 

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An interesting shot of the Ethiopian 7TP tanks before delivery

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Following on from my brief description of the Vickers tank in the last post, I’ve knocked up a Vickers twin-turret ‘6-toner’ to supplement the Abyssinian Armoured Field Force tank pool. Its been sitting on the desk for a while and now seems a good time to get it done!

This vehicle, equipped with twin MGs should prove to be a handful for the Italians unless they have some ‘heavy hitter’ artillery in tow as this vehicle is well suited to anti-infantry operations in Ethiopia.

So, without further ado here are some snaps (and comments) of the paint job and a final review by the Emperor himself!

 

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The model is the Warlord Games Twin-turreted Polish 7TP tank.

In keeping with the backstory of the Abyssinian Armoured Field Force, this particular model was made on the production run of Polish twin-turret Vickers tanks built from March 1935. A ‘few extra’ rolled off the production line and found their way to Addis Ababa instead of Warsaw…

There are a few of these vehicle models around but this one does the job nicely and ‘fits’ my backstory as well! The colours shown are the base and top coat colours. I went for the quasi-Polish camo scheme replacing the red-brown with a dark-brown which is a paint colour variation I have seen for these Polish tanks. This fits in nicely with Emperor Haile Selassie mandated edict about foreign vehicle camouflage and markings…and I like the colour scheme!

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Here you can see the bottom colours on. The whole model was first given a coat of the dark brown, followed by the green and then base yellow colour. The application was a simple ‘stipple brush’ method, nothing to particular, just done to please the eye and give the general look of it all.

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Once those base colours have dried it a simple matter of adding the top colours being careful to leave an edge around each colour to provide a ‘shaded edge’ effect on the model. I find this method very simple and effective to give a shaded look to the model without going into the whole airbrushing technique and all that. I think at eye distance it nicely ‘pops’ on table as well, using this method.

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Final touch ups were to paint the tracks using a dark and mid grey highlight…done! I have at this point put the open hatch in the down position (using a blob of blu-tac underneath to secure it) and when I get a suitable crew member painted up I’ll pop him in for a slightly more Ethiopian look.

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Inspection by Emperor Haile Selassie and high command.

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…a closer look…I may go back and highlight the rivet work with some ink as the interwar ‘rivet look’ is part of the appeal…

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…not sure if the Turkish officer is going to be of much help here but one officer would appear to be studiously taking the Emperor’s notes so all shall be well!

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So, there you go, a nice quirky interwar tank that one can easily include in the Abyssinian Crisis story which should give Benny’s boys more than a bit of a surprise the next time they run up against the Ethiopians.

 

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