Friday, 17 October 2014

Bovington Tank Museum Part 1 - pre 1946

A quick photo tour of the outstanding Bovington Tank Museum. I took these pictures more than 2 years ago, so there might have been a few changes since then. The new WW1 halls weren't built then, so no pictures from there. This post is very picture heavy and covers pre-1946 tanks. I'll do another post on the more modern stuff.

If you ever get a chance to visit Bovington, I highly recommend it. If your tastes run to more simian pursuits, you can also swing by Monkey World which is nearby.

Some of the pictures are a bit blurry as the shiny surfaces of the tanks were foxing the autofocus on my normally rock solid camera-phone.

The view as you enter the main hall.....
King Tiger. A huge and imposing tank, even compared to modern giants like the Challenger and Abrahams.
Jagdpanther with a fine example of early ambush camo.
A9 cruiser tank with three turrets.
King Tiger with Henschel turret
Prototype Sherman tank - notice the three machine-guns mounted in the hull.
Concrete mobile pillbox.
Covenanteer. Only ever used in training as it's engine overheated rapidly.
Preying Mantis tank. Designed to fire over obstacles.
Jagdtiger SPG
Panzer IV

Churchill AVRE with spigot mortar 
Teeny tiny Italian L3/33 flame Tankett. The top of the tank was lower than my belt buckle.
Centurion Mk1 driver Training Vehicle. The gun barrel is made of wood on this one.
The Black Prince - proposed upgrade to the Churchill with bigger engines, thicker armour and larger gun.
TOG 2 - a design by WW1 tank designers (The Old Gang - hence TOG) for a WW2 tank. It is the heaviest British tank ever built.
Australian Ram Tank
SEFOP-AP shot through a steel test plate.
Tiger 131, the only one still running in the world as far as I know. It was captured in Tunisia after being disabled by a very lucky 6lb anti-tank gun shot jammed the turret. The shot didn't penetrate, but the heat of the impact spot-welded the turret ring to the hull, preventing it from turning.
Close up of the marks where the disabling  6lb solid shot skimmed the bottom of the barrel before hitting the gun mantlet and jamming the turret traverse ring, disabling the tank.
M4 Sherman
Vickers A1E1 Multi Turret Tank

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Empire Of the Dead - Game 1

On Saturday we played our first game of Empire of the Dead by West Wind Productions. Myself, AGG, MBB and The Ginger One are playing a narrative campaign being ably game-mastered by Big Steve. The factions are as follows:

Me: Department 13 (aka "bloody meddlers")
AGG: Whitechapel Vigilance Comitte (aka "unwashed ruffians")
MBB: The Diogenes Club
TGO: Whitechapel Police: Hell Division (aka: "It's the coppers!" and "useless flatfoots")

Big Steve provided all the figures and scenery, including a fantastic scratch-built church, apart from the grass baseboard which I had. Cotton wool and teddy-bear stuffing stood in for the London fog. The scenario had been building up to the first game through a series of pre-game moves conducted by e-mail. A spate of grizzly murders had taken place in East London, concentrated around the Manor Park Cemetery. A body, horribly mutilated, was discovered there and seized by the police. Department 13 then seized the corpse from the police.The Whitechapel Vigilance Committee had noticed a rise in armed men threatening extortion on it's turf and engaged them in battle, causing the police something of a headache.

On a misty evening three of the factions all decide to take a look at what is going in in Manor Park cemetery...

Foggy Manor Park Cemetery
The factions all arrived from the slums and tenements of the East End and proceeded into the fog. Department 13 had Alan Quatermaine, his loyal companion "frank" and Agent One and Agent Two. Police H division had Inspector Reid, a Police Sergeant and four bobbies. The Whitechapel Vigilance Committee had sent their leader, Mr. Lusk, along with seven stout fellows armed with saps, half a house brick in a sock, various bits of wood and broken bottles.

Department 13 at the bottom, Hell Division in the middle and the WVC at top
The factions moved into the park. The bobbies left one of their number by the park gates to keep an eye out, and call for reinforcements if required.

Department 13. Agents One and Two to the right, "Frank" and Quatermaine to the left.
Vision was limited to 4 inches due to the foggy conditions, and noises were muffled. Suddenly, a woman's screams were heard from further inside the park. The factions began to move quicker through the fog now. One of the police spotted a blurred shape through the fog and moved to investigate, then one of the WVC spotted another.

The oriental visitor receives a warm, East End "welcome" kicking.
Out of the fog loomed an elaborately dressed oriental man, hacking at a woman's body. As soon as the Chinamen saw the bobbies and the WVC they rushed them, swinging exotic oriental swords! The police and the WVC heavies traded blows with the orientals to cries of "What's all this then?" and "He's taking a liberty!" After a few rounds of combat they were disabled. The police despatched one of their officers to handcuff and drag the unconscious Chinaman off for questioning, whilst the WVC gave the other a "mild" kicking for taking such liberties, then discussed what to do with him,

Meanwhile, Department 13, Inspector Reid and Mr. Lusk converged on the church. A sinister chanting could be heard from all around, seeming to come from everywhere in the fog at once.

 Department 13 arrived at the church first, to hear a babies cries cut short by a sickening thump, as a figured darted towards the church doors. Agent One and Two held positions by the door, as Quatermaine took aim with his enormous .600 Nitro Express Elephant Gun and Frank moved up into the doorway.

Frank found the tragic sight of a dead infant, it's brains dashed out against the church doors. He and Agents One and Two moved into the church, with Quatermaine following up. The WVC decided to send two chaps off to investigate the walled graveyard to the left of the church and the small graveyard behind it. Reid sent his two bobbies off to the right of the church whist he followed Department 13 in through the church doors, leaving the Sergeant to guard the gate.

Inside the church Department 13 was greeted by a grisly sight. Unused for years the church was dusty and dank but the most terrible sight was that the floor was littered with skulls! Frank spotted a trail of footprints in the dust, leading to a set of stairs at the back of the church, leading up into the tower. Department 13 hurried on.

Meanwhile, the bobbies had dragged the unconscious Chinaman to the road and summoned a Black Mariah carriage to take him away. One of the bobbies then returned to the cemetery to have a word with the WVC chap who was sitting on the chest of the second unconscious Chinaman about due process, rights of the arrested and not giving a downed man "a good shoeing just to be on the safe side".

In the church, Quatermaine and his merry men reached the top of the tower. Agent One, Quatermaine and Frank stealthily crept through the trap door, whilst Agent Two blocked the stairs. On the tower roof the Department 13 officers saw a man in heavy cloak and robes attacking a white, marble altar with a sledgehammer. Quatermaine raised his elephant gun and called out to the man who span around to reveal a hideous and deformed countenance.

Clearly up to no good. Picture from the West Wind website.

Reasoning that such a hideous individual must be up to no good, and that he'd already killed the baby downstairs, Quatermaine adopted the "shoot first and scrape up the residue for questioning later" approach and let him have both barrels of Elephant Gun to the face. The enormous boom echoed around the park, deafening all on top of the tower and showering those outside with bits of tentacle and gore.

Quatermaine and his agents sprang into action, taking samples of the dead chap's blood and splattered gore and studying the altar that the fellow was so intent on destroying. Agent One discovered an ancient looking book in a hidden compartment, written in French ("Damm Frenchies, might of known they'd be up to something!").

Inspector Reid had by now reached the top of the stairs where he engaged in a brief scuffle with Agent Two with cries of "Police business, let me pass!" and "Queen's Business, you can't go up there!". Agent Two, with the advantage of height, kept the inspector from passing. Outside the church the bobbies and WVC had thoroughly searched the graveyards near the church and had begun to head back towards the church. At the front gate to the cemetery the bobby was still waiting for the police carriage to arrive. His companion had taken charge of the other unconscious Chinaman and the grumbling WVC member ambled off into the fog to link up with Lusk.

Back atop the tower, Frank carefully removed the book from the altar using his knife and Agent One quickly wrapped it in his jacket. As the book was removed from the altar the sinister chanting stopped. Quatermaine called down to Agent Two to let the inspector up. Presented by the sight of a headless corpse and Quatermaine literally holding the smoking gun the inspector was curious as to recent events ("What the bloody hell happen here, Quatermaine!"). Quatermaine, using his best innocent face, advised that the headless individual had been engaged in suspicious activity and when challenged, attacked he and his men, who then defended themselves. Honest, guv.

Back down in the graveyard things took a further sinister turn as, with a grinding and crunching of disturbed Earth, the graves began to burst open as the dead shambled to life!

The bobbies in the graveyard to the right of the church immediately caught sight of the shambling corpses bursting from their graves, as did the two WVC heavies behind the church. All of them decided being inside the church would be safer than being outside and sprinted for safety. In the middle of the cemetery Lusk and his companions could see activity in the walled graveyard, and vague shapes moving all around them. On the tower roof Reid, Agent One and Agent Two ran back down the stairs, whilst Quatermaine and Frank, in true heroic style, jumped off the tower and onto the church roof. The Sergeant at the church door ran back inside the church.

The zombies quickly moved towards the nearest warm flesh. Lusk and his men started moving towards the church, conducting a fighting retreat. Lusk fired a few shots at the approaching zombies, to no apparent effect, and the heavies with him attacked with the downed Chinamen's swords.

Lusk and his men fight off the undead
The zombies began to pile up around the walls of the church, and the pack follwing the two WVC members from the back of the church lost sight of them as they sprinted around the corner and into the church. The zombies then started to smash their way in through the stained glass windows.

On the roof Quatermaine and Frank edge along and jumped down onto the porch roof where they see the horrors that are shambling towards them. Quatermaine, made of stern stuff, grits his teeth and reloads the elephant gun...

Inside the church the bobbies and WVC members scramble for cover as they recover from the shock of seeing the dead rise. Agent One and Agent Two calmly take aim and begin to blast the zombies as they smash through the windows.

The Zombies burst into the church
Quatermaine and Frank snipe at zombies from the rooftop. One of them starts to climb up onto the roof and Frank beheads him with a lovely front foot sweep stroke from his giant club. In the Graveyard Lusk and his men are sorely pressed, as zombies close in on every side. Despite a valiant fight, they are overwhelmed and Lusk and three of his men are torn to pieces. Quatermaine leaps down off the roof to try and assist Lusk, but is set upon by zombies. A fierce fight ensues. Quatermaine despatches one with his hunting knife as another swipes at him and knocks him down.

Frank leaps down and engages another group of zombies as the bobbies charge out from inside the church. 

Quatermaine is down!

Meanwhile, the bobby guarding the Chinaman in the cemetery sees the zombies approaching and, with a shriek of fear, sprints for the front gate. The bobby guarding the front gate sighs with relief as the police carriage arrives and loads the first unconscious Chinaman in the back. Just as he finishes this his fellow copper sprints past him to hide behind the carriage, babbling about "dead men walking". As a brace of zombies clamber over the cemetery wall, the carriage driver, deciding zombies are definitely "not my job, guv!" snaps the reigns and the carriage speeds off. The two police officers, confronted by half a dozen shambling corpses, sprint for the "safety" of the nearby alleyways.

Inside the church more zombies burst in. Agent One and Two despatch several and the tough fellows of the WVC engage several more with cries of "you muppet!" and "this geezers brown bread!" (actually, what AGG said as her men pounded the zombies was a good deal coarser - I love a woman who knows how to swear with conviction). The police Sergeant and Inspector Reid shoot at zombies breaking in through the other wall. The weight of fire reduces the threat, but not before two more members of the WVC are torn to ribbons. 

"Oi! Out of my church!"

With the immediate threat passed, Agent One and Two charge out of the church to take positions behind the church wall. Agent one takes a pot-shot at the zombie looming over Quatermaine and blasts it to pieces. Quatermaine stands up and despatches two zombies in quick succession. Frank is mobbed by zombies and, despite destroying several, is wounded. Agent Two comes to his aid and despatches the last. Outside the church walls the two bobbies fight off four zombies. Reid and the Sergeant emerge from the church after despatching the last of the zombies inside with the aid of the WVC bruisers. The combined fire-power of Quatermaine, Frank, Agents One and Two, Reid and his Sergeant quickly despatch the last of the rotten rotters.

The last of the zombies are despatched at the church gates

At the front gate, the two bobbies gather their wits and charge back to prevent the shambling dead from dispersing into the slums of the East End. They batter the putrid fiends with their truncheons but despite a valiant effort they are overcome. A handful of corpses shamble off into the foggy night to wreak havoc in the slums of the East End...

As the sounds of battle die down and the fog began to clear it was time to take stock. Two bobbies and five members of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, including their leader, Mr. Lusk, were dead along with a Chinaman and the unidentified woman and baby. A handful of zombies had shambled off into the night to set upon the residents of the East End. On the positive side, a dangerous criminal in Mr. Tentacle Face had been defeated (that's Quatemaine's story and he's sticking to it) and Department 13 has secured a mysterious and obviously dangerous book before it could fall into the hands of the "incompetent flatfoots" or the "uncivilised ruffians".

Since the game ended we've had a statement issued by the police:

"Yesterday evening officers of H Division took steps to break-up a Chinese organisation responsible for the trafficking and enslavement of dozens of innocents.

The criminals, who have been using the Manor Park cemetery to obfuscate their despicable activities, were confronted by officers of the law and a gunfight ensued.

All of the villains were either killed or apprehended, those captured will be questioned and leads followed. Three police officers lost their lives during the operation. I pay tribute to their courage, diligence and dedication to duty.

Members of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee provided assistance to a number of police officers, I am grateful to them for their continuing support in the name of law and order.

Inspector E. Reid.
H Division
Metropolitan Police"

The Whitechapel Vigilance Committee has already elected it's new leader, Maggie "Hellcat" Malone, the landlady of the Black Eagle pub, notorious for her fighting, drinking and coarse language (I make no comment on similarities to AGG on any of those counts).

This was only the second war game that AGG had ever played, although we do a lot of boardgames and some RPG's together, so I was interested on her views following it:

"Even though my team was utterly, utterly destroyed by the zombies, I really enjoyed the game. I'm now looking forward to my Peggy Mitchell-esq landlady taking over the reigns of the WVC"

I also really enjoyed the game. The rules seem nice and straightforward, and the differences between the factions nicely defined, Department 13 had few, but capable figures and the WVC had a horde of lesser figures with the police somewhere in between. I'm really looking forward to the next set of inter-game moves and our next scenario.