Human rights in wargaming

In my research for the Ethiopian-Eritrean-Somali conflict, I encountered a lot of stories which are violating human rights. It started with reading the book Ethiopian-Eritrean wars Volume 2. As my interest is mostly on the aerial war, I didn’t bother that much on the ground war. I had already read the first volume and the one on the Ogaden war, and the ground war was nasty, but the aerial engagements were mostly air to air conflicts and ground attacks, with the ground attacks on military or insurgents targets. There would be some accidentally civilian casualties, but it looked like a genuine war.

Until the mention of Civil bombings around the 1978-1979 period. There were a couple of incidents described, were the Ethiopian air force attacked civilian targets, and saw them as tactical targets. Targets were: Food supply points, Markets and Aid convoys. It was stated that most interviewed airforce personal wouldn’t talk about these incidents, but admitted that it had happened. This triggered a question by me.

Some examples of human rights violation reports on Ethiopia. Source: Human Right Watch (

If the attacks have been placed historically, and I want to represent the air force of Ethiopia during that period, would that also include wargaming these strikes against civilian targets?

Can I challenge myself to wargame this conflict and feel guilty when I have to attack a civilian target, without circumventing these events? I hope this post to be the first in a series just debating, discussing this issue, and maybe create some kind of scenario, around this theme. It will probably be quite challenging.

Ethiopian market around 1980. A non-military target Source: Wikipedia

Wargaming drivers

For playing wargames, there are three main drivers as I see them:

  1. Having fun
  2. Enlighten yourself
  3. Learning history/ Create a story
Having fun

War is not fun, but still having fun is I think one of the most important aspects of wargaming. Either having fun with other people, or enjoy your own time spend. The fun is not about the war, but about the game and contacts. And it does not matter if it is an historical scenario recreated or a fantasy battle in space. You can enjoy your decisions made, either the ones that went wrong, or the ones that won the game. But in the end, it is a safe playground, and only the miniatures did die.

Enlighten yourself

Every battle you can learn something, but for wargaming learning new things is wider. You will learn new painting skills, calculating skills, research skills and knowledge. Wargaming will develop yourself willing or unwillingly.

Learning history/ Create a story

This is the divider between historical wargamers and fictional wargamers. Some people want to recreate history and learn what errors are made, and how it could have been changed if decisions were made differently. Others like to tell an epic story, in which would be heroes of villains defeating a certain threat. With a lot of grey area in between, like imaginations and alternative histories. But the basic idea behind it, is that humans want to (re)create stories to tell to each other or himself.

From above mentioned point I came to a general question, and hope I can investigate this in the future.

Can wargame rules include human rights violations, and still teach us a lesson, while telling the (his)story?

I hope to discuss and answer this question in multiple follow up post along the way. Looking more in-dept to the actual events and the physical impact, and how to recreate a scenario where you can both feel the impact of human right violations and not feel sadistic.

Roundels of War: Ethiopian – Somali – Eritrean

I finished the books on the Ogaden war and the second volume on the Ethiopian Eritrean conflicts. For the project I try to create I am planning to have the air force of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somali. With all the photos in the book, I determined what the different roundels for the aircraft would be. For Somali and Eritrea this was quite easy. But the Ethiopian air force is quite challenging, and multiple different roundels can be found. Even the information on Wikipedia is incomplete. But I came up to the following roundels.

Ethiopian Air Force

The Imperial Ethiopian Air Force Roundel from 1941-1974. Multiple different shapes of the star in the middle can be found. With more sharper points. This roundel was replaced in 1974 but was still used on older planes for long period of time. So coexisted with newer versions.

The Ethiopian Air Force Roundel from 1974~1998. The roundel has been replaced with the next version, but can still be seen on older planes. Coexisting with both other designs, and can be spotted still today.

The Ethiopian Air Force roundel of present day. Introduced just before the Badme war. 1998~now.

Somali Air Force

Somali Air Force roundel, introduced after the creation of the air force in 1954 and still used up today. It is very similar to the USAF roundel from 1942-1943.

Eritrean Air Force

The Eritrean Air force was only created in 1994 when it gained the Eritrean Independence. It started with old Ethiopian planes. Roundel is used up to today.

Mustering a Retinue

1629, During the siege of ‘s Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, the Spanish and Imperial troops launched a diversion attack on the Veluwe area. This attack was performed to relief the threat of the Siege, and try to create panic under the civilization. It raised to several Siege to several cities, but also sacked a lot of smaller villages and dwellings.

The main forces were considered Spanish, but for a large part came from the Imperial armies. Around 18000-20000 men where gathered from the Imperial forces under command of Ernesto Montecuccoli. And a further 8000-9000 men came from the Spanish army under command of Hendrik van den Bergh.

Hendrik van den Bergh gathered the men on 17 July 1629 near Cuijk, and passed the Maas river with boat bridges on 21 July. It slowly progressed and created a bridgehead in wait or supplies. On 10 August Enesto Montcuccoli joined the forces and both headed land inwards. Their aim was to lay siege to a couple of cities, mainly smaller ones. They didn’t have siege equipment, so mostly relying on fear. During this few months a lot of smaller groups were pilaging the different villages and farms in between. Around the end of august they had conquered some cities, like Amersfoort. But it didn’t relieve the pressure of the Siege of ‘s Hertogenbosch, so the Spanish Imperial retreated.

Map of the conquest of te Veluwe, Netherlands 1629; By Claes Jansz. Visscher in 17th Century

I think this history will lend itself quite good  for Pikmans Lament, to play out all the little skirmishes and pillaging missions. To start I want to create my first retinue, which are the defending troops against the invading Spanish/Imperial forces. Because my home town was also pillaged, and it did have a fortified home and landlord he will be the officer of my retinue. Although not all details will be completely historical.

Officer Willem van Scherpenzeel (~1590-1636)

The family Van Scherpenzeel has been the owners of the “Heerlijkheid” Scherpenzeel from around the 13th century as landlord. These landlords where knights in “kwartier” (quarter = district) Veluwe. I have found that is father Johan van Scherpenzeel participated in multiple knightly meetings of this district. Around 1590 Willem van Scherpenzeel was born, and he would take over ownership of the house Scherpenzeel in 1619 when his father died. I couldn’t find any other details at this moment, except that he didn’t have any children, and died in 1636 and left the house to his sister and her husband. Alida van Scherpenzeel and Hendrik van Westerholt. From that time on the house was not owned by the family “van Scherpenzeel” anymore.

A reenactor as officer during the Slag om Grolle event on 20 april 2012.

Age: ~39
Rank: Ensign
Honour: 10
Basic trait: Ineffectual

His background I have described above. Because there is not a low known about him, didn’t have a wife and was not very precise in his administration, I have given him the trait of Ineffectual. This is a mostly negative trait, but hope it will play out without to much hassle.

Reenactors marching to the battlefield, depicting the Spanish and Imperial troops for the Battle of Grolle. During the Slag om Grolle event on 20 april 2012.
Company Veluwe

You are only a officer when you have command over a unit. Because of Willem is part of the “kwartier” Veluwe, I will just call the company Veluwe. It is probably not an historical name. To allow multiple actions the company will have multiple different units, which might be used in different scenarios. Probably I will never table everything together. Also because I will use the Pikemans Lament rules want to be able to test the different units, I will have them all available. Historically it would probably only have some pike and shot as most of the army was used in the siege of ‘s Hertogenbosch. The company has the following available units:

Inspection of the troops before battle. During the Slag om Grolle event on 20 april 2012.
  • 1 unit of lancers (Elite gallopers)
  • 2 units of dragoons
  • 2 units of Trotters
  • 5 units of Shot
  • 2 units of pike
  • 1 unit of Clubsman (which might double as neutral civilian party in some scenarios)
  • 2 regimental guns when appropriate
  • Some loose musicians and onderofficieren (as Agitators and Heroes to spend last couple of points and boost morale)
Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange and Ernst Casimir at the Siege of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Painting of
Pauwels van Hillegaert in 1635

HMS Glasgow and HMS Brilliant sunk in Falklands

Last week I played some Missile Threat in the Falklands with my father. As I was painting the house, I did not have time to write this report earlier.

HMS Glasgow (type 42) and HMS Brilliant (type 22), still unpainted from the collection of my father.

The scenario is loosely based the attack of the HMS Glasgow (type 42) and HMS Brilliant (type 22). Forming a Type 42-22 combo. In our scenario the two ships are patrolling, with two harrier on CAP mission in the vicinity. The Argentinean are planning two attack with two flights of two a-4 Skyhwaks and a flight of two mirages. All equipped with bombs. The Skyhawks are coming in low (level 1) over land, to avoid detection, and mirages are entering on just cruising height somewhat behind.

Begin deployment. The ships are patrolling in the south, two Hariers on CAP in the West, and three flights of attackers approaching from the North-East. The Mirages and two of the Skyhawks are still unpainted from the collection of my father. The Hariers and the other two Skyhawks are from my own collection and painted up. The map is from my father, he designed himself with google earth images and let it print on PVC.

Because the Harrier where some distance away they would not intercept before the first attack. Therefore the first pair of Skyhawks came in low and fast and took the ships by surprise. Damaging the HMS Glasgow, keeping her crew occupied with saving the vessel. So already the air defense of one of the ships was taken out. The Harriers had closed in, and on of them fired a sidewinder on the first pair, from a large distance. This missile tried to track them but was in the end out ranged, and missed. The second harrier spotted the other two waves and tried to get a advantageous position.

The Harrier launches a sidewinder from long distance, just before the first bombs hit.
Blue dice is aircraft number (Argentinean blue, British red) Black dice is height and yellow dice the speed.
The sidewinder will eventually miss, but the attack is successful heavily damaging the ship. Knocking it out of action. Th HMS Brilliant was still unaware.

The second wave of Skyhawks closed in too quickly and the Harriers couldn’t prevent the attack. The HMS Brilliant was alerted by the previous attack, and was shooting with Medium AA, but the AA missles were not ready. One of the Skyhawks did attack the already damaged HMS Glasgow, and was hit again, sinking the ship. The HMS Brilliant was hit and lightly damaged.

Although now on Battle stations, the HMS Brilliant couldn’t do anything to prevent some minor damage.

The Harriers started to get behind the multiple attackers. Performing some advanced maneuvers to align their guns. They got some hits, wounding one of the Mirage pilots. But this was not enough to stop them, and the Mirages sunk the HMS Brilliant on the next attack. One of the Skyhawks was less lucky, and got shot down after it already had released its bombs.

The Hariers try to shoot down the attacking planes. Mostly with gun attacks.

Then the fight was over quite quickly, the Harriers went back to the carrier as there was nothing to defend, and the Argentineans went home bingo on fuel.

The causalities of the game. One Skyhawk shot down by the Harriers, and two ships sunk.

This was a good scenario, we had hoped the ships would have a bigger impact with their air defenses and that is why the British lost so much. Therefore this was a mayor victory for the Argentineans, as they only lost one Skyhawk, but sunk to ships.

The Missle Threat rules are very interesting and fun to play. But sometimes a little challenging to remember all the pilot actions. (When to perform a pilot check, and which attacks are allowed on which moment) Only the missiles feel a little strange. IR guided missiles are much easier to fire. And do not perform that much differently than radar guided ones. So it is very beneficial to have IR missiles over radar guided ones. Probably will play more games in the future. Hope to do also some solo campaign with the Ethiopian air force.

Small Falkland conflict painted

After priming the planes yesterday, I have done a quick painting session this morning after church. I have painted the two Skyhawks and two sea Harriers. I am happy with the results. I could have worked longer on the details, and the free hand markings are not completly streight. It does look the job, and on table will probably look fine.

The inspiration for the colors did came from a decal manufacturer which has a lot of decals of unknown conflicts. Allthough these decals are for a different scale, the instructions on his website were a good guidance.

Maybe I will paint some extra details, like the exhaust and wheels on the Harriers on monday. But probably will spend some time on creating a scenario.

Quick little Falklands

For my birthday I received some Tumblingdice aircraft. Two Harriers, two a-4 Skyhawks and two MB-339 planes. The last two will be reserved for the Eritrean air force, the others will be used for a quick paint up for the Falklands war. We will have a gaming evening next Tuesday I hope to finish it in time, so we can do a try out for the conflict. My father is doing a larger project, with extensive naval and air forces but his forces are still taking some time to be completed.

Next to these planes I already created an Avro Vulcan from scratch earlier and I had some mi-24 Hinds left in stock which I also based and primed.

Hope to be finishing the Falkland planes over the weekend. So they will be ready for a game. Still have to think about a scenario. I am thinking about some alternate history, were the British didn’t have the newest Sidewinder missle yet.

Spanish civil war air encounters

With the Dutch air war of the world war 2, I will have a German early war air force. To expand the options to play, I want to re-purpose a part of these planes and use them in an other conflict.

When I started searching for suitable conflicts, were I could re-use the german planes, I quickly landed at the Spanish Civil war. I don’t know a lot about this war, but I will research this in the future. I did a quick search on the most common planes used in the war, and have assembled the following list. Hope this will provide an adequate force to use in the future.

German Condor Legion

  • Messerschmidt Bf 109
  • Junker Ju 87
  • Heinkel He 111b
  • Henschel Hs 123

Spanish Republican Air Force

  • Polikarpov I-15
  • Polikarpov I-16
  • Tupolev SB

This is a side project and it has not a high priority. The main reason to create these list beforehand and short descriptions is; that it is cheaper on postage cost to order larger packages. Therefore I might order all the aircraft together for the different projects, this will also apply to the decals. Do not expect any updates on this project in the near future.

Dutch Cold war airforce project

After playing Missile Threat a couple of times with modern aircraft, I find the rules very engaging. One drawback I encountered, aircrafts after the 1980s do have a lot of missiles, which results in easy hits. Dogfights are therefore quick encounters, of who passes who first and fires the most rockets. A lot of times the speed is very high, which results bypassing each other too quickly, and then spending multiple turns to get in position agian. So I started to search for earlier aircraft types, were rockets are less efficient and guns still have a major impact. Starting with the Soviets this would be the Mig 15, 17 and 19. I staterd looking for historical conflicts, such as Taiwan strait conflict, Korea war, Suez crisis or Vietnam war. A lot of these conflicts do have nice planes, but not all the planes I like. 

A F-86 Sabre in colors of the 32 Tactical Fighter Squadron, without its engine, outside of the Dutch National Militairy Museum

As a child, I have been often to the Dutch Militairy Airforce Museum Soesterberg. There they did have almost all the planes which flew during the cold war, and a lot of the second world war planes. The planes I like have been influenced largely by these visits, as I could walk under those, and touch them. And on special occasions sit in the cockpit.

For the reasons mentioned above, I hope to do a project with the most important planes of the Dutch Cold war period, and have created an aircraft list in preparation.

Dutch Airforce

  • Gloster Meteor (1948-1958)
  • Republic F-84 Thunderjet (1952-1956)
  • Repubplic F-84 Thunderflash (1956-1963)
  • Hawker Hunter (1955-1968)
  • North American F-86K Sabre (1956-1964)
  • Lockheed F-104G Starfighter (1962-1982)
  • Northrop NF-5A (1970-1991)
  • General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon (1979-)
  • Sud Aviation AĆ©rospatiale Alouette III (1963-2015)

American forces under Dutch Command (32 TFS)

  • North American F-86 Sabre (1955-1956)
  • North American F-100 Super Sabre (1956-1960)
  • Convair F-102 Delta Dagger (1960-1969)
  • McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II (1969-1978)
  • McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle (1978-1994)

Soviet and Warshaw pact opponents

  • Mikoyan-Gurevich Mig-15 “Fagot” 
  • Mikoyan-Gurevich Mig-17 “Fresco”
  • Mikoyan-Gurevich Mig-19 “Farmer”
  • Mikoyan-Gurevich Mig-21 “Fishbed”
  • Mikoyan-Gurevich Mig -23 “Flogger”
  • Soechoj Soe-7 “Fitter”
  • Ilyushin Il-28 “Beagle”
  • Tupolev Tu-16 “Badger”
  • Tupolev Tu-22M “Backfire”
  • Tupolev Tu-95 “Bear”

For the soviet list it will be a general list and the aircraft marked with a red star. There have been some historical incidents during the cold war. For example a Polish Mig 23, which violated Dutch airspace without a pilot. The closest Warshaw pact force, where the East Germans. But for game purpose I won’t include all the different nations, and use just the generic Soviet style decals and camouflage schemes.

A F-102 Delta Dagger in colors of the 32 Tactical Fighter Squadron, outside of the Dutch National Militairy Museum

Most models will probably be purchaced from TumblingDice, in scale 1:600, with maybe some PicoArmor models. I have already seen that not all planes are available, so might have to be a little creative for some parts.

Probably I will make also some ground forces, air defences and targets. Hope to create a Nike Hercules Battery, although they are not in the rules yet.

Nike Hercules in Sunset, , outside of the Dutch National Militairy Museum

National Militairy Museum.

The Militairy Airforce Museum Soesterberg is the predecessor of the current museum. They have moved and combined it with the army museum, and is now called National Militairy Museum, located on the old Soesterberg Airbase. The cover photo, is a Mig-21 at the outside of the Museum

Book review: Ethiopian-Eritrean wars Volume 1

Last weekend I have started with research for the Ethiopian-Eritrean-Somalia conflict s. Couple of weeks ago I had ordered a book from Helion Africa@war series. Number 29: Ethiopian-Eritrean wars, volume 1, Eritrean war of independence 1961-1988. (Click on image for link to Helion site)

From Helion&Company

Before I read this book, I had only done a quick read trough on general history of Ethiopia. For the rest I didn’t know anything of the different conflicts, except that some refugees have reached the Netherlands because of some war.

Chapter 1

This books start with a global description of the history of Ethiopia and the present day Eritrea in just a couple of pages. After that it continues with the modernization of the military in the 1930s. And the occupation of Ethiopia by the Italians, followed with the liberation by the British.

Chapter 2

The next chapter describes the reestablishment of Ethiopia government and the first struggles to rebuild the land. The received aid from the British, Americans and to my surprise the Swedish. It also handles briefly the forming of the first insurgency groups and concludes with a revolution and a summary of the different problems.

One of the tables of the book describing Ethiopian Army and ground forces.
Chapter 3

We continue with a look at the opponents. All the insurgency group have their own name and abbreviations, and their own targets. Therefore battling both the government and each other, this is quite a confusing history when read for the first time. It does have some tables with the actual units of the different groups. But it was quite difficult to collect all the numbers, as this is a less well documented conflict. In the end you have a rough idea on the amount of troops.

Chapter 4

Until here it was mostly a political description. Although the pictures showed a lot of details on the equipment used. This chapter deals more with the structure of the army and how it operates. Also it contains some tables of army list on different dates. As this is the middle of the book there is a good collection of profiles of the different aircraft and tanks, in Ethiopian colors. In this chapter also the switch from US supported to Soviet supported is described.

One of the profiles in the book. Every profile has complete description.
Chapter 5

Previous chapters described the history and the forces used, the rest of the book focuses more on the actions. Especially the counter offensive into Eritrea area. Also details more on the Ethiopian doctrine, which is developed by themself and uses input from both Soviet as Western based tactics and a lot of experience in insurgency groups and guerilla warfare.

Chapter 6

In the turning point of the war, it became more difficult to keep the conquered terrain in Eritrea in Ethiopian hands and they started to slowly lose ground. Mostly due to two or three insurgency groups, which act as almost conventional armies sometimes.

Chapter 7

In the end it came all down to the battle of Afabet, which the Ethiopian lost. This is the last stand of the Ethiopians before the Eritrean independence. Although this is not described in the book. This last chapter has a somewhat open end, and hope other books will continue on this.

One of the many photos of the book. Some with intresting scenes.

This books shows a nice general overview of an unknown war. It starts with carefully outlining the history and build up of the different events and in the mean time detailing the role of the air force. If interested in this conflict or the modern history of Ethiopia it is a good starting read.

One of the downsides of this books, it shows a largely one sided conflict. Beforehand I had expected more details on the Eritrean forces. Al tough they are insurgents, and did not have any aircraft available, they did conquer a lot of vehicles. And therefore I would have expected some profiles of Eritrean equipment. Also no description on the role of civilians is mentioned. Did they support the Ethiopians or Eritreans?

I will reread the book in the coming weeks, to piece together some more details and hope to create some wargame scenarios and armies based on these events.

Some interesting points I have learned from this book. Ethiopia developed a western style air force with soviet equipment. Did develop a lot of own fighting methods. And major parts of the war are mostly fought with infantry.

What’s up next?

After the first book, my interest has grown. Resulting in a order for two other books from the series; Volume 2 on the Ethiopian-Eritrean wars and the one about the Ogaden war. Hope they will arrive soon. as I will then have a complete overview of the recent history of the different conflicts centered around Ethiopia. (Click on the images to directly link to Helion.)

From Helion&Company
From Helion&Company