My 2019/2020 Demo Game: The Cassinga Raid, Angola 1978 (Part 1)

As mentioned in recent posts, I’ve spent the last few months building terrain-boards, painting troops and sticking together aeroplanes for my forthcoming demo game at Warfare 2019, which will be held on the weekend of 16th/17th November, at the Rivermead Leisure Centre, Reading.  I’ll then be taking the game to some more shows – Crusade 2020 (Penarth, 25th January 2020) and Partizan 2020 (Newark, 17th May 2020).

The scenario I’ve chosen is the Cassinga Raid, which took place on 4th May 1978, being an airborne assault by South African paratroops on the Angolan town of Cassinga, which at the time was a major base for SWAPO-PLAN guerrillas.  The battle was an extremely controversial one and the propaganda war rages on between both sides.  Nevertheless, it is an extremely interesting tactical situation and in my opinion worth wargaming.  I’ve based my scenario on the dissertation by General Edward McGill Alexander, which is the most comprehensive and balanced account of the battle produced to date.  The rules to be used are my Battlefront: First Echelon variant of Fire & Fury Games’ Battlefront: WWII.

So to the terrain…  This is my scenario map.  I was originally going to do it as a 6’x8′ board, but then decided to cut it down to a 6’x6′ board.  The grid in the centre of the map shows the arrangement of the nine 2’x2′ boards, arranged 3×3.  In terms of ground-scale, a 2′ square equates to 1 km square.

After much deliberation regarding building materials, I decided to use high-density 2′ square polystyrene boards: 9x 25mm-thick boards to form the base and 9x 12mm-thick boards, which would form a top-surface into which the trenches, rivers and gullies would be cut before sticking on to the base-boards.  The upper boards were then stuck onto the base-boards using PVA glue:

Once the boards were stuck down, I used Polyfilla to smooth the western river-valley and the boggy eastern valley.  I then used a sanding-block to finish off the Polyfilla, to smooth off the sharp and ragged edges of knife-cuts and to carve the course of the main road.

To add detail to the trenches, I cut about a hundred matchsticks in half and pushed them into the polystyrene every inch or so along the trench-walls, to give the impression of reinforcing posts.  I then topped the trench-edges with a load of pre-made resin sandbag strips by a company called Combat Zone Scenery.  I have to say that the sandbags are rather over-scale for 15mm figures, as in scale they’d be the size of coal-sacks, but they do look effective.  At this time I also added some corners for some very simple bunkers, using polystyrene off-cuts and made some separate bunker roofs out of card and sand and I also used some plastic tubing as culverts for where the main road crosses the boggy valley.

I then slapped some more PVA glue on the boards (carefully avoiding the sandbags and the bits I wanted to leave smooth as rivers and ponds) and spread some sand to give the surface texture.  I used builders’ sharp sand instead of the fine ‘play sand’ I use for model-basing.  Once the sand was dry I sprayed the two valleys, the drainage-ditch and the trenches with dark earth spray-paint, to give them a deeper, darker soil colour, a dark base-colour for the water areas and some shadows in the trenches and bunkers.

The river was then painted in using ‘Teak’ coloured Wilko’s acrylic varnish.  From looking at the area on Google Earth I could see that the eastern valley is dotted with numerous ponds and soggy patches, so these were also added using varnish.  I also added a trickle of varnish to the drainage ditch.  Three very thick coats of varnish seemed to do the trick for the water-features and gave a very nice, glossy finish.

Next the boards needed painting and for the base colour I used Sandtex Middle Stone exterior paint, which is a fairly dark, greyish sand colour and quite closely matches my model base colour, which is Humbrol 72 Khaki Drill.  The two boards shown above have had their water-features varnished and have been painted in Middle Stone.

The next phase of painting was to pick the roads and footpaths out in a lighter shade of cream and finally the whole board was treated to a light dry-brush of white (avoiding the sandbags and water-features).  Now to get the flock out…

For the flock and undergrowth I decided to use the excellent Woodland Scenics range (which I buy in the UK from Hattons) and to ‘colour-code’ areas of terrain in order to clearly define different terrain-types for ease of play.  For the two boggy valleys and the drainage ditch I painted those areas with PVA glue and stuck on lots of Woodland Scenics ‘Clump Foliage’ in a mixture of Mid Green and Light Green.  I then flocked around them with Blended Turf flock, to give a fairly lush green colour.

For the ‘Bush’ terrain that covers most of the table, I again painted the areas with PVA and then sprinkled on some Woodland Scenics ‘Underbrush’ in Olive Green.  That was then followed up with coarse-grade Burnt Grass flock.

I decided to leave the designated helicopter Landing Zones as bare earth, but flocked the other open areas with dappled flock in ‘Earth’ shade.

Concurrently to building the terrain boards I was also making trees from plastic Woodland Scenics tree armatures.  Unlike all the other trees I’ve made lately, these are not based.  Instead I take sewing needles and heat the ‘eye’ end of the needle for around ten seconds in a candle-flame.  The hot needle is then pushed up the trunk and easily melts its way into the plastic to a depth of about 10mm before setting hard (and/or your thumb if you’re not careful and/or wearing good gloves!).  These then can be simply stabbed into polystyrene terrain-pieces; they look a lot better than based trees and don’t damage the boards at all.

Most of the trees were foliated using Foliage Clusters in Mid Green and Light Green, while the rest were covered in Foliage Mesh in the same shades.  By sheer fluke I happened upon the ideal glue for the job, namely Bison Contact Adhesive; I went to my local shop seeking my usual UHU or Bostik, but all they had was Bison, which I hadn’t heard of.  It’s not as runny as UHU, isn’t as stringy or smelly as Bostik and is a lot tackier than either of them, so instantly grips the foliage firmly as soon as it touches.

I need a walled cemetery for the eastern side of the battlefield, so decided to make a generic cemetery that could be used pretty much anywhere from Angola to Normandy.  The walls and gates are from Peter Pig, while the graves are from Magister Militum.

While I’ve already got some grass & wood ‘hootches’ that are useable for Angola, I need some solid brick buildings, so bought these from Peter Pig.  A quick google for Angolan houses suggested some appropriate colour-schemes.

I need some anti-aircraft gun positions, so thought that these Vietnam artillery positions from Timecast might fit the bill.  However, while excellent models, they are a little too large for my puny AA guns and didn’t look ‘right’ during our dress-rehearsal game, so I’m considering other options.

I also need a small tented camp, so this single-piece resin camp model by Peter Pig fitted the bill.  I’ve added the flagpole and SWAPO flag.  I’ve also made two more stand-alone flagpoles, flying the SWAPO and Angolan flags, to be stabbed into the terrain-board in front of the town parade square, as well as some road-signs for a bit of extra detail.

I’ve already covered the aircraft in my previous posts here and here.  While I already had 95% of the required ground units in my collection, there were a few items that were needed for the game.  First was a small company of Cuban T-34/85s.  I already had one T-34/85 by Peter Pig, so bought two more and stuck a Cuban parade-flag on one of them for a bit of ‘local colour’.  Cuban vehicles in Angola were painted standard Soviet Green, but did sometimes have very large turret numbers painted in white, so I added those for a bit of extra interest.  For the rest of the vehicles, my collection already contains all the required items, namely some Ural-375 trucks and UAZ-469 jeeps by Peter Pig, a load of BTR-152s by Skytrex and GAZ-66 trucks and a BRDM-2 armoured car by QRF.

While I’ve got all the SWAPO-PLAN, FAPLA and Cuban infantry I need from Peter Pig, I still needed a few more South Africans, so painted these up a few weeks ago.  They’re Peter Pig Israelis, which are perfect for 1980s South African Paras, but slightly wrong for the 1970s, in that the rifles should be the FN FAL R2 and not the R5 (Galil copy) and the helmets should be British pattern in bare green steel, rather than the cloth-covered plastic helmet of the 1980s.  However, there aren’t really any suitable figures, so 1980s South Africans will have to do.

In the next part I’ll post some photos of Saturday’s dress-rehearsal game, but here’s a taster…

This entry was posted in 15mm Figures, Battlefront: First Echelon, Battlefront: WW2, Cold War, Cold War - Angolan Border War, Games, Partizan (Show), Scenarios, Warfare (Show). Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to My 2019/2020 Demo Game: The Cassinga Raid, Angola 1978 (Part 1)

  1. ed parody says:

    Absolutely beautiful!!!!!! I build a lot of terrain, but this board came out gorgeous!!!!
    Can’t wait to see the game pix!

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Ta! 🙂

      I’ll stick the dress-rehearsal pics up later, though sadly the lighting in the club is absolutely dire (generally dark, though with spot-lighting that lights patches of the table but not all of it). I’m hoping that the lighting in Reading will be much better!

  2. Tony Miles says:

    May have to look this one up at Partizan.

  3. Rhys says:

    The board looked a treat, interesting to see how you went about making all the bits and pieces. Rhys

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Cheers Rhys,

      This is (I think) the fifteenth demo-game that I’ve built the terrain for (mostly done in collaboration with other people) and I’ve also had a hand in providing troops and/or writing scenarios and orbats for around fourteen other demo-games and mega-games, so I’ve had good opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t and to adapt the best ideas from other people (such as using needles to ‘base’ trees). Still learning though… 🙂

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