April 8, 2011

Sturmgeshutz and Sorcery - Part I

The SS patrol had moved westwards parallel to the woods (and misty area) at the south end of the area. There was one ‘track and a few men near the road to radio information to the advancing body in case “partisans” should appear from the trees. As the main group passed through the mist radio communications were suddenly lost. Then they were through the fog, the stream was crossed, and careful observations were made on the two astounding features which shouldn’t be there! The boulders weren’t shown on the headquarters map of the area, nor was an intact castle! HALTE! came the command from the Hauptmann. The armored car, ‘track, and VW formed a lager. Time to reassess plans — The glasses revealed yellowish faces of unusual ugliness peering at the patrol from the nearby patch of rocks, and in the other too! And what was that tall shape in the far distance striding into the mists. At this moment the orcs broke cover, hoping to continue their luck; after all they had not yet been fired upon. Six automatic weapons opened up and cut the lot to bits.

This was intolerable to the Evil High Priest, and he visited a swarm of insects upon the offending Germans. The insects nearly drove the soldiers mad, and in haste they tried their best to drive them away using smoke. That and the wind relieved the situation, but only momentarily. Before the patrol could move their vehicles a man in a pointed hat and long gown appeared amongst the boulders farthest from the Germans, pointed his finger, and a great explosion ripped the VW to shreds, also destroying several of the tires on the AC. Stunned, the troopers returned fire too late to do other than wound this new enemy. Men piled into the halftrack and made haste to go somewhere — anywhere. At this point an even closer approach to the castle seemed advisable. As the vehicle drew near the walls a rain of arrows seemed to pour upon the ‘track, but the men plying the bows upon the walls were meat on the table for MG 34’s, and both fell dead with a few bursts. The Germans made a complete circuit of the fortress, lobbing a few mortar shells into the place once they attained the dirt road to the east of it. More insects swarmed upon them from skies which had but moments before been clear. Time to move on again quickly, for the distraction had allowed their fellows with the AC to replace the damaged tires. They could be seen climbing back into the car and it was time to withdraw before taking worse losses.

As the halftrack roared down the road away from the castle the AC began to cross the intervening terrain to join them. Suddenly a bright flash of light (a phantasmal fireball) burst before the carrier, and the driver thought himself blinded. Luckily his co-driver slowed the vehicle sufficiently, so that it simply rolled off the road and came up against the clump of trees to the northeast of the bridge with a slight jar. The passengers were not dazed — they could see the great troll and three ghastly greenish ghouls rush forth upon them from the monsters’ brushy lurking place. Near panic, the SS men blazed away with their weapons. Bullets smacked into the ghouls, and one dropped, but the other two clambered into the halftrack. The troll was also nearly into the vehicle when a desperate soldier fired point blank with his panzerfaust; the projectile took the creature full in the chest, exploded, and sent burning chunks of troll in all directions. While this was happening still another monster attacked — a giant insect-like creature which somewhat resembled an impossibly large scorpion. It clambered up the front of the ‘track, and from this position began attacking the men in the rear of the vehicle.

All was chaos there. The SS troopers were fighting a melee with the two ghouls, and had not one of them been particularly alert the scorpion-like monster would have wiped them out. A burst of fire from a machine pistol — the driver had finally recovered his vision — finished the thing. Only four Germans remained in the rear of the vehicle when the driver backed out of the trees and sent the halftrack back towards the safety of the everyday world of the Eastern Front. The armored car was awaiting them, its weapon trained down the path to cover their companions from any further attack of the nature just undergone. Nobody would believe it, had not the halftrack carried the remains of a ghoul as well as the insectoid creature draped over its hood!

Above flew an invisible magic-user, and he quickly put an end to the escape attempt of the halftrack. A sleep spell caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle, and it crashed. The occupants of the armored car knew something was wrong, but they did not know what — nor where to look. The magician was in clear view overhead, but no soldier looked up, and his next sleep spell told for the AC as well. The remaining ‘track waited a short time and then hastened back to headquarters. What had happened? They could not say for certain, but what little they had observed was too fantastic for belief. The survivors of the foray were sent to rest camps, adjudged as suffering from battle fatigue.

One of the most treasured items in my collection is a copy of the Strategic Review #5 (December 1975), acquired along with a few others and old copies of The Dragon magazine when I first got into RPG's. The encounter above comes from an article in that magazine and was an account of a game put on by Gary Gygax designed to throw a curve to a regular table top wargaming group. One side was told to prepare for a WW2 skirmish game while the other thought they were playing a fantasy battle. The rules were an amalgamation of two of Gygax's rule sets - Dungeons & Dragons and Tractics. The article detailed the forces for both sides, maps, and mods to mix the games. When I was a kid, I thought this was fantastic and I have always wanted to recreate this game.

Back then, I had only a handful of miniatures and purchasing enough models to field the units presented was beyond me. The thought of painting 50-60 models also seemed a daunting task at the time. I simply filed it away as a neat idea, but probably not something I could ever really pull off. I revisited this idea at different times over the decades (holy crap do I sound old), but I could never find a satisfactory mix of miniatures. There have been games written now that embrace the concept as their central theme, but I still wanted to play the specific scenario presented in the magazine that I've held on to for all these years.

A few years ago, I even collected a small force of Artizan Germans and though I based the units on army lists for Disposable Heroes, I made sure the vehicles I included would allow me to use them for Sturmgeschutz and Sorcery. I still didn't have the fantasy models I wanted - enter Otherworld Miniatures. If you are unfamiliar with this company, they are dedicated to D&D minis based on the artwork from the Old School books. Not only was this exactly what I wanted to capture the nostalgic look of the game I wanted, they mix well with my Artizan models. I have been watching their catalog grow for the last few years and recently they finally have everything I need.

I don't expect this project to take up too much time. I already have most of the WW2 models I need painted except for a handful of vehicle crewmen. A good bit of the fantasy stuff has been painted for earlier projects as well. I just ordered the last handful of models I need. Over the next few posts, I will post pics of the forces I've collected that are based very closely on the article from 1975. I still have a few details to work out - for instance, I don't have a suitable castle model and am trying to decide if I should build one or simply substitute a fortified manor or similar smaller structure.

Any, hopefully you will indulge me this departure from more serious wargame activities while I try to recapture a small part of misspent youth!


  1. Wow, this sounds very interesting, I shall look forward to hearing more.


  2. Clarence,

    Sounds cool! can't wait to see this scenario progress through your coming posts.

  3. Interesting ... and were my guesses wrong! 8O)

    I shall watch with interest.

    von Peter himself

  4. I had the very same article and always was so intrigued by it. I look forward to the photos!

  5. Got that very issue myself somewhere in the dungeon. Good idea to give this a go. I like the Artizan miniatures, so should look good too. Look forward to hear of the associated exploits.