23 October 2014

Comics Imagi-Nations Wargamin - Bordurian "Invâsiôn"

"Borduria is a fictional country in The Adventures of Tintin, the comics series by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. It is located in the Balkans and has a rivalry with the fictional neighbouring country of Syldavia. Borduria is depicted in King Ottokar's Sceptre and The Calculus Affair, and is referred to in Tintin and the Picaros." - Wikipedia

I want my Bordurian stone to kill several specific birds:
  • Be usable as not-Germans for any WW2 rule set I'd like to give a try
  • Be the bad guys to my Syldavian in any interbellum/early-WW2/pulp scenario I'd want to play
  • Use readily available miniatures without requiring any conversion but a non-standard paint job
  • Yet, have a clear "those aren't your mom-and-pop WW2 Germans" feel to them 
Flames of War miniatures, picture from the manufacturer website.
Beyond its fascist regime and use of Messerschmitt Bf 109 (and apparently of some Heinkel made bomber in the earlier 1939 version of the comic), little is know about the Bordurian military...

So here is a first and obviously personal take on it...

  • I envision the main force Bordurian soldier wearing a German-provided stahlhelm on his Bordurian uniforms and armed with a bolt action rifle... So basically any early-war Germans would do, but the best match might be Puskás for that mix of German and Hungarian gear (and mustache)...
  • A squad of the much feared Bordurian Border Guard (a mix German Polizei and Feldgendaremen). I just love this colourful mix of dog handling, sidecar-motorcycle driving and sentry box guarding minis.  And they're just the perfect addition to totalitarian Borduria and its infamous Zekrett Politzs*! The motorcycle ones can act as recon troops (Kradschützen-style), while the all of them will make great scenario fodder 
Flames of War miniatures, picture from the manufacturer website.

  • Montain troops (early-war German Gebirgsjägers ) are another possible addition: Borduria is, after all, just like neighbouring Syldavia, a very mountainous country
  • Speaking of the Zepo, there's probably a couple of 30s gangster armed with something else than a  drum-fed Thomson SMG that with the right paintjob will make suitably sinister Zepo agents...
  • Although heavily supported (trained, equipped) by the Germans, I don't want Borduria to be too high tech neither. So no half-tracks but plain trucks (which are going to be much better than the walking or horse-riding Syldavians anyway) like the Opel Blitz
I'm a bit stuck here... 
  • The PzKpfw I is perfect from a historic point of view: designed and produced early enough, exported, used during the Spanish Civil War... But then again it isn't actually a tank by my book (MGs instead of an actual gun) so using it counting as a "generic German tank" seems a bit too far fetched.
  • The PzKpfw II and its 20mm gun aren't much better.
  • Pz 35(t) seems to specific of a tank to end up in the Bordurian inventory to me (I'd like to keep this setting as stupid simple as possible, so just Borduria vs. Sydavia with Germany and the major Allies in the background but no minor powers and stuff)...
  • The PzKpfw III E is the earliest tank I can envision as a generic German tank but with production starting in 1939, it's a bit of a strech to imagine Borduria fielding them that same year. Still it's probably the option I like the best so far!
Anything but light mortars are outside the scope of platoon sized games... But hey, I want to buy shiny toys. And if I've even a single tank, I need something to makes holes in it.
  • The 37mm PaK 36 looks like a good early war generic German ATG.
  • The infamous 88mm FlaK 36 seems a must too...
  • Not sure about any actual artillery... I feel pretty well covered by the PaK and FlaK.
If I don't need artillery, why would I need planes?
    Baudea miniatures, picture from the manufacturer website.
  • Well the Messerschmitt Bf 109 is the only "canon" Bordurian unit, so I feel like I have to include it... If only a piece of terrain for those crash site or airfield based scenarios. Baudea as a great crashed one, as does Kerr & King (but I like the Baudea better). And the Wings of Glory range has a flying one.
  • Not sure about the exact model but the 1939 original comic had Tintin stealing a Heinkel medium bomber instead of a Bf 109: the Wings of Glory range has the He 111...
So far I haven't done much to get away from it all being your average early war German army (which in it self might already be somewhat original given the prevalence of Waffen-SS, Fallschirmjägers and tiger on most WW2 gaming tables). So the paint job will have to make all the difference.
  • No "Feldgrau" for the Bordurian infantry! Like most armies in Europe (except the Germans) they'll wear some kind of kakhi... Take a leaf of the Hungarian book and go for "English Uniform" uniforms with "Brown-Violet" helmets? Or maybe the Polish Green-Brown uniform? Red colar tabs reminding the Bordurian flag might look a bit too Russian. But then again the sthalhelm doesn't really allow them to be mistaken for Soviets...
  • Vehicles markings: I'm thinking the Bordurian flag "two-triangles-hourglass" symbol either in white or in red applied directly on the hull colour. With German style turret number in either plain white or plain red (no outline).
Unreal Cotton t-shirt, picture from the manufacturer website
  • Aeroplanes markings: the one Tintin steals in the comic is wearing a black and red "Mercedes-Benz 1933 logo"... I can either:
    • Ignore it and use the "hourglass" logo for planes too,
    • Call it the air force roundel; there are plenty of real world air forces where the roundel as little to do with the national flag/symbol,
    • Say that the planes are operated by a "foreign volunteers unit" à la Condor Legion and that it's their roundel. In fact when looking at the actual Condor Legion roundel, one wonders if this wasn't Hergé intention...
Tintin stealing a Bordurian Bf 109 in the 1947 edition of the comic.
  • Vehicles hull: "Panzergrau" is probably too much German again (although less so than the uniforms, thanks to the marking) so a fairly generic "Reflective Green" might be the answer...
* I know the Zepo is suposed to be the Syldavian secret service (the Bordurian one being the ZEP), but Zepo as such a Gestapo ring to it that it feels like a shame not to use them as bad guys!


  1. I really like this Tintin-Europe idea, have fun!

  2. I sure will! I won't just be Tintin-Europe though... I've just written another post about Tintin-Middle-East and I'm rereading all my childhood comics again with an eye for wargame settings! Buck Danny anyone?

  3. good choices I think.

  4. You could also do a Bretzelburg unit, from the Spirou series.
    WWII german uniforms with WWI-style Pickelhaube helmets, rwith French MAT-49 SMGs, plus weird versions of German hand grenades. They chug around in Bren Carriers.
    They've been sold old French 75mm field guns, with the spoked wheels replaced by tires to make them look modern.
    Don't forget their tactical missile systems: soviet FROG launchers on a PT76 chassis. The actual missiles, however, have been replaced by 50-gallon fuel drums welded together.
    And don't forget the fearsome Bretzpo police...

    1. I thought about that one too... Love the comic and quite a few interesting modelling options. Not sure about how interesting a army (the Bretzmacht!) entirely equipped with non-functional weapons would be from a wargaming point of view though!

    2. Of course. SMGs look lethal enough, though, while some of the grenades are real live ones, if you'll remember the actual incident.
      Of course, the legislation of the times totally prohibited any depiction of actual death in so-called children's comics.

    3. OK, I just spent half an hour googling suitable minitatures for a 15mm Bretzmacht:
      - WW1 Germans with SMG: close enough
      - Bren Carriers: easy
      - French "Soixante-Quinze" with rubber tires: they were actually fielded with tires duringe early WW2, Battlefront has them
      -Frog-5 missile launcher no so easy... Several PT-76B or BTR-50 options that could be converted into Frog-5, even more easily so that the missile does actually have to look like its kitbashed!

    4. get some HO-scale oil drums for the fake FROG, for example.

  5. And indeed, Buck Danny. 2 ideas come to mind, but it's air warfare only, I'm afraid:
    "les gangsters du pétrole": salvaged Mustangs with red roundels.
    "Tigres volants": the bad guys use Fiat G91 fighters, white or natural metal finish, while the good guys fly A4 Skyhawks, painted OG on the top and sky blue underneath.

    1. All my childhood Buck Danny comics have been in my parents attic for the last 15 or 20 years... Time to dig them up. I was more thinking along the line of their more modern adventures. Return of the Flying Tigers: USN Slyhawks repainted in South Viet-Tan livery with Flying Tigers badges fighting against Lady X and her North Viet-Tan sponsored mercennaries (not sure what they flew)!

    2. Not to forget the "ordre du grand héron qui pêche, avec 2 soleils et 3 bananes".
      Nothing like a good racist cliche to cheer up a 50's-60's reader.

    3. The parents are coming over tomorrow to watch the kids: they're so taking my old comics with them!

  6. FYI, Bretzelburg has an enemy country, the Kingdom of Maquebasta, about whose military, unfortunately, no information is given.
    The name, however, is a dead giveaway, I think...

    1. Given that both Bretzleburg and Maquebasta get their hardware from the same source chances are that Maquebasta is equiped with French MAT-49 SMGs, weird versions of German hand grenades, Bren carriers, old French 75mm field guns with tires and Soviet FROG launchers on a PT76 chassis with their missiles replaced by 50-gallon fuel drums welded together...

    2. You've got a major point there.
      Moreover, the last picture in the comic shows their weapons being litterally swept aside.
      Maybe some opportunities for "honest" arms-peddlers such as Dassault, Kraus-Maffei and so on...

  7. Another Herge fictional country: south-american San Theodoros, an archetypical banana republic slash junta dictature.
    Early evidence as to the inspiration behind it points to the pre WWII Chaco war. In Tintin and the Picaros, we get a better glimpse of what its military looks like: typical OG uniforms, either CETME or G3 assault rifles, field caps, etc. Military police wears WWII or even earlier-vintage helmets, like in Chile.
    The air force flies venerable Mil-Mi 1 "Hare" soviet light helos.

    1. That one is percolating somewhere in my brain too... Along with Buck Danny's Mantegua and Spirou's Palombia. Sounds like a entire wargaming campaign right there!

  8. Moving on with Belgian comics featuring fictional countries:
    André Franquin of Spirou & Fantasio fame also came up with their own version of a South-American country, the Republic of Palombia, located in the Amazon basin. Unfortunately, very little military information is given is given, except for military police in the classical garb of the place and times.
    They also own bazookas and "generic" tanks that look somehow soviet: low hull profiles, rounded turrets, painted a strange medium-grey color. More originally, a whole scene takes place at the air department of the Palombian MoD, where we learn they have an extensive photo recon/interpretation outfit.

    1. Looks like what they say about great minds also goes for deranged ones!

    2. No to mention sublethal weapons such as the Metomol gas, a mushroom-based compound capable of reducing any metal to the consistency of marshmallow.
      Exists in several formats: aviation bombs, artillery shells, hand grenades and even .45 slugs.

  9. And finally, another Belgian comic artist, Tillieux, came up with 3 fictional countries:
    1) In the same zone as Herge's Khemed, somewhere on the Red Sea, the emirate of Gomen: typical British khaki uniforms, trousers or shorts, with red headscarves. Light weapons are Thompson SMGs, Lee Enfield Mk IV rifles, .30 MMGs. They use early Unimog light trucks and Humber armored cars, as well as M35 trucks.
    Coast Guards or Border Police use US PBR patrol vessels. The only Navy Gomen owns is the Emir's large yacht, a civilian ship fitted with naval gun turrets.
    2) The republic of Macassara lies in South-America, it's mostly desert with jungle in the north. It borders with French Guyana. The military uses Thompson SMGs, some with drum mags, and .30 LMGs. They own M35 US trucks as well as M4 artillery tractors used as desert vehicles. A helicopter, looking like an early 50's vintage machine, maybe a Piasecki, is shown, as well as an unidentified fixed-undercarriage fighter painted a lighter shade of navy blue.
    3) Finally, a short story takes place in the backdrop of a conflict between Massacara (spelled Masacara) and another country, Coronado.
    Same gear shown, plus great pictures of a quad .50 AA mount on a M3 Halftrack.
    Otherwise, a B25 Mitchell is seen dive-bombing an armoured train, quite an unusual subject in this kind of publication.

    1. Never read a single Gil Jourdan. So no cigar there...

      But hell, you're on a roll there!

    2. I do strongly recommend you read Giles Jourdan. It's been depicted, quite rightly IMHO, as Michel Audiard in comics form.
      A much darker, grittier, more adult version of do-gooders Spirou and especially Tintin.

  10. On a roll, indeed:
    Tanguy & Laverdure also have fictional militaries:
    1) the "lieutenant double-bang" series, several albums located in an umpteenth version of the archetypical middle-eastern emirate, featuring revolutions, kidnappings, terrorism, and a lot of land and air-to-ground action. Lots of MIGs 19 and 21 with the opposition.
    2) another archetype, the country of Managua in south-america (maybe not the best choice ever to name a fictional country).
    Typical humor for the strip:
    (unknown diplomat) "do you know Managua ?"
    (Lt Laverdure) "Yes, it's a dance, isn't it?"
    The "mysterious bad guys" fly that other staple aircraft of this kind of outfit: the Saab Drakken (IMHO one of the most beautiful jet aircraft ever).

    1. Didn't read much Tanguy & Laverdure either...

    2. More a "me-too" than the real Mc Coy, though there are some gems such as "les vampires attaquent la nuit", featuring Harriers.
      Also, the chicks are hotter than in Buck Danny.
      There was also the Dan Cooper series, set in the RCAF, but it's really a rip-off of a rip-off. The chicks were also great, however.

  11. The last one before I log off and take a Xanax.
    Quite off subject, but I think it's got a lot of potential. In the 60,s author Jacques Devos created the Viktor Sebastopol series. (maybe you are familiar with his later work, Génial Olivier. He also authored 2 cult albums, "l'encyclopédie des armes" and "armes secrètes, armes farfelues", both must-reads)

    Set in the late 19th, early 20th centuries northern Europe, it tells about chief of intelligence Sebastopol's efforts to protect his country, la Boursoulavie, from neighbouring land Novberia's attempts at conquest.

    It is totally steampunk, complete with landships, dirigibles, robots, clockwork devices... Although it's definitely set in an absurd, slapstick style of humor, the drawings really bring such artists as Robida to mind.

    1. Looks like your waaaaay past your medication time indeed!

      Sounds like a trip to the library is on the to do list!

  12. Borduria is an intersting country, modeling/gamingwise.
    All the graphic evidence points to the fact that it went all the way with Nazi Germany. My take is that, like Hungary, Bulgary and Rumania, it fought in the eastern campaign, then was overrun by the Soviet forces in 45, was assimilated into the Warsaw pact, until the fall of the "soviet empire", and may even have joined the EC and NATO eventually.
    Hence several periods as far as their military goes:
    Nazi client state with all the typical gear of the times
    WP: AKs, T54, T62/4, T72 tanks on the ground, MIG 15, 17/19, 21, 27, and so on, ar at least the "monkey models" of these machines.
    A controversy here: normally, those countries that more or less collaborated with Germany were much less trusted than East Germany, Poland or Cszechoslovakia, who always got the best gear. However, the pictures of Borduria in the comics seem to depict a much richer, technologically advanced country. For example, locally-produced cars (we know they are local because of many design details, bodywork and such) look really stylish, on the level of contemporary western makes. Of course, it may still be propaganda, but I don't think so: so here come your Mig 29s, Su 27 and so on.
    Post 1980s, here comes the western gear: Bordurian F16 Cs or Grippens, anyone?

    Finally, for the sake of completeness and local colour, we should establish whether Borduria is landlocked and find out what kind of navy they have, if any.

    1. I totally see the Syldavia and Borduria used to game any European game from WW2 onward
      - Early war invasion of Sydavia by Borduria
      - Middle war Bordurian occupation forces fighting against Syldavian Resistance and/or Free Syldavian Forces commandos/raiders
      - Middle war Bordurian fighting Soviets alongside Germans on the Eastern front, while Free Syldavian Forces are engaged along the allies in Africa then in Italy (but I like those scenarios less, I'd much rather keep it a purely Sylvania versus Borduria affair with the real life axis and allies only existing in the background)
      - Late war liberation of Syldavia by the Free Sylvania forces
      - All stages of the cold war: Daimler->Sherman->Patton->Leopard versus T34->T54->T62->T72 and so on... I agree with you on Borduria being one of the teachers favourite and being close to East Germany than Bulgaria and the like.
      - Post 80s? A reccurent meme on the net is reunification of Syldavia and Borduria... But I don't like it. Some how I'd much rather have Borduria remain a good old totalitarian bad guy for Syldavia to defend against... Syldavia on the other hand, as member in good standing of the international community could very well be sending peace support/enforcement/keeping missions in other countries: yet another civil war in Khemed and a Syldavian Security Assistance Force caught in the middle of it?

      As for a Bordurian Navy: most maps (fan made) I've seen have Borduria landlocked (Syldavia as a coast: Tintin takes a seaplane back home at the end of the "King Ottokar's Sceptre") but then again with all this being a exercise of making excuses to buy more toy soldiers, it would be a pitty not to make allowance for boats. At the very least, WW2 Borduria should operates S-Boote out of occupied Sydalvian ports while the Syldavian Section of the Royal Navy equipped with Flower-class corvettes, MGBs, MTBs... But giving Borduria it's own stretch of coast would allow to dig out those "Bulldogs Away!" rules...

    2. Now you're talking... Moreover, having a coastline allows everybody to get up to any kind of mischief: sabotage, beach and hinterland recce, in/exfiltration...
      BTW, I still have Fast Attack, the WWII equivalent of Bulldogs Away!.

    3. I'd have to reread the canon for more details, but I know that Syldavia has large deposits of strategic ore (including uranium) in its eastern mountains, which is one of the reasons why the moon mission took place there, actually.
      A casus belli if I ever saw one...

  13. A last one for the road: Michel Tacq drew the "La patrouille des castors" series. It told the adventures of a boy scouts patrol, the beavers. If the boy scouts had a special forces outfit, they'd be part of it.
    A double-album scenario revolves around Braslavia, another typical beyond the iron curtain dictature.
    Not a lot of military background, but I think the setup has potential: it's based on the struggle of the former royal family, aided by sizeable partisan groups to regain power. Suitable for a counter-insurgency campaign.

  14. Absolutely inspiring. For myself, I've chosen the fictional Kingdom of Illyria, situated on the Balkans as well. Most of their 1939 equipment is of antiquated British origin, such as SMLEs, Lewis light machine guns. Armourwise, they would field Rolls Royce Armoured Cars and Cruiser Tanks like the Mk. I (A9). The air force consists of Gloster Gladiators, being replaced by Hawker Hurricanes and Fairey Battles as Bombers. Not a fearsome force, but when hard pushed...