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Shiny new things

May stuff 01

This might fashionably be called an ‘unboxing’ these days … actually I’m just saying some new toys arrived – a lot of little bits in a group order (Skytrex have a flat £5 fee for UK postage so it makes sense to club together when somebody wants something) …

My ‘something’ was the last contender in my forthcoming Great Russian Truck Off – a ‘shootout style’ comparison of what you can get these days to shift the Red Army around.

May stuff 02… plus, you will see, an artillery half-track, and in the background some Peter Pig Nebelwerfers and crew (well I decide the the Gaz truck could go into German service as I had, quite unrelated, realised that the German Army had no rocket troops (so if I was doing some shopping, I ought to fix that!) …

Anyway, back to the trucks … expect the full review in due course, but here’s a first impression of the Skytrex Gaz …

I hadn’t realised that the wheels were cast on.  That’s kind of a bonus as nobody likes fiddly wheels … the ‘fixings’, however, are pretty crude and _are noticeable on the finished models …

20190517_153448

I’m not sure I like this, and may have to take a file to them (and probably add a rear axle – and that probably means the Skytrex model isn’t going to win the Truck Off) ..

I kind of knew this from painted ones I have seen – but, in all honesty, I hadn’t realised how grim it was under there.

It’s also a bit wide.

May stuff 05

I may need to slim that beast down.  That’s a lot of truck for what is basically a ‘pick up’.

I will get the dimensions for the review lest it turns out I’m being unfair.  It is quite crisply cast, so will make a nice model (but to measure up to the best of the bunch, it might need some work doing) …

Anyway, look out for the big review … here’s a selection of contenders …

May stuff 03

Some, of course, are Gaz, some ZiS … some are solid metal, some hollow plastic.  The prices range from £2.75 (Butler) to £6.75 (Flames of War) though the QC might work out more than that if you are shipping in from the US.

Anyway, that’s all for another day.

 

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Parades Season 2019

Paris Parades 02aEver since Tamer got this 3D puzzle (and completed it) for Christmas, I have wanted to drive trucks under it … it’s that kind of structure.  I’m sure you will sympathise.

Paris Parades 01

So, given it’s that time of year again, I thought I’d get a parade in before the Red Army drives by …

Anyway, I’ve featured quite a lot of my Soviet collection of late – so here are some of the poor relations.

Of course, although it is nowhere near big enough to fit with 1/100 trucks, it’s massive by wargame standards and difficult to get it all in.  But I drove trucks under it and that’s the point.

Paris Parades 03

Paris Parades 04(Wehrmacht Eiffel parade … 22nd Panzer Division takes the lead … )

Of course the main German parades were down the Champs d’Elysees and under the Arc de Triomphe for obvious reasons so this is the hithertoo unseen record of the units on their way to feature in the better known pictures …

Paris, Wehrmachtsparade

Paris Parades 07

Paris Parades 08a(figures are, of course, 15mm, mostly Peter Pig with PP, Skytrex, BF, QRF and Zvezda vehicles – oh, and some FiB like that Ammunition Schlepper in the picture …)

That done, I know the internet loves carpark scenes, so here are 22nd PD and 5th SS Motorised parked up prior to the parades …

Paris Parades 09

Paris Parades 10a

Obviously, re the pictures, if it’s colour, it’s probably ‘toy soldiers’, if it’s black and white, it’s likely Bundesarchiv material.  Ahem …

 

CWGC 01

Chris at NQM tipped me off about Butlers Printed Models who do a Viking all terrain vehicle that looks quite nice.  I had wanted to add one of these quirky carriers to my modern forces for some time but nobody made one (and the the scratchbuild, though an attractive challenge, would take more time than I have currently got) …

I had also been thinking of reprising some of my winter warfare ideas – particularly the light-hearted AK47 romp (it must be the time of year!).

So I bought a selection of vehicles from Butler (including the BvS 10 and a Russian truck which I will review shortly) …

CWGC 02(Butler’s Printed Models in 1/100)

… and some Khurasan modern troops in parkas …

CWGC 04

I added a couple of Peter Pig in there to make the numbers right … they are a bit smaller but once the heads are shared around and some milliput parkas are added, I reckon it won’t show.

They are armed primarily with AK74s, though my intentions are more generic than that suggests (hence my willingness to bus them up into notionally Nato vehicles!) …

CWGC 05(Khurasan modern soldiers and civilians in parkas with a touch of Peter Pig)

I need to tart up the plastic bases, detail up and add aerials etc. to the carriers (which have just had a basic white undercoat) – but ‘so far, so good’ … I need to get on with some other jobs and these now look good enough that I can think about some of the other more pressing tasks!

CWGC 06

NB the alternative cupolas for the vehicles – BPM offer a choice, so I got the protected MG style, but decided it looked a bit aggressive for the role I had in mind so I have reserved them for a ‘UN peacekeeper’ trim whilst scratchbuilding a simple ‘hatch with parka head sticking out’ for the freezing scenario I currently have in mind.

So this is a little ‘intervention’ patrol …

CWGC 07(the Cold War gets Colder on P.B.Eye-Candy)

I’ll do some proper reviews when time allow but for now … the Khurasan figures are excellent.  Buying them in from the US makes them expensive (so something of a small game option at the moment).  They sort of match with PP if you accept that men in  parkas are bigger anyway than men in ordinary fatigues – plus the weapons are a bit chunkier (actually I trimmed some of them down).  They look great.

Re the BPMs, I’m more ambivalent: they are inexpensive but the striated surfaces that seem to come with this sort of 3D printing are annoying.  Also the clean up takes a while and isn’t really that simple (not all of the waste snaps or cuts off and it is quite difficult to scrape or file) so there is a big penalty to pay for the economies.  Basically, the only reason to go to this sort of model will be availability – if 3D means you can get something which otherwise you would have to build yourself, then it wins easily.  If, however, you are choosing between similar items in traditional metal, resin or kit forms, I think you are better with the traditional models, even if they costs a little more.

New Accessions

New Accessions Dec 18 01

What’s been going on on the P.B.Eye-Candy workbench?  Well quite a bit of in-filling and a few new things too.

Above we see a couple of Zvezda fighters … not new, but ones I’ve not made before … from the same manufacturer, a couple of SU76s (absolutely new to everyone – I had these on notification order waiting for their promised release, so my guess is not many people have seen them) … and a couple of useful Skytrex models to round out some Eastern Front units.

But first …

Some French Foot Figures

I did these for the Alamein game to go with the Free French/FFL armour but they needed a bit more tidying up … anyway, here’s some pictures …

foot figs 01(here’s my commander … maybe Horrocks or Lumsden … based on the Peter Pig Andy Gittins figure)

He got some staff too … nice overloaded sedan, again from Piggie-land …

foot figs 05

I made up a couple of double based width units (so CK’s NQM size) for the Marine Infantry and the Greeks …

foot figs 03

The mine clearance markers are normal size, however … how important (albeit slow) these would be in the game …

foot figs 02(the minesweepers are from the 8th Army set – with head swaps as appropriate … the diggers are conversions)

foot figs 04(Yesthatphil’s Peter Pig 8th Army adapted to represent French Marines)

Zvezda new and old

I’ve stuck to my policy of making and painting what I buy so this is what I bought as a result of the end of the show season (I find it hard to spend at shows these days as there’s almost nothing I want available unless I get online … which eventually I did after Recon)

New Accessions Dec 18 02

The two little planes went together very quickly and I had some fun photographing the 109 against the trees through the window …

New Accessions Dec 18 03

New Accessions Dec 18 04

I made a ground base with a short mounting stub for the Polikarpov (which I assembled ‘wheels up’ for primary use on a flight stand).

New Accessions Dec 18 04a

I have replaced the fragile propellers with plastic disks … cutting them out hasn’t been a complete success – so expect a modelling entry when I figure out a cheap and neat way to do this (meanwhile just don’t look too closely!)

Armour

21st Panzer have been short of a self-propelled anti-tank unit and this lovely model comes from Skytrex.  All metal but you will need to find some crew figures.

New Accessions Dec 18 05

New Accessions Dec 18 06(model by Skytrex, added crew from Forged in Battle and PSC)

New Accessions Dec 18 06a(crew figures are a mix of Peter Pig and Battlefront)

I am very pleased with them.

I got the PzJ and the Scout Car as part of a small order that arrived within 3 days of a weekend browse. Well impressed.  Nice models, good price, exemplary service.

Models2U were slower delivering my SU76s … never mind, perhaps – they were worth the wait.  They are a bit fiddly … more like proper kits, these days, and I will add a review shortly – but here are some pictures …

New Accessions Dec 18 08

New Accessions Dec 18 09

These are such an important part of the Red Army it is nice to have an accurate and inexpensive model available.  Like the Skytrex models, however, you do have to find some crew figures.

More notifications as soon as I get the modelling tips and reviews written up.

Happy New Year!

So the big El Alamein game came and went over the Summer …

FFDD 000

It was indeed big, although, in the end, I’m not convinced the squares made as much of a contribution to managing the sprawling engagement as I had hoped they would.

An upside of the venture was that I got to fit out my Vichy French as Free French (or Fighting French, if you prefer) … the stalwarts who joined Montgomery’s army in the desert … heroes of Bir Hakeim and El Alamein.

FFDD 00(some new kit to give a Libyan configuration to my Moroccan French)

The French forces retained some of their original weapons though had much Anglo-American gear too.  They had little bespoke armour, using British tanks and theatre converted vehicles.  Yay … real world conversions – a lot down to the inventive mind of Adrien Conus …

FFDD 10(hard fighting at Alamein: FFL go in, supported by a Tanake unit, carrier conversion and Conus gun)

The Crusader tank is a lovely QRF model … the rest I had to build.  The Tanake had to built from the chassis up.  The carrier and Marmon-Herrington are what I have previously termed ‘pointless conversions’ (you can get them – or the basic vehicle anyway – just I had something nearly suitable so went about it the hard way!)

Tanake

FFDD 01

This is an armoured car built on a Dodge truck … so my work began with making some cosmetic changes to a QRF (nearly right) Chevrolet … (basically the bonnet/hood) and then painting the inside before assembly …

FFDD 03

The back end is all thin card … (recycling the backing card of the superglue with which it was assembled) … meanwhile fabricate an armoured shield with light gun and MG on a pintle, ready to drop in (this just makes painting and assembly easier) …

FFDD 04(we should end up with something that looks like this)

I’ve then made up wheel arches,  finished and sanded in the surfaces and detailing with Miliiput and made ready to paint.

FFDD 05

I was very pleased … it’s a great vehicle to have to do … (it’s like Indiana Jones meets Lawrence of Arabia – or is that just me?) … and it turned out easier than expected …

FFDD 06(Yesthatphil’s 15mm Dodge Tanake built on the QRF Chevrolet truck)

OK I got the height of the unusual back end wrong: I’ll have to find an example (they were all hand built so do differ) that matches or, at some point, I will need to go back and alter it – but indulge me for now: it was made to a deadline.

FFDD 07(top view and speedy insert)

As with the other vehicles, insignia was added in the less hurried hours after the game.

FFDD 10a

Hotchkiss Carrier and Marmon-Herrington

The ‘pointless’ conversions:  once upon a time I had bought too many Skytrex Humber light armoured cars, and have been grateful for chances to use them.  It’s completely unsuitable for a Marmon-Herrington but with the size and shape changed and bigger wheels … well it’s almost convincing …

FFDD 11(so … reshape, add big wheels, restyle the front, add those tell-tale ribs on the bonnet …) 

Of course the real ‘conversion’ here is adding a French crew, Breda gun mount (rather than a turret) and coal scuttle gun shield.

FFDD 12(again the basics are card, the finishing details are Milliput epoxy … and paint …)

FFDD 12a(Yesthatphil’s French Marmon-Herrington/Breda)

The Hotchkiss Carrier

In this case the unnecessary work was the result of Chris giving me a PSC Loyd Carrier which I didn’t have a particular use for (so it sat on the bench unassembled for a while) … the the French requirements came up and (actually looking for a portee), I found pictures of the carrier SP … Great, I said … I could use that carrier.

Chris agreed, and pointed out that it would almost right (‘good enough’) as there was little difference between the carriers other than the Loyd’s having more wheels.  Well, that’s not good enough then … is it …

FFDD 13

… so in addition to the ‘main job’ of creating a suitable fighting compartment and adding the big (well, relatively speaking, big) gun and shield … I had to shorten the whole thing …  You’d never know, though … right?

FFDD 14(… and just add paint)

Again, I think it turned out fine.  From the contemporary photos it looks like the gun isn’t long enough … I think they mostly used a ‘long’ version.

FFDD 15(French Universal Carrier with Hotchkiss 25mm AT … 15mm conversion from PSC parts)

Both of these pointless exercises have added a lot of value for me … there was going to be work involved in assembling these unusual vehicles anyway … but doing it the hard way has cleared a number of odds and ends from my desk (things have found a home) and the models have already seen action in the big game.

Nevertheless, the Tanake has to be my favourite.  A true ship of the desert.

FFDD 00a

Postscript … I’ve titled this part ‘1’ … the keen-eyed will have spotted the Conus gun in the Alamein pictures.  It was very much a quick stand in … and I need to go back and do the job properly.  And I mentioned portees.  So there will be a part 2.

And there were some soldiers too.

Plus I think the French vs Italian engagement on the Southern flank will make a good PBI game – and that will be a good reason to complete those last details.  It all comes together sometimes.

In due course I will transfer the Tanake build to the modelling section.

Operational Boxes

Op Boxes 05(NQM Squared: the armoured thrust at El Alamein)

Over the Summer a lot of thinking has gone into the Operational Game and into grids – squares and hexes.   I have long advocated that Chris Kemp’s NQM might gain something from the structure grids are able to offer (who is – or is not – in contact with the enemy … who likewise can contribute or support etc.) …

Meanwhile, Trebian has been exploring the Great War, in part, through recreating campaigns using Op 14 by historian and wargamer Richard Brooks (whom many readers of this blog will know through Wargame Developments and his many contributions to the Nugget).

Then, whilst these options were in our minds, Bob Cordery published Hex Blitz (a variant of Megablitz played on a hexagon grid with a card driven unit activation mechanism).

We ran a couple of playtests … we used offset squares rather than hexes … they have exactly the same effects but they aren’t hexes (and Trebian has cloths already marked up in offset squares) …

Personally I think offset squares look a little less ‘star wars-y’ than hexagons – but that’s mostly a taste/style issue.  Board gamers seem to love the little six-sided thingies.

Op Boxes 01(Offset Squares: Hex Blitz on the Eastern Front)

Op Boxes 02(Offset squares: Hex Blitz Spanish Civil War)

I have to say that, for me, the 20th Century seems the age in which most military operations were planned on maps that had orthogonal grids on them … so my top candidate for a grid system to apply to a ‘modern’ wargame  (with inverted commas as we’ll get to a time when WWII etc. is no longer considered ‘modern’) would be orthogonal squares.

In Burma, of course, they fought in an Admin Box … and I can’t help thinking there’s a way, somehow, of translating the Admin Box into the Operational Square.

Op Boxes 03

But I think that’s a bit of literate candy-floss which would only go over a set of robust mechanisms.   So where have we got to?

So far, in all honesty, I don’t think we’ve quite reboxed the fluidity and simplicity of either NQM or Megablitz into the gridded wargame.

Op Boxes 04(Royal Artillery 25pdrs bombard Italian positions in a night phase of CK’s prototype Alamein game)

Op Boxes 04a(NQM Squared – El Alamein: the ‘crumbling’ attacks grind down Axis positions)

I think we have succumbed to the temptations of too many toys and/or of squares that are too small and try to do too much.

Using a large number of models apparently ups the scale of the game … and smaller squares enables more real ground to be scaled onto the same table area.  Both these seem to be win-win choices … but if the battle area becomes confused – and difficult for players to manage easily … then the primary benefit of shifting to the grid – clarity – is lost.  If the umpire is going to have to arbitrate positional and orientation issues then you may as well revert to NQM’s freewheeling style of active umpiring.

Op Boxes 06

I think the looser, less cluttered style of the first experiments with NQM Squared (above), or the simpler figure numbers of Op 14 (below, in a Russo-Polish battle recreated in Jockey’s Fields a while back) can be played more quickly because the table space can be understood more easily.

Op Boxes 07

Some things are not really working for me though … card activation and the unit by unit activation that goes with it … well these are tools to do a job.   I’d argue that whilst they suit a small game … solo game or similar, they are not solving problems you have if you play with a larger number of players and an umpire.

Further, unit-by-unit activation brings a whole host of other problems along with it – as units may end up sequentially attacked by a number of enemy actions in a temporally inconsistent pattern during a phase of otherwise apparently simultaneous action.

Being more abstract, this methodology can allow the resolution of a lot of complex interactions in a series of simpler small phases … but it can equally lead to near surreal episodes of play that defy the willing suspension of disbelief.

Op Boxes 08

If this post seems to have failed to get to an eloquent conclusion that may be a fair impression.  I did get to a nicely worded and coherent conclusion on my laptop – and then the unresponsive page gremlins failed to save any of it … so I am trying to rebuild the thoughts on my phone (which doesn’t just ‘break’ the way PCs and laptops seem to in the age of Windows 10).

So I was arguing for simultaneous action in big games and umpire resolution.

I was arguing against troop positionings straddling square boundaries and intersections … there are many ways of breaking the apparent limitations of the grid  but in breaking the limitations there is a significant risk of also breaking the gains in clarity and legibilty that were the reasons for turning to the grid in the first place.

I think I’m arguing for embracing the grid’s advantages rather than constantly butting against its limitations.

20180810_111642_resized

Engineers come in all shapes and sizes, militarily.   We often use the term for assault troops armed with specialist weapons such as flame throwers or who are equipped to break through hardened defences or clear mines … or built positions and/or lay mines.

Engineers build bridges, fix things (and break things) manage decontaminations and of course deal with wire … emplacing or removing …

Not all of these are strictly engineering … but are all part of a range of technical support services that expand or enhance what the basic soldiers can do.

For operational games it is useful to have markers or distinctive figure groups that show which troops can employ these extra technical skills and perhaps have access to special equipment.

My ‘go to’ figure for engineer capabilities in 15mm is a stormtrooper carrying wire from Peter Pig’s WWI German range.  With a suitable head swap.

Sov Eng 03

(Red Army engineers on a stick for painting … and finished: the men with wire are bottom left and 4th from the right)

The other figures are adapted to be carrying tools … axes, spades etc.

These figures are mostly to make up 4-figure ‘work parties’ …

Additionally, I want some motorised engineer battalions to add into mechanised divisions and I decided to represent these the same as I have represented similar German formations … in a truck with an extra base available if necessary to represent them deployed as fighting troops.

Sov Eng 02(work parties and trucks)

I decided to make the engineer’s trucks distinguishable from other generic trucks by adding the frequently seen A-frame hoist on the back of the vehicles …

Sov Eng 04(hoists made from alloy tubing and brass wire being added to Peter Pig resin Gaz AAA trucks)

This simple bit of modelling was finished by using modelling putty to indicate the brackets and rollers etc.

Sov Eng 05(finishing details and adding figures)

Sov Eng 06(trucks, work parties and combat-deployed bases textured in and ready for the vehicles etc. to be painted)

Prominent amongst the figures are some of Peter Pig‘s new Assault Troops in body armour – a very welcome addition.

LMGs in body armourflame thrower team in body armour(Soviet Assault Troops in body armour)

20180810_111915_resized(Peter Pig Assault Troops in body armour)

I think they look the part.

Anyway, here are some photos of the finished figures and trucks

20180810_110441_resized.jpg

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20180810_110130_resized

The final batch of work parties:

20180810_111350_resized

The guys at the front are a work party for a trains unit (hence carrying a section of rail) and the chaps with blue trousers are to go in the cavalry division.

I either made the added tools or raided them from a pack Donnington do as part of a Medieval camp.  Whether you can get the pack of tools separately I don’t know (maybe try having a nice word with Damien).