Archive for the ‘Airwars’ Category

So this is both an update on my long-running ‘trains and boats and planes’ saga as well as a potted review of a new 3D modl by Butlers: the Heinkel HE 111.

BPM’s 1:200 scale HE111 over the Sea of Azov (escorted by a Revell FW190 and Zvezda ME109 – both 1:144)

If we;ve discussed this before, you’ll know I favour going one or more scales down for air support … for 15mm/1:100, I prefer 1:144 fighters and fighter/dive bombers, 1:200 bombers and transports, smaller for very large plans and airships (my TB3 Bomber is approx 1:250 IIRC). To me, it both looks less clumsy than uniform scaling and nods to the very different time and distance scales that the Air Arms are running to.

I know some of you won’t agree, so I won’t press the point.

Zvezda came close to my thinking with the aesthetics of Art of Tactic (1:72 figues; 1:100 vehicles; 1:144 fighters; 1:200 bombers … tiny boats and trains*)

Zvezda’a JU52s have been very handy, and for a light bomber, their JU88 was a bit bland but sill useful. But what I’ve really wanted was a Heinkel HE111 … it’s somehow the WW2 Axis bomber.

Butlers Printed Models have filled that gap, with a Heinkel in, as always, a wide variety of scales – and this is my experience of the 1:200 model

Much though I was looking forward to it, however, I have to admit I didn’t really take to this one. Planes like this are very ’rounded’ so I’m not really convinced that the plastic layering type of 3D printing is really appropriate for this sort of model. There are no windows as such, of course, it’s just a solid piece (that pretty much goes with the territory – but isn’t really my thing, nevertheless). The model comes as 5 parts – a single piece for most of the plane + separate engines each of 2 pieces. The engine pieces are badly sized and don’t really fit together.

Additionally, like the Zvezda JU88s, it is a very bland piece – if you want MGs, propellers, undercarriage, antennae etc. you’ll have to make your own. Needless to say, there are no decals with it – so, as supplied, I really do mean bland,

In the end, I’m fairly comfortable with the appearance of my HE111 – but that’s after a lot of filing, drilling, filling and fitting (so a long old slog) …

The picture from BPM’s website which doesn’t show that the engines are separate + some of the extra stages I think are necessay

On decals/livery, first, an apology to Luftwaffe buffs … the appearanc and markings are just generic, from what I had in my box of tricks … I have not represented a particular squadron or theatre. Second, whilst fellow enthusiasts might generally think my aversion to printing striations is a bit fussy, I’d add a caveat: fixing decals to rough surfaces isn’t always straightforward – so in this case I’d like to go as smooth as possible!

As you can see, I didn’t manage to get a completely smooth surface (although the camera does tend to accentuate the problem). The paint doesn’t adhere too well either!

(Yesthatphil’s BPM HE111)

On balance, therefore, I’d have much preferred this was a Zvezda model (!) … it would have gone together in minutes, wouldn’t have needed filling and at least would have had undercarriage, props and decals.

Useful if you need a small scale Heinkel, but larger than 1:200, I’d have thought the lack of detail would become increasingly unattractive. So unless it meets a specific need, I’d not really recommend this one.

1:200 scale BMP Heinkel: in dispersal with a couple of Zvezda JU88s and, nearby, a JU52)

All images are copyright Yesthatphil, so asking or acknowledging would be appropriate (wink)

(Not Quite Bundesarchiv)

*so I don’t like the figures and vehicles being different, and wouldn’t go with the tiny boats and trains – but I suspect for Zvezda it was a case of fitting symbolic models to the size of their grid!

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Merry Christmas everyone. An unusual year. And I’ve been up to something unusual (for this blog, anyway) over the evenings leading up to the 25th – but which I thought you might enjoy.

My friend’s daughter recently lost her grandfather, who had been an enthusiastic warplane buff and modeller, though latterly affected by old age. She was able to retrieve some of his models which she wanted to keep for sentimental reasons – the only problem being that they were broken (so she wasn’t sure what to do with them). A job for Uncle Phil, then … and I determined to get them ready by Christmas (so, a gift of time and attention for her, rather than something off Amazon!)

The box contained a couple of WW2 biplanes and a more recent helicopter. In varying states of repair (but all had had their wheels broken off, and not all the wheels were in the box). The Kaman Seasprite looked the bigger challenge as I was going to have to find or fabricate one of the main rotor blades and the entire rear rotor. As it happened, that significantly underestimated the problems I would have with the Stranraer’s upper wing.

Anyway, despite a very long night or two, I got them done, and I think they ended up looking very tidy. Pretty much back to their former best, so the (surprise) box opening on Christmas Day was a magical moment (a wave of emotion that easily justified the time that had been taken).


This was the easiest of the three. Other than fixing some loose wing parts and struts, all I had to do was fabricate a missing wheel and fix both wheels on. Miliput to the rescue. I was intending to make a press mould but the wheels on the Stringbag are so basic I was able to make one freehand.

Fairey Swordfish torpedo bomber

The refurbished Swordfish model.

A favourite of mine. Hero of the attack on the Italian fleet at Taranto, Swordfish attacks also helped cripple the Bismarck in the struggle for the North Atlantic shipping lanes.


Look at the rigging on that! Unfortunately the broken off top wing and struts had warped, and the tangle of attached rigging prevented an ‘in one’ reassembly (I had to work my way out from the centre, section by section with elastic bands to give the glue a chance to hold the wing in line). This one also had a missing wheel and a broken propeller.

This model also had snapped machinegun barrels, so I had to drill them out and replace them with brass wire.

The floats proved particularly tricky, as the plastic was aged and brittle. It didn’t want to be glued, and the compression necessary to achieve the bond snapped the struts.

Although I do frequently use plastic kits for vehicles, I have long advocated the ‘metal parts for guns and fittings approach’ and shake my head at the current fashion for hard plastic figures. So it was ironic for me to be dealing with precisely the issues I have warned others about with ageing hard plastics. Ah well. I got there in the end.

I have to say that, although the crews apparently disliked it, as a plane of its era, the Stranraer is a very cool machine.

Supermarine Stranraer


The big problem with the Seasprite was the missing rotor blades. In the end, I cut the missing main rotor blade from a scrap plastic takeaway box. It took 2 layers to get the thickness, but I wanted that soft plastic to match the droopiness of the other blades (which were themselves made of a softer plastic than the rest of the model).

I know that it is a bit ‘rough and ready’ (it’s not an easy material for fine modelling) but you have to get quite close up to see that one of the four blades is a hand cut replacement rather than a moulded component from the kit.

So, all in all, a different project for Christmas and, it turned out, a job well done.

By my standards, these were quite big models to work on, and made out of my least favourite material. They look great, but it reminds me that I do need to get back to the (mostly metal, 1/100) German and Russian horsedrawn project. And some wargaming.

2021 beckons.

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Zis-12 searchlight 01

Again, this will be of more interest to operational wargamers …and will enhance air defence assets.

I’m just going to do a post here rather than a feature on the modelling page as this is a one off … a Zvezda truck plus a lamp from a naval parts range (picked up in the model shop) – everything else is scrap/scratch-built.

Zis-12 searchlight 02(1:100 Zvezda truck with searchlight)

I replaced the Zis bed with the slightly longer one from the Opel Blitz and cut and lowered it but I declined to do a full Zis-12 conversion as it didn’t seem essential to model all features exactly.

I then fabricated a chassis and cradle to carry the light.  As the assembled components are differently coloured it is pretty easy to see how the bits have come together in the WIP photo …

Zis-12 searchlight 03

The lamp I had picked up looks a little smaller than the standard Russian air defence searchlight – but as the example bottom right in the picture below shows, some variations are possible …

I decided to leave the lamp’s plastic lens clear and the interior white – and it seems to have worked … in the photos it picks up the camera flash quite strikingly I think.

Zis-12 searchlight 07

Zis-12 searchlight 04

Zis-12 searchlight 05

I picked up the bits for this quite some time back so this ‘Zis-12’ is another outstanding project ticked-off and delivered.   Although a bit fiddly at times it was pretty straightforward, really and I am pleased with the results.

Zis-12 searchlight 06

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That’s a Corgi Apache somewhere in my Africa …

I acquired the Apache as a gift some while back … it is a lovely model and apparently 1:100 (I put some Piggies in it for crew) … but my model was finished in a rather anaemic magnolia livery and never looked quite right.

So I have finally grasped the nettle and done that die cast to wargames model treatment: primed with black Humbrol all over then dry brushed with acrylics.  Wow!  All I can say is that it works for me …


I think this shifts it from ‘good model but slightly unloved’ to ‘little gem’ …



OK … There is a bit of knurled shaft sticking up at the moment where I have taken off the Longbow FCR cheese as I suspect this is wrong for any application I am likely to have for an already advanced helicopter (but I’ll tidy that bit up when I decide what model this is to be) …

This is an inexpensive (and, being a die-cast, durable) model which fits in beautifully with AK-47/Post War stuff …

TBP AH 04(Corgi Apache between 2 QRF AMX tanks)

On a related note but not so big, I picked up this fairly convincing Black Hawk at Tesco’s for £2 …

TBP Black Hawk 01

It is probably something like 1:160 scale but still looks good over the AK47 battlefield (and so is going to be worth the same treatment as the Apache got in due course) …

TBP Black Hawk 03

More Trains and Boats and Planes soon – I think we need trains next …

 Djebel Sahariana 09

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TBP 01

So this is just another update on a lot of tinkering and accumulating over recent months … although other projects in other periods have monopolised a lot of the time progress has been made behind the 20th Century scenes …

No trains this time, but I did ‘convert’ the first of those Thomas the Tank Engine (Ertl) barges (Bulstrode*) for use on the Volga (though the presentation is generic enough for anywhere in Europe I think) …

TBP 02

I have a few more in process, now, so more on that project in due course … I’m filing them under ‘Stalingrad river traffic’.

I’ve also done a Soviet ‘speed boat’ (small river launch) using one of those resin boats I got from The Square (which have previously appeared as bridge pontoons).   This was just adding card and scrap box detailing to the resin blank and painting appropriately …

TBP 03a

TBP 03

Simple but effective, there is now more support for riverine and coastal landing forces …

TBP 04(Peter Pig Soviet Naval landing party charge ashore supported by speed boat and armoured cutter)

We have also seen the arrival of Zvezda’s SB-2 Fast Bomber …  a companion to the JU-88: effective in large numbers early in the war, and active over Finland in the Winter War … it is one of those simple 1:200 models (a little small as it is a scale down from the fighters but not a big aeroplane to start with – but it will serve the Red Air Force well enough … ) …

SB-2 02

SB-2 01(Soviet SB-2 Fast Bombers)

SB-2 06(Zvezda’s Soviet SB-2 Fast Bomber)

I opted to paint them ‘silver’ as this seems to have been the livery they flew in the operations over Helsinki (dropping Molotov’s bread baskets?) and because it is a colour scheme I’ve not tackled before – I think it is more problematic than camo finishes but looks OK …

SB-2 04

SB-2 05(SB-2 Fast Bombers photographed in front of my laptop screen as previous mock ups)

SB-2 07

There have also been some helicopters … but not WWII and as this post has been quite long, I’ll split it here …

*apparently discontinued and worth 4x what I paid for them … (no that won’t stop me defacing them …) …

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CoW 2014 00a

Or, better, pictures from this year’s Conference of Wargamers with relevance to warfare in the mechanised age

I was busy with a number of ancient and medieval projects, so there is a main report on Ancients on the Move.   So I got so see very little of the modern stuff …

CoW 2014 09(Doodlebug down! The WDDTN ADG Doodlebuggers sees another threat neutralised)

The plenary game was a live kamikaze attack in the Pacific, and later, I got to shoot down Doodlebugs – I got the highest tally but had a lot of trouble flying through debris and getting out of my burning Spitfire.    Back gardens in Kent and Woolwich were cratered and Southend Pier was blown to smithereens … but I reckon between us we saved London.

CoW 2014 10a(we had 5 minutes in which to clear the skies of  evil Nazi wonder weapons)

You can have a crack at this at a show later in the year … The Other Partizan, next, probably (look for Wargame Developments) ..

Here is more of the death struggle between Hitler and Stalin …

CoW 2014 12(A senseless waste … German bitter enders scurry through Berlin Station to confront the invader)

CoW 2014 13

… and here is the 21st Century equivalent of a cardboard simulator (the toy-shop plastic and foam rubber simulator?

CoW 2014 14(Lawn Game Simulator: pneumatic anti-tank missile system readies) 

… and it can be beguiling how convincingly the mown grass camouflages 1:32 scale toy tanks …

CoW 2014 16

CoW 2014 17(Little Cold Wars: French ground attack mission)

CoW 2014 18a(Little Cold Wars: taking hits – the T55s attack)

CoW 2014 19(fire in the hole!: Nick Huband demonstrates the anti-tank targeting system)

Mid evening on Saturday we broke for a trip down memory lane … Jim Roche reminding us of the calendar of events from 1914 and 1944 interspersed with morale boosting or iconic songs and anthems from the war years …

IMG_7899(Just in case you didn’t know the words to the Marseillaise … ) 

… and I found a window in which to ski off piste with my pop-up Naval Game, Big Ship Battles (Kaboom!) inspired by some inexpensive ships that became available in a Pound shop

CoW BSB 02(Kaboom! with Chris K … 3 hits on my Battleship … and a level bomber coming my way …)

The game takes around half an hour at most and has none of those traditional naval game mechanisms – it did, however, work (and I am inspired to push it along another level … say, maybe a quick participation game?)

CoW BSB 03a(Kaboom!: a 2mm Bomber from Irregular Miniatures about to complete its mission)

Along with all the ancient and medieval games, that was it for my CoW 2014

2015?  Well, I hope to see you there – CoW is unique for all the right reasons, so a big thank you to all the enthusiasts who make it work!

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New Zvezda 02 reduced(Zvezda 1:144 Henschel HS 126 built, painted and photographed by Phil Steele)

I’m very pleased that some of the aircraft Zvezda promised over 2 years ago have finally arrived … the two scout/utility planes in 1:144 (an HS 126 for the Germans and a PO2 for the Red Army/VVS) and the 1:200 JU 88 Bomber … (sadly the Soviet SB2 is still only ‘available soon’)

Although I should be doing more important things, I have bought assembled and photographed these within a week and am feeling very happy with the results.  See the Reviews Page for more details …

N Zv Ju88 02

N Zv PO2 02

N Zv 126 02

I hope you like the fancy picture of the HS 126 against a beautiful blue sky … I think it is splendid.  I got the blue sky up on my computer held the model up in front of it and took the snap!   The sun effect is the flash from my old Canon compact (it took a few goes to get that angle optimised, and I then had to spend a few minutes on Paint to remove the stand and tidy up – but not bad for a bit of old fashioned fakery)

New Zvezda 01a(Phil’s five minute fakery … )

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It is a long time since we Bashed any WWI Squares, and it was interesting for our local group here to have an evening with RFCM’s SBII.

Amiens 00

Harvey treated us to a running of Amiens from the scenarios, with toys provided by Trebian … generally somewhat unfashionable Minifigs, I think.   The game was well organised and presented and ran smoothly.    I thought the feel was pretty convincing (for this scenario, at least) … I recall us being less impressed by SB I (which is why it hasn’t been played that much) …

Anyway, here’s some Amiens eye-candy …

Amiens 02

Amiens 03

Amiens 04

The scenario gives the British players overwhelming force, and the Germans a problematic defence.    The game mechanism stripped out a lot of their machinegun support, and the Brits eventually attacked with some gusto …

Amiens 04a

That said, I’ll happily include a snap of one of my more successful contributions …

Amiens 04b

11 dice, looking for sixes to hit … giving 8 hits!   The Germans replied with several ones in the Saving Rolls … Now that interaction would swing a good number of wargames

Being a man of simple tastes, it also brought a smile to my face …

Trebian has posted a blow-by-blow account, and has some more insightful comments on Wargaming for Grownups

We ended with the Brits in full control …

Amiens 05

Meanwhile I have been trying to keep up with the bits and pieces i have been acquiring for the Eastern Front collection … I added a nice little Airacobra from Revell 1:144 and a Zvezda Sdkfz-222 armoured car to scout for 22PD …

Revell Airacobra 01(Revell Micro Wings 1:144 Airacobra)

I found the FW 190 I made a while back quite tough going (old, ill-fitting, fiddly kit technology) but this one went together much better with very few gaps or misfits.

The Airacobra was a beautiful aircraft, and despite the mixed reception it got elsewhere was one of the most successful fighters on the Eastern Front (more than half the wartime output went to the Soviet Union, and more Soviet aces flew Airacobras than any other plane).

Revell Airacobra 02

The model lacks a canon in the spinner, so I drilled it out and fixed in a slightly over-sized example: the big gun was something VVS pilots really liked despite its slow rate of fire.  This was a quick build and paint (yes, I know it shows, but bear in mind it is a 1:144 – so is getting magnified in the pictures … )

Enjoyed this one.   And less expensive than a Zvezda!

I also enjoyed making up the Zvezda 222 … I had read that this was a tricky build, and needed and extra scout for 22PD as some of its assets have been stripped out to build the Rostov sector’s new unit.    In fact I found this one went together easily enough – it is fiddly but all the parts do fit where intended.   Easier than the BA-10.

zvezda 222 01(Zvezda Sdkfz 222 armoured car)

OK … it is destined for Army Group South but the table on which I did the photos had a baggage element from my ancients collection on it.  I couldn’t help wondering what it would look like sitting behind a Palmyran camel train …

zvezda 222 02a

It has a fun, Panzers in the Desert, sort of look.   Who knows?  Maybe the Mediterranean Theatre will catch on …


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WkSt 01(Zvezda Stug with big PP gun)

I haven’t really had time to blog, but September has been the kind of month where I have to paint to stay sane.

It is a month in which I have begun work on a unit with a designation I have previously avoided (and I will type more in due course under the title ‘crossing the line’) … Suffice to say they were recruited from foreign volunteers and made their debut the support echelon at Rostov in 1942.

I’m doing quite a few vehicles, so will have some new features to add to reviews and modelling …

New for September 01(Battlefront Wespe prior to camouflage)

New for September 02(Sdkfz 254 … which will probably go to help 22PD steer in its artillery support)

I replaced the uprights for the clothesline on the 254 but I can easily see I should have replaced the main frame as well (it looks a little too like a rubber inflatable for my liking) … Otherwise it is quite a nice addition to the collection.

And I got one of those Zvezda fighters … it comes with alternative parts for the undercarriage so donated some parts to an old lend-lease Warhawk that has been in the front line while more modern planes have been developed …

Laggs 03

Laggs 05

Laggs 04

Laggs 01a

Actually, it’s quite a nice little aeroplane … and paints up well enough.    I think I may go over to ‘no propeller’ for these 1:144 models …

Wik LMG(Motorised WI … P teaser: whatever next?)

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A Battle Lost 10

2 Operational Level wargames within a fortnight sandwiched my trip to the Plassenburg.    NQM is the original ‘event led’ Op Game designed by the Doormouse years ago (even I have been part of the playing group for 20 years, now!).   Megablitz is a more codified game inspired by the NQM project.    When NQM stepped down to 15mm for space reasons a decade ago, much of the 20mm collection went into the Megablitz stables (so even some of toys are the same).

Fall Gabel 04a(Fall Gabel: 4th PD – my 22 PD toys – getting obliterated by a Corps level artillery barrage or unprecedented ferocity)

The two games couldn’t have been more different.   Fall Gabel (NQM) was played amongst a small group on a single evening just on one table; A Battle Lost? (Megablitz) was played all day on six tables with around twenty players.

In Fall Gabel we were channelled straight into the combat zones so spent just about the whole game running higher level combats; in A Battle Lost? the French were determined to dig in, while the Panzer Corps (at least) were given strict orders to by-pass enemy units and not to fight any battles (so the game was mostly a traffic game).

A Battle Lost 04a(A Battle Lost?: Panzer columns navigate around and between French positions)

Fall Gabel 06(Fall Gabel: the Gross Deutschland Motorised Division gets stuck in – my Germans, Chris’s Russians, Treb’s buildings)

Neither game featured any player engagement with the logistics rules.   Which, originally, was what these Operational Level games were about.   What made them interesting.

Air power is another important part of these operations but was Umpire controlled in both games … in A Battle Lost? this combined with an ‘all in one basket’ policy imposed by high command to mean the Luftwaffe played little part in the conquest of France.

A Battle Lost 02(A Battle Lost? Opening Phases … the Luftwaffe take off successfully – one of their better moments)

Here are some more pictures:

A Battle Lost 01(A Battle Lost?: some of Rommel’s recce units – on strict orders from Gen. Guderian – me – to get to the beaches first)

A Battle Lost 04(A Battle Lost?: the BEF about to cop it)

A Battle Lost 05(A Battle Lost?: Cambrai about to cop it)

Fall Gabel 08(Fall Gabel: 4th Panzer advancing confidently into the battlespace)

Fall Gabel 07(Fall Gabel: the remnants of the Division reorganise a safe distance back from the smoking wrecks of its combat units)

Fall Gabel 05(Fall Gabel: nightfall – the tattered Red Army are driven out of all their positions into a confused cauldron around the rail head; Gross Deutschland poised, brimming with confidence, before the morning’s assault)

In truth, blend the two games together, add back the missing logistics and air liaison – and give all the players enough to do … and you would have the perfect wargame.   At the moment the Operational Game seems to have settled into a formula which everyone enjoys (me included) but which runs as much because of the fudges and bits left out as it does because of the rules which are played and work.

A Battle Lost 07(A Battle Lost?: by Day Three my Corps had worked its way to the front and Rommel was headed for the coast)

The games are very well organised and the lunch at Shrivenham was first rate.

My thanks all round.

I played Germans in both games.  In Fall Gabel I commanded 4PD which bounced off, but which had softened the position sufficiently that we took it in the afternoon, and I commanded Gross Deutschland which methodically destroyed everything in front of it.  Unfortunately we were at the end of our (unplayed) logistic chain, so the thrust was doomed to fail.

In A Battle Lost? I played Fast Heinz whose XIX Corps of three Panzer Divisions was allocated a 2nd echelon birth with orders to break through to the coast.

Despite all the traffic trouble, the infantry getting in the way, and lack of allocated road priorities, by Day Two we were threading our way through.   We took 3 or 4 small towns, the main Front airfield, cut off a full enemy Division and were first to the Sea with 2 of our 3 Panzer Divisions (Rommel up front); indeed, at the airfield we were just minutes behind the departure of the French C-in-C!   Job done I guess.

A Battle Lost 08(A Battle Lost?: XIX Corps securing the Albert air facilities just as the lumbering Bloch extracts the French High Command)

I took personal command of the Albert (airfield) exploitation phase so as to free Rommel up for the race to the coast.    Had the Luftwaffe been properly about its business it would have forced the still visible Bloch transport down, enabling us to capture the top brass.   As it was, they ignored air identification flags and flares, ignored the priority messages sent 2 hours earlier concerning the capture of the assets, and instead shot up the German Staff detachments and wrecked the captured planes.   Thanks guys.

Not to worry, of course, it is the kind of hokum Umpires enjoy throwing into games but which doesn’t really happen: my father’s cousin won his DFC in this campaign and always insisted it was easy enough to tell the French from the Germans from a plane in 1940!

Operational games are like proverbial buses (unusually I used a real one recently) … you wait for too long then several come at once.   I am pleased to have been able to join in.

NQM vs Megablitz

NQM has too many stands (you don’t need so many stands at battalion level if they are all going to do the same thing) … Megablitz is better in using company stands for recce (who disperse at that level) but battalion and similar stands for other troops.*   I prefer scaling by relevance, so might compromise by allowing 2 stands to a full strength battalion so I can show a difference between transit and combat moves.

I do like NQM giving different values in attack and defence compared with Megablitz Strength Points – I like the way artillery can be strong supporting an attack but relatively weak if caught unprotected**.

I like Megablitz‘s codified movement concepts but still have a soft spot for NQM‘s variable (event led) length bounds.   One day that sort of system will be harmonised into a working game mechanism that requires less umpire fudge than tradition has allowed.

Megablitz has a very efficient orders/posture system that reduces confusion.   NQM is more ‘old school’ (and free-wheeling) …

Both games are great value and should be played more.


*NQM gives an infantry battalion up to 6 stands, varying strength by the number of stands present.  Megablitz uses one stand per battalion, varying the strength by varying how many strength points the stand can contribute (and absorb) in combat.   Megablitz feels less cluttered as a consequence.

** NQM rates a stand Heavy, Medium or Light for its firepower and similarly H,M,L for its target value.  It means that, say, a Katyusha unit e.g. can be H in its hitting power but only L when taking incoming hits.   Megablitz uses the same SPs for hitting and taking hits (so tough units are equally tough in attack and defence): this is a very useful and quite justified simplification which does the job relatively well – I just prefer the more subtle detail the NQM mechanism allows.

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