Monday 29 February 2016

Airfix Magazine Guide 18: USAAF Camouflage of World War Two

I found this yesterday in the Oxfam bookshop for 99p which rounds off my collection of the Airfix Modellers Guides to WW2 aircraft camouflage and markings. These are pretty old books now but still well worth getting hold of as they contain some really useful advice on camouflage patterns and insignia, which can be invaluable when painting up 1/300 scale planes even though the illustrations are all in black and white.  In fact, I have some Scotia Collectair B26 Marauders that would be a great subject to tackle using this book as a starting point, along with all the others that I have jammed into the bookshelves!

GZG Gauntlet Hover APC's

I've decided to equip my 15mm hard sci-fi mechanised platoon with some transport in keeping with the hover tanks that form the backbone of the force. Instead of using the Brigade Models option, which look a little bit too much like M113's, I'm going to have five GZG Gauntlet III hover battle taxis, including one command vehicle for the HQ squad. I really like these models and think they'll be a good match for the other hover armoured vehicles in the platoon.

Sunday 28 February 2016

Bolt Action Big Game Part One

I haven't been able to get to the club during the week of late, so I jumped at the chance to do some weekend gaming instead, with a Bolt Action big game being laid on by Mike alongside the official Wessex Wargamers Winchester Venta Belgarum FoG tournament on Saturday. The game involved three of Mike's Cigar Box Battlemats laid end to end with a small fraction of his terrain collection distributed on top to represent 'somewhere in NW Europe' c1944. Any similarity to a certain stretch of Holland in September 1944 was entirely coincidental.

The scenario involved a combined British and American armoured relief column trying to link up with a force of British airborne troops, which had dropped onto a target in the middle of a swarm of SS defenders. My role was to take command of a regular Heer blocking force positioned roughly in the middle of the long table, with orders to hold up the British and American armour until reinforcements could arrive. I would be expecting some armoured back up half way through the initial six turn game but, up until then it looked like I would be heavily outnumbered.

This was immediately apparent when the order dice were counted out....gulp!

I positioned my two infantry squads in a farmhouse and farmyard, with orders to hold their fire until the Tommies and Yanks were within spitting distance. I also had some support in the shape of an MG42 team hidden in a barn, a PaK 40 behind the hedgerows and an 81mm mortar behind the farmhouse, complete with a spotter on the top floor of the farmhouse itself. To complete my rather small kampfgruppe I had a Hetzer in a flanking position and a Hanomag in reserve, just in case my CO needed to make a quick getaway!

Turn 1

The British set up to my right and the Americans to my left, forming two long columns of combined armour and infantry. I decided to keep hidden and issued my Ambush order dice accordingly. However, temptation got the better of my enthusiastic if rather naïve forward observer, who lobbed a mortar round at some Tommies in a field to keep them on their toes. This failed to stop the Allied players from ordering their respective forces forward in a general Advance, with the Sherman tanks to the front and their infantry jogging along in support.

Turn 2

Having been unimpressed by the 81mm mortar teams' efforts last turn, the disappointed forward observer had another go at a stonk, this time on the US infantry advancing up the road to my left front. This pinned them down but achieved little else. However, a rash advance by a British Sherman on the right, ended in a nasty brew up, thanks to the top shooting of my PaK 40 crew who had sprung a well executed Ambush. This stopped the Sherman from shooting an AP round at my Hetzer, so a very promising start and one which made the Allies think twice about driving straight up the middle of the road!

Turn 3

In the third turn nothing much seemed to kick off. This is that weird thing that always seems to happen around half way through a game, with both sides sizing up the opposition before they commit to a firefight. A tentative flank advance by a reckless American M8 Greyhound armoured car brought it into action against my Hetzer. The M8 tried to get behind the Hetzer and proceeded to fire a 37mm round into it's rear armour, only to roll a miss. The surprised Hetzer crew reacted quickly, spinning the vehicle around and firing a 75mm AP shot at the armoured car, only to miss as well!

Meanwhile, the Yank infantry advanced forward on either side of their armoured column and the Tommies moved past the burning Sherman using a Cromwell as cover.  I kept my infantry squad on the top floor of the farmhouse in Ambush mode, not wishing to reveal my hand until the Yank infantry were really close, especially as I had no hand held AT capability. Who forgot the Panzerfausts?! I knew that my own tanks were on the way, however, as in the distance the unmistakeable sound of squealing Panther tracks could be heard approaching from my rear. be continued!

(meanwhile, at the other end of the table, the SS were playing their own game of cat and mouse with the paras...or was it the other way round?)

Basing 15mm Sci Fi Infantry

GZG Colonia Militia figure on Warbases movement tray

I really need a new camera!

I've been fiddling around with basing ideas for my 15mm hard sci-fi project and have settled on a combination of individual basing on 1p coins combined with multiple basing on movement trays from Warbases. This will give me the flexibility to use a range of different rules and make it easier to move loads of 15mm figures around easily. I like the look of multiple bases as it gives you the opportunity to go to town on the texturing to make them look really cool (I hope?). Not only that but you can remove casualties and swap them over for dead/wounded figures. I haven't worked out the base arrangements for the support weapons yet but 2p coins look like the best way forward, perhaps with movement trays as well. I'll also be basing up my hover vehicles, adding a 3mm mdf riser under the hulls to give them that 'skimming over the surface' look.

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Last Flight from Singapore

I really enjoyed reading Tally Ho! Yankee in a Spitfire, which is excellent by the way, so have tracked down the author's second book Last Flight from Singapore. I'm hoping that it will be just as interesting and may even give some ideas for more Bag the Hun 2 scenarios. I haven't written any of these for a long time, so I really should have another stab at submitting one or two for the Toofatlardies Summer Special later in the year. 

I'm not sure how popular the rules are now, as they've been eclipsed by more recent rules like Chain of Command in terms of uptake. However, I still think they're one of the best rule systems that the TFL team has produced, with plenty of scope for 'playing the period not the rules'. This makes them ideal for historical scenarios based on solid research, which is what I really enjoy doing, with some good (and some not so good) results.

Sunday 21 February 2016

Brigade Models Sohei Heavy Hover Tank

The assembled tank

The component parts

Hull and Turret

Turret with Heavy Gun

It's taken me all week but I finally got to sit down at the workbench this afternoon and get started on the 15mm hard sci-fi project. This didn't go quite according to plan as I only managed to assemble one of the three Sohei hover tanks that will form the core of my mechanised force. This is a really well designed and imaginative model but it was a bit of a pain to put together, requiring some drilling and pinning of the gun barrel in order to avoid an embarrassing droop. The metal components also didn't want to stay stuck in place, probably due to the ambient temperature in the garage which was on the way down by the time I got started. The assembled tank is, however, a bit of a beast and looks suitably imposing. I really like the retro styling and the fact that it actually looks like a real, working tank. A good four and half stars out of five, with the half taken off for the not very problematic but slightly annoying gun barrel problem, together with some minor mis-casting on the resin engine deck grills.

Saturday 20 February 2016

Gruntz Barracks Application

I've achieved nothing this half term in terms of wargaming having been away in Cornwall for most of the week. Nevertheless, I have been sketching out the parameters of the 15mm sci-fi project, with three possible forces on the cards. The one I'm focussing on to start with will be built around Brigade Models mercenary AFV's and GZG hover APC's, alongside GZG Colonial Defence Force (CDF) figures. I haven't decided yet if they will be destined for a desert, jungle or  tundra environment, as I've yet to have a close look at the figures, so the camouflage scheme for the tanks and troops is not tied down.

I have also started to work out an orbat for the as yet un-named force using the very nifty Barracks Application, which allows you to create customised unit cards for all of the units in the game including infantry, specialists, tanks, support vehicles and so on. It's really easy to use and has a simple drop down interface from which you select the various options, before it does all the number crunching for you. The resulting data sheet can then be printed out, after you've uploaded a picture of your particular model or figure stand. I've been playing around and have created one for the Brigade Models Sohei heavy hover tank...very quick and very simple.

A great help and all for the cost of a pint.

Tide of Iron

I found a slightly battered box of Tide of Iron in a charity shop yesterday for twenty quid. The sticker on the front said it was complete so I picked it up. When I opened the very large box I found that it was in unplayed condition with all of the components wrapped in plastic or in plastic zip lock bags, which was a nice surprise. 

I had to haggle a bit with the ministry of the interior, who wasn't too keen on another enormous box being shoved into a cupboard at the expense of her nick nacks, but she gave in. I don't know when I'll get round to playing it but it's a great addition to the boardgame collection.

Thursday 18 February 2016

Tally Ho!

This was a 99p download so I thought I'd give it a go. It's actually really good, even though written at the time, so well worth a read. The author was killed in 1942 but fought in both the Battle of Britain and in defence of Singapore, having written a second book on the latter which I'm going to track down. 

It reminds me that I've neglected Bag the Hun 2 of late, which is one of my all time favourite rules and really should play more of, especially as I have plenty of aircraft. These include planes for the Battle of Britain, Malta, the Eastern Front and Defence of the Reich. I'd also really like to expand my collection but...where to begin?!

Tuesday 16 February 2016

Imperial Skies


I'm kicking myself that I missed the boat on this one, having failed to see anything about it until it was too late to pledge. I love the artwork and the video suggests that the rules will be a step up from the excellent Aeronef, which I already have a couple of painted fleets for, with more in the leadpile including some French and British vessels. 

As the setting is also a couple of decades further on from Aeronef I could finally get to use my Bolshevik fleet too. I quite fancy a White Russian fleet to use as opposition, along with some Interventionists to allow the use of a selection of the best Brigade Miniatures models. Just have to wait until April for the rules to be released!

Normandy Books

We did the habitual trip to Tavistock today in search of welly boots, birthday presents and second hand books. There's an excellent Oxfam bookshop and a good second hand book stall in the pannier market which together usually turn up something worthwhile. I also had a very filling and rather ill advised full English breakfast.

Anyway, this time the emporia produced a trio of books on the campaign in Normandy to add to the overloaded shelves in the sitting room. The Mont Pincon book is of the greatest interest, dealing as it does with the 43rd Wessex Division and 8th Armoured Brigade, a long standing wargaming theme of mine.


The other two titles are both hardback and in excellent condition, although neither are as directly relevant to my area of background research, if that's what you can call it. They're both jam packed full of photos, maps, first hand accounts and diagrams though, so definitely a positive addition to the book pile. Good stuff!

Monday 15 February 2016

Dropzone Commander

I got the starter set for Dropzone Commander in a games shop today, reduced down from £60 to £45. It was a bit of a spur of the moment purchase and not really in line with my 15mm hard sci-fi plans but at that price it's a good deal. There were a lot of DC games being played at Warfare last year and it looked like it has something going for it, despite the cost factor of the relatively expensive expansion sets. The sprog was keen to give it a try too, so I gave in!

Sunday 14 February 2016

M40 Ridgeway

A couple of years ago I bought a shed load of 15mm Aliens M577 APC's from Anteonciti's Workshop. These are no longer available but, as I have a full company worth of all of the variants, that's not a problem (they had a special offer...what can I say?). The models are really very good and will be used alongside GZG NAC infantry, which are as close as I could get to Colonial Marines.

Since then I've been searching for a decent tank model to use alongside the APC's but without much luck. I didn't like the M578 APC variant with its anti-tank rail gun style mounting otherwise I would have just used that, so instead I bought a trio of Rhino wheeled tanks from Brigade  Miniatures which look a lot like the M577's and match up very well.

However, I still really wanted a proper tracked heavy tank to stand in for the M22 Jackson or M40 Ridgeway, which feature in the Aliens Colonial Marines manual. These are both unusual designs with the turret mounted toward the rear of the hull, so it's been hard to find a matching or even vaguely similar model to use.

In the end, I've decided to go for the Warmonger heavy tank from Critical Mass Games, although it doesn't look at all like the designs in the book. It's a much more angular design with a conventional turret mounting but I think it will look good next to the M577's, which are similar in their general appearance. 

They also are available as a discounted platoon pack of three, which should keep the cost down a bit (as they're not cheap to start with!)

Saturday 13 February 2016

Rethinking 2016

It's been a very heavy start to the year work wise which has meant that wargaming has been pushed even further to the margins of my spare time. This has been frustrating but not entirely unexpected so I've decided to re-think my plans for this year in a fairly radical way. I now know that my opportunity to get involved with games at the club is very much limited, so much so that I've only had one game this year so far. As a result, I'm rapidly falling out of the loop as far as club games are concerned, meaning that projects tied down to other players at the club are really a bit of a non-starter.

So, I'm having to scale back and re-think what I'm doing this year, with a focus much more on my own solo projects that I can tinker away with in my own time, whenever I get the chance. I've decided to focus almost exclusively on 15mm Sci-Fi in 2016, which was one of the areas that I set out to tackle in the New Year. This has the advantage of being very scaleable and has no strings attached in terms of the rules that I use, the setting or the miniatures. It's also very much an 'imaginations' project and one which I will enjoy. It also means I can indulge my mdf habit with some new terrain!

Thursday 11 February 2016

Winter of '79

I quite like the look of this. A few years ago I did a VBCW project in 28mm and played a few games at the club using the Warhammer WW1 rules, which were good fun if a little on the small side. However, the whole VBCW thing was a bit kitsch and I think has drifted away from the original focus to become an excuse to do silly things like armed Morris dancers and maiden aunts with Lewis guns, which is all a bit ridiculous.

This new set of 'what if?' rules looks a lot more gritty and down to earth, at least as far as suspension of disbelief is concerned. I'm particularly interested in the dystopian political background and class war rationale, which seems not too far beyond the bounds of possibility, although taken with quite a large pinch of salt? Anyway, here's the blurb from the authors so you can make up your own mind:

VBCW this is not! No tea and hand grenades Vicar. But there is no reason you can't have colourful private armies, trade union and left-wing militias, local defence leagues, new military and paramilitary formations, each with their own identity defined by your choice of uniforms, camo, weapons, badges and personalities. So why 1979? Because it's a watershed. The Winter of Discontent, the collapse of the Callaghan government, the rise of Margaret Thatcher. In the years immediately before, we see the vested interests and right-wing gearing up for a 'battle to save civilization' as they knew it. A fear that Belfast could easily be replicated on the streets of Birmingham, Londonderry in Liverpool.

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Aden Insurgency

I'm reading this at the moment, as part of my on-going interest in Britain's Small Wars, which I have had plans to skirmish game in 15mm. The original idea, which is as far as it got, was to do the Indonesian Confrontation but the need to model lots of jungle gave me the fear. A less daunting alternative is always worth investigating, so I've been reading up on Aden, Radfan and other potential post-colonial  hot spots of the 1960's. I still really like the idea of Borneo and Brunei but the desert would definitely be a lot easier to set up, even if I just did something semi-fictional. This would be using No End In Sight, FUBAR or Some Corner of a Foreign Field as the probable rules, although I'm sure there are lots of other possibilities.

Tuesday 9 February 2016

That's my Train Again!

I followed a link on TMP yesterday and found this...some photos of a stunning Back of Beyond game at the Vapnartak show in York, featuring my scratch built Russian Civil War armoured train. I sold this a few years ago and it ended up in the heart of the Back of Beyond, where it has obviously been used for some splendid games. One of these days I'll get round to scratch building another one but it's nice to see that the original is still chuffing along!

Deepcut Studios Red Planet Terrain

The Deepcut Studios terrain mat arrived today and, as soon as I got home, I unpacked it, smoothed it out and started to play around with some 1/300 scale sci-fi armour to see what it looked like. Although the bases on the hover tanks aren't exactly the same shade, I think they look pretty good against the backdrop of the terrain cloth and won't need any re-painting to match up. I also realised that I hadn't thought of using X Wing models with the red planet cloth (muppet!) so unboxed the Millenium Falcon and plonked it on top. I think it looks great and will open up possibilities for  all sorts of low level X-Wing missions from ground attack, to stealth insertions and fighter interception. Brilliant!

Monday 8 February 2016

Saga Allied Warbands?

I've been pondering how to go about representing allied contingents in Saga, in other words, mixed forces from two or more factions. The reason for this is that I'd like to field an allied Danish contingent in my Cornish warband, as this is historically valid for the early to mid ninth century. In 838AD the West Welsh joined forces with the Danes who had been raiding up and down the coast, to combine their strength against a mutual enemy, the West Saxons under King Ecgbert..

The first idea I had was to add a couple of units of hearthguard or one of warriors to the Cornish army, then just use the equivalent slots on the Welsh battle board to handle both the Welsh and the Danes. This would be the easiest option and would let me keep the numbers down, incorporating the Vikings into the Cornish army as a couple of points in a six point standard sized force. This would mean, however, that the Viking attributes wouldn't be represented, which seemed a bit of a shame.

I think a better approach would be to use two battle boards instead of just the one, with four points worth of Danes and four points worth of Welsh, under a unified Cornish warlord's command. This would be an easy way to keep the best of both worlds without having to do too many units or paint too many figures, especially if the Danes were entirely hirdmen, rather warriors or levy. This might limit their battle board options but it would be easily manageable and a little less flimsy.

There are rules for eight point a side battles in the Saga main rulebook as well, which gives the whole thing a sprinkle of legitimacy. I quite like the idea of fielding a composite eight unit allied warband, as it would really look impressive and should be interesting to play with, combining the Welsh skirmish and missile characteristics with the melee abilities of the Vikings. I think it would look good too. It's the Welsh / Cornish first though before I get carried away.

Saturday 6 February 2016

Iron Cow Inspiration

Here's some I made earlier...

I had a great idea this morning, which is a rarity at the best of times. I was thinking about potential uses for the red planet terrain cloth that I bought yesterday and realised that I have a project that would be a perfect fit. This is my 6mm Iron Cow sci-fi project that I started on a few years ago but then drifted away from, after completing a British ONESS armoured brigade of tanks, SPG's, AAA and APC's. The reason that it fizzled out was that I couldn't find an opposing force that I liked from the Brigade Models range, although the Chinese were a possible option.

Now, however, there is a superb selection of so-called mercenary AFV's including a very cool Sohei heavy tank with several variants. I already have some of the 15mm version of this model and I love its retro M60 styling complete with turret mounted missile pods. So, I thought it would be great to put together a force to go up against my completed ONESS armoured brigade, using the mercenary range of models to build a generic opposing army. These will be based on the same Renedra brown plastic bases that I used for the ONESS units, which also should be a good match for the red planet terrain.

I've ordered a couple of the company packs and some extra bits and will get started at some point in the next few months. I planned (and still intend) to do a 15mm sci-fi project this year, although it was going to be later and using my tundra cloth for a winter theme, but I might as well kill two birds with one stone and finish off the 6mm opposition for Iron Cow, or whatever set of 6mm sci-fi rules I eventually end up using. I wonder if I have some other rules that would work for this...I'll have to have a look?

Friday 5 February 2016

Strontium Dog Fan Film

I don't know what the acting, production values or the plot are like but I think they've done a decent job on the casting, even if Johnny Alpha seems to have put on a bit of weight? No idea when this will be released but, as it is my all time favourite 2000AD strip by a mile, I'm looking forward to seeing the final version. It's been something I've wanted to skirmish game for years too...just need to right set of rules to do it justice!


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