Thursday 28 February 2019

Ditching in Bag the Hun

I've been thinking about some rules for ditching in Bag the Hun, just in case one of the RAF bombers needs to splash down short of Malta in the Lard Day game. The rules for Crash Landing (13.4) are a good place to start, with some modification of the factors to include the sea state and any specific damage that might affect a successful ditching attempt. As you can see, however, they are a bit basic and need a bit of tweaking to be a better reflection of the difficulties of landing a bomber in the briny.

I'll disallow any aircraft with a fixed undercarriage from even attempting to ditch and obviously any bombs would have to be jettisoned beforehand. I also need to work out some rules for crew survival and evacuation, assuming they actually make a successful ditch and stay afloat long enough to get out. I think I need to do some background research on the official RAF ditching drill so that it is as historically accurate as possible, which should be really interesting.

Wednesday 27 February 2019

Bag the Blenheims Playtest Photos


The play test of the Bag the Blenheims scenario went really well yesterday, with an overall victory for the RAF and a sobering defeat for the Italians, who put up a pretty good fight nonetheless. I only need to make a handful of minor adjustments and corrections, to smooth out the gameplay and balance the victory points, so I'm very happy with the overall scenario and how it performed under pressure. I also had lots of positive and useful feedback.

The minor wiggles will include reducing he speed of the bombers to a basic 6, with no D4 modifier, bringing Green Flight on a turn earlier to get them shifting down the table faster and giving the Italians more points for damaging or destroying the bombers. I also need to add numbers to the flight stands to make identification easier but I was thinking of doing that anyway, using either little number stickers or Letraset over the coloured stickers I've already applied to the bases.

To wrap things up I am going to work out a table for bombers ditching in the sea, as the Crash Landing rules don't really reflect the chances of making a successful splash down. In the game, one of the Blenheims with aileron and wing damage ended up crashing into the sea and the crew tried to bail out at low level, as they didn't like the odds on the Crash Landing table. In the end, only the pilot got out but his parachute failed, resulting in a free fall for two levels at altitude one!

Tuesday 26 February 2019

First of the M4A3 Shermans


I finally found time to make a start on the late war US armour for What a Tanker!, with three Sherman M4A3's constructed in between shifting some of the marking that I was supposed to do during the holidays. The first two are the Italeri Fast Build M4A3(76) kits, with added stowage and some additional weathering of the tracks and hulls with plastic putty, but with the turrets not permanently fixed to the hull yet to make them easier to paint.

The other tank uses the the up-armoured turret from the Italeri M4A3E2 'Jumbo' kit retro-fitted to an Armourfast M4A3 hull, with the glacis sanded down to look a bit more like the characteristic slab armour. The Italeri kit just re-uses the standard M4A3 hull, which is not only incorrect but looks wrong too, while the Armourfast sanded down hull at least resembles the M4A3E2 configuration. 

I couldn't be bothered to cut plastic card armour pieces to glue over the top of the hull front and sides but I think it looks okay as it is, so I can live with this make do and mend effort. The spare Italeri hull will get an M4A3 (105mm) turret from Armourfast, so that it isn't wasted. I can also use the M4A3(75mm) turret that I have left over on the last of the Italeri hulls, which is an added bonus.

Monday 25 February 2019

Bag the Blenheims Playtest Prep

Briefings, Cheat Sheets, Cards and Pyrotechnics

 Aircraft Record Sheets

I have been slicing up things on a paper cutter, trimming out cards with scissors, slaving over a hot laminator and sticking little coloured labels on flight stands this evening, in preparation for the Bag the Blenheims playtest game tomorrow at the club. One of the downsides of air wargaming is that, aside from the model aircraft, the whole thing can look a little boring, compared to the spectacle offered by figure based games often with superb terrain on display. This is why a lot of people look at air warfare as a bit too dull and 'number crunchy', I think?

Hurricanes, Folgore and Blenheims

So, the appeal comes down far more to the game play, as a result, although some decent reference sheets, turn cards and record sheets can help too. I've done my best to tart these up but we'll have to see if the scenario cuts the mustard, as that's the real test. I've played a very similar set up several times before, so I don't think there will be a problem, aside from the number of aircraft the players have to control and the 'balance' of the scenario, but that's exactly what a play test is there to hammer out.

I Aint Been Shot Mum or Chain of Command?

Over the last twelve months or so I've been gathering together the various bits I need for an IABSM US Rifle Company, using both the discontinued Flames of War range of winter troops for the Ardennes and the new plastic version of the US infantry for Operation Cobra. It's difficult to find the winter stuff now and it goes for ridiculous prices but the post Xmas sales have been a bonus.

I now have enough figures, AFV's and equipment for both options, with the latest acquisition of some M1917 machine gun platoon packs making it possible to assemble one or the other complete with armoured support. The only thing I haven't got is a 57mm anti-tank platoon but I think I can use the Forged In Battle set for that, at least for the breakout from Normandy configuration. 

This has been one of my long term project plans, going back to the publication of the third edition, so I may well get round to it now that I have all the whistles and bells? The only thing that puts me off is the Chain of Command alternative, which involves fewer figures overall and for which I have some lovely Peter Pig late war British and German figures stashed away. It does seem a bit more complicated, though, and I can't quite get my head around individually based figures in 15mm.

I'll guess just have to bite the bullet and make up my mind between platoon and company level wargaming. No rush, as I have plenty of other things to do in the meantime and no shortage of half finished things at that! 

Sunday 24 February 2019

US Armour Assembly Line

I got back from Cornwall yesterday and spent no time opening the boxes of model kits that had arrived in my absence, ready for undercoating and assembly. I've decided to use Halfords Ultra Matt Camouflage Brown spray paint as an undercoat, so that the tracks are already primed in dark brown and so the hull, turret and track units can be easily overbrushed in Vallejo Brown Violet or FoW Sherman Drab, followed by various dry brushed highlights. It should speed up the whole painting process no end and, if it works, I can re-use the same approach on my 15mm US tanks for IABSM (I'm thinking of starting the project that I planned last year, now that I have some decent Battlefront plastic US infantry to match the 1/100 scale Plastic Soldier Company tanks).

The initial production run will be of four Italeri M4A3(76) and two M4A3E2 Jumbo assault tanks, one up-gunned to a 76mm equipped version. I also have a couple of Armourfast M4A3(75) and M4A3(105) tanks but as these are less detailed than the Italeri models they may get left out. I will apply a shedload of stowage and sandbags to all of these tanks to give that characteristic late war look, using bits from plastic kits, white metal gubbins and the accessory sets from EWM. I've run out of spray paint now, so I've had to leave the PSC M5A1 light tanks in their box but I am going to build and paint them up alongside the various Shermans. However, the Armourfast M18 and M36 tank destroyers need a bit more effort so I'll probably tackle them later, as I still need to find some 1/72nd scale crew figures to add to the open topped turrets. 

Friday 22 February 2019

Tank Book Bargains

I struck gold yesterday on a book hunt in Tavistock, with three virtually new tank themed books from the Oxfam second hand bookshop. There were several more but I resisted the temptation and thus avoided any recrimination from the other half, who is highly critical of my book collecting habits. I don't know about you but I frequently get grilled with 'Haven't you got that one already?' or 'Isn't that information in one of your other books?'

The Osprey is the best of the bunch, as it fits very neatly with my current What a Tanker! fixation and my plans for I Ain't Been Shot Mum. The two books on WW1 tanks are also really interesting with some superb colour profiles in Tank Hunter World War One that would be great as painting references, even if I can't think of any potential use for them beyond Red Actions! or Through the Mud and Blood in 15mm. You can't have enough books anyway, not that my wife would agree?

Thursday 21 February 2019

Taking a Break, Having a Think

I'm in Cornwall at the folks for a short break, which means a bit of time to think things through for the next six months or so. Last year I achieved quite a lot (for me!) by concentrating on what I wanted to do or just found enjoyable, rather than jumping on any trendy bandwagons. This was at the expense of gaming at the club or outside the holidays. I didn't finish everything either but did shift a few projects a decent way before succumbing to the inevitable 'ooh shiny' syndrome.

This year I decided to get to the club more to actually enjoy a few games and I have been keeping up thus far, partly by umpiring my own games but also by joining in with others. The only problem is that I can't be there every week so end up out of the loop, which means I don't know what's on offer or miss out on pre-organised games. I also don't really want to get sucked into things that I have no real interest in or that could divert me away from my own projects yet again. Get ye behind me Sharp Practice!

So, to cut a long ramble short, I'm thinking of limiting my club time to perhaps one game a month, spending more effort on the projects that I'm interested in but which probably don't appeal to other club players. I already have lots of incomplete projects that I've started and should spend more time on to finish off, including the 1/2400th scale ironclads and 15mm post-colonial projects, for example, but also have some things I'd like to do which aren't on anyone else's radar. 

In particular, I'd like to make more use of my winter terrain especially for 15mm WW2 wargaming but also for skirmishy things in other periods and scales. I'd also really like to make good use of my new sea cloth for naval wargaming, with a focus on something that wouldn't take too long to finish for at least a basic game. This might be the aforementioned ironclads but I have some other options too, perhaps 1/2400th pre-dreadnoughts, 1/700th modern FAC's, 1/450th pirate ships or even an Italian fleet in 1/3000th scale, assuming I can be bothered to rebase my French fleet to match?

Wednesday 20 February 2019

EWM Sandbag Armour

I have ordered some Early War Miniatures resin sandbag improvised armour for my Shermans, together with some tool racks to fill up the obvious blank space on the rear hull, so that I can upgrade some of the Armourfast M4A3's. I thought I had already ordered a couple of these resin sets but somehow hadn't added them to the basket last time. They will definitely give that late war look to the models, along with all the extra stowage and winter camouflage.

I also included a cheap box of Armourfast M4A3 105mm Shermans in the order, at least one of which will be built out of the box and the other used for spares or conversion. I'm really building up a healthy stack of kits for this project, so I'm thinking of starting it sooner rather than later, probably bumping the Cruel Seas project to one side yet again to clear the decks?

Tuesday 19 February 2019

Bag the Blenheims Cards

I've been knocked sideways by a particularly vicious twenty four hour sickness bug, so the weekend was a bit of a wash out as far as wargaming is concerned. To make up for this, I've adapted a set of turn cards that I produced for a North Africa scenario, using them as a template to create the deck for the Bag the Blenheims Lard Day game. I'm quite pleased with the end result, as it's a bit more upmarket than the generic deck I created for the Bandits Over Berlin game, so I hope the players appreciate the full on technicolour production values?

Sunday 17 February 2019

The Tank Killers

I'm still enjoying the background reading for What a Tanker! and have just started reading this book on the US tank destroyer contribution to the campaigns in North Africa, Italy and NW Europe. I've got some 1/72nd scale Armourfast TD's in the kit pile for the Battle of the Bulge project and I'm looking forward to building them, especially as you can really go to town on the stowage and detailing. In WAT, I've found tank destroyers to be really effective but the downside is that they are comparatively weak in terms of armour, so shoot and scoot is definitely a good idea!

Saturday 16 February 2019

Steel 72 Resin Stowage

I found this manufacturer of figures and accessories for 1/72nd scale wargaming today. They do some really cool stowage and sandbag add-on resin pieces for German, Russian, Commonwealth and American tanks, designed for the Armourfast kits, which they also supply as single sprues with the matching detailing sets. They also do some really nice tank crew figures in white metal. Unfortunately, the postage to the UK from Spain is about £11 once you convert it from Euros to GB Pounds, so it is a bit too expensive if you only want a couple of packs of figures or resin bits. What a shame.

Tank You Very Much!

The Plastic Soldier Company has a 25% off Valentines Day sale on at the moment, so I took the opportunity to order a box of 1/72nd scale M5A1 light tanks for the What a Tanker! Battle of the Bulge project. The kits don't gave the annoying separate track pieces that I struggled to fit neatly onto the Panzer Mark IV's that I built last year, so that's a bonus and will make it a lot easier to assemble, if not to paint them. I have also ordered a box of Italeri Fast Assembly Sherman M4A3E2 'Jumbo' assault tanks, as they looked really handy as heavy support for the bog standard M4A3(76) tanks that will make up the core of any games. I have no idea when I'll get round to these but it will definitely be sooner rather than later.

Wednesday 13 February 2019

S-Boat References

S-38b with 40mm Flak 28 Bofors (right)

Needless to say, I have a lot of books on coastal forces from autobiographies, to historical studies and technical reference sources. Possibly the best technical reference book that I own is the Squadron Signal Schnellboot in Action book in the Warships series. This is a fantastic little paperback aimed at scale modellers, with numerous photographs, line drawings and colour profiles, together with plenty of informational sections on different variants, armament, deck layout, armour and other very useful details. If you are looking for one book to get hold of as a guide to modelling and painting WW2 Kreigsmarine schnellboot, then this one is highly recommended, as it is way ahead of the comparable Osprey title, although a bit more expensive and harder to track down.

Tuesday 12 February 2019

Cruel Seas Conversions

S-38b Cut and Shut Conversion

S-100 and S-38b

40mm Bofors (10mm Pendraken)

That will put the wind up the wavy navy!

I decided to postpone my What a Tanker! plans for the moment, so that I can concentrate instead on the Cruel Seas project that I was supposed to be doing anyway! I have seven plastic S-100 E Boats to assemble and paint as the 5th S-Boot Flotilla c1944, so have started to separate them from the sprues and clean them up ready for painting. 

Two of these should really be S-38b class boats, so I've also experimented with a cut and shut conversion, using the bow section of a damaged S-100 model, mated to the stern section of the S-38 class model from the same sprue. This worked well but I will now need to add a gun platform for a 40mm Bofors, for which I have a 10mm Pendraken model. 

This is overscale but I will be cutting it down to size so that it looks right, even if it isn't exactly the right size. I'll aim to get the whole lot painted and glued together by the end of the month, together with a Vorpostenboot model from the Kriegsmarine starter set. I'm really looking forward to doing something naval for a change, so will get cracking!

Monday 11 February 2019

What a Tanker! Russian Tanks Finished

Pegasus KV-2 and KV-1

Italeri T34/76

I've now added some decals and a bit of weathering to the KV-1 and KV-2, together with the two T34/76 tanks, so this bit of the What a Tanker! project has now been completed. I may return to the Russian Front later but for the moment I'm going to concentrate on some US tanks and tank destroyers for the Ardennes. It's ironic that there doesn't seem to be much interest in WAT! at the local club but I'm happy just tinkering away with the plastic tank kits regardless, so I'm not overly bothered (although I really should be moving on to other things rather than making more tank kits!)

What a Tanker! Russian Armour Update

I had a bit of time yesterday, in between painting my daughter's bedroom, walking the dog, helping with homework and doing the weekly shopping, so thought I'd blitz the Russian tanks for What a Tanker!, leaving the lone Panzer IV Ausf F/G for a rainy day. This turned out to be a very productive painting session, which included the tracks, exhausts, stowage, machine guns and tools, as well as the headlights on the KV's. I have now glued the hulls to the tracks, so all I need to do to finish them off is add the decals and some weathering, then spray seal everything with matt varnish, which means the workbench will be free for the US tanks. Crack on!

Sunday 10 February 2019

Vacform Church Ruin Kit

This is the most straightforward of the three second hand vacform building kits that I found at a car boot sale a while back, so I'm going to have a go at cutting out the parts and assembling it over the next couple of days, just to see how to go about it. I'll use a textured laser cut base with some additional rubble, timbers and other clutter to bed it down, once I know what the footprint is like.

If all goes according to plan, it will be a useful start to the Ardennes terrain for What a Tanker! and could also be re-used for 15mm, as it's fairly scale neutral. I also have some ideas for the basing some fir trees on skirmish bases, with a removable disc base for each tree, which would make storage easier and allow tanks to drive into the woods. 

Saturday 9 February 2019

What a Tanker! West Front Terrain

I'm  not going to get very far with this?

With the imminent arrival of some US tanks and tank destroyers to the workbench, once I've finished the last of the Russian and German tanks, I've realised that I will need to have some winterised terrain for the Ardennes, Rhineland and Reichswald. I don't really have anything to hand apart from some cheap vacform kits that I got at a car boot sale last year, an old Airfix Forward Command Post and a few loose bottle brush fir trees that I had in the scenery box, so I need to add some new terrain to provide intervening obstacles and ambush cover.

I wonder how easy it will be to make these?

I've been looking around for something 'off the shelf' but most commercial buildings and wall sets are too expensive, so I think I will have to rely on scratch building some suitable shelled and battle damaged houses, together with some other rural clutter. I will also need some roads or tracks, although they don't make any difference when it comes to movement. I'm sure I can come up with something that looks half decent, given a bit of time and lots of cardboard, filler and PVA? I'll also keep a look out for any good laser cut mdf buildings, as the ones I've seen aren't that great.

Friday 8 February 2019

US Tank Destroyers

It's Friday so I've been paid and can splash out on some more models for What a Tanker!, adding a couple more Armourfast kits to the pile of plastic on the workbench. I thought it would be cool to add a couple of tank destroyers for my late war American Battle of the Bulge project, so have ordered a box of M36 Jacksons and a box of M18 Hellcats.

These will need quite a lot of work to tart up, as the basic models are just that, fairly basic. I'll add some crew figures from somewhere, together with some side racks from plastic strip and the usual stowage. I think they won't look too bad? In the meantime, I need to finish the tanks on the workbench this weekend.


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