Monday, March 21, 2011

Imaginineties: Modern Wargaming

British Challenger 1 Main Battle Tank
I don't know what's come over me but I have a serious focus issue at the moment. It comes from a serious funding shortfall which has stalled my Project Lewes and prevented my launch into Project Quebec. This combines with a desire to work on something different for a bit. Imaginineties? What's he on about now? Can you guess?

Scorpion Recce Vehicle
A few of my fellow Goulburn Wargames club mates and I had dabbled with the idea of modern wargames. When it comes to later 20th century and beyond gaming, it's all about the kit (equipment). I recently watched James May's On the Moon TV documentary and one of the opening features was his ride in an airstrip pursuit vehicle as a jet spy plane landed to the strains of Led Zeppelin's Kashmir. Inspirational stuff. I have felt compelled to build a model jet aircraft ever since which in turn caused me to ponder on modern wargames.

FV106 Sampson Recovery APC

When I say a few of us toyed with the idea, we of course went ahead and bought stuff. I don't know if anyone can relate to this but I am a lot more efficient at purchasing than I am at building and painting - it's like an automatic reaction at times. I opted for modern British: others went for Australian, European and Russian forces. We are looking to an amendment or extension if you like to the Rapid Fire wargames rules for World War II with which we have a long standing familiarity and preference. We had also decided to stick with the 20mm scale because of our existing terrain and available models and figures.

FV102 Striker APC

The reason I have called this posting Imaginineties is because my battle group is based on the British Army organisation and equipment of the 1990s. Our group is likely to stick with this decade to commence with. Just interchange some models or figures and much of the kit will transfer a decade either way - Imagineighties (1980s) and Imaginoughties (first decade of the 21st century). We also all agreed that this would be wargaming only using imaginary scenarios and fictitious conflicts. This way we were not constrained to fight any modern conflict which, as it approached the present, some of us felt (myself included) to be in poor taste. I don't propose to criticise those that wargame current events but this is how we felt - so there it is. Playing on the 18th century Imagination gaming concept where people make up countries from the 1700's, Imaginineties represents actual armies but in imaginary conflicts - such as the British invasion of Australia. What could the pretext be? How about a dispute over territorial waters and sovereign claims to the Antarctic by the new Australian republicans under President Keating (former 1990's Australian Prime Minister)? Or the early demise of Queen Elizabeth II and a Commonwealth split, the rebellious Australians under Prime Minister Howard reject the succession of Charles III for a bid by his son who flees to the Antipodes to rally support, crowned William V by the Archbishop of Sydney ... but I digress.

FV104 Samaritan
Armoured Ambulance

Imaginineties also recognises that any attempt at 'modern' wargames must date itself unless you are to keep up with constant evolution in arms and equipment. Since I bought my miniatures and models, for example, the Challenger 1 has already been replaced by the Challenger 2 ... where will it end?  There's also some need to fix match ups within some time and period constraints - it being ridiculous fighting an 80's US army with a 21st century European force. If anyone has an idea for naming the 70s or 60's, please let me know becasue Imaginseventies doesn't seem to work as well as the other titles.

LLAD Rapier missile system

Whilst I still have several purchases to make, I have one of my two Main Battle Tank (MBT) troops of 4 Challenger 1 models (unbuilt Revell kits) and one of my two armoured infantry platoons of 4 Warrior APCs (also Revell): built but to undergo a refit before photographing. I have two Airfix Scorpion models for my Scimitar Recce Section and a few Airfix/JB Models Land Rovers and Bedford trucks. Getting back to my jet model fixation, I have an as yet unbuilt model of a BAe Harrier GR7 (Airfix) which I am itching to get at. I have most of my infantry from Liberation Miniatures (1990's British) and have even painted most of them. At this time, Kingfisher Miniatures in the UK look to be able to supply with all the rest.

My Battlegroup Orbat is as follows:

Headquarters Group
2 x Warrior APC @ 3 crew + 7 infantry each (including OIC + 2IC)
1 Tonne lorry

A Tank Troop
4 x Challenger 1 Main Battle Tanks (MBT)

B Tank Troop (optional addition)
4 x Challenger 1 Main Battle Tanks (MBT)


A Infantry Platoon
4 x Warrior APCs @ 3 crew + 7 infantry each

B Infantry Platoon (optional addition)
4 x Warrior APCs @ 3 crew + 7 infantry each


Engineer Section
1 x FV103 Spartan APC @ 9 engineers and crew (demo/clearance capable)

LRATGW Detachment (Long Range Anti-Tank Guided Weapon)2 x FV102 Strikers (Swingfire armed)

LLAD Detachment (Low Level Air Defence)2 x Rapier missile systems - Land Rover 109 towed
1 x Blindfire radar support system - Land Rover 101 Towed

Close Recce Section
2 x FV103 Scimitars (3 crew each)
 
HQ Section Supply/Recovery/Medical
1 x FV106 Sampson Armoured Recovery APC
1 x FV104 Samaritan Armoured Ambulance APC (2+6 medical)
1 x lorry
 
My guide, or pocket guide to be precise for my army organisation has been The British Army: A Pocket Guide 2002-2003 by Charles Heyman. Whilst more recent than my exact period, I have relied or assumed on consistency of organisation over ten years and researched backwards for differences in equipment. I must observe; however, that there are some remarkable examples of equipment longevity with the British Army, such as the Rapier and the Scimitars. I also would point out that the Internet is particularly informative, especially Wikipedia.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Stone: Walls, not the movie


Battlefield Accessories Rough Stone Walls
fresh out of the pack.
 For those not from Australia, the movie was an off beat, even B-grade Australian movie from the 70's. Anyway, on the posting ...


Who doesn't have at least a few stone walls in their scenery collection? Not me, obviously. In the past I've made them out of foam, wood with cardboard brickwork details and my last attempt was to make them out of actual pebbles. This last effort I regard as a success and certainly my ultimate solution IF you have an unlimited amount of time and next to no budget. Then I ran into Mike Parker, owner operator of Battlefield Accessories (see logo below) at the Canberra wargames convention (Cancon) in Australia this year.


Mike and I got to talking about how he made his 15mm stone walls - sold as BA03: Rough Stone Walls Pack. It turns out he made his exactly the same way I made mine except he had the sense and commercial purpose to build just two 90 mm sections, cast them and reproduce them commercially in resin. Normally retailing for $12.50 Australian, I picked the pack up for $11.00 as a Show Special price (thanks for coming) which has 7 plain wall sections and one with a wooden gate.
Product after 'black wash'.
If this sounds like an endorsement, your right. His pack makes about 720mm (30") of wall. When I think about how long it took me to make admittedly four times as much, this strikes me as a complete bargain and I'd have been mad to pass it up - which I didn't. A wash with dish-washing liquid, thorough rinse, a 'black wash' of Humbrol No: 72 Khaki Drill and matt Black (No:33) heavily diluted with mineral turpentine, all that was needed was a dry brush with a lightened (whitened) Khaki Drill and a dry brush for the base and a peck or two of dry static grass to make my desert or arid terrain wall sections.
Lightened Khaki dry brushing (right)
Whilst marketed for 15mm figure scale, these walls are perfect for 20mm dry stone walls and even low yard or farm walls in 28mm - for a pig sty for example. The only advantage to sticking to real pebble constructions is the colour variation which I would not want to bother attempting to replicate through brush-work.  Labelled accordingly, I've included my walls and Mike's by way of comparison. In future, it will be Mike's I'll be opting for.
My natural pebble wall (left) and Mike's product (right)
Mike has kindly granted permission for me to review his product. His his web site is under construction at the time of this posting but he can be enquired of via e-mail at mailto:mike.parker@tpg.com.au. His products are also available on-line through The Warstore.com.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lists

As I hopped from one build to another on my work table over this long weekend I was reminded yet again of my inability to stick to one thing in the world of wargaming. I also took a review of this blog and realised it is only ever representative of whatever I'm working on at the time and not particularly reflective of my armies and projects as a whole. So, for anyone remotely interested and I suppose if anyone wants to request photographs of the same. here is my current list of my current holdings.

As far as any project is finished (always being able to add another unit for variety if anything) I have marked completed armies 'C', those under construction and not ready for gaming are marked 'U', those which I game with but are incomplete are marked 'I' and future projects in pre-production phases (some purchases) are marked 'F'. I also never say never to anything after that.

In 28 millimetre (all 1/20 troop scale)

Ancient Spartan Army (Persian Wars) gamed in Warhammer Ancient Battles (WAB) - C
Ancient Briton (Celt) Army (WAB) - I
Early Imperial Roman (WAB - I
Norman 1066 (WAB) - C
Viking (WAB) - U
1264 English Rebels (see Project Lewes) (WAB) - U
Wars of the Roses (WAB) - I
English Civil War (WAB) - U
War of the Spanish Succession Dutch (WAB) - I
French Indian Wars (Quebec) British (WAB) - F
French Indian Wars (Quebec) French (WAB) - F
1810 British Peninsular (Busaco) (Grand Manner) - I
1815 100 days campaign Allied (Grand Manner) - U
WWI Palestine Commonwealth skirmish army (Beersheba) - C
Pulp RCMP (Mounties) taskforce - C
Gladiators (Avlon Hill) - F

In 1/72 scale or 20mm and all WWII played with Rapid Fire

Early German blitzkrieg (1940) - C
Early western desert Italian (1940-41) - I
Early western desert Commonwealth (1940-41) - I
Mid war American (Italian campaign) - I
Late war Commonwealth (1944) - I
Project Dieppe - F
Project Crete - F
British Commandos (elements)

Miscellaneous

1/1200 scale Anglo Dutch Wars naval - I
1/72 scale WWI air combat 1915 - U
1/72 scale modern English battle group (1990s) - U
Daleks (traditional) and UNIT into the future - U

Major Fortifications/Buildings

28mm Norman Motte and bailey castle (York) - I
28mm earth bank Roman fortlet - C
Seventeenth century bastion fortress - C
28mm WWI Magdebah redoubt - C
1/72 scale desert fort (x2) - C
28mm Celtic hill fort - F
28mm adobe village - C
28mm Spartan hill town - F

AND sometimes I let myself think about Franco Prussian War in 28mm, Crimea in 28mm, the twelfth century English civil wars of King Stephen in 28mm, the Dutch Wars of the 1670s in 28mm and the defence of Malta by the Knights of St. John during the renaissance period in 28mm. Now that I've wasted all this time ... it's back to the table.

Unfinished Business: Quad Convoy

Before I even start with this posting, I want to say here and now how much I love Airfix. It all started with me and Airfix in the early seventies and as a life long wargamer I still find them the easiest and most pleasurable models to build. They are about as complex as I want to get and they cover all the basics as far as ranges are concerned. They are also cheap - may the company last forever, no matter who ownes it.

Now ... on to the models. A quick note on the the above image of the gun in action - this has affected my side project but more on that later.


I am building a Jock Column to dominate the western desert no-mans-land and harass the advancing Italians in 1940. Part of that force is a battery of 25 pdr howitzers being an attached troop from the 4th RHA. Naturally, wargaming in 1/72 or 20mm (silence to the scale pedants) I turned to Airfix. The only shortcoming is that I wanted my Quads (or Morris C8) to have a partial canvass hood option instead of the complete hard top which these models come with. Just as well Airfix kits convert so readily.


So, at it with a scalpel I went. Lightly scoring at first, then going deeper with each successive run across the deepening groove, I was sure to turn the roof over to meet the cut half way. It came out cleanly, requiring minimal filing/sanding using an emery board. That was one model which I wanted to show the frame with tarpaulin stowed.
Using Evergreen Scale Models strip styrene (.75mm rod) I easily cut and bent the frame to shape. I had thought of making a wire frame but this was a better solution and so much easier. A tip: ensure you cut or file off the ends of the cross pieces to a point to enable them to 'meet' the join. Then apply Humbrol or your preferred liquid cement. I used a drop to fix the centre cross piece, gripping it with tweezers for 30 seconds to make the bond.


For the other model, I wanted the hood 'up' so cut off the nodes on the existing roof and fashioned a greenstuff lid over the top - easy done. By the way, these shots have been taken using portrait with a macro setting and no flash on a Canon Powershot S70. I'm using this a lot at the moment but it does blow up the view to greater than I can see with my x1 magnifier readers AND magnification lamp! The hood doesn't look so rugged in the flesh to the naked eye - truly.


These days I'm a fuss pot when it comes to depicting my battle groups on the table top. So, it turns out I need another two kits to represent one battery because I want the guns properly displayed when unhitched - with the firing platform (the giant wheel) dropped and the gun wheels on top. The models thus completed show the platform fixed in the travelling position, hoisted under the carriage. Also this model comes with a gun crew including a chap who sits on the gun side saddle which would look great when in action but ridiculous whilst travelling. So, these two models are going to be based in 'tow' as an optional piece, with the quad being removable from a split base for when the battery is in action. I was turning my mind to what I might do with the additional quads and I will definitely be converting them to an observer element - travelling and deployed with aerial and observer ladder - so nothing will be left over or go to waste.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Siege Pavises

I have today finally motivated myself to complete a relatively minor but long standing task which has been cluttering up my work space for months. I designed and built a series of pavises to enable my fortifications to be attacked with some chance of success - or at least to provide the assault with some cover from comparative safety.
I had originally designed them with two props or A-frames but then thought better of it. After all, with a central prop the cover may be easily accessed by two archers, crossbowmen of hand gunners from either side. The house rule for their effectiveness will necessitate a roll of 6 on 1d6 using Warhammer Ancient Battles rules to hit any figure in base to base contact with the pavise, the figure assumed to be utilising the cover provided.
The pavises are hand made from balsa, assembled using PVA white glue. They are glued to the balsa bases (unusual for me) using Selley's Liquid Nails. The planking effect to the front is achieved with a 2B pencil on a thin sheet of 2 millimetre balsa - the rest is cut from 3 millimetre balsa strip. I painted in in Humbrol enamels (as usual) being a mix of matt black and wood, well diluted with mineral turpentine.
I didn't bother texturing the bases with pre-mixed putty this time: I didn't even undercoat them. I just flocked it using my own series of blended static grasses and then covered the edges with Humbrol Khaki Drab to cover any gaps. The photographs this time includes some of my woodsmen archers (as I refer to them) from the Old Glory Wars of the Roses range and one of my five hand-gunners from Mirliton Miniatures.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Kroonprins Von Prussien: Part 1

Angus McBride's Prussian grenadier 1709 (left) and Prussian fifer Foot Guards 1704 as featured in Osprey's Marlborough's Army 1702-11 (Men-At-Arms 97)
Taking a spell from my Project Lewes, I have determined to crank out my next War of the Spanish Succession battalion - the Kroonprins Von Prussian regiment in Dutch service. Also spelt Kronprinz (if taken from the German rather than Dutch) this regiment was raised in 1698 and served with the army of the United Provinces (Dutch) originally as Keurprins when of Brandenburg and then Kroonprins once Frederick III secured Austrian acquiescence for his title of Frederick I, King of Prussia.

Notionally then, the regiment belonged to Colonel Proprietor Kroonprins Frederick William (later King Frederisk William I) also known as the 'Soldier King'. The last recorded Colonel Commandant (the man who actually ran and led the regiment) was Albrecht Conrad Fink Von Finkenstein (born 1660) and 46 years of age by the time of the battle of Ramilies (1706) - being the orbat I'm building against.

There's something exciting about creating one of the very first Prussian regiments - one of several highly professionalised units from the militarily reorganised state of Bradenburg/Prussia. It was the children and grandchildren of these men who forged that famous military reputation of army and state under Frederick the Great during the Seven Years War but it all starts here, alongside the Dutch.

By 1700 the regiment was reorganised along Dutch lines, leaders in military innovation amongst the Protestant nations, and thus my regiment will have 33 figures similar to my previous two Dutch regiments. Unlike them, this 'model' will be advancing to the front rather than representing platoon firing. My grenadier company will be advancing and lobbing grenades and my Finkenstein will be mounted.
Before shot: Danish grenadier

In spite of the growing range in figures for the War of the Spanish Succession, only one company appears to have made a Prussian grenadier. Unfortunately, Wargames Foundry only have one pose which I'm not overly excited about and they come in packs with more miniatures than I require. I have therefore bought Danish grenadiers from Front Rank being closest and with caps capable of conversion.

Frontal before shot

The front plate is broad, smooth and the right shape which I cut into and filed to achieve the scalloping effect. I cut away and filed the bag and will reconstruct a crown with tassel. I only need to do this three times - so no sweat ... well, sweat enough. I debated for some time about constructing a raised scalloped front flap but will paint it on instead. The back flap was scalloped similarly to the front. There were time when I thought it may have just been simpler to file the whole thing off and green stuff it from scratch. We shall see if I'm happy with the results.

Filed of spontoon and extended
base - flag to be Araldited.

My ensigns are also from Front Rank, one requiring surgical removal of his spontoon and both are having the spontoon heads drilled and fitted to extended steel shafts for the colours - the steel wire supplied is too thin for my liking.  Depicted left, I Supa Glued a plastic card base, extending to accommodate the base of the flag pole. The thickness of the casting and rigidity of the Front Rank alloy prevented me manipulating the arm to achieve the join at the figures base, as cast. I always fix spear shafts, lances, pikes and flag poles at at least two points, avoiding breaks and future repair. I used Selly's Araldite to fix the pole on this figure but used Supa Glue for my other - their being a filed grove on this miniature caused by the removal of his spontoon. 

The other ensign

Most of my rank and file are old Foundry advancing musketeers with old paint jobs. I have stripped them and started over. They are a collection from various other regiments when I used to be able to live with 18 figure units - but alas, those days are behind me. Once stripped, old and new figures will have the ends of their muskets drilled out and I notice a couple of bayonets require reconstruction. Due to the thickness of the head and neck on these castings, I am unable to manipulate the figures to vary their otherwise uniform pose. I will vary their positioning when basing to give them a more naturally advancing look and each grand division has an officer and sergeant who are varied and will break up the chocolate box. All in all, there is quite a lot of preparation for this particular regiment.
Before ...

After

Ready for undercoating