Saturday, 26 April 2014

Getting involved

I was prattling on last post about my Covenanter so I thought I would share some happy news. I bought it a set of cammo.

I should explain that in WoT this is a fairly major step, not quite meeting the parents but certainly admitting to your mates you have a steady girlfriend territory. The reason is that it involves real ££ money. WoT is in theory free to play, but you can buy some stuff to make your tank a bit better. You can use in game currency earned in battle, or pay ££. I decided to risk the "Wallet Warrior" jibes and spent 55p getting three different cammo schemes for my Covenanter, Winter, Desert, and this fetching two tone green Summer scheme shown. All in all it has very little in game effect - I get spotted 5% less than before, but spending that 55p has signalled that I don't intend to dispose of the Covenanter when I'm done with it, so its a commitment :-)  

Friday, 25 April 2014

Intermission (3) The other drain on my free time, a wargamers thoughts on World of Tanks..............

I play a bit of World of Tanks (WoT).

Well quite a bit to be honest. I'm not very good at games which require fast mouse and keyboard skills, but luckily WoT is usually more about positioning and tactics. I won't go into details about the game itself, there is enough of that around on the net if you dont already know and are interested, other than to say its a first person shooter except instead of a soldier, you get a tank, and you end up playing in 15 a side battles to either kill all your opponents or capture their base - all fairly basic stuff.

Anyway, here is my current "mount", the A13 Mk III Cruiser Mk V Covenanter, here pictured in my garage

In "real life" this was a bit of a dog. It was a rushed development that only saw service as a training vehicle, mainly due to its tendency to overheat at the slightest provocation. As the main theatre of operations at the time was the Western Desert, this was not a good trait.  It also lacked armour and the 2Pdr was already starting to be shown as incapable of threatening the current generation of German tanks such as the PzIII.

The WoT version is rather different, and serves as a good example of why WoT and the "real world" should never be confused :-). In WoT, the Covenanter is something of a pocket sized killing machine. The more observant will have spotted the gun on my Covenanter is not a 2Pdr. WoT allows you to develope your tanks by researching and adding new equipment. This is the research "tree" for the A13 MkIII

As you can see, one option is to mount a 40mm Bofors instead of the 2Pdr. I'm not sure if this was actually possible, and in the real world why would you, but in WoT this gives you a rather nasty ability to put a clip of 4 rounds onto a target in about 2 seconds. Penetration is much less than with the 2 Pdr, and after the first shot accuracy goes out the window, but if you are in close, and shooting at the thinner sides of targets. that doesn't matter too much.  That's the key, and the ability to switch to a better but more expensive APCR round if you run into something a bit too big. That, and the Covenanters reasonable speed and maneuverability allow a patient player to do rather well supporting the team by scouting and killing off light tanks and tank destroyers from the flanks, then using the time honoured tactic of running away if something big arrives.

There is one thing that WoT has helped me understand about real world tanks, and that is the importance of gun depression and getting hull down. As a wargamer I read many times how NATO tanks had an advantage in finding reverse slope positions, and how Soviet tanks were at a disadvantage due to their poor gun depression. I never really understood this, probably because as a wargamer I see flat open ground as, well, flat. In reality there are always bumps and dips in the countryside too small to be represented on maps or games tables, and our hills are well defined - our table goes from flat to 40 degree hill and back again with nothing in between. WoT has showed me just how important that advantage is, so for instance a Centurion can find a firing position where only the gun mantlet is visible to an enemy, where a T55 would have to expose the whole of the hull.

See, computer games do teach you stuff :-)

 Scouting forward

and the sad pathetic wreck when it goes wrong, but I should add I killed a KV1 and an M5 Stuart, plus damaged two more KV1S before they caught me, so a fair exchange :-)

Intermission (2) Pleasant break before Oblivion

The adventures of the 305th Pioneer Battalion are progressing, although I have just got through the formation and their training, plus their occupation duties in some very nice parts of France. Frankly they're on holiday, with only the stand to after the attack on St Nazaire interrupting what is so far a lovely war, but they are aware they will soon be going East. It was an interesting side light to see how the Battalion has started to transit from Static to Active status. Initially they lost a few Officers and NCOs to units allocated to the first assault on Russia, including their CO. There was genuine shock felt when they heard he had been KIA, along with a couple of other transferees. Then when they were starting to train for Russia they received an influx of fitter and more experienced troops and some of the more sedentary officers have been shifted sideways to other Static units. It's an interesting contrast to the British approach, where they tended to keep the Battalions together. Its a bit strange to think of contrasting this phase with what is to come, and that fact they mostly have about 9 months to live. The other thing that has struck me is the change in tone and style in this book compared with the other Jason D Mark book I have, Island of Fire. In comparison, because the subject is just a single unit, Into Oblivion is a more personal book, concentrating on individuals much more.

I also have to explain the other reason for my lack of progress painting etc. My darling wife has made a very reasonable request that her office \ craft room be redecorated. This has however involved moving the current contents out while we paint and re-carpet. The contents of the room are now distributed through the other rooms on the first floor of the Kommissar House, but this means the door to the loft, aka my man-cave, is blocked by a pair of stacked filing boxes about head high. Sadly there is no other way in, so thumbs are twiddling. Hopefully this will be resolved soon, in fact I'm waiting for the carpet layer to arrive as I type, and once the carpet is down I can get everything back in there and normal service may resume. meanwhile I'm reading Into Oblivion and playing a bit too much World of Tanks

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

There will now be an intermission..........

Because the nice postman has just delivered my copy of "Into Oblivion - Kharkov to Stalingrad : The Story of Pionier-Bataillon 305" by Jason D Mark

This was originally going to be my Christmas prezzie to me but real life got in the way. Basically Mark is the best Western source I've seen so far on Stalingrad, the level of detail is astounding.

Pretty much everything will now be on hold while I try and read this one, and then there will be a furious search for suitable figures to represent them - not even sure if they will be 15mm or 28mm

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Trouble with Rubble (5) Done and Dusted

Just about done now. Once the base coat had dried overnight I needed to get them fisished. I'm using cheap craft paint as you sometimes need lots. A quick heavy drybrush with a different shade of grey, in this case Anita's Dove Grey which carries a hint of sand in there, then some fawn\ brown, and lastly a shot of white to pick up edges. I also went around the edges of a couple where the original base coat had missed.

Theyre just about done now. I'll wait for a couple of hours to see if there is anything else to do, but given the original brief and budget I feel pretty pleased with them.

I appreciate I said the budget was £0, but I overran that as I spent £1.99 on some more glue sticks for the hot glue gun. The rest was out of the "big pile of stuff" saved in the loft for just such an occasion. I suppose if I were starting from scratch this would have used less than a tenners worth of "stuff", so I'm pretty happy with the costings.

I've used a similar method to build 15mm ruins for games like Crossfire & PBI. It works well, but you need to remember to leave areas clear inside the bases to allow your figures in, and not to bother with the plastic grill.   As these are primary for DZC this isn't an issue as rubble is impassible to vehicles and infantry. Another thing to remember is most walls in real life tend to be only a brick wide, so anything over 3mm is probably to much for a 10/15mm model.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Trouble with Rubble (4)

As the sun sets I gave them a quick coat of matt grey as a base coat. In the past I used black but painting grey over it was a pain so I am accepting there will be less shadows and just going for the grey.

Next step will be to start adding some other colours - hopefully tomorrow

Trouble with Rubble (3) Doing something

Stage 1 Cutting.

DZC buildings share a common footprint as a multiple of 36mm, so a three block square building is 108mm x 108mm etc. I marked up and cut out the 18 building bases I wanted in a variety of sizes to suit the card buildings I have –  72 x 108, 108x108 72 x 180 and 108 x 180. I used some think mounting board style card – technically it was a card used to make strike placards during my Trade Union days, now long gone. 
UNISON may well not won many disputes, but their placards have provided me with bases for my wargames stuff for the last 20 years J

Once I cut them out I scored the backs to help prevent them curling, and rounded the corners with some clippers – nothing fancy.

Stage 2 Hot Glue Action
I got the trusty hot glue gun out and fired it up.  Side note. Hot glue guns are the invention of Lazy McLazy from Lazytown. They’re bloody useless for anything needing precision and leave strings of glue everywhere. On a job like this however they are a godsend and they’re very cheap to buy from craft stores so if you don’t have one, get one.  I hot glued a selection of lego bricks to the bases, never more than one brick tall and usually only one or two per base. I just want something to give me a bit of height. Then I took some foamcore oddments and cut them up into irregular bits, and glued them to the base, again stacking them but no more than 2 layers high. Third element is some walls. These are made of offcuts from the basing board but with the edges nibbled with a punch thing my Good Lady Wife loaned me about five years ago and forgot about I assume. The punch is supposed to produce little flower shapes but I found it was good for making holes in walls or edging. I made some lengths of wall and glued them on the bases too, and saved the spare punched out bits for later. Lastly, my particular favourite, Granny Grill. Not sure what the actual name is but it is sold in craft shops and is used I believe in embroidery or needlepoint. It is a plastic grill and usually costs a quid or so a sheet. I cut this into irregular sections and this too got hot glued onto the bases.

Stage 3 Budgie Grit
This is sold in most pet shops, basically it is supposed to be used to put at the bottom of the budgie cage.  I mixed some sand and the offcuts from the punch, and any spare scrap of anything really into a tub. Then I got the biggest brush and proceeded to cover the bases and bits with a good coat of PVA EXCEPT the granny grill. The base was then covered in my budgie grit rubble mix and left to dry.

One dried, I will start painting. Meanwhile here is a quick shot of the bases in the sun.

and a close up

Trouble With Rubble (2) Thinking about it

First step was to sit down and think

Always the difficult bit really.  In my mind I know what I want. I want piles of rubble, not ruins. I also want to suggest those piles were once buildings. I long ago realised that the mind is easily tricked. If you want to make something look like a ruined hose, you need to put something in there that draws the eye – a chair for instance. After that the mind fills in the rest and the model doesn’t need to be too detailed. I suppose the same holds true for real life. A picture of a pile of rubble doesn’t cause as much shock as a the same pile of rubble with a childs doll or teddybear poking out. In fact I’m convinced some journalists take a sack full of spares in case they need the right shot. Anyway back to my rubble. What I want is a pile of rubble with some shapes in there to suggest to the eye they were once buildings, so walls, pipes etc sticking out.  Ideally I would have bought some of the Hawk resin building detail tiles and cut them up and used them, but the budget for this build is £0 so that  is out. Luckily I think I have everything I need in my “Man Cave”.

I decided the rubble needed the same footprint as the DZC buildings it would replace. This is not strictly true, as there are always bits that fall into the road or on adjacent passers-by, but I had a rather daft idea that If I kept the dimensions the same as the card buildings we were using I could leave the rubble inside them and lift them off once they were destroyed – too bloody faffy by far and a direct breach of the guiding light and golden rule KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)

I also wanted this to be a one off – I’m building all 18 at once, not faffing around in a way that leaves the project unfinished and taking up valuable time and space.

Trouble with Rubble (1)

So my various escapades in DZC continue. One of the problems I am running into is what in the DZC community we tend to call things like  “Active Urban Regeneration”, ie demolishing a building while it is full of the opposition.  There are a number of very good reasons to do this. Infantry in buildings are very hard to shift, usually invisible to direct fire, and buildings can be costly and time consuming to assault with other infantry – all a bit like real life really. The solution in DZC has also been tried on occasion, just blowing the whole place up. This also has the added attraction of being a lot of fun :-)

There is a problem however. Although there are some very nice buildings available for DZC, both resin and card from Hawk themselves, and a growing supply of third party models using laser cut mdf, there are not too many options when it comes to the after effect of a building being literally blown to rubble.
I asked a couple of guys who are rather talented with the laser to design some. And they came back with ruins. Nice ruins, but more English Heritage rather than 9-11. What I wanted was rubble – not ruins.

Anyway I decided the best solution was to get of my arse and have a go myself, however lacking a laser and the skills to use one, I decided to go “Old School” (or should that be “Playschool”?) and use card and PVA.

Although these are designed with DZC in mind, I think they work for most scales from 15mm and smaller

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

IKEA Dropship in action

Just a quick update. I ran a Dropzone Commander demo game at Middlesbrough Games Club last night, and the newly completed Despoiler Heavy Dropship made its first bow. As I was organising the demo I didn't get to play with it, however I think this is a "cunning plan" as we all know the first time a new unit gets used it performs pants! Sadly this was not the case and it did its job of delivering nine grav tanks into the fight very well. I got a quick pic of the thing fully loaded - please note its an on table in game shot so not as neat as a posed one, but I think it shows the vertical CD rack (of Doom) effect reasonably well

It was my first time at the Middlesbrough club and I was rather impressed with the facilities - tea & coffee etc, and they were all rather welcoming, so I may well give them a try again. Middlesbrough Games Club Website

Monday, 14 April 2014

Going out on a rail - Dropzone Commander Monorail Scenery Pack

Monorail Scenery Pack

OK before I start I need to declare an interest. I’ve just been accepted on to the Hawk Wargames “Talon” program – basically you run demo’s and tournaments for them in return for toys. I hope that doesn’t cloud my judgement too much, and I promise to be as honest and forthright about Hawk stuff as anyone else’s. After all, no matter how much you polish a turd, it is still a turd.

So without further ado, Hawk Wargames Monorail Scenery Pack!

This is not yet on sale and was picked up as a "special" at Salute, but it should be available through Hawk "soon".

First thing you notice is it comes in a nice, if not too remarkable box with a pic of the finished product on the front. Shortly thereafter you notice the price, which can cause a sharp intake of breath, and then lastly, assuming you are either still interested you pick the box up and notice the weight – and it weighs rather a lot!

Opening the box quickly provides the answer to the weight issue. Inside are seven steel base units designed to keep the track stable, seven high quality lightweight resin track supports, a coil of strip plastic for use as the track – seven feet of it apparently, one locomotive model, and three identical model passenger cars.

The train and carriages are all in the now familiar neo Art Deco style. The models are pretty much what you expect from Hawk, crisp and highly detailed. The cars and supports all have a separate tab which when attached will slide over the plastic strip rail to hold everything in place. The supports are also highly detailed and crisp.

All in all a very nice model and I’m sure it would be a great looking item on any table.

The elephant in the room however is the price. RRP is reported at £35 -£45 (still waiting to get this confirmed). That’s a lot of money for something that is at the moment just a table talking point.  I was thinking about getting a Japanese Fujimi N Scale 1:150 Tokyo monorail set for my DZC table before this was announced, so I priced one up from an on-line store I have used before and found to be reliable and reasonable about postage. They offered a static plastic kit with 4 cars for £16, and a track set with 10 straight sections, 10 curves and piers for a similar price, plus another £10 p&p. The straights were (I calculated based on box size) about 20-24cm so you would be getting about the same length of track as the hawk one, give or take, and for a similar price. The Fujimi kit looks modern and would fit a SF setting but there is an awful lot of sticking and assembly (really a lot) needed. I also suspect the Fujimi kit would be less flexible than the Hawk one, which is clearly designed to be set up and taken down quickly, whereas the Fujimi one probably would only be worth the hassle if you were planning a fixed table as a display.

All in all I would not rush to recommend buying this yet, unless you have a pressing need for a monorail. There is a scenario pack promised that will used the monorail, with additional rules etc so it may become something more than a talking piece at that point.

If you are in the market for a  monorail, the Hawk one is a damned nice model designed for wargaming use and in that sense better than the other available options and similarly priced.  

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Chain of Command Campaign 16 Plt Pt 2

With hindsight however those couple of phases of relative inactivity proved decisive as almost unseen, the British had accumulated five of the six points needed to claim a Chain of Command dice. Then everything changed. The mortars finally arrived on target, pinning German units across the critical sector.

Emboldened by this, and possibly with the help of a suggestion from up the command chain that when in doubt he should follow the mantra “Bags of Smoke and Flank Left”, Mark started to flank the German strongpoint.

Paul used his Chain of Command dice to stop the turn, ending the barrage, but before he could get his troops back to fighting stance Mark succeeded in not only calling the barrage back in, but getting his Chain of Command dice. There then followed a fairly brutal sequence demonstrating CoC at its best. Mark managed to keep the initiative for three turns, allowing the mortars to do some serious execution and get his flanking assault into position.

 A 3 six turn end result was rolled, which would usually cancel the barrage, but Mark now had a Chain of Command dice which he used to keep it shooting. As his assault was about to go in, the German defenders took one shock too many and retreated.

Paul made a quick assessment of his position. Although the mortars would now have to stop, his two remaining squads were already carrying shock and casualties, and he wisely decided to fall back, abandoning the position and leaving 16 Platoon in possession of the field.

I think (hope) even after taking his moment of confusion into consideration, and the Silver PIAT comments, Mark still enjoyed the game. Personally I felt that it was really interesting to watch someone move from a position where he was comfortable with the circumstances to being not quite sure of what to do next as the situation changes and start to run away from him. He regained control with what was pretty much a text book infantry attack - so well done! In some ways this was a good representation of the problems faced by a fresh faced Subaltern in Normandy – without the threat of imminent death or injury I suppose. Maybe next time I should stand behind him with an axe…………………….

 I should add thanks to Mark for taking the pics - I managed to forget my camera. He is much more professional at this Blogging thing too - if you have not already check him out at Geordies Big Battles

Chain of Command - 16 Platoon Baptism of Fire AAR Pt 1

This was one of those games where the pre-game dice rolls and player choices had a dramatic effect on the outcome. Support choice was interesting – after some deliberation the British (Mark) took a 3” mortar FOO and a sniper, reasoning that the still burning wreck of the last Churchill to try the road was a fair indication of how dangerous to armour the German infantry anti-tank weapons could be. The Germans (Paul) took a Panzershrek team and an Adjutant, the first because he was still wary of what a tank can do if uncountered, and also recognising the weakness of the German platoon organisation in only having one senior leader which can lead to deployment problems. The off table adjutant would allow his Platoon Commander to be active on table from the start secure in the knowledge that the Adjutant would ensure the platoon deployed. Paul also had the advantage of a very good result on his replacement roll, in effect being pushed back up to full strength but with the additional bonus of a spare MG42.

The Germans rolled poorly for their Force Morale, the British better, but due to the German bonus of the men having confidence in their leader the overall result was tied. The British won the roll off to see who had first turn, and also rolled well enough for their Patrol Phase “head start”. With the advice from and experience of 12 Platoons failed assault they went fairly single-mindedly for the buildings in the centre of the table in the patrol phase, and managed to get their Jump Off Points close enough to make occupation a possibility –at the expense of a little width. Paul shuffled his patrol markers and managed to prevent any further encroachment.

With the advantage of first move and some good activation dice 16 Platoon was installed in the buildings before the Germans could react. This was further helped when German activation dice were not great, allowing only a single team to deploy peering nervously at the Tommies opposite.

The British started off well, getting the Platoon into position and putting some fire down in the general direction of the Germans. Paul’s dice improved and he deployed his units, mostly in cover facing the British. He also started to push down the edge of the cornfields in an attempt to flank Mark.

I think it is fair to say at this point Mark got a bit flustered. It was only his second game of CoC and he was still unsure of what he was doing. He also seems to have found the concept of WYSIWYG a problem as far as terrain and formations was concerned, so was finding it difficult to understand that he couldn’t fire through his own units. Paul is now something of a veteran at CoC and has got the German MG defence thing worked out.  It should be said that to this was added some fairly boisterous jibes and ribbing from both his opponent and the umpire directed at his otherwise beautifully painted 20mm Brits who were carrying shiny silver PIATs and 2” mortars. This coincided with a particularly vicious burst of MG42 fire which caused three casualties in one squad, and a kill on the 2” mortar loader.  This lead to a phase or two where the Brits had a bit of a command crisis and apart from some desultory fire and a call for mortar support did very little.   Mark is a fairly thoughtful player who likes to weigh up all the options, and his repeated “what will happen if I do this” type questions were getting stonewalled from the umpire (me) who was trying to be non-partisan and also mindful that the evening was passing rapidly and if we had no resolution it would be difficult to set up again in the same layout to continue another time. Mark was struggling with the ability of the German ability to pour MG fire downrange, and twice was heard to mutter something about all the dice rolling being like Warhammer (which it most assuredly is NOT).

The Wargamers Selfie

Don't panic, its my painting table.

I took this, then realised just how crap it looked so I had a quick tidy up

Which looks a bit better.

Making it on to the painting table is a major step towards the nirvana of a figure or model actually seeing use. That being said it is still possible to be pushed aside, but if you reach the table, you have a shot. Think of it as getting past the auditions phase of Britains Got Talent.

Disclaimer, I don't actually watch ANY talent shows on TV, but I am aware they exist and am thankful for them because they and Emmerdale allow me to move to the "man cave" without guilt of leaving my Beloved Mrs R behind to do toy soldier stuff, which is Good.

So as you can see, I have done bits on Seven Samurai (for Ronin -but enthusiasm is limited so progress stalled) some 15mm Afghan insurgents on motorbikes (Old Glory - fab little miniatures that I am hoping to get painted just for the fun of it) Nellie the Elephant - an Indian Elephant & crew for Impetus bought on Ebay and in need of some TLC. I have an Indian army for Impetus waiting far down the paint queue, but Nellie has been promoted to the table because she can also appear in my Persian and Skythian armies as an ally. Then there is my 7TV Chinaman , Torturer \ Sinister Doctor, and lastly a dead guy in lab coat but is originally a Dixon Miniatures Wild West Bank Robber.

I'm also very proud of my Man Cave (err Loft). Or at least I sort of am. When we saw the house my mind was made up because the loft is big enough for an 6x12 table and all my painting and modelling bits, already boarded out and with a proper staircase. Best of all a largish Velux window allows direct sunlight onto the area of the painting table during the afternoons - Nirvana. The table is installed and can  be set up in a number of different layouts depending on requirements. There is also a TV, and until recently a fridge, but that got donated to my Nephew when he went to Uni.

Problem is of course, me. As an untidy packrat cum hoarder I rapidly filled the room with wargaming junk, including the table, so that you can hardly move around up there without knocking a box over. One of my long term aims is to return the room to a fairly tidy state so I can use the table again. If I ever achieve that, I'll post a picture, but don't hold your breath

Interminable waiting, like For Godot, but worse


I suspect I suffer from a form of OCD in that I like to have everything "right" before I start something.

Clearly this is Bullshit, as the one thing my wargaming life really lacks is organisation, however I am prone to wanting to ensure the knife is not in the fork draw, if you know what I mean.

I had intended to undercoat those DZC models, however my regular opponent "Big Paul" (aka The  LoveBuffalo - but don't ask) is still abed, and has in his possession a couple of new DZC models bought for me at Salute yesterday. Clearly I can't undercoat until I have them all together.......


Patience is a virtue

Saturday, 12 April 2014

and yet more - UCM Katana tank

The Katana is a sort of poor man's MBT, exchanging the usual heavy main gun for a pair of lighter, fast firing cannons, less armour and more speed. It is a useful addition to the UCM and gives an interesting option to the heavier MBTs.

The model is a simple 2 parts, cast in the usual off white lightweight resin, nicely detailed and RRP £11 for three.

Here is a size comparison between the Katana, Tormentor, and a "modern" T72

Quick digression. The T72 is a Trumpeter display model, and is both detailed and reasonably priced if you buy them in bulk from the Far East. I would recommend anyone who is thinking of starting WW2 or Moderns \ Arab \ Israeli in 10/12mm to do some research as they also do a T54\55 and others and they work out cheaper than buying an inferior model from a traditional wargames manufacturer. Sadly the range is limited, so there is still plenty of scope for the more usual producers. I hope there will be a resurge in moderns using 12mm \ 1:144, hopefully to take advantage of 3D printing to master models that are detailed and accurate, as well as affordable.  

More DZC Stuff - Scourge Tormentor

I'm busy prepping some new additional units for my DZC armies

First off, a pair of Tormentor Heavy tanks for the Scourge

The Tormentor is a bit of a specialist unit dedicated to burning infantry out of buildings. Although technically a heavy tank it is useless against other tanks, and its armour is not really any better than the standard MBT, but it is a bit more durable, and in addition it can carry a trio of Razorworms - basically giant intelligent centipedes with teeth & claws used to clear buildings of infantry.

Sorry for the blurry shot - will try and get a better one . I suppose the nearest real world counterpart would be a Churchill Crocodile

Friday, 11 April 2014

Invaders from the Planet IKEA - Scourge Despoiler Heavy Dropship

Having just spent some time defending Dropzone Commander on the matter of price, it seems a bit unwise to look at one of the most expensive models in the range.

The Scourge (think horrible Aliens) Despoiler Heavy Dropship is quite a piece of work. It comes as a 27 part kit in lightweight resin. I can hear the short intake of breath at the number of parts, but the vast majority ate the 18 "shelves" which in pairs support the nine medium or six heavy grav tanks that make up the standard load, stacked vertically for easy deployment. When the players saw this model it was quickly knick-named the Vertical CD Rack of Doom, and I'm sure you will be able to see why. Like the other Heavy Drpoships, the Despoiler isn't really essential, in fact you can argue it is a bit of a risk putting all those eggs in one basket, but it does look good and adds a bit of survivability in comparison to a Medium Dropship.

Cleanup of the resin parts was very easy - snips and an emery board purloined from Mrs Renko were all that was needed. There was some minor bowing on one of the vertical supports, which was fixed by a quick hot water bath followed by a cold water plunge, and there is a minor bubble in one of the engine assemblies which will need a tiny amount of filling before painting. The resin used is very light but easy to work with and takes paint well, very much a wonder material compared with some I have contended with over the years. I should mention that the heavy dropship models seem to be the only ones I ever have any moulding or casting issues with, usually bubbles which need filling. This does not happen in my experience with the smaller models, s it may be something to do with the production process.

I drilled and magnetised the chin turret using 2x1mm magnets - not really needed but I gave got used to doing it and being able to pose the turret is "kewl".

Everything then stuck together quickly and cleanly using cheap £ shop superglue. I've not fixed the "shelves" in yet as I need to make my mind up which payload this will take. I'm thinking of going for the full 9 Mediums as this looks pretty good loaded up. In the pic she is just resting on the stand, when finished there is a little "widget" that fixes underneath and keeps everything nice and steady

I'll get some pics of the beasty once she is painted up and loaded

One last point. Although the RRP on this is £20, the larger Dropzone models do appear regularly on ebay for much less. I paid £11 for mine, so was doubly happy.

Dropzone Commander too expensive? Au Contraire Blackadder

The bar was crowded and smoke filled. Gathered here were some of the meanest Hombres ever to roll dice. Through the haze and murmuring a voice spoke, loud and deep.

“Not sure how anyone can say that Dropzone Commander not is expensive when 12mm infantry are coming in at 45p each. Pendraken are 15p each”

There was silence. This was Black Del, world renowned, banned from TMP and known as “The Head Counter”. The silence was broken by the sound of a chair sliding back, and Renko took a deep breath and said “Well actually I think I can”

And I think I can – but please remember there are lies, damned lies, and statistics, and the point is that I’m trying to show DZC is not particularly more expensive than equivalent games.

Derek is of course correct, a standard blister of DZC infantry costs £12 RRP and contains 30 miniatures and six bases, so even my mathematically challenged brain can work out that’s 40p per figure, and Pendraken are indeed £1.50 per bag of 10, so that’s 15p per figure, except that’s not the full story. That blister of 30 figures contains two full units of infantry, five poses including support weapons. How does that compare to the others?

Firstly we need to say who the “others” are. Pendraken has been mentioned. Not quite a straight comparison as they are technical 10mm not 12mm but I don’t think that makes much difference. A more direct comparison could perhaps be Minifigs 1:144 \ 12mm Moderns. I’m using these two examples as comparisons because I own them and have first-hand experience dealing with the figures and the manufacturers. Let us look at them in detail, Pendraken first.

I like Pendraken – Leon & Dave do great stuff at great prices. Here is a link to their site btw - well worth a visit

So what would it cost to get an equivalent infantry platoon from Pendraken for a game like FoW Vietnam?

I’ll take the Aussies as a comparison. They need six four man “teams” and a three man Command team. The teams need to have M60s, M79s, M16 and SLRs, and a command needs an officer and a Radioman, plus a spare, so 27 figs in total. Pendraken only sell their Nam range in either 10 man packs or a big £20 army bag. To get those 27 figures for my platoon I would need to buy 6 packs of figures at £1.50 a bag, i.e £9.00, or 33p a figure. Still cheaper, but not so different?

How about Minifigs?

I love Minifigs modern infantry. They tend to be nicely proportioned and well detailed, although they do suffer a bit from big weapons, especially the Russians. Anyway, a standard Russian Motor Rifle Platoon has three ten men squads plus command with an ATGM and SA7. How much will this cost? Minifigs infantry are £3.70 a pack and include mixed poses and some LMG types as well as assault rifles. No officers or the ubiquitous RPGs, they come in a separate set at another £3.70 for 18 figures which includes a SA7 and ATGW. Only problem is that to get the full 3 RPGs you need to buy a further bag of spare Officers and RPGs at an additional £3.70 for 12. That means to get your platoon of 36 figs you need 3 packs, or £11.10 for the platoon, or 31p per figure.

Of course with both you will end up with far more spare figures – probably enough to do two platoons from Pendraken – personally I would choose to add another pack of SLRs just to get variety in poses, and you would need another rifle pack to do the same from Minifigs, so the final reckoning, at least as far as I can see, is that the equivalent two units you get in a DZC blister for £12 will cost you £11.50 from Pendraken and £14.80 from Minifigs.

So how about quality? Actually I’m not a great fan of the DZC infantry. I don’t know why, as the detail is there in abundance, maybe the poses let them down a little? I like Minifigs, but they fail the weapon scale test big style – the RPGs in particular are huge, and you can use some of the AK47 guys as LMGs due to the size, Pendraken are great, the detail is a bit “soft” but otherwise they look the part and the poses are nice – particularly like the kneeling squad leader with the SMG and hand raised – although he is another of the poses that would need to be added to the overall cost. As for dealing with them, Hawk (DZC) and Pendraken are great. Caliver, who now have the Minifigs line treat it as a side line and a dead range and are err “not as helpful” to any suggestion to expend the range, which is a shame, because they really are in the driving seat if you want to do 70s onwards in 12mm.

So that’s the infantry, and I didn’t mention the bases because you could just cut them from card I suppose. So what about other parts?

Tanks etc are probably the easiest. DZC sell UCM Sabre MBTs tanks in packs of three for £11, so that’s £3.66 each. Other tanks are similarly priced. What about “The Others”?

A Minifigs T72 (or indeed any of their Russian MBTs) are £4.50 each, with the smaller vehicles are £3.70. Pendraken have just released their T55 and Centurions for Vietnam and they too are £4.50, with M113s etc at about £3 each. All pretty much similar in price, but the DZC vehicles are CAD designed and cast in very crisp resin, the others are metal and vary in quality and accuracy rather a lot – neither match the DZC stuff for detail or crispness.

Of course the Elephant in the Room with Dropzone Commander is the Dropships. They are pretty much obligatory. Medium Dropships are £11, lights £10.50 a pair. You would probably need three mediums and a couple of lights to play DZC comfortably. The equivalent to the light Dropships from Pendraken would be a Huey at £4.50, Minifigs will do you a Hip for £5.95. In both cases you need about 4 to shift a platoon equivalent around, but due to the smaller unit sizes in DZC you only need one Meduim Dropship to shift 2 units of infantry, ie £11 of transports, but to shift the same number of units in the other examples would cost you £40 - about the total you would pay to get all the Dropships you need.   I can’t think of an equivalent to a Medium Dropship (apols).

Rules – what about them?

DZC rules are £15. FoW £35.00 – Pendraken don’t do anything as they’re just models but my current favourite rules, Chain of Command are £22. FoW are a 3 book set with the main book hardback but CoC and DZC are similar softbacks with high production values – and while pretty pictures don’t mean much, the DZC book is the prettiest by far.

So I hope I have shown that as a game system, Dropzone Commander is not particularly more expensive than some equivalent options? Now the real kicker is the DZC Starter set.

This was released last year and comprises two “Starter” armies, a set of rules, map sheet, card buildings and counters, all at £60 RRP. The two starter armies are identical to the ones initially sold in resin at £60 each, but are in plastic. Detail is not quite as good as the resin, but apart from the infantry you would be pushed to tell the difference – in fact some players prefer the plastic. If you really want to play at the standard game level you need about twice as much kit as each starter army, but that in itself is not such an issue as if you and your opponent each buy a starter and swap the opposite starter armies you will each have a rules set and a full army for £60. You need to throw in a Command Unit and some command cards to play the full game, so the total cost would be £76.00 for the UCM player and £82.50 for the Scourge. That would include two sets of rules and enough buildings and map sheets to cover a full table, and then some.

This x2

So is that really that expensive, £80 for a complete game system from the ground up? I would be surprised if you could find a similar package, models, rules, terrain for less, and that is before you apply the standard on line shippers 10% discount.

Now all that talk about 10mm Nam has fired up my interest again. Where did I leave those Aussies???

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Chain of Command Campaign Part 4 - The Other Side of the Hill

Platzer reported his success defending the edge of the village. Major Klinsmann looked carefully at him, and smiled (something of a first as fas as Platzer was concerned) "Well done. I expect the Tommies will be back. There's a squad of PanzerGrenadiers outside, take them back with you to help bolster your positions - that is all"

Platzer collected the men and headed back. He found the platoon sheltering in the rubble fifty yards behind the main position, refilling their ammunition and canteens. They had left a section with a MG holding the position. He split the PanzerGrenadiers up among his depleted squads, adding the extra MGs to help bolster squad firepower. He thought "We are as strong as ever"  Then he heard the distinctive burst of an MG42 coming from the front - "Come on men - theyre back!"

His men scrambled forward. Platzer realised with horror that the Tommies had infiltrated forward into the ruined houses on the outskirts. He rapidly ordered his squads to deploy, sending Waschenfelde and his squad to flank the left of the British position, and spreading the rest out across the front of the main defence line. Then the mortars hit.

Platzer was on the far left of the position, almost outside the beaten zone. From his position he could see brown clad figures moving around the houses opposite. He called on the section in the nearest house to take them under fire, but a combination of the mortar fire and careful enemy movement meant the fire was ineffective. Worse yet, casualties were mounting, particularly on his right where the enemy seemed to be concentrating their fire.

Then the fire from the house on the far right of Platzers line slackened. He tried to move in that direction to get a better idea of what was happening, but it was suicide to try and move while the mortars were firing.

There was a moment when the mortars seemed to pause, but it was a trick, and as his men started to rise from their shelters, the bombs came in again, this time with more fury. Platzer suddenly was confronted by a staggering figure, uniform torn and bloodied. It was Bub, commander of the right flank section. He collapsed next to Platzer "We couldnt stop them sir - most of the men were hit, we tried, but they just ......"Bub almost sobbed. "They're in the houses on our right sir".

Platzer made a quick assessment. Even if the left were to succeed, the collapse of the right made his position untenable. He quickly gave the orders to pull back, he would reform deeper in the village and fight again. So much for the Major's smile

So that's the two versions of events - next time, the game AAR and pics :-)

Chain of Command Campaign - Part 4 16 Platoon Baptism of Fire

Lt Archie Pringle was a little apprehensive to say the least. He wished he had paid rather more attention both at school OTC and in training. His was an almost clich├ęd example of the British Public School system, and so far he had got by on charm and good fellowship, but he was pretty certain he was in too deep today. Now in fact. His mind raced back to the briefing just a half hour ago. Sgt Taylor of 12 Platoon – now Commanding 12 Platoon Archie reminded himself – poor old Gilly, his mind snapped back to the briefing – Taylor had shown him on the map what had happened and given him some advice. “You have to get into the houses, into cover here” his grime encrusted finger pointed, “before the Bastards see you, because if you get caught like we did, they will cut you to ribbons”. Taylor worried Archie, but not as much as………..

A scream brought Archie back to the all too real present. Private Wilson, the No2 on the 2” mortar, was lying on his back, screaming in agony for his mother. Then the screaming stopped with a sob, and he was silent. Archie was stunned. Stunned by the noise, the assault on his senses, the smell of blood, shit and cordite. Another burst of German MG fire scythed out of the corn on his right, and he pressed his body closer into the honey coloured stone of the ruined house.  He was paralysed with indecision, how could he be expected to manage here, this was not what he expected, not what training had been like on Salisbury Plain?

“Sir – those bastards are trying to flank us on the right” It was Sgt Walker, his Platoon Sergeant. “We can’t let them get around there sir – shall I send Corp Smith and his Section to stop them?”   Archie was still unsure, but he had been told to rely on his NCO’s and Walker was a good one. Archie nodded, and Walker moved off to organise the troops. He was going to die, just like Gilchrist. He knew it. 

Then, from somewhere deep inside, as though from a dream or long lost memory, the words of Battle Drill came back to him. “Fire support element suppress the target, manoeuvre element flanks left under cover of smoke” he could even see the diagram in his mind. 

He called up the stairs to Lt Clayton, from the Mortar Platoon “Clayton – can you get some mortars on those houses opposite?” Clayton nodded and gave the thumbs up to say he understood, and then started talking into his radio. Archie was feeling a bit better now, he could do this. “McCoy – get your men to fire on the first building, pour it in, Quaver – can you see that hedge? Get your men moving along the opposite side, flank the Jerries and assault the position”. Archie watched as his NCOs carried out his orders. It was working! Maybe he could do this, and survive after all!

The mortars started to envelope the German positions in fire and smoke “Again” he shouted to Clayton – and heard the spotter call “all mortars repeat” into his radio. Archie ran to the 2” mortar team position. Wilson was dead, but Craig was still there. “Craig, I need you to follow me around to the left and put smoke down in front of that house – can you do that?” Craig nodded. They moved cautiously into position, Archie seemed no longer to notice the bullets zipping past like a swarm of angry hornets. Craig expertly fired his 2”, and as if on signal Quaver and his men charged the house.

The Germans were gone, leaving only their dead behind. Walker appeared at his shoulder. “Well done Sir, we really showed them. We lost Corp Smith and a couple of lads on the right, but we gave as good as we got and the Jerries pulled back with their tails between their legs.  

Monday, 7 April 2014

Dropzone Commander - rather impressed

To be honest  I was a bit unsure about Dropzone Commander (DZC) from Hawk Wargames when I first heard of it. “Not another Boutique game, small table, expensive small armies, bit faddy and altogether just another attempt to drag in GW players with a cloned version of 40K \ Epic Yawn”

How wrong I was

At least partly

It is a bit “Boutique”, and it does struggle with the expensive label, even though it is pretty much bang on the average as far as I can see. But GW clone – no way.

I first saw the models when they were displayed at Salute 2012, and they were beautiful. 12 mm (1:144 for the die-hards) resin sci fi, very highly detailed, and a full range for four factions, all beautifully presented. It is safe to say they were the star of the show. The models went on sale later in the year and reviews were pretty much universally positive, but also at this point they got labelled as expensive. I’m not quite sure how this happened, because in comparison to historical stuff in the same scale they were similarly priced – tanks about a tenner for three is not too shabby when an M1 Abrams is a similar price from Minifigs in 1:144. Maybe the need to add dropships put some people off, or maybe they had their own agenda, but the “expensive” label was used a fair bit, and some of it stuck.

Anyway, that leaves “faddy” and “GW Clone”. There was maybe a chance that the “faddy” tag would prove correct, take up was slow initially. That seems to have changed when out of the blue Hawk sprang a 2 player starter set on us. This contained a full rules book printed full size (not a mini or quickstart) two starter armies in plastic, plus a map sheet and ten card buildings and all the dice and counters you need. It’s a big box and full of stuff. The quality of the plastic models is remarkable, slightly simplified from the resin but only marginally, and easy to assemble and paint. Cost is £60, although you can usually save 10% or so by shopping around online, and is great value.

So “Clone”? Absolutely not! The rules are innovative without being off the wall, but most striking is the setting and the way the game is mission orientated. Unlike most rules, DZC is mostly concerned with urban combat. I feel most rules basically are written with the standard “two woods and a hill” terrain in mind. DZC is about fighting through the urban sprawl , although the rules for other environments are fine, cities is where it is at. This could be an issue except Hawk has released a set of low cost full colour urban buildings in heavy duty card, along with a series of street tiles, so terrain is cheap, attractive and easy to get hold of. The second point is about the missions and game dynamic. You win by doing things other than just killing your opponent, and you have to do it fast. Objectives are pieces of intelligence, items or individuals usually located in buildings. You have to get in, find them, and get out before your opponent does, and do it in six turns. This means that infantry are not just an adjunct to a tank battle, they are an essential part of your army, even if they are very vulnerable. No-one can win by just bringing the biggest guns. The problem is that the game is played on a 4 foot wide table, and the APCs and tanks only move 4 to 6” a turn, so it doesn’t take a genius to realise you can’t just drive to the objective, find it, and get back in 6 turns, and that is where the air mobility kicks in. Just about every unit is transported in dropships, allowing them to get to the objectives “Furstest with the Mostest” as Nathan Bedford Forrest would have said, and then get back out of Dodge before you get caught.  This opens up a whole new level of gameplay and strategy. Dropships are vulnerable to enemy fighters, so you need to provide protection or risk them getting shot from the sky, either by moving from ground based AA covered zone to covered zone, or by escorting fighters. The problem is these are themselves vulnerable to enemy ground or air forces. Another problem faced is that in the Sci Fi battlefield of DZC, it is a valid tactic to blow a building down rather than let an opponent search it and recover an objective. Buildings with objectives in them become the scene of frantic searches, vicious close quarter infantry fights, all with the threat of the building exploding around you as it happens.  About a half an hour in you suddenly realise this is a game about all arms cooperation and air mobility, and is deeply engrossing and tactically challenging. 

I know this may sound a bit strange, but of all the games I have played, DZC reminds me most of the old AK-47 Republic from PeterPig (the old version, before they sucked all the fun out). It doesn't have that wackyness nd unpredictability, but like AK, you have to be flexible and mission orientated to win. And it is fun

All in all Dropzone Commander is an excellent and different game, well worth a try, and the starter sets are a great way in. Highly recommended

Friday, 4 April 2014

Turning Japanese Part 7 Last leg

Spike has realised he loves Buffy, but Buffy still thinks she likes Riley, but Riley is secretly feeling he is losing her.......

I finished the 10 Type 89 Medium Tanks and 5 Type 95 Light tanks, all Battlefront, plus a trio of Type 97 Te-Ke Tankettes from PeterPig. I'm conflicted by the PeterPig models, they are a pain to put together because they have no solid hull to attach the tracks to, and the detail is sometimes a bit soft, but they do look nice when completed - as you can see here with "The Sasebo Special"

The Type 95 Ha-Go are Battlefront and apart from my earlier whine about sticking them together they are a great little model that paints up well

Lastly the Type 89s - again Battlefront, here seen with the 95s as a group shot

This was after they all received their national markings - a rising sun decal "pinched" from a set of Naval Ensigns by I-94 Decals sold here in the UK by Minibits\Pendraken Leon). Leon carries a wide range of decals that come in very useful, even if as in this case, they get re-tasked :-)

So that's it - 25 Buffys later and the Japanese are done

Turning Japanese Part 6 - Trucks and how Buffy helps

The well laid plans of Mice & Ken..................

I had intended to do lots of pics to show the various stages these models were going through, accompanied by pithy comments, but as usual I managed not to.

However, I am pleased to say they are now complete and have been boxed up and shipped Stateside, where I hope their new owner will enjoy them. I should say I actually enjoyed painting them, and I think in the end they looked fine, and while I am taking a little break from painting 15mm WW2 I'm certain I will be delving into my own collection of unfinished WW2 15mm inspired by them.

Before they hit the road I dis take a couple of pics however - sadly not the best but the lighting here, particularly the daylight, is pretty grim. Anyway, first up - the Trucks

These are Battlefront Isuzu 3 Tonners, and like most of their trucks they are one piece resin castings. This makes them a bit of a pain as you have to paint the block of resin they stand on, but as you can see, they turned out ok. Another minor issue is that the Isuzu has a canvas cover and open cab sides, ie no windows on the side. I toyed with trying to paint silhouettes inside then decided to go for a dark grey to suggest shadows. The models themselves were nice and flash free, but a couple of them suffered from miscasts along the line of the cab front. I don't think they are particularly noticeable at a glance but they did annoy me. I tend to like BFs resin trucks - life is too short to mess around with stuff that will usually be left at the back or as eye candy. If you doubt me, put a couple of Zvezda ZIS trucks together :-)

When I paint I need something on in the background to keep my mind ticking over. This has to be something verbal rather than visual as I don't want to keep looking up from the job at hand. My current background is Buffy The Vampire Slayer, which has a nice line in sparkling dialogue amongst other things. I measure painting sessions in Buffys, so a one episode session is one Buffy etc. The whole Japanese thing has taken me through Series 4 and midway through Series 5, so probably 25 Buffys, including a few wasted on other side projects.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Chain of Command Campaign Part Three - 12 Platoon Assault Maltot

Sgt Taylor decided to reorganise the platoon to reflect the casualties taken so far. He put all three Bren teams together under Corporal O’Malley, with instructions to form a base of fire. He then took the two men manning the PIAT and added them to the riflemen, then split the resulting dozen riflemen into two assault sections, each with their own NCO. In support he had his own 2” mortar team, plus a second he “borrowed”. He also had a word with the young Subaltern from 9RTR who were providing support in the form of a Churchill tank. The tank was going to be essential, as they would need the firepower to blast any defenders out of the ruins.

Platzer had fewer problems, but his wounded NCO made sure he would have to both command the platoon and direct the squad. He  had an attached Panzerknacker team, as he suspected the Tommies would bring tanks, and a quickly sown minefield covering part of his front. He also had a Chain of Command dice granted by the scenario.

The terrain was the outskirts of Maltot village. The British would be approaching through the corn, which would provide some cover, but the Germans had the advantage of several buildings – ruins and walls, all providing hard cover.

Things didn’t improve much when it came to Force morale. Thompson rolled low, ending up with 8 FM points, but Platzer rolled high, and with the added bonus of his troop confidence level this gave him a FM of 12, and with it first action in both the patrol and combat phases.

The patrol phase was a disappointment for Sgt Thompson. He had 3 extra patrol moves, but couldn’t get quite close enough to the buildings that marked the outskirts of Maltot. Platzer had his hands full, but managed to ensure the Tommies did not outflank him.

Platzer had the initiative, and deployed three squads, one to secure the flank, a second in the main position on his baseline, and a third forward in the outer buildings.

The British deployment dice were not great, but allowed Thompson to get O’Malley and his Brens into position on the edge of the corn, one of the assault squads and his two 2” mortars set up.

Platzer had learned from his earlier frustrations, and immediately opened fire on the mortar teams. The team on the British right immediately suffered a casualty and broke, the left hand team also was hit and pinned. In return the Brens supressed the Germans in the nearest house, and the Churchill MkIV entered down the road. Platzer tried to relocate one squad across the main road, but they got caught crossing the road and took some casualties.

And then it went downhill. Platzer used his Chain of Command dice to deploy his Panzershrek into an ambush position. The rocket streaked out and struck the Churchill squarely below the turret. The hatches popped open and the crew abandoned the tank as it started to burn. There was a burst of fire from a Bren that shocked the ‘Shrek team, but they were already moving out to another position.

With his support gone, Thompson realised he had to do it the hard way. Under covering fire from O’Malley and his Brens, and covered by smoke, Corporal Peck launched his assault team at the nearest defended house. 

Sadly he misjudged the distance and moved too far - instead of arriving under the cover of the building, his squad found themselves in a vicious brawl with the defenders, being driven back with heavy losses. 

Thompson threw his last assault squad in, and this time Corporal Blair’s team broke into the defenders position in a flurry of bayonets and rifle buts, and drove the defenders out with some casualties. This was the high water mark of 12 Platoons advance. The incessant MG42 fire was causing alarming casualties, and Blair’s squad was isolated, if fairly safe. 12 Platoon was spent, and although Blair was holding out, he could not be reinforced, and lacking of Brens, he could do little other than throw grenades at the Germans in a neighbouring house.
The British were about to withdraw, but then Platzer, in an unexpected twist, tried to push a squad forward, out of cover, but a burst of Bren fire drove them back.

12 Platoon limped back to the start line, what was left of them, bloody and bedraggled. The attack had been repulsed, apparently with ease, and casualties were heavy. Six Tommies lay dead, a further three seriously wounded, and two NCOs were also carrying injuries. On the other side Platzer had lost three dead and two seriously wounded, plus a couple of others injured.

12 Platoon will take no further part in the fighting this day. Looking on nervously, 16 Platoon are called forward.................... 

Another great game of Chain of Command, lots of fun but also a lot to think about. The turning point was when the first assault got too close. The plan had been to move up, and then use the next turn to reorganise, throw grenades and assault after another round of suppressive fire from the Brens. This should have worked, but getting too close meant the melee started before everything was ready and with the assault team disordered from the sprint across the open ground.  

Mark (Geordie) is taking command of 16 Platoon for the next phase, so will his fresh platoon manage to break the German defences? Platzer is requesting his CO release some reserves to him, but will he succeed? Time will tell