Tuesday, 25 November 2014

2015 and all that (1)

GZG have announced their Xmas deal, the weather is starting to get really cold, there's only a few contestants left on Strictly Come Dancing, so it must be that special time of the year beloved of all wargamers, when we make plans and wild promises as to what we will be playing next year.

So far I have committed to more Dropzone Commander, a once a month Impetus meet, ditto Formula De,  a Chain of Command campaign in the Desert, and now a 15mm Sci Fi campaign using Gruntz, plus the carried over "Wastelands" \ Fallout skirmish.

In reality maybe one in three of these projects will actually bear fruit, some of the others will make it half way then get put on the "maybe later" pile, while others will be quietly shuffled into the gaming long grass. Part of the fun is finding out what. This time last year we were all tooling up for a 7TV campaign which came to nothing, even though everyone who played enjoyed it. A similar fate befell our VBCW plans. Of course another joy of wargaming is how quickly you can reheat a project, so maybe 2015 will see the Battle of Greatham (1938)?

Meanwhile my current planning is centred around Gruntz & DZC. We have a skeleton Gruntz campaign written, and four cautious expressions of interest, so roll on January !

Thursday, 13 November 2014

More Plastic Goodness - Zvezda A13 Cruiser Tank in 1:100

Mark - aka Geordie in Exile seems to enjoy winding me up.

Earlier this week he forwarded an email from PSC announcing they had the Zvezda Art of Tactic A13s available, along with some comment along the lines of "I may have to start looking at 15mm". This was something of a red rag to a bull as I had been extolling the virtues of the new generation of cheap 15mm to him for years but apparently to no avail. Maybe the emails all got sent to his "spam" folder?

As it happens I was waiting for this particular little model to land here in the UK. Zvezda's release schedule is still dominated by the requirements of their "Art of Tactic" game, rather than the requirements of us wargamers. Art of Tactic is a crossover board game with units represented by plastic models. The problem is that they use 1:72 for infantry and guns, 1:100 for tanks and vehicles, and 1:144 for aircraft (or 1:200 for larger aircraft), all priced at around £3.00 for a unit. This is something of a "curates egg". We get good quality 1:100 (15mm) tanks at a very reasonable price, but for us there is also the disappointment in knowing that the guns will never arrive in the "right" scale. The other interesting point is that Zvezda have been rather random in their releases, because they are concentrating on the Art of Tactic game rather than looking at the wider wargames market, they're producing models the mainstream wargaming companies would not look at in plastic, and the A13 is one of those.

OK the pedants will immediately cry out "thats not a Crusader!" and of course they would be right. However given the confused situation of British Cruiser Tank naming, I can understand how Zvezda  may get the Cruiser Tank Mk IV (A13 MkII) confused with Cruiser Tank MkVI (A15). It is a Mk IV, but you could make it a IVA with a minimum of work (cut the coax Vickers and replace with a slimmer Besa) or at this scale just not bother!

The kit itself is very simple and consists of 2 sprues with a total of 7 parts (plus the flag bit that is only used in Art of Tactic). The plastic is a little bit softer than what you would get from Airfix or PSC - I suspect this is to allow the "snap fit" to work.

Initially with Zvezda I didn't glue them, but last week my cat Otto (Carius) knocked a box of them on the floor and though there was no long term damage there was plenty of bits popping off, so this one got some Liquid Poly to hold it together. The assembly instructions are on the back of the box

It took less than eight minutes to clip the parts from the sprues and assemble them. The sprues were 100% flash free. Detail is very fine - a feature of many of the AoT kits and as a result they lack the overscale features we come to expect from mainstream wargames models. This is most pronounced in the 2Pdr gun barrel, which is very thin and fine, and has about a life expectancy of a few minutes on a wargames table, so I plan to replace it with some plastic rod before it gets painted, and the tracks and running gear which are frankly superb. The down side is like all AoT tanks there is no way to model them with an open hatch, which is a bit of a disappointment, and the smoke dischargers usually seen on the right hand side of the turret on tanks in a combat area are missing - but that last would take about a minute to fix with a bit of plastic rod..

Proportionally and dimensionally the Zvezda kit looks spot on, and captures the look of the real thing really well.

All in all a great little kit and well worth £3.00. Let me put that into perspective. Flames of War will sell you their multi medium (resin and plastic) version for £8.00. You will get the option to have an open hatch and a commander, but saving £5 a tank is damned attractive. QRF also do an A13 MkIV at £6 each, and Skytrex for £6.50, but still, thats twice the Zvezda price.

Well worth picking up if you want to do either France 1940 or the Early phase of the Western Desert campaign

Tuesday, 11 November 2014


Today is Armistice Day, when we remember the dead of wars and the sacrifice they made.

However it is important we remember the whole story. We can't for a moment allow this to be hijacked by groups seeking to push their own agenda. That's why this is wrong

And this is right

But nor should we allow the glory myth to mask the truth about the sacrifice, or the PR suits to hijack it. The RBL have produced a sanitized version of The Green Fields of France by Eric Bogle. In it's original form it is a beautiful, haunting and thoughtful song that highlights the sacrifice and futility of war, in the new RBL version its a pop ballad featuring some abstract posing by Joss Stone, with the last verse, the one that makes you think, removed.

'Ah young Willie McBride, I can’t help wonder why,
Do those that lie here know why did they die?
And did they believe when they answered the cause,
Did they really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the sorrow, the suffering, the glory, the pain,
The killing and dying, were all done in vain.
For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.'

I believe sometimes there is such a thing as a Just War. There is no such thing as a clean one. If we forget that, we're dooming our children, and insulting our veterans and those who sacrificed their lives on our behalf.