Sunday, 28 December 2014

Gruntz - Polish air support

Air support has arrived too. I liked the near future vibe, and I think its reasonable to assume in the future we will keep the current trend for stretching the service life of aircraft by refitting avionics etc. With that in mind I did a bit of googling. It seems Poland is currently looking for a new attack helicopter, with the Eurocopter Tigre, Mangusta and Apache all in the running. I ruled out the Apache, too instantly recognisable, that left the Tigre or Mangusta. I have a couple of Mangusta models in 1:100 that I picked up from a partwork a few years ago, and currently there is a partwork magazine on sale in Italy that includes a 1:100 (15mm) Tigre in German colours, so I ordered one on ebay, and some Polish aircraft decals from Pendraken. Not 100% certain which will win out yet, and I'm trying to avoid doing a full repaint but we will have to see. Here's the Tigre - still in German markings but should be pretty easy to swap for Polish. I suppose I could mess about replacing the rotors with some tilt fan engines but I don't know if it would be worth the trouble, and if I leave it as it is I can always use it to double up for a real Tigre should we decide to do some ultra modern games in future.

Vehicles are still an issue. I have some Old Crow models that I really like and will fit the APC and Scout roles, but I'm still short a tank. The Old Crow Sabre looks like an option, but I may be tempted to try and use something different like a wheeled chassis.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Gruntz Campaign - New Vistula Legion

We have been planning a little sci fi campaign using the Gruntz rules for a little while, hopefully to kick start in the New Year. I had originally intended to use GZGs "Crustie" aliens in 15mm , but was also hankering after something a little more mainstream - in fact I was pricing up some GZG Colonial Militia for the Christmas sale, when while browsing through ebay I spotted a lot of about 60 painted Oddzial Osmy (O8) miniatures New Vistula Legion, and made a pretty low bid. Much to my surprise, I won. The figures duly arrived, and I was rather impressed.

Here's the group shot of the platoon

O8 are a Polish manufacturer more well known for their 3mm scale Pico Armour, but they also have a small but comprehensive New Vistula Legion sci fi range, which as the name suggests, are a near future \ sci fi Polish faction. A quick look confirms that they are inspired by the modern 21st Century Polish infantry - they have similar helmets and equipment. The assault rifles could easily be modernised versions of the Radom rifle the Poles are adopting, however the SAW is pure Aliens "Smartgun" . The figures themselves are beautiful; nicely proportioned and posed, with some very nice detail.

Here's one of the fire-teams, which are currently deploying as five men with a SAW attached

The ebay seller said they were painted - and they pretty much were, and whoever did them had a good technique - far better than me nowadays. I wasn't too happy with the armour plates and helmets which had been left black - either by design or because he had got fed up with them (we have all been there) so I quickly painted them with green armour and gave the guns a little grey highlight to brighten them up a bit.

The bases were interesting. They came based, or rather stuck to what I initially assumed were very thin steel disks as they were magnetic (bonus). On closer examination the stuff they are based on is not steel at all but something flexible but magnetic. As the figures were all individual and I needed some doubles for specialists etc I peeled some of them off the bases planning to put them on 2p coins (cheaper than washers and still ferrous!). As soon as I started I realised the 2ps were going to be far to thick in relation to the other infantry and would look odd. I was about to order some 2 cm steel disks when I thought - why not try plain magnetic paper? I had some stiff magnetic paper I had used to hold figures in boxes. I dug some out and cut 2p sized discs of it, based the figures up and they look fine. The sand & pva helps give the magnetic paper rigidity.

In our Gruntz campaign these are going to be my core infantry. I'm going for reasonably mid to low tech, so no energy weapons, just projectile weapons and missiles, but the troops themselves being seasoned. Here's my heavy weapon teams, an anti tank missile. HMG and mortar.

Gruntz has a lot of scope for Specialists that can add some additional capabilities to your troops, and also some sci fi flavour. Here's the NVL Medic, Commander, and ECM Specialist Teams.

"My" NVL will also be using a fair amount of recce and scout units. This is a pair of recce specialist teams and a Sniper team.

Lastly there is a squad of Long Range Recce Patrol \ Spetznaz types. These have very high skills \ morale but are lightly equipped.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Happy Painting Season!

Merry Paintbrush and an Happy Palette to you all!

Yup now is the time to take a few hours out from the turkey, get your paints out and have a few precious hours catching up on your lead and plastic mountain. Hopefully during a repeat of Zulu

I've decided to aim low this weekend, so if I can get my Muskets & Tomahawks 200pts complete I'll be a happy man.

All the Best

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Plucky Little Belgium (4) Late war fighters

The last of my collection of Belgian fighters are far more "serious" and are more than capable of taking on any opponent.

First up, the Hanriot HD1. Another French "reject" the HD1 was a bit suspect after the Ponnier debacle, but in this case the suspicions proved unfounded. The HD1 had lost out to the SPAD and Nieuport 17 for French orders, but served both in Italian and Belgian service where it was found to be a nice and capable little fighter with good handling. Coppens modified his to take an 11mm Vickers gun for use in Balloon Busting. There is an "official" Wings of Glory HD1, but mine was bought from Shapeways before the WoG one became available, and I'm quite pleased with it.

The last of my Belgian fighters is a Sopwith Camel as flown by Jans Olieslagers. Its straight from the box Wings of War Series 1 model.

I still have a couple of models to collect for my Belgians, SPADs and N17 to name a few, but these will have to wait a bit while I get the backlog of other models painted.

Plucky Little Belgium (3) Early Fighters, some more dangerous than others..................

Belgian Fighters

First up one of the prettiest and fondly remembered fighters of WW1, the Nieuport 11 "Bebe". This was a plane loved by its pilots and respected by the enemy. The Bebe is as close to strapping an engine and wings on a pilot as you are likely to get. It was tiny, and light as a feather, and had a single fixed forward firing Lewis machine gun firing over the propeller from the top wing. It was one of the Entente types that ended the "Fokker Scourge" and won back air superiority for the Entente. It also had a profound effect on aircraft design. In Germany, the novel sesquiplane layout, where the bottom wing was thinner and staggered back to improve pilot view was copied by Albatros for their DIII design, which went on to devastate the Entente in Bloody April 1917. The Albatros also inherited the N11s fragile lower wing, which was not such a problem on the lightweight Bebe but was a critical weakness on the Albatros which was prone to wing failures at high speeds.  The Bebe also influenced the Entente designers who saw the success the lightweight N11 was having, and drew the wrong conclusion that nimble rotary engined lightweight fighters were the way forward. Belgium managed to get hold of some N11s as the design was starting to be replaced in French and British units.

 The model is another Shapeways 3d print, and it is a lovely little model full of character just like the original.

Next up is one of the most dangerous fighters to see service in WW1 - The Ponnier M1.

The Ponnier had been rejected by the French Airforce because it was too dangerous to fly. French Ace Charles Nungesser, a man who by any standards had ice water in his veins, crashed one in testing, was seriously injured and refused to get in one again - this is a man who flew under bridges for fun and had coffins and skulls painted on the side of his planes! The problems were mainly lateral stability - the M1 had short stubby wings which made rolling rather easy, but the tiny one piece rudder meant it was far too easy to lose control, and an engine that tended to overheat thanks to a miss shaped nose cone that restricted airflow over the cylinders. The French then offered them to the Russians, who with foresight declined. Belgium was desperate for fighters and sent some officials to France to buy SPADs. The French were very apologetic but had none spare, but would our allies and fraternal cousins like some of these Ponniers we have available? Belgium ordered 30. Belgian Ace Willi Coppens found out about the deal and went ballistic. He was a friend of Nungesser and lead a concerted campaign to get the Ponnier grounded. Ten were delivered and after some heavy modification which may have sorted out most of the problems a few saw operational service for a couple of months until replacements could be found. Most Ponniers however had their wings removed and were used as training aircraft to teach pilots how to taxi.

I love my Ponnier. The model is another 3d print from Shapeways. In Wings of War \ Glory the M1 performs well enough - quite fast and not too bad in the turn, and all the more fun to see the look on your opponents face when he tries to work out just what he is facing.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Plucky Little Belgium (2) A few steps forward, and a few back

More on my forray into the Belgian Airforce in WW1

As the war wore on it became clear the Belgians needed new aircraft

Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter. Belgium was in dire need of some more modern planes, and received "spare" Strutters from both England and France. This is one of the English sourced ones which were 2 seaters, the French supplied versions (licence built) tended to be single seaters with the weight saved allocated to bombs. The pics of the original show the RFC roundel was hastily overpainted and I have tried for that effect here. Yet another Shapeways model.

Next the RE8. This is an "official" Wings of War model, and the cause of much heartache. The RE8 was supplied to Belgium by Britain as a replacement for the ageing collection of F40s, GIVs etc. The RE8 was at best an obsolete design when it entered British service, by the time it arrived in Belgian hands it had a reputation as an easy kill. The reasons are pretty simple. The British "Higher Ups" thought that an airplane should be stable and easy to fly so that the crew could get on with the important stuff like leaning over the side taking photographs. They built the RE series to do just that, and ended up with slow flying planes that could not evade any enemy that came looking for them. Even worse the RE8 turned out to be flimsy and a bit of a handful to fly, being prone to stalls and badly balanced so that there was a warning on the side that said something like "It is dangerous to try to take off WITHOUT an observer or counterweight in the rear cockpit". The Belgians did try and fix this by replacing the engine with a more powerful Hispano-Suiza. This helped boost speed a bit, and made them far less dangerous to fly. The problem is that Wings of War produced the RE8 in Belgian colours they decided that rather than remodelling the front end with teh Hispano engine they would leave it the same as the RFC version, but remove the prominent exhaust stacks. This leaves the model as a bit of a deadloss - if they had left the stacks you could still use it as an unmodified RE8, but as it is it looks nothing like the Hispano engined Belgian RE8 and also looks wrong as an original. Oh Well.

Luckily Shapeways do an Hispano engined RE8 so I'm hoping to pick one up to show as a comparison.

Next - Fighters!

Monday, 8 December 2014

According to Douglas Adams, its a swear word.

I am of course speaking of Belgium

As alluded to in an earlier post, I quite like the underdog when playing WW1 Dogfights, and there can be no greater underdog then good old "Plucky Little Belgium"

Belgium was definitely the runt of the litter as far as WW1 Entente air-forces went. The problem was that she had almost no aircraft industry of her own, and half the country was overrun by the Germans in short order. Belgium therefore had to scrape and scratch her Aviation Militaire Belge together from what she could obtain from her allies, and as we shall see, this wasn't always top notch. I have a small but growing Belgian contingent for Wings of War.

I'll concentrate on the two seaters first before moving on to the "interesting" subject of fighters

Here's my first Belgian - a Caudron GIV of Escadrille C74. This was an interesting unit in that it was a joint Franco Belgian squadron organised to perform photo recce duties. The model is a 3D print from Shapeways and the decals are from Dom Skelton, crew from Peter Pig. The Caudron GIV was a fairly useful if slow and vulnerable plane. Probably more at home on "Catch the Pigeon" than the Western Front, but lack of suitable replacements meant this obsolete design served a long time in front line service.

Next is another "pusher", this time a Farman F40. This is "Medusa" which served with the Aviation Militaire, again on recce duties. Several Belgian F40s were painted in individual colour schemes similar to the nose art associated with WW2 US bombers including skulls, Chaplain, some nudes and Medusa. Being a bit photogenic there are several pics of these available on line. Another Shapeways 3d print (actually the first I bought and painted). Like the GIV the F40 was overtaken by events and was quickly obsolete, but served on in Belgian service for a long time simply because there was no available replacement.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

If You Go Down To The Woods Today....

My weakness of mind was again highlighted last Saturday at the Battlefront Show in Stockton. I was helping out doing demos on the Hawk stand, when I was suddenly taken by a stupid and irrational urge to start a new period.

Typically the seeds had been sown by an old gaming friend Mark Hadman as we talked about gaming trends, and generally bemoaned the state of the gaming world. High on our agenda was the problem of finding opponents and opportunities to play games we wanted. Both of us had come to the same conclusion by different routes - that we had to diversify and play games that are popular, even if we don't particularly have a lot of enthusiasm for them. In passing Mark mentioned he had played Muskets & Tomahawks, and that it was a good, fun and easy to play game.

I never held a lot of enthusiasm for the black powder period. To me, Napoleonics may as well be a funny sort of three coloured ice-cream. the American War of Independance & French Indian Wars also were low on my hit list, although I did enjoy playing Andy Callan's superb "Loose Files & American Scramble" rules. However, Mark's comments also happened to coincide with another club member (John) wanting to play AWI. John has been trying to whip up interest for a year  or so without success. It seemed like maybe I could tie both these threads together, so after some cajoling I also roped my regular opponent Paul in, and we set of to see Dave Thomas to do "a deal". After the usual horse trading cash changed hands and we walked away with a couple of boxes of Perrys AWI ,  some Wargames Factory AWI Militia, and a North Star British Wilderness Starter Force for the FIW. Clearly our planning and coordination were not what they should be as when we finally sat down to assess our haul of plastic and lead we discovered we had forgotten the French!

Part of the plan is to get these painted and on the table fast, so I immediately got to work on some Indians, assisted by loaning a copy of the BBC series "Last of the Mohicans" with Phillip "Dont tell him your name Pike!" Madoc playing Magua, and here they are ! Not the greatest paint jobs but they'll do for me

Six down - still need basing etc bit not a bad start. That leaves me with 16 more British Rangers and an Officer to paint, so watch this space


Thursday, 4 December 2014

Six years old again

I was "working" the Battleground show in Stockton this weekend doing a demo on the Hawk Wargames stand. Just after arriving I took a stroll around and there, looking up at me from a box of plastic kits, was a bit of my childhood.

It was an Airfix 1:72 Scale Series 5 Handley Page 0-400. This always held a special place in my heart. I think the kit was released somewhere in the late 1960s. When I was a young boy my grandfather would walk me to the newsagents on a Sunday morning and buy me an Airfix kit, which we would solemnly assemble that afternoon. I must have gone through hundreds of kits, but two always stick in my mind, the Sunderland and the HP 0-400. The reason for this is that these two were both on the top shelf behind the counter, and importantly in the section of the shop that doubled as a Post Office. Post Offices were shut on Sundays, so even if I got the chance at a Series 5 (not that it happened often, I was usually restricted to Series 1&2) we couldn't buy it because the Post Office was locked up.

I must have spent months staring up at the box, which showed the HP being attacked by a number of red Fokker Triplanes. The box was enormous, and being out of reach made it even more special. I could go to the shop through the week, but only on Sunday with Grandad, so I never managed to get one...sob!

The kit was re-released in the 1980s in a lacklustre red stripe box. Sadly at this time I was doing the sixth form \ university thing and my mind was elsewhere. It was released again in 2012 but the box was wrong, I needed the original or nothing at all. On occasion I have seen them on ebay bit they go for silly prices.

Anyway, a small amount of haggling later and I was the proud owner of my very own HP 0-400!!! The chap said he thought it was complete bit couldn't guarantee it, but at that point I couldn't care less, it was mine.

So I have it in front of me now.

I can say I feel pretty happy when I look at it. Its great to finally get hold of something you dreamed of as a child, and it brings back some lovely warm memories of my halcyon days with my Grandad. I also have to say the box must have shrunk, because it used to look huge to my childs eyes.

I've opened it, and yes, I think it looks complete, and looking at the number of parts (167!) this is no easy build kit - I shudder to think what me and Grandad would have made of it back then if we ever had managed to get it out of the Post Office.

The thing is, should I try building it, or is it better to leave it as it is as a memento? I'm tempted to do the latter. Sometimes it is good to have unfulfilled dreams, and it wont be the same without Grandad