Sunday, 15 June 2014

Chain of Command Supports (2) Ready to Roll \ Rapid Fire

Not the Dinky Diecast Daimler Dingo's (DDDD or 4D?) I should add.

These are a pair of Bren Carriers and a Humber MkIV from Rapid Fire \ Ready to Roll range, pic also shows the "de-crewed" Valiant 6Pdr. They were bought because they are supposed to be closest to Valiant Miniatures in size \ scale. The static grass is still loose btw and needs work, and there is a fair amount of decalling and detailing to be done if I can be arsed. I think the Carriers are OK but the Humber is still too small for my liking. I'll still use them though.

I would add the Ready to Roll stuff is OK. Less work required than to build a plastic kit, but at the expense of detail and the fact they have a solid resin base. I think they are a stepping stone between the old metal wargaming products (Hinchcliffe \ Skytrex etc) and the new plastic stuff (PSC). They come ready with stowage so all you need do is paint them.

The whole scale \ size thing drives me to distraction. While I appreciate that the height of a man may vary from person to person, the length of a Lee Enfield, or a Bren Carrier on the whole does not. You would therefore assume that getting a suitable scale model would not be too much of a challenge. The problem is we have become used to accepting "20mm" and "25mm" as a scale, which they are not. Valiant are the worse culprits, being too big for "20mm", too small for "25mm" and certainly not 1:72 scale, which is what they say on the box. I should follow that up with some more on Valiant as I have a love\hate relationship with them that is probably worth a few lines and even if not helpful or enlightening to the reader it will probably be cathartic for me :-)

Friday, 13 June 2014

Inspired by St Richard of Larde.......More supports for Chain of Command

Inspired by Mr Clarkes series of articles on Lard Island News I've "invested" in a pair of second hand Corgi Juniors Daimler Scout Cars from ebay - cost me 99p plus £2.80 p&p. The plan will be to paint one up for North West Europe and hang on to the second for the future when we start in the Desert.

What really puzzles me is the bloody Bren gunner. I had one of these as a kid and IIRC the Bren gunner basically fell out and got lost if you looked at it funny. The ones I have here the gunner is firmly attached even after what must be decades of use!

I suppose I should also mention the other thing I picked up - again for 99p. This King Tiger is in 1:60 scale so should match in (sort of) with my Valiant Germans. It was released as part of a part works by Del Prado but it didn't last long. They did a Stuart, Churchill and T34-85 too, but these tend to go for more excessive prices. It will need a bit of work but you cant be robbed for 99p (plus £2.50 p&p)

Pondering the 6 Pdr again - a bit of a rethink

Hmm - decided to reduce the crew to 2 with the gun and the others on separate bases.

I've been doing a bit of research and found this excellent page on Nigel Evan's Royal Artillery website - which I've always treated as Gospel whem looking at British Artillery  It gives a pretty full explaination of who did what and where in the six man gun crew on a 6Pdr - well worth a read, but here for the impatient is the "back of a postcard" version.

No1 - Gun Commander - this is a Junior leader in Chain of Command so I need to keep him separate from the gun should he "cop one". His position would usually be a little away from the gun anyway - close enough to call targets but not too close as to get under the gunners feet.

No 2 is the loader. He would be positioned on the right of the gun breach close enough to load (dur)

No 3 is the Gun Layer - this is the guy who aims and fires the gun, His position is immediately to the left of the breach behind the shield where the sight is. I don't think there is a seat on the 6Pdr as most pics show him straddling the trail. I suspect it I had known this before assembling the model I could have got him in quite close to his real action position, as it is he looks ok

Nos 4&5 are around to help pass ammunition to No 2, and help move the trails if needed. This is pretty much the equivalent of "holding the coats" in a bar brawl, so they can be based separately.

Lastly No 6 would act as 4&5 or could be the "Link Number" who would relay the orders from No 1 to No 3 if for some reason No 1 needed some separation

Chain of Command allows an anti tank gun to function normally until down to 2 crew - although without the Junior Leader they will be disadvantaged. This makes me even more certain that I should reduce the crew on the gun base to 2 - No 2&3, and have the rest based individually. At least that way it will be easy to know when the gun is in trouble - when I run out of "spare" Numbers!

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Chain of Command - Supports start to arrive

I can't keep up with Geordie in his phrenetic painting schedule Geordies Big Battles , but his recent foray into providing his Soviets with some anti tank support has spurred me on to do the same for my British.

I dutifully dug out and painted my Valiant Miniatures 6Pdr & crew and gave it \ them some paint.

I'm of the opinion you need to base the guns and I've had a bit of an attack of indecisiveness. In CoC the 6Pdr has a five man crew plus and NCO. Basing them and the gun seperatly was causing me mental wobbles. The gun needs to be based because if it is not and the crew are then the crew will be several mm taller than they should be, but having the gun based would mean you could not get the crew in and around the gun.

Real ATG crew (not 88s who do their business from a long way away) tend to spend their time in action rather distant from the gun, with only the gunner himself in position, and everyone else hiding then jumping up \ running in to reload or whatever. This looks a bit strange on a wargames table, where we have become used to seeing everyone crowded around the gun. "Real" pictures of 6Pdr anti tank guns in action are hard to come by - mainly as at the time everyone would be rather busy, however here are a few culled from the net that I hope illustrate the point. Interestingly all but the second show show three crew at the gun, in very similar positions, so I think this is the way forward next time.

After much mental anguish I based four of the crew with the gun and left a couple of spares. I think with hindsight this is actually the worst of the options and I may rethink it. Fortunately the Valiant 6Pdr is a pretty cheap set so this isnt going to be a big loss.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

WW1 Dogfighting - Repaints, Decals and 3D Printing

As I mentioned in an earlier missive, the "official" Wings of War \ Wings of Glory models are usually rather nice (not the Sopwith Triplane - more on that later possibly) but they don't cover all the aircraft wargamers would want, and even when they do, they sometimes do them in some strange colour schemes.

Sometimes the solution is easy - want a Red Baron Albatros DIII in all red, just get the Brumowski DIII and overpaint the skull - job done (well in theory - in practice finding one now at a reasonable price is rather hard because they were all bought up and repainted...) However some easy conversions are possible just by adding some decals - step forward the talented Dom Skelton and his little on line shop Dom's Decals

Dom provides a series of self printed water slide transfers for use on various scales and themes, including WW1 planes where he does generic national markings but also some unit specific sets that allow you to create squadrons or Jastas. Dom also supplies the official WoG models at very reasonable rates and is highly recommended.

I should also mention an ebay shop I have used - 1:144 Direct, who also have a line of nice decals.

Using these decals for the first time can be a bit daunting as they are a single sheet that needs to be cut out, not individual decals like you get with Airfix models, and they do take a bit of preparation and care in applying - RTFM is recommended, but you can get some very nice results.

Lastly - what about aircraft that have no models at all? Look to the Future - 3D printing! I vaguely understand how this works, but to all intents it may as well be magic. Shapeways offers a 3D printing service that while it has its issues, shows how this really could revolutionise gaming miniatures. There are hundreds of WW1 models available and the prices are quite reasonable. I could write a tome on the subject, so I think I will save that for the next post, but if in doubt have a look again at this Albatros to see what they are capable of

Friday, 6 June 2014

Liebster Awards - and my nominations are..............

If you read my blog you may get the impression I'm a bit of a sceptic :-)

In that light the Liebster Awards can be reasonably described as a "self congratulatory chain letter" as my mate Paddy said. After all it's just bloggers plugging their blogs, and let's be honest the whole act of Blogging is a bit suspect anyway - sort of standing on a box on a street corner shouting "listen to me", "this is what I done \ think" etc. It's all a bit Narcissistic really so maybe the best thing is not to take part............

But hey, I'm a blogger, and all the above probably doesn't bother bloggers too much because in the end they think they have something worth sharing, otherwise they wouldn't do it in the first place! The interwebs are a wonderful place and there is space enough for everyone.

So here are my Liebster Award nominations, in no particular order

Dropzone Commander - Orbital Commander's Blog -
Deserves many plaudits for being beautifully produced (makes me hang my head in shame) and has some great content.

Next up, its a bit reciprocal, but I have to mention Geordie's Big Battles -
Geordie is a bloody prolific churner out of "stuff" - frankly I don't know where he gets the time or energy, and unlike me, his "stuff" looks rather nice. He deserves a mention for his enthusiasm and dedication, not to mention his painting skills. He's also rather a nice chap "in the flesh".

Chris Kemp's "Not Quite Mechanised" blog is next.
Chris has a rather unique view on wargaming and his dedication to NQM is most worthy of recognition, as indeed is any blog with a section entitled "Men in Hats". He is also one of the nicest persons I ever played a game against, and his AK47 armies and terrain are legendary.

Derek's Wee Toys What can I say about Del? Well firstly he's another ex AK47 stalwart, and I have to say he hammered me at Brixworth a lifetime ago, but I don't hold grudges - no sir. Derek has been doing blogging and net stuff since God's dog was a pup, and the quality of his pages are second to none. He's also something of a celeb in that he managed to get kicked off TMP for talking sense! Well worth a visit.

Lastly - and I know I will get in trouble for this as I'm sure it has more followers than the Liebsters allow, but I couldnt find a counter so that's my defence M'Lud  - Lard Island News
The Lardies have been steadily ploughing their own furrow for years and are now starting to get recognition for their innovative and interesting take on wargaming and particularly modelling the "friction" of war. Great blog with some beautiful terrain.

So there you have it - my 5 blog nominations. Hope you like them

Thursday, 5 June 2014

WW1 Dogfighting - More from the Two Headed Eagle

My Austro-Hungarian collection for Wings of War currently looks like this

Hansa Brandenburg CI

Workhorse if the K.u.K. Luftfahrtruppen as an artillery spotter or reconnaissance plane, The Hansa Brandenburg was an utterly unremarkable two seater which served throughout the war. Mine is painted in the early war red & white combination which I think looks rather nice. The model is a 3D print from Shapeways, with a PeterPig pilot & gunner.

Next up chronologically is the Fokker AIII, which is basically a Fokker EIII in Austrian service. The model is an "official" Wings of Glory one.

Austria tried to design her own fighters, with mixed success. This is the Hansa Brandenburg KD1 (sometimes called a D1). It was a rather interesting design by a very young Ernest Heinkel who had the idea that by strengthening the struts he could do away with a lot of bracing wire and therefore reduce drag. In this sense he was years ahead of Anthony Fokker, who did the same thing with the Fokker DVII in 1918 and was called a genius.

Heinkel decided to do this by a rather strange arrangement of struts as shown on the model, which accounts for one of the KD1s knick names "Star Strutter". Sadly this innovation was overshadowed by a couple of design flaws. Firstly the rudder was a single piece and rather small. This gave the KD1 an unpleasant tendency to lose lateral control and err.....crash. The second problem was armament. Germany initially refused to allow Austria to produce licenced interrupter gear for the machine gun, so as a stop gap they mounted a Schwartzlose machine gun on a fairing over the top wing - in a similar fashion to the way many British planes has a Lewis gun mounted. Sadly the Schwartzlose has a couple of problems not least of which was it had a canvas belt feed system, which if it got damp or wet would either freeze at altitude and jam the gun, or the belt would stretch and jam the gun. Even with these two rather hefty handicaps (see the pun?) the D1 was still quite fast and sturdy, and proved a reasonable fighter, particularly as later models had a much enlarged tail surface and the final batches had true interrupter gear so they could mount the gun more efficiently. Model is again Shapeways, pilot PeterPig.

Far more conventional is the Aviatik (Berg) D1. The D1 is another home grown fighter, but unlike the KD1 this was a reasonably competent dogfighter from the start. This is a standard Wings of Glory model, clearly demonstrating why the pre painted aircraft models have a market as trying to paint that hex camouflage would put you off for good.

Last of my current fighters is the Phonix DIIa. The DIIa is the last of the Phonix fighters to see active service and was a fast and agile airplane capable of holding its own against all comers. This is another 3D print, and is in the colours of the Naval Aviation unit that was tasked with defending the fleet - something of a throwback to the red-white-red wing stripes seen at the start of the war.

My last aircraft is the UFAG C I, another Wings of War\Glory model, and again demonstrating the joy of pre-paints. The UFAG was a rather good general purpose 2 seater which served in the last year of the war

And a group shot

I'm hoping to add a Floatplane in the near future - once I get out of my painting rut


Monday, 2 June 2014

Nominated for a Liebster Award

Which sort of has me puzzled as I didn't know what it is

However, consulting the Gods (or Google) has provided me with some basic details and I'm happy to say "Cheers" to Mark - aka Geordie in Exile for the honour

Actually "happy" is not the right word. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I'm a bit prone to bouts of skepticality, which I blame on life and geography. There's a saying that if you boil a Geordie down to his essence you would find a cheery friendliness, but if you boil a Teessider down to his essence he wouldn't be the bit surprised at all. I'm not ready to own up to being from Teesside yet, but much of that applies. In fact I''m a MonkeyHanger and a lifelong supporter of Hartlepool United and this has left me with some fairly low expectations of what life has to offer, and I'm often not disappointed. Well, I am, but not surprised by it, if you see what I mean........

However I'm also aware that not everything that comes through the letterbox is a bill, so with that hopefully positive thought I will press on and answer the questions associated with the Liebster strain sent to me by the nominator


Why did you start blogging?

Curiosity mainly, and I suppose the vanity that somewhere someone may be interested in what I say, do and think, at least as far as wargaming goes.

If you could change one thing about the wargaming hobby, what would it be?

Internet forums.

What is best in life?

Mrs R. Sometimes I also think crushing your opponents under your boot, raping their cattle and stealing their women is fun too, in a gaming sense. Or driving down a road on a sunny day with "Bat out of Hell" on the radio, or that first sip of beer that you have waited for all day. But the wife is probably the best thing in life for me.

Fame or fortune?

Fortune. You cant buy happiness but you can get a better class of misery if you have a lot of money. Actually a moot point as I dont expect to get either.

What miniatures are you most proud of having painted?

Hmm - interesting. Some time ago me and my mate Steve got silly with a little competitive painting and we painted some Old Glory 15mm French Infantry as a whim - or it may have been for one of those Big Battalion scale games from the guys that wrote Empire. As each time we produced a couple of figures to show to each other it became clear that we were working rather hard at beating each other. The end result was a beautiful 72 figure battalion of French Ligne. Only problem was there was a big flaw in the rules which was that although they purported to be something like 1:6 figure scale they used a variation of the Empire system which meant that to all intents you were playing 1:60 so we binned it, and the French went to a collector in the US.

How do you deal with burn out?

Do something else then come back

Why is a raven like a writing desk?

I dont own either so cant really comment

Star Wars or Star Trek?

Star Wars. I think Trek is interesting as a reflection of American self image, but to be honest neither is actually any good are they - really?

If you could only buy from one miniatures company from now on, which one would it be?

Interesting \ silly question. Ten years ago it would have been Peter Pig, because I was a big fan of AK47, and thought the Peter Pig 15mm were superb - still do. Problem is that as I get older my eyes are starting to fail and I cant see well enough to paint 15mm like I would want to, so maybe Perrys because they do some great stuff and its big enough for me to see

What is your favourite takeaway?

Currently either the "Asian Special" pizza from our local, or a nice curry

So there we go. Normal service will be resumed as soon as I'm sure what normal is

WW1 Dogfighting, and the influence of popular fiction

As I mentioned, I have a small but growing collection of Austrian, or rather I should say Austro-Hungarian aircraft for WW1 dogfighting. This is mainly down to the inspiration of Otto Prohaska, as told in the rather interesting and entertaining series of  books by John Biggins, particularly his "The Two Headed Eagle". Otto Prohaska is a retired Austro-Hungarian Naval officer living his last days in a nursing home in Wales, who retells his adventures to a kindly nurse and odd job man through four volumes, all worth while reading just for the beautifully researched and constructed background.

All four books are a jolly good read but the first "A Sailor of Austria" which introduces Prohaska and tells of his career as a U-Boat Captain is particularly good, as is The Two Headed Eagle, which by convoluted means takes him to a secondment to the air-force, where many adventures ensue. Recommended.

Prohaska also gives what is to me the most sobering reflections on our little hobby. When told by a rather rabid enthusiast that was interviewing him in his nursing home that he was one of the last surviving persons to have had the honour and privilege to have taken part in the Great War in the Air, he replies.......

"If you really want to know what it was like, to fight in the air in the Great War, then go up to someone you have never met before and who has never done you the slightest harm and pour a two-gallon tin of petrol over them. Then apply a match, and when they are nicely ablaze, push them from a fifteenth floor window, after first perhaps shooting them a few times in the back with a revolver. And be aware as you are doing these things that ten seconds later someone else will quite probably do them to you. This will exactly reproduce for you ...........the substance of First World War aerial combat.........."

Sunday, 1 June 2014

WW1 Dogfighting (2) - Albatros, Get your Albatros here!

As Monty Python may have said

I have a pretty reasonable collection of Albatrii

I'm not sure why I liked them, but it turns out I do. Here they are in chronological order - which is strangely the reverse order they were released by Nexus \ Ares

First up the DII. This is the machine which created the myth. Not overly fast or maneuverable  just fast enough to be a bit faster than the opposition, and mounting for the first time a pair of fixed MGs, the DII cut a swathe through the RFC and French Air-force. Almost all the great Aces cut their teeth on this plane, and bothe Boelke and Immelman died in them. This is my DII, in Austrian colours (something which will be a bit of a repeated theme)

Next is the DIII. This took the already nicely streamlined DII and developed it, with a better engine. The designers had also seen the Nieuport 11 with its sesquiplane layout, where the bottom wing was thinner and staggered a little back, which improved agility and visibility, so they copied that on the new DIII. This gave the struts a new V shape, and resulted in the British knick-naming them "V Strutters". The problem was they had not factored in the reduction in strength this also involved, and DIIIs inherited the N11s problems of breaking up if they dived too fast or suffered damage. Nevertheless the DIIIs were superior to just about anything the Entente could field, with the possible exception of the Sopwith Triplanes of the RNAS , and it is the DIII that created "Bloody April".

Showing off its gimbal mount - basically a ring magnet and a ball bearing which together allow the plane to be posed banking and climbing - and very neat they are too

DII and DIII showing changes to wing shapes

and strut design

The DV was the last of the Albatros D types to see service, and like a TV series that has been let run a bit farther than it should, it was a bit of a disappointment. The designers tried to streamline the DIII more, and mounted a bigger engine, but the extra weight involved made the DV only incrementally better than the DIII, and it also inherited the problem with the fragile lower wing. It proved not good enough when the Entente introduced their new generation of fast fighters like the Spad XIII and SE5A and suffered accordingly. In the game the DV was in the initial Deluxe Set and was pretty much mister average. It was faster than the Fokker Dr1 but slower than the Spad, more maneuverable than the Spad XIII but not as good as the Camel. When it was first released I tended to play Entente anyway so I stuck with the Camel, but I played it a bit since and it is OK, but nothing special.

DIII with the slimmer, faster DV

And there it should end except..........

At a fairly early point I also developed an interest in collecting the minor powers rather than the Brits, French and Germans, and one I settled on was Austro-Hungary. The mainstream view, if they are thought of at all, is they were a bit of a sad sideshow, relying on the most part on cast off German designs. There is a bit of truth in this. Old Austria was a rural \ peasant economy that on the whole could not hope to compete industrially with its opponents, even Italy. They did give it a good try however, and had a little bit of an advantage in that they had an excellent engine manufacturer in Austro-Daimler, even if they could not produce a lot of engines, what they did was usually rather good. While they produced some strange and interesting aircraft they were rarely competitors. However, OEFFAG bought the rights to produce the Albatros DIII for Austrian service. When they arrived they took a look at the technical drawings, shook their heads and got their pencils out. They strengthened the wings, made some streamlining changes and fitted progressively more powerful Austro-Daimler engines instead of the German Mercedes. This produced a plane that showed just what the DV should or could have been, fast and sturdy and was widely regarded as a first class fighter that continued to serve in several forces after the war ended. In Wings it has pretty similar stats to the DV but climbs better and can soak up a bit more damage, making it rather an effective fighter.

Nexus don't do a Oeffag DIII - actually thats only half true, they did produce a model when they were releasing the DIIIs that was labeled as an Oeffag, but it was simply a repaint of the German DIII so not really correct. Coincidentally the colour scheme chosen was for Brumowski's all red one, which was to all intents identical to Richthofen's last all red DIII but with an additional skull painted on,  so everyone bought Brumowski's plane and painted over the skull. Modern technology came to my aid here as this is my Oeffag DIII made as a 3d print by shapeways - lovely model and a pleasure to paint - more on that later

The Oeffag DIII and its more pedestrian German cousin the DIII

Finally, the family portrait