Monday, 26 January 2015

Brigade to the Rescue! DZC Bunkers (3)

Happy to report my search for a budget bunker for DZC has finally borne fruit.

Tony Francis and Brigade Models are one of the more established companies in the fringe of sci fi wargaming. They have quietly and reliably been producing their ranges for over a decade and have a large fleet scale "Full Trust" compatible starship range, a rather nice line in 15mm and 6mm sci fi, and they were doing the whole Victorian SF thing years before all these Johnny come latelys with their glossy books and expensive boxed sets. 

Tony & co have recently been dabbling in 3d printing and have started to digitally remaster some of their 15mm designs, and damned impressive they are too.

When I started playing Dropzone I was eyeing up their 6mm buildings and wondering if they would work for DZC, but they were just a bit too small. Needless to say I (and I'm sure many others) dropped some hints, and Tony has just obliged with some 10mm scaled versions of their 6mm Sci Fi  Desert Buildings range. Initial releases follow the 6mm range quite closely, so what you get are fairly low buildings reminiscent of Tatoine, but with some modern \ sci fi touches. Of the initial releases one immediately caught my eye - a building going by the modest title "Small Dwelling #1"  . This seemed to fit most of my requirements and was priced at the princely sum of £1.75 ($2.62USD) each. I ordered five on a whim to see what they were like "in the flesh" . After all, they could always be used as other buildings if they turned out to be unsuitable for bunkers, and the whole order including p&p came to £10.75. A few days later they arrived, and I'm a happy little troglodyte!

The first thing I should mention about them is the size. You get a fair brick of resin for your £1.75. Detail is simple but sharpe. They are styled as a simple building with one fairly heavy duty door, no windows and a domed roof. The squat shape and buttressed walls all combine to give them a no nonsense ferro-concrete feel. I was not so certain about the dome, but I can live with it.

As I said I have five, so there are plenty of options to think about paint schemes. For the first I have settled on a weathered concrete \ grey scheme, which I think helps enhance the "bunker-y-ness". I'm planning on picking up some decals at York next week to number them up and add to the sci fi feel, and I suspect these will also benefit from some urban style graffiti in due course. Here is Bunker 1 with a Bear to give an idea of size.

I'm rather happy with these, so much so that I am ordering some more from the range in the near future. The real treat will be if Tony decides it is worth continuing to reproduce the 6mm range in 10mm I will be first in the queue for a 10 mm version of the Vtol Airfield and the Docking Bay  to name a few

Sunday, 25 January 2015

DZC Bunkers (2) Wall to Wall

My search for affordable bunkers for DZC continued.

One early option was simply to use a card marker to show where the entrance was. The problem with this is it can easily get lost in the general clutter of the table, and looks naff. I discounted that.

So my next idea was to buy some more affordable 10mm wargames bunkers. This idea immediately floundered on the sad fact that I couldn't find any! Or rather the ones I could find were not to dissimilar in price to the ones from Hawk. Most of the available ones I could find either were too "Atlantik Wall" or didn't fit the bill in other ways, including the actual price. Hawk's set of five bunkers are £35, ie £7 each. I was looking for a significant saving, otherwise you may as well buy the Hawk version, so buying something for £5 that wasn't quite right wouldn't work.

One option would be to have a massive self build session. I thought about this - after all the shape I was looking for would be reasonably simple to cut from 10mm or 15mm hard foam. Possibly? In the mean time I stumbled on what has proven to be a reasonable interim solution - AT43 wall sections.

AT 43 was a 28mm Sci Fi miniatures and rules system by the French company Rackham. The hook was pre painted miniatures. In truth they were not bad at all, but Rackham had some production and supply issues and ended up choking themselves into receivership. They sold the infantry in units of 6-8, with vehicles (usually walkers) etc in singles. Most units were packaged with a piece of terrain, a shipping container (incidentally these are brilliant and now command silly prices on ebay) or some wall sections - a bit like Armco barriers about 2" long and an inch high, with two firing slits in them. I ended up with a fair few of these lying around. One of them was sat on the work table when the "bunker" mood was on me, and it got me thinking.......... in another scale, would it work as a bunker?

This seemed to be a possible winner, but it would need some doors. I quickly grabbed some pictures of blast door type doors I have on the rather spiffing "7TV Set Creator" and shrunk them down to the required size, printed them on stickers and stuck them to the walls. The results were (are) I think not too bad - or at least usable - this one has a radar dish added from the spares box.

A long way from perfect, but not bad for minimal outlay, and I do have quite a few available. At least until I find a better solution..........

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Duck and Cover, Protect & Survive. Bunkers for Dropzone Commander (1)

I love Dropzone Commander. I love the dynamics, the mainly urban setting, the way each unit has a function. Well, almost. There is usually one unit that sits sad and alone in the box while the rest of the army is out there strutting it's stuff - the flamethrowers. Whether it is Mechits, Tormentors , Flameblades, or FireWagons, the specialist flamethrowers are, well, just too specialist. Yes they are the bees knees at clearing buildings, in fact my Tormentors have yet to fire a shot in anger as the enemy has always abandoned any building when they saw them approaching - pretty much the same effect Churchill Crocodiles were often reported to have had in WW2. The problem is that nine times out of ten the same overall result can be achieved by pounding the target building with standard weapons, or demo capable weapons, until it just collapses. The big advantage of this approach being the units involved can also do their normal stuff. Even against hardened targets, you are usually better off shooting them with tanks rather than including the specialist flamethrowers who are pretty useless at anything else.

Except for the Bunker Assault Mission. One of the missions in the Resistance expansion involves assaulting and holding five key bunkers. The name sometimes confuses players because they think of them as fixed defensive positions that units can fire out from, something like the bunkers on Omaha Beach,  when in reality they are simply the extra hardened entrances to deep underground facilities - think Cheyenne Mountain, MIB HQ or Der Fuhrerbunker. Troops in these cannot be targeted by normal weapons, you either assault them at bayonet point, or use those over-specialised flame units to kill defenders by filling the tunnels with your particular flavour of insidious death - acid, napalm, gas or whatever (Fort Drum Redux).

The Bunker Assault mission is very different from normal missions, and gives a refreshingly different style of game, particularly at tournaments and games days. The problem is you need 5 bunkers. Hawk do a Bunker scenario pack, One of our local players has a set, and I had a good chance to fondle them  and very nice it is too, containing 5 identical bunker entrances.

Like all Hawk products they are exquisitely detailed, but the set is £35. That is a large expenditure on something only used rarely. Worse, if you are organising a games day you need a set of 5 per table, so even a small event with 8 players would require 20 bunkers, or £150 expense. No Tournament Organiser can do that without official support, so the Bunker Assault mission gets rarely played.

I like Bunker Assault, so I have been looking for cheaper ways to allow it to be played on a budget. Next post will show some options.........


Monday, 12 January 2015

If you go down to the woods today you better not go alone - 'cos theyre full of Rangers

Just a quick update - I realised when posting the earlier piece about the Canadian Militia that I hadn't shown the completed Rangers.

As I mentioned in an earlier post I bought a "British Wilderness" starter force from North Star Miniatures. It consisted of 16 Rangers, 6 Indians, and an Officer, supposedly enough to build a 200 pt force.

I was pleasantly surprised at the figures which had a lot of character and painted up well - at least by my standards.

Here is the finished product - advancing out of the forest with the Indians scouting ahead

and a closer shot of the Rangers.

I'm quite pleased with them - more so when I discovered that by upgrading the Rangers I can actually stretch a supposed 200pt force to 300pts. Another positive is that although technically a French & Indian Wars unit, they can also double up as Queens Rangers for the American War of Independence, another bonus.

I'm enjoying building a force and playing Muskets and Tomahawks - just completed our third game now and all have been fun, which is a very good sign. Recommended

Sunday, 11 January 2015

I didn't want to be a barber anyway........................

I'm still treating Muskets & Tomahawks as a "side project" for 2015, something to get completed quickly then ready to play in the gaps between "real" projects.

I've completed the British Rangers force (pics to follow) and I need something to use against them - step forward Wargames Factory American War of Independence Militia!

I ordered a box of these after getting a look at the sprue my regular opponent Paul had picked up. I was rather impressed, or at least impressed enough to part with £20 of my hard earned cash. They duly arrived and I remained impressed, in fact if anything my enthusiasm stepped up a notch. These are very versatile figures. OK technically, they're the wrong war, but I'm guessing styles of civilian dress out in the woods of North America didn't change too much between the 1750s and 1770s.

The box has three figure sprues plus a sprue of bases. Each figure sprue has 10 figures on it, 5 in fringed hunting shirt, 2 in long jackets, and 3 in shirts, along with a wide selection of arms, plenty of muskets, rifles and tomahawks, and three head types, a tricorn, round hat, and a Liberty cap - basically a woolen bobble hat. It was this last head that caught my attention because I had recently been flicking through the Blandford book on the Seven Years War and in there is a plate showing Canadian Militia. The text associated with it says the only piece of uniform issued to the Canadian Militia in French service was a woolen hat - pretty much identical to the "Liberty Cap" in the Wargames Factory set. The colour indicated which Militia the troops belonged, white for Trios Riviere, red for Quebec, or blue for Montreal. That will do nicely. Canadian Militia in M&T are quite effective troops, being recruited from the local population of Woodsmen, Trappers, Traders and err Lumberjacks :-) . They will make a nice opponent for my British Rangers.

I stuck the figures together - not as easy as it first would seem as the arms had to be different for the fringed hunting shirts so there is not as much variation available as first impression. The main "miss" in this set also became obvious - no pistols, just one per sprue would have been nice. Heres 20 given a quick undercoat.

I tried to make sure there were a fair few "Liberty Caps" in there, mainly on the figures with fringed shirts.

I then looked up pics of buckskin shirts on the net - and was rather surprised to discover they were a lot brighter colours than I imagined. I was in a bit of a rush so I quickly painted up a group of 8 (the Militia unit size) using a selection of tan and sand colours on the buckskins, plus the ubiquitous blue bobble hats - basically they're Smurfs! I gave them a coat of GW wash and touched them up a bit to highlight - I'm not the greatest painter and I'm happy enough with the result, particularly at "table distance".

What really struck me was just how versatile these Wargames Factory figures are. You can use them as Militia for both sides in the FIW, or as intended in the War of Independance. I intend to paint a second unit of Canadian Militia , then form up another generic Militia unit out of the rest of the box - or rather I suspect I will pick up another box just to give me the options - so much for a side project :-)

Saturday, 3 January 2015

CentreParcs it's not - FIW Buildings

Still tooling up for Muskets & Tomahawks.

In addition to the normal troops the game requires a number of buildings to defend or burn down, and sometimes some civilians to get in the way.

We have been checking out the buildings options. As usual nowadays there is a plethora of laser cut mdf buildings. I don't like laser cut mdf. With a few exceptions you seem to get buildings that look like square boxes, and no end of dressing them up helps. If you want to get a really good result you have to do what Richard Clarke of Lardie fame does, and use the mdf as a shell to be detailed. I appreciate they are fairly quick and easy to build, but they seem to me to be disproportionally expensive for what you eventually get - unless you do a TFL special on them, in which case you would probably be better off starting from scratch. Compare the Perrys plastic buildings with similarly priced mdf options and you would have to be a very big fan of the omnipresent smell of scorched mdf to choose anything other than the Perrys.

Then we stumbles across a rather nice, if a bit esoteric choice for early American Colonial architecture - 1:72 Russian log houses from Pegasus Hobbies.

Ok I had to admit being a bit sceptical when I first read on line about their suitability, however we have bought some and they're really good. Although supposedly 1:72 they fit well enough with 28mm figures. The detail is good and the plastic is a nice and sturdy, no nonsense thickness. Here's the contents laid out for inspection.

This is the largest of the Pegasus options - a 2 storey "Ibza". The kit went together very smoothly and without incident - I've left the roof unattached so you can place figures at the windows. I'm considering adding an internal floor to the upstairs. The walls are well detailed outside, with some rendering on the inside too rather than your usual blanks.

Here's the kit complete, with a Wargames Factory Militiaman for scale.

Cost including p&p through ebay was less than £13. Hopefully I will get this painted up soon. The only issue I have is the little flourish on the roof ridge beam, but I think that will not be noticed or will be easy to fix.

So I'm looking at the other two sets in the range, plus the Perrys buildings, and they should see us through.