Friday, 26 May 2017

StuG Life Part 3 - Winter is Coming!

After all the messing about painting Bubi was pretty straightforward. I've only just started painting winter camo so I took some advice from the lads at Asgard Wargames, who pointed me at some possible techniques. After a few attempts here is the (almost) finished article. Still some minor work needed, and a Commander, but not bad for a first effort I think,

StuG Life Part 2 When is a StuG not a StuG? When it's a Sturmi

So having got the kit ready I decided to get the assembly done. And it was at this point where things started to get complicated. This is NOTHING to do with the Rubicon kit - which is a thing of beauty. What I soon discovered is that the Finns were keen to upgrade their StuGs. This is probably the result of the early encounters with the Red Army when the Finns were still unsure of their new equipment, but they quickly instigated a series of modifications to better suit their needs.

Firstly the Schurtzen side skirts went. I'm not sure if this happened even before combat. I suspect so,  but whatever the reason the Finns disliked them and removed them. They then introduced a number of changes, some minor, some less so. They moved the stowage arrangements around so they were more to their liking, initially moving the spare wheels from the engine deck to the sides of the superstructure. Then they added a new armoured cover to the drivers position, and extra armour to the hull sides, plus some bullet deflectors on the sides of the main gun mount. I find this fascinating because these are clearly the result of the early combat experiences with Soviet Anti Tank Rifles, whose teams were taught to shoot such weak spots, but this is exactly the reason the Germans introduced the Schurtzen side skirts in the first place. I wonder if the Finns misunderstood the reasons for the skirts when they were first delivered? In addition, after further experience in the summer of 1944 the Finns adopted log armour on the superstructure sides, and added a thick concrete to the front of the fighting compartment, giving the Finnish StuG - or "Sturmi" as they called them, a rather distinctive look.

So I got stuck in, and pretty soon had the first stage complete - here she is looking fairly similar to what she looks like now at Parola, with side mounted spare wheels, rearranged track stowage and new scratch built starting handle.

The observant may notice the MG shield is not fitted - funny story that - I managed to fit the wrong roof - oh how I laughed when I realised!

That was also the point when I finally thought through the project and realised I was in trouble. The problem is that the "real" Bubi at Parola is presented as she was when she saw action in the summer of 1944. The problem was  the word "summer". All my other Finnish stuff is in winter camouflage, so to model Bubi in winter would mean adding all the extra bits such as concrete and logs fitted after the battles of summer 1944. On the plus side it meant I could at least swap out the fighting compartment roof.

So after another session I added concrete armour from Green Stuff, and built a new drivers visor to match the one fitted in Autumn 44, plus bullet deflectors etc. The embarrassing roof issue was resolved at that time too. The MG shield had its embrasure opened to allow the fitting of the Soviet DT LMG the Finns used rather than the original MG34, and some log armour added based on some pictures taken in the late summer of 44 I found on line.

Lastly I added the stowage frame which was late German issue but very similar to one the Finns fitted.

No hatch yet as I'm hoping to find a suitable Commander figure.

StuG Life Part 1

I’ve had another one of those projects that went a bit too far. A couple of years ago I backed a Kickstarter by Baker Company run by Gav Tyler. Maybe I’ll go into the details another time but let’s for the moment say it was not a great project. On the other hand I ended up with a large amount of Finnish infantry in winter clothing, which in the nature of things ended up in the “to paint” pile with no particular priority.

Then a couple of months ago I got invited to a Bolt Action campaign. I don’t particularly like BA – I think it compares poorly to Chain of Command, but I thought, if I paint some of those Finns I will be able to use them for both – so I started.

One of the available support options is a StuG. The Finns didn’t have the capacity to build their own tanks, instead relying on captured Soviet tanks, plus a limited supply of StuG III Gs bought from Germany. I did a bit of research on-line (if Google can count as research) and I discovered the excellent Finnish Armour in WW2  website. This has some great photos and details, including individual histories of some of the StuGs. I’m a sucker for this sort of thing, so rather than just having a generic StuG, why not have a model of a real one? Logically it seems a good idea, so I chose Ps 531-10 " Bubi  "– which also happens to be the top scoring Finnish StuG with eleven kills. Bubi still exists at the Finnish Armour School at Parola, and there are plenty of pics so how hard can it be?

This seemed like a good idea at the time, so with eyes wide shut I launched myself. Memo to self – think it through next time!

There are a number of StuG III models available in 28mm, but in the end I chose the Rubicon Models version because it seemed to offer plenty of options. 

I have to say this is a superb kit that covers just about everything I needed - at least at first glance. 

Friday, 19 May 2017

DropFleet Commander Battle Report Part 5 - Set Condition Brown!

End of Turn 2 - Scourge Frigates taking a beating......

Turn 3 -
Turn three saw a serious step up in the action. Both sides moved their squadrons forward, with the Southern Scourge Nickar Group homing in on a solitary PHR Strike Carrier, with the "Northern" group moving up to threaten the central objective.

The reprieve of the Scourge Troopship was short lived. The PHR Frigate squadron attacked, crippling the Troopship, and she was finished off by a wave of bombers even though the Scourge tried to bolster her point defence with a swarm of fighters. In return the Frigates were destroyed by a combination of fire from the advancing Scourge Carrier group and the Flagship, assisted by fire from the now active Station.

The Scourge Ifrit burned a hole in the PHR Troopship that was heading towards the central objective. At that moment there was a (insert sound effect) as the PHR Battleship unleashed its massive Dark Matter Cannon - the Ifrit staggered, and was ripped apart by crippling internal explosion - one shot, one kill! The Scourge Admiral went to "Condition Brown" :-)

Friday, 12 May 2017

Carry On Admiral - Feldherr Maxi Case for Dropfleet Comander

My football team Hartlepool United got relegated last week. This was something of a disaster, but there was one little ray of sunshine. As we were playing the team challenging for the championship, and as we hadn't won in about eight games, the bookies were offering good odds, so more in hope than judgement  had a little flutter. We won, but still got relegated, but I was suddenly fifty quid better off. Rather than drown my sorrows I decided to put the ££ to good use and get a Feldherr case for my Dropfleet Commander Scourge.

I'm a confirmed Kaiser Rushforth case user - I have maybe twenty in a mix of card and aluminium, and on the whole I'm happy with them, but they don't do anything suitable for Dropfleet. I've struggled on with some pick and pluck trays but they were a bit naff. There's no real chance of KR ever making any more cases for Hawk products as they seem to have suffered an "irretrievable breakdown of business relationship" or something like that. That being the case I thought I would give Feldherr a try as they have just released a DFC range. Details are here

I ordered direct on Sunday evening, and went for the standard "Maxi" Scourge set, and it arrived this morning so I thought I would share my first impressions.

Here it is - hiding behind my assistant Bella with a standard KR Card case next to it

and without

The internals consist of one tray to carry Battleships, plus four Cruiser \ Frigate inserts each holding three Cruisers and up to six Frigates, and two trays for launch assets. (see edit below) At the moment there is no tray to carry Corvettes, but by happy coincidence I noticed the UCM Frigate tray looked like it would hold those bat winged Nickars - so I took a risk and ordered one, and happily it works rather well.

So back to the actual product. The foam feels comparable to KR. The slots are cut very clean and hold the Scourge ships well enough - even some of my cruisers which were built with the wings spread wide fit with a bit of a squeeze as you can see above. The outer fabric bag is very nice, with a lined interior, carrying handle and optional strap. All rather German in efficiency.

So my initial thoughts. Very nice. What it appears to lack and causes me some concern is robustness. My KRs, both card and aluminium get a lot of regular abuse but the contents are safe. I can't be sure that will be the case here. On the other hand it is VERY light and easy to carry, which can be important.

How about cost? Difficult to compare with KR but the Feldherr Maxi plus the spare UCM tray cost £56 including postage (actually postage was free as the order was over 60 Euro) which is more than a KR card (£37) but less than a KR aluminium of similar capacity (£60) .

I'm happy so far, and will probably get the equivalent one to carry my UCM, but will probably have to find another source of funding as I don't think Hartlepool United are getting promoted soon.

******Edit There are five NOT four cruiser inserts, so the total capacity is 2 Battleships, 15 Cruisers or Battlecruisers, 30 Frigates and 60 Launch Assets. Swapping out one Launch Asset tray gives you 30 Launch Assets and 11 Nickar Frigates***********

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Dropfleet Commander Battle Report Part 4 - Opening moves and first Casualties

Our first turn saw the Scourge bring on their Troopship group and a Nickar\Gargoyle Hunter\Killer (HK) group. The Trooper headed straight for the nearest Space Station, the Hunter Killers for the northernmost Communications node. The PHR brought a Frigate group and one of their Troopship groups and moved forward towards their nearest Space Station - everyone dropping to low orbit in preparation for the assault landings next turn. No-one had any viable targets due to scan ranges so there was no combat, and no Command Cards were played on turn one as we couldn't decide if the Fleet Commander had to be on table to do so. Something to look up later.

  Turn 2 Saw the arrival of the Scourge Admiral in his Shenlong class Heavy Cruiser and his escort in the centre, plus the second H\K Group south. The Troopship changed course a little to bring it into a position to assault either the Station or the ground cluster. In the North the H/K Nickars swung in at high speed towards the enemy in the centre and dropped into atmosphere. On the other side however there as an ominous sight of the Heracles lumbering on to the table with an escorting ECM Frigate, plus another Troop carrier group. The Frigates moved straight on to try and hit the Scourge Troopship with their burn-through lasers, one using the "Active Scan" order, however this didn't work as the Troopship used a command card to launch Chaff, temporarily reducing its signature to zero and dropping off scanners.

The Scourge also played a nasty "Abandon Hope" command card which caused the PHR to discard a command card at random. The two Scourge Charybdis Class Bombardment Frigates were forced to fight as standard warships, and suffered accordingly, with one Charybdis and one Harpy being destroyed in an exchange of fire with the PHR Frigates. At the end of Turn 2 it looked like the Scourge had a narrow advantage on the ground, having control of one Communications cluster and a Station but were in trouble in space.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Dropfleet Commander Battle Report Part 3 - The Scenario - where all the careful planning falls apart!

So with both sides set we now needed a scenario, and we picked Scenario 8 at random. Defence Relay - Oh Dear!

This is an attack on an interlinked Defence position, with a lot of potential ground fire PLUS the added complication of a pair of orbiting space stations - heavily armed ones at that. This threw a spanner into the works for me as my main landing group was configured to assault surface targets, NOT orbital ones. Even worse, this scenario uses a "Column" approach, where each player only has two battlegroups available on turn one, with the others arriving on turns 2 & 3. One effect of that staggered entry was that the players need to make a decision about their order of arrival - do you send in the light and fast units to try and grab objectives early or push the heavier units forward first and risk finding your opponent already hunkered down around the objectives?

Here is the table set up ready to go. Again we have not finished our Space Stations so a pair of old Ground Zero Games  stations from their excellent Full Thrust range were dusted off and pressed into service -  in need of a repaint and some new bases I fear. Here is the table laid out and ready for the game to start. I should add the star mat - or rather night city mat is from Deep-Cut Studios and is made from neoprene (mouse-mat) material that rolls up into a carrying tube - very nice and highly recommended.

The Communications clusters (red) are "Critical Locations" which score bonus Victory Points, as are the two stations (blue), but the Military "clusters" (green) have some serious defensive capability. This leaves the players with some interesting choices. Scourge are entering from the left, PHR from the right.

So next time, we actually start rolling dice :-)

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Dropfleet Commander Part 2 - The PHR "Orca" Fleet

It seems my opponent Paul had also not quite caught up on his painting schedule, so his killer whale themed fleet still had some gaps. He was fielding his hugely impressive Heracles Class Battleship, but he didn't have any Corvettes, which put him at a severe disadvantage in atmosphere when faced with my Nickar Hunter Killer groups.

This is his list

pelagic - 1490pts
PHR - 8 launch assets

SR16 Flag battlegroup (322pts)
1 x Heracles - 285pts - S
   + Director (80pts, 4AV)
1 x Calypso - 37pts - L

SR20 Vanguard battlegroup (360pts)
1 x Bellerophon - 180pts - H
1 x Bellerophon - 180pts - H

SR12 Line battlegroup (315pts)
1 x Orion - 107pts - M
2 x Medea - 78pts - L
1 x Orpheus - 130pts - M

SR7 Line battlegroup (213pts)
1 x Ganymede - 135pts - M
2 x Medea - 78pts - L

SR4 Pathfinder battlegroup (200pts)
4 x Pandora - 200pts - L

I'm no expert on PHR ships or their roles so I'll not speculate too much. It looked like I had a minor advantage in launch capacity, and a big one in atmospheric combat, but nothing that could remotely be expected to slug it out toe to toe with that Battleship.

As you can see, he was using the "drinking straw" method of Battlegroup identification, which I'm happy to go on record as saying is utter genius.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Dropfleet Commander Battle Report Part 1 - Scourge

Ok I don't usually do battle reports. Truth is I am both crap with a camera and would rather spend the time playing rather than taking pics, so what follows is a rarity....

We've sort of let Dropfleet slip down our agenda over the last few months. In truth this was partly because of the c*ck-up Hawk made of the Kickstarter delivery. Frankly we didn't fancy playing at clubs and shops when there was still a lot of folks waiting for their toys - didn't feel like having to field the questions to be honest, however since the KS has now finally ran it's course and everyone has their stuff, and because I enjoyed demo'ing it at Salute, we thought we would give it a try.

Between our last game and now the game has advanced (matured?) quite a bit, particularly with the introduction of Command Cards, Battleships, and at the other end of the scale, Corvettes. All three have or will alter the "meta" and the game is rather different with them. Sadly part of the lethargy has included not painting the substantial fleets I have, so having decided to play this evening I spent an hour or so rush painting my spiffing new Nickar class Hunter Killers using the methods I described back in the Sheet Metal Age here , and there was zero chance of getting my Scourge Battleship ready on time.

In the end here is the fleet I decided to take - incidentally this was generated by the excellent Dflist program available here - highly recommended!

May Day - 1498pts
Scourge - 11 launch assets

SR13 Vanguard battlegroup (319pts)
1 x Manticore - 190pts - H
3 x Djinn - 129pts - L

SR15 Vanguard battlegroup (280pts)
1 x Shenlong - 170pts - H
   + Fleet Overlord (100pts, 5AV)
1 x Ifrit - 110pts - M

SR12 Line battlegroup (344pts)
1 x Hydra - 140pts - M
1 x Hydra - 140pts - M
2 x Gargoyle - 64pts - L

SR9 Line battlegroup (259pts)
1 x Chimera - 105pts - M
2 x Charybdis - 70pts - L
2 x Harpy - 84pts - L

SR4 Pathfinder battlegroup (98pts)
3 x Nickar - 66pts - L
1 x Gargoyle - 32pts - L

SR4 Pathfinder battlegroup (98pts)
1 x Gargoyle - 32pts - L
3 x Nickar - 66pts - L
------------- -------------

To quickly explain the two Vanguard Groups would perform slightly different functions. The Mantichore \ Djinn group is a close combat brawler and the other was (hopefully) going to allow the Ifrit to spike enemy ships for the Shenlong to target using a weapons free order . I like the Ifrit - as you can tell from this earlier post. The first Line Battlegroup is basically a pair of Hydra Class Carriers with two Gargoyle Strike Carriers (Light troopships) attached, with the intention being to leave the Hyrdas at the back of the fleet where they can reach out with their fighters, while the two Gargoyles operated independently to grab ground objectives. The second Line Battlegroup has the main troopship, plus a pair of Charybdis class Frigates. These are specialist ground bombardment units. A pair of Harpy class general role Frigates rounds off the group. The theory here being the combination of heavy troopship and bombardment would make taking larger ground objectives easier, and the Harpies could provide limited support and protection. The last two Battlegroups contained my newly painted Nickar Hunter Killers. These are specialist atmospheric attack ships who in theory would prey on enemy Strike Carriers trying to drop troops to the surface, which would leave the attached Gargoyle free to grab objectives - that was the plan anyway.

Here's a slightly blurred pic of the fleet before we kicked off. I'm using the clip on Battlegroup Indicators designed for Dropzone by  Dark Ops . They're really useful for Dropzone but I suspect I will be moving over to the "straws" option for Dropfleet.

Next time - the opposition - Space Whales!

Saturday, 6 May 2017

On being a Dick

So when does a game become bad for you, or bring out the worst?

I ask this because recently a friend and fellow blogger had a bit of an incident playing Bloodbowl and "lost it" because of his dice rolling. He's realised he stepped across a boundary and to prevent further instances he's sold off all his Bloodbowl stuff. His take on this is here pileofshame - and well worth a read.

The guy isn't a Dick, any more than any of us are. He's an affable and friendly sort of guy, but somehow the game got under his skin and made him act like a Dick. So why? And let's not pretend we don't all have those moments. I have seen tantrums, rages and dummy spitting that beggars belief, and have also been a perp too - in fact I can be a real Dick to play when the stars are wrong. In our club there is a now legendary story of a gamer getting so annoyed at his army that he scraped the lot into the bin! What makes this happen?

Is it something in us, or the game itself? Actually I'm sure its a bit of both, but there was a discussion about the way Bloodbowl in particular is based on a system of testing to fail, with the game being decided not so much by tactics but by a series of dice rolls, with a fail ending your turn. It follows that one turn in six will simply be a total disaster because of one dice roll - the first. Dreadball is better in that it actually rewards success, and even abject failure usually isn't a cataclysmic loss.

Is it the "sports" element - and buy that I mean the competition? All games are competitive, and all gamers are competitive too. I've met many who say they are not, but the truth is they are deluding themselves (or attempting to delude you!). Somehow "sports" games seem to emphasise that. Maybe it's something to do with their being a clear focus on points \ goal scoring  - a game of Impetus or similar Ancients mass battle rules set will not be decided by the roll of one dice or the performance of one unit, the victory goes to the player who uses his troops best overall. Sure you CAN lose by getting a General killed off by a fluke result, but those are so rare as to be memorable. Similar fails in Bloodbowl and most sports games happen just about every turn.

Is it just we gamers are competitive by nature and that some times we lose sight of the big picture and forget to play nice? Actually I think some guys ARE just cheats who twist the rules to breaking and beyond, but they are thankfully few and far between. I suspect there are many more of us that manage to conveniently forget the rules or add a few inches to a critical move in the heat of the moment, and hopefully feel remorseful about it later. Again for clarity I must admit to doing something similar in the past (clearly not now, I'm more relaxed and balanced - No Sir not me anymore.......)

Another issue is, just how far should you go with being open? I've seen and played several games where "things aint what they seem". "Oh I forgot to mention that's my General" or those peasant skirmishers with bows are actually elite Javelin men, or my "favourite" which happened to me in a Flames of War tourney - you need to kill 2 platoons to break a Company and win, bit the opponent is fielding multiple companies and wont identify which platoon is from which and only he can tell the difference.  Is that cheating? In all honesty I think it is.

Lastly, and probably the most difficult to address, is the dreaded "Rules Lawyer" who plays the rules for loopholes and exploits them, or the list maker, who exploits a weakness in the list writing mercilessly. Again I've done both in the past. This isn't cheating but its hardly fair and gentlemanly play either.  It is particularly galling as the players involved are all not only grown up enough to know better but are good enough players to win without it.

So to get back on topic, why do we sometimes lose it and act like a spoilt child, and what can we do about it?  My friend disposed of the offending game - I hope that works, even if I would question if it was the game or something else at the root of the problem.  I don't have a good answer, but when I realised I was slipping down that route I bought a hat. It's not very flattering and makes me look silly.  I now take it with me to tournaments and wear it to remind myself that its only a game and not to take it too seriously. So far it works, at least mostly.

I'll finish with a quote from Micheal Jackson - not someone I would usually take advice from, but in this case maybe it is appropriate.

"If you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and make a change".