Monday, 28 August 2017

Blood Red Skies Models (4) Yak 1

Continuing this look at the Blood Red Skied models. As before these are pre production resin models not the plastic ones we will get with the release. Pics are on a 1cm grid so details are blown up quite a bit. Additionally I have not cleaned them up in any way so there are still some pour lines and flash that I expect will not be on the production models. OK having said all that, here is the Yak 1

Err – as far as I can tell this is very good! Of course this may be due to my lesser familiarity with the Yak - (Airfix only made a Yak 9). Dimensions and proportions are spot on (ok I suspect the fuselage is a little too thick but you really wont notice it). Detail is the same as the other BRS models – ie over scale panel lines but the overall effect is very much a classic Yak to my untutored eye. This is the early model Yak 1 rather than the late version with the bubble canopy and cut down rear fuselage, which may be very welcome just as another source of 1:200 models.

Interestingly there is a lot of detail on the bottom too.

The Yak series bear a very close family resemblance to each other but most of the later versions have the bubble top canopy so you cant really use this model for the later Yaks without some serious whittling. Then again the Yak 1 soldiers on into 1943. I really like this model :-)

Next the Zero

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Blood Red Skies Models (3) The Spitfire Mk II

Here is a look at the second model planned for the Blood Red Skies WW2 dogfight game from Warlord Games, due out some time around Christmas. The Spitfire MkII

As with the Me109E, these are pre production resin models NOT the plastic ones that will eventually be released, so bear that in mind. Also remember in the pics that follow these are blown up to a size much larger than the original. The model is shown without any cleaning up or trimming, again the production plastic ones are expected to be much cleaner. The grid is 1cm to help give you an idea of scale. So without further delay....

The BRS Spitfire MkII has the same excellent proportions and over scale panel details as the 109.

Unlike the 109 the cockpit canopy and windshield frame don’t look like they are made out of scaffolding, so far so excellent. One minor niggle (because I so wanted this to model be "right") is that the rear part of the canopy has a raised bar running along its length when the “real” one has none*. If you don’t know about it you probably won’t notice it, but to me once I saw it, it sticks out like a sore thumb. You may be able to carve it away with a sharp knife if it bothers you. As with the 109 I think this is a result as much of design requirements as anything. I suppose you cant have everything.

*Actually there IS a frame across the top of the rear canopy, but it is internal rather than external, so in my view ideally shouldn't be there - ah well.

Other than that this is a quintessential and very good model Spitfire from the Battle of Britain era. Like the 109E however it would be difficult to pass it off as a later mark as these had very prominent 20mm cannons and the associated “bulges” over the breaches. The Mk II never saw action against the Zero (at least not as far as I am aware), but Mk Vs did. It is a beautiful and evocative model of a beautiful and evocative machine.

Next we're heading East for a look at the Yak 1

Edit: The gents on the Wings of Glory Aerodrome spotted an interesting fact. The wing has a bulge outboard of the landing gear blister (the bulge in the upper side of the wing that helps house the landing gear). This is exactly where the cannon breach bulge would be on a MKV (yes the one I called "very prominent" above). This is very much a "curates egg" as it shouldn't be present on the MkII but it does mean converting this to a cannon armed Mk V by simply adding either brass or stretched sprue barrels, which extends the usefulness of this model quite a bit. Thanks to Oldguy59 for the spot.  

Friday, 25 August 2017

Blood Red Skies Models (2) Me109E “Emil”

So moving on to a closer look at the Blood Red Skies models from Warlord Games. Just to repeat the earlier caveat, these are pre production resin prototype models NOT the plastic ones that will eventually be released, so bear that in mind. Also remember in the pics that follow these are blown up to a size much larger than the original. The grid is 1cm to help give you an idea of scale. The pics are of the models before clean-up so there are bits of flash that will need removing, but that should not be an issue with the plastics (Warlord plastics tend to be very clean)

First up the 109E, iconic fighter of the Luftwaffe through the Battle of France and Battle of Britain and which soldiered on into the Russian campaign.

Dimensions and proportions are good to 1:200, taking into account this is a model designed as a single piece gaming model that will be expected to take a lot of handling. I think the model captures well the angular clipped appearance of the Emil.

There is a lot of inscribed panel lines, which given the size of the model are going to be very over scale, however I suspect these will make painting much easier, which gets a thumbs up from me. The cockpit frame is also over scale, and I’m not so keen on this as it looks like it was made out of scaffold tubes. I’m also not convinced about the shape of the cockpit panels themselves, the last (rearmost) panel in the real 109 was triangular, this one is nearly square, a product of the “scaffold tube” effect which does look a bit strange, as does the front. I’m hoping this will be less noticeable when painted.

BRS 109 canopy

Real 109E canopy

Having said that, how much of that will be noticeable once painted and on the table is open to debate, and of those who do notice it, I would guess not many will care.

The Emil is the perfect opponent to the Spitfire MkII and was still in service (in the process of being replaced) when Operation Barbarossa began in July 1941, so will match up with the Yak-1 as well. It is therefore a great choice for the launch of BRS.  It is not so great as far as the US opponent in the initial release goes. By the time the P51D arrives in mid 1944 the Emils were withdrawn from front line service so they can’t really be used against each other. I cant imagine why the P51D is in the first release at all, when a P40 would have been a valid choice for the US, even assuming that was needed, but that's what is happening. The 109E is also physically quite a different shape to the main versions that followed it, the F & G, which had different (rounded) shape to the wings and tails so it will not be so easy to pass this model off as anything later without squinting quite a lot. I certainly would not.

All in all this is a very nice model of a 109E except for one minor glitch that 90% of the gaming population will find of zero interest. The other 10% (me included) will probably paint it out.

Next, the Spitfire MkII.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

As Public Image Limited might have said “This is not a review” - Warlord Games Blood Red Skies aircraft

OK disclaimer \ apologetic explanation for some of what is to follow. I'm a fifty something year old English man. That means in my childhood and formative years I didn't have computers or any real technology. Children's TV consisted of an hour of Bernard Cribbins reading a story followed by guessing which of three or four stuffed toys or dolls would be hiding behind the Round Window. I had a football, bike and Airfix to fill my time. These were the heyday of the Airfix model, Hornby trains, Warlord and Commando comics and parents and grand parents from a generation who had understood and in many cases directly experienced the war.  I became almost intimately and obsessively familiar with the Spitfire, Hurricane and to a lesser extent the Me109E.  I built models of them, hung the models from the bedroom ceiling (with the Spit always just about to shoot down the Hun of course) saw pictures of them all the time, and on a few rare but joyful occasions saw them flying. They occupy a unique spot in my memory, even today, and I still avow there is no more beautiful machine than an early Spit. They are in many ways my first love. and one that has lasted.

I should also add I have no affiliation to Warlord Games. This is also not going to be one of those reviews we see in some places that gushes with enthusiasm no matter what the product. I'm too old and cynical for that.

Ok now that's over with I hope it explains some of the comments that follow in subsequent posts, because there is stuff that others may find just a bit too obsessive.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on some sample pre production resin masters of the Blood Red Skies (BRS) models due to be released in plastic over Christmas. A big thank you to the guys at Warlord for that - hope you don't regret it!

I can’t really review them as the final product will be different – at a minimum the material will be different and who’s to say what else may change? For the same reason I can’t really do a direct comparison with other models available. So what follows is more a general look at the pre production models to give you an idea of what we may eventually get and my thoughts on them in general.

The models are a Me109E, Spitfire MkII, Yak 1, A6M5 Zero and P51D  As I said these are pre production resin versions cast in a nice grey lightweight resin. They are scaled to 1:200, which means for practical reasons there will be some stuff that gets missed off a model or has to be made over scale to prevent it breaking when handled, and as gaming pieces these will get a lot of handling. I'll show them exactly as delivered, so there are still some minor flash and pour vents that will need cleaning up, so what you are getting is a warts and all "not a review". I plan to paint them and post up the results at a later date.

Here is the group shot, taken in natural daylight and with no enhancements or technical jiggery pokery. The mat they're shot on has a 1cm grid which will help give a better idea of the size of these models.

Group shot - top

Group shot - bottom 
Tomorrow I will have a much closer look at the individual models, starting with the Me109E Emil

Monday, 7 August 2017

Fantasy Side Project - The Reckoning

So just what has this £50 budget project actually cost?


Golden Fleece £7.50
King Aeertes and Retinue £10
Minotaurs £8.90
Children of the Hydra (Skeletons) £7
Harpies £9.50
Hydra £10
Medea (and spares) £12
Bronze Bull £4.45

Total £69.35

Postage and Packing in total £22.77 (!)

Rules £15

Err £112.12

Biggest shock is p&p - partly a bi-product of using multiple suppliers, partly not being decisive and ordering several times from the same manufacturer. More planning needed "Next Time"

Fantasy side project Part 5 - Back to the Hydra (and kids, and other supporting cast)

So having got sidetracked by the Minotaurs I needed to get back on with the main protagonists, which are clearly The Hydra, and the associated Children of the Hydra that Aeetes summons in the film.

Bullets needed to be bit as I was in definite danger of either blowing a large amount of ££££ on a big model or stalling the project, so I decided to go with the Foundry Hydra. In reality it ticks a lot of boxes, being nicely detailed, no legs, and reasonably priced. What it lacks is size, but size isn't everything. I ordered it at the same time as the "Medea" pack so didn't incur any additional postage and it cost a tenner.

It's a nice model, but a bit of a bitch to assemble - main body, tail, two neck groups and seven separate heads. There was some rather big gaps after assembly and lots of filling needed, but the end result is "not bad at all"

Next up, The Children. In the film Aeertes uses the now dead Hydra's teeth to summon some animated Skeletons to attack Jason and his select team. It is my favourite bit of the film and quite an iconic sequence - these guys go through the Argonauts in short order and Jason only escapes by jumping off a cliff into the sea. Ideally the best models for these guys would be the Wargames Factory plastic skeletons, which were pretty much modelled on the ones in the film (if a bitch to put together I'm told). Sadly since Warlord Games took over distribution these have been removed from the catalogue and are rather hard to find. What I did find however on Ebay were some of the original Citadel plastic skeletons dating from the 1980s. I replaced the shields with some Hoplite ones, and a careful rebase and a quick paint session later I had enough for 2 bases worth - and yes I know I really should only have one base of seven but I got carried away and ended up with 2 bases each with six.

Lastly there are the Harpies. I was told the old GW ones were close enough and that was wrong - they're an EXACT copy of the ones in the film - E-Bay again provided six. I've given them a very quick paint job. The guy who I bought them off had clearly been trying to model them flying, having cut the "slotta" off the base and frilled a few holes. I completed this. I know they will fall off at the most inopportune moment but so far they look quite good!

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Fantasy Side Project Part 4. Commanders , Magic Users and Heroes.

Short break from the Battle of Britain and back to "The £50 Fantasy Side Project"

In S&SF Commanders and Magic Users are separate bases that run around pretty freely providing morale and combat boosts. 

Heroes are treated as units but on smaller bases, being quite flexible but somewhat vulnerable if caught on their own. 

Sadly all my Thracian Commanders are based for Impetus and therefore integral to their unit bases (as an aside I understand Impetus 2 may be switching to separate bases for Commanders also). Looking at the rules I’m probably going to need three Commanders \ Characters. Fortunately Foundry make exactly the stuff I want in their “Casting Room” range. I may get on to discussing them in a bit more depth at a later time but needless to say I ordered King Aeetes of Colchis and Guards from Foundry, £10.00 plus £4 p&p. 

I’m planning on two Magic Users. Firstly King Aeertes himself as both the overall commander and high level magic user, and his priestess daughter Medea (who betrays the Fleece due to falling for Jason – I rather doubt that will happen with my army) As I mentioned Aeetes is available from Foundry and comes in a pack with two bareheaded soldiers and two guards wearing Phrygian style caps. 

I’m planning to use one of the bare headed types as a Hero, with the other and the two in hats acting as a Commander and his bodyguard. I searched diligently for a suitable figure to represent Medea before again returning to Foundry – this time their “World of the Greeks” range that includes a pack of Mythical Characters in which there is a rather imposing looking female that will do the job. I'm not sure if she is really supposed to be Medusa but she paints up rather nicely as a dodgy Priestess. Only problem is I made that decision after placing the order for Aeetes so that''s another £10 + £4 p&p

King Aeetes is based with some spare Wargames Factory Skeletons erupting out of the ground in true Ray Harryhausen style. He is rated as a Level 3 Magic User and also Army Commander. That is going to be a bit of a disadvantage as trying to act as a Commander will cramp his Magic Use quite a bit, and vice-versa, but that's a price you pay for trying to get a backstory I suppose.

On the plus side it means he is well placed to do this sort of thing, which is cool!

Medea is on her own with only her charms to protect her. Rated as a Level 1 Magic User her 
main role is to provide support for the rather lacklustre  normal bits of the army.

Here are the Hero and Commander.

So running total now £40.85 on figures and £21.27 on postage

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Over Kentish Fields – Blood Red Skies

Back to Asgard Wargames for another game of Blood Red Skies BRS , the soon to be released WW2 Dogfight game from Warlord Games. Were still using our "Back Catalogue" of 1:144 models rather than the "official" scale of 1:200 - more on that later.

We think we have a grasp of the basic mechanics of 2v2 so decided to try a step up to 4v4. This caused a little technical hitch as we only had 3 Me109s ready but we “fixed” this by including a pair of 110s. An interesting bi-product would be we would get a chance to try out the multi engine rules the nice Mr C explained to me. A down side was we didn’t have the 110s on gimbal bases so we had to mark status with a dice – we’ve since remedied this.

Initial set up we assumed we had one level 3 pilot and the rest were level 2s per side. Dicing for initial advantage status left the British right hand element Advantaged but the lead element mixed normal and disadvantaged. On the other side the 109s had Advantage and the 110s were mixed as the lead Spitfires.

Paul "Herman" Davison in charge of the Luftwaffe!
Turn 1 saw both sides predictably close and “grab” to either gain or maintain advantage.

British side of the table - as clearly indicated by the cup of tea. Germanic order on the other side with the dice arranged in precise formation!
Turn 2 was “The Merge”. Assuming the scenario is even this is probably the first decision point in the Basic Rules game of BRS – and there are a lot of really rather interesting decision to be made. Critically, if you are already in advantage you can try to Outmanoeuvre your opponent – flicking a wing to try to lure him into a mistake and dropping his status – if that works he’s in a world of trouble, and that is pretty much what happened to the Spitfire Flight Leader (on the far left) who found himself only neutral to the opposing 109 who was advantaged. The 109 didn’t risk a head on shot (which would have allowed the Spit to shoot back) but bides his time. The 110s wanted to take a head on shot to take advantage of their heavy nose guns but couldn’t as their immediate opponents were at the same advantage level. (BRS only allows shots at less advantaged targets or if you are targeted by an attack from head on).

Turn 3 and the Spitfire Leader is in a world of trouble. The 109 has the advantage and moves first, passing through and looping around 180 degrees (Burning his Advantage) to put him directly behind the Spitfire, Neutral status in a tailing position. The Spitfire’s Wingman is out of position, so the Spitfire is automatically disadvantaged, and a stream of 20mm cannon fire whips past the Spits cockpit. The pilot manages to evade, but gains a Boom Counter for his side. The 110s bore in, and the second Spitfire pair come around to try and help the leader.

Turn 4 and it all gets a bit hectic. The tailing 109 “drops a bollock” and a combination of Outmanoeuvring, pilot error and better pilot skill the Spitfire Leader reverses the situation. Meanwhile the detached Spitfires are coming around on the 1100. One takes a speculative long range deflection shot and hits. The 110 has a lot of dodge dice (9 in all) but fails and picks up a Boom. Being twin engine this doesn’t immediately count (multi engine planes can accumulate booms up to their number of engines before they count – its more complicated than that but I’m sure that will be explained when the rules get published), but one effect is it loses some speed and its rear gunner is no longer effective as he is slumped over his gun bleeding.

Turn 5 The Spits and 109s are now totally involved trying to manoeuvre for position, and both sides score hits. The second Spitfire element is now all over the 110s like a rash.

Turn 6 and the Spitfires line up a damaged 110 and hit it hard. It goes down in flames. That takes the Boom scores to 4-3 in Brits favour, and the Germans disengage at the end of the turn. Another win for the Few!

 So overall we continue to be impressed by BRS. It is slick and has a good "feel" to it, with minimum record keeping, and some really interesting and thought provoking game mechanics.  The multi engine rules work well and integrate with the single seaters, and as we have stepped up the numbers involved were not yet seeing any strains on the system. Games remain quick  - we played three games in just over an hour, although more planes will make the games longer I don't foresee time as an issue. We are also giving a lot of thought on tactics, and so far, the general theme is, if it worked in real life, it will work in BRS, which is about as good a thing you can say about a set of rules.

As I mentioned, we are at the moment playing with 1:144 - here's why :-) however I will be shifting down to the "official" 1:200 scale when they become available as this may help to prevent some of the "crowding" we are seeing. 

Next step up will be to try out the cards, and try and get more planes on table - Mark (Geordie) is busy churning them out as we speak - have a look at his blog Geordies Big Battles

I'm certainly going to want to get the starter set when it is released (due some time around Christmas?). I'm not so sure about the current pre order bundles on offer from Warlord. I think individually the expected price point for the 2 player starter set and squadron boxes are very reasonable, particularly as they include the cards you want to play the advanced rules (assuming the models are ok) but I'm less sure about people going to jump straight in to full squadron level (ie 12+ planes a side). Hopefully Warlord will offer just the starter or individual squadron boxes as part of the pre order.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

The Fantasy Side Project Part 3 Hydra Envy & Bullshit

At this point in the exercise I sort of got a bit carried away. 

I was looking for some monsters to flesh out the Colchis Army for Fantasy Sword & Spear. The bulk of the troops would just be re-tasked Thracians, but I would need some “proper fantasy stuff”. Clearly the first monster would have to be a Hydra, but here I ran into some problems. 

The glorious owner \ operator \ proprietor of Asgard Wargames, (known to some as “Arkwright” due to the way people are sometimes seen staggering out of the shop with a glazed look on their face grasping a carrier bag full of toys they never intended to buy until they fell under his commercial spell)  - anyway he has a really nice Games Workshop issue Hydra in his Dark Elf Army. I wanted something at least as impressive. The problem is most “modern” Hydras seem to have legs – very different to the Jason \ Greek ones.


I also needed it to fit onto a 6 cm wide frontage if possible. Lastly I needed it to be cheap if I was going to stay anywhere near the £50 project  budget(!). Much searching through internets resulted in three possible options, none of which were ideal. Firstly there was the Steve Barber version, Which I think is too big for my use. The same can be said for the one I saw on ebay from Second City Games – too big (but beautiful) and also £30. Lastly, there was Foundry again, but their Mythos range Hydra was a bit small when compared to the others - particularly Arkwrights! I decided to give the whole Hydra thing a bit more thought and look for something else.

In this rather distracted frame of mind I saw some Reaper miniatures Minotaurs on Ebay. They were the new “Bones” plastic range, so much cheaper than metal. I impulse ordered three different ones. OK not really Colchis, or even Argonauts, but sort of Greek Myth so not too far short. Cost for all three was £8.90 plus £5.58 p&p was I ended up ordering from two different sellers. They all arrived pretty quickly so I painted them “quick & dirty” using a spray undercoat (Fur Brown) then some blocking and a heavy dose of Vallejo sepia dip \ wash. I was rather happy with the result. These are going to be based together as one unit as my Heavy Infantry types to give the army some much needed steel (err bronze)

Of course the cognoscenti will be shouting "Bull!" at this point. Yes I later realised what I really needed was a Khalkotauroi, the legendary bronze bulls of Colchis. There is supposed to be two of them. Luckily I found both Reaper and Foundry do them, so I ordered the Reaper one (again Bones plastic) as it was the cheaper. This is going to be one of my monster options. A giant fire breathing bronze bull - what can go wrong?

Added bonus being it was not exactly a challenge to paint either :-)

Total spend on miniatures is now £20.85 Rules £15, postage £13.27