Friday, July 19, 2019

Meanwhile in Rohan 7

A project I started at the beginning of May is finally finished.    Here are four Footsore Miniatures, their 28mm Goth Heavy Cavalry four figure pack (03GTH201F), which I've painted as Riders of Rohan to augment my gallant eoreds.

As I said in May's post, I wasn't totally happy with these figures.   They came with a substantial amount of flash, and I had to drill the hands out so their weapons would fit.   The weapons themselves were javelins purchased from North Star, because the Footsore fellows came sans pokey things.

The shield transfers come from Little Big Men Studios, from this Saxon banner and shield transfer set.   I know they have Christian crosses on them, but the Mad Padre in me doesn't mind baptizing my Rohirrim a little bit.

I know that Tolkien's Rohirrim were nicknamed "strawhairs" by the orcs, but I wanted to give them a bit of variety with their hair colour.

The building in the background is the 4Ground Viking Trader's shop which was under construction in the last post on this subject.   It turned out well, and the teddy bear fur which the kit included looks good when finished.   I might make some horsehead silhouettes for the crossed roof beams at some point.

The roof comes off easily, revealing the feasting table and benches included in the kit.

The cart is also a 4Ground model, and with the 3D printed scatter terrain (a lucky find at the last Hotlead convention), adds some texture.

My complete Rohan village, accumulated over the last ten years, ready for battle.

I have another big 4Ground project almost completed, and there is a Rohan tie-in, so I hope to showcase that here soon.   My Twitter followers (@MarshallLuigi) will already know something about that.

Blessings to your brushes and buildings!


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Military Quotation of the Day: Horace on Force and Wisdom

Another in a semi-regular quotation that came from an email list run by an Army friend of mine.  This particular quote below seems like a good pairing with a photo of Battlefront 15mm WW2 HQ group that my friend James Manto painted over ten years ago. 

"Brute force bereft of wisdom falls to ruin by its own weight."
- Horace. 
As quoted in “Bitter Victory:  The Battle for Sicily, 1943,” by Carlo D’Este.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Behind the Scenes in the CFB Borden Tank Shop

I had a chance this week to get a tour of the tank restoration shop which is part of the Military Museum at Canadian Forces Base Borden.  Tucked in a corner is what remains of a fellow that I've driven past off and on for a decade now, a Wehrmacht Flakpanzer IV.

In 2017, this fixture of the Borden Tank Park disappeared, and I had often wondered what had become of it.  I knew that a restoration project was planned, but I wasn't sure how far it had progressed.   On Tuesday I got to see that the restoration had started and the tank has been completely dismantled.

The hull has been completely gutted,  Here you can see the rather unconvincing blue that it had been painted in for decades.

The superstructure is getting new hatches, by the looks of things.    The turret ring is visible at the back.

Our guide explained that a local machine shop had been contracted to measure what survived of the fuel tank, and fabricate a new one.   I don't know if the Museum has a set of plans or schematics to go by, our guide didn't know the answer to that.  Hiding in the back left is a Leopard AVRE, which the Museum staff use to move vehicles around.    There is also a Hetzer lurking somewhere in the workshop, but it is a tiny thing, about the size of a large SUV, and it was apparently covered by a tarp, so I never saw it.

How the Flakpanzer and Hetzer came to Borden is an interesting story.   These two vehicles were rounded up at the war's end by a young Canadian officer, Farley Mowat, who is better known as a Canadian author.   Borden was the HQ of the Canadian Armour Corps during and after WW2, so I guess it was a natural home for these war prizes.   FYI, Mowat himself wrote an  account of his wartime experience in Italy called The Regiment, which is one of the great Canadian war memoirs.

Various parts, carefully stored and sorted.

I sent this photo to my brother the Mad Colonel, who volunteers in the tank shop of the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, and he felt that the Borden shop looked properly messy and therefore productive.

The turret shell has been refinished and painted in what looks like a proper German dunkelgelb.

I suspect that this vehicle will be finished long after I've retired from the Army, but I'll be in the area, and I hope to see it one day looking like this.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Cruel Seas, Crueler Dice: A Look at Warlord Games' Cruel Seas

 One of the benefits of having one’s game club in a hobby store is that the owner tries to sell us on new kit.   Normally I’m not that interested in post-apocalypse dune buggies or Game of Thrones miniature games or whatever he’s flogging of late, but last week Vincent invited us to try Warlord Games’ Cruel Seas, and that seemed worth trying.

Cruel Seas is, of course, that 1/300 scale WW2 games featuring small boats that are all plywood, racing motors, and heavy machine guns, so maybe it is a bit like a post-apocalyptic dune buggy game after all.  In this game, I took two Kriesgmarine E-Boats, because E-Boats always looked big, cruel, and sinister in the Ballantines war books I read as a kid.   Bruce and Stephen each took a pair of plucky little British MTBs, and were tasked with protecting a small tanker that had to cross the game board alive.    I gather that this is the basic intro scenario for the game.

Movement seemed fairly simple, choosing between normal, combat, and insanely fast speed bands, which allow more or fewer turns depending on how fast one is going.   Movement order was determined by dice selection, and since there were five British dice and two German, there was a good chance I would be outmaneuvered.   Ships data and damage is quite simple, and is easily tracked on a little status card given to each boat.

My plan was simple.   Go forward as fast as possible, launch all four of my torpedoes at the tanker, and then get away.  Unfortunately, while one of my E-Boats moved second in the first turn, it then received a critical hit which forced it to move ahead straight with no shooting for one turn.  

 As you can see, my disabled lead boat got swarmed by the pesky British, which cheekily came within spitting distance, pelting me with lead, shells, empty beer cans, etc.  It didn’t end well for these Kriesgmariners.   They sank without getting a torpedo fired.

My surviving E-Boat now gamely raced in at Insanely Fast speed, survived a fusillade or two, and slowed enough to get its two fish in the water.   I WIN!!!!!   Well, not so fast, Padre.   While my fish were the fastest things on the table, the tanker’s dice came up, allowing it to do some adroit dodging like a waitress in a dodgy bar deftly evading an inebriated lout.  My fish sailed by, harmlessly, some Wavy Navy type came up alongside and hosed me with lead, and the next thing I new I was treading water and waiting for an uncomfortable ride to a POW camp in Dorset. 

So, Cruel Seas.  Things I liked:  the models that come in the starter set are cheap and cheerful, and looked sharp even with the hasty paint job Vincent had given them that morning.   The game played quickly and decisively.   Speed and maneuver are quite simple, leaving the player free to think about who to shoot.  Things I didn’t like:  well, getting sunk, for one.  I don’t know enough about what fast boat actions in WW2 were like, but this felt like a particularly fast and lethal game of bumper cars.  The random dice mechanism means that players have ample opportunities to get in close and blast an opponent’s boat at a particularly favourable angle.   In that respect, the game feels a lot like some of the American Civil War ironclad games I’ve played, only much faster.

Cruel Seas seems a lot like Wings of War or X-Wing, only with boats, and without having to worry about altitude or whether some tiresome fellow is going to Immelman on you.   The Warlord rule book is simple and packed with action photos (very nice) and promises exciting fleets - there are some bizarre Soviet boats that look like a T34 turret dropped on a fishing boat, and the idea of doing RN vs Italians in the Med is intriguing.

For me, while I have a soft spot for naval games, I think I will hold my fire on Cruel Seas.  I would rather play with smaller models representing bigger ships at longer ranges.   However, for a few moments, wearing a white turtleneck sweater, a battered cap, and shouting “Torpedo Los!” was good fun.


Friday, July 5, 2019

Military Quote of the Day - John Monash on the Proper Use of Infanty

Hello friends!
Just blowing the dust off this blog to see if it works.  
I get a semi-regular quotation from an an email list run by an officer in the Royal Canadian Regiment, and this particular quote below seems like a good pairing with a photo of minis I painted over ten years ago. I learned quite a bit on Monash when I toured the museum at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra last year.  A great soldier.

"The true role of infantry is not to expend itself upon heroic physical effort, not to wither away under merciless machine-guns fire, not to impale itself on hostile bayonets, but on the contrary, to advance under the maximum possible protection of the maximum possible array of mechanical resources, in the form of guns, machine-guns, tanks, mortars and aeroplanes; to advance with as little impediment as possible; to be relieved as far as possible of the obligation to fight their way forward."

- General John Monash, Australian Corps Commander on the Western Front during The Great War (1914-1918)

He put his writings into practice in his combined arms approach during the battle of Le Hamel, France on 04 July 1918 (101 years ago today).  All of his objectives were achieved in 93 minutes, only three minutes longer than he had calculated in his planning. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Wednesday Wargame: Putin Strikes

That rascal Vladimir, always stirring the pot.  Back in 2016, when we worried more about Russia invading and annexing and less about Russia meddling in democracy, One Small Step Games published Putin’s War, a relatively small, operational-scale game about a conventional war in Eastern Europe.  I bought it, because of a weakness for “next war war-games”, which used to be a big thing in my youthful gaming days; in the last decade of the Cold War, publishers like SPI and GDW made a lot of money off games imagining WW3, though that subject dried up in the optimistic years after the Berlin Wall fell.   Interestingly, OSS’ website suggests that the bloom may be back on the next war rose, and big competitors like GMT Games have published a lot in this era as well, imagining future wars in Poland, Taiwan, and Korea.  Perhaps, alas, a new war Iran game may not be too far off.

Putin Strikes is a Ty Bomba design - he has a long resume and an interest in hypothetical and alt-history designs.    He’s also one of those designers that seem to inspire strong feelings in people.  One writer on BGG called him “the reigning haiku poet of the wargaming world” and wrote that “Simple, fast, fun, elegant and reasonably historical war-games are Ty’s trademark”.  Well, Putin Strikes is certainly simple and I played the full 8-game turns solitaire in one day, so it was reasonably fast.  The rules are a quick read, though as I subsequently learned, the online errata would make for a different game.  

You get a fairly simple, bland map showing E. Europe from the Baltics down to the Black Sea.   Starting forces are Russian, the three Baltic countries, Ukraine, Moldavia, Rumania, and Belarus.   The NATO countries come on as random reinforcements.  The Russians start with 12 cities in Russia, plus Kaliningrad, each worth 2 VPs, and have to capture 12 more cities to get a total of 36 VPs at the end of 8 tuns.   They can just go for cities, as I did, or focus all their efforts on just capturing the Baltics and securing the rail line from Kaliningrad to the east, while holding all their initial cities.

Some things I immediately noticed and didn’t like.  The game turn sequence is like Go - one side activates a unit stack, then the other can move or pass, and so on until all are done.   Units can either Move or Attack, but NOT do both.    This restriction makes little sense to me, given that many of the units in the game are air assault units which presumably specialize in rapid, surprise attacks.  It also seems odd that no commanders in the game know how to execute a hasty attack.   Also, there are no Zones of Control, so units can move past enemy units effortlessly, but there is no armoured or mechanized exploitation after combat, so presumably WW3 will go much slower than WW2 did.

As many reviewers have noted, the game is all about cities.   Each city has an inherent garrison of 6 strength points, and then can hold either six brigades or two divisions worth of steps.   The garrison is always the last step to be removed.  Defenders in cities get a 2 column shift in their favour on the Combat Results Table, which is simple and quite unforgiving to the attacker on low-odds attacks.  Thus the game resolves into a series of sieges, like this one mounted against poor Kiev.   The best choice for the defender is to mass as many units in cities as possible, since the allied units, like the blue Rumanian division below, are too weak (3 SP attack) to counterattack a Russian stack.

 In the rules as printed, there is no restriction in bringing replacements into a siege, so if I had two Ukranian brigades come back to me as replacements, I could pop them into Kiev here and force the Russian to keep banging away at the siege.  Since a lower odds attack is unlikely to kill more than 1 or 2 defending steps at the most, and since the identify maker/garrison with 6 SPs defence is always the last step to die, cities can hold out for a long time.  In the game I player, the Russians did not capture Riga and Tallinin until turn 6, and never got the required 12 cities to win.  Vilnius, for example, was proudly holding out at game’s end with the help of a  German division.  I understand that the online errata now forbid replacements to appear in hexes that are being attacked, so I guess that has been fixed, but the game feels far more like siege warfare than mobile warfare.

The other big problem with the game, I felt, was with the random NATO reinforcements.   NATO has a variable strength unit, depending on the roll of 2d6, which could either be a 2-2 brigade or a mighty, awesome 12-12 division.   However, due to the random die roll to determine reinforcements, the NATO High-Readiness force never appeared, while the two weak Slovakian brigades shown here in olive, plus the Swedes, Germans, Hungarians, and Czechs all appeared to lend a hand before NATO got its act together.  Perhaps the US President kept questioning the value of NATO, who knows, but it felt wonky.

In general, the allied reinforcements do not have the power to do more than make a very few counterattacks against weak Russian stacks.  Better to use them, especially the brigades, to hold cities, which accentuates the siege warfare feel of the game.

Airpower is very abstract, and depends on the differential between both sides rolling 2d6 as to how many air units one side or the other receives each turn.   Each airpower counter can shift the CRT one column in the player’s favour, but they can also be used to interdict movement, or deny mobility to air assault units.  Again, because of the random reinforcement roll, the NATO air reinforcements never arrived in the game.   Perhaps all the F-35s were grounded for maintenance.

Other features about the game are quite simple.  There are no supply rules, as the design assumes that in the first month of the war, the game’s timescale, all units would be prepared and well-supplied.   Likewise all units, no matter their type, move 6 MPs per turn, with the usual costs for forest, swamp, rivers, etc.

There are some fixed ideas of the designer in the game - divisions are far more robust than brigades and can ignore CRT results of 1 or 2 steps lost, on the theory that western armies are wrong to get rid of divisions.   That seems odd to me, as a big Russian Grad missile strike will kill you whether you are in a division or brigade, but anyway.  There is also some nice chrome, such as the Russian Vostok unit, which has a variable strength in each attack. depending on how well Russian propaganda does with ethnic Russian minorities in certain regions.  Curiously however the vaunted Russian Anti Access/Aerial Denial (A2/AD) missile defences in the north are not modelled, and there is no naval game or ability to assault from the sea.

In playing the game, I immediately ditched the sequence of play, instead allowing one side or the other to move all of its counters and attack in one turn, then the other, in the classic style.  I allowed unengaged air assault units to add the SPs to the battle if they were within 6 MPs of the defender.

While some reviews were fairly positive, I confess that I was unimpressed, and would agree with the review entitled Putin Strikes Out.  This was a disappointing game, and if I was going to return to this subject, it would be a via a game like this.
Blessings to your die-rolling defence of the free peoples!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Sometimes You Paint, Sometimes You Build, Sometimes You Salvage, Sometimes You Re-base

I love starting new projects, and always have too many on the go, but sometimes it’s good to revisit some older figures that just need some love.  This weekend, while Joy was in the states visiting her daughter and granddaughter, I had the place to myself and found that what I got done wasn’t at all what I had thought I would do.

Here are some GW LOTR plastic orcs that a friend gave me - he found a bag of about 30 figures, very roughly painted, jumbled in a zip-lock bag.   I had my doubts about remediating the paintwork, but I pulled out a handful and decided to see what I could do with them.   I’d say I repainted about half of each figure and tried to give them scary-face shields, though I think my surrogate granddaughter could have done scarier faces.

I also gave them my usual bad-guy base treatment - scrubby, mostly barren ground, evocative of Mordor, Dead Marshes, etc.

I liked how these fellows turned out - they fit nicely into my growing evil LOTR models.  I will probably salvage handful in the near future.

Also underway is a significant basing project for my Isengard collection.   About ten years ago, when my son was a teen and living with me, we played a LOT of the original GW LOTR Strategy Battle Game.   To get some figures on the table quickly I cut a lot of corners, such as leaving the bases still in their original black undercoat and nothing more.  Currently I have about 30 of these figures in the basing shop, and a few of them marched out ready for action this weekend, including this Uruk-Hai captain.

These 6 Uruk-Hai crossbowmen were only 60% painted, and required a fair bit of brushwork to get them ready.   Repainted and with some proper basing, they look ok.   I would like to get a full unit of 12, but they were pricey buggers ten years ago back when GW sold LOTR metal models in blisters of 3.  Perhaps I can find some more on Ebay or the like.  In Dragon Rampant terms, I would rate these as heavy missiles.

Between the stray basing material and my cat deciding that the light box makes a good place for a nap, these pictures are rather messy.

I did also finish painting some new figures and got them based.  These are 8 orc arches from Vendel miniatures.   My friend James and I are very fond of the Vendel fantasy range, and there are some great examples on his blog.  They’re fairly simple figures but they have a pleasing, old-school look and feel to them with tons of facial expression.

The Vendel moulds got sold recently so all this range is sadly OOP at the moment.  When I was at Hot Lead this March, I was talking to an American fellow who knew the chap who bought the moulds, so I have hopes that they will be back in production soon. 

I only have 8 of these archers, so I decided when I was ordering some bits from North Star recently, that I would splash out on a box of their Oathmark goblins, to see if I could build this unit up a bit.

Each sprue comes with five torsos that can be built out in several ways.  I decided to build four of them as archers.   They have a hunched, furtive look, making them look sneaky and fierce, but they look suitably Mordor-ish.   It took me about ten minutes to assemble five figures, with a minimum of hacking and cutting.

Side by side comparison with the Vendel figures.   I think they’ll work together.

‘So a mixed bag of thoroughly bad hats, with a variety of worthwhile ways to use spare time - painting, salvaging, basing, cutting and gluing.   I’m pleased with the results, though I had better get some reinforcements for Rohan and Gondor into the field soon.   And speaking of the field … I should use these figures in a game - what a crazy thought!   

Blessings to your brushes!


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