Monday, September 8, 2008

From My Workbench - WW2 British Infantry swap for Rohan House

Thanks to the email listerv for the Too Fat Lardies Wargames group, I bumped into Stephan Milan, a chap in the UK who can't paint miniatures any more due to carpal tunnel syndrome, but who enjoys making model buildings and can apparently still wield a mean exacto knife. I like painting and I suck at scratchbuilding models, so it seemed like a beautiful friendship.

In July I received this lovely model of a house, copied after the Rohan halls and dwellings in the Lord of the Rings movies, and scaled at 28mm to go with my Games Workshop figures from their LOTR range. My son John pronounced it "way cool" and I was definitely impressed.

(Remember to click on the images for a larger view):

In return, Stephan sent me a platoon of AB Miniatures lovely 20mm World War Two metal figures with the very specific request to paint them up as members of the 1st Hampshires Regiment, a British battalion from the 50th (Northumberland) Division which landed on D-Day. Stephan also requested that they be painted in a greenish battledress (British serge wool battledress varied in colour).

I was quite nervous doing so many figures for someone else, but looking at Stephan's lovely house gave me my inspiration to bash on. It was a busy summer with a lot of chaos, but I got them done in early September and mailed them to Stephan, who was kind enough to say they looked good. Here they are.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Minions of the Molemen - A Rugged Adventure

My wargaming chums in SW Ontario (lads, it grieves me to leave ye!) love a subgenre of wargaming called "pulp". Pulp games are based on the comics and penny novels of the 1930s, the era of serialized movie adventures, Dick Tracy and Indiana Jones (back when Harrison Ford was young and the whole Indy thing was fresh) - robots, mad scientists, private eyes and Nazis, and creatures as imagined by H.P. Lovecraft are all part and parcel of pulp.

The game described here happened in late June 2008 at RiCon, a gathering of maniacs, old and new friends, in the basement of the ever-hospitable Rich (Rico Da Barbarian) Brayton and his lovely family. The inspiration for the scenario is from the twisted but beautiful minds of Lorenzo Gionet and James Manto. The writeup below is James Manto's brilliant pen and the captions for the game photos are by Lorenzo. The figures are from their collection and include figs by Ironwind, Steve Barber, Bob Murch, RAFM and Moonstone. Buildings are either scratch built or from model railroad scenics, and the vehicles are from toy stores and flea markets all over SW Ontario. God knows how many players there were - dozens? It was like a Jimmy Cagney/Jackie Chan movie directed by James Woods and produced by James Woo.

Cue the saxophone background music and shot of a dark, rainslicked city street, before a gravelly voice begins the narration:

It started out as a straight forward job. And that's the way I like them. Straight forward and money in the bank. But it wasn't. The client was rich enough to send his lawyer into my office like an errand boy in a $200 suit.
"You Mallory?" the suit asks.

I pushed the brim of my fedora up off my eyes but didn't take my feet off my desk. Manners only go so far. Besides standing up would just show off how rumpled my $10 suit was. "Yeah, that's what it says on the door; 'J. Mallory-Private Investigations'.

"Can you be discreet? I represent a very wealthy man who doesn't want his problems getting into the papers."

"I wouldn't be in business if I had a loose mouth, would I? Now why don't you tell me those problems and I'll see if I can help."

So he did. The Old Man had a tear away daughter named Ursula.

She'd fallen in with a bad crowd; those Nazis you read about in the papers with that funny little guy on the newsreels. And I ain't talkin' about Charlie Chaplin. Seems Ursula liked wearing tight black uniforms and she and her new friends were fixing to head back to the Fatherland for a big party. I needed to get her back so her father could put her into a very expensive and very strict convent school. More uniforms but without the parades and torch lights in Nuremburg.

So I'd been on her tail all week and found out they were planning a rendezvous in old man Barratt's scrap yard. I got in my brown coupe and headed down to the rough part of town. While waiting at a stop sign I noticed the gals pull up in a car behind me. They were all blond and dressed in smart black caps with silver badges. I pulled over and let them get ahead of me, looking into the glove box so they wouldn't see my face. They passed and I pulled out behind them.

As I rounded the corner onto Second, things got complicated real fast. Something as big as a building had erupted through the pavement at the intersection of Second and Elm.

Funny little guys who weren't Nazis were coming out and heading into Barton's Warehouse. Some bald guy in a white coat seemed to be giving directions. Later, I found out that he was Professor Calvera, a renegade scientist from some government big brain outfit.

He'd built the big tunneling machine and found these little guys underground to do his dirty work.

A couple of Black Marias howled down the street but it didn't look like the police budget went to driving lessons. The first van ran over a citizen and then the second rear-ended the first.

Capt. Goodenough, already starting to froth, jumped out of the second van and charged the stiff with a traffic violation.

His boys in blue ran down the street towards the weird machine and smack into an ambush. Big Tony had some gunsels on the roofs to give security for the mole creatures.

Three cops went down and Goodenough started screaming for help."Send lawyers, guns and money! I've got rampaging Bolsheviks down here!"

Some help showed up, but not for Goodenough. A big shadow blotted out the sun. I cranked down the window and looked up, it was a big zeppelin with a red swastika on the tail, low over the junkyard!. Ropes were hanging from the gondola and soldiers dropped down them into the scrap yard.

As if that weren't enough people at the party, a Hughes flying boat started circling and tiny figures with jets of fire jumped from the side door. The fighting scientists of the Rocket Corps had arrived to foil Calvera.

Two of the Rocketeers flew over to the zeppelin, boarding the gondola, while the rest landed on a rooftop beside Tony's men. They must have convinced them of their patriotic duty, 'cause the gangsters started shooting at the zeppelin guys.

(Note - I was playing the Rocket Men and my experience of these games is that the first few teams on the field end up getting shot to bits by every one else. I therefore thought that a big federal cheque would help Big Tony see his way to defending the US against the evil Molemen, and that worked pretty well as a way not to have to take on the gangsters. My idea to board the Nazi airship while the Zeppelin Truppen were busy below almost worked. MP)

During all the chaos, dock worker Shorty Muqhabele lead his gang of wharf rats into the warehouse to try and grab some barrels of whiskey.

This incurred the wrath of local Tong boss, Ya Wang. The Tong boiled out of the Chinese restaurant waving cleavers and chopsticks. Others appeared on a roof top brandishing a different kind of chopper.

Danny, the plucky street kid who only had one mother and every guy in the gang for a dad took one Tong down a shot from his slingshot but the resulting hail of tommy gun fire cut him and several other wharf rats down. A wild fist fight with knives, swords and crow bars developed behind the warehouse with Shorty's crew getting the worst of it.

Around the Molemen's machine another big fight had developed. I'm pretty sure there hadn't been a bigger fight since the Civil War, or maybe the Christmas sale at Macey's. Rocketeers were trading blows with Zeppelin Truppen and Molemen. Gangsters and Marines from the Naval Base were wading in too.

Stray bullets into the scrap yard had activated some of the old robots dumped there after they had rampaged through downtown last year.

The walking ash cans started battering everything in sight and carried off a couple of nuns. Ilsa and her She Wolves tried to ram through the crowd but wrecked their car on the rubble. They all got out and started fighting with everyone around.

I spotted the wayward offspring Ursula and jumped from my coupe. Drawing my pair of .45s I snapped off a couple of shots at the he-Nazis to keep them down while I dealt with the females of the species. I grabbed Ursula and slapped Ilsa.
"You've been a very bad girl."

When she tried to break free I slapped her too and dragged her back to the coupe.

A couple of carloads of G-Men rounded the corner, they'd also been tailing the Nazi spies.

Seeing me with Ursula in her Sunday Going to a Whipping getup, one of the Feds took a shot at me. He was so close I felt the unburned powder whistle past my ear. Fortunately he missed. With my free hand I slugged him in the nose and pulled out my license. That didn't help much as the dame and I got hustled into the back of a Federal sedan to be taken downtown for a long uncomfortable night in the basement of the Federal building.

We were sitting in the back of the car watching while the G-Men and Marines busted up the last of the She-Wolves and spies. The surviving Zeppelin Truppen were hauled back to their airship along with a captured robot. Big Tony's men started to fade. They tried stealing the Marine's truck but wrecked it backing down the street. A bunch got gunned down by the Marines in retaliation, and the rest grabbed an unguarded Black Maria and sped away.

Calvera and his molemen seemed to do OK. One of the Rocketeers had been knocked down and I saw him carried off by the Molemen. They also grabbed Ilsa in passing as she fell back from a gun butt to the head, and I think they even got a nun, but I didn't tell the G-Men any of this. Ma Mallory didn't raise any kids goofy enough to volunteer information to the feds!

Calvera's machine, loaded with loot from the warehouse and prisoners withdrew back into it's tunnel. More sirens roared by as Detective Sergeant Crueller

and some motorcycle cops finally arrived to reinforce Goodenough. The motor cops didn't stop soon enough and wrecked themselves on the hole made by the tunneling machine. Crueller spent the rest of the day rounding up stray robots with some help from the Marines. Crueller was happy though, Goodenough had made such a mess of things that his political career was finished. Duke O'Rourke, that up and coming new reporter for the Pottersville Expositor was there to catch all the dirt for the Monday edition.

The Old Man's lawyer showed up to get Daddy's Little Girl out of trouble and back into pleated skirts pretty quick. He got me out too, eventually, and gave me a big bonus for all my troubles. I could have kissed the stack of dead presidents if my lips weren't swollen.

The End (Until the next sequel - there are rumours that the Corps of Rocketmen are planning to mount a subterranean expedition to pursue Calvera and the Molemen. Meanwhile, Dr. Calvera has Ilsa the Nazi she-wolf in his custody - who knows what bizarre genetic experiments he might contrive to breed an army of Nazi Molemen. One thing is for sure, you can read about it in the Pottersville Expositor).

Friday, May 16, 2008

From My Workbench: American Civil War Prisoner and Escort Vignette

I recently finished an entry for the Guild forum's latest contest, any miniature project on the theme "Captured". My choice was a set that's been in my "lead mountain" for quite a while, from the out of print American Civil War line by Wargames Foundry. I haven't painted larger (28mm) figs in a while, and these were a treat to paint up and try some new techniques for the facial expressions. It was also good to return to one of my first loves, the ACW period.

Here's the unpainted set, which also included a delightful "footsore straggler". Remember to click on the picture to see a larger image:

And some shots of the finished set:

More images are found at my entry on the Guild forum.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Battle at the Crossroads - A Saturday Night Skirmish

A Saturday night pickup game this last weekend started comically as we waiting outside someone's condo, not knowing our supposed host was spending the day in Toronto. We finally got the game going in a church hall at 9pm. All the kit is from my collection, thrown quickly into boxes. The rules are Troops, Weapons and Tactics from my heroes Too Fat Lardies, and the scale is platoon level, 20mm/1/72nd. Setting is late war, NW Europe. A platoon of Briths infantry, with supporting armour (a Churchill, two Cromwells, and a Humber armoured car), are doing a reconaissance in force on a crossroads village. The village is held by two sections of veteran German infantry, with an 81mm mortar section (offboard), a PAK 40 75mm AT gun, and a Panther tank supporting. I was rather busy running the game as umpire, so the pictures I took are rather crappy. Remember to click on the pictures to see a larger image.

The table:

British enter on the bottom edge. The best thing about this table are the roads, used for the first time. They are sections of tea towel ironed flat, covered on one side with paintable acryllic mastic or caulking with sand/railroad ballast for texture, ironed again on the cloth side and painted. Still need flocking on the edges to show the grass at the side of the road, but they worked well. For more see Fonzie's Flexible Roads tutorial.

First English blind is spotted - a section and FOO follow closely behind a Churchill up the centre road. Germans preserving good fire discipline. Figures are a mix of Raventhorpe and Revell.

Another British blind is spotted. A Humber armoured car (plastic kit from Hasegawa) leads two Cromwell tanks (also plastic from Revell). The single figure is a British sniper (made by Raventhorpe) catching a ride on the back deck of the Humber.

The British troops tried to spot German defenders in the houses and chruch at the crossroads but saw nothing. They sent a section forward across the roads, and finally drew fire from a German MG42 stationed in a building further back from the crossroads. Two Tommies fell and the others were pinned flat on the road. The British infantry were also punished by fire missions from the 81mm mortars, called in by the German FOO on several preplotted locations, and so the Tommies took cover and played a limited role in the fighting (rather realistic for late war British ifantry).

Otherwise the Germans continued their excellent fire discipline. The two Cromwells and the Humber continued to advance past the crossroads on the left, and finally drew fire from very well-conceled German PAK 40 anti-tank gun. During the duel that followed, the PAK got off four shots, with excellent hit chances (4 or better on 2d6) and all of them missed. Finally the Cromwells started hitting the area with high explosive and had luck knocking out the crew. Peter, commanding the Germans here, said at this point that if the British hadn't killed the AT crew, he would have shot them himself! German PAK and crew are not really visible here - the models are Airfix, from the venerable AT gun and Opel Blitz set.

The Germans still had an unpleasant surprise or two to offer. Their only armoured asset, a Panther tank (Hasegawa), rolled forward from behind a copse on the German left and engaged the Churchill tank (Italieri) at crossroads.

"Bloody 'eck, Alf, that's a Panther!" Sgt. Chalky White frantically traverses his turret, but CLANG! The first Panther round hits and even the Churchill's thick armour barely holds (Germans missed penetration by one dice). Chalky and his crew are shaken and retire one turn. Being game lads, they returned for a rematch but the dice were with the Panther and the next shot penetrated and disabled the British crew.

Finally the German main line of infantry defenders opened up. They had been stationed well back behind the crossroads, and threw a wall of lead at the only British section to have pushed forward. German infantry by Revell.

At this point people were yawning and it was late. The players agreed they liked the Too Fat Lardies approach to rules and enjoyed the uncertainty of blinds and spotting. The game was still in question - the German PAK and MG were both out of action, but that Panther was still free to take on the two Cromwells. We called it a draw.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Games at Hot Lead

One of the fringe benefits of Easter being early this year was that it allowed me some time to go to Hot Lead, Southern Ontario's gem among miniature gaming conventions. James Manto and his crew have been offering a fine venue, great games and good vendors for many years. I spent last Saturday at Hot Lead and was not disappointed.

Here's one shot of what it looked like (click on the image for a larger view).

A complete writeup can be found via this link.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

From My Workbench: Tanker Burial in NW Europe, 1944 - Vignette for Easter

The military funerals for the lads coming home from Afghanistan are big affairs, done with ceremony by troops immaculate in their dress uniforms. The funerals at the front in the World Wars were hasty affairs, just a few words of comfort and prayer offered over a hasty grave before those assembled returned to the fighting. Somewhere in Normandy in 1944, a tank crew gather to bury their commander, killed in action that morning. A hasty grave has been dug near a stone church, and a padre is conducting the field funeral. (You can click on any picture to see a larger view).

"I am the resurrection and the life" begins the padre, while birds sing in the trees nearby. In the near distance, the crump of shells remind them all that the war is continuing.

Gunner "Smudger" Smith struggles to hold it together. His pixie suit is stained with blood from trying to help his commander after he collapsed back into the turret.

Driver Alf Harris and radio operator Swede Jensen look on impassively, guarding their emotions.

Another view of the padre. He wears the patches of 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and, unlike the tank crew, is wearing infantry battledress.

This set is manufactured by Lammercraft from their true 1/76 scale line of WW2 figures. I got it from Duanne at Syr Hobbs, who I heartily recommend for service. It's mostly painted in Vallejo acryllics, with some Games Workshop paints as well.

It's dedicated to all our fallen lads, then and now. Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon them.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

From my workbench: 15mm Canadian Trucks

Trucks (or lorries as Canadians stationed in England in WW2 probably were conditioned to call them) aren't a first choice for wargaming. They aren't glamorous like most tanks (who would paint a truck when they could be painting a King Tiger?) and they don't do much on the table except draw fire (hence the term "softskin" as in "softskin targets). However, armies need trucks to get troops and supplies to the front. Read Christie Blatchford's Fifteen Days and she'll tell you that the real heroes in Afghanistan are the troops of the National Support Element who drive convoys to the forward bases day after day, risking IEDs and ambushes day after day. No one can eat, drink, or shoot without the NSE convoys running.

These models are 15mm Old Glory CMP (Canadian Military Pattern) heavy trucks. They were a pain to glue together, came with no instructions, and God knows if I got them right. The decals are from Dom Skelton (Dom's decals) and show that these trucks are part of 3 Canadian Division, the first Canadian infantry division to land in Normandy. I've drybrushed them with Tamiya paints.The little ruined building in the background is from Scott Washburn's Paper Terrain line of products, which I'm also happy to plug here.

Hopefully these will get used on the tabletop as they are seen here, delivering reinforcements to the front and moving my infantry into action. Remember to click on the images to get a larger view.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

From my Workbench - 20mm British Churchill Tank

Plastic model tanks bring back all sorts of memories, especially of sniffing glue as a kid (wait a minute, that's not a memory, I'm still sniffing glue!). Mmmmmm, glue.

This is a British Churchill tank, which saw use from mid to late World War Two in Allied (and Canadian) service. The kit is from Italieri, and went together quite well, except for the treads, which come in several dozen bits and require tweezers and (sniff) glue. The tank commander is from AB Miniatures, my favourite figure manufacturer.

To see a larger image, click on any of the pictures.

I put a lot of work into painting and weathering the tank - I think I went overboard on the chipping and scrapes to the paint, but I am happy with the end result, the impression of a veteran tank and crew that have been in a lot of tight scrapes.

Here's the same model with another crew figure, also from AB Figures. The crew commander, Sgt. "Chalky" White, taking a rest at the end of the long day, enjoying the sunset and wondering if it's the last one he'll ever see:

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