Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Domestic manoeuvres and Beer!

Been having a tidy up and shift about of the game room, mainly driven by attempting to get the maximum light benefit over the painting corner from the window. If I'm honest it feels like we (the Mrs. and I), have done nothing but move stuff around, sort out etc for several weeks in order to accommodate daughter number two (Jess, 21 in January and born on my birthday :) and her partner, who had previously been struggling in a small rented flat at what I would consider a ridiculous monthly charge to a private landlord. Jess was becoming quite depressed, as even though both work full time they were still struggling. Anyway, upshot has been mass manouevres of furniture and lot's of strategic planning in order to make it work and the house is now sort of split into two, with Jess and Blake having the biggest front bedroom with the ensuite, and also the large front room below that, while we have moved into a smaller bedroom (with a better view and south facing). Youngest daughter Chloe retains her double bedroom (was never going to give THAT up!), even though at almost fifteen now she considers herself a terribly hard done by child. Partiton wall has gone up between the two 'reception rooms'  and we now find ourselves in a cosy little lounge, overlooking the garden and must admit it's pretty OK all round. I of course retain my small bedroom for painting and wargaming.

Today I refused to do any more, my back is aching from shifting wardrobes yesterday and I needed a rest. As it happened they all went out shopping in the dreaded Sales and I have finished setting up my room again, it's currently a sanctuary where I can escape from domestic upheavals.

I couldn't resist taking these pics, wife asked me to find a home for the keg of beer I got for Christmas from eldest daughter, so I took it upstairs and set it up for a laugh above my painting table, I mean it's perfect! Lovely golden beer and with a very hoppy taste, what my wife, who took a sip, described as an 'old fashioned hop taste', pretty good I thought, but her Dad was a dedicated real ale drinker as long as I knew him. I always raise a glass to him this time of year, and use his old 'Bexley Beer Festival' glass ( on pain of death should I break it).

I could do with a hand drinking it as my lot drink lager and it's five litres, but the last one (Speckled Hen) lasted a fair while and kept its condition well. I'm sure it won't go to waste.

"I turneth off the tap NEVER, 'tis a constant amber flow"

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Onwards and upwards for 2016.

It's been an enjoyable family Christmas, unseasonably mild down here on the South Kent coast, but I'm not complaining about that! Not had much chance to get up in the 'Escape Hatch' but I'll probably have a Bolt Action bash today as it's all set up. As usual this morning  whilst walking the dogs at low tide a large concrete structure was clearly visible in the bay, it's a section of Mulberry harbour that sank before it could be towed across the channel on D Day, and it's a constant reminder of that day for me.

I have done a lot of hobby related thinking over the last few days and have made a decision that I only want to run the one WW2 related project which means abandoning Flames of War in favour of BA. As I'm about to begin my journey back to the AWI in 28mm again I'm thinking that I could fund it by offloading some of the FoW stuff. Financially I'm in a more comfortable situation now and I no longer need to sell off my stuff to finance new projects as I did in the past, but the fact is that BA has been a costly project to do, and having tanks sitting on the shelves in both scales seems daft as I don't see myself playing FoW again after playing BA, true they are two very different games, with FoW being the more 'realistic' simulation in my opinion, but something about the BA order/activation system has drawn me to this game and I just love it. There is a tension created from the very first turn that I have not experienced in other wargame rules I have played, you really do need to think fast as you never know where the next shot will come from and you have to think carefully about which unit you order first. To give a quick example from my last game, the Stug was sitting on a road, behind a wall and a US bazooka team was just within range of it at the start of the second turn, had a US green order die been drawn first then no doubt the bazooka would have got it's shot in first, but it was a grey die that was drawn. From the German perspective I had two main choices as to where to place the first order, I could have ordered the Stug to load an Armour Piercing shot and have a pop at the Sherman across the other side of the table, but decided to try to eliminate that bazooka that was preventing the StuG from moving down the road. To this end I gave the order to the half track to shoot the bazooka with it's Machine gun, which it did successfully. However very next dice came up green and an order to the Sherman to shoot the StuG resulted in the assault gun exploding immediately. I was a bit surprised at that, but it did and could happen if a lucky shot penetrated  the front armour as it did. I think it's the unpredictability of the game that I like, you can get a run of several dice with one side dominating and then it can swing back the other way.

Anyway, upshot of all this is that I'll the thinning down my late war 15mm stuff with some going on eBay in order to plough back into AWI's and some going by way of a WW2 giveaway here next post. I have over 40 model tanks and will probably only keep half of them. Sherman's for example are so abundant on eBay that I'd rather give them away so that's what I'll be doing! I will also be including a few 15mm infantry platoons, British, US and German so watch this space.

Meantime a quick count up tells me that I have now topped 100 painted BA infantry and my armour collection will be (once all painted) 3 Shermans, a Cromwell, 2 StuG's a Panzer III (because I like 'em), and the half track. I have all of the models here or in the post so I can stop spending cash on this project now for a while.

AWI for 2016.
Lord only knows how many times I have painted and sold AWI armies over the past 30 years or so, I know it started with Hinchliffe and ended with Baccus, and with just about every other manufacturer in between! I would say it is MY period and probably the one I'm most knowledgeable about, but I could not face painting hundreds of figures again, which is why I'm going to give Sharpe Practice a go next. Having previously mentioned Front Rank as the main contender I suddenly remembered that Crann Tara sell the beautiful 'Fife and Drum' range I dabbled in some time back here, they would also be a perfect choice. Tough decision to be made. I dug out a few snaps from past attempts for inspiration, 6mm Baccus and 15mm Peter Pigs, the Pigs were based for a version of Commands & Colors, all were later sold off as I just could not get the right period 'feel'.

The hex terrain version of AWI, all long sold now!

I'll probable be spending the next couple of weeks building and painting the rest of the tank kits, starting with another Sherman, as you can see they are nice little kits that go together easily, my only gripe being that the tracks join where it's most visible at front and rear, but the join seems to disappear once painted at least.

Right then, time for my annual watch of Zulu, possibly followed by The Patriot..... painful I know, but if you can enjoy it for what it is and don't take it too seriously it's an an enjoyable film.

US army jeep with MG, next to be painted for Bolt Action.

I do like my Shermans!

Thursday, 24 December 2015

The 'Merry Christmas' post!

Well, it seems yet another year has shot by in bloggerland and it's time for the traditional 'Merry Christmas' message. Things have changed somewhat for me this last year, and for the year ahead I will be able to indulge myself a little more in my hobby. To this end I'm going to focus on developing 'Bolt Action' especially the terrain side, and begin what I hope will be my final foray into the American war of Independence using 'Sharpe Practice' rules and Front Rank 28mm figures. I have looked at so many AWI ranges with this project in mind, but given that I'll be building small company size units, individually based, and with numerous 'character' figures, then FR seem the only choice for me. They are chunky and made for handling, and free of those horrid casting 'worms' that spoiled my previous AWI project using Perry plastics and metals (now sold off). I'm quite excited about this project.

I still have lots to do on the Bolt Action front too as I continue to build up the forces. I had a little bit of a spend up on ebay and added a few more tank kits, a US jeep with MG and numerous other bits and pieces which go a long way toward completing German and US forces. I'm freely mixing mid and late war Germans as I'm not a purist and enjoy the different uniforms representing the finely tailored and piped earlier versions and also the latter baggier and plain version worn with the zeltbahn poncho over it. My Veteran Panzergrenadier squad are an example as seen below, now expanded to it's full 10 figures and armed to the teeth with assault rifles (2 shots). I could not resist giving them a an officer with jackboots and tailored uniform, he also sports the Iron Cross! All are Battlefront metals, and cost £16.00 for the pack of 10, including separate heads. I'm really pleased with them.

Anyway, I'll wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year, and leave you with a few final shots for the year including a blown up StuG assault gun, shot straight through the front armour by a M4 Sherman, resulting in an immediate explosion on turn two! Not that easy in Flames of War to do that I thought, but certainly it was a high die roll on the damage table that caused the catastrophic result. Also in the pics are my newly painted German command group consisting of a fine monocle wearing commander in greatcoat, a medic (gives a casualty save opportunity if within 4" on a throw of 6), and a forward observer.

28mm stowage via eBay. Will be perfect for my Shermans.

Love that face!
Veteran Grenadier command figure.

That was too easy!
And finally .........

I do love my music, and I'm a big fan of the Levellers and have been for many years. They are from Brighton further along the South Coast and have continued to work out of their studios there, where their ethos has always been to inspire and encourage local people and bands, certainly over a career spanning three decades they have produced some magnificent albums and continue to record and tour, with one of my aims for 2016 being to see them live again. They released this version of their song 'The Recruiting Sergeant' for the charity 'Warchild' and it's a great twist on the traditional 'recruiting' song, with it's line 'If you see a recruiting sergeant boy, run away'! Made me think a lot about my hobby, but I'm comfortable with it, above all it reminded me that my own Brother Bob narrowly escaped death in the Falklands, when the transport ship he was on was blown up, as an army medic, he was one of the last off the ship, and some of what he saw and described that day was sheer horror. No fun War, but our hobby is :)

Friday, 18 December 2015

Looking forward

As another year draws to a close I'm already planning my hobby direction for the year ahead. Since discovering WW2 wargaming I have probably played more games in the last few months than I had done in the previous few years, and what's more my enthusiasm remains very high.

A game of toy soldiers!
The delights of 'skirmish' style gaming has also renewed my passion for individually based figures in the larger scale 28mm. I can't help smiling every time I set up the Bolt Action table, because the big tank models really do look and feel like toys, as one of daughters remarked the other day "Ah, look at the car going down the road" in a slightly mocking tone of voice. I told her it was actually an armoured half track, and her expression in reply was a picture.

I know it's not right for every period, but moving individual figures feels right for this period, and I'm increasingly aware that it would work well for the AWI too! It's still probably my favourite historical period and I have done it many times before, never quite feeling that I was getting it right, and certainly the Commands & Colors experiments did not produce the sort of game I was looking for so I sold it all off. However, I'm drawn to 'Sharpe Practice' as a second project to run beside my WW2 stuff, as it has loads of excellent AWI scenarios available, and the concept of 'big Men' (characters) and small companies of troops.

Another decision I have made is to box up all of my Flames of War stuff for a short while and to focus on Bolt Action. While I enjoy FoW tank battles, the infantry rules, especially the assault rules, are a bit more challenging, plus I'm duplicating in two scales, both figures and terrain. The Russian front beckons and I plan to start with 28mm, prefer metals of course BUT the Siberian Veterans box set looks so tempting.

Anyway, more BA shots, new test game, first moves all complete, order dice back in the bag ready for turn two.  Armour on the table for the first time so running through some new bits but all reads straightforward enough and easy to follow. I plan to expand the armour for both sides and have a second Sherman on order. German armour does need a repaint later to soften the camo pattern and to this end I have been doing a bit more research.

US Airborne defend unpainted obstacle!

'Bolt Action' down the table this time.

US infantry with MG and mortar teams in support.

German Grenadiers enter on a 'Run' order, the sniper team takes up a position in the (as yet unpainted) building.

The StuG rolls forward supporting the infantry as was it's historical roll. With it's heavy anti tank gun it has a range of no less than 72" and anarmour penetration value of 6  which also makes it an ideal tank killer. Even it's machine gun has a 36 " range!

The completed 8 figure 'inexperienced' recruits squad featuring those 'youth' castings. As usual red blossom denotes NCO.

Lots of blonde hair to be seen.

First time in action, supported by a Regular squad on their right plus a Panzershrek team.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

A musical interlude and more Bolt action.

I have been spending a fair bit of time upstairs in what I have decided to christen 'The Escape Hatch', both painting and playing through more rule learning games. A lot of music gets played up there too as another side project I have going on at the moment is to rebuild my old 'Classic Rock' collection. Back in the day I dumped over a hundred vinyl albums believing that CD's was the way to go. I won't try to get it back on vinyl as much as I loved the cover artwork, Been playing a lot of Wishbone Ash recently, another of my old favourite bands, must have dumped over 20 of their albums. Currently enjoying 'Live in Chicago'. Hawkwind probably get a play most days, I have a large collection of Hawkwind albums. Also played this week, 'Physical Graffiti (Led Zep of course), Elmore James & a lot of Levellers.

But back to wargames, I'm at the stage now with Bolt Action where I can start to flesh out the infantry squads, so I'm taking them all up to 8 figures to begin with. I have a scenario in mind that requires some US Airborne to fight an advanced holding action so have added a light mortar team and a bazooka team. In BA each of the small teams gets it's own command dice. I also painted an airborne medic (paramedic?), as again under BA rules having a medic within 6" of a casualty gives a save roll to small arms fire, with a six to save. he can have assistants such as stretcher bearers etc.

Having got over my unease over the 'Hitler Youth' group, we after all only playing a game here, I decided to use them to represent an 'Inexperienced' squad. I did enjoy painting them, although they got a fairly quick job. I then built up four more figures using the most 'youthful' looking heads and faces that will complete the squad. The commander will be the guy in greatcoat as he also carries a SMG. One image that has stuck with me from the many hours of newsreels and propaganda films I have been watching recently is that of a very young looking SS soldier swaggering past the camera with an MG42 on his shoulder. His smile as he passes amid the horrors of war (this was 1945), has sort of haunted me since and I have found myself wondering what happened to him, did he survive the last months of war? Anyway, I tried to recreate him for the squad, so he has the MG42 on his shoulder and the field cap as worn in the film, his face is quite broad and strong. All together they should make an interesting unit and one of the attractions of BA for me the ability to paint characters.

Coming up is a German command group, again lovely castings. As I was cleaning them up I thought I spotted a cast line down the side of the face and was about to file it off when I realised that it was actually a very fine monocle cord!

I have started adding stowage to my Sherman and will add more. The stowage came from 'Debris of War' and I can highly recommend it. I know the boxes are too bright, but it was crying out for a touch of colour!

Sunday, 13 December 2015

More FoW and an attack of conscience.

Inspired by an enjoyable read through a Flames of War battle report on Dai's blog ('Firestorm Caen'), I decided to set up a small game for the weekend in order to get some down time following the funeral on Friday. I feel I'm getting a real grip on these rules now, the basics are covered and I'm now starting to add in some of the special rules relating to Warrior and independent teams, stormtrooper moves etc. I played through several moves on Saturday using just the enlarged wall chart QRF that Tony kindly did for me. It's enlarged to double size and really is very useful, being stuck on the wall at the end of the table. The only other thing I did was to print off a couple of lists from the FoW listbuilder site, one each for Germans and Allies, these give all of the stats and info I need to play each force and are excellent. I actually left the main rulebook downstairs, but only needed to note a few things down to double check later. I got the 'Gun Tank' rule wrong, I thought you only made one roll to pick out an individual tank that is different to the rest of the platoon, but it's one roll per hit. 5 or 6 allows the firing platoon to pick out for example the up gunned Sherman 'Firefly', otherwise target allocates the hits as usual.

Once again I put a pair of Tigers on the table, and once again it left me feeling that I really must get some heavier Allied armour because the Shermans are hopelessly inadequate against the Panther's and Tigers! I have a full platoon of 4 Tiger I's, but I'm going to repaint two of them for the Russian front, as this will be a project for the New Year. I'll finish the game off later, and next weekend will be more Bolt Action.

On the subject of Bolt Action I ordered a small team of German tank hunters, the subject matter is
 'Hitler Youth'. I have felt strangely uncomfortable with these castings given that they essentially represent children in uniform. They are wonderful crisp castings, and a couple wear a clearly oversized helmet and all have youthful faces. All carry a panzerfaust. I will paint them, after all BA is just a game, but at least I'm aware of the reality behind these figures. The four castings cost me almost £9.00 over £2.00 per figure is a record for me, but soon as I saw them I knew I had to paint some.

Usual load of photos, from the game and a shot of the 'Youth' castings that does not do them justice, I'll get more pics once finished this week.

28mm US airborne, first six figures finished, as usual the touch of red blossom indicated the squad commander.

Latest reinforcements, 15mm Panthers, Battlefront models.

German MG squads, I need to rebase them on standard FoW bases.

The useful enlarged QRF.
Sherman platoons rolling forward.
The bailed StuG caused a traffic jam preventing the assault guns from getting into position.
A Firefly on fire.
The Tigers brewing up the Shermans on the Allied left. Two shots from the M10's both failed to hit, very frustrating.

The bases on the sheet of notepaper represent teams in the building by the crossroads rather than messing a round removing roof and floors etc.
The 28mm Hitler Youth castings.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

More 'Bolt Action' Bits ..... the StuG rolls onto the table.

Been doing a fair bit painting this last week, I think in order take my mind off the funeral arranged for this Friday for my Mum in Law. I have noticed that my wife has been endlessly cleaning the house in order to do the same thing, and what with my middle daughter Jess moving back in with her partner, things have been hectic. It's going well, both are easy to live with and work full time, only one minor gripe so far, we wish the lad would put his top on occasionally around the house, I did suggest that I start doing the same walking about bare chested, but not a popular idea. I must turn the central heating down a bit!

Anyway, here is the results of my latest efforts, more BA bits. Above all the StuG is about painted sufficiently for the table top, I'm certainly no camo expert but overall it's pleasing to my eyes, and like like everything else I intend to return to them later for additional touch ups and detailing etc. It needs a little weathering I think too. Commander in assault gun Grey uniform is not the most detailed of models so I may replace him with metal later, but he will suffice for now. Also added a German sniper team and the US mortar team, all based and finished. A six figure US airborne are also about finished and will be followed with another six.

StuG first coat stage.
US airborne underway.

I like a bit of order and tidiness!

US light mortar.
I decided to add my command figure to the half track, but I do have a substitute figure should he dismount. In Bolt Action command figures give moral throw bonus to squads within six inches, dependent upon rank.
Sniper and panzershreck teams all finished.
The assault gun visible above the hedgerows.
Germans coming together now.

Bag of 28mm stowage, great product that will really enhance my tank models.

I have also been tarting up my 15mm Panzer Grenadiers for Flames of war, expanding them up to three platoons of six rifle/mg teams each plus support weapons.

In the New Year I have a feeling that the AWI is calling me back again, having discovered just how much fun 'skirmish' style games can be I am very tempted to give 'Sharpe Practice' a shot. This scenario looks so playable!