Friday, 28 February 2014

50 Shades of Dunkelgelb........

So a mere week after I'd intended to start painting my 15mm Germans and I fall foul of the main bloggers nightmare, destroyer of foundling blogs: lack of time. I haven't had time to really paint let alone take photos and write about it. I have however had one productive evening and in that time I managed to paint my first ever Historical wargaming miniature: my Marder.

In my last post my poor battered marder was shown naked and sadly she was not a pretty sight. Hours and hours (in reality one and a bit whilst watching TV) went into rebuilding her and finding a suitable crew as the battlefront ones provided were flimsy and miscast.

Doesn't look too bad from this angle....

The damage was extensive (and sloppily repaired).... 
This model is actually the reason I'm probably going to base all my vehicles. It is so misshapen and miscast that the main body is angled differently to the gun shield and the tracks. The slightly raised base allowed me some leeway to adjust how I positioned it and align it as levelly as possible. It's not great but adds to it's ramshackle charm in my eyes.

In a brief gap in the near constant and torrential rain in my locale allowed me to try out my as yet untested Plastic Soldier Company Warspray Dunkelgelb. The coat was light and dealt well with the increased moisture (from living in the south wales temperate rainforest)  with out any frosting or blobbing (tech. def.). The colour was however darker than I expected. This was the first warning sign that I may get frustrated with real world paint schemes.

As I have an airbrush but neither the space or experience/inclination to try using it for such a small job I'd previously decided to try doing the soft edge camo over the dunkelgelb using a paintbrush. This wasn't too bad and using thinned paints it was possible to slightly feather the reflective green camo. I then came to highlight the exposed dunkelgelb using my newly acquired German Armour Paint set from Battlefront. Plucked out middlestone and set to work.

I should point out that I'm a fireside modeler. I often find the only time I have for my hobby is to sit in front of my fire and TV with my wife in the evening and paint and model sociably. This is fine but can be distracting but most importantly I need to take my Daylight bulb'd lamp along with me. To see the difference that available light makes to your painting; try painting a mini in poor electric light and then take it out into bright sunlight. The variation from what you saw and think you painted and reality can be immense.

To me the middlestone paint was too bright to apply a one step highlight to the dunkelgelb basecoat. I tried a couple of times and didn't like the results so I randomly located tausept ochre, bestial brown and a very old bottle of orc flesh out of my paint supply and repainted the stripes. This was better but I'm still not sure. I know that dunkelgelb was predominantly applied in the field and as such was variable in final colour: due to how it was thinned (usually with fuel), applied and any weathering afterwards. I found that the level of complexity (and apprehension) created when simply trying to represent a real world object (in a rapidly changing environment) can be daunting. I'd stared at lots of black and white photos but they only really help from a pattern and tonal perspective. It's worth looking at the Painting Dunkelgelb article on Battlefronts site. It allayed some worries about variance.

So below is some pictures of my (nearly) finished marder. It needs a couple of small shells painted and attached, a few fine details added and then maybe another coat of dulcoat.

The added tree branch camouflage and crew wearing zeltbahn seemed necessary for me as the "gun shield'" was very thin and not even good protection from small arms accordingly.

A unnerving combination of cramped and exposed,  the only benefit I can see is that it would be easy to leave...
I'm really pleased with the first use of my micro sol and set on the Balkenkreutz. There is no tell tale decal shine now. 
Silver birch was very 'in' in the flamboyant '44 tank camouflage fashionista circles. (Not a real fact).
So that's my first finished(ish) model for my Germans. I know it's weak in game and horribly disfigured (and maybe even the wrong colour) yet I still strangely like it. I've got lots left to do and hopefully when there is a break in the drizzle (or snow later accordingly) I'll try and base-coat up some infantry and get going.

If you've managed to read that and can give any advice please comment below. 



Thursday, 20 February 2014

15mm Fallschirmjager

The Story so far...

This square of cardboard holds effectively everything I've done so far with my 15mm Bolt Action and Chain of Command German forces. It has Officers, Specialists, Riflemen, Submachine guns, Light machine guns, Mortars, recoilless rifles and a kettenkrad. It doesn't look like enough but hopefully it is all going according to plan. I've played approximately 6 or 7 games of Bolt Action and the chaps above have easily provided for my lists.

Two officers with assault rifles, L to R: Peter Pig with FG42 and Peter pig with added Stg44.

I have a range of Officers, including my Hauptmann (Captain), wielding a range of weapons from pistols and rifles to Smg's and assault rifles. Whilst forces such as 6th FJDiv. in Normandy did have a good supply of AR's I didn't want to have too many of what is often seen as a WAAC weapon choice (and used in Bolt Action in numbers much greater than were reality by tournament gamers). I have a few Stg44 armed chaps (mainly officers) and a small squad wielding the FG42 who will act as my Pioneers or assault group. The main officers for my force have had procreate Stg44's added to increase the firepower of their small squads and as fitting equipment for the brave leaders.

Peter Pig Heer LMG with procreate paratrooper smock. Intended to look like an unbuttoned 2nd ed. smock

My force is equipped to have 2 LMG's per squad. Even though they are not fantastic in Bolt Action they are at least thematically and historically appropriate and because of this I will attempt to use them as intended in my games. 

I also have specialist troopers such as a flamethrower, a Panzerknacker team (Four chaps with LMG, Smoke grenades and a compound charge), a Medic, Sniper, Spotters and two HMG's. This force was built around a 'fantasy' late war FJ unit, where everything was initially intended to be Air-droppable. Whilst I have later added some support in the form of a Marder II, A Panther G and a Stug G, the support weapons are all small and portable. In order to increase my towing and transport capabilities I modeled up a battlefront kettenkrad carrying crew.

Can't honestly say I'd like to sit pillion on a 'krad (or if it's even possible) but unfortunately it was the only way any of the FoW SS Bikers would fit. A case of artistic licence over historical accuracy.

This Kettenkrad can represent a three man crew and tow a light howitzer (LG40 10.5cm) or a crew of two and a driver (for the Spzb. 41). It's an excellent little, air portable tow that can access areas wheeled vehicles can't. I have three modeled altogether, the one above, one with just a driver and an empty one (in case my opponent wants to steal it in CoC).

Motorcycle Recce vehicle.

I adapted a Battlefront SS Motorcycle into being a FJ Recce vehicle by re-heading and sculpting para smocks onto the crew and adding some stowage and an MG42. From my limited experience this vehicle is worthwhile for the disruption and distraction it can cause as much as anything.

Looks like a normal Marder........
..........But no! It was severely deformed and I only noticed months after purchasing and opening it. Rather than battle customer services (who I have never had a problem with) I decided to 'simply' re-sculpt it. Frustrating. It will now be used, no matter how rubbish in game, as I spent too much time on it not to.

With the infantry above and a range of armoured support representing attached or assisting Panzer regiments I should be able to represent a reasonably historically correct FJ force. I've only got a couple of Zvesda trucks as I realise by this point transport was a key problem for all forces, especially the germans. They will get to use transport but not excessively unless historically relevant.

In terms of painting, the late war period couldn't be any more unhelpful. Camouflage comes into much greater use and people slap everything but the kitchen sink to tanks to increase their survivability (although accordingly this often didn't work and sometimes made it more dangerous). Complex camouflage patterns in a small scale are difficult if not impossible (Aren't they?), especially when they have to be repeated at least 100 times. What you need to do is represent the expected pattern on the miniature. This will give the viewer the impression of the camouflage you're trying to represent (but will often be actually different shapes, shades or colours to the original - to increase or decrease effects). Painting in a small scale means you have to adjust your colour choices slighty to make such small pieces stand out on the battlefield (although I am a big proponent of good camouflage and hoping your opponent forgets about your units (and you don't). My fallschirmjager, for this reason and as far as I currently know, will be quite clean and bright (at least to start with) with a range of camouflage patterns from splinter pattern and water pattern smocks and zeltbahn, to tan, field grey and blue and Italian camouflage trousers.

My biggest problem now is simply starting. I like modeling and can get quite carried away and easily distracted. I also like to at least have a rough idea for paint schemes, that I'm comfortable with, before I begin and, if working on a large project, would rather do all the painting at the same time. I have effectively created a barrier to my own success ( something I am adept at doing) but I'm quite determined (mainly because as a reward I get to do Allies next) and intend to get the spray paint out the moment the rain stops in Wales. The joke is not lost on me.

It's a heavy and exciting B'day present.....
Full of bags of buildings, walls and even elastic bands.
The Threshing barn in construction. The newer kits have interior detailing and exterior plaster/stucco work to add detail. The whole level of detail in this kit is excellent.
 I also intend to get my 4Ground farm done (I did a barn, got distracted...) and get some pictures up for people to look at. Thank you if you took the time,


Friday, 14 February 2014

Bolt Action in 15mm

I bought Bolt Action by Warlord Games shortly after it's release at the end of 2012. I've never played (to my dim recollection), and certainly not collected, a force for a historical wargame before. I also had a few worries about 'gaming' conflicts that so many brave people fought and died in, in what was living memory for many people present in my childhood. I remember close relatives talking about their experiences.  I had always preferred Science Fiction and Fantasy games for the simple detachment from reality and the complete creative control, in painting and modeling terms.

I soon realised that if I wanted to game WW2 I would at least have to read some accounts and do some proper historical research to understand the situations presented, even just a little. It should be noted at this point that Bolt Action is not really a historical wargame, it's a wargame with a soupcon of historical flavouring. Imagine the aromatherapy school of military history gaming and you're there (this isn't to say that it's bad(or that there is anything wrong with aromatherapy) just that this isn't a game that will necessarily please people who want rules heavy, painstakingly detailed games systems or old school rivet counters). It has been described by others as a fantasy WW2 game. It should also be noted that there is nothing in Bolt Action to say you have to play it historically: it's a game after all and you can choose how you play it. I intend to play scenarios similar to actual ones but not game the specific events of the war necessarily. I'd also like to do a 'what-if?' operation Seelowe once I have my forces finished up.

I started learning the rules. It seemed simple yet relatively elegant and the main rule book does have all the army lists for the main protagonists so initial outlay was reasonable (I'll come back to this). It isn't brilliantly laid out and it can be tedious tracing a series of disparate entries across the book to solve a gaming situation. After many conversations with my opponent we decided to play in 15mm, without adjusting the game scale, for a couple of reasons:
  • Cost: You can buy a lot of 15mm compared to 28mm and this will allow us to have a greater army pool of available units to pick from.
  • Space: To reduce the on table miniature queuing that's nearly always prevalent in 28mm games. I'd scoured the net and read as many reports and stared at as many pictures as I could. I've played 40k "grimdark parking lots in space" (Tanks aren't really the right things for this scale of conflict so at least do them in a smaller scale). Nearly all of them seemed crowded when played with a reasonable amount of scenery...
  • Scenery: We both already had, and had planned for; 15mm scenery for our Near Future and rustic Sci-Fi games using Tomorrow's War and Force on Force. I'm a big fan of scenery, yet have very little, so I wanted it to be as usable as possible for as many different systems as possible.
  • Time: In theory we can paint up a force much quicker than 28mm. I am a misguided fool.
  • Weapon Ranges: In a 28mm game a pistol fires the length of a standard truck. In a 15mm game the range is equivalent to three such trucks. It seems more appropriate.
After more discussion we realised that we both wanted to do the same sorts of forces. Because we're British we had an almost knee jerk urge to play as the Allies (although my friend showed early signs of deeply red opinions). At this point we realised we'd both have to collect and paint one German army each so that the same person didn't repetitively play them and had a decent range of options. I decided on a Fallschirmjager force. Michael Caine running around dressed as a Polish para came to mind: He'd seemed quite honourable overall. On went netflix. Thorough research done I believed I had it sorted. 

I was wrong. I wasn't properly prepared for not only the amount of available information, but also the contradictory natures of some accounts and practices.

I threw myself into ospreys books, online accounts and the like, and I realised quite quickly that it would be unlikely that I'd re-create an actual, specific force for a number of reasons.

I wanted to be able to use the forces in a number of different theater's; most importantly Normandy and Market Garden. This is hard to do with historical games. Dig too deep into the vast swathes of available research and information concerning WW2 and you'll end up modelling 30 specific chaps during a one week period, just to get the outfits, colours and equipment right. Or at least how the majority of amateur and professional historians believe it was.... it can be daunting. I also want the opposing allies and axis forces I inevitably collect to be usable in the greatest range of conflicts and theater selectors possible to provide some gaming variety.

With our scale choice of 15mm I had two key miniature producers in mind: Peter Pig and Battlefront. I love Peter Pigs infantry and would rely on the ease of availability and vast range provided by Flames of Wars vehicles. Unfortunately (for me) I like variation in models, even if only slight, and even in 15mm. I have a strange fixation with personalising models, even if only simply, so that they're 'mine'.

Battlefront has a good range of somewhat variable poses of infantry but the weapons can be flimsy and the faces often mangled in my experience. Peter Pig has a good range of lots of forces but you usually only get three poses in each specific weapon/pose pack, the Peter Pig chaps were crisper and slightly chunkier (and more importantly: more to my personal taste) than the Battlefront miniatures so I planned to mix Fallschirmjager and Zeltbahn wearing infantry together to represent my force. I'd found a photograph with FJ's wearing zeltbahn and jumpsmocks in Normandy and that would give me a greater variety of individual pose and sculpt variety. There are also some regular heer models that I could adapt with procreate additions to represent para smocks. The heer and zeltbahn troops available are wearing the stahlhelm (this would have been appropriate in the later conflicts, but I wanted a strong, universal and visible theme in such small playing pieces) and so tentatively decided to attempt to re-head them using the sprues of individual heads (Para helmets and the M1943 field cap for officers and NCO's) available from peter pig (these are awesome and I'll definitely cover this soon). I'd either have to replace the Flames of War vehicle crews with them entirely where possible or re-head them like the infantry.

The infamous 'Battle of that corner' a messy and ultimately fruitless waste of little men. There was smoke, an inneffective flamethrower, a sniper who only hit one thing over three games and a bear in a soviet owned opel blitz.
My darling wife bought me my Peter Pig infantry as a Birthday present and I bought myself some Battlefront tanks as an indulgence. I learnt the rules and planned, and blu-tacked chaps to bases to use for test games and planned, picked up Flames of War box sets and vehicles when at good prices through eBay and game show bring and buys (I shouldn't be allowed near them) and planned, and ultimately didn't play the game for nearly a year.

Time demanded an unreasonable amount of my attention....

What little gaming time we got was used on other things. Other excellent things like Tomorrow's War, Hind Commander and Full Thrust. Then suddenly we manage to play a couple of games of Bolt Action and I'm back into staring at the web and trying to get my head around military forces, camouflage patterns and historical settings.

As the Russians fortify the Church, my FJ's prepare to flank and assault.

Recently we managed to have a number of games of Bolt Action (and Chain of Command - a whole other story and developing obsession) in the space of a few days ranging from low point infantry fights up to a large armoured and infantry platoon game. During this time I have got a better idea of how the system works and my feelings about it:

  • LMG's are badly implemented. This is a well discussed issue around the internet. I play games to enjoy them, but I'll still try to take equipment for my forces if it's thematically correct (even when overpriced and ineffective).
  • Units in hand to hand lose all the pins they have collected - seems against the point of suppressing them in the first place. Some effect would be appreciated.
  • Historical accuracy is variable. In all honesty the idea of producing such a game and having to get all these details 'correct' is daunting and the system is so simple and applicable you can just apply your own historical knowledge to compensate. This makes the system quite user friendly and it can be played by a range of gamers from points shaving, tournament lovers to fluffy, history buffs.
  • Tanks go bang too easily. I don't totally believe this, we played an excellent large game with an armoured platoon and a regular platoon each, lengthways down the table. It was great fun. The tanks really concentrated on each other and a secondary and supportive infantry firefight emerged around it. Maybe just a bit more detail with armour would do (see my last point).
  • The rules are badly written and laid out. The errata and FAQ's help but it still takes a little time to find what you need. Luckily the system is simple and you'll soon learn it off by heart.
  • It is a fun game. I may be caught glancing at the seductive cover of chain of command, saucily poking out from beneath my scribbled army lists, but I do like Bolt Action and will continual to play and enjoy it.
  • There is a level of 'codex creep'. The later books offer greater variety and the german ones feels left out not just in some power/costing issues but also themes like the variant army rules for brits or the free selections for the russians. There is also a worrying feeling that with the onset of the armoured add on excitedly entitled 'Tank War' in August (20/08/14 last time I checked) and the general success of Warlords system it won't be long before we see Bolt Action v2. I'm not against the rules being cleaned up and developed I just hope I don't see warlord enter a spiral of rules updates and rapidly outdated books popular with other games producers.
Tank War coming your way 20/08/14. Followed by escalation and dataslates...
So now up to date. I have done some frantic basing, re-heading and sculpting in the past few weeks. I have a relatively large (in specific game terms) Fallschirmjager army based and nearly ready to paint. It has options for both Bolt Action and Chain of Command. I have a few unfinished or trial vehicles built but none really completed. I have a pile of Battlefront blisters, PSC boxes and Zvesda kits to make up, or hack apart and adapt. I want to add some generic Heer/Panzer Grenadiers to the force to increase the number of theater selectors and scenarios I can use and add some regular quality troops. It keeps raining and I need to spray paint. I've also got some Foreground buildings to make including the farm complex my wife bought me for this birthday (she's an awesome present buyer). 

The chokepoint alongside the church and the Panther's combination of a super heavy anti tank gun and good frontal armour spells the doom of the soviet tank advance. Sneaky germans are seen using Opel Blitz' disguised as UN landrovers and a Blu-tack schwimmwagen. 

Hopefully another update with some actual models in it soon. Thanks if you managed to read all that.


Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Too many ideas...

Ok, so the first few posts of any blog aren't often the best. Over the next week I hope to get some pictures up of one of my first projects and get some helpful comments and feedback from the blogosphere and its occupants. Until then this blog feels aimless; so in an attempt to put something vaguely useful I've decided to post some links, with a few words of comment, about favourite sites I visit or loiter at. (Interspersed will be any more pics of past stuff I've found).
My WHFB 3rd ed. homemade giant: using a catachans face and arms, skaven legs, miscellaneous bits and a good lump of green stuff and procreate.

Concept minis for my WHFB Half Scale project. I just picked a range of different models, based and painted them to get an idea of how they'd look. I was happy.

Warhammer Fantasy Battle 3rd ed.

First up is Realm of Chaos 80's blog. This is an excellent blog following, in general one persons re-immersion into the true spirit of warhammer: Orlygg. Orlygg's approach and reminiscences about the Oldhammer gaming experience (using older rules editions of WHFB, mainly 3rd, to play the game as it was initially envisioned) are insightful and he deftly provides some interesting articles about the early GW artists and sculptors, background and thoughts behind what I loved so much as a child and ultimately became a goliath of the gaming world. It's a characterful read and will put you into contact with one of the key people in the UK oldhammer scene.

Elven Champion on steed. Needs a final detail.

Shield emblem and horses bum.
If you're interested in Oldhammer then check out the Realm of Zhu another key blog which includes the Oldhammer contract: a document detailing the spirit and intention of oldhammer gaming. A brilliant resource for all things oldhammer is the Oldhammer Forum. Through this you can get in touch with the movers and shakers of the oldhammer revival scene (and some truly excellent artists).
My finished giant with dragon skull, horse barding and small hogtied pig on rear. All started because I had some spare putty and bits in front of me. One evening later... seems very shiny but has since been dullcoated.
I'm not likely to play alot of Warhammer Fantasy Battle in 28mm. Even with 3rd being comprised of smaller forces with a more maneuverable, skirmish feel. I do a variety of fantasy stuff - mainly lovely old school dwarves but these will probably be based for Advanced Heroquest. The bulk of my 3rd WHFB battles will be played in half scale using 10mm individually based warmaster miniatures and a few lovely additions by Copplestone Castings.
Orc Boar Boy - Individually based and sadly now OOP GW Warmaster model. 

The oldhammer chaps organise a tournament day (it's not a tournament though as the games don't really play that way) at the headquarters of the excellent Foundry Miniatures in Nottingham. Whilst I was unable to attend the first event, I have every intention of cobbling together something interesting and trying to get up for the next on the 9th and 10th of August this year.
Really nice Copplestone wizard in familiar garb.

Warhammer 40k

Whilst my comments above will lead you to some excellent old school Rogue Trader painting and gaming not everyone is stuck in a time vortex like me. I have tried 5th edition and found it ok, I was put off by the amount I'd have to spend, some of the gamey players/features and to be honest the daunting amount of work to get my squats to a useable state. I've got 6th and simply wait to see how GW present the new Imperial Guard (sorry Astra Militarium accordingly) codex. If I can make a playable force that has charm and character then it may be the boost needed to motivate me back into 40k gaming.
Some (very few) of my expansive heavily converted squat 40k force.
Until then I regularly stare at Bell of Lost Souls (not the forum, just the articles/comments). Be warned this site feels very commercial, and is primarily patrolled by some zealous american tourney players (they're not all like that just be aware) and can be very WAAC (Win at all cost) and off-putting. This doesn't mean it doesn't have some useful articles; just that they need to be sifted and sieved mentally to remove the sometimes exacerbating bias of some the writers. If nothing else I always check it out on a friday for the invaluable Outside the Box articles by Table Top Fix covering a great range of recent releases for a variety of systems.
Storm Raven gunship converted for the vertically impaired.

Other things

Just to finish off a quick run down of some other worthwhile sites:

The Miniatures Page is a great resource of news and forums covering all niches of gaming and is well worth a look.

Board Game Geek is an excellent site covering games of all types but predominantly board based action. I've used this to research whether games are worth getting, get reasonable valuations as guides for eBay purchases and buy things. Full of lots of helpful and informed gamers.

Warlord Games forums are a brilliant resource for all their games but my particular interest is in Bolt Action. I'll be playing in 15mm and expect my first proper posts to concern this. 

Battlefront miniatures is the Flames of War publishers website and even if you ignore the option to purchase here, as cheaper vendors are available, the site holds a wealth of knowledge about each miniature and gives newcomers a good insight into WW2.

Peter Pigs miniatures is the UK 15mm miniature company I'm predominantly using for my Bolt Action forces and Martin's site is well worth a visit. 

It should be noted that I'm not affiliated with any of these sites and all opinions are simply my own, and thus dubious. Thanks for reading and hopefully I'll put up a post with some progress in a couple of days.



That difficult first post...

Welcome to my blog. 

This will be my account of my return to a lifelong hobby after a lengthy hiatus.

I started gaming in '87-'88 and not surprisingly this was with Games Workshop models and games. During my formative years I discovered my love of gaming generally and played games from many companies (although not often correctly). My main passion was for skirmish gaming which was perfect for the Rogue Trader and Warhammer Fantasy Battle 3rd Ed. era that was current then. I love games like Bloodbowl, Advanced Heroquest and Epic. I painted some miniatures but was often too busy playing or devising what to do next.

My first concept piece for the return of my RT Squats. The sentinel was left plain as I was searching for the forces look and would tackle colour schemes later.
Squat transport mock up
I got older, discovered women and ridiculous adrenaline sports and my hobby took a lengthy holiday (although the urge to paint, convert and game was there, ever present in the back ground: I simply didn't have the time, oppurtunity or funds).

I obtained my first degree, got my masters of research, met my wife and started working. About two years ago I suddenly found myself drawn back to my hobby. Whether this was due to the return of my childhood friend (and favourite enemy) or work/surfing/other hobbies having to take a back seat due to my fluctuating health.
My Epic squat concept models, with minor conversions
I made friends with a local EvilLGS store manager (who was a hard working, enthusiastic model of the perfect staff member,  running a flagship one man store) and began to help him out by making display boards and painting his display models (often overnight) for his shop. From this I did some commission work for those who asked nicely and I began to lose myself in hobbyland again. Unfortunately during this time I mainly modelled and painted for other people, taking few photos, and so have very little to show for it. To make this slightly less dull I've interspersed what pictures I have throughout this post (hopefully) of some of my concept pieces and stuff I've found on my computer.
So now I'm back and determined. I've found a range of new (and old) games I want to play, and I want to own decent painted armies for my favourites. Oh and scenery: the oft forgotten but vital (and just as laborious) part of really fun gaming. what will follow will be an account of me sorting through my hoarded mountainous stockpile of lead and plastic (and now resin too). I intend to salvage and transform what I need, sell some other bits and try to chart my progress. If nothing else, if this blog gives another insomniac hobbyist like myself something to read at 3am, I'll be happy.
My first painting competition entrant. Not amazing, but ok for finding out about it a couple of hours  before the entrants closed and grabbing the first miniature to hand.

 Chaos Lord on Bike (a commission piece that was never collected)
10mm indiviudually based Warmaster for half scale WHFB 3rd ed.

Thank you for taking the time to visit and I hope to see you soon. Please bear with me when it comes to blog technicalities. All helpful and friendly comments are welcomed.