Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Back online with some Red Devils

Right, new laptop purchased, backup restored as best I can, point me at the web!  Probably a few posts to come as I catch up with myself, I'll also be catching up on my reading and commenting on the great work my fellow bloggers have been getting up to during my time in Limbo.

First up, some test models for British Paras.  This initial four are from the Italeri Anti Tank Teams set and are really nicely sculpted, if at the larger end of 1/72.  For the Brit paras, the Denison smock is the iconic bit of kit, so I wanted to make sure that I could paint it successfully before embarking on any more, hence starting with these four as a test.  If successful, I have another set of Italeri paratroopers waiting in the wings (I'd love to add the Esci 'Red Devils' set to this list, but they seem to be as rare as hen's teeth).
I've tried out two variations on the camo, which you can see above.  On the left I started with a GW Foundation Paint Gretchin Green basecoat for the smock, the right started out as yellow ochre.  From what I understand, the early denison smock was quite yellow, but became a more olive colour later.  From that point of view I think the left hand version is more appropriate for Normandy onwards, but I'd be interested to hear what others think.  I'm quite please with how the brown and green patterns have turned out, it helps that the smock pattern was originally just brush strokes of thin paint!

 A couple more, this time the PIAT operator is in the yellow ochre base version, with the 'late war' pattern on the chap with the rather nicely done 2" mortar.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Offline :-(

They do say bad luck comes in threes and that certainly seems to have been the case at Morey towers recently, at least where technology is concerned.  The month started with the dishwasher flooding, proceeded on to the microwave catching fire and now, most frustratingly, my MacBook pro has decided its lost the will to live. A trip down to my nearest repair shop confirmed that the motherboard has shuffled off this mortal coil. More alarmingly, recovering the data from the hard disk isn't certain.

I'm managing some limited access to the web via my iPhone, but it's not ideal, and it certainly doesn't see eye to eye with blogger!  All this is a roundabout way of saying that my already poor posting rate will be even worse for a bit! Also to let all those whose blogs I follow that I am reading and enjoying all your posts as usual, but apologise if I don't comment as much Capctcha in particular is problematic from the phone).

I promise I'll have plenty to post about when normal service is resumed, including my first attempts at Brit paras and their Denison smocks!

And last but most certainly not least, a big thank you to fellow blogger Friendly Fire (who has a great blog concentrating on WWII 20mm models) who's nominated me for the 'leibster' award that's doing the rounds. Thank you FF! I'm supposed to copy and paste some info about the award here and pass it on, but that seems a bit beyond my current IT capabilities, do it may need to wait a bit, sorry!

Toodle pip!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Where have I been? What time is it?

My painting and posting rate isn't exactly prolific at the best of times, but it's really nosedived recently.

The reason?

The release by Firaxis Games of "Xcom, Enemy Unknown" of course!

For those of you who don't know (and I'm disappointed in you if you don't ;-) ), this is a remake of the hugely popular 1990's turn based strategy game.  I wasted many an hour with my Uni buddy James repelling the Alien invasion back then and, when they announced a remake, was a mix of excited and nervous.  Would they trash my fond memories?

Luckily, no.  What they've come up with is a game that brilliantly updates the original.  They've kept the 'feel' of the original game nicely, evolving the designs and look of the game well for the capabilities of modern graphics without losing its sense of fun, but it remains as brutal as the original, with operatives biting the dust on a regular basis (new squaddies may as well arrive dressed in a red shirt...).

In some ways its a game of two parts: the strategy side of managing your resources (cash, facilities, research, manufacturing and troops), of which you will never have enough to do everything you want; and the turn based combat when you have to deal with an alien incursion or investigate a downed UFO.

"do you think we've found them?"

It wasn't long before I realised I was basically playing a tabletop skirmish game, but with sprites instead of minis.  And what an elegantly simple system it would make!  Each soldier basically has two actions to take (later promotions and skills amend this a bit, but not by much): move/move, fire, move/fire, action, move/action.  Yet it doesn't feel repetitive or too basic.  Range and cover alter the percentage chance of hitting, and damage is set by weapon, to which critical hits are added with more damage.  It wouldn't take much effort at all to turn this into a basic set of pretty familiar seeming tabletop rules.

One aspect that has given me pause for thought though is the approach to morale.  One thing it isn't in this game is predictable.  Each soldier has a 'Will' score, which defines how likely they are to panic generally, but it's pretty tough to predict when it will actually happen, or how it will affect them.  Some will run, some will hunker down behind cover and whimper (literally!), they might also fire wildly; bad news if there are friendlies nearby but, as on one memorable mission, they might also fire back on the enemy, winning you the mission!  I found myself contrasting this to most tabletop rulesets I know and realising how predictable morale often is in them.  Most will set some clear break point at which morale must be tested (usually something like 50% casualties), and the result is nearly always one of two: run away, or the unit ceases to exist.  Hardly uncontrollable, unpredictable panic, is it?  There's something to be learned here, I'm just not sure what it is yet.  I'll keep you posted...

Now, I must leave you again for a moment.  There are aliens abducting people in New Mexico, and I'm needed elsewhere.  Just put on this red shirt rookie, and don't worry, you'll be fine...

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


SWMBO was off having a girly night out with her sisters this last weekend, leaving me all to my own devices.  What was a lonely boy to do?  Play with toys of course!

I decided to catch up with the exploits of the US infantry platoon from 'Buying the Farm' (blimey, was that over a year ago?  I need to game more often!).  Both sides rolled up the same mission, which meant it defaulted to an 'escalating conflict' mission for both sides, effectively a straight meeting engagement.  I particularly wanted to try out the revised vehicle rules from the beta version of FAD 5 (which can be found through the yahoo group, here), so both forces had some armour to play with.

The scenario was that Lt Robinson and the boys had given the job of scouting ahead to find the enemy, mounted up in half tracks and jeeps, with an M8 Greyhound and Sherman in support.  Unfortunately they are about to run into a small German group heading the other way with intention of setting up an armour ambush.

US forces:
HQ - 4 models, M1, regular, jeep
1st Squad - 1 thompson, 6 M1s, 1 BAR, 'trigger happy' (+1 fire effect), M3 half-track
2nd Squad - 1 thompson, 6 M1s, 1 BAR, M3 half-track
3rd Squad - 1 thompson, 5 M1s, 1 BAR, M3 half-track
Bazooka Team (mounted in 3rd squad half track)
M8 Greyhound
M4 Sherman

German forces:
HQ - MP40s and Kar 98, half track with PAK38
1st Squad, MP40, Kar 98, MG42 and 2 crew, half track
2x StugIII
Sdfkz 222

Kar 98s have the 'bolt action' rule (only roll 1D6 for fire effect) and the Stugs are 'slow firing' (cannot move and fire)

The forces aren't exactly balanced, but to be honest I always like the 'story' side of gaming, so I go with what seems an appropriate force for an interesting game.

Aerial Recon of the battlefield

The US forces approached form the 'south', the Germans the 'north'.  The US approached in two columns, the M8, HQ, 2nd and 3rd squad advancing up the road to the hamlet; with the Sherman and 1st squad advancing up past the farm building towards the centre.  The Germans sent the armoured car and Stugs up the centre, with the infantry skirting the farm on their right flank.

 The US enter the battlefield
 German armoured column advances

The US right flank advanced rapidly up to the hamlet, depositing the platoon HQ and bazooka team in one of the ruins where they could cover the cross roads with fire.  Meanwhile the Sherman nosed into a hedgerow for cover and, as its escorting infantry de-bussed and took to the hedgerows for cover, took a pot-shot at the advancing Stugs, but with more enthusiasm than accuracy!  Fortunately the return fire was little better.

The two armoured cars both raced to contest the crossroads, with the M8 getting the first shot off, writing off the '222, only to get popped by one of the Stugs, which had veered off into cover in the farm, while the other engaged in a ill-fated gunnery duel with the Sherman (who's crew had clearly calmed down and worked out what they were doing) and the halftracks advanced down the right flank.

 Assault gun hide n seek

Aware that their best chance of success was to take out the Sherman, giving them superiority in armour, the remaining Stug risked an advance to the crossroads, placing trust in luck and armour, while the PAK38 equipped half-track advanced to the farm building where it could set up for a flank shot.  Sadly for them, the Sherman crew were now on a roll, brewing up the unfortunate assault gun.  Worse was to come, as the bazooka crew found themselves with a possible shot at the half track and made the most of it, convincingly decimating it and its passengers, despite it being hull down.

Being the only ones left, the remaining German infantry, which had started advancing through the woods on the US flank, decided that discretion was the better part of valour against a combined arms force in good cover and fell back, ending the game.

 Forwards!  Or maybe not...

 Burnt out vehicles at the crossroads
 US Infantry 'encourage' the German withdrawl

 The final state of play (in colour, no less!)

All in all, a very interesting game.  With armour on the table, the infantry pretty much put their heads down until one side had superiority, perhaps not an unrealistic result!  The only infantry unit to open fire was the bazooka, with spectacular results.  Armoured combat in FAD5 is incredibly simple and pretty deadly between matched opponents.  Roll to hit, roll to penetrate and, if you do, it's likely a  kill.  No record keeping of damage points or endlessly shooting different bits off the same tank here!  For me, this seems entirely appropriate for armour clashing in a game that's pretty much occuring in small arms range.

The Stugs really struggled with a having to act offensively in this game because of the 'slow firing' rule but, again, I think this felt right and I think I'll keep it.  It'll be interesting to see how they fare in a more defensive role.  I do think that some using opportunity fire will be needed for these and AT guns to keep them from being too vulnerable to more conventional tanks.

I did find that the vehicles fair zipped around the table.  Was it too much or was this appropriate?  Not sure, Jury's out on that one for now (I could always swap units from inches to cm if needs be).  The temptation to nip about is probably what led to both armoured cars getting themselves exposed and in so much trouble.  It certainly proves why recon units were not supposed to go engaging 'true' armour!

Here's hoping it's not another 14 months until the next installment!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Monty's Caravan

Well, that's another model cleared off the 'unbuilt' pile!

This time an old Matchbox kit, 'Monty's Caravan' (if you've been following this blog for a while, you'll already have seen the Daimler Dingo Scout Car from the same set).  The Kit is still readily available in its Revell form for anyone who's interested.

Before I write about it, here's the finished model.  I have assembled it without the awning and steps at the rear for the time being.

This was a little bit of a tricky build.  There are some very small parts to deal with (and my fingers don't feel as slim as they used to!), some of which are easily broken, and some quite delicate joints that don't have very large glueing surfaces.  To prove this, I started the build by breaking several different parts of the suspension and drive shaft getting them off the sprue (which is why the rear wheels look a little wonky).  On the other hand, in common with most Matchbox kits, the parts fitted well, had minimal flash and on the whole the instructions were clear and easy to follow.

As well as the Daimler, the kit comes with a mini-diorama of Monty and two of his officers at conference on a cobbled street.  Sadly, my Monty arrived missing an arm, and one of his subordinates lost a foot (since glued back on) in the construction process.  Hopefully more on those in the future.

Not really an ideal gaming model, but it may see use occasionally representing a more generic command trailer.  The actual caravan can still be seen at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford
(I really ought to visit one day).  It was apparenlt made from a captured Italian General's caravan, mounted on a Leyland Retriever chassis.  Waste not, want not, as some people say!

Monday, 17 September 2012

I don't seem to have found much time for painting recently, what with more building work on the house, holidays, a lot on at work and far too much time spent playing Mass Effect 3!

However, I have finally accepted that I have been neglecting my painting duties and got around to finishing a few models that have been hanging around in various painting and basing states.

So without further ado, onto the pretty pictures.  First a German Mortar Team and extras from Armourfast.

These are cast in hard, grey plastic and are nicely detailed.  You get 4 sprues, each sprue comes with the mortar, four crew and extra mortar bombs, ammo crates etc.  There was some flash, particularly on the sub-machine gunner, as you'll see in the photos (I didn't do a great job of cleaning it up).  The mortar comes in three parts, tube, baseplate and stand, and assembles easily enough.  The only criticism is that the stand attaches to the tube at right angles, and doesn't look right at all, so I ended up doing a little trimming to make the angle look more acceptable.

This is my second attempt at 'Marsh Pattern' smocks and helmet covers, after the Italeri PAK40 Crew.  I think this looks much better, but I'm open to suggestions on how to improve.  The only downside is that these Armoufast guys are at the smaller end of 1:72/20mm, so they do look a little smaller against something like the Italeri bods.

Crew from the Airfix German Recon set. Still don't know why that MP40 seems to have a wooden stock...

Italeri anti tank teams.  Nicely sculpted and cast, but this time at the big end of 1:72!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

M16-M3 Scale Comparison

Just in case it's of any use to anyone, here are a few pics comparing the 1/76 scale Matchbox M16 with its 1/72 Italeri M3 cousin.

When placed side by side, the M16 is definitely noticeably slimmer and shorter than the larger scale M3.  But it's not actually as noticeable as I thought it would be, and certainly not as dramatic as this!

Does make me realise that I perhaps need to go back and weather the M3s though!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Matchbox M16 (4) Finished

The finished article.  This has been a great kit to build.  Assembly was easy, and there's a nice level of detail without being 'fussy'.  Still don't like vinyl tracks though!

A light drybrush with Khaki to bring out the details, stowage and some light weathering.  As I'm thinking Normandy, I didn't want too much wear and tear, so I've just settled for some subtle scratches on heavily used areas (doors, bonnet etc), and a light drybrush with US drab around the lower parts of the vehicle.

The close up shows how basic the detail is on the Hasegawa model I've used as a commander but he'll pass fine under the 3' rule.

Matchbox M16 (3)

Painting the parts before assembly has the advantage of being able to get at details that will later get hidden.  The downside however is that the paintwork can easily get damaged by assembly; whether the overspill of glue (which is almost impossible to avoid, try as I might), handling (which 'polishes' the paint in places), or trimming parts (which I didn't need to do much as this is a lovely kit to assemble).

Here you can see here the glue along the seams of the bonnet, and how some of the paintwork has become 'shiny'.

So the only answer is to mask off the details (wheels, cab, tracks etc), and give it another light spray of FoW US Armour to refresh the basecoat.  The stowage (from SHQ) got a quick 'undercoat' at the same time.

Stowage added and details refreshed.

Stowage properly undercoated, 'spotter' added (one of the many spares from the Hasegawa Jeep and 37mm gun set) and decals in place.

Considering the age of this set of decals (which must be a good couple of decades old), they were in good condition.  In hindsight I perhaps should have trimmed the top of the stars for the side, to make them look like they're under the lowered side flaps.  Getting the front star on was a bit of a trial, as the raised details make the decal 'tent' up.  Constant dabbing with a damp brush, combined with pushing it into the crease with a sharp hobby knife eventually got it right.  The result is it looks a little distressed, but that actually helps it look right (in my opinion anyway!).

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Matchbox M16 (2)

Tonight was the Eurovision Song contest.  Surely a great excuse to do something else, so I got down to work on the M16.

Assembly was pretty straightforward, with everything fitting together pretty well.  First job was assembling the chassis.  The only 'challenging' bit was the vinyl tracks, which of course won't stick together for anything! Fortunately they were sized well, and hold in place pretty much under their own tension.

Next up was the Quad .50 mount.  Bit tricky as pretty much all the parts need to go together at once! This was one of those jobs where tentacles might have been more useful: at one point I think I was trying to hold five different pieces in place to glue them, all of which wanted to point in different (but wrong) directions.

The hull was then pretty straightforward and has some nice details, like all the spare ammo cans in the rear.  I added a driver, one of the spare crew from the Hasegawa Jeep (poor lad had to be chopped off at the knees to fit though), before putting the front screen on.

Next up, adding details like stowage, followed by decals and painting.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Matchbox M16 (1)

Generally I've been posting completed models recently.  As a bit of a change I thought I'd do some posts following a single project through.

Next up for attention is an old Matchbox kit, and M16 Half Track.  As I've mentioned before, I have a particular soft spot for this kit, as I made one whilst still at school.  At  a time when I was mostly building model aeroplanes (and mostly getting bored and not finishing them), this was one of the few ground vehicles I made (the other being a Leopard 1), and one of the first I completed without help from either my Dad or Grandad (the other two prolific model botherers in the family!).  It later go repainted and converted to be used in GW's Dark Future road wars game and after that, who knows?  I picked up this kit from ebay, the box is a bit tattered, but otherwise everything is in perfect order.

First up, the box art...

I like how matchbox boxed their kits.  You could see a bit of it, there was a nice clear drawing of how it should look assembled, and the box artwork was always top notch.

First job, after clearing away any flash (absolutely minimal with these kits, despite their age), was a quick spray with Flames of War, US Armour.  This gives me a good base to work from, as well as getting the main colour on and making sure it gets into the nooks and crannies I wouldn't be able to paint with a brush once assembled.  Small details get picked out as required, in this case the tyres (vallejo grey-black), small metal parts (MG's, winch), seats (FoW Khaki) and the gunner (FoW russian uniform for fatigues, Brown Violet for helmet, and GW Tallarn Flesh, all washed with Devlan Mud)

Assembly comes next. I am not looking forward to sorting out those vinyl tracks...

I'm going to take a bit more care and attention with this one, compared to some of my recent builds, So expect it to end up with some extra details like added stowage and crew (those spares from the Hasegawa Jeep are likely to find a use here).

Until next time...