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Monday, 21 September 2020

Victory at Sea

 I finally received my VaS starter set in August and to be honest, after having had the rules provided free with Wargames Illustrated and having printed up some ships from the interweb, I was a little underwelmed :-(

When you take into account the retail prices being charged for the fleets and individual battleships, the starter set is actually rather good value for money. 

You get all you need to start the game - dice, mats, fleets, counters, templates etc. so shouldn't complain really.

However there are two major gripes I have with the set; -

1. The rule book isn't the complete article. Its like a quick start guide you'd get with a GW boxed set. The full version (hardbacked etc.) is still to be announced, which means you only have the ship data that comes on the cards to match your starter fleets....nothing about the Atlantic war, submarines, Mediterranean sea, convoys etc. etc. And only the briefest notes on aircraft and carrier actions. Also there's a distinct lack of historical scenarios, which the original rulebook (thankfully I still have this) was full of.

2.The quality of the ships. The scale is 1/1800 which should offer the opportunity for good detail. Some are better than others....I suspect the better items are the old mongoose models repurposed. But they overall they are not bad.....however that cannot be said of the material they are cast in. The website announced they would be using the "New Warlord Resin" which we now know is something akin to the Siocast moulding materials now used by PSC to mould their Battlegroup Northag items. This is a grey slightly flexible material which whilst robust for delicate parts, is hard to straighten if warped and dificult to clean up as it does not sand easily. That said not all the ship models were of this material in my box, some were the old type resin and when I tried the "Hot & Cold Water" technique to try and straighten the banana like USS Chicago it promptly snapped in two!

Having got over these two issues I proceeed to get the set ready for use.

The ships were finished simply (no dazzle camoflague here I'm afraid) by spraying an overall coat of grey automotive primer. Then painting the deck colour, followed by white for lifeboats and yellow for infaltables and finally black for funnels and masts.

Once dry a coat of Army Painted Dark Tone to pick out the shadows.

Then a light drybrush of white to pick out details before painting the base in Vallejo Pastel Blue.

Once this is dry and give the base a coat of Army Painter Blue Tone before dry brushing white over the wave texture. Finally I painted the edge of the base in Vallejo Intense Blue and highlighted the name in white.

A spray coat of satin varnish completed them. In all about 2 days work at the very most.

Monday, 14 September 2020

Missing in Action

 Firstly let me apologise to any blog readers for having abandoned you for what seems like forever......2 months in fact.

The summer of 2020 has proved to be somewhat traumatic in the TimsTanks household for a number of reasons (not least my being made redundant due to COVID19) and time just seems to have passed me by.

However in the background, to keep myself sane I have continued to build up my 10/12mm WW2 collections, buy new rules that I'll probably never get around to playing, visit the tank museum at Bovington and (finally) recieve my Victory at Sea starter set.

I'll try and get some of these things posted up over the coming days......

1-130th Scale Panther G for a forthcoming Late WW2 project

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Blucher in 2mm

A post on Facebook way back at the start of lock-down has prompted me to revisit Sam Mustafa's Blucher rules.

I bought the book on the back of a Meeples & Miniatures show and was very impressed with the production values and what seemed an easy to learn system.

This led me to by the 100 Day's card set to go with the rules, but this is as far as I got. I didn't actually get around to playing the rules and they've languished on the shelf ever since (nothing new there then?).

A post from a member of our local club looking for Blucher opponents, led me to get them back out once again.

I think the problem for me has been, whilst I like the cards, I really would like to play this with figures, but on a smaller table than the 75mm frontage cards would permit.

At this point I remembered my Irregular Miniatures 2mm Napoleonic's that I'd based for use with Black Powder. These are all on 20x20mm mdf squares so I can place them in any formation I needed (i.e. Line, Column etc.). What if I could somehow mount these on bases suitable for Blucher?

My Irregular Miniatures 2mm Napoleonic collection, together with terrain pieces.
I think that Sally 4th produce a nice range of pre-cut mdf Blucher shaped bases (with centre point and fire arcs) in a variety of frontages. These would be great, but how could I temporarily affix my 2mm bases? An how much would the 50+ bases cost me!?

At the time, whilst I was 3D printing tanks like they were going out of fashion, I hadn't yet discovered the art of 3D design. Now to say I have now discovered this skill is a bit of a stretch of the imagination, I have now managed to create some basic designs, and my Blitzkreig Commander infantry bases got me thinking.

I found a basic Blucher base on Thingiverse and took that as my starting point. Firstly I scaled it down to a 50mm frontage. This would enable a game to be played on a 4 foot by 3 foot table which would be perfect for me.

I then increased the depth of the base to allow me to let in a recess that was the depth of an mdf base  that was 40 x 20mm.

I added to this a centre point marker, two raised areas for info to be added and a recessed hole to take a 7mm die to mark the base' "ELAN".

Printing them 4 at a time - 2 infantry & 2 Cavalry bases
I printed out version 1 (see above) and realised that it was still too thin (the mdf bases stood proud of the sabot base), that the raised ares perhaps weren't the best ideas and that I'd left the one edge of the die recess too thin so it didn't print.

A quick redesign and I printed out version 2. This time I'd added the movement allowances as embossed letters. This looked fine until I noticed that in the process of rescaling to 50mm frontage I'd lost the 45' angles from the front edge. They were more like 70'!

One more redesign and I was there! The MkIII version was just right. A quick spray of Army Painter Khaki and a dry-brush of white & Yellow paint and I was there.

Now what other bases would I need?

  • Line Infantry (Move 2-1, max Elan 6)
  • Guard/Elite Infantry (Move 2-1, max Elan 8)
  • Foot artillery (Move 2-1, Shots 5,4,4,3,2,2)
  • Horse Artillery (Move 3-1, Shots 5,4,4,3,2,2)
  • Light Cavalry (Move 4-2, max Elan 6)
  • Heavy/Elite Cavalry (Move 4-2, max Elan 8)
  • There is also a potential for "Guard Artillery" with shots of 6,5,5,4,3,3
So I set about designing all the options. 

For Guard/Elite bases I inlet 2 die recesses. This would allow a starting point of a 1 on one die and 6 on another for an Elan of 7.

Infantry bases; Top Guards with 2 die and bottom Line with 1 die.
For artillery I opted to go with number holes and a movable peg (cut down nail) to indicate shot use.

Rather than try and cram the unit name onto the base as well as their "traits" I went down the roster route with each corp given a colour and each brigade a number. To identify individual bases I then simply use a self-adhesive circular sticker with the brigade number written on it to identify the base.
Artillery; Top foot artillery with 2-1 move and bottom horse artillery with 3-1 move.
The next thing to tackle was the question of hidden movement. In the card game the cards are turned over and only revealed after they move or fire and at first I thought I might print out some dedicated counters for this purpose. Then I had a brainwave! Why don't I just turn these sabot bases over!

I first added a centre point and then printed out appropriate flags and laminated them before cutting to size to fit the backs of the bases. I attached them to the bases with double sided tape and there you go. 

Cavalry; Top Heavy or Elite Cavalry with 2 die and below light cavalry with 1 die.
These can be moved around the battlefield until they are identified, then turned over and the figure bases and die can be added.

Lastly I turned my attention to gaming aids I'd need. I printed up two measuring sticks marked in base widths (BW) for movement, firing etc. Then a couple of  BW x BW squares to use to define the areas in front of bases for close combat etc. and finally a couple of dozen "Prepared" tokens to indicate when brigades have gone into square formation.

Self-adhesive, laminated flags added to the rear of the bases for hidden movement.
Not everything went entirely to plan.....most problems can simply be explained by the simple term "Tolerances".

I designed my dice holes around some green 7mm dice I already had from my BKC project. Then I ordered Red & Blue (appropriately) dice from the same supplier. The blue dice are spot on 7mm but some of the red ones are 7.1mm - so are a rather tight fit.

Playing Aids; movement stick, combat idicator, prepared tokens and a built up area template.
Most of my figures date back some years and the bases are from the era before laser cutting. Therefore they measure something like 19.8-19.9mm square. I had to make up some new bases to create a few extra units and my laser cut mdf bases are exactly 20x20mm! I therefore had to make some new sabot bases with enlarged recesses to suit.

Now these are completed I'm looking forward to giving them a run out when the club is allowed to open once again.

Monday, 6 July 2020

Victory at Sea - Painting the Models

Many moons ago, I bought myself the old version of Victory at Sea by Mongoose Publishing. It was a nicely produced, hard-backed book that suffered (in its first edition) from very poor binding, leading to the pages falling out! This is the copy I’ve got!!

The rules were well supported on-line with downloads etc. and ultimately an additional book came out with more ship stats and updated rules. This was (thankfully) a perfect bound paperback.

The game was simple and fun and from what I remember, it split the naval wargaming fraternity, as to those who liked it and those who hated its ultra-simplicity.

1. Having glued the two halves together, I applied acrylic artist paste to the base to give it a "wave" texture
I purchased some 1/2400th scale metal ships to go with it enabling me to refight most of the RN vs. Kreigsmarine actions in the book’s scenarios.

2. Once dry, the whole model was given a spray coat of matt grey primer (from Poundland!)
Now I see another co-operative production is coming out from Warlord/Mongoose relaunching the game once more, this time in 1/1800th scale.

3. The decking area was picked out in Vallejo Orange Brown
I’m tempted (aren’t I always?) by the Pacific theatre starter set as I have never ventured into this part of WW2 so may weaken and get myself a copy when it is released sometime in August.

4. The hull sides were painted in Vallejo Dark Grey
The models look to be moulded in Ultracast resin and incorporate an oval base with the ship’s name embossed along the side.

5. The entire model was given a coat of Vallejo Light Grey Wash to darken the shadows and the base painted in Vallejo Pastel Blue
To get a feel for how these might look I took a quick look at what was available on-line to 3D print.
While there are one or two generic models (not necessarily in 1/1800th scale) on Thingiverse, there are a whole load of suitable models already to scale, available on Wargaming 3D’s website (https://www.wargaming3d.com/)

6. The Grey Blue base colour was given a coat of Army Painter Blue Tone wash.
These are all designed by Ghukek's Miniatures and whilst most files can be purchased for a modest fee, there are a handful available to download for free. He also has a range of suitable aircraft available on the same site for free, in 1/900th scale. These can be either used as they come (easier to print and identify on the table!) or scale down to suit the ships.

7. Finally the whole model was dry-brushed with Vallejo Game Colour White to highlight the upper surfaces. The waves were further enhanced with added attention to the tips of the texture. All that remains is a quick spray of varnish and this will be complete.
As an experiment I downloaded and printed out the 1/1800th scale USS Indiana battleship model – a South Dakota Class battleship.

I added an oval base before slicing the model along its centre line. I then printed out the two halves laid down on the bed with no supports or brim, so they required no clean-up, just sticking the two halves together.

To give the base some texture I applied acrylic artist’s paste with a pallet knife and left some “wave” like ridges.

Once dry I finished the model in acrylics. The picture captions will explain the process.

Nice scale to use. The model measures up as around 130mm (with its base) long, with ample detail, easy to paint and looks good on the table. You’ll need to ignore the highly unrealistic scale distances on the table though! I think I could enjoy the relaunched version…..time will tell.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Desert War - 'N' Gauge - Part Four

After much deliberation I finally ordered my 12mm figures from Minifigs (Caliver Books).

I ordered the following;-
1 x pack 8th Army (28 figures)
1 x pack British Infantry Support (28 figures)
1 x pack Afrika Korps (28 figures)
1 x pack German Infantry Support (28 figures)
1 x 50mm PAK 38 Anti-Tank Gun (2 guns & crews)
1 x 6 Pounder Anti-Tank Gun (2 guns & crews)

This little lot came to about £28 delivered, which under current circumstances took about 2 weeks from order to delivery.

I went with this option rather than my usual go-to 12mm source (Pendraken) because of the way they are packaged. I only wanted limited numbers of certain figure groups, but you are committed to packs of 10 figures from Pendraken that would have left me with surplus figures and an overall higher cost.

At this scale, the fact that the gun crews and support troops are wearing temperate uniforms is immaterial. They can easily be painted up to look the same as the dedicated Tropical uniformed infantry.

Minifigs 12mm figures are nicely cast (though they do need surplus metal clipping away from bases etc.) and are detailed and well proportioned. 

The 8th Army pack contained around 10 different poses of a mixture of rifle and Bren armed figures plus a couple of pistol armed officers. In fact there were 31 in the pack which was a nice bonus.

The support pack included Vickers teams (x2), 3" Mortar Teams (x2), more Bren guns, PIAT teams (x2) and a Flame Thrower (x1). All but the latter two were useful for the Desert scenario (don't worry the others will come in for future projects I'm sure).

The 6 Pounders were simple three part kits with three man crews and are very nice models.

For the Afrika Korps, the pack contained 10 mixed poses armed with either rifles or MP40s - No MGs. In addition there were 2 pistol armed officers.

The Support pack contained Light Role MG teams (x3), Medium Role MG teams (x2), 81mm Mortar teams (x2), Panzerfausts, Panzerschrecks and flamethrower. Again not all are usable for the desert scenario, but they wont be wasted.

The Pak 38 is a two part kit with a team of three crew, another very nice model.

Now the big question .... how to base them.

Usually I'd mount them on mdf (50x25mm for infantry, 25x25mm for support and 30x30mm for the guns) for use with BKC II.

I wanted to give myself maximum flexibility with these armies so I could potentially use the models for as many WW2 rules as possible. This meant that I needed some way to record casualties/hits on the bases so I could still get away with multiple figure bases.

I experimented with a 3D printed FOW style base with two recesses and mini magnets, to hold 2 x 1 penny coins that I could mount 2 figures on each. This came out OK but I felt was probably a bit "over-engineered" for this problem.

I then remembered the bases I'd done for PSC's the Great War. On these I used Minibits dice frames to hold small dice to indicate the number of casualties taken. I thought I could probably design printable versions of these.

So that is what I did. I tried a few prototypes before finalising on three base sizes.
  • 50 x 27mm - for four infantry figures
  • 27 x 27mm - for a MG or Mortar
  • 36 x 36mm - for a towed gun.

This was the outer dimensions - with the bevelled base the actual area for figures is slightly smaller. The bases were 3.5mm deep with a hole to hold the 7mm dice recessed 2.5mm into the base. I also let the base top 0.5mm into the top of the base (creating a fine lip around the top edge) to allow for the figures base thickness.

Once printed up, the figures were glued in place with superglue and the bases textured up to the lip with Vallejo White pumice.

When dried, the models were primed with Wilko's matt white primer before the figures were finished using Citadel Contrast paints. The base surface was painted in Vallejo Yellow Tan and dry-brushed with Iraqi Sand.

The 7 mm dice came from eBay - £2.49 for 50...Bargain.

I think this approach should give me the maximum flexibility with these figures. With the dice removed, the hole is barely visible at table top distances. The dice in place can record hits (in the case of BKC II) or remaining figures in the case of say Rapid Fire or IABSM.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Desert War - 'N' Gauge - Part Three

Further re-enforcements have hit the table for my Desert armies.

For the British & commonwealth forces there are now some Matilda IIs, Churchills, Bishop SPGs and Daimler armoured cars. All Marco Bergman files from Thingiverse, some form his 1:200th and others his 1:100 range of files.

I really like the Caunter camouflage scheme for British armour. It brings a spot of colour to an otherwise drab period.

In fact, most British vehicles had camouflage of some description or another. Base coat of sand with darker patches or wavy lines in a much darker colour. 

This could be black through chocolate brown or even a dark green. The effect of UV light on paints of the time can be quite dramatic, so any darker colour is feasible.

Then there are the Italians!

A small force of Italian AFVs made up of M11/39, M13/40, P40, Semovente 75mm, AB41 Autoblinda armoured cars and Saharina scouting vehicles with 20mm Breda cannon.

Great fun to paint as there are many possible paint schemes you can adopt and quite a flexible bunch of vehicles as most of them were also used by the DAK and later in Italy itself and in some cases even used by the Allies.

I’m coming to the end now. I may still add a few MKVI and CV33 Light tanks, but these may prove too challenging to print on an FDM printer. Some priest SPGs may be worthwhile additions as would some anti-tank gun towing vehicles i.e. Horch 1500s.

More importantly, my Minifigs infantry order has arrived so I need to get these based up and painted.

Monday, 22 June 2020

3D Printing Wargame's Markers

Whilst searching online for a file to modify to create my Palm trees I stumbled across a simple file for a bush for use in the Gloomhaven board game. (https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2328240)

It occurred to me that this roughened "ball" could be the foundation for several other items for use on the table.

Firstly, I combined five together and enlarged them in 3D Builder, to produce a 75x25mm (3x1") smoke marker. Printed in black PLA they only required a dry-brushing of white to finish them off.

The next idea was to stack several smaller balls up on a 25mm diameter base to create a smoke stack to indicate a burning vehicle.

Finally five in a row printed on a 2mm thick base will make a very serviceable hedgerow.  This particular file could be stretched upwards and squeezed inwards to produce taller, narrower hedges to suit  a variety of different scales. I will experiment further with this.

Other ideas include modelling shell bursts as well as creating small scale deciduous trees. A very useful little file.

Battlegroup Northag AFVs

Having now finally got myself modern armies in both 6mm and 15mm scale, Plastic Soldier Company conspire to rain on my parade with their adoption of 12mm for their new Battlegroup Northag range!

I’m a bit of a sucker for 10-12mm scale so whilst I’m doing my best to resist this new direction, I cannot help but be interested to see what these new models will look like.

Online reviews of pre-production sets look promising. They are using the new ultracast technology (isn’t everyone?) so they are made from a slightly flexible material that appears to take paint without the need for primer?

1/144th compared to their 15mm big brothers
But what would they feel like in your hands and look like on the table?

Well I couldn't stop myself from printing some vehicles up at 1/144th scale just to see! I chose some models designed by "Captain Ahab" available free from Thingiverse (https://www.thingiverse.com/captain_ahab_62/collections) which are designed to print at 1/300th but created at 1/100th scale.

The pictures should tell all. They look great at this scale and would enable larger games to comfortably be played on smaller tables. 

I must remain strong and resist.......

Team Yankee - BAOR Force

When I first got my Wanhao 3D printer I thought about of producing my own Modern British army in 15mm. In those heady days, long before I'd discovered .stl editing and the joys of heated, large sized printing beds, things were challenging.

Printing tank hulls in one piece, often vertically so they fitted in, was fraught with the chance of failure.

Due to this, I'd reached the point where I only had a few Chieftains and FV432 carriers before I put the project on halt.

To try and resurrect things I bought the Battlefront Mechanised Infantry and Milan teams packs, but they just got painted and added to the display cabinet.

Now with my new printer and 3D Builder software I've been able to finally get there!

I have (like my West Germans) created a force that can be either Chieftain/FV432 or Challenger 1/Warrior based - i.e. pre or post 1984/5. Or it could be a larger force with a mixture of both.

In support I have recce platoons using CVR-T AFVs (Scorpion, Scimitar, Striker, Spartan, Sultan and Spartan MCT) as well as the Wheeled version - Fox Armoured Cars. There's even a random Saladin Armoured Car thrown in for good measure!

For fire support I have Abbot SPG with Stalwart and a Chieftain Marksman AA tank.

I am very pleased with these and now feel enthused to press on with my Warsaw Pact forces.