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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.

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Desert War - 'N' Gauge - Part Two

As ever, starting a new period snowballs.... (see http://timstanks.blogspot.com/2020/06/desert-war-n-gauge.html)

Each time I think I've finished printing I think of a few more AFVs it would be "nice to have"!

So I've been beefing up my DAK force and adding to the terrain features with a few new additions.

Firstly, I created some larger palm tree models by using the palm tree trunk that is a built in file within 3D Builder and added to this foliage made from cutting the top off a bush that I found in Thingiverse. This was stretched out to form an upturned saucer shape and I hollowed out a small recess in the underside to accommodate the trunk. When printed out and assembled, I mounted them on mdf and textured the base with Vallejo White Pumice. They were painted up using a mixture of Citadel Contrast and Vallejo acrylics.

Then I drew up some adobe walls in 3D builder. These are very simple structures but will provide some linear cover in games.

I then created some "Burning tank" markers. These were built up in 3D Builder by combining a selection of differing sized, low resolution "Bush" files to resemble a pall of flame & smoke. Painted up using Citadel Contrast paints I was quite pleased with the finished results. I will make some more, but I think I will make them a little larger so the will work with this scale and 15mm too. I think the same principle could work for smoke markers too, so I will experiment further!

All the vehicles I printed are M Bergman files from Thingiverse. Some from his 1:200 collection and others his 1:100 collection. To be honest for these "N"Gauge models I prefer to enlarge the 1:200 models as their simplicity lends itself to easy printing and cleaning up. Sometimes the 1:100 models are too detailed to easily reduce in size and my 0.4mm nozzle is too big to render that detail. An example would be the SDKFZ 250 in the above picture. The hull walls are too thin to print at this scale, so to strengthen the model I had to fill in the body with additional material before printing.

The model of Rommel's half-track even had a very delicate (fragile!) radio frame to print out, making a nice HQ model.

For aerial recognition flags I found a swastika flag on Google images and printed several out at 10 x 5mm. The back of each flag was soaked in PVA before pressing down onto the vehicles to follow the hull/turret contours. The purpose in gaming terms will be to indicate commanding elements where required.

So I have the ability to game early war scenarios, I've added a Zug of Panzer IIs. These came from Tiger Ace's rework of some Bergman files and are designed in 1:100. Reducing these to "N" Gauge caused the track guards to suffer as they are now very thin. They don't look too bad though and will pass for "Battle damage"!

The final addition for this session is my Flak 36 88mm anti-tank gun. The gun was a Tiger Ace file which I added to a circular base in 3D Builder. In addition I included some crew figures, ammo boxes and spent cases. The base was textured with Vallejo White Pumice before painting. Altogether the model is a little over scale (about 1:125) but looks the part.

I created a towed version using Tiger Ace's barrel assembly married to a very simplified towed chassis I also found on Thingiverse. The SDKFZ 9 towing vehicle is a M Bergman 1:200 file.

Really pleased with these. I've also added another 4 Panzer IV's which I printed out accidentally! I'm now going to add some Italian vehicles and a few more allied items for variety....

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Team Yankee - West German 3D Printed Force - Part Four

I've reached a point with my 15mm Bundeswehr force that I thought it worth sharing once again.

Whilst I intend to try these out with the Seven Days to the River Rhine (SDttRR) rules, I have based the organisation around that in the Team Yankee "Leopard" book, which from what I can ascertain on-line, appears to reflect mid 1980's Bundeswehr organisation pretty accurately.

I've collected together a mixture of figures and vehicles that allow me to field a selection of different forces to suit the scenarios.

This is centred around a front line Kampfgruppe made up of Leopard 2 (base original model) and Marder 1 (again the base model not the A3 up-armoured version) with support elements.

  • 3 x Leopard 2
  • 3 x Marder 1 IFV
  • 2 x Jaguar 2 (TOW)
  • 2 x Luchs 8x8 Armoured Car
  • 1 x Gepard AA (to shoot down that pesky Hind!)
  • 3 x Fuchs 6x6 Wheeled APC
  • 2 x VW Iltis Jeeps

when I find a suitable model I'm happy with, I'll add Leopard 1A4's to the force too.

I painted the vehicles up using Battlefront's own Team Yankee West German paint set which contained all I needed for vehicles and figures.

The paint schemes came from the aforementioned "Leopard" book.

I intended to buy Battlefront's Panzer Grenadier Zug to give the force some figures, but it appears to currently be out of production and impossible to buy at a reasonable price.

As an alternative, I bought a selection of 6 packs of figures from QRF.

These on the face of it present good value for money at just £2.70 for a pack of 8 figures. Their modern range covers all posts and they have a very healthy 15mm range of vehicles to back these up too.

An MG Team base - Anti-Tank Launcher, MG3 Team & NCO
However, the figures are a bit hit and miss. Their quality of sculpting is a little below what you'd expect from Battlefront, and a long way from Peter Pig for example. However, they benefit from a careful paint job and can look the part.

Alternative MG Team base - Anti-Tank Launcher, MG3 Team & NCO
In my case I purchased; -

  • 2 x Milan team packs (6 launchers)
  • 2 x MG3 team packs (8 MG teams)
  • 1 x command pack (8 NCO/Officer figures)
  • 1 x Panzerfaust 3 pack (8 figures with Anti-Tank launchers)
This equated to 6 Milan team bases + 8 MG team bases of 4 figures each. Each Marder carried an MG team + a Milan team (6 men in total).

Whilst talking about QRF, can I bring to your attention their Decal range. They sell excellent value (£2.00 for 2 sheets) 15mm vehicle markings covering the main symbols you're likely to need, including balkan crosses, turret numbers, allied stars and in this case, Bundeswehr Maltese crosses. Just the job to finish off the AFVs.

Milan Team
The Fuchs could carry 9-10 men so the extra two MG team bases can go with these vehicles or indeed, the VW Jeeps.

The Bundeswehr uniform of the 1980's is great to paint.....basically an all-over grey green! This is broken up by prominent national colours on the upper arm. The uniform and webbing colours come in the Battlefront paint set which made this even simpler.

The bases were 3D printed and roughly mirror the Battlefront standard, slightly tweaked to suit QRF base sizes. I textured the bases with Vallejo White Pumice and flocked when painted.

This little force should prove very flexible on the table. I can use them with the original Team Yankee, SDttRR or my old stand-by, Cold War Commander.

I also have both BAOR and Soviet forces as work in progress, and one day I may even add 1980's French to join them. A 3D printer's work is never done....😀

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Team Yankee 3D Printed Mi-24 Hind Gunship - Part Two

I chose to finish the Hind to represent the Battlefront Team Yankee model as I liked the colour scheme.

To start with I gave the model an overall coat of PSC Dark Yellow from a Plastic Soldier Company rattle can. This primed it and gave me the base coat all in one go.

While I was at it, the main rotor was given a spray coat of black paint from a Pound shop rattle can.

The next step was to pick out the glazed areas in a GW turquoise blue with a shadow area around the outside edges using Army Painter Blue Wash.

The camouflage pattern was added using Battlefront’s own NATO Green and the underside of the fuselage and the wings were painted using a Revel Duck-Egg Blue.

Finally, details were picked out, such as the rotor tips in Yellow, the weapons in gunmetal etc.

I found some old Warlord Decals for the serial number and hand painted the Red Stars on the fuselage sides.

50 4x2mm rare earth magnets all the way from China in under 3 weeks for just £3!
Afterwards, the model was sprayed with Army Painter Satin Varnish followed by Testors Dullcote when dry.

For an aerial base I needed the imagination of my dear wife! She suggested the clear plastic barrel of a cheap Biro pen! Genius!!

I took the pen apart and printed up a circular base with a hole to accommodate the threaded end. I then sawed off the tip to open up the barrel so I could superglue a cut down steel flat headed nail to match the 4mm dia. Magnet I had mounted in the underside of the fuselage.

Another (smaller) cut down nail was super-glued into the rotor shaft on the upper fuselage to match the 4mm dia. Magnet I’d glued into the underside of the rotor.

This leaves me with a robust model for the tabletop that is easily broken down into three parts for storage.

Pride of place in the Team Yankee IKEA cabinet!

Now I need to find a Westland Lynx…..

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Desert War - 'N' Gauge - Part One

Once again, the wargame's butterfly in me has taken me off on a tangent.

This time it was the lure of a particular era of armoured fighting vehicles - the war in North Africa.

Both armies so far, surrounded by suitable terrain pieces
I started off thinking I'd print off a few 'N' gauge vehicles to play some What a Tanker, but I liked what I'd produced so much this project quickly grew.

The DAK force - spare turrets for the MkIVs armed with short 75mm are to the left.
So far I've printed and painted around 50 vehicles and associated terrain pieces.

Mostly aimed for the latter stages of the North African conflict (late 1942-early 1943) British and DAK.

Brit Force. A mix of Crusaders, Grants, Valentines and "Honeys"
I will add the Italians and maybe some earlier vehicles as I go as well as buy some metal infantry + associated anti-tank guns to complete the set.

As these armies grew I thought I might try out Iron Cross with them as I've had these on the shelf for a very long time. But then I started looking through my library and re-discovered my old favourite rules - BKC - Blitzkrieg Commander (version II).

The bulk of the DAK force is made up of Mk IIIs
I may well get back into these as they are eminently suited to desert warfare.

The British Recce Troops - Humber and Dingos
To buy this little lot in metal would probably have set me back £150 + with the terrain on top. To print out used one kg of PLA filament costing just £16 delivered from Amazon.

It did however take a lot of printing time! Each vehicle/terrain item taking on average 1.25 hours to print.

The teeth of the DAK - Marder III, Stug III and Tiger 1
The terrain items range from a ruined ancient temple, through flat topped houses to an oasis and various sand dunes and rock formations. All downloaded free from Thingiverse.

Halftracks ready to transport DAK infantry
I'm really pleased with the results so far as this is a period I've always wanted to try out, but never got around to. It is of particular interest to me as my late father served in Egypt during the latter stages of WW2 and his older brother is buried there following his death at the battle of el Alamien.

It all started with a solitary Grant Tank. I was so pleased with it I couldn't stop printing!
Better get that order for figures in....the sooner I do the sooner I'm ready to go!