Thursday, 20 April 2017

At last, some action!

I have become aware recently that this blog is lacking in battle reports, mostly focused upon what's on the painting table as I tend to churn out a fair bit of stuff each week. Whilst I'm still enjoying building and painting 15mm Flames of War models and figures, my enthusiasm for wargaming generally has declined over recent months. A couple of weeks back for example I set up a nice Normandy themed table that featured hedgerow lined roads and fields, standing cropfields, woods and a central village containing no less than ten 4Ground houses.  I sorted out a couple of small forces, stood back and looked at the table and realised that as realistic as it looked, from a wargame point of view it was going to be almost impossible to play on. There was little or no space to maneuver a formation of tanks, hardly any open sight lines and the hedgerows were going to make both movement and shooting difficult. The models went back in the boxes and I started to think about how to simplify the terrain.

For this game the table will be far more open, with far fewer hedgerows lining the roads, just two wood templates and only a few buildings. This is a more traditional approach to table top terrain I think, far more practical if less realistic, with each piece of terrain clearly defined according to FoW V4 rules. The standing crop fields for example are no longer contained within tall hedges as before, but still offer concealment to troops within it. The outskirts of the small village are now more open and sight lines are also more open, offering opportunities for longer range shooting. Having got over the temptation to cram everything onto the table I now feel I can run through a solo game to get to grips with V4.

FoW 4 does make some changes to the previous version, much has been simplified to speed up play, hit allocation is one example where you now simply declare your target team within a platoon and that team takes the first hit with other hits allocated to next nearest etc. The dreaded Bogging checks become Cross checks with a slightly better chance of passing, and formation commanders can issue a 'Follow Me' order to gain an additional 4" of movement if within 6" of a unit. Aircraft rules have been bought more into line with the game with streamlined shooting, fighter interception and flack rules. The assault rules also look to have been tidied up.

So with the table set up as below my youngest daughter diced for sides and placed a couple of objectives for the game. Forces are two late war armour based armies with infantry and artillery support. I'll roll for air support each turn and will be using my Typhoon & ME 262 models, although I'll use the 'Stuka' stats for the latter until I can find something more suitable!

US to move first, it's a simple straight encounter game across a fairly open field, the tall hedgerows remain in the box, the standing crops offer concealment and soft cover, the ploughed fields offer soft cover, the woods are also soft cover and require a cross check to enter, and the railway embankment also requires a cross check to move across. Buildings of course are hard cover, I simply had to get the church on the table although the model  will be much enhanced once rubble sections have been produced as per those made by James at The Mad Tin Hatter blog, well worth checking out, a great idea.

Images show the table before move 1, Dining room booked until Sunday so I can leave it set up and take my time. All terrain items from my collection are as follows:

  • Baseboards by Total Systems Scenic 'space saver' boards. I resisted the urge to add hills at this time although I do have a lot of matching hill pieces.
  • Rural roads, cobbled roads & rail sections are 'Battlefield in a Box' range.
  • Buildings by 4Ground MDF kits.
  • Trees and wood templates by S&A Scenics.
  • Fields made from door mat and carpet tiles recoloured and flocked.
  • Wall sections by 'Small Terrain Miniature Scenery' (eBay)

Battle report and pictures will follow, possibly broken down into a couple of posts.

Edited to add a few deployment shots, Turn 1. Deployment is difficult when playing solo, so both sides move onto the table and the shooting can begin in Turn 2. Things look pretty linear but that quickly break down as the game develops. The Germans are massing on the right for an attack on the village, StuG's advancing supported by the Panzer Grenadier platoons with mortar sections. On the Allied right the M10 tank destroyers have advanced in open ground, their recce advancing to find targets while Stuart light tanks move up to protect their exposed right flank. Panzer IV's move toward the woods, they will make short work of those Stuarts if they can get through the woods quickly. Sherman's advance across the entire front. 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Adding foliage to Jagdpanthers.

I'm continuing to work on my Flames of war collection, with a first run through of 4th Edition planned for the Easter weekend. I'm pulling together 2 basic armies from the 'Open Fire' lists, reorganising the command structure and finishing off some final touched on the models. My tank/AFC collection for US & German forces now exceeds 100 models, but for this game my German armour will consist of 5 x StuG's, 5 x Panzer 4H's and 2 x Jadgpanther as 1st and 2nd in command. I'll also field a company of 2 platoons of Panzergrenadiers, supported by 3 medium mortar teams, 2 anti tank guns, 2 recce armoured cars and air support in the shape of a JU87 Stuka. I have painted more bases of Peter Pig late war infantry to make up the two platoons to complete the requirements.

I had painted the 2 Jagdpanthers some time ago, and decided to try and match the StuG's with their foliage so typical of the late war period when the Allies dominated the skies. Twig cuttings were taken from the garden, trimmed down and superglued to the superstructure - Germans tank crews were supplied with 'D' rings that were welded on and the branches poked through rather than netting.
Pictures show the various stages of gluing on the twigs and then building up the foliage using Noch leaf products, light, medium and dark shades. I use thick PVA 'blobs' to apply the leaf on the sticks until I'm happy with the look. Having completed these I'm now working on the Panzer 4 platoon, trying not to overdo things!

A Sherman commanders nightmare.

Small twigs ready for gluing.

The StuG's I'm trying match.
Foliage added.

First of the Panzer 4H models with foliage added.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

"There'll be Bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover"

On Tuesday with the promise of fine weather and our eldest Granddaughter staying over a couple  of days we thought a day out was in order. We decided to take her to Dover Castle (Nanny's idea) followed by a stop on the way home at the Hop Fuzz Brewery (Grandads idea) for a refreshing pint. Dover Castle has been a favourite place to visit over the years, great historical interest and plenty of walking along with some wonderful views down over the port. We set off with our picnic and arrived only to find the castle closed Mondays and Tuesdays!

 As it was a fine day we decided to take our picnic down to Samphire Hoe, which sits at the bottom of the Dover cliffs and is accessed via a one way tunnel off the M20  motorway. It's not widely known among tourists and is a quiet spot even in the Summer.  It's a unique spot in that it was created from the spoil dug out during the construction of the Channel Tunnel and is now a Nature Reserve. There are some great walks along the bottom of the chalk cliffs and good fishing off the wall that now protects the cliffs from erosion, it's also the perfect spot for a picnic on a nice day with lots of wooden benches dotted about. Standing at the bottom of the famous White Cliffs is quite stirring for anyone who understands the historical significance and symbol of  Freedom that they became during WW2, and you can still see the lookout posts along the top. For hundreds of years rock Samphire has grown in the chalky soil and used to be picked and shipped to London by  the barrel load. Today it remains an expensive delicacy on the menus of fancy London restaurants. I took a few (poor) phone pics as I had left my camera indoors, but it really is a lovely spot to visit.

On the way home, turning off the M20 and dropping down to the Romney Marsh we drove over the Napoleonic Royal Military Canal and pulled into the Hop Fuzz Brewery, only a couple of  miles from home at West Hythe to find it guessed it ...... Closed (open 5pm to 9pm currently) .... Blast!

On a fine day it's a lovely spot right beside the Royal Military Canal!
Nothing fancy here, just great beer.

There was nothing else for it but to go home and pop over to The Ocean Inn in Dymchurch where a pint of Courage Directors went down a treat, a long standing favourite of mine since the 1970's and was in perfect condition ( I have been poured a few sour pints of this over the years, I was once told it's difficult to keep).
The Ocean Inn, Dymchurch, a stones throw from home!

Not the day we planned, but a lovely day anyway, I spent the day walking around in a t shirt, not bad for end of  March. We will be revisiting Hopp Fuzz this evening (Thursday).

Saturday, 25 March 2017

US Airborne 'Easy Company' & back to terrain.

With the house ready to go up for sale it's a somewhat unsettling time - I really struggle with strangers walking about my home - but my hobby room remains as it is and I intend to get some games in before it's time to pack up. Over this weekend I'm going to re-flock my two boards that make up the 4' x 5' 6" permanent table, something I have been meaning to do for some time, in order to achieve a more realistic overall look, and then get it set up for a game. The Total Systems Scenic 'space saver' boards and hills etc have been stored away for future use with my French and Indian War collection, also boxed up and stored.

I'm not good at writing up games, I tend to get too bogged down in the detail, and have been giving this a bit of thought. I think the answer may well be to approach it as if I'm describing a live action as it unfolds, leaving out the long winded rule descriptions and focusing upon the development of the battle, so I intend to give this a try soon as the table is ready.

This week I completed the figures that represent my US Airborne platoon, based of course upon 'Easy Company' from the Band of Brothers series. My platoon comprises 42 Battlefront figures, the plastics from the 'Open Fire' box set augmented with the metal 'Easy Company' pack. Rifle/MG teams supported by a mortar section and bazooka team. They are rated as Fearless/Veterans under Flames of War and can be a tough nut to crack, especially when dug in or in cover.

Inspiration when painting this unit was provided by scenes such as this one, where Richard 'Dick' Winters is shown exhorting his men to keep up their rate of fire in a style reminiscent of a Civil War commander.

Winters in 2004.

IN addition to the above I also painted up a few resin wall sections, a quick drybrush of grey followed by ivory then a bit of flocking and some flower blooms for effect.  The sections are by 'Small Terrain, Miniature Scenery' via eBay.

And the last of my 4Ground buildings was finished off, I very much enjoy making up these MDF kits now, I might have to grab a couple more!

I'm also experimenting with adding Cullen Hedgerow cutters to a spare Sherman. I have several more Shermans to build. The cutters are white metal castings bought for just £2.00 for 5 via eBay. These will add to my Sherman 'Dozer' and the Crab flail (anti mine device) Sherman kit on it's way.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Reining myself in!

I went a bit crazy last weekend, as my head filled with visions of vast numbers of 28mm ACW's and a return to Johnny Reb. I had also been planning an expansion into a 15mm British army for Flames of War. However this week has seen a reality check as I contemplate the future, and as a result I'm in more sensible mode now and my plans have been scaled back. Fact is that the upstairs hobby room is crammed with figures and terrain already, despite the sale of all my Bolt Action stuff and my 15mm Soviets, Most of the cash was ploughed back into Front Rank FIW figures, more 'Battlefront' terrain ( rural and cobbled roads, railway track, town square etc), and a hefty purchase of Renegade ACW's. I have had to remind myself that the ACW project was intended for Sharp Practice, and that about 60 figures per side was all that was required, at least initially, so I'm going to stick to that.

 As for Flames of War, I have made up my mind to stick with US v Germans, Normandy Campaign and to continue to flesh out those lists. I'm adding to my 2nd Armoured Division with trucks to transport the infantry, more Sherman's (don't need them but have them and enjoy building them), and a platoon of Airborne from the 'Open Fire' box. I was looking for more of the plastic Airborne figures on eBay when I came across this wonderful set of 'Easy Company' characters, metal 'Battlefront' castings which will fill out the ranks of the platoon perfectly. I also ordered some metal Cullen hedge cutters to fit to a few of the Shermans, useful for cutting through that Bocage.
Battlefront 'Easy Company' characters from 'Band of Brothers', can't wait for them to arrive!

I finished off the first 8 American Civil War figures earlier in the week, adding bread bags and canteen straps, the next 8 are primed and ready.

I also built the 4Ground model of Cafe Gondree, took just a couple of hours this one, it's a level 4 kit but I found it very straightforward once I worked out that some parts had been mis numbered on the instruction sheet. Chimneys a bit fiddly, so many tiny parts, but I guess I'm used to these MDF kits by now.

Oh, and the point of this post was that we are planning a move to Spain, a permanent move that we have been planning and researching for several years. We have settled upon Valencia and started learning the language. Recent weeks have been busy preparing the house for sale, much upheaval with painting and new carpets, clearing out the loft and garage. We are now at the point of engaging solicitors both here and in Spain, the time is right for us to make this move and we have a long checklist of things to do. It's a daunting but exciting prospect, there will be less and less hobby time in the weeks ahead, thus the need to reign myself in and be more realistic.