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.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Travel Battle by the Perry's!

You have to hand it to those Perry's, having taken plastic figure production to new heights they now come up with this wonderful idea for a Portable Wargame. For those who don't follow the Perry website I thought I would share it here as it's up on pre order right now. No doubt it well sell extremely well and will be ideal for holidays etc, it struck me that it might be ideal for use with Bob Corderey's Portable Wargame rules.

Image borrowed from the Perry Miniatures website, click to see detail.

Link to product information page.

Flames of War version 4.
I will spend what spare time I have this week getting to grips with the new Flames of War rule book. I'm focusing on the late war period (trying NOT to get myself drawn into the Desert despite the beautiful photos),  the new book is only a third of the size of Version 3 with lots of rules being simplified or trimmed down to speed up the game. This is a stand alone rule book so my old hardback is redundant, the playsheet is considerably altered so I'll also need to replace my trusty wall chart version. I plan a small run through game next weekend.

The version 4 bundle.

Hit allocation has been simplified.

Version 3 hardback and the considerably slimmer volume that replaces it.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Painting 28mm American Civil War infantry Part 1.

Two posts in a weekend, I must be on a roll! Having undercoated eight of the Renegade ACW's I could not resist getting some paint on them, and as usual when I start something new I like to record the method and shades used in order to retain consistency along the way.

To begin with I had already decided to go for a 'quick' paint job on these, using a controlled dry brush to get down the basic colours before adding highlights followed by an ink wash to add a little depth and to bring the shades together. For these Rebs I wanted to stick with a limited palette rather than a mish-mash of browns, greys and creams etc. I went for my trusty' London Grey' as a base dry brush, and 'Flat Earth' for the 'Butternut'. I use all Vallejo shades apart from the brown I use for Reb belts,  boots, cartridge boxes etc, for which I stick with Citadel 'Mournfang Brown' as I simply can't find anything to match it in the entire Vallejo range. I order all of my paint supplies from 'S&M Stuff' online so I pick up a couple of bottles of the Mournfang when I top up my Vallejo's.

OK, so to get started the figures were hand undercoated using Vallejo matt black rather than primer, reason being is that it gives a completely flat, shine free basecoat for the drybrushing. Once dry the drybrushing begins with London Grey and Flat Earth, some as you see are fully grey others a mix of Grey and Flat Earth, just the two basic shades to set the overall tones. Next batch I'll introduce a few light blue 'Liberated' Yankee trousers maybe for a touch more contrast but that will be it. I chose both the main shades not just for the colour, but also the fact that both come up quite thick which is perfect for drybrushing. Both also take the highlight shade well. I use an old small brush, allowing just a small amount of dryish paint, what I want to avoid is too much paint going on and obscuring the black around the details, a quick light brush over is required. I hit the belts too as its far easier to paint over these than paint a round them later, but being careful to leave the edges showing the black undercoat wherever possible as shown below.

I then paint the flesh shade colour - Light Brown - followed by the Citadel Mounfang Brown on some belts, the boots, cartridge boxes and percussion cap pouch. I leave the canteen strap and breadbag for a little variation later. I then highlight the flesh with Sunny Skin Tone. At this stage the basic shades are established ready for highlighting, this took me only around 30 minutes to get them as shown below, it really is that fast! You can see the base shades are quite patchy but highlights will improve that later.

I don't go in for eyes, this is my standard method of painting faces using just the two tones. So next it's the main uniform highlights and for this I use Sea Grey over the London Grey and for the Butternut I use the Flat Earth with about 25% Ivory mixed in. A quick job picking out the light areas but again leaving the base coat to provide shade and we arrive at this stage.

Next I painted in the brasswork - Vallejo Brass of course - and at this stage I had been painting for exactly one hour and it was time to pop downstairs to catch Football Focus whilst tidying up! A couple of hours later I felt I just had to get in a little more painting on them, so I added the Brass barrel bands and trigger guards to the as yet unpainted muskets. At this stage they were ready for an ink wash to the main uniform areas. I used Sepia for the butternut areas and Black for the grey areas, I tend to thin down the inks slightly with water and work carefully with a small brush to control where the ink goes, I only really want it to run into the folds and creases, I don't want to get any on the flesh areas. The blanket roll was painted with Burnt Red highlighted with a touch of Scarlet while wet so it blends.

This second session was shorter, around half an hour, but the figures already look close to finishing. Part 2 will see me completing the muskets, bread bags, canteen straps and any other detail. They will then be set aside while I undercoat the next 8 figures with the 4 figure command base being left to last. I can accurately say that the time will be around 2 hours from start to finish for 8 figures, pretty good going. The Yankees should be a tad faster.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Renegade 28mm ACW's and 4Ground 15mm church.

The Renegade ACW's that I ordered a couple of weeks back arrived yesterday so I thought I would record my first impressions of the figures here. But first, it is of course the much anticipated launch weekend of Flames of War Version 4, and with my set due to arrive hopefully today or Monday from Caliver books, I thought I's start with a few pics of the 4Ground damaged church that I completed during the week.

The kit was a joy to build and every piece went together perfectly, the instruction sheet being clear and concise with all parts numbered for easy identification. It was put together over several days/sessions, allowing drying time between. Some of the parts such as the windows are very fine but push out of the MDF sheets with ease, I suffered no breakages, and the 3D effect once finished is very convincing. The interior window detail for example consists of an upper sill a lower sill and two side pieces for each window, plus the 'stained glass' effect piece itself, a little fiddly but where the fit was too tight I gently filed the parts to slide in. As with all 4Ground buildings the main structure is double thickness, a 2mm outer and a 2mm inner which produces a scale thickness and allows for the addition of brickwork on the damaged wall sections. I do agree with James of the 'Mad Tin Hatter' blog that the hole in the tower does look rather too large, I think the entire thing would have come crashing down in reality, but overall it's a nice looking piece. It will require some rubble sections to be created where complete walls are missing, but I have an idea for that (cheers Steve). I like that you can see the interior detail after all the fiddly work!

Like all 4Ground kits it's not cheap at £33.00, but it does make for an impressive centre piece on the table and level of design work and detail makes it worth the money in my opinion. I would recommend the use of plastic pegs and elastic bands when building as MDF can have a tendency to warp slightly when wet with PVA, although it drys nice and flat.

I also painted the Sherman 'Dozer' a Battlefront resin and metal kit, a useful addition to my US 2nd Armoured list. I need to order some Allied Stars to finish it.

Renegade 28mm American Civil War figures - first impressions.
My initial order of figures from this range arrived yesterday, having waited a good couple of weeks for it. No real problem on the wait as I have plenty to keep me busy, but it does seem a long time these days. The castings arrived in an outer jiffy bag with the figures bagged up loose in two Morrisons freezer bags inside, I would have expected some kind of box or padding but the figures were undamaged.

The castings are of a high quality with crisp detail, I always tend to look first at the facial detail which is very good and varied. This order consisted of Confederates marching at order arms, a pack of skirmishers and a command pack, although all were bundled in together, no separate packaging, which is OK I guess. The castings are robust with nice solid bayonets, I would have liked a little more variation in the poses, position of legs and arms etc but they will build into nice compact units. The command figures have lots of character including some great beards, there was a fair bit of flash between some arms and heads, but it cleaned away easily.

The uniform and kit is well defined and accurate, the subject of Confederate shell jacket production is a whole field of study by itself, there being many variants, but these look convincing. Trousers are all rolled up at the bottom, may have been nice to see a few tucked into socks. Muskets are well modelled as are straps and brass work on the cartridge boxes etc.

Overall I'm very happy with them, I plan to base these up for Johnny Reb II and the pose will allow for a tight shoulder to shoulder formation. I will start with a 20 figure mid war Reb regiment, these are not the ragged soldiers of the latter period, uniform is in good supply and is in good nick. The unit will consist of 17 privates, an officer, standard bearer and a drummer. Flags will be ordered from GMB designs in due course. Skirmishers will be 10 figure units, 2 per base. All Johnny Reb II units consist of 5 bases and each figure represents 20 men, so a 20 figure regiment represents around 400 men. This may well become my very own Nostalgia project!

First picture showing a selection of castings from the Confederate range.