Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The Celts: Blood, Iron & Sacrifice

If like me you're keen on History and Archaeology then this series may have piqued your interest - The Celts: Blood, Iron & Sacrifice.

Auntie Beeb produced this natty little info-graphic. I thought the tribal map was quite interesting/useful.

It's presented by the eminently watchable Prof Alice Roberts ... and that annoying Scottish history bloke (who also does shampoo adverts I think?). Now, I haven't actually watched it yet as I'm still heavily into WW2 history. So I'm saving it for a quiet evening when I'm feeling a little more in need of "Blood, Iron & Sacrifice" ;o)

Anyway, if you've seen it then please do let me know what you thought.

PS - Less than 36 hours until The Last Kingdom !!!

Friday, 16 October 2015

German Sniper and a Conundrum

First off, the sniper ... a List 3 support choice in Chain of Command.

To be honest I've found these chaps a bit hit or miss (please excuse the dreadful pun!). In one game they can be great, causing heaps of 'shock' and generally worrying your opponent, then in others they're total Rhubarb! (or should that be "gesampt Rhabarber"?). They excel at taking out teams like PIATs and 2" mortars but against full sections it can be a waste of a shot.

He's actually one of the Warlord games sniper team figures from the Fallschirmjaeger range.

I particularly liked the figure as it was a little bit different from the more usual "aiming" figures. I mounted him on a slightly larger base, 30mm, just so that I could add some extra foliage.

And now the conundrum ... I find myself at something of a painting impasse ... what should I do next? I've got a couple of little scenery projects on the go (more in future posts) but I'm not sure what to paint afterwards?

I've a heap of WW2 Paras ready to paint, indeed I've already made a tentative start on a few of them to try out the camo scheme for the Denison smocks. But with the TV adaptation of Bernard Cornwell's "The Last Kingdom" only days away I might find myself switching back to painting Saxons and Vikings? I have a small Viking force ready to paint for the SAGA ruleset. But ... I still have some bits and bobs to finish off for my WW2 British and Germans... A Sherman, a Puma, etc...?

I also have a heap of CFM buildings to construct - although I'm kind-of saving them as a special treat 'coz they're great fun to build!

So ... after all that ... what's a fellow to do?

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Somewhere in Normandy ... Chain of Command AAR

Last Sunday I met up with Steve for a long overdue game of Chain of Command. Steve gave his regular German platoon a run out against my British regulars. We rolled for the scenario and the result was Attack and Defend. We agreed that the game could represent an action shortly after D-Day with the Allies trying to take an important German held crossroads.

Here’s the situation after the patrol phase. Germans in red, British in blue.

Steve had placed his initial markers well forward within his deployment zone. This was a good plan which left little space for the British to manoeuvre before the markers were locked down. I was pleased with the Jump Off Point on the edge of the wood near the house, but the other two were not ideal.

I rolled 9 so Steve got 4 points, as our force ratings were equal. I chose a Sherman M4 and a Universal Carrier with a Bren Team. I thought that as this was a push to capture a defended position it would be appropriate to take a little armour along. Steve chose a second Senior Leader (always wise!), a medic and entrenchments for one team. All of these proved to be very worthwhile investments as you will see!

With all the preliminaries complete, the British opened the action. This is after a couple of phases.

A 2" mortar team (out of pic on the left) tries to obscure the lines of sight for the Germans whilst a tank (a Centaur doubling as a Sherman ;o)), a section of infantry and the platoon sergeant begin to advance.

More creeping forward under the cover of smoke. The tank's movement became very cautious as I kept rolling double 1's for its move!

Some desultory shooting inflicts a few shock here and there but otherwise both forces are intact.

A squad of Germans occupy the farmhouse - look closely at the enlarged pic. They begin to pour fire on to the now slightly exposed 2" mortar team in the wood.

In reply the British bring a section on in the wood with a view to hedge-hopping towards the house.

But with the advance going well and the smoke providing great cover I managed to roll 3 sixes! Poof goes the smoke and Jerry lets rip! The 2" mortar team are shot up badly, plus the infantry supporting the tank take cover.

Steve's choice of an extra Senior Leader and a Medic were good. The extra SL meant that he could get his chaps moving when required plus rally off the shock that they accumulated. The medic proved his worth by patching up one of the German SLs - one of the few occasions that my chaps wounded a German officer.

The tank tries to even up the score by firing a couple of shots at the Germans behind the hedges near the farmhouse ... but BOTH shots are utterly ineffective - not even a point of shock is inflicted!?!

The third British section deploy near the wood and start shooting up the troops in the house.

Surprise! An entrenched Panzershreck deploys and a shot roars away towards the tank. A direct hit but the tank isn't quite knocked out. However, before it can recover a second round follows the first and the tank is destroyed - taking some nearby infantry with it. This also effectively blocked the road for the UC Bren team.

With the Germans in the house being pummeled from the wood, the other section begins the advance towards the house.

The rifle team ready their grenades and make a dash for the house, with cover from their Bren and the section in the wood. However, the Germans have had enough and retreat through the front door.

That's the last pic (sorry) but the German squad moving around the side of the house shredded the Bren team by the hedge then turned their attention on the section in the wood. German morale was still a reasonable 6, but British morale was a perilous 3. In a campaign I would have pulled out by now.

An amazing round of shooting later (I think Steve might have got a double six for two consecutive goes?) and my Lieutenant in the wood is slain by a burst from an MG42 resulting in morale falling to zero.

In the end the British, whilst causing quite a few casualties, just couldn’t seem to either wound German leaders or break teams/squads. Plus the tank proved to be 6 points of support wasted. So a clear win for Jerry. A good, fun game with a very capable opponent!

Lessons Learned
  • Be careful when placing teams like a 2” mortar or a PIAT, they’re very vulnerable to casualties/shock.
  • Take a moment before the patrol phase to properly consider the terrain, lines of sight/advance, etc. I was busy nattering to a variety of people then keen to get playing. Even the British platoon leaders manual clearly states that time should be taken to appreciate the field of battle!
  • Watch out for placing infantry too close to tanks.
  • Allied tanks are very vulnerable to the proliferation of German AT weapons, advance with care.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

How to make MDF buildings - Part 3 (Completed)

This post (my 400th!) is all about taking the basic painted building and adding those little extras that will make it look a bit more interesting.

I think buildings always look better with a scenic base. If you're ordering from Charlie Foxtrot then drop Colin a line to ask for a custom base. It will add only a small extra cost and saves you the bother of cutting stuff up. Alas, I forgot to ask for a base so here I've used a piece of 2mm plasticard. Glue the building to it with a few dabs of your favourite all purpose glue.

The base is then covered in thinned PVA glue and a variety of grit/sand. You can see that in front of the door I've placed a couple of pieces of thin plasticard that I've carved to look like flagstones.

The sanded base can then be painted to match your other terrain or battlefield. My recipe is VMC Leather Brown base, then highlights of VMC Flat Earth, VMC Gold Brown and VMC Dark Sand. I use two different static grass colours, GW Scorched Grass and the lighter Noch meadow grass (ref 08310).

The log store! This was a fairly easy paint job. Spray mid brown then give the wood a solid base coat of any dark brown. I used Foundry Bay Brown Shade. Then dry brush with VMC Gold Brown and VMC Dark Sand. The logs got a heavier dry brush. The roof was painted black followed by dry brush highlights of the Foundry Slate Grey triad.

Here are the flag stones I mentioned earlier. Painted black followed by the Foundry Slate Grey triad. I've also added a few clumps of flower tufts here and there.

To give the model building that 'lived in' look it's good to add a few everyday items. Here's a bicycle from the bits box.

Buckets, barrels, logs, ladders (CFM do nice ladders) all make good extras - just remember to leave enough space for your figures!

The log store - with an axe propped against it. The axe is a spare from the Gripping Beast Saxon Huscarls boxed set.

The roof sections have been 'enhanced' with some mould and lichen. Take a look at any real roof and you'll usually see yellow/orange mould, moss, bird droppings, etc.

In the CFM shop you can see some excellent examples of this on Colin's buildings. Here I've also added some soot to the chimney pot with black and grey.

Now for the interior ... some might consider this straying in to doll's house territory ... but a few little features are worth the effort I reckon. The downstairs has a fireplace plus some flooring from a (*cough*) doll's house makers blog.
Just print, cut to size and glue in with a glue stick (don't use a runny glue otherwise the paper wrinkles!).

Here are the components of the fireplace - some left over bits from an MDF 'sprue' and a bit of card. The 20x20mm square base is just for scale.

The upstairs has a similar, lighter wooden effect printed floor whilst the extension has a brick tile effect. I've resisted the urge to add furniture!

It would be easy to add wallpaper - there are plenty of (*cough*) doll's house sites that offer good examples for you to print, but that's beyond me! Don't even mention LED lighting and sound effects!! :-D

So here's the finished article.

I hope you'll agree that adding some of these extras will make your wargames buildings a bit special. After all, I expect you put heaps of effort in to painting your figures?

So do the same for your terrain!

Happy gaming :o)

Sunday, 4 October 2015

How to make MDF buildings - Part 2

This post is all about painting the recently constructed MDF building from Charlie Foxtrot Models to a decent gaming standard.

The building has been textured with a magnolia coloured masonry paint, then it's been lightly sprayed with Warlord Dunkelgelb, although any cream or light brown would suffice. You can see that the spray has speckled the roof but that's okay as it will need tidying up before it is painted anyway.

The first highlight has been applied using Foundry Base Sand shade 10A. It's been stippled on to the walls. (stipple = use a large, old brush and load with paint as if you were heavy dry-brushing, but instead of brushing, you tap the end of the brush on to the wall. If you're not sure then practice on a piece of card first.)

Next is VMC Dark Sand, again stippled to allow some of the colours beneath to show through - but only a little.

Finally I've applied white. Go easy here as white can be quite harsh; it's easy to add more if you prefer a lighter finish.

A close up of the white finish on the render (it's actually a little lighter for real!)

The doors, window frames and shutters are given a light dusting of black spray - just enough to prime the surface otherwise the 'raw' MDF really soaks up the paint. I use tiny dots of blu-tak to hold them in place.

A base coat of Foundry Forest Green shade 26A, followed by the Mid colour 26B.

Then a final highlight with Forest Green Light 26C.

Now on to the doors - I've painted a series of fake panels or planks using the Foundry Spearshaft triad. The front door is painted in a similar style to the window frames and shutters

The back door (on the right) has a Z frame and again is painted using the Spearshaft triad.

The backs of the shutters will not be seen, whether the shutters are open or closed. The interior (i.e. the backs) of the window frames are given a basic mid brown colour.

Now it's time to sort out the roof. There are various ways to paint the roof but here I present what I think is the quickest and easiest method for the standard MDF engraved tiles. Colin sells some brilliant tiling sheets in a variety of styles. Hopefully I'll do an example with some of those in the future.

The main roof - re-touched (by brush) to remove the speckles of the base colours - ready for the tiling effect. The chimney pot is painted in Foundry Brick Red shade 59A.

Select two or three suitable tile colours, e.g. natural looking greys. I've chosen the shade colour for Foundry Slate Grey 32A, Stone 57A and Granite 31A. Now simply select a colour and lightly 'colour in' a selection of tiles across the roof, about a dozen tiles per side, per colour is fine. It's a bit like dry-brushing but keep the paint within the edges of each tile. Then repeat for each of the other tile colours. Remember to do a few short sections of the ridge too.

The final stage of tile painting is to take a mid grey colour, I used Foundry Slate Grey mid 32B, and very lightly (with a large, soft brush) apply a dry-brushed highlight to the entire roof. Do this VERY lightly as you can always apply a second or third highlight.

Here's the same effects applied to the smaller extension roof.

That's the painting pretty much complete for the basic model. Next is the final assembly. The pic below shows the window sills, and the loft window, glued in position (only some of the CFM range come with two part window frames). Let these dry fully before continuing.

Next glue in the frames, then glue the shutters around the windows.

Some Window Tips
  • Make sure you use a glue that dries completely clear as it's bound to leak a little around the frame edges.
  • Always dry fit the window frames before applying the glue just to make sure they fit properly. If not then trim the frame or aperture with a modelling knife.
  • Apply a small 'bead' of glue to the inside of the window aperture on the building, then let it go slightly tacky as that improves it's 'grab' ability. This means the window won't fall out when you let go!?
  • Shutters - the kit will have enough left and right shutters - make sure you fit them in matching pairs!
So, there you have it. The basic building is done and ready for battle!

Some more tips
  • Consider using DIY/hardware store paint tester pots as base coats for walls - much cheaper than Foundry, VMC, etc.
  • When applying the highlights go easy as you can always apply more paint but it's jolly tricky to remove it.
But why stop there? Part 3 will look at basing and finishing touches such as flooring, mantle pieces, etc. Oh, and I haven't forgotten the log store.

Again, hope that's useful.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The Somme - High Wood and Zero Hour

Last Sunday Orange Dave, Steve, Rob and myself gathered for another game of Zero Hour. To give the game a bit of a theme we chose part of the battle of High Wood during the Somme campaign in 1916.

As Steve has mentioned on his blog, we’re aiming to take an enhanced version of this game to some shows next year to bring Zero Hour to the public attention. We have some grand plans for scenery etc, so please keep an eye on the blog(s) for more High Wood antics.

The basic idea is that the Germans have a secondary trench line running through a wood and it's up to the British to dislodge them. For our re-fight we had two British battalions (Rob with mostly cavalry and me with infantry and a Mk I for support) against Steve's Germans. Dave kindly umpired and provided tactical advice and guidance.

Deployment - we all held part of our forces in reserve - although in Rob's case that was actually most of his army. The cavalry were clearly intent on clearing the local wine cellars before getting to grips with the Germans.

Quite a few Germans were holding that trench line!

And there were more off table in reserve!

The British start the party with an artillery barrage. Steve has a number of very funky little explosion counters with flickering lights in them.

Rob's infantry company (on the left) head for the wood, supported by a (borrowed) tank posing this time as a Mk I.

The tank proved to be fairly unreliable, very appropriate for 1916, but did eventually manage to make some contribution the attack. Two companies of my chaps dash across open ground to reach the cover of the craters.

Here they close in on the wire (which earlier barrages had not managed to clear).

Huzzah! The cavalry have finally finished off the last case of claret ;o) and mounted up.

In that last picture you can just make out (on the right) a WoW German aircraft - they'd called in aerial support so the pilot was busily flying along the British line of advance dropping bombs and strafing. Some desultory ground fire scored minor damage on the plane but the pilot continued his dastardly business!

Some of my chaps head for a gap in the wire, determined to get to grips with the Germans.

With his trusty Webley and a walking stick this Lieutenant encourages his men over the final few yards.

Grenades, bayonets and some reasonable dice rolling later and the trench is in British hands.

Now let's get some more men in to widen the breach.

With the infantry having done most of the hard work ;o) the cavalry move up to occupy the woods. Some (on the left) gallantly head for the gaps in the wire.

The view from the German lines.

With time marching on we called a halt there. Rob's cavalry had achieved their objective of capturing the wood. The British infantry were poised to exploit their breakthrough. But there was plenty of fight left in the German forces.

This battle had it all!
  • Dogged infantry
  • Lumbering tanks
  • Dashing cavalry
  • Dastardly aerial support
  • Thunderous off table artillery
  • Heroic storming of the trench lines
It's worth pointing out that we are now most definitely at the stage of minor tweaks here and there in the rules. The game flows well and the command system means you have to prioritize and plan your attacks.

So a minor victory to the British; the infantry did all the heavy lifting whilst the cavalry got all the glory - ah well! My thanks to everyone for a super evening of gaming.