Metcalfe Models Terraced Houses and Corner Shop HO/OO Scale

I have continued building my Normandy village and trying to mix my home made, scratch built, but time consuming houses, with some purchased models. This time i have made some more of Metcalfe Models excellent card models. One grey stone terraced houses with backyards and a similar grey stone corner shop. Metcalfe Models do not ship overseas so i had to buy them from another useful modelling ship called Antics On Line. I think they are around 9-10 pounds per kit, so pretty good value compared to other resin and MDF buildings.

The quality of the card and the printing is most excellent. I do remember my brother back in the 1980s building some Superquick card models which always felt a bit flimsy and never looked like anything but rather crap card model kits. The Metcalfe kits are really well designed and once you have put them together feel very solid, robust and anything but a wobbly bit of card. Its all printed on good heavy card and all the bits pop out very easily once you have cut along certain edges with a sharp knife. During the construction there are plenty of inner supports which keep the whole thing very square and stable. The windows work well and even give you options to have a couple open as well as other options for curtains and different coloured doors. The buildings are mounted onto their own card base and Metcalfe give you individual adhesive paving stones to create your own pavement around the houses. In my build i left off the bay window on the terrace as i didn’t think they had those in France in the 1940’s. The dormer windows on the roof did remind me of a typical Normandy house so i think they do not look out of place. One thing i do need to fix is the corner shop is O’Briens Bakery. I need to find an alternative Boulangerie sign.

OK so after finishing your model you do need to rough it up a bit. I used plenty of powdered chalk in black, brown and white brushed all over the place. This covers any white bits of cardboard and also gives the houses a more weathered, realistic look. I also glued the whole thing onto a 3mm MDF base and weighted it down. Otherwise i did have some significant curling up around the edges. It also gives it more strength.

Next up i am making a new town square so will place that into the middle of my now quite sizeable Normandy village. Still need to make that church……..

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Unimodel and Armourfast Sherman Tanks in 1/72 scale

Colonel Mustard has been off line for a while due to an unfortunate battle with a local Australian spider, which he soundly lost. So after a month long fight with serious pain and immobility i am finally recovering. It was a war against neurotoxin that i couldn’t win!

So onto my latest Sherman tanks for my British forces. I needed to build up my Shermans to get to a full three troops. So i picked up a couple of boxes of Armourfast Shermans from Hannants in the UK, plus a Unimodel Sherman from my favourite Ukrainian hobby store. The Armourfast tanks are amazing value at 6.25 GBP for two. They are about as simple a kit as you could get, you can count the number of parts on one hand. That said the detail is average, but what do you expect for such a cheap price? If you are prepared to dress them up with some extras they can really turn into a great little wargaming tank. I added some tools, some lifting rings, headlights plus spare tracks and stowage. Oh and of course an aerial. You do not get decals with the kits, so i used some Canadian markings i had from The Plastic Soldier Company. Once you have tarted up your Armourfast kits they really turn out well. If you want to bulk up your tank regiments i cant recommend them highly enough.

The Unimodel Sherman is a proper model kit. I really enjoy building Unimodel kits. Lots of parts, fun to build, but definitely a challenge. Detail and end result was definitely better than Armourfast. I only added some stowage and an aerial. The kit comes with some very tricky PE parts. I managed to ping the headlight protectors across the room never to be seen again and had to make my own out of some thin wire. So don’t try this kit if you have deep carpets……. losing bits is a risk. Unimodel gives you some cool decals so I called this Sherman “Comet”. The only struggle was fitting the top hull to the bottom which left a huge gap at the front. So i had to file down parts of the lower hull around the front wheels in order to get it to fit. I would leave the front part of the hull off the lower hull section and do a dry run first before gluing as you may have the same problem.

All the tanks got the usual olive drab paint job with some dirt and dust and mud. Fun times.

Galmanche Scenario with Combat HQ

Even though i was not too keen on on Too Fat Lardies I Aint Been Shot Mum, due to the card activation system they have over there, i do like their scenarios. I thought i would give one a go using the Combat HQ rules that i have been playing with. The map was pretty straight forward with two small hamlets behind a wall of trees East – West as per the photo below. The trees across the middle are impassable to vehicles. The ploughed fields, wheat fields and orchards i counted as broken ground. Orchards provide light cover to anyone in them. All hedges were light cover and minor obstacles. The Germans were defending with three platoons of three sections each armed with a panzerfaust. Also an HQ with a Panzershreck, a Pak 40 AT Gun with tow, a Forward Observer commanding a battery of mortars off table, but no armour. They could set up concealed anywhere South of the tree line. The British consisted of a company (3 platoons of 3 sections), two troops of tanks (3 Cromwells, 1 Firefly per troop), a Company HQ of PIAT and Light Mortar, plus a Forward Observer in a Dingo Scout Car. They could enter from the North East corner. The British had to drive out the Germans from all the houses to win. The Germans had to hold at least three buildings to win. Morale failure by either side would also end the game.

Galmanche

First up i like to have all my squads individually based. Rather than using the basing convention of 3 figures to a squad as per the Combat HQ rules i just use individual figures that must remain within 1 inch of each other. It means the squad foot print is larger so your command groups of infantry can cover more area. It does not make any difference to anything else. As each German section contains a panzerfaust it means I can have 1 figure in each section carrying one, then when he has taken his shot I switch him out for a rifleman. This negates the paperwork requirement of tracking who has fired his panzerfaust and who hasn’t. Also I bave many cool panzerfaust firing figures so i want to use them. I also tripled the range of the panzerfaust to 3/6/9 inches (Short/Effective/Long) as the Germans were at such a disadvantage to the British armour. The ranges for panzerfausts and panzershrecks are on the short side and they need to be increased to give them any chance of ambushing tanks. Otherwise they end up being pounded by HE and every attack is a suicide run to get close to their targets. I also use Forward Observers as dedicated units in my version of Combat HQ, and if they are destroyed you get a higher Target Number when requesting support (+1) if not a FOO making the request.

Anyway enough rule chat, onto the action. The Brits attacked with a full platoon, FOO and one troop of tanks down the East side heading for the farmhouse, and another platoon heading for the middle of the trees, and kept the third platoon and second troop off the board.

Here we see British advance on the right flank and the German FOO in the trees. The British got their 25 pdr battery going early onto the tree line and caused a bit of suppression. The Germans suffered badly from terrible command dice rolling and had at least four command failures giving the British 2 or more extra dice. Early on the British armour was able to make a number of double and triple moves, with the speedy Cromwells avoiding the German mortar rounds and getting close to the farmhouse. Only a squad was defending  the farm and once their panzerfaust missed its target the Cromwells wiped out the whole squad with MG fire.

Above German Mortar fire getting a bead on advancing armour and doing very little damage. One of many command dice failures by the Germans (black dice). The Cromwells get up close and wipe out the squad in front of the Farm.

IMAG1081More Germans move to try and defend the farm, still under artillery fire. Already the British grabbing initative with their excellent command dice rolls was having an impact with the Germans having to react with fewer order dice.

In the middle of the trees the British attacked the one German squad that was dug in and managed to close assault with two sections. Close Assault is deadly in Combat HQ. The German squad was annihilated for the cost of one British section. Another German squad made a double move and managed to wipe out the British section in Close Assault, who were in turn wiped out by the remaining British section from that platoon. Suddenly the Germans had lost 3 squads quickly and the British were in the trees.

The tank troop on the East flank continued to maneuver around the farm to the South with a plan to attack the Germans from the rear. The German commander was now realising he should have moved his Pak 40 AT Gun earlier. His only option was to send the panzershreck team to try and intercept the Allied Armour. Throughout the whole of the game German AT weapons were thoroughly useless and on another day they could have won the game. Meanwhile the second British tank troop came charging towards the Western houses, so at least the Pak 40 gunners could warm up some shells and get ready for some action.

The panzershreck team couldnt hit a barn door and get wiped out by the Cromwells, who continue at a fast pace and get behind the AT Gun who is set up at the Western crossroads. The Farm buildings in the East are taken by the full platoon of British infantry. Finally the Germans hiding in the West end of the trees manage to ambush the second troop and blow up one Cromwell. And finally the AT Gun is turned around and hits the approaching Cromwell from the South. However this exposes his backside to the oncoming second troop who quickly blow him to pieces. More misses from panzerfausts in the ruined houses and the game is up for the Germans as their morale drops below zero.

So a good fast game, which the British won very easily due to quite excellent command dice roles always giving them a big advantage in orders. The Germans defended OK but should have had their AT gun in a more useful position, and they also left themselves a bit thin trying to defend the whole front rather than concentrating on one area. If they had scored a few more kills with their AT weapons it may have been a different story.

“Objective Saint-Lo” by George Bernage

Anyone with an interest in the Normandy landings would be keenly interested in the action around Saint Lo that happened in June and July of 1944. This book, published by Pen And Sword, who kindly provided me with a copy, goes through day by day accounts of the action. Beginning at Omaha beach it gives various accounts of the American and German actions from there up to the attacks on Saint Lo. George Bernage has collected actual first hand notes from various people who were actually involved as well as his own version of events.

From a factual point of view this book has lots of information, including a lot of maps and a lot of details of units involved in each engagement. So if you want to find out factual information regarding this period then this is a source. Trouble is i found things very difficult to follow throughout the whole book. The text does not flow and the story is often lost as there is no linked narrative that takes the reader easily through the story. I often found myself lost in facts and lists and had no clue where we were. Even when first hand accounts are directly quoted i sometimes found it difficult to place them in context of the overall story. Adding to the confusion are the maps which quite often are very difficult to interpret. Maybe i am being harsh but i found this book very tricky to read and follow exactly what was going  on. As a bunch of individual tales and events from around St Lo it is a informative book. As a story with a beginning, middle and an end, and a feeling at the end of satisfaction that your story is complete, this book fails.

As a bunch of information, historical facts, unit details, first hand accounts of events that happened at that time, plus maps of all the areas involved for reference, this book succeeds. Its a bit like someone making a scrap book with all sorts of relevant information and not really linking them all up together. The abundant photographs are fantastic and well worth having a look at. I think if i want to recreate any engagements from this part of the war on my battlefield this book will come in very useful. But from an enjoyable and exciting reading perspective it misses the mark.

IMAG1103

I Ain’t Been Shot Mum World War Two Wargames Rules

A few months ago I picked up a copy of the I Ain’t Been Shot Mum rules from Too Fat Lardies as I think I am addicted to reading wargames rules. I have read other people say the same thing. I just love reading rules even I don’t end up playing them. Actually I have copies of Rapid Fire and Nuts that I am yet to have a look at. Its a like a wargames equivalent of heroin. Always keep a supply stashed away somewhere.

Anyway I did play a couple of games with IABSM recently and thought I would blog my opinions on the system.

While some of the ideas and concepts in the rules are good I found that the total random nature of the card activation left me feeling helpless and my decisions on the battlefield became irrelevant. You cannot plan a strategy and the side that ends up pulling out his cards first or more often is going to win. I think there is enough luck and random chance in any rule set that uses dice to calculate results for most actions. You don’t need another totally random procedure in the mix as it just becomes a game of chance. As much as I tried to enjoy the Big Man concept of IABSM it also did not really have much impact on the proceedings as half the time your big men never got activated at the right time. I think having more leaders should give your force more chance of being activated when you want them. I guess I am after more control over my game than the IABSM rules allow.

In one game my squadron of tanks activation card came up just before one tea break card and then came up again almost immediately in the new turn. This leads to some units being able to move and attack unrealistically against enemy units in great defensive positions. Movement distances are resolved by a dice roll so I would say that covers the random nature of war enough. Move those troops over there, but if they are not that keen they may not move as quickly or as far as you want them too. In other instances you can try and coordinate artillery fire one turn but then the next turn your support card or Forward Observer card does not get activated. Its just frustrating and not very real. Especially when a dice throw is already factored into the process. Same with smoke, do you reduce smoke every time a tea break card is drawn? Why cant artillery keep firing smoke once they start even if their card doesn’t come up. Anyway I really don’t like the card activation system its like playing chess with your opponent getting to move three pieces in a row……….

On the positive side of things I did like the way in which the rules handle shock, which in turn also ends up being morale. The more shock you take the less useful you are and a side can quickly fold. The close combat and firing rules are also good and felt realistic in their outcomes. I also liked the very thorough extra bits you can buy from Too Fat Lardies that detail all the different forces and their organisation.

So I guess overall that IABSM is not for me. I do like most of the rules except for the card drawing activation. I think if I just changed it to an alternative IGO UGO format the rules would play out a whole lot better. Those Big Men would have a much better influence on how the game played out and strategies and plans could actually have a chance of success. I like the way Squad Leader uses its leaders and I think the Big Man idea has a chance of working like that.

So I will return to the Combat HQ rules for my next game. This has an excellent activation system that finds a balance between luck and leadership and gives you enough scope to make a plan and hope your men do their best! Next blog will be a bit of a battle report from Normandy somewhere.

 

 

Explosion Markers

I quickly knocked up some more explosion and artillery markers. Plenty of ways to do this. I used 20 cent coins and super glued twisted bits of wire to the coins to create a structure. Then using poly fibre and cotton wool and lots of PVA glue i wrapped the wire structures up all the way to the coin. When this was dry i added plenty more PVA glue and some sand all around the coin and bottom end of the explosion. This creates a bit more weight and texture nearer ground level. When this is dry i sprayed the whole lot with flat black and then some light grey and some white to add some variation. At the bottom i use red and yellow acrylic paint to represent flames. After that i gave them another spray with some matt varnish. They came out quite well i think – check them out below. I will use them in the game i about to play using Jim Bambras excellent Combat HQ rules.