All About Trees

For some reason the other day i was looking at my trees on my wargames table and was overcome with a feeling of dissatisfaction with the way they looked. As a consequence i then spent a long time surfing and researching buying or constructing new woods and forests to replace my old ones. You can go down the crazy expensive route of ready made trees from some of the big scenery producers, but these will set you back in excess of $10 per individual tree. They will look good but i really could not justify $150 woods. There were also plastic armatures available which you then construct, but these looked unnatural and fake in my opinion, and were not too cheap either. Then i read numerous tutorials on twisting wire into trees and covering with flock and foliage, or buying seafoam and doing the same. Even buying seafoam was going to cost me $50 before i had even created one tree. So every direction i turned looked financially unacceptable or too time consuming for my marginal patience levels. Time is money apparently.

As quite often happens in life, i ended up going full circle, right back to where i started, and dug out a pack of trees i had bought on eBay from Hong Kong or China somewhere. For $10 dollars, delivered to my door including postage, you can buy ten to fifteen trees, depending on height. Their colour was a little too martian or goblin green, so i sprayed them a dark foresty green to dull them down a bit. I then gave them a brushing with PVA glue and dipped them in some more coarse green flock. Then another coat of green spray paint to blend things in. This also keeps all the flocking on. The trunks and visible branches were painted brown and i mounted the trees onto randomly shaped MDF bases in groups of four to six. I added some modelling clay to the bases where each tree was to grow, so it was built up a little and meant there was more depth of base to insert the tree into. After covering the bases in sand and gravel and more green flock, i drilled a hole for each tree and glued them in.

So really i came to the conclusion that the best solution was to keep buying super cheap trees from China, but spending a little more time sprucing them up. For less than one dollar a tree you cannot go wrong. I think i need to make a walled apple orchard or maybe some lemon trees for my village…..

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“Combat HQ World War Two Wargames Rules” by Jim Bambra

I was very excited to start playing with this new set of rules i found by Jim Bambra. After using Battlegroup Overlord for a while, i felt ready for a change, and to try something i hoped would be a bit more original and exciting.

The game revolves around six sided dice rolls, and sticks to this formula throughout the games processes. For a start this keeps things really simple and fast moving. For every action, reaction and result you throw a few dice and the game moves on. However, what i found most original and extremely playable was the way in which command and control of your units is handled. Traditionally a game would take the form of alternate moves ie each player would move and fire all his available units, then the other player would follow suit. You would probably get some kind of ambush fire order thrown in so moves could be interrupted. In Combat HQ each player rolls a number of command dice, determined by the size and type of force you are commanding, which are then formed into Dice Chains. So a chain can be made up of multiples of the same number, or if you throw 6’s they can be added to existing dice to make bigger chains or used as wild dice to affect orders in different ways. If you throw any 1’s in your command dice these may result in a command failure and end up being donated to your opponent who then can use them to expand his dice chains.

The significance of the dice chains is that players alternate orders or Command Pulses, each using a dice chain to move, rally, attack, disengage or other action, until each player has used up all their dice. The longer the dice chain the more you can do. So if you have a dice chain of say two dice you can make a double move, or you could rally units and then move, or any other combination of orders. So dice chains can be very powerful.

You form up to four units into Command groups and then activate them using a dice chain. So there is great flexibility for each commander to plan and execute his strategy while still affected by some good, or bad, luck. I feel the rules make game play very balanced between good strategy and good luck, rather than being random and annoying. If you roll a command failure and donate some dice to your opponent this can really tip the battle in their favour quickly.

Another excellent, and very simple idea that Jim has come up with, is that every unit may use opportunity fire during a turn. If an enemy unit fires or moves within your Line Of Sight then your unit may interrupt the move and fire, or fire simultaneously, if they have not already fired this turn. This negates the need for “overwatch” or “ambush” orders and is far more realistic i think. If you see the enemy then shoot.

Combat was quick and sometimes brutal, with tanks rolling attack dice against reaction dice, and results being suppression, dispersion and ultimately destruction. Each unit has different stats which are complex enough without being cumbersome. Again Jim reaches an excellent balance between realism, playability and fun!

In my battle from Charles Grant’s book, which i wrote about in my last blog, my British forces made very light work of a German tank group. Only losing a brave little Humber scout car the Brits managed to knock out a Puma, two Panzer 4’s, while leaving a third retreating and wounded. The Germans failed their morale before they could even fire up their troop of Panthers! If you are looking for a new set of rules you should check these out. Below are a few snaps of the game showing mainly burning wrecks.

Charles Grant’s “Battle – Practical Wargaming”

While Gavin Lyall’s “Operation Warboard” was my number one, go to rule book, back in the eighties, “Battle – Practical Wargaming”, by Charles Grant, was my silver medal, or my second most read volume. Actually both books were my big brothers, and i just used to borrow them and read them over and over again. I decided to reenact one of Charles Grant’s scenarios from the book. Its a very simple joust between some Panzer IVs and some T34s. I changed it a bit and had a couple of troops of Panthers and Panzer IVs take on a troop of Shermans and a troop of Cromwells.

I based my terrain on the map in the book which you can see below. It gave me a chance to try out my new folding tables i picked up on Gumtree. I also repainted all my river sections with a paint thickening medium to create a wavy texture, then gave them a coat of greeny brown acrylic paint, plus a top coat of gloss varnish. I was really happy with how the end result came out, far more realistic than my previous bright green and blue artificial looking waterways.

Funnily enough my big brother is lining up as the opposition in this little fight. Only 30 years on since i borrowed his book in the first place……… Will post some action shots when battle commences.

The Panther Tank by Anthony Tucker-Jones

Milly from Pen And Sword Books was kind enough to send me a copy of “The Panther Tank”, by Anthony Tucker-Jones, for a bit of a review by Colonel Mustard. The Panther has to be one of the most popular of tanks in the modelling and wargaming world. I don’t know the statistics but if i had a top ten of tanks the Panther would be right there in the run down. Maybe even top five…… That could be a blog post right there.

So as a keen student of the history of the Panther i was very excited to read this concise and picture heavy volume. Only 120 pages long it’s an easy read, but a very entertaining and interesting one. It follows the Panther’s conception, development through various models, its involvement in various theaters of World War Two, and ultimately its successes and failures. Built initially by the Germans to counteract the super reliable and versatile Russian T34, it soon became a crucial part of their war machine. My preconceived opinion was that the Panther was a super successful vehicle, but that opinion appears to be a misconception after reading this. The Panther was fraught with problems from day one and suffered badly from these problems throughout its encounters of the war. Most of the time a high percentage of Panthers were unusable due to mechanical issues. It appears the design was over engineered, hard to repair, susceptible to poor conditions and often manned by untrained crews. I think its firepower and armour were unrivaled, but its reliability, maneuverability and availability were all crucial issues that detracted from its overall success. Mr Tucker-Jones does a great job of going through the tanks history in World War Two, and how it measured up against opposing forces.

I love the large amount of images included in the book which will provide many inspiring ideas for my own Panther tank modelling. It really is stacked full of black and white images of Panthers in various situations, many wrecked or shot full of holes! So anyone with an interest in this distinctive vehicle should grab a copy.

However if you want to win a copy just comment on this post with the answer to my following question: Which version of the Panther was a turret less tank with an 88mm gun? First correct answer will get a copy sent to them by Pen And Sword Books!

Colonel Mustard

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Armourfast Panzer IV

Armourfast make a big range of awesome kits for the wargamer. They come two tanks in the box for not much more than five dollars per tank. You really cannot get any better value than that anywhere in the 1/72 scale world of plastic models. I bought these Panzer IV’s to join my Italeri Panzer IV and make up a three tank troop. I have also previously blogged about the Armourfast Cromwell tanks, i think my first post back in October.

You know what you will get with Armourfast, two sprues (one per tank), and minimal parts. These panzers can be put together in minutes with their one piece track and running gear, two part hull and maybe four or five piece gun and turret. If you are looking for super detailed, accurate models, then these are not for you. But if you want good looking tanks, affordable, quick to build and ready to roll onto the table, then these are a great product.

Best thing is you can dress them up a bit and add some bells and whistles. Adding some stowage items, a commander in the open hatch, and some decals really makes up for the basic detail of the kits. I added my own stowage from SHQ and Value Gear, commanders from AB figures and Battlefield miniatures, plus decals from my growing bag of spares. I tried out a different camo scheme, which is more of a blotchy three colour as opposed to my usual stripey ideas. Aerials also added from stretched sprue glued into the thoughtfully provided holes.

Overall another great offering from Armourfast and makes me want to run out and try more of their kits. Photos below as my brace of tanks enters the edge of town looking for a scrap……

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