Dragon Sd.Kfz. 171 Panther Ausf.D Late Production

Another big German tank finished. This time a Panther. So far my Panther brigades are made up of Plastic Soldier Company vehicles and one from Zvezda. Dragon kits are always a special treat, they are great to put together. I always keep one eye on the Dragon USA web site as they often have special deals with kits going as cheap as USD 8-10. That is a great saving over anywhere else. It is very rare that Dragon kits come up on eBay for resale, and if they do they are quite often priced higher than buying from the source. So where is the value in that?

The moulding and detail on this kit is of the usual high standard I would expect from Dragon kits. The running gear is very clever as it is moulded in rows making sure each level of wheels is straight. It also saves on time but does not reduce the realism. The tracks are the nice soft type that fit very easily and can be glued to produce sag on the top of the wheels. Oh what a relief after fighting for days with a face full of superglue wrestling with those old Esci tracks! The detail is very delicate and a different level to the Plastic Soldier Company models. The only addition I made was the plastic aerial on the back. The side skirts are optional and are nice and thin. In hindsight I wish I had made some damage to one of them like on the box art. Next time.

My paint job started out well. A nice covering of sandy dunkelb, followed by camo green and red brown patches with my brush. Then I over sprayed with my Tamiya dark yellow to fade everything out. Unfortunately I am still experimenting with my weathering. So I think this time I overdid it with the chipping and lost some of the impact. As always its a learning experience, so next time I will take it easy with my sponge. I used decals supplied with the kit from the two options you get.

This is a great kit. Much better than some of Dragon’s other “fast build” type offerings I have built. I think to hide some of my average painting I will add some extra foliage branches and stuff like that. In case you are wondering I had to take photos on a bit of white paper as my table is all packed away for renovations. I think I need a stronger light source for my photos! Next I have a vintage Esci Panther, oh no back to the horrible tracks of death……….

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Thank you eBay!

Not anything new finished but just a shout out to the fantastic candy shop that is eBay. A nice lady in Canberra was selling off up to 300 model kits she said were gathering dust in her roof. I am not sure why so many, or maybe some of us just end up with a roof full of kits and don’t complete them in our life time. I can see that happening to be honest.

I picked up three vintage Esci kits for less than $10 each. In perfect condition even though they look like kits from the 1980s! They even have that musty old library book smell to them. I love the smell of old library books in the morning. The parts are all wrapped in plastic still, although the decals look as if they curled up and died a while back. So I added more German armour to my growing pile of kits!

My favourite thing was in the instructions, which really showed the age of these kits. To bend the towing cable to fit to your model the instructions instruct you to use a lit cigarette to heat and bend the plastic. You couldn’t do that these days. That was back when Steve McQueen smoked and it was cool. And it didn’t kill you. The good old days.

Anyway check out the illustration in the instructions. Brilliant. I am off to buy a pack of Benson and Hedges. Not sure they sell them in Australia. If they do Malcolm Turnbull is probably smoking one right now………

 

Stuff to swap!

I had an idea to swap some things i will never use. I have a Loic Neveu house that is too small for my 1/72 scale houses, it just doesn’t fit in. Its a nicely sculpted resin building with a removal roof and first floor. Also i have a dingo armoured car and achilles tank destroyer both resin and metal from Britannia. Again they don’t fit with my existing stuff as they are a bit on the small side. They both come with crew and MGs. All brand new and unpainted. I thought if anyone has a 1/72 plastic kit or kits they don’t want, preferably German or British armour or vehicle, i will happily post these items to you and vice versa. Bear in mind i am in Australia so postage not the cheapest, but you will get free goodies from me in the post. Check it out and drop me a comment if you are interested.

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.

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.

 

 

Farmhouse Rural Building

I finally finished my farmhouse for my Normandy terrain. I based this roughly on some of the amazing scenery built by David Wright in his book “Making Rural Buildings For Model Railways”. This book is a must read for anyone looking to build their own scenery. I followed all of the suggestions in it and it improved my little farmhouse no end! I have tried a couple of manufactured buildings from different companies and nothing measures up if you have the time and the energy to scratch build your own structures. Your creations will also be what you want, to your designs, and fit perfectly with your other scenery and models. I think making your own stuff is the most rewarding thing about this hobby!

Using a foam board base for the structure, the key is to give it a coating of glue and modelling clay or ready made filler or plaster. Stonework is then carved into the buildings skin in whatever texture you like. Regular bricks or rural stonework or anything that looks the part. I picked up a $15 electric engraving tool from eBay (China) which speeded up this process a great deal. Hand scribing individual stones is a time consuming effort, but well worth it. Roof tiles were made out of Christmas cards, flashing from aluminium foil. I did buy the chimney pots (another suggestion from David Wright) but everything else is easily found and inexpensive to pick up at the art shop or stationery cupboard.

I was very pleased how this turned out, now i need to finish the rest of my farm, including  a little stable with a corrugated iron roof, an old shed with a hay loft and a big barn. Also need to pick up a vintage tractor from somewhere and make some hay bales. Will probably make a farmyard with walls and find some animals to scale to finish the scene. If you want to make your own buildings for wargames i suggest you check out David’s book as it is all you will ever need! I put the new farmhouse on the edge of my table just so you can get an idea.

Painting Light and Magnifying Glass

I had a whine about my poor old eyes being old and grey and my arms being knackered and broken and a fellow blogger chimed in with a recommendation to purchase one of these. It’s an awesome magnifying glass with a bendy arm and clamp, plus a built in bright LED light. The days of going cross eyed trying to paint tiny dots on tiny men in semi darkness are now a thing of the past. Well they are a thing of 2016. Now in 2017 i can paint even smaller dots of camouflage and even put dots inside the dots. I can even paint tiny maps and tiny ordnance survey symbols on the tiny map. Well maybe not but still it’s a huge improvement. Anyone out there who is struggling with this stuff please go and get one. My lovely wife purchased one for me for Christmas. Woo hoo. Also thanks to my blogger modeller friend for a great suggestion. It even has a small section that is double the magnification. It takes a while to get used to the distance your hand is from the model under the lens. Bit of practice is all you need. I don’t know how i managed before i had this.