Saturday, June 11, 2022

More 6mm progress

Back in October of last year I spent a fiver at Wargames Emporium on a couple of bags of various second-hand bits.  I figured it would be fun to see what was in there and whether I could make anything useful from it.

For starters there's this lot:

From left to right, rear row first:  three 1/285th scale HMMWV ambulances, a Roman ballista unit, and three units of Republican Roman cavalry.

Next row, a 1/285th scale Valentine, two bases of Roman slingers, four bases of legionaries, three bases of Greek hoplites painted as Sun Dome Templars for Glorantha.

And in front a three-part wooden palisade.

In addition, the bags also contained some 1/300th scale aircraft. So far I've painted these:

Left to right: FW-190, Me-110, and Spitfire.

All in all, not bad for a bag of junk with more still to come.

In addition, I've also been sifting through my other piles of leftover 6mm stuff. I bought a second-hand Cold War Swedish army years ago at the Gauntlet show in North Wales. There were rather more models than I needed to put together an Armoured Brigade for Cold War Commander. The spare models sat, unused, in a drawer for years until I decided to have a go at a small force in winter camo:

I may never use them but at least they're painted!

Finally I also painted a civilian vessel that's been in the bits drawer for years. Is it from a Monopoly set? I'm not sure. Either way it'll be going to the first CWC game at The Unit in a few weeks.

Monday, June 6, 2022

6mm Jubilee Weekend

Inspired by taking part in the Cold War Commanders' game at Partizan recently, I spent the Platinum Jubilee long weekend on some 6mm modelling.

For starters I thought I'd upgrade some more of my old 1/300th scale 1980s British to my current painting and basing standard.  Using the old Tabletop Games Corps Commander army lists, I've produced some organisation sheets to help me sort out the models prior to using them.

By giving each unit a rectangle or circle the same size as its base, I'm able to lay out the models to make sure I have everything I need. 

It turned out I was short of an FV434 recovery vehicle for the mechanised battalion's REME Light Aid Detachment. It's not strictly speaking needed in CWC but I thought it would be fun to convert a spare FV432 APC into one of these.

Having sorted out the toys and picked units for my models to represent I now find myself able to deploy two thirds of a 1985 armoured brigade. I'm calling it 11th Armoured Brigade.

The Brigade HQ has a CO unit, a forward artillery observer and a forward air controller. Also attached is a Tracked Rapier unit representing elements of 16th Air Defence Regiment, Royal Artillery.

In support of the Brigade at the moment are 3rd and 47th Field Regiments Royal Artillery, each with an FAO and six Abbot self-propelled gun models.

My mechanised infantry battalion is 1st Battalion the Cheshire Regiment (selected because they were the parent unit of my school's Combined Cadet Force detachment). They have two HQ units (my personal standard for NATO battalions), two recce Scimitars, two FV432s with mortars, nine infantry and six Milan ATGW teams all riding in a total of fifteen FV432 models. 

As a final addition, working on the assumption that commanders in the field often find a way to deploy equipment not strictly included on the official TOE, 1 CHESHIRES also have a platoon (one model) of FV432 with top-mounted 120mm RCL to provide a little additional firepower.

My armoured regiment is, for no reason other than that I once painted a Scottish saltire on one of the vehicles, designated as Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. They are organised as per the official TOE with one exception. Due to lack of sufficient models, I'm assuming that the war has caught them in the process of reequipping. The regiment has three squadrons equipped with Challenger Is and one still using Chieftain Mk9s. So in total the model armoured regiment has two HQ bases, two recce Scimitars, another LAD with FV434, the heavy anti-tank platoon with a total of three FV438 models, twelve Challengers, and four Chieftains.

I'd originally organised a second mechanised infantry battalion in Warrior IFVs but these don't fit with our usual 1985 timeframe. To complete the brigade I need to add half a dozen of so more FV432s, six more Milan teams, and another FV434. However, that's a large force and I need to practice what I preach; CWC is a better game when you're not waiting ages for your opponent to finish moving hundreds of units!

I said "For starters" at the beginning of this post. There is some other 1/300th progress to report but I'll leave that for later.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Steel Lard 2022 (updated)

For my many sins I've copped for organising 2022's Steel Lard - a festival of Too Fat Lardies games in Sheffield.  We're talking to a new venue (not far from the previous one at Jury's inn) and I'm hopeful that we'll be going ahead on 19th November.

This weekend I'm working on firming up the initial list of games on offer. So far we have:

WW1 in Mesopotamia by Ken Reilly using the If The Lord Spares Us rules.

A Chain of Command game by Graeme Atkinson set somewhere near Tobruk.

Up The Arras: Bloody April 1917 by Alex Sotheran using the Algernon Pulls It Off rules.

And finally for now, Richard Phillips and I will be running a Sharp Practice game provisionally titled Riga 1812 - A Spy in the Suburbs.

We also have the promise of games from Charley (the Duns Dilettante) Walker and Richard (the Sage of St Albans) Clarke.

I'll add to this list as we get more games confirmed.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Building Cold War Commander Battlegroups

In a previous post I spoke about how new Cold War Commander players may struggle to know how to set up battlegroups for the game. So I thought I'd work through an example of how I go about it.

The first thing you need is a Table of Organisation and Equipment (TOE). Browsing through my collection of TOE-related material, I came across a folder on the Iranian army of the early twenty-first century. This seems like as good as anything to give us a starting point.

The file is full of bits and bobs I've saved over the years from websites and magazine articles as well as some of the superb army list cards produced by Mark "MicroMark" Bevis. These will give me the real world information from which I'll derive my CWC Battlegroup's list.

One of Mark's lists tells us that the Iranian Army (as opposed to the Pasdaran or Revolutionary Guard) had, in 2002, four armoured divisions and four mechanised divisions.  CWC players like to push tanks around so let's go with an armoured division as the parent formation of our battlegroup. Ideally we'd pick a specific division (e.g. the 92nd, headquartered at Kermanshah) as that might determine which particular models of tank and/or APCs we need to mode. However, on this occasion I'm just going to go generic.

I'm working in 6mm scale so I'm going to build a force based around two battalions; a tank battalion and a mechanised battalion. That should give us an interesting range of models to paint and play with. If you plan to play CWC in 10mm or even 15mm, you might want to go with a smaller base force; say a couple of mechanised companies with an attached tank company. 

The Micromark lists have an Iranian tank battalion consisting if three companies each of three platoons. The platoons are three tanks in strength and the company commander rides in a tenth tank. 

Here we have the first choice the CWC player needs to make. Each model in the game represents a platoon of 3-5 real life vehicles. We could, then, represent a company with three models. However, if the opposing force for this battle group has four- or even five-vehicle platoons the relative strength of the two armies would be misrepresented by using one-platoon-equals-one-model for both sides.

Practicality comes in here too. I'm building this Iranian force to use the models I have going spare. These include nine old Skytrex Chieftains. For this reason as much as anything my Iranian tank battalion will consist of eight Chieftain Mk.3/5 models, saving one for the HQ unit.

Speaking of which, the actual battalion HQ has two tanks and an armoured recovery vehicle. The ARV has no in-game function so my HQ unit will consist of a single Chieftain on a 30mm square base. I don't see any reason for the model battalion to have more than one HQ element (though I might well deploy two for a professional battalion organised along NATO lines).

Moving on to the mechanised battalion, the Micromark list tells us this has:
  • a headquarters with two APCs and two Jeeps
  • three infantry companies each of three four-squad platoons riding in APCs,
  • a support company with six heavy mortars, four Jeeps with TOW missiles, and four other 4x4s carrying recce troops.
Again, I see no reason to give our in-game battalion any more than a single HQ unit. BTR60PBs are a listed APC option and I have some of those going spare so let's put one on another HQ base. If I can find a spare Jeep I might include one along with some guys on foot. Each company has a single SA-14 man-portable AAGW. These will give us the justification for the HQ's anti-aircraft capability. We don't need to represent them as a separate AA unit.

The three infantry companies can each be represented by a three infantry units for a total of nine. They will have RPG-7 upgrades. We can regard the single 60mm mortar in each platoon as representing part of the unit's inherent firepower. Nine BTR-60PB models will provide the transport.

The six heavy mortars (either 4.2" M-30s or 120mm M43s) present another issue. The 3-5 rule suggests that we deploy two models but the alternative one-model-represents-a-battery approach would suggest one model. I think I'll go with the latter.

The four Jeep-mounted TOWs and four-squad recce platoon are dead easy to translate into a single unit each.

That, then, gives us the main fighting elements of our battlegroup. The next step is to decide on the identity of our CO. The battlegroup could be under the control of an armoured brigade or a mechanised brigade headquarters. For no other reason that that I'm out of suitable tank models, let's go with a Mechanised Brigade.

The Bevis lists give this two APCs, four trucks and fighting manpower equivalent to four squads of infantry. I use 40mm square bases for CO units. My CO base will have an M577 command vehicle, a spare EE-9 armoured car and a couple of infantry figures.

The Mechanised Brigade also has six real-world EE-9 Cascavel armoured cars in the recce troop. Bearing in mind that our battlegroup represents less than the whole brigade, I'm inclined to use one EE-9 model in the recce role.  

The brigade also has a an AA battery with four 23mm ZU-23-2 guns and four SA-7 teams. I'll probably use on of the latter (with a truck) as I have the model available.

The brigade's integral artillery battalion has three batteries each with six M109A1s and one M113. Because I have one suitable model, I'll give my battle group a single M109A1 model and a Forward Artillery Observer unit consisting of an M113. My FAOs are based on two pence pieces to distinguish them from fighting units of the same type. 

Finally the brigade also has an integral engineer company but I think I'll leave those until they're needed for a particular scenario.

I could go on and add additional support from divisional level but for now let's stick with the following as our 2002-vintage Iranian battlegroup:

Brigade headquarters                CO, FAO, 1x EE-9 recce
AA battery                                  1x SA-7, 1x truck 
Artillery battery                           1x M109A1

Armoured battalion                     HQ, 8x Chieftain Mk.3/5

Mechanised battalion                 HQ, 9x Infantry (w RPG-7 upgrades), 9x BTR60PB   
                                                   1x 120mm mortar, 1x Jeep+TOW, 1x Jeep recce

Monday, May 23, 2022

Partizan 2022

I had a most enjoyable day at Newark Show Ground yesterday for the 2022 version of the Partizan show. It's the first time I've attended it at this venue. I think the last time I went was when the event was in a sweltering marquee in the grounds of Kelham Hall.

I was there with the Cold War Commanders group putting on a game to demonstrate the second edition of Cold War Commander, which was newly available from Pendraken on the day.

The rather marvellous terrain was the work of Richard Phillips and depicted the Kiel Canal and the Rendsburg railway viaduct.

The new rules, by Mark Fry, bring CWC into line with the latest edition of Blitzkrieg Commander (e.g. differentiating between anti-tank and anti-personnel firepower) and are built on Mark's experience of playing the rules at Cold War Commanders events and at the Berkeley Vale club.

I'm still to fully explore the subtleties but I like the idea that long-range ATGW units no longer suffer an activation penalty if at a long distance from their controlling HQ. This nicely reflects their tactical role and removes the incentive to move them unrealistically close to the line of contact.

Richard's terrain included some interesting vignettes. Yes, those are pumpkins...

The viaduct is a marvellous creation - scratchbuilt by Richard over the last several months.

Obviously I bought myself a copy of the new rules edition. I also picked up a pack of dismounted Confederate cavalry to complete my Sharp Practice force...

Also from the Perry lads I bought pack FN20 "Infantry 'hired help' for hauling guns, resting".

These guys are going to be painted up as Westphalian infantry, who will be encamped on the edge of the suburbs of besieged Riga.

Finally, I got these nice pieces...

... at least some of which will appear in the besiegers camp. Napoleonic soldiers were extremely skilled in "finding" items to help bring some home comforts into their encampments.

I took some pictures of other games and present them here. Unfortunately I didn't note down what's what.

Twas a good day. I'm not even too bothered that Liverpool didn't win the Premier League while I was on the way home! They did everything that could be expected of them and lost out only to a very talented Manchester City team.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Shopping trip

I managed to get down to Wargames Emporium on Saturday morning with the aim of picking up some more bits of "set dressing" for Riga.

There wasn't a lot that caught my eye from a terrain point of view but I did get some barrels from Renedra.

I do have some other barrels among my collection of rural clutter but these are interesting in that they appear to be older-style barrels held together with withies rather than metal bands. I've converted one into a floating barrel that may end up in one of the previous post's gullies.

The big win of the trip, though, was a Victrix command sprue. It came from their Bavarian infantry pack and because the officer's horse model was broken at the ankles, it was priced at just £2.

As you can see the horse has gone together nicely with the aid of a little Tamiya Extra Thin cement. 

There were some Bavarian troops among the units in Macdonald's X Corps and although I don't intend to build any Bavarian units as such, the occasional officer here and there may come in useful. I'm thinking, "Rescue the officer who's been observing the enemy lines and is now cut off in the church tower" and suchlike.

The sprue makes two officers (one mounted and one afoot), a standard bearer, an NCO, and a drummer. Even if I don't use the Standard bearer and the drummer, three Leaders for two quid has got to be good value!

Finally I also bought a second box of Perry ACW cavalry. This will give me a second Group for my Confederates and, somewhat frustratingly, leave me one model short of a third Group (because I needed to use one figure from the first box as a Leader).

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Drains for Riga

I decided that I'd have a go at creating some canalised stream sections to add a bit of visual interest to my burned-out-suburbs-of-Riga set-up. 

Old Riga stands on the right bank of the Daugava River within a loop of the Riga River, which today forms a series of attractive lakes in city parkland but which, in the medieval period, formed Riga's defensive moat.

The area burned out by the Russians in 1812 would have had small watercourses draining into the Riga River. I envisaged these as, by 1812, running through stone-lined channels between the buildings.

I started out by cutting out some strips of mounting card (about 28mm wide) and painting the central strip in black before adding a layer of gloss varnish.

I then cut out edging stones from several thicknesses of card and glued them in place with general purpose adhesive.

With the stones painted in several shades of grey to match my cobblestoned city mat, I think the effect (as seen by the prototype piece below) is reasonably attractive.

I'm going to make a few corner pieces so the drain can run between two adjacent edges. I'll also add a couple of wooden culverts made from coffee-stirrers. 

I'm not sure whether these waterways will have any significance in the game but sources of water can often be useful in Sharp Practice given the presence of random events like fouled barrels and the tendency for officers to tread in unpleasant materials at unfortunate moments!

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Tercio de Armada for Cold War Commander

A recent post on the Cold War Commander Facebook group got me thinking. A member was asking where they could get Cold War Soviet organisations. Those of us who have been wargaming the Cold War since it was a near future threat have an instinctive feel these things backed up by a load of, probably now out of print, source material.

So I've decided to start documenting my past efforts at organising my 1/300th scale collection into CWC battlegroups.  To start with here is my 1990s Spanish Marine Brigade - Tercio de Armada.

Tercio de Armada (early 1990s)

Unidad de Cuartel General            CO, Mistral AAGW, FAO, FAC

1st Marine Battalion                      HQ, Mistral AAGW, 9x Infantry, 3x HMG, 2x 81mm mortar

2nd Marine Battalion                     HQ, Mistral AAGW, 9x Infantry, 3x HMG, 2x 81mm mortar

GRUMA                                        2x HQ, 6x LVTP-7, 3x M48A3E, 3x Scorpion

GAD                                              2x FAO, 2x 105mm OTO-Melara M-56, 2x Trucks

UOE                                               HQ, 1x Special Forces, 3x Commandos

Naval support                                 3x AV-8A Matador, 3x UH-1, 2x Super Puma, 

                                                       Naval gunfire support

This force was organised based on an early 90s article in Raids magazine. Since then more information has become available in the internet. I've been able to update the list to the early 2000s but I haven't yet bought the models needed to update my Spanish forces.

Tercio de Armada (early 2000s)

TEAR UCG                         CO, FAO, FAC

1st Marine Bn                                 HQ, 9x Infantry, 2x HMG, 2x 81mm Mortar, 6x Dragon ATGW

2nd Marine Bn                                HQ, 9x Infantry, 2x HMG, 2x 81mm Mortar, 6x Dragon ATGW

3rd Mechanised Bn                 HQ, 6x Infantry, 6x Piranha III, 4x M60A3, 4x Scorpion

GAD                         3x FAO, 4x OTO-Melara M56 105mm, 6x Trucks, 2x M109A2

GAE                         6x Hummer w TOW-2, 4x AAVP-7A1, 3x Engineers

GA                                 FAC, 4x Mistral AAGW, 4x Hummer

3a Escuadrilla                                 3x AB-212 helicopters

9a Escuadrilla                                 3x AV-8A+ Matador

5a Escuadrilla                                 3x SH-3H Sea King

Naval support                                 Naval gunfire support


Artillery “trucks” may be Pegaso or (for the 2000s battlegroup) Hummers

The engineers can land a variety of trucks, bulldozers and entrenching equipment

Monday, April 4, 2022

Riga ruins latest

Yet more progress to report on building the burned-out suburbs of Riga...

Here are the results of the stone-built tower/storage-building with a partly collapsed roof.

It's built from foam-core with pdf roof beams and cardboard tiles from (I think) Sarissa.

With two more burned-out ruins now complete, I'm beginning to see how the board might look when I'm finished.

And two more ruins are on the way, along with a well, which struck me as the kind of thing that would have survived the fire quite readily.

There's till a long way to go if I'm going to cover a whole 4'x4' board!

Sunday, March 27, 2022

More Riga ruins progress

As the title says, I've made more progress on producing the terrain for a future game set in the ruins of Riga's suburbs in 1812.

As you can see the second building is now complete and I've moved on to numbers three and four.

As before, the materials are PVC board, Firedragon foam sheet, and off-cuts of MDF. Oh and the burned-out shed (bottom right in the pic above) has its remaining walls made from coffee stirrers.

There should probably be more ash and rubble in and around the building footprints but there needs to be a compromise if units are to move within them.

Update: This afternoon I’ve started on a partly burned-out tower to add to the suburb:

This is made with foamcore and off-cuts of MDF on the usual pvc base. 

Friday, March 25, 2022

Folland Gnat

Further inspired by Youtube model-making videos I went out and bought myself the Airfix Folland Gnat in 1/72 scale.

We used to go to Anglesey quite often for summer holidays when I was a kid and we'd see Gnats flying from RAF Valley. On one holiday my Dad and I built a Me262 kit and then bought a Gnat kit from a toyshop, probably in Caernarfon. Unfortunately the kit got left on the rear parcel shelf of the car in direct sunshine and it warped horribly!

Despite this, I have fond memories of the Gnat (I think Airfix sent us a replacement) and I thought it would be nice to build the newer Airfix kit of the type, particularly as it comes with markings for a 4 OTU aircraft based at Valley.

Airfix call this a level one kit (presumably based on the number of parts) but I have to say this is hopelessly unrealistic.

It didn't build too badly, though I found the port-side jet intake didn't fit well and needed some filling as did the nose in front of the cockpit.

After building the FW190 straight out of the box I decided to do a little bit of extra detailing on this model. I added fine wire firing handles and masking tape seatbelts to the ejector seats.

Where the kit did, for me, step way outside the realms of the level one kit was in the paint job and decals. Any beginner would struggle, I feel, with a paint scheme that needs some pretty complicated masking. In places the painting diagram doesn't show the lines of demarkation between red and white areas at all well.

I should probably have got myself a white rattle-can and sprayed the whole aircraft that colour first.

As well as the complex paint job the kit also comes with more than 60 individual decals; some of them only a millimetre or two across. In the end I decided to forget about most of them and just get the model to a reasonably finished condition. 

All in all I've found this kit a rather discouraging one to build. I'm trying hard to regard it as a learning experience. If I see the same kit in the alternative, and simpler, Yellowjacks Display Team colours I'm tempted to have another go and see if I can do a better job next time.