Friday 29 July 2011

Submerged D-Day tanks Studied

The BBC Website has an interesting article and short video of two D-Day tanks found on the seabed off the Isle of Wight, Hampshire. They were loaded on a Mark V landing craft tank (LCT) which set off for Normandy but developed engine trouble and had to be towed back to the Solent. The Vessel capsized (fortunately without loss of life) and shed its load. This included two Centaur CS IV tanks, two armoured bulldozers, a jeep and other equipment for the Royal Marines armoured support group.

The Tanks and the LCT are being investigated by the Southsea Sub-Aqua Club and more details of their work can be found on their website.

Camouflage Podcast

Following on from my post last week about Podcasts I'd like to recommend a segment of the latest What Would Patton Do Podcast that I found really interesting. Episode 22 covers the usual range of topics and items for discussion that are found in every Podcast. However this show includes an interview with Tim O'Neil about camouflage that was really interesting and very informative.

Tim O'Neil is retired from the US Military and served in Vietnam. For 15 years he was on the faculty staff at West Point and can reasonably be called an expert in camouflage. More recently he has been closely associated with the 29th Infantry Division Historical Association.

The Interview starts at 38 minutes into the show and ends about 1hr 15minutes, so its a fairly robust and in-depth interview. The discussion starts by looking at the origins of Camouflage and its employment by the Military. Although its understandably US centric (being an American show and Interviewee) they also discuss British, French and German camouflage, especially in connection with the Second World War. I found the whole segment very interesting and enlightening and I think you will to.

Thursday 28 July 2011

Excellent Service from Battlefront

Battlefront Customer Services have a Missing Parts service whereby you can send details of anything you are missing from boxes or blisters of their models. Fortunately I have not had much need of this service and when I used it back in March 2010 I was less than impressed.

This time though I can only say that the speed of service was excellent. I sent an email on Sunday (the 24th) stating that I was missing the Gun Barrels from my M5A1 Stuart Platoon. Within minutes I received an email reply confirming my issue and promising to resolve it promptly. Today, just four days later I had an envelope in the post with my missing Gun Barrels. Now that's good service, and worthy of mentioning.

I don't expect every product to be perfect every time, but I do expect problems to be resolved quickly and to my satisfaction. Customer service often seems to be overlooked by many big companies these days but its vital to keeping customers who usually have lots of other products and companies to choose from. Many moons ago - while I was a student and working part time as a salesman - I learned the simple fact that customer complaints (both minor and major) are not a problem, they are an opportunity. Its a chance to develop a new relationship with the customer that goes beyond the initial sale and demonstrate the value of your company over the opposition.

Its an important lesson that many small (and some not so small) games companies would do well to learn. A quick look at various forums like TMP throw up lots of examples of poor customer service within the industry. And in the Internet age failure to resolve a customer service issue can be messy, public and damaging. I'm a firm believer in complaining - no famous British reserve for me - but I also believe in trumpeting good service when it occurs. Hense this post.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

15mm Field Boundry Walls

I've been working on some 15mm resin walls that I picked up at Rampage earlier in the year. Actually I had the short sections (90mms) from an even earlier show and bought the longer walls (170mm) at this years show. They came unpainted and unbased but were pretty cheap. I think the whole lot cost me less than £5:00.

All the walls needed to be based because they would not stand up on their own. I cut strips of thick plasticard and trimmed with a pair of modelling clippers. All the edges were then filed smooth. The walls were glued on to the base using epoxy resin with some added gravel for texture. Painting and static grass were then added as standard.   

The finished walls (including gates) come to about 1.7m of wall and should be very useful on the game table.

Monday 25 July 2011

Nebelwerfer 42 Rocket Battery

The Nebelwerfer Rocket Launcher was a much feared weapon which saw increasing use by the Wehrmacht as the war progressed. The 21cm NW42 was a larger version of the 15cm NW41 and in Flames of War provides a cheaper alternative to more costly Artillery batteries. I would have had these finished a week ago but my recent illness slowed their completion a little.

The NW42 was a five-barreled multiple rocket launcher mounted on the towed carriage with a pivoting stabilizer on the front to steady the launcher when firing. The 21 cm Wurfgranate (thrower-shell) 42 rockets were spin-stabilized and electrically-fired with high-explosive warheads. The rockets were fired one at a time, in a timed ripple and had a prominent exhaust trail that kicked up large dust plumes. This meant that Nebelwerfer batteries had to relocate quickly to avoid counter-battery fire. The rockets were also inaccurate and landed in a dispersed target area due to uneven burning propellants and other factors. None the less their screaming flight and the random destruction they wrought earned them the nickname Moaning Minnie's.

Range: 72”/180cm
Anti-tank: 3
Firepower: 3+

Sunday 24 July 2011

Big Picture : War and Peace

Today is the last day of the War and Peace Show. This massive military vehicle display takes place at the Hop Farm in Kent this time each year and lasts for 5 days. Originally I was planning on going to this event on Friday but changed it to Saturday to accompany my Brother-in-law Ray. But my current condition has put paid to that idea as I'd never be able to walk around the site. As a meager consolation here's a picture I took at last years show.

This is a rare Sherman BARV (Beach Armored Recovery Vehicle) owned by the Cadman Brothers. These were specially adapted vehicles designed to wade in deep water to tow damaged tanks and other vehicles ashore for repair. This vehicle actually saw service on the Normandy Beaches.

Saturday 23 July 2011

Nebelwerfer's in Action

I'm sufficiently recovered from my recent illness that this weekend I have been able to sit up for short periods and get some painting done. I can't keep my leg down for long as it still hurts but the siren call of my half finished Nebelwerefer Platoon has been too much to resist. I'm just waiting for the varnish to dry and then I just need to dress the base with static grass and tufts and the unit will be finished. Hopefully I'll have some pictures to post by Monday but in the meantime here's a great piece of film from YouTube about the much feared Rocket Artillery of the Wehrmacht.

Friday 22 July 2011

Wargames Illustrated 286

As I lay in my sick bed (well, on the sofa) on Monday my day was significantly improved by the arrival of this months issue of Wargames Illustrated. It usually takes me quite a while to read through a whole issue but with no other distractions - and little else I can actually do while laying on my back - I got through this issue in short order. And as usual I rather liked it.

The Theme this month was the Early Desert War between the British and the Italians and as usual coincides with the imminent Battlefront release Hellfire and Back. I'm quite interested in this period and theater of war and if I'd not gone for NW Europe/ Normandy I would have chosen North Africa for my FOW armies. Death of an Army charts the rise and fall of the Italian offensive against Egypt in September 1940. This campaign was a disaster for the Italians and ultimately drew the Germans, and Rommel, into the desert war. This is the only article in this issue for this theme, which is unusual, but its a strong start to the magazine with some great pictures sure to get the painting hand twitching.

Next up is The Hard Ride a look at the use of armored trucks in Vietnam from 1966 onward. The article includes some very interesting information about the M35 "Gun Truck" including a picture of the only modern survivor on display in the US Transportation Museum.  At the end of the article is a scenario based on events involving elements of the US 11th Armored Cavalry 'Blackhorse' Regiment. In November 1966 the regiment was ambushed by over 1000 Viet Cong from the 274th Dong Nai Regiment in a long running skirmish along the road that passed through the village of Ho Nai.

One of my favorite articles in this issue (because its all about tanks) was Cruiser Weights. This looks at the evolution and design of the British Cruiser Tanks from the A9 Cruiser Mk 1 all the way through to the A34 Comet. Each vehicle is discussed, its development analysed and its weaknesses reveled. The best bit for me though was the fact that for each tank listed there is a painted example from the FOW line.

End of Empire is the alternative history pulp game by Spirit of the Game. Set about the turn of the century towards the end of Queen Victoria's reign and with a distinctly tongue in cheek feel about it. In the words of the author "The heroes tend to have stiff upper lips, bristling mustaches and the bad guys are cads, bounders and Johnny Foreigners". This looked a lot of fun and utilized models from several historical ranges and manufacturers.

There is loads more inside the magazine including pictures from the Salute 2011 Painting Competition Winners. An article on how to use Army Painter Quickshade also caught my eye as I'm considering giving this product a try. Also interesting is an article about the Czech Legion of WWI. I thought this was a very well balanced issue with plenty to interest everyone and it certainly helped me through an otherwise unpromising afternoon.

Wednesday 20 July 2011

DJK Fantasy Cottage in Action

Just a quick post today due to my current condition and Horizontal Predicament. Here are some pictures from the Dagenham Dungeon Delvers D&D 4e game last Friday. This was the first opportunity our GM had to incorporate one of the excellent models build by other DDD member Derek of DJK's Fantasy World.

An Elven hermit in a lonely cottage greets us on our journey..
The Cruel but inevitable betrayal! The elf is realy a Howling Hag
Battling a Stormrage Shambler
The Evil GM toasts his success a little prematurely.
John, Derek & BigLee (complete with stupid grin) after the battle.

Monday 18 July 2011

Oi! Dats my Leg!

Well here we go again. I have the skin infection Cellulitus in my leg again. This is the fifth time I've had it, the third time in three months. Aside from being very painful it effectively immobilizes me in the horizontal while I wait for the Antibiotics to kick in.

Fortunately this time I was given an emergency supply to keep at home and took them as soon as the leg started to flare up. The positive side effect is that the infection is now receding and I have avoided a stay in hospital like I had in May. The downside is that painting miniature (and writing blog posts) is pretty difficult while laying on my back with my legs in the air!

Hopefully within a few days I'll be able to sit up and then I can get some painting done and maybe even write a proper post for the blog. In the meantime here's a nice shot of my gammy leg to put you off your lunch!

Sunday 17 July 2011

Big Picture : Harpy Encounter

This was a picture taken during the D&D Campaign I ran a couple of years ago. I went to great lengths to ensure that every key location had a detailed floor plan and props. Looking back it's clear this was probably far too much effort for a game that is supposed to be more about imagination and roleplaying than models and scenery... but it did look damned good!

Here my players characters encounter a Harpy in a tense encounter.

Friday 15 July 2011

Wargaming Podcast Blues

I've been getting into the world of podcasting recently and I thought I would share some of my thoughts on the subject. I often use an iPod to listen to music while I paint but some time ago I decided I'd try listening to podcasts instead. My favorites are some of the most popular Wargaming podcasts out there and they deserve the praise heaped upon them. These include the truly excellent WWPD News from the Front and Radio Free Battlefront. Other great podcasts that I listen to on a semi regular basis are The D6 Generation, Contact with the Enemy and View from the Veranda by Meeples and Miniatures.

While I accept I'm a newbie to this particular medium (a late arrival at the party you might say) I have developed some clear views about what I want from a Podcast and, more importantly, what I don't want.

First off let me start by saying that just because I don't listen to a particular podcast doesn't mean I dislike the content. My choice of listening is largely determined by the time I have available to listen to a show and by the level of attention required to follow it. I wouldn't listen to a detailed in-depth rules discussion while driving the car for instance because frankly I'd rather concentrate on the road (avoiding the reckless maneuvers pulled by HGV drivers in particular) than following the conversation. And a four hour podcast would take me a week to finish if I were just listening to it in my lunch breaks.

My personal preference (and this is my preference and I understand its not everyone else's) is for shorter programmes or podcasts that offer their shows broken down into bite-sized segments. However I understand that from a production point of view this probably means a lot more work and not all shows have this facility. I think this is a pity because there's probably loads of great content out there that I'd enjoy listening to, if only it wasn't buried in the middle of a 90 minute programme.

Right, now I'm going to put my "grumpy old git" hat on and say that one option I favour for reducing the length of podcasts would be to weed out all the pointless waffle that tends to get included. I get enough rowdy, meandering, directionless gossip from my own gaming group without listening to a bunch of guys telling in-jokes, talking over each other and generally making lots of 'noise'. Sometimes it can be entertaining to listen to other gamer's shooting-the-breeze but its not what I would call Premium Content.

I reckon that's put the 'cat amongst the pigeons' so its time for me to step back and reap the whirlwind! What do you like/dislike about podcasts? And what are your favorite shows, because there seem to be loads of new ones popping up all the time?

Wednesday 13 July 2011

IWM Duxford : Flying Legends Airshow 2011

As already mentioned several times I was lucky enough to go to the Flying Legends Airshow at Duxford last weekend. As usual I shot far too many pictures and I have been frantically trying to identify and label all the pictures so I could make them available on this blog. Amazingly I found the time to get it all completed last night (aided by the fact my wife was out at Aqua Aerobics all evening and hence the TV was turned off!). Here are the pick of the photo's cut down to a measly 116 from the over 700 I took!

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Duxford Flying Legends Airshow Crash

On Saturday I went to the Duxford Flying Legends Airshow and saw many Warbirds, including P-51's put on a magnificent display. On Sunday two of these amazing aircraft collided during the display resulting on one crashing and leaving the other badly damaged. The pilot of the crashed plane was able to eject and parachuted safety to the ground while the second pilot was able to bring his wounded warbird down in an emergency landing. Several dramatic videos of the collision have been released on YouTube and other media, including this by MrJonlar.

There was also another, thankfully minor crash on the same day. The replica Fokker DR I triplane tipped up on landing. This video was posted by MastersonIrishdance.

Looks like I missed an eventful day by going Saturday instead of Sunday!

I'm working my way through all the photo's I shot (some 700+ !) and hope to have them available to view by Friday if not sooner. I'm still identifying and labeling all the planes in my shots and haven't even started picking out the best pictures to keep. Its a mammoth job but I'm pleased with the pictures I got and the show was definitely worth it.

Monday 11 July 2011

15mm Farmhouse

This is another model that I bought at Broadside last month. Again its taken a little time to get round to finishing it but I think it'll look good when I get to use it in action. This building has a removable roof so I expect it to feature highly as a strong point or objective in any battle.

I still have a few more resin buildings to get started on so hopefully I'll have some more pictures to post in due course.

Sunday 10 July 2011

Big Picture : Duxford Airshow

Yesterday I went to the Duxford Flying Legends Airshow. As usual I shot hundreds of pictures and I'm currently working my way through them to correctly identify and label the machines I saw. I took this weeks Big Picture photo at an Airshow at Duxford last year when an amazing 16 Spitfires flew at the same time.

One of The Few

I'll post more deatils and of course the Photo's as soon as I have labeled and uploaded them.

Friday 8 July 2011

15mm Norman Church

I bought this 15mm Norman Church by Mainly Military Scenics (now part of Chiltern Miniatures) at Broadside last month and knew immediately that it would look good on the games table. Now that its painted up I agree with that first impression even more. The Mainly Military range are high quality resin with extremely fine detail yet robust design.

This model came with the roof and tower as separate pieces and I glues them into place. I could have kept the roof removable but I wanted a solid finish to the piece and decided to fix it into place instead. The resin needed a really good scrub with acetone to clean the surface before I started painting. However once it was cleaned the paint went on smoothly and adhered perfectly.

I deliberately kept this paint scheme simple and clean as I thought it suited the models fine details.

I've nearly finished another resin model, an abandoned farmhouse. I just need to varnish and then apply grass and its finished. Pictures in a day or two when I get a chance to upload them.

Thursday 7 July 2011

Project Hougoumont Update - Theft of Chapel Cross

The latest Project Hougoumont Newsletter has been made available in pdf format. For anyone interested in the efforts to save the iconic farmhouse that played such an important part of the battlefield at Waterloo this is an interesting read. Sadly the newsletter also tell of an act of historical vandalism that resulted in the theft of the chapel cross. The fifteenth-century cross miraculously survived the inferno that engulfed the chapel at the château Hougoumont during the fierce fighting between French soldiers and troops from the Grenadier, Scots and Coldstream Guards.

Having survived the battle, and remained in-situ and unlooted through two World Wars, some scumbags (no other word for them) have nicked it. Interpol believe this may have been a theft 'to-order' for a foreign collector. If this is the case the chances of recovering the cross are small.

There's more on this story at blog The Napoleonic Wargamer , on the Daily Mail website and on The Miniatures Page.

Wednesday 6 July 2011

Airfix P-51D Mustang

I recently bought an Airfix Minikit while I was at the Rampage show a week ago. This is a 1:100 scale painted model that just requires assembly. I bought this model on a whim, just to give it a try, and I quite enjoyed putting it together.

The models come pre painted but you have to be a little careful when cutting them from the sprue. Small areas may need a little touch up of paint if you've been a bit slopping cutting it out. I also found it useful to be very sparing with the glue as any that got on fingers soon eneded up on the outside of the model. Having said that the build was very easy indeed and the whole thing took less than an hour to assemble.

1:100 scale models are almost perfect for 15mm wargaming much better than the 'official' FOW aircraft scale of 1:144 which comes up a bit small looking. This range of models also includes the P-47D Thunderbolt which would fit nicely into my US Flames of war forces, providing some much needed air support.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Tanks! Tanks! Tanks!

Regular readers will know that I have a thing for Armored Vehicles. I have collected lots of pictures from several museum visits over the years and I still have loads more to see. I have uploaded most of these pictures to Picasa and most have featured on this blog. I have now collected together all my pictures in a single album which will grow as I 'collect' more pictures. In particular I have focused on those vehicles from WWII and my hope is that my collection of pictures will be useful to Wargamers and modelers interested in that period.

There are several collections in the UK that I have yet to see and some that are only accessible at Military shows. Tanks of this period are scattered all over the world and many are listed on the Surviving Panzers website which is an amazing online resource. I'll certainly be referring to this sit to help me find and photograph some of the rare and incredible vehicles to be found in the UK (and overseas if I get a chance).

Monday 4 July 2011

They Died for Glory

On Saturday Posties Rejects gathered in Faversham for a bit of Franco-Prussian action. The battle being fought was The Battle of Faux-Illy on the 1st September 1870. This was a fictional re-fight of the Battle of Sedan in which the French found themselves surrounded by the Prussians and fighting for their lives.

The French Imperial Army have been marching to and fro with the aim of relieving the siege at Metz but have now been completely surrounded by the Prussians. Its late afternoon and all the french need to do is hold back the Prussians until nightfall. If they can hold open a corridor (including the heights at Faux-Illy) they can escape during the night. The French players had a tough fight on their hands, battling on two fronts simultaneously against overwhelming numbers. However the caliber of the troops in their forces were much higher than those of the attacking Prussians.

The Prussian infantry have advanced faster than their artillery and now surround the French, occupying high ground on both the Eastern and Western flanks. For the Prussians it came down to a decision whether to launch an assault immediately or wait for the Artillery to arrive. As night will arrive soon time is of the essence but there is a lot of ground for the infantry to cover before battle is joined. If they can occupy the heights at Faux-Illy they will have the french at their mercy.

The real Battle of Sedan resulted in the capture of Emperor Napoleon III and large numbers of his troops and practically decided the war in favor of Prussia and its allies. Defeat at the Battle of Beaumont presented an opportunity of the Prussians to end the war decisively. The Meuse Army and the Prussian Third Army - commanded by Field-Marshal Helmuth von Moltke and accompanied by Prussian King Wilhelm I and Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck - cornered MacMahon's army at Sedan in a massive encirclement battle. The French lost over 17,000 men killed and wounded with 21,000 captured.

Our fictional recreation of this battle again saw the use (and failure to use) Prussian artillery as vital to the outcome. It arrived from the second turn onwards but only if the relevant general/player could answer a question from an Osprey quiz book! This was a rather fun way to decide on reinforcements and created quite a lot of laughter in the process.
Richard with the rules "They Died for Glory"

Both forces of Prussian infantry decided to press into the assault bringing the artillery into action as and when it arrived. However Myself and Dave on the Northern edge of the table decided to keep our artillery limbered and rush it forwards. One of our victory conditions was to get artillery onto the heights of Faux Illy and at the beginning of the battle this looked like a realistic possibility. However the French defence in the north proved stubborn and the heights were never truly threatened. The result was that two batteries of Prussian artillery (one on the East and one on the West of the French) remained limbered and unfired throughout the battle. Had they been deployed their use may have proved crucial in breaking the deadlock and enabled the Prussian infantry to capture the heights. 

Meanwhile on the southern side of the Battlefield the Prussian advance was slow but relentless throughout the game. In particular the South Eastern Prussians under the command of Mark turned the French flank and were within a gnats whisker of meeting up with the South Western Prussians under Fran (the Angry Lurker). Time was against us however. Night was rapidly drawing the game to a close and - back in the real world - we needed to wrap up the game to return to our respective partners before our dinners were 'fed to the dog'.

These rules were very enjoyable to play and for a newbie like me were easy to understand and learn. I certainly found them easier to grasp than Fire and Fury which we played for an ACW battle last year. At the end of the game I think everyone agreed this was a good game and a good set of rules to fight it with. Richard put on an excellent game and I think everyone agreed his umpiring skills were top class.

Friday 1 July 2011

Big Game Weekend

I am crossing the Thames and heading onto deepest darkest Kent this weekend. But I don't think I'll need my Pith Helmet and Elephant Gun for what I have planned. Lions, Elephants, Rhinos, even Locusts are safe from me because the kind of violence I have planned is small scale and simulated only.

Tonight the Dagenham Dungeon Delvers will gather at my home for our usual D&D 4e campaign game. We have just completed yet another side quest so I'm hoping we can get back on track and press on with our main mission. I look forward to completing it sometime before I retire. [Newsflash: It now looks like our GM is gonna blow us out and cancel the game due to work commitments. The rest of us may still gather for some other game but at the moment nothing has been arranged or confirmed. Damn!]

Tomorrow the Rejects will be gathering for a bit of Franco-Prussian action. I'm not sure what rules we will be using, but given my dubious tactical track record I doubt if it will make any difference! I have an uncanny knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of defeat (you read it right).

On Sunday I'm hoping to meet up with my Brother-in-Law to discuss the next build project for our respective Flames of War armies. Our core forces are pretty much finished so its just the divisional support platoons that needs to be decided upon. As always I'll be there camera in hand so expect a few photo's next week.