Saturday 29 June 2013

Having a Blast at Tankfest

My Brother-in-Law and I left home in East London at the ungodly time of 5am today so we could get to Bovington for the opening of Tankfest 2013. After a brief stop-off for some breakfast and a large coffee we made very good time and were in the queue on time as the gates opened. The weather was gloriously sunny and most importantly dry, which always makes events like this easier for visitors and re-enactors alike. There is so much to see I haven't had much time to sit and write a long winded blog post and in the end I decided to wait until we got back to our Hotel before posting a small selection of pictures from today.

The WWI and WWII displays were excellent and as expected I shot far too many pictures. I'm already working on editing them now but a full set will be posted later in the week. Fortunately I'll get to see both these displays again tomorrow and I'm hoping to get some more good photos from a different spot around the arena. I'm not sure if I'll get a chance to post any pictures tomorrow evening because as soon as the show finishes we have the long drive home and I don't expect to get back until quite late. Needless to say I'll do my best to post the best of all my pictures from both days as soon as I can.

A replica WWI German A7V

Tiger 131

Replica British WWI Mark IV - This replica featured in the film Warhorse

Friday 28 June 2013

Bovington here I come!

I'm heading down to Dorset and the Tank Museum this weekend with my brother-in-law Raymond to attend Tankfest 2013. We've both been here many times over the years but this is only my second Tankfest and I'm really looking forward to it. This years show will once again feature lots of rare tanks powering around the arena and it goes without saying that I'll be shooting a lot of pictures!

Tankfest 2010 - T34-85

The Tank line-up this year features several tanks I have seen before but also a few I haven't including; the Matilda I; Valentine; Stuart; Panzer III; Tiger 1; Comet; Centurion (x3); Chieftain (x3); Khalid; Challenger 1; Leopard 1 (x3); Panzer 61; M60 (x2); Type 59; Challenger 2; and the replica Mk IV and A7V. There will also be a selection of Recce, carriers and support vehicles on display including 432 (x4), M 548 (x4), Snow Cat, Cougar, Lynx, Scorpion (x2), Tracked Rapier, YP 408, Urutu, Rolls Royce Armoured Car (x2), OT 90, BRDM 1, BRDM2, BTR 60, ACRV, Kettenkrad, Half Track and PaK 88, ACAVP, Warthog, Panther, Warrior, CRARV.

Tankfest 2010 - PzKpfw III

The gates open at 9am and we hope to be there about then (we are leaving at 5am!) but the first display I definitely want to see is at 12:00 when the replica WWI tanks with two real Rolls Royce Armoured Cars will be in the arena. Then in the afternoon at about 2:15pm there is the WWII display which is another on my hit list. There's plenty more going on in the arena throughout the day but I want to get around all the traders, the living history displays and the Museum itself in between these shows. 

Tankfest 2010 - Valentine

Thankfully I have two days to see everything but by the time we get home late on Sunday evening I expect I'll be good-for-nothing for a few days. Pity I have to be back at work on the Monday! I'll try and get some pictures up during the weekend if I can but failing that as soon as possible afterwards. 

Tankfest 2010 - Leopard

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Thump! v's Bing!

Its battle of the magazines time again as both my Wargames Illustrated and Miniature Wargames subscriptions arrive within days of each other. In the case of the former it came through the letter box and landed with a hefty "Thump" on the carpet, while the other announced itself available to read on my Tablet with a gentle "Bing!". Anyone that has been reading BLMA for some time will know I enjoy both these publications for different reasons. Between these two and Wargames Soldiers and Strategy I get all the gaming news and updates I need as well as plenty of ideas and inspiration for a myriad of battles and campaigns that I'll probably never get round to playing. So what differentiates these two magazines from each other this month, aside from the sound they make when they arrive? 

It has to be said that this months Wargames Illustrated really is a vehicle for Battlefronts latest release,  the Rising Sun Handbook. Having said that I really enjoyed it because its a theatre of WWII that doesn't seem to get much attention. This handbook introduces the Japanese to FOW but focuses on the pre war conflicts between Soviet Russia and Imperial Japan. Later releases will focus on Japan's involvement in the Pacific and Southeast Asia and I suspect this will prove a very popular Theatre for FOW players who have been asking for this for years.

As usual the Theme is carried throughout the magazine with several related articles including two articles that appealed to the Treadhead in me. The first article looks at the development of Japanese tanks between 1919 and 1939 and the other reviews the Red Army tank force, which in 1939 was arguably the most powerful in the world materially, if not in leadership and employment.

Aside from the Themed articles there are also several others that look beyond Battlefront's games (one thing that clearly differentiates this magazine from GW's White Dwarf which it is constantly and unfairly being compared to). San Tarzgarotto is about a fictional Carlist Wars battle created by Chris Thompson. By Fire and Sword looks at a new pike & shot-era game set in and around the Polish Commonwealth in the late 17th Century. The Battle of Snowshoes looks at the research and construction of a French and Indian Wars Battle set in 1758. Elope to Archangel reviews the British involvement in the Russian Civil War against the Bolsheviks. And there is a stunning photo essay about recreating Rorke's Drift 1879 by Pat Smith, a follow on from his iSandlwana article last month.

Miniature Wargames is a completely different kind of beast to Wargames Illustrated and panders to a different set of needs and desires. While I would describe WI as wargaming porn, Miniature Wargames is definitely the thinking persons wargaming magazine. I can honestly say, without a hint of irony, that I buy Miniature Wargames for the articles. I devour the regular columns by the likes of Neil Shuck and Mike Siggins and now MW had added the great John Treadaway to its stable of regular contributors.

Henry Hyde begins the magazine with his usual editorial and its clear his move from a 50 page bi-monthly publication to an 80 page monthly magazine has been quite a shock to the system and a very steep learning curve for him. But as a reader I have to say  I think he's doing a grand job and if he's encountered any difficulty with the move, it doesn't show in the quality of the magazine he is captaining.

This months issue includes several articles that have caught my attention and were very enjoyable to read. John Treadaway's inaugural piece in particular was great to see as it is a welcome return of his old column Fantasy Facts from the days of Battle for Wargames. This month he's looking at a range of Sci Fi APC's that bear an uncanny resemblance to a certain James Cameron film back in the 80's. Next No Messiens About caught my attention because it features a rather nice first world war British tank (a Mk IV I think) and a German A7V. The pictures accompanying the article are excellent and are reminiscent of the game the Rejects put on at Broadside last year. Conrad Kinch's column Send three and Fourpence offers some advise for those considering blogging about their activities.

One of the things I like about Miniature Wargames is that it is very much Game focused. That's not to say that the history and setting isn't given some attention but in every article the game is central. One of my favourite articles from this months issue Whispering Death is all about the game as it is an entirely self contained fast-play set of rules for recreating a convoy bombing mission. I'm not sure I'd have the patience to draw my own hex mat like he has but the miniatures and the rules are very intriguing.

There's plenty more inside the covers of both magazines but if you want to find out more you'll just have to go out and buy them! I'm know there are plenty of detractors - for both magazines - but despite their vast and obvious differences in style and content I have enjoyed them very much this month.

Monday 24 June 2013

Desert Air Support

My recent review of forces highlighted a couple of gaps that urgently needed plugging. One major missing element was Air Support so I have been working to rectify this over the last couple of weeks. I've never painted 1/300th scale aircraft before so this was a bit of a challenge for me but on the whole I'm pretty happy with these. I will expand my collection eventually, but for not both the Axis and Commonwealth forces can at least call upon some help from the skies.

A flight of Hurricane IIC's which can provide Limited and Sporadic Air Support to Monty's forces

The Hurricanes were painted using Tan Yellow (912) as the base with the camo painted in Beige Brown (875). I mixed a light grey and blue together to make the pale blue undersides (not shown here) and used German Grey (995) for the Canopies. The RAF Roundel transfers (type C on the wings and C1 on the Fuselage) were from Dom's Decals.

A flight of JU87G Stuka's fitted with tank busting Canon
The Stukas were based coated using Iraqi Sand (819) with Beige Brown (875) for the camo and the same blue/grey mix for the undersides. The Balkan Cross decals on these are from Trafalgar (via Heroics and Ros).

Both flights of aircraft based and ready for action
The 3rd Edition FOW rules mean that a flight of up to three aircraft can be represented by one model but it didn't feel right painting just one of each.

I'm not sure what to paint next, I'm waiting for a large order to arrive in the next few days but as I'll be away all next weekend (Tankfest at Bovington! Yeh!!) I'm loath to start anything. Mind you starting a project isn't a problem for me, its finding the willpower not to procrastinate and get it finished that seems to be my issue! 

Friday 21 June 2013

Making a Standard Base

Today's post is the result of a mini painting 'face-palm' moment when I realise I have missed an opportunity and messed something up as a result. A couple of weeks ago I got all my North Africa models out to photograph and realised pretty quickly that there was a significant variation in the bases from one unit to another. Its not the end of the world, but it does look rather odd and slightly ruins the look of the whole army when presented together like this.

Way back when I started this project I made a point of deciding in advance how I wanted my bases to look. I decided on the graininess of the sand mixture I would use and the exact colour palette I would employ to paint them. I took several pictures and noted down the particulars in my painting notebook, with the idea that this alone would help me to maintain consistency between my units. The problem is that although I am sticking to the same colour formula for painting my bases there is still a lot of variation from one platoon to another.

I pulled out several bases to compare and it was quickly clear that this variation is probably just down to how hard I dry brush the highlights. So although the base colouring is consistent if I am heavy handed with the Ivory highlights I get significantly lighter bases. Obvious really but its an inconsistency I haven't noticed until now (stupid, stupid, stupid!).

The solution of course is pretty obvious, I need to make a 'reference base' that I can keep aside and use as a Standard to compare against when I do new bases in future. I should have done this at the beginning, but its a lesson learned and a mistake I won't make again. 

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Airfix Magazine Guide - 8th Army in the Desert

When I was at the Military Vehicle Day at Duxford on Sunday I bought several relatively low priced books. One of my best purchases was an old Airfix Magazine Guide about the 8th Army in the Desert. Written by John Sanders and first published in 1976 this copy is in excellent condition with just a slight fading of the colour on the spine of the book. I've seen this on sale before with prices ranging from relatively low up to about £20, I bought mine for a mere three quid and I'm really chuffed with it. 

These guides were aimed specially at the needs of modellers and wargamers and I suspect that most old Grognards have at least one book from the series in their collection somewhere. Despite its age I can't fault the book for its contents, which seem quite detailed in a concise sort of way. Within its hard backed 64 pages there are ten chapters and dozens of B&W line drawings and photo's, every one of value to the modeller and wargamer. 

Ch. 1 - The Campaign
Ch. 2 - Organisation and Signals
Ch. 3 - Tactics
Ch. 4 - Armour
Ch. 5 - Infantry
Ch. 6 - Artillery and engineers
Ch. 7 - Lines of communication
Ch. 8 - Dress
Ch. 9 - Camouflage and Markings
Ch.10 - Modelling

This really is an excellent little resource and definitely worthy of a place on my list of books that I think are essential reading for anyone that wants to recreate the North Africa Campaign on the tabletop.

Monday 17 June 2013

Military Vehicle Day at Duxford

Sunday was Fathers Day in the UK and as a treat the whole family went to Duxford for the Military Vehicle Show. My eldest daughter has been knee deep in exams for the past few months so this was the first time in ages she was able to accompany us on a day out. She may be 17 but I do miss having both my kids around when we go out for the day, so yesterday was a particular treat for me. Of course being able to 'get my geek out' also made the day great fun and - as well as shooting several hundred pictures - I was also able to buy some really good reference books for my North Africa Project (more on that in a post later in the week). 

Here's a small selection of pictures from the show. If you get a chance to go to this next year I heartily recommend it. 

Parachute supply cannisters - These were the actual props used in the film A Bridge too Far.
A selection of weapons used by British Airborne Forces including a PIAT (Projector, Infantry, Anti Tank). 
An American made British designed 57mm Anti Tank Gun. This example first saw service in Normandy in 1944 and was recovered from Kosovo in 1996 where it was still being used! 
The Breech and Sights of the 57mm
A selection of shells for the 57mm Gun
Inside the American Air Museum there were a dozen or more book dealers selling items from as little as £5 up to £1500 for a signed 1st Edition of a book by Winston Churchill.
The Miniature Armoured Fighting Vehicle Association had a large marquee. They were having a National Competition so there were plenty of examples of stunning painted models on display. MAFVA Nationals.

Outside next to the American Air Museum there were over a hundred classic military vehicles on display.
In the afternoon visitors were treated to a view of these classic military vehicles taking a spin around the airfield.
Pontiac Delux Six - US Army Staff Car c1940
Even the Home Guard were in on the action
Greyhound Armoured Car
A WWII German S-Mine. This type of anti-personnel mine was used in vast numbers in the Western Desert.
A cut-away of a German Teller Mine. These were used throughout the war in different types, including a Bakelite version that was 'invisible' to mine detection equipment.
A Family shot next to the Sally B at the end of the day. 
Fortunately for us the weather held off (it had been forecast to rain) and we were able to get around the whole site and all the vehicles and traders before exhaustion set in! I came home with yet more books to aid my North Africa Project and plenty of pictures to keep me happy and busy for ages to come. We all had a good time together and I had a really great Fathers Day. 

Wednesday 12 June 2013

More Broadside Pictures

As promised here are some more pictures from the Broadside Wargames Show on Sunday. These show a selection of the best display and participation games that caught my eye in the brief period I was able to get away from the Rejects display. Looking at other pictures posted on various Blog's and forums I clearly missed a lot of the show! 

Medway Wargames Society - Flintloque (I think) Dystopian Legions
Medway Wargames Society - Flintloque (I think) Dystopian Legions
SEEMS - Dogfights in Northern France
Society of Ancients - Issus 333BC
Society of Ancients - Issus 333BC
Rainham (Medway) Wargames Club - Napoleonic Naval 
Rainham (Medway) Wargames Club - Napoleonic Naval 
Friday Night Fight Club - Slaughterloo
Deal Wargames Society - Denmark 1940
Deal Wargames Society - Denmark 1940
Deal Wargames Society - Denmark 1940
Eastbourne Wargames Club - Operation Husky Sicily 1943
Eastbourne Wargames Club - Operation Husky Sicily 1943
Maidstone Wargames Society - Those Magnificent Men In Their Floating Machines
Maidstone Wargames Society - Those Magnificent Men In Their Floating Machines
Southend Wargames - Gunboats on the Nile
Southend Wargames - Gunboats on the Nile
Crush the Kaiser - Miracle of the Marne 
Crush the Kaiser - Miracle of the Marne 
Crush the Kaiser - Miracle of the Marne 
Shepway Wargames Club - The Town with no Name
Shepway Wargames Club - The Town with no Name
Shepway Wargames Club - The Town with no Name
Although I thoroughly enjoyed the show I do have a couple of minor moans about a small number of the display games this year. First there were several tables with absolutely no information for visitors, not even a label stating which group was putting on the game. For me this is a basic requirement when putting on a display game (the clues in the name folks!). Another slightly more tetchy gripe relates to interaction with the public. While the vast majority of the groups presenting display games at the show were more than happy to interact with visitors it has to be said that there were a significant number who seemed to ignore passers by. Maybe I caught them at a bad moment but when someone lingers over your table for several minutes that's your cue to make eye contact and - at the very least - say hello! 

Don't let my little moans give you the wrong impression, I thought the show was very good and the standard of display games, and the courtesy of the clubs involved, was on the whole excellent. But there are few groups out there that continue to leave me wondering why they bother putting on a display at all.