Monday 30 November 2015

Churchill III Tank in Tunisia

I have been clearing up a few old projects that have sat neglected on my desk for a while, one of which is this Churchill Tank. Its a hangover from my 15mm collection of figures that I found in storage and decided was too nice not to paint up as a display model. This will sit rather nicely next to my 15mm Tiger Tank that I painted for the Analogue Challenge a couple of years ago.

The Churchill first saw action in North Africa in 1942 when a small number were sent for evaluation purposes. These formed what became known as 'Kingforce' and saw action at 2nd Alamein. It was during this action that the Churchill's reputation for toughness was first seen, with all the tanks in the troop being hit with AT rounds multiple times for the loss of only 2 of the six tanks (one destroyed, the other immobilised).

The Churchill really came into its own when the Allied fought the DAK in the rugged terrain of Tunisia where its hill climbing ability surprised both sides. Armed with the powerful OQF 6 pdr gun the British finally had a tank that could take on the German vehicles. Indeed it was a round from a Churchill that disabled Tiger 131 - the worlds only running example of its type - now housed at the Tank Museum in Bovington.

Saturday 28 November 2015

Waterproof Ink Pen

Last weekend I took my wife to a hobby and craft show at Excel. Most of the traders there were selling stuff I wasn't interested in (Papercraft, Knitting, Crochet, Jewelry making etc) but there were a handful of stalls selling painting accessories. In an ironic twist - despite this being a day out for my wife - I ended up buying more than she did... a fact not lost on her! A regular attendee at these sort of shows is ArtMaster from whom I have bought brushes and other accessories many-a-time. I picked up a new water bowl, a brush rack, yet more brushes (doh) and best of all, a waterproof ink pen.

The pen cost just a couple of pounds but it looked like a great way of drawing fine lines on miniatures, especially as the tip is just 0.05mm! Potentially very useful for drawing intricate designs on 6mm shields and other flat surfaces. The question was, would it write on an acrylic surface and would the ink bleed when varnished? I decided to run some tests and in the end I thought it worth sharing my results here so you can draw your own conclusions,

And the winner is....

Ink from this pen can be applied directly on top of acrylic paint. It adheres cleanly and when dry remains waterproof enough to allow brushed or spray gloss varnish to be applied over it (top row of the picture above). However the best results seem to be obtained with a coat of brushed on gloss varnish over the ink (top left). Once this has dried Matt/Dullcoat can be applied over the top if that is your preferred finish. 

The bottom row in the picture shows some tests using the ink on top of already varnished surfaces (Matt on the left and Gloss on the right). It was immediately clear to me that the ink adheres very poorly when applied over varnish and subsequent sealing with another layer of varnish just seems to result in smearing and bleeding of the ink. 

I have used other ink pens before but this has produced by far the best results. Now that I know this works I'll be investing in more of these pens which also come in Blue and Red ink as well as Black. 

Thursday 26 November 2015

Airfield Vehicles

Just a quick post of a few 6mm vehicles for my Desert Raiders project. These are a few spare Italian vehicles that I had in my box and have been painted for use as scenery rather than as playing pieces (hence they are not based). I'll place these around my Italian Airfield as additional targets and possible distractions for attacking LRDG/SAS.

They include three 3 Tonne Lancia Trucks, three medium Fiat 626 Trucks and two smaller SPA35 Dovunque trucks. 

Because they are unmanned vehicles and not part of a unit they won't really take part in the game under normal circumstances, except maybe as targets. However one option I could consider is that I could allow the Italian player to 'activate' these vehicles if needed, and then replace them with ones based properly, whereupon they would become part of the unit and moved as normal. 

Monday 23 November 2015

The Battle of Isipezi Hill

Col Evelyn Wood's Column
My social calendar is getting a little crowded as we near Christmas and free weekends for wargaming are become as rare as hens teeth. So when Postie called me last week and asked if I wanted a game on Sunday I quickly grabbed the opportunity as it is my last free day for several weeks. hence this will be my last game of the year in the shed-o-war. Pity it wasn't a happy ending!

The date is the 29th June 1879 and a large British Scouting force is pushing deep into Zulu territory looking for the enemy. They know the Zulus are out there but have no idea where they are. This is the second invasion of the Zulu Nation and this time the British have learnt a few lessons form the disastrous first invasion (of Isandlwana and Rourke's Drift fame). The force under the command of Colonel Evelyn Wood is supported by lancers a battery of guns and a Gatling gun. Facing them are over 10,000 Zulu's. 

Order of Battle
British Forces - 2,500 men
  c/o Col Evelyn Wood
    90th Foot - 8 Companies c/o Maj Tucker  (800 men)
    80th Foot - 4 Companies c/o Maj Rodgers VC (400 men)
    NNC - 5 Companies (500 men)

  2iC Lt Col Buller 
    17th lancers - 4 Squadrons (600 men)
    Frontier Light Horse - 2 Troops (100 men)
    Bakers Horse - 2 Troops (100 men)

  11/7 Royal Artillery - 2 Sections (4 Guns)
  10/7 Royal Artillery - 1 Gatling Gun c/o Maj Tremlett
  6 Wagons

Zulus - 10,700 Warriors
  c/o Ntshingwayo Kamanole
  2iC Prince Kampande
    Left Horn
      Umsikaba - 2 Bases (500 warriors)
      Ngwekwe - 4 Bases (1000 warriors) - Veterans
      Umkapo - 4 Bases (1000 warriors)
      Imbube - 2 Bases (500 warriors)
      Umhlonga - 4 Bases (1000 warriors)
      Nkankone - 2 Bases (500 warriors) - Veterans
      Igwa - 2 Bases (500 warriors)
      Umbonambi - 8 Bases (2000 warriors)
    Right Horn
      Indlondlo - 4 Bases (1000 warriors)
      Nsugamgeni - 4 Bases (1000 warriors)
      Isangqu - 6 Bases (1500 Warriors) - Veterans
   Unit of Riflemen - Skirmishers - Decoy - 4 Bases (200 Warriors)

The Action
Col Evelyn Wood's column strung out along the road with no idea which direction the Zulu's would attack from. Eight companies of infantry lead the column with guns and resupply wagons in the center and more infantry (including the Natal Native Contingent) in the rear. Frontier light horse and Lancers form a cavalry screen making this a very formidable British army for the Zulu's to attack.

Zulu skirmishers watch the British advance. The rest of the Zulu army is hidden behind some of the surrounding hills...but which ones? This unit was purely a diversion to sow doubt in the mind of the British commander. 
The British begin to redeploy their forces, sending troops of horsemen out in all directions to act as a skirmish screen. Infantry begin to form lines and at first it looks as if the British are scattering all directions. 

Eventually the Zulu's appear...behind the British, cutting their escape route home. This is the 'Head' of the Impi containing 4000 warriors, two thousand of which are in the Umbonambi regiment.

The right horn consists of 3700 Warriors, with the large (6 base, 1500 warrior) Isangqu regiment in the centre. Their white shields show their veteran status. 

The left horn has 3000 warriors including the veteran Ngwekwe regiment.

Surjit begins to move his army in reaction to the Zulu deployment. At first his guns and some infantry regiments turn to face the Zulu's and begin to fire at long range, but it is never their intention to stand and fight.

Towards the other end of the British column Sujit starts positioning his troops for the 'end game'.

The Zulu's advance quickly, gaining ground on the British every turn. The Zulu's ran the whole length of the table moving 7" per turn while the British retreated on average about 5" per turn. The gap was slowly closed but never enough for the Zulu's to get within charge range. 

Zulu casualties begin to mount until they reached ten percent, then an Army check roll was required. I needed to roll high (6+ actually) and this is what I got! Even with adjustments this resulted in "The Zulu's cease their current course of action and withdraw" over!!!!

Both Surjit and I were gutted to see the game end like this. I was especially miffed as this is the second game in a row where an army Moral Check has brought the game to a premature end. Sujit very gentlemanly suggested we pretend I'd passed the test and continue to play on. A higher category on the army test list was "play on for 4 turns and check again" so we decided to run with that result instead to see what would happen. 

A company of Lancers has an opportunity to charge the flank of a Zulu Regiment. Technically they won the melee (+4 for lances!) but their own casualties were so high the lancers were effectively wiped out after only two turns of fighting. The Zulus took a lot of casualties too, but they were such a big unit they could absorb the damage and still function.

Finally the Zulu's have caught up to the British. Now within charge range it was essential for them to win the initiative to get into melee. All the Zulu units have now taken serious casualties and only their ever present leaders are holding the line together....which is why the loss of my Chief at this stage was an utter disaster!!

I moved the chief just a fraction too close to a front line unit and when it took casualties I had to roll to see if the chief was also hit. I rolled badly and the chief went down in a hail of bullets. With intense fire from the British forcing unit tests on all the front rank regiments, and without their leader to maintain order the Zulu units either broke or were driven to ground right under the guns of the British. There would be no recovering from this so I conceded defeat for the second time in the same game.   

Well that could have gone better for the Zulu's. My plan was to confound the British by appearing where they didn't expect me. Before the game started I had to declare to Postie where my regiments would appear so I couldn't change my mind once the game started. But instead of consolidating his army in the centre and waiting to see where I appeared Surjit almost immediately started moving everything away from my deployment zone. This was a very risky move because he had no idea where I was and if I had deployed in front of him I would have caught his forces in the open several turns quicker than I actually did. Instead I spent the whole game running across the open ground trying to catch up with the British, taking casualties all the while. By the time I was within charge range my weakened forces were in no state to resist that final volley of fire. Of course moving my Chief into such a vulnerable position didn't help matters at all. Such a silly mistake to make and ultimately it cost me the battle. 

Thursday 19 November 2015


The young Padawan bought these plastic figures at SELWG last month and has been repainting them. Thankfully I think I have persuaded her to go down the historical route but these models were a useful painting lesson. She decided on the colours (I wouldn't want 40k players complaining in the comments!) but this was more about explaining basic techniques like dry brushing and washes than producing models to game with. 

Whatever they are, they look angry.
She has sat and painted with me before many times, but that was just daubing paint on models, not proper technical painting. This time I felt like she learned something as well as having fun with her weird old father. I'm not that much into sci-fi gaming these days but I still think she did a good job for her first proper painting session. 

Monday 16 November 2015

Carthaginian War Elephants

Another test piece for my new Punic War project. Eventually I'll be buying a more of these but I just had to paint a couple of War Elephants now, if only to pique the interest of my daughter! These were really fun to paint and I'm really rather chuffed with how they turned out. I ran out of Bronze paint so I improvised by blending some brown and yellow into silver until I reached a colour I liked. 

I think I have settled on a basing style for these miniatures that gives an interesting appearance while remaining fairly simple to do. I glue sand to the base and when dry paint it with Vallejo English Uniform, I then dry-brush with Green Ochre and edge the base with Luftwaffe Camo Green. Then I add a fairly light coloured short strand flock to approximately 80% of the base with a couple of dark patches added using tiny clumps of dark green railway Turf. The flock and turf are pressed down to produce a very short grass effect which I think looks better against 6mm figures. Then I add just one or two small stones to add a little more interest. Of course I'm still open to suggestions for improvements so if you have an idea please leave a comment and I'll give it a try out. 

Friday 13 November 2015

Punic War Ospreys

There are times when I think that historical wargamers ought to have an Osprey loyalty card because we just can resist buying their products. Every new period seems to be accompanied by several books from their excellent ranges and hardly a show goes by without me coming home with another volume. So it is with no surprise whatsoever that my new Punic War project should bring with it a long shopping list of Osprey guides to get me started. A quick Amazon order later and five books were soon landing on my doormat.

Even with postage costs the average price worked out less than £4.50 per volume for new and unsullied copies. A bargain in anyone's language. Now I just need to find the time to read them! 

Tuesday 10 November 2015

The Battle of Valderas 1808

Few games can be quite so enjoyable and disappointing at the same time as the one the Rejects had over the weekend. Five of us gathered in Posties Shed of War to play out a clash between the French and Spanish armies. Surjit and Richard took command of the French and faced Myself, Ian and Ray commanding the Spanish forces. From the start we didn't have high hopes for our troops (nearly all poor quality and under strength) but we were determined to give the French something to think about.

Ray has already posted a BatRep on his blog so for another perspective on this game check out his account of the day. 

Order of Battle
Unfortunately my photocopies of Posties hand written orders of battle were too faint to read and therefore recreate here. This is all El'Capitano's fault as he insists in writing everything in pencil...who the hell uses a pencil these days?!?! 

The Action
Initial deployment with the French on the left of this picture and the Spanish on the right. The Spanish army looks bigger but its units are smaller and of poorer quality than the French.

The Spanish commander was in the Brothel at the start of the game....probably the only successful maneuver of the day for him!

The Spanish. My Forces are closest and largely behind a hill. In the center Ian our commander held he ground. At the top of the picture are some of Rays troops. His cavalry are further along out of shot.

The French. Surjits two Divisions are closest and face opposite my troops. A Third Division sits  on the road. On the hill and beyond are Richards troops.

Another aerial shot showing the whole battlefield at the start of the game. The Spanish are in the foreground.

The French begin their move and almost immediately Surjit starts mixing up his Divisions. Messy boy!

The Spanish troops commanded by Ray on the right flank start to advance. With our army of generally poor quality we decided to advance on this side and try to dictate the terms of the battle. It almost worked even with most of the Spanish Cavalry refusing to move. 

Surjits troops begin to advance across the field in front of the Spanish. However a significant portion of his troops veer away and head towards the center of the battlefield to support Richard who's troops quickly looks like they are about to be swamped by superior numbers of rapidly advancing Spanish under Ray.

The rejects at play.  From front to back on the left are Postie, Surjit and Richard and on the right Ian and Ray. Here Ian moves a skirmish line into a cornfield as part of the Spanish effort to dominate the field of battle and dictate the terms of engagement. 

My troops move up onto the hill as the Spanish advance. The two units in Blue at the back are Militia.

An out of focus shot of French reinforcements (like they needed them!)...Imperial b***dy Guard!! Two units of Fusilier Grenadiers , two Fusilier Chasseurs and a unit of Gendarmes de Elite.

The French Columns advance towards my fragile division, but Surjit feeds some of his units towards the center to bolster Richards position. I still have an impossible task but its not as dire as it looked at the outset. 

Postie corrects a rather 'creative' piece of maneuvering by one of Surjits columns. 

My men wait on the hill and wonder why they joined this army.

An oblique view across the battlefield showing our lines advancing on Richards command in the distance. 

Two of Surjits columns move forward enough for me to advance and unleash my first-fire on them. I did this under orders from Ian in the hope I'd somehow get a perfect dice roll and cause significant casualties. You can probably guess how things actually went.

Another fuzzy picture showing Ray's advance towards Richards troops in the Center.

Overview showing the curved bow of our front line, hemming in the French. If we could provoke a morale check on the French we may stand a chance, but with the Imperial Guard on the battlefield we have to move fast.

One French unit is sent packing and routes through several other units (Surjits columns moving into the center) disrupting them all.

Just as we see a glimmer of hope one of our units is defeated in hand to hand and forces a Divisional morale check. Upon which old Ray (of Blog Don't Throw a 1 fame) throws double ones! The Division flees the field and our entire center over.  

I'm afraid we (meaning the Spanish Players) were convinced our glorious leader had it in for us. The Spanish forces in this game were of much poorer quality than the initial French forces we faced. Throw in the Imperial Guard reinforcements they received and this game could only go one way. Having said that I think our decision to dictate the battle was the right one. Rays attack on the right flank drew french units down the table towards the perceived threat. This meant that a) I wasn't facing impossible odds on the left flank, and b) a significant portion of the french army spent the game marching rather than fighting, and c) The french got in a right messy jumble as their maneuvering space was reduced.

So far so good. This made for a very interesting and enjoyable game with the French really having to think hard about how to respond to us rather than the other way around. I can't speak for the French players but I rather suspect that they expected us to fight a defensive battle. It felt good to confound them, even if the game still ended in defeat for us. I don't think we actually thought we stood much chance of winning but to then loose it so abruptly, as we did on a morale check, was very disappointing indeed. 

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Republican Roman Principes

I've finished my first batch of 6mm Republican Romans. These are Principes with gladius figures from Baccus and I have to say the quality of the castings is amazing. These are a little more chunky than the slender 6mm WWII infantry figures I normally buy from GHQ but the results are much more robust models with good clean detail. Other than a few vent strings there was virtually no excess metal to be cleaned up before the base coat was applied. 

This first batch are a bit of a test for me. I've never painted ranks of 6mm figures before and I wanted to 'learn' the best way to tackle them for a quick clean and consistent finish. Several YouTube tutorials later and I think I have a clear idea how to get the production line going. Its not until you start a completely new project like this that you realise how many important decisions need to be made right from the start. I think I'm happy with these, but I'm open to suggestions for improvements!

I had a slight scare towards the end, with my Satin varnish going opaque minutes after application. It was my own fault, I didn't shake the can well enough before use and because it was raining outside is sprayed them inside but didn't factor in the high humidity in the house. Result - I damn near had a heart attack! Fortunately I was able to reverse the process (mostly) with some rapid drying and a couple of layers of Dullcoat varnish brushed over the top.

I've ordered more Republican Romans from Baccus but in the meantime I have a few units of Carthaginian Spearmen and a couple of War Elephants to test my brush skills on.

Sunday 1 November 2015

The Grumpy Roman

I'm back from a short holiday and despite the rather grey weather we had a great time. Seaside piers, plenty of shopping, a couple of museums, Colchester zoo and several meals out with family filled the week nicely and the time sped past as always. And when I got home my first batch of 6mm Romans from Baccus were waiting on the doormat. I've started work on these already and as inspiration I have this photo from our visit to Colchester Museum...

"You'll pay for this Dad!"

This picture is the latest in a long line of similar photo's of my unwilling daughter being made to dress up at various museums. Most kids love it but since she was very little she has only taken part under protest. I guess she won't be joining any re-enactment groups when she grows up!