Monday, September 27, 2010

German Artillery and AA '88'

Tonight I completed two more support platoons for my Leichte Pionierkompanie. On the left a single 8.8 cm '88' Luftwaffe heavy AA gun, on the right a motorized light artillery battery consisting of two 10.5 cm LeFH18 Howitzers with command, FO and staff teams. As with some of the other units I've been painting for this project, both of these are short platoons because of limited lead availability at the time I started working on them.
This is the motorized light artillery battery. At the time I started it, Adler Hobby only had one blister of the leFH18 guns in stock so I purchased that, the staff team, and the transport vehicles shown. This past weekend a restock arrived and I picked up the additional blister of two more guns to bring the platoon up to the full strength of four (4) guns. At this time these are in process on my painting table. Absent from the transport are half-tracks to tow the guns. I'll be adding these later. Since the transportation is optional, I can field them without the half tracks for now. I've used one of the extra motorcycle stands that I painted up earlier for transportation for the FO for the battery.

This is the Luftwaffe heavy anti-aircraft gun platoon. I painted this up when I painted the artillery battery since the few added crew figures and one extra gun model didn't add a lot of work to the job. I've modeled this as the Luftwaffe version without the gun shield. I'll most likely be making a rare-earth magnet mount for the shield so I can use the gun as a heavy anti-tank platoon as well. I've based the gun with five gunners on the main base and the extra three optional gunners on a separate base so I can choose to use it as a ROF 2 or ROF 3 gun. This platoon has its complete complement of transportation: a staff car for the command team and a Sd Kfz 7 half track for the gun and crew.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

FOW Objective Marker (2)

This is my second objective marker, a destroyed Panzer III tank. To be able to compare techniques, I painted this one using my normal technique for armor which is a base coat of the primary color, a black wash to bring out the panel lines then a dry brush to bring out the raised detail followed finally by detail painting. Additionally on this objective I had to do a base color brushed onto the base followed by dry brushing the terrain and then detail painting all of the ground clutter (wheels, helmets, guns, etc.). I painted this as a burned-out hulk that has had mud dragged up onto it by scavengers/attackers. The tracks and wheels have a good heavy coating of Citadel Devlin Mud wash on them. All in all this objective took me about twice as long as the one I did yesterday. As you can see in the photo below of both side-by-side, the extra work may not be worth it as both look equally good.

Having finished these two objectives, I am going back to continuing on my artillery and AA gun batteries. This short diversion was done while waiting for the basing to dry on those. Look for another post with the finished guns soon.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

FOW Objective Marker - Modeling Day at Adler Hobby

Yesterday was the second session of the early war escalation league at Adler Hobby. Since many people are waiting for lead to be released from Battlefront, Gordon is running every other session as a painting/modeling session while we build up our forces. I packed up my in-progress figures and my supplies and headed to the store for the day. When I arrived people were doing various projects: Cleaning figures pulled from the just released Polish Infantry army box, putting the finishing touches on some German light tanks, and browsing the store's stock for new figures to paint. I set up my work area and prepared to get to work finishing up the crews for my artillery battery and 88 AA gun.

Adler Hobby and Battlefront Miniatures provided objective markers and supplies for each participant in the league to paint up their first of two objective markers that you need for Flames of War games. Last session Gordon had each player pick an objective marker from a selection of blisters. I chose the Italian Fiat M14 since it was fairly unique and fit closest with my German (Axis) force. Once the number of league players reached critical mass, Gordon began a very nice presentation on how he paints armor using a system of layered dry-brushing steps over a black primed vehicle. He demonstrated this on his objective marker, and a set of four Polish tankettes. While I've been dry-brushing for over 20 years, I still find seeing someone else demonstrate their techniques interesting. Invariably I learn more every time, and this time was no exception. Gordon's technique for mixing each progressive color and loading up his brush was interesting. He also used a Games Workshop 'Tank Brush' to do his brush work. At first this beast of a brush looked strange, but after seeing it in use I was a believer. I got one for myself (thanks for the gift Gordon) to add to my brush collection. Not only is the shape well suited to dry-brushing, it's a much more durable brush than the chisel-shaped artist brushes I've been using, and wearing out, doing my armor in the past. Typically I try to avoid Games Workshop products as they tend to be more expensive than other comparable brands, but in this case I think an exception to this rule is well warranted. Below is a picture of the Games Workshop brush.

After Gordon was done we each were able to work on our own objective markers. Gordon had the forethought to pre-prime them black for each of us. Using Gordon's technique and my new brush I was able to complete my marker (pictured at the top of this article) in only 15 minutes or so. The only thing I didn't do at the store was add the static grass and protective flat overcoat. I'm liking the new technique very much. I think it would make painting USA, Russian and early-war German tanks a very quick affair. I'm interested in seeing what steps it would take to incorporate the technique with multi-color camouflage patterns. Maybe that's something Gordon will show in the future.

Also provided from Adler Hobby and Battlefront were some weathering washes from the Flames of War paint line. The mud wash worked particularly well on tank treads. I found this out a little late as I had already used Citadel 'Devlin Mud' wash on my marker's treads.

After we finished our objective markers we all continued on our own projects. Gordon helped some of the players who were new to painting miniatures with additional tutorials. I had a great time finishing up all of the detail work on my artillery crews while talking with everyone in the league and several other customers who came and went as the day progressed. I'm definitely looking forward to the next project day in the league. As our forces become more complete we'll be playing games as well as painting and modeling on project day. I expect once everyone's forces start to become table-ready we'll phase over to all gaming days, but honestly I enjoyed modeling day so much I hope we can still do them occasionally even after everyone has an army to field.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Panzer IV D Platoon

This is a platoon of three Panzer IV D tanks for my early war German Pioneer company. I'm also considering building a Czech Panzer Platoon which would also be able to have these as part of its TO&E. These are Battlefront miniatures that I've had sitting in my dead lead box for somewhere over five years. When the new Blitzkrieg book came out I rifled through all my old unpainted WWII lead and these were one of the things I had that made me go, 'Oooh! I can use THOSE!'. 

I was expecting these to have better stats in the early war book, but they're actually rated pretty lightly as far as armor goes: Front: 3, Side: 2, Top: 1. In comparison a Panzer III is rated 3,3,1 respectively. These do have a few reasons that they'll be fun to have on the tabletop. First they have a respectable anti-tank factor of 7 using their 7.5 cm KwK37 gun firing direct, second they can fire smoke against single enemy targets, and third, they can fire bombardments out to 48".  As an infantry support tank these last two are very nice to have. In an all-armor force the bombardments can be used to soften up dug-in infantry and the smoke can silence enemy AT guns.

Originally when I decided to start my Pioneer company I had anticipated choosing a platoon of Stug A Assault guns as my armor support. I may still do that when those models become available, but since I already had these it was a no-brainer to paint them up and give them a try. If I don't end up liking them I can always sell them on Ebay!

While I had these on the painting table I also painted up some transport and guns for my next project, a battery of two 10.5 cm howitzers and a single 8.8 cm '88' AA gun. I'll post those when I've finished the crew figures and base them up.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Recent Purchases

15mm Paint Shack Commission (3)

I received my figures back from Kent at the 15mm Paint Shack almost two weeks ago, but I've been busy finishing up a bunch of other hobby projects so it took me a little while to get them all based up. Here they are in all their glory. The commission consisted of two Seleucid pike blocks and an Atillid Pergamene cavalry unit. Not pictured was a sample 28mm AWI officer Kent painted up which is simply stunning. You can see photos of it on Kent's blog.

The figures looked great on Kent's blog, and in person they look even better. Kent packaged them very well and with only a few minor exceptions everything arrived safe and sound. I requested that the figures be sent un-based so I could base them up myself so they matched my other figures. Each of these units were painted exactly to my specifications right down to the shield patterns and color selection for uniforms and armor. I can't say enough good things about the quality of service and communication provided by Kent. Below you can see some detailed photos of each of the units.

I promised Ken I'd compare his painting service to the other widely available services. Here's my take on that using a 1-10 rating scale:

15mm Paint Shack9610*10
Gajo Miniatures8989
Dragon Painting Service (DPS)9875
Miss Painting Group (MPG)8854
DJD Miniatures6945

* - Because 15mm Paint Shack is the only painting service that does commission work it has unlimited selection based on your needs. The others sell pre-painted miniatures with more limited selection.

So if GAJO, DPS or MPG offer a unit that's exactly what you want, you can save some money going with them and you'll be quite happy with the figures. If you want anything custom, Kent's painting service is a superior choice. He costs a little more but you get EXACTLY what you want, right down to the color selection and Kent provides you with excellent communication. You get what you pay for.

Miss Painting Group Purchase #2

This is the second order I've received from Miss Painting Group (MPG). I'm continuing to have mixed results with MPG. In some ways they're hitting home runs and in some ways they're striking out badly. These two groups of figures are their Seleucid Companion Cavalry (4 stands) and Seleucid Command group (3 stands).  On the good side the figures arrived within 3 weeks of ordering them and this time they were packaged in a way that was much better than my first order. I only had one rider knocked off a horse and no paint damage due to shipping. The quality of the paint jobs was quite good with shading and good accuracy of detail. Finally the quality of the basing has improved significantly since my first order. These bases arrived in a table-ready condition and required no additional work on my part. I have to give MPG points for fixing that previous shortcoming.

On the bad side, the lances for all the figures were not glued into the figures, which would be a good thing except for two HUGE problems: first the lances provided were awful lead squiggles (which I replaced with my own piano wire), and even worse than that, all of the hands were drilled for the weapons AFTER the figures were painted. There were drill filings on all the hands that needed to be cleaned and thee of the figures had damage to the cloaks where the drill bit ground off part of the paint and figure. I had to clean all the hands, re-paint all of the hands and touch up the damaged cloaks. All of this would have been unnecessary if they had only drilled the hands out before painting.  Clearly MPG is still learning their trade.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

September 2010 Game Night

Last night we had our monthly club game night. I played in a great age of sale game hosted by Andre Kruppa. This used 'Clear for Action' rules which uses an interesting system of two networked computers. After orders and maneuvers for each move are plotted, the computers track ship movements in a graphical display which is then used to move the models on the game table. Similarly combat is also tracked and moderated through the computer. I have to say it makes what can be a very complex period to game, quite simple and enjoyable while still providing the detail necessary to make the period what it is.

The other two games were a 6mm WWII land battle, "Bloody Buron" (Normandy: June 7, 1944) using Blitzkreig Commander rules hosted by Jerry Corey and a WWII air-to-air combat game "Adlertag" (Eagle Day) - based on the Battle of Britain (70th Anniversary) using Warbirds in Miniature  and 1/144th Scale models hosted by Phil Hammond. More photos can be found on our club's photo gallery.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Early War Escalation League

Sunday afternoon we had our first gathering for Adler Hobby's early war Flames of War escalation league. Four of the players showed up and we played our first games. Two players brought 600 point forces painted and ready to go, one brought a French armor company and I brought my pioneers which I posted in a previous post. Another player brought a partially completed German light armor company, with enough tanks painted and primed to play. the fourth player used one of the store's forces to get a feel for the rules.  In this photo on the far table you can see French light armor facing off against a force of German Panzer II and III tanks. In the foreground was my table where my pioneers tried to hold off an onslaught of German light armor in a 'training mission' game.

Here's a photo of my right flank in my game. My three lowly PanzerJagers supported by my command Panzerbefehlswagen unwisely try to take on a force of five Panzer IIs, a Panzer I and two Panzerbefehlswagen command tanks. While they held out surprisingly well, and took out four of the Panzer IIs before being destroyed themselves, eventually they were overwhelmed by the larger opposing force. On my other flank, not shown, was a force of three Panzer IIs, one Panzer I and one Panzerbefehlswagen which made short work of my AA half tracks picking them off from behind my infantry's dug in position. Pretty much anything that was in sight of enemy armor was dead, even from just moving MG fire. Pretty telling. Once the PanzerJagers and AA were destroyed I failed company morale and the game was over. Next up will be me painting up something for my 600 point force that can handle hordes of light tanks, since I'll be seeing more of them with at least 2 players playing light armor, and one playing mechanized British infantry presumably in Bren carriers and eventually probably some Matilda support.

Here's a photo later in the French/German game where the tanks are slugging it out to the finish. You would think with low armor factors armor vs. armor battles would be quick affairs, but surprisingly with the also low AT factors these types of fights tend to be drawn-out slug fests. Should make for some fun games. While your tanks are holding the line, other assets can move up to support or flank.

We all agreed that this was a great time for everyone who showed up. Gordon from Alder Hobby is a good host and his facility, with its well terrained tables is an enjoyable place to spend an afternoon gaming. You'll note this first session was on a Sunday due to prior scheduling commitments at Alder Hobby. All following sessions will be held every other Saturday starting at 1pm and lasting until the last soldier is killed. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Barbed Wire, Minefields & Smoke

One of the advantages of fielding a pioneer company is that each platoon of pioneers may optionally purchase a supply truck. This purchase allows them to place either three sections (8" wide by 2" deep) of barbed wire or one section of minefield in their deployment zone. Depending on your opponent, one or both of these may be helpful in defending your victory points. To the left are one section each of minefield (foreground) and barbed wire (behind). These are test pieces for both. I've made two mine fields which are all I'll need, but I still have five more sections of barbed wire to complete.

The barbed wire was made by twisting two solid pieces of wire in my Dremel tool and then wrapping that around a dowel to form the coils. Once glued to the bases I added some stakes and sprayed the entire assembly my normal base green. This was followed up by a coat of black on the wire and posts followed up by a dry-brush of steel on the wire and a coat of brown on the posts. Once dry the entire base was coated with white glue and flocked.  The minefield was a bit easier. I made the mines out of 1/16" thick acrylic on my laser, painted them German helmet green. After coating the bases with glue, I added the mines and then flocked the entire base as usual. Rocks and bushes were added to both types of bases at the end.

Recently Gordon from Adler Hobby asked me if I could use my laser to make some 6" smoke templates for use with Flames of War. This is my first prototype. It's made from 1/8" thick 'Frost' colored acrylic sheet. The legs are held on with small O-rings which allow them to be removed and packed flat when not being used. The legs are 4" long and should allow the smoke template to sit above even the tallest models and even most terrain pieces. I have a few changes I'll be making to these, but the basic form seems serviceable. There's a possibility you may see these for sale later on my Wright Brothers R/C website. Below is a detail photo of the leg attachment. sorry for the dodgy photos. Photographing translucent white acrylic in the waning light of the fall afternoon was a bit tricky.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Leichte Pionierkompanie - 600 point force

This is my 600-point early war German Leichte Pionierkompanie for Flames of War. It's built from the figures and vehicles from my previous posts. As I said earlier, this first version was built based on limited availability of models and figures more than optimization of effectiveness. If you've very curious, I have a PDF of the full order of battle available. We're getting together for our first day of gaming this coming Sunday and although it's mostly going to be an informal gathering, we may play some games for fun using whatever we have available: forces made from mid-war figures, unpainted figures, and painted forces like mine, made from currently available figures. Those starting from the few available boxed sets will have a distinct advantage in terms of available figures to choose from.  Below I'll show the force in detail.

Company command comprised of CiC in I Panzerbefehlswagen command tank and 2iC infantry stand with motorcycle & sidecar transportation stand. I'm still unsure if choosing the optional I Panzerbefehlswagen for the CiC is a good decision or not, but since I have the model painted up I thought it would be fun to give it a try.

Cost: 60 points.

Combat platoon consisting of two squads of pioneers. The platoon commander has been upgraded to be SMG armed. Transportation is via command cars and Opal Blitz trucks. There is an additional truck for engineer supplies (mines, barbed wire, etc.) I still need to model the defense emplacements.

Cost: 185 points

Tank hunter platoon consisting of three PanzerJager I SP guns. This platoon may have a fourth PJI, but at 600 points I can only afford to have three. With AT rating of 8 these are my only answer at this point total for CharB and Matilda tanks. Hopefully at 600 points I won't see too many of either of those!

Cost: 250 points

Light AA Platoon consisting of four Sd Kfz 10/5 (2cm) half tracks. These non-armored AA vehicles are inexpensive filler which would most likely be better replaced with an additional squad of Pioneers or an extra PJI, but since I have them painted up I'm going to give them a try. They're the proverbial glass cannon with AT of 5 and ROF of 4, but able to be knocked out by even small arms fire! Scary.

Cost: 90 points

Total points cost: 585

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Panzer Pops (2)

These are the completed vehicles from my earlier 'Panzer Pops' post. They consist of four SdKfz 10/5 (2cm) half tracks, four PajzerJager I tank hunters, two Panzerbefehlswagen I company command tanks, two field staff cars and five Opal Blitz trucks. All of these vehicles are to be used with my Flames of War early war Leichte Pionierkompanie. These vehicles were selected mostly based on their availability more than because they were the best choices to start my escalation league force with. Nonetheless here they are, ready to be used. I'll post a followup post containing my 600-point OB in a later update.

Two I Panzerbefehlswagen command tanks. I'm not sure if it's a good choice to put your company commander in one of these if you're a mechanized infantry company, but I had the models in my 'dead lead' box so I painted them up. If I don't use them in this company I can always use them in a Leichte Panzerkompanie later. These are old-stock Battlefront models I purchased a long time ago. In game terms they're rated as half-tracked, fully armored (1 front, 1 side, 1 top) with a single hull-mounted MG for armament. Nothing to write home about, but at least they'll provide some MG support for my pioneers.

Two staff cars to provide transportation for my pioneer platoon command squads. I'm not sure of the manufacturer for these. I bought them used in a huge lot of other figures. When I got them they had no drivers and some hideous cammo paint jobs. I stripped them to bare metal, re-painted them and installed some drivers converted from figures from my dead lead box. I've gone for an all-gray paint scheme. I know Battlefront is supporting the new two-color cammo theory, but  I know all gray is valid for later in the war and going this route allows me to use these vehicles for mid-war as well as early war.

Four PanzerJager I tank hunters. Predecessor to the very successful Marder series of SP guns, the PanzerJager I mounts the very effective Czech 4.7 cm AT gun on a Panzer I chassis. I'll have to be careful using these as they're lightly armored (0 top, 0 side, 0 front) and can be taken out even by man-packed HMGs. Still they give me a solid anti-tank threat with their AT 8 rating. Also it doesn't hurt that they're very sharp looking models, and they were available. I purchased these from Adler Hobby as old stock. They are Battlefront brand models.

Four Sd Kfz 10/5 (2cm) anti-aircraft half-tracks. Armed with a 20mm AA gun these will not only provide me with anti-aircraft support, but with their rate or fire of 4 and an AT rating of 5 they also provide me with an additional anti-tank and anti-infantry option. Unfortunately the early-war version of this vehicle is not armored so is extremely vulnerable to all threads. I'm going to have to hope that ambush and storm trooper rules provide at least some protection for these. Fortunately they're very inexpensive in the points system. I'll probably be using these until the league escalates nearly to it's completion of 1750 points at which point I'll consider replacing them with either a battery of towed 88s or possibly the portee version, the Bufla bunker flak platoon. I'm still deciding on which way to go on that. These are Battlefront brand models purchased from Adler Hobby. These are mid-war models so were available as current stock.

Transportation consists of five Opal 'Blitz' trucks. These are a mix of manufacturers, including two Battlefront models and three unknown brand models from my 'dead lead' box. These will be used to provide transportation for my Pioneers and one will also represent the Pioneer supply truck. I'm considering loading the open bed truck with some crates and rolls or barbed wire to represent the supply truck, but that's a modeling task for another day. For now these are done. I'm not sure how many of these I'll need, possibly more than five. I painted up all I had on hand. I'll most likely purchase some Kfz 70 trucks to fill out the rest of what I need once they're available from Battlefront.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Leichte Pionierkompanie HQ

This is a small update, but still another step forward in my early war Flames of War German Light Pioneer company. This is the company HQ stands (two command stands) and their transport, two motorcycles with sidecars. I had three motorcycles in the package so I painted them all up. I'll use the third as transportation for one of my platoon squad commanders.

In addition to these finished stands I also have completed painting up the drivers and crew figures for all of my 'Panzer Pops' vehicles. Completing this has allowed me to continue on that project. In that effort I have also added a full detail wash to all of those vehicles to accent the panel lines and other details. Once that has dried for a full 24 hours I'll continue my working on them with dry-brushing, detail painting (tracks, tires, tools, etc.) and decal application. Hopefully one or two more sessions on the painting table will provide me not only with transportation for my company, but a couple of platoons of support assets.

Below are two more photos showing detailed views of the motorcycles and sidecars. I've based them to look like they're traveling down country lanes and farm cart paths which I think would be the preferred cross-country method of travel for them.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Leichte Pionierkompanie Platoon

This is the first combat platoon for my early war 'Blitzkrieg' Flames of war company, a Leichte Pionierkompanie (Light Engineer Company). I've started with only two squads instead of the maximum strength of three. I've done this for two reasons: 1) at 600 points I need the extra points for other troops and 2) I made this unit from available mid-war figures, removing any figures inappropriate for early war from the pack. I did this by cannibalizing a mid-war pioneer blister and a mid-war infantry blister. What I came up with was enough figures for two squads. The second full combat platoon and the extra squad for this platoon will have to wait until Battlefront releases early war engineer blisters.

For now this mechanized Platoon is without transportation. I'm still working on the vehicles for them. See my earlier 'Panzer Pops' post for more information on the progress on that. Eventually they'll receive a staff car for their command team, a truck for the engineers and a supply truck filled with barbed wire, mines, etc. All the toys these guys like to use.

Next up on the workbench is the company command along with their transportation; motorcycles with sidecars! Also planned for the company command is a Panzerbefehlswagen command tank which is part of my 'Panzer Pops' WIP. More updates to come soon as progress continues.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Panzer Pops

"Would you like some candy little Johnny?"
"No daddy, I want a Panzer Pop! They come in all my favorite flavors, Opal Blitz, command car, AA half track, PanzerJager I and Panzer I command."

That's all I could think as I was gluing all these early war vehicles on sticks so I could spray them with their base colors. I got a chuckle out of it so had to post it. These vehicles are a WIP as part of my Flames of War early war Pioneer company. More photos of other progress on this force will be posted soon....I hope.

Update - See image below for the after shot with base color sprayed on. Next steps will be dry-brushing the base color, detail painting (tires, treads, weapons), decals and installing crew as needed. All of this is on hold until I finish painting up the crew figures along with my company command stands and motorcycles. More to come on this project soon.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sargent's Massachusetts Battalion

I've been feeling very guilty lately when looking at my painting totals and viewing the solitary '1' in the 'Painted 25mm Figures' column. As a change of pace to the 15mm ancients and WWII I've been painting lately I thought I should go back to my roots and paint up another unit of AWI figures. Since I'm trying to finish up my Saratoga armies I picked Sargent's Massachusetts Battalion. Lately the scenarios I've been hosting with my AWI armies have been using a lot of my generic troops to pose as Massachusetts troops so this was a primary motivator to paint up another dedicated MA unit.

I've painted this unit up as regulars. By the time of the Saratoga campaign they were receiving regular continental pay and I've uniformed them as such. This is a stark contrast to Giles Allison's excellent rendition of this same unit that he featured on his blog. For the flag I couldn't find any specific references to what this unit carried so I selected a suitable standard using a Google search for 'AWI Flags' and then with a little Photoshop magic rendered it as a two-sided image which I printed out on plain paper. This is my first attempt to replicate the awesome techniques that the Flag Dude uses on his flags. I'm still falling short of his excellent product, but for a homemade attempt it's not bad, save the few flecks of static grass that stuck to it during the photographing session.

As is my current custom, I've painted this unit up as two formed stands and an additional skirmish stand. This will allow me to use the figures in several different scales in Volley & Bayonet, as well as allowing me to use the figures in Carnage & Glory and British Brigadier! as well. The figures are all Old Glory brand, most of them from my favorite pack of theirs: 'Continental Firing Line'.  Next up will be a big push into early war WWII for the recently released 'Blitzkrieg' rule and army list book.