Thursday, 23 March 2017

Blenheim or Blindheim?

Off south to sunny Basingstoke for the fourth annual Donald Featherstone memorial weekend - my third, as I missed number 2 thanks to an inconvenient wedding. Ten of us assembled for the hostilities - many familiar faces, and a couple of newcomers. Mark Freeth has moved the location down the row to a slightly smaller unit, but to be honest it makes no difference to the game at all. There is still a huge amount of space, with more behind you if you need to retreat, and we were able to set out a vast number of troops.

This year's battle was Blenheim, or Blindheim as Paul insisted it was called. Given that it's named after an English stately home, you would think the Germans could have got this right. We were using the Black Powder rules, a very popular set, though one that I don't own, as I play very little in this period. It describes itself as a fun set for social gaming among gentlemen, and I think that describes it very well. It has mechanisms which limit the control a player has over their troops, and which sometimes lead to interesting blunders - great fun in a social games, but these are not rules for the hard-eyed tournament player. I enjoyed them a lot, and in fact I have now ordered a copy.

We split into two teams, and I joined the French, under our brave leader Paul Wisken. I took the right flank, including Blenheim village itself, and we got three moves in on the Friday evening - enough time for my opponent Tony to find that two of his brigades had blundered backwards almost out of sight. We then repaired to the hotel, and thence to a local Indian, very good, though we appeared to be going in and out through the kitchen entrance.

Hostilities resumed on the Saturday morning, and we moved briskly - another feature of these rules. Troops in buildings are very hard to dislodge, and I held onto the village, while my artillery on my left played havoc with Henry Hyde's cavalry sweeping forward. However in mid-afternoon Mark announced that the French had clearly lost, and I realised that our centre had been swept away in disarray. I have noticed before in these big battles that you focus on your own fight, and you are unaware of what is going on across the field - really quite realistic.

We decided the thing to do was swap sides, so that we would play the Allies this time, and shuffle around so that we didn't face the same opponent. I wound up at the other end of the table, on the right wing again, with a mixed bag of brigades, Austrian, Prussian and Swabian. I was facing some massive brigades of Bavarian troops led by Phil. We both pushed forward and we had a ding-dong fight throughout. I was hampered by my Swabian brigade which blundered no fewer than three times, first back, then right, then left, and then refused to move at all for several turns. In the end they never made contact with the enemy. That wasn't the case with the other brigades, and both they and the Bavarians took increasing casualties.

Again we played three turns before leaving for the evening, and returned to the hotel for the main event, the dinner. This was excellent - my impression was that the food was much improved on previous years, and there was plenty of wine. We were entertained by Chris and his reminiscences of past times, and Paul's accounts of re-enactments he has known - including one of Blenheim itself. We also had several jokes from Mel, but you can't have everything.

We resumed on the Sunday, and our back and forth tussle on the western side of the battle. Things were pretty even, but again about mid afternoon we were interrupted by the news that the French had defeated our centre, and the battle was lost for John Marlborough. So one win for each side, which is clearly an even match - though pedants will point out that our team lost twice. This made not a hap'orth of difference to my enjoyment of the weekend, which was all down to good company and excellent organisation. As usual Mark and Karen made sure that everything ran smoothly, and the auction on the Saturday raised several hundred for Help for Heroes, a very worthy cause. We're not sure yet what battle we will refight next year, but I do not care, I will be there.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Leven buildings

I decided to paint up a number of Leven 6mm buildings I have had around for some time - I think most of them go back to Joy of Six in July. It was a mixed bag - three industrial buildings - a set of garages, a canal mill and an engineering works. Then there was a railway station building, a small garage with a petrol pump, and a group of garden sheds and a greenhouse. I also had a wizard's tower, despite the fact that I don't have any 6mm fantasy figures, just because it's such a lovely model.

These models are a joy to paint, especially the ones with brick texture, which really stands out well. I put a few of them on metal bases to do a bit of landscaping. Its a different sort of painting from doing models or troop, you have much more freedom in the choice of colours and a chance to be a bit inventive.

Friday, 30 December 2016

H&R British 1980s Infantry

As with the Centurions, I bought a few of the Heroics and Ross British infantry from the 1980s because I had heard they were new and nice castings. I bought small samples of different figures, plus some support weapons. I painted them all up, but only based a few - I have ordered more, including generic infantry, so I will want to mix them up into squads. Overall I like these figures - unlike the tanks, I think these are the equals of GHQ if not better sometimes in animation, and here the ability to order them in small numbers really beats the GHQ model.

Left to Right; Carl Gustav, Nightsight, M72 LAW, Observer, Bren

Rapier Anti Aircraft Missile mount
Command Group

Milan team
81mm Mortar

Infantry with night sight
72 LAW
Carl Gustav

Monday, 26 December 2016

Here comes a chopper

One of my Christmas presents from the wife (how did she know?) was a Chopper II from NorthWest Short Line. I saw this in a YouTube video by Allen Rockwell in one of his series of Tool Tips - a channel well worth watching 

The Chopper is essentially simple, a guillotine arm with a razor blade underneath, cutting down onto a platen made from modelling mat material. It comes with a couple of mitre guides - one with 90 and 30 degree angles, the other with 45 and 60. In the first two pictures below the 30/90 guide is in use, on the 90 degree side, which is probably the most common usage - it allows you to cut linear items such as posts to a consistent length. The other mitres allow you to cut sheet material at fixed angles.

Storing the mitre which is not in use was my concern - it would be very easy to lose it. There is also a tiny envelope of spare screws, the ones which are used to hold the blades in - again, very easy to misplace. After my experiments with magnets recently, and finding how cheap they are, I hatched a cunning plan. I glued three magnets under the platen, as shown in the third picture. Then the packet of steel screws, and the steel mitre, simply lock on and sit out of sight but safe until needed. Simples.



Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Base metal

A couple of weeks ago I received a model I had ordered on eBay, a GHQ Nashorn, nicely painted. It came in an old metal cigarette case, along with a couple of free 3mm tanks. All three had magnets mounted underneath, which held them to the case. It occurred to me that this was an idea I could use, given that I already mount all my 6mm troops and vehicles on 1" square steel bases. If I put a magnet under a tank, then I can put it onto a base for games where I want that, but I can also remove it for games in which unbased vehicles are preferred. 
I tried this out on some GHQ Pz IVH which I had painted but not based, and some magnets I had lying around - I think from Flames of War days. I used Das air-drying putty to fill in the cavity under the tank, and then embedded a magnet in it, at ground level as it were. As it turned out the Das isn't all that sticky once dried - most if the carcasses dropped out of the tanks, and most of the magnets popped out of their holes when I offered them to a steel base. However that was not a big problem - I glued the magnets back in with superglue, and the carcasses into the hulls with Uhu or similar. The first picture here show how it works.
I then modelled some bases in my normal way - green Basetex to give some shape and texture, a bit of Flat Earth paint and then a variety of flocks and other bits. The difference was that instead of gluing a model I simply left a fairly flat area in the centre. The tanks then sit nicely on the bases - the magnets hold them securely, but come off easily enough when needed. The next few pictures show the effect - I later did the same with some Chieftains which can be seen in the last two pics, with and without bases.
This opens up several other possibilities. I can use the same bases for different tanks, so I do not need to have a base for every vehicle, just enough for the biggest battle I am likely to fight. And I can use different bases for the same model - so a Tiger could have a desert sand base to fight in Tunisia, and then switch to a temperate base for Italy, or even a snow scene in Russia. All in all, I think a successful experiment.
The magnets, by the way, turn out to be very cheap, only about 12p each for the size I used, and there is a huge range and choice.


Monday, 12 December 2016

Chieftain vs Chieftain

 Getting into Moderns for the first time, and I decided to try some H&R, specifically the 1980's UK stuff, as I had heard it was new and some of their best work. I ordered a variety of infantry in small amounts - you can order a single strip of 3, 4 or 5 figures for about 60p, so you can get exactly what you need, without having to buy a pack of 60 or more and put up with the mixture you get. I also bought four Chieftain Stillbrews - again you order these individually, so you can get just the number you need.
I painted the Chieftains up, and fitted them with magnets for flexible basing (more of that in another post). They seem nice enough models, certainly with better definition than previous H&R I have bought - though that does go back to about 2000. I thought I should do a proper comparison, so I sent off for a pack of five GHQ Chieftains - these are the Mark 5. I painted these up as well, and the photos below show both types together. It is easy enough to spot the H&R models, they have distinctly fatter gun barrels.
Overall, I still prefer the GHQ. Apart from the finer barrels, they generally have sharper detailing. They are also slightly larger - about 2mm longer and maybe 0.5mm wider - though the GHQ ones actually seem slightly lower in profile. There is more definition in the various racks, grilles and other attachments to the hull and turret. Not a huge difference - the H&R one is not a bad model, but GHQ wins for me.
Of course there is one major downside - the GHQ tanks cost £9-25 for the pack of five, or £1-85 each. The H&R ones cost 65p each, only a whisker over a third the price - and as I mentioned you can buy exactly what you need, which may effectively lower the price quite a bit - if you wanted six, say.
So if price or purchasing flexibility are important, H&R are well ahead here. But if you want the best quality models, it's still GHQ. I would also say that H&R still has no photos on the site, which makes purchasing a bit of a shot in the dark. I got my GHQ from Wargames Emporium - Magister Militum are the other UK stockist - and on both their sites you can see a picture of every model before you buy. That matters to me, especially with infantry where  you would like to see the poses and animation.