Sunday, 7 May 2017

The Blues ....

After Blenheim at the Wargames Holiday Centre I had a taste for black powder (the period and the rule set) and I wanted to get into them in some way. 6mm, naturally, but what conflict exactly? I have always had a bit of a yearning for the classic 18th Century Imaginations campaign, and I am also interested in finding out more about the AWI. However I feel it helps to have a basic knowledge of the period and combatants when starting something new - so you instinctively understand the difference between a Guard and a Grenadier, for example. That way you don't have to go back to check every detail before making a move. I have a reasonable grasp of the combatants and narrative of the American Civil War, so I decided to start there.

When I was down at Salute I picked up two Baccus starter armies, one Confederate and one Union Eastern Theatre. I also got the Black Powder supplement for the conflict, Glory Hallelujiah! One question I wanted to decide was the basing structure, and so I started out by painting and basing a single infantry unit for each side. The Baccus basic infantry element is four figures lined up side by side, 20mm wide. I decided that a standard unit (a regiment) would be two bases, each 40mm wide by 15mm deep. Each base would have two ranks, each of eight figures, two elements. On one of the bases, one of the front elements would be a command element, which Baccus supply as part of the unit, with flags, drums and an officer. I will also have skirmish screens - each one will be 40mm x 20mm, with four skirmishing figures per base. So a regiment will be 32 figures, 40 with a skirmish screen out.

I started with a Union regiment, and I was pleased with the results. Next I will do a Confederate equivalent, then try some other units - command, artillery, cavalry and Zouaves.

Friday, 28 April 2017

German support

Trying to clear the decks a little ready for the batch of purchases from Salute, I completed a couple of packs of 6mm German infantry from Baccus. These were WWG6 - Panzerschreck teams, and WWG7 - 12cm Mortars. You get half a dozen of the mortars, with three crew each, all separate castings. For the Panzershrecks you get twelve teams - each cast as a single unit on a small round base about the size of a 5p piece (but thinner). I mounted them in two ways - half of each pack on 1" square steel bases, as is my standard habit, and the other half on circular bases - coins of various types. This gives a bit more flexibility for use with other rule sets. As always I used Basetex to texture them, and then a variety of flock and other decoration to give them some landscape. These are very nice figures indeed, as with all the new Baccus WW2, and they are my core manufacturer for infantry in this period. I got some Falschirmjager at Salute, and I am looking forward to the eventual arrival of the vehicles.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Salute 2017

Off down to t'Smoke for my annual trip to Salute. I stayed in a hotel close to the venue - it costs a little more but it avoids a long trail across London in the morning. The hotel also allows a checkout at 14:00 which means you can go back at lunchtime and dump the morning's booty, and leave your luggage with the concierge. Saves a lot of lugging during the afternoon. My daughter is working there at the moment so I went down by train, and had dinner with her, all very relaxed and a good way to prepare for a hard day spending.

Up betimes, and a bacon butty in the cafe opposite (much cheaper and better than eating inside the venue). I walked up to the show, the length of ExCel which makes quite a trek. Salute is always held on the same weekend as the London Marathon, and ExCel is where they have the checkin process for all the runners. So down at the west end the place is full of lean lithe runners in tracksuits and Lycra. As you walk down the length of the halls the average weight of the attendees roughly doubles, as does the average blood pressure, and you have arrived at Salute.

Plenty has been written about this show so I won't say too much. I spent the morning walking round and doing a bit of reconnaissance. My main theme for the day was my plan to get into Black Powder (the period and the rule set) using 6mm of course. I bought a couple of supplements from Warlords - the ACW and AWI books - and returned to the hotel to pack. Lunch was fish and chips at the "Airline Cafe" - again far nicer, far cheaper and far quicker than eating in ExCel.

Back to the show, and some serious figure purchasing. Baccus had their new Fallschirmjager on display, which led to the following conversation. Me: "Is that what i think it is, a Nebelwerfer?" Baccus: "Yes". "It's not in the catalogue". "No". "It's not on the list here on the stand". "No". "But it is available?" "Yes". "So I can buy some?" "We've sold out". (Collapse of stout party).

After recovering, I bought one each of the rest of the Fallschirmjager packs - Advancing and Firing troops, plus LMGs and Panzerschrecks. I also bought two ACW armies, Confederate and Eastern Union, as well as flags for both. I headed over to H&R to see what they had on offer. There were some nice looking new ranges - East German 1980s, and LRDG and Paras for WW2. However I struggled to get served so I decided to leave those and buy on the web, having seen how nice they looked. I bought a bunch of steel bases in various sizes, ready for the ACW troops, and some paints, and that was it. I left at about four, and with a good trip across London I caught an earlier train and was back home soon after seven.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Bersaglieri at last

For the first time on more than two years I don't have any Italian 6mm troops waiting in my painting queue. The outstanding ones were a pack of Bersaglieri, which to be honest at this scale are not really distinguishable from normal infantry. I also had a pack of artillery crew - I used a few of these on the guns I painted last week, the rest are painted for stock. The Bersaglieri are nicely done, well posed and they painted up nicely. The pack included four of the odd little 47mm mortars which look more like machine guns from the way they sit on their stands. I put these on small coins rather than 1" square ones - I already have some mounted that way, so this gives me flexibility for use with different rule sets.


47mm Mortar plus observer

Single squad
The full pack painted and based

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Magnetic Tows

Most GHQ guns - artillery and anti-tank guns - come packed in a standard way. There are two guns modeled in firing position, two in towing mode and two towing vehicles. This makes sense, but it has always left me with a problem of how to base everything. I want to have the vehicle towing the guns for transit mode, but also have them available alongside or near the guns when firing.
My recent discovery of small cheap powerful magnets has given me an idea which I have put into action with some Italian guns - 75mm Cannone (artillery) and 45mm anti-tank guns. I painted up the guns and tows, but before doing so I glued a magnet under each of the vehicles. One type was wide enough that the magnets are entirely out of sight, with a little drilling to make a recess underneath. On the other vehicle the magnet is visible, but it's not a problem for me - they are not very prominent, and could easily be taken for a spare wheel under the chassis.
Once painted I based the guns - on steel bases, as are all my 6mm models. The firing models were on landscaped bases with crews as normal, though I tried to make sure there was a bit of flat space available. The guns in towed format I put on longer thinner bases, landscaped as rough tracks, and the guns were glued on their wheels, so that the towhooks are at the height of the towbars on the vehicles. I left plenty of space ahead of the guns for the vehicles to sit in place.
The magnets hold the tows very securely on the bases - I can easily pick up the whole thing by lifting the vehicle, though it comes off simply enough when you need to separate them. So now I put the towing vehicle on the transit base while the guns are moving around in my battle. When they un-limber I substitute the firing base, and I can pop to vehicle on there as well if I wish, to show it is available to move the gun again if needed. In practie I probably wouldn't do that with the ATGs, as it looks odd to have a truck so close to a gun which is presumably about to come into action against enemy armour, or is supposed to be hidden in ambush.
The pictures should give the idea - four images for each gun. First in traveling mode, and then a shot with the tow removed to show how the gun is glued to the base. Then the gun in action, and finally the same but with the tow on the base as if about to hitch up.

Friday, 31 March 2017

More H&R 1980s British

After my trial with H&R moderns (well, 1980s) British before Christmas, I bought a more substantial number of infantry, and proceeded to paint them up. I bought the basic infantry pack, the heavy weapons pack and a few singles that I had not got in the first batch. When they arrived I discovered that the heavy weapons pack was made up of various numbers of the single items I had already bought - Milans, GPMG-L7 etc - no new stuff at all. In retrospect this is perhaps not surprising, but I had expected new items. This is a consequence of the fact that there are no pictures on the website, so you are buying blind.

I painted them up, rather slowly, then based them. Like my WW2 troops the plain infantry are on 1" square steel bases, 6-7 to a base. Depending on the rule set used, these may be fire teams, squads, platoons or even companies.However I put the other stuff - Command, LAWs, MAWs, SAMs, snipers and so on - on coins of various sizes. This allows me to be more flexible when playing games at a low level, with individual weapons teams, Big Men and suchlike.

Overall these have come out well, as I mentioned in the previous post the figures are as good as GHQ, well articulated and with good detail. However at present they have no opposition, and after the Featherstone weekend my thoughts are turning to Black Powder, horse and musket and Imaginations.


Infantry Squads

Infantry Squads


SAMs - Rapier on the left, Blowpipe on the right

The whole force in a Really Useful Box

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.