Tuesday 21 May 2013

Persians go a Wandering to Triples

There are many wargaming armies that contain mercenaries, but one of my wargaming armies is a true mercenary unit. It was loaned out by its owning warlord chieftain (me) to another wargaming overlord and sent wantonly rampaged across an Impetus '15mm cloth of gold' last weekend at Triples (see my 15mm Achaemenid Persian below):

Originally it was collected as a single DBA project that grew into a collection of several DBA projects from different manufacturers (Xth Legion, Chariot, Xyston), building up to a combined DBM/FoG sized army (hopefully at a distant point in the future). However, a touch of ingenuity was required (to avoid prohibitive destructive re-basing) to field an army based for Impetus. Multiples of DBA bases were stuck to a card block but instead of 'packing the area out with troops' only the front half was used. The remainder was annotated with the "troop characteristics", thus avoiding a 'too tightly packed' look and having the vital statistics ready to hand (see a close up of the Persian Cavalry and Greek Hoplite units below):

Pride of place are the Xyston miniatures followed a close second by those lovely Xth Legion (I still have to build a War Tower for Cyrus). How did they do? Mid-table respectability, "a win, a loss and a draw" but they had a damn good outing.

I'll be gaming Impetus with 15mm figures as well as 25mm with Impetus from now on, covering ancients as well as Renaissance ;)

Wednesday 15 May 2013

IN and OUT: Airfix WW2 1/72 Infantry Kits that I Won't Buy

The CrossFire game has sparked a sudden, reinvigorated interest in the 1/76, 1/72 and 20mm figures I have. Up into the loft and to the back of the shed rummaging around in dusty boxes. In particular I am interested the plastic ones in those classic 40-50 figure packs. In themselves sufficient to make the bones of a scratch CrossFire foce. We are in a glorious age and are literally spoilt for too much choice (Airfix, Italeri (old ESCI), Revell (new) and Revell (old - Matchbox[?]), Valiant, Plastic Soldier Company, Caesar Miniatures and IMEX, HaT, Walterloo 1815 and others).

I first look at Airfix's offerings and use them as a benchmark "to at least get over their standard quality level" but I hold a list of WW2 Airfix figure packs that are simply "no goes" for me:

It is a short list:
  • British Commandos
  • British Paratroopers
  • Russian Infantry

Because I think they are long overdue a remould as they do not match the (high quality) 1/32 figures of the same names. The better 1/72 kits are a direct match with their larger cousins.

In fact I wonder about the British Infantry and British Infantry Support Group in 1/32 scale and how come when Airfix brought out a new mould for the 1/72 scale infantry they didn't just use them in a smaller scale?

Answers on a postcard please ;)

Tuesday 14 May 2013

My First CrossFire Game: Opteroon Crossroads (Part IV)

The Umpire's narrative moves on to its final instalment ...
The German Player:  
Klien was nominally the officer of Rhomer's platoon. Only 19 years old, he had not seen combat before, and was envious of the way the other troops respected and deferred to the grizzled sergeant. He had been terrified when the Sherman had appeared, but the Pak guns success, and Rhomer's bold individual counter attack spurred him forward. He would show everyone he was a combat soldier too! Gathering the remaining squads of the platoon he followed his sergeants route around the flank of the Ami positions. He saw a US officer stumble out of a building to be cut down by MG fire. Now was his chance - he ordered Rhomer to hold his position and boldly charged the remaining US position with his other two squads. Rhomer shouted a warning, but the young officer either couldn't hear him, or chose not to (see below).

The US Player: 
The US 2nd Platoon hadn't all been wiped out in the initial failed assault. Corporal Myers and his squad had been ordered to support the other squads by fire. They had watched with horror as the platoon was first pinned then killed by HMG fire before they reached their objective. The survivors were in poor shape, but there was still fight in them yet. As the Germans rushed into their building the squad held their fire until the last moment, then came the whirlwind of automatic fire, grenades and hand to hand combat with rifle buts, bayonets, knives and teeth. Miers watched as though in slow motion the young German officers face looked puzzled, not understanding why there was a US bayonet in his stomach. Myers fired, the shock of the bullet helping clear the body from his M1, then looked around. There were dead and dying Germans everywhere, but the three men left in his squad still held the building (see above).

The German Player:

Lange saw the assault, and closed his eyes in despair. What a waste, charging in like that. Two squads lost in a brave but foolish charge (see above). 

The US Player:
Myers saw the Germans massing again for another assault, this time through the adjacent building. He realised his men didn't have the strength to hold. Grimly he reloaded his rifle, then lit a last cigarette to share with his men, and waited (see above).

The German Player:
Rhomer saw Lange lead the reserve platoon into the occupied building. Lange did it right, infiltrating through the ruin next door, then there was a sharp series of explosions, stick grenades being thrown, and a flurry of shots. Moments later Lange appeared, and gave the "all clear" signal. 

Silence returned to Opteroon, broken only by the crackling sound of the burning Sherman tank at the crossroads.

Game over and a deep breath, I had never played such a roller coaster of a WW2 game before. I was amazed at the chaotic experience the CrossFire initiative passing delivered. The intensity of the experience where a single mistake can brutally expose disaster to  "force" (and not by just rolling a "ten" on the dice) was very chastening.
Note: I cannot wait for CrossFire game No.2

Monday 13 May 2013

My First CrossFire Game: Opteroon Crossroads (Part III)

The Umpire's narrative continues ...

The German Player:
Sgt Rhomer was a veteran of the East Front. Seizing the initiative he worked his way around the left of the village. Cautiously he infiltrated around the rear of 1st Platoon HMG position, then launched a vicious close assault, clearing the building. Seeing his success, the remainder of his platoon rapidly followed him.

The US Player:
Stott realised his position was being flanked, but with First platoon pinned in a firefight and Second now non operational he only had Third platoon available. He tried to pull them back to redeploy but they were pinned by accurate rifle fire.          

Both commanders were interested in the same building, seeing it as the linchpin of the contest (see below):

Stott realised he had to lead by example. He rushed to 1st platoon, who were suffering from accurate mortar and HMG fire, and tried to rally them. If he could restore order, at least they had a chance. The men rallied, but at that moment a devastating salvo of 8cm mortar bombs crashed into the position, wiping out much of 1st Platoon. Stott staggered from the position, stunned, not realising he was in view of the flanking German MG42....................

Meanwhile the US troops on the right flank (US)wondered what the hell was going on past the still burning Sherman that had been supposed to be supporting them (see below, their inactivity was a result of the CrossFire initiative passing system):

The German assault was so successful because they had infiltrated the rear of the US position. The first target was the 30 calibre MG position that was causing the German central position so much "suppressive' problems.

Rhomer pressed on to the rear on the next American building containing a suppressed American infantry stand (see below):

The rest of the Rhomer's platoon followed into the breach and established a firing line into the rear of the American company commanders position in the protected lee of a building, but the protection was facing the wrong way and the US troops were caught naked in the "open". Three three full infantry squads and an attached MG42 blazed away (see below): 

Two thirds of the American "order of battle" (two platoons plus the supporting armour asset) had now been destroyed. Only one 'reduced' US platoon remained on the board, hunkered down in their "last" strong point waiting the inevitable German assault.

Next: Closing Time

Sunday 12 May 2013

My First CrossFire Game: Opteroon Crossroads (Part II)

The CrossFire 'unique' initiative passing sequence of play now comes into its own. The Umpire's narrative (in orange) continues ...

Lange saw with horror the Pak crew driven from their gun. Unless he got them back into action the Ami tank would blast his troops out of their positions. Lange quickly ran to the gun, and shouting and kicking got the frightened gunners back to their gun. Taking careful aim the Pak fired at the Sherman, and the crew cheered to see it burst into flames. 

The nasty Sherman with its 105mm HE (anti-infantry) rounds is no more (see below):

Back in the building the young recruits scrambled back to the windows as the US infantry closed to assault. In a brief flurry of fire they managed to pin the Ami's down between the two buildings (see below):

The US "Tank Commander's" T-Shirt (Always look on the Bright Side) seems somewhat ironic considering the state of his Sherman Tank (see below):  

Then the left flank MG42 swivelled and opened fire on the pinned platoon, and the German mortar also joined in (see below):

A close-up of the Grim Reapers, always respect the MG42, especially when it is on its tripod mounting and you are in its arc of fire (see below): 

The pinned platoon was wiped out

A fire-fight developed between the US and Germans in opposite buildings. Stott moved up to try to assist 1st platoon (see below):

So far it was turning out to be a rather unforgiving game when you made a mistake as shown by twenty dead GI's caught in that murderous cross-fire between the MG42, two German squads rifle fire and a barrage of 81mm mortar fire. Once your fingers are caught in the vice there is no way out. I enjoyed the "lack of" measurement as IMHO it assisted game play no end.

Next: The Germans Counter-Attack
Exploit the enemy strength as his weakness

Saturday 11 May 2013

My First Game of CrossFire: 1944 US (attack) versus Germans (defend) Opteroon Crossroads (Part I)

CrossFire and me, the background:
I had been waiting for this moment for about ten years. The copy of CrossFire had lain dormant for that time half read (a couple of false starts) but with 'no other interested parties to play with' it seemed an exercise in futility in getting 'half into' yet another rule system (despite intriguing comments passed on to me through various sources of its novel style of play). I had played an enjoyed Spearhead (an above battalion and Divisional and below 'level' of game [typically using 1/200 and 1/3000 toys]) by the same author, so CrossFire seemed to hold great potential to me (from platoon up to battalion level) for a 'practical' use of my collection of WWII 20mm kit (originally gathered together for Command Decision but after much soul searching I came to the conclusion I did not like the aesthetics of the ground scale, in extreme cases of AFV combat you could get a Tiger tank touching a Sherman "barrel-to-barrel" resolving fire combat, but to me it looked like "ramming" combat). So it came to pass, when of an offer of a game came to me by email I decided to "jump in and fill my boots".

Chosen randomly (the coin came up heads) I played the German (Americans attacking top down to the bottom of most of the photographs, eagle-eyed readers will see the line of barbed wire and minefield [strung across the road]) that denotes the German front line. Continuing with the Umpire's narrative ............

Somewhere on the Belgian border, November 1944
The US Briefing

"The shelled out village of Opteroon is wreathed in winter morning mist. Lt Stott of C Company, 334th US Infantry looked carefully at the village, noting the belts of wire separating his forward positions from the unseen enemy. Stott had been ordered to make a Company attack on the village. He had a Sherman tank in support. Last week a platoon from B Company had been overrun by a Tiger tank, and the concerns about German armour meant he had brought extra Bazooka's "just in case"

Stott deployed with all three platoons on the line. His plan was for Third Platoon to hold his left, while First and Second platoon assaulted the large building in the centre of the village. Everything in place, he gave the signal for the Company mortar to begin laying smoke........"

The "Yank Tank" M4A1 (105mm) Sherman (see below) makes a statement, being brought up to support the US infantry attack in the centre of the village (the heart of German defence, the very crossroad itself, a very bold move).

The German briefing: 

"Lt Lange of 2 Kompanie 2nd Battalion 351st Grenadier Regt wished he could stay warm. He was tasked with holding Opteroon crossroads. He had a Company of Volksgrenadiers, with two more platoons of Volksgrenadiers in reserve. He also had a pair of MG42s and his company mortar, plus a single Pak 40 anti tank gun. He was worried about enemy tanks as his men had no other anti tank weapons. His troops were a mix of young boys and old men, stiffened by a cadre of veteran NCOs. He had deployed one platoon in the large building in the centre of the village, a second in the woods on the right, and his third in reserve at the rear left. He had his Pak40 emplaced in a wrecked house which covered the crossroads, one MG was positioned in a building covering the flank and rear of the central building, the second in a house covering the left flank. "

He set his HQ up in a building to the rear. (Ed's note: I didn't say I was going to be brave)

The Germans possessed only one weapon capable of taking a Sherman on at distance, the venerated Pak 40 75mm Anti-Tank gun. In gunfighter style it faced down the Sherman (see below).

2Stotts mortar fire woke everyone. The Sherman advanced up the road, covered by the smokescreen. First platoon opened suppressive fire on the large building.

The Pak crew manhandled the gun around to cover the approaching Sherman, but the Sherman fired first, and sent the gunners diving for cover. The Sherman then switched to fire on the large building, suppressing some of the defenders. Second platoon broke cover and charged towards the building, and then it went wrong........ "

The panoramic view of the battlefield. From this angle the Americans are attacking left to right, the dividing line going down the slightly left of centre of the village, behind the line of barbed wire and mines (see above). The Sherman tank can be seen top left driving down the road (see above).

Note: All the above kit is 15mm from the Umpire and American players vast collection

Next: All Hell Breaks Loose
The CrossFire initiative sequence of play comes into its own

Thursday 9 May 2013

Plastic Soldier Company (PSC) Panzer Mk IV H

As the beer advert goes, "Probably the best ... experience I have had putting a Panzer IV kit together"! Another bullseye for the Plastic Soldier Company (PSC) and no I am not on a commission (see below): 

The side skirts have been temporarily left off, but for late 1944 Panzer IV's they certainly look the part!

The only mysterious (where does this go?) part was the 'exhaust(?)' filter that goes on the rear, top left side of the engine compartment. A dream to fit together and I think it will even survive the roughest of wargamers hands. I still have flashbacks of putting the side and turret skirts on an Esci Pz IV (Ausf H) together.

All part of the Command Decision OrBat for my "1944 Panzer IV German Tank Battalion" project, to be continued.

PS My plastic"heap" is at last shrinking :)

Monday 6 May 2013


The picture says it all really

Sunday 5 May 2013

Plastic Soldier Company (PSC) Russian 45mm AT and Inf 76mm Gun

The Plastic Soldier Company 1/72 (20mm) model assembly line continues a pace. This Bank Holiday weekend has been spent 'toiling' in the garden with the family during the day and relaxing at night with a beer and a pile of models from the PSC (see below, beer is out of camera shot).

This little packet of Russian (small calibre guns) is a god send from PSC as they fill the little nooks and crannies of the Russian Infantry orbat that requires AT defence and direct/indirect infantry gun support (see the range of four below):   

The family lines of the German Pak 36 (37mm AT gun) can be clearly seen in the gun shield design (courtesy of that secret Russo-German mutual cooperation pact in the 1930's). See below:
  • Left: The (long barrelled) 45mm M1942 AT gun - Note: This model fits in well with my Skytrex metal version of the same gun (but the PSC are a lot cheaper)
  • Right: The 76mm M1943 Infantry Gun 

The 1941 Barbarossa invasion meant that teh Soviet AT hopes fell upon the M1937 45mm AT gun which was about on par for the needs against the German lighter armour of the time. It soon found itself in an evolutionary arms race against the PzIII  and PzIV (see below).

The crews look "cute" too but I will make a move on them when I deal with the PSC "Summer Infantry" and other boxes of Russian Infantry I have waiting lined up.

Friday 3 May 2013

(Sherman part of) WW2 US Tank Battalion WIP (Command Decision 20mm)

Only half as far on as the British late 1944 RTR is the US 1944 Armoured Division Tank Battalion (Command Decision OrBat). The manufacturers are going from top to bottom (see below):
  • HaT (Armour Fast) x 2 75mm M4A3
  • Esci/Italeri x 2 75mm M4A3
  • Esci/Italeri x 1 75mm M4A1
  • Revell x 1 76mm M4
  • "Die Cast" x1 M4A3 105mm

Still in the bag is another Italeri/Esci M4A3 Sherman kit (actually the Sherman "Calliope" kit) to make which leaves me the option of getting the Plastic Soldier Company of three US 76mm (Wet Stowage) to "finish" the battalion off. As way of size comparison (funny as NZ was just asking this very question) the large 1/72mm kits fit in well with the Armour Fast and Esci/Italeri kits (see below): 

For both the US and British tank formations, these are still "post D-Day" formations and both would require and additional three 75mm Shermans to represent the early Normandy "hit the beach" and "breakout" formation.

So there's still a possibility of more Airfix and Esci/Italeri Shermans to make in the future ;)

Note: I should also point out that there is quite a lot of variation in the US Tank Divisions (as in between the Divisions designated as "Light" and "Heavy"). I am also just looking at the M4 Sherman contingent as the US tank battalions had an organic M3/M5 (Stuart) light tank company too.

Thursday 2 May 2013

Plastic Soldier Company M4A1 (British) 75mm Shermans and my RTR Project

Hot on the tails of constructing the Russian T70's from the Plastic Soldier Company I made three of the (commander type) M4A1 Shermans for my late-1944 RTR project (see below):

Again they are very impressive, though it has to be said on the big side of 1/72 (certainly in close company of Airfix 1/76 and 1/76 Matchbox kits). There is a slight bit of confusion on the packaging as it incorrectly states that US (76mm) and British (75mm) versions can be made, but in fact only the latter British kit can be made (which was thankfully what I wanted). The kits go together well and are sweet being assembled in less that half an hour (nearer fifteen minutes if truth be told). The instructions are clear with only a minor discrepancy in the assembly of the front of the hull, the kit being actually simpler with one 'cast' front (the instructions showed two ribbed, riveted struts, similar to the Airfix models).

The late (as in Firefly equipped) 1944 British RTR project now has amassed the following tank complement as per the Command Decision OrBat (see below):

Note: Each row is a "Squadron" with:
  • Plastic Soldier Company Sherman M4A1 75mm  x 1
  • Airfix Sherman M4 x 2
  • MatchBox (Revell) Sherman M4 Firefly x 1
The "Command Squadron" is a:
  • Airfix Sherman M4 x 1 (I will have to 'tart' it up with a commander figure found from somewhere)
  • Britannia Miniature (resin) 105mm M4A3 Sherman (with a 'too American' looking tank commander)

Still missing from the OrBat is the a (AA) Crusader Tank and the Sherman ARV, which until I can "metal-up" with these up vehicles I will sub in the 'plastic' Airfix Bofor 40mm AA kit and the Scammel Tank Transporter, as they only play minor "supporting roles" on the tabletop. Still lots of WIP to do (including decals) but the tanks are assembled (I even have a spare Firefly [though at time of writing 'unmade'] kit in the bag to add in if need be [I was thiking of the Hell's Highway, Market Garden Operation], as the officers of the British Guards Armoured Division apparently had managed to acquire some 'extra' spares with that useful 17 pounders - it's useful to be well connected with procurement).