Sunday 29 March 2015

PSC 15mm Sdkfz 251s

Well, this is a little annoying. I've been away for a couple of weeks and carefully set up a series of scheduled blog posts to keep everyone entertained, but did blogger actualy post them? No. Perhaps I misunderstood the schedule post function. Or maybe it doesn't work. Anyway, here is one you should have a while ago.
I seem to have acquired a box of 15mm PSC Sdkfz 251 halftracks at some point. I've got no recollection of buying them, but dimly recall I may have won them in some sort of competition? Anyway, they have been languishing for some time as I am fairly well provided with 15mm halftracks, but as I was doing the PSC Panzer IVs I thought I may as well do these too.

As usual they were nice easy models to put together, single piece tracks (hooray) and supplied with an absolute ton of stowage items, spare weapons, crew figures, passengers and all sorts of goodies. The only fiddly bits were the vehicle mounted MGs which are so spindly I can't see them lasting too long. I made these up as standard vehicles, I could have converted a couple to platoon leaders vehicles but in the end I didn't bother.

Three of them done in late war colour schemes.

And two in panzergrau, for those rare early war appearances.

Left rear view, the spindly front MG is pretty clear.

Line up time, L to R, PSC, Battlefront, SDD and Skytrex.  
As you can see from the last photo, the PSC models match well with other makers. I'll probably paint up some more of of the passengers to go in my other halftracks, and the plethora of spare storage has gone into my spares box.. I think I've got enough jerrycans to supply the entire Wehrmacht now.

I did three of the vehicles in late war three colour camo, similar pattern to my other ones to fit in (based on photos of SS Wiking 251 s) but did two in panzer grey for the odd occasions we have outings to pre 1943 in 15mm. I left them very, very plain. I'm sick of trying to put on the useless Command Decision number decals, and unfortunately I seem to have a bad batch of fuzzy balkan crosses. Something to buy at Triples.

Apart from a couple of markings, otherwise I just plastered them in mud and dust as usual.

Saturday 21 March 2015

Crushed Cataphracts

Tim brought along this C&C Ancients game. A historically dubious (ie based on one extract from an unsubstantiated text) outing along the Euphrates, but an excuse to pit Imperial Romans against Seleucid Cataphracts once more. This particular encounter supposedly took place near modern Ctesiphon, a popular place to fight in somewhat later wars too. I took the Seleucids and John the Romans.

A load of rubbish, levies, archers etc but backed up by the unit of might armoured camels!

Elephants and Cataphracts. Wooo.

Boring old Romans.

More of them in the distance.

My light cavalry attack a few Roman skirmishers.

Who somewhat unwisely stand and fight, for a few seconds at any rate.

Horse archers fall back before the Roman attack on the right.

Romans attack the centre.

Warband and levies drive them off again.

Sadly the Cataphract charge doesn't go too well, two units down.

We try again, this time with added elephants.

Pachyderm down. Oops.

The camelry move up to support the warband, ready for a mighty blow.

Cataphracts get stuck in to the Roman rear lines.

But come sadly unstuck. Those Romans are really tough!
Ah well, there you go. I don't seem to have much luck with cataphracts, although it probably wasn't a good idea to try out against Legionaries up a hill! The light troops did pretty well in this one, thanks to the terrain, I should probably have plugged away the archers a bit longer but the cards said 'move heavy troops', so.....

As always, another entertaining outing with C&C Ancients, for my money the best of the whole game series, although I'm looking forward to seeing what the new Kickstarert C&C WW1 game is like.

Saturday 14 March 2015

One Hour Tshushima

I was rather taken with the naval variant of Neil Thomas's One Hour Wargames rules, so I had a bit of a fiddle around to adapt them for the Russo-Japanese War. I ended up with the same group of ship classes as De Bellis Navalis - Battleships, Armoured Cruisers, Light Cruisers and Destroyers/torpedo boats. The main thing I was keen to avoid was excessive ganging up of fire which marred our WW1 outing of the rules, so I simply added a rule that any shots after the first at any particular target were halved, thus encouraging the players to spread their ships fire out in a more historical manner.

I used a standard Tshushima scenario, but as I'd kept each ship as taking 15 hits I used a ratio of 1:2 for light cruisers and 1:4 for destroyers then ran the whole thing at half scale as I don't actually have enough Russian battleships for the full battle line. It was still a fairly impressive ship total though.

The main difference from the standard OHW rules is that ships move and shoot, otherwise it is much the same. IGOUGO, bang away by rolling dice, bigger things do more damage although I added in armour for BBs and CAs which halved hits against them. Somewhat foolishly I added in ramming, but more on that anon.

The Japanese Fleet, four CA, two BB, three CL and two DD

The Russians, six BB and two CA

The Japanese armoured ships form line of battle.

Russian CAs take a pasting. Each red counter is five hits.

Leading Russian BB takes a few hits and turns away.

Japanese armoured cruisers are suffering.

Destroyers somewhat unwisely decide to try out the ramming rules by ramming the damaged Russian battleships. The absence of destroyers in the subsequent photos shows how well that went.

The opposing lines of armoured ships blaze away at each other and damage mounts.

Damage mounts as the counters build up. Japanese CLs at the very top.

In an attempt to stop the Russians slipping past, the Japanese line turns towards the Russians, rather like Scheer at Jutland but in the opposite direction!

Sadly a disastrous exchange of fire results in one sunk Russian BB, but three Japanese armoured ships head for the bottom.

At game end, the cruiser action can be seen continuing in the distance but the game is over as the Japanese have lost over 25% of their armoured ships.
I've played Tshushima a few times and there is a reason that it is remembered as a great Japanese victory - it is a really tough battle for the Japanese and in my wargames they have always lost! I did somewhat mishandle the Japanese, which didn't help. Turned in the wrong direction at one point and was wrong footed thereafter as the Japanese ended up sailing in the opposite direction to the Russians instead of parallel.

The rules themselves worked very well, particularly the battle lines sailing along blazing away at each either. Much better than the frankly silly spectacle of four ships ganging up one on individual. The ramming rules were a complex irrelevance, but one thing we felt would be useful was incremental damage, so at each five hits ships drop 2" speed and -1 off gunnery. Those changes were introduced into the WW1 set and we re-ran Jutland to try them out, but that is another post.

Sunday 8 March 2015

Neil Thomas Ancient rules

This was a tryout for the Ancients rules from Neil Thomas's 'Introduction to Wargaming'. A somewhat cut down version from those in his Ancient and Medieval Wargaming book, but decent enough. I largely left them alone, although I lightly fiddled with the army lists to fit in with the One Hour Wargames scenario generator. These are somewhat more detailed than the One Hour rules,  and follow the familiar NT "four base units, remove a base after four hits" system.

I just used my 25mm DBx based armies for this, grouped into four base units and picked the 'Take the Hill' scenario from OHW as it vaguely resembled the Battle of Sambre. In retrospect this was probably a mistake, but hey ho. The armies were generated using the modded army generator. The Romans were a fairly typical Imperial army, four Legions, two Auxilia and two Cavalry . The Gauls had a couple of cavalry, some light infantry and five Warband including a Chiefs Bodyguard. The scenario starts with a couple of Roman units on a hill faced by the entire Gallic Army while the Romans pals ride to the rescue.

Caesers Legio X sit on the hill.

Gauls cross the river (it was fordable for this scenario).

Light infantry and Warband.

Roman reinforcements enter, cavalry in front.

Cavalry flow around the flanks while the Gauls decide a frontal assault is the way to go.

Some rather blurry Gauls head for the woods.

Gauls in the woods. These chaps seem to have forgotten their trousers.

Battle is joined on the hill and a bloodbath ensues. The hit markers are obvious, less obvious are the four missing bases of Gauls...

Gallic cavalry roll spectacularly awful dice.

The Auxilia take a bit of a pasting, as do the Gallic light infantry.

The Gallic cavalry come under atack.

Things aren't looking too good over here either.

The Gallic cavalry die fighting.
So once again, the future Emperor gets to write an exciting chapter in his memoirs. This was an OK game, although the poor old Gallic warbands seem to be massively overpowered by the Imperial Legionaries, not only do the Romans get twice as many combat dice, but also save on a 4+ while the Gauls save on a 6! Thus generating a relative combat effectiveness ratio of 4:1.... the situation is exacerbated by having armies of equal size, although I suppose I could just give the Gauls four times as many units. Even in woods (supposedly the Warbands most effective terrain) they only have a marginal advantage against the Romans (I reckon 18:15).

Anyway, Mr Thomas clearly has a slightly different view of the effectiveness of Warbands to us and there was a  good degree of muttering around the table. I suspect it will be easy enough to fix, and all that has happened is that there has been  some accidental double counting of factors (combining poor combat dice and much weaker armour). I reckon bumping the armour of later Gauls up one class and equalising the combat dice, at least while they are still fresh, will sort it out easily enough. Perhaps I can figure out some sort of dice magic to replicate the 'quick kill' concept in DBA.

That apart, it was a  fun game. Good and quick, looked nice and had a suitably nail biting attritive feel to the hand-hand combat. Like all ruler based rules, the wheeling/flank attack stuff felt clumsy and contrived and involved lots of fiddly measuring, and just like their 19th century counterparts, would no doubt benefit from being migrated to squares but I'm not sure I can be bothered at present.

We'll have another outing of these at some point when I've had a fiddle with them, probably with better balanced armies (like Punic Wars, or maybe Hoplites).

Sunday 1 March 2015

PSC 15mm Pz IVs

More Triples 2014 purchases. I decided to beef up my holdings of 15mm Panzer IVs, and picked up a box of  five PSC models, with the vehicles I already had this gave enough for a full battalion (at one base = one platoon type scales). As always, these were beautiful models with tons of add-ons and options. One thing I did notice was more flash than usual as these are some of the earlier moulds I guess, but nothing much to worry about. These were also the older mult-part track models rather than the newer single track ones, but it was easy enough to figure out which round the various bits went.

Made them up as H models in full turret/skirt armour and some pure Gs to fit in with my existing mix and also to provide an easy way to differentiate companies. I added a couple of commanders, an easy way to differentiate command vehicles if required. The only real criticism was the clumsy design of the turret armour with a horrible join at the rear, which took a bit of filling and sanding, and it wasn't hugely clear what to do with some of the optional bits (like the long stowage box and the extra air filters) so I had to consult a few books. I didn't want to commit some hideous faux pas and fit the wrong bits to the wrong model of tank. 

I was pleased to find that, unlike the Shermans, the Pz IVs seem to be the same size as my Peter Pig and Battlefront ones (see the size comparison below).

The photos haven't come out too well, it was a grey day with poor light, so apologies.

The assembled models parade on the dining table.

The company of Pz IVGs. They strongly remind me of the Airfix Pz IVF2 of which I had loads, but the tracks are much, much nicer on these.

The skirted Hs. I really like Pz IVs in full armour, and they are much easier to paint than the skirtless ones.

Side rear view, you can see the nice deeply etched engine grilles and the beautifully modelled tracks.

Size comparison with L-R) PSC, Peter Pig and, I think Battlefront.
I did these very, very plain, just the odd Balkan cross as the amount of heraldry on later war German tanks declined markedly as losses shot up and I figured that tactical markings would end up covered in mud anyway. I used to quite enjoy paint all the tac insignia, but these days I think they can look unrealistically garish.

I deliberately did tons and tons of mud and dust on these, again to tone down the edges of camo to an extent, and also to get them looking 'muddy greenish brownish' as one veteran described his tank. The tracks I just did mud coloured with an inkwash and steel highlights, and I alos just daubed mud all over the running gear (much easier than painting the tyres!). I was pleased that the panel lines etc were etched deeply enough that merely wet-brushing the dunkelgelb over them left the lines showing without the need for an inkwash.