Saturday, 24 November 2018

BF M10s

Like many wargamers, I have a vague shopping list in my head of things I 'need' but can't actually be bothered to buy at outrageously inflated current retail prices. Available as a bargain however....

One such item on that list are a couple of M10s for my 15mm US forces. I had thought of buying some QRF ones, but imagine my delight when some unbuilt Battlefront M10s turned up on the club Bring n' Buy.

Here they are in all their glory, out looking for Tigers to blow up.

In fact they are horrible models, a real dogs dinner with resin bodies and turrets, the plastic track sprues from the BF Sherman models and a pile of scrap metal which on closer inspection turned out to be the crew, assorted stowage, turret counterweights and the all important gun barrels. 

By the application of large amounts of blu tak and gel superglue I eventually got the monstrosities to stick together, and they then didn't look too bad. Dear me, give me plastic any day. One saving grace was that the Sherman sprues yielded some useful gun barrels and hatches for the spares box.

It was nice to have some stowage options included, so I adorned them with various tarpaulins etc.

The hull and turret castings are well done with somewhat exaggerated raised detail, but good sharp lines which take a drybrush well.

I only did two crewmen in each, partly as it is nice to highlight the interior turret shell rack, and partly because some of the crew figures fell to bits as I tried to get them off the casting strip. Maybe the other guy is off to get some Coca Cola.

The deck detail looks good, and I really like the way the counterweights look like a separate bolt on to the turret (because they are).

This one has a great pile of logs and sandbags on the front. I lightly filed the helmets down so they can, at a pinch, pass as RAC helmets on British crews.

They sit well, although I made a mistake positioning the tracks  (the top edges should be more obscured). As they are rubber block tracks I only highlighted the outer edges with metal.

I did these in plain OD, as I've long given up putting lots of markings etc on vehicles. I'll do a few, but it just limits their flexibility. OD is also a tricky colour as it is so variable. I did these in Vallejo Russian Uniform over a dark grey primer base, then washed it with a thin wash/stain of Bronze Green. It came to OK I think and obviously the wash provides some shading. Otherwise I just did all the running gear and tracks in mud, and gave the whole thing a light drybrush of pale tan. The flesh on the crews and the brass shell casing also got a brown ink wash.

So there we go, a worthy addition to my sea of Olive Drab AFVs. They can passably serve with my US and British forces, and even serve as the handful (iirc 52) of M10s sent to the Russians. Interestingly the Russians made exactly the same complaint as the Allies, namely that sub units misused them as tanks and the crews suffered heavy casualty from shell splinters as a result.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Remembrance Day 2018

On Remembrance Day this year, the Sheffield General Cemetary had a special exhibition about the Great War and specific information about 131 people who died in the war whose remains were repatriated and buried either here or other parts of Sheffield.

This map shows people who died in the war from the local area. There were three from our road alone.

There were lots of individual accounts.

A trench map of Vimy Ridge.

Outside the chapel were biographies of the 131 soldierss sailors and airmen who were killed. 

Which led right up to the Chapel. It was a very moving display, very thoughtful and well done.

In a different form of remembrance, we also went out  to Ladybower reservoir, which was filled just after the end of WW2, drowning the village of Derwent.  The dams further up the valley were completed before WW2, as 617 Squadron used them for practice runs. Construction of the dam at Ladybower started before war and it was finally completed in 1947.

The long hot summer has left a display of autumn colour on the leaves worthy of New England.

The other effect of the long hot summer is that the reservoir is only 35% full, despite all the recent rain. These are the remains of Derwent Village on the bottom of the lake. Most of the buildings were demolished and the trees chopped down before the valley was flooded. The blockhouse just visible on the far side of the river  was an old pumping station.

From the bottom of the lake you can see how much the water level has dropped. It was interesting to walk along the old streets and make out the building foundations of one of the "Lost Villages" of England, but hopefully we'll have a wet winter and it will have vanished under the water again by Spring.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Olpae 426 BC

Tim is continuing our tour of unknown battles of the Ancient World with a trip to the skirmish at Olpae in 426 BC, at the start of the 2nd Peleponnesian War. The entirely peace loving  and reasonable Spartans under Eurylochus had come to the aid of their oppressed allies, the Ambraciots under Menedais. Meanwhile wicked Athenian Imperialists and their servile lackeys the Acarnanians,all under Demosthenes lined up to rend this happy union apart.

John and Tim C took the evil Athenians, while I got the glorious Spartans.  As ever, Tims 25mm toys on Hexon terrain with CnC Ancients. Tim has already reported on this game on his blog.

View from the Spartan right rear.  The coastline hexes (blue strips) are impassable.

View from the Athenian right rear. Both armies are very similar, a core of Hoplites, supplemented by various ragged light troops and auxiliaries. The Athenians also had one of unit of (rare) cavalry. Pah. Who needs horses when you'v got Spartans.

The Spartan left rear. Not sure about having those woods there! Still, they are fairly open so don't impede retreats. There is an annoying gap visible between the Spartans and their Ambraciot allies, very untidy.

These Spartans are very venerable, being among the first wargames figures Tim ever purchased.

The action opened on the left as my light troops saw off an audacious Athenian cavalry attack. Albeit not without losses. Heavy losses in every combat were to be a feature generally.

Before long, there was a major clash of  hoplites, which duly turned into an utter bloodbath as both sides rolled very hot dice. Poor old Eurylochus was one of the casualties. Well that was a historical result then.

Menedais waded in with some reinforcements and obliterated Demosthenes' hoplite unit. Demosthenes survived to live another day though, and Menedais went the same way as Eurylochus in the counterttack. The Athenians were on five banners now (needing six to win) whereas I had four.

The right flank was denuded of troops by the slaughter in the centre, but there wasn't much either of us could do about it.

My final hope was an all out attack to destroy the last Athenian hoplite unit and Demosthenes with it (getting two banners). The hoplites duly died, but Demosthenes skipped away unharmed to the shelter of some light infantry. My units all had multiple hits now.

Demosthenes wrapped it up by leading his light troops forward and eliminating one of my damaged light troops with two extremely lucky 'general bonus'  hits. What are the chances? Well, 1:36 actually.

So, once again we very creditably replicated history, as irl the Spartans lost and Eurylochus was killed while Demosthenes' name echoed down history. Aristophones even wrote a play about him. To add insult to injury it turned out that a  big chunk of the Athenian army was lurking in those nasty looking woods and we'd lost without them even being engaged. Well, you can't win them all.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Never has so much been owed...

John has been busy painting a load of Raiden 6mm aircraft and was keen to put on a game. We used the Pz8 hex based air combat rules (one sheet of A4, so a proper set of rules). Being a grizzled veteran of many flight sims, radio controlled aircraft models, and also having been fortunate enough to (briefly) fly real biplane and monoplane prop aircraft, I'm always a bit dubious about the two dimensional flying games. irl it feels like wrestling with a powered sailing dinghy in three dimensions, not quite the same as putting a toy aeroplane on a stick.

But, I shall reserve judgement.

Tim and I got to be the wicked Germans, a finger four of Bf 109s led by no less than Adolf Galland, escorting a lonely He 111 to bomb somewhere in merry England. Jerry and Graham got flights of Spitfires and Hurricanes respectively.

Here is the mighty Luftwaffe. My two 109s are closest to the camera. The little dice are altitude markers (each pip being 3000 feet!).

The RAF. Three Spitfires and two Hurricanes. Very unfairly the Spitfires had a  higher ceiling than our 109s, but we were somewhat faster than the Hurricanes. 

Off we went, the Heinkel at altitude 2 and our two sections at altitude 3. 

My wingman (yellow nose) keep excellent close formation. One slight problem we came across was that the hexes were a bit small, particularly having separate altitude markers.

Ooer, this isn't looking too good. We should maybe have flown a bit further ahead as the Hurricanes just flew right past us and attacked the Heinkel. Galland has managed to get on the tail of one, but the other survived my double head on pass and duly shot the He 111 down in a single attack! 

Retribution is swift as I manage an Immelman to get on the tail of the impudent Hurricane, and knock great big bits out of it. The table is getting a bit cluttered  with dice and activation markers at this point. 

The Spitfires now put in an appearance, again I loop and turn my way our of trouble but my wingman isn't so lucky. We were all starting to get the hang of the flying and tailing system by now, which worked surprisingly well. Turning in level flight is quite restricted, so being able to pull a half loop (ideally preceded by a dive) is really very handy. The game does have a certain amount of energy management (altitude for speed and vice versa), not as much as I'd like, but not as little as I feared. The extra movement point gives the 109s a big manouverability advantage over the Hurricanes.

While my wingman limps off, I am surrounded by the entire RAF in a buzzing dogfight. Fortunately(?) only the one on my tail is low enough to engage.

Gallands flight comes to the rescue and downs the Hurricane on my tail. The table is now a complete mess of markers and some of them are getting knocked over.

My wingman goes down to one of the Spitfires though. The dice are their respective combat dice... it uses an opposed dice combat system, with suitably amusing DBA-like variability, but you can't go far wrong with a point blank shot from the rear then rolling 6 vs 1.

At this point the melee breaks up a bit as planes zoom off to regain some altitude and sort themselves out. With two planes down each (including the vital He 111) we call it a day.

That was actually very enjoyable, and once we got the hang of 'flying' a certain degree of tactical subtlety became apparent. Jerry is very good at hex games and outflew us all, but I think we all got an inkling of what being able to think a couple of turns ahead might look like. The tailing system is simple but effective, and the energy management aspects are OK.   

So, another outing is lined up soon, but this time we'll use bigger (Hexon) hexes to avoid the clutter. I think none of us had appreciated that the combat is played out at pretty close quarters so the hexes need a certain amount of elbow room. 

If anyone is interested in these rules, they are part of the Pz8 rules compendium, which sadly you'll have to hunt around the Interweb for as Mr Pz8 doesn't seem to have his website any more.