Saturday, 29 June 2019

QRF Jagdpanzer IV

I've always had a soft spot for the Jagdpanzer IV, even going so far as to convert a couple of Airfix Pz IVs into Jagdpanzer IV Fs back in the early 1970s. Approximately 2000 of them saw service in the last 12 months of the war, making them rather more numerous than the omnipresent Tigers, being assigned to both panzerjaeger battalions and from September 1944, as an additional company in selected panzer battalions. The Fuhrer Begleit Brigade had an entire panzer battalion equipped with them during the Bulge.

My immediate 'need' was more prosaic. Regular readers may recall my lament that 9th SS Panzerjaeger Abteiling had to make do with a Stug in our recent Arnhem game, whereas irl they had managed to drag a couple of Jagdpanzer IVs up to Arnhem with them and had unaccountably failed to hand them over to 10th SS Panzer. 10th SS Panzer had a battalion of Jadgpanzer IVs with KG Walther, and 107th Panzer Brigade which rolled up at Veghel had even more to support its Panthers.

With more Arnhem games looming, I thought it was time to rectify this appalling gap in my 15mm armoury (my 6mm and 20mm chaps are already well equipped). So, off went a quick order to QRF which turned up a few days later.

Lo and behold, after a few dobs of paint, a pair of Panzer IV/70(V) advancing over the dining table. I went for the 75L70 version as it was by far and away the most numerous, even most of the surviving Panzerjaeger IVFs were later retrofitted to PzIV/70 standard. Confusingly these versions are generally referred to as Panzer IV/70 in most Germans strength returns (or even Pz IVL), wereas the 75L48 versions were referred to as Panzerjaeger IVs.

The models themselves are fairly simple, consisting of the hull, engine deck, two track assemblies, the gun and two side skirts. The hull is hollowed out to keep the weight (and price) down. The tracks are also very lightweight, consisting of just the tracks and wheels without a backing piece. They were nice clean castings with very little flash and few mould lines, although the hatches were a bit indistinct. There was a slight gap between the engine deck and the hull superstructure (I guess it was moulded that way to deal with undercuts on the rear side armour) but easily filled with a sliver of filler.

From this angle you can see there is quite  bit of raised detail which takes a wash and a drybrush well. The gun is rather long a thin, so will need careful storage. A problem the real vehicles had too, with a tendency to stick the end of the barrel into the ground. The frame on the glacis plate is a travel lock for the gun.

The rear deck, which also shows the additional side plates. I added some spare track links and a couple of spare wheels, one with a rubber rim, the other steel. The real thing was so nose heavy due to the larger gun and extra armour (the same as a Panthers) that the front running wheels wore out quickly and were replaced with steel rimmed ones.

The real versions were often missing their side skirts, torn off trying to negotiate some obstacle without damaging the gun. I put them on as they look nice. The side view shows how low the profile was, even lower than a Stug, although the Alkett version just plonked the armoured superstructure onto the existing Pz IV hull, so lost some of the benefits. It looks like a lean, mean, killing machine with the same armour and gun as a Panthers, but on a Panzer IV chassis so underpowered, overloaded and unwieldy in rough terrain.

I did toy with doing them in ambush scheme, but in the end just went with dunkelgelb and stippled green/brown disruptive followed by an inkwash. The pattern is based on a photo of a specimen captured in March 1945. I chose 313 as the designation for this, as that is the number on a completely intact version captured by the US Army and used for field evaluation.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

One Hour Wargames - six hit variant

Avid readers may recall I tried out a variant combat system for OHW using my WW1 toys last year. Essentially the standard D6 plus or minus 2 to hit, and 15 hit units is replaced with one, two or three D6 each  hitting on 3+ and units have only six hits. The average lethality and duration of combat is unchanged, but the distribution of results is more interesting, and using a base 3+ to hit makes it far easier to factor in armour etc (half hits becomes a 5+ and half again becomes 6).

I wanted to try it with the Ancients variant as I'm a bit dubious about the more shooty OHW variants, too much scope for unrealistic ganging up I think. Anyway, I dragged out my old 20m plastic Romans and Carthaginians for an outing to the killing fields of Northern Italy.

Tim C and Tim G took the Carthos, while John and Jerry took the Romans.

The scenario was OHW 2 'pitched battle'.  Whoever controlled the hill and crossroads at the end won. Hilariously both sides rolled up identical forces of four heavy infantry, one cavalry and one skirmisher unit, so my carefully crafted additional unit types of Auxilia and Warband weren't needed.

Cartho cavalry, skirmishers and infantry. In the variant cavalry get 2 x D6 combat dice, skirmishers just 1 x D6, but can conduct ranged combat and interpenetrate. Neither are armoured and both take six hits.

Romans. Heavy Infantry get 3 x D6 in close combat and are armoured. These guys are very dangerous, but slow.

Both sides pushed forwards on a long front. The Carthos kept an infantry unit in reserve, which proved to be a good move in the long run.

Carthaginian heavy infantry occupy the hill. Armoured troops up hill are only hit on a 6, ouch, The Romans only hope was to outflank them (as flank and rear attacks get double dice.

Roman Legions stomp forwards, Velites and cavalry out front.

Over at the crossroads it is a 2:2 faceoff between two units each of heavy Carthaginian and Roman infantry.

First contact. The Roman cavalry and velites  engage the Carthaginian cavalry. In OHW Ancients once units are in melee they stay there until they win or rout, so the decision to engage is important. The Romans duly threw appalling dice (they had four dice, needing 3+ to hit each).

Battle was also joined at the crossroads. This was a real slugfest as each side was throwing three dice per unit, but only hitting on 5+ as they were armoured.

In the centre, the Carthaginian reserve infantry intervened decisively in the melee. Six dice at 3+, ouch. The Roman cavalry headed back to the Forum. The Carthaginian reserve had proved its worth.

Over at the hill, the Carthos were outnumbered 2:1 but their uphill bonus evened the odds. The Romans manouvered into position for a combined frontal assault and flanking attack.

It was honours even at the crossroads, both sides steadily wearing the other down (average expected hits per turn being one per unit). Luck of the dice was going to determine this one, although the Carthos had the slight advantage of the initial strike.

The Romans closed in on the hill. Three dice needing 5+ vs nine dice needing 6, so advantage to the Romans. (the flanking unit was doubled).

The stalemate at the crossroads was broken by the Carthaginian reserve, which now switched fronts and flanked one of the legions. The Romans left the field, and just in time as the other Carthos were one hit from breaking.

The other Carthaginian unit broke just as the Carthaginians reserves rolled into the Romans flank.

But back the the hill the Carthaginian cavalry and skirmishers rolled up the Velites. The struggle for the hill went on.

The fresh Carthos finally route the last Legion at the crossroads.

Back the the hill the Cartho cavalry and skirmishers flanked and wiped out one of the Legions.

The Carthos on the hill were now able turn to face their flank, while the last Romans in turn were enveloped by the skirmishers and cavalry.

It was soon all over and the Carthos were left in control of the hill.

And the crossroads.

Well that was exciting, and a closer run thing that the final tally of units indicates as a lot of the Carthaginian units were fairly ragged. The decisive factor was the cartho reserve unit which managed to intervene decisively in the centre and left flank, in turn freeing units to intervene on the right flank.

I was pleased with how well that variant worked. There were a few grumbles about facing and movement, but not more than usual with a ruler based game. It seems to move along a bit quicker than the normal combat system and so allowed more of a focus on decision making - in this scenario, essentially who to engage, when and it what strength. Once units were engaged, they lost all freedom of manouvre, which sounds about right for an Ancients battle.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

QRF 15mm US 57mm AT guns

My slowly expanding US forces are in need of a bit more AT support than the pair of M10s they already have.  The US version of the 6pdr was ubiquitous right to the end of the war in battalion AT platoons and regimental AT companies, even if it was replaced with 3" or 90mm guns on towed or SP mounts in tank destroyer battalions.

I have, on occasion, used British 6pdrs, but I thought it was time the Americans got their own guns. I toyed with getting the 6pdr/57mm set from PSC, but I need more carriers like a hole in the head (the PSC set comes with four guns and four Loyd carriers). So I just ordered a pair from QRF.

That'll show the Hun! They are nice little models and look distinctly different to the British versions, mainly due to the lack of a muzzle break.

Unlike the the 5.5" guns, these were rather more fiddly to put together. The gun mount and trail were cast as a single piece, but the wheels and both parts of the shield were separate, the latter without any obvious locating points. After much cursing and gluing together of fingers, I got the whole thing assembled by using lashings of blu tak soaked in superglue. 

Once they were finally assembled, they looked pretty good with some nice detail which the drybrush picked out well. The supplied gun crew figures also had nice deep engraving on them which took an inkwash really well, much better than the PSC plastic figures, and made their otherwise rather drab uniforms and webbing stand out.

In the end I was really pleased with them, the figure poses really complement the gun and have a feel of troops tensely crouched for action. 

Another useful tip is that fingers superglued together can be separated fairly painlessly with nail varnish remover. Who knew?

Sunday, 9 June 2019

I have been to... Edinburgh

We recently went up to Edinburgh for the Marathon Festival and as Jills event was on Saturday and mine on Sunday, we thought we'd make a long weekend of it and take in some sights.

First up was a trip to the castle.

The weather was kind (all the rain blew away!) and we were treated to amazing views over the Forth.

18pdr battery (the Argyll battery facing north).

And the one o'clock gun, a rather more modern 105mm. Despite listening out, I never actually heard it fired at one o'clock.

St Marys Chapel, the oldest surviving part of the castle (it was largely razed in the 1300s, all apart from the chapel)

Mons Meg. I'm puzzled as to how it was aimed, as it has no trunnions or elevation gear. Presumably jacked up on some sort of platform.

Another 18pdr battery, the Forewall Battery facing east back along the Royal Mile. The Half Moon battery is visible in the distance.

A couple of famous Scottish Kings! There was lots of other interesting stuff on the Royal Apartments.

These were the Braille versions of the Honours of Scotland (the actual crown jewels were in a case next door).

Charles II

Mary Stuart

Bonnie Prince Charlie

James VI and James I

The Royal Apartments from outside.

And directly opposite, the Scottish National War Memorial.

The Great Hall was really impressive. It has been lovingly restored after Cromwell vandalised it,  turning it in a barracks by inserting two extra floors into the building.

Lovely displays of armour.

And various edged and pointed weapons.

I was particularly taken with this wheel of pistols and pair of two handed swords. Interloping tourist demonstrating the size of the swords.

Along with the Scottish crown jewels, the castle is host to the Scottish War Museum. Douglas Haig is on duty outside.

A rather nice 25pdr graces the entrance. All the various bits and pieces are rather more colourful than I usually paint them.

Haigs uniform, medals and death mask.

Along with various items of kit, the museum has some great paintings and posters.

General Campbell.

The Thin Red Line at Balaclava. Those Russian cavalry seem to be awfully close!

I rather liked this one of 51st HD planning their attack at El Alamein. The CO seems to be standing on the map though.

The gate at Hougoment, featuring lots of wild eyed Frenchmen trying to break in.

The Battle of  Camperdown.

Back on the Royal Mile are various statues of notables. I was taken with this one of Adam Smith. Whatever you may think of the current shambles, one of the great thinkers of the modern world.

We also visited Marys Close, a network of seventeeth century streets entombed under more modern construction. Sadly no photos underground were allowed, but his model gives an idea of what lay beneath (minus the roofs). We were very amused to note that lath and plaster walls and ceilings from the early seventeenth century seem very similar to those found in the cellar of our house.

We also visited the National Museum of Scotland, which was a real delight. This was one of the older display halls.

It had an Autogyro hanging on one of the walls.

As well as various aircraft hanging up in one of the other halls, including this nice Auster.

This is one of the earliest surviving steam trains, built in 1813.

Something more modern, Dolly the sheep. The first successful clone.

Anchor chain from the Mauretania.

A Mark I Mini, ther first one to be sold in Scotland and number 527 off the assembly line. My glamorous assistant providing some scale. My mum had a van version of this (in the same colour), my brother and I used to slide around in the back on bits of foam rubber. Seat belts? No thanks.

More of the flying planes.

The Auster again, with a Tiger Moth behind.

In a slight change of pace, we finished off with a trip round a gin distillery, and a certain amount of sampling of the wares.

We did also manage to fit in a bit of running, so deserved a treat.

I made it into the top 3,000 (out of 11,000), so considering my ever advancing years, I was pretty pleased.