Sunday, October 19, 2014

15mm WWII Tank Battle: Hunting T-34s

Sylvain, in his usual phlegmatic gallic style, tells Jeremy to cheer up - there is always the good wine (or is that whine?)

Sylvain here, reporting from my basement. I hosted a game set on the Eastern Front and the players were provided with the following intelligence:

German Objective: May 1942. The rasputitsa is almost over. In one month, the Heer will launch Fall Blau. High command wants us to test the Soviet defence line and to accomplish our mission, we have been given three band new PzIV equipped with the new long 75mm gun. A recent air reconnaissance patrol reported the presence of a company of T-34s in the village of Karrotgrad. This is where we are going. Our mission is to hunt T-34s.

- The German player gets one victory point per T-34s destroyed and minus one victory point per PzIV F2 destroyed.

Soviet Objective: Kamarads, the Motherland has been invaded by the nazi barbarians and the time for retreat is now over. General Zhukov wants us to protect the village of Karrotgrad and I intend to destroy any enemy coming close. We already have a company of T-34s, the best tank ever designed. We also received 10 new tanks from our Canadian friends. We will see what we can do with them. If we see the enemy coming, we will hunt him with our T-34s!

- The Soviet player gets one victory point per German vehicle destroyed and minus one victory point per T-34 destroyed.

House Rules: The core rules were “Flames of War” with a few significant changes:
1. The turn sequence used cards (inspired by Too Fat Lardies).
2. A spotting rule was added to make reccon units more important (inspired by Firefly).
3. The artillery was off board (inspired by reality).

Jeremy, in the back, confident that the Gods of Dice will be smiling upon him. (They won't!)

My goal was to come up with a somewhat realistic simulation of tank warfare on the Eastern Front with 15mm miniatures. I decided to set-up a table as big as possible. It was 10'x6', and there was barely any room to move around.

Each unit (platoon or company) was represented by a card. There was a deck to set up on the table an another deck to use for orders.

Jeremy commanded the Panzers while Curt and Stacy oversaw the defences of Karrotgrad. The Soviet players hid half of the cards representing their units under terrain features like hills, woods or buildings.

A BA-10M, minding his own business.

I added a rule for spotting. It was to be used by the German to reveal Soviet units in ambush and by the Soviet to accumulate "threat points". These threat points could be used to call reinforcement and stronger units, like a company of T-34s, required more points than a simple platoon of anti-tank rifle.

Some German panzers bogged down in the stream.

Jeremy entered his units on the other side of the river. There was a small platoon of BA-10M in the woods that the panzers quickly dispatched. However, Fortune started to become unfavorable to the German side. You can see in the picture above that some units got bogged down while crossing the river, including the Air Liaison unit in charge of calling in the Stukas.

Lend-Lease Valentine tanks sent from Canada, in neat parade formation, en route to intercept the panzers.

This was a very lucky company of Valentines. They survived a few bomb runs from the Stukas (when the observer was not trying to push his half-track out of stream) and many hits from the German guns.

Realizing that staying too close can be dangerous, the Valentines fan out in the field.
Destruction brings satisfaction to the host.
More reinforcement on the way. This does not look good for the German.
The Valentines are standing firm in front of intense German fire.

A company of seven T-34s enters the battlefield. Is there any end to this flow of reinforcement?
In conclusion, the German did not make it very far onto the table. Crossing the river proved difficult, with lots of units bogged down. It took too long for the German to deploy effectively and use their superior gunnery. Basically, the Soviet were able to destroy the German tanks piecemeal as they showed up.

The house rules I prepared for this scenario did not work very well. The spotting rules were not clear enough and the Soviet were able to activate most of their units before the German got too close. The activation sequence needs to be fine-tuned as well. Eventually,  I will come up with a satisfactory set of rules. I just love 15mm scale and I have a few more ideas for scenarios.

Many thanks to the players who showed up. Their patience and good sense of humor made the whole evening enjoyable despite glitches in the rules.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

'Fhtagn!!' 'Why, bless you...' 28mm Innsmouth Deep One Hybrids

Since it's Halloween this month I decided to read 'The Book of Cthulhu', which is an anthology of short stories based on HP Lovecraft's horror mythos. I've been so entertained with it that I decided to get these Deep One hybrids done-up for future Pulp games using Strange Aeons. (And I'll shamelessly give a shout-out for Uncle Mike's 2nd edition of the game which is now up on Kickstarter.)

While I'm sure there are several who'll know what a Deep One hybrid is, I suspect there may be others who won't, so I'll give a little background to help set the stage.

'The shadow over Innsmouth' by Mushstone (deviantART)
In 1936 H.P. Lovecraft published 'The Shadow Over Innsmouth', a short novella that tells the story of a young traveller who comes across Innsmouth, a near-derelict fishing town set on the coast of Massachusetts. After several unsettling encounters with the locals, the traveller slowly uncovers the town's horrifying dark secret. The residents of Innsmouth, many years previous, had made a dark pact with a strange aquatic race, known as the 'Deep Ones', where the townspeole would receive gold and great bounties of fish in exchange for providing blood sacrifices to the Deep Ones' gods and to allow themselves to be interbred with the creatures. 

Yeah, sure, seems like a sweet deal, right?  


Anyway, the progeny of this forced breeding first seemed like relatively normal humans, but as they aged they slowly began to change. By middle age  their eyes became large, bulging and lidless, their skin lost its hair, turning scaly and their hands and feet became clawed and webbed. 

For a bit of fun, I painted one of the figures a bit preppy, with a blue sweater with the Miskatonic University crest. :)

The change concludes near old age when the hybrid creature makes its last transformation into a fully fledged Deep One. All the while this physical transformation is 'percolating', the Deep One hybrid follows a similar change in character, becoming increasingly depraved and evil as time wears on. 

As a final 'gift', the newly transformed creature is taken back by the Deep Ones to their city on the sea floor to serve as immortal stewards to Father Dagon, Mother Hydra and the Great Cthulhu. 

So what you have is one of the first pulp eldritch horror classics and a great, wonderfully creepy little read.

Deep Ones from Strange Aeons
Except for the last trio of figures, which are from Uncle Mike's Strange Aeons' range, the above figures are all from Rattrap Productions, available through Brigade Games. While the castings required a lot of work to clean up properly, they proved to be wonderfully creepy and great fun to work on. They're not my best work, but I'm more than happy to have them as part of my collection (and as I write this I see I still need to go back over them to dirty them up a bit. No rest for the wicked...)

Next up: Some human pulp adventurers to act as counterpoint to these aquatic fiends.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

20mm WWII Canadian Infantry from AB Miniatures - The Battle for Ortona, 1943 (Part II)

This post is a continuation of one from a few weeks ago where I showed my first efforts depicting Canadian infantry during their 1943 assault on Ortona, Italy.

As with the original group, this squad is made up of ten 20mm figures from AB Miniatures, which can now be sourced through Eureka Miniatures

The Bren team along with the section leader who is armed with a Sten. Interestingly, from what I've gathered, the Canadians seemed to have loathed the Sten and usually swapped them out for Thompsons whenever they had the chance.

I can't recommend this range enough. I would, without hesitation, put them up against the best that 28mm has to offer. They have such wonderful, natural poses and their physiques are slim, almost gaunt, which from looking at contemporary photographs, seems to fit the period very well.

A rare colour print of a Canadian soldier in Med. summer uniform. Wonderfully lean and scruffy. They changed back to their heavier wool gear during December's Moro River campaign which culminated in the Battle for Ortona. 

The current marketplace for WWII gaming seems more or less dominated by either 15mm or 28mm miniatures. I find this interesting as it was only about ten or so years ago that 20mm figures were regarded as the uncontested scale-of-choice in this period. Frankly, to my way of thinking, the dominance of 20mm made perfect sense for wargaming (and still does) as there is an bewildering number of inexpensive plastic kits, die cast toys and railway stuff in 1:76 / 1:72  / 1:87 scale.

A case in point is this 'knocked out' Hetzer that I've included with this group of figures. This is an old 1:72 scale Esci kit (cheap as borscht) which I assembled and painted over an evening about 15 years ago. While a bit long in the tooth, I think it's aged relatively well (like it's owner ;)) and fits in perfectly with 20mm figures.

To me, 20mm is the ideal accommodation between the detail of 28mm and the sense of ground scale that 15mm affords. Don't get me wrong, I like every one of these scales and I collect WWII in all of them, including 6mm (yes, I'm a bit touched), but I have to say that I have a soft spot for 20mm. It gives the painter something large enough to work with, provides a nice sense of scale on the tabletop and it allows a gamer to amass a sizeable collection of miniatures and terrain without having to sell an organ to acquire and store the stuff.

The charming Italian building in the background is by Frederick C, a fellow Conscript from the Fawcett Ave gang.
In a week or so I'll post the last section from this platoon, along with it's HQ and some supports.

Next Up: Gladiators or Pulp Adventurers - not sure which yet...

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Post-Apocalyptic Tube Raiders inspired by Metro 2033

Wanting to switch gears for a bit I thought I'd add a few more models to my slowly growing collection of post-apocalyptic figures inspired by Glukhovsky's novel 'Metro 2033'

In his book, a bio-nuclear war occurs in 2013 which devastates most of the world. In Moscow, the only survivors are those who managed to make it into the Metro (notable for being one of the deepest in the world). 

Twenty years later the survivors have splintered into various conflicting socio-political factions (neo-soviets, neo-fascists, cannibals, etc.), each centered around a Moscow metro station. In addition to this ever-restless friction between rival factions is the fact that horrific mutants from the surface are trying to force their way into the metro. So basically, at its core, it's your typical Russian novel, y'know, all sunshine and lollipops.

These castings are from the Lead Adventure Miniatures' 'Zone Dogs' pack. I really like this whole range of figures as they are so varied and jam-packed full of characterful details. 

I especially like the figures which sport a mixture of civilian and military gear as it lets me play around with whacky colours and patterns that you'd never see in a purely military setting.

For the basework I followed pretty much in-step my other stuff and kept with an ash waste motif, with  a smattering of shattered bricks for colour, and a dash of rusted piping as a final flourish. I hear this is all the rage in 'Irradiated Homes and Gardens'.

I'm pleased with how the bright orange foam sleeping pad turned out on this fellow. The original colour was pretty darn bright but it toned down nicely with a bit of thinned ink.

For this chap I gave him a well-worn Russian NBC (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical) suit. I was really wanting to give him a lurid GAP branded satchel but I didn't know if Russia has a big-brand clothing store equivalent.

I have another package of these guys tucked away somewhere, but I'm thinking I need to build up a horde of some sort of atomic-mutant-type-thingys to act as counterpoint to these 'uncorrupted' survivors. I have a few ideas rattling around in my head, but more on that later.

Next Up: Hmm, I dunno. It will either be more WWII Canadians or perhaps Gladiators... Squirrel!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

20mm WWII Canadian Infantry from AB Miniatures - The Battle for Ortona, 1943 (Part I)

About a year ago I was rummaging around my storage shed and came across a collection of 20mm WWII figures that I had originally painted-up for use with Arty Conliffe's Crossfire (a very fine and innovative set of rules btw). This group of figures primarily composed of old, but quite good SHQ, Britannia and FAA models. This discovery began me thinking of how I could make use of these figures for future gaming. I decided that I could conscript my 15mm Flames of War collection (a set of rules I'm not especially fond of) for use with Crossfire and then I could use these venerable 20mm figures for skirmish gaming (Chain of CommandBolt Action, etc). As I sorted through the lot I discovered that  I had scads of German Fallshirmjaegers (from a previous Crete scenario), but I needed some more Commonwealth figures to serve as opponents. 

So, I began snooping around the web and came across Anthony Barton's (of AB Miniatures) superb 20mm WWII range. So credit card was duly unsheathed and an order placed. Nonetheless, as these things frequently go, by the time the figures arrived I had abstractedly wandered off to another project (I know, how typical) so the castings were studiously unpacked, briefly admired and then stored away awaiting further inspiration.

Canadian armour moving through Ortona by Charles Comfort
The spark came a few weeks ago when I began reading about the 1943 battle of Ortona which occurred during the Italian campaign. In the larger scheme of things this battle was largely a sideshow, dwarfed by the campaigns in the Eastern Front and overshadowed by the impending landings in Normandy, but to many in Canada Ortona is regarded as our own 'little Stalingrad' due to its brutal and unrelenting house-to-house combat.

'Reinforcements Moving up in the Ortona Salient' by Lawren Philips Harris
As a brief background, Ortona is a port town situated on the Adriatic coast of Italy, relatively close to Rome along a east-west axis. In 1943, with the Allies lines of supply stretched to the extreme, Ortona was regarded as strategically important as it possessed one of the few ports which could accommodate deep-draught shipping. 

For this reason Montgomery wanted it taken and so General Christopher Vokes, commander of the Canadian 1st Infantry Division, ordered his men to batter their way into the town through a series costly frontal assaults along its approaches. Vokes wasn't necessarily a bad commander, but he really wasn't very good either. Monty regarded him as 'a plain cook' and I think that assessment is fairly accurate. So instead of bypassing the town and threatening to pocket the Fallshirmjaegers garrisoning it, Vokes decided to take Ortona by direct assault. 

Map of Ortona showing the path of the Canadian assaults.
The Germans had positioned themselves very well, establishing interlinking fields of fire for effective ambushes, and had littered the advance with mines and boobytraps. The Canadians found that attacking over the rubble-heaped streets while under enemy fire was extremely gruelling and so the casualty toll rose.  The Canadians realized that they had to develop other means in order to grind ahead or the attack would stall completely. One notable trick they came up with was the tactic of 'mouse-holing' (also used in the fighting at Stalingrad). This involved the Canadians blowing a hole through the adjoining walls between upper floors and then systematically working their way down. While this tactic was effective in keeping the men out of the fire-swept streets, the process was fraught with danger as the advance from room-to-room often involved ferocious close-quarters combat.

Over eight days, from December 20th to the 28th, the Canadians of the 2nd Brigade forced the German paratroopers out of the town, but at a cost of nearly 2400 in dead and wounded. The Moro River campaign (of which Ortona was a part) inflicted almost a quarter of all casualties suffered by the Canadians during the entire Italian campaign. After reading the accounts of the campaign one can appreciate why the term 'D-Day Dodgers' deeply rankled with the men fighting up the Italian peninsula.

I painted these figures to represent men from the Loyal Edmonton Regiment and the Saskatoon Light Infantry which were two of the four infantry battalions which were committed to the battle (the other two units were the Seaforth Highlanders and the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry). 

I was struck by the photos of the incredible amount of pale/white rubble in Ortona so I tried to replicate the same in my groundwork, with lots of shattered masonry, dust and debris scattered about.

I've pretty much completed a full platoon, with various supports, but I thought I'd show them over two or three blog posts so the sculpts can stand on their own and not be lost within a mass of figures. 

These castings were a real pleasure to work on and I hope you enjoyed looking them over. 

Next: To mix things up, some Post Apocalyptic Raiders!