Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Painting Challenge Submission 10 - More Canadian Cold War Stuff

More Canadian armour for the Cold War - 1/100 models from "Armies Army"
Another AHPC submission to catch folks up on. The theme is no surprise at all - continuing to round out the basic elements of my 15mm Cold War-era Canadian troops for "Team Yankee".

My prior submission had included Canadian Cold War-era infantry, but for the 1980s the infantry need a ride to battle - otherwise they would be stuck on the table while their enemies zoomed around them! For the Canadian forces of the mid-1980s in Europe this ride would have come in the form of the M113 armoured personnel carrier. My Canadian foot-sloggers were lacking in APCs, so the M113s were duly slotted into the painting lineup so the fellows could get a lift on the gaming table.

Ugh. M113s. So, so lame...but at least the large decals on the front add a bit of clear character...
We all have painting subjects we dislike, but perhaps can't avoid due to the circumstances of the given period or setting, don't we? Well, for me, the M113 is one such subject.  Where painting NATO tanks tends to be a whole lot of fun, painting an M113 is like throwing some acrylic paint on a frozen turd. An unlovely box on treads, the M113 is utterly devoid of character, charm, personality or the slightest hint of fun. No turret. No cool vents.  You look at these things and wonder what the point is? They must have had some serious up-sides, or useful aspects from the perspective of actual military users (I mean, hey, that .50 cal surely comes in handy for fire support purposes!) but on the hobby side, they are not a model I enjoy working with.

Commander popped out of the hatch to a) represent the platoon commander's track and b) add some character to the otherwise un-inspiring silhouette of the M113 APC
Besides - Canada purchased cool tanks from Germany - why not purchase their awesome infantry fighting vehicles too? Really, anything that you will drive in a war - let's just use common sense, and buy from Germany! Sadly, no...you can't avoid the M113 if you want to paint Cold War forces from Canada. The stupid M113 was the core APC for the main mechanized infantry elements of the 4th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, and as such, they would have to be painted if I wanted to reflect the infantry in my tabletop forces...so here we are...

These models are from "Armies Army" (now available from Plastic Soldier Company).  They are mixed resin and metal kits.  While my love for Armies Army is un-diminished, and I salute Keith's valiant and amazing efforts to bring Cold War Canadians to life in 15mm, I must acknowledge that his M113s were...tricky...you won't have to look hard to spot the gaps between the tread assemblies and the fenders.  In this case I must sadly report that Battlefront's plastic M113s are probably the better way to go...the Battlefront models are multi-part plastic, with all of the associated frustration this can entail, but they are more precise in the end.

The camouflage Canada used on these vehicles was somewhat unique as well, and not the most fun to paint. I used a mix of decals from Armies Army as well as a useful 1/87 sheet for things like Canadian flags and license-plates.  The 1/87 decals are oversize for the scale, but they help the nationality stand out a bit more on the table, and add just a touch of character to the boxes-with-treads.  A huge thanks to Mike F for helping me track down the 1/87 decals!

1/100 Leopard C1 from Armies Army - with the "1B" marking I think he is the "Battle Captain" from "A" Squadron...although there is a high chance I'm wrong about that...anyway, popped out commander and blue flowers to indicate the MBT is part of the Squadron command troop.
Leopard C1 with dozer blade attached on the front - an excellent little touch from Armies Army!! It will have no impact in game terms, just a cool thing to include from a completeness perspective...

To wash the terrible flavour of painting stupid M113s out of my mouth, I finished off another pair of Leopard C1s as well.  Positively refreshing!  These are both from the excellent Armies Army, and another element of Keith's utterly complete rendering of these troops can be glimpsed by the presence of a dozer blade mounted to one of the Leopards in the photos.  One Leopard C1 in each squadron had a dozer blade, useful for various battlefield engineering tasks (in particular helping to prepare hull-down firing positions for the other Leopards).  Full marks again to Armies Army for bringing out such a complete collection of models and figures!!!

Canadian armoured squadron, ready to roll out!
And so I have the very basic elements of a battlegroup from 4CMBG in place for "Team Yankee" gaming - a squadron of Leopard C1s and an attached mechanized infantry platoon from either the RCR or the Vandoos. All in this has been just about what...five or six weeks of painting? Not too bad!  Here is a photo of the battlegroup to date:

Basic battlegroup from 4CMBG - Leopard C1 squadron with attached infantry support - ready to stand fast in the NATO lines!
Whatever I think of the M113s, at least these fellows will have a ride to take them around the battlefield!
Points wise, this submission was worth another 36 points towards my goal of 1000 points of painting.  The goal is getting closer, a bit every week! Hope to be there by the end of the Challenge in March.

And now Mike F just "just" needs to do a platoon of foot troops based for this game as well,  since he already has a bunch of M113s and other vehicles painted, we can have quite the force of Canadians on our "Team Yankee" tables!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Painting Challenge Submission Nine - Cold War Canadian Infantry, and Bonus Leopard C1

More Cold War Canadian troops in 15mm!

Hello folks! It's been a busy couple of weeks with with 1-to-1 scale activities, such as a nice vacation, and then a bunch more work.  These are all good "problems" of course, but it has been keeping me away from the brushes or even staying updated with progress in the 8th edition of AHPC! To help get back in the saddle, here is an update - my ninth submission (posted two weeks ago), with a continuing 15mm Cold War flavour.  This is an infantry platoon of Cold War-era Canadian troops in 15mm, with a bonus additional Leopard C1 tank.

Platoon command stand - officer pointing, radio operator beside him

Tanks are a tonne of fun, of course - in the case of the Leopard C1, about 40 tonnes or so of fun! But it is the hard-slogging, ground-pounding, digging in-and-assaulting-and-hunkering down infantry that take the ground and hold it at the end of the day.  The Canadian Battlegroups of the 1980s would be counting on their Leopard C1s, but the mechanized infantry were the heart of the effort - troops from the Royal Canadian Regiment and the Vandoos.  So I wanted to add some infantry to round out my preliminary Canadian "Team Yankee" forces - plus they paint super-fast, which is a nice bonus!

Here is a bit of a retro item - a .30cal MMG in support of the platoon

The infantry figures are from "Armies Army" (now part of the excellent Plastic Soldier Company).  And they are a treat! Just wonderful castings, made from metal, as all proper wargames figures should be.  They are sporting Canadian infantry weapons from the 1980s cold-war era - FN rifles, Carl Gustav anti-tank weapons, and support from a .30 cal MMG and a 60mm mortar.  The latter two elements are sort of retro-classic weapons, but it seems the Canadian Forces tended to make use of older weapons for quite a while longer than some other NATO armies.

Three sections of infantry - and the 60mm mortar is on the right at the front - poor chap, has to carry it by himself it appears :)

As appropriate for Canadians, the infantry are sporting colder-weather jackets - an excellent touch, in my opinion! I can't say enough good things about these castings.  I purchased an entire companies' worth of the troops, and look forward to painting them all up.  Huge kudos to Keith at Army's Army for making these a reality - for a nerd like me, it is exciting to have the chance to collect these lads and game with them.

View showing some of the webbing - note the Carl Gustav AT weapon on the one base in the foreground

Of course, these chaps will need some M113s to ride around in - those will hopefully appear on the painting table soon.

Another Leopard C1 - this one from the Plastic Soldier Company
The tank model is a 1/100 plastic Leopard C1 from Plastic Soldier Company, with an FN MAG from Peter Pig swapped into the cupola MG.   This gives me 10 Leopard C1s...on my way to having a whole squadron for the gaming table. These fellows have already seen some tabletop action - with many of the recently-painted tanks suffering the fate of all newly-painted models - it was a rough "win" for the Royal Canadian Dragoons!

More Canucks ready to chip in for NATO
Points-wise this managed to gather another 64 points toward my total goal of 1000...slowly but surely, I'm closing in.

I'll leave you with a photo from Palm Desert, California, USA - we did a six-mile hike in Joshua Tree National Park a couple of weeks ago! The landscape was beautiful and surreal...so glad to have a chance to visit...

The Palm Oasis in Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA
So now that I am back home a little more consistently, I hope to have the paint brushes firing up once again - stay tuned for more!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Byron's 8th through 10th enties to the painting challenge

Well, once again I have fallen behind in posting my entries, so I will get up to date with a brief(ish) post that has a picture or two from each of my last few submissions and links to the actual blog entries over on the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge site.

My 8th entry was a group of 6 30k Death Guard scimitar pattern jet bikes from the Horus Heresy era.  I fell in love with these when they were released a few years ago, but the price kept me from buying them until recently.  I didn't want to do a small squad of 3 since they would get wiped out too quickly like that, and I wanted them to have some staying power, so I did 6 of them.

The bikes are supposed to be mounted on the normal GW 50mm clear round flying stands and come with those along with 30mm tall mounting posts.  I thought both of these looked like crap with them, and the normal pill shaped bike bases are way to short at 50mm long for these behemoths.  So, I custom laser cut some 32mm wide (the new standard marine base size) x 100mm deep bases.

My 9th entry was some long discontinued GW forgeworld terrain that I picked up at a Baltimore Games Day 14 years ago that has sat in their boxes since then!!!
 I also included in that a unit of Greek slingers to add some range to my Greek forces.

Next up was a theme week entry for BFG (Big F!$%'ing Gun) where I did a pair of Siege-Automata for my 30k Mechanicum force.

Not only is the gun on this thing freaking huge, the whole thing is!  To give a sense of size the base is a 120mm x 92mm oval base and a marine barely reaches to his knee! 

Overall, I am very happy with how they came out, and I placed tied for second that week in the voting for best theme week entry. 
My 10th entry was an Archmagos for the 30k Mechanicum force and some more Greeks.

The Archmagos Prime on Abeyant for my 30k Mechanicum army now makes it an actual legal force to play with an HQ, so expect it to hit the tabletop soon.

Now that it is a valid force, I have also provided an overall picture of the army so far.  This is in-fact all that I bought initially to do for the force, but I have of course fallen in love with them, and more are on the way....
This time the Greek unit was more unarmoured Greek hoplites that I did as a support unit of mercenaries or militia for either side that I am working on.

This brings me back up to date as of the weekend, but there are 3 more entries up this weekend so expect another update early this coming week.  

Now we just need to setup a game to blood in the Mechanicum force!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Team Yankee, Now With Added Canadians!

The Soviet column is deployed on the right side of the photo - while the the thin line of Canadians is arrayed in the left area

Policy-types in Canada often find themselves worrying - how do we ensure more "Canadian Content" in cultural areas such as music, film and art? Well, we can't help with ANY of those things.  But we can put some "Canadian Content" in one new and (to us) important cultural area - tabletop gaming with Battlefront's "Team Yankee"!

Soviet assault in action! T-72 company to the front, with motor rifle troops following up

Using an assortment of figures and models painted very recently, as well as the initial efforts that Conscript Mike F made in 2013, we assembled a Canadian Force in 15mm for a game of "Team Yankee" last week.  The scenario was fairly basic, as these things go - a Soviet spearhead had broken through the NATO lines, and the 4th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group was deployed to stop them!

And naturally they selected a McPizza King location along an important highway as THE best spot in which to halt the marauding Warsaw Pact forces...

Mike F took command of the Canadian forces - three troops of Leopard C1s from the Royal Canadian Dragoons, a mechanized platoon from the Royal Canadian Regiment, off-table support from the 155mm howitzers of the RCHA, and a pair of US Cobra Helicopters with TOW missiles.  Mike had to put half of his units in reserve, and had the option to put one of them in ambush.  He put two troops of C1s and the infantry on the table, the rest in reserve, with his third troop of Leopard C1s in ambush.

Opposing him was "Comrade Ewen" - Dallas was in command of a Soviet tank battalion, featuring a company of T-72s, a smaller company of T-64s, and a motor rifle company mounted in BMP-2s, backed with some ZSU-23-4s for support.

The goal was to capture one of the objectives in the NATO half of the table within 8 turns...who would prevail?
Soviet T-64 MBTs make their debut on the table - what could go wrong?
In our previous "Team Yankee" games, a common dynamic on the table has seen the NATO tanks mowing down the larger numbers of Soviet MBTs.  But with the Leopard 1, it is not so easy...the armour of the Leopard 1 is much more modest, while the hitting power of the Leopard 1 seems to be limited - or, it is when using the West German stats for the Leopard 1, which we did...

Canadian Leopard C1s await the enemy...

A troop from the Royal Canadian Dragoons, ready for action

Dallas rolled forward confidently, but had to deal with some minefields that the NATO forces had deployed.  This had the effect of forcing Dallas to split his column a little bit, with the T-64s heading to the built-up-area, and the rest heading to the other side of the highway.

Canadian infantry defend the critical McPizza King - essential for control of this part of West Germany...

Another view of the mechanized infantry in defence of McPizza King
Mike made the most of the fact that his troops got to start dug-in and "gone-to-ground", so when the Canadians opened up, it was difficult for Dallas to respond with accurate fire.  Mike also called down copious amounts of 155mm artillery from RCHA batteries that were off-table.  It was a storm of fire for Dallas' Warsaw Pact command to wade through...

Another view of the Soviet advance - lots of green steel! The capitalist fools will tremble...
And yet...where in other "Team Yankee" games, the hits scored by NATO tanks are almost always fatal to the T-72s, with these 105mm shells on the Leopard 1 it was not so scary, and the Soviet tanks endured numerous hits without effect.  The 155mm artillery also had a very limited impact, and Dallas drove ahead aggressively.

The Canadian tankers score many hits, but few kills...

"Wow, that's a lot of tanks, eh?"
Worse for Mike, when Dallas' tanks managed to score a hit, it was almost always a fatal one, as the 125mm shells of the Warsaw Pact main guns ripped through the 1970s-era armour on the Canadian Leopard C1s...after a few turns, it was getting really tough for the Royal Canadian Dragoons...

Yikes! Tough losses as a troop of the RCD is wiped out by Soviet fire...

More burning Leopard C1s....getting rough for the Canadians...
Mike resorted to a very aggressive infantry counter attack to prevent Dallas from capturing an objective - even as he kept missing his roll for the Cobra helicopters to arrive!

Lots of tanks brewing up - but that big T-72 company is STILL in good spirits...
A decisive moment came when Mike sprang his ambush - a troop of Leopard C1s appeared behind Dallas' main spearhead, and they blasted the T-64s to pieces with a series of shots to the rear armour. OUCH. 
The Leopard C1 troop in "ambush" hit the Warsaw Pact troops pretty hard...
Dallas was able to direct some fire at the ambushing Leopards, and his BMPs directed some murderous fire on the attacking infantry and M113s from the RCR.  But it wasn't quite enough, and more T-72s started to brew up...

Widespread carnage on the table...always the sign of a good game, in our opinion!

So many knocked-out MBTs...
The final straw was the very late arrival of the US Cobra gunships.  Thanks to the "hunter killer" rule, the Soviet ZSUs were not able to score any hits on them, and the TOW missiles finished the T-72 company, breaking the Soviet assault.

US Cobra gunships add to the carnage with a bit of kill-stealing in the final turns
So, in the end it was a hard-fought victory for the Canadians - but they paid a heavy price, losing nearly an entire squadron of Leopard C1s and most of a mechanized infantry platoon.  A hard-fought game all around!  And you know the Soviets would have had another regiment rolling up the highway right behind these guys...

I can't wait to get the Canadians on the table again sometime, but I think we might try to fiddle with the stats a bit, especially for the Leopard C1s.  I think the 105mm gun should be at least as scary as the one on the M1 Abrams, as in this imaginary (thankfully) war, I expect the Canadian Leopards would be dishing out more abuse than the basic stats of the West German Leopard 1s would have them doing.

It was also interesting to get the T-64s on to the table...the edge they have of the T-72s is small, but still noticeable - the improved armour, and the option of the missile rounds make for an even more effective tank.  If and when they start to appear in larger numbers on our gaming tables, it should be interesting!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Painting Challenge Submission Seven - Leopard C1s for "Team Yankee"

Canadian Leopard C1s in 1/100 scale for "Team Yankee"

My pent-up interest in Cold War armour has been well and truly unleashed in this edition of the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge. I haven't painted this many 15mm tanks in several years, and it has been a lot of fun so far. I love tanks! After a couple of weeks of working up my West German Bundeswehr forces, we turn today to another NATO member - my home team, the Canadians!

In this I follow the trail blazed by Conscript Mike F.  A search through dusty old posts at the side of this blog will reveal his exhaustive efforts to put together a force of 1980s-era Canadian Forces in 15mm.  He started with Leopard 1s, and then did head swaps for infantry! Now THAT is commitment :)  Mike completed this project back in 2013, but it is still awesome, and as Battlefront's "Team Yankee" game arrived, these efforts were often in the back of my mind - I really wanted to get some Canadians into a game of "Team Yankee".

During most of the Cold War, and particularly the mid-80s period envisioned by the game "Team Yankee",  Canada's contribution to the forward-deployed land defences of West Germany was the 4th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group. They were based in the Central Front zone and were intended to act as a reserve for the US VII Corps or German II Corps. While the 4th CMBG was mostly a mechanized formation, with stoutinfantry of the Royal Canadian Regiment and the "Vandoos" trooping around in M113 APCs, the cutting edge were the Leopard C1s of the Royal Canadian Dragoons.

The Canadian contingent was not a large force overall compared to the other NATO elements in 1980s Western Europe, but it was well-trained and would have given a solid performance if called on, I have no doubt.  As I have mentioned in other Cold-War-Gone-Hot postings, thank goodness (at so many levels) that this is all fictional, as several friends, including a few Fawcett Avenue Conscripts, served in and around these formations...

Leopard C1 troop - 1/100 models from "Armies Army"
In NATO reserve, the Canadians could expect to be waiting for a Soviet breakthrough, and be sent to block it. NATO commanders would count on them them to stop and hold these Warsaw Pact elements for 24, 48 hours or longer, while other NATO formations rallied and counter-attacked.  The Leopard C1s of the Royal Canadian Dragoons would have been key to these operational expectations. So for me any "Team Yankee" games with Canadians would start with getting models to represent the Leopard C1s.

Armies Army models - showing the lovely casting of the low-light TV system over the mantlet, and the FN MAG on the cupola
The Leopard 1 was a widely exported tank, and trying to make sense of all the countless small variations that seem to emerge on the different versions used by different nations (Canada, Belgium, Denmark, Australia, Italy, Brazil, and more) gives one a headache. And while I'm not much of a rivet-counter (or so I like to believe, at least), I still get bugged by little details, small things here and there that still stand out on even small model.  Get them right, and bang, it all "looks" right!  Get them wrong and it's...well, it's OK...but it just bugs me...

Leopard C1 in 1/100 scale from Plastic Soldier Company - the FN MAG on the cupola is from Peter Pig; the decals on this tank are 1/87 - and the Canadian flag on the front plate is my own useful identifier for tabletop purposes...I don't think they actually had a big marking on the front of the tanks like that...
In the case of the Leopard C1s, two such "little details" nagged at me.  One was the targeting system mounting on the main gun mantlet - a container for a low-light TV and other gadgetry designed to help the gunners engage targets in darkness. On the Bundeswehr Leopard 1s this is a box-shaped gadget, but on the Canadian C1s it is a sort-of rounded cage. Why? Well, the Canadians had a different camera/targeting system. The other "little detail" is the cupola MG.  On the Bundeswehr tanks this is an MG3 (a.k.a. MG42), but the Canadian Forces had a 7.62mm MG, I think it was the FN MAG, mounted up there.  Even in a very small scale like 1/100, the MG3 has such an iconic silhouette that the vehicle looks German.

Should either of these things really matter on a 1/100 scale model of a tank? Well, no...but...yes! What is wrong with me?  I'm such a DORK.

Another view of the PSC models...the targeting camera is not as detail as it is on the Armies Army model, but still great and well done to PSC for thinking of those sorts of "little things"...
The popularity of the period and scale sparked by the entry of a large player like Battlefront has inspired the creativity of some of the smaller figure companies to step up and offer more models. Plastic Soldier Company issued a box of plastic Leopard 1s that could be built as the "C1" variant used by the Canadian Forces. "Armies Army", another fringe-ish producer of cool 15mm figures did even more, producing, in late 2017, a full range of Canadian infantry, Leopard C1s, M113s, M150s (APCs with a TOW launcher) and even the Lynx recon tracks. WOW. So of course I ordered a bunch of everything...so here we go...naturally the Leopards were first under the brush...

There are nine tanks in the photos here - three are from the Plastic Soldier Company, and the balance are from Armies Army.  The Plastic Soldier Company models are a treat to assemble, and they have options for the little targeting camera on the mantlet to suit the Canadian variant, which is just great for a nutter like me! Only downside if the cupola MG is still the German MG3, and that is the only option on the sprue.  I worked around that by swapping in some FN MAGs from a pack of Peter Pig 1/100 IDF Centurion Shots that I haven't painted yet (long-abandoned Lebanon project - don't ask).

The Armies Army vehicles are a mix of resin and metal parts. I love that the Armies Army variant comes with all of the proper accessories - the FN MAG for the cupola, a well-sculpted thermal jacket on the main gun barrel, etc.  PLUS he sells you tons of stowage, something I will add more on later. But they are slightly trickier to assemble - you don't get the razor-sharp precision you do with the plastic kits from PSC. With the treads in particular there were a few challenges...but in all, the Armies Army effort is just so cool because it is so utterly complete - EVERYTHING you could want - well aligned to the mind of a wargaming nutter like me!

AND, major bonus, you can get DECALS! Yes, the little things that really finish off the models! The downside is that, other than the maple leaf on the turret, the decals are hard to see, as they are small and the black stencils don't show well on the green.  Or, they might show in the photos if I ever purchase a light box - but, if you ever see me buying one of those, you'll know I have finally painted every single figure and model I ever want to paint and have moved on to less important things...but anyway...

Ready to roll out against the Warsaw Pact, eh?
It's just as good that most of the symbols don't show up too much...the Canadian forces used a series of call signs, numbers, letters and symbols on their vehicles that would leave ancient Byzantine commanders asking "Are you sure? Seems a touch complicated..." Mostly I just wanted to be sure the Maple Leaf showed up on the tabletop - and it does!  One of the tanks you see here does have larger decals than the others - these are from a 1/87 scale decal sheet, while the rest are from Armies Army 1/100 decals.  I reason the one with the larger decals is just an extreme patriot of some sort, and I'll use it as a Squadron commander or something.

Keen to try any of these models yourself? I would say "go nuts" with either provider, but to further confuse things (so appropriate for a post about Leopard 1s and Canadians), Plastic Soldier Company appears to have acquired Armies Army...all involved are excellent folks to deal with, and it looks like PSC will sell the Armies Army range.  Should be good news long term, and you can take your pick of Leopard 1 models!

Furthermore, Battlefront itself has hinted at providing figures for Canadians later this year, part of a rules expansion to be called "Free Nations" or something similar...but if you are like me, and you don't like waiting, go visit PSC right now!

Anyway, these tanks joined Mike's established collection to receive a baptism of fire on the gaming table last night...and as newly-painted models...well, you know how that goes...stay tuned for a separate blog post about that...

Big thanks to Mike F for the inspiration, assistance with decals and sources of information on the 4th CMBG. Also want to give a shout-out to Stanley Martens and his similar efforts (check them out here) - very inspiring stuff Stanley, and your posts were very, very helpful! I have a few more models to finish to round out the Squadron, and from there it will be on to some Canadian infantry...stay tuned!