Monday, February 8, 2016

Team Yankee - (Some) Russian Are Coming!

Up next for the "Team Yankee" project
I'm keen to start playing some "Team Yankee" soon.  My initial US forces are finished off - Battlefront releases are so slow to arrive there is nothing much to add right now other than US tanks and helicopters anyway. But we are keen to start shooting up some bad guys, and that means Russians!  So I have made a start, working my way through some of the Soviet forces on the painting table.

T-72 test model - plastic kit from Battlefront

The main starting force for the Soviets is the "Potecknov's Bears" box - seems to be named on a Soviet character from the "Team Yankee" novel, although I haven't read the novel, so I don't know for certain if he is in there :)  The box is a big ol' pile of plastic models - 9 T-72s (you get a bonus one if you purchased the box early enough) and two Hind attack helicopters.

Plastic is soooooo overrated for 15mm gaming much effort to reinvent the wheel
As ever, the focus on multi-part plastic models is, in my view, a very mixed blessing. On the upside, the miniatures are fairly straightforward to assemble.  On the downside, the plastic can be brittle (see photo), and there are some challenging parts to assembly which, while far from impossible, are needlessly fiddly.  On the T-72s, the extra fuel drums are multi-part exercises...the fit is not great, and you usually end up with a big seam that needs filing down. 

A completed T-72, before receiving primer/base coat
Even harder to work with is the attachment of the so-called "bog log", the unditching beams common to Soviet MBTs. The connection for this component on the T-72 models (at the rear, below the fuel racks) is mostly a fantasy, and so tenuous that it doesn't survive any dry-brushing, and they will usually fall off .  On the 10 tanks I have been working on, eight of the beams have fallen off in the first pass with the brush, and I have been re-mounting them in a different spot on the back of the tank.

A final, very delicate frustration with these models is the smoke launchers, which sit on the front of the turret on either side.  You will need some very, very delicate clippers to get these removed safely from the frames, and while there is flash on them, the removal of that flash, without snapping them apart, is almost impossible. Fortunately, once you paint them, the flash is not that noticeable.

T-72 test model - note the "bog log" had to be re-glued to a part of the model which was more realistic for extended use...
Is there upside? Sure! I mean, 10 tanks is 10 tanks, and as long as you have some patience and some really good clippers, you will have a T-72 company in no time at all.  There are decals, and there are lots of tank commanders that come with the kits as well.  And the inclusion of mine plows is a really neat touch - you get a set with every frame, so you could have a whole bunch of the suckers if you like.

Soviet motor rifles - infantry from Eureka, BMP-2 from Battlefront
The Battlefront Soviet infantry is nowhere in sight at the stores yet (although they have been released).  Fortunately there are some options out there for impatient folks like me, namely the excellent 15mm modern Russians from Eureka.  I expect these models are a little later along in their kit (more late 80s, early 90s) than the kit envisioned for the Russians from the Team Yankee novel (which I believe is 1985).  But in 15mm, it's close enough for me. The figures are beauties, and Eureka is super easy to deal with.  Really, the only issue is they do not have figures using the RPK, but I'll overlook that.  I've been working on a company's worth of the lads for a couple weeks now.

To be "motor rifles" you'll need, well, something with a motor! Enter the BMPs.  Battlefront has released multi-part plastic models for these, which you can build as either a BMP-1 or BMP-2.  Again, very fiddly to assemble - and in the case of the BMP-2, the assembly instructions overlook the IR searchlight beside the gun on the turret.  But 10 BMPs is 10 BMPs, and so the work goes on...again, with patience and a careful set of hobby clippers, you'll be in good shape.

Just need to repeat this another 20 times or so and I'll have a motor rifle battalion ready!
So, all told, for my Team Yankee Soviets I've got over 100 infantry castings and 20 vehicles in different stages of painting completion right now.  I also have the two Hind helicopters from the box underway - will ruminate on those separately in a later post. I'm hopeful of making a submission in time for this Saturday in Curt's Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge, but I'm getting so badly killed in that race that my motivation to stay close has died down significantly, so it'll be done when it's done, whether this Saturday, or another one...

Painting Challenge Theme Entry - Whacko Turret

Some big gunz for 30k/40k

So I actually painted some terrain! Hell didn't freeze over (as Byron may suspect), but doubtless it was a little chilly down there two weeks ago as I actually completed a piece of terrain for the latest bonus theme round in Curt's Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge.  This whacko turret is from the "Vengeance Battery", a line of plastic 40k terrain from GW, known with suitable melodrama as the "Wall of Martyrs".  As with many GW 40k pieces these days, the "Wall of Martyrs" holds great promise, but is unfortunately so contaminated with skullz that its hard to really dive into them.

But this turret, equipped, I believe, with a Punished Cannon, should be fun.  I was able to leave quite a few of the skullz off, and the ones I was stuck with, well, they kind just work on this.  I can see this turret guarding anything from a critical military installation or governor's palace...or just being set in place to keep an eye on a day the dystopian world of the 40k Imperium, big guns are needed to point at just about everything, after all...

The goofy skullz on this one kinda work for me...
I look forward to putting this out for a 40k/30k game sometime - perhaps in a situation where the players are not 100% certain who is in control of the turret from turn to turn...that's always fun!

The next bonus theme round is "amour". I have no idea what to paint for that, so I expect it will be the first bonus theme round that I skip out on this year - so far I've made three of them, and that is three more than I expected...

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Eighth Painting Challenge Entry - The Raven Guard Arrive!

Raven Guard tactical squad for 30k
My eighth Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge entry is a squad of "good guys" for 30k Horus Heresy - a squad of ten Space Marines from the XIX Legion, known as the "Raven Guard".  The models are 28mm, new multi-part plastics from GW's "Betrayal at Calth" box set, but the embossed logo shoulder pads are from Forge World. The Marines are wearing Mark IV power armour.

To date I have been painting the followers of Horus in 28mm - believers in "Horus for Hope" :) These are the first "good guys" I have painted for this setting and this scale.  Dallas has been carrying the Loyalist side in our gaming group, with a beautiful collection of Marines from the Blood Angels.  And, of course, the setting is very malleable, so you can even have the Sons of Horus, World Eaters, Death Guard and others fighting among themselves, representing the early stages of the fighting as Horus and his followers removed the loyalists from their own ranks on the world of Istvaan III.
Trooper and comms trooper
Another view - I like the comms unit a lot - nice accessory
I'm a certified 30k nut, and I thought it would be fun to do some Loyalist troops as well. I just wasn't sure which legion to try.  The Salamanders? I'm already painting enough green guys. The Iron Hands? Too weird.  The Blood Angels? Cool, but Dallas already has them covered.  The Imperial Fists? Very, very cool, but man...yellow is hard to paint in 28mm...(more on that later).  The Ultramarines? Blue is a cool colour, but they are so lame...they kinda had what happened at Calth coming to them.  The White Scars? I'm already painting enough fellows in white armour.  The Dark Angels? Meh.  And the Space Wolves? LOL.

(Note - smug Legion opinions are entirely subjective, with no real logic behind them - YMMV.  Surely someone out there is doing an awesome job painting up super cool Ultramarines...)

So how about the Raven Guard? Well, neat Legion. Nice back story without excessive emo drama or imaginary self-pity. Cool logo. Funky special troops. The roman numeral - XIX - has a nice look. The name "Raven Guard" opens the possibility of Edgar Allan Poe references. We might be on to something here...

But the Raven Guard get kind of a raw deal in the story - their Legion (along with the Salamanders and the Iron Hands) get caught in a battle known as the "drop site massacre", slaughtered in a trap set by Horus and his followers on the world of Istvaan V. 

Legion Sergeant - I love the comb on these figures...kinda whacky...
This kind of deterred me.  After all, "Who wants to play drop site massacre? That should be fun!"  But as I read into their background, the story grew on me. While the Legion took huge losses in the drop site incident, several thousand troops survived. I can imagine they would be pretty pissed about what happened, and keen to keep on fighting, making for some good potential scenarios!
Ready for deployment to Istvaan...what could go wrong?
While most references have the Raven Guard in black armour, I thought I would do them in a very dark grey instead, with a black shoulder plate and a stark, white Legion symbol.  I got this idea from the Forge World guys - they painted up one of the Raven Guard dreadnoughts on their web site in this way. I'm pleased with how it turned out, and I like it a whole lot more than trying to paint so much black!

The plastics from the Betrayal at Calth box set are very well done, providing the basis for a solid starting force of these fellows.  I hope to add quite a few more before this Painting Challenge is concluded.  Ten 28mm troops will get me 50 points for my sci-fi and Horus Heresy side duels...not enough, but starting to catch up! 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Seventh Painting Challenge Submission - "Bannon's Boys" for Team Yankee

"Bannon's Boys" - 15mm Moderns from Battlefront
Switching a few gears, in this submission for Curt's Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge we head over to another favourite period of mine (I seem to have a lot of those) - 15mm "Cold War Gone Hot".  Of course, the big news in this space has been the release of "Team Yankee" by Battlefront.  While I can't say much about the novel which inspired the rules, (I had to settle for the comics, and they weren't great, although I wish I still had them), and "Flames of War" style rules have a lot of warts, I am pleased to see a serious entity like Battlefront enter the space, because it means some ready access at last to a consistent line of figures of decent quality. 

"Army" box from Battlefront
M1 Abrams sprues...I, for one, do not bow down to our new plastic overlords

Battlefront's first releases for this range were for the US and Soviet sides.  The US box is called "Bannon's Boys", named after the US Commander of "Team Yankee" from the novel.  This submission has the whole box painted - six M1 Abrams tanks, two AH-1 Cobra helicopter gunships, and a resin terrain marker, an M577, a command variant of the ubiquitous M113 armoured personnel carrier.

Seriously...f*** plastic, I tell ya....this was the mounting for one of the flight stands
With the exception of the M577, the models are all plastic, multi-part kits.  So many gamers seem to be thrilled by this, but I have never seen a plastic model in 15mm that would not have been better in metal, or even resin, and these were no exception.  Battlefront has improved the quality of its plastic (although that's faint praise), but the assembly, while straightforward, is a real, fiddly pain in the @ss.

After all the cursing is M1 Abrams, ready for action

Each sprue of M1 tanks has two of each MG you will need (I stupidly interpreted this as an option to mount two .50 cal MGs on the cupola, seen on my first test model here - oops!).  But they actually do this "in case one of them breaks".  Um...isn't that telling you something about your plastic?  I can't help but imagine what one of these things would be like if done by the great folks at Peter Pig. Beefy, proper metal with nice definition that you can just paint the sh*t out of.

And yet, well, they are not done by Peter Pig, so my wishing is irrelevant! The competitors here are really QRF (with very variable quality), and Khurasan potentially, depending on your flavour of M1 Abrams. I believe Khurasan has the M1A2, which is a most current version of this beast.  The "Team Yankee" setting, in the mid 80s, has the original M1, with a 105mm gun.  So whatever my issues with plastic models in 15mm, I do have to say, vs. the competitors, Battlefront wins here in my view. YMMV.

AH-1 Cobra - assembly of the rocket pods and TOW missiles is super fun - NOT
Assembly of the Cobra helicopters was even trickier.  Again, in many ways - wow! Having useful helicopter models is cool.  In fact, having helos racing around the table shooting sh*t to bits in a key appeal of this period. And hey, if these were metal, mounting them would be a serious pain - but multi-part rocket pods and TOW missile racks for a 15mm model? Who is out there going "yay, can't wait to glue my fingers to these!" F*** that!!!  Just make one piece castings for God's sake! 

And again - are there competing models? Maybe some 1/100 kits out there, but those would not be less complicated than these ones.  So, my ranting aside (and MAN did I HATE putting multipart rocket pods together), these things whip the available competition.  YMMV. 

Tank commander in the cupola, good way to mark out a command tank
I have a photo up above there in the post of what happened to one of the plastic flight stands during assembly.  That was the mount for one of the had to be glued to the stand in pieces! That was a lot of fun!

Col. Reynold's Command Post - this is a one-piece deal done in resin
They give you magnets for the helicopters - very thoughtful - but again, sooooo tricky...I
just went without them.  The rotors will last as long as they last, and they sit well on the flights stands, even the broken one, without the magnets. But you hobby aces out there will be able to detach your rotors for storage - a neat idea overall.

This was a neat piece, nice for the table
So, anyway, voluminous amounts of cursing aside, it all got built, and primed, and under the paint brush over the past two weeks. I tried to copy the "MERDC" paint used by the US forces in the time period the "Team Yankee" novel is set...the results are OK.  I don't like to bother with airbrushes, so I just used the plain old brush, and it turned out alright, good enough to stand against the Soviet hordes!

Propaganda photos - the M1s have knocked out some T-80s and are rolling out...
The decals on the ground vehicles are hard to see...would have been nicer if the numerals and chevrons were white, but I'm not sure they actually were...I don't know the US forces of this era well (hence my screw up with the .50 cal over the loader's cupola).  They also did not include enough decals for both helicopters, so one of them is missing the hilarious "danger" sign pointing to the rear rotor - this is a more danger-mind crew, perhaps?

Looking forward to a game with these fellows
I already have a smattering of Russians in 15mm, so I wanted to paint some US troops first in the hopes of getting the rules out for a test drive sometime soon with our group.  Since I have run out of Americans (the infantry and other models are still riding on whatever snail-managed hot air balloon Battlefront uses to ship products to retailers), the Russians will be up next. In the meantime, hopefully our friend Mike F might be amenable to bringing out his awesome 15mm WARPAC Russian collection for a game soon...

The command post is a great little item
Battlefront is planning to do West Germans and UK forces for this setting as well.  Both sides are way more interesting to me (Chieftains! Leopards!), so I hope those models appear soon, but with Battlefront, it could be six months at least before we see anything - so for now, we will prepare for the US and Soviet Union to fill the table with flaming tank wreckage!

Cobras cover the US advance

These nine 15mm vehicles gave me 54 points for my little side race with Byron and Curt. It's good to see a jolt of new modern 15mm stuff rolling out into the market, and I'm looking forward to getting these fellows on to the table.  Whatever my frustrations with plastic models in this scale, at the end of the day I do recognize Battlefront is making a major effort here, and it's in a period I'm really keen on.  Proceed carefully with the fiddly bits, and you will have some fun forces to collect and shoot up on the table.  Already these six tanks and two helos comprise a fairly significant force for a game of Team Yankee.

What's next for "Bannon's Boys"? As newly painted miniatures, I'm confident they will dominate the tabletop whenever they make their debut :) Hopefully we'll have some WARPAC Soviets ready for submissions later this week, and a game in a couple of weeks!  Or sooner, if Mike F is around :)

Monday, January 25, 2016

Sixth Painting Challenge Submission - A Double-Crossed Fellow...

There is not too much in terms of painting volume for this submission to the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge, but it is one I'm glad to be finished with, as it was a long overdue "Curtgeld" - the "admission fee" of sorts to Curt's Painting Challenge.  All participants are asked to submit a figure to Curt based on the theme of a given Challenge.  There was one a couple years ago with an "Old West" theme, a period I have little knowledge of, and not much interest in.  Dallas bailed me out, providing me with this fellow to paint and submit.

But lacking focus as I do, I never got around to it! So I decided I should get off my @ss and get it finished.  So here is an old west casting...he looks grouchy, like he's been double-crossed - maybe in a card game, maybe while out prospecting, who knows...but a double-barreled gun will sort out any double-crossing situation, I'm sure.

I don't know the origin of this figure, or who sculpted it.  Dallas may know more...I had thought perhaps he was from Wargames Foundry, but many participants in the Painting Challenge were certain it was from Dixon - so Curt christened him "Double Cross Dixon".  I like the name.

These "Curtgeld" submissions get you 20 points in the Challenge.  I'm closing in on the 300 point mark...hope to get there next week! I've got some Team Yankee and Horus Heresy stuff on the go, hopefully I can bear down and get some of that finished for Saturday. And a big "thank you" to Dallas once again for kindly providing this miniature.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Painting Challenge Theme Submission - "Epic Fail"

A grim fate for this T-55 and crew...vignette from Peter Pig
As Curt's Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge cracks along, I have actually managed to enter two of the consecutive Bonus Theme Rounds.  The first was "Nostalgia", and the second, due this past weekend, was "Epic Fail".  Here is my submission for that round - a vignette of a knocked out T-55, painted in a variant of camouflage used by the Syrian army in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

I generally avoid casualty figures, as they are kind of grim, and too much like painting terrain, which I hate doing.  But this little vignette from Peter Pig has been sitting around the pending pile for years, waiting for a coat of paint, and the Challenge was just the right spur to get it done.

The Syrian attack on the Golan Heights in 1973 caught Israel by surprise in a strategic sense, but the tankers on the Golan that day October would have seen the attack coming from their well-sited and prepared defensive positions, and the outnumbered IDF Centurion crews extracted a fearsome toll from the Syrian attackers.  Many Syrian T-55s met the fate seen such this is a perfect, if somewhat haunting, piece of terrain for 1973 games.

The next bonus theme is "Defensive Terrain".  I despise painting terrain of any sort, so I'm not sure I will come up with anything for that round but I still have a couple of weeks, so we'll see. 

As always, I encourage you to check out the Challenge and the Bonus Theme Round page to see all sorts of creative work by the Challengers.  You should take some particular time to check out Byron's outstanding "Epic Fail" submission - off the hook, and worthy of your time, and even votes if you can spare the clicks!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Team Yankee Test Model - M1 Abrams

M1 Abrams in 15mm from Battlefront
I finished off a test model for my "Team Yankee" US forces.  This is a plastic M1 Abrams from Battlefront's US boxed set "Bannon's Boys".  I haven't painted modern stuff in a while, and I've never painted US stuff in this setting at all, so I wanted to practice a bit.  In particular I wanted to see if I could manage the US camouflage of the period in question, which I think is known as "MERDC".

Bit of a blurry view from the rear aspect
This is where the real hobby guys will crack out their airbrush, but I generally avoid those things, and gave it my best shot with my boring old regular paint brushes. Battlefront is great for tutorials and tips, and this was no exception with a nice little section at the back of the "Team Yankee" rule book offering helpful step-by-step guides on painting US and Soviet kit.

I tried to "pop" the lenses a bit, just to add some life to the otherwise slightly bland (if menacing) overall appearance
The results? Well, a solid "meh".  It's funny how rusty I felt painting this up, and I'm not sure I quite matched the brown correctly.  At first I tried a brown craft paint ("Chocolate Brown", from the Americana range), but the pigment in that is too thin and the green base coat was bleeding through.  So I switched over to GW's (stupidly named) "XV88".  That paint has a nice, strong pigment and covered very well.

And an airbrush would surely give a nicer results, but I don't feel like confronting the hassle of an airbrush for this project. The tank started to look better after I weathered it up a bit. It will do well enough for a fight on the table.

"Gunner - target, Soviet T-72...."
I kind of regret opting for the attempted MERDC now - maybe I should have gone with a straight green tank, representing a reinforcing National Guard unit, or perhaps just a replacement from the divisional depot which had been waiting for new camouflage.  But now that I've done the one tank, I think I'm kind of stuck with it for now...there are six M1s in the "Bannon's Boys" box, and from I can tell in the "Team Yankee" rules, that seems like plenty.   I think I can manage five more of these...then on to the Cobra helicopters!
UPDATE - January 19, 2016 - many thanks to Tacobat for (politely) pointing out that I had messed with the turret MGs, mounting two .50 cal MGs on the turret, when in fact the MG over the loader's hatch is an M240 MG, not the .50 cal.  What can I say? I looked like the .50 cal on the instructions...

Corrected MGs on the turret
Anyway, fortunately I hadn't thrown the plastic sprues away, so last night I was able to replace the errant .50 cal with the proper MG.  And now I will do it for the other five tanks I built *cough*.

M240 over the loader's hatch
While I was "at the store", I recalled how Tacobat had also noted, in a series of helpful turorials, that little dabbed lines of contrast colour can offer a helpful "chipped" look on some edges of a big slab of armour like the M1 Abrams, so I tried a little bit of that too.  The effect is subtle - probably doesn't show in the photos much - but I like it and I'm glad I remembered that. 

Ready to roll...for real this time...
Thanks to Tacobat - and be sure to check out his blog, "Modern Warfare" - the painting skill on display will blow your mind.