Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Schwarm Tiger

The Schwarm Tiger out for some preliminary maneuvers on the dining room table
In the annals of the wargaming hobby, what could possibly be less original than doing up a German Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B, the notorious "King Tiger"? Well, how about a Schwarm Tiger?

Up there with the French Old Guard Grenadiers and the British 95th Rifles of the Napoleonic era, and any  40k faction(s) involving input from Gav Thorpe, the Tiger tanks of the German WW2 panzer lineup are one of the great paradoxes in wargaming.  There were not very many of them, and compared to the other weapons in the arsenal, they saw very little action.  Yet every wargamer seems to have them, and every rules system that makes an accommodation for them bestows them with a table-dominating prowess that belies the numerous actual problems and challenges that dominated the day-to-day action they did see.

Left to their own devices, I'm sure many hard-core Flames of War gamers would roll with an "army" where the King Tigers are so prevalent they might as well be staff cars, and the non-Tiger support choices are all direct-firing Hummels with a few Jagdtigers thrown in for variety.  They would smile and tell you it's all good, because they "paid the points".

I like to laugh at this, but in truth I am a hypocrite. I am as stuck into it as any gamer. I may not do the "all King Tiger army", but I still like to roll with the heavy kit. Big guns are fun. I've got a Death Wing force for 40k (although ironically this not actually powerful on the table, but anyway).  I have super heavy tanks for my Imperial Guardsmen in 40k. We've played spearhead scenarios pitting the big cats against the Soviet hordes - and in one funny instance, they didn't even need to engage. We've also used the King Tiger in the odd 28mm WW2 game, either as an objective or as a participant (last stand in Berlin - that was a fun game, although I recall Brian H knocking the King Tiger out with a bit of an iffy shot that left me doing a bit of a sulk).

These are fun games, and as long as the scenario is sensible, you avoid an actual 40K-i-fication of a historical encounter.  Pushing tanks around is fun - and using the toughest tanks with the biggest guns out there is lots of fun.  Knocking them out of action is even more fun (well, for the other players)!

And so the Gün Schwarm. The Güns already have Panthers, and a pimped-out Hetzer. In this context, the Schwarm Tiger will fit right in.  Besides, we face the deadly T-640.  Time to embrace the enjoyment of the big tanks and big guns, and get one for the Güns.

Hobbymaster had put out a 1/48 Scale King Tiger, so last year I acquired one on EBay and took the old hatchet, some tank sprue bits and tried to see what I could come up with.... then I moved, etc. etc. blah blah delay etc. I finally found the thing last week, and thought "what the heck, let's see what I can come up with..."

"Before" - a Hobbymaster 1:48 scale King Tiger tank
First off, just a quick acknowledgement that the Hobbymaster model is quite beautiful.  It felt like sacrilege to hack it.  But once I had cut the barrel off, I was kind of committed....

I mounted the requisite absurd smooth bore cannon and a co-axial laser. I hacked off the cupola, and replaced it with a cupola from a Space Marine Predator/Rhino kit.  I wanted the model to have a bit of eminence, so that called for a tank commander in the hatch. I opted for a Death Korps tank commander and heavy stubber combo from Forge World.  I popped a couple of technical-plate looking things from assorted GW kits on the odd open spot - and there were not too many because the model already has a beautiful bunch of stowage, cables etc. A heavy bolter went to replace the MG on the hull.

The GW tank search light is mandatory on all SpaceKrieg vehicles, no matter the faction
And of course, we needed the standard issue Future War searchlight.
Gün Grenadiers on propaganda maneuvers with the Schwarm Tiger
So far my Gün Schwarm vehicles have all been a single colour - a dark mustard-looking yellow.  A heavy hitter like this tank should stand out, so I bucked up and decided this would be the model where I would try a bunch of different stuff - the Battlefront spray paint, the airbrush, pigment powders.  What the heck?
Rust splotches courtesy of Forge World pigment powders
I primed the whole thing black, then sprayed a coat of "German Armour (Mid/Late)" paint from Battlefront.  This was actually a big change for me - I only spray black, and then paint everything else, as it seems to be the only way my painting approach can cope.  But several people have recommended these sprays, and they were right.  I can see how people can crank out FOW tanks by the platoon using them. I'm glad I tried them, and look forward to using them on other models.
I imagine that the environment on FuturKom worlds would be hard on paint coats
Up next was the air brush.  Oh man, what an adventure that was.  I wanted to replicate some variant of the infamous German "ambush" camouflage pattern - aka the pattern that was already pre-painted on to the model (don't get me started - I like to paint things, or try to, myself - it's a hangup). I have always been wary/afraid of airbrushes, and envious of those who are not.  I like to paint camouflage on to troops and vehicles, even "sprayed" patterns, and will try every trick I can think of just to avoid the airbrush.

Why don't I like airbrushes? To me, adding a mechanical element with all sorts of variables to painting just seems like a big pain in the *ss, and minimal value for the effort. But now was the time to be bold! So off I went...

The Hobbymaster vehicle had great stowage already on the model
Let's just say it was a very messy process.  I hate a lot about airbrushing.  The airbrush is so needy. The paints have to be thinned - or at least some of them do.  The containers involved all seem to be designed to preclude the notion that you would ever be pouring the paint or the thinner into yet another container, so it's a frigging mess. 

The results were uneven, to put it mildly.  The brown and the green worked out OK, but I found that I had covered too much of the yellow.  So I tried some Tamiya yellow-green, and I think it had too much thinner, so it went on kinda funny.  And the whole time I was not really protecting my tank commander from the paint, so he was acquiring many layers of paint for no reason. My summary of using an airbrush - @#$@#$@#$@#$!!!!
I tried to put a lot of rust coloured pigment powder on the vents and exhaust
Thank the powers-that-be for GW's Devlan Mud wash!  A wash of that stuff served to bring a useful tint back to the yellow.  I followed up by using a sponge to dab spots of GW Desert Yellow over the airbrushed Tamiya yellow-green.  I concentrated on some areas where the border between the yellow and the other colours had turned out really runny-looking.  I then dry-brushed the whole thing with the same GW Desert Yellow, and found the pattern had become serviceable, if dark.  But that is one of the advantages of an imaginary sci-fi setting - any camouflage you apply will be appropriate for some place.  It's a terrible rendering of German WW2 ambush camouflage, but fine for Gün Schwarm.

The Templar decal serves as an air identification marker for the tank, to try and keep the SchwarmWaffe from strafing its own side on the battlefield...
I used an Americana black paint to cover the stowage, tank commander, treads etc and go down to some more standard painting for these elements.  Finishing the tank commander was tricky, as he had many extra layers of paint already on him from the priming and various airbrush coats, but here didn't turn out too bad. I painted the tops of the open tank hatches with GW Kommando Khaki to mirror a different internal paint colour for the vehicle.  A layer of gloss was next to prepare for the decals, which were a mix of tactical numbers from the excellent "Company B", and Black Templar decal from a GW Space Marine sheet.  The model then received a hit of dullcote.

The suitably absurd-sized main gun; advanced tech on the turret prevents decapitation of the gunners due to recoil on the gun mount...
Weathering was up next.  I tried to get all clever and mix some rust coloured weathering powder with an acrylic medium.  I hoped to get the pigment to wash into crevices etc.  This didn't work - as opposed to some kind of wicked IPMS-style rust effect, I ended up with a dab of brown-looking acrylic paint.  Oh well. Plan B - a dry application of the pigment powder, and this worked much better. I went really hard on the spare track sections hanging on the turret - I wanted those to have rusty finish, to show the vehicle has seen hard service on some FuturKom industrial planet. I used some black pigment powder on some of the exhaust areas and the muzzle of the main gun. I also painted some chipped areas using GW Dark Flesh and GW Boltgun Metal.
Propaganda maneuvers with Panzer 2050 Ausf. F
And so we have a Schwarm Tiger, ready to join the fight against Kommulism.  I imagine this will operate much like its WW2 inspiration - dispatched to the front in a battalion-sized unit that was worn out by the FuturKom hordes to platoon-sized detachments in no time.  The tank is slow and prone to breakdowns. The Gün techs struggle to perform the maintenance needed on the vehicle's complicated systems, including its insane 135mm smooth bore high-velocity cannon, even as the commanders clamour to keep the thing in the front line.  I'm looking forward to putting this thing on the table, and watching it get knocked out on the first turn...

As for the airbrush, at least I've tried it.  Like anything, I'm sure it will get a bit better with practice.  But I remain envious of those folks that know how to make them work properly.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Gün Schwarm Heavy Duty Sniper Team - System Troopers from Pig Iron Productions

"Starbucks spotted at three kilometres...."
Sometimes you need to sure something will get put down. With that in mind, we have a really heavy duty sniper team from Pig Iron Productions' System Trooper line.  The team has two figures, a spotter and a sniper sporting the sci-fi power armoured version of a Barrett Sniper Rifle.
Bird watching? FuturKom watching? Both?
Why do power armoured troopers need a sniper rifle? Who knows? But if power armoured troops are going to need to snipe things, you might as well have a very heavy looking sniper rifle, and Pig Iron delivers on this score.  The trooper holding the sniper rifle is a large casting, and it would not fit on a normal 25mm base so I mounted it on a larger 30mm one.
The super heavy sniper rifle of the future...

The models are also wearing camouflage cloaks.  I made a bit of an effort to match the camp pattern to the colours of the groundwork I've been using on the Gün Schwarm bases.  I think the results were a bit mixed, but it still turned out OK. 
Camouflage cloak - 3XL for the power armoured troops...
Maybe the only drawback of these figures is the lack of separate heads - the only System Trooper models without the separate heads.  So I couldn't match the helmets to the "Kolony Inner Guard" ones I used on my other Gün Schwarm power armoured troops. Looking at the castings, though, I'm not sure how sculpting the separate heads would have worked out.  Also, the helmet is mostly covered, so the difference does not stand out too badly. 

I really enjoy the heavy duty look of the rifle on this model, and I can easily see them putting a heavy calibre futuristic anti-everything round through all sorts of FuturKom stuff, including the driver plates on APCs (a virtual certainty if Mike F is rolling to hit).  I'm continuing to add more power armoured troops, and hopefully they will be ready for a confrontation with FuturKom (and their mercenary allies?) on the table soon. 

IR #4 - 28mm Austrian Napoleonics

I Battalion, IR#4 - models from Victrix
Another batch of recruits have joined my Austrian collection.  This the first battalion, IR #4.  The models are plastics from Victrix.  These models faced several serious painting challenges, and also a little delay for bases, so I'm pretty chuffed to have them finished.   As with my other infantry units, it is beefy - 38 infantry and a single mounted model.

Waiting for the basing goop to dry

Colour party shows the variety of officers that come with the box
I scoffed and scoffed and scoffed at Victrix and their seemingly-endless delays between announcing these models and finally having them for sale.  But Victrix is laughing in the end. 

The box provides a good variety of poses, with minimal assembly
These plastics are incredible.  The assembly is minimal (and I understand from other gamers who have the Victrix French and British figures that assembly was a real challenge there).  The range of poses is still significant - everything from marching to loading to firing.   You get ample stuff for command, including a full selection of different heads for different officers, and two mounted officers.  The price is reasonable. Order from Maelstrom, and you won't even pay shipping. So hats off to Victrix for taking the cynicism of hacks like me and spiking it back hard and with authority!

A nice change from the "monopose" feel you get with Foundry stuff

The mounted officer is really into it - probably some schnapps hidden under the saddle....
The level of detail on these figures is very, very impressive for plastics.  Sure, there are a couple of detail lines that are a bit weak, and if you have sh*t primer I like I did, that can get really tricky, but these are top notch figures.  They even managed to get a cipher on the cartridge boxes.  Little details like that put these models at the top of the game.

You can see the Imperial ciphers on the cartridge boxes...a neat detail
I love how the foot-sloggers have a bit of a down-cast to their poses.  They look stoic, but with a sense of "Oh Christ, here we go again..." as they move to face off against the French, probably able to hear the French "pas-de-charge" beating through the smoke. They are ready to fight hard, but have little confidence their officers have put them in the right place or left them any real support to face the hard hitting French troops.  Nonetheless, their own (declining) Empire is on the line, and they are ready to give it their best...

Huge Austrian units are a wargaming tradition of sorts
My Austrian roster now stands at six full line battalions (one Grenz battalion, four German battalions and one Hungarian battalion), four guns, two cavalry regiments, and a unit of skirmishers, but the recruiting can't stop.  I would love to do more Victrix units, but I still have a pile of Foundry lead left, so I'm racking those up for another unit - trying for a "firing line" this time.  It will also be a little smaller - 32 model "spots" instead of 40 - a "normal" size.  While the oversize Austrian line unit is kind of an old standby for Napoleonic gamers, I think the extent to which those huge units were actually in the field can be exaggerated a bit, so it's time to get some smaller ones into the line.
The ADC encourages the men forward - that ranker on the right of him isn't so sure...
So it's quite a time to be an Austrian Napoleonic gamer - Victrix has a wide range of plastics out for the Austrians, and now the Perrys are getting their Austrian figures out there gradually.  The Sash & Sabre lines are excellent. Competition is a good thing! I hope to do some Perry Austrians later this year, but another battalion of Victrix would be great too.  It's nice to have a choice.  But sometimes the best figures are the ones you already have - for me that means a pile of Foundry stuff before getting back to some of these other manufacturers.

Mounted ADC - 28mm Austrian Napoleonics

"The Archduke Charles requests that your dismiss your traveling string orchestra and consider engaging the French."
Still doing horse and musket figures, continuing to ad to my 28mm Austrian collection.  This is a mounted aide-de-camp, used often in game systems to mark progress on the gaming table of different orders or updates moving to different commanders.   He could also stand in as a really low level of command should that be needed in a game.
"Before" photo, showing the ADC waiting for basing goop and primer.  A power armoured trooper beside him waits for some paint...
The figure is a Wargames Foundry casting, from the pack of Austrian generals and commanders. Considering how large the units are that we are using, painting a single mounted figure is not much of an accomplishment, and it won't do too much to help me in the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge, but it helps to round out the collection.

"Why, that pile of paint over there is most compelling.  Why fight the French on such a day?"
This officer is ready to courier the desperate requests and foppish, flippant replies between the various layers of the Austrian field command staff on the table.  Unfortunately I was not able to make the trip to Regina this past weekend, so he will have to wait for his first action, but I look forward to getting these guys out on the table sometime soon.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

25mm Sci-Fi Scale Comparo!

Just finished painting another (male) NAC trooper so as suggested, I'm posting some "comparison" pics...

Pig Iron Kolony Militia, GW Cadian Trooper, GZG NAC Royal Marine
GZG NAC Marine, GW RT Space Marine, ??? (seriously, can you tell me what this guy is?)
???, GW RT Space Pilot, GZG NAC female Marine
Not so bad, actually. I'd be OK with playing a game with any of these models with any of the others - maybe not in the same unit, but on the same table, for sure.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Yeah - This Makes Sense...

"Gandalf - noted character from Rogue Trader....ummm, right?"
It's the 25th Anniversary of Rogue Trader, the science-fiction tabletop skirmish game that has really set the tone (arguably) for a generation of gamers.  You're going to have a special edition of your hobby magazine for this anniversary.  You think carefully about the cover, which will set the tone for this edition of the magazine. What says "Rogue Trader" more than a picture of Ian McKellen as Gandalf?

Really? Gandalf?

I love LOTR, but seriously - WTF?  GW - buy a clue.

Gün Schwarm Medical Bot - Pig Iron Productions

Medical Bot on the move
Another bit finished for the Gün Schwarm lads - a medical bot from Pig Iron Productions.  This robot is a model from Pig Iron's Kolony Militia command group.  Dallas has one of these already for his FuturKom lads, and since the factions of our distant, conflicted far future seem to source a lot of a equipment from the same suppliers (for example, all armoured vehicles have the same searchlights), I thought Gün Schwarm could use a bot as well.
"Make the 'bot carry it."
Like all of the Pig Iron figures, this model is a lot of fun to paint, and is a wonderful sculpt. Naturally, when AI technology comes on line, the troopers make the poor robot schlep as much stuff as it can manage.  The sculpt portrays the robot loyally trying to keep up while carrying important supplies (ammo? refills for the coffee machine? both?). It's a great figure.
Important supplies - medi-bot is a reliable schlepper on the battlefield 
In addition to being a fun bit of fluff, or even an objective, the Tomorrow's War rules set has rules for medics, and specifically medical bots (referred to as "care bears"), and they have a significant impact on the game, lowering the odds that hits turn into KIAs and serious wounds.  This particular bot will be a good addition to the power-armoured system trooper models I'm doing for the Gün Schwarm troopers.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

NAC/Hammer's Slammers 25mm test model

In the unrelenting world of future war that is Spacekrieg, all of the future combatants need a helping hand once in awhile. My wife knows this better than any of us, and this is why she (in the guise of Evil Robot Santa) got me a platoon of Old Crow Hammer's Slammers blower tanks to lend some compensated endorsement to the causes of FuturKom, Gunschwarm, and/or the Future Britz.

Of course, even a hot-poop mercenary outfit like the Slammers doesn't run on blower power alone - grunts are required to winkle the other space-soldier out of his foxhole. But what is a suitable match for the old-school look of the OC blower tanks? None other than the NAC Royal Marines from GZG's Stargrunt "true 25mm" range.

I started off with a test model - a female trooper from the command pack. I'd managed to pick up a couple of NOS blisters (originally distributed by Geo-Hex!) from an online retailer for cheap. I wanted to make sure that I'd be happy with the models before shelling out for a platoon. I have to say I am I was pretty impressed with the quality of the models, especially considering that they must be 15-year-old sculpts at least.

The detail is finely sculpted and the model was super-easy to paint. The flash makes the jumpsuit seem quite a bit bluer and brighter than it is - I used GW Shadow Grey highlighted with Ultramarines Blue. I'll likely put a tactical number in red on the back of the helmet once I figure out the TO&E for the platoon. But as far as models go I think I'm onto some winners!

Get Up, Stand Up

Here's a mini post about how clever I am (!) in making a flying stand for my 15mm Old Crow VTOL.

Components: Large GW round base, styrene (plastic) pipe, neo-dymium magnet, magnetic sheet, basing materials.

I wanted to be able to have the VTOL fly around the table either laden with cargo, or without. This would be handy for scenarios where the cargo pod plays some role - either being delivered or removed! I cut a piece of magnetic sheet to size and stuck it to the bottom of the cargo pod.

Then I superglued the plastic tube to the base and the neo-dymium magnet to the top of the pipe, applied Liquitex Gel Medium and after it dried, sprayed the assembly black and finished the groundwork.

I was careful to place the magnet on the stand with the correct polarity so it would be attracted to the magnet sunk into the top of the VTOL's hull (this is the same magnet that keeps the cargo pod stuck onto the VTOL).

With the magnetic sheet stuck to the bottom of the cargo pod, the stand holds the model securely in either laden or unladen configuration. I reckon this project cost no more than a couple bucks - I got 4 magnets (used one) for $5, a whole ton of magnetic sheet for $5, and had the base and plastic pipe on hand.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Gün Schwarm 28mm Power Armour Infantry - "System Troopers"

Gün Schwarm power-armoured infantry - "System Troopers" from Pig Iron
Continuing with the escalation in the race against FuturKom, I have painted up some 28mm "System Troopers" from Pig Iron Productions to serve as hard-hitting, power-armoured infantry for Gün Schwarm. Pig Iron offers a lot of interchangeable heads, and I opted for the "Kolony Inner Guard" heads instead of the standard issue ones. I find that particular head design maintains the armoured appearance, is slightly less bulky, and makes them appear to be a little more sinister - they are here to fight, but not to help, if that makes any sense.

See how I screwed up the one back-pack for the guy on the right? Didn't notice that until I was painting, and just left it like that to be stubborn - figured he was the "smart one" for the squad...
In terms of battlefield roles, I can't top Pig Iron's own description of this particular figure line: "Seriously heavy futuristic infantry - these figures feature large amounts of armour, equipment and ridiculously large guns (just as we like 'em) and are designed for cleansing pockets of fierce enemy resistance." These guys will help hold off the Kommulist hordes, and in particular look to take on the hard hitting power-armoured troops of FuturKom's elite recon forces.  

Special weapons - SAW on the right, some kind of plasma/energy gun on the left
These are very, very chunky models.  They barely fit on the standard GW round bases.  The weapons are huge, and the figures are big, solid hunks of metal.  The poses appear a bit laboured, but I think that is perfect to match the idea of troopers wearing powered armour that provides extra "oomph" and lots of protection while limiting their flexibility/maneuverability.

Rear angle view of the special weapon troops
In terms of special weapons, I had hoped to see something a little larger.  The SAW-style gun looks pretty good, but the plasma-gun-ish weapon is disappointing, and on troops this size, it looks like a hedge trimmer or something.  I am going to experiment with some conversions from spare GW weapons to see if I can come up with something a little more ominous-looking.

One drawback of the Pig Iron figures is that they are so incredibly chunky that conversions for anything other than different heads or backpacks will require a lot of work. But that's a pretty slight drawback in my view.  In a world of "Finecast", my praise for Pig Iron and their sturdy metal figures is high! I've heard reports they are going to do some multi-part versions of their models. That will be fabulous if it turns out to be true.
Evolution of Gün troops - regular Grenadier on the left, "Schwere" Grenadier in the middle, Power Armoured Trooper on the right - the Pig Iron System Troopers are healthy-sized 28mm figures
In "Tomorrow's War", the rules for power-armoured troops are pretty tough - a small group of power-armoured soldiers can take on plenty of enemies.  They have extra dice for armour, tend to carry lots of heavy weapons, and get first-aid-check benefits that makes them hard to put down. Eight or nine of these figures would be able to take on twenty five FuturKom regular troops, or even more if the differential is there (D10 vs. D8, for example).
Even small power-armoured fireteams are very hard-hitting in "Tomorrow's War"
But we won't just be playing "Tomorrow's War".  At some point, I know we will want to fill a 6'x4' table with tons of troops and vehicles again, and that will call for good old SpaceKrieg.  For when that day arrives, I'll need a lot more than eight of these guys, so I hope to paint about 24 of the figures.  I hope this will provoke Dallas into seeing his six power-armoured guys are outnumbered, and respond in kind...

Pig Iron's figures are an absolute joy to paint, and I do really like that "Kolony Inner Guard" head look, so I am experimenting with a paint scheme or two using the heads on the Kolony Militia figures.  Whether they will end up as stand-ins for 40k Imperial Guardsmen, or some new faction for SpaceKrieg, who knows?

Monday, January 23, 2012

28mm Near Future Media Crew

"Reporting live from the Toxo IV peace conference, we go now to Gretta Van Grouchy...."
A weak performance by the Winnipeg Jets tonight (losing to Carolina? Really? And now we'll get killed by the Rangers tomorrow - sigh) but I managed to get a couple of pictures of some additional odds and ends finished over the weekend.  This is a 28mm 'near future' news crew - I think they were from Copplestone Castings.  It is one of those things that turn up when I rummage through my pile of stuff in the basement.
Action News from TVH, bringing you reports from the front lines of tomorrow
There have been many times where I have wanted to add a media representation to one of our skirmish games, either for modern or sci-fi.  Bands of nitwit journalists seem to be a fact of life for the armed forces today, and I don't see that changing, even in the so-called grim darkness of the far future - "What happens when the aliens attack? Stay tuned after sports with Jack..."
The camera dude seems pretty bulked up, while the reporter herself still has  just the right wardrobe...
I branded the news station as "TVH" - my theory is that at some point in the future, 24-hour news and the history channel will merge somehow.  I tried to paint the female reporter as a kind of grimmer-looking foreign correspondent type, lots of budget for nice shoes and clothes, but just too much botox....

There are not a lot of media-type models out there.  I have a couple of Vietnam-era combat journalist figures from Force of Arms miniatures, but they don't have the all-important TV camera.  These models are near future, but they can also pass for journalists in a modern engagement - the camera isn't quite big enough to look like a contemporary videographer, but then look at what people manage with cell phones - I don't think the camera has to be that big.

"Corporal, this would look more natural if you would take the mask off...." 
Whether covering Gün Schwarm's latest exploits against FuturKom, or following the hard-working Imperial Guardsmen as they fight against the Ork invaders, these two will make good objective counters, penalty markers, or just entertaining fluff for the game.  Tomorrow's War even has rules for folks like this accompanying a fire team.  Just imagine what will happen to your victory conditions if you manage to get your reporters shot...