Saturday, June 30, 2012

New Project - Arab-Israeli War, Golan Heights 1973, in 15mm

Israeli Centurion - Golan Heights, 1973
I hardly need a new project, but since when has that ever stopped or even focused my approach this hobby?  The summer has arrived here in the Canadian prairies.  Another successful and fun Prairiecon has come and gone. I have been busy with some fun small hobby projects.  But what sort of new venture might be out there - other than the new edition of 40k - assuming it ever arrives? Here is a blurb about my next project....

I have always been a fan of armour and tanks.  To be clear, a hobby fan.  I doubt I could fit safely into a real tank, particularly the Soviet/Russian ones, and I can't imagine what it would be like to be in a battle where all you can see is what is there through a small view-finder....but from a hobby perspective, tanks are very, very cool.  Most of my favourite games have involved lots of tanks.  I still remember back to the days when the Conscripts actually gamed on Fawcett Avenue, and Conscript Mark I. actually rolled out a 1-1 ratio, 6mm scale WW3 battle.  I told him "just fill the table with tanks!" and he obliged - we played a rules set called "Contact" (I think) and he had the better part of a WarPac tank regiment right there, in 6mm scale.  We controlled a thin line of NATO armour, and filled the table with wrecks before getting overrun. What a hoot!

So I wanted my summer/fall project to involve tanks, preferably modern.  But what "period" of modern?  Recently I have been reading about the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and particularly the desperate battle on the Golan Heights.  The Israelis, caught by surprise, and bereft of air support due to the Syrian air defence systems, were on their own as Syrian divisions swarmed the Israeli positions. The courage displayed on both sides was incredible - the Israeli tankers holding against dire odds, and the Syrian tankers advancing grimly into open fields of fire they must have known were already pre-ranged and pre-sighted by the Israeli Armoured Corps from their defensive positions along the heights.  The Israelis knocked out frightening amounts of Syrian amour, particularly in the area that came to be known as the "Valley of Tears".  At the same time, the Israelis were very nearly overrun.  It was a close call. 
Osprey books - even with their terrible writing style, they are great for snagging you into a new project!
The battle on the Golan Heights in 1973 featured all arms, but the primary combatants were tankers.  The Israelis relied on up-gunned and re-engined Centurion tanks, the "Sh'ot Kals".  The Syrians employed the T-55, as well as the new T-62.  With a fearsome 115mm main gun, heaviest in the front line in that time, the T-62 was feared.  This was a tank vs. tank battle more than anything else - very cool for gaming purposes.  So, my new project is the Golan Heights in 1973.

I have decided to go with 15mm as the scale.  I already have 6mm based for Spearhead, which is platoon based.  Those are fun games, but I am looking for a 1-1 ratio game.  The 12mm and N-scale stuff out there is not reliable - the Russian tanks from Minifigs are great, but there is no up-gunned Centurion in that scale. So 15mm it is. 

For the Israeli tanks, I will use models from Peter Pig. These miniatures are by far the best 15mm models out there, and Peter Pig has the most outstanding range of IDF stuff.  Their website is bonkers in terms of how frustrating it is to find stuff, but once you do, it is worth it.  Their IDF range is more tuned to the invasion of Lebanon in the early 80s than the 1973 Yom Kippur war.  The Centurions have some Blazer ERA, and extra MGs - features that were not present in 1973, but I don't care (at this point) - their tank models are so much nicer than anyone else's line, so these tanks will represent the Israelis on the Golan.
15mm scale Centurion "Shot" from Peter Pig - one of the nicest 15mm tanks I've ever assembled!
For the Syrians, I am looking to acquire lots of T-55s an T-62s. For the T-55, Peter Pig is at the forefront again, with an outstanding model in 15mm scale.  
T-55 from Peter Pig - once again, a top of the line model.
For the T-62s, it is trickier.  Peter Pig does not make a T-62 (sadly), so that leaves Old Glory and QRF. My experiences with QRF have been mixed at best, so I ordered a test pack from Old Glory (or Battle Honors, or whatever the f*ck it is called now - Old Glory is so confusing...).

T-62 in 15mm scale from Old get what you pay for, I guess....
The Old Glory T-62 is not about to set the hobby world on fire.  Cost wise, it is a great value.  But you seem to get what you pay I am ordering some additional T-62s from QRF.  We'll see what comes along...

I am also playing around with the idea of basing these tanks.  I have not based my 15mm tanks previously, but I have seen a lot of other gamers doing it, and it seems to make sense.  On the other hand, waiting for the bases from Litko will take a while.  So I will probably just paint the tanks, and order the bases...when they arrive, I will test some bases on a couple of them. 
Group shot - from left, a Peter Pig T-55, Old Glory T-62, and a Peter Pig Centurion. Peter Pig models are clearly nicer.
There will be a lot of new things to try.  I have no idea how to get the grey-green-dust colour that the Israeli armour seems to have in the colour pictures I have seen from 1973.  I also have to track down decals for the Israeli tank markings (chevrons, etc).   The Syrians employed a tricky green and yellow camouflage pattern, with arabic numerals on the turrets.  To paint the camouflage, I should really use an airbrush.  But I hate the needy, whiney airbrush, so will see what the regular brush can come up with.  And as for the Arabic numbers, that will take some research....

I hope to have some test models painted on the blog before the summer is too far along, and maybe a game this fall! Stay tuned. 

thats wat u get 4 bein a h8er

Rolled down to the local GW this afternoon to pick up my pre-ordered 40K "Gamer's Edition".

Guess what? It wasn't there. Despite pre-ordering (and pre-paying) last weekend on the GW website, despite "it will be ready for pickup on release day", sign of it was there none.

Manager Mark explained that the pre-orders "overwhelmed FedEx" and that was why many of them hadn't arrived on the promised date. He was kind enough to give me a copy of the rulebook today while we wait for the misdirected pre-orders to arrive. I guess it will be sometime next week when they do, which means another 25 minute drive from my house to the store.

In the meantime, at least I have the rules tome to peruse. I suppose this is karmic payback for all my criticism of tabletop wargaming's Evil Empire. But in my defence, I splashed out full retail for the latest 40K product, isn't that worth something? ;-)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Game This Week - Berlin '85 - Force On Force

"I really feel protected...."
This week we will be playing "Force On Force", the reaction-based skirmish rules set from Ambush Alley Games.  The scenario will be set in West Berlin, 1985.  The Warsaw Pact is invading western Europe, and the small NATO garrison of West Berlin is trying to hold out.  Soviet tanks and troops are pushing into the teeth of heavy resistance in urban fighting.  To make it even tougher, there have been unconfirmed reports of chemical weapons being used on both sides, so the troops must slog it out wearing NBC gear...

It's the Chemical Commies vs. the Chemical Capitalists.  Rubble! Ruins! Reaction rolls! See you tonight at Dallas' place.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

15mm Khurasan Federal Snipers, Re-based

Re-based sci-fi snipers from Khurasan.
Last week I finished some snipers/marksmen from the 15mm Federal Army line by Khurasan.  The weapons feature very long, sniper-looking barrels and as I finished the groundwork I realized that the small bases may not have been the best idea for these troops, so I re-based them on to 30mm round bases.
I used my sparse supply of grass tufts to help enhance the ground work.
The larger base should give some extra protection to the weapons, which look great, but bend very easily.  Stay tuned for more 15mm sci-fi stuff, plus a new project for the summer/fall 2012!

Monday, June 25, 2012

40K 6th Edition: part one

I'd like to start a conversation here regarding the changes to Warhammer 40K that are imminent with the sixth edition, to be released on 30 June.

Everybody's well aware, I think, of most of the main changes - the return of overwatch, Warlord traits, allies, taking fortifications as part of the army list.  But one change that surprised me is, in my mind, more fundamental to the way the game plays than any of these.

It's casualty removal. Remember how the sergeant or the guy with the power fist is always the last of the squad to die? Well, unless you deploy your squad very carefully this might be a thing of the past. From now on, casualties are removed from the front of the squad, presumably starting with the model closest to the firing enemy unit. (Although I've not seen the actual text of the rule, it's confirmed by mention in several places in the latest White Dwarf).

I like the thinking behind this change. However, I also think it's going to lend itself to some very gamey tactics - that is, if you remember the rule as you're moving your squad! Players will be careful to have a lasgun-toting grunt a few mm in fronto of the meltagunner. And if the rule is forgotten, and a number of models appear equidistant from the shooter, this could cause friction in the game and, at the very least, one of the ubiquitous "50/50" dice offs that 40K practically introduced to the gaming lexicon.

A more elegant casualty selection solution, in my view, would have been to allow the shooting player to pick the first model to take a wound, under certain circumstances. For example, in our WW2/Modern ruleset, if a squad suffers more than 50% casualties in a single shooting phase, there is a 50% chance that the shooting player gets to choose the first model (and only the first model) to be removed. Otherwise, there is only a 1-in-6 chance of this happening, and the owning player removes all casualties. That represents the lucky hit on the squad leader or heavy weaponeer.

I can also see a pretty serious "transition" period where this rule is forgotten, or selectively remembered by the shooting player ;-)

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Admiral Togo greetings visitors to the Mikasa.

I was in Japan for two weeks and I took half a day to visit the Mikasa, Admiral Togo's flag ship at the battle of Tsushima (or battle of the Sea of Japan) in 1905. I thought I would share some of the pictures I took.

The ship is located in Yokosuka, about 45 minutes by train from Tokyo, to the south. In Yokosuka, there is also a huge American naval base since the end of World War II. To get onto the ship costs only 600 yens ($7). The ship is "beached", enclosed in concrete by the sea.
Togo was standing on top of the bridge during the battle.

12" guns viewed from the front deck.

The Mikasa was restored in the late 50s with the help of Admiral Nimitz. Since the ship fought the Russians and the cold war was heating up, the Americans saw in the process a good opportunity to collect brownie points. There is actually very little original 1905 steel left, but hey, how many 100 years old battleships can you visit in the world?

UTE! (fire!) View of the 12" guns from the upper bridge,
where Togo was standing.

The 3" guns deck.

The armored bridge, enclosed in 13" thick walls.

The whole interior of the Mikasa has been converted into a museum. A nice miniature of the Mikasa rests besides a reproduction of the Victory. Tsushima is the for the Japanese what Trafalgar is for the British and Togo, according to the displays, is way up there with Nelson.

A model of the Mikasa.

An animated diorama of the battle.

The officer's mess. The 3" gun adds some ambiance.

Nothing like drinking an Admiral Togo beer before heading back to the hotel.

In Yokosuka, there is also a naval base for the Japanese Navy. I took a few pictures of modern ships before heading back to Yokohama.

A Huyga class helicopter carrier

A modern Japanese submarine.

Hope you enjoyed. I also visited the Yasukuni shrine, the closest thing to a war museum in Japan. I`ll have a report in a few days.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Few More Khurasan 15mm Sci Fi Feds

Federal heavy weapon teams from Khurasan
Here are a few more pics of the some 15mm "Federal" sci-fi troops from Khurasan. My apologies for the photo quality - the iPhone camera sucks (or I'm a terrible photographer, but I prefer to blame the camera for now).  There are two more heavy weapon teams - another 20mm SHMG team and a heavy AT launcher team - and a sniper/marksman.
AT launcher - ready to wreck the enemy's sh!t
I love the Federal AT launcher - looks like a sci-fi hybrid of a recoilless (sp?) rifle and a TOW-type ATGM.

Federal marksman...should have put him on a larger base...
The sniper/marksman has a very long-barrelled rifle.  I am now realizing I should have mounted him on a larger base, maybe with some rubble/cover...popping him out and on to another base might be a project for the weekend. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

28mm Penal Legion Finished!

A few days ago I posted some "bare metal" pics of my converted 28mm Penal Legion Troopers using parts from GW, Victoria Lamb and Maxmini. Now they are done!

Over the obligatory black undercoat I used colours from the Citadel range; the orange jumpsuits are Blazing Orange* over a base of Mechrite Red* foundation.

Their combat pants are Regal Blue* highlighted with Shadow Grey*.

Collars are Boltgun Metal*; lasguns are edge highlighted with Mechanicus Standard Grey; stocks are Bestial Brown* highlighted with Vomit Brown*.

Belts and pouches are Scorched Brown* highlighted with Bestial Brown*.

 Boots are lightly drybrushed with Mechanicus Standard Grey.

Lenses are layered Mechrite Red* and Blood Red* with a Skull White* dot, brushed with glossy 'Ardcoat*.

Skin is Dark Flesh* highlighted with Dwarf Flesh*. Gloves and masks are Mechanicus Standard Grey highlighted with Fortress Grey* and Space Wolves Grey*.

Then the whole works was washed with a mix of Devlan Mud* and Gryphonne Sepia*.

*Discontinued colour from the old Citadel paint range. Yes, this was all of the colours I used bar the Mechanicus Standard Grey "base" from the new 145 range. I was actually very pleased with the latter; it went on smoothly with excellent coverage. Recommended.

Painting Table Bits - More 15mm Khurasan Stuff

Federal 15mm sci-fi troops from Khurasan
Stop-and-start progress continues on my 15mm individually-based science fiction figures.  Here are some more models from Khurasan, this time from the "Federal Army" faction. They are painted to approximately match the blue colours I used for the same models which I based in groups, so they will fit in well with the vehicles I have already painted for this faction.

Lieutenant and an RTO at the front (a little blurry)
The special weapons - SAWs are a bit monopose, but Khurasan has more poses out now
Love the look of these troops - Khurasan's stuff is generally outstanding
There are three five-man teams.  Each team has a SAW and then another special weapon - two of them with fusion-blaster type weapons, and the third with a rocket launcher. There is also a two-man heavy weapon team with a rapid-fire-20mm-cannon-looking weapon.

20mm SHMG team - ready to give covering fire
I love Khurasan's sci-fi infantry, and these models are no exception.  My only criticism for this range is the limited pose for the SAW gunner - but these figures are from the initial sets.  Khurasan has since rectified this by adding a few additional poses.

Nova Respublik - Senior Command staff
I also painted up the figures from Khurasan's Senior Command vignette for the Nova Respublik faction. There is a platoon commander (pointing), a senior officer/commissar looking fellow, and a staff driver standing at attention.

We got to play a couple weeks ago using the individually based 15mm models, and it went OK, so I look forward to getting these figures in action sometime soon.  I'm hoping to goose Dallas into painting a few more of his Rebel Miniatures Earth Force troops and popping them on to single bases so we can have a good smack-down. And if Dallas tries it, together we can pressure Mike F.....

But until then we will have plenty to go around between the burgeoning Federals, the Nova Respublik and the Control Battalion

The only thing that will stop me is running out of bases from Litko, which is just about to happen.  I put in an order three weeks ago for more, but Litko generally takes quite a while to fill orders, so I'll be excited if they get here before August comes. But watch this space for more troops, and some more vehicles, and musings/rantings on my hunt for the "right" tanks in this scale/period...

Friday, June 15, 2012

5150 SF Rules Battle Report and Review

As a result of the minor sh!tstorm that resulted from our group's less-than-overwhelmingly-positive first impressions of Tomorrow's War, "Ed the Two-Hour Wargames Guy" very generously offered me a review copy of his company's Sci-Fi skirmish wargame, "5150: Star Army". I duly promised to play and review the game and finally we've had a chance to do so. Here goes...

My hardcopy of 5150 comprises a 98-page rulebook bound "cerlox" style. The full-colour cover is well-executed and professional. The inside is black-and-white throughout, with no illustrations and a few line diagrams. While the layout is basic and unornamented, it's clear. Production quality is nowhere near something like Tomorrow's War, but then again, neither is the price. The writing style is conversational, in some cases a bit much so for my liking ("are you picking up what I'm putting down?" yikes) but in most instances, it works. The basic rules take up about half the book while the rest is comprised of the "army lists", scenario contruction and campaign information and the quick reference material.

Like Tomorrow's War, the game uses a "reaction system", where figures act and react to the actions of others, as opposed to the traditional "IGO-UGO" system where one side takes its whole turn, followed by the other side. Unlike Tomorrow's War, the reaction system in 5150 is relatively well-described and is more clearly laid out in the rules. There are a finite number of "reactions" and the circumstances for tests are pretty clearly described. An interesting feature of the rules is that each faction has its own reaction tables and a die roll that would result in success for elite troops often is much less positive if your troops are not as good. I like this feature but it results in a chart-heavy game... 

So we played an introductory scenario, "Rescue the Pilot", pitting three squads of PDF (Rep 3 and 4) against two squads of Star Army troops (Rep 4 and 5). We used Greg's cool new individually based 15mm figures, and just substituted centimeters for inches for movement and range purposes.

The "pilot" is in the building in the middle of the table

Star Army squads moves on

Hapless pilot, "objective-ified" yet again

PDF waiting in ambush

Star Army crosses the river

PDF lurking behind a hedge

Star Army squad decimated by PDF fire

Star Army survivor makes off with the pilot

Star Army squad withdraws
Conscript Brian played the PDF and Greg B. ran the Star Army. The game pretty much went as expected with the better-led Star Army squads lighting up the PDF and achieving their objective of grabbing the pilot. However, they weren't exactly unbloodied, with a Star Army squad caught in the open getting seriously mauled. Greg's die rolling was hot (lots of "obviously dead" results) and Brian's was mostly "not" so that may have made a bit of difference in the result, but as with most "reaction" rulesets we've played, small differentials in troop quality make a huge difference in the game (Tomorrow's War, I'm looking at you).

I think the guys enjoyed the game, but personally, it is gonna take more to move me off my beloved IGO-UGO (I know, I am a bit of a dinosaur that way). The different charts for the different factions are pretty cool, but it is the sheer volume of charts in 5150 that blow my brain a little bit. There are over 100 (!) in the rulebook... including three dealing with Spider Holes (standard chart plus "Discovery" and "Occupancy"), two dealing with Grenades ("Ready" and "Throwing"), etc.  Granted, most won't be used in a game, but still... I guess there were about three pages in the book I had to flip back and forth regularly from, and that's not too bad.

I actually think I prefer the reaction system in 5150 to that in Tomorrow's War, because it seems more clearly laid out and a bit more intuitive. For example, I like that 5150's "Received Fire" reaction is to either duck back, snap fire (at reduced effect) or fire at full effect... and that a firefight can rage back and forth until one combatant is hit, or ducks back out of sight. Very cool.

We didn't get into advanced stuff like leaders' dice in the first game, but I can see us getting detailed in future games. As I said, IGO-UGO may be less "realistic" but on a Thursday night, after a long day at work using my grey cells, sometimes I just want to crack a beer and kick back to some non-brain-melting Warhammer or Lord of the Rings-based gaming. My pleasure is mainly in pushing some nicely-painted lead around a well manicured table. But while I don't need "fancy" in my rules, I have to admit that from time to time it's nice to stretch the brain a bit and I think 5150 could do the trick for that.

Thanks again to Ed Texeira for the review copy. 5150: Star Army can be purchased as a hardcopy or .pdf from Two Hour Wargames.