Friday, August 30, 2013

"Operation: Jawa Holocaust" Battle Report

The twin suns of Tatooine blazed down from a cloudless sky as Imperial Stormtrooper Detachment AK-567B trudged in a skirmish line across the Jundland Wastes. A huge green Dewback lizard accompanied the detachment, its tail swishing menacingly as its white-armoured rider swayed in the saddle.

The detachment leader's comm unit crackled. "What's the mission, sir?  Is this gonna be a standup fight, or another bughunt?"

Lieutenant Trantor keyed his comm. "Shuddup. Save the volts for your air scrubbers. Just over this rise there's a Jawa sandcrawler. There's been a tip that those droids we're after were there. We're gonna check for the droids then vape the crawler. Make it look like the local Tusken People or Sand Raiders or whatever did it."

The comm crackled again. "But sir - the briefing vox said that Tusken Raiders always travel in single file to hide their numbers - shouldn't we get in a march column?"

Trantor's voice belayed slight irritation. "Sure, spacetard - and Tuskens wear armoured boots like us too, right? Get your blaster ready. Let's make this quick."


Two weeks ago we played a Star Wars Miniature Battles game set in the Jundland Wastes of Tatooine. Stormtroopers attack a Jawa sandcrawler but perhaps the Jawas have some friends nearby to help them out...?
The opposing forces were drawn up - the Jawas and their sometime-allies a tribe of Tusken Raiders, versus a detachment of Imperial Stormtroopers. Points were slightly in favour of the Tatooine natives (about 260 to 230), but I intended to offset this by having all Imperials on the table at the start, while some of the Sand People would enter as reserves. 

A major impetus for the game was the acquisition of this remarkable Sandcrawler, a product of one of my other hobby obsessions, collecting vintage Star Wars toys. The "Remote Controlled Jawa Sandcrawler" was one of the most expensive and therefore rarest of the toy vehicles issued by Kenner in the Star Wars release of 1978-9, and I managed to pick up a loose example for my collection. Although somewhat underscale for the 3 3/4" Kenner action figure range, it's perfect with 28mm Star Wars Miniature Battles figures!

One group of Jawas started deployed behind a small rise. The other was behind the 'crawler, hobnobbing with the Tuskens. There were two more groups of Sand People nearby - both with Banthas - and these would come on as reserves as the fighting ramped up.
 "Ain't no party like a Jawa party 'cause a Jawa party don't stop!"

The Imperials came on in four squads - their objective: wipe out the Tatooine natives, search and then destroy their vehicle.

The Jawas turned out to be tough li'l buggers - their mass ion blaster fire decimated the Stormtroopers at first.

The Sand People, on the other hand, were pretty weaksauce. Not many of them had guns, and therefore had to get up close and personal with the invaders. Unfortunately, the Blastech E-11 turned out to be a much handier tool than the Gaderfii stick ;-)

Jawas swung around the flank and put down some effective harassing fire on the Imperials.

The Imperial gunline advanced inexorably, mowing down all who resisted.

Dewback vs. Tusken Raider...

Advantage: Dewback.

Bantha vs. Imperial Stormtrooper Officer = one pulped clone.

Eventually, all resistance was snuffed out and the Stormtroopers destroyed the Sandcrawler. Didn't find the droids they were looking for though. There's a small moisture farm just past some nearby dunes to check out next.

It was pretty fun game but once again, pointed up the failings of the SWMB points structure. Even with a ~30 point advantage the Tatooine natives were quite overmatched - Stormtroopers may be a bit too cheap for their considerable abilities. A neat scenario which we may play again sometime!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

4CMBG Infantry w/ M113\s

 After struggling with a month of shift work in which morning, noon and night was experienced in a fairly random manner and thanks to some fantastic insomnia while trying to transition back to a dayshift schedule, I've been able to complete the Canadian Infantry of the 4CMBG. All I have left is to finish a U.S. Vulcan for additional air defense and the army is complete.

 Here is an air defense unit with blowpipe missiles. I hope they don't miss!

Here is a TOW unit next to an M113 TOW launcher. The M113 TOW is actually from Peter Pig and is supposed to be for a modern Humvee. Not quite accurate, but I love the fact that a dude is actually operating the TOW launcher.

Platoon of infantry and a squad to support the TOW team.

Finally there is the Command vehicle. There is no squad to go with this as I figure the vehicle will most likely act as a marker for command radius and not actually fight. So in all that will make a force of 4 Leopard 1's, a platoon of infantry and support units for air defense and anti-tank. Looks like Greg added some fairly modern stuff (by mid 1980's at least) to his force, so I hope we play with a high troop quality modifier.

Big Cats, Small Figures - WW2 Pico Armor

Company of Oddzial Osmy T-34/85s
 I continue to dabble away at random projects, including some more 3mm scale Oddzial Osmy castings, this time in the WW2 setting. I've already painted a good pile for Cold-War-Gone-Hot games, and a budding collection for the Arab-Israeli wars, and I'm curious to see if the gaming fun in this scale can extend into WW2. In this post we have a small selection of late-war Eastern Front armour, T-34/85s, a couple of JS-2s and some German Panther As (which I think was somehow a later model than the Panther D - I am permanently confused by this...)

20mm square bases from Litko

These vehicles are all based on 20mm squares, with 20mm round bases used for command models.  The models are available in North America from the great folks at Pico Armor, who are a real pleasure to deal with - excellent service!  The bases are from Litko Aerosystems - another group of excellent folks.

JS-2s to punch through the lines
These bruisers are a tight fit on the 20mm base

I can't get over the detail on these tiny sculpts - artfully exaggerated so as to show up to the eye, without throwing off the overall impression of the sculpt.  As an example, the spare tracks are right there on the Panthers!! Incredible sculpting.

Panther As - round base for a command tank

I really enjoy painting tanks, and these models are real beauties!  It is a lot of fun to paint up an entire platoon of tanks in one short painting session.  Trying to come up with something that will show up well enough on the table for my gaming friends to enjoy using these tiny models is an entertaining challenge.

Ready for action on the Eastern Front
 As others often recommend, when it comes to the smaller scales, it helps to punch up to a higher/brighter colour than you might normally use otherwise. This is what I am trying to do with these tanks - the panzer yellow colour I used here, for example, would look like a traffic cone on 1/72 or 1/50 scale model. But I'm hoping it jumps enough for a gamer to go "oh, later period German tank...." from about three feet away. We'll see!
No camo on these, but I tried to soot-up the engine deck with weathering powder

I thought the recent game we did with individually based models in this scale went really well, so I'm keen to experiment with the WW2 setting.  The reason it might not work? Well, it all boils down to the infantry...

Panther D next to a (now-defunct) Canadian penny
In the modern gaming, particularly in the Cold-War-Gone-Hot setting, nearly every front line fighting unit has vehicles. The infantry are modelled, and fun to paint, but it's about the IFVs and the MBTs.  And they are big suckers - even the T-80BV is a hefty little casting - I mean, for a 1/600 scale tank.  The infantry castings are almost little terrain enhancements to the IFVs like the Bradleys and BMPs.  Even a third-tier Soviet formation will have BTR-60s to move them around the battlefield (however briefly) - so vehicles dominate the modelling and gaming action in that kind of setting - fair or not, it's how it goes.

T-34/85s next to Canadian Penny
In WW2 the mechanization of the infantry did not reach modern levels we see in the OBs of the 1980s.  The use of half-tracks grew and grew and by the end of the war some Allied units were heavily mechanized, but to represent WW2 on the table, you need to be able to come up with little stands of infantry that are cool and fun to play with, and stand out from their opponents...I'm experimenting with that right now - we'll see how it turns out. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Control Battalion Armour - 15mm Sci Fi

Control Battalion armour - 1/87 scale fun for the table top!
The random summer painting entries continue - now up is some armour for my 15mm sci-fi Control Battalion troops. I am one of those gamers that believes "the future is now" when it comes to vehicles for sci-fi gaming.  Some don't like that - they want all their sci-fi vehicles to look like floating pill bottles or glowing orbs or whatever.  But I still love the look of a current tank, hyped up with extra crap like reactive armour, jammers, retrofitted engines and optics, to fit the look of the future.  These models are painted with this in mind!

Control Battalion wants to work collaboratively with you...
I wanted some specific armoured vehicles for my Khurasan Control Battalion 15mm troops.  The Control Battalion are some of the coolest looking sci-fi troops in any scale - soulless and eerie.  They needed some tanks to match. In my recent entry on Khurasan's T-90A I explained how spooky the tank looked, so the T-90 was a natural for promotion to Control Battalion duty.  Throw in this f***ed up Russian thing, and I was sold!

A BMP-T - perfect for Control Battalion!
These are 1/87 scale model kits from Arsenal M.  I learned about them from the incredible TacoBat. I had been looking for a T-90 in 15mm scale for some time, and these popped up.  I ordered them from a retailer in Germany.  These were the only version of the T-90 and BMP-T I could find in anything close to 15mm scale at the time.  They arrived in due course, and naturally sat forever in my "pending pile" as I was busy with other projects!  Finally got to them this month.

The "T-900" - an ideal Control Battalion platform
These kits are model kits - not gaming kits.  They are NOT for the faint of heart.  They are not cheap (not Forgeworld level pricing or anything like that, just not cheap), and they are a f****ing pain in the ass to put together. I have the modelling patience of a gnat - and these take a lot of work.  The chains of swear words that came out of my mouth when these f***ing things were being built rival anything the hobby gods have ever been berated with at my place.

Got that?

Small pieces, anyone? F**K!!!

The box hides the challenge inside...

The BMP-T waiting for basing and primer...very thin guns on that turret
They came together slowly but surely.  Painting them was delicate - they are made of a fairly sturdy plastic-resin, a kind of what-if-Finecast-didn't-suck material.  But they are still delicate - the BMP-T in particular is really fiddly when it comes to some of the turret components.  I hope they survive some gaming...

The 125mm main gun is delightfully oversized for sci-fi purposes
I can't dispute the casting quality - the detail is superb, great edges and lots of details.  And in case of the BMP-T, you got some brass bits to represent some of the armoured grating!! Nice touch.

Armed to the teeth - the BMP-T

Twin 30mm cannons, four AT missiles, and two 30mm automatic grenade launchers.  Ideal for peaceful resolution of issues.
I find it easy to imagine the T-90 in Control Battalion service - a sort of "T-900".  Instead of firing "Refleks" ATGM rounds, they are firing 125mm depleted-unobtanium rounds, coated with baby-seal-liver residue for extra hitting power, at their enemies.  The "Shtora" system, rather than trying to jam ATGMs, would actually project harmful radiation flashes at Control Battalion opponents, radiation the Control Battalion troops themselves see no effect from thanks to their genetically engineered makeup.

Khurasan Control Battalion vehicle crewman in the commander's hatch
I added a Control Battalion tank commander (a thoughtful set available from Khurasan) to one of the T-90s to try and help make the connection between the tanks and the troops.

The BMP-T looks like it rolled right into a sci-fi game.  Designed sometime around 2005 as mostly a prototype notion for the Russian Federal army, it is armed with AT missiles, grenade launchers, MGs and 30mm cannons.  I believe the BMP-T was conceived in the wake of the experience of the Russian army in Chechnya, especially places like Grozny, which were hard on armour.  This is supposed to be a kind of "tank escort" or "tank support" platform.  I don't think it is in any kind of serious service with the Russian army yet.

Control section on maneuvers with the BMP-T
Screw the Russian army - this thing screams Control Battalion.  Like the T-90, this thing sits perfectly in my estimation of an awesome sci-fi tank.  It looks like exactly the kind of vehicle that would accompany Control Units on their missions to establish order through force.  You know, in case "negotiations" broke down...

Khurasan T-90A on the right - Arsenal M 1/87 T-90 on the left
I ordered these models well before Khurasan came out with it's own T-90.  Naturally going with Khurasan tanks for Khurasan infantry might make sense, but the Khurasan T-90 is smallish for sci-fi purposes - again, nothing wrong with the scaling by Khurasan - extremely accurate in my view - just small for sci-fi.  Plus it would not fit with the 1/87 BMP-T. So I stuck with the Arsenal M T-90s for this project.

Control section on maneuvers with a T-900
I find the 1/87 tanks look much more imposing beside the 15mm sci-fi troops, and whereas the actual Khurasan T-90A fits the compact design philosophy of the late Soviet Union/Russia, this larger model looks great with the ominous Control Battalion troops. On the 1/87 vehicle, the road wheels go almost half-way up the the height of the average Control Battalion infantryman - very cool!

But if you are looking for a 15mm T-90 for a modern project, go with the Khurasan tank.  I would only consider the Arsenal M kit if you want a larger tank for whatever reason, have a lot of patience and some money you want to waste...go for these suckers! They nearly made me snap my crayons, but it was fun in the end!

Another view of the T-900
I am still trying to find the right APCs/IFVs for the control battalion troops.  I have a few candidates in mind - stay tuned for details! And for more random summer painting...

Friday, August 23, 2013

Purple Line Blues - 15mm Yom Kippur War Battle Report

IDF Centurions rolling towards the front
We ran another 15mm Yom Kippur War game last night. The scenario pitted opposing armoured columns against each other in a meeting-engagement-type battle. We used Dallas' "Red Storm" rules for the game, with the addition of a sort of "Hen & Chicks" rule for the Syrian tankers. I also continued with my house rule that AFVs could not pass any closer than 4" to another active friendly AFV on the table (I hate when the tanks horde up Flames-Of-War style).

The table at Turn 1 - IDF table edge at the bottom, Syrian at the top
The IDF had five Centurion Sho't Kals and a squad of mechanized infantry in an M113.  The Syrians had nine T-62s and a squad of infantry in a BTR-60.The setting was the Golan Heights, early on the second day of the war. The IDF column was a group of reservists sent forward desperately to reinforce the "Purple Line", which the Syrians had in fact broken through during the night.  On the way to the front the IDF encounters a Syrian column that has made it through, and the battle ensued!

Syrian T-62s
IDF Centurion rolls up the lead T-62 platoon

Conscripts Hugh and Byron played the Syrians, while Jim played the IDF with a little help from me.  Each side had to block the other from escaping, while trying to set some of its own stuff off of the table - a tricky balancing act.  The table was 6' x 4', with the sides approaching from opposing short table edges.

Turret flew off following a particularly well-placed shot...

Burning tanks filled the table right from the first turn.  Jim and I felt pretty good about things in the first couple of turns - we lit up the leading Syrian tank platoon with only one Centurion damaged in return.  As the follow-up Syrians came on, we were thinking a couple of turns of efficient gunnery would sort them out.

Syrian infantry deploy - to their doom...

IDF troopers hop off of their M113
We were kind of wrong...Byron in particular started to hot-roll for the Syrian gunners, and our tanks started to see some serious damage, especially the loss of main guns! By the fifth turn, we were down to one fully-functional Sho't - although we had managed to eliminate the Syrian infantry. 

Centurion with damaged main gun tried to make for the far table edge - it would end badly for the tank...
In the sixth turn Byron managed to blow the main gun off our final tank, and that was that! With no meaningful AT firepower left, the IDF had to pull back, leaving a one destroyed and another immobilized Sho't on the battlefield, and three more without their main armament. The Syrians had lost three T-62s, a BTR-60 and a squad of infantry.  That's what it was like in those first couple of days on the Purple Line in October 1973...

This blurry photo captures the fate of the IDF tankers in the game
Syrian T-62 firing line victorious at the end of the game
It was a lot of fun to play Yom Kippur again, and Dallas' rules work very well for the battle.  I should probably tweak the tanks' stats a touch for next time, but "Red Storm" is great for this setting. Thanks to Hugh, Jim and Bryon for coming out.