Friday, May 22, 2015

Battle Captains & CoC

While in Trenton this past weekend, Michael and I were able to play two WWII games, of differing figure/model scales and command levels. First up was a playtest of Michael's Battle Captains. These rules reflect what I would consider a kampfgruppe-sized command level. The player is a battle-group/kampfgruppe commander, and the forces are modelled one to one (in this case using 1:285 micro-armour). Michael set up a scenario where the German commander fielded a late-war kampfgruppe, consisting of of a panzer grenadier company, supported by an armoured car section and some other company assets (mortars, MGs). The American commander had a US armoured infantry company of two infantry platoons, a light tank platoon, and some various support bits & bobs (including off-board 155s).

The Americans (me) would start defending the environs of the chateau in the bottom left of the photo above. The Germans would approach from the top right.

From the opposite end of the board, Germans entering from bottom left.

A close-up of Michael's fine work (there are even flowers in the garden!).

The American right flank. A German panzer grenadier platoon begins to de-bus on the right of the frame, separated from the waiting American infantry and armour by various fields and hedgerows.

The game moved quickly and flowed easily. The command decisions are clearly aimed at the kampfgruppe level, perhaps a reinforced company or battalion-sized force. It turned into an American victory but not because of the action on the right flank, pictured above. The American left flank saw the majority of the action, where two German panzer grenadier platoons moved against a single entrenched American platoon. Artillery and machine gun fire told the tale there. The fields (and woods) were littered with the detritus of German infantry platoons. The reason I've shown only the photos from the right flank (beside the fact that I forgot to take any of the other flank), is that we decided to try and model this part of the fight with Chain of Command, using my 28mm 1940 forces.

This flank saw a late-war German infantry platoon (easily modelled with my 1940 Germans) facing a US infantry platoon and supporting armour platoon. We chose to use my French for the latter and translate as best we could. The US infantry became poilus and the four American light tanks became two FT-17s and two Panhard armoured cars. The Sherman 105mm attached to the American infantry platoon became a Char B1 (with 75mm howitzer). Not quite the same but...

The Chain of Command battlefield. The French (US) would defend from the left side and the Germans (on an attack order) moving in from the right. French Patrol markers in the photo above are red and Germans are blue (my shot of the deployed JoPs did not come out in focus).

The open fields in the Battle Captains game translated into various smaller fields with hedges and walls to hamper movement and lines of sight.

 Another new Crescent Root studios acquisition: a very nice little pair of farm buildings. These are from the new series and do not have the interior pins (see my previous post) nor the roof peg inserts.

The German commander plans the attack, under the gaze of various officers and the Gestapo!

The Germans started out with a Force Morale of 8 and the French 7 FM (not a good start!). Luckily though, I had five armoured vehicles to the German zero. Michael did, however, have two anti-tank rifle teams. While not much of threat to the Char B1, they could do some damage to the armoured cars or FT-17s.

 The German commander (Michael) immediately began pushing forward his infantry sections, each equipped with two MG34 teams (these were panzer grenadiers, after all!).

The French commander (me) made the initial mistake of deploying a full section of infantry to face the German deployments. This was wholly unnecessary and ultimately fatal. I could have waited until Michael had pushed his sections into close range then deployed to counter him, in the meantime hammering him with fire from my armoured vehicles. Instead, The MG34s of two sections (and two MMGs) were able to hammer away at this single section at the longer range, with little effectual response. At one point, six German machine guns slammed this one French section.

On the French left flank, things were a bit different. I had been able to push one JoP ahead on that flank during the patrol phase, with the thought of perhaps threatening any German advance in that quarter. Unfortunately, the Germans advanced quickly, threatening the JoP itself! I quickly deployed two infantry sections and one MMG to counter this and perhaps overwhelm the isolated German section. 

The plan on this flank seemed to be working. The JoP was safe and we were trading casualties at an even rate (and the flanking section had not really gotten into the fray as yet). But false confidence was the theme of the day. The exposed French section on the other flank broke and ran, taking its Junior Leader and platoon sergeant with it. All of a sudden the French Force Morale was at 4! Another leader wounding on the left flank and the game was over. German victory! The lesson learned? Don't deploy unless you really need to (especially with that many MGs facing you).

The French command oversees the deployment of armoured assets. Char B1 in the foreground, Panhard armoured cars and FT-17 farther back. 

This was an interesting exercise in marrying the two rule-sets together, albeit with no prior planning. We've since chatted about a deliberately-planned scenario for Battle Captains with Michael's 1940 forces to more accurately model my collection for Chain of Command. It should prove an adventure.

Crescent Root Studios - conversions

This past Christmas, I treated myself to a Crescent Root purchase (see blog post here). While quite happy with the quality of the laser-cutting and painting, I did have a few reservations about the models. First, the corner pins. At first glance, this is a clever idea. Each interior corner is held together with a metal pin that slips down into holes on each piece, as seen in the photo below (from the Crescent Root Studios website). This is meant to make the buildings easy to break down and make more manageable for storage. As I said, clever. However, big clumsy fingers make what may seem an easy task...well, frankly...a pain in the arse! I quickly decided that I would permanently fix the walls together. Not a small task but relatively simple. This included carpenter's glue at the wall corners and super-gluing the metal pegs into their inserts.

The second issue I had with the models was the roofs. While quite nicely rendered and painted, they still sported the locking tabs (in similar fashion to 4Ground and others). I certainly don't blame Crescent Root for this since they are clearly visible in the photos on the site (and in the photo above, where you can see the insert holes in the roof piece). This one falls squarely in my lap. For such an otherwise lovely set buildings, I wanted to avoid the roof peg inserts. It was then I decided to order some Warbases roof tiles and re-do the roofs.

Some action shots with the Crescent Root buildings. Quite lovely in the before shots...the contrast in the roofs with the after photos below is striking. In particular, the second shot above shows clearly the roof peg inserts.

The first task was to make the roofs one piece structures. They come as two pieces but I wanted to be able to lift the entire roof structure off in one motion. Some off-cuts of bass wood and carpenter's glue provided interior supports. There was no need to be precise and fancy with this step.

 The roof tiling in progress. The Warbases tile sheets are thin cardboard, laser-cut in various tile designs. Simply clip them from the letter-sized sheet and glue in overlapping rows. This can be rather tedious but curiously soothing at the same time.

The finished tiling with a peak cap added from thin card. Already this is a considerable aesthetic improvement.

And sitting atop the now permanently-constructed walls.

Before progressing with the roofs, I decided to also reinforce the buildings themselves. They come with no interior floor on the bases so in order to strengthen the whole, I cut a thin card base to fit and glued it on. The entire structure now is quite sturdy.

The newly-added roof tiles were base-coated in black and dry-brushed with two (or three?) greys.

Then was added a thin blue-grey ink wash. As with the dry-brushing, I was careful not to attempt a uniform covering. I much prefer a rather haphazard application of all dry-brushing and ink layers. This makes for more pleasing result (to my eye, at least).

Next up were some thin sepia and green ink washes. 

And the final result!

This is not the end of conversions for these buildings. I plan to add some posters etc to the exterior walls. However, I want to make them usable for England or the continent (France, actually). French posters would not look good in a sleepy English village (and vice-versa). I'm toying with the idea of magnetized posters that can be swapped out, depending on the locale. As well, perhaps some bases. Currently, the two largest structures sit atop wooden platforms. But if I want to use them without the platforms, I'd prefer bases to match my other buildings. I may just create the bases and have the buildings detachable in this case.

Some ImagiNation please..."Arch Bishop Ambroise de Chabichou du Poitou"

Ah, finally found it! In 2012, Phil painted up a character figure for Le Grand Duché de Gourmandie in the form of Arch-Bishop Ambroise de Chabichou du Poitou. Now that's a mouthful but perfectly suited to this army since it has the Clerics national advantage in Maurice. I had somehow lost the name of this fine individual (kindly dreamt up and supplied by Phil) and could not find it on this blog. Lo and behold it wasn't here but on Phil's blog that I found it (and the picture). So here is the Arch-Bishop, in all his splendour (with Phil's accompanying text). Thanks again Phil (and he will soon see the field again...the itch is growing).

Finally I can reveal the completed model:  "Arch Bishop Ambroise de Chabichou du Poitou".  The newest member of the Grand Duchy of Gourmandie.  This bad-boy "Most Holy" will be used in Maurice for the Cleric national traits.  I plan on adding my own, but that has to be ordered from The Assault Group and can only be had with a certain amount of pounds purchased.  Lucky for me, my entire second army for my ImagiNation project will be sourced from this fine company.

I tried to match the colours used in the different uniforms of the Grand Duchy of Gourmandie when painting this one up.  Dave and I tend to "compete" with each other when it comes to including various narrative elements to our armies and I feel that this one will fit in well.  He may have gained the upper hand with both the carriage that accompanies his Duke into battle and now this Bishop versus my single wine cart.

This model is HUGE!  Most certainly a 30-32mm one.  It has massive "pitchers mound" syndrome going on.  I was going to dremel down the bottom of the figure, but was a bit unsure with my nerves to do so.  Oh well, I guess Dave can just play it off as being a giant of a man. I had to resort to basing him on a 30mm base vs the usual 25mm... Yea, its that big...

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Warbases English Country Church

After a few months of figure painting, my focus has turned to buildings. Besides cleaning up some long-overdue and niggling terrain touch ups (more of that anon), I recently ordered a new church from Warbases. Ostensibly, this will be for my upcoming Home Guard v. Fallschirmjager campaign (again, more on this on a future post) for which I've already ordered and received an entire platoon and support weapons of HG from Warlord and Foundry. My plan is to add several English village-type buildings to my collection, including a parish church. This is my first building kit order from Warbases but I completely forgot to photograph the bare kit when it arrived so I lifted the pic below from the Warbases site.

This is definitely a case of getting exactly what's depicted on the tin. This is a very basic kit of a relatively simple structure. The pieces all fit quite well together (as is to be expected with laser-cut mdf and the inherently low-tolerances from the process). The only slightly niggling issue on first examination was the very shallow cutting of the stonework pattern. I was concerned that painting may obscure the pattern and not take dry-brushing well. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this wasn't an issue.

The full building, assembled and painted. I forgot to take some photos of the building process, unfortunately. I chose to stucco the walls rather than leave the bare stonework and used various inks and dry-brushing. The roof has Warbases roof tiles added. These are laser cut card and are somewhat fiddly to apply but the end result is quite nice (besides, the time spent applying them is rather therapeutic and relaxing). I've added some old Games Workshop walls for the front yard and some stone basing for the building itself.

I realized that because my figures are mounted on 3mm mdf bases, the church could do with some raising to compensate and match. I used some 3mm thick square bases as a foundation. I roughed up and sanded the edges to show wear and to highlight the gaps between each. I also added some plastic sidewalk in front of the entrance. These also were distressed by marring the edges and gaps with an exacto knife.

A close-up of the foundation stones. I ended up with a small gap at one end, since the pre-cut squares didn't quite match the dimensions of the building. Into this gap I placed a small half-cut plastic tube to simulate a drain (visible in a later pic below).

A closer shot of the front walk, showing the distressed stone squares.

A couple of pics of the stained glass windows. After sourcing the appropriate images online and resizing, I printed these on photo paper, cut them out, and mounted them  on the inside of the window openings.

The roof, showing the various inks and dry-brushing that provide variations in the colours. I was quite happy with the end result here.

The inside of the tower roof was bare mdf so I decided to line it with balsa, scored to represent wooden planking. This was then brown-inked and dry-brushed. Again, the result here is pleasing (and a perfect pot for  an FOO or sniper.

The completed model, with basing complete. I'm quite pleased with the result and this model should provide a lovely centrepiece for my quiet, sleepy English village (before the dreaded fallschirmjagers descend upon it). 

Here can be seen the small drain used to fill in the gap between the end foundations stones.