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ASL: Valor of the Guards is finally here!

Posted by panzerschreckdesign on 2008, July 17

Happy VotG day to me!

Happy VotG day to me!

Exquisite timing from Milsims sees Valor of the Guards arrive at my door on my birthday. Even though I was Pre-order #22 or so back in 2005 and knew then what VotG would contain, seeing the contents in reality still managed to impress me. There’s a lot included in the box: 17 scenarios, 4 campaign games, 780 1/2″ and 352 5/8″ counters, two mapsheets and 36 pages of rules. When I showed Kirsty what the box included, even she was impressed! It helped that I trotted out the old saw, “ASL. It’s not just a game, it’s a lifestyle!” which brought a laugh. At $77 plus P&H, VotG is very much a bargain.

What strikes me after just a brief look at the package is how much more play value I’ll be getting compared to Red Barricades. Don’t get me wrong, I loved RB, but I’ve pretty much run the gamut of playing all four Campaign Games and all 11 or 12 scenarios that I know of that use the RB map and to be honest, RB can become a chore at times to get through.

Of the 17 scenarios in VotG, I’d hazard that I’ll be able to get through 14 of them before the end of the year in Face to Face play without overdoing it, and the three remaining are the larger scenarios that will reward taking the extra time to get familiar with all the new rules and the various aspects of the terrain. Once I’ve finished playing through all the scenarios as both sides then I’ll definitely be looking to play the various CGs and the extra scenarios that have been published already in Dispatches From the Bunker. This should take me right up until the end of 2009 and yet still leave me time for more casual ASL play.

Thankfully with regular attendance and availability of other ASL players at the Paddington Bears in Sydney, my days of solely playing ASL via VASL/ PBeM are history.

Not only is this a stellar day for me ASL wise, but it’s kickstarted my interest in other things Stalingrad. I’ve picked up a few more books on Stalingrad from Jason Marks et al, and some generalist Eastern Front histories that piqued my interest. I’ve also received some more Flames of War blisters that will now allow me to assemble the two Stalingrad themed forces I’ve always wanted to field – a Shturmoviye Gruppiye based force and the requisite German opposition –  T34 and KV variants, StuIG 33b SPGs and landser.

Last but not really least, Ithe quick perusal of the VotG chapter has allowed me to revisit the much-maligned Critical Hit Dzerhezinsky Tractor Works/Grain Elevator HASL modules. Just from this, I’m pretty sure I can come up with a much more workable version of the DTW and GE campaign games as well as sorting out the various scenarios. Just as with my Flames of War projects, this is not something designed for the rigours of competitive play but is more along the lines of a historical study game – purely for the interest in seeing how the history plays out on the tabletop or the mapsheet.

It’s been a very good day.

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Posted in Advanced Squad Leader, Boardgames, Books, Flames of War, Gaming, History, Reviews, wargaming | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Review III: QRF Japanese Type 89

Posted by panzerschreckdesign on 2007, May 13

15mm/1:100 th scale model

The model made by QRF is the A version with the sloping turret and the two part glacis.

There are 5 parts to this model: The hull, two double-sided track suspension sponsons, the turret and the commander’s hatch. In general the model is pretty crisply cast. Edges are quite distinct and the detail while simple is there. One piece of detail that is very well done is the grill work on the exhaust – it’s something that you’re better off doing a thin wash to highlight rather than drybrush.

Looking at the hull there are a few areas of concern however. The rear track guards are poorly cast and lack the curve of the prototype, in this case there’s some damage to them which would require replacement with plastic card from the end of the exhaust onwards. Underneath the track guards is a real problem area. Be prepared either to carve or dremel the bulges of excess metal that will interfere with the top track run. A good sand down of the attachment plate will also help. There are a couple of shape issues I have with the fighting compartment area – I think the frontal aspect is a bit shallow, the lower glacis could be a bit deeper to avoid the odd looking gap between ground and belly of the hull. The side sponson angles just seem a little off in that they’re just that bit too horizontal for my liking.

The tracks: Again you’re going to have the same old problem of attaching them to the hull. This is exacerbated by the nature of the suspension units which are not slab sided at all and have many undercuts. I think you can eliminate using a plastic card shim here and instead look at using a thin sausage of milliput to create the necessary conformation of an attachment bracket. I’m not sure that the shape of the track units is that correct, as it doesn’t taper to the rear and create that steep angled look to the tank from the side. The suspension detail is pretty much non existent with none of the suspension brackets visible just solid flat disc wheels. The top track run is simple but has the return rollers showing which is a nice identifier.

The turret has some issues that will require fixing however. For one thing it’s too shallow, and the profile is not symmetrical when viewed from the front, with the right side evidencing a marked slope while the left side is much steeper. Along with the shallowness, the turret top suffers from shrinkage and is quite concave as can occur with metal castings. The turret also catches badly on the rear engine grilles to the extent that you have to traverse the turret some 60 degrees away from the centreline before this is no longer a factor. Definitely a case of adding a shim or raising the fighting compartment by about 1mm. The shim would also at least give the turret some additional needed height as otherwise the turret just looks rather wrong (the gun mounting is set too low by comparison). The turret cupola is the later version which would have a split hatch as opposed to the upturned bucket type with the dustbin lid cover. However as many Type89s were effectively hybrids this is less of an issue and it would be a simple matter to do the old style cupola.

The turret unfortunately also suffers from mould misalignment…this is noticeable when viewing the turret from the rear where you’ll need to do some filing and tidying, but also on the left hand side of the turret where there is a significant undercut in the lower third (although the photo shadow overstates this to some degree). This is probably why the slope on the left looks wrong and really can only be fixed by building it up with putty to eliminate the step and return the correct slope angle. There’s also a fair bit of banding which is annoying although not exactly

One thing that will strike you is the lack of rivet detail. This tank rivals the Italian M series tanks in number of rivets but there are none to be seen on the model. Be prepared for lots of fiddly work adding rivets to this model. Personally I’m not going to bother – I’d rather focus on getting the paint scheme right and looking crisp.

All in all a serviceable model. Very plain to the point of simplistic but it should paint up well. Those of you interested in the Mainland Asia battles should get a lot of use out of the Type 89.

Posted in Modelling and Painting, Reviews | 6 Comments »

Review II: QRF Renault D2

Posted by panzerschreckdesign on 2007, May 11

So let’s see how this one turns out:

Four pieces: hull, turret and two identical track/suspension pieces.

 

The hull is a hollowcast piece with a very thick nose area, a subdivided hollowed middle chamber and a solid rear end that isn’t as deep as the nose. The turret is a solid one piece casting (like the original really) with a 2mm peg as the mounting point. The track/suspension units are reversible single piece mouldings.

 

All in all a pretty tidy model, much better than the FCM 2C. I still have some issues however: notably in the area of the trackwork and finish of the hull.

At each front end of the lower hull superstructure (where one attaches the suspension units) QRF have a large flat plate that continues down from the mudgaurds. This is about .5mm higher than the rest of the corrsponding attachment area and thus the track sponsons are not going to sit flush longitudinally. This would be a minor point, albeit annoying, and fixable with a simple shim of plasticard (something I have no qualms about doing normally anyway to get a flush seat on any model) if it wasn’t for the issue of these reversible track units. Nice idea in terms of mould efficiency but an absolute bear to keep everything square on the model if the contact surface is not flush. And given the various nooks and crannies of the suspension sponsons, that’s not going to happen. It’s exacerbated in this case by the fact that the trackwork itself is wider than the sponsons and suspension so again one has the problem of a non-trued mounting in one aspect. Combine that with the frontal plate issue and you’ve got issues of load bearing on the glue . Fixable properly by using Milliput as a gap filler to obtain the 90 degree true aspect but a bit more work than I’d want if I inteneded to field an entire company of this model.

 

The hull itself is pretty good although the angles of the stowage bins at the front end of the tank are blurry in definition and incorrect in aspect angle. A minor nitpick, solved with some judicious use of a file and a decent blade. Details generally are okay although somehat perfunctory and not as crisp compared to those attainable by resin models in general – but that’s always been an advantage of resin in any scale. My hull casting has a 1-1.5mm diameter sinkhole and a secon smaller one but both obvious and deep to the naked eye behind the left hand stowage bin. Again fixable but annoying. Looking at the hull directly from above, it’s slightly out of true at the upper glacis area and where the sloping engine plate meets the turret deck, but nowhere near as objectionable as the FCM2C was. This is something you’d have to be looking for to notice and shouldn’t show up from the usual oblique vantage point.

 

There’s some sinkage on the rear engine plate which mars the fairly basic grill detail but if at this stage you’re worried about that you’re probably thinking about redoing the engine grills anyway so you’d fix that at the same time with some milliput. The rear plate of the hull isn’t too bad with basic detail.

 

 

The Turret

 

Generally okay. Horizontal mould line around the turret is a personal annoyance. The real issue here is the fact that the armoured shroud for the coax interferes with the driver’s periscope badly. The turret is unable to be placed properly fore and aft as the shroud rests on the periscope and raises the turret slightly. This also means that it catches when turning the turret. Not a problem if you glue down your turrets but I don’t as I need to show turret traverse/armament orientation in my games. Fixable with a circular shim of plasticard easily enough. Details are somewhat crude at times and the casting is pretty rough in finish but a good primer and smart paintwork will smooth that out nicely.

 

The suspension units are not too bad apart from the issue of attachment mentioned above. The finish is a bit rough with some pitting and sinkage but nothing too drastic. Be prepared to remove some of the flash around the front drive whee but be careful of the rear idler, as the casting shape of it means it can look like flash. I did note that the rear idler on my model has signs of shrinkage in the metal which shows itself as a gap between the misshapen rim and track. Also the track at the rear is almost pointed rather than conforming to the expected curve. Rudimentary tracklink detail on upper surfaces and visble front/rear asp[ects but I hate painting tracklinks anyway so this works okay for me. There’s an obvious join/gap in the track midway along the bottom run.

 

Summary:

 

Average to poor quality in terms of casting crispness and shape, basic details are there, some aspects could be improved. I’m not sure I’d want to buy a whole company of them given the price per model, but it is effectively the only available model of the D2 that I know and it is after all a French tank which means you get to paint something that looks like it was designed by Dali with a colour scheme from Picasso. An improvement from the FCM 2C and very usable. Just be prepared to do some work and don’t rush the painting and preparation. A good paintjob will work wonders on this model and disguise most of the faults. Finally it’s not as cliched as fielding Somuas or Char Bs so you get style points.

Posted in Articles, Gaming, Modelling and Painting, Reviews | 6 Comments »

QRF Review

Posted by panzerschreckdesign on 2007, May 10

To be honest I’ve never thought that much of the QRF stuff from what I’ve been able to glean from the pics on the website. The quality of the castings always looked slightly hit or miss, and somewhat rough in finish. One of my pet hates is mould lines around turrets, hence my aversion to the OG/Command Decision stuff so I was quite happy to limit myself to an initial sampling, especially as I’ve not seen QRF stuff in the flesh before.

As for the cost of the order, the total came to £13.69 plus £6.00 shipping so just on NZD$56 for three models. That’s with the 20% discount applied. Somehow unless I could get that discount with every order I’m not sure I’d be ordering that often. It’s not an outrageous amount but just the reality of ordering models from the UK.

The order arrived on Monday 15th January packed in a standard bubblewrap envelope with each model in a ziplock bag and wrapped in newspaper. Pretty standard packaging and nothing had escaped. I was a little surprised that there was no invoice enclosed but perhaps I should have specified I would have liked a hardcopy one included in special instructions.

Because of the relatively new status of the models/masters (in the case of the D2 and FCM 2C) I had some reasonable expectations about casting quality and fit from the outset, particularly based on the photos I’d seen on the website (I’d seen the painted example of the 2C from another customer and discounted it as a useful reference because of the quality of the photo and the less than stellar paintjob).

The only damage in shipping I could find was that the main gun of the 2C was bent out of true to 90 degrees but given the vagaries of shipping, that was understandable. Thankfully the metal used is pliable enough to allow readjustment without real issues of metal fatigue (good thing that LKM moved away from the FreiKorps metal type years ago).

The FCM 2C comes in 6 pieces: Hull; twin double sided suspension units; main turret; subsidiary turret; and a smaller upper hull superstructure/engine deck. On first impression, the castings aren’t as good as I’d hoped. The main hull is warped and bowed along the longitudinal axis on the sides, there’s significant shrinkage on the upper horizontal surfaces (a problem consistent with the nature of big single metal castings) and the model itself isn’t square along the front or rear hull lines, with a fairly obvious bias to the lefthand side. Much of this I believe to be due to the nature of metal casting, particularly the shrinkage, but I was surprised to see how far out of true the casting was.

F2C Parts
F2C Overview

The main turret looks to be a tad too short, almost squashed as it were, and on closer inspection I know why: the turret casting is lopsided, which is rather obvious when viewed from the front. The left hand side is deeper than the right hand side, it leans to the right. I’ve compared the model to the 6 view plans I’ve got and indeed the turret is askew. Other issues with the turret include the fairly significant mould line around the circumference, and the fact the locating hole for it needs to be drilled out, and that even when the turret is located correctly, the rear abrades and catches on the hull raised detail (this actually is a problem with all three models). Thankfully by adding a small plasticard riser to the underside of the turret I can get around this, but it will involve a fair bit of work to reverse the lean as well.

F2C front alternate
F2C Front profile

The suspension units are interesting. QRF cast them as double-sided, so that they basically just needed one master. There are issues of a minor nature with these as well. The trackwork is serviceable, although there’s some pitting and slippage along the top sides, and the track detail is rudimentary at best, with the bottom run of tracks being plain along the contact area with the ground. The MGs on the bow quarters are in bas relief which I find offputting, better to have left them for the gamer to add themselves or included a couple of barrels separately. The actual detail on the sides is okay if a tad simplistic, but there’s a lot of scope for extra detail that I’m used to getting with resin production. As for the attachment procedure, well let’s just say I’m glad I have decent line drawings so I can determine where exactly I’ll need to affix to the hull. That in itself will be a mission as the framework cast onto the hull sides for this very reason is misshapen, miscast and because of the significant bowing, will need to be replaced.

Attaching the units to the main hull will need a fair bit of work to get a decent fit. No use of superglue here, this is a case for a fair amount of two part epoxy araldite, model clamps and I hate to say it, filler putty. It’s been many a year since I’ve had to use the amount of filler on a single model that I know I’ll need for this. The double sided suspension units don’t offer a flush perpendicular surface to attach either so some shims of plasticard are necessary to get a proper squared off look .

The upper superstructure was very simple and had no major issues although again it’s slightly bowed and out of true. The subsidiary turret is probably the least problematic of all just needing a quick rasp with the file to clean up.

F2C Arse

In summation, I was disappointed with the quality of this model. I had expected a lot less blurring of details (there’s some chunky flash on the front and rear of the hull) and the level of detail is rudimentary as well. What was really disappointing was that with such a newish master and model release that the castings require so much work and in some respects (the hull) are irredeemable. I’d started out with a fair degree of reasonable expectation, and frankly the reality hasn’t matched up. I’m still undecided as to whether I’ll order more FCM 2Cs as the effort required to bring them up to the level of finish I’d want to field on the table is significant and even then I might be better off scratchbuilding my own.

I’ll be looking at the Renault D2 and Japanese Type 89 tomorrow.

Posted in Articles, Gaming, Modelling and Painting, Reviews | 6 Comments »

March Madness

Posted by panzerschreckdesign on 2007, March 29

Just picked up the final hardcover edition of the six volume series from Arms and Armour Press (for less than 1/3 of the price I had considered spending for it!).

Armour camouflage & markings North Africa 1940-1943
By George Bradford

Hard Cover, Published 1974 by Arms and Armour Press, 98 pages, includes many black and white photos and colour illustrations.
Over 100 superb colour profiles and views of tanks, and 90 black and white photos illustrate this detailed reference work. Described and pictured are the camouflage & markings of the armoured vehicles that fought in North Africa from the first Italian campaigns and the German advance to El Alamein to the final Allied victories that drove the Axis into the sea.

The contents are: comparative colour swatches; Italian armour camouflage & markings 1940-43; British armour camouflage & markings 1940-43; the birth of the DAK; German armour camouflage & markings 1941-43; American armour camouflage & markings 1942-43.

So now I have hardcovers of Panzer Colours; Blitzkrieg; British Tank Markings and Names; The Eastern Front; D-Day to Berlin and now North Africa to go laong with the various Histoire and Starmer titles. It’s only taken me 25 years to get hold of all six but better late than never.

Posted in Books, Modelling and Painting, Reviews | Leave a Comment »

OMG! LOLZ! Pete's playing something to do with Kursk! Hell has officially frozen over.

Posted by panzerschreckdesign on 2007, March 17

Hell’s Bridgehead: Clash along the Psel River. July 1943It had to happen, after years of avoiding Kursk as a subject to bother with (overrun as it is with the SS fanboys), I’ve finally bitten the bullet and grabbed Critical Hit’s Hell’s Bridgehead module and volume 6/4 that focuses on it. I think I may well have just put the game on the shelf as a conversation piece and not even thought about playing it until I actually read the designer’s notes and most importantly Kurt Martin’s irreverent and amusing piece on the playtest. Sure it was written back in 2002 but it’s the type of off the wall commentary style that works for me, and I love the reference to the “Kursk Blues Cafe”. I can see why HB has garnered so much praise and positive feedback and I’m glad I made the decision to buy it and the relevant issue. The best thing is that what map and rules errata has been corrected in the 2nd Edition and the new map style is ver’ pretty indeed:

Hell's Bridgehead Kursk Map 1

The scenarios are a good mix, not too small, not too big with at least three proper CGs. Plus there are the scenarios in the magazine that use the K2 map which is almost as pretty (no pic of K2 sorry). There’s so much material here for great ASL games (especially once I look at playing some of the Schelling mini-CGs from the ASL journal on different aspects of Kursk. Thankfully I doubt I’ll be spending gratuitous amounts on supplementary reading (mostly the KOSAVE , Glantz and Zetterling books) but I think I’ve found the necessary inspiration to actually do that Mid war Soviet army for Flames that I’ve been holding off on. Not sure I really want to build an army that has anything to do with Totenkopf or Das Reich however.

Lots of reading in 6/4 to take note of and some interesting additional scenarios outside the focus on Kursk – including a look at the Japanese airborne assault on Palembang airfield. Now to sort through all the existing errata and check 7/3 for additional material using the Kursk maps or even Tigers to the Front. The K2 mapsheet could well be used as the basis for some more non-HASL designs.

I’m glad in a way I took such a long time to look at CH stuff again – I’d lost the most severe of the negative pre-conceptions and so I’ve been very pleased with the advances in presentation and general feel. I may have to invest in a few destroyed tiggers and panthers for the tabletop anyway.

P-J

Posted in Advanced Squad Leader, Reviews | Leave a Comment »

Mmm ASL stuff

Posted by panzerschreckdesign on 2007, February 22

Came home from work today to find my copy of the Critical Hit 1997 Special Edition had arrived from Canada. I bought this purely for the Dzerhezinsky Tractor Works content and I’m happy enough with the price I paid, given the issue is long out of print. It was interesting to see that there was some extra material for Platoon Leader 2.1 which I can easily retrofit into PL2.5a if needed.My next order of business is to get hold of the actual module for the Tractor Works so I can go ahead and look at correcting the issues of play balance and clarifications that personified this particular era of Critical Hit. Now all I’m looking forward to is the arrival of Issue 7.3 and Stalin’s Fury over the next few days – My copy of CH’s Hell’s Bridgehead is waiting on confirmation of the availability of Issue 6/4.

I’m pretty sure I’ll be purchasing a few more products over trhe next few months, probably just to catch up with things again, but I may go nuts and get hold of the Berlin Module because I’m such a nut these days about Historical map sheets.

You’d think that a small module with only four scenarios would not be amongst my must buys, but Action at Carentan is definitely on my must buy to play list. That and Journal number 7 which has a lot of very enjoyable, smaller yet intriguing scenarios are probably going to feature a lot in any face to face games I get to play over the next few years, with the latter being probably the dominant series of scenario choices for VASL.

Posted in Advanced Squad Leader, Reviews | Leave a Comment »

The Bells of Hell Go Ting a Ling Ling Part 2

Posted by panzerschreckdesign on 2007, February 13

So work’s been busy as all getout lately. That hasn’t stopped the deliveries of goodies from parts elsewhere thankfully, I’m now at the point where I’ve got 95% of my boardgame collection stable with very few more purchases needed. I finally got hold of the Stalingrad maps I referenced a while ago, and sure enough there’s a significant difference in area covered betweren the large hex and the smaller hex versions, the latter actually reaching to the Volga.How did I pick these up? Through the auspices of Stephen @ Warchest in Melbourne, Australia. Must say i’m every impressed with the service from him. Fair prices to boot. I bought the second edition of Critical Hit’s Valor of the 37th Guards, which included not only the large hex map of the Dzerhezinsky Tractor works but the original map from the 1997 DTW module and the original Grain Elevator minimap from the 1997 Critical Hit Magazine Special Edition. So I’ve almost completed the necessary accumulation of product.

I’m going to end up with some duplication of mapsheets but that’s no hardship as I’m sure I can find a use for them. So basically all I’m after now is the original DTW module with its 2 Campaign games and four scenarios and the 97SE with the Grain Elevator scenarios/CG. The latter is on order already from The Sentry Box in Canada, and I may have scoped out a copy of DTW although I’m paying the OOP premium 😦

I also picked up one of the lesser items on my want list – a copy of the old Area-Impulse ACW game, They Met at Gettysburg which has a poor reputation but surely can be salvaged. Other than that, I’ve been catching up on my reading and now that I have the Starmer books and a Vallejo paint chart (the one with actual paint swatches) I’ve pretty much got some writig to do.

I even started playing some ASL again, Stalingrad natürlich, with my old adversay Jay White. We’re now on Turn 3 of our game that was interrupted by me getting sidetracked by real life, and so far it’s been one crazy Rollercoaster ride once again, with the highlight for me being the critical hit I scored with a Molotov-Projector on one of the two StuIG33Bs Jay is fielding. One flank is almost completely secure through the blazes that have started up.

Anyway I really need to take some pics again (I’ve been slack – no change there) and posting again

P-J

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More Books

Posted by panzerschreckdesign on 2007, January 23

Back from work to find an Amazon parcel on my doorstop once more, this time from Amazon US. Three Balkoski books, comprising his Normandy trilogy; Omaha, Utah and Beyond the Beachhead. I’ve been an inveterate borrower of the last title for some time now, so it was about time I picked up my own copy.

I’ve been a tad dilatory about acquiring Balkoski’s books for various reasons, but it was mainly that i was looking to buy hardback editions of all three along with the relevant books by Georges Bernage and the various Battleground Normandy books. I’ve looked at the similar BattleZone books, but the list of authors hasn’t thrilled me as they’ve also done some of the less well received Battleground: Normandy Books (any of these authored by Tim Saunders, Ian Daglish and Tim Kilvert-Jones being the ones to get hold of as opposed to Carl Shilleto or Ken Ford who seem to have done very much potted history by rote).

Beyond the Beachhead is sufficiently well known and regarded that anything I say would be gilding the lily, but I hold firmly to the view that Balkoski’s written the definitive accessible and accurate accounts of the Utah and Omaha beaches and immediate actions thereafter insofar as they’re objective, detailed and cognisant of the wider picture. The important factor to me is that Balkoski has avoided the polemical posturing and misinformation that has marred much US so-called scholarship on the Normandy invasion. It certainly makes for an easier and pleasant read especially given the flow of his writing.

I’ve only managed a brief read of the Omaha book so far, but the quality of the writing is apparent in terms of flow and ease of engagement. I was pretty certain that Balkoski’s writing would have matured nicely, and the level of research and deatil incorporated seamlessly so far has been exactly what I was after. Read in concert with the Batlleground book and Bernage’s title, I’m getting a much better picture of what Omaha incvolved from both sides than I had before. I’m looking forward to continuing on with the book at a measure pace, partuicularly as Battlefront will be releasing US assault infantry designed specifically for the Omaha/Utah landings…now all I have to do is get hold of some more plastic card and construct some detachable wading trunks for my existing Shermans.

P-J

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In the footsteps of Sutcliff and Graves

Posted by panzerschreckdesign on 2007, January 21

Recently I was involved in a discussion regarding historically themed fiction a la Rosemary Sutcliff’s Eagle of the Ninth and Robert Grave’s Count Belisarius. Sutcliff wrote primarily for a teenage audience while Graves wrote for his classically educated contemporaries, but Sutcliff is seen as being in the same league as Graves and in my opinion rightfully so. Grave’s I, Claudius may have had the publicity with the excellent Derek Jacobi series, but Sutcliff’s Eagle also managed a respectable transition to the TV screen in the 70s IIRC.Out of this discussion came an Amazon UK order for three books: Alfred Duggan’s Winter Quarters, Wallace Breem’s Eagle in the Snow and a newcomer to this field, Rebecca Tingle’s Edge of the Sword. The first two books are reprints of much lauded works dealing with the decline of the Roman Prinicpate, while Tingle has chosen a formative year in the life of Æthelflæd, daughter of Alfred the Great, as the basis for her work. Of the three, Duggan and Breem came highly recommended, shile Tingle was very much a speculatiive acquisition with not too many expectations.

The first book to arrive was Tingle’s, after only three days transit from the UK (another reason I’ve given up buying books locally) and I managed to get through it that evening. It’s a light read, with reasonable characterisation and some solid descriptive passages. If anything caused me a little murmur of discontent, it’s that there’s no real feeling of the land in the writing. Outside the obvious cues of names and cultures nothing reaches out to define this is Britain in the 9th Century. I did wonder whether the author has actually been to Britain and travelled in the regions she writes about. However this minor point aside, the author sensibly limits herself to describing the immediate surroundings in general terms rather than attempting to pinpoint absolute locations.

It’s evident that the intended audience is teenage, as the book focuses on the experiences and feelings of Æthelflæd more so than actual scene-setting. Thus events are described in passing rather than breathless detail, although sometimes the reader is treated to an exposition of clothing detail that jars given the semi-opaque descriptive tenor. Overall it’s a solid if unspectacular piece of writing, fortunately not marred by the author’s academic credentials intruding overtly. Tingle is not up to Sutcliff at this stage but for a first book there’s a maturity and sureness that bodes well. For mine, the book could have gone a little longer and it certainly felt unresolved in some aspects, but it will hit the mark for the intenbded audience, being not too challenging yet not patronising. Teenage fiction probably walks the finest line in that respect.

Unspectacular but not boring or mundane.

P-J

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Quick Reaction Force: First Impressions of the FCM 2C

Posted by panzerschreckdesign on 2007, January 21

Firstly a word of apology for not having the pics…I’ve not got my camera set up properly for review purposes and the models aren’t available to photograph this weekend.

One of my long term projects has been to have a selection of models of some of the less well known WW2 tanks: The Neubaufahrzüg, the FCM Char 2C, Renault D2, Japanese Type 89 Chi Ro and the British Medium Mark II/IIC from the 30s. I’ve toyed with the idea of scratchbuilding some (as I only need a few of each) and buying the rest as funds allowed from the manufacturers who make them – not that many do.Recently (as in over the last 6 months) I saw that QRF had released a model of the FCM 2C. I was reasonably impressed with the publicity photo they had of the master, it looked serviceable, and I knew they did the Medium IIC and the Type 89. So when I had some discretionary funds on the CC and QRF had a 20% off sale (to offset the strength of the pound vis a vis the Pacific Peso) I went and ordered a few sample models.

To be honest I’ve never thought that much of the QRF stuff from what I’ve been able to glean from the pics on the website. The quality of the castings always looked slightly hit or miss, and somewhat rough in finish. One of my pet hates is mould lines around turrets, hence my aversion to the OG/Command Decision stuff so I was quite happy to limit myself to an initial sampling, especially as I’ve not seen QRF stuff in the flesh before.

Unfortunately my initial intention to order 5 different models fell by the wayside after I discovered that the Nbfzg was actually made by SDD rather than QRF. Oops. Anyway, as I was ordering late at night, I also managed to forget to order the Medium Mark II.

I knew from the pics I’d seen of that and the Nbfzg I would be looking at some fairly significant post purchase detailing anyway, so for review purposes it wouldn’t be quite so useful to include it. But still, the opportunity to grab one or two was lost.

In the end I ordered the Renault D2, FCM 2C and the Type 89 Chi Ro. The order process went smoothly including payment via credit card, or so I thought. It was about 12 hours later when I saw Geoff at QRF had emailed me to say there’d been a glitch with the website and while payment had been processed QRF didn’t have an actual record of the substance of my order.

As for the cost of the order, the total came to £13.69 plus £6.00 shipping so just on NZD$56 for three models. That’s with the 20% discount applied. Somehow unless I could get that discount with every order I’m not sure I’d be ordering that often. It’s not an outrageous amount but just the reality of ordering models from the UK. Returning to the glitch, a simple email reply solved any issues and the models would arrive when they would.

The order arrived on Monday 15th packed in a standard bubblewrap envelope with each model in a ziplock bag and wrapped in newspaper. Pretty standard packaging and nothing had escaped. I was a little surprised that there was no invoice enclosed but perhaps I should have specified I would have liked a hardcopy one included in special instructions.

Because of the relatively new status of the models/masters (in the case of the D2 and FCM 2C) I had some reasonable expectations about casting quality and fit from the outset, particularly based on the photos I’d seen on the website (I’d seen the painted example of the 2C from another customer and discounted it as a useful reference because of the quality of the photo and the less than stellar paintjob).

The only damage in shipping I could find was that the main gun of the 2C was bent out of true to 90 degrees but given the vagaries of shipping, that was understandable. Thankfully the metal used is pliable enough to allow readjustment without real issues of metal fatigue (good thing that LKM moved away from the FreiKorps metal type years ago).

The FCM 2C comes in 6 pieces: Hull; twin double sided suspension units; main turret; subsidiary turret; and a smaller upper hull superstructure/engine deck. On first impression, the castings aren’t as good as I’d hoped. The main hull is warped and bowed along the longitudinal axis on the sides, there’s significant shrinkage on the upper horizontal surfaces (a problem consistent with the nature of big single metal castings) and the model itself isn’t square along the front or rear hull lines, with a fairly obvious bias to the lefthand side. Much of this I believe to be due to the nature of metal casting, particularly the shrinkage, but I was surprised to see how far out of true the casting was. The other castings had their own idiosyncracies:

The main turret looks to be a tad too short, almost squashed as it were, and on closer inspection I know why: the turret casting is lopsided, which is rather obvious when viewed from the front. The left hand side is deeper than the right hand side, it leans to the right. I’ve compared the model to the 6 view plans I’ve got and indeed the turret is askew. Other issues with the turret include the fairly significant mould line around the circumference, and the fact the locating hole for it needs to be drilled out, and that even when the turret is located correctly, the rear abrades and catches on the hull raised detail (this actually is a problem with all three models). Thankfully by adding a small plasticard riser to the underside of the turret I can get around this, but it will involve a fair bit of work to reverse the lean as well.

The suspension units are interesting. QRF cast them as double-sided, so that they basically just needed one master. There are issues of a minor nature with these as well. The trackwork is serviceable, although there’s some pitting and slippage along the top sides, and the track detail is rudimentary at best, with the bottom run of tracks being plain along the contact area with the ground. The MGs on the bow quarters are in bas relief which I find offputting, better to have left them for the gamer to add themselves or included a couple of barrels separately. The actual detail on the sides is okay if a tad simplistic, but there’s a lot of scope for extra detail that I’m used to getting with resin production. As for the attachment procedure, well let’s just say I’m glad I have decent line drawings so I can determine where exactly I’ll need to affix to the hull. That in itself will be a mission as the framework cast onto the hull sides for this very reason is misshapen, miscast and because of the significant bowing, will need to be replaced.

Attaching the units to the main hull will need a fair bit of work to get a decent fit. No use of superglue here, this is a case for a fair amount of two part epoxy araldite, model clamps and I hate to say it, filler putty. It’s been many a year since I’ve had to use the amount of filler on a single model that I know I’ll need for this. The double sided suspension units don’t offer a flush perpendicular surface to attach either so some shims of plasticard are necessary to get a proper squared off look .

The upper superstructure was very simple and had no major issues although again it’s slightly bowed and out of true. The subsidiary turret is probably the least problematic of all just needing a quick rasp with the file to clean up.

In summation, I was disappointed with the quality of this model. I had expected a lot less blurring of details (there’s some chunky flash on the front and rear of the hull) and the level of detail is rudimentary as well. What was really disappointing was that with such a newish master and model release that the castings require so much work and in some respects (the hull) are irredeemable. I’d started out with a fair degree of reasonable expectation, and frankly the reality hasn’t matched up. I’m still undecided as to whether I’ll order more FCM 2Cs as the effort required to bring them up to the level of finish I’d want to field on the table is significant and even then I might be better off scratchbuilding my own.

I’ll be adding a lot of photos of the raw castings and continuing on with my efforts to come up with a serviceable final model over the next few months but the enthusiasm levels are a bit low at the moment – there’s a lot of work ahead and I’m just not sure I have the energy or commitment wherewithal.

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Once more into the rubble

Posted by panzerschreckdesign on 2007, January 17

In Australia, Jason Marks has a small limited edition publishing house that specialises in books on Stalingrad. The range of titles is very small, but the books are some of the few available that deal with the small unit operations within the city, given the destruction of many of the records and the very few survivors from the Kessel.

I’d been after his Death of the Leaping Horseman book ever since I heard about it, but for a while there it was only available on the second hand market for around $200 USD which was just too much for my blood. However the other day, while looking to spend money on research materials, I found he’d reprinted it and I could pick it up for AUSD$80. Oh yeah that was very much in my range again. I also picked up An Infantryman in Stalingrad, a detailed and very interesting reminiscence of the combat experiences of a leutnant in the 94. Infanterie division who took part in the battles for the Barrikady factory as well.

Given I’ve been on a Stalingrad kick for a while (with varying levels of active work) it was an easy decision to make. I’m still to pick up the latest book, which is another $80 AUSD on the barrikady fighting, but it will come. Anyway this interest in oparticularly the factory fighting arose out of the ASL historical module Red Barricades, which focuses naturally on the Barrikady complex and the period in October November 42 when the factories were progressively assaulted. I’d steered clear of the Stalingrad stuff for a while in ASL, purely because I doubted I’d ever get to do another Campaign game through lack of time and opponents. However while working on the Flames of War Stalingrad book, I found myself looking again at gaming small parts of the fighting using FoW and ASL.

To cut a long story short, the books arrived on Friday, and I’ve been picking my way through them occasionally as it suited. There’s so much detail there at the tactical level, one sees the composition of a particular German assault group down to individual weapon loads for the soldiers. The best thing about the books is that they’re based on the actual extant primary source war diaries and corroborating evidence wherever possible, and in the case of the memoir, egregious errors have been corrected but the original errors are footnoted and explained. The only quibble I have is that the maps are just a tad too small and could have been redrawn to give more clarity, but some of the private collection photographs are outstanding, particularly the ones shot while on the approaches to to the actual factories.

I’m now impatiently awaiting the release of Valor of The Guards and the Red October modules from MMP, just to see what the scenario listing is like and how they match up with the descriptions in these books. I don’t think you’lll see me trying to build terrain for them anytime soon, at least not until I’m in Aussie myself and have a decent amount of room to store and build the modules, but there’s some real incentive to get it right.

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When Craftsmanship has its place…

Posted by panzerschreckdesign on 2007, January 16

As a teenager, I remember the débût of Verlinden into the realm of aftermarket decals for 1/35th models. Back then it was a new wave of detail freaks etc etc filling the gaps the major manufacturers couldn’t justify with esoteric and limited production runs of all kinds of useful but not economically viable modelling addenda. And then we saw it with flags and shield decals for ancients through Napoleonics and ACW. All those time consuming and very artistically intensive areas that defy the common wargamer’s talent to replicate with a paintbrush are now the preserve of the gifted and organised aftermarket supplier.

Where is this guy going, you ask?

Well around New Years, I was browsing the web as one does when one is bored and listless and on one’s own. I’d made a couple of orders for books and models so far that day and really I had a few spare dollars available to me and I was still working on obtaining stuff to complete my Late War Brits. I knew I needed some decals, and enough to outfit a Cromwell squadron, a troop of Churchills, a full Motor Company of infantry, two full Carrier Platoons (yes 24-28 Carriers) and two RHA AT platoons along with a Field battery of 25lbers.

I’d been looking at doing the 11th armoured anyway, and the Churchills would end up beingfrom a neighbouring Tank brigade so I sent off to Dom for some of his new Decals. Normally I’d send off to BF locally, but I wanted to not have to bother with a whole bunch of extra decals I wouldn’t use to get enough for 11th Armd, and secondly I wanted to have a look at Dom’s decals for myself. So I armed myself with my trusty plastic and ordered a selection of decals from Dom’s site.

Now the purchase itself was nice and painless. and Dom’s personal email confirming and thanking me for the order within 24 hours was a nice touch. We may disagree on several aspects of wargaming, particularly in terms of the industry and rules, but it’s not an issue that drives our every gaming instant. Anyway, it was less than 8 days before the order arrived in an wee envelope (decals are such easy to freight things, it’s worth buying as many sheets as you can afford in one go whereever possible, the economy of scale is that much. Unfortunately with the strength of the Pound vis a vis the Pacific peso I’d had to limit myself to a single £10 order.

I’d ordered the 11th and 79th divisional decals, some white tactical markings (with blackedging), a sheet of 44-45 recce unit decals, the Lorried Infantry Brigade sheet and Dom’s first release, The Finnish set (I’m sure I’ll find a use for them in the Talvisota and Jatkosota forces.). I’ve not yet had a chance to apply the decals, a matter of getting everything ready and in one place. However when I do, I’m glad Dom’s seen fit to includ a nice handy tip sheet about applying them. It never hurts to have something of a hard copy reference guide to refresh the memory and there’s a tip or two there that I’d not actively considered before.

I’m looking forward to bering able to have neat and proper markings for my late war brits. It seems right to have everything crisp and neat at first then ladle on the ephemera of personal kit. I was very happy with the service and the quality of the decals, they certainly will make getting the army looking “right” a lot easier and hopefully less frustrating.

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First order to arrive…

Posted by panzerschreckdesign on 2007, January 9

No surprises really when it was the Battlefront order with the Falschirmjäger crewed Pak 35/36s and Vallejo Middlestone. This means that I can actually do some painting of mid/war FJs and vehicles. Damn, now I have no more excuses.

Anyway, the Pak set comes with two guns, 6 gun crew, an observer cmd team and a three man local defense/2ic team plus spare barrels with the StielGranate moulded on. Misc inclusions are two 37mm ammo pannions and a paradrop container plus the requisite two medium and 2 small bases. On closer inspection, I think the FJ moulds are starting to show some wear and tear, the observer had significant amounts of flash around his upper arms and shoulders and there were telltale signs of mould slippage as well. Thankfully nothing that couldn’t be cleaned up in about 10 seconds although it is a little bit of an annoyance, as I’ve only come across this issue with the last of the BEF blisters that BF produced.

The Paks are probably going to be set aside for now, as I’m going to replace them with some Pak 97/38s instead, preferring the look of the model in terms of heft. Plus the shells the gunners are carrying are just that wee bit large for 37mm being more the size of 75mm PzGr40 rounds. I had planned on getting some painting done tonight but looking at the time, it’s getting to the stage where I’m too tired to do much more than undercoat and as I still use enamels for that, I’d rather not go to bed reeking of turps. Especially as work has left me with the beginnings of a mild headache. No pics just yet, once I’ve got bandwidth to spare I’ll update the various posts in a big way.

Ciao for Now

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Soviet Camo Book

Posted by panzerschreckdesign on 2006, November 4

Camouflage of the Tanks of the Red Army, 1930-45 Maksim Kolomiyets and Il’ya Moschanskiy (tr. Stephen Sewell), Armada Vertical No. 5, Exprint Publications Moscow, 2000.

This looks to be pretty much the Panzer Colours equivalent for the Red Army. It’s a mine of information with lots of detail on the methods and application of paint schemes as well as debunking some of the myths. As I’m working on an Summer/Autumn 1941 Soviet force soon, it couldn’t have come at a better time, allowing me to work out which schemes would have been used in which region and seeing for myself what thecolours could look like on the tanks I intend to build.

P-J

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In the mail

Posted by panzerschreckdesign on 2006, October 31

Back from a revitalising holiday to find that Mark Pitcavage’s Scenario Designer’s Guide was part of the accumulated mail waiting for me. First glance – nicely done. Lots of reading to do and a few notes to make before a fuller report is on the cards. Not sure that it’ll be as useful as might have been suggested for non-ASL scenario designers but more later on that. So much to do today and I haven’t even typed up the updates.

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Peter Pig's PBI Rules

Posted by panzerschreckdesign on 2006, October 9

Poor Bloody Infantry

Obtained this today. I’ve been intrigued by the meta-game aspect of Recce that was mentioned in a review on TMP, and I wanted to see if it was something I could adapt for use with my usual rules as part of the pre-game setup. Based on what I’ve read of the rest of the rules in a quick glance through I’m not sure I’d play PBI as written, but so far nothing has jumped out at me as egregiously counter to what I look for from a WW2 game.

I can see myself purloining parts of PBI and the Lardies’ “I Ain’t Been Shot, Mum” for use in my Flames of War scenarios, so PBI and IABSM will accompany me as my reading in Aussie. I should be able to get some thoughts set down for my return at least. Sigh, another review to write.

P-J

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The BEF

Posted by panzerschreckdesign on 2006, October 4

For all that people complain about the crap performance of British early war armour, the 2 pounder tank gun was a damn fine weapon until mid 1941. It could clean up any german tank at 500 metres until the advent of face hardened plate and was well superior to the 37mm of the German vehicles.

I’ve always been fascinated by the various early cruiser tanks, the multiple turret A9, the supposedly improved A10 and the Christie suspension A13 in its various permutations. The key is that the BEF and the early desert forces had some wonderfully different camo schemes, no boring Khaki Drab for these lot. No, instead we have the glories of the caunter scheme and the two colour BEF France schemes. The problem has always been getting decent references books to match. there’s been much erroneous information over the years, much of it caused by the Airfix Matilda paint scheme and the terminology used to describe the paint colours.

Before I even think about painting my BEF armour I’m going to purchase the following books authored and researched by the doyen of British WW2 armour camoflage schemes, Mike Starmer:
Starmer's Europe Books
Starmer's North Africa books

I already own the following book which is useful but perpetrates some myths:
Zaloga's Blitzkrieg Camo and Markings

There’s a website that get referenced every so often, miniatures.de or something like that. Avoid it. The colour suggestions are out of whack, the information contains egregious errors (BEF tanks using all three greens in one scheme for one example) and basically you’ll just get confused. Better off spending the £10 + £2.50 for the Starmer book and get it right from the start.

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Mini Rulebook and compendium

Posted by panzerschreckdesign on 2006, June 23

I was fortunate enough to see the new FOW A5 mini-rulebook that BF will be providing gratis to all First edition owners, it’s pretty spectacular.

First off, it’s printed in full colour, and is very readable. It’s got rid of the somewhat busy sidebar photomontage graphics and is chock full of full colour Photographic examples using actual teams and models so that after a while you’ll recognise tabletop situations easily and know where to find the relevant examples in the rulebook.

Secondly the rules are much better written with the actual rules printed in italics, the explanations in standard font and bullet point summaries of each sub rule in their own distinct box. There’s a table of contents at the front with a fairly comprehensive index at the back, so that’s one area that’ll be a real bonus during the game. There’s a Quick reference chart at the back as well that can easily be colour photocopied and may very well end up being available as a downloadable PDF. the main chnages in the rules are that the rules are far better written and easy to understand and the Air Support has been redone completely. I won’t go into specifics but the changes elsewhere are also far and away improvements. It’s less a rdesign however than a finetuning and indeed reducing the special rules to manageable amounts.

The graphics in the book are much nicer, there are distinct areas for each phase of the turn now, and lots of examples of the new style boxed set artwork…no more Stars and Stripes/For King and Country art atrocities, but paintings more along the lines of the Soviet Artillery box and the actual rulebook cover as shown on the website. One of the nice things is all the natuionality specific rules (which have been reduced to some extent in number) are printed in their own sections with each page having a watermark of a national symbol that is subtly done and doesn’t make reading it difficult.

Summing up? This is better than I expected to get for a freebie…it’s as good as any rulebook out there and it’ll definitely be used on the tabletop…

The new compendiums are just as nice, weighty buggers but chock full of new photos, fully schematic orders of battle and things that appear on both fronts are in both books (cf Fallschirmjäger). If you’ve already got all the handbooks, well you might feel that getting the new hardback rulebook takes priority and wait for the update PDFs for your old books, but I’d rather make sure I don’t have to bother with retrofitting.

All in all, I’m very pleased with what’s happened with the new Mini-rulebook and compendium…I can’t wait to actually get them in my hands along with the full sized hardback book. Oh and just in case you were wondering even the outside playtest groups are expecting a couple of changes/clarifications that were added by the BF playtest group right at the end of the final playtest period…basically some finetuning and one change of heart by Phil IIRC (yes he does take note of all comments).

Edit: sadly there just wasn’t enough proofreading done on the compendiums – but BF have issued a timely errate update.

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