Miniature Ordnance Review looks at the world of historical and fantasy miniatures wargaming and model building. From 15mm Flames of War, to Warhammer 40K, to 1/35th scale tanks, with some potential surprises on the horizon - you'll find them here!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Arado 234 - Done!!!

So turns out that today was a good day to get work done after all. I managed to get the Arado pretty much completed. I ended up pulling back out my light box to take some photos that really give you a sense of the shading.


Top view - you can really see some of the black and white shading.


This view gives you a little hint of the bombs underneath the engines, but in case you think I was slacking off, the bottom is fully detailed as well!


Actually getting between the engines and the fuselage was a real pain in the butt, but it ended up looking pretty good.


For my first aircraft in literally years, I'm very happy with the little beast. Should be a fun tournament, if anti-aircraft fire doesn't ruin its day!

The Arado 234 in Flames of War

I have a tournament coming up at Guardian Games this weekend, and I'd hoped to get my Japanese army together for it, but I've been way too busy to finish painting it. So I'm therefore going to revive my 510 Schwere Panzerabteilung army from a previous tournament. The only problem is the point values are different, so I had to do a little rejiggering of the list.

To that end I've added an Arado 234 (AC015). This was a amazing light bomber that saw combat in the waning months of the war. I'd picked one up ages ago, but it had been sitting on my shelf for just such an emergency!

I wanted to try something a little different this time for the painting, so I went with the Ammo of MIG Black and White technique. This means I didn't need to highlight and panel shade every individual color - instead I did all of the shading ahead of time and then used thinned colors for the topcoat. I've been using Testors masking tape to complete the hard-edged camouflage scheme.


The photo above shows the current status. bit sadly lacks the contrast you need to really get a strong sense of the shading at this point. I still need to complete the final weathering as well, but if all else fails (read if my schedule continues to go to Hades in a handbasket), it is "good enough" to go as is.

I'll post more photos once I've finished up this little beast. It went together easily, though it needed some clean up, and has painted well.

Edit: You can see the finished bird here

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Call the Exterminator - Tyranid Paint Scheme First Pass

With my son interested in Warhammer 40K, I've been working on a secondary army to give him something to fight other than another Space Marine chapter (see my previous Space Wolves discussion). The Tyranids are an army that has grown and changed a lot from their original incarnations, and I must say I really love the look of the current range of models. So I took the plunge.

At this point I've been building a lot to get something on the table to play against my son - which should be fun. I'm incrementally teaching him the rules to the game, and we'll actually start pointed list building (as opposed to "just pile it all on the table and we'll work it out from there"). Though it wasn't my intention, the match-up will be the very representative Ultramarines vs. Tyranids, so there's that aspect to the fight as well.

As with any new army, I spend a fair amount of time on one of the basic troops trying to get the color scheme right. At this point I have a grand total of one (1) Termagant pretty much painted.


I'm using Vallejo paints and Ammo of MIG washes at this point. Overall I'm pretty happy with the scheme, but I may want to pick out the eyes a bit more with a red or orange as the purple seems to be getting lost. The base is 72.034 Bonewhite (from the Game Color line) with a brown wash (which is still in flux - I'll post final washes in my next buggy installment). All of the other colors are from the Model Color range. I highlight the Bonewhite with 70.918 Ivory. The green basecoat is 70.833 German Camouflage Bright Green highlighted with 70.891 Intermediate Green and 70.942 Light Green. I add purple to the recesses and simply highlight it by blending a lighter version by adding white.

I'll post more pictures as I get more miniatures painted. Building this army on our table has led to many bad jokes about any food being left out attracting bugs... and I expect the hilarity to continue.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Of Game Scale and Ground Scale - Part II

Recently the owner of GHQ published a lengthy post on The Miniatures Page providing some company background and extolling the virtues of GHQ's 1/285th product line. Honestly they do have some nice miniatures, but I personally found the post more than a bit troublesome on many levels as it represents yet another fairly absolutist position in the ongoing discussion regarding what is the proper scale for company level tabletop gaming. What follows is an edited version of the post I made to that thread, but as this is an issue that seems to come around quite often, I thought it was worthy of a deeper look.


Before going into some of the key portions of the post, I think a little preamble is required. Discussions and debates around ground scale vs. model scale – and absolute ground scale vs. abstract ground scale in wargaming have raged for years and will continue to rage for years into the future. At the end of the day, I strongly believe what scale a player chooses really comes down to a matter of personal preference. That personal preference covers not only the miniatures themselves, but what level of abstraction a player is comfortable with on the tabletop and in the rules. That key point is what I believe is completely missed so often in this discussion, as evidenced by the post made by GHQ.

I enjoy the model building and painting aspects of wargaming as much as I enjoy the games themselves, therefore I prefer the level of physical and painting detail I’m able to achieve with 15mm miniatures. The fact that things can get a bit crowded on the tabletop is a secondary consideration for me. I’ve been building models since the 70’s and playing wargames almost as long. The fact that a 15mm wargame lets me merge the two hobbies effectively is attractive because, as I’m sure is common to everyone here, I don’t have infinite time to pursue all of the hobbies I’d like to.

That being said, I tried to get into 1/285th micro-armor back in the 90’s when I was at Ohio State University. I purchased a rule set and some pretty nice miniatures (they may even have been GHQ), and although there were several good game stores in town I literally couldn’t find a group that played - in a major city with one of the largest universities in the nation. I was, however, able to find a chapter of the International Plastic Modeler’s Society – so I went that route for several years and didn't try to get back into historical miniatures wargaming until Flames of War came out and established itself. Then I was able to find a community that played, and I still play with essentially the same group.

GHQ's post has severed to foster some good discussion, but it also has allowed a platform to rehash several of the old arguments that are, quite frankly, irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Furthermore, I personally found several key statements in the original post objectionable, prejudicial, and in some cases insulting.  I understand that GHQ wants to run a business, and that the new Team Yankee ruleset affords them an opportunity to sell more product. However, you can build up your own product without simultaneously tearing down someone else's - this is where GHQ's post failed.

The post starts by saying,

A while ago we posted a message from GHQ laying out some of the history of GHQ. In it we went over the relationships we developed with the US Army in the 1970's participating in the development of the Dunn-Kempf game. This game was developed by 2 army officers at Command & Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth named Dunn and Kempf. They contacted GHQ to do the miniatures for the game. During this time we took many trips to Ft. Leavenworth to work with the TASO (Training Aids Service Officer) who supplied us with classified photos and drawings of Soviet vehicles on a "need to know" basis. These models had to be very accurate because one of the additional purposes of the game was vehicle recognition training. They chose GHQ for this project because they were familiar with us from using our miniatures in WWII games. They liked the scale and quality of our miniatures. They could have gone with 1/87th or 1/144th, or any other scale. They could have contacted another company in a larger scale, but they thought 1/285th was the appropriate scale for Modern warfare. This was very gratifying for us because it validated our decision to choose 1/285th when we conceived GHQ Micro Armour.

The post starts with some really nice background on the company. I can certainly relate to the fact that during the 1970’s and 1980’s it was decidedly hard to get solid information on Soviet Bloc equipment. I was trying to build armor and aircraft models at the time, and most of the accurate kits of modern subjects didn’t really start coming out until the late 1980’s / early 1990’s when the Iron Curtain fell. This sort of background is awesome back story for a company.

However, right off the bat the post starts to turn south as the thesis itself represents a couple of logical fallacies wrapped into one. By using the word "validated," it attempts to lend an absolute authority to what comes after. Ideally the thesis should have been "1/285th is a viable OPTION for company-scale tabletop wargaming" (which is absolutely is). Unfortunately, the thesis reads as "1/285th is the CORRECT scale for company-scale tabletop wargaming because the military says so, and we worked with them." This is an example of both the "appeal to authority" and "anecdotal" logical fallacies.

The post continues:

GHQ came about because I became interested in wargaming in 1963. The games played at this time were largely WWII in 1/87th (HO-Scale) with plastic Mini Tanks. Because of the large ground scale chosen, we played on the floor. Historically wargames had been played on the floor by grown men with Britains, and other toy soldiers. This kind of gaming did not appeal to me. I felt that games should be played on a table. I felt that there had to be a ground scale, and a miniatures scale compromise that would allow realistic gaming scenarios. At the time there was no smaller scale miniatures than 1/87th for WWII.

My goal became finding the smallest practical miniature scale that was convenient to use, but still allowed a model to have excellent detail, accuracy, and recognition. I made wooden prototypes to test scales. I concluded that 1/285th fulfilled these requirements, and gave 9 times the geographical playing field as 1/87th. I then set about learning how to cast vehicles. I was already a re-loader, and cast my own bullets out of lead, so I didn't start from scratch. Dow Corning had recently come out with RTV (Room Temperature Vulcanizing) rubber. I bought some, made molds, and started experimenting. Casting lead in RTV was beyond the specs listed, but it worked fine. I contacted Dow and told them about my experiences. They were shocked. I believe that I was the first person to ever use RTV for wargames miniatures, or figures.

No one is arguing that GHQ was a pioneer in the industry. No one is arguing that they have served the wargaming community well for decades, and hopefully will continue to serve for decades more. However, wargaming in general has grown exponentially both in dollars, number of available systems, and in sophistication since the 1960's - which is even before I got going! Just because a company was first to the market doesn't mean that the original solution is the best, or only, or "correct" solution in perpetuity. Companies and gaming systems must grow and adapt with the times and the market, or they risk relegation to obscurity or eventually shutting down completely.

GHQ continues,

At any rate, you can see that the whole purpose of GHQ was to create the best scale to game WWII, and Modern warfare in miniatures…and the US Army agrees (as well as those of Germany, UK, France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israeli, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Saudi Arabia…) This is particularly pertinent today because of the popularity of Battlefront's "Flames of War", and now "Team Yankee". First of all, let me say that I give high praise to Battlefront for their business plan. They recognized the huge popularity of "Warhammer" and designed a WWII game that played like "Warhammer" in roughly the same scale to appeal to those interested in crossing over to WWII. To their credit they have dragged many sci-fi gamers into historical gaming. "Flames of War" is an immensely popular beginners gaming system that has attracted many adherents. It has increased the popularity of WWII gaming among beginners, and we thank them for that.

And sadly this is where the wheels well and fully come off and we move from building up GHQ product to tearing down Battlefront and the Flames of War system as written. The first sentence is a blatant appeal to authority logical fallacy because they're contending that the scale is the "best" because several militaries use it for their own simulations. That's fine, but wargaming – even on the historical level – is not always meant to be a 100% accurate simulation. There is a time and place for extremely accurate simulations, and certainly military training exercises are one of those. Not every player is willing to go to that level of detail or commitment for an afternoon's enjoyment. Each individual game will have different goals, and will be trying to simulate different aspects of historical combat. Furthermore, games must consider a timeframe for play and set an overall complexity level – those will determine what abstractions need to be made in the rule set. And ultimately it is those abstractions which are what is going to attract a person to a gaming system or not.

The next sentences essentially damn Battlefront with faint praise (or if you will an appeal to emotion logical fallacy) and then go on to belabor the "beginner" aspect of Flames of War. There are a few key errors in the assertions. Warhammer and Flames of War are not "roughly the same scale." Warhammer and Warhammer 40K miniatures are 28mm heroic scale (often >30mm) whereas Flames of War simply focused on the already popular 15mm scale. Second, while it is approachable and accessible to the beginner, characterizing it as a "beginner’s gaming system" is both prejudicial and insulting to its player base. Granted it lacks the detail of some other systems, but those were conscious design decisions.

From this point forward, the post seems to belabor the point that "everything you’re doing is wrong" if you’re not playing company level games in 1/285th scale. Many of the objections stated, around towns, hedgerows, terrain, etc. have some merit at a high level, but they represent very nit picky details - honestly some of which aren't helped by moving to 1/285th scale miniatures.  For example, you can easily abstract hedgerows in Flames of War – the Normandy compilations do that quite well. Towns can be problematic as you won't technically have as many buildings as you'd see if you had a 1:1 ground scale, but again this is one of the areas that is abstracted in the Flames of War system. For a 2 hour company level game, that's fine. If you want the same game to run 6 to 8 hours, go for more detail!

For me, the bottom line is this. If you are uncomfortable with the level of approximation intrinsic in a company level 15mm tablegop game – play Flames of War in a different scale by all means, but please don’t contend that it is an empirically superior game. Please don't contend that your chosen scale is the "best" or "superior" or is "validated" by some external entity. Instead realize it has to do with your own preferences, as a player, and your comfort level with the level of abstraction in the gaming system as a whole. Also understand that there is ample room at the gaming table for different games and different scales, and at the end of the day we're all just a bunch of wargaming geeks trying to have a good time!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Plans for the Second Half of 2016

Given we're well into August at this point, I figured it was time to do a "state of the hobby" update for where I am with my various projects at this point... and the plan for the rest of the year.

My painting table is still straining under the weight of my Japanese force from Banzai. I'm hoping to have some pictures of the progress (or sadly at this point, lack of progress) on those guys by the end of the weekend. At this point the base coat and wash is on all of the infantry and gun crews, so now I have to go through and start doing the uniform highlights and details. I'm hoping to have these guys ready for a tournament about a month from now at Guardian Games in Portland.

The next list I'll be painting up is my 761st Tank Battalion list from the upcoming Battle of the Bulge compilation. I'm planning on taking this army to the Tanksgiving event at Guardian games on November 12. This event is a little different in that it is a true TANK event - no squishy infantry or gun teams allowed. That will drastically change the meta of the game. You also need a "warrior" team. This doesn't have to be an official warrior special character per the rules, but can be a historical figure or even a Hollywood character. I'm going to paint up a tank dedicated to Ruben Rivers of the 761st.

Past that I still have several Flames of War and Team Yankee projects I'd like to get back to. For Team Yankee, I may go ahead and finish the Americans first as I'd really like to do the Eastern Bloc miniatures as a non-Soviet satellite state. I also have several Flames of War armies I'd like to work on, including some mid-War Italians - both for North Africa and Sicily. I have several German forces half started as well that I really need to get back to.

I've still been slowly working on Warhammer 40K miniatures with my son. I've gotten a lot more of my Space Wolves built than painted at this point - honestly I just have base coats on one of the Grey Hunter squads. Fortunately I've found some Vallejo paints that work well as a substitute for Space Wolves Grey - as I've had too many bad experiences with Citadel paints to walk that road again (not to mention the fact that I have controlling interest in Vallejo paints at this point and buying a redundant set of paints makes no sense!). I may also resurrect my old Tyranid army for fun and flavor.

I've also picked up the rules to a miniatures game from Osprey called Frostgrave. This is a skirmish level game played with fairly standard 25-28mm fantasy miniatures, though you can get miniatures designed for the game from North Star Miniatures. The game itself follows your primary character, a wizard, his or her apprentice, and a warband generally numbering no more than 10 or 11 figures as they work their way through a ruined city in search of treasure facing perils and other players. They even have a few modular plastic sets for Soldiers and Cultists which are pretty good. A game like this is appealing because it uses fairly normal fantasy miniatures, and therefore has a fairly low painting overhead.

Chances are I won't get a all of this done before things need to be packed up and start moving over to the new house. The nice thing about the new house will be I'll have a game room and full workshop dedicated to my model-building and miniature painting hobbies. Once I get everything up and running next year I hope to be able to start busting more projects out on a regular basis.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Japanese Army Progress and General Update

This has been a crazy year so far. Despite having several months warning of the impending release of the Pacific War books - and intimate knowledge of said books - I'm still ridiculously behind on my Japanese forces for Flames of War. Of course, being in the midst of building the new house has something to do with it, but I think I'm finally starting to make some progress.

My first goal was to start getting as much of the core of my Japanese army prepped for painting as possible. This means I can paint them "assembly line" style. I started with the Hohei Chutai (JBX01) infantry company since this would give me plenty of infantry that could be used as the core of an infantry or fortified infantry force, or support for an armored force. Those are reinforced with Hohei Machine-gun Platoons (JP704) and Nikuhaku Teams (JP706). At this point I have all of those miniatures cleaned up and primed - so they're ready to paint once I get the rest of the support teams together as shown in the photo below.


Yeah, that's a LOT of figures, and actually goes well beyond just the three units I cite above. I'm also working on gun support for the infantry forces. The un-primed figures are comprised of an Artillery HQ (JP710) and a unit of the Type 94 37mm Anti-tank Guns (JP501). Also included are the teams belonging to several other guns.


Above you'll see the Type 92 70mm Guns (JP560), the Type 96 150mm Howitzers (JP580), and a couple of Type 88 75mm Heavy Anti-aircraft Guns (JP550) - which were the subject of a recent review I wrote over at the WWPD blog! The tracks belong to my unit of Type 2 Ka-Mi tanks.


I have not been neglecting my armor - above are a few of the Chi-Ha tanks (JBX09) I have in progress, as well as a few Isuzu Trucks.  Below are some Ha-Go tanks (JBX03) I got together a while back, but was waiting to paint.


I've also been working on some Type 89 (JBX02) tanks (which were used in the Philippines in 1944-5) as well as some of the new Type 97 Te-Ke tankettes (JBX05) which were the subject of another review I wrote up for WWPD.


Unfortunately progress continues to be slow, and I'm still trying to figure out the right paint scheme to use for my Pacific War Japanese. I have the tank colors well established at this point, but the infantry is a tougher nut to crack. Most of the Japanese uniforms for the Pacific theater seem "greener" than the colors Battlefront is recommending in Banzai and Rising Sun. Of course, Rising Sun is a 1939 uniform for mainland Asia - a far different theater than the South Pacific. I'm leaning toward painting my army correct for the liberation of the Philippines with some armor from Saipan (notably a few of the Chi-Ha tanks). Once I have the paints identified, I'll write more.



Thursday, June 2, 2016

State of the Blog Update

First, I apologize for the radio silence recently. As is normal when things get "quiet" I've been working on some "things." One big thing that's been taking up a lot of time is we are building a new house on our property that will actually fit us, our son, and our hobbies (at least that's the plan). Building your own home, even when working with a contractor, is a long, drawn-out, and often exhausting process, but we're starting to see the project actually move forward - though at this point all we have is a very interesting hole in the ground that my son is enjoying.


Of course, that is all going to change fairly quickly as the temporary power comes in tomorrow, the permits should be issuing this week or next, and the financing closes tomorrow or Monday. The goal is to have Thanksgiving in the new house... and did I mention that there is going to be a real GAME ROOM!?!??!?  I will finally be able to set up real Flames of War games (among many other miniature and board games), in my home!!!  I... can't... wait!!!

On the Flames of War front, I finally got my copies of Banzai and Gung Ho and have been madly assembling and cleaning up my Japanese for painting. I've just about decided what paint schemes I'm going to use on the tanks - generally they will be either units from the Philippines or Saipan. Reading through the Banzai book, I was a little disappointed by a couple of proofreading goofs that slipped through - and I both wrote and proofread the book - but overall I think the text is some of my best work, right up there with the Remagen book. I have some other writing assignments I'm also working on for Battlefront, so stay tuned!

By now many of you will have read the post over on the WWPD forum entitled "Why We Game." Like many I'd noticed a distinct cooling in the interest level for Flames of War at WWPD - both on the blog and in the forum. For many years, WWPD was one of my "go to" sources for all things Flames of War and I was disappointed in the reduction in focus, but it's natural that everyone's interests will grow, change, and/or wane over the years. That being said, as a part of their re-structuring, the guys over at WWPD have asked me to be a contributor to their blog - mostly focused on Flames of War as I'm still firmly "in the thick of it." In the next few weeks you should start seeing some of my Flames of War posts showing up on the WWPD blog. I'm planning to write at least a couple of posts for them a month going forward, and honestly I'm very honored and excited to move from reader to contributor on such a well-respected blog!

So what does that mean for this blog? Honestly, not a whole heck of a lot. This blog has always been a place where I can talk history, hobbies, and occasionally show off some miniatures I manage to get painted, and I still plan on doing that. I won't be cross-posting content from WWPD to here or vice versa, though I will generally try to provide links to any of my published content on other sites. With the new house and studio, I'm hoping to be able to actually get more miniatures painted and up on the blog - well, that's the plan at least!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Of Game Scale and Ground Scale - Fighting Tarawa in Flames of War

It's been a couple of weeks since Behind Enemy Lines published my Tarawa mini-campaign. That campaign lets the players re-fight the historic battle using a series of six individual games of Flames of War. However, the small scale size of the Tarawa battlefield got me thinking about another way to fight the battle which I mentioned briefly in my campaign summary - what about using the general scenarios to set up some larger "mega battles" where the actual terrain from the battlefield is used as a template?

Flames of War is generally considered to use a "sliding" and "compressed" ground scale which allows the player to field the more detailed 15mm miniatures in what is generally a company-level game. For example, in Flames of War, most battle rifles have a range of 16" on the tabletop. Using a straight 100X conversion, that gives a ground equivalent range of about 133 feet, or 45 yards. Most actual battle rifles of the period had an effective range of 200-300 yards, or 72" to 108" (6 to 9 feet, or roughly 2-3 meters) on the tabletop. Given Flames of War is most often played on a 4 foot by 6 foot (1.2m x 1.5m) table, the compromises required to fit the game on the table are fairly evident.

In the game this system works pretty well because the battlefields of World War II were generally quite large compared to "table scale," but when you start talking about the Pacific Theater, that basic assumption isn't always true. That doesn't mean that the game suffers from using a sliding scale, but it does open up different options for the player looking to explore different table arrangements.


Betio Island, where the Battle of Tarawa was largely fought, is a very small atoll.  It is roughly 3000 yards (just shy of 3000 meters) long, and its width varies from 100-200 yards at the narrow eastern end of the island to maybe 600-700 yards at the broader central and western parts of the island.  In game terms, that means even using a fixed 1/100th ground scale, the eastern end of the island is only about 1-2 yards (3 to 6 feet) wide. Because of the small size of the island, it is technically possible to play some of the battles in nearly 1:1 scale. The map below (click for larger size) shows Betio island with a few representative 4' x 6' standard gaming table outlines superimposed over the map.


As you can see, the very narrowest tip of the island is only one standard gaming table wide, in 100% (non-sliding, non-compressed) scale, though the invasion beaches stretch on for several tables. This means it is truly possible to play the Battle of Tarawa campaign in something approaching 1:1 scale on the tabletop.

As written, the Flames of War rules assume the compressed and sliding ground scale, so the question which would arise at this point is what impact (if any) trying to play the battle with a non-compressed ground scale would have on the rules of the game. I can see a few ways to approach the problem. The first is to simply decide that the rules are played as written and the 1:1 scale battlefield is there for historical accuracy and ambiance. The proportionally shorter ranges of most weapons in this case would simulate "battle range" as actually encountered on the atoll. Another option would be to allow all defending artillery to be "off board" and only fire in bombardments - though this may handicap a Japanese player with few AT assets. The most elaborate option would be to recalculate ranges using the actual range of the weapons in question - though that would mean rifles and pistols would have a far longer range in game terms. When choosing this final option, it would be key to ensure that the table is dense enough with appropriate terrain (including elevation changes) to provide realistic fields of fire.

Hopefully this post has given you a few fun ideas on how to adopt the Pacific campaign to the tabletop in Flames of War. While the small island campaigns dominate most layman's perceptions of the Pacific campaign, they are truly only one facet of the war. Look for future mini-campaigns and battles where a wider range of more traditional Flames of War battles come to the fore.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Battle of Tarawa Mini-Campaign

The great guys over at Behind Enemy Lines asked me to write up a mini-campaign covering the Battle of Tarawa. I'd generated a couple of mini-campaigns while writing the history and flavor texts for Banzai covering the Battle of Guadalcanal and Battle of Iwo-Jima, and they really seem to have struck a chord in the gaming community. These mini-campaigns offer more flexibility than a larger firestorm campaign and are better suited to casual play, but still give the players a strong grounding in the historical roots of the battle. Behind Enemy Lines published the campaign over a period of four days, and links to each of the battles can be found below.

Day 1 covers the initial Marine landings on the island of Betio, where almost all of the Battle of Tarawa was actually fought. It covers the assault on landing beaches code named Red 1, 2, and 3. An exceptionally low neap tide prevented the Higgins Boats from reaching shore, so only units equipped with LVT's made it to shore. In game terms the scenario focuses on this initial beach assault.

The action on Day 2 is covered in two separate scenarios in which the Marines begin their breakout from the Red 1, 2, and 3 beaches. The forces at Red 1 begin an assault on the adjacent Green beach which roughly runs along the western coast of the atoll. In a separate mission, the Marines from Red 2 and 3 Beaches begin their advance to secure the island's strategic airstrip.

With the battle going against the Japanese, Day 3 sees a change in their tactics. As the Marines on Red and Green Beaches try to link up with the Marines holding part of the airfield, a more mobile battle erupts - simulated using the "Dust Up" mission. That evening, the Japanese had planned a full counterattack, but this was broken-up by artillery, leading to a Banzai charge in the early morning hours of Day 4.

On the final day of the battle, the Marines began to mop up the last Japanese resistance, which had been forced into the narrow eastern tip of the atoll. The Marines would often bypass strong points and try to attack them from the rear. By the end of the battle only 17 Japanese surrendered out of a garrison of over 4500.

Point values used for this mini-campaign can vary, the real key is trying to balance the forces and ensuring each player tries to take a force representative of those actually used in the actual battle. Another option would be to play a "mega-campaign." Tarawa Atoll is small enough (and narrow enough) to model most if not all of the island across several tabletops. Running the battle in closer to 1:1 scale would also give the players a good feel for how tightly fought and contested some of these Pacific battles truly were.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Resurrecting a Classic Predator - Part 1

Warhammer 40K has a fairly long history. First released in the 1980's by Games Workshop, the initial rulebook and rules had a very "independent gaming" feel to them. The system was very raw, though it had a great dark Gothic feel to the game. The game itself has gone through several editions, and over time the models have changed a great deal.

One of the first plastic vehicle kits was the venerable Rhino troop transport for the Space Marines. This model was adapted to form the main battle tank for the Space Marines - the Predator. The original Predator kit was all plastic, though it would morph into a mixed plastic / white metal kit in the 90's and would again morph into an all new plastic kit with the release of the updated (i.e. current pattern) Rhino chassis. Oddly enough, Forgeworld now offers an updated version of the "classic" predator design as the Deimos Pattern Predator.


As cool as the Deimos Pattern version looks, I loathe to spend money I don't have to - especially when a Deimos Pattern Predator costs north of $75 (U.S.). I used to play a lot of Warhammer 40K back in the day, and started around 1988 when the system was just getting started. As an enterprising college and later graduate student, I built up quite a collection of partial kits in trade over the years. Now that my son is of an age to paint his own miniatures, and has taken a shine to the Ultramarines, I've decided to create my first new Warhammer 40K army in over a decade - the Space Wolves.

Digging through my old box of bits, I found pieces of an original predator kit still in reasonable shape. I'd acquired the predator from a friend who... well, wasn't the best painter in the world, so I cleaned up the painted pieces and added them to a fresh Rhino chassis. Unfortunately some parts of the kit were missing.


The turret was there, but the connecting rod that attached the turret to the hull was missing - so I added a new aluminum rod with some epoxy for strength. I also added a new muzzle brake for the gun since the original had been broken off.


I had two fresh lascannons for the sponsons, but the parts holding the lascannons in the sponsons were long since gone. I simply made up some pieces using my chopper and some sheet styrene:


These were then glued (CAREFULLY) onto the backs of the sponsons.


Finally I carved down the the new styrene pieces so they were flush with the rest of the sponson. While waiting for the sponsons to dry, I went ahead and assembled and sanded the infamous two part spiked cow catcher of doom.


I still have several detail pieces to add to the tank, but it is starting to take shape. I'm adding a few Space Wolf gubbins from the more modern kits to help give it a bit of visual uniqueness.


Once the assembly is complete, I'm planning on giving it a modulated paint job with some modern weathering techniques on top of that. I'll continue to post updates as I make progress on this project.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Flames of War Pacific is Here!

I know it's been a while since I posted, but I have not been idle in the meantime. I've been working on several projects - some of which I can talk about, some of which I can't at this point. The launch week for Flames of War has come and gone, but there are still links to several really good articles for getting started in the Pacific theater on the Flames of War site. As always, this is going to be a phased introduction for the products - so it will be a few weeks before all of the miniatures to support the new books are in stores. Of course, I'm so behind on my painting, I'm honestly hoping to have my Japanese together sometime around the end of the year.

Speaking of the new books, my big contribution this time around was writing most of the histories and flavor text that ended up going into Banzai. It was a fun book to write-up, and there were several challenges along the way. The Pacific War was brutal, and as an author I always try to write with as even a tone as possible. One of the coolest parts of the new book is the mini-campaigns you get in both Banzai and Gung-Ho which allow the players to recreate pivotal battles through a series of tabletop missions.

These missions have proved to be pretty popular, and I was asked by the great guys over at Behind Enemy Lines to create more mini-campaigns along the same lines focusing on other areas of the Pacific. So far I've finished one of them - a mini-campaign covering the Battle of Tarawa. Tarawa was a small, heavily defended Atoll which was taken by the U.S. Marines over a bloody four day battle. The campaign is going to be published by BEL over the next several days, but Part 1 is up now covering the first amphibious landings on the island.

I have several other items in the pipeline for the blog, but I've also had a fair number of outside commitments I'm working on as well (more on those and how they relate to the hobby later!). I'm hoping to start getting up my detailed treatment of the Polish Black Brigade starting in the next week or two, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Japanese Tank Painting Guide

Though Japanese tanks would rapidly fall far behind the rest of the world in terms of both technology and quantity, as late as 1940 Japan fielded the fifth largest armored force in the world! Given that fact, and with the the upcoming release of Banzai, many players are looking into how they should paint their Japanese armor. I contributed to the original Japanese armor painting guide in Rising Sun book, but given Banzai covers a wider time period and range of vehicles, I decided to update my painting guide based on what is available today. Another consideration is that often the available information on Japanese World War II tank camouflage is contradictory, so this represents my current best representation based on available information. If I have any readers in Japan, I’d love to correspond with you on this topic!

Pre-1942, the Japanese used a variety of camouflage schemes and colors – the most common being a hard-edged three-tone scheme. In some occasions the transitions between the camouflage colors were traced with black or dark gray lining. Disruptive stripes of yellow were also used on some vehicles – note, the disruptive yellow stripe could be coupled with the black or dark gray lining between colors, especially on Type 89 medium tanks. The three primary colors were khaki (Khaki-iro) – also known as “Japanese Artillery Brown” with disruptive patterns of roughly 30% mahogany brown (Tochi-iro) and an olive green (Midori-iro). In some cases a fourth darker khaki color is evident - referred to as an "Alternate" to the basic Khaki in the chart below.

Starting in 1942, the Japanese transitioned to a new set of colors in an effort to better standardize its camouflage schemes. The black/dark gray lining and the disruptive yellow stripes were officially dropped. A new three color camouflage scheme was adopted using a new khaki color similar to German Panzer Dark yellow – in some references called “Parched Grass” (Karekusa-iro). The disruptive colors were a dark olive green or drab (likely Tsutikusa-iro) and a dark mahogany brown (also called Tochi-iro in many references, though in some cases the shade identified is darker than the pre-1942 version). In the South Pacific, an additional Willow Green color (Kusa-iro) was specified rather than the darker olive color.  Some tank components, such as guns, also appeared to have retained the legacy “Atrillery Brown” (Khaki-iro) color, though other references have this as a slight variant of the base khaki. Camouflage schemes were generally hard edged, but beginning in 1943 feathered edged camouflage patterns became increasingly evident.


The chart above shows my current best data for the various colors used by the Japanese on their AFV's both before and after standardization in 1942. The Gunze Mr. Colors are taken directly from their commercially available paint sets for early and late war tanks. The Tamiya color equivalents are taken from various recent 1/35th scale kits and represent a major update to older instruction sets. The Ammo of MIG colors for early war come from their WWII Japanese early colors "Smart Set," while the late war colors represent a mix of color matching by eye and converting RAL colors (from Tamiya and Gunze) to their Ammo of MIG equivalent. The Vallejo colors were obtained using color charts and eye matching, while most of the new Battlefront colors come from their painting Japanese page with updates based on the late war examples done by eye based on the current range. I haven't seen the modeling page in Banzai, so Battlefront may have other suggestions. Vallejo Air also has an IJA range which I've added to the table above (with the addition of an olive drab from the same range).

When painting your force, it is important to consider that Japanese tanks were often not re-painted in the field. It is therefore completely acceptable to have a mix of early and late war paint schemes in the same force. The post-1942 schemes should therefore be far more prevalent on vehicles produced starting in 1942 such as the Type 97 Kai (Shinhoto Chi-ha), some Type 95 tanks, any tanks reserved for defense of the home islands, and the various self-propelled guns based on the Chi-ha. Hopefully you will find this chart helpful. I plan to continually update it as additional data (and hopefully new paints!) become available in the market.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

What's on the Table - A Blast from the Past and a New Theater for Flames of War

So my son has reached the age where he's starting to get very interested in miniatures (just turned 8). He's somewhat interested in World War II, but while he really likes the Flames of War miniatures I do, they just aren't speaking to him yet (and 15mm is a hard scale to start with as a new painter). He's painted some fantasy miniatures in the past, but really hasn't had much to do with them, so they tend to sit around a lot. So I hit upon the idea of taking him by the local Games Workshop store to see if everyone's favorite gateway dru... ummmm... heroic wargame set in a dark future would hold any interest. All I can say is - "oh wow." He was captivated immediately - and really enjoyed watching two guys in the shop play a game.

I first started playing Warhammer 40K back in the Rogue Trader days - 1989 - so I have a fairly long history with the game. A quick perusing of all of the normal online forums confirms that, as always, 40K continues to suffer from balance issues and codex creep. While that matters to someone looking for a serious tournament scene, for the dad wanting to be able to build miniatures and play a few fun games with his son, it really doesn't matter at all. As expected, my son really gravitated to the Ultramarines, so we started with a simple tactical squad.


He pretty much absorbed that one immediately and we were able to run a few quick games. Since he'd finished that, I was able to run a horse trade for a Space Marine Strike Force (sadly out of production at this point) so he could round out his force.


Now he's been very motivated to finish his homework and do well on his spelling tests so he can build miniatures with dad! He even gets to use real glue, snippers, and a hobby knife - and for a 2nd grader he's doing pretty well:


I still have a lot of old Space Marines from way back when, but the last time I painted 40K was about 2004. As always, for me building and painting is at least half (nah - probably way more than half) of the fun so I decided to get something new so he and I could build some miniatures together and paint as a team. Owing to the plethora of Norse influences in my life via the SCA Kingdom of An Tir and Vikings on the History Channel, I bit the bullet and went with some Space Wolves. The fact that they've finally released the Wulfen of the 13th Company is also fun, and they have some boss new vehicles since last time I played as well.


I'm going to be using Vallejo paints rather than GW paints for the infantry, so my Wolves will be a little different in coloration than the standard. I'm also planning on continuing to use Ammo of MIG and airbrush shading on the vehicles, which should give my force a fairly distinct appearance on the tabletop. I'm hoping to add some runic elements to the paint schemes, especially on banners and vehicles, as I've studied Norse runestones and have done runic calligraphy and illumination in the past.

Flames of War fans, fear not! I have started a new project for Flames of War. With the Pacific books coming out, and given I wrote the overwhelming majority of the flavor text for Banzai, I've been dying to get started on my Japanese. At this point I'm starting with the Hohei Chutai boxed set (JBX01):


At this point I've got the main set of infantry sorted into individual baggies and ready for clean up and dropping them onto craft sticks for priming and painting. I'm going to go ahead and add the Nikuhaku Teams (JP706) to this painting batch, but I'll likely paint the any guns and gun teams separately. I'm (somewhat) patiently waiting for my swag order to arrive which has the bulk of the Pacific releases in it. Unfortunately finding good late war Japanese armor colors is difficult at this point - you have exactly one choice, it's a Gunze enamel.


For early war, Ammo of MIG makes a set, so I'm hoping they come out with something for late war by the time I'm actually ready to paint vehicles. I've sent them an email asking if they're looking into it, but I haven't heard anything back yet (not that I really expected to - most companies won't discuss unreleased or unannounced products). If all else fails I can mix colors.

So as always, the painting and modeling queue is fairly full at this point, but now that my son has joined in on the fun, it's become more than just a personal hobby and has become a family activity!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Polish Black Brigade EW Tournament After Action Report

We ended up having eight guys for the tournament yesterday, which considering the attendance was looking like four just a couple of weeks ago, that's great. We had four Axis and four Allied, with a fairly eclectic mix of armies, so it was a lot of fun. In terms of the list I was finally able to field, it was a variant on the "gun-brella" theme using the Pułk Kawalerii Zmotoryzowanej list from Blitzkrieg - page 26. I focused on reasonable-sized infantry companies with tons of anti-tank guns and some heavier guns, though I did include some mobile assets. Of course, as it turns out, I barely saw an armored vehicle all day as everyone tended to bring infantry or cavalry lists!


My first game was Cauldron against a very nice Bersaglieri force from Hellfire and Back. As my Black Brigade is a Mechanized Company, I was the attacker. The Bersaglieri had something like 12 platoons if memory serves, so he was able to start with a fair amount on the table, including heavy machine guns, M13/40 tanks, mortars, coastal guns, and demolishers. I started with my two Kawalerii Zmotoryzowanej Companies, one unit of anti-tank guns, and the 75mm guns on the table. My random deployment was fairly fortunate, though I was forced to put my 75mm guns at the back of the table near the defender's reserve zone. One infantry company was pretty tightly pinned down by machine guns in buildings near the left objective, so I stayed dug in and fired pot shots at them to whittle them down. The right objective was only covered by the demolishers, so I decided to focus my attack there with my larger infantry company supported by one heavy machine gun. They were able to secure the objective by the second turn with help from the Vickers tanks which arrived from reserve, but I lost over half of the company - fortunately with the help of the 1iC they were able to pass motivation. A Bersaglieri platoon arrived behind my 75mm guns, but shot poorly and were unable to assault - on the next turn my TKS platoon arrived from reserve and cut down the luckless Bersaglieri platoon - I was able to destroy enough platoons to force a company morale check, which the Italians failed giving the Poles a 6-1 victory.

The second game was Surrounded against a Japanese Kihei Chutai force from Rising Sun. As we were both Mechanized Companies, we diced off to see who was the defender and I ended up defending. So yeah, lots of infantry - not a hard target to be found. I tried to balance my force as much as possible around the two objectives (top and bottom), but the top one ended up a bit more lightly defended. I'd kept the Vickers tanks in Immediate Ambush, so when the Japanese overloaded the top objective, I had to drop the tanks to the top of the board. We played using the "Hell by Day, Paradise by Night" rules, though I think that should have been restricted to an infantry or tank company, but I didn't think it was worth hitting the books for. In the end I think it probably hurt the attacker more than me because he couldn't fire any of his heavy guns as they didn't have line of sight to my force. He worked to get into close contact as quickly as possible, even moving some guns and the infantry support at the double. Unfortunately I was able to get my Vickers, TKS platoon, and enough guns and infantry close enough to the large infantry platoon to decimate it, though the resulting assault with the Vickers did result in the loss of two tanks. He shifted his axis of attack to go after my infantry, but as I was unpinned at that point, I had enough firepower to repel the assaults. That left his force fairly decimated, and my mobile assets were able to track down the cavalry and one of the gun teams. His remaining gun team called upon its Seishin and came after my 75mm guns, ultimately destroying two, but with well over half of the unit remaining he wasn't able to secure a victory point giving the Poles a 6-1 victory.

My final game was Free-for All against a Luftlandesturmkompanie from Burning Empires. I've always wanted to play against this army, so I was excited to actually see one at the tournament. I was technically the "attacker" in this mission - and as we put down platoons, he decided he was going to do a glider assault. I therefore worked to cover as much territory as I could in a fairly dispersed deployment to ensure I could react well to wherever his gliders ended up. He ended up concentrating his gliders near the right-hand objective with only one crashing (killing both teams inside). So now we have FV Luftlandesturm among FV Polish Black brigade. The irresistible force has met the immovable object. Again, this game was going to come down to pretty much one round of firing and assault. My opponent's shooting rolls were not very good, and my saving rolls ended up being good - I ended up losing one 37mm gun and a couple of stands of infantry. When the assaults came, I therefore still had enough volume of fire (even counting as pinned down) to repel both assaults - just barely! Now the luckless Luftlandesturm were out in the open, out-numbered among the poles who quickly dispatched the two platoons and the HQ company. Still at half strength, and with mortars and anti-tank guns on the opposite side of the table, I had to get my mobile assets going. Did I mention he also had Stuka air support? I started moving the Vickers tanks and loaded up the halftracks with one infantry company (yes, I actually got to use some of my transport!!!) and started heading for the open left objective. His rolls with aircraft were nothing short of terrible, and only managed to kill a few infantry stands. I managed to get my tanks and one infantry company on the objective and close enough to his mortars to kill a few and make them take a morale test, which amazingly they failed - forcing a company morale check, which was failed because of a lack of HQ. Even if that hadn't failed, I'd secured the objective, and all he had left were a couple of 37mm anti tank guns on the opposite side of the table. Poles win 6-1, though honestly if my opponents die rolls had been better I would have likely lost at least one or two platoons. I've always thought that the Luftlandesturmkompanie was a bit pricey for what you got, and honestly this game just reinforced that opinion. I believe it would work better in a defensive battle where the defender has limited assets on the table. That way the glider infantry can concentrate their assault in one area and the defender will likely have few assets to counter them. In a fair fight where the enemy has large platoons covering all angles, there is just too much on the table and too many fields of fire to cut up the assaulting troops.

So in the end it was an absolutely great day for the Poles. The Invincible Black Brigade lived up to its name, and I ended up taking home Best Allied General and Best Painted for the force. As I mentioned before, the tournament itself was great because the lists present all pretty much represented "the road less traveled." The Allies had a British LRDG, a French Escadron de Combat, a French Compagnie de Combat, and the Polish Pułk Kawalerii Zmotoryzowanej. The Axis forces consisted of a German SS-Infanteriekompanie, German Luftlandesturmkompanie, Japanese Kihei Chutai, and the Italian Bersaglieri. Lots and lots of infantry, very few tanks and vehicles - and ironically the Poles had the most vehicles on the table (and I think I was the only one with 10 tanks as well). Kudos to the tournament organizer and everyone who came out and played - it seems like everyone had a great time, and I believe we represented the hobby well!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Polish Black Brigade - Done for the Tournament

I finally finished up most of the basing about midnight last night, but they are "done enough" for the tournament today. I still need to do some detailing on the windows of the soft skin vehicles, but I won't have time for that until sometime next week. It isn't a critical detail since I already blacked out the windows on the soft skins. I had an "oh crap" moment (yeah, I didn't say "crap") on Thursday night when I realized that I needed four infantry stands per section, not three. Fortunately I'd painted up several extra figures just in case I needed them and based them in record time. Okay - enough with the preamble, I managed to snap a couple of quick pictures. They're not great, but I'll get good pictures once I have time to go through and really photograph them in the light box.

First the infantry and guns:


On the top left you have the 1iC, 2iC, and command stands for the two Kawalerii Zmotoryzowanej Companies. The two columns along the left side of the board are the Kawalerii Zmotoryzowanej Company Rifle/MG teams. Along the top of the board are the four 75mm wz. 1897 guns from the Light Gun Battery. Just below them toward the center of the board are the Light Gun Battery Staff Team, Command Rifle Team, Observer, and below that is their horse-drawn wagon. Below the rest of the guns are the horse-drawn carts for the guns. Below the carts along the right side center are the three Zmotoryzowanej Anti-Tank Gun Platoons. Below them along the bottom are the Anti-tank Rifle Teams for the Kawalerii Zmotoryzowanej Companies. Finally along the bottom in the middle is the one Ckm wz. 30 HMG for the first Kawalerii Zmotoryzowanej Company and the motorcycle and side car for the 2iC.

Now the vehicles:


At this point I have them separated by platoon (to make sure I didn't have another "oh crap" moment). At top left is the 1iC command Polski Fiat 508 staff car. Along the the top of the board are the transports for the Zmotoryzowanej Anti-Tank Gun Platoons consisting of one scratch-built Polski Fiat 518 truck (for the HQ) and three scratch-built Pz. Inz. 302 tow vehicles. The scratch-built/converted Vickers tanks run along the right side of the board, while the out of the box TKS platoon is just to the left of them. On the left side of the board is transport for the first Kawalerii Zmotoryzowanej Company - one staff car one 518 field car and four Polski Fiat 621 trucks. Finally to the right of those are the scratch built WZ-34 halftracks for the other two Kawalerii Zmotoryzowanej Company.

I am insanely happy to have this project finally ready to leave the house. Ever since it didn't get completed this time last year, it's been an albatross hanging around my neck. I think know my wife will be happy to see it off of my table too! More detail later!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Polish Black Brigade Quick Update

With my tournament coming up this Saturday, I've been madly trying to finish up the Polish Black Brigade. As always, it's going along slowly, but I think I'm getting there. It will be at the tournament one way or another - I've honestly just put too much into this to not take it.

The infantry / guns are in their final phases - I'm putting down static grass on most of them now. I have a little bit of touch up painting to do as I go along, but that's it on most of the non-mechanized core of the force. Unfortunately my first pass at static grass was a bit "too green" and looked spring rather than autumn, so I stopped after a few bases and am now going back with a "drier" looking grass. I used a mix of Ammo of MIG mud and pastels for the "dirt" - and while it looks good, it's a pain in the butt to do, so I'm back to the drawing board for dirt effects for the next army.

The vehicles are mostly done at this point - all of them have the pin washes completed and most of the highlight work done (at least the first level stuff). I haven't gone in and done any of the advanced highlighting, and honestly that may have to wait until after the tournament as I have two nights left at this point. I need to go back and hit a couple of details like headlights, taillights, and spruce up the windows on the enclosed vehicles. I also need to finish detailing about four final crew members.

I apologize for the dearth of pictures this time around - honestly, I just haven't had time to take any! After the tournament, I will provide a full (and I mean FULL) modeling and painting guide to the army. Watch this space!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Early Reviews for Flames of War Pacific

As a World War II game, Flames of War has had one glaring omission since its inception – it was focused entirely on the European Theater of Operations. This trend is not uncommon in wargames in general, as the European Conflict tends to get more press and have greater awareness in much of the World. However, after forays into the Viet Nam War, the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War, World War I, and even a hypothetical World War III between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in the mid-1980’s, Flames of War is finally entering the Asia-Pacific Theater of Operations. John-Paul gave us a bit of a preview in his update at the first of the year, but that only basically released the names of the two books – Gung Ho for the U.S. Marines and Banzai for the Japanese – with little in the way of details. However, now a couple of the leading wargaming blogs have received and reviewed advanced copies of the first of the two books – Gung Ho.

The guys over at Behind Enemy Lines released their review which provides some more of the juicy details about the book itself. Breakthrough Assault also has a review up of book which covers a lot of the same territory as the Behind Enemy Lines review. At this point you have the option of taking rifle and tank companies, though if you’re using Pacific War points an M4A2 Sherman runs about 500 points! Late War point values are provided as well to make the lists “portable” to play against ETO Flames of War armies. Naval gunfire support has been revised for PTO, and it is now limited to the smaller template – so no more “pizza box” in the words of the guys over at Breakthrough Assault. Some other interesting options are “War Dogs” which prevent ambushing within 10 inches, canister rounds for the 37mm guns, and Corsairs with napalm. BEL mentions flame tanks and Seabees as well.

Both sites were very impressed with their copies of the books and saw it as a solid entry into the Pacific for Flames of War. I proofread an early copy of the book, and it sounds like a lot of the best bits made it through into the final product. I’m now anxiously awaiting a review of the Banzai book, as I’ve always wanted to do a Japanese Pacific Theater Army for Flames of War – honestly it’s probably what’s going onto my painting table once the Black Brigade vacates the space!

Edit – ask and ye shall receive! Behind Enemy Lines now has their review of Banzai, the Japanese forces in the Pacific. They note that while there are similarities in the companies between Banzai and Rising Sun, there are enough differences to give Banzai a much more “Pacific feel.” They go into some detail on the various lists, and also include some photos of the Type 2 Ka Mi amphibious tanks as well as some photos of the Type I Ho-Ni I tank destroyer armed with a 75mm gun (see below).



I really can’t wait to get my hands on the Banzai book as the lists and models appear to be awesome. I also wrote a lot of the history and flavor text for the book, so hopefully everyone enjoys those parts of the book as well!

Early War Tournment Pushed out a Week! Now February 27!

Wanted to give everyone the heads up, the Early War Tournament in Portland, OR at Guardian Games has been pushed out a week because of some scheduling conflicts on the 20th.  It will now be held on Saturday February 27, 2016 with check in at 10:15AM.  

Just a reminder, the Polish Black Brigade WILL be there (even if it kills me - which it might). Be among the first to face off against my most ambitious modeling project ever! Hope to see you there!!!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

All is Truly Quiet on the Martian Front

Roughly two months after the Robot Peanut / Alien Dungeon website went down - followed of course by the normal levels of rampant speculation on the internet, we finally got the following announcement via Kickstarter this morning:

Official Announcement

Posted by Alien Dungeon

We regret to announce that effective January 27th, 2016, Robot Peanut Studios, LLC, and its associated brands, Architects of War and Alien Dungeon have permanently closed their doors.

Our sales plummeted precipitously in the 3rd and 4th quarter of 2015 and never recovered across our online retail operations as well as hobby shop and distributor sales. We could not maintain our business under these conditions and despite a continuing series of sales and marketing efforts, we have been forced to file for bankruptcy. The case has been filed in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania at case number 16-20247. Please contact an attorney if you have any questions.

We set out six years ago to start a company providing exciting and entertaining intellectual property primarily in the analog gaming market. RPS began with miniature games with the intention of expanding to board and digital games. While the All Quiet Kickstarter project brought in significant sales for us, the cost of development, manufacturing, and shipping exceeded the sales numbers and we were relying on sales beyond the Kickstarter in the broader market to carry the costs and expand the game. These sales never materialized in sufficient quantities. It is just that simple - we sold stuff through the Kickstarter that essentially ended up just above cost and then paid for the shipping. All Quiet just didn’t generate enough money for its scale. In addition, our original cost estimates based on quotes and time frame from various vendors Pre-Kickstarter were exceeded, making the business model untenable without retail sales that never materialized.

We are very sorry that it has come to this. Certainly not the outcome we dreamed of when we started the company. To our investors, the Kickstarter supporters and our loyal customers, we’d like to thank you for your support. It has been difficult not communicating during this legal process, but we have had to go through a process and that has been well outside any of our previous experiences.

This will be our last communication. Customer service inquiries will not be answered and there will be no additional communication on Kickstarter. We do not know what the final disposition of All Quiet and or other product brands will be at this time. We have to forfeit our participation in such matters to the court.

Barb and I must move on and find employment and start putting our lives back together. To our friends, investors, vendors, and loyal customers, thank you for helping us try to fulfill our dream and we wish you the best possible future.

Yours Sincerely, Barb and Ernie

The original Kickstarter raised a little over $300,000 and had just north of 1000 backers. Unfortunately it is now absolutely clear that Alien Dungeon drastically over-committed themselves with their ambitious list of stretch goals which were unlocked like clockwork during the original campaign. Plastic molds (as was used for the tripods and steam tanks) are very expensive in terms of up-front cost, and only pay for themselves with large volumes - large volumes which apparently never materialized.

This whole experience is a cautionary tale for both Kickstarter backers and creators. Only companies with a strong business plan and a realistic appraisal of true costs will be able to successfully bring a product to market, even with the large infusion of capital a campaign like this generates.

Sadly at this point All Quiet on the Martian Front is now "owned" by the court, and its disposition is up to them. At this point if anyone is interested in following up on the disposition of the IP, molds, and any remaining game inventory, I'd advise contacting the Pennsylvania court and referencing the above case number. Honestly part of me wishes I had the money to buy the IP and see if there is a way to revive the game, but I know it will likely take a six figure investment to do that.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Unit Through the War in Flames of War - Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653 - Part 1

This second full installment of “A Unit Through the War in Flames of War” focuses on Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653. Famous later in the war for their employment of the Elefant and later Jagdtiger heavy tank destroyers, Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653 was formed initially as Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 with an activation date of November 25, 1940. Part 1 will focus on the unit as it served as Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 in Early War, while Part 2 will cover Mid War, and Part 3 will cover Late War.

Originally formed as Sturmartillerie-Abteilung 197, the battalion was formed alongside Sturmartillerie-Abteilung 192 at Jütterbog. Though training started in November 1940, the unit had to wait a few weeks for their vehicles to arrive, but by January 1941, the unit was completing live fire exercises. The unit was equipped with the Stürmgeschutz III Ausf B, which mated the short 7.5cm gun of the Panzerkampfwagen IV to the lighter Panzerkampfwagen III chassis in a fixed superstructure. Training of the unit was not without its hazards, as the unit suffered one killed in an accident when he was crushed between two of the units assault guns.


First Action… Maybe!?!

By April 8, 1941, the unit’s training was effectively complete and it was loaded onto trains to support "Führer Directive No. 25" – the invasion of Yugoslavia. Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 was moved to the border of Austria and Yugoslavia, but was unable to advance further because the bridges of the Drau River had been blown up. It took three days for engineers to build a bridge over the river, but by that time the Yugoslavian army was in full retreat. Some accounts indicate that portions of the unit at least never fired a shot in anger. Other accounts indicate that the unit was involved in battles around Belgrad (Belgrade) and Sarajevo. The lack of any clear indication of which formations the battalion supported makes it difficult to nail down

Fielding Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 as it was equipped in early war presents some challenges, as there are no lists that let the player take the early model and organization of Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 as HQ and Combat Platoons. The player is therefore generally forced to use the battalion in support of some other force unless you want to form a Support Company, which is usually only allowed in “Total War” games or with your opponent’s permission.

To field the battalion in its support role in Yugoslavia, it could be used in support of one of the various divisions that actually took part in the battle.  Though the invading forced included panzer divisions, motorized divisions, infantry divisions, and even mountain divisions, Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 shouldn’t (and by the EW lists can’t) be taken in support of a Panzerkompanie force.

Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 in support of Motorized Infantry – Yugoslavia 1941
List used:  Blitzkrieg Schützenkompanie, p 74.

·         HQ:  As per list – p. 75
·         Combat Platoons:  As per list – p. 75
·         Weapons / Support Platoons:  Any allowed
·         Add Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 – use Assault Gun Platoon in the “Armour” Divisional Support Platoon box – p. 102.


Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 in support of Motorized Infantry – Yugoslavia 1941
List used:  Blitzkrieg Infanteriekompanie (Motorisiert), p 92.

·         HQ:  As per list – p. 93
·         Combat Platoons:  As per list – p. 93
·         Weapons / Support Platoons:  Any allowed
·         Add Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 – use Assault Gun Platoon in the “Armour” Divisional Support Platoon box – p. 102.


Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 in support of Infantry – Yugoslavia 1941
List used:  Blitzkrieg Infanteriekompanie (Heer), p 92.

·         HQ:  As per list – p. 93
·         Combat Platoons:  As per list – p. 93
·         Weapons / Support Platoons:  Any allowed
·         Add Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 – use Assault Gun Platoon in the “Armour” Divisional Support Platoon box – p. 102.


Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 in support of Mountain Divisions – Yugoslavia 1941
List used:  Burning Empires Gebirgsjäger Infanteriekompanie, p 56.

·         HQ:  As per list – p. 58
·         Combat Platoons:  As per list – p. 59
·         Weapons / Support Platoons:  Any allowed
·         Add Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 – Technically the Gebirgsjäger list isn’t allowed to take the Assault Gun Platoon on page 68, but if your opponent agrees – take it anyway using the “Heer” point values.


Operation Barbarossa

Starting on June 22, 1941, Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 was committed (along with most of the rest of the German Army) to Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. Once again, records are scarce regarding exactly which units the battalion supported during this operation, but it is known that the initial border fighting was around Galicia and the unit took part in breaching the Stalin line on June 25.  The unit also fought at Zhitomir and Kiev through July and August, and later fought at Kharkov and Belgorod.  During these engagements, the unit likely supported various infantry, motorized infantry, and mechanized infantry formations.  By December, the unit had been transferred south to attack Sevastopol.


Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 in support of Mechanized Infantry – Operation Barbarossa 1941
List used:  Barbarossa Panzerschützenkompanie, p 18.

·         HQ:  As per list – p. 19
·         Combat Platoons:  As per list – p. 19
·         Weapons / Support Platoons:  Any allowed
·         Add Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 – use Assault Gun Platoon in the “Armour” Divisional Support Platoon box – p. 34.


Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 in support of Motorized Infantry – Operation Barbarossa 1941
List used:  Barbarossa Schützenkompanie, p 20.

·         HQ:  As per list – p. 21
·         Combat Platoons:  As per list – p. 21
·         Weapons / Support Platoons:  Any allowed
·         Add Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 – use Assault Gun Platoon in the “Armour” Divisional Support Platoon box – p. 34.


Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 in support of Infantry – Operation Barbarossa 1941
List used:  Barbarossa Infanteriekompanie, p 28.

·         HQ:  As per list – p. 29
·         Combat Platoons:  As per list – p. 29
·         Weapons / Support Platoons:  Any allowed
·         Add Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 – use Assault Gun Platoon in the “Armour” Divisional Support Platoon box – p. 34.


Note:  There are some digital exclusive lists that will likely also have the Assault Gun Platoon in support – these could be substituted using the examples above as a template.


Modeling Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 in Early War

Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 used the early models of the StuG III during its campaigns in 1941. At this point, Battlefront makes two miniatures that will help the modeler portray the unit during this time. The first is the StuG III Ausf A (GE120). While it doesn’t appear that Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 actually used the “A” model, it did use the visually similar early “B” model at least in training. Battlefront also produces the StuG III Ausf D (GE121) which can also be used as the unit received some of the visually similar C models in late 1941. However, photographic evidence suggest that the vast majority of vehicles used, especially early in Barbarossa, were the late "B" models. The major difference from the Ausf A is the drive sprocket is of the later type (as on the Ausf D) while the idler remains the earlier type. This is a fairly minor detail which would require some small amount of surgery on the tracks, which likely isn’t worth it for most modelers and players.

Painting and markings for the unit were also fairly simple – all vehicles by this point in the war were painted in overall Panzer Grey. The Sturmgeschütz were marked with the national insignia (Balkenkreuz), which was generally of the open white variety. Frequently a letter signifying which gun in the battery each vehicle represented was included (A, B, C, D, E, and F for the 3 batteries), and on many vehicles the unit insignia of an eagle with wings displayed perched on crossed cannons was included (see below)


Many phots show that as the war in the Soviet Union bogged down, the initially fairly tidy assault guns began to acquire more and more stowage. As winter set in, the Germans were generally unprepared, so whitewash was very rare during the winter of 1941. At this point I’ve been unable to find photos of a whitewashed assault gun or halftrack from Stürmgeschutz-Abteilung 197 even as late as December 1941 – so I would surmise that they didn’t receive any during the “Early War” period for Flames of War.



Part 2 will cover the unit in Mid War as it continues its campaign in Russia and receives new vehicles through 1942 before being transitioned over to the Ferdinand in 1943.