Miniature Ordnance Review looks at the world of miniatures wargaming with an emphasis on 15mm World War II and Flames of War.

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!