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!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Polish Vickers Tank for the Black Brigade

The Vickers Mark E, or "Six-Ton" tank, was a privately developed tank developed by Vickers in the United Kingdom. Though the British Army rejected the design, it was widely exported to other nations in Europe (and even a few in Asia!) with Poland, Finland, and the Soviet Union becoming the largest users of the design.

In the USSR, the design was modified and became the T-26 tank, of which over 12,000 were produced. The Finns used a few Vickers during the Winter War with the Soviets, to poor effect, but then modified their tanks and several captured Soviet examples as the T-26E for use in the Continuation War. Poland used the Vickers and also used it as a platform for the development of the indigenous 7TP tank. The Poles encountered issues with the air-cooled Puma engine overheating, so they added large air intakes on either side of the superstructure.

Unfortunately no good 15mm example of the Polish Vickers tank is available (at least that I've found). So I've set about converting a master which I hope to cast up to supply the Black Brigade with its light armored support. For the chassis, I've started with the Battlefront T-26 obr 1933 (SBX21) as it provides a reasonable platform for modification. It even includes the shield over some of the engine deck screens. The first step was to remove the side stowage boxes and add the air intake structure so characteristic of the Polish tanks.

I still need to add screens to the front of the intakes, but I'm combing my bits box as I'd rather not have to scratch build the screens. As you can see from the photo below, the air intakes integrate well with the tracks of the T-26

The next step was to begin working on the superstructure of the tank itself, as the T-26 and the earlier Vickers have several differences. I removed most of the detail on the upper hull front and replaced the plates with thin plastic card. I'd considered simply using a pounce wheel to replicate the bolt pattern on the plastic card, but it didn't integrate well with the other bolt detail on the miniature. I therefore bit the bullet and began punching out individual rivets using my sub-micron punch set and the smallest punch I have. As you can see from the photo below, the rivets are exceedingly tiny!

So far I've got the front superstructure done, and now I'm moving on to the air intake (which is similarly riveted). I put plastic down first as it is far easier to bond styrene to styrene than styrene to resin. Dealing with a liquid styrene glue is far more forgiving than superglue!

I'm hoping to get the master ready to cast by Friday. I still need to make up a turret for the Polish 47mm gun single turret version, but that should be fairly simple by comparison as it is a basic conical turret. For the twin-turreted version I'm going to use the turrets from the Battlefront 7TP (PL050) miniature.  I'm just going to use the T-26 tracks as I have several extras now that I've performed surgery on a few of the models!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Black Brigades and Now Soviets in Progress

I’ve reached a little bit of a pause in my work on the Black Brigade as I’m waiting for more miniatures to arrive, but I’ve been continuing on the research on how to paint the unit. Most modern wargamers paint the unit with all black leather trench coats, and while this looks amazing on the table, further research and photos indicate that this may not be correct in all cases. It appears that only the officers and the NCO’s got the black coats, while the rifle privates made do with a wz. 36 trench coat in the normal green. I found translated version of a 1934 Polish Army infantry manual online and it gave the breakdown of an infantry platoon as follows:

Commanding officer “Plutonowy” (Master corporal)
Second in command, “Kapral” (Corporal)
Light machinegun crew (BAR) made up of a “Starszy strzelecz” (Private first class) and two  riflemen carrying ammunition.
13 riflemen of which two are of the “Starszy strzelecz” rank.

Granted, this is an infantry, not a cavalry organization, so the numbers for the cavalry are likely to be slightly different. Assuming that everyone down to the Starszy strzelecz rank received the black leather greatcoat, that would give a ratio of about five black leather coats to thirteen standard cloth coats. For my platoons that means I should run the command squad with probably all three in black, and then have one black coat in each of the Rifle/MG teams as well as one in the Anti-tank Rifle team. Fortunately the True North miniatures I’m working with appear as if they can be painted up equally well either way.

As you can see from the picture above, I’ve performed initial clean-up on roughly one Kawalerii Zmotoryzowanej Company as well as a few anti-tank crews and teams. I still have a ways to go, but hopefully the miniatures will arrive soon!

I’m also working on a side project “while I wait.” I picked up a fair amount of Soviet armor during the recent EW sale that Battlefront ran. One of the vehicles I picked up was the T-35. I apologize for the (lack of) quality of the photo – I’m waiting on a new light box. As you can see, this one is the command variant with the radio antenna on the 76mm gun turret. Of course now I need to come up with a good list.

My next project will be working on the Vickers E tanks for the Black Brigade, as my plans have arrived, and canvas cargo box covers for the Polski-FIAT 621 trucks.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Black Brigade - Digging Through the Miniatures

I've spent a good portion of the day digging through and cleaning up the infantry and weapons for my Polish 10th Brigade army, and I've had several surprises - from both the "good" and "bad" categories. I've also spent some time searching around the internet for additional figures and Polish vehicles (and references) with mixed success.

First, let's talk references. In addition to the book I've referenced before, there are several decent references online. One I've discovered recently is the PIBWL site, which has extensive coverage of Polish armor and other military vehicles. They have a great section on the C4P halftrack and the Vickers 6 ton tank. I've also found a couple of books I have on order which will hopefully arrive soon.

I've spent most of the day going through the various True North figures which at this point will comprise the majority of the force (though I won't make that final determination until the Forged in Battle figures come in). Although I wish there were a few more poses, overall I'm impressed with the detail of the infantry figures. The rifles are a little spindly, but the faces appear to have good relief and should paint up nicely. Given the predominant color of the uniforms will be black, the contrast for the rifles and other equipment should be good.

The heavy weapons, as I mentioned before, are a bit of a mixed bag. I've identified what should be the squad level BAR, though the detail is not as great as I'd hoped, and there is only one pose - prone. I'll need a total of eight of these, and I'm hoping the Forged in Battle version will work well with the True North figures (at least from base to base if not within base) to provide a little variety on the table.

I've also been working with the True North motorcycle as I'll need one for the command team. Unfortunately the motorcycle with side car included is not a "Sokol" 1000 as used by the 10th Brigade. I'm not sure what it is, but I'm sure it isn't what I needed. However, the included crew is correct for the 10th Brigade, so I'm picking up a pack of the Battlefront Motorcycle Platoon (PL400) and will add the True North crew to the Battlefront Bike. Battlefront's Sokol is reasonably correct, though it will need a little accurizing.

For the basing I'm thinking of using the Battlefront Urban Rubble bases (XX106), but mixing some "dirt" and grass in rather than having them purely urban. I think it will give the infantry (at least) some very interesting basing.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Polish Black Brigade - Taking the Plunge

So I don't know if I'm actually going to get the army done for my upcoming tournament (hence the multiple back-ups I'm considering), but I really like the idea of running a Polish 10th Cavalry Brigade list. The unit has a great history, and I have decent reference data on the list. The unit also offers me some good opportunities for modeling as the current state of miniatures for the unit leaves much to be desired.

First, there's the state of Battlefront's Polish offerings. I love the guys at Battlefront, but when it comes to support for the few Polish lists out there, the level of miniature support is exceedingly poor. At this point Battlefront offers a grand total of 25 SKU's for Poland, including a dice set, a kit bag pouch, the urban and rural bases, an objective set, and Wojtek the Dancing, errr, Soldier Bear. This limited number of products makes even fielding a tank, infantry or cavalry force challenging. There is a conversion chart on page 47 of Blitzkrieg with suggested proxies for many of the unavailable miniatures, but many of these are rough equivalents at best - some far rougher than others!

The 10th Motorised Cavalry Brigade, or 10 Brygada Kawalerii Zmotoryzowanej, figures prominently on page 31 of Blitzkrieg, but Battlefront offers no miniatures suitable for the line infantry, heavy weapons, or gun crews of the unit. Battlefront does make a good 37mm wz. 36 anti-tank gun (PL510), but the crew is wrong for the Black Brigade. The same issue holds for the heavier artillery as well. As I'm running a Light Gun Battery (Fearless Trained) out of the support rather than taking a Black Brigade 75mm battery, I'll be able to use the 75mm wz. 1897 guns (PL570) and artillery HQ (PL709) out of the box.

The state of the armor and vehicles for the unit is not much better.  Battlefront does make a good TKS (PL010), which will work well for the Reconnaissance Tank Platoons, but they make no Polish Vickers tanks. I'm working on kit-bashing these from 7TP (PL050) and Soviet T-26 obr 1933 (SBX21) tanks. For the Polski-FIAT model 621 trucks, I'm using the True North miniature (PLE06). The miniature itself is fairly good, but it is a lot more "fiddly" than a Battlefront miniature. The frame and engine comprise a single part, but the cab is five parts, the truck bed is separate as are the axles and all of the tires. That being said the fit is reasonable, and I've managed to get one together so far (I have more on order). Since there is no detail inside the cab, I went ahead and closed it up with sheet styrene to make painting the windows easier.

I also picked up a Polski-FIAT Staff Car from True North as the list calls for use of the Polski-FIAT 508 field car for command teams and a host of other units including the 37mm anti-tank guns, heavy machine guns, etc. The Staff Car is exceedingly tedious to assemble, but it will look great on the table once I add a few details! Unfortunately as I dig further into the unit history, it appears I need several of the Polski - FIAT 508/111 "Furgon" and Polski-FIAT 508/518 variants for my anti-tank guns and other units (including the Taczankas). Unfortunately NO ONE makes anything but the Polski-FIAT 508 "Lazik" in 15mm scale. You can get some in 1/285th, or 1/35th - and maybe a couple in 1/72nd, but nothing in 15mm scale. so again, I'm back to doing some conversions. I'll make extensive use of the "Lazik" wheelbase for these where appropriate to keep the casting to a minimum.

For the infantry I've started with the True North 10th Mechanized Brigade offerings including the line infantry (PL31), the command figures (PL32), the heavy weapons (PL33), the anti-tank gun crews (PL34), and the motorcycles and side cars (PLE17). I also picked up a set of the Forged in Battle "Polish Black Legion" (EWP07) figures to use as a second platoon or mix and match. At this point I've gotten the True North figures in and they're quite frankly a mixed bag. Some of them match the quality of a Battlefront figure, and honestly some of the faces are quite nice. Others appear to be hopeless blobs of metal with few discernible features (especially for a few of the heavy weapon or prone figures). That being said, I hope to have enough compatible figures between the sets to make up a respectable looking force. I think I should be able to do it. As an alternative to the truck transport, Battlefront's list calls for the PZInz 222 halftrack, but this appears to have been rare even in the 10th Brigade with other vehicles being more common (like the PZInz wz. 34). I'm still trying to figure out what to use for those.

I'm just starting the process of clean up and construction. The photo above shows the "state of my table" as I lay out the various miniatures and assemble them. I've already assembled one Battlefront TKS unit, and I honestly found these went together quite well with a minimum of mold lines and flash. The same held true for the 37mm anti-tank guns.

So here's the summary of what I'm using or planning on using so far for my force:

HQ - True North (and/or Forged in Battle) infantry, True North Staff Car, True North Motorcycle

Kawalerii Zmotoryzowanej Companies:  True North and/or Forged in Battle infantry, True North anti-tank rifles, True North heavy Machine Guns, True North Polski-FIAT 621 trucks, True North staff cars, kit-bashed 508 and 508/518 field cars, halftracks are TBD

Reconnaissance Tank Platoon - Battlefront TKS

Vickers Tank Platoon - Kit-bashed from Battlefront components

Zmotoryzowanej Anti-tank Gun Platoon - Battlefront guns, True North crew, kit-bashed 508 and 508/518 field cars, halftracks TBD

Light Gun Platoon - Battlefront 75mm battery

This will be the first army I've built where a substantial portion of miniatures comprising it will not be of Battlefront manufacture, and I honestly believe that Battlefront really missed the boat by not putting more effort into their Polish line of miniatures. I understand that any Polish force is going to be more esoteric than the Germans, French, British, or Soviets, but because generally Battlefront's quality has been stronger and more even than their other competitors in 15mm scale, I really wish I'd had the option of buying Battlefront for this project!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Upcoming Early War Tournament - So Many Choices!

So my next tournament is February 21st at Guardian Games - the 1550 point Early War "War Begins" tournament. For the past couple of months I've been trying to come up with a fun and/or unique army to bring to the tournament. I have a lot of EW Germans that are partially painted. I also have a lot of other EW stuff that needs to be painted as well including Japanese, Soviet, etc. Pretty much you name it at this point.

Right now I have more ideas for armies than time to paint them. I can easily put something together that is German as a "fall back," but I was hoping to do something different this time. I could put together a decent mixed force of Panzer I, Panzer II, and Panzer III E tanks out of Blitzkrieg, but the mixed nature of the platoons and the heavy reliance on the Panzer I has always made me a bit nervous.

One German alternative I've considered is the Czech Panzerkompanie. I've come up with a preliminary list using the Panzer 35(t) as a base:

HQ - Two Panzer 35(t) - 165 points

Czech Panzer Platoon - Five Panzer35(t) - 420 points
Czech Panzer Platoon - Five Panzer35(t) - 420 points

Panzerschutzen Platoon (Three squads) - 245 points
Mixed Panzerspah Platoon - Two Sd Kfz 222 (2cm) and Two Sd Kfz 221 (MG) - 150 points
Priority Air - Ju 87B - 150 points

This gives me 1550 points on the nose with four platoons. It also is a fairly good representation of the 1. Leichte Division in Poland at the start of the war. There isn't a lot of extra modeling that would be required to make this list work - though I could try and kit bash a Sd Kfz 251/1 Ausf A from the Battlefront Ausf C if I wanted a challenge. It think at this point the catch would be finding enough 35(t) tanks in the wild.

Alternately I could go for something complete different. I've been reading a book on the Polish 10th Mechanized Cavalry Brigade called The Invincible Black Brigade by Jerzy Majka. This unit has an absolutely amazing history and could be easily represented by the Pulk Kawalerii Zmotoryzowanej list from Blitzkrieg on page 26. It is a FV mechanized list with very reasonably priced platoons (or companies in this case). The biggest problem is, though I love Battlefront miniatures, their support of the Polish line has been poor, and they've never released miniatures appropriate for the "Black Brigade," so I'd have to look elsewhere for at least a portion of my miniatures. I've toyed with various lists, but right now what I'm thinking would be:


Regiment HQ (Company command rifle, 2iC Rifle, Motorcycle and sidecar) - 40 points


Kawalerii Zmotoryzowanej Company - Command rifle/MG team, one HMG, two Kawalerii Platoons (four Rifle MG, one ATR Team) - 305 points
Kawalerii Zmotoryzowanej Company - Command rifle/MG team, one HMG, two Kawalerii Platoons (four Rifle MG, one ATR Team) - upgrade to halftracks - 310 points
Zmotoryzowanej Anti-Tank Gun Platoon - Command Rifle team - 3X 37mm wz. 36 - 130 points
Reconaissance Tank Platoon - 3X TKS, 2X 20mm FKA TKS - 110 points


Vickers Tank Platoon - 3X Vickers E Type B, 2X Vickers E Type A - 160 points
Zmotoryzowanej Anti-Tank Gun Platoon - Command Rifle team - 3X 37mm wz. 36 - 130 points
Zmotoryzowanej Anti-Tank Gun Platoon - Command Rifle team - 3X 37mm wz. 36 - 130 points


Light Gun Battery - Command Rifle team, Staff team, 4X 75mm wz. 1897 guns - 235 points

Total: 1550 on the nose... 8 platoons

This particular list (which again, would be a decent representation of the unit) would give me several opportunities for modeling. The Polish version of the Vickers E tank is unique and both the one and two turret versions would require some conversion. Most of the infantry and gun teams would have to come from a 3rd party sources, though the anti-tank guns would come from Battlefront and the Light Gun Battery would also be straight Battlefront as well.  The TKS platoon would also be Battlefront, though I may need to make some head or command figure swaps.

All that being said, I've also been toying with Japanese and Soviet lists, though I'm not happy with either at this point. I've got the next couple of weeks off for the holidays, and I plan to start working on an army before Christmas. Whether that ends up being the army I take to the tournament remains to be seen. I think I even have an Italian Early War army in progress somewhere I need to finish up! I just need to win that lottery so I can spend more time painting!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Book Review - Easy Company Soldier

So I was out of town on business for the past few days, and I typically use plane trips to catch up on my reading. This time around I brought Easy Company Soldier by Sgt. Don Malarkey and Bob Welch. Those of you familiar with Band of Brothers will immediately recognize Malarkey's name, and you'll all remember I'm a fairly big fan of the series. Given the mini-series itself has more than a few inaccuracies, I've found it very insightful to read the memoirs of the actual combat veterans. I'd previously read Beyond Band of Brothers by Dick Winters, and I heartily recommend that work. 

As with Winters' book, Malarkey's autobiography is a reasonably quick read, but it also really seems to capture the author's voice. You feel as if Malarkey is in the room with you talking about his experiences growing up in Oregon, going through basic, and then the several months of hell on the front lines during World War II. In fact, Malarkey holds the distinction of serving more consecutive days in combat than any other member of Easy Company. 

Malarkey's commentary on the war and his fellow E Company veterans is straightforward and sometimes even brutal in its honesty and candor. You very quickly get a picture of a man with a strong sense of right and wrong, a strong sense of honor, and a man who believed he had something to prove - to himself most of all. 

As a student of history, I find it interesting to compare and contrast the same events through the lens of the various veterans of the unit. One particular episode that stood out had to do with David Webster's return to the unit. In the miniseries, Webster is greeted coolly and with resentment for having missed the Bulge. Mark Bando's website takes issue with that characterization quoting Webster's autobiography:

"It was good to be back with fellows I knew and could trust. Listening to the chatter in the truck, I felt warm and relaxed inside, like a lost child who has returned to a bright home full of love after wandering in a cold black forest."

However, reading Malarkey's autobiography, there may be something to the characterization in mini-series after all.  Malarkey states:

"... we had a few guys rejoin us who'd been wounded in Normandy or Holland... Among them was Webster, the Harvard man so busy polishing his Bobcat badge that he didn't realize that damn near everybody else was now an Eagle Scout."

He continues:

"Webster, who'd taken a single bullet cleanly through the leg in Holland, showed up in Haguenau with the pep of a kid being dropped off at a birthday party - and not smart enough to figure out the rest of us weren't much in a partying mood. He kept asking where so-and-so was. And guys kept telling him: 'dead... lost a leg... took a shot in the nexk... froze his friggin' feet off...'"

Clearly Malarkey's account and impression is conveyed by the mini-series, whereas Bando's (based on Webster's source material) is not. Bando's own book and website did, however, come out in 2002, six years before Malarkey's autobiography was released. Bando may need to update his site and source material a bit at this point given the number of primary accounts now available from the other veterans.

Needless to say, I found Malarkey's book engaging.  In fact I think I managed to read through the entire book in just under three hours, it was simply that good. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in military history, as it is a work of exceptional honesty and candor.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Tanksgiving Wrap-Up

Well, the Tanksgiving Tournament has come and gone, and it was a great tournament put on at Guardian Games.  Attendance was good with 10 armies on the table, and the painting overall was really amazing as well!  On to the results!

By way of reference, I brought a 510 Schwere Panzer-Abteilung army from Remagen:

My first game was free for all against Darragh's 7th Armored from Blood, Guts and Glory. He's originally from Ireland and currently working in Germany, so he won the "who traveled the farthest" nod for the tournament, by several orders of magnitude! Given the terrain and the fact that I had to cover the long table edge, I was forced to slightly overload one side. Darragh brought Patton, so his spearhead move quickly adjusted to compensate. My Westfalen infantry platoon failed to dig in, and I thought I was pretty much doomed at that point, but they survived the American onslaught long enough to dig in and help hold the left corner objective. Unfortunately I never had a chance to get a real counter offensive going and spent the entire time trying to fend off the Americans. Game ended with a 3-2 double loss, though I had an amazing amount of fun. Darragh's a great player and I enjoyed playing against him.

Next I was up against another Mike in Pincer against his Desert Rats Armoured Squadron from Overlord. I was able to put my Westfalen platoon in good cover around one objective and my AA in position to keep his air support off of my big cats. He tried to work his way up one flank but I managed to catch him in the open with a lucky reserve roll and sandwich the bulk of his armour between my Westfalen panzer platoon and four King Tigers. Because of some bad bog rolls, his reluctant platoons quickly left the table and the company broke morale - 6-1 victory for the King Tigers.

In the final game I was fighting against my buddy Ryan in Counterattack. Ryan brought the 3rd Armored from Remagen. Ryan spent most of the first several turns trying to position his forces in such a way that he would be ready to take the objective while not opening up his forces to attack from the King Tigers.  My CiC played tag with his Stuart platoon which could threaten to roll up my infantry, AA guns, and artillery for most of the game. His four hellcats managed to take out the 2iC and one of the KT's from the 2X platoon, but were cut down by AA and Nebelwerfer fire.  My Westfalen tanks managed to get in some flank shots which opened up a couple of shots for the KT's. I almost had this one 5-2, but some poor rolls on my part left a single 76mm late sherman that was able to destroy a KT platoon resulting in a 4-3 win.

Ryan ended up winning Best Allied (and had the highest overall score) at 15.  I tied for best German (and 2nd overall) with 13.  If I'd kept that last KT, Ryan and I would have been tied atop the standings at 14 a piece.  I also tied my buddy Steve Z. for best painted.  Ryan and Steve both paint for CGR Painters, who do some great work!  Now I have a few months to go before the Early War tournament in February.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sticking To It... Support for 510. Schwere Panzer-Abteilung

Tanksgiving is only a few days away, and as is normal, I'm madly trying to finish up the last of my miniatures. I'm actually a bit ahead of where I thought I'd be at this point, but I've still got a ways to go. At this point I've been putting the finishing touches on the "Westfalen" Platoon and the Nebelwerfer platoon.

The Nebelwerfer crews, command, and observer are pretty much done in a standard Heer paint scheme, though I've thrown in a couple of "alternate" panzer gray helmets just for variety. Hey, it's 1945 - you wore what helmet you could get your hands on. They're on sticks below just about ready for basing.

The "Westfalen" platoon took a bit more work because of the Erbsenmuster camouflage tunic, trousers, and helmets for each of them. I ended up going with a four color scheme of 873 US Field Drab, 979 German Camo Dark Green, 821 German Camo Beige, and 881 Yellow Green (I didn't have the 833 German Camo Bright Green, and the yellow green looked close enough to my eye). I plan on expanding the unit to make a full "Westfalen" army later on, and I'm planning on adding some Leibermuster camouflaged troops as well.

I'm finding infantry a lot less intimidating to paint these days.  I've developed a new shading scheme and I'm using magnifiers to see the detail which is really making things like faces pop.  I'm hoping to get these guys finished and on bases tomorrow so I can finish the ground work and the last detailing on the armor.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Backstory, 2nd Panzer Division, and Battlefront's New Panzer III Ausf J

In the late 1980's I was just graduating high school and moving on to college. I'd built model kits since I was about six - mostly the standard gamut of cars, aircraft, and the odd space or sci-fi kit. I'd seen kits of other subjects out there, but I'd never given them a heck of a lot of thought. That all changed around 1988-9 when I got my hands on an issue of Finescale Modeler magazine that detailed simple ways to add tarps, bedrolls, and all of the various gubbins seen on a tank that was in action. I promptly went out and picked up my first tank kit (the venerable 1970's vintage Tamiya King Tiger) and went to work. I was hooked immediately, and as they say, when it comes to tank modeling, I've never gone back.

Fast forward a couple of years and I'm introduced to the International Plastic Modeler's Society. Not only are these guys supremely talented builders, but they had REFERENCES too! Granted, by today's standards a lot of the references available at this time had several gaps and inaccuracies and have been superseded by more modern books, but this was my first introduction to moving beyond a basic kit and putting a tank into a specific time and place. I was gifted some basic armor references, including the original Panzer Colors 1 and 2. While considered authoritative in their day, that day has long past and the books are now fairly notorious (especially the third volume) for containing some fairly glaring errors.

Despite the issues, there are some excellent photos in the work, and a spread of images on page 30 of Panzer Colors 2 always struck my fancy. Identified in the work as Panzer III Ausf J tanks of Panzer Regiment 3, 2. Panzer-Division in the Soviet Union, the vehicles have a distinctive (presumably) red serpent insignia on the turret surrounded by one of several geometric shapes. The date of the photographs is not given in the caption, but a later color plate of one of the vehicles gives the date as 1942.  I'd always wanted to build a 1/35th scale model of the vehicle, but lacked both the appropriate kit and the appropriate markings.

By the mid 1990's, resin kits were becoming more common, and covered a variety of sources which had not been well covered by the major manufacturers to that point. However, times were changing and DML / Dragon Models began to release affordable kits in plastic covering subjects which had only been available previously in expensive mixed media kits - or by kit-bashing! I still had the problem of not having appropriate markings. At that point, enter Archer Fine Transfers. Given I had a lot of references, and Woody Vondracek, Archer's owner, wanted to expand his product line, he and I collaborated on several sets of transfers. One being a full set to cover the distinctive Panzer III Ausf J tanks of 2nd Panzer Division (shown below).

Of course, by the time I was working with Archer, I was finishing up graduate school, and my time for actually building and finishing kits was limited. Then in the late 1990's I moved to Oregon with a fresh new job, and that further clamped down on my model building time.  Throw in the fact that the Panzer III Ausf J kits available at the time were for a mid production vehicle, rather than the early production vehicles Panzer-Regiment 3 was using, and the 1/35th scale project was set aside in favor of other models, projects, and hobbies. Unfortunately I've never made it back to my 1/35th scale Panzer III Ausf J, but I do still have a couple of sets of the transfers, and Dragon now makes a lovely initial production kit that I'll pick up one of these days and actually build.

While the Archer markings were the first for these vehicles, others have entered the market. The initial Panzer III Ausf J kit I mentioned above includes markings for these tanks.  In addition to the red with white outline, the include some other postulated color variations for the markings. Bison Decals (now Star Decals) went even further including greens, reds, and yellows. So controversy remains about the exact coloring of the markings, but I'll personally stick by my red with white outline.

Another controversy appears to be in the date of the photos. Panzer Colors 2 gives the date as 1942. In June 1942, Panzer Regiment 3 did still have 20 Panzer III's with the short-barreled 5cm gun, it seems unlikely that they would have a preponderance of these vehicles in their original heraldic markings from multiple platoons of one company by mid-1942. When the unit was committed to Barbarossa in September 1941, it fielded 105 Panzer III's with the short-barreled 5cm gun. As the vehicles of interest belong to the 6th company, it seems more likely that the photos date to 1941. The more recent Dragon model kit actually puts the vehicles in the Soviet Union in 1941 according to their reference sheet. Unfortunately I haven't yet been able to dig up any more authoritative references to date the photographs precisely, and I consider the Panzer Colors dates to be somewhat suspect.

So how does this all relate to Flames of War? The nice thing about wargaming is that you're not just making ONE tank, you need to make SEVERAL of them to actually play the game. This gives history and modeling geeks like me the opportunity to make multiple versions of the same "cool" vehicle that we'd only make one of in 1/35th scale. Battlefront is just now releasing an updated version of the Panzer III Ausf J (GE033) - shown below.

The updated miniature looks amazing, and the tracks are a vast improvement over the old version of the miniature. That being said, it isn't an "initial" version of the Panzer III Ausf J, though a reasonable approximation can be made if you shave off the raised vents on the engine deck hatches.

My conundrum at this point is, do I run it as a 1941 army - using Barbarossa, or as a 1942 army using Eastern Front? In mid-war, the short barreled 5.0cm gun is little more than a door knocker when faced with Shermans, T-34's, and the gamut of medium armor. In early-war, it can't easily handle a T-34, and it can't handle a KV at all, but otherwise it is an extremely competent tank - it is also very expensive. So I could field the full company in mid war and die mightily or a few in early war and have a chance as long as I chose my support wisely.

Ideally I'd field them as they were fielded historically, which at this point the references are contradictory. I'm going to keep digging through my resources, but if anyone has some good reference on Panzer-Regiment 3, 2. Panzer-Division, I am very keen to see them.  At this point I can make my own decals, so actually getting the distinctive markings on the vehicles is now within the realm of possibility - so I hope to get this project going after the first of the year... who knows, I may try and finally build that 1/35th scale version in parallel!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Miniatures and a Movie - Battle of Britain and Band of Brothers

I had the house to myself most of the day Sunday, so as per my normal practice I painted miniatures with war films going on in the background. In the process I managed to get my flak guns ready to base and made strong progress on the base coats for the remaining infantry and artillery crews. The day's film choices included 1969's Battle of Britain, and the first few episode of the epic HBO movie mini-series, Band of Brothers.

Unlike my last installment of miniatures and movies featuring The Bridge at Remagen, both of these movies stay true to the historical source material for the most part. Though it was a commercial failure, Battle of Britain does a good job of covering the 1940 air war between the Royal Air Force and the Luftwaffe. The overall historical accuracy is quite high, especially for a film of its vintage. Liberal use of Spanish-produced versions of the legendary Heinkel He-111 and Messerschmidt Bf 109 lend an air of authenticity to the shots, though there are some easily spotted differences in the Spanish variants - especially where the power-plants are concerned. The all-star cast does a good job, though the marital friction between one of the lead characters and his wife seems tacked on.

Given I had a full afternoon open, I decided to pop Band of Brothers back in during lunch and just kept going (for the record I made it through about four episodes in the afternoon). First, for the record, I understand that Band of Brothers is not perfectly accurate - in fact there are many fairly glaring inaccuracies, but so many other details capture the events, look, and feel of the era so perfectly that the overall achievement can't be ignored. Perhaps the best discussion of the historical triumphs and failures of this work can be found on Mark Bando's website. Some of the issues can be traced to Stephen Ambrose's original work, though many are "Hollywood mistakes."

Why I enjoy Band of Brothers so much is it is arguably the first time that Hollywood tried to tell a real World War II story with any real degree of accuracy.  Saving Private Ryan did a good job of showing a hauntingly accurate portrayal of the Normandy landings, but the rest of the plot was pure Hollywood. Band of Brothers, on the other hand, traces the combat experience of a unit comprised of real individuals from their training until the end of the war. Punctuated with commentary from the veterans of the unit themselves, the mini-series takes on a stature far greater than any previous Hollywood effort. They even at least try to get the German tanks right - something no American war film other than Kelly's Heroes had attempted before Saving Private Ryan.

As groundbreaking as Band of Brothers was, I'm not sure I've seen anything surpass it since. While World War II movies saw a renaissance in the late 1990's and early 2000's, the market seems to be cooling a bit with the modest returns Fury has achieved at the box office (which sadly, I have yet to see!). Got a good film recommendation for Miniatures and a Movie? Pass it along!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Getting Some Flak

I'm making decent progress toward getting my 510. Schwere Panzer-Abteilung army done for Tanksgiving. The Ersatz Panzer Platoon from 'Westfalen' is nearly done, as are the King Tigers, but I've spent most of my time working on the infantry at this point trying to find a way to get faces and detailing done more quickly. I think I'm finally making progress.

At this point the Flak unit of four 2cm Flakvierling is pretty much ready to finish the basing (which I'll do with the rest of the unit). All of the crews are painted as is the command section. I received an odd mix of figures for the command group, and honestly for the crews in general, so I sort of improvised.

Anyway - you want to see some photos, and I apologize in advance, I still haven't gotten my light box set back up yet, so they're not perfect shots:

Command Team:

Flak gun 1:

Flak gun 2:

Guns 3 and 4:

As you can see I'm running a mix of standard Luftwaffe blue uniforms, and German Fieldgrey uniforms. I'm also mixing Luftwaffe and Heer green helmets, though I kept the collar tabs all appropriate to a Flak battery.  I figure this is 1945, I can take a few liberties with the uniforms. I also added a fair amount of chipping to the flak guns themselves to give them that "end of the war" look. In order to do the detail I am using magnifiers to actually see, and I've found it helps on the faces as well - and it is quicker!

I've got the uniform and helmet base coats on for both the artillery crew and the "Westfalen" infantry platoon as well.  I'm hoping to get them painted up this next week well in advance of the tournament the Saturday after Thanksgiving. So far I'm really pleased how this army is coming out. Hopefully the Nebelwerfers and infantry come out as nicely as the Flak crews!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ammo of MIG's Painting Wargame Tanks - Mini-Review!

So I just got my copy of Painting Wargame Tanks in direct from Ammo of MIG in Spain, and believe me this is one volume you don't want to miss! Written by Rubén Torregrosa (from HeresyBrush) and Mig Jiménez himself, this is an indispensable guide for people who really want to take their Wargaming tanks to the next level.

The book itself is well organized. It opens with an introduction and then moves quickly into the materials you'll need to actually need to apply the techniques described in the book. As this is an Ammo of MIG publication, all of the paints are listed from the Ammo of MIG catalog. However the technique also requires airbrushes, high quality brushes, and artist oil paints outside of the traditional MIG range. 

The techniques themselves are broken up into into "Easy" and "Advanced" sections (though there's a typo in the table of contents describing the "Seasy" method). The methods are described step by step with full color photos using several actual 15mm miniatures - most of which appear to be Plastic Soldier Company and Heer 46. Regardless of which technique is used, each step includes icons showing which tools to use and which paints or other products to use.  I've taken a couple of photos of pages below showing what you can expect:

The book is heavily skewed toward German subjects, but the general techniques will work for any vehicle in 15mm. While they recommend blu-tac for masking, I prefer Panzer Putty as it seems to adhere better and hold its shape better than the blu-tac I've been able to secure in the United States. I would also have like to have seen a couple of examples in winter camouflage as my recent experience with the Tigers was fairly challenging, and I could have used some input!  I would also like to see the techniques expanded to earlier riveted tanks, as these typically require a bit more drybrushing ant other techniques.

That being said, I really believe that this book will let me take my tanks to the next level. I've already seen easier ways to achieve some of the results I've been working toward, and I plan on using the T-34 section as an exemplar for a few upcoming Soviet tank projects. 

Highly recommended!!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Retooled Battlefront Panzer IV Ausf F1/F2

Guess I should have waited for the full Battlefront update because the retooled Panzer IV Ausf F1/F2 looks spectacular!  Packaged under code GE042 there appear to be more than a few surprising goodies with this release.

The detail on the resin parts looks crisper, and the kit appears to come with plastic tracks (though no assembly guide is provided at this point to verify that).  I say plastic because the fender tops and track detail on the inside surface of the tracks is vastly improved over the old white metal offering, and appears to be on par with the track detail on the plastic kit.

If these are the plastic tracks, there has been one major change since the last time we saw them - the idler has been corrected with the right number of spokes.  Egad I'm going to have a LONG Christmas list.

EDIT:  I'm reliably informed by Evan that these are metal tracks... dang, they're NICE for metal tracks!

Battlefront Flammpanzer II

As a German player, I'll admit that the initial release of Early War has left me feeling a bit disappointed on more than one occasion. Initially it was cases where vehicles had be omitted and/or mislabeled. The lack of a Panzer I Ausf A, the mislabeling of the Panzer II Ausf C (late) (with the squared front hull) as an early (and the lack of the early rounded front hull variant), and the lack of an Sd Kfz 251/1 A/B makes doing a proper invasion of Poland list difficult. Later on, Battlefront continued to use the Panzer I Ausf B chassis for vehicles that would have only appeared on the Ausf A chassis.

For most players, these issues are minor and only drive rivet counters like me absolutely barking mad. However, Battlefront never even produced a Panzer II Ausf D or E for the Verlastete Panzer II platoon needed for the Verlastete Panzerkompanie.  Given Blitzkrieg was released way back in 2010, the fact that there are still major gaps in the Battlefront line for EW is disappointing.

Now that the EW era is coming to a close with the release of Barbarossa, one of the new releases was slated to be the Flammpanzer II. This vehicle appeared exclusively on the Panzer II D/E chassis, so I was a bit nervous that Battlefront would use one of the existing Panzer II models to put this vehicle out. Fortunately my fears were unfounded as they have actually released a stunning miniature of this fun little vehicle.

The Flammpanzer II comes in a set of two vehicles under the code GE014. Evan Allen designed the master, and it is a beauty. He captures all of the key details of this quirky little vehicle. Now maybe we'll see that elusive Panzer II Ausf D/E miniature in the not so distant future... please?

Of Dice and (Tiny) Men

One of the key aspects of Flames of War, and in fact many wargames, is the random element. Many actions do not have an automatic chance of success, and instead success or failure is determined by one or more die rolls. Generally these rolls will have a target number that must be matched or beaten to achieve a success for the action. In an ideal world, the dice used in wargaming should be truly random.  In other words, for any given roll you should have an equal chance of rolling any of the possible numbers on the die, sometimes called "equal access" to each face of the die.

Unfortunately most dice used in wargaming fall fairly short of that mark. Most dice are manufactured using a process that creates recesses in the faces for the markings, are then painted, and then all of the dice are polished back to leave the paint only in the recesses of the designs themselves. This process results in very attractive dice at a reasonable price point, but it also results in dice that are not perfectly cubical (in the case of six-sided dice) or perfect polyhedral solids (in the case of other dice varieties). These imperfections result in dice that will tend to roll some numbers with slightly greater frequency than others, even in the absence of manipulation of the dice themselves.

This fact explains why people can legitimately claim to have "lucky dice" or "unlucky dice."  In this case it really isn't superstition. If you roll the dice enough, you'll get a feel for which ones tend to "roll better" (i.e. will favor one or more high value faces). My problem with this is that anyone with a "blessed" set of dice is going to have a slight advantage in any game. Conversely someone who has pulled a new set of dice out only to discover they're weighted in the opposite direction is going to have an unfair disadvantage.

So what alternatives are there out there? Casino dice are precision manufactured to strict tolerances by law, and do give equal access to each face on the die.  Unfortunately they are also very large and have to be "thrown" (usually against some sort of backstop) to function properly.  This is generally not going to be practical or even desirable for a tabletop wargame.  Other people advocate use of computer software to generate random numbers, and while some of these may get close to statistical randomness, short of advanced (and usually expensive and/or proprietary) computational based models, the best most people will be able to get with a computer, tablet, or smart-phone is a pseudo-random number.

Based on my experience there are at least a couple of precision dice products out there that meet all the criteria to generate truly random numbers for Flames of War. The first would be Gamescience dice.  These are precision dice available in a variety of types (you'll only need six-sided dice for Flames of War, but they have broader polyhedral types available). They are going to be more expensive than Chessex dice, (~$2-$3 per die for six-sided dice), but they are precision crafted. In some cases you'll have to ink the faces to make them easier to see. I own a set of red and green dice I use for Flames of War tournaments, and I've never felt like I lost a game because the dice weren't truly random (not saying I still don't roll a "1" at the most inopportune moments!). Unfortunately Gamescience appears to be in an ownership / production transition at this point, though the Dice Shop in the UK appears to still have a strong inventory.

Though Gamescience dice are very good, they do have a few drawbacks. The dice are not polished, so they'll frequently have a mark where they are removed from the sprue. Some people try and sand the area, though I generally don't as the whole reason I purchased the dice in the first place was to avoid sanded or polished dice. Gamescience dice also have the knife edged profile in common with casino dice, and though they are much smaller, they may not roll well on a hard, slick surface once again defeating the purpose of using a precision die!

An alternative that the gaming community is starting to experiment with is the use of precision backgammon dice. Precision backgammon dice combine the pure randomness of casino dice or Gamescience dice with the rounded profile of the more familiar Chessex style dice. If you look at a precision backgammon die, the overall shape is cubical, but the faces are actually all perfect circles. The rounded corners make the dice easier to roll in tight spaces allowing more tumbling for a truly random result. There are a few drawbacks, however. Backgammon dice only come in a d6, which is fine for Flames of War, but completely useless for systems using other types of polyhedral dice. They are also much more expensive, with prices starting at ~$5 to $7.50 per die.

At this point I've picked up a few precision backgammon dice that I'm going to try out at my next tournament. As a gamer, my goal is to use dice on the table that I would actually want my opponent to use as well because I'm convinced that they are 100% fair. Ideally, I want the game to be decided on the merits of the tactics used, but given the element of chance to the game, luck will frequently play a role. If the game hinges on the luck of a die roll, I want that die roll to be truly random, not the product of a "lucky" or "unlucky" sub-standard die.

Monday, November 3, 2014

510 Schwere Panzer-Abteilung - Slow Progress

Ever painted most of a weekend and felt like you didn't get much of anything done?  That was me this past weekend.  I'm making slow progress on my 510 army for the upcoming Tanksgiving event. Did I mention slow???

Most of my work this weekend was centered on the Ersatz Panzer Platoon with 3 Panzer III's and one Panzer IV. I've got the one without Schurtzen just about done, though the picture is awful because I forgot to turn off the flash:

Wheels are painted as are most of the pioneer tools, I have a little final clean up to do and it will be done.  Unfortunately the green gets washed out a lot in these photos.

Here are the other Panzer III's with Schurtzen.  I've been going through and adding chipping to the Schurtzen so they should look pretty good when done, I still need to get the roadwheels painted

The Panzer IV is coming along as well, but I'm dreading the roadwheels - should happen early this week.

I'm putting down the base coats on the flak crews as well.  I'm doing a mix of Luftwaffe and Wehrmacht uniforms for the unit as this is a truly last ditch situation.

I've also been working on the tracks for the King Tigers.  They're pretty close to done as well.  That leaves the Westfalen platoon and the Nebelwerfer crews to get together.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Ammo of MIG Japanese Tank Colors!

Well, I must have been sitting under a rock because I missed the fact that Ammo of MIG has come out with a range of colors for Early War Japanese AFV's.  I have some enamel paints covering Japanese colors, but I generally prefer acrylic for my airbrushing unless I can't help it because of the fumes associated with enamel painting.

The set appears to include the four primary colors you'll need to paint Japanese tanks from 1937-42 - just what you need to finish up that Rising Sun army!  Included is the base khaki (tsuchi kusa iro), the mahogany brown (tsuchi iro), green (kusa iro), as well as flat yellow.

I have an early war tournament coming up early next year and I'm still trying to decide between Japanese and Soviet... yes, you read that right, I'm actually not planning on bringing German... for once!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

New Ammo of MIG Books Incoming - Painting Wargaming Tanks

Courtesy of Denis Schumacher over at Heer 46 is a heads up on a new book coming out from the guys over at Ammo of MIG - Painting Wargaming Tanks.  This appears to include some nice profiles for painting 1/100th (15mm) scale tanks for use in games like Flames of War.

I've picked up some of the gaming colors from Ammo of MIG, and I can't wait for this book to be generally available.  Once I get my grubby mitts on a copy I'll do a full review!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Battlefront Plastic Stugs Incoming

During the recent Flamescon event, Battlefront showed off some new plastic miniatures including a Cromwell, Comet (!), and a new plastic Stug III (frame shown below).

Up until this point the only way to properly field a Stug III G (late) using Battlefront miniatures was to use the fairly sketchy Stug III out of the Open Fire set.  Of the plastic tanks available with that set, the Stug was the better of the two, but it still lacked several critical details, while others were simply incorrect.  This new sprue looks far more promising, and gives options for both the standard and late versions of the vehicle.

I've been eagerly awaiting some good late Stug III's as I need four for my 1/512 Schwere Panzerjager army.  No release date was indicated in the article, that I could see, but I just received my Wargames Illustrated issue for November and it indicates that GBX82 Stug G Platoon (Plastic) is a November release.  Looks like I have something for my early Christmas list...  Now if they could just get out that late plastic Jagdpanther they previewed at last year's Flamescon I'd be a very happy man!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mid-War Tournament After Action Report!

So I took the winter tigers of 502 Schwere Panzer-Abteilung to the local tournament yesterday.  We were supposed to have eight to ten players, but only ended up with six because of various illnesses and last minute family emergencies.  Almost all of the players were from the old Oregon Flames of War (ORF) playtest group.  At 1500 points, I knew that my list would have to be handled carefully because I just didn't have the shots to handle a large force or a broad front.

My first game was against my buddy Ryan and he brought the blob of Soviet infantry covered by some KV's and Su-85's.  Yeah, I'm pretty much boned.  We were also playing dust up, so I had to nominate which platoons I left in delayed reserve first.  I elected to leave the Nebelwerfers and one Tiger in reserve.  In retrospect with the large infantry blobs, I should have had the Nebelwerfers on the table.  Given how lightly defended the objective was, Ryan elected to move one of his companies of infantry on the attack immediately.  The Germans put up a valiant fight, and had severely whittled down the Soviets, but two untimely failed saves against sappers on the Tigers doomed the effort and he managed to take the objective as time expired.  1-6 to Ryan.  If not for the untimely deaths of the Tigers this one would have ended up a 2-3 draw.

Next game was against a newer player blue on blue against Panzergrenadiers with some Marder support and priority Stukas.  The mission was fighting withdrawal.  He put one objective in the corner, so I went ahead and put my two objectives in the far corner roughly 10" apart.  After he'd placed, across a broad front with one squad of Panzergrenadiers, I overloaded the side with his objective.  I immediately moved up my Tigers and panzergrenadiers to get in close, losing one Tiger to Stuka attack.  I was eventually able to successfully assault and take the objective, but he managed to keep enough units close enough to contest for 3 turns as the forces whittled each other down. Again time was called, and he won because it was a defensive battle, so I ended up with a 2-5.  I think I could have pulled out a 4-3 on this one if we'd had 10-15 more minutes.

The last game was against my friend Steve in Breakthrough, again blue on blue against his Fallschirmjaeger supported by two Hornisse and an HS-129.  He elected to put everything on the table from the outset as he only had one motorized unit, and I left off one Tiger.  I hugged cover and got in close to keep the dang air attack aircraft off of me.  He began moving his infantry back to cover the objective, and my grenadiers followed.  One unit of his paras failed to dig in, and I was able to cut them up and break them with my grenadier platoon.  On the other side of the table, the Tigers knocked out the observer for the mortars and picked off one of the Hornisse in a game of "peek-a-boo."  The grenadiers then took out most of the enemy mortar platoon, but he was able to remove the last stand in good order denying me a potential point.  In the middle the Tigers took out another squad of the German paras.  Eventually my remaining Tiger entered the fray and I was able to collapse the pocket on the remaining paratroopers, though I ultimately lost the Grenadier platoon for a 5-2 victory.

My takeaways from the tournament.  First - it was a lot of fun, and I really don't get to actually play the game enough.  My goal for the next few months is to actually get out and play the game more. Second, everyone seemed to have a great time.  The sportsmanship was excellent across the board. On my list specifically, I knew it was pretty much a "best I could do" if I wanted to take a Tiger company at 1500 points.  Unfortunately I hadn't gotten a chance to actually play the list before the tournament, and there are a lot of mistakes I made in handling it that I wouldn't have made if I'd had a few dry runs.  I don't think I'd ever win a competitive tournament with this list, but I had a lot of fun running it.  My army did win best painted, so that more than made up for getting trounced in the early rounds! 

Friday, October 24, 2014

502 - Ready for Tournament - Now with Pictures

I'm not sure that any army is every truly "done", but this army is as "done" as it is going to be before the tournament tomorrow.  I apologize in advance for the (lack of) quality of the photos.  I still don't have my light box ready to go so I'm relying on ambient halogen or my overpowered flash at this point.

First up is the whole army on my army box.  I need the army box to be modular so I'm just using some white felt as a base at this point.  I may be able to upgrade the basing for the box later as soon as I can figure out a way to easily interchange it!

Here's the recovery halftrack and driver.

These are the halftracks for the Nebelwerfer unit.  They're based using the same technique as the infantry.

... and yes the whole unit has tactical markings and license plates.  Gotta keep those MP's happy!

Here's the command tiger - it came out pretty well!

Did I mention the overly harsh flash?  Yeah... I promise better pictures once I have time to take some!

Here's a rear view of the #3 tank so you can see the very clean hull rear plate and unique exhaust.

Well, there you have them!  I'm completely out of time, so now I need to go find some Battlefoam that will fit the army (guess what order I didn't get in on time!).  Wish me luck at the tournament.  I likely won't win, but I'm going to look decent losing!

502 Is Finally DONE.... -ish....

I'll have some pictures this evening (as it was too late to take photos last night), but I put the finishing touches on my 502 Schwere Panzerabteilung army for Saturday last night.  So now it's "done" - at least for the time being.  There are a couple of details I may go back and work on later for this army (fixing the turrets on the initial production tigers, toning down the blue on the gloves and scarves a bit on the infantry, and adding more stuff in the back of the recovery half track), but overall I'm pretty pleased with how it came out.  

Now I need to finish writing-up my unit history and modeling details for the tournament and then get all of my stuff ready to go bright and early in the morning.  I haven't actually gotten to RUN this army at 1500 points yet, so I'm a bit concerned it'll get fragged right out of the gate, but it will look SO good as flaming ruins on the table!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

502 Update - Coming Down to the Wire

Now less than a week to the tournament, never has so much time been spent by so many on so few vehicles... no, wait, that's not quite right.  Anyway, it seems like all I've been doing is painting for the past few days, but I'm finally starting to get some results.  I've pretty much finished up the Nebelwerfer support this morning.  I may add a little additional "window dressing" to the base, but overall they're pretty much there.  I used some Tamiya "soot" to darken the ends as the Nebelwerfer is one of the few weapons that you can actually get away with a real "soot" stain on!  It worked amazingly well!

Again, the photos are not the best quality at this point, but I wanted to show how the panzer gray stands out against the white snow.

I've also been working on all of the support vehicles.  I still need to add drivers and crew to the support vehicles, and a couple of commanders to the tanks, but I can see the "end" on the vehicles from where I sit.  I still have some work to do on the tracks and stowage on the Tigers, but #2 (a little blurry up front) is nearly done at this point.  I left the vehicles and halftracks attached to the Nebelwerfers in overall gray as the photos of this unit seem to have all rear echelon vehicles still in overall gray - presumably only front line units were getting a full whitewash.

I was honestly hoping to be posting "done" pictures at this point, but I'm nearly done. I have learned a lot going through this project and plan on posting full construction and painting details in an upcoming entry (as I'm writing them up for my army history for the tournament!).

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Playing in the Snow - or - Grenadier support for 502 Schwere Panzer-Abteilung

Did you guys know I actually paint infantry as well?  No really!  Honestly I don't think my infantry are quite up to my tanks yet, but they're getting better. Regardless, any well-rounded force is going to need some support, so here's some of the support for my Tiger I tanks in the snow - greatcoat grenadiers in the snow!

Just a couple of quick shots of the grenadiers - again, the indoor light isn't great.

This was my first time out using the rural bases... and snow... so there was a fair amount of experimentation on these.  I'm using a new variety of Silfor with winter flocking.  I think the overall effect came out okay.  I also have Nebelwerfer support, but I'll post that tomorrow if all goes well.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Adventures in Decal Making - Or How to Mark Your Tanks

One of the key aspects of 502 Schwere Panzer-Abteilung that attracted me to the project was a unique numbering scheme it used in early 1943 in Russia.  The unit was down to only five Tigers, so they renumbered them using a single digit one through five.  Tanks one through four used a black numeral while number five used a white numeral.  At least one of the remaining Panzer III Ausf N also still retained the earlier elephant unit insignia.  Only one problem, there are no decals available for the unit in 1/100th scale.

Undeterred, and tired of not being able to find the markings I want for various Flames of War projects, I decided to go out on a limb and make my own.  I found the DecalPRO system online, and decided it looked like my best option because there is the option of creating white decals and transfers.  The catch is their system makes dry transfers, not waterslide decals.  So I picked up some blank decal film from Archer Fine Transfers which I would actually use as the transfer medium.

The DecalPRO guys have a tutorial and some tips and tricks online, so I won't go through the full process here.  Be forewarned, there is a learning curve associated with their technique and some experience with a laminator is helpful.  For black decals you can transfer the toner as printed onto their special release paper, or you can put a black pigment on top of it (I had the best results with black pigment).  For white you'll need to print in black and then put white on top of it.  

The first step is to work up the artwork based on your references and then scale it appropriately for the miniatures. It is then printed out on a special release paper and then goes through a series of processing steps. As you can see from the shot below, I was only partially successful in getting the numbers to transfer. It wasn't a big problem as I only need two of each for any one vehicle. Bear in mind it took about 4 tries to get a transfer that looked this good.

White had a similar learning curve.  It is hard to see, but though all of the decals are there, some of them have either extra or missing pattern.

However, the end results were nothing short of spectacular.  The numbers came out literally perfectly. They match the photos and drawings of the actual vehicles I have.  Bear in mind I haven't finished the wash on these vehicles, so there's a little pooling of wash in spots.

The real test would be the white decals, though.  I decided to go ahead and put the elephant on Tiger number two as the artwork and photos I have show that the turret box is still in the original gray, and I don't have a rear view showing that it has been oversprayed.  The only other tiger I've completed with a gray turret box is Tiger number one, and I have photos showing that the rear elephant is not present on that vehicle.  I've also put one on the Panzer III Ausf N as I have a photo showing it is on that particular vehicle.

As you can see, the decal looks absolutely perfect, and it's WHITE!  Without an ALPS printer!  I still have work to do on the wash on this particular tiger as well, the final product will be a bit neater.

So there you go, it took me the better part of a morning to get enough decals to come out properly to actually complete my vehicles, but the end result was worth every minute of it.  The fact that the technique actually worked so well bodes well for future projects where I'll hopefully overprint the white pigment to create multi-color decals with white.