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!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Accurizing Your Ostwind - Part 1

The forthcoming Remagen books offer a lot of opportunities for the Flames of War player, especially the German player, to really cut loose and use a lot of fun an unusual vehicles from the closing months of World War II.  One of these vehicles is the Flakpanzer IV (3.7cm Flak 43), also known as the "Ostwind."  In many ways the Ostwind looks superficially similar to the earlier Wirbelwind, which mounted the 2cm Flakvierling, but looks can be deceiving.  The Ostwind had many important differences in both its turret and superstructure which are detailed in the Nuts and Bolts issue covering late war Flakpanzers.

The Battlefront Ostwind (GE170) has numerous issues, though to be honest so do most full scale 1/35th kits of the vehicle as well.  Battlefront is using their unmodified Panzer IV Ausf J hull for the vehicle, and the Ostwind actually has several unique differences.  First, the turret ring is set forward a bit, meaning that the front hatches are in line parallel to the front superstructure armor.  I haven't made this modification to my Ostwind yet, largely because I haven't yet managed to successfully cast a replacement hatch.  Once that is accomplished I'll make the modification, though I'll leave the turret ring where it is.  

Second, the right superstructure is incorrect.  Included on the Battlefront Panzer IV J hull is the felt bellows filter that was discontinued as early as February 1944 (and would therefore likely only occur on very early Ausf J to begin with!). Instead the Ostwind has two small boxes on the fender at this location (as seen in the picture below).  Tony Greenland's excellent model shows these boxes touching, but the most up-to-date drawings show a slight separation between them, so I elected to go with them slightly separated.  Some of the detailing is a bit exaggerated to scale, but I wanted to match the detailing level on the rest of the miniature.

Another key difference between the Battlefront miniature (and again, let's be fair, just about every 1/35th scale Ostwind kit out there!) and the production vehicle is the turret.  The provided turret is accurate for the prototype, but not the production vehicles.  The production vehicles had deflection plates added near the turret ring to prevent lucky shots crippling the traverse mechanism.  I have converted one turret and have simply made copies.  My resin casting isn't up to the level of Battlefront, so I have to do a fair amount of putty, prime, and putty again.  You'll see a couple of remaining pinholes in the photo that still need work.

At this point I'm working up three of these to go with my 1/512 Schwere Panzerjagerkompanie.  Yes, I'll probably the just about the ONLY person trying to play the CV as opposed to the RT Jagdtigers... but the modeling possibilities for the unit are simply too awesome to ignore!  

I'll continue to post updates to these beasts as I get them closer to final painting.  I'm going to go full 1945 Wehrmacht coloration from Ammo of MIG on these - so they'll be very visually distinct on the tabletop.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Bridge at Remagen - First Review and Thoughts

The guys over at WWPD have just put up their review of the upcoming Bridge at Remagen book for Flames of War.  The review was largely positive overall.  To be honest I've been feeling like a first time author anxiously awaiting those first reviews... which I guess effectively I am.  I wrote the German lists for Bridge at Remagen - with several key inputs from Mike Haught.  In the end I thought the collaboration had been very successful, and this first review implies I'm not totally off base!

My #1 goal with all of the lists was to make them as accurate as possible.  Initially Mike H. wanted me to work on Kampfgruppe Hudel, which involved setting up lists for 512 Schwere Panzerjager Abteilung, 654 Schwere Panzerjager Abteilung, and 506 Schwere Panzer Abteilung (Mike H. later expanded it to include the 510. as well!).  One of the playtesters, Andras Schneider, suggested that we needed an infantry list and highlighted the role of SS-Panzer  "Westfalen" in the battles at Paderborn, so I went off and worked up that list as well.

I started with 512 Schwere Panzerjager Abteilung.  As I started digging into the unit history, I realized that it would be impossible to make just one list that would adequately cover the unit.  So I broke it into three lists, with 3/512 acting as support for "Westfalen" in the Paderborn battles.  This allows you to field 2/512 under Otto Carius as RT and the excellent CV 1/512. as either their initial all Jagdtiger configuration or as the later Kampfgruppe Ernst.

Whether equipped with Jagdpanthers or Ferdinands, 654 Schwere Panzerjager Abteilung has always been one of my favorite units from World War II.  While digging through their unit history I found an interesting time in late '44 and early '45 where their Jagdpanthers were supplemented with Nashorn tank destroyers (yes, I know it says "Hornisse" in the book, trust me, the unit called the vehicle a Nashorn at this point).  Unfortunately the time frame was outside the scope of the book, but Mike H. let me throw in the list anyway.  It provides an interesting variant on the standard heavy tank hunter list, with a lot of very unique support choices.

Researching 506 Schwere Panzer Abteilung was a bit more difficult because there are few in-depth references on the unit itself that are readily available in English.  In the end, I had to pull several sources together to get the organization correct.  Fortunately as a heavy tank battalion, the basic organization was relatively fixed.

One of the most interesting lists from both a research and writing perspective was SS-Panzer Brigade "Westfalen."  The unit itself isn't exceptionally well known, but it provided one of the few real "speed-bumps" the American forces encountered during the Ruhr encirclement.  Essentially an under-equipped rag-tag infantry unit, the brigade none the less fought well.  Getting the support units correct involved a fair amount of detective work, but I'm happy with the final list.

Last, but certainly not least, I really want to thank Mike Haught at Battlefront Miniatures for giving me the opportunity to make so many contributions to this particular book.  I greatly appreciate his confidence in me and his ability to collaborate on a project of this scope from a hemisphere away.  From a gaming perspective, this is one of the most challenging things I've done.  While I've written a few PDF's in the past, this project was far greater in scope and had a far tighter timeline.  I hope you the players enjoy running the lists as much as I enjoyed researching and writing them!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

On the Desktop - Late May 2014

So since I have the new work space, I've been, well... working!  It's very nice to get back in the groove of things.  I thought I'd take a moment or two and show off what all I'm working on at this point.

First off, I took advantage of the Viet Nam sale to get into PAVN Ironclad in a major way, so I've been madly building T-34 tanks, T-54 tanks, and a host of other Soviet bloc goodies.  Some of them are primed, some of them are "hot off of the table" as it were.

I still have more in the box, and some PT-76 still on the way.  Needless to say, I'll be able to field just about any version of Ironclad I want.  After that I'm going to finish up my Blackhorse army.

With the Remagen book coming out soon, and given I know "a thing or two" about how the lists are structured, I've been working on some of the vehicles for those lists.  Here you can see a couple of VERY heavy cats - with a fair amount of modeling work added, along with some more "in progress" T-54 tanks for my PAVN.  I'll be posting a full article on the modifications in a few weeks.  You can also see an Ostwind - I've modified it to the production turret (as opposed to the prototype turret) as well based on the drawings in Nuts and Bolts.  That will also be in the article...

Last but not least here is a representative Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf J - it has four buddies behind it.  All of them have the idler fix I mentioned earlier this year.  I only need a total of four for the army I'm currently working on, but it seemed daft to leave one unbuilt in the box.

More later on what army that one is for.  Apart from fixing the issue with the idler, these are pretty much running right out of the box.  I drilled out the muzzle brake on the gun and opened up the turret schurtzen on the bottom, but that's "details."

I'm actually hoping to have a Remagen list done not too long after the book is released... that'll be a change... usually I lag by quarters rather than months any time a new book comes out.  So what's on your table?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Siege Of Küstrin

In their latest website update, Battlefront has posted an article detailing the Soviet siege of the city of Küstrin on the banks of the Oder River in 1945.  In addition to the article, there is a scenario which allows you to recreate this desperate struggle on the tabletop.  I'm really happy to see that both of these have finally seen the light of day as I originally wrote them for Desperate Measures, but they didn't have room for them in the final book.

The Siege of Küstrin was an interesting battle for a lot of reasons.  First, though the city served as a major rail hub, Allied bombing raids largely ignored it and as a result Küstrin had largely been spared the ravages of war.  All of that changed dramatically as a result of Zhukov's Vistula-Oder offensive.  Küstrin was essentially the last German held territory on the eastern bank of the Oder, and as such it became a fortress city.  The Soviets tried to reduce what was essentially a German "bridgehead" across the river for months before continuing on to Berlin.  Ultimately the city was completely destroyed and the Soviets resumed their March to Berlin.

For the scenario, I tried my best to accurately represent the both the German and Soviet forces present at Küstrin with the available units in existing publications.  The forces themselves don't stick to a single available list, and instead represent a combination of forces to best represent the troops actually involved in the final push. 

The Germans are based around a Pioneerkompanie with infantry support.  The Volkssturm (which apparently will make their debut in the upcoming Remagen book) were not available, so I substituted other units which should have similar ratings.  By this point, there were no tanks available, so the German force has no armor. 

The Soviet forces are split into Guards and Regular forces.  The regular forces had pressured the Germans for weeks and pushed from the eastern approaches to the city.  The Guards forces had encircled the city from the Western approaches and attacked across the bridges.  Soviet artillery in the area consisted mostly of the lighter guns and Katyusha.  Stalin tanks and T34's typically operated together in small battle groups.

Though this scenario represents the final push into the city, the overall siege went through many stages.  For most of the siege, a corridor was open to the German positions in the West which was savagely contested by Soviet and German forces including 25. Panzergrenadierregiment (including Panzer Abteilung 5), 21. Panzerdivision, and Panzerdivision 'Münchenberg.'  Many of these battles could be accurately depicted using lists straight out of Desperate Measures and would make an interesting campaign.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Updated Work Space

Juggling a family, career, and all of the normal responsibilities of life generally leaves little time for actually painting and working on miniatures.  The upshot is my son is finally getting to an age where he can join me in painting and model building, so that may actually open up a little more time going forward.  That being said, my previous work area was a mess, a disaster, a complete fiasco given form.  Therefore I decided that if I was going to get anything actually accomplished, it was well past time to get everything cleaned up and finally organized... and for the people closest to me, that last bit elicited gasps and cries of disbelief.  

I looked around until I found a set of shelves and desks that I thought would actually work for me.  I ended up going the Ikea route as they had some shelves with desks that were designed to attach directly to them. They also had organizing bins that were designed to fit well within the cubbies of the shelves themselves.  I therefore steeled myself and began a multi-week odyssey of building, moving, rearranging, wall painting, and then cataloging every single unpainted or partially painted miniature I had into its own box and putting it all into a database.  Yes, Virginia, when I go around the bend, I REALLY go around the bend.

In the end I determined I really needed two working surfaces - one for painting, and one for building.  This would let me segregate the paints from the building rigs and give me enough space to have more than one project going at a time.  

This is the painting area.  You can see that there are still some openings for future additions.  You can also tell that my son and I like to build Lego.  I added several Back-2-Base-IX organizers as these let me keep all of my different paints somewhat organized (baby steps!).  

Here's the building area.  I have a few projects going on the tabletop at this point (PAVN T-54's are currently up, but if you look carefully there are a few other things hiding around.  I have a couple of my old project trays that are still in use, but I plan to ultimately get rid of those once the projects are complete.

The new set-up actually seems to be working for me so far.  I have a bit more organization to do, but I'm actually to a point to where I can start working on "stuff" again... and I can't tell you how good that feels!

Flames of War Meets War of the Worlds?

A while back (and at this point it seems like a LONG while back) I participated in a Kickstarter campaign for a new 15mm miniature game, All Quiet on the Martian Front.  The game is set in an alternate pre-World War I period where the Martians from H.G. Welles The War of the Worlds have launched a second attack against humanity (in this timeline the first attack having taken place around 1898 just like in the original story).  Initially envisioned as a white metal or resin/white metal project, the Kickstarter campaign went so well, a lot of the vehicles are going to be available in plastic.

In the game, the Martians attack with their tripod vehicles as described in the novel, but greatly expanded upon by the guys over at Robot Peanut Studios.  Earth's defenders bravely engage the alien invaders with a variety of large steam tanks, guns, and other technology that seems to be a mixture of steampunk/dieselpunk meets World War I meets Warhammer 40K.  Of course, given that Rick Priestly (yes, the guy who essentially invented Warhammer and Warhammer 40K) is one of the three project developers, maybe the style is no surprise.

On a seemingly unrelated note, while Battlefront has only hinted at it, recent forum posts confirm that Battlefront will be releasing miniatures and presumably a rule set for World War I (called Flames of War:  Great War).  The initial SKU list looks fairly interesting, though the inclusion of Mark IV, Whippet and A7V tanks implies that this will be a late World War I rather than 1914-focused game.  I'll likely pick up some of these miniatures and play the game as written, but then I got to thinking... is there room for some crossover???

Based on what I've seen the basing between AQotMR and FoW will be somewhat different, but wouldn't it be cool to see real Mark IV's and Whippets going up against massive Alien Tripods on the war torn fields of France?  Throw in some FT17 tanks and you've got the makings of a really fun afternoon.  Taking the idea a bit further, facing an otherworldly threat, would we see an immediate armistice and have Germans fighting alongside the Allies (sort of like what you see in Turtledove's Worldwar series)?  Of course, translating the AQotMF stats to FoW or vice versa may be difficult, but we're talking friendly games here, not tournament play.  Although when I'm running a historical game I'm a stickler for accuracy, this just sounds like too much fun to pass up.

Regardless, one thing is absolutely certain.  I will have a LOT of painting to do over the next several months.  I'm also going to need to get good at bare metal surface painting for the Martian tripods.  At this point I'm glad I've revamped my work area... which reminds me, I should take a photo of it and share it with you guys.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Fortress Italy Schwere Panzerjägerkompanie

One of my favorite German units from World War II has always been Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653, largely because it fielded both the Elefant and eventually Jagdtiger tank destroyers.  You don’t get metal any heavier than that!  I wrote the Flames of War PDF that covers the 653rd on the Eastern Front, along with some of its unique vehicles.  So when I found out that Fortress Italy would include the pachyderms from the 1/653 as its own unique list, I was very excited!  Unfortunately I wasn’t on the playtest or proofreading block for the compilations, so my first real experience with the lists was when they actually came out.  So how’d Battlefront do?  Overall not bad, but I do have a couple of nits I can pick.

The overall force organization is good, but as with any Elefant list your compulsory choices will set you back a hefty 900 points – though in the PDF you can get away ever so slightly cheaper if you take the Tiger (P) (late) HQ (which I almost always do because it’s so darn COOL!).  There is, however, one problem with the HQ choice – 1/653 in Italy did have its own Bergetiger (P) recovery vehicle.  I’d hoped to see this as a recovery vehicle option, but all we’re given is the Sd Kfz 9 Recovery half-track.

Support choices are also generally pretty good.  1/653 fought closely alongside 508. Schwere Panzerabteilung, and these are included as “Weapons Platoons” rather than “Support Platoons” in the list.  Depending on the size of your game, this could afford some interesting options for Kampfgruppe.  The Radio-controlled Tank Platoon is also an appropriate weapons choice as the 601st Remote Control Panzer Battalion served alongside the Elefants.

The “Hermann Göring” Division also fought close alongside the unit, including its Panzer battalion.  Therefore the inclusion of the plethora of HG support platoons is entirely appropriate.  Most of the other infantry and artillery support choices are also very good, and are accurate to the unit’s deployment.

There are, however, a couple of glaring omissions from the support choices.  The Elefants also participated in at least one attack with 216. Sturmpanzer Abteilung, but the Assault Tank Platoon on page 142 of the rulebook is not an option for 1/653.  In the same attack elements of the first battalion of 4. Panzerregiment also participated.  This unit is represented by the Reserve Panther Platoon on page 143, but this is also not an option for the Schwere Panzerjägerkompanie list. 

Maybe at some point we can get an official errata that will add these two options to the list, as it would nicely round out the list from both a historical and tactical perspective.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

More on the Upcoming FoW Remagen Book

So now that I have Wargames Illustrated 319 in my hot little hands, and I can get a good look at the “Bridge at Remagen” article as printed, and I can talk a little more about what it says.  First, yes, that’s my name next to Mike Haught’s name as a co-author of the article.  Second, no, I can’t tell you anything more about the book than what is in the article other than to say I had a large role in writing the German half of the book.  Once the book itself is out I’ll go into more detail, but for now I can give you guys a some thoughts on what I’m looking forward to and some information on the history.    

While I didn’t work directly on the American half of the book, the forces covered honestly look like a lot of fun.  Sure, there’s the addition of all the new toys the Americans received toward the end of the war – like the Pershing – but I’m enough of a fan of “expedient” weapons to really be looking forward to the B36B1 tank destroyer.  Back in the early 90’s I was building a lot of tank kits, but 1/35th scale armor was still hitting its stride.  You couldn’t even get a decent Panzer III or Stug III kit without spending a lot of money for a Gunze Sanyo kit.  However Testors through a partnership with Italeri actually produced a kit of the M36B1 and I fell in love with the clunky beast at that point.

On the German side, the book is mostly focused on Schwere Kampfgruppe Hudel, but it also includes SS-Panzer Brigade “Westfalen” as well.  Hudel gives you access to the three heavy battalions which made up that unit.  The 512. Schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung provides the ability to field CV and RT Jagdtiger.  For a unit with such a short duration in the field, the 512th has a very fascinating history.  For anyone interested in fielding Jagdtiger units, I strongly recommend Devey’s Jagtiger: Operational History and Meadows’ Jagdtiger: Design, Production and Operations.  Both provide good overviews of the vehicle and its deployment.

You can field the Normandy version of 654. Schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung in Atkantik Wall, but the unit continued to fight through the end of the war.  The unit was virtually destroyed and reconstituted on multiple occasions.  The best history for this unit is Munch’s Combat History of the 654th SchwerePanzerjager Abteilung.  This is not a cheap book, but it is an amazing book.  In my opinion, only Munch’s history of 653. Schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung exceeds it for a comprehensive unit history.

Unlike many of the other heavy tank battalions, 506. Schwere Panzer Abteilung doesn’t have a readily available unit history in English at this point.  You can, however, glean a lot of its history from broader references like Schneider’s Tigers in Combat and Trojca’s Pz.Kpfw.VI Ausf. B "Königstiger:" Technical andOperational History and his Tiger Tank: Technical / Operational History, Vol 2: 1944-45

Though you’d infer that it is a panzer unit from its name, SS-Panzerbrigade “Westfalen” was primarily an infantry force, though it did have a small group of training tanks as part of the unit.  The unit put up surprisingly fanatical resistance in the area around Paderborn and delayed the closure of the Ruhr pocket by American forces.  Wilhelm Tieke’s history of the unit, SS-Panzer-Brigade"Westfalen", Activation-Operations-Destruction is probably the best single reference on the unit currently available in English.

Obviously I’m really looking forward to this book.  In terms of overall participation this is the biggest thing I've done for Battlefront, and I had a really great time working with Mike Haught to bring the book together.  I hope everyone enjoys playing the forces as much as I enjoyed researching and organizing them!