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!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

NVA Build Log - Painting Progress on T-72 and BMP Formations

I know it's been a while since I posted an update on my East Germans for Team Yankee. Rest Assured I've been working on them steadily, and I'm finally to the point where I can show some progress on the miniatures. They still have a ways to go before they're fully painted, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it isn't a train!

Because full modulation colors don't exist for the NVA late 1980's camouflage scheme, I decided early on to go with the Black and White technique using Ammo of Mig paints. This is in effect a pre-shading technique using their proprietary thinner which makes the colored paints semi-transparent better preserving the pre-shading. I started with the T-72's and the BMP's because they were fairly numerous (15 of each), but even at that I think they only represent about half of the force or a little less.

BMP and T-72 tanks with the black and white applied

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Armor of the Arab-Israeli Wars - or - Mike's Visit to Yad La-Shiryon Part 4

With the new update of Fate of a Nation on the horizon for Team Yankee, I wanted to pick up where I left off with my photos from the Latrun armor museum.  In this installment we move on to the self-propelled guns. As with any modern force, Israel has required self-propelled artillery capable of keeping up with their armored advances. The IDF has used a variety of models over the years, and this entry will detail several of them including models purchased outright and those converted by the IDF itself into unique vehicles.

Known in Israeli usage as the Romach (spear or lance), the M107 175mm SPG is a fairly devastating platform. Used by the U.S. army through the 1960's and 1970's, the M107 lacks the enclosed fighting compartment seen on many self-propelled guns and howitzers. The reason for this is because of the gun's extreme range (21mi / 34km in its standard configuration), it is generally not expected to come under direct ground assault. The IDF used the type to great effect during the 1973 Yom Kippur War using the gun to target Egyptian SAM batteries in the south and to shell Damascus in the north once Israeli forces had broken through in the Golan. These were later upgraded with new ammunition increasing their range to 50km.

The M107 175mm SPG and a few of its friends

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Why We Game - Redux

In May 2016, the guys over at WWPD (What Would Patton Do?) wrote an article entitled "Why We Game" where they discussed the state of things at WWPD, a loss of interest in Flames of War, which had served as one of the foundations of the blog and podcast, and other challenges. They also brought in a few new guest authors (including me) to provide content for the site - especially for gaming systems they had less interest in at that point. Over the last year and a half I've written several articles for WWPD, though not as many as I would have liked, and over the past several weeks many of these have been making their way to the pages of this blog.

The reason for that can be found in today's post on the WWPD blog.  There's a final podcast as well. This represents the end of the line for WWPD - no new content or podcasts, and one of the staples of what many consider to be the golden age of Flames of War will be gone. Other blogs, such as Breakthrough Assault have already been filling the role as previewer and release partner for Battlefront so in some ways this represents the passing of the torch, but more than that I think it represents the end of an era marking a fundamental shift in what could be collectively referred to as the "Battlefront Community." I for one will greatly miss the guys over at WWPD as their contributions over the years have nothing short of awesome, and I wish them the absolute best in any future pursuits!

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

In retrospect and purely from my own personal perspective, 2017 has been simultaneously a good year and a terrible year when it comes to miniatures gaming. We finally moved into our new home and I was able to not only have my own studio for model building and miniature painting but set up a proper gaming room as well. This means I can run miniatures wargames with terrain in the comfort of my own home, which I actually managed to do during the recent Firestorm campaign - and my son was able to get in on the fun!

As with any new space, I'm still working out the bugs and planning next steps. I really need to set up a proper spray booth area, but right now our "mud room" is doing fine. I'm hoping to pick up an airbrush spray booth after the first of the year, and I'll post the details once I have them! I also want to build a game table along the lines of what you used to be able to get from the now defunct Geek Chic. I have a carpenter friend who is willing to help out on the project too. Again, more photos when available!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Flames of War - Vehicles of the 761st Tank Battalion

The Battle of the Bulge compilations for V3 of Flames of War were the last to come out, and one of the new added to the Allied compilation were light and medium tank companies from the 761st Tank Battalion - the first African-American armored unit to see combat in the U.S. Army. The unit has a very fascinating history fighting essentially their own version of a "two-front war" against prejudice and bigotry at home and against the Germans in Europe. I won't go through the unit's full history here, but there are several good books covering the unit including Joe Wilson's The 761st Black Panther Tank Battalion in World War II and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's (yes THAT Kareem) Brothers in Arms: The Epic Story of the 761st Tank Battalion, WWII's Forgotten Heroes.

Organized as a independent battalion with four combat companies and an HQ, the unit used a variety of medium and light tanks, though the exact mix was different than seen in some of the standard armored divisions. Companies A, B, and C were medium tank companies and used a variety of Sherman tanks. Company D was a light tank company equipped with Stuart tanks until the end of the war.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Flames of War - Japanese Type 88 75mm Anti-Aircraft Gun Review

The Japanese Type 88 75mm Anti-Aircraft Gun was first accepted into service in 1928, and was designed to combat commonly encountered aircraft of the late 1920's and early 1930's. By the beginning of the Pacific War, the gun was largely obsolete, but it continued to serve until the end of the war with over 2000 being constructed. Allied intelligence regarding the gun was weak, and it was initially assumed that it was a copy of the German FlaK 36/37 gun, but only the names were arguably similar.

The Type 88 can be fielded in virtually any Japanese list taken from Banzai as a support choice (Heavy Anti-Aircraft Platoon). In addition to serving as a heavy anti-aircraft gun, it provides useful anti-take capability with AT 10 and firepower of 3+. However, the gun is immobile (though it has a turntable) and lacks a gun shield, so it can be vulnerable to ranged attack.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Flames of War - Type 97 Te-Ke Platoon Review

The Japanese Type 97 Te-Ke tankette was designed as an improvement to the machine-gun armed Type 94 based on the Imperial Japanese Army's experience in China. While the Type 94 had been useful, especially when deployed en masse against the Chinese, its armor was thin and the vehicle was vulnerable to Chinese anti-tank weapons. While externally the Type 94 and Type 97 tankettes are similar, the Type 97 was truly a completely new vehicle and could be equipped with a 37mm gun or a machine gun as primary armament. In Flames of War, the Type 97 Te-Ke can be fielded as Divisional Support in either a Tank Platoon (three to five vehicles) or a Recon Tankette Platoon (two to three vehicles) in Japanese Lists from Banzai. Battlefront has recently released this tankette as the Type 97 Te-Ke Platoon (JBX05) which contains five vehicles.

The first thing you'll notice when picking up this particular platoon box is that it is very light compared to other Battlefront offerings in the same-sized box. There is good reason for this.  Opening the box you'll see that the Te-Ke hull is molded tracks and all as one piece using Battlefront's new two-part mold process as detailed in their recent factory tour.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Flames of War - Painting Japanese Army Infantry for the Pacific Theater

The Japanese used a variety of uniforms during World War II which varied in function and coloration (sometimes quite dramatically). In Rising Sun, Battlefront provided a painting guide for Japanese infantry and gunners based on the uniforms fielded in 1939. Unfortunately with the release of Banzai, the painting guide has not been updated to reflect the uniform colors common in the Pacific War. Of course, the figures themselves are the same as the ones released in support of Rising Sun, so there will be some variations between the miniatures and some of the fine details of the actual later war uniforms. However, updating the color palette will give your force a more Pacific War feel to it.

The Uniform

Any time I try to color-match paints to photographs or historical artifacts, I create a color swatch over the primer color I'm using for that batch of miniatures to ensure I match them as closely as possible. Below is the swatch I'm using for my Pacific Japanese - please bear in mind that for all images in this blog entry, the colors will vary somewhat from a true visual color because of the limitations of the scanning process.

At this point I'm still using all Vallejo colors as I have a large library of paints, and see no need to move over to the new Battlefront colors at this time. Battlefront recommended Khaki Grey (880) for Japanese Uniforms when Rising Sun was released. They now recommend the equivalent Comrade Khaki followed by Zhukov Shade with a highlight of Military Khaki. To my eye, these colors are too brown for the Pacific Theater. Japanese Pacific Uniforms tended to be greener than those paints would indicate.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Armor Of The Arab-Israeli Wars - or - Mike's Visit To Yad La-Shiryon Part 3

In this third installment of my article covering the plethora of armor at the IDF museum and memorial Yad La-Shiryon we will be looking at the armor of the Arab states, generally Egypt and Syria, used in the 1967 and 1973 wars. One thing to remember from all of these photos, most, if not all, of these tanks have been repainted by museum personnel at some point so the paint colors are not necessarily original.

As Soviet client states, Egypt and Syria began to receive large numbers of T-54 and T-55 tanks, and these would form the backbone of both the Egyptian and Syrian armored forces in both the 1967 Six Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The T-54/55 was one of the first true modern main battle tanks, and despite some early teething problems in the late 1940's, it would go on to become the most numerous tank in history (by production numbers) with estimates as high as 100,000 units being produced in total from all sources.

T-54 Tank - this is an earlier version

The T54/55 would go through several modifications over the years, and while the Soviet Union would eventually phase it out in favor of more modern designs, the type remains in use today by over 50 nations - often in highly modernized forms. Unfortunately much of the Soviet armor is parked very close together, so it is hard to get full views of each tank without a wide angle lens, which I didn't have with me for this trip.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Armor of the Arab-Israeli Wars - or - Mike's Visit to Yad La-Shiryon Part 2

In this second part of my article showing vehicles from Yad La-Shiryon, I'm focusing on more recent Israeli armor, starting with variants of the M48 and M60 on through the current indigenous Merkava Main Battle Tank.

In the mid to late 1960's, the Israelis were desperate to upgrade their aging tank fleet, and sought to purchase U.S. M48 tanks.  Initially the IDF received several gasoline powered vehicles from West Germany, though shipments from the United States followed.  M48 tanks in Israeli service use the designations Magach 1-3 and 5 (there is no 4).

Early Magach with the 90mm gun
During the 1967 war, roughly 150 Magach 1 and 2 tanks were deployed and fought well within the limitations of the relatively weak powerplant. After the 1967 War, the IDF began to upgrade all Magach to the M48A3 standard creating the Magach 3 - this included a new diesel engine and the British 105mm gun. Several M48's had been captured from Jordan, and these were upgraded as well. M60 tanks began to be procured as well creating the Magach 6.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Armor of the Arab-Israeli Wars - or - Mike's Visit to Yad La-Shiryon Part 1

While the Flames of War rules for the Six Day War are a couple of years old at this point (and honestly I still have a bunch of Israelis to paint), I recently traveled to Israel on business and thanks to a generous co-worker, got a chance to visit Yad La-Shiryon (you'll likely need to get Google to translate the link), or The Armored Corps Memorial Site and Museum at Latrun (as it is more officially known). The museum houses a fairly amazing collection of armored vehicles - including many you wouldn't expect to see in Israel. As someone deeply interested in the history of the multiple conflicts since the founding of the modern Israeli state, the museum was a treasure trove of unusual vehicles and really gave me a sense of perspective around the conflicts and the vehicles used. In this first part of the article, we'll look at some of the early vehicles used by the IDF from the 1940's through the 1970's.

The museum is built around a Mandate-era fortress
The first thing one realizes when visiting Israel is that it is not a large country in terms of land mass. Driving from Tel Aviv (on the Mediterranean coast) to Jerusalem (on Israel's eastern border) takes you about an hour (it's ~70km/44mi from the shore to the Old City). From North to South Israel is about the same size as Oregon (see image courtesy of MapFight below), though at least the southern third of Israel is comprised of a sparsely populated desert, the Negev.

Comparative map of the U.S. State of Oregon and Israel

Another point to note is that at least in January, Israel is fairly lush (though some of this is agriculture). Palm trees are fairly abundant, but other trees are in evidence as well.

Looking out over the parking lot to the hills to the south of Latrun
Once you enter the museum itself, the armor around the central courtyard area is mostly dedicated to Israeli armor - or at least armor the Israelis have used in various conflicts since 1948. Given the relatively arid climate, the vehicles are generally in very good condition given they're all exposed to the elements. As with most museums, the vehicles generally show evidence of re-painting, and the markings must be taken with a grain of salt (or in some cases a full salt lick).

Money shot of some of the armor used in the 1967 and 1973 wars - photobomed by a Merkava and a few others
Most vehicles have a plaque in front of them with details. These include technical details about the tank including crew size, horsepower, weight, and armament. There is also generally a history section with details about how the vehicle was used (either by the Israelis or others).

Example of one of the data cards with Hebrew and English text

The pre-World War II H-39 was used during the 1948 War by Israeli forces 

Israel's armored forces, even through the 1970's, relied greatly on foreign produced vehicles - many of which dated back to World War II or in some cases earlier. The Hotchkiss and Cromwell tanks, in addition to Shermans were used in the 1948 war alongside many different types of armored cars (improvised and purpose built).

Early Shermans at Latrun

One of many armored cars on display
The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) would go on to modernize many designs - especially the Sherman tank - to ensure that their armored forces were competitive with those of their generally Soviet equipped neighbors (with Jordan being the notable exception). The Sherman tank was up-gunned with the French high-velocity 75mm gun from the AMX-13 tank (which was also purchased and used by the Israelis).

M50 Sherman with French 75mm high-velocity gun

French produced AMX-13 light tank
Israeli Shermans generally also received new diesel engines, and many were further upgraded to the M51 standard by adding a French made 105mm gun. This powerful gun allowed the M51 to successfully engage far more modern Soviet designs like the T54, T55, and T62 using HEAT ammunition during both the Six Day War in 1967 and later during the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

M51 Sherman showing the size of the 105mm gun and muzzle brake
I really owe a great deal of thanks to my work colleague for taking me to the museum. It was an amazing experience! In the next part of this series, I'll include photos of some of the more advanced designs in the IDF inventory followed by Soviet bloc equipment, historic armor, and finally "the real oddballs!"