Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Beaux b√Ętiments en normandie - part 1

To have a good miniatures game, you need rules, miniatures, a surface to play on, terrain, and various accouterments (dice/cards/counters/markers etc.).

For World War II skirmish games I had the first three, but was lacking the third. Since I knew that the forces I was collecting were roughly centered on "late war" and more specifically Normandy (with the paratroopers in the earlier uniforms), I thought that Northern France would be a good place to start.

Now, as you know, Normandy is about as well trod a war-gaming ground as you can find.  D-day, and the months following have built up about as much mythology as you can for something so recent, and of course the terrain itself lends itself to smaller actions, which are easier to war-game on the tabletop convincingly. (even if large actions lend themselves to greater historical accuracy...)

So Normandy terrain.

Fortunately as mentioned above this is a well hoed row, and there are plenty of inspiring builds out there.  In addition, there are plenty of commercially made items for sale, and a plenty of photo-graphical evidence as well, since both the Commonwealth and US armies were accompanied by photographers and other journalists.

A rational person, or at least one not so cheap as I am, would view the above, and then go to some MDF laser cut shop and buy a small village, customize that a bit, and move on.  Not being rational, and being cheap, I went another route:

Unfortunately I did not take any pictures of the first couple buildings at the early stages of construction, but here you can see on in progress to give you an idea of how these went.  Card stock carcass, card and paper details, and modeling putty "skin".   Other buildings got a skim coat of drywall jointing compound, and a couple got foam sheet stone work.

After a "few" hours we end up here:

Then it came time to do shingles...

I cut a bunch of these out on the Silhouette Cameo we have (as well as the windows, shutters and other details), but they covered only one half of one roof, and then I laboriously cut out most of the rest of the strips by hand.  As you might expect, making the same motion over and over again hundreds of times is not great for the ol'muscular-skeletal system, and with eight buildings to cover it took a long time. 

Scale check

The nice thing about old buildings is that they can be used in many eras...
Throughout this project I collected pictures on the internet and printed some of them out, made sketches, doodled in the margins of other things, and otherwise compared terrain to the actual thing.  Google street view came in handy as I "drove" around Normandy looking at old villages and farm roads. I even had my sister send me some vacation pictures she had taken from one of her trips to Normandy (brother-in-law is a Band of Brothers fanatic).

Lots more to come on these buildings!

To be continued:

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Battlefront 1/100 M4A1 Tank Kit Review

As part of the massive boxed Flames of War starter "Hit the Beach" (which I got for my birthday), you get eight sprues of American M4A1 Sherman tanks.

Battlefront M4A1 Sherman tank sprue
The eight tank sprues make two variants of the iconic cast body M4 tank (over 9,500 built), and with the added three 76mm gun sprues, it can make two more variants.

Battlefront M4A1 76mm cannon/large hatch sprue
The 76mm gun sprue adds a larger hatch version of the hull top, the T23 two hatch turret, and of course a 76mm gun.

Anyway, eight tanks that build up into four different variants is pretty cool, but how is the kit itself?

Added radio antenna, commander, and magnetized M2 heavy machine gun
I found the kit a complete delight to build.  The plastic is the same sort of very hard and very precise casting you get on high quality model kits, rather than the softer (but more durable) plastic you get with miniatures.  If you look at the picture above, the tanks are in one plastic type, and the commander is another.  The tank does not quite fall together, but the fit is so precise that you have to be more careful about dry-fitting than usual... because you might not get the piece out easily to glue!  Like many Battlefront tanks, the turrets are set up to either take a peg (included) or a pair of 5x1mm magnets (not included).

With the Hit the Beach starter, you get eight tanks, three 76mm sprues, and one American tank commander sprue. (there are a further two Commonwealth tank commanders on the infantry sprues, but the M4A1 was mostly used by the US).  This allows you to build either a company command of two tanks and a platoon of five tanks, or two short platoons of four tanks each.  (the Battlefront suggested layout of two command tanks and two short platoons of three tanks each is also an option)  The major deficiency of buying the tanks this way vs. the dedicated tank platoon box is no decals, but white stars are not that hard to paint...

At a retail cost of $6.25 (US) per tank, it is not the cheapest option (although it is cheaper than most alternatives); however, for that price you also get a commander sprue, which would cost more from most sellers (and of course you also get three PzIV tanks, two Pak40s, a terrain piece, and three platoons of infantry).  That makes it a great deal if you need any of those items, have a friend to share with, or sell on eBay.

In summary, great little tank models, and highly recommended.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Birthday Loot

I suffered through another annual reminder of my ever advancing age recently, which is particularly strange in these strange times.  At least my parents and sister could come to the backyard to help celebrate.

And I got some pretty sweet stuff.
Hit the Beach is a pretty amazing starter for FOW, since in addition to the starter set exclusive Germans and US infantry, it also has regular kit versions of pak 40s, panzer IVs, and a ton of M4 tanks.  All priced for $5 more than just a platoon of five M4 tanks would cost.  I was thinking about building a US medium tank company, and I would only need one more copy of Hit the Beach and a couple $9 sprues from Battlefront... might have to happen.  In any case, a few of the American options are going to be prepared soon for Chain of Command... and then probably painted very slowly over the next year.

The Warcry Gloomspite Gits box is a typical of current GW offering, where they take some older kits and bang them together in a box with extra materials for less than buying one of the kits on its own.  In this case the squig hoppers, which I wanted, come with three "sneaky snufflers", which I do not care about (but might be conversion fodder) as well as all the cards and boards needed to make up a Warcry... for exactly the same price as the squig hoppers alone.

Not sure why my mother thought that I wanted the Ultramarines banner, but at least the kid is excited!  I predict it will be hung in his room pretty soon, and is sure to feature in the myriad of Zoom calls he will be on in the fall.

In addition to the gifts from others, I happened to have an eBay score arrive at the same time.
In this case four platoons of FoW figures for a very low price.  Three German platoons, and one Italian (and the guy threw in a 12cm mortar platoon too, which with a range of 6km is hardly useful for skirmishing, except perhaps as a objective target).

Looks like lots of painting little men is in my future.

or is it?

Friday, June 19, 2020

40k with the kid

My oldest got the mini-Warhammer 40k Starter "First Strike" from my mother-in-law for Christmas, and was pretty excited about it.  He ripped the package open, read all the books, and clipped out and assembled all the figures within a day.

After I helped him scrape off mold lines and glue the figure together, we waited for some good weather to spray undercoat the figures (where I was aggravated by the failure of two newer cans of spray paint.  Fortunately my 15 year old Citadel spray paint still works...)

He then painted all the figures himself, which naturally took quite a bit longer. 
Despite my protestations, he went Ultramarines
 Somehow he had the idea that you can not play the game without painting the figures, so he was pretty eager to get the first few needed for missions completed.
First game First Strike! 
After we played with the first few figures he painted, he rushed through the last few so that we could play a "real" game with all the figures at once.  Since the points are imbalanced, the boys in blue won every time!  Which is probably working as intended. 
Good guys losing to the blue servants of the Tyrant
Now that 9th edition is on the horizon, there has been some interest in getting more figures, so we shall see.  The cost of 40k is fortunately something he is acquainted with, as well as forced obsolescence, so he is relatively patient with getting more.  When the actual starter is announced, we may get figures from it on Ebay, as he is already leery of getting more figures for an army he is not interested in after the Death Guard from this box.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Sculpter for Hire

As I mentioned in my previous post I have been doing things, just not posting about them.

Here is one of those things:

In January, what we may refer to as "the before time", I was contact on Shapeways by a fan (!) who wanted to know if I could sculpt a ship for them.  In this case, they wanted a board-game scale model of the ISS Charon from the show Star Trek Discovery. 

If you have seen the show, the ship in question is VERY large, and fairly complicated.  The original designers suggested that they wanted to make the ship look like it was made from whale bones, so aside from its complicated shape, it is also covered in various ribbing.

Here is my simplified design of it:

 The client approved of the design, and ordered it from Shapeways.  Very graciously, they sent me a picture of the final ship "in action" on their game board.

After a bit of reflection, the client decided that the ship was a bit smaller than they wanted, and that it would be ideally printed in red so that the ball of energy in the middle would be easier to paint (by essentially not painting it)

I doubled the size of the ship, but transferring it to another material presented a lot of challenges with the details, and also with the pointy tip portions of the ship (dual prow?  Rams?  Warp field stabilizers?).  Despite being twice as thick in all dimensions, the material standards were so different that it took a lot of re-engineering to get something that was at all printable, and even then Shapeways kicked it back during final review for another re-engineering step.

Annotated figure from Shapeways detailing where the problems were
 In the end though, the client was happy, and that is what is important.
In game shot of the larger red version
In the end this was an interesting process, and it was certainly a challenge to make this ship.