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.