Tuesday, April 27, 2010

3rd Anniversary

I just wanted to post a quick note that today is the 3rd anniversary of my Wargaming blog. Things started off slowly with me mostly documenting my AWI figure collection. In the past year my posting has become more frequent and my wargaming activities more varied, both of which are partially due to the great feedback my readers have given me here. For that I thank you all!

During the upcoming months I'm hoping to finish up the two projects I've been working on lately, my FOW Finnish company and my Field of Glory armies both Roman which is 95% done and Seleucid which I've only just started. I plan to spell myself occasionally from these projects to paint the odd 28mm AWI unit just to keep both projects from becoming too monotonous.

The image above is from a post early on in the life of the blog and shows where I was (in wargaming terms) three years ago. Here's hoping I'm still going strong in another three years.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Finnish Pak-40 AT Guns

This is the next unit for my Finnish Flames of War infantry company. According to the TO&E for the late war Finnish forces this is a 'Heavy Anti-Tank Platoon' consisting of two sections of 75 PstK/40 Anti-Tank guns. I can optionally add a close-defense infantry squad to each gun section for self defense in assaults. I haven't painted these squads as they're basically the same figures as I'd use for my anti-tank infantry platoon, so I can borrow some stands from that platoon if needed. It's likely that I'll either use the infantry or the guns, but unlikely that I'll want to field both. The figure blister didn't include the required command stand (3 figures) which is disappointing considering the blister costs $18.00 and only includes the two gun models and 8 crew figures. Luckily I have some spares from other units that will work fine, and as of now I'm not fielding all of my units in any one game so I'm all set there.

The crew figures were typical quality for Battlefront figures, but one of the gun models was quite poorly cast. The gun shield had so much flash that I had to file all of the rivet detail off of it just to get it to a reasonably flat shape on each facet of the shield. Both gun models were also poorly designed - the wheels couldn't be glued to the gun frames without scratch building some extensions for the 'axles'. Unmodified the wheels couldn't reach the frame and would be tilted at an awkward and obviously wrong angle. These are my first artillery models from Battlefront so I'm going to give them one more chance, by ordering my heavy artillery (Russian 152mm guns) from them. If the heavy artillery models are as bad as the Pak-40s I'll be switching back to Quality Cast models for guns.  A lot of my Battlefront figures were purchased a while ago, and there's a definite difference in quality between those figures and ones that I've been purchasing recently. This is a disappointing trend.

I've painted up these guns in the standard Finnish late war camouflage  pattern. From what I can tell from my research the Finns liked to paint up their gun pieces when they were able to. I've added some large bushes to the front of the stands to represent a semi-concealed position. I figure if I was going to deploy an anti-tank gun in combat I'd try to find some favorable terrain, so I'm assuming these gun crews would do the same. Without the additional close-support infantry teams these guns cost 120 points, which I think is a pretty good value. I only wish the Finns were allowed to purchase more of them.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Battle of Preuilly

Today I hosted the next battle in my ongoing 1813 Napoleonic campaign. We played for 8 hours and got through a simulated 36 hours of battle spanning two campaign days. The photo to the left is about 4 hours into the second simulated day, just before the French center wing, with the light brown bases, began their assault on the Prusso-Austrian left wing of the allied army. Early on in the battle the Prussians had good success on the French right wing, and during the middle of the game the allies have been pressuring the French left wing. As we called our first day of gaming the French assaults in the center had been stymied and both armies continue to stream troops to the battlefield, some commands marching to the guns to do so. It may be a few weeks before we can schedule the conclusion of this game as we have a local convention in two weeks that most of us are going to attend.   A couple more photos from earlier in the battle as both armies marched on and deployed are below. The figures used in the battle are a mix from all of the collections of the collective players in the game, including my own contribution of the Russo-Swedish wing of the allied army that is being played by one of the players who needed me to supply a force for him.

Friday, April 16, 2010

1000 Point Flames of War Game #1

We played our first 1000 point games tonight in our Flames of War escalation league. I played against a Russian Tankovy company consisting of five T34-76 tanks, five T34-85 tanks with tank riders, three SU-152 Assault Guns and a T34-76 CO tank. Since we're all working on our armies, we're not worrying about having everything painted up quite yet.

My new 120mm mortars did fairly well early in the game bailing out two T34-76 tanks and destroying one. Later on they also took out a couple of T34-85 tanks and the CO's T34-76 with some help from my Stugs. From there on it was all Russian success. The Russian SU-152s dispatched my Stugs in a single turn with some help from the remaining T34-85s and I followed this up, not realizing the SU-152 tanks had a top armor of 2, with a useless assault against them with my infantry. Since it's mathematically impossible for my infantry to damage tanks with a top armor of two, this cost me a good portion of that platoon with nothing to show for it in the way of dead Russian assault guns. This was followed by the SU-152s shelling my infantry with their barrage special rule, which doesn't allow for any infantry saves, and they they automatically destroy my dug-in infantry with their 1+ firepower.  Scratch 3 infantry teams a turn, every turn. With no long range answer for the 152s and no way to close the distance over open ground with my 5 panzerfaust stands,  I chose to concede the game so others could use the table to start their games.

I'm still somewhat confused as to how an infantry force is supposed to deal with all tank forces consisting of  heavy tanks with top armor of 2. The tank's MG fire is nigh-impossible to survive in an assault, and even if you do get in with your infantry, if the tanks have a top armor of 1 the best you can do is bail them out and if they have a top armor of 2 you're out of luck. People have been telling me to dig in and make them dig you out, but tonight I found out if they use SU-152s digging in is useless. Yes, some of the support platoons you can take can deal with tanks, but if your two main combat platoons are useless against an all tank force, you're spotting those enemies 350 points or so. Doesn't seem particularly wise to me.

I'm painting up some engineers and a couple Pak-40 AT guns. Maybe those with my Ju-88 air support will help with our next 1000 point games. If it doesn't I'll be switching to my late war German force of Panthers, Panzer IVs and Tigers. If you can't beat them, join them. Photos below are from two of the other games that were played tonight.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Jalkaväki Infantry Platoon (2)

This is the second Jalkaväki infantry platoon that I've painted for my Finnish Jalkaväki infantry company. The figures are Battlefront miniatures, the official Flames of War figures. These figures were easy to paint, although I much prefer equipping my Finnish light machine gunners with Legions East Kulsprutegevär m/21 equipped figures rather than the MG-38/42 equipped figures in the Battlefront packs. Unfortunately I didn't have any more of the former for this platoon so I used the Battlefront MG-38/42 figures.

I needed this platoon to make my Finnish force legal for our upcoming 1000 point escalation games which require the at least two core combat platoons. As you can see I'm posting these photos late Thursday evening and our 1000 point games start tomorrow! Nothing like finishing just under the wire. In addition to this platoon, As part of my 1000 point force I'll also be fielding the 120mm mortar platoon I finished last week in place of the 81mm mortar platoon I painted up for my 600 point force. I'll also be adding my infantry "tank hunters" to the force who were originally painted up for the 600 point games but were swapped out at the last minute for my Finnish Sturmi platoon. At 1000 points I have the luxury of fielding both which should give me just enough anti-tank capability to get by. Later on I'll add some proper Pak-40 anti-tank guns and some heavy artillery which should balance things out well.

Below is a close up of the figures in this platoon as well as a group shot of the new figures that I'll be fielding as part of the 1000 point force that weren't part of my 600 point force.

As a side note, these figures bring my 2010 painted 15mm figure count to 264. Three and a half months to paint as many figures as Scott MacPhee painted in SIX DAYS! Still I'm very satisfied with my output this year, which has easily been the most painting I've ever done in a four month period. If I can maintain even half of this pace I'm sure I'll have my most productive year ever.

Monday, April 12, 2010

600-point FOW Scramble Tournament

Sunday I attended a 600-point Flames of War Scramble tournament at The Whiz Store in Westborough, MA. The tournament was run by Jim Huff and was well attended by mostly locals to the area and a few visitors from farther off, including myself. It was almost a two hour drive for me to get to the event, but I had a good time, and as a new player I was, almost without exception, welcomed and treated fairly by the more experienced players. The Whiz store has a fine dedicated gaming room in the back of the store and also stocks the full Flames of War product line, so I was able to pick up a few odds and ends for my Finnish army while I was there.

As a new player, I was soundly defeated in all of my games, losing 1-6, 1-6, 2-5, and 1-2 in my final partial game. In all but one of the games I was dominated to a level that didn't afford me much of an opportunity to reflect on what I could have done to win the game. In my 2-5 loss, I was actually able to recognize two mistakes that may have turned the game my way. At the end of the day I was also able to recognize some mistakes I made in formulating my force for this format tournament. At 600 points, any unit that isn't useful against ALL opponents has to go. Therefore the HMGs I took have to go. Also the 81mm mortars, if kept, need to be upgraded to 120mm so that at least they have a chance of taking out enemy armor. I did learn one valuable lesson, and that is if you don't move first, your troops will often find themselves fighting where you deployed them. I didn't think this was the case and repeatedly deployed in sub-optimal positions which cost me dearly. Deployment is quite possibly the most important 'move' of the game. At least it seemed that way to me.

Tournament director Jim Huff drew me as his first opponent and was a very gracious instructor during our first game, which was a real help starting me off with a good base of knowledge for the day. Jim ran a very organized and fun tournament that went off all day without a single 'hitch'. The only comment I was able to offer to Jim at the end of the day was that he didn't limit armies in which types of armor they could take, and that most 600-point tournaments I've read about on-line do seem to limit armor in one of two ways, either 1) no tanks with top armor of 2 or 2) no tanks, vehicles or guns with AT ratings over 11 and no tanks with front armor over 7.  With neither of these limitations in place almost all of the veteran players chose heavy armor forces. There were two forces with a Tiger tank as their primary attacking element. For the entire day I don't think either Tiger got killed a single time. At 600 points it's tough to have an answer for a Tiger, JS-II, etc. and not either have one yourself or have a force that's not very good against non-big tank forces. Even with that concern, I still had a great time despite being completely destroyed in every game.

Photos below are from my games. I apologize to the other players, but I was too overwhelmed just playing my games to take photos of other games. I was fortunate enough to play all four of my games on the beautiful tables set up by "mikespe2112" from the fownewengland Yahoo Group. Mike's tabletops were as well designed for gaming as they were beautiful.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Finnish Air Support

The Finnish 1944 OB for Flames of War allows you to take either 'German' Ju87D or JU87G Stuka dive bombers as air support or 'Finnish' air support using Ju88 bombers. Although I'm under the impression that the Stuka G-model dive bomber is probably the best of the bunch with it's 11 AT rating, I decided to purchase pre-painted 1:144 scale models of the JU88 Bombers just to be different. These came with German markings on the wings, which I'm assuming I'll have to replace with proper Finnish markings at some point. Normally pre-painted items I purchase don't warrant a blog entry, but these three are perched atop bases that I made with my laser cutter. The bases are 1/16" clear acrylic, and the 3/32" plastic rods that support the aircraft attach using a pair of rare earth magnets. This should make transporting the models nice and easy I hope. Taking the limited air support option, which is the best the Finnish are allowed to take, adds another 135 points to my Finnish force.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Finnish 120mm Mortar Platoon

The Finnish army was using approximately 200 Russian 120mm mortars by the end of the Continuation War. The majority of these were captured pieces. Some were captured as early as the Winter War. There were also a number purchased from Germany, who presumably also captured them. When building this unit, I decided to model it using captured Russian mortars. I did this for two reasons: first I thought the Russian mortars with their unique looking base plates would look great with Finnish crew and second, I had purchased two Battlefront 81mm mortar blisters by mistake, one of which I didn't need. By modelling the heavy mortars with captured Russian pieces I could use the crew figures from the extra 81mm blister combined with some leftover Russian 120mm mortars from my bits box. Since the heavy mortar platoon requires an additional crew figure per base, I supplemented the 81mm mortar's three crew figures by adding some ammunition crates to the base, and a sub-machine gun-armed infantry figure to guard them. The ammunition crates and guard also have the added benefit of filling up additional space on the large artillery bases, which otherwise would have looked sparsely populated with only the small mortar model and four crew.

This unit is an eclectic mix of figures: the crew, command and forward observer figures are Battlefront, the mortars are Quality Castings purchased 10-12 years ago, the 'ammo' crates are Musket Miniatures and the ammunition guards are Legions East. All in all I'm happy with the result considering the entire unit was constructed from items from my bits box and the extra Battlefront 81mm mortar blister that was sitting in my 'dead lead' pile destined to gather dust. Considering the price of figures these days, making something out of nothing is always a good thing.

While I had the mortar crew figures on the painting table, I also added enough infantry figures to paint up an additional infantry squad for my first Jalkaväki infantry platoon. When painting figures often it's wise to take advantage of economy of scale. Painting these 8 figures alone would have taken a lot more time than adding them to another batch of small figures. This extra squad brings my first platoon up to the full strength four squads. Counting this squad and the heavy mortar platoon my Finnish Flames of War force now totals 1090 points. This total counts both the 81mm mortar platoon and the 120mm mortar platoon which I may not choose to use at the same time.  I'm still learning Flames of War, so my impression of what an optimal 'tournament army' will look like hasn't really been fully formed yet. My opinion on using both mortar batteries may change.

Next up on the painting table will be a second Jalkaväki infantry platoon which will be needed to make my company legal for the 1000-point games we'll be playing in our escalation league in another week. Although the 600-point challenge is over, the escalation league is keeping the pressure on for me to continue working on the Finns.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Flames of War Bombardment Template - Version 2

This is version 2 of my Flames of War bombardment template. I've added wind direction arrows, an indicator to orientate the template towards the firing battery and a title. I put my nickname on this one so if anyone pinches it there won't be any question where they got it! I think that's about all I want to add to it for now. At this point I've spent more in materials and laser time than buying an official template would cost me, but it's worth it for the satisfaction of knowing I have a my own template that I made myself.

Now back to painting those Finns!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Flames of War Bombardment Template

While I was making the gaming aids for my uncle, I remembered I needed a bombardment template for Flames of War. Flames of War sells a very nice one but I thought I might as well make my own. Since mine would be different than all the others, there wouldn't be much of a chance of misplacing it or accidentally coming home with someone else's template by mistake. I added some wind direction indicators but other than that mine is unadorned. I'm not sure I'd use much of the other stuff on the stock template anyways. If I end up needing more information I can always add it later. I chose to try white coloring for my markings instead of the black I used on the items I made for my uncle. I'm not yet sure which I like better. Possibly something in between might be best, maybe blue or gray. Since Flames of War already sells their own template, I won't be selling these since it is probably some sort of copyright infringement. If you see someone with one like this, they stole it from me!

Gameplay Aids

These are two kinds of game play aids that I've made with my laser for my Uncle, who's also a wargamer. The left is an arc of fire gauge and the right is a 45-degree wheel guide to help new players. Both can be used for several different wargames. I'm going to let my uncle test these out to see if they need to be re-sized, lettered in a lighter color or otherwise adjusted. Once we're happy with them I may decide to sell them. They're made from 1/8" thick fluorescent green acrylic. I chose this material because the light catches the edges which highlights them. I thought this was a particularly useful feature considering that it's important to be able to accurately see the edges of both guides. We'll give them a try-out at our monthly game night this Friday and see how they work. Below is an additional photo which shows how transparent the acrylic is.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

FoW Steppes House

In Flames of War it's important that any buildings you have on the table be able to house a number of infantry stands appropriate for the building's size. Sine all of my 15mm buildings are solid resin or plastic, I thought it might be a good idea to start working on some appropriate terrain for FoW. This is my first attempt, a steppes house. Although I don't have any good references for Finnish buildings, I'm guessing that something close to what my sources for Russian buildings show would be appropriate. I modeled this building from 1/8" Baltic birch plywood which I cut with my laser. The removable thatched roof is modeled from teddy-bear fur stiffened with watered down PVA glue. I designed this building to house 2-3 infantry stands on medium size bases. My thoughts were having the pattern available for the laser, I could use it as a basis for a couple of ruined/burned-out buildings of similar footprint. The stucco texture was applied by dusting the assembled house with faux-stone textured spray paint over which I applied the base stucco color and a dry-brush to bring out the detail.  Below are some photos with my Finnish figures to help show the scale of the building. Sorry for the blurry interior photo, I think I moved a bit as the shutter snapped.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Finnish First Action

Tonight was the first night for our escalation league/tournament at the local store. As you can see from this photo, I decided to go with the variant of my 600-point list that allowed me to use two of my StuG assault guns. I wanted to learn all of the different mechanics in the game so having the StuGs on the table allowed me to see how armor worked.

My first game was against a company of Americans with two platoons of infantry supported by some light mortars, MGs and a section of Hellcat tank destroyers in a recon platoon. The photo to the left is our initial deployment. The American recon platoon utilized their initial recon deployment and first turn movement to deploy in the woods in front of my infantry. I advanced my AT rifles into the woods directly in front of my deployment zone and was able to squeeze my StuGs in between the houses and the woods. Surviving the initial shots from the Hellcats, the StuGs and AT rifles were able to take out the enemy armor. My machine guns deployed in the white village area and eventually repulsed an assault from one of the American platoons, stopping it cold with withering defensive fire. This coupled with my mortar fire on the other infantry platoon allowed me to go on the offensive, eventually scoring enough kills to force morale checks on the recon platoon and both infantry platoons. My opponent's dice weren't going well and I was able to get a first 'lucky' win for the Finns!

My second game was against a high-quality German force (me posing as Lapin Sorta Finns, but keeping my Stugs, since it was just a 'for fun' game). The German's had a single high-quality platoon of infantry supported with many stands of panzerfaust-armed troops. In additional to the core infantry platoon they had a support platoon of three StuG G tanks, one more than I had. They lacked my mortars, MGs or AT rifles, so I had the numbers, but they had me beat on equipment and quality. Early on my mortars scored many hits, but the Germans saved them, shrugging off the pinning fire and advancing easily. I tried to out-flank his tanks with my AT rifles, since they were worthless on the StuGs front armor. Eventually I took a chance and close assaulted the German StuGs, but was repulsed with heavy losses. Meanwhile the German infantry took out my StuGs in an assault, but followed up into my heavy machine guns and were repulsed themselves taking heavy losses. We called this game as a draw when time ran out and the store closed. Still it was an eye-opener as to how effective the panzerfaust-armed infantry were in an assault on armor. I'm definitely going to make sure I have my anti-tank infantry with panzerfausts in my 1000-point and higher lists. They're not only awesome anti-tank troops, they're perfectly fine rifle infantry as well. With a section of HMGs, they're a great force to defend an objective and my mortars against all comers.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sturmi Platoon

The Finnish army in 1944 received several StuG model G self-propelled guns from Germany. This Sturmi platoon represents one such unit. When I decided to paint up these 'tanks' I first considered using the color pallette recommended at the Flames of War website. While I liked the camouflage pattern a lot, the recommended colors looked far to vivid in my mind to provide proper concealment. Further research on the Internet led me to www.andreaslarka.net, a fantastic website dedicated to Finnish armor. After looking at the photographs of the restored tanks and StuGs there, I decided to try to emulate the look of the tanks in natural light. This is my attempt. They're missing some Finnish national insignia, which are on order. When they arrive I'll add them to the models.

The StuGs supplied to Finland lacked the additional schurzen armor plates, which were added as protection against bazooka attacks. In place of these the Finns placed large logs on the side of the StuGs, holding them in place with steel banding. Since no figure manufacturers make Stugs with this addition, I had to modify these Battle Honors 'stock' StuGs with my own improvised log armor made from styrene rod and flat stock. In order for the log armor to fit properly I also had to significantly modify the models by removing most of the spare track that was mounted on the side of the tanks leaving just enough showing to not look 'funny'. It was fiddly work, but well worth it to have my Finnish StuGs properly adorned. Since I was going for a realistic look I also made sure to slop some mud on the tracks and fenders and cover the body with a suitable amount of dust and dirt.

If added to my force as a Finnish Sturmi platoon, these tanks are considered fearless veterans costing 315 points. Far too expensive to add to my 600-point force, but viable for my force at 1000 or more points. I haven't decided for sure yet, but if I choose to use these in my 600-point games, I'll only use two of them, posing as an allied German assault gun platoon. The German option allows me to use only two StuGs and they're considered confident veterans, priced at 190 points. A 600-point army using them this way would look something like this. This is the cherry on the top of my 600-point Flames of War painting challenge. In 10 calendar days (7 painting days available) I was able to complete 930 points of troops, primarily comprised of infantry and man-packed weapons. It's not a Scott MacPhee level accomplishment, but for me it's pretty fulfilling.