I’ve completed the major stages of assembly of UniModel’s 1/72 scale SU-85 (or, if you are Russian, 333 UM 1/72 Самоходная артиллерийская установка СУ-85):   . It’s a well-detailed kit, but I think there must be better ways to actually assemble the kit than the way they suggest on the instruction sheet. Since this is the first of a company of 5 that I’m assembling, I’ll assemble the other 4 in a different way. The reason for wanting to do it differently is that, having followed their instructions, part fit of the superstructure to the hull was poor – out came the nail files and there was a lot of filing in order to get part fit, let alone accurate part fit. Not good. I’m reminded of some of the grizzles with assembly I had with the Marder III (h)’s of theirs that I did 4-5 years ago. So, we’ll see how the rest of them go. This one isn’t too bad, but it certainly isn’t going to be the company commander’s vehicle.

Also, I completed the Pegasus Hobbies 1/72 scale Russian Log house – Two storey (Large Karilian region izba) that I won as part of a number of job lots on eBay three years back. Mine looks like this from the front:  and like this at the rear: . It’s to scale, as you can see here, with 1/72 troops (ESCI/Italeri, in this instance):   . It’s meant to be a two-storey building, but there is no “first floor” provided, so I made one with leftover sheet styrene:  so I can have snipers upstairs if I want:  and the first floor sections easily lift out and away for when the door finally gets broken in and close-quarters combat (CQC) occurs:  . As you can see, it is a very big building. Great for diorama or scale modellers, but I think that for wargaming, it occupies too much of the tabletap. I don’t mind a factory or somesuch taking up big slabs of the tabletop, but I’m not so sure a large farmhouse (Russian: изба́) should share that right.

So, now I have a good collection of buildings by Pegasus and MiniArt for the Russian side of the Eastern Front (Ostfront):  – that should be enough for a few years.

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My Dragon 251/10’s are coming along a bit more slowly at the moment, as you have to paint the interiors before you can fully assemble the bodies:  .

 

The UM Hetzers received their final bodywork in Tankoberg this morning and were photographed (when the bodywork was dry) at lunch. Here they are: . I’m very happy with them – just disappointed that it took me so long to finish them.

This is UM Models’ kit #UM 356, which is a Commander’s vehicle. I didn’t include the second radio mount which sits on the left side of the vehicle; I did utilise the remote-control MG and it’s shield which mercifully is included in the kit box, so you can build this kit either way.

As this vehicle began to leave Skoda and BMM (the two manufacturers) in midsummer 1944, I figured to paint it as a muddy vehicle, thus allowing it to represent the 3 seasons it was used in.

I attached the shadow/outline-disrupting foliage with ordinary PVA glue this time. My thinking was that I didn’t want to use plastic glue for it and certainly didn’t want to use any cyanoacrylate glue, as cyanoacrylate discolours surrounding paintwork meaning you have to paint the area where you use it again. PVA dries matt clear and, with the spray of Dullcote to seal & protect it, should disappear from view completely. I’m happy with the result.

I have so many tank hunter units now, more than normal tanks! I have Jagdpanthers, Marder III(h)’s, these Hetzers…I should really try to concentrate on normal Panzer III’s & IV’s, but they haven’t turned up at Swap & Sells this year! I don’t have enough of either III’s or IV’s for a platoon and don’t want to pay full price for kits either. Have to keep watching Ebay, I guess.

Four modular (well, semi-modular, they aren’t as modular as I normally make) thickets are completed. Here they are as a group:

Here’s a close-up to give you some sense of proportions:

Tall enough to definitely block line-of-sight (LOS) for troops on foot, and as far as I’m ruling, enough to block LOS for AFVs too (except perhaps for a commander half-out of the turret of a Königstiger or somesuch).

They are not as modular as normal for me – usually, I would make the top part into at least two or more pieces, so that when footsloggers or AFVs enter it, you don’t need to remove the whole piece of terrain. Because I wanted these to be really thick, I made them as one piece, so the whole piece must be removed if an AFV (such as this Marder III (h)) or infantry try to negotiate passing through it:

These terrain pieces make their debut this friday night.

Why make them like this? So that they last longer. I don’t want my fragile terrain like this getting flattened, damaged and ultimately needing replacement after being crushed under bases of infantry or plastic AFV kits that have had some metal parts added to them. A little extra initial work results in a much longer wargaming terrain lifespan!

I’m over a third of the way done, but not halfway. The chassis and lower hull were all finished last weekend, the last couple of nights have been finishing off the fiddly detail on the upper hull. Here’s a pic:

The ‘fiddly detail’ is the photoetched brass parts. I enjoyed the challenge of the remote-controlled, roof-mounted machinegun shield and have previous experience with a previous UM tank-destroyer kit in  folding and shaping the ammo box so they were done in a minute each. The thin guards over the periscope were a bit frustrating but well worth the effort.  However, I have decided not to do the folding and glueing of the spare mudguard supports and the front mudguurd braces – they are too fiddly and I couldn’t get the brass to fold properly! I was careful but I still stuffed it! Like Paul over at ‘Plastic Warriors’, I’m not a rivet-counter…I like accuracy when I build something… but this is meant to be a fun hobby – getting worked up over two non-essential parts is not fun at all. Thus, they were ditched. I personally think the rear mudguard support could have been done in plastic…they have fine plastic moulding on other parts of the kit…

If you’re interested in which particular kit I’m working on, here’s a link to a very good vendor’s product description.

While waiting for glue to bond and/or dry, I’m working on more wargaming terrain. Here’s a pic: Thick, tall clumps of bushes and blackberry (or similar)…copses or thickets…tall enough to block vision (“lines of sight” to use the military term) for infantry and also most vehicles. I deliberately use the tallest lichen clumps I can. They will be used for the Leningrad region game coming up in July and also for Pripyat Marshes games.

This terrain project is finished, and I’m pretty happy with the outcome: Hills with pins and shadow

The hills in the above photo haven’t had the pins/tacks removed. I’ve put my 1:72 UM Marder III (h) on the larger, to give you some idea of scale.  The spraying of Scenic Cement yesterday and application of extra coarse turf worked perfectly to plug the spots where the first and second glueing attempts with PVA glue failed to thickly coat the area. I also added a few patches of flock/scatter on top of the Scenic Cement to provide extra texture – that too worked well.

The Marder III(h) above is casting a strong shadow against the smaller hill. I’ve talked in earlier posts about how shadows can reveal an AFV’s location – the above example is a practical demonstration of that. Now it should be evident why, in the latter half of WWII, German AFVs stayed under cover during the day or attached lots of branches and foliage to their AFVs if they had to move during the day…because the hard angles and unnaturally-shaped shadows really are noticeable.

These next two photos are of the hills/mountains with pins/tacks removed from their bases, so they look as if they are being used as scenery in a wargame: Hills unpinned aerial Hills unpinned ground

I’ve realised with some previously-made hills, I used a finer grade of talus to represent small rocks which I could have done here…I’ll use them with the next lot of mountains / steep hills that I make.

The BZ-35 Refuellers are coming along well – they are receiving a careful solid coating of Catachan Green, which perfectly models the green the Soviets used on their softskins and AFVs.

I’ve commenced assembly of a 1:72  Sd. Kfz. 250/3 by Italeri (kit No. 7034), which was one of kits I bought at the Model Expo Swap & Sell on the Queen’s Birthday Weekend back in June.  It’ll end up being used as a reconnaissance vehicle for encounter scenario games.

Yesterday I began work on painting up a building (4 inch square walls) from Battlefield Accessories. It’ll have the same paint scheme that I used with the AMRI railway station that I painted up last year, for re-creating the fighting around Mga Railway Station in North-western Russia.

So here they are:

finished-jagdpanthers-11 –> the Commander’s vehicle is on the left…

finished-jagdpanthers-21 –> being the other three.

finished-jagdpanthers-31 –> Detail of #811, the commanding vehicle.

finished-jagdpanthers-41 –> The whole platoon.

The mud (Vermin Brown) was splattered fairly liberally on three of the four, and I took efforts to make sure it also went on the lower bits of any nearby lichen.

The photos don’t do justice to the decals, which turned out far better on this project than when I applied them to the UniModels Marder III’s that I did.

A visiting friend on Sunday afternoon was also surprised that these were 1/76, given that next to them were the Revell 1/72 Tigers that are still unfinished and in his eyes, the Jagdpanthers fitted the scale of the Tigers. So I’m very happy with this kit – quick to build (just wish the tracks weren’t vinyl one piece items!), good detail that is enhanced by a bit of modeller’s love (and careful use of leftovers) and careful brushwork. Can’t wait for them to get on the table and start reversing the Allied advance!

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My thanks to all of you for reading and commenting. I’m going to briefly indulge is off-topic banter for a moment, but before you stop reading, the next two months will involve finishing those Tigers, starting those Horchs and doing a lot of scenery (since it’ll be good and hot and the caulk should dry more quickly).

OK, stop reading now if you want.
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My thoughts go out to those whom are working to bring peace and end wars and also to those whom are helping the unfortunate. Peace on Earth, war (only) on the (wargaming) table.

The saggy baggy Jagdpanther

November 16, 2008

Well, they may be 1/76 scale, but these Revell Jagdpanthers (originally Matchbox) come up looking the part.

This post will address two things, as follows:

1) These kits come with two jerrycans that are glued onto the starboard side of the Jagdpanther. The racks forward on the superstructure, where pioneering equipment was stored, are all empty. This clashes with all the other kits I’ve assembled or are assembling, where there are plenty of items of stowage or pioneering tools. There is a mallet on the rear plate, but nothing else.

Now, wisely I have retained leftovers from previous kits, so I’ve added plenty of extras to make these tank destroyers look like working units and not museum pieces. From the Roden Opel Blitz kits, I saved a rolled up tarpaulin. One got that. From the UM Marder IIIs, I saved spare picks and shovels. From the Italeri StuG III, I saved buckets. Picks and shovels were divided up and glued on different sides of different units. now they look like working vehicles! The moral of this is: always save unused materials, especially stowage. You’ll want them for kits that don’t have enough (or any at all).

2) Bad track sag – I mentioned that I’ve come to realise that the track sag I did with the first kit matched the track sag of a Tiger…but when I checked my sources, didn’t match a Jagdpanther’s track sag at all. For example, have a look at these historical photos. As you see, the historical evidence shows that the sag is more like a bow – the first vehicle I did looks like the tracks are much looser, so loose that they are lying on top of the return rollers.

Now, to get more accurate sag (using these horrible soft vinyl tracks that can’t do a proper job anyway) some more careful glueing was going to be involved. Two months ago, my household decided to retire all its old chopsticks and use freshly-purchased uniform ones from China. I saved all the old chopsticks for use with my hobbies. So, I cut them up, split them, broke them into little pieces, etc.  Then, wedging them in at the right places after shaping them, I achieved better sag with the remaining three. The moral of this is: always check historical sources first before assembly.

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The Tigers are moving forward slowly because I’m painting the stowed pioneering tools and all the other little fiddly bits. Procrastination strikes, too. As Summer is just two weeks away, I have to get a wriggle on, or it’ll get too hot to do much hobby work done.

On thursday night, Peter was hosting Jason M. from Far North Queensland and a longtime player (and playtester) of Panzerfaust: Iron Fist. Naturally, a game was going to be played. Jason and I agreed to lead a company of Germans in an Encounter scenario against two companies of Russians. The German forces were as follows:

  1. Platoon (4 vehicles) StuG III G
  2. Platoon (4) Marder III(h)
  3. Platoon of Panzer Grenadiers with early Panzerfausts, in 4 Steyr 1500A heavy cars
  4. Single Sd.Kfz 251/17 AA vehicle

The Russians had:

  • Company (5 vehicles) KV 1, 1942 edition
  • Company (7) T-34/76, 1941 edition with 2 platoons of Infantry with SMGs and a MG Platoon in GAZ-AAAs.

The year was 1943 and the objective was to take the small ridge on the big hill in the centre of the table. Here’s the table:

Adding in some weather effects, Gale force winds were rolled for, heading South East. Those two rolls for winds wiped out the possibility of Germans relying on smoke shells and smoke launchers!

TURN 1: Both armies advanced toward the objective, the Germans trying to get the Marders there first, as their guns would tear apart any Russian armour. Peter’s KV1 company was placed in a corner and could see the Steyr 1500As through a thin firing alley. Those that could let fly with direct area fire. The direction of travel for the Steyrs was my decision and already my tactics were looking poorly conceived. Miraculously, none of the Steyrs was hit.

TURN 2: Stupidly I decided to abandon my plan of directing the Steyrs and the 251/17 forward to cover one end of the hill, and instead turned them left toward the security of the nearby forest. I also decided to have the StuGs turn right and deal with the KVs, while Jason would best place the Marders forward. The KVs could still see the Steyrs and 251/17 and chose to keep firing at them, even though they could now also see Marders. Out came all the measuring tapes to judge ranges and lines-of-sight.

Peter rolled to hit. The results of his rolling technically ended the game there, as the direct area fire of the KVs blew up my Company HQ in their fleeing Steyr, even though the other vehicles were unscathed. For Jason’s benefit, this outcome was changed – another Steyr was destroyed instead. They passed their Morale check but the only way for them to be safe was to continue to retreat into the forest – a retreat without a Retreat from a failed Morale test. *Sigh*.

TURN 3:Jason’s tactical synapses were busily snatching back victory while my synapses floundered. With 6 pips to use for actions this turn, we could reposition all our armour as we wished. Still, the Russians destroyed the final infantry Steyr causing a further Morale check. Jason ‘tracked’ a KV and got it out of the game but lost a Marder in the process. The StuGs hit the KVs but didn’t penetrate the heavy front armour of the KVs.

TURN 4: The T-34s and the infantry had gained a toehold on the hill and now moved to secure the objective. Jason and I elected not to move our forces much and concentrate on knocking out the KVs. Fire was exchanged but to no effect.

TURN 5: It was now past midnight and effectively the end of the game, so Peter sent his Russians over the hill and a few around its side. My StuGs ‘tracked’ two KVs, one being a Platoon Commander. Jason’s Marder that had reached the objective was in trouble. Red infantry was almost on it and so they let rip. Now, the Marder III(h) had an open rear, so it’s crew only gets Soft cover versus infantry fire, the infantry also gaining +4 for shotting from behind. That Marder died and another two ended up Stunned for 5 turns. The last one, whom had been in support of the others, used direct area fire to kill four infantry bases – the other two infantry bases now surrendered to that Marder. The flanking T-34s and my flanking StuG had no real effect on each other. End of game – the Russian T-34’s held the objective and far outnumbered the Germans.

Only a five turn game? Many of the games I’ve played with Peter have gone to twelve, and most games should go for at least ten. On reflection, I should have kept pushing the Steyrs to their original destination. My decision, made during panic, to instead hide in the forest got a lot of men killed and prematurely ended the game. Nothing kills like bad decisions.

Two things to cover in this post – A) the thicket that I made using sheet styrene, lichen, talus and flock are finished, and B) I’ve got enough fiddly stuff done on the Maultiers to begin the winter/snow camouflage pattern on them.

Here’s a photo of the thicket in play but without a unit in it/entering it:

and now a photo of the thicket with a Marder III(h) moving through it:

As you can see, when something moves into, across or is revealed to be hidden in the terrain, simply lift off the beautifully made modular piece and there is still the template or base below (as you can see, painted to exactly replicate the bushes and rocks above it) so all know that it is abnormal terrain.

Because this is a small piece (about 5 inches by 3 inches), I only made the top in halves. Previous projects have involved the terrain piece being cut into thirds or fifths (the one into fifths was for 28mm fantasy wargaming).

However, you get beautiful terrain which never gets damaged in play.

On to the Maultier – I’ve opted for a hasty, streaked pattern (deliberately not going over the GrossDeutschland stahlhelm on the cabin doors). I won’t even give the pattern a second coat…I want it to lookquickly done with watered-down whitewash. I’ll do the tray sides and rear plus completely do the tarpaulin.

Oh, and those Caesar Panzergrenadiers have arrived! Overall, a good set of figures. Full review to come very soon.

Plastic or metal?

May 13, 2008

With a few heavy coats of my homemade Panzer Grey on it, the ACE PaK 38 is starting to look OK. In fact, it reminds me a little at the moment of diecast metal cannons from my childhood! The finished product will be the decider…last night I applied some watered black ink around moving parts for that “greasy” look. A camouflage pattern of Desert Yellow will be applied to it, then it’ll be drybrushed with Kommando Khaki for dust. Should have a “introduction of the thee colour scheme but we used the good paint on the vehicles” effect.

Peter and I had a game of Panzerfaust on friday night, where my Marder III h’s debutted. What a debut it was! I had them well placed from the beginning and they were able to tear across the battlefield and rip up four T-34’s, almost winning me the game. My infantry did pretty well too, slaughtering a good part of his “tank desant” motorised infantry.

The railway station is coming along well, too. Much of the heavy work is done – now it’s details.