The setting for the second Panzerfaust: Armoured Fist game of 2010 was reasonable enough – somewhere in the Leningrad oblast during Spring 1942. The Germans had to cross a small stream and capture a major village, the Russians defend it.

As Peter and I had agreed via email prior to the game, this was to be an infantry clash. The force I chose weighed in at about 2300 PV, Peter’s force coming in at around 1500 PV.

My force was comprised of two companies; an infantry company and an infantry gun company. The infantry gun company allowed me to use the IG-18s that I worked on earlier this year on the table (onboard) while keeping a battery of 150mm FlaK 18/36s  offboard. It was a learning experience to select and account for it, as I realised in previous games I had purchased Forward Artillery Observers (FAOs) but no Battery Fire Control unit to actually follow their orders and make sure the shells were fired! This oversight was rectified and I learned something at the same time…as well as realising I have a lot of extra little modelling things to work on in the months to come, like bases to represent the Battery Fire Control staff, some more FAOs and the like.

I elected to give the gun company FAOs some wheels, so the three of them ended up in my two kubelwagens and solitary schwimmwagen. This has given me some impetus to paint up the remaining BMW R35 motorcycles and their accompanying figures from Italeri so that I can have FAOs on motorbikes, which is the cheapest motorised option for them. Anyway, hopefully the FAOs riding in cars would let them go forward and into good positions quickly so that my artillery could rain death and ensure success for my brave footsloggers.

The infantry company was the standard maximised option I’ve used before, except this time I elected to buy two FAOs on horseback to assist the 120mm mortars that I took as Support from the Battalion. The 120mm mortars were towed on the back of Opel Blitz 4X4 trucks – they had to be, they couldn’t be moved forward by hand like the IG-18s! The infantry company 81mm mortars could fire smoke shells as could my whole infantry gun company. My plan of attack was thus to use smoke where possible to blind the Russians and allow my infantry to get as far forward as possible before they might take serious losses. A rolling barrage of smoke shells with infantry advancing behind would be a textbook and perfectly historically accurate plan of attack.

All this looked great on paper. We set the board up and it looked great – see these three photos:

As Peter needed a little more time to decide how to deploy his forces, I opted to roll for the Weather.

I rolled a 3. This meant that the ground was muddy and the sky was overcast. Not great, but not terrible. I then rolled for Wind. Gale force winds heading South.

That was the end of my textbook attack. No smoke during gale force winds! Also, the mud was going to slow my kubelwagens and schwimmwagen down to the same speed as my infantry, so their benefit was nullified. They may as well have been on foot! Even my FAOs on horseback would move quicker.

Thus,the die was cast (pardon the pun). Here’s the ‘history book’ setting: after the heavy gale the previous day, a German force in the Leningrad oblast had to try to continue a somewhat stalled advance and take an important village. While the rain had stopped, the ground was still very muddy and gale-force winds continued to scour the battlefield.

Turn One – As the Germans entered from their own board edge, they immediately came under fire from 76mm artillery and from more devastating 122mm artillery. You can see this in this photo –  – that blue die of Peter’s is functioning as the centre for the 76mm artillery barrage; the radius projecting from it already chews into my ranks.

1st Platoon lost a section and it’s Platoon HQ, but I roll 10 for Morale and the rest of the infantry company are fine. All my troops do is advance. My 150mm artillery perform map fire but to no effect. As it is only firing for one round, I then have to wait three turns for it to fire on a new map reference.

Turn Two – I continue to advance. This time, the Soviet artillery causes no harm to my troops, some of whom have side-stepped out of the Beaten Zone Radius or simply kept low as they went forward  .

Turn Three –The Russians now try to call down artillery fire, shifting its position, but to no success.

.

Turn Four – The Ivans successfully call down fire but only kill one German team. The Germans continue to advance, many now approaching copses which would provide some shelter  .

Turn Five – Everything happens at once!

Those in the front of the advancing German infantry forces sight onboard Russian artillery and infantry . His infantry includes some sections of PM M1910 (Пулемёт Максима на станке Соколова, Pulemyot Maxima na stanke Sokolova or “Maxim’s machine gun model 1910 on Sokolov’s mount”) which are classed as Medium Machine Guns (MMGs) in Panzerfaust: Armoured Fist. Lead sang and the Germans lost 6 teams to them, but the Germans gallantry replied with their own MG-34s (LMGs in Panzerfaust: Armoured Fist unless tripod-mounted) and manage to silence two guns . The Soviet onboard artillery tried to wipe out my 120mm mortar teams who were still setting up, but fail.

On the left, my IG-18s are still out of the battle so far but have not suffered any inbound fire . My 150mm map fire artillery have their order cancelled (otherwise I was going to hit my own troops) so they begin setting up to fire on map reference number 3.

Turn 6 – It was obvious I wasn’t going to reach either objective in time. This turned out to be both Peter & I’s fault – more about this in a moment.

Three of my four 120mm mortars are silenced by 122mm artillery. More Soviet infantry are revealed . There was small arms fire between the two infantry forces  and that resulted in the last surviving team from my 1st Platoon dying. I make a Morale test for the rest of the Company…and get a 3. Retreat.

This was pretty disappointing as the two previous Morale Tests I made were 12’s (the maximum) and I’d started off Morale Tests so well with that solid 10. Still, it was 11pm and it was logical to end the game – my IG-18s weren’t going to win the game for me, not against all that Soviet might.

What did I do wrongly?

Firstly, I purchased Smoke Grenades for each and every infantry team/base I fielded, adding some 206.25 PV to my force. Upon discovery of this (ie. when I told him that the Gale had ruined my ‘advance behind smoke’ plan), Peter pointed me to p. 13 of the rules, where it states that only assault engineers/pioneers may use smoke grenades. This was some PV that I had thought of using to instead buy some AA vehicles to add to the game…I was keen to use 20mm cannons to chew up his infantry. So, in a way I partially handicapped myself with this as I later realized didn’t really have a big enough force for the night. (I have just read that I should have 2-3 times what Peter fielded…I should have had 3000 to 4500 PV. What an addition to this PV handicap! I should have bought more offboard artillery and put troops in trucks or halftracks as well as field all 3 AA vehicles I have).

Secondly, I didn’t have a backup plan. I didn’t think I wouldn’t be able to have my smokescreen.

Thirdly, I once again deployed right into his artillery fire. However, you can never predict this, can you?

Fourthly, both Peter and I had neglected to check that the Objectives I set were reasonable. For an Attack/Defense scenario, objectives should be anywhere in the middle 40% of the board – I went and set them in the last 20% of the board. There was no way I could reach that in 10-12 turns on foot, even if not a single solitary Russian tried to stop me. A second handicap.

With all this in mind, I’m not so worried about this loss. It was effectively an impossible scenario.

Still, not having a backup plan was foolish.

On a different note, all that new scenery was displayed and garnered praise from viewers.

Here is a new thicket with an old thicket:  .

Here’s a new thicket with the river sections:  .

Here are the final two new thickets:  .

Hopefully the next game will be as soon as August, and will be an action from Kursk.

Working on the Hasegawa Kubelwagen required some research that went beyond my own personal library. Part of it had to do with the old chestnut of tarpaulins / canvases used by the Germans during the Second World War…in particular, what colours they were. I was also interested in some interior decoration – I wanted to see what the dashboard looked like and a few other small details.

I started off with Google, using the ‘image search’ option. The results quickly pointed to a better way of searching – using Flickr.

I’ve mentioned Flickr a few times on this blog. I’d forgotten its usefulness for a search like this. You see, Flickr has photos taken by enthusiasts whom take photos of exhibits at military museums; photos taken by participants at re-enactment events; photos taken by spectators at re-enactment events and so on and so forth. Some exhibit photos or re-enactor vehicle photos would do the job nicely – because they take the kinds of photos modellers want and need! Multiple angles, close-up on details, interiors.

It was as simple as typing ‘kubelwagen type 82’ and I was presented with a page of very useful results. I found what I needed pretty quickly!

The Kubelwagen has been a little less straightforward than the schwimmwagen as I’d chosen to assemble and paint the kubelwagen driver first before glueing  him and his seat into place. This was a good idea that turned out badly. I had not done a test fit prior to painting – his feet were too big and his left shoulder was hitting the door and preventing the seat from locking into place. These were things I had to remedy after the fact, requiring filing done, re-painting and re-glueing and also damaging the MG pintle (which ended up having to be completely redone with some added kitbashing too).  It looks fine now, but wasn’t worth the bother. I’ve undercoated another Kubelwagen and will be doing it with occupants in situ.

Ends of the roads

February 10, 2009

The roads are good to go…or be driven on…most importantly, ready for gaming. The colours have come up relatively well and using ‘Ardcoat for water or liquid effects has been suitable.

Here’s a first view, of the roads in action:

completed-road-1

…and stupidly, I chose to use two vehicles without any mud on them! The schwimmwagen is far too clean (it was painted to represent having just come out of a water crossing) and the Sd. Kfz 11 was painted up with a heavy dust coat, as if it was mid-Summer! Oh well.

This next photo was to try to show the sparingly-used ‘Ardcoat to represent water and differentiate it from mud, which was such a feature of roads on the Eastern Front:

completed-road-2

I mentioned that I had used Kayak Brown, then a mix of Kayak Brown with Vermin Brown, plain Kayak Brown and then ‘Ardcoat for water. This last shot is to show a section of muddy road without any ‘Ardcoat, so you can get an idea of the differences in colour.

completed-road-3

The ‘Ardcoat was a cause for much nervous nail-biting on Thursday , Friday and Saturday. The ‘Ardcoat was not the newest – I think I had it for two years and what’s more, it was kept in a room that can get over 50 degrees centigrade on a hot day. It was applied well shaken, but towards the end of the pot, was getting stickier and toffee-like,  unlike its normal watery consistency.

The nail-biting commenced when I realised that the thickly-applied sections of ‘Ardcoat (where it was perhaps 2-3mm thick, filling puddles and pot holes) was still a bit milky in colour a good 24 hours after application. I went and bought more ‘Ardcoat and Chestnut Ink in case I had to re-do all of it, but decided to give it more time to cure/dry. 48 more hours (and Melbourne’s hottest day on record, 46.2 degrees) did the job – all the milkiness disappeared and I was left with crystal clear gloss.

So, even with older ‘Ardcoat that goes on a bit milky or cloudy, just give it plenty of curing/drying time – like the better part of a week.

On a related note, we’ve had the worst bushfires ever as a result of the incredible heatwave. Please give some money to:

Victorian Bushfire Appeal 2009

A day or two of pleasant research later and I can conclude that I will be affixing all track links to the turrets, as is recommended on the instruction sheet. My research into track links on Tiger turrets involved a few different sources, the most useful being:

  • Allied-Axis (the photo journal of the Second World War) issue 6, which had a whole section on Tiger I’s in action;
  • Panzer Colours 1, 2 and 3 by Bruce Culver & Bill Murphy (published by Squadron Signal);
  • Encyclopedia of German tanks of World War Two by Peter Chamberlain & Hilary Doyle;
  • Tiger in action by Bruce Culver and published by Squadron Signal; and
  • The Jagdtiger website, in particular this page.

Tiger in action, a concise yet wonderful book, clearly affirmed on page 8 that mid-production Ausf. E’s had brackets factory-fitted on the turret sides for holding spare track links and included two wonderful photos of a unit with the brackets leaving the Henschel factory (but without any links having been stowed there). I’m not going to argue with this…Squadron Signal are excellent historians.

In terms of the Revell kits I’m working on, this means that I’ll finish all assembly (except the links) of the turrets, paint the turrets, then glue on the links. I’ll try to paint the links while still on thier sprues and then touch up once glued on. As a final touch, some of the track links will then have their outer surface painted with Dark Yellow and Red Brown…a practice carried out by individual crews whom had excess paint and cared about camouflage.

Allied-Axis issue 6 showed that there was plenty of field modifications to provide extra stowage. So, like I did to my StuG, I’ll be adding on brackets and mountings on the rear of the hull for stowage of jerry cans and the like…

Tiger in action page 34 showed a picture of a Tiger going past a Schwimmwagen. The Schwimmwagen is camouflaged on the upper surface (above the waterline), but the colours used are not discussed. I think it’s mottling (or clumps) in both green and brown, but I cannot be sure. Next Schwimmwagen I do will copy this example.

Camouflage and styrene

August 17, 2008

Here’s the completed schwimmwagen:

I gave it a whimsical camouflage scheme, almost child-like, of bushes. The bushes have brown trunks and branches, with green ‘blobby’ masses of leaves. This schwimmwagen is an officer’s vehicle, so I decided that no-one was going to complain about how they would camouflage their own transport! It uses the standard dark green and red-brown. Kommando Khaki was drybrushed onto the upper surfaces to represent dust…but the tyres and lower half (which were submerged during schwimming) are clean and fresh, representing that this vehicle has just recently forded some sort of water course.

I’m getting lots of practice in painting my own GrossDeutschland ‘stalhelms’, as you can see. It’s not easy – if I get it fairly right then I leave it, as trying to go back and improve or correct what I’ve done usually results in me botching what I had and having to start from scratch. I could readily buy decals for the ‘stalhelms’ – but don’t want to. Practice makes perfect, no?

* * *

The styrene sheet that I cut up and shaped for the thickets is readily available. I bought mine directly from a factory because I needed bulk (in a few weeks’ time I’m going to embark on making up my own roads, rivers and creeks), however I started off using pre-packaged sheet styrene from Evergreen Scale Models.

I’ve bought and still see their sheet styrene and other modelling products in hobby shops, model railroad shops, model kit shops and the like. Their clear/transparent sheet styrene is great for quickly making streams and ponds!

If you’re the driver figure from Hasegawa’s 1/72 kit #31113, then you need to have most of your left arm sliced off and both feet amputated at the ankles! I had glued his arms on and then painted him up, but he wouldn’t sit in the seat at all properly – his bum was one part across the passenger’s seat and his knees were hitting the dashboard. Which means that as he is, he won’t fit in. Out came the scalpel. I severed both feet. Then I shaved off as much of his left arm as possible, retaining the whole hand…this was a verticle slice. He then fitted in fairly well – not perfectly, but enough so that he didn’t look unnatural. Basically, his left elbow sticks well and truly into the door panel a good 3mm, and both feet have to come off – again another 3mm.

Then I painted on two GrossDeutschland ‘stalhelms’ as unit IDs. I’ll touch up the paint on his arm, then do a good thick coating of dust on the upper half, then it’ll be ready for safety Dullcoting and action.

Continued on with assembly of the Italeri StuG. So far, glueing on the track links has progressed more smoothly than with the UM kits. But I’m only 1/3 of the way through the task, so stay posted.

The modular pieces of the thicket are ready to go. (The modular pieces are the two bits on the left). With all excess flock tapped off and then brushed out of the lichen, a quick blast of Testors Dullcote was sprayed on to preserve its lifespan.

Let me explain the picture a bit more. I have the three pieces of sheet styrene stuck to empty single-serve plastic containers, using double-sided sticky tape. The large piece on the right is covered by the two halves on the left. If a tank or base of figures moves into that terrain, then I remove the appropriate half. As I have painted the terrain onto the bottom part, it’s still clear that the tank or figures are in terrain!

I hadn’t finished the paintwork when I took that picture. I have now, so I’ll give it some Dullcote and then get proper pictures up of the terrain in action.

I mentioned in a previous post that I had decided to add to the variety of kits underway by also making some more wargaming terrain and that I had taken the first steps by cutting up some sheet styrene and undercoating it with brown acrylic housepaint.

Having given the sheet styrene shape two coatings of paint, I then selected and cut to shape (with sewing scissors – nice and sharp) some lichen. I like lichen very much – it has many uses. As well as simulating bushes and shrubs, it can be used for making trees and also as camouflage on vehicles. For this particular piece, I’m using Woodland Scenics L166 Lichen – NaturalL166 Lichen - Natural (1 1/2 qt./82 cu. in. ) Lichen (Click for larger picture) , and I’m using it to represent thorn bushes. Having cut some good clumps into the shapes I want, I glued it to the sheet styrene with water-based PVA glue and then left it to dry for 24 hours.

Last night, the remaining exposed areas of the piece were coated with PVA glue and two grades of Woodlands Scenics Talus (rock debris) sprinkled on loosely. The two grades of Natural coloured Talus were Medium and Coarse. The Talus is to represent rocky ground – hence poor farming ground and thus a good place to let thorn bushes grow. After all, rabbits can live there and provide a food source…

Immediately after the Talus was sprinkled on, I then added Woodland Scenics Green Blend flock (to represent grass). I then pressed down to make sure the Talus and flock did stick into the glue, then left it to dry. If all’s well tonight, I’ll shake and brush off any loose Talus and flock; seal it with Testors Dullcote and then it will be ready for play.

***

I touched up the bare metal sections of the Opel Maultiers using my own blend of undercarriage paint; reinforced the green paint of the schwimmwagen’s camouflage and commenced glueing on the tracks for the StuG. It’ll be interesting to compare working with Italeri’s hard track link sections to that of the UM and PST kits that I’ve previously completed.

The Devil is in the detail; time consumption is in painting detail. My wisdom for you all – you’re welcome to it. It explains why those Opel Maultiers are crawling along; the tarpaulins were given a fantastic-looking finish yesterday and today the bogies and suspension were being carefully painted. Once that’s done, I can do the chassis and undercarriage and all that mostly unseen stuff, with my home-made blend of Vehicle Undercarriage, which is really just some Brown ink, Boltgun Metal and Chaos Black all mixed together.

Yesterday, those Revell Tiger 1 E’s and an Italeri StuG III G were undercoated with Chaos Black spraypaint (not as thickly, this time – I’m trying an experiment. Next time I’ll use even less). Tankoberg was all set to start production again and I was going to begin glueing all of them together. I decided not to, though. I want those Opel Maultiers off my table, and that Schwimmwagen too. So, the StuG began production. What a lovely kit it is to work with. It’s been reviewed fairly favourably, although there has been some comment that too much is already moulded on. While I agree that a lot has been moulded on, at least it’s been done extremely well! I’m looking forward to the finished product. The tracks and wheels are causing a little consternation – I’m not sure about the return rollers and their position in relation to everything else. I guess I’ll see when I commence track assembly.

The little Schwimmwagen is getting close to having all it’s basics and details done, so that I can finish it by applying the three-colour camouflage pattern. Again, it’s time-consuming detail that I was working on. I also consulted my books for information about the grills to the rear of the unit, and how the canvas folding roof worked. The driver is long finished. He’ll go in, then the steering wheel; touch up the paint for the steering wheel, then camouflage, then done.

The SdKfz 11 had the first stage of an extensive dust coating applied.

Being in a productive mood this weekend, I also decided to begin making some more terrain / scenery. I prefer the term terrain rather than scenery…for me, scenery is what you make for a model railway – something static. Terrain is what you make for wargaming – it’s practical and gets used. I carved up some sheet styrene into a small thicket, a big thicket with room for a fallen tree trunk, a duckpond/village pond and lastly a larger pond/small lake. I used an Olfa cutter for this. Since I make my terrain to be modular, the thickets are two layered – if a unit moves onto the terrain, I take the first layer off, so they don’t damage the lichen or whatever I have stuck there. I’ve got bags and bags of lichen, so it’s time to get some more of it onto the wargaming table. I undercoated the smaller thicket with some basic house acrylic in brown and then gave up for the weekend.

Yesterday those two Fujimi houses had individual bricks picked out using pure Terracotta. The result was great – giving a reasonable imitation of brick houses at Oradour-sur-Glane.

Kit management

July 20, 2008

I finally finished applying the Doug Chaltry technique to the tracks of the Opel Maultiers as well as a SdKfz 11 halftrack that I got when I bought ESCI’s “Don: the long retreat” 1/72 scale diorama set. I bought that diorama set new from a little shop I know. I bought it in order to get the KV-1 and Russian Infantry out of it, as back then I was going to be playing Russians. Instead, I’ve ended up playing Germans, so I’ve ended up using everything out of that diorama set, as it also held German Infantry, the SDKfz 11 and an Opel Blitz (which you’ve already seen and read about earlier).

I’ve also being painting up a Hasegawa Schwimmwagen I picked up last month at that swap-n-sell I went to. It’s a fun little vehicle and I even successfully kitbashed an extra rest/brace for the LMG, after ruining the first brace, successfully improvising a replacement, then making a second brace. It’s been well coated with Desert Yellow – today I was beginning the detail, being the seat covers, tyres, LMG and canvas canopy. I was originally going to do the interior with Kommando Khaki – many German AFVs had light buff tan interiors, according to Panzer Colours 1 by Culver & Murphy (Squadron/Signal pubs.), but this is not really an AFV, so I just made it Desert Yellow as per the exterior.

I’m beginning to digress – with those Maultier tracks finished, I was able to begin working on the rest of the vehicles, touching up the exterior Desert Yellow including fine detail spots, then fix the Bestial Brown job on the tray. The tarpaulins on the back got Catachan Green, but will have a patchy Desert Yellow coat applied, to represent the spraypainting of tarpaulins.

All this piecework means that I have lots of kits on the go, as I can only do a little work on each, then leave them for periods to dry properly. With it being winter here, drying periods are longer. So, I’ve decided to have lots of things on the go, rather than just working in five minute spurts two or three times a day, which I feel wastes the rest of my leisure time. Thus, today I opened up four of those Revell Tiger I Ausf. E’s and washed the sprues, to prepare them for undercoating and assembly. I’ve also being working on some more scenery. I was given a couple of Fujimi 1/76 kits for my recent birthday by the mighty President of Nunawading Wargames Association. I can use some more houses – I’d love to do a skirmish between infantry companies in a sizeable village, with lots of house-to-house combat…so I’ve been having to mix up some brick colours to match the ruins from the tragic town of Oradour, which I’m using as my reference point.

So, I’ve got a Schwimmwagen, Schwimmwagen driver, 3-ton SdKfz 11 halftrack, three Opel Maultiers, two houses all on the go, with four washed Tiger sprues drying out. Time management? Sort of. I prefer “kit management”.