Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Wrecked Sd.Kfz 251

© Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved.
This is my first attempt at modelling a knocked out vehicle, so please be gentle with the criticism! And no, it isnt kit-bashed from an intact vehicle, its the resin "Wrecked Hanomag" kit from Warlord built straight out of the box.

I used a combination of airbrushed rust base colours around the damaged areas, and then a series of pigments over that to deepen the effect. It wasnt a project where I ever felt fully in control of the final result... I just had to keep experimenting until I got to a point where I felt it "good enough".

© Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved.

© Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved.

© Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved.

German Garrison Troops (and some local ladies)

© Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved.
Here is what has been on my painting desk for the last little while...

I figured I needed some targets, err, opponents for my partisan forces, and these fellows looked the part. I can imagine them seeing time on the table in a range of scenarios involving partisans - not only as part of a garrison force, but also as deployment zone and objective markers.

© Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved.

© Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved.

© Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved.

© Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved.

© Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved.
Caption Competition: Answers on a postcard please (or in the comments section below...)

While working on the Kubelwagen, I decided Oberst Landbrot and his 'acquaintance', Consolata Gramsci, needed a third figure to really tell a story...

Enter Violetta Gramsci, leader of the local communist partisans, and sister to Herr Landbrot's friend. Its an open secret in the village that the Gramsci sisters took very different paths following the death of their parents. Many locals wonder how Violetta can tolerate her sister's dalliance with the enemy, and marvel at how Consolata has managed to keep the truth about her sister's activities from the Germans.

However, those who know the two sisters better, will point out that despite many, many partisan attacks on German supply columns in the area, not one has ever struck the Oberst's convoy, and the Hitler's notorious "10 for 1" anti-partisan order has never been actively implemented in these parts. "There is no black and white in these matters", they say, "only many shades of grey..."

© Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved.
Then there is Leutnant Sturmflut, another figure destined to be an objective marker...

© Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved.

The sentries are from Foundry, with their officer from the Artizan Late War German range. The Kubelwagen and driver are from Warlord, with the passengers from Company B. The downed Luftwaffe pilot is part of a Foundry pack. Violetta Gramsci is the limited edition  figure sold with Warlord's Bolt Action Armies of France and the Allies title.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Gaming Gallery Update: Battle of Nicaea, 1097

© 2014 Lindsay Hall. All Rights Reserved

I have updated the Gaming Gallery with a selection of images by Peninsula Wargames Group member Lindsay Hall, of a game played this weekend in Johannesburg. A very impressive table's worth of First Crusade-era figures...

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Battlefields: Spionkop, 1900

© Copyright 2014 Lindsay Hall. All Rights Reserved.
Peninsula Wargames Group stalwart Lindsay Hall was kind enough to offer this blog these photographs taken from his recent visit to the Spionkop battle site. He reports that the site is well preserved and both the battlefield and the monuments are fenced. It is administered by Amafa Heritage kwaZulu-Natal, and there is a small entrance fee. There are six interpretation boards on the site, in addition to the graves and monuments. Amafa dont offer guided tours of the battlefield, but there are many independent guides in the area who can include the site on their itineraries.

© Copyright 2014 Lindsay Hall. All Rights Reserved.

I havent been to the site in decades, but can never forget the stark lines of stones that mark both the original trenchlines and the subsequent mass graves of the British and their local allies, caught in that "acre of massacre" (in the famous words of the war correspondent John Atkins).

© Copyright 2014 Lindsay Hall. All Rights Reserved.

© Copyright 2014 Lindsay Hall. All Rights Reserved.

© Copyright 2014 Lindsay Hall. All Rights Reserved

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Monday, 5 May 2014

Peninsula Wargames Group: Bolt Action @ Okinawa

© Copyright Greg Pullin 2014. All Rights Reserved.
Pic courtesy of and copyright of Greg Pullin.
The Cape Town-based Peninsula Wargames Group played a 3000 point per side Bolt Action game. Nine players signed up, with the game organised and umpired by David Davidson, who compiled the following After Action Report:

Background (from Wikipedia)

The Battle of Okinawa, codenamed Operation Iceberg, was fought on the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa and was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War of World War II. The 82-day-long battle lasted from early April until mid-June 1945. After a long campaign of island hopping, the Allies were approaching Japan, and planned to use Okinawa, a large island only 340 mi (550 km) away from mainland Japan, as a base for air operations on the planned invasion of Japanese mainland (coded Operation Downfall). Four divisions of the U.S. 10th Army (the 7th, 27th, 77th, and 96th) and two Marine Divisions (the 1st and 6th) fought on the island. Their invasion was supported by naval, amphibious, and tactical air forces.

I chose this campaign as it’s one where we can historically field both US Marines and US Army forces.

© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved.



This scenario was loosely based on an attack by US forces on Japanese positions around an airfield (there were several on the island). We used Scenario 3: Point Defence in the BA rulebook, but with five, not three, objectives, to accommodate the larger forces. We played on a 10’ by 6’ table (mainly so we could accommodate the team of nine participants!), so added 6” to the movement of all reinforcements arriving on the base or side table edges on the bound they arrive on the table to partially compensate for this. (We also added 12” to the distance along the relevant short board edge for outflanking units.) The victory conditions were also modified to reflect the larger number of objectives:

Objectives held by US
Decisive Japanese victory
Marginal Japanese victory
2 or 3
Marginal US victory
Decisive US victory

© Copyright Greg Pullin 2014. All Rights Reserved.
Pic courtesy of and copyright of Greg Pullin.


The forces

Both sides deployed around 3000 points worth of kit. The US had three reinforced platoons: one Marine platoon of two eleven-man squads, tooled up with all the possible late-war Marine “goodies” such as shotguns, pistols, BARs etc, plus an officer and the usual supports (armoured transport(s), mortar, MMG, bazooka, sniper); another veteran tough-fighting Army platoon with a similar organization; and a slightly smaller veteran engineer platoon with two squads with integral flamethrower, officer and softskin transport. Importantly, the Americans also took two forward air observation teams – more on them shortly. Even more importantly, they had two Shermans and an M5A1 Stuart. The Japanese had two reinforced platoons, with five 13-strong squads split between them, and a good selection of the usual supports, including no less than that SEVEN tanks (this is not in line with the usual generic platoon lists, but we were short of Japanese infantry and one of our club members had gone on a Chi-Ha painting spree, doing four the night before the game). The Japanese also had one forward artillery observer, who would also make his presence felt.

© Copyright David Davidson 2014. All Rights Reserved.
Pic courtesy of and copyright of David Davidson.


The game

The objectives were the two buildings (one a hanger) and emplacement around the airfield, and the two emplacements on either hill overlooking the airfield – all in the Japanese deployment zone as per the scenario. Some Japanese planes were parked on the airfield, but ruled as grounded due to lack of fuel, so were just there for show (although in game terms providing potential soft cover). The Japanese decided to risk the preliminary bombardment, and put most of their forces on table, keeping only a few reserves.

The game started with the US preliminary bombardment arriving on schedule – and it proved very effective in pinning the Japanese, some of the pin markers staying in place for almost the whole game. The US commander also rather cannily kept used most of his order dice for his 2nd wave, waiting as long as possible in the first bound before starting to move on the 1st wave. The US tactics were to be a main thrust down the centre road by the Marine platoon and US infantry platoon, with the engineers sent around to the left flank on an outflanking manoevre.

The preliminary bombardment caused the Japanese commander some initial consternation, as they had used the “ambush tactics” special rule to put much of their forces into ambush. Once pinned by the opening US bombardment, no further orders could be issued to “unpin” these units in the first bound – showing that this rule can be a double-edged sword, or katana in this case! A veteran US Sherman quickly appeared – the inevitable Japanese reserve shot from a pinned AT gun missed, to no one’s surprise - and the M4 immediately brewed up one Japanese Type 97 Chi Ha after inflicting massive damage on the lightly armoured tank, taking full advantage of its gyro-stabilized main gun. (Indeed, the Shermans’ performance in this game was on par with what one usually associates with King Tigers!) The US also called in two airstrikes immediately, as did the Japanese with their artillery.

Bound two started with the Japanese artillery barrage arriving on target, and causing a LOT of pins on the US forces. Things rapidly went from worrying to potentially catastrophic for the US, as the Japanese tank fleet sensibly ignored the Shermans (heavily armoured by Pacific standards) and focused on the US armoured transports instead. Within a few shots, two M3 Halftracks and a LVT4 were either destroyed or immobilized with their former passengers pinned down (both figuratively and in Bolt Action terms, literally!) However, things weren’t going all the way of the sons of Nippon. The first US airstrike arrived, and the Corsair immediately shredded some Japanese defenders around the airfield. Also, the Shermans (now joined by an M5A1 Stuart) were continuing their anti-tank rampage, destroying Japanese armour as it appeared.

© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All Rights Reserved.

© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All Rights Reserved.

© Copyright Grant Burke 2014. All Rights Reserved.
Pic courtesy of and copyright of Grant Burke.

Nonetheless, by mid-game, things were really looking bad for the US in general – with their central attack pinned down, and with no objectives taken, it looked as though the US might have to pull back and try again, conceding defeat. However, both luck and determination stood the US forces in good stead. Another aircraft arrived, it turned out to be a rookie pilot, but a special rule for this game requiring that that friendly fire be directed at a target within 24” on the original target resulted in one of those strange things which happen in wargames (and also of course in war). The new target, a Sherman, shrugged off the hail of bullets with no more than a pin or two, but the Japanese infantry all around it were ALSO pinned in style, as was a Japanese Kai Shinoto (upgraded type 97). Even worse, the pins from the Hellcat were just enough to reach that tank’s morale value and it was also put out of action!

In the centre, the US had got their infantry moving again- the veteran infantry with a major in close proximity had passed their order tests easily – and continued fire had whittled down the central Japanese defenders in the forward airfield position. Also, on the US left flank, the Engineers had arrived, and despite the first squad being overwhelmed by a Japanese Banzai! charge, the 2nd squad was closing in on the Japanese hill emplacement, with the Japanese now badly outnumbered.

In bound 5, the US pulled off a surprise upset. On their left flank, having wiped out the Japanese defenders to a man after another Banzai! charge, they occupied the hill objective on their left. Additionally, they seized the central trench line on the airfield, giving them a draw with two objectives held. The day had been long (the game had been going on for six hours by this stage, including set-up), and with no obvious changes likely in bound 6 (or a possible bound 7) we called the game, with the result a draw.

“Movie moments”

Most good games seem to have these, and my personal selection as umpire included:
  • The very effective US preliminary bombardment;
  • The equally effective Japanese artillery barrage;
  • The stunningly effective ”friendly fire” air attack which somehow managed to destroy a Japanese tank despite actually being forced to target a Sherman. (On the Western front, the saying was “when the RAF arrives, the Germans duck; when the Luftwaffe arrives, the Allies duck; and when the USAAF arrives, everyone ducks!”)
  • The Banzai! charge against the Engineers on the Japanese right flank. It didn’t eventually change the game but it was right in character and really surprised the US engineers (and their commander!)
The prize for the best unit on the table goes to the US tanks. (One sees Shermans in a new light when they are not fighting late-war German armour!) Two M4s and one M5A1 destroyed or crippled all seven Japanese tanks by the end of the game. The prize for the worst unit on the table goes to the snipers on both sides, all of whom either kept their heads down most of the game, or missed whatever they shot at.

The players

  • Umpire and scenario designer: David Davidson
  • US forces: Anthony van Dijk (US CiC); Grant; Charles Freestone; Mike Schubert.
  • Japanese forces: Lindsay Hall (Japanese CiC) ; Michael Karsten; Greg Pullin; Evan Gotte (the last holding the current record for speed-painting Japanese tanks) 



For players without the Armies of US and Japan books, here are the standard army special rules, summarized briefly, as well as two house rules we played. Special rules –  US
  • Fire and Maneuver: US infantry squads can move and fire without usual -1 movement penalty.
  • Gyro-stablised: Suitably equipped US veteran tanks can move and fire without usual -1 movement penalty.
  • Air superiority: Forward Air Observer can call in two strikes per game.
  • Modern communications: Units moving on from reserve do so without usual -1 penalty.
Special rules –  Japan
  • Death before dishonor: All units are fanatics (p70 main rules) and infantry and artillery units automatically pass morale tests when attacked by tanks.
  • Banzai charge: Infantry may charge/move towards closest visible enemy, automatically passing Order test.
  • Ambush tactics: Any units starting Hidden (p 117 main rules) may also be in Ambush.
  • Show your loyalty: Green troops with 6: of Kempetai officer may re-roll Green die roll.
House rules:
  • Spotters, medics and forward observation teams cannot claim (or dispute) objectives. They may also not be used to crew vehicle mounted weapons.
  • Aircraft attacks: for “friendly fire” on the air strike chart (the “rookie” pilot rule, p.65), hidden friendly units cannot be targeted. (The rules prohibit air or artillery strikes from deliberately targeting hidden units; we extend this to friendly fire incidents involving aircraft). Also for this game, only friendly units with 24” of the designated target (as with artillery) can be targeted under this rule.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Why painting challenges rock

Seems like my Soviet units are like buses - wait for one forever, and then two arrive pretty much at the same time.

Blame the Guild forum for this. They (like many others) run a series of painting challenges. In addition to an annual challenge, in which you pledge to produce quarterly results in a chosen theme, there are shorter, focused painting challenges on themes set by the forum admin. At the end of each challenge, forum members vote for the winners. Small prizes are awarded to the winners, and all those who entered get recognition of their efforts in the form of "campaign medals" that get displayed on their forum profile.

I have really started to enjoy entering these challenges - as it encourages a more "completionist" (is that a word?) approach and discourages my ADHD hobby tendency. Once I enter or pledge to a challenge, I seem to make more of an effort to get the project done.  Yes, its a bit strange that I hold myself accountable to a bunch of strangers in a remote corner of the web, but I see it more about making a commitment to myself to get something done.

Also, because I know my hobby time is limited, I forces me to think very carefully before each challenge as to what is achievable, and not to over-commit. Fewer over-ambitious projects get started, and therefore fewer get abandoned put aside as my interest wanes. And with that comes a true appreciation of the scale of the lead (and resin) pile that has accumulated in my hobby room. With a more conscious awareness of how much I can paint, I have become more careful and more selective with my purchases - fewer impulse buys of miniatures that are doomed to stay unpainted.

Now, there is no way I am ever in contention for any of the prizes  - the standard of painting by the prizewinners is way beyond my skills. I count myself lucky to get a vote or two each round. But that doesnt mean that its a process only for better painters - there is a good spread of skill levels and all entries get positive feedback and encouragment. Why the Guild rather than other sites that run challenges? I guess its because it has a good overlap with my current interests - the entries are predominantly of WW2 miniatures, but entries outside of that interest are treated with the same respect. It also has a good sense of community, and is independent of any wargames company. (There are multiple sponsors - mostly individuals, but also a range of manufacturers.)

This year my annual challenge pledge is the continuation of the deliberately broad Africa/Italy/Balkans WW2 in 28mm project: at this stage mostly my South Africans in Italy, and their opponents, but I can see by the end of the year a potential to shift to the East African campaign.

The shorter-term themed challenges I hope to use to chip away at the lead pile, and get units painted that otherwise would linger beyond my interest in them.

The downside I guess is that because of time limitations, I have found myself taking shortcuts with builds: in some cases small details that I would have normally corrected were allowed to stand. Not sure if this is all bad. Maybe it will cure me of my tendency to get bogged down in the details.

Red Army 120mm Mortar Team

© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved

Produced for the most recent speed painting challenge on The Guild forum.

The figures were selected from the Bolt Action Soviet Forward Observer blister and the 120mm Mortar Team (since I purchased this, Warlord have apparently added another figure to the mortar blister).

If it wasnt for this being a speed build, I think I would have made different decisions:

  • I was very unhappy with the scale difference of the rifles on the various figures - and I think I would normally have dremeled off the sidearms and replaced them with consistently-scaled rifles. I have noticed this before with the Bolt Action Soviets - there seem to be vast differences in scale and style of sculpts between blisters.
  • The mortar ammo and ammo cases were all over the place, scale-wise, and I think I should have scratch-built replacements.
  • The spotter with the map has 5 fingers AND a thumb on his left hand - I didnt notice this until I washed in some ink, and then I was a way down the road with the painting, and decided I couldnt afford the time to correct it.

There were times – early in process – that I considered abandoning the entire project – even on the nicer sculpts (from the spotter blister) there was a lot of flash and mould slip, and the mortar crew proper were nasty-looking castings. Not ideal entries for a competitive build! I hope that with the repackaging of the mortar team they took the opportunity to remaster and correct these issues.

© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved
© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved

In the end I wont be too unhappy with them on the table (especially as more often than not I will only be using the spotter team, assuming the weapon is off-table), but I normally try to approach things with less of a wargaming attitude and more of a scale modellers attitude.

© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved
Figures from the Warlord Games Soviet 120mm Mortar Team blister (since repackaged to 4 figures).

© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved
Figures from the Warlord Games Soviet FOO blister.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Monks for Saga

Image © Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All Rights Reserved.
Furious friars. Miffed monks. Piqued padres. Call them what you like, here is my next unit for games of Saga. Standing in for levies, with a few special rules to offend their opponents, they can be used in any warband that is not Viking-based.

The pack of twelve from Gripping Beast includes only four poses, so I swapped out most of their weapons with agricultural implements to create a better impression of variety. A couple of figures also got shields ("…Brother Thomas, ever the pragmatist, was of the firm opinion that when fighting Vikings one needed more that the shield of faith and the sword of spirit." He was supported in this stance by Brother Winston the Englishman, who argued that 'one should first fight Vikings on the beaches, and then in the fields, and then in the hills, if any of us are left'. " )

Image © Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All Rights Reserved.
Image © Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All Rights Reserved.
These used the same speed-painting style I used for the rest of my Saga figures: prime; block and detail; Army Painter dip; and a simple single-stage highlight to finish.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Red Army Assault Engineers

© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reservedIts been a very long time since I added any models to my Soviet force. This is despite having a comprehensive collection of late war Red Army figures in the lead pile. Every time I made a decision as to what to paint next, the Soviets got pushed down the list.

Two things combined to get these lads on to the painting table. First, another whole army of Soviets - an early war force thanks to the Baker Company Winter War Kickstarter - are due to arrive soon, and I felt I needed to make a start on what I already had. Second, earlier in the year I had rashly entered a painting challenge over on The Guild board - and when the first theme for the year was announced as  "Armour", these figures got the nod.

The figures are from Warlord games, and were the usual Warlord quality: characterful sculpts with a few small casting flaws here and there, but overall a pleasure to paint.

Its got me thinking as to whats next for my Soviet force. This unit need some transport, and it wont do to give them a softskin... White Scout car or two? M5 halftracks? Whatever it is it will be bristling with .30 and .50 Brownings...

© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved

© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved

© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved

© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved

© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved

Monday, 10 March 2014

Scots for Saga

Image © Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All Rights Reserved.
Every now and then I give myself a break from painting World War 2 miniatures. It rests my eyes a bit, allows me to paint with a different palette, and I like to chose figures that either dont need any research (scifi, fantasy etc) or are from an era that I know so little about that I dont bother with research. It allows me to paint "instinctively" and experiment with new techniques.

Here are the fruits of such a break - a 6 point Saga warband painted using a much faster technique than I am used to - block, detail, army painter dip and then a basic highlight on each colour. The figures are from Gripping Beast, and I must say they were a pleasure to paint - clear, uncluttered detail and clean castings. Shield and banner decals are from Little Big Men Studios.

Before these pix were taking this warband got two severe maulings - the first from a Viking warband (the traditional first game mauling that any freshly painted wargame army gets) and the second the same evening from one of the family cats: I had left the tray of figures on a table in the entrance hall after getting back from the game, and felix domesticus had decided to investigate. Most of the force was on the floor by the time I intervened.

Some figures required repairs to weapons and shields, and small touchups....

Image © Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Image © Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Image © Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All Rights Reserved.Image © Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Image © Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Natal Mounted Rifles M5 Halftrack

© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved
This is another Natal Mounted Rifles vehicle that I have recently completed: an M5 halftrack. Rivet counters should avert their eyes, because this is a highly speculative representation.

Firstly, I am not 100% sure that the NMR used halftracks in Italy. The M5s are mentioned in a August 1944 operations report as being the most suitable vehicle for the NMR infantry platoons, but it is not clear whether the author was suggesting they be used in the future , or reporting on their previous use.

Secondly, I am not at all sure that the NMR M5s (if the regiment indeed used them) were painted in the Light Mud/Blue Black pattern. No photograph of which I am aware shows South African halftracks in anything other that Olive Drab or SCC 15. Its not clear exactly when the SA 6th Armoured Division received its first halftracks, but one source suggests that it was as late as May 1944. This is shortly before the issue of  "Allied Armies in Italy Routine Order 150" which detailed the repainting of all vehicles to a overall dark green or olive drab equivalent. So while it is possible this pattern was used for a short time, it is unlikely.

Despite the lack of solid evidence, I wanted to finish the vehicle in this way to maintain coherence with the rest of my force, which is currently exclusively in Light Mud/Blue Black pattern. I know I need to add a number of Olive Drab vehicles to my force shortly, to represent the Division later in the war, but frankly I am not looking forward to that - to me those vehicles will lose their distinct "Italian Campaign" identity and look like too many other  late war Allied forces in Europe.

This is the resin kit from Warlord Games, with baggage from Warlord and Die Waffenkammer.

© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved
© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved

© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved

© Copyright Golf Alpha Zulu 2014. All rights reserved