In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Shambling to Attention

I think most of you are familiar with George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman books. If you aren't, then where have you been hiding? Go read them. Now.

GMFs MacAuslan stories are very much a hidden gem, not getting the same sort of attention that the rollicking adventures of Sir Harry F get. There isn't any sex, or death avoiding adventures in exotic locales. The MacAuslan stories are very different in tone. Quietly humorous and with a deep affection for the soldiers portrayed.

During WW2 GMF served as an infantryman in the 17th Indian Division ("the Black Cats"), part of the 14th Army in India, Burma and Malaya. He describes this experience in his war memoir Quartered Safe Out Here, which is one of the best war memoirs I've ever read. You should go read it. Now. After reaching the dizzying heights of Lance Corporal he was selected for Officers training. By the time he was commissioned, the war was over and he joined his regiment, the Gordon Highlanders doing occupation duty in Libya.

His experiences as a young 2Lt and then Lt, learning how to command a platoon of battle hardened, canny Jocks is what he turned into the short stories featuring Pvt. J MacAuslan "the dirtiest soldier in the world." These stories are a wonderful glimpse of a lost time and world, as the British army was consciously transforming itself from fighting a world war and being an Imperial policeman to something new and strange in the post-Imperial, Cold War world. He commands a troop train in Palestine, worried about Jewish terrorists. He finds himself facing an angry Libyan mob, uncomfortably aware that it's him (a young Lt) and his 30 Jocks with their Enfield rifles standing between the quiet city and an orgy of burning, looting and rape. He has to mount Ceremonial Guard at Edinburgh Castle in front of VIPs and Royalty, only to have one of his kilt straps break mid parade. There is a tense golf tournament with regimental honour at stake and the Walking Disaster, MacAuslan caddying for the RSM. As Battalion Sports Officer he finds himself managing the football team, who know football better than he. He worries he isn't being accepted by the Jocks, when he discovers they have an affectionate nick name for him and think he's 'canny'. A lot of the worries and burdens of a subaltern are portrayed here, which would make the book useful reading for any junior officer. GMF originally presented these stories as fiction, because some of the characters were composites and some of the events didn't happen exactly as told. But as he admits in the Afterword, describing a meeting and drinks with his old CO, there's a lot of truth in the stories, even the unlikely character of MacAuslan.

MacAuslan often, through dumb luck, ends up a bit of a hero. Even though he's filthy, can't march and his kit is in permanent disarray, MacNeil and the platoon have a soft spot for him too. Because even though they have to hide his kit in a closet and get MacAuslan out of garrison during any major inspection, he tries hard and has the North Africa medal (if he can find it) and advanced with rusty bayonet against Rommel at Alamein and Tobruk, and to MacNeil (and GMF) that deserves some consideration.

The story in which MacNeil and MacAuslan are demobilized is quite touching, showing the strange affection between them. It reminded me of my own 'MacAuslan's'. Cadets who can't march, can't keep their uniform clean or tucked in, often late. But they keep cheerfully trying. You get exasperated and yell, you chide, you nag. But for some reason they like you, remembering the times you were considerate and patient, even when you can't. And sometimes they surprise you too. After they've given their final awkward salute and bear marched away, you can't help but wonder how they'll get on. Even though they aren't your responsibility any longer, the bond, and the worry that comes with it, is still there.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Digging In (pt. 2)

I started these exactly FIVE years ago, when the Mad Padre lived a half hour away and would sometimes come over for an evening of painting.
Canadian section 

German section 

I got them all together and sprayed black, where they then sat on the shelf for FIVE YEARS! Last week I went over to Dick's house for a hobby night and having finished my latest purchases I grabbed these from the lead pile to pick away at them. Well, I made a lot of progress and got them finished this weekend.


There was one prone figure throwing a grenade. So for some reason he's crawling around outside of his foxhole.

Pretty simple paint jobs. The castings aren't great, but they look good enough to do the job. For the German camouflage smocks and helmet covers I used a light green base then blotches of mid brown and dark green. The German LMG positions with overhead cover started as prone figures,  but I have enough prone MG42 teams and they should be dug in like everyone else. So this is how I'm disguising their chopped off torsos.
All the Canadians 

All the Germans 

I have a full platoon of Canadian/British and three weak platoons for the Germans. Or the Germans can have 2x platoons dug in and the 3rd in reserve or using my Flames of War entrenchments.

So some more knocked off the lead pile. I'm feeling pleased with myself.

Did I say it's taken 5 years to finish these? And I'm pretty sure that they were in The Pile for a few years before that.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Two Big Games

For our normal Saturday evening game I suggested to Dick that we get his ancient armies out for some Hail Caesar. His reply of "Hot damn!" lead to Mike and I arriving to the table below.

Successor pikes and elephants lined a ridge facing six 60 figure legions plus allies and cavalry. 

Thessalian cavalry and elephants thrash the Roman cavalry wing
I messed up some rules, but we moved A LOT of toys around and had a pretty good cavalry fight on the one wing with the Roman cavalry getting broken. On the other wing Mike had blundered several units off table,  but I wasn't getting good enough command rolls to do anything about it.

In the centre we had just gotten to the infantry clash when it was time to call it.

Pikes crash into legions.  The Hastati in one got vaporised  

Just some of Dick's lovely terrain 

Then on Sunday I finished my PE-2 bomber from True North Miniatures  (started by my friend Don, but now made under licence by Old Glory), and decided to have a ridiculous tank heavy bash of I Ain't Been Shot, Mum to put it and my new Russian tanks on the table. 

The scenario was a Light Panzer Company (3 platoons with a mix of PzIs and PzIIs and a 4th platoon of PzIIIe) with a platoon of Panzer Grenadiers and section of Panzer Jaeger Is exploiting a breakthrough. Facing them are 2 weak platoons of Rifles with 2x 45mm AT guns, 2x MMGs and 2x ATR teams. The Russians also got trenches. Rushing to counterattack are a platoon of T34s, 2x platoons of T26s and BT7s, a recce group with my lone T60 and BA7 armoured car and the KV2. Both sides got 'Armoured Bonus move' and 'breakdown'. Germans got 2x 'Rally' Russians only one. Germans got 2x 'Support' cards for sorties of Stukas, the Russians got one for the PE2 bomber. 

The Stukas showed up a lot but often missed. Although after being directed against the frightening KV2 a lot one finally got a direct hit and the other crashed. The PE2 only showed up a few times and missed.

Before getting destroyed by a 500 pound bomb, the KV2 had been in a long range duel with a PzJgr I, 152mm shells crashing around it but never brewing it up. Although the tank destroyer was close to bailing out from shock when the Luftwaffe finally destroyed the monster. 
The world's luckiest PzJgrI trading shots with the KV-2

When you REALLY need to kill a tank
The Russians made good use of the "Armoured Bonus Move" card to run the T34s behind the main German armoured thrust where they promptly started blowing up Panzer IIIs.

PzIs shooting up Russian infantry 
Panzer Is and IIs did prove useful in shooting up entrenched Russian infantry, but they did die quick.
T26s engage Germans 

BT7s and T26 rolling through burning and abandoned Panzers 

Panzer Grenadiers clear some woods 
I did get an idea to take some of the detail out of the tank damage. Just let shock accumulate unless a gun is knocked out or the tank immobilized. All the temporary negatives to movement and shooting are hard to track.

Maybe I should replay it without the infantry?

Friday, January 11, 2019

Za Rhodina!

The nice thing about the night shift is having the Friday off.

Today I had no appointments or other intrusions from Real Life, so I was able to paint up the latest reinforcements for the heroic defenders of the Peasants and Workers Revolution.

3x T26 tanks for 1941 and 3x SU76 SPGs for 1942 and on wards. I'd been tempted by something bigger like SU100s or SU152s, but the venerable SU76 was the second most produced tank (T34 being #1 obviously). 14000 of them. For every bigger self propelled gun there were 14 or more of the "little bitches." They weren't popular with their crews, hard to drive and they felt exposed. But they were popular with the infantry.

I used a PSC commander to put a commander in a hatch of one of the T26s.

I also painted the SU crew separately. Which is odd for me, but they were attached by their feet so I wouldn't have to do any annoying fixing after cutting them off. Holding them in a clothes peg helped a lot.

Here we are:

Gamers always diss the T26, but it's 45mm gun can kill any thing the Germans have in 1941, and it's kinda cute.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Dastardly Decals!

Bit of a change in gears and knocking some more off the lead pile by working on 15mm WW2 armour.

Got these Plastic Soldier Company M5 half tracks assembled earlier in the fall. I added some extra stowage from my bits box. Mikey brought back another metal M5 from Historicon so I added it as well.

I've also had some Ram Kangaroos in the pile for about 4 or 5 years. I got them when I had the store. Battlefront are quite reasonable when you can get them at wholesale. I added some extra figures to fill the troop compartment and some stowage.

Now back when I started I intended "just a basic infantry company and a few supports." Now I have a full squadron of tanks and enough armoured carriers to lift the company,  the supports and the Padre with his cat!

I've been trying put air recognition allied stars on the hoods of the M5s and plain stars on the sides of all of them. But the hinges on the hoods keep the decals from sticking down and I have to try and cut the circles off because I have no plain stars. So damned decal frustration. I think I'll just dirty these models up with a dry brush of "Mississippi Mud" and call them done for now. I can always source other decals later.

Speaking of decals. I had a friend pick up some German and Russian decals from Old Glory at Fall In and have been trying to add them. They are Skytrex decals which use an old decal system which aren't water slide and don't like to stick to a matte surface.

You have to cut out a flimsy brittle paper. Wet the surface and stick the decal on paper side up. Then wet the paper and wait until you can peel the paper off. Don't wet it too much or things slide around. Don't wait too long or the paper dries stuck to your model. Either way you lose adhesive and the decal starts to lift at an edge.

Not recommended.

Also glammed up my early war Panzers with some air recognition panels. I just did a Google image search and printed them off.  The rare panel with the balkencruz can be seen in a picture from the Russian Front in the mid-war so I put it on one of my mid-war STuGs. The pop of red is very striking.

Finally I have added to the lead pile with some T26 tanks, SU76 SPGs and a PE2 bomber all from Old Glory to boost my early war Russians. But they will be quick to paint and are already moving off the lead pile.

Yes, that is a PSC commander added to the hatch of a Command Decision T26. The SUs come with crew too, which is super nice. I hate open topped AFVs without crew.

The Russians really only need some more infantry and field guns now.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Rudolph's Last Stand

"Christmas crackers I'm c-c-cold!" whined Tinkle the Elf as he packed more snow together into a big ball. His hands were raw and chapped. It would hurt a lot when he got back to sewing doll clothes. If he got back to the warm workshop that is.

"Hurry up slowcoaches!" bellowed Frosty, the giant, enchanted and right now, rather frightening, snowman. 

Freeble the Elf quickly jammed some twig arms and a carrot nose onto the snowman Tinkle had just made. Frosty then waved his twig arms over it and it jerked to life, rolling off to join the ranks of the other snowmen brought to life by Frosty. Frosty moved to the front of the white silent phalanx of snowmen, waved his hat in command and they all silently moved towards the front.

Tinkle was worried. For ages they had lived quietly at Santa's Workshop making toys and singing happy elf songs. When Mrs. Claus started baking extra large Gingerbread men he hadn't worried. Then the orders came out of the office to stop making toys and start on spears and shields. Lots of them. The extra big gingerbread men were now armed and defending Santa's workshop, alongside some rather scary teaddy bears. Now it was all set to end in fire and tears.

A platoon of huge nutcrackers lumbered past, arms and legs clacking militantly.

In the distance Tinkle and Freeble heard the braying of harsh horns and the bellowing of strange beasts. Wolves howled. Then a dragon roared. It's wings beating like a rush of wind, it swept low over the village. It belched flame and the Toy Express exploded in a shower of sparks. Harsh goblin cries of triumph greeted the sudden onset of doom.

"We'll see about that you foul beast of Hell!" cried a bearded figure in red cloak and bishop's mitre. St. Nicholas raised his staff and opened a huge book, uttering words of power. Multicoloured sparks crackled smiting the dragon. The fell beast roared in pain, mortally wounded and fled the field.

"Hooray! Hooray!" shouted Tinkle and Freeble as they danced in the snow. They ran to the kitchen and each grabbing a mug of hot chocolate, they climbed to the roof to watch the unfolding battle.

Everywhere they looked there were dark masses of goblins and big lumbering trolls. To the left of the smashed and smoking train was a force of black knights, goblins riding wolves and dire wolves lead by a black robed wraith with a glowing sword. "oooooh he looks scary" said Tinkle, slurping at his hot chocolate.

"But look!" shouted Freeble. A big angry goose, backed up by Snow White and her Dwarf friends, plus Cinderella and some animals were attacking the wraith. Birds and deer skirmished around the Naughty cavalry, jabbing and dashing away. The goose honked and hissed, snapping its beak at the black wraith. Dumbo the elephant flew low over the evil cavalry, pooping on them. "eeew!" squealed the Elves. "Dumbo, don't be gross!"

Under constant assault, the wolves and black knights were whittled away. The wraith cut the goose's head off, but it was too late to make a breakthrough to the workshop. Frosty had built his battle line of snowmen, who began hurling snowballs at the evil forces.

To their right, Tinkle and Freeble could see that the goblins and trolls had advanced the furthest, right up to the river. A platoon of nutcrackers stopped on the other bank, watching with impassive painted eyes as the black goblins massed opposite. Suddenly KA-BOOM! The nutcrakers exploded taking the goblins with them. Some plucky children, told by Mrs. Claus to stay back and keep out of mischief, ran forward, hurling snowballs at the survivors.

Rudolph bellowed his war cry, leading some reindeer forward across the river. Goblin and troll bellows answered as the evil horde emerged from the forest. Beasts, good and evil, crashed into each other. Scimitars and claws met hooves and swords. Reindeer fought valiantly but were ground down under a wave of hatred. Rudolph leaped from a rock into the horde of Naughtiness. A mighty troll crashed down, it's black blood staining the snow, goblins fled in panic, but a company of hobgoblins swarmed over Rudolph, cutting him down while the rest of his herd fled.

In the center, Santa Claus charged forward with some nutcrackers and abominable snowmen, swinging a sword in one hand and his sack (loaded with coal for today's naughty list) in the other. Goblins and trolls fought hard beside the still burning train. A nutcracker toppled like a mighty tree. A troll bellowed in pain and fled the field. Tinkle and Feeble spotted a black robed figure with a staff trying to cast spells on Santa, but his innate magic warded them off.

A few more goblins and trolls stumbled out of the forest on the far left, but they were disorganized and met by the hosts of Gingerbread warriors. Some gingerbread got eaten, but many more stabbed goblins and trolls first.

Soon Tinkle and Freeble could see black figures running away all over the field. "Hooray! Hooray!" they shouted, dancing on the kitchen roof, waving their cocoa mugs. "Christmas is saved!"

That was the opening game of my gang's annual holiday gaming get together. It was a massive 12 player game of Dragon Rampant. Pete and David spent about 8 months building the Forces of Nice; snowmen out of sculpy, gingerbread men and teddy bears made from buttons and thumb tacks, a few novelty Christmas miniatures and some nutcracker tree ornaments. I brought my Nazgul and the Legions of Angmar to be the Forces of Naughty. Pete says he's going to make some dedicated Naughty troops for next year.

Pete introduced Naughty or Nice cards. Anyone wearing something seasonal got an extra card. Half were lumps of coal, half gave bonuses to moving shooting etc. St. Nicholas played a card giving rerolls on misses when he attacked my dragon, scoring 11 hits and knocking 20 of my 160 points out if the game! I got lumps of coal in my cards.

The day was also the inauguration of Dick's basement of toys and his TWENTY-FOUR foot gaming table. The next round we did a game at each end. Dan put on a game featuring Canadian Peacekeeprs in Somalia trying to keep rival warlord factions from looting the UN Camp. At my end we played Pig Wars; four bands of Vikings all looking to get a piece of the Bishop's treasure. I didn't win, but I didn't lose as badly as some of the other guys.

After dinner most of the crew left, so the six remaining die hards played What A Tanker using some tanks from Dick's 1:32nd scale collection. This is I believe, is exactly what WaT was made for. Something fun after the main games are done. I didn't blow up.
Ceiling mobile 

Dick's 1:32nd scale tanks 

One end. Pont du Hoc top shelf. Minas Tirith next shelf. ACW and The Alamo on the lower two shelves. 

Close up of LOTR toys

The other end of the room

Seating in front of movie screen 

Food was eaten. Dice were rolled. Fun was had. A grand way to see out the old year.