Friday, 31 January 2014

The Canny New Cromwell from Airfix

Following on from the new nasty new King Tiger II from Airfix (boo hiss, too big and too nasty for the Western Allies) is the one that was always missing from any source when I was a kid, a Cromwell at last! The closest was the Matchbox  conversion of a Comet (the likes of which I never dared attempt as a pimply teenager.)

So .. even though I had seven ['three' from Revell, 'two' from HaT, 'one' from Frontline Models and 'one' from Cromwell Models] the Airfix one was just a must. I was not disappointed, in fact I'd give it a 100% on the pleasure to build scale. Top marks as it is well detailed, perfect molding but best yet, it has the best track ever (and noy just Airfix).

The molded plastic in a "one piece" assembly, brilliant, as it incorporates authentic sag over the wheels, without the multi-part nightmare of tiny pieces going and not going together. Did I say it was brilliant yet? Yes I did, well I meant it (see below):


Well the tester was a success, superb in fact so I plan to get another two kits to flush out another squadron for a Command Decision RTR OoB (sourcing the Sherman Fireflies to go with it from the Sherman RTR I have or another "source" hint [PSC]).

A very yummy modelling experience which made my Xmas break :)

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Airfix King Tiger Porsche

I had to get it despite having too many King Tigers already, (four in total, three of them Henshel [2 x Esci and 1 x Fujimi]turrets and one a Porsche [1 x Fujimi]). Seeing as Airfix had gone to all the trouble of making a new one it would be rude not to make one ;)

The new tooling is a dream and 95% of it is a pleasure to make, however they have strayed into the common trap of being too fussy with respect to the German complicated wheel arrangements at the expense of making the prongs that stick out to fit on the wheels too weak when you need strength in them the most (see below).

The issue comes to haunt the model maker when you try to "slip" the track over the running arrangement. I have to say first though that the new tracks are a massive improvement over the old Airfix tracks, better plastic and better connector design (as in, they have finally learnt from their old arch rivals Matchbox how to do it properly some forty years ago - I'm not complaining as they work now!) I found out that I bent one and had to take the precautionary measure of filling the space with Milliput as per below:

Despite this it looks a mean cat (see below), too mean for the venerable old Airfix Sherman and Churchill, plus the newcomer Cromwell which also is waiting in the wings for a chance to be made.

It is definitely a nice acquisition to have but part of me wishes they had gone back and "fixed" the Tiger I (it needs  a stowage bin and mud flaps) and made the mud skirts round the 234 armoured car the correct "late war" variant! I thought for a while they were going to do this as they released a Sherman Crab, a Sherman Calliope, the Matilda Hedgehog, a Crocodile Churchill and a Churchill Bridgelayer. These were effectively an existing kit with a new sprue stuck into it, which I thought made perfectly good sense. So why not the stowage bin on the Tiger and four little mud-flaps?

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Airfix Chi-Ha Type 97 - My most favourite Airfix AFV to put together

This IMHO is the most underrated Airfix model ever! It is an early war clanky tank that obviously owes much to the "Vickers six tonner" in its heritage (seen below before application of the flimsy Airfix tracks, which were wide enough just to say fitted a staple to fix them together):

But I think it the best detailed Airfix (original) I have come across and with the Japanese Infantry set the best kept secret just because the Far East is oft the forgotten theater of war (See below, with tracks added):

My only frustration (apart from the fact I will have to paint at some point in the near future, is to think up a reason to get a third. Two Japanese tanks seem more than enough in Command Decision (which is my marker OoB). I suppose I am in need of a "Command" tank ;)

The Chi-Ha could be used to combat the hoards of advancing T34/85's in Manchuria in 1945 which must have been the comedy match up of the century. It may be more of a fairer match-up against an Australian Matilda, Lee or M3 Stuart, but it would come off worse for wear against the US Sherman M4.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The Pelopnnesian War the "unsavory" Truth (Read All About It) : Reflections

I have to confess I am not the same wargamer I once was after I finished reading big T's (Thucydides) "History of the Peloponnesian War". No it did not break my spirit because it was a big book, quite the contrast in fact. As I read more I rather got into it. However I was expecting to be uplifted, as I was after reading Big H's (Herodotus) "The Histories", but quite unexpectedly I felt unclean, as my values and perceptions had been radically changed. On reflection the "good guys" of the Persian Wars now looked rather "bad", in fact everything looked tacky, tardy and amateurish.

Originally I though the Persian Wars were where it was "at" in the ancient Greek period, but the Peloponnesian War is now the point of fascinating interest to me. Previously I had shunned it as a triviality or something I would like to rather forget about, as it seemed a case of two good friends fighting needlessly (Athens v Sparta) but I see now that I had it all wrong. In many ways it seem to be the defining moment in Greek history and a game changer in the conduct of war. The length of the war meant that hostilities were passed down through generations, with 'old scores' to settle which had faded from living memory, but used as excuses for action by the opportunistic figures of influence. The Greek reasoning often was caught up with the notion of "rank" among City States which often defied the pragmatics of winning a war in the most effective fashion (please see Song of Wrath for further details as this really needs to be read with the benefit of a professional author to do the concept justice)

It seems the factions of City States and alliances had more than enough potential to produce a pre-WWI wrecking scenario, but the seedy shifting nature of subterfuge between so called 'allies' was unbelievable in scale and duplicity. Another startling feature was the lack of "large battles" (Delium 424 and First Mantinea 418 BC) meant that is was a succession of short to medium size hoplite battles, ideal it has to be said for wargaming actions. To this end I am using "The Peloponnesian War", a solitaire game from Victory Games, as a further learning tool and source for tabletop battle generation.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

The "Tank" that scared me as a kid: T34 (Airfix classic 1/72 T34/76 and T34/85)

The assault on the unmade kit boxes continues. From "box 3" I present an Airfix T34 tank:

As a kid I didn't get my hands on one of these until my mid-teens. For some reason they never seemed to be in my model shop or I was plain unlucky and always last in the queue. 

For a mold that dates back to 1968 it is not bad at all, in fact very good. In fact the 85mm gun version (see below) is IMHO nicely to scale and is my 'preferred' model. 

So yes as a little 'present' to myself I got one, just for old times sake ;)

The best thing about the Airfix kit was that you got two tanks in one, the early war 76mm version to terrorize the Barbarossa Germans (see below):

Why did it scare me? Well it was because of a certain war comic called "Battle" that had an eastern front strip about a German tank commander. 

The Germans always got beaten up by the T34's with their low velocity PzIV 75mm's (aka my Airfix Pz IV's would be no natch for it). The German tanks were always getting stuck in the snow and became sitting ducks to Ivan.

The T34 was also far better than anything the western allies had at the time too and it seemed just "too good".  It didn't seem fair as they had hoards of them running over poor hapless German infantry. 

The only thing that could stop them was a German 88mm gun (aka from the classic Airfix flak kit) but unless it was in a Tiger it wasn't going to last long

Friday, 17 January 2014

Wild (Armoured) Horses Running Across my Desk (Perry Miniatures) Part 2

The armoured horse become mounted Men-At-Arms "without weapons", bar the one at the back (see below):

Now fully armed, they are grouped as either two formations of six men to a base for (poor) "Knights" or one deep formation twelve of "MAA" - which is my preference (see below):

The assembly may have caused me to 'curse all the saints profanely' and it really needed to take several nights of uncharacteristic patience, but I love them as they are beautifully detailed (see below):

I like them, especially the upright lance pose (see below):

Assembled is one thing, but getting them painted is quite another, see you next Xmas for that ;)

Sunday, 12 January 2014

The Coolest Present (IMHO) my 8 Year Old Son Got this Xmas!

And he made it all by himself before Daddy got a chance to help him, but I did put the decals on for him at the end :)

The only trouble being the Spitfire is that it is currently "missing its propeller" which is residing somewhere in my son's bedroom, hidden among the vast quantity of the lesser Star Wars Lego!

Friday, 10 January 2014

2013 Reflections and 2014 Resolutions and Predictions

2013 Reflections

Last year seemed to be a WW2 themed "project year", aka 'Battalion Attack' (from  Phil Sabin's, Simulating War) and finally painting my platoon of Platoon 20 late war British Infantry - which tied in nicely with the "Chain of Command" rule set I picked up from the Two Fat Lardies. One frustration of 2013 was too few quality wargames taking place during the 52 weeks and how long it took to learn 'Battalion Attack' and in turn spread the knowledge out to half a dozen fellow wargamers (we never got past the learning scenario in the book) and then get on to road test it with randomly generated scenarios (still a WIP continuing for 2014).

Even more remiss was the opportunity to do a comparative study against other miniature rule sets (Command Decision, Spearhead, WWII BattleFront and BGC).However the project has built up its own momentum that should be able to do this in 2014.

2014 Resolution and Predictions

Having said all the above I seemed to have acquired in 'dribs-and-drabs' during the year a fair amount of miscellaneous wargaming material in the process had a rather 'naughty' (guilty secret feeling) as my eye falling on three boxes of 20mm WWII and Modern models bulging out my loft space when I was digging out the Xmas decorations. So I need to make or discard, so my first resolution is to .. make (not necessarily paint) all those AFV kits still boxed this year or discard then to a better home (shock horror eBay). 

What follows naturally enough on from this is my first prediction that 2014 will become the year of the spray can (undercoating at least all the above and perhaps going as far as to lay down a base shade too), perhaps going as far as mastering the Army Painter painting technique

My second resolution is to assemble the few 28mm plastic Ancients (Impetus), Dark Ages (Saga) and Renaissance (Impetus) figure kits I have

My third resolution (on a roll now) is to stage The Fist Battle of Mantinea (418 BC) in 15mm using BBDBA rules, then convert my Ancient wargaming games to Phil Sabin's "Lost Battles/Strategos 2" for a more historical/realistic or sophisticated game. Related Note: An interesting solitaire board game I have is The Peloponnessian War from Victory Games which I hope to semi-automate the game process with my computing skills.

My forth resolution is to also return to a WWI (North Sea BCF Battles) and WW2 (Pacific/Med cruiser battles or a "Sink the Bismarck" hide and seek) naval theme and play with my little ships :)

Naturally my second prediction is that anything past the first New Year's resolution should be viewed as a complete and unexpected bonus ;)

Thursday, 9 January 2014

The Xmas Plastic Parade #1: Airfix Churchill Tank

Over the Xmas break I had a rather productive run as assemble some 1/72 and 1/76 AFV kits.

First was an old childhood favorite of mine, the Airfix Churchill Mk VII. The most impressive part of the Churchill VII to me was the 75mm gun, the thick armour was "nice" but not sloped which wasted a lot of protection potential (it just gave the crew ten seconds to bail) and slowed it down, still no match for a Panther, Tiger I or Tiger II, but a good "infantry support tank". The kit assembly was straight forward, the only extra fiddly bit was leaving the turret hatches open for a commander to poke out of. The tracks are awaiting the "staple" method of connection (see below, and yes I have not glued the track covers on yet, that would have been silly):  

The assembled product (see below):

This is the third tank of a Command Decision company the question I am trying to work out is whether I need a fourth? RTR (cruisers) have four tanks to a company, I am unsure regards to the Infantry Tank Brigades, as to whether they were so richly endowed, the Spearhead OoB suggests so.

Any thoughts and information appreciated?

Monday, 6 January 2014

Thirty Day Challenges #4, #5, #6 and #7: No Caffeine or Sugar but always a Good Breakfast and Early to Bed (2014)

In the post-Xmas haze of 'bloated happiness' my January jump-start (commencing as of 6th Jan) is to go cold turkey with respect to caffeine and sweetie treats (sugar) for thirty days

To balance this out I have promised myself also to dine well in the morning (no more snatched breakfasts) with a "hot" breakfast. In order to do this I need to go to bed no later than 10:30!

Day #1 of hell (and breakfast heaven) is over, so only another twenty nine days to go ;)