Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Syrian Army Shots

For the release of Fate Of A Nation I volunteered to paint all the models shown in the book. There is still a way to go before it is a complete army as I didn't manage to get enough of everything done to be ready for gaming, however I do have enough of a mix of models to start playing assuming my opponents are okay with most of my armour being unpainted.

I'm still working on a painting list of what to work on next to finish the army...

One of our new T-62 tanks next to a T-55. They look so similar yet so different!
A mechanised platoon backed up by BMP-1
BTR-60 APCs with infantry
A selection of APCs, a BMP-1, BTR-60, BTR-50 and BTR-152
ZSU-23-4 Shilkas and the somewhat more venerable ZSU-57-2
Two small recce sections of PT-76 and BRDM-2

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

A Brief Distraction? Returning to Battletech?

Many years ago, perhaps more than I care to admit, I watched some of my club mates playing Battletech. They had lovely models, terrific terrain and it all looked like fun. It wasn't long before I headed down that particular rabbit hole. A hole I went down hard and stayed inside for many years.

Even now, years since I picked up a book or miniature I still have all of my old Battletech source books sitting on a shelf in the office next to my computer and whilst the miniatures are relegated to the garage I know exactly where they are (and that is really saying something).

Over the years I've supported my enthusiasm with a variety of games, whether it was the original Crescent Hawks Inception (which I first played in Farmers, a chain department store here in NZ) as a much younger man, through to the most recent release, Battletech - Tactical Mech Combat.

Playing this most recent Battletech game over the past few nights I've found my original love for the game rekindled, so much so that I've been having silly thoughts about pausing all my other hobby projects to dig out some old and rather badly painted mechs, strip them off and attack them with the airbrush.

That is the problem with rabbit holes, they can be so warm and cosy you just want to try heading down them one more time to relive all the good memories... Surely it shouldn't take long to paint strip, rebuild and paint the 24 mechs, o that the Black Widow Company and Fox's Teeth can once again roam the battlefield?

Friday, June 29, 2018

1967 vs 1973: So What To Field...

Over the previous weekend I spotted a few people asking about which models or units they should field, assuming they were planning on building a force based on either a specific battle, or for a '67 game vs a '73 game. I was tempted to start putting together a list based on a combination of my general knowledge and a little extra reading. Luckily for me Michael McSwiney, one of the writers of the updated edition had been thinking the same thing and started work on his own version.

From a rules perspective these in service dates are strictly optional and based on what I currently have painted at the moment I won't be getting too carried away with them as I'd rather keep working on the models for now rather than restricting my gaming options. However they do provide a great resource if you are looking to build a new army with some specific plans in mind.

The links:
Miniature Ordnance Review (Michael's blog)...
Israeli Forces...
Jordanian Forces...
Egyptian Forces...
Syrian Forces...

Time to start planning on what to paint next.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Road To Panzerschreck (2016) The Marines Hit Early War

Originally this article was posted on the Flames Of War website back in 2016...

Next month is the annual Studio trip to Panzerschreck with the team jumping in a van and having an epic road trip / lads weekend away. This year I was planning on having a relaxed weekend and heading down to play some Team Yankee games with Evan. Thanks to a last-minute change of plans for Phil (James’ partner in crime for the event) I found myself subbed in to join up with James’ British Armoured Regiment.

No doubt you are all aware of the famous battle somewhere in North Africa where a small Marine Expeditionary Force briefly found themselves siding with a Vickers Mk IV light tank company…

Originally I was in two minds about what to take as I have a French Early War army that I really enjoy playing and need an excuse to finish painting up some Lorraine 38L Carriers. At the same time I have been plugging away with a US Marine Amphibian tank company for Gung-Ho and I saw this as an opportunity to push the army back to the front of the painting queue. After a couple of minutes thought the Marines (easily) found themselves promoted as it is hard to not go with something shiny and new, even if I do have to do a lot more painting to get it ready. Working out an army list that looked achievable on the painting front and fun to play I settled on: 

The core of the force is obviously the LVTs with 10 of them crawling across the table, hopefully shooting up everything in front of them. This should pair nicely with James’ Light Mk IV tanks which will be light enough to respond to any threats as well as threatening enemy objectives. If I am being honest the AA and Rockets are really there to get me to four platoons, but it will also give us some decent AA coverage (as James’ also has some Bofors guns) and rockets capable of thinning out the enemy ranks of infantry.

After the experiment with the dark sand (in the previous article) I decided to go back to pain grey vehicles and to make them look a little more interesting I decided to put beach markings on the sides of the hull (the two red vertical stripes you can see in the photos). These were to help the LVTs stick together and get to the correct landing zone – in this case Red Beach 2 during the Battle of Saipan. The theory being that you just followed the vehicles with the same markings as you. 

Next I chose to go to town on the decals and whilst I was inspired by historical markings here I chose to go a bit overboard to help them pop on the battlefield. I chose tank numbers from a spare NVA T-55 decal sheet I had, as well as US stars, serial numbers and names from the US Late War Decal Sheet (US941) I think these really help to make the models look interesting on the table.
As you can see from the pictures below I still have a way to go to finish the army up but with a couple of weeks to go I think I am in good shape.  

The HQ Platoon
I've only painted the 75mm turrets for my HQ, but I plan to paint up the 37mm ones later to make sure I can swap these around easily.  

LVT(A)4 (75mm) Platoon
Other than a targeted wash, these just need their crew painted and machine-guns highlighted.

Above: Most of the army are still waiting for a shading pin wash, so they are currently shiny with gloss varnish. I've used the number '13' 75mm tank to test the oil wash, and I'm happy with the finished result.

LVT(A)1 (37mm) Platoon
These are currently missing the machine-gun turrets, which will make them look a little more dynamic thanks to the crew sitting inside operating them.

Below: To do the red markings on the side of the hulls I made a mask using some low-tack hobby masking tape, then carefully attached it to a model, airbrushed the red and carefully removed it again. Rinse and repeat 32 times as I decided to do the markings on all my LVTs and not just the ones for Panzerschreck to keep everything consistent.

Hopefully this gives you some inspiration for painting your own LVTs.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

"Israel vs Syria: Fighting For The Golan", A Series Introduction

This weekend will see the release of Fate Of A Nation, this time brought up to Team Yankee standard and with the inclusion of the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

Bringing the Arab-Israeli Wars (AIW) in to Flames Of War was something of an obsession for me and I can happily take some of the credit for the initial inclusion after relentlessly and repeatedly reminding people that after the success of our Vietnam releases, AIW would be a great place to turn next. After all it was a period that many gamers recognise, it featured the worlds superpowers fighting over proxy battlefields, and when it came down to it, it was about tanks duelling it out. Perfect for a Flames Of War conversion!

I've tried to pin down the root cause of my obsession or passion and I have no solid idea as to why. I have no recollection of the actual events, both wars happened shortly before my birth and the global impact never really affected me (that I remember). I do recall reading a series of magazines called "War in Peace" and being struck by the destruction of so many tanks as the Syrians pushed across the Israeli built anti-tank ditch in the Valley of Tears.

I am sure that reading about the efforts of a relatively small number of tank crews fighting against overwhelming odds would have left quite the impression on a budding wargamer. The greater history of the conflict no doubt partially lost on me at the time.

Once we received the initial go-ahead to write the very first version of Fate Of A Nation (obviously the name as stuck through multiple printings and revisions) we began to review what was actually required from a workflow perspective. We knew that it was going to be a big job, but so great was the passion to complete it that a number of us volunteered to paint the armies required for the initial photography. Casey stepped forward to paint the Egyptians (closest thing to the Soviets at the time), Evan took on the job of painting the Jordanian armour, whilst Victor took care of the infantry and guns, whilst I charged forward to do the majority of Israelis. Being involved in this original project was certainly one of my favourite experiences of my time at Battlefront.

Jumping forward 4 years and we found ourselves in a similar situation with a new version of Fate Of A Nation being put together, this time with much of the initial writing and editing being completed by Scott Elaurant and Michael McSwiney (two long time contributors to the Flames Of War community). Once again, we needed to add to the range of models. Luckily Aaron (our inhouse painter) had taken care of the vast majority of new releases since the original book and was on deck to take care of the extra items now for the Israelis and Egyptians, however painting enough Syrian models was a problem. It probably comes as no surprise then that I happily volunteered to start building a Syrian force - I say start as it still needs a lot of work to finish...

Over the coming weeks (or months) I thought I might spend some time taking a look at the Israeli and Syrian forces, then look at what I have painted and how it compares to some of the lists I have been dreaming up, and then review what I need to do to complete both armies. The jury is still out as to how much actual progress I will make as I have a few competing priorities on the go, not to mention some future Battlefront projects have been taking my fancy, but I am sure that I'll have something to share.

Stay tuned...

Friday, June 22, 2018

First Featured On?

Over the past couple of years I've been writing a lot (by my standards anyway) of content that has ended up on the Flames Of War or Team Yankee websites that in the past would (if I got around to it) have ended up here. A couple of weeks ago I was browsing the blog trying to find a post about an army and couldn't find it. A quick Google search and I found it sitting on Flames Of War. I wasn't annoyed as such, but I was disappointed in myself that it wasn't here too. 

Since then I've been making an effort to transfer these articles over to my blog. To help differentiate these older articles from anything else I've been adding these images (above) at the end of the post, as well as putting the tag of "First Featured On".

With a bit of luck I might even add some completely new content here first as well.... stay tuned.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Building a Marine Amphibian Tank Company

I’ve made no secret of my excitement about the Marine Amphibian Tank Company. And with Andrew making so much progress on his Ka-Mi tanks I thought I’d better get my act together and push ahead with my painting.

Luckily the LVTs are a breeze to assemble. With the hull and tracks being one piece, you are just gluing together the turrets and adding the optional hull machine-gun. A fairly relaxed afternoon saw them all assembled and undercoated.

The next problem was choosing what paint scheme I preferred. There are plenty of options and in the coming weeks I’ll have a short article talking about the most common options to choose from but in the end it came down to a grey or grey/sand scheme (like the Studio models) or a green/brown/sand scheme. The three colour scheme was just too similar to European paint schemes and nothing says the Pacific to me like tanks base coloured in grey!

Using my airbrush, I started by painting a light coat of grey over the whole model. This was to lay down a base colour for me to start highlighting up. I then applied a little more paint in certain areas such as the middle of large panels, the top surfaces, and anywhere else that I wanted a slightly lighter colour. Working over a black undercoat, I was able to use the grey as its own highlight by slightly varying the density of the paint coverage.

I decided that the grey alone was a little boring, so I thought I would try adding the common sand-coloured camouflage pattern to give the models a little more impact on the table. I also thought that the extra colour would mean that I did not have to do as much work to make the grey look good. So the next step was to cover the model in blu-tac.

In my paint collection at home, I didn’t have the Colours Of War Dry Dust or Crusader Sand that Aaron used when painting the studio models. So I improvised by grabbing a dark sand colour that I already had and sprayed it on. The blu-tac worked as planned, leaving me with nice hard edges between the grey and sand but I was not particularly happy with the colour as the studio models just looked better.

Looking at the images now as I write the article I find myself in two minds:
  • I quite like the plain grey, and it is a valid historical paint scheme, so I could just stick with that approach (saving me some painting time!);
  • Or I could “borrow” the studio paints for an evening and go with the grey/sand scheme.
I think will mull this over a little more and in the next few days make a final decision – the more I think about it, the longer it will take to finish them and get an army on the table. 


Monday, May 28, 2018

Churchill's Wall Of Steel

It probably comes as no surprise but there are plenty of good things about working for a gaming company, not least being surrounded by passionate gamers and hobbyists. The downside is that it takes a supreme amount of concentration and effort to not get swept up in the excitement that happens every time we work on a book.

Sadly, one of the many things I have not been blessed with is the ability to stand my ground and say “Whilst I think this new book/project is very exciting, I already have too many things on the go, so I won’t be building anything new time time.”

Instead I say......
In this case there are two lists that have really called out to me and whilst I’ll leave the Death or Glory boys to Casey, I am sorely tempted to try to knock out a quick Churchill Armoured Squadron just because...
The army list is so simple because I thinking more about models rather than just effectiveness on the battlefield, but in saying that I wouldn’t underestimate 99 points of Churchill tanks!

Thanks to the Churchills coming in at a nice round 11 points each it would be very simple to tweak the list if I wanted something a little more robust by dropping a Churchill CS (or even both) which would give me plenty of points for recon, 25pdrs and infantry making it a much more rounded force capable of taking on a variety of opponents.
But let’s be honest, the real drawcard for this list is 9 (yes 9!) Churchills in one company!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Know Your Team Yankee T-55

Earlier this year Battlefront released the much-anticipated plastic T-54/T-55 tank, one of the most widely used tanks in the world. In Team Yankee you can currently field the T-55AM2 variant with your East German forces in Volksarmee, or the T-54 with your NVA (North Vietnamese Army) in ‘Nam, and very shortly the Syrians and Egyptians in Fate Of A Nation.

The T-54 and T-55 tanks were a result of the continuing development process for the T-34 (and T-44) during the closing years of World War II. 

A series of developments and improvements saw the design go into production in the late 1940’s. Over the intervening years the T-54/T-55 would be continuously updated and upgraded with improved engines, NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) protection, sights, radios and so on.

From a Team Yankee in-game perspective, the majority of these changes had very little or no impact however in the late 1970’s operators began upgrading some of their tanks to the new T-55AM version.

T-55 tank at Panzermuseum Munster
From an external perspective there are some very obvious ways to tell the two models apart. The modernised AM tanks have (in my opinion) a very interesting looking turret as the addition of BDD armour adds extra bulges around the cheeks, whilst the laser rangefinder above the gun barrel adds another very visible element.

The hull has also seen some additions which make the two versions easy to tell apart, first up the front of the hull comes out a little further due to the addition of extra armour and rubber skirts have been added to the side of the hull to provide protection from RPGs (and similar weapons) after experiences in Afghanistan.

T-55AM2 tank at Panzermuseum Munster
Below you can see the T-55 plastic sprue and I’ve highlighted the hull front or glacis plate, turret tops, skirts (for the T-55AM2) and gun barrels so you can see the differences. Highlighted in red are the T-55 components, whilst highlighted in yellow are the T-55AM2 specific pieces.

Battlefront Miniatures T-55 Plastic Sprue
So What Do These Differences Mean In Team Yankee?
For this comparison we will take a look at the North Vietnamese Army K-2 (T-54 or T-55) from ‘Nam and compare it with the Volksarmee T-55AM2. Looking at the cards (below) we that:

The front armour improves from 13 to 14, whilst the side and top armour stay the same.

The T-55AM2 has picked up Bazooka Skirts giving it side armour 10 vs HEAT weapons. This isn’t a massive improvement over the native 9 but when the American made LAW (which almost every US infantry team has) is AT 12, even 1 point makes a difference.

We also see that the AM2 variant picks up one additional AT on it’s main gun, going from 16 to 17. This is more about the difference between the two time periods rather than any upgrade to the tank itself. The ‘Nam versions are firing older generations of 100mm gun rounds (from the 60’s and 70’s), whereas the East Germans have access to more modern ammunition.

Lastly, (and sticking with the gun line on the unit card) the T-55AM2 picks up a Laser Rangefinder. This means that the modernised version doesn’t suffer a To Hit penalty for long range. This may not give much of a benefit when shooting enemy main battle tanks where AT 17 won’t do much, but it does make them a little more reliable when shooting up support vehicles as your tanks push in to close range to attack the enemy armour.

Why Use the T-55AM2?
On the surface the T-55AM2 looks like a suboptimal choice as it cannot hurt most enemy tanks in a head to head duel. When guided missile carriers like the M901 ITV, Swingfire and Jaguar have missiles quite capable of knocking out a T-55AM2, and thanks to their higher To Hit number and the likelihood of firing from cover are less likely to be hit by any return fire, especially if the T-55AM2 is moving.

Of course, one of the advantages of a wargame over reality is that no real-world battlefield commander wants to fight a battle where the odds are not in their favour, while games have a points system to balance everything out and so this is where the T-55AM2 (along with other older generation tanks like M60 and Leopard 1 tanks) can shine.

A full strength East German T-55AM2 Panzer Company comes in at only 16 points, or 1.6 points per tank. This average points value actually drops quite notably when you look at the smaller platoon sizes . I won’t dive into the pros and cons of MSU because I don’t consider myself an expert on the theory but having found myself on the receiving end a number of times it is definitely an option as it is challenging for a force composed primarily of modern tanks (Abrams, Leopard 2, or Chieftain tanks) to kill enough before the T-55AM2 tanks start making their side shots count.

MSU And You!
For some people the acronym MSU will be something very new and depending on who you ask it means; Many Small Units, Multiple Small Units, Minimum Size Units, or something along these lines. The theory (in brief) is that a large number of relatively cheap units will overwhelm a defender’s ability to kill the attackers fast enough, resulting in the swarm killing the enemy, losing more models but less overall points.

To Swarm Or Not To Swarm
This one really comes down to you. Team Yankee has a very diverse and growing range of list theming options for players making the days of one true list to rule them all less likely. However, I suspect that there will always be a place for someone that wants to put 20-30 (or more) cheap T-55 tanks backed up by some Hinds, infantry in BMPs or BTRs and a few specialist assets on the battlefield. I know I’ve already started creating a stash of models for a future project once I have finished my Canadian Leopard 1 Company and French AMX-10RC Companies!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Flames Of War V4 Launch Weekend

Over the Flames Of War V4 Launch Weekend I was pulling a little bit of double duty; hanging with most of the studio team assembling my DAK Panzers, whilst jumping back to the desk every now and then to web content. I thought it would be fun to shoot a little time lapse footage of what I was up to.

Saturday was a lot of fun and whilst it looks like I spent most of the day assembling Panzer III's, it wasn't as time consuming as it appears. 

Sunday was a bit of mess as the website decided to take a little break and all of our content dissapeared due to the quantity of content and massive amount of traffic generated by visitors coming by to check out the event.

The weekend was a blast and I now have (spoilers!) all of my Panzers and SP AT assembled for my Early/Mid War DAK tanks. Just need to get some recon and potentially aircraft or AA.

Hope you enjoy the video.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

INS Sumitra of the Indian Navy

Next up after the Otago I was hoping to jump on board the KRI Banda Aceh (a Makassar class Landing Platform Dock ship designed for the Indonesian Navy) or the RSS Resolution (an Endurance-class Landing Platform Dock ship from the Republic of Singapore Navy). Unfortunately the lines for the Banda Aceh were long, and the Resolution were huge (rumoured to be upto 3 hours long!).

Instead I headed further down and too a look at the INS Sumitra of the Indian Navy. The Sumitra is a  Saryu class patrol vessel, launched in 2010 and commissioned in 2014 making it a relatively new ship. Boarding the ship I was a little underwhelmed after visiting the Chunbuk and Otago as we saw relatively little of the interior, a couple of passageways, the hangar, the medical bay and that was it. On the positive side the line was relatively short and it turns out that thanks a little reading after the fact it is quite an interesting ship.
I didn't grab a decent bow on shot of the INS Sumitra so "thanks Google".
A view from the stern. The landing pad as been covered - it was a mightily sunny day so a break from the sun was welcome.
Another view from the stern, a little further along in the queue. The hanger door is partially open.
The midships area. Note the unit citation marking - presumably this was the Sumitra's efforts during Operation Raahat where it helped to rescue 350 Indian citizens stranded in Yemen.
On the ship now, looking into the hanger space. One (fairly minor) note that I found interesting. On the Otago the hanger was well lined with (presumably) heat reflective or fire retardant fabric whereas the Sumitra was just "clean".
A HAL Chetak helicopter parked up in the hanger. Walking past it I thought it had really jumped out of the 60's and was surprised to see such an old looking airframe.
Turns out the Chetak is a pretty iconic piece of history (at least in my books) as it is an Indian built (under licence) version of the Aérospatiale Alouette III. Looking back I wish I had paid more attention to it at the time.
After a brief trip down two passageways we found ourselves at the bow of the INS Sumitra, looking down on us was the bridge.
An OTO Melara 76mm SRGM (Super Rapid Gun Mount) up front.
Another view of the gun. Keen eyes and those with an excellent memory will notice that it is not the same turret mount found in the first picture? The Sumitra now has this very rounded turret exterior whereas it appears to have a more angled version when launched? From a brief Internet search it seems like they are the same gun but who knows?
This image, once again, stolen from Google shows the mounting system. It is a compact system designed for smaller ships and it's high rate of fire and availability of specialised ammunition make it well-suited to varied roles such as short-range anti-missile point defence, anti-aircraft, anti-surface, and ground support.
Member of the Sumtra's marines/boarding party. He was a popular lad with a queue of people lining up for photo opportunities. He appears to be armed with an INSAS (an abbreviation of Indian Small Arms System) Rifle. A locally produced AK/FN FAL cross-breed that is not a reliable as either of the rifles that inspired it.
One final shot from the bow of the INS Sumitra.
I wasn't sure what this little "turret" was so had to hit the digital books again. Turns out it is an AK-630, the Soviet/Russian designed version of the US Phalanx CIWS (Close In Weapons System). Designed to destroy incoming missiles and aircraft as well as other small "on water" targets, the INS Sumitra has a pair of these a six-barreled 30 mm rotary cannons. Google it, there are some cool videos!

After the Sumitra it was time to meet the family and head over to the Japanese ship, the JDS Takanami and one of the New Zealand ANZAC frigates, the HMNZS Te Mana. Little did we know it was also time for an hour long wait...