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...

Thursday, November 24, 2016

HMNZS Otago (P148) of the NZ Navy

After finishing up on the Korean ship, the ROKS Chungbuk I headed a bit further down the wharf to the HMNZS Otago. The Otago is a Protector class off-shore patrol vessel (OPV) in service with the Royal New Zealand Navy. For those of you that don't know (which included me) an OPV is usually the smallest ship in a navy's fleet that are large and seaworthy enough to patrol off-shore in the open ocean.

Launched in 2006 but suffered from problems during construction and was not commissioned until 2010, two years later than planned. Costing around $110 million NZD she is not cheap, but her excellent indoor-outdoor flow, large deck space and sea views makes her pretty cheap compared with the Auckland house prices these days. 

Surprisingly enough the Otago was possibly my favourite ship of the day. Lacking the missile systems and "big-badda-boom" of some of the other ships I visited it still had a "kicking butt" charm to it. The ship (and it's crew) also exuded a quiet confident vibe. In terms of access to the ships internal areas it was second only to the ROKS Chungbuk and we were able to have quite a look around the ship.
Stolen from the NZ Navy here is a shot of the HMNZS Otago and the HMNZS Wellington, HMNZS Pukaki, HMNZS Rotoiti, HMNZS Hawea, HMNZS Taupo and HMNZS Manawanui.
Whilst in line we got to have a chat to a couple of the members of the boarding party. They were sporting the new Benelli M3 semi-auto shotguns and SIG Sauer P226 pistols (soon to be replaced by Glock 17 pistols). These guys were happy to have a chat whilst we waited in the sun and handed their (unloaded) weapons to the crowd to check out.
Despite being a relatively small ship, it is still a 'big' thing.
Once on board we headed up the side of the vessel

To the bow where could see up to the bridge
And the main armament of the Otago, a single remote controlled Rafael Typhoon 25 mm stabilised naval gun. The gun can maintain groupings of 250mm on a target up to 1,000 metres away!.

From the bow we headed down the centre of the to the back end (checking out a few of the sights along the way including some fairly spacious crew quarters off "Castle Street"). Here some of the crew were showing off their damage control gear.
Then another wander around and back up through the hanger to the landing pad at the rear of the Otago where our Super Seasprite SH-2G(I)  helicopters can land.
Just in case the chopper pilot isn't sure where he/she is landing....

From here I wandered past a few ships checking out the queues - by now it was about 11am and it felt like all of Auckland had turned up with the Singaporean ship the RSS Resolution - an Endurance-class landing platform dock (LPD) - having a queue that was rumoured to be 3 hours long. Instead I headed on to the INS Sumitra, a Saryu class patrol vessel of the Indian Navy.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th Birthday celebrations and the ROKS Chungbuk

On 1 October 1941, His Majesty King George VI approved the designation “Royal New Zealand Navy” for the regular element of the New Zealand Naval Forces (with Reserve and Volunteer Reserve elements appropriately titled.)

2016 marks the 75th Anniversary of the foundation of the New Zealand Navy and the occasion is being celebrated with a programme of commemorative events and activities – collectively named Operation NEPTUNE.

One of these events is an Open Day where ships from friends and allies were open to the public to have a walk around certain parts of the vessel. Unfortunately the tragic events of Kaikoura earthquake meant that a number of vessels scheduled to visit were providing support humanitarian support to survivors including a large number of residents and tourists stuck in the area and unable to leave. Two of the vessels that I was most looking forward too, the USS Sampson (an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer) and HMAS Darwin (an Adelaide-class guided-missile frigate that is based on the US Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates) were amongst those that were diverted.

The day itself proved to be a lot of fun with Auckland weather turning up and providing a beautiful sunny day for us to enjoy and I managed to get aboard 5 vessels. First up was the ROKS Chungbuk, Incheon-class frigate.

ROKS Chungbuk, Incheon-class frigate
The Incheon-class frigates are coastal defense frigates of the Republic of Korea Navy. The lead ship was launched on 29 April 2011. They will replace the aging fleet of Pohang-class corvettes and Ulsan-class frigates, and take over multi-role operations such as coast patrol, anti-submarine warfare and transport support.

The Incheon-class frigates main gun is the 127mm/L62 Mk. 45 Mod 4 naval gun. This was chosen over a smaller 76mm for naval barrage support in amphibious landings and superiority in ship to ship firing. Point-defense armaments include a single 20 mm Phalanx CIWS and a RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile Block 1 21-round launcher. The anti-submarine warfare armaments consists of K745 LW Cheong Sahng-uh (Blue Shark) torpedoes. Anti-ship capability is provided by SSM-700K Hae Sung (Sea Star) long-range anti-ship missile, each with performance similar to the U.S. Harpoon.

The ROKS Chungbuk is the fifth ship in the class and was launched in October 2014 and commissioned earlier this year in January.
Another front on view of the ROKS Chungbuk
A view from the rear of the ROKS Chungbuk showing the hanger door open on the left
The 127mm gun mount
Another view of the gun with the masts of the Bark Esmeralda (from Chile) in the background
The business end of the ROKS Chungbuk
The bridge of the ROKS Chungbuk
A view from the wings of the bridge looking back down at the bow. Unfortunately we were firmly (be very politely) asked to not take any photos inside the vessel. The ROKS Chungbuk was the only ship where we made it to the bridge. It was smaller than I expected with no room for any unnecessary people or equipment
The RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Block 1 21-round launcher. This is a point defence missile system designed to target incoming cruise missiles.
An action photo on display on the ship.
SSM-700K Hae Sung (Sea Star) long-range anti-ship missile launchers. Two sets of four launchers mounted amidships. We were able to walk around these and have a close look at the launchers themselves. Below are the K745 LW Cheong Sahng-uh (Blue Shark) torpedo launchers.
At the rear of the ship above the hanger a single 20 mm Phalanx CIWS. Ever since my Harpoon gaming days this has been a favourite piece of technology of mine.
On the landing pad, the CIWS at the top of the shot, the hanger door open on the right.
Another shot of the rear ROKS Chungbuk, taken from the HMNZS Otago
One of the ROKS Chungbuk crew patrolling the vessel. Unlike the rest of the vessels these guys looked pretty serious about their patrol duties.

Next stop was the HMNZS Otago, a Protector class off-shore patrol vessel.