Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Richard's March

What a crazy month. In New Zealand we are locked down for at least the next three weeks. All schools and businesses are closed except for essential services, and we are required to remain at home except for buying food, medicine, and other essentials, although you are still allowed to walk around your neighbourhood. Needless to say, there are more people out walking each day that I've ever seen in the past.

I'm working from home, and Sarah has taken on home-schooling the kids. In a way it's a relief to have reached this point: over the last few weeks you couldn't plan even a few days ahead due to the rate at which the situation was changing. Now, we are on an island of certainty for four weeks: hunker down, stay in your bubble, and make do with whatever activities are already in the house.

March is always a busy month at work, and I ended up working some pretty long hours before the lockdown, but I still managed to get a few things done on my list.

1. Painting 28mm FJ. 

I completed two squads during March. One had previously been painted but hadn't based, and the other had been base coated. I still have some support weapons and a squad of Luftwaffe troops to go.
2. Find a set of WW2 rules that I enjoy playing in 28mm.

Alas, games are pretty much off the menu for the foreseeable future. But at least it looks like I'll have an army to use once things return to normal.

3. Paint a Landsknecht square for Impetus.

Moving on.

4. Complete a Black Seas fleet box. 

I completed two frigates and a third rate. This means I've now finished the Master and Commander box..
For my smuggler hunters, that leaves the following still to go:
  • 1 x First Rate. Purchased.
  • 2 x Cutter. No indication of when Warlord are going to release any of these.
  • 3 x Schooner. On order.
  • 1 x Gunboat Squadron: Primed.
5. Try out Battlegroup: NORTHAG, and write a review. 

There was a post on the PSC Facebook page that they would be sending a PDF of the rules to all pre-order customers, so I should be able to do this in April with some solo play.

6. Complete some of the random FOW platoons that I have lying around. 

No progress.

7. Syrians for Team Yankee.

No further progress.

8. Put together an event or campaign of some kind. 

In this time of physical distancing, this is on hold.

March Summary
  • Models Finished: 20
  • Leadpile Size: Reduced!
  • Month Rating: Productive.

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Richard’s February

How did I go during February? Apparently not too well.

1. Painting 28mm FJ. 

No progress.

2. Find a set of WW2 rules that I enjoy playing in 28mm.

Nothing happening here yet.

3. Paint a Landsknecht square for Impetus.

I'm kinda regretting putting this one on the list.

4. Complete a Black Seas fleet box. 

I completed a third brig, a sloop conversion, and a gunboat squadron. That leaves the following still to go:
  • 1 x First Rate. Purchased
  • 1 x Third Rate. Primed and ready to paint.
  • 2 x Frigate. Also primed.
  • 2 x Cutter. No indication that Warlord are going to release any of these, but I may have a plan.
  • 3 x Schooner. On order.
  • 1 x Gunboat Squadron: Primed.
 
5. Try out Battlegroup: NORTHAG, and write a review. 

Waiting for its release in April.

6. Complete some of the random FOW platoons that I have lying around. 

No progress.

7. Syrians for Team Yankee.

A lot of the interest went out of this one after seeing minor nations struggle at ValleyCon. One of the main reasons for going with Syrians was that they're Warpac-aligned with hunter killer helicopters, so to try and get back into it, this month I completed the Gazelle flight.
8. Put together an event or campaign of some kind. 

Pencilled in to start in March!

February Summary
  • Models Painted: 5
  • Leadpile Size: Reduced!
  • Month Rating: Slow

Thursday, February 27, 2020

15mm Roads

Last year I was looking at urban roads to add to my 15mm terrain for Flames of War. As nice as the Battlefield in a Box roads are, they're quite expensive, so I looked at making my own.

I had tried a variety of materials for roading in the past. The most successful was railway ballast glued to felt as gravel, but I was after a sealed look this time. EVA foam looked okay, but curls with age and is so light that it blows away in the slightest draught. MDF is rigid so doesn’t conform to terrain.

In the end I went with 1.5mm rubber sheet. This was $40/metre on a 1.2m wide roll from Para Rubber (https://pararubber.co.nz/industrial-rubber-strip/692-rubber-insertion-sheet.html).

I cut it into 3" wide strips, scuffed the surface with sandpaper (otherwise the glue beads up), brushed  on PVA, and covered it with budgie sand. Once the glue was dry and the excess brushed off, I sprayed it with flat black to help seal it. Using an art foam roller, I rolled on grey acrylic paint. It would have been quicker to spray them grey, but the hope was a heavier coat of acrylic would help give the surface some durability. The total cost worked out to be about NZ$1/foot.
The rubber scuffed up with sandpaper
Gluing down the sand
After being rolled with paint
The finished product
On the reverse side I am working through rolling on the grey paint without any sand, and adding centreline markings, for when I want a more modern look for Team Yankee.
Here are some photos of it in action in a game late last year.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Black Seas Conversions

This is a post where I probably get a whole lot of nautical terminology wrong, but this week I’ve been working on a couple of conversions for Black Seas.

The first is a Gunboat Squadron.
I decided that the boats in the stock kit looks a little too much like a trireme for my liking, so set about modifying them. 
How the kit is meant to look
I added bowsprits made from brass rod, removed the original mainsails and replaced them with gaff-rigged ones. 
Modifications with 1mm brass rod
The resin Warlord has used is quite ductile, so it drilled easily without fracturing. You may not see them in the photos, but there are 1mm holes drilled for rigging just above the waterline, on a line right between the two cannons. Apart from the metal topsail, the other sails were made from paper, based off the ones in the brig kit.

The second conversion was a 12-gun Sloop made from the 18-gun Brig kit.
I sliced out the four middle guns with a razor saw, and joined the resulting halves together, while also removing the rear-most pair of guns and placing the mast slightly aft of where the main mast was on the brig. From the mast I removed the lower two yards. The result is a little bit fat, probably by about 2mm, but the surgery that would be required to remove that extra width from the kit doesn't bear thinking about.
The hull after joining the halves together
The bits that were removed
I’ve used the headsails and spanker from the Third Rate kit while keeping the Brig kit’s topgallant. With the spanker boons from the Brig being too small for the 3rd Rate sail, I could have used the ones from the Third Rate, but wasn’t prepared to cannibalise the kit to that extent, so the brass rod came out again to make new ones. 
Sloop next to a Brig
Both the Gunboats and the Sloop should see action in the Smuggler’s Run campaign, hopefully kicking off in March.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Richard's January

At the start of the year I set myself eight goals for 2020, with the intention of posting my progress at the end of each month. So, how did I go during January?

1. Painting 28mm FJ. 

I painted the pants on another squad, and bought a StuG to support them. I guess that counts as progress?

2. Find a set of WW2 rules that I enjoy playing in 28mm.

A couple of ideas for systems have been kicked around by people at the club, so I'm sure something will happen with this.

3. Paint a Landsknecht square for Impetus.

I took a few figures out of their boxes, looked at them, freaked out and put them away again.

4. Complete a Black Seas fleet box. 

I've been a bit all over the place on this. Last year I was heading towards a Spanish fleet box, but then I received USS Constitution for Christmas, so began looking at the US version. But then Warlord Games released their 'Smuggler's Run' campaign, and it looks great. So rather than a fleet box, I'm going to change this goal to be the ships for the campaign, both my own company and HM Customs.

My smuggling company will start with the two brigs and the frigate that I originally painted up as Spanish, and I will add to it when the Schooners and Merchants are released next month (assuming business is good and the company can afford new ships...), the incentive being that I can't add a ship to my roster until I have a painted model of it.

For the British, I need the following to be able to field all of the combinations that the campaign can throw at you:
  • 1 x First Rate
  • 1 x Third Rate
  • 2 x Frigate
  • 3 x Brig
  • 1 x Sloop
  • 2 x Cutter
  • 3 x Schooner
  • 2 x Gunboat Squadron
So, in January I painted and rigged two Royal Navy Brigs.
I still have have two Brigs and two Frigates left from the starter box, plus a box each of the Third Rates and Gunboats, so will continue by working on those in February. I will get the Schooners when they are released, and maybe even see if I can convert the second of my spare Brigs into a Sloop.

5. Try out Battlegroup: NORTHAG, and write a review. 

It sounds like this will be released at Salute in April.

6. Complete some of the random FOW platoons that I have lying around. 

I haven't painted anything, but I've had a good look through the pile, and have a bit of a plan.
  • Early War British - complete this army by painting some armoured cars and Vickers MkVIb.
  • Mid War British - repaint and rebase my old 8th Army support weapons to match my more recent work.
  • Late War British - rebase my infantry company, and paint the kits that I have in order to make a 100pt force under the upcoming D-Day: British book.
I've also cleared the decks a bit by selling most of my MW British Armour, and may do another pass through the collection at some point because, to be honest, I have way too much FOW.

7. Syrians for Team Yankee.

No progress.

8. Put together an event or campaign of some kind. 

This is going to be the Smuggler's Run campaign.

Overall Theme: Uncompleted Projects

I've already failed here. I had toyed around with buying into 40K when the Chaos new releases came out last year, but in the end decided against it. Then this month I saw the Adeptus Mechanicus Pteraxii and Serberys Sulphurhounds that were announced at LVO, and I was immediately grabbed by the aesthetic.

Rather than going crazy and jumping straight in, I have picked up a second hand set of Skitarii Rangers sprues to see whether I like the models. They are my first ever GW models, never having played any of their games, and my first impressions are that they're amazing. The casts are beautiful, the sprues are packed with parts, and I'm looking forward to painting them.

January Summary
  • Models Painted: 2
  • Leadpile Size: Increased
  • Month Rating: Poor

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

ValleyCon 2020 Thoughts

As usual, the gaming year began with ValleyCon earlier this month. I played Team Yankee, which was 100pts on 8x4 tables using the 2nd Edition rules.

I was originally planning on runnings Syrians using the lists in 'Oil War', and started repainting my T-72s for this purpose. The thinking here was that Soviet T-72s aren't a particularly strong choice relative to later books. In the end, the Syrian force was too large a challenge in the time I had available, so I painted up my remaining T-64s and went with Soviets instead.

My final list was:
T-64 Tank Battalion - Red Thunder
Battalion HQ - 1 x T-64, 6pts
T-64 Company - 3 x T-64, 13pts
T-64 Company - 3 x T-64, 13pts
T-64 Company - 3 x T-64, 13pts
BMP-1 Motor Rifle Company - Medium size plus SA-14 Gremlin, 15pts
BMP-2 Recon Platoon - 3 x BMP-2 Scout, 5pts
SA-13 Gopher Platoon - 2 x Gopher, 2pts
Shilka AA Platoon - 4 x Shilka, 4pts
2S1 Carnation SP Howitzer Battery - 6 x 2S1 Carnation, 10pts
Hail Rocket Launcher Battery - 6 x BM-21 Hail, 8pts
BMP-1 Observation Post, 1pt
Hind Helicopter Company - 4 x Hind, 10pts
Total Cost: 100 pts
The thinking behind this list was:
  • I only have ten T-64s in my collection, and running them in three groups of three saves 5pts relative to having two larger units. 
  • The Shilkas are a must have, and I went with Gophers over Gaskins due to the extra range being of use on the wider table.
  • 2nd Edition gives a big bump to the effectiveness of artillery, so I decided to maximise this by taking both Carnations and Hails, plus the observer.
  • I have found minimum sized infantry units to be too small in the past, so have gone up a size. The Gremlin was a cheap addition to further boost my AA cover.
  • The BMP-2 scouts are extra AT-21, plus Spearhead for the few missions that can use it.
  • The big unit of Hinds was to provide an alternative to having to punch through the front of high armour targets.
In the end I placed second, with three 7-2 wins, a 2-7 loss, and a 2-3 time-out (after about 10 turns, so you can't accuse either of us of trying to play for a draw). There were a number of thoughts coming out of the event.

The standard of painting was very high across the board, making it one of the best looking competitions I can remember playing in.

This was the first Soviet build that I felt has worked for me. Largely this is because T-64s are good. Very good. That extra point of front armour, plus the 14" tactical move, makes them far superior to the Soviet T-72, and the three platoons of three definitely felt better than two larger platoons. The biggest problem I had was when I ran into McBeth's Stillbrew Chieftains - the 7-2 loss. Front 18 at range is tough for AT22 to crack. Ten tanks vs eight, but harder to hit and firing twice as many dice in return. That's a matchup that I'm going to need to rethink, even more so as we start to see Front 20 Challengers make an appearance.
I think the behaviour of NATO tanks (with the exception of the Chieftain) is something that TY gets wrong. It doesn't seem right for M1s and Leopards to be encouraged to knife-fight, but that's exactly what ROF 2/2 does.

I had too much artillery. Over the weekend they killed:
  • a platoon of Fliegerfaust (both batteries repeating on them for a couple of turns), 
  • a couple of Sheridans (Carnations with lucky armour saves), 
  • a platoon of T-64s (shotgunned in the back by the Carnations arriving from Reserve)
  • a landed Blackhawk (Hails), and 
  • a few infantry teams caught in the open (Hails). 
It wasn't a significant benefit for the 19pt investment. Carnations were more useful, and I would look to keep them at full strength and drop the Hails. The new artillery rules make them scary, but it was the wrong mix for my list.

Getting the right quantity and mix of air defence is tricky. I had 7pts of it, and it simply wasn't enough in the two games where I ran into aircraft. This particularly relates to my final game against Pooch. He had brought 34pts of air: four A10s and four Cobras, and my air defence just didn't faze him. This was underscored late in the game when, hunting a company break, he rolled his A10s directly at my Gophers and GAUed them out of existence without even being scratched. I had benefitted in the same way in earlier games, ending up not too worried about Humvee Stingers, and I was even okay against Pooch's VADS, which I managed to get running from left to right throughout the game, minimising their shots and keeping rolling saves for my Hinds. It all came apart when they finally got 28 shots off in a turn, but it highlighted two problems: the short range of gun AA (which was a major factor on our 8x4 tables), and the number of dice you need to be rolling to make FP5+ AA effective. Playing the same format again, I would probably look to move another six points into AA: two more Gophers and a pair of Geckos, funded by dropping the Hails. It's 13pts that is wasted if my opponent doesn't bring air, but it's better than feeling helpless in the few games where they do.
So, here would be my revised list based on the experience of the weekend:
T-64 Tank Battalion - Red Thunder
Battalion HQ - 1 x T-64, 6pts
T-64 Company - 3 x T-64, 13pts
T-64 Company - 3 x T-64, 13pts
T-64 Company - 3 x T-64, 13pts
BMP-1 Motor Rifle Company - Medium size plus SA-14 Gremlin, 15pts
BMP-2 Recon Platoon - 4 x BMP-2 Scout, 6pts
SA-13 Gopher Platoon - 4 x Gopher, 4pts
Shilka AA Platoon - 4 x Shilka, 4pts
2S1 Carnation SP Howitzer Battery - 6 x 2S1 Carnation, 10pts
BMP-1 Observation Post, 1pt
SA-8 Gecko Platoon - 2 x Gecko, 4pts
Hind Helicopter Company - 4 x Hind, 10pts
Total Cost: 100 pts
It’s largely similar, reflecting how well I think it performed overall. I haven't really resolved the high Front Armour problem yet, with the temptation being to chuck in a platoon of Storms, but that's not a huge gain: two or three dice at 4s or 5s to hit, with Firepower 3+, so you would still be lucky to kill one tank a turn, and they're easily hit in return. And I would also like a few more T-64s, maybe upping the platoons to four tanks each, but that's 18pts that I simply don't think I can spare - everything else has an important role to play.

Next week is the end of January, so I will post an update about how I am progressing with my goals for the year.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Atlantic Fleet

Over the summer I've been back playing Atlantic Fleet on iOS, a turn-based single player Battle of the Atlantic game. I've also tried it on Steam, but I've found the mobile format to be just as good while being a lot more convenient.

The game runs from the start of the war through until the invasion of France. You have a strategic map covering the theatre, split into 44 zones. Each turn lasts half a week, with ships able to move one zone per turn. If Allied and Axis ships occupy the same zone there's a chance of making contact, and you will play out the resulting engagement at a tactical level. Any Axis ships in zones not occupied by Allied warships have a chance of intercepting an unescorted convoy, which results in automatic merchantman losses. You can purchase new warships using a currency called "Renown", which you earn by sinking enemy warships, with a large number of ships to choose from.
In the tactical map, you have a turn-based game where you move and shoot each of your ships, before the AI plays the other side. The graphics are pretty good, with the 3D panning and nicely detailed ship models.
As the British, you need to keep merchant shipping losses to below 300,000 tons per month until Pearl Harbour, and 700,000 per month after that. The timing of the invasion depends on shipping losses: on my first play though it occurred in mid 1945.

I am now on my second play-through of the Royal Navy campaign. I did try playing the Kriegsmarine side, but the very first convoy I intercepted was escorted by HMS Echo, my grandfather's destroyer. This struck too close to home, and I immediately switched back to the Royal Navy game.

There are a few issues I have with the game:
  • Torpedoes are too accurate, making them the best anti-submarine weapon on the game. This is a combination of the targeting mechanism (either off the 2D map showing the location of the sonar echo, or using the ability to view from the perspective of the enemy ship in the 3D world), and how true they run.
  • The turn order goes Allied ships move and fire, Axis torpedoes run, Axis ships move and fire, Allied torpedoes run. Combined with the predictability of torpedo paths (running about 2000 yards per turn), this creates some opportunities to dodge torpedoes that wouldn't be possible in an RTS or with simultaneous turns.
  • Airpower is very powerful, with very little chance to defend against it. There are no land-based interceptors, making the UK home waters a very dangerous place for the Royal Navy. Even if you have a carrier in the encounter, you don't get any kind of early warning, the fighters start on the deck and it takes a couple of turns to get them airborne. The AI always uses any aircraft it has available as soon as possible, so you get bombed before you have the chance to get any fighters airborne.
  • The game gets repetitive towards the end. Early on, you run into a variety of German surface raiders, with the biggest challenges being Bismark and Tirpitz. Once they've been sunk, it becomes a game of destroyers and corvettes vs U-Boats.
Despite these, it's a game I've enjoyed picking up and playing again over the summer. It is an interesting subject, has nice mechanics, and beautiful graphics.