On the workbench - February 2012

A month of solid progress on the Paras needs a final push(?) to get the majority fixed, so I'll work on adding the missing MGs, mortars, AT guns and Reece vehicles.

So what else?
  • The Festes-Haus zu Ransbach (by popular request, and I'm quite interested to see how it turns out)
  • Continue work on the various WW2 vehicles (currently the frame aerials are proving problematic)
  • A "proper" camp using the Bellona tents
Then there is the Vapnartak show in York this weekend where the L&L will be refighting Ravenna 1512 (500th anniversary)


Crusade 2012 - Penarth

Been off for the last week on holiday in Pembroke, but luckily my return coincided with the Crusade show in Penarth, Cardiff, so I got chance to pop in and meet up with a number of people and have a good look at what is becoming a popular show.

Oh, and I spent some money too, more than I expected
  • Ten Stuarts from Combat Miniatures (at a good price, especially as the old Matchbox models rarely appear on ebay)
  • Two pairs of guns from Minimi - Italian 47mm and British 2pdr (and apparently a 50mm PAK38 will be appearing shortly)
  • British Paratroop MMG and Mortar teams plus the parts to equip my Reece jeeps from SHQ
  • A copy of Last Argument of Kings (I cracked when I found a copy for £16!)
  • A copy of the latest version of "I ain't been shot mum" (and a chance to have a good chat with my old mate Richard Clarke)
  • A couple of assembled Airfix Grants (now up to 6, slowly getting there)
  • A couple of Matchbox 251's (I think I need a couple for my DAK forces)
Then there were the games, some demonstrators were putting in the effort and engaging with the public, while others just hunkered down and just played the game, shame!

Some pictures

Richard Clarke's IABSM demo game (15mm)
The battle of Chousitz 1742 (10mm)
Vietnam Riverine warfare (20mm)
Battle of Fishguard (what if) 25mm
WW2 (25mm)


Napoleonic rework

Played the new Crusader Publishing "March Attack" Napoleonic rules down the club last week. They seemed to work well enough and were simple to pick up. We played the Plancenoit scenario in the back of the rules, but it was rather ambitious for a first attempt as the infantry didn't quite get into combat by packing up time. Still it seems promising and worth another go, my only slight concern is that the artillery seems too powerful.

I was using my French and Prussian figures and the few rebased ones really stood out from the rest and the command bases looked particularly uninspiring. So since I was basing up the paras I thought I'd just do these as well




British Paras - third batch

The third battalion is now painted again I still need the Mortar and MMG. I'll be at Crusade on Saturday, so hopefully I'll pick up some more bits I need there

The brigade so far, it's mainly artillery and vehicles needed now.


Penkridge - foraging trip

Popped down to the table sale held at Penkridge today and secured a few useful bits and pieces at prices to justify the trip (honest!)
  • four Airfix 6pdr guns (just what I need for Monty's battles)
  • an Airfix Crusader
  • SHQ Nebelwerfer
  • Academy kubelwagen
  • a pack of Revell SYW Austrian Infantry
  • about 90 Esci WW2 Russian Guards (the hard plastic set)
  • A set of Airfix British Paras (I just want the mortar and crew!)
  • The FOW Afrika handbook (only to have a read look at the eye-candy and then sell)
  • Dapol platform figures (to provide some unarmed civilians)
  • The Bellona tent set (I need some more for encampments, probably go for a desert basing this time)
Nice friendly atmosphere and it seemed to get plenty of buyers and sellers.


British Paras - second batch

Another battalion of British Paras now completed, except that I still need to add a MMG and mortar team. In the front is the flame-thrower needed for the Engineers, it's a simple head swap using the flame-thrower in the Hat British machine gun set.


British Paras, the first batch

OK to kick off with, I had to rework an existing Para battalion to ensure it was consistent with the new stuff that I'm producing. I've added a few extras such as a Piat team and 2" mortar from the Italeri AT teams. The 3" mortar and HMG still need to be rebased but I'll do them once I find a good source for the extra pair of each I need for the other two battalions.

Then there are the new units, these are all the small bits I might need for specific games. At the fron Left to right Pathfinder Company, Recon Company (need Jeeps) Engineer Company (still need to add a flamethrower). Behind are the brigade HQ and the Artillery OP.

Now on with the second battalion.


Playing favourites

As “Too much Lead” put it “We all have them; favourite games, periods, inspirations and so on. The lull in gaming over the festive season gave me pause for thought on a few of mine, and since we are now in "awards" season, so I understand, I thought as a one off to herald the new year I could pass comment on mine.”

And so here are my thoughts:

Wargames Period

I play most periods; I’m a bit of a wargame butterfly. If I had to pick some then it would have to be Napoleonic then WW2 and SYW, but as my blog shows periods have a tendency of spawning into a variations and then into another period, so don’t depend on me sticking on any particular course.

Where it all began

A bit tricky really, I remember being interested in model railways from an early age, yes I wanted to become an engine driver, steam of course. Three influences made me switch, firstly a present of a rocket launcher and exploding wagon for my train set, then the purchase of the Airfix Infantry Combat Group and finally the discovery of “Wargames” by Donald Featherstone in the library.


Fore me 1/76th has to be the scale, it’s where I started all those years ago and I’ve rarely shifted away from 20mm figures. For me it’s the right compromise between appearance, paintability and footprint on the tabletop.


Hmm, a difficult one as I’m an inveterate rule writer and tinkerer. I’m still proud of my Zulu and AWI rules but both owe their origins to others in the hobby. The Zulus link back to Pony Wars, which Peter Gilder also used as the basis for his Sudan rules. The main mechanisms of my AWI set are from Charlie Wissencraft a major pioneer, who ran an ACW game at one of the early COWs (Conference of Wargamers)

Current commercial favourites are:

Rapid Fire for WW2, it needs work especially around command and control. I’ve tried Kampfgruppe Normandy, it contains some good ideas, but it contains too many anomalies for me to enjoy.

Black Powder for generic Tricorne/Napoleonic/Colonial, work well for a pick up game at the club and can be tinkered with to get period flavour. I really like the command and control mechanism.

Hail Caesar has had the same effect for ancients that had somewhat stagnated and it has rekindled my interest in gaming the period.

Others that had an influence over the years are WRG 4th/5th/6th DBA and DBM, 1644, Age of Reason, the WRG Napoleonics (remember flinch points!), various WW2 sets.


Yes, I’m a boardgamer or more specifically a Eurogamer, but you won’t find any of it on my blog. Why? Because I’m a willing participant with others who are boardgame enthusiasts and are always buying the latest games. There’s always lots of inventive ideas in the games and many will carry across to wargames with little problem.


I did start with soft plastic and for years knew no other, but gradually began to add some metal to my Napoleonic collection and some other bits and pieces. I then realised that for armies the size I liked and aspired to the weight and cost of metal would be prohibitive (I was still at school at the time) and Springwood came along with their hard plastic figures, so I had the basic numbers sorted.

Later in life once I had the money but not the time I made a decision to stay with plastic as an easy way of limiting myself to a smaller range of periods.

Figure manufacturer:

Zvezda has to be my favourite for sculpting, but they have suffered scale creep over the years, but their new Art-of-Tactic has returned to 20mm, though the sculpting is no longer as crisp.

Strelets would be my pick for unusual subjects with a quirky originality. Hat still uses the horrible rubbery plastic that loses detail and Italeri does brilliant sculpts, but has suffered from scale creep as well. Caesar was heading in the right direction, but seems to have become fixated by WW2.

Overall very much a pick and mix approach is currently my style


My best memories still come from the clubs I first started out with. Bath got me started on AWI, WW2 and Napoleonics, I especially remember vast sprawling Napoleonic games fought over a weekend and back to back WW2 skirmish games.

Lancaster (Jomini) introduced me to a wide range of diverse views on the hobby and I remember the Niersteiner-Domthal campaign organised by Andy Callan and fought with matchstick armies.

After a gap I returned to the hobby setting up the St Albans club, which is still going strong under the leadership of the Two Fat Lardies and I’m glad to say the same sense of fun was still there when I popped by a year ago. So many memorable games in a vast range of scales and genres.

During a difficult period in my working life I was seconded to a job in Aberdeen, and I must admit the welcome and games at the local club really helped to maintain my sanity.

More recently there has been the participation in the annual big games organised by the Society of Gentlemen Gamers and the satisfied feeling of returning after a weekend’s gaming in such a friendly environment.

Of course I can’t ignore my current club the Deeside defenders, who put up with me almost every week and many weekend boardgaming sessions as well.


My longest suffering opponent is Steve Ayers the founder member of the Harpenden Wanderers formed of ex-members of the St Albans club who gradually drifted away to other parts of the country and coincidentally like myself lived in Harpenden. Steve was my main AWI opponent and he wrote the first computer version of my rules (and he’s still using them). When he left he had to buy AWI armies and I had to rewrite the rules to run on a PC! Steve is still a regular opponent at the various show games put on by the Lance & Longbow society.



I think this would cover all the old favourites: A bridge too far; The Longest Day; Zulu; The Eagle has landed; Where Eagles Dare; The heroes of Telemark; Spartacus; Gladiator etc. Want I really need to do is spend time watching the various eastern European films about the renaissance period


Over the years I have read an enormous amount and over the years the trend has been to shift from the blow to blow accounts to details of the underlying strategic context.

My favourite historical authors include Christopher Duffy (Campaigns of Napoleon), Rick Atkinson (An Army at Dawn) Martin Van Crefeld (Supplying War) Robert Kershaw (It never snows in September)

But then I’ve still got my treasured possessions, “Charge” and the “The Wargame”, both bought for what seemed an extortionate price when I had little money, but have repaid the expenditure many-fold over the years.


Yes I’ve subscribed to a lot of them, but gradually reduced over the years. Currently I subscribe to several societies as they often give more details on battles and their context than the mainstream magazines. Their other benefit is often to throw up something new that if I was just considering buying a magazine would not get a second glance. So stand up and take a bow Society of Ancients, Lance & Longbow, Pike and Shot and SOTCW societies. Yes a bit of a gap in the middle, but no one has yet produced a well balanced journal for the Napoleonic period.

Mainstream I still subscribe to Wargames Illustrated and Battlegames and pick up the occasional issues of Miniature Wargames and Wargames Soldiers Strategy if there is anything to interest me.


To me this is a great inspiration, walking into a museum and seeing the great period pictures for real the battles pictures of Tamai and Abu Klea at the National Army Museum are so striking

The Internet

Has now become my first post of call for research and checking on what is happening in the hobby. It has enabled me to meet a lot of people and gain a lot of new ideas and perspectives.


Some final thoughts, favourite paints, still Humbrol but now acrylics a good robust paint for wargames use. Vallejo has the colour range and higher pigment levels so I use them where needed.

Favourite tank – still the Panther, though the T34 comes a close second

Favourite unit: Napoleonic 3ieme régiment Croate, one of my longest serving units


A new project?

Just bought my first laser cut building. The Festes-Haus zu Ransbach. it's mainly laser cut/etched card and foam core with a few bit of balsa

It's very much an experiment to see how these buildings are constructed and also because the buildings footprint matches my standard basing

The biggest disappointment was that the timber framing was not separate as this makes painting a lot slower. I know that in reality the infill was at the same level, but for modelling it's a lot easier if they are separate. The windows are interesting, but I'm not sure how robust they will be for wargames use, I'll need to see how they turn out.

Probably get around to assembling it in a couple of months!


Zvezda triplet

Continuing the theme of threes, here's three different WW2 German sets from Zvezda from left to right
  • Reconnaissance set - only four figures, but some very nice poses
  • Motorcycles, only one per packet, but lots of detail, far superior to the Hat version, I just wish they had included an optional pillion rider as well
  • Engineers, four figures, but some accessories included as well of which the only usable components are the barbed wire fencing. the wire cutter and mine detectors make this a very useful set

In general the best option is to rebase the figures, the originals work just about OK with the motorcycles. I do feel that the contents of the sets is being adjusted to reflect it's value in their art of tactic game, hence the boxes with single sprues of just four figures. Do I feel ripped off? Well slightly as otherwise I'd have to convert the figures or (horror) buy metal.


Three bitches

Finished at last, three SU76s or Sukas (bitches) as the Russians called them.

I've had a number of problems with them, firstly heat distortion as the kit must have been kept somewhere warm. Mostly this can be fixed by dropping the part in hot water and straightening it out, but here the rear of the fighting compartments were badly bent and had to be held in front of a fan heater to softening them enough. I used some long nosed pliers to avoid burning my fingers. This fault also affected the gun mantlets, but here I decided they were beyond recovery so I constructed replacements with plasticard and green stuff.

Worst of all was the right track units, all were damaged and fragile. In retrospect I would have been better off removing the fragile material rather than trying to repair it. Eventually I gave up trying to get it right as it is a wargames piece after all and it needs to be robust. You can see the mess on the model on the right.

As the models were bought from a modeller they are three different variants from left to right SU76m (early) SU76m (late) and the original a SU76. All three vehicles are by Milicast


On the Workbench - January 2012

To make a good start to a new year I have to finish what's already on the bench, so this means the Zvezda German Recon , motorcycles and engineers, the SU76s (Actually finished now, but needed to be photographed) and Befehlspanzer I.

The big new task will be my British Para brigade and it's likely to run into February given the number of figures to be painted. At the same time, following my experiences with the SU76s, I've decided to work on the remaining resin vehicles I picked up at Crewe last February. They are quite a varied bunch and some need quite a bit of work to make good.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes I have to make some purchasing decisions ready for Vapnartak my first show of the year.


Plans for 2012

I've decided that 2012 will be dominated by a desert theme, with two main thrusts:
  • Firstly, preparation for this October’s big game to commemorate the battle of El Alamein and to bring all my WW2 desert forces up to a consistent level. This means I’ve a lot to do on my DAK/8th Army forces as I’ve concentrated so far on the earlier desert campaigns;
  • Secondly, with the arrival of the Hat Dervishes it’s off to the Sudan.
This will be backed up by work on:
  • British to fight the French in Egypt with the latest Strelets releases and promises of more this year. I expect I’ll paint some extra French;
  • Sort out the assorted Saracens so I can use Hail Caesar for Crusades games.
Other projects:
  • Work on the British Airborne brigade (carried over from 2011);
  • Clear out the rest of my medievals to make a Burgundian/German force;
  • Upgrade more terrain, especially walls and hedges (carried over from 2011).
And finally keep the stash to fewer than 5,000 taking into account Christmas presents

Of course this might change slightly once a decision is made about the SOTCW game at Gauntlet, but my normal contribution is to the terrain for the game, so the impact will be most likely to add to the list.

Adding up all that I already have in the stash for the above makes 1,200 items, so even with the necessary purchases it should be feasible.


2011 Review

What? another year passed already

To start on a "more" serious note performance against targets

General items
  • Continue reducing the stash of unpainted figures, the target is 5,000 by year end. So I have to trade/sell/paint at least 1,500 figures and more to cover what I buy in 2011. Given I typically paint around 1,500 items a year it should be feasible. – Well I got down to 5,048 before Christmas, but it rose again with the presents to 5,273 so I got close and I’ve still got over 700 allocated to sell.
  • Tidy up a number of armies and dispose of any old surplus painted figures, especially WW2, which has quite a number of figures I never use. – Along with the unpainted figures quite a few painted Russian, German and British units have been sold.
  • Upgrade more terrain, especially walls and hedges. – If I ignore the legation walls then a complete failure on this
Major Projects – 3 out of 4 is not bad
  • WW2 US Airborne Brigade – done, just a few bits to finish off, as always
  • WW2 British Airborne Brigade – carried forward to 2012
  • Medieval German/Swiss Army - done
  • Frundsberg and Pommaine “SYW” forces in preparation for a new campaign. - done
Minor Projects
  • Terrain for the Siege of Peking game for Gauntlet – done, but it needed more terrain than I anticipated
  • Italian forces for the “Big Game”, mainly a number of small units for Leros plus some Allied aircraft - done
  • Continue work on my new Afrika Korps, my plan is to mainly complete it by buying discount figures and vehicles. – some bits purchased, but a major area for action in 2012 with the Alamein big game coming up
  • Tidy up my figure database, I’ve not done a complete check for years now so I suspect it has some errors in it. – done, found a number of errors, but broadly correct.

In detail
  • 1,547 items built/painted/repaired, so similar performance to last year. By period
  • WW2 – 589 items – mainly made up for the new US Airborne Brigade, followed by the reworking of my Russian forces and then the extras for the Dodecanese big game.
  • SYW – 458 items- this was all the big push on the Bavarian (Pommaine) and Frundsberg forces.
  • Medieval – 158 items – all the Swiss army
  • AWI – 120 figures – all old figures rebased and touched up.
  • Terrain – 102, yes 102 items, virtually all for the Siege of Peking game.
  • Sold - 1,326 unpainted and 290 painted items
  • Revolutionary Wars – 64 items, French Grenadiers, Artillery and then the Bashi-Bazouks – I think this period will be busier in 2012 with the new Strelets releases.
  • Colonial – 24 items – but I’m sure this will flare up in again in the Sudan in 2012

Lots of good games during the year, both miniatures and boardgames. Particular highlights were:
  • The Dodecanese big game by the Society of Gentlemen Gamers – another stunning effort in terms of terrain, figures and the style of play, OK there were odd bits that could be improved but it was my stand-out event of the year.
  • A close second, based on the pure entertainment value was the SOTCW game at Gauntlet, so much fun spread over a couple of days.
  • Runners-up were the Aztec-Conquistadores games at Fiasco and the Austro-Ottoman game of Olaschin 1696 at out local open gaming day in Broughton, Chester