Thursday, 6 December 2018

Cruising in the slot...

Whoa... I am slow in updating the blog... too sloooow...

anyway back to business! Namely the business to show my recent miniatures' painting efforts. In my last post I was complaining how crap is the painting you see on GHQ 1/2400 ships on the internet. I am not that rich to have a whole fleet of GHQ stuff, so I collect 1/3000 ships for smaller engagement or air attacks. Mainly Navwar (cheap!) but last summer I took the plunge and tried some of the excellent 1/3000 plastic from Fujimi (built plenty of Fujimi models in my youth). Ordered them from Japan and had them shipped here...


Okay here we have two Fujimi US Battleships (USS Washington and USS South Dakota) escorted by Navwar destroyers (hint hint hint... 2 BBs, 4 destroyers... what engagement is?)

Now the level of detail on the Fujimi warships is quite stunning. Conning towers, main turrets, and even the stern crane are molded separately and have to be placed into position.


While the two BBs can looks similar they are from two different classes (one improved upon the other) and show their differences. 


Now more details of the queens of the night. On the South Dakota you can clearly see the radar and the single funnel configuration.
 While the Washington has two funnels and a different radar arrangement. Deck wooden platings are well reproduced. And the 16" Gun turrets are clean and crisp.

 The sea base and the coastline are included in the box. I will probably dry-brush the coastline soon.

When you compare the detail on the BBs with that on Navwar destroyers you end up quite... deceived.  Still while Fujimi has a nice selection of IJN warships constantly increasing (guess...) and even JMSDF ships lined up, the USN ships are just the two BBs from 3rd Savo... so I still need to source USN ships from Navwar  or Skytrex (Roe Tengco's 3D printed 1/3000 models from Shapeways are awesome, but Shapeways is massively overpriced!).

Japanese ships are lining up fast anyway... stay posted for a new post.

Monday, 30 July 2018

Facebook wargaming groups, useful tools or utter crap?

We are living in the XXI century. Instant communication is with us, and there are infinite tools that a wargamer could use. discussion forums (to many to count or name), instant messaging, dedicated sites (BGG or CSW for example), yahoo groups... and Facebook. In the past few years I have joined several of these. Definitely they were a sign wargaming in all its form was healthy and increased communications was just helping the hobby... or so I thought.

Everyone reading these pages knows I am critical of the BGG wargaming areas for several elements, but what BGG undeniably provides is a place to see games before buying. Even if plenty of the posters seems to be part of idiots' brigade or simply of the 'adding nothing to the conversation' crowd (or the dreaded, I just say something completely unrelated often to tell you how good is my favorite game bunch...), the fact remains that BGG is a depository of images of unrivaled scope.

CSW not only keep you posted on the news, but usually provided informed discussion on the games.

And then there is Facebook. There there are several groups, from company operate or supported ones designed to support the operations of a specific manufacturer (a great one is Rubicon Models, but also a small companuy like Heroic and Ros has an useful facebook presence), to group dedicated to specific rules (Battlegroup or VG fleet series sprang to my mind), to generalist groups like 'Wargamers' or 'Naval Wargames'. 

Specialist groups are certainly useful. They provide a quick way to contact manufacturers or publishers, to get up to date news, and sometime to be informed of troubles. In small companies often the latter is crucial. Also, because the subject matter is relatively limited, they provide an useful space to discuss specific topics. In this case groups are certainly useful.

But what about the generalist ones? I have reached the conclusion that they are utter crap. Part of the crappiness come straight form Facebook. Yes Facebook gives you a space for photos and files, but the rest is just an unorganized continuous stream of post that are utterly unrelated, and often completely irrelevant to the reader, at times even to wargaming in general. It is difficult to find useful information  in the midst of unorganized posts. Reading them all... well it is usually impossible. The few useful announcements from companies are usually lost in the background noise. And then there are countless posts that fit better in international news group.  Then posting repetition between groups. I understand people want to get their message (often when it is relating to a new game...) across multiple groups to maximize audience, but if you are member of several groups receiving countless of the same notification could be annoying.

Then there is a big issue in the intrinsic nature of a generalist group covering a largely undefined hobby. What a wargame is? Peter Perla and Phil Sabin have proposed specific academic definition, but then people playing Risk and Twilight Struggle are calling them wargames. People says Call of Duty is a wargame. Now do not get me wrong. Risk and Twilight Struggle are not in the similar games. Their only similitude is that they have a board, and that they are called wargames by people who do not understand what a wargame is. Said that they are completely different animals. I can argue that TS is a bad model of the Cold War first, and spread out bad history second, but is a complex and successful GAME in its own. Just is not a wargame. The same is true for Call of Duty. But when you have people arguing about this around you... warning bells rang. Are the members of 'Wargamers' wargamers at all? I am not just saying I do not like mr. X, mr. Y is an idiot, and so on... I am more debating on the idea that we are part of the same hobby, playing related games, and, more importantly, I can derive some utility liaising or linking with them. If the subject of a group is so undefined that is not recognizable anymore, its utility as a forum for discussion is severely reduced. 

As an example people like Professor Rex Brynnen use group like Wargamers for their own polemics and rants. Beside the fact that  I am not impressed by his use of conflict simulations or his ideas at all; that I think it is one of the negative beacons in professional wargaming; that  I also think he has a badly disguise contempt for commercial wargaming in general.  I bascially do not go to a facebook hobby group for reading professional rants. While I am happy that my job and my main hobby are focused on the same subject, military history, I am also happy to avoid a complete overlapping of the two.  Yet Brynnen  posts on Wargamers group about his own professional activity, and often the posts and the subsequent comments end up in sterile political rants... on both sides. There is a reason why I use wargames as teaching and analytical aids but I am leery to get too involved in the professional conflict simulation community... 

Okay this could be professional hate, but it is also a clear example of the fact that a generalist group like Wargamers has no real usefulness, there is so much going on, that, coupled with the inherent limitations of the platform, make the group itself a waste of time.


Finally there is the issue of the people in general. Do I really care to be in contact with every wargamer in the world?  Frankly no... especially considering that some of them are not wargamers at all. Do I care to receive notification for every utterly irrelevant idiocy posted by someone somewhere in this globe? No.  Also do I care to participate in discussions where only drooling is allowed? Where only positive comments have to be posted in reply to any post, be it interesting, crap, irrelevant and so on? 

Few days ago someone posted pictures of 1/2400 1942 collection of Imperial Japanese Navy and US Navy ships. Well as I said on the H&R page some time ago, often I found that people buy expensive and well detailed GHQ models just to give them a crap paint job.  Judge for yourself...


And compare to 1/2400 or 1/3000 ships I posted here. There is also another issue. Look at the hybrid battleship in the center... it is an Ise class hybrid carrier. The problem here is that the conversion was done between 1943 and 1944. Not only she is a badly painted model, it is a ship not in existence in 1942 in that shape. Utter fail. Being on facebook I restrained to point out the fact the paint job was crap. But I pointed out that it was not a 1942 fleet. I was told that I was nut and bolt too many. Bloody fucking hell... you put a ship that was not in service in that form (and not a minor modification, a large scale conversion), and you say that it is just a minor detail. It is more akin the chap has no idea about the ships (in other words he is an idiot). but of course the politically correct crowd appeared raising and locking the flimsy shields of the 'be nice'. I added that not only it was historically wrong, not inaccurate just plain wrong... and the ships were also badly painted. Answer:

When I was one of the moderators for the Forumini we would not tolerate behavior like that.

Oh Well I am extremely happy to not have joined Forumini considering what kind of idiot they had in the moderators. I was also told I am an historian over a wargamer... okay I am a military historian, no problem, but I would remember the idiots' brigade this is historical wargaming nothing else. But I feel the word would be just lost on the idiots' brigade.  It is a sad reflection historical wargamers that in the end do not care about history.  And what is the purpose of a discussion group? Just drool... criticism is not allowed. It is a sad reflection of the state of the western world were we are no anymore allowed to voice legitimate opinions in the name of 'be nice.' I was told that if I was posting my own painting job on the internet criticism was something I had to be prepared for. That if I publish my wargame there will be negative opinion, and so on... Certainly other groups are more 'free wheeling' (like someone on the Fleet Series group that blanketed the whole production of Compass Games as 'shitty'), and I have seen heated but useful clashes on the 'Wargamers' group. But again in some groups it appears that criticism is not allowed.

Well, if one has the money to buy dozens of GHQ ships he could also bother to learn how to paint and what ships were present in a specific year, failure means that the individual is just an idiot.

Rant aside, the whole thing had made me thinking what I derive from having joined that specific group. I looked at my posts and comments... and realized I could have been deployed to Vulcan without an internet connection and I would not have felt any regret. Generalist wargaming groups are an utter waste of time. I realized I was turning off FB notification from these groups (also because these notifications are annoying to the point to be obsessive, facebook is not a communication tool, it is a marketing tool that use communication to drive you to their page and see the adverts. There is no point to be subjected to that for groups that hold just a marginal utility (if they hold any utility at all) for the hobby. I have turned off all possible notification from these two groups, and probably I will leave both of them soon. No need to waste time.

Generalist group on Facebook? Wrong platform, wrong community, and the perfect evidence that, just because we can link people, this is turning to be useful in any way.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

I am literally melting down... so...

so why do not paint something appropriate, like British forces for the Western Desert? Differently from the the 'unplanned madness' that their fellow countrymen I have already shown represents this is an entirely planned project. Of course it is also an entirely expanding one...

But let's see what is new on the Western Desert...

Grants! Or better said, M3 General Grant Medium Tanks.  They are resins from Battlefront.  The M3 Lee\Grant (the names were not official US Army's ones, but British nicknames; the Lee retainted the original US turret, the Grant had a British designed one, confusingly enough British documents often call them Grant...)  was both an important allied tank in its own right but also a critical compromise made at a time when US industry was just tooling up for war.


Steve Zaloga calls it the 'Kindergarten Tank'. Its design started in July 1940, as a response to the collapse of France. At that moment the US Army realized that its armor deficiency had to be addressed  immediately rather than in the short term. A new medium tank had to be put in serial production to create a real armored force. This ideal tank had to withstand AP shells from the German 37mm AT gun and be equipped with a 75mm gun capable to fire HE rounds.  It was certainly  a simple brief, one that should have resulted in a product comparable with the German PzKfw IV. Yet neither Ordnance nor the civilian industry had experience with cast turrets large enough to accommodate a 75mm main gun, short or long barrelled.  It was not just the industrial tooling lacking. Army engineers did not even have any idea about how big and strong the turret ring should have been to withstand the recoil. Simply put the US Army asked for something no one in US had really in mind...

 As Zaloga says engineers are face by a triangle of three elements: Good, Fast, Cheap. Usually they can pick two elements. In the summer of 1940 Fast and Cheap were picked. The result was a vehicle inspired by the French B1 tank. Main gun in the hull, secondary AT gun in the turret. Of course even this 'simple' pattern was not easy to achieve. Ordnance at the time was enamored with machine guns. The initial design had plenty of them... Armored Force, the new branch of the Army responsible for mechanized force, had them removed. some were left, including a twin installation in the forward hull, and a little MG armed cupola over the turret (okay this is an arrangement that Ordnance liked as earlier pictures of my M60 show!).  The twin MG in the hull disappeared, the cupola not. 

Even when the tanks was still a drawing the new Armored Force chief, General Jacob Devers, complained about it not being good, and insisting on it being a limited (750 samples) production run. But Roosevelt wanted tanks now, not only for the US army, but for the British Army too. The British had come to Washington with a shopping list... in the list there was a request for 3,650 medium tanks! Good or not the M3 Medium was the only adequate solution.  It was given a go ahead. The US ones would see combat in 1942 and 1943 in Algeria and Tunisia, and in 1943 in the Gilbert Islands. The Soviet Army would receive them and use them at Kursk too. Specialized versions would be employed until the end of the war. Yet the M3 moment of glory came in 1942 with the British Army in North Africa, and its last roar will be in 1944 in Burma and India, again with the British Army. 


The British army realized it was a temporary solution, and they were not impressed by the turret. They asked for changes, dropping the MG cupola, adding a radio bustle (US tanks did not have it!), enlarging it. The British also insisted to have the periscopic gun-sight replaced by a telescopic one.  With the modifications it was shipped to Egypt at a time when British tanks were outgunned not only by the Germans, but also by the Italian tanks. British tank guns, be it 2pdr or the first 6pdr, could not fire HE rounds. The Grant 75mm was able to fire them, and the 75mm round was pretty powerful. On top of that the 75mm fired a decent AP round. And there was a 37mm gun in the turret.  The Grant baptism of  fire was during Operazione Venezia, the Italian-German assault on the Gazala line. The 75mm gun was appreciated, its armor was adequate, but it was still a prey for the larger Axis guns like the German 88mm or the Italian 90mm. Ariete division's AT batteries claimed scores of them in keeping Rommel's cauldron intact. Yet it gave the British tanker an ability to fire gun shells at infantry and AT position and AP shells with adequate range to fight on an even ground with the Panzer IIIs. Of course it also prompted the Germans to ship uparmoured and upgunned tanks in Africa.   It served at El Alamein and in Tunisia. Then newer tanks replaced it. It was a stopgap, but an adequate one that left an impression on the desert war.


 It also happens that the shape is kinda unique and I like it. I finally decided to paint the one I had in storage from more than 10 years ago...  Just as a curiosity they were a direct order to Battlefront in New Zealand! They aged reasonably well. The new plastic ones are better, but these are... adequate. There some issues in connecting the track units to the hull, and one lost is AT gun (I created a replacement with brass wire and tape...). The resin body show both the unique shape and the extensive riveting quite well. Painting them was nice. I used one of the camouflaged scheme seen in 1942, sand base with dark  green blotches. 

I used FoW decals to complete them.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Talking about 3d Printing...

Recently I have read some less than inspiring comments on a Forum on 3D printed vehicles, some were general, some were directed against Butlers Printed Models. It happens that I own several 15mm models from them, and I do think that the comments were basically sockpuppetting from people linked to other companies. 

Of course I cannot present evidence (but one of the most virulent commentators was indeed a scratch builder whose excellent masters are used by another company...), but there is often a clear message:

3d printing is bad buy our resins...

Now my experience with 3d Printing is mixed. I have tried Shapeways, and while the ship in 1/6000, 1/4800, and 1/3000 I got were from good to excellent, the only tank in 15mm I bought there, a Chinese Type 96G, was subpar and extremely expensive. While I can recommend ships and some shops i particular (more on an upcoming post), once you got to tanks in larger scales, quality and price are not there. 

On the other hand my discovery of Butlers Printed Models has been an happy experience. Their vehicles are reasonably priced and compare well with 15mm offers, either in plastic, metal, or resin. 

Here is one of my first model, a Centurion Sho't. first of all, except quality castings in US no one does a 15mm Sho't for the 1973 war. Peter Pig does one for lebanon with ERA armor, BF has only the Meteor engine one.




Now if you look closely you can see the 'trademark' of 3D printing, the lines or stripes, but photography emphasized them more than real life sight. The other issue is the riveting in this particular tank the rivets came a bit 'larger than life.'  The other issue is excess material. The underside of the tank is ugly (but you do not see it!), and the underside of the gun barrell required a strong clean up. Said that, for a 15mm vehicle it is more than reasonable. I would not say awesome, but definitely good.

I replaced the MG with a plastic one, MGs are, as the time of writing, one of the weak points of the range.

Our second 'witness' is a soviet BTR-60PB in East German livery.





Another good representation of the real life vehicle. The turret MG is not bad at all, better than the metal one in the PSC/ArmiesArmy Resin-metal ones. The 'striping' is not prominent at all, despite the dry-brush. The real bad issue of this specifi model is the light above the driving hatch that is not well reproduced. The one on the plastic FoW kits is much better. But the Butlers one is around half the price, and the overall quality is good. 

Finally, the last witness, for now, is an Israeli Defence force Magach (M48 with 105mm gun and local modification). Again this is a vehicle you do not find anywhere else. It is also quite peculiar compared to the previous one because its rounder shape. Rounder shapes is were 3D printing is often  weaker.





The turret pass inspection with flying colours. The wheels... a bit less. it is probably the weaker visible area. In the last picture you can see the little problem with excess material (even after cleaning) on the underside of the gun barrel.  Again MGs were replaced with plastic ones from the spare box. Said that it is not a vehicle I would complain about. IT captures the shapes well, the jerry can on the turrets are nice, and on the table it works well. 

Verdict?

I am more and more persuaded that there is a lot of sock-puppetting involved in the bash. It is not perfect, it has limitations, but 3D printing is a viable wargaming tools, and, thanks to company like Butlers, it is helping us gamers. 


PS: no vehicle story today... it was more a post on 3D printing than the 'toys', but feel comforted, I will talk about them very soon!

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

A lonely duck... a Guderian's Duck!



Yesterday I got my copy of Vae Victis 139. As usual the magazine was packing its usual assortment of articles. As usual some anti-american idiocy slipped in... (it is quite annoying, especially because they are usual gibberish) but this is not the point of my writing... much more annoying was a comment I found on the Team Yankee article, in the box highlighting the available miniatures. The writer was defining Peter Pig vehicles:


'par contre le chars uniquement en plomb ne sont plus aux standards actuels'


this is the sort of idiocy that you find in magazine and that seems more a product of people bashing companies rather than serious reviewers. Having painted a PP vehicles just few days ago...


I felt the comments was a gratuitous insult. Peter Pig is not the only manufacturers producing full metal tanks. As a manufacturer with a big catalog it is obvious that some vehicles will be better than others, often reflecting their age. The Jagpanzer IV/70 I had under my brushes is a relatively recent vehicle (in their production, not in history!) and while being a full metal model it is certain up to standard. Certainly better than some resin stuff I have seen around.



Rant done... let's talk a bit about it. As almost every German WW2 chassis also the Panzer IV was used for conversion. Despite the appearances, it was not a late war desperation conversion. The plans for it had been shown to Hitler in 1942 by Vomag AG. The basic concept was to use PZ IV hulls to produce a 75mm armed vehicle to replace the Sturmgeschutz III. The basic reasons were compatibility with the main tank, the ability of the new hull to take heavier weapons than the Panzer III (the design specified a L70 gun from the start, while the Sturmgeschutz III had reached its limit with the 75mmL48), and also the assumption that, when the new medium tank (the still infant Panther...) would have replaced the Panzer IV as mainstay of the panzer divisionen there would be plenty of surplus hull.


That was the idea. Guderian did not like the new vehicle (despite in the end having his name associated with it), but Hitler was adamant that the new tank destroyer would have replaced the Panzer IV. Guderian's argument were basically two: the Stug III was still adequate, the Panzer IV was necessary as medium tank. Tampering with production lines would have been bad. In the end both won in typical German fashion, with Guderian keeping the Stug and the Panzer IV, and Hitler getting the new one. German Army's logistics obviously won.


Production started in late 1943, with the first 30 vehicles being completed by Vomag in January 44. With the new L70 guns going to the new Panthers as priority, the Jagdpanzer IV was initially armed with the older L48 gun. Not until August the 75mm L70 guns were made available for the Jagdpanzer, with production fully switching sometime later. In the end the german factories produced 1977 Jagdpanzer IV, 1208 with the long barrel and 769 with the shorter one. Around 270 were produced by Alkett with a different superstructure.


All in all it was a good tank destroyer with a powerful gun, good armor, and a low profile. Yet it was often used as an assault gun or an ersatz tank with poor results. I have a Skytrex and a Flames of War ones, and they had always performed quite badly on the table...


Gaming experiences aside the main issues with the Jagdpanzer IV were production runs hampered by shortage of materials and allied bombing, and another vehicle complicating the whole logistic issue.


Now, after a short historical introduction... more pictures... so you can decide by yourselves about Vae Victis' comment.






I like it of course!

Monday, 4 June 2018

Bundesheer...

After the madness of the 'unplanned diversion that turned into a horde' post, a little filler. I have recently repainted four Leopard 1A5 from H&R.






Everyone on the net always moans how good the GHQ models are, and then they painted them in awful manner. I have GHQ models, but I do not think they are by default the first choice. Heroic and Ros models are often perfectly good, especially with a good paintjob.


These Leopards were sitting in my bits box for ages. I just repainted them (so they have two coats!), and the end result is perfectly good.


The key element of the 1A5 version, the added Blohm und Voss turret armor and the smoke dischargers are perfectly visible, especially after a mix of dry-bushing and black-lining. The tools on the sides of the hull are there. The mantlet (another key element of the outlook) is also well done. I am happy.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Blimey!!!! They are doneeeeeee!!!!

Okay,

if you have followed this blog you know I had started a 15mm WW2 British North Western Europe project sometime ago. I stopped posting the progress because I was lazy... but I did not stop working on it.

End result:



Three infantry platoon, one MG platoon in carriers, one Carrier platoon (only two sections plus comman), one AT platoon with 6pdrs, one Motor platoon, assorted engineers, a 25pdrs section, a whole load of AFVs...

I also removed the QRF Churchills (now replaced by PSC ones) and the QRF Achilles, now with two plastic BF ones proudly taking its place. Of course I can add more... but to be quite honest, I am satisfied with painting battledress...


The 'funny' thing is that this horde of troops has more or less never been planned. I was expecting myself to limit myself ot US troops for the NWE campaign. But then I received some leftovers from a friend (I painted his British troops) and started to add small bits... usually in plastic. Actually almost the whole force is plastic!!! Plastic fantastic (I like to build plastic vehicles, they paint better than lead or resin, they are much lighter for storage). Now let's go into details.


A squadron of comet from the 11th Armoured Division, FOW plastic. Two Squadron command tanks, two troops of three Comet each. I know it is a marginal WW2 tank as employment goes, but...

1) I like it
2) It was used.
3) I want my 1945 version of the force to have a specific character.


Mixed picture, you can see one of the PSC infantry platoon on FOW rural bases, and the artillery units. Two FOW lead 25pdrs (quite old, I think I forgot about them, but they ended up quite well), on PSC quad, one PSC OP Carrier, one PSC Sherman V as OP. And load of tanks... you can see the PSC Churchills, the Comet and the line up of Shermans.


Lovely PSC Churchill AVRE with its petard mortar, and the PSC AT platoon; guns and Loyd carriers. Behind the ATs, the FOW plastic motor platoon.


Center stage for the Carrier unit. The Carriers are a mix of FOW (old the initial leftovers!) and PSC.  Infantry are a mix of FOW and PSC.  Behind them Joe Vandeleur command unit, and 2 FOW resin M5 Stuarts.

The Motor platoon again, the Churchills (three gun tanks one CS), the two Achilles and Shermans!
 
Tank photo shot.


FOW plastic infantry in close up.


For a project started with leftovers from a friend's commission (let's be honest, one Matador truck, two carriers, 10-15 infantrymen, two Fireflys...) it has gained traction, mainly due to the attractiveness of plastic.

The Sherman line, two FOW resins in the foreground, the rest are PSC, 75mm or Fireflys.

One last tribute to my madness!! Now I only need to bring them on the table!