Friday, 28 December 2012

Battle Group Kursk review

I am going to do a review of Battle Group Kursk, without being biased about it,and not having any preconceived ideas! That's going to be altogether a bit short. So, here's a review that does have some bias and preconceived ideas. It will also have, I hope, an honest appraisal.

Firstly, I actually have a copy, which is an advance on some reviews I have seen. The book is a substantial hardback, gloss cover, and high gloss paper. The binding is pretty good, better than KGN, which I felt would fall apart with serious game use. To much exposure to GW publications. The layout is clear with lots of examples throughout the text to help with getting to grips with game concepts and mechanisms. Warwicks influence coming through regarding accessibility and practicality. There is a bit of overload regarding the quantity of units and options for the 4 platoon types listed - more later, but, this I feel is a personal thing. I know a lot of people want the ability to creat a personalised battle listing, and the clear and detailed options allow this. This is after all a core games set with army listings to game the Eastern Front, as well as the listed scenarios. I came across a few typo's, but not any howlers. The book also contains detailed background and simple analysis of Kursk, not a doctoral thesis but historical, and a good introduction for gaming the Eastern Front.

The book has 4 types of platoons listed, and allows the gamer flexibility to 'fit' these to their requirements if imagination is used, the core of the rules providing a framework to operate within. There is a German Panzer and an Infantry listing, with their counterpart Russian listing of a Mechanized Corps and an Infantry listing. There are options to take regarding defences as a defender in certain scenarios, as well as setting up games outside the setting of the Kursk scenarios. Those familiar with KGN will be familiar with the setup regarding these scenarios, such as meeting engagements, defending the line etc. The use of supporting units and weapons for the platoons is much clearer than KGN, with limitations on their use in the construction of your battlegroups such as restricted units per level of force structure. The options available to your platoons also allow for a much more sophisticated  battlegroup than in KGN, with 'new' rules regarding air recce, scouting, tank aces, the use of officers, unreliable vehicles, recovery and repair vehicles, political officers for the Russians, massed infantry and tank attacks..... A lot of the rules themselves are 'similar' to KGN, but when looked at as a whole, they are an improvement and development of concepts in KGN. They also give a distinct flavour of the nature of fighting on the Eastern Front, something that when I talked to Warwick at Bovingdon, he was at pains to make sure was a feature of this set of rules.

Is it value for money? Yes, at £30 for what you get, it is. I was lucky to come across a mint set for £19.50, how, I don't know why, but that's ebay for you. With the only thing to compare it with being KGN, it's a clear winner. There are other rulesets out there that are cheaper, there are other rulesets out there allowing 'larger' games,such as Rapid Fire. To be honest, it's comparing chalk and cheese, as BGK sets out to do a different game than those others, and it does this in a sophisticated and practical way that is accessible. It also allows you to get into the game at a relatively lowcost level, with 30 or so figures, a gun or two, and a tank/vehicle. This, I think, is more important than the cost of the rules themselves, as it allows you to control the cost of getting into gaming WW2 and to scale up as and when you can do so.  

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmass and a Happy Gaming New Year

Its Christmass Eve, and less than 6 hours to go. No, I will not be getting up at 3am and running downstairs to open my copy of Battle Group Kursk. I decided on a certain amount of uncharacteristic self discipline that meant I would wait till then and a respectable time on Christmass day. Meanwhile the paint bench in the shed has been busy, as well as Her Majesty's Postal service.

The most recent addition has been 3 M26 Pershings for Battle Group Fall of the Reich. Coupled with this has been a hardback copy of 'No Triumphal Procession'. The book is absolutely top rate material and very informative, and to be honest I didn't realise the kind of fight that went on. I had an impression of a couple of 'mobs' of Hitler Youth running around letting off Panzerfausts. In no way was this the case, but a murderous and obstinate grind against an inevitable outcome . The M26's were from Frontline, and although I have never dealt with them before, I have been looking at the website and what they do. I was thinking of picking up 1 or 2 Easymodel Pershings, but price wise, Frontline won out. The moulds were clean, and the service very good, but they will need plenty of additional kit put on such as hawsers, aerials, stowage and tarps.

I also managed to build an Esci kit of a M12 155mm HMC, which although quite a complicated build looks quite nice. Painted up it will provide support for my GI's knocking out Pillboxes and Bunkers. Rescued from the paint bench was a M16 quad 50cal which was bent a bit - cue the superglue, and 2 250 german halftracks, which were badly put together, and had to be rebuilt, converting one of them to a Recce command halftrack. Two SHQ Marders were also built up, and wired for aerials and frames. The build for these was quite difficult, and whilst I am a firm supporter of SHQ, I think a plastic kit is where I'd go next. Very difficult but detailed.

I went for the Pershings, and the book, to kind of get a head start on Fall of the Reich. Although the book concerns the push by British troops into the North German Plain, crossing the rivers and fighting on towards the Baltic, it was a recommendation/mention on a topic in the Guild that drew my attention to it. It will provide the basis for lots of actions and scenario's for British or American troops. Those German Marines just did not give up. It has an intensity that I think exceeds the fight in the bocage between US and Fallschirmjagers leading to St Lo.  

Lastly, I managed to get a game in, but FoG ancients. Nick set Milanese Condotiere against Ordonance French. I played the French, and won, with the Swiss crashing into some English Longbow, routing them into Landsneckts, and my mounted Longbows - on foot, clearing away Nicks support troops. FoG is all that I have found that I dislike about gaming, where mechanics and gaming is more important than the recreation of a battle, hypothetical or not. Micromanagement of forces scaled up unrealistically.

Shifts permitting, which they haven't so far, January will provide a number of games so something to look forward to and report/blog back on.

Merry Christmass and a Happy New Year.

Friday, 30 November 2012

I've got my copy of BGK at last!

I managed to get a copy of BGK off Ebay, so should receive it next week. End of auction price for £19.50, and with postage was £25. A very good price considering £29.99 was the cheapest I had found, and that I got my copy of KGN for £24.

I can't wait to receive it, and start playing. I have some ideas on the counters, basing them on card, and printing black and white prints on the back. Anyway, I'm just really excited at all the possibilities. Time for a cold shower I think.


Saturday, 24 November 2012

German Radio Truck BGK/KGN/BGN part 4

The final little details have been added to the truck, I have put on a small locker, poles strapped to the side, tarpaulins onto the front stowage, a spare wheel and locker underneath. The model has been sprayed black for painting, which I shall do tomorrow, and the aerial has been attached to the diorama/unit base. the CD hole has been covered as well!

 The aerial went into the base - a CD, quite well, reinforced with lots of superglue.
Some of the paint seems to be taking a bit of a gloss, but this will go when the model is painted, and the base is made up. I have a SHQ group - officers studying a map around a table, and another group - SHQ artillery battery radio squad, to put onto the base as part of the setup, so I am hoping the whole thing will come out OK.
The truck with its basic paint job applied, and the aerial ready for the power lead and finishing off. Time to do further detailing.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

German Radio Truck for BGK/KGN/BGN part 3

Having got some free time, I waded down to the shed to do some more work on the truck. I had a look at some web images of various trucks to get an idea of what detailing was needed - I don't have any scale plans, so it was going to be freehand, and I wanted an idea of what went where.

First problem noticed was that the cargo/office body was too low, needing the side skirting to be raised. Also, I was going to have the doors and windows closed, but if it was set up for use, the aerial would need to be erected. it looked a real horror to scratch build if it was strapped to the rear of the truck.

Off to work on the body, which I drew positions of the various doors and windows onto the body to give a rough idea of positioning.
 Side view showing window, door and access cupboard, with the new raised body
 rear view with the steps put on, and mounts for the aerial which has been erected
 Side view again of the windows
 Truck with aerial for comparison
The aerial, in 3 parts, drilled and pinned with wire, the poles of the aerial being quite tricky, as the drill i was using managed to melt the plastic rod at my first attempt. i have added various joints for the base pole, and will add wire to this for the diorama - to show the power lead.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

German Radio Truck for KGN/BGK/BGN part 2

I was able to do some work on the truck this weekend, and managed to get the whole thing pushed along quite well. I also had a read through of BGK rules and thought how similar they are/will be to KGN. I guess the legal wonks at E.E. missed a trick by not stiffing Piers and Warwick at the launch of the rules. Can't wait till BGN is launched. Anyway, Radio trucks are in, and I'm on my way to creating a little diorama for it. Firstly, the truck needs to be built.

The truck with its wheels on. I had to build up the suspension to set the wheels properly, with axle springs and axles improvised.

The box with wheel arches cut out, the step at the front of the box to take the chassis.

A side view of the cutting and filing done

Fitted onto the chassis, withrear mudguards on

The roof frame with side bracing supporting it. The long bar has had the edges filed.

Roof plate glued on,after being bent to shape. I superglued the roof on for a secure but fast fit. I will then trim the roof down, and give an edge to the sides of the roof.

The finished article, now filed down

Front parcel/stowage shelf and its supporting bracing added. Ready for further detailing.
A couple of minutes checking out google images to get an idea of what to put on the body, and it will be ready for painting.


Sunday, 4 November 2012

German Radio Truck for BGK/KGN/BGN

I've started work on an old decrepit Opel Blitz lorry that I didn't know what to do with. I didn't want to turn it into a wreck, and was looking for a radio truck. Repairing the model, and converting it seemed like a good idea to get some more life from it.

Project  radio truck was initiated.

Problems were that the suspension and wheels were wrecked, the flatbed would need to be removed or cut to fit the body that would be scratch built, and along with this, I would need to fit in the rear mudguards. Also, detail of the radio truck would mean that I would need to decide whether it should be open or closed, as well as sort out a diorama for the base. I have some SHQ figures to put on it, and having seem a radio truck at Bovvy 2012 - by Alan McCoubrey, that was frankly outstanding, I was going to attempt my best.

Initial pics of work

Trimmed flatbed, with boxes removed from chassis, and below, underside showing the damage to wheels and axles.

 The basic shape of the van box, showing curve of the roof at the ends of the box, corners filed to 45 degrees, to get a better fit and glue in.
The wheels and mudguards, with a bit of axle on one. 
I'm hoping to set the wheels up, and fit in the mudguards next, allowing me to then move to detailing the box sides.

A booklist for the Normandy Campaign 1944

I thought that it would be a good idea to post a booklist of interesting and relevant books. Not that I or you have preconcieved ideas of what actually happened, but I think everyones idea of Arnhem has been influenced by the film ' A bridge too far' , for instance.
One of the reasons why I took to KGN was my preconceptions of what combat in Normandy was like/about. It was also influenced by my listening to conversations of people who have been in combat as well as reading them, about what they saw, heard and did. I haven't actually been in combat, and feel that I could never ask anyone what it was like, as I want to play a game about it and trivialise their and others efforts. A sensitivity that stops me from doing some aspects of modern wargaming. or maybe it is a question of taste and appropriateness.
My vicarious interest would be better served by reading the accounts and interviews of others, with detail and reference provided by those more qualified than me. If I formed an opinion of an author, it would be by placing them in relation to their contempories opinion of their relevance.
To the books themselves in no particular order.
 A very good account of the problems faced by the staff of an Armoured Division to keep it in the field. Personal account with lots of interesting comment and detail.

 My favourite account of life at the tip of the spear, so to speak, of fighting from the beachead to St Lo. A warts and all, honest and compassionate account with all the difficulties faced by a battalion in the field.

 Part of the military/bibliographic industrial complex. Okay, so comprehensive in scope that it can overwhelm with micro detail mixing in with overall breadth and depth. Very good understanding of complex motivations and factors.

One of the few accounts of the fighting out of the beachead by the Americans. Good basis to work from

 Lots of maps and photographs of the struggle around this town, complementary to Balkowski's and John's books.

 The wargamers have managed to creep in and get a book published. All that armour and talent should have won, and the Allies should have lost. I mean SS panzers and Grenadiers against well intentioned and flabby Yanks! No contest. Well, its not like that, as Tsouras manages to twist ever so slightly key pinch points in the Landing and subsequent campaign to get off the beach, that could have spun off into such a different result. The butterfly flaps its wings...nevertheless a good read and an appreciation ofhow close it was.

 How could the US have not lost with all that equipment. The germans were naturally superior etc, the old 'stab in the back' excuse. This puts the whole thing into perspective with an examination of what the US troops were actually doing, which was getting better, adapting, and using equipment and strengths to best effect. Essentially becoming the equivalent of the Germans of 1940/41 in the use and exploitation of troops and tactics.

 Not really got a formed opinion of this, but really more an account of the role of the GI

 The Holy Bible of men in combat, shot down in flames by modern analysis of the sources quoted in it of the justification of its conclusions. Basically he faked the sources, but the problem is that almost everyone agrees with the conclusions to a greater or lesser degree. A damn good read nonetheless, with pithy and relevant conclusions. My prejudices showing through I feel.

 If that was the Holy Bible of men in combat, D'este has written the Holy Bible of the Normandy campaign. Excellently researched and written big picture story that keeps hold of you right to the end. You have to get this one if nothing else.

 How does a battalion of US line infantry hold off an SS Panzer grenadier Division, this book will tell you how. Top quality material, with big and small picture combined, but not getting in the way of each other.

 The gospel according to the Sainted Montgomery. A vanilla account that seems to pour sugared cream over the whole campaign essentially claiming that Monty knew what he was doing all along. It ignores errors in the planning and execution of the landings, errors in strategic direction and operation. Basically,it all went to shit after the landing, and Monty struggled to cope with the german reaction, but succeed in the end he did. But not by design as claimed by Belchem and Monty.

 Pure Gold,but then you probably know this. The german containment, its failure and the retreat back to the seine, in pictures then and now.

 The iconic Wittman on the front tells you that you are going to get what it says on the tin. You do, in spades. Excellent .

Well, a sample of my collection of books, that are worth getting hold of, in second hand book shops, or from a well known purveyor of books on the internet. 

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Snail ate my decals!!

Yes it sounds like an excuse that a young person at school would give about doing, or  not doing, their homework. But its true, honest. A snail has got into the shed, up onto the workbench, across it and made straight for the decals ( US stars and tank names ) lying on it waiting to go onto the US tanks and vehicles done earlier this year.

It didn't eat any of the German decals, next to them. Very selective, possibly due to the high calorific content of a US star opposed to a German cross. I have been able to save some of the decals, and probably should have put them on a long time ago, so time to get on with it.

Snail then performed a parabolic trajectory across the garden into the bedding plants.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

A previous existence... in a different scale

I have recently come accross an old model of a 15mm VAB from LKM. It was unusual as I had made the master for Chas several years ago. I decided to rebase it, as the original base had come off, and put it up in a posting. Also, to write a bit about some of the masters I made up for Chas.Some were okay, others were a joy to do, and though I am proud of the achievement, I am more proud of some,and especially proud of the VAB, as it waas the first.

I used to make scatch build kits a long time ago. It started with a bunch of GRP resin turrets for Airfix T34's type D hexagonal turret, for my Russian 20mm. Thirty five years ago. Plaster mould, with pour in green resin. Sometimes they set, other times they didn't. The first actual full model were a couple of T60's, built with plasticard and the running gear from an Airfix JS3. The JS3 kit was awful, and having built one, I got another for the bogie wheels. At the same time I was building HMG's, 57mm anti tank guns, 81mm mortars, anti tank rifles, 120mm mortar, AA mounts for machine guns,  SU152, SU85, SU122, stalinets and komsomlets tractors. I had a copy of Milsoms book on Russian afv's and a book on Soviets small arms as a reference. The problem was drawings to work from, and pictures to use as reference. A lot of it was guesswork, and what was suitable and available.

I ended up with a regiment of  T34's, the matchbox infantry being used as Siberian SMG armed tank riders, a company of 3 platoons of ESCI plastic infantry, with heavy weapons. A load of supports etc. They disappeared in the early 80's somewhere.

So after being challenged by Chas to make something better, when I whinged that his VAB was not like the pictures I had seen for painting, I went away and built one,along with some variants, AMX10 apcs, German 4 and 8 wheeler armoured cars. The result is below. Not the master, but a model I got for an abortive modern bush wars campaign I attempted, and painted up.


Sunday, 7 October 2012

12th SS Panzer with supports

I have managed to get all the Germans together, so this posting is the result of a bit of Fuji time. Hopefully it is a decent enough shoot and the figures and models are up to it.

The core of the force is 2 platoons of Panzer Grenadiers, with a platoon command, a Kampfgruppe command in a PanzerIV, and in the picture is a Recce Command in a 250, a 37mm Pak 35/36, and a Flak 36 88mm. There are 4 anti tank teams with schrecks.
   I have not got any 251's or 250's for recce and transport yet, so will use lorries and kubels etc. I have a 222 light armoured car done but not completely finished, and another on the bench waiting for me to scratch build a 20mm cannon for it. Both need a grill for the open turret, but I haven't worked out how to do it yet! I got the 2 sidecar combi's with a box of bits and guns, and painted them up[ as they were nice and easy models to get finished.

I use the 2 halftracks as prime movers for the Pak40 and 88mm. I have a third opel blitz that I got as a bit of a derelict, which I will be converting to a little set piece radio truck.
Anti air is provided by 2 halftracks, the first with a quad 20mm and the second with a 37mm
The core of the tank support are 3 Panthers picked up a while ago, which had to be extensively cleaned and repainted. I tried to do a decent job of the camo pattern, but have to admit that what I have seen others do is far better.
The workhorse on the tabletop, and in real life were the Stugs, and these are no exception. Generally they are pretty well chosen any time an armour option is needed, the Panthers being just too expensive. I got the 3 Stugs off ebay when I got a £30 voucher for selling a couple of £'s worth of 15mm. Well worth it.
Well, here they are, my favourite models, the 2 Airfix Tigers I converted/pimped up, to make them something just a little bit more than the original kits. I really like them, and enjoy playing with them. They just intimidate everything on the table, if they are used thoughtfully and carefully. A 17pdr round will write them off far too easily.
Here are 2 King Tigers I picked up. Along with the Tiger1's they represent SS Swherer Panzer 101 in its many guises, on deployment first in Normandy, and later when they were re-equiped.
Anti tank is provided by 2 JagdpanzerIV's i got and converted with 2 barrels from SHQ to turn them into early L48 75mm's. he side skirts broke on one, so I cut them off, aerials drilled in.
Heavy Anti Tank comes in the form of a JagdPanther and a JagdTiger.

Some Late war antitank models, a nice little Hetzer, with a JagdPanzerIV L70. The Hetzer is a very nice model, I had to sort out the mudguards when I got it, but lovely little thing

Out of area, as in the Eastern front or very late, I got a very cheap model of an Elefant. I had to repaint and sort out the running gear which was in quite bad condition. The Hornisse was a Britannia model, that I had to break apart and reglue together again to set the running gear level.
Well there it is, not all though. I have a pack of PSC PanzerIV's still in the box, 2 105mm guns, a 222, a SHQ Marder III and a radio truck to build and paint and to get off the bench.