Sunday, 29 September 2019

Bear Cavalry!

I made a recent purchase from Brigade Games.  As I was looking through their catalogue, I decided that I needed this fellow to join my collection.  Perhaps he can back up my other modern cavalry  Any resemblance to a current head of state is purely coincidental ;^)  

Red Army Artillery - ZIS-3

This gun was actually an impulse purchase.  It wasn't part of my plan, but I saw it on the shelf at Hammertime Hobbies, and as I am building a nice little Red Army force, of course I'm going to need artillery!  This is the Warlord Game ZIS-3, with crew dressed for winter weather.

Really just a quick and dirty paint job.  Snow effect is a bit of an experiment, I will need to get some more practice to get it right.

Ack! Ack!!

No, not these guys:  

Ack ack was a term used in World War II for anti-aircraft weaponry.  When I placed a recent order with Rubicon Models for a GAZ AAA truck to support my WWII Russians, I noticed that they have a quad Maxim gun ack ack mount to fit in the back of the truck.  The pewter models of the quad mount and the two soldiers to man it end up weighing more than the plastic GAZ truck, but overall I'm very pleased with the result.  The figures are cleanly cast, minimal cleanup needed, and are very nicely (i.e., realistically) proportioned.

I find that Rubicon's plastic figures have pretty undefined features, so I substituted a metal head on to the driver's body.  Unfortunately, that made him a little too tall and I couldn't fit the roof over him!  It took a bit of persuasion and a partial lobotomy to get him to fit!  Lesson for next time:  test fit all pieces in place before gluing :^)

Sherman III - Three Rivers Regiment, Sicily

Here is the start of a new project.  I'm working on a small force to represent the Canadian Army in Sicily.  The genesis of this project actually came from my discontent with the figures being produce by Warlord Games, which are of course the most readily available!  Unfortunately, I just don't like them, at least not the plastics.  After attempting to build German infantry, and being dissatisfied with the results, I picked up a pack of Perry Desert Rats and was much more impressed.  My original plan was to build a relatively generic platoon of British infantry for the North Africa campaign.  However, on looking at the figures I realised that they would be suitable for the 1st Canadian Division for Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily.

On doing some more research, I came to the understanding that the busiest Canadian armoured regiment in Sicily was the Three Rivers Regiment, of the 1st Canadian Army Tank Brigade (soon to be renamed the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade).  I did some digging, looking for clear evidence of which particular Sherman they used (Sherman III (aka M4A2) or Sherman V (or M4A4)), and what colour the tanks were painted.  There was a limit to what I could figure out using my untrained eyes, squinting at old black and white photos, and trying to puzzle out orders and dates for painting of vehicles.  Ultimately, I decided to go with the diesel-powered Sherman III, and to paint it desert tan with dark splotches.  I'm quite likely to be wrong, but at the same time I'm not ready to repaint this beauty!

For starters, here are some of the photos I studied.  Canadian tanks in Sicily did not yet use the allied white star that was to be used universally in NW Europe, instead you can see the red-white-red identification patch on the side of the tank.  Photo lifted from  

Tanks carried loads of stowage, to the extent that if you can still make out the silhouette of the tank under all the crap piled on the deck or strapped to the exterior, you haven't added enough stowage!  I was particularly impressed by this photo, which I found on the Juno Beach Centre website, showing a Three Rivers Regiment tank entering Regalbuto, Sicily in August 1943.

This particular model is the Sherman III from Rubicon Models.  This kit is pretty amazing.  It includes two different turrets and two different upper hulls, so with a bit of cleverness, one can almost build two tanks from the same kit, all that's missing is the tracks and lower hull for the second tank.  I gave the extra bits to a wargaming buddy, who intends to build a hull-down tank using the other hull and turret.

So here she is!  If you kinda squint at the first photo above, it looks like the tank is named 'Cobault' or 'Cobalt'.  I understand that in the TRR, tanks in C Squadron were named after towns in Ontario, so it should be COBALT, but it seems that both spellings were used at different times. 

I decided I wanted to copy the bicycle that can be seen in the second photo, so I went through my bits box and found a bike from Eureka Miniatures that I got some time ago for street furniture in Kandahar.

The tank number above is a decal from the sheet provided by Rubicon.  There were two provided, but I made a mess of the second one, so Cobault only has a serial number on the right hand side!

I was quite pleased to find that Rubicon provided a decal for the 1st Canadian Tank Brigade (on the left), but I had a bit of work to make the '174' unit sign for the Three Rivers Regiment.  I painted a blue box, then added the brown bar on the bottom.  Then (after the paint dried) I carefully cut out individual digits for the 1, 7 and 4 from the decal sheet and set them in place.  

And again, same markings on the front of the tank.

I had fun placing the stowage all over the tank, but I did take care to ensure that the turret could still rotate through a full 360 degrees!

Tank commander is from Die Waffenkamer.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Zam Zammah

"He sat, in defiance of municipal orders, astride the gun Zam-Zammah on her brick platform opposite the old Ajaib-Gher - the Wonder House, as the natives call the Lahore Museum.  Who hold Zam-Zammah, that 'fire-breathing dragon,' hold the Punjab; for the great green-bronze piece is always the first of the conqueror's loot."

That's the opening paragraph of Rudyard Kipling's novel, Kim, and in my opinion one of the greatest beginnings anywhere in English literature.  I suppose Kim has fallen out of favour nowadays, being a relic of a bygone era, but still ranks highly for me.

Here is my new toy, which was briefly mentioned in my last Jhamjar battle report.  I won the model as a door prize, on the same day I realised that I'd forgotten to pack my Jhamjar mountain gun.  Thinking quickly, I improvised:  my new model would proxy in with an impromptu gun crew.

As it happened, the gun crew was quickly eliminated by some sharp rifle fire from Ockerforce.  This was obviously because an unpainted model has no business on the tabletop!  The only possible course of action was now (obviously) to paint the gun.

I was of course inspired by the mighty Zam-Zammah in Kim, even though my gun is not quite as splendid.  This photo is from the Wikipedia page on Zamzama, photo by Khalid Mahmood - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Kipling refers to Zam-Zammah as a "great, green-bronze piece".  In order to get a sense of the green patina or verdigris, I stopped by my local gaming shop Hammertime Hobbies and asked Mike, the friendly proprietor for advice.  He had just the thing, a GW wash called 'Nihilakh Oxide'.  Bronze basecoat with a nihilakh wash and here's Jhamjar's version of Zam-Zammah!

The mighty 'fire-breathing dragon' might find a home in the centre of a Jhamjar town.  (reminds me that I need to find out the name of Jhamjar's capital.  Suggestions welcome!)

And if necessary, she may once again go to war supported by her powerful gun crew.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

An Arresting Situation in Jhamjar (many photos!)

Ockerforce is on the move again!  Vital intelligence has been received (from secret sources) that one of the leaders of the Jhamjar revolt has been located in a small camp in the countryside.  Lt Frank Ocker's platoon of British and ANZAC veterans has been dispatched to apprehend Subedar PBJ Singh Widj, of the Jhamjar Rifles.  If Ockerforce strikes fast, then Singh Widj can be captured (preferably alive) before he can escape or be rescued by other forces loyal to the Djelli of Jhamjar.

To manage this mission, Ockerforce has been reinforced.  Lt F.Ocker's platoon of ANZACs and British soldiers has 4 sections of 10 men each, and 2 of the sections have a Lewis gun to add to their firepower.

Ockerforce has been allocated two armoured vehicles.  They have been assigned a Rolls Royce Armoured Car, with a Vickers machine gun in a rotating turret (it looks like this vehicle was assigned to the Royal Naval Air Service at some point).

They've also been provided with a Medium Mark A "Whippet" light tank.  The Whippet is famous for its speed; it can maintain 8 m.p.h., more than twice as fast as the rhomboid Mark IV or V heavy tanks.  However, in Bolt Action terms, it is still rated "slow"!  The Whippet has 4 Hotchkiss light machine guns, each capable of firing into a different arc to the front, rear, or side of the tank.  While the British never actually sent any Whippets to India, they did sell 4 of them to Japan.  The forces of the Raj intercepted the Whippets en route, and "borrowed" them for the duration, at least until order was restored.

In addition, Ockerforce will be reinforce by 2Lt Peter Ness and two sections of Gurkha Rifles.  They are quite busy chaps and missed out on their pre-action closeup.  Not to worry, they will show up in the report below!

F.Ocker's platoon HQ will be accompanied by an ambulance (acting as a medic under the BA rules).


Subedar PBJ Singh Widj is joined as usual by his platoon of Sikh and Muslim riflemen, including his platoon HQ with his batman/bugler and the platoon stretcher bearer (treated as a medic per Bolt Action rules) and a single Vickers MMG.

Subedar Singh Widj knows that there is a troop of the Jhamjar Lancers nearby, lead by Risaldar Mahrm el Madhi.  The rear ranks represent dismounted cavalry, and include the two Hotchkiss light machine guns carried by these sowars.

The Djelli was even able to procure a cannon for his forces!  This piece has a slightly silly story behind it:  I have a small mountain gun which includes a mule team to transport it.  When I packed my things for the game, I managed to leave the gun at home!  Scrambling at the hall as I considered options, I made a last-minute decision to substitute the mountain gun with this renaissance cannon that I won as a door prize, supplemented with some of my 1920s pulp fiction characters as a gun crew and an elephant to tow the gun to wherever it might be needed!

For reference, here is an image of the AWOAL mountain gun and mule team!  

This game was my first experience with Bolt Action.  I was referee, which was a bit funny as three of the four players were far more experienced with BA than I!  They all signed up as their experience was with 1st Edition, and they wanted to try 2nd Edition BA.  Many thanks to Jeremy, Tim, Jim and John for make the game a success, and also to Doug for helping out with photos, dice pulling and making the occasional impartial call.

Initial setup.  In the centre, there is a small campsite where Subedar Singh Widj is resting with some of his sepoys.

Initial deployment of two sections of Jhamjar Rifles, the Vickers gun and the cannon.

Ockerforce infantry advance toward the JR camp.

The dice are useful to show which units have activated, but they take away a bit from the 'look' of the game.

An unfortunate start for the JR.  The cannon crew is shot down mercilessly by Ockerforce!  I had hoped that the cannon would provide some anti-armour capability for the JR, so I was worried for the rest of the game that things would come undone once the Ockerforce armoured vehicles came on the table.  

Frank Ocker advancing with his infantry and his ambulance.  I think I'd better find a proper medic to accompany Ockerforce in the future.  You can see that the infantry have started to accumulate livestock!  I use sheep and goats as pin markers, so when a unit starts to look like they've taken up a new career in animal husbandry, you know they are not enjoying army life any more!

JR section defending the orchard.

More JR sepoys holding the camp.

JR reserves coming on to help even the odds a bit.

Ockerforce continuing the advance.

JRs in the camp.

The lancers join the battle!

An aerial shot from mid-way through the battle

The Whippet makes an appearance.  Instead of the conventional approach, where the tank advances first to provide cover for infantry, here we see the Gurkha Rifles protecting the tank by bravely putting themselves between the tank and the Jhamjar Rifles.  Note that the tank is bulletproof, but the Gurkhas are not!

Leaving the Whippet behind them, the Gurkhas attack and clear the JRs from the camp.  However, Subdar Singh W has already slipped out the back!

On the Ockerforce right flank, a lonely Lewis gunner considers a career in agriculture.  The sheep and goats show that he has 8 pins on him.  The Rolls Royce is doing fine, however!

The Gurkhas storm the Vickers emplacement.  The camp now belongs to Ockerforce!  But Subedar Singh Widj has escaped.

End of turn 6, also end of the game.  Ockerforce has cleared the camp of Jhamjar forces, but the dismounted Jhamjar Lancers have the camp covered with their rifles and Hotchkiss LMGs.  Subedar Singh Widj has fallen back from the camp but has evaded capture.  

 I have mixed feelings about Bolt Action.  The game managed what I hoped for.  It is a nice, easy to play game that allows multiple players per side and a complete game can be played in the 2-3 hour window available for a club night.  There are a few things that don't quite feel right to me.  Maybe these can be tweaked...

  • Order dice.  They look ugly on the table.  I wonder if there's a work-around?  Relying on memory isn't a great suggestion, especially when there are many subunits on the table.
  • Figuring out what counts as a unit.  At the start of the game, the medics were separate units with their own order dice.  They seemed (to me at least) to be slowing down the game, so I removed their dice and told the players that medics counted as part of the platoon HQ unit.  I have a feeling that there are too many dice in the bag, as many turns ended up with dice in the bag and the only units that hadn't been activated were officers and medics.
  • I'm a bit uncertain about the role of officers.  I see the value of the 'You men, snap to action' rule, but it should be expanded.  A platoon commander should be able to order his whole platoon (3-4 sections plus himself), not just the 2 units that a 1LT can order per the rules.
  • Machine guns seem underpowered.  A section of 10 men with rifles has more firepower than a tripod-mounted MMG.  That MMG should dominate the battlefield (and points cost should be increased to recognise that).  LMG should also have more firepower.

I'm going to try some more games of Bolt Action.  Jim wants me to bring my Red Army to face his Germans some time, so once I feel the Soviet forces are ready, I'll set up a game with him.  In the meantime, I'll also try to get in some CoC fun when I can.

Speaking of other fun, the Jhamjar scenario was just one of three games i got in yesterday at Trumpeter Society's Call to Arms one-day mini-con.  I started the day with a Chain of Command game with Craig.  I played a French reconnaissance platoon who were trying to break away from contact with German infantry.  My force included some lovely Panhard armoured cars, and Craig's 1940, Blitzkrieg-era Germans didn't have the right weapons to hurt them.  I was lucky right at the start when my Panhards took out the German senior leader, and Craig was stuck after that as no one else in his force could bring the troops together to respond properly to the French recce forces.

After lunch, I had some fun on the outskirts of Moscow in 1941, when my Russian Valentine joined with some T-34 tanks to hold back German Panzers.    Here are a couple shots from Doug showing my Valentine in action:

Thanks to Terry and the Trumpeter team for making CtA a success!