Saturday, June 22, 2019

Time To Quit Whining About the USPS

SO, after going on about the USPS and their routing methods for delivery of my book, The Armies of the Warsaw Pact Nations, by Friedrich Wiener, 1976, arrived 5 days early.  My apologies to USPS for any inappropriate whining I might be guilty of.

Anyway, the book is a just a little thing, measuring just slightly larger than 4"x 6" (though with 384 pages), but is the most complete, informational volume on the Warsaw Pact forces that I've ever seen.  It starts with the organization of the entire Warsaw Pact, then goes country by country, then through the doctrine, and finally, the equipment, including apparently every truck, gun, engineering vehicle, all of the better known armored vehicles, aircraft, and ships serving in the Warsaw Pact during the mid 1970s, loaded with B&W illustrations and photos.  It is just old enough, that it does not address the T64 in the armor section. 

While not going into the depth of Isby's Weapons and Tactics of the Soviet Army about the primary fighting vehicles, it's scope is broader, and it better addresses many things that Isby's book barely touches on or leaves out completely, such as many support and engineering vehicles.  This book doesn't replace Isby's book, but certainly deserves to be on the shelf next to it.

It is a fantastic source answering some of my questions about Soviet forces  in Europe, adding in TO&E info dating to the early 1970s, and late 1960s that I didn't know I was missing, and touching on a bunch of soft-skins and particularly bridging equipment that I was either missing details on, or didn't even know about.

I'm amazed that after 44 years of fascination with Cold War and CW games, and with literally 200 volumes about it on the shelf, I never heard of this amazing source before this week.

Anyway, for $6.00 it was an absolute bargain, and thanks to USPS for getting it here in Priority shipping time.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

So I Bought This Book...

...on Amazon a few days back, from a seller in Cincinnati, Ohio  It's a used Cold War book about the Warsaw Pact forces in the 1970s that will hopefully fill in a few gaps for my upcoming games.  The book is supposed to be delivered  between July 2nd and 5th, (somehow, I feel like saying that, was a mistake).

Anyway, it is 109 miles from Cincinnati, Ohio to Columbus, Ohio, and I live just north of Columbus.  I checked the tracking information, and the US Postal System shipped it from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh, PA, 290 miles; then to Buffalo, New York, another 215 miles; and it has to come back to Columbus, another 327 miles (to our local sort facility) before arriving here.  So it will travel at least 832 miles via USPS to make a 109 mile journey.

Somehow, that just seems a little bit not right.  I'll be interested to see tomorrow, if it maybe makes a stop in Toadsuck, Arkansas, or maybe Chugwater, Wyoming, before coming back to Ohio.

Well, that's all I've got.  A mild whine, while waiting for the book, so that I can move on to the next step in my Cold War adventure.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Irishserb's Miniatures - Limited Availability Until Fall

Just a note to say that I've shut down casting until the fall (probably November), so my 15mm vehicle and 6mm building models will have limited availability until then.  I am still selling on my site at Irishserb's Miniatures, but have noted out of stock or limited quantities on some items.  

15mm M60A2 "Starship"

15mm M2A2 Bradley

6mm World War II  French & Belgian buildings.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

1/285 West German Vehicles from Shapeways

I received my latest order of 1/285 models from Masters of Military at Shapeways.  They are all produced in the same "smooth fine detail plastic" and are fantastically detailed.  Here are some pics of the raw models.

Hotchkiss SPz Kurz Mortar Carrier comes with 6 mortar carriers and one fire control vehicle.  Four mortars are open, two have the hatches closed. There is a just a touch of graininess to the surface texture of these, but they are still, by far, the best 1/285,  6mm HS-30 chassis that I've seen.  I am impressed enough with them, that I've decided to place another order and get the regular HS-30/SPz 12-3 infantry carriers from masters of Military.

Hotchkiss SPz  Kurz variants, comes with 8 models of three types, observation, radar, and ambulance.  They are simply perfect.

Unimog 404 light truck, you get two box body, and 4 cargo versions with separate tarpaulin.
Another remarkably beautiful, absolutely crisply detailed model.

Ford G398 cargo truck, 6 per pack with separate tarpaulin. Again, amazing crisp detail.  
You can just make out the edges of the plastic layers in the hood, which has a very gradual slope.  I would estimate the layers to be something like .005" thick.  I suspect that it they will disappear with application of paint, but either way, they are some slight that they don't detract from the model in any way.

HS-30 Mortar battery, with 4 mortar carriers opened, 2 closed, and one fire-control vehicle. 

DKW Munga LKW, you get 4 version, both long and short WB with and without canvas top. Again, keep in mind as you look at the detail, that these are like 6-7 mm long.

All of these models are simply outstanding, priced comparably with GHQ.  As you can probably tell, I am endlessly impressed with them, and will be adding SPz 12-3 and SPz 11-2 to fill out my 1960s German units.  Also, Masters of Military is considering adding a Borgward B2000 A (for the late 1950s Germans) later this year.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Continued Cold War Progress

I've been pretty idle on the building/painting front, while giving tendons in my hand time to settle down, but I have been researching background information at a furious pace over the last few weeks.  This has lead to a fair amount of progress, but not much to post about.

Most of the TO&E info has been hammered out (I think), and more lately, I've been work on a list of forces committed to NATO and the WarPac over the years.  As it turns out, most of the gaming related info available is geared for gaming 1985 to 1989.  So, I've been spending a lot of time on Wikipedia and on various military unit association websites, collecting and sorting information.

At this point, I've got the forces of Northag and Centag more or less figured out, though I'm a little hazy about the French, who's information is surprisingly scarce on English language sites (my French is hit and miss).  WarPac forces are my current adventure.

I've acquired quite a backlog of miniatures to paint, over 430 vehicles and aircraft, and another 130+ stands of infantry, with an additional 5 orders already planned.  The vehicles should go fast, as most are just a solid color, though, I hope to do some US equipment with MERDC camouflage.  The infantry will be a slower slog, but still shouldn't be too bad for the most part, as they are only 6mm.

Two orders from C in C waiting for paint.

I still need to pick up (mostly Canadian) vehicles from C in C (once they are back in operation), 1950s US and 1960s German from Scotia, a general mix from GHQ, and about two-thirds of the infantry (maybe 39 packs) yet from H&R.  The last order will be from Shapeways, assuming that Masters of Military does eventually make a Borgward B2000 A/O.

H&R infantry still waiting to be based, plus a few vehicles 
from both Scotia and H&R

Despite my temporary slowdown with painting, progress is moving along at a consistent pace.  And  my enthusiasm just keeps growing, as I continue to research, and read through the infinitely fascinating stories of so many of Cold Warriors.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

More Cold War 6mm Vehicles from Scotia-Grendel

I'm kind of in a holding pattern hobby-wise, as I've aggravated tendons in my hand again.  So, what better time to share pictures of my latest order of Cold War  models from Scotia.

First a couple of West German models (all are listed as 6mm):

GM-0005  HS-30 APC (Also known as the Spz 12-3)
Decently detailed, but feels a little small.

GM-00009 Twin 20mm AA gun.
A very nice model, this appears to be the Rheinmetal Zwillingsflak
20mm towed AA gun that went into service in 1976.  It also served
with the Argentine Air Force during the Falklands War.

And now for the French:

FM0014  VAB w/81mm Mortar
Decently detailed and instantly recognizable models.

FM0018 VAB HOT ATGM, looks like the correct hull, but the model appears to be supplied with a 20mm turret, instead of the HOT ATGM launch unit. 

FM0029  VLRA Light Truck
A very nice model (I love these things),
this version has the open cab and no canopy on back.

FM0037 AMX 13 DCA Self propelled anti-aircraft gun. 
This is a very nicely detailed model.

FM0039   AMX 30 Bridge-layer
This is another very nice model, the bridge is beautifully detailed.

And again with the bridge "launched".

AMX30 Roland
The missiles are out of alignment, which unfortunately takes away from 
the appearance of this model a bit.

 This order cleared up a few questions that I had regarding models for my French and German forces.    Now I can set about filling the ranks of my late 1950s Cold war armies.  I'm now awaiting a bunch of 1950s West German vehicles from Shapeways, and hope to share pics in 2-3 weeks.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Choosing My Cold War

I was a tread-head almost from birth.  My Dad served in Korea, and had photos of his time at Fort Knox, Ky from the 1950s.  As a pre-schooler, I was captivated by his photos of World War I tanks on display at the base, and would look at them over and over, asking endless questions about them.

This fascination continued through my childhood via movies, books, and toys.  Plastic army men rose to power when I was seven.  My first Chamberlain and Ellis book came the following year.  Couple that with being a child of the Cold War, and it was a done deal.  Tread-head for life.

When I got into gaming, the Cold War just seemed like an obvious subject for the tabletop.  I was surprised at how few in the hobby actually shared that thought, even being shunned at some of the early conventions that I went to for my interest.  

For me though, Cold War gaming has always been a part of my hobby, first in 6mm, then 20mm, which later transitioned into 15mm due to availability in the days before the internet.  Probably the biggest appeal has always been the diversity of the armor.  Into the early 1980s, it wasn't too hard to find WWII vintage equipment still lingering in a few armies, potentially taking up positions on the same battlefields as early M1s and Leopard IIs.

Combining the variety of equipment with the vastly different types of formations was a tremendous draw for me.  Airborne, air mobile, motorized, mechanized, armored, helicopters, close support, special ops, so many possibilities.

My gaming group played the Cold War as it was happening, keeping up with cutting edge technology, even as the Cold War ended, we soldiered on, on the battlefields of Germany and elsewhere in Europe.  From time to time, we would play earlier Cold War era games, set in the 1950s or 1960s, these games provided us with some of the most memorable experiences in our Cold War gaming; though, our options were somewhat limited due to the availability of models to represent many of the more obscure vehicles and units.

As the early 1990s progressed, the frequency of our Cold war games began to fade, as did all of our gaming, as life started getting in the way.  There was still the occasional game, and the interest never really faded for me, but the appeal of those earlier Cold War games began to grow, far more than battles of M1s v. T80s. 

All of these years later, "my" Cold War is now a part of the past, and in time, I came full circle to study the era as an historical period, rather than experiencing it as a contemporary event.  Not so surprisingly, my perspective has changed somewhat, now seeing the entire Cold War as a 40-plus year global event.  

For the last few years, as I've studied the evolution of the Cold War, I've really rekindled my desire to play games set there.  Despite the popularity of Team Yankee and other contemporary gaming avenues which seem to focus on the mid to late 1980s, I find that I am far more intrigued by everything prior to that.

Most Cold War gaming is basically an endless stream of hypotheticals, as all of the proxy wars tend to be treated as their own separate periods from the gaming perspective.  But around the world, any of those proxies can become hypothetical Cold war conflicts with a simple tweak.  

For example, what if we crossed the Yalu in Korea, or Chinese or Soviet troops went to Vietnam?  What if the Israelis hadn't recovered in '73 (the 82 airborne was put on alert for middle-east deployment there at the time), or the US sent troops to Angola?  And what if the Soviet embassy had been over-run in Iran, instead of the US?  Maybe the Soviets invade, the US responds, and oh my!

All throughout the period, there are possibilities that would be jewels on the table top, pitting every conceivable unit and vehicle type against each other.  Clashes of military theory, culture, and the burdens of location and environment are endless, and in time I will explore some of these further.

As I conducted my exploration of the Cold War over the last few years,  I realized how much more of the period is now accessible through the internet.  Information gained directly, or through sources made available by the net makes so much more of the period a table top possibility.  Combine this with the ranges of miniatures now available, and there is surprisingly little than can't be represented on the table.

Don't get me wrong, there is still work to be done in building forces, finding historical maps, assembling TO&Es and orders of battle, etc.  And, terrain will have to be built, miniatures painted, rules worked out.  But it is now accessible.  Those earlier years of the Cold War, so much over-looked for so long, can now largely be brought to the table top.

So while my peers are driving divisions of M1s across Germany to meet hoards of late model T64s and T72s, I mostly focus on earlier match-ups.  Imagine the first iteration of West German forces, featuring  M47s  and motorized infantry meeting T54s and BTR50s in 1958.  AMX30s and T62s mixing it up in the late 1960s, or trying to stem the flow of the nightmarishly advanced T64 with your M60A1s and A2s in 1977.

The same is true for aircraft; replace F16s and A-10s with F84s, F100s, and F4Ds, and the challenges are very different.  Air mobile in H34s is a different creature from Blackhawks and Apaches.   Davey Crocket, Atomic Annie, different times, and very different battlefields, and on both sides, Cold Warriors stood ready to protect their homelands by whatever means their political leaders deemed necessary.

As I revisited the Cold War for table top battles, I tried to find the "right" time to pick for things going "hot".  The year that would yield the most interesting tabletop battles, but no such year could be found.  The reality is that the continuously changing face of both sides makes every year an interesting consideration.

I did manage to eliminate both edges of the Cold war window.  Too early, and the battles are largely fought with WWII hardware, and the idea of there not being a German army to protect Germany just seemed wrong.  And on the tail-end, I wanted to exclude the technology of the late 1980s, so that narrowed me down to 1958 to 1982.  

By mid 1958, West Germany starts to assemble a formidable force, and the other primary forces of NATO have been modernized enough that they don't look too much like their WWII counterparts, and there are some very interesting organizations (Pentomic anyone?).   Additionally, as I cross into the 1960s, I lose a generation of US hardware as M47s, M75s, etc. are phased out, and M60s and M113s come online.  So 1957-1959 became my first window of consideration.

As you progress into the 1960s, Soviet and US forces make significant transitions in equipment with adoption of the M60 series, and the T62 and BTR60 joining the ranks, but French and German forces don't start replacing their older US MBTs until around 1965, and the British finally replace the (magnificent) Centurion.  Once the Chieftain, Leopard and AMX30 join the game, their respective armies have a very different face.  Also by the late 1960s, The BMP1 has been introduced and the air forces of both sides see entire new generation of aircraft.  Thus 1968-69 becomes a serious consideration.  (Also, Checkout THEDEITZ.COM  for some great stuff about armored cav. in Bad Hersfeld)

In the next decade, technology strides on and the US military finds itself in a stressful time in the post Vietnam era.  By this time, many European armies have built their own equipment or are replacing older US hardware with newer European types.  I find the challenge of this time, where M60A2s might have met T64s, when infantry started to have a punch against armor with the spread of effective ATGMs, and air mobility has matured significantly, to be captivating, and so 1977-78 becomes a gaming target.

And lastly, despite my whining about M1s and T72s, the period where forces begin to transition to drastically improved technology, where tremendous imbalance in localized force capability can occur, offers a set of interesting challenges and a different flavor to the potential battles.  A "sprinkling " of Leopard IIs, M1s, T80s, maybe some sparring between the first Tornados and Mig29s, can be a good thing on a tabletop not yet completely dominated by these beasts.  To catch a glimpse of these on my table, I add in the 1981-82 window for Cold War list.

Consideration of the target dates was also much greater than just a look at equipment.  In my own mind, I envision conducting Cold War campaigns of varying scope in these settings, and have a need to "justify" the conflicts with "historical" background.  Thus consideration was given to proxy wars, political events, changes to and consolidation of leadership, etc., in choosing the target years.

Once I arrived at these four targets, 1958, 1968, 1977, and 1982, the task of building the forces began.  From Cold war gaming in years past, I already had thousands of pieces of micro-armor for the period, and given the nature and scope of the games that I want to play, 6mm is just the best option for me.  Big enough for individual tanks, and small enough to get battalions on the table.  Anyway, I inventoried my collection, and began the search to fill in the gaps.

I began looking through my TO&Es, to see what models I was missing, and discovered that I was missing a lot of TO&Es, particularly for the Germans and French in the 1950s and 1960s.  I was a better equipped for the US and UK forces, and in great shape for Soviet and WarPac forces.  

A variety of TO&E sources including the old Ultra Modern Army List books, Tankograd books from Aberdeen BookstoreMicroMark TO&Es, various US government publications, lists from the TOandEs Yahoo group, bits from Wikipedia, and help from members of The Wargames Website, and TMP filled in a lot of blanks.

With the TO&Es mostly in hand, I can now fill in the blanks for equipment and infantry formations in my rules, and order the many miniatures that are still needed.  Miniatures sources will include C in C (currently moving operations to Legions IV Hire in Canada), GHQ, Heroics & Ros, and Scotia-Grendal.  Additionally, I will fill in a few gaps via Shapeways, mostly from Masters of Military.

With respect to the miniatures, I am starting from the beginning (1958 in my case), and building in order,  West German, French, British, Soviet, East German and US forces.  In time I hope to expand, including Belgian, Dutch, Norwegian, Austrian, Italian, Polish, Czech, and Yugoslav forces, and probably a few others. 

I have some 6mm buildings that will work, a mix of my own and GHQ.  Additionally, I have  a sampling of buildings from GameCraft miniatures, and am planning to pick up some from Levin.  The focus will be on adding buildings more typical of Germany, and then expanding to those of other countries that the games might lead me toward.  

I've acquired a number of maps over the years, mostly Fulda and the North German plain that I will use in association with my games, but I have yet to actually start a serious search for maps.  I suspect that i have what i need to get started, but that I will need to supplement my them in time.

I guess that is about all for now.  I hope to field the first games set in 1958 late this year, and will share posts about miniatures, forces, sources, back story, and AARs as I make progress.