Friday, January 1, 2021

Up to My Elbows in Germans

For the last few years, I've slowly been picking up figs to build some WWII German mid to late war infantry companies.  For Christmas, my wife got me five bags of Old Glory figs that have been on my "to buy" list for some time, so for the last few days, I've been cleaning, basing, and painting WWII Germans.

It has been a nice change from the Cold War, and I've really been enjoying the process, feeling a bit of the spark felt when working on my first Germans, decades ago.  I will be adding a motorized infantry company, and a non-motorized infantry company, for which I still need to get most of the carts and horses.  I intend to pick up a few packs of Peter Pig odds and ends in the new year, and add a few supporting platoons as well.

The foot sloggers are on the first two trays, the last is the third
 platoon from the motorized company.

I got a little more than 250 of the little guys based, before running out of basing material.  More should arrive before the end of the week, so by the end of the next weekend, I'm hoping to have two companies, plus some extra tanks killers ready to go.

In order to figure out how to paint the little buggers, I cruised the net for some guides, found much conflicting information (big surprise), and then pulled a couple of books off of the shelf, an old standby, Andrew Mollo's WWII uniform guide, couple of ospreys, and another, a compilation of equipment photos.  I also referred to a couple bits of hardware that I acquired decades ago.

After reviewing the Mollo book and equipment guide, I tossed out much of what I found online, and selected 23 bottles of paint for my Germans.  Mostly Vallejo, with a some old Model Master, Polly Scale, and one bottle of Pactra Military Colors.  I can't ever remember needing 23 bottles of paint to paint a 15mm fig before.  

I managed to finish 51 of the figs yesterday, and have to say, that all my effort resulted in some truly unremarkable looking figs.  I then perused the net again, and after looking at maybe 150 pics of other peoples 15mm WWII Germans, decided that there are simply a lot of more patient gamers out there, than I. 

Most photos depicted figures that are far superior than my own effort, many significantly so, and though I could probably do a little better, I want to get them done in the next week, rather than near the end of June.  Aside from noting the superior quality of the figs pictured on the net, I also noticed that in those 150 or so photos, must have been 146 and a half different selections of paint used to paint those same troops.  

After viewing the 130 correct shade s of Feldgrau, I had to smile at all the effort we go through to get things "right", only to find that there are sometimes a nearly endless range of right answers.

The rest of the motorized company waiting to 
be flocked.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Looking Back, Thinking Ahead, and Happy New Year

Well, after reviewing my goals for 2020, I've decided not to bother setting any for 2021.  The only thing that I planned to work on, that I actually I did work on, was preparing for my 6mm Cold War campaign.  I'm ready to get on with World War III, but first got to get about a hundred cubic feet of my daughter's junk from college out of the way to set up my the strategic map board/game.

Otherwise in 2020, I got some other stuff done; a couple post apoc buildings, 15mm Cold War British and Soviet vehicles, and a few other bits, but almost none of it was really planned, and since I didn't really do any gaming this year (only 3 games played), I'm basically 1 for 6 on planned projects for the year.

Covid didn't really impact me that much, as I'm already nearly a hermit anyway.  I worked pretty much a normal schedule all year, and ended up with a little less hobby time this year, as compared to last, resulting in about 190 fewer miniatures painted than in 2019(1457 painted during 2020).

For 2021, I'd like to have all kinds of big plans, but the reality is that I expect to play a little more, as I won't be chronically obsessed with working on Cold War stuff, since it is more or less done, and otherwise, will go wherever the gaming winds take me.  

I'm pretty sure that I spend some time fighting WWIII, and probably add a little bit more stuff to it.  I'll probably continue to piddle along with the post apocalypse, as I've done for the past few years.  Our Star Fleet Battles campaign will probably pick up again at some point this year, as will the the conflicts in imagi-Africa.

I've been slowly working toward gaming Kursk and the battle for Stonne (1940 France), and might get some work done on those. And then there is that "Near Future" thing, with KGB sleeper cells, MIB, and alien invasions all looming.

Of course, at any time, any of those projects could be disrupted by visits to Vietnam, the Sinai, a land filled with orcs and dwarves, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, or colonial adventures in the South Pacific or East Asia.

Who knows what I'll work on, or where I will end up 2021?  For as troubling a year as 2020 has been, I managed to get through it, and I'm look forward to 2021 simply being a better year.  

I hope everyone out there has a great 2021, Happy New Year!!

Monday, December 21, 2020

More 6mm Soviet Cold War Jets Completed

 I finished painting a pair of Yak-28s, Mig-19s, and Mig-15s, and applied decals to 22 Soviet jets in all, including the freshly painted models, plus additional Mig-15s, Mig-17, and pairs of Su-7, Su-9, Il-28, and 4x Mig-21s.

I still have 52 aircraft in the painting queue, mostly helicopters from the 1950s and 60s.  I plan to paint them all, but will likely only decal the 1950s models for now.  The F101Bs still need some "jet exhaust" applied to the extended nozzles and underside, but are otherwise done.  They will have to sub for A and C models in Europe. Most of the other models are still just getting base-coats applied.  

I'm also still trying to decide what to do about my rotor disc problem.  Scrapbook dies to cut the appropriate sized rotors were going to cost upwards over $50 (I need rotors ranging from 1.125 to 3 inch diameters), more than I wanted to spend, so I probably need to dig out my circle cutter, as soon as I find some clear stock to make them from.  Not looking forward to cutting out rotors for 70 helicopters.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

1/285 Mil Mi-4 and Mi-2 Helicopter from Shapeways

I discovered a couple of years back that none of the traditional suppliers for 6mm military models made a Mil Mi-4 helicopter, an important model if you want to game the Soviets in the 1950s or 1960s, and had resigned myself to proxying them with Scotia Mi-2s.

Recently, I discovered that an Mi-4 model was available through Shapeways, paired with an Mi-2, and placed an order for four sets of models.

I just received my order of micro-scale Mil Mi-4 helicopters from the SNAFU store on Shapeways.   Coupled with an Mi-2 helicopter, the default option is in blue processed versatile plastic at $15.10 per pair of helicopters.

I'm not familiar with the blue plastic, and opted for white processed versatile plastic at $11.10 per pair. The pricing for the pair in this material is less than the cost of single helicopter from GHQ and probably in the range of 1.5 times the cost of Scotia-Grendal for a similar model.

The models are nicely detail, being just a little softer than the fine frosted material that my other Shapeways models were made from.  The finish is slightly grainy or gritty, with maybe the texture of 280-320 grit sandpaper.  I suspect that much of that grit will be lost in the painting process.

Here a few photos of the raw models.

Sorry that the last pic is out of focus, but both my phone and camera died after taking a total of seven photos.  It is a comparison shot of the SNAFU/Shapeways and Scotia Mi-2 models.  The Shapeways model appears to be equipped with a rocket pod on each side, but the sizing and shape is surprisingly close.

I have to say that overall, I am pretty happy with the models, though have some concern about how brittle the material might be.  The models are sold without any kind of rotors, and are one piece as depicted in the photos.  I'm hoping to have a painted example to share by the end of the weekend.

Monday, November 30, 2020

A Productive Holiday Weekend

I managed to get a fair amount done over the holiday weekend, finishing more 6mm buildings, some 15mm Vehicles that will see action in WWII, African imagi-nations, and the Cold War, plus making a little progress on the latest batch of 6mm aircraft.

First off are the 6mm buildings; here are  three more from GameCraft:

And five more from Leven Miniatures;

Then there are some 15mm JSU-152s, SU-100s, and SU76s from Gaming Models:

Oh, and that QRF Vasilek mortar that I posted about a few posts back.

And while not complete, the 6mm aircraft are in process on the production line:

They don't look much different from the last post, but the jets have gone from bare metal casting to being primed with bare metal base-coat, so trust me, progress is being made. 

Painting them will probably take me through the end of next weekend, which should be close to the time that I receive some more decals from Flight Deck Decals to complete these.

Friday, November 27, 2020

A Few 6mm Buildings Done and Aircraft Started

 I've actually been working of several things over the last few days; some 15mm late war Soviet and US stuff for use in my Africa imagi-nation and WWII games, more 6mm aircraft for the Cold War, and I finished a few 6mm buildings, also for Cold War games.  

I have a about a dozen more 1950s aircraft to finish, and figured i'd get a start on some of the 1960s stuff, while wrapping up the older aircraft.  Mostly just cleaning, assembling, and pinning thus far.

1950s and 1960s vintage aircraft in various stages of preparation.

And here's a few buildings completed.  The current batch is mostly from Levin Miniatures with a couple from GameCast mixed in.

I've got another half dozen or so to finish in this batch, then will move on to some of my own castings of  WWII French and Belgian houses that I made some time back.  

Not a lot to show, but it is keeping me busy at the moment.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Solo Wargaming and the Campaign Journal

After wargaming with miniatures for around 20 years, and as it became harder for my group to meet regularly, I reached a point where solo wargaming became more appealing.  As I started to play solo more often, I found that I enjoyed the ease and freedom that comes with solo gaming.  This really surprised me, despite having gamed solo off and on since my start in the hobby.  I had never considered solo gaming an important part of the hobby, probably because I almost always had readily available opponents.

Though I would occasionally find gamers at conventions and whatnot, whose gaming style was not necessarily compatible with my own, I have been lucky in that the regular members of the groups that I typically gamed with were always quite enjoyable.  This is probably why I had never given serious consideration to solo gaming.  

As I mentioned above, as the years passed, it became harder for us to meet with the obligations of home, family, and career reducing the available time, and particularly in my case, the energy, to game regularly.  As multi-player games lasting late into the evening became less frequent, I began to tinker with solo games that might involve only 20 minutes to an hour of play and span several evenings.

Early on in my gaming, I came to embrace and enjoy the campaign, where the actions of one battle had implications in the next.  Unfortunately, campaigns are complex beasts to try to tame, and in my first decade of "serious" miniatures gaming, I only played in one full blown campaign that ran to conclusion.   

After a year or so of solo gaming, I came up with this idea for a mini campaign set in the Soviet-Afghan War, where a Soviet soldier is captured and begins to fight with the Mujaheddin.  His capture was with purpose as he was the son of a senior Soviet officer, and the original idea was that he would have some value in trade back to the Soviets.

I quickly began experimenting with loose campaign rules that evolved on the fly, and to allow the dice to direct the path of future games.  Instead of rigidly following the course of the original idea, he ended up fighting with, and eventually leading Afghans in battle.  I found need for character development, and for more characters in the form of leaders and officers.  I also found that I enjoyed this theatrical sort of semi-role playing element in the game, an extension or expansion of my tendency to immersively role play my forces in most games.  The campaign ended when he was killed during a Soviet attempt to capture him and bring him to justice.

At this time, I had a web site, and briefly considered sharing the campaign with others through my site, but I knew that in reality, the "story" lacked integrity.  There were a lot of very American actions by not very American soldiers.  I had a lot of fun with it, and explored new avenues of gaming, but the actual campaign lacked wasn't completely true to itself.  

I realize that any attempt to step into character within a game is a very subjective experience, but one can be more or less subjective, and I didn't try very hard to objectively "play" the cultural roles in these games.  What I did do was develop a concept that would become the basis for my African imagi-nation campaign a couple of years later.

Since that time, I've slowly worked on a series of campaign ideas that branch off from the original concept in varying ways.  My post-apoc campaign approaches the game map and narrative in a different way from my African campaign. The Cold War campaign that I've been working on most recently will be structured very differently from the first two campaigns.  I have additional ideas for a colonial campaign, set in China and the south Pacific, based on my old "Ponape" colonial games, and a WWII campaign inspired mostly by the book Company Commander.  Each will be a little different in approach from the others.

When I started my Cold War era African imagi-nation campaign, I had first envisioned writing a journal telling the story of the war through a series of after action reports (AAR) of the battles, maybe with a smattering of short stories offering background.  This was to be just for myself, as I had come to realize that I quite enjoyed this sort of thing with my Soviet-Afghan War experiment.

Shortly after starting my African campaign, I began a gaming blog, and though it took a little time to convince myself, I finally shared the first AAR of my campaign.  Very much to my surprise, it was relatively well received.  To be honest, I was quite shocked by the interest, and despite having really enjoyed a couple of somewhat similar efforts by other gamers (especially this) on their web sites, I completely expected my effort to be some combination of ignored and/or belittled.

It has now been something like thirteen years since starting my African campaign, and it slowly continues, with a series of new twists awaiting attention at this moment.  And, as mentioned above, I have added other campaigns to my gaming, set in other periods or genres of interest, varying mechanics of both campaigns and the manner of sharing them in each case.

In the last few years, I've become somewhat nostalgic about my own adventure in the hobby, and more recently, fascinated with the origins of miniatures gaming and the early efforts and accomplishments of the "founding fathers" of the hobby.  

Last year I picked up a couple of Don Featherstone's books and read them with great interest, being most impressed by the quality of some of the games presented in images from those days.  More recently, I've picked up some of John Curry's titles addressing the efforts of Tony Bath, Lionel Tarr, and Michael Korns.

Given the main focus of my interests and solo playing style, I relate most closely to the efforts of Lionel Tarr, but maybe the thing that has struck me as most interesting is in Featherstone's "Solo Wargaming", and that is the discussion of the campaign journal or diary.

In some ways, my blog posts following my African campaign are the fruits of re-inventing this wargaming wheel, but some of the suggestions in Solo Wargaming are of far greater wisdom and scope than my own effort, addressing use of the journal or diary as a tool in the conduct of the campaign.  Through the recording of notes and pre-battle planning, the journal becomes a tool, an active element in the campaign.

I have a folder of notes with many of these details from my African campaign, but they are in the form of abstract notes, tables, and scraps.  It never occurred to me to weave all of these bits into a a cohesive story of the game itself, broader than simply telling stories of the battles.  I might go back and do so, as much as I am able, though knowing that some parts of the process are simply lost, undocumented or discarded.

In retrospect, I wish I had recorded (somewhere, if not my blog) the thought process in building the campaign, the background and story-line, and some of the missed opportunities and prospective possibilities that didn't or haven't come to pass.  It might have been interesting in retrospect, whether for nostalgic purpose or pragmatic, to follow the evolution of my campaign(s). 

Expanding on the concept of the journal or diary, I also wish that I had kept a sort of log or maybe scrapbook of my gaming adventures from day one.  It would be interesting to look back at thoughts and images of those first efforts as I tried to first imagine rules for toy soldiers, and then those after I had been introduced to basic gaming concepts already created by those before me.

I may yet attempt to pull something together, allowing me to look back on it in ten or twenty years, but it won't be the same as visiting the thoughts of that 13,15 or 20 year old gamer, who spent much time trying to invent a hobby that others had already created.