Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Quality Castings 15mm M42 Duster

After doing some searching on the web for photos and finding nothing, I did a stupid thing and ordered miniatures without seeing them first.  Well, much to my surprise, this wild and crazy guy gambled right this time.  Tonight I received a couple of Quality Castings 15mm M42 Dusters from Warweb.

I must say that I am quite pleased with this model.  The detail is good, and the castings are pretty crisp.  It comes in eight pieces as seen in the photo below.

Hull assembly is very simple and the fit of the parts is quite good, with only a little flash on the parts.  The turret is a little trickier, but not too bad if you have a pic of an M42.

The turret is cast with the outer portion of the gun shields bent inward.  The sprues must be clipped out, and the gun shields bent upward into proper position.  Once in position the gun mount with the center portion of the shield will fit in place, and the guns tubes can be glued on.  The guns have pins on the ends, but the holes in the gun mount must be drilled out a little before gluing in place.  The view below shows after and before positions of the gun shields:

The turret comes in two pieces, a lower half and upper half, which join at a point below the turret ring.  There is a pin in the front of the lower portion to help in aligning the two halves. I filed the glued surfaces level before gluing, then filed lightly around the portion of the turret that rests below the turret ring.  With about 20 seconds work, it fit very nicely into the the hull.

Quality Castings models are sometimes a little smaller than some other manufacturers, so I took a couple size comparison photos:

The QC M42 is pictured with a QRF M47 medium tank, and one of my own 1/100 post war T34/85s.  In the top photo, there is an Old Glory US infantrymen from their Vietnam line standing to the rear of the M42.  The M42 was built on a modified M41 like tank chassis, and I have to say that I think it looks fine with respect to scale or size.  I did not take measurements  or calculate a scale for the M42, as I am not realy concerned with that.

Overall I am quite happy with the models and would recommend them to anyone needing some Cold War era air defense.  I ordered from Warweb on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and received my package in eight days.  I received e-mail notification at the time of ordering, and at the time of shipping.  In all good service resulting in a happy customer.

That's all for now, more gamer psycho-babble at you later.

Friday, November 25, 2011

15mm M113A1 in Summer MERDC Camo

Well, after some frustration and then some help from  gamers on TMP and the Ambush Alley forums, I finished one of my M113 APCs in the MERDC Summer camo pattern.  According to U.S. Army Technical Bulletin TB 746-95-1, the pattern is called Summer USA and Europe - verdant, and consists of Forest green, Light green, Sand, and Black. 

Initially, I had some problems with the paint, so it ended up layered pretty thick. I was going to either strip them, or toss the castings, but settled down after a while and decided to try to save them.  Here is the first of my Cold war era M113A1s:

Though I intend to switch completely over to Vallejo paints, I used the following on this model:

Model Master Dark Green No. 1710   FS34879
Model Master Interior Green No. 1715   FS34151
Vallejo Dark Sand  No. 847
Vallejo Black 70950

Now the sand color that I used is somewhat lighter than the specified FS30277 (and looks even more washed out in the photos), but I remember the M113s and m109s at the armory, near where I used to live circa 1980, and they had a sand color that looked like a dirty white from the street.  I assume that they were faded, but whatever the case, they looked much lighter than the sand specified.  I also compared a number of photos in various books, and again, the sand color consistently looked  lighter than my bottle of Model Master Sand No. 1704, FS30277.

In any event, I have my first track done, and will finish at least a platoon with these colors, and maybe the entire company.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

15mm M113A1s Coming off of the Line

Though I still haven't painted any of them yet (maybe tomorrow night), I figured I'd post a few pics of them dressed in primer.  Here are a few pics of them with and without the gun shield.

The model ended up being seven pieces, two tracks, the hull, commander's hatch and three piece gun and mount; more than I had hoped for.  The gun affixes to a two armed mount that attaches to either side of the front periscope at the commander's position.  The gun shield then attaches to the front of the gun.  Assembling it is tricky, and the three pieces are best assembled together, before being mounted on the chassis.  Here is a close up showing the gun and mount without the shield:

Last is an overhead view for size comparison next to a Bradley and AAV7A1.  The M113 is a little beast, but an important Cold War vehicle. 

I currently only have a few of them cast up, but will add them to my site as soon as I can get more of the gun mounts cast up to complete more kits.

Visiting an Old Friend...or Two

A few weeks ago, I had opportunity to visit an old gaming buddy, and re-visit  one of our favorite games from days long gone.

Back in the good old days, when the Cold War was raging, and I had hair on top of my head, I had the good fortune to game with a fantastic group of guys in Canton, Ohio.   For several years, we gamed almost daily, refighting WWII, battling in a Cold War hot,  or Vietnam, Medieval England, etc and brought war to the far corners of the galaxy with Star Fleet Battles.

Yes, Star Fleet Battles, rules upon rules, old rules, new rules, changed rules, and old rules again.  For awhile, keeping up with the rules was trying to keep up with tax law.  But we loved the game.  To go where no man had gone before, and blow it up!!  Eventually Task Force Games fixed the constantly changing and growing rules with the Captain's Edition rulebooks.  Three books of rules in a binder that challenged Empire in tonnage of paper.

For me, the game started with the boxed version circa 1982 and 32 page (wasn't it?) rule book, and hit its peak with the addition of the three soft pack expansions.  The various additions offered by Nexus, the Starletter, and eventually the Captain's log,SFB Supplements, etc never really added much to the game for me.  But one step that I always wanted to make was to game SFB with miniatures.  A couple of us began buying the Starline 2200 miniatures, but there were never enough ship types available to do much in the way of games, at least as far as we were concerned.  The problem was that we were so fluent with the game that 30-50 ships was typical with their compliments of fighters and psuedo-fighters.  It was easy to have 20 or more different ship classes on the table at any given time.

I remember playing only two games with the miniatures, despite our having 60-70 ship models.  Both scenarios were quite small, and not very dynamic.  But the seed had been planted and several of us looked forward to the day that we would line the table (Craig (some of you might know him as Craig of Gaming Models)had a 7'x16' table at one point) with fleets of ships and their accompanying fighters and shuttles.  In time the Captain's rulebooks took a little spark out of SFB for us, the SFB games diminished, and the group broke up as members got married or graduated from college and moved away to new jobs and  lives.

Twenty-four years after our last Star Fleet game with the old group, Craig and I sat down at his table, dusted off  the SFB rules, and tried to remember how to arm disrupters and fusion beams.  We had a grand battle, a couple dozen vessels of the Lyran empire trying to rid the universe of the that nasty infestation known as Hydrans (ugly little tripedal creatures that thrive in a methane rich environment).  A minor miscalculation or seven (got to remember to power up those silly ESG generators next time) and the battle ended it mutually kabloomed annihilation.  I think there were more Hydrans floating in space than Lyrans, but its tough to count, while trying to dodge all of those chuncks of the Lyran fleet.

Anyway, where this is all going, is to miniatures.  Back in the day, I accumulated maybe 40 ships; some built, some painted, some not.  Over the years, I continued to pick up the occasional pack of ships, as they became Starline 2300, and then 2400 miniatures.  

After arriving home from the game a few weeks back, I decided it was time to start working on the long shelved hope to put fleets on the table.   I broke out the boxes of unfinished lead, grabbed a couple of packs and began painting my first miniatures in at least three months and first SFB ships since probably 1985. 

I figured that working with a few ships at a time would result in my not feeling overwhelmed by facing all fifty or so ships at once.  I started with two Kzinti ships, a Medium cruiser and a frigate, and two Klingon, a D-5 cruiser and an F-5 frigate.  The Kzinti are below:

These newer castings had the outrigger drone launchers cast on to the hull, a vast improvement over the old Starline 2200 that had them as separate parts.  And now the first of my Klingon fleet:

I'm still debating whether to paint markings on the models or create decals.  The ships above are pictured on the old Starline 2200 hex paper.

The next batch is four Lyran ships , two DDs, a war destroyer, and a light cruiser.  For the time being, my games will have to be solitaire, unless I can get my daughter into SFB, but eventually after building the fleets a bit, I will get the ships up to Craig's, and we can play SFB as a proper miniatures game. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Palms, Ferns, and Cycads: Jungle for Vietnam

Just under a year ago, I finished my riverine terrain for Vietnam, and realized that much of my 28mm jungle foliage was simply too big to use for my 20mm Vietnam gaming.  This past weekend, I finally got around to working on some greenery for my Vietnam terrain.

Most of my time was spent working on the ground cover.  I figure that some of the foliage will consist of lychen, and bushy plants doing double duty from 15mm African and 28mm Pacific projects, but I wanted to add some contrasting textures, so focussed on making ferns and cycads with a small mix of other plants thrown in.

All of the plants shown int he photo below were made from various artificial plastic ferns from the craft store.  The first three were made from different Asperagus ferns, which have fine leaflets.  The leaflets were cut off of the main frond stem, and then glued to a styrene or metal washer base to create a 20mm scale fern fronds.

 The last two were made from heftier artificial ferns, using the same method of cutting off the leaflets to create the miniature fern fronds.  In the photo below the last three plants were created to look more like miniature cycads.

Here is a pic of the plants and terrain with a few Britannia Vietnam figs.

For the amount of terrain that I made, I figured that I need maybe 200 palm trees.  At first, I had hoped to make the trees to keep the cost down, but couldn't find a source or method of making the fronds that didn't involve a lot of time for each tree.  So, I began looking around for ready made palm trees.  I found some sources for really nice trees, but at $5.00-$18.00 per tree, well...there was just no way that I could manage that without selling the family.   And to be honest, they probably wouldn't bring in enough.

So, plan "B" (or maybe "C" by this point) involved looking for lower cost confection/cake decorations.  I found several sources at very low cost, but they were all rather small, in the 2-4 inch range.  Some of them had fronds that didn't look too bad, but the trunks often were either flat or had almost no texture.

Then I stumbled onto this Ebay seller flymodelcn2009 and his palm trees:

He/they sell a couple different style trees in a variety of sizes, so I bought 15cm and 13cm trees for use with 20mm figures. They are pictured below with a couple of 20mm Britannia figures.

The fronds are soft waxy plastic, while the trunks are a  harder,  more rigid plastic.  The fronds are full, nicely detail, and have a nice "spray".  The trunks are roughly round in cross-section and have a nice texture.  I intend to give them a wash of paint to bring out more contrast int he texture, then mount them on styrene bases for use with my terrain.  They come with posts on the bottom (see below), so they could be plugged directly into foam terrain if desired.

They took about twelve days to arrive in the US, and I am quite happy with them.   I plan to buy more in a variety of sizes very soon.  The seller also has some other plants that I may pick up as well.  I hope to get a day free this coming weekend to base some of the trees.  With any luck, I will  post some pics of forested jungle terrain early next week.