Sunday, April 26, 2020

Perma-Grit Files

I've mounted maybe a 1000 6mm infantry over the last couple of weeks, and probably the most tedious step in mounting them, is cleaning the underside of the bases of the castings.  As I was doing this earlier today,  it occurred to me that the tool that I was using made it a much easier and faster process than it had been in my early days of gaming. 

Years ago, I would have cut off the nubs or shaved the base with a hobby knife, occasionally breaking off a figure from the base, and probably nicking myself with the blade occasionally.  A tedious and precise business in any event.

Now, I use a tungsten-carbide grit file made by Perma-Grit Tools.  I've mentioned these a few times before, but they are one of the most useful hobby tools that I've found.  They last forever; I've only replaced one in over 25 years of use, and that was because I gummed it up severely, not because the grit wore off.

Anyway, here are couple of pics of the nubs that I'm cleaning off of the infantry and of the Perma-Grit tools. 

You can see the nubs on these H&R 6mm Modern Soviets 
above.  The nubs are most visible on the underside of 
the base on the middle figure, laying on its back.  

Some of my Perma-Grit files.  The angled 
one the left is probably the one I use the most.

For this task, I mostly use the Fine Angle File.  Several of my files have both fine and coarse grit sections, but I don't think those are available anymore.  The fine grit attacks soft metals quickly, while the coarse grit makes shaping plastic like styrene a piece of cake, and both grits work well for various tasks associated with resin.

Sorry for the commercial, I'm don't own the company, nor sell the product, I'm just a happy customer.

Friday, April 24, 2020

6mm Infantry Progress for the Cold War

This past Sunday, I spent more than 9 hours on my hobby.  The odd thing is that the time spent didn't result in any fancy new terrain, or drawers of newly painted figs; it ended up yielding a lot of completed research, a list of miniatures to purchase, and seemingly endless little cardboard trays of figures to mount and paint.  The day was spend organizing and inventorying, tediously cross-referencing TO&Es, and filling them out with the figures that I had on hand.  Some of the least enjoyable tasks associated with my hobby really, and I had a blast.

Since then, I've managed to get a few more of the figs mounted on their bases, and cleared up a couple of errors and oversights. Hers a few pics of what I'm working on:

French, West German, and British Infantry organized into companies 
with supporting elements for 1958, 1968, 1977, and 1982.  Most need 
to be primed and painted, some still aren't mounted on their bases yet.

The other half of the figs, US, Soviet, and East German; at least a 
few of these have been painted.

Two companies of US Mech infantry for the 1960s, these are GHQ 
figs (though most of my figs are Heroics and Ros), and need 
some platoon HQs and some support elements added yet. 

A Soviet Motor Rifle Battalion for BMPs missing their SA-7s and 
some supporting mortars (I think).  Again, these are GHQ figs.

In all, over 1300 6mm figs in various stages of organizing, mounting, and painting.  At least all of the units are organized and missing figs are noted and awaiting ordering.

I use a home-brew set of rules, and the basing conventions involve base size, number of figs, and in the case of heavy and support weapons, the specific figs on the base to indicate what the element represents.

I still need to order a lot of odds and ends from Heroics and Ros to complete many of the units, but getting to this point involved jumping a big hurdle.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

A few More Vehicles for the Cold War

I managed to finish up some odds and ends for my 6mm Cold War project last week.  A collection of of models for use in the 1950s and 1960s mostly. 

Rides for the West Germans should the war of 1958 last into the early 1960s from Masters of Military (Shapeways):

Sch├╝tzenpanzer SPz 11-2 Kurz,  and Sch├╝tzenpanzer 
Lang HS.30 or SPz 12-4 with hatches closed and open.

World War II American GMC trucks, M103s, M4 mortar carriers, and M16s by GHQ.  Everything but the M103s will likely get used as proxies for the French in my 1958 battles:

A close-up of the M103.  A monsterous beast and too 
cool looking, despite being under-powered and outdated
 by the time it was deployed.

Lastly, a few Soviet items, BTR-152Us from GHQ, 100mm guns from Scotia:

This past week, I've finally been working on my 6mm infantry for all of this Cold War silliness.  I'll try to get a few pics of those up soon.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Cold War Hot 1958: An Alternate History Through 1957

This may be a little pre-mature, as the impact of Covid-19 is interrupting my progress a little on my Cold War project, but I thought I'd post this in a lead up to my first games in the coming weeks.  The following is an (slightly) alternative history of the Cold war through 1957 from a mostly Soviet perspective, leading up to my campaign starting in 1958:

The early years of the Cold War were rough for the Soviet Union.  The close of World War II had allowed the USSR to build a buffer zone out of eastern Europe, but it was a buffer zone largely ravaged by the world war.  As the Soviet Union itself had suffered beyond measure, raising the communist paradise from the ashes of the war was a nearly impossible task.

Their counterpart in the west, the United States, had not endured anything close to the that of the Soviet Union.  It had been spared the ravages of warfare on its own soil, and as a nation, had benefited tremendously as a result of the global conflict.  World War two had created two “superpowers”, one severely wounded and yet victorious, and the other nearly unscathed and blinded by its own self-righteousness.

In the years following the war, the west unified into a block whose purpose was to stifle the will of Stalin and the Soviets; while, the Soviets tried to build a shield that would protect Mother Russia from a repeat of the Nazi invasion..  

The United States had an unfair hand in the game.   They bristled with new industry and endless resources, had a monopoly on nuclear weapons delivery, had the lead in most military technology and the ability to produce and project it, while the only real Soviet counter to this was numbers and an advanced spy network.  So, the Soviets countered with their numbers, posting a huge conventional army in eastern Europe, at tremendous expense to the Soviets Union.  And, they relied on that spy network to keep the west from springing any surprises.

The 1950s arrived, and the western world was shocked by the coming of the Korean War.  Korea exposed the weaknesses of the west, and despite North Korea’s inability to achieve their goals, the technologically and materially advanced west, even with its nuclear monopoly, was not able to gain advantage either, when all was said and done.

Soviet leadership transitioned from Stalin to Khrushchev, and Soviet character changed with the transition.  Khrushchev instituted reforms, and established a stronger dialog with the United States.  He combined Soviet advances in military technology with a bluffing game that often brought about apparent Soviet victories in the struggle with the West.

Unfortunately, each apparent victory came with a new burden.  Massive conventional forces in the east, lead to an alliance in the west.  The advances of nuclear technology in the east, resulted in the expansion of nuclear weapons in the west.  The bluff of the bomber gap, resulted in the west producing a greater nuclear threat, and the bombers to better project that threat.  Reduction of convention force strength in the east was met with the re-armament of Germany, and during this time, western aircraft overflew Soviet territory almost at will.

By 1957, Khrushchev’s agricultural and economic plans, his draw-down of conventional forces, and his liberal reforms had not yielded the desired results, and some leadership within the Soviet Union saw a need for change. 

Malenkov lead a coup that might not have succeeded, had it not been for Zhukov deciding to not support Khrushchev at the last moment.  The reason for Zhukov’s change in loyalty is not known, but it was a deciding factor in the success of the coup.
Surprisingly, Khrushchev was allowed to live, and was assigned to a position far from Moscow, while the new leadership moved to reverse the proclamations of the “secret speech” and the direction of the nation.  The new leaders quickly went to work reversing many of Khrushchev’s failed actions and reforms.

While Malenkov may have had reservations about nuclear weapons, he understood their roll in the Cold War, and the Soviet Union’s need for them. So he initiated even greater emphasis on developing and deploying them as soon as possible.

Molotov returned to his old role as foreign secretary and was as tough as ever in his negotiations with the west.  Demands were made for Western withdrawal from Berlin, support was granted for revolutionaries in Africa, and South and Central America, and actions were taken to protest US overflights of Soviet air space without drawing Soviet public attention.

In all, the new Soviet Leadership was far more Stalinist and militant than was Khrushchev, and Washington grew more concerned than ever about the situation in Europe, and the world.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

A Fleeting Thought for the Cold War

So for the last couple of years, I've spent a lot of time researching and working on figures and whatnot for hypothetical Cold War battles set at various points during the Cold War.  Despite living through most of the cold War, I have learned far more about it in these last couple of years, than I did during the decades of experiencing it, and I have to say that my perspective of it has changed somewhat.

One of the reasons for my research was to look for windows of opportunity for either side to have initiated a hot war.  In the end, I've come to believe that two things are true, there was never a decisively favorable opportunity, and there was never a scenario that wasn't going to end in a nuclear glow.  Maybe that is why it played out as it did.

I've also come to see Able Archer as being the most dangerous situation during the Cold War, presenting the best example of what might have caused a hot war.  Neither side had an understanding of what was happening with the other side, and this type of mutual mistake sees to be the most likely scenario for hot conflict.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was a calculated event, where both sides came to understand much of the situation, prior to de-escalating the situation.  Curiously, Khrushchev sacrificed his career to save humanity, and we killed our leader after America's greatest victory over the Red Menace. 

Anyway, back to my Cold War thought...

So my desire to play these Cold War era games is to pit interesting equipment and organizations against each other on the table top.  I have visions of Conquerors maneuvering against JS-IIIs, AMX30s countering T62s, and M60A2s sniping at the onslaught of T64s.  All very tasty from the the gaming perspective.  But, every scenario is haunted by that nuclear glow at the end.  

I want to fight out these conventional, WWII-ish type battles, with no interest really in dealing with atomic and nuclear weapons. Hard to do, when the real game was really all about the nukes.  Then, while considering hypothetical situations and alternate timelines, a thought came to me: What if atoms worked differently, and nuclear weapons weren't possible?

I know, ridiculously simple and utterly silly idea.  But I am working with alternate timelines, at least at the point where the battles begin to take place.  It is fiction right?  So why not give it a consideration?  So I did.

I start by ending with WWII.  No atom bomb, Operation Olympic takes place, allied losses are tremendous, more than doubling all US losses for the war.  Japanese losses are off the scale, starting to look more like those of the Soviet Union.  Japanese defeat takes longer than expected, and maybe drags on as a sort of guerrilla war.  Dewey does defeat Truman, and we're off.

The Soviets take a moment to regroup, stabilizing eastern Europe, the west reorganizes, stands down, at least initially, and things start off similar to our timeline.  But Stalin doesn't have to worry about B-29s and mushroom clouds, still feels the same way about Germany, and hugely outnumbering the west, starts off by taking West Germany.  

At this point (maybe 1948-1951), I've just got WWII all over again, briefly.  I mean Shermans, Comets, and T34s, a few Centurions and Pershings, JS-IIs, a few JS-IIIs, a few P-80s and Mig-9s, some Meteors, and lots of P51s and all the Soviet jobs.  Relative to my goal of follow-on technology, it is a loser.  Not enough time has passed. Next.

So lets say that for whatever reason, Stalin decides to let the west consume itself, maybe the Berlin blockade takes place, Stalin dies, Khrushchev takes power, maybe Malenkov has more sway, not sure. The Soviets outnumber the west big time, West Berlin and West Germany are a pain, why not invade to eliminate the problem.  How the frick does the west stop that steam-roller.  Huge conventional build up?  That slows the reconstruction of Europe, things suck longer, France and the UK piddle with their colonial conflicts. Socialists and communists across Europe are stirred on with greater effort by the Soviets.  De Gaulle is assassinated, Greece becomes a Soviet satellite, France goes communist with some subversive help, and it really gets weird.  Maybe Krushchev is done away with in '57.  The steamroller rolls and the game is short.  Where are we? 1956-1960 maybe.  

Okay, maybe Nixon and Khrushchev have a bromance, and things hold off until the 1960s.  Upstart Kennedy comes along, Khrushchev is sick of the US overflights in Soviet airspace, Korea went badly, Germany is a cancer, the Soviets gotta do something.  JFK carries a big stick and gets annoying, Nikita decides to whack him with his. Steamroller rolls a bit more slowly, but rolls none the less, and out of France...

Silly fun to try to imagine a world with no nukes, but the reality is that I think we get a big war quickly  (looking too much like WWII on the table for my purposes), and even without it, within a few years of WWII, everything gets so different, the names and faces and the direction of the evolution of  technology, etc, that the events and conventional weapons we know simply don't happen.  As we move away from WWII, it gets to be ever-imaginably fictional, and loses all touch with the conventional Cold War reality and technology that I want on the table top.

Other than gaining a slightly different perspective of the role of nukes in our world, the fleeting thought is lost.  

Back to the historical timeline. 

(I didn't even get to share Mexico joining the the Warsaw Pact and Emperor Putin's invasion of ...)

((See what happens with a lock-down and me having time to think?))

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Out of His Element (African Imagi-nations Backstory)

This is the last bit of background before continuing the Uwanda-Mugabia War on the tabletop.

The message regarding the Soviet demand for a meeting was met with chaos by the acting leadership of the ULF.  The senior leadership were abroad, couldn't readily be reached, and could not possibly be back in time to meet the Soviet demand of meeting within 24 hours of notice.

The acting leader was a man named Kijana, a greatly respected fighter, but with no real political or administrative skills.  Though the war had come as a result of the ULF's main purpose, the group had been relatively quiet since the broader war had started.  With the lack of activity, it seemed safe to leave Kijana in charge for a few days, as it was believed that little could happen in the time that the leaders would be gone.

Kijana was known for being resourceful and fast thinking, but that was when the goal was to kill his enemy, not talk with them.  And enemy is how he saw the Soviets.  A foreign nation intervening in someone else's business, with the power, but not the interest to set things right.  They were little better than the American's, except that they made the AKM rifle, a far better a weapon in battle than the M16.

Kijana accepted the terms of the meeting, without consultation, naming the location of the meeting and time that the ULF "delegation" could meet.  Then he began issuing orders to prepare a spartan building with table and chairs, set well within a safe ULF encampment.  If something went wrong, he wanted to make sure that the ULF could respond appropriately.

The next day, the he awaited the arrival of the Soviet and Mugabian government representatives.  The visiting delegation arrived in a convoy that included both Soviet military escort, and a unit of Mugabian Presidential Guard troops.  The Convey was lead to the meeting place, with the Soviet and Mugabian representatives riding in separate armored SUVs.

Soviet paratroops took up positions around the meeting site, as did the Presidential Guard.  Soviet helicopter gunships could be heard in the distance.  Kijana thought it interesting that this was how his allies greeted him, then considered that given his preparations, maybe his allies were smarter than he gave them credit for.  

The Soviet and Mugabian representatives were directed to the front room of the small building.  They consisted of the a Soviet Colonel, his two aids, a Mugabian government representative, who Kijana didn't recognize, and his aid.  Kijana made them wait for a moment, before entering the room.

Kijana entered, greeted the men, pleasantries were exchanged, and the men were seated at the table.  The Mugabian began a flowery introduction to the proceeding, but was cut off by the Colonel, who abruptly began to outline the Soviet "proposal".  It essentially dictated a return to pre-war conditions, including the return of Pettu land in Uwanda.

Kijana was beyond shocked by this.  The Soviet "plan" undid all of the previous efforts by the ULF, wasted the lives of the dead, and insulted the Pettu people to an extreme.  He attempted to walk back the terms, but the Colonel explained that there was ... "no room for negotiation".  The ULF was involved in something far bigger than just their own interests, and simply, "This was the way it had to be."

Kijana was outraged.  How dare the Soviets come in here and try to dictate terms of a situation that didn't even involve them?  Clearly, the colonel's tone was that of an enemy, not an ally.  This was a waste of time.   Kijana wanted to reach across the table and destroy the colonel, but somehow maintained his composure, stood up, and without a word, walked out of the room.  The Mugabian stood up, with intent to try to stop Kijana, but two ULF guards stepped into his path.

Kijana went into the back room and stood silently for a moment.  The colonel looked at the Mugabian, unruffled as always, gave an instruction to his aids, and exited the room.  The Mugabian chased after them apologetically, hoping to restart the meeting, but to no avail.  The convoy mounted up, and began to leave the meeting site.

Kijana waited until he heard the vehicles starting to leave, went over to the man with a radio, grabbed the handset out of his hand and screamed, "Attack!  Attack!  Kill them alllll!!!"

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

A European Getaway (A Story of the Uwanda-Mugabia War)

This is the third of four posts that set up the next leg of the adventure between Uwanda and Mugabia, African imagi-nations at war.

Looking out the window of the airliner, the youngest of the four men was amazed at the size of the airport, and asked, " Who is this Charles D. Gaulle?  He must be a very powerful man."  The oldest of the four men replied, "He is dead.  And, we would likely have no business with him, were he among the living."

The tone of the older men indicated to Mundie that he should probably be quiet.  Still, he was in awe of the wealth and utter magnificence of France.  As the plane was landing, he could not believe what he saw sprawling out beneath him.  So modern. So endless. So incredible.

The four African visitors were men of the Pettu tribe, and identified as such, despite being thought of by the rest of the world as Mugabian.   They were greeted at the airport by a tall man with sunglasses. He ushered them into a Peugeot limousine, and they were whisked away to a fine hotel in heart of the city, south of the airport.  Once there, the men briefly enjoyed the comfort of their rooms, and were then treated to a fine meal and drink.

Mundie was convinced that this must be the greatest nation on Earth, but his uncle did not seem so impressed.  His uncle also made sure that the four men did not lose focus of the reason for their visit; to serve the interests of the ULF.  Cutting the evening short, the uncle graciously reminded their host, that the visitors had work to do before the meeting of the next day.

Mundie's role was simple; watch and learn.  Do not speak, unless spoken to.  Only say what must be said.  His Uncle was elderly now, but both intelligent and wise.  He was not as spry as he once had been, and sometimes required assistance with tasks that were simple for a younger man.  Mundie was there to help his Uncle as required.   He watched as the three older men discussed the potential future of their homeland with these men of France.

Among the strangers at the table, were businessmen, at least one politician, one man who appeared to be an arms dealer, and the quiet man at the far end of the table, who never spoke, and like Mundie, watched everything.  Mundie understood that this man was dangerous, and could not help but look into the eyes of the quiet man, but regretted it, each time that he did.  The man nodded to Mundie once.  Mundie quickly looked away.

The men discussed many things; business, politics, war, and peace.  They looked at maps, and considered borders and territory, the past, present, and future.  And by the time evening arrived, they were all ready for a relaxing evening in Paris.

Two more days of meetings followed, and then the trip home.  By this time, Mundie was simply intoxicated by France.  He was sorry to leave.  Sorry to think of what he had to go home to, and what had yet to be done.  The thought was pushed from his mind, by the bustling of people around him,  and he swirled for a few more precious moments in the sea of prosperity.

Later, as Mundie sat quietly in his seat on the plane ride home, Paris seemed as much a dream, as the future of the Pettu Republic.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

A Meeting with the Soviets (Uwanda-Mugabia War)

The Mugabian President invited the Soviet Ambassador and  Colonel to be seated.   As always the Ambassador was gracious in his manner, the Colonel was less so.  The three men exchanged brief pleasantries and focused on business.

During the discussion, the President addressed the idea of greater Soviet involvement in Mugabia's war and the conduct of offensive operations.  He was quickly cut of by the Soviet Colonel:

"Understand that we have no desire to fight your war.  We choose to fight in Afghanistan because it is in our national interest, don't mistake your war as being such.  We are here to keep you from vanishing into history, or to allow you vanish into history, whatever best suites the Soviet Union." 

The Presidents eyes widened, he was not used to being spoken to in such a manner.

The ambassador tried to intervene, without much success.  The colonel had been sent to deliver a message, and he was a direct man, not concerning himself with political etiquette.  A quiet moment passed, while the President considered the Colonel.  He was a fit, but small framed man, slightly balding, with narrow eyes a little too close together.  He exuded confidence and arrogance.  A hint of smile momentarily betrayed his enjoyment of the moment.  The President almost liked him, and understood that the Colonel was dangerous.

Then President Mpepo-Mfuko did something that he was not accustomed to doing; he remained composed, and responded in a subordinate manner:

"Colonel, of course, I understand now.  Please forgive me for having misunderstood the situation.  How shall we proceed?"

The tone of the exchange lightened, and the Soviet officer then explained that his troops would defend, stifling any Uwandan attack, but were not  going to conduct any offensives.  Soviet air assets would attempt to even the situation in the air as opportunity arose.  And, a solution to the situation would soon be... found.

The discussion progressed, the Colonel conveyed his plan, and the visitors left.  The President sat quietly in his office chair for a moment, the rage building, and finally boiling over.  He threw his telephone against the wall.  The trinkets on his desk, rocketed across the room; then. he picked up a chair and smashed in on his desk.

He paused a moment, smoothed out his uniform, and opened his office door.  Looking out to his wide-eyed assistant, he stated, "My phone seemed to have broken, have somebody come in and mend it."

"Yes Sir.  Immediately."

The President closed his office door, sat in his big chair, and considered the situation.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

African Imagi-nations: The War Goes On

A Few Notes from the Guy Behind the Curtain

As I've progressed through my fictional conflict, the path of the game has been dictated by a campaign where as battles are resolved on the table, I consider what the next step might be in the strategic game, and create randomizing tables to accommodate the options for that part of game.

For example, as the war progressed and Mugabia took losses, the stability of the country decreased a little with each loss.  So after each loss, I roll dice against a continuously evolving table that could result in an overthrow of the Mugabian president.  

The overthrow could be an assassination attempt, a coupe by an individual or the general staff, a mutiny by an army officer and his unit in the field, a popular uprising, etc.  Each possibility is listed on a table, and if the overthrow is rolled, then the next roll would be on the table for the type of overthrow.  Additional tables might be generated to roll up more details, battles would likely follow, more strategic/campaign tables, etc.

Not surprisingly, the most dynamic possible outcomes have been missed, as there is a very small chance of any of these happening ( it seems that the President's brother and General Mobata had bad die rolls, etc).

Once I have die results for the next step in the game, I build backstory to explain it, creating characters as needed. Many of these appear as officers in the battles.  For me, the story telling adds a lot of flavor to my games on the tabletop, making me try harder for each side as I play the games.

Anyway, that is how the campaign is driven.  I realized some time ago, that Uwanda had over-reached with "the big war", but had expected that Mugabia would suffer some sort of destabilization that would have brought the war to a halt, prior to Uwanda reaching its current state.

That didn't happen, and the war eventually hit a strange point, where I couldn't see the options for progression of the game.  Briefly, I was afraid that the game might have reached the end of the line.  After thinking about this for awhile, I eventually came up with some ideas.  Some were older ides revisited, and others were completely new.  Another generation of tables resulted, and I started rolling dice, reaching some dead ends, and finding some new directions.  To be honest, what appears to be happening presents some delightful possibilities on the table top, and moves the game in directions that I had never considered outright.

My next few posts will introduce back story presenting lead-ins to these new paths that the game might follow.  The first is included below:


The Uwanda-Mugabia War Continues...

Populations in the west took little notice of the Soviet action in Mugabia, but some of their governments had far greater interest.  The west always wanted to confound the east in these efforts, but how to best go about it was always a challenge.  These governments fumbled around, while events in Uwanda and Mugabia unfolded.

The Soviets surprised Uwanda with the attack on the patrolling F5s, and the overwhelming success of the attack sent ripples through Uwanda's command structure.  Uwanda had to find a solution, and several options were on the table. Uwanda remained unnervingly quiet, while considering the options.

Soviet ground forces were relatively light at this point, and possibly Uwanda still possessed enough ground strength to give the Soviets a bloody nose.  The question was how would the Soviets react if Uwanda could be successful?  And what if Uwanda wasn't successful?

Uwanda could try to simply take back their contested territory outright, little movement had occurred there, and Uwanda still possessed significant ground forces in the region.  Additionally, they could mass air support close to operations, while the Soviets would have to travel farther to defend Mugabian assets.  Uwanda had attempted a version of this prior to starting the broader war, without success.  Could Uwanda be more successful now?

Or Uwanda could offer a trade.  Several variations were under consideration but all involved offering former Mugabian territory for the occupied Uwandan territory.  The general perception of these options by Uwanda's leadership was that this would be seen as an act of contrition, and would not end favorably.

In the mean time, general Kukimbia, commander of Uwanda's Air Force,  looked for an opportunity to test his F5Es with their upgraded missiles against the Soviet Migs.  He believed that the newer F5s could match the Migs in the air and relieve some of the current pressure on Uwanda.

The clock was ticking.