Friday, 29 July 2011

Hedge-ing my bets


Still no A13.  My own fault for not picking up the glue gun when at Mike's.  Doh!  Thankfully I have that back now.

However, it has been somewhat overtaken by events.  Those who follow me on Facebook/Google+ or whom frequent the Brighton Warlords or Flames of War Forum will know that we've just announced a Flames of War, late war, 1750pts axis vs allies tournament in mid January.

The last tournament we ran spurred me on to create enough road for 16 tables, two winter tables, about a square meter of cornfields and more cabbage patches than probably existed in Northern France.  It made for some pretty tables but it also pretty much burnt me out on terrain making until about now.
"Welcome!  Beware of 88's"
You can't see it, but there's an M-10 lurking in this photo ready to mess that Sherman up.
King of the Hill - FoW style
One of the projects that didn't make it off the drawing board was a simple to make hedge.  Linear terrain can play a big part of making a convincing and fun to play on board.  Recce can exploit it for cautious movement, infantry get some safety from HMG and controlling the high ground becomes even more important than normal.  The BW club has a shoebox full of Ironclad Miniatures Bocage which is enough for a few good size fields on one table, but that's about it.

Now, one of the first bits of non desert terrain I made was a massive hill complex, covered in trees.  The trees were made from scouring pads stuck on a BBQ bamboo skewer.  Spray black and drybrushed green, they were surprsingly effective.  Before the tournament I then revisited the concept and skipped the black undercoat. This wasn't quite as pretty but could be made quickly and still worked when mixed in with the older ones.
"Scour that tree line, men!"
So, based on that, it seemed that a scouring pad hedge would be a good bet.  I made a test piece by gluing two strips of scouring pad together and then sticking that to a strip of MDF.  This basically gave me something that looked like two badly mauled bots of scouring pad stuck to a piece of MDF...
Okay, maybe I'm a little harsh...
How not to clean tracks...
At about this point in the process, and somewhat in a strop, I decided to ditch the project and pretty much haven't made any terrain since.

Skip forward a few years and whilst flicking through the stats for my Blog I came across this tutorial over at "Another Slight Diversion" that is sending me some traffic.  This was pretty much the missing link in the development of the hedge and I rushed to try it out to see if it would scale up.  I had the dregs of a can of Leather Brown and found some flock in my basing drawer.  Now, I can't remember the last time I used flock, but apparently I'm a pack rat and never throw things away.

After following the steps on the blog, I was left with this
Over the 'edge lads!
A significant improvement!  My next thoughts were on how to scale this up so that I could produce about 32ft of it!  Driving cost down would be the main aim as using Army Painter brown and matt varnish would get pricey.  Instead, I plan to use Plasti-kote spray paint from the local B@Q at about £2 a can cheaper!  I have previously used the stuff for the winter terrain bases and to blue shade the white sheets and it seemed to do the trick for terrain making purposes.
Some of said winter stuff.

The next thought was to make the hedge so that it didn't need junction pieces.  Basically, create a shape for the base that allowed the hedge to be butted up to another piece in any way that would be required.  Here's a sketch:

Behold the awesome power of MS Paint!
I cut the end of the prototype to match, you can see it on the right of the "over the 'edge" photo.

The base could also be used for wall sections.  I plan to knock up about 16ft of wall sections using foam card that I retrieved from the skip at work.  It's slightly warped, but given the short sections required I think it wont be noticeable.  This is my first proof of concept.
Yeah, Dingo's are that low.
I want to spruce it up a bit by adding posts at one and the centre point so that when the walls are combined it looks like an evenly spaced distribution of posts.  The posts would be made from high density polyester foam, cut into a column with a hot wire cutter.  The whole lot will then be covered in textured masonry paint, washed with thinned down decking stain and dry brushed to resemble a weathered, rendered, white washed wall that one could reasonably expect to run into all over Europe (alternatively, I'll scribe a brick/drystone texture into the foam).  I may even use cardboard to add a slate tile cap.  

So, that's the start of a plan.  Hopefully over the next couple of months I'll be able to bash that out, with help from the rest of the Brighton Warlords FoW community, and start looking at some extra projects to round out the tables (embanked and cobbled roads, irrigation ditches, a few ridge lines).

Times ticking...

As a final note, updates may be sporadic again until September.  I'm helping the rest of the family with a few building projects so free time may be at a premium!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Hear me talk nonsense!

No real update this week.  Will hopefully be starting the A13 this week.

In the meantime, the All Along the Watchtower podcast asked me to come along and talk Flames of War whilst Matt got his move on.  

During the pod cast we talk about "Hellfire and Back", the finer points of Sherman tank design (in response to the rather tasty Plastic Soldier Company) and the SMLE.  There's also some non-flames stuff too!

Let's talk about the Sherman kits.  I was worried about monopolizing the whole podcast on a subject most people don't care about so I want to use this blog post to cover some of the minute detail of the Sherman and how the kits relate to it

Firstly, I like the look of the CAD sculpts and hopefully I don't come off as too negative on the pod cast.  These Shermans look pretty sweet and my only complaint with regards to the sculpt, as I discuss on the podcast, is the bow machine gun.  The .30 cal barrel looks a little fat and under-detailed compared to the rest of the kit.  It's something that can easily be fixed courtesy of a bit of pinning and some Skytrex .30 cals but it seems a bit of a slip on the sculptors part.

DSC00479 - Copy
Bow MG on a British Sherman III

Okay, so lets look at each kit and what it can do straight out of the box and what we can possibly make it do!

The Sherman II made its operational debut with 8th Army in the El Alamein battles.  The Sherman II had a cast hull and a petrol engine.  It was used by the British throughout Africa, into Tunisia and then on to Italy.  The M4A1 saw its debut with the US in Operation Torch and was used throughout the ETO from that point onwards.

(The 'Dry' hull / 'Wet' hull denotes the ammo protection.  The later 'wet' hull adds bigger hatches for escape and water protection around the ammo).

From Plastic Soldier Company
Okay, the PSC kit comes with the 75mm gun.  The 76mm and 105mm gun aren't used with this hull so we can put them in the bits box.  

For doing a Sherman M4A1 in US service from late '43 onwards (so mainland Italy and Normandy) we can take the model straight out of the box. The applique armour started appearing from summer '43.  Strictly there should be two extra plates in front of the driver and co-driver position (you can see them in the bow MG photo above).  They can be added quite easily with a bit of plasticard.  The cast one piece hull could be used for a later production example but the bolted three piece nose is more common early on.  Don't forget to add stowage!

For doing a 1942-early '43 Op Torch era Sherman we're going to need to file the applique armour off.  The appliqué armour was added to the 'dry' hull to add protection in the areas where ammo is stowed and this started to appear in the summer of 1943 as crews realised why they were brewing up (nothing to do with the petrol engine).
I'm thinking a Dremel should do the trick, working from the centre of each plate outwards.  Nose should be the three piece option (as shown on the CAD sculpt) and Sand Shields should be fitted.

The British Shermans are a bit trickier.  For the most part they will look like their US equivalent for the period but the Brits welded a round edged stowage bin onto the rear of the turret.  This is missing from the kit and will require a bit of plasti-card work to replicate.  I plan to do a full squadron of 16 tanks so the dremel and plasticard will be getting some heavy use.
Sherman II in North Africa.  Note stowage bin and lack of appliqué armour
This kit is pretty good out of the box.  It's used by the US mainly but the UK and other commonwealth/free armies (South Africa, Poland) did use them (2nd Armoured Brigade in Italy).  Looking around for photos, it looks like the UK didn't find any need to fit stowage bins.  Nose should be the cast one piece option (no three piece transmission covers where used on the late production).

From Plastic Soldier Company
The 76mm gun should be the only one fitted to this hull and will appear from mid 44 onwards in places like Normandy and then later in Italy (late 44).

M4A1 Sherman IIA (76mm Wet Hull) in UK service.
This version of the Sherman, a diesel powered welded hull, was used by the Lend-Lease forces (UK and USSR) and USMC.  It's also pretty similar in looks to the gasoline powered Sherman I (M4) and Sherman IV (M4A3), differing mostly in the engine deck detail, which gives it more utility for the US players.
From Plastic Soldier Company
The model uses the original 'dry' hull so strictly is only used with a 75mm gun and turret.

This variant made its debut with British forces in North Africa around about El Alamein.  It also appeared in large numbers with the Soviets.

A UK example pre-43 should have the Sand Shields on and the appliqué armour filed off.  It should have a stowage bin on the turret rear.  Late 43 (Italy and Normandy) then the appliqué armour can stay on.  Hopefully the scale will be good enough to allow it to be matched up with a Battlefront Sherman VC for a Normandy troop.

A USSR example should be fairly easy to achieve out of the box.  Factory fitted appliqué armour should be a feature of late-war ones as deliveries were made.  Initial deliveries should be reflected by filing applique armour off.  No Russian commander which is a shame but most Russian players probably have a bag of them spare anyway and they are easily sourced elsewhere. As mentioned, the hull is incorrect for a 76mm armed example, but given the number of tanks a Russian player needs to buy, I'd be inclined to turn a blind eye to that!

Finally, the US ones should follow similar lines to the UK, less stowage bins.  If being used as a stand in for a Sherman I (M4) in Operation Torch then the armour should be filed off.  Otherwise, your good to go.

So, out of the box, these kits are great for doing late 43 onwards example of the Shermans and I really recommend looking into them.  It would have been great if the appliqué armour had been left separate and a stowage box offered as an option but these are all fairly easy things to fix if your so inclined.  The vast majority of players will probably say a 'Sherman is a Sherman' and leave it at that which is fair enough.  But spending a bit of time getting the tank looking right for the period will pay dividends in terms of theming a force.

Now, all I need is some cash to buy three boxes of Sherman II for my desert army and some more plasti card!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Flak-tastic - FlaK-36 on the limber


Another short post this week whilst I'm in-between projects.  Hopefully next week I'll be under way with the A13 but this week has been a bit hectic.  Instead, lets take a look at one of my many 'work in progress' side projects, the fearsome FlaK 36 or "88"!

When I started my DAK force I knew I wanted a pair of these fearsome dual purpose guns in the force.  They've always struck fear into my 8th Army force with the gun able to pick off even Sherman II at long range with ease!

I wanted to have the 88 firing from the limber.  The carriage and trail of the 88 was quite ingenious.  Two, non-folding, legs of the cruciform trail form a spine to which wheel units are attached.  The way the carriage is designed allows the 88 to be fired from the carriage, albeit with a limited arc of fire.  Quite handy in the mobile warfare of the North African deserts.
The two remaining legs are hinged and fold down in action to form the rest of the cruciform trail.  The legs don't bend beyond 90°, so when firing from the carriage they sit sticking out quite awkwardly (as can be seen above).  A video I saw of an 88mm firing like that in Normandy appeared to show the 88 tipping over then bouncing off these feet to right itself (Here at 0:30).  Hairy stuff!  This site has some good pics of the 88 on its carriage.

The first thing I did was to form the base.  With all eight crew modelled, the 88 needs a lot of real estate and being mounted on the carriage makes the beast even bigger.  To get round this I planned to stick a FoW medium base to the back of the large base.

First I lined the bases up using a steel ruler turned on its side.
Precision Engineering
I then glued plastic cut from a blister to bridge the gap, a strip on top and one on the bottom.  When I polyfiller the base later I will fill this in and sand down to hide the join.

Next I glued the wheels to the carriage units and the carriage units to the trail.  I also glued the gun to the pedestal leaving me with two main sub assemblies: the carriage and the gun.

Next I got the Dremel out and, using a 0.5mm drill bit, drilled holes in the legs, carriage and the base of the pedestal.  I then inserted lengths of the cable tie wire I mentioned alst week to form pins.  I kept the wire coming out the Pedestal fairly long to allow it to rotate in the carriage (and be removed to fit in the case, did I mention its big?) whilst still being stable.
Pedestal and one Trail Arm drilled and wired.  Note also the plastic strip on the base.
Next I glued the arms to the carriage, guiding the wire into the mating hole I had drilled.
An upturned 88mm.  Certainly a site that would make most allied tankees happy!
You can probably also see that I've drilled and pinned the wheels to go into holes in the base.  This is just to give the carriage a fair chance of staying stuck to the base in day to day use!

That leaves the 88 looking something like this:
Arms down and ready to fire!
That pretty much gets the gun done (I'll add the wire spools and towing arm later).  The crew is the next to receive my attention.  Most of them will be one the base as per normal but I wanted one or two per gun to be on the carriage, loading.  Obviously the circular bases would not really bled in with the carriage so we need to get busy with the side cutters!
Firstly, I cut off the majority of the base leaving just an area around the foot.
Rough cuts
Next, I carefully cut away the material under the foot.  I find its best to err on the side of caution and file down an excess rather than try and rebuild a foot from scratch!
"Do your worse!  I'll never talk!"

Footloose and fancy free

Next, I use the trusty 'ol Dremel and pin the foot.
Worse than standing on Lego

It's then just a case of drilling a corresponding hole on the Carriage.  Obviously I'd recommend doing a dry run with some blu tac first to work out the narrative of the base (who's where and who's doing what) rather than leaving the carriage looking like Swiss cheese from aborted drilling runs!
Earning that Rate of Fire of 3!
A fully kitted out Jerry super weapon (shortly before the 25pdr got the rotter!"
So there we go.  Two 88 ready for painting and then a visit to the table top to terrorize some Englanders!
Well, I make that six dead Grants...
That's it for this week.  Hopefully Everest will have my hot glue gun for em and I can prep the A13 Cruisers next week.  See you then.