Saturday, February 6, 2016

15mm Cold War Progress Report!

This week I was able to knock out some of the vehicles that had been sitting around my work bench for awhile.  My recent "Team Yankee" game provided all the momentum I needed to finish this project!

So the lineup for this includes my mech platoon's M47 Dragon teams, S21 Gvozdika self propelled howitzers, the kit-bashed Zvezda T-72 tank which had been sitting around for awhile, a ZSU 23/4 Shilka, and the black lines added to my MERDC M113s.

First up are the Dragon teams.  These guys add some much needed anti armor capability to my US Cold War forces, including the ability to reach out and touch some armor, provided it's a flank or rear shot!

My M113 personnel carriers got more of the MERDC treatment also with the black "gull wings" added.  They are starting to actually look like a real unit now!

These are Zvezda 2S1 Gvozdika (Carnation) Self Propelled Howitzers.  Aside from being awesome models, they are some of my favorite vehicles.  These big guns are waiting on their third vehicle to make the "Battery" full.  I will use the decals for them as well and they'll be 100%.

I know everyone's been wanting to know the status of this beast.  This is my kit-based Zvezda T-72B which I've turned, more or less, into a T-72 regular by whittling off the Kontakt-5 explosive reactive armor.  I think he turned out pretty darn good considering.

Jenkins!  Hit that T-72 now before he draws a bead on us!!

And lastly, the Zvezda zsu 23/4 Shilka.  This, too, is one of my favorite models.  Ken asked me if I was actually saving any $$ buying the Zvezda stuff and I think utlimately, I'm buying the Zvezda stuff because I like it, as opposed to any practical reason now.

Lots of weathing (probably too much) on this beast.  Still needs decals added.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Battlefront Cold War US Mech Infantry & MERDC Take Three!

What's that?  You haven't bought the US Cold War Infantry from Battlefront yet?  It's not often I plug for miniatures manufacturers on SOUND OFFICERS CALL, so when I do, it means something!

even has the angle head flashlight tucked onto his belt!
I have the whole lot of my US Mech Infantry platoon basecoated in brown (per my M81 Camouflage technique) with the Luftwaffe green applied and today I tried my luck on a stand.  My crappy painting skills aside, these infantry are spectacular!  The detail is crisp and raised, and, extremely accurate.  This is coming from someone who wore this gear to field problems throughout college as an ROTC cadet and an over zealous youth playing army as a teenager (although sadly when I entered active duty the LBE had been phased out in favor of the intolerable Load Bearing Vest, or try carrying 180 rounds on the front of your body and tell me it feels natural!).

Okay I digress.  So painting up the Battlefront infantry I'm noticing the detail is remarkable, and extremely accurate.  They even put the grenade pouches on the side of the mag pouches in the front of the troopers!

 The technique is pretty simple, and although it's more tedious than the battlefront example, I like the look better.  Basically, you basecoat in brown, splotch luftwaffe green all over the model in random spots, being sure to leave brown showing, then carefully add khaki "squiggles".  Technically you don't have to add the black, but these BF guys run a little large so I think I will add the black to be sure.  I also did NOT use my obscenely small detail paintbrush either, and they still turned out OK.

 I worked up a platoon leader or company command rifle stand.  Yeah yeah it's on my round bases but the surface area is pretty much equal to the BF small bases, and I'm using these guys for various rules sets also.

Thinking of putting an aerial on the RTO's radio simply because it will look cool.

 On to my most recent discovery.  Did you know that Olive Drab from model master makes an excellent "field drab" for MERDC?  Funny thing, I didn't know that either.  I tried it on my M109 Howitzer yesterday and realized I would have to repaint everything.  So I basecoated all my US stuff AGAIN and today applied the khaki lines to the M113 tracks.  Pretty nice colors I have to say.

 Lots of work to do on these tracks again like replace the broken 50 cals, paint the tracks, weather, etc.  But I wanted to demonstrate the difference in colors.  I will add the black "gull wings" next.

They'll look even better when I get the black gull wings and tracks painted.  

obligatory shot for scale.

Monday, February 1, 2016

TEAM YANKEE: First Battle, First Impressions, & Lots of Pics!

After what seemed like an eternity of silence, the radio barked to life:



Ken came over this past weekend and we played our first game of Battlefront's "Team Yankee" before I had to go into work.  Since then, I'd been jotting down some notes on my impressions of the game to include what I liked, what I didn't like, and, thanks to a question from David F, what makes it different from Sabre Squadron?

The board.  Modern roads, 20th century buildings and a bunch of Cold War forces!
 Ken brought over a bunch of his forces to supplement mine, and we used his rule book as I didn't purchase one yet.  The missions are similar to the Flames of War missions, and there are scenarios from the Team Yankee book inside the rules as well.

Forces we used were roughly even, with the US bringing 2 mech infantry platoons (M113) and 1 M1 Abrams tank platoon to the fight along with a FIST track, a howitzer platoon ("battery").

The Soviets had 4 T-72 "Companies" of 3 tanks each, along with a motor rifle company mounted in Ken's outstanding Battlefront BMP-1s.  Like everyone else lately, we were forced to use some proxies to stand in until we get appropriate forces painted up.  So T-80s stood in for T-72s, and in some cases, World War II US infantry stood in for additional modern US Infantry.  Most of the US stuff however was already painted up and on the table.

I don't remember the points these forces totaled up to.  We decided for ease of play, we would go with the "Free for All" mission.  We diced for the attacker and the US player (me) won the dice off so the US were to be the attacking forces.

We placed platoons on the table, alternating one at a time.  The M1's were centrally located, pointed straight at Ken's left flank objective and each infantry platoon was placed on a US flank.  Ken placed his armor companies across a wide breadth and his infantry in the vicinity of the road, threatening the village.

My Roskopf M109 Howitzers on the left.  A 3 track US infantry platoon and the FIST track all on the US  left flank
US right flank.  The M577 track is the company commander.  TY wants you to use a tank or APC for this but I couldn't resist!

Ken placing the Soviets.  Note the US Armored Division objective marker on the small hill

Ken's Artillery with a ZSU standing in for a self propelled howitzer behind a Soviet tank company.  The Larry Leadhead Mug lets you know we're hardcore gamers here!
 We also used Ken's modern roads from Battlefront which were awesome and seemed to fit in well in conjunction with my railroad roadway.
German Panzer Division Objective marker east of the village.

Okay, board is ready to go!  
 The US player as the attacker went first.  I decide to move my infantry up to the treeline and on the first turn, 2 M113s bog down going into the woodline!  Seriously?!?!  On the US left I move the infantry forward and the FIST follows them.

Not an auspicious start to the war...

M1 sneaking around

US FIST Track moves cautiously up.  Note all my specialist vehicles are painted in Summer MERDC.  My line vehicles are painted in Winter MERDC.

Ken moves his BMPs up while my M1 sets up for a shot!

Pact armor pours into Germany!

Ken's BMPs on the road along with his command tank  which is one of Ken's QRF T-64s.

 Ken moves up a T-72 company on his left to guard the objective from a hilltop, surging his infantry forward in the center, while maneuvering around some woods on his right.  One thing that strikes you right away are the movement distances, allowing various forms of movement that enable you to really get the most out of your equipment.  It also makes a 6 x 4 table seem like a very small place to host a battle!

infantry dismount!

US infantry finally reach the tree line.  The woods themselves were a little over 8" wide, so I could have easily dismounted the infantry and moved them straight away, instead of ferrying them up to the line in their battle taxis.

M1 platoon positions itself to try and kill some BMPs and trade shots with the T-72s on the hill!  

Meanwhile, the US Artillery is in firing positions and ready to assist!  Note the Soviet objective marker.  The US player opts to shell the small hill in front of the M1s.

Here's the massive Team Yankee template.

And here are my cool barrage markers.

Hit, Hit, and Hit.  The Arty would kill 1 T-72 which I was OK with!
meanwhile Ken has plans of his own and surges the infantry forward into the town, way too close for comfort to my M1s 

Soviet infantry occupy the pig sty and a gasthaus and bring fire down on an M1!

meanwhile, Ken's attack on his right is shaping up!

A badly positioned M109 takes a HEAT round....enough said!

US armor extricates itself from the town and goes after those T-72s on the hill!  Both flanks are opening up now as both sides go for broke.

US Infantry deploy to block Ivan.  But the M47 Dragon ATGM barely chips the paint on those T-72s!

note the bailed M1.  I failed 2 or 3 turns in a row to remount...all you have to do is not roll a 1!

Ken's got a solid wall of infantry and armor advancing forward in the center and on his right.

Ken moves his infantry over to try and get some casualties against the US attack on his left.
Ivan redeploys to slow down those US tanks!

Since the FIST was obliterated but Soviet tank guns, the US Company Commander is bringing fire down on the Soviet infantry in the pig sty in the center.
Meanwhile the Redlegs are getting the worst of the Soviet fire!

US infantry on the US left break contact and head for the objective, desperate to hold the hill at all costs!

The M113 APCs on the US right spot a large concentration of Soviet infantry moving forward and fire all their on board MGs at them with telling results, KOing some teams and pinning them in place.
Even though Ivan's down on this flank, he's definitely not out!  A SAGGER takes out a US M113 and only a Dragon team survives.

Securing the objective.  On the US left flank, it's the opposite story where a hoard of Ken's tanks are threatening my infantry on the hill top.  The US side meets its conditions, probably 1 turn before the Soviet side could and wins the game.

 First Impressions
I have to say I'm impressed with the Battlefront people for listening to their customers, and for developing a variation of Flames of War that feels more genuine (whatever that means), more flexible in terms of choices you can make during the game, and honestly feels like a modern game, and not like "world war 2 with bigger tanks."  While Ken and I didn't play with all the toys in the Team Yankee arsenal, the sheer amount of hardware we had on the table was impressive compared to some of our Sabre Squadron games and these rules handled all of it with relative ease.

What I Liked
I think Team Yankee is less ambiguous than Flames of War (the new close combat / assault rules are refreshing, and hit allocation is also equally refreshing).

Modern equipment is very impressive, and these rules capture the vast capabilities your units bring to the table now (movement, range, stabilization, missiles, chobham armor), and strike an appropriate balance between various battlefield arms.  Infantry are crucial and have their place, and the best weapon to kill tanks, so far, seems to be other tanks.  I think the Soviets and their NATO opponents would agree on that in real life.  Armor takes on its role as "the mounted combat arm of decision."

I like the idea of special orders that you can give to your force to allow them to get a local advantage, even if I never had an opportunity to use them.

Force seem to have an inherent "To Hit" now which I really like.  Soviet units are hit on a 3+.  US units are hit on a 4+.

Vehicles unbog themselves now!

I think Battlefront has done a very good job of producing a challenging modern game, and not necessarily a modified set of their World War II rules.  That, in my humble opinion, was the biggest challenge of all.  So well done there.

What I didn't Like
Ken and I both had a blast playing this so there isn't much I can say that I disliked.

The ranges and movement options are so extensive now that playing on a 6 x 4 table is probably not the way you want to go if you have more space.  I found that I used tactical movement the entire game, with almost no need for any of the specialized movement orders.

Soviet Artillery is hard to get your hands on which I for one didn't like (personal preference).  Even though it was a meeting engagement, Ken's artillery battery should have been blasting all my defensive positions instead of trying to make their roll to get into the fight.  I understand the logic of a centralized, inflexible army calling for hasty fires, but still feel like the Soviets should have a slightly better chance of getting their artillery into the game.

Infantry have their place on the table, but it's probably best if they're rooting out and killing other infantry and staying the hell out of the tanks' way.  So to me that seems like it would be very hard to win a game with an all-infantry or mostly infantry force.  In this case, the US forces won with their tank platoon and not their mech.  We didn't play with TOW missiles backing up the infantry so maybe that gives them the teeth they'll need?  Other than that, I felt that my infantry were very vulnerable the entire game.  (some could argue that's a strength of these rules???)

Compared to Sabre Squadron
Well David F asked me how TY compares to Sabre Squadron and interestingly I'm still having a hard time answering him.  Look at the amount of units we had on the table, and were able to play a full game to completion in a few hours, and that was with rules questions and searching through only one rulebook.
Don't get me wrong here, I enjoy Sabre Squadron and will continue to play it, but I definitely want to play more games of Team Yankee.  Its simplicity alone makes it a winner for a modern game (Third Generation Warfare, I'm looking squarely at you here...) and Sabre Squadron, while simple, still seems complex compared to Team Yankee now.  And as everyone knows, I have less and less patience for bullsh*t or needless complexity with rules.

Well that's about it until I can think of some other things - Ken, did I miss anything?