Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day 2017 & Gaming Bunker (Basement) Progress Update

This is Memorial Day weekend in the United States where we honor those who have fallen in battle.  Most civilized nations have a day such as this that pays homage to their honored dead.  You can read about the history of Memorial Day in the US here.  While I feel joy that "such men lived," it's always with a heavy heart.  There is an avalanche of data and statistics about the costs of war but the price that these men paid is not even able to be calculated, let alone fully appreciated.  I was lucky enough to know and serve alongside some of them.  Forget what you read about American politics.  Soldiers are the credentials of the United States.

Well it's been awhile since I've posted a progress report on the gaming bunker (basement).  I have to admit that I really didn't appreciate that space down in there in the basement but it definitely is something of a sanctuary for me.  

The wife and I spent the majority of the weekend replacing the aged ceiling tiles down there and we are at about 90% but won't be able to finish the rest until the walls are complete.
New ceiling tiles.  right side of picture you can make out the new wall panel.
The above picture might look identical to our previous ceiling but I can assure you it is not!  These are brand new ceiling tiles and it's gratifying to know that the old, disgusting tiles are in the trash.

 You can also note the black insulation panels with steel supports that our new walls will literally bolt onto.
The gaming area facing where my painting desk used to be.  I may move the desk to the wall under the window.
Speaking of the walls, they completed the wall around our storage room.
The new walls look like this.  We will be painting the old wood paneling that is still around the ductwork.

Picture is taken from where my painting desk used to be.  Obviously all of the hobby stuff is under the plastic.
Lots of work remains in the basement.  This week the electrician will install the outlet boxes for our receptacles, and the contractors will finish up the walls.  Then we will arrange for the new floor to be installed.  The floor we chose is a "luxury vinyl tile" which is a vinyl floor but laid down in planks that gives the appearance and texture of a wood floor.  
This is what the floor will look like.  Neat huh?
Looking out the window.  I might have some shelves placed where the large wall panel is laying.
That's about it for the update.  We're nearing the end of phase one of the project.  Phase two will be the installation of the floor and finally phase 3 is the touch up work.  I'm really excited to get the floor down because that will herald the beginning of gaming and hobbying in the room again!

So that's all for now.  

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Useful Unit Labels for Crossfire

"Steven's Balagan" had an interesting post today regarding Steven T's approach to unit identification in Crossfire and the inclusion of special-marked identifiers for personal Anti Armor weapon-carrying squads.

I've always liked Steven's methodology, which is technically counter to the US Army's Battle Staff nomenclature that I grew up with as a cadet and young officer but darn it, it looks so cool on the table!
Soviet platoon moving up with my Crossfire stands during a game of "Iron Cross" with Dave

German gamble assaulting a KV-1 during the same game.  Note the Crossfire unit marking which I really like.

So, what are the primary differences?  Well, for starters, the US Army starts with Company letters (vice numbers) and the use of a dash or a slash is indicative of whether or not the unit's command & control is organic to the highest echelon.  So, for instance, Battery A, 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery would look like this:

A/5-3 FA

The slash denotes that Battery A is a child unit of the 5th Battalion.  The Regimental numbering is part of the US Army's Regimental lineage system and is NOT an element for Command and Control so there is a hyphen vice a slash.  2nd Platoon, Battery A, 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery would look like this:

2/A/5-3 FA.

Steven T's nomenclature (which I have adopted) has the Battalion designation first, then the Company, then the platoon number.  So G-1-1 would be the Grenadier Battalion, 1st Company, 1st Platoon.

What I like about Steven's method is that it's much cleaner and gives me much more flexibility in my unit choice.  So for example, the GrossDeutschland fought in the southern pincer at Kursk, so making a GD based and labeled unit would feel out of place for me with my OCD.  However, a more generic Grenadier Battalion would not, hence the reason I adopted the "Balagan Method."

If anyone is interested, I've posted a picture and link to my labels which would give you a good place to start in using these:

If you'd like to download these and change them for yourself (I made these when starting my second German and Soviet companies) here is a link for you to do so

I made enough for a German, Russian, Afrika Korps, 8th Army Desert British, and NW Europe British but you can alter them however you see fit.

Friday, May 26, 2017

SA-9 (9K31 Strela) Gaskin Platoon

The last of my wheeled support units, the SA-9 platoon is up next to provide my Soviet or East German forces the "top cover" they need when assaulting.  These will be fielded as a platoon for a Company level game (Sabre Squadron or Team Yankee), or each vehicle would serve as a platoon for Rapid Fire "Able Archer."

This platoon is from "Butler's Printed Models" and is 1/100 scale.  Very simple work up here.  Basecoated dark green then sprayed with PSC Russian Armor Green, washed with Agrax Earthshade, and drybrushed with VJ Khaki.  The tires are a mixture of black and pewter gray acrylic.

You can read about this bane of rotary wing aircraft here.

The tires were "fun" to paint and I'm not really looking forward to all of the BTRs that are up next...

Still need decals but they're covered up by junk in the basement right now so they'll roll off the assembly line without the decals!

Remember the plan.  Regular front line forces and Cat II / Allied units get the PSC Russian Armor Green.  Guards get the Dark Olive to differentiate commands.

Meanwhile NATO intel sections are hard at work determining what kinds of vehicles are moving into and out of Pact staging areas in East Germany.  SACEUR received his daily brief and staging areas and Army-level maintenance depots in the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany received extra attention in the daily brief this morning as many of the depot facilities have seen a significant uptick in activity.

SHAPE J2 attributed this activity to the expanded fielding of the BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle and also routine maintenance activities where vehicles approached their maintenance ceilings.  Additionally, the new Soviet commander of the Western Strategic Directorate recently issued guidance to formations that readiness and preparation were top priorities and NATO intelligence agencies have been anticipating additional Soviet range and field training exercise time......

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Spandrel AT-5 Platoon

More wheeled Pact vehicles knocked out.  This is the AT-5 "Spandrel" platoon.  These are 1/100 models from "Butler's Printed Models" of the UK.

You can read about the missile here.  There are also some nice pictures of the system mounted to the BRDM hull. 

This is all part of my wheeled supports going towards my Warsaw Pact forces as they assemble to invade West Germany.  These guys will do double-duty as Soviet or East German as all of my East German and Regular or Cat II Soviet units will be painted in this color.  This ensures their inter-operability on the table and gives me maximum flexibility to the unit I want to field.

 Primed with light green, basecoated with PSC Armor Green, washed with "agrax earthshade,"and drybrushed VJ Khaki!  That's it!  The tires are a mix of acrylic black and "pewter gray."

No decals yet but I'll work on that.

 This team is easily at home playing Sabre Squadron, Rapid Fire Able Archer, Team Yankee, Fistful of TOWS, you name it!

Probably worth noting here that this is about the only weapon I'll have as the East Germans that can kill Leopard IIs so watch out!  (might be the same for Sabre Squadron as well).

The SA-9 Gaskin Platoon is up next!  Stay tuned!

BRDM-2 Gaggle

Greetings All,
So Phase 3 of "Operation Basement" is ongoing and I have the day off since the contractors are here and I thought I'd knock out some Warsaw Pact vehicles for my Group of Soviet Forces and Central Group of Forces.  I'm working on the BRDM-2, the AT-5, and the SA-9 platoons today.  The BRDMs are done, sans the decals.

These are all 3D Printed Models from "Butler's Printed Models" in the UK.  All have been primed with tan or light green, and have been painted with PSC "Russian Armor Green" spray paint.

Recon platoon
 You can read about this ubiquitous Warsaw Pact vehicle here.

 I've weathered with 2 layers of dry brushing.  First, a mix of khaki/flat earth and then with a light khaki.  I'm happy with them although the drybrushing really brings out the imperfections with the 3D printed models.  Doesn't make too much of a difference since they're all going to get blown up on the table in the first few turns.

Still though, they look pretty cool.

AT-5s in the background are up next for their drybrushing.  

This seems like a long time ago but you might remember I had a difficult time figuring out what colors to paint up my Pact forces.  Well the dilemma has been solved with most of the "regular" line units sporting the PSC Russian Armor Green and my Guards sporting a more drab green.  From a great distance they look similar but close up you can tell the difference.  In the link above you can see the more drab green next to the battlefront tankovy green.

So my catalog of forces and their paint scheme will be:

  • Guards driving T-80/T-64s and BMP-2s will get the dark olive treatment.  Regulars in T-72s, BMP-1s, and BTRs will get the PSC treatment, which will basically cover most of my vehicles.  My recce BMP-1s will most likely be painted camouflage.

  • The East Germans will also get the PSC treatment, although any T-55AM2s will get "Tankovy Green" or camouflage pattern (grey and green).  That being said, I'll only have 7 "proper"       T-55AM2s, the rest will be slick T-55s that I'll happily substitute for the extra armored protection.

That's all for today.  AT-5s and SA-9s coming up in future posts.  Watch this space!  Cannot wait until my basement is finished to get some cold war gaming goodness on the table.  Rapid Fire Able Archer comes to mind, then possibly some Sabre Squadron and/or Team Yankee.  Hoo-ah!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Banished from TMP and I'm OK with it!

It's been a long time since my last post and yes, my basement is still in tatters and disarray but work is slated to begin this week on the walls!  Gaming will be returning soon to the basement bunker!

So this happened:

And I thought I'd chime in with my .02

I caught wind of this thread that the editor of TMP began entitled "Arrogant Americans" and purported to be about substantiating or refuting claims of snobby British and arrogant American gamers (and if the hobby has an "Arrogant American" problem.  How would you even rate or quantify that, let alone address it?)

  My buddy Brandon, an actual rules author in his own right, made a comment about the veracity and usefulness of the thread itself after noting how many comments the editor deleted (including paying member comments).  He was swiftly banned so, in solidarity with him, I made the post above right before leaving work on Friday, with the hopes that he would ban me too.

"Editor Bill" didn't disappoint and I was kicked off TMP before I even got off the train.  Yes I kind of posted this as "click bait" for him, but TMP is that subject you talk "around" because of the sensitivity, stupidity, devotional, and almost canonical fervor of some of its loudest members about important topics to our hobby such as:

The definition of a scoundrel.
Napoleonic uniform button numbers.
The shade of musket stock wood after a long campaign.
The invincibility of British troops in the Napoleonic wars.
War of 1812 beef rations.
Defense of "Girl und Panzer" anime enthusiasts.
RT News re-posts.

In the years I've known about it, TMP has become a place where you dread starting a post almost as much as you would dread asking for a raise from your boss because you're not sure what the reaction may be to it.  I never liked posting replies to questions or even starting threads myself because of this unpleasant element.  So why even deal with it?

My eventual breakup with TMP was long on the horizon.

TMP's usefulness to me is touch and go.  Usually when I have a research problem about historical gaming, I'm led to a TMP post via a search engine anyways.  My posts were really only to help answer questions when I might actually have been able to help someone out.

So I'm done with TMP now and I'm not headed back.  While occasionally helpful, it only seems to enable the slathering, dim witted, fervent trolls out there who literally have nothing better to do with their time than criticize innocent and fun loving gamers whose shade of green was too dark for their tastes.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Russian Log Bunkers - A Tough Nut to Crack

Found a large bag of bamboo BBQ/Shish Kebab skewers in my tool kit and thought I'd finally give those Kursk-Ponyri Station Hill 253 log bunkers a go.  

Technically I should probably have built 3, but for my modest table, 2 will work just fine.  This was a nice Sunday afternoon project after all the madness and dust settled down around the house and the family got home from errands.  One is somewhat completed, just needs terrain and some more detailing but otherwise I am satisfied with it.  As opposed to have it coming out of the ground, I just ended up building this thing, which in my mind looks like an Appalachian Trail hiking hut/shelter and frankly made me nostalgic for backpacking.

A few quick layers of paint brought out the grain and detail in the wood and made these look more like logs instead of BBQ skewers.

Roomy, bulletproof and easily sleeps a squad of 8.  

Detailed the ends of the logs to bring out the grain in the wood and make them look more like cut timbers .

Will put ground cover, dirt, flock, and tufts down but so far I think it looks pretty good.  His counterpart will get the same treatment.

I don't have much experience with tabletop battlefield engineering, so these will make a nice addition to my bare bones collection of fortifications for Kursk and Ponyri Station.  I actually made these more with Battlegroup: Kursk in mind, but they'll work very well for Rapid Fire, housing almost a company of troops (in RF terms) and probably more aptly representing a fortification network, as opposed to a squad bunker.
Russian squad for scale

Russian squad inside of unfinished bunker #2.

Totally unintentional but this was glued down onto my "Close Combat III: The Russian Front" CD!  

HMG Team in Bunker #1
I was playing around with some log fences also but I ran out of time.  More to come.  Stay tuned!