Monday, July 27, 2015

PaK 36(r) Guns for 15mm WW2

15mm PaK 36(r) section from Battlefront
 A little more WW2 stuff from the summer painting table, this time in 15mm.  These are PaK 36(r) anti-tank guns from Battlefront.  There were two guns with crews in the blister pack.  There is also a 3-man SMG command team, but I haven't painted them yet...

Some pigment on the muzzle brake to give the barrel a "used" look
Confronted by tides of Russian tanks and the demands of the huge and extended eastern front, as well as continued fighting in North Africa, the Germans pressed a number of captured Russian guns into their own service.  The 76.2mm guns were captured from the Russians in very large numbers from the huge pockets of Red Army troops enveloped during Operation Barbarossa, and the Germans put them into the line.

I tried a camo pattern on the gun commander...not much of a result, but good to practice I guess
The gun was adjusted to take 75mm ammunition for the PaK 40 anti-tank guns, and provided German units with a decent anti-tank gun.  The same gun was mounted on the Marder anti-tank gun carriers.  I think these saw action in the North African desert and against the Red Army on the eastern front.

The crew castings have a nice animation to them
I don't know if many of these guns were still around by later 1944 and 1945, but I liked to think a few of them would have still been in the line, particularly with Volksgrenadier-type formations.  As the Allies closed in, I'm sure the Germans used whatever guns were available, particularly in the east. 

Nice crew figures, and extras like ammo boxes
I believe the Germans also used these guns in their more traditional artillery role - I think the German designation for that was FK36(r), but I start to get confused when I look into the different versions of the gun, and then the different German versions of the different Russian versions...

T-34s targeted...
These models were decent, nice ones to work with from Battlefront. You get neat little extras, like shell containers, spent shell casings and the like. These two guns will work well in games of Flames of War, Battlegroup, and even Chain of Command.

Some more 15mm WW2 stuff up next...

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

More Gothic Ruined Buildings from SG2 Creations!

"Building" (see what I did there) towards the big Horus Heresy mini-campaign/mega-game later this summer, it's up to me to organize the terrain. You've read here before about Conscript Byron's awesome laser-cut MDF stylings, including the fantastic Gothic ruined buildings I built and painted some weeks ago.

Well there's more - Byron's come out with a new Gothic ruined building, plus a "corner kit" of four ruined corners. I just had to pick up a set of each!

The ruined building is great. It's a bit longer than the other design and not as tall, but it's designed in a matching style so it'll look great with the others on the table. As usual in my build, I added ground texture and broken bricks for a more ruined look.

Some basic spray paint, acrylics, washes and weathering powders completed the build.

Here's the four corner pieces that come in Byron's set. Nice for completing a tabletop tableau.

Finished to match the other buildings we'll use for our games. Nice stuff as always Byron!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Battle Report - Flames of War, 15mm WW2

Tanks on fire during a Flames of War game played last week
It's been quiet for a while on the Fawcett Avenue gaming front, with several of the fellows making a visit to Europe for the Waterloo anniversary, and others taking up opportunities to enjoy our brief (and below standard) summer - any respite from the hell of winter on the Canadian Prairies must be enjoyed to the maximum extent possible.

Forward for the Rodina!
But we are still getting some gaming in - last week conscripts Byron and Dallas stopped by for a game of "Flames of War", the popular 15mm WW2 gaming rules. The game was set on the Eastern Front in the summer of 1944, and the scenario was "hold fast", one of the basic scenarios from the rule book.  The Germans would be hoping to hold back a Soviet tide - not very original, but basic and fun. We played it straight from the book with one modification - I left out the "ambush" for the defenders.  We don't play much Flames of War, and I was trying to keep it simple.

The Soviet tidal wave - part 1
Soviet tidal wave - Part 2 - a Maxim team in the foreground is trying to give some covering fire
The Soviet battlegroup was an infantry battalion - two big companies of infantry backed with mortars, light anti-tank guns and a whole company of T-34/76 tanks.  They had the services of a battery of 122mm guns (kept off table, because that sort of stuff should just not be on the table).  The Soviets would (of course) be the attackers - Dallas took command.

Company of T-34s roars forward

Nervous German grenadiers dug in and waiting for the Soviets to that possible?
The German battlegroup was a worn down motorised infantry company - two grenadier platoons, a section of 8cm mortars, a pair of MG42s, two PaK 40 anti-tank guns, a battery of StuGs and a platoon of Panzer IVHs.  The Germans also got some off-table fire-support in the form of a battery of 10.5cm guns, but I limited the ammo to just four fire missions. Byron took command of the German side.

Iron Crosses to be handed out...
Nobody left to award them to...the Germans knocked out one T-34 with a Panzerfaust, but the infantry are overrun!
Both battlegroups worked out to about 1400 points a side. The table was 6' x 4', with the short edges as the base for each side.  Two objectives were placed in the German half of the table, and if the Soviets could capture one of them, the jig was up and the Germans were done. Straight up, all this German stuff would mow down the Russians in short order - but the problem for the Germans was they didn't get all of this stuff at first - half of it was in delayed reserve. Byron had to decide which units he thought could hold out the best under the tide of Russian steel, and hope for the best.

StuGs arrive to even the odds for Byron
Byron put his two infantry platoons, his mortars and his PaK40s on the table. They got to start the game "dug-in", concealed and gone-to-ground.  The attack was on!  The Soviets got to pile their entire force on the table, 18" away from the centre line, and they started with the first turn.  Dallas unleashed the Russian horde!

The T-34s feel the effects of shooting from the German StuGs
It was pretty cool - scads of Russian troops roared toward the Germans, firing as they went, but having little effect as the Germans were dug in and hard to hit. Their artillery barrages did a lot of damage, however, causing a lot of pins.

Byron's commanding officer directs the battle
Byron and the Germans replied with withering fire, but the big Soviet infantry companies are difficult to slow down (one of them had 16 stands in a single mass - yikes!).  And his PaK40s could not draw a bead on the T-34s as they roared up the flank. Soviet losses mounted, but not enough to seriously stem the advance.

Remnants of a mauled grenadier platoon try and add their fire from the flank
By the fourth turn the Soviets were in position to launch assaults, and it got really bloody for the Germans, as one of the Grenadier platoons was crushed by Soviet tank treads, while the second one was mauled with point-blank fire.  One of the Pak40s was overrun.  The Soviets captured an objective, and things looked grim.  

Panzer IVs add their fire against the T-34s...suddenly the tide is turning!
But then reserves arrived for the Germans! Byron's StuG battery appeared and blasted the Soviet tank company to pieces over turns five and six.  The flaming wrecks were not able to hold the objective. Dallas' infantry horde tried to follow into the breach, but once the T-34s were gone, the Soviets could not grapple with the armour - the 45mm anti-tank guns were trailing along in the assault, but were not in position to assist, and the artillery could not get ranged in. Once the Panzer IVs showed up, that was that - a close and costly win for the Germans...the Panzers showing up to assist this company likely meant doom for some other poor force elsewhere on the line, but hey - that's the Eastern Front for you...

The Germans recapture the objective!
I'm something of a gaming snob, and many aspects of the Flames of War game cause a wrinkle in my proverbial nose - the overuse of the word "army", the hub-to-hub tanks, the easy access to rare assets like heavy tanks, air support and anti-aircraft, the presence of heavy artillery on the table, the specials rules...blah blah - many more articulate gamers than I have outlined these issues elsewhere. And yet...and yet.  You know what? It's still a fun game.  Really, really fun. More and more lately the "hey, let's just have a fun game" side of my gaming brain has been kicking the sh!t out of my "oh, this just won't do" side of my gaming brain.  For throwing down a Thursday night game, Flames of War is a good time.

Infantry race in to fill the gap, but they falter in the fact of fire from the German armour...
And from that perspective, Flames of War is a lot of fun.  I'm sure I screwed up some of the rules, but overall we had a 1400 point game in just over two hours - tons of carnage and wreckage on the table, and it was all good.  Of course this is not the complex, immersing and thoughtful experience you can get with a game like Chain of Command (which is also excellent), but I have to say the more I play Flames of War, the more fun it is (as long as I can keep it simple). 

Thanks to Byron and Dallas for coming out to play, and to Byron for helping me test out the scenario (and practice a bit with the rules) during a short game earlier in the week.  Also a big thank you to Dallas for letting me use his terrain bits again :)

Monday, July 6, 2015

More Random 20mm WW2 Stuff

Assortment of 20mm WW2 stuff from PSC and Wargames Foundry
After a run of painting some Horus Heresy stuff, I wanted to get back to some of the WW2 stuff sitting in my rather aimless painting queue.  I started with some 20mm WW2 material - an odd collection of items from the Plastic Soldier Company and from Wargames Foundry.

Perry 20mm WW2 Panzer Grenadiers
The Foundry sculpts are part of a strangely stunted 20mm WW2 range they still offer.  I wonder if at one point in the past this collection was more established and complete.  I don't know the history of it, but when Foundry switched to its relatively newer and somewhat nicer (sounding) management, it seemed to come forward again.  You can get some 20mm WW2 stuff from Foundry again, and these figures are part of that range.

Fellow on the front right has rifle grenade - interesting sculpt

The figures were sculpted by the Perry twins, and they look really sharp, even if the range is really limited.  I thought I would try and get a few packs to put together a unit of Panzer Grenadiers in 20mm. My thought did not work out very well in practice.  The Perry sculpts are top quality, but the range is profoundly limited.  The MG34 teams are either prone (lame) or marching (terrible) - they are properly done sculpts, but one of the worst things in 20mm and 28mm WW2 gaming are prone MG teams and marching MG teams.  Panzer Grenadier squads have two MGs teams each, so I'm trying to find some more teams from other ranges.

The MG34 team are fine sculpts, but I loathe marching poses for MG teams - they look so out of place among a squad of troops otherwise ready for action
These figures are wearing camouflage smocks and pants...although I think pants can also be just straight up field grey.  I did a mix of pants: some in camo, and some in the field grey to give some variety.  I tried (again) to paint German splinter camouflage on the smocks, pants and helmet covers, but I didn't make much of a go...despite the number of helpful tutorials online, I can't really seem to get the German infantry camouflage to look right.  It's not terrible...just seems off. I hope I can get better with practice, but German camouflage makes me nuts...

251D Hanomag from PSC, 1/72 scale

You get tons of detail in these great kits
The 251D Hanomag is a 1/72 plastic model from Plastic Soldier Company.  Like their other 1/72 stuff, this is a fantastic model.  Very easy to assemble, lots of details, and paints up very quick. You get a number of extra bits as well - stowage, troops to sit inside, a gunner for the MG if you want one - it's great quality and great value.

8cm mortar team and radio man - 1/72 figures from PSC
Some other bits are also from the Plastic Soldier Company - up first is an 8cm mortar team to provide some fire support for the German infantry sections.  There is also a trooper with a radio.  The mortar team is from PSC's heavy weapon box, while the radio man is from their late-war infantry pack.

Panzerschrek team, 1/72 from PSC

Lots of nice detail on these 1/72 PSC figs
Up next is a Panzerschrek team, to try and hold off the T-34s and other scary Russian things.  Like the mortar, these figures come from the PSC German heavy weapon box.

Medic from PSC, 1/72 scale
Last but not least is a medic, another one of the extras you get from the PSC late-war infantry pack. Some rules like Battlegroup and Chain of Command have small rules that let you makes use of figures like this medic, so it was fun to paint up and we'll see if we can figure out how to work him into a game.

That's it for this bunch...up next, maybe some 15mm WW2...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Sons of Horus Heavy Support Troops

Heavy support for Horus, our last hope!

A little more 30k collection escalation.  Not as impressive as Dallas' recent addition to the Loyalist motor pool (see here and here), but these fellows may be able to help against them.  As Dallas has mentioned, one of the wonderful fun things about playing the 30k Horus Heresy period is the immense scale of everything, from the massive vehicles to the larger, hard-hitting squads.  There is never just one of anything, when their could be five or ten.  Embracing this spirit, here is a Devastator Squad from the 16th Legion, armed with lascannons.

The Warmaster would like to wreck your stuff...

Again, the embossed legion logos on the shoulder pads are highly addictive...once you use them on one squad, I sort of want them on every squad

Extra power cell for the cannon is hooked to the back pack
These are Forge World figures wearing Mark III marine power armour, my favourite armour set from their Heresy range of figures.  The Mark III marines have a dark, proto-medieval feel about them, particularly when armed with the heaviest "portable" (and I mean that in a relative way, as in portable for a Space Marine) weapon in the game.

"Target that Spartan over there..."
That is where that crazy sort of out-of-control aura of 30k comes in - why have just one lascannon, when you can have five?  This squad will be able to put useful dents into the heavy armoured vehicles of the duped loyalists and fools who cling to the fading light of the False Emperor.  They will also come in handy against any Terminator squads that show up out of the blue.

A lot of segmented bits on the Mark III armour...a very cool look
The squad can, in fact, round out to 10 troops with lascannons.  That sounds like fun, and is probably something I will do at one point, but there are other things that probably should be painted first.  The Sons of Horus need some more vehicles, in particular. 

I tried to use the flechette-shaped devastator squad symbol on the other shoulders, but the decals were tricky to use
I've painted about 25 models for the Sons of Horus over the past couple of months, and my painting attention is starting to wander a bit - time for some more WW2 stuff, I think.  But the overall buildup continues...

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Prairiecon 2015 Game One - Battlegroup Fall Of The Reich

A table dotted with wrecked tanks - that's my kind of game!

Summer is (sort of) here again in the Canadian prairies.  And while the temperature projections are dismal by the standards of our usual glorious weather, there are still some excellent summer traditions. One of those is PrairieCon, the annual gaming event held in Brandon, Manitoba. "Gaming event" is probably a drastic understatement - while Prairiecon is not a huge event size-wise compared to other conventions out there, it has a great reputation and history in the community.  Dallas has a much longer history with PrairieCon than I do, so he is much better at explaining the event and I will leave that to him. But as near as I can figure this is my tenth year at Prairiecon, and it continues to get better!

Commanders confer before the game - on the left side of the photo is the Russian table edge, and the German one is at the opposite end, behind the town.

The edge of Dolgelin - the train station at the upper left and and road section in the bottom right of the photo are the objectives for the Soviet attack
Soviet artillery had already hit the Germans before the battle started

The Soviet advance begins - the train station is to the right side in this photo.
Soviet advance on the left side - T-34/85s and infantry
The Fawcett Avenue Conscripts like to make a visit to Prairiecon every year to play some games and run a couple of games as well.  This year we hosted two games - a WW2 game and a Star Wars space battle game. This (obviously) is the after-action report on the WW2 game: Battlegroup Fall of the Reich.

The only early break for the Germans - this IS-2 hit a mine in the road and was knocked out!
The "Battlegroup" rules are published by Iron Fist Publishing. I will say the rules overall are pretty good, but the books themselves suffer from what I refer to as "British Rule Book Syndrome". Symptoms include beautiful production values, fantastic background information, baffling explanations of simple rules mechanics, quirky approaches to what should be simple rules mechanics (armour ratings expressed as a letter, while everything else is a number), odd decisions on content (the basic rule book does not provide an example of tank vs. tank combat resolution), painting tutorials that are so complex they are only useful for people who are already expert painters, scenarios only suitable if you have an enormous collection of figures, and Kafka-esque layout decisions that have you swearing endlessly (case in point - the stats for the tank will mention what gun it carries, but the stats for said gun are elsewhere in the book, on a big table of guns - ~@#@#@!!!!).

Soviet assault crosses the railway line - T-34/85s in the lead.
"British Rule Book Syndrome" does not render the rules themselves bad - it just makes you a little insane.  Black Powder is a good example of this. That is a bloody fantastic game, but the rule book, even though beautiful, makes me bonkers at times. I don't enjoy "Battlegroup" as much as I do "Black Powder", but "Battlegroup" is still a fine set of rules.

This King Tiger tank missed so much we decided an appropriate token was needed to shame the crew...
A 37mm Flak gun team waits for the attack - the half track is a supply vehicle, a neat feature in the Battlegroup rules.
The WW2 scenario for Prairiecon was adopted on one presented in the "Fall Of The Reich" book - "Holding Dolgelin Station".  The battle takes place during the final Soviet offensive in 1945 on the Eastern Front, the drive on Berlin.  The Germans made a desperate stand as the Soviet army groups crossed the Oder River.  Dolgelin is a village at the edge of the Seelow Heights overlooking the Oder river valley and here the King Tigers of the 502nd Battalion clashed with the Soviet spearheads looking to break through.  This is, of course, something many WW2 gamers like me enjoy - an excuse to use King Tigers :)

The Soviets approach the train station, one of the key objectives.
"Battlegroup" rules are agnostic on scale, although generally driven toward 20mm.  We used 15mm figures for the game, and it works just fine.  I have been painting a lot of individually-based 15mm infantry for skirmish gaming in this scale, but I found in playing "Battlegroup" that the figures based in groups (for games such as "Flames of War") work just fine or even better, as the players find it much easier to move the blocks of infantry around. My preference is still individual basing, but you can't argue with the people actually playing...

The Soviets have blasted the train station, and prepare to mount an assault...but...
The actual scenario from the "Fall of the Reich" book is (consistent with the British Rule Book Syndrome) a very, very large game and even though I have a sizable 15mm collection I still couldn't pull it off on as they have suggested.  No worries, though - it's still great inspiration and we just slimmed it down for Prairiecon.

The train station continues to sustain further damage, but note the dreaded "Scottish number" and the pin token - the infantry are pinned by German MG fire and the assault doesn't go in.
The German forces for my version of the game comprised a Volksgrenadier platoon, an MG42 team, a PaK40, a 37mm AA gun, a lone Marder III and a panzerschrek team.  They were bolstered by three mighty King Tiger tanks, lords of any WW2 gaming table.   Their objective was grim and simple - hold to the end, break the morale of the Soviet attack and buy more time for Berlin...Conscripts Mike and Cam took command of the Germans.

This officer shamed the motherland by fleeing the battlefield - he will be shot for cowardice as an example to others...
The onrushing force of Soviets was suitably enormous - a platoon of IS-2 tanks, a company of T-34/85 tanks, a platoon of hard-ass veteran infantrymen and a platoon of regulars, backed by a maxim MG team and battery of 152mm guns off table.  The Soviets could win two ways - capture the train station and the crossroads at the end of the village, or just break the morale of the Germans.  Conscript Dallas and a Prairiecon visitor took command of the Soviets.

The Tiger tanks are finally finding the range...and many Russian tanks pay the price. The Volksgrenadiers in the church chipped in with a couple of panzerfaust shots as too.
The premise of the scenario is that the King Tigers of the 502nd (acting as a reserve) are moving toward the front, which they still think is further east, closer to the Oder, but they are surprised to run into a Soviet spearhead just outside the town, where a hasty defence is organized.  The Soviets would start well on to the table (18" on), and the King Tigers would move on to the table one per turn.  The Germans would be under Soviet guns immediately.

The motherland avenged! The train station falls, and the IS-2s move into the village.
The Soviets started out big, hammering the Germans with artillery and suppressive fire from the 122mm guns of the IS-2s.  The Germans lost their Marder, PaK40 and panzerschrek team in short order - ouch! It looked like a walkover for the Russians. It got a little grimmer for the Germans in the next couple of turns, as the King Tigers suffered from abysmal luck on the gunnery dice, missing again and again against the Soviet tanks!  The only early success for the Germans came when they pulled a "mine strike" token, and an IS-2 was knocked out on the road.

The train station has fallen, and the IS-2s move past the objective - note the carnage on the other Soviet flank at the top of the photo
The Russians, however, got a nasty surprise when they attempted to capture the train station (which the Germans had fortified).  They blasted it with artillery from off-table and with direct fire from the IS-2s, but Mike was on fire with the saving throws, and the squad in the building refused to stay pinned down.  The Russians ultimately captured the building in a bloody close assault, but it cost Dallas an entire infantry platoon.

IS-2 blasting away at targets in the town.
Further carnage was wrought by the German MG42 team stationed in another building on the outskirts of town.  The machinegun devastated the other Russian foot platoon, while the King Tigers (for once) finally found the range, and began to knock out T-34s with ease.  The losses started piling up on the Russian side.

End of the war for this 37mm German flak team...
The Russians resorted to heavy bombardments from their off-table artillery, and these took a toll on the Germans.  Finally the pin markers and casualties started to add up for the Germans, and their battlegroup ultimately broke in the end, but not before extracting a fearful punishment on the attacking Soviets.  All in all, a very suitable ending considering the setting.

The King Tigers blast away - note that one got tagged with an "out of fuel" token; these tokens are a great feature of the Battlegroup rules
Overall I found the "Battlegroup" rules to be pretty good, if maybe not as good the the hype online makes them out to be.  There are some excellent mechanics in the game, particularly the battle rating system and the random events. There also some mechanics I ignored, like ammunition limitations in the tanks.  This is, of course, a very realistic concept but the game already calls for enough documentation and I wasn't about to bother keeping track of ammunition in 25 tanks and anti-tank guns.  The rules can be confusing at times - in particular I find the off-table support process ponderous, and the means for organizing the off-table support in the army lists is confusing and poorly organized.  Navigating the book will make you want to scream, but overall it's worth it!  And the campaign background and presentation is excellent - even if the scenarios they offer up are not ones you will be able to put on easily, they are fantastic inspiration.

Some of the other games happening at Prairiecon 2015.
Thank you to Dallas and Mike for playing, and to Conscript Cam who came down to Brandon to join our games - it is always great to see Cam! A very special thank you here to Dallas for taking nearly all of these photos and for lending his terrain to the game, particularly his incredible warmat from Barrage Miniatures, as well as excellent grass fields and trees.  And congratulations to the Prairiecon organizers for another outstanding event! I look forward to next year.