Monday, November 3, 2014

Flames of War: Romanian TACAM T-60 Tank Destroyers

After being recently sucked back into Flames of War, I became incredibly interested in the Romanians. It started when I picked up a copy of Red Bear with the intent of building a Soviet armored force. That's still happening...but I noticed something interested with the Romanians. Not only can you take them as Axis, but since the country switched sides in late 1944 you can also play them as Allied forces. I was drawn to the versatility of this idea...and I was hooked.

As such, I've just finished my first Romanian platoon. It consists of three TACAM T-60 tank destroyers. Romania lacked a solid industrial base and had to be creative when it came to armor. This particular vehicle utilized captured Soviet equipment: T-60 light tanks and dismounted M-1936 F-22 field guns. Records show that 34 of these were completed between 1943 and 1944, seeing service until the Soviet Union repossessed them after Romania defected to the Allies.   

Battlefront, the company that produces Flames of War, made these wonderfully detailed models. My local game shop had a discount bin of older products and so I was able to pick these up for $7.50 per vehicle. Score!!

Here's a view of some of the crew before I glued them into place. It's been a long time since I've done an entire 15mm figure and I was worried that I'd gotten really rusty. Thankfully this was not the case. These Romanians were a breeze to paint up!

A view of the tank hunter platoon from the front. Note the different positions of the crew inside each vehicle. 

The platoon from the rear. Although Battlefront makes some spiffy Romanian decals, I opted to not to put them on the vehicles. Of all the period TACAM T-60 photographs I examined, only one vehicle had any sort of national markings. This leads me to believe that the practice was quite uncommon (but I will be including them on an objective marker I'm working on...but more on that later).  

So that's my first Romanian platoon! After the Soviets repossessed the TACAM T-60s in October 1944, the country once again needed to find an adequate tank destroyed. The solution? Take an old R-2 tank - better known to the world as the Panzer 35(t) - and replace its turret with a Soviet supplied ZiS-3 field gun. The result was the TACAM R-2. This will be covered in a later update.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Capture the Triton!

The other night my friend Kyle came over, bringing along some recently acquired ships from eBay. Using the Trafalgar rules from Warhammer Historical, we established a scenario set in 1778. The French have stolen a marine chronometer from the British and are transporting it back to Paris aboard Triton. The Admiralty has received word of this and dispatched a small force to retrieve it. Kyle elected to play as French, and so I played British.

We assembled a few extra boards in the basement to make an impromptu gaming table. Not ideal...but I'm working on a solution. That, however, is a post for another time.

The French ships move to attack the oncoming British.

With HMS Diana in the lead, the British sail towards their French foes.

While Diana sails off to engage and distract the French, Bellerophon and Drake sail around the far side of the island in an attempt to surprise the enemy.

While maneuvering to counter the British, Marquis collides with Revere! Both ships are temporarily out of action until their crews can sort out the mess. 

The French ship Venus opens fire on HMS Diana, initiating the battle!

Diana returns fire!

Venus and Diana pass close together...

With the British ship distracted, Triton attempts to make a run for it.

That is, however, until HMS Bellerophon finally rounds the island and opens fire! The French ship takes some damage but continues sailing.

A lucky shot sets Venus ablaze! Before long her crew has either died or abandoned ship, leaving the French vessel to drift aimlessly.

Revere turns to engage Bellerophon. Severely outgunned, how will the French ship fair?

Revere broadsides both Bellerophon and Diana! The latter ship is disabled and out of action.

Meanwhile, the chase is on! HMS Drake spots Triton through the billowing smoke from Venus. Her captain sets sail in a desperate attempt to stop the French ship. Revere's captain orders a pursuit.

Clearing the burning wreckage of Venus, Triton begins cutting across the bow of Drake.

Before the British can do anything, however, Revere's captain rams HMS Drake in the stern! This action causes major damage to both ships. 

"Go between them? Are you crazy?!?"

Seeing no other means of escape, Triton's captain boldly decides to sail his ship between Drake and Revere.  

"I said DON'T go between them!!"

The bold move failed, as soon Triton was also involved in the collision. Damage sustained to Drake and Revere is enough to sink them.

Though seriously damaged, Triton is eventually able to clear herself of the wreckage and make a dash for safety. With Bellerophon too far off to catch her, the French have won the day. But Bellerophon's captain will not forget. It's still a long way to Paris...

All in all, this was a really fun game! The rules made it so the ships had to move each turn. This did a great job of capturing the nature of naval warfare. Since there was a great deal of movement, there was a great deal of strategy required. This is a game that we will definitely be playing more of!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Step Aside, Spray Primer!

I've finally had my fill of spray primers. 

You have so many factors you have to deal with while using them: humidity (a big issue here in Virginia), wind, atmospheric pressure, and the lunar cycle. Okay...maybe not that last one, but I wouldn't be too surprised if it had an effect too. In my experience, spray primers are just not consistent. The last figures I primed had coats fuzzier than Fozzy Bear's by the time I was done. So they went into the Simple Green for some stripping. Even if you do make it past that and paint your figure up, it easily scratches off. Teresa can tell you I've cursed many a time while spraying my figures.

No more.

Several people mentioned their success with gesso on miniature forums like TMP and DakkaDakka. For those unfamiliar, gesso is a paint mixture that's traditionally used to prepare canvas and other artworks. One brushes it on, which was a big plus to me.

Michaels sells it, and I went out and picked up a bottle after work. It cost about $15...but that's a small price to pay for what people were saying about it. Gesso comes in both black and white. As per usual, I opted for black because I really like the dark, gritty feel it gives my figures. While it  unfortunately doesn't come in grey, one could very easily mix the two colors and create it.

The black gesso comes in just one size. The white stuff comes in a wide variety of sizes. I settled on Liquidtex because it's made in France, so you know it's quality! Not to mention it was the only black gesso in the store.

The test subject: a War of 1812 British officer from Knuckleduster Miniatures. I will speak more of their (superb) figures in the future.

The gesso has the consistency of regular craft acrylic paint. It's somewhat thick, but that's okay! The gesso shrinks as it dries, which makes it hold onto the figure better. This should hopefully prevent some of the scratching issues I've been having with other primers.

Experienced folks said it's okay to gob the stuff on a figure. I decided to err on the side of caution the first time out and used the stuff a little more sparingly.

Nearly done! I much prefer brushing the primer onto the figure. Not only do you decide where it goes (unlike spray primer that has a mind of its own) but I also found it to be much more satisfying. It maybe took a two minutes to prime the whole figure...not bad at all. I'm willing to take my time and do the best possible job.

Fully dried! Although the bottle says to let the gesso "cure" for 24 hours, I found that it was dry within 15-20 minutes. It did most certainly shrink in the process. Gesso does an amazing job of maintaining a figure's features and details...another bonus!

As you might have been able to tell, I really like the gesso. I look forward to painting this chap up in the near future and see how the primer holds up.

So...does anyone want some spray primer? I have plenty. ;)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Moving the Command Post

Greetings all! I apologize for the lack of activity, but things have been busy with school and work. They're going to get busier too as my girlfriend and I are moving from Washington, DC to Alexandria, VA. It's an exciting (yet stressful) time!

For those interested, here's an exterior view of our building. According to some research I've done, it was built between 1891 and 1896. A real gem with tons of original character remaining!

"That's great, Zach," you may be saying to yourselves. "But what does this have to do with miniatures?"

Well, I'm certainly glad you asked!

There's a pretty good sized basement in the building, which my girlfriend has graciously given me domain over.

It needs some sprucing up to be sure (and a dehumidifier), but there's lots of potential here. I have some grand plans for this area, so please stay tuned in the coming months!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tutorial: Rubble

Ever find that you need some rubble for terrain or a figure base? I recently did and employed a method my friend Ben taught me a few years ago. It is my hope that this short tutorial will help you to create exactly what you need for your next urban warzone project. We'll be focusing on using cork for figure bases today, and I think you'll find that it's quite easy!

First, you need some cork. Craft stores sell it fairly cheaply but you can also get it for free if you know where to look. For instance, I got this lot after a reception at my museum the other night. Have I mentioned that it pays to be a scavenger in this hobby? :) Anyway, these corks should be enough to last me a while. 

Start breaking up the cork with a pair of pliers. The more variety in size the better...remember that there's no uniformity when the side of a building has been obliterated by an 88mm shell from a Tiger tank.

That being said, you don't want the chunks to be too big. It all depends on the model and base size. Play around with it and find whatever size works best for your project.

After you think you have enough chunks of cork, it's time to glue them onto the base. Regular white glue will work for this, although I used some Games Workshop PVA glue (it's basically the same thing). You can see how I've glued the cork/rubble onto the bases of these Minas Tirith warriors below. This will eventually represent the ruins of Osgiliath...but more on that in another blog post.

You want to let the glue dry before proceeding. Just to be safe, I set the figures out overnight and sprayed them with Dullcote in order to add a little more stability. This is purely just made me feel better. 

Afterwards you can paint the cork in a primer color and then detail to your heart's delight. Be gentle though, as some of the cork may come loose during this process.

That's it! Simple, eh?

Just as a point of reference, this is the amount of rubble I was able to make from just one champagne cork. I intend to scratch build some Osgiliath buildings and ruins in the near future, and many of these chunks will come in handy....

Thank you for reading! Hopefully this little tutorial was useful in some way.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Civil War Medical Diorama: Part X

After many, many months I am pleased to report that the diorama is finished!

It was an ambitious project....perhaps too ambitious. After all, the time I had to work on it was between graduate classes, work, and more work. I think it turned out pretty well given the circumstances though.

The diorama in its completed form.

Here we see two men helping a wounded officer into the back of an ambulance. As soon as the patient is secured, the driver will take him to the waiting hospital train.

Once all the patients are loaded, these cars will be connected to a locomotive that will take them by rail to Alexandria, VA. They will then be unloaded and taken to one of the many hospitals in the city like the Grosvener Annex. 

One of the downsides to all this is going back and noticing little things that I could have done differently. However, unlike others ::cough::George Lucas::cough:: I am going to leave it alone and let it stand as it is. I've put a lot into this project, but now the diorama belongs to the visitors of Lee-Fendall House.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Terran Alliance: Aegis Shield Cruiser

Remember how I said I was hooked on Firestorm Armada after only one game? Well, now I've gone and ordered some ships. 

Most of them have arrived, and this was the first to be completed: an Aegis Shield Cruiser. It's a Terran Alliance vessel, which means that its crew is human. I don't know why, but I always tend to go with the humans in space games. Not to mention their fighting to maintain order in the galaxy. So they're like the Galactic Empire in Star Wars. How could I not?

The Aegis is essentially a moving shield generator and can provide protection to other vessels in the fleet. Its sole purpose is defense. I figured it can't be a bad thing to have once I start playing games, especially with the tactics I intend to use. ::evil laugh::

The colors were inspired by the Nelson-era British Royal Navy. This particular ship's livery was based off of HMS Bounty, which you can see below:

Since Bounty wasn't a purpose-built warship, I thought it would translate well for an Aegis Shield Cruiser. So that's what I went with.

Being the test model, it took quite a bit of time to figure out what I wanted to do. I actually started work on the other ship in the blister pack first, but wasn't happy with how the color scheme was working out. I'm much happier with how the second ship turned out.

EDIT: Upon reflection, I've decided not to go with the red on the bow. I ultimately thought it too distracting...I'm much happier now without it on the model.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Messerchmitt Me 262 Schwalbe

I present to you my newest Flames of War model, the Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe. Developed by the Nazis, it was the world's first operational jet aircraft. Although it saw limited service in the waning days of World War II, the Schwalbe changed the face of aviation forever.

Since the Me 262 is the only German aircraft option in Devil's Charge, I decided to take it. Even unreliable air cover, I've found while playing, is better than no air cover at all.

This was my first attempt at two things: painting an aircraft and using decals. I think the model came out decent at best. I had the most issues with keeping the decals from bunching up once they were applied to the model. To hide these screw ups I applied battle damage in the form of black paint; smoke or oil perhaps?

But I am happy with how the canopy turned out. If you look, you can make out the reflection of clouds and the sky in the "glass."

If nothing else, this model was a learning experience. I'm moderately happy with it but realize I can do better. Practice makes perfect!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Civil War Medical Diorama: Part IX

Woah! An update on the Civil War medical diorama?! Could it be?!?

Firstly, I must sincerely apologize for the recent lack of progress on this project. After I posted the last update, it came time for mid-terms. Then I got sick, which was followed by a small breakdown (but I'm better now). Then there were finals, which was followed by a trip to visit my family over the holidays. But I'm not trying to make excuses about this. I do intend to finish this diorama for once and for all, though.  

I spent a part of this afternoon assembling the hospital car, which proved to be greater pain than I anticipated. Gluing things together have always been the bane of my existence in this hobby....I absolutely detest it. No matter how much pressure you apply or how long you let it set, the model is inevitably going to fall apart. This happened about three or four times with the train car before I finally got it to hold together.  

Fifth time's the charm!

Gluing aside, I'm rather happy with how this has turned out. The sliding doors open and close, and the roof is removable. This latter fact will make it easier to put figures inside for the final display. Not shown are the wheels, which won't be added to the finished product until later.

Just how happy am I to finally get this train car done? Pretty darn happy!

I also took time this evening to assemble one of the ambulances. This also proved troublesome to glue together, but managed to stick after only two tries. 

Another thing I noticed is that the driver's seat has mysteriously vanished (probably the plaything of one our cats). Fortunately it shouldn't be too complicated to reconstruct, so I'll whip one up out of plasticard in the morning.

Lastly, here's a shot of the caboose being primed! I plan to work on it more tomorrow when the weather (and my primer) is more cooperative.