Sunday, October 25, 2009

Forward! To the...East!(???)

So it appears!

I managed to twist the (rubber!) arm of Giovanni, my regular opponent- and mainspring of The West Tokyo Wargamers-  into giving Blitzkrieg Commander a try, probably in January.

But instead of fighting  Germans, we are going to have a bash at a Russian vs. Japanese game set in August 1945 when the once-mighty Japanese Kwangtung army was smashed into oblivion in one of the greatest campaigns of manoeuvre in modern history- what has come to be known as the "August Storm", the Blitzkrieg into Manchuria. 

This was an extremely well-planned and executed campaign waged by a finely-honed and battle experienced Red Army, flushed with victory over the once invincible Wehrmacht.  Confident in its leadership, equipment and skill, it demolished an army which, while well on the road of decline, was nonetheless one to be reckoned with and which was not known for any tendency to go down without a fierce fight. 

It was a campaign stretching over an area as large as Western Europe,  and from what I have read, the amazing success of the Soviets may had as much of, if not more of an impact on the decision of the Japanese leadership to surrender than did  the dropping by the Americans of the atomic bombs, as devastating and traumatic as they indeed were.

So, it all sounds like a lot of fun for the Japanese player, doesn't it? 

Well,  as a campaign clearly not, and certainly in many respects it is like Barbarossa 1941 in reverse.  Still, there is scope for some good scenarios; the Soviets had to keep to rigid timetables, establish bridgeheads as well as communication and supply lines, and there were lots of opportunities for Japanese forces to hinder the Red Army's advance, seeing that they would be pretty tough to winkle out in defence. 

The scenario would have to be designed so that the Japanese have a reasonable chance of meeting whatever victory conditions are set, and we'll probably beef up the Japanese side somewhat with more modern tanks compared to what were historically available, although nothing to match a T-34 much less an IS-2 or,  God forbid, an ISU-152.

But it means that we can get a game in, as Giovanni (rather foolishly!) has sent his 20mm Germans back to his brother in Italy, and I am nowhere near critical mass for my own Germans.  Giovanni, on the other hand, has a zip-lock bag full of Japanese infantry and I have some Fujimi Type 97 Shinhoto tanks as well as some tank destroyers, so it looks like it is the barren Manchurian plateau for us, at least initially!

More thoughts on forces, scenarios and points for the game in future posts.

Goodies on the way...

I finally caved in and ordered myself some additions to my Soviets the other day. First time in a long while.  This included two boxes of the Italeri Zis-3 76.2mm AT guns ("with servants"- had to laugh at that) as well as box of BA-6 armoured cars from Pegasus Hobbies.

At two guns per box for less than five quid, a box, the Italeri guns look not only to be excellent value, but also are very nice models in their own right despite being soft plastic (but apparently of the harder variety).  I'll still need to get some 122mm howitzers, but these boxes will make up the artillery battalions for my Rifle Division.  The savings on using plastics will allow me to get some more horse-drawn limbers and carts.

The BA-6 kit will be my first try with models from Pegasus Hobbies.  I've read some good things about them.  They are designed for wargaming with simple construction, and again are good value for money with two vehicles to a box, which is exactly how many I need!  I know that by 1944 the BA-6 had probably been phased out from service, but I will stretch their service life a little and have them outfit one company of my recce motorcycle battalion.

There certainly is a lot of good stuff out there for Red Army aficionados these days, and next on the acquisition list are some ISU-152's, some trucks and tractors for my support weapons, and of all things some DUKW's, of which more in a future post.

Meanwhile I have been busy working on a Soviet tank brigade, and I have been churning out T-34/85's  in fine style, along with a couple of T-34/76's designated to make up part of a motorcycle battalion.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What life was like from the inside of a T34/85...

Noisy, cramped and hellish by the looks of things.  

I salute the heroes who actually had to fight in these beasts against the Panthers and Tigers.

A great video!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Big Cats

While going through my stash of 1/76 scale kits, I took stock of what I have for the Germans.  Again, it turns out I've amassed a lot more kits than I had thought!

Fujimi Kits:
2x Pz-III N

6x Pz-IV Ausf. J
1x Panther Pz-VG
5x Tigers (!) (I got two more bundled with the Is-2m's as per my previous post, and now have more than I need!)
11x Sdkfz-251's
1x  Sdkfz-250
2x Sturmgeschutz III

2x Wespe SP guns

1x Hummel SP gun
1x Wirbelwind SPAA

Trucks, trucks, trucks...

This box contains the German air support in the shape of a Stuka and Henschel ground attack aircraft, some assorted extras and of course Tigers, Panthers, and other Big Cats...

"I want to be a Pz-V when I grow up"

Anyway, I have enough kits to build up a very respectable Panzer force for the Wehrmacht.  Either that, or I can open my own hobby shop. 

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Well, my excursion into 15mm didn't last long!  Some reasons for this.

First of all, I didn't really enjoy painting the smaller scale- partly my ageing eyes, but also just because I found them to be both more fiddly and much less satisfying when painted and placed on the tabletop (the two-foot rule) than are their larger brethren.

Another reason was that when I sat down with a calculator, it became evident that the cost of building up a collection from scratch in 15mm was simply going to be a lot more than I originally estimated, especially seeing as I already have a lot of models and miniatures already in 20mm.

And I mean a lot!  The re-think started a few months ago as I was nosing around a flea market here in Tokyo and stumbled across two brand-new boxes of these; 

I couldn't resist picking them up, as they were a steal at only 600 yen each, and with each kit containing a 1/76 Tiger and IS-2m. That's 300 yen per vehicle, cheap by any standard! And they are indeed beautiful models.

Recently I met a fellow gamer from Italy, who is like me a long-term resident here in Tokyo.  We  were discussing possible gaming projects in the future and one of them was WWII.  So when I got home I decided to dig out all the kits I had- and found myself astounded at just how many  models I have picked up over the last seventeen years or so!

These are what I have just for the Russians.

Not counting these on the workbench;

Fujimi's T-34/85 mould is getting "long in the tooth" and like any kit of its vintage, it has its frustrations and gaps which need filling, not to mention the soft rubber tracks ( I'm one of those madmen who prefers putting together separate link sections in hard styrene, as with the IS-2m kit).

Nevertheless, the T34/85 is on the whole pretty simple to knock together  and I find it very much looks the part when finished.  I am as much a modeller as I am a gamer and painter, so I have a lot of fun cutting off fenders, adding battle scars and stowage and opening hatches etc. so as to give each vehicle an individual look.

Three are pretty much near completion, and I was able to put the hull and turret of another one together in an hour.  While I'm waiting for the glue and/ or putty on one model to dry, I can work on another so that progress is actually pretty swift. 

Note the commander in his BA-64 in the back.  I've done a lot of conversion on this model too, but the Skytrex white metal castings can be rough and it took a lot more time, effort and bad language  to get it presentable than did the Fujimi kits!

Haven't decided on markings yet; I will probably order a few sheets from Aleran who do a good range of 1/76 decals, including vehicle slogans and turret numbers for the Russians.

Power in my palm! Completed model ready for priming and painting.

I have around 24 T-34/85's in total.  21 is enough for either a tank battalion if using Flames of War, or for two entire tank brigades (twelve models each) if I use the Command Decision/ Spearhead organization (which I'm thinking of adopting for Blitzkrieg Commander).  In 20mm, these should make for a very impressive looking force.

Also in the picture are five Fujimi IS-2m's, which will make make up either a heavy tank company or regiment, depending on the rules.  You can also see some lend-lease half tracks and a few SU-85's which I will convert into recovery vehicles.

For the Germans I must have at least a score more, including half a dozen Pz-IV's and eight Sdkfz-251 half tracks.  One nice thing about living here in Japan; access to all the available kits, and at a reasonable price once I know where to look. 

And all this does not include the models I have in metal!  I have loads of Russian infantry, heavy weapons, mortars and command figures.  The only thing I need  for the Soviets are some rocket launchers and heavier guns, but as these are factored in off-table in many rules, it is really just for the sake of completeness. Such models are not cheap, but again it would cost me a lot more to start over again in 15mm.

For the Germans, I may need to get some more infantry but as I put fewer models on a base (as each infantryman was armed to the teeth when compared to his Russian opponent), there are not a lot I need.

So basically, I realized that despite the attractions of the scale, it would be rash for me to start all over again in 15's.  In fact, I've actually got more than I need of some models in 1/76, but I'll probably eBay any extras along with what few 15's I have.