Sunday, November 29, 2009

Taking shape...

The First battalion of the 220th has been "decaled up" and is ready for weathering!  In the distance are a lend-lease halftrack and the Brigade Commanders' tank- I ran out of decals for this model, and I'm awaiting some more I ordered yesterday.

I also started on the Brigade Commander- a converted FAA Naval infantry officer.  He is wearing black tankers overall and a cap rather than a tankers helmet.  Black is a difficult colour to portray convincingly, but I'm happy with the way this guy is turning out.  I ended up using Ceramcoat's Dark Night Blue, highlighted with Norsk Blue, and then given a few black washes.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Long March Begins...

Patience, Courageous Comrades!  The rumble of the tracks can be heard as our Brave Armoured Forces begin their trek from the factories in the Urals, fresh from the labours of the Diligent Soviet Worker!

This has been a very productive week- finished models!  The monotony of gluing on the road wheels is paying off, models are  either done or nearing completion, and the First Battalion of the 220th Independent Tank Brigade is just one command tank away from being combat-ready.  All are itching to teach the Fascists a lesson they won't forget.

Three of the tanks are completely finished.  Here's #12.  I had fun removing mud guards, adding such things as tarps, extra spare tracks, and other assorted doohickeys typical of WW2 tanks and beloved of modellers.


And here is the whole brigade so far.

The two grey beasties in the background are commanders tanks, one for the battalion and the other is the brigade commanders tank.  I spray them with a  rough primer that provides a good "key" for the paint, resulting in a finish that gives the turrets that typical rough-cast look.

Behind them can be seen the second battalion in progress- hulls and turrets nearing completion, blemishes and gaps filled with putty and sanded off, and three of them awaiting the addition of road wheels and external fuel tanks.  The third battalion will join later, after I work on some infantry.  I also want to get working on a Recce motorcycle battalion as well. (I'll most likely be needing a break from T-34's for a while!)

Note the vehicle numbers. I most likely will be playing two rule sets, both Flames of War and Blitzkrieg Commander (there seems to be a lot of interest at our club for the latter).  FoW has a one model = one vehicle ratio, while for BKC I want to game at a higher level of representation- one model or stand equals a platoon.  

Therefore after some pondering I came up with the following numbering systems. (You can click on each picture to enlarge).

This is the organization for games of BKC, and represents all the tanks of the brigade.  

For FoW,  the brigade commander's tank becomes a company commanders, I don't use the battalion command tanks, and voila, I have a tank company;

The only hitch is that I need to get a few more KV-2 kits from Fujimi.  I don't really need the vehicles themselves, but the kit comes with a great decal sheet with the numbers I need to complete the tank numbering. I did a bit of number crunching, and buying the kits still works out as being cheaper than ordering the decals I need from a specialist supplier.

I can always mount the big KV-2 turrets with their 152mm howitzers on fortifications or river monitors, so nothing will be wasted.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Everyone needs...

The forces of darkness, evil and despair.  If only to provide a target-rich environment for waves of T-34/85's.

So here is the start of Kampfgruppe Kunersdorf.

Click to enlarge- warts 'n all.

While rifling the boxes at the back of my closet, I came across some half-finished kits, including an ESCI Brummbar that was in fact finished, and which I had already given a base coat of Tamiya's German Armour Yellow spray paint.    Another was the Opel Blitz HQ truck by Britannia.  Just the thing for planning a futile defence, getting yelled at on the phone by the Fuhrer in the privacy of your own bunk, and as a centre for researching cheap one-way tickets to Argentina or Paraguay.

The later war German armour & vehicle camouflage is interesting,   colourful, and makes a nice change from Soviet drab green.  But it is a sunnuvabitch to paint, especially around the running gear.  Next time I undercoat the vehicles in black first, and then spray the top with dark yellow.  This should give me natural shadows to save a lot of painting.  

I had tried spray painting the reddish-brown on with card templates attached to the truck, but it was difficult to avoid over-spray, and  the result was messy and unsatisfying.  So I ended up just brush painting the camouflage directly on and blending in highlights, which I think looks just fine.  

I used my favorite Ceramcoat acrylics for the highlighting.  Interestingly, the Ceramcoat Olive Yellow is a bang-on exact match for the Tamiya Dark Yellow.  I also found that Ceramcoat's Georgia Clay (sounds like the name of a boxer or jazz singer, but is in fact a light reddish-rust colour), when highlighted over a dark reddish-brown, gives a really convincing effect which complements the yellow nicely.

The original Esci kit of the Brummbar did not come with a Zimmerit finish, so I had laboriously added it using model putty, a small hobby screwdriver, and the occasional shot of Bourbon for sanity.  The final effect looked cool, but I chickened out with the Shurtzen armour, which looked to be a pain to put together.   

I'm not so particularly anal about historical markings (these are only  Hitlerites, after all), and having misplaced the kit decals I added some from a Fujimi Pz-III kit.  These had to be bullied and cajoled into position, using what seemed like a litre of decal softener; I don't know how effective Zimmerit was at repelling magnetic mines, but it does a pretty effective job at resisting decals.  I had my wicked way with it in the end, though, and the decals are fitting nice and snugly now.

I also black-lined in panel and door lines with a fine draughting pen, as I find this makes the model stand out more on the tabletop.  It also matches the effect I use on the miniatures.  The effect is much less garish on my desk than the poorly-lit photo would suggest.

I still have to work on painting the left-hand track of the Brummbar as well as the stowage and wheels of the Blitz.  I will use the airbrush to give a light coat of dust to the lower chassis.

I have to admit this has been fun- I haven't painted a German armour kit since I was in high school!

The officer- my first attempt at the Hun- is dressed in pea-pattern trousers and a faded field grey blouse.  A Battlefield miniature IIRC.

One of the nice thing about doing the losing side is that by the end of the war all those splendid organization charts were going by the board.  A deteriorating supply situation, manpower and fuel shortages, and steady casualties at the hand of Uncle Joe's Great Peoples' Armoured Juggernaut (with some token help from the western Allies),  all resulted in formations which by 1945 were increasingly ad-hoc.  

Which is good, as so is my collection of Germans!  I have everything from Marder II's, Wirbelwinds, the usual Big Cats and Panzer-grenadiers in their halftracks, all the way down to platoons of Volksturm, Hitler Youth and even policemen holding the line depending on the scenario.

Meanwhile,  my battalion of Soviet T-34/85's nears the first stage of completion. I  applied putty to the gaps and seams, and I drilled out the gun muzzles.  I have been laboriously putting the road-wheels together.  Tedious, but a less of a pain than trying to assemble the roadwheels for Pz-IV's and Churchills!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Czech war movie; "Tank Brigade"

Found a rather neat YouTube clip of an old post-war Czechoslovakian movie called "Tank Brigade".  

Lots of T-34/85's -which isn't surprising for movies made in Eastern Europe at the time- but also actual Stug. III's and Pz-IV's, which are much more of a rarity.

Now I would imagine that as cinema, the film itself is probably full of the turgid prose typical of its genre, but certainly this is a cool video for any Eastern Front buff.  


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tokyovski Tankograd

Just a quick update to show the current dust-covered mess that passes for my workbench, with a shot of the vehicles that I have been working on recently. 

All are in "staggered" stages of production, as I find that I can maintain my interest in the project that way, and it means that while one hull, turret or vehicle chassis is drying out, I can work on something else in the meantime.

The first row is part of what will be my motorcycle battalion.  

On the left is a Skytrex BA-64 armoured car, which I have heavily modified with the batallion commander gazing out while perched on top.  This particular casting was quite a mess, and took a lot of work with file and a razorsaw to make it look anywhere near acceptable for the tabletop.  Turning out pretty well so far, though.

Alongside the BA-64 is a company (two vehicles) of T-34/76's to provide some "muscle" should the recce battalion get into trouble.  These are a mish-mash of kits I've had hanging around.  The white blur in the middle is a Matchbox 1942 T-34 with a (now defunct) Leva Models resin rounded ChTZ turret, while next to that is a Fujimi T-34 model 1942 with a scavenged ESCI turret.  

The turrets are actually 1/72 scale, while the vehicles themselves are 1/76.  The Leva turret in particular is on the small size, so goes well with the Matcbox kit.  Even the ESCI turret does not look too far out of scale, and after all these are wargaming models not display replicas.

Behind them can be seen the nucleus of my Tank Brigade.  HQ company in front, with a command T-34/85, radio truck and a halftrack (need one more of these).  Behind the HQ units are eight more T-34/85's. Each has some variation, with differing patterns of road wheels, damaged or missing mudguards, and various stowage.  

I may need to build myself up to ten more, which would still give me a good half dozen kits left over!

This pictures shows a close-up of the T-34/76 with the ESCI turret,  and next to that are some Britannia Miniatures tank riders. 


After some experimentation, I found that the best way to base the Tankovye Desantniki is to glue them on, of all things, poker chips. These fit nicely on the engine deck of a T-34.  I'll glue a piece of felt under the chip base to prevent it sliding around, but it is an unobtrusive and very cheap way to mount the riders, and they look the part.

The models in black have been undercoated using a very reasonably priced- yet very  matte- high quality black aerosol undercoat by Creative Colour (which will be my primer of choice from now on).  

I am still trying to gather the courage to start airbrushing the models.  I have an airbrush I bought some time ago, but the last time I  airbrushed a tank was an old 1/35 KV-1 model by Tamiya back in 1977!

I do have a practice model to work on first.  An old SU-85 model.  


I used it to test out the primer coat, and will use it to practice some airbrush techniques first before starting on the other models.  It, too, has served.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

"Peredovoye Otryad"- building a Forward Detachment

"One after another the tanks set off down the glassy road, followed by three hundred trucks.  Although it might seem strange, Colonel Esipenko placed the main force, including the heavy tank regiment,  not at the head of the column but at the tail.  He calculated that the enemy, in the process of retreating under the impact of our army, would appear behind the detachment, and it was there that the greatest danger was to be expected.  Concealed under tarpaulins, the Katyushas were travelling in the middle of the column. 
It was an imposing sight as the column moved along the road- the trucks filled with troops, the tanks, the guns, and the anti-aircraft pieces."

Bokov, quoted in Red Storm on the Reich by C.Duffy (p. 341)

Bokov is recounting the scene as the Forward Detachment of the Fifth Shock Army, under Colonel Episenko, set off to wreak havoc amongst the crumbling German Wehrmacht on January 19th, 1945.   

I have always thought that a Forward Detachment (Peredovoye-Otryad in Russian) offered a lot of scope for gaming possibilities.   I was obviously not alone in doing so, as I see that the Flames of War website has also recently provided a PDF file for download on building up one of these formations. 

And what's not to like?  It was a glamorous and dynamic formation, running ahead of the main armies and probing deep behind an enemy's front line,  seeking opportunities to destroy enemy rear concentrations and to seize vital junctions and river crossings.  On top of that, it was very much a flexible organization, ranging in size from a few companies to over brigade strength.

And you get lots of kewl stuff!  For example, the Forward Detachment of the 5th Shock Army  consisted of the 65 or so T-34/85's of the 220th Independent Tank Brigade, the 89th Independent Heavy Tank Regiment with it's sexy IS-2m's,  and the 1,006th Rifle Regiment- along with various other assets including the Katyusha's mentioned above. These could include towed and self-propelled artillery, assault guns and a variety of other goodies custom-designed to warm the heart of a Soviet player.  

You can also use Spetznatz troops using German equipment- including tanks and halftracks- to infiltrate the enemy lines! 

Another example of a Forward Detachment comes from the 36th Army in the attack on Harbin during the 1945 Manchurian campaign.  Under the command of Maj. Gen. Burmasov,  it consisted of the following;
205th Tank Brigade

152nd Rifle Regiment (from 94th Rifle Div.)

158th Tank Destroyer Battn.

1st Battn, Guards Mortar Regiment

97th Light Artillery Regiment

791 SP Artillery Battn. (SU-76m) (from 94th Rifle Div.)

465th A.A. Artillery Battn.

1st Battn. 176th Mortar Regiment

1st Company, 124th Sapper Battn.

(from D. Glanz, August Storm, which can be found here).

Currently I am writing up my own order of battle for my platoon-based Soviet Forward Detachment, based on a number of suggested lists out there.  Once I finishing costing out the points for  use with Blitzkrieg Commander,  I'll post it here. 

In other developments,  I received notification that my BA-6's and 76.2mm guns have been shipped, and are now simply at the mercy of the labour situation with the Royal Mail.  But on the modelling front, a lot has been happening. 

I now have two battalions of my Tank Brigade well under construction (one more to go),  and today being dry I had the chance to give the first tank battalion, along with part of the headquarters company, a spray of black undercoat.  

Once the paint dries thoroughly, out will come the airbrush and I can start painting the beasts.