Sunday, March 28, 2010

Italeri Zis-3 and "Servants"!

After our last BKC game, I've decided to beef up the Soviet infantry, and spent the day working on another battalion of seven stands, some support in the form of a 45mm ATG, another 82mm mortar, and have started work on my artillery battery; what is a Soviet army without it!

I'm going "multi-media" with this army, and the guns are the soft plastic ones by Italeri.  I had a laugh at the name on the box, but I have to admit I'm really impressed with the contents.  Plastics have evidently come a long way since my Airfix days.

I have two boxes of these, and started on one of them.  These were a bargain at two to a box, and are extremely nicely detailed.  The soft plastic is of the harder variety, and I found that it takes drilling and even sanding quite well.  I drilled out the muzzle openings and the tow rings, and cleaned up the minimal flash quite easily.  

The only other thing I did was to add a plastic card "lid" to the ammo box of the "servant" dragging it up to the piece, which looked a lot better.  This is really a well-sculpted miniature, and is my favourite in the box.

I have a lot of metal miniatures from just about every manufacturer of 20mm WW2 Russians out there, so I mixed the crew for maximum variety.  I added gun crew figures from SHQ, Fantassin (now Warmodelling), Dixon,  the old Drew's Militia and even an ammo wagon from Lyzard's Grin with an FAA head attached to a German drivers body and given an epoxy putty rain cape.  

These figures range fronm 1/76 to 1/72nd scale.  I do find that the SHQ are on the small size, and try not to have them stand too close to their much taller Italeri and Warmodelling comrades, but other than that I find the various miniatures manage to co-exist quite comfortably.

I rummaged through my spares box and came across a load of Skytrex ammo boxes, and put them in the back of the wagon.  I also added a Platoon 20 figure standing in the back helping to unload them.

The figures go nicely to making a mini diorama; the guns are nearing the end of their ammunition supply and desperately await more.  Meanwhile the battery commander looks on while a junior officer implores the telephone operator to pressure HQ for more ammo!

Once I glue the guns together with Araldite, I'll give all the plastic components a vinegar bath, and then another soaking in detergent.  I'll then give them all a coat of watered-down PVA prior to priming.  I suspect these models will stand up to handling quite well, as there are no bendy-thin rifle barrels to worry about.

I need to get myself a 122mm howitzer which will give me three sections- a full battalion of artillery for the scale I'm using.   I'll probably order two, as with the other Italeri box I have, I can then build two battalions, the full complement for a non-Guards rifle division.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hello Kitty joins Daniel and Friends- in Pomerania!

We had another game of Blitzkrieg Commander this past Sunday, and it went a lot smoother than the first. 

Since my last post, Giovanni received his copy of the new edition of the rules the week before our second game, and after looking through them I realized that they were different enough in detail so that it would be pointless commenting on what we learned from the first try as the new version would play out quite differently.  

For example, differences in troop quality are now accounted for, and there are separate factors when firing at armour and when firing at personnel.

In the event, Sunday's game was a combination of continuing on with the old set's mechanisms, but trying out some of the more obvious  changes we could glean from the second.  Once we have  all had a chance to digest the new rulebook we'll give BKC2 a go as written.

This time it was Germans (Daniel and Sam) pitted against the Russians (myself and Dai).  Until game day I had no idea what everyone had available in the way of terrain pieces, so just minutes before the game started I came up with a pretty much slap-dash, ersatz scenario that saw the Germans trying to escape from the Soviet armoured clutches over a bridge to safety.

This they managed to to with flair, despite fielding what was largely a force of conscripts.  It didn't help the cause of International Socialism that the Soviets couldn't pass more than one friggin' command roll in a row to save their worthless hides, which made mockery of their planned "hammer and anvil" tactics to squeeze the Germans between a holding force of infantry and a swift flanking movement of a battalion of T-34's.  

I tell you, the commissar's nerves were pretty well worn out by the morning after the battle- as was his pistol!

The only real Soviet achievement was when the tardy T-34/85's managed to sneak behind a Hun armoured car and send it to Valhalla with a concentrated 85mm-shell enema.  Big deal, as by this time the Germans were busy chopping up some Russkis who had managed to get themselves caught in  the open in a potato field.  

Otherwise the Germans seemed to be quite enjoying their scenic- and largely undisturbed -stroll to the river.  

To add insult to injury, the Russians had a considerable body of infantry safely ensconced behind a brick farmhouse, where they unhurriedly dined on sausage and vodka without feeling at all any need to get off their collective duffs and do something- anything!

Lesson learned; Soviets, with their lower command values than the Germans, need to concentrate forces and to attack quickly and en masse.   We shouldn't have split the command as we did.  Had  both command stands been available within command distance it would have increased our chances; if the HQ failed a vital order, then the C-in-C could have diced to see if he could get the job done.  As it turned out, splitting our forces was just inviting the Dice Gods to punish our hubris with dreadful dice rolling.  They duly obliged.

As far as forces were concerned, we used the BKG army builder online program for two opposing forces at around 1500 points each.  As far as models were concerned, in addition to Giovanni's collection  I added a 120mm mortar, another MMG stand and some A/T rifles to the Soviets (the second version actually covers these battlefield wonders!).  I was able to get my Tiger 1 at least base-coated to gaming standard as some extra muscle for Giovanni's collection of Germans.  

On the aesthetics front; although it did not prove the battle winner (it hardly had the opportunity!),  the Tiger always looks impressive.  One of the guys at the game was getting rid of some old paints, including Citadel ink washes.  Now I've never used Citadel paints before, so when I tried some on my Tiger after the game I liked the effect, so that before I knew it I found myself finishing the Tiger the next day!  

Here's what Kitty looks like now.  This model from Fujimi was a real joy to build. 

I undercoated it using a very good general-purpose acrylic flat black that is available here, and than took a can of Tamiya Dark Yellow and sprayed it on in several thin coats.  

After applying a few thin washes of the inks, I painted in the details such as the engine grill recesses with flat black.  Next, I wet-brushed the vehicle again with Ceramcoat Light Olive, which is bang on being the exact same shade as the Tamiya dark yellow.  This was followed by highlighting edges with Ceramcoat's Parchment.  The tracks were given a heavy coat of the Citadel brown ink, and then dry brushed in gunmetal. A bit of chipping and rust streaks here and their and it was done.

I'm quite proud of it, although for this one I decided to leave it in a plain dark yellow paint scheme.  Once I get my airbrush out I'll try my hand at some camouflage for the second tank in the pair.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tales from the Front (Part 3)

Part 3 of the synopsis of our first BKC game. I said it would be the last, but I lied; there will be one more! This post will look at how the battle went, but I decided to hold off my commentary on the rules themselves as I think they deserve a post of their own.

Suffice to say for now that after re-reading the rulebook, and looking at  commentary out there on various Internet fora, I'm quite excited about their potential.


As mentioned in the last post, the Soviets were making a frontal assault with their infantry and four T-34/85's against the lines held by the Japanese infantry with their dug-in Type 97 Shinhoto, another dug-in Ho-Ni SPG, and two piss-pot pathetic Ha-Go light tanks as a mobile lightning reserve.  Talk about bringing a dull knife to a gunfight.

We played with using measurements as given in the rules, although in subsequent games I think we will multiply them by 1.5 in order to better suit the 20mm miniatures and 1/76 scale models we use.

The game started with the Soviets making a tentative advance on the Japanese position. 

As soon as the Red Tide came in range, the Japanese commenced dishing out nastiness in the form of mortar barrages and the fire of the 75mm gun of the Ho-Ni. This disrupted the Soviets neat attack line somewhat, but evidently wasn't causing too much damage.  

General Danielov had some abysmal command rolls early in the game, but at this stage it did not seem to make any difference to game play other than giving the Japanese an extra turn to pop off some mildly annoying suppressive fire.  In fact, the first impression was that the rules were written by Bertrand Russell, as they certainly did not appear particularly lethal.

But then yours truly discovered that amazingly (ahem) I had gotten it wrong; not only were the infantry saving on anything but a six- it should have been a six only- but I had forgotten that suppressed units receiving subsequent hits have to fall back.  This requires a roll of one dice per hit, and the total being the distance a unit retreats.  If that distance is over 10cm, then it's down tools and call it a day for the unit(s) concerned.

Well, this changed things pretty dramatically, and now the Soviet infantry must have felt like the French infantry assaulting Les Chemins des Dames in 1917.   Andrew with the Japanese twigged on quickly that using your command opportunities to dump as much high-explosive hate as possible amongst the enemy was a pretty efficient way to take them out.  The mortar barrages were amazingly effective against troops in the open, and as the Soviet infantry were fairly compact formations, the barrages were soon merrily turning the Soviet assault into a khaki purée, especially once it got into range of the MMG's.   
Verdun on the Amur?
In short order the Soviets lost their mortar, one of their MMG stands, and their flamethrowers.  One could almost hear the Japanese shouting "No-mon-han!  No-mon-han!" in full-throated vengeance.

The two T-34's who were supporting the attack were clearly not in an agressive mood. Gen. Danielov sized up the situation and decided that they would best serve as mobile artillery.  Hence the infantry went to ground, and for the rest of the game the Soviet commander used the tanks to "soften up" the defenders, as they pumped round after round of 85mm high-explosive shell onto the Japanese positions.  

Hardly armoured spearhead tactics, but it worked; at one point he required a roll of two or less on two D6 to make his command roll.  The lucky stiffski ended up rolling snakes-eyes, meaning that not only did he pass, but he got an extra action as well.  This knocked out the mortar, followed a short time later by the Ho-Ni.  

Losses the Japanese could not afford, seeing as the next turn was to see the flanking force appear on the Japanese right flank.  (NB- We decided that the flank attack would come in on the pass of a command role; otherwise, it would be considered lost). 

 Peace through Superior Firepower...

At this point luck was beginning to desert the defenders, while the Soviets were beginning to flex their full firepower.  

First of all, the Japanese began to come under increasingly more intense tank gun fire from the T-34/85's. This resulted in many a unit finding itself suppressed, and then as more shells rained in these were steadily forced back.   

But when you are forced back in a trench, and there is no place to go, you end up being knocked out; so now that the Russkis were concentrating their fire from one enemy stand to another at a go, the Japanese found themselves inexorably losing unit after unit.

To make matters worse, the good fortune they had enjoyed in the earlier part of the game concerning the command rolls was beginning to desert them, so the Soviets were beginning to find themselves gaining the battlefield initiative- and more opportunities to pound the Japanese lines.
Gaping holes begin to appear in the flank of the Japanese position.
Meanwhile, the crews of the Ha-Go light tanks sit uselessly in their vehicles, 
knocking back sake and playing Mah-Jong...

And bear in mind that at this point the opposing infantry hadn't even fired a shot at each other, apart from the MMG's.

By this time it was clear that the battle was to end in a Soviet victory;  now that the enemy guns and mortars were dealt with the armour could just stand back and knock off stand after stand of enemy troops, and then with their (by now re-organized) troops, just assault the survivors and take the works.  The Japanese player wisely did not place a lot of faith on the ability of his two remaining Ha-Go light tanks to turn things around.

All the players had by now learned that the secret of success was to concentrate fire, achieve local superiority, and in doing so grind down the opposition until they crack.  

Now of course some mechanisms and tabletop events raised some eyebrows, but given our inexperience with the rules and the simplicity of the scenario, the overall feeling was that the rules made for an good game, with the issue being in doubt until towards late in the game.  Certainly it was not the "Walk in Gorky Park" that I expected it might be for the Russians given their armour superiority. 

The next- and last- post in the report I will look at the rules in more detail- what worked, what we did wrong (quite a bit as it turned out after a re-read of the rule book), what we were not sure how to handle, and what we would do differently next time.