Saturday, February 22, 2014

Resolving a basing dilemma

It's been a pretty busy weekend with non-wargaming activities. Don't you just hate that? So, not much painting getting done, but I have a topic to discuss. 

Many of O8's smaller items, motorcycles, artillery and anti-tank guns, etc, come molded as a small stand of their own. They include crew and other little bits and pieces. Each one is a kind of tiny vignette all their own:
These are US M101 105mm howitzers. Technically, they're WWII US M1 howitzers, but it's the same thing. I've already glued these to a base and primed them. They'll become one section of a West German light artillery battery for Landjut 1981. 

I've already talked about my basing technique in an earlier post, but bear with me while I cover the basics again very briefly. As you can see, the gun, crew, and any other items, in this case, a few shells laid out, are all cast as part of a single base. I'll put texture paste on the base to surround the guns and bring the "ground" level up to that of the base, be it "turf" for Western Europe or sand for North Africa. In this case, Western Europe, I give the whole textured base, models and all, a couple of coats of "mud" paint:
To flock the base, I use a 0 size brush and I paint only the textured areas with Woodland Scenics' Scenic Cement. I then liberally sprinkle on some flock and tap off the excess. Even fine flock is too large to try to flock the actual base of the model itself. It obscures the detail to the point that I can't even tell what the model is. 

So the dilemma. How to get the model's base to blend into the overall base? I tried a number of "grass" colored paints. They all clashed with the color of the flock and frankly looked ridiculous. Then I was looking at Google images of deployed towed artillery batteries and in one photo, I noticed something. The grass in the area immediately around the guns had been worn away by the coming and going of the artillery crew and the ammunition supply vehicles moving back and forth. The area was just bare, hard-packed dirt. 

An epiphany! I figured if it happened around one gun, it no doubt happens more frequently than that, so that's how I deal with it. I leave the "mud" paint showing and appropriately paint just the gun, crew, and other details:
I've also extended this approach to cover anything with it's own base, not just artillery. Hey, it could happen!

For North Africa, this doesn't really work, because those stands don't get flocked. They get a sand and PVA slurry and I have yet to find a "sand" colored paint that matches the real sand I use. So my efforts to solve that particular dilemma continue. 

WARNING: If you have never used 08's models or you use only their armored vehicles and have never used their infantry, do not take the artillery crews in the above photos as being representative of their infantry. For some reason, their artillery crews are little more than vaguely human shaped blobs, while their infantry are quite nice little sculpts. Don't be put off. 

More next time. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Some goodies for my Danes!!

No, not THE Goodies (though they were damned funny)!!

Today I got a small shipment from Picoarmor and apart from more BRDM-2's for my East German scout car company, I also received some TOW launchers with crews and Land Rover 109's. The Danes equipped each mechanized infantry battalion with four M150 TOW vehicles (a TOW launcher mounted on top of an M113) and four "man portable" TOW launchers on tripods, with four Land Rovers as transport. Each motorized infantry battalion had four TOWs and Land Rovers and four M150's and each armored battalion had six M150's. I say "man portable" because they were, but only in theory. The whole set up was heavy as hell and you needed several very big, beefy guys to "port" it!!

I just had to show you these little gems. They come cast in two sections to each piece, the launcher and then the two man crew. Here's one with all the casting vents clipped off:
All that's necessary is to separate the crew and reposition them with the gunner looking into the sight. The assistant gunner stays behind him with the reload:
That's them glued to a base and ready for priming. 

The Land Rovers really are tiny and as such, a bit of a pain to paint, but they are such great sculpts:
That's one perched on the tip of my finger!!

When all's said and done, each stand will look something like this:
Needless to say it'll look a lot better with flocking, bushes, and assorted ground cover. 

I just thought these little things were so great that I had to show them to you before I even start painting them!!

Friday, February 14, 2014

More East Germans and some Danes

Progressing with my East German motor rifle battalion this weekend. Here's half the 120mm M-43 mortar battery that provided fire support for each battalion (i.e. one stand of the two needed):
Needless to say, in reality, the mortars wouldn't be packed in so tightly and the GAZ-66 ammunition supply trucks would only be that close to drop off more shells and then would stand a bit further off until needed again. However, doing platoon stands and using 3mm minis requires/allows a bit of "artistic license". 

And not forgetting my Danes, I've completed a 120mm mortar battery for them too. The Danes actually used French-made Thomson-Brandt 120mm mortars:
But O8 makes only Soviet ones, specifically the M43:
So I have to use this for both NATO and WarPac forces. Luckily at this scale, it's not too noticeable. I just swap the GAZ-66 trucks for Unimog 1300L's and paint them in Danish colors:

I've also (almost) completed an East German BMP-1 company this weekend. 
As you can see, the command stand has a way to go yet, but the actual platoon stands are finished. In order to make the AT-3 Saggers stand out a bit more, I painted them a much brighter green (Vallejo Gunship Green 895) than the vehicle itself. I've seen wargamers with the Saggers painted in all manner of bright contrasting colors, but as in all armies, bright colors are training rounds. In the field, the last thing you want on your vehicle is a glaring aiming point for the other side to use. 

Now I just have to whip that command stand into shape.... More next weekend, if not before. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Bersaglieri Motociclisti, Part 2

Continuing on from Part 1, here is my platoon of Bersaglieri Motociclisti, as well as the command stand, the anti-tank rifle squad, and the heavy machine gun platoon. Italian platoons (and for that matter, squads too) were twice the size that they were in other armies, so I'm forced to do half-platoons per stand, as even at this scale, 8 per stand would be far too many. You'll see not all have been painted, textured, etc, but at least they're based now:
You'll note that I'm forced to use those damned Soviet PTRD anti-tank rifles again. The Solothurn rifles that I need, O8 doesn't make. As you can see, the PTRD and the Solothurn look nothing alike:
Well, I'll have to use what's available, like it or not. Grrrrrr! For heavy machine guns,
I didn't have enough Italian ones, but I did have a number of Soviet ones lying about that I've never had a use for, so a bit of filing and they are now perfectly serviceable as Italians. 

Ok, now we pause on this topic until I can get everything textured and painted. Stand by. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

East German Heavy Reconnaissance Company

The project for the next day or three will be to finish a heavy reconnaissance company for my East Germans. Ultimately, I want to do two of them and a scout car company to complete a panzer reconnaissance battalion. 

As always, I model units 1:1, so for the heavy reconnaissance company I need a command stand with a BRDM-2U:
Which is easily doable by filing the small MG turret off of a BRDM-2. Then I need a stand of four PT-76 amphibious light tanks:
Also a stand of two BRDM-2 scout cars:
And a stand of two T-55's:
And finally a stand of two KMZ (Dnepr) MV-750 motorcycle/sidecar combinations, each fielding a PKM light machinegun:
For which I'll be forced to use WWII German BMW R75s yet again, as O8 doesn't make any other sort of motorcycle. Luckily, at this scale, the BMW easily passes as the KMZ. 

In the second company of the battalion, I'll replace the BDRM-2s with BRMs, as was often the case:
The PT-76s were sometimes replaced with BMP-1s, which I'll do a stand of to give myself that option:

Here is my 3mm version:
I'm really pleased with how those tiny motorcycles paint up. Loads of detail on them. It's flabbergasting that they're 1/600!

All together for a group shot, one East German heavy reconnaissance company at 1:1:

That's it for this time. More soon!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Bersaglieri Motociclisti, Part 1

I've been working on East Germans for a few weeks now, so I felt like a change. Back to WWII Italians for North Africa. In my opinion, one of the most interesting units in the Italian Army was (and indeed still is) the Bersaglieri and without a doubt, their most colorful troops were the Motociclisti. The motorcycle troops used for reconnaissance: 
What could possibly be more dashing than soldiers, with black capercaillie feathers waving, racing across the desert on powerful motorcycles? Well, I think so anyway. Almost Indiana Jonesish!!

Their motorcycles were big, powerful Moto Guzzi 500's, called Alce ("Elk") capable of a top speed of 56mph, which if you've ever been on a large bike going off-road, is very fast indeed. The Alce wasn't designed for racing or to be lightning fast. It was designed to be a heavy, durable, military scouting motorcycle that could take a lot of abuse and keep on going:
Oddly, it also had a mounting between the handlebars for a Breda model 30 light machine gun, a weapon renoun for it's fragility and incessant jamming:
At least two in every squad were equipped this way. Bouncing around on a motorcycle must've made it virtually unuseable. In addition, trying to deal with a finicky weapon while driving must've had a heavy impact on road safety. 

But in spite of any weaknesses, the Italians were undaunted and so shall I be! We HAVE to have a Motociclisti unit!! However, there is one problem. Oddzial Osmy makes only two types of motorcycle models. A German BMW R75 motorcycle/sidecar combination:
And a British despatch rider that's only available as part of the 8th Army HQ pack:
In other words, nothing that looks even vaguely like a Moto Guzzi. Having done some online research on appropriate TO&E's, the Moto Guzzis equipping any given Bersaglieri Motociclisti unit were about 1/3 with sidecars and 2/3 without sidecars (if there was a passenger, they usually rode pillion and not in a sidecar); a problem, given the available O8 models. So, like all great military commanders in history who were faced with a serious and insoluble problem, I will totally ignore it and forge blindly ahead!! We use the BMWs. 

I'd like to make a Motociclisti company and in time I will, but for now I'll probably leave it at one platoon, as I have just enough BMWs to accomplish that. Some research has shown me that I will need a platoon HQ stand, and 2 motorcycle squads, and from a company level, I'll do a platoon of 4 heavy machine guns and an anti-tank rifle squad. The MG platoon should have its own command stand, but I'll just include that on the platoon stand. 

Ok, we will continue this after I mount some BMWs on stands and prime them. More next time!