Friday, May 30, 2014

Do I really model 3mm at 1:1?

The answer is "yes and no" or "sort of". Let me explain....

Let's take one of my units at random to use as an example: this East German T-55 battalion for a motor rifle regiment:

A WarPac armored battalion in reality would have been 3 companies of 12 tanks each, which I do model at 1:1. Where I fudge a bit is the command stands. Each company stand, which I model individually, should be one tank and a 5 ton truck. The battalion command stand actually should have a UAZ-469, a BTR-60PB, a BRDM-2, and a tank. Rather crowded! The staff vehicles add nothing as far as combat value goes. They would just add atmosphere and "pretty up" the command stands. 

Before I started 3mm, I settled on a stand size that allowed me to model whole platoons on a single stand, as well as a smaller size for command. No matter what era or scale you game in, there's always going to be a balance that has to be struck between realism and playability (not to mention storability and affordability). Modeling every last staff and maintenance vehicle would add quite a lot of time, expense, and eat up a lot more space on stands. Command stands could no longer be smaller (and thus more easily picked out on the tabletop) than platoon stands. So, I elected to "edit" the command stands a bit. 

Years ago, when I used to be a rabid 15mm ACW gamer, I used a system (that many gamers use) to easily differentiate what level of command a given stand was, i.e. brigade, division, corps, etc. It was the number of figures on the stand. One for regimental command, two for brigade, etc. With 3mm, there are an absolute throng of command stands on the table and at 4-6ft away, it's a bit of a task to remember where your battalion or brigade commander is. So I've decided to go back and rework my command stands in the ACW style.

From now on, I'll have one vehicle for company level, two for battalion, and three for regiment/brigade. I don't foresee ever needing a divisional commander, but if I do, it'll get four. One of the main chores of 3mm wargaming is keeping straight what everything is and what goes with what. This will ease the burden, even if only a bit. So this weekend, I'm painting up the few extra Land Rovers and UAZ-469's I'll need and squirreling them onto my battalion command stands. I'll also need to order some 1/600 Mungas from Shapeways to add to my West German command stands.

More as the weekend passes. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

I would like to thank the Academy...

When I started this blog last Fourth of July, I did it mostly just as amusement for myself and as a way to make notes I couldn't misplace to remind myself what paints I use on what miniatures. I tend to forget things like that when I have long hiatuses between my rotating fields of interest. 

I never really thought anyone would read what I write. Why would anyone care? I noticed a follower here and a comment there, but I figured it was a case of the occassional person who had blundered onto my blog via some Google search. I've watched the page views grow over the months (I'm at 7500 now), but I didn't think much of it, as at least 90% have always been by webots like vampirestat, etc.  

But over the course of the last 2-3 days, my followers have burgeoned to 27 and I must've had a dozen comments in that time!! And lo and behold, I've twice been nominated for an award I didn't even know existed!! 
As my grandmother used to say, "Well, shut my mouth!" I'm absolutely gobsmacked to find out that I have ONE reader, let alone 27 readers!

In any case, thank you to everyone who enjoys what I write, as well as a big thank you for my nominations. Does someone actually end up winning the Liebster Award or is being nominated as far as it goes?  I've no idea. 

Well, keep checking back. I try to be diligent about posting something every week. If anyone has any topic(s) they'd like me to touch on, please feel free to let me know. Thanks again!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Danish mechanized infantry battalion, Part 2

I've devoted the final day of my long Memorial Day weekend to finishing off the last M113 company that has been missing from my Danish mechanized infantry battalion. So here is the battalion, with command, including the armored squadron and all support platoons, in all it's tiny glory. First a shot of the whole battalion:
Here's each of the two mechanized and one motorized infantry companies, and at the back, two M125 mortar carriers for each mechanized company and two truck-transported mortars for the motorized company:
Next, the armored squadron of Centurion V/2's:
And the eight TOW launchers, four M150's and four Land Rover mounted:
Then the four 120mm towed mortars:
Also, the Land Rover reconnaissance platoon:
And finally, the battalion commander:
I've slightly reorganized how I do my command stands, which I'll cover in my next post. You'll notice that I didn't include any infantry stands. I think of them as a separate problem. 

And the whole battalion fits neatly into two bunker boxes!

Tell me 3mm isn't the business!! And to top it all off, if you disregard the postage and the amount necessary for basing materials, the whole battalion cost me just $21(about £14 or €16)!! That gets just 10 vehicles with GHQ!!

More next time!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

First thoughts on gaming World War III

The reality of the long holiday weekend has of course defied my well-laid plans to get a lot of painting done. But I have gotten quite a bit of thinking done. 

I don't know about other wargamers, but I'm more of a campaigner than an impromptu, off-the-cuff battle sort of guy. For me, it's the back story that makes the game. I'm very much a detail-oriented person (German, a Virgo, and an academic - could it be any worse?) and this is reflected in my gaming. To me, it's much less entertaining if you just dump two forces on opposite sides of a bridge or a valley and say "fight it out". I love the contextual stuff. How did these two forces happen to meet here? What is the story of the wider conflict and where does this battle fit into it? How does this battle serve each side's strategic objectives?

So, I've begun to think about the mechanics of my 1981 LANDJUT campaign, Not only from a wargaming perspective, but also as a strategic operation in reality. The first thing that occurs to me is that if I wargame WWIII adhering strictly to what reality would have been, had it really happened, the game will be about 5 mins long. There'll be LOADS of:
and Western Europe will be a glowing, molten, slag heap by the end of the second turn. Game over. Not much fun there. So I have to find a historically plausible way for there to be no nukes. 

The following premises seem reasonable to me:
1. NATO is highly unlikely to initiate the conflict.
2. The Soviets wouldn't initiate a war they felt they had zero chance of winning. 
3. IF they were the victors, the Soviets would've wanted to be able to make use of any territory won. 
4. The Soviets knew full well that even a limited nuclear exchange would render Europe unlivable and thus worthless to them. 
5. The Soviets were keenly aware that any nuclear exchange was extremely unlikely to be or remain "limited". 

Whatever else the Soviets were, they were pragmatists. Limiting a WarPac v. NATO conflict to conventional weapons was in their best interest. Provided NATO didn't go nuclear as a first strike, I doubt the Soviets would've either, at least in my world. WarPac forces had an approximately 3:1 numerical superiority in armored vehicles over NATO and they set great store by that. Rightly or wrongly, the Eastern Bloc planners felt that quantity would win out over quality. Luckily we will never know if they were right.

Likewise, NATO felt that their qualitative superiority more than made up for their lack of numbers. Western Europe was NATO's home (overlooking the US and Canada), so a nuclear first strike by them in the midst of their own countries seems highly unlikely. Again, I feel that provided the Soviets didn't go nuke first, NATO would've fought it out conventionally and relied on their superior technology to win. I feel this same "I won't if you won't" principle would also apply equally to strategic bombing by either side. 

So this will be the foundation of my campaign. Neither side gains by obliterating Europe, nor does either side want to risk a limited nuclear exchange escalating very rapidly into a global thermonuclear war. 

Next time, thoughts on how the two sides line up. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Cool useless stuff I bought!

I'm not exactly sure why, but as part of my last Picoarmor order, I bought five Frog-7 medium-range battlefield rockets, Frog standing for "Free Rocket Over Ground", for my East Germans:
A battery was two TEL's (Transporter Erector Launcher), so I have enough to do a battery in traveling mode and another in firing mode. Of course, almost all of the battery's support vehicles aren't made in 1/600, particularly the End Tray radar trailer:
So I'll have to just overlook that. 

To put my insanity into perspective, the maximum range of the Frog-7 (which the Soviets called Luna M) was 43 miles or 70 km, with a circle error probability of a 1/2 mile! It was generally fired from at or near the maximum range, as the whole raison d'être of a standoff weapon is so you can use it while "standing off". In true 1/600 ground scale, that means I need a wargaming table 1250 yards long (1143 meters)!!! 

Making a battery in traveling mode I can maybe see, ambush of a moving battery or some such scenario, but the firing ones...I just don't know. I perplex myself sometimes. In any case, here's the battery in firing mode:

After looking at a lot of images on the Internet, I found the actual rocket painted off white, a variety of light and medium grays, and a couple of different greens, however, these images would've been taken on training exercises or at museums. It seems to me that during an actual war, they would've been painted some variety of green as an attempt at camouflage, so mine are, though for "bling", I couldn't resist red nose cones. I also didn't muddy up these vehicles as much as I usually do. I imagine they'd stick to roads as much as possible.  

Well, more nonsense from me next weekend. Maybe I'll get some 1/600 ICBM's!! Hmm....

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My East Germans get anti-aircraft too!

My post of this past weekend about my Danes needing some antiaircraft capability made me realize that my East Germans also had none! So one quick order to Picoarmor and the problem is solved, apart from the painting and basing, which are now in progress.

East German antiaircraft companies were one of three types. Ideally, the East Germans strove for companies that were one platoon of SAM (surface to air missle) vehicles and one platoon of SPAAG's (self-propelled antiaircraft gun), as that was the model dictated by Soviet doctrine. The most up-to-date SAM vehicle in the East German inventory was the SA-9 Gaskin:
Which was based on a BRDM-2 and carried four Strela-1 missles:
A modified version of the missle fired by the SA-7 Grail MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense System) launcher:
Four vehicles would make up one of the two platoons of the antiaircraft company. More on this in a moment. 

The second platoon would be made up of four self-propelled antiaircraft guns, the most modern being the ZSU-23-4 Shilka:
However, there were never enough of these to go around, so the older, obsolete ZSU-57-2 Sparka was still in service with a number of companies:

Now let's come back to the SA-9 Gaskin. East Germany purchased only 12 vehicles from the Soviets and never bought any beyond that. In other words, enough to to equip only three platoons and thus only three companies. Those companies not fortunate enough to have a platoon of Gaskins had to make do with two platoons of SPAAG's. So, the three types of East German antiaircraft companies seen were:

4x SA-9 Gaskin and 4x ZSU-23-4
4x ZSU-23-4 and 4x ZSU-57-2
8x ZSU-23-4

Though the last type was less common due to the shortage of ZSU-23-4's and if seen, it would be with an armored unit. 

And here are my platoons of each:

As you perhaps (i.e. hopefully) can tell from some of the above photos, I've bought a macro lens for my iPhone 5. I don't know why people bitch so much about China. $2.75 INCLUDING postage!! It doesn't take GREAT quality photos, but for $2.75 what do you want? The prices I saw from American companies (selling the identical Chinese-made product!) were all over $10 and as much as $25!! 

That's it for this post. More during the coming weekend!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

My Danes need some anti-aircraft!

Recently, it occurred to me that my growing Danish force has no anti-aircraft capability.

In reality, in the early 80's, a Danish Army anti-aircraft company consisted of four Bofors 40mm L60 guns:
Each towed by a Unimog 1300L, which also provided crew transport and ammunition supply. The guns were essentially identical to the WWII type and they weren't replaced with the updated L70 model:
Until the mid-80's.

Even though the guns were badly out-dated and minimally effective against jet aircraft, even low-flying ground attack aircraft, their proximity-fused shells could still be absolutely devastating against helicopters. 

So, to help keep the vicious Mi-24D's off of my poor Danes, I ordered a pack of 40mm Bofors guns from Picoarmor (along with another pack of Unimog trucks). They're actually WWII British guns, but as I said above, they're identical to Cold War L60's. O8 has produced some quite nice little sculpts:
You can even see the tiny Tommy helmets!! I'll do one company's worth. More on this as the stands progress. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Looking ahead (quite) a bit.

For the last few days, I've put a bit of thought into the forces I'll need for my 1981 LANDJUT campaign. Before I began this whole thing, I decided that I'd make it primarily West Germans and Danes opposing numerically superior East Germans. But thinking a bit on what forces would be available in the LANDJUT area of operations during a real WWIII, I find myself expanding who'll be fighting whom. 

Firstly, I know I've quite often used the term LANDJUT, but I've never really explained it. In West Germany, NATO was broken down into three area commands. They were NORTHAG, CENTAG, and BALTAP. These stood for "Northern Army Group", "Central Army Group", and "Baltic Approaches". There were higher levels than these (AFNORTH and AFCENT for example, and above that, SHAPE), but they really needn't concern us here. Each of the three area commands in West Germany was roughly equivalent to an Army. Each was sub-divided into areas of responsibility (i.e. Air, Sea, and Land), one of BALTAP's subdivisions being "Land Forces Schleswig-Holstein and Jutland" or more simply LANDJUT, which was tasked with defending the Jutland Peninsula of Denmark and the West German state of Schleswig-Holstein:
And in particular, the defense of the Kiel Canal/River Eider, as well as the northern and eastern approaches to the city of Hamburg. 

The bulk of the NATO forces in this area would have been the West German 6th Panzergrenadier Division and a variety of local Heimatschütz (Home Defense) units, as well as the Danish Jutland Division. In addition, units of the US Marines' 2nd MEU (including the Marine 4th Division), the US 9th Infantry Division (later changed to the 5th), one brigade of the US 2nd Armored Division, and NATO's ACE Mobile Force (which was more likely to be sent to Norway) were all earmarked to reinforce the area and it is also quite conceivable that units of the Netherlands I Corps fighting just to the south of Hamburg could've been cut off by the rapid WarPac advance and forced to fall back northward and thereafter used as additional reinforcements. 

As for the WarPac, I originally envisioned an all East German force, but again, reality wouldn't have been so cut and dried. Soviet ground troops (likely from the 2nd Guards Tank Army) would have made an important contribution, but in LANDJUT, Soviet VDV (airborne and air assault troops) as well as marines (naval infantry) would have played quite a prominent role. Additionally, Polish ground troops and the 7th Lusatian Landing Division (basically, marines) could also have supported the East Germans. 

So, with all this in mind, I decided to make up a command stand for the Soviet VDV as well as the Polish 7th, just to see what they'll look like. The VDV often wore a bright mid-blue beret:
Needless to say, in combat they would've worn a standard helmet with a camouflage cover, however, that bright blue (Vallejo Andrea Blue 841) is a great way to pick out my VDV troops on the tabletop:
It is a bit annoying that they look like UN troops, but oh well. That's a BMD-1 with them:
For regular Soviet ground troops, I'll go with a dark green helmet.

As for the Polish 7th Lusatian Landing Division, they wore a helmet that more or less matched their uniform:
But the kneeling soldier in the top photo has a helmet that's a bit darker than his uniform, so I'll go with that:
Their stand has a TOPAS 2AP:
I'll cover more on how I paint Soviet and Polish uniforms when the time arrives that I'm painting a lot more of them. That finishes off this rather wordy post. More on the weekend!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Danish mechanized infantry battalion, Part 1

I'm starting a Danish mechanized infantry battalion this weekend, which in the early 80's consisted of 2 mechanized infantry companies (mounted in M113's), one motorized infantry company (most mounted in Unimog 1300L's, but some still had the older Bedford MK), one tank squadron (mechanized battalions had Centurion V/2's), plus some assorted support platoons. So, I've finished the motorized company and I chose Bedfords:
And the two 81mm mortars that accompanied the motorized troops:
The closest models that O8 makes are WWII British mortars, but at this scale, you can't tell the difference. As long as they're painted as Danes, no one will know. 

After looking at quite a lot of photos on the Internet, I find that some Danish trucks had camouflage canvas covers:
And some didn't:
So I camouflage about 2/3 of mine, but the rest I leave as plain, either canvas colored or some shade of green.  

The next stage is to finish two companies of mechanized infantry in M113's, including command. Here's the first platoon finished:
And a real one just for the heck of it:

Ok, another weekend shot all to hell. More next time! Let's get back to the painting table.