Gaming Models' Polski FIAT 621 Truck

The chaps at Gaming Models very kindly sent me a few samples of their WW2 Polish vehicles to have a look at.

First off the painting table is the standard lorry of the Polish army in the 1930s: the Polski FIAT 621 truck.

This is a very nice little model, cast in resin, that comes with a separate canvas cover that you can glue in or keep separate. The truck comes unbased but in one piece i.e. you don't need to faff around gluing the wheels on, all you have to do is decide what you want to do with the canvas cover.

Priced at $5 (about £4 at current exchange rates) it's good value and, as you can see in the picture above, paints up very nicely indeed. Even better value is the platoon pack, where you can buy eight trucks for $32 i.e. $4 or £3.12 each.

Mine required no preparation (I didn't even bother to wash it in soapy water) and was painted by undercoating in green, highlighting, then washing using Agrax Earthshade, then a light dry-brush in first a lighter green then Bleached Bone or whatever the modern equivalent is. I decided that this one-off truck wouldn't be camouflaged:  I have seen paint jobs with very garish yellow and brown stripey effects, but the only appropriate photo I can find with the suggestion of camouflage is the one below:

So, there you have it, a very nice and very affordable model: just what you need to properly motorise your Black Brigade!

Gaming Models

Blast from the Past: Cosmic Encounter

The original box art

The original box art

As it is my birthday on Thursday this week, this weekend the family gathered at the ancestral home for a couple of meals and many hours of gossip and high jinks!

I was searching for something in a cupboard in my old room when I came across the box of the board game "Cosmic Encounter".

Now this wasn't the original game that I first played at school, I think, the box of which is shown on the right, but the slightly later Games Workshop version shown below, that dates back to the time when GW sold all sorts of fantasy role-playing and board games, some of which they produced themselves outside of any accepted canon.

The GW version 

The GW version 

Well with the kids now just about in their tweens, this was too good an opportunity to miss, and soon the board was set up, the rules re-read and explained to the younglings, and it was off we went.

Amazing fun. We had two hilarious afternoons of playing...with all the usual Cosmic Encounter agreements, disagreements, assurances, reassurances, alliances, broken alliances, backstabbing, and politics!

Youngest player was ten, oldest player was, er, me (firmly within the 45-54 bracket!) and all the old favourites came out. We shuddered at the Void, were gobsmacked at the Virus' numbers, ganged up on the Judge (unsuccessfully, I might add), hated the Amoeba, loved the Healer and so on and so forth.

Now whilst I wouldn't necessarily recommend spending the £45 or so that the modern version of the game costs, I would heartily suggest having a dig around in the cupboards at home to see what you can find...especially if, like me, you first visited Games Workshop when it was at 1, Dalling Road, and nowhere else.

Now to try and find Apocalypse the Game of Nuclear Devastation!


Friday Painting Challenge Update

Lots of lovely entries already this week, so I'll do an update today rather than waiting until the weekend.

In no particular order, we have:

  • John Haines with more Japanese footsoldiers
  • Two periods from Mr Ralls: Cold War in 15mm and WW2 in 28mm
  • Steve Burt finishes off two of his darkest Africa forest tribes
  • Matt is having a mid-life crisis and has gone 40k mad!
  • Chris Stoesen also sends in two periods: pirates and an M1 Abrams tank!
  • Loads of Germans from Mr Helliwell, who seems to have forgotten that there is only one true ruleset for WW2
  • Ralph sends in a shamble of zombies
  • And last, but by no means least, Mr Hodge has been feeling very productive: lots of 6mm WW2 figures and armour, and some much bigger mutineers as well

As always, clicking on the person's name will take you to their gallery (opens in a new window), and today's pictures are below...

40k madness from Mr Slade

A shamble of zombies from Ralph

Cold War vehicles from Jason Ralls

IABSM AAR: For the Honour of France

June 1941. A most unlikely conflict has broken out between two former Allies. Vichy French airfields in the Levant have been used by the Lufwaffe to support an uprising in Iraq, and Britain has decided that enough is enough. A task force has been assembled to move north into the Lebanon and Syria to take control of the area for the Free French and safeguard British oil supplies. Unexpectedly Vichy forces resist strongly, fighting for the honour of France.

That’s the introduction to the game of IABSM that Bevan and I played on Sunday evening. An unusual game featuring Australians versus French in the desert.

Click on the (big) picture, below, to see all:


Laser Wall from Warbases

I'm a huge fan of Warbases: their bases are excellent quality, delivered quickly, and their customer service is second to none. 

So when Matt Slade submitted some of their new Starbase 962 sci-fi buildings to the TFL Painting Challenge, I quickly beetled off to the Warbases site to take a look.

Now did he build them then paint them, or paint them then build them?

Now I already have quite a few sci-fi buildings (mostly Critical Mass Games, RIP) so, nice as they were, I didn't fancy investing in any of their standard constructions...but what I didn't have and, funnily enough, what Matt hadn't shown, was what Warbases call a Laser Wall.

As you'll see in the picture, this is individual sections of either straight or corner pieces consisting of a wooden base and pylons, and then a glowing plastic "laser field" that slots in and out.

Each section, straight or corner, is (at time of writing) £2.50 plus p&p. This seemed like a good deal, so I bought twelve sections: four corners and eight straights.

Opening the box, I was immediately impressed: the plastic bits are indeed very glowing (mine were orange not yellow, but still looked great) and very solid as well: each is a serious chunk of plastic. The wooden base and supports are the usual Warbases laser-cut mdf, and each upright back-bit has two little holes in it to take teeny-tiny magnets to keep the fence together on the tabletop.

Getting the magnets was no problem:  one day delivery from first4magnets from Amazon meant that I had them in my hands literally, er, the next day! The twenty-four magnets I needed cost me £5.50 plus another £1.10 p&p.

Building the basic fence was easy: went together in the usual excellent Warbases fashion. Getting the magnets sorted, however, proved a royal pain in the posterior!

As you can imagine, I carefully worked out the positive/negative order in which the magnets needed to go. I then used PVA glue to bed them in and waited for the whole thing to dry. I then went to build my lovely laser-walled compound and found that I had half the bloody magnets in the wrong way round!

That meant working everything out again, then popping the upside-down magnets out of the back support and then re-siting them. Whilst I was doing this, I discovered that PVA glue isn't strong enough to hold the magnets in place: you need superglue for that.

So I then re-sited all the magnets using superglue, only to discover, to my horror, that in the process I had, yes, you've guessed it, reversed some of the I now had a number of joins in my compound wall that actively pushed each other apart! And the magnets were superglued in.

I now discovered a use for an old pin drill: popping magnets out of the frame backs: a quick tap with a hammer did the trick, although you have to be careful where the magnets end up, as they are quite small!

One other thing you have to be careful of is that there is not much tolerance for anything sticking out into the groove the plastic laser field sits in on the frames. If a magnet is not flush to the (inside) frame, or there is a lump of dried superglue impeding the groove, those lovely chunks of plastic will not sit right. It took me about an hour to carefully clear each groove (for that read angrily chop at them with an old scalpel and the aforementioned old pin drill) until the plastic at least went approximately in smoothly.

Now that I had the raw compound built and successfully sitting together, it was time to paint it. That was easy: a quick spray of grey undercoat and then a dry-brush in a lighter grey.

See how the bases bow upwards where the plastic doesn't sit flush

See how the bases bow upwards where the plastic doesn't sit flush

As you'll see in the pictures, I still haven't managed to get the walls to sit perfectly together: the bases tend to bow upwards where the plastic doesn't sit flush. However, that is a pretty clinically taken photo against a smooth, white background: on the wargames table, the bowing is hardly noticeable at all.

Here's a pic with a couple of Felids in place, to give you an idea of scale:


Well I'm happy with my new laser-walled compound, and at a total cost of about £40 once p&p is taken into account, I think that's pretty good value too.

Now to write rules and a scenario to get the thing onto the tabletop...

Post Holiday Painting Challenge Update

Hi All!

Yes, just back from my holiday, surfing in Polzeath, Cornwall. Terrible weather, quite dampened down my bushy, bushy blond hairdo, but we surfers don't care about the rain...and at least I got the chance to share the waves with David Cameron and a restaurant with Nick Knowles.

Apparently the D&D of Cornwall also drove through Polzeath whilst I was there, but as I didn't see their convoy, I'm not sure that counts.

I know: friend to the stars or what!

Back to business: today's Painting Challenge update. In no particular order, we have:

As always, clicking on the gallery-owner's name will take you straight to their gallery, which will open in a new window.

Today's pictures are below:

Highlanders from Mr McGinn

Egg's Canadians

Japanese Masked Men from Mr Haines

TFL Painting Challenge: Another Large Update

What better way to start the month than a quick painting challenge update. It's another large one this week, with loads of large entries flooding in.

If I can just remind people to include the scale of the figures they're submitting (it's sometimes hard to tell) and, if possible, to clearly label the pics in some way so that I know what is what. I can recognise or guess most, but if it's not one of my preferred periods...

Anyhoo, today, in no particular order, we have:

  • Jason Ralls with some lovely Cold War British in 15mm
  • A huge entry from Matt Slade: mdf buildings, futuristic sci fi troopers and a batch of enraged yeti!
  • Chris Stoesen pops in a few Spanish colonial militia
  • John de Terre Neuve sends in a handful of medieval arab types and a couple of very familiar looking Napoleonics
  • There's a mass entry from Andrew Helliwell: 15mm ACW and 10mm WOR
  • The Great Gatzemeyer puts paint onto resin with some sci fi troopers from Anvil Industries
  • John Haines joins me in hating painting cross belts: some AWI and Samurai types
  • There are more Hittites from Sapper
  • And last, but by no means least, Mervyn pops in a handful of Napoleonics

As always, clicking on the names above will take you through to that person's gallery (opens in a new window).

As almost always, I'll update the Scorecard when I can over the next day or so. It's complicated to do in Squarespace, as I have to edit the table in html and then import it in.

Today's's many to choose from...

Now those are some seriously miffed yeti!

Jason's Cold War Brits

Lots of ACW chappies from Andrew Helliwell

Sci Fi Troopers from the GG

Geisha Assassin from John Haines

LCVPs for the Pacific Theatre

Regular readers will know that I recently painted up a company of Landing Vehicle, Tanks  (or Amtracks) as part of an attempt to satisfy a friend's craving for a bit of War in the Pacific action. Planning the game, I realised that I only had three Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP) to accompany the Amtracks into action, but had a box of another three buried somewhere in the lead mountain.  

I still had a whole week to go before the game (it was today:  cracking game, AAR on here tomorrow or Monday) so thought I could just about get them done in time. I'd already painted three, so another three should be relatively simple.

Well, yes, in theory, but I had, of course, forgotten that Battlefront aren't interested in the Pacific War any more, so have let the molds go to wrack and ruin whilst they concentrate on Team Yankee. Never have I seen do much flash on so few models in a box set...and whilst I can clean them up in an hour or so, it was still an hour of painting time wasted. 

Worse, one of the strips of infantry was missing: a real pain as there was no way I could get a replacement in time.

I know Battlefront are great and all that, and a huge part of my collection comes from them, but it's things like the above that make you just go "grrrrrr" and do everything you can to support their competition.

Anyhow, I cleaned up the figures, substituted spare truck-passenger figures for the missing strip (see if you can spot them!) and got the little craft done in time.

Lovely models but, please Battlefront, if you're going to go all "the Hobby" on us, get your basic quality control right first!

Go And See Dunkirk: go and see it now!

If there’s a must-see film for wargamers this year, then that film has to be Christopher Nolan’s latest epic, Dunkirk. I’ve seen it twice now, and am seriously considering a third viewing this weekend!

Let’s start by getting the elephant in the room out of the way. The film covers only the events around the evacuation from the beaches: it makes only passing reference to the ‘collapsing the pocket’ campaign that allowed Operation Dynamo to take place. Now whilst this is disappointing, it is what it is, and shouldn’t stop anyone going to see the film just because they are a bit piqued that their favourite bit of WW2 military history isn’t covered!

What the film does do is look at the events between 26th May and 4th June from three different perspectives and on three different time lines. Yes: three different timelines. As with his previous works Inception and Interstellar, Nolan twists and loops the threads of his story around the fourth dimension, only bringing it all together in the final reel.

So what does that mean? It means that you watch the same events from three points of view (land, sea and air) on three different timelines (a week, a day, an hour respectively). So early on in Tom Hardy’s fighter pilot’s hour-long timeline and therefore the film you see him flying over the Moonstone, Mark Rylance’s ‘small boat’…but much later in the film, at the equivalent point in Rylance’s day-long timeline, you see Rylance watching Hardy’s Spitfire flying over his boat.

Confused? You won’t be. Believe it or not, it all makes perfect sense as you’re watching the film and works brilliantly as a dramatic device: what you think you’re seeing in the first view of an event, for example, might not match what is actually happening, with what is actually happening only becoming obvious at the later, different perspective, viewing.

The second “big tick” of the film is its cinematography. See it on the biggest screen possible. The sheer vista and scope of what you’re watching is incredible. The various palettes used for the land, sea and air elements are beautiful. In particular, the soaring yet somehow shakily claustrophobic aerial battle scenes are worth the price of the ticket alone.

Although the storyline is simple, the elements above make the film incredibly tense to watch, particularly as, on first watching, you don’t know who is going to make it and who isn’t. This is war, after all, and lots of people die. Add to this Hans Zimmer’s “ticking clock” score (apparently based on the sound of the director’s watch) and you will be on the edge of your seat throughout. I’m glad the film is Nolan’s shortest yet: much more and I would have needed evacuation myself!

One quick note for parents: this isn’t a gore fest, quite the opposite. I took my ten year old daughter to see it (she was the youngest in the, packed, cinema by far…and absolutely loved it) without worrying that she might be traumatised by Private Ryan-like shots of intestines and brains everywhere. Yes, as I said, lots of people die, but the director doesn’t need to use buckets of Kensington Gore to dial up the tension.

One quick note for the rivet-counters: there’s nothing too upsetting for you lot either. I know some of the ships are modern rather than contemporary; I know Tom Hardy’s Spitfire seems to have more than sixteen seconds of ammo (I didn’t time it, but it seemed like more); I even spotted a soldier in boots without hobnails…but overall it’s a pretty good effort to recreate the event. Could the beach have had a lot more detritus on it to match the contemporary photographs? Yes, of course it could…but I was happy to sacrifice a few burnt out lorries for the sense of isolation and desolation engendered by their absence.

Finally, let’s talk about the acting. One word:  superb. Fionn Whitehead and Damien Bonnard are great as the principal protagonists of the land segment, ably supported by Kenneth Branagh’s pseudo-Ramsey and an unexpectedly good Harry Stiles. Mark Rylance lives up to each and every one of his many, many awards for theatre-work as Mr. Dawson, the master of the small-boat Moonstone, ably supported by Cillian Murphy named only as “Shivering Soldier”. Last, and absolutely by no means least, Tom Hardy and Jack Lowden excel as the fighter pilots: Tom Hardy doing some superb acting with only his eyes and eyebrows as he wears a pilot’s mask for most of his scenes.

In conclusion, go and see Dunkirk now, and go and see it on the big screen rather than waiting for the DVD. It is a truly brilliant work from a director at the top of his game.

TFL Painting Challenge: Humungous Update

A very large update today, both in terms of number of submissions and the size of those submissions: a most impressive effort from everyone.

So, in no particular order, today we have:

  • Stumpy bases vast amounts of 28mm troops: almost four hundred points' worth
  • Keith Davies adds an armoured element to his IABSM/CoC forces
  • There's more Cold War goodness from Jason Ralls
  • John de Terre Neuve sends in some Epic miniatures
  • A small entry from Steve Burt:  pygmies for Africa (did you see what I did there?!)
  • Mark Luther fills in some of his gaps
  • Mr Hodge has allegedly had his fill of Mutineers
  • There are more barbarians from Ms Flint
  • Mr Davenport bulks out his BEF armour
  • A truly enormous entry from Sapper: fourteen units worth. Thanks be that he labels everything so beautifully!
  • And last, but by no mean least, Egg sneaks in at th last minute with some Cold War goodness of his own

As per usual, clicking on the gallery owner's name will take you straight to their gallery (opens in a new window).

Very hard to decide upon today's many to choose from. Here goes:

Always room for Egg's Cold War armour:  Soviets and Canadians

Armenian Cataphracts from Sapper

British Heavy Dragoons from Stumpy

Derek's Mutineers

Barbarian Priestesses from Carole

Amtracks for IABSM

Last time I asked one of my regular gaming group what he fancied playing next time we got together, he said that he'd very much like to do an amphibious assault in the Pacific. That, at the time, was a bit of a "no can do, amigo", so we ended up getting as close to it as I could with the Gela game that you can read about here.

The request, however, stuck with me. I had Americans, I had Japanese...all I needed was an island and some of the specialist landing equipment that the Marines used.

As is so often the case, that great supermarket that is Salute provided all. I picked up a beachfront gaming mat and, at incredibly cheap prices, the Gator's Amtracks boxset and a box of another three American landing craft. With the promised game looming (next week) it was time to build and paint up the Amtracks.

When I first opened the box set, I was, to put it blankly, deeply impressed. The box contains seven hulls, and fourteen top decks, allowing you to build either the LVT A(1) version with the Stuart turret (37mm gun) or the LVT A(4) version with the HWC M8 turret (75mm gun)...with the two top decks being interchangeable meaning that you could field one to seven of each vehicle in any particular game. Now that, I thought, is a well thought out, good value offering: jolly well done Battlefront.

I still think that, but unfortunately have to give Battlefront full marks for the intention but a much, much lower score for the execution :(

Now I'm not a brilliant modeler, but I can build most 15mm kits, and can even drill and pin large walkers together so that they stand up unassisted. I have built a thousand tanks, quite a few buildings, a handful of aircraft, loads of sci-fi name it...and I've built kits based on resin, metal, plastic, get the picture.

Could I get the top decks of these Amtracks to fit into the hulls? Could I bollocks, if you'll excuse the expression.

They just don't bloody fit. 

As I don't have some kind of rotary grinder thing (how careless of me!) I had to file and carve, and carve and file, and eventually just goddamn-well hammer the decks into place, with resultant cracked hulls, damaged tracks etc.

They just don't bloody fit, I say again!

I ended up abandoning my happy thoughts of having fourteen decks interchangeable on seven hulls, and knock together a platoon of three A(1)s, a platoon of three A(4)s and a command A(1). No interchanging: all firmly hammered/glued/green-stuffed into place.

Okay, so they look good, and I still have seven cracking vehicles, but I haven't got what I was offered, and I'm miffed. Anyway, buy at your own peril, and here's my finished tanks:

Oh, and the box doesn't come with any decals either: I had to find them all from spares...but I'm just being narky now!