GRUNTZ

GRUNTZ
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Friday, 31 August 2012

200!


For some inexplicable reason I've clocked up 200 followers for this rambling, inconsequential and somewhat undistinguished blog. Thank you to one and all for signing up and for your support. I may not finish what I start, or even start what I start thinking about, but your encouragement and enthusiasm is very much appreciated. I'm hoping that the latter half of the year will be a little more productive than the first, so stay tuned...


Thursday, 30 August 2012

Hill 112















On the way back home yesterday we had an hour or so to spare, so I took a short detour to visit Hill 112. I had always wanted to visit the memorial to the 43rd Wessex Division and, in particular, to the men of the 5th Battalion Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, who had the uneviable task of capturing and holding this vantage point in July 1944.

It's a very poignant but understated reminder of the horror and waste of war, something that is worth the insignificant time and minimal effort it takes to drive off the autoroute for a while before you continue on your way. I was rewarded by my time in this very small but far from insignificant corner of Normandy, even though it took only half an hour or so to stop and spend a moment in thought.


Monday, 27 August 2012

Victory Fighters



I been finishing off my holiday reading with this book which covers the air war in North West Europe from the perspective of several pilots involved in fighter bomber and ground attack missions. It didn't look that promising to start with but it's actually really good, full of potential scenario ideas and background information on tactics.

I was particularly interested in the sections covering 263 Squadron, which flew Whirlwinds on fighter bomber and anti-E boat missions to Brittany in 1942-1943. I love the look of the Westland Whirlwind as an aircraft and it was one of my favourite Airfix kits when I was a kid. It would be easy to set up a series of linked scenarios based on a selection of these missions, or even a mini-campaign using Bag The Hun 2 based on the Battle of Britain campaign system in Finest Hour.


A bit more digging turned up an online archive of 263 Squadron documents including the Operational Record Book (ORB) and individual pilot's after action reports, complete with downloadable transcriptions. This is a really fantastic resource and a gold mine of information for scenarios, especially as it is covers a range of actions from attacks on airfields and on rail targets, to air sea rescue escorts and reconnaissance flights, plus day and night time shipping strikes on coastal forces:


There are Whirlwinds in the Raiden Miniatures range but, as yet, none from Tumbling Dice, so it would be a 1/285th scale project. I'd need to add some 500lb bombs to make them Whirlibombers but that's a minor detail. The rest of my Bag The Hun stuff is in 1/285th anyway, so it's a simple extension of what I've already got. This is (yet another) project for a rainy day but definately worth a bit more background research and development.

Tally Ho!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

The Zanzibari Regular Army


I recently discovered that Mark Copplestone has re-released two packs of Zanzibari regular infantry in his Darkest Africa range a couple of months ago. I've also dug out an article that Chris Peers wrote on the Zanzibaris which includes an army list for In the Heart of Africa, alongside a very interesting historical overview. I have far too many figures for the rules already but something about the Zanzibaris has got me hooked.

When I get back home, I'll dig out my copy of the rules and my box of figures to see what I could put together on the core of a couple of packs of the re-released regulars. The army list includes the following options:

ZANZIBARI ARMY LIST, c. 1877 - 1896 (Aggression 3)

Standard Bearer (50 points) 0 – 1

Soldiers (20 points each) 0 – 1

Heavily-armed Askaris (12 points each) 2 – 4

Swordsmen (14 points each) 0 – 1

Askaris (6 points each) 0 – 2

Artillery (50 points each) 0 – 1

I can do the Swordsmen and the Askaris from my collection of Foundry Baluchis. I also have a cannon with Askari crew in the box and a standard bearer or two. I'm sure I have some suitable figures for Zanzibari and British officers, the latter with requisite gunbearers, so everything is covered apart from the Soldiers or Heavily-armed Askaris.
 
I've been meaning to tackle In the Heart of Africa for years. It looks like this might be the time to finally get it off the ground. In fact, I might clear the decks and make this my big project for 2012, having failed to achieve very much this year to date apart from some 15mm AK47 extras, the 28mm Gladiators and the 6mm Iron Cow ONESS.

The Nkonde would be up first, perhaps using a dip approach to speed up the painting process and get them on the table, after which a second small army might well be feasible. I'd like to finish off the Bag The Hun North Africa stuff first or the SAGA Norse but I'll make a decision about what I'm going to do when I finally get home on Thursday.

BKC Aegean Campaign Update


The umpire in the club BKC campaign has sorted the results of the Turn Four orders and the Italians under command of General Gorgonzola will be going into action for the first time. As part of my orders, I've dispatched a landing force to the island of Mikonos but it seems that another player has had the same idea. Unfortunately, he's on the other side, so it'll be a race to see who hits the beach first and who gets kicked back into the sea.

I won't reveal the details of the forces I have dispatched but most of them are ready for action, although I need to finish off the basing and paint up a couple of HQ bases too. The force overall is quite compact but has some handy assets in support, so should have a fair chance of success depending on what gets thrown at them by the allies. I haven't played BKC for ages, however, so it'll be a very steep learning curve! The game won't happen until later next month so at least I'll have some time to brush up on the rules.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Atlantic Wall Treogat













A group of four artillery bunkers near Treogat* which I knew about but hadn't visited before. They're on farmland and are obviously used as cowsheds but, otherwise, they're in pretty good condition. The one furthest to the North has a command post attached but I didn't spot it on site, so failed to check it out. The third one down from the command bunker has a crew shelter in the basement. They're easily accessible from the road and worth a visit if you're in the area. There is more detail on the site and the others I've visited, here:
*Treogat should have an accent over the 'e' but I can't find the right key combination to add one.

Packing Up





The holiday is pretty much over as we're heading home in a couple of days. As a result, the figures are being packed up ready for the journey. I'm quite pleased with my output this time round, although none of it is any where near being painted, let alone deployed on the tabletop. I've based up almost an entire army for AK47, with only half a dozen vehicles and a couple of plastic kits to assemble before it's ready for painting, possibly sometime in the next few months.

I've also based up the bulk of my long delayed Nkonde army for In the Heart of Africa, with one warrior unit and a possible spear unit left to do. You can see the assembled archers, baggage and characters in the picture*. I need to scartchbuild some pitfall traps and a village for the army to defend but that can be done later on. If I get through some of my leftover projects first, including the SAGA Vikings and the Bag The Hun aircraft, there's a good chance I will get some paint on the Nkonde my Xmas.

*I've also taken a couple of new photos of the converted Nkonde chief,  the scout  and the wife to make up for the dodgy ones I posted yesterday.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Darkest Africa Nkonde [9]






I bashed the cows this morning in order to retro fit some spare heads to the bodies that I had in the spares box. They still need some greenstuff to blend in the joints but they've saved me at least a tenner, as I don't need to buy any more cattle for the Nkonde baggage. I also based up the Nkonde women with some of the ubiquitous goats to complete the fourth base for the baggage.

This afternoon, while it lashed down in a Force 9 stylee outside, I converted a Masai looking figure into a rather less impressive but more appropriate chief for the Nkonde. This involved a headswap with a rather elderly looking spearmen figure and the substitution of an oversized spear for a flint tool head, pinched from a 15mm Copplestone Pictish caveman. I've no idea if this is historically accurate or not, but it looks good to me.

To things wrap up, I sorted out the scout for the Nkonde using a Ruga Ruga type figure with added spear, then based up the first of three figures to accompany the tribal chief. These act as surrogate bullet magnets in the rules and so are pretty useful if you want your commander to stick around. This one is obviously modelled on my beloved spouse, although it's a mystery how Mr Copplestone was able to capture the likeness?

Sorry about the dodgy photos...too late to sort them out now!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Darkest Africa Nkonde [8]




I spent the good part of an hour today cleaning up and assembling two cattle for the baggage element of the Nkonde army, before I realised that they looked a bit funny. I bought a job lot of livestock bits from a seller on ebay a couple of years ago and happily stashed them in the In the Heart of Africa box, ready for a rainy day.

Unfortunately, I didn't look too closely at the contents, which turned out to be eleven assorted cow heads of indefinate origin, one cow body with three legs and three potential cows, two of which I think are American longhorns? They don't look much like African cattle to me but then I'm no expert. Never mind, I'm sure they'll be useful for Legends of the Old West

The result is a distinct absence of bovine baggage, although I did manage to assemble one cow and a somewhat irate cow herd. I might get a (very expensive) pack of the Foundry African cattle to make up the difference or try to fit some spare heads to the bodies that I do have. In the meantime, the Nkonde will be goat powered, using a selection of the aforementioned animals to make up two of the four baggage bases.

The older but equally irate goat herd is a foundry witchdoctor figure with a cut down staff and a hand held pointy magic bone chopped down into a nasty pointy stick. I'll think about converting this into a horsehair fly swatter type thing with some greenstuff when I get back to the workbench. In the meantime he's the shock element of the Nkonde...who said the native villlagers weren't scary!

I have one more base to assemble tomorrow, featuring a selection of Nkonde ladies. The bases are, by the way, from the most excellent East Riding Miniatures range which includes several different sizes of irregular laser cut bases. They only cost £2.50 for six small bases, which I think is excellent value for money, especially as they invariably arrive on your doorstep the next day!

(Incidentally, I've just spotted some new(ish) Zanzibari regulars over on the Copplestone site, which I had completely missed. This opens up all sorts of cool new options for a Zanzibari army, along with my existing mountain of figures....oh dear!) 

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Darkest Africa Nkonde [7]

Here's the archer unit for the Nkonde, consisting of sixteen assorted figures from the Foundry Darkest Africa range. I enjoyed basing these up but they did need quite a bit of sanding and filing to get rid of the casting lines, which were quite prominent on several of the figures. I can't remember off the top of my head how many points these represent but I doubt it's very much.

There's also a single witchdoctor figure which I'm allowed to have as a special character in the army lists for the native villagers. He's suitably imposing and will, hopefully, make an impact on the turn of events in the game, as a form of psyschological warfare. I've also got a scout figure to sort out this evening but the main effort will be to base up four baggage elements for the Nkonde to defend.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Bag the Doodlebug 1/144th


Apparently, Revell have re-issued a swathe of their old 1/144th scale kits in a new format aptly titled as Micro Wings. One of the kits that they've included in the initial release is the Hawker Tempest, including a completely new decal sheet. This opens up the possibility of doing a Bag the Doodlebug type game in 1/144th rather than 1/300th, which has been my initial approach.

I had a shot at the Bag the Doodlebug scenario at the club a few weeks ago with Andy as the unfortunate guinea pig, although it was only a quick try out after the main game. We tried out three seperate gun runs on the elusive buzzbomb but only succeeded on the final attempt, even though it meant that Andy's Spitfire XIV ended up in a tree, having flown through the exploding V1 in the process.

Andy's pilot bailed out and survived the encounter. The scenario set up was less successful, however, as it was pretty limited in game terms. I think it's a great concept but it needs a bit of a tweak to be a great game. I think there's a lot of potential for some manipulation of the basic ideas, using some different mechanics and some expanded card options to add legs to the otherwise very short scenario.

As the 1/144th scale kits are very cheap and easy to put together, they offer that extra level of visual impact that the 1/300th scale game lacks. I may well get a few, if only to buid them for fun. If the range expands further to include some of the other 1970's kits, theer would be lots of potential spin offs, especially when combined with the Minicraft, Sweet and F-Toys planes.

...not to mention the old 633 Squadron idea?

Tally Ho!

RAF Fighter Aces of the Battle of Britain

I've just finished reading this book by Philip Kaplan and it was a bit hit and miss. Some of the chapters were really well written and interesting, especially the one covering the career of the lesser known fighter ace Brian Kingcomb, whilst the others were a re-hash of stuff that I'd read before, if not word for word then almost so.

There were a few glaring omissions from the list of potential aces as well, even though some of them turned up in the photos. It was a another Oxfam charity shop buy so I don't mind going over old ground if it's for a good cause and it was definately worth the time, if only for further scenario ideas.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Dux Britanniarum Early Saxon Army

I spent an hour or so costing up the various alternatives for Dux Britanniarum this afternoon. These came down to the Splintered Light 15mm range, the Westwind 28mm, Musketeer 28mm or the Gripping Beast 28mm ranges.

I really, really like the 15mm Splintered Light figures and they're now available in DB battlepacks for $38 including postage but I'd need to get both sides for any solo games, which makes it as expensive as 28mm in the long run.

The Westwind Arturian figures also look pretty good and, at the moment, are on offer at 30% off, making them much cheaper than the Gripping Beast or Musketeer options, even when using the pre-packed army sets that are now available from Toofatlardies. In 28mm, I can also find an opponent or two at the club, so I only need one force rather than two.

I've decided to go for the Westwind Early Saxons as a result. This involves an unarmoured and an armoured Warband pack, a single pack or five archers and a single character pack of Mordred and three warlords, just to add a bit of variety to the army command.

With the 30% discount added in, this cost me just over £40, which I think is a bit of a bargain, even if the figures aren't as varied as the Gripping Beast or Musketeer ones. I have no idea when I'll get round to this but at least it's now a viable project for the future.

I may still have a go at 10mm or 15mm, though, perhaps using the new Dux Bellorum rules from Osprey, which are designed for larger scale battles using element based units. I've read a couple of positive reviews and they seem like excellent value for  money, as well as being fun to play.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Wings of War Fire From The Sky


I found a copy of the second WW2 variant of Wings of War in a model shop in Tavistock before we left for France, so thought I'd get it for the inevitable rainy holiday afternoons. I've played quite a lot of the WW1 version with my kids but haven't played the WW2 version at all, so thought it would be fun.

I set up a couple of quick games this morning to learn the basic rules, which are similar in essence to the WW1 rules but with a few new twists. The biggest difference is the substitution of damage counters instead of damage cards and the use of speed counters, which give you the choice of fast or slow manoeuvers.

The two games ended after no more than three turns or so, with my Stuka being blown to smithereens at close range by a P40 Tomahawk in the first game and both my P39 Airacobra and the opposing Kawasaki Hien blowing each other up in the second, again at close range.

The lesson to be learned by this is that close range is absolutely deadly, especially against fighters with cannon. We didn't use the advanced damage rules but, even so, it didn't make for a very long lasting game experience! I like the speed options, however, as it adds an element that's missing from the WW1 game.

The biggest problem with this set is that the range of aircraft is fairly limited, there being no German fighters for a start and a restricted number of historically compatible options from the rest of the set. Some of the types are a bit obscure as well, although I suspect they'd be useful for particular scenarios.

I'll have to see if I can find some extension card sets, or even the first boxed set in order to even things out a bit, although I'm pretty sure that both are out of print. There's a game shop in Quimper that might have some stock and I can always have a look at ebay as a last resort.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

AK47 Summer Spearhead Footnote


Now that I've wrapped up the AK47 operation for the immediate future, I thought I'd add a parting shot to give me something to return to once the dust has settled and I'm back at work. In the old, or as I prefer to think of them the 'vintage' version of the AK47 rules, you are allowed to have a bonus unarmed militia unit in addition to the five core elements of your force.

The purpose of this otherwise useless unit is to hop onto the table as a late reinforcement toward the end of the game and, when your opponent is busy stonking what he thinks is your mainforce objective, to sneak up and occupy some peripheral bit of the table that he's conveniently forgotten to cover. However, as they have no firepower what-so-ever and rout on the loss of one morale point, they're usually a total waste of time.

On the other hand...

The army of the Unified Kingdom of Bagombo might feature one such potential 'militia' unit. The ruler of Bagombo, His Royal Highness King Mtosi III, retains an extensive herd of the finest pedigree long horn cattle as a traditional symbol of his wealth, power and largesse. The Bull of Bagombo is a cultural symbol of great significance amongst the people of Bagombo, especially in the ritual preparations for war.

So...


...if I can find a suitable range of African long horn cattle in 15mm, my 'militia' unit will consist of a herd of the beasts, with three 'mounted' figures per 30mm x 40mm base. This mighty bovine bulldozer will stampede it's way across the table to squish enemy units under foot and proceed to occupy (and chew) the juicy objective that my opponent has left untended.

Ha! Ha! Ha!

(any suggestions for suitable figures will receive the royal approbation of His Highness, King Mtosi III and an honourable mention in the Bunga Bunga column of the Gombo Gazette)