Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The start of the Kokoda Campaign - continuation of the first encounter battle

In the previous post we left off where we'd just (barely) beaten off the first wave of attacks.  The two squads of our 1st platoon just had enough time to dig themselves some foxholes before the Japs started to come at them.  As it was historically, the Japanese moved with astonishing speed and were literally on top of the Aussies before they knew it.  Seekamp's advance platoon was quickly surrounded by the Japanese scouting units.  Between the waves of assaults, the Jap mortars continually tried to zero in on the concealed Australian positions.  Almost from the beginning they were subjected to sustained heavy fire from mortars, MGs and even snipers, between the wave after wave of screaming Japs!

1st and 2nd sections 1st platoon dig in and await the next assault

The Japs directly in front of us formed up for their next assault and every man who could get a bead on them let loose.  Two things proved to be invaluable - the siting of the Vickers MG at the top of the track and the Papuan platoon who commander Doug (Templeton) decided to hold back in the jungle on the ridge.  Historically the ferocity of the Jap naval bombardment and landing terrified the poor local Papuans who took to the bush to hide - including most of the PIB!

Holding them back at the ridge proved to be a very smart move as it gave them a chance to do what they  actually do best - shooting.  They may have been very poor infantry but were natural hunters and very good shots.  Their shooting and the Vickers helped whittle the Japs down sufficiently to enable the 1st platoon out front to repel all but the final assaults that day.  Had they have not done so, I reckon my position would have been overrun by about turn three.

The northern (Aussie) end of the table, looking across.  The Papuan militia are in the jungle closest.  The picture was taken before the final turns of the day: the Vickers came under accurate mortar fire and the remnants of the 1st platoon & mortar section are sheltering in the jungle to the other side of the MG position.  Last assault of the day is going in on the 2nd platoon on the far side of the table.

The southern (Japanese) end of the table at the final turns of the day.  The remnants of 1st platoon have been pulled back over the river and the Japanese are just about to launch their final assaults for the day on 2nd platoon dug in on the slope on the other side of the river.  The river like the creek is shallow and no impediment to the Japanese movement!

The assaults on the 1st platoon were continuous and both squads were subjected to an endless barrage of increasingly accurate mortar and MG fire.  Unlike the clear field of fire enjoyed by the 1st section, the 2nd faced some light jungle which provided open cover for the Japs to approach much closer.  Desperate shooting mowed down the first Jap squad but was not as successful against the second, only inflicting about 30-40% casualties!

In between assaults the 1st section came under sustained and heavy mortar fire

The Japs did their 'gut check', decided to ignore the heavy casualties and BANZAIIIII!!!

Light cover afforded by the jungle enabled the Japs to get much closer to 2nd section

The Japanese ran straight at 2nd section's position.  You have a choice - bug out immediately or snap shoot and hope you get most of them before they get you.  I decided on the shooting option.  Half the remaining Japs were gunned down but at the crucial moment, the damned Lewis gun jammed - didn't get a shot off!  Enough Japs survived to go one on one with the Aussies in their foxholes.  A desperate hand-to-hand ensued where the remaining Japs were finally wiped out.   But the damage was done.  Only two men remained of 2nd section.  

 Aftermath of the assault on 1st platoon.  After loosing nearly half their men, 1st section is rallied by their officer in the cover of the jungle after mortar fire virtually obliterated their position.  The two survivors of 2nd section in their foxholes after beating off a frenzied banzai charge await the next pasting from Jap mortars and machine guns.

Once the bayonet fight was over, the mortar and MG fire resumed, killing the corporal which left the hapless Lewis gunner.  He had no choice but to try and make back over the river to 2nd platoon's position.  Halfway across - CRACK! - a Jap sniper took him out.  2nd section destroyed to a man in two turns.  The clapped out but invaluable (when working) Lewis gun ended up at the bottom of the river.  Damn!

The 1st section fared a little better, having failed their gut check twice and getting pinned in their positions, getting hammered by Jap mortars and then making a strategic sprint to the cover of the jungle where their officer and sergeant 'persuaded' them to hold before withdrawing over the river to the safety of the jungle on the other side.  Actually we just wanted to make sure we saved the SMGs and Bren!  Again accurate firing from the Papuans and Vickers MG kept the Japs at bay and enabled the remnants of 1st platoon to withdraw safely.

Meanwhile on the other flank the Japanese had emerged from the jungle.  The Jap heavy Juka MG proceeded to paste the 2nd section position, immediately inflicting casualties.

 As can be seen above, the Australians were forced to withdraw to the other side of the river, preparing themselves for a final stand!  They didn't have long to wait before the next wave of Jap assaults went in.

After wiping out another two squads of Japs the third managed to close with 2nd platoon in what was to be the last Banzai attack of the day.  Fortunately for 2nd platoon their shooting was accurate, aided by enfilading fire from the ever faithful Vickers, who had been manned by PIB after the crew were killed by increasingly accurate mortar fire - mercifully the Japs only managed to zero in for the last few turns of the game.

At this point Jap commander Cameron announced that frontal assaults on the Aussies had been halted as a battalion was now in the process of outflanking the Australian position.  Templeton and his men are now in real danger of being completely cut off from 39 Battalion at Kokoda.   Will the Aussies manage to get out of it?  The next scenario/battle to decide this will be held in about a month's time.



Monday, October 25, 2010

The Kokoda Campaign - the first round

The first battle got off to a rattling start.  Our group organiser, Kokoda historian and supplier of most of the figures and terrain, Andrew (one of who's ancestors also fought at Kokoda!) devised the initial encounter scenario that differed very little from what actually happened at Wairopi.   Templeton and his 'B' Company of the 39th Bttn. were the first over the Owen Stanleys and arrived in Buna on the coast just two days before the Japs landed!

 Just an example of Andrew's great scenery - that's some real jungle!

In our scenario Templeton kept half his tiny force together and ordered Seekamp's platoon (me) forward to set up on the slope of a hill facing down the track.  The Australians have three platoons (one of them local Papuan Infantry Bttn) supported by a heavy weapons section of a mortar and a Vickers MG.  We decided to site the MG up the slope pointing directly down the main approach.  There's one Bren and three clapped out Lewis guns for the four 9-man sections (2 sections per platoon).  The NCO's also carry SMG's - mostly Stens at this stage of the campaign - so at least one of those per squad too.


 After rapidly digging in, my 1st squad awaits the Japanese

We also kept the Papuan platoon hidden in the jungle at the head of the track.  The positions are just foxholes - nothing fortified or reinforced as there wasn't time.  Siting of the Vickers proved crucial as it enabled us to bring support fire down on them as they attempted to close with our advance position.

It wouldn't fit into the foxhole created for it - but it didn't look to bad sitting on top.  Although it stands out like dog's whatsits. it is in fact a concealed position!

This is what was coming directly at me - half a company of Japanese.  Their squads are roughly 15 men each, so their platoons are 1/3rd again the size of ours.  They are supported by a heavy MG, two mortars and a mountain gun!  And this was just the first lot - Gawd'elp us!
As soon as they came into sight we let them have it.  I was feeling quite chuffed as I easily wiped out the first two squads to a man, but about half of the second got as far as the creek in front.  Here I got my first lesson in being very aware of attacking Japs!  After nearly wiping them out, they did their 'gut check' (morale in Disposable Heroes rules) and they failed which meant...  they either 'Seppuku' and disappear OR ...  BANZAI!!!! 

These guys rush at right you and you've got just one opportunity to pour on the fire and wipe them out because, as my amused Jap commander Andrew helpfully pointed out: 'you really don't want Japanese in your trenches'.  They are quite deadly in hand-to-hand.

The blurry picture is the result of the photographer jumping out of his skin when one of them suddenly gets through!  Fortunately two bayonets were better than one sword on this occasion but bit too close for comfort!

And that was just the left flank.  Same again was advancing rapidly on the right.

That was just the first round of fighting.  My squad soon came under sustained mortar and heavy MG fire, were literally pinned in their foxholes and started to suffer casualties.

The story continues in the next posting!


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Kokoda Campaign - soldiers of the 39th battalion

Made a start with the French hussars to finish off the first regiment.  But got waylaid with the prospect of another WWII skirmish game of Disposable Heroes.  As I said in a previous post about DH & A Coffin for Seven Brothers,  the group wanted to do a campaign and were keen to do Kokoda 1942.  Very ambitious.  There will be a series of encounters, growing in size, that marked the desperate fight between the Australians of the 2nd AIF and the hitherto victorious Japanese.

The first of them is the heroic Captain Templeton and his company who first opposed the Japanese after they had landed and were starting their drive over the rugged Owen Stanley mountains. He was up against nearly 2,000 Japanese veterans of the Yokoyama Advance Force, the advance guard of the Nankai Shitai - the main force of 10,000 veterans.  The Yokoyama Advance Force was an amalgum of 2,000 elites drawn from the Tsukamoto Bttn of the veteran 144th Regt., the 15th Engineers (also combat troops) and a company of shock troops, the Sasebo Special Naval Landing Party.

For most of the fight along the track, the Australians never had more than a few battalions (at the time one full-strength militia brigade: the 30th consisting of the 39th, 53rd & 49th, but although officered by experienced regulars - mostly WWI veterans - they had no battle experience.)  They were armed mostly with old WWI Lee Enfields and clapped out Lewis guns but had also just been issued with the formidable Brens, which they learned how to operate 'on the job'!  By this time most of the 39th Bttn had arrived at Kokoda Mission but because of the conditions and narrowness of the track, they could only deploy one company at a time, so that the fighting was generally done at the company, platoon or section level. 

My contribution to this valiant but tiny force is an Australian Bren gun squad, which I happened to have acquired some years ago and had to rapidly paint and base in time for the first game this weekend.  They are in what was a mixture of their uniforms from the Middle East and light grey tropical issue shirts.  They weren't able to change for weeks so their uniforms literally rotted off and were only then replaced by tropical greens.

The physical conditions they fought in were some of the toughest of WWII.  Imagine the tropical heat of Guadalcanal, together with the incessant rain, and then add some of the most rugged terrain imaginable - an endless series of razorbacks that rise up to 14,000 feet, intersected by deep ravines and fast-flowing rivers that could turn into raging torrents with the heavy rain.  The Japanese had the bold strategy of landing on the northern coast of New Guinea and then taking Port Moresby via the back door - the series of goat-trails linked by native villages perched in small valleys in the mountains, which collectively became known as the Kokoda Track.  This took the Allies by surprise as MacArthur thought it militarily impossible!

One of my Bren gunners above is still in his North African battledress which is totally wrong for the scenario but he's such a nice figure, I thought' what the heck' - I can always do with an extra Bren - next to a Vickers, the heaviest weapon the Australians possessed.

I was fortunate to have grown up in New Guinea and even walked a part of the track as a Boy Scout (OK - it was the very last bit - but it still counts!)  Our soldiers were legends to us even then - everybody knew the story of Kokoda.   The unbelievable heat and humidity , the clouds of flies and mozzies and being soaked to the skin all the time and at night, being in the mountains, its bloody cold.

It is exhausting just to walk a few hours when you're young and fit.  These guys carried everything they needed including their weapons and ammo and marched for days on end just to get where they needed to be.   I am awed by what they achieved.   It was men like these, citizen soldiers and volunteers all, who inflicted the first defeat of Japanese land forces in WWII.

The campaign starts with the first serious encounter at Oiva on the northern side of the Owen Stanleys.  Templeton and his men, already exhausted after over a week trekking over the mountains, have laid a series of ambushes of the Japanese advance parties.  Ambush, then fall back to the next position and repeat.  After days of vicious fighting trying to hold the Japanese off - by this time he was encountering battalion-sized forces coming against him - his tiny force, with 'walking' wounded and everyone sick with malaria, dengue fever and dysentery, were by now in desperate need of reinforcement.   Finally the numbers began to tell and with the Japanese advancing rapidly, Templeton was faced with no choice but to dig in.

This is the first battle of the campaign we are going to game this weekend.  In the historical one, the gallant and respected Templeton was killed.  Hopefully we can repeat history without that disastrous outcome.  We shall see.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Kaiserliks

 Austrian Advance Guard consisting of Uhlans, Grenzer & Hungarian infantry

 Relaxing after finishing my uni work, I decided that I needed to re-train myself to draw.  Its been a while and I'm a bit rusty so I thought I'd start simple with some of my favourite figures from my favourite Napoleonic army.  I used my figures and some Ottenfeld drawings (my favourite military artist ja!) to try a few rough sketches.

The first is a grenadier in his famous fanteul - 'armchair' bearskin.  Its not a patch on Herr Ottenfeld's but perhaps its captured something of a 'German' grenadier of the period.

All grenadier companies (two per regiment) were put together in converged brigades as part of the Reserve Division, together with the heavy cavalry (usually Kuirassier) and positional artillery (usually 12 pdrs).  As the Austrian army didn't have elite formations, in a sense these grenadier units were it.

Advance Div 1809 (at least two more Gren 'divisions' for another bde required)

I did a few more sketches, the one that I think turned out best (next to the grenadier) was one of an Austrian 'German' fusilier.  He's wearing the leather helmet with woolen 'caterpillar' crest, brought in from 1798 to replace the old leather casket type cap.  These were all eventually replaced by the shako as they thought the helmet too expensive.  The Hungarian regiments got their shakos first, so that by 1809, most were wearing them but the German regiments still had their helmets with some regiments like Deutschmeister, holding onto theirs long after the others had replaced them with shakos.
Our 'Kaiserlik' was part of two field battalions - the third being a depot or training battalion - forming a 'German' regiment, two of which formed a brigade (two brigades, standard line division).  Nominal paper strength was 4,575 men with a wartime establishment of 230 men and 4 officers per company (6 companies per bttn) although the usual muster strength was around 180 per company in practice.  This naturally shrunk alarmingly through attrition in the field.  By the time of Wagram, after a few months campaigning, many companies were about 60-80 men. 

Line Division with attached Jaeger battalion and div artillery (6 or 9 pdrs)

The Austrians never had light companies in their line regiments, but separate light infantry regiments - not to be confused with the Grenzer or Border regiments, who also used to act as light infantry (although less so as the wars progressed).  A Jaeger regiment of three battalions of six companies was formed in 1801 to replace the light infantry. By 1808 it was expanded to nine 'divisions' each of six companies.  These divisions were spread throughout the line formations and with the specialist Advance Guard Division.   I tried sketching a Jaeger but he didn't turn out that well so I'll have to try again sometime.

Light Cavalry Division with attached battery (6 pdrs) - the Austrians didn't have horse artillery

I do like my Austrian army which I will have to get back into action again soon!  

I've also been toying with the idea of a uniform guide for the Austrians that will be a bit more practical than the very historically based Ospreys. If I did it it would be aimed specifically at wargamers to provide all the basic information needed to collect and paint an Austrian army. But I wonder if anybody would want one? Got to practice my drawing though - its still a bit shaky after such a long absence.

Well, that's about it for now. I've just been modeling and base-coating my French hussars and will have to get stuck into them next.

Auf Wiedersehen Meine Liebchen - Fur Gott, Kaiser und Vaterland!


Friday, October 15, 2010

WWII Early War Skirmish Game

Been having a few issues with Blogger recently.  The photos last posted don't allow the enlargement option when they are captioned.  I've tried a number of solutions including re-posting and have just given up - too much of a PITA problem.  Very frustrating.

Best solution is another post!

Finished my last uni essay (yaaay!!!) and although at home with the dreaded lurgy at the moment, have enough energy to drag myself to the computer and post something.  So here goes...

Recently I had the good fortune to drop round to a mate's place and have a WWII skirmish game.  The rules were the delightfully titled 'Disposable Heroes & Coffin For Seven Brothers'.   This last bit is based on the derisive label given by Soviet tankers on the US Lend Lease Lee-Grant tanks provided in 1942.   Bloody ingrates I say.  But they were very average tanks - US and Brits just couldn't design a decent tank, unlike the Germans and Russians.

Anyway, I digress - the game!

The scenario was an early war one pitting three German infantry squads and a tank platoon (37mm Czech tankettes actually) against two French infantry and one heavy weapons/anti-tank squads hidden in a village (the infantry), a low hill (the heavy mortar) and a forest (two 25mm pop-guns).  There are reasons that infantry doctrine calls for attackers to outnumber entrenched defenders by a minimum of three-to-one, which we kinda overlooked in this scenario, but I'll come to that later.

This is the French infantry installing itself in the town, hvy M/gun behind a roadblock.  Interesting thing is the amount and quality of weaponry available to the French infantry.  In addition to the Hotchkiss for the M/gun squad, there is this thing called a Berthier - which is kinda like a Bren gun on steroids.  To my surprise the French were easily as well equipped as the Germans, which makes you wonder why they didn't do as well in combat...  but we won't go there OK?

To the left of the village is the hill with my mortar team behind it and a spotter on it!

To the left of them was the forest with two brand new (nice and silver) 25mm anti-tank guns.  OK - they weren't painted but hey, the guys are starting out with this gaming and at the moment I have nothing to contribute (although that may change after last weekend!)

The action started with one German squad taking shelter behind a tank as the mortar zeroed in on the advance.  Once you've successfully zeroed in you don't have to continually roll to do so unless you change target - so look out!  Getting caught out in the open is a real bugger!  My friend's finger is pointing to where the next round is about to land.  Achtung! - that's gotta hurt!

The action hots up in town.  A German hvy m/gun squad is caught out in the open trying to make an end-run around the other (undefended) side of the town.  A reasonably fatal move that proved to be as suicidal as it looks.  We used the 'smoke' cotton wool to mark who just fired each turn.  Once they left the shelter of the trees, the remaining German infantry were neither numerous enough or quick enough to cover the open ground to the nearest building without being cut down.  The m/gun squad got pinned down in the open before they got halfway.  The best idea would have been to go back, but in the 'heat of battle' and everything, once the German's got their blood up, there was no stopping them.  Except a few hundred rounds from a concealed Hotchkiss that is...

Meanwhile, on the other side of town the French 25mm guns get stuck into the German tanks and come under fire themselves - the dice represent the number of hits the Germans got on them - that's 'hits' not damage!  The heroic French mortar had cleaned up the better part of two squads and looking for gainful employment, were lobbing rounds at the tanks.  Not as futile an exercise as you'd think - if you manage a hit you can do some real damage as it'll be the engine bay or top of turret where the armour is thinner.  Penetration with a HE round can be quite nasty.

In the end the little anti-tank pop-guns acquitted themselves well, eventually knocking out two of the tanks and damaging/immobilizing a third for the loss of one or two gun crew.  French pop-guns against German ones really - but that's early WWII for you!

Gotcha!  We used a bit of blacked cotton wool to indicate a 'brewed-up' tank.  This was the platoon commander's tank which was immobilised by having a track blown off in the previous turn.  If fact in over four turns he was hit so many times, with three rounds penetrating (two of them through the turret!), that we nicknamed him 'Feldwebel Shiessenhosen'.  But being typical Germans, rather than abandon the tank once it was stopped (as most Allied crews do) they keep firing as long as the ammo lasts - even Sergeant Fudgie-pants.  The fourth round to penetrate was deemed to have pinged around inside, quietened the crew down a bit and set fire to something.  Eine Panzer Kaput, ja?

It takes a bit to get used to the system for armoured warfare but it makes sense and once you do, the fun really begins.  First time you have to roll to acquire the target, then to hit it (subsequently, once 'zeroed in' only to hit thereafter).  If you manage a hit, you then roll to see where it struck and what effect it had (did it penetrate or go 'ping!'?)  Finally, you roll for damage.

Here's the interesting thing about early war - both the French guns and the German's (or so I'm told) used only solid shot.  A shaped piece of solid steal fired at high velocity - little different in principle to the Napoleonic era!  Sabot ammo only came in waaay after 1940.  Only artillery (and mortars!) had HE (and German 88's - we should have given them one for the scenario).  So the Germans firing on a house was useless as the shot would just knock a few bricks out and usually passed through the building.  So unless you were very unlucky, hiding from German tanks in a building wasn't a bad idea.

Being our first experience with the rules, we took our time and tried a few things.  One of them was to introduce a British Matilda tank with 87mm(!!) armour and an obsolete 2 pdr gun (which also only fired solid shot) - which unfortunately I didn't manage a photo of (apologies for the slight burring but me tripod's broken!)  So here's a picture of a much nicer Matilda from Tamiya (from the Scale Model News site - nice job guys!)

As you can imagine, the 37mm rounds from the two remaining German tanks just bounced off. All except one that is, which blew off a tread and was judged to have penetrated the thin armour behind the tracks rather than ping off somewhere.  Well, the noise certainly put the wind up the driver and as they were no longer going forward, the crew failed their 'gut check' (morale in these rules) - which is rolled for after each successful hit by the enemy.  They decided to abandon their behemoth, leave it to the tank-recovery-johnny's and go and have a nice spot of tea to steady the nerves!

All in all, tremendous fun and once we'd worked our way through the rules and associated reference books for weapons and their effects, the game went quite smoothly.  Nice way to spend an afternoon and take a break from writing turgid uni essays!  The boys are all excited about 'Seven Brothers' now and want to do Japanese vs Australians in New Guinea next (bags not doing the terrain!)

Anyway, WWII 28mm skirmishing - highly recommended!


Monday, October 11, 2010

More from Doc's cabinet

Had to do a huge clean out and dusting which provided an excuse for some more shots of the figures in my cabinet. Its between half and two-thirds of the 25/28mm figure collection.  I really should have bought another cabinet when I had the opportunity - and you didn't need to take out another mortgage to get one!

The Austrians shelf - Archduke Charles and his lads
The other side of the shelf - Austrian Line Division
The lower section of the cabinet - Polish Commonwealth army (circa 1640s)
Thirty Years war German Imperialist Pike & Shot
One of my favourite TYW figures - Prince Rupert: 'So, vair ist mein poodle?'
The bottom shelf - Franco Prussian War French - Zouave & Line Bdes, battery with Mitrailleuse
French 2nd Empire Line Bttn - Foundry and (Australian) Castaway figures
Bit of an eclectic collection but all fun to game with.  I'm in the process of doing a FPW Prussian army to go with the French - nearly finished the cav and artillery, just a horde of Landser (German footsloggers) and command to go.  And then there was my Minifig's Napoleonic Poles - over 70 foot and 40 cav and looking to do a battery - if I can find some small guns to fit the 'true 25mm' Minifigs. 

Couple of days to finish off my last uni essay and I'll be able to get stuck into the real work!


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Figures from Doc's cabinet

I'm afraid that spider post is giving me the creeps so I found some shots I took of the collection in the cabinet when I did the wargamer's equivalent of 're-arranging the sock drawer'.  Frankly it needed it badly.

First cab off the rank are the Bavarians - well one regiment of them at any rate.  I had to remove the figures cabinet from the family room, where it served a useful purpose embarrassing my children by constantly reminding them what a nerd their Old Man is, to the slightly less obvious place in the old lounge room. 

This required removing hundreds of figures and cleaning all the dust off the cabinet shelves etc, then re-packing those shelves with a slightly different display.  The whole exercise took bleedin' hours and I was so glad to finish I got the camera out and took some pictures.  As you do of course.

This shot is of the Berg Lancers next to the Bavarians.  They are slightly converted Elite figures who absolutely tower over the old Foundry Bavarians next to them, the latter having positively Teletubby-like proportions and stature in comparison.  The lancer pennants are my own, made using the colour printer at home and a bit of PVA glue for a nice wavy effect - "Vive l'Empreur!"

Above, my first French (foot) artillery battery with really nice Foundry crews and Old Glory guns and limber just behind.  Bit of a scratch built outfit but at the time I wasn't allowed to spend the kid's inheritance to buy a proper one!

My massed Russians, mainly Front Rank & Foundry with a regt each of Elite Hussars and Dragoons.  I really like the FR artillery and because they didn't produce one, I scratch built a limber with Old Glory and an Elite artilleryman as the horse holder.  Apologies for the slightly blurred photography, must have imagined 'Boris' scuttling across the ceiling above me.

Last but not least, my Austrian cav in action "Vorwarts Meine Kinder!" - on a tabletop somewhere.

These are my Elite figure hussars, when I had a full regiment.  They are supported by some Dixon(?) dragoons behind and some Russian jaeger in front trying not to be ridden over.  Alas most rode off into glory and somebody else s' collection [sigh]  Just have to collect them again - you can't 'ave a decent Austrian army wiffout 'ussars!

So, maybe a bit pedestrian and indulgent even for this blog BUT better than pictures of 'airy great spiders, I'm sure you'll agree!


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Nothing to do with miniatures - introducing a hairy-legged Aussie battler called 'Boris'

Having read a few posts recently replete with photos of various wildlife that have ventured close to the family home, much to the entertainment of a few bloggers, after experiencing a close encounter of my own tonight, I thought I'd share.

You will find below a photo of an arachnid I have dutifully christened 'Boris', as in Boris the Spider (as in the old Who song).  I may have been doing Boris a disservice with the name as I'm reasonably sure 'he' is a 'she'.  Either way, it matters not for, as you can see, Boris is one effin' big spider.

The pulley wheel Boris is resting on (rather a more 'en garde'  pose actually - the camera was about a foot away!) is on a weights machine in my garage and is about 6 inches  in diameter (a tad over 150mm).  When I first discovered my hairy friend, he virtually covered it.  The body is roughly about the size and length of my thumb (2 1/2 inches long and an inch wide).  In length that's about 65mm or over double the size of a Victrix grenadier, and we all know how big they are!

To demonstrate, I tend the following - part of my outstretched hand to compare Boris against.

Imagine that one running up your arm boys and girls - what a simultaneously sphincter-clenching and bladder-loosening moment that would be!

There's no false bravado here - Boris might 'arc-up' is approached too closely but he will not jump at you and Huntsmen spiders are quite harmless (unlike their equally hairy and large Wolf spider cousins).  They will give you a bite - I can attest as one female ingrate fanged me when I removed her from inside the house to a much more spider-friendly environment in a bush outside.  Last time I ever brought myself to actually handle one - now its the old piece of card and glass jar trick every time.  You may find this hard to believe but it is very beneficial environmentally to have them around - they do keep flies and other bugs down. 

Some of you will have heard the stories about Australian wildlife and while some are true, most are hugely exaggerated - I haven't ridden my pet kangaroo to work or fought off a Great White shark in the surf for ages.  But the spiders... yep, its all true.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Italian Brigade

I posted some time ago that the 60 figures in the Victrix French Infantry 1807-1812 box made it virtually a 'brigade-in-a-box'.  I decided turning all of them into Italians. I finally finished the other half of the box.  There are plenty of spare bits and command figures so that I was able to made three separate regimental command stands and enough commands for no less than five 12-figure battalions.  I have to say, I am impressed by what you can get out of box of Victrix figures. A very cheap way to build an army and they are very nicely done figures to boot.

The only criticisms I have are the size (scale creep got mad - they are virtually 30mm figures, definitely NOT 28s!) and the overly slender muskets and bayonets which have a nasty habit of breaking off.  The good news is of course, being HD plastic, they are very repairable - if you can find where that skinny bit that snapped off when to! Modeling tip: for those of us used to superglue - don't bother. You will get a far superior result with quicker bonding using proper plastic model cement. I used Revell that comes with that long slender applicator spout thingy and swear by it - not at it.

In setting up the brigade I tried to be as flexible as possible with the basing as with light plastic figures, re-basing is really not an option. So apart from the command stands, most are the 45x20 two-figure bases.  I've also used some of the 60mm ones that come with the Perry's boxes for three-figures stands which have free standing singles to add (or not) as you please.  What I ended up with was five 12-figure battalions: two Cacciatore (Italian Legere equivalents); two line and one grenadier battalions.  By taking away command stands these can be re-configured into regiments or even at 1:20 scale a single 40 figure battalion with two 8-figure elite companies for really, really big hairy chested Black Powder gaming!

As I have already used the kneeling figures for skirmisher stands, I decided to do an entire light infantry unit - the Cacciatores - the Italian version of the Legere.

As you can see I used a few Perry heads to add further variety.  I know I've posted it before but the Grenadier command is a favourite of mine and now with the second regiment completed I have enough figures for a converged grenadier battalion.  I think the Victrix grenadiers are great figures to make up.

I must say, the figures en masse  have turned out better than I hoped.  I don't think the size will made that much of a difference on the table - they mix in with Perry's 28s quite well (must remember not to put the Italian grenadiers next to the French cuirassiers though!).

1st Battalione, 2nd Regimente in column.

Must away now as the Memsahib (She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed) is on the warpath as in the aftermath of finishing my Italians, the study is not up to her exacting standard of cleanliness and hygiene and I fear violence may ensue if I don't get off the computer.  This will be my last posting for a few weeks as I also have one last uni essay to write.  After that, hopefully the French hussars (or Carabinier or...)
Ciao for now,