Saturday, March 23, 2013

Common sense has prevailed - some more Napoleonic French cavalry!

I recently received my mega-order of mostly Napoleonic figures from Perry's - my retirement present to myself ;-)  (Hey - at least I get what I actually wanted!)  Despite my oft-indulged obsession with Napoleonic cavalry I was very restrained and only ordered one full cavalry regiment (Austrian hussars) but naturally also had to get some French, so I got a pack of Dutch Guard 'Red Lancers' to finish off Guard Eclairer unit as well as the command and elites for a regiment of Line Chasseurs.

The newly re-constituted 24th Chasseurs d'Ligne (Marbot's mob!)

Putting aside several body-weights of unpainted lead I immediately started on my French cavalry figures as I had an unfinished regiment of Line Chasseurs (Old Glory figures) for which I had an Elite command that didn't blend in very well being huge figures.  This little problem has now been solved with the Perry's version of the same.  As you can see they fit in quite well with the Old Glory figs. Apart from the horses (which are a bit average) the OG figures are nicely animated with good pose variety and crisp detail which makes them easy to paint - and they must be nearly 20 years old!

The Perry's Chasseur command and elite company
To be frank, the quality control on the Perry's isn't what is used to be earlier.  There is a lot of flash and some  weak casting points - particularly on the horses very slender ankles and where they join the bases - which can be very bendy and could easily snap off.  A friend of mine actually sent his entire order back because of the lousy quality of the casting and this specific problem. Fortunately after a bit of file and snips-work they all prepped for painting without too much fuss.  I also added a few blobs of super-glue to the offending joins to strengthen them before painting, just to be on the safe side.

Detail of the officer who sports a slightly taller cylindrical shako.  Many  Chasseur officers also wore the  furry kolpak  favoured by the elite squadron and continued to do so long after they were phased out.
The elites in their I'm-too-sexy-for-my-kolpak headgear!
From a sculpting perspective, the horses are superb and figures beautifully detailed as you'd expect from the Perrys. Although I didn't go as far as painting the eyeballs on the men (my eyeballs just aren't up to it much nowadays!) I did spend some time blending colours, highlighting and detailing to get a good finish on them.

The Perry's Line Chasseur elite and command sets finished
 I tried a slightly different approach to the finishing.  Instead of using the usual ruinously expensive and wasteful spray can of matte varnish, I painted Jo Sonja's polyurethane water-based version of the same.  This is an artist's acrylic varnish that also does the trick.  The water clean up afterwards is a bonus!  Mixed with the same brand of flow medium (which doesn't dilute the varnish) it will also go through most airbrushes so you can spray it on exactly where you want it.  I intend to use this when I have a lot of figures to do.  I am impressed with Jo Sonja's, its as good as the Windsor& Newton's version and really enhances the colours, going on nice and thin without  the pooling and satiny finish you can get with a spraycan varnish.

A stand of the Old Glory figures.  The horses are a little bit cartoon-ish but otherwise a great figure - I love the trooper with the bandaged head!
The Old Glory figures only required a few touch-ops with silver chin-scales instead of brass, that sort of thing. I was going to change the colour of the jackets but in the end didn't bother as the difference with the olive green ones on the Perry's was negligible. With the olive green (which is closer to the actual French Chasseur green) I used a Super Black Wash over the top to darken it and give a real depth to the colour.  I'm a big fan of washes, they go on easy and really make a figure appearance 'pop' with a bit of highlighting.

Well that's it for this post - after all the Franco-Prussian Wars then Bolt Action stuff, I felt it high time I got back to my figure collecting and wargaming roots - any excuse to paint up French cav right?  Down at t'cloob we also have a Napoleonic BlackPowder game booked in.  French and their Italian and Bavarian allies versus Austrians with maybe a brigade of Russians helping out.  Should be a lot of fun.  We also have a Crete 1941 game on as well, so I might post on that one first.  I'll have to see how it all goes, meanwhile there is a mountain of lead to paint! Such is the life of a (temporary) retiree!

            Doc the Pensioner

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bolt Action Battle of the Paras #2

It appears the wargaming world has gone nuts over Bolt Action skirmish games.  And we of the local Gentlemen Wargamers group in Canberra are no exception!  Last weekend was a steaming hot Autumn day in our nation's capital best spent inside a luxurious sports club with acres of tables and a wet bar!  And (although our spouses may take issue with this) - no finer way to spend a bucolic Sunday!

Andrew, Doug and myself decided to try an ambitious 2000 points a side game between our US and German para forces using Scenario 1 'Envelopment', adapted to northern Italy in 1944.  The Germans fielded a nasty recce force mounted in Hanomags with a halftrack recce (SdKfz 250/9) mounting a 20mm auto canon as well as my colourful Autoblinda Italian job also with a 20mm gun. The infantry force was Company A of the 12th Fallschirmjaeger Regt. under the veteran Hauptman Deitrich (in his own command 250/5 Hanomag) in two reinforced platoons consisting of four sections each with 2 x SMGs, an assault rifle, LMG and two Panzerfausts for good measure!  They were in turn supported by a Forward Air Observer (coordinating a Stuka strike), a light mortar, MMG, Panzerbusche 41 AT (28mm squeezebore gun) Flamenwerfer and sniper teams however the piece d'resistance was the attached Tiger 1 heavy tank.

The first section of German paras dismount from their Hanomag and advance cautiously on the village, also supported by the 250/9 recce halftrack
Opposing this force was Doug's 3rd Bttn, 504th Parachute Regt. under Captain Fellows consisting of two reinforced platoons of two and three sections similarly armed to the teeth like their German counterparts. Supporting them was a 60mm light mortar, two 30, Cal MMGs, a flamethrower and two bazooka teams as well as a 57mm medium AT gun. US armour was one M3 halftrack and a 76mm Sherman. Plenty of nastiness to throw at the Germans! Also proving to be very useful for the Americans was their own FAO and attached medic.

Contact! The US paras in and between the houses open up, pinning the Germans in the vineyard.  To help them out the supporting MG provides covering fire, only to find itself targeted by a sniper in one of the buildings opposite
As the attackers, the German objective was to destroy all US units on their side of the table and/or get at least one unit off the edge of the American side of the table.  As defenders the US objective was similarly to stop all German units from reaching the edge on the US side and/or get one of their own to the German side.  Both sides started cautiously, being a bit hard to disguise a Tiger, everything of Doug's was hidden with all his numerous ATs with ambush orders.  The Germans had to choose between an 'up the guts' charge through the middle (hoping one unit would make it to snatch victory) or to smoke out the Yanks and all their traps awaiting the German armour.  Despite being armed with a Tiger, I chose the latter.  Smart move as it turned out.  Having an extra unit of infantry up his sleeve meant that Doug's men could occupy just about every patch of wood and building in and around the village - I just had to winkle out and dispose of enough of them to allow me to make the US end of the table by Turn 6.  Tiger awesomeness notwithstanding, it was going to be no easy task as the US also had the advantage of two airstrikes with the greatly feared Jabos (German slang for fighter bombers).

Achtung! Tiger vorwarts!  The Tiger, command Hanomag and  Kettenkrad towed AT gun deploy just south of the town, screened by the small wood in front.  The Americans opened up on the Tiger with everything they had right from the start - except for the timid Sherman, which refused to come on for some reason! 
I advanced one platoon up the left side, the other up right with my Tiger up the middle. American firing from the woods next to the village soon attracted the Tiger's attention and it started pumping HE rounds and MG fire into anything that looked like it hid an American!

The Americans were understandably reluctant to reveal themselves for as soon as they did it attracted the unwanted attentions of Mr Tiger!

Having such a beastly weapon like a Tiger tank on your side would, you'd think, make it a pretty uneven contest and they are a very tough beast to kill but the Americans had a great many things which they could use to counter it.  The most threatening among them was the air strike from their fighter bombers.  Given US air superiority in the theatre, the US had two such strikes available to the German's one - probably should have had a third but I'm glad they didn't!  The first strike soon proved the effectiveness of US airpower by an Aircobra strafing the road my paras were moving up, causing mayhem in the German column ('Jabo fear' being very similar to Germans as 'Tiger fear' was to the Americans!) and taking out my colourful Italian Autoblinda before it had a chance to get involved (or engage it's reverse gear!)

Achtung Jabo!!!
Doug's first Aircobra strafes the German column moving up the road, paying particular attention to the armoured car
Autoblinda Kaput!
 The Germans had lost their first AV, stalling the advance on the left at the same time that on the right was also stalled, having extricate itself from the vineyard and into some decent cover after the first American ambush (of many) had been sprung by successfully assaulting the first house in the village.  The doors of all the buildings appeared to be facing the street making it impossible to assault without exposing yourself as a target to troops in all the other houses (hmmm, funny that).  Despite the presence of the Tiger, the German attack was repeatedly running into difficulties.  Desperate times call for desperate measures and one of the sections on the left, having survived a strafing, sprinted across the bridge to support the other section stuck at the edge of town.  It was one of those moves which, had it come off, would have covered the young Leutnant leading them in glory and a gong or two.  But it was not to be as they were in plain sight of the Americans who let loose on them, pinned them behind the stone wall on the bridge, eventually destroying most of the unit, with the survivors eventually running for it.

Clearing the village, one house at a time, NOT a recipe  for winning the game!
The Fallschirmjaeger make an ill-fated attempt to dash for the village.  Its as far as they got.  Note the smoke from the burning AC they had to pass to make it onto the bridge.
The trusty mortar helps out again, this time taking out a top floor from where a sniper team had been targeting my MMG. 
The Tiger exacted punishment for the section's destruction, pumping HE and MG fire into every US target that revealed themselves.  One of the most spectacular was a HE round hitting a US section of paras at the far end of the village resulting in no less than twelve D6(!!) with a 5 or 6 to kill.   You'd think that'd be the end of them but with my dice rolling getting worse as the game progressed, I managed just 1 kill.  And a nice section of wall demolished!  The Tiger's first round took out an MG & crew but thereafter it was conspicuous for not doing much at all shooting-wise.  When it came to the German armour, the dice Gods had abandoned me!

US reinforcements arrive.  Commanded by Captain Courageous, they and the 30. Cals on the halftrack put paid to any German ambitions to circumvent the village (and all its many ambushes awaiting), permanently stalling the German attack on the right
A Tiger HE round goes off right in the middle of the squad.  Miraculously only one man was killed.   The squad suffered another hit from the 20mm on the German recce halftrack which caused  more than twice the casualties
The recalcitrant Sherman finally makes an appearance to help out the long suffering AT gun
At this stage Doug's Sherman finally made an appearance. Apparently they finally got their radio to work and let the Captain know they were on their way!  To give them credit, they tried shooting the Tiger and together with the 57mm AT gun, actually hit the Tiger's side armour.  The AT gun's first shot penetrated and caused an engine fire, which made the tank grind to a halt while the crew frantically put it out.  So much for the Tiger rampaging up the middle of the table!  The Tiger's shot back at the Sherman missed - luckily for the Sherman!  The action on this side of the table also featured all the airstrikes, German and US.  The Tiger was strafed but the pilot was a rooky as he didn't manage to use his 500lb bomb or 20mm nose cannon which might have taken out the Tiger like it did my STuG in the previous game.  My Stuka fared little better.  Probably an Italian pilot as my guy showed he didn't know how to fly a dive bomber either and decided to strafe to AT gun.  Did he take out a crew member or just pin them again? I don't know but that was the end of the glorious contribution from Goering's Luftwaffe.  Nice looking plane though.

Achtung! Stuka! (You're a dive bomber - use your bomb idiot!)

The recce halftrack succumbs to another one of the American's many ambushes.  The building to the right is on fire from the Flamenwerfer crew trying to flush out Americans waiting to ambush unsuspecting Jerry AVs.   They obviously missed one of the bazooka crews!  The German snipers on the roof above have with typical Teutonic vindictiveness  just shot the wounded captain with the AT while he is being attended to by the medic - another Purple Heart for the officer (his third?)
Things were getting worse in town too.  The SDKfz 250/9 recce halftrack tried to advance into town but got caught at the end of town with an ambush from one of Doug's bazookas.  He survived the first hit and even managed to get a shot off that did some damage to one of the US para sections at the other end of town but the second shot put paid to that AV.  At the same time the Tiger had recovered from its earlier damage and once more advanced down the middle, with more AP rounds bouncing off its side armour!  At this point both American bazooka teams ran out of the houses to get within close range to put rounds into the only really vulnerable spot on the Tiger - it large metal arse!  WhooshkaBANG!!!  The second round was deemed to have caused a catastrophic explosion in the engine compartment and up she went.  Scratch one Tiger!

Tiger Kaput!
The Command Halftrack goes up - AT round or Sherman - not sure which.  That leaves the other Hanomags, one of which is just avenging the now destroyed Tiger (top left of photo) by gunning down the bazooka teams now caught in the open
My other section on the left flank had now worked their way through the orchard and engaged the US para squad protecting the AT gun and the Sherman, who had just narrowly avoided being fed to the Tiger!  The US paras were outnumbered but bravely charged into the orchard to stop the Germans but to no avail as German firepower was just too overwhelming.  One of the Panzerfausts was then loosed at the Sherman (the only one fired the entire game!) at close range but the Sherman had more lives than a cat and it only managed to ping off the side armour!  On the other side of town the Americans were still tenaciously holding onto the village, still controlling half of it.  The Hauptman's command halftrack was taken out - fortunately the Hauptman and his radioman had dismounted just one turn earlier - but that left just the two Hanomag APCs. With the infantry held up by interminable ambushes, the Hanomag tried to make an end run by cutting across the vineyard.  I can't remember whether the German's had taken out the M3 and its deadly 30 Cals but the move was stopped by the redoubtable US Captain who on his own made two near suicidal attacks on the Hanomag with AT grenades.  The first bounced off (how he escaped injury when it went off virtually at his feet is another story!) but the second was successful, brewing up the Hanomag and its crew.

Captain Courageous attacks with AT grenades - scratch one Hanomag!
With the last turn of the game it didn't look good for the Germans - all AVs save one Hanomag gone, two infantry sections stuck at the wrong end of town, another one destroyed and the other down to less than half strength - just not enough to get around the reluctant Sherman, one(!) surviving AT gun crew, a thrice wounded officer and a medic!  The Kettenkrad and AT gun were next to useless, having been shot at, shelled and strafed, running away, then rallying, only to get back in time to hide in the bushes - so not a chance to get into the US side of the table.  I admit I couldn't see a way out of it as the remaining Hanomag appeared stuck on the road behind the burning Tiger - with a surviving bazooka in the vicinity!  After yet another run of about five US activations, the last activation of the game was German and the Hanomag, being a halftrack, did what halftracks do - went off-road to get around the Tiger.  It had just enough movement on a 'run' using the rest of the road to get off the American side of the table, thereby securing a win for the Germans by the skin of its Teutonic teeth!

So ended yet another Bolt Action game that went down to the wire.  I'm telling ya - ya couldn't have more fun with yer pants on!  Thanks to the boys for another great game, might have to look at collecting an Allied side just so I don't play Jerries all the time (just don't tell She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed!)