Sunday, June 10, 2018

Chinese Sd.Kfz 221 and T-26

As my Chinese forces are now seeing more Bolt Action WW2 games rather than Back of Beyond, I figured it was time to upgrade their vehicles. Luckily Warlord had a sale a while back, so I picked up their 1/56 Sd.Kfz 221 armored car and T-26 light tank.

The resin body of the Sd.Kfz 221 was well cast, but I had some issues with the metal wheels not lining up evenly on the pegs, so it wobbles a bit on the table.  However, I don't think it's very noticeable when looking at it. I went with the historical grey color as seen on Tank Encyclopedia, but took a few liberties with the decal placement.

The T-26 resin elements required a fair amount of clean up (particularly the treads and the underside of the turret), but once that was done everything went together quite well. The treads are shared with the Vickers 6-ton model, so you will need to fill in the headlight holes on the front fenders.The paint scheme again follows the one presented on Tank Encyclopedia, though I have added a Chinese number 9 to the side, as it originally looked a bit dull.

Overall, these were quick to paint up and I'm happy with the final results.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Chinese Hutong Shops in 28mm

Over the last year other projects took priority over my working on the hutong, but this year my primary hobby focus will be on adding more blocks to this project.

Inspired by the photo below from the Battle of Shanghai, I decided to build a commercial section for the next block. 

Since I didn't provide a lot of construction details on the last block, I'll do my best to walk you through my build process this time. First off is mapping out the building layouts on the base, in this case a 10" x 10" (25x25cm) section of foam core board. I prefer foam core for bases as I think it's sturdier and lest likely to break than plain high density foam.  However, for the buildings themselves I still recommend Woodland Scenics 1/4" modelling sheets (Item #C1176).  I've never managed to find a piece of foam core completely free of warping, so I do my best to keep the flattest section towards the front.

As with earlier builds, I'm texturing this project using OO scale sheets from Scalescenes enlarged to 120%. Currently I'm using glue sticks to hold everything down, as I found it tends to minimize swelling and bubbling of the paper.  I'll have to see how study the glue is over time.

As I'm free cutting all the pieces rather than using something fancy like a laser cutter, I tend to cut the pieces for one building at a time and assemble it before moving to the next adjoining building. This gives me to opportunity adjust measurements to accommodate the errors and irregularities that creep into my cuts. I use standard white glue for assembly and hold everything in place with small clamps while the building drys. 

Most of the architectural elements are printed images pasted on to art board, but some things such as railing would be difficult to cut, so I use plastic elements as appropriate.  This railing is from Grandt Line's O Scale range (Item # 3555).  

To avoid unsightly white areas and paper edges that could start peeling, I recommend painting the foam edges an appropriate color and them folding the paper over the sides where feasible.

To help with the paper application and folding, I recently picked up this decoupage set which is working well. The roller removes air bubbles and bumps when applying the paper, and the rubber edging tool lets me firmly press the paper down in tight corners. The only warning I would give is that the the red roller bled onto some of the paper (not sure if there was some sort of manufacturing residue still on it), so I would wash the roller with soap and water before use.  Sadly, I learned this the hard way and ended up with some reddish streaks on the sidewalks that I had to try to touch up with paint.  

Here's a close up of some edge folds and an overlay on the outer corner of the wall to hide the seam. Some of the faint red tinting from the roller can also been seen on the sidewalk next to it.

I originally planned to have two trees along the side of the red brick building, but during construction I realized it would be too bulky, so decided I needed another element and went with a newsstand. I found the below photo from the late 1940's and thought it was a good starting point. 

I wanted the racks to have a little depth to them, so I printed out multiple copies, glued them to some thin card, and randomly cut along the edges of the periodicals. Since I didn't want each rack to look identical, I also glued some individual magazines and newspapers to the various layers. To complete the newsstand, I printed out some Chinese newspapers that could be folded and stacked on the ground around the stand.

And now the final block. For the main street, I've got two, 2-story shops with a tree to the side.  The tree base is used to hide the seam in the sidewalk where the brick direction changes. 

The right side hosts another shop and the small newsstand. Upon completion, the roof of the newsstand ended up looking too low, but I didn't think it was worth the potential damage to the red brick building to rip it down and rebuild it. 

The left side has another small shop and a wall covered in advertising and propaganda posters, including the Shanghai Coca-Cola sign.

I had originally planned to include a small gate at the alleyway entrance, but felt it might be tricky to get enough clearance with the roof lines so I opted to leave it open. I might eventually add some boxes, but didn't currently have anything in my collection that looked appropriate.

As with the last block, the roofs can be removed to access the interiors. I contemplated added upper floors, but felt it was going to be too difficult to take them out and in during a game.

Finally, just a few close ups of the individual shops.  First up is a tailor/clothing shop with an apartment upstairs. 

A Muslim Chinese restaurant. The potted plants are N Scale trees inserted into some jewelry beads from the craft store.




The majority of the advertising and architectural elements seen here can be found online or with my other blog entries, but the Coca-Cola sign was created new for this build.  As such, I'm including a copy here for personal use. 

I had really hoped this block would go a lot faster than the first one, but it still took me almost 6 weeks to complete. As such, I think a town of any significant size (I'd like at least 6 blocks) is going to take until the end of the year to complete, so we'll see if my interest holds firm or if other shiny projects get me distracted in the mean time.  

Overall, I am happy with how this block turned out and I'm looking forward to getting it on the gaming table.

Monday, February 5, 2018

IJA Officers and Weapons Teams

My Imperial Japanese Army for China moves closer to completion with some command, weapons teams, and artillery.  All figures are from Warlord's Bolt Action line.

First up are the headquarters figures, lead by Colonel Baron Nishi.  This is a well sculpted and cast figure and surprisingly matches up fairly closely in size with my Copplestone Chinese general (the Copplestone figures tend to run larger). The rest of the figures run smaller, so I've opted to pad the bases a bit as usual.

Baron Nishi

Officers on foot

Kempeitai officer and medic

The infantry officer bodies are also well done, but I find the sculpting of the heads in the Warlord range to be a mixed bag, particularly those wearing caps (see the Kempeitai officer for one of the poorer ones). The figures all use the separate head system, so at least you can mix them up between packs and get some additional variety.

Next up are flamethrower and sniper teams. They fight as two man teams, so I've opted to use a single base for each team. For the snipers, I've gone with camouflaged helmets that I bought separately instead of the included heads. 


The upright sniper has a somewhat unnatural squatting pose, but I think the final team looks fine.

Finally, there is a Type 91 105mm howitzer with crew and an observer.  The observer again has a strange squat pose like he needs to relieve himself, but what are you going to do.  

The field gun itself is a massive beast that barely fits on a 6x9 cm base.  Assembly was fairly straight forward if you follow Warlord's online instructions.  

For me, the trickiest part of this was trying to texture the base with all the figures that need to be added. I ended up adding a few figures at a time, texturing and painting the ground as I worked front to back. There are a few spots where you can see the figures' bases,but I don't think it's too noticeable on casual inspection.

At this stage I just have a last infantry squad and a medium machine gun left, so looking forward to wrapping things up and trying them out against my Chinese nationalists.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Death in the Dark Continent: First Game and Impressions

My gaming group has been regular users of Chris Peers' "In The Heart of Africa" and "Contemptible Little Armies" rules for our Africa games, and we've found them to be quite enjoyable for our casual get togethers. With North Star releasing his new "Death in the Dark Continentrule set, we wanted to see if it brought anything new to the table.

For our first trial game, Steve and I tried a clash of two European forces: British and French.  We went with the basic "Pitched Battle" scenario to be fought over a jungle outpost. The scenario description says that bases can be placed anywhere up to 6" of the opposing table edge, so we both decided to deploy around the middle of the table.

Steve won the dice role for initiative, and placed his French in the village while I did my best to surround them.

 The British askari charged the French tirailleurs holding the trading outpost, but were pushed back and received 2 disorder markers.

Meanwhile, the British soldiers moved in on the left to threaten the French baggage, while Sikhs moved in on the right behind the outpost.

The askari and Sikhs opened fire on the tirailleurs and failed to eliminate any bases, but managed to cause some disorder. The 1st legionnaire squad began firing at the Sikhs, while the 2nd legionnaire squad moved to protect their baggage from the advancing British.

The askari and tirailleurs continued their exchange of gunfire at the trading outpost, with neither side managing to dislodge one another. Meanwhile, the Sikhs changed targets and charged the 1st squad of legionnaires.  Their action was unsuccessful and they were forced to retreat. 

On the other side of the village, the 2nd legionnaire squad and the British unleashed a hail of bullets at each other.

Shooting continued for another round and though no bases were lost, the disorder markers continued to pile up.

 The 1st legionnaire squad finally launched a counter-charge against the Sikhs, but after a short stalemate they were pushed back.

The 2nd legionnaire squad and the British exchanged another round of fire, with the British eventually deciding to take cover behind the huts and move into position to support the asakri advance towards the tirailleurs.

The Sikhs eventually managed to eliminate a base of  legionnaires while the askari overran and slaughtered the tirailleurs.

At this stage we decided to call it a British victory and end the game.

So our thoughts on the rules:

  • The production value is top notch, with beautiful pics, extensive army lists, and a lot of historical reference.  And it's well indexed with quick reference sheets to boot!
  • It generally plays similarly to his previous rules, with the major difference being the use of multi-figure bases instead of individual figures. We didn't want to rebase out figures, so used 2x1 movement trays from Warbases. The larger bases did cause us some confusion in determining how to draw line of sight for shooting, but we later got some clarity from the Facebook group (2 corners of a base need to be visible to the attacking unit).
  • Our impression is that morale breaks are what is going to win or lose combats much more so that base loss. In our game, only 2 bases were lost to critical hits.
  • There are a lot of dice modifiers for the shooting and melee (16 each, both additive and subtractive!) that really slowed the attacks as we tried to work out the math. I think this is the weakest part of the new rules and it would have been better if they had fewer modifiers and and had stuck with either additive or subtractive instead of mixing in both.  Or perhaps they could better organize them to help with improving the processing speed.
  • For close combat, the unit sizes don't actually play a role in any of the above modifiers, which we found rather odd. It will be interesting to play again with natives to see if this confers any advantages to to either side.
Final verdict: While solid, we weren't really sold that the rules are a significant improvement over Chris Peers' other rule sets. It seemed more like a variation on a theme, with some things working better and some less so. If you've already invested in the other rules and army books, I'm not sure this would be worth picking up.  However, if you're just starting out in African gaming, this would be a good purchase, as the rules include all the army lists and histories, plus a bonus big game hunting set of rules.