Monday, December 21, 2015

Chinese Curtiss Hawk II

With the arms race for our Back of Beyond games continuing, I felt it was time to get some air power for my Chinese forces.  I wanted an aircraft that wouldn't look out of place in the warlord era, but could also serve double duty for early WWII.  As such, I thought a late 20's/early 30's biplane with an open canopy was my best option.  I looked online at the Nationalist's aircraft inventories, and thought a Curtiss Hawk II would fit the bill nicely. The Hawk II was the export model of the Curtiss F11C Goshawk, which was introduced into China in the early 1930's.

The next step was finding one in 1:48 scale. Unfortunately, there are currently none in production, so I had to go to the second hand market. On eBay I found kits from several manufactures, but Lindberg seemed the most common and the cheapest. Old kits can be hit or miss, but I found one for  $15US (including shipping) and thought it was worth taking a shot. Note:  The box calls it a 1/4 kit rather than 1:48.

From the musty smell, yellowing decals, and original $3 price tag, I suspect my kit was produced sometimes in the 60's or 70's.  The kit had been opened and the seller said the stand was missing, but that all the other parts were present. I found that wasn't quite the case, with the pilot and  spreader bars for the support wires also missing (support wires are not included).  However, these were easily dealt with using the bits box.

 The kit itself was actually rather good for wargaming purposes, despite its age. I had no warped parts, the flash was minimal, and everything seemed to fit rather nicely. The details aren't really on par with modern kits (for example, the cockpit just consisted of a simple chair), but there is enough to look good on the table. I can't comment on the accuracy compared to the real thing, but again, it will look good on the table.

The build was relatively straight forward, and I liked that the wings came in upper and lower halves, allowing me to hide the terminus for each wire within the wings. The only really tricky part was adding the spreader bar to the wires. However, it was more of a modelling challenge than an act of frustration.

As my kit had decals for an American navy craft, I had to track down some Chinese decals. Nobody is currently making Hawk II decals in this scale, but Bestfong produces 1:48 Gloster Gladiator decals that work.  The aircraft number will now obviously be off, but I figure the odds of someone spotting that are pretty small.

The decals are nicely printed but also a bit thicker than I'm used to seeing. As such, I really recommend using Micro Sol or something similar on them as the set in order to help them contour to model.  They are also highly glossy, so you'll need to hit them with some flat finish.  The trickiest items to work with during the application was the tail stripes; they come in two big rectangles that you have to hand cut in order to get the right shape for the rudder. That alone took me almost 20 minutes of work (including some touch up paint), but I am very happy with the outcome.

For the pilot, I used a Copplestone half figure that I had lying around. He's not my favorite out of the the pilot set ( I'm not a fan of the German pilot helmet), but he was the only one I could fit into the cockpit.

I still need to build a flight stand for my Hawk, but have test fitted it to my other one and I think it looks good in the air.

My final verdict is this is a fun, pulpy-looking aircraft that looks great in the Back of Beyond, and the Lindberg kit is a perfect fit for a wargaming model.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

More Flags for the Back of Beyond

 I'm back with another round of flags for Back of Beyond gamers. Part 1 can be found here. Flags are approximately 1 inch tall when printed and saved at 300dpi.  All are free for personal use.

Nepal 1928 (White sections to be cut away)

Korean Provisional Government 1919

British Raj

Waziristan Resistance 1930's

Alash Autonomy 1917-1920

White Russian

Bolshevik 1917

Russian SFSR 1918-1937

Russian SFSR 1937

Soviet Union 1923

Tajik ASSR 1924-1929

Tajik SSR 1929

Kyrgyz SSR 1936

Saturday, November 14, 2015

British Air Support

I am currently expanding my British forces from German East Africa for use in Back of Beyond gaming as well.  The first part of said expansion is a bit of air support for my ground troops.  This particular plane is Bristol F.2B fighter, which replaced the RAF No. 31 Squadron's B.E.2Cs in 1919.

The kit I selected was an out of production Eduard's Weekend Edition I picked up on eBay for approximately $20US with the shipping. I had built some 1/72 Eduard aircraft before, and really enjoyed the kits.  With this being a "weekend" kit, I assumed it would be a quick and simple build, but I was sorely wrong.  The guiding principle the kit designer seemed to be following was why produce just one piece for a part, when five would be even better. He also believed thin parts were ideal, because who wants major support pegs having a thickness of more than 1mm.

As you can guess, building this monster was an absolute nightmare, and I came close to throwing the kit out on multiple occasions.  The supports that connect the lower wing to the fuselage were very weak and twisted as the glue dried, causing the fuselage to tilt to one side. The upper wing assembly is also crooked, as each strut had to be assembled separately using those 1mm pegs I mentioned, with more than half the pegs snapping off during assembly. 

 I went ahead and wired the wings up using some plastic line I picked up years ago in a Japanese hobby shop (it's similar to fishing line, but dark grey). You might think this was overkill, but I assure you the wings on this kit would never hold up without it.

I wanted  to use the plane both on the ground and in the air, so I drilled a hole in the bottom to accept a bit of brass rod.  The rod isn't glued in, but instead slides into a sleeve of washers glued in under the rear gunner.

The stand is made from a basswood oval (picked up at the craft store), with another washer sleeve to help support the brass rod. Pennies were added to the base for additional weight, and then everything was covered with texture gel and rock. 

The kit did not include any figures, so I ordered a pilot set from Copplestone.  They fit quite nicely in the plane and really have a lot of character. The pack also included some full pilot figures as well, which will make great objectives if a plane goes down during our battles.

 At the end of the day I've ended up with aircraft that is going to look decent on the table, but I'd never recommend this kit unless your are a complete hobby masochist.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Dzu-Teh Yeti!

For some of our African games, we've included random animal encounters to keep thing unpredictable.  I thought it could be fun doing the same in our Back of Beyond games, so I picked up a couple of Yeti at the local hobby shop.  According to Himalayan  legends, there are three types of yeti, with Dzu-Teh being the largest.  Based on their size, these figures would definitely fall into that category.  Though modern depictions usually show the yeti with white fur, they are traditionally described as having brown to reddish-brown fur. This is mostly likely being that yetis are misidentified Himalayan brown/red bears. I've opted for this traditional look, using the bears and orangutans for inspiration.

The figures I purchased are from Reaper miniatures.  Overall, I think they are pretty good figures, though I'm not a huge fan of the how the fur lines up at the arm joints (the arms are cast separately). My only other nit-picky comment is the two figures were packaged with different bases.  However, I think this will get lost in the background once they are on the table.

Architectural Details for 28mm Back of Beyond Buildings

When I first started building Tibetan and Western Chinese buildings, I amassed  a small collection of doors, windows, and other details for my buildings. I hesitated to put them on the blog, as I wasn't sure what the legal fair use rules were. However, with more people looking for such elements with the release of my building article in Wargames Illustrated 337, I've decided to put part of my collection online. I've done my best to avoid images I know have restricted use, so hopefully this won't cause any problems. However, if you are the owner of the original photos from which these elements were collected and object to them being here, please let me know and I will remove them.

For some of these elements, I've already created variants for added variety, so you'll see all versions listed. Others just have a single version, as I have not yet used them on my own buildings. Elements come mostly from Tibetan and Chinese style buildings, but you'll also find a few items from Mongolia and Nepal and well.





Note:  Additional Chinese elements can now be found here.