ZONA ALFA: Zoned out

Stephen gives us his thoughts on another ruleset.

If you don’t like negative reviews then you may want to stop reading.

That said, whilst this may not be a glowing endorsement, neither is it scathing.

I’ve taken the recent pandemic to make my way through some of the Osprey rules I bought.

Now, Zona Alfa does have some following in the club. And I should preface what I am about to say by making it clear that I have not played the game. But I have given it a few read-throughs. So I reserve the right to take back everything I am about to say!

So, what’s my problem with Zona Alfa?

Well, it isn’t the game mechanics per se. When it was played at the club there were some post-game comments about some inconsistencies and other bits not being clear. That can often be the case with the Osprey blue books, where authors can be constrained by page count. You have to go into them knowing that you may have to do a little bit of work yourself (although part of me also thinks 60 odd pages is enough to get the job done).

That can be OK, so long as there aren’t too many vagaries or incomplete bits.

My problem with Zona Alfa is that…well, it’s all a bit bland and vanilla.

I loved the concept behind the game when it was announced – scavengers ranging over a warped post-apocalyptic world. I was up for that.

However, in Zona Alfa there is no attempt to tie the conceit of the game into the game mechanics. The background is all just a bit of fluff that could be tacked on to any game.

For example, the idea is that scavengers scrounge across a wasteland looking for abandoned hi-tech equipment. But there is no attempt to say anything about that equipment and what it can do to enhance your gang of scavengers or what effects it has on the game. All it’s given is a monetary value. You find a bit of unnamed tech and it’s worth x roubles.

Big whoop.

Since the raison d’etre behind the game is this equipment then I would have expected a bit more. It should be something, it should have a game effect. There’s also something called ‘anomalies’ – areas that have been warped that create unique hazards. Sounds interesting, eh? But all you do is make a roll to see if it explodes.

Again, big whoop.

All of the above could be easily tacked on to any set of rules.

The game mechanics themselves seem OK. In fact, all you’re really getting for your money is a nondescript (but quite serviceable) set of skirmish rules. But with bits of Russian thrown in for good measure in an attempt to give it the smokescreen of character.

Truth is, there’s nothing in the Zona Alfa rules themselves that tie them in to the game world. Compare that to Black Ops, another Osprey game where you control a team of special ops troops to sneak about and conduct espionage. In Black Ops the rules build in mechanisms for stealth since that is the point behind the game. Zona Alfa fails to do the same, the rules just aren’t tied in to the game world.

Quite simply, there’s no reason to buy Zona Alfa. As it is, if you want to play a game with scavengers finding random tech that just has a monetary value or explodes you could use whatever rules you want. Zona Alfa doesn’t add anything, but neither does it take away. It gets an indifferent 5/10

Birch Forest

John Lambert gets green fingers.

I’d missed out on the bargain miniature Christmas trees from The Works but needed some trees for Zona Alfa. I thought about birch trees, this is how I made them.

Wire Armature
I used wire armatures for the trees and found a tutorial on the Marklin model railway site. I had some thin wire from B & Q Garden section and start by cutting two pieces about 45cm long and folded them in two. I placed the handle of a wooden spoon in the bends and gripping the 4 strands of wire in pliers, rotated the handle to twist the wire. I continued twisting until I wanted to inset a branch. These were made by taking a piece of wire about 20 cm in length which I bent half way. Taking one of the 4 strand of wire, I twist this around one half of the new piece of wire, the second half of the added wire now becomes a strand for the trunk, then continued twisting the trunk until I was ready to insert another branch. I then went back to twist the two wires for the branch until it was long enough, leaving lengths of wire at the end of the branch. The tree canopy will be attached to these. I then continued up the trunk, dropping the number of trunk wires or splitting the trunk into two near the top. The loops at the foot of the trunk are folded out and glued to a base.

The next stage was to get rid of the twisted wire appearance and add some body to the lower section of the trunk. I used Decorator’s acrylic caulk for this, using a wet modelling knife to smooth the caulk and provide texture. I didn’t add caulk to the free ends of the branch. Once the caulk was dry, I painted the trunk pale stone colour, applied a thin pale green wash then dry brushed white. I painted the ends of the branches black. I had a look at our local birch trees, the branches lose thickness abruptly then a mesh of fine branches drop down almost vertically.
I had a pack of black scourers also from B & Q and by gently ripping the scourer, I could get a very thin mesh which I would superglue to the black branch ends

This mesh is pretty robust and ideal to provide the canopy. For foliage, I had some small clump foliage which was just the job. Once the canopy pieces were glued to the branch ends, it was time to add the foliage. I dry brushed the canopy with PVA and sprinkled the canopy with the clump foliage, leaving to dry overnight. The next day, I gently brushed off any loose foliage and the tree was complete, once sprayed with matt sealant.

Tree on left is painted Armature ready for canopy mesh, Tree on right has partial canopy applied. Tree in centre is finished tree.
If you look a photos of Birch forest, the trees are often grouped closely together in stands, I think due to a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria. I decided to create stands that would conveniently fit into a storage box. These could be grouped together as dense clumps, or spread out to form a birch forest. I used the same technique as the trees above.

Outremer: Faith & Blood

Stephen gives us his views on the Osprey rulebook and follows up with a battle report.

I am a big fan of the Osprey ‘blue book’ rules. They’re the right physical size and just the right price that they’re worth taking a punt on. I bought Outremer: Faith And Blood when it came out but it just sat on the bookshelf for ages. This weekend I finally managed to have a game of it. What follows are my thoughts and a battle report.

Like all the blue books the rules can be a bit patchy in places. That’s no bad thing, but it is something to be aware of and you have to realise that player input may be needed. Some are patchier than others, and I’m pleased to say that Outremer was less patchy than some. Though some bits were unclear and did need a bit of improvisation (mainly terrain – but I’ll come to that below).

The game is designed so that each player controls about 6-12 figures. Activation is done by drawing cards. Since each figure is likely to have slightly different stats and a few extra traits I decided to cobble up some character cards. I made them business card size so they could be put in a plastic wallet. The rules suggest using a pack of regular playing cards and you assign a card to each figure. What I did was knock up a bespoke card with the character name and picture for this.

Character Cards

I did a simple game – seven a side with the French versus the English. It’s worth saying here that though Outremer is set during the crusades it is really just a generic set of medieval skirmish rules. So that’s how I’ve used them.

View from the English side

It seems to me the key to these mini-games (‘mini’ because they don’t have many figures) is to ensure there’s LOT’S of terrain. So I had a large ruin in the middle, all of which counted as rough terrain and hard cover, and some wood – which also counted as rough terrain and soft cover. This is where I had to do some improvisation. The rules say nothing about shooting into and out of terrain. So I adopted a Saga approach – you can fire into and out of terrain but you cannot shoot through terrain. Since there were a lot of ruins I had to think about how that would affect the game. The rules don’t really help. The choice is either count the terrain as a piece of rough terrain and is symbolic only (so if there are high walls then you can still move through that, etc) OR figures can only move around the ruins through gaps or climb over walls and high walls block line of sight. I can see pros and cons with either approach. In the end I adopted the former.

The game started with both sides either side of the ruins. The French were led by Sir William le Bon with his squire Luc Brecon. The English were led by Sir Walter de Marsh and his young squire Henry Wilton. Luc took up place with the French crossbowmen in some woods overlooking the ruins whilst Sir William took charge of the spearmen and moved up to the ruins.

The English longbowmen advanced to the ruins, with Walter Fletcher taking a particularly advantageous position behind a wall.

With all that rough terrain movement was slowed down. When a model’s card is drawn it can make two actions. Most actions cost 1 point but some cost 2 points. A model completes all actions before the next card is drawn.

French Crossbowmen led by Luc

The French crossbows let fly nice and early as the English tried to cross the ruins. But the combination of long range and hard cover meant the English took no casualties. Models have a series of stats and, depending on how good they are, the better the die type they roll. I like that game mechanic. It’s nice and simple and does the job well. Thierry, a French crossbowman, had the ‘corrective shooting’ trait, which meant once per game he could re-roll a failed shoot roll. He took a pot shot at Sir Walter, missed, and decided to re-roll. Fortunately he missed again.

Luc spots the English archers

Sir William and one of his spearmen, Louis, moved into the ruined chancel. By now Henry Wilton and Adam (an English spearman) had also made their way into the ruins. The two sides faced off against each other. However, an English longbowman, Peter Ashdown, had also moved in to the ruins and decided to see if he could bring it all to a quick end by taking out Sir William. He missed.

Sir William with Louis and Jean

Realising they couldn’t afford to wait, both Sir William and Louis advanced against their adversaries as soon as they could. In the game it’s not just a matter of moving models in to combat. They have to make a Faith Test to summon the courage to go in. The charger rolls his die and he has to beat his opponent’s Presence score. If he fails then he stays where he is. If he passes then in he goes!

Walter takes position

Walter Fletcher’s sniping position was paying off. The French crossbowmen had to advance to shorten the range so they could get a good shot in and as they did so Walter started picking them off. Squire Luc could see the only way out of this was to cut Walter down – he had no choice but to charge the Englishman. Not this time though. He dithered and before he could summon the courage he was taken down by Walter’s bow skills.

William and Louis in the ruins

In the chancel the fight was coming to a conclusion – Sir William and Louis had defeated both Henry and Adam. Sir Walter had now advanced through the ruins toward the chancel. There was only one way to sort the matter out – the two knights would have to square off.

William takes on Henry and Adam

It wasn’t to be though. Walter Fletcher drew his bow, took aim, and…there went Sir William.

Carnage!

Game over.

I enjoyed that game. I wasn’t sure what it would be like with such a limited number of models on the table. I think it works best with a bit of role-playing and players investing a bit of character into the models.

There’s also a campaign system in the game whereby after each encounter the models gain experience and can improve. Oh, it’s also worth saying that models that are ‘killed’ in the game aren’t necessarily dead. Being ‘taken down’ merely means they are out of the game. At game end you make a roll and see what’s happened – they could be dead, could be a slight scar, or something more inhibiting.

Red Alert

Marcus sounds the alarm!

Having played in a demo of Red Alert from PSC games at Salute 2019, I was really taken by the design. I had often toyed with the idea of playing Command & Colours Ancients, and eventually bought Memoir ’44 for one of my boys for Christmas, but it has never been a favourite. However, the theme of Space fleet combat and the dynamics really seem to work. They certainly seemed to reach a sweet spot for me.
However, I didn’t buy the game at Salute. Despite some very good offers, I just didn’t want the miniatures. I have some space ships of my own, plus the aesthetic didn’t really appeal. Soon afterwards though PSC released most of the components separately.

Unfortunately, due to building work at home, the game was consigned to storage after just one play won by Son “Tzu”, who can’t get enough games (Or should I say winning games…). Now in lockdown, it has made its reappearance.

Having played through the first scenario for a second time, we set up Declaration of War, the second introductory scenario. Like all the scenarios, the introductory scenarios mark both fleets’ starting positions. However, they also mark the exact deployment of each unit. In later scenarios you choose where to deploy your fleet, which is chosen by drawing a card for your core force and having some additional points to choose additional units.

In this scenario the objective was simply to destroy 13 points worth of the enemy. The initial set up is shown above.

I had to cobble together some fleets as I am still repainting some old models (from Zandris IV). We played a Star Trek inspired game (despite the fighters), Federation (Son Tzu) versus Romulan (Me). Still, I didn’t have enough figures for all the units in this game, so the number of units was often displayed on a dice with the unit. The Federation was particularly short on Cruisers, so the Intrepid’s (Voyager) represented three ships, and the groups of two Nova’s (destroyers) also represented three ships. Three ships is the default strength for most units (all in this game). A hit will normally result in the loss of one ship.

The earth-like planet is at the centre of four hexes and the gravity well extends through these. This inhibits movement but it is more difficult to hit another ship inside it from outside the gravity well. Asteroids and planets block line of sight, as do ships. We also missed some markers only available with the core game. I used blue counters for “star” tokens. These are order tokens used in addition to the command cards. Also there are Red Alert markers. These are a combat result which can occur on the custom dice, illustrating “when bad things happen” during combat. They will require a retreat. I had a couple of these from an expansion, but that was all, so I used additional red counters.

Early contact and Son Tzu’s fighters take some damage while the Romulans move up on their left and…

…in the centre, the Romulan fighters also suffer some damage, but nearly knock out a federation unit.
But a very different picture emerged after the next moves.

Son Tzu moved up his fighter on the Federation right and used a “fighter swarm” combat card against my Battleships. With seven combat dice, he rolled five hits, turning my warbirds into a cloud of incandescent gas. If we had some debris tokens, they would be on the table adjacent to the two “yellow” fighter groups. One of them suffered a loss minor loss as a result.

Things did not look good for the Romulans at this point. 6 – 0 down. However, the Romulans also struck back with a concentrated fighter attack forcing back the battleship group in the centre marked with a Red Alert (which probably saved the group from destruction at that point), causing the remaining Federation battleship to retreat two hexes. One of the Romulan fighter groups was also badly damaged and retreated. However, The Romulans are still 6 – 0 down, with the Federation cruisers moving up into the centre.

Son Tzu could smell victory, but it was to prove elusive. The remaining Romulan fighters and destroyers picked off the remaining battleship to take revenge and even things up, despite taking some damage. While Son Tzu waited for the perfect card to launch his final assault, the Romulans deftly vectored their strike classes, the destoyers (again) and cruisers onto one cruiser group as it moved up in the centre…

…and then the other.

Although the second Romulan battleship group took some severe damage from long range fire (just out of the picture), they held up while the strike craft gave the Feds a hammering.

Those cruiser groups were worth three points each. Just before taking down the last one, the Romulan Cruiser group on their left, moved up for an easy kills on a crippled fighter group (revenge for the earlier battleship swarming loss).

The single point for that fighter, and the three points for each cruiser group gave the Romulans seven precious points. With the earlier six for the battleship, that made a game winning 13 – 6 to the Romulans. Doubtless the federation could have taken out a lot of heavily damaged ships if there had been a next turn, with their undamaged destroyers and second battleship group, but that was not to be.

Nimzo’s Crew

John Lambert goes into the Zone.

I had a good look around for a suitable crew for Zona Alfa and chose figures from Empress Miniatures. I wanted a good mix and chose one pack from their Chechen range and one from their insurgents range, I also bought a set of heads with gas masks to covert a couple of figures. I was really impressed with the casting quality and they were a joy to paint. I used mainly hobby shop acrylics and of course, the figures needed to be named.

I really liked the RPG figure with tank crew hat – I think my favourite. The next three I painted in Urban winter style camouflage and did a head swap on Kovacs, the piping on the track suit bottoms I added with a fineliner brush.

(l/r Blokin, Zeitsev, Nimzovitch (Nimzo), Sashlik)

The second set I painted a forest digitised camouflage adding extra dots of paint with a cocktail stick.

You need a sniper called Zeitsev – the Stalingrad hero!. Stay tuned to Radio Pripyat for the next instalment.

Painting 6mm Figures

**This post has been updated as the steel paper originally recommended for basing is no longer available**

We have a 6mm Napoleonic game at the club tomorrow and Mark has added a Brigade to his French Army for the occasion.

6mm figures are ideal for large battles, but many people think they must be difficult to paint – like anything it is easy if you follow some simple rules and don’t make the mistake of trying to paint them like larger figures.  Here is a quick guide on how.

The figures are 1/300 scale Heroics and Ros and the units are the 4th and 46th Line Regiments comprising GB Dalesme’s Brigade, belonging to GD Carra St. Cyr’s Division of the French 4th Army Corps in May 1809 as well as the General’s of GD St.Hilaire’s Division.

Here are the 2 packs of French Fusiliers (FN26), half a pack of French Voltigeurs (FN4), half a pack of French Grenadiers (FN27) and some assorted generals (from FN 17 and AN8) that need to be painted, straight out of the packs.

It always pays to rinse the figures in warm soapy water before starting to get rid of any mould grease, then work round the edges of the figures with a sharp hobby knife to get rid of flash and any casting mismatches.  There is some surgery on the general staff figures to removed unwanted plumes, marshal’s batons, etc, as they were all to be used as French generals.  The figures date back to when most people painted their flags and the old style metal flags need removing – good flags really do make or break 6mm figures, so this is worth your time – don’t skimp and put paper flags round the metal – the results don’t look good.  Small nail clippers are a good tool to nibble the flag off the flagpole.  Try to avoid the eagles, but you can always glue them back on with superglue if they break off!

FIRST TIP – Now base the figures, as they are easier to paint this way.  The figure in this post used mounting card with steel paper underneath, but steel paper is no longer available.  Instead I now use 40thou plastic card with self-adhesive non-magnetic ferrous sheet on the bottom – this needs to be the thick variety as sold by First4Magnets product code FFU620(SA)-1M. The infantry are on a 1″x.5″ base for our house rules, four bases to a battalion.  One battalion is on an open order base (combined Voltigeurs of the Brigade) and this uses a 1.5″ base.  There is one combined battalion of Grenadiers and four Battalions of Fusiliers.

SECOND TIP – Now undercoat all over with a black undercoat, making sure that every cranny is filled.  You can use spray, but for this size an old brush can be quicker and less messy.  DON’T USE WHITE FOR UNDERCOAT – if you do you give yourself a massive painting headache trying to cover the undercoat and then shade the figure to avoid it looking like a paint blob – this a technique for bigger figures!  Your black undercoat on 6mm means you have already painted anything black on the figure and you have already shaded it – don’t worry that all you have at this stage is a load of black blobs:

THIRD TIP – It is essential on 6mm to use lighter shades than the colours you are depicting.  This is partly to offset the black undercoat and partly to ensure the colour looks right at a distance.  Your eye perceives small objects as darker than they really are.  If you use dark ‘correct’ shades, all of the figures will simply look like near black blobs when you have finished.

There are three key colours we now need to add.  First Dark Blue for the coats and some of the horse furniture.  Citadel Ultramarines Blue was used, which is a middish blue pigment.  When you paint the coat use a fairly small brush (for these a 101 was used).  Work down the line painting the same feature on each base.  From the front do a stroke down the left arms of all figures, then the same for the right arm, shoulder to hand (don’t worry about paint getting on the hands).  Do another stroke to join these up under the chin, then fill in the lower chest, leaving the black undercoat showing in the crevices between the chest and arms.  Repeat round the back.  The horse furniture was also painted now (light crimson for the French generals, Vallejo Carmine was used) again don’t paint right up to the next colour – leave black showing around the furniture:

Second main colour is white (and white is – well white, Humbrol white here), for the trousers or breeches (both were used, so for a bit of variety I have done one regiment in each here), as well as coat lapels, which are a prominent feature on French line infantry.  Paint up the leg from above the footwear (all left legs from the front, all right legs, then reverse and do the back – a final tidy up to join the legs at the front.  Breeches are best done with a horizontal stroke around the leg as far down as the knee.  Leave some black showing between legwear and coat.  A simple stroke down the middle of the chest for the lapels.  Also touch in the drumskin on drummers.  To make the command figures stand out a bit better white scabbard and drum supports have been added, but you can omit this!   Regimental plumes and pompoms were also done at this point (a simple dob on the pompom):

Now for the last main colour; red/scarlet.  Before doing this the Voltigeurs plumes and epaulettes were painted (both regiments used green plumes with red tips and green epaulettes for their voltigeurs at this time) in Citadel Goblin Green – another strong middle shade.  Humbrol scarlet is used for the red here, which is a nice bright shade.  Paint a red line above each hand for the cuffs (again don’t worry if the paint slops onto the hand).  Then paint the grenadiers plumes and a dob on each shoulder for the prominent epaulettes.  A dob of red added to finish the Voltigeur plumes and the fusilier plumes are also quickly dabbed in (one base each of dark green, sky blue, light orange and violet for each battalion):

You are nearly there now!  Paint the back of the rawhide knapsack with leather – leave the sides black (this is Humbrol Leather) then a stroke horizontally along the back and a touch in from the front on each end of any grey you have to hand for the rolled greatcoat on top of it (shades varied enormously for this item)  Brass for the drum body and Voltigeur horns.  Masses of gold lace to finish the generals (worth taking some time over these as they are few in number) and the eagle on the flagpoles.  Optional extras are a small dob of brass for the helmet plate at the front and the visible sword hilts on the voltigeurs, command figures and grenadiers.  Senior generals horses are painted white with a black bridle.  The colour makes them easy to pick out.  Regimental command horses are painted leather and brigadier’s horses left black.  You can leave the underside of the horse as well as the mane and tail black for contrast, a few white flashes on the noses of some of the horses also make a lot of difference.

Lastly a stroke of silver along the top of each musket and any bayonet and drawn swords all over.  Leave the rest of the musket black (it really is not worth using brown for the woodwork – the black keeps it looking thin in scale and most musket wood was in any case quite dark, but you can paint the body brown first if you really want to).

Finally add a dob of flesh on each hand and a stroke of flesh across the face to finish the figure.  Don’t overdo the face and leave black around it.

Finally finish with an overall coat of matt varnish to protect the figures from handling (I use Vallejo which sets with a good clear finish):

FOURTH TIP – Don’t skimp on basing, as bad basing really ruins any figures and especially 6mm – you would be better off cutting corners on the figure painting.  Flock also is not good with 6mm – it tends to make it look like the figures are moving through a patch of dense scrub!  These figures are finished with Basetex.  DON’T USE TOO DARK A GREEN.  If you do it will kill the figure painting.  Use a light spring green for both the basing and the terrain.  Basetex green is way too dark for 6mm, so a mix of about half and half green and sand is used here, stored in a sealable sandwich box.

First work the green around the base of each figure with a small old brush:

Now use sand to cover the bases (and the sides).  A cocktail stick works well to pick up and poke the Basetex into place.  Make sure you ‘bury’ the sides of each figure base.  Some printed labels are added at this stage for the generals:

Once dry use a really old big brush with a few bristle left to work over the top of the sand with your light green mix – working quickly using a mixtures of dabs and strokes and leaving the sand showing through the green:

That just leaves the flags, which really finish off each unit.  The ones used here are adapted from those available free online from Warflag, reduced to around 20% size.  Print these on a printer using pigment (not inkjet ink which will run if it gets damp).  These were printed on an Epson printer as all Epson printers use pigment based cartridges.  Use thin 80g/m paper.  The flags are glued with simple PVA, which lets you work with the flag to line up the sides before it sets, then given a ‘crinkle’ to give the flag some life before the glue sets (easier with thin paper).  A pair of tweezers is useful to ‘pinch’ the flag around the pole.  Once dry it is well worth running round the edges of the flag with a matching colour to get rid of the ‘white edge’ effect – use a little thinned paint for this.  Finally flag poles are finished in a dark blue, covering up any glue stains.

Here is the end result:

Each close order battalion sits on a 2 inch by 1 inch piece of magnetic ferrous sheet (which is why the bases have steel paper/ferrous sheet on their bottom – allowing them to grip the magnetic sheet).   As the magnetic sheet looses its magnetism over the years, it is easily replaced.  This is why you should not use the magnetic sheet on the figure base – not so easy to replace!  The four bases on each sheet can be re-arranged for the required formation (those above are in column).  Finally the whole lot sit on a brigade manoeuvre base (8″x3″), which is simply a sheet of steel paper with some Woodland Scenics Spring Green mat stuck on top.  This allows the brigade to be quickly moved until it gets into contact.

 

 

Somethings Mythic This Way Come

Andy puns as Shakespeare rolls in his grave…

I’ve had these figures for ages, I probably bought them when I was at university 40 odd years ago, and indeed first painted them back then. They had surfaced from the depths of the loft for some reason and as they were looking very tired, I decided they needed sprucing up. I’ve no idea who manufactured them. They may turn up in in a Dragon Rampant or Broken Legions game at some point. All paints are Vallejo unless otherwise stated.

The first figure is a minotaur, his (human) body was painted with Medium Flesh and heavily washed with Army Painter (AP) Flesh Wash, his head was painted Matt Black with German Black Brown eyes and Pale Sand horns. His tunic is Deck Tan, washed with AP Soft tone with Bronze fastenings. His axe has a Beige Brown shaft with Gunmetal blade and Bronze metalwork.

His base has some flagstones, these were painted London Grey, dry brushed Light Grey and washed with Army Painter Dark Tone, the remainder of the base was covered with Basetex and painted with a couple of shades of green.

The second figure is a demonnette of some foul dimension. Her skin is Metallic Copper, with MIG Rot Braun creases and an AP Red wash. Eyes are Golden Yellow and horns Black. Her snake is Luftwaffe Camouflage Green with an AP Green wash and the orb in her right hand is German Camouflage Bright Green with a mixed wash of Silver and AP Green wash. Base the same as the Minotaur.

Armoured Bears

Mark J (also known as Mark2), who recently joined the club after being away from the hobby for a while, paints some Germans.

Latest addition to my 20mm early/mid Russian Front 3rd Panzer Division army. Back in the 90s I played a lot of Rapid Fire and I have a fairly large collection of tanks and vehicles, mainly Matchbox and and SHQ, with a couple of aircraft, assault boats and a pontoon bridge thrown in for good measure. Recently recovered this collection from an old mate up north, however the infantry were missing, probably KIA!

Planning to adapt this collection to use Chain of Command rules, and have started to paint some 20mm Eureka miniatures. They are a little on the tall side, but nicely cast with plenty of detail. These guys are Panzer Grenadiers in great coat, there’s one rifle section and a command section with a radio operator.

I used the Vallejo Flames of War German infantry paint set and GW Nuln Oil wash and Adminstratum Grey for the uniform highlights and general battle field look. For the bases I used small gage grey gravel
and dry brushed light grey to white with a Nuln Oil wash for the snow effect.

I’ve recently been reading about the 3rd Panzer Division and their exploits around Kharkov during 1942. These guys are part of Kampfgruppe de Beaulieu, this group was formed around March 1942 and consisted of 12 Panzer IIIs and a panzer grenadier battalion, its orders were to push back the Russian advance to the east of Kharkov and to take back the Babka River line which they did, despite freezing temperatures and poor supplies. I have another 5 rifle sections to do and a couple of heavy support sections, if anyone has some Russians it would be good to take them on some point in the future.

Eadmund the Moon

Stephen bares his soul (and more besides).

This one has been in the bits bag for ages. It’s an Irregular Miniatures figure which, it’s fair to say, aren’t among the best. That said, Irregular do paint up better than they look in bare lead. That’s not saying much though.

So, this is Eadmund The Moon. I painted him up for SAGA as a Personal Champion. We don’t use the Swords For Hire and other bits in the Age of Vikings book that often. Not sure why.

I based Eadmund up on a larger, Hero, base. Irregular’s stuff is quite old and their 28mm stuff is more like true 25mm. To hide this lack of stature I made a miliput stone and plonked him on that to lift him up a bit. I also filed off the shield, which looked…well…poor. I stuck on a spare Gripping Beast shield (looking at the size of the shield on him will give you an idea on how slightly small he is).

And that’s Eadmund The Moon. Coming to a battlefield soon to give Andy and Jeremey a good taunt!

Building the Rammas Echor

Tony F takes us through a Middle Earth scenery build.

Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film trilogy made a few diversions from the original books – some of these were forgivable changes (although some were a bit more puzzling and unnecessary). One of these was to turn the Pelennor Fields, scene of the largest battle of the War of the Ring, into a fairly barren, scrubby plain, instead of the area of fields and farms described by Tolkein. I get why it was done – the massed ranks of thousands of CGI orcs, trolls and other beasts looked far more impressive lined up outside the gates of Minas Tirith, which wouldn’t have worked so well had they been broken up by barns and oasts. He also omitted the Rammas Echor, a defensive wall many miles in length which surrounded the whole of the fields of Pelennor. Situated along the wall were a number of forts where the garrison was stationed.

Phil and I thought it might be fun to game out the initial assault on the wall, when the defenders were thrown back to the city (Sauron’s forces however made the mistake of not leaving a small force at the gates of the wall when they advanced on Minas Tirith, giving Theoden’s Rohirrim unimpeded passage).

The closest historical equivalent to the Rammas Echor is probably Hadrian’s Wall. I used a milecastle as the basic model for my small fort, with gates front and back and a small courtyard. The wall was made from 2″ thick high-density insulation foam, of which I had just enough to make three 2′ lengths, each around 3″ high, plus the fort walls. The centre wall section has an arched gateway leading into the fort with a smaller gate at the rear of the courtyard. The basic cuts were made with a fine-toothed handsaw (ie a carpentry saw), the gateways were cut out with a hot-wire cutter which I traced around a card template. The other two wall sections each have a small bastion for archers. The faces of each wall section were scribed with a ballpoint pen to represent stone blocks.

I wanted to mimic the design of the city walls in some way, particularly the distinctive shape of the battlements. I drew out a short section of battlements and had this 3D printed; I then made a mould from silicone rubber and proceeded to mass-produce them in resin (I needed about 80 sections in the end) – the resin also happens to be almost exactly the same colour as the foam. These were attached to the walls using a No More Nails-type industrial adhesive (a solvent free version – a solvent based one would probably attack the foam) which has proved to be pretty robust.

The walls were painted over with a mix of pale grey emulsion paint, PVA and wall filler, then drybrushed pure white. I ran some thinned-down black paint around the bottom of the battlements for shading.

Wooden parts (the gates and a couple of firing platforms) were made from balsa and/or coffee stirrers with plasticard for any ironwork, then painted with cheap Hobbycraft acrylics. The firing platforms also helped strengthen the sections of wall over the gates, which were fairly weak once the gateways had been cut out.

Inside the fort I placed some thatched buildings (from Caliver Books) along with odds and ends such as barrels, carts etc. The fort was garrisoned by a couple of dozen warriors of Minas Tirith – can they hold out until the cavalry arrive …?

This post was also supposed to cover the game as well, but we’ll leave that for another day…

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