Friday, 26 October 2012

A 'Reinforced' German Infantry Battalion for Rapid Fire.

When I first decided to start wargaming World War II, my primary objective was to do the whole project as cheaply as possible. I decided on 20mm, rather than 28mm, because figures are available for a reasonable cost, while still being big enough to paint without finally loosing what remains of my eye sight. I had also decided that I wasn't going to paint metal figures anymore and there is a wide choice of plastics on the market in the smaller scale. The figures I decided to use came from Valiant Miniatures. There are lots of reasons for not using Valiant, not least that they are 1/72 scale and therefore somewhat larger than most 20mm ranges. The figures themselves often suffer from being really badly produced and it can be difficult to figure out just exactly what is what or where equipment and webbing are supposed to be. Having said all that, you get no less than 68 hard plastic figures in a box which
will cost you £10.99, if you buy from the
Valiant web site, which equates to approximately 16p per figure! Of course, if you keep a close watch on e-bay, you can get them for even less than that. At that price, you have to forgive the odd dodgy figure. The figure on the right is one of my engineers and I think you can see that they do paint up pretty well.
My figures represent a battalion from the 916th Grenadier Regiment, which was based in Normandy in 1944, as part of the 352nd Infantry Division. The division didn't last long after D-Day before it was de-activated, following heavy fighting against the Americans, but I chose it because I think it probably represents a unit made up of ordinary Wehrmacht soldiers just doing their best to survive. Most of my figures come from the Classic German Infantry set and are painted in Vallejo 920 Reed Green, to suggest that they aren't quite at the forefront of the Wehrmacht's supply system and are still fighting in their early war uniform, rather than the new Field Grey version usually associated with late war German infantry.

The late war infantry battalion consisted of a HQ Company, which in Rapid Fire terms is an officer and 5 other figures. The three rifle companies each have 8 figures, including an officer and a panzerfaust. The 4th, heavy weapons company, has 2 MG42s and an 81mm mortar, each with a crew of 3, giving a total of 39 figures for the battalion.

Of course, to give the battalion any chance of standing up to the immense fire power of the Allies, there are options which can be drawn from various regimental or divisional sources to add extra punch. Thus far, my battalion is supported by a 75mm Infantry Gun with 3 crew, a section from the 14th Anti-Tank company with 2 figures and a composite company of engineers and recce infantry which belongs to the regimental HQ (10 figures in total).

The battalion H.Q. The commanding officer with his staff and that all important radio operator.

1st Company.

2nd Company.

3rd Company.

With various additional weapons, heads and bits of kit, it's fairly straightforward to produce simple conversions to create units with individual character.

4th Heavy Weapons Company.

A close up of the 81mm mortar and crew. In Rapid Fire, a mortar can decimate the opposition.

The 75mm infantry gun with three man crew.

At the moment, I have only painted up these two chaps from the Anti-tank company, but they add a definite punch when faced by Allied armour.

Artillery observers are essential if your artillery is going to be effective.

These guys belong to the regimental H.Q., but I've fielded them with my battalion. 5 of the figures are engineers and the other 5 are reconnaissance troops.

The commanding officer of my reconnaissance troops. The figures in the 'Germans in Normandy' set are full of character and give you the scope to play around with different painting styles. This figure has field grey tunic and cammo trousers. I've always been a bit worried about painting cammo, but there are some really good guides available at the Artizan designs web site.

Artizan Designs Web Site Painting Guides.

Another member of the Recce Section, with painting based on the guides available on the Artizan web site.

So, that is my reinforced infantry battalion for Rapid Fire. There are more options yet to be added, but, as it is, it makes a very effective fighting force, capable of holding its own against most Allied forces of comaparable size.

Remember... you can click on any of the images to get a much bigger picture to look at.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Regiments of the Zulu Army.

The Mbonambi Ibutho.

 This is my first completed regiment of Warlord Games Un-Married Zulu warriors for sale. The unit consists of 24 figures in total, including a slightly modified command figure, which has been given a British rifle to hold aloft to encourage his brave young warriors into the fray. All the warriors are individually based on Games Workshop circular bases and have a mixture of deadly weaponry, including rifles, knobkerries and short stabbing spears. This regiment will shortly appear for auction on e-bay and doesn’t include the movement trays shown in some of the photos.

Click on any of the photos to get a bigger and better view!
My first completed Zulu regiment is my interpretation of the Mbonambi Ibutho, in 1879, an un-married regiment, originally formed in the time of Shaka, but reformed by King Mpande sometime around 1863 from youths born around 1842. In his Osprey publication, ‘The Zulu War’, Angus McBride shows a warrior of the Mbonambi wearing the headring (isicoco), denoting a man of married status, but I have depicted all my regiment without the headring. The shields are of a regiment of relatively junior status, being mostly black with a scattering of white blotches.
 At Isandlwana, the Mbonambi formed part of the left horn, where they faced a withering fire from Durnford’s Sikali horsemen shooting from the cover of a dried up river bed (donga).
When the Sikali ran out of ammunition, the Mbonambi rose and pursued Durnford into the British tent lines. In ‘The Anatomy of the Zulu Army’, Ian Knight suggests that part of the Mbonambi’s head dress may have been granted as a distinction for being the first of the Zulu Impi to breach the British line.


The Mbonambi also fought at the Battle of Kambula, where, this time, they formed part of the right horn with the uNokhenke and the umCijo. The Mbonambi attacked up hill against the main British defensive laager, manned by the 90th Infantry Regiment, and were driven back, suffering severe casualties. In spite of having taken part in two major battles, the Mbonambi were in action again at Gingindlovo, where Somopo hoped to stop Chelmsford and his relief force heading towards the beleaguered Colonel Pearson at Eshowe.


Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Building a UH-1D for an FNG Scenario.

For some time now we have played FNG published by Two Hour Wargames. The games have tended to involve the Americans approaching a Vietnamese village and being ambushed by the Vietcong. These games are interesting, but the lack of firepower on the Vietcong side tends to make the outcome pretty clear from the outset, with the only real challenge for the American commander being to suffer as few casualties as possible, before the Vietcong are either wiped out or do the sensible thing and scarper!

Having spent a couple of hours, one afternoon last year, watching Blackhawk Down on DVD, I came up with the idea of creating a Vietnam scenario where a helicopter had been shot down and the crew had to be rescued before the local Vietcong could get their hands on them. Clearly, such a scenario would need a nice helicopter model as its centrepiece.

Looking round my usual wargames suppliers proved a fruitless search, as I couldn’t find anything in 20mm scale and, even if I could, the usual white metal or resin casting wouldn’t really fit the bill in terms of ‘distressing’ the model to make it look as though it had just taken a tumble from 500 feet!

Reluctantly, I started to search for a 1:72 scale model kit that I could use for the job. I say ‘reluctantly’, because I’m not really into constructing model kits and I’ve always been pretty useless at it anyway. It was this last point that convinced me that this was going to be the best way forward as I did, after all, want a model that looked as though it had been badly battered in a ‘Blackhawk Down’ sort of way.

After a quick search on Google, I found a UH-1D model made by Italeri. I really know precious little about Vietnam War helicopters, so I just hoped that this was the appropriate model I needed to play the role of my downed helicopter.

I enclose a picture of the box simply because I think the art work is really good and also because I am genuinely sorry to any Vietnam aficionados, veterans or other interested parties if I’ve been a complete idiot and bought something that is totally wrong for the purpose I intended it for. If that is the case and you are not happy then please read no further.

To be fair, I did spend a lot of time searching round for information about the UH-1D as used in Vietnam, but at the end of the day, my model was only intended for use on the wargames table and not as an exhibit in a museum, so I’m quite pleased with the way it turned out.

This, indeed, is how it turned out. I think with hindsight, I might have done quite a bit more ‘distressing’ but, as construction developed, I got quite fond of the model and found it distressing to do the ‘distressing’! So, I sort of snapped a few bits here and there and tried not to worry too much where I made a mess of things with the polystyrene cement.

Leaving out the wind shield was one of the easier parts of ‘distressing’ the model!

Application of the decals was something of which I had no previous experience, so I assumed that if they were in the box then they must be appropriate for my Vietnam UH-1D.

The wasp decal for the front of the helicopter was the bit I enjoyed doing most. Even it’s not right for my Vietnam scenario it is there to stay because I really like it!

The crew figures for the scenario came from Britannia Miniatures and, as usual, they were easy to paint and quickly ready for action.

With the model complete all that remains is to find the time to fight the battle. If my Vietcong get as close to the ‘Huey’ as this on the day, I shall be very pleased, however, I think the fire power of the crew and the impending arrival of the rescue party might just prove too much for Kung Po Phat and his brave band of warriors!

 I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we will all come home together.

Useful Links...

Italeri Model Kits      Two Hour Wargames     Grubby Tanks    Platoon 20 Vietnam Miniatures

Friday, 3 August 2012

Warlord Games Zulu War British Infantry

I’ve just completed my first group of Zulu War British infantry, so I thought I’d post a few pics so you can see what they look like!

These figures are 28mm plastics from Warlord Games, just like my Zulus. The Officer is a metal casting, one of a group that comes with the box. I find these figures much more difficult to paint than the Zulus and consequently they take much longer to do. It’s a good job you only need relatively few of them. They are based on Games Workshop circular bases, which I chose because I haven’t really decided what to do with them yet. I have two sets of rules in mind; one is for larger scale battles, called “Bundok and Bayonet” by Bob Cordery and the other is a skirmish scale set called “Front Rank… Fire!” by Jim Wallman. Both sets can be downloaded for free from various places, but I think I got them both from the Free Wargames Rules website at some point in the dim and distant past. In ‘Bundock’ an Imperial infantry company is represented by five figures and you need about 120-150 Zulu figures to represent the kind of Impi that fought at Isandlwana or Rorke’s Drift. My longer term aim is to paint enough Zulus to fight battles on this scale. I had a set of un-married warriors bought for my birthday and I picked up a huge box of 120 Zulus from Partizan. The retail price of the box was somewhere in the region of £80, but I got it for £49, which I thought was a pretty good deal. Of course, it only remains a good deal if I can stay focused and get them all painted!
I have struggled painting the British because I cannot find a blue that accurately matches the trousers depicted in the Osprey guides and, the scarlet coats are a nightmare to produce. I have never found a scarlet paint that covers well, so I’ve resorted to painting the coats in a flat red first and then covering that in scarlet. Once the ink wash goes on they look not too bad to me. I like my soldiers to look as though they have been out on campaign, rather than strutting around the parade ground, so the black ink wash adds that grubby, unwashed sort of effect that I prefer. I paint the helmets with Vallejo German Cammo Beige to represent the staining which some soldiers did with that good old traditional British brew: tea! You can just about make out the facing colours, which mark them out as belonging to the 24th Regiment of Foot. I almost convinced myself to be radical and paint them as the 'Buffs', but in the end, I succumbed to tradition and did them in green!
One of the advantages of plastic multi-part figures is the capacity to model them in a variety of different poses. This is largely negated with the Warlord British, as all the bits only tend to fit in specific places! You can, of course, stick a different head with different facial features or a different hat, but that is pretty much it. Nevertheless, as you are only ever likely to have a few of them this is not too much of a problem.

Rifleman preparing to fire!

Warlord’s British infantry come in two basic poses, standing and kneeling! Personalisation is achieved by using the different heads available on each sprue.

Soldiers of the Queen!

Paints used:
Undercoat, boots etc.: Revell Aqua Color Black
Flesh: Coat d’arms 214 Suntanned Flesh
Coat: Vallejo 957 Flat Red then Coat d’arms 238 British Scarlet
Trousers: Mixture of Citadel Midnight Blue and Vallejo 962 Flat Blue
Helmet: Vallejo 821 German Cammo Beige
Facings: Citadel Catachan Green
Wood: Vallejo 879 Green Brown
Metal Parts: Citadel Chainmail, Vallejo 801 Brass
Belts etc.: Citadel Skull White
Hair, beards etc.: various Coat d’arms horse tones!
Wash: Citadel Badab Black

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Tabletop General moves to Blogger

Welcome to the all new ‘The Tabletop General’ blog on Blogger! For the past 15 years or so, I have been running the Tabletop General website, which, for most of that time, has been hosted by 1&1. Sadly, I have taken the decision to close Tabletop General down. As with so many other things these days, the decision to close Tabletop General is a financial one. We have been cutting back in so many other ways that paying out to host a hobby based website is a bit of a luxury that we can no longer afford! However, thanks to Blogger, the future looks bright and I can’t wait to get started adding lots and lots of pics of our favourite games and possibly saying a word or two about what is happening out there in the gaming world.

Just to get things up and running, here are a few shots, straight from the painting bench, of one of our latest projects. The 1879 Zulu War has always been a favourite period of mine, ever since our little gaming group at college back in the 1980s used to spend the weekends re-fighting Rorkes’s Drift, using an old battered copy of the Zulu War rules produced by Airfix. One of our members had recorded the movie ‘Zulu Dawn’ onto a cassette tape and we had that continuously playing in the background while the Zulu Impi relentlessly closed in on the hideously outnumbered British Imperials. Not even the presence of a piece of artillery and a Gatling Gun could take away that feeling of impending and inevitable doom! Since then, reading ‘The Washing of the Spears’ by Donald Morris and everything ever written by Ian Knight and, of course, periodically viewing ‘Zulu’ and ‘Zulu Dawn’, have maintained my interest in this fascinating period of history.

These figures are part of my first batch of 28mm plastic Zulus from Warlord Games. There are a few small oddities with these figures in terms of dress, but I absolutely love them. They are nice and easy to clean up and construct, with only minor additions of green stuff being required, and they are a complete treat to paint. The figures here are from the un-married warrior set and I have painted them in my interpretation of the Mbonambi Ibutho. There are 24 figures altogether, including the grand looking chap below to lead them into action against the British invader. I will add more photos in coming posts and should have some British Imperial infantry to upload as well.