Monday 27 January 2020

Stand by Your Man

No, not a post regarding the vocal talents of Tennessee’s favourite daughter, but more a gentle nod to the bravery and loyalty of a small group of ladies that were imprisoned in the Castle during the siege; the Wives and Girlfriends!   It seems incredulous to believe that some, as in the case of Augusta Bruchlen, had done all in their power to follow their men to the Schloss, wanting to be by their side as support in what must have been an uncertain time.  Others, like Charles de Gaulle’s Sister, Marie-Agnès Cailliau (seen below), found themselves incarcerated simply because of their family ties.
As with the gentlemen, I have not looked to represent individual characters or personalities, but felt that it was important that they were acknowledged as being there, in some way.  Although there are seemingly no accounts of them taking an active part in the battle, Capt. Jack Lee suggesting that they should be taken down to the cellar storerooms when the shooting started, they were clearly there and I have no doubt faced just the same level of anxiety and strain over the situation as the menfolk.  
When trying to find suitable miniatures to fit the bill, I recalled a New Year’s post from one of the many splendid weblogs that I follow* that, along with the usual promises to play more games and reduce the lead pile, had pledged to try and use more independent retailers in their pursuit of all things shiny.  There was something about the sincerity of this that struck a chord and so decided to cast my net a little further and duly stumbled across the Women’s Home Defence pack over at ‘Bad Squiddo Games’.  
*Sadly, I can’t remember which one!
I have bought items from Annie before, more often than not the exquisite terrain pieces that really are superb, and once again I am glad to report that the service was second to none.  There is also a playfulness that pervades Bad Squiddo, which helps lift the spirits, after all who doesn’t want to be visited by the Guinea Pig of good luck?  So Bad Squiddo games are now listed in the ‘Links of Interest’ sidebar; quality products and superb service.
Returning to the job in hand, I selected a couple of likely candidates that were suitably armed to represent the beleaguered wives of the Schloss.  I am afraid I couldn’t resit a bit of fun in the conversion of the young lady with a pitchfork and managed to swap that for the mother of all carpet beaters!  The colour palette was deliberately muted with the exception of the purple suited lady, who’s outfit is a homage to a former colleague, a French lady of impeccable style, who would always be seen sporting her favourite colour. 
Another three to the tally of castle defenders and I envisage that these will be swapped into the units on the day, allowing the wives to rewrite history and fight alongside their men after all.

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Friday 17 January 2020


Hot on the heals of the Pak 40, I am delighted to share with you the mighty 8.8cm FlaK 37, again from ‘Rubicon Models’.  Another hard plastic kit this one was much more involved from the point of view of construction and took considerably longer to assemble than the smaller Pak 40.  Part of the problem was my inability to stop small pieces of plastic ‘pinging’ across the art room and landing on the floor, which just happened to be a similar shade of grey to the plastic sprue.  This resulted in much scrambling and swearing*, but eventually the behemoth was tamed!  Once again, I am impressed by the quality of these kits, which have good, clear instructions.  With this particular piece there were options for different shields depending on when, or where, you wanted your model to serve and although some of the smaller details feel fragile, I can testify that they are quite forgiving, even to the thickest of fingers.
*Obviously a model kit to assemble when the pupils are not around!
If the sight of a Pak 40 wasn’t bad enough the knowledge that the infamous 88, as it was known by the Allies, was in the vicinity of Schloss Inter would have been a truly terrifying prospect.  Designed originally as a flak gun, the 8.8cm FlaK 37 went on to become an effective anti-tank weapon, capable of launching high velocity rounds great distances and slicing through most allied armour.  The distinctive sound of its shells screaming overhead would be enough to send an icy chill down the spine of any hard pressed tank commander.  
It is an instantly recognisable piece of ordnance and the model kit comes with the option to have the gun mounted on the SdAh 202 carriages.  I understand that the weapon could be fired in this state, but that it was more usual to have it dismounted, giving greater elevation and stability.  Practicality might be all well and good in the real world, but I just loved the look of the mounted gun and so managed to persuade James to cut me an oval shaped MDF base to mount the fully assembled kit on.  As with the previous models there are a good selection of extras in the shape of shells, spent cases, ammunition boxes and even the battery commander’s binocular periscope along with a useful set of waterslide transfers.  There is also a full compliment of crew, but again I have decided not to use these for this encounter, keeping the model as a static piece to be crewed by the attackers if they so wished.
With regards to the Battle of Schloss Itter, the 88 had been spotted barely 800 yards away to the North West of the Castle on the day of the engagement.  Only too aware of the potency of the weapon, initially it was hoped that it was being deployed to counter any relief column that might come to the aid of the defenders, but when a round slammed into West side of the keep’s third floor, as seen below**, any optimism evaporated.  It does seem strange, however, that the barrage didn’t continue, unless of course that the attackers were keen that some part of the Schloss remained standing after the onslaught?  
**Former Prime Minister, Paul Reynaud & General Maurice Gamelin put their differences aside to remonstrate over the intrusion to their petit déjeuner!
For the purposes of our game crewing the 88 should clearly have a big impact on the game play.  We have arbitrarily allocated dice and damage to the piece, again deemed a ‘Special Item’, but we may need to revise this when play testing continues.  Perhaps there needs to be a greater number of miniatures in base contact to ‘crew’ the weapon, making it harder to manage?  I was quite taken by the comment of Terry Silverthorn, of 'Miniature Mayhem' fame, on the previous post who suggested that on a given dice roll, the gun would be deemed ‘out of ammo’ and therefore no longer serviceable.  This would then mean that the attacker would have to reconsider their plan for neutralising the defenders.
Regardless of its use in the game, this has been a fabulous piece to work on.  I thoroughly enjoyed the assembly and wanted to give it the best paint job I could.  I decided to embrace the camouflage pattern attempted on the Pak 40, this time going for a little more subtlety along with some wear and tear.  The base was designed to tie in with the previous piece, and indeed the game boards, and was great fun to do, especially hinting at tracks in the mud.  I have to confess that I am thoroughly enjoying the period and whilst I still have a lot to learn, feel that I am making progress all the time.  Given the scale of the piece, and how thrilled I am with how it turned out, I shall have to add it to the ‘Command Stand’ page.

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Monday 13 January 2020

Rubicon Models Pak 40 1/56 Scale

 If the prospect of a frontal assault by 250 veteran SS Troops wasn’t troubling enough the defenders of Schloss Itter witnessed the ominous sight of various artillery pieces arriving and being readied for attack.  One of those pieces was the ubiquitous Pak 40.  This 75mm calibre Anti-Tank gun was capable of punching a hole through most allied armour and would certainly have wrought considerable damage on the castle.
 This particular piece is made in hard plastic by 'Rubicon Models' and proved to be a delightfully simple kit to put together. Not too many parts but a host of additional extras including ammunition boxes, spent shells and a crew, although these look a little static and lacking some of the dynamic quality of modern wargames miniatures.  I have really taken a fancy to the Rubicon model kits, they are carefully considered and often have a variety of options when it comes to construction. 
 Given the vulnerability of bricks and mortar to high explosive shells, the arrival of such a formidable weapon would surely hasten the eventual fall of the castle.  To try and give a feeling of how this might be realised in the game, we plan to have several artillery pieces situated in the terrain referred to a ‘Special Items’.  They can be crewed and fired, but are fixed in location. To crew a special item you must have a unit of at least 3 miniatures in base contact with it; shaken units cannot crew special items. Once crewed the unit uses actions to fire and reload as normal. Similarly to disembark from a special item, the unit uses another action. 
 Because we are essentially retelling the story of the battle we felt that it was important that the relevant artillery pieces were there as described by first hand accounts, but also mindful that they could prove too much of an advantage to the attackers if not considered carefully.  By fixing their location we are inviting players to run the gauntlet of the defenders’ fire in order to crew a game changing weapon.

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Friday 3 January 2020

2019 a year in review...

...and targets for 2020.
I do find these self indulgent posts fascinating as they afford me the opportunity to reflect on the previous year to see what, if anything, has changed.  Last year's review spoke of weathering a storm and the difficulties we faced at work, ever hopeful that these would be banished in 2019.  Sadly this wasn't to be the case and within a matter of months 2019 threw a metaphorical spanner into the works, one that demanded a complete change of perspective.  We have adapted, worked on solutions throughout the year and will need to continue to do so, but we are well and happy and for that I give thanks.

It would appear that I have become more resilient to such challenges and sought solace, once more, in this most wholesome of hobbies.  In 2018 the difficulties faced took a heavy toll on hobby production, but last year I am pleased to report progress was more consistent and posts to my beloved, '28mm Victorian Warfare' increased, somewhat, to bring them more in line with my personal expectations.  

At this point, I would like to publicly thank, James Walters Esq. for all he has done in support of one chap's hobby.  James will be mortified by such overemotional outpourings, but as I look back over the year's efforts it is clear that his enthusiasm for the hobby, his skill and unfailing good nature are all responsible for a number of the pieces coming to fruition.  James' Pegasus Bridge project, and his graciousness in allowing me to attach myself to it, proved just the distraction required at the most difficult of times.  It has also spawned the 'Schloss Itter' adventure that continues to demand as much hobby time as I can afford it and we look forward to sharing this with a wider community in 2020.  Thank you James.

There were, however, casualties again this year namely the themed months that I so enjoy.  'Zomtober', 'Dinovember' and 'Forgotten Heroes' were all missed again and this year has seen me not compete in the 'X Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge'.  That said, unlike 2018, my omission from such events was due to being happily distracted elsewhere!  Hobby Bingo was a new addition to the blog, inspired by the talented Rob Hawkins, but again I am not sure that I did this justice and so may need to rethink it for next year.  So, gentle folk a much shorter review than those of previous years, but as I write it I am buoyed by the enthusiasm of what is to come, so without any further ado, on to the review of last year's targets:

1 Play more games! Target Met! X-Wing Miniatures Game and Space Cadets: Away Missions continue to be popular at school whilst Star Wars: Legion saw myself meet up with  Messrs Bull and Templar to fight it out over the snow covered ice fields of a remote planet near Ashford.  Sadly no game hosted at Awdry Tower's this year, but one is hopeful that a rematch in the desert wastes of Westham might be on the cards for the summer 2020?

2 Maintain a credible level of posts throughout the course of the year.  Target Met!  2019 saw a return to a more consistent level of posting, not least because of my involvement in the aforementioned Pegasus Bridge and Schloss Itter projects.  Certainly fewer than in those halcyon days of 28mm Victorian Warfare's conception, but 50 posts in the year seems like a manageable, and obtainable target, and will be retained for 2020.

3 Attend at least one convention/exhibition/expo this year.  Target Met!  The annual pilgrimage to Salute 2019 was as inspiring as ever and this year myself and the 'Provost Marshal' travelled to Folkestone to see the relaunch of Euro Miniature Expo 2019.

4 I would like to try to curb the additional expenditure on miniatures this year, or at least try to bring it into line with output.  A simple tally score will suffice, hopefully something that will 'shame' me into being a little more restraint when it comes to all things hobby related.  Target Met! Painted 247 - 117 Bought = +130 in credit!  Good to see the output has increased, but so too the expenditure, which I will need to keep an eye on in these more frugal times.  

According to my tally counter the numbers are as follows*:
Balance: +130
Detailed breakdown:
Foot: 144
Mounted: 8
Vehicles: 9
Buildings/Terrain pieces:61
Livestock: 25
*All miniatures are 28mm scale unless otherwise stated

So what of 2020?  My primary focus will be bringing together the terrain boards for 'Schloss Itter'.  James has worked tirelessly on their design and construction to date, whilst I have tinkered around with rules and miniatures.  Now it is time for me to take the lead whilst keeping James busy with all manner of distractions that I can throw his way.  Our deadline for this is of course 'Salute 2020' and it would be lovely to see as many of you there as possible, if for no other reason than to thank you in person for all your continued support and best wishes towards the project.

I am keen to finish the desert inspired terrain for Star Wars: Legion and this might prove just the change of pace required after the castle is complete.  I am acutely aware that there are still some unopened Zombicide and Resident Evil boxes residing in the wardrobe of shame and so it might be that they finally see the light of day?  And then there is 'In Country', a hankering to dip my toe in the jungles of Vietnam.  I occasionally do this, dream up ideas, start looking at rules and make lists, so it is entirely possible that this will come to nothing, but who knows?  That said if anyone has any ideas or suggestions for skirmish level encounters in the 'Nam, then do let me know.

So time to reset the 'Tally Counter' and present, in a roughly chronological order of publication, if not creation, my efforts from 2019!

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