Monday, 8 January 2018

New Toys for the Sandbox

Happy New Year, everyone.
In a Qattara Depression; where has that painting mojo gotten to?  Nothing like a new project to pump up the enthusiasm.
This year's obligatory set of resolutions on the wargaming front are simple; play games, paint figures, build models.  

Simple, concise, and likely to be achieved by the end of 2018.

But the new year means a new project- two in fact- as well as continuing/ finishing old ones.

Bolt Action is still big here in Tokyo, and as my IJA enters the home stretch as far as painting goes, I was thinking of where to go next.  I have my Leathernecks, but much as I enjoy working on them, I think I'd like a break from the jungle for a bit.  So, wanting something out of the ordinary, I resisted the Tigers, Shermans and T-34's and decided on... WW1 French.

More on this later, but the truth is I've already had all the figures and models I need for it, it's not so much something new as it is moving the box up to the front of the queue. 

Also, I really don't want to spend money on another 28mm army- especially a duplicate, as I already have loads of Soviets and a US tank regiment in 20mm.  Anyway I prefer the Battlegroup rules over Bolt Action for WW2 in Europe. 

Certainly, BA can be used- practically as is- just as well for WW1 as it can be for WW2. Bolt Action is, I feel, best as an infantry game using the minimum of armour assets, where I feel it serves very well when approached with more than a passing nod to history.

But I does likes me some waves o'tanks a' hurtlin' across the horizon.  So in December I took the plunge into something that has been on my wargaming bucket list for decades: 

North Africa, Operations Brevity and Battleaxe, 1941.

Using Blitzkrieg Commander II.

In 15mm

And-hold on to your argyle socks- the British Army! 

While at the back of my mind for years, it got a kick-start from once having been sent the wrong models from PSC.  I had received a box of 15mm Pz-IV's when I had ordered the1/72 version for my Germans.  They soon sent me a replacement, but told me I could keep the 15mm kit.  And my, in 15mm these tanks were darned cute... 

Thin edge of the wedge.  I ended up giving the box to Matt, who has decided to do the Afrika Korps (the only acceptable WW2 German army in his eyes).   

For me though, I've always loved the early British cruiser tanks- the multi-turreted A-9's, boxy A-10's and rather sleek A-13's, which in 1940 and early 1941 were perfectly able to hold their own against the Italian armoured formations

Indeed, with their 2 pdr. guns the cruisers were still able to take on the older and lighter Pz-I and Pz-II tanks of the DAK- just so long as their engines and tracks cooperated.
The A-9 Cruiser; an ungainly, tracked shot-trap with paper-thin armour; individual crew saunas provided.  What's not to love?

I can also field what is, along with the Soviet KV-1, my very favourite WW2 tank; the Matilda II, Queen of the Battlefield.  The only British tank to see combat service for the entire length of the war, and a tank to be reckoned with when in her prime.

This all wasn't just an impulse decision, and I've long thought of what scale would best suit the subject.  For us, the image of  Western Desert warfare is the cut and thrust of armoured combat. Especially with BKC-II, which plays fast and furious.  And given the size of my ping-pong table 15mm appears to be the best way forward.

The cost in plastic doesn't break the bank; the models are small enough so that we have the space on our table to actually maneuver, and yet the vehicles and infantry are big enough for me to actually see them, paint them, and to enjoy the modelling aspect.

And painting desert sand makes a change from all that khaki green. 

Phase I is the 2/RTR (with its mix of reconditioned cruiser tanks) and a squadron of Matilda II's from 4/RTR, who will eventually support some Indian troops.  Should all go well, Phase II is some motorized infantry with transport, a battery of 25pdr's, and some air support.  I may even get some Italians later if the enthusiasm is still there. 

I've been making a very good start. My painting mojo may have been AWOL lately, but at least the plastic modelling drive has still been showing up for row call.

This lot all arrived on Christmas Day! Santa's Elves were slacking, so I have been having to assemble them myself.  Just as well, they would probably have used gloss paints anyway.
On the left, three squadrons of the 2/RTR, with HQ represented by a CS A-10 Cruiser.  Three Matilda II's of 4/RTR to accompany the infantry.
I don't much reference material here on the Western Desert campaigns, which had to be remedied.  The first to arrive was an excellent second-hand copy of the old classic Tank Battles in Miniatures Vol.1 by Donald Featherstone.  Primarily for the background info, although we won't be using the rules.  

Can't beat the Don for ideas, inspiration, and insights; after all, he was there!

Finally, Napoleonics are never far off the radar, and in fact I have an AAR from a game last month (two of them in fact) that I need to post soon.  And if I can find my missing mojo and lift up a paintbrush in earnest, some new cavalry for inspection.

So, lots happening this year.