Thursday, 16 June 2016

Updated map for Fire & Sword in the Sudan

Steve Winter's Fire & Sword in the Sudan which used to be available on his Colonial Angle website is a very ingenious set of campaign rules where the players are pitted against Mahdist hordes which are automatically generated.

Its only drawback is the fact that the original map was a very lacklustre bitmap image put together using Paint and was crying for an update. Below is a download link to a vector-based graphic update of Steve Winter's original map. The only change that has been made is to name all the map's locations (including funky period spelling in some cases) and change some of them.

Also available is a slightly modified map variant developed by the Auckland Wargaming Club, along with a PDF of the original rules. The original map is also included for reference.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Where'd my photos go?

A slight account migration mishap has resulted in all the blog's photos disappearing into thin air and I am slowly putting them back in. It shouldn't be too long but it is tedious work...

EDIT: Done! If some photo has slipped under the radar, don't hesitate to leave a comment.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Book review : Vietnam Ironclads by John M. Carrico

Vietnam Ironclads: A Pictorial History Of U.S. Navy River Assault Craft, 1966-1970 is a real labour of love by John M. Carrico covering all of the boats used by the Mobile Riverine Force (TF 117) in 136 pages. Look no further if you have any interest in the ATCs, ATC(H)s, ATC(R)s, MONs, MON(F)s, CCBs, MSR, and ASPBs or want to know what were the differences between Program 4 and Program 5 boats (or even if you simply wand to know what these acronyms stood for).

While most books will give you general information about the converted LCM-6s used on South Vietnam's rivers, this book has great coverage about each type of boat, whether troop carriers, monitors, support boats or their variants. Each of these is covered in minute details, describing the conversion process, armament, armour and operational use and markings.

The only thing missing is a set of scale plans but that is more than made up for by the large number of clearly captioned photographs (127 colour and 96 black and white photos photos, most of them hitherto unpublished), including a whole lot in full colour and by top- and side-view drawings detailing the typical colours and markings worn by the amphibious craft. Note that scale plans for the ATCs and ASPBs are available in Norman Friedman's U.S. Small Combatants, Including PT Boats, Subchasers, and the Brown-Water Navy: An Illustrated Design History (US Naval Institute, 1987) if you are lucky enough to own a copy of this long out-of-print book.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Air Cushion Cavalry: The US Army's Bell SK5 ACV in Vietnam

Hovercraft are to Vietnam what Kingtigers are to World War 2: the coolest piece of kit, produced in tiny amounts and fielded by gamers in numbers far exceeding their real life counterparts. Maybe the attraction stems from the fact that they embody like few other vehicles the 1960s fascination with emerging technologies. Or maybe it is simply because we've all, at some point, played with a Dinky or Matchbox SR.N6 hovercraft (the PACV's larger cousin) while making humming sounds.

The three Patrol Air Cushion Vehicles (PACVs) operated by the US Navy intermittently between 1966 and 1968 are best known, possibly because the Navy's public relations department was very good. Or maybe because they look very much like those diecast toys. Or simply because they sported a cool sharkmouth.

However, these Bell SK5 Model 7232 hovercraft also had three US Army cousins: the improved Bell SK5 Model 7255. While the PACVs were militarised versions of the British Hovercraft Corporation's civilian SR.N5, these were much more extensively converted by Bell and rather more suitable military machines. They also served far longer than the Navy's version, being deployed in Vietnam continuously from May 1968 to September 1970.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Six Block War: finding your way around the Hue Triangle

Although it is completely atypical of the war, the battle of Hue during the 1968 Tet offensive has long been of particular interest to me. This may be because the very first serious Vietnam wargame I played (way back when Salute was held in Kensington town hall) was a participation game set in Hue although my lacklustre performance as a USMC platoon commander would probably have ensured that I was put in charge of the latrine digging detail after the first day. More seriously, what I find particularly interesting is the "pocket Stalingrad" nature of the Marines' fight south of the Perfume river during the first week of February. This was fought over a surprisingly small area of weel groomed European-style streets which makes it possible to have a good idea of the terrain (the second part of the USMC's battle in the Citadel is far harder to reconstruct).

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Not dead yet

Well, well, well... Doesn't time fly? There I was thinking that I should get back to updating this blog when I suddenly realised that the last entry is one year old!

To make it short: no, I'm not dead yet. But a new baby, a new house, a new job and a new country have severely cut down on time available for miniatures or anything gaming related over the last 12 months. Not to mention the fact that most of my toys are still in shipping boxes and waiting to be unpacked.

Still, I'll try to get a couple of things done soon so this corner of the internet doesn't look quite so vacant...

Friday, 25 October 2013

Artscow review: custom card decks for Longstreet and Blood & Sand

Card-driven games as not to everyone's taste and while some people loathe them, I love them. I sometimes think this dislike of card-based rules is something of a knee-jerk reaction as there are as many ways to use cards in a game as there are rules out there. For example, cards are at the heart of Sam Mustafa's Longstreet ACW rules, governing turn sequence, activations and impacting the effect of the units' actions while they play an entirely different role in Real Time Wargames' Blood & Sand colonial Sudan rules where they determine game length and the arrival of Mahdist units. Games from the Toofatlardies or Piquet stables again use cards in a very different manner.

While I like card-driven games because I find they usually give a good feel for the uncertainty of battlefield friction, the one thing I dislike is figuring out the effect of that Queen of Spades by looking it up in the rules. Or cutting up loads of cards from a PDF printout. Enter Hong Kong-based Artscow (a similar service is provided by Printer Studio in the US), an online company that allows you to print your own images on everything from mugs, key chains and blankets to... cards. These 54 card decks come in different flavours:

Friday, 13 September 2013

Hip to be square: Italeri/Fabbri 1/100 Mil Mi-8 review

Used by soldiers, spooks and warlords the world over, Mil's Mi-8 Hip is probably the world's most produced helicopter (although Bell's Huey is another contender for the title if the whole 204/205/212/214 family is included). Yet, much like the CH-47 Chinook, it is not very well represented in 1/100 scale.

QRF make two resin and white metal models in their modern 15mm range: the Mi-8TV Hip C armed transport and the Mi-8TVK Hip E attack variant. While I own neither, I do have a few of the 1/100 diecast Hips released by Italeri/Fabbri a while back. These were made in two civilian liveries: an Aeroflot one or a Maldives-based Hummingbird Helicopter one and I can heartily recommend them although they are sadly getting harder to find at reasonable prices.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Imperial Rover: QRF 15mm Landrover Series II review

Way back when I was a wee lad (well, actually it was more like ten years ago), I bought some QRF 15mm LWB Landrovers which had formerly been part of the Denzil Skinner range and a while back I enquired as to whether this model which had disappeared from the QRF website was still available for purchase as I fancied adding a quartet of them to my (very) slowly growing Imperial Twilight in Africa forces.

After rummaging through what I presume are mountains of moulds in QRF GHQ, they managed to find the ex-DS mould, pop it into the casting machine and include them in my next order which is great testimony to the excellent customer service from Chas and Geoff.

Unlike QRF's PBS10 and Peter Pig's model which are 1970s versions, this long wheelbase Land Rover is a Series II or IIA vehicle (with the headlights on the front grille rather than on the front wings as in the later Series III) as produced from 1958 to 1969 and thus more suitable for the Congo, Rhodesia and Portugal's waning colonial empire.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Helmand workhorse: QRF 15mm Pinzgauer truck mini review

Along with the WMIKs and Snatch Landrovers, the Steyr-Daimler-Puch Pinzgauer truck is one of the iconic vehicles of the early days of British operations in Helmand province and QRF happens to have a very nice one in its British softskin range.

The diminutive Pinz is a very simple model with only six parts: four wheels, a truck body and a tilt. It is nicely detailed with a well-captured shape and casting quality is pretty good with very litlle cleaning up required.

Being modelled with a separate tilt makes it possible to portray a stripped-down vehicle simply by adding a wire-cutting bar and the canvas supports from plasticard. 

All in all, this is a very nice little model, and the photo on QRF's website doesn't do it justice.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Chieftains, by Bob Forrest-Webb

Chieftains by Bob Forrest-Webb first popped up on my radar screen way back in 1986-87 when I bought TTG's Battlezones - Scenarios for the Ultra Modern Period which featured Chieftains amongst its list of scenario sources though I was never able to lay my hands on a copy.

This book popped up again a couple of years ago when it was recommended over on TMP but again no joy was had in finding a copy for even tattered ones seemed to command utterly ridiculous prices.

Now, thanks to the joys of electronic reprints, the book is once again available for a reasonable price as a Kindle edition and I was finally able to see what the fuss was all about. And a pretty good read it is, I must say.

First published in 1982, the book charts the fate of Chieftain crews from the BAOR's 14/20th Hussars (along with cameo appearances by an SAS stay-behind party and a US tank unit) as they face the onslaught of the Red Hordes in northern Germany's plains. While the year is not specified, from the equipment described, it is obviously set in 1982/83. The book is very much a worm's eye view of a hypothetical WW3 and does not concern itself with the whys and therefores.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Recce rodent: QRF 15mm FV701 Ferret Mk 2/3 mini review

Just for a change, a Cold War stalwart has joined the ultra modern vehicles I have on the assembly line: QRF's 15mm FV701 Ferret Mk 2/3 which is an exceedingly nice little model (and a really small one too).

There is actually not a lot to say about this model: the detail is very crisp, the proportions are spot on, the casting is free of flash and mould lines and assembling the seven pieces (hull, turret and five wheels) is a breeze. This one is definitely one of the best models I have from the QRF stable.

Simply slap on some paint, add a couple of aerials and this diminutive scout car will rapidly join your Bedfords, Unimogs, Berliets and Landrovers for a wee bit of armoured escort all over the dying colonial empires of the 60s and 70s...

Monday, 26 August 2013

Pocket MBT: QRF 15mm FV107 Scimitar Mk1 review

For a bit of armour support when the Warriors and Challengers are not around, the Scimitar armoured reconnaissance vehicle can stand in as a pocket MBT (well, that's what the Treasury seems to think anyway). This is produced both by QRF and possibly MJ Figures. The latter is sold as a Falklands-era Scorpion but the gun looks like something of a cross between a 76mm low pressure and a Rarden so a replacement gun will give you either version. As for the QRF model, it is modelled after the current configuration of the Scimitar Mk1 even though the photo of the company's website is that of an older model in Falklands-era configuration.

The QRF model is a very nice, simple kit with four pieces: turret, hull, two track pieces. The fit is excellent throughout and the tracks are particularly well designed to ensure that they are level. As with the Warriors, the 30mm Rarden was rebuilt from brass rod and tubes in the interest of longevity.

Open hatched would have made it perfect but you can't have it all. As it is, it's basically perfect for a Telic Scimitar and could be modified to an Afghan configuration with additional ECM although adding the bar armour would be a challenge in this scale.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Chobham gypsy wagon : QRF 15mm up-armoured Warrior review

Along with the Challenger 2 (reviewed here) my last order from QRF included a trio of MCV80 Warrior with Chobham which is the FV510 Warrior in its wartime configuration with large slabs of Chobham applique armour added to the front and  sides.

This configuration was first seen in Operation Granby and also used in Kosovo and Operation Telic. For a mid-eighties vehicle both QRF and Skytrex make the vanilla Warrior, while Old Glory UK has an updated version of the Warrior with WRAP 2 ERA package hidden in its modern infantry listing.

The QRF Warrior is nice and chunky with very few parts: a hull, two track pieces, a turret and two side skirts. Overall detail is good as is the quality of casting. The frontal Chobham block is a little on the thick side, thick enough in fact that the driver would hardly see over it but this isn't really noticeable unless the model is viewed from the side and held at eye level. The side skirts might be a little on the thin side and could be thickened with plasticard but they look the part and I left these alone. As you can see in the photos, the track to hull fit needs a little filler but that is not much of an issue since it is mostly hidden behind the armoured skirts.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Old, cold warriors: Roskopf 1/100 model vehicles

Rather less well-known than Roco Minitanks, producer of 1/87 vehicles, the RMM Roskopf range of 1/100 models produced in Germany from the late 50s to the early 90s has quite a bit to offer a wargamer interested in putting together a 15mm Cold War force or one of the numerous ones that use NATO hand-me-downs.

Obviously, since the range had models released over nearly forty years, the quality was very variable with the older models being crude and of interest only to collectors (the M-47, M-48 and Centurion and most of the WW2 models spring to mind here).

Even though all the models are rather simple quite a few of them are worth seeking out because they have the advantages of injection-moulded plastic: clearly defined detail and straight sharp edges with are sometimes missing from their white metal counterparts. In addition, a lot of these models were never produced by anyone else in this scale.

As you would expect, the range strongly focused on vehicles used by the Bunderswehr vehicles but other NATO forces and Warsaw Pact vehicles also featured which gives you a nice selection of Cold War armour. Below are some of the models I've been able to pick up dirt cheap in a local model shop of the dusty cavern variety and eBay. You can find a full list of Roskopf models over on the 87th Scale website. One word of warning: unlike the military range, Roskopf's later civilian range of trucks was produced in 1/87 scale.