Those paper ruins again

These are a couple more in the series of paper micro-wargaming buildings I mentioned in my last post — I thought it might be useful to see how they look in their raw state.

I've printed them on a light tan 160gsm card, so that any bits I may miss with my paintbrush will look brickish, rather than a screaming bright white. In retrospect, a darker coloured card would probably be even better.

As you can see, the original line work gives you a sort of "colouring book" base to work from. I've cut out some of the doors, window-shutters and what-not and glued them back in place skewed, to enhance the ruinous aspect of the finished models.

The card bases will be glued down on to 0.5mm steel before groundwork and painting begins.

Microruins

These little buildings were my first attempt at terrain modelling in many, many years, and my first ever in micro-scale, and I'm pretty pleased with the way they've turned out.

They're just made out of painted cardboard, with rubble made from railway modellers' ballast. Being such small scale, ordinary 160gsm card designed for the inkjet printer is quite sturdy enough for the purpose.

The designs are some black-&-white line-drawn things I found on the internet somewhere; I'm afraid I don't remember where, but some guy was making available some old out-of-print stuff from the early 1980s that he had (with the original publisher's permission) scanned and uploaded for the world to enjoy. All I did really was decorate them with paint and crap. For mass-production, I'd probably get the original line drawings into Photoshop and pre-paint them; then all I'd need to worry about is the groundwork and tinting the cut edges so that they don't stand out like dog's bollocks.

NOTE: The bases are, like those of my infantry, made of 0.5mm mild steel, which both gives the cardboard model some weight and stability, and allows the models to be transported on magnetic trays.

These ruined versions were supposed to have non-ruined versions slipped over the top, to be taken away as if by magic when the buildings get the crap blown out of them, but my semi-elaborate basing makes that unfeasible. Since you have to make two models in any case, it's not a big deal to just replace a non-blown-up model with a blown-up model, and that's what I'll do. I guess the non-ruined slip-covers would be more useful if one were making large, elaborate terrain boards with the buildings permanently mounted in place.

The two larger ones are just the right size to slip a squad base of infantry or a tank into, while the 2-storey one will fit a small machine-gun or sniper base on its crumbling floorboards. Perfect.

Now to make about a hundred more.

Whining, moaning and complaining - that's how I roll

Battlefront, makers of the Flames of War WWII toy soldier game and my favourite range of 15mm WWII wargames figures and models, have finally, after many years, got around to re-releasing stuff for the early part of the war. They've had a little bit of early war stuff available, but really only for the North African desert campaigns; now they've re-released stuff for the Polish and French campaigns of 1939-40.

As seems to be standard practice these days, all the special rules for this period have been packed into a high-quality, colour illustrated hardback book. That's fine and dandy, but being a high-quality hardback book means that it will cost near enough to a hundred eighty-five bucks. The information actually needed to play FoW in the early war period could fit easily into a 24-page saddle-stitched booklet; the ratio of fluff to crunch in these volumes seems to be about 10:1. Never mind, hopefully I'll be able to find some sucker to pay for it so that I can take a look through it and jot down the few snippets I need.

More irritating — much more irritating — is the way they've gone about the re-release of the figures and models for the period. They're available (for the moment) only in large boxed sets, costing about $300 each. I have no idea why they're not releasing the models individually, like their other inventory, nor do I have any idea how long it's going to take to get around to it. I've been waiting for years to get my hands on this stuff, and now it looks like I'm going to have to wait even longer.

I'm disgruntled.


Postscript: It would appear, from the news given on their website, that it will be another couple of months before they start dribbling out individual models; they give no indication of which stuff will be set free first, or any sort of release schedule at all apart from the fact that there will be those first two months in which only the boxed sets will be available. Looks like I will just have to wait, and wait, and wait.

Postpostscript: I suppose I could always get most of what I want from other manufacturers, but I haven't found any 15mm stuff I like as much as the stuff modelled by Battlefront.

Boss! Boss! Ze planes!

Etrich Taube
Annette and I went up to Nelson for a couple of days holiday recently (it was great) and on the way back, we dropped in to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre a few kilometres outside of Blenheim.

I only heard about it a short time ago; I had no idea we had anything like this in New Zealand. It's just jam-packed with a galore of fantastic WW1 aviation dioramas as well as display cases showing related artifacts like some of von Richtofen's trophy cups, one of Rene Fonck's uniforms, and stuff like that.

I took a lot of photos, though not nearly as many as I would have liked, and unfortunately I didn't have my tripod with me so I couldn't get as many long-exposure detail close-ups as I wanted.

I include here a scan of the exhibition brochure, which shows a plan of the hall with the locations of the various exhibits. Click on the image below to see a larger version in which it's actually possible to make out what's what.

Exhibition layout pamphlet
I can't recommend this place too highly for anyone with even the slightest interest in WW1 aviation. It's fantastic.

Note: unfortunately Annette counts as someone with the slightest interest in WW1 aviation; she loyally went once around the displays with me and then went out for a coffee and sandwich. I would have stayed much, much longer, but I suspect she might have started to get a bit bored sitting in the cafeteria after the first couple of hours.

Vickers Medium - painted

This is the 15mm Vickers Medium Mk.II from QRF that I reviewed in an earlier post, all painted up. I wanted it in the pre-war overall Deep Bronze Green, but dry-brushing to heighten the detail has lightened it over-much and I may have to re-do it.

Also, that nubbin to the rear of the hull side should have a machine-gun sticking out of it — a Vickers gun, in fact. That will need to be taken care of too.

Aiee! My wallet, my poor wallet!

I went to buy some of Lou Zocchi's Gamescience dice the other day. They're my favourite dice; I like my edges sharp, thanks very much. I really don't much like the rounded Chessex style at all. Unfortunately, nobody here in Christchurch stocks them, so I resorted to the internet for my dice-fix.

A set of un-inked dice, like the ones shown here, cost about five bucks — that seems to me to be quite reasonable. I followed the "buy" link, which took me to Amazon, and ordered five sets. Twenty-five bucks, right?

Then Amazon added postage and handling.

Near enough to THIRTY-FIVE DOLLARS! Just for shipping! Bloody hell!

What would five sets of dice weigh? Maybe a hundred grams? They wouldn't even make a very bulky package. I think that Amazon are gouging more than a trifle on their shipping fees, and if not, then the US Postal Service is. I've been stung before with shipping fees from Amazon, when I bought some second-hand science fiction books. This experience indicates that it's not a rarity, so screw Amazon. I won't be shopping there again.

As it happens, I went elsewhere, to frpgames.com, for my dice. The shipping still stung a bit, but it was half what Amazon wanted to charge me.

Review: QRF 1:100 scale Vickers Medium Mk. II

I've been interested for a while in skirmish gaming the Inter-War period, and to that end I bought myself a troop of three of these Vickers Medium Mk.II tanks from QRF (£4.50 each plus about 5 quid postage to New Zealand). Inter-war tank models in 15mm scale (or any other scale really) are very, very thin on the ground.

These come in four white-metal parts each, the hull and turret being hollow. The turret is mounted by means of a long, sturdy peg through a hole in the hull top. In the model shown in the images above I've replaced the soft white-metal 3 pounder gun with a sturdier one turned down from a brass nail.

They're nominally 1:100 scale, for 15mm gaming, but the models are rather too small, measuring out at about 1:115 scale. That makes them too small for 15mm gaming and too large for 12mm.

Detail is fairly soft, but acceptable for wargaming purposes. Rivets are represented by indentations rather than standing proud of the surface, which is a pity but does at least give an indication of their presence. The exhaust pipe, which should run along the port-side track guard under the hull access hatch is missing, though the muffler cylinder is shown. All of the models suffer from a "slump" in the hull-top just forward of the turret, where the metal has not properly filled the mold. The gun is modelled with a reciprocator (or something similar) below it; that's not something I recall seeing in any photographs of the Mk.II.

A particular disappointment to me is the representation of the turret hatch. The semi-flush split disc shown here wasn't unknown by any means, but much more common was a raised "bishop's mitre" hatch, as seen in the photo to the right. It's not a difficult thing to scratch-build, but I would have much preferred not to have to.

In summary, the models are acceptable wargaming pieces but the scale issue alone makes them worthless from a scale modelling perspective. They're priced fairly competitively with models of the same scale from other manufacturers, though nobody else (that I know of) makes a Vickers Mk.II in this size.

Land-dreadnaught ahoy!

Soviet T-28 — medium tank (1:100 scale)
I've always rather liked the multi-turreted land-dreadnaught tank designs of the 1920s and 30s. My favourites are the British Independent and the Soviet T-35, both of which are ludicrously huge and steam-punkish, and both of which were actually pretty crap as fighting vehicles.

This is my latest effort, a Soviet T-28. It was the T-35's little brother, a medium tank design built in the '30s. It saw service against the Finns in both the Winter War and Continuation War, proving itself to be a mediocre tank at best. More were lost to mechanical failure than to enemy action.

This model is a 1:100 scale (15mm) wargames model from Battlefront. I'd have liked to have added a horseshoe aerial around the turret, but my eyes and fingers are getting a bit ricketty for that sort of modelling these days.

Hordes of the Things (2nd Ed.)

As the second edition of the Hordes of the Things rules are currently out of print, Sue Laflin-Barker has kindly made them available as a free pdf download at http://www.wrg.me.uk/

Go the the 'History of WRG' page; the link to the file can be found there. Depending on whether or not its been fixed yet, you may also need to download a separate file for page 23 (the Combat Results tables). If you have a copy of Acrobat then you can insert the errant page back into its rightful place; if not, then you'll have to print it separately. (I do, and I have).

Arcanobibliovore

Warning: the players of wizards will probably hate you forever for including this sort of thing in your campaign.

This creature — or magic item — or whatever it is — appears to be a large book like those used to record a magician's repertoire of spells. If scanned with appropriate spells or senses, it does radiate a magical aura, and it does have a life-force that could conceivably be detected if the means are to hand.

The arcanobibliovore feeds on stored magical energy, such as that in scrolls and spellbooks, and will attack and eat them if it can. It can "smell" the presence of such things within about ten metres.

Although it is capable of active hunting, moving about on hundreds of tiny centipede-like legs that fringe its "covers" (they lie flat when the creature is in "ambush" mode), its usual tactic is to allow itself to be "discovered" by a magic-user and to display a few enticing spells on its interior pages, in the hope of being stored with its prey. If left alone with a spellbook or scroll, it will tear it to pieces and eat any pages containing spells. It will target the richest food supplies first — that is, the highest-level available spells, leaving the low-level spells until last. The rate at which it eats is up to the individual GM, but I would suggest about 1-4 pages per minute.

The arcanobibliovore stores the spells it consumes as food reserves, and it gets fatter the more spells it consumes. It uses the energy slowly, using up about one spell-level a week. If it ever runs out of stored spells completely, it dies. It can be semi-tamed by supplying it with a reliable food supply.

The spells it consumes are not immediately destroyed, and the arcanobibliovore can make them available for study if it wishes. However it is not very intelligent, and cannot distinguish well between the individual spells held within its pages, so the spells it displays will be randomly chosen from all those in its reserves. On any given day, if it is in a good mood it can be induced to show 3-12 spells which can then be learned as if from any other spellbook (assuming they are of a level appropriate to the viewer).

Determine the arcanobibliovore's mood as follows: roll 1d6 and add +1 per spell-level of spells it has been fed by the supplicant within the last week; a score of 6+ indicates that it is in the mood to show its contents.

Note: Remember that the repertoire of spells available from the arcanobibliovore will change as it eats and/or digests its food. The GM can decide for him or herself how best to sort out what spells are still available on any given day.

Zvezda KV1 (1941)

 Here'a another 1:100 scale (15mm) KV1 from Zvezda, a slightly later model than the previous one with a slightly better 76.2mm gun. ...