Sunday 31 May 2009

9th Company

The final movie in my war movie marathon was the Russian film 9th Company, telling the (historically based) story of the 9th Company, 345th Guards Airborne Regiment during the final year of the Russian War in Afghanistan. 9th Company is basically a Russian version of Full Metal Jacket being spilt into two main parts, the conscripts training in the Soviet Union then their service in Afghanistan. Similarities between the two movies are such that the first half is somewhat tedious - I mean how many screaming sergeant majors and troops on long runs and obstacle courses do you want to see?

It is when the film gets to Afghanistan that it really comes into its own, landing at Bagram air base the film moves up a number of notches and is made all the more impressive by the use of large quantities of real Soviet equipment especially the predatory Hinds. The 39 man company's mission is to station themselves on Hill 3234 and protect Soviet convoys, though it must be said with limited success. The final battle as 250 mujahadeen attack rounds things off impressively enough, though the film maker's throw history out of the window by wiping out most of the Soviet garrison for dramatic purposes (in real life 6 were killed and 28 wounded out of the 39).

Overall I enjoyed the second half of the movie a lot. The first half wasn't bad, it was just too familiar. The second half was very impressive if only for the chance to see Hind's in action along with BMP2's and BM-21's. If you have any interest in Soviet forces the movie is a must buy and even if you haven't it is a worthwhile addition to any war film collection.

Saturday 30 May 2009

Days Of Glory

The second movie in my marathon war movie session was the Days of Glory (the 2006 French film not the 1944 Gregory Peck one). Days of Glory tells the story of the native African troops who served in the French army during the second half of WW2 and the pretty shoddy way they were treated at the time and subsequently by French governments who refused to pay the veterans their pensions when their homelands became independent.

As war films go it is not the most action packed, with the battle sequences limited to a mountain assault in Tunisia (very reminiscent of a WW1 battle) and a defensive action against the Germans in an Alsace town, that said both are well done. The worth of the film is its addressing of a topic often overlooked, the contribution of native colonial forces in the liberation of France and the discrimination these troops faced from the homeland they were dying for. As with most films it sticks to its own agenda and as such ignores the war crimes committed by the French colonial forces in Italy (notably after Monte Cassino) so not to dilute your sympathy for injustices suffered by the main characters. Following the release of the film in France, the French government reinstated the military pensions of those colonial troops who had fought for France during the war.

Overall a good film on an obscure subject and worth checking out (again this one is also available for less than a fiver), a Goumier unit would certainly make for an interesting addition to a WW2 tabletop. 

Friday 29 May 2009


Feeling slightly sorry for myself not being up for painting 6mm tanks I plonked myself in front of the TV and watched a number of war films over the last couple of days. First off was Assembly, the story of one man's determined attempts to ensure his unit's brave sacrifice was not forgotten and the dead recognised as heroes not listed MIA.

Set in 1948 during the Huahai campaign of the Chinese Civil War, the film is in many respect China's Saving Private Ryan and the opening battle sequence of the PLA battling the Nationalist KMT in a Chinese town is as good as anything in Speilberg's film and like that, the story is highly compelling and tinged with sadness. 

For perfectionists there are odd little irritants, the KMT armour in the 1948 battle is wrong (M46 not M4...) and the US flag on the American truck in the 1951 sequences something you are more likely to see on an ambassadors car rather than a 6 x 4, but overall the whole look and feel of this film is excellent and the final stand of the 48 men of the 9th company is as intense and as good war cinema as you can get. Overall, Assembly is an excellent war movie and despite its uncommon setting well worth checking out.

Note: looking for a trailer on You Tube I have found someone has uploaded the movie in 10 minute chunks. Whilst I don't think this is the best way to watch the film (and as the DVD is under a fiver you shouldn't be a cheapskate!) it will give you an idea of how good it is before you buy it!

Thursday 28 May 2009

CDSU Super Heavy Armour Platoon

Sod's Law dictates that when I take some time off from work I end up catching some debilitating disease (usually the terrible Man flu!) - this time my plans of painting up more 6mm SF armour went south as I managed to contract an eye infection over the bank holiday weekend and then spread it to the good eye (I'm clever like that!). I'm now half way through a course of anti-biotic eye drops and my eyes are starting to feel less like being polished with sandpaper, so hopefully I'll be able to finish off my half completed CDSU Armour Company I started last week.

I had been pondering on a camo scheme for the CDSU for a little while and in the end decided to do something akin to the current Chinese three colour green-sand-black scheme. As a test piece(s) I decided to repaint three old CMD super heavy grav tanks sporting twin barrel armament and was pleased with the end result, adding some Dom's Decals 1/600th Soviet aircraft stars as markings. Unfortunately the models are no longer available in this version (shame as I really want six more...). The 40mm long hull with a one barrel version of the turret is available from GZG as DF-T21 Andromeda, but I am less keen on this compared to the three I have. Hopefully GZG will rediscover the two gun turret one day and make it available once more.

Saturday 23 May 2009

Just Wizard!

To try and keep myself sane when painting up units and armies I take a break by grabbing an odd unrelated figure and slapping a bit of paint on that. The purple wizard is one such figure. I think it is an old Citadel one (again pre-slotta though for consistency with my other fantasy figures he is now on a slotta) that I decided to experiment with purple over a black undercoat and see the end result. For the yellow areas I overpainted the black with a white undercoat then went orange topped with yellow. I was pleased with the end result. Not quite sure what he'll be used for but I'm sure he'll prove useful in some game or another...

The other wizard (again old Citadel pre-slotta) is my first attempt at painting in acrylics (over white undercoat) some twenty years ago in a painting session with then girlfriend (now SWMBO). For some reason TG(NSWMBO) decided she wasn't going to paint with enamels but bought a pile of pots of acrylics at some show (in Birmingham IIRC) which we sat down with one Sunday afternoon. This was the only figure I attempted and then reverted to enamels for nigh on fifteen years. They had the pigment consistency of poster paints and were very gritty (as opposed to Citadel paints at the time which were too runny). When painting the purple wizard I spotted this forlorn looking individual and decided to repaint him, but on closer inspection decided a bit of touching up and shading on the face was all that was really needed. Again no real idea what he'll end up being used for but it is another figure less in the lead mountain!

Friday 15 May 2009

When's Second Breakfast?

Somewhat intrigued by what Tony is up to with halflings on his Dampf's Modelling Page Blog, I decided to dig out the unit of old GW Halflings I completed earlier this year to show on the blog.

I can't recall exactly when I bought these, but as most were pre-slotta base I assume it was around 1984-5. Bearing in mind I was a Goblin fantatic at the time I am not quite sure why I bought them (lunch for the goblins?), probably because they looked so much fun!

I dug them out as part of an exercise to see what F/SF units I could make out of the various odds and sods of white metal and plastic I have amassed over the last thirty years of wargaming that have never made it near a wargames table. Fortunately I had enough halflings to make a unit (without including some of the old GW LoTR hobbits I found from the first time they had the licence - I'm saving these for a rainy day).

Lovely little figures and full of character, there are a few duplications in the unit, but nothing too bad. I especially like the leader in breastplate with a pot for his helmet and the female with beer barrel which is the unit's standard bearer.

For those interested, the armour is my standard "grubbby armour" technique - paint it black, dry brush with GW Tin Bitz, then drybrush over that leaving bits showing through with GW Chainmail - quick and effective on anything from orcs through to dwarves, just use less Chainmail for a more grubby look...

Wednesday 13 May 2009

Warrior Of Rome: Fire In The East

I must confess to a guilty secret - I'm addicted to historical fiction, especially sword and sandals stuff. Anything with ancient warriors beating several kinds of crap out of each other with swords and shields then it's probably on my reading list, the more bloody and brutal the better...

Fortunately the Easter Bunny, noticing an ever increasing waistline, decided that one chocolate egg was enough this year and threw in a copy of Harry Sidebottom's Warrior of Rome: Fire in the East to sweeten the deal. It is the story of Marcus Clodius Ballista, a Roman citizen of barbarian origins tasked with defending the city of Arete against the Sassanid Empire in 255AD.

Now I haven't much of a clue about Roman history during this period (neither do academics apparently) but the book is a great read with naval action against pirates, intrigue, politics and a great big siege as the Sassanid's attempt to take Arete. Good stuff, can't wait for book two King of Kings.

Friday 8 May 2009

African Warlord SF Armour

When I was chatting to Tony at Salute about Iron Cow he asked about opfors for the South African Commonwealth in Iron Cow as nothing appeared that obvious as most of the continent had gone downhill during the 21st century. I had recently been working on some SAC background for a mini-campaign/article or PDF supplement and outlined some of the ideas that were being penned. The idea of the SAC is that they ensure their own survival first and then do what they can for the rest of the continent second. The mini-campaign concept centred around SAC military units on humanitarian missions to Central Africa, with random encounters of anything from bandits using RPG's and IED's, through small bands of warlords and slavers to first world forces in the employ of industrialists exploiting whatever sparse resources the continent still can offer (the obvious candidate here for Tony was the EuroFed Legion...)

With all this at the back of my mind (and now being the proud owner of a wonderful - unpainted -  SAC armoured regiment with convoy to protect) I have been toying with building up a small warlord army, mixing and matching troop types and armour into a ragtag force that might not be able to stand up to the SAC on a level playing field but in rough terrain and using the ambush rules could be a real challenge. This would also allow me to use up a number of 6mm odds and sods I have ended up with over the years including these lovely little Scotia grav-tanks. I only have the three and have no idea what code they are, but they are some of the nicer Scotia designs and I have always liked the remote hull mounted gun look (Scotia do some futuristic versions of contemporary armour with hull mounted guns including a cool looking "Abrahms 2000" version using the M1 hull).

This will be an ongoing project with bits added as and when. I'm not sure what I'm going to call this force but reading article in this month's BBC History Magazine about Uganda's misfortunes post-colonialism and the Holy Spirit Movement and Lord's Resistance Army led by quasi-Christian spirit mediums, it'll have to be something a bit weird to compete with real life...

Sunday 3 May 2009

EuroFed Armoured Regiment

I managed to complete the remainder of my EuroFed armoured company for Iron Cow today.

The tank squadron comprises of 15 delightful Monsabert MBT's and a Tassigny Command APC from Brigade Models. Whilst 15mm SF is in "vogue" at the moment, you can't really beat lining up large numbers of 6mm tanks can you? The Monsabert is a lovely little model with some fantastic detail.

The Monsabert hull provides the basis for the Glorie SPG and I have two artillery batteries (Napoleon's "daughters") of three SPG's and a Tassigny Command APC each. I must confess I didn't like the model when I first saw it, not keen on having the barrel in the 45 degree firing position. However it has grown on me and I am pleased with the end result.

Finally there is the command unit. In Iron Cow the issuing of orders (as well as the jamming of your enemy's) is of paramount importance so a goodly number of Tassigny Command APC's are welcome. To provide some (usually very necessary) protection I have three support variants of the Monsabert which, in addition to a mean looking howitzer, sport some lethal chain guns on the turret (no doubt with infantry and VTOL attacks in mind).

If there is one gap in the Brigade range it is VTOL's. Tony says he's no good at sculpting them (!), fortunately I have some old GZG ones knocking around who will have to be press ganged into EuroFed use. Unfortunately, nice though they are, there is not a lot of variety in the GZG range (most are variants off a couple of hull designs), so if anyone knows of any alternative sources I'd appreciate it.

Saturday 2 May 2009

My First Wargames Army

A comment on the Brigade Message Board led to a bit of idle reminiscing last night about my first ever proper wargames army - a 1/300th 1944 US Armoured Division (the imaginary 38th Armored Division, nicknamed "The Reaper"). Not much has survived various house moves (or if it has it is hiding) but I did find a pile of models a while back, veterans of many a teenage battle in Graham's garage against Simon's 1:1 panzer division (well that was his ambition, not sure if he ever got there but Graham's Brits and my Yanks had to combine to give him a game).

Most of the division was made up of Heroics and Ros miniatures, but I was never really very happy with the clean look of the models. Everyone knows that US armoured units of the late war looked like refugee caravans (!), so many models (like the M3A1 half track and M7 Priest here) got covered in packs and rolls made out of Milliput and had crews added, mainly from the US heavy weapons pack.

Additionally the green models on green table look was kind of boring so a number of tanks (like this Skytrex M26 Pershing - well I had to have something to take on the King Tigers!) had orange air recognition panels fitted from old toothpaste tube (this was in the days when they were usefully made of metal).

As the division expanded I started to get ambitious and decided the H&R jeeps looked like they had just left the production line or were driven by some REMF not a frontline recon unit, so I converted a number to having the windscreen down, a wirecutter bar fitted, a crewman with .50 cal mg (actually its a BAR but in this scale...) and lots of packs and rolls.

I realised it was all getting too silly when I converted a platoon of US infantry into MP's by removing their packs (in 6mm...) and painting blue MP armbands and rings around their helmets on them... (this was for a planned but never fought Battle of the Bulge game).

These lads haven't seen action for over twenty years and are starting to go slightly yellow due to the Humbrol varnish used but they hold fond memories of many a battle fought including one epic D-Day battle that last two days and we never really got off the beach (on Simon's lounge floor).

Friday 1 May 2009

Bertie's Blog

I have for the past couple of weeks been pondering whether it was appropriate to post certain Wessex Games' material on this blog. I set this blog up to put up photos of stuff I was painting etc, some of which would appear in forthcoming Wessex Games rulebooks, but some things that would not. There was specific Wessex Games items about work on forthcoming rules and miniatures that I wanted to share but I have concluded that my "personal" gaming blog wasn't the right place so I've created Bertie's Blog!

Bertie's Blog is where I'll post anything specific that relates to Wessex Games commercially ie. games development on rules we are producing or miniatures we are sculpting, and continue here on Bleaseworld with photos of stuff that may of may not end up being photographed in a WG product (like the Brigade models which will be in the Iron Cow PDF).

Glad we got that sorted out then... :-)