Saturday, November 21, 2015

Death On The Danube - WIP Hungarian Infantry & AFVs

It's nice to finally start on my WW2 Hungarians. I've been fascinated with the Hungarian participation on the side of the Axis since reading an in-depth history of the German/Hungarian defeat on the Don River. Before then, I'd never known much about this "minor" Axis nation during WW2. It's not taught in school unless you take a really, critical history course and it's not widely known. Which is odd considering just how involved the Hungarian army was on the Eastern Front and how tragically that became.

After reading Krisztin Ungvry's amazing book Battle For Budapest: 100 Days In World War 2, I just knew I had to try modeling this crucial battle in miniature. As such, this force is meant to represent the odd assortment of units trapped inside the Budapest cauldron during the winter of 1944-45. Unfortunately, Warlord's Hungarian army list for Bolt Action is riddled with inaccuracies and missing units; so this build will show many units that aren't available under the generic Hungarian list. As such, for casual play, I will be utilizing the German Last Levy army list and switching back to the generic Hungarian army list for tournament play.

For Hungarian-made AFVs, I'm using Mad Bob Miniatures Csaba armoured car and Zrinyi assault gun (with crew from JTFM's German Tank Crew - I cut the bill off their soft caps to more accurately represent the high-peaked soft cap of most AFV crewmen). These are fairly nice models but, to me, there are some inaccuracies I had to correct. Also, the casts had an odd rough texture to them, especially after washing, so I strongly recommend smoothing this out with a Dremel polishing tool bit before assembly (there is one portion on the Csaba I missed and it's really rough).  On the Csaba I added tow hooks from 20g copper wire, a new AT rifle barrel from copper rod, a corrected cylindrical MG barrel from plasticard, and stowed mallet/shovel on the left side of the hull. On the Zrinyi I added tow hooks from 20g copper wire and a tow chain from jewelry chain. With plasticard, I added the missing headlamps, driver's periscope, and new schurzen attachment points. And, yes....I did drill out each and every hole on the mesh schurzen! Not for the easily annoyed.

28mm Hungarian infantry models are the major sticking point of this army - NO ONE MAKES THEM. It's odd that you can find miniatures for units from even smaller nations, but not Hungary. Many people recommend using the Early War era Germans. While this will do in a pinch, for me there are issues - Honved infantry weren't generally issued with the common Y-strapping and 1938 model Stahlhelm of German troops (though they did start receiving stocks of weapons and equipment after Hitler removed Admiral Horthy from power and rushed German units into Hungary).

Instead, I chose to use Great War Miniatures' WW1 Late War Germans. While they do require work (smoothing puttees and sculpting boots, removing cuffs on jackets, removing water bottles, etc.), the range provides a variety of poses and the majority have the large, distinctive 1916 model Stahlhelm. I'm also interspersing Rules of Engagement's Germans in winter gear for a little variety and also to make certain models stand out on the tabletop (NCOs and Panzerfaust-armed infantry, in particular).

Below is a WIP pic of the majority of my infantry so far. My officers are armed with a mix of pistols and MP-35 SMGs converted from WW1-era Bergmans (...if you've ever seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, these are the gun used during the Venice boat chase). The regular Honved troops are pretty straightforward with some headswaps from West Wind's SOTR Bare German Heads set. The NCOs are armed with MP40s from Reaper Miniatures' 20th Century Weapons set. Panzerfaust-armed figures are from ROE's German Panzerfaust blister. The LMG gunners are equipped with German-supplied MG42s (again from Reaper).

The MMG team is armed with the Hungarian Schwarloze M07/12. This machine-gun was an updated WW1-era model very common in the Hungarian army of WW2. My favorite unit so far is the 10cm Skoda Houfnize 14/19 medium artillery gun. I heavily converted this from a Warlord Italian Modelo 14 with GWM German Artillery crew. I elongated the barrel with metal and plasticard tubing, filed down the gun shield (adding a hinged top plate, gun sight aperture, and sliding aperture plate), added gun shield seats from plasticard and 20g copper wire, removed the limber rails, and added a recoil spade from plasticard.

That's it for now! Only a couple more figures to convert above, then on to the mountain troops....

Friday, November 20, 2015

Italians @ Malta, 1942: WIP M14, Light AT Gun & Medic

After Operation Sting this fall, I recognized the need for some additional units - a Medic, an AT Gun, and a medium tank. I happened to win a Soviet 45mm AT Gun and decided to convert it (back) into a German 3.7cm Pak36 (of which the Soviet gun was an almost exact copy of) for my Airborne. I removed the muzzle brake, sanded down the spoked wheels into disc wheels, and slightly rearranged the elevation controls. I then added prone Airborne figures from the Warlord Light Mortar team blister and a small ammo crate made out of plasticard. The base is cut by hand from 2.5mm plasticard sheet.

The Medic is also from the Warlord Light Mortar blister. He originally carried a carbine in both hands which I cut and sanded out and replaced with a spare left hand and a revolver hand from Reaper's 20th Century Weapons set. The revolver is a nice touch, since many non-combat units were issued the WW1-vintage Bodeo M1889 as a sidearm.

The M14/42 is a Blitzkrieg M13/40. I had actually intended to order the ugly, multi-turreted M11/39 but messed up the order! In any case, it's a cool little AFV. I added handholds and tow hooks from 20g copper wire, a shovel & hatch locks from plasticard, a pintle-mounted Breda (converted from a Reaper BAR, again from the 20th Century Weapons set), and Tamiya 1/48 jerry cans.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Guest Product Review: Wine Wars

(My beautiful wife - who actually runs her own very successful non-gaming blog -took the reins for this review several years back for one of her favorite games and I never got around to publishing it, instead leaving it to languish unloved and forgotten in my drafts. I'm a terrible husband...)

Geeks and food lovers unite - there’s a game out there for you. What gamer doesn’t like eating and drinking? With Foodie Fight and Wine Wars you can have your game and eat it to.

Both Foodie Fight and Wine Wars are trivia games, making them automatically awesome. Both games have a pretty simple set up - each player (or team, if you have more than six players) gets a small score card to keep track of how many points have been won per category. In Foodie Fight, the scoring chips are half moons that are put into place settings on a table card; in Wine Wars the scoring chips are wine bottles. The games also include a color-sided die, which determines which category of question gets asked.

From there on out the rules are simple. For the fast-track version of the games, the first person to get one chip per category wins. For the regular paced version, the first person to get all the chips in every category wins. If you’ve won a category but roll that color you must answer the question for no points before re-rolling the die. Each player continues on their turn until and incorrect answer is given. If you roll gray on the die, you are entitled to choose the category that you would like to answer.

Both games are packaged in sturdy boxes with magnetic lids with fun graphics. We leave our copies stacked on the bookcase - ready to play over dinner or a glass of wine. They’re fun and amusing, and we learn something new and interesting every time we play. So if you need a break from hunching over your minis with a tiny paintbrush and an arsenal of paint, play a trivia game with your spouse!

(As a man who rarely drinks wine, I actually like this game as well, though I rarely win since my knowledge of wine is rather limited. It's a quick, fun game.)

Product Review: Black Grom Studio 28mm Jailhouse & Sentry Box

Recently I've been looking to expand my 28mm terrain for use across multiple time periods/genres. Outside of Old West buildings, I'm not a big fan of lasercut MDF terrain because, for the price, I find it too often boring and without detail. However, I did a search on Ebay a few weeks back and came across these two pieces which are unique and cheap!

Both sets are available from Black Grom Studios on Ebay - a seller who specializes in lasercut MDF terrain. Based out of Poland, his prices are extremely reasonable. Including postage here to the US, I ended up paying about $25 for everything - a real bargain when you consider I've paid the same amount for one Old West building, half the size. Shipping was super fast, arriving at my house within a week via registered airmail!

The jailhouse and sentry box arrived in good shape, separately bagged, but without instructions. As you can see from the pieces laid out above, it can be a little confusing if you don't have good modeling skills. I highly recommend dry fitting pieces together BEFORE gluing. The trickiest part of assembly was the initial fitting of the interior walls (two cell walls and two roofline walls) which had to be slotted together at an angle and then pushed inward.

The only problem with this kit is the oddly shaped front door (you can see a picture of it on the seller's Ebay store) - an overly large, hinged affair that looked cartoonish. I left this piece off entirely and built a new, more realistic door from plasticard.

Total assembly time (including covering the joints with wood putty) only took about 1-2 hours. The roofs are removable, providing access to the upper gallery, four cells, and two guard rooms. Due to the construction, there's not much access to the lower central corridor but, outside of skirmish games, this shouldn't present much of an issue. Doorway height is good - allowing both washer and plastic based figures to stand in them. All interior rooms provide enough space for at least four 25mm based figures. Total size is approximately 7.5" L x 8" W x 5" H (to upper gallery roofline).

The sentry box is quick and easy to assemble. The gate and gate posts have a predrilled hole to stick a piece of plasticard rod or wire through, to make the gate moveable up and down. Total size is approximately 1" W x 4" L x 1" H.

The box is sized correctly, with enough interior space to accomodate one 25mm based figure and a removable roof. It has a nice curved door and vision slits along the other walls. Total size is approximately 2" H x 1.25" W x 1.25" L.

I'm extremely happy with these pieces, the price, and how quickly they went from purchase to full assembly. I'm going to be following this seller and may be purchasing more items. Pics of my completed jail facility coming soon!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Crate Stacks

I always loved the closing scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where some nameless government worker pushes the boxed Ark of Covenant through a giant warehouse filled with crates. The countless "top secret" boxes filled with God-knows-what make for limitless possibilities. In an effort to replicate this in miniature, I tried my hand at making several crate stacks.

Initially, this was going to be a tutorial but, I made a huge mistake by staining these stacks with a stain that was several shades too dark. While they're perfectly serviceable, I'm not happy with the end result and decided to simply post the completed stacks. Also, I don't own a 28mm Indiana Jones proxy so I decided to use some of my Old West minis.