Pimp my Panzer Part Two

We live and learn, or so they say, and this project has seen plenty of learning. My original plan for the turret armour was to create it in three pieces, as seen here.
2014-10-21 10.46.50
In fact it simply didn’t work. I had planned to make the side doors by simply adding some superficial detail on top of what was actually a flat bit of plasticard. No such luck. In the end I was obliged to build the armour in the same manner that the Germans did.

First was the rear section around the stowage at the rear of the turret. This I cut down to size and added two brackets. I superglued the rear section in place and let that dry.
2014-10-21 11.20.53
Once that was done, the two brackets were attached to the cupola.
2014-10-21 11.34.38
After that I made the two forward sections and added brackets.
2014-10-21 13.20.16
These I then attached with more superglue.
2014-10-21 11.53.51
With that done and dry I made the doors and stuck them in the gaps.
2014-10-21 12.10.14

2014-10-21 12.10.20
Now, here’s a lesson learnt. The turret can’t rotate as the schurtzen support frame is too damned high. But hey, it’s a prototype; nil desperandum and all that. For the next model I adapted to side frames by having the supporting rail set below, as opposed to above, the brackets.
2014-10-21 12.22.17

2014-10-21 12.25.26
It makes only a tiny bit of difference, about an eighth of an inch, but it’s enough! The turret on this model now rotates fully, even when the turret armour is added.

In truth there are one or two niggles still. The front part of the armour sits slightly too high as I really need dogs-leg brackets, but that is way beyond my skills. I’ll shove plenty of stowage on that bit so it won’t really get noticed. To be fair, a lot of what will make this work will be a sympathetic paint job to highlight the bits that work and hide the dodgy conversion aspects. Two model completed, two to go, Now it’s time to prep for the third game in our 29, Let’s Go! campaign tonight.

1 Comment

Pimp my Panzer

Less then two weeks to Crisis in Antwerp (the BEST wargaming show in the entire world!) and thoughts on Lard Island turn to prep for the game. One of the great things about Crisis is what a laid back show it is, we have a great time with lots of friends that we’ve made over the years, so we can let our hair down, what’s left of it anyway, and just plan something fun we can play throughout the day, as opposed to a more formal “training session” type game we usually do, which is designed to show off the rules in bite-sized pieces. So, this year we thought we’d have a bit of Big Chain of Command with a bundle of tanks to support our infantry.

As readers of Lard Island News will know, we have tended to settle on 1:50 scale Corgi vehicles where we can get them. The diecast models are very robust when we are trekking around the shows and when you get a deal on eBay they are cheaper than resin. What’s not to love?

Well, what is not to love is the fact that Corgi’s selection of models can most kindly be described as eclectic, more realistically described as dodgy. You can get any number of Sherman types and Churchills and Cromwells, all perfect for the Brits. The yanks get their 75mm and 76mm Shermans, but poor old Jerry only gets Panthers and Tigers. Yes, super-sexy if you have an uber-panzer fetish, but not very realistic. The absence of the Panzer IV is a sad omission, but clearly it isn’t a gap which is going to ever get filled.

The only other diecast Panzer IV that I know about in scale is the French made Solido model. They are rare as hens’ teeth in the UK, but fortunately I spotted one on eBay and, even more fortunately, I realised that the seller was none other than chum of Lard and Wurzel impersonator Ade Deacon. An email later, accompanied by a promise to cross his palm with Lardy silver, and not just one but FOUR Panzer IVs were secured. Oh happy day.

Now, let us address this directly, the Solido models are not perfect. As we can see below they are rather naked, with not a sign of the late war schurtzen which give them that rather lived-in look.
2014-10-21 09.22.21
A shame indeed, but not, I hoped, an insurmountable obstacle. Surely a bit of plasticard and some plastic rods and stuff from the local model shop would allow me to add such luxuries? I decided to find out.

My first step was to knock up an image of some schurtzen in Powerpoint in order to get the size right.
2014-10-21 07.41.02
That was easy enough. There are lots of kits advertised on-line for brass bits for military modellers looking to do their own stuff. I just pinched and image and then drew around that.

The key component here was going to be some plastic rod in a T-format. This one here.
2014-10-21 08.01.30
This was going to provide both the rail on which the schurtzen were going to be hung (read “stuck”), and the arms which would attach it to the tank’s main superstructure. Please remember here that this is a wargaming model, I am not attempting a perfect scale representation of the real thing. Life is too short!

Here’s the connecting arms.
2014-10-21 08.01.53
I cut mine to be half an inch long, but in the assembly process I discovered that 1cm was a better length for the rear brackets while half an inch was ideal for the front one, as we will see. I now snipped away part of the leg of the T shape and filed that flat. This is where the arm will attach to the flat upper superstructre of the tank. I use a set of toe-nail clippers for this. You can get specialist modelling stuff, but frankly the clippers are cheaper and work just as well, and you can cut your toe-nails with them too. Win double.
2014-10-21 08.07.16
Next I attached the arm to a 3 inch long section of rail. As you can see, the two rear brackets are the 1cm lengths while the front bracket is 1/2″ and angled slightly. I arrived at this configuration after considering a number of alternatives. In other words, I ****ed it up right royally several times before I got it right!
2014-10-21 08.53.39
All of this assembly thus far was done with plastic cement. Now I used superglue to attach the assembled sections to the tank, thus.
2014-10-21 09.04.49
2014-10-21 09.04.54
With that in place I cut the schurtzen into sections and stuck them on with the cement. You could just shove the whole panel on in one piece, but I like to give the tanks a bashed about look.
2014-10-21 09.16.33
So, there we have the end of the first phase. Now I need to consider the schurtzen on the turret which, I think, will be a tougher nut to crack. We shall see in Part Two of Pimp my Panzer.


29, Let’s Go! Is Ready to Go

Copy Small
When talking about the Second World War to the man in the street, D-Day is often the image which springs to mind, especially if they have watched Saving Private Ryan and the incredible opening scenes on Omaha Beach. Those of us whose interest in all things military stretches beyond the causal will, if we are fortunate, end up in Normandy and find ourselves equally drawn to those landing grounds. Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah and Omaha, name writ large on the pages of history.

Anyone who has visited these sites will know that, of the five, Omaha is the most physically impressive. The German bunkers stand a colossal monuments to events of June the 6th, 1944. More than any other beach Omaha has a clear beginning and end and the restricted access to the beach allows us to pin point pretty well the sites of all of the actions. The entire beach is a temple where the lover of military history can worship with complete abandon. As this tall, handsome, some would even say athletic, chap is doing at WN60, looking West along the whole stretch of the beach.
But, of course, Omaha beach was just a starting point. Glamorous it is for the film maker and amateur historian alike to focus their interest on this one great day in history, the events actually become even more remarkable when viewed through the prism of the bigger campaign for Normandy. This was the starting point for 29, Let’s Go!, the first Pint-Sized Campaign from TooFatLardies.

Author, Richard Clarke, told Lard Island News “One of the joys of wargaming is the opportunity to do some historical digging, to try to understand what the situation was on the ground and what actually happened to the men at the sharp end. Yes, sure, you can field your standard army and choose from your points list, but that can only ever tell you about the rules you’re playing. It is so much more interesting to actually find out about what really happened and then to transfer that onto the wargaming table.” And that is certainly what he has done with 29, Let’s Go!

Presented as the start of a series of Pint-Sized Campaigns, the one thing 29, Let’s Go! is not, it pint-sized. Thirty-two pages long, it begins with a six page analysis of the military situation faced by the planners on both sides. It goes on to break down the deployment of the German defenders and then to give a summary of their performance on D-Day in the Omaha beach sector. Only then, with the background clearly establish, does the author look to develop the concept of the campaign focused on the events of D-Day+1 to D-Day+3; in particular the push by the 175th Infantry Regiment to break out from the beachhead and to drive West to seize the bridge at Isigny. Richard Clarke again:

“The bridge at Isigny was critical to the success of the landings. It was a D-Day objective which, like most D-Day objectives, was not met. Whereas Gold, Juno and Sword were close enough to each other to offer rapid and effective mutual support, Utah was isolated and divided from Omaha by several major waterways, the Vire, the Aure abnd the Carentan Canal, all of which could have provided the Germans with the basis for fresh defensive lines which could have seen any advance from Omaha blunted and Utah destroyed in detail. Capturing the bridge at Isigny was the key to the link up which would ensure a single, coherent lodgement”.

Using numerous sources and period maps, Richard has traced the path followed by the 175th and presented their progress as a campaign covering five specific actions. But the campaign isn’t as simple as that. For the German player there are several strategic imperatives which will influence the decisions that the player makes about where and when to fight. For the US player, there are certain considerations within the Regiment which, if not addressed, can cause potentially disastrous delays. We asked Richard to tell us more:

“I don’t want to give away too much, but suffice to say that both sides have their own agendas. This isn’t just about playing five games and then whoever wins the most wins the campaign. This is all about getting the players to feel like they are in the shoes of their historical counter-parts. They had “real” pressures on them which, I feel, encourage them to buy in to their role and really live the experience. We all know how immersive a wargame can be; if we can extend that suspension of belief to cover a whole campaign then we are enhancing that enjoyment factor ten fold.”

The campaign itself uses historical maps to provide the terrain for each of the five battlefields. At its shortest the campaign will last five games, at its longest nine games. Whatever the outcome a definite result will be had in that time, making this a very playable campaign for club nights or even over a long weekend at a Convention.

“It’s all about providing the tools for gamers to enjoy a practical campaigning experience” said Richard. “It’s been my experience that keeping things relatively short and sweet means it is a project which can sensibly be carried through to a conclusion in a relatively brief timescale. Campaigns can tend to drag if there is no end in sight, with this campaign the process is finite and that keeps the motivation going, especially when the scenarios can be on a knife edge.”

After the historical background, the supplement provides briefings for both sides as well as force lists and support options. The Germans field a Type 44 infantry platoon, the US field a classic infantry platoon, but in both cases there is ample opportunity to “pimp your force” so suit your playing style with the support options. The five scenarios all stand replaying; if the Americans fail to breakthrough on their first attempt then they come back for more, but with different support options. So even if you replay the same scenario twice you’re sure of variety. Each of the scenarios has its own full colour map for a 6′ by 4′ table as well as instructions for terrain and the likes. Finally, you have the umpire’s notes which really make the campaign hang together. All in all, its a complete package which allows you to run the campaign along side the At the Sharp End Campaign Handbook.
29 Pages
We asked Richard if you could use 29, Let’s Go! with other platoon sized rule sets. “You could indeed. Obviously Chain of Command is ticking the boxes for a huge number of gamers world-wide, but if you fancy playing it with other rules then why not? For all of our Pint-Sized Campaigns you’ll need At the Sharp End to unlock all of the gaming goodness theirin, but that system is simple and eminently transferable to other games if you’ve yet to make the conversion to Chain of Command. On the other hand, this is a great chance to try Chain of Command. You know you want to!”

It sounds great, and it looks great too, but one of the best things about 29, Let’s Go! is the price. When they say “Pint-Sized” that refers to the price as well. At just £3.50 this costs the same as a pint in the Lard Island local pub, making this what must be one of the best value releases in years. I’ll drink to that. Cheers!


Supporting the 29th

I am not in love, but I’m open to persuasion. I guess that best sums up my attitude to plastic figures. I can most certainly state that there is nothing about the weight of plastic figures which upsets me, all of my ACW armies have the superb Perry plastics for their rank and file and I’ve been using them for some years now. The bit that does frustrate me is when the contents of a box of infantry look like they are designed by Tamiya for a devoted military modeller, as opposed to a “get the bloody things on the table” approach which better sums up yours truly.

To illustrate this very personal relationship breakdown between plastic figures and me, I recently abandoned a whole Japanese stater army after spending an hour sticking three figures together. Metal, I decided, may be more expensive, but when it came to costing my time it would actually be cheaper, and less likely to cause a heart attack! So, accepting this as the case, why did I buy a box of Warlord US Rangers at Partizan2 the other week? Well, the answer is that I needed some supports which I just couldn’t get in metal, in particular the Engineer teams for mine clearance, obstacle clearance and flamethrower. All of which were available in this box. Or, more to the point, the bits were available.

I decided that the two bangalore torpedoes would be great for the demolition team. Rather than assemble a whole plastic figures, I looked through my spares box to find a couple of suitable metal figures to take the left arms which were attacked to the said explosive charges. I found one from Artizan and one from Crusader who, after a quick snip with a pair of toenail clippers and a zap with a small file, fitted the role perfectly. A third figure in the team is equipped with a carbine, but I also added some of the metal parts from the Rangers box, equipping him with an axe and some other demolition kit on his belt. This is how they ended up.
2014-09-29 07.24.16

Next was the mine-clearance team. Here I assembled two kneeling plastic figures, one with a knife for probing the ground, the other removing a sign saying “minen”. The third was a carbine armed metal Crusader figure pointing as if to say “I found one!”. It’s a shame that no mine detector was present, but I am not unhappy with the look of these. They certainly have a “hands on” feel to them.
2014-09-29 07.23.38

Next we have the flamethrower team. This was a bit tricky to build, but I went with a complete plastic figure to which I added the metal cast flamethrower. I had a bit of a job working out which were the best parts for this, but the figure is fine when various bits of kit are added. His two mates are metal figures by crusader who I have also given lots of wire cutting tools on their belts. They can double up for that purpose if required.
2014-09-29 07.24.52

After that it was two metal figure teams, also from Warlord; the 0.50 cal Browning and another 60mm mortar. These figures are nicely sculpted and well posed. None of the weirdo looks I found with some of their Russians was evident here. I really like them. Warlord also do single figures of the bloke with the ammo boxes. As Chain of Command teams are often five men rather than the very odd wargame standard three men (how did that ever become the standard?!) this is a very welcome optional purchase to beef up teams.
2014-09-29 07.22.22

2014-09-29 07.23.08

So, the Warlord boxed set proved to be a great purchase as a specific “spares box” for the US forces. Any gaps in their ranks can now be filled with these. Indeed I am about to crew my Utility Cars with them. I got some very reasonably prices Solido models on eBay and have tarted these up with what are largely Tamiya 1:48th clutter. I want to add some more bits in Milliput or Green Stuff, but the plastic figures should work brilliantly. Here’s a snap before I get started on them.
2014-09-29 07.27.07
If you’re at Derby next weekend you should see the finished models in our game along with the rest of the 29th Infantry Division figures.

Apologies for some of the shoddy photos, I am adding this early in the morning before heading up to York so they are not great, but hopefully sufficient to show what I’ve been up to. I’ll try to replace them when I can get better light.


A Small Diversion

After all of the hard work getting my Yanks ready for action, i thought we’d have a bit of a fun game with week at the club, just getting to know their strengths and weaknesses. As a result the scenario was a bit tongue-in-cheek, with both sides having their own objectives which weren’t mutually exclusive.

For the US players, BA, Noddy and Doctor Daz, a small of two platoons backed up by a reduced platoon of three M4 Shermans was tasked with rescuing some comrades who had been incarcerated in the local Gestapo HQ and, according to the local FFI, were being treated in a beastly manner by their evil captors. Their task was to rescue their comrades from the hands of their terrible tormentors.

On the German side Elton and The Traitor McKipper (hot from the campaign trail) were tasked with defending the chateau until a unit of Feld Gendarmerie could arrive to remove highly confidential papers. After that they could withdraw. Just one platoon was available, but they also had a Pak 40, a Marder III and an SdKfz 222 to assist them. Here The Traitor is seen expounding his plan. Elton looks on admiringly as Noddy, right, seems to have heard it all before.
And here’s how the Patrol Phase ended.
2014-09-09 20.06.562014-09-09 20.18.18
Above and below, the Yanks advance.
2014-09-09 20.18.32

2014-09-09 20.23.18

2014-09-09 20.40.55
The 60mm mortar deploys to bring down fire on the Jerries on the Chateau roof.
2014-09-09 20.41.15
A jeep discovers that the road is blocked.
2014-09-09 20.41.39
The Germans deploy to defend the crossroads.
2014-09-09 20.41.50
Fiddling on the roof.
2014-09-09 20.42.53
“Marching fire!” The words of General Patton ringing in their ears, the Yanks advance whilst bringing down fire on their evil foes.
2014-09-09 20.54.45

2014-09-09 21.11.55

2014-09-09 21.22.59
The tanks are here! BA’s armour puts down terrible fire into the chateau…
2014-09-09 21.28.14
…and Noddy’s boys rush forward, the prisoners in the cellars can be heard calling to their rescuers…
2014-09-09 22.05.15
…and then…
Collapse final
In his enthusiasm BA was shelling the chateau with three Shermans lined up. The German defenders rushed down from the roof when the building became unstable but were still on the first floor when the whole structure collapsed, killing them and the US prisoners in the cellar. At that very moment the Feld Gendarmerie drew up in their truck, only to see the precious papers buried under tons of rubble. In one moment both sides lost the game, their victory conditions unachievable. How we laughed.

What was amusing was that both sides pretty much ignore their briefing and we looking to get a “win” in the traditional sense. The Germans were, obviously, on a hiding to nothing with far fewer troops and supports (and persistent calls of “it’s no fair” from The Traitor would have brought a tear to a glass eye), but then they didn’t need to try to defeat the Yanks; just hold them up for most of the game! Meanwhile the US players seemed to have forgotten that their mates were in the chateau and were shelling it for all they were worth.

As it was, honours were even and a fun game was had by all. We certainly learnt that the Yanks are an aggressive force with their marching fire option, and the Garand re-rolling any 1′s is a significant advantage in a firefight. The 60mm mortar may not have smoke but it packs a bigger punch than the British 2″ mortar and is, I reckon, a great support option when you’re up against the very “shooty” Jerries. Personally I believe that deploying scouts and then shelling any opposition discovered with the mortars is the best way to go with these boys. Now we’re looking forward to the 29th to start campaigning on the road to Carentan.


The Blue and Gray. The 29th Report for Duty

Having spent a lot of summer holidays in Normandy, it is impossible to not feel some kind of affection for the 29th Infantry Division, “The Blue and Gray” as the road from Omaha beach to Carentan and on down to St Lo is littered with plaques marked with their yin yang style badge showing the blue and the grey heritage of the Confederate and United States armies. This affection can only be strengthened when one discovers that some of the units in the division can trace their lineage back to the Stonewall Brigade. For a wargamer, what is there not to like? It is natural then, with a good knowledge of the ground and an interest in this unit, that my first “Pint-sized Campaign” for Chain of Command is going to follow this unit as it drives inland from Omaha beach.

Of course the first task in such a campaign is determining both what forces to use and what supports to make available. After some reading I determined to use the standard US infantry platoon of forty men; three squads of 12 men with an HQ of a Lieutenant, a Staff Sergeant and a bazooka team. For 29 Let’s Go you’ll need a standard platoon of infantry looking like this:
2014-09-04 10.14.55
Of course, if you fancy playing larger games with the free Big Chain of Command notes, you’ll probably need a second platoon too. Mine looks like this:
2014-09-04 10.19.53
I painted a second platoon as I was going to need an additional squad as a support option, so while doing that I thought I may as well go the whole hog and do a second platoon.

My other support options are very much influenced by checking TO&Es for the period, but equally reading first hand accounts of the actions and replicating what support is mentioned in them. Thus far I have painted up the following:
2014-09-04 10.24.45_edited-1
A couple of additional BARs and two snipers. Accounts tell how the 29th were keen on adding additional firepower with two BARs per squad where possible. They also refer to snipers taking out German MG positions, so we’ll have rules for that in the supplement.
2014-09-04 10.22.59
The 60mm mortar is always a popular support option for the yanks as they really need a firepower boost where they can get one. The same goes for the 0.30 cal Brownings below.
2014-09-04 10.23.59
I’ve also provided a Forward Observer team…
2014-09-04 10.25.19_edited-1
…and a 57mm anti-tank gun.
2014-09-04 10.26.12_edited-1

2014-09-04 10.26.19_edited-1
I need to get some Engineering options sorted as these were certainly available and with plenty of fun toys. I need to find who makes such creatures. Currently I am converting a figure to be a medic and I have some Shermans and jeeps already available. My only really large addition for the future will be the Greyhound M* armoured car.

So there we have it. The 29th are ready to go all over again!


More on MDF

Maison bour
The French maison bourgeoise is a thing of beauty which, to me, epitomises the sparkle of the Second Empire. Most English-French dictionaries describe them as “imposing town houses” or similar, but that fails to truly sum up what are in fact the small aspirational semi-chateaux of the nouveau riche who profited from the “Carnival Empire”. It is well worth searching with the term on-line to see what French estate agents have to offer. These provided me with the best painting guide I could have hoped for. Above is a fine example.

Work on this model was, essentially, to be a plain and simple paint job. However, before I began I did do a bit of prep which, to my mind, makes the model come to life. Firstly I washed the whole building in a watered down PVA mix. This binds the whole thing together to make a more solid structure, but it also protects any weak spots on the model such as, in this case, the beautiful but slightly delicate cardboard shutters and ornate carvings above the first floor windows (that’s 2nd floor for any cowboys reading). I then carefully added some tile grout to the PVA and water mix and applied this to hide some of the most obvious joins which one gets with MDF buildings. This served to add some texture to the walls as well and, once dry, I used a sharp point to re-etch some of the brick and blockwork detail. Anyway, here’s how it turned out.
2014-08-31 10.16.12

2014-08-31 10.16.19

2014-08-31 10.16.26

2014-08-31 10.16.47
I’m rather chuffed with it, especially as I got it finished before breakfast.

A couple of points. One gentleman contacted me yesterday to ask why I was so critical of MDF buildings. I am not. That said, I do feel that with any model it is possible to take the original off the peg model and adjust it to provide something which has a more tailor-made feel. In the case of the radar station that adjustments were significant; with the maison bourgeoise they were very minor. However, in both cases it resulted in a model which I am more happy with.

The addition of the Warbases tiled roof in this case really does make a visual difference and it also strengthens the model no end. The tile grout, applied in a minimalist manner, adds a nice textured finish to the model. The one aspect of MDF buildings (per se) which I am not a fan of is the fact that European buildings in stone and brick do have a very strong and rough texture which perfectly flat MDF does not. By making a small adjustment I am creating a look which better conforms to what I want. This is not a criticism of the original models, but merely an adaptation to suit my own very personal requirements. In fact, I can most strongly and heartily recommend both of these models, they are absolutely first class, whether you use them straight out of the pack or, as I have, add a few embellishments.


Something for the Weekend?

Having knocked up a maison bourgeoise and a radar station over the past couple of days, I set myself the task of getting these painted over the weekend. As I’d mentioned, I wasn’t sure how to decorate the radar station base and was considering using a set of nylons to create the mesh of the dish. Well, I tried the latter and it was an unmitigated disaster. The net result was a couple of hours spent cleaning nylon and glue off the model. What fun on a Saturday morning…

In the end I nipped to my local car parts shop and grabbed some wire mesh which you use for doing bodywork repairs to cars. Those readers with long memories will recall that Ace model builder Ian Weekely used this stuff for leaded light windows. To fit this I needed to cut it into three pieces and superglue it in place thus:
2014-08-30 13.06.30
There is a small amount of buggering about involved with a job like this, but you can bend the mesh into shape and then cut where the bend is, so in that respect it is easier than it looks. However, there is an aspect of “it fits where it touches” to this, but ultimately it’s a bit of wargaming terrain and not an entry into Scale Models of Radar Stations magazine. I find myself more than capable of living with a degree of imperfection.

What sharp-eyed bunnies will notice is that I used the car mesh to add to the areas which the MDP model has etched on as metal walkways. I had the mesh so I thought I may as well use it and a couple of off-cuts did the job. I think it adds a bit to the model but it isn’t entirely necessary.

After that I was looking for some additional bric-a-brac for the base. I did think about using one of the jump-off markers, they do make very nice terrain pieces in their own right, but I found some of the Tamiya 1:48th oil drums and a jerry can in the spares box so they server the purpose. Additionally I found some coffee stirrers which I snipped to the same length and arranges as a pile of timber. A couple of slightly thicker bits of balsa wood served as the bits this pile of sawn timer was resting on. All very simple stuff. I should add here that a liberal application of PVA on things like the complete wood pile glue it all together very solidly and provide a good base for painting.

Here are some snaps of the completed radar station:
2014-08-31 07.41.37
2014-08-31 07.42.20

2014-08-31 07.42.31

2014-08-31 07.42.39

2014-08-31 09.32.18
I’m pretty pleased with the end result. I has a suitable lived-in look. I normally spend a lot of time on signage and that sort of stuff to bring the model to life, but I honestly couldn’t be bothered yesterday, so I may revisit that soon. Or maybe not.

More later on the maison bourgeoise. Off to walk the dog now.

1 Comment

Radar Love?

In preparation for 29 Let’s Go! I’m amassing what additional bits of terrain I need. It’s always remarkable that no matter how many toy buildings we amass, we always need more! This time our research had brought to our attention a radar station to the East of Isigny-sur-Mer which we were going to need to represent in one scenario. This is, of course, something of an oddity, but fortunately Sarissa Precision make precisely one such model in laser cut MDF, so we snapped it up. Here’s what it looks like in the pack:
2014-08-28 15.33.02
Good looking eh? And, we can confirm, it was very easy to put together. The only addition I made to the basic kit in the initial stages was to use a couple of off-cuts from the windows to add as signs on or near the doors (a sort of Nazi Health & Safety notice) and to add a hand rail. This latter addition was simply a paperclip bent thus:
2014-08-29 21.37.54
…and a couple of hose drilled, a dab of superglue and Bob’s your Auntie’s live-in-lover.
2014-08-30 07.04.45
A handy rail after a night out on the vin rouge in Isigny. So, the completed model looked like this:
2014-08-30 07.05.10
All rather dinky, but it wasn’t quite like the Wurzburg model I was looking for, which was the one at the top of the page. As we can see, the MDF model is on some rather clever turntable which is flush with the ground. The real Wurzburg is set atop a big hexagonal lump of concrete and is about five foot in the air. Obviously this is where we reach the practical limits of what MDF can do. Fortunately, this is precisely where the magic of high density polystyrene comes to our rescue.

I decided that I was going to scrap the round MDF base and go for more of an Atlantic Wall concrete look. I first measured up a piece of blue polystyrene 2″ square and marked on how I was going to “hexagonise” it.
2014-08-29 21.24.35
I carefully cared this out, use the base of the MDF model to draw on the circle which needed to be removed in order to house the underside of the radar unit. I then chucked this in the bin as it was far too small, started again with a 3″ square piece which came out rather better. It also allowed me to carve in some concrete steps with a craft knife. Easy stuff this.
2014-08-30 07.05.30
A small detail I know, but my viewing of Atlantic Wall concrete emplacements has obliged me to come to the conclusion that whilst the Herr Doktor Engineers of the Third Reich were men of precision, the French contractor with his Ukrainian labourers was not so precise. Once can see precisely where wonky shuttering has been used in many places and this was a bit of detail I wanted to add. Fortunately my modelling skills approximate those of a disinterested French peasant with his Ukrainian mate, and I was able to come up with this:
2014-08-30 07.05.36
I then lightly sanded this down to remove the harshest edges before moving on to add a screw through the polystyrene base which would hold the radar unit in place whilst still allowing it to swivel (if I did ever find the need to swivel my radar unit…). I drilled a pilot hole through the MDF to achieve this…
2014-08-30 07.26.46
And then added a screw to make sure it all worked. For those who’ve never seen a picture of a screw in a piece of blue polystyrene, this one’s for you!
2014-08-30 07.27.50
How good was that?

Now I painted the concrete base with a mix of tile grout and PVA. Quite a runny mix as I didn’t want to hide the detail, just roughen it up to look more like concrete. As you can see below, I did not add the gloop to the hole where the base of the radar would fit as I didn’t want spoil the tight fit.
2014-08-30 08.09.11
With that done, I reinserted the screw and glued the whole thing into position on the MDF base I had cut to size. The screw does a basic job, a two year old could probably tear the radar from the base, but fortunately my days of consorting with two year olds are long gone, so I should be safe.
2014-08-30 09.04.38
I also added a set of steps made from artists mounting board. My original plan was to have this unattached so that the radar station could rotate, but frankly it was too difficult and I did realise that this was not a REAL radar station so rotating it wasn’t really necessary. So I stuck the steps in place. I now wish that I’d glued the top section to the concrete base rather than using the screw, but we live and learn…
2014-08-30 09.04.29
As you can see, I gave the concrete another wash of gloop to marry the model to the base. Pat G, a good pal of Lard and supremely talented techno-whizz, has sent me some dragons teeth that he’d made on his 3D printer so I added them to the base for a bit of local colour. I think I’m going to have a look through my spares box to find some additional bits and bobs to breathe some life into the scene. I’m also considering using a pair of my wife/daughters’ old stockings to make the fine wire mesh which was part of the radar dish. That could potentially lead to disaster, so we’ll see how that turns out when I paint the finished model.


How Very Bourgeoise!

We’ve been busy here on Lard Island, primarily finalising the layout for young Chris Stoesen’s Eastern Front Great War supplement for Mud & Blood, but in snatched moments of free time I’ve also been prepping for the first “Pint Sized Campaign” supplement for Chain of Command I’m writing called “29, Let’s Go!”. It’s a quote many fans of WWII will recognise as it relates to the 29th Infantry Division who landed on D-Day and fought their way into the heart of the Reich. The campaign I have been working on focusses on their opening up the road from Omaha Beach to Carentan in the days immediately after D-Day and covering a geographical patch I know very well from countless visits to Normandy and the Isigny area in particular.

Part of the fun has been putting together my US forces, but my thoughts have also turned to Normandy terrain and getting some nice buildings together to represent that very beautiful part of the world. After my recent positive East Prussian experiences with MDF buildings (see my brewery project in an earlier set of posts) I took the plunge with a company I’d not used before, Sarissa Precision, a Derbyshire based company whose web site tells me their models are “Part of the game, not of the table”. Whatever that might mean.

The model I chose is marketed as a chateau. I’d really suggest it is a maison bourgeoise, but my missus thought it was a Mairie when I showed her, so really it’ll do for any substantial building in France. The model is supplied unpainted in 2mm MDF with some cardboard parts. I shan’t bore you with pictures of a fat bloke sticking the model together, but suffice to say that the kit is assembled in four sections, as we can see here.
2014-08-28 15.31.37
Fairly obviously, we have the ground floor. first floor, attic and then a roof platform to top it all off. The front and rear steps are somewhat fiddly to put together, the rest is very simple. I would recommend having some decent elastic bands to hand to hold the various sections in place while they dry as the chances of the model going a bit wonky without them is pretty high, and if that happens the various floors wont fit at all well.

I should point out that the roof was, as with the East Prussian brewery in fact, the weakest part of the model. Somehow MDF roofs really don’t work for me, so here I have tiled this one with the superb laser cut roof tiles from Warbases. I used two designs to add some variety, with a seam of different tiles running around the roof at one point, something I think adds some additional interest. I also used paper as lead flashing on the ridges and above the dormer windows. I feel very strongly that adding the new tiles and the flashing goes a long way to strengthening the basic model and making it more robust due to the healthy application of a dollop of PVA glue to hold it all in place.
2014-08-28 15.30.41
In the above pictures I’ve put a couple of Artizan figures and a staff car so you can get a feel for scale. Below you can see how the stairs at the front and back compare.
2014-08-28 15.30.53
I have to say that for twenty-five quid, which is what I paid for this model on E-Bay, this is a cracking addition. It is a really imposing structure which could be a Dutch hotel near Arnhem (for readers of the latest Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy magazine), a large Mairie or Hotel de Ville in Normandy or anything in between. I must commend Sarrissa for their eye for detail, my only concern is how long the beautiful but delicate balustrade on the steps, front and rear, is going to last with the usual bashing that wargames buildings get in my house, other than that it is a superb model at a very fair price.