A Bit of Pre-Crisis Gardening

Well, more yards than gardens if I am honest. I laid out the table yesterday in order to see what was required and immediately spotted a major blunder. I had completely forgotten the build and paint the village garage which would create a bit of off-high-street interest. In fact, not only had I forgotten to build and paint it, I’d forgotten to but the damned thing too! A quick phone call to Martin at Warbases was made, “Can you send me a kit post haste?” was the plea. Being a true gent, Martin came to the rescue in style. He has such a model already painted and would be happy to bring it to Antwerp for me to use. Superstar. He gave me the measurements and I plotted it on the table. Phew!

Next I looked for green spaces. By which I mean green spaces where it shouldn’t be green. So that’s back yards and the garage “forecourt”. What I had decided on was to knock up some flat areas with a few eye catching bits on them which would break the monotony of the perpetual green which one can find on wargames tables. I planned to bring along all sorts of bits of scatted with which to “dress” the table, but these areas of heavy footfall would improve the overall visual feel.

I used 3mm MDF for the bases. I cut these out with a saw and then clip the corners to round them off, after which I sand them down to get a clean finish. One base was to be two small rear gardens divided by a fence and with washing line in one. While doing this I also made a fence out of coffee stirrers and a couple of short bits of balsa in my bits box.
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The other was the rear yard to Le Flammant Rose, so I thought a simple dog kennel and I could then add some barrels or other bits as desired on the day. I ran up a quick kennel out of artists mounting board like so:
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This I then stuck together with a hot glue gun and shoved it on the base.
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My old mate Sidney has created some beautiful small structures like this by applying green stuff to the outside and then carving wood grain onto the model. I truly couldn’t be bothered, so any detail will be painted on.

Next was the garage forecourt. The garage is set back, so this are will meet the high street, so I really wanted to give the feel of a provincial establishment. I fancied some petrol pumps so I used a couple of old batteries, topped them with two spare plastic figure bases and then created the hose with paper clips. There was a bucket in the Tamiya 1:48th set which I had purchased for pimping up the Panzer IVs, so one pump is clearly leaking and its delivery end kept in that. I found a couple of spare wheels in my bits box and a large sign, more of which later.
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So, with the basic designs done, I added my basing material.
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Several people have contacted me and asked what I use for basing and how I paint them. The basis of my basing material is Sharp Sand. I like it as it contains all sorts of different size small stones. To that I add a spoonful of the various model railway rocks and grit that I have picked up over the years. What I do not want is something which looks like the Giants Causeway, but I do want some texture to add visual variety. This mix I apply using PVA glue, thus:
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It is absolutely vital here to remember that thus applied them sand will simply fall off at the earliest opportunity. When that is dry I apply a second wash of PVA, this time thinned to about 50% consistency with water. When this dries the base is almost rock solid and the stuff is well and truly stuck.

When that is dry I spray the whole thing black with matt car paint. You can see here that I have then added a sign I painted with a hot glue gun and then added more basing material to hide the joins.
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With that dry (it takes a while) my standard base painting process occurs. I paint the base with Acrylic Raw Umber from Daler Rowney (code 247).
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I let that dry, again a slow process which can be accelerated in the over, but DO NOT EVER PUT BATTERIES IN THE OVEN if using them for such daft purposes. They will explode and kill you and 90% of people in the neighbourhood. Try explaining that to the wife.

Once that is dry, I dry-brush on Vallejo Khaki…
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…then a lesser dry-brush of Vallejo Stone Grey…
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…then a final light dry-brush of white over areas with heavy traffic, or where there are some nice large stones which will look better picked out. Voila.
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After that, and it is a process of minutes, I add the static grass. I mix my own with all sorts of odds and ends in there. I base it on an autumn or winter meadow grass as that has a nice mix of colours in there, but I add some other colours until I get the feel I am looking for. I then add in a few small rocks (VERY small) leaves and small bits of floral material, but in such small quantities that it’s a bit like the sixpence in the pudding: it’s a novelty to get one.

To apply this is use PVA, tapping small dots on the area I want covered. If you put a dot the size of a pea you’ll get a clump twice as big, so I go small at this stage. I then shake the box full of grass up (I keep mine in an old ice cream tub) and then dip the base in and give it a gentle shake.
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With that done I can add some more detail. Sid suggested to me that making some of the bases potential objectives would be a good idea. “You know” he said “the type of things that people would want to capture”. Well, looking at the recent transcripts from St Albans Magistrates Court, it seemed clear that for Sidney a washing line full of “unmentionables” would be perfect!
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Finally the garage forecourt was done. I painted the petrol pumps with PVA glue to give the paint something to key onto, so the black undercoat was firmly in place. I robbed some typres from some of the random unused models I had kicking around and stuck these in piles with PVA glue. After the gig I can soak that off and put them back in place. 2014-10-28 13.15.57

A couple of cart wheels from the spares box completed the ensemble.

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And that is that. The build is complete, so today is going to be dedicated to sorting out stock and generally packing up all of the toys. We’ll report on the show after the weekend.

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Crisis, A LARDY Guide to Having Fun in Antwerp

Antwerp Guide
Every year member of the Lardy community will sense a ripple of excitement sweep across Lard Island. As October leaves fall and the nights draw in, our thoughts turn to our last, and the best, gig of the year, Crisis in Antwerp.

We’ve been nipping across the channel for nearly ten years now. In the early days the plan was to make the trip every couple of years, but we got bitten by the bug and now it is an unmissable annual pilgrimage. But what makes Crisis so unique as a wargaming show? We thought we’d give a a few tips to those possibly making the trip across for the first time so that you can get the best of your visit. So, here’s the Lardy List of Do’s and Don’t for attending Crisis.

1. Plan Ahead
This one is obvious, we thought we’d ease you in gradually. DO plan your purchases in advance. Crisis gets bigger each year and it now ranks as one of the largest shows we attend. It’s easy to miss out on a trader you’d like to hand your cash to, so check out the on-line floor plan in advance. It’s something to do on the ferry or on Eurostar.

2. A Smorgasbord to Choose From
DO keep an open mind to new traders. Used, as we are, to the usual round of UK traders, you’ll find some new faces here and some very different products. Take some time to check these out. you’ll find that French language books in particular are very high quality and often with an accompanying, if abbreviated, English text.

3. Have Fun with a Game
DO try to take in a game at the show. Crisis is more relaxed than most UK shows and there are lots of games you can participate in, not least the fantastic and often very unique games run by the Tin Soldiers of Antwerp. It’s a great chance to check out a rule set you’ve been hearing about.

4. Don’t Fail to Plan
DO plan your route, especially if sailing into Calais, Dunkirk or crossing on Eurostar. This area isn’t called “the cockpit of Europe” for nothing. Battles have been fought here since time began, and you will never be far from somewhere interesting. Plan a visit into your schedule, read a couple of books, then turn off for a quick diversion and see the battlefield. By taking a crossing home a couple of hours later, you cna really add to your visit.

5. Love Is…
DO it with friends, or even a loved one! My wife is about as likely to attend a wargames show as she is to do five rounds with Joe Frazier, but I would certainly take her to Antwerp with me if I didn’t have a car full of fat blokes. Antwerp has sufficient culture, couture and confecture to keep her busy while I play with toy soldier on Saturday. The you have a couple of days to enjoy the city together. Wargaming and Brownie Points combined. What’s not to like?

6. An Holistic Experience
DO NOT think of Crisis as just a wargame show. It’s also a great opportunity to visit a really vibrant European city. Antwerp is, to me, Brugge without the tourists. You will find a beautiful historic city centre with architecturally stunning squares and a plethora of bars and restaurants to sample. DO NOT sit in your anodyne multi-national chain hotel; get out and see the city.

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Sampling the local culture. A 14th century Inn in the city centre.

7. Beer, Naturally
Yes, we have got to point 7 without mentioning the B-word. DO sample the beer. Leffe is a fine brew and you’ll find it in your hotel, BUT you can buy that in your local Sainsbury’s or Tesco at home. Antwerp’s De Koninck brewery produces some excellent pale Ales and you should always sample at least one “bolleck”, the local name for a glass of their favourite tipple, when in town. You’ll find De Koninck where you see the sign of the Red Hand.

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Sidney, about to sample a couple of “bollecks”.

8. A Very British Problem
DO NOT try to speak the local lingo. The locals ALL speak English, many do so better than me. Taxi drivers, bars, restaurants will all welcome you and assist with any translation. Indeed, most food outlets will have their menus in English.

9. A Leisurely Itinerary
DO NOT rush. As can be seen, there is LOADS to do in Antwerp and en route. As you are paying for the crossing, why not extend your visit by a day to make the most of your trip. We usually travel across early on Friday so as to miss the rush hour on the Antwerp Ring Road and then get a later crossing on Sunday in order to visit a battlefield. If you’re taking the other half, an additional day would allow you to give Antwerp the attention it richly deserves.

10. The Final Word.
DO avoid an excess of sobriety. Antwerp is a a great city in which to eat, drink, be merry and talk wargaming. Crisis is a great chance to let your hair down. Even if, like Sid, you no longer have any.

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Crisis, What Crisis? We’re on Target!

The big day looms and today is the big set-up day where we lay out the table to check for all the small detail we have forgotten. That will be keeping me busy from now up to Thursday night when we load up Lard Mobile 2 and prepare for launch.

Yesterday saw me focused on completing Le Flammand Rose for my Norman village high street. Readers will recall that this piece was an MDF model by Charlie Foxtrot Models, but I decided to do my usual job and personalise it a bit in order to make a really nice off-the-peg model into something unique. Please excuse me for recapping slightly here, but a lot of blogging water has passed under the bridge since we last looked at these. More on that in a moment.

Here is our “naked” model of La Brasserie as it comes straight from the pack (after simple assembly).
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And here is how I tarted it up with some additional shutter and a tiled roof.
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I decided that in order to add further texture to the model, I’d paint it with a mix of oil and acrylic paint. This potentially led too a major distaster as the oil paint took AGES to dry. I baked it in the oven for seven hours, but it emerged just as tacky as when it went in. Then, fortunately, we had two dry and very sunny but windy days where I just left the building outside and, at last it reached the point where I could at kleast describe it as “nearly dry”. And that’s as good as I think it’s going to get…

Here you can see that the building was painted a grotty blue colour. I undercoated the shutters with grey and then painted them white. I never try to paint stuff like this perfectly, I take the view that one is attempting to give an impression from a distance as opposed to rendering a perfect likeness. Life is a lot quicker and easier if one takes that view.
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I wanted to add a little local colour, so I copied an advert which I found on the web. Naturally the spelling error is entirely intentional and merely there to provide an ice-breaking talking point for those awkward wargaming moments. Ahem. I used the structure of the advert to try to disguise the breaks in the model where you can remove roof/first floor to put toys inside. The worst bit of doing this was that once I had painted it, I distressed it with sandpaper. It was a bit of a heart-in-mouth moment, but again it does give the tired and worn with age look which typifies old French buildings.

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I added a new frontage from card as my old chum Sidney asked me to name the place after one of his old stomping grounds in Hull during the torrid years of his youth. I translated the name to French and superglued that over the original frontage. I can just see Sidney standing in the doorway, possibly shedding a tear in inclement weather.
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If course a real winner with this model is the fact that it fits in so nicely with my other French buildings:
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So, to celebrate the new venture on the high street, I painted up some odds and sods to add to the ambience of a Norman summer. Bounteous natural products laid out on the cobbles for the French housewife to make her selection.
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I picked these up on eBay, but I honestly cannot recall what I searched for. I THINK I simply searched for “!:48″ to see what came up. Whoever makes these resin models also has the equivalent for North Africa with all sorts of smashing bits which would grace any 8th Army or Afrika Korps game. Not exactly cheap, this lot came to about fifteen quid. However, I thing that small detail like this adds a lot to a game. They will be ideal from Roman times to the present day, so I reckon it was money well spent.

Oh, I nearly forgot. I also added another completed Corgi Sherman to my collection. Here it is, among friends and enemies.
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I thought maybe I could crew them with middle-aged men and make a film about them!

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Crisis Panzers Update

I must admit that the clocks changing and the additional hour gave me a head start today. While the wife and daughters lazed in bed, I got up early and cracked on with the tanks. With domestic duties today I couldn’t see me making much headway, but anything achieved would be a Brucie bonus.
I had sprayed the undercoat on yesterday, black car paint. Contrary to some fears, spraying up under the skirts was dead easy. So now I wanted to get a base coat on top of that.. A rummage through my paint collections revealed that my supplies of Middlestone were dangerously low, so I used Vallejo Yellow Green, code 70881, as opposed to the Middlestone 70882. It’s slightly more green, but as a base coat is absolutely fine.

The first coat went on quite wet, as seen below, after which I gave the bottle a better shake and put on a better second coat.
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Once that base coat had dried I washed the tanks with magic wash made up of black ink, brown paint, water and a few drops of washing up liquid. That collects in the recesses and gives a fair representation of built up grime. It was a blowy day; fortunate as the plastic card means I cannot dry these in the oven.
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With the magic wash dry I was able to dry brush on the Middlestone. A coat of pure paint then two more with increasing amounts of white added ended up likt this:
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That dried while I set up a spray paint booth using some old carboard boxes and set up my air brush. It’s a rubbish old single action airbrush and I am not very good with it; however, it is well worth using as the spray effect just cannot be replicated with a brush on models of this size. I get a bit bored with the ubiquitous “ambush pattern” that I normally use for Normandy so I gave the matter some thought. In the end I decided on a single colour camo job, green on top of the middlestone. I settled on a mix of Russian Green and Reflective Green thinned with windscreen wash. I buggered this up a bit, making the mix too thin, but much of that can be covered up as the process continues.
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After that it was a case of doing the detail. A flat coat for most stuff, then a wash of Army Painter Quickshade, and a single highlight. I take a bit of time where there are areas of rust and oil or smoke, washing with the relevant colour and they using Tamiya Weathering Master pigments. The light is now going , both for panting and, sadly, for photography. But here’s a few snaps of where the have got to today.

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I’m afraid that the colour is buggered up by the poor light. Tomorrow I will be adding some scratches and the decals to finish these off. That should be done in daylight, so we should have some good snaps for you.

All in all, another long day of work, but good results.

MONDAY MORNING POSTSCRIPT
Well, a night of well-timed insomnia allowed me to finish off the Panzers. I used a pan scourer to add paint chipping in heavy traffic areas, then added Panzer Lehr insignia, and decals. A final touch up with some pigments and we are done. We have slightly better light this morning, so here’s a few snaps.
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I’m pretty chuffed with these, they certainly have the lived-in look that I like for tanks in general, but particularly German tanks of the late war period. They really have presence on the tabletop as well. It wasn’t a difficult project, just time consuming and requiring of patience, something I am not well-equipped with. Overall I think they will look quite respectable, especially when I look back at the original:
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Today is going to be dedicated too finishing off an additional Sherman and working on the Brasserie along with some bits and pieces for the table. Hopefully I’ll also get to set out the game so we can see what else is required.

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Crisis, the Build Continues

Thus far I have got my Panzer IVs half finished and my Brasserie just started. I’ve been waiting on some bits from Tamiya to arrive so that I can complete the panzers; the Brasserie, Le Flamant Rose, has actually had its base coat applied, but I used some oil bases paint to get a nice texture, so that is still drying. With both of these I have made some progress, but not enough to warrant a report. But fear not, I’ve not been idle. In fact, thanks to the wife who thought she heard a mouse at 0300, I’ve just managed to put in a 15 hour shift and get quite a bit done on what is probably best described as the “odds and sods” front.

Firstly, as well as the Brasserie building, I got some of the small out-buildings which Charlie Foxtrot produce and sell, very reasonably, via eBay. One sentry box, two outside lavatories and three sheds, one of them in a somewhat distressed state, were glued together the other day and finally I got a chance to do some work on these. Once again, I did not use the models straight from the pack. The roofs on these were planked and I was keen to get a more waterproof look, so I added some roofing felt in the form of some ordinary plain paper with I stuck on with PVA. What I SHOULD have done was take pictures before I did this. However, it was 0300 and my brain wasn’t working. So, here’s a snap of them after the paper was applied.

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As you can see, they are rather swish. I distressed the roof felt on the more dilapidated shed so one can see where the water leeks in. My next phase was to add an MDF base. I don’t base all of my buildings, but for bits and pieces like these I think a small base adds a bit of heft to them and just looks nice.

I slapped some paint on them using my usual technique. A base coat of a appropriate colour and then successive dry-brushes up to the look I wanted. The sentry box is brilliant as the zig-zag lines are etched into the wood, so acting as a guise for paint application, always handy when the painter is as ham-fisted as me! Anyway, enough of that, you know how to paint a bit of wood. Here they are painted:

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And here they are based and finished:

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At this point, I breathed a sigh of relief that something was at least getting completed. Then on to the next, unanticipated, part of the build.

Yesterday I nipped up the A1M to see our chum Paul from Early War Miniatures on his country estate just outside the chocolate box village of St Evenage. It was my intention to relieve him of some of his rather smashing French roads which, some reads may recall, I used for Roman roads for Dux Britanniarum. These latex wonders are truly brilliant, but I had never got around to having and junctions or bendy bits as my Dux Roman roads are all straight. When I arrived Paul thrust some vacuum formed bits of plastic into my hand. These, he told me, were as just unreleased bits from a new pack of entrenchments and emplacement he was going to be producing. In the stable block his estate workers were toiling over the final masters as we spoke.

Well, what can I say. Some thing shouldn’t work. But they do. These bits were designed for both 20mm and 25(8)mm gamers, something which, if you’d told me rather than showing me the goods, I’d have been dubious of. But immediately I could see what these smashing vacuum formed bits would be good for. Without further ado I ran off with said bits ready to paint them up.

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First I cut out some MDF bass for them. A quick flourish of the hot glue gun saw them attached to the bases with only second degree burns to one finger. Not bad going for me.
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The next step is to slap on some PVA glue and dip the model into the sand from the basing pot. This allows the models to match the bases of my other terrain, but it also strengthens the vacuum formed models. I am always a bit concerned about vacuum formed stuff as it can feel flimsy. However, one of my oldest bits of terrain is a Bellona bridge which I painted as a teenager, so I know they can stand the test of time. Their longevity is greatly enhanced by basing. You can use artists mounting board, but MDF really works best for me.
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Okay. Let that dry…
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…and then slap paint on according to your preferred scheme. Finally, shove toy soldiers in them, like so.
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As can be seen, these are rather swish additions to my collection. Chain of Command allows an option of selecting team sized positions for your troops, and this pack looks like it is going to be PERFECT! Apparently a fourth bit will be a team sized entrenchment for riflemen. Now that is ticking all of the boxes for me. Look out for Early War Miniatures around the shows and ask Paul and the Gang about them. The more we nag him, the quicker we can get our mitts on this smashing little set.

So, two mini-projects completed today. I also knocked out all the new road sections and, with much jubilation got the Tamiya bits in the post. So I’ve managed to get the Panzers to a point where tomorrow I can undercoat them. I hope to apply a base coat as well, but Number One daughter is home from Uni and my duties will be more kitchen related than having fun with German tanks. Hopefully I can sneak some time on the Brasserie and give you a further update tomorrow.

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Le Flamant Rose, building up to Crisis

Ouch! What a terrible pun. Apologies for that. However, with us waiting for some Tamiya bits for our Panzer IVs, our thoughts are now turned to adding a few buildings to our collection for the Big Chain of Command game next weekend at Crisis in Antwerp. I was aided in this by having the remarkable fortunate of spotting a new MDF building manufacturer on eBay, Charlie Foxtrot Models. As has been covered here before, I have mixed feelings about MDF buildings. There are some crackers out there, but my heart does drop when I see so many games at wargames shows sporting their immaculate, fresh-out-of-the-pack buildings, lending a very samey feel to games which I haven’t seen since the early days of TSS terrain when, in almost the blink of an eye, every game at shows was fielded in the ubiquitous 2′ blocks with their equally ubiquitous knuckle imprints where people had leant on them slightly too much.

It’s a personal thing, maybe some kind of terrible hang-up (was I frightened by an Airfix Waterloo Farmhouse as a baby?) but I like to see variety in games. It’s always a treat to see games put on by chums of Lard, the League of Gentlemen Anti-Alchemists (I kid you not Lard Lovers) as they have an eye for detail which elevates the simple to the special. Attention to detail, with outbuildings, vegetable plots, washing lines and the likes give the observer a true visual smorgasbord upon which to feast. I must publicly admit that it was from these clever chaps that I pinched the idea of my wedding rose cabbages which get so much love around the shows!

So, there is no secret, MDF buildings can leave me cold. Unless, that is, there is room for me to add something of my own character to a building, and this was how Charlie Foxtrot first came to my attention; I liked the cut of his chimney pots and ridge tiles. Unlike so many MDF models, it was refreshing to see attention to small detail, with a length of plastic supplied with a 90 degree angle for the ridge and a length of plastic tube for the chimney pots. What’s more, the models came with instructions on how to add texture which would allow them to look like bespoke models rather than your bog standard bits of ex-tree. Absolutely perfect for me, it would seem.

Without further ado, I armed myself with with my trust pot of PVA and applied it with a will. What emerged was the standard model as per the instructions. Voila!
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I enjoyed the fact that the model was simple to assemble and that the three tiers fit snugly together and without any buggering about. That’s important when people are lifting bits off in-play in order to put toys inside. More importantly, I was impressed that the design was intelligent and well thought out. The building is designed to be an end of row building, so one wall is entirely blank. I think that is daring as some people may not like that, but for me it was precisely what I was looking for, so it is perfect. I really like the way that the front of the model has depth, it provides some relief from a completely flat fronted row of shops, and the laser etched name, La Brasserie, is a boon for anyone looking for a generic name. I have other plans here, so I’ll be making my own sign for the front later in the project.

Now, Clarkie being Clarkie, I wasn’t going to leave this this au naturel; good Lord no. The model has so much potential for a minor tart up to get it looking really bespoke. For the wargamer who like to dabble with a bit of very basic modelling this kit is truly perfect. Unsurprisingly, I added roof tiles from my old chum Martin at Warbases. These are now a standard item in my work box, they are so good. The ridge tile in plastic can be seen on the snaps below and, I think, is a brilliant addition which saves me having to fashion something from Milliput which, frankly, is a pain in the arse. Lead flashing was provided with plain paper.

I also added window shutters made from a backing or artists mounting board and a front of cereal packet cut to give the detail I wanted. This is VERY simple stuff, but it does add that Normandy feel. Finally I added one of those S-shaped wall clamps which you see. It breaks up the front and will just add a little bit of personality to the mode.
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After that was done a was over with PVA and tile grout was applied in a pretty limited manner. It is just enough to provide texture and, when painted, will make this another unique model. We’ll see more over the next day or so. As you can see, this is a very simple project which even my dog could manage (and he’s an idiot). I’m very impressed with Charlie Foxtrot Models. I hear that they’ll have a new web site up very soon, but in the meantime look out for seller colin20051964 on eBay. I can heartily recommend these models to the gamer who is looking for nice, intelligently thought out buildings which serve as a perfect basis for a bespoke end product. What’s more, it is always good to support a new business in our hobby.

Finally, for those of you who came here looking for more on tanks, here’s a snap of where we are up to with the Panzer Pimping exercise.
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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.
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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.
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Once that was done, the two brackets were attached to the cupola.
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After that I made the two forward sections and added brackets.
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These I then attached with more superglue.
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With that done and dry I made the doors and stuck them in the gaps.
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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.
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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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All of this assembly thus far was done with plastic cement. Now I used superglue to attach the assembled sections to the tank, thus.
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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.
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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.

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29, Let’s Go! Is Ready to Go

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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.
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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.
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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!

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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