29, Let’s Go! A Campaign Game

Platoon Sergeant Bouldermeir lit what remained of his cigar, exhaled and spat a stream of tobacco juice across the road. Just 24 hours since they landed on that crazy beach and marched past the dead and mangled bodies before heading up a valley towards a small and somewhat damaged French village. A lot had happened in that day.

The march inland had been noteworthy for the constant interruptions by seemingly random small arms fire. Sometimes it could have been the Germans, but most of the time the Sergeant suspected it was nervous troops jumping at shadows. Crazy Goddam bastards!

Bouldermeir’s Platoon had been far to the rear of the column when the attack went in on the small village of La Cambe. He’d seen the mangled remains of the Sherman which, he presumed, had led the attack. He’d also seen the four German 88m guns in their dug-outs which had been cleared as the advance through the village progressed. What had been worse was the wreckage of four tanks and the pile of corpses left by an attack by Allied aircraft. His Lieutenant had thrown orange smoke grenades to show that the column of men on the road was friendly, but the planes with the broad black and white stripes on their wings had not ceased their attacks. In the end the Sergeant had leapt onto the back of a Sherman and fired its AAMG until the barrel glowed with heat and, at last, the friendly planes soared away. Goddam bastards. They’d killed more men that the Germans at La Cambe!

The next place the enemy had been contacted was so small that it wasn’t marked on the 1:50,000 map which sergeant Bouldermeir carried. Lieutenant Taylor, whose map was more detailed, told him it was called Arthenay. What was certain was that the first attack had been driven back, a Sherman exploding and burning to the South of the road, hit by some mobile 88’s off to the South. A concerted barrage followed up by a rapid advance saw the men of the 2nd battalion punch hard, only to find that the enemy has slipped away after causing a few casualties. Goddam bastards. Why would nobody fight fair?

Now the Sergeant led his platoon forward into a small orchard to the South of the main road. With the mobile 88’s on their flank the 29th couldn’t push forward until they had cleared the threat. The village of St Germain du Pert was marked on Bouldermeir’s map, but he hardly needed it. He could see the imposing shape of the church dominating the cluster of buildings around it. Now he was going to show the Goddam bastard Germans who was boss. Nobody messed with Bart Bouldermeir!
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The Sergeant looked across to the right. He could see the church dominating the horizon. Here the hedge ended and any further penetration around the enemy’s flank would take him into open fields. It was a risk. If he kept pushing he could pull the enemy into directions, attacking both from the North and the East, but in doing so he would risk being spotted in the open and simply shot down…
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..it was a risk. What kind of men were the Germans he was facing? Pretty shook up Goddam bastards he guessed. Maybe men appearing off on their flank would persuade them to withdraw. The Sergeant pushed on.
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There was movement up ahead. Bouldermeir was certain of it.

“Kowalski, Shultz, scout up ahead, see if we can locate those SOBs!”

The two scouts slipped through the hedge.
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No sooner were the two men through the hedge than a hail of bullets met them. Kowalski went down, Shultz turned and ran.
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“Sergeant Collins, get your squad on that hedgeline! Amis, take your men round onto the flank. We’ll give these Goddam bastard Krauts something to remember us by!”
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Moments later his first squad were on the hedgeline and putting down fire. Bouldermeir was glad of the additional BARs he had picked up on Omaha. They gave the squad a real punch. A minute or so later fire could be heard across on the left; it was Sergeant Amis and his squad. The Krauts were caught in a crossfire! Moments later the Germans could be seen pulling back into the churchyard and Amis could be heard ordering his men forward. So far, so good.

The crunch of a difficult gear change heralded the arrival of German armour. They’d known it was there. The Colonel had said it was mobile 88′s, whatever the Sam Hill they were. Now one was coming towards them.
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“Sure glad to see you boys” Sergeant Bouldermeir called to the lead tank commander.

“No problem Sergeant. We’ll give you some support. If you can flush out the Germans so we can see their fire, we can take them out!”
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“Sergeant Amis is down!” the cry came from somewhere. Through his field glasses Sergeant Bouldermeir could see his squad leader being dragged to the relative safety of a hedgeline.
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At that moment, a second German squad appeared in the next field, clearly intent on cutting off the retreating party.
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But deploying under the guns of two Shermans was a disaster. Amis’ men fell back from their hedge and the tankers pumped shell after shell into the newly exposed German position.
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The crash of a heavy gun firing echoed from the trees and Norman buildings, followed a split second later by the sound of its ricocheting of the turret of the nearest Sherman.

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“Get that Goddam bastard bazooka up there! And I mean NOW!!!”
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As he walked down the main street in St Germain du Pert, Sergeant Bart Bouldermeir could see that the Germans had been hit hard. Twenty men lay dead or wounded, the latter now prisoners and being treated by US medics. The Marder was still burning, whilst the StuG had been abandoned. What was left of the force had been observed crossing a causeway through the inundated area to the South. He had won his first battle.

POSTSCRIPT
This was the fourth battle in our 29 Let’s Go! campaign, and what an interesting game it was. Quite how the Americans won it is beyond me as they, frankly, pushed way too deep in the patrol phase and were left with all of their flanking jump-off points exposed and completely in the open. They did succeed in pushing two of the German jump-off points out into no-mans-land, but that still left the enemy two in the village itself; more than adequate in such a small village. As it was, the squad that did deploy there, under Sergeant Amis, suffered significant casualties (7 men out of 12) as it attempted to get to cover.

The Germans made a couple of key decisions which, I felt, contributed to their downfall. Firstly, opening fire against an enemy two man patrol at long range may well result in those two men being killed or driven off, but in doing that you show your position and allow the enemy to manoeuvre against you. In this instance it resulted in the single German squad facing two US squads, one of which was enfilading it from the flank. It is FAR more effective to leave your troops off table until you at least have an enemy at close range.

Secondly, and more critically, the failure of the Germans to close down the jump-off points on their extreme right was a match loser. The US jump-off points there were not just in the open, they were also out of the line of sight of their jump-off points on the northern edge and, as a result, entirely unsupportable. Had the following plan been implemented from the outset, I cannot envisage a situation in which the US player could have not withdrawn and been obliged to fight this action twice. Bear in mind the only German objective is to delay the US player by slowing him down, forcing him to fight certain actions twice, that would seem a more appropriate option.
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With one squad and the panzerschreck on the church covering the Northern table entry points, the Germans could have allocated both AFVs and two squads of infantry to seizing the three jump-off points on their flank. Placing one of those squads on overwatch in the garden, as shown, would have placed the US player in an impossible position. He’d have either been obliged to defend the jump off points by deploying into the open (and be gunned down), or surrendered them in order to conserve his force and seen his force morale plummet. To intervene from the North, the US player would have to cross the open ground to a position on the hedgeline marked “A”, and that appears to be a tall task when compared with taking out three such closely deployed jump-off points almost behind your own lines. Thee jump-off points lost is a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 6 force morale points lost. No force can realistically lose 4 or 5 points and still push on. Especially as the US force began the game with a Force Morale of 8.

Such a course of action would accurately reflect the Germans counter attacking locally to drive off a potential counter attack and securing their own perimeter. In reality, having the positions you have chosen as the jump off points for your attack so comprehensively retaken would oblige any attacker to withdraw and rethink his plan. And that is what could have happened here. As it is, the US player won a very simple victory and is ready to continue the push on to Isigny. Quite how this will affect the morale of the main German force, currently falling back to Osmanville where the hoped to have some time to dig in, we will have to find out. Unfortunately for them “Pop” Goode, the US commander, is almost feeling vaguely positive, so there will be no delays there either.

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Crisis. Chain of Command Does the Double!

Is it really over so quickly?! Every year the only disappointment we experience with Crisis is the flat feeling of coming home back to normality after two days in wargaming Heaven. Not only do we get the greatest show in Europe, but we also get to enjoy one of the understated gems of the continent, the truly buzzing and eternally welcoming city of Antwerp.

This year we packed the two Lardy cars on Thursday night and set off early on Friday morning. Arriving at our hotel in mid-afternoon we had time for a quick wash and brush up before having a few pre-dinner drinks next to the harbour and then into town for dinner in a fabulous 12th century vaulted wine cellar lit only by a myriad of candles. As wander around the various squares, sampling a few more beers before heading back to the hotel made for a most enjoyable evening.
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Saturday morning saw us arrive at the show venue at around 0830 where we quickly set up the small village of Lardville with its associated manoir and Chateau.
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For me the rest of the day was one great blur, as we played three games of Chain of Command. Two with the BIG Chain of Command rules, one with the vanilla rules for a couple of newcomers who wanted to see the game in its original format. As always it was great to game with our old friends from Europe and to make new ones. It was particularly nice to chat with a number of German wargamers who had made the lengthy trip. I fear that my ability to tweet from the show as very limited, but Nick and Sid kept up a good running commentary on the events of the day.

I must note here the hard work put in by the Tin Soldiers of Antwerp. They had taken even more space this year whilst keeping the number of traders and games the same as before. This really gave the show a feeling of space and allowed one to manoeuvre around the show with ease. Their efforts in keeping everyone fed and watered were much appreciated. The food smelt fantastic; sadly I was too busy to eat anything!

The high point of the day for us was that Chain of Command won two awards. We won the Best Participation Game and next door James and Scrivs had traveled across with their spectacular Keren game which they also ran with our Chain of Command rules, winning the most Innovative Game of the Show. Nobody who has seen the amazing East African hillside over which they fought could be anything other than amazed at its beauty and originality. A truly worth winner! Here we see Scrivs, James and Rich wielding said awards.
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Of course Crisis doesn’t end when the doors shut. We headed into town for a slap up feed of horse Fillet Rossini and a few few bottles of vino collapso, before joining James and Scrivs for a very merry evening around Antwerp’s historic Inns. Here we see, from left to right, Elton, Scrivs, Noddy, Sidney, Clarkie, James, Biffo and Nick raising their glasses to toast the joys of the day. Cheers!
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So, another fantastic Crisis came to an end. The long drive home gave us time to contemplate on the fun we’d had and chat a bit for a forthcoming Lardy podcast. More on that later. For now, here’s a gratuitous photo of the Best Participation Game trophy which now graces the Lard Island Trophy cabinet.
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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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