Thursday, 2 September 2021

3,2,1.....Mahdist Ansars are go!

The one upside to an unexpected and prolonged lockdown has been the revival of my Colonial era project. Despite letting a month pass without posting anything new on the blog it's not because I haven't been busy painting.

The first forty Perry 28mm plastic Mahdist Ansars are now completed and I have the figures from a second box assembled and based awaiting primer. To oppose them I have a box of Perry British Infantry, some of which I started way back in April 2020. This is a fairly versatile box set that can be used for a number of campaigns beyond the Sudan, including the North West Frontier and Afghanistan. 

I like the idea of playing large skirmish games with these and I have a copy of Daniel Mersey's The Men Who Would Be Kings (TMWWBK) which are ideally suited to the period. I would dearly love to see Too Fat Lardies' black powder rules Sharp Practice expanded to include this period and have been following John Savage on Twitter and Facebook, as he has been testing a variant for the Sudan that may see publication in the forthcoming Lard Magazine.

Most skirmish rules involve individual basing, which works fine for me as I'm happy to use sabot bases to help move groups of figures. That's ideal for more regular or drilled units but doesn't quite look right for tribal groups or irregulars. I know there are sabot bases available where figures are spaced in a more irregular pattern but I quite like the idea of basing in 3s, 2s and 1s. This would give tribal units a less rigid appearance while allowing for ease of movement and the removal of casualties. So that's been my approach.

The bases are cut from larger pieces of 2mm MDF. The edges are beveled to give them a more natural appearance using the sanding tool on a Dremel.

As for painting the figures I thought this might be a good opportunity to try the Citadel contrast paints for the fabrics. I primed the clothing in either white or dark sand. With the white I used the contrast paint Apothecary White and with the dark sand Skeleton Horde. The results were very pleasing and I can foresee a number of other applications where the contrasts will work well. The figures did receive a final highlight with a paintbrush, but overall I achieved the effect I was after very quickly.

A group of Tribal Infantry in TMWWBK is made up of sixteen figures including a leader. Sharp Practice tends to have smaller size groups and I'd expect Tribal Infantry to be in groups of approximately twelves. Either way the 3,2,1 basing system would work for either. So for TMWWBK I'm looking at a group of sixteen being made up of three bases of 3 figures, two bases of 2 figures and three bases with a single figure.

The Perry figures are very versatile and allow for a good variation in poses or weapons. That's allowed me to keep the units looking less regimented. Here are some of the three figures bases:

The two figure bases are simply a variation of the three figure bases, but with one less figure:

Individually based figures include those that might need to be differentiated in one way or another depending on the rule set, such as leaders, musicians or flag bearers, but they also include individual warriors.

The Perry box sets come with a very useful information sheet that includes a number of flags and banners. They are printed on glossy paper and so I copied them and reprinted with an inkjet onto normal copy paper. This made them easier to soften with PVA glue to shape them.

The sets come with a number of arms with rifles and so I have based all of these riflemen individually. They can be mixed in with the larger groups or made up into groups of skirmishers or other rifle armed groups.

This is the first time I've painted darker flesh colours on a large number of figures, so it took me a few trial attempts to settle on colours that worked for me. Originally I used a base colour of Vallejo Game Colour Dark Fleshtone with an overall highlight of VGC Tan, further highlighted with a mix of VGC Tan and Army Painter Barbarian Flesh. The end result was a bit lighter than I wanted and you can see that in the picture above with the second rifleman from the left painted in those colours. So I moved to something darker starting with a very dark base colour of Vallejo German camouflage Black Brown. The overall highlight was VGC Dark Fleshtone which was highlighted with a mix of that and VGC Tan. I think that's worked a lot better.

Overall with the basing I've tried to give myself as much flexibility as possible and to future proof the collection so it can be used across several different rule sets if I choose. So far I think they are making for a suitably imposing looking horde of warriors.

I know the 3,2,1 basing system works for others and so I'm hoping I've got the balance right, I guess the real test will come when I can get back to face-to-face gaming. For now though I'm saying it's 3,2,1....all stations go.

Before I start on the next box of Mahdists I've taken a break to paint up some of the British. I like these figures a lot, they are very reminiscent of the poses you might see in Victorian paintings of the period.

As you can see these are based individually and more traditionally on 25mm rounds. I intend creating sabot bases to use with them, probably with four figures in each, as this will allow them to be grouped in eights for Sharp Practice or twelves for TMWWBK.

I haven't used contrast paints with these. The base colour for the uniform is Vallejo Khaki and the webbing is Buff. They were then washed with Citadel's Agrax Earthshade. The uniform was highlighted with Khaki and then a mix of Khaki and Dark Sand.

I've ordered another box of British as the 36 that come in a single box won't give me enough figures for a game. Of course there's no point ordering just one box so I've add a couple of boxes of Afghan Tribesman to the order as these should work for the North West Frontier and Afghanistan. Might as well keep my options open, eh?


Friday, 30 July 2021

German Army infantry in 20mm

The choice when it comes to what Second World War German force to build must be one of the widest there is in the hobby. As with my British I originally built my German platoon using the 1/72 Plastic Soldier Company set and as those figures cover the later war (1943-45) that's been the main focus for my collection. Over time, as I've done with my British, I have slowly moved over to using metal miniatures and once again mainly those from AB Figures. Nonetheless the main focus has been on those later years of the war.

So of course the big question is, what is the best colour for Feldgrau uniforms? It's a topic that can be hotly debated but always comes back to the image below, which tends to stop all discussion in its tracks.

As I said, my platoons are all for the mid to late stages of the war, although at a stretch they would be suitable for 1942 in places like Stalingrad.

The basic later-war Heer platoon for Chain of Command is usually comprised of a platoon HQ with one senior leader and a panzerschreck team. The rifle platoon itself is composed of three rifle squads, each with a three man MG42 team and a six man rifle team, led by a junior leader.

As usual my senior leaders are on rectangular bases and these three are all from AB Figures.

With the platoon HQ panzerschreck team I've opted for a variety of figures, some from from AB and some from the Plastic Soldier Company. Normally I base weapons teams with two crew on the same base but practical experience has shown that panzerschreck teams, much like US bazooka teams, often deploy into ambush positions in cramped terrain. With that in mind I've based the figures both individually with the gunner and loader on separate bases, as well as two to a base. An additional panzerschreck team is often available as a support option and I've found it's always handy to have more than one.

The figures below are from the PSC German infantry heavy weapons set.

Those in the picture below are from AB's Waffen SS range. While technically not attired for a Heer unit they are nice sculpts and can be fudged for additional teams if I need them. 

The junior leaders for each of the platoon's squads are on 20mm rounds, the same as the riflemen. They are distinguished by their weaponry (usually a machine pistol), their leader-like pose and a few large rocks on their base. Once again these are all from AB.

The different types of bases help to distinguish the senior from the junior leaders.

Depending on during what period of the war a scenario is set the squad leaders will have a number of panzerfaust available for the squad to fire. While it is not necessary to represent these on the table I find it useful to exchange a figure armed with a panzerfaust with one of the rifleman as a reminder the squad has one to fire. Once it has been fired then the figure is swapped out again and the rifleman returned.

Despite the fact millions were produced during the war I haven't seen many panzerfaust on display in museums. Here is one I've seen on display in the Canadian War Museum.

Each squad in the platoon is made up of six riflemen and a three man LMG team, led by an Obergefreiter (junior leader). Three of these squads make up the standard German infantry platoon for the mid to late war period.

The MG42 teams have the main gunner and the loader on the same base. I do this with most of my weapons teams as it makes them easy to identify on the table and as you can see in the case of the kneeling machine gun team in these pictures, they often work well posed together.

The third member of the team is based like a rifleman and will be the first to be removed in the case of a casualty.

It seems you can never have enough German LMG teams, particularly if you intend to field a panzergrenadier platoon, in which case you will need two LMG teams per squad. Given the possibility that a fourth squad can be added as a support I've made sure I have enough for eight LMG teams.

I saw this very good example of an MG42 in the Canadian War Museum.

While many of my LMG gunners are armed with an MG42, its predecessor the MG34 remained in use right up until the end of the war (the main difference between the two weapons was in manufacturing costs and the number of component parts, the MG42 being a cheaper gun to produce). This MG34 is in the Spanish Army Museum in Valencia, Spain.

Leaders are the only figures in Chain of Command that can suffer a wound rather than immediate removal as a casualty. As they remain on the table with this wound I've tried to come up with an appropriate way to mark it. The PSC German infantry set includes a few spare heads including one with a bandage and so I made a simple head swap to create wounded leader figures. 

It is then a simple matter of swapping out an appropriate leader for a wounded figure. It's one of many solutions I have tried to find to mark wounded leaders and you can see an alternative ways of doing it in this post.

That covers the core infantry rifle and panzergrenadier platoons. To these I've added the various teams and weapons from the support lists. Below is a forward observer team from AB.

A tripod mounted MG42 team can be used in two sustained fire roles, as a medium machine gun or as a heavy machine gun. This is the team from the PSC infantry heavy weapons set.

In addition to the panzerfausts and the panzerschreck teams there is also the option to include a panzerknacker team as a support. AB do a nice set of figures armed with a range of infantry anti-tank weapons like a grenade bundle and a magnetic mine. These teams are usually represented by three figures and I find I can mix these up with a rifleman or a man with a machine pistol to make up a suitable group.

Engineers teams can be specialists in a number of tasks including mine clearing, demolition and operations flamethrowers. I have two flamethrower operators both from AB.

The engineers have a few specialist weapons and one of those can be a remotely operated Goliath explosive device. These two are from SHQ.

Here is one that I saw on display at the Musee des Blindes at Saumur:

I have made up generic entrenchments like those in the picture below that can be used with figures from any nationality and you can see more about how I made those in this post. These work well enough if there is space in the terrain to place them, but that's not always possible to do. 

As an alternative I've created specific sets of entrenched figures that offer a more flexible approach to using them on the gaming table. I had a number of spare plastic figures left over from one of the PSC German Infantry sets and so decided to use those to make a couple of entrenched squads. It was a fairly straightforward job of cutting the figures in half and then sculpting the foxholes onto a small base. Generally infantry dig two man foxholes but I made up a few single men foxholes which gives me a number of options including removing casualties; use one as the third member of an LMG team, or, simply to work around terrain pieces or cramped spaces on a table.

There was a spare Panzerschreck team so I made up one for them as well.

I have made a small provision for a squad on motorbikes and for this I have used the Italeri plastic motorcycle teams. Two of the teams come dressed for North Africa and so required a bit of minor surgery to serve as a generic group for the European theatre.

The Australian War Memorial museum has a rather nice motorcycle and sidecar in its collection.

There is also one on display at the Army Museum in Valencia.

Given the number of different German units in my collection I will do another post to cover Volksgrenadiers, Volkssturm and Waffen SS, and then a separate one for heavier support weapons like artillery and armoured vehicles. It's only when I've come to do this that I've realised how large a collection I have for the Germans (and I don't even have one for the early war or North Africa).