Friday 21 October 2022

Games, Trains and Automobiles

Earlier this year I wrote a post about converting a Lledo ‘Days Gone’ die cast van to make it suitable for games set in the Far East. It was a small project that I really enjoyed and so it inspired me to look around for a few more Lledo trucks. I have in mind the sorts of vehicles you might see in industrial settings near docks and warehouses in Shanghai, Hong Kong or Singapore. At this stage they're not intended to serve any specific gaming purpose other than being scatter terrain to help bring a table to life. 

I picked up a few more trucks on eBay, taking care to make sure they were ones that came close to 1/72 scale. 

Having downloaded the jpeg files for the liveries from the Major Thomas Foolery blog all I needed to do was repaint and apply the decals to transform them into the sorts of vehicles I wanted. I covered the process for doing this in more detail in this earlier post if you're interested in seeing more.

In a similar vein I've been looking for a suitable locomotive for a railway. I bought six railway carriages very cheaply several years ago and since then I've been keeping an eye out for a cheap locomotive. It didn't have to be in working order and you will occasionally see 'non-runners' for sale at reasonable prices on eBay, but I wasn't successful. In the end I opted to make one of the Dapol plastic kits. It was more work than I was looking for, but sometimes it's refreshing to build a model that's slightly different from usual. So it was with this. These kits were first released in the 1950s by Kitmaster. The moulds later went to Airfix and are now with Dapol. Despite their age they hold up remarkably well.

I have in mind using this as either scatter terrain for a city or industrial setting (for example, those dockyards in the Far East with the die cast trucks), or as the target for partisan or Chindit games. I think it has enough of a generic steam locomotive look that it should work in most theatres. At this point I should confess that I have no knowledge of trains, so I suspect that's the equivalent of telling a tank enthusiast that a model of a Tiger II looks enough like a 'generic' tank that it can work for any army in any theatre. Quelle horreur!

While I was making it my wife walked past and said, a little surprised, 'ooh you're making choo choo trains now'. No sooner had she said it, she stopped, pulled a face and said rather bashfully, "I can't believe I just called that a choo choo train". A revealing slip of the tongue. Talking to me like I'm a little child clearly says much about how she views the hobby!

Every train needs a station and this is a small MDF model that could work in a number of settings in the Far East but also in North Africa or the Mediterranean. 

The inspiration for the station came from this picture of a pre-war station in Malaya.

I replaced the roof on the MDF model with a sheet of plastic pantiles and rendered the walls with filler. 

The lights were made by converting railway yard lamps and the other extras came from an Italeri set of architectural elements. While it's hard to escape that MDF laser cut look I think anything that breaks away from perpendicular angles and straight lines helps to avoid that.

Friday 14 October 2022

A Tale of Two Tigers

While I wouldn't call myself a collector I do have a tendency to be a completist, which explains why several years ago I bought a box of two "E-Z Build" Tiger II kits from Pegasus Hobbies. I was building the German force for games using Chain of Command and naturally I wanted to be prepared to cover all eventualities. Makes sense? Well it does if you're a completist, but two Tiger IIs, was that really necessary? After all this is for a platoon level skirmish game. How often is one Tiger II, let alone two, going to turn up in one of those?

Sensing I may have made a purchase too far the models remained unmade in their box. In fact they did so for so long that when I had a chance to do a bit of a clear out for a bring & buy event at a local convention I thought it was probably time to let them go. Well, as it turned out, no one else shared my enthusiasm for two Tiger IIs in 1/72 scale. The box was one of very few items that didn't sell. No matter, it was returned to the stash.

Fast forward to December 2021 and I download the pdf of the most recent Lard Magazine. I'm pleased to see there is much in it that interests me including two campaigns for Chain of Command. One of which, Bazooka Town, is set in 1945 and I can hardly believe my eyes when I see that the campaign includes provision for the Germans to have a force with....wait for it....two Tiger IIs. Well, how fortunate is that? Cue a hunt in the stash to see if I still have that Pegasus box with the Tigers, which I do. I don't know if I'll ever get around to playing the campaign (although it is appealing), but suddenly here was the incentive I needed to make up those two models.

Being quick build kits they are short on detail but I've kept things simple and the only addition is a tank commander from AB for one of them.

I decided to paint them in a late war tri-tonal ambush camouflage scheme. I'll often do the tri-tone colours using the airbrush freehand, as I've done with the PzIV below.

However this time I wanted the camouflage to have a hard edge. For this I make a mask using Silly Putty which I find does an excellent job and is easily removed without lifting any of the paintwork. 

The dots for the ambush scheme were applied afterwards using a paintbrush.

I use a filter of a pale yellow oil paint to fade the colours and tie them together. I then do all my usual weathering. Overall I think they've come out well considering the simplicity of the kits.

Now the story doesn't end there, that would be too easy. The Germans are fighting the Americans and while I have a good collection of US vehicles the campaign has support options that include a M26 Pershing and a M36 Jackson tank destroyer. I didn't have either one of those. I hardly need to tell you how this one ends other than to say a couple of packages came through the post not long after.

The Pershing is a kit from Trumpeter. They have more detail than the quick-build ones from Pegasus and involve a bit more time putting together but the reward is a more attractive finished model. If there is a downside it's that they use rubber tracks which are not as robust for gaming as hard plastic ones. The crew figure is from AB.

The M36 Jackson is from Armourfast. Like Pegasus these are quick build and lacking in detail but I find adding extras like crew and stowage can really make a difference. Once again the crew for this one comes from AB Figures.

While I was working on those two I took the opportunity to finish off another American tank destroyer that had been sitting half completed since last year. This one is the M18 Hellcat built on the Chaffee chassis and is also from Armourfast, with crew once again from AB.

So I guess there's a moral in here somewhere, although I'm not sure exactly what it is - never get rid of anything, you'll only regret it later? Buy things even when you can't see a use for them, because hey, you never know when you might? If you buy one thing it will lead you down a rabbit hole that will involve buying more? I suspect the answer is probably all of the above but, if nothing else, at least I've satisfied the completist in me.