Impressions: AM General HUMVEE Enthusiasts’ Manual

In a complete reversal to my previous vehicle based project, I decided to pick up my reference material at the start of the project rather than just as it was coming to an end. Osprey does produce a New Vanguard on the Humvee series written by Steven J Zaloga (Amazon link: HMMWV Humvee 1980–2005: US Army tactical vehicle (New Vanguard)). However, it’s a little outdated now thanks to it’s cut-off of 2005 but provides a good jumping off point. With the Spectre HMVs being more designed for the later armoured versions I started looking for an alternative. And then I discovered that Haynes had a manual available for the vehicle.

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If you are unaware, Haynes have been producing reference books designed to assist drivers in repairing their own car. Through the years I’ve seen a fair number of the practical guides. They also do some more unusual books in the series, such as for the Star Trek Enterprise, and several historical vehicles. For Christmas, I received their Churchill Tank book and found it a great read (although sadly I’m not sure I’ll be in a position to use it’s maintenance tips). I quite like their books, both for the technical information and photos, so I had to pick it up.

The Book

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The book was .published in 2014 and is in the usual Haynes style, in hardback, full colour and a whopping 154 pages. It starts off with the history of the Humvee program (including a look at it’s predecessors) before moving on to cover the production and the various variants that have been created off the basic vehicle. It also looks at the stranger selections including some words dedicated to the Hummer. A short chapter looks at more details of the manufacturing process. The bulk of the book then looks at the internals of the Humvee (including plenty of close up shots of internal systems).

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This section covers literally EVERYTHING you’d want to know about the mechanics of the vehicle, from details of the transmission to the number of bolts used to hold the wheels together. Perhaps more useful for wargamers, it then moves on to look at the variety of body types and accessories available for the Humvee chassis. Most importantly, this includes the various weapon systems available for the Humvee. The following chapter expands on this detailing the Humvee in action, not just with the Americans but also with a few other nations. This chapter is packed with images of vehicles in action

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Haynes book without some practical information and so the final chapters are designed for those who may be actually interested in purchasing one. As well as detailing how rare if it to buy one (in part due to some of it’s civilian unfriendly features) and how to import them into the UK, it moves on to look at more practical matters such as how much it’s going to cost (back in 2014). A short chapter looks at the mechanics point of view, including the ever important serving schedule, before finishing off with a few pages of appendices.

Thoughts

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Overall, I think the book is certainly worth a buy. It provides a nice deep dive into one of the iconic vehicles of the 20th Century, covering every aspect of it from development through to it’s many uses. It’s also a nice easy read, giving lots of information without having to chew your way through it. The only downside is it’s price – if you’re used to Osprey’s reference books, it will seem expensive. However, there is lots of information to make it worth your while.

Coming at it from a wargaming/modelling point of view, I think the book has plenty of use. There will be big chunks that you’ll breeze past (I’m not sure you need to know the exact details of certain internal systems if assembling a resin kit) but there are so many images of the vehicles that it’s a perfect jumping off point for detailing your own vehicles. As well as overall shots, there is a great deal of information and examples of where to place your stowage in order to both look cool and realistic.

If this book interests you, why not pick it up off Amazon using one of the associate links below?

Project Humvee – Initial Impressions

You know, after the 9 posts that was Project Technical, I think it’s safe to say that pickup trucks with guns mounted on them are pretty great. On the other hand, there is something to be said for a vehicle that is actually designed to carry a group of infantry over rough terrain while carrying a heavy weapon and not assembled in some backstreet workshop. The Humvee is an icon of the post Cold War conflict, be it on the streets of Somalia, the dusty highways of Iraq or attempting to climb the mountains of Afghanistan.

I’ve talked to Spectre for a while and when they mentioned they were looking into making a range for the HMV, I was immediately interested. This interest grew with every update, especially when they showed off the various elements to the range. More importantly, I started planning out all the various combination of turrets and weapons I would need, gather reference material (see below) and soon enough the realisation hit home that this would be a brand new project.

The first wave arrives – along with some reference material

As with all projects, we’re starting with the initial impressions. We’re going to take a look at the basics of the range in their rawest state and act as a basic primer before moving on to tweaks and painting in future posts.


Construction Details

First up, the basic details. The HMV range is mainly produced in resin with the only required metal parts being the various guns you attach. From talking to the Spectre team, I discovered that this is the first product that Spectre have produced in resin in-house, primarily as a way of fixing the supply issues previous resin releases have had and allow them to do more in that area. In fact, if you check the vehicles collection page, you may notice a lot more things in stock.

Most of the finished product is great, with nice deep detailing in most cases. I did noticed a few air bubbles and slips (including a chunk out of a bumper) but no more than you might see from other similarly sized producers. In most cases I was able to hide the issues during construction or fix later with green stuff or thin plasticard. As with all resin models, I recommend cleaning them in warm soapy water (especially the wing mirrors). There was a fair amount of cleaning up to do with most pieces and some of them (such as the doors) were very easy to crack or damage while removing from the sprue. Overall, the experience was pretty much what I would expect when buying a wargaming ready kit – it rewards a little bit of careful planning ahead.

Base Variant

Of course, all vehicles have to start somewhere and even in a modular system there is a core set to buy. In this case, the HMV package includes what is in the picture above. Most of these parts are used in all variants although some, like the rear bumper are replaced in various upgrades. As always – DRY FIT EVERYTHING BEFORE PICKING UP THE GLUE.

Once assembled it looks like this. Immediately you can see just how detailed the vehicle parts are. I have my doubts how long the wing mirrors will last under constant gaming use, but there is at least more material to glue together with these compared to the metal bits in the technical sets. I’ll talk about the turrets more later but it’s great to see them spinning pretty freely.

The rear view shows off the special piece you add just for this version. The armoured section behind the cab turns this truck into the light cargo hauler/utility variant. Not one you’d always see in combat but it could be useful in a convoy situation. With the right turret setup, it could also be pretty great for various NGO forces that want something tougher than an SUV while offroading.

One comment is that this kit is only £16 for a good-looking vehicle. Combine this with Upgrade Alfa and a M2 and for around £20 you get a classic Humvee all ready for somewhere not many people are going to shoot back at it.

Chassis Upgrades

Of course, as cool as the basic version is, it’s highly likely you’ll be needing more than just a 4×4 pickup truck. So to help this out, Spectre have three upgrade packs available that take advantage of the modular design

HMV Upgrade – Alfa

If you’re wanting to make the classic design, this is the back you need. Sloped back covering the boot (or trunk) and a front mounted bullbar for smashing your way through any obstacles you might meet such as parked cars or insurgents getting in the way.

One simple install later and the shape seen on a thousand news broadcasts arrives. I can see this upgrade is probably going to be quite popular.

HMV Upgrade – Bravo

If you’re finding the Technicals to be a little too vulnerable for karting your operators around, than Upgrade Bravo is certainly worth looking at. Like Alfa it upgrades two parts of the vehicle, adding an IBIS TEK style front bumper (for even more smashing potential), a new rear bumper and an armoured open-topped box to surround the cargo bed. This box also includes a new rear hatch, allowing assualters to quickly mount and dismount when on operations.

Assembled and you can really see the change in shape that the new rear section adds – perfect for adding stowage to (either inside or on the sides). Additionally, the front bumper looks mean although the sheer size of the thing might make turning a little interesting.

HMV Upgrade – Charlie

The last upgrade pack is an interesting idea. Rather than new chassis, this just adds some new extra detailing elements. These are:

  • 2x Smoke Grenade Launchers
  • Spare Tyre
  • Spare Tyre mounting point
  • Additional weapon mount
  • Microwave Antenna (for jamming primarily)
  • 2x aerial mounting point

One thing with these is that most need a fair chunk of material removing before they were ready for use on the vehicles – the actual items are actually quite small so take care when preparing them.

When mounted on the vehicle, these elements really add the little bit of extra detail. The aerials go into slots at the rear of the common hull, meaning they can be used across any vehicle – the second aerial base went on the other Humvee I’ve been working on. The additional gun mount simply adds another post with the mounting system many of the newer weapon systems have while the spare wheel just looks cool. I had mounted the smoke grenade launchers on the vehicle (you can see the super glue marks) but they were removed so I could spin the larger turrets 360 degrees without the front shield clipping.

This pack feels like it’s designed to go with Upgrade Bravo, but I think it could be used with other variants. For example the spare wheel mount could go on the back of the boot panel and the additional weapon mount could go inside a turret for mounting some close in firepower. I really like the fact the aerials fit into slots on the base chassis making them incredibly useful.

Doors

A key part of the Humvee throughout it’s life has been the arms race between where the vehicle is deployed to (and what people shoot at it) and what sort of armour it carries. This has led to some interesting changes in visual profiles of the vehicle as more and more armour has been added to what was designed as a utility vehicle. Luckily, Spectre have included some options to let you up armour your vehicle.

By default, the core vehicle comes with lightly armoured doors moulded into the chassis. These doors have lots of detail on them and look pretty great, even down to the towing hooks needed if the doors are jammed shut. In most cases, these doors should be pretty great. The only comment – these doors are flat sided which means that a basic level of armour is on them. They are very much designed for post 9/11 and onwards. Depending on your local group, you might have a few people pulling faces if they turn up in early ’90s Somalia.

However, if you are rolling into serious trouble, you might want to invest in the more heavily armoured doors. There are two version available:

  • Door Armour Alfa (left) upgrades covers the windows, making them bulletproof while still able to open for troops inside to shoot out of.
  • Door Armour Bravo (right) covers more of the door making it more resistant to damage although it does prevent the troops inside from shooting out

As much as I like these additions to the vehicles, I did find the doors troublesome when removing from the excess material. There wasn’t a major cut off point visible to say “this is model” and “this is flash”, leading to some irregular edges and some overzealous trimming. It might be a case of me using the wrong tool for the job so I recommend being careful, otherwise you’ll be hanging some damaged armour off the side.

Turret Options

Of course, the other major feature on these Humvees is the turret on the top. As wargamers, this is probably the most important detail for us – we need to know what heavy weapons we’re rolling in to games with! The main common fact is that these turrets all have the usual notch that all the Spectre modern weapons fit into. I haven’t managed to run a full test of all the weapons to see what fit but it’s safe to say most of the sensible ones will work just fine.

All of these turrets are quite light, with only a thin ring to attach to the vehicle rather the plug some other companies use. I’d recommend being very careful when moving vehicles around off the table, lest the turret drops off and onto the floor. Adding a crew figure and some other upgrades should help to rebalance them. Speaking of crew, the distance between turret ring and the “floor” of the turret section is relatively short so expect the crew to be trimmed slightly, probably at the knees. Also, several pictures on the Spectre website show a plug covering up the turret ring. This is currently unavailable but may be released soon if you’re wanting to make a more civilian looking 4×4.

Final point, be careful when accessorizing your vehicle – positioning certain upgrades (like smoke grenade launchers) may stop the larger turrets from swinging freely.

Turret Ring

Included in the base variant, the turret ring is super simple to set up, with only two parts (turret ring and hatch). The hatch design is common across all the turrets and although it doesn’t close completely (the front half of the hatch is moulded onto the other half) you can still assemble it buttoned up or open.

Turret Alfa

Building on the turret ring is Turret Alfa, including a half height armoured panel and a gun shield. The gun shield fits onto the rest of the turret really easily with a big solid bar and socket. I also mounted the basic M2 .50cal – although it’s not designed for the half circle mount like the more recent guns, it has plenty of resin to bond to.

Turret Bravo

For proper armoured protected, Turret Bravo is the way to go. Based on the OGPK kit, this system has bullet resistant glass in both the gun shield and protective turret, giving the gunner both protection and visibility.

For this turret I added the SF version of the M2. As you can see, the under weapon light makes it a quite tight fit with the armour shield but as you can see – it looks pretty beefy.


All this analysing is cool but what am I doing with my vehicles? I haven’t yet got round to painting or adding the stowage (that will come later in the series) so for now, here are my first two Humvees.

Vehicle 1 is the first of what will be at least a pair of “Patrol” Humvees. This style is probably the most common in use and can stand in for pretty much any force. The Patrol Humvees will probably end up wheeling around US Army or Marine troops, especially if I get round to playing some of the Skirmish Sangin scenarios I’d previously avoided due to lack of Humvee. Similarly, the turret I built with it is all about being the most used setup I’ll go to.

Vehicle 2 is expanding out the SOF vehicles I have in my collection, giving them something a bit sturdier than the RZR or Technicals. It’s using both Upgrade Bravo and Charlie which, combined with the armoured doors, make it perfect for getting into the midst of the action and dropping off the assaulters on the X.

The original plan was to mount a minigun in either the turret or the rear section but due to stock issues I settled on the SF M2 in the turret (also a test to see if the two extremes of large weapon and massive turret would work) and one of the M240s from the twin GPMG mounts. The idea was to make it look like a proper mount and more like one of the troops had put their own MMG in place for the ride in before dismounting it later. I also placed it close to the spare tyre, working off the idea that it will provide a little cover. This is a vehicle that will definitely need a lot of extra stowage added to it.


Of course, no vehicle is ever used by itself so I’m going to do the photo comparisons and talk a little about cross compatibility.

EDIT: I realised that I missed out a photo showing off the vehicle compared to infantry figures. Here is the Spectre Humvee with a Empress SEAL (WIP) and a Spectre Ranger.

Can’t have a new release without some comparison shots. First up we’re looking at the Spectre vehicles, in particular the SF set. As you can see the Humvee is massive compared to the RZR and still chunkier than the Technical.

Looking at another Humvee available, you can see the Empress and Spectre vehicles are pretty similar from a distance. Up close, the Spectre vehicle is slightly larger, both in length and width. The M-ATV continues to dominate over all comers.

Speaking of other makers how do the Spectre parts compare? Well I’m not sure I’m rushing to replace all my turrets just yet. The Empress turret rings are slightly larger and, although the Spectre turrets fit and mostly cover up the hole, it’s not quite as smooth as the original. However, this could be easily fixed with some plasti-card.

Going the other way, I think the Empress vehicle crew will work well but you will need to build a floor up for them as they are cut off at the waist and maybe a little too short for your liking.


So after a first look, what do I think of the range? Well, the HMV set is the set to get if you want the most detailed Humvees currently on the market. Apart from a few minor issues (and those flipping doors) everything was really easy to get out, clean up and build. The end results look great, and I can’t wait to break out the paint and get them on the table. It would have been nice if all the weapon systems had been in stock on release day and a few new crew figures would have sweetened the deal. I’m interested to see what is coming next for this range – hopefully extra weapon systems (like a MK19 for the less SOF looking teams) or maybe a few smaller weapons (like a PKM or a M107 on pintle mount) ready for mounting in the back of the Bravo upgrade.

NEXT UP

That aside, what’s coming next in Project Humvee? Step one is going to be looking at adding the stowage and getting painting on these vehicles. Next month I’ll also be picking up some more turrets (and hopefully crew for them) to give me all the options I might want. I’ll also be picking up two more vehicles to build. One will be the other Patrol Humvee but I haven’t decided what to do with the last one.

Some people have made some really cool mothership Humvees laden down with cargo for other vehicles but I’m tempted to go a little more “Middle Eastern Militia” with my fourth vehicle. Battlefield 3 has a really cool DLC called Aftermath which included some jury rigged vehicles. The Humvee based system, the Phoenix, has a MK19 launcher in a forward facing turret in the back of the vehicle so I may work from this and create something suitably bodged. I’m going to have a think, but keep your eyes open for more updates from Project Humvee coming soon!

Technicals – High Speed, High Calibre

One of the more interesting systems you’ll see on technicals is the use of anti-aircraft guns. Requiring a bit more engineering work than a simple PKM or a HMG (unless you want to flip your vehicle) these AAA guns are pretty useful to an irregular force seeing as they are able to easily engage a whole host of targets from infantry to light armoured vehicles to helicopters and aircraft. Spectre have three of these weapons in their range and I’ve finally got round to finishing them off.

Pedestal

A common element of all the AAA weapons is the square pedestal mount. When it arrives from Spectre, each of the four legs has a slight cut out so it fits into the slots in the cargo bed. This makes sure that it gets a proper fit when glued into place. However, with me wanting to hot-swap the elements, this locator lug would probably start ripping through the paintwork. So, as with all my other weapons, I decided to mount on plasti-card pieces

I have three pedestals (one for each of the guns) – for two of them I simply cut out the usual “I” shape out of plasti-card so it fits around the wheel arches. For the final pedestal though, I had something else in mind.

Chopped Pedestal

By default, you can fit the pedestals into the cargo bay of the Technical Bravo chassis by either sticking it on top of the cargo bay or by trimming the legs and sliding it into position. However, both these options are pretty permanent. For hot swapping, I had to do something else. The plan was to cut down the pedestal to fit inside the cargo bay while still having a method to lift it out when changing weapons.

Unfortunately, my cutting wasn’t as precise as perhaps it should have been and so made a bit of a mess. Worse, the trimmed legs ended up not fitting correctly as I had worked off the wrong height for the wheel arches. So I had to re-do it; The intact legs would now rest on the wheel arch while a plasticard framework would hold up the other end. Overall it’s a cheap nasty fix but seeing as I’m close to finishing this project I kind of just wanted to get them done.

As you can see the it works pretty well, with most of the bad construction hidden by the cargo bed. It does mean I can’t mount all three weapons on Technical Alphas but it’s unlikely I’d be using all three of the heavy guns without having access to a Technical Bravo chassis.

ZPU-2

The ZPU-2 is a two barreled version of the 14.5mm KPV machine gun I mentioned in one of the earlier posts. The dual mounting upgrades it with proper anti-aircraft sights and large boxes for each gun to feed from. As you can see above, when it first arrives, there are plenty of pieces to put together. The main thing is getting the central section around the gun barrels and on the base and then work up from there.

Once assembled, the painting was pretty simple. I worked up from various metal shades before topping off with the usual Russian green. I painted the figure up while assembled although I can definitely see the advantage of painting him separately.

ZPU-4

If the two barreled version wasn’t nasty enough, the four barreled variant is designed to get as many rounds as possible down range in a short amount of time. With two massive ammo caskets on either side feeding each barrel and firing 4x the fire rate of a single gun, this is a nightmare to go up against in Spectre and other games.

I covered the basics in the first technicals post so I’ll focus on the painted side. Its the same process as the other Russian guns – metal and Russian uniform. Unlike the other guns, this one has a gunner already attached to the main body of the mounting.

ZU-23

The ZPU works by getting lots of rounds on target. The ZU-23 works by getting rounds on target that cause massive damage to whatever they hit. Rather than slinging the 14.5mm round, this dual barreled auto-cannon fires 23mm rounds with a variety of ammo types such as high explosive and armour-piercing. In game, this makes it very effective against groups of infantry and can even damage light armour and APCs. A real danger to most modern forces.

As with the ZPU-4, this was covered in the initial post back in 2017. One point I didn’t mention is that I seem to be missing the AA sight that sits in front of the gunner – luckily with these being for insurgents it’s easy to imagine it was snapped off at some point. Painting up was similar to the other AA guns.

THE END?

The AA guns are another way to help give the Insurgents a bit more firepower and increase the challenge for the more regular forces. A quad HMG or auto-cannon can really wreck a squad’s day, forcing them to actually use cover and smoke to prevent being caught in the open. It also gives the militia something that can take out vehicles with a bit more reliability than poorly trained troops popping up and firing RPGs. Finally, much like the improvised weapons from last week, these are also something that screams “militia” – they look gloriously ragged on the back of the pickups.

And we these finished, I have now painted up at least one of every weapon system offered by Spectre for their technicals. I’d say at this point, this is the final main Project Technical entry. From working away on these posts, I hope I’ve shown off what you can do with the range, from the conversion to add a PKM gunner for the MENA Regulars up to the heavily laden SF technicals and their massive selection of weapon systems. I’ve now got a nice selection of weapons that I can easily jump into most scenarios and pick out which weapons I want to use depending on the situation at hand. It also means that, I think, I can now fill a board with vehicles.

The real question is what modelling project to work on next. If only there was another range of modular vehicles coming soon to form a project I could really sink my teeth into…

Technicals – Bravo Equipment

Ah, time to go back to old faithful. It’s safe to say that writing about pickups with guns has been pretty successful so far. This time, I’m taking a look at three new pieces of gear designed for the more modern of the technical models offered by Spectre, Technical Bravo. The Bravo has a much smaller cargo bed than the Alpha which can make mounting certain weapons (like the rocket pod) very hard. With some careful planning though, you can use this disadvantage to make some really cool weapon setups. Here are three that work best on the Bravo chassis, all purchased from Spectre Miniatures.


ZPU-1

The ZPU is a 14.5mm HMG usually used for AA purposes. Spectre sell three variants using this gun, from the quad version down to this single gun.

When it arrives, it comes 4 pieces; the gun, tripod, gunner and seats. The gunner figure actually has a seat built in making it easier to assemble. If you don’t mount the seat, the gun can freely turn on the central pivot.

Assembly was simple but took a little bit longer than expected. A bit of force was needed to line up all the pieces so the gunner had his feet on the footbars. When building the hot-swap base, I had to add some extra height – this was so the gun would clear the rear gate on all vehicles when it was closed, letting me use it on all the vehicles and not just the three that have lowered gates.

And there we are done. Obviously this gun is only going to cover the rear arc, but it might end up being pretty handy covering the rear of a convoy or setting up for a hit and run ambush. HMGs are pretty handy in every game for both infantry and vehicles and the 14.5mm ZPU can be really nasty.


SPG-9

A recoiless rifle designed for killing armoured vehicles, the SPG-9 is common sight around the world. From skiffs off Somalia, to fighting positions in the Ukraine to the back of technicals almost everywhere, these weapons are a step up from the RPG. Although not quite as powerful as the M40, it’s still no push over.

When it arrives from Spectre, the SPG-9 comes in two pieces – the launch tube and the low profile tripod. This setup is great for a stationary support weapon (and is perfect for some of their crew figures like Echo and Delta) but limits it’s use on vehicles. So I decided to use some spare bits (the stand from one of the M2 .50cals I used on my Empress humvees) and built a slightly higher mount.

Luckily the bottom pin on the SPG 9 fits perfectly into the top of the stand. After gluing, I added some green stuff to add some support. However, to prevent it breaking, I also used a Crew Alpha figure to help support it. I also added a Crew Echo figure (seeing as I hadn’t used one in my collection so far) to help balance the weight and prevent it toppling over during gameplay. You can also see here that I originally planned this as a full-size weapon system. However, I soon realised I could clip the base in half and tweak the wings to turn it into one that would fit on both types of vehicle.

Here it is mounted up and ready to go. This weapon system actually fits in different directions depending on the vehicle – on Bravo it faces forward but, due to the height of the mount it only faces backwards when used on Alpha (meaning that the crew cabin would get wiped out if fired in this setup). No matter how it’s setup, it’s going to be a cool way to give the insurgents some AT firepower without wheeling in the Heavy Ammunition in the form of the M40 and TOW.


MENA Regulars PKM

The final item has already been teased in the MENA Regulars impression. Designed to give the Bazistan Army some backup before their Humvees arrive, a pickup mounted PKM should give some good covering firing and give an opportunity for some simple conversion work.

When I built my SF weapons, I used the high mounts for all the weapons leaving me with a pile of smaller but structurally stable looking weapon mounting positions. By combining this with the PKM gunner, a simple vehicle mounted system could be made. There was only one problem – the PKM figure is really leaning into the gun. So to make sure it actually fitted on the base and attached to the mount in front of the box mag, the gunner had to on a slant. Additionally, I had to put the pintle as far forward as possible. Without some tweaks it still didn’t fit correctly. In the end, I trimmed flat the front side. This means on Technical Bravo it looks like pintle is partially bolted into the back of the cab but can be a bit strange on Alpha.

Once assembled, it was looking good. Unfortunately, putting the crewman on the slant shifted the centre of weight making it likely to fall off the back when moved. To correct this, I added one of the boxes from the stowage pack and painted it green, ready to stow all the loose belts of 7.62x54mmR for the gunner to grab.

Finally here is the end product. The crewman and weapon are painted up in the same style as the rest of my MENA Regulars while the mounting pole was the usual metallic paint plus some roughly applied green paint. Overall I’m really happy with how this guy turned out – it’s going to be great putting him on a normal technical and rolling alongside the SF Technicals or Humvees in convoy.


Conclusion

That’s three more weapons for me to pick from when assembling a group of technicals. The fact they work great on the both technical models really opens up the types of forces I can make, expanding the options available (which is kind of the point of the whole project). As with all Spectre technical bits, there is a really nice level of detail on all the parts and it was great fun assembling, converting and painting them up. Keep your eyes open for when I wheel them out of the armoury.

And speaking of armoury, here is how the options currently stand. From the Insurgent heavy weapons to the SF options to the piles of kit, I’m really happy with how the whole hot-swappable system has been working. I’m actually looking at what else I can add to the technicals using this setup for other purposes, like water tanks or covered cargo bays. I might even add a few more weapon systems in there.

Keep your eyes on the site for another Technical Project article coming soon and focusing on the last weapon systems I currently need to paint – the AA guns!

Technicals – Improvised Weapon Systems

While writing Friday’s post I realised, except for a brief mention, I haven’t actually talked about some of the wierder weapons available from Spectre and how I had assembled them ready for hot-swapping into the technicals. Seeing as they don’t fit into either of the themes of the next two posts, and as a midweek treat, here is a quick post covering how the insurgents now have a bit of long range firepower thanks to the rocket pod and the BMP turret systems.


We’ll start with the rocket pod. As seen in a few conflict zones around the world, irregular forces struggle  to maintain attack helicopters in a civil war situation due to lack of pilots and supply networks. Instead of sitting around doing nothing, many groups re-purpose the under wing rocket pods – flipped upside down, mounted to a frame and put into service as bootleg MRLS system.

The rocket pod from Spectre comes in two pieces – the rocket pod itself and a support frame. This frame is designed to clip into the rack behind the cab on the technicals, making for a simple and easy installation if you don’t mind it being a permanent fixture.

To make it hotswappable, I had to make sure it didn’t require a connection to the bar behind the cab to stand up right. The pod could still rest on it but the main support had to be on the hotswappable part. In Version 1, I clipped off the front of the Spectre supplied frame to make it easy to attach the rocket pod and (because I was lazy) I simply stuck a piece of plasticard to the frame to hold it upright. Although it worked, it really didn’t look very good. So I went back to the cutting board.

Version 2 of the mounting was to tear off the original single piece mount (you can still see the gluing point on the bottom of the base) and redo it with two pieces placed just underneath the pod to give it support. This looks a lot sturdier while still looking like something someone threw together in a garage. The paint job was then applied – really simple job of Russian Green uniform and grey followed up by a Agrax wash.

Honestly, this is a weird piece of kit. It does scream “irregular forces” like almost no other (except maybe the BMP turret). I’m also not sure about how often I’ll be using it in a direct fire role, instead I can see it being used mostly as an objective or scenery as we saw in the first game using it.


Speaking of the BMP turret, I think I need to look at it in a bit more detail. In the original impression article, I really only covered what it was like when it arrived including the basics on how it goes together. I haven’t shown off the rest of the work I have done on it to get it ready for the table.

First up, a problem I encountered. Using the frame as intended (resting on the rear wheel arches) meant that the turret did not fit on top of the gunner preventing it from working properly. Even removing the hotswap base portion didn’t give enough extra space. So in order to get this ready for wargaming, I was going to have to do some tweaks.

My solution? Build a frame work as part of the base to raise the metalwork up slightly, giving plenty of clearance between the top of the gunners head and the turret. Being in a rush, I threw this together with a bit of give so I could work out the correct height and then come back to fix it. As you might spot, I didn’t go back and fix it.

And here is in its full painted (and heavily washed) glory today. The turret is painted the same colour as my other Bazistan vehicles to make it look like it’s been stripped off a regime vehicle. I actually ended up painting the gunner in situ so he’s colour scheme is a little simplistic compared to some of the other technical crews.

There is a certain amount of love amongst the local club when this vehicle appears on the board and it’s been christened “Tiny Tank”. As you might guess, it inevitably end ups on fire or blown up by an actual tank. On the other hand, the recoiless rifle in the turret can be pretty handy to pump out explosive rounds, either against lightly armoured vehicles (like Humvees or other technicals) or infantry dug in to cover. I have in the past used it with some extra armour to represent the turret

I am tempted to go back and tweak the framework to reduce the height slightly and make it the gunner isn’t exposed from the front. I’m also looking at adding some side armour to metalwork in order to project the gunner from side shots, as well as adding somewhere to stick militia slogans onto.


Overall both these weapons are a neat addition to any insurgent force. You get add a bit more firepower, able to level the playing field against better trained forces. You also get some kit that is exclusively suitable for an insurgent force, really helping it to look like a group of fighters in desperate times. After reading the Osprey book on Technicals, I’m already looking at some other slightly odd weapon setups to extend the rag-tag look.

Come back on Friday to see some more Technical weapons.

Project: B-Town – Part 1: More Impressions and Project Begins

It’s time for a new project! With the completion of Operation Dragon’s Hoard, my scenery projects have run dry (and less full of downed planes and dust). However, that doesn’t mean my terrain collection is all good to go. Since I started wargaming, I’ve slowly been collecting more and more MDF, all ready for a day when I run a full size game set in a city (as planned for a future part of the CGS series).

As you can see by my picture of shame taken in March, there is a lot of MDF to paint. And what’s worse, it’s all assembled (due to me mainly wanting to write about it) so painting is going to be interesting. To help with that, I’m organising it into a new project. Nicknamed “B-Town” the aim here is to assemble, modify and paint all my MDF to make it suitable for a modern day urban area somewhere in Bazistan/Aden. The target is to use this process to learn modification techniques to turn simple MDF into more detailed structures, learn painting techniques to get the terrain painted quickly and effectively and work on assembling the required scatter terrain to really make the scene look more realistic and interesting to play over.

This project is going to take a while and I’m sure I’m going to find ways to keep adding to it but for now lets start by taking a look at a few new purchases.


In my initial look at the Sarissa’s North Africa/Colonial Range, I focused on the big boys – multi-storey and street filling structures that are specific to range. However, there were also a few smaller buildings that Sarissa offer that I hadn’t picked up in the initial order. After having built the others I realised that maybe I should pick some up to use as prototypes for painting – after all, I’d rather ruin at £10 building than one of the larger ones.

As before, both kits arrived in the usual Sarissa packaging. It was interesting to see that the small building was only on A5 MDF rather than the cut used for all the others. Quality was high as ever and assembly matched pretty closely to the kits covered in part 1.


Small House

The first building in this set is the smallest building in the range. It’s also super simple – two doors, five windows and a lift on/off roof.

The rear view shows more of the access points as well as some of the laser cut details

With the roof removed, you can see the interior. It’s a simple single room with two entrance ways. I had an issue where one of the greyboard panels where it seemed reversed but managed to fix it by trimming out the


House – Two Storey

Building 2 occupies a similar footprint but extends it with another floor, including a balcony.

As you can see from the rear there is an additional door onto the ground floor. It’s interesting to see that there are no side windows on the ground floor, making it easy to outflank but limiting entry.

Like other buildings in the range, the interior are empty cells. An interesting note is that due to the same plug system used for the room, the ground floor could be replaced with the one storey house or the two storey could be converted into a single – with two doorways, it’s perfect for a security office in a compound.


Picking up these two buildings, really started to let me see some of the possibilities you can get with this range. Although the large buildings are very impressive, multiple small ones will help to quickly make any neighbourhood large, especially as they could be used in a modular fashion to make a wide variety of different buildings. I’m not going to rush to pick up more but it’s something to think about for the future.


Of course, I can’t leave you with just a simple impressions piece. In between my time at work, I managed to get some paint onto buildings. As planned, I’m starting with the smallest Colonial building to work out my method.

Due to the fact I’m working with buildings that are already assembled in this project, I can’t start from a sensible place like base-coating on the sprue. Instead, I’m having to mask areas I’m not wanting to cover in textured spray, such as doors and windows.

So here is my process for the first building. It’s not 100% finished – I’m still debating adding window glass on the inside.

  1. Assemble
  2. Mask off windows and doors
  3. Textured spray with roof on
  4. Remove masking pieces and roof
  5. Spray Black Undercoat
  6. Spray Grey Undercoat
  7. Spray White
  8. Dusting of Tan spray on the lower edges
  9. Paint doors with a dilute blue to bring out the lasercut detail
  10. Nuln Oil wash for vertical surface, Agrax Earthshade for the flat surfaces
  11. Roughly paint/drybrush white
  12. Apply scrunched poster, hit with a Nuln oil wash

For a first attempt I’m reasonably happy. There are a couple of things I’m going to tweak. First of all, I don’t think I need to spray black AND grey. The grey is pretty dark and it covers the main role of the black (covering up the black and white of the textured spray/giving the same “dark up” feel that my figures have). The poster is something else – I think I over handled it causing it to tear and smudge. A layer of wash was needed to stop is standing out too much but I used a dirty brush. Next time, clean between uses.

The big thing is I’m going to take a bit more time on future spraying. I painted up these relatively quickly (probably 1.5 evenings) which meant I didn’t leave the spray paint long enough to settle. This lead to some odd textures and cracking you can see if you look closely. If anyone asks, it’s just the plaster cracking. Another tweak will be to change the final finish colour – looking at buildings in Yemen (the geographical area of Bazistan) and there is a nice mixture of colours from white to shades of brown. Due to the fact the buildings share many of the same features, a colour tweak will make the city look a bit more varied.


What’s next?

The next part of the project is going to work on the other colonial buildings so I can have a core set of buildings painted up. However, I need to look into some detailing parts to help them look more modern such as air conditioning units, metal bars around the windows, wiring and aerials. I already have a few but I want to expand my options and see what is out there. Having now started this project, I’m really looking forward to getting a board covered in painted up buildings.

Impressions: Osprey New Vanguard Technical

The historical wargaming hobby has many aspects to it for people to enjoy. One of the aspects I particularly like is learning the period as it’s a great way to learn tactics, be inspired for scenarios and find references for paint schemes. When looking for information, one of my favourite places to start is Osprey Publishing’s various ranges. Well written and formatted and with great artwork to illustrate the subject, these books help to provide a great overview. So when they showed off their new releases for April 2018, I noticed one book in there I just had to pre-order.

Written by Leigh Neville, who has also done several books for Osprey (including the RAID book on Takur Ghar and the hardback Special Forces in the War on Terror book that lives in my reference pile), the latest book covers a subject that has been featured quite heavily on here – Technicals! So for the latest part of Project Technical, we’re going to take a look at some reference material for building your own fleet of vehicles.

The book is the usual form factor for Osprey. Softback, 48 pages and colour throughout, the formatting makes the book an easy read. It’s also packed full of pictures (at least one on each page on average) and includes 13 pieces of Peter Denis’s incredible artwork. There are a whole host of base chassis shown ranging from the classic pickups to Land Rovers and trucks.

The book kicks off with a basic introduction to the concept of the technical as well as looking into the very early roots of the idea. A small section then looks at the most common weapon systems found in use with the technical. After that, it runs through various key conflicts the technical has been involved in starting with Beirut and The Great Toyota War in Africa, passing through Somalia (including an interesting bit of information on an alternative origin of the name “Technical”) and the Balkans before looking at their use in conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. It’s a pretty comprehensive look at the history, with a focus on showing the various unique vehicles from each theatre. This is a great inspiration for how best to make your technicals stand out.

Finally the last section jumps the fence and looks at the use of technicals by Special Operations forces. This section covers the whole history of them, such as the use of Land Cruisers in Gulf War and some details on Russian technicals. There is a lot of information I here I hadn’t read before, as well as plenty of photos of pickups with the Special Operations modifications I have on my own Spectre vehicles.

Do I recommend the book? Wholeheartedly, yes. I think it’s a great little reference, covering all aspects of the topic with a great level of detail without bogging down trying to tell you them. The pictorial element helps to bring the information to life, showing off the weird and wonderfully variety of things people have made.

The only problem with the book? It would have been nice to have last year when I started building mine own collection of these vehicles!

If you want to pick up your own copy, it’s available in PDF, ePub and physical copy over on the Osprey Publishing website. You can also get it via Amazon – you’ll find two affiliate links below (pointing to the UK and US stores)

Non-Standard Tactical Vehicles – Building the SF Technicals

When the full details for the SF upgrades to the technicals were announced, I could see that assembling these vehicles ready to support my operators on the field was going to be a fun project. Thanks to sheer variety of stowage and other bits to upgrade them with, building my Non-Standard Tactical Vehicles needed some planning and careful part purchasing. Thanks also to my obsession with interoperability and hot swapping, I also had to work out the best way to mount all the various bits of equipment I wanted to use. This post is going to take a look at my final products packed full of pictures to show them off.

For impressions of the various parts, you can take a look at my multiple impressions pieces covering both the core sets and the new Special Forces upgrades.


Vehicles

With the possibility of two squads needing transport, I decided to pick up four technicals and set them up for SF use. Looking at the parts available, and after adding stowage, each has been assigned a role. As you may notice, the basic vehicles don’t carry cargo for details you can see later.

All vehicles mount the snorkel and bullbar upgrades as well as the upgraded tyres. Additionally, they all have a similar style of paint scheme – block colour undercoat with stripes of tan. The idea behind this was that these vehicles have been modified in theatre, with the main paint scheme having been fresh from the dealership and then hastily painted over to break up the colour. As for painting it, it’s simple and effective to paint.

SF01 – “King”

The first technical finished, and having already seen action in Bazistan, this vehicle is designed to be the command vehicle for the group. Using Technical Bravo as it’s base, SF-01 also mounts the Upgrade Bravo set with the rails and rear mounted fuel tank. As mentioned in the main impressions, this pack isn’t designed for this vehicle but it does seem to work quite well. The vehicle also mounts the Satcom aerial, a spare tyre and rucksack on the rear. To help protect the front, smoke dischargers are mounted in the bull bars.

SF02 – “Queen”

SF02 has another nickname – “Mule”. Using the Technical Alpha as the base, this vehicle is designed as the logistics hub for the group. For this reason, it mounts everything. The racks and fuel tank help to bulk it out but it also has multiple jerry cans, rucksacks and a spare wheel hanging off bits. On top of the cab, the storage rack is designed to be ready for the offensive. A LAW, an AT4 and a pelican gun case help to show off the idea that this is where all the heavy weapons are stored.

SF03 – “Jack”

“Jack” is designed to be a multi-role vehicle. It isn’t the most well equipped vehicle but it provides a good enough platform for whatever is needed. The only upgrade is the storage rack that has multiple different items ready for support. Two LAWs, a rucksack, ammo box, small pelican case and a ration box means this guy is ready for patrol.

SF04 – “Ace”

SF04 is the high-speed off-road part of the patrol. The only additional bit of kit onboard is the multiple smoke grenade launchers. This guy will go everywhere and then get back out of there at a rapid pace. The real reason for no stowage? I’m leaving the roof space free in case a roof rack becomes available. Also there might be more stowage packs filled with new goodies.

Cargo Basing

When buying the technicals, a big thing was to make sure they were modular as far as possible. The main reason for this is that it doesn’t limit me to a specific combination of vehicle + weapon system and so that all the vehicles can be use for scenery without having to explain why the gun crew are not on the map.

Previously, when building the technicals for the militia, I had used several long pieces and various combinations of t-shapes made out of plasticard. However, this lead to some dodgy cutting and a few places where the guns were out of balance and liable to tipping over. This time, I standardised on the I shape throughout. Full size weapon use the entire I, half-size use 3/4s of the I with the remainder having stowage added to it. Mounting the rear weapons on both types of vehicles rely on a few rough cuts to tweak them to fit. This will need to be done by eye as I don’t have exact measurements for it.

A few people asked about a template for this. The reason I haven’t got one is that this, like many things I do, is done by the seat of my pants. Each of the shapes ended up being slightly different . The dimensions are approximately 3.1cm x 4.4cm. To make the I shape, I cut in 0.8cm slots at 1.1cm and 2.9cm. However I recommend you use these as guidelines rather than gospel. Measure carefully and prepare to trim.

The thicker plasticard works wonders but there is one more improvement I’d make. If I had a dremel, I would cut out a slot for rare earth magnets and utilise them for more support. I’d also measure properly,

Guns

The key part of the NSVs and their tabletop use is going to be their heavy weapons. Wanting the greatest selection, I picked up one of each and got to work. As I say in the last impressions piece, I was a little disappointed to see only one crew figure but paint jobs helped to fix that. I also think I maybe shouldn’t have mounted all the weapon on the taller mounts – it looks good when trying to get over the rack but it did lead to some odd positions on the Auto-Grenade Launcher and a really tall stand for the minigun. However, they do look really cool. In addition, the gun mounts also had a few stowage items to make them look used.

Heavy Machine Gun

The classic M2 is back. Having proven it’s worth in its first outing in Bazistan, I’m really happy with this setup. One thing of note, the gunner was painted at speed and so he ended up wearing a version of my ACU camo.

Dual GPMGs

The most “more dakka” of the guns, I really enjoyed assembling this guy. I look forward to him speeding around the board hammering away.

Auto Grenade Launcher

So this was the most troublesome to assembled. Due to the large height of the gun assembly and it’s two-part nature, I ended up with some support issue. To solve this, I had to glue the gunners face to the sight. It just about works but if I was to make it again I’d use the lower height stand and tilt the AGL more.

Minigun

For the minigun, I decided to do something different. I decided to do some tweaks so I could use this setup for a gun truck alongside my Tier 1 Operator models. This required some Green stuff work on the gunner – trimming his helmet off, reforming the shape, adding a head strap for the headphones and then adding a bill on it. I ended up building the shape with a cutout in it to allow me to add the bill. Unfortunately, I only noticed the presence of my finger print on a bit of the putty once I started painting it.

As for the weapon itself, I would again swap out the tall mount for the lower one. It looks great on the technicals with the side panels on but it’s a bit spindly for all other vehicles. However, I am happy with my beginners attempt at conversion.

As you can see, it looks pretty good amongst the contractors. Hopefully it will give them a bit of a firepower boost when up against hordes of militia.

 

Now, that was all the guns that are available from the store. However, I had a few other pieces lying around which meant I could setup another weapon ready for use. I present, the GPMG.

GPMG

By pulling the spare mount from a (now Humvee mounted) minigun and a spare M240 from the razor kit, I was able to get a lighter weapon together. The only major issue was the crewman. Looking through the Task Force Operators range, I eventually found the cheapest option – the single figure using the pirate gun. Combining these two together set up a great tactical combination and a unique weapon for my operators.

Cargo

In addition to the guns, the vehicles need a little extra stowage. This cargo is also great for mounting as an objective. The idea was also to make some that didn’t scream “SF OPERATORS HERE” so they can be used by the insurgents as well.

Full Size

There are two full size cargos. These only fit into Technical Alpha.

  1. A fuel setup with multiple barrels, two storage boxes and a row of jerry cans.
  2. A comprehensive cargo load with a bit of everything. Cargo boxes, ammo cases, cooler box, rugged laptop, rucksack and as a just in case, a M72.

Half Size

There are six half-size cargos. These fit into both vehicles, filling the bay on Bravo and adding more detail to Alpha. These are perfect for mounting alongside a weapon system in Alpha, helping to fill in the empty gap

  1. Generic ammo box and fuel tank.
  2. The car pack is designed to be relatively civilian, with a fuel can, spare wheel and two sand boards.
  3. Generic 2 – Spare wheel, storage boxes, ammo box, pelican box and a rugged laptop resting vertically.
  4. Generic 3 – designed for sitting at the front of Alpha, this one has an ammo box resting on top of where the wheel arch would be. In addition there is a good selection of kit such as a spare wheel, M72, rucksack and jerry can.
  5. Rocket pack – large container (probably full of rockets), ammo box (probably full of warheads) and an AT4 ready to rock
  6. Comms pack – large container, rucksack and three items to form a communication setup (aerial, small pelican case and a laptop)

Final Thoughts

The NSVs help to bring some new to the SF side. A bit more powerful than the Razors yet still ready to race around at full speed to deploy at the right location, the technicals are also a great way to personalise your force. I really recommend doing a little planning before buying in, picking out the right packs of stowage and guns.

The next step? Getting all of these vehicles into a game.