Project Fantasy Skirmish – Update 1

So it’s been a while since I last talked about Fantasy Skirmishing. Mainly because, like a wargames butterfly, I was distracted by something shiny and disappeared off into doing non-wargaming things for a bit (as well as losing motivation). However, this didn’t stop me picking more models and continuing to think about adventures

Name Change

First of all, you may notice the name of this project has been changed. The reason is pretty simple – after finally settling on a story or setting, I realised dungeons would end up only being a little part of the games I’d want to play. Sure progressing through a maze of tunnels is fun, but so is ambushing carts on a forest road, brawling in the local tavern or even sneaking past the town guards through the streets of some fantasy town.

The other reason was the lack of chandeliers in most dungeons.

Setting

I mentioned setting above. Well, I’ve been talking with a friend, often about story ideas, and we came up with a fantasy setting to base some of them in. The world takes a lot of inspiration from other fantasy settings, along with a few twists of our own. Now, it’s still in development, so lots of things keep changing with it. You might see a few names change even between posts on this blog.

This is the continent of Eutanica, one of many on the Lonely Sphere. It is split between two rival kingdoms. In the North, the King of the Dark Elves rule – his navy crosses the seas to bring back slaves and plunder from other continents while worship of the twin Elven gods of War and Shadows powers his armies. In the South, the Queen of the Iron Kingdoms gives praise to the Morrigan, her nation a patchwork quilt of smaller kingdoms united under a common ruler. It advances ahead thanks to bottling lighting and using it to power a host of machines, from weapons of war to great Iron Ships. These two powers, once almost close to being united through friendship, were torn apart by a flashing blade and now exist in a state of semi-war.

And in between these two superpowers? The Marches.

Comprising of multiple smaller nations, The Marches are what have stopped these two greater powers from attempting to wipe each other out. None of these independent kingdoms has the might to challenge the Dark Elves or the Iron Kingdoms but neither would they be simple to overrun and subject. Instead, this separation has started a cold war, with both superpowers seeking to improve their influence over the buffer, gently pushing the balance of power. Both powers send their agents, such as the dreaded Dark Elf Shades and the Swordmasters of the Iron Kingdoms to assemble alliances, impress the locals and generally push their agenda forward.

And this is where the players come in.

The idea

I am a fan of narrative wargaming, to put it mildly. So my concept for this project is that each fantasy skirmish will be wired together to form miniature campaigns. Each “campaign” will represent a single quest, with the players picking small groups to represent their adventuring companies. And like every quest, each will begin with a meeting (sometimes in a tavern), progress through the mission’s various stages (with smaller battles) and usually end in some terrifying finale against a dangerous foe (ranging from rival agents to the undead to servants of the Elder Gods).

The actual battles will probably be fought using Open Combat, giving a versatile tool kit to build everything from a ratman with a knife up to Greater Demons of the Dark Prince (…maybe… if something goes very VERY wrong for the players). I’m only aiming for small battles so we don’t need to deal with things like ranked up groups. Open Combat is also relatively easy to bolt stuff onto, so weird effects like magic shouldn’t be too hard to stick on.

Painted Figures

Of course, all these games need figures. More importantly, my collection is full of unpainted fantasy figures that someone bought and the painting logbook is merciless. Let’s take a look at what I have done so far.

Iron Kingdoms Ruffian

Ruffians, rogues, scum of all kinds. A good recruiter will find them throughout the Marches, even if their quality does vary from soldier to soldier.

First model painted, this is a Ghost Archipelago crewman. The main thing here was getting used to contrast paint for the skin and painting things other than camo. There are going to be a chunk of these Ruffians assembled and painted. Mainly because these guys will form the core of most adventuring parties or (if not chosen) be causing havoc while working for rival employers.

Lacelle “Gordelan” O’Dicca, Swordmaster

Swordmasters are the Iron Kingdom’s main agents in the foreign lands. Trained in the ways of the blade and the wit, Swordmasters travel around to push their Queen’s agenda. Lacelle is one such Swordmaster. As fast with her tongue as she is with her blade, O’Dicca is notorious for causing havoc and mayhem wherever she goes.

One of North Star’s Swordmasters, this was one of those models I just had to have. Painting the puffy sleeves (in Iron Kingdoms red and white none the less) was especially fun. She may not be on the board very often, but I guarantee she will cause havoc.

Benfrey Jochman, Swordmaster

Perfectly paired, Benfrey is the yin to Lacelle’s yang. While she is fast talking and emotive, Benfrey is usually quieter, lurking in the corner of the tavern waiting to tell the poor saps she has hired exactly what they will be doing. In battle he works perfectly alongside the quick strikes of O’Dicca, often delivering crushing final blows.

The other Swordmaster, painted up to be contrasting with Lacelle. At the same time, the red and white cloth at his waist shows off his allegiances.

‘Mouse’, ThIEf

For many in Eutanica, poverty can often be a bad harvest away. Luckily, ‘Mouse’ has developed a very special set of skills to assist her in redistributing wealth in her advantage. And for a fee, she’ll join your adventuring group to use them for other purposes.

I really like this little figure. Small than the others in the range, she just looks the very model of a fantasy thief.

Syghilda, Dark Woods Wanderer

Between the lands of Siccarius and Ruskov lies The Dark Wood. Many leagues across, this dense forest is a place of superstition and danger. Some say that the Elder Gods themselves stalk between those trees, their servants living alongside humans who fled into there thousands of years ago. Occasionally, denizens of this forest venture out to live among the more civilised people of Eutanica. With pale skin covered in strange eldritch markings, they are worthy warriors, unnaturally tough and strong.

This was a fun model to paint. Lots of exposed flesh to cover in my attempt at tattoos and then a bright vibrant hair colour to draw the eye. She fits the Celtic barbarian idea that the Dark Wood’s inhabitants are supposed to evoke, even if she is a little bit more refined.

Ser Renault, Knight of Fransya

North of the Iron Kingdoms, Fransya is ruled by a monarch but the individual peasants owe the fealty to one of 12 Knightly Families, each with their own traditions. Blood matters little to these families – a knight must prove themselves worthy of the name, often by embarking on quests elsewhere in the Marches.

Honestly, super simple to paint but super evocative. I love everything about this model, from the posing to the mix of armour and cloth. I went for a simple tabard, as this questing knight hasn’t earned the right to wear his house’s full colours.

Zarqaa, Farisian Demon Hunter

Hailing from a land across the sea, the Farisian Demon Hunters travel the world to slay creatures of the Elder Gods wherever they may be found. Painting their skin in ash to hide their presence from the beasts, they have many tools to banish or trap their prey. The gold on their cloaks can attract wandering eyes, but the large sword is often warning enough.

Another evocative model, whose back story was written while painting. The mix of weapons and layers of clothing were fun to paint – a light coloured lower cloth is probably all she would need back home but the other layers hold back the chill. Plus, I’m excited to introduce this sort of character into quests.

The Old Lioness, Iron Kingdoms ADVENTURER

Not all heroes can settle into a quieter life. The Old Lioness is one restless soul, happier travelling the roads than settling down to live by a fireplace. Strangely, records of a woman resembling her have existed for centuries, leading some to question just how old she really is…

One of the Heritor models. I really like this set, and for her, I went with the old adventuer look. Drybrushing on the grey hair is fun, but also adding touches like armoured plate beneath her clothing to lure in the unaware

Death Knight

In ancient places, far from home,
In tattered skin and browning bone,
Metal rusts, fabric decays, all goes below,
But Evil is a hardier foe…

I don’t have to say much – this figure is one of those that got me out of my funk and back into painting. It reeks of evil and malice, standing taller than most other figures, thin but also worrying. This is an enemy that will appear in the finale, the corroded metal and exposed bone there to terrify the players…

Cultists of the Undead

The dead should say dead, say the Covenant of the Iron Kingdoms. However, dark magics exist in this world and some mortal men wish to put the dead to other purposes. These necromancers often form cults around their work, offering immortality in exchange for service.

These were fun models to paint. I think my gold was a little too thick (I’ve lost some of the detail on the masks) but it is a nice contrast to the black robes and corroded metal. Plus great weapons to smash apart those goodie two shoes wanting to interrupt their master’s work.

Skeleton Cultists

Although skeletons with rotting clothes may have a certain visceral horror to them, loyal acolytes are much better when dressed as they were in life. And returning them as the undead means they are much less likely to tell the local constables exactly what their master is up to when captured…

These guys. Skeletons in robes have a glorious comedy to them even while looking horrifying for the part. I had great fun painting the bone thanks to how easy washes and well-sculpted figures make it.


So that’s the new update done. Obviously, I have a lot of painting ahead of me, and a lot of games to plan. I’m in the progress of planning the first few adventures (which is mostly assembling generic scenarios and working out the right bad guys for them) but the main thing is going to be finishing off the figures I have while trying very hard to not buy any more. One of the advantages of fantasy is just how many ranges full of shiny things there are…

And what’s next?

Elves. Damn, dirty, scheming Dark Elves

WW2 Project: Introduction

There comes a point in most wargamer’s life where your eyes start to wander towards collections of tanks and men armed with bolt action rifles. Afternoons spent watching war films, trips to the library to pull down the hardcover book full of black and white photos or endless nights of Call of Duty suddenly lead you to looking at collecting books of reference material and eyeing the various ranges of chaps in steel helmets and woolen uniforms.

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your frame of mind), it is my time to take a trip back to WW2 and build my own army up. Although we had been talking about it for a while, the decision by my ‘friend’ Peeb’s Gaming Nonsense to gift me a Churchill tank for Christmas was really the straw that broke the camels back and unleashed the whirlwind.

(It should be noted that I got him back by gifting him some additions to a possible WW2 British Para Force. So guess what we’re playing in September)

So, what am I doing in my World War 2 project? Well, my first interest in WW2 came from Operation Market Garden, but there is a distinct lack of Churchill’s amongst the elements of XXX Corps speeding up Hell’s Highway (mainly due to the speeding requirement).

So my eyes drifted to the Reichswald and then into 1945. Mud, blood and hard fighting, everyone reaching the breaking point as the war begins to draw to a close. This time period also lets my opponents pull out the weird and wonderful toys to play with, while I potentially get to mix Paras and Churchills, Tommies and Comets as the final offensives get underway.

Because of this, I’ve decided I’m going to make a force for this period. Pulling on the feel of things like Fury, (and helped partially by my wash heavy painting style) I’m going to making these guys into a platoon of British infantry somewhere in Northern Europe in the early stages of 1945. Everything is muddy and wet, you can feel the cold in your bones, and still, bloody Jerry won’t simply pack it in and call time for this long game.

To take inspiration from the period, and get the right mood, I’ll be using the name “When This Bloody War Is Over” for it. Having listened to the tune above, it seemed appropriate for the time period. I’m also collating a few more books on the subject to try and capture some of the feel for the actions and tactics of the time.


With that target laid out, I’ve already made my start. The most obvious thing is the Churchill tank, now fully assembled and with a few tweaks to make it look unique. It was a bit strange building plastic kits again, but the Warlord product is really nice. I do have opinions on the fact it comes with two turrets and only one turret rear basket but it wasn’t enough to ruin the kit. More on it once it’s painted.

The bulk of the force, and something else that pushed me over the edge was the announcement that Empress had a range of late war British coming soon. Sculpted by the incredible Paul Hicks, from the first photo I fell in love with them. It’s something about how crisp they are as well as the proportions. The assault jacket and decorated helmets are also a strong outline

I picked up the Bren teams and two each of the two rifleman sets. My intention is to do some modification to the duplicate poses. These will probably be minor, removing some of the pioneer tools (of which there are many) and rotating a few heads, building on the scrim everyone is wearing around the neck to cover over any gaps.

However, there is also the matter of another few packs coming out soon which Empress released at Hammerhead this past weekend. The PIAT is a must, while the kneeling rifles and sten gunners should help to bring my force closer to the core platoon being comprised entirely of Empress figures.

Of course, I had to have a little play with a few other things as well. Arnhem and a Bridge Too Far weigh heavy on my mind when thinking about WW2, thanks to the inspiration it had in getting me into history. Despite focusing on the poor blooding infantry, I couldn’t help but pick up a box. Both for sourcing possible conversion bits, but also to let me possibly start building a second platoon in my collection. Also, plastic kits are something different from the piles of metal I usually have to handle.

In addition, I picked up the Winter British Infantry (mainly for the greatcoat look) and to act as an additional infantry section. Finally, I really like the ghillie suited snipers and will be making them into a sniper team, one soldier having his rifle replaced with a sten gun. More details on these guys as I work my way through them.

For anyone interested, here is a rough look at the Empress and Warlord figures side by side. The Warlord guys are definitely chunkier but should work well as an attached squad (maybe some of those Canadian fellows).

I’m also using the British Paras for an idea that GetWhimiscal, Peeb and myself talked about at Christmas – modelled patrol markers for Chain of Command. This should help to make pre-game phase a little more visually appealing, as well as reminding the players just what the markers represent. It’s also a chance for me to break out the converting skills and learning something new. Above is my first attempt, a pair of paras patroling forward, one of whom has recovered an MP44. There is a lot of work to do before they are ready but I’m really looking forwarad to working on them. Also the lack of pointing right hand on the para sprue is irritating.


With this idea, what am I actually going to play? Well, Chain of Command has really grabbed me, in part due to the feel of the game. The patrol phase and the jumping off points especially make me feel like an infantry commander in WW2, rather than an all-seeing general. I look forward to breaking out the support lists and getting a few more games in

However, I was lucky enough to get my hands on Radio Dishdash’s Ultracombat Normandy, the latest ruleset from Skirmish Sangin’s developers. Having had a read through it, it’s got some really interesting ideas that I can’t wait to put into practise.


Overall, I’m really excited about starting an entirely new setting. I have a tentative goal of getting a force ready for September (even if the equipment isn’t technically correct for Operation Garden) but I’d like to get plenty of games in before then. And of course, it may make sense for me to get some opponents for them at some point…

As this project continues, expect new posts every time I finish something. Meanwhile, I have to go read up on painting camo suits and using rifle/gun team combinations rather than my beloved fireteam arrangement.

Project Dungeon Crawl – The Additional Players

Ah time to catch up on some of those side projects…

Oh.

As you might have guess by the slow down on the main blog, I just didn’t have time for very much other than moderns for the last little bit and so my fantasy adventuring plans have gone literally nowhere. I still have a pile of unpainted models on my desk and I have yet to even play a single game of Open Combat.

However, that wasn’t going to stop me picking up some sprues and creating a few more adventurers to go into the dungeons. Kicked off by the arrival of single spures on ebay for the new female soldiers, I quickly grabbed some off eBay and got to work.

ghost archipelago Crewmen

Hailing from the more tropical realms of Frostgrave’s sister game Ghost Archipelago, these 5 figures have a bit more of a tropical pirate vibe to them. However, I think they would work pretty well as the townsfolk of this northern town once they are indoors or in the underground. For this reason, I decided to go with the less “sea dog looking heads”. These are going to be the poor peasants or workers, suddenly interrupted by the appearence of cultists or barbarians (or maybe worse)

Assembly wise, it’s obvious there is the same feel to them as the other Frostgrave kits. I didn’t try any cross assembly but it might look a little unusual with the difference in clothing styles.

Let’s take a look at what I assembled, going from left to right

  • Simple bowman – maybe someone to be encountered out in the woods near the city, moments before something nasty appears.
  • Big axe, bag on back – either another woodland dweller or maybe a merc hired to cut through obstacles before grabbing the loot.
  • Bandana, beard, sword – simple cannon fodder. Ideal for a bar fight.
  • Mohawk, sword, simple clothes – another sailor ideal for throwing into the mix
  • Okay, this guy is my secret favourite. Floppy hat, club in hand, closed fist. I am willing all my luck

I’m actually tempted to pick up some more sprues of this, especially if I decide to add some docks to the city for the opportunities. So expect to see more of these guys.

Female Soldiers

I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on these girls for a while, especially after seeing the original previews. I really like the style they have gone for, continuing the wrapped up warm look that the original figures had while being sculpted to still look feminine. These all look like tough practical fighters working in winter conditions.

Options wise, there is the same mix of kit as the original spures, everything from bows and crossbows to various swords and spears. There is a great selection of heads

So lets look at who I assembled. Again going from left to right

  • I went for a classic adventurer look here, here striding forward, resting on her spear as she treks into the mountains.
  • This one is probably going to be used as the leader of the adventuring party. Cape hanging off there back sword held low as she advances, her mouth covered in a cloth against the environment.
  • An experienced fighter, axe in one hand and a bow in the other
  • Big lady with a big axe. This figure also has the two-part ponytail head, slightly moved to give her some motion
  • I think the hood and crossbow makes her look like some form of tracker, ideally suited for living up above the snow line

Overall, this is a really nice alternative to the normal soldier sprue if you want some additional variations. There is a good selection of parts and they do look different to their male variants – it’s definitely more than just a headswap.


So where do we go from here? I really like both of the sets I’ve take a look at, and I’m tempted to play around with the crewman sprues a little more to make some more civilians.

Next step: Actually do some painting.

Project Humvee – Weapon Options

Last time we looked at Project Humvee, we’d just finished adding another chassis to our convoy. In this post, we’re going to add some more weapon options. When running scenarios, it’s nice to be able to pick from a selection of gear, so the hot-swappable turret system is perfect.


But first, I needed to add an upgrade to Humvee Alpha. Up until this point, the only variant that had space for a spare wheel was the SF upgrade. For anyone using the regular variants, there was no mounting point available. From reading the Haynes guide to the Humvee, this is actually a pretty common occurrence. However, seeing as I haven’t covered my vehicles in bags handing off the side, I was looking for a way to make these vehicles look a bit less factory fresh and more utilitarian.

I’ll admit, there isn’t much too it

As part of the last wave of releases, Spectre has released HMV Upgrade Delta, inspired by the tire carrier seen on military Humvees. This is a simple two-part kit, comprising of a one-piece frame and a spare tyre. This is actually a different style to the tyres included in the basic vehicle, with a much deeper central recess. The frame glues into a locator lug on the back of the vehicle and then rests on the rear of the bumper. Its position means you can easily mount the spare tire frame even if you have installed oversized aerials on either side.

I really like this upgrade, so much that I think I’ll be picking up another one to add to my other normal Humvee. The frame sits away from the back of the vehicle which had me a little worried about how much support it would have once assembled, especially once exposed to the rigours of the gaming table. However, the resin actually has some flex to it – not enough that it’s weighed down by the tyre but enough that catching it on a building edge or dropping it shouldn’t be a problem.

I should also point out that mounting the fuel cans onto the frame is not technically accurate. Although a perfect space, this would cause issues using the mechanical lifting system (needed due to the sheer weight of a Humvee tyre). On the other hand, it does look cool.


Right, that’s the utility out of the way, lets move on to the cool stuff.

Three generations of M2 mounts

As the War on Terror has rumbled on, a key element of modern vehicles that have come on leaps and bounds is the weapon mounting system. In 2001 Humvees were rolling around with ring mounts and no protection but after combat usage in Iraq, they were soon mounting armoured shield and turrets to protect the gunner from being shot.

Of course, the safest place for the gunner to be is inside the vehicle. Remote weapon stations (or RWS) remove any need for the gunner to stick their head out of the vehicle while also adding some additional features such as improved optics or smoke grenade launchers to assist in the role and improve survivability.

Spectre’s range of RWS comprises of a mix of weapon systems and mounting platform. The heavy variant comes with thermal optics and smoke dischargers and can mount the M2 HMG, M240 MMG and the MK47 AGL. If you’re wanting to mount them on a smaller platform (such as a technical or a modified SUV) there is also the light version – it’s currently only available with the M240 and lacks the smoke dischargers of it’s bigger brother. However, it is more suitable for less military roles.

Having two of the heavy mounts you can see the similarities. The turret ring is a modified version of the one that comes with every HMV, and so assembles the same way. The actual gun mount (complete with ammo box and mounting system) is actually similar but slightly different for each gun so I wouldn’t recommend trying to hot-swap them. The smoke dischargers are small, but not small enough to cause an issue with attaching them.

I currently leave all my turrets loose, letting me easily swap between them. By default, the RWS attaches with a pin and socket system. Although stable, I could see an issue with so many loose parts – to this end, I decided to magnetise it. Of course, being a man of limited patience and skill, I ended royally bungling the job leading to several slightly drunken looking guns when rotated too far. Luckily this was easily fixed with a bit of filing.

The M2 is sort of the classic weapon for an RWS system, easily able to engage a mix of targets from infantry to lightly armoured vehicles. The thermal cam and zoomable optics make it even more of a threat.

I’ll admit, I have a soft spot for the MMG. The AGL is a useful weapon system but I’m much more of a fan of the MK19 – the MK47 is slightly too snazzy for most forces using the Humvee. The M240, on the other hand, is a much more refined tool, easier to balance as a scenario writer and slightly less terrifying to go up against.


Speaking of things terrifying to go up against, let’s talk about the GAU-19. If you’ve followed this blog, you know I’m a fan of all things rotary, even modding the Empress Humvees to mount a M134. Combining rotary with .50cal, and you’re about to see something pretty nasty to go up against. I know for a fact that Spectre is currently still working out the stat line for the GAU-19 and looking at for Skirmish Sangin, I think it’s first burst is going to be an incredibly emotional event for anyone downrange of it.

Assembly is actually something worth covering. The pack comes with the weapon, a box of ammo and the basic mount. Unlike previous miniguns, the scope is actually part of the main body of the gun. Additionally, the pack doesn’t include the turret ring, which means it can be used on all the various turret styles if you’re willing to slightly widen some of the slots in the armoured plates.

More interesting is the change in material. Unlike previous weapons, this gun is actually resin. But more importantly, the belt is resin. This makes it much easier to shape and mould after a bath in hot water, especially compared to the metal one that came with the M134 Minigun.


Of course, it was also time to assemble something a little more basic, perfect for the MENA forces or those less well equipped. For this, I grabbed a simple M2, an unused turret ring and a small piece of the pylon that comes with the M2 gun. Trimming down the turret mount slightly to make the pole fit flat, this turret is a bit of a classic. Change the door design, and this vehicle would be ready to roll around Mogadishu. On the other hand, this version is better suited for internal security, either rolling around military bases or city streets.


These new additions help to open up the options I have for using these Humvees. With a good selection of weapons, a limited number of vehicle bodies can fulfil many roles. As you can see above, the same weapons also work pretty well on the Empress vehicles, although the new RWS will need some tweaks to fit the roof flush due to the box at the front. Perfect for upgrading an M-ATV to sling .50cal rounds down range.

Next time on Project Humvee I’ll be adding some personality to my Humvees with the addition of some turret gunners. In addition, the local forces will be getting their first turret, perfect to upgrade the MENA regulars with something more than just a pickup truck.

Project Humvee – Vehicle 3

In the last Project Humvee post, I has a chunk planning out Vehicle 3 in the project. Well, this week I managed to get around to assembling and painting it in preparation for next week’s game.

First stage was assembly. This was exactly the same as mentioned in back in the first post of Project Humvee. Vehicle 3 is actually the exact same setup as the Vehicle 1 (using HMV Upgrade Alfa) except with the addition of two rear mounted aerials. One is from HMV Upgrade Charlie while the other is the FLIR setup from the Comms and Countermeasures pack included in the Version 2 of Spectre’s stowage

In the past, when buying items from Spectre, I usually get everything I need in the first wave and so only see items from the original casting run. This time, the delay has allowed Spectre to iterate on their resin process and so this vehicle is actually slightly different from the original release. I noticed that the detail on this vehicle seemed much crisper than the original run. This helped with assembly as the armoured window pieces seemed to fit much more easily into the slots. More importantly, some of the mould slip and air bubbles that I noticed on the original vehicles are no longer present. On the other hand, there did seem to be a bit more material to clean up on the underside. It’s always easier to remove material than try and fill out elements, so if it means a bit of extra prep time it’s a price I’m willing to pay

However, I did have a slight issue in the latest delivery involving the rear door and the rear cover from Upgrade Alfa. Both seemed to be fractionally oversized compared to the chassis, leading to some misaligned tabs and small gaps. Having compared the chassis with my other HMVs, it seems that it was the correct size so the other elements were at fault. However, this wasn’t anything that couldn’t be solved with an application of a craft knife and liquid green-stuff and so I got the vehicle built up anyway. I’ve mentioned this to the Spectre team, and they are investigating.

Painting on this vehicle was the same as the other Humvees. Literally the same. Go check out my method in the previous post.


The other part of assembling Vehicle 3 was setting up the turrets to go with it. I picked up a pair – one designed to go on the new vehicle and another to give me options for the SF truck.

As in the last article, I decided to go with the combination of an automatic grenade launcher and medium machine gun for one of the turrets. This lets the gunner pick between the weapons depending on the situation. The MMG is mounted on the weapon position from HMV Upgrade Charlie, with a small hole drilled into it. I skipped the stowage on this seeing as it already has a lot going on.

For turret two, I picked up the minigun. As I couldn’t bend the belt enough to allow it to drop into the turret, I decided to mount it on one side. True it covers up the side port and requires the hatch to be removed but on the plus side, it does give the gunner easy access to the ammo box. Again no stowage as it looks uncomfortable enough.


Aden Defence Force troops (along with SOF advisers) head out on patrol

And with that, the convoy is ready to go in next week’s game. The HMV continues to a fun kit to build despite some of the issues I had. I’m really looking forward to getting the three vehicles out on the board.

The next step? I’m not 100%. Crew figures are still coming and I need to decide if I want to use them and lock that turret into a specific group like the Task Force Operators which I presume are coming. I’m also interested to see some of the other weapon options coming, such as the remote weapon stations. Finally, it might be time to setup some non-US weapon systems.

Next week, tune in to see how they fare in their first game.

Project Humvee – Stowage and Painting

Last time in Project Humvee, we took a look into the basics of the Spectre range and assembled the chassis for the first two vehicles. This time around, prompted by the need to get some vehicles ready for an upcoming game, we’re going to cover the next step for this project. Adding some details, getting the current vehicles painted and then sorting out the next set of chassis and turrets.

Stowage

So in between the first post and now, I’ve actually done a few tweaks to the vehicles. Starting with Humvee One, the standard one. Seeing as this is designed to be the “normal” one that will probably end up being used by the regular forces, the base vehicle hasn’t had any add-ons installed. I did adjust the positioning of one of the armoured windows I mis-installed and filled in a gap I created on the rear bumper.

Up top though, the turret got some improvements. After looking at the some of the pictures, I realised I had mounted the .50cal a little too low and would have caused some gun depression issues. To correct this, I installed a small column to life the gun up slightly. From the stowage kit, I pulled out the large ammo box and stuck it to the side of the turret. This was inspired by a picture from HMMWV in Scale, and made a lot of sense – after all, it means the gunner can grab a reload much faster than having to drop down into the vehicle. I also added a LAW tube on the interior of the turret – perfect for when something needs stopping and the .50cal isn’t working out.

As you might expect, the SF Humvee had a bit more stowage added to it, seeing as that whole rear section is designed to be filled with kit. Starting with the exterior, I added the ever useful sand channels to the side of the vehicle, which should visually balance out the spare wheel and M240 on the far side. In the turret, I decided to keep things simple just adding a small Pelican case to the rear of the interior. Mentally, I see this as somewhere for the gunner to store all the kit they might need when running the turret, such as pen flares or tools. With the new launcher pack, I’m tempted to add an AT4 tube on the back of the turret but this will be painted and assembled once my next order arrives.

Inside the rear section, I’ve added a pile of stowage items perfect for giving the crew a bit more firepower while also making sure there was plenty of space for anyone using the M240 to move around. The list of additions are.

  • Large Pelican case: General stowage, anything from personal effects to medical or comms equipment.
  • Rifle case: More firepower, can be used to stand in for any stored equipment
  • LAW tube: MORE FIREPOWER
  • Small ammo box: General stowage, anything from ammo to additional grenades.
  • Hardened laptop: In gameplay terms, I’m going to use this and the aerials as a way of signifying improved comms for off-map assets or long-range co-operation. This helps to show off this ride as ideal for a SF advisory team, able to act as a force multiplier when working alongside other forces

Finally, I added two items on the rear bumper. The rucksack was put in place to cover up some damage caused by an air bubble, with green stuff filling in the bulk of it. On the other side, a jerry can helped to balance out the look.

Painting

Painting on these vehicles was very similar to some of the other US vehicles I’ve done. Black basecoat, Humbrol desert spray and then touched up with a brush version. Other details were then painted before being washed in Agrax. Rather than leaving to dry as I usually do, I instead dabbed it off which prevented some of the strange patterns I had to deal with on earlier vehicles.

I have a love-hate relationship with painting vehicles. It’s very easy to make them look bad but modern paint schemes means no faffing around with camo. Painting was done in an evening and although there are a few things I could touch up (like the central hubs on the wheel). I’d say these things are ready for the tabletop.

Humvee Three

So, with these vehicles finished, let’s look ahead at the next vehicle I’ll be assembling. The goal with this is to create another Humvee that can be used with regular army forces, so it will be using HMV upgrade Alfa and the partially armoured doors.

This time, however, I’m going to make it a little special and outfit it with the FLIR camera from the new stowage set. This is partially inspired by the LRAS vehicles. A variant I learnt about from the book “Red Platoon”, these vehicles have powerful observation equipment. Instead of the turret mounted system of the real version, the rear mounted camera does the job of marking the vehicle out as something similar without requiring a specific turret change. I’m looking forward to using this in-game.

Of course, the exciting bit is up top – the turrets. I find building .50cal turrets to be a pretty safe bet. It’s a multi-role gun, easily able to take out infantry and light vehicles a like. However, as various scenarios have told me, the automatic grenade launcher is also pretty common. I was planning to wait until Spectre made a Mk19 (much more suitable for Big Army, especially when playing games in the near past) but having seen more photos of the Mk47 in action, I guessed it was time to get one on the board. I am thinking of using the spare M240 I have as a secondary weapon in the turret, letting the gunner engage closer targets where a hail of 40mm would be unsuitable.

That said, I do also like miniguns. Having already used the Spectre minigun when modifying turets for the Empress model, it was time to add another one to my collection. I can see it being used a lot on the SF vehicle, so I think I’ll put it in Turret Bravo with the greater protection. The main challenge is deciding where to put the ammo box.

Finally, as I buy more vehicles, I’m slowly building a collection of unarmoured turret rings. As you might expect, this setup really isn’t suitable for most modern locations. However, it might be useful to have a few armed ones for less combat focused operations (such as interior policing or base defence) so at least one is having a .50cal added to it.

Conclusion

As you can see, work is progressing on. Having a deadline for a project is really handy as it helps to focus the mind and add a sense of urgency. I’m really happy with how these two vehicles turned out and can’t wait for them to both be reduced to burning wrecks as is tradition for newly painted models.

Next week will be another entry in Project Humvee as I frantically try to get vehicle 3 assembled and painted in under a week. I’ll also be looking at at the new stowage options and even getting one or two onto the vehicles.

EDIT: Change of plans – I totally forgot to order the FLIR unit so next Project Humvee post has been delayed. So the first time you see it will be in the next battle report!

Project Dungeon Crawl – Assembling the Cast

Do not adjust your set, you’re about to look at a post that may not quite match with what you normally come to the blog for. But don’t worry, we’ll be back in the modern-day on Friday.

As I’ve said before, modern wargaming is still my favourite thing. But you know, maybe it’s time for a side project or two. For a while I’ve wanted to do something Fantasy related. I’ve also wanted something that is relatively quick to play and easy to pick up. I bought Open Combat earlier this year and after reading it (and talking to the author at Chillcon) it seemed perfect to act as a base. However, it’s not a ChargeBlog project until I break out the rule writing and there is a specific type of game I’ve wanted to run:

Dungeon Crawling

As such ,Project Dungeon Crawl is made out of three parts:

  1. A set of rules designed to tie games of Open Combat together, let players create an adventuring party and the generate the dungeons with ease.
  2. Dungeon Tiles – after all you’re going to need somewhere to fight through
  3. Some figures suitable for dungeon delving

We’ll look at the first two parts in future posts but today we’re going to focus on building the troops. Before deciding what I wanted to buy, I had to think about the look I was going for. The plan was for some dirty grimey low fantasy, with the dungeon delvers being the city watch fighting through the sewers and caverns against the thieves and cultists that inhabit them. The Frostgrave Soldiers box seemed ideal for my purposes based on pictures of the sprue and the examples I’ve seen produced from it.

After breaking out the plastic glue (last seen building crashed C130s) and sitting down with a box of sprues, it was time to get building.

Soldiers

The Frostgrave Soldier box comes with four identical frames of various plastic pieces. The max number of figures you can build from each sprue is limited by the bodies included on each one, giving you 5 figures per sprue giving you 20 in the box. The rest of the frame is packed full of items – there is a nice variety of weapons you’d want in an adventuring party as well as plenty of tools and kit to really make them look like a group carrying all the kit needed to get past all the various traps you may meet. I really like the lantern – perfect for going through dark tunnels. One comment i was about to make was in regards to the relatively few left handed weapons (other than a small knife); however I then realised that with only a little extra work you could easily use some of the clenched left hands after clipping the weapons apart.

The box doesn’t include an exact construction guide but most of the bits that are multi part (such as the bows) are located close to each other to make things easier. The plastic is pretty tough meaning that there was very little damage to the pieces when clipping them from the frame. Overall, it’s a great frame to work with. I will say that after finishing a box I have a literally pile of arms, heads and more waiting to be used – all I need is some more bodies and bases.

Anyway enough technical stuff, lets take a look at what I’ve made so far. These are all WIP – they are not quite ready for painting as I might go back and add a few other items and do the last bits of cleanup.

Group 1 was the very first figures I made once the box arrive. The idea for these is to represent the City Watch while looking at the options. From left to right we have:

  1. The technically minded crossbow wielding adventurer, laden down with bolts and kit needed for dismantling traps (or reassembling them)
  2. The hardened tunnel fighter with sword, sword knife and armed helm to jump into battle in the darkness
  3. The classic “axe and board” guard ready in a defensive pose
  4. The grizzled watch veteran, lighting the way but ready to switch to his great sword when needed
  5. The foppish bowman, probably more used to spending his time above ground, pointing out the cultist/man sized rats climbing out of the sewers.

Group 2 was part . Again from left to right:

  1. Another laden down crossbowman – unsure if it’s supplies needed for dungeon delving for just space for ill gotten loot.
  2. A Sword and Board guard in full effect ready to rush into battle.
  3. Sven – doesn’t take kindly if asked about being a northman in the tavern. The combination of great axe and helmet just sold me on the idea of viking looking big man.
  4. “Who goes there” in plastic form. Probably more useful as a tavern keeper hearing noises after closing or a concerned citizen.
  5. The most accurate of dungeon adventurers – torch in one hand, sword in the other, distinct look of unease on his face as he shuffles into the darkness.

Of course, after building the first group of soldiers I realised that it might be time to pick up some of the other plastic kits so I could do some mixing and matching. After finding the sprues available individually on eBay, I got some ordered and then picked up some bases and heroes from Northstar.

Cultists

The cultists frame follows the same basic idea as the soldiers sprue – 5 bodies and a pile of accessories. As well as equipment with a different style to it, the spure has some cool additions to theme some of your characters. There are several skeletal and zombie parts (including heads and arms) so you could easily assemble undead or reanimated versions of your goons if a necromancer is in play. I really like the heads – the hooded versions come in plenty of styles while the unmasked sets are packed full fo character. This sprue had a few more items that were designed to replace the hands of other arms so having a sharp scapel was useful. There are also a few sets of belt kit with bits of bone and mysterious bottles that just sell the point of this pack.

After having built the figures you see below, I can easily see myself going back and building more cultists when the situation demands a horde of robed goons.

Using just the cultists sprue, I threw together these rather unsavoury looking chaps. As I theme I wanted to make these guys look very cult-y so it was pointed caps for everyone. From left to right:

  1. I was inspired by the zombie parts to add them to a few of the cultists, maybe showing that following a death cult is a bad idea. Not sure the ingame effect but I’m sure pointing a rotten hand towards people might not be the most inspiring sight
  2. This guy is similar to the first although with the opposite hand beginning to decay. I also used the knife arm from the soldier pack to give him a weapon.
  3. The Heavy for the cult, giant maul in hand
  4. Some sort of jailor or warden for the cult, with spear for poking captives and a chain for shaking threateningly at people
  5. A mainline cultists with sickle and knife. I modified the knife hand to adjust the pose, making it look a but more dynamic

Of course the point of buying more spures was to start combing parts. The idea behind these was to be able to use them in multiple roles, either as other cult members, criminals or members of the watch (assuming they have reached the bottom of the barrel for new recruits). The heads from the cultists sprue (including the zombie ones) really give these guys a very different feel to the normal soldiers. From left to right:

  1. A criminal ready for tunnel fighting with axe in one hand, knife in the other and a bag of swag on his back
  2. I really love the later but this guy is interesting due to the conversion work. After using the top of a two-handed axe on character number 5, I used the bottom end of it and paired it with the sword held by the skeleton on the cultists frame. The chipped blade gives him a slightly different feel to the other lantern holders above. Also the gritted long teeth and hood just makes him look like a real bastard.
  3. Zombie head means this guy isn’t a great looker but I really like the setup. Combing the cultist curved sword and shield together with the soldier body, makes him look like a different breed of soldier. Maybe a specialised hunter journeying into the dark on the path for revenge.
  4. The other zombie headed soldier is combined with the pair of arms that make the great sword ready to swing. Adding some pouches to make this chap look a bit more well equipped and I think we’ve found a suitable grim-looking monster slayer.
  5. The pointing hand is challenge due to the lack of left-handed weapons. However, but using the two-handed axe top and an open grip, I was able to assemble this guy. He also has a coil of rope and a club on his back, making him a well prepared adventurer. Perhaps he is pointing out a door that needs cleaving open.

Barbarians

As you might have guessed the barbarian sprue also matches the idea of the soldier spure with five suitable attired bodies and then plenty of options for them. This entire spure screams “Big gits with big axes and big beards” from the posing on the bodies to the focus on axes and hammers. As with the cultists, there is a similar selection of weapons to the original soldiers spure but with a very different feel to it. There are also plenty of knives, axes and other little items to include on your figures. In fact, between the five barbarians and the five semi-barbarians I actually used up everything off this set.

First up we have the full-blooded angry northmen and their furry cloaks to look at. From left to right:

  1. Come on. That head, big ass axe, dynamic pose? How could I not make a not-Conan?
  2. I really had fun building this old archer, covering him in little addons like his quiver but also some knives for when things get close. I can see him being useful as a scout like character.
  3. A more restrained warrior in a threatening pose ready for combat to begin.
  4. Another older looking figure, this time using the spear. Perhaps the brother to number 2, helping him with the hunt?
  5. Big hammer, flowing cloak, armoured helm. I can see this guy being the big guy the party needs to take out the dungeon.

Like with the cultists, I swiftly got to work mixing bits. I think this combination of soldier body and barbarian heads works really well – it makes them still look like part of the civilised group but still wild like their brothers outside the city. From left to right:

  1. In a charging pose, this berserker has a sword in one hand and a throwing axe glued to the other. I trimmed the bottom of it off so it would fit properly in the hand.
  2. Even northmen need a sword and board, although this one is using a bit hammer instead
  3. Even the vikings get a crossbowman. I like the unbearded head – a nice change from the beard patrol.
  4. A bit of conversion work here with adding a torch to the clenched fist. It hasn’t glued 100% straight so I might go back and tweak. This guy has a knife out but additionally has a knife on his back and an axe hanging from his belt.
  5. This final soldier has gone all in on carrying items with a sack over his shoulder and a bag hanging from his waist. Combined with the dual wielding, he is obviously very prepared for adventure.

Alongside the bases I ordered from Northstar, I realised that I needed a few other items to make the order sensible (and not just postage). Thinking more about my plans for what dungeon crawling might eventually entail (and delving into the metal figures in Northstar’s Frostgrave range) I decided that I should get a few villains for the piece. The plan is that the barbarians and cultists represent two different threats to the city above and that conducting dungeon raids would eventually reveal their plots. As such, I’m sure the groups will need some characters to get involved – perhaps to turn up and get rid of them meddling kids.

For the cultists I picked up the Lich and their apprentice. I love the sculpting on these figures, with the Lich looking terrifying and the book wielding side kick like the slimy weasel that escapes from the heroes at every turn. Open Combat doesn’t currently have a magic system other than counting certain abilities as spells (although a supplement is coming to fill this) but I have a few ideas on how to make encountering either of these two a bad idea for your party. For the barbarians, I went for bigger badder beardier. I went the Barbarian Knight and Templar set. The hammer equipped chap will probably be the chieftain planning to take over the town while the horned helmet chap work great as his second in command.


So there we are, the first step is taken. I am a massive fan of the Frostgrave range so far and it’s very hard to avoid picking up more of their figures to fill in the rosters. I’m also quite excited for the female adventurers coming soon and will probably take a look once they are released.

The plan for the next few weeks of side project is to start getting these figures painted up. I would normally base with sand, but I think more of a stone/dirt colour for these guys. I’m also going to do some more writing work, nailing down the back story and getting the rules for mission and dungeon generation done. And I probably need to get a few games of Open Combat in to get some more play time with the rules.

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?