Life is short, break the rules. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly. Love truly, laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile. - Samuel Longhorne Clemens (Mark Twain)

Friday, April 21, 2017

World War II Project - Tank Crews - Company B

I have been slowly collecting tank crews for the tanks and SPs that I have been working on. While I don't have any US Armor finished I figured I could at least pick up some crews for the models that I do have. I decided on Company B for these and picked up some packs of 1/4 torso and 1/2 torso crews for the Shermans and a crew for my Trenchworx Hellcat.

Five bags from Company B. They came in a very small but well padded envelope.

1/4 torso crew

1/2 torso crew

Hellcat (M-18) or LVT crew

Thursday, April 20, 2017

World War II Project - Books - 4th Armored Division

This is my last book purchase to satisfy my curiosity about the US 4th Armored Division. The plan is that all my US forces will be based on units that made up this division, regardless of what the actual scenario is or what forces were involved. The first book I acquired, Patton's Vanguard, is a very good overall history of the division, but is focused primarily on the division's actions as a whole, with a long down to the battalion level and sometimes the company level. The second book, The Fourth Armored Divison from the Beach to Bavaria, is a reprint of the divisional history written in 1946. As such it has references to numerous small unit actions and dovetails quite nicely with Patton's Vanguard. Yesterday I finally received a copy of Spearhead's 4th Armored Division in WWII. This fills in a lot of detail that is missing from the others. It has a great chapter on the divisional organization and the equipment that was on the official roster. It has a good overall strategic look at the division as well as a good nice pieces on smaller actions. The three books together really will give you and excellent and useful history of the US 4th Armored Division as part of Patton's Third Army.

I managed to get new copies of this book, however, it is out of print and I saw some pretty outrageous prices for used copies.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

World War II Project - Terrain - Buildings

As can be seen from previous posts I'm currently focused on the WWII project. I have no idea how long that will last as I also managed to order some more western miniatures from Knuckleduster and Brigade Games, and there is a Black Scorpion Kickstarter out there for their Tombstone game. In the meantime I remain distracted with WWII. Since I have no buildings I decided that I would need something a little bit more modern and European than my collection of western stuff.

I spent a lot of time going over websites and trying to decide what I wanted. I made lists and agonized over each selection for this project. I wanted a good sized town plus some more rural buildings for a farm like setting. Of course nobody has all of that covered or at least not with buildings that I wanted to make. I ended up with orders going to Charlie Foxtrot Models, Sarissa Precision and Sally 4th. The Sally 4th buildings intrigued me because of the use of the photo realistic paper to cover the outside. This is not a unique idea by any means, model railroaders have been doing it for years. It is a quick way to get a very good looking building on the table though and that's what I'm really after. I have "textures" for exterior brick and stone already from Clever Models which specialize in paper models.

I decided that I would apply the same concept to buildings from the other manufacturers. Charlie Foxtrot buildings were selected primarily because they have a nice solid look and feel to them and they have a very wide range of out buildings for the more rural settings including a nice stone barn. I bought two different houses from them along with barns, stables, tool sheds and those arrived over the weekend.

At the same time the order from Sarissa Precision arrived. This is more in town buildings, a railroad station, a church, a chateau and I decided to try some of their railroad stuff as well. Track for the railway station and a passenger car to go on the track. Nothing to elaborate, unlike Calamity's railroad (which still needs at least one 2-8-0 locomotive).

The buildings from Sally 4th have shipped but its hard to say how long that will take from the UK via courier.

So here is what the first three boxes yielded:
First up is are the buildings from Charlie Foxtrot Models
The houses. Note that all the kits from Charlie Foxtrot are already punched out of their sprues. The disadvantage to me is that I don't really know what is an actual part and what is just fallout from the windows and other openings.

I didn't actually order the Pigsty and Pen, I think they were just kind enough to toss that in the box for me.

Here is the contents of one of the two Dormer houses. Lots of pieces! The ones at the bottom of the picture, I think, are window and door cutouts.
The order from Sarissa Precision came in two boxes because of the different sizes of the buildings.

The larger Norman church, probably not appropriate for France but I like it, so I'm going to use it. As you can see from the packaging Sarissa Precision packs their kits still on the sprue or frame. I had some bad kits from Sarissa for some small houses that I was going to use for Calamity. The MDF they were using at the time wasn't always the same width which meant that sometimes tabs wouldn't fit into the designated slots. I'll dry fit all of these before gluing them together.

The Chateau and the Railway station. 

A look at the tracks and passenger car. I took a look at the tracks from the back and I'm not thrilled with them. I'll have to measure but I'm fairly certain that the rails are to far apart and the rails are definitely to "light" for mainline or even branchline operation.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Packages Arrive - What gets me into trouble

The internet is bad enough for the bright and shiny distractions. Its even worse when a company actually sends me a catalog. I have a weakness for Jeep parts catalogs and small tool catalogs. Micro Mark is my other major temptation and this time I gave in. On the internet I have been going in and out of the Owners section of the packer pro-shop. I finally pulled the trigger on a couple of items there as well. I broke my lanyard that I use at work so I had an excuse to actually make an order from this "secret" side of the web site. You can only see and order these products if you have the registration number off your Green Bay Packer stock certificate. I am a part owner of an NHL franchise!

Here's a quick look at the culprits. I'm having issues with lighting again so the pictures are a little less than perfect.

One of the catalogs that gets me into trouble. At least I managed to avoid buying any of that new paint! At least so far...

The tools from that order.
From left to right - a steel square (its thinner so it will be easier to use on the sizes of plastic and foamboard that I use), a new set of sprue cutters (because I have been complaining about mine), a square corner cutter, (I can fit this in a small drill press or even use a hammer to make the cut, it should make cutting door and window openings a lot easier), an smaller sprue cutter (more at the top, this is for more delicate parts and smaller spaces, on the far right are a couple of decal blotters which are likely to see service as weathering tools if they don't work to well for decals.

Packer Owner paraphernalia; A decal for the back window of my Jeep, an owners hat, a new lanyard and a small pin for my camera bag or hat.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Review - Dampfpanzerwagon Guide No. 3 - Models for Wargamers

If you have read my posts on Tony Harwood's building guides then you know I'm a fan. I love his work and I enjoy reading his forum posts in LAF and his posts on his blog. I thoroughly enjoyed his first two books and I highly recommend those if you can still find them, the print runs are pretty limited. I do believe there are copies of No. 2 still available so check Tony's website and get your hands on one before they disappear; dampfpanzerwagon

So let's just get down to it. My copy arrived a couple of weeks ago and I had a hard time finding a chance to really dig into the book until last week. This book is in the same large format that the first two guides are in and the pre-dominate color is definitely green! So it will fit right along side the other two guides and still stand out on your book shelf. Tony does sign the first 100 copies that he sells (I'm sure you can talk him into signing yours at a show in the UK if you see him though). Mine is #11 of 100. I think I may have been more excited about this book than the other two simply because its not all about buildings (although I seriously love books about buildings as well as scratch building them myself). Among the chapters in this book you will find a number of non-building related modeling projects that show off both his skill and the imagination.

There are eight projects in this book. Five are buildings and three are vehicles, already quite the departure from the other books. Of the five buildings three have appeared elsewhere either in press, on a forum or on his blog. I have no problem with that at all in fact I applaud it. Bringing everything together in a single book in an easy to read format makes these articles and posts more accessible and readable.

The Trio of Mausoleums starts off the book. All three of the different Mausoleums have appeared elsewhere either in a magazine or online. There are really no new techniques introduced here, these are pretty standard Harwood builds. But it really does show the process of how he begins his creative process and the steps he goes through to achieve them. Quite different from my own process, I'm more of straightline blueprint builder and Tony makes leaps that I wouldn't think about. 

Next up we have the Horseshoe Forge. This piece appeared in the Lead Adventurer Forums as part of one of the build challenges they have there. This is probably my favorite building in the book and one of my very favorite buildings that Tony has made. He does delve into how he created the unusual shape of the door and that alone makes this a worthwhile read, not to mention a rather unique building for the table.

In the Aeronef section we encounter the first two vehicles or ships that Tony included in the book. These are Le Fee Verte and the Squidship Lilith. While I am not particularly interested in this genre I do enjoy the process of watching something being scratchbuilt. These two ships really will have you thinking about building something from the bits on your desk. Conceptualizing something like this is quite difficult for me so getting a look into the process someone else goes through is very enlightening.

Following that we have an original building for the book The Snail Breeding Barn. This project resulted from discussions around the re-introduction of the game Panzerfauste on Kickstarter. I love the concept. I'm always fascinated by Tony's use of cardboard as a basic form or shell and this is an excellent example of that technique.

Following the foray into snail breeding is the MA. K Hovertank. This appeared as a series of posts on Tony's blog. I followed it then and again I'm quite fascinated by his use of different objects to create a very believable science fiction vehicle. The basis for the hull is a small toy boat. This is a great step by step tutorial in imagineering and scratch building.

The Tealight Signal Tower was written for publication but circumstances have temporarily halted the publication so Tony included it in the book. He has an eye for shapes that I do not, and his use of something off the garden shelf, in this case a small cylinder of what turned out to be concrete, is amazing. I can work with a blank sheet of plastic but had you set that cylinder in front of me I would never have come up with this Signal Tower on my own. An excellent foray into using an everyday object to create something unique for the gaming table.

From a construction perspective the book ends with the Damaged Tower House. This is a great example of bringing all of Tony's various techniques together. Cardboard, carved foam and DAS modeling clay are the primary ingredients of the base structure. From there examples of most of the other mediums he uses are included. A delightful structure that would look good on any gaming table.

The book ends with a gallery look at some of the other buildings that have been featured in various publications. A nice way to end the book. I have kept my remarks relatively brief in regards to the various chapters, one thing to keep in mind is that each section is complete. Each project runs from concept and creation through detailing and painting. You can sit down with this book and re-create everything that Tony has done. While some of the projects are advanced in nature I see no reason why a beginning modeler couldn't pick up this book and successfully build something from it.

Like Tony's other two books I do consider this to be a must have book. I would like to see larger pictures, because my eyes are getting old, on the other hand there are plenty of pictures in the book. I'm not fond of the use of a background picture on every page (in green) but that's more personal preference it certainly doesn't interfere with the delivery of the information. Plus I love books, sure they can be a pain if you are trying to use them as reference right at the workbench but I don't have to worry about corrupt hard drives or storage issues either. The information on Tony's approach all pulled together into one place, is really quite valuable and  very useful. Tony says in the forward that it is unlikely that there will be a No. 4 but he didn't rule out the possibility either. I will keep my fingers crossed for more small press books from Tony.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

PzKfw IVH - Warlord Games vs Rubicon - Final Details

Since I posted this it has been pointed on the Lead Adventurers forum that Rubicon Models has discontinued or retired this particular PzKfw IV kit. They are working on a replacement for it and the concept will either be one kit that you can build from a D to a J or perhaps two kits (I think you almost have to go with two kits because of the changes to the hull). Its an interesting thread on the Rubicon forums and I would encourage you to read it or at least look at the last few pages with the library concept they are developing. Rubicon Forum
You can also take a look at another excellent comparison at the The Figure Fanatic, Leif took a much better look at the vehicles from more of an historical viewpoint than I did.

This post will wrap up the comparison between the Rubicon Models and Warlord Games PzKfw IV kits. One of the things I noticed while finishing the Rubicon kit is that it does indeed include the short 75mm gun barrel and the proper mantlet to build the PzKfw IV F1, what lacks is the deflector that goes under the gun to push the aerial down when the turret pivots in that direction. So if you are willing to do a bit of scratch building with some angled shapes you could produce an F1 from this kit without to much effort. The F1 and F2 were identical except for the gun.

I'm going to skip putting on the skirts at this point till I'm ready to paint the model. I have taken a few pictures to show you the difference. Again the Rubicon is going to be more robust with thicker skirts and integral brackets (especially for the turret skirting). The Warlord Games kit has thinner skirts and separate brackets that are going to create a better look but sacrificing some sturdiness that might be needed on the gaming table.

Here are the final details for the Rubicon Models kit. While I was putting these on I found more than a couple of places where I could have done better with this build. Most of this would have been taking care of with my regular set of clamps or rubber bands, There are some gaps that exist because of my carelessness that if you are a bit more careful won't be a problem. The use of what I would refer to as applique parts leaves a greater chance to have gaps through careless modeling.

Here are the parts that more or less go on the front and sides of the Rubicon Model

Tiny stuff, for the most part the Rubicon Models kit is really good at making sure you get the pieces in the right position. There is one exception and that's the headlights, there is a vague arrow point to more or less where they should go but there is nothing else to guide you to their placement. I actually referenced the Warlord Games kit to get them in more or less the right position. This isn't quite as bad as the hatchet job on the side hatches but its close for me.

The extra bogie wheels actually require assembly, and the fit into the box on the driver's side is really, really tight.

The front and side details in place

Components for the rear of the tank and one side

And glued in place

The side skirts. Thicker and with the brackets integral to the skirt itself. While not very accurate from a modeling standpoint, from a gaming standpoint this decision makes perfect sense. I won't attach these till after priming and the first layer of dark yellow is applied.

The turret skirting, the integral brackets are very obvious here

The Rubicon Models kit, just needs prep work to be done to be ready for painting. I see gaps and pieces of sprue that I missed during the assembly.

And from here I move on to finishing up the Warlord Games kit.

This part of the build was interrupted by a variety of factors so its not quite as comprehensive as the Rubicon kit picture wise.

There are still a lot of parts on the frame just for the skirts!

The Warlord Games kit, just needs prep work to be done to be ready for painting. I see gaps and pieces of sprue that I missed during the assembly.

After all of that I thought a round of side by side pictures might be helpful before I launch into my opinions on these kits.

Both kits are a bit featureless from the back. I think the Rubicon model has a better engine deck.

There is more detail on the right side of the Warlord Games kit than the Rubicon. Although I'm not sure I have seen that particular engine filter before. I'll have to hit my research books!

From the front, the vehicles are much more comparable detail wise. 

The driver's side. The levels of detail are about the same from this angle.

There you have it. I felt a bit rushed on these, so I'm sorry to say these builds are not my best work. They are going to take a little extra prep to get them ready for paint because of that. Patience is a virtue, I should have practiced that.

It was interesting to see the different approaches to making these kits by the manufacturers. The Rubicon Models kit went with a thicker plastic for the hull and turrets and a construction technique that is almost unique with the two piece hull. This model is going to hold up to the rigors of the gaming table much better. They did take some shortcuts in detail which bother me, in particular the awful side hatches on the turret and the lack of a locator pins for the headlights.

The Warlord Games kit has sharper detail and a bit more of it as found in the extra detail parts that come with the kit. It even has both antennas, however, I'm not sure how many of these actually managed to keep both antennas, I almost think this one is a command tank, but I need to hit my books again to be sure. Like the Rubicon kit though there are a few instances where some locator pins would have been very nice, or at least some indents in the hull or turret. Notably both antennas require a little quess work as to their proper location as do some of the extra details. The kit is definitely from a thinner plastic and while it makes an excellent display piece, it may not hold up to the rigors for the gaming table as well as the Rubicon Kit.

While I didn't put the skirts together, the Rubicon skirts are definitely designed to be handled. Three pieces and you are ready to go. The Warlord Games kit is much more of a model in this respect requiring you to attach all the brackets and then add the skirts, I'm going to guess that you are going to see some breakage from regular use.

If you are familiar with pasts posts of mine referencing kits, you know that I'm a bit fanatical about instructions. Here the Rubicon kit wins hands down, a little instruction book with plenty of step by step drawings. The Warlord Games kit is one page front and back, and could use some additional photos and drawings.

The Rubicon kit also comes with a larger selection of decals compared to the Warlord Games kit. Just take a look at the photos and you can see the difference. The Warlord sheet does come with some divisional symbols which the Rubicon sheet does not.

I'm of two minds at this point. From a game perspective I think the Rubicon Models kit is the way to go. Although I might sit down and figure out a way to cast replacement hatches for the turret. Antennas are also and issue on both kits. They always look great but they are likely going to be the first thing to get broken off as well. Thin exposed plastic just doesn't hold up well on the gaming table. It would be nice if the Rubicon kit at least had the bracket for the rear antenna. If I elect to keep the antennas I'm going to head to the shop and swipe some wire and replace them with that. Should look a lot better anyway.

From a detail perspective the Warlord kit is much better (although why they seem to have skimped on the engine deck is a bit of a mystery to me). If I was building a piece for modeling or painting competition this is the one I would go with.

Really in the end you can't go wrong with either kit. They are easy to assemble and have plenty of detail for models that are going to be sitting on the gaming table and typically viewed from arms length away. They will both handle up close and personal viewing as well. I think the Rubicon is definitely more rugged but the Warlord kit should be fine as well.

Personally I'm going to go with the Rubicon Models kit for my gaming needs. One final thought. I mentioned in a previous post that it is possible to build a PzKfw IV F1 from this kit. The gun mantlet and the short barreled 75mm gun are included on one of the sprues you are just missing the aerial deflector that goes under the barrel.