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Back from the FoW tournament at NJCon. It was a nice little convention, decent “main buying room”, good bring n buy, and excellent food in the form of a gourmet BBQ food truck. I got in a practice game Friday night in an El-Alamein scenario hosted by my eventual first round opponent. As Steve is a great guy to play with/against that worked out pretty well as I didn’t know any of the FoW players in the tournament.

I played three games – Fighting Withdrawal in the first round against Germans, Dust Up in the second round against more Germans, and Hasty Attack in the third round against the uber-Germans – an elite Infantry company with two Tigers.

My List

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Quick AAR and notes:

1st Round

I had never played a Fighting Withdrawal before, and I should have spent a little more time (any?) reading the mission before deployment. Things I didn’t know included the game length, victory conditions, and the small but important provision that the defender would have to remove platoons during the battle! Oops.

In any case, I placed my objectives in order to force him to defend the width of the table. My plan was to pick one of the flank objectives and to push for it right away with tanks and SMG riders, supported by Recon and artillery. I would use my light tanks to threaten the other flank objective, holding his reserves while allowing me to reposition my forces quickly. Seemed like a reasonable plan.

As expected, my opponent spread out his forces pretty evenly across all three objectives and held his strongest anti-tank unit (Marders) in reserve.

My first mistake – I was under the impression that ambushers must be placed in concealing terrain (not a rule). I used my recon force to screen my attacking T-34’s from what I thought were all possible ambush locations. Oops ;-> Steve dropped four Marders right in front of my formation as it was snaking through a gap between a steep hill, a forest, and the table edge setting up what would have been a very strong attack on one of the objectives. This resulted in one killed and one bailed immediately and put me in an awkward position with very little room to maneuver.

Remember that little scenario parameter about the defender removing platoons during play? We played four turns before we realized that we weren’t doing this and had to do our best to square the battle with the mission parameters. Clearly, this was not easy to do. Oops, live and learn ;-> My opponent put one of my critical units (SU-122) back in play as a gesture to my glaring oversight but this didn’t undo the fact that I badly misplayed the game and was more a friendly gesture than a meaningful change in the game.

At the end of the day, I ran out of time and material trying to push home my secondary attack on the opposite flank objective. Full points to my opponent and a 1 point loss for me. Darn.

Photos show the battle right before we realized that there were seven defending platoons on the table and should be four! My attack on the right has stalled, the Marders are hull down behind the objective and my light tanks are repositioning for a desperation push on the right flank.

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I forgot to take photos of my 2nd and 3rd games. Crap.

Second Round

Dust Up was a little more straightforward, I didn’t make any too-obvious game losing deployment errors, and it was a close fought and fun battle that lasted the full 2.5 hours. My opponent had a balanced list that was much like my own, so no obvious army composition advantage either way. I had the heavier armor, he had better AT, air support, and veterans. We played 8 or 9 turns, so there was plenty of action and no stalling.

I deployed my SU-122’s on the battlefield to start the game and brought my artillery on as reserves. Mistake, won’t do that again. I was pushing for the win on my right flank when I managed to fail a fearless motivation test AND a fearless reroll to lose my remaining T-34’s and my warrior Mariya. This after managing to lose a tank every turn to limited aircraft support for five straight turns – it was a dice rolling disaster for me and a string of unbroken sixes for my opponent.

The dice gods have a sense of humor however – my opponent didn’t kill another platoon after my tanks were gone. At the end of the game, I had killed three platoons to my opponents one, which was scored a 3-2 draw for me.

A key takeaway of this game was just how useful light tanks are against infantry without a lot of anti-tank support. My M3A1’s are fast, have the same defense in assault as a medium tank, hit just as hard in an assault, and have a full compliment of machine guns. I am very happy with how they performed in this battle and they nearly pulled a victory out of a disaster in the first game.

Third Round

Well, there has to be a little rain on every parade. Hasty Attack against a two-Tiger infantry list. Yes, he has the two Tigers, I am the attacker. Crap. To add insult to injury, we were assigned to a desert table with basically no LOS blocking terrain and a very nicely placed (for the defender) railroad that slowed down any attempt to leapfrog past the Tigers arc of fire once they were centrally placed. He basically had a shooting gallery to enjoy the full 40” range and invulnerability of his tanks.

Slightly cranky moment for me – during the intros and walking around time one of the TD’s pointed to the desert tables and said “we won’t use that one”. That was the table I played the Tigers on! Another little tweak, during the same conversation, said TD pointed to a pile of lichen on one of the desert boards and said “these will count as woods”. Our game starts, I ask about the woods, and it is relayed that they won’t count as woods they will provide concealment only. The net result is that I had no place to hide and nowhere to go.

The sort of saving grace is that so much time was spent wiping out my armor that the game ended before the Tigers could roll over my infantry. In addition, my opponent threw a halftrack platoon at my entire force when he realized he was running out of time in the round and I killed it, so the result of a very one-sided game was a 2-3 draw for my opponent.

Note of annoyance part deux – I was at company morale for the last turn and passed the dice roll. We had eight minutes to play so instead of taking my turn I passed to my opponent to give him a chance to shoot my armored car platoon for the win (as the defender, if he removed my last unit on his half of the board after turn six he would win on objectives). He passed right back to me to force another company morale check!! To his credit he caught himself and took that bit of cheese back but I was like, dude, really?

Summary

Playing a Tankovy list without a lot of tanks is not a great idea. That said, Motostrelkovy is still going to have to attack against infantry anyway.

I really like the Stuart light tanks, they are interesting to play. I’m not one for perusing army lists to find the most broken match-ups, I prefer to play things that I think look cool, are fun to paint, and are fun to play. My light-tank list with tank riders was a hit on all counts for me.

That being said, I think it would be a better idea to have dedicated armored car or halftrack transports for my infantry in future tournaments. I am going to continue to work on Moto and also take a look at Rota to keep my core light-tank idea intact but supplement with additional infantry mobility. It should be fun and give me a chance to win while also being cool models to collect and paint. Stay tuned, the Russians will continue to evolve on this blog …

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Ready to go, but I am going to have to play a Tankovy list – I ran out of time and won’t finish all of the teams required to play Motostrelkovy as planned. Memorial day was a lost weekend, the wife had me running around, and work blew out last weekend.

I slapped together an army display board, at the moment just a simple two level hillside. It will be tarted up a bit when I have more time, but for now it is usable.

Here is the army I am going to play:

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The medium tanks are T34/85’s, which will not do. Thankfully the PSC kit comes with both turrets so I will finish up the 76 turrets tomorrow. I would really like to have more artillery or rockets, I’d like to have the option to use air support, and I need HMG teams but I ran out of time.

The big guns are ready to go. Same technique as the rest of my army with a couple of minor tweaks. I used the same colors – Russian Green Primer, Russian WWII Uniform, and Iraqi Sand all from Vallejo. Same basic process, first coat of Russian Green airbrushed, highlights drybrushed, oil wash, and then modulation of raised detail. I added one step this time around – a heavy oil wash black-lining using the “scaffold” technique I mentioned in my last post. I like the really distinct separation of the armor panels and road wheels that this created, I think it suits the model very well. One other minor tweak – I did not use Dullcote for the final matte varnish, I cut Vallejo satin primer 50/50 with airbrush medium and sprayed at 20psi from about 10cm. This produced a very smooth and even coat with very little gloss and did a better job blending the decal edges.

I am going to let these sit a while before I decide on weathering and final detailing. I can play them as-is and go back to them later when I have more time to think about the final result. For now, ready for the tournament.

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I’m working on the SU-122 assault guns I mentioned in the last post. After basecoat and 3-step drybrushing, I have applied a Van Dyke Brown oil wash. I use this color both as a liner and for a subtle weathering effect. One problem that occurs often when you have large vertical surfaces is that the strong capillary action of an oil wash actually works against you, pulling the wash down off of the model before it can dry. To avoid this, I use a roll of tape as a scaffold so that I can wash each “face” of the vehicle as a flat surface, which keeps the wash where I want it. This Increases the drying time as we are doing multiple washes, but I think the added control is worth it. In the photo I have the tanks standing straight up, keeping the wash in the gun detail.

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As I mentioned in my prior post, I had to re-weather the armored cars after a dullcote-related faux pas. I preferred the original job, but these will have to do for now. They are such ugly minis that I have a hard time caring. Note the PSC commander in the one-and-only PSC pose – no commander was included with the BA-64 models so he will have to suffice.

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I’ve finished up the first batch of destroyed vehicle markers. I ended up doing 15 large and 4 small, enough to lose my entire army ;->

A video tutorial on this project is in the works, but I am just getting my stuff together to record video and the post-production is going a bit slow. In the mean time, here is a quick shot of the finished markers, ready for play.

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I’ve done a basic grey and black paint job using my spray brush and el-cheapo craft paints. I use the Americana brand as it is a quality vinyl based paint that is very inexpensive; 2 oz. bottles are on sale at A.C. Moore for .84, I just reloaded black, white, and neutral grey after using up my supply on this project.

I may touch these up a bit more, and I may not. I think they look pretty cool without “flames” at the bottom and I am not convinced yet that adding color will be an improvement.

Notes on assembly – when creating the “smoke” make sure to tear the cotton balls, even if you are going to use a full blob in one go. If you look closely you will see where I did not use this technique and the “cotton balliness” shows a bit much for my tastes. Once I figured out that the perfectly wrapped sphere shape needed to be “broken” the  the results were more convincing to my eye.

Time for another project update. The BA-64 armored cars were completely finished, including a nice weathering job if I may be permitted to say so. They looked a bit shiny to me, so I hit them with another shot of Dullcote – don’t varnish over weathering powders, duh! Gone, has to be done over. So, nearly done … I was a bit impatient with these, and it shows. Detailed, varnished, decals applied, dullcoted, weathered, sealed with alcohol, and re-dullcoted in one evening has washed out much of the detail. Being in a rush sucks, they should have dried overnight between most of those steps. A saying I use in the office applies – I didn’t make time to do it right, now I have to make time to do it twice ;->

I’ve got the rest of the Company on the table for final assembly and painting. 3 SU-122’s, 4 120mm mortar teams, 2 81mm mortar teams (I’ll stick these on a large base and proxy as 120’s for the tournament), and 2 HMG teams. I have until June 7th to get this all finished, if I have any spare time I may do a few AA Trucks and I’ll do the extra 120mm mortars rather than proxy.

Note on the PSC Heavy Weapons set – I like the scale and the clean detail, but the crew are in goofy poses, and there is a limited variety. They are also a little fiddly to assemble, lots of tiny bits. At some point in the future, I’ll pull the crew and use something else, maybe BF or Peter Pig. I used Vinyl Spackling Compound to level the bases and to adhere the models – the crew are on “pitchers mounds” and the weapons are not. If the bases are terrained after assembly, the weapons look like they are sitting in sand traps!

Note on the Skytrex/Command Decision/Old Glory armored cars. The amount of mold flash is almost beyond belief. I gave up trying to clean it all up and just weathered over the worst of it, using it as a base for mud! The SU-122’s are from the same manufacturer and have almost no flash, so maybe just a bad batch of models.

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I took a short break from painting to do a little modeling, specifically to put together enough destroyed vehicles markers for my Mid-War Soviet list. I am going to play with 14 or 15 vehicles, so that will be the minimum number of markers I want to assemble.

First up, raw materials. I watched a couple of YouTube videos on the topic and also visited a blog or two to get ideas. Once I had a vision of how I wanted to create the markers, I took a quick trip to the local Family Dollar for supplies – this project will cost less than 10 bucks, not including tools.

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I am using the felt pads for the base, and cotton balls to make the smoke. The package of pads has both 1” and 3/8” sizes which will allow me to make both large “tank sized” markers and smaller “jeep/car” sized markers. Purchase price was $1.55 for the pads, $1.00 for the bag of cotton balls. I bought three packages of pads and two bags of cotton balls to ensure I had enough materials to screw up a batch and still be able to finish the project. Total cost was about $7.00 with sales tax.

For armatures, I used a length of “real” armature wire that I had lying around for the first few, and then switched to large paper clips (2” size) for the rest. If I had to buy the materials, I would have used the paper clips for all of them. They work great and they are essentially free. The only drawback is that they are very stiff and require tools to bend into shape. For my “large – tank” size I cut a piece of wire 2.5” long. For “small – jeep/car” size I go 1.25”. Note on armature wires – I have seen other tutorials mention a preference for very soft wire. I don’t want something that can be easily bent/crushed so I prefer thicker/stiffer wires. This way, I don’t have to soak the “smoke” in glue to harden it and provide structure. If I was ok with markers hard enough to damage the paint on my models I wouldn’t bother making them at all, I would just remove/stack  the turrets. This method doesn’t produce rock-like smoke markers, they are quite soft and very lightweight – no damage!

Tools used – cutters, long nosed, and regular pliers. Paper clips.

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Each 2” paper clip produces 2 2.5” and 1 1.25” sections of armature. Next step, I bend the end of the wire into a small loop using the long nose pliers, and then create a vertical bend and an “S” shape using both pliers together. Here is a step by step with the final result pressed in place on a felt pad – the felt pads have an adhesive backing that holds everything in place prior to hot-gluing. I show both a large an a small armature below, the process is essentially the same for each size.

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To be continued:

Well that took a bit longer than expected, but I get carried away sometimes. I am very pleased with the final product, so worth the extra time. Next on the table is a small platoon of 4 BA-64 armored cars. I’ve basecoated, dry-brushed, and applied two coats of oil wash to get them started. They are tiny little tanks, should be finished before the weekend. Then it’s on to 3 massive SU-122’s, fun! Just for giggles, I included a shot of an SMG stand as I am working out better lighting and needed to take a few test shots.

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I finished painting the Stuart tanks a few days ago, but didn’t have time to post until now. Yesterday was a “road warrior” day – I had breakfast in Omaha, a late lunch in Detroit, and dinner at home in Pennsylvania.

Anyway, I finished detailing the 8 M3A1’s. Two passes of color modulation gave the models a nice 3D look. On a 15mm model, my interpretation of modulation is “paint all the raised detail with your mid highlight” with a little edge highlighting thrown in. Not “realistic” but it looks cool. I use a glazing mix for this technique (paint, glaze medium, a drop of flow/water solution) as I like the effect created by a little transparency. It adds a bit more depth to the finished product.

After re-highlighting (okay, modulating) I put a very runny coat of Track Primer on the tracks and picked out a few details – machine guns, shovels and tools, searchlight, etc. The models are ready for decals and final varnishing today, but supplies are low (I am out of Micro Sol). I will also trick up the bases a bit more, at the moment they have only a coat of dark earth on them. Last but not least, I may weather the tracks and lower hull, I haven’t made up my mind. I overdid it on the last batch of tanks (T34/85’s) so need to take a step back and convince myself one way or the other.

Semi-crappy photos, I’ll have to do something about my camera and lighting.

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