Wednesday, 11 January 2017

New battlegroup rules

A game that I've really fallen in love with this year is Ironfist Publishings Battlegroup rule set. For the sake of clarity, one of the creators is a friend and also a regular guest on the podcast I part host.  Having got several games in of this rule set in now, you can read my thoughts on how the game is played here. 

Today though. I shall be looking at the recently released new rule book. It's worth mentioning however this is not a second edition, but is simply a newer, better book with some small revisions and wording changes to the game. 

To quote from the Plastic Soldier Company website 'Whilst this remains the same Battlegroup game, there have been 3 small rules alterations. Aimed Fire with HE shells now has no -1 modifier to hit targets in cover. 

All Aimed Fire with small arms now has a -1 modifier to hit if the unit moved. There is also a -1 to observe units with the Sniper-Scout special rule. Area Fire is now called Suppressing Fire (but remains unchanged). ' All very limited in impact on the game, so what's new?

Previously the Battlegroup rules were obtainable in the now out of print Battlegroup Kursk book, and an A5 size soft back rule book. Whilst the A5 book is handy for carrying to and from games, font size was a little small and could be hard to read.


 The new book is standard A4 size and hard back for a start, and the first 60 or so pages are the same as the earlier soft back book The new book however contains all the generic scenarios from the previous campaign books, as well as a new campaign and some army lists.

Both the campaign and army lists focus on the Normandy campaign, and cover forces drawn from the 12th SS Panzer Division, and the Canadian 3rd infantry division. Full army lists and rules for both are included, and these can of course be used in normal games of Battlegroup outside of the campaign as well, and a few pages of pull out unit cards are included in the appendix for these too.

The campaign itself is a map based one, played over 12 turns covering the 4 days of fighting around the village of Norrey-En-Bessin, with bonus victory points awarded for playing the 4 historical battle scenarios that round out the campaign set. This looks like a superb campaign to play, and one I'd love to have a go at. It would also translate to other theatres and periods of the war without too much effort as well. 

The book itself has some beautiful production quality, with highly atmospheric miniature photography, mixed in with some fantastic drawings and period photos, and for £20 I feel is a good value addition to the library.

 Is it a must buy if you already have the existing rule book? not necessarily, however if you have an interest in the Normandy campaign especially, or simply want a bigger, easier to read rule book then absolutely. If you are totally new to battlegroup, this is an excellent introduction to the game, as you can instantly start to learn to play with the included army lists before grabbing the specific campaign books.

You can order copies of Battlegroup from the Plastic Soldier Company, and hear more about Battlegroup on the Brit, The Yank and the Hobby podcast, of which I am a co-host. Finally, you can see more of my work at Volley Fire Painting Service.

Warlord Games 1/56 Panther Ausf A review

Firstly, my apologies to Warlord Games who supplied me with a kit of this vehicle sometime ago, however I'm only now getting round to writing about it... 

Warlord's Panther tank is produced by scale model manufacturer Italeri, and I believe this kit is a pretty much direct descendent of their mid 1990's 1/35th scale kit scaled down to 1/56, and simplified for Wargamers.                                            

The kit comes on 2 sprue, with a small decal sheet and commander figure included. Use of slide mould technology is evident too, as the gun included a pre drilled muzzle. 

Assembly is quick and simple, though attention needs to be paid to the tracks as they are handed, and also need dry fitting. I found fitting the top run, then the lower run, and then the outer part of the drive sprocket the easiest way to assemble them, and used plastic weld to assemble the kit. 

Fit was good, and a little flash was present in places, but nothing major. Only issues I found were the towing shackles were a little small and fragile, and most of them either broke or snapped, so I ended up ditching them completely. 

Detail is generally nice, though I found the tools a little light in relief, and could do with either being a separate part, or moulded a little deeper. The Zimmerit also looked a little too neat on the sprue, but painted looks good, and it also saves a vast amount of work creating your own. 

To paint my Panther, I used Vallejo middlestone sprayed over black primer as the basis for the dunkelgelb, then mixed increasing amounts of pale sand in to get a fairly high contrast graduation in the colours. For the camo pattern, I used Vallejo Mahogany and Luftwaffe camo green, before using a fairly big range of MIG washes, pigments and filters to weather the tank.

Foliage is made from sea foam sprigs, and you can find a guide to how I do it at the Warlord Games site here

Overall, this is another good kit from the Warlord/Italeri partnership,
You can visit the Warlord Games website here, and as ever, more of my work can be found at Volley Fire Painting Service.

Rubicon Models US armour reviews

In these reviews, I'm doing something slightly different, and rolling several reviews into one, as I built all the kits at the same time, and most of the comments are the same of each of them, though I'll cover each individually too. In the interests of integrity, Rubicon have been kind enough to provide me with review samples of each of the kits below, however these particular vehicles were part of a work commission.

Rubicon Models have quite an extensive line of mid to late war US armour in their catalogue now (I do keep harassing them to make an M4A1 too...), and whilst I've already looked at their M5 Stuart and M4A3 Shermans, this time I've been building the M3 halftrack, M8 Scott, M10 and M36 tank destroyers, and the  M20 armoured car. 

All of these kits come with Rubicons standard packaging of a letterbox type packaging with each sprue individually bagged to prevent loss of parts, as well as an extensive decal sheet, and well laid out instruction booklet. Each kit contains multiple variants, so it's worth taking a few minutes before cutting things to identify which variant you will build, and what parts you will be using.

All of the vehicles were painted the same way, using a black primer as a base, and then airbrushing Vallejo Brown Violet over most of the vehicle, leaving some black visible in the recesses. around the edges and raised areas I then airbrushed Vallejo Green Grey, before weathing them using some Burnt Umber oil paint used as a wash around the details and recesses. 

M3A1 Half Track
The M3A1 kit actually gives the option of assembling the vehicle as either an M3, or an M3A1, with a choice of winch or bumper at the front, deployed or stored stowage racks, open or closed radiator grill, and open or closed armoured wind shield, as well as pose able machine guns and a choice of interior radio fits, and also comes with 2 crew figures. 

Decals are also note worthy, as they contain some nice Free French markings,  as well as a good jumble of codes and stars too, so will be useful for future projects too.

I found the kit to be a fairly quick build, with some very nice detail and good fit to the parts. The only part of the kit that failed to impress me were the crew figures, although fortunately these are barely visible.

I still opted to use the driver and omit the other passenger. Some inevitable comparison will be asked with the Warlord Games plastic M3A1, and there's very little between the two, though Warlords is probably a marginally simpler to assemble kit, and comes with less decals and no choice of variants. I'll be adding Rubicons kit to my own DAK force as an M3 variant at some point in the none too distant future. 

M8 Scott
Another nice kit, the M8 Scott allows you to build either an M5A1 Stuart, or M8 Scott. 

There's little cross over here either, but with a bit of care and creativity you could build both and swap parts as each variant is required if that's your thing.

Between the Stuart and the Scott, I prefer the look of the finished M8, the spare track parts on the turret have slightly more impact and definition than on the Stuart parts, and the finished vehicle just has more impact. Turret interior is pretty good too for the M8, although it's lacking in crew and you'll have to convert some up if you want to fill their void. 

Assembly is straight forwards,  and rounded off by another well stocked transfer sheet with a good selction of markings, with options for several nationalities covered, including the USA, Britain and France. 

M10 Tank destroyer
This one comes with some fairly notable options, namely the choice of building an M10, an M10A, an M36 and finally an Achilles tank destroyer. 

Parts for these are all fairly specific,especially due to the way the turret rings are constructed, although you could potentially work out a way to make them interchangeable with a bit of work, the kits not really designed that way.

Interior detail for the M10 vehicles is good, though no interior is provided for the M36 turret apart from a gun breach.

Oddly, whilst ammunition racks are provided in for the hull, there is no floor, which is a fairly visible part of the fighting compartment. Sadly, no crew or stowage are provided, though once again the decal sheet is superb. 

M20 Scout Car
The final kit I'm looking at today, the M20 kit also includes parts to build the M8 armoured car as well. This was a bit of a surprise kit as it has some really superb detail.


It's not an easy kit to switch between versions however, so be mindful of that if you're intending making it as both. assembly is a breeze though and the finish model is superb to my eye. 

Of the 4 of these, I think my favourite is probably the M20/M8, although I really like the M3 kit too. the Scott is good value for money, though I have to admit to being disappointed in the M10, as I felt it a little lacking, though I'd struggle to put my finger on what precisely. 


Rubicon Models can be obtained through Plastic Soldier Company in the UK, and from their US distributor for those in America, and as ever you can see more examples of my work or contact me regarding commissions at Volley Fire Painting Service.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Bolt Action 28mm United States Marine Corp

A few years ago now, myself, Jez Allum, Jamie Tranter and Brian Ward got together to produce a blog chronicling us collecting 1000 point armies for Bolt Action. 


I opted to the USMC, and thought it time to revisit the article series by collecting links to the armies creation below. 

In this instalment I discuss the motivation behind collecting the Marines, and what I chose to add to the force.

As the name suggests, in this segment I look at some simple tricks and cheats to get the best out of the various plastic sets now on the market, and how to reduce the stress of working with multipart figures.

A step by step guide to how I painted my Marines.

I like Shermans, and here's the one I added to the army, as well as how I painted it. 

As you may have surmised, this is the completed army and my thoughts on the project. 

My Marines inaugural battle report.

You can see more of my more recent work at Volley Fire Painting services, and listen to the episodes of The Brit, The Yank, and the Hobby podcast here, where we discuss a few of the USMC's more famous actions. 

Rubicon Models 1/56 Jagdpanzer 38t Hetzer review

This kit has been out for a little while, so much so that I won one at the (Cam)Bridge to Far event in March of last year... 

The Jagdpanzer 38t is one of those late war vehicles that is so iconic, and such a good modelling opportunity that it's likely to appear in most late war gamers collections, and this kit from Rubicon Models is certainly a very welcome addition to their line up of plastic vehicle kits. 

Rubicons Jagdpanzer comes nicely presented in their typical box, with each sprue individually bagged, with a very good decal sheet that comes with the standard range of German markings, as well as vehicles used by the Russian Liberation Army and what I believe are Czech Partisan forces.

The kit provides numerous options as is the norm for Rubicon, offering the builder the choice of creating early, mid and late production vehicles, as well as a Flammpanzer 38t. No stowage or crew figures are provided however.

I opted to build the late production vehicle,  and found assembly to be quick and straight forwards, though I do recommend taking the time to read through the instructions and ensure you are familiar with the variant you are going to build. 

The Jagdpanzer was painted first with black primer, then airbrushed with Vallejo Middlestone, this was modulated with increasing amounts of Pale Sand, before a disruptive pattern of Vallejo Mahogany was added.

Some pin washing of Burnt Umber oil paint, and the Jagdpanzer 38t was complete. Personally, I rate this as Rubicons best kit, and thoroughly recommend it. This particular vehicle was a clients, for a commission, however I have one of my own in the stash for when I eventually get to expanding my late war German collection.

Rubicon Models can be obtained through Plastic Soldier Company in the UK, and through their own distributor in the United States.
As ever, I can be contacted through Volley Fire Painting Service on Facebook, and you can even see more painted examples of my work there too. 

Monday, 21 November 2016

Dropfleet Commander Gameplay overview

A few weeks ago now I wrote about my experiences of testing out different colour schemes for my UCM, well, of those 8 I created, I settled for a ninth one... Duly placing an order at Firestorm Games for a starter set, which arrived in rapid time I set to assembling my UCM fleet for our first few games, and here are my initial thoughts on the game and rules.

For those who have played Battlefleet Gothic, the format will be instantly familiar, being a landscape soft cover format, however a protective sleeve is also provided to aid storing the book on a bookshelf and aid presentation in stores.

The book starts off with some history of the Dropzone universe, and for those who are already up to speed with this lore, the story is advanced a little from Reconquest Phase 2. It's worth mentioning the art through the book at this stage too, as the presentation is really quite beautiful.
Next on we get to the rules. These are actually very, very simple, however are explained with a lot of box outs and examples. I'll discuss the actual game play a little later, however I did enjoy how the rules were set out and explained.  

 After the rules we come to the scenarios, of which 8 are included covering various different deployment types and scenario options. I'll speak about these broadly when I cover the rules as they are critical to the way the game itself is played.

At the end of the scenario section is a guide to integrating Dropfleet into your games of Dropzone, and vice versa, as well as rules for campaign play. This was a touch that particularly pleased me, as the concept of both games links so well and seemed so suited for this type of gaming. 

 Following on from these we come to fleet building and army lists. These cover the human UCM forces, the post human PHR, as well as the alien Scourge and Shaltari. Each list is presented with a history of each race, their technology, and any specific special rules that may apply, before detailing each ship they can use with a nice picture, some more lore about each class, and of course their rules too. 
The book is finished off with a story, and some templates and counters to print and use in your games.

Presentation and quality are excellent. There's no index sadly, however the book is quite easy to navigate as each section is colour coded so finding stuff is surprisingly quick.

How it works
Space ships rumble around blowing each other up whilst dropping men and tanks onto a planet. 
In more specific terms... 

As previously mentioned, forces are organised into battlegroups, these are then rated according to the tonnage of the battle group. the more ships, the higher the tonnage. The contents of a battle group and its tonnage rating are written onto an activation card, with each battlegroup having its own card. In the planning stage of the turn, you organise these into the order you want each group to activate, and then place them face down. each player then reveals their top card, and the lowest rated one gets to activate first or second.

 Once both players have activated their battlegroups, then the next card is revealed, and so on until all cards have been turned face up. Once they are, the turn is over and they can be resorted. In practice, this tends to lead to smaller lighter groups being more tactically flexible, but heavier groups being more resilient and slower to respond, which feels right. Note that the ratings aren't adjusted as ships are destroyed. 

When activated, you declare an order for the battlegroup, and this can either be a special order, or a standard order, with ships being able to individually use that battlegroups special order or standard orders. Special orders allow vessels to do something slightly different to the norm, such as move faster, fire more weapons, make an extra turn, etc. 

Force selection
Before speaking specifically about force selection, It's worth mentioning that all the scenarios require you to land troops on an objective, so every fleet will require a balance of forces that can deploy ground troops to the objective, as well as ships capable of defending that objective and driving off the opposition, aaaand then holding a location too. There's a lot to think about, and you will struggle to have all the tools you need to do this in a force. 

Forces are divided into battlegroups, with the maximum amount of battle groups decided by points size of the game. Up to 999 points is skirmish level, 1000-1999 is clash and battle is 2000-3000. Skirmish level allows you up to 4 battle groups, clash is 6, and battle is 7. Battle groups themselves are divided again into pathfinder type, which focuses on lighter classes such as frigates, corvettes and a small number of cruisers. Line, which sees Cruisers and a few escorting frigates, Vanguard which contains your battle cruisers and their support, and finally Flag, which is your super heavy battleship types. 

Into this mix of battlegroups you will need to get some strike carriers which fall into the Frigate category, and probably a bulk lander or two, which fall into the cruiser band. There is also a number of compulsory battlegroup types depending on size of the battle, and a limit on how many launch assets (fighters, bombers torpedoes), that can be contained in a fleet as well 

This all serves to make the list building side of the game quite critical, as you will have to start formulating plans and schemes of what you want your formations to do even before the game is set up. This may not be to everyone's taste, but personally I love it, and if you're familiar with Dropzone this will be fairly recognisable. 

Ships have thrust value, this is how far they can move, and most orders mean that they have to move at least half this distance. Turns are restricted as well, with only one 45 degree turn at the start of the move permitted under most circumstances. Ships can also change orbital layer, making them harder to hit from other layers, and necessary for deploying troops to the objectives.


Range is unlimited for weapons, and the ability to shoot at a target is determined by combining your ships scan rating, the signature of the target, and any sensor spikes they may have accumulated , which can add either 6" or 12" depending on whether they are minor or major spikes. To actually hit the target, just grab the number of dice listed under the attack rating for the weapon, and roll over the weapons lock value. The target then gets to save these by rolling over their ships armour value, with any dice not exceeding the armour value resulting in damage. When the ship is at half it's number of hull points you roll on the critical damage table, and usually something awful happens (In my experience). Once all the hull points have gone, a ship is destroyed. 
When rolling to hit, if you score 2 more than your lock value, then no armour save is permitted. Ships tend to die fairly quickly, and the game is quite punishing if you make a mistake, (and your opponent capitalises on it.)

Fighters, Bombers and Dropships, oh my! 

Launch assets are very simpley handled, and essentially work like a shooting attack, with fighters adding to a ships defensive fire dice pool, and bombers working like any other weapon. Drop ships go to the planet and deploy your ground assets,  which can fight your opponents in the following turn, and that's about it. Torpedoes are very nasty, and thankfully very limited too. Launch assets can be launched in every turn too, they are not restricted for the most part.  

Game play impressions
I've managed to squeek a few games in all at around the thousand point level, playing a few different scenarios, and my initial feelings are very positive. 

Suggested game play is a 4x4 area, however we have used a 6x4 as we like to have more room for movement and it forces you to commit to a course of action.  Victory conditions in most scenarios earn victory points in the 4th and 6th turns, so you have to constantly keep fighting, without resting on initial success. 

The first turn or two generally tends to be slower, with fleets entering the board and jostling for position, before turns 3 and 4 seeing the major clashes around objective points and ships starting to explode. turn 5 sees the battered survivors of the early clash reorganising and attempting to get into that final point of dominance at the end of the game. 

All the games we have played have pretty much come down to the final turn, final dice throw of the game with the battles utterly undecided until that point. 

We've done a few multi player games, and even with 4 players we've come to a resolution in 3 hours or so. 
I'm very impressed with Hawks latest effort, and can't wait to get my Kickstarter and Battleships now...

For more info check out Hawk Wargames, and as ever you can see more of my work at Volley Fire Painting Service