Sunday, February 28, 2016

Heresy: legion Typhons and friends

So, my previous efforts to do the XIII legion in tiny scale had left a few niggling flaws I wasn't happy with. The first was my attempt at doing light gradients, whereby I had lightened flat, upward facing surfaces several shades higher than vertical panels. While I understood the basic logic of this, all it seemed to do was leave the sides of my vehicles darker in a manner that didn't really improve on simply doing a single shade all over the model.

The other failing of previous vehicles was my decision to try and do a more consistent style of highlighting, which I feel resulted in an overly stylised outcome that just didn't please my eye. As a result, all the aforementioned ultramarines posted on the blog have now taken a Simple Green bath and are waiting for me to have another crack at them. In the interim, I painted several new vehicles in a style I am much happier with.


This round I went with a much more subtle layer of highlighting in my normal erratic 'chipping' style. The tone was much less contrast to the underlying blue and I think this tended to accentuate the scheme, rather than divide the eye between two competing colors.

 
As mentioned, the underlying airbrush was a modulated blue applied in equal amounts over the whole vehicle, without any attempt to impose artificial light levels on horizontal panels. In my eyes this left the resultant product much more vibrant all over. This is in turn bolstered by the grimy weathering and the grimdarkness of the siege bases.




I also had a stab at some Deimos Rhinos in a similar manner, in this case employing tactical markings from the Forge World Legion decal set.



Next up for transport I'll be focusing on some Land Raiders, then its back to the Spartans I posted a few weeks ago for another go!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Stormhammers and Deathstrikes, oh my!

These days I'm always on the look out for interesting new offerings in epic. Given GW's previous abandonment of the scale, there has been something of a dry spell for quite some time and new designs have been sorely absent from the mainstream.

I was thus pleasantly surprised when I recently stumbled across Gregster's Lab, a small Indie company producing new offerings in the realm of 6mm grimdark. His super heavy and modular tank sets were of particular interests, as I have been searching for more 'modern' looking versions of the Baneblade and its contemporaries for some time now. I picked up enough to build three pseudo-Stormhammers and two Deathstrikes.

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Cast quality was excellent and impressive for a small indie studio. No detectable mold lines on mine and only one barrel needed a bit of straightening.

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I went with a generic grey scheme for these guys to really capture the 'land battleship' aesthetic. I've since ordered another set and will likely paint them in the panzer camo style of my other Teutonian armor.

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I was REALLY impressed with the Deathstrike TELs. The missiles are delightfully chunky and the chassis is very appealing to my eye.


Overall, an extremely strong new offering for us 6mm grimdark types, the terrain offered by Gregster is also of particular interest and I'll be keeping a close eye on his stuff in the future.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Paintup Review: Bannon's Boys for Team Yankee (M1A1s, AH-1s, M577)

This week we take a look at an entire army set - the Bannon's Boys startup box. Rather than break these up into individual reviews, I thought I'd give my views on the entire set. The box consists of Five M1/M1IPs/M1A1s, two Cobras and a M577 objective marker, as well as a set of unit cards, an ordnance template and a set of crew.


Background:

The set is the basis for a late Cold War army during the Reaganite period of the mid-to-late 80s. Here we saw many of the modern mainstays of the US military fleet begin to enter service, such as the M1, the Bradley and the Apache. There was a great deal of generational crossover at this point, with many ubiquitous vehicles of the mid Cold War, such as the AH-1 and the M113, still being in widespread use with line units. This box allows for the construction of just such a transitional force, with the M1s open to multiple configurations and the AH-1 in its up-gunned S configuration still sporting the single engine configuration.

As with the BMPs, the kits provided in the army box are almost all plastic in make, apart from the objective marker which is a single piece resin and the crew (I assume that like the Soviets, these will later be cast in plastic, I suspect this is currently a stopgap.)



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The M1 kit comes distributed across two sprues with 38 pieces total. Of these you will probably be using about three quarters of the parts to construct a single unit. The main reasons for this is that the sprues allow for the construction of either the M1/M1IP or the M1A1, which have a number of small, if notable differences. The M1/M1IP sports a smaller turret bustle with no rear basket, a smaller 105mm gun, three blowout panels on the turret and different rear panels covering the rear suspension.

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Generally speaking the design to accommodate the two different iterations is quite clever. The blowout panels, for example, are reversible, with the M1/M1IP on one side and the M1A1 on the other. Given I picked the latter configuration, one gripe I need to voice is the fiddlyness of assembling the bustle, as the components don't fit together very easily. The best solution I found was to perform  some minor surgery on the model to facilitate them to interlock effectively.

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The kits also come with a nice amount of stowage, allowing you to populate the stowage bins. These include supply boxes, jerry cans and spare roar wheels as well as five resin crew. Obviously, with the later, you can construct the tanks with the commander's hatch open or closed.The lads at BF have also included extra MGs, which apparently are meant to provide backups, should they snap during the de-spruing. I like that kind of initiative on the designer's part!


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The Cobra kits are supplied in 40 parts, as well as with a multi-part base and enough magnets to magnetize both the top rotors and the stand. I would advise that in building modelers leave the weapon pods separate, as this can make painting them down the line quite tricky!
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One of the things that impressed me most about the helo kits was the modular rotor blades. In all my years of wargaming, one of the things that has made me hesitant to use helicopters on the tabletop has been the super fragile blades that will often either sheer off, or cause the whole model to fall over should someone accidentally brush against them. With magnetization combed with a large base, the problem is largely mitigated.

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The sprue also allows for multiple configurations of the hard points, with a 30mm chain gun and extra FFAR pods. So far these aren't represented in the rules, but I highly suspect they will come in at a later point. After the MI-24, the Cobra is my favorite attack helo; much sleeker than the Apache and the addition of the chaingun makes it look super deadly.

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Finally we have the M577 command post. This is a single piece cast - not a lot else to say here given that its a single brick. A fun little vehicle with a lot of painting potential.



Quality:

As with the BMPs, both the style and casting of the plastics are superb. The M1s really benefit from the 'slightly heroic' upscalings, a feature that certainly improves what can often be a fairly boring tank to look at (trust me, I've built my fair share....).

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The ability to leave off the rear side panels is a nice touch, as this is often removed in the field.

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Once again, mold lines are minimal and barely noticeable. small details, such as grills and handles, are exaggerated, so as to ensure they are paintable.

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The cast quality of the M577 was generally solid, with 0 air bubbles. Unfortunately, the base appeared to have a bit of raised component under neath, which was a bit of a pain to fix.

Conclusion:

This whole set is a great way to dip ones toe into Team Yankee and get a sense of the miniatures and setup of the game. The quality over quantity nature of US forces means that investing in the Bannon's Boys set won't overburden the novice gamer with an unmanageable amount of toy soldiers to paint. a Platoon of M1s with helo support forms a nice core for subsequent expansion and at 90 bucks with all the excess gaming paraphernalia, the price is pretty reasonable. I'll definitely be going for some mech infantry and artillery next to expand out the force. Looking forward to getting back into painting Woodland BDUs!

Painting:

As mentioned last week, the aim was always to pursue a late 80s NATO woodland scheme over the MERDC scheme envisaged in the original Team Yankee book. The reasons for this are many, but the original cause is my fond memories of Operation Flashpoint, a game that really ignited my interest in this period.


Part of the issue I find with painting NATO woodland is that its darkness often eats a lot of the weathering I usually employ on my models. This can leave the kits fairly flat and boring looking and until now I was never really able to figur eout a way to remedy this.


For this set I employed the NATO rainmark streaks by AK Interactive. I applied them on heavy and then slowly broke down the outlined with a brush wetted with white spirit. The effect is subtle, but it adds more life to the big flat panels of US vehicles.


To tie the colors together a bit more I employed a soft brown/orange filter, ensuring to apply it in an extremely diluted manner just prior to streaking.


Base colors employed were a modulated coat of NATO green by AK interactive, followed by NATO black and NATO brown by Tamiya.


In prior attempts to chip multi-colored vehicles I always applied a tone of chipping based on the underlying color. This mean that previous efforts I would have employed a mix of green, grey and brown chips to the vehicle. This time, however, I simply stuck with the underlying color of green, using Vallejo green grey over the whole vehicle. I think this is probably the right way to go, as it ties the scheme together more effectively.


For pigment on the tracks I employed a very heavy helping of AK dark earth, followed by a low PSI (~10) spray of fixer.


For the Cobras I went a different route, using the MIG US WW2 armor modulation set to give them a nice olive finish.


After the standard gloss oil wash, I then went back and panel lined the whole vehicle with some Vallejo German cam black brown, this really brought the panels forward.


I think I may further lighten the center of the canopies, just to give them more of a glassy, reflective feel.

So there we have it: Bannon's Boys. Definitely a fun ride and this major foray into Cold War has whetted my appetite and left more aching for more. Next up I'll be diving into some more Soviets, with a look and crack at the T-72s! Stay tuned.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Paintup Review: Battlefront BMP-1/2 platoon

Its rare that something in Modern war-gaming truly flies out and hits me for six. I've been curating this blog for seven years now and in this time I've never really seen anything revolutionary emerge in the field. While new kits and rule sets release sporadically, until now, no company has taken a major swipe at going the whole nine yards and providing the full 'experience' - rules, minis, paints etc - under a single brand.

With the release of Team Yankee, I think we are seeing just such an attempt - the potential for a single source of everything we need to cover us in gaming a late Cold War setting. With the FoW brand we see moderns moving out from the niche they have long occupied and into a true mass market. Although some look upon such an shift with consternation, I am extremely excited. Already we are seeing popular wargame blogs like Beast of War and Bell of Lost Souls pick up on this shift. Such populism will only add to the zeitgeist, producing more sales and, in turn, more new kits and future expansions and national factions.

This is certainly not an End of History moment; Battlefront are a powerhouse, but they aren't hegemonic, even with WW2. Nevertheless, I see Team Yankee as a game changer and look forward to this new period producing greater impetus in the market for competition in output, scope and quality of future released across numerous companies. Now that Battlefront has entered the fray, the stakes have been massively raised.


This post will be the first of a series looking at the new products offered in Team Yankee, the kits of which were supplied for review by Battlefront.

Background: 

As long time readers of this blog will know, I am a big fan of the BMP series of IFV. The BMP-1 was a revolutionary design for its time and there is just something about the aesthetics of the vehicle that speak to me.

The BMP was a staple of the Cold War WARPAC arsenal. The 80s saw the deployment of the formidable BMP-2, a vehicle that attempted to correct many of the flaws of its predecessor through further development on its basic chassis. While there were numerous internal modifications, the main visual changes were the replacement of a turret with a larger iteration, the move from a single shot high caliber main gun to a rapid firing auto-canon and the induction of a newer tube-based ATGM that employed SACLOS guidance over the joystick-style configuration of the Sagger.

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The Battlefront kit is all-plastic and distributed across two sprues, plus an optional crew frame. It allows for the construction of both the BMP-1 and BMP-2. The box set contains 5 X vehicles, meaning a full motor rifle company will require the purchase of two - two and a half boxes. The latter will leave extras for force expansion in the form of scout vehicles and Observation Posts, as per the Team Yankee rules. For the truly bonkers among us, one can easily construct and paint both hull types and swap them out with magnets.

Discounting the crew, each kit consists of 22 standard parts, of which only around two thirds will be required to construct one of the two vehicles types. Part groupings are logical and aim to minimise effort where possible, particularly noticeable in the single piece tracks/suspension. There is a little 'fiddliness' when it comes to constructing the BMP-2 Turret, as the smoke launchers and spotlight are separate attachments. However, this was unavoidable to preserve casting quality and its really a minimal niggle.

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The kit doesn't include any form of stowage or optional external extras, although the commander's hatch has the option to be modeled both closed or open on both vehicle types.  In this regard the box set has six  commanders included, all cast in nice detail.

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The kit also includes an extensive set of numerical decals, allowing for the outfitting of up to ten vehicles.

Quality: 

Both sculpting and casting quality is excellent. The style is the usual 'mildly heroic' approach of Battlefront, with chunky barrels and exaggerated details, an approach I am absolutely in favor of. Styling aside, this means that the models are much more survivable on the table top and that nitty-gritty elements like exhaust grills and road wheels are actually perceptible and are not a nightmare to paint. At the same time, the sculptors haven't skirted on the detail. Even the tracks, so often neglected in 15mm, appear to have close fidelity to real versions of this vehicle.

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Mold lines - always a potential hazard with plastic - were minimal and only took a few minutes to clean up. Overall, assembling an individual unit to my typically pedantic standards took around 10-15 minutes. Nice and easy.

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Where possible I'm always a fan of producing vehicles in plastic. It saves weight, tends to be more robust, holds paint and is generally cheaper than metal or resin alternatives.

Conclusion:

I feel like these kits have really cornered the market on BMPs in 15mm. At this point there is nothing that really compares and its going to take considerable effort for other companies to rise to the new standard. At $45 a box they represent a mid-tiered price for an industry-standard setting item. I'll definitely be picking up another one or two boxes of them to outfit a whole motor rifle company.

Painting:

Given the Cold War subject matter I decided to paint my BMPs in standard Soviet single-tone green. I realise a lot of people have been opting for a more olive drab approach to Team Yankee stuff, but this just doesn't sit well in my mind with the more aqua/emerald shades we see in the Soviet greens of this period. Case in point:



At the end of the day this is another "what is US olive drab?" debate, but for my primary palette I opted for Tamiya's J.A. green and applied my usual weathering techniques after a modular undercoat.


Highlight chipping was achieved using Vallejo Afrika Korps green.



ATGM and crew uniforms were based and highlighted with standard Khaki.

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Weathering was kept to a moderate level. I didn't want to go too overboard with them and err towards a real nasty 'Chechen theatre' style, but at the same time I didn't want a 'fresh off the factory floor' sheen.


To break up the pure monotony of the green I went with a heavily amount of mud on the suspension and used some texturing paint to add a bit of 3d grit and clog.


Looking forward to employing the same approach with some T-72s



That's it for this round. On the next review we will be checking out the Banon's boys box set, in which I will be employing the NATO woodland tri-tone in place of the standard MERDC camo because I'm a huge Operation Flashpoint nerd.