Thursday 23 May 2019

Warlord Plastic Char B1 Bis - Build Review

I have been eyeing this kit up for some time. It's one of my favourite tanks, being all clunky and very much an interwar design, unlike the sleek later war behemoths.

There were some kits of this available at Carronade, but it's very much a 'nice to have' rather than an essential model. Like the Somua S35 from an earlier post, it's quite an effective beast in Chain of Command, with a decent 75mm gun for HE vs infantry and buildings, and the reasonably effective 47mm (in period), in a turret for AT work.

What this means that taking it as a support option is pricey, and you can get an awful lot of other toys instead.  So I looked at the kits but decided to spend the money on other things that would see a lot more game time.

I nearly resisted temptation altogether, but WarHQ offered me a great deal, (show discount, plus free postage) and it showed up yesterday, so, like a kid on Christmas Day, I had to get to it.

Two sprues of nicely moulded grey plastic

Handsome Beast!

First impressions:

Firstly, you can build at least 4 different models: French, German, German Flammpanzer in several configurations. For the purists there are enough parts to pretty much replicate almost any Char. The decal sheet looks good, with plenty of French symbols and names to personalise the model. I would urge folk to look online for paint schemes, as there are so many brilliant ones to choose from.

Build quality:

Overall, very good. I had three very minor issues and noticed a questionable design decision.  So the minor issues.

I had a tricky bit assembling the small connectors between the main hull beside the 75 and the front of the track sponson. One part, that slots in there and has the connecting shafts, had an upper panel that was slightly warped. Easily remedied by the application of poly cement and a bit of pressure. The connecting shafts needed a fair bit of pressure to ensure they lined up neatly.

The second issue was with the turret mantlet. The rear piece sits over a rotating cylinder to ensure the 37mm and coaxial machine gun can elevate and depress, check the fit on placing this in the turret before applying glue (I didn't and ended up cursing).

Final 'issue' - there appear to be two moulding marks on the legs of the rail running logitudinally to the body and sits to the rear of the turret. Perfectionists would fill these before assembly. I didn't notice till I was nearly done, and didn't have the patience.

Questionable design decision? The French turret cupola is moulded in two halves, so it pays to assemble this first, then smooth out the join, as it's hard to file or smooth when in situ, I also had to remove the small lug underneath at the front to get it to sit down flush on the turret.

Other comments:

This is one of Warlord's collaborations with Italeri, and the model itself contains a lot of fine detail, as you can see in the pictures. A lot of this can be left off, for example the lifting hooks on the turret, but there are some legitimate questions about how robust the rail and so on will be for wargamers. Thankfully the hull sides are nice and flat, and this is how it will be most commonly handled.

The track assembly is simply a matter of making sure that the track plates are all running in the same direction, and the locating lugs are really well done, giving you a positive location, and about the easiest multi-part plastic model track assembly I have done yet. So a big plus for that one.

The fine detail such as the chain on the rear hull and the various towing hooks are very nicely done, and all contribute to a very handsome model. There is zero flash, and the only apparent moulding lines (on the gun barrels and exhaust) were easily dealt with.

Finally - the build sequence is in a very nicely done instruction booklet, but within the steps there are some parts that should be assembled in a careful sequence.

For example, one stage incorporates the sponsons, hull bottom, 75mm gun sub assembly and the connecting shafts. I suggest a dry fit, then work out which you do first. I glued the right hand sponson to the hull bottom first, then the gun assembly, then the shaft connctor piece, (applying pressure to get it to conform), then the left sponson, and applied pressure to make the shafts line up. Then the hull top.

I recommend you dry fit at each stage and try to work out what makes logical sense in each assembly sequence.

So overall, despite a couple of niggles in construction, (which were at least partly my own impatience), I am very happy with the model, and I'm looking forward to getting some paint on this monster!

(Oh and yes, I intend to go back and sort out the turret base seam now that the glue has had time to set.)

Sunday 19 May 2019

More Terrain

Some time back I made a conscious decision that I was going to try and make sure the quality of my terrain was up to the same standard as the vehicles and infantry that I collect and paint.

So with that in mind, I have gradually been adding to the collection of 28mm terrain for campaigns in France. The latest additions were two kits I picked up from Alan at Hoka Hey at Carronade last week. These are from the Timeline Miniatures range he now carries, and were very inexpensive.

Given that I usually do a lot of additional work on MDF buildings, I am really only interested in the shell, and the Timeline Church (£15) and Farm Outbuilding (£4.75) looked like a good base to work from.

Fine sturdy church
The crenellated top section is optional. I left mine off, intending to use it to create a spire that could be added to the basic model.

The instructions (make sure you look on the rear of the paper as well). Seems straightforward.

I did a quick dry-run just to make sure everything fits together nicely. The Timeline kits have finer tolerances than some others I have used so sometimes the fit is quite 'tight' - be prepared to sand or file as required. The roof also detaches in two halves. I find this tricky, and it makes it hard to get the roof to look right, so instead I glued the two roof halves together, trimmed back the lugs from the walls, and braced the roof internally with some of the MDF 'sprues' This gave me a one piece roof that would be easier to model with additional tiling, and made it easier to take off and put on.

Construction details
As with all MDF kits - make sure you wrap or use elastic bands to get a good join.

The core pieces - on the right is the base for the crenellated add-on to the tower.
Having assembled the sub-components, as you can see here, I normally assemble dry, then use a paint brush with slightly thinned PVA to run down the inside of joints. The capillary action ensures the PVA flows into the join but avoids over-spill on the building.

Taped up and ready
Once the assembly has had time to set, it's time for the fun bit. Different folk have different approaches to surfacing MDF. Out of the pack it is simply too flat and featureless to look real. Various techniques include using a sand and paint mixture, textured paint, applying a plaster surface or cladding with card etc. This is the quick, easy and dirty way.

Putty up any significant dents or gaps, especially around the MDF joints.  Then get a hobby or small drill with a round sanding head, and attack this thing.. get brutal. Unless you feel like engraving stonework, just be random.

Post-Dremel Assault

Surface detail

Interior paint
After this - just painting - a coat of  'Coffee Bean', then a wetbrush of 'Pistachio' some sand and PVA for the base, and doors in German grey highlighted with Basalt grey. On to the roof.

The oldest Poly cement in the world.

The tiles are plastic, and easy to apply, its not strictly necessary to use vintage poly cement like this one..

Roof done
Into the paint shop, the roof is German grey, highlighted tiles are in Basalt grey, then a drybrush of mixed greys. The body got some 'mud' from the Tamiya pigments set, plus rainwater streaks with very watery dark grey smudged in with fingers. 



Roads in production
Having finished the church and outbuildings, it's on to doing some roads. MDF cut to shape, covered in tiling grout (messy!) added sand and dragged a stick through the grout for tracks.

Onwards and upwards!

Friday 17 May 2019

Quick Garage Update

One of the reasons for buying the Anyscale resin scenics was to dress up the garage, so a lick of paint later, here it is:

Oil drums, old tyres and of course, a spill. Not from the Citroen naturelement! I'm happy.

Tuesday 14 May 2019

Resin Scenery Items, WIP & Stuff

Over the years, I have visited a few shows and demo games, and for me a real part of the pleasure of wargaming is the aesthetics of the thing.  (Yes, I'm talking to you, show-gamers, with your rules and papers, and cans and dice and tape measures.. )

So one of the things I really like is all the nicely done terrain, yes, we aren't all going to game on terra-formed squares depicting every undulation, but you can get a decent mat, and make sure the features have basing that matches, paint them properly and so on. One of the things that can make a layout feel real and have lots of points of visual interest, is the collection of little things, livestock, a haystack, a ditch diggers cart and so on. Scatter terrain is the usual term.

So I am always on the lookout for inexpensive pieces that can be added to a table to create interest or add to the verisimilitude of the scenario, whether that be telegraph poles, a garden shed or a peasant on a bicycle. I came across 'AnyScale Models' on eBay, it appears to be a small company doing resin castings for a variety of scales, plus some wargames items in 20 & 28mm. The prices are very cheap, so I made a small order for a variety of stuff.

Flakvierling, clever use of nails, but good luck with drilling out the barrels 

Storage set - I liked the cable drum

Oil barrels.. anyone know what oil company labels for 1940 France?

Tyres, sold as 'fenders for boats' 

You can see a couple of bubbles in this stowage set
Overall, I was very happy with the Anyscale products, they are very well priced, the service was good, and there's plenty of variety. Their field workshop set for 28mm was very tempting to add to my garage, but I resisted. 

In other stuff, just working up some of the models I picked up at Carronade, both terrain and vehicles.

Just some WIP vehicles, you can spot the PzII & Sherman I got at Carronade
 Plus a random game I managed to get in the other week.. 
A quick Wings of War/Glory game with Jimmy & the nephew last week 

Saturday 11 May 2019

Carronade Pictures

Some game pictures from Carronade.
Rorkes Drift - complete with flashing illumination of the Hospital

Kirriemuir Wargames Club - Western Action 

Small scale WW2 The Battle for Crete

Old School, 28mm Ancient Britons vs Romans (Could be Watling Street?) 

10mm Early War Germans attacking Poland

Splendid Last Samurai action by Leuchars

Big game Napolonics in 15mm with pink smoke? 

Breakout from Zara - Italians vs French

Captain Jack's Last Hurrah

Carnevale action

A Trojan Rabbit and Arthurian worthies

Very attractive pod racing game

The Hunt for the White Stag

Fantasy Siege!

Busaco by Dunfermline Wargames

Carronade 2019

Well, that's it for another show. Carronade 2019 in Falkirk. I have a lot of fondness for Carronade, it's a decent size of show by Scottish standards, there are always plenty of traders and always some nice games on display. It was also the first Scottish show I attended when I came back from Oz.

I was there as part of the Kirriemuir Wargames Club, who put on a splendid Wild West 'Wanted' game, though it would have been nice to have a few more volunteers to participate.

Pictures of the games to follow after a bit of editing, crop out stray arms, reduce sizes, that sort of thing.

Overall, I thought it was a pretty good show, it was busy and lots to see. The Flea Market was a bit hit and miss though, as vendors booked tables for fixed time blocks, so you basically needed to head upstairs every hour if you didn't want to miss anything. As usual, there seemed to be a lot of spikey chaos plastic, but there were some pearls among the offerings. Chatting to folks it seemed like there were at least two tables that were mates selling off for a deceased estate. Just remember folks, appoint a wargames executor.

One positive trend was that there were quite a few women helping out on tables, as vendors and as participants, so that was terrific, although it might be my imagination, but there seemed to be fewer children.

Anyway, a good day, and I managed to maintain (fairly) admirable self discipline and focus, despite temptation. Stuff for my Chain of Command games, (for It is a truth universally acknowledged that US infantry not in possession of a good position must be in want of a Sherman), I love Panzer II, so I couldn't walk past that, and WarHQ didn't have the plastic Warlord Char Bis, but offered to send it to me post free, with the show 20% discount. What nice chaps!

I picked up a couple of the very inexpensive MDF shells from TimeLine /Hoka Hey, (who also had a very impressive Old West locomotive and carriages in MDF and resin), and another set of walls to extend my existing set, from Red Vectors. Finally, I love warbases stuff, but didn't really need anything from them this time, so I contented myself with a set of Fleur-de-lys jump-off and patrol markers. The Russian houses can wait till I paint my Russians!

Friday 10 May 2019

French Armour

My French army for Chain of Command is fairly well rounded out for supports, with mortars, AT rifles, a small (Hotchiss 25mm) AT gun, and a tripod mounted machine gun. But it needed some armour. After all, when you're facing the Blitzkrieg, it's handy to have some armour on your side.

I was very tempted by the Warlord/Italeri Char Bis plastic kit - mainly because it's exactly the kind of thing I love, bizarre, clunky, flawed, and just generally cool. And in plastic, which I prefer to resin. But hey, it's just too good. It could be overly dominant on the table in an environment where infantry anti-tank capability is overall pretty much non-existent, and opposing tanks are likely to be PzII, PzIII at best.

Plus, in Chain of Command terms, the Char Bis will only get deployed very occasionally, as it is a high cost support option. You will only rarely have a scenario where you have enough support points to deploy a Char.

So when Warlord had a recent two for one resin sale, I decided I needed to get some French armour, and selected the Somua S35 (which incidentally, may also be too good to appear very often), but also a Panhard 178 armoured car. I like armoured cars, in Chain of Command, they can activate and move when deployed, unlike tracked vehicles, plus the Panhard was a pretty effective vehicle for its day.

So here they are:

Decals are from the Warlord sheet, except for hand-painted roundels on the S35. Not perfect, but good enough for me. I chose one of the most outrageous French camouflage schemes I could find for the S35, and didn't attempt to go for a historically accurate marking scheme, just one that was 'plausible'.

The Panhard decals are very simple as is the colour scheme. Bit disappointed that Warlord chose to use a 'stereotypical' French crewman fro the S35, complete with Gauloise and wine bottle, but at least they supplied crew figures, some other companies could take note.

Paint job was masking with blu-tac on the S35, then an airbrush, and a relatively simple all airbrush on the Panhard. Weathering was a wash with GW Nuln Oil, a very light drybrush with a dusty cream, with light chipping using a sponged black (not visible on these shots).

The Panhard has already proved its worth, and I'm looking forward to getting the S35 on the table too.