Home in Time for Tea and Medals: D-Day British for Flames of War!

Taking it to the Hun in 15mm!

Juno and Sword Beaches Finest!

In my last hobby post, I featured some Flames of War Sherman V tanks, the start of the British starter force I was working my way through.

Well, just in time for the New Year, and mug of Earl Grey in hand, I have finished the lot!

This starter box is a great deal, and was a lot of fun to work through, even if it did seem like a slog near the end. My friends in the city have all the other major Late War factions covered, so my addition of some stiff upper-lipped Brits to the party will make for some fun battles! I may even have some competition locally, once Lockdown is over and it is safe to do so!

It was a decision between the Soviets and the British for me to play, but really, the choice wasn’t hard. I have always been an Anglophile and my love of the Sherman tank, especially the vaunted Firefly, meant I went for the older, Fortress Europe released box set. There is a newer box, for the D-Day landings specifically and featuring the Desert Rats, however I wanted a force with Shermans, not Cromwells.

Without any further delay, lets have a peek at what came in the box!

Churchills! They may be slow but they have a charm all their own.

First up was the Churchills. You get three in the box, with the Late War sprue variation. I could have built them as later Mark VIII or Crocodile Flame Tanks, but instead I went with 75mm armed earlier pattern Churchills, which from my research were fairly common in Normandy.

A very distinct, and I must say, lovely, profile.

I intend to use these tanks to support my Motor Platoon, and take objectives, not to hunt my opponents tanks. But if pressed, the 75mm is no slouch!

The kit comes with several door options. Make sure you pick the right ones!

The Churchills proved to be my favourite of the bunch; A lovely kit to build with a stupid amount of options. I’ve picked up the D-Day British unit cards so while the box comes with the Italy version, I can field them as the proper Normandy configuration.

Next up we have the M5 Stuarts! Not my favourite variant of the Stuart chassis but a great kit nonetheless!

Ready to recce!

This was another easy, fun kit to build. I had no trouble with it, and they went together in an evening. These tanks will serve as my spearhead and flanking choice, to get the rest of my armour to places it’ll hurt!

Drat, I see a couple mould lines I forgot to clean up! Always catch them late…

My favourite Stuart is the M3 ‘Honey’ fielded by the British in the desert, but those are long in the tooth by now and these newer, M5 Stuarts replaced them by this point in the war. It’s a better design, and the extra point of armour might save them from the odd anti-tank shot.

Next up we have the 17pdr SP ‘Achilles’, a kit I thought would be a bear to build but turned out surprisingly well.

Open topped? Better hope it doesn’t rain!

I actually enjoyed building these a lot more than I thought I would. With three options for the kit, the hardest part was making sure I picked the correct options. The crew took some creativity to fit using the tank commander sprues included in the box.

The crew look serviceable, and at this scale look fine enough!

The crew I’m strictly just okay with. They could be better, but they give enough of the appearance of a crewed tank destroyer that I’ll give them a pass. I can’t see anyway of making this better without losing the Battlefront Miniatures characteristic turret peg. A minor criticism to be sure, and I’m still more then happy to field them.

I’m not sure tactically how to use these yet, but seeing as I only have two Fireflies they might be a crucial unit against my friends Panther’s, Tigers, and the odd IS-2.

The crew look absolutely fine from this angle!

Rounding out the armoured contingent, if only technically, are some Universal Carriers!

Easy to build, but I’m not sure as to their utility….

These were an easy and fun kit to build (One can sense a pattern here!), but having not played Flames of War yet I can’t seem to find a use for them. They are an additional scout unit, but with just Brens they are strictly anti-infantry. Not a bad thing by any means, but both my opponents field mostly armoured formations!

Without a Piat, these little Universal Carriers lack the needed punch.

While the option exists to field them with PIATs, this option was not in the box. I have a lot of anti-tank as it is, so perhaps they can find a use solely harassing enemy infantry. I may go back and replace the Bren gun on the top with a Vickers, drastically increasing their firepower.

The box has not yet given up all of its goodies. I also got a Motor Platoon of infantry to accompany my tanks!

Surprisingly good looking infantry!

I was expecting soft sculpts, but in all honesty these are great! The detail is mostly sharp, and at this scale they are particularly good, and durable! The kit comes with only five stands, but the sheer amount of spares has me wondering if I should get a few more!

These will be either a joy or a pain to paint, depending on how much detail I choose to add!

I assembled them glued to the stands; my limited experience with Team Yankee infantry has shown me that it is fairly easy to paint them on the stands if you aren’t overly picky about detail. Still, they should have enough detail to take a wash well.

The officer has quite a bit of character for being this small!

I intend to use my infantry to hold my own objectives on the defense, or to aid my Churchills on the attack. With a PIAT team of their own, they can defend themselves against armour in a pinch.

Finally, we have four 25pdr Field Guns! I was expecting these to be rather fiddly, and they were a little. But they still went together rather quickly!

Ready to receive coordinates!

While small and rather fiddly to put together, the limited parts count meant they went together really fast. The majority of the time was spent laying out the crew on the bases. They are almost miniature dioramas!

I wasn’t sure about the limber until I saw it on the base. They add just that little bit extra.

For a unit I wasn’t too jazzed about, they were a lot of fun to build, and a good way to end off building the box. While these are already replaced with reinforcements in the way of Sextons, they are still really pretty little field guns, and might see some play on occassion!

This ended off the British Armoured Battlegroup Starter set. With the addition of a Sherman Armoured Troop, I’m now well placed to start playing Flames of War in earnest. Of course, that is when Covid-19 cooperates with us! I have already supplemented this existing force with some additional reinforcements, in the way of Sextons, Typhoons, and a Daimler recce patrol. I have also managed to snag a copy of the Command Cards, although that was from a foreign source and will be a while before they arrive!

I have yet to give some thoughts on what I will be painting these gents up as. I have an urge to either do a Canadian force, but that might be a bit on the nose given I am Canadian! Alternatively I am tempted by the Guards Armoured Division, and the decals I have will make that particular force doable right from the outset. Either way, I want to at least make a token effort on some historical authenticity.

This will be my last post of this year, and with that I wish you a happy New Year, no matter where you are, and may 2021 bring you happy wargaming! And until next year, God Save the King!

Checked Out, or Learning Lessons from the Worst Star Wars Prequel.

The ‘brain drain’ conundrum!

Clip Art Mentally Ill Psyche - Free image on Pixabay
Gee, that doesn’t look like miniatures at all…

This is primarily a hobby blog. I usually talk about pretty fun stuff, like building miniatures, painting them poorly, and just being an all round fun guy. This is not going to necessarily be all that. Instead, I want to talk about mental health for a second, and a weird thing that I feel is happening to me over time. Feel free to skip! I promise I’ll have tanks and and other fun things in the next one! But not externalizing this is driving me a little crazy, and I want it out in writing.

Right, now that I have that out of the way, I want to ask you something. Have you ever felt really dumb? Like, ‘gee, that was quite silly, why would I do that?’ kind of dumb? I bet you have, and in fact, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t. But what if you felt it was a constant, ever-growing process, happening more often, finding it difficult to remember, saying the wrong things more often.

200+ Free Baggage & Suitcase Images - Pixabay
Pictured; My braincells, going to start a new life in Argentina

That is to say, I feel, literally, quantifiably, dumber then, say, three years ago. Some people I have talked to have attributed this to age; I am nearly 30. But I feel like that is understating the issue. When people turn 30, they don’t usually feel like they are going on 50(Or they do! I have no idea!). My memory feels foggier, my math skills which were already poor are not as sharp as they used to be. Reading difficult, more cerebral works makes my head spin just a little too much to be comfortable. History books, especially, are proving difficult to me, and that concerns me, as those are my favourite kind of book!

Book History Textbook - Free image on Pixabay
Not pictured: a finished history book!

Some of this I can attribute to the fact I have a recognized mental condition, Borderline Personality Disorder….but the medication seems to have both stabilized me and on the flipside altered how I think quite drastically! I am working with my doctor to see if I can’t stem the brain drain effect….but I fear some of the damage has already been done.

I am no conspiracy theorist, I believe in the power of medication and therapy. But this poses an interesting conundrum; How does a rational human mind approach the fact it is not processing simple things quite as easily? How do I learn to live with, well, being just that little bit less sharp, less able to learn things quickly and with ease, like I used to?

This has been an interesting year, and I don’t think if it had gone smoothly that I may have picked up on this as easily. Adulting usually leaves little time for introspective thought. But now that I know something is up, it nags at me. What additional factors could have led to this over the years?

File:Arthur Schopenhauer colorized.png - Wikimedia Commons
Ah, Schopenhauer. What a lovely misguided worldview I adopted from you.

May I present my hypothesis; I had been led to believe as a youth that I was inordinately gifted, and for a while, that may have been true. But eventually, I just stopped trying. As a youth, I had few long term aspirations, no real long term goals. Combined with what I considered a ‘smart, and realistic’ worldview, I stopped really pursuing anything truly challenging, for what was truly the point? I was very arrogant. I was nihilistic. I disagreed with teachers, fellow students who were probably more gifted, professors, bosses. I had a chip on my shoulder, even though I never pushed past getting my high school diploma.

For a while, I thrived. While I wasn’t a university graduate, I could usually keep up with them in debates about politics or ethics in journalism. I avoided math, simply because what was the point? I had a calculator. And, considering I had a pretty sharp head on my shoulders, the facade of being more intelligent then I really was easy to keep up.

Now, after two years of some pretty serious brain medication, and starting to suffer the side effects, the facade is slowly unraveling. I can talk an excellent game, but it is slowly becoming harder to come up with the right words at the right time, or to follow simple direction at work without asking twice what exactly I’m meant to do. I find it harder to concentrate for long periods of time on the same subject. History books, some of my favourite forms of non-fiction, are proving more difficult to chew through and keep the facts straight.

That is the hypothesis….but while I may have subscribed to philosophical pessimism at one point, I don’t really anymore. I want solutions to my ‘brain drain problem’. And my answer, in the typical dodging the problem way I’ve used all my life, is simply to stop playing at being smarter then I am. Instead, it is to try and be wiser.

Dexter Jettster | StarWars.com
And I learned it from Star Wars Episode Two! Have mercy on me, please!

Sometimes an answer comes from somewhere you don’t expect. In, of all things, Star Wars Episode Two: Attack of the Clones (read: probably the worst one!), a bit character drops a piece of solid wisdom.

I should think that you Jedi would have more respect for the difference between knowledge and wisdom.“-Dexter Jettster

All my life, I have always tried to be the smartest person possible, even to the degree of being condescending. All because I placed a value on Knowledge above all. Perhaps losing that ‘sharp edge‘ I may or may not have had was never my real strength? Perhaps instead I should focus on things within my control, not without. I may not be able to stop the ‘brain drain’ completely. But perhaps instead I don’t need to.

I’m not suddenly claiming I’m Yoda or something, but maybe I am saying that I can instead try to be that little bit more wise, perhaps a little bit more wiser then I was yesterday. Put less emphasis on being the smartest I can be, and instead just try to be the best person I can be. Be that little bit more kind, that little bit more supporting. I will stumble, I will fail sometimes. But perhaps challenge is what I need, not what I need to avoid.

Sometimes, wisdom is not being a Jedi. It’s being Dexter Jettster.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Lock-Down!

Preparing for the Long Haul!

Merry Christmas! As I may have stated in previous posts, I am based out of Ontario, Canada. And, as of Boxing Day, the province is starting a 28 day ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown.

While as far as lockdowns go this is fairly relaxed, it does mean I’m both laid off(luckily, not permanently!) and probably staying at home most if not all day. I was running low on supplies, but luckily I had a few good paycheques and decided to treat myself.

Glue for the glue god, Paint for the paint throne!

Those of you who following the blog are mostly likely aware of my recent love-affair with Team Yankee. As my first foray into 15mm wargaming it has been a blast, and building up tiny tanks was actually my project for the first lockdown. While I’m still enthusiastic about completing the British I have begun, I’ve ended up with quite a few ‘modern’ armies, and I am very inefficiently plugging away at all of them. The Fate of a Nation box below is actually meant for my Iranian army.

It is a pretty good deal, with nine T-62s and two Shilka AA vehicles. Fate of a Nation itself I find very interesting, but alas my regular Israeli opponents favour the more ‘cool’ Merkava tank, and selling either of them on the Yom Kippur War is a tough sale indeed. However, seeing as you buy the Iranian unit cards separately anyways, you lose nothing by getting the Egyptian T-62 Battalion box, and actually save a good deal of money.

They are the full plastic kit as well, and I’m well and truly torn between assembling them as Soviet T-62s(which, bizarrely, can ally with Iran in the Oil War timeline…), which gives me solid AT-23 tank punch, or instead using them as Iranian ‘T-62s’, which were more likely North Korean Chonma Ho’s or Chinese Type 69’s in our timeline. Oil War allows the Iranians greater access to the Soviet toolbox then the Ayatollah ever got to play with, and one can take T-62’s en masse as a Revolutionary Guard flavoured tank company. I hopefully will make up my mind soonish!

Now Flames of War, a WW2 15mm game had crossed my radar before, I had always dismissed it because I played WW2 already with Bolt Action. 15mm seemed fiddly and time consuming, and I wasn’t sure I would enjoy the company level scale of the game. Team Yankee has proven I do, in fact, prefer the smaller models for company level actions and higher, and one of my friends in Toronto had gotten into it recently as his lockdown project. While chances are I won’t see him until the vaccines have rolled out, I figured I’d take a chance on the game in the hopes of playing him when the world returns to a sense of normalcy.

I was stuck on either the Soviets or the British, and in the end I went for Shermans instead of T-34s. These Flames of War Late War starters are really good value for money, and with the addition of one extra troop of Sherman V’s, I’m well set to play D-Day and onward with the contents.

For Christmas Eve, I decided to get cracking, and started on the Shermans.

Three 75mm Shermans, with two Fireflies. Two of the 75mm vehicles are going to be my command section, and the two Fireflies will be slotted into the two Troops I will have once the full set is complete. The spare 75mm will be another tank in one of those said Troops.
They are very pretty little tanks, but quite fiddly! I found the Yankee kits to be much easier to assemble. I do love the included tank commanders!
And a 17 Pounder Firefly! A beautiful little tank. My full force sadly only includes these two!

Now I’ve got a lot of stuff to work on. My goal this lockdown is a bit more modest; clear my Flames of War and Team Yankee assembly backlog. Will I succeed? Chances are, no! But it’ll keep me busy and out of trouble. Tomorrow I will crack on with the T-62’s. If I’m feeling particularly handy, I might knock out some WW2 stuff as well!

For now, happy War-gaming wherever in this wonderful world you are, and a very Merry Christmas! Stay Safe everyone!

And The Army Goes Rolling Along: Team Yankee Americans!

America, F**k yeah!

As so often happens in our hobby, I have wheeled and dealed my way into yet another Cold War army. This time, it is the patriotic poster boys themselves, the United States Army.

Valley Forge, Custer’s ranks,
San Juan Hill and Patton’s tanks,
And the Army went rolling along!

This was an interesting deal indeed, as it travelled between several people before eventually ending up in my hands. I was never intending to play Americans, but having an army pretty much fall in your lap is hard to say no to.

My plan is for this army to be a ‘demo’ army, one I can wheel out at the Clubhouse for games if a person doesn’t own a Team Yankee army and wants to try it out. Of course, I’m getting awfully attached to these wee plastic men, so I reserve the right to be selfish and keep the Freedom all to myself.

However, this army was a hodgepodge, mixed from many sources and missing a few of the unit cards. I decided early on that the M60’s (the not-Abrams tanks on the left) would instead be used…for yet another different army. But more on that later. The rest of the force was viable, and I decided to add some of the newer releases, along with the newer book, to my collection.

First up, I added some more modern airborne punch with two Apache gunships. While the jury is out on just how ‘good’ these helicopters are in Team Yankee, the kit itself is beautiful and a great example of how far Battlefront has come in their kit design.

These are robust, well detailed, and well designed models. I had no trouble putting them together!
They are also quite large! Absolutely dwarfing the Cobra gunship on the right!
While the size difference isn’t that comical, it does show just how imposing an Apache really is!

Secondly, two of the Abrams tanks in the army I got were done up as the later M1A1 variant. While, oddly enough, the kit included this option since its release many moons ago, it was never reflected in-game until the American book release this year. As such, I didn’t have the cards.

I also wanted more of them, so I purchased(on sale, might I add!) an additional platoon of Abrams. These will be assembled as 1 M1A1HC, and 4 M1A1 tanks, allowing me in total to field two platoons of three and command of these heavy-weight US bruisers. Expensive points wise, but with T-80’s on the prowl I’ll need the protection…and firepower.

While the rest of the Abrams remain on sprue, I have managed to assemble the command tank. With just the auxiliary power unit being the only difference(on the kit, the real tank differs quite a bit!), I wanted to add some spice to the model.

I was inspired by a model Battlefront did, featuring an ACAV turret from an M113 APC on an M1 Abrams. While in no way historically accurate, or even doable(I have no idea if the cupola would even match up correctly), it had the advantage of looking really cool.

So, I cued the music, and got to work.

The CO peers out, looking for Soviets. Or just posing for Stars and Stripes, who knows?
I also took another massive liberty and replaced the loaders machine gun with yet another gun-shield and an M60 machine gun. Not realistic. Very cool.
Combined with the APU(Auxiliary Power Unit), this command tank will not be mistaken for anything else.
Cutting an imposing figure from the front!
All in all, happy with my work!

While I took some pretty large creative liberties with this tank, I hope it looks good! I personally quite like the effect it gives off, and the calibre of the machine guns remains the same so no conflict with the unit card. Perhaps the Captain here is leading his company into a West German town, and traded for the turret. A tank like this deserves a little story to go with it.

Christmas promises some Bradley’s to go with my Abrams, so I can mount my grunts into some more protected transports. While the M113’s aren’t bad, I did want something similar to my British Warrior IFVs.

Story Pile: Pentagon Wars | press.exe
I may be watching this movie for inspiration!

As for the rest of the army….Since I lacked unit cards for the M109 artillery pieces and the M60 tanks, I had to think for a bit. The M109’s I can easily grab the new plastic M109 kit to add some additional firepower to the battery, and grab a slew of extra cards as well, the M60’s were another matter. I didn’t see myself using them as Americans, Marines or regular Army. And they weren’t kitted out as Magachs for the Israeli variant either. And I know two people with Israeli armies anyways.

But one other nation in Yankee also use M60’s, and that is Iran. With the Team Yankee sale on at Meeplemart in Toronto, I purchased the Iranian unit cards, and two boxes of Ayatollah’s Revolutionaries. While I’ll need to steal a Chieftain command tank from my pile of unbuilt Brits, combined with ten M60 tanks I have, at least at my local level, a viable force.

I’ll be chipping away at my pile of unbuilt Yankee goodness over the next few days during my surgery recovery, so expect a few more blog posts over the holidays. Happy War-gaming wherever you are, and Merry Christmas!