Ripped from the Headlines: Wargaming the Modern Battlefield

Is it as tasteless as some claim? Just like the subject matter, that’s a matter of opinion.

The modern battlefield, while very interesting to wargame….is it too recent to be tasteful? -picture by Mikhail Evstafiev, 1996, of a boy in Grozny

So those of you following my blog may know I’m on a bit of a modern wargaming kick. Spectre Operations, and to a lesser extent, Team Yankee, are both extremely fun and well thought-out gaming systems. But, a nagging thought has been with me for a while, and somewhat reinforced by recent events around the world, outside of wargaming.

This post is not meant to discourage someone from wargaming the modern period. I certainly still will. But sometimes the best way to get a thought out of your head is to write it down.

I should disclose something else that might be relevant; I’m a Pakistani-born Canadian. My parents regularly tell me stories of the mother country, and while they try to tell only the good ones, the bad ones slip through. Pakistan in the 1980’s was an interesting place. Sometimes, my dad will comment on some of the models I’m working on with a unique angle, like how when I was working on my Afghan’s he mentioned working with Pashtun tribesmen during his time with the British Trade Commission. Or my mom will express some distaste at the sight of Kalashnikovs. This experience does colour my gaming somewhat, as most of my friends and wargaming group are, well, white dudes whose background lies in Canada for several generations, and who sometimes fail to understand what a different upbringing my folks must have had compared to their parents.

Islamabadian on Twitter: "#ZeroPoint in 1980's #Islamabad… "
1980’s Pakistan, specifically Islamabad, the Capital.

It was my friend Ty who suggested Spectre Operations to me, and he has a few campaigns he wants to cover specifically. Firstly, Chechnya. This was a war I remember seeing on the television as a young kid in the 90’s, and defined my view of Russians, and Chechens, well into my teenage years, but I was too young to remember the details.

And boy, are there details. The war was utterly savage, utterly without remorse on both sides. There is no clear “good guy” in Chechnya, only shades of very dark grey. Modern jihadists can trace a lot of their tactics to that war, and Afghanistan, which I will cover later. Grozny was an example of Post-Soviet Russian tactics, which lacked subtlety and went for shock and awe, practically leveling the city.

Despite that, or perhaps, because of it, it is a very interesting war to study and play in. Ambushes share the time with large armour movements. Rugged urban fighting contrasts with mountainside warfare. But this is certainly not your average insurgency, as the Chechens were very well armed, and extremely motivated, whereas the Russians were suffering from the Post-Soviet malaise they were just shaking off, and tended to be heavy handed because of it, as well as unmotivated to be fighting a war in general.

With a homemade SMG that wouldn’t look out of place in Fallout, a Chechen rebel takes a quick smoke, and photo, break. Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev-Chechnya, 1996.

This leads well into Afghanistan. One could indeed wargame the Soviet Invasion just as easily as the Coalitions turn later, and both can be problematic. Canadians fought and died there, as did many other nations. And the news coming out of there recently is depressing; Many fought in that region to oust the Taliban, only for them to make sweeping advances as soon as the NATO forces leave. One could make the argument that it was pointless. And NATO is on a whole leaving behind the interpreters and civilians who helped them, and they most certainly will die because of it. Wargaming Afghanistan used to be something I wanted to do, badly, but recent news has taken the wind-out of those sails.

Still, as a wargaming setting, it is perfect; asymmetric warfare at longer then normal engagement ranges, against a tough and determined local populace is great for scenarios. Clearing insurgent weapon caches and ambushes are also interesting things to do in the setting. Going back to the 80’s also allows for some Cold-War proxy fighting goodness, like delivering Stinger missiles to the Mujahedeen.

File:First Sting.jpg
Afghan Mujahedeen using Stinger Missiles on Soviet targets. Painting “The First Sting” by Stuart Brown
A Kiwi soldier and LAV on patrol in Afghanistan. Official photography by CPL Sam Shepherd, New Zealand Defense Force.

The final period discussed between myself and Ty was much more modern then both previous examples. That is, the Crimean Conflict, or War in the Donbas. Polite People vs Ukrainian Army. An extremely compelling, modern war, that lacks the insurgency both previous examples exemplified. This was very much an undeclared shooting war, although one with the gloves clearly still on by both sides for fear of escalation.

This is a war that I have some inside knowledge on. My Russian friend has family in the contested region, and the region is ethnically mostly Russian…however it was still annexed through pretty nefarious means, and the Ukrainians are right to defend their territory. It’s messy. The Ukrainians were so desperate for manpower they raised militias, and some of these militias have less then savory connections, including Neo-Nazi elements. And the Russian raised militia units are just as problematic. And, unlike both previous examples, this war is ongoing. Both sides have proved to be motivated and dogged, and the war doesn’t have an end in sight.

This was probably the most problematic wargaming scenario I could do, and honestly despite Empress making modern Russians in polite people kit(the new Ratnik soldier suite), I still can’t see myself fighting it on my tables in good conscious.

File:2014-06-12. War in Donbass 13.JPG
A Ukrainian soldier in modern kit. The Ukrainians had to rapidly modernize their armed forces in response to the Russian annexation. Pictures of the Ukrainians pre-war are almost indistinguishable from Russians in the 2000’s period. -Unknown photo source, sourced from Wikicommons and presented with a creative commons license.
Meanwhile, their Russian adversaries started strong, and in modern equipment. This was not to be a repeat of the Chechen wars. This was a well motivated, and professional, Russian army. -Photo by Elizabeth Arrott / Voice of America

So where does that leave the modern wargamer? I didn’t cover Iraq, but that is another popular place to wargame, and equally contentious. Let me explain what I’ve decided to do.

Chechnya, despite its ugliness, is in. It’s by no means a modern conflict anymore, and given a gentle and understanding hand, can be wargamed pretty well! The setting offers a lot, and the ‘just on the cusp of being fully modern’ equipment allows for a lot of variety.

Afghanistan is a more interesting take. Had you asked me a week or two ago, I would have been all for it. But now? It leaves a sour taste in my mouth, and I can’t say I can personally stomach gaming “Afghanistan” itself. But the Arma 2 Imagi-nation of Takistan on the other hand….that I will happily wargame. And I can use the models from Afghanistan just as easily in that setting.

The War in the Donbas is definitely out; It’s simply too new for me to cover in any way that doesn’t make me a little uneasy. However, I have referenced the conflict in my Zona Alfa games, as of course the Zone is in the Ukraine, and will continue to do so. The setting lends itself well to the extrapolation. I will probably resort to using another Arma 2 Imagi-nation, the Republic of Chernarus, for any Army on Army conflict. This fictional post-soviet state has much in common with the Ukraine, and while the uniforms differ quite a lot, that is a plus in my book. A fictional military allows you to go hog-wild with the equipment and look, and I will easily use real-life influence to fight the very not real-life setting. No neo-nazi militia for me please!

Green Sea Region in relation to world - Imgur
The fictional Green Sea Region will be seeing a lot of use in my modern games.

Now I’ll address this now; some people might call me an ‘SJW’ for these kinds of views. That is okay, they are allowed that opinion. Personally, I won’t push this thinking on anyone else. They are just my opinions about the Modern wargaming period. But just like any historical period, some nuance is needed if you want to sell the system on others. And these ‘ultramodern’ settings can easily alienate people. Personally, my solution of Imagi-nations allows me some serious lee-way to tell my own stories, and without some of the ugliness(although you can’t get rid of all of it).

Team Yankee sidesteps this neatly; there was no ‘Cold War Gone Hot’ in real life, and thank goodness for that! The setting in that case is inherently fictional. I have heard, however, some complaints leveled at the Oil War expansion. That I can understand, but the timeline is far enough in the past that I personally don’t see the issue on a personal level. Any game that tries to be overly serious and have Anzacs fighting in Europe in the 1980’s can’t really be taken all that seriously, and more the better for it! That being said…I do want to try A Fistful of Tows one of these days.

At the end of the day, as they say in the new Modern Warfare game, you “Draw the Line” where you need to. I have chosen to draw it this way. How might your games differ in that regard? I’d love to know! So leave me a comment.

That is all I have for today. I hope you enjoyed this post, and there will be more hobby oriented stuff as the Postman delivers the goods. For now, Happy War-gaming wherever you are, and до свида́ния comrades!

Conflict Dossier: Takistan

I talk about myself and Ty’s chosen Spectre Operations setting, the country of Takistan!

The country of Takistan has a long and troubled history. Located next to Russia, yet never officially a part of it, this country must always watch its borders.

When Ty got me into Spectre Operations, it was met with a mixed response from me. It’s a slick, well written game with loads of rules for almost every conceivable situation when might encounter on a modern battlefield. But I’m a classic old Grognard, preferring my games set further in the past or in a fictional setting.

Ty was relentless though, and a after a few days binging on some modern war-movies I was sold. He got the rulebook, which we are currently sharing, and a smattering of elite, special forces types and Russian regular army. I on the other hand went with a horde of Afghani’s and some Iraqi style insurgents. This was years ago at this point, and we got distracted by a lot of other games.

It was simply chance when looking for a game to play this weekend, that Spectre got a chance again. We have a good amount of pre-painted Middle East terrain from Black Site Studios, and I had started painting some Canadian infantry for my Zona Alfa projects. I suggested we play it since we had almost everything ready. Ty is working on getting his ‘Deniable Ops’ Russians completed for the weekend. We should be able to feature a fully written and fully painted Battle Report for this weekend!

Now in terms of setting, we could have easily done Afghanistan, Iraq, or one of many other real Middle Eastern locations. But then we would be hamstringed by what is actually happening there, and using their real life history. I suggested a fictional location, using ArmA(a great PC military sim series) and adapting their fictional country of Takistan.

Takistan, what a mess.

Takistan is great since it’s an Afghanistan influenced country with some serious Iraqi flair the further south you get. It has the best of both worlds in terms of wargaming. We aren’t using the game’s depiction as gospel, but rather using the geography and history to tell our own story. We are setting our game in 2022, after Covid-19 has receded and countries are left picking up the pieces.

Takistan in 2022 has been occupied by NATO forces for almost 10 years, and the local insurrection has not gone the way it has in Afghanistan and Iraq. Having learned their mistakes elsewhere, the occupying forces have instead opted for a ‘firm but gentle’ hand in keeping the peace. The Monarchy has been reinstated with the addition of a democratic parliament beneath him. Since this government was popular, the insurgency is manageable and is mainly split between radical islamists and hardline tribals who refuse to acknowledge the official Government. Funding for both groups has dwindled as has recruitment, as Covid-19 vaccine hubs and an accompanying cease-fire to halt the spread has lessened tensions quite a bit.

A Canadian officer, an IDAP worker, and a Village elder try to organize relief supplies, as well as set up a precautionary vaccination centre.

Still, the NATO controlled zones must watch for IEDS, ambushes, and suicide bombers. Many nations maintain troop levels, happy that this was has not developed into a quagmire much like Iraq and Afghanistan has. Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, and more have troops ranging from Canada’s and the US’s rather large commitments to smaller elite forces or medical aid. The UK administers the southern oil-fields, a particularly valuable area to maintain control over. Canada, Germany, France, and a host of smaller nations help administer the North. The Chernarus(another fictional country) border is administered by the US. Finally, a large northern region was annexed by the Russians during the old regimes fall, but were prevented from advancing further by the appearance of western troops. This northern border is now a dangerous powder keg, with NATO forces being deployed to guard it.

The rest of the country is administered by the Takistani National Army, who have been heavily trained by the NATO forces involved. While not the best soldiers around, they have maintained good control of the country, with only a few missteps. They do have a problem with local insurgents infiltrating their ranks, and absconding with gear or causing chaos internally, but more stringent requirements to join have helped matters.

A rather relaxed patrol of Takistani National Army walk along a road in Zargabad, the capital.
A relic from a different war, this insurgent has posed for a photograph beside a MI-17 shot down by his grandfather during the 80’s Soviet Invasion.
Canadian soldiers clear a compound with confirmed insurgent presence.
Canadian soldiers patrol near an IDAP relief supply truck. This patrols in the capital are known for being relaxed, easy duty due to low insurgent presence.
Canadian soldiers pose for a Newspaper photo going back home.

Takistan is actually not that dangerous, and most countries are reducing their combat presence. This has been noticed by the Russians, who have had attacks launched from their occupied territories by soldiers in unmarked gear. While Russia denies all official involvement, it is clear that these attacks are not insurgent in nature. Tensions begin to rise again, and the Green Sea Region prays for peace, but prepares for war.

I am really quite excited for this game! I enjoyed my brief trial game of Spectre, and with a setting locked in we can expand with terrain and figures to really go nuts. I have a lot of Afghani tribal infantry I can repurpose as Takistani hillmen, and some Iraqi looking types for urban Insurgents. I would like to grab some Takistani National Army, which could be easily represented by Afghan National Army models, or really any generic middle eastern models!

My Canadians are slowing getting done, and I got 5 more painted today! While bases for Zona Alfa, they should fare just fine for Spectre. I will be grabbing an LAV-III on payday for them to ride in. Lets take a peek at what I got done!

The group shot! Lots of Canadian goodness.
A C7 with underbarrel grenade launcher. This will be quite handy when fighting Elite level enemies.
Another C7 Rifleman, with his rifle low and keeping an eye out for threats.
A NCO looking feller. This pose is fantastic. A lot of natural looking poses on offer here.
A C7 rifleman, looking ahead.
A C9 Saw gunner will be useful for some suppressing fire.
And the guys I got done yesterday for convenience! I’ll paint up 6 more tomorrow!

These Canadians will be fighting a force of Russian Special Forces on an HVT retrieval mission, the first instance of Russian on NATO violence in our new campaign. Of course, the Russians aren’t wearing flags or anything to identify them as Russians, so it’ll be a fun little narrative thing to write up once we are done.

My buddy Ty over at Hussars and Handgrenades will be posting his Russian forces tomorrow, or I will heckle him a second time. So feel free to go see his models! I’m amazed at how good his camo is, so it’ll be worth your time.

But anyways, that is all I have for you today. Feel free to join me tomorrow as I crack on with more Canadian infantry! Happy War-gaming wherever you are, and keep your head on a swivel eh!

A Most Gentlemanly Vice: Pipe Smoking like a Hobbit!

“Longbottom Leaf! The finest weed in the Southfarthing.”

A fine gift of Baccy on my Birthday, enjoyed with good company!

I’ve been an avid Pipe-smoker since I was but 23. After a rough exit from College, where I had to give up on a promising chance at a career I would have loved due to a medical emergency. I was forlorn, bitter, and very disappointed in myself. My anxiety was at an all time high, to the point where I couldn’t walk around outside without the sheer panic making me go back inside again. It was a dark time.

But, I decided I needed a new hobby. Something fun, a vice that wasn’t too bad in the grand scheme of things. I found a local tobacconist, just a mere 45 minutes walk away. And something inside me, definitely inspired by Tolkien, wanted to get a Pipe. It took everything I had to make that walk, but I got there.

Look at what you’ve done old man! Still, the Good Professor steered me into a great hobby, so I can’t be too mad.

A gruff gentleman, probably in his late 50s, was running this small hole in the wall tobacco shop. I asked “Do you have any Tobacco pipes?” He replied, “I don’t sell bongs here.” I asked again “I want a tobacco pipe, a wood one.” He replied. “You can’t smoke weed out of those either.” On my final legs, I said “I want a tobacco pipe. To smoke Tobacco out of it.”. His eyes finally lit up!

“My boy, I haven’t had a customer ask for one of those in 10 years, and certainly not someone so young. My apologies. Here, I have one pipe left.” It was an old Lorenzo pipe. I bought it, and armed with some Colts tobacco, a tamp tool, and some matches…I started a hobby that in many ways pre-dates my renewed interest in Tabletop Wargaming.

Of and on for the next six years, it became a part of my identity. When my peers at Canada’s Wonderland’s Special Maintenance Department would smoke Exports, DuMauriers, and the occasional cigarillo, out came the pipe. When a senior Security Guard would pull out his fancy cigars, out came me with my pipe to smoke with him and outdo his pretentiousness with my, weapons grade pretentiousness.

The pipe was put aside when I began to date someone who was anti-smoking, and I was able to cut a deal where I could smoke very infrequently only at events and parties. The pipe outlasted her. When I moved from the city to the country, it came along.

My friend Ty smoked Cigars though, and the pipe was but on the back burner. We enjoyed many fine Cuban cigars on the beach, in better times. But before long, out came the pipe. Before a friends wedding, we stopped and grabbed supplies. Fancy cigars, and a fresh tin of Dunhill Ready Rubbed. This was in 2020, before the pandemic. We had plans of a beautiful spring and summer of wargaming and smoking. This never got to happen.

Covid put a damper on that, and I barely got to see my friend in-between lockdowns, quarantines, shutdowns, etc. Until this last weekend, where being vaccinated allowed for small outdoor gatherings. My Birthday weekend, in fact. I had burned through all my Ready Rubbed between weekly smoking, my friends wedding, etc.

My friend had brought a kingly gift; I had done research into Tolkien’s favourite tobacco blend, Capstan Original Flake(blue), and he had grabbed me a tin of it. I had bought him his first real tobacco pipe last year but he wanted to wait until I could give it to him personally to smoke it.

Capstan Original Flake - Pipes and Cigars
Tolkien’s Favorite out of all the myriad of tobacco he smoked.

And so began my birthday weekend, full of smoking, sushi, burgers, and good cheer!

Two friends, long apart. Together again, to kill our lungs.
Happy with my gift to him, Ty smokes his new pipe!
I had never seen tobacco cut like this before…but I now drastically prefer it.
Ty still had some of his Cigars left….but by the end of the day we both declared Pipe Smoking had won the day.

Of course, all good things must come to an end. So he left back for the city, promising to come visit as soon as able to do this again.

Having found the Capstan a fine smoke, I’m going to go looking for a few more tins. Being in a contemplative mood about my age, and working through that in a healthy way for my mind, I began to smoke on my deck or back porch. Taking in nature, listening to Howard Shore’s Shire theme as I just sit back, relax, and let everything melt away.

Taking in the sights of rural Ontario, right on the coast of Lake Huron. I’ll get some pictures by the bridge later!
And in my backyard, a lovely, lived in space.

Then I went a bit silly with the Prisma filters and took some fancy pictures.

It’s a pretty photo edit of a pretty place!

It’s been a great weekend, and a lovely introduction to my 30s.

There will be some more Wargaming content coming soon, focused primarily on VBCW and Battletech! So stay tuned for that.

But for now, I must go. Happy War-gaming where-ever you are, and have a beautiful week!

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.

Lest we Forget: A small tribute to a man I never knew.

I’ll keep this brief, as this is not supposed to be a post solely to get views. Remembrance Day is very important to me, but I also just started a new job today, and had to mark my moment of silence while working. I don’t have a lot of pictures; My grandfather burned them after the war to spite the British.

In 1939, Austin Turner went to war. A youth, from middle upper-class gentry, and schooled in the British fashion, the reason he went to volunteer is unknown to us. As an Anglo-Indian, considered to be a “Non-Warrior” race, he wasn’t actively sought out. A sort of reverse racism. But nonetheless, as the Empire went to war against Nazi Germany, he found himself in military service.

Eventually, he found himself in the Western Desert, fighting against Rommel and his Afrika Korps as part of the 8th Army, the famous ‘Desert Rats’. In fact, he was an Engineer, helping clear the minefields of El Alamein.

Now this is where the story gets weird. He ended up as a navigator on an LRDG truck, (and in actual fact, this is where I got the name for this blog; Their unit motto was “Non Vi Sed Arte“, Latin for “Not by Strength, By Guile), and this is where the trail goes cold, and difficult to follow. He was in one of the English/South African patrols, according to family folklore.

He recalled serving in Yugoslavia, and was wounded in action in 1943. Returning to Egypt, he helped open a Singer sewing machine factory(which, if I recall correctly, is still there today!) and was quite a character in the Egyptian yacht community. Finally coming back to India in 1945, and in 1947 was bitterly disappointed with how Britain handled Partition, burned his passport and British citizenship, and became an avid Pakistani patriot. Running a salvage operation, breaking down ships, he finally died sometime in the 70’s from complications due to smoking. (My dad, who knows the exact date, is always broken up when asked, and for the sake of an internet article, I won’t ask).

A replica set of medals, given to each of the grandchilden. The full set is in Australia with my family there.

This man, who I never met, was apparently a gruff, stern, built like a truck individual. The polar opposite of myself. Yet his influence on my upbringing was staggering. I spent much of my formative years tracking his progress across the Western Desert campaign, and told tales of his exploits to my schoolyard friends. His bayonet, ground down into a fighting knife during his posting to the LRDG, is a unique heirloom exclusive to my family.

My interest in history, the Second World War, and the Western Desert campaign all comes from a man who in 1939, went to war, and was never the same again. He was not alone in my family; A great uncle went to Burma, and was captured and worked in prison camps not far different then the Bridge on the River Kwai, and if I’m not mistaken, WAS actually where he ended up. My Grandfather on my mothers side didn’t serve, but worked in the news, editing articles and getting them up for the evening news.

My family now finds itself in two Commonwealth nations, remembering our veterans quietly, as to not take away from the fact we are honouring Canadian and Australian veterans in our respective nations. But we remember our contribution to the Commonwealth and Britain in general. While my Grandfather may have been bitter about Partition, he was still an outstanding soldier, and that is how I choose to remember him. As I do all my family’s veterans.

Lest we Forget.

An Old Dream, Long Remembered: Childhood Goals in Dark Times

A new, grand goal.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
-JRR Tolkien

Fair warning, this is minis lite: This is something I plan to do, not currently have ready! It reads more like an essay. This is the beginnings, the first steps…the first stones that start an avalanche. It’s not going to be for all of you! And that’s okay. Its a bit depressing too, at first.

It has been a rough year for all of us. Between Covid, Lockdowns, Quarantines, Restrictions, one could get tired of it all. I can be tough to cope.

Frodo Baggins' entire backstory explained
Buckle up Frodo, you got a long way to go!

For myself, especially, and for the first and last time I’ll mention on this blog, it has been a particularly close run thing. My mental health has taken serious blows, and it brought myself closer to the brink then I’d like to admit. Let me be perfectly blunt. I’m happy to be alive. I’ve come out of the darkness with a pretty renewed sense of purpose, drive, and motivation to not let the little things pass-me-by.

J. R. R. Tolkien quote: I will not say, do not weep, for not all...
Sometimes a hard-lesson is the only way to learn what matters.

In the midst of all of this, Games Workshop quietly announced Quest for the Ringbearer, a supplement for the Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game. Having received my copy yesterday, I finally got a chance to sit down, and read it. A pretty good supplement, barring some minor spelling errors and potential rules gaffes. The campaign is akin to the journeybooks of old, but updated for the most current ruleset and party to some of the more balanced versions of the included scenarios I’ve seen.

Middle-earth SBG - Dunlendings - Page 34 - Forum - DakkaDakka | Roll the  dice to see if I'm getting drunk.
Finally, worthy tomes exist to replace these great but long since out of print epics

If it was just that, I’d have been happy, but included were a couple additional treats; a full fantasy Fellowship campaign modification, and most crucially to me, an up to date way to fight ALL of the Fellowships battles using all currently released books. This is something brand new, and very exciting!

War Comes to Rohan™! - Warhammer Community
This, and the Gondor at War book, complete the whole Trilogy of epic content.

Indeed, it brings me back to a childhood dream of a much younger version of me, twinkles in his eyes and full of naivety as I fought battles across my living room floor. I wanted to do the books AND the movies justice, nailing the feel of both. A full Fellowship playthrough, with bespoke terrain, painted armies, and good company.

I dreamed in my youth of taking the Fellowship, all parts of it, across Middle-Earth on an adventure to end an age.

For the first time in living memory, I have both the drive and willpower to see it through. I have the collection my thirteen year old self couldn’t even dream of owning. I have many good friends willing to go on an adventure, lending me their Sword, Bow, or Axe to the cause. From Bag-End to Mount Doom, from Rivendell to Rohan and Gondor, to the Black Gate itself.

I'm Going On An Adventure! | Know Your Meme
Adventures are better with friends!

It fills me with joy and excitement, something that can be difficult to muster in this age of uncertainty. It could take years for me to complete such an undertaking. It could see missteps, mistakes. But yet my excitement holds true. I work best with a goal, however distant, in mind.

The man I have become these last few years isn’t the one I thought I’d be, better or for worse. But for the kid I was, that happy go lucky pre-teen who broke the seal on the Return of the King Starter Box back in 2003….I’ll follow Frodo and Aragorn’s journeys across Middle Earth. A dream, now a future.

Image for post
And its WORTH fighting for.

I hope you good folks out there can forgive a man getting a few things off his chest, and finding hope in the smaller things in life. I don’t like to dwell on such unhappy, if motivational topics, and your regularly scheduled dose of wargaming content will continue on Wednesday evening! But in the mean time, Happy Wargaming where-ever you might be, and may you find some inspiration in the strangest places!

For King OR Country: First Steps into A Very British Civil War!

img_8638
They aren’t perfect. But I printed them at home!

In my last post, I mentioned that my 3D printer was arriving the day after. As one can guess from my utter lack of posting since, I have been busy enjoying my personal resin miniature machine. It’s a not insignificant learning curve, and I can’t claim to be 100% proficient at the process yet. But, for my stated goal of printing tanks, it has not failed me.

img_8444
The Phrozen Sonic Mini, doing its black magic. In goes liquid resin, out comes Tanks!

On the other hand, a few weeks ago, I mentioned that a friend and I had bought into A Very British Civil War, a setting based on King Edward VIII’s abdication crisis in 1936. Before I give you a quick synopsis, fair warning here, I’m not a Britisher myself, I may get some details wrong, but lets carry on with it, shall we? King Edward had attained the throne upon the death of his father, King George V.  However, the young king was sort of a playboy, and had fallen away from his womanizing ways by wanting to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee. To our modern eyes, this doesn’t seem so bad.

The_Prince_of_Wales_at_the_Front_(Photo_24-283)
Prince Edward in the First World War. He was a member of the Grenadier Guards, but never allowed to see service. Admittedly a rather handsome young man, and his leave in Paris was…educational for the young Prince on the art of wooing ladies.

Wallis_Simpson_headshot
However, he met his match in the 30’s in Wallis Simpson. An admittedly pretty lady, who proceeded to nearly cause a country to crumble!

But back then, it was a massive deal, and one that threatened to cause a serious issue in the United Kingdom. Parliament, to not go into too much detail, had said they wouldn’t support such a move. King Edward deliberated for pretty much the entirety of 1936. During that time, he showed an inclination towards supporting Fascism, which is probably the more dangerous part of this whole crisis. He was friends with Hitler later on!

Prinz Harrys Urgroßonkel Herzog von Windsor traf Hitler
The Duke of Windsor, as Edward was styled after his adication, during a trip to Germany. He did the whole touristy thing, did as the Germans did. Which, in 1937 was Nazi Salutes and meeting good Ole Hitler.

Now, in our history, King Edward abdicates the throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson, and while a thorn in the side of British foreign relations, he played no serious further part in history. In the timeline of A Very British Civil War, however, he decides he’d like both, please. By keeping the throne, and marrying Simpson, Parliament collapses on itself. Some stay loyal to King Edward, but most resign. The government is on the brink of collapse. In order to keep things going, King Edward decides to invite someone to take charge, and appoints a Prime Minister.

King_Edward_VIII_opening_Parliament
King Edward opening Parliament during his brief reign.

He chooses Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists, and confirmed absolute jerk, who then proceeds to fill Parliament with a heavily Fascist majority, and placing his Blackshirts as an actual, legal, paramilitary. This does not sit well with a large part of the country, but he still manages to keep a lid of things. This is, until, a royal parade.

Oswald-Mosley-rally-London
Like a British Hitler, with a much more stupid mustache!

Traveling via armored car out of fear for his life, King Edward was being escorted by the Guards regiments, and several columns of British Union of Fascist “police”men. Someone fires a shot. Utter pandamonium reigns as King Edward makes his getaway, but the British Union Fascists turn their guns on the crowd. The Guards, in part but not entirely, fire at the Fascists! No one knows who shot first. In the aftermath, the country falls into collapse. The non-English Guard regiments are disbanded, and the Welsh, Irish, and Scots Guards are sent home in disgrace. The perceived insult leads many of these men to join the ever increasing and violent opposition to Mosley and his King. The many, many factions start to group together into loose coalitions.

1200px-Compassrose_Flag.svg

The Anglican League, middle class England, starts to form militias out of cricket teams, former soldiers, and various parts of your typical British village. They rally around Anglican dioceses, and start to form a mild-large religious front. They are a loose federation, all fight Mosley, but few groups agree what happens after. Some even consider working with the Socialists for a greater say in post war reconstruction.

Flag_of_the_Communist_Party_of_Great_Britain_(Marxist–Leninist).svg

The Socialists get a huge shot in the arm, now convincing many lower class workers that the time is right for vast social reform, a revolution! Support from the Comintern is forthcoming, and many veterans of the Spanish Civil War join the ranks. They too differ in ideology; Some are more Leninist, some prefer hard-line Stalinism, and a few broach the dangerous territory of being Trotskyites. Some are willing to work with the Anglicans on broad goals, some refuse on principle. Some actually don’t want Soviet help, while others jockey to please Moscow.

1024px-Coat_of_arms_of_the_United_Kingdom_(1837-1952).svg

The Royalists are in a bad spot; They control most of the Army, and the Royal Air Force overwhelmingly supports Mosley and the King. The Navy is actually not touched upon in great deal in the setting, but I’d like to think that, inspired by global events elsewhere, some go Socialist, as mutineers rise up on their ships. Some go to follow the other claimant to the throne, Prince Albert, to Canada. And some stay loyal, but probably with the least amount. What they do maintain is extremely well trained Regulars, a good Territorial Army system, but with some of the major arms suppliers being now in rebel hands, they are fighting a war of attrition, in both losses of men to bullets or desertion, or difficulty maintaining supplies.

1920px-Flag_of_the_British_Union_of_Fascists.svg

The Fascists, while nominally on the same side as King Edward, are jockeying and using the turmoil to make themselves more and more ingrained into every part of governance and warfare, a move that Royalists can’t stop but don’t have to like. Mosley recruits fanatical youth, forming a military around his BUF. His new Legions take the name of famous kings and folk heroes of Britain. But really, the jackbooted thugs find themselves in a gamble; if they win this war, Fascism is entrenched and the UK saved from undesirables. If they do not, the reprisals will end them. Simple as.

1200px-Flag_of_Scotland.svg

The Scots, having had quite enough of this silly stuff, turn into a self governing Republic. They suffer from internal issues as most of their officers wish to reunify upon Scottish victory, and become part of a Union again. Jacobites in the Highlands bring up the Stuart claims to the throne…again. The Scots really just want to defend their ancestral lands, and force a peace deal to secure this.

1920px-Flag_of_Wales_(1807–1953).svg

The Welsh, ever fractious, can’t form a national resistance, and naturally form into similar groups as the English did. A few want an independent Wales, however, and are willing to fight for it. Now if only they could all agree on how to do that….

255px-Flag_of_Ireland.svg

The Irish, wisely sensing they can get away with it, occupy Ulster and Belfast. Ireland is now united, albeit temporarily. Ireland now sits, and waits to see how the sides respond. Eamon de Valera might be able to keep Ulster if he backs the winning horse, but will the luck of the Irish help them choose right?

1024px-Coat_of_Arms_of_Albert,_Duke_of_York.svg

Finally, Prince Albert, in exile in Canada(from this point on, this is conjecture. And this is the lore we are using in my games among friends.) seeks the aid of the Canadian government. An Expeditionary Force is authorized, and while badly under-equipped in aircraft and armoured vehicles, a few of each are attained. Fellow British exiles join this Force, and they make for the coast of Wales. Upon landing, and setting a defensive perimeter, they are approached by envoys of the local political factions. He dismisses the Socialists outright, unwilling to work with a party that seeks to abolish the throne; He will fight them as hard as he will Mosley. The Anglicans are a much more interesting case; interested in fighting for a claim to the throne, back the Albertines. However, some talk in the Anglican ranks seems to push them to ask for concessions, and perhaps stricter religious laws. The Canadian bulk of the Expeditionary Force is seen by some as foreign invasion; to alleviate concerns, detachments of local Anglicans are embedded into the command structure of the Force. The Canadians are eager to restore who they feel is the true King to the throne, and bring a staunch professionalism and grit to the otherwise undertrained militia flocking to the Albertine banner.

Okay, now that the ‘brief’ summary is out of the way, for those of us unfamiliar with the setting. I honestly got carried away writing it! It was an absolute blast. I really enjoy the setting, what can I say?

As I said last time, My buddy is playing the Albertines, with Anglican support. A very traditional faction, with some cricket teams and some other goofy stuff planned for late. Here are some pics of what he’s started on!

A BEF box, Command, Vickers Machine gun, and a boat to carry them home to the Rainy Isle. He’s got more coming!

As for me, I did two large orders of infantry, one from Footsore Miniatures for my BUF, and another from Gripping Beast for WW1 Infantry, to be used as Territorial Army(Reservists) serving the Royalists. They have not yet arrived; Hopefully soon! Both companies have been in touch to ensure that they do.

img_8668
A whole of bad dudes; And, what I presume, is a large amount of black primer!

img_8667
The good ole Territorial Army. Going to war with what their father’s would have, and dressed pretty damn close. I have 4 platoons in there! so I should be set for both BUF and Territorial Army.

 

Of course, what is clearly lacking here is vehicles. Having already got a 3D printer, I decided to try scaling up two 15mm models, and adding in a 28mm tank on that as well. Now this is a learning curve, a lot went wrong at first until I learned my machine a little better.

74458ed7-c8c1-4174-af65-5737d6974375
The Assembly Line of Resin Goodness!

My first prints were a couple 40k and Fantasy related things, but I wanted to print an armored vehicle. I settled on the Rolls Royce Armored Car, model of 1920.

img_8508
Hmmm, something doesn’t look right.

After this failure, I fixed the issue with the supports, and produced my first battlefield ready model! It is far. far from perfect. And I can tweak it to make it better! But let me show you!

img_8517
Much better! A few issues with the tires, but very gameable.

 

With a nice solid coat of a nice green, it is ready for painting! I’m quite pleased, even thought its far from perfect. These were a common vehicle, and it’ll serve as a fairly quick machine gun position, moving along roads to secure key positions.

Morale restored, I decided to do a small Vickers “Dutchman” tank, an export model meant for the Dutch East Indies. Meant for police and enforcement, this tank was woefully under-equipped to fight the Japanese in 41-2. But in the VBCW setting, they will be nimble, small, decently well equipped gun platforms. My intention is that General Fuller has requested as many fast, light, tanks as he can get a hold of, trying to prepare for a blitzkrieg across the English countryside, and the Dutch order gets cancelled and vehicles pressed into service.

img_8644
It’s so widdle!

Finally, feeling confident I could tackle something larger, I started on a Vickers Medium Mk2. This tank is a key part of many VBCW armies, as it was common in service and training roles, and many could see service on any side. On this tank, the Turret Peg simply didn’t print, and as a large piece to hold the turret in, it was kind of important. This was fixed by a convenient off cut of plastic pipe a plumber left behind; perfect fit, and cut to size!

As well, the 3 Pounder Barrel didn’t print entirely. I decided to replace it with a pen tube. I can always print more, and I have gone back and fix the print. The real disaster came when the tracks came out seriously warped; it took a lot of rubber bands and hot water warping tricks to get it to this not entirely satisfactory result. But, it’ll serve just fine, and while very noticable, won’t affect my enjoyment of using it in a game! I love this tank, and this will form the core of my tank force. with a 3 Pounder gun, it is actually well equipped to deal with other armor it might encounter.

img_8654
Tissue armor, slow, slab sided. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love this model.

Now since two of these models are scaled up from 15mm, I needed to see if they still looked the part! So I did a scale test with a Bolt Action plastic 8th Army soldier.

No major issues, and consulting the internet shows that while a hair too small, they are perfectly usable. 1/56th scale is common for Bolt Action, and seeing as we are using that rule-set, we decided to keep the vehicles that size. As well, my infantry in the mail are much smaller and finer in detail then the Warlord plastic model I’m using here. It should, altogether, make a striking force to look at on the table!

That is all I really got for today! But look on Monday for some sweet Zona Alfa related content!

This has been a fun experience, the printer. For printing obscure models from the Interwar years, it has been invaluable. I will continue to collect store-bought and boutique models, but as a tool to make some cool stuff, color me happy and impressed.

If you are a old school veteran Very British Civil War player, please let me know if I’m off to a good start. As a foreigner, some concepts here might escape me. And If anyone can help with flavour, I’m all ears! Happy to be joining a setting that has interested me for almost seven years!

Until next time, Happy War-Gaming, where you might be! I’m off to watch some Blackadder Goes Forth, Bertie and Wooster, and some Peaky Blinders to get into the flavour of things. Have a wonderful day!

 

Soviet Steel: 3D Printed BTR-70

img_8356
Great detail, low cost. Is this the way of the future?

When I needed to procure terrain for Zona Alfa, I looked at a great deal of Soviet armor on many websites. Some, like Empress Miniatures, offered beautiful sculpts with great detail, but it had one issue; price! I needed abandoned vehicles, not wrecks, but simply left to decay in the Zone after their crew disembarked and never returned for some reason or another.

While talking this over with a few of my fellows at https://badlypaintedminis.ca, one guy, Cody, offered to print me up a few. I was skeptical, as I thought the resulting model would look like trash. I had seen his own 3D prints before, and while frankly amazing, it was primarily bits for his 40k army to lend flavour, nothing on this scale. But, it was for terrain, so I decided I didn’t care if they didn’t turn out perfect; after all, I’d be covering the thing in rust, mud, moss, and other detritus.

img_8139
Damn, that looks good? What is this?

After a while, he sent me an in-progress picture, shown above. I was astonished, this looked considerably better then I imagined. Especially since we had decided to scale up a 15mm print to 28mm. The details, gun barrel, and vents especially, came out sharp and extremely detailed. Sure, it wouldn’t hold a candle to a dedicated 28mm model such as what Empress offers, but it was still incredible!

(for reference, this is the file we used: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4062110, go check it out! Thank you, Ollie1269! )

It took several weeks for Cody to make his way up from the City to come over to the Clubhouse, where we have a limit of ten people currently at a time. Finally, we did meet up, and I took possession of two great looking BTR-70’s!

They weren’t perfect of course, but honestly? They still looked far and away better then I thought. And the cost, as I had paid for the resin used as a courtesy, was minimal. I was looking at a much higher budget for one, and instead got two, with plenty of change to spare. Now the usual scale for Zona Alfa is roughly considered anywhere from 1/56th to 1/43rd for vehicles, so these are a little smaller then you might expect. But on the consumer-friendly printer Cody has, we couldn’t go much bigger!

img_8358
Here, shown in scale with three Lead Adventures miniatures. These BTR’s will look even better with my smaller Eureka sculpts. This is still a very reasonable size!

While Cody was in the City, I asked him to buy me a couple cans of Vallejo Spray, one color being Russian 4BO. I wanted to get these primed quickly to see how they would look, and I rushed to do so. After all, I had a game lined up for Zona Alfa and these would be far better then the Sherman hull I had used previously.

This color worked great! It filled in the very small print lines, and left models with a very smooth, almost store bought quality, finish. Suitably dressed up with some moss, and thrown unto a table, they turned our Citadel Realm of Battle table into the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone quite effectively!

The game we played was fun, fast, and violent. As we are testing the waters and rules before going in deep for a campaign, this was a one-off game, and all sides were therefore incredibly reckless and trigger-happy, something I don’t anticipate will continue once we start for real.

All in all, we are quite happy with the game! One of us with an FDM printer is printing a full Soviet Bunker complex from Black Site Studios, a process he believes will take a couple weeks. https://blacksitestudio.com/bunker-16, if your curious. It’ll be a great set-piece for our final campaign excursion.

This whole thing has also convinced me to purchase my own Phrozen Sonic Mini, and quite luckily a supplier in Taiwan was having a screaming deal, and I managed to get it at a decent price. It arrives tomorrow! It’ll be a learning curve, but being able to print some terrain and bits for all my games will be nice. And tanks, a lot of tanks. Frankly an unneeded amount of tanks. So. Many. Tanks.

Of course, as you may see, there are three BTR’s in the above picture. Not everything goes perfectly each time when you print something. And the third BTR…well it suffered a bit of damage.

The nose of this BTR has warped and broken off a bit. Again though, this minor issue was easily overlooked for the purposes of making terrain, especially Zone terrain. Something clearly sliced through this with a massive claw, or it drove into a temporal anomaly. It’s easy to imagine a scenario where this could happen!

These miss-prints are sort of a learning error, and in this case it was because it was a new resin to Cody and he hadn’t worked out the kinks yet. His other two are practically perfect, for the purposes I’m using them for at least.

I’m quite excited to get my printer, learning mistakes be damned. I found quite a few Patreon’s, Zona Alfa related or otherwise, and I’ll be doing prints from them as soon as I can. You will still see lots of classic, metal miniatures on this blog, I simply love them too much.

But the times, they are a changin! I’m going to be trying this new part of the Hobby, with gusto! I really think this will disrupt the industry, in both good and bad ways, and with easily available, and affordable, 3D printers now commonplace, will we see the demise of certain parts of the hobby?

But, to leave you on a happy note, I will continue to document my progress in the Zone, fellow STALKERS. For now, Happy War-gaming, wherever you might be! Have a great day!

 

Zona Alfa: Preparing for a Zone Excursion!

ss_turner_06-16-20_00-08-48_(l07_military)
Ah, another radiation fueled sunrise.

I said come in! Don’t stand there!

Okay, now that I got that out of my system, welcome back! In my last post, I expressed frustration that I didn’t have much to write about since, well, nothing had arrived for my current passion project, Zona Alfa. Well, as the saying goes, good things come to those who wait, and I got the rest of my needed models to play Zona Alfa in two days of package delivery goodness. A village from Sarissa Precision, their Russian one to be specific. I had also ordered a bunch of Lead Adventure miniatures, and this had turned out to be quite a laborious task.

You see, Lead Adventures, because of Deutsche Post having issues shipping to North America and elsewhere, currently only ship to the UK and the EU. Luckily, I have family in the United Kingdom, and I had an order ship to them, and them to me. This combined with a prior order from Magister Militum in the UK, would give me the bulk of my Pripyat Stalkers. The latter order was split in half, since they didn’t have all of what I ordered…

All three orders shipped weeks apart. They all arrived almost together, in a span of two days. Honestly, it was kind of awesome.

This first batch is particularly ragtag. They would not be out of place in Metro 2033, a distinctly post-apocalyptic experience. As I’ve said before, STALKER, and in turn, Zona Alfa, is not inherently post-apocalyptic, since it is both localized and people come of their own free will to the Zone.

However, these models still fit in perfectly; They look like a bunch of unaffiliated individuals, perfect for an Independent team. I will focus on painting these as individuals, with no real unifying theme other then being very, very grubby. I’ll point out my favorite of the bunch, and talk about why I like this one so much.

img_8241
“They say the Zone is a harsh mistress. That implies that you had any control in the first place, tovarishch. The Zone simply is.”

This model is simply perfect, at least in my very personal definition of what that is. A rugged, veteran Stalker who has clearly been around the block (or Reactor, as it were), and I can see him leading teams of Cordon-fresh rookies to their demise. The model itself tells a story quite well, and is full of character. The trench-coat and well-maintained rifle, a sturdy gas-mask and pouches full of goodies. This guy is simply cool, and probably why I bought the whole set.

On the other hand, these guys are far more equipped. I would hesitate to call them military, but that in-game distinction for Zona Alfa probably fits them the best. To use a faction from the STALKER games, they look a lot like Duty, the paramilitary group dedicated to eradicating the Zone and its various dangers.

With not quite uniform equipment, but with a heavy Russian/Ukrainian military influence, these guys feel like trained soldiers. I particularly like the the two Stalkers with AS VAL assault rifles, larger-bore integrally suppressed weapons that pack a mean punch over short distances.

I really like these guys, and I’m looking forward to using them as a more elite team.

img_8285
“Deadly anomalies, dangerous mutants, anarchists and bandits… None of them will stop Duty on its triumphant march towards saving the planet!” –Duty Propaganda

Of course, these are some very “old school” models. Chunky, with large weapons, hands, feet, etc. I actually love models like these, as I find they take washes well, and look great once painted. But they are definitely not for everyone; Anyone looking for more “realistic” models will probably be happy with other miniatures.

I believe these are hand-sculpted, which also is a very traditional style. Modern models are quite often designed in CAD and 3D-printed to produce a master, from which are made either resin models or plastic sprues. Models of this type are getting more and more rare, with most being older lines or in this case, specifically made to fill this niche.

I do in fact like both styles, and I only care about consistency for models within a team, not across the collection, so there is a little bit of room across the board for any style of models in my Zone.

img_8288
Scale Comparison! From Left to Right: Spectre Miniatures, Lead Adventures, Eureka Miniatures. Even with the base on the Spectre guy being shorter, he is still quite tall! This Eureka miniature is one of their newer ones, and as such holds up pretty well scale wise, their older line up of NBC suited soldiers are quite a bit smaller.

Like you can see in the above picture, my collection is quite eclectic! But none of these guys will rub shoulders in the same camp, only venturing to fight the Zone or each other, and in that case, it won’t matter overly match if they don’t match.

Now I do have a marked preference for metal miniatures; I like their heft, and the fact that they remain stupidly easy to strip of paint if I mess up. Playing a 2000 point metal Imperial Guard army in 40k has set me up for working with this materiel quite well. But it does require a bit of work.

img_8251
Going for a swim! Unfortunately, Dawn Dish Detergent will not remove horrible radiation burns.

I soak all the models for a few minutes in soapy water, then scrub them with a toothbrush. Then I rinse them in a new source of soap-free water, then take them out to air-dry. It doesn’t take long, and on some manufacturers it isn’t essential, but I find it greatly increases the strength of the base-coat’s adhesion to the model. If your going to paint them, you might as well give them the best possible start!

img_8252
Looking clean, and ready for some paint!

Now, I’ve got a lot of work to do, getting crews painted, terrain assembled and painted, and various other tasks. However, this won’t prevent me from getting my first game of Zona Alfa in tomorrow! After all this build-up, I’m really excited to get an idea of what the game plays like.

We have a lot of terrain at our communal clubhouse, and with local conditions being favorable to cautious social-distancing gaming, it should give me a good idea of what else I need play a full-scale campaign. I’ll be using a basic, low threat first mission, and I can start tweaking things to my preference as I go. There is a bit of local interest in the game, and I’m hoping to have it take off a bit!

Now the rest of this article has substantially less pictures…so bear with me, or tune it if you’d like, I won’t hold it against you!

My last post about Zona Alfa on this blog, was, frankly, an outrageous success. I got a really warm welcome over on the official Facebook group, so if any of you are coming from there, thanks gents! You guys rock!

Now in terms of my eventual Canadian Zone expansion, I’m still waiting on a company here in Canada to ship me my 28mm Canadian Military models. They are a small, one man operation, so they tend to take a bit of time. But to fill that specific niche is worth it. As well, while most of the monsters will carry over, I do want some local, specific nastiness. Some guys had some great ideas over on the Facebook page, and I’m going to use some for sure!

Mutated Raccoons may be a thing…(side note, I hate the damn things. I used to work behind the scenes removing them from places they shouldn’t be at an amusement park, and that cute factor is a lie!), as well as some bears, coyotes, and the occasional Listowel redneck who had a bit too much radioactive moonshine. It is kinda fun to do local research for a game, and my friends here like the idea, despite how dark a subject matter it can be.

I’m leaning toward a more “free” zone, with the Canadian government selling licenses to harvest materiel from the Zone, and a healthy black-market in weapons cropping up around it. We do share a border with the United States after all! The “hook” as it were, in this case, is the fact that Cobalt-60, a rare resource, is actually produced quite a bit in the reactors near me, and the “medical gold rush” of cancer-defeating artefacts produced by this Zone draw a wide array of Stalkers. Your average Canadian Stalker is a far-cry from a dour, sombre Stalker from Pripyat though! Medically aligned Stalkers from major pharmaceutical companies will be my specific neat thing for this Zone.

Finally, while it may be a while before I get to Canada in the campaign, quite conveniently from a recent history stand-point, is the deployment of the Canadian Army in a training capacity to the Ukraine. It won’t take much of a jump in logic for a few, special operations trained soldiers, to venture into the original Zone for some training of their own, with the backing of the local Government. Perhaps paving the way for a future Canadian Army Stalker detachment?

Now, today’s article was focused on old school, metal models. But the way of the future is far different, and I am now the proud owner of a resin 3D Printer! (Or will be, once it arrives…) I am going to use it for producing a lot of cool monsters, smaller terrain, and yep, Stalkers! And that is just for this specific game. But not even that will truly diminish my love of the older style, hand-sculpted models of yesteryear. Raise a glass, if you will, to the old breed! But I will be featuring some 3D printed stuff in the very near future, since a friend of mine has printed some stuff for me to use in this game, that will add a certain Post-Soviet feel to my Exclusion Zone.

But, until next time, Happy War-gaming, wherever you are! For such is life in the Zone.

 

Waiting: The Hard Part of Pandemic Hobbying…

Waiting. It is never really the fun part of our hobby. Waiting for washes to dry, waiting for stuff in Post. Waiting for that base-coat to finish so you can, finally, crack on.

img_8199
When I’m not distracted by Doggo. Yes, that is a horse toy. She kept losing the smaller dog sized balls in the bushes.

In this lovely, hot, Canadian summer I find myself in, I’m doing a lot of waiting. Honestly, it makes for awful content; I have little to show for it, as much of what I had in the wings primed, ready to go, I’m simply not interested in painting! And on the hobby front, I really want to start on Zona Alfa.

But, as I imagine it is worldwide, mail has slowed considerably. I don’t blame my local Posties; They are fantastic people, and once it actually gets to here, I get my stuff promptly. But I have a lot I want to write about, and unfortunately, it just isn’t here!

I can hear you now “Mate, go paint. under-coat something.” Herein lies the next problem. Unlike my Australian friends down under, I am unused to scary insects. And we have several nests of Wasps, and they sneak in every-time a door is opened. We take care of one nest, and several more crop up. So, until they decide to piss off, my family and I tend to not go out much, and staying outside longer then I have to with Sir Stings a Lot and his merry buzzing men about, I tend to avoid. So no mass-undercoating either!

I miss winter…

But all is not lost! I did get something neat done, and I can talk to you fine fellows about what is coming!

img_8191
“Do I have to go up, again?”

This is a Forge World Thunderbolt Pilot. He was available in 2007 at Games Day, and of course, I wasn’t there. Someone who was decided to part with it on eBay, and after deciding it looked legitimate enough, I pulled the trigger.

img_8192
He’s quite a character! Quite a lot of detail on this model, it is a fantastic sculpt.

He sat, languishing in my collection for years. I was simply terrified to mess up a rare model, especially one that is resin, as that is a notoriously difficult medium to strip. But after getting well and truly sick of trying to paint Space Marines, I used him as a palette cleanser. I was also inspired by the “spirit of the blitz” attitude of Vera Lynn, and cued up Cliffs of Dover and There Will Always be An England. She sadly died last week, and while I’m sure this means nothing to most, this is my tribute to her, and in turn, the RAF. I was tempted to go for 40k style, Phantine colors. But in the end, inspired by the Royal Air Force flight uniform of the early 40’s (1940’s, not 40,000).

img_8193
The uniform I’m quite happy with; It was a simple matter of shading in the correct hue for each part of the model, something I don’t bother with on “mass” production models.

So this is my humble tribute to the late Vera Lynn, in my own way. I have a Bilbo Baggins in the wings to pay homage to the late Ian Holm, so watch this space!

Of course, because I can’t stay on track for long….my buddy did it again. Seriously, I should leave his stuff on “read” sometimes. He asked if I was interested in war-gaming the Spanish Civil War.

It took me by surprise, as this was one setting I never thought I’d get the chance to do. But I knew that his heart wouldn’t be in that setting for long. So I counter-suggested.

“What about The Very British Civil War?”

This is a setting close to my heart. I had followed it for years, but knew, deep down, that there simply wasn’t a community to play it here in Canada. But, he did some digging, and really liked it! I was in! We will be using seriously adapted Bolt Action rules, for ease of using something we know!

Now, I don’t want to rouse the copyright gods, despite my gut-feeling that the lads behind the setting wouldn’t care, so you’ll have to wait until I get some models and books of my own to truly cover it. Suffice to say, he is playing the plucky “Middle England” Anglican League, and their allies in Canada, the Albertine’s, wanting to put Prince Albert on the throne.

Meanwhile, as is my custom, I’m playing the “bad” guys, the British Union of Fascists (those jackbooted jerks!) and King Edward’s loyalists in the Army. I’ve put in an order from Gripping Beast for a significant force of Territorial Army Royalists, using the Woodbine Design Company WW1 British, a model line I’ve been keenly interested in for years. This will be followed up by an order from Footsore Miniatures, of “BUF” troops, to represent His Majesty’s unsavory and backstabbing allies. My buddy will be fielding a force of Warlord and Footsore miniatures, to represent regular Canadian Army and Local Defense Volunteer’s. 3D printed tanks, something I’ll show off soon, will round out our band of modern day Cavaliers and Round-heads!

Of course…this means yet more waiting! I never learn, do I!

I do apologize for the lack of content; My next article will hopefully, Canada Post willing, have more substance! But in the mean-time, Happy War-Gaming, wherever you are!