Sunday, 29 September 2019

Vampifans Views 123 - Monthly Musings 93

This portrait of Vampirella was painted by Jim Silke, who painted a few covers for the Vampirella comics when the licence was held by Harris Comics. It is a mildly gory portrait, which means I like it a lot. It looks like Vampi has just fed. From the amount of blood dripping from her hands I doubt if her victim fared well.

September has been another very productive month for me hobby-wise. Good progress has been made on the last three Trader crews of my Core Space sci-fi skirmish game. I should finish painting them next month.

Mostly, however, I have been concentrating on painting more Warlord Games' Bolt Action WW2 figures, namely American 101st Airborne infantry and German late-war Panzer Grenadiers. For the Americans I have painted a HQ unit consisting of two officers with one assistant each, a medic and a forward observer unit. The infantry squads consist of two 10-man veteran Airborne squads and two 6-man veteran Pathfinder squads. Their support teams are made up of a MMG team and a Sniper team. This is more than enough for a starting game. My Kelly's Heroes squad won't see action until I make Oddball's Sherman tank and probably Oddball's two support Shermans commanded by Whiskey and Moe. Also, Kelly's Heroes are G.I. forces not Airborne forces, but I will be adding a large G.I. company to my American forces.
My German forces are nowhere near as numerous as my US forces, although I am rectifying that problem. My Panzer Grenadier HQ unit matches the US one. I have two 10-man infantry squads. I need more and I am lacking any support units.
I have bought two more units from fiction. First up is this 7-man squad of Sergeant Steiner's Panzer Grenadier Recce squad produced by First Corps Miniatures. These appeared in the 1977 film, Cross of Iron, directed by Sam Peckinpah. It is set on the Eastern Front in 1943. This photo is taken from FCM's website. Steiner is in the centre of the group, holding a Russian PPSH SMG. I plan on the survivors being transferred to the Western Front in 1944 (there weren't many!) so I can use them with my other Panzer Grenadiers. I'll split them up into a 5-man infantry unit, led by Steiner, and armed entirely with SMGs and the two riflemen forming a sniper unit.
My second fictional squad is the men of Easy Company led by the famous Sergeant Rock. I have figures to represent all the men from the illustration above apart from Zack, the one-armed bazooka operator. Instead I have his two replacements, Long Round and Short Round who joined Easy Company after Zack was killed in action. My figures are an eclectic mix from Bolt Action, DC Heroclix and Artizan Design. They are G.I. infantry. As I said, I do plan on adding the G.I.s to accompany my Airborne forces or use on their own.
I admit that I know very little about Sergeant Rock and Easy Company. So I ordered a couple of graphic novels from Amazon.Co.UK to learn a bit more about them. What is interesting about them is their prices. First up was Sgt. Rock's Combat Tales which covered his early adventures. This anthology collected ten short stories from 1958-1960. The stories were okay and the artwork by Joe Kubert was mixed. His figure work was good but his work on any armour (tanks, aircraft and ships) bore no resemblance to any vehicles used in WW2. Amazon didn't have the book in stock but it was available from a number of its affiliate sellers in new or used condition. I went for the cheapest option, which cost me just 4 pence plus £2.50 for post and packing. When it arrived it was in very good condition. So, what a bargain!
The second graphic novel I bought was Sgt. Rock - Between Hell and a Hard Place. Published in 2003, this was a six-part full-length story, beautifully illustrated by Joe Kubert. You can see his artwork has improved a great deal. Now, for example, his Tiger 1 tanks look like Tiger 1 tanks. The price of it was a curious anomaly - £18.00 for the hardback version but £24.00 for the softback version. That makes no sense to me but obviously I ordered the hardback version. The story was top notch - part war story and part murder mystery and featured many of the characters shown in the illustration above, which was most helpful for me.

See you in the trenches next month.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Bolt Action US Airborne MMG & Sniper Teams

These two teams are part of the 101st Airborne Division and are made from the plastic sprues found in the Band of Brothers starter boxed set.
The M1919 Browning was a multi-purpose machine gun that appeared in both air and water-cooled versions. Each infantry company included a platoon of machine guns, which would be used to provide fire support to individual infantry platoons when required.
The relatively large number of these weapons available at company level means that a US army can include a higher proportion of MMGs than other armies. Up to three machine gun teams can be included in each reinforced platoon, rather than one.
The team comprises a gunner, loader and spotter. Being part of the 101st Airborne Division, they are classed as veterans.
US sniper training before World War 2 was non-existent. When it became apparent that snipers were needed, training began in earnest. Snipers could be armed with the M1 Garand, but the bolt-action Springfield was often favoured for its longer range and accuracy, in both cases, rifles carried telescopic sights.
This is a veteran team which is made up of the sniper and his spotter.

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Bolt Action US Airborne 2nd Infantry Section

In my last post I showed my 1st Infantry section of one of the companies from the 101st Airborne Division. In this follow up, I'm going to review my 2nd Infantry section.
These figures were all made from the plastic sprues in the Band of Brothers starter boxed set and they offer a very wide variety of poses, equipment and weapon options.
 Like my 1st Section, this section is made up of 10 men, but the weapon options have been changed. At the far left is my NCO, armed with a Thompson Sub-Machine Gun. The two privates next to him are also armed with Thompson SMGs. The two privates at the far right are armed with M1 Garand Rifles.
Another four privates are armed with a combination of M1 Garand Rifles and M1 Carbines. At the far right is a Browning Automatic Rifle armed private. Although only on their TO&E as an optional weapon, paratroopers appreciated the heavier firepower a single soldier could lay down with the BAR.
I have omitted the choice to include an LMG team and added the BAR gunner instead. Of course I could have included both but I chose not to.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Bolt Action US Airborne 1st Infantry Section

This boxed set of 28mm scale metal figures are part of Warlord Games US 101st Airborne Division, aka "The Screaming Eagles", arguably some of the toughest of the US Army.
Aggressive and innovative, these elite troops were eager to take the war to "the Krauts" - something they did so successfully. They were ordinary citizen soldiers, but highly trained and motivated, superbly equipped and packed with firepower as only an American force can be.
This veteran squad comprises an NCO armed with a Thompson Sub-Machine Gun, two other men armed with Thompson SMGs and a Browning .30 calibre LMG team made up of a gunner and a loader.
Here is an overhead shot to better show off the LMG team.
 The rest of the section comprises five men armed with rifles and carbines.
These metal figures are very well sculpted and detailed. I particularly like the running rifleman throwing a hand grenade. My only minor gripe with them is that I wish one of the riflemen were armed with a Browning Automatic Rifle. They are allowed one BAR per infantry section.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Bolt Action US Kelly's Heroes

September 1944, and our titular heroes are what's left of a reconnaissance platoon of the 35th Infantry Division, recruited mainly from Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. Most of the men first saw combat when the division landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day, and have subsequently been blooded in the fighting in Saint Lo and the Cotentin Peninsula before crossing the River Moselle in September.
Private Kelly, a soldier with a past, captures a German Colonel whom he subsequently interrogates. Discovering the whereabouts of $16,000,000 worth of stolen gold under German guard in a bank behind enemy lines, he quickly sets about assembling a team to sneak through the lines and carry out "the perfect crime..."
At the far left is Master Sergeant Jake "Big Joe" Diamond as played by Telly Savalas in the film. In Bolt Action he counts as a major, despite his actual rank. West Point can't teach no leadership. Only the school of hard knocks in the lower ranks can teach real leadership. Being a Hollywood NCO he rolls 3 dice to attack with his SMG instead of the normal 2. All rolls to hit succeed on a 2+ no matter what modifiers are in play.
Next to him is Private Kelly as played by Clint Eastwood in the film. He is an ex-1st Lieutenant who still retains his rank bonuses in game. Kelly's team (he may be accompanied by one or two Hollywood attendants, one of whom may be "Big Joe" to make use of his higher leadership). Any Hollywood unit within 6" of Kelly automatically passes order checks and morale checks.
Second from the right is Staff Sergeant Crapgame who was played by Don Rickles in the film. Up to two squads in any force containing Crapgame may have any model exchange a rifle for an SMG and include an LMG. Also, MMG and Bazooka teams may be doubled. Even if it does not call for it, any force containing Crapgame receives a pre-game bombardment. However, this comes from an off-table character called Mulligan, so is less reliable than a normal pre-game bombardment.
At the far right is Private Babra as played by Gene Collins in the film. Loyal tag-along Babra might be one of the reasons why "Big Joe" survives any firefight completely unscathed. Possibly. As long as a unit contains both "Big Joe" and Babra, a single successful attack (one dice) against the unit can be converted into a failure.
The three figures to the right above and below form part of Sergeant Oddball's Sherman tank crew. At the far left is Oddball, memorably played by Donald Sutherland in the film. He has the Nexus of Positive Energy special rule, which is too long to repeat here. It's not superior training, equipment or tactics which wins a fight, it's a positive outlook on life - and that's how Oddball took down two Tigers with a Sherman. Positive waves can swing the outcome of any battle, but beware - it only takes one miserable cynic with their negative waves to ruin everything and next thing you know, entire bridges are being blown up.
Next up is Private First Class Moriarty, a mechanical genius, played by Gavin MacLeod in the film. He has the Nexus of Negative Energy and Mechanical Genius special rules. Without Moriarty, no Oddball Sherman may take any optional upgrades except the Pintle-Mounted MMG.
Finally, is Turk, a taciturn gunner who shares the turret with Oddball.
At the far right is the Bavarian, the commander of the only surviving Tiger 1 tank which he inconveniently parks outside the entrance of the bank holding all the gold bullion, forcing Kelly, "Big Joe" and Oddball to make a deal with him to split the gold in half. I didn't know whether to include him in this review but seeing as he is part of the boxed set it made sense to do so.
Even now, I still love Kelly's Heroes which was released in 1970. I was lucky enough to pick up this set for only £7.00 instead of £20.00 from a local seller on eBay. An absolute bargain!

Monday, 9 September 2019

Bolt Action US 101st Airborne HQ

I have mostly been painting figures for my US 101st Airborne (the Screaming Eagles) forces. I'm going to start my reviews with a look at my HQ figures.
At the far left is General George S. Patton, who commanded the 7th Army in the Mediterranean theatre of World War 2, and the US Third Army in France, Belgium and Germany following D-Day, the Allied Invasion of Normandy in June 1944. In Bolt Action the highest ranking officer allowed in army selections is a major, so ranks higher than that are classed as majors for game purposes. I got this figure as a freebie for ordering the Bolt Action Second Edition Rulebook directly from Warlord Games.
Next up is another real life character, Captain Ronald Speirs, a noted officer who served in the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division during late WW2. In the award winning TV mini-series, Band of Brothers he was played by Matthew Settle. Of the officers who commanded Easy Company during the war, he served the longest. He died on 11th of April 2007 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
The two figures to the right are a Medic and a Forward Artillery/Airforce Observer. The Medic is carrying a rolled up stretcher and the FAO is using his radio to call in an artillery barrage or an airstrike.They can operate alone or with one to two assistants.
Moving on are from left to right, a 1st Lieutenant, his adjutant, a 2nd Lieutenant and his adjutant. The 1st Lieutenant is armed with a Pistol, whilst his adjutant is armed with a Thompson SMG. Both the 2nd Lieutenant and his Adjutant are armed with M1 Garand Rifles.
Prior to the invasion of France, front-line officers went through vigorous training with their regiments both in the USA and Britain, although initially many were obviously lacking in combat experience. Such experience came very quickly for all ranks and so US officers may be inexperienced, regular or veteran. Seeing as US Airborne forces are all veteran, my officers for them will also be veteran.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Bolt Action Panzer Grenadiers Infantry 01

Instead of making and painting the 28mm scale Panzer Grenadiers from the Band of Brothers starter boxed set, I chose this set of 10 Panzer Grenadiers as my first infantry squad. These could be split into two five-men squads but I prefer using them as a full ten-man squad. These were all one-piece metal castings and they look great.
Each squad consists of an NCO (shown at far left) and from four to nine additional men. One of the weapons options for them is to have the entire squad armed with StG44 Assault Rifles and this is what this squad are using. It is an excellent choice even though their range is only 18" compared to the 24" range of Bolt Action Rifles but with a ten man squad they can fire 20 shots per turn instead of the 10 shots per turn from Rifle armed infantry. That is a huge advantage!
In 1943 the title of "Infantry" was changed to "Grenadier" to improve esprit de corps and give the poor infantry some of the vaunted panzer grenadier's reputation and kudos. German grenadiers were provided with the best light machine gun (the MG42) of the war and some veteran squads carried two. By the late war, most German grenadier squads were carrying a proportion of StG44 Assault Rifles or sub-machine guns instead of rifles to increase their firepower against an enemy increasingly equipped with SMGs and Semi-Automatic Rifles. However, the exact weaponry could vary greatly in practice.
I will be counting my panzer grenadier squads and teams as veterans unless otherwise dictated by the scenario. If I were to split this ten-man squad into two five-man squads the figure at the far left would be  my second NCO and the rest of the men as shown in the photos above and below.
Those men that survived quickly learnt the art of fieldcraft and became formidable opponents, battle-hardened and well-equipped - a match for any enemy infantry. Panzer grenadiers, the infantry of the panzer divisions, rode to battle in half-tracked armoured carriers. Well, they did on paper, but in reality a shortage of half-tracks meant that only about 10 per cent of panzer battalions had their carriers, and the other 90 per cent relied upon trucks and fought on foot.

Monday, 2 September 2019

Bolt Action German Panzer Grenadiers HQ

As I have mentioned in my recent Monthly Musings, I have started a new project - WW2 skirmish wargaming using the Bolt Action rules produced by Warlord Games. Having bought the excellent Band of Brothers starter boxed set, I am sticking with the two forces contained within it - the German late war Panzer Grenadiers and the US late war 101st Airborne force. I have painted a few units for both sides and so I'll review the units I have finished painting starting with my German Panzer Grenadiers HQ units.
Each platoon is centred upon a core that includes a headquarters unit in the form of a first lieutenant (Oberleutnant) or a second lieutenant (Lieutnant). Other HQ units can be added to the force, including higher-ranking officers, as well as medical units and supporting observers. German officers were capable and often experienced leaders. Junior officers were trained to undertake the role of their own immediate superiors, enabling them to use their initiative to take control of situations when necessary.
An officer unit consists of the man himself and can include up to two other men acting as his immediate attendants. Because of the high quality of the majority of German officers they are rated as regular or veteran. From left to right are a first lieutenant, his attendant, a second lieutenant and his attendant. The two officers are Warlord Games figures but the two attendants were produced by Crooked Dice Games.
The field medic presents the wounded soldier with his best chance of surviving serious injury and can ensure that lightly wounded soldiers are returned to fighting fitness as rapidly as possible. Junior medical staff such as stretcher bearers can accompany medics in the field. All medical staff are rated as courageous, befitting their calling and hence, veteran.
Forward observers are liaison officers responsible for coordinating the attack of heavy artillery batteries from behind the lines or aircraft strikes. They are likely to be accompanied by a radio operator and other immediate attendants. These officers are rated as regular or veteran; those of lesser ability being unlikely to find themselves in such a position. All of these figures were produced by Warlord Games. The two figure diorama set at the far left was a free bonus for buying the Armies of Germany supplement.
Note that as a change to my usual basing technique I have added tufts of grass, which I'll be doing to all of my Bolt Action figures.