Every Christmas I budget some time to hide out in the garage and get some painting done. Last year was no different as I knew I had a few projects that had been lurking around on my to-do list for as long as I could remember.
First up on my list were my Bofors guns and 6 pdrs. My guilt factor had been dialed up to 11 on these as base coated the guns back in 2020 but had just not gotten around to progressing them any further. Each time I went out to my painting desk I saw them sitting them. A sad reminder of something that I should have finished long ago!
In the end I took a couple of shortcuts and reduced the crew counts on both guns to slightly cut down the painting but to also give me so space on the bases for scenic elements. For the Bofors guns it was quite fun turning a pairs of medium rural scenic bases into large bases with a little plastic card and milliput!
Next up were the mortars and HMGs. The mortars were for my Recce Squadron where you can have a battery of six, whilst the HMGs… they were on the off chance I end up painting a second Motor Platoon and fielded a company at some point. I thought that whilst I was “in the zone” I may as well get them done now or risk never doing them.
I’m really happy to have finished these units off as it clears the way for me to start planning my next round of British painting with the Bulge book coming out later in the year, it also frees me up for a couple of detours with the Warsaw Pact and Bulge: German books both coming up…
Who knows what the future will hold on those fronts, but it is safe to say that tanks will be involved!
Over the past few months I have been clearing out a few projects that have been lingering on my painting desk, trying to make some space for some upcoming plans. One of the projects that has been weighing heavily on my mind is my Romanian force from Bagration: Axis Allies. Thanks to all sorts of disruptions this year around the world and with our factory in Malaysia the army only got so far before everything ground to a halt. This resulted in the last two units (the aircraft and infantry) sitting on the side of my desk or a seafreight container in the Pacific ocean.
Thankfully one of those two units has finally made the leap from painting desk to the tabletop..
Originally I was only going to paint a unit of HS-129’s, they are cheaper after all, but I decided to paint a pair of Stukas as well since four planes doesn’t take that much longer to paint than two. It also gives me an option for aircraft with bombs…
whilst the HS-129s are my cannon option. They are also such wierd looking aircraft (compared with other WW2 planes) that I just had to have them.
I also tried something new by flocking up the flight stand bases, and making a set of tall stands for the Stukas (since they are dive bombing) and short stands for the HS-129s (for those low cannon passes).
I chose a simple two colour scheme with a dark green and light green, along with the iconic King Michael’s Crosses and yellow fuselage bands. The crosses help to make them look a little less German.
I’m not entirely happy with how the planes came out in the end and there are definitely some things I would do differently if I were to paint them again. However I am putting them in the win column as they are done and they provide a really interesting unit to the army.
The ability (and freedom) to travel to a tournament, hang out with friends and play some games has been something that most gamers have been able to take for granted. After a year (or more) of lockdowns, cancelled events, and the need to maintain some sort of social distance here in New Zealand, things are returning to normal and events are happening with a little more regularity. One of our favourite events of the year is always Panzerschreck – the oldest Flames Of War tournament in the world. There is no one reason as to why it is great, it really is the combination; the road trip down with friends, the short stops to shop, climbing over tanks at the National Army Museum, hanging out with resident sculptor Evan, catching up with friends, too much eating, winning (or losing) some games, and then finishing it with a post-tournament “what went wrong, what are we doing next year” cathartic road trip back home!
Road Trips, Shopping, Eating and Tanks!
This year the four of us crammed in to a rental Jeep Cherokee, which should have been big enough but thanks to a small pile of orders we were taking down for customers we ended up filling every available space with gear, miniatures, or clothes. I think next year we are going to need a bigger boat… I mean car! The road trip really is all about hanging out, talking about work, gaming, life and everything else going on. There is also time for a fair amount of pre-tournament smack talk! Our trips each year take a similar course (unless snow gets in the way) with a stop in Hamilton (about 90 minutes in to our journey) to swing by one of our favourite gaming shops (Games Centre) for a chat and to pick up any “essentials”. Short on space this year some of those essentials kept falling from their precarious perch in the back of the car on to Victors head… Hamilton is also a good spot for a coffee and sausage roll (an NZ delicacy!).
Back on the road we then have a quick 2 hour sprint down to Taupo in the middle of the North Island. Marking the halfway point it is a great chance to have lunch (yes we do always stop at the same Turkish restaurant each year!) and swing by our next hobby shop; Taupo Hobbies. We didn’t end up adding to the load this time (which was a surprise) but it didn’t stop us having a really good look and contemplating the idea of building some rather larger World War II naval models!
Next stop is Waiouru and the home of the New Zealand Army Museum. We normally arrive too late to hit the gift/book shop but we are always prepared to brave the cold to check out some of New Zealand’s tank history parked out the front. There is nothing like climbing up on a Centurion (or even the Scorpion) to give the models that we play with a real sense of scale. With this taken care of it is the final push to Palmerston North and Evan’s house… A total trip of around 512km (318 miles) in a very leisurely 11 hours!
Stalin Approved – Casey and Chris’ Experience
The weekend turned in to a glorious mess of dice, explosions (some on the table and some in our heads), great opponents and fun games so I can’t give a breakdown of the individual games… and based on our performance I am not sure anyone wants my tactical advice. So what went right or wrong? Casey’s army was fantastic to play with, not only was it really well painted but it was a great combination of models. In hindsight though we really could have dropped one of our infantry units and replaced it with a template delivery device. Any sort would have done; Katyushas or SU-76 assault guns being my preference, but anything would have been useful. The IS-2s were great at knocking out dug-in troops IF they hit. I spent most of the weekend looking for 5’s and often 6’s to hit. In one game I literally got 2 hits in 6 turns, with 10 tanks. The IS-2’s did excel in surviving however with their armour allowing them to stand up to any opposition and hang around, and what they hit generally stayed hit!
Casey’s T-34/85 company found itself doing a lot of the heavy lifting over the weekend, rushing flanks, having gun-fights, being assaulted (and counter-attacking) and generally being in the mix. Of course this meant that they didn’t tend to survive! Casey may have wished once or twice over the weekend that they still had the front armour 7 of the “good old days!”
Favourite Game: Too hard to pick… our loss to Tom and Alex with their Elefants was a hard fought game of manoeuvre and thrust that could have gone either way, whilst our narrow victory vs Bob and Steve could have just as easily been
a loss if not for the resilience of the IS-2 and their ability to go head-to-head with Tigers.
Hungarian Hooves and Howitzers a.k.a. Triple H – Victor and Wayne’s Weekend
Wayne has always been a fan of Hungarians in Flames Of War, and I’ve caught the bug too, especially with the Zrínyi. The release of Bagration: Axis-Allies was going to fall shortly before Panzerschreck, so it made sense to take my new Zrínyi force, and Wayne being my usual team mate, I knew he would have plenty of Hungarian units to build a force to go with mine. Then Wayne said “But I want to paint something new for the tournament”, and I said something silly like “You should paint a full Huszar Squadron!” Thus our team was formed. We knew it wasn’t going to dominate the tabletop, but we were hoping for some funny moments and glorious cavalry charges.
Unfortunately when it came to the games, we found ourselves defending against heavy tanks, or attacking elite MG infantry. This isn’t to say the games weren’t fun, just that there weren’t as many chances for a good cavalry charge as we would’ve liked. It’s lucky Wayne painted the dismounted versions of his platoons too, as they were great in defence. The Zrínyi’s on the other hand did great work, and their bombardments were quite effective. The Panthers kept our opponent’s tanks cautious, which kept our Zrínyi’s alive in most of our games.
Overall the tournament was a lot of fun, and was great seeing familiar faces that we missed out on last year.
The Long Road Home
With the weekend’s gaming over and done with (and after a good nights rest) we headed home on the Monday morning, stopping for a coffee and a tank of gas. Based on the comments from the back seat the coffee may have been made by Baldrick during World War I so next year we might find somewhere better than going with “hey Google, where can we get a coffee?”
The drive north is a lot like the drive south, just with different stops (the Army Museum book shop which is now open, Subway, since everything else was busy in Taupo, and Gaming DNA in Hamilton) and conversation that revolves around what went right, what went wrong, and what we are taking next year (140 points, Mid War, doubles! Oh yeah!). Stay tuned for some initial thoughts over the coming months on what we might like to build.
As always Panzerschreck is a blast and this year was no different. Roll on 2022!
When I think of the humble Panzer IV is isn’t at the top of my list of “must have” tanks. There is of course one thing that I have learnt during the course of the Big Four project and that is more is good! One platoon of 3-5 Panzers in a German army… meh… 5 platoons of 3 (and a dash of StuGs for moral support), now we are talking!
I still have a way to go with the rest of the the army, between us I have stalled a little as the lure of a warm fire inside is beating the cold garage, with my recon, 251’s, infantry and aircraft but I still feel like I have hit a milestone with these.
I’ve taken a mixed approach with my painting and decals, using a filter for the first time. This meant I really went quite light with my colours and used the filter to bring it back down.
I also took (perhaps) a bit of a liberty with my tank numbers. I haven’t seen Romanian Panzer IVs with German-style numbers but I wanted to be able to tell my platoons apart and since historical pictures are a little few and far between I thought “what the heck, they look cool”. I also added the white Cross of King Michael I to the side of the tanks and the coloured air recognition cross to the top of the turrets or superstructure. On an otherwise fairly plan tank I think these add some visual interest to the army.
If you spent any time in the Battlefront Studio over the past 8 or so years it would come as no surprise that a number of us have soft spots for the Finns, Hungarians and Romanians. Whilst they may not be one of the “Big Four” nations many of us have built Axis Allies armies of the years; from Andrew’s winter Finns, to Victor’s, Wayne’s, and my Hungarian armies, to a Mid War Romanian army that I painted before joining the team. Needless to say when Victor suggested a small detour project I thought “Why not!” The only question was what do do?
Thinking about all of our armies it was Phil’s Late War Romanian Panzer IV based force that I faced years ago whilst we were play testing the Red Bear Compilation that stuck in the back of my mind as a force I’d like to replicate. The suggestion of a detour was the final reason to get around to painting this “small” and somewhat contained force.
Full disclosure, whilst it was Phil’s army that pointed me down this path I was really tempted to do a StuG (or TA) force but as I have never painted one of plastic Panzer IV’s this seemed like a good opportunity to do so, and in numbers that could put a little fear in to my opponents.
After a little list noodling I came up with a pretty basic plan that involved maxing out the T-4 (Panzer IV) Medium Tank Company with an HQ, four platoons of T-4’s, one platoon of TA (StuG) assault guns and an Armoured Rifle Platoon of infantry in Sd Kfz 251 halftracks. Boom! 91 points spent, 18 tanks, 10 stands of infantry and 5 halftracks.
This was where I found myself on the horns of a dilemma. I really wanted some TACAM T-60’s as I think they are cute little models but I just didn’t have the points. Likewise the PaK40 and Reșița anti-tanks pack a lot of punch but were also out of my budget.
I turned to a platoon of AB (Sd Kfz 222) armoured cards (for 3 points) as every army likes some Spearhead and a Command Card unit of HS-129 aircraft. These lack the bombs of the Stukas but still give me another cool model to add to the mix and something that can hunt those pesky teams that try to hide at the back of the table.
I now have a pile of models that need assembling and a painting plan/scheme that needs testing… and Victor wants the armies finished by the end of June! If anyone needs me I’ll be out the garage building and painting!
The Big Four of Late-War are getting excited about Bagration: Axis-Allies. We’re preparing new armies, add-ons to old forces, and even some terrain. Join us over the next few weeks to see our progress on Instagram, and stay tuned for some live content on Twitch.
Thinking about the Big Four Of Late War project I’ve both achieved more and less than I expected, which is probably how a lot of us are looking back on the year.
Looking back, I managed to paint quite a lot this year:
A full-strength Cromwell Squadron (less the 3-4 tanks I painted in advance for the D-Day: British book photography.
A mid-sized Churchill Company with AVRE support.
A pair of Daimler and Dingo Recon Platoons (and HQ)
A Motor Platoon (will have photos of this up next year along with some of the other infantry and 6-pdrs… assuming I finish them over Christmas)
Two Universal Carrier Platoons.
And a pair of Objectives!
Strangely, it is the last item on the list that I am most pleased to have completed this year. I love painting objectives for my armies, even simple ones like these, but they always get pushed to the bottom of the list, or forgotten in favour of another project.
So, what is in store for next year? I am hoping to get some time over Christmas to work on a few projects including a little Big Four Of Late War action. In a perfect world I would get my 3” Mortars, Vickers HMGs, 6-pdr AT guns, Bofors AA guns and a second Motor Platoon finished. The reality of it is I think this might be a little too hopeful, but I do love a good stretch goal! I’ll update you in the new year on my progress and with any luck I’ll convince Casey or Victor to take some photos of my completed Cromwells as I just realised there aren’t any images of these bad boys on the blog yet.
Thinking longer term next year means the release of the 2nd Late War British book and it is pretty safe to assume (if you have played one of the previous editions) that we are likely to see Comets (will be needing a Squadron of those!), Challengers (big guns = big yes from me!) and presumably some other “late” British toys like Archers! Sounds like another big year on the brushes for me!
I hope you have enjoyed keeping up with our collective progress this year and ask you all to stay safe over the coming festive season. Catch you on the next Live Stream in 2021!
Very early on in the Big Four Project I painted up a platoon of Crocodiles for my British army. They were a great model to practice my technique on but ever since they have been crying out for some friends. After our first Lockdown period I managed to squeeze in a little garage time and get these big boys painted. With an HQ and two platoons, along with the obligatory AVREs (and Crocodiles) I feel like I have the start of a decent Churchill based force. For completeness sake I would like to paint a third Platoon and a Company of the earlier Churchill III tanks, but that’s something to aspire too….
The HQ Platoon
One of the things I really enjoyed, and you may not be able to see it from the photos, is that each tank is different in the two platoons – one uparmoured “late” Churchill, one 6pdr armed Churchill and one 75mm armed Churchill. This means I can run the platoon with all the options, but I don’t feel like the complexity I can keep it to myself and not worry my opponent. I will say though, if you plan on doing the same thing, to be very diligent with your planning and assembly… lets just say I may have gotten mixed up at least once and had to remove parts and glue new ones on…
What can I say… these are truly one of my favourite units in Flames Of War, both on the tabletop and as a painting experience. I couldn’t be happier with how this unit came out. What are they? Daimler and Dingo Armoured Cars and I love ’em!
So why do I love them so much? First things first, assembling them was super easy and they just look cool once built. Painting was easy – I love not having to paint tracks! Plus the abundance of cool decals that just add colour and interest to the model. Then there is their performance (and points cost) on the table top. They are cheap, pack machine-guns for hunting infantry, and some little pop guns (on the Daimlers) that let them harass enemy armour. Throw in Scout and Spearhead and you have a perfect little package. They really are so much fun I am tempted to paint a 3rd Platoon for my Armoured Car Company (a Command Card option in D-Day: British).
1st Platoon (with yellow Air Recognition Panels)
2nd Platoon (with Allied Stars)
The Complete Company
Are there any downsides to the unit? Probably… having to ride in to battle would be one of them, but commanding them from the back of the table seems like a pretty good deal to me!.
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