Thursday, 29 April 2021

Cold War air power - a brace of Frogfoots

Or is the plural Frogfeet? 

Coming in at tree top level

The Russian air support has arrived in the shape of SU-25 ground attack aircraft.  NATO code name Frogfoot.  Its a chunky looking beast but whether it is as effective as an A-10 Warthog remains to be seen.

The Oddzial Osmy castings are crisp and clean with a couple of air release channels to remove but no flash.  I'm not certain that I have the Russian 1980's three colour camo quite right as the brown should be darker but I knew I needed to lighten it for scale and may have taken it too far.  its reminiscent of the USAF Viet Nam period three colour scheme which I always liked so that may have had an effect.  Still. at the speed they will be coming in at I don't suppose anyone will notice, or care!

Time to get the Blowpipe teams sorted for the BAOR I suppose.

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

3mm Infantry bases

This is a follow up to the post on 3mm basing a made a couple of days ago.  I'm doing it for completeness sake as a couple of people asked about the basing.  

Basing vehicles was easy infantry caused me a bit more of an issue.  The BAOR force uses specialist teams of less then platoon size in some front line roles.  These are mounted in the FV103 Spartan based on the CVR(T) chassis.  That vehicle provides transport for dismountable Blowpipe manpack anti-aircraft teams and Milan ATGM teams.  It also provides the mount for fire control officers for artillery and mortar support.  Its a smaller vehicle than the FV432

So I was going to need to be able to distinguish between platoon sized infantry units and specialist teams.  The team based solution seemed obvious, mount them on pennies just like the vehicles.  For an infantry platoon I clearly needed a bigger base to reflect the larger frontage so after some humming and hawing I decided on a rectangular base and plumped for 40mm x 20mm as a reasonable compromise.  This gives a platoon a game frontage of just over 150 yards.  Its not an exact science though as frontages differ in different terrain, attack or defence postures.  So I'm going to go on record as saying the base shows the unit's 'centre of gravity' not necessarily the actual operational footprint at any given time.

A BMP company and dismounts

For figures per base I have worked on the basis of the platoon transport being represented by one vehicle so its troop payload can be represented by the same number of figures as that single vehicle's passenger count, give or take a figure.  This works well for the BAOR with a standardised system of transport but less well for the Soviets who have a number of different APCs and IFVs in use at the same time.  In general BTRs carry slightly less men than BMPs so I just went with an average.

The bottom line is that it doesn't really matter.  A base is a base and provided both sides have the same footprints no-one is disadvantaged.  If it was real issue I would mark the same central spot on all bases and measure weapon ranges from that point.

One issue I have found with the Oddzial Osmy infantry is that as they are cast in strips they need to be separated into smaller groups or individual figures.  Although the bases have some narrowing where you might want to split them it is difficult as the metal they use is very hard.   My trusty side cutters struggle to cut it, so instead of the random groups I wanted to use I often end up with lines of troops.  I suppose its the price for the level of detail the casting metal makes possible.

The basing technique I use for the infantry is almost the same as that for the vehicle stands except more untextured base is left. So That involves random patterns in undiluted PVA with fine sand sprinkled on then more random patterns of PVA with my flock mix.  It breaks the bases up while still allowing them to stay visible on the playing surface.  probably not at all realistic but it works.

The Soviet dismounts are listed for FFT as having options of for each company of either three Rifle Platoons, or Companies with mixtures of Rifle Platoons, ATGM and Rifle or SAM and Rifle Platoons.  in each Company one platoon can be changed to a ATGM equipped one and/or a SAM equipped one.  The photo above has one of each option.  That then brings in the issue of telling them apart.  While I can tell the difference opponents might not be able to so the rear corner (left in the photo has either AA or AT marked in black and a coloured dot; light blue for SAM and Green for ATGM (sky blue cos the SAM is shooting into the sky and green as the ATGM is shooting ground targets I'm literal minded that way!).  It makes sense to me honest.

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Random Thoughts - A dog is for life not climate control

 I'm writing this post in a bit of annoyance.   You see this morning Mrs E was watching Good Morning Britain ( no that's not why I am annoyed) and there was an article with some 'expert' (quite probably self-appointed) Donnachadgh McCarthy on the impact of household pets on climate change (no I haven't really heard of him before either).  What annoyed me was the claim that an average dog contributes as much to climate change as two SUV cars, and a cat does as much climate change damage as a small family car!  No statistical evidence was put foward to support the claim.  So as a researcher by nature (and in some respects by profession) I went data hunting.

I started by looking for evidence of the speaker's credentials.  He is a columnist who has written green columns for a couple of newspapers and runs an environmental consultancy advising on how to green up client's businesses.  What I couldn't find online were any hints as to his credentials or qualifications.  in fact he has a minimal footprint on social media.  So while he could possess a Phd in environmental statistics on the other hand he may only have a CSE in woodworking I can't tell.  So i turned to looking for the factual basis to his claims.

The first thing I found (quite quickly) was that the initial claim comparing dogs and cats carbon footprint to cars comes from an article which was released back in 2017 and was not peer reviewed.  There was a second study (also not peer reviewed as far as I can see)  carried out at the same time which came to almost diametrically opposite findings.  Finally I found a peer reviewed paper also released in 2017 by Gregory S Okin on the 'Environmental impacts of food consumption by dogs and cats'.  This looked to be on firmer ground but only covered part of the claim the carbon cost of raising meat animals for inclusion in our pet's food chain.  A second more popularist article by the same author (it was a graphic novel layout for god's sake) included the costs of disposing of animal facies (that's dog and cat poo to you and me) and the plastic used in poo bags and toys, clays in cat litter and materials in packaging.  The first article is here if you really want to check it out Environmental impacts of food consumption by dogs and cats (

While I'm confident that pets have a carbon footprint and that it is larger than it perhaps needs to be I still cannot see a direct proven link to equate my two dog's carbon foot print to four Chelsea Tractors.  Certainly I don't see the evidence to equate to the guest's call for a ban on dogs and cats.  The evidence does support a conclusion that smaller dogs have less impact than bigger ones (who knew!) but doesn't really look at the balancing impact of pet ownership (especially with dogs) of owners taking low carbon dog walks and other offsetting activities.  Part of the peer reviewed paper suggests that a large proportion of the meat in pet food is by products of processing for human consumption but that it shouldn't be ignored as with more processing it could be made fit for human consumption, but doesn't ask what would be the carbon cost of the additional processing.

My conclusion while this is an area worthy of research our man on Good Morning Britain is an Eco warrior jumping on the next available bandwagon to stir up debate about climate change rather than a someone who has actually considered the evidence in any great scientific detail..


Monday, 26 April 2021

3mm basing and unit ID techniques and my storage solution.

1. The finished base effect

 As promised here is my basing technique for the Oddizial Osmy (which incidentally means Eighth Division in Polish) 1/600th models.  The first thing to realise is that these are small really small and even though they are cast in a hard white metal they lack heft so I am basing vehicles on UK 1p coins to add weight and make them easier to handle.  Yes I really did throw money at this project! Pennies are cheaper than washers and still easy to get hold of and of course they are a uniform size and thickness.  Out of some half remembered childhood memory of some old law about debasing coinage I always use the 'tails' side so as not to desecrate the Queen's face on the other side.

The first step is to create a smooth surface to place the model upon.  I use Milliput for this as it sticks to the coin really well.  It also has the advantage that as a two part epoxy putty it will harden even if wet so I can smooth it over using a damp finger tip.  I recommend a small dish of water for that rather than licking the finger as Milliput has an interesting after taste!  A piece about the size of a garden pea seems about right to cover a penny.  I smooth that all over the surface of the coin making sure to get all the way to the edge and even a little over.  I trim off the excess around the rim with a piece of card.  I just use whatever I have to hand.  Use cardboard to trim the edge as some of the wet Milliput will stay stuck to the card an harden rendering the card useless after a while so it has to be changed.  The idea is that the Milliput is only slightly higher than the rim of the coin and doesn't extend beyond the edge.  For larger vehicles I make to grooves to represent the track marks behind the AFV.  Once that is done put the base aside to harden.  The trick is to make up batches of about 20 - 30 bases at a time ready for the next stages.

2. Milliput layer and painting done

3. Side view showing the depth of Milliput used.

Next I paint the base, for this I use Vallejo Green Brown (Model Color 70.879) for this.  At some point I need to get this colour matched at a DIY store and get some acrylic house paint in the same shade as I do seem to use this for a lot scenic work.  I paint the Milliput surface and all around the rim of the coin.  This actually needs two steps as there is a small part masked by my finger tip where I hold the penny.  Painting in batches allows the first bases to have dried ready for me to paint the uncovered part by the time I have dome the last base.  I could tack the bases onto  a roof nail or similar I suppose but it would take longer to tack the base to a nail than going back to paint the masked bit of the edge.  A stripe of a dark brown (Vallejo Model Colour  70.872 Chocolate Brown in my case) in the track marks helps bring them out.  Again leave to dry before going to the next step.

4. A darker brown in the wheel ruts helps them to stand out.

The next thing to do is glue the vehicle to the painted base.  I do this after painting as a lot of clear glues dry to such a high gloss finish that it's hard to get paint to take on it.  Again, yes you guessed it, set aside to dry.

5. With vehicles glued on things are starting to come together

The last step is to texture the base.  There are a number of ways to do this.  Over the years I have settled on a couple of variations on the theme of sand and flock.   I apply some random areas of neat PVA glue to the base and sprinkle a fine sand over the base.  The sand sinks into the PVA and leaves a slightly raised area.  I knock off the loose sand and leave it for the PVA to dry.  I then do the same again on the bits that didn't get a sand covering but sprinkle flock onto those areas.  My flock isn't actually pure flock its a mix of a summer (or it might be spring) meadow flock (which has coloured bits to act as flowers) and a short static grass.  I sprinkle this by taking a pinch between my fingers and rubbing the finger tips together like sprinkling salt on a meal.  This seems to create a bit of a static charge which helps the grass part stand upright.  Once done I turn the base upside down and give the underside a sharp tap as a further incentive for the grass to stay upright.  And that, as the man said, is that!  It isn't necessary to cover every bit of the base in sand and flock as the base green-brown colour blends in really well.

6.  You can see how the sand sits 'proud' of the bases here.  

If you need to ID the models, which I do for Fistful of Tows, then a small patch of colour on the edge of the coin identifies the vehicle type and by default the regiment and a dot of contrasting colour (or two or three) shows which battalion they belong to.  For FFT models have to stay within a set cohesion distance of other members of their parent formation.  For Soviets the cohesion unit is the Battalion and for NATO it is Companies which requires a little more complexity using two colours of dot one for Battalion and one for company.  There is no real need to track formations beyond that.  I place this mark at the rear of the base as hopefully my troops will be advancing away from me!

7. Unit ID.  Green for T-72, left stripe is regiment 1 second is battalion 1 and 2. 

The last part of this post deals with storage.  I'm a big fan of the Really Useful Box range of plastic storage containers.  I use the 4 litre size with two of their hobby trays in each for most of my DBA armies.  However, those trays wouldn't do the job for these models as the spaces in each division of the tray would be too big and too deep to hold 3mm models securely, so I looked at using foam insert trays instead. 

8.  The foam trays in use.  

A quick trawl around Google lead me to a business called Just Lasered.  I contacted the owner via Face Book and explained what I needed and he designed the trays, checked back with me to be sure it was what I wanted and had them with me within a week!  Each tray has 80 x 2.1 cm diameter holes and  each tray has an offset so that by reversing the direction I place each one the holes do not line up.  Pennies are slightly over 2cm in diameter so the bases drop neatly into the hole with just enough space around so that when I lift the tray the model stays behind making it easy for my fat fingers to pick them up.  Better yet the trays are designed to fit exactly into the 4 litre Really Useful Box. I can get four 1.25cm thick trays plus a 1 cm topper into each box.  Great price too at £1.50 per tray, although postage hiked that up by another £4.50.  If I had ordered more at the same time the impact of postage would not have been so great I suppose.  So that is storage for 320 models in each 4 litre box.  More than enough for this project.

Friday, 16 April 2021

The Soviet menace is growing

The Soviet war machine.  Not complete by a long way!

I have been busily painting and basing the Oddizial Osmy cold war models ready for the full version of A Fistful of TOWs 3 (FFT3 hereafter) arriving.   They were delivered a couple of days ago and I have spent my spare time since going through the rules to see where the differences to the introductory versions lie.  My first impression is that rules are well thought out and do create a very fast and deadly game exactly as I found in the test play through with the free introductory rules.

The differences other than all the extra rules such as chemical and tactical nuclear attacks, airborne assaults, and helicopter and airstrikes are the extra detail in the combat rules.  These cover things like the effect of stabilised guns, ( move and shoot and engaging multiple targets per turn), shoot and scoot attacks.  In other sections are a really well thought out set of guidelines for interpreting rules and disputes.  The full rules add chrome and make the use fire and manoeuvre tactics achievable.   They are pitched at the sweet spot between detail and playability (at least in what is the sweet spot for me).  The rules include data on a lot of weapons and combat formation TOEs (expressed in FFT3 bases).  Players still need to know their period as some of the fine detail isn't there in the lists and not all of the armies and formations you might want are not there (no Warsaw pact formations other than Russians for example) but there is enough to get started with.  FFT3 works at the one base is a platoon level but once playing my head switches to a tank is a tank and a stand of infantry is a section or fire team and it makes no difference to the fun.  For those who want it there are suggestions for changes to run the rules at 1:1 ratios but I really don't see the need.

For the Soviets 6 tank bases makes a battalion (edited from 9 so if you read this once already you are not going nuts it did have different numbers in this sentence) so I have the equivalent of 12 battalions ready to roll with 15 T-80s ready to have base work done.

(L-R) T-55, T-62, T-64, T-72 and last T-80 with unfinished base

On the painting front  there are more BTRs and BMPs plus their infantry passengers to complete plus a raft of support kit ZSU and BRDM support and recon plus Hinds and SU-25 Frogfoots.  The BAOR need some more FV432s and FV438s and crews plus their air support to work on. Sounds like a huge task but it really isn't at 1/600.

I have thrown money at this project, literally I ran out 1p coins to base stuff on and had to convert a £5 into pennies to ensure I have enough for the project and follow ons! I will explain the basing and ID system in the next post.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Cold War Gone Hot - the first campaign map

 As mentioned in the last post I have created a campaign map which should cover the first 24 hours of a Warsaw Pact attack, give or take a couple of hours.  Apologies for the slightly washed out reproduction I need to play around with the scanner settings to get a bit more colour saturation. 

The campaign map for the initial fighting 

Soviet Forces will enter at the right hand side and try to exit from the left. I will be covering this frontage with BAOR forces.  Recon units will cover the area in the first two rows of rectangles (each one of which is a game table measuring 6' by 4').  Heavier formations will be to the west.  I will probably deploy a brigade sized battlegroup to cover the area consisting of a Chieftain regiment, one or possibly two mechanised infantry battalions plus a couple of Milan platoons, A Striker detachment (mounting Swingfire ATGM) and a Blowpipe AAGM detachment.  Artillery will be offboard.  Soviets will have (initially) three Motorised Rifle Regiments backed up with a T-62 Regiment. Stacked up behind that will be a T-64 Tank Regiment.  Which means that I need to get on with the painting and basing!  15 T-64As are painted and will be based by later today.

Based upon my initial test game it took the Soviets 36 game minutes to achieve their initial objectives on a 6' x 4' table and they would perhaps probably needed another 24 minutes (two turns) to get forces off the table excluding time for the second echelon to come up.  I intend throwing WarPac lines of assault open to input both through this blog and elsewhere on Face Book and through real life (TM pending) contacts.  So it is probably worth mentioning that WarPac forces may enter the map on any of the roads marked with a red arrow and the rules require battalions to be kept together.  Other than that express your opinions on the best WarPac operational plan for day one in the comments.  I will throw the actual table tactics open in due course.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

A Fist Full of Tows 3 - what next

I enjoyed the test game I played last weekend and it has reignited my interest in 'the war that never was'. I have placed an order for the rules via Lulu and as I have never used Lulu or any other print on demand service before that will be interesting in it's own right. I also placed a second order to Magister Militum to expand my troop range to include the support arms along with a couple of (read that as four) different Warsaw Pact tank types. I have added some T-55s for third tier formations, and some T-64s and T-80Us for first line formations plus T-72As. I have air support Recon, AA and AT plus more infantry and transport. Let’s just say it wasn’t a small order!

An additional 75 Russian tanks are only part of the order!

 I'm still getting my head around where the T-72 fits in.  Most sources term it a mobilisation model which was intended to be mass produced when war was imminent but at the same time it appears to have equipped existing formations in the second echelon.  I read an interesting (read that as depressing) quote from someone who served in Germany at the time, they believed that if they came up against T-72s the war would have been almost over. Either the Russians were winning and we were about to go nuclear, or they were loosing and they were about to go nuclear!

I think the 1980's is the obvious period to set scenarios for NATO v WarPac as the electronic and cyber aspects of warfare have not become an overpowering factor yet and active counter measures to anti tank munitions are only just appearing.  In a lot of ways it is akin to late World War Two with better equipment (and nerve gas and nuclear weapons!).  It's also the period where the Soviet doctrine had moved away from massive use of tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield so there is something to play out other then just dousing the playing table in petrol and applying a match!  It's also probably the latest period where we know a good deal about the capabilities of the equipment and can be reasonably comfortable that it is accurate(ish).  Plus in doing the research its interesting to compare what we thought we knew at the time and what turns out to be the truth.

So the date is summer 1982 the Falkland conflict never happened as we re-enforced the islands rather than going ahead with the removal of HMS Endurance (The FCO were furious).  This deterred Argentina, but required the maintaining of a strengthened garrison and RAF presence.  That weakened our presence in Germany slightly.  Meanwhile the Russians are concerned about the rise of pro democracy movements in Poland and are seeking a means of diverting attention from the poor results in Afghanistan.  Brezhnev is dying and no longer able to control the hardliners in the Politburo and many of the foreign policy decisions are being made by his ultimate successor Yuri Andropov.  This coupled with US President Reagan's anti Communist rhetoric sows the seeds for military action to reunify Germany by force.  The final straw is the forthcoming deployment of Pershing and land based cruise missiles into West Germany by the US.  Russian military planners consider that these weapons, especially the precision guided missiles, would be as effective as tactical nuclear weapons at disrupting command and control nets but without the long term wide ranging collateral damage.  If a war is to be waged and won without a need to use tactical nuclear weapons on a massive scale there is a narrow window of opportunity and summer 1982 is that window.

I have set up a 'campaign' map divided into oblongs each of which is equivalent to the area of my standard game table.  The initial map area covers about 30 miles north to south and 40 miles East to West, sufficient for the first day's fighting if WarPac rates of advance are as NATO expected in the early stages.  Just waiting for the rules to arrive now which should be in the next couple of days.

The Soviet Tank Force has made it to the painting table