Monday, January 20, 2014

A Gun Most Reviled

Looking down the barrel of a gun, son of a gun, son of a b...
Here I have modeled and painted up an American Anti-Tank Platoon consisting of (3) M1 57mm Anti-Tank guns and supporting bazookas.

We are hiding in these NICE! woods.
The M1 57mm Anti-Tank gun is based on the British 6 pounder and for reasons buried in history the US Army was very slow to supply high explosive ammunition with it unlike the British who supplied it with both HE and improved AP rounds.  As a result I've read it was not particularly loved by the infantryman.

This gun is rather reviled gun in Flames of War.  It's mediocre AT10 rating and 24" range struggle to take on many of the heavier armed vehicles that are favored in Flames of War list building.  It also lacks high explosive (HE) ammunition in most intelligence briefings so is ineffective against infantry or field guns.  The later briefings representing forces starting in the fall of 1944 have high explosive ammunition making it a more useful weapon.  In spite of its lackluster AT rating and range it does have some strengths including its ROF 3 and medium rating.   It has some mobility and the ability to be concealed when dug in.  Another strength is that is fielded in a platoon that also contains 3 bazookas resulting in a platoon that has more infantry teams than gun teams.  The platoon has a number of different transport options depending upon which army list you are representing your army as.  The Armored divisions used half-tracks with .50 machine guns.

We brought bazooka's too!
In the Armored divisions each Armored Infantry Company had one Anti-Tank platoon armed with (3) 57mm AT Guns.  It is noteworthy that in Flames of War you are not required to take an Anti-Tank platoon in an Armored Rifle company even though the platoon resides at the company level.

In the Infantry divisions there would be one Anti-Tank platoon in the Headquarters Company of an Infantry Battalion.  So for every 3 Rifle companies there would be one Anti-Tank Platoon with 3 guns.  In addition at the Regiment level there was a Anti-Tank company of 3 platoons of 57mm guns (9 guns).

The point being here is that if the Regiment and Battalions doled them all out equally there would be only 2 guns per Rifle company.  Undoubtably, some companies never saw their support.

It's much different than the generous support options you get in a Flames of War army list.  I happen to think that is one of the strengths of FoW, you get to field cool stuff.  Some see it as negative but, nothing stops individuals from fielding more historically plausible formations using the game system.

The Airborne divisions also used the 57mm gun on a different carriage, the British 6 pounder version, for parachute drops.

I'll be fielding mine in a number of different army configurations but these were put together for use as Division support in an Engineer Combat Company during the Battle of the Bulge.  I think they are allowed in this briefing to represent some of the fragmented and scattered platoons that came together into ad hoc formations to put up a defense against the advancing Germans.

I see them having 2 main roles in FoW.  First as an ambush platoon.  The AT10 is not going to hurt any heavy tanks from the front but does have some chance to hurt mediums with FA 6 or 7.  Being an ambush and possibly at close range there is a chance you may get some side shots where it will cut up StuG's and Panzer IV's and have good chance to take out some Panthers.  You will still struggle against some of the behemoths like Tigers. The gun does have a FP 4+ so you may end up only bailing some tanks but that is where you can follow up the shooting with an assault from your platoon commander and the 3 bazookas to mop up any survivors.  You'll probably have to make a decision to move those guys out of cover and charge the tanks before you fire the guns so calculate your chances of success carefully.

Surprise! Here we are!
The second role I see these guys having is defending objectives against assaults, particularly against tanks.  Set them up as a second line of defense behind your infantry with gaps between infantry teams to fire through.

Any tanker with skill will pin all the platoons they are assaulting and assault from cover or smoke.  The pinning is going to cause all the ROF 1 bazooka's in your other platoons to be at +1 to hit resulting in them needing 5's or 6's to hit incoming tanks.  These guns will drop from ROF 3 to ROF 1 when pinned but will not suffer the +1 to hit.  The guns are going to get twice the number of hits than the bazooka's against veterans and 1 1/2 times the hits against trained.  Every gun is worth 2 bazooka's against veterans and has a better firepower rating.  The guns can also fire as rifles so they can contribute to defensive fire if being assaulted by infantry.

In all likelihood smart players will not assault your position.  They will just shoot you until the guns are destroyed.  Even if that is the case it will buy you a round or two of time and or shift their attack to somewhere else more favorable to your defense or make it on your terms.  If you lose all the guns you may still be above half strength and keep fighting with the bazooka's.

Other minor roles it might be used as are a reserve platoon based on its relatively low points cost, or as a "US Towed Tank Destroyer platoon Light" when you mount up the commander and bazooka's in the half-tracks and go rampaging about gunning everything with the .50 cals.  It's all the rage you know.  The trouble with that may be the platoon commander would have to go in his jeep.

The 57mm AT gun is definitely reviled in FoW but if used properly with reasonable expectations it can be effective.

Thanks for looking and be sure to follow the blog or leave a comment if you like what I am presenting.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Can you see the trees through the Forest?

It's been several months since I last posted so I think it is obvious that there is no way I am going to provide weekly blog content.  Having 2 children under 5 years of age and a wife who works a lot, it's just not going to happen.  I've been working on stuff regularly and snapping lots of photos but for some reason having uninterrupted time to write and process photos has been rather challenging.  I've also been playing a lot of Starcraft II with my good buddy.  It can be so much easier to burn a few hours playing computer games than buckle down and do some hobby work.

Anyway, I am excited about this year.  I have cleared the calendar for a tournament in February of which I am casually working on the last few pieces for my US Engineer Co.  I am also considering a trip out of state for a tournament in early April.  The probability is rather low but I am holding high hopes.

I'm making a trip to California in February and one to Michigan in August along with as many trips to the high country as I can fit in.  I am also going to be starting a hugely inconvenient remodeling project at my home this spring which I will project manage.  I figure I better put to use my 15 years of construction management and purchasing experience and add some space to the house.  We moved just over a year ago and added 900 square feet but, ironically went from a 4 bedroom to a 3 bedroom while adding a new member to the family. I need to fix that situation.  I am also committed to going back to school full time to finish my accounting degree and CPA exam this fall.

So, needless to say, hobbying and blogging will have to give from time to time.  I am setting a goal of providing a monthly update on gaming or whatever.  I'll continue adding to my US forces for Flames of War and attempt to build some German counter armies.  I'm excited to see the Italy compilation Battlefront is going to publish and I have already modeled two Panzer III's for a Herman Goring PanzerKompanie I intend to make.  I hope to get the Fallschirmjager done as well; @#$~? you Splinter Camo!  I'm going to leave painting 100 tanks to the masochists at WWPD.

So without further blithering here is my January presentation.

I really wanted to make some woods and forests for my game table so after seeing some my friend Gwen made I immediately started on mine.  Now Gwen is a super talented painter and sort of my unknowing hobby mentor.  I steal learn all my best hobby ideas from her.  I took her idea and expanded on it a bit.  One of the cool things about this project is there is no painting involved.

One of the annoying things for me in Flames of War terrain presentation is little patches of woods that amount to no more than a copse.  Scattered about the table in unnatural patterns they look odd and for the most part just slow the game down.  Giving veteran troops essentially unlimited cover to operate in is a recipe for a long, fun sapping, engagement.  Woods and forests however, do have a place in the game and can be a welcome addition to a table if done right.  I set out to make mine modular with the ability to be more like forests if I want.

I went to Home Despot and picked up a bunch of 12"x12" vinyl tiles with adhesive backing.  It's about $1/tile and has a slate like look.  I lost my picture of the exact product but this one may be it.  Pick whatever you like, there a couple choices in earth tones.

Next take some Wesley tin Snipes and cut them into the shapes you want.  They cut with a utility knife as well but snips work fast.  Trim as required with a utility knife.

Tin snips designed to cut curves work great

 I cut mine into modular shapes so I can make large woods or line them up on a table edge.

FoW is a box of chocolates, you never know what kind of terrain you'll encounter
Next remove the paper backing.

Yes, I am making some 12" x 12" forests!  Can you say Ardennes?
Apply felt to adhesive and trim with scissors and hobby knife.  This will keep things from moving around on your table.

~$1 from any craft hobby store, don't forget to use your weekly 40% off coupon
Next get out your big bottle of Elmer's (PVA) and apply glue in an irregular pattern around the edges and parts of the middle of each piece.  I'm not super careful but try to get pretty good coverage on the vertical edges where the tile meets the vinyl.

I lied, there is painting.  Use an old brush.
Sprinkle flock of your choice on the glue.

Woodland Scenic's Blended Turf Green Blend
Here is where you can get as involved or not as you like.  Gwen went with a single color, I went for 2 and 3 shades.  Whatever you feel like.  Some people are frugal about the flock and use it sparingly.  It does go a long way.  I just pile it on, it's pretty cheap.  Where the glue still shows I applied a second color and patted it all down nicely.

Burnt Grass on inside edges
Let that dry, shake it off, and on a hot, dry day, hit it with a couple of coats of matte lacquer.  That's an important step.  It seeps into the flock and locks it in place keeping the shedding and mess to a minimum.  That's my forest or woods base defining my area terrain.

Next I make the small sections with the trees to make it look like a forest.  Make or buy whatever trees you like but, do get bases for them.  I get pre-made ones.  The clump foliage never stays on very well so I do take some time with my hot glue gun and gel super glue to better attach the foliage onto the armatures.  I also put a tiny piece of masking tape on the bottom of the base where there is a hole.  This will prevent glue from wicking up the hole when you place them.

From Michael's, 40% off, about $1.50 each, you can do better, I didn't try hard
Take your small pieces and score an X into the vinyl with a utility knife at each place you intend to glue a tree.  Glue them on.

I used Epoxy, I wouldn't use PVA here.  Super Glue may be fine here, who knows?
Once dry repeat the procedure used on the bases.

Leave some of the tile showing through
This time I took a 3rd flock color "Earth" and completely covered up the tree bases in flock.

Once dry, shake excess, and seal with matte finish
You are just about done.  Stick the trees into the bases.  The little bit of lacquer that got into the holes of the bases made inserting the trees into the bases a press fit, nice and snug.  If you felt compelled you could glue them in.  Once assembled hit them with another coat of matte finish.  That will provide additional adhesion for the clump foliage on the trees.

All completed we have some serious forest for your game table.

Ready to make some bog checks?
No arguing, that's heavy terrain
 If you wanted you could dress up the tree sections.  Adding some clump foliage and grass tufts will definitely add to the visual appeal.  Do it to whatever level you like.  I went for a minor upgrade with multiple flock colors choosing quantity over quality.  I've made no attempt to hide the seam where the tree goes into the base but, I suppose you could if you where insane.  This terrain could easily work for many different scales and game systems.

Thanks for taking a look.  If you like what I am doing be sure to follow the blog or leave a comment.  I'll be featuring one of the units for my Flames of War US Engineer's next.