Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Elephants, Snow, Ice, and Mammoths

These are some of the elephants that I got in the Lakeshore Tub of Wild Animals I got a few days ago. They are a bit on the small side, but they will help to give my elephant herd a bit more variety. An elephant herd has several uses. Big game hunting, Tarzan games; using the old Airfix / HaT Tarzan figures, and even Afrika Korps / 8th Army goes very far south wargames!

The set also included these animals. They make a great giant creature for those exploring the unknown jungle games.

Finally, I got a couple more mammoths from Tedco Toys. I have combined them with the Nature Toob igloos, the Matchbox Arctic explorers, and the Copplestone Arctic Camp. I placed them on a white plastic sheet to simulate an Arctic environment.

In WWII the Germans, Finns, Russians, Americans, Canadians, Japanese and British all had troops working in the Arctic regions. Often they were small groups of soldiers, sailors, and airmen monitoring the weather. The weather is often created in Arctic regions and the Allied bomber offensive against both Japan and Germany was very weather dependant. They were usually small groups that often were dropped off and expected to winter over without re-supply. These small forces sometimes fought each other and when they discovered the enemy, they would sometimes call in more forces. These little battles make quick wargames because they have small forces, and very limited terrain.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Vatican Enterprises sells products made by Hudson & Allen. They are the same folks who made the Alamo in 1/72nd scale. This is their three wigwam set, also in 1/72nd scale. It has three similar buildings on a single base all molded in foam resin. They are hollow and quite durable. There is also a little campfire in front of the center structure. I got three of these sets to make a little village. When I combine them with the smaller Imex Eastern Friendly Indian sets building, I will be able to make a large village. Typically, these buildings were surrounded by a palisade in Eastern American Indian villages.

These Indians are conversions, the one with the rifle has a US Army M1 WWII era rifle. I cut some Indians in half to make horse mounted Indians into standing figures; firing a bow & arrow and a rifle. I wanted an M1 rifle for a WWII era game we were playing.

This figure is from Eagle Games. It shows that these wigwams will work well for Indians, and even African native and probably other primitive peoples too. Clustered together these buildings make an instant village. There are two similar but larger buildings listed in their catalog as out of stock, but I hope to get those sometime in the next few months.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Arctic Adventures

This is the 28mm Arctic Explorer set from Copplestone Castings. It has two arctic tents, four wooden crates and two sets of skis. Tents are one piece resin, and the other bits are soft metal. All are flash free and well designed and cast.

Matchbox cars have a set that comes with two figures and a sled, they are show here with the tents. While these figures a just a tad larger than 1/72nd scale, they seem to do well with these tents.

In the back I have added a couple of the igloos from the Nature Toob set to make a nice start on an arctic diorama. Adventure games often take place all over the world and this group of sets allows you to inexpensively and easily venture into the Arctic or Antarctic regions. These items are good for wargaming too. The Nazis landed troops in northern regions for weather forecasting and they sometimes had to make do with living in tents, at least for a while. They were operating in Greenland, northern Norway, and even talked about going to Canada. The work was important to allow proper military planning because the weather from Western Europe was formed in the Arctic. There were several times when both American and British units fought small battles with these German troops in this harsh environment.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Yak About Musk Ox

As part of my Battle of Berlin wargame I have been searching for animals of many different kinds. The Berlin Zoo naturally had a wide selection of animals, and while many of them were evacuated, but many remained all during the battle. I also wanted animals for the refugees, who would often be riding animals or animal drawn vehicles. Many of the farm people would be driving herds of animals to keep them out of the hands of the advancing Russian Army. During this I found a few other animals too. Given the massive size of my collection, cheap animals is an important consideration too.

Lakeshore Toys has a set of what they call Tub of Wild Animals that naturally enough is a big plastic jar filled with plastic animals. At only $20 for a Tub, you only have to find a few usable animals to make the purchase worthwhile. I got five musk ox, which when compared to the HaT WWII German 1/72nd scale troops shown above, look pretty good. If these were the only useful items, the cost would only be $4 per musk ox; not too bad.

They also include five large gorillas. They are too big for use as standard gorillas in 1/72nd scale but I plan on using them for those adventure in the jungle games.

These HaT WWII Germans shown with the gorillas. The giraffes looked good too and so did some of the others. Despite the fact that most of the animals in the tub are too large to use, the usable animals make it worthwhile. More in the next few days.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Spanish Troops

BUM have been releasing a number of new sets recently and this is the most recent. It is Spanish figures for the Rif War and for the Spanish Civil War, Nationalists. They are about 22mm tall, so a bit on the short side compared to many companies more recent releases. They have some flash, but the figures themselves are very animated and have interesting poses.

There is a man standing firing a pistol, next to him is a man in a similar pose, pointing with a stick. There has been some speculation that this guy may represent Francisco Franco.

This is a pre-production sprue that I got from my secret back channels. I hope the production sets have a bit less flash, particularly on the heavy machine gun. The HMG has a nice firing pose and a really good loader. The loader has the ammo belt and his opening the top of the ammo box. Six of the poses are wearing German style steel helmets and the others wear a variety of Spanish headgear. Most of the troops have bolt action rifles with two ammo pouches in the front with various other pouches to the rear.

The bugler is quite the action pose with rifle outstretched and the standard bearer with the furled flag with halberd type top is interesting too. These troops will probably go to my WWII German Blue Division. Actually, they will go to my Unit Escerra which was in Berlin at the end, they were Spanish troops who stayed with the Germans after the Blue Division went home and a few Spanish soldiers who left Spain after that to join the German Army.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Games of Chance

Chessex makes dice and now they even make custom dice. I had them whip up these wonderful dice for my wargame system. Now your homegrown wargame rules don't have to make do with whatever dice you can find at the hobby shop, you can get your own special ones made for you.

Back in the olden times we used to play Tractics and they suggested making a random number generator by labeling 20 pennies in 5% increments, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, 90, 95 and 00. Place the pennies in a box. When you needed to shoot, you would draw a penny from the box and there was your random number. I have long moved on from Tractics, but I always liked the idea of shooting tables being marked off in 5% increments. 1% always seemed to be too fine a margin to me and larger than 5% always seemed too big a jump between classes of fire. With custom dice, I am all set.

These dice are opaque white, good solid plastic, with engraved and blackened numbers. Even with my old tired eyes I can still read them easily at arms lengh, the font is quite bold.

Or friend the HaT German soldier points out the 00 and just over his shoulder you can read the 5. At a dollar per side, these are $20 each, but well worth the cost considering the quality. They arrived only a few days after I ordered them, so not only good, but really fast too.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Faller makes a set called Storks. These are 1/87th scale birds, with seven in a set and two nests. The set sells for about $15.00. I have probably been looking for these for ten years.

The Berlin Zoo had storks and they were one of the favorites of one of the zookeepers. I have been looking for these for five years to try and fill up my Berlin Zoo. The Battle of Berlin was fought all around the Tiergarden where the zoo was located.

Here is the Stork set with a few HaT WWII German troops. One has binoculars and so is obviously a bird watcher. I like to include items like zoo animals that can provide extra objectives to capture or protect. Tell the defender part of his victory conditions are to insure the storks are not killed. In real life the zoo keepers all had certain animals they were attached to and wanted to protect. They even took some home to make sure they would be okay. Not all war is about holding the crossroads or capturing the bridge. Sometimes is it about saving storks. Storks are rather small, but they can fly and are quite fragile so are difficult to protect, transport and handle.

Monday, September 22, 2008


The mighty King Tiger prepares to add another T-34 tank to its' toll of victims. The measuring stick says the Russian tank is 100 meters away. To measure ranges in my rule system, I have painted a yard stick in alternating bands of red and white. The bands are labeled with the distances they represent in meters.

This photo shows that not only has the stick been painted, but it has been painted so that on close inspection, you can still read the inch measurements. I use the inch measurements for movement. In real life, mortars and artillery use red and white alternating colors painted on poles to orient the guns up until the widespread use of GPS systems. Often in color photos you can see a bundle of these poles on the side of a German Wespe SPG or even on a Sherman tank that has been used for a lot of indirect fire. This makes the measuring sticks a bit more fun and makes them highly visible.

According to my rules set I measure to the center of the vehicle, and round up, so this T-34 Soviet tank is 100 meters away. The back side of the stick is painted a dark green to match the surface of my wargame table. That way they blend in when I am taking photos. I like a table that looks nice.

A three foot long measuring stick is just about long enough for nearly all my World War Two gaming needs. I also made some 18 inch rulers into gaming sticks too. If we do a lot of infantry work they are usually long enough. I have some five foot long sticks as well, they work great for long range attacks and post war tanks. Finally I have one really long twelve foot stick for those across the table shots. Proper preparation for wargaming is important to help the game move along in a timely manner. Sticks work very well for measuring movement, range to target, and also line of sight.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Orbit This Ball

The Cold War fought between East and West was waged on many fronts. The US and the USSR fought the battle in propaganda and in space. One of the first entries in this battlefield was Sputnik. This was a very small sphere with radio antennas and a broadcast radio that would send out a beep beep beep signal. It was just large enough to be seen from Earth with the naked eye and the radio signal could be heard by anyone tuning to that frequency. It was the first man made object to orbit the earth.

This model is part of the World Space Museum series and is about 1/72nd scale, the real one was about two feet in diameter. The real fear this prompted in the West was that the Soviet Union could launch space based weapons that could be launched on the United States without any warning. This kit is one Sputnik, fully assembled and painted. It snaps into a clear plastic holder that allows it to "orbit" a big blue marble painted like the continents of the Earth. The marble sits on a small base that holds the plastic holder for Sputnik.

There were several movies made in the Cold War that have space as part of the story, one of my favorites is Ice Station Zebra. It is about US and Soviet forces racing to get a Soviet spy film that has fallen to space and been retrieved by Western researchers on an Arctic expedition, code named Ice Station Zebra. This little Sputnik, while not actually a recon satellite will fit that bill for me in a future wargame I am sure.

The American forces arrive by nuclear submarine and come up through a thin spot in the ice, the Soviet forces parachute down from the sky. Both sides have some air support and there is a short ground battle as part of the movie. I am certain that some day my Imex Korean War forces will be engaged in such a battle. I do have a nuclear sub standing by...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Making Soldiers

Pegasus Hobbies at their website have posed a large quantity of photos of their soon to be released French for both World War One and World War Two! They are doing two sets of French figures and they look great. They include officers, riflemen and heavy weapons.

These photos are pictures of the masters. Note the little number on the base. The set will be planned with the owner saying I want so many poses in certain positions with various weapons. They will be sketched out and then certain items like weapons and helmets will be sculpted. Once those items are perfect in size and accuracy they will be cast in resin to the same scale as the masters. Typically the master figure is much larger than the ultimate figure to be cast in plastic.

Once the accessories are done, the sculptor will make the master figures out of clay. He will use the accessories in resin so that he does not have to make the weapons over and over and they will be exactly the same from figure to figure. Typically at this point the set will be reviewed carefully for any errors in uniform and equipment. The sculptor is often a great artist, but seldom a great military historian. Every detail; buttons, collars, getting the right ammo pouches with the right weapons, grenades, all of it must be perfect. Often many changes have to be made to get them perfect.

Then they are reviewed to insure they will work in the mold. There are limitations to plastic figure making and not every pose can be realized in plastic. Flatter is better for the mold, three dimensional is better for the sculptor, so there is built in tension. Items like the sling on these figures mean they will probably have a separate arm with rifle and sling to glue on to the body. The figure would simply not come out of the mold if it were made this way as a one piece figure.

Once the figures are designed so that they can come out of the mold and the figures are perfect they have to determine how many figures of each pose will fit in the mold and where they will be placed. Usually about 48 1/72nd scale figures can fit in a mold, depending on the poses and accessories, sometimes a few more or a few less. This entire process takes at least three years and sometimes as many as six years from start to finish.

A good sculptor may be very slow; or he many not make figures that fit the mold limitations. He may not take direction well and make goofy poses, or he may not care about the tiny details, or simply may be uninterested in the subject matter. A good mold maker will insure figures are correct before the mold making process begins, but not all of them are good! Some will pantograph the figures improperly and the set will be far too large or way too small. They often don't understand that a difference between 1/72nd scale and 1/78th scale will matter to anyone. Making figures is complicated and difficult and expensive. Thanks to Larry at Pegasus for doing a great job!


One of the most common images in the Second World War in Europe is long streams of refugees fleeing the fighting. At the beginning of the war you see French people fleeing from the advancing German Blitzkrieg. Late war, you see long lines of Germans fleeing advancing Soviet troops.

Often these groups of refugees will be seen with a small wagon full of their world possessions. Sometimes they include livestock and even kids or old people are riding on them.

These are the JR Miniatures ruins and the Forces of Valor Germans with the new Preiser WWII Refugees, in 1/72nd scale hard plastic. They have several optional parts, and the wagon can have the supplies load of baggage, but they are separate parts and so you can load it with your own gear.

This is a very good set but it runs about a dollar a figure so it will be rather expensive to build up long columns of fleeing civilians. I really like the small wagon and will probably get a couple more. There is another set with the wagon and a couple kids, if it is cheaper I may get a few of those too. Refugees in the wargame can serve several purposes. They can block roads, they can be the reason you have to defend the city until the civilians escape, they can hide infiltrators, very common in the Korean War; they can have a mix of civilians and soldiers fleeing the front lines.

Friday, September 19, 2008

More Ruin Uses

Matchbox, the folks that make the little metal and plastic cars, have also made some sets that have figures, plants, and animals. This set is the cowboy set, it has a big horse, a man on foot with a six shooter, two cacti and a wolf or big dog. The set originally came with a couple vehicles. These sets are pretty good as 1/72nd scale figures but the vehicles are way too large. Matchbox has made many of these sets; military, civilian, cowboys, even space aliens.

I posed these figures with some of the previous 15mm JR Miniatures Stalingrad ruins. Buildings for Stalingrad work well for many eras and regions of the world. The American West saw many towns build up and fall down in very short periods of time. The mine runs out, the railroad stops at the next town but not this one, any number of things could kill a town. Sometimes major fires would sweep through towns and there would be little left over. So ruins were not uncommon in the Wild West.

Ruins can be used in many areas of the world and in many eras in wargames. I like ruins because they can be used in so many places. The ACW saw a lot of civilian buildings destroyed, as did the First World War and World War Two. They can also be used for construction sites where the ruins represent buildings being torn down. Ruins can provide troops cover, can block attacking forces and provide some interesting things to look at on the table.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mars Exploration

One of games I like to play is science fiction wargames. Some kind of space creatures attack, the aliens moving their war machines down the street, or astronauts find some terrible thing on another planet. Several nations have sent various probes to other planets and I would expect that they would be visited by astronauts when we get there to check out the effects of time on the machines.

The Airfix 1/72nd scale US Astronaut figure in this photo is standing by the Viking Lander from World Space Museum. They make a number of small scale space toys that are highly detailed and some of them are actually the right size for 1/72nd scale use, like this one.

This model is right out of the box, fully assembled and painted and ready to go explore. I took a couple photos with the little base that comes with the kit. It shows the digging arm extended and taking a soil sample. So I then took it outside and placed it in real soil and took a couple photos. I think they turned out looking pretty good. The model is highly detailed and seems to be just about 1/72nd scale. There are even little American flags on the lander, not bad for $10.

The small diorama base is very well detailed and the lander sits on three small indentations. As you can see it scales nicely with the astronaut figure. Even I don't require a huge fleet of these, but I will probably get a second one, just in case the Martians get this one.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ruined Models

I got some new ruins at my local hobby shop. These are supposed to be Soviet ruins from Stalingrad, in 15mm scale from JR Miniatures. These are highly detailed one piece resin models that have flat bases and are free of flash.

I find these 15mm ruins actually work well for 20mm 1/72nd scale figures also. These are Forces of Valor WWII Germans.

How large is a brick? How big is a doorway? Often doors and windows can look very small, particularly on older buildings. Since these are ruins, I figure they will work just fine with my 1/72nd scale figures. I typically use buildings in 25mm, 20mm, 15mm and HO scale and even O Guage. In real life doorway size varies from too small to very large, bricks and stones vary in size, so as long as the building looks right with the troops, I figure it is okay to use.

Ruins are important wargame pieces as warfare often destroys buildings, either the attacker destroys them trying to capture them or the defender destroys them trying to save them. Ruins can be used in wargames to provide cover for defenders or to canalize the attacker into areas of limited movement. Not until the infantry move in and occupy the city have the defenders lost and city fighting can be very dangerous, ruins like this allow you to conduct those kinds of operations.