Saturday, 25 June 2022

Rapid Fire! France 1940 in 20mm - BMW's and Mercedes for the Germans

German light vehicles arrive at the Ferme des Fenêtres bleues (sorry, I could´t remember anything else) during that fateful month of May 1940. They are BMW R/75 combos and Mercedes-Benz G5 (W152). While the side-cars were a reality in France 1940 not so much for the military G5s which, as far as I could find, was sold to the Hungarian army, used by the German mountain troops but not seen in France. Even so I had these three 3d printed G5 models from MiniGeneral and had to do something with them. As they are relatively similar to other light and medium cars that the German army used in France I pressed these into service and they will be useful as Infantry battalion command cars or OP team carriers. 

The MiniGeneral G5 are simple six part models with my own usual crew made out of plastic torsos and boots with legs and arms made in GreenStuff. 

Now what I really need is a picture of these guys in the Blitzkrieg period valiantly advancing in the midst of the hot spring summer of 1940. Anyone?...

I found these Eskice Miniatures while looking at Aliexpress. A pack has what you see in each row and they are a nice way to introduce some variety in the ranks of our Zvezda combos. The figures are more on the chunky side with bigger heads than Zvezda but at the moment they are all happily living in the same shelve and I had no complains from any of the involved parts. 

One piece resin printings of the finest quality. Just take them out of the blister and paint them! No boring material attached, no printing lines, just lovely models. In their catalog you can find plenty of other models from French motorcyclists to refugees, British paratroopers, Swiss infantry and plenty more.  A true temptation. 

One of the prints has the later MG 42, so I carved it out and replaced it with the MG 34 from the Esci soft plastic figures. 

Next: probably more Ukraine 2022. 

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Able Archer/ RFR rules (?) - Russian invasion of Ukraine 2022 in 20mm (part 4) - First group of Ukrainian vehicles and a few more Russians


Nowadays we can find much more information on the organization and weapons of the Russian army than on the Ukranian side. There are several reasons for that: there are exhaustive studies on the Russian army and its organization and equipment much before this invasion and its army advanced much more in the open being photographed and filmed intensively. The Ukrainian army is the opposite: the star of its army has been the ATGW groups and infantry and its heavier defensive and counter attacking forces are generally well hidden and not easily reached by journalists, with its location kept secret. Of course the numerous casualties on both sides gives a good idea of models, camouflages and markings. 

I took this T-64 BV from a lot of 10 I got from MiniGeneral 3d prints in order to have my first attempt at the recently introduced digital camouflage of the Ukrainian army.  The T-64BV is the most common tank in the Ukrainian arsenal. In recent peaceful games and challenges between them and other Russian and Western MBT´s this model showed its age and deficiencies getting bad marks and maybe because of that is not seen challenging the more powerful Russian tanks that much.  

These two BTR-80 are Altaya and were painted without camouflage as some examples found in the National Guard. 

Also two BM-27 Uragan and its 9T452 transloader got the digital camouflage. All models are Altaya diecast but the transloader is a conversion using plastic card and barbecue sticks. 

One more 400+part  model of the Pantsir S-1 arrived. This is good news as Armory managed to get into business again after having its production disrupted due to the invasion. The mention of the 400+ part is due to the fact that this model is one of those time consuming models for wargamers with the usual nice end but nerve wrecking building process. 

In order to speed building I used the other one already built as a matrix and all useless parts not to be seen were left aside. Like this I may have gained an extra modelling day (10 to 12 hours... joking!) on this one.

Before painting the Pantsir looks like this. Its a very good multi media model and not a very easy build. 

A third Russian infantry battalion was added. Again Orion conversions and Alex Miniatures. 

The 120mm mortar is again Atlantic with  a number of cuts to make it simpler. The round base is the wheel of a Panther tank. Another peeing soldier is carrying a 120mm shell most probably dwarfing the original!

The Strela AA group is Zvezda with the usual goggles added for a more post-2008 look.

A loaded and tired Metis ATGM shooter from Alex Miniatures is ordered into position by its superior. 

A mix of Orion and Alex Miniatures for the command group. 

The AGS-17 grenade launcher is being assembled. In fact as the AGS-17 is transported in three different parts (gun-support-ammo) I built the support structure in plastic for a bit of variety. 

Another mix of the two brands. The left figure (Alex Mini) carries a RPG-26 but it can also be one of the several RPG's in service in the Russian army like the RPG-27/28/30, the RPO-A or the MRO-A. 

This time the RPG man is Orion withe a new helmet and goggles made in GreenStuff. 

All Orion figures also got new haversacks for the look of the Russian infantry in Ukraine. 

Next: More Russian invasion of Ukraine or a short incursion by the Germans to France in 1940.

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

Able Archer/ RFR rules (?)- The Russian BTGs of the 2022 Invasion of Ukraine in 20mm (part 3)

This video shows and talks about the organization and model sources for making the nowadays miniature Battalion Tactical Group(s) that the Russians are using in the invasion of Ukraine. The models are mostly die-cast from Altaya, Eaglemoss and Fabbri, and 3d prints from MiniGeneral and Mário Laranja with plenty of kits from S-Models. Zvezda, Armory, Revell, 4d Models and ModelCollect.
Most of these models were made years ago for the Russo-Georgian war of 2008 and suffered minor changes for this nowadays conflict. The infantry is a mixture of Orion conversions and Alex Miniatures.
If you want go to my blog and see how these were made.

Monday, 13 June 2022

Able Archer/ RFR rules (?) - Russian Invasion of Ukraine 2022 in 20mm (part 2) - First few infantry and Kamaz improvisations.

First few Russian infantry battalions made and a few "Kamaz 4x4" to join the six BTGs in the make. In fact, excluding 4 infantry battalions and a few artillery, the Russian BTGs are almost done. Then it will be time to start the Ukrainian side. 

The contemporary Russian infantry is only available through the excellent Alex Miniatures (some of the grey figures in this picture). Even so I managed to find a total of six boxes of Orion Russian Federals on ebay as they tend to be rarer due to the sanctions, and they were used to beef up the ranks. Those figures are aimed at the Chechen conflict and still Ok for the Russo-Georgian war of 2008 but not up to the reforms of 2012 on. Nowadays the Russian army introduced the Barmitsa and Permyachka combat suits and this forces some changes in the Orion figures. All of the Orion got new goggles and extra equipment made in GreenStuff and thus they can be placed side by side with the Alex Miniatures. 

A big problem with the Orion is the number of silly figures, around half of the set. Some can be adapted to action poses but many are a complete waste, at least for wargaming even if nice for dioramas. 

Here you see the 1st battalion made with all adaptations I mentioned above. 

The 'specials' of the battalion, both weapons and command companies. Most of these are Alex Miniatures with a few Orion carefully placed on the stand in order to protect the fragile Alex Minis as they are resin and the weapons are easily breakable. 

Again the same idea. One Alex Mini and one Orion figure per stand. Hopefully I´ll try to remember always to hold the stand by the Orion figure...

This Vasilek 82mm mortar is also Alex Miniatures. Beautiful but very fragile, so I used resin to strengthen the parts and a reasonable sized base to protect the group.  

The second battalion was finished a few days later and benefited from better light while taking its pictures. The 120mm mortar stand had some of the silly Orion figures, namely the one peeing, now holding a 120mm mortar round! 

One of the AGS-17 groups from Alex Miniatures. 

 The command group of the 2nd battalion with two figures from Alex Miniatures and one Orion (officer with pistol). 

Finally some Kamaz 4x4. This image is one of these machines captured by the Ukranians and a command or ambulance version. 

As I need numbers of these I used some 1/100th or 1/87th large trucks conversions bought at the local Chinese shop in order to have something relatively close to the true Kamaz. 

Only the original cabin and chassis were used. Parts added were: a front bumper; new lights, five old Atlantic wheels and the cargo area made of plastic card and insulation board. 

Well, not a work of art but a handy addition to the Russian BTGs. 

Next: maybe the promised video or a new Pantsir-S1 together with the 3rd infantry battalion. 

Monday, 30 May 2022

Able Archer/ RFR rules (?) - Russian Invasion of Ukraine 2022 in 20mm (part 1) - Context, possibilities and conversions


After the Russo-Georgian war of 2008 I started to build contemporary forces. Several armies grew on my basement: a very large Russian force was built together with Georgian, Portuguese, Italian and German forces. The quickly available die-cast were a big help both for air and land and, together with the US  units for Iraq 2003, all this stuff was gathered for an eventual enlargement of the 2008 conflict something that fortunately never happened. The Russian occupation of Crimea and the Donbass (with big battles like Debaltseve) made me start an Ukranian force. All these models are now in the hundreds and, when the Russian invasion of Ukraine started on the 24th February 2022, many of them just needed the addition of a few details like the "Z" Russian symbol or some digital camouflage in the case of the Ukranians, so I will not bother you showing them again as you can see them in the Blog Label "Georgia 2008". This war also has an incredible coverage by the media and even individuals and plenty of material surfaced in magazines like Raids, TNT, DSI and such. TV and the Web are also great sources of information on the conflict and soon a Russian BTG or a Ukranian Mech became very well known expressions that the armchair generals use like if they always did (my case also).

With this war having a strong support from NATO countries in behalf of Ukraine, much of the US, German, Italian, Georgian, Portuguese model miniatures (and so on, fortunately, many of the miniature armies I collected) can be used by the Ukranian side. Also built in the last few years were many of the more recent Russian models used after 2008 (even if built before)  that were not used by the 58th CAA (T-90, BMP-3, etc)  

Regarding rules... well, that is more complicated. Surely I want a ratio of 1:5 in tanks and 1:15 in infantry which is something that works very well in Able Charlie rules (the modern version of Rapid Fire! designed for Cold war and up to the 80ies). With the more recent RFR rules I intend to mix Able Charlie and RFR with my own ideas about drones, AAWS (Javelin type), stealth aircraft and all the stuff that came in the last decades. Not sure if I will ever make it but, in the mean time I´ll enjoy building and collecting models for this current war. I know this sounds cold hearted but I´m sure that this war will be a major issue in the wargaming communities in the future due to the amount, variety and size of the engagements.  Hopefully this war will finish soon and we can have true historical information about it not corrupted by propaganda from both sides. 

Even if very old material from the 80ies and 90ies is used in this conflict, you need some newer stuff. So lets see what can be done from my point of view. 

The BTR-82A is one of the most seen vehicles from the Russian side in this conflict. At least one infantry company and the support company of each BTG (Battalion Tactical Group) should be equipped with it (or the older BTR-80A or even the basic BTR-80). With a total of around 100 BTGs that means some 1800 vehicles of the kind in this Russian invasion. My idea regarding the Russian army is to build six BTGs (a mixed group of around two battalions worth of tanks, infantry and artillery) with some surplus vehicles (different tank and AFV models) and one full Ukranian Mechanized Brigade, much larger than the Russian BTG (around six battalions). 

A cheap way to do the BTR-82A  is the 4D model ordered from Aliexpress. I ended up with 12 of them and half were converted to the BTR-82A. One went to the reconnaissance infantry company and the plain BTR-80 went to the support company of each BTG. By having six of each you can use also all BTR-82A in the Russian forces (3 BTG) or all BTR-80 in the Luhansk (LPR) or Donetsk (DPR) as I think these last two have older equipment. 

The turret needs a lot of carving and sanding to bring it to shape. Then you can see the kind of material necessary for the gun mount: plastic card and tubes, metal tubes and GreenStuff. In the end you get  a number of cheap and effective BTR-82A. 

Each Russian BTG needs at least a command vehicle. The best idea should be the several variants based on the BTR-80 (the R-149 variants) but I already spent 12 of them as you can see in the previous paragraphs. So I used an older model, still present on the Russian side (maybe only LDR and NLR?) as can be seen from the Oryx site, the R-145 BM1 based on the obsolete BTR-60.  This choice was quite handy as I was thinking to use them for the Angolan Bush Wars but, in the mean time, MiniGeneral also released the BTR-60 making it quite accessible. 

This Fabbri die-cast conversion is pretty straightforward and it can be even simpler if you don't place the communications pole in the upward position, by far the most complicated part of the conversion. As you can see most of the converted parts are made of broom bristles (pink) and plastic or metal rod.  

The rear of the vehicle also needs some mending and two component paste was used for that effect. The communications pole is much longer than this when extended and this solution, even if less accurate, is better for storage. With a Xan Miniatures commander the model is complete. 

Of course better than one are six of the same, one for each BTG, and ready for priming. 

Same idea for the AT company of the BTG. The Russian (and Ukranians) still use this 9K114 Shturm based on the MT-LB. So, six of them came from MiniGeneral and were converted for this version. 

Same materials as before for this conversion, plastic card, two component paste and the toughest Styrofoam you can find. As I told you before the ugly printing lines at the front are gone with two layers of gloss varnish applied in spray. 

All AT companies ready. You can replace these by the 9M123 Khrizantema based on the BMP-3. 

Well, the next ones can´t be scratch built or converted, at least from my level of modelling, and thus the true things had to be bought. This is the Pantsir-S1, one of the latest AA systems of the Russian army. This is an Armory model, made in Ukraine, and nowadays not very easy to find. Its a complex model with some 400 parts made of plastic, resin and PE parts. Even if assembling the thing together took me some three days, after painting, as usual, it becomes a nice model. 

I have another one of this model coming but I hope to find four other different AA models (modernized Shilkas, Tunguskas, Tor, Buk..), preferably die-cast for the rest of the BTG, as this one take lots of time and money!

One of issues with these kind of weapons in the BTG is that some advocates its replacement by HMGs as the Ukranian infantry with ATGW is far more dangerous for the BTG than Ukranian aircraft. 

In these months I also looked for some infantry and found on Ebay several of the Orion modern  Federal Russian infantry, which are obviously becoming harder and harder to find as they are made in Russia. The poses are very good but many of the figures are using berets, caressing dogs and other trivial stuff which are not very "wargaming" poses besides being better for the beginning of the century with the Chechen wars in mind. Of course no sign of the EMR, Barmitsa or Permyachka gear and uniforms which tend to be more relevant in nowadays Russian army, particularly from 2008 on.

The SPG artillery uses the tanker's helmet and these were made in GreenStuff replacing the original beret. 

The 2S19 Msta-S is one of the main SPGs in use. The models are Zvezda, made in Russia, and I hurried in buying them for obvious reasons... 
The model is a beauty, as everything Zvezda does. Together with nowadays Revell, Dragon and ModelCollect, its one of the best model kit brand around. The figures are Orion and Xan miniatures. The Akatsya SPG is still used in big numbers and I hope to find a few of them for the rest of the BTGs, preferably die-cast.

This 2S4 Tyulpan is a repainted fabbri die-cast with another Orion conversion as crew. The one you see is the one caressing a dog but here is somehow helping to place the mortar into position. 

Finally a repainted TOS-1 from Zvezda. My Russian BTGs are now around 100 vehicles with just a hand full of vehicles and all infantry still to be made. Next to start in force are the Ukranians and then a Regiment of Russian VDV. 

Next: maybe a video on the Russians in the current invasion of Ukraine.