Friday, 29 April 2016

Intermission: Review - Building a PSC T34

 In order to give you the chance to go to the loo, get a kia-ora and a miniscule tube of ice cream, by way of an intermission, I thought I'd show how impressed I have been with the Plastic Soldier Company gear, namely their T34.
It's not exactly classic Airfix box art (two tankies playing a rubbish game of hide-and-seek) but we're more interested with the contents... Three models
 This is my basic build-a-kit....er....kit. You'll have your own, no doubt, but if you're a painter say, rather than a builder, then this might get you on that first rung. Contacta precision glue (not too runny) liquid poly with brush (very runny) Superglue, for when you want it to stick or someone's gonna die!...funnily enough not needed on this kit...pin vice, tweezers open, tweezers closed, probe (in case of alien abduction) small nail scissors, straight scalpel blade and handle, cutting/assembly board and mug of hot tea.
PSC, Armourfast and other 'quick build' kit manufacturers are ideal. Get it built, get it painted, get it into action. The reverse of the box shows pretty well the whole procedure at a glance. Emphasis on 'quick' but you don't lose out on quality even with the extraordinary ease of construction.
 You get three identical sprues each with the capacity to make either the T34-76 (1943) or the T34-85 versions of this classic Russian tank.
 Good detail so pay attention to it. It will tell you which way up or what bit connects at which end IF you observe and dry assemble (i.e. put two bits together without glue first to make sure they do)
 Knife, supported cut...
 scissors, unsupported cut...Why emphasise this? I've broken key parts by stressing the sprue!
 You always get tags, flash or mould bumps (fewer with PSC and modern moulds) so, inspect each part as you cut it off and tidy as you go...it pays you later, remember the seven 'P's

 Tip: as you go along bore out the end of the gun barrel. Put the point of the blade in the centre of the barrel and twist the knife as if you were putting in a screw. Alternatively you can use the pin vice for this if you have a small enough drill bit. NB. Keep bandages and a blood transfusion to hand and 999 on speed dial...thumbless of Belfast please note
 You can fit the tracks over the wheel assembly just as easily but I prefered to make them up separately and push them on when dry. It's easier to sort if you've cocked up the track ends...observe, dry fit!
 Every piece has it's obvious place...
 ...just refer to the instructions/artwork for the road/drive wheel position. Dry fit won't help you this time because they fit running in each direction. Instead dry fit the top half of the body to the bottom half and then check for the direction of the road/drive wheel assembly with the instructions/artwork or reference material..the slightly bigger wheel is to the rear

 When you're confident glue it all together and, when dry, push the tracks on (dry first)

 I think the attention to detail is great. Look how these track links contour the wheels. This is nearly impossible with the old style rubber band type tracks...nearly, you need super glue and a lot of packing out to get this effect!
 Altogether now...
 Turret assembly is very straight forward. Refer to the artwork because Russian tank turret hatches hinge to the front which was good for the crew and, on the 1943 version produced the 'mickey mouse' effect when open.
 Build the '85 turret too. It's dead easy to have both options open for your scenarios.
 Keep the bits! There are often extra or alternative parts so hang on to them. Many an interesting effect has be secured by a visit to the 'bits box'.

Don't get me wrong, I love the old Airfix, Matchbox, et al kits but if I was at the beginning of my wargaming life I'd go for the quick builds. There's no contest; quick, quality and quantity.

Hope this is a help.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Stalingrad - Part Eight: Barrikady, German Final Push

The big push is on to finally clear the rest of the Barrikady complex. With ready grenades and full magazines the Russians watch the German infantry and Assault Pioneers emerge from cover. The armour, the PBI's only comfort, risk short range anti-tank assault to get them across the lethal gap...
"Wait for it, comrade...wait for it..."
The Russians are going to get their revenge
 The attackers dash forward! NCO's bellow, cajole and exhort. Officers exzude a calm they don't feel in their gut...
 Engines rev! On, on, move yourself!
 Wait...
Wait...
 Let them get closer...
 ...out from shelter...
 ...get into fire positions...
 ...wait...
 wait...
 Get a bead on your target and....
 FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! The Marder erupts into flame!
 sIG33B puts a 150mm round into the building dead ahead
 The engineers go ape
 ...cooking everything to their front
 Down comes the Katyushas
 ...and the mortars...
 All is concentrated into the gap. The killing ground is packed. Truly a target rich environment!
"Huzzah! huzzah! Germanski kaput!"
 Suddenly Russian machine gunners appear behind the Germans from the ground they'd cleared
 The sewers played a large part in the defence of Stalingrad.
 The reserve Pioneer company just happened to be passing at that very moment. They exact a terrible price from the attackers
 The engineers can't hang about and rush on into the maelstrom of the attack
 ...observation...
 ...is key
 Germans doing what all armies have found they do best, counterattack!
 The infiltration is crushed. Expertly. Brutally.
 Moving to the sound of the guns some of the marshalling yard armour tries to come across to flank...
 ...but wham! a ZIS3 brings the lead vehicle to a shuddering stop
 The reply shot goes wide...
 It's a stand off while the armour assess the threat
Meanwhile, all brace for the worst of warfare...hand to hand

Will the Barrikady fall?
Will the Russians blunt this attack?
Is a bell necessary on a motorbike?
All this and much more from adults playing toy soldiers in a sand pit...next time 

Monday, 11 April 2016

Stalingrad - Part Seven: Reinforcement

Here they come! Screaming down out of an overcast neon sun battering away at the Russian attempt to reinforce the city. In the film 'Enemy at the Gate' (actually only 8 pages out of the excellent 1970's book of the battle) only every second man was armed...
These guy's are better armed that some. Early in the war newly raised russian units had little in the way of small arms to begin with and often the ratio was one rifle to five men...
 ...they would be pumped up with rhetoric and vodka and thrown into action. When the German MG's overheated the armed element took up the fight while the enemy were changing out their barrels...
 ...the Russians have an almost mystical love of their homeland (whichever bunch of ogre's are in charge) and it certainly manifested itself in some incredible bravery and massive sacrifice
 Yes, many were pushed, threatened and cajoled into the mincer but many, many more went willingly despite the seeming inevitability of an horrific end.
 4 of every 5 Germans killed in the 2nd World War were killed on the Russian front
...getting over the Volga was just the first hurdle. Now you had to win or die.

Kit is from all over. Stuka's by Airfix. Figures Revell, Italeri, Airfix, Pegasus and PSC. Barges, row and assault boats, pier and steamer by Any Scale Models. Camera by Panasonic. Drivel by me.