Thursday, 23 November 2017

Chain of Command & Progress Updates

My Japanese engage a pinned Malay rifle section in our first game of Chain of Command.
My chaps lost the combat by 2 and gave ground, however the Malays broke and routed off the table!
(Most of the pics by club mate Ian)

Rules Update

Our search for a suitable ruleset for the Pacific campaign continues with some test games of Chain of Command. I really like this ruleset. It's much clearer than NUTS! and includes good chrome such as support for historical platoon organisation and tactics. The early game patrol phase is particularly fun and a bit more nuanced than the head-to-head hack of the NUTS! PEF system that we had been using.

Two IJA rifle sections and a grenadier section (centre right) sweep to left against a thin line of Australians.
I do hope my group plumps for Chain of Command. That said, I plan to try NUTS! solo play once I do up a Commonwealth platoon for my Japanese to face.

Aussie snipers try to pick off the advancing Japanese. It eventually becomes easier for the Japanese to overrun the snipers rather than spot them.

Miniatures Progress Update

October and November have been busy months and progress on finishing off my IJA rifle platoon has been glacial. I've 16 riflemen in the works plus the Lieutenant and Sergeant from HQ. I'm trying a different painting technique on these based on a method used by my gaming mate Damon who's a prolific and skilled painter.

Using a three-tone approach he basecoats with the highlight, washes with the shade, and glazes with the mid-tone. It's a modified Foundry/Dallimore method that should produce smoother transitions instead of the signature layered stripes of Dallimore's method. Damon also says that it's a quick painting method.

Unfortunately, my painting sessions have been so spread out that it's been hard to judge any time saving.

As for the final result, I still remain somewhat psychologically attached to an approach of starting with the mid-tone, washing a shade and adding highlights, though it is a challenge to get a smooth colour transition.

After I'm done with the four sections of the rifle platoon I'll be finishing off the supports:

  • Final touches and basing on the MMG
  • Type 97 Chi-Ha tank
  • Type 95 Ha-Go tank
  • Two snipers
  • 70mm Infantry gun
I can't wait to be done with the Japanese. While my motivation for them is starting to ebb, I am becoming more motivated to prepare my Commonwealth forces.

Commonwealth Plans - Argylls and Straits Volunteers

I've already started converting a box of Perry Desert Rats with some Indian sola topis for use as either Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders or Straits Settlement Volunteer Forces, a single platoon to represent both elite and green forces.

Some of the Brens may need to be swapped for Lewis gun figures if I'm fielding them as Volunteers. I recently purchased a Lewis Gunner pack from Great War Miniatures, primarily because the famed Malay military hero Leftenan Adnan was felled by the Japanese in the Battle of Pasir Panjang whilst wielding a Lewis gun.

The figures will need some conversion to look like their are wearing shorts and rolled sleeves. This shouldn't be too hard a task. I just need to shave down the arms and add some rolled sleeves, then bulk out the thighs to simulate the shorts and smooth over the puttees.

The first section of Argylls I assembled look rather fine. The Perry sculpts are great, and while they are "true 28mm" and less than chunky, they look fine to the metal and plastic Japanese I have as the latter are of similar height but much smaller than typical chunky 28mm.

This topi-wearing platoon will pair nicely with the Lanchester 6x4 armoured car that I've sourced from Empress Miniatures. I confess this is likely my main motivation for assembling this platoon. Both the Argylls and Malay Armoured Regiment used the Lanchesters; the entire global supply was shipped (or rather dumped) in Malaya in the late 1930s.

However, I'm realising that my ambitions for assembling Commonwealth troops is scratching the limits of practicality.

Indian Kulla Platoon

My main goal is to represent the "forgotten armies" facing the Japanese invasion. This means featuring those less storied than the British and Australian troops. I've inspired others in my group to cover the Malay Regiment adequately, perhaps disproportionately. If we're going to stage the invasion of Malaya then we really need to field Indians.

Right now, I'm the only one in my group preparing Indians. So after the Argyll/Volunteers comes some Indians in kulla assembled from Westwind's British Indian army figures. I've had to supplement these with an order from Pulp Figures, Artizan and Crusader because Westwind doesn't have a complete range. The 2" mortar and anti-tank rifle are missing.

In fact, I've noticed that very producers of WW2 British 28mm figures have 2" mortar models. Perhaps its a case of art imitating the horrendous supply situation of the historical troops (I read that the Argylls trained with a clay replica of a 2" mortar as the real ones hadn't arrived), but it underlines for me what a complete package the Perry Desert Rats are - all you need for a platoon in one box.

More importantly, Westwind sell their Indian Bren one to a pack with a Vickers MMG. Fielding the three Brens in a platoon would mean amassing a disproportionate three MMGs, and at a hefty price of £11 per pack.

My solution is to get some 8th Army Bren gunners from Artizan and either field them in their saucer helmets or decapitate them and use the separate Indian heads I purchased from Westwind. These are too large in scale to fit on the Perry Desert Rats. Apparently, Woodbine Indian heads are a better match. Still, I prefer metal to plastic and, despite the simplicity and elegance of the Perry figures, I find it helpful for my productivity to mix in some metals after slogging through plastics.

These chaps will also serve double duty as Indian National Army troops in Burma.

Sikh Platoon

After that comes a second Perry platoon with Sikh heads. I've already got all the bits, as well as an Indian Pattern Armoured Carrier with Sikh crew, a Sikh Vickers team and a Sikh Mortar team. The heads look great and it's a unit that would serve well in any future Desert War campaign.

That said, that's three platoons. I already find preparing a 54-man IJA platoon a slog, what more three 36-man Commonwealth platoons. I must be crazy. Still, all the Commonwealth platoons have uses as at least two variants, so it's somewhat efficient albeit megalomaniacal. They're also pretty straighforward to paint as they are all Khaki Drill.

Japan Versus the Pacific

A Malay section breezes into an estate before the IJA tear them apart.
Although I have enough figures left spare to assemble another IJA platoon, I don't think I'll have the stamina to do so for a while yet. The fiddliness of the Warlord plastic Japanese really tested my patience. The Perrys are a breeze in comparison.

I've got an Australian commando section, fine Steve Saleh sculpts from Warlord and bits of a Chindit platoon that I expect to filled out in the future.

The IJA are rather like the Romans of World War 2 Pacific wargaming. Once you build up an IJA army you can field it against various opponents. There's also the Chinese as opponents for the opening years of the Pacific War just because Mark Copplestone's Warlord Chinese range is so awesome.

Once at least one Commonwealth platoon is completed I will turn my attention to preparing terrain, particularly rubber plantations and secondary jungle as these were the main zones of action besides roads. I must admit I have much to learn on this front.

Luckily, Damon is shouldering most of the terrain burden for games at AD. However, for occasional home games I need to have some of my own terrain. As of last week, I've started scouring the park for suitable fallen twigs and branches that would serve as potential rubber and jungle trees.

In the long run this will be worth it, especially since I plan to game the Malayan Emergency and it's all the same terrain.

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