Saturday, 16 February 2013

QRF 15mm Post-War Review

20mm Post war gaming - 3rd Shock Army goes West - Skytrex BRDM, Brittannia BMP, Hobbymaster T55. Too big a scale for the tabletop?
 Whilst Napoleonics and ACW gaming have been occupying all of my leisure time and budget for some time now, hoping to do justice to the period of significant anniversaries we have been going through, one of my ultimate aims is to equip myself properly for 15mm Post war gaming. Its clearly a niche interest, but I have found that if you have top notch models and scenery, you will generate some interest. Unlikely to be clear of current projects until the 19th of June 2015 (!) I have tried to be good..but a couple of recent sales/offers and releases, by QRF, have led me astray....

A real stumbling block has been the dearth of Post War, 1980's era British Infantry, armed with the distinctive SLR, which is a long, slender weapon with a very narrow barrel and muzzle arrangement. It has only been very recently that good models have appeared in 28mm scale, and 20mm scale. However, deep down, I know that the speed and ranges involved in modern armoured warfare suggest that 15mm models are at the very upper limit of scale for my 12' x 6' table.... So it was with very great interest that I picked up from TMP that QRF were going to revamp their earlier Post War British Infantry, which, as an Opeval assessment would bluntly put it, were 'Unsatisfactory', at least to my critical eye...
FN SLR L1AI - Does it slim muzzle push the enevelope of 15mm scale scultping techniques?
At the time of posting this blog, QRF have released the first packs of this series, the British Post war infantry, wearing Berets. Of little use for my Battlegroup, high intensity 'Cold War goes hot' scenarioes, but perhaps more relevant to those gaming 'Retreat from Empire' or Op BANNER internal security ops...

I should stress that all of these reviews photos are posted quite literally 'straight out of the bag' - indeed, my order from QRF has yet to fully arrive, I am missing several packs, but the parcel was marked 1 of 2, so I am hoping that the rest of my order is still in the tender hands of Australia Post! There is some some flash, mainly along the bottom of the bases, and some on the muzzles. It all looks as if will clean off fairly easily, and, like all white metal sculpts, would benefit from a gentle going over with a brass brush before undercoating.

 The poses are well thought out, and in the case of the advancing figures, nicely dynamic.

The berets, to the modern eye, are quite voluminous, but then they were in the 70's, and at least the effort has been made to sculpt them with the fullness pulled to one side, rather than the 'dustbin' look that so distinguishes the raw recruit.

The webbing is accurate, '58 Pattern', as you would expect, although the 'bum roll' is worn under the kidney pouches, as regulations demand, rather than above them as was the norm if all the NBCD 'noddy suit' gear was to fit into it and allow any sort of running gait...

My only real beef is with the SLR itself, the look and heft of the weapon has not really been captured, to my mind, and the muzzle is absent from about a third of the figures I recieved in 2 packs of 8. But can anything better be reasonably expected, in this scale. I doubt it! Perhaps I shall be in for a pleasant surprise when the 'skin lid' figures with the '44 pattern steel helmet come out soon...So the assessment for the infantry so far - 'Just Satisfactory'!

I also benefitted from the recent QRF sale to purchase some Milan teams, not expected in the Post War version, so with SA80 as modern troops. Absolutely no reservations at all about these chaps. I will say that the muscle bosun heaving the spare around must have had his weetabix that morning as these things weighed a ton, at least the sand filled empties that we had to lug around in 'A' Company 2 Wessex! These chaps rate a 'Very Satisfactory'.

Now a note of apology creeps into my commentary as I discuss another purchase, the QRF Stillbrew Chieftain MBT:

Repeating that these are straight out of the box, this model was a thing of beauty that really does capture the look and feel of the real thing, unlike what I have said previously about the QRF model of the early Mk of Chieftain. The track detail, no, all the detail, is crisp and clear and looks to fit together well.

QRF Chieftain STILLBREW - My imaginary Inspecting Staff award this a 'Good'
I also got a bit of Recce, a couple of what, are for me, iconic post war British AFVs, the Ferret:

It seems as if just about every arm of service and regiment in BAOR employed these as general runabouts, and why wouldn't you - fast, easy to maintain, a Browning MG and a bit of armour. Once again I do feel that QRF have captured the feel of the original, another 'Good!'. The model pictured is the Mark 4, whereas I think this photo is of a Mark 3, but hopefully you get my point:

QRF of course, are the pioneers of 15mm Modern AFV modelling, I well remember a chat at a Southern Militaire show with Mick Bliss, RTR, around 1990, when his T80 model caused quite a stir! Mick's 'FEBA' rules are amongst the front runners of rules I will consider using for this era, whenever time allows for trials...

The other brace of AFV's I ordered from QRF may seem surprising, if I am wargaming a
Cold War Gone Hot scenario for around 1983-85, but I have it on good authority that, officially obsolescent, the Saladin 6 wheel armoured car would have been deployed by the TAVR Regiments of the Royal Yeomanry and the Queen's Own Yeomanry around this time, in the Battle Group recce role, albeit not for an armoured, division, but what the hey, these cats are just too cool to leave out of the party!
Now with this model, were I have literally just popped the hull onto the wheels, which like all the wheeled vehicles I have seen from QRF so far come with the wheels in pairs joined by the axle, I do think I am going to need to do a little work on the axle and wheels to get it looking kosher. Assessment - 'Very Satisfactory'.You may recall that in Gulf War 1 a few of these wielded by a handful of courageous Kuwaitis played havoc with a column of invading Iraqui T-72s in KC for quite some time - they have a useful HEAT round.
Now with all this fine British post war armour and infantry, my Soviet hordes, mainly furnished by Skytrex and Peter Pig - perhaps more anon - will be hard pressed to punch through to the Channel in 48 hours or whatever it was...Especially now that we know that so much Soviet armour has serious flaws...So a little Fast Air might be needed to help things along. What better than a brace of SU-25 FROGFOOT ground attack aircraft to help things along. The first thing that struck me about this model when I unpacked it was its sheer size! It is fully 150mm from wing tip to wing tip!

The model looks fine to me, it will need a small degree of sanding, but no holes that I could see apart from in the air intakes, which will be invisible once painted black. Despite its size, it feel very light, which means it should be stable on a stand. It comes with a selection of white metal parts, including enough weaponry to gladden the heart of any bombhead!
Assessed as 'Good'. The real thing:

All in all, I have been very pleased with this order from QRF. I have long known what a great bunch of guys they are, very much wargamer's wargamers, and very pleasant company at any of the UK southern shows. Along with Peter Pig, another Dorset company, and thoroughly nice chaps, they benefit from proximity to the Royal Armoured Corps Tank Museum in Bovington, but clearly are well capable of getting other must-have Cold War gear right. And full credit to them for what is an impressive Post War range!

So hopefully, God willing, before too long I will be able to get on with a bit of this on the table top:

If I have inspired you to have a squiz at the QRF Cold War collection, then please avail yourself of the wonders of modern technology and click here: QRF Post war stuff

Pip pip!

Friday, 1 February 2013

First strike at Lutzen!

My mate Doug and I met yesterday for a Napoleonic Wargame, trying our the first of various options for wargaming the Battle of Lutzen, the first major battle of the 1813 Spring Campaign. Lutzen's 200th anniversary is fast approaching and I am hoping to organise a large game. On this occasion however we limited ourselves to recreating Marshal Blucher's opening assaults on that part of Gen. Souham's division defending Gross Gorschen and Rahna...

We recreated that tiny portion of the overall battlefield between Gross Gorschen, foreground above, and Rahna, to the right.

This view looking from the NW of Rahna towards the approaching columns of Blucher's Corps. Nearest the camera, a French Cav bde, opposite which is the Allied Light Cavalry, with a Cuirassier Bde in support off table. Down the line a Russian Inf Bde, in the centre of the Allied Line a Prussian Bde, then a second Russian Inf Bde. In all 13 Allied line Inf Bns and 6 Skirmish units, with 5 Allied Cav regts.

The village of Gross Gorschen. In Black Powder rules, built up areas are represented by nominated blocks, each of which can be occupied by about a Bn of Infantry. For our scenario G-Gorschen was split into 2 such tiles, East and West, each represented by a foot square floor tile. The hamlet of Rahna was represented by a single such tile.

The Allied victory conditions were that they had to capture one such tile for a draw, 2 for a victory, and if all 3 were captured it would be a major victory with tea and medals, probably the Knight's Cross with crossed swords and sticky buns, or whatever...If the Allies called upon the off table Cuirassier Bde, they would forgo one victory point.

Rahna. A veritable bucolic paradise - but not for much longer - some fierce fighting would see this village change hands a few times...

French forces consisted of a Bn garrison in each tile, with a mobile field force of 6 more Inf Bns and a skirmish screen of 3 tiny units, supported by an artillery battery and 2 Cav Regts.
On the actual day, the Allies didn't actually kick off until about 11.30 am - After all, there's no need to rush a good breakfast - which allowed the French plenty of time to recover from their surprise at seeing the Allies materialise to their SE when they thought they were much further to the N around Leipzig - but for our refight, Doug, who, true to his Teutonic heritage, opted to do his bit for the Befreiungskreig, had the option of striking early and getting 3 moves in whilst the French would still be surprised...

The Russian Inf Bde opposite G-Gorschen. Perry on the left, Warlord on the right, all plastic.
The element of surprise, meant that for the first 3 turns the French would be fighting and shooting at a -1 modifier unless already disordered, and command rolls would start at a Minus -3 modifier, easing by one for the next 2 turns to represent staff confusion and disorientation...

The Prussian bde - 3 Regular Bns, a Landwehr Bn, and a Bde skirmish screen consisting of a Fusilier Bn and the Silesian Schutzen with rifles, a 6 Pdr battery in support. Unlike the Russian Brigadiers who had a command value of 7, the Prussian commander has 8.

Above, the second Russian Infantry Bde with supporting battery. For this scenario all guns present were 6 Pdrs, with a max range of 6', effective range of 3', and canister to 18"

The Russian Heavy Cavalry Bde as Corps level support - to bring it on table would require Doug to sacrifice 1 victory point - so he resolved at the outset not to bring it on except as a last resort...Rated as 'Heavy Cavalry +3', in comparison with the single less well mounted and armoured French Dragoon Regiment of 'Heavy Cav +1'.

Actually the reason the Allies delayed so long in attacking the wrong footed Souham was that they spent time deploying a grand battery to shoot in the assaults. This option was available to Doug, but he chose instead to forego the preliminary bombardment and attempt to strike hard and deep whilst the French were still fumbling around in shock - not an obvious choice with the low command ratings some of the Allies were labouring under...

However, despite needing to score 4 or under to get his 2 Russian Bdes to assault the villages in the initial moves, Doug managed to do just that......Here the 1st Bde goes in hard against both halves of G-Gorschen - but not hard enought to break into the village, as despite their -1 handicaps for being surprised, their +2 morale saves for being in hard cover meant the french defenders clung on...

Across the battlefield, exactly the same story unfolded at Rahna, with a bold attack meeting disorganised resistance which was nevertheless able to fend off the fierce assaults...

Feeling confident that the 2 garrisons could just about survive on their own, I decided to attempt to launch counter attacks to attempt to wrest back the initiative, and felt that the Prussian Bde in the centre of the field, if allowed to add its weight to the struggle for either village on the flanks, would be decisive - but first the Allied cavalry would have to be chased from the field to allow my infantry columns to do their stuff...

So with true Hussar style one of the offending Allied cavalry regiments was seen off the premises - however, as in 1813, there were an awful lot more of the beggars to fill the gap....

(Perry plastics in the foreground, trusty Minifigs Russian Hussars in the background and Eureka Cossacks hovering around the edges waiting to pick off any stragglers)
With the allied cavalry temporarily discomfited, the French Infantry counter attack went in, the surprised modifiers being overcome by the personal intervention of Gen. Souham to get things moving:

However, on the French right, disaster struck - The Russian Bde broke into and captured Rahna on its own.

As if that were not enough, trouble
always comes in threes - the rest of the Russian bde overcame the French column's counter attack and now the French centre was wide open...

And the Allied cavalry rallied after the loss of the Hussars and forced the outnumbered French cavalry from the field - all still without the benefit of those superbly mounted Cuirassiers:

It seemed the initiative was wholly with the Allies as Doug's continued struggle to capture the Eastern half of G-Gorschen was reinforced by seemingly endless columns of the horny handed sons of the steppes -

And resulted in success! 2 of 3 tiles were now held by the Allies - and we were now at move 7 of 10!

Despite fierce fighting, and successive Prussian manoeuvering and reorganising, their assaults on the Western half just could not break in:

In another bid to regain the initiative, another French counter attack on Rahna was mounted from my dwindling reserves, but this time without any 'Surprised' penalties:

And met with success - With the game reaching its final quarter the Tricoleur flew over Rahna once again!  However, as Doug started his penultimate move, he went for an all out coordinated assault to capture the rest of G - Gorschen, attacking from 2 directions and shooting the attacks in from across the town....

If good tactics and careful orders deserved to win - he should have succeeded:

And of course he did!


In my final move I launched a desperate attack to attempt to retake G-Gorschen, but without supports my attacks were duly rebuffed.

At games end, Doug's Allies had captured 2 of the tiles, and I held the third, for a well earned Allied victory - the early attack capitalising on French surprise had paid off...

Calpe Miniatures - The finest Prussian 28mm figures!
This was an enjoyable and exciting game, with the result in balance right down to the wire. It really gave the feel of an 1813 Spring campaign game, with the Allies resurgent but the French still having plenty of aggression and fight in them.  It all bodes well for larger scale games later in the year to mark these anniversaries!

'Raise high those Black Flags, Children'!