Monday 24 December 2018

Merry Christmas!

The usual post to wish my followers and other casual sneak-peekers of the blog (excluding the Russian bots) a most Merry and Happy Christmas in the company of your families and beloved ones.

Christmas Eve is a day of special celebration in Spain, where the family and close relatives or friends gather to share a (usually pantagruelic) dinner at home. Also it's when your most miss those who are not here like my father (pased in 1999) and my father in law (2015).

Have a great holiday!

Friday 21 December 2018

A Personal Guide to Painting British Paratroopers

The IX Painting Challenge is now live. On this first day I woke early to attempt having my first submission ready before lunch time, which you can see in the Challenge website.
As commented in a previous post, my core project for this year’s Challenge edition will be a British Airborne platoon + supports for Chain of Command.
The most challenging aspect of the project is how to paint the camo scheme used by the British paratroopers in using the Denison smock. I know some wargamers whom painting camo takes them easily aback; but as I already experienced when I did my German Fallschirmjager army a couple of years ago, it is just a matter of experimenting and practicing.
I’ll try in this post is to show how I do it, and hopefully will help some people out there breaking the mental barrier of painting camo schemes. Incidentally, I had a similar mental blocking with the airbrush until this year; but thanks to the help of one my wargame club’s friends now I’m totally hooked to airbrush painting and what I regret is not having tried it before.
Before we start with this step-by-step guide, a couple of disclaimers: first, my painting style is oriented towards the wargaming table, not to win a Golden Demon; this means that I do not go into a lot of detail, just enough to look good on the table at a distance.
Second, I like to paint faded camos. Personally, I find painting pristine uniforms with bright colours utterly unrealistic when on the table, so I like a faded uniform finish in my models, reflecting the wear and tear over time. This is not to criticise anyone (as the Spanish say goes “on tastes, nothing is written in stone”), it is just how I like to paint my models.
So let’s star.

Colour palette
The Dennison Smock is the critical part in the British paratrooper gear. Looking at contemporary colour photos, collectors platforms and reenactors websites, you’ll notice that unlike the German schemes, the British feature relatively large splash of brownish red and green on a light beige (sometimes dark yellow) base. 
Monty, the one and only

Tuesday 4 December 2018

Last Lap Towards the IX Painting Challenge

I’m already back home from hospital since Sunday, after solving my herniated spine disc problem on Thursday. Thank God, everything went right, a short surgery and being taken the first to the surgery room early in the morning was a real relief.
The whole affair is been less terrible that I initially thought (at least so far), but the doctor has ordered full rest and some short walks over the next three weeks til Xmas.  I’m surprisingly taking it very easy, reading a lot and watching some films in my TV cable channel.
Next visit on December 20th (coinciding with the initial Challenge day by the way), and I hope to be enough strong by then to at least put a couple of models on my painting table in the first day.
The days before the operation I was not at all idle and progressed substantially with the preparations towards the Challenge. I could primed most of the models I’m planning to paint including some leftovers of 28mm Austrian Napoleonic from last year and the core project for the year, the British Airborne.

Half of the British are ready and while in hospital I received the Foundry order. These are very nice and crisp metal figures. Sculpting is excellent (early design by the famous Perry Brothers) and despite some differences in size, I don’t see it will noticed once painted and on the table. I’m tempted to buy a couple of more blisters considering the quality.
The Bren Carrier and para jeep were assembled but left for priming at my mother’s house (where I have my airbrush equipment). I also added nice Cromwell tank as potential support in the future games; and have acquired a 6 pounder on an impulse buy on Black Friday in a local model shop here in Madrid offering a 15% discount to the normal price. That same day I decided that it was time to go “pro” and bought (or better said “invested in”) my first set of Winsor & Newton series 7 brushes to make a debut in this Challenge.
That is for now. Hope to be in even better shape by the 20th and wishing all Challengers a fruitful prep- period! 

Tuesday 27 November 2018

Kriegspiel AD 2018

Over the last months I have had the opportunity to participate in a wargaming experiment sponsored and led by Nick Skinner, the co-founder with Richard Clarke of TooFatLardies. His idea was to recreate a Kriegsspiel-type of game but using the tools and technology of the digital age.
Nick contacted a small number of wargamers in late October (if I’m not wrong, we were 7 or 8) and set up a channel in the popular chat app Discord, where we all could be in contact.
He then uploaded a copy of a military map 1:25,000 scale, provided to each team a set of forces, a narrative of the situation (to put us in context) and a mission to win the game. This was done on a Friday; over the weekend each team discussed the best strategy to achieve the objectives laid out in the mission, divided the forces in battle groups, appointing commands and providing orders for each of the battle groups.
The players were then called to play on Monday at 7.30PM GMT (+1 in Spain).
The game was umpired by Nick and for each battle group a subchannel was created, where we get information from the umpire and provide orders in reaction to events happening every game bound (15 minutes of game time). All information was then conveyed in the team’s common channel where the C-in-C was present; this was a way of simulating the radio net of our forces.
First I must say that this has been one of the most interesting wargame experiences I had in years… and all thanks to the technology but specially to the way Nick managed the game. Think for a moment: no table, no models, no rules… just a map, a tablet or telephone screen, a pencil and a pad to take notes … and some common sense to give orders to your forces as the game developed = great wargame experience.
In the first game, our forces had been recently defeated in major offensive by the enemy. We have regrouped in town by a major river and our mission was to destroy the two main bridges to buy time to our army to build a new defensive line using the river as the frontline.
I took a platoon of engineers with some infantry and light armour support north of the main position to destroy the bridge, then pull out south and blow out the second bridge. Easy said than done. Unexpected events could hamper you moving along the road, putting the explosive charges takes time and the enemy is not idle in the meantime.
Map of the first game. My forces to the rightm north (red, pink and purple kampfgruppe)

Wednesday 21 November 2018

IX Painting Challenge is On

You know the year is gone when leaves fell from the trees, the days get noticeably shorter … and Curt’s Annual Painting Challenge is announced. Many thanks to Curt, her suffering wife Sarah and the “minions” for taking the time and effort to organise the competition every year.
This is the IXth edition and will be my fourth consecutive participation. For those not in the knowledge, this is an international and very friendly painting competition, where one basically attempts to reach (or break) a self-imposed points target, extending through the winter period. 
The atmosphere among the participants is fantastic and you feel part of a community or a fellowship in this case) although many of us haven’t ever met in person with the rest.
Every year the Challenge is branded around a specific although somewhat arcane topic, the one chosen for this edition being “Fellowship”. This is not to restrict or condition what you paint during the contest, neither in terms of themes nor scale. The fee to enter the Challenge is to paint (and send!) to Curt a model related to the theme every year.
I found the Challenge amusing and entertaining, and also helps to put some focus and concentration in some of my wargame painting projects. Over the last two years I painted a German Fallschirmjager platoon and a Napolenic Austrianarmy, both in 28mm. This year, as already mentioned in the previous post blog, I’ll be doing a British Airborne platoon with supports for Chain of Command, as weel as some additions to the Austrian Napoleonics (you never have enough Napoleonic models, isn't it?).
I have already started to prepare my models (basing, priming and assembling the plastic kits) in anticipation, as next week I’ll be undertaking a surgery to remove an herniated disc in the spine and will likely be out of action for a couple of weeks at least. The Challenge will be a very strong incentive to a speed recovery, no doubt!

Tuesday 13 November 2018

The British Airborne Buildup

Operation Market Garden has been a field of special personal interest since probably the prémiere of A Bridge Too Far back in the 70s (I actually watched the film in London cinema during one of my summer trips to study English). In November 2015 I have the opportunity to visit Arnhem and did part of the Hell’s Highway (we detour to visit themust-see Overloon Tank Museum) too.

My attention to the battle has recently taken a new interest after the publication of Beevor’s "Arnhem" and specially after reading a short work by a Dutch military historian R.G. Poulussen “Lost at Nijmegen” and Robin Neillands’ “The Battles for The Rhine 1944”.

Beevor’s is (I must admit) a very good and readable book, very decently covering the Allied and the German sides; but it can be argued that adds very little to the knowledge we have of Operation Market Garden except updating some of the information.
Poulussen on the contrary is an excellent research work that digs deep in the decisions taken by the US 82nd Airborne and specially Gavin in his area. The argument goes that Arnhem was actually lost at Nijmegen (the books title) because instead of planning and prioritizing taking the Waal bridge, the US units were ordered to take and consolidate first the Groesbeek Heights.

Friday 9 November 2018

MIA but not KIA - Searching for a sense for this blog

If you follow my Twitter account (@AnibalInvic) you may have followed a recent thread I posted with some considerations about the role of blogs in a rapidly changing social media landscape. I feel that Podcasts, Youtube, FaceBook and Twitter or Instagram is increasingly calling the shots specially among the younger generations, whose attention spam is brief to say the least or prefer easier audio or video consumption products.

Blogs are difficult to manage, posts require a lot of effort and time, and frankly speaking, much longer attention spam from the reader than what actually I think he/she is likely to put. So what is the point of maintaining the blog alive, specially with a shrinking audience?

To my surprise, my Twitter message received quick and,  if not massive, a decent amount of responses from lot of people, some of them well-known gamers, podcasters and rules designers whose opinion I respect a lot. 

The comment that really pulled a cord in me is that Twitter et alt is ephemeral, while the blog is here to stay and have a long shelf-value. What one posts is not for immediate consumption and then to the bin, but a reference that you can use in the future. It could be a nice battlefield walk around, a scenario report, a review of a book or some wargames rules or even the guide or the inspiration (using your photos of the painted models) for someone considering undertaking a project that one may have taken sometime ago.

This already persuaded me that it made no sense to shut down the blog and to lose 8 years of dedicated work and effort.

Now, but how to maintain a regular flow of posts? How to regain the mojo lost?   Richard Clarke of ToofatLardies came to inspire:

Do it "as and when". That's what I do.

Of course, silly me, why the pressure? I'm doing this basically for pleasure, not for business! If I have something worth of communicating, I'll do; but shouldn’t be worried about keeping a timetables or posting regularly

Well, this is it for the moment.  I got lost but thanks to the Twitter-sphere I have found a new way home.

As for next in the pipeline, we have Curt's Annual Painting Challenge that should begin by 21st December. I have already chosen my project for this edition (the ninth): a 2WW British Airborne platoon and supports for Chain of Command. Looking forward to receive Curt's news pretty soon.

And on the personal front, I have been diagnosed with an herniated disc after suffering a (stupid) accident doing some gardening late last summer. Apparently there is no other solution but to undertake a surgery (late in November). Not sure how long it will take me to recover from this, but it will interfere with my work and hobbies until Christmas at least.

Hope to see you all around here more often in the near future.

Sunday 25 March 2018

VIII Painting Challenge is over :-(

Time flies and three months later Curt's Annual Painting Challenge is (sadly) over. This is my third year participating and probably the one I've enjoyed the most. It's also a good opportunity to accelerate on one of my annual painting projects which I tend to focus around one theme.

This year was Austrian Napoleonics, which I've been slowly advancing now for several months now. I took the opportunity to do some research on less known units and bumped with the Vienna Volunteers, one of the most outstanding militia units in the 1809 campaign.

This is a summary of the output this year

Austrian Line Battalions

Thursday 22 March 2018

What a Tanker!

Our friends at TooFatLardies has just put in pre-order its new set of rules "What a Tanker!" which as the name implies is a 2WW skirmish armour battle book.  There is a very attractive offer for the hard copy, the markers and the pdf version bundle at GBP 24.0 representing a 40% discount on the headline prices. Release is scheduled on April 9th, just after Easter.

If you like to read a little bit more about the rules before jumping, take a look at this post released in the official Lard Island blog today. They seem easy to learn and fun to play, and surely if you are (like me) a 2WW aficionado at any scale, you'll have plenty of models ready to use.

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Sleeping in a Vaubam Fortification: Fuerte de la Concepción (Salamanca)

Patio de Armas with the chapel remnants

This is a quite belated blog entry which I was initially planning to publish in late October 2017. I spent several days touring the Portugal/Spain border fortresses of Ciudad Rodrigo and Almeida, as well as the battlefield of Fuentes de Oñoro.
But how would you feel if in addition to visiting all these historic places,  you had the opportunity to sleep in truly original Vauban fortification now refurbished as an upper scale (4 stars) hotel?

This is actually the case of the Fuerte Concepción located at Aldea del Obispo, now called Domus Real Hotel. I don't think it is  well known specially among British tourists, a shame because it is the perfect base-camp for touring all the places mentioned plus the battlefields of El Bodón and Tamames in the Spanish side and the River Coa area in the Portuguese side.

A little bit of background and context: until very recently, the only good communication routes between Spain and Portugal passed through Salamanca and Badajoz. To exert control on those two routes, twin fortifications were erected, Ciudad Rodrigo-Almeida and Badajoz-Elvas on both sides of the border respectively.   
Aerial view from a tourist leaflet