Thursday, October 8, 2015

A visit to the Great War Exhibition

On the same day that we visited the Scale Of War exhibit at Te Papa we also went along to the Great War Exhibition (created by Sir Peter Jackson).

The staff at the Great War Exhibition went to great lengths to talk about the different way that they chose to talk about the differences between what you would see here, and at Te Papa. The focus here being more about the war as a whole, but with some exceptional coverage of Gallipoli at the end.

I didn't take as many photos as I'd liked to as the lighting was very mood enhancing (read dark) - but that means there wont be as many spoilers for when you go to look for yourself!

The Exhibition is inside the old National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum, a short walk from the National War Memorial.
The first stop in the tour is a small Belgium village, where you can learn about the root causes behind the war, as well as set the scene for the rest of the visit.
A selection of weapons. Walking around there are plenty of examples of various weapons from machine-guns down to trench knives and fighting implements. Walking around there were plenty of things to stop and look at.
A cutaway of some defensive works. Opposite this was a model of a Big Bertha Howitzer (too large and too difficult to get a decent angle for a photo unfortunately).
Moving into the next room you are confronted by an artillery crew galloping at full speed, a converted bus moving troops around and a French biplane handing from the ceiling.

And just opposite were a selection of uniforms so you could see how different the armies looked at the beginning of the war.

Located around the exhibit were some really interesting little signs that talk about phrases from the Great War that are still in use today. There were quite a few that came as a complete surprise. This was one of them.
And by the sign about Bangers, a life size trench with soldiers going about their daily activity. One of the things I really enjoyed about the place was that there were very few physical barriers (other than glass cases) so you could get really close and even lean into the exhibits. Looking closely these men were lifelike enough that if they talked back to you, you would not have been surprised (shocked yes!).
Here a Mark I tank lumbers over a German trench line, underneath it German soldiers scramble to not be crushed. Nearby there were also a couple of small boxes that you could open to get a whiff of the various types of Gas used.
The next room had some examples of the use of camouflage. After this we ended the "Great War" section of the tour where you come across the final example of the human cost of the war where we see an old man, sitting on a bench with his grandchild, his arm lost during the war (and in an earlier part of the exhibit as it happens).
Moving on into the Gallipoli section of the exhibit we see walls covered in colourised photographs and stories from and about the men serving. Throughout the museum there were a lot of these photos, but it was here in the Gallipoli area that the walls were covered in them. Whilst I can understand why the Imperial War Museum (and others) guard these images so closely as the licensing of their use no doubt helps cover the cost of running their exhibits, it seems a shame in this digital age that they are so difficult to see unless there is something special like this.
British and German field artillery and machine-guns.

As a gamer this was the part I was really looking forward to this - 4,000 54mm figures painted by wargamers all around New Zealand, originally sculpted by the Perry Twins and installed on this massive diorama of Chunuk Bair. The scale of this was staggering and basically impossible to get a decent angle for a photograph to show the size. The figures though should give a good impression.
What really stood out to me were not just the lines of men charging up and down, attacking and counter attacking, but it was also the number of little vignettes in the middle of all the action. The one that I wished I had gotten a photo of was that of Cyril Bassett (who was to be awarded a VC for his actions) moving back and forth ensure that telephone lines were kept working.

The two Exhibits were very different in what they chose to focus on, and how they delivered the information. Each one had their strengths and weaknesses but together they provided an amazing way to spend an afternoon along with a much deeper appreciation of the events that happened so far and so long ago! I think the Te Papa exhibit was my favourite of the two as the 2.4x figures were just so amazing and I felt I probably absorbed more information there. However if you can make it to Wellington, just do it!

For a bit more information check out the Great War Exhibition website.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Visit to Te Papa and the Gallipoli; The Scale Of War

A couple of weeks ago a group of us ventured down to Wellington for a tournament, taking an extra day off work we headed to the Great War Exhibition (created by Sir Peter Jackson) and the National Museum (Te Papa) and their exhibition Gallipoli; The Scale Of War.

I had seen and heard a lot more about the Great War Exhibition as it features hundreds (thousands?) of figures sculpted by the Perry Twins and painted by gamers all across New Zealand. The Gallipoli exhibition at Te Papa was something I knew very little about… Let me tell you, I was about to blown away!
Cool logo! I'd play a game that had a logo like that...
Walking through the doors and rounding the first corner you are confronted by Lieutenant Spencer Westmacott in 2.4-up scale! Yes, 2.4x their actual size. He (and his companions in the exhibit) dwarf those of us that walk around in awe. The detail is truly unbelievable and the work done by the team at Weta Workshop has to be seen to be believed.
The Lieutenant was one of the first Kiwis to land on Gallipoli and was shot in the arm whilst leading his men up a ridge. He was stretchered out that night. 'So ended the most glorious day of my life'.
Round the next corner we see Lieutenant Colonel Percival Fenwick.
He arrived in the first hours of the attack and found himself treating casualties on the beach.
'Total to date: 5,000 casualties, about three men per yard of ground gained' - Lieutenant Colonel Fenwick.
Taking a break from the giant figures the next room is a lot more interactive with things to touch, watch and feel. A welcome break after the first two rooms. I didn't take many photos in here but I can never pass an opportunity to take a snap of a good diorama.
Both of these images are of Quinn's Post, literally a grenades throw away from the Turks. Chicken wire and an improvised roof covered the trench lines to stop unwanted visitors dropping in. The exhibit also had their first of two awesome 3-D maps with projectors underneath here showing the time lines for the invasion and subsequent attacks. Think about the old museum dioramas with lights that you could turn on and read about what happened, and then update that with 21st century technology.
Next up we are confronted by Private Jack (John) Dunn.
His face tells a story of a man that is broken, having been sick with pneumonia and returning to the front line still ill he would fall asleep at his post and be sentenced to death. Taking his illness and previous conduct into account he was sent back to the front line to fight.
I hear that todays MRE's are a bit of a mixed bag, but they sound like a picnic compared to this image. Leaving Jack there was a second interactive room where you could learn more about life in the trenches. From there you then proceed up a trench where you are bombarded with noise, the floor shaking under your feet and displayed on the wall are two more trench lines where Turkish and ANZAC troops carry on day to day activities, or fight to the death.
Leaving the trenches we find the Maori Machine-gun team of Private Colin Warden, Corporal Friday Hawkins and Private Rikihana Carkeek.
I feel very un-Kiwi saying this but I've never had an urge to travel to Gallipoli and much of it's history has been a mystery to me. Walking around this particular piece, reading about the events, the people and their actions I was surprising emotional. Perhaps it was the actions of these men (and so many more) putting all thoughts of their survival aside to help the man next to them, or maybe it was the culmination of everything I'd seen up to this point. Maybe it was just the scale of what stood in front of me!
On the final stretch we come across Staff Nurse Lottie (Charlotte) Le Gallais. She was a military nurse stationed on the hospital ship Maheno. Here she finds out that her brother Leddie had been killed at Gallipoli, her letters returned with a black stamp that read: 'Killed, return to sender'.
The next room contained a model of the hospital ship and then prepared the way for the final figure...
Sergeant Cecil Malthus on the Western Front.
The exhibit was really focused on the events of Gallipoli. It was appropriate given its place in our history but it was a little disappointing that the Sergeant Malthus was the only real nod to the contribution of New Zealand Service men and women outside of this campaign.
It was a pretty powerful 'nod' though, standing tall with his feet surrounded by red poppies.

For a whole lot more images and information check out the official Te Papa website...

Next week I'll have some images from the Great War Exhibition.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Soviet Big Tanks and Berlin

I thought I would put up a follow up post in the same lines as my previous one entitled "See, Want, Must Have Now (SWMHN) Disorder" and this time take a look at Hero Guards Heavy Tanks and Hero Heavy SP Artillery Regiment in Berlin.

First up we have to understand what it takes to become a Hero Of The Soviet Union... you have to be:
Luckier: basically it is harder for the enemy  to kill your Company or 2iC, needing a 5+ instead of a 4+. For most nations this wouldn't be that useful but with your Guards Heavy companies when you don't have a 2iC keeping the boss in play is useful.
Smarter: pass Skill tests on a 3+, useful all the time especially if you are assaulting or firing bombardments.
Sharper: no Hen and Chicks

So you are about as close as you can come to being a Veteran team, without being one. Yep I know that there are a bunch of people that wanted true Veteran teams but then I may as well just be proxying my Soviet vehicles as Americans or Germans... with the Hero rules I have some flavour and most of the benefits with less of the negatives (a higher points cost per team).
So on to the Companies themselves: - they are both very similar in terms of their structure which is why I thought I'd look at them in tandem. An IS-2 in command with 3 platoons as your core. For your IS-2 company you can choose between the obr 1943 (FA 10) or obr 1944 (FA 11) versions, each packing a 122mm breakthrough gun coming in with AT 16, FP 2+. For that point of armour you are paying around 10-15 points per tank. Personally I am not convinced that I would be dropping those extra points unless I had them left over at the end and certainly in outset I would be putting on .50 cal AA MGs (+5pts), Bedspring Armour (+5pts) and Tank Riders (+10pts) first as these give you more all round bang for your buck.


For the ISUs you can choose between the ISU-122 and the ISU-152. Each has FA 9, nothing outstanding but you can ignore a good percentage of medium tanks out there with that, and Volley Fire making them pretty useful up close. The 122 has the same gun as the IS-2 meaning it slices through most tanks and knocks out soft targets, whilst the 152 has an AT 13, FP 1+ Bunker Buster. Don't sit in front of it as you may not like the results. Like the IS you can put the same upgrades on the ISU and the .50cal AA MG is an easy choice and the rest comes down to personal preference.

So why do I like these two sets of combat platoons? Previously I've been a fan of the IS-2 as a support tank for other lists where it could add some heavy armour, hunt down mediums and sit in front of AT guns. With the Hero list I think it expands on that role but this time on centre stage. For 1,110 points you can put 7 IS-2 obr 1943 tanks in your list fully geared up with all the add-ons. Doesn't sound all that wonderful at first glance but you still have 400-650 points to put some support troops in and 7 IS-2 obr 1943 tanks all grinding towards an objective take a lot of stopping... and when you are running them you don't stop! Trust that you need to be lucky to get any hits with your guns thanks to ROF 1 and don't worry about. 

Force you opponent to change their plans and hope for a few lucky hits on the way in, then get to the objective and ground your opponent out of there with all of those attacks in an assault. Bedspring Armour gives you a 4+ save on the defensive fire from enemy Panzerfausts and Panzerschrecks. You get a 2nd attack per tank (thanks to your tank riders), hitting on 3's, and your Turret Rear MGs help you bounce off some of the enemy attacks back.

The ISUs are a different kettle of fish and my preference run the ISU-122 and stick back a bit with them where you should get the benefit of +1 armour (from long range) and work over the enemy tanks, then close in where the Volley Fire will help to make up for the low ROF. For this to be successful you need screening troops to stop enemy tanks from getting in amongst you and then protect you once you close the gap. The ISUs are not as forgiving in my opinion but I love their look and that counts in my books.

Plus until I unlock the Object 704 in World Of Tanks this is my substute of choice.

Next time up, what would I like to run in the Divisional Support section...

Friday, August 28, 2015

See, Want, Must Have Now (SWMHN) Disorder, and Berlin

I thought that I might put up a little public service announcement this week about a serious disease that effects many people, not just miniature gamers. It is known as See, Want, Must Have Now (SWMHN) Disorder.

It involves you seeing something, deciding that you must have it... NOW. In most cases this resolves itself normally and goes away over time, but in a surprising large number of people it takes a turn for the worse where the afflicted person gains a variant of the disorder commonly known as See, Want, Must Have Now, Put In A Box And Do Something With It Later (SWMHN-PIABADSWITL) Disorder. This obviously does not roll off the tongue so easily but is very serious indeed.

After careful research I have found that I am in fact a sufferer of this Disorder and instead of hiding it, I am going to wear it as a badge of honor! How does it effect me? It does it in the most insidious way... it makes me buy figures that I intend on doing something with, but if I am being honest I think I may never get around to actually assembling, painting, or even gaming with!

In all seriousness though, if you see a post tagged with SWMHN it means I want to do this pretty desperately, but if this is the last time you see me excited about it before jumping into something new then don't be surprised!

Take the recent Flames Of War book Berlin. I love this book (of course I may be biased!) and think that it has some really fun flavourful lists. I also think that in the right hands they could be pretty nasty. Today I am going to take a look at my favourite list, and possibly one of the most flexible German lists ever (and thats saying something!).

The Berlin Kampfgruppe Company gives you a choices for your combat platoons, starting off with the traditional Panzergrenadier Platoon in Confident Veteran or Fearless Veteran and with or without halftracks. The Fresh Panzergrenadier Platoon recently brought to the fight as Confident Trained or Fearless Trained, Fallshirmjager Platoons, Volkssturm Platoons (yep and army of those outstanding figures) or my personal favourite, the Hitlerjugend Platoon. Seven Fearless Conscript Panzerfaust infantry teams for 85 points (and they can move and shoot with them unlike traditional 'faust teams). Plus they wear a blue uniform that looks pretty straight forward to paint up and (unlike the Volkssturm) they benefit from the "Enjoy the War" special rule meaning that they will stick around even when pushing to the limit.
Hitlerjugend Panzerfaust team

Once you have your infantry you have a pretty traditional mix of Weapons Platoons, but with the cool exception that you can have Volkssturm versions. Now if I were a better, faster, or more regular painter I would be all over these! For less than 200 points you can have 4 HMGs, 4 mortars and 2 infantry guns. Yeah they are Reluctant Conscripts so you are going to bleed VPs but thats three platoons that look cool, boost your platoon count and won't require much luck to get their points back.

Waffentrager (8.8cm)
Moving up to the Support Platoons you have the usual stuff - Panzer IV, Panther, Tiger 1, King Tiger, StuG and so on. I can field these in plenty of lists so whilst cool they are not what I get immediately drawn to. The Waffentrager (8.8cm) and Bedbug on the other hand really are a piece of me. In World Of Tanks I still haven't made it to one of the Waffletractors yet (so close) but "unlocking" it in Flames Of War is pretty close. Packing a nice long 88 on the back they can take down pretty much anything with ROF 2, AT 16, FP 3+ and the three of them only set you back 315 points. They don't want to move and shoot but whatever is in front of them is in some trouble. 

Kleinpanzer Wanze
The Bedbug (or Kleinpanzer Wanze) is tiny and had a couple of crew, but more importantly  it had a pod of 6 Panzerschrecks. It basically darts out, fires (at for ROF of 3 even when moving!), then runs off and spends a turn reloading. The Panzerschrecks have a normal stat line with AT 11, FP 5+ so they may not be outstanding but a platoon of three vehicles comes in at 65 points making it pretty impressive on a points to weight ratio.

For the rest of the support you have the options you would expect to see in pretty much any Late War German company diagram: 105mm and 150mm artillery, Nebelwerfers, Heavy Mortars and lots of 88's. What makes this a bit different is that amongst the 3 platoons of Luftwaffe Heavy AA Platoons you have a couple of interesting options over and above the traditional 88. There is the 8.8cm FlaK 41 (ROF 2, AT 16, FP 3+ and with a Gun shield) and the 10.5cm FlaK39
(ROF 1, AT 17, FP 2+. Both of which can have extra crew to bump their ROF up by 1 for 10 points per gun. Basically you always find that 10 points because you are missing out if you dont. 

8.8cm FlaK 41

The only downside of these guns is that being crewed by Luftwaffe they are Reluctant Trained so you may not get to use that extra ROF too many times if you get pinned down. 

So don't get pinned down...

So, with all that said what am I planning in putting in my Filemaster storage box labelled Berlin:

1500 points
Berlin Kampfgruppe HQ 60 points
Hitlerjugend Platoon - 3 Squads 85 points
Hitlerjugend Platoon - 3 Squads 85 points
Hitlerjugend Platoon - 3 Squads 85 points
Panzergrenadier Anti-tank Gun Platoon - 3 PaK40 guns 165 points
Tank-hunter Platoon - 3 Waffentrager (8.8cm) 315 points
Bedbug Platoon Platoon - 3 Bedbug 65 points
Volkssturm Platoon - 4 Squads 105 points
Luftwaffe Heavy AA Platoon - 2 8.8cm FlaK 41 (extra crew) 170 points
Luftwaffe Heavy AA Platoon - 2 8.8cm FlaK 41 (extra crew) 170 points
Luftwaffe Heavy AA Platoon - 2 8.8cm FlaK 41 (extra crew) 170 points

With this list I would be very tempted to swap out the PaK40 platoon for some Nebelwerfers or other artillery just to put a bit of smoke in the list to help hide some of my troops. And if you bumped it up to 1750 points I'd keep both the PaK40 and Nebelwerfers and add in some of those Volkssturm platoons I mentioned before. Having 12 platoons can't be a bad thing right?

Is this a meta-defeating, all conquering list? Probably not, but with this much AT lurking around a tank player better not mess up his alpha strike or he will be scraping his Shermans up and putting them in the bin! Plus with some creative basing it would look outstanding!

Next time, Soviet Hero Guards Heavy Tanks!
Volkssturm infantry and a 10.5cm FlaK39