Lee brings us the March update for his self-imposed challenge to paint three armies this year.
We ended February with the 75pt stage, a load of Chieftains, behind schedule but ready to paint. The left me needing to paint eleven Chieftains, then try and paint the last elements to bring me to a rounded 100pts, all in March, no pressure!
Complicating progress was my magpie like attention span. Off the back of my Operation Granby article, Battlefront had sent a care package of a box each of Challengers, Warriors and MLRS (along with some TY terrain to boost the Dice Saloon tables). That somewhat obliged me to pull my figure out on what had been a paper list!
Still, I have some will power, so I made myself commit to getting 100pts of ’85 era brits done before looking ahead to ’91.
I started the 1st March with the Chieftains all primed and base coated so I was able to go straight into masking and applying the camo.
In the previous phases, I’ve been using blu-tac to mask off the models but had found that very occasionally it pulled the paint off. I was recommended to use AK’s Masking Putty and I bought a tin to try out.
Well, turns out this stuff is literal dark magic. You pick a bit out of the tin, roll it into a sausage and press it on the model and prod it into shape. If you need a larger area covered you can add more and it kinda self amalgamates, as well as flowing into any crevices. The stuff worked a treat, though I did find that, as it flows over time, my practice of massed masking the night before spraying wasn’t working as the stuff on the sides dripped off. I’ll do a more detailed article on it soon.
Other than that, painting was pretty much as per the 50pt stage.
On the 16th March, I called the Chieftains done. That gave me half a month to get the 100pt stage done.
With the Chieftains underway, I knew the first half of the month, at least, was going to be 50pt based. What I hadn’t allowed for was a global pandemic shutting down face to face wargaming as we know it! Sadly that means my British force has been caught in limbo, despite the progress.
Still, I did get three games in with my 50pt British Medium Recce Squadron. One each versus Dylan’s Iraqi Republican Guard, Duncan’s Czechoslovakians and Fez’s Poles .
“Breakout” vs Fez’s Polish T-72M Battalion
Having learned from the previous month that a “manoeuvre” stance wasn’t the way to go, I opted to attack, as did Fez. We rolled up “Breakout” and I lost the roll to attack. With no airthreat, the Blowpipes went into reserve along with the Chieftains. It would be up to the infantry and CVR(T) to hold ground till the reserves arrived, along with the Scorpions in ambush. I used Spearhead to push a screen forward, but was a bit careless and Fez’s T-72 claimed a pair of Scimitar. Fez pushed aggressively on the left whilst leaving a small platoon of T-72 to hold the rear against any arriving British reserves. The scimitars largely stayed out of sight whilst the Strikers started to extract a toll on the Polish tanks. On the second turn both my reserves arrived, the Spartan mounted blowpipes using their speed to get up one flank to threaten the scout BMP in the fields and the Chieftains worked their way through town but largely fluffed their shot on the rearguard, killing only on T-72. The Poles returned the favour and killed two Chieftains, the third one running at the start of my next turn.
The main fight was in the town near my leftmost objective, the Scimitars largely trying to hide whilst the Strikers continued to pick off T-72, joined by the revealed Scorpions. The 76mm HESH round proved quite devastating in the close confines of the town, the T-72 having only bazooka plates to offer any protection. The Shilka did return fire killing two Scorpions but the remaining two did sterling service and largely won me the game as Fez’s attack ran out of steam.
“Free For All” vs Dylan’s Iraqi T-72M Battalion
Dylan’s Hinds had done me over in the past week and this week he had built another two and tweaked his list to fit them in! The mission was Free For All and I won the attacker roll,
I set the majority of the force out of sight, behind the ridges and blockhouse, but had the Scorpions forward in the shade of the palm tree lines where I could nip out for some cheeky side shots. Dylan was equally shot, but did send a trio of T-72M forward to exploit a hole in the tree line, blowing two Scorpions up which prompted a response from my Chieftains and Scimitars who blew one of them up, and bailed another, in return.
The second turn saw the Hinds make their appearance (forced to loiter due to Dylan having the first turn) and they made a bee-line for the Blowpipes, dodging the missiles sent towards them before opening up with their own missiles to destroy the Spartans and their MANPAD teams. I cursed my luck and realised that I was now on the backfoot. This was compounded by having five T-72M concentrating their fire on the Chieftains, killing two; my MBT couldn’t catch a break!
I put up a valiant defence but the Hinds were now free to dominate the table, despite the best efforts of the Strikers. Dylan was battered, but able to secure one of my objectives.
“Counter Attack” vs Duncan’s Czechoslovakian T-72M (I’m noticing a theme here…) Battalion
The final game of the month was versus Duncan who, rather than play a blue on blue game with his West Germans, opted to use his Czechoslovakians. we both opted to attack, leading to Duncan defending in Counter Attack.
All through the 50pt stage, the Scorpions and Strikers have been my star players whilst the Chieftains have failed to make much on an impression on the game. Not this time. In this game the Chieftain’s turned everything to 11, killing T-72M with deadly precision, making cross and blitz checks (mostly) and shrugging off Spandrel fire. The CVR(T) got caught in a bruising war of attrition with Duncan’s BMP-2 mounted infantry, tying them up but making no headway, so it all came down to the Chieftains. The MBT near wiped out one company of four tanks with one volly (Duncan, still being in WWII/FoaN mode and avoiding moving fire with his RoF1 T-72, left his sole T-72 company on the table in concealed, but visible, firing positions), crossed the river (save one, which turned out to be blessing, took out the DANA with long range fire, then cleared the objective. The one that got left behind force Duncan’s reserves to deal with it and the Strikers, all whilst killing a T-72M a turn.
All in all, it almost made up for their woeful performance of the last few games!
One thing my games vs Dylan have shown me is that I’m fairly powerless vs his Hinds, the Blowpipes just aren’t cutting it. As such, I needed to go to the big guns and add a quartet of tracked rapiers. These put out more, harder hitting, longer ranged shots, than the Blowpipes but are sole purpose. That said, the Blowpipes ground attack capability had not mounted to much and the Rapiers are quite cheap anti-air insurance, so no bigee.
In general, the 50pt games had shown that large hordes were difficult to deal with, my CVR(T) getting rapidly overwhelmed if I couldn’t trade space for time (such as in last month’s game vs Simon’s Iranians). I could have caved and fielded an infantry company with massed Milan and Carl Gustav but decided to stick to my heavy armour philosophy so looked to the skies for help.
This wasn’t a sudden burst of religious inspiration, though it would probably appeal to the RAF’s ego, but instead a call for air support; four Harriers with BL755 cluster bombs would certainly help deal with the massed cheap armour I expected the Chieftain’s to face.
The final new unit for the 100pt phase was a trio of Swingfire FV438 to round out the 3RTR formation (well, I need some Abbots) and also cover off the emerging threat of the T-80U (I’m betting its at least comparable to an IPM1 in terms of front armour).
That leaves my prospective 100pt force as:
Of course, that largely ignores all the units painted for the CVR(T) element. If I fielded both formations with everything painted (or to be painted) it’s actually be…
I already have all the bits I needed for the Rapier and Swingfire troops so I placed an order with Dice Saloon for some Harriers and set about prepping the ground element.
There wasn’t much required as I didn’t see much evidence of external stowage on either vehicle in the contemporary photos. Instead I just added green stuff camo net areas to match the rest of the force. Joining the Swingfires and Rapiers was an FV432 with an S&S Models HQ penthouse piece and an S&S Models M548 to act as an objective when the Rapiers were sitting on one.
Painting was as per the rest of the British stuff painted so far, and was pretty straight forward. I couldn’t decide if the M548’s canvas tilt would be painted as part of the camo scheme so just left it a flat dark green. The missiles were painted Olive Brown then over painted in Brown Violet before having their double yellow bands applied by hand.
I finished March with the matt varnish going on the Rapiers and Swingfires on March 31st. This would mean the Harriers would have to roll over into April but its not as if I was going to miss getting games in!
FV436 Command Post
FV438 Swingfire Guided Weapon Troop
With the lockdown in effect, I have been kicked to the couch for a few hours each evening whilst the wife uses my office for work. This slowed painting progress but did allow me to get the Warriors, Challengers and MLRS assembled ready for the next project. I also got the Harriers built up but more on them next month.
So, that’s March’s report. April has seen lock-down continue but, as noted I had my Harriers to do, plus the start of the Granby project so tune in next month for the start of the next Escalating Tensions project!