Monday, August 31, 2015

German Army of World War II, Some Thoughts Part1, 1936 - 1942

The German Army of World War II, also known as the Wehrmacht, is popular among military miniature collectors. It is an army that fought first as "volunteers" in the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Its last battle ended in May of 1945. At its peak in 1942, The German Army and its allies held an area stretching from the English Channel to the Volga River in Russia, as far North as the Arctic Circle and South to the Sahara desert.

The Wehrmacht came out of the Reichswehr Army in 1935. When Hitler came to power in 1933, he defied the Versailles Treaty and began building a larger modern Army. The Wehrmacht grew and added many weapons that had been banned by the Treaty. By 1936, they were using the Spanish Civil War as a testing ground for new weapons and tactics. Three years later, the German Army launched the invasion of Poland that started World War II in Europe.

For the military modeler and toy soldier collector, the German Army is a treasure trove for sheer variety of weapons, uniforms, vehicles and gear. It is one of the last armies to have such a wide assortment of uniforms, for instance. The same goes for the sheer variety of military vehicles from staff cars to tanks.

Despite all of this, many think of a typical member of German ground forces as the fellow in "coal scuttle" helmet with high boots and grey uniform. Up until mid-1942, that described most German soldiers. There were other type uniforms. Nonetheless, the first German soldier miniatures for both hobbyists and playsets were the standard image. So were the Germans portrayed in war movies.
Actually, the Wehrmacht went through a variety of uniforms. Shortages affected the cut of uniforms from 1943 onward. High boots gave way to low boots with gaiters. German troops facetiously called them "retreat puttees." Camouflage tunics and smocks became more common for the Wehrmacht; they already had been widely used by the Waffen SS. Special troops and units such as the Panzer crews, Deutsche Afrika Korps, Gerbirsjager mountain troops and Fallschirmjager paratroops were very different in appearance.

The basic infantry were organized into a squad of ten men. These were an NCO squad leader armed with submachine gun, a three-man light machine-gun team and six riflemen Four of these squads along with a lieutenant, three-man 50mm mortar team, a platoon sergeant and 4 other ranks made a platoon. Three rifle platoons plus a twenty-five man transport section, seven-man anti-tank rifle section with three "panzerbuchse" and a ten-man company headquarters section plus commanding officer was a German infantry company. The commander would normally be a captain or first lieutenant.. Those anti-tank rifles were later replaced with the German bazooka, or panzerschreck, and smaller panzerfaust.

By the time the US fought the Germans on the ground, the German army was transitioning away from the early uniform. Of course, examples were still around in 1944 as old stocks were depleted. The Americans’ first contact was with the tropical-uniformed Afrika Korps, who will be a subject of another article. A tropical uniforms was also worn by some German troops in Italy and Sicily. However, the basic uniform was common in the Fall and further North toward Rome.

For collectors, the basic squad in the early uniform is an easy enough project. Figures are easy enough to find. Marx, Airfix and Matchbox figures are easy to get and to "true up". Keep in mind that suspenders were optional because many early uniform tunics had an "inner suspension" that made them unnecessary. The squad is also a perfect team for playing OMOG Advanced.

Uniform Color The German uniform worn by most troops consisted of a field grey (feldgrau) tunic and stone grey (steingrau) trousers. Field grey was actually a grayish green. Stone gray could vary from light gray to medium gray to blue-gray. The 1943 US manual depicts it as darker blue, though the blue gray or lighter gray would be the norm. The stone gray trousers were officially replaced by field gray some time in 1942. However, stone gray trousers continued to be issued until stocks were depleted. The Waffen SS, a combat formation commanded by the SS political wing of the Nazi government, wore feldgrau trousers from the start of the war.

Helmets could be a variety of colors, from gray to shades of green. The green color ranged from pea green to a dark, almost black-green. For the Army, the right side had a shield in national colors and the left had a black shield with Eagle and swastika.

Uniforms had the Nazi eagle over the right pocket. Junior NCO rank was worn on the left sleeve. Sergeants and Officers wore it on the epaulette. NCOs had piping all around the collar. Junior and field grade officers’ epaulettes were silver color with silver "pips" to denote rank. Those of generals were red and gold.

Riflemen carried leather ammo pouches. men armed with submachine guns had two each of three-pouch canvas magazine-holders. The machine gunner and his assistant had pistols. The third crewman had a rifle
Well into 1942, the German Army started facing shortages of materials. Cloth, leather, dyes and such were affected by it. One result were ongoing changes in the cut and style of the uniform. Come 1943, new troops were issued short boots with leggings and plainer cut uniforms.

My first really good uniform book and Wehrmacht resource was the 1943 edition of TM-E 30-451 Handbook on German Military Forces. A friend found it when they moved into a new apartment and he gave it to me. The book described weapons ,tactics, radio, vehicles, aircraft and uniforms. It had a handful of color plates with German uniforms and insignia. I still have it. Though there were a few inaccuracies, it is a pretty reliable source. The main problem is that they show the stone grey trousers as a bluish purple. Otherwise, A-Okay!

Over the years I have accumulated other resources that cover the German Army. Ditto for the other armies of World War II. These range from official military handbooks to collections of images based on more current research. The German Army requires it because there is so much there. I am sure that all that variety was a drain on the Wehrmacht’s resources.*

My first set of German soldiers was the first Airfix 1/76 scale set. At the time, the only sets they had of regular soldiers were Infantry Combat Group and German Infantry. Marx’s 6-inch and 1/32 size German soldiers came later. They all depicted the standard German Army uniform of 1939-1942. When Airfix released theirs, they turned out to be the same early types. The anomaly was the odd ERMA-type submachine gun rather than a Bergmann or MP40

Holger Eriksson, famous Swedish sculptor of miniature soldiers, did German infantry as his first set of figures. They are an interesting set, to say the least. Other sets of metal German Infantry figures may have more detail, but few have the character or elan of Holger’s set.

For metal casters like myself, there had been a dearth of German soldier molds for the longest time. Rapaport - Castings -REB made a three-cavity metal mold for Afrika Korps figures copied from Charbens. Until Dunken came out with its molds that copied Matchbox Germans, the field war pretty dry. Dutlkins makes molds with his own series of original Germans. I decided to try making Germans out of some of the other three-cavity homecasts. Below are examples. In a later article, I will show how it is done.

Future articles on this series are "will cover the Wehrmacht, Special Units, the Afrika Korps, the Waffen SS and armored vehicles.

* During World War II, an American artillery officer was shown a German breech block. It had 51 or 52 parts. A breech block for an American gun had a total of 7 parts. The officer noted that while the German breech block was beautifully engineered, it had 51 things that could go wrong. The German supply train had to manage an inventory of 51 parts to 7 for the Americans. Germans (and the Swiss and Swedes) have a penchant for over-engineering things.

There is plenty more information on the German Army here:

A copy of the 1943 Handbook with the full color plates can be gotten here. It is a good primer on the uniform and insignia such as rank.[1].pdf

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Germany and Its Army in World War II: Some Myths Exposed

Adolf Hitler’s rise to power is a fluke. He was made chancellor for political expedience by people who thought they could use him. Had there been another election, the National Socialist party would likely have lost many seats in the Reichstag. It would have been rendered weak.

Many are awed by the German Panther and Tiger series of tanks that wreaked havoc on Allied armor. These folks suppose that Germany always had superior armor. In fact, the better tanks did not appear until the Panzer IV F2 with long 75mm gun in mid to late 1942. Until that point, German tanks’ armor and armaments were at best equal, but just as often inferior to their enemies. The Polish Army was able to force two German divisions - one armored - back into Germany. Part of it was due to Polish anti-tank rifles and the light armor on early Panzer III and IV tanks. The earliest ones has 15mm frontal armor! Main armament on German medium tanks until the downfall of France was a 37mm gun. The larger-bore 75mm gun on Panzer IVs and Assault guns was actually a light, low velocity howitzer firing smoke and explosive rounds. In the invasion of France, Germany faced tanks that had better armor and firepower. The weaknesses in French armor were in how tanks were deployed and how each vehicle was commanded. German armor used a better tank command system and better tactics.

Though Germany up-gunned its main battle tanks to 50mm guns and threw in some hastily-made tank destroyers (Czech 47mm gun on Panzer 1 Chassis) they were still not enough of a match against British and Russian armor. The Luftwaffe’s 88mm Flak gun was the real tank-killer at that time. Germany upgunned its Panzer IIIs again to a longer-barreled 50mm gun, but it proved marginal against early T34s and M3 Lee / Grant tanks. They were practically useless against M4 Sherman tanks. The 88mm flak gun and hastily-made tank destroyers were the stop gap that took up for the imbalance in firepower. Once the Panzer IV F2 arrived, Germany achieved the upper hand in armored firepower and retained it to the end of the war. However, by the time the F2 arrived insignificant numbers, the Germans were losing. Supertanks iliek the Tiger and Panther were not enough to repulse Allied advances.

One of the results of experience in Poland was the development of impromptu tank destroyers. When the Panzer I proved itself obsolete as a combat vehicle, some were relegated to patrol and garrison duties. The rest were converted into command tanks - a mobile radio station - ammo carriers and self-propelled guns. For the latter, the turret was removed and the fighting compartment cut open. A Czech 47mm gun was placed on top in a lightly-armored superstructure. This was the start of the German army as recycler. Rather than scrap obsolete vehicles, the Germans transformed them into tank destroyers. They were literally mobile antitank guns. Some were also converted to self-propelled artillery. The Marder series used Panzer II and Czech 38T tanks chassis to mount 75mm anti-tank guns. Panzer IIs were also used for self-propelled 105mm howitzers and were known as the Wespe. When the Panzer III was becoming obsolete, many were converted to Sturmgeschutz assault guns with the long 75mm gun or 150mm howitzer.

After the Normandy landings, Allied troops remarked that the Germans were so desperate they were using horse-drawn transportation. In fact, the Germans had been using it all along. Realizing their dependence on foreign oil and seeking to minimize the problem, Germany opted to fill the gap with horse-drawn equipment. They felt that as infantry divisions moved at the pace of men, the use of horses would be reasonable. So it was the many infantry divisions were using mostly horse-drawn transports and artillery. Of course, Germany had a massive veterinary corps as a result. Japan had come to the same conclusion and used horse-drawn equipment by infantry divisions in China.

From the middle of 1942 until the end of the war, Germany’s equipment increasingly deteriorated in quality. Obversely, that of the American, British and Russian forces improved. Two things contributed to Germany’s problem. One was that lack of good cloth and leather forced the use of interior materials. Dyes and other necessities were also being adversely affected. Meanwhile, the Allies had access to leather, cotton, linen and almost everything else. As wartime experience led to Allied armies improving their equipment, shortages did the opposite to the Germans. By the same token, forced labor in German factories was apathetic, if not openly hostile. Neglect, shoddy work and outright sabotage were the result. Allied manufacture was by free labor. These people had friends and relatives serving in their armed forces, so they felt a need to do their best work. The German soldier had to be careful of his equipment while the Allied soldier could trust that which was issued to him.

German ammunition was less than reliable. After 1942, dud artillery rounds were common. American officers commented on the large number of dud round fired by German artillery in Normandy. Again, shortages of critical materials and sabotage by forced labor was a large problem by 1944. Another example was the panzerfaust antitank launcher. Many were sabotaged by laborers throwing a handful of sand into the warhead. That is a very dire moment for a soldier when his weapon fails to explode while facing down an enemy tank!

In 1943, short boots and cuff-like gaiters had replaced jackboots. Quality leather was in short supply. German troops sarcastically referred to the leggings as "retreat puttees".

The German grand strategy was of Prussian origin. Frederick the Great came up with a way of war that involved quick maneuver, officers trained to take the initiative and quick victory. He knew that a smaller country like Prussia could not win a long, drawn-out war of attrition with larger enemies. Victory had to be gained before the war of attrition began. Thus, the idea was for victory to be gained in two years or less. The best example of this thinking was the Franco-Prussian War, where a German army of maneuver defeated the French. German forces on the Eastern front were able to implement this kind of warfare during World War I, but they were stalemated in the West. Germany was much a victim of attrition in 1918 as it was enemy strategy. The World War II army should have achieved victory by 1942, according to the plan. Once again, Germany ended up in the war of attrition that it had wanted to avoid.

German soldiers were not automatons who were overly reliant on orders. Their officers were trained to take the initiative when an opportunity presented itself. Though this could lead to units "jumping the gun", the benefits outweighed anything else. German troops followed orders well. They also knew how to adapt and adjust to changing situations and unexpected battlefield opportunities.

The German army proved more dangerous in the retreat than in the attack. More casualties were caused by Germans in retreat than those on the offensive. They would fight to the last minute before retreating again and setting up another defensive position. In Tunisia, retreating German were known to fake surrendering, and then throw a grenade or use a machine gun on the troops coming to capture them. That backfired. Once word got around about fake surrenders, any German trying to surrender was likely to be gunned down on the spot.

Why did Germany keep fighting even when it was obvious the war was lost? The leadership, especially Hitler, hoped for a miracle weapon that would end the war in their favor. The miracle never came. This "super weapon" mentality affected German weapons. Rather than concentrate on enough numbers of good tanks like the Panzer IV H, much effort was spent developing new weapons that were more complex and harder to manufacture. They were also a greater strain on resources. The Panther and Tiger tanks were great weapons but came in too few numbers. Germany never really grasped the idea of war as being a game of technology AND numbers. They could have a thousand Panzer IVs for half as many Tigers and Panthers. The super weapon mentality slowed production and decreased numbers of available vehicles.

Russia understood war as a numbers game, but did not quite grasp the need for technology and quality. Ironically, as its training and equipment improved, so the numbers and quality of German equipment began to deteriorate. Nonetheless, even in victory the Russians lost three to five times the casualties that the Germans suffered.

As an aside, Germany placed emphasis on manpower and technology. Japan, its Asian ally, focused on the man rather than the equipment. This did not prove well for the Japanese, who lost many men to superior American firepower.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Civil War Soldiers: Some thoughts

Duryea's Zoauves: 5th New York
Just as the Revolutionary War troops were not a simple two-tone "blue versus red," so the Civil War armies cannot be relegated to "Blue versus Grey." Granted that the official uniforms of the Union were blue and the Confederacy were grey. However, most troops who fought on both sides were not part of the national army. They were militia, equivalent to today’s National Guard. Militia units had a lot of leeway when it come to uniforms and equipment. Another issue was shortages faced by the South. Lacking enough grey dye, the came up with another shade commonly called "butternut." Pecan shells were a popular source for the dye, which ranged from light tan to medium brown.
Standard U.S. Uniform

Both blue and grey were official uniforms of the US Army during the 1850s. Grey was more popular in the South and Blue was favored by Northern militia. At the start of the war, there were a few Southern units wearing blue and several Northern units in grey. It caused a lot of confusion, especially in the war’s early battles. Most militia eventually adopted the regulation uniform chosen by their side.

A comical problem was the matter of drill manuals. Up until 1861, the Army used Hardee’s drill manual. When the Civil War erupted, Hardee joined the Confederacy. The Union came up with a "new" manual by a fellow named Silas. It was almost a carbon copy of Hardee’s book. Other drill books were used, especially translations of French manuals. French Zouave manuals were used by several units.

Even those who adopted regulation colors often had unique accouterments and trim. There were various types of jacket available, from sack coats to shell jackets. The same went for headgear. Colors also varied. For instance, sharpshooter units preferred hunter green, a color similar to that used by German Jaeger troops. And making matters even more confusing were the Zouaves!
Confederate Infantry

French military fashion influenced many armies throughout the 19th century. After their successful foray into North Africa, several French units adopted the Zouave attire. These were based on ornate North African uniforms. Zouaves and Turcos were elite sharpshooter units in the French army. They were copied by several armies, including the Papal States and the Turks. American armies on both sides had their own Zouave units. Often, these were financed by a wealthy organizer or were bought by units with affluent members.

Riflemen: Butternut, Confederate Grey, Union Blue

Several Zouave units actually copied French chasseurs, another colorful branch of the French army. The origins of the chasseurs were European rather than North African. Units attired in Chasseur and Zouave uniforms came from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois, and Louisiana, among others. Many eventually dropped the Zouave clothes in exchange for regulation uniforms as the war progressed. Some remained in the fancy uniforms until the war’s end.

The end of the Civil War saw a standardization of uniforms. Several militias kept their fancy uniforms for parade and special events. The campaign uniform was the same as that of the regular Army. Though a brown uniform was authorized and issued in 1898, blue uniforms remained in use in the US Army until 1912.
Zouaves (Union)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Metal Figures: Casting Your Own

Older hobbyists like myself have a fondness for metal figures that some newcomers do not understand. Why not plastic? Two reasons. Hard plastic was too brittle and prone to breakage. Soft plastic was too flexible, and paint chipped easily. Metal held its form well and was less likely to lose paint if properly prepared.

About 35 years ago, I was introduced to casting my own. I enjoyed it immensely. Unfortunately, life roared in and I had to put the brakes to hobbies due to pressing matters. A friend sold me some molds around `05 and I got back into it with renewed interest. Since then, the overwhelming majority of soldiers I paint are cast here.

One problem is that after a while, one starts making a lot of the same figure. Here is the necessity for creativity and imagination and an eye for detail. Because many uniforms of a given era have a similar cut, all one need do is change the paint to change the figure. Of course, there may be a need to make adjustments to headgear or some other detail. The idea is to use castings as raw materials to make a whole variety of figures.

A problem with some of the older metal molds is that many of their castings are crude compared to newer figures from silicon molds. There are two ways to overcome crudeness. One is in how you trim the raw casting. A little extra filing and such can hint at details that may otherwise not exist. The second is the good use of paint. A good painter can make the crude figures look good. Combine both techniques and you are assured of acceptable figures.

Home casting can be a lot of fun. (I enjoy it!) It also gives you the opportunity to produce castings at a fraction of what it would cost to be them. Though the price of tin has skyrocketed in recent years, they still cost less than buying pre-made castings. I use a lead-tin-antimony alloy that makes good castings. The trick with lead is to handle it safely, and that is easier than you might think. A two or three hour casting session can produce 40 to 50 nice castings. One thing that helps is having enough molds. You have to let them cool a little - especially silicon and rubber. A silicon or rubber mold is good for three or four figures per hour. Metal molds can produce more and they tend to cool quicker. Metal molds also take a little more skill. Silicon and rubber are easier to pour.

Most of the molds out there are for 45mm, 54mm and 60mm scales. There are a few 65mm / 70mm German molds. Molds for smaller figures are available. They would be a plus for wargamers who prefer metal figures. The 54mm to 60mm ranges have the most variety. In my personal inventory, I have 54 to 60mm molds for World War II, World War I, Civil War, Wild West, War of 1812, American Revolution and Middle Ages. I also have a selection of 40mm metal molds for Renaissance and 18th century semi-round figures. And let us not forget the Yule holiday figures from skaters to Santa Claus and the Snowman.

The major makers these days are Castings Inc. (formerly Rapaport), Dutkins, Dunken, Prince August and Nurnberger Meisterzinn. You can often find molds on Ebay at good prices, provided you know what fair prices are. Download Castings Inc’ catalog (Miniaturemolds) and decide if you want to buy direct or go with Ebay. Also, look at each makers’ products and see if you like the style.

Rapaport was bought out by a former employee and renamed REB toys, and is also known as Castings In and They make a large variety of molds, many of which are copies of other figures. Their old 3-cavity metal molds cover World War II Toy solders, Civil War and cowboys, with some semi-round molds making older type figures. Two other metal ranges are worth noting. One is a selection of single cavity Revolutionary War and Civil War figures. The other is a set of single-cavity Napoleonic figures. Castings has silicon molds that make knights, American Civil War, Scotsmen, Coldstream Guard types, Western figures, Greeks (copies of Herald’s Trojans), various chess sets, dragons and other subjects. Most of the Civil War figures from their silicon molds are very high quality pieces, by the way.

It is easier to view molds in their catalog than on their site.

Click here for the link

Download their catalog here -

Dutkins makes vulcanized rubber molds and has an extensive assortment. Sculpting ranges from good to caricaturish. For instance, some shooting rifleman were obviously designed by someone who never fired a rifle. Also, some of Dutkins’ figures run large. One of the Civil War guys, the Revolutionary War soldiers and a couple of World War I Germans looks to be 65mm scale rather than 54mm, Dutkins makes some artillery you won’t see from other mold makers, such as a Civil War Gatling gun and World War I French 75mm gun. He also has molds for 25mm figures for ancients, Civil War and World War II. The civilian range is very nice, by the way.

Click on the link below for the website, then scroll down to "Lil Army Molds"

Dunken is a reseller of Prince August. He also has molds that make copies of toy soldiers from Marx, Airfix and Matchbox. His Civil War range has copies of Marx 54mm figures. The World War II are mostly copies of Matchbox brand figures. There are Airfix German paratroopers, Soviet infantry and Japanese., as well as Marx Japanese. They had an Alamo range and West Pointers.

Click here for their website

Prince August is in Ireland. They make 40mm semi-round 7 Years War figures, full round 54mm Napoleonics and & Years War Prussians, 54mm knights and 40mm Vikings. Supposedly, these guys don’t want folks selling extra copies of their figures without paying them a royalty.

Download their catalog here:

Nurnberger Meistezinn made metal molds of semi-round Renaissance and 7 years war figures in 42mm scale. Some are closer to full round. The figures themselves are very nice.

Casting Instructions

Friday, August 21, 2015

OMOG - a Great Toy Soldier Game!

OMOG is an acronym for "One man, One Gun"

OMOG is landing!

A few years ago, I was working on a platoon-level battle game using 54mm figures. I had tentatively called it OMOG, an acronym for One Man, One gun. The name illustrated that fact that in the game, each figure represented one individual. That game is still on a back burner, by the way.

Along the way, I had an intriguing thought. Years ago, we had "metagaming" mini games that were sold in a plastic envelope. Each had a set of rules, cardboard counters, small dice and a playing field. While several were intense, most could be played in well under an hour. In fact, a few would take a half hour, at most. My question was: what if we could have a genuine toy soldier game that could be played in a small area in a short time? How about a game that used things found in an office or kitchen or living room for the playing field? And what if the only things you had to bring from outside would be the rules, a bag of toy soldiers, dice and a small ruler?

A game like this would have to use a small space. The average kitchen table, coffee table and desktop is not all that big. Movement and resolving conflict would have to be simple, yet not simplistic. In other words, a system that is clear and plain, but not "dumbed down".

The ideal system for movement was part of a children’s toy soldier game from 1929. Shambattle: How to Play with Toy Soldiers used a 6 inch movement stick marked in four increments: Short, Half, Part and Full. It also had a simple way of addressing some of the game’s scenery. This provided the basis for movement.

Resolving conflict, be it hand to hand fighting, shooting or heavy weapons, was based on other systems. It had to be simple and easy to implement.

I had originally come up with a handful of variants of this new, streamlined OMOG. There was Basic for WW2 to Modern soldiers, 19C for the latter half of the 19th Century, Muskets for the era 1825 to 1850, and a Medieval variant. Playtesting failed when those who offered to do it altered the rules before testing them. All I got as feedback on their altered rules, not OMOG as it was written. I put the project on a back burner at that point.

After a couple of false starts, I began work on OMOG this year. A new idea emerged: how do the rules stack up against common sets of toy soldiers, such as Lido, Marx, MPC and Tim Mee? The Tim Mee M16 / Vietnam soldier set hit a nerve. It is one of the more complete sets with both riflemen and a good assortment of heavy infantry weapons. More important., it is one of the most available toy soldier sets out there. The M16 guys have been copied and cloned for decades. They have even been re-posed, yet retain the balance of rifles and heavy weapons. Victory Buy reissued the originals. Copies are found in various bagged sets and more recently, in clear plastic cans as opponents to Cavemen and Zombies. By using the Tim Mee M16 guys as a template, I was able to fill out the Basic game. The result is OMOG Advanced.

The other common types of toy soldiers these days are clones of Airfix British paratroopers, Matchbox GIs and Imperial "Desert Storm" soldiers. They will also work with OMOG. So will traditional sets by Lido, Marx, Tim Mee WW2, Herald, Ajax, and MPC, including "enemy" figures by Marx and MPC.

Keep in mind that OMOG Advanced is a Modern-era (1914 - present) small-unit infantry game. This is squad-level at best. There are no rules for field guns, tanks or other heavy non-infantry weapons.

Coming on the heels of OMOG Advanced will be OMOG 19C for the 19th Century, Omog Muskets for the 18th and early 19th Century, Omog Oldstyle for a "Little Wars" type game, and OMOK (One Man, One Knight) for Ancient and Medieval combat.

By the way, I am an Army veteran and some of my experience has helped these rules. If anything, it helped avoid any unrealistic elements.

You can download OMOG Advanced at these links:


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Review: Laserblade - Sci-Fi small unit action


Laserblade is the kind of small battle game I like. It is easy to learn, easy to play, and it allows for many variables. The games are relatively short and packed with action. Laserblade is great for the science fiction fantasy genre, too. The rules allow for players to come up with a variety of characters. You can easily combine figures from the Airfix Space Warriors and Galaxy Laser Team as well as miniatures from Star Wars, Star Trek, Buck Rogers and other popular shows.

Neil Goodacre is author of the Laserblade and owner of the company, Echidna Games. He understands the genre very well. Just visit the Echidna Games website and their Facebook page. Neil’s paint work on the Galaxy Laser team and Airfix Space Warriors is superb. He also does wonders with other figures, such as those from the Russian firm Technolog.

Laserblade is a game of small unit action. It uses very small teams in a limited space. These are a squad or less; from three to a dozen characters. Movement and turns use a simple initiative roll of the dice to see who goes first. Up to three figures can be active in any one turn.

The genius is in the way characters are made. Neil has a very clear point system for putting a character’s attributes together. His knowledge of the space genre is obvious here. The system allows for a wide variety of individuals using the classic - and not so classic - tools of the space fantasy trade. You could easily build a team based on a Star Trek landing party, a Star Wars Rebel crew, Imperial Stormtrooper squad, Farscape team or Buck Rogers’ type mission. You name the series and Laserblade can accommodate it. And I will go so far as to say that these rules could also cover the different races and units from Warhammer 40,000.

Best of all, it is easy and quick to set up and play. You can vary terrain, use different scenarios and have whatever assortment of characters suits you. This is how it can so easily accommodate the Galaxy Laser team, Airfix Space Warriors, and other unusual figure sets.

My only complaint is the use of the ten-sided dice. Those of us who are not gamers and not near a gamer shop will not have a cheap and easy time getting them. I am very old-school and prefer the classic six-sided dice. .Other than the dice, everything is cherry.

A wish, perhaps. Echidna Games might consider a few optional add-on rules to host on its website, such as the effects of lower gravity, higher gravity, thinner atmosphere or weird cosmic effects that dampen energy weapons, halving their range or striking power. Just a thought, of course.

Coincidentally, this comes as I have uploaded and posted OMOG Advanced, the full game for 20th and 21st Century troops. That is, World War I to present conflicts. OMOG is also a skirmish type game for small-unit action. But fear not, good reader, Laserblade is a very different game and a very different genre.

Those of you who know me from other activities outside hobbies are aware of my reputation for being outspoke and blunt about my feelings on things. If something is junk, I will tell you in no uncertain terms. My recommendation, insofar as :Laserblade, is that if you are interested in small actions in the Science Fiction genre, check it out. See for yourself. Laserblade is a good, solid game. The only types who might object are the prickly nitpickers who wring the life out of anything fun. And Laserblade is fun!

If you have any questions as to how figures for Laserblade can look, check out the Echidna Games website and their Facebook page.

Click here for the Echidna Games Facebook page

Click here for the Echidna Games website

Click here to get the Galaxy Laser Team and other Tim Mee plastic figures from Victory Buy

Click here for Toy Soldiers Depot for huge assortment of space and other figures


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Review: The Airfix Space Warriors

The Airfix Space Warriors

Galaxy Laser team was Tim Mee’s attempt to make good on the Fantasy and Science Fiction craze of the 1970s. The Star Trek series had initiated a new era of science fiction. Space 1999, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Battlestar Galactica and the Star Wars movie were a new wave of science fiction combined with elements of fantasy. Airfix broke from its line of historical figures to jump on the Sci-Fi bandwagon in 1981. The company issued a 14-piece set of Space Warriors in seven poses.

Airfix’s Space Warriors are an unusual lot. There is a scaly alien and a strange fellow in gas mask who looks like he is thrusting with a bayonet. A gun-toting woman in miniskirt looks like a mix of Buck Rogers’ Wilma Deering, a Greek goddess in miniskirt and elements of Wonder Woman. There is a man who is almost identical to a Greek hoplite without a helmet,
holding a pistol. Next is one who looks like a knight in crested helm with pistol. In some light, it looks as if he has a crusader’s cross on his chest. The last two have a more Eastern inspiration. One looks like a modernistic Ninja throwing a chakram. Shades of the old sci-fi series from Japan: Phantom Agents! The other has elements of the Michelin Tire Man combined with a horned Samurai-style helmet and what looks like a katana. A Greek goddess, lizard-man, weirdo, hoplite, knight, ninja and hoop-legged Samurai all kitted out for a space adventure.

And somewhere in there you can find bits of the old Archer and Ajax style spacemen and the
MPC Mercury astronauts. Of course, anyone who has even a passing familiarity with Medieval warriors can see the knightly lines of the Archer and Ajax figures.

Neil Goodacre, longtime toy soldier fan and the game designer and owner of Echidna Games graciously sent me a set of the seven Airfix poses. He also packed a copy of Laserblade, Echidna’s rules for a quick paced spaceman skirmish game. Neil understands the space fantasy genre expertly. A visit to the Echidna Games website and its Facebook page make that evident. A look at the way he paints space figures leaves no doubt of his appreciation of the style and nuance of these varied and amazing figures. On the sites are examples from the Galaxy Laser team, the Airfix Space warriors,
Russian "Technolog" figures and others. Reading through Laserblade, Neil has taken his insight and made a workable game for almost any space fantasy character.

That seems amazing. Look at the Airfix Space Warriors and Galaxy Laser Team together. They seem at first glance an incongruous lot of very different individuals. Laserblade makes it possible to use them in a game as cohesive units.

The Airfix Space warriors are strange. It is easy to see that half of the Galaxy Laser team was inspired by Star Wars. The Space Warriors’ provenance is more like bits and pieces than one or even two specific things. Nonetheless, they have crisp sculpting and dynamic poses. There is no doubt as to what each figure is doing. As good as they look in their molded color, painting brings out the beauty of the figures.

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