Monday 29 July 2013


With the imminent demise of Modelzone on the high street I've been taking advantage of the 20% closing sale which applies to most stock, including Oxford Diecast but not Hornby. Not a lot left on the shelves now but at a pound off retail and no postage to pay, it's silly not to take advantage where you can.

Here's a typically 'buff' 1970s Morris Marina, a great street prop for Winter of '79. The ex-Hotspur figure was to hand as he is slated to be painted in the next batch and gives you an idea of scale. The Marina really is a nice little model.

On my work surface at the moment are various 20mm urban figures for W'79. RH Models Urban Meltdown in helmet with SLRs, Elhiem and Irregular rioters, plus Elhiem 70's cops and robbers.

You know, if there's one job I used to hate with a passion, it's undercoating. Especially when applying by hand and even more especially when it's black. Luckily though, my neurological episode a year or so ago disconnected me from historic negative emotions. Nowadays, I find undercoating by hand a relaxing experience instead of being a mind numbing chore. Helped no doubt by the fact that I seem to have hit just the right technique for mixing Humbrol Matt black in the tin (hence the cocktail sticks).  I can dip my No.8 brush and apply straight onto the models with the minimum of fuss.

Need to get through them pretty quickly as I have a pair of Ferret Mk2s arriving from Shaun at S&S Models this week, courtesy of Maff. Am looking forward to these.

I'm not going to Claymore next weekend. Another neurological casualty I'm afraid. Instead, I'll reinvest some of the petrol money saved by picking up additional new BAOR AFVs and softskins from Shaun to round out my Winter of '79 collection, including the Land Rover Recce and 109 series Ambulance.

Got to go, tough day at the office in the morning. 


Saturday 20 July 2013

Elhiem BAOR: Debussed

It's not often these days that I get home to find a new set of miniatures on the mat that make me want to place a second order straight away. But Elhiem's new BAOR figures have done just that. 

Principally because they have bags of 1970's and early 1980's character and very few duffers in the packs. As you can see, I couldn't wait to empty all the packs out onto the table to mix and match the Toms into various combinations of bricks and command elements.

The strongest figures? Definitely BAOR08 SLR Skirmishing. All good solid poses, in fighting order. That kneeling NCO is going to get a bit hackneyed in a platoon unless you swop one for an NCO from BAOR01 Brit Army Section on patrol. Be nice to have an extra command pack with an alternative platoon leader and two extra corporals. This would help change the character of each section. The tin Elniem use is a bit tough, but I'll try to convert one of the NCOs into a classic 'rally on me' pose.

BAOR05, GPMG team firing using wall as cover is very nice. Though I'm less enthusiastic that you pay the same as a four figure pack for three figs and a sliver of wall. Especially as the third figure is kneeling quite passively, thinking about his insides after that last tin of Chicken Supreme. Shame, as he let's down an otherwise good set. He's better removed and placed in an O Group with the platoon commander or alternatively utilised as a No. 2 for the Charlie G or 51mm mortar from BAOR6.  One small feature I do like about BAOR5 is that the GPMG bipod is cast directly onto the wall section. You just line up the GPMG and drop it in place. 

BAOR06, the launchers pack offers a 51mm mortar No.1, a kneeling Blowpipe No.1, standing rifleman firing LAW (brave man) and a terrific Charlie G No.1. All very nice figures.

The platoon command pack BAOR10 is the weakest of the bunch in my opinion. The kneeling Rupert and Sparks are OK, Great for O Groups. Put Sparks with the kneeling NCO from BAOR08 and you have a nice little "Contact.. Wait Out!" set. The medic with Sterling is so so, as is the kneeling rifleman with IWS sight. I'll give him a Glengarry head and move him to bolster my small Internal Security collection.

OK, after getting them in my hands and playing around with them, what's my verdict? Sorry, no Emperors New Clothes here. Overall I'm favourably impressed but it's tempered with some reservations. Positives are..... bags of character and mix well with Britannia BAOR and others, so if you have an unfinished platoon or need additional support weapons, here's your chance. The support weapons are a big positive and that Sustained Fire GPMG is the best on the market. Downsides? Well, I won't be buying more Elhiem GPMG teams, three figs for same price as four is having a laugh, especially as the third figure is just a filler. The platoon command doesn't inspire me either as is. Though it does make a nice diorama if you add other kneeling riflemen and NCO figures to create an O Group, as stated above. Instead I'll buy an additional Patrolling pack, utilisng the NCO pointing as platoon leader and converting the Charlie G No.1 toting a Sterling into his signaller.

A further possible downside is that if you are collecting BAOR Mech Inf to the full TOE given in most rules it's going to cost you, as the section's Charlie G is in the 'Launcher' pack. You'll need three of those! Luckily for you Winter of '79 bods, UK establishment and light role battalions only require one Charlie G per platoon! I recommend getting Platoon 20's infantry heavy weapons pack instead if you are playing BAOR orientated games. The figs are slightly smaller, doubt it will be noticable when painted, but for £2.50 you get a lying GPMG team, a nice Charlie G and a spare standing GPMG No.1. Save over £4.00 per Mechanised Infantry section!

So there we have it. A great addition for Winter of '79 gamers. Everything you need for regular or TA formations and easy enough to buy when you have cash to spare and just want to order a couple of packs to have something to look forward to when you get in from work. 

On the back of the Elhiem BAOR releases, Maff and I held our own O Group and decided that it was time to bring order to the chaos of our collection which has grown organically over the past couple of years. We are confident that these new figures will provide the basis on which to achieve that.


P.S.The kneeling figures have tread sculpted on their DMS boot soles. Nice touch!

Monday 15 July 2013

Paving the way....

One of the most important if understated visual elements in any urban game set in western Europe are pavements. Sure you can plonk your buildings down on a grey surface and be done but it lacks something.

Pavements provide definition in the urban scape. They give a clear distinction between highway and pedestrian  - road and built up. Expanding the footprint of  those terraced rows or high street shops, turning them into built up islands, they offer a psychological barrier, a movement channel, a mini objective.

They also host their own iconic urban gloss in the form of  lamp-posts, telephone boxes, rubbish bins and more.

I've been wrestling with getting the right pavements for Winter of '79. Card and paper just didn't seem to cut it. Finally I managed to hit on a solution thanks to an enterprising eBayer selling OO scale scenic moulds for £6.50 plus postage. And you can see the results for yourself when given the quickest of washes with GW's Nuln Oil.

I already had a carton of Woodlands Scenics Lightweight Hydrocal casting plaster, so thought 'I'll give it a punt for a few quid'. The mould arrived before the weekend allowing me to start a cottage industry churning out 80mm x25mm x2mm pavement section after section.

I have to admit that it was fun of sorts, but I had a day to spare so it was just a matter of being disciplined as you obviously have to wait for each batch to set and harden before you can make the next pair of pavements.

Each set took 5 minutes to mix and pour the Hydrocal. I used one heaped and one level teaspoon of Hydrocal mixed with two teaspoons of water using a wooden coffee stirrer. Nothing onerous there. Then laid to one side for a minimum of 40 minutes to set. I basically looked at it as an hourly task - returning each hour on the hour to cast a new batch.

So, what about the results? Well not surprisingly they got better with each attempt. Even so, you can see in the 'before' photo below that the best of the cast pavement sections still had enough of a rough edge that they will need to be smoothed off with an emery board. But this takes only seconds.It's exactly the same batch in both photos

So here's what I learnt after a few breakages for those of you who may be tempted yourself.
  • Place the mould on a flat surface. 
  • Handle the mould as little as possible once you've poured the mixture. It's flimsy and picking it up may weaken the structure of the casts once the Hydrocal starts to set.
  • With that in mind, don't hand around as the Hydrocal is only workable for about five minutes. 
  • Press the mixture down and into the nooks and crannies, then top up as required. 
  • Use the flat edge of your coffee stirrer to level the mixture to get a near perfect flat cast. 
  • Do all three casts then, clean round the edges with a damp tissue to reduce the cleaning required on the cast sections.
  • However much you are tempted now, leave it be for at least 40 minutes. 55 is better and more, better still.
  • To remove the cast sections turn the mould upside down on a flat surface with the corner piece facing you.  Now slowly peel back the mould. The corner piece is easy enough, it will drop out, but if a pavement section seems to be sticking just gently turn back the other end of the mould. That should be enough. DO NOT press or apply any pressure where the pavement sections are or they are likely to break.
  • Breakages - no big deal really. The breaks are usually very neat and come at joins of the paving slabs so you can seamlessly glue them together again. Worst comes to worst you have broken paving slabs for barricades, craters in the street etc.
  • Bubbles and miscasts? Some, though the faster you try to be with your mixing and pouring, or should that be 'lazy'. the worse it seems to be. On the most part they look like natural wear and tear and of course the road workers are on strike! Seriously, just use a blob of left over Hydrocal or whatever or hide/repair the worst or plant some weeds or leave a discarded newspaper or a Coke Can cut from a piece of  sprue if you are that bothered.
  • Left over Hydrocal gloop? Have some newly based figures on standby to avoid wastage. 
The Hydrocal is a VERY lightweight material. I am only using it as it's to hand and will 'paint' the cast pavement sections with PVA to strengthen them. I may try some smooth Polyfilla next to see what the results are. The Five minute stuff would be ideal if it worked.....

Alright then, want to try this for yourself? Check out eBay seller 087_odea.


Saturday 13 July 2013

Elhiem BAOR: Bumper Summer Release

"Hey rock and rollers! This is Foggy Fogarty on Radio Borset with the Five O'Clock Foggy Follies! That was Oliver's Army - a bit of Elvis Costello - from the boys of No.2 Section, B Company of the Wessex Rangers and dedicated to 'Delectable Debby' at Crow Farm. And this is a stomping song and a weather forecast all in one. It's Tom Robinson and it's going to be a 'Long Hot Summer'....."
Matt at Elhiem has just announced the long awaited additions to his Cold War BAOR. This bumper summer release includes a skirmishing rifle group, firing GPMG group, platoon command, 'Charlie G'/LAW/Blowpipe launchers, sustained fire GPMG on tripod, 81mm mortar and observers.

BAOR skirmishing 'greens' from the Ambush Alley Forum
Perfect for debussing from one of Rolf's Saxon APCs

Worth noting that Elhiem is also looking to stock vehicles from S&S Models. I'm biased of course but I would like to see Shaun's BAOR AFVs and Land Rovers amongst the initial stock to compliment these latest 20mm 'Toms'. Maff bought one of the S&S Model's 109s to turn into a Free Taff 'Gun Jeep' and was favourably impressed.

I have to give credit to Matt in that he has released everything in one go, allowing you to buy a full 1970's/early 80's British force without leaving gaps or having to rely on substitutes. In addition, the packs themselves are wargamer and customer friendly making it a breeze to organise what packs you need to purchase to complete a tabletop force.

Looking forward to receiving my first platoon worth of these BAOR figures. I'm planning to pick up some of the support weapons after pay day.

Update: See my review here!


Monday 8 July 2013

The Holy Grail of 79 Gaming.

Last week I was down in Aberdeen with the family and decided to pop into Hobbycraft while waiting on the ferry. I haven't bought much in here for a while as they don't seem to stock a lot of gaming stuff nowadays. I was really surprised to find that they had these two great Hornby pieces and at the Bargain price of £10 each. They are going to look amazing as the centrepiece for a game.

They are the Hornby mineshaft building and Headstock 2.