28mm: US Airborne Support Weapons By Warlord Games

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With my first 101st Airborne troops completed in 28mm, I’ve moved on to adding some support weapons. As a relative newcomer to World War II at this scale, I’ve also taken the opportunity to try another manufacturer’s miniatures for the sake of comparison.

WarlordlogoIn 2008, Warlord Games launched a small selection of WWII miniatures acquired from another manufacturer. To compliment the line of models, about three years ago Bolt Action came to the game scene with a slickly-designed rule set published by Osprey Publishing and a now vastly-expanding line of miniatures from multiple nations and combat theaters of WWII. The Warlord Games plastic and metal line of soldiers, artillery, transports and armor, along with the Bolt Action game system, have come to dominate the market and tournament scene for gamers playing tactical-level WWII in the larger 28mm scale.

For my first figures from Warlord Games, I stuck with a few metal models which scale nicely with my figures from Artizan Designs. The castings display a lot of exaggerated poses, animated facial expressions and detailed equipment which look great on a wargaming tabletop and reveal the influence of the designers who hail from the world of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 from Games Workshop.

AB Paint SchemeIn painting my first Warlord Games miniatures, I went with my same quick and simple painting scheme I’ve been using so far:

Painting 28mm US Airborne Support Weapons

  1. Clean flash from metal models with a sharp knife and glue to metal washer or plastic bases.
  2. Apply filler putty to bases. When dry, scrape off excess with a sharp knife.
  3. Base coat models and bases with flat black spray primer.
  4. Paint uniforms and bandages on helmets with Tallarn Sand.
  5. Paint helmets and knee and elbow patches with Waaagh! Flesh.
  6. Paint faces and hands with Tallarn Flesh.
  7. Paint webbing and packs with Baneblade Brown.
  8. Paint bases, boots, gun stocks and helmet straps with Dark Brown.
  9. Apply Agrax Earthshade wash to uniforms, helmet netting, webbing and packs.
  10. Mix 50/50 Baneblade Brown and Off White and lightly dry brush packs, webbing and socks.
  11. Lightly dry brush bases, gun stocks, helmet netting, holsters and elbow and shoulder patches with Baneblade Brown.
  12. Paint metal gun, bazooka and mortar parts with black and finish with a light dry brush of metallic silver.
  13. Paint eyes with small dots of Off White and Dark Brown. Clean up around eyes with Tallarn Flesh.
  14. Mix 50/50 Tallarn Flesh and Off White and brush highlights on cheekbones, chins, forehead, nose and hands.
  15. Apply Company B decals to shoulders and helmets, followed by a coat of Solvaset decal fixative from Walthers.
  16. Cover bases in white glue and cover in 50/50 mix of fine light green and dark green grass flock.
  17. Glue small pieces of clump foliage to base.
  18. Spray coat completed models with matte finish.

To begin, I’ve painted up a 60mm mortar team and a bazooka crew. here’s a few photos of the final results:

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I’ll probably add a light machine gun and some other models from Warlord Games soon, but for now my US Airborne forces will be able to pack a bit more punch in upcoming games.

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A Gamer’s Guide to Manhattan’s Hobby Shops

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I’ve mentioned here more than once that my childhood was full of hobbies including model rocketry, model railroading, plastic kit building, Dungeons & Dragons, comic books and miniatures wargaming. Like generations before me, hobby stores and the now-vanished hobby areas of large department stores and five-and-dimes were where I felt at home from an early age.

I moved to New York City in the mid-1990s when much of Old New York started breathing its last gasps. Along with the closings of many storied NYC bars, restaurants, clubs, book stores, comic shops and movie theaters, hobby shops of all types are becoming more and more a thing of the past here in the Five Boroughs. The causes of the decline of hobby shops in the city are many, including rising rents, loss of customer interest, the growth of online hobby retail and many owners simply retiring or passing away.

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The New York Times recently did a great little story on Rudy’s Hobby and Art in Astoria, Queens, and I’ve also become a semi-frequent visitor to Trainworld just a few subway stops away from my apartment in Brooklyn. These outposts in the outer boroughs hold on, but many of the classic shops in Manhattan have not. At the top of many city hobbyist memories is Polk’s Hobby Department Store which once occupied five floors at 314 5th Avenue. Like many businesses, Polk’s was a family-run affair headed up by two brothers beginning in the 1930s. The iconic store carried radio controlled boats and planes, slot cars, plastic model kits, trains and all matter hobby supplies which fueled the imaginations for generations of kids and adults. For the observant nostalgic, a quick glimpse of Polk’s survives in a scene from 1972’s The Godfather (photo at top).

Like Polk’s, most of Manhattan’s other hobby stores, like Carmen Webster’s on 45th Street and America’s Hobby Center on West 22nd Street, have likewise vanished from the city’s streets in recent years. At the same time, Brooklyn has seen a surge in gaming-specific stores and play spaces such as Kings Games, Brooklyn Game Lab, Twenty-Sided Store, The Brooklyn Strategist and Nu Brand Gaming. In Greenwich Village, The Uncommons now sits along the old “Chess Row” south of Washington Square, and a Games Workshop can be found a few blocks away well stocked with Warhammer and 40K players on any given weekend.

For the dedicated scale model hobbyist and gaming enthusiast, a few remnants of the traditional densely stocked hobby store of the past still live on in Manhattan. In almost all cases, online suppliers are a more economical option than purchasing from a local hobby or gaming brick-and-mortar store. However, it’s still hard to beat the experience of browsing a shop in person and having conversations with fellow customers and proprietors who share a passion for a hobby. I recently spent a sunny late summer day poking around in a few of my favorite NYC hobby shops that tap into that unique experience that still lives on.


Jan’s Hobby Shop

1435 Lexington Avenue

(212) 987-4765

IMG_4284Way up on Lexington Avenue in the East 90s,  Jan’s Hobby Shop is just the kind of store that fired my youthful imagination. Plastic soldiers, model kits, model rockets, paints, brushes, videos, books and hobby magazines are stacked floor to ceiling in the tight space of this classic hobbyist’s paradise. Kits from hundreds of manufacturers from around the world, from the common to the obscure, cover all eras, skill levels, scales and price ranges. Ships from the Age of Sail sit across from Star Wars X-Wings, ancient siege weapons are just down the aisle from Cold War artillery and all manner of cars, tanks, ships and planes fill every bit of space between. For the more advanced scale modeller, a handy selection of balsa, plastic styrene, brass tubing and specialized glues and construction materials sit at the ready.

IMG_4286Plastic soldiers from a variety of manufacturers, eras and scales at Jan’s

IMG_4287Paints and plastic model kits line the walls at Jan’s

IMG_4285Fred Hutchins’s WWII era experimental aircraft models

At the heart of the store on any given morning, store manager Fred Hutchins sits behind his workbench working away on his latest project. In my short visit with Fred, I learned of his lifelong love and work in aeronautical engineering. His ongoing project, at the rate of 30-50 models per year, is to build to scale every experimental aircraft built during World War II. In the cases nearby, much of Fred’s exquisite work is on display, and if you are a polite and patient visitor, he is more than happy to engage in a brief history lesson. Conversation with Fred, modeller-to-modeller, is just the kind of experience only found in a hobby shop and makes a visit to Jan’s worth the trip.


The Red Caboose

23 West 45th Street

(212) 575-0155

www.theredcaboose.com

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For a hobbyist like me, basements are portals to secret worlds of play hidden away from the normal world above. That’s where you’ll find The Red Caboose, tucked at the end of an easy-to-miss entry hall and then down some narrow stairs to a subterranean hobby wonderland. Focused largely on N and HO scale model railroading, The Red Caboose is lined with glass cases of rolling stock and engines from the steam era to today. Tourists may also find their way here to buy up some authentic scale New York MTA subway cars which may be special ordered to reflect specific routes past or present.

IMG_4283Cases of trains and row upon row of model kits at The Red Caboose

The Red Caboose is a place beyond trains, too.  Rows of shelves are devoted to kits for all sorts of buildings, bridges, industrial complexes and natural scenery, some of which have made their way to my wargaming tables over the years. Rotating racks of scale scratch building plastic, metal and wood parts, along with paints, brushes and other supplies provide a solid inventory for miniature modellers. A decent selection of military and civilian plastic kits and pre-built die-cast scale models can likewise by found, making a stop at The Red Caboose about much more than just trains.


The Compleat Strategist

11 East 33rd Street

(212) 685-3880

www.thecompleatstrategist.com

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As a budding role playing gamer in the 70s and 80s, I was fortunate to live near a college town where the local bookstore and five-and-dime each stocked a handy selection of Dungeons & Dragons books, miniatures and magazines. Tucked in the pages of later issues of those magazines, I occasionally saw ads for The Compleat Strategist with an inventory which sounded like a dream for my hungry gaming appetite. As a resident New Yorker today, a quick visit to “The Strat” over a lunch hour or on a weekend is an amazing escape for a quick purchase or just time spent browsing the latest in gaming.

IMG_4281The Compleat Strategist is NYC’s destination for serious gamers

The store is long, narrow and deep, with shelves of games, books, miniatures and accessories piled to the ceiling. Boardgames, chess sets and puzzles occupy the rear half of the store. A massive selection of boxed historical strategy games stretch down one wall toward an inventory of paints and miniatures ranging from Games Workshop and other fantasy lines to collectible games like Heroclix. RPG books and reference materials fill out the front of the shop along with buckets of dice, stacks of collectible cards like Magic: The Gathering and two large racks of gaming periodicals. Downstairs, the Compleat Strategist also hosts mini gaming tournaments most weekends, rounding out the total experience for the city gamer looking to stay connected to a vital hobby community.


Gotham Model Trains

224 West 35th Street, 13th Floor

(212) 643-4400

www.gothammodeltrains.com

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Down a generic block just north of Penn Station, the tiny and well kept Gotham Model Trains occupies a thirteenth floor space in a building housing a jumble of small businesses and professional offices. The shop is mostly about trains, and the tight inventory offers a well-edited counterpoint to the sprawling warren of shelves at The Red Caboose. I like the nice selection of Woodland Scenics ground cover, shrubbery, trees, gravel and other scratch-building materials in plastic, metal and wood on the walls and racks.

IMG_4279The well-curated inventory of Gotham Model Trains

But trains are the thing at Gotham Model Trains, and over the years this has been my local go-to for a few pieces of track needed in getting a little circular railroad running under my Christmas tree. Multiple scales, controllers, buildings, scale figures and a small selection of railfan books round out the inventory surrounding the sweet little N scale layout greeting you at the shop’s entrance. Stopping in at Gotham Model Trains, like a visit to any of Manhattan’s surviving hobby shops, you can’t help but have the irreplaceable experience of a living breathing hobby.

New Game Weekend: Dreadfleet

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There are some games with reputations that far precede them in gamer lore, despite having few people who can say they’ve actually played them. Games Workshop’s Dreadfleet from 2011 is one of these, and this past weekend I was finally able to dip my toes into a session with this gorgeous and infamous game.

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The limited-edition and now out-of-print Dreadfleet was met with mixed reviews when it was released a couple years ago. Set in the Warhammer Fantasy world with the Grand Alliance armada facing off against the undead Dreadfleet, the standalone game comes packed with incredibly intricate and delicate plastic models of ships, islands, sea monsters, treasure, ship wrecks and navigational pieces set on a beautiful printed cloth seascape playmat and accompanied by scores of cards. 

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The Dreadfleet table with all models painted by my brother

Playing 2 to 10 players, the game finds the two fleets squaring off with sailing and mechanical ships in a sea dotted with fortressed islands. Deep backstories accompany the lushly-illustrated rulebook, adding depth and significant game color to the captains steering their ships toward broadside cannon battles, ramming boarding parties and assaults on enemy island outposts.

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The Heldenhammer (left), Black Kraken (upper right) and Swordfysh (lower right) navigating around Turtle Island

The game turn begins by drawing fate cards which inject specific plot points into each round along with shifts in the wind direction and strength. Next, each captain rolls to declare orders for the round. Next, ships move while taking into account the wind conditions as well as the ship’s handling and special skills, which may include attributes of the vessel itself or the captain at the helm.

Ranged fire occurs at 6″, 12″ and 18″ distances to varying effect, and ships ramming into contact result in face-to-face boarding melees between the heroic captain characters. Captains may also call for special attacks using smaller proxy launches from their ships, creating additional deadly chaos in the water. Captains receive wounds and ships draw cumulative damage cards, many of which carry lingering effects that can only be remedied in turns spent using repair actions.

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The Black Kraken sailing from Castle Island

After a few turns at Dreadfleet, the mixed reputation was pretty handily revealed. While the game is visually one of the best I’ve ever seen on the tabletop (especially showcasing the painting skills of my brother), the mechanics are incredibly complex. Hitting or sinking a ship is difficult, to say the least. With lots of ships and islands on the table, the waters of the game quickly become complex to navigate. While I love the game’s wind mechanic on the page, shifting winds foil plans constantly. Cards are exceedingly detailed and wordy, bogging the game down as these are referenced repeatedly for the uniquely specific effects and outcomes they each carry.

The dense rulebook comes replete with a number of detailed story scenarios, but all the color the authors can muster quickly drains away under the thick fog of the rules and mechanics which must be referenced again with each turn. Playing a game with multiple players on a side would easily result in a tangle of boats over many, many hours of play.

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The Swordfysh

The original retail price for Dreadfleet of over $100 rubbed a lot of gamers the wrong way for a non-expandable game. However, the enduring love-hate relationship with the game is revealed in attempting to track down a copy for yourself. Some collectors seek these boxes out merely for the models and components, often buying multiple sets to field larger fleets. Others track them down for a chance to experience the game’s rules first hand. Unopened copies can sometimes run into the hundreds of dollars, but a friend of mine recently tracked down five copies a dealer was more than happy to part ways with for $20 each.

Having now experienced Dreadfleet first hand, I completely see why this game was left a mark on gamedom. The unparalleled look of the game just can’t offset the price and wildly complex rules which make replay value a challenge. A well-painted set of models from the Dreadfleet and Grand Alliance are sure to be a showcase on any modeller’s shelf, but hauling the game to the table may very well leaving players feeling a bit adrift.

“Where Do I Start?” Some Thoughts On Starter Sets

One of the more daunting things for people just getting into tabletop wargaming is where to start. There are countless systems to choose from, many scales, different levels of complexity and hundreds of thousands of products to choose from. Shopping online or walking into a local hobby store, the newcomer can easily be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of “stuff” that’s out there in the hobby.

Here’s a few pointers on how to get yourself (or your kids) started.

1.) Try a game first. If you have an opportunity to try a game before buying, that’s the best (and cheapest) first step. Spending a few hours with a local gaming club, visiting a gaming convention or playing at a nearby hobby shop will give you a broad overview of how complex and fun a game can be. It’s also good to speak with other players so they can relate their personal experience in what they do (or don’t) about particular games, and what kind of a time and money commitment you may be making by undertaking a new game.

2.) Pick a theme. There is a tremendous variety in the playable world of gaming. If your kids like comic book superheroes or sci-fi space battles, there are games for those. If you like reading about history and are interested in playing a particular historic era, chances are there’s a game for it. If you have tendencies toward swords, sorcery and fantasy monsters, there are plenty of options. And, for those of you into horror and zombies, there are definitely games to suit your taste for the macabre.

3.) Visit a local store. It’s great to support local businesses, and getting to know the folks at your local hobby store, comic book shop or specialized wargaming outlet is key to your intro and growth with a game. People at these stores are usually gamers themselves, and they know and love this stuff. Be honest with them when just starting out. Explain your level of previous experience, interests, budget and the amount of free time available to play games. If you are looking to play a World War II game for a couple hours a week and have a budget of $50, they’ll probably steer toward the great board or card games available. If you have hours of free time and are willing to invest hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in a World War II game over the long term, a good store employee will point you in a different direction.

4.) Get a starter set. One of the great things about wargaming is the wide array of products the industry churns out. Settling on just one gaming system can present a new player with thousands of options. Experienced gamers usually go the a la carte route, picking and choosing the specific miniatures, models and rulesets they want. As a new gamer, however, what you usually need to get started is some miniatures and rules.

Thankfully, many popular wargaming systems offer packaged starter sets. These usually contain a set of rules, dice, maps and enough miniatures to wage a small game right out of the box. The other bonus with starer sets is the costs savings, as many companies package there starter sets with contents that might be double the cost if bought separately.

Here’s a couple of my favorite starter sets, covering a couple different scales and eras. If you’re looking a for a great wargaming gift this holiday season, start here.

Flames of War: Open Fire!

If you’re interested in World War II, start here. For about $70, this incredible set gives a player a 50-page quick-start guide, a full 300-page rulebook, dice, nearly 120 soldiers, eleven tanks and lots of other goodies. The set encourages you to glue up the miniatures and models and start right in playing. Once you’ve got a game or two under your belt, you can get started painting and then head back to the shop to start building out your forces for even bigger games.

The Hobbit: Escape from Goblin Town

Millions of people are going to be marching into movie theaters this month to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. If your interest in things Tolkienesque goes beyond the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books and movies, then Games Workshop’s line of games should be your next stop. To coincide with the new movie, a whole new line of miniatures, rules and this incredible limited starter set has been introduced. The set costs $125, but with that you get all the hero characters (Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf the Wizard and Thorin Oakenshield and his band of dwarves) and dozens of goblins. The set includes a 50-page rule book plus some terrain models, dice and a ruler. Everything is plastic and modelled with incredible detail and personality. When painted, the models really come to life on the table. There’s also a full line of Hobbit-themed (and previously-produced Lord of The Rings) miniatures and rules ready to be added to your future games.

Warhammer and Warhammer 40K

Games Workshop also offers two long-standing favorites in the miniatures gaming world: Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 (or, 40K to fans). Each gaming system offers a starter set for $99 that comes packed with incredibly detailed miniatures, rule books, starter guides, dice and other gaming accessories.

Warhammer is set in a fantasy world of magic and monsters, The Island of Blood starter sets allows you to field an army of High Elves against the Skaven, a race of giant rats. The 74 models exclusive to this box include Elves on horseback, an Elven prince riding a giant griffon, Skaven ogres and a whimsical cannon strapped to the back of a giant rat.

Warhammer 40K inhabits a universe in a far off future plagued by armies in endless intergalactic planetary war. The dark vengence starter set gives you 48 plastic miniatures depicting the Dark Angels against the Chaos Space Marines. Theses figures come armed to the teeth with gruesome hi-tech weapons and clad in enormous suits of armor. A squad of bikers and a walking death machine armed with laser cannons and giant claws round out the armed forces.