Sunday, 21 May 2017

Battlefront 15mm Panther and Jagdpanther

This is the final part of my 'GF9 Tanks Starter Set (Panther Vs Sherman)' series and comprises of the production of the German opposition in the game, the Panzer V Panther. However, as I mentioned in an earlier post about this game set (link to post here), there is an option to mount the Jagdpanther upper hull on the Panther chassis to get two tanks for one (with some sneaky use of mini-magnets)!

The 1/100 Battlefront Panther and Jagdpanther kits are rather nice - if somewhat 'chunky'* and simplified - models. But, they are - in my opinion - on the higher quality end of the wargaming quality kit spectrum. They have packed a good deal of nice surface detail into these little kits and have some very nice track detail.

* I have noted on several occasions, when talking about these sort of 'wargaming quality' kits that they can be a little 'chunky' and sometimes over-scaled (Plastic Soldier Company models are a prime example). Well, I've come to understand that is sort of deliberate to make the models a little more durable as playing pieces. Zvezda scales their 1/100 models more accurately, but - as I found out with their M3A1 Stuart kit - this means details like guns become very fine and therefore possibly prone to breakage. This over-scaling is sometimes referred to as 'Heroic' scaling.

Anyway, back to the job in hand. Having mad up my Panther/JP model for playing purposes (unpainted) it's now time for my GF9 panzers to follow the example of their Sherman opponents and get a lick of paint!

Choosing a Panther Camo Scheme
As I found with my 1/100 'Elefant', the choice of German WW2 is wide and wonderful, and this is particularly true of the later war panzer schemes. Starting from D-Day the variety of camouflage patterns seemed to snowball from the fairly standard - but still variable - 'three colour pattern' to - by 1945 - and almost anything goes 'let's just get the tank on the battlefield' (sometimes not painted at all) attitude!

So, I decided that the best place to start was to pick a specific period and/or theatre. This would help me pin down a sort of historic parameter for camo choices.

I wanted my Panther/JP to be D-Day specific - so as to be suitable opponents for my D-Day Shermans - so this ruled out a lot of the more weird and wonderful 'late war' Panther schemes. I eventually came across a 1944 3-colour paint pattern that I liked (I sort of prefer large, harder-edged patterns)...

I will be using this same pattern for both the standard Panther upper hull and that of the optional Jagdpanther hull.

Hairy Stick Time
As I am still without an airbrush at the moment, it's another chance to practice my brush skills (another reason to go for a 'hard-edged' camp pattern). I began by priming the Panther hulls with Flames of War's 'Panther Yellow' and then I worked on the brown patches of camo using Vallejo Model Color 'German Cam. Med. Brown' [826]...

My LED desk lamp made these a little over saturated, the colours are actually
a little more muted than this.
I tried to follow - roughly - the same shapes on both hulls so that they would neatly join up with the pattern painted on the lower hull. One thing I like about painting patterns using a brush is that if I vary the dilution of the acrylic with water you get a semi-opaque - almost 'watercolour' - effect where the paint is not uniform and 'flat'. This can add to the impression that the camo was added over the Dunklegelb base colour in the field and also that it was 'faded' in places (that's my excuse).

Next I start to add the green 'blotches' using Vallejo's Model Color 'German Cam. Dark Green' [979]. Now, I know there is some amount of debate as to whether these two colours are true to the original German paint colours (the brown doesn't seem to be red enough and the green not green enough, allegedly) but I want a more muted effect...

Lighting was a bit dark here, but hopefully, you get the idea.
Doing an 'authentic' scheme for Battlefront's 1/100 game tanks models is a bit of a 'DIY' process. Unlike 'display' kits these little models don't come with decals or a 'suggested scheme', so you are left to your own devices as to how you paint and decorate them.

Also, authenticity isn't, perhaps, the absolute priority here as these models are playing pieces, so there's an accepted leeway for 'artistic licence'. Basically, nobody will pull you up if your chosen camo scheme wasn't entirely correct for this or that theatre or period or unit, so long as the spirit of the national faction is adhered to for the game. Players of this game don't tend to be rivet counters or pedants (IMHO).

Here's an example of Panther numbering and emblem format that
I quite like. The plain white numbering suits my intention to use
dry transfer lettering as I have similar font/styles.
So, with this in mind, my camo scheme for the Panther/JP was a 'generalisation' and that's how my decoration will be as well. I'll be keeping it simple, with just a couple of German crosses and a made-up vehicle number...This model is NOT based on any actual identifiable historic tank or unit!

I'm using Woodland Scenics dry transfer numbers for the Panther and the decals for my Jagdpanther are from the Skyrex AD43 German Tank Numbers and AD28 German Crosses. I have to say, I'm not so impressed with the quality of the Skyrex decals, I think they are short run printed decals and their transfer film is quite thick so I'm having to use Microscale's Micro Sol to help settle them in nicely.

Applying one number at a time is a bit tricky as you are never completely satisfied that everything is straight and level...

And that's nearly it for the basic paint scheme and decalling. I have to go around them again to do a bit of touching up and add some metalic dry-brush effects to the bare steel part and then the everything will be real for a coat of satin varnish. This helps seal the decals and prepares and protects the paintwork for teh next stage, which is an overall wash.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Zvezda 1/100 M3A1 Stuart

Damn these cheap 1/100 kits, they are so ripe for an impulse purchase. This diddy Stuart was one of two Zvezda 'Art of Tactic' (simplified wargame quality kits) that I just couldn't resist buying while browsing in my local model shop.

This model is so small and simple that it only consists of a single sprue of (10) parts. The instrustions for assembly are included on the rear of the box...

I would give you two tips if you are considering buying this kit; be very careful with the guns as they are quite thin and fragile and also install the rear hull plate before you install the upper hull!

Everything goes together quite well, typically of Zvezda they slightly overcomplicate the assembly because they have opted to make their kit 'snap together'. But I chose to glue mine together and I did use some putty to fill some gaps in the lower hull's seam...

In any case, this was not a big issue and I till had the kit assembled lickity-split. I couldn't resist posing it next to one of my newly completed 1/100 Shermans just to give you some impression of the size of the Stuart...

As you can see, the Stuart comes in sand yellow plastic and the great temptation then is to paint the model up as a Britsh/Commonwealth 'Honey' in a North African scheme. With Gale Force 9 about to issue it's North African campaign tank models this would be the fashionable thing to do, I suppose.

But, I fancied something a little different and looked to the Pacific Theatre for inspiration. The early to mid campaigns of the US Army in the Pacific are often overlooked and some tend to forget that there was tank action between the Americans and the Japanese and I'll love to try out a game based these actions. (Battlefront does not do 15mm Japanese tanks yet, but models are available in this scale from other suppliers.)

Here's a rather useful video 'walk around' of an M3A1 Stuart with some very nice close-up detail...

While technically obsolete in the European theatre, the little Stuart could still give Japanese tanks a run for their money. and I suspect it's diminutive size was something of a plus point in jungle warfare. So, I'd like to paint up a - fictitious - US Army Stuart in an ad-hoc jungle scheme I found online, but let's get the priming done first...

I went with Humbrol's Light Olive [86] to get that faded OD look and then added a US star decals and hand painted the white band around the turret. Not my best painting but this doesn't matter so much (for reasons that will become clear later)...

Incidentally, I tried out a different technique for the preparation before applying the decals. Normally, I just spray the whole model with Humbrol Gloss, but this time I just painted on some gloss only where the star decals would be positioned. Less spraying can only be a good thing.

After all the decals were down I did give the model a light spray of satin coat, though, to seal the decals and ready the model for the next stage of painting...

The next job is to paint some of the fine detail painted - like the tools and MGs, etc - and then to apply and overall wash of Citadels Agrax Earthshade. This serves to 'dirty up' the pristine paintwork and settle into the panel lines to give the surface detail some extra definition.

And finally, for this phase of the basic painting, I will be applying my 'staining & pin-washing' process, though I will be trying out eye-shodow powders again as the worked so well wih my previous 1/100 Sherman models...


The Camo Pattern....
Now to the camouflage paint scheme and I maybe taking on something that's a bit too niche, so I may be biting off more than I can chew (particularly in this scale).

You may have noticed that I have applied the decals before I do the camo scheme in this instance, which seem wrong. But the particular scheme I am after is a little different...

In the above - very rare - photo a USMC M3 Stuart has been given an improvisatory field 'paint job'. I've read several discussions about what colour these 'jungle stripes' might be, some people say white and some say a light tan (indeed there are some documented examples of US Pacific tank schemes in white stripes, I believe this unusual choice *may* be to do with bright sunlight shining through gaps in the jungle canopy).

However, if you look at the turret - where the ad hoc stripes have been painted over the US star - you can plainly determine that the colour cannot be white. This leaves two options, that it is light tan (or khaki) or it may actually be MUD used as an expedient!

Were the above photo in colour, I *believe* this is how it would look...

This model of a British Bishop SPG in Italy - by Rick Lawler - is an example
of a field application of mud as a camouflage 'paint'.
I know, it's all guesswork but who's to say that this could not have been a field expedient used by the Americans as well? So I'm going to pretend it was!

NOW...This 'paint scheme' has the potential to turn out to be a horrible mess, but I would like to try it and - to be honest - it's best if I do on one of these little 1/100 models as it won't be a major disaster if things go wrong (it won't be the first time I have used these cheap little models as 'testers'). So, (deep breath) let's have a go...

Final Thoughts...
For me, this was a very quick project, beginning to end in one post (that's unheard of)! But, actually, I could actually tinker a bit more with this if I wanted to.

The mud camo scheme turned out not too bad, but the two colours of 'mud' I used were a bit too much alike (I was trying to go for a lighter dried mud colour and a darked wet mud colour). But, having said that at tabletop distance it doesn't look too bad.

Once again, I have enjoyed making one of these little 1/100 models. Though, so far, I have made them OOB and not added any embellishments or improvements to the simplified detail. But, there again, this is probably somewhat counter to thier use as gaming pieces.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

15mm Scale Shermans - Part 3

Weathering Effects...
Right, onto the creative part. Having laid down my base colours I turn to applying weathering effects, like staining, dirt and wear.

And here I came across another example of how effects that worked well for me in 1/72 scale didn't quite work out for me in 1/100 scale. I began with the tracks and set to work with my tried and tested powder pigment 'mud' mixture, but what would have been a light coat of mud on the larger scale turned out to be a thick clart (a Scottish word for a gooey mess) of mud on 1/100 tracks...

These are far muddier than I wanted but are - I suppose - realistic if the tanks had been driving through ploughed fields. It wasn't the effect I was actually after but will do, I'm happy to leave it and just modify my application for the smaller scale on future models. I suppose nobody will know that I didn't mean them to be this muddy if I don't tell them!

Staining the Sherman Hulls & Turrets
Finding that my usual 1/72 scale painting techniques were, perhaps, a little heavy handed for the smaller scale I decided to try something different for my usual 'staining' stage.

My staining and bleaching method is normally based on using oil paint which I dab on in spots then smear into streaks using thinners. I decided that this might be a little too invasive and harder to rectify if I didn't like the end result, so I looked for a 'softer' approach. I looked through my paint effects box and picked out the 'eyeshadow' set!

I've used these on a smaller scale on my previous models, as a secondary powder effect, but in this case, I will be trying them out as the primary weathering medium. These, in combination with Citadel's washes - which I am using more and more - gave me a rather more controllable (powders can be easy removed) staining technique for smaller models...

I was going for a dirty and oily, war-weary Sherman and I think I achieved this. I was quite please how well the eyeshadow effects went, so I will probably try this out on my 1/72 models now.

I'm really enjoying these little 1/100 tank models. The detail will probably not satisfy the most pedantic modeller, but I find the simplification takes a lot of the pressure off and I can simply relax and enjoy the painting.

An additional benefit of these particular models is that they come with the option to swap out the turrets so I can have a 76mm gunned Sherman to 'play with' as well...

It'll be nice to get these on the gaming table as - as many wargamers point out - units always perform better when they are painted! :)

I'll be building up a few small 'armies' of tanks for the GF9 Tanks game, but my next priority to to get the 'bad guys' - the starter set Panther/Jagdpanther - painted!

Friday, 12 May 2017

Something for the Weekend, SIr?

These 1/100 kits are stupidly cheap...God damn them!

...And the Stuart and Lee are soooooo cute! ;)

Zvezda 1/100 'Elefant' - Completion

Blimey! I finished a model. :)

Final thoughts...
These diminutive 1/100 scale tanks seem to off-set my painfully slow productivity. (Maybe I should try a 1/600 and see if I can finish something in a reasonable amount of time!) ;)

Anyway, there are quite a few things I am not quite happy with, although this has to do with my standard of painting rather than the model itself.

I actually understand why some modellers think that changing scales means modifying your technique. There were several times I tried to use my normal 1/72 painting effects on this smaller model only to find that they just didn't look right or just plain didn't work.

So, it's a learning process (again) and I will tweak my techniques for this smaller scale as I go along.

As to the Zvezda kit itself, I suppose the biggest disappointment is the overly simplified track tread. They seem to be taking a leaf out of Armafast's design manual and have just given you some slatted treads. A bit disappointing as Battlefront has proved that detailed track patterns can be done at this scale.

Not much else to say really. 1/100 scale models are *FUN* and I found it relaxing not to have to worry about the minutiae and just get on with the model (and have some fun with an attractive camo pattern). I shall certainly be doing more in this scale over the next few months.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Zvezda 1/100 'Elefant' - Part 2

As my airbrush is out of action (I may have to buy a new one) I am back to using 'rattle cans'. I did look around for a good acrylic spray 'Dunkelgelb' - German Dark Yellow - but the only one I could find was by Flames of War in their War Paint range. Called 'Panther Yellow' it seemed to go on as well as Humbrol's excellent sprays...

Had my airbrush still been working I would have used Vallejo's excellent water-based polyurethane German Dark Yellow Primer. This has a tinge of pea-green to it, rather than the sand-yellow of the Flames of War paint...

Left: FoW's 'Panzer Yellow'. Right: Vallejo's 'German Dark Yellow'.
Choosing a Camouflage Pattern
Now to the hard part, choosing a camo scheme. The Zvezda Elefant is the early model typical of the type that first saw action on the Russian Front in 1943, still, there are some very attractive patterns to chose from...

As I am keeping this model, exclusively, for games against mid-war Soviet opposition I don't mind that it won't get as much play as - say - a Panzer IV or a StuG III. It's just such an attractive model to have in my collection, and I am such a sucker for tank destroyers (I really want to build more)!

So, let's get cracking with my chosen camo type (with some poetic licence)...

As my airbrush is bust, it's back to good old brush painting. This may take
some time!
Phew...Boy, I am rusty, but it's getting there!
Track Record
Just a little aside, because I have several of these little 15mm tank kits on the go at the same time I had the unusual sight of five sets of tracks on my small workbench at the same time!

As well as the 'Elefant' tracks - top middle - I am currently working on four
other sets; a Panther set, Panzer IV set and two sets of Sherman tracks!
After base painting these tracks a dark colour - black for the Shermans and German Grey for the panzers - I painted the outside of the roadwheels with Vallejo's Dark Rubber (except the Elefant's which seems to have all steel road wheels/rollers).

Then I gave all the tracks a rub with a graphite pencil to give the impression of bare steel. Then it's off for a light coat of gloss varnish in preparation for the application of some German insignia...

Oooops, I forgot (having learned this before) that doing the graphite pencil
work *before* glossing is a bad idea. The shiny 'steel' effect disappears
after a coat of gloss varnish! Du-oh! 

Decal Stage & 'Pre-Weathering'

Well, there are actually that many decals to apply, just three German crosses and two sets of vehicle numbers. I don't have 1/100 scale decals to hand so I'm hoping my smallest 1/76 German decals will work (I know the crosses will be a little too large). There was some poetic licence to my application of decals and they are not historically accurate but are intended to be suitable for tabletop gaming purposes.

With the decals quickly applied I moved on to a new process that I have just started applying to my models - 'pre-weathering' prep. The idea is to lay down a thin wash of peaty brown to indicate surface dirt and to take the 'newness' off the pristine painted model prior to more intensive weathering.

An added bonus of this 'pre-weathering' wash was to modulate the basic FoW
Panzer Yellow - which I thought was a little too bright - and make it more like
what I think Dunkelgelb is supposed to be like.
I have also started to apply some 'mud' (Humbrol Dark Earth Powder) to the tracks, so it's starting to look something like a finished model, but I have still some focused weathering to apply.

I am pleased with this newly added phase in my painting and will start to use it on more of my models. In fact, I had occasionally already been experimenting with a sort of weathering prep using powder pigments, but this was very hit and miss and I was never really satisfied with it. Using a light - diluted - wash is far more effective.

Next: Deep weathering - chipping, etc.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

15mm Scale Shermans - Part 2

I'm experimenting with and modifying slightly my 1/72 scale painting techniques for the smaller 15mm scale models. Because of the smaller scale, and commensurately smaller detail, painting is a little more 'impressionistic' and I am doing things with broader brush strokes than normal.

Here's where I left off. A bit too clean and sparkling for my tastes.
I have seen plenty of very experienced 15mm scale model veterans paint in this scale to a very high degree, to the point where you think they are working on a larger scale. But, as I am fairly new to this diminutive scale I am going for a wider picture and fudging the minutiae a bit.

So, here's the process I've planned...

1. Taking the Shine Off
My newly base painted Shermans look a little too factory fresh for my liking. Sure, they might have looked something like this fresh straight off the landing craft (if not so glossy) but I prefer the dustier 'seen some action' look to my tanks.

So, the first job is to take the shine off by applying a very light overall wash of Citadel's lovely Agrax Earthshade. I dilute the wash slightly with some water as I want a soft surface dirt effect and not the deeply ingrained mucky look that neat Agrax normally gives...

The wash effect is subtle, but it just scuffs off the shine so they don't look like
brand new tanks. The wash also defines some of the detail (like a sort of pre-
pin wash) and you could leave your tanks like this, as if they were just off
the landing craft. But I want to go a step further - say D-Day + 30 days.
This stage is - in effect - a 'pre-weathering' preparation, so I conclude this phase with a light coat of gloss varnish to protect and preserve it.

Next: Stage 2 - Staining & Streaking with Oils.

Monday, 8 May 2017

15mm Scale Shermans

Time to slap some paint on the little M4A3 Sherman models I got in the  GF9 TANKS starter set. I'm not going to town with these, I pretty much want a generic vanilla US Army Sherman without all the bells and whistles (so no applique armour or hodge-podge of stowage).

This should be as simple and easy a modelling project as it gets and takes me right back to when I started modelling again as my first kit was a very unsophisticated 1/72 Armourfast M4A3...

It will be interesting to see how the little 15mm Shermans compare to the above attempt as - for simplicity of detail - both makes of model have a lot in common and are designed to do the same job, just in different scales.

I primed my GF9 M4s (make by Battlefront, I believe) with Humbol Olive Drab acrylic spray - as I no longer have an airbrush, so it's back to basics. This is a lovely warm, slightly yellow tone, US OD, and as usual, the Humbrol paint goes on nice and smooth despite coming out a rattle can...

I chose to prime these models in their main sub-assembly groups, rather than a complete model. This is mainly so I can get at all the fiddly nooks and crannies in the track components. I masked off parts of the components that I knew I would later want to glue together with poly glue.

After priming I started to pick out all the black base coat areas and bits that I wanted an underlying coat of black (like the tools). I'm trying out a black base for the tracks, as Sherman's tracks are characterised by large black rubber pads over the steel links. We'll see how that goes (they will be finished off with a coat of mud anyway.)

Once everything is base painted it's time for a quick coat of gloss and then the addition of the decals. The GF9 TANKS starter set does not include any decals, which is a wee bit annoying but I guess they are aiming the game at people who are maybe not so interested in modelling as gaming?

Luckily, I had plenty of spare US Army stars in my scraps box, the only downside is the set I have has no 'US ARMY' & vehicle registration number decals for the side (towards the rear). However, I had it in mind that I wanted these Shermans to be pretty generic/anonymous so I could use them as a basis for any Western Allied force I build (US Army, US Marines, French, Polish, British Commonwealth), so not having the 'US ARMY' lettering is a good thing...

A light squirt of gloss varnish over the decals to seal them and that's a job done. The gloss also is the preparatory coat for the next stage which is streaking and staining with oil paints.

Next: The 'weathering' phase...We are getting there!