Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Zvezda peasants painted for 1/72 DBA

One of my current armies in progress is a 1/72 Saxon army for DBA. I thought the horde element would look really cool, so I bought a box of Zvezda's Peasant Army (see sprue scan). These guys are meant to be a 9th century Saxon fyrd.

The cows in the background come from Imex's American Pioneer box. That set also has some nice pigs, which I have yet to paint. The paper buildings come from an excellent series of 1/72 scale Dark Age and Medieval building kit books. These particular buildings come from Usborne's Viking Settlement.

(click images to see larger versions)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

1/72 DBA orc army in progress

Several years ago I came across fan-made army lists for the tabletop wargame De Bellis Antiquitatis. On his site David Kuijt hosts eleven Lord of the Rings DBA armies. For me DBA is all about 1/72 scale. At the time I found his site there weren't any fantasy models in that scale. Now there are a several sets to choose from.

The above photo shows the models that will appear on the Wb general element of my Misty Mountains army. I want as much variety in models as I can, so I am using a mix of Caesar orcs and goblins, Zvezda Medieval peasants (the grey plastic), Strelets Franks (the copper color plastic), and Rebel Minis Bag o' Orcs (the metal guy). Some of the human models are getting head swaps (see the horn-blower above), while the beardless ones will simply be painted with green skin. The Strelets models are perfect because the sculpts are pretty gnarly and they have unusual armor. The white paper flag is made from a piece of an adhesive mailing label.

The Misty Mountain army is meant to be just made up of goblins (no big orcs). However, I am using this list as a mixed orc/goblin army.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

WWII History magazine reviews my book

Usually I'm the one offering book reviews, but today I am happy to share a review of my recent book that appeared in the January 2011 issue of WWII History magazine, p78-79.

"People often forget that it takes 10 men in the rear areas to support one infantryman on the front line. However, for the men of the port battalions, there were no front lines on June 6, 1944, and at times, they found themselves under heavy fire as well.

The author is the grandson of one such soldier, Cortland "Corty" Hopkins, from Schenectady, New York. Hopkins had a difficult time getting into the service because his job was considered essential by the War Department. However, after many attempts, he was successfully inducted into the Army in 1943.

Brozyna does a good job in describing the duties and experiences of his grandfather's unit during the D-Day landings, the fighting in Belgium, and the Ardennes Offensive. Without a doubt, the port battalions made numerous contributions in supporting the soldiers in the field."

If you are interested in learning more, please visit my book blog I regularly post new articles and photographs relating to WWII supply work and wartime Normandy, Antwerp, England, and Schenectady, NY.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Medieval Village Books

I'm keenly interested in ancient and Medieval daily life. Last month I grabbed a bunch of books to read my daughters for bedtime. I thought I'd share them here as they make excellent references for dioramas, tabletop wargame scenarios, or rpg settings.

Life in a Medieval Village is a classic on the subject. It's a scholarly, yet approachable text discussing the lives of the lord, clergy, and all the various peasants found in a feudal English village.

The Luttrel Village by Sheila Sancha is meant for children, but is equally illuminating for adults. In the 14th century the lord of an English village, Geoffrey Luttrell, commissioned an illustrated prayer book, now known as the Luttrell Psalter. It offers a rare visual depiction of ordinary Medieval people. The author studied the psalter's images, the village site's modern landscape, and referenced current (as of the 1980s) archaeology. She combined these sources into her own artwork and text. There are 64 pages of greyscale maps and illustrated scenes of the annual work and life in the village called Gerneham in Lincolnshire.

Recently a documentary film was produced, recreating the village of the psalter: Luttrell Psalter Facebook page. They made the video viewable for free online

Growing up in Viking Times was a happy discovery. The text is maybe at an 8-yr-old reading level, but the illustrations are by the esteemed military history illustrator Angus McBride. So, the book is basically eye-candy. There are 32 pages of color viking scenes: exploring, farming, and trading.

I've got a bunch of 28mm villager minis painted up along with 28mm animals. Right now I'm working on Zvezda's 1/72 Medieval Peasant Army models (see sprue scan). I'm using them to build a 9th century Saxon fyrd, but a few poses could be used as villagers at work on the farm. If you're in need of 1/72 livestock, check out this sprue scan of Pegasus Farm Animals.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

1/72 Supply Operations on Utah Beach

"I didn't mind moving the ammo. It was the gas that worried me I didn't want to burn to death [if a Germans hit the DUKW]" —Cortland Hopkins, p 79 in Longshore Soldiers.

In WWII my grandfather served in a US Army port battalion. Port company stevedores unloaded supply ships. This was ordinarily done on the docks of a port, but for the Normandy invasion they needed to load DUKWs (amphibious trucks) and drive the cargo to shore. On Utah Beach and Omaha Beach this was done under weeks of German shelling and aerial bombing.

This year I published a history book of my grandfather's port battalion, Longshore Soldiers. It charts their service from enlistment to Boston, England, Utah Beach, and Antwerp. After all that research I was also inspired to paint-up some port company models. Finding a DUKW was easy. I bought a plastic 1/72 Italeri model. This was the first model I built in about 15 years. Naturally I lost a tiny piece, glued my fingers together, and stabbed myself in the leg with an X-Acto blade. My DUKW had rear view mirrors for a time, but after taking these pictures I noticed that they had snapped off without me noticing. (click any of these photos to view a larger version)

The 1/72 scale oil drums, jerry cans, and block of supplies came from Sgt's Mess.

Finding suitable stevedore models in 1/72 was slightly more difficult. Really the only choice was a box of Airfix's U.S.A.F. Personnel (see the full sprue scan on PlasticSoldierReview). The working poses lacked helmets, so I chopped off the head of the MP model and glued them on the worker bodies.

Pictured above is my grandfather Cortland on D-Day (on left). His jacket showed no marks of rank. He's carrying an M1 Garand he picked up from a fallen soldier, because his carbine jammed during the fight. On the right is Donald H. on guard duty. One of the veterans I interviewed, Don served in the 284th Port Company, attached to the 5th Engineer Special Brigade on Omaha Beach. He carries the standard firearm for port company troops, an M-1 carbine. These are Italeri models.

The helmet markings worn by the port battalion troops are especially interesting. For the D-Day invasion my grandfather's unit was attached to the 1st Engineer Special Brigade. All attached troops received a blue arc. Below is a color photo of some 1st ESB men on Utah Beach in 1944. Port battalion helmets on Omah Beach received the marking of the 5th and 6th Engineer Special Brigades. There's was a white arc with a blue & yellow amphibious training command insignia underneath. This insignia is visible as a shoulder patch in the photo below.

My Book Blog has articles and photographs to supplement my book. Since publishing I have broadened my research to include port battalions and supply operations outside my grandfather's unit.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

20mm WWII Army Port Company in progress

Frequent visitors to my blog will have noticed I recently published the book Longshore Soldiers about my grandfather's WWII Army port battalion. They took part in the D-Day invasion and moved supplies over Utah Beach from June to November 1944. I am putting together 1/72 models to arrange a scene from their work. I built and painted an Italeri DUKW model and working GIs. Right now I am finishing a mess of oil drums, jerry cans, and supplies. Once they're ready I'll make a diorama of supply operations. Photos and a full write up are forthcoming.

If you are interested in the port company's work in the European theater, then click over to my book blog. I have photos and articles to support the book.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Autumnal Animals

Happy Thanksgiving, my fellow Americans. I painted a turkey for the occasion, along with a pheasant. That pheasant was especially fun to paint—so many colors and speckles. The skunk, deer, and raccoon were painted last summer, but I hadn't photographed them before now. These are all Mega Miniatures 25/28mm models mounted on 20mm square bases (the deer's base is deeper). I'm a big fan of animal models, and Mega Minis has some really sharp sculpts.

I found out why these birds are called, "Turkeys." Before colonizing America the English were fond of eating large game birds which arrived via trade routes through Turkey. Consequently, these birds were nicknamed, "Turkeys." When the colonists arrived in the New World they saw the similarly-sized native birds and gave them the same name.

If you'd like to see some the 1/72 scale turkeys and pilgrims I painted in February click here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Copplestone Castings Gandalf

My favorite Gandalf model is the one sculpted by Mark Copplestone. Naturally, he isn't an officially sanctioned LOTR model, so maybe I should just call him "Generic Grey Wizard." I don't believe Copplestone Castings is selling this set anymore, but he was part of a group of four wizards. I painted and sold two (now I wish I hadn't).

As you can see I have access to a much nicer camera. Click the above image for a larger version. It's almost a detriment, because it picks up every bit of lint and dust on my models!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Gimli: A Grenadier Dwarf

I was looking through my old unfinished blog posts and found this shot of a Grenadier Fantasy Warriors dwarf. I believe this was sculpted by Nick Lund. I got him on eBay and painted him to be Gimli. The rest of my in progress 28mm Fellowship of the Ring is made up of models from Vendel Miniatures models and Mark Copplestone.

You can see my Strider and Gollum models in an old post. I painted the Copplestone Castings wizard as Gandalf a few years ago. I'll have to take his picture this weekend.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

1/72 DBA III/40a Viking army complete

(click for much larger image)
I finally finished my 1/72 plastic army of vikings to play De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA). It's a mix of Zvezda and Emahr/Imex models. The last DBA armies I made were the Romans and Gauls painted way back in 2000. I'd like to think my paint skills have improved since then. I half-finished a 15mm Dacian army 2 yrs ago, but I gave up. I'm just not into painting 15mm.

These 1/72 models are based following the 25/28mm base size rules. However, you'll notice all the bases are the same 30mm depth and all the blade elements have 3 models. I did this for a few reasons. The army list for III/40a calls for eight 3Bd elements and 1Ps (which are all 30mm deep). That left only three elements with a different base depth. I've always thought it was kind of dumb that the same element, whether 3Bd or 4Bd, had different depths. I realize this has to do with using the same bases for other wargame rules, but I'm not into that. I wanted all my infantry stands to be a uniform size. It's difficult to fit 4 models in an even row on these 60mm wide bases, and adjusting this army to all 3Bd saved me on some painting time (because of fewer models).

On Tim's Miniature Wargaming Blog you can see he tweaked the rules to make all his infantry bases a standard 40mm deep. He does this to fit two ranks of troops on a single base, thereby creating more of a big army look. As for my vikings, I prefer to think of this as a raiding warband from a single ship—not a representation of a full army.

I didn't do anything especially clever with conversions except for the general's paper banner and the viking seen above with the red shield. This Emhar figure (painted in the yellow tunic) was holding a mace in his left hand. I trimmed off the weapon, glued on a Zvezda shield, and painted his fist to look like the iron shield boss.

My wife recently bought a new camera for her food photography, so I finally have a way to take some decent quality photos. Click on any of the images for a larger view. And you can see close-ups of some of these elements in this previous post.

You can listen online to a BBC Radio 4 piece about the Volga Vikings, those who travelled east into modern Russia. It just aired today. Also check out BBC Radio's older series, The Viking Way.

Thanos painted these same models over on his blog Miniatures and Terrain.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My grandpa and my WWII book on TV news

WWII veteran Cortland Hopkins will be signing copies of my book, Longshore Soldiers on Veterans Day, November 11, 2010.

Copies of the book will be sold for $20 this Thursday at Evergreen Commons, 1070 Luther Road, in East Greenbush. Cortland will be sharing stories and signing autographs from 10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. A portion of sales will go to Evergreen Commons' activities & entertainment budget.

Last evening the Albany Channel 6 news interviewed my grandfather. You can watch the video below:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Even more 1/72 viking DBA elements

Pictured above are freshly-painted Emhar/Imex vikings on a Bd stand. With these large figures you can see why I opted for only 3 models per base, rather than 4. Below are two more blade elements using the Zvezda vikings.

I'm glad these photos came out a little better than the last round. I should invest in some nice Silfor Tufts. The static grass has been getting everywhere!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

More 1/72 DBA Viking Elements

Here is a blade element for my 1/72 DBA Viking Army. These three models come from the Emhar/Imex set. They are a bit larger than Zvezda's vikings. For that reason I mounted the Emhar and Zvezda models on separate bases.

I do have one element that mixes the two. The middle Emahr viking is crouching slightly, which make him almost the height of the two Zvezda gents on either side.

Friday, October 15, 2010

1/72 DBA Viking General Element

I'm halfway through painting a DBA viking army, III/40a. It's made up of 1/72 plastic figures by Zvezda and Emhar/Imex. This general element is all Zvezda models. The Emhar vikings are tiny bit larger that Zvezda, so for he most part I did not mix the two manufacturers on the same element. I wasn't too happy with the molded plastic flag that the above standard bearer came with, so I fashioned my own paper banner. The raven design comes from a viking coin. The official rules call for 4 models on a 20mm deep base, but I am implementing house rules. All my bases are 30mm deep with only 3 models, similar to the way Tim builds his DBA elements. The base frontage remains the standard 60mm.

I expect the full army will be painted and posted within the next week. Six elements are done, with six left to go. When finished I'll paint up an opposing 9th century Saxon army (made of Emhar/Imex models). I'm most looking forward to painting the horde element, a Saxon fyrd which will be composed of Zvezda Medieval peasant models.

I think I might also field these vikings against Vinland Indians, the IV/9 Eastern Forest American army. I suppose I have enough pre-Columbian Native American models in 1/72. I have Imex's Eastern Friendly Indians, but as the set's name suggests there are few combat poses. I own a box of Imex's Sioux Indians, which has a few bow/club/knife men. The 19th century Plains costume isn't quite right, but one must make do with what one has. I recently bought Italeri's Indian Warriors, but most models carry a musket. Maybe combining these three manufacturers will create enough variety of poses.

And, of course, I will be building a orc/goblin army with 1/72 fantasy models by Caesar.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Brigade Games Indians 1 & King Philip

So, after 5 months of inactivity I finally painted something. In August I finished my WWII book, so now I can use my spare time to for my hobby. Picrured above is King Philip from Brigade Games King Philip's War range. This is a really nice set. The flared musket barrels (almost a blunderbuss) mark these as 17th century Indians, but they would work well for 18th century warriors.

These five models here are from Indians set 1. The war paint and beaded strap & bag offer an opportunity for some eye-catching paint work. For reference I used American Colonial Ranger by Gary Zaboly and a brochure of Robert Griffing's paintings, which I snagged from a gallery in Gettysburg, PA.

See my painted Pilgrim set 1 from last October.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Trevor Pask's Airfix Kits, book review

Airfix Kits is a sharp little book about the venerable British model kit company. It's a brisk 56 pages with oodles of color photographs. Written with experience and humor, it's apparent that the author is a long-time modeler. The book traces the hobby's history back to the first crude kits in the 1930s and brings the reader to the Airfix company in 2009. Pask writes about production technology, marketing, box art, logo & packaging, and Airifx's context within the broader model kit business. The most important and innovative models are picked out to chart milestones Airfix's history. An overview of Airifx's many other kits appear through the book's seventy color photos and captions.

There are more voluminous and focused Airfix books in print (these are referenced in the bibliography), but Shire Books' Airfix Kits fills a niche. Readable in one sitting, it's a concise history at a low price—an ideal book for the hobbyist wishing to save time and money for that next model kit.

P.S. Histoire & Collections is released the English version of Les Petits Soldats Airfix, by Jean-Christophe Carbonel. The Airfix Little Soldiers was a limited edition and is now sold out. Hopefully there will be a new edition soon.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Poison King, by Adrienne Mayor review

Traditionally the West's dominant view of Mithradates came from his Roman enemies, and in recent times there has been virtually no view of the forgotten king. Adrienne Mayor does history a great service by countering that imbalanced knowledge. In The Poison King Mayor strips the skewed Roman accounts to present a story closer to the truth. Her story is supported with alternate contemporary sources and modern archaeology. As a result, the reader views Pontus' royal family and Rome's Mithridatic Wars from the probable perspective of the king. Mithradates' intelligence and personality shine through Adrienne Mayor's text. Her writing is highly engaging, appropriate for such a dynamic character.

Regrettably several descriptions of military equipment were in error. Roman swords were not at all like machetes, as the author described them. Armenian and Parthian Cataphracti were more typically armored in lamellar or scale, not chain mail. As annoying as these mistakes are to someone knowledgeable of ancient arms and armor, they have little bearing on the thrust of this book. Mayor intends to convey the general events of Mithradates' battles and their effects on his life. Although I would love to read a detailed description of his troops' armor, weapons, unit types, training, tactics, etc., this specialized subject is outside the scope of The Poison King.
P.S. For a military account of Mithradates' reign I plan on reading Mithradates The Great, by Philip Matyszak.
P.P.S. And what a brilliant book jacket design! You have to see it in person. I love the shimmering metallic ink, the coin's embossed hair is a great effect, and the overall classical imagery contrasted with modern typography is appealing. The book was a finalist for the National Book Award. That's lovely for the author, but the large ugly seal on the cover is an unfortunate distraction.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My Dad's 1/32 Gaming Table

My Family and I have been visiting my parents at Lake George, New York. While I prefer 28mm or 1/72 scale, my dad has always been a fan of 1/32 plastic. When he was a kid he played with the classic Marx playsets. Now he collects reissued Marx figures along with all the new 1/32 plastic manufacturers offerings. (click on photos to enlarge)

When we visited last year we weren't able to see his war table, because it was covered in boxes from his recent move. Now it's all set up for display and fun. Dad's favorite genres are the French and Indian War, American War of Independence, Napoleon's wars, and the American Civil War. He has boxes upon boxes of plastic soldiers, but right now his table is covered with a FIW display. He says he games with unpainted plastic, because the paint would chip off the painted models. I've been trying to introduce him to acrylic varnish (It has a little bendy-ness to it, which is good for plastic).

Above are Montcalm's forces defending Fort Ticonderoga. His fort is vacuform plastic. The figures are a mix of Armies in Plastic's new 7 Years War figs, Marx reissues, Accurate, and Barzso.

His table is two 4 x 9 ft. custom built tables pushed together. They are topped with painted plywood. His old table in Pennsylvania was a sprawling six table wide. He had to leave behind a few when he moved to a place with a smaller basement. This current FIW display is appropriate, because he lives 10 miles from Fort William Henry, and an hour from Fort Ticonderoga.

Here are some of his painted soldiers. He goes for the classic glossy enamel look. Above are: 1.) Black Watch, Regiment of Foot Highlanders (pre 1758). 54mm Barzso; 2.) 48th Regiment of Foot. 54mm Barzso; 3.) Virginia militia, French & Indian War. 54mm Barzso.

Above are: 4.) Queen's Rangers, American War of Independence, 54mm Marx reissue (he cropped off the top of the fur cap to make a ranger cap; 5.) Montcalm's 37th Royal-Roussillon regiment, 54mm Barzso; 6.) French Troupe de la Marine, 54mm Accurate.

Friday, July 30, 2010

519th Port Bn in WWII: Longshore Soldiers released!

519th Port Bn in WWII: Longshore Soldiers released!: "Yesterday I gave final approval for the book. It was great to finally see the work in print. I'm waiting for my fist box to arrive, but the ..."

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My Grandpa's D-Day story

On my book-writing blog I posted an excerpt from my book, Longshore Soldiers. It's my grandfather's story of his D-Day experience on Utah Beach.

In the news today is the story of another US Army port company veteran. Attached to the 1st Engineer Special Brigade the 490th worked on Utah Beach alongside my grandfather's unit, the 519th. You can read his article here on the Chattanooga Times Free Press website.

A May 27 interview includes an interesting quote from him on the subject of segregation. The Army's institutional racism was briefly set aside due to the intensity of the June 6th invasion:

"And there wasn't no segregation there on the beach that day. There wasn't any segregation at all. It made ya think. It made you think a lot. We're here, we're all serving together, and we're all getting along together today. Why couldn't this happen tomorrow and the next day, ya know?"

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lego Weekend, part II

My kids and I spent another couple hours playing with Legos today. We tried to follow the directions for a castle, but I couldn't find all the pieces. So, I scratch-built this tower, while my kids put in a red floor in a half-built castle, worked on a little house (both in the background), and played with the minifigs.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Lego wagons

My daughters and I played with my old Legos today (Legos are "miniatures" right?). I've got boxes and boxes of the Castle Lego sets from the 1980s and 90s. We made these two wagons with castle bits. I still have the Lego minifigs and instructions for the Black Monarch's Castle, King's Mountain Fortress, King's Castle, and the castle for the knights with the bird on their shields. I'm sure I have all the pieces, but they're loose and mixed together in a couple different boxes. We'll have to see if we can sort them out and reconstruct at least one of these castles.

Obviously I was way into knights when I was a kid. I still have the first 5 lego knights I was given in 1983 or so. I could photograph them if you're interested in seeing them. I remember a few years ago Lego was selling fantasy Medieval sets with dwarves, goblins, etc., but they have moved on to different subjects since then. I kinda wished I had bought a few of those fantasy sets. eBay has them of course, but the prices are jacked way up. I'm not going to pay $5 to $15 for one dwarf minifig.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Ferrous Lands are quiet

It's been pretty quiet around here hobby-wise. I haven't painted anything in a very long while. Business was extremely busy last month, so I was working evenings and weekends. And when I wasn't working on client projects I've been spending my free time writing my history book. It's about my grandfather's WWII unit (check out the book blog).

I have to say I have missed painting and posting these past few months. I have a closet full of guys just waiting. It's a real mix of genres. I have a 1/72 WWII paratroopers in there, a bunch of 28mm animals, 28mm prehistorics, 28mm King Philip's War Indians, a 1/72 DBA viking army (and opposing Saxons), 28mm fantasy models, 1/72 models for a 17th century New England colonists DBA army (and opposing woodland Indians), and I got a 1/72 DUKW model (my grandfather worked on those at Normandy). I already primed my scratch-built 28mm tavern model. I need to paint that and some villagers to go inside.

My book is almost finished, so I'm looking forward to getting back to some painting soon. I think I'll get to work on those 1/72 WWII guys first. Hopefully all my paints won't have dried up by then. On a slight side-note, I've become intrigued with the board game, Agricola. Have any of you readers played it? I'm thinking of buying it to play with my wife and daughters. They're not too fond of tanks, guns, swords, etc., so the game's farming theme should appeal to them.