Thursday, 22 February 2018

From GregB: Big Guns for Canada (18 points)

Big guns for Canada! 155m shells and Maple Syrup to defend the NATO lines!

Woohoo! A double post this week! Was a bit of a squeeze, but worth it for no other reason that try and force Jamie to stay up a little later tonight and keep painting! :) An extra bit of 15mm Cold-War-gone-hot content to cram in this week - this is a unit of M109 self-propelled 155mm howitzers, some big-time support for my Cold War Canadian forces.

An up-front disclosure before diving in further: I know that on-table models to represent artillery like this is very, very silly (at best).  For a lot of folks it is one of the worst features of Battlefront's rule sets. The range of the weapon is something like 15 to 18 kilometres, and that is before any enhancements like rocket-assisted projectiles or other horrors are added.  Having units like this on a 6' x 4' table - or even a much, much larger table - in 15mm is kinda dumb, and can exacerbate issues with those who feel strongly the period is better suited to 6mm or even 3mm. I absolutely agree with you. Even in "Spearhead" (division-level) games, where the large table, even in the abstract that "Spearhead" uses, can represent a very great distance, artillery like this can be well off-table.

1/100 M109 models from Battlefront's Vietnam range

On the other I get older, I find myself getting a lot less hung-up about stuff like that.  Big guns are fun. At a core level in all of this is a kid in me who is not growing up and thinks more things on the table that would make a "boom" sound are awesome. And while I find maybe some WW2 games seem to have too much tactical involvement of artillery, for a setting like "Team Yankee", I think it is quite appropriate to have shells raining down on both sides for most of the game. If nothing else, I want the other Canadian figures I have painted to know they would have the support because it is sitting with them on the shelf, ready to move out :)

So, there you go...I'm a contradictory nerd...back to the models...

The artillery punch of the 4th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group came from the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, equipped with these armoured, self-propelled howitzers. The mechanized brigades had 60mm and 81mm mortars with their infantry.  And of course the Leopard C1s could dish out serious direct-fire abuse from their 105mm guns.  But to really rain on the Warsaw Pact parade, you need some serious stuff to fall from the sky on to the bad guys - and 155mm shells fired by the stout members of the RCHA will do nicely for that!

These are 1/100 scale models from Battlefront - actually from their Vietnam range, as those would be the appropriate if approximate vintage for the weapons equipping the Canadian formations in the 1980s. Any deployment to halt a Warsaw Pact attack would have relied heavily on timely support from these bad-boys.

A few decals on the back to ID the nationality

While the armour on these vehicles would not stand up to anything like the main gun on a tank, it would have been pretty important - being a gunner in this fictional (phew!) circumstance looks like it would have been terribly dangerous work. Any extended fire missions would rapidly be identified by Warsaw Pact spotters, and counter-battery fire from the enormous artillery complements within the Soviet formations would have been a near-certainty. The ability to keep hammering out shells while under fire would be essential to preserving the 4th Canadian Brigade - the timely artillery support would be critical for the smaller (relative to attacking Warsaw Pact formations) infantry-centred Canadian Battlegroups to hold off major assaults from large Soviet Motor Rifle battalions.

Reading Kenneth Macksey's awesome "First Clash" offers excellent insight to how critical the artillery support is for the Canadian formation (or really any formation), and just how much planning went in to ensuring the shells would be there at the right time and the right place. Once battle was joined, the bombardment and counter-bombardment would be almost continuous...inspired by that book, I'm pleased to have this bunch finished and part of my Canadian Cold War collection.

I encountered a number of different photos of these units on manoeuvres in the various NATO exercises through the 1980s, and they seemed at the time to be sporting a simple black camouflage pattern, so that is what I have tried to replicate here.  And of course some Canadian flag decals have been very helpful as well.

Three more vehicles in 15mm, another 18 points...hey, it all counts! The grind toward the 1000 point target continues...

Song: Set Fire To The Rain
Artist: Adele
Album: 21

Yes, really - I had the opportunity to see Adele perform live, and it was quite fantastic.  She is a remarkable performer, a unique voice.  And this specific song is an ideal prelude to a bombardment by 155mm shells...especially if the target grid reference contains anyone who might have broken your heart...

What absolute beauties these are!  I had no idea stuff like this existed with their weirdly over sized turrets, but it looks like they would do exactly what it says on the tin/barrel and lob whacking great big shells at the enemy...... and then presumably scoot pretty quickly to evade the counter battery fire you mention.

Having lived through the Cold War (admittedly at too young an age to really get it)  really feel like I've got an idea for how horrifying the consequences could have been and am grateful the leaders all stepped back from the precipice....

And you're right about the silliness of the artillery on the table in FoW..... but I'll admit it's never really bothered me  - the chance to get fun stuff like this on the tabletop outweighs the nod to reality :)

18 points indeed and you're staying on target....


  1. Well done on your two fer Thursday Greg. Those bad boys look the business. FYI I'm with you in both sides of the artillery on table debate!

  2. Beautiful painting dude. My complete derision for these models is probably only equaled by yours for zenithal highlighting. ;)

  3. Very, very nice painting. They look great.
    Once you get your head around elastic time and elastic distance in FoW rules arty on the table makes more sense. eg. Tanks that get within short range of artillery have perhaps in reality found a gap in the front line and made a huge/long push to that area. 1 turn can be 10 minutes or much, much longer in some sort of reality. It really helped me rationalize arty on the table. cheers

    1. Brendon, I get what you're saying but my head is simply not elastic enough for that tortured sense of reality, sorry. ;P

  4. Cracking work Greg! Silly ground scale compared to the minis is more or less why I've never really gotten into Team Yankee yet. Even in regular FoW it's pretty bad, but with moderns where you could easily have effective engagement ranges of well past 1km with tanks it just doesn't work that well. Still I'm massively tempted by it as the models just look lovely! Your ongoing project certainly doesn't help...

  5. Great again Greg, you reminded me about the First Clash book too, hidden away upstairs somewhere, will go digging later.

  6. Hah, marvellously dumb but great minis to have in a collection to make all the tankers and grunts feel better about a gazillion Russki tanks steamrollering them

  7. Gorgeous painting once again Greg! While I‘m (still?) somewhat reluctant to put such equipment on the table I agree on them definitely having a certain charm. I certainly wouldn’t mind having a few in my collection, especially when painted up as nicely as yours.

  8. I am totally not bothered by the effect of these chappies on the tabletop since I will not start to play this game system, but boy are these SPG's gorgeous! I've sen the Dutch and British versions rumbling by over here back in the 90's and they are bloody awesome just as your renditions of them are.

  9. An exceptional battery of SP guns there, Greg, excellent work!

  10. These are just fantastic, Greg!! I've been loving the Cold-War-Gone-Hot vehicles and figures you've painted for this Challenge, and these are right up there. Perfect camouflage, great basing, and by gosh - they do look wonderful. (And yes, I loved the M113s as well!).

    I agree with you that a lot of the modern artillery we field on the table is somehow not in the right place/ out of scale/ would just never be seen. But hey, it's a lot of fun and people like to play with it. So....go for it!!

  11. These are much more fun to have than off-table support and a template. Great work!