Welcome to Cold War Gamer, a blog I am using to record my Cold War wargaming projects. These range from fictitious Cold War hot projects to historical conflicts that took place around the globe throughout the Cold War era, all modelled and gamed in 20mm. The blog includes links to various resources useful to the Cold War Gamer.

My current projects include: Central Front; British & Soviet. South African Border War; Angolans and South Africans. Soviet Afghan War; Soviets and Afghans

Friday, 17 June 2016

Review Book - Abel Archer, Modern Rapid Fire Rules

Well it's been a while since I posted. A busy period for family and work - however I was asked a question about the rules I use, and it's a fairly frequent question so I thought I would knock out a quick post on the subject.  I got hooked on Modern gaming after joining the Guild forum in around 2008.  I was familiar with RF through WW2 gaming and when the Guild held a big game in 2010 I soon volunteered. The first game was held in Ireland and used Rapid Fire adaptations produced by Piers Brand. In the subsequent two Cold War big games they were adapted in a number of areas by John Dowman and Rob Rowell.

Tim's picked these up and done an excellent job of enhancing what were a fairly loose collection of ideas and turning them into a coherent set of rule additions making them a lot more attractive and digestible.  They are designed to be used in conjunction with Richard Marsh and Colin Rumford's Rapid Fire Rules which can be purchased in paper or electronic format from the Rapid Fire Website.

The focus for the rule set is the early 80's the period of the first game and Tims area of interest. They contain vehicle stats for the period Orbats and Scenario ideas to get you started.  The Orbats covered are:

  • British Battle Group
  • Danish Battle Group
  • Dutch Battle Group
  • US Armoured Cavalry Sqn
  • US Battle Group
  • NATO Divisional and Corp Assets
Warsaw Pact
  • MRR Advance Guard and Main Body
  • TR Advance Guard and Main Body
  • Divisional Assets.
The rules adapt easily enough for the late 1980's period and can be used for Ultra Modern and near future with a little thought.

They include a range of rule mechanisms adopting the original set to the modern period and accommodating the evolution of fire power, observation systems, gunnery systems, armour and aircraft. They sit firmly in the world of Rapid Fire which was always a simple abstracted game system, but one that played fast.

What I have always loved about Rapid Fire is the way the units are abstracted allowing battle groups to be reasonably represented by 10-15 models, this allows you to game in 20mm on a table top at battle group level with ease and with thought to extend into the operational level.

I suppose a number of things that I like best about Cold War gaming are enabled by these rules:
  • 20mm is a great scale for armour modeling with vehicles and figures sufficiently large to look great when done.
  • The models and figures can easily be adapted and enhanced
  • The extensive ranges of plastic models and resin kits mean most of the armies can be pulled together, and they look great.  
  • The Orbat abstractions enable a reasonable game to be played out at battle group level on a 6 foot by 4 foot table without it all looking too daft.
  • The rules are simple and straight forward to learn and enable games to be completed relatively quickly.
  • With a bit of thought and a lot of really useful plastic boxes you can store it all in a reasonably big cupboard.
  • You can with the aid of a small hall some friends and a pile of scenery pull it all up to the operational level which is really where the action was going to happen in the Cold War and where the odds evened up between the Warsaw Pact and NATO armies.

All up a great contribution from Tim to the Cold War gaming community, Tim's Abel Archer rule adaptations are free, available for download and come in PDF format.

Other Book Reviews:

The Race to the Swift

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Modelling - Converting Hobby Den's BTR 60PB to a BTR 60PU

As part of creating artillery and air defence units for the breakthrough project I kicked off a year or so ago I discovered a need for some armoured command vehicles.  The thought was to use specific communications vehicles rather than the k variants found in Motor Rifle Battalion and Company headquarters.  Armoured command vehicles were produced by the Soviets for the BTR 60/70 and 80 series vehicles and these were used extensively within the units I had in mind. 

The obvious choice was the  BTR-60R-145BM or one of its more modern variants the vehicle is a turretless version of the BTR 60, fitted with:
  • A collapsible frame antenna 
  • The AMU 10m telescopic mast 
  • The AB-1-P/30 generator, 
  • 5 Radio sets 
  • A TA-57 field telephone.  
The vehicle also seems to attract the designation BTR 60 PU and  is visually similar to the BTR 60PU-12 an Air Defence command vehicle which would also be useful.

An analysis of the available imagery identified the following tasks to complete a conversion from a BTR 60 PB into the required command vehicles:

  • Fill Hole in hull for turret
  • Build a box to represent the AB-1-P/30 generator
  • Create some stowage box's for the side of the vehicle
  • Create a representation of the AMU 10m telescopic mast
  • Represent the stowed antenna tube on the top deck together with its end caps
  • Mount jerry cans on sides of vehicles 

  • The BTR 60PB I have chosen for the conversion is produced by the Hobby Den, which is an imposing resin and white metal kit with some clever ideas that give you a lot of crewing options as hatches are white metal castings that fit over recessed hull areas providing scope for crewing options at much reduced effort compared to other resins where the hatch and hull would need drilling and a new hatch creating to achieve the same effect.

    Since I commenced this project a number of other models have come onto the market giving a degree of choice in the models that can be used notable amongst these is the S Models BTR 60 PB kit.  The quality of both the resin hull and the white metal wheel set and hatches has been good on all the copies I have received with small amounts of flash on the white metal parts and almost no air bubbles on the resin hull and turret.  The base of the turret is marginally convex but this was not really relevant to the model being built.

    The conversion is very straightforward and can be done with the frame antenna erected or folded.  To simplify the problems around building the frame antenna I attached it directly to the hull . This avoided the needs to build the mounts and created a robust structure. I also simplified the frame from a double tube to a single tube. The frame supports and the frame itself were made from lengths of brass rod and to ease the problems of height adjustment I used green stuff to attach the frame to the upright frame supports.

    Both the AMU 10 Telescopic mast and what I have termed the stowed antenna tube on the hull roof were cut from plastic rod.  The use of a cover fashioned from green stuff for the AMU 10 got around the need to model the detail at the top of the telescopic mast, although this could have been produced using  the mast components that come with ACEs BMP-1Ksh.

    The Generator box was the final component of the fixed vehicle equipment and this was created through layering plastic strip to create an oblong box structure that would be easy to replicate consistently given that I needed a few of these vehicles.   All the other components I viewed as part of stowing the vehicles as the images I had collected showed a degree of variability in type and placement.  The Images variously show jerry cans and a large external stowage box mounted on the left and right hand side of the vehicle. which goes on which side seems to vary.

    Stowage baskets are also seen mounted over the rear engine louvers and there are a number of images with command vehicles supporting a number of roof mounted stowage boxes.  Unusually for Soviet vehicles but less so for command vehicles in general these wagons are often seen with a variety of additional equipment.  

    I have confined my stowage to include the Jerry cans on the right hand side and a large irregularly shaped stowage box on the left.  In addition I added a folded tarpaulin/tent on the roof made from green stuff and marked using a wet knife blade to create the straps folds and creases.  To get the various boxes and jerry cans to mount effectively on the hull it's necessary to file away some of the hull side hatches.

    I commenced painting the vehicle with a pre shade of the lower hull wheels and underside of the vehicles using Tamiya XF-69 NATO Black. The model was then sprayed with Tamiya XF-13 JA Green, using a lighter coat on the lower hull ensures it remains a darker shade.  The panels were then picked out with Tamiya XF-65 Field Grey. A pin wash was applied using the Humbrol Black enamel wash and a blue grey filter applied to selected panels and hatches using a diluted Humbrol Blue Grey enamel wash.  The raised detail was dry-brushed using a mix of Vallejo Russian Uniform and Buff. Detail was then painted in as follows:
    • Vallejo Black Grey for the HMG, Sight blocks, jerry cans and wheels
    • Vallejo sky grey was used for tools.  
    • Vallejo Medium flesh washed with Agrix Earthshade was used for wooden tool handles
    • Vallejo Khaki grey was used for the canvas stowage, washed with GW's Agrix Earthshade before being highlighted with a mix of Khaki grey and buff.

    The vehicle was then weathered using a heavy wash of Vallejo Mahogany Sand primarily targeted at the recesses, before the whole was over-sprayed using Tamiya XF-59 Desert Yellow. 

    Markings consisted of a regimental symbol and tactical 3 digit number, with the number coming from QRF and the regimental marking from the model collect large decal sheet.

    The vehicle is based on laser cut MDF bases supplied by East Riding miniatures, these are covered in a mix of sand and white glue before painting. Once dry a range of bsing materials have been used to create the vegetation on the base.



    BTR-60PB Mini Walk-round Prime Portal
    BTR-60 Army Guide
    BTR-60PU-12 Walk-round

    Other Posts of Interest:

    Tuesday, 22 December 2015

    Wargames Unit - Soviet Late 80's 2S1 Battalion

    Artillery units are a critical component of any Soviet force and whilst less flexible in terms of coordination of fire and OPs than their western counter parts this was less of a problem than might be imagined as it was nearly always available in overwhelming quantity.  In order to play Soviets effectively you do need a reasonable number of guns and even in the late Cold War period these can routinely deploy in the direct fire role, so unlike western units could be a component of the on board force.  In developing my views on the Soviet Breakthrough capability, I refined the Soviet Artillery Orbats for our adaption of the Rapid Fire rules and have been busy collecting models ever since.  The first of the units to reach a completed state was the 2S1 battalion shown below.

    At a representative model scale the battalion offers a few challenges as the organisation evolved over the period from 3 Batteries of 6 Guns to 3 Batteries of 8.  This was a component of the Soviet response to NATO's mass proliferation of ATGWs and hand held anti tank weapons which the Soviets quickly realised would severely disrupt their operational tempo in the absence of weapons of mass destruction. As a consequence they focused on improving conventional artillery effects through maximising the weight of fire that could be delivered over short time periods to destructive effect.  This was achieved through both the increased battery size and shifting to the battalion as the primary unit of fire.  Having said that the upgraded capability had not been fully deployed across units in the Western TVD or even the forward groups of forces by the end of the Cold War.

    After a deal of consideration around how to represent the 24 gun battalion, I plumped for the easy option and stuck with 3 batteries of 6 guns each represented by a couple of 2S1.  2S1 is the primary combat component of the battalion but at the level of representation chosen only equates to around 50% of the vehicles in the model battalion. I have used the S&S 2S1 for all my vehicles its a simple robust wargames model and a reasonable representation of the vehicle that paints up well. The only alternative that I am aware of is the ACE model which holds the distinction of being the only model from that company that I started but never finished, not an easy build.

    As well as the Guns in each battery I also wanted to represent a reasonable number of Command and Observation Post vehicles which introduced the next challenge. I was keen to have a standardised battery organisation but the maximum number of OPs that a unit could deploy were around 6-7 so two vehicles at a scale of 1:3.  The solution to this was the radio truck required by the WW2 rules, in this case a plumped for a BTR-60R-145M or BTR 60PU which was used extensively in unit headquarters.  The remainder of the vehicles would then be deployable COPs using MT-LBus or ACRVs.

    The ACRVs I have used here are from Cromwell and are very nice 1/76 scale wagons that look all right along side there 1/72 cousins. Sadly the vehicle is now OOP so my future battalions will largely be relying on the S&S version which is a somewhat simpler model.  The vehicles have been stowed using green stuff or Goffy stowage items and are crewed by either Wee Friends or Elheim Soviet crew.

    When I started this project the options for BTR 60's were limited to either Liberation which are a little under scale or the Hobby Den's both are resin and white metal kits.  The representation is based on a simple conversion using plastic rod, plastic strip, brass rod and green stuff.  Like the ACRVs and unusually for soviet vehicles these are often quite heavily stowed. The Crewman in this case is provide by Elhiem.   Since building this S Models have now released a plastic BTR-60 and S&S have produced a nice little conversion kit for the Command variant, so making life easier for the next few iterations.

    The final component  in the battery is a truck either a Zil 131 or a Ural 4320, after making a lot of the ICM kits I have started to use a number of the Amercom Zil 131 ready mades no effort to build although painting over the all white UN schemes can be a challenge and quite time consuming of itself.  The one shown here is an Amercom Zil 131.

    So I intend for each battalion to comprise of 3 batteries and at the moment I am not representing the BHQ, primarily as a cost saving measure.  The paint schemes are outlined in the review posts below and the markings come from a variety of sources, the regimental symbol is from the large model collect decal sheet and the numbers either from their or the QRF white numbers sheet, The markings on the truck doors are all from the decal sheets provided with the ICM kits.  Hopefully the first of a number of Artillery battalions that will be working their way into the collection.

    Related Posts:

    ORBAT - 1980's Soviet MRR and TRR, Part 4 Artillery
    ORBAT-Soviet Late 80's Breakthrough Capability, Part 3 Non Divisional Artillery Assets
    Modelling - Cold War Soviet Vehicle Markings and Decals
    Modelling - Converting Hobby Dens BTR 60PB to a BTR 60PU
    Review - Model 1/72, Cromwell MT-Lbu (ACRV)
    Review - Model 1/72, S&S 2S1

    Other Soviet Wargames Units:

    Wargames Unit - Soviet Late 80's, Flame Thrower Company Group
    Wargames Unit - 468 MSB, Divisional Forward Detachment at Waidhause
    Wargames Unit -Soviet, Combat Helicopter Regiment, Assault Helicopter Squadron
    Wargames Unit - Soviet, Combat Helicopter Regiment, Attack Helicopter Squadron
    Wargames Unit - Soviet Late 80's Independent DShV Battalion
    Wargames Unit - Soviet Late 80's MRB
    Wargames Unit - Soviet MRR, Anti Tank Reserve
    Wargames Unit - Soviet MRD, Anti Tank Battalion
    Wargames Unit - Soviet MRR, Air Defence Battery
    Wargames Unit - Soviet MRR, Recce Company
    Wargames Unit - Soviet MRR, Regimental Artillery Group
    Wargames Unit - Soviet early 80's MRB
    Wargames Unit - Soviet VDV Regiment

    Friday, 28 August 2015

    Review - Magazine Wargames Illustrated 335 September 2015

    In my youth I was always a great fan of Wargames Illustrated enjoying the pictures as much as the articles.  Having supplied some pictures for a Cold War article in this months issue which takes as its theme the concept of  "What If" games they kindly sent me a copy.  

    This months issue builds to an extent on Issue 324s Cold War theme but with a slightly different take hopefully this will be but part of an increased level of coverage of the post war modern period generally and more specificaly the Cold War.  Cold War as a period has been slowly gaining in popularity in both 15mm and 20mm with an expanding range of figures and models from a range of manufacturers and a widening range of rules suitable for gaming the period including such titles as Force on Force, Fist Full of Tows (2 or 3),  Battlegroup and Cold War Commander amongst others, these provide focus across the scales from the more traditional Modern gaming scale of 6mm to 15mm, 20mm and 28mm.

    The imminent entry of Flames of War into the 15mm Cold War Gameing arena with it's Team Yankee rule set and a developing line of miniatures is inevitably driving an increased amount of interest in the period and with new sets of rules in the pipeline from TFL, Iron Fist publications and Third Generation Warfare  the heat is seriously being turned up on the Cold War.  The Flames of War gang have already published a range of images on their impending offerings covered on the Breakthrough Assault Blog and the release rate from other 15mm manufacturers seems to be cranking up to meet the inevitable demand.

    This months WI issue contains three articles focused on Cold War Conflict two fitting in with the "What If" theme and one on the design of the Third Generation Warfare rule set by Nick Ayres that underpined the Leicester Phat Cats Salute demonstration and is accompanied by some pics of that game.

    The other two articles are focused on the magazines What If theme one looks at Soviet Regimental Cold War Tactics the other is an excellent look at Opperation Mikado the proposed SAS raid onto the Argentinian Mainland in the flaklands war.

    The Cold War article penned by Jeremy Richardson has a focus on the Advanced Guard, and scenario development from that as well as covering the sequencing of assault river crossings and Air Assault.  It talks through the Joy of 3mm gaming and takes a look at Cold War Commanders mechanisms for simulating the friction of war (one of the great features in that set of rules). It  closes around a look at model availability from 3mm - 20mm and approaches to dealing with the larger scales all up an eminiently readible and useful article with some great eye candy.

    The second article is written by Roger Gerrish with contributions on the modelling front by Phil Lewis.  The article covers in a degree of detail the historical background to the proposed SAS raid on mainland Argentina during the Falklands war, the historical content being quite fascinating of itself.  It then looks at scenario development and forces for both sides for a series of Force on Force games looking at differnt aspects of the plan and rounds out with a look at terrain and creating the Pink Panthers or Green Hornets of the SAS all up a very enjoyable read.

    The ideas from this article will readily translate to a few central front games I am contemplating as I have recently been looking at strategic Desant operations including Spetznaz deployments and airfield siezures in Northern Germany to which many of the ideas presented by Roger readily map. I might need to swap the Herc for an AN 24 and the Green Hornet landrovers for some Lu-947 weapon carriers, however the concepts presented for terrain and scenario generation would work well in creating a series of skirmish games around the initial airfield seizure befor I air land the air mechanised VDV regiment and conduct some subsequent operations, which is more the scale I like to play at.

    All up an excellent edition building on the October 2014 Cold War issue reviewed by Richard C over at Cold War Hot Hot Hot. The WI Issues with Modern Themes are:

    Sunday, 2 August 2015

    Review - Web Resources, Soviet Armed Forces 1945 - 1991

    The Web site, Soviet Armed Forces 1945 - 1991 offers a view of the Soviet Armed Forces from 1945 to 1991 for a range of Soviet Armed Forces.  Under each of the force areas it organises its data to look at the various sub components and provide an overview of the source material used, most of this would appear to be Russian.  The principal areas of the armed forces covered are:
    So under Air Force it lists all the Soviet Air Armies and under each lists the units under command and their locations.  Likewise for the Army it lists the Armies although organisational information is not currently available for all, it is for a majority. The information is organised from a number of perspectives  and the site provides a number of ways to traverse the data and find the information being sought. Views are provided for each of the principal arms of service so you can also review by Tank Divisions, Motor Rifle Division, Fortified Areas orArtillery Divisions amongst others or you can drill down through the isted armies.  

    For the Army a range of sources are quoted the site data seems heavily underpinned by a number of Feskovs works and CFE data.  Information provided includes activation and deactivation dates, base locations and major equipments where available.  Much of this is CFE data so drawn from the back end of the Cold War. The more traditional Orbat,  which units belonged to which divisions covers the whole of the period specified, at least for the Army. The Site scope is broad and  is still a work in progress.

    Having tried to translate with google a number of the reference documents some one trying too publish this data in english is a bit of a godsend. It will be interesting to see how the site develops but it is already looking like a bit of a treasure trove.

    Wednesday, 29 July 2015

    Review Model - model collect 1/72 T-72B with ERA

    The T-72 is another of those Cold War Icons, Globally exported its been involved in most of the worlds major conflicts since it appeared on the scene in the late 1960's.  It was the Soviet Unions low cost alternative to the T-64 and T-80 series, equipping units outside of the technology challenging Central front area although it was the main stay of Soviet units in the Central group of Forces in Czecheslovakia.  Other than that it was mostly found in the Western Military districts of the Soviet Union or exported across the middle east.

    The T-72B comenced production in 1985 and introduced levels of protection that exceeded those of both the T-64 and T-80 making it the best protected of the Soviet tanks. The other major capability introduced on this version was the AT-11 Svir missile.  The model includes the Kontakt 1 ERA which was available from 1982, first mounted on tanks in 1983, first identified by NATO in 1984 and fitted to the T-72B  from 1988.  It is worth speculating on weather it would have been rolled out earlier if East West relationships had decended into crisis.

    One of the major thrusts of Soviet organisational and equipment change over this period was the neutralisation of the NATO ATGW threat as the the density of Anti Tank weapons had increased to a point where the Soviet Army felt that success was unlikly.  This then drove their adoption of ERA and the significant increase in artillery systems over the period.

    The improved armour provided the T-72B with base protection of 520mm RHA equivalent from APDS and 950mm RHA equivalent protection from HEAT, Kontakt 1 providing an additional 350mm - 400mm RHA equivalent against HEAT.  Of interest the Improved TOW missile would penetrate 900mm RHA equivalent with TOW 2A delivered in 1987 doing 900mm behind ERA. I suspect it was not until the introduction of TOW2B in 1991 that the balance of advantage was restored to the ATGW. A Tandem war head for Milan did not arrive until 1993 so for a significant period the impact of the ATGW and LAW capability was reduced.

    This review looks at the modelcollect T-72B although there are a variety of options on the market including
    • ACE
    • S&S
    • Hobby Den
    • Model Collect
    The modelcollect kit like a lot of their armour kits is priced at around £11 and depending on when and how many you order may be shipped from China or their UK warehouse. Like the TOS-1 it is staggeringly well packaged with clear instructions.

    The Hull is cast from white metal and is finly molded and adds a rather pleasing weight to the finished vehicle.  The Tracks are flexible plastic but fit and fix easily using liquid poly. The remainder of the parts are Molded from plastic, the level of detail is generaly excellant and the quality of the molding is very good with only minor amounts of flash on one of the 4 models I built.  Modelcollect are certainly approaching Revell standards if they are not quite there yet.  No major issues with the build but a few minor ones as follows:
    • Turret fit to Hull
    • Fit of the front right Turret ERA (looking at the front)
    • Removal from Sprue and fitting of external fuel barrel supports
    The Turret Hull fit is best sorted before you build the turret as trying to sort it once the turret is constructed is asking for a mishap.  The problem stems from insufficient space between the base of the turret and the retaining lugs to accommodate the depth of the molding of the hull deck, a little light filling between the top of the lug and base of the turret soon removes the issue more radically you could just chop off the lugs.

    I have yet to try this but separating the turret front right ERA block strip into probably 3 bits will result in a better fit.

    Care is generally needed with the finer parts such as the commanders MG. The external fuel tank supports definitely fall into this category and need a bit of thinking about before removal.  On the batch build I only lost one on the first vehicle I lost 50%.  Fitting them to the hull rear also requires some work as the mounting lugs can be a little large.

    Other than that it was a breeze with assembly taking a couple of hours.  In contrast I have been building 3 ACE T-72Bs for at least 2 years :).  Once constructed the vehicle looks the part  and whilst I have seen nothing specific on this vehicle Alex Clark has made some very encouraging noises about a number of other models in the range.

    Markings, Stowage and Damage.

    The vehicles carry traditional Soviet numbers on the left, right and rear stowage bins and in some cases regimental identifying marks can also be found on the bins.  The left and right turret bins are of different lengths so may need different approaches to accomodating the markings. Examples of markings used and available decal sets can be found here. The large model collect decal sheet which can be separately purchased contains a range of these.

    Stowage can be seen in a number of immages and a canvas cover could also be worked for the cupola mounted HMG, a usefull strategy should you break it.  I have seen images where the snorkle storage can be mounted up or down, in the down position it precludes the use of an identification number on the rear bins, not quite sure why I did that.

    The modelcollect T-64 BV comes with an etched brass commanders screen which could also be deployed on the T-72. There are a variety of options to add vehicle damage around the side skirts  and ERA packs immages also exist showing incomplete coverage of ERA blocks on the hull deck.  Both provide a route for enhancing the models in your fleet.  I have currently added regimental identifiers and vehicle numbers on the left and right stowage bins and have not included any additional stowage or famage on the first four vehicles.


    My painting style with the airbrush continues to evolve.  On these beasts the lower hull tracks and underside were sprayed with black, then the whole was sprayed with Tamiya XF-13 JA Green ensuring that the lower hull is left a darker shade.  The pannels were then sprayed with Tamiya XF-65 field gray. Then the detail was picked out using Vallejo Black Grey for the HMG, Sight blocks and IR searchlights and sky grey for driving lights.  A pin wash was then applied using the Humbrol Black enamel wash and a blue grey filter applied to selected pannels and the skirts using diluted Humbrol Blue Grey enamel wash. The raised detail was drybrushed using a mix of Vallejo Russian Uniform and Buff.

    Decals were then applied and the whole vehicle was matt varnished then weathered.  Weathering involved spraying the road wheels and base of the skirts with Tamiya XF-  Earth Brown before washing these areas with a dilute solution of Vajello Mahogany Sand.  The front and rear hull and lower hull was then oversprayed with Tamiya XF- Dark Yellow, with a progressivly lighter application as you move up the sides and onto the hull top than sides. 

    The vehicle is based using laser cut mdf from East Riding miniatures this was painted dry brushed and covered with a variety of scatter material.

    All up an excellent model, straight forward to assemble, quick to build and an excellent representation of the vehicle. Considerably easier than the ACE model and competativly priced against the alternatives.