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 Bush War; Angolans and South Africans. Soviet Afghan War; Soviets and Afghans

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Review Model - S&S 1/72 South African Buffel

The Buffel was introduced into the SADF in 1978 to provide mine protected transport.   They were used within mechanised units to transport support elements such as pioners and in the non mechanised units they provided a basic transport capability for the rifle companies whilst support weapons traveled in a mix of Buffles and soft skin vehicles.  They were used by units of 44 Para Bde, and equiped, the Modular and  SWATF, battalions as well as 32 Battalion.  6 Buffels took part in Op Reindeer in May of 78 as part of Task force Julliet and they saw extensive service on both internal and external operations throughout the remainder of the War.

The vehicle is quintessentially Border War so much so that personally I don't see the point in gaming the conflict with out it. It was an evolution of the ideas from the early mine protected vehicles deployed in Rhodesia and its heritage lives on in the wide variety of MRAPs used globally today.

For years the only representation of this in 20mm was produced by Bax Models which comes in at £27, costly if you want to deploy them in reasonable numbers and a time consuming build.  In January this year Shaun at S&S had one mastered by AMBN Modelisimo and a couple of weeks ago I got my hands on 4 pre release versions.

The model is a resin and white metal kit that builds into an excellent representation of this vehicle.  A difficult task given the very open nature of the underside of the vehicle and one which has been put together extremely well by the team at AMBN Modellisimo and S&S.  Essentially the hull is modelled in resin less the side access panels, seat rests, role bars and the chassis which are cast in white metal.

The white metal components were well cast with little to no flash and the hull side panels are very finely cast.  The underside of the resin hull has some pin and sink holes but these are easily filled whilst the upper structure is generaly excellent.

The effort on putting this baby together comes in the need to reduce both the length and the thickness of the plinth at the base of the V Shaped hull that allows the vehicle to sit on the chassis. I Had a number of goes and have got to a reasonably satisfactory state but will probably try and do better next time round.  

The hull of the vehicle sits just above the chassis and the nose of the hull almost touches the bush guard.  in this position, the spare wheel is close to the troop compartment and the rising slope of the rear hull panel starts close to the rear axle, Prime Portal has a useful walk round guide. I would recommend the following approach to assembly:
  • Fill lower hull defects
  • Assemble chassis less spare wheel and engine cover
  • File hull base plinth under hull and driver cab (Electric Sander and Mask are useful) 
  • Fit hull to chasis
  • Fit remaining chasis parts, spare wheel and engine cover
  • Fit Hull parts, Seat Back, Roll Bar, 
  • Fit Side panels last
  • Admire

This provides time for the various bits to dry and reduces the chance of damaging the white metal parts on the hull.  Adding the side pannels last prevents them getting bent whilst you attempt some of the other tasks.

I could find no standard reference books but there are plenty of images and references on the web. In service pictures of the vehicle  show a few things worth adding as part of stowing and crewing the wagon. I have seen no real evidence of significant external stowage as there were few places to locate it and plenty of oppourtunity for it to get removed whilst driving through the Bush.  The vehicles had a 100 Liter Water and 200 Liter Fuel tank - so no jerry cans needed.  and the large rear panier looked like it held the bulk of the sections kit.

I have added the rear panier to all my vehicles and built this from plasticard and brass rod.

Ammo boxes seem to be added to the front and some vehicles support an MG either a .30 Cal Browning or an FN Mag, Brownings are seen with and without shields  Elheim make a very useful .30 which can be used for this.

Crewing open topped vehicles looks good when the troops are mounted and can look a bit silly when they are dismounted.

 I have gone for sabot bases for my crew allowing them to be removed handy for painting and gaming.  

I used Elhiems IDF figures part of the Middle East and Africa range which are very good for 80's SADF being armed with the Galil (R4/5 many thanks Mike!) and wearing the kevlar helmet with no body armour.  Crew figures are a handy use for the Uzi armed figures which would otherwise be bound for the bin.  The challenge with Matt's figures is cutting them in half as the alloy used is quite hard, a saw and vice are a little essential.

For Markings I am using various sets of white numbers and letters which can be seen applied  on the front sides and rear of vehicles although size and location seem inconsitant, I assume these are the vehicles Radio C/S.  Other obvious markings include vehicle registration numbers front and back which appear generaly as white letters/numbers on a black back ground.

The vehicles are painted an Earth brown which always looks lite in tone in pictures due I assume to the amount of light on the subject and the effects of dust.  I have used Tamiya paints starting with a heavy black pre shade on the lower hull followed by Flat Brown over the whole vehicle, the panels are picked out in desert yellow before overspraying the whole hull in Flat Earth which is a good colour match.

The tyres and windows have been painted with Vallejo Black Grey.  The Tyres being washed on the sides with buff and dry brushed on the tops by a mix of Vallejo Khaki and Buff following Mig Jemez's rather handy tyre painting guide.  The Pin wash used Humbrol Dark Brown Wash and the Vehicle was dry brushed using Vallejo Buff. 

The Vehicle is based on a pre cut MDF base from East Riding miniatures which has been covered in sand and white glue and painted in a yellow ocher colour before drybrushing with a range of Vallejo Buff and Mid Stone.  The critical bit with the base is to create a different colour to the wagon, the challenge being with the all brown palette is to get sufficient tonal variation to make it all look interesting. The woody brush plants are created using Horse Hair which has been threaded into holes drilled in the base glued then trimmed.

The Buffel model is an excellent edition to S&S's growing Bush War range of vehicles and fills a mutch need hole in the list of available affordable war-games models for this conflict and one I have been waiting to see for at least 4 years if not longer,  Top job :)


Sunday, 3 May 2015

Cold War Proxy Conflicts - The South African Border War

Throughout the Cold War a number of hot conflicts ocurred that served as places for both sides to engage each other with out direct conflict, effictivly wars by proxy, these generally came in a couple of varieties.

  • Where one side was engaged directly, the other side supported the opposition such as Afganistan and Vietnam. 
  • If neither side were involved then each side might sponser one of the protagonists the Arab Israeli Wars are a good example and the South African Border War/Angolan Civil War another.

I have long been interested in the South African Border War but have never really posted on it.  The conflict developed around German South West Africa which the South Africans administered on a Leauge of Nations mandate after Germany lost its overseas territories at the end of the First World War.

The territory formed South Africas Northern border with Angolo and the disintegration of the Portuguese colonial prescence  in Angolo in the mid to late 70's and the subsequent Cuban/Soviet support for the FAPLA faction in Angola, set the scene for a complex and interwoven set of conflicts that collectivly became known as the Border War and included:
  • The Angolan Civil War between FAPLA, UNITA and the FNLA
  • The SWAPO led insurgency against South African occupation of Namibia
  • The ANC insurgency against aparthied in South Africa
  • The clashes between the SADF and the Cubans supporting the various factions in the Angolan Civil War.
  • Various other post colonial conflicts such as the Rhodesian Bush War.

The war was prolonged running from 1966 - 1989 and was seen by many as one of the significant Cold War engagements between Communist and Western ideologies or at least thats how it evolved, complicated by the inability of the West to be seen to directly support the South African regime because of aparthied.

The conflict itself had strong flavours of insugency, counter insurgency, civil war and more conventional war fighting operations  and is of interest to me for a number of reasons.

  • The range of different types engagements that occurred across a broad spectrum of conflict.
  • The evolving South African doctrine for both counter insurgency and more conventional war fighting. Which increasingly leveraged concepts from the Boer Commando heritage.
  • The employment of Airborne and Air Assault troops as components of highly mobile operations.
  • The impact of space and lower population densities which produced a very different style of conflict to that seen on the central front.
  • The development of a range of rather unique indiginously produced military equipment by Armscor for South Africa in the face of a global arms embargo.
  • The range of Soviet military equipment deployed which enables re-use of a significant component of my Soviet Cold War Central Front collection together with elements of my Soviet WW2 collection.

I started collecting the books, models and terrain a few years back, but at the time there were a number of significant gaps, in particular no one made a cost effective Buffle and a number of the better books had been out of print and were becoming prohibitavly expensive.

Recently a number of these books have been re released notably, Steenkamps Borderstrike and the Border War, together with Ospreys Modern African Wars 3 - all pretty much essential reading. On top of this more material is becoming available on the web and there are some superb Web Sites and Facebook pages such as the War in Angola and the South African Border War Site this coupled with an increasing range of books being released as old soldiers write their memoirs is providing a rich set of information.

On the gaming front we have numerous rule sets that might fit from Rapid Fire to Force on Force, the various evolutions of Battle Group and TFLs B'maso.   Recent model/Figure releases from  S&S, Bax models, Aerografix, Underfire Miniatures and Enfilaid Miniatures  have started to fill the voids in the 20mm ranges that enable the war to be gamed without the need to scratch build significant elements of the South African force. Some are more affordable than others.

These ranges include figures and vehicles suitable for the Portugese colonial Wars in Angola, The Rhodesian Bush War and the South African Border War. Whilst the number of figure manufactures covering the period have increased there is a need for more particularly focused on the South African force elements as there are few specific figures.

All up though this makes an interesting Cold War conflict much more accessible to the 20mm gameing community and worth looking at.


The SADF Border War 1966-1989, L Scholtz
Borderstrike,W Steenkamp
South Africa's Border War 1966 - 1989 H Helmoed-Romer

War in Angola
Rhodesian War Games
Topological Maps of the Operational Area
The Angolan Liberation War 1966-74

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Cold War Gamer Hobby News - Autumn 2014

As the blog has recently recieved its 300,000th hit,  the first thing to say is thankyou to all who continue to read it and particularly those who take the time to comment as its always useful to get feedback on content.  The Autumn Magazine ended up with a lot more emphasis on the Soviet breakthrough operations and Soviet capability rather than British which are my intended target for that opperation. 

To my mind the big news over the last quarter has been the increasing credibility of a US cold war Army in 20mm for either the late 70's or any time during the 80's with Elhiem figures releasing a range of products that cover some key gaps in the market along with releases earlier in the year from S&S and Italiera it's begining to look like a very feasible project.  The US Army is I must admit one of the few that could draw me into a late 70's early 80's game providing as it does the opportunity to:
  • Paint vehicles in MERDEC
  • Deploy Sheridans
  • Deploy M60A2s
  • field troops in M1 helmets and a range of modern weapons

Matt has said he is doing the M1 helmeted troops next so hopefully we will see a Dragon Gunner with an M1 helmet materialise over the winter, great for US or Dutch.  The Autumn period has not been as prolofic for releases as the summer but their has still been an interesting amount of news

Hobby Den

Brian has been very busy over at the Hobby den building out the range of models stocked as well as making some fairly serious purchases including the BW Models range.  Personally having only just discovered the BW range I was sad to see it go but it now looks like Hobby den will be resurrecting a number of its models.

Brian has also become the European distributor for the modelcollect range which has got to be a good thing as they clearly are offering a very useful set of tank models which is rapidly becoming the definitive collection of Soviet Cold era tanks.

In addition a number World of War 1/72 Building Sets are now available from the shop covering a range of European town buildings and an impresivly large bridge.

Eagle Moss

Eagle Moss have produced a 2S4 which looks to be fairly basic from the imagery but very handy for a late 80's Soviet Break through capability.  Having now received two I can state that the hull is pretty weak in terms of detail but the mortar itself not only looks good but is detachable so easily married up with a different hull and great for setting up as deployed and ready to fire.  So a couple of conversions I'll be trying in the near future.


Matt @ Elhiem Figures has been working quite a major expansion of his cold war range adding seated and skirmishing Brits together with an extension of his Cold War US range that is producing  a much needed Dragon gunner, along with most everything else for late cold war US you will need and a promise of similar coverage in M1 helmets.  He has also extended his Israelis and produced some very handy RUC figures.

Cold War Brits Seated Drivers and Crew

A much needed 105mm Light Gun Crew good for Falklands or NATO flanks work.

Matts MPs would be equally useful for Northern Ireland or Winter of 79 Scenarios.

Cold War US

More RUC this time including a WPC, whilst these are marketed as RUC they clearly could represent armed police from the mainland as well, and would probably look good in some Winter of 79 scenarios.


Underfire have been a little less prolific but have recently extended the RAR range.


Over at S&S Shauns focus has largely been on WW2 conversion kits but he has found time to squeeze in a bunch of Cold War goodies in the form of a T-55 BREM and a very attractive Marder with Roland, allegedly in the works is an ACRV.  As well as these pictures have popped out of what looks like a very early Unimog and a conversion kit for a short wheel base series 2 land rover.  The other hot  rumour is that he maybe working with troop of Shewe on a 15mm MT-55 which will hopefully get released.  None of these have yet to appear on the shop


Marder Roland

15mm MT-55

An early Unimog (I think) suitable for various  African as well as central European scenarios

and a conversion kit for a die cast series 1 or 2 land rover for a bit of 50's para action suitable for suez I would have thought.

Wargames Illustrated

The Cold War Hot version of war-games illustrated provided some interesting coverage of Cold War and Modern gaming which hopefully will be the start of an increasing amount of coverage of the Post War Modern period in the mainstream War Games press.

As far as models and figures go we now have good coverage of the period in 6mm, 15mm, 20mm, and 28mm with growing amounts of ultra modern and near future starting to feature within the manufacturing base.  The recent run of kits out of china from both model collect and S Models has started to fill the major gaps in the 20mm Cold War Soviet inventory which together with the improvements in ACE kits means that much of whats needed is easily obtained and built, as ever the stalwarts of the resin manufactures continue to fill the gaps. Is it a little early to speculate that Flames of War might kick off something for the Cold War, I would imagine that will provide a fairly significant boost to interest in the period and production of 15mm models.  All this coupled with  the number of new rule sets being released covering the Cold War and Modern period are all signs of growing interest and point to a good year for the period in 2015. As a complete Cold War aholic I can only say its good to see.

Wargames Ilustarated Cold War Hot overview of content

Model Collect

From their face book posts modelcollect seem to have both a Scud, a T80B and a BMP 3 in the planning pipeline all of which look like great additions to their range. The box art work for the T-64BV has also appeared which is at the top of my must have list so one I am looking forward to seeing land.  To be fair I have my eye on a scud as well.


Red Star Militaria I found the Red Star Militaria site a month or so ago whilst looking for some reference material around Sun Bunnies and the Soviet Jack Boot. This is a very handy re-enactment site with a lot of useful and detailed information around a variety of Soviet Cold War Weapons and equipment.  It looks like the web site might be undergoing reconstruction at the moment, but when back in action a very useful site.


If you have not seen it South Africas Border War by Willem Steenkamp has just been re pubished and there are some reasonable deals on Amazon at the moment, I picked up a copy for £15 new which is a steel for a book that has been out of print for a number of years and was selling for £275 a copy.  Its a great book on the border war and covers the conflict from 1966 -1989 well worth a look.

South Africa's Border War 1966-89 @ Amazon

Winter Magazine

So what will be appearing in Cold War Gamer over the next quarter, The bulk of the research work on Soviet Breakthrough is completed written up and posted and the force is getting to a point where it could do with an outing so task one for the new year will probably be a game with attendant AARs and Scenarios. That of course means moving the British forward.

I have yet to really settle on the main theme for next years efforts so will be giving that some thought over the next few months.  The biggest component on the Soviet side will probably be turning out a BTR regiment along with some divisional Air Defence and some Non Divisional engineering assets that would enable a reasonably serious river crossing exercise to be conducted.

That operation would pretty much pull together elements of Air Assault, Forward Detachments and Breakthrough.  On the NATO side I think the time has come to move the Canadians forward and I have pretty much got all the bits for the first of the Company Groups the other option is 6 or 24 Air Mobile Brigade which would follow on in the series on NATO Reinforcement Units and then there are the Americans but that I suspect will require a deal of reasarch, reading and purchasing before anything material pops out.

Whilst its a little Early for Christmas this is the last news post before the great event so here's wishing you all a dark and productive winter period along with a great mid winter festival of what ever type best suits your religious persuasion.