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

Thursday 28 May 2015

Review Book - Modern African Wars (3) South West Africa

On the essential reading list for the SA Border War is the Osprey Modern African Wars (3) by Helmoed Romer Heitman a writer eminently qualified to pen the title.  The title contains a set of useful uniform colour plates covering a fairly wide range of SADF uniforms but with more limited coverage  of SWAPO/PLAN, UNITA and FAPLA uniform detail, additionally it contains a wealth of useful information that make it an ideal primer on the SA Border War this includes:
  • A broad timeline of the conflict which covers the main political and military events from the occupation of German South West Africa by South African forces in 1915 through to the end of the conflict. This names all the major South African external opperations together with commentary on the evolution of SWAPOs tactical doctrine and operational statistics for each year. 
  • A Review of the Organisational Structure andd equipment of the various different elements of the SADF including:
    • 32 Bn
    • 61 Mech Bn Group
    • 1 Para Bn
    • Marienes
    • SAAF
    • SWATF
    • SWASpes
    • Modular Bns
    • Kovete
    • SWA Protection Unit
  • A Short Overview on the principal Angolan Forces covering at a high level UNITA and FAPLA
  • A Short overview of SWAPO/PLAN,
  • A Review of the Major external operations adding brief descriptive detail to that provided in the timeline
  • A  description of the Colour plates which includes a look at both Unit and Rank insignia

This book provides in a very consumable fashion enough of an overview of the conflict to get you started on the period with limited effort. As might be expected this has a South African perspective and coverage of the SADF forms the bulk of the content. Despite this it is a good primer for use before engageing in further internet research or reading some of the more weighty tomes that cover the political and military history at a greater level of detail.  

The book was recently reprinted, prior to that copies were reaching prices of £60 - £90 now its back in easy reach with a second hand copy on Amazon currently commanding a sum of £4.50 at this price it really is a steal, particularly if you are new to the period and the conflict and want to get your teeth into it in a hurry.

Modern African Wars (3) South West Africa @ Amazon

Other Book Reviews:

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