Saturday, 18 November 2006

GZG SF tanks

Assembling and painting GZG stuff has eaten an unholy amount of my time this last year. John and I messed about with Wessex Games' Aeronef rules and didn't think there was quite enough in them to give a satisfying game, but it got me to thinking and in one of my forays around the web looking for rules, I found that GZG had put Full Thrust up on the web for download. And it DID look interesting.

So a lot of starships got bought. Good simple rules and a reasonably fun game.

However I DID have some issues with the ships I bought from GZG. Easy to paint, not so easy to stick together. Generally, the newer the design the easier it was - I think the designs got more user friendly and of course the moulds were still crisp and new, so sockets and plugs were still the right sizes and hadn't got clogged and filled with flash. With the older ones - well, sticking together the Kra'vak ships tested my patience to the breaking point. And the UN ships, which were among the newest moulds - well, the designs looked great and the modular system should have worked, but the bigger the ship, the harder it was to get the modules lined up straight and true.

GZG's 15mm tanks don't have those issues. They're neat, simple, and well thought out. I bought 16 altogether; four each of the light and heavy grav tanks and four each of the light and heavy walkers. I wasn't really interested in anything with tracks - partly I don't really like the look they've gone for, but mostly I already have plenty of tracked stuff which could be pressed into service for a game.

You wind up with lots of leftovers. Everything comes with a choice of gun barrel, and if you buy platoon packs as I did, you also get other random bits and pieces of extra kit. So I have six spare light turrets which I don't know what to do with, and all kinds of sensor modules and left over gunbarrels. I'm figuring either to build them into the APCs which I know I'll be buying in the new year, or glueing all the leftovers together into spaceships. I already have more spaceships than I really have storage space for, but something tells me that the new year APC buy will see me with even more spare parts than I already have, not less.

The choice of gun barrel thing is a good idea. Kind of. I think it might make more sense to let the customers pick a gun type than to put a sprue of three in with every vehicle. These are not small castings - there's more lead in any of the barrels than in a 15mm cavalry figure. So GZG is using up a lot of lead and casting time - and postage costs - that they could be making savings on. But having a choice of barrels is useful for a gamer - I was able to set my platoons up as three gun tanks and one support tank with a much shorter gun and a box of missiles. It's very beginning of WWII and I wouldn't dream of a mixed platoon organisation in another context. But Stargrunt, which is what I will use at first for these figures, is mostly an infantry game and doesn't envisage more than a couple of platoons of tanks on the table at any one time, with each of the constituent tanks fighting essentially independently. So it makes some sense to use a mixture of types.

The models go together pretty well. The heavy walkers have eight legs and it's easiest to accept that all eight of them will not sit flat. The alternative is to make an already fiddly job even more fiddly by sticking them on one at a time and striving to make sure each one sits dead level. Wargamer's instinct tells that it will be best to put them on bases anyway - in the normal run of things legs will get knocked off in handling unless they're anchored at both ends. And once they're down on a textured base, the natural unevenness of the base will cover up any slight differences in where the feet rest. The same kind of arguments apply to the light walkers, which only have four legs. The grav tanks are easier - mine came with stands, which might have been a freebie of the platoon pack. They're good stands made of solid metal - big enough and heavy enough that the tanks aren't easily knocked over. (In contrast, the standard GZD stand for spaceships is made of plastic and is just too light to hold steady anything bigger than the smallest ships in their range. Weirdly, for their medium ships they seem to think that the plastic post of the stand isn't quite strong enough and they supply a lead post, but it still goes into the same lightweight hollow plastic base. I filled all of my plastic bases with plaster this summer which has helped a little, but I'd still be happier if that bases were cast in lead.)

There are open command hatches in most of the turrets, so you can have a figure in it or just glue the hatch shut. What I thought at first was a moulding flaw in the hatch coaming is actually a notch to take the hinge part of the hatch. On the heavies, the turret rooves have three holes cast in for adding bits of clutter, one big which will take a sensor dome or ball (supplied with every heavy tank) and two small which would take an MG or something similar. The bigger hole will also take another weapon mounting and I got small external mounts which would hold missile boxes or heavy MGs. I used them to add missile boxes to the support tanks. You also get a lot of sprues of ammo boxes and jerricans and mysterious boxes which could be stuck to the tank to make them more individual and lived in looking, but there's no obvious place on the tank turret or bodywork to which they could plausibly adhere. In real life, that kind of thing is either stowed in baskets or lashed down with rope or custom metal brackets. The boxes are not cast with tie downs on them and I'm not a good enough modeller to fake them into life. Anyway, the bodywork is plenty busy enough as it is - lots of raised panel detail on all the vehicles. I don't think I'm losing out much by not using the spare clutter. It's sorted into bags along with the other spare parts and will presumably come in handy in the same way as all the other things I've saved up in the last twenty years, which is to say, never.

Remains to be seen what the tanks will look like painted; the Mongols still need to be finished before I even get into that.

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