Sorry, I confess a silent love for the Left Banke and their big 1966 hit. Critics call their music “baroque pop,” and so it is.
While the song is about lost love and a broken heart, this post is more about wrapping up a project and moving on to something else. Anything else.
The Hue project is also a Vietnam project, though I confess my attraction to Hue. I’ve written about that before. It’s unlike the “real” Vietnam. What is the “real” Vietnam? Tim O’Brien wrote about it in “The Things They Carried” when his platoon found the courage to march every day despite the persistent danger of setting off mines, having legs blown off and enduring the eternal anger of the villagers they encountered not far from or long after My Lai.
No, Hue is different. Our game, co-authored with David Sullivan, will be an old fashioned street fight. The figures are done. A playtest was run. The buildings are done. We just have a couple more things to pin down, then the game gets run Friday night at Enfilade.
As projects go, it was relatively small. I think I projected painting 115-125 figures. I painted more than that, but not a lot more. I have 75 Marines, all by Gringo 40’s. I also have three American vehicles: a M-48A3 Patton tank by Company B Miniatures, a M274 “Mule” weapons carrier with 106mm recoilless rifle by Gringo 40’s, and a M-50 Ontos by Empress Miniatures. I’ll say a word or three about the vehicles later.
I have 30 NVA figures. All are Gringo 40’s except for the DsHK heavy machine gun and crew by Empress Miniatures. Add to those 31 Viet Cong by Gringo 40’s plus 16 civilian figures by Empress Miniatures.
That puts my figure count at 152, so a few more than I planned. Of course there is the matter of the 15 unpainted ARVN figures. I can imagine adding more figures if G 40 adds more to their ranges, but it won’t be a big add.
I know I’ve written about the Gringo figures before. I think they’ve done a super job. These are large figures with lots of detail, but not too much. The Marines have a lot of different poses and are well-suited for Hue. I still think there are things that need adding. A corpsman figure, a heavy machine gun for the Marines and NVA, maybe a gun truck if they decide to expand their vehicles.
I’ve painted a small handful of the Empress figures. No Marines. They also detailed, enough to be considered elegant, but quite a bit smaller than the Gringo figures. They are the civilians who can also morph into combatants as well as the NVA heavy machine gun and crew. The gun and crew fit in well, mostly because they are all crouched or seated. The civilians work fine because they are civilians. There are some intriguing Empress offerings, but I think I’ll mostly swear off due to the distinct size difference.
My Hue buildings are done at last. They are a different add for me. I don’t have tons of terrain bits for ANY of my projects. Trees fine, rivers yes, some roads and a few buildings, but the nine Hue houses and the large citadel building are a lot. 3D printed, with a lot of sanding required to reduce the printing striations, they turned out well. I’m also adding pins to hold the two levels of the houses together during game times. They are nice and add a certain something to the game. I’ve also scratchbuilt some of the walls that are needed to play the game. That was actually a very good experience for me. Just getting the chance to do some simple work with foamcore was a confidence builder.
A few words (!!) about vehicles. I am not a vehicle guy. It’s not that I don’t like them, I just don’t have a lot of experience working with them. My projects don’t call for them. So my decision to buy and build a few was a lot like being thrown into an ice cold bath. Some were easy to work with and some were harder. I’ll do a quick review of my experience with the kits in the order I built them.
Let’s start with the Gringo 40’s Mule with 106mm recoilless gun. All pieces are metal and it comes with three crew members. The crew members are all excellent and meet G40’s’ high standards. I especially like the loader figure. Lots of bits on the Mule. I know we’re shooting for authenticity and detail here, but the kit is underserved by a paucity of directions. I found myself looking at the teeny, tiny picture and the bunch of teeny tiny pieces and going “huh?” Two items in particular received my ire. The first is the steering wheel/gear shift which in a perfect world should sort of fit in the driver’s hand. Look I’m not that picky, but with a complete lack of clarity where that assembly actually goes, the spiffy set up with the driver just doesn’t matter. The other thing that made me cranky were the railing pieces. These are nicely made and fit the miniature well, but by the time they arrived in my hands these long thin pieces were like so much over-cooked spaghetti, and straightening them to some usable appearance was a bit of a trial. In the end, the miniature looks great, though I wish I hadn’t put the loader on a separate stand. That’s on me.
The Company B M48A3 seemed like such a behemoth when I opened it. I worked a bit with my friend Michael who has a ton more experience with vehicles and is also a Company B shareholder. I popped open the kit and was amazed at all the cool stuff. It was a bit light on directions, but there wasn’t a mystery about where everything was supposed to go. Two things that really impressed me were the fit of all the main bits, especially the metal tracks with the resin hull, and the many variations that could be done. The M-48 was in service for a long time in a lot of places so it seemed if you the builder was interested in Western Europe or Vietnam or someplace else there were lots of optional bits. I chose to take the machine gun out of the rotating cupola and mount it on a pintle and failing to use my head promptly glued it down in the absolutely wrong place. I did “unglue” it and move it to a location more suitable. It was a fun build, even for a neophyte, and I love the way it turned out.
I ordered the M-50 Ontos by Empress because it looks weirdly cool and had such important impact on the fighting in Hue. The Empress kit has several things going for it. There are no unnecessary bits to confuse me, and the Empress website has four very useful photos of the completed model, so there are some pretty good views of where everything goes. However, there are some unfortunate issues too. The hull is resin, and so are the tracks w/fenders. The great thing about the M-48 and its metal tracks is the crispness of the casting. There is no question about fit. The resin Ontos tracks are not crisp, required lots of sanding and still did not fit properly. It required lots of green stuff to fill gaps–and in close examination still did not fit right. My other big issue is with the turret. An Ontos only has sort of a turret. It’s really just a moving cradle to house the six recoilless rifles. The turret/cradle is small and resin. The cannon are all metal, each much heavier than the cradle. Gluing those guns and keeping them straight and parallel on the very light mounting became part of the “no-fun-zone.” While not wildly askew, they aren’t straight despite my best efforts with CA glue, CA glue accelerant, two part epoxy, all the tools at my disposal. I like the relative simplicity of the kit. It has nice detail. But it’s a little too buggy for someone who is a sort of novice with kits like this. Not sure I’d try this again. Maybe someone who is a better model builder than me.
In any case the kits are done, the figures are done and I’m looking forward to doing something else for a while. Not sure exactly what I’ll move on to, but I may not focus for a while. I’m interested in working on my piles of Spanish-American War figures, some AWI for Regimental Fire and Fury, and 1/1250 ships for the Russo-Japanese War