Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A Rundown of Aftermarket Vehicle Improvements for 20mm Vehicles

Hi all,
 I know it's been a while since you heard from me, but I was busy with some other writing projects I was working on. Needless to say, those are being put to bed, after a fashion and I wanted to add another post to "500 Miles.." before May ended as I will be AFK for a good chunk of June.

 So what are aftermarket vehicle improvements? These are items that are sold separately and are often used to replace kit parts, or improve the look of said kit. These items include stowage, replacement barrels for main guns, and/or even major parts. A lot of these parts can be very, very useful for the "gypsy caravan" look of Twilight: 2000.

So, without further ado, let's get into it.

Black Dog Models

One of the many Black Dog offerings in 1/72, this set is for the Trumpeter LAV-25 kit
(Taken from the Black Dog website)

Black Dog is nothing but prolific, and of very high quality. I have personally only ever worked with their M1A1 Iraq War accessories set, but the overall quality is such that I was impressed, parts fit without much work, and the resin is odor free and of high quality. I had personally no issue with the items I have worked with, and recommend them highly to anyone and everyone working on a modern or WWII kit.

Among the more useful items one finds in the 1/72 range are: The M48 Vietnam set, the LAV-25 set, the AAVP1 sets, the M2 Bradley set, the US Modern Equipment sets, the M113 sets, (including the IDF sets (but be careful not to overuse it, some of the equipment is uniquely Israeli), the M60A1 set, the Food Supplies, Barrels, Ammo Boxes, Tentage and Bedrolls, T-54A Conversion Set, Warrior Accessories, and the M35 Gun Truck conversion set.

Keep in mind, many of these are made for specific kits, so be aware of what those kit(s) are before you purchase one of Black Dog's sets, but once you do, you'll find in my humble opinion, some of the best resin aftermarket stuff on the market.

Legend Productions

The Striker Accessories Set (taken from the Legend Productions website)
Legend is neither as prolific, nor as extensive a product line as Black Dog, but it does make some nice stuff. I have made their kits go together with a variety of vehicles I happen to have in my collection and it's stuff is often made in single pieces, which means an accessory set can often go for two or three vehicles, instead of just one. The only issue with Legend is that it does have a bit of a strong smell when you first unwrap it from the box, so it might be a good idea to let it cure for a bit on a handy surface before you put it to use.

That said, it's a line with good detail, solid items, and plenty of pieces of which to fire your imagination, the cooler I painted up as "For Beer" on one of my M1s was a Legend piece, and it took a so-so kit, and really made it pop.

RB Models

125mm L/48 D-81K barrel (taken from RB Models site)

RB Models is an outfit in Poland that makes rolled aluminum and brass barrels as replacement items for model kits. Most of what they make is for WWII in 20mm, but they also make a few modern items, such as the D-10T for the T-55, the M242 Bushmaster for the Bradley (these barrels are small, so adroit handling is a must) and the D-30 barrel for the 122mm D-30 Howitzer. It's not a large line, but it's a well made line. All of the barrels come packed in a plastic baggie and they are bit longer than they need to be, so you can drill out the gun mantlet, and properly place the barrel into the turret. I've used the barrels on a Bradley of mine, as well as several WWII vehicles, including a Panther and I recommend them without reservation.

S & S Models
One of the General Stowage packs available from S & S (taken from the S & S models site)
S & S Models has been reviewed for their vehicles before and as I said, they have some stuff that very few manufacturers in 20mm even make. Such is also the case with their stowage, as they make some very useful items, such as the unique stowage bins for Bundeswehr M113s and stowage boxes for Chieftains. The general items look as if you could get a lot out of them too, with enough for two or three vehicles per pack. Knowing what I know of S & Ss quality, I also recommend them without question, and though postage can take a bite, it's worth it for what you get.

I will do a companion article for 15mm as well as a separate article on decals soon, and I have an idea for this to be a "living post" that will be updated as new product lines and items come to my attention.


Monday, May 7, 2018

Trumpeter 1/72 scale LAV-25

Welcome to another "Its 500 Miles to the German Border" article. Today we will cover my assembly and painting of the Trumpeter 1/72 scale LAV-25.

From those who know the Twilight 2000 game the LAV-25 is almost iconic, some would say necessary vehicle to have in ones collection. Took me awhile to find this one for a decent price and not something extortionist online (I paid $28 CDN all in)., I'm still on a beer can budget after all.

Trumpeter models from what Ive seen are pretty much China's answer to Revell, and comes pretty close quality and ease of build wise. In future I will be more diligent to take step by step photos but here we go:

Opening up the box the sprue was laid out nicely and part were well labelled for the instructions given. Really easy to follow.

The parts fit really well together and there wasn't any issues with flashing (those pesky "mold lines" and other bumps etc) that effect many models.

Now before anyone starts getting out the glue and slapping parts together (if your experienced than you can ignore the next bit and make your own mistakes) I really, really, recommend fitting your parts together before you glue. This way you can see how they fit and narrow down any potential problems latter on. On this model the tread pattern on the tires IS directional. Make sure you lay out the tires and rims ahead of time and plan out the placement. BONUS on this model is the tires are rubber which I thought was a nice touch.

 I like to use side cutters for taking off parts, some like using a hobby knife/exacto etc. The side cutters have more control and are easier but whatever floats your boat or amphibious fighting vehicle.

The hull fit well and so did the back hatch. Again cant emphasize enough about doing a "dry fit " first and then jumping in with the glue once your happy with how everything lines up.

 Now the turret. I added some extra armour (not included in the kit) by using polystyrene sheet (.040 mm) and cut into squarish shapes to represent some extra armour platting the crew in Twilight 2000 could have scavenged and welded onto the turret to protect the crew.

The antennae I used garden wire put through the top of the turret before I glued the top and bottom half the turret together. I used loctite to keep the antennae in place instead of the usual "thin glue" used for putting the model together.

Here we have the base model pretty much together minus the wheels seeing how it all looks.

At this point one should think about any kind of accessories ( handmade tarps, parts, weapons, chains, ropes, parts from other kits) that you'll want to put onto it.

This kit didn't include a spare tire (no idea why) so I had to make one.

Using and old truck kit tire (was same size) I scraped out the wheel hub and placed an extra hub from the model kit inside it.

You'll also see in the picture some boxes and a barrel I had from other kits that I would add to the model.

Now this is a bad example of not following my advice. These extra parts should have been glued on PRIOR to doing the base coat! So it was loctite to the rescue yet again. The regular glue may or may not have worked after the base coat was on. For base coat I almost always use Citadel Chaos Black (in a spray can) but really and matte base coat should do. The reason for this is twofold (again sorry advanced practitioners). 1/ the rest of your paint needs something to stick to. 2/ it helps give those recesses (grooves, shadowed areas) shade etc. You could base coat in white if you wanted to make your model brighter, but this is for TWILIGHT 2000 not the show room.

 OK so taking a huge leap forward these pics are the pretty much done pics. My apologies to the class. In future there will be a more step by step process with pictures.

I did a few coats of NATO green (TAMIYA) on most of the vehicle leaving out the wheels and the muffler (aka exhaust) as seen on the right side. The muffler I started with a burnt umber, then brass followed by some orange (go dark) applied with a sponge. This makes it look good n rusty.
The rest was painted in the NATO standard cam pattern of brown/black/green.

The wheels at this point get painted with a flat black the hubs were painted using the same rust technique as the exhaust system. Also same technique on the air intake grill, and cargo bins.

I also added a home made cam net (made by using arm sling bandage dyed green and dried out). The cam net was then wetted down, rinsed out so just damp then rolled into shape and placed on model. Glued into place using loctite. Let cam net dry (mostly) then paint using inks to emphasize the shadows, and dab on some other camo colours.

 Once everything is in place and your happy with the base colours. Get a pencil and scratch lightly parts that stick out. Try out a bit at first don't overdo it. Parts where paint would chip from use like door hinges, edges of the body, anywhere the crew would step on a regular basis, tops of fuel cans etc.

Going back to inks, highlight around objects like panels or recesses to make features stick out or "pop". Think of it like doing an outline on a picture you coloured. You can also try very fine tip markers instead. I've used both myself with varying results.

Now for the "weathering" technique. This just helps make the model look like its actually been used and abused like in real life.

I also added the red diamond denoting the 5th Infantry Division from the Twilight 2000 story line ("Escape from Kalisz") and put Monk's name by the drivers hatch as a nod to one of the narrators stories through the core rules set.
Back to weathering: this really is just dulling down the colours so the vehicles don't look they just rolled out from the factory.

Myself I use a paint called Mushroom made Folk Art. But anyone could use a dirty grey or dull brown. Dry-brush whatever colour over the whole model to dull down anything that seems to bright. The idea being to dull the colours down not paint over top of them. The mud effect was the first time I tried a Citadel "texture" paint called "Agrellan Badlands". Its an odd paint (from what Im used to) in that its not runny but actually pretty thick and it has bits of grit in it. The same technique for you DIY's out there could probably be achieved by letting a beige/brown/leathery colour start to dry out on your pallet, add some fine sand, stir then dry brush on. The idea with the mud is to make it look like it was the wheels in motion that splattered it about.
The undercarriage was done using the Tamiya NATO green followed up with doing the rust effect technique followed up by generous amounts of weathering then mud effect.

Thanks again for tuning into "It's 500 Miles to the German border". Feel free to comment or ask questions and Jason or myself will do our best to answer or get back to you.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

New Team Member, upcoming reviews

Thank you gentle reader for tuning in for another post of "It's 500 Miles to the German Border".

Jason has asked that I join the team to present some articles/reviews on modelling and I look forward to the challenge and hope to share my insights, techniques, whats worked and what hasn't with various 1/72 scale models (20mm).

Fortunately I was in between jobs and housing at the time so it worked out. (At left the EvS workshop/mobile home)

The models I make are for my own Twilight 2000 group of family and friends and started out innocently enough now its become a festering disease of combing through bargain bins looking at other die-cast models that are close to same scale and hitting pretty well every hobby store within 100km (60 miles), not to mention recruiting others to do my evil bidding and having minions combing through garage sales looking for models, parts or anything that might "mad max" up models and die casts. Countless hours searching for deals , begging on the street corner for sprue...... well enough about that.

Nobody starts off awesome in doing models but anyone can get good enough in quick order. Ill even show a few of the ugly models with the good ones. I don't use airbrushes or use anything super expensive, trying to keep it "beer can budget". Having said that I do sometimes buy a fancy paint but nothing outside of the budget or reality for the majority of gamers out there.

Some example model builds/mods I will be covering are all for the purpose of using in  our Twilight 2000 game sessions.

1/72 scale LAV-25 (Trumpeter)

Variety of AFV's , including APCS,  IFVs, Tanks, etc.

Also covered will be models from Revell, ICM, ACE (the bane of my existence but willing to give another shot), Academy, ERTL, ESCI, etc

1/72 scale 2.5 "Deuce" Truck (Academy)
Lots of other cargo vehicles, jeeps, etc

Modified Die Cast Cars

 Matchbox, Hotwheels, Corgy or whatever I cant get my hands on.

Making Cam nets and other scratch build items
Its time to dust off those "arts and crafts" skills, using whatever the hell we can find in the junk drawer, the neighbors junk drawer (you just have to move quicker than them and their dogs!) or wherever you can find "odds and sods".

Thanks again for tuning in and I thank Jason for bringing me to his team. 

Sincerely, EvS! 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Book Review: The Iran-Iraq War, Volumes 1 and 2

Pictures taken from Hellion Publishing Website

The Iran - Iraq War, Volumes 1 and 2, The first volume covers the period of September 1980 to May 1982 and the second covers June 1982 - December 1986. (There is a Volume 3 and 4).
Author: Tom Cooper, E. R. Hooton and Farzin Nadimi
Publisher: Hellion and Company, 2016
Dimensions: 8.5 x 11"
Cover: Soft Cover
Pages: 80pp

I really wanted to like these books. I did. While they are chock full of wonderful insights on the Iran-Iraq War in particular, and a good idea of what two nations unprepared for war with limited resources looks like in general, the books had a lot of issues that really overall, detracted from my reading experience.

First, the good. As I said, the insights found in the books are quite interesting. The extent to which Saddam really didn't have a plan as to how he was going to accomplish his war aims (and even have any really well-defined war aims to accomplish) was startling. It seems the Iraqis stumbled into this being the wider conflict it ended up being.

The Iraqi army wasn't really ready for war either, as it's way of taking an objective was a slow advance while blasting the snot out of a random portion of desert with copious amounts of artillery because said ground was the day's objective. Guderian they weren't.

Meanwhile, the Iranian army was even worse off in 1980 than can be believed, whole units were understrength, and the mullahs really didn't care, as they saw it as a means to prevent a coup, once the war broke out, it is well known they were grabbing military experience anywhere they could find it, including the jails (who were filled with politically suspect officers still loyal to the Shah).

Another interesting thing. The human wave assaults by Iran that we saw in the West became more nuanced over time. How much nuance that really was is arguable, but it seems that the Revolutionary Guards (who were the primary practitioners of said tactics) got better at their execution of such tactics.

Another surprise on the Iranian part, the slow response of the Army. While the Air Force, and even the Navy, as well as the Rev, Guards responded to eventually put up a ferocious defense Khorrmansharr, the Army was mostly not involved in the initial fighting in any real strength. It also had an interesting look at the fact both air forces spent more time either bombing the enemy homeland, or engaging each other, than supporting the army, which fell to the helicopter forces on both sides.

The not so good about these books? Well, for starters, Volume 1 was, from an editing standpoint, a train wreck. Often, when a range of numbers was quoted, like "500-1,000" the dash was often omitted so the numbers often looked like this "5001,000". It's a minor error, to be sure, but it was consistent throughout the book. There was several glaring errors with the photo captions, especially with regards to tank types, which, considering Hellion's status as a publisher of military history, should be a little bit embarrassing. Volume 2 does clean up a number of these errors, but both volumes suffer from the authors going off on tangential topics that at times had me going on like "What the hell was the point of this?"

Also, I think the MSRP for the books are a bit high at $35.00. I got mine at $24.95 in the bargain bin at a wargaming convention. It's taken me a year to read them properly for a review.

It's not so much that the books are's that they could have really been so much better.

But, where does it come into play for a Twilight: 2000 miniatures gamer? For starters? If you're doing an RDF based game or two set in the the area around Bandar-y-Khomeini - Khormansharr, and Avhaz, the terrain write-ups in the books are damn useful. It gives you an idea of what the terrain is like there, as well as the terrain further west in the Iraqi regions around the Shatt Al Arab.  This is also useful for roleplayers as well.

Also, if you're doing RDF based miniatures games, the color plates are useful, as it gives you an idea of what Iranian and Iraqi equipment would look like. The climate, and the terrain isn't the Arabian desert with unrelenting sand. It's more lots of hills and sand, with some marshland to the west, and that's going to a) create a different look to the vehicles, and b) be a very different war.

So, to sum up, I gotta give both books 3 out of 5 mushroom clouds, there's value there, but I gotta admit, they're a bit overpriced for what you get IMO, and the editing could have and should have been better, especially in the first book.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

New Show in the DC Metro Area

I wanted to keep people apprised of a new one day wargaming show attached to the National Capital Model Soldier Society's annual show in the DC area. I happen to know the organizer and he's determined to make this first show a success. Therefore, I am doing my bit to get the word out.

The show will be September 8th, and the wargaming area has 3100+ square feet attached to it, so it should be preemo gaming space for just about everything. If you happen to be in the DC area, and want to play, or even run an event, come on by. I have posted the flyer for the event here, so as to put out the word of this event.

So please, show up, and make this first of what I hope to be many events, a success.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Writing Team is Growing!

Well everyone, we have a new Associate Writer here at "500 Miles..." Evil Von Scary is a long time fan of the blog, and his modeling efforts on the Twilight 2000 fp and workshop page on Facebook are both prolific, and a sight for the eyes.

Those are the reasons I asked (begged him, really), to join the staff of "500 Miles..". I asked him to talk about the kits he has worked on, the methods he has used, and to review the kits he has worked on.

I am still slogging through the Iran-Iraq books I mentioned previously, its a tough read, and it's engaged a minor pet peeve of mine. Proofreading matters. I know they cost money, but running a foreign language book through Google Translate and calling it done is not a way to proceed. Believe me, you'll please more customers in the long run if you are publishing anything for sale if you give it a few good edits.

Rant over, and I will try to keep them few and far between, but I really needed to get it off my chest.

Also, forgot to mention that Henry Hyde, author of the Wargaming Compendium (an exceptional book ANY wargamer should have on his shelf), as well as former managing editor for both Battlegames and Miniature Wargames magazine, mentioned us during a Q & A on his podcast on his Paetron page (its members only to hear the podcast, but we here at "500 Miles" encourage you to join up!) Thank you, Henry!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Games Tavern, Chronicle of a Visit...and it's POST # 75!!!

Hello all, welcome to another thrilling installment of "500 Miles.." I wanted to get into letting you all know that I recently visited a new game store in the Washington DC area, a store I've mentioned previously in this blog. We here at "500 Miles..." want to support our local FLGS, and we encourage our readers to do so as well! 

So, how is it? Games Tavern has some real promise folks. It's only been open two weeks, and I did like what I saw. The paint selection was well, impressive, to say the least...AK, MiG, Vallejo. The first two you really cannot get anywhere else in the area, and the third, well, how many stores do you know that carry the ENTIRE Vallejo Panzer Aces line?

What I also liked is that they have room for expansion. During discussions with John, the shop owner, he told me they will be carrying a selection of 20mm from Covert Intervention Games, as well as Fantasy Flight Games and a variety of other lines to be named. In short, they have a plan, and they are executing it. 

A Nice View of the Gaming tables

The store in total is 2500 square feet, and has even private gaming rooms of what looked to be ample size to rent (I didn't get details on rates for that). I was rather impressed by the amount of natural light to be had in the place, in addition to the other lights. A well lit hobby shop is a good thing. I've been in too many where "Dark Dungeon" wasn't just a name, it was a description of the lighting conditions. Kudos to the Game Tavern for this alone. It was clean, the employees were engaged and customer oriented. There were Flames of War demos set up for people to try. And the entire FRONT of the store was tables for people to play at or paint at. Yes folks, this store has a good plan, a plan I cannot wait to see where it goes.

They have quite the internet presence on Facebook, and they are advertising events all the time, as well as a website which can be found at:

In short, pay Games Tavern a visit. I give them 4 out of 5 Mushroom clouds, and we'll be back in the near future to see where it goes from here.

I also want to let folks know, the Iran-Iraq war books are being read and digested, and an interview is coming. They're a bit harder of a read than anticipated, and to be honest, for reasons I wish they were not. I also will have that review of PSC's T-55s in 20mm. My capsule statement: They're good, but there are some niggling concerns I have with them, but we'll address that in the near future. I also promise more Twilight:2000 focused content soon, as I intend to do a review soon on the Cold War Battlegroup effort on the Cold War Hot Hot Hot Blog. Short word? I like it enough that I am working on a Twilight: 2000 variant for a variant, eh?

There is one other thing I wanted to mention! This is the 75th blog post here at "500 Miles..." That's right, 75 posts, 40,000+ visits, and 46 of you are following this little blog of mine. I hope you're enjoying what you are reading. I really am happy that you, the reader continue to enjoy what is posted here, and as long as you keep reading, I will keep writing.

Yay, we hit 75!!!

UPDATE: I have been remiss, dear readers, in that I forgot to mention a new Cold War-era wargaming focused blog. The Red Storm Rising blog is fairly new and looking for contributors, so far, I rather like what I see, and I would love for folks to post more.

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