Saturday, 30 July 2011

Spanish Colonial Fortifications

I'm keen on making things for the wargames table and that usually means buildings (see previous posts), particularly structures that you might find in desert or arid environments.  Maybe it's because I'm from Scotland that I need a bit of simulated warmth now and then (I also lived in Granada for a while, which is probably the real reason).

Anyway, Spanish American buildings are one of the lines I'm interested in as I have a long term aim to wargame the Maximilian expedition in 15mm.  Furthermore, any such buildings may come in handy for Africa (AK47) and the ancient middle east (Lydia/ Persia).  Hence my latest purchase from Osprey:
And you know it's not just the Alamo in there, but lots of opportunities for interesting colonial interactions in the 18th century (or earlier) as well.  That said, I will of course still be relying on The Magnificent Seven for ideas on Spanish American architecture and ambience (not to mention Rosenda Monteros).

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

River Boat No.1

Developing my Darkest Africa theme (see previous posts) I considered that the intrepid explorers needed a bit of transport through the steamy jungle, and here it is:
This beauty is about 28mm scale and I made it using balsa for the hull and wheel house, cardboard for the sidewheels, lower cabin, bridge, upper deck and louvered doors, plus some matchsticks to hold the deck up.  The funnel is a short pencil from IKEA (it was free!) and therefore usefully hexagonal.
It actually started out like this but I modified it a bit, as you can see.
Some further modifications and additions are intended, not to mention painting, so I'll tell you about this when I've done them.  By the way, that Bell's miniature in the background traditionally holds paint thinner rather than whisky.  Desperate times call for desperate measures (pun intended).

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

An Incident in the Adriatic

I bought Paul Hague’s Sea Battles in Miniature in July 1981 (with my birthday money) from the famous but now sadly defunct Edinburgh bookshop James Thin’s (it's a Blackwell's now at least). It’s another one of those overlooked wargame classics, in my opinion, and has some cracking rules for various naval periods. One of the sets of rules is for Pre-Dreadnought / Ironclad games and as I still have the various turning circles and reference cards (made of salvaged cardboard), and even some old models we’d made to hand (ditto), we had a quick game to try out the rules.

The engagement we fought was a ‘what-if' (or ‘what the heck’) action between Austrian and Russian squadrons, somewhere in the Adriatic, perhaps off the Dalmatian coast, circa 1880, in a particularly green sea. We used a slightly simplified version of the ironclad rules that didn’t require the use of percentage dice to determine where on the ship hits landed (if at all).

Here is the situation early on. The Russians have already damaged an Austrian battleship, lurking beside an island.
Here is the Austrian Admiral getting the measure of things and about to put his superior numbers to good use.
And here are the Russians blithely steaming into trouble.

I’m not quite sure how but all hell broke loose almost immediately and, although the Russians initially scored some long range hits, the Austrians closed and rammed. Before I knew it I was two warships down and the third had fled.
I think he won.
Note that the rather ropey ships we were using were made many years ago, following the scratch building principles included in the Sea Battles in Miniatures book (substituting cardboard for balsa).

When we got them out of the tin we found that they were somewhat the worse for wear having been in storage for a long time. However, they were still serviceable and steamed, fought, rammed (and sank) just as well as they used to.

Yet another thing I’m planning is to scratch build some more warships so this is yet another possible project to add to my growing list of things to do. And I may use balsa this time as it probably floats better than cardboard.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Twig Trees

Isn't it amazing how twigs can look like miniature trees?  Here are some that have been languishing in the 'woods' box for quite a while now but which I've just freshened up with larger and more stable bases, rather than the flimsy painted cardboard they used to rely on.
For the new bases I used discs of pizza base polystyrene or thick card.  For some of the lighter trees I added a washer or coin to provide some stability.

I then textured the bases with Ronseal 'multi-purpose' wood filler.  I used the 'Walnut' flavour as it is a very dark brown so is useful as a base colour for forest soils.  I then painted the main colour using Humbrol acrylic 110 (I think it's called Natural Wood; how appropriate), leaving some darker shaded areas showing through, and dry-brushed with my trusty Laura Ashley tester pot 'Parchment', a sort of cream colour.  The bases were finished off with Javis 'Autumn Mix' static grass stuck on with PVA glue.

By the way, the arboriculturalists amongst you will have 'twigged' (did you see what I did there?) that the trees themselves are a mix of apple wood and heather (which we have quite a lot of in Scotland).  I'm thinking that heather stems will make pretty good African (read AK47) thorn trees which will be one of my projects this year or next.

Finally you may note that the tree on the right is a very old experiment in using strands of wire twisted together to form the trunk and then separated out progressively to create the branches.  As you can see the covering masking tape has come off and it's in rather rough shape but I kept it in for reasons of nostalgia and in homage to our old railway set now sadly dismantled. Ave!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Lydian Walls

Following on from my earlier post, I made some (more) walls using the same techniques as described in detail previously.  They are about 20mm high.
I needed some sections with gates in them so made the doors out of cardboard, scored them to look like they were made from planks and inserted them into holes I'd cut in the polystrene.
Here's a little compound with some light hoplites (Magister Militum) marching about in it.  And here's a close-up of the gate which as you can see looks a little the worse for wear (again painted with emulsion from a tester pot).
When I make terrain items such as walls I tend to construct as many as I can at any one sitting and in fact I've probably got about a metre and a half of similar wall sections in the box now.

One of these days I'll get them all out and set them up with all the various buildings I've made and inflict pictures of them on you in a subsequent post.  The only problem with doing that is that I'll never get them all to fit back into the box again...

Friday, 8 July 2011

A Lydian Temple

I have a DBM 500 point Lydian army (I/50) that I first started in 1994 (I think it was) and finally finished painting in 2010 (result!).  The army is made up entirely of Chariot 15mm figures sold now by Magister Militum (see below).  However, in parallel with painting the figures I have been slowly building up arid terrain and particularly buildings.

The general idea with these has been to make them a slightly large 15mm and have them suitably desert-like so that they could be used for any likely period including Ancient Near East, Africa (AK47) or Mexico (for my long term plan to wargame the Maximilian Adventure in Mexico). Anyway, here's an account of something I've made over the last few evenings.
I started off with my usual building materials, i.e. strips of polystyrene pizza packaging (with the pizza juice washed off) (a.k.a. 'poor man's foamboard') and thick cardboard, glued together with PVA and pinned until set.  It's worth roughening the polystrene surfaces before gluing.
I decided to add a portico to the building by using sections of compressed paper lollypop/candyfloss sticks for the marble pillars and then cutting some arches into the side panels.
I then made the roof from sections of pizza base and added a dome to the rear section, made from half a squash ball.  I'd used the other half on an Indian Mutiny building I'd done about 15 years ago (wargame rule No.1 - never throw anything away).  For larger scale buildings (20-28mm) I usually make the roofs removable but at this scale it's less fiddly to just glue the roofs on.  However, in this case I left the main roof removable and indeed, reversible, so that it can be turned over to make a flat roof if required.
Once dry I roughened the external surfaces, coated them liberally in PVA and stuck the building into a large tin of sand I have, the contents of which were salvaged from a child's sandpit that had been left in the front garden of this house when we bought it.  When that had dried I painted it in a milk chocolate brown colour, actually a Fired Earth domestic emulsion tester pot called 'Raw Earth'.  At about £2 from B&Q for a 125ml tin it's quite useful as base coat for all sorts of projects.
Finally I gave the whole building a dry-ish coating with another DIY emulsion (a Laura Ashley Home tester pot of 'Parchment' no less, very lah-de-dah), and then highlighted and dry-brushed it a bit with white acrylic.  The surrounding ground was painted with an orange-sandy coloured emulsion called 'gamboge' (I know, I'd never heard of it either) and then finished up with some Galeforce Nine static grass ('straw').
And there you go, finished.  I have to say that I have only 2 or 3 resin buildings in my collection as everything else has been built by myself (with varying degrees of success).  There is something immensely satisfying about scratch building things and using bits of packaging and waste cardboard to create something.  Not only is it 'green' but it takes you back to those days of self-sufficiency when you had to make everything yourself because you couldn't actually buy anything.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Dom Bütgenbach

I was over at Geoff's house for a WW2 skirmish game last weekend. The idea was to use some free rules called "WW2 Skirmish (Platoon Commander)" (I think) but I didn't get very far with them on the bus because I'm a bit pedantic when it comes to rules and expect to be able to understand most of them on first reading.

Anyway, the upshot of this was that in the end we just decided to use Rapid Fire, which we normally modify for tank battles by using the good old Airfix AT rules (not that they were required in this game)
The scenario was supposed to be Dom Bütgenbach, adapted from one of the many useful WW2 scenarios provided on the Fire and Fury/Battlefront website.  However, due to limited time (and space) Geoff decided that we would only fight out the central bridge-crossing section of the action (see map above made with MappingBoard) using about three platoons of infantry each, although the Germans would also get a lone PzIV.  The table looked like this.  As you can see, it's Geoff's kitchen table with scenery on it.  Simple but effective.
Basically the scenario was that on 20 December 1944 Kampfgruppe Kühlmann of the 12th SS Panzer Division would try to push elements of the US 1st Division out of the aforementioned village.  However, with the scenario now only having one way to get into the village I could see that the SS (my forces) would be lucky to succeed.

As expected, things did not start well as within the first move I was taking casualties from a mortar somewhere in the village. However, I usually don't hang about when I'm attacking and like to push forward manfully.  So, here is my PzIV pushing forward manfully.
It's by Raventhorpe I think.  Anyway, I kept up my advance returning fire when I could and quickly got one of my platoons onto the bridge, whilst managing to silence the not very well concealed (but nicely scratch built) 6pdr with some accurate mortar fire of my own.
Supported by the PzIV which was firing HE at everything and missing, my aim was to rush the trench on the right.  However, before I could do that a suicidal flamethrower guy popped up and roasted a few of my men on the bridge.  Nice.
Here's the same move from the reverse angle.  You can see that the place is well defended.
Following that rather warm welcome things started to go a little better as I managed to grenade the trench on the right and get my troops into it in short order.
Sadly this minor success was short lived as they were cut down almost to a man by the HMG on the hill and also by some deadly accurate mortar fire.
Despite taking heavy loses I realised that the defenders were also suffering and only needed a few more casualties before they had to take a morale test.  So I pushed on, throwing my last troops across the bridge.
However, despite destroying the US HMG with mortar fire and whittling down the defenders the last moves were a disaster.  The defenders managed to immobilise the panzer with a bazooka round and again I lost more men.  At that point we both had to take morale tests and although the defenders' passed theirs, my troops had had too much and were forced to retreat.
Overall, it was nice little skirmish and I am not surprised that the SS attack was beaten off.  Frontal assaults across narrow bridges against well defended villages do not often carry, although I have had my successes in the past.  Next time I'll discover a ford that Geoff doesn't know about so that I can outflank him.

German figures are Revell and US troops are mainly Esci (the HMG is Revell).