Monday, 31 December 2012

A River Runs Through It (Hence the Bridge) No.2

As with many developments, it is all well and good to complete the basic engineering design work, but the visual impact of any new structure imposed on the environment has to be taken into account and completed to a minimum standard at the very least (otherwise local planning authorities and NIMBYs get upset).  Here, therefore, is the finished bridge I started here, with some Magister Militum (formerly Chariot) 15mm Paphlagonian light horse for scale.
The first thing I did was to create the low culvert under the bridge using a small flat rounded file, and then texture the whole structure with fine sand glued on with PVA.  I also added some coarser sand to the river edges after priming them with a sandy colour to match my other river sections.
Once dry I gave the bridge a light going over with a stiff paintbrush to remove loose grains and undercoated it with a brown emulsion called Raw Earth (from a Fired Earth tester pot).
The bridge was then finished with a heavy dry brushing of off-white emulsion on the walls and parapets and a sandy colour I use for all my desert terrain on the road.  Once dry everthing was lightly drybrushed with white acrylic, and Javis-type static grass was added to the river banks.
My river sections and a bridge are now complete and two new projects have arisen as a consequence.  One is to make some road sections to lead to the bridge and the other is that I really should get around to rebasing my 500pt Lydian army, but it makes me tired just thinking about that...

...oh, and to any regular readers (I think there might be a few) a richt guid New Year tae ye, and hopefully we will all get more time to work on even more interesting and rewarding projects in 2013.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

A River Runs Through It (Hence the Bridge) No.1

After making some river sections (here and here) and marsh using some spare bits of lino, I thought a bridge was needed as well.  As my 15mm DBM/DBA focus is (currently) on Asia Minor (Lydians, mainly) I thought some sort of Turkish or eastern bridge would be appropriate.  Actually, I was thinking about the bridge at Mostar in Bosnia (since rebuilt after being destroyed by the Croats during the breakup of Yugoslavia).
However, let's be honest, it would be a bit ambitious to make a replica of this, particularly as it would be far too high and dominate a 15mm DBA board.  So, I went with something a lot simpler (and lower) and built a low bridge (about 28mm to the highest point of the parapet and carrying a 40mm wide road across it.

The first phase was to construct the base and this was made from a short section of lino 40mm wide stuck (with PVA) on top of an old business card.  It's placed next to a section of river I'd already made, for context.
I then added some sections of balsa I had lying about to give it some strength and structure and so that I would have something to attach the sides and roadway to.  I sanded the top section a bit so that it sloped down on both sides.
The sides, made from the sheet polystyrene you get with supermarket pizzas (cut to shape, obviously), were attached with PVA.  You can see I went for the triangular profile vaguely reminiscent of the Mostar bridge.
I then added the road sections which again are made from sheet polystyrene (i.e. poor man's foamboard).
As you can see the road rises less steeply than the parapet, which is always important if you don't want your troops struggling to get over it.  Right, must get around to decorating it (see next post) assuming I can survive Christmas.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Turkish Recycling

As I mentioned in an earlier post I have just been in Ankara, which I was visiting on business (it’s not really a tourist trap).  Ankara is a sprawling city with evidently lax planning controls and was a provincial backwater until Mustapha Kemal Atatürk came to power in the 1920s in the process winning the war of independence (1919-1923).  This was a varied conflict pitting the nascent Turkish Republic against the occupying Greeks, French, Italians, British and Armenians who had carved up the Ottoman Empire and Turkey itself after the end of the Great War.  It’s not a conflict I’ve ever seen wargamed (possibly because of such incidents as the Smyrna/Izmir Catastrophe/Massacre). 
Smoggy view of Ankara from the Citadel - nothing to stop you falling off!
Anyway, Ankara has been settled since Hittite times (actually before that, by the Hatti - which always reminds me of Carry on Matron, etc.) and the Hittite capital of Hattusha is not that far away.   The subsequent occupants and rulers read a bit like a name check through the DBA army lists comprising Phrygians, Lydians, Persians, Alexander the Great, Antigonus, Galatians, Romans, Goths, Arabs, Byzantines, Seljuks and Ottomans.  The city has grown massively since the 1920s and what remains of the old town is clustered around the remains of a fortress, known as the Citadel, at the top of the highest hill in the city.
Ankara Old Town - being restored or demolished, it's not entirely clear.
The origins of the current Ankara citadel are ancient but what remains is the work of the Seljuks and the Ottomans.  It is quite run down now and the HSE would have a fit if it saw the massive drops all around and nothing to stop you falling off.  Still, I survived.

Part of the Citadel with the Minaret of the Alaaddin Mosque (built in 1178)
What I did find of interest was how stones evidently sourced from previous buildings had been incorporated into the defences and how this affected the appearance of the structures.  What was clear was that generally the lower parts of the walls were of larger and older stones whereas the upper sections were made of brick.
What was particularly interesting to me was to try and make out where the stones had come from and it was obvious that the Turks had re-used stones from a variety of sources including previous Roman and Byzantine buildings.
What did the Romans ever do for us (and the Turks?)
You can see in this picture a row of matching stones from what looks like a Roman building and they have been arranged to make a more or less straight line.  Many of the stones obviously came from important buildings and you can still see the inscriptions on them, although it appears that whoever built the wall couldn't understand any more Latin than I can, as many of the stones are the wrong way up.
Upside down Roman inscription with later Christrian symbol (carved the right way up).
Some of the stones actually have quite detailed inscriptions on them, such as these in Greek and therefore presumably from the Byzantine period.
Greek inscriptions in Citadel wall.
Overall, I thought that it was interesting to see how previous materials had been re-used and therefore how these affected the appearance of the walls.  Clearly this would have been common practice in this part of the world and if ever I get around to modelling Ottoman defences then I know that a uniform appearance is probably the last thing to aim for.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Magna Graecia Redux

I posted a few months ago that I had found again on the web the Magna Graecia Campaign Rules for running an ancient campaign in Sicily (by Rob Smith, 1997).
They are a very useful set of rules for this sort of thing whereby armies progress from node to node for which there are indiviual maps that allow a bit of tactical positioning before battle commences.

However, it has been pointed out to me that at least one of the maps (Node 01, Lilybaeum) is not working, and as I happened to have all of the maps already downloaded I thought I would put the missing one up here for anyone that might be looking for it.
I haven't checked all of the links to the other maps but I think that the rest of them are still functional (Edit - this site is now down, or soon will be, so the rules and all the maps are now here).

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Ruthven Barracks

Apologies for the extremely long gap since my last post.  Things have been very busy at work (coupled with a slight drop in wargaming mojo - I must have been overdoing it) with a few trips out of the country: Bucharest, Istanbul, Corfu (that one was a holiday) and Hull, to name but a few.  FYI, I'm currently in Ankara stuck in a hotel so thought I'd do some catching up.

Mind you, over the summer I did get to travel about my own native land (i.e. Scotland) and, on the theme of eighteenth century wafare (not much progressed since my reviews of Szabo and others, see earlier post), I thought that Ruthven Barracks would be worth a look.
The site is a prominent fluvial mound in Badenoch and Strathspey, close to Kingussie (on the way to Aviemore) surrounded by boggy ground in the flood plain of the River Spey.  The mound is very steep all round and there was formerly a medieval castle on the site owned by various characters from Scottish history such as the Comyns and the Stewarts (e.g. the "Wolf of Badenoch").  It changed hands a few times though before eventually being beseiged and destroyed by Claverhouse in 1689.
Following the 1715 Jacobite rebellion the barracks were built in 1719-1721 (see this paper (pdf) for background and archaeology) to a design used at a number of other sites in the Highlands.  Stables were subsequently added.  The barracks were intended for use as a base for a small garrison tasked with patrolling this important route north (subsequently one of General Wade's military roads and now the A9, and still important).
However, it only saw action twice and that was when Jacobite forces half-heartedly attacked it in 1745 and then captured it in 1746.
Nevertheless, it's worth a visit mainly because it gives a good idea of stone built defensive architecture in 'frontier' locations from that period, and it's therefore useful for getting ideas for making buildings and other wargames table furniture.
And of course it's beautiful up there (sometimes).  For example, have a look at this shot I took the next day (on my iPhone) at Loch Garten near the RSPB Boat of Garten Osprey centre (I've not seen it like that very often!).
Look out for more travel-related and barely tangential to wargaming type posts coming soon!

Monday, 20 August 2012

Seven Years War Project No.1

I've been considering this for a long while and I think things are getting closer to fruition, in other words the commencement of a new period.  As usual I do a lot of planning and reading (for years sometimes) before ordering figures and getting started - mainly because I'm not that motivated when it comes to painting.  However, the SYW has been floating around in my mind, particularly since I read (and am currently re-reading) Franz Szabo's The Seven Years War in Europe (published by Longman, 2007).
I'd really recommend this book, well, for a number of reasons, although mainly it's because it's fairly recently published and has drawn on a lot of original sources in German: Szabo being a Canadian of Austrian extraction.  This latter point is of note because he is no apologist for Frederick the 'Great' and in fact sticks the boot in with gusto (occasional comparisons with the approach to foreign policy shared by Prussia and the Third Reich do not seem out of place in fact).

Some critics (for example on the TMP 18th century forums) ascribe this to Szabo's Austrian roots and desire to promote Austrian successes, but the account I think is more accurate and more critical than previous historians and times have allowed, where the supposed greatness of Frederick and his military 'genius' have been exaggerated either for political reasons or simply because a full and objective review of the primary sources was not previously available to scholars.

The Szabo book just covers Europe (as though that's not enough to be getting on with) but I was interested in what was happening elsewhere, so I also got Daniel Baugh's book, The Global Seven Years War (also Longman, 2011).
I've not read it yet although it looks interesting (and we get two extra years thrown in!).  I'm hoping it will cover some of the more interesting actions in the colonies (and not just North America) and I think there'll be a lot on naval engagements too.

Finally, I should add that not content with reading about the Seven Years War, I thought I needed a bit of background reading and in fact today received this nice hard-back copy of Reed Brown's The War of the Austrian Succession (St Martin's Press, 1993), from a second hand bookshop in America (via Abe Books), and hence the prompt to post something about it all.
There are more recent books on the WAS (1740-1748) but Szabo recommends the Reed Brown book in a footnote early on in his tome and then mentions in passing that, oh yes, there's also something in the Longman's Modern Wars in Perspective series by Anderson (damned by faint praise).  So yes, plenty of inches to wade through.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Claymore 2012

We manged to get to the SESWC's show Claymore 2012 last week - when I say "managed" I actually mean "arranged 3 months ago that we would absolutely definitely be there" - but I digress, and good fun it was too.
Hamilton's (14th) Dragoons, Prestonpans 1745
I thought that overall the games that were on were better this year than last and certainly there seemed to be more trade stands. I didn't take any photos of the game in the foreground (below) but it was lively RCW action in Latvia by the Falkirk and District Wargames Club (very nice pictures here in fact).  I always find the RCW interesting particularly as my grandfather was sent there (Murmansk?) as a British 'military advisor' instructing the Whites on how to use Whippet tanks...
I particularly liked the Russian Front (Operation Kutusov, August 1943) public participation game in the main hall (see below).
Here, a member of the public advances through the cornfields to his or her doom.
You can't really see but the Russians were up against an 88mm, two PaK40s, two Pak38s and a Panther at the far end.
I don't think the Russian attackers ever got very far!  The terrain was entirely of the 'fake fur' variety and I did ask someone how many teddy bears had died to cover the table.
There was also an interesting refight of the Jacobite victory at Prestonpans in 1745 run by the very friendly Angus Wargames Club using Rank and File rules.
I was intrigued to see the railway running through the middle of it (the East Coast Main Line, I thought, sure not?) which actually turned out to be a wooden trackway (apparently the world's first!) used by horse-drawn wagons to take coal from the coastal town of Cockenzie inland to the town of Tranent (there's still a coal-fired power station at Cockenzie).
Apparently the Government forces kept running away when charged by the Jacobites as most of their troops were ranked as 'green', so on the second attempt the troop classes were decided by the die and they fared a bit better thereafter.  I should also add that I was very kindly given a spare copy of their own Quick Reference Sheet for the rules and an Army Sheet to get me up to speed.  Figures were by Front Rank, I think.  Also of note was the Battle of Otterburn using Claymore Castings below.

Very nice figures and the terrain wasn't bad either.

So overall, an enjoyable show and there were a lot more games on than I took pictures of.  The venue at Telford College is pretty good and it's rewarding to get some basic canteen food down you at least once a year!  Note that as usual I didn't buy anything (I'm no good at the impulse buying thing) but I did get a few ideas to consider and act on at some point or another.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Making a Splash

A key aspect of naval warfare involves very large ships lobbing very large shells at each other - and more often that not missing and hitting the water instead.
Here is the Scharnhorst taking a pasting with some shell splashes I made this week.  And this is what I started out with - two dozen random screws from the spares jar stuck to some 1p coins with PVA (my glue of choice).
I then coated them with some Ronseal wood filler - this happens to be walnut flavour.  It's pretty good stuff as it dries hard and can be quite finely textured. Note that I generally tried to make them as narrow as possible at the bottom, widening out as they went up.
After undercoating them in matt black, more to seal them than anything else, I painted the bases Lufthansa Blue (which is a bit glossy) and the water spouts in matt blue-grey.
The bases were then dry-brushed with matt Seegrün and then with matt white to pick out the wave tops.  The spouts were just painted white with the undercoat showing through in places.
They are probably a bit big for 1/3000 scale models but I couldn't make them any smaller really (I wasn't going to buy really small screws specially for this exercise, although I may do so now that I think they've worked out OK) and anyway, I think they look fine.
They are all different of course and I quite like the way the glossy blue with green and then white dry-brushed over it gives the base of the spout a glassy effect.

Friday, 20 July 2012

German East Asia Squadron

I keep thinking about some sort of solo campaign using the Berthier Campaign Manager (now on version 8.0) and it seems to me that a fairly simple naval campaign would be ideal.  In fact I've long thought about the adventures of the Emden and/or von Spee's German East Asia Squadron early in WW1.
SMS Emden
These are some shots of my 1/3000 scale East Asia Squadron that (so far) have only seen action once.
SMS Gneisenau
The models are by Navwar and they are based on card with textured woodflex on them.  I painted the ships before mounting them
SMS Scharnhorst
Waves generally run parallel to each other (perpendicular to wind direction) so that was the first level of texturing.  This was followed by creating the bow wave and the 'residual bow waves' down each side of the ship and finally the wake.
SMS Dresden
I then painted the bases in "silk-matt" (i.e. slightly glossy) Revell acrylic "Lufthansa-Blau", which is actually quite a deep blue colour. When I painted them I had not long come back from a long sojourn in the South Atlantic and a week at sea certainly gives you an idea of what colour the open ocean can be.
SMS Nurnberg
The bases were then given quite a heavy dry brush using matt Revell acrylic Seegrün.
SMS Leipzig
Finally, the bases were finished off with some dry brushing with basic white to pick out the wave tops, the bow wave and the wake.

Now to come up with a campaign.  As I said I was thinking to start with the Emden's course to and through the Indian Ocean, with the merchantmen she hunted and forces hunting her programmed in to Berthier.  On the other hand, it could be run from the Allied side with the movements of the Emden programmed and everyone else looking for her.  Battles will be fought with General Quarters 2, when the time comes.  Needs a bit of preparation I think and I'll post about that when it looks like I'll be up and running.