Thursday, October 10, 2019

More Autumn trees

It looks like the cold germs are having wayyy too much fun rampaging through my system to consider leaving yet, so I'm taking the opportunity to catch up on some light modelling stuff.

My latest batch of Autumn trees need basing, so I made some from corrugated card and cereal box card, sandwiched together. The trees themselves I based on more card then spread spackle around the trunks to stiffen them up. While the spackle was wet I pressed dried tea leaves into it. This has the advantage of coming in the colour of... well, dried leaves, so it doesn't need painting and it looks natural spread under the trees like a leaf fall. I will go over it with a dry brush of yellow and orange to represent a fall of fresh leaves.

Once all's ready I'll glue the tree bases to the large base then fill in the gaps with more spackle and dried leaves, plus a few small stones to represent rocks and boulders.

More to follow.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Perils of Con Crud

I'm still around, but gaming/modelling has taken a back seat for a bit. House painting took priority while the weather stayed nice, then a long road trip to the excellent Archon SF/Fantasy convention took up last weekend. That's where a dose of the annoying Con Crud (a mixture of all the cold viruses brought by con-goers at no expense) comes in. It's turned into a full-blown cold.

I am gearing up for the next Dux B game - which will be late this month at this rate - along with an interesting early 20th century project with the invaluable help of fellow blogger James. More to come as soon as I rig up the belt-fed Kleenex box...

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Speed bumps in historical movies.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a wargamer in possession of a good knowledge of history will occasionally view an historical movie and yell "Oh, that's not right..!"

So it was with me last night when my wife and I watched the biopic Hemmingway and Gellhorn. It's a good movie and the two leads look uncannily like their principals. Then came the Spanish Civil War and the first 'speed bump.' Ernest Hemmingway was holding court at an hotel in Republican-held Madrid when Martha Gellhorn arrived outside - aboard a Russian IS 2 tank.

Later, during WW2 and a scene where Hemmingway was prowling the Caribbean Sea aboard his fishing boat, looking for U-boats. He wore a kind of jerkin made from a modern US camouflage pattern.

*Head desk.*

All that aside, it is a good movie and worth watching. Just be prepared for the anachronisms. 

Saturday, September 21, 2019

More Autumn trees

Autumn: The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is right. An inordinate amount of my free time has gone towards processing the hundreds of tomatoes our garden produced this year. Home made soup, ketchup, veggie stock - you name it, we're making it. Thankfully we're coming to the end of the harvest. The next phase will be making green tomato chutney from the fruit that won't ripen once the weather turns colder.*


I found a few minutes here and there to expand the number of Autumn trees using the homemade flock. The latest batch is shown below.

The photo's not that great, but it does the job. I'm thinking of making one or two small hills or rocky outcrops with a number of the smaller trees growing on them.

With that done I think I'll take a break from the sands and relentless heat of the Sudan and return to Early Medieval England's green and war-torn land for my Dux Britanniarum campaign.The previous game was played in December, so Saxon Lord Ebba and Romano-British Lord Gaius Uselessness - sorry, Menusius - are due for a revisit.

In campaign terms it's now July 472AD. Ebba has acquired enough loot to attempt the conquest of a province. He's confident after inflicting two serious defeats on his enemy, but for the Romano-British, the third time may be the charm...

* Recipes available upon request!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Autumn trees

My experiment with homemade foam flock worked - after a fashion. I found that with this stuff, a lot goes a little way. The coverage was good, but nowhere near as much as I'd hoped. Still, the result isn't too shabby.

Apart from a few touches of orange and yellow I left the foam in its natural colour. I mounted the trees on one of a batch of old hip-hop CDs I found, using hot glue. The CD I then glued to a slightly larger and irregularly shaped piece of card. A paper-mache mix of spackle/filler, tissue paper and chocolate brown craft paint went on next, spread over and around the tree roots and trunks. Whilst it was still wet I applied a few patches of dried used tea leaves to represent deep drifts of brown leaves. When everything had dried, I painted it a mid green, followed by a lighter green wet-brush then a even lighter yellow dry brush. Since I still have a lot of foam to hand, I'll add a few more to the stock over the next few weeks.

My next project will likely be a circle of standing stones to add a bit of ancient mystery to the Early Medieval English landscape. Another hip hop CD will go towards a better cause...

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Homemade foam flock

In this week's Huh. What Do You Know? It Worked! category, we have homemade foam scenic flock, as prepared in a food blender.

I admit I had doubts when I read about this method of producing cheap and cheerful foam flock. Visions of burned-out blenders danced before my eyes, but since it's my blender, I thought I'd give it a go. We've got wads of foam sheeting left over from our house move, so I took a chunk of that, tore it into pieces about the size of a chestnut, and tossed it into the blender along with a cup full of water. Speeding it up by stages helped. The water carries the foam into the blades, which sliced and diced it into a cornmeal consistency.

Once done I cleaned the blender carefully - I don't want any bits of foam in our food. I'm making 10mm/15mm size trees in Autumn foliage, so I added a few dollops of orange and yellow craft paint to the foam then squeezed it so it absorbed the paint. I could've added the paint at the start, but thought it a step too far where appliances intended for food prep are concerned. Once done, I spread the foam out to dry, which only took three or four hours.

The core of the trees themselves will be teasels. I have a box full of these harvested a couple of years ago. Thistles are considered an invasive species around here, so I'm doing the environment a favour by taking the seed heads out of circulation. I'll use spray adhesive on the teasels, then roll them in the foam. The spikes will hold the foam in place while the glue dries. I'm of two minds whether to paint the trees, or leave them the natural yellow foam colour. I'll post photos of the results, unless they're too unspeakably awful so I'll need to discard the lot and pretend I didn't make them in the first place...

Saturday, August 31, 2019

On Desperate Ground ~ The Chosin Reservoir

Normally I don't pay much attention to post-WW2 military conflicts. Occasionally though, something will come along that piques my interest, and the above book is one of them. Sides' work covers the famous battles around the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea from November 1950 to January 1951. It was where my late father-in-law fought as a young Marine - one of the Chosin Few. He was wounded twice, the second time badly enough to require evacuation, and was awarded two Purple Hearts. Although I never knew him - he died before I met my wife - she says the consequences of that action remained with him for the rest of his days, and he became a lifelong pacifist. When I saw the book in our local library, I picked it up immediately.

The book goes into amazing detail about the campaign, with input from American, North Korean and Chinese sources. The stories of the horrors endured by both sides makes sobering reading. Foxholes had to be dug into the rock and frozen ground using explosives. Temperatures once reached a wind chill factor of -70f. Bodies were used as windbreaks and, on one occasion, ballast for a temporary bridge. The general ineptness of the US high command in the shape of theatre commander General MacArthur and his subordinate General Ned Almond - "Ned the Dread" - has to be read to be believed. The only high ranking officer to come out with an enhanced reputation is the First Marine Division commander, Oliver Prince Smith.

There's a few lighter touches here and there. For instance, the Marines slang term for 60mm mortar rounds was 'Tootsie Rolls.' When a requisition for more mortar munitions was sent to the main base at the port of Hungnam, someone unknowing soul took the request literally and sent thousands of cases of this American confection to the Marines. After first swearing about the mix-up they found the Tootsie Rolls to be incredibly useful, both as a high energy snack in the freezing cold - and as a kind of putty for sealing bullet wounds and bullet-riddled fuel tanks. My wife says her father loved Tootsie Rolls, and was fascinated by the possible reason for his addiction.

All in all, On Desperate Ground is an excellent read. It was published earlier last year when a state of war still officially existed between the combatants. Thankfully that much of the book is now outdated.

Thursday, August 29, 2019


It appears we have an active and industrious spammer at work in the Blogosphere. I took down two of her 'comments' in my previous posts. If anyone sees another, give me a shout on here.

The Sudan campaign will continue when I find time. At the moment my Better Half and I are helping a friend run for the local council, which requires all sorts of work at odd hours. In the meantime I'm working on making a few more autumn trees to add to my existing bunch. Photos as/when I can get to it.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Sudan campaign ~ situation so far

A glance at the theatre map shows the current situation and disposition of forces.

Cataracts and Wolseley and Wild, Wild Warriors.

General Wolseley has had an easy time of it so far. He advanced up the Nile to the town of Kerma without facing much opposition. It seems the population of those areas closest to the Egyptian frontier have yet to decide if they're for the Mahdi or not.

The Nile is daily becoming more of a problem due to falling water levels. In spite of this the three steamboats sent to Abu Hamad have successfully descended the river to rejoin the flotilla with the main army. One boat received minor damage from captured Egyptian guns sited in Mahdist ring forts covering the 4th Cataract below Kirbekan, and is undergoing repair at Kerma.

The steamboats carried copies of Brigadier Stewart's report from the Flying Column as to its progress and the recent battle. Stewart's report did not impress Wolseley, but there's little he can do about the situation.

Sending another flying column to Abu Hamad is out of the question since it will denude his own force of cavalry and mobile infantry. Wolseley intends to continue his march, but is giving careful thought to sending steamboats to Abu Hamad with supplies, ammunition and reinforcements for Stewart. He has one other gunboat, Sultan, which he would prefer to keep with his army. Equally, the steamboats face a tough time of ascending the Nile without an armed escort vessel since the River Arabs are now considered actively hostile. Decisions, decisions...

As for the situation at Abu Hamad the recent battle was, as one correspondent put it, 'brutal.' The Mahdists lost over 2,300 warriors, the Flying Column 910. Such losses put both commanders, Brigadier Stewart and Emir ibn Yusuf, in a quandary. Stewart more or less has to stay put in the town of Abu Hamad and await reinforcements. He has supplies for a couple of weeks, but ammunition is a concern since so much of it was lost along with the Camel Corps' mounts. At least he can act as a threat-in-being, since the mere presence of his brigade threatens Mahdist control of the area should Emir ibn Yusuf withdraw.

Should I stay or should I go?

Emir ibn Yusuf's army suffered enough casualties he can't make a move against a determined defence, neither can he withdraw without the British force seizing control of the area. As the uprising spreads reinforcements are coming in, although recent Imperial victories in the Red Sea Littoral province have mitigated the enthusiasm shown by the local River Arabs and Sudanese for the Mahdi's cause. This has reached the point where new recruits aren't as numerous as ibn Yusuf would like. For now he has dispersed much of his force in the locality so his warriors can forage, but all are within easy recall distance should the Infidel make a move. 

The Emir has decided to take the option of moving SSE to join with the remnants of Usman Digna's army, currently withdrawing from its home territory after the rough handling meted out by Major General Graham's column. Combined, this will give the Mahdists a potent army with which to face Graham's column in battle as it approaches the town of Berber on the Nile. If/when victory is achieved recruitment will pick up, and ibn Yusuf can then return to deal with Stewart's force before British reinforcements arrive. The Emir has enough intelligence of the Infidel Chief's activities he knows this will be a long time yet.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Enemy on the Euphrates - The Battle for Iraq 1914-1921

From one desert to another. My main reading these past few days has consisted of this fascinating book by Ian Rutledge. It covers the British Empire's involvement in that area of the Middle East from its days as the Mesopotamian province of the Ottoman Empire to the fledgling country of Iraq.

Rutledge's work covers everything in detail, from the political machinations of the Great War and after, to the military operations taken to defeat the Iraqi uprising. The latter saw the first widespread use of aircraft to transport troops to danger zones, which acted as a vital 'force multiplier' for the vastly outnumbered and embattled Imperial forces. From a wargaming point of view it has a breakdown of the Imperial and Iraqi/Arabic forces, and accounts of various actions which make for interesting tabletop and campaign scenarios.

(Politically and morally it's a sorry tale of the hunt for oil, Imperial arrogance, lack of understanding of Arabic sensibilities, and the general ineptitude of those in power and their subordinates-particularly on the part of A. T. Wilson, Civil Administrator of Iraq. A hundred years later, not much has changed...)

Enemy on the Euphrates - The Battle for Iraq 1914-1921

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