Tuesday, October 6, 2015

ECW, Redux

We're back from a great time at the Archon St. Louis SF/Fantasy convention. As usual I wasn't able to take part in any gaming - I'm on too many panels during the course of the day for that, but all in all a terrific experience, and I'm looking forward to next year.

In the meantime I find my interest in the English Civil War(s) has been rekindled. 
I blame my friend, fellow author M J Logue for this! Reading her excellent Red Horse (An Uncivil War, Book 1) has put me in the mood for researching and collecting in this period again. Check out Red Horse, by the way - it's in paperback and on Kindle - for a great read with plenty of period detail and atmosphere. 
Not Hollie Babbitt, that sweary man - but close!

My original collection was in 6mm. This time around I'll probably get a couple of small armies in 10mm to suit my taste and pocket. Pendraken Miniatures has a nice comprehensive range, as does Old Glory. I'll need to locate some info on uniforms and so on - I sold or gave away most of my reference books when I emigrated - but given the pool of information online these days it shouldn't be too much of a hassle. Rules-wise, I read good things about Very Civile Actions from The Perfect Captain. These are tailored for small forces, and have a campaign system, Tinker Fox, catering for sieges and raids. They're free to download, although the authors do request a contribution to charity by way of thanks. 

The First Muster.  

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Mortar, Sniper & Boyes

No, they're not a firm of warlike solicitors. These are a quartet of 10mm/N-scale figures made from scratch with Sculpey and a smidge of 'Scribbles' 3D paint.

The figure on the far left is a Pendraken Miniatures SCW standard bearer for comparison. The next two standing figures are crew for the 3" mortar wagon I made previously, and the two prone figures are (top) sniper and (bottom) Boyes AT rifle.

Obviously they don't bear comparison to professionally-sculpted figures, and I take my hat off to those who do this for a living. In spite of some initial concerns whether I'd pull it off I didn't find these that hard to make. A bit of work with the Sculpey, a length of brass rod for the rifle and steel pin for the Boyes, and they're fine for my solo VBCW games.

At the moment they're in the finishing stages of the painting process. A bit of dry-brushing then varnish is all that's left to do. I made the mortar team generic in appearance so they'll fit with any faction. The chap next to the standard bearer is wearing a Havelock cap. In the words of former BBC film critic Barry Norman, "And why not?" The sniper and Boyes fellows are in BUF colours for the next game of my campaign, which will be the Anglican League's pursuit of the BUF as they retreat to Bury St. Edmunds. I'll probably sculpt a few more in the colours of other factions. At the moment we're getting ready for the upcoming Archon weekend in Collinsville, Illinois. More news next week. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

War Wagon

Some time ago I made an N-scale armoured traction engine, similar to those used by the British army in the 2nd Boer War, for my Very British Civil War forces. The intention was (and is) to add wagons of various types for it to pull. So far I had a troop carrier wagon, but I wanted something with a bit of firepower. Hence the construction of a 3" mortar carrier.

"Leviathan" rumbles off, mortar wagon in tow, for a deadly date with the beastly BUF.

The sides of the wagon are made from sections of grooved plastic card. It's meant to represent planking but in this scale it works just fine for extemporised armour formed from lengths of railway track. The wheels are resin castings taken from the Hirst Arts small pipes mold. The 3" mortar itself is a length of plastic-covered wire and plastic card. I'm thinking of scratch-building a couple of crew for the mortar, but we'll see how my eyes hold up!

The traction engine flag can be swapped-out for those of other factions. At the moment it's flying the standard of the Anglican League based in Thetford, home of the famous Burrell traction engine works and source of this vehicle and its conversion.

Hopefully I'll field this little beast and the shiny new wagon in the next game of my VBCW campaign - The Pursuit of the BUF.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Back in June 'JP' over at the Herefordshire 1938 blog came up with some excellent rural roadside advertising hoardings. I liked the look of them, so I found some posters of the period online, reduced them in size, printed them off and made a couple of hoardings in N-scale to suit my VBCW collection.

These are made with a couple of mini-dowels for the uprights and matchstick planks for the bracing. The hoarding on the left is promoting the Socialist faction, that on the right (ditto) the BUF. Figures shown are Pendraken Miniatures.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Attack on Ampton - post-game

So, what happened at Ampton? Before the game the BUF decided (on a die roll) to attempt their defence of the village as far as possible from the barricade across New Road. This was probably not a good idea. Loss of the farm cottages on Smiths Farm Lane led to the loss of the jumping-off point located behind it. Losing a JOP is a serious business in Chain of Command. Add to that the wounding of a junior leader followed by two wounds inflicted on Platoon Leader Huggins and the BUF morale collapsed.

An entrenched defence around the barricade would have forced the Anglican League to either cross open ground or attempt an assault on the fortified farm house at Hall Farm. Given the BUF's previous history of losses, it would've been a smart move to conserve their already shaky morale and possibly winnow down the League's manpower. Still, the die roll commanded, and the events of the game decided otherwise.

The BUF sniper had an excellent post atop the church tower, but he never got into action. Their Molotov cocktail anti-armour weapons could've been nasty, but again the BUF didn't get to use them. On the other side, the Anglican League bought a dynamite team for use against the barricade and a megaphone for abrading BUF morale that Lt. Southgate was dying to try out. Neither got used. Ho hum.
Post-game, the adjustments are as follows:-

Anglican League: Six casualties, 3 will never return, 2 will miss the next encounter and 1 reports for duty right away. The Colonel’s opinion is now at +5 giving the platoon +1 level of support for the next mission. The platoon is pleased with Southgate’s improving battle skills, and their morale now stands at +2. Southgate's outlook is still Affable.

BUF: Twenty casualties, 10 will never return, 5 will miss the next game, 5 will return to duty right away. The Tribune is Displeased with the platoon’s performance and the current rating is -5 = -1 level of Support for the next mission. Platoon morale drops to -3. Platoon Leader Huggins' outlook is still Thoughtful.

The next action will be part of the Pursuit where the Anglican League chases the retreating BUF toward the main objective - the town of Bury St. Edmunds.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Attack on Ampton - AVBCW AAR

Once more the sounds of gunfire rattle across the Suffolk countryside as the men of the Anglican League and the BUF slug it out.

Previously, the BUF withdrew to a defensive line along the axis West Stow-Culford-Ingham-Ampton, with an outpost on the east side of the Livermere. The Anglican League High Command (ALCH) determined to attack the small village of Ampton, thought to be the weakest point in the line. Intelligence reports (the Rev. Shotley's wife's sister Doris) revealed Ampton is garrisoned by the battered remnants of III Platoon St. Edmundsbury Legion, AKA The Men Who Lost the Crown Jewels.

New Road passes through the village parallel to the A134 a mile away to the west across a stretch of high ground. A mile south of Ampton the New Road turns west at the hamlet of Timworth to join the highway. ALCH aims to pierce the enemy lines at Ampton then swing west to cut the BUF line of communication. Lt. Southgate's platoon has been selected to do the honours, and the Colonel is pleased to provide extra support for the operation.
* * * *
The BUF platoon will attempt defense in depth, their main brief being to prevent any passage by hostile forces down New Road. A barricade has been erected across New Road where the walls of Ampton Hall and Hall Farm face across the road. A section occupies the row of cottages on the lane to Smith’s Farm. The six regulars lost through rout in the airfield skirmish have now returned to the colours. The platoon has been brought up to strength and are equipped with Molotov cocktails which will be used on any vehicle attempting to cross the barricade.

A lookout-cum-sniper is stationed in the church of Ss. Peter and Paul tower. He is equipped with a whistle and football rattle to raise the alarm when enemy forces are spotted - hopefully without making his own position obvious.
* * * *

The game was fought to Chain of Command rules. Initial Force Morale was 8 for the League, 7 for the BUF. After scouting, both sides selected their support. For this scenario there is a cap of 10 on 2d6, with half going to the defending BUF. Due to the results of previous games the League gain one level of support, the BUF loses one. The dice roll came up 6, so that made 7 support for the AL, 2 for the BUF. The choices were:  

Anglican League: Austin AC, Dynamite team, megaphone
BUF: Molotov cocktails, sniper

The BUF were entitled to entrenchments but I counted the heavy barricade and cottages as these.
* * * *

The scene of action, looking south along New Road. Bramble Cottage stands to the bottom left of the image, Hall Farm is top-right, with the Alms Houses and Ss. Peter & Paul Church just visible at the top. The Anglican League enters from the north.
The League took up positions from their jump-off points. Lt. Southgate occupies Bramble Cottage, supported by the Austin AC. The BUF posted a section in the two farm cottages across the lane to Smiths Farm, and a brisk exchange of fire broke out between them and the left-hand AL section. In the center of the AL position lurks the dynamite team in their natty red caps, ready to go into action against the barricade once the way is clear.
The fighting escalates as the Austin moves up to pour twin Vickers MG fire into the cottages. With shock increasing on the BUF within, the rightmost AL section scramble over the wall and make for the trees.
The pressure becomes too much for the BUF. They bolt out the back of the cottages and run for safety across the Hall Farm yard.
Third Section AL moves toward the cottage only to be surprised and shot-up by another BUF section led by the Senior Leader Huggins deploying behind the hedge. (This was about the only real success the BUF scored in this game of poor die rolls. Even this came to an end with the use of a CoC die to interrupt the BUF move and get the League men into cover.)

Matters escalate over in the woods, where Lt. Southgate deploys a section to outflank the barricade. It runs into a BUF section trying to outflank the AL position. After an initial blast of fire rattles their nerves, the men of the AL return the compliment. (Although both sides had about equal cover, again the BUF's abysmal dice rolls hindered them and the section soon broke.)

Back at the cottages a desperate firefight ensues between Platoon Leader Huggins' section and the AL occupants of the cottages. Winnowing Lewis gun fire strike the BUF hard. In a desperate attempt to hold the line against the League, Huggins tries to withdraw his men to the farmhouse so they can make a better stand, but as they cross the farmyard they are shot down almost to a man. Huggins and the section leader are both wounded but escape. All effective opposition ceases, and the Anglican League takes Ampton.

The End
* * * *
My leg is giving me jip this afternoon, so I'll post the after-game report later.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Going Green

My leg is a lot better. An Aspirin a day and resting the old limb has done wonders. Although it's still a bit of a strain to stand around a wargame table for any length of time I have at least returned to model making. One long-term project has just come to fruition - the growing of thistle plants to make N-scale trees.

I sowed the seeds back in summer 2013. The plants grew quickly but didn't develop the characteristic stalks until this year. This summer they yielded around sixty heads and the flower clusters attracted a lot of pollinating insects - vital for any garden.

Once the flowers had died back I harvested the heads...

These are drying out, and once they are dry, will be turned into something like this...

The stalks can also be put to good use as a component of 'bug hotels.' Gardeners know good insects are vital for any garden to flourish. Giving the little chaps somewhere to hibernate over the winter months helps them and the gardener get a head start the following year. 

Take the stalks and allow them to dry out thoroughly. Find a few cans - frozen fruit juice and coffee tubs do nicely - and keep them ready.

Cut the dried stalks into lengths roughly equal to the length of the cans. It doesn't matter if they're shorter or longer. Ensure the stalks are hollow by using a rod to push out the fibrous interior. Fill the cans with the lengths of stalk. Once these are packed tight, locate the bug hotel in a place out of the weather such as under the eaves of a shed or other outbuilding, and fix it into place. Over time insects will crawl into the stalks and hibernate happily during the winter, ready to get to work next year.  


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Getting back into the swing of things

Thanks to all who gave their best wishes. My leg is getting better. The doctor confirmed a diagnosis of 'superficial phlebitis,' a condition where a small blood clot forms in a surface vein. Thankfully it's treatable by resting said limb and applying a heat pad at intervals, although there's nothing 'superficial' about the pain when the little bugger first strikes. I should be fine in a month, tops.

In the meantime I've finished the Alms House for the next VBCW game, and made a start on a pond for my terrain collection. I would post a photo or two of the process but my camera has chosen to devour another set of batteries. First world problems...

Saturday, August 22, 2015


Not much happening gaming or modelling wise this week. An excruciating pain in my left leg meant a trip to hospital and orders to rest up for a few days. There were no blood clots moving around and doing bad things, thank goodness, and the leg is feeling better every day. I have a follow-up check with my GP on Monday. Hopefully she'll give me the all-clear.

In the meantime, I did manage to make a start on an N scale model alms house for my VBCW gaming. It'll feature in an up-coming game as part of the campaign between the Thetford Anglican League and the BUF of Bury St. Edmunds.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Volcanic crater - tutorial

Thanks for all the kind comments on the making of my shell craters. I've now adapted the design to produce two volcanic caldera suitable for Pulp/SF/VSF gaming.

Follow the first steps given in the previous post to produce the basic crater. This time place the craters on a level surface, mix a small batch of watery plaster and pour it into the depression. It should form a smooth surface as shown below.

Next, add blobs of hot glue to the surface, giving the glue-gun trigger a half-pull to get smaller droplets. You'll find the glue doesn't stick to the plaster and comes away. This is perfectly fine. Remove any strands of glue from the droplets and replace them on the surface in a random pattern.

Next, mix yellow acrylic ink and watered-down PVA adhesive and pour slowly and carefully into the crater. The pour shouldn't disturb the glue blobs if you're careful. Don't worry if the ink mix runs over the side. Any spills will be covered later. You'll need to repeat this step once.

Glue discs of card to the bottom of the caldera, leaving a rim of about a quarter-inch wide. Wait until the glue has dried then mix yellow and red ink with Pledge floor polish to make a suitably fiery orange shade and pour onto the yellow glue surface. Add a few drops of water and work it around with a brush to get an even spread. You'll find the polish and water will dry to leave a crackle effect, revealing more of the yellow beneath the orange and the glue blob "bubbles" giving the effect of hotter lava welling up from below the cooling orange crust.

Once this is dry, add ground effect around the caldera by smearing 'Liquid Nails' construction adhesive onto the card surface and pressing dry coffee grounds into it. This'll create rough terrain that looks like it's cinder-covered. At this stage I also made the sides of the crater more uneven by applying smears of spackle.

Two intrepid explorers get uncomfortably close to the lava wells.
Once all that is dry, paint using ordinary craft paints to get the desired color scheme. I chose a dark gray, and added streaks of dull yellow and brown to represent sulfur out-gassing.


home page uniques
Fishing Rods