Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wedding Bells and a Cold

Today is quite a day. My oldest stepdaughter got married in England this morning, to a wargamer no less. I feel a little bit smug about the match since I was the one who introduced them. Here's wishing the happy couple all the best!
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Action was joined in G'wundaland yesterday where the Barsetshire Regiment encountered the fierce native warriors during a march northward. I'll post a report in a few days, since I have caught a stinking cold and really feel rotten right now.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

In the Barracks, Fatah

"Horrible Harrington!"

The upper-class English voice rang across the town market square. CSM Harrington paused in the act of haggling for a rather nice blanket for his quarters and looked up, slowly scanning the crowded scene for a familiar face to go with the voice. I've not been called Horrible Harrington since I left Harrow. So who the hell is calling me by that name here?

A beaming if sunburned face beneath a broad-brimmed hat leaped into focus some yards away as a man approached him. Harrington took in the guise of a roughneck clad in new hard wearing clothes, subtracted them, the mustache and about a decade and groaned quietly. "Brickie Tuck-Poynter?"

That worthy rolled up to him, hand thrust out. "The very same! I heard you were in town." Cool grey eyes looked him over as they shook hands and the smile took on a tint of smirk. "In the army as a non-commissioned officer, no less!"

"It has its benefits. What are you doing here, Brickie?"

Tuck-Poynter thrust his thumbs through his belt and grinned. "I'm here to aid the military power!"

Harrington looked at him, puzzled. "As what, a civilian commissary?"

Tuck-Poynter roared with laughter. Wiping his eyes he shook his head. "Oh, no, no. Something far better than that. I formed a volunteer group, a handy little unit, actually. We've got new Sharp's carbines - well, new-ish - from America. The government came up with the idea, actually. Well, they came up with it over a century ago to deal with all those annoying Scotch fellows sloshing about the place after that '45 revolt nonsense. Gave 'em land and gold if they'd bugger off to the Colonies to fight the French, what? My chaps and I are going to do the same here." He pointed at the dusty ground with a flourish.

Harrington had a sinking feeling. "You're going to fight alongside the army in return for land and gold?"

"The very same! What do you think?"

Harrington stared at him. "I think you're off your bloody rocker!"
* * * *
"No help for it, Fred, old chap." Colonel Trollope shook his head. "We're stuck with the silly blighters."

"They'll be a hindrance in the bush, sir." Fred glanced out the colonel's office window at the empty barrack square. "With this new advance planned we don't have time to play nursemaid to a band of adventurers, however well-connected they are. Can't we leave them in garrison here?" 

"I'm afraid not."Trollope tidied a stack of paper on his desk then clasped his hands and looked at Fred. "The Colonial Office is keen to see how this experiment plays out. If it works, well and good. If it doesn't..." He pursed his lips then gave a wicked little smile. "Too bad, really. Are your fellows up to snuff?"

Fred noted the change of subject. "They are, sir. They're keen to take another crack at the G'wunda tribe after what happened last time."

"That's the ticket. We're in better fettle than we were then, too, so I have confidence." Trollope glanced at the clock on the wall. "Well, young Fred, go and see all's well in their mess, then join me for a snifter." 

Fred stood, came briefly to attention then departed. 

He encountered CSM Harrington on the way to the barracks. "Have you heard the news, Sarn't-Major?"

Harrington looked glum. "If you mean the new volunteers, sir, yes, I have."

"What do you think?"

The tough young CSM sniffed. "I know the chap leading them. He'll either lead them to hell or glory."

Fred blinked at the depth of feeling in the CSM's voice. "Oh dear..!" 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Poplar trees 2 - finished

The poplar trees are finished, and I think they look rather good.

Northern France, September 1914. 
RFA 18 pdrs take up a position astride the highway, ready to challenge the pursuing Germans.

They'll work for early World War One, World War Two, and AVBCW as a poplar-lined driveway to some posh house or institution.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Roadside poplars 1

Bad weather and a number of computer problems have eaten into my free time, but I've made a bit more progress with the chaff scenery project.

Dunking the whole strip top-down into the latex household paint level with the upper part of the 'tree trunk' worked better than I hoped. I propped the strip on the can to let it drain for a minute or so before giving the foliage part a good dose of dried tealeaves. The paint is sticky: It absorbed the leaves quickly, and I kept applying more until it stopped. Hanging the strips upside down overnight let gravity pull the trees straight as the paint dried and stiffened the foliage. The top photo shows the result at this stage.

Next, I gave the bases a thin coat of latex paint, followed by a light dusting of fine sand for ground cover. Once this dried I sprayed the lot with khaki green/'avocado' Krylon-brand paint. Krylon gives good coverage and dries within ten minutes on average, but it stays smelly for some time so the trees will remain outside for another few hours. Results so far in the photo below. I think they're shaping up nicely. 

The next stage will be to paint the trunks and foliage and probably dry-brush the bases to bring out details.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Roadside trees

Carrying on from the other scenery project, I've begun assembling rye chaff into N-scale/10mm poplar-style trees of the kind seen alongside French highways.

Taking a few longer pieces of chaff I trimmed the stiff bristles that poke out from the sides. Next I smeared one inch long slips of paper with craft glue and wrapped it around the stems to form the trunks.

Once dry, the trees were set in place on wooden tongue depressors, five to each strip, using hot glue.

I'm making a big enough batch to stretch 38" or so on both sides of a road. Once they're all in place I'll spread spackle on the bases and trunks, allow to dry, then dip the trees in beige latex household paint. Shaking off the excess paint and sprinkling heavily with dry tealeaves should give a reasonable approximation of foliage. It'll then be ready for paint. More on the project later.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Chaff scenery

And here we have it, the end results of my experiment with rye chaff. Some of my new trees and wood chip rocky outcrops are behind.

Local native musketeers lurk in ambush for unwary Imperial troops.

One thought crossed my mind about the crop rows on the left. With longer stalks and a little work they could be used as small-scale poplar trees such as those used alongside French highways. This would jive with my recent decision to 'do' Early War Chain of Command in 10mm, which in turn would allow me to use some BEF figures and equipment for AVBCW, and existing scenery for the latter in France and Belgium. Win-win!

All farther down the pike for now, but I'll get there one of these days...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Chaff Inches

The next step in the rye chaff scenery project - a good dose of spray paint. I decided against using flock or dried tealeaves on the stalks as I don't think it'll enhance the effect of vegetation and would cause a lot of mess for nothing.

I've expanded on the idea and created six rows of crops (top of photo) using bases made from tongue-depressors (I found a box full at a local charity store). They're 5½ inches long by ¾ inches wide. I planted ten stalks on each in a semi-regular fashion, enough to give a good impression of dense crops and provide a neat block to line-of-sight. These I sprayed first with the 'avocado'/khaki green, following up with the darker green whilst the first coat was still wet. The round scrub bases got a good going over with the avocado followed by a light dusting of the darker shade.

I'll add some flock and dry-brush the bases with lighter shades once they've dried off and the stink of paint fumes has dispersed. They should then be ready for use.
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Our local library is having its yearly sale of surplus books, and yesterday I picked up Ian Knight's Marching to the Drums below for only a dollar.

Published by Greenhill Books/Stackville Books in 1999 it has accounts of campaigns and actions throughout the reign of Queen Victoria (Gawd Bless 'Er!) by soldiers from private to NCO level. It looks like an interesting read, and one with plenty of inspiration for gaming.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Capturin' the Rye

Winter Rye. A marvelous plant, beloved of gardeners and horticulturists as ground-cover to prevent soil erosion, and for its nitrogen-fixing capability. We grew a large patch of rye in our back garden over the winter for the above reasons. In spring and early summer when it was fully grown, it made a kind of restful, real-life screen saver for our back windows as it peacefully waved in the breeze.

Okay so, now my wife and I have to shuck the seeds ready for this autumn's planting. A bit of a chore, but one which had an unexpected benefit - Wargames scenery. I noticed the chaff resembles small shrubs and bushes. It took but a moment to figure out how to use this. And what's more, there's a large supply.

I have a small stack of the metal lids used in frozen fruit juice containers. A spot of hot glue tacked the chaff stalks to the lid, and I followed up with a blob of liquid nails around each to secure it. Hot glue may be quick, but it's not strong. The liquid nails also gives purchase to the spackle that will follow.

The photo shows the general result before the spackle is applied.

Straw is durable stuff. Once protected from the environment it can last literally for centuries. At the moment I'm undecided how to seal these and finish the job. Once the spackle is on, my options are:
  1. Dip the stalks in the nasty beige-colored household latex paint left over by the house flippers, shake off the excess then dump a heap of dried tealeaves on it. Once dry I spray them a couple shades of green then paint the bases to match my tabletop.
  2. Use spray adhesive and dump tealeaves on, etc.
The first option may be more thorough but messier, the second is quicker but the spray tends to be a bit indiscriminate. Decisions, decisions.

These are easy to make, so I may do another batch. What I hope to end up with is a spread of scrub land suitable for 25/28mm figures. Plenty of places for hostile forces to hide in ambush for when the Colonial Powers march by... Set in regular rows and painted dark green with yellowish tops, they would even serve as a crop such as millet.

With luck and a following wind, I might even get to game with these next week.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Wargames Factory 15mm World War Two

I still intend to buy the Too Fat Lardies' Chain of Command rules one of these days. In the meantime I'm mulling over figure options. Does anyone have any experience of Wargames Factory's hard plastic 15mm range?

I have some of their Zulu figures and, although being multi-part they were a bit of a pain to assemble, once done they're pretty good and easy to paint.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Next Foray

Sometime next week I hope to game the Barsetshire Regiment's (long overdue!) next foray into G'Wundaland. Their mission is along the lines of the British Army's late WW1 "bite and hold" strategy. They will seek to establish an outpost in enemy territory to act as a base for a further advance and hold it against all comers. It'll give me a chance to use my new terrain pieces and possibly the new volunteers section.


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