Thursday, September 29, 2011

Game coming up

I'll be attending ARCHON 35 sci fi convention at Collinsville, Il. over the weekend, guesting on a few panels and taking part in events. Cancer in the family is never an easy thing to deal with, especially to primary care-givers. It'll be great to relax amongst fellow nerds after a stressful two months

As it happens, I should have a couple of days free after the weekend, when I plan to play the Attack on Yabhouti to Sharp Practise rules. Since my playing area is rather restricted, I'm going to set up just the southern portion of Yabhouti town, as the main feature of the British attack will be the tower. More details later.

I'm rather pleased to see this blog has passed the 10,000 visitors mark! I hope all who visit (apart from spider-bot programs) find something inspiring or of use.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New blog idea


Tradgardmeister's recent posting about his early RPG days had me thinking. I also dabbled in AD&D in the heady days of my youth. Now in the heady days of approaching middle-age, I'm contemplating a return to another RPG I played back in the day - probably my favorite - Traveller

Science-fiction roleplaying has had its ups and downs over the years. GDW published Traveller in various forms from the late 70's up to the early 90's. TSR came out with Star Frontiers, which I think of as Traveller-lite, in the early 80's. Both are still around and have their devoted followers, even if they didn't quite catch on to the extent D&D did. Traveller is currently available in its various forms through Far Future Enterprises.

Since there doesn't appear to be much interest in Traveller locally in St. Louis, I'm involved in an online Travelleresque game at RPOL, an online RPG site. It's fine in its way, but I do feel the urge to create something in the genre off my own bat. That's why I'm contemplating starting a blog devoted to Traveller.

My thought is to post the occasional idea for worlds, settings, characters, ships, etc. Since my gaming time is restricted at the moment and likely to be more so for a couple of months, it will allow me to give my creativity an outlet. Some posts will have a bearing on gaming. As anyone who has read this blog from the earliest days will remember, I have a small collection of sci-fi skirmish figures, and the game setting of the colonial planet Fomor. These will also get an airing from time to time.

So, that's my aim. Thoughts, opinions welcome, as always.
   

Friday, September 23, 2011

An update

I'm busy with family matters and prepping for ARCHON 35 for the next few days. Even so, I hope to fight the solo game of the Attack on Yabhouti the first week in October. Stay tuned... 
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A post over on the Lead Adventurer forum drew my attention. Blue Moon Manufacturing Company has released a range of 15mm Darkest Africa figures. It includes tribal warriors, chieftains and witch-doctors, villagers, along with askaris, hunters/explorers and porters. I find these strangely tempting. The sculpts are very nice for this scale, and at 30-odd figures for around $15, each pack gives a bigger bang for the buck compared with 25/28mm. 

Having limited space and an even more limited budget, I'm feeling the inclination to sell up my current collection and convert to 15mm across the board. British and other Colonial figures are readily available, Peter Pig's excellent range being one. Collecting in this scale would also allow me to play my favorite Sudan games, and use some of the same figures in Darkest Africa skirmish gaming. Thoughts? Opinions? Please leave a comment! =)     

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Flatiron gunboat project - Finished!

Somewhere off the African coast, HMS Arthur stands poised to take part in the landings at Yabhouti.
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And here she is, the Flatiron gunboat HMS Arthur, complete and rigged-out at last. All that was required to finish her took less than a couple hours - the portholes on the citadel, and the painting of the masts and yards. Finding time these days is not so easy...

The gentlemen of the RAMC are standing in for their nautical counterparts at the con. District Commissioner Carstairs keeps a watchful eye on his fellow passenger, the wily trader Willoughby Pond, who stands by the 30-pounder aft. No doubt he's contemplating some new mischief - but what? 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bush Warfare

I've come across an interesting book, released in .pdf format by the Canadian armed forces in 2009. Bush Warfare by Lieut-General Sir William C. G. Heneker, KCB, KCMG, DSO contains the distillation of this exceptional soldier's experience in West Africa at the height of the Colonial period.

It covers such matters as the size and composition of columns, transport and supply, encampments, night fighting, relief of besieged garrisons, and a whole host of other military issues. Maps and other illustrations help clarify the subjects. The book was the standard British Army treatise on all aspects of bush warfare until it was superseded by an updated version in the 1930's.

Heneker was Canadian, and an early graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada. Like many of his countrymen, he accepted a commission in the British Army, serving until his retirement in 1932. After his death, Heneker was described by a fellow general officer as, “more at home in a rough house than in civilized discussion or speculation.”  

For anyone seeking ideas for games along historical lines, this book offers a great deal of inspiration. It also gives a revealing insight into the major contribution made by Canadian soldiers to Queen Victoria's Empire. Recommended. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Abe Lincoln is back -

- and he's not taking no for an answer!


With the Gettysburg Address clasped in one hand (written on the back of an envelope) and a steam-powered drum-fed Gatling gun in the other, the Steampunked 16th President is armed and looking for trouble! 

When you hear the tootin' of the whistle, it's Abe at the throttle of the Union Express...
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Just a minor diversion from gaming, as I complete this little peg doll for the upcoming Archon art show. Next up - Steampunk Jefferson Davis...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

An update

Family matters have prevented me from doing much of anything game- or modelling wise lately, and I've got work to prepare for ARCHON 35 when I get a chance. Even so, I hope to have some spare time these next two weeks to game the Attack on Yabhouti.

In the meantime, here are a couple photos of Fort Meigs, Ohio, taken during a visit there last month.

Between June, 1812 and February, 1813, the United States lost Fort Mackinac and Fort Detroit in the Michigan Territory and Fort Dearborn in the Illinois Territory, as well as suffering a major defeat at the Battle of the River Raisin in Michigan. This placed Fort Meigs in the front line during the War of 1812. It was besieged twice, but held out. Had it fallen, the British army would've been able to penetrate into the heart of Ohio. 

The reconstructed fort stands on the exact footprint of the original, with the exception of the main gate, which circumstances dictated had to be sited three feet off the site of the prototype.

A view of the fort's interior, showing the earthen berms thrown up by the American defenders to prevent roundshot from bouncing through the enclosure. The British used 8- and 24 pounder cannon, along with howitzers and mortars. Since the 9 pounder was the standard foot artillery equipment of the time, I suspect the weapons used during the siege were drawn from naval stores. 

A party of re-enactors demonstrate field drill. Thankfully, the weather that day was overcast and quite cool - a change from the hellish heat this summer - so the men didn't suffer in those heavy wool coats. 

A splendid 54mm diorama of Fort Meigs in its heyday, located in one of the seven blockhouses.   

The exterior of a blockhouse. Each has walls two feet thick to withstand artillery fire, and held a garrison of thirty. Nowadays, the reconstructed versions hold various exhibits and washrooms.

A corner of the main gun battery overlooking the Maumee River, the reason for the fort's existence. The modern bridge in the distance stands just downriver from the rapids which once blocked easy passage along the river. These forced boat traffic to portage around them, and created a natural choke-point for the fort to control. The British siege batteries were located where the woods are to the extreme left of the picture. Originally, this battery was protected from assault by a thick abatis. 
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We enjoyed our visit to the fort. The cooler weather certainly helped! I was even able to pick up a wagon pencil sharpener at the museum store, which will convert nicely for Colonial wargaming purposes. If I'd had the money at the time, I'd have bought out their whole stock.

One quibble - the visitor center does provide wheelchairs for disabled or elderly visitors, but the pathways throughout the fort are cinder or trodden earth, and some are quite steep. They're difficult to push a chair over. Those with powered buggies may have an easier time. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Boer War blockhouse

A while back I came across this photo on a website dealing with South African fortifications. The website seems to have 404'd recently, but I can relate some of the info here.

A corrugated metal and stone walled blockhouse of the last Boer War (1899-1902). This surviving example is in a national park. 

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The last Boer War broke out in 1899, and lasted four years. Rugged and independent, the Boers proved effective guerrillas. Their swift, mobile method of warfare flummoxed the British army for a while, until the top brass worked out the need to seize and control lines of communications, thus constraining the Boers' freedom of movement.
 
The chief engineering officer originated the idea of prefabricating blockhouses from corrugated iron and transporting them in sections to where they were required. They were sited within mutual supporting distance, and made a great contribution to the final British victory.
 
To begin with, the blockhouses were octagonal in plan, with complicated pitched roofs. Later versions were cylindrical, following the engineer's visit to a factory making corrugated iron water towers. The company's metal-bending machinery demonstrated that circular structures would be much easier and cheaper to make, and much simpler for men in the field to assemble. Subsequent experience showed they were also cooler inside than the earlier versions - no mean feature considering the extreme temperatures sometimes experienced in that part of the world.  
 
They measured up to twelve feet or so across. Each typically housed a detachment of up to eight men, and were protected by dry ditches, barbed wire and fixed rifle batteries. Where the ground proved too hard to dig a defensive ditch around the structure, drystone walls of field stone were constructed instead. Eight to ten firing ports dotted at regular intervals around the circumference gave effective command of the vicinity.
 
Access to the interior was through a crawl-way. Post-war, full size doorways were installed. Surviving blockhouses were often taken over for civilian use and many became farm outbuildings. Others were left to decay and rot. Often, the only indication that a blockhouse once stood on a site is the circle of collapsed stone walling. 
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So, I thought this little outpost of Empire just begged to be made as a model. It proved simple enough to build. A section of thick carpet-roll cardboard tube became the main body of the blockhouse. An added advantage is it proved almost perfectly to scale, width-wise. I glued it to a base of thick card a little wider in diameter to create an interior floor. For the corrugated-iron wall effect, I glued thin string to the roll in parallel lines, and gave the strands a thin coat of spackle to smooth them out. Firing loops cut from thin card dot the wall at intervals along this level.
 
The iron effect covered the top half of the wall. The lower half I made as a drystone wall, using a thicker coat of spackle. A gap was left for the crawl-way door. I inscribed the stonework into the surface with a toothpick when the spackle was semi-dry. Once the spackle dried completely, any excess bits were brushed off.
 
I made the roof from thick card and corrugated cardboard taken from a box. Small corrugations are best. Since the corrugated card is fairly thin and flexible, I cut matching eaves and a ceiling from thick card and glued it to the back of the corrugated card. Once the glue was dry I glued the whole together into a peaked roof, adding another sheet of corrugated card each side for the central panels. The central ridge is of thick paper. To keep the roof in place, I drilled two holes each side of the tube and inserted short dowel pegs, which go into matching holes in the ceiling. This allows the roof to lift off for figures to be placed inside the blockhouse.    

Pvt. 23601 Hudson, Percival, takes aim at someone off camera. His mates are inside the blockhouse, having a brew-up.
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Before painting, I gave the whole roof a coat of Future floor polish to prepare the surface. The polish serves to stiffen the card and prevents it from soaking up moisture from the paint, which causes it to warp. I used cheap Craft Smart acrylic paints for most of the structure, picking out some individual stones in the wall with Vallejo paints to match the appearance of the original in the photo. The roofing corrugations were dry brushed white, then the whole given a wash of black India ink and sepia ink.

There we have it, a useful little building for the gaming table. Although strictly speaking it's a Boer War structure, there's no reason not to use it for earlier Colonial periods, or VSF. Since I try to make my hobby self-financing, this particular model has been sold to a gamer in New Zealand, but I'll make another for Daftest Africa soon. 
  

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Journey without Maps



I've just finished reading Journey without Maps, British author Graham Greene's account of his four-week trek through the nation of Liberia. Greene seems to have sunk an awful amount of whisky during his journey, and he has a predilection for describing the scantily-clad native women met along the way.

He traveled with his 27-year old cousin, Barbara Greene, and appears to have owed her a great deal. It's a fact she nursed him back to health during a near-fatal illness he incurred in the jungle, yet she gets scant mention in this book.

All the same, it's an interesting read for its take on Africa in the final decade of Western Colonialism. I think there are more than a few scenario ideas to be found in these pages, both for the high Colonial era and for later Between the Wars/Pulp games, possibly even modern "bush war" games. Recommended.  
 

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