Friday, September 15, 2017

A Good Haul of Books.


My wife and I took a day off from what seems like perpetual house-hunting to run some errands, one of which was a stop off at our excellent local library. I'd forgotten this month marks their annual surplus books sale, so we couldn't resist taking a look at what's on offer and... I found these. The Time-Life books Epic of Flight: The Giant Airships, full of information and nice illustrations about that noblest of aircraft; two issues of Model Railroader from 2009 and 2013, with useful info on how to model buildings; and the star of this little show - Yep, Donald Featherstone's Wargaming Airborne Operations, published in the UK way back in 1977, although this is the American edition dated 1979.


I was looking along a row of books stacked under one of the tables when I spotted the edge of the model paratrooper illustration peeping out. Call it long-ingrained pattern recognition, but I knew at once I was onto something hobby-related. I drew it out and - voila! This is one of those Featherstone books I'd always heard of but had never seen, and now I own it! (Cue manic cackle...)

Eben Emael under assault.
It's in excellent condition. Aside from rules governing airborne operations on the tabletop, it contains a potted history of airborne forces, both paratroops and glider-borne, notes on tactics, resupply logistics, and accounts of the great airborne operations of WW2, Crete and Market Garden.

There are plenty of photos of games in progress, along with maps and diagrams. Some of the figures and models depicted look rather dated now in this Golden Age of ours, but this book has a heck of a lot of use for the gamer interested in the topic. I've got a few of The Don's books, and this is a worthy addition to the set.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Pendraken announces new Indian Mutiny range.

The Storming of Jhansi.

Those lovely chaps at Pendraken Miniatures have announced the master list for an upcoming Indian Mutiny range. This is a period I've had an interest in for some time, but never got around to it as other periods demanded attention. The release date is sometime in 2018, hopefully before Salute. 


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Assorted musings


This Labor Day weekend has put a temporary halt to our (so far) fruitless search for a new home. We've seen and discounted several places for various reasons (A "Crazy cat lady's" former abode stinks - er, sticks - in the mind). It's not entirely beyond the bounds of possibility that we may look to return to the UK, or possibly head for Ireland. International moving's a whole different set of complications, but we'll see.

In the meantime I'm catching up with my reading and musing on different wargaming periods. Our excellent local library has a copy of Nick Lloyd's book Passchendaele: The Lost Victory of WW1.


This is the centenary year of the terrible months-long battle, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, which lasted from July to November 1917. It's a battle I've heard about often but have never really studied until now. I've reached the point where planning for the offensive has begun under the command of General Gough, GOC Fifth Army. Apparently this army had a reputation within the BEF for being lax in pre-battle planning, so even at this stage of the narrative things aren't looking good. Lloyd's book is a good read. It's enough to tempt me into contemplating WW1 gaming, perhaps using Pendraken Miniatures 10mm range. For those interested in seeing how a master does it, take a look at the incomparable Sidney Roundwood's blog.

Another little gem came up unexpectedly on the AVBCW Facebook page. A gamer is asking about suitable 28mm vehicles to use in this delightfully daft conflict, and another member posted this suggestion...


It's a First Corps (Curteys Miniatures) resin/white metal four-wheel speedster from their 20th Century Follies range, and it looks lovely! Some time ago I searched for a similar vehicle for a Pulp game idea I had, but didn't find anything suitable. I did see an example of the speedster painted up on the Lead Adventure forum, but couldn't pinpoint the manufacturer. Now, when I'm not looking, it pops up. Go figure.

Once I'm in a position to do so, my gaming priority really is to complete the collections I already have. The Dux Britanniarum set up needs the Saxons to oppose the Romano-British. I have a handful of foot regiments, a cavalry regiment, dragoons and perhaps another gun apiece to complete the 10mm ECW forces.

Apart from the temptation to start a Great War collection (early or late? That is the question) I've also been tempted to start an Indian Mutiny collection. Dixon's Miniatures produce a nice-looking range in 15mm. Their 'personnel carrier' elephant is just darlin'. But - Pendraken has an Indian Mutiny range on the drawing board, and I believe the figures may make an appearance next year.

I guess I'll have to wait and see what happens. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Still around.


Yes, I'm still around but I'm not gaming or model making. House-hunting is taking up a lot of time and gets priority now. It's a frustrating process, since a number of times we've viewed a place only to find someone has already snapped it up. We'll keep looking.

In the meantime I do tour various blogs to keep up with what's happening with other gamers. Carlo Pagano has recently launched a Sudan campaign using his Sands of the Sudan rules. It's one of my all-time favourite periods to game and I'm looking forward to reading accounts from the campaign. Michael Awdry over on Victorian Warfare blog put together a superb Kong's lair gaming piece. It'd look great in any Congo or Pulp setting. I'm even looking at railway modelling blogs, in particular Jim Jackman's project. One of these days I might revisit the hobby myself.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Finished Romano-British Watchtower


I had a free day today, waiting on a team to make yet another house assessment (why do these various agencies need so many of the bloomin' things?) so I cracked on and finished the Romano-British watchtower.

First up, I did the groundwork around the bottom of the tower and fitted the palisade. As usual the material I used for the ground effect is liquid nails scattered with sand. The tower was stuck in place using the trusty hot glue gun.



I arranged the palisade so the door to the tower is on the opposite side to the gate. This would be a design feature to prevent an enemy from rushing the gate then gaining entry to the tower in a single bound.

After that, it was a case of waiting for the groundwork to dry, then painting it, adding some ground scatter for dead bracken and a sprig of lichen for a small tree which has sprung up in the shelter of a corner of the palisade.

And here it is, complete.


Lord Gaius Menusius, his horn blower Agrippinus and standard bearer Fred Heckmonthwaite* survey the eager (?) lads of the local militia on maneuvers.


* Long story. **





** No, really.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Romano-British Watchtower - 5


A modest bit of progress this week. I glued the tower to the circular base and made four sections of palisade to surround it.



These are three and one-eighth inch lengths of the ubiquitous tongue-depressor sticks from my stash, cut to shape and nicked with a file on one edge to represent the tops of sharpened palisade stakes. I used a couple of pieces of matchstick for the gateposts. I painted the wood brownish-grey then gave it a wash of brown once dry. The individual stakes and the gates were then picked out with pencil. The pieces will be glued down to make a square enclosure once I've done a bit of ground work around the base of the tower.

I'm hoping to finish the whole thing off sometime this weekend. House-hunting will get under way in earnest after that, so I need to be packed and ready to move.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Romano-British Watchtower - 4


Due to certain events in Charlottesville, VA this weekend I was required to don my press pass once more to cover local rallies. I'm due at another scheduled for this evening, and there have already been several threats made against the demonstration. Interesting times we live in.

Meanwhile, I made a little more progress on the watchtower, getting the first areas of paintwork done.

Timberwork in place. It looks less squat with these in place.
I'm aiming for an aged effect, because this tower is a relic of the last days of the Roman Empire in Britain and would be at least fifty years old by the time the events of Dux Britanniarum take place.


I went with a greenish hue* for the stonework, and a dingy pale yellow-white for the rest. The timber is nearly grey, representing aged woodwork which may have been replaced once or twice since the tower was built.

More stuff later as I finish the tower proper and move on to the base.

*Greenish Hugh, little-known follower of Robin Hood.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Romano-British Watchtower - 3


Camera and tablet conspired to play silly buggers this afternoon, but I managed to take some pics of the work in progress. First off, the pantile roof.


It's done using the same process as the earlier church roof - a thick-ish spread of liquid nails followed by a combing. This time it didn't come out as well as I hoped. There's a bit of warping going on, but it'll do. The tower is supposed to represent a structure that's stood for several decades since it was built by the legions before they departed Britannia's shores, so a bit of wear and tear is to be expected.

Then the base...


This is a CD from one of those ambulance-chasing law firms touting their services, sandwiched between two discs of card. It makes a slightly raised stiff base for the tower to stand on - thus...


Mini-dowels smeared with liquid nails provided the ridged tiles. The piece already has that top-heavy look these watchtowers had, and I'm glad I used the plaster blocks for the base to lower the centre of gravity.

I'll create a palisade around the base, and it'll probably be square in plan. In the meantime I'm forging on with making timber beams and rendering for the tower walls...

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Romano-British Watchtower - 2


On to the next stages, the walkway and the roof...

Frankly, I bless the inventor of the hot-glue gun, one of the most useful tools in the model-maker's kit. With it I can 'spot weld' pieces in place with the hot glue whilst the conventional glues with more durability and strength dry. A case in point is the walkway around the upper story of the tower. This would've been a pig to work without hot glue.

The walkway with the upper level door.
Before attaching the railings around the walkway I used a craft knife to cut away any blobs of excess hot glue then smeared some liquid nails on the walls for a plaster render effect. The railings were then attached using craft adhesive on most of the posts with some hot glue to hold everything in place. Not visible in the photo are the short wooden corbels on which the walkway rests. The walkway itself is three inches square, the upright posts in the corners are one inch tall, and the railings half an inch tall. Once the roof is on the overall height of the tower will be four inches.

After a bit of thought I decided to make a removable roof so figures can be positioned on the walkway. This is more for the look of the thing than for any gaming purpose.

I cut a three inch square of cereal box card then glued some off-cuts of wood left over from the walkway construction in the centre of the card on what will be the underside. The four triangles will hold the roof in position.


Next, for the rafters two triangles of card set at right-angles and glued to the top of the square.


The next stage will be to cut four triangles to form the roof itself. I'm going to make a shallow pyramid-shaped roof for this as it seems to have been the commonest type used on watchtowers.
 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Romano-British Watchtower - 1


The hurry-up-and-wait part of the house sale is coming to a close at last (dea volente) and we'll begin packing stuff in earnest before long. I think I have enough time for one last project before the Man Cave goes into a small heap of boxes, so I'm making a Romano-British watchtower for Dux Britanniarum gaming.

To begin with, I cut four 3" 1/8th by 1 3/4" inch sections out of 3/6th inch foamcore. The Lego blocks are there to give a firm 90 degree angle for when I come to glue the pieces together.


I'm using a number of plaster Hirst Arts components for the field-stone base of the tower.

For the next stage I cut two 2nd floor windows (3rd floor for those in the US), the door, and revetted the edges of the foamcore. The plaster components were glued to make a square base using the Lego block angle shaper.


The tower was then assembled into the box shape, again using the Legos to get the right angle, then glued onto the plaster base. This will lower the centre of gravity to make the tower model stable.


It looks a bit rough-and-ready at the moment. I realised the Stanley knife blade had grown blunt. Foamcore may be soft, but it tends to blunt blades quite quickly.

Next up, I began constructing the walkway that'll go around the top of the tower just above the line of the windows. These are the railings which are made of strips of wood and thin cardboard. They'll be glued onto wood bases to make the platform.

Railings under construction.

The next stage will be to cut and shape the platforms themselves. I'll add wooden inserts to the tower walls for the platform to rest upon.



Monday, July 31, 2017

An Early Church - 6


On to the closing stages of the church build.

To get the effect of Roman pantiles I spread a thick layer of liquid nails over the roofs and used an old comb to create the rows. It's best to give the comb a quick, straight downward stroke to avoid any deviation, and I've more or less achieved that here. The area around the porch had to be done using a cocktail stick, but it seems to merge with the rest pretty well. The putty-like consistency of the liquid nails allows it to be worked for some time before it hardens, which is useful if things need to be corrected.

I forgot to take a photo of the roof on the rounded apse. This I had to work by hand with the cocktail stick, being careful to run the lines down from the apex so they formed elongated isosceles triangles. It took a couple of tries before I was satisfied with it.

The dried liquid nails, along with annoying fingernail-shaped speck of plastic that appeared out of nowhere.
The ridge-line is made of two lengths of mini-dowel, with a bit of liquid nails smeared along its length to glue it down and meld it with the tiling.

View from the front showing the rows.
The same treatment was given to the walls, but with a much thinner spread. When dried it looks like daub or plaster.

Once the liquid nails on the roofs dried thoroughly I gave it its first coat of paint. I used a terracotta acrylic craft paint with a drop of Future floor polish to help it flow, along with a single drop of red ink. I wanted a hotter shade than the standard terracotta, aiming to tone it down to a more realistic shade as painting progressed. I found from making previous Roman period buildings that the terracotta paint used straight out of the bottle doesn't look quite right.


A fairly thin coat of terracotta mixed with an equal amount of mid brown went on next, worked well into the grooves.

Once the roofs had dried I painted the walls. The builders of early churches followed Roman practice and either built in stone of the lightest colour or painted the walls white - there's archaeological evidence of lime or whitewash being used on church walls of the period - so they attracted the eye and stood out from the run of the mill structures around them. This enhanced the glory of the Christian religion and provided a ready landmark for pilgrims and worshipers travelling across country.

Now I could make the building all white but two things mitigate against it. One, I think given the British climate of the time (warmer and wetter) weathering would tone down the brightness. Two, I didn't want it to look too much like a Mediterranean building. I went with acrylic antique white - a parchment-like shade - with a drop of black to tone it down a little for a weathered effect.


The final touches on the roof comprised a wet-brush of terracotta with a little orange mixed in to highlight the ridges of the tiles, working along the line of the tiles rather than across since this avoids any blobs of paint building up on the sides of the ridges. I may apply a last wash of sepia ink for weathering. We'll see.

Just below the building is the beginnings of the main door. Again, archaeological evidence suggests the builders of these early churches followed Roman practice and painted the doors, possibly with different coloured insets. I'm using the rounded end of a tongue-depressor splint (I found an unused box of these in a local Goodwill charity shop!). I opted for turquoise, since fragments of wood painted this colour were found during excavation of a Romano-British church in Colchester (I think it was Colchester - brain fart/insufficient coffee!)


I also touched up the archway with white gloss enamel to make it stand out more from the background wall colour.

And for the final touch, the main door is now in place. I went with antique white panels with Pompeii red inserts. The porch door I painted a plain wood colour.

Father Superfluous and his wife Senovara take the air outside their new church.

A final grainy shot of the entire village with its new church, taken before my camera batteries died.




Saturday, July 29, 2017

An Early Church - 5


A little more progress...



The only structural addition is the Roman-style arch and columns made of Sculpey for the main doorway, and a 'stone' trim of thin card along the front and side walls level with the bottom of the windows. A layer of liquid nails adhesive smeared over the walls filled any small gaps between card components and softened the appearance overall to give the effect of plaster.

I may spread a bit more liquid nails on the walls depending on how it looks once dry, as it appears pretty thin right now. The next step beyond this will be to deal with the roofs. They'll need a thicker layer of liquid nails and careful combing to get the effect of pantiles, but it should be doable.


Friday, July 28, 2017

An Early Church - 3


Assorted embuggerances to do with selling a house took up a lot of time today, most of it wasted, but I managed to squeeze in some work on the Romano-British church.

The roofs are now on and the side porch shaped and fitted. Roman roofs had a shallower pitch than more modern styles - a souvenir of the Mediterranean climate where heavy snow isn't a factor - and I've worked to create the same angles here.


The main roof was a doddle. A couple of triangular rafters were glued in place at even intervals along the top of the walls and left to set before the roof was put in place. I used hot glue to fix it in position whilst the regular white (Aleens') adhesive set.

The semicircular apse roof was a bit tricky. The apse is an inch wide, so I drew a circle of an inch radius on cereal card and cut out one third of it.


Curling it into a half cone I applied Aleens' glue to the apse wall edge and fixed the roof in place along the main wall seams with hot glue. More Aleens' glue was smeared into the crease once the hot glue had cooled and set.

[One thing I've found about using hot glue is even card this thin will insulate fingers from the scalding hot stuff, allowing it to be held in place whilst it sets. Disclaimer: Please note I'm writing about what works for me. It goes without saying all appropriate care should be taken when working with hot glue.]

The side porch is an off cut of 3/16ths foamcore with a piece of card for the roof. Again I fixed it in place using hot glue whilst the regular adhesive set. It appears porches around main doors were something of a rarity in British churches of this period so I'm going to fashion a simple surround for it instead.

The next stage for this model will be to apply a layer of liquid nails to the walls. This is my new go-to stuff for making adobe/mud walls as it's strong, workable and doesn't warp thin cardboard. After that comes the tricky part of fashioning Roman pantiles on the roofs. At the moment I'm thinking in terms of using an old comb to create the distinctive ridge-and-furrow appearance on the main and aisle roofs, and a toothpick to work the apse roof.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

An Early Church - 2


A little more progress on the Romano-British church. First off, I cut a batch of component pieces for the walls using cereal box card...


A couple of minutes' work with the hot glue gun and the carcass is encased.


The rounded apse is fixed using Aleens' glue, with a couple of spots of hot glue to hold it until it dries.



I'm basing this model's floor plan on the excavated foundations of the Silchester church.


Artist's interpretation.

Surviving churches of this period are extremely rare and unaltered/non-updated buildings non-existent, but it appears they had few windows. Some were small and at head height; other, larger ones were located high up the walls. It would've been for security reasons, churches having valuables inside that were too tempting for a thief or Saxon raider. I opted for a row of four large windows each side (Because of their position I keep wanting to call them clerestory windows but it wouldn't be accurate). I may represent the smaller windows by painting them in.

The next step will be the roofs, and a porch on the side door like the one at Silchester. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

An early church - 1


Having painted up a priest for the Romano-British, it's only fair to make him a church to lurk in when he's not exorting his countrymen to resist the Saxon invaders. It also gives those Saxon invaders a nice target for a lucrative looting spree...

I made a carcass out of half-inch foamcore offcuts and stuck them together with the hot glue gun. This makes a really rigid form on which to build. Two aisles will go either side, and the end will have a rounded apse - the signature features of early Christian churches in Britain. In this case I took the used stiff card tube from a roll of clingfilm and stiffened it further with a layer of thinner card. Once the glue had set I cut it into a half-round, as shown. It's a little over the height of a man in this scale, and will eventually have a conical roof.  


The walls will be made of stiff card cut to shape. At the moment I'm thinking in terms of Romanesque pantile roofs instead of thatch to make it more distinctive. Thatch is far easier to make, so I'm not really looking forward to it! The whole structure will be taller than the domestic buildings I made earlier so it'll dominate the settlement, although the tabletop footprint will be about the same.

~ Our house has sold at last, and as things stand this will be the last model I'll build here. I've many happy memories of building and gaming in my hobby room, and I hope the next place we live in will bring the same pleasure. ~


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hae ye seen ma hairy coo?*


One of the scenarios in Dux Britanniarum is for the cattle raid, where those naughty Saxons try to make off with the British peasant farmers' livestock/portable cash. The rules call for three bases of two cattle each. It's generally thought that the cattle found in Early Middle Ages Britain resembled the Highland cattle of today. Archeological excavations seem to bear this out. 

Not having any cattle I looked for suitable models online. The only matches I could find were those intended for model railways and they are expensive, so I decided to make my own.

A truculent looking fellow - has he heard the rustle of Saxon raiders in the bushes?
bit of Sculpey and some work later and I had six bovine beasties...  

The lowing herd wanders slowly o'er the lea - and Crapulus Maximus is right there to collect their offerings for his vegetable patch.
I gave them a lick of ordinary acrylic craft paint and a dip in varnish/ink mix. This was followed by mounting them in pairs on the metal caps found on Pilsbury dough cannisters. Liquid Nails sprinkled with sand made the ground effect, with coffee grounds for strategically-placed piles of manure, the whole being finished off with more craft paint.

On the whole I'm pleased with the result. The photo was taken under fluorescent light and it made them look far more orange than they are in real life. Now all I need do for the Dux B Project is make the church and buy some Saxons.

*Have you seen my hairy cow? as rendered in the Scottish Highland dialect.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Cook, the Priest, his Wife* and her Mother


In other words I've finished the civilians, the rustica populus - those good folks that expensive army led by the Dux Britanniarum is paid to protect.

The small village of Oprobrium goes about its daily round.
These are Splintered Light Miniatures, and the nicest 15mm figures I've had the pleasure of painting. There is a round dozen in the set. They have clear features and some lovely detailed touches.

Father Superfluous points out the site of the future village church to his admiring family. 
In the Dux Britanniarum rules Lords who have gained sufficient wealth and status may add religious leaders to their retinue. These confer moral benefits according to rank. The priest figure will fulfil this role when needed. The next item on this project will be to make a proper village church for him. 

So, there's the end of the Romano-British side - for now. Other units may be added later, time and funds permitting. Hopefully I'll get the Saxon invaders sometime before the end of the year.

For now I'm taking a short break from gaming to make a wedding cake topper for two friends. Something a little different!

* Yes. The Catholic church of this time allowed married men to be ordained provided they oberved the rule of celibacy afterwards (no fun for their wives, I feel). It wasn't until much later that the general ban on married priests was enforced - and even then it proved sporadic. Here endeth the lesson.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Lords, Leaders and Champions


The Lords, leaders and champions have been on the painting block for several weeks now, but I finally finished and based them up.


I used the metal cap from a tube of Pilsbury dough for the command base, featuring the trio of Lord, standard bearer and horn blower. Liquid Nails formed the groundwork, smeared around the figures' bases and painted once dry.For the paint stage I began with a dark green, infused some earth brown into it while still wet, followed it with more earth brown once the green had dried, then finished off with two successive goings-over with lighter shades of green. A few pieces of pea-gravel added to the scenery and broke up the regularity. Sturdy card discs with more Liquid Nails made up the bases for the subordinate leaders/champions.

And then there are these chaps...


I'd forgotten the light infantry component of the Romano-British army. The figure on the right is another Comanipulares who got mixed up with the civilians (the perils of packing stuff away in a hurry prior to a house move which didn't come off). I think the Romano-British skirmishers are supposed to be javelinmen under the Dux B rules, but it doesn't really matter. I take these chaps to be woodsmen, hunters, and/or blokes who just happen to be tasty with a bow, out to persuade the Saxons to go elsewhere.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Completed Comanipulares


And so it goes. After several weeks I finally finished the Comanipulares (apart from their shields, which will come later). Here they are, based and ready to take their place in the line of battle.


I have half a dozen Lords and champions to finish off, then it'll be on to the civilians.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Still b*ggering on...


It doesn't look like our house will sell any time soon, so I'm pottering away with occasional painting sessions. The Comanipulares are about done. I used a little black ink to bring out the chain mail and then dipped the figures in clear varnish. I did this rather than use my usual ink & varnish dip, which is a bit too thick and would obscure details. One coat of matte varnish to go then I can base them up.


I'm currently reading Correlli Barnett's The First Churchill: Marlborough, Soldier and Statesman...



It's not a period I'm familiar with, and my interest was piqued when some of the members of my club in the UK played a WSS game recently. The book is a good read and shows what a remarkable man John Churchill was. As a consequence I found myself looking over Pendraken Miniatures' rather nice 10mm range. Yes, I'm suffering a bout of "Wargamer's wants..."

 

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