Friday, October 29, 2010

The Little House on the...

...Savannah? I decided to attempt something a little different as a refreshing change from all the Arab-style buildings and African huts I've made recently. Here's a small Colonial-style house suitable as the residence of a District Commissioner or similar European official. It can fit anywhere in the world, from Africa through India and Burma to the Far East.

District Commissioner Carstairs and His Lady pose on the porch of their residence.


The thatch is an experiment that came off rather well. Basically it's a mixture of vinyl spackle, papier maché and PVA/Gorilla glue, layered on thick card stock previously prepared by spreading diluted PVA and sand over it. This gives a keyed surface for the mixture to grip onto. The base is two more sheets of thick card laminated together. I'd use 2mm MDF for a second version, but the card serves well.

The shell of the house is foamcore, one of the most useful materials known to Modelling Man! The porch is 1/8th" basswood, with uprights made of square-cut cocktail sticks, readily available from dollar stores and other outlets. Embroidery battening makes excellent trellis work and window lattice. Jo-Ann's fabric stores sells it at a mere 99 cents for a large sheet. It's a bit fiddly to cut, but is worth persevering with.

All vegetation is Spanish moss, with a layer of dried green tea leaves glued to the rambling vine alongside the steps and finished with spots of magenta paint to make nice bright flowers. Steps, support blocks and water barrel are Hirst Arts components cast in Hydrocal plaster. A dowel spigot was added to the barrel.

I follow Major General Tremorden-Reddering's advice for making wargames buildings in that I try to keep the footprint of the building as small as possible while emphasizing the height. The priciple being it gives more space on the average-size table for figures to deploy.

Next up, I'm thinking of building a steamboat suitable for exploring the great rivers and lakes of Africa. Watch this space...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Sword and the Flame game - WW1 East Africa

"Walk wide o' the Widow at Windsor,
For 'alf o' Creation she owns:
We 'ave bought 'er the same with the sword an' the flame,
An' we've salted it down with our bones..."

Okay, the game I took part in didn't involve British Tommies, but it gives me an opportunity to air one of Kipling's wonderful verses.

This was my first experience with the rules and they proved easy to pick up. The action involved an encounter skirmish between Belgian Congolese and German colonial forces somewhere in German East Africa during WW1. I played the Belgians, fielding a platoon of three Force Publique askari sections supported by two bands of native levies. Don took command of two Seebattalion sections and three schutztruppen sections. Blake supplied the figures and guidance.

Movement is decided by ordinary playing cards and dice, the card color saying who gets to move first, and three d6 deciding how far in inches. Difficult terrain requires two dice to be rolled, simulating reduced movement.

Quality was on Don's side, as under TSATF rules European troops have better firepower, with askari/schutztruppen next and native levies a long way last. Faced with superior firepower I decided to concentrate my attentions on defeating the two Seebattalion sections. I won the game handily as they and a supporting schutztruppen section withered under my combined fire with little loss to my force, leaving Don unable to contest the field.

Units reduced to 50% or less manpower tend to rout very easily - as is only right - with affected units moving the value of two dice rolls in inches toward the rear. One of my levy sections, reduced to just two men, performed the most leisurely rout I've seen on a wargames table - a mere four inches back! Not so much a rout as a case of "we're just going over here for a while, okay?"

All in all I enjoyed the rules, which gave a quick clean game of about an hour duration. If I have a quibble it's that they tend to be bloody, but I'll certainly play with them again.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Near the village...

...the peaceful village, the lion may be sleeping tonight, but the inhabitants are awake.

A view over the African village I made this week, complete with kraal. It's empty at the moment, but the chief is plotting a means of filling it with prime cattle, the physical embodiment of wealth in the neighborhood. Quite what the plot entails nobody knows, but the signal drummer will soon be busy on his talking drum. Meanwhile his favorite wife prepares the evening meal in the traditional earthen oven. She's looking daggers at her husband's chief bodyguard, a nubile wench who may well replace her in his affections one day. The wench herself is content. She has her percussion-cap musket (on which she's a deadly shot) and her boss recently gave her a rather nice plaid skirt.

The huts were made using my usual method of cutting segments from a heavy-duty card tube of the kind carpets come on. A flat cone made of thin card on which some tissue paper was applied over diluted PVA adhesive made the roofs. The walls are spackled using general-purpose spackling paste, and everything painted using Craft Smart acrylics.

The kraal involved a different approach. An old CD glued to thin card discs cut to a larger diameter forms the center, Thin dry twigs were cut into sections between 1" and 1 1/2" length and glued using a hot glue gun around the edge of the CD. Thin cord made the lashing between the stakes. This is easily done by glueing one end of the cord to a stake and weaving it in and out in an over-under pattern, first the lower lashing then the upper.

The ground effect was built up using more spackle with a drop of PVA mixed in. After painting, more slightly diluted PVA was applied, and flocking scattered onto it in a dense layer. It's vital to allowed the glue to dry before the excess flocking is shaken off. To ensure the stuff stays in place and doesn't rub off easily, diluted PVA was sprayed over all. This has the added benefit of soaking into the twigs and preventing any splitting, etc.

All figures are Wargames Foundry from their Darkest Africa collection. The foilage in the background is Spanish moss, available by the bagful from most dollar stores.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fluffy takes a walk

Chief Bubbalazi discovers a problem when his new pet goes for a stroll...

"Dammit! A pooper-scooper isn't going to be big enough for this job. Signal Drummer, call the Ditch-Witch Doctor!"


(A photo of the kraal I've put together for sale with the next African village on eBay.)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bone Idol

Somewhere beyond the outskirts of civilization stands a dreadful idol dedicated to the great deity S'mon Co'ell, Punisher of the Untalented. Many propitiate his favors but few succeed...

I made this gruesome little piece out of an old CD and a Halloween plastic skull from a bagful of such bought from a local dollar store. The idol's head sits on several Hirst Arts blocks to give it stability and weight, with two of the Hirst wooden boards added for a sacrificial platform at the edge of the dark pool. The three grinning victims are from the Gothic accessories mold. Broken twigs and a few bits of Spanish moss add to the effect of desolation and hint at giant rib bones.
Although I intended it to serve as a centerpiece for Daftest Africa games, it would suit just about any genre, especially fantasy. Does anyone have any other ideas for its use..?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Blimp over Egypt

It's early morning. Somewhere west of Suez an American blimp takes to the skies. It seems to be an ordinary event judging by the lack of reaction from the folks in the street below. My United States Aerial Cavalry Squadron Blimp No. 1 Bird Dog makes a reappearance, this time with her plucky two-man crew aboard. What adventures lie in wait for them..?

home page uniques