Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hewers of wood, fetchers of water...

I decided my Daftest Africa campaign world would benefit from the presence of a few working stiffs - those guys and gals who do the countless tasks that make up everyday life. The figures shown below were bought on eBay and come from a variety of sources. The little donkey is a venerable survivor on the lead mountain, being thirty-some years old and finally, finally painted and based! It's been so long since I bought her I can't remember which manufacturer she came from, although a vague memory suggests Hinchcliffe.

Master 'Gyppo' (British army slang for Chief Cook) O'Brien samples his wares as civilian scout Kansas Pete Carter (who's a lo-o-ong way from home...) tends the fire. Around them the hewers of wood and fetchers of water do their thing.

Civilian contractor Willoughby Pond looks on as his train of bearers demonstrate the vitality of commerce in Daftest Africa. The termite mounds are fashioned from air-dry modelling clay and spackle.

Some more thoughts on Sharp Practise - Colonial style. I previously listed some bonus card ideas. Today I'm going to explain my idea for a Wildlife blind. The firing event chart in Sharp Practise lists an "escaped livestock" incident, but in Africa the local wildlife is inclined to do more than simply stampede.

A Wildlife blind could represent a few scouts, skirmishers, etc as normal - or it could mean there's a group of tawny bewhiskered faces peering out from the midst of that elephant grass.

Encounters will have to vary depending on the terrain. Those on the savanna can range from frightened antelope who want nothing more than to escape being somebody's lunch, to lions who want to set their own menu! Gorillas lurk in the jungle, ready to turn decidedly medieval on trespassers. Fire ants are notoriously nasty beasts: They and African bees can be deadly, and can't be shot. One battle in WW1 saw the hasty retreat of a British force from a swarm of bees, much to the relief of their German opponents! The great rivers are home to crocodile and hippopotamus. Not only does the hippo kill more people per year than the crocodile, its breath is supposedly the most awful in the world.

So, I'm thinking in terms of including an animal blind with the other normal versions. If a player's force ventures close enough to trip the blind's activation a die is thrown. A score of 1-4, say, will mean the disturbed animal is harmless and will flee. A 5-6 requires a roll on an encounter chart, with the beast(s) encountered being determined according to the prevailing terrain. I'll work something up and post it here soon.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sharp Practice thoughts - 1

I'm getting close to the time when I can actually run a game to try out the Too Fat Lardies' Sharp Practice rules in a homespun Colonial variant. After looking through the rules I've come up with a few ideas for bonus cards and effects to help or tax the players in Daftest Africa. Some of the effects listed below are the same as in the main rules but with a suitably Colonial flavor.


Bhisti-wallah! Supplies water for drinking, cleaning fouled barrels, washing off unpleasant things and putting out fires. # in deck = 3

Stand fast! A Big Man may rally 1D6 shock points from a Group/Formation. # in deck = 3

Ammunition. Replenishes stocks of ammo. # in deck = 3

Fouled ammunition. The cartridges or powder are contaminated in some way. Lose 1D6 from fire effect until replenished. # in deck = 1

Forced march. Any Colonial or Colonial-trained Group or Formation on a road, track or trail may take an additional move in column or on a blind. # in deck = 2

Local knowledge. A native Group may take an additional move in column or on a Blind. # in deck = 2

Breech-loader. Troops equipped with these fire again this round. # in deck = 3

Tschzeee! Natives lose 1D6 shock points. # in deck = 1

Oh blast! The layer must immediately surrender all his bonus cards but one. # in deck = 1

At the double! One Group or Formation may add one dice to its movement. This may not be played if they are attempting a formation change. # in deck = 2

Mad minute. Poor fire discipline. If the player commands troops with poor fire discipline that have not been activated in this turn one Group or Formation must fire a ragged volley at the enemy, irrespective of range. If all his troops have been activated he may discard the card.

If the player does not have any such troops he may retain the card and play it when an enemy unit with poor fire discipline fires, removing any Big Man bonus they would normally get.

Any unit firing on this card will end its turn unloaded. # in deck = 2

Ambush! Any troops uncloaking from a blind and firing or entering fisticuffs may, for this turn, count as ambushing their opponent. # in deck = 2

The heat! The flies! This counters any card with extra movement drawn by a Colonial player. # in deck = 2

Pitch black. Included for night fighting games. One Group that is not firing or illuminated may return to a Blind. # in deck = 2

National characteristics - British.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen. Counters the heat card. # in deck = 1

Men of Harlech. British troops defending a barrier lose 1D6 shock points. # in deck = 1

* * *
There are a few categories that I've yet to come up with an idea for. Vive l'Empereur cries out for an equivalent in Colonial gaming. Perhaps the player with the most luxuriant moustache gets a bonus move for a Big Man..?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Reedy river

Some time ago I wrote about a method of creating savanna grass using dried pine needles. A recent find of fresh pine needles on a fallen branch got me thinking of other ways to use nature's bounty. One thing that came to mind is the presence of so many rivers in Colonial-era gaming - and the reed beds found along all of them at one point or another. So it was I came up with the idea of recreating the effect of reeds along a river bank.

I made use of 1" - 2" strips of clear plastic cut from packaging material, as this is both transparent and stiff enough to resist any warping. Cutting or twisting off varying lengths of the fresh pine needles gave me nice thin reed-like stems, and I glued these in clumps to the plastic using a low-heat hot glue gun. A little care makes sure the glue goes on the plastic while avoiding touching the plastic with the hot tip of the gun. Take enough pine needles to hold comfortably in your fingers and simply stick the cut ends into the molten glue, holding them in place as it sets. A little teasing of the stems makes them appear more like natural growth. Fresh pine needles contain enough resin that they'll remain quite supple.

Once everything is set, they're ready for use. I made about a dozen or so, and set up the scene below using a sheet of clear plastic on top of blue poster card. As you can see the transparent strips virtually vanish against the surface they stand on, with the blobs of glue resembling the motion of water around the stems as the river flows. Place even a few strips side by side and they create a nice line-of-sight block or hiding place.

A native woman makes her way down to the riverbank to fetch water in the early morning light. The river flows by, smooth and tranquil.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tembe - finished

On to the final stages of tembe construction. After applying the thatch I laid a heavy book on the roof and left it overnight as it showed signs of warping. The weight solved this problem. Next up came the spackling of the walls. I applied regular all-purpose spackling in a thin layer over the sand sprinkled on earlier, working around those areas I'd already done as brickwork, and allowed it to dry. In the meantime I painted the main roof color using a mix of tan, white and yellow acrylics. Once this was dry I went over it with drybrushed vanilla white acrylic.

Once the walls were dry I painted them a slightly darker shade of tan than the roof, with dark brown going on those areas of exposed brickwork. To bring out the texture of the spackle so it resembles stucco I gave the whole wall areas two increasingly lighter drybrushed colors, a mix of the basic tan and vanilla white, followed by pure vanilla white. Once everything had dried I gave the whole building a wash of sepia ink diluted with rubbing alcohol, a trick I picked up from railroad modelling. The alcohol spreads the ink evenly and evaporates quickly, leaving a nice weathered effect without mess. The photo shows the final result, although the tembe looks somewhat darker in real life due to the lighting conditions when the photo was taken.

I think it looks the part, ready to take its place on the table for use by anybody who has need of a fortified building in my fictional African world. And you can be sure there'll be many!

A British patrol approaches the tembe with caution, unsure who - or what - lurks within.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tembe 3

The next and final major construction for this model is the roof. As mentioned earlier I decided to make it a pitched roof, and to do this I glued vertical 1/2 inch strips of foamcore waste onto the platform I made earlier, running each strip down the center of the platform. Once these were set I cut thin card to rough shapes that fit the pitch and corners and glued these onto the platform, as shown below.

I covered the whole with paper, gluing this into place with diluted PVA then added a layer of spackle and PVA mixed with chopped up paper to give a rough thatch effect. Once this dried I painted it with Craft Smart acrylics to give a base coat, to which I'll add highlights and shading.

The next step will be to spackle the walls. As seen by the white patches in the first photo I've already spread a thin layer of spackle on parts of the walls and scoured them with a brick effect to resemble areas where the stucco has fallen - or been shot away - over the years. More soon.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Tembe 2

A little more progress with the tembe. I pierced the outer walls for the firing slits then glued them in place, holding them so using pins. Once everything was secure I gave the outer walls a coat of thinned PVA and sprinkled sand on them to provide a keyed surface for the spackle layer.

Private Fred Dibble demonstrates the scale.

I got to work on the first stage of the roof while the sand coat dried. A sheet of thin card forms the base, with kebob skewers glued to it to provide cross-bracing. I opted for this method since card is notoriously prone to warping, foamcore would've been too thick, and MDF too heavy. Ordinary white adhesive will fix the skewers firmly but they do need to be weighed down to ensure this.
The typical tembe had a thatched roof (and I don't need to point out the problems that would cause in a fortified building) and they appear to have been flat. I've decided to give it a slight peak, enabling it to shed rainwater more effectively and giving at least a chance for any burning objects thrown up onto it to roll off. That will come in the next stage.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tembe 1

A while ago I wrote about the tembe, a type of building found in some parts of southern and eastern Africa during the Colonial period. It served as a fortified place of safety to which people could retreat with their livestock when under attack from hostiles. They were used by both tribal peoples and the Arab slavers who preyed upon them. Henry Morton Stanley also made use of them during his adventures, and in his memoirs recounted how effective they could be if stoutly defended.

In function the tembe had the same role as the pele towers of the English-Scottish Border country. The walls were certainly thick enough to withstand rifle and musket fire. How they would've borne up under artillery fire is open to conjecture.

The basic plan was square, with thick outer walls constructed of mud brick or clay and pierced for weapons. The interior had several rooms set around the perimeter, all connecting to each other in sequence. Should the main gate be breached each room could be barricaded to serve as a mini-fort, requiring the attacker to clear each in turn. Although the rooms were roofed with thatch the central courtyard was open to the sky and served as the animal pen. The plan below gives the general idea. I decided to use foamcore for constructing my model since it's versatile and easy to work with. The ground area is eight inches square and the wall height a little under two inches. I cut four interior walls from 3/16th inch foamcore and three long and two shorter exterior walls from 1/2 inch. A cutting mat and metal ruler is practically vital for this work. The brass laboratory ruler shown below was a real find in a local charity shop, a bargain for just 25 cents!

The markings on the large square show where the walls will go. I marked doors and cross-bracing slots on the interior walls then cut them out, as shown below. The two lower walls will slide down on the upper walls forming a tic-tac-toe style cross.

The next picture shows the interior walls glued using ordinary white craft adhesive...

...and glued into place on the floor.

Next stage will be to pierce the outer walls for the firing slits and attach them to the base.


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