Wednesday, July 20, 2011


In his comment on my previous post, Ian pointed out the dangers of naughty natives setting fire to the base of the watchtower, thus creating alarm and despondency to those on top. Here's my answer - a zariba!

One of the simplest field defences devised, the zariba originated in the Sudan. Mimosa bushes were used for the most part. Growing to a modest six or seven feet tall, the mimosa has a broad spreading top and a relatively spindly trunk, much like an umbrella to look at. Vicious thorns hide amidst the foliage, and these are what makes it useful for defensive purposes. 

Natives and Imperial forces alike cut the mimosa close to the ground and laid the bush on its side, much like an open umbrella. Laid in rows to make up a box, with the spiky thorns outermost, they presented a very difficult barrier to penetrate, and one virtually impossible to leap over, even on horseback. This is the classic zariba. Native warriors and Imperial troops alike could stay safe within the confines of the zariba, able to shoot outward at their enemies with reduced risk to themselves.

I decided my Daftest African forces certainly needed such a feature, so I set out to make one. 

First step involves taking some sisal string of the kind used for gardening. Cut short (1" - 1¼") lengths, keeping one end bunched tight. Dip this end in water, then in white craft adhesive before leaving aside on old newspaper to dry. The water helps the sisal to wick-up the adhesive. Once the glued end is dry, spread the other end out into a rough bushy shape. Dip this end into diluted craft adhesive then into scenic flock. I actually use dried used green tea. It's cheap, effective, and you get a nice drink out of it first!

Next up, make some card bases by cutting strips of cereal packets into roughly 3" lengths, doubling the thickness of the card by gluing additional strips on top to get rigidity. It's best to roughen up any glossy surfaces of the card first. Once dry, smear spackle over the card then cover with dried coffee grounds. This tip came from the excellent Quindia Studios. If the card warps, simply - and carefully- bend it back into shape.

Allow these to dry thoroughly before painting. I use the cheap and cheerful Craft Smart acrylics, opting for a basic buff with highlights of brown and green. When the paint is dry, put blobs of craft adhesive at four spots along the length of the strip, roughly equidistant. Glue the model mimosa bushes along the length, bushy sides outward as shown below. Allow the first batch to dry before gluing three more bushes in the gaps between them.

At this stage, you can spray the lot with diluted PVA with some acrylic earth colors mixed in to fix everything in place, especially the mimosa leaves, which might rub off with extensive handling.

The final result is shown below. I made enough strips to create a platoon-sized zariba, with enough space for both tents and watchtower. So those on the watchtower may sleep peacefully on their watch, secure in the knowledge that if the structure catches fire, the situation below has already reached a serious pitch of trouble...

Colonel Trollope of the Barsetshire Regt. converses with Sgt. Harrison, whilst members of the platoon keep watch.
The photo shows the basic idea for my next scenario. A British watchtower on the edge of civilization attracts the attention of hostile forces, who have its destruction in mind. I'll work out the details in the next couple weeks. In the meantime, for those in the US who like Essex Colonial figures, WARGAMES over in Nashville, TN has a 50% off sale on these figures. I've ordered enough to make up the missing third section of the Barsetshire platoon, and these stalwart chaps will take their place in the upcoming game.


Bluebear Jeff said...

Thank you for this tutorial on making zaribas. I shall certainly keep it in mind.

-- Jeff

Anonymous said...

A genius idea AJ - I'll certainly be stealing it. The Zariba will keep the upitty natives away from the tower and their arsonistic tendencies.
Your camp looks ready to be beset by the locals!
By planting the bunches of "mimosa" in an irregular base you could make small areas of uncut brush away from the camp too.

all the best


A J said...

Jeff - You're welcome. You can't go wrong with a zariba where Colonial gaming is concerned.

Ian - Feel free to use the idea. Thanks for the suggestion to create free standing clumps of mimosa. I now have an idea on how to make them =)


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