Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Flatiron gunboat project - 6

I've made a little more progress with the Flatiron gunboat, HMS Arthur. The portholes were stamped out of Sculpey, cookie-cutter fashion, using two drinking straws of the right diameter. Once glued to the hull, the insides were painted black then given a drop of Future polish to represent glass. I might add the smaller portholes that feature in the citadels on the historical vessels, located about level with the ventilators, but I don't have time at the moment. 

I decided against fitting a bandstand behind the two foremost ventilators as it wouldn't leave much room for figures, otherwise. This class of gunboat appears to have had a barquentine rig, with square sails on the foremast only. I've yet to cross the yards, which will be the last major piece of construction on this project. It is a gaming model, after all, and the fewer bits that can snap off in play, the better! 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Third Section musters for duty

A photo of the newest recruits to the Barsetshire platoon...

...along with new figures for Lt. Pike (rear right) and Sgt. Harrington (center-right). Under the Sharp Practise rules, Bugler Bates now gives Pike the means to communicate with his command even in dispersed formation. 
* * * 
I'm making progress - albeit slow - with the gunboat. The new portholes are fitted and look good. Remaining fitting-out work consists of painting and mounting the main gun, erecting a bandstand with searchlight abaft the foremast, and crossing the yards and spars. I'll post photos when it's done, but it'll all have to wait for a week, since my wife and I have to help care for an elderly relative undergoing chemotherapy. I hope to play out the Attack on Yabhouti game sometime next month.  

Friday, August 26, 2011

Lt. Pike's Plan

Lt. Pike is a man of letters, and he's examined the situation in Yabhouti - as far as it's known - closely. He's decided the key to the town lies in the tower on the ridge. Located S-W of the township, the tower dominates the urban area and environs. Any ordnance mounted therein will need to be dealt with if the town is to be taken and held.

To this end Pike has decided to go for the throat and make a direct attack on the tower.

Two slaver dhows have been captured, and will be used to convey his platoon and the mountain gun to Yabhouti. The Flatiron gunboat HMS Arthur will accompany the dhows, and the whole force will stand offshore until two hours before dawn to avoid raising the alarm ashore. At this point the dhows, being of shallow draught, will close safely with the shore and the platoon landed in darkness on the beach south of the town. 

HMS Arthur's deeper draught prevents her from venturing into the unknown inshore waters until there's sufficient light to navigate safely. She will close with the shore at sunrise to provide naval gunfire support if needed, the sun behind her getting in the eyes of enemy gunners.

Pike and HMS Arthur's captain are under orders to limit structural damage to a minimum. The aim is to capture the port with as much of its infrastructure intact as possible. The gunboat will use her aft 4.7" gun in preference to the main 6" gun. The 4.7" is heavy enough to get the message across without flattening the town with just a couple of shots. If the shore party is repulsed from the tower, then the big gun will come into play.   

Once ashore, Pike will lead his platoon directly toward the tower. 3 Section and the mountain gun will split off to screen the right flank of the other two sections from any assault from the town. The mountain gun cannot damage the tower's thick masonry, but it can help suppress its defenders.   

Two petards have been prepared for use against the tower's reinforced door, and men instructed in their use. Once the door has been blown in, the main body of the platoon will enter at the run to clear the tower. With the tower in British hands, it's unlikely the Yabhouti garrison will offer further resistance.
* * *
That's the plan - it remains to be seen how long it survives contact with reality. Hopefully I'll be able to play out the game to Sharp Practice rules sometime in the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The next game scenario

I've thought over the options for the next Sharp Practice game in and around Africa Station. I concluded that the zariba scenario I came up with earlier is better suited to a later stage of the campaign. Really, I figured I was putting the cart before the horse. What I need to do is to establish a British presence in the area first!

So, with all that figured out, what's required? Answer = A bridgehead, and what better way to use the new gunboat (when she's finished) than in supporting a landing on a hostile shore. 

Below is the map of Yabhouti, a small Zanzibar port and seat of Sheik Yabhouti, nefarious slave trader and occasional pirate. His activities have long been a thorn in British attempts to suppress the slave trade, and Whitehall has now decided action must be taken.

Intelligence has revealed the Sheik suffered a reversal during a recent slave raid deep into Belgian territory. His military strength now rates somewhere between pathetic and abysmal. He does have considerable resources of silver and goodwill from his fellow rulers along the coast, and it's expected he will recover soon. In the meantime, he has a garrison in Yabhouti, and can call upon the services of the Ukrazi tribe from the hinterland.

Whitehall has directed that a force of the Barsetshire Regt. and a light artillery piece be put ashore to seize the town and any assets therein, in the name of Her Majesty the Queen (God bless 'er!). A gunboat will provide naval gunfire support. Speed is of the essence, as the town must be seized and held before the Sheik recovers his military strength. 

The town possesses little in the way of defences beyond a few walls, but the tower on the hill dominates the town and surrounding area. It's suspected that one or more artillery pieces may be mounted in the tower, but this cannot be confirmed.

Detailed for the task is the armed might of Baker Platoon, Able Coy. 2nd Battalion Barsetshire Regt., Lt. Frederick Pike commanding. Newly brought up to strength, this will be their first real test under fire as a platoon. A mountain gun from the Indian Army will provide direct artillery support once ashore.

That's the set-up. More next time on Lt. Pike's plan.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Weekend whileaway

Posts have been absent this last week due to family matters. We did have a trip out this afternoon to Fort Meigs, Perrysburg, Ohio. A War of 1812 fortification built by the US army to guard the crossing of the Maumee River, it came under seige by British colonial forces twice in two years, but held out in spite of heavy artillery bombardment. The British army had few regular troops on this frontier, relying instead on Native American tribal allies and Canadian militia, both of which proved too fickle for seige warfare. Had the fort fallen, matters in Ohio might have been very different...

This weekend (20-21st August) sees the Life on the Frontier in Ohio event, with re-enactors present at Fort Meigs showing army drill, plus crafts of the period. Photos we took today will follow later. I made a beeline for the museum shop and found a neat little covered wagon of the type seen on General Pettigree's blog. Although it's "Made in China" as a pencil-sharpener, it'll certainly stand conversion to a military wagon for my Daftest African force. At $3 a piece, how can you go wrong? 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Poll closed - results now in

Hmm! An interesting result from the poll. From fifteen responses it appears there's a definite appreciation for Victorian sci-fi elements in Colonial gaming. This certainly seems to fit with the activity shown on the Lead Adventurers' Forum VSF section. All kinds of weird and wonderful creations appear there, often inspired scratch-built models from the unlikeliest sources, or modified versions of commercial products. Check it out - there's a lively community there, and they're very helpful folks. 

So, where do I stand in all this? I do like the VSF genre, and have an interest in Steampunk. (Take a look at Aurora, an excellent free to watch 30-minute indi movie from Australia for inspiration). It also suits my situation, as I find it far easier to scratch-build VSF creations than to splash out the cash on gaming figures and models. Expect to see a few such appearing in future reports on this blog.     

Sunday, August 14, 2011

An update

A Canadian customer commissioned a set of decorative bookends from me. She's a medical anthropologist and wanted a plague doctor theme in keeping with her vocation. I put together a couple of scenes from the busy life of such a man, as shown below. They were fun to make, but involved a lot of work!

The plague doctor is in!
* * *
Family matters are taking a lot of my time right now, so progress on the wargaming and modelling front will be sporadic for a couple of weeks, maybe more. As of today, I have succeeded in painting up the third section of British infantry for the Barsetshires. Their bases are half-finished, just needing a lick or two of paint and some groundwork. I'll post some pictures when I can. 

Now the figures are mounted on fender washers, I can get more of a comparison size-wise with my existing figures. The Essex Miniatures fall between the diminutive Foundry and large Eureka sculpts in size. I like them both in terms of size and poses. One of these days I might just sell off the Eureka figures and replace them with Essex, since Eureka are a bit too large for my taste.

My Flatiron gunboat's porthole puzzle has been solved. I think I'll use a length of plastic pipe as a cookie-cutter and stamp the portholes out of Sculpey or Miliput. Once painted I can simply glue them in place along the hull.

The poll (see left) is drawing to a close, with an interesting slant of opinion. I'll post the final result tomorrow.  

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A poll

I have to admit I'm quite curious about the level of VSF elements - if any - other players include in their Colonial-era games. To satisfy this, I've posted a poll here. It's set so any reader can give more than one answer, so feel free.

For myself, I'm partial to Steampunk and general Victorian style. The esteemed Major General Tremorden Reddering shows what can be done in gaming, mixing steam landships with early 20th century trucks, Zeppelins and even aircraft. Colonel O'Truth is going a fair way following in his footsteps, with a superb land-walker in the making. Let's hear your thoughts!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Zariba expansion

Having constructed several mimosa sections I decided I wasn't entirely happy with the confines of the space within the zariba. I fixed this by adding three inches to either side, making the zariba square, and increasing the internal surface area by some thirty square inches. This gave me plenty of room to deploy figures, tentage, supplies, watchtower, etc. One of these days I might add corner pieces. 

Outpost with watchtower configuration...

...or field defenses on the march.
* * *
Various matters look set to tie-up my time for the next few weeks, probably into September. I'm pressing ahead with painting and model making when I can. The Barsetshires will take to the field again. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

New recruits for the Barsetshire Regt.

My order for twelve Essex Miniatures 25mm Colonial British infantry arrived from WargamesMinis while I was away. On unwrapping and examining them I'm pleased with the purchase. On the whole I'd say they're closer to Foundry in size rather than Eureka's giants, something I didn't expect given Essex's reputation for large sculpts. Perhaps that reputation has grown obsolete in the face of modern scale-creep.

So, what do I have? On the whole there's very little flash. One small part of the bugler's instrument failed to come out of the mold, but this is easily fixed. The proportion of the heads seems a trifle large, but not unduly so. Certainly not in comparison with some of Dixon's range. The features are varied, which I like in skirmish-level figures.

Four of the figures are posed in the act of loading their Martini-Henry rifles, these weapons being separate from the infantryman. Two figures poised at the ready have their hands as part of the rifle sculpt. A trial run shows these will fit nicely. The officer has a separate sword, and is posed in the act of drawing his revolver. 

All in all, a nice batch, and one I look forward to painting up and deploying with the rest of the Barsetshire platoon in the service of Queen and Country.

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