Thursday, March 29, 2012

Steamboat - finished

The upgrade to the steamboat is now done. Some photos down below show the end result.

The militarized version - 12pdr BL on the foredeck, 3-barrel Nordenfeldt on the upper.

Armed and dangerous!

And the civilian version, carrying passengers and supplies for stations and settlements upriver.  

Doughty Dutch explorer Kallida van Wert stands in the bows, ready to see off hostile natives and wildlife alike. 

The gun position in the bows is covered over with a square hatch. All the sandbag emplacements are removable as is the upper deck. Both guns can be dismounted to give more space on deck for troops and/or military supplies. It can carry at most a ten-man section of troops - enough to be useful.
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I'd normally jigger around with the images in PhotoShop, but we've recently upgraded our PC to run Linux. It has its foibles, and a definite learning curve! Any suggestions on how to smooth the process are welcome.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A whole lot of nothing going on

Says it all, really. I've been busy with looking after mom-in-law, but should pick up the modelling and gaming reins again next week. I aim to finish off the steamboat upgrade for one thing. 

As usual, I've been browsing the 'net between times, looking at all the excellent blogs and figure manufacturers out there. A Very British Civil War continues to tempt me, especially after viewing the superb Musketeer Miniatures Interwar range, and those of Muttonchop Miniatures. Even so, my willpower has triumphed, and I shall continue with building up my Daftest Africa forces. AVBCW will have to wait for another time!

The decision was helped a great deal when I came across Perry Miniatures' Bazingers in their Sudan range during a search for askari figures. I aim to form an auxiliary unit for the British in Ukraziland, and these Perry figures look perfect for the job. They're dynamically posed and full of character, which I look for in skirmish-level figures. Other askari miniatures have bolt-action rifles or are incompatible scale-wise to my other figures. I will need to find a British NCO to lead them, but it shouldn't be a problem. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Steamboat - work in progress 1

Having finished a VBCW commission, I'm now pressing on with upgrading my Colonial steamboat. Here's a couple of shots showing progress so far. 

I lengthened the hull cut-and-shut fashion by inserting a 2" length of foamcore, which I then clad with card and painted. The model is now some eleven inches long overall. Originally, I followed Major General Tremorden Rederring's thinking in keeping the model small, in this case 9", but further thought showed this gives too small a deck area for use on the table. Not enough figures can be carried to be worthwhile. The insert solves the problem, although, if I make another steamboat, I'll make it an inch wider.  

The idea behind the upgrade is to make the model so it can be used for civilian and military purposes by swapping out components. The upper deck is more or less finished. I've yet to decide whether to install a 5-barrel Nordenfelt or a Hotchkiss 37mm revolving cannon here. The mast will need supporting stays for added security, and I'm thinking of adding a whistle to the smokestack.

All the mealie bags are made of Sculpey. Those on the lower deck need to be baked, and are shown to give the idea of siting. I put a stack on either side of the boiler (another addition to the original model) to protect it.  The 12 pounder gun in the naval mounting is attached to a steel nut, which stands on a square of magnetic card glued to the deck. This allows me to swivel the gun, and remove it easily when turning the steamboat to civilian use.

The as-yet unnamed steamboat, looking rather lean and rakish. A veritable greyhound of the river! 

I'll post some more photos once everything's complete, showing before, after and both civilian and military versions.

Monday, March 12, 2012

AVBCW pillbox

Not an awful lot happening game-wise, but modelling work is progressing well. I just completed a Very British Civil War pillbox/OP, as shown below by General Sir Robert fFyfe-Robinson.
This is based upon a WW2 pillbox controlling an exit from a beach in Scotland. I've seen a similar structure sited alongside a railway track to guard access to a bridge. This model can take three or four 28mm figures. It was fun and easy to make. So far, I'm resisting temptation to start my own VBCW collection!

Apart from this, I made a few mealie bag walls from Sculpey as part of a planned upgrade to my Colonial river steamer. I want two different top decks that can be swapped-out to represent a civilian or militarized vessel. I currently have the civilian version. The military version will have the mealie bag emplacements along the sides and around the pilot house. I might go so far as to mount a deck gun. We'll see. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A few thoughts on GASLIGHT rules.

One game doesn't really give enough data for a major appraisal of a rules set. However, some points of the GASLIGHT rules can be addressed.

First, I like how quickly they play. With only three units per side it's probably not surprising, but the resolution of each unit's action took a mere matter of moments to deal with. The rules are card-driven, and I used an ordinary deck of playing cards, with a different denomination of card for each unit. 20-sided die are used for combat, vehicle handling and morale.

The GASLIGHT forum saw some recent discussion about utilizing an end-of-turn card, in the same style as the Sharp Practice 'Tiffin.' For the sake of friction of war I decided to use such a card for this game, and think it worked well. Both sides had turns which saw them steal a move over the opposition before the turn ended.

It did lead to frustration in the native camp when the golems failed to activate before the warband accompanying them. This caused a roadblock, which I deemed made the leader of the warband impatient. It set him off to tackle the Pond-friendly natives near the huts rather than concentrate on his mission, to the detriment of the golems.

GASLIGHT movement rates are set distances rather than random, as in Sharp Practice. Vehicles have their stats rolled at random before the start of the game. In the case of the S-G Mk II Steam Exploration Vehicle used by Willoughby Pond, it rolled rather well.

The golems aren't really covered by the rules, so I counted them in the same manner as vehicles, with some house rules added. I ruled a hit from an artillery piece or fusillade of bullets required each to roll a Sustain die. Failure meant the golem stopped moving. The witchdoctor controlling the things could make just one attempt on her next turn to restart a stopped golem on a successful Start die, but in this game she failed every time. 

As Dr. Vesuvius commented on the previous post, GASLIGHT tends to be one-sided when natives face off against Colonial Powers equipped with VSF trappings. There were instances in the recent game where the natives could have given the Pond Expedition a severe drubbing.  The S-G Mk II can be a clumsy beast when presented with more than one target, and those spaced well apart. Had the witchdoctor recovered control of the golems, or had the warband accompanied them instead of haring off on their own scheme, things might have turned out differently.

On reflection, should I play the scenario again, I'd add another golem or two to the native force, or increase the Start and Sustain attributes of the existing three. I could also ensure the native warband leader minds his duty so he accompanies the golems into contact with the enemy. 

I've yet to play the rules in an armor-vs-armor encounter. Other gamers (Hello again, Dr. V!) report rather odd results which are hard to explain away in game terms. I've a few ideas for another steam vehicle, which I hope to build in the fullness of time. 

So, on the whole I like the rules. They seem to have some idiosyncrasies, but I need to play them through a few times to get a better feel for them. As for the next game, it'll probably be the beginning of the Sharp Practice mini-campaign, as mentioned previously. At the moment I'm busy working on a commission for some Very British Civil War structures, the first of which can be seen here.

 Boer War veteran Brigadier-General Sir Robert fFyfe-Robinson, KCB, inspects a blockhouse defending the boundaries of his village against all comers. The stovepipe shows provision has been made for that most British of institutions - a nice cuppa!

I've kind of watched AVBCW from the sidelines, unsure whether the genre appealed to me or not. It's not that I don't already have enough on my plate to deal with before starting a new period, oh no. But it does look awfully tempting...

Monday, March 5, 2012

Willoughby Pond's Expedition

Willoughby Pond did not give up his plans after an earlier attempt to establish a trading post in Ukraziland ended in abject failure when he was captured by the Ukrazi tribe. With Britain in firm control of the slaver port of Yabhouti, he has landed with a few companions and a steam exploration vehicle of the latest design, determined to succeed this time.

An offer by the chief of the Kumyonda tribe to lease him a plot of land has Pond champing at the bit. Hiring Sunny N'Sher and his merry band of mercenary musketeers, he has set off for the Kumyonda stretch of the Ukrazi River. We find him now, not long after noon, approaching the rendezvous with the Kumyonda chief. Unfortunately, the Kumyonda's hated rivals the Ukrazi tribe have learned of Pond's return to 'their' turf, and have set out to teach him a final, fatal, lesson...
The field of battle lies before the bold merchant adventurer. The Ukrazi River flows in the distance. On its bank the two huts of the rendezvous with the Kumyonda chief.

But the Witch Doctor of the Ukrazi tribe springs a nasty ambush! Three wooden golems, the animated trunks and branches of trees, emerge from the bush.  

Although horribly startled by the apparition, Pond quickly recovers, and lay fire upon the golems with telling effect. One takes a 3" shell in the midriff and lurches out of the line. On the other side of the clearing, the Ukrazi warband makes its rush, one of its number falling to a mercenary bullet.  

Closer to the river, a second Ukrazi warband forsakes its duty of escorting the golems for the easy (?) target of the Kumyonda warband. Filtering through the bush, they make enough noise to warn the Kumyonda chief of their coming.

Pond manages to swivel the Exploration vehicle to cover the oncoming golems. He fires and scores another hit, and stops one dead.

An attempt to swivel again and fire upon the onrushing warband fails. Wary of the hissing iron monster, the warband gets to grips with the mercenaries instead, just as a fusillade of musketry stops the last golem in its tracks.
What happens next will probably dog Pond's reputation for the rest of his days. Unnerved by the close proximity of the hostile tribesmen, Pond turns the vehicle and runs right through the middle of them, crushing six warriors beneath his treads...  
He goes on to run down and crush the second immobilized golem, before turning around for another pass.
Over by the hut, the Kumyonda warriors see the Ukrazi warband off the premises. 
Having failed to restart the golems, the Witchdoctor has made herself scarce.  Slipping away into the brush, she'll have some pointed words to say to the negligent leader of her escort.

And the end of the encounter. With their numbers literally crushed, Pond's vehicle gun menacing them, sporadic fire from the victorious mercenaries, and the Kumyonda warband hurrying over to join the fight, the Ukrazi survivors make themselves scarce.
So ends my first GASLIGHT game. I'll write a few thoughts on the rules and the playing of the game another time.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

GASLIGHT game AAR coming soon

An opportunity to game the long-planned Willoughby Pond scenario to GASLIGHT rules came up this afternoon, so I seized it with both hands. The game took less than two hours to fight solo, and could've gone either way. A report with photos will follow soon.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

AVBCW temptation

I do not need to start in on another gaming period. Seriously. However tempting. But the temptations are there, in several posts on various blogs and the Lead Adventurers' Forum.

One such is A Very British Civil War. Being English myself, and a total history buff to boot, I can see the charm. Check out the Interwar forum on the LAF for inspiration. A very good source of information on AVBCW can be found here, including a great breakdown of available miniatures.

Forces can be raised, even on a limited budget, consisting of a couple dozen or so figures with vehicles or vessels to suit. A fellow gamer is commissioning me to make some blockhouses for his own AVBCW collection, and it's tempting beyond belief to buy 'just a few figures' to see how it all fits. How about a force created by the Earl of Grantham, he of Downton Abbey fame?

A campaign can be set up in the way exemplified on Dr. Vesuvius' Blog. The good Doctor has created a simplified system for his 188X Britain Invaded campaign. It's based on tabletop encounters, the effects of one leading to the set-up of the next game, and is perfectly adaptable to AVBCW.

Am I trying to convince myself, one way or another? I don't know. But would a few figures hurt? ;)

EDIT: As Jeff points out in his comment, there are currently eight different campaigns in progress, details of which are to be found at the Saxe-Bearstein blog. Steve the Wargamer has the complete Grant Tabletop Teasers listed on his blog, with permission from the author.   

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