Saturday, December 27, 2014

10mm Armour

An assortment of Pendraken 10mm armour, painted up over the Christmas break.

 Top L-R, Vickers Light Tank MkVIb, T-26 with 45mm gun. 
Bottom row, L3/33 tankettes.

I painted the tankettes in a variant of the Hungarian camouflage pattern because it looks more interesting than the plain brown that seems the commonest paint scheme. The Mk. VIb is in the British Army pattern of 1940. The T-26 is a basic Soviet olive green. As an experiment I mounted all the vehicles on clear plastic bases so they would blend with the ground beneath.

An unexpected encounter at a crossroads during the VBCW, somewhere in England's green and pleasant land. The Mk. VIb commander has moments to decide what to do, whilst the tankettes scuttle through a gateway in an effort to outflank the monster - or perhaps to escape destruction. The telegraph poles are a new addition to the scenery.

I have a batch of BUF infantry on the painting block, halfway through the process. Photos to follow in the next few days.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Hobart's 79th Armoured Division at War

Last Christmas my lovely wife gave me a Kindle for a present, which I like very much. I have a number of military books on it, and the latest addition to my collection is Richard Doherty's Hobart's 79th Armoured Division at War: Invention, Innovations & Inspiration, published by Pen and Sword (May 19, 2014).

I came across it whilst browsing Amazon on my Kindle on Christmas Eve. The book's currently available at $1.99 and is well worth getting. Percy Hobart was a gifted if somewhat abrasive person, but no one else could have raised and trained the "Funnies" to such a pitch of excellence. The 79th trained for D-Day all over the UK, and I know a couple of the sites they used quite well. I've just finished the chapters relating to the division's experiences in Normandy, and the sheer heroism of those men is breathtaking. Many of the actions described would make ideal scenarios for Chain of Command. I'm currently reading about the 79th's exploits at Cap Gris Nez during the "Great Swan" across France.

Of course, the book has got me thinking in terms of gaming 1944 NW Europe...

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Very Merry Christmas to One and All!

We're having a quiet Christmas Eve here in Ohio. The weather's pretty grizzly, but I'm staying indoors. I'm going to slap paint on some 10mm figures and finish off six N-scale roadside telegraph poles whilst listening to carols.  

So, without further ado, 
let me and mine wish
A Merry Christmas to One and All!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Adding to my scenery

I made some more terrain for my 10mm/N-scale gaming. I'd had telegraph poles in mind for a while since they're a ubiquitous feature of the modern world. The poles are wooden mini-dowels with wire crossbars passed through holes drilled in the dowel. The insulator caps are fashioned from 'puffy' paint, and the bases are card built up with Miliput for grass effect and to add weight.

These are very easy and cheap to make. I plan to make another set of telegraph posts as roadside features, since lines usually run alongside roads and lanes for ease of maintenance and repair. My idea is to build them into short sections of pavement, hedgerow and bank to blend in with my current scenery. After that, I'll make a red telephone box or two. Those phone lines have to run to something!   

In the foreground is a quartet of Pendraken Miniatures 10mm tanks which rolled in yesterday for my VBCW collection. Top L-R, Vickers Light Tank Mk VIb, Soviet T-26 (I think it's one of the 'tankiest' looking tanks ever produced). Front, Italian C33/35 tankettes. The Vickers will be painted in British Army early war camouflage pattern. That way it'll be of use in VBCW gaming and as part of a future BEF 1940 collection. The T-26 will go to the Socialist faction (a prezzy from Uncle Joe Stalin), and the C33/35s to the BUF (a prezzy from Il Duce). I'm in two minds about the camo scheme for these. On the one hand, black would make them look nice and sinister for a nasty and sinister organization, yet black limits their use elsewhere. I might just paint them up in Italian camo colours and leave it at that. 

I also got some SCW Republican infantry, officers and standard bearers in winter dress. The infantry will complete my BUF faction forces. Taking a tip from the VBCW forum I'll paint the officers and standard bearers in various factional outfits and give them flags to match. That way I can swap out a flag at the head of a nondescript unit and have them change factions instantly.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Chain of Command

So, I finally bought the Chain of Command and At the Sharp End .pdf versions. Now I can see what WW2 gamers are raving about! 

They're a clean, intuitive set of rules that cover just about every warring nation and circumstance. The Sharp End supplement is a neat, easy-to-use set of campaign rules which add a distinctive flavour to the main rules, and makes the gamer think beyond the casual one-off game. I'm going to try them both out using my 10mm VBCW figures sometime during the holidays to see how they play on the table top. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Sad Event

Like many others I've enjoyed browsing the beautiful model work on 'Captain Richard's Miniature Issues' blog. It is with sadness that today I read of the good Captain's passing via a message posted to his blog by his daughter. 

He was suddenly taken ill the day before Thanksgiving, and lost his battle on December 10th. A talented artist with a wonderful ability to give life to his creations, his work is recognized by modellers and gamers around the world. My condolences go to his family and friends.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

"Sands of the Sudan"

The one game and set of rules that really turned me onto Colonial wargaming were to be found at Peter Gilder's wargames holiday center during the 80's. In the same spirit, an excellent two-part account of a Sudan game can be found at Carlo Pagano's blog With Pyjamas Through the Desert.

Carlo and friends have reproduced Peter's rules in a labor of love that keeps the flame alive, and hopefully will introduce more players to a splendid gaming experience. Check out the account of the game - then check out the rules. They're worth it!

Monday, December 1, 2014

"Computers don't bounce...

...when you throw them out the window."

I hope all my American readers had a great Thanksgiving.

Not much happening with me these last few weeks as ongoing PC problems are tying up my time. If I have to reformat the hard drive once more, I might well see if my computer tutor's statement about computers not bouncing is true...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

November 11th, 1914-2014

We Will Remember Them.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Changing standards

A piece of advice offered a new member over at the AVBCW forum who inquired about figures and units caught my attention. It was suggested a simple switch of standard bearers and commanders is enough to give the average body of Very British Civil War troops a whole new identity. 

It's something I'm going to try with my more nondescript units. Swapping out flags at their heads will turn them into Anglican League, Royalists, other LDV companies, pub militias and so on. Thanks to the generosity of one forum member who has a consummate skill for creating flags, this is quite easy to do. Socialist and BUF will remain fairly distinctive. I have enough figures and vehicles to complete the BUF, then it's on to producing more buildings for the genre. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Charity shop find - N scale church

Sometimes the neatest things turn up in charity shops. My wife and I were browsing the shelves in our local Goodwill store when I came across this and snapped it up.

It's titled "Cathedral in Massing." Made in Ireland, it's in solid (heavy!) resin and close enough to N-scale/10mm as makes no difference. It's missing the cross on top of the spire and the spire itself is a little bent, but on the whole it'll work fine on the table, perhaps with a bit of paint here and there. I'm thinking it's more European than British, and it might suit WW1/WW2 games set in France.
* * * *
I'm over the bout with food poisoning, and my thanks to the well-wishers. At the moment I'm working on more art stuff, but I'll be back to gaming related projects soon. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


Not a great deal going on gaming-wise this week. We had a great time at Archon 38 in Collinsville, Illinois. The SF convention was bigger and better than ever. I'm trying to get a few things ready for art shows but a bout of food poisoning has laid me low.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tyler’s Knoll: Post-game thoughts.

A dramatic shift in fortunes for the Barsetshires this time, with no casualties suffered whatsoever. The same can’t be said for “Brickie” Tuck-Poynter’s poor Volunteers, who died to a man...

As I’ve said before, under the Sharp Practice rules when natives get into hand-to-hand combat it can be very nasty for their opponents. I automatically rate all tribal warbands as Aggressive, meaning +1 to every combat die. So it was all up with the Volunteers, although the dice goddess looked favorably upon their last moments. Three times in succession they managed to inflict equal casualties on the warband in spite of being rated as Poor troops, and by the rules the melee continued. In the end sheer numbers told against them, but Brickie Tuck-Poynter challenged and engaged the warband’s Big Man in fisticuffs. This is quite allowable under the rules, and is the only instance it’s happened in any of my games so far. As single combat between warriors is a tradition with many African tribes I thought his challenge would be accepted. A swift blow according to the Marquess of Queensbury’s rules saw the native Big Man sitting out the match for a while as Brickie scampered off through the undergrowth.

And so to the British firing line. If a warband is deadly in melee, the firing line is deadly in ranged combat. The campaign saw a change to British army organization, with sections reduced from ten to eight men, including an NCO. Up until then the sections operated individually quite well, being large enough to present a good volume of fire and usually large enough to fend for itself in melee. With the reorganization, however, things changed. The smaller sections lost a certain amount of firepower – two dice less for fewer men firing, and as “Good’ troops rate one extra die per five men firing, they lost another die here.

The Barsetshire’s first venture into G’Wundaland showed how dangerous it is for British units to operate in the old-fashioned way. Captain Pike decided the platoon should thenceforth operate as one body (In Sharp Practice terms as a Formation made up of three Groups). This lead to it being somewhat cumbersome, but the firepower increase proved considerable.

In the game, volley fire didn’t inflict a huge number of actual kills on the warbands, but they accumulated Shock at a terrific rate. The Barsetshires benefited from the Breechloader card coming up three or four times in succession, which helped enormously. Five Rounds Rapid indeed. As a solo gamer I try to fight according to what I believe the commanders on the ground would do. In this action I decided the native Big Men would see how things were going and withdraw to fight another day. 

What would happen if the two forces get into melee? No doubt it'll be revealed in another game.

And so to the set-up for the next game. The Barsetshire’s brief is to establish a fortified camp or zariba on the hill-top to act as a way-station and supply base for farther ventures into G’Wundaland. I think the G’Wunda tribe will have something to say about this. The Arab slavers also won’t be too happy with the presence of Law and Order backed by the Red Queen’s Soldiers coming to this part of Africa. The mysterious great lake is still to be found, and there’s also the disappearance of the Reverend Tyler and Fatima bint-Daud, the Al-Quadi’s daughter to solve...

Monday, September 22, 2014

Action at Tyler's Knoll

Harrington eyed the platoon as it formed up into firing line astride the trail. "Come along, come along! Let's be having you. Georgie G'wunda won't wait on your dilly-dallying!"

One of the deadliest implements of Victorian warfare - the Thin Red Line.

The platoon had advanced across the savanna in skirmish order, but on approaching the objective Captain Pike had ordered it into firing line. Harrington glanced at the Captain where he stood examining the distant hill through his binoculars, with Bugler Bates and anthropologist Dr. Emil Beckenbaur of Hetzenberg University beside him. Fred's sniffing the wind. He's developed a nose for trouble in his time out here. Harrington looked over to the right, where the Volunteers were closing on the wood. And I hope that silly ass Tuck-Poynter doesn't find it first!
The presence of the Volunteers, all ten of them, had been a sore bone of contention for the platoon. Amateurs to a man, the Volunteers were led by Harrington's old Harrovian bête noire, Nugent "Brickie" Tuck-Poynter. A mixture of social classes, they’d proven game and quick to adapt to conditions in the field, which drew Harrington’s grudging approbation. The rest of the platoon had scoffed in the way old soldiers do. It would take a lot more action on the Volunteers’ part to win their approval. 



Harrington ran over to Pike who handed him the binoculars. “Take a look at that hut on the forward slope of the hill.”

Harrington soon found the object, adjusted the focus and scanned the humble dwelling. A number of western goods stood outside the door, and he could make out the squat form of a well to one side. On the other side a small field of millet waved in the north-westerly breeze. “No sign of life, sir.”

“No. It appears the Reverend Tyler has quite vanished.” Pike rubbed his left thigh, an unconscious gesture he made when thinking deeply. He’d suffered a wound there in a fierce skirmish when the regiment had first come to Africa in search of a missing merchant. Now on their way north, they searched for a missing missionary...

“Orders, sir?” 

Pike took back his binoculars. “Something’s in the wind, Sarn’t-Major.” He looked to where the Volunteers approached a small wood. They’d been ordered to scout it, but they did so with every appearance of trepidation. “If those chaps want to play soldier, we’ll let them do so.”

“Sir!” A shout came from the left. Harrington saw one of the new men pointing urgently at a stand of scrub some yards away. Birds flew up from the cover, shrieking their alarm calls. Dark figures moved there.
Pike looked at the assembling mass and nodded, as if he’d been told the cricket score at Lords. “Well spotted... ah, Barlow? Good eyes, that man.”

“Yes, George Barlow, sir. New recruit.” Harrington came to attention. “Permission to take post, sir?”

“Please do, Sarn’t-Major. I intend to left wheel and face those fellows.”

The bugle sounded. Under the urging of Harrington and the other non-coms the platoon wheeled to face the burgeoning threat. Harrington checked the Volunteers. They’ve made little progress into the wood, but at least they’ll act as a tripwire should anyone come at us from that direction.

After that he turned his attention to the oncoming tribesmen. Menace filled their very being. A small shiver ran down his spine in recollection of the platoon’s first foray into G’wundaland. At least we’re now familiar with these gentlemen and their ways.

Pike eyed the diminishing distance. When he judged the moment right, he raised his arm and barked his orders. “Platoon! Five rounds rapid! Make ready! Fire!

The deadly volleys crashed; the Martini-Henry bullets harrowed the oncoming warriors, cutting great swathes through their number. Men fell and the warband shuddered and stopped. Through the smoke Harrington could see a leader waving his spear not at the Barsetshires but to the rear of his band. Slowly, reluctantly, the natives withdrew. One last volley and the bugle blew cease fire

“Good work, men.” Pike’s voice sounded loud in the sudden silence that followed the last volley. “You’ve seen them off. Sarn’t-Major, realign across the trail. Keep an eye on those fellows in the wood.”

“Sir.” Harrington resumed his position on the right of the line, the better to check the platoon’s alignment and watch the activity in the wood. It wasn’t long before trouble started with a rustling in the scrub just north of the little patch of woodland. “Sir!”

Pike shouted back. “I see ‘em! Saints alive, the Volunteers are in for a hot time!”
Native appeared out of the brush, ghosts become flesh in the afternoon heat. They moved with cunning, flitting into the wood before the platoon could get a bearing on them and give fire in support of the Volunteers. Harrington's heart gave a lurch as a wild scream rang through the sultry air. Dark shapes rushed through the streams of light coming through the trees and within seconds the sounds of combat arose.
Harrington had been in combat enough times to know how time seemed to dilate when it came to fisticuffs. The fighting in the wood went on a long time by his measure. 
Eventually a single figure emerged from the wood, bloodied and staggering, new clothes torn, broad brimmed hat still on his head but skewed at a rakish angle. Harrington waved. “Brickie! Over here man!”

The Old Harrovian swayed, peered like a drunkard in the CSM’s direction then tottered over to the platoon on unsteady legs. “They’re dead,” he mumbled as he came up, slurring like a drunkard too. “They’re all dead.” Tuck-Poynter’s eyes streamed with tears as Harrington took his arm. “My men fought like demons but there’s too many of ‘em. I...” 

Corporal White glanced at Harrington and offered his canteen to the broken man. Knowing White, Harrington suspected it contained something a little stronger than water but declined to comment. Tuck-Poynter accepted the offer and drank deep. After a few moments he seemed to regain some of his composure. Handing the canteen back with a grateful nod to White, he resumed his tale. “I was the only man standing. The natives... they made to surround me. I remembered what the old gymnastics master at school told us, Horrible.”

Harrington winced inwardly at the use of his old nickname. White tried to hide a smile. His face turned blank when Harrington gave him a hard glance. “Old ‘Smasher’ Smethurst?”

“The very same." Tuck-Poynter grinned manically. "‘If faced by a bully, then face him like a man!’ I faced the leader of that band, challenged him by signs to fight me man-to-man. I think I surprised the fellow but he was game. 

“We squared off. He came at me with arms wide but I tapped him, one-two Marquis of Queensbury fashion, and he went down on his arse.” Tuck-Poynter giggled, a note of incipient hysteria in his voice. “He and his chums looked so surprised I took my chance and hoofed it!”

Harrington gripped his old school chum’s shoulder. “Have some more of Corporal White’s medicine, Brickie. You’re safe now.”

George White looked a little embarrassed at Harrington’s dig, but gamely offered his canteen again. 

Pike came up. “What news, Sarn’t-Major?” Harrington filled him in. “Ah, bad show, that.” Pike looked at the wood where dark forms lurked, his expression grim. “We’d better address the matter. Left wheel, Sarn’t-Major.”

Harrington took over. “Platoon! By the left, wheel!” 

He and Captain Pike watched as the left flank of the platoon marched forward at a steady pace until the line faced the wood. “Platoon, halt!”

Feet crashed, dust rose, and the line of Barsetshire men faced the enemy. Pike raised hand and voice. “Five rounds rapid... fire!” 
The volleys crashed out, gunsmoke drifting away down the line as bullets slashed through the wood. Screams and cries rose and Harrington could see the natives recoil under the impact. Within minutes they’d fled the wood, leaving a few bodies behind. “Cease fire!” he shouted. 

Pike scanned the area, assessing the situation. “Right wheel!”

The platoon responded like a well-oiled machine, wheeling by the right to face north-west and the scrub to one side of the rudimentary track. Pike pointed to the western side of the steep knoll, beyond the scrub. A mass of men appeared to be gathering there. “There’s our next threat. We’ll deal with them, by-the-by. Stand easy a moment, men. Drink some water.” 
Harrington saw Tuck-Poynter had calmed down after his near-death escape. Whilst he felt sorry for his old school-fellow, there were other issues to take care of. He went down the line, ensuring the corporals were seeing to their men and that ammunition was ready in sufficient amount. When satisfied he returned to his position on the end of the line, ready for Pike’s next order.

It wasn’t long coming. “Atten-shun!” 

The platoon hastily dropped their canteens on their slings and came to attention. The native mass, a threatening body of some fifty or so were moving toward the platoon through the scrub, menace plain in their bearing. Pike waited until the main part of the warband had emerged from the scrub before barking his next order. “Shoulder arms! Present arms! Load!” Up and down the line twenty-four thumbs pressed fat cartridges home into twenty-four breeches. The natives came on. “Make ready!” The range dropped to scant thirty yards. “Volley fire, by command – fire!

Rifles blazed, dun colored smoke gushed and the volley tore through the warband. It recoiled, but Harrington’s experienced eye told him only a few fell. “Fire!”
Shock mounts up fast in the G'Wunda warband, stopping it in its tracks. 
Volleys crashed, one after the other. The native horde seemed to shiver and came no further. More men fell there. The Men of Barsetshire perspired as they rammed cartridges into their Martini-Henrys and plied their weapons to telling effect. Eventually, with evident reluctance, the warband retired back into the scrub. 

Harrington squinted, his eyes stinging with gun smoke. The bugle called the cease fire and the world fell quiet.

“Is that it?” someone in the ranks asked. 

“Quiet there, Moss,” Harrington said without heat. “Thank your lucky stars they didn’t come to grips.” Now his ears ceased ringing he could hear the moans and cries of the wounded natives. 

Pike came up and also looked in that direction. “We’ll attend to those poor devils shortly.”

“Right sir. We didn’t see any of their musketeers or archers this time.”

“No.” Pike rubbed his jaw. “Colonel Trollope told me there’s a rumor the Belgians are active to the west of G’Wundaland. Perhaps the tribe is busy with those. In any case, now the area is clear we can investigate the Reverend’s hut over there and see if we can find any trace of him.”

The hut proved empty of humanity but showed evident signs of systematic looting. A plain wooden cross had been smashed and discarded at the foot of the wall where it once hung. As Harrington and Pike looked around the one-room dwelling Harrington spotted something odd. Stooping, he moved a bed pallet aside and picked up a long scarf of bright scarlet silk which had been partially covered by the bedding. A delicate perfume filled the air around it. “Sir? It looks like a woman was here.”

“Really” Pike examined the article, fingering the smooth material. “Arabic, if I’m any judge.”

“Yes, sir. It’s what I think.” He looked around again at the few pathetic remnants of a hard religious life lived on the edge of tolerance. “Something tells me the G’Wunda tribe aren’t responsible for this.”

Pike nodded, his expression thoughtful. “I think you’re right. This looting, the broken cross, all bear the hallmarks of slavers. And that scarf... Y’know, Albert, the Al-quadi’s daughter is still missing. Too much of a coincidence should this scarf prove to be hers, do you think?”

“It’s possible, Fred. It’s dashed odd they’ve kept her as a hostage when her old man said they wouldn’t.” 

“Hmm, quite.” Pike sighed. “Well, we’d better move on, do what we came here for. Perhaps the Reverend and the young lass will turn up yet.”
Harrington nodded. ‘We can but hope.”
The command party meet atop the hill to confer.
Will Tyler's Knoll solve the British army's G'Wundaland headache? 
* * * *
The cold still lingers but I'm feeling much better. Thoughts on the game and how it played out soon.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wedding Bells and a Cold

Today is quite a day. My oldest stepdaughter got married in England this morning, to a wargamer no less. I feel a little bit smug about the match since I was the one who introduced them. Here's wishing the happy couple all the best!
* * * *
Action was joined in G'wundaland yesterday where the Barsetshire Regiment encountered the fierce native warriors during a march northward. I'll post a report in a few days, since I have caught a stinking cold and really feel rotten right now.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

In the Barracks, Fatah

"Horrible Harrington!"

The upper-class English voice rang across the town market square. CSM Harrington paused in the act of haggling for a rather nice blanket for his quarters and looked up, slowly scanning the crowded scene for a familiar face to go with the voice. I've not been called Horrible Harrington since I left Harrow. So who the hell is calling me by that name here?

A beaming if sunburned face beneath a broad-brimmed hat leaped into focus some yards away as a man approached him. Harrington took in the guise of a roughneck clad in new hard wearing clothes, subtracted them, the mustache and about a decade and groaned quietly. "Brickie Tuck-Poynter?"

That worthy rolled up to him, hand thrust out. "The very same! I heard you were in town." Cool grey eyes looked him over as they shook hands and the smile took on a tint of smirk. "In the army as a non-commissioned officer, no less!"

"It has its benefits. What are you doing here, Brickie?"

Tuck-Poynter thrust his thumbs through his belt and grinned. "I'm here to aid the military power!"

Harrington looked at him, puzzled. "As what, a civilian commissary?"

Tuck-Poynter roared with laughter. Wiping his eyes he shook his head. "Oh, no, no. Something far better than that. I formed a volunteer group, a handy little unit, actually. We've got new Sharp's carbines - well, new-ish - from America. The government came up with the idea, actually. Well, they came up with it over a century ago to deal with all those annoying Scotch fellows sloshing about the place after that '45 revolt nonsense. Gave 'em land and gold if they'd bugger off to the Colonies to fight the French, what? My chaps and I are going to do the same here." He pointed at the dusty ground with a flourish.

Harrington had a sinking feeling. "You're going to fight alongside the army in return for land and gold?"

"The very same! What do you think?"

Harrington stared at him. "I think you're off your bloody rocker!"
* * * *
"No help for it, Fred, old chap." Colonel Trollope shook his head. "We're stuck with the silly blighters."

"They'll be a hindrance in the bush, sir." Fred glanced out the colonel's office window at the empty barrack square. "With this new advance planned we don't have time to play nursemaid to a band of adventurers, however well-connected they are. Can't we leave them in garrison here?" 

"I'm afraid not."Trollope tidied a stack of paper on his desk then clasped his hands and looked at Fred. "The Colonial Office is keen to see how this experiment plays out. If it works, well and good. If it doesn't..." He pursed his lips then gave a wicked little smile. "Too bad, really. Are your fellows up to snuff?"

Fred noted the change of subject. "They are, sir. They're keen to take another crack at the G'wunda tribe after what happened last time."

"That's the ticket. We're in better fettle than we were then, too, so I have confidence." Trollope glanced at the clock on the wall. "Well, young Fred, go and see all's well in their mess, then join me for a snifter." 

Fred stood, came briefly to attention then departed. 

He encountered CSM Harrington on the way to the barracks. "Have you heard the news, Sarn't-Major?"

Harrington looked glum. "If you mean the new volunteers, sir, yes, I have."

"What do you think?"

The tough young CSM sniffed. "I know the chap leading them. He'll either lead them to hell or glory."

Fred blinked at the depth of feeling in the CSM's voice. "Oh dear..!" 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Poplar trees 2 - finished

The poplar trees are finished, and I think they look rather good.

Northern France, September 1914. 
RFA 18 pdrs take up a position astride the highway, ready to challenge the pursuing Germans.

They'll work for early World War One, World War Two, and AVBCW as a poplar-lined driveway to some posh house or institution.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Roadside poplars 1

Bad weather and a number of computer problems have eaten into my free time, but I've made a bit more progress with the chaff scenery project.

Dunking the whole strip top-down into the latex household paint level with the upper part of the 'tree trunk' worked better than I hoped. I propped the strip on the can to let it drain for a minute or so before giving the foliage part a good dose of dried tealeaves. The paint is sticky: It absorbed the leaves quickly, and I kept applying more until it stopped. Hanging the strips upside down overnight let gravity pull the trees straight as the paint dried and stiffened the foliage. The top photo shows the result at this stage.

Next, I gave the bases a thin coat of latex paint, followed by a light dusting of fine sand for ground cover. Once this dried I sprayed the lot with khaki green/'avocado' Krylon-brand paint. Krylon gives good coverage and dries within ten minutes on average, but it stays smelly for some time so the trees will remain outside for another few hours. Results so far in the photo below. I think they're shaping up nicely. 

The next stage will be to paint the trunks and foliage and probably dry-brush the bases to bring out details.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Roadside trees

Carrying on from the other scenery project, I've begun assembling rye chaff into N-scale/10mm poplar-style trees of the kind seen alongside French highways.

Taking a few longer pieces of chaff I trimmed the stiff bristles that poke out from the sides. Next I smeared one inch long slips of paper with craft glue and wrapped it around the stems to form the trunks.

Once dry, the trees were set in place on wooden tongue depressors, five to each strip, using hot glue.

I'm making a big enough batch to stretch 38" or so on both sides of a road. Once they're all in place I'll spread spackle on the bases and trunks, allow to dry, then dip the trees in beige latex household paint. Shaking off the excess paint and sprinkling heavily with dry tealeaves should give a reasonable approximation of foliage. It'll then be ready for paint. More on the project later.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Chaff scenery

And here we have it, the end results of my experiment with rye chaff. Some of my new trees and wood chip rocky outcrops are behind.

Local native musketeers lurk in ambush for unwary Imperial troops.

One thought crossed my mind about the crop rows on the left. With longer stalks and a little work they could be used as small-scale poplar trees such as those used alongside French highways. This would jive with my recent decision to 'do' Early War Chain of Command in 10mm, which in turn would allow me to use some BEF figures and equipment for AVBCW, and existing scenery for the latter in France and Belgium. Win-win!

All farther down the pike for now, but I'll get there one of these days...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Chaff Inches

The next step in the rye chaff scenery project - a good dose of spray paint. I decided against using flock or dried tealeaves on the stalks as I don't think it'll enhance the effect of vegetation and would cause a lot of mess for nothing.

I've expanded on the idea and created six rows of crops (top of photo) using bases made from tongue-depressors (I found a box full at a local charity store). They're 5½ inches long by ¾ inches wide. I planted ten stalks on each in a semi-regular fashion, enough to give a good impression of dense crops and provide a neat block to line-of-sight. These I sprayed first with the 'avocado'/khaki green, following up with the darker green whilst the first coat was still wet. The round scrub bases got a good going over with the avocado followed by a light dusting of the darker shade.

I'll add some flock and dry-brush the bases with lighter shades once they've dried off and the stink of paint fumes has dispersed. They should then be ready for use.
* * * *
Our local library is having its yearly sale of surplus books, and yesterday I picked up Ian Knight's Marching to the Drums below for only a dollar.

Published by Greenhill Books/Stackville Books in 1999 it has accounts of campaigns and actions throughout the reign of Queen Victoria (Gawd Bless 'Er!) by soldiers from private to NCO level. It looks like an interesting read, and one with plenty of inspiration for gaming.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Capturin' the Rye

Winter Rye. A marvelous plant, beloved of gardeners and horticulturists as ground-cover to prevent soil erosion, and for its nitrogen-fixing capability. We grew a large patch of rye in our back garden over the winter for the above reasons. In spring and early summer when it was fully grown, it made a kind of restful, real-life screen saver for our back windows as it peacefully waved in the breeze.

Okay so, now my wife and I have to shuck the seeds ready for this autumn's planting. A bit of a chore, but one which had an unexpected benefit - Wargames scenery. I noticed the chaff resembles small shrubs and bushes. It took but a moment to figure out how to use this. And what's more, there's a large supply.

I have a small stack of the metal lids used in frozen fruit juice containers. A spot of hot glue tacked the chaff stalks to the lid, and I followed up with a blob of liquid nails around each to secure it. Hot glue may be quick, but it's not strong. The liquid nails also gives purchase to the spackle that will follow.

The photo shows the general result before the spackle is applied.

Straw is durable stuff. Once protected from the environment it can last literally for centuries. At the moment I'm undecided how to seal these and finish the job. Once the spackle is on, my options are:
  1. Dip the stalks in the nasty beige-colored household latex paint left over by the house flippers, shake off the excess then dump a heap of dried tealeaves on it. Once dry I spray them a couple shades of green then paint the bases to match my tabletop.
  2. Use spray adhesive and dump tealeaves on, etc.
The first option may be more thorough but messier, the second is quicker but the spray tends to be a bit indiscriminate. Decisions, decisions.

These are easy to make, so I may do another batch. What I hope to end up with is a spread of scrub land suitable for 25/28mm figures. Plenty of places for hostile forces to hide in ambush for when the Colonial Powers march by... Set in regular rows and painted dark green with yellowish tops, they would even serve as a crop such as millet.

With luck and a following wind, I might even get to game with these next week.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Wargames Factory 15mm World War Two

I still intend to buy the Too Fat Lardies' Chain of Command rules one of these days. In the meantime I'm mulling over figure options. Does anyone have any experience of Wargames Factory's hard plastic 15mm range?

I have some of their Zulu figures and, although being multi-part they were a bit of a pain to assemble, once done they're pretty good and easy to paint.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Next Foray

Sometime next week I hope to game the Barsetshire Regiment's (long overdue!) next foray into G'Wundaland. Their mission is along the lines of the British Army's late WW1 "bite and hold" strategy. They will seek to establish an outpost in enemy territory to act as a base for a further advance and hold it against all comers. It'll give me a chance to use my new terrain pieces and possibly the new volunteers section.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Rocks and trees II

The terrain pieces I put together the other day have now been undercoated. I covered the bases with spackle and sand, letting both dry before spraying with Krylon paint. The shade is supposedly 'Avocado' but comes out more a khaki, which suits me well enough. I also gave the treetops a light going over to damp down the rather bright shade of green.

I intend to use spray adhesive to fix dried tealeaves under the trees and around the rocks to simulate vegetation. The rocks will be dry-brushed then inked. Time permitting I'll make a few more such pieces.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Rocks and Trees

I had some spare time today so I set to work making a few more terrain pieces for Darkest Africa. I'm short of trees, so I used some twigs and a cluster of green grass-mat 'blobs' bought at Michael's hobby shop years ago. They didn't really seem suitable for terrain use but I held onto them because there was always a chance to put them to use... 

Basically I hot-glued suitable twigs to the metal lids that come with fruit juice concentrate. Daubing the branching ends of the twigs with white glue I impaled the blobs on them and let them dry. The trunks were then stuck to the bases using hot glue. Since hot glue is fast but not strong, I smeared liquid nails around the "trunks" of the trees and over the bases, sprinkling sand on the flat areas to act as a key for the spackle coat which will form the next stage.

The foliage is a bit too bright so I'll take it down with a few light coats of paint. 

For the two rock outcrops I used another juice lid and an old CD for the larger one. The rock itself is wood chip. Again I attached them using liquid nails and smeared more of the adhesive and sand to act as a key for the spackle. I'll dilute and brush a thin coat of spackle over the rock, with thicker amounts around the bases of the outcrops. Grass and so on will come later.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Guns of August.

Britain in the Great War,
August 4th, 1914 - November 11th 1918.
When the world as it was ended, 
and the world as it is began.
We remember them.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A blog visit recommendation and a trading post idea

I've just had the pleasure of visiting Major Tom Foolery's blog, where he's displaying his model of the German Colonial-era African Hotel Zur Neu-Moschi, a lovely example of building kit conversion. I recommend paying his blog a visit, as it has a how-to on his work.

It's similar in a way to a building I hope to make one of these days using Hirst Arts blocks and foamcore among other materials. 
The photo is of a former British trading post located at Kuntaur, an up-river port in Gambia. This rather forlorn-looking structure has European-style architecture typical of the Colonial era. Given the ruined state it's not clear if the post had a pitched roof or not. I suspect it once did as it's located in a river valley running directly off the Atlantic, so it would experience heavy rainfall at times. In any case I'll make my version with a pitched roof.

I've no idea when I'll get around to it. I'm busy painting the house and gardening in my off-time. When we bought our house it had been painted throughout in beige, a 'neutral' shade beloved of Realtors and house-flippers, but heartily disliked by my wife and I. We're painting one room at a time, and the house looks far more like a home now. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Post-game thoughts

So, what happened?

The Société belge de commerce africaine's gendarmerie had their collective heads handed to them on a plate. Little went right for them, which is a perfect example of the friction of war generated by the excellent Sharp Practice rules. Out of 24 square feet of available playing area, as the game evolved I used a quarter of that all up one end of the table!

The gendarmerie's deployment onto the field of battle was tardy to begin with. Their Big Man cards emerged from the deck infrequently, whilst the natives were served much better by the cards, deploying and moving in plenty of time. In the rules, the Tiffin card allows units to alter formation, spot for enemies and even fire if they haven't done any of the above that turn. By these terms the gendarmerie could deploy and did so. Although they could fire, no targets offered until the native forces were already dangerously close.

I have a number of Breechloader cards in the deck to reflect the modern increase in firepower compared to that of the Napoleonic era for which the rules were originally written. When drawn the card allows a unit so equipped to fire upon the nearest target. This should have favoured the gendarmerie since they're armed with Albini breechloading rifles - but the cards failed to appear. Added to that the gendarmerie's dice scores were atrocious in all but one combat: Sergeant De Vos' section inflicted almost a third of the G'Wunda warriors' final casualties in their last round of combat before routing.

As far as the G'Wunda warriors are concerned, I rated the two main warband leaders and their men as Aggressive, ready and willing to take the fight to the enemy. Dice rolls showed they lacked the patience to follow the original plan to wait in ambush whilst the musketeers stung the gendarmerie into pursuing them into the trap. Instead they advanced.

It must be said melee in Sharp Practice is nasty, especially when native forces (Wallahs is the term used in the rules) get into hand-to-hand combat. As noted the tribal warriors were already rated as Aggressive, giving +2d6 per Group for an extra four dice in all. In the rules a Big Man can induce Fervour to a unit, exhorting it to fight in melee with well above average ability. This translates as a unit gaining extra d6 in melee per point spent on Fervour. The tribal Big Men played their accumulated Grasp the Serpent cards well to gain a point of Fervour for each warband, which made their attack on the hapless gendarmerie even more brutal.

Oddly enough there were no Big Man casualties on either side.

So in campaign terms what happens now? The gendarmerie routed and the Société's foray into G'Wundaland has come to a dead stop. They may be back - equally their sudden depletion in manpower means the Société's territory has become vulnerable to raids by Arab slavers. It leaves the way clear for the British to try their luck in G'Wundaland once more - but now the native musketeers have acquired fine Albini breech-loading rifles. Interesting times lie ahead...

Monday, July 28, 2014

Washing the Spears

The afternoon had worn on before the intruders made their move. Akhona stood in the shade of the trees and watched the straggling line of blue-clad black men emerge from the savannah. They were led by a white man riding a mule, his blocky figure swaying with the animal's motion, a tall white hat like a beehive atop his head, and a thick greying beard adorning his face. Three other men, all black, walked by his side. One wore blue, the others trade clothing. They seemed to be guides. Akhona could see one other white man, clad in blue with a white hat, amid the black soldiers. A sub leader of some kind?

Dakasa came up alongside Akhona and glanced at him. "When?"

Akhona hefted the old trade musket, the weight solid in his grip, the barrel warm on his skin from the day's heat. "Soon. You know our orders. We fire and retire, draw them onto the war bands."

Dakasa grunted, whether in acceptance or disgust Akhona didn't know nor did he care. The intruders came on, caution in their every movement, the one on the mule dropping back behind the line. Akhona nodded. "Make ready..."
Capitain Willem Potgeiter decided to slip behind the skirmish line, the better to see the terrain ahead in some degree of security. He'd hardly done so before an excited shout went up from the askaris on his right. Dark figures emerged from the shadows beneath a stand of trees ahead. Almost at once the edge of the wood blossomed with mustard-coloured smoke. Bullets whispered past his ears, kicked up small spurts of dusty soil. His askaris yelled with shock, Potgeiter noting with unease even in the midst of his own surprise the note of fear underlying the sound. Has the prospect of entering G'Wundaland unnerved them so? "Steady!" he yelled. In front of him Corporal Smets added his own voice to the command, cuffing his men into order. To Willem's relief no-one appeared injured.

"Return fire, damn you!" Potgeiter braced himself for another volley from the woods but it didn't come. Instead the shadowy figures retreated into the copse. Smet glanced back at him, baffled. "That's it, sir?"

Potgeiter scowled. "For now. I think they're trying to draw us in." He rubbed his beard, the bristles rasping under his fingers. "We don't know what lies in wait within those low hills, so we won't oblige them."

He looked over his shoulder. At that moment Corporal Lemmens emerged from the brush at the head of his section, the men formed in a short column. He'd left the bearers further back as ordered. Potgeiter gestured to him to take station on the left flank. Lemmens saluted and began to deploy his men into line. Potgeiter returned his attention to the front and his heart leaped into his mouth. Whilst he'd been distracted a warband had emerged onto the low rise before them. He could count at least twenty warriors, with the possibility of more trending down the reverse slope and out of his sight. Sunlight glinted off a multitude of spearheads, the tribal colours of the bearers glowing proudly beneath. 

Smets saw them too. He uttered an epithet and redoubled his efforts to steady the askari. With an insouciant air the warband began to advance across the hill toward the left flank, where Lemmens attempted to form his men.

Potgeiter glanced anxiously at the copse, but the musketeers had retired into the depths. He wondered at that. Surely they would take the chance to pepper us, perhaps score some hits this time while that war band attacks our left? But no. He dismissed them, turned his attention to the left, where the warband approached at a trot now, menace in every line.

Movement behind heralded the welcome arrival of Sergeant De Vos and his men. The tough veteran looked ahead, nodded to Potgeiter and immediately formed his section into a two-deep firing line. To Potgeiter's annoyance Lemmens was taking too long to form up. "Move, man!" Potgeiter gestured angrily. "Get those men in line now!"

Lemmens pushed the last man into place and shouted the commands. "Ready! Aim! Fire!" The askaris let fly but their shooting was poor. Potgeiter saw one warrior fall on the hill. The others shuddered under the blow then gathered themselves together...

Chulumacha, war-leader of the G'Wunda tribe, waved his spear above his head. "The weapons of the blue warriors sting but little!" He pointed at the fallen warrior then at the gathering enemy. "Only Combela falls, but we shall avenge him! On, my friends! Drive this scum from our lands! Onward! Onward!"

As one they surged down the slope, dust kicking up at their heels. Chulumacha  ran with his men, his blood singing at the prospect of combat. The blue-clad interlopers stood their ground but fear came off them in waves. He could see they fumbled with their weapons but it was too late. Chulumacha had teased Akhona about it when they'd discussed the merits of musketry. "The musket is a fool - only the spear is wise!" He giggled now at the memory - then raised his shield and slammed into the enemy ranks.

The fight proved one-sided. The blue-clad warriors fought hard with their clumsy blade-tipped muskets but he and all but two of his comrades deftly avoided their puny blows. Within minutes the surviving enemy broke and ran, their white leader first to flee.

Chulumacha turned his attention to the next target, a similar line forming up on the left. As the last of their blue-clad friends won clear of the melee, fire and smoke spurted from the line. Chulumacha flinched and warriors fell - but too few to count. He laughed aloud, exulting in living another minute and in the enemy's ineptness. His men looked around, recovered from the shock of the volley, and shared his laughter. From the expressions on the faces of the blue-clad warriors, the sound was the last they wanted to hear. Chulumacha grinned and pointed his spear at them. "Onward!"
A stirring in the copse presaged another advance from native warriors. Potgeiter's heart sank when he saw a second warband emerge, prowling from the shadows with deadly intent. His men had settled down, Smets forcing them into firing line. As the warband drew near Potgeiter drew a deep breath. "Fire!"

The volley roared, to little effect. As the smoke drifted away on the easterly breeze the warband came on, impacting all along the line with a triumphant scream and a crash of arms. Potgeiter drew his pistol and shot into the hacking stabbing mass, uncaring if his own soldiers got in the way. Five of his men fell, but only three tribal warriors. The askaris' morale wavered and they fell back, Smets roaring at them to stand their ground. 

"No!" Smets looked up as Potgeiter shouted, the corporal's face red with fury and fear. Potgeiter waved to the left. "Form up on De Vos!"

The askaris had other ideas. They fell back farther than Potgeiter wished, leaving De Vos' flank open to attack.

A glance that way showed Potgeiter such concerns were no longer necessary. The first warband had smashed into De Vos with furious speed. 

The fight took longer than Potgeiter expected, the askaris fighting with a ferocity born of desperation. Eventually De Vos and his handful of survivors fell back, leaving almost as many G'Wunda warriors dead as they themselves had suffered before the askaris morale wavered.

The end came soon after, the second warband charging home and combining with the first to extinguish any hope Potgeiter had of holding the ground. Turning the mule with main force, he and the pitiful remnant of his command joined the flight back into the bush.
As the land fell silent Akhona wandered out of the copse, crossing the bloodstained ground at the head of his musketeers to gaze with curiosity upon the fallen enemy. He noted the tribal scars on the cheeks of the fallen, wondered what tribe would so submit to such weak, pale-skinned leaders. He stooped and rested his musket on the ground, picking up a fallen weapon from a dead blue-clad warrior. The man's eyes stared sightless at the vault of the sky, his life spent. A vicious slash had cleft the red fez he wore in two, the cut continuing into his brain.

Akhona turned the weapon over in his hands, noting the breech-loading mechanism with a stirring of excitement. Dakasa picked up another rifle. He grunted. "They could have done so much better."

"It's good for us they didn't." Akhona sighted along the barrel. "Have the men pick up all fallen weapons, ammunition. We can use these."

Chulumacha walked up, his oiled chest still heaving from the exertion of combat. "We saw them off! They run like antelope back to their lands, and won't return. We'll harass them as far as we can before night, maybe pick up some more booty." He grinned and pointed at the rifle. "Do you still insist that's the best weapon, after witnessing what my warriors did with spears alone this day?"

Akhona smiled. "You did indeed do well, my friend." He slung the rifle over his shoulder by the strap. "One day I'll show you what my friends and I can do."
* * * *
The game, a one-sided affair, was fought to Sharp Practice rules with my own modifications for Colonial warfare. A few thoughts on the game, with the implications for the campaign in general, will follow soon.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Other Side of the Hill

Capitain Willem Potgeiter of the Société belge de commerce africaine military force sat on his mule and surveyed the terrain ahead with mixed feelings. The savannah had felt endless as he and his little column trekked across it for days, but now it appeared to have finite limits after all. The ground ahead trended to low hills and increasing scrub, with stands of taller trees here and there. A perfect place for an ambush. He gestured to the guide, standing patiently beside him. "Thomas, are you sure we have to pass through that?"

Thomas, whose real name the Belgian couldn't pronounce, screwed up his eyes as he peered in the direction Potgeiter pointed. "Yass, bass, we do. The lake lies three days beyond." He hesitated. "We close to G'Wunda lands, bass."

Potgeiter rubbed his beard and frowned. "Uh."

The lake. Or inland sea. Rumour of which had reached the Société's headquarters at Leopoldport on the Atlantic coast. Orders from the Director arrived by telegraph at the outpost Willem commanded. He and his men had been dispatched to discover the lake, estimate how big it was, and gain an idea of resources - including natives - in the locality that could be exploited in the Société's usual ruthless fashion. The Director had also mentioned growing British influence in the area, so the race was on to reach the lake and claim the region before the mighty Queen-Empress did so.

All very nice in theory, but Potgeiter believed the warriors of the G'Wunda tribe would have something to say about that. Their reputation for ferocity had spread far and wide. So far the military arm of the Société had not encountered them, as the G'Wunda territory lay well to the east of the company's current border. After the relative peacefulness of the march, Potgeiter thought that was about to change. He glanced back at the platoon, felt annoyed at how it straggled through the trackless  brush. Thirty or so men, not including bearers, native askari with white NCOs. "Too small to attract a hostile response, too big to be overwhelmed by mere natives." Potgeiter knew the argument, promulgated in breezy fashion by the Director. Yes. He sensed Thomas' growing nervousness, looked again to the east. The afternoon sun cast deepening shadows in the folds of land. We'll see... 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Some progress

Clearing the decks of my last project means I can finally line up a game or two! To that end I took my gaming cloth, a few yards of calico, and added some mid green areas with a rattle can. It now looks more suitable for African and even European games. I really need more scenery but will get there in the end.

Hopefully I'll get time tomorrow to run a Darkest African scenario. I'm also setting up leagues for Pulp Alley games.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A few buildings

My 10mm VBCW set-up is somewhat lacking in buildings, so I rectified the situation by making a few out of foamcore and card. 
They're quick to make and look reasonably good from a distance. The one at the back is a work in progress which I'll finish as flint-walled twin cottages in the style of my home county of Norfolk. 

With luck and a following wind I'll get the Chain of Command rules soon. Other gamers have already done a lot of work creating tables for AVBCW and I'll use the rules for that and also WW2, by the by.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Beginning the BUF

Summer has been a bit busy, what with writing, gardening and prepping for art shows, but I've begun putting together a BUF force for AVBCW. 
Most of the figures are Pendraken Miniatures drawn from my Socialist militia platoon (which had over-strength sections anyway), given a new paint job and Bob's your uncle. I had enough spare figures to create a command group including standard bearer. I chose to represent the platoon wearing army surplus jackets and forage caps died black, with army equipment and RAF uniform trousers. I reason that supplies are limited and every unit has to make do with what's available. The 18 pdr and Vickers MMG crews were already painted as BUF with khaki jackets and black trousers. 

This will be a platoon from the BUF Suffolk Legion based around Bury St. Edmunds, out to help impose the government's will on the East of England. They will clash with the Socialist forces operating out of Great Yarmouth and the LDV of the area. A nice chap on the VBCW forum by the name of Leics_Gamer makes excellent standards for the various factions around the UK. He produced an array for County of Suffolk forces, including the East Suffolk BUF, which I will print off when I can persuade our cranky colour printer to work. 

To the right of the picture is a section of Police auxiliary, reluctant associates dragged in to support the supposedly legitimate government. The police box is a home made resin casting.

In time I'll add a couple more sections and a Boyes AT rifle team or two to the force, and probably a pair of Italian L3/33 tankettes for armoured support. I'm tempted to increase the armour my VBCW forces have by getting a Vickers E type A or B or Vickers Medium Mk II for the BUF, and a T26 for the Socialists. Not quite sure what kind of tank a LDV force would have. Suggestions welcome! 


home page uniques