Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Dark Age houses - completed.

So, with no idea if our house move is going ahead or not, I pressed on with completing the buildings for Dux Britanniarum over the holidays.

The trusty pizza box card came in handy once more to provide bases for the buildings. I fixed them in place with the hot glue gun then smeared liquid nails adhesive over the card before scattering sand on it. I like using the liquid nails as it doesn't soak the card and cause warping, it can be pushed around easily, and when it dries it dries hard. It also takes paint well.

Nearly there...
I used grass green and earth brown craft paints for the bases before dry-brushing apple green over the grassy areas. I may add a bit of vegetation in the shape of small bushes here and there, but basically that's it for these.

And done!
I may add a high-status building for the village, something like this...

A relic of the Empire, it would be the dwelling for an important person such as a local magistrate and his family. Next up after that will be a church and a watchtower.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

A Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah  to all my readers!

* * * *

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Dark Age byre

It appears that making Dark Ages buildings are like peanuts - you can't stop at just one...

Even with things being a bit up in the air due to a potential move, I've still got the urge to make something gaming-related. I thought I'd continue the Dark Ages theme and work on a byre or a lowly cattle shed. Rather appropriate to the time of year!

I made it with one wall open and supported by posts, which seems a common enough configuration with barns and such in this period. The interior was painted dark brown, and I'll put some flock inside to represent straw and dung when I mount it on a base. The roof eaves are made of thinner card than the main part as I aim to get a kind of beveled edge to the thatching.

The bright yellow thatch on the previous house has toned down a lot with a good dose of sepia ink. It's the house nearest the camera in the photo. I might treat the farthest house to the same wash, as it seems a bit bright too. Oddly enough the only thatching I've been happy with from the start is the natural Taco Bell napkin pulp version shown in the middle. Call it a happy accident.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Dark Ages houses - and a pause in proceedings

I've finished what will be the last Dark Ages houses for a while.

As an experiment I tried a mix of sepia and yellow ink on the left hand house thatch, and... it's a bit bright. Far too yellow! I'm going to tone it down later, but as things stand these will be the last buildings I make for a while. It looks like a house move is in the offing soon, perhaps even involving a return to the UK. Given the costs and sheer amount of upheaval involved in any house move it's a bloody nuisance all round, especially at this time of year, but these things happen. I really don't want to add to the burden and anxiety by making or buying any more wargames related stuff. So, this is A J signing-off for now...

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Dark Ages houses - 2

I've made a bit more progress with the Dark Ages British houses for Dux Britanniarum. Under the rules for raiding settlements, farms must have at least three buildings, villages at least four. I'll need to make another house to set up a village, and a barn or similar for a farm.

The first layer of thatching is now on the roofs. My wife and I were returning from a meeting earlier this week when we stopped off at Taco Bell for some quick eats. I noticed their paper napkins had an interesting texture and a similar colour to old thatch, so I grabbed a couple extra. Pulped up with water, Spackle, and a bit of craft paint and PVA, they turned into a nice mush just the right consistency and colour for the job.

These only need another layer or two of thatching and the doors to finish. Once all the buildings are finished I'll base them up in one go so the ground around them will look consistent.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A couple more Dark Ages houses

Today was a bit of a mad cooking day, but I found time to work on another pair of Dark Ages British houses.

The method used is the same as before. The farthest house is the same size as the one I made earlier; the one nearest the camera is smaller. Familiarity with the process means I'm making faster progress on them. Next up will be the paint on the walls and posts and the sand keying on the roofs. After these are done I'll move onto a barn and a church.

A heads up for those who may be interested. Splintered Light Miniatures are having an End of Year sale, with 20% off the order. I'll be placing an order for one or two of their 15mm Dux Britanniarum pieces before too long.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Dux Britanniarum characters

I'm in the mood for more Dark Ages modelling, so I began constructing another pair of houses for the period. They're at a bit of a standstill at the moment - I've mislaid the matchsticks I use for the posts. I suppose they'll turn up eventually, but it's a bit of a pain in the posterior.

In the meantime I thought I'd give the Dux Britanniarum character generation rules a try.


To lead the Romano-British, I rolled Camillus Aurelius. Age 28, he's the son of an Honestiore, a Roman middle-class family with a good local reputation. A master of arms, he's pretty handy in a fight. His wealth consists of a Tribune's Tribute, so from the first he's well-off.

For the first of his two subordinate Nobles, I created Barriventus. Age 23, he's a tall, strong young man of noted piety. The son of a warlord, he has a Thief's Horde of wealth.

The second Noble is named Cynbel. A die roll showed he's already earned a sobriquet - the Magnificent. Given his tall, strong physique and noted athletic ability, it seems quite appropriate. I've already nicknamed him Captain Britannica! Another child of an Honestiore family, he's 25 years old and possesses a mere Beggar's Bowl of wealth.


For the Saxon leader, I rolled Ebba. A short and wiry cove of 31, he's out to make a name for himself raiding the lands of those soft, effete Romano-British. An Honorable Wodenborn aristocrat, he's the British-born son of a Foederati, a Saxon mercenary. Ebba possesses a Tribune's Tribute of wealth.

His primary Noble is Oeric. Once again a die roll showed he's already earned a nickname - the Insane. Uh oh... A 28 year old fellow of average build, he's quite an athlete. The son of a peasant, he has but a Beggar's Bowl of wealth, and is out to improve his lot by hitching his career to the ambitious Ebba. It's yet to be seen quite how his insanity will manifest itself...

The second Saxon noble is Wigmund. Age 34 and of average build, he's a devout Wodenborn aristocrat, born in one of the earliest Saxon-conquered provinces in Britain. Wigmund possesses a Tribune's Tribute of wealth.

* * * *
So, there's the cast of characters. With luck and a following wind I'll be able to acquire a couple of forces for Christmas and see how they play out in a campaign.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

A Dark Ages house - 5 and Done

Thanksgiving's over for another year. I hope those who celebrate it had a nice one.

I pressed on and finished the Dark Ages British house today. The thatching took a while to dry, but in the end I got the final layer on. The photo shows it before I applied a wash of sepia ink to tone down the brightness of the thatch and walls.

In the end I didn't bother with the chimney. I'll put a couple of 'wind eyes' at either end under the gable.

The door is now in place, and the ink wash applied. I brushed this about halfway up the walls to represent splashes of mud, rising damp and general wear and tear.

Some of the underlying material was affected by the dampness of the thatch mix and warped a bit, but it all adds character to the place. It is supposed to be a dwelling in the Dark Ages before planning regulations and such came about!

My next project will be to made another couple of similar buildings - enough to represent a farm or village - then I'll make a church and watchtower.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Dark Ages house - 4

I made a little more progress on the house model today. The first photo shows the main layer of thatching material after it dried. This drying process took a bit longer than expected. My man cave work table isn't in the warmest room in the house and the colder weather means the mixture takes its own sweet time to set. In any case, it did dry in the end and shrank to about half its bulk and made a nice tight coating on the roof. I'm pleased to say the cardboard beneath wasn't affected by the moisture at all.

I applied a second coat of mix on the top half of the roof, creating a step where the layers of thatching overlap. In real life the length of the plant material used for thatching (reeds, straw or whatever) dictates where these layers go and how many there are on any given spread of roof. I used a wooden medical splint to get the straight edge by laying it lengthwise along the roof and easing the mix up to the splint with my fingertip.

Once this is dry the final layer will go on atop the ridge line to about half an inch either side. The chimney will still be slightly above the roof. Once all is dry, I'll move on to the painting stage.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Dark Ages house - 3

The Dux Britanniarum rules arrived today. I like the presentation of the book, and the artwork by Coral Sealey is superb. I'm less than happy about the USPS standards of handling the mail in their care, though. The stout card envelope protected the book as much as it was able, but looked as if it had been used as an iron foundry doormat. The book itself was somewhat buckled and had a dog ear at the spine. Who said postal standards aren't slipping?


I glanced through the rules and will have a more leisurely read of them later. In the meantime I made more progress on the Dark Ages British house.

The photo shows the first stage of prepping for the thatch - a layer of Aileen's glue sprinkled with sand to provide a keyed surface for the mix to stick to. Since the roof card turned out to be so stiff, instead of using Liquid Nails for thatch, I thought I'd risk a papier-mâché made from shredded tissue mixed with Spackle and craft paints. The pot shows the mix underway. It looks like scrambled eggs, but it'll make sure any small chips incurred during handling won't show up glaring white.

I spread the papier-mâché over the roof using my fingers, which I find is the best way to get an even coat and to ensure the small nooks and crannies are covered. The eaves have a layer of mix wrapped over the edges. I patted the whole lot down gently using the flat of my finger so it sticks to the sand beneath.

This stage will take a while to dry, at which time I'll add one and possibly two layers higher up the roof and do the chimney. Once that's done I'll paint it in more realistic colours.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Dark Ages house - 2

We have snow on the ground and a nasty wind chill factor here in NW Ohio, so it's time to stay indoors and do some wargaming related stuff. The Dux Britanniarum rules haven't arrived yet, but I made more progress with the Dark Ages house.

I added four pizza box card supports for the roof. The card may or may not absorb moisture depending on the material I'll use for thatching, and the supports will reduce or prevent the warping effect. In the photo above I've begun adding the upright posts around the walls, the distinctive feature of this type of structure. Due to the perishable materials our ancestors used to build their houses and barns, post holes are one of the few signs an archaeologist has that a Dark Age building ever stood on a spot. Placement, size and depth of the post holes give an indication as to the size and importance of the structure they supported.

Next stage - the roof itself. More pizza card, with a shallow cut along the ridge allowing it to be bent to shape. I fixed the roof in place on the end walls using hot glue for speed, but used Aileen's glue on the tops of the interior supports and the side walls for strength. The tops of some of the side posts show from under the eaves, but these will be covered by the thatching.

The means by which smoke was vented from the houses is open to debate, but it's generally accepted that a 'wind eye' in the eaves or the center of the roofline was employed. I've added a small piece of card which will be covered by the thatching to make a raised, covered wind-eye. The posts are nearly done.

The final stage of the main construction. All the upright posts are in place, along with the cross beams on the end walls. These match the height of the side walls, but the center cross beam of the end wall nearest the camera is a bit higher since this space will have the main door to the house. The posts are sections of square cocktail sticks cut to size and length. These sticks are useful because they're longer, wider and stronger than a standard matchstick. I found a box of them in a Dollar Tree years ago but haven't found any like them since, so I use them sparingly.

The next stage will be to slather the walls with a thinned mix of Spackle and acrylic craft paint to get the daub effect. I use Liquid Nails for basing work, and I think I'll try it out for the thatching, since the stuff doesn't break or warp, things which need to be considered for a part of the model which is likely to get a lot of handling. More on this project soon.

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Dark Ages house - 1

I'm waiting patiently (honest!) for the mailman to deliver the Dux Britanniarum rules. In the meantime I thought I'd make a start on some 15mm Dark Ages buildings. Here's the progress so far on the first - a simple British crofter's residence.

The base is a slab of half-inch foamcore. Use a sharp craft or Stanley knife for cutting this stuff. It may feel soft but it's capable of blunting blades quite quickly. In cutting this piece I didn't notice until too late that the Stanley blade in my knife had become serrated during a DIY job yesterday. Result - one ragged edge of foamcore. Luckily it was covered up by the pizza box cardboard cladding. A rectangle of card acts as spacer and bracer for the gable ends. These were quite steep on British houses of the period. I'll fit some rafters in the spaces between to support the thatched roof. Short lengths of matchstick form the corner posts. Other posts along the walls will be made along the same lines.

I'm thinking of basing the building on more card and using Liquid Nails for the terrain effect. Liquid Nails dries hard, doesn't shrink or cause warping in cardboard, and readily accepts acrylic paint and scenic flock.

More progress reports to follow as and when.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Dux Britanniarum on the way

So. The 2016 election is over, and I felt the need to treat myself after all the sturm und drang of the past eighteen months' involvement in the campaign. Today I ordered the hard copy Dux Britanniarum rulebook from the Too Fat Lardies. It looks like the system is similar to the TFL rules I already own, with some important differences to reflect the Britain of the Dark Ages.

I've watched the TFL's solitary video on YouTube and browsed various sites online to see what's out there in terms of figures. I'm pretty sure for the sake of costs and storage space I will buy Splintered Light's 15mm starter armies. They also sell villagers and livestock, useful for those raiding scenarios. The necessary buildings I can make myself. My existing trees and modular river pieces should look fine for the scale, too.

The Dark Ages is a period I've had an interest in since watching Michael Woods' In Search of the Dark Ages on the BBC many moons ago. Dux Britanniarum has rules to generate a strong campaign narrative reflecting the times with an emphasis on the characters of the main contenders. This and the relatively small scale skirmish level of the games appeals to me over the larger clashes of the period. It'll give me a project to work on over the winter months, now we're putting the garden to bed for the year.

Friday, November 11, 2016

We Will Remember Them

To all the fallen, in particular my great-uncle, Bombardier Alfred Matthews, Royal Field Artillery, who died in action on the Somme, 19th October 1916.

We Will Remember Them.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Steam and Iron

"Er, I say, chaps..?" Captain Pettigrew of the RAMC encounters some local wildlife during a boating expedition.

The rainy weather and a stomach bug have combined to prevent me from doing anything much today, so I'm going to briefly revisit my Colonial-era steamboat project. That splendid chap Ogilvie VC asked about potential rules to cater for naval encounters on inland waters. If I recall correctly, he plans to build a gunboat for 54mm figures?! I remembered the Beer & Pretzel: Ironclad rules, produced by Buck Surdu of GASLIGHT fame, which deal with ACW riverine actions. We used these at my wargames club in England some years ago and they proved extremely workable.

The B & P rules are intended for use by Old Glory's range of 15mm ACW vessels. I think with only a small amount of tweaking they might work for larger scales. The record-keeping is minimal and in my experience isn't a problem with a handful of vessels. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016


Work has kept me busy these last few days, but at least my computer is now running as it should (Writing which, of course, is a way of tempting Fate...). I have a bit of time and cash to spend on my hobby and I'm facing the old, old wargamers' dilemma - what to spend it on?

I should use it to complete my ECW collection: It would be the sensible thing to do, but since when has a wargamer seen sense when faced with so much shiny metal and tempting rules-sets?

I've been eyeing the Too Fat Lardies' Dux Britanniarum rules for some time. From what I see and read, as always with this company, the rules are well produced and eminently playable, with the rules writers and a knowledgeable crowd of gamers to hand online if questions arise. The current woefull exchange rate betwixt Pounds and Dollars works in favour of those of us living this side of the Pond.

Then there are the 15mm Dark Ages figures produced by Splintered Light Miniatures out of Georgia. This company offers Dux Britanniarum starter armies for Early Saxon, Romano-British, Scots-Irish and Picts.

Decisions, decisions...

Friday, October 28, 2016

A few more Frostgrave pieces.

Ongoing computer problems have plagued me this past week but hopefully they should be resolved soon. Meanwhile, I've pressed on with a few more Frostgrave terrain pieces.

A jail frontage, shrine, treasure chest and barrel - and an undead guardian...
An adventurer encounters the unhappy spirit.
Showdown over the treasure chest - or are the contents of the barrel the real prize?

These are for sale, so if you're interested contact me off list.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Trial piece of Frostgrave terrain

Okay, I noodled with a few designs over the week and came up with this piece for Frostgrave.

A doughty adventurer looks out for the threat that did for a previous explorer.

The body of the work is from the Hirst Arts Gothic mold, and the skull is from a Halloween decoration recast in plaster. I gave the skull a going over with Pledge mixed with sepia and India inks to bring out the details and make it look suitably gruesome. The deposits of melting snow are bicarbonate of soda mixed in roughly equal proportion to PVA adhesive then smeared into place. It seems to have turned out well. I have a few more ideas in mind which I'll work on the next few days. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Frostgrave terrain?

A question - is there a market for ready-made Frostgrave (TM) terrain? As some of my readers will know I have a number of the excellent Hirst Arts molds and some skill in scratch-building. Examples of a set of bookends - The Sage's Lair - I made are shown below.

If anyone would like a set of Frostgrave stuff, let me know.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Autumnal ECW action - Much Piddling in the Woods

That stern Puritan General Temperance-and-Prudence-Shall-Be-Thine-Watchwords Knott raided deep into Royalist held territory. He brought fire and sword to the Malignant believers in the Divine Right of Kings, smiting them hip and thigh, even. Now, with Autumn drawing on, Knott's on his way back to friendlier climes and winter quarters in the bucolic village of Much Piddling in the Woods - but the Royalists are snapping at his heels...

...Or they would be, if Sir George Moutebank can persuade them to get their act together.

The scene of the coming battle. Autumn's spreading her golden gown.
A goodly beginning for Parliament. Knott leads Montagu's regiment of foot on the final straight to the village.
Sir Allen Apsley's regiment of foot make an appearance on the south road. Now the race is on.
Sir John Norwich's Regiment of Horse gallop by to screen the troops on the road.

Their counterparts, Sir Chas. Gerard's Regiment of Horse gallop up.
Eager to confront the upstarts, Sir Charles forms his regiment into line.
General Knott peers at the oncoming Malignants through his spyglass. Knowing he's almost certainly outnumbered, he wonders - Will I have time enough to reach the village and safety?
Sir John's and Sir Charles' regiments square off against each other. Much Piddling in the Woods lies in the distance beyond the river.
Sir John's regiment begins a caracole maneuver against their rivals. Hits are scarce, but the overall effect is unnerving to the Cavaliers.
In the distance General Knott leads Montagu's regiment beyond the crucial bend in the road between the two woods. Whatever happens now, his infantry should be safe. The artillery follows on at a more leisurely pace.
The caracole continues to baffle the Royalist horse. Sir George Mountebank joins his cavalry and tries to get them to charge, but to no avail. Impatient at the delay, Sir Allen Apsley's regiment moves past the cavalry's flank.

The stalwart pikemen of the Earl of Essex's Lifeguard formed the garrison of the village. They welcome their comrades as Montagu's regiment passes over the bridge. General Knott peers through his spyglass back down the road. His cavalry are doing good work, but may need guidance. 
Finally, Sir George persuades the Cavaliers to charge...
General Knott joined his Trotters just in time to encourage a gallant counter-charge.

A bloody encounter ensued, to the detriment of the pusillanimous Royalists. (The red token denoting a Hit is about to be replaced with the deadly white token denoting a Casualty). 
Montagu's regiment lines the churchyard walls. The tardy artillery make their way over the bridge. Much Piddling in the Woods is safe for the army to winter in.
Eschewing the caracole, Sir John's regiment gives their opponents a good pistoling. Although the Royalist artillery and Bolle's regiment of foot fume at being screened by their own horse, Sir Allen Apsley's regiment is about to alter the equation.
The right flank sleeve of Sir Allen's regiment gives fire against the Parliamentary horse, causing some damage.

General Knott decides discretion is the better part of valour and leads his horse away down the road to the village. A triumph for Parliamentary arms!
* * * *
All figures are 10mm Pendraken Miniatures. Fought to Victory Without Quarter rules, the game was noteworthy for the amazing number of poor dice rolls on the part of the Royalist cavalry. Even the presence of their C-in-C wasn't enough to persuade them to charge for several moves (There's not much that can be done when the dice score fails consecutively to rise above 4!). When the Malignants finally managed to stagger into a charge against their rivals, the Ironside 'trotters' previously held in such contempt handed the Royalists their flowing-lock'ed heads to them on a platter.

The cards were drawn at random, and the sequence favoured Parliament quite enough in the first few turns to make their reaching the village with most of their force intact a certainty.

It was a quick, fun game, and gave me the chance to put my new Autumn-foliage trees on the table. I hope to be able to add to the ECW forces in the next few weeks. Watch this space...


home page uniques