Friday, December 31, 2021

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Ridge and Furrow project ~ first step

Since my First Barons War figures saw action this year after thirty or so years languishing in the lead pile, I thought it high time I made some 15mm medieval scenery to match.

The ridge and furrow method of agriculture was one feature common to most of medieval Britain and lasted until the advent of large-scale field enclosures. Serfs living on their lord's land were given a ridge in a manorial field on which to grow crops. The ridges with their accompanying furrows were used year after year, and often handed down through families - with the lord's consent. The system made a permanent mark on the British landscape, to the delight of students of medieval history and the lamentation to those of older periods because of the destruction the ploughs caused to older archaeological deposits - especially Roman mosaics.

I had a piece of large corrugated cardboard which, when stripped of one side of paper, is about the right scale for the ridge and furrows. The tattered bits of paper will disappear when I apply the filler and paint.

Step two, reinforcing the back with strips of wood to prevent warping. 

I've used a piece of card to cover the wood strips while they dry, and a large heavy book to press it all down. More on this project in the next few days.

In the meantime my wife and I came across this charming little chap at a fund-raising sale yesterday.

He's not a nutcracker, but is in that style. The legend on his beer stein is Löwenbrau, Munchen, so I believe it's a promotional piece for the brewery. Inside is this rather alarming spike arrangement. Can anyone suggest what it might be for?

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Raid on the Village ~ Part Two - The End

The raid on Coccium in Carnutii continues, and it's not going the Saxon's way...

The raiders begin to retire with their spoils.

Lord Cynbel the Magnificent leads the Companions in a fierce charge that arrives like a thunderbolt amongst the startled Saxons.

A group of looters is sent reeling back as their comrades slope away across the field with the goodies. Cedric the Quiet attempts a counter-attack to pin the Britons...

...but it fails.

Ebba orders a general withdrawal.

Cynbel the Magnificent isn't done yet. Close pursuit makes the Saxons jittery.

Thanks to a rare piece of accurate shooting from the British archers, Saxon Lord Wigmund takes an arrow in the leg. The Briton Militares close into combat with the loot-burdened Saxons.

The result is predictably bloody. Saxons fall in droves beneath the vengeful spears of the Britons. Hampered by his wound, Lord Wigmund breathes his last.

The Saxons' force morale plunges below zero and they break. The death of Wigmund following the terrible casualties inflicted on the Saxons during the raid was too much for the Sea Wolves. Dropping the loot they run for their lives.The Romano-Britons pursue, driving the raiders from their lands.

* * * *

Gaius Menusius scored heavily in the post-game wind up. This takes into account the prestige of his victory, recovery of the loot, the casualties inflicted on the Saxons in battle and during the pursuit, and the spoils gained from their bodies. Gaius is able to replace all his casualties right away, replace the losses from the summer's campaign during the down-time of winter AND score a thief's hoard in wealth. Thanks to the scale of his victory the icing on the cake is Gaius being named Menusius the Proud.

Ebba retreats to his hall, to rebuild his forces and his reputation over the winter months. His men aren't happy with him, but he's already paid off his king, and has a modicum of wealth to spend. He vows to avenge himself come the spring. For now, both sides are in winter quarters and the land of Britannia is quiet.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Raid on the Village ~ Part one

Ebba felt confident as his warriors advanced on the village. Then the early morning mist burned away, showing the British on a hilltop overlooking the target. Their watchtowers must've sighted him and gave warning. Still, with judicious deployment of his hearth guard he could face-off against his enemy whilst the warriors got down to looting.

Britons to the left, Saxons to the right.

The warriors enter the village while Ebba takes the hearth guard to face down the Britons.

Things aren't going well for the British - but the Companions are lurking close by...

Saxon warriors get down to good dishonest looting, but come up dry, even in the church.

Both sides take and give shrewd blows. The British milites retire, allowing the Companions to surge forward to deadly effect. The Saxon group has found loot in the next house!

The Companions make short work of their opponents.

Although his warriors are now heading off with the loot, the British milites have re-entered the fray, his hearth guard are decimated, and Ebba's now seriously worried...

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Raid on the Village ~ Set-up

Murmurs in the Saxon ranks as to whether he's too rash for competent leadership have Ebba concerned. As a consequence Ebba made some slight adjustments to his raiding force, which were required by the loss of his Champion, Oeglath, and the late-demented un-lamented Oeric the Insane, as well as a number of warriors.

A newcomer to Britain joined the warband in the shape of Cedric the Quiet. A peasant-born fellow from northern Germany, he's 36 and of average build. Cedric does have a quiet air of authority about him, having earned it during the internecine warfare of his homeland. Faced with unemployment and penury he crossed the sea to find service with the new warlord, and perhaps some land to call his own. Appreciating the need for a capable leader, Ebba placed Cedric in command of the warriors.

Stepping up to replace the mighty Oeglath (or did he not run fast enough when called upon?) is Berhtulf. It remains to be seen if he can earn the title of Champion.

So, on to the first deployment for the Saxons, who made a good beginning, advancing quite a ways toward the village. Ebba kept hard to the left of the area and has pushed his bowmen out front, the better to interfere with British deployment.

I'm pleased with the way the bases and scenery merge with the newly-painted ground cloth. Using the same paint for all has paid off.
Romano-British deploy. Gaius Menusius stands near the dolmen, contemplating the field of battle.

The post-Roman period was one of deep superstition. As a house rule for the game I declared any group or formation nearing the ancient dolmen will give either a +1 to force morale for the British (fighting for the bones of their fathers and the temples of their gods), or a -1 to the Saxons (fighting on land which is not theirs may very well anger the spirit residing in the dolmen). 

Through the magic of the die roll the R-Bs appeared right beside it. Inspired by this Gaius decided to make a speech. Added to the dolmen's effect it boosted his personal status by one, and earned the R-B another Fate card. After his near-Pyrrhic victory of the summer, are things looking up for the captain of the Home Team?

Across the valley Ebba spied the approaching British and gave a speech of his own. It steadied his men (increasing the force morale by one) and improved his own status (by one). The stage is set... 

Friday, November 19, 2021

Ground cloth in action - Set up

It's time to revisit the Dux Britanniarum campaign and the final action of 472AD, this time using the new cloth with Autumnal scenery added. 

From the Saxon entry point. The green die marks the approximate position the Saxons will reach by the time the British appear.

From the Romano-British end. The red die marks the entry point

Having failed to conquer the Roman-British province of Durobrivae, Ebba the Saxon Warlord has decided on a late season raid on the village of Coccium in Carnutii. He hopes to lay his hands on some significant loot, especially from the church of St. Aimless the Confused. It'll keep his warband quiet after the grumbling that ensued from their defeat in pitched battle during the summer.

Roman-British General Gaius Menusius finally got his game on and handed the invading Saxons a defeat this summer. Unfortunately it cost him significant losses in his own army. Still, he got word of the Saxon raid in plenty of time and has managed to march his army to the scene to catch the raiders in the act. Maybe, just maybe, he'll put an end to that pestiferous Ebba once and for all...

In game terms it's not shaping up too well for Ebba & Co. They've failed to steal much of a march on the Roman-British, and Gaius Menusius is close enough to the village to put a major crimp in Ebba's looting.

I hope to play out the game over the weekend. Watch this space...

Monday, November 15, 2021

Gaming Cloth Upgrade ~ 40 shades of green

The first go-around to upgrade my gaming cloth is done, and I'm pleased with the result.

The craft paint sticks well to the cloth, and the materiel wicks the pigment far wider than expected, giving a lot more subtle shades of green. I used a thick stippling brush for the job as it gets the paint deep into the cloth. 

As it stands the cloth's usable now, but I think I'll give it another go-over with paint using a sponge to remove and distinct edges and vary it even more.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Gaming cloth upgrade ~ Early steps

It's been a while since I last posted. The reasons are many and varied, but basically Life got in the way. So, now things are a bit more settled, here's my latest project. 

Last year I bought this section of green cloth from the local ReStore/Habitat For Humanity shop for a few dollars. It's seen a couple of games since, but I've wanted to get rid of the totally unrealistic uniform colour for a while. 

I'm not going to follow the mastic/silicone caulk approach used by others. A little experiment shows it'll take poster/craft paint well, so I'm going to do a small area at a time and see how it goes.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

A wise decision

 * * * *

Hopefully sometime this weekend I'll play out another Moroccan Crisis naval scenario, where the German fleet attempts to slip an armoured cruiser or two through the Denmark Strait on an Atlantic commerce raiding mission. Guerre de course was banned under maritime law, but in wartime laws were quite often ignored for the sake of expediency...

Monday, August 23, 2021

Heligoland in miniature.

Or thereabouts. The torrid summer heat here in the Midwest rather restricts what I can or can't do modelling-wise, but I did finish the almost-Heligoland Island for the Morocco Crisis-turned-Hot campaign. 

The urban area is an approximation of the real settlement circa 1906. It's not really important to the plot so I made it abstract, but the kasern (barracks) is represented by the small building on the left since this is a legitimate target for naval bombardment. The two grey squares represent the approximate sites of the two twin 21 cm guns. The defences also had eight 28 cm howitzers, but I've yet to determine where they were sited.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Gibraltar, 1904

A panoramic view of the harbour and anchorage at Gibraltar in 1904 showing seventeen battleships, armoured cruisers and numerous other craft. This was only a small portion of the Royal Navy's strength at this time. Makes you think...

The Heligoland building work is about done, with two strips of houses, the kasern and St. Nikolas church all done. A little more work on the harbour mole and it'll be ready.

Monday, August 16, 2021

British Empire exhibition 1924-25

It's always fascinating what a little research brings to light. Here are a couple of photos from this rather lame-duck event which was held almost a hundred years ago. 

The first is a monorail system built to get visitors around the 220 acre site. I don't know about you, but the corkscrew locomotion system looks like an accident about to happen.

The next shot is the interior of the Palace of Engineering. My eye was immediately drawn to the 15-inch gun in the foreground.

I'm still working on the Heligoland project. The rows of houses are done, and I've moved onto the island's church and the kasern (barracks) for the island garrison-which will present a juicy target for naval bombardment.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Island Project ~ Basic bit done

A slow and leisurely spot of progress later...

This is the basic form, after a bit of paintwork. It looked like a very generous slice of red velvet cake before I wet-brushed the cliff sides. For the next step I'm going to make sections with rows of houses that'll sit on the island and the wide beach piece to make it more like Heligoland. Take the sections off and it turns into a generic island.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Sicily '43 by James Holland


I borrowed this from our local library, and it's a fascinating account of the Sicily Campaign of 1943 - the Allies' first assault on Europe - told from original records from both Allies and Axis. Holland doesn't spare any details: Some of the accounts are horrifying. 

I'm about halfway through, and it's a real page-turner. There are a number of accounts of engagements which would work well with Chain of Command. It's almost tempting me to begin a new period...

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Island formation

A little more progress on the island project...

More pizza box card cut to size and shape filled in the sides. From what I can see, at one time the upper level of Heligoland Island was reached by just one hairpin road running up the eastern cliff. I added an approximation to this. I glued dried tea leaves to the surface to give a rough key for the spackle to adhere to.

A mix of spackle/filler and tissue paper came next. It gives a rough surface to represent the cliff faces. Once this is complete I'll do the top.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Problem with reading list?

Is anyone else having an issue with seeing the Blogger reading list? I've tried several times yesterday and today but it's not showing up.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Island project ~ Beginning

I've noodled with the idea of creating a scaled version of Heligoland Island for a while, for use in my 1906 Moroccan Crisis-turned-hot naval campaign. The recent happy find of a couple of bit of polystyrene foam in almost the right shape spurred me to make a start on the project.

I sandwiched the foam between two pieces of pizza box cut to shape. Next step will be to lay down the groundwork, probably using paper and spackle/filler. 

The island itself has changed shape dramatically since the immediate aftermath of WW2. First the British Army stuffed all the surplus explosives left from the war into the extensive cave system the Germans built throughout the island - and touched it all off at once. 

There goes the neighbourhood...

The eastern side of the island slumped down several dozen feet. It remains the biggest non-nuclear explosion to date.

Since then the German government has greatly expanded the harbour, and extended the island northeastwards with the aim of eventually connecting it to the smaller island of Düne.

I'm aiming more for how the island appeared just before WW1...

I'm not sure if I want to make the town a permanent part of the model, as it would limit the usefulness. It might be possible to make the buildings removable, perhaps by constructing them on separate sections. We'll see.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Four Siegfried class coastal defence ships

After a longer than expected spell on the slips, the four Siegfried class ships are launched, fitted out and under way. 

From l-r, Heimdall, Beowulf, Frithjof, Siegfried.

Built between 1888 and 1894, these were an earlier type than the two Odin class that superseded them, but they shared the same unconventional configuration of two paired turrets forward and one aft. Their top speed was a leisurely 15 knots, but from all accounts they were very stable gun platforms - something I'll take into consideration in the rules.

Next project will be a kinda/sorta Heligoland Island...

Monday, July 12, 2021

Royal Sovereigns, ready for sea.

The four Royal Sovereigns are complete and ready in all respects for action. 

I followed the usual form, basing them on clear plastic then adding spray and wake effects using a concoction of filler, PVA and white paint, finishing with a coat of gloss varnish with a tiny drop of blue ink. 

These were not good sea boats. During a storm in 1893, Resolution had to turn to windward in order to ride out the foul weather, whilst a destroyer sailed on regardless. It gave the class their unfortunate nickname of the Rolling Ressies. They did have 13.5 inch guns, so they should be pretty potent in a game.

So far I've decided to play out some linked scenarios rather than going for a full-on naval campaign. I've planned the following.

Guerre de course. A German attempt to slip one or two armoured cruisers or a few light cruisers past the Shetland and Orkney Islands to act as commerce raiders in the North Atlantic. The Royal Navy has to stop them.

Raid on the East Coast. In the previous scenario a number of German cruisers succeeded in slipping away to destroy merchant shipping along Britain's East Coast between the Humber and Great Yarmouth. Needless to say this upset the British, and the German government is keen to repeat the measure.

The Raid on Heligoland. A bombardment and occupation of the island to deny its use to the German fleet and set it up to support Royal Naval operations in the Jade Bay. This might be where the Royal Sovereigns come into play.

Attack on the Kiel Canal. An attempt to shut down the vital link between the North and Baltic Seas by sinking blockships in the entrance. 

Strike on the Jade Bay. A full-on attempt to locate and destroy the German navy in its home waters.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Four Royal Sovereigns...

...almost ready for a spree. 

A nice black undercoat

Main battleship grey paint job

Deck, masts and funnels painted

I began making these four Royal Sovereign class battleships at the same time as the four German Odin class coastal defence ships, but lacked any clear images of the latter to work with for a while. I finally managed to track down some photos, which show the distinctive sponsons on which the two forward 9.4 inch gun turrets are mounted. My first experiment with this feature is visible on the model immediately behind the strip of battleships. I've yet to work out how to make the turrets...

The Royal Sovereigns are ready for a dark wash then basing. As far as I know the class was the last major British warship type to mount their main armament in barbettes. The sole exception was the last built, HMS Hood, which had turrets. The class got the nickname 'Rolling Ressies' after HMS Resolution rolled excessively during a storm in 1893. They had good watertight compartmentalisation, but proved to be unstable firing platforms in anything above a moderate sea.

Monday, June 28, 2021

A little progress...

A start has been made on the pre-Dreadnought ships. I intended to build four German coastal defence ships, then decided to add four British Royal Sovereign class battleships - as you do. I'll post some photos when I've made more progress. In the meantime, I think we all know this phenomenon...

Tuesday, June 22, 2021


...Coastal armoured ship in English. In other words, a coastal defence battleship.

These vessels were Imperial Germany's primary naval coastal defence force, and comprised S.M.S. Siegfried, Hildebrand, Beowulf, Hagen, Frithjof, Heimdall, Ägir, and Odin. Displacing 4,150 tons and capable of 15 1/2 knots, they had three 24cm/9.4 inch guns mounted in three turrets, the two forward turrets being side by side. Ten 8.8cm secondary guns completed the armament. 

They are such a delightful oddity I'm going to scratch-build a couple for my pre-Dreadnaught naval forces in my on again/off again series of linked games.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Lion Rampant ~ Bloodbath

And so battle is joined between the forces of the French Pretender Prince Louis, and King John's Loyalists. 

The Franco-Scottish Knight Sir Jeckyl A' Pliance and the English Knight Sir Kit Breaker have been at odds all year. With Autumn coming on, they decide to meet and settle matters once and for all. The showdown is at the ford crossing a stream in the unremarkable village of Little Snogging. For the game, Sir Kit is 'insipid,' and Sir Jeckyl is 'blessed.'

The French approach from the west

The English approach from the east

The field of battle

A hesitant French advance. Mounted serjeants swing north towards the open ground

A more robust English advance

Mounted English men at arms head for the gap 'twixt hill and river

The French converge on the village

English foot serjeants hesitate whilst Sir Kit heads confidently right for the ford

To the north French mounted serjeants clash with English men at arms...

...and are thrown back, battered

Sir Kit squares off against Sir Jeckyl. French crossbowmen skirt the village heading for the river

Crossbowmen and archers exchange fire to the left. French men at arms recoil in centre. French serjeants and men at arms clash again on the right

Crossbowmen close up to the river, men at arms clash again in the village, but the foot men at arms have cut off Sir Kit's escape. On the right the English men at arms take a beating

A devastating volley of quarrels almost annihilates the longbowmen. The foot serjeants are repulsed from the ford. The English men at arms are taking a beating, too...

The End. A last ditch attempt to break through the ford is repulsed once again with loss. In the village, alone and surrounded, Sir Kit goes down fighting.

So endeth the first game. 

What do I think of the Lion Rampant rules? On the whole, they're pretty good. They're easy to grasp and give a quick game. One rule I did change almost immediately was the Activation roll. Under the rules if one unit fails to activate, all subsequent units (if any) on that side automatically fail and the initiative passes to the other side. After FIVE failed activation rolls where nobody moved, I decided it was too much 'friction of war.' I'm here to game, not look at a static display...

Straight away I decided to limit the fail to the unit rolling. All subsequent units got their chance to move. This sped things up nicely, and I'll keep this house rule in future.


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