Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rapid Fire 10x10 Conversion: Discourse

Some time ago I sat down with every resource I had at my disposal and proceeded to calculate a conversion table for my preferred WWII wargame rule set, Rapid Fire.

In effect, what I generated was a series of tables to be used as a ready reckoner for every vehicle and gun I was likely to use for my WWII wargames. I like Rapid Fire and remain committed to 20mm wargaming in this period. Having said that, I decided that the simple 6x6 amour and gun table for calculating tank combat was not enough for me when embarking in the western desert theatre where cover was scare and differences in armoured capability and design was more telling.

Once I had got stuck in, I started to wonder what I had gotten myself into. First principles for the conversions was to stick to the original 6x6 tables and vehicle attributes as identified in the original rule set and expansion books. In doing so, I had to decide when the old armour class B was a new armour class B or C and where a previous class gun within 1-6 would fall within my new 1-10 scale.

I determined where I was happy was the mid-point with penetration power (largely determined by calibre over velocity) and largely with armour thickness and when applied, armour slope. In doing so, I was able to include a considerable array of vehicles and guns for which there was no previous representation within existing Rapid Fire rules and supplements.

I have uploaded as pdf documents my charts for the Americans, British/Commonwealth, French and German guns, tanks and sundry vehicles. I have done the Italians but for the time being cannot find the file. If I cannot locate it, I will scan my previously printed version and upload that. I have not converted for either Russians or Japanese as I have no immediate expectations in gaming with or against either army. When that changes, and if I convert their vehicle lists, this Blog will be the first to know.

My charts allow for front and side armour calculations, include whether vehicles had radios or not, used high explosive (HE) and/or armour piercing (AP) rounds, had the capacity to discharge smoke or flame and the number and placement of machine guns. I include crew numbers and engine reliability, speed class, gun calibres and date years of service. One day when I get around to it, I'll change speed classes for distance in millimetres for ease of reference.

My conversion chart is not as complete as it should be and does not provide for aircraft conversions in ground attack - something for another day. The system was in reference to the original Rapid Fire rule set. I am also confident that Messers Colin Rumford and Richard Marsh would not object and have noted their encouragement for rule adaptations when it comes to this fine wargaming system. For me, this conversion has extended the utility of this rule system indefinitely. I would be very pleased if it did so for others.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

List of Lists

I happened to be reading through one of my exercise books I use for miniature wargames. You know the sort of thing: purchase estimates, unit calculations and I also found a list of all army projects which were current, on the back-burner and future projects, written in 2004.

What disturbed me a little was my future projects 'intentions' list which included new armies and accompanying modelling projects such as a hill fort for my Celts and a settlement built into a rise for my Spartans, an army which I had not even begun assembling. I say disturbed because here was written down ideas I've had for years which still spill to the forefront of my thoughts from time to time and here I am, six years on and no closer to achieving said projects. Will I ever realise my list of dreams?

Not all revelations were bad. I noted that my intended re-modelling of my Malburnian army has actually commenced and my Baron's Wars army has also begun in earnest and evolved into my 'Project Lewes' complete with accompanying Blog. My back-burner blitzkrieg early war Germans (WWII 20mm) are finished, as far as a wargaming army ever can be said to be finished, and have fought several battles.

It has to be admitted that I am a far busier man than my wargaming aspirations would have me be. For those that can relate, between my family and career I should be pleased to have found time to dedicate to my hobby at all and several un-dreamt of projects have since appeared on my list since 2004 which have shuffled priorities about the place. I have indulged in 1:1200 scale Alglo-Dutch naval wargaming thanks to Langton Miniatures and a lately realised fascination with the golden age of sail. I have dabbled in 1/72 scale WWI aviation - yet to play a game with my own unfinished kits but have enjoyed several bouts of Wings of War. Wars of the Roses leapt into the lists after rediscovering a childhood connection with Robert Louis Stevenson's Black Arrow adventures - and again, an ongoing project not fully realised.

I am capable of enough introspection to guess my lack of achievement is rooted in an ongoing lack of focus. Even my 2004 lists refers to upwards of twelve armies spanning two and a half thousand years of military history on land sea and in the air. I admire, even envy those wargamers who appear able to remain within a fixed period - something I appear incapable of.  If I could only stick to one period, what might I have achieved to date? And what of my purchases which are still yet to see an undercoat and the light of day?

I have bought ECW with the fullest intentions of getting stuck into the early theatres of operations - probably centred on Roundway Downs. I have bought vehicles, tanks, guns infantry and air support for a combined arms battle group 'Jock Column' in 20mm for 1940 western desert - none finished. I succumbed to the lure of the 1815 100 days campaign, buying figures for one of the Dutch-Belgian brigades and their French counter-parts in the Grand Manner - only having started and finished one militia battalion. My only defence is that I have kept my metal purchases down to only two small drawers (albeit full to the brim) and have considerably less than my own body-weight in unpainted white metal. The same cannot be said; however, for the amount of space my unbuilt plastic kits take up - little wonder I have a four car garage with barely enough room for our vehicles.

What I need is a good six months off work to tear a chunk out of my list. Personally, I don't fancy my chances.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Clifford the First

This is the first of several castles I will build and where better to start than in Normal England. Tending to like to make as big an impact as I can, I determined to build the orgininal Clifford's Tower at York in 28mm. The original wooden keep and castle was built under direction of King William in 1068 and one of the few royal castles erected in the period. The scene of a great revolt and combined Danish invasion in 1089, the garrison was massacred and York turned into a battle ground as William stormed north to re-take and re-garrison this northern stronghold.

I based my model on the drawings of Terry Ball and Peter Dunn, both reconstructions of this extensive motte and bailey castle as found in English Heritage's handbook publication Clifford's Tower (1997). Incidentally, the keep and castle I am modelling would not have been referred to at the time as Clifford's Tower but was situated on the motte upon which the surviving stone tower rests today.

Thus far I have completed the motte itself which reflects the height it would have been at the time - the current motte was rasied since the days of the original castle. I have completed the keep, the curtain and the covered way. I have yet to construct the bailey and it's works but several of the buildings have been done such as stables, chapel and two living quarters.

For me I seem to adhere to scale models for all of my efforts to date so this is a proportional model where no compromises have been made to make what would have been a more practical wargaming/table-top feature. As you can see it is also a far cry from the pre-fabricated and more standard motte and bailey castles which can be bought and are generally built.

The motte is layered foam board sandwiched between ply sheet at the base and 3mm MDF on the top. It comes in two halves (semi-circular sections) which were butted together before the gradient was cut with a home rigged hot-wire cutter. By having already fixed the circular top and base before cutting, the hot-wire cutter was made with an adjustable throat wide enough to encompass the breadth required to cut the complete from the outer edge of the top to the bottom. The top and base also ensured an even cut as the wood guided the wire. It was then just a matter of sanding it before my usual practice of plastering it with soaked newspaper squares and diluted PVA wood glue which, when dry, provided a hard crust which takes my sand and house paint mixtures for the textured and coloured finish.

The keep was constructed from foam core with cladding in balsa and craft sticks, all cut to measure. This took a lot of time and effort but I am pleased enough with the result to have warranted the effort. The keep is built in three levels which separate. In hind sight I thinks this was probably unnecessary as how I am supposed to separate them with figures in all the levels without making a mess is beyond me - now. Still, it was an interesting model making exercise all the same. The inside is not detailed - something which I will do for my next castle project.

The keep sits on top of a stone foundation and for this I tried something new. I hand drew all of the stone details with a pencil, making sure to press deep into the paper of the foam core. For this, I recommend using something harder than a HB pencil. I then painted with a diluted white wash with a view to dry brushing over the cobbled surface, hoping the white wash would show through as lime mortar - I think it worked. All the wooden features were done in shades of grey and grey-brown with repeated back washes and lighter shades of grey to build a perception of depth an weathering - I still think it could be lighter.

The roof house was my usual wattle a daub effort with a tiled roof. I use corrugated cardboard cut into long strips and glued along the line of the roof from the outer edge and working up toward the ridge-capping - each slightly overlapping the one beneath it. The texturing for the daub walls is achieved by dabbing roughly a diluted pre-mixed putty with a large craft brush. The gargoyles were a rude sculpting effort with a two-part epoxy putty but then, being gargoyles, crudeness is all that's required.

The curtain wall included operating doors which pivot on steel rods cut from a wire clothes hanger. Otherwise it's all craft sticks and balsa. Craft sticks are not the right width for this model so quite a lot of time was spent trimming them and this model just would not have been at all tolerable to build if it wasn't for my garage band saw. The covered way is one piece with integral poles (wooden skewers) which slot into holes pierced into the motte. I fixed the position of the holes prior to texturing. This enables rigid positioning of the covered way with no risk of movement during play.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Baptism of Fire and Water

A long time between postings I know; however, I just got back from my first wargame using the wonderful Langton Miniatures Dutch Wars models and the equally wonderful naval warfare rules, Form Line of Battle by David Manley.

My good friend Matt and I adopted most of the optional rules for smaller actions and I created adapted game record cards for each ship complete with graphics taken from across the internet. On this point I feel it important to capture as much of the feel for the period as possible through the use of line drawings or even naval paintings from the period. We found the limitations in the cards and will try a couple more adaptions before transferring my cards to peg boards to track the ship records without pencil and paper. We suspect we mis-played the damage rule but kept consistency which evened everything out.

The first time you play these rules you need to make a few markers and tools from the rules - printing out and basing on card stock: that sort of thing. Whilst turning my thoughts to broadside markers (important for tracking gunnery) I thought of rolling pre-sprayed synthetic wadding into tiny balls, threading them along needle and cotton with a dab of white glue to hold each ball. As you can see, it's not unlike making a bead necklace. I made five ball sections for my 4th and 5th rates and three balls lenghts for my smaller, unrated vessels.

We played two games in under five hours, taking a 40 minute lunch break. We both agree they are great rules and makes for an enjoyable naval skirmish game. We played with two vessels each both times, varying our ships each time. Whilst we also believe we mis-played the weather changes, it made for a chaotic and fun struggle and best of all, we had a win each - you can't say fairer than that.

A few thoughts on our depictions. I have green sea boards as you can see - a preference taken from some paintings of the period and also from a desire to be a little different - this is the Channel - not the Med. I nevertheless based my models on glass with superglue, paining the foaming wake with Humbrol gloss white. This way I can play on any coloured surface. Matt's ships are on more traditional blue but you know, it didn't make that much of a difference. I had some toothpicks (cocktail sticks) for fallen masts but none were lost. I don't think I'll go for anything more decorative than that for the masts because whilst you can buy fallen masts, the models will still have their masts upright as part of the model so what's the point?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

My Table

This will not be of much interest to modellers unless you tend to suffer from the same neck or spinal injury that I do. Don't get me wrong, I'm not physically impaired and I only gave up playing Grid Iron this year after two seasons but I nevertheless have to manage two disc bulges in my upper vertebrae. A man's injuries are his own affair and of no interest to others BUT I believe I got this condition from years of bending over a table, painting and modelling since I was about twelve.

Now a matter of self management, the issue is now all about keeping my head up. So, what to do? I had to re-think my hobby area and came up with the following solution.
It's a second hand draughtsman's table I picked out in an office warehouse supplier and it has kept me in the game, so to speak. There were several to chose from and if anyone else needs to follow the same path, you shouldn't have difficulty in picking one up. For those of you who are strangers to these contraptions, you will notice two foot pedals at the base which engage gas compressors (like in an office swivel chair) - one raises the height and the other adjusts the pitch of the table from horizontal through to full-vertical. An unplanned benefit is that, whilst large, it takes up less space than an equivalent flat table.

It has a laminate surface and a most handy tray at the end which catches most objects when they slide off the surface. The laminate is actually quite soft and I have scored and sliced it to pieces and required further laminate. I will use the really hard kitchen laminate which I can cut across. Most of what else you see are the additions I have made and they remain in constant evolution.The two ledges near the base of the table surface above the tray are solid finished pine and are bolted on: used as rests for my elbows (very necessary). I have had to make a series of shelves to hold my work, I made buckets from plastic vitamin jars for my brushes and small tools, a ledge for paints (centre), attached document holders (top) and have items such as rulers hung in place. My lamp is a fluorescent magnifier, clamped to the top and I seem to spend most of my days off work with my chin resting on it.

I have natural light to the left and out of shot to the right is my computer which I use for music, movies and references as I model away. Furthermore, my wife allows this in the living room so I am not isolated from the family - allowing me to achieve at least some level of output. I can recommend this set up to anyone interested in managing a similar injury or to avoid developing a similar condition. The only real issue I have is with building plastic models, but use the flat shelves on those occasions. I do spend some time on my hands and knees, eyes at pile level looking for modelling pits in the Persian rug after they rocket off the sprue, down the slippery slope and off to camouflage themselves, but I did that on flat tables also.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Finished Dutch Demi-Brigade

Finally I managed to finish my first revisited battalions for the War of the Spanish Succession. Here we have Tscharner's battalion (foreground) supported by Van Nassau-Woudenberg's of the Dutch army. I don't have much left to say about these models which I haven't already posted. I'm hoping that wargaming this period in a 'grander manner' with larger figure numbers based in the number of ranks atuned to the period will start a new trend. Certainly the figure manufacturers would share this hope.
All of my flags are hand made and painted on tissue paper. I feel this gives them the right thickness to represent silk standards and they certainly respond well to shaping prior to receiving their final 'matt cote' (Humbrol). Flags for this period (particularly for the Dutch) are not always possible to come by. I only managed to find Van Nassau-Woudenberg's colours (seen right) from Claus-Peter Goldberg's Die Veringten Niederlande 1701-1704 as suppled by Baccus - thanks to a tip through TMP. This battalion is raised and supported by the province of Uthrecht and the colours are as they appeared under their previous name after their original Colonel Proprietor, Weede.
As you can see, the officers and NCOs have red lining, coat cuffs and stockings which differ from the other ranks who are all grey. Within this reference I elected to represent the other ranks with a darker grey cuff and very light grey stockings to give them some definition. I think the grey cuff, whilst effective, is perhaps a shade or two too dark and if I had my time over again, they would be lighter - but I can live with it. The grenadiers are another issue. I have elected to go with a cap of facing colour with an orange tuft. The monograme and plate definition I also finish with the facing colour. This is in the absence amongst all of my references to a definitive word on the subject.

I generally paint my puttied bases in a dark brown with lighter shading for European based units and follow up with tufting static grass in two different mixes - one greener and one lighter/browner on top. I apply them by dotting the bases with PVA wood glue and pressing the static grass firmly. I then fill the remaining spaces with the lighter version and some spots I glue on top of the darker shade to give a clumping effect which makes for an uneven ground. In this case I also added loosely rolled clumps of died wool taken from sheepskin off-cuts which I fixed with Selly's Liquid Nails and I think it helps to break down the unifomed/modelled look of the units.

As discussed in my earlier posting, I dropped the depth of the base (mdf craft wood) for the front rank of my firing platoons due to the size and height of the Front Rank figures seen here in the foreground. As you can also see, it was entirely necessary. Normally I like my figuers to differ as much as possible from one another (even in uniformed regiments) but for my firing line I had to match my new kneeling/firing big boys with my older and smaller standing shooters. Anyway, I think it works but as you can see - it's a close fit. You might tell, I generally have an NCO or officer for each nine figure base - but I tend to move them about a bit and follow no convention.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Emerging Dutch

It's been a while since I updated the Blog but then it's taken me some time, working on two Dutch battalions at one time. I previously posted a dummy set up for my revisited army for the War of the Spanish Succession and this is the based result for the first painted battalions. I should say the first stages of basing as I have yet to commence the putty sculpting, painting and flocking. The photos in this posting are of one of those battalions only: my representation of Tscharner's Swiss battalion in Dutch service (raised in Berne and maintained by Holland) as they may have looked at Ramillies in 1706.
The figures are mainly Wargames Foundry with a sprinkling of Front Rank and the mounted Colonel Commandant (representing Gabriel May of Huning) is from Dixon miniatures. You will notice the recessed sections of base where I have cut into the MDF craftwood. My Front Rank figures are a few millimetres taller than the others and the lower level bases drops their height by a couple of milimetres for a better match. This was particularly important for the kneeling front rank of my firing platoons; Front Rank being the only manufacturer to offer this pose. The flags are hand painted representing the battalion and colonel's colours.
As a devotee of Grand Manner wargaming, I am representing my battalion as a 36 figure unit, but the others will average 33. I am basing them in three ranks to better reflect the typical period Dutch formations and I have each base containg nine figures on a 60 by 60 millimetre base. To simulate platoon firing I have one base firing, one loading and one at the ready all supported by a command and colour party base. I may consider attempting to represent two firings across the frontage. Whilst the Swiss battalions fielded no grenadiers, my other unit has their three figure grenadier company represented as one file on the right flank. By the end of the Easter weekend I hope to have my first demi-brigade completed and will post accordingly.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

First Dutch at Waterloo

At least my first Dutch regiment is completed. I have represented the 8th Dutch Militia which fought so doggedly at Quatre Bras but wavered at Waterloo. When I look back over all of my miniature armies, there is a conspicuous bias toward collecting British armies - particularly red coats. Like many young boys living in England (which I did for some years) I started my collecting early and delved into Airfix 1/72nd scale plastic figures from their Waterloo collection. From the age of six, armed with 19 pence (two weeks pocket money) I habitually attended the toy shop in Pettswood high street and returned armed with my latest packed of soldiers. Twenty years later a good friend and I decided to return to the hobby and 25mm Napoleonics gaming in the Grand Manner was our chosen poisen. Having been building a British Peninsular army for years now, when I determined to return to the grass roots of Waterloo I had had enough of red coats so went for their Dutch and Belgian allies and so here is the first of them.

I have taken particular care with this unit and experimented with a couple of different painting techniques. I always undercoat in white and I use Humbrol enamels almost exclusively. I am an ageing older dog and doubt I'll ever change. I prefer the unltra flat effect of their paints for clothing and enjoy mixing whatever shades of colours I choose. I personally dislike the more popular shades of blue found in Citadel paints (for example) and their competitors and I dislike the sheen finish. I also prefer working with mineral terpentine - the cheapest and best cleaning solution and combined thinner in my view. I still marvel that after my many, many years of painting I can still evolve as a painter and wonder if that will ever cease. Still, there is only one person whom I need to please and that is myself as I tend to keep all my figures forever and only play with what I paint.

I tested two techniques when painting the trousers. The first was a very thinned application of darkened grey to the creases, a ligher shades immediately applied to the rest of the trouser and a lighter dry brush over the top when truly dry. A tip for those not familiar with enamels: do not thin the dry coat if you are not prepared to wait at least 24 hours between coats or you can lift the paint from the highlights. The problem with this technique is that it takes time and is a little painstaking. The benefits are that is is a good result. The dry brushing gives a seamless transition from deeper, darker areas to the lighter highlights - unlike the 'blocky' effect that more commercial painting services can achieve, seen when photographed too closely.

The alternative technique began the same with darker grey running into the creases but then I let it dry. I later applied a thinner and ligher general coat over the top which allows the darker shade to come through. On a white undercoat, the thinned light grey provides seamless highlights also as the pigment settles into deeper areas of the sculpt, thus providing at least three depths of shade. This worked better than I anticipated and was also a lot quicker than the dry brushing - in fact it was a relief. I was in fact pleased with the variances both techniques provided within the unit as I perfer to represent variance within uniformed regiments - albeit subtle ones.

A quick word on undercoating. I have now returned to brush and thinners when it comes to undercoating my figures. I used spray packs for many years of every brand imaginable. In the end the subtleties required for applying thinned enamels requires a non-porous coat. Unfortunately, spray coats leave a result rather like blotting paper which takes my paint in all directions leaving me with much reduced control over the initial applications. My friend Matt and fellow Goulbourn Gamer has perhaps found the real answer which is a spray gun but I am content to soldier on with White Knight Rust Guard epoxy enamel for some time to come. Besides, my turn-over of figures is not that high anyway. A last word on undercoating in white with thin painting techniques is that depths can be achieved with less applications - just two or even one.

I don't know who started this trend but I remember first seeing the gents from the League of Augsburg using a three day growth effect on their figure's faces and I have been a fan ever since. In this, I depart from my normal enamel loyalties and use acrylics for the faces with a diluted applicaiton of black ink. Having said this, I vary the clouring of my troops with a mixture of blondes through to brunettes and only use the unshaved look for the dark haired soldiers. I always finish off the faces and heads first (minus the head gear) unless I need to get a collar colour in underneath long hair. By painting faces first my white models begin to come to life at an early stage and I am motivated to continue. AND motivation can be a tricky business when painting troops at a 1:20 representative scale. With a family and career to squeeze in around my hobby, discipline is required to progress even one battalion toward completion. My rule is one application per day and in a month at worse, the regiment is raised.

Before you know it, it is time to base. I always go through this fantasy that when the figures are finished being painted it is all but over but in fact I have several stages when it comes to basing. I use MDF craft wood (3mm) which I cut to size on my band saw (an essential tool for my shed) which is then chamferred and sanded. I glue magnetic sheeting to the base and then sculpt the bases using pre-mixed and coloured wood putty. If I am installing standing grass clumps I normally cut holes with a scalpel and fix before sculpting. In this instance, I wanted a crop line running through the length of the unit so I impressed a groove running through the putty with a toothpick and then glued my vegetation into it when set. I glued my vegetation using Selley's Liquid Nails and the crop 'grass' is dyed coir from a welcome mat.

Once dry, I fixed rubble which was mouse litter mixed with medium sand using PVA glue which is coated in diluted PVA glue when dried to set it properly. Once dried, I paint in is a series of ever lightening earth tones with an eye to representing furtile, western European farmland benefitting from good rainfall. I finished off with two tones of static grass (which I mixed myself) at the outer edges and at strategic points to cover obvious sections of the figure bases which might be seen. Overall, I am reasonably pleased with the effect which was, after all, an experiment. The last touch to the base is a new habit I have of identifying the unit on the back right hand corner - black gloss paint over white. Given that my Brigade will have a number of similarly uniformed Dutch Militia battalions, this will prove invaluable.

For the 1815 campaign, the Dutch had only just reassembled a national army and regulations had yet to be formalised on the carrying of colours. That being so, I elected to speculate on what they might have carried having determined that they required something visual to rally against and form up under. For this battalion I went for a simple national colour and given the only recent departure of the Dutch from French service, I thought it reasonable to follow their trend in colour size. I also like to represent a little battle damage, especially given their involvment in the previoius days action. All of my colours or standards in every army is hand made and painted using tissue paper, drawn on, painted and coated in a matt finish. On that subject, all of my figures nowadays are spray finished using an artists flat matt product obtained from artistic suppliers. The only thing to bear in mind is that metals should be left as a final touch after this protective coating is applied - if possible. I now leave 1815 and return to my revisited Spanish Succession Dutch army now that my extra figures have arrived.

Friday, January 29, 2010

SPARTA for the Spartans

A largely speculative project has been my long evolving Spartan residence and outbuildings. Whilst archeology is thin on the ground (and under it for that matter) I have modelled some dwellings from an old Mycenean reconstruction. The preferred material, as always, is foam core (5mm thick) with balsa cladding. The pillars - so essential for that ancient Mediterranean look - is sawn dowel.
I predict I will coat this model in a sand and paint emulsion to fill in the cracks and achieve that stucco look, similar to the way I made my adobe buildings. As always, the roof comes off for figure placement and the interior of this house is somewhat modelled which is something I intend to do more of. When push comes to shove, my Spartans will defend their homes from within their homes in the end.

The outbuildings (x2) I imagine to be helot dwellings  and I have a mind to place all three buildings together with a small temple on a raised mesa of some sort - not too high, large or dramatic but raising it just above the valley it will look out over, covered in olive groves, vineyards and crops. The only thing preventing me from not finishing this lot off is waiting to come across a suitable God figure for the temple statue and some discipline to finish off all the other projects I start. For example, as I write this posting, I have two 33 figure Dutch battalions for the War of the Spanish Succession, a battalion of Dutch for 1815 and three Celtic chariots on my work bench.

Norman Proto-castle

This is one of several fortifications I have modelled over the years and it won't be the last. It is a 25mm model and is based on reconstructed drawing of Mirville castle in the 11th century. In fact, this model was an after-thought insofar as the tower is an add-on to what was actually constructed as a curtain wall for a greater castle, the late 11th century motte and bailey of York - but that's another article.

It is built in six sections, one of which is broken into a further three sections including the tower section. It is of balsa and craft-stick construction based on MDF craft wood. Everything in shot throughout this posting is scratch built apart from the livestock and figures. The weathered woodwork so important to this model is achieved through repeated applications of black wash over a gey acrylic base with alternate dry brushing of lighter greys. Personally, I still find it too dark but you have to call it a day some time and I can live with it. The door is fully functional (quite a bit of mucking about there actually) and the tower is built in two stages for the placement of figures within.
The stone foundations were achieved by an experiment which worked well I think. I painstakingly drew the stonework using a hard pencil on foam core (foam sandwiched between two sheets of paper) - the impression making the mortar lines, throwing the stone into relief. I thinly washed it in white to achieve a lime mortar then dry brushed from a mixed grey/brown palette. In future when I make a large stone keep I will opt for pre-embossed plastic or card stock. It is all too easy to tire when working on the base but I took the time to grass the bases around structural points of contact and allow for wear and tread, grasses and weeds.
The whole model as seen here packs down into a standard sized archive box - essential for storage and transportation. The only issue with building fortifications for wargaming is that you need to ensure that the oposition has the means of challenging the defenders to make a game of it. This thus far, I have failed to do. Whilst I have bought two of the Gripping Beast Onager models I have yet to build them. I have plans for mantlets, ladder crews, a battering ram and a fire wagon. Then I suppose I'll need to turn my attention to making some wrecked sections.

SPARTA and the Ekdromoi

Being a Warhammer Ancient Battles (WAB) player, there arises the question of Spartan Ekdromoi or armoured slaves (helots) and how to play them. In WAB terms they are an un accounted for troop type to date in that no developed army lists or specific book has been dedicated to the period: or at least the Persian Wars period of the 470's BC. My chosen army is intended as a nucleus for the Spartan coalition army under Pausanias at Plataea in 479 BC - the little dramatised but great land battle where the question of Perian dominance was settled.

I say that Ekdromoi are unaccounted for in that within the WAB rule system, hoplites are not accorded the liberty of dispering from phalanx  into skirmish order and fighting as light infantry. Fighting in phalanx and breaking out to skirmish; however, is precisely what Ekdromoi did according to the texts and in fact Ekdromoi, for the uninitiated, means 'to run out'. For those familiar with the battle of Plataea, this is potentially an important distinction as according to Herodotus, the Spartans were in attendence with seven Ekdromoi (or Helots) to every Spartiate citizen hoplite.

 Given the relative popularity of Sparta within the enduring imagination of the wargamer, this limitation presents an ongoing question about how best to model and play this particular troop type. Unless a future suplement from Warhammer defines the rules surrounding Ekdromoi, a player may either base them as a lesser armed phalanx formation (being either naked or merely clothed with helmet and shield) or as skirmishers with shield - albeit a large one. House rules can, of course, provide for both where some compromise in points would need to be agreed upon. Personally, it seems reasonable to me that they should be paid for as a hoplite with an appropriate reduction in points cost for loss of body armour but should retain the cost of being drilled to allow the adaptability of formation - particularly if you propose to allow them to reform into phalanx at any stage in the game.

As you can see from my models, I elected to build my army from First Corps Spartans and I continue to prefer them to any range I have seen since buying them about eight years ago. To further differentiate the Ekdromoi from my other troops I made their shield designs using drap mixtures of russets, browns, black and white. Their helmet manes were of natural colours as one might find stright from the horses tail so to speak. Their tunics are faded reds, brown and oranges when worn. Their shild designs are more simple than my Spartiates who, during the pre-uniform Perian Wars period, tend to be more colourful, but not as gawdy as I would make Athenian or Corinthian designs.

If I ever revisit this army to expand it to the full compliment for Plataea, I would include a couple of throwing spears in the shield hands of my Ekdromoi for at least some of them. As you can see from my holding up of a Spartan phalanx, my figure bases are magnetised and whenever forming larger units my bases simply clamp on - particularly usefull for my Ekdomoi all of which are based singly. This satisfies my long standing dislike of chunky movement trays.

As for the hard corps hoplites in my army, I based them as close to overlapping as the models and the WAB basing distances would allow with the second row offset from the front rank. Whilst it may have been nicer still to base them three deep, my shield designs (all of which are hand painted) for the third rank would be obscured. In any event, for gaming purposes, whilst I have only played my Spartans a few times, they can take an awful beating, always dish out far worse than they get and don't seem bothered about a lack of rank bonuses.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The King's Germans

I finally finished my penultimate brigade for Spencer's 1st Division of Wellington's army at Busaco, 1810 in 28mm - namely the King's German Legion (KGL) brigade. It was a long time between battalions for this one - four in all. Due to departures from the period this was several years in the making which most probably should not have been the case given that it consisted of some of the smallest battalions in my army - from 22-26 figures. By way of historical background, the KGL units were present throughout most of the Peninsular campaigns and by 1810 were considerably reduced from their full compliments. In wargame figure terms, at a representative troop scale of 1:20, a full battalion comes in at around 48 figures (fresh off the boat). The performance of this brigade on the table top should always do reasonably well, balancing their veteran status against reduced numbers - I hope.

My battalions for Napoleonics always consist of a core of Elite Miniatures - supplied by Elite Miniatures Australia. They are a good quality product and whilst not sculpted to the same detail of Front Rank or Foundry, they are a particularly good figure to paint with just the right amount of detail for the rank and file - especially for large battalions which a 1:20 troop scale tends to produce. Another feature I partucularly love about Elite is that they use a pewter based metal which is light and rigid so there is no such thing as a floppy looking bayonet - a widespread phenomena in wargames armies and one which is unacceptable for me. My officers I buy from anyone - I rather like to mix it up with these chaps and will dig deeper in my purse for them. I have several per unit to represent company commanders within the line. In my KGL units I have used Foundry and Elite.

No one makes a bearskin drummer for the KGL which Mike Chappell's The King's German Legion (1) 1803-1812 (Osprey Men-At-Arms 338) tells me they had. I cut the shako off with wire cutters, filed the figure off to a point above the peak and sculpted the bearskin using Miliput or Greenstuff. By the way, it was some time before I saw what they looked like from the back and the cap should show the white horse of Hanover on a red field - which mine now do.

One thing about the KGL battalions is that they were completely uniform; the only identification being the numbers on canteens or regimental colours. For my benefit, after the first battalion was finished, my three subsequent battalions have their numbers painted in black letters on a white background on the back of the right hand corner of each base - 5KGL, 2KGL and so on. This is a habit I will cultivate from here on with all of my armies methinks.

I have my skirmishers for each battalion represented proportionally. The rules I use (Grand Manner) provide for skirmish units of 6 figures which is a problem for me - my skirmishers being swept aside easily unless amalgamated for the brigade into one unit. I advise anyone wishing to represent their armies according to historical returns to make an exception with your skirmishers if figure numbers are important for game mechanics.

For one of my battalions I decided to sculpt the unit colours furled and in their cases - a simple matter of forming Greenstuff over 1.25 mm wire. This would have been better depicted on a marching unit rather than mine which is advancing (as they all are) but I've learned to live with it. My bridage commander was tricky in that every order of battle I possessed (and there are a few) only referred to generals my their surname. I have developed more of an interest in my command figures over the years and I wanted to know just who this Von Lowe chap was. My research attempts on-line proved fruitless but thanks to a helful contributor to the TMP forum I received a two page life history of Brigadier General SCGF Von Lowe. These details are important to me insofar as I know now if he had a brevitt rank and can surmise what uniform distinctions he would have worn in the field. He is represented by an Old Glory figure.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bring up the Guns!

In a seemingly endless build up of my British Peninsular amry of 1810, I determined upon the addition of a battery of Royal Horse Artillery. Let me say that having had none previously had been a right royal pain as in the rules I play (Grand Manner) my enemies were getting two shots in per bound with their horse artillery to my one with only foot - enough was enough!

Our club house rules are that each battery requires one limber model if you want to be able to move them and there certainly ain't no point in galloping guns with no gallopers so an order for one limber was duly placed with Essex Miniatures. At the time of purchase Essex were the only manufacturers to my knowledge. I assembled the model in its entirety and for pieces on this scale I based them also, prior to undercoating. You will see from the riders that I undercoat in white principally becasue this is how I developed my approach in the beginning but more so nowadays so I can see what I'm painting.

Similarly, I built and based my gun models (all Elite Miniatures) prior to undercoating and painting. You will see that I base my models and figures on 3mm MDF sheet which I cut and chamfer. Beneath the based I cut and  glue single sided magnetic sheet as I transport my models in metal tool boxes and this is wonderful in preventing movement and protects the figures.

All of my horses are painted from a common reference work, Tasmin Pickeral's The Encyclopedia of Horses & Ponies which provides a comprehensive selection of breeds and colour schemes if you are particular about that sort of thing - which I am.

I support the bond between the mounted figure and the horse by drilling holes in the base of the rider and the saddle and fixing it with a steel wire pin when gluing them with Araldite. Anyone wishing to try assembling a model of this size before painting as I do should heed this warning - it is heavy, awkward and prolongs the painting project considerably. The finsihed product; however, is robust and utterly intact.

I took some time to manipulate the two crew riding the caison and to vary the posing of all figures as much as possible which, happily, the Essex white metal freely allows. I wanted to animate the model as much as possible as I wanted my limber to look like it was moving at pace. Generally, manufacturers do not provide this in their limber offerings and Essex were no exception so I was limited by the poses of the solidly cast horses. You may note the rock (a piece of mouse litter) placed under the right wheel of the casion and the crews attempt at regaining their balance.
My bases are sculpted with pre-mixed wood working putty into which I press mouse litter for rocks and pieces of grass matting is glued into drilled or cut holes prior to the sculpt. I then cover the dried 'ground' with a diluted mixture of Selley's PVA to fix any loose litter and commence painting once dry.
For this battery I based my deployed crew seperate to the model for casualty removal or evasion - one of several options. The crew figures are Front Rank.