Saturday 8 November 2014

And now for something a little different...

It is not unusual for me to have several projects on the go at once. And at this point of time I have three on the go.

• the Crimean War project
• the Russo-Japanese War project
• the WWI in East Africa project.

Crimea is on hold at least until the end of the month.

The Russo-Japanese War project is progressing. I have just finished four new Russian guns and crews. Six more Japanese guns have arrived and waiting assembly, with another six to order early next year.

The Russian guns

As for the WWI in East Africa project, well the unit of Sikh infantry is based, but no other figures are in the pipeline until next year. But to keep the project in focus I have decided to make the scenery for this period the summer project. The plan is to make an African village, a plantation house and some kopjes. It is the last item I have decided to attack first.

Kopjes are common sights in East Africa. They are areas of limestone that rise abruptly out of an eroded plain. Often a refuge for wildlife from wildfires and other natural events they are frequently surrounded by clumps of vegitation. They make an interesting feature for an East African terrain. I have decided to make four of these: one large, one small and two of medium size.

I looked at using some natural stones - there are some really nice sized and shaped ones on the temporary gravel carpark next to where I work. But then I changed my mind, in part because the carpark is in full view of the other inhabitants of my office and although they probably already doubt my sanity, I don't really want to give them more ammunition by seeing me collect stones from the carpark, and in part because natural stone would make them quite heavy. Instead I am going to make them from polystyrene and describe the construction of the small one here.

The first step is to cut a piece from a sheet of 25mm thick polystyrene about 130mm square. I then cut off the corners, to make a rather irregular octagon. I keep the corner pieces for use in building up fhe rocky centre of the kopje.

Next is to carve the slope of the hill. I want part of one face to have a steep edge to it, but the rest are to slope more gently towards an area with a diameter of perhaps 70mm in the centre of the hill.

Now to work on the rocks that will jut from the ground. On this one I want a series of columular formations that rise at odd angles, so I cut a strip of polystyrene that is 25mm by 25mm and about 120mm long. I then cut several irregular lengths from that and glue them in varuous configurations to the hill. To provide some varying shapes I add some of the triangular off-cuts. At this point I am not too concerned about getting anything like a rock shape, just the general layout of the rocks. I leave the glue to dry overnight.

The offcuts

Next day, with the glue dry, I carve the blocks of polystrene into rock shapes, rounding out the square edges and cutting into the surface of the blocks to create fissures.

When I have the shapes I want I get out the PVA glue and one at a time I coat the rocks with glue and then press toilet paper or klenex over the form. I then coat that tissue with more PVA and brush it against the polystyrene. The tissue will wrinkle and bunch to create an irregular surface. If I don't get enough texture, I add more tissue and glue. When all of the rock surface is covered I leave it to dry overnight.

Next day I coat the non-rock surface of the hill with PVA and cover the glue with a coarse builder's sand and let it dry. I add some kitty litter as smaller rocks that have fallen away from the main rock formations.

With the sand dry I undercoated whole piece with black. I prefer to use a black underciat on terrain because it is easier to get depth into the model. When that dried I started on the main painting, drybrushing some terracotta, toned with a touch of red over the sand because I wanted the soil colour to be fairly red, remembering the colour of the soil during my time in Tanzania. The rocks themselves were painted grey, starting with a fairly dark hue and then lightening to an almost white highlight.

I then moved on to the final touches. I added areas of grass flock on the slopes, then clumps of Woodland Scenics foliage around the base of the rocks and in isolated patches around the base. I added a few bushes and a couple of logs. Made from twigs from the garden. And it is done.

Below is the finished product together with one of the medium kopjes (the last two images).

Sunday 2 November 2014

Russo-Japanese War Game

Today we played a Russo-Japanese War game.

The scenario saw a single Japanese infantry regiment and two machine guns from Second Army holding a walled village on a large island in the middle of a river. A second regiment, with three field batteries, is posted on the south bank. The river is crossed by one bridge on the southern side of the island and two on the north. The river can be crossed at any point, but crossing at unbridged places will take two full turns and the unit that had crossed will be ruled disrupted for the whole of the turn after it crosses to the opposite bank.

At dawn the Russians made a surprise attack, with a barrage from six batteries falling on the southern bridge, destroying the crossing. Two Russian infantry divisions then moved to attack the isolated Japanese contingent. Immediately Japanese called up the remainder of Second Army, two and a half infantry divisions, 15 batteries and ten machine guns. The Japanese orders to secure the island then move across to the northern bank and establishing themselves on the heights there.

The game started with the first Russian division stepping off and quickly securing the edge if the river, while their artillery hammered the Japanese in the village. When the first Russians formed up into a march column to cross one of the bridges they were caught by Japanese machine gun fire and suffered badly. They stumbled back into line only to be driven further back by Japanese gun fire.

A Russian regiment crosses at the bridge and is then pinned down

At the other bridge a second Russian regiment formed march column and rushed across, but was quickly pinned down on the far bank by Japanese gun fire. For the next three turns this regiment was pinned down there. These two efforts ended the Russian attempts to cross the the bridges. The two remaining Russian regiments of the lead division, with the machine guns in support, forded the river, while the second Russian (Siberian) Division  moved up and dug in along the river bank.

Thr Siberians secure the river bank

In the centre of the table the single Japanese regiment crossed the river in support of regiment in the town. But no sooner had it deployed than it was caught by Russian machine guns and massed artillery and was destroyed. The regiment in the town soon met a similar fate.

The first Japanese reinforcements cross the river

The Guards division surges across the river followed by 2nd Division (below)

The reinforcing Japanese divisions had arrived and struggled across the river to the island. They soon had the two Russian regiments that had succeeded in crossing the river in trouble, driving one back and dispersing the other. Soon the only Russians across the river was the regiment that was pinned down near the bridge and two machine guns. This entire force took shelter in a wood.

The Japanese advance

The Japanese were now advancing in force. The Guards and 2nd Divisions pushed their way forward in a great mass under cover of their guns. The Russians were looking less and less likely to hold their line under the unrelenting pressure and conceded the fight.

The armies were 28mm. All of the infantry figures were Tsuba Miniatures, the machine guns and artillery were Redoubt.