Tuesday 25 April 2017

St Petersburg Dragoon Regiment

Today this freshly fitted out regiment of Napoleonic Russian Dragoons marched off the painting table.

This is the first of two dragoon regiments - the second was ordered just this morning - and I must admit it is nice to be painting troops in summer dress again before I launch back into the last couple of units in winter gear.

I have always liked the Russian dragoon uniform, but last time I painted Russian dragoons was probably twenty five years ago and they were in 15mm, for three divisional strength armies that I painted for sale - sadly those armies met a very messy end...they were sold to a chap who reputedly had an affair and when his wife found out she put the figures on the floor and stomped all over them.

These are Perry Miniatures 28mm figures will not meet that fate. The regiment consists of one command pack two charging packs and one shouldered sabre pack to get the right mix in the line. As with all the Perry figures they have great character - the charging figures in particular are leaning forward in the saddles, stretching with sabres pointing. The standard will be added in a day or two.

Sunday 23 April 2017

East African Garrison Post

Today I put the finishing touches to the last of the European structures for my East African building set.

This is intended as a German garrison post or Bomb. I wanted it to contain the regional headquarters building, a barracks, a kitchen, a gatehouse and an observation tower. It has to be entirely enclosed in a high wall. 

The outer wall is a solid white washed surface, but on the inside I  wanted as many different textures as possible. To achieve this mix of textures I chose to give the headquarters building, with its inbuilt observation tower, a stone surface, so after making the cardboard basic shape I covered it entirely with stone face plasticard. The windows were made from plasticard strips. The observation tower was perhaps bigger than it should be, but it was made to have a 50mm by 50mm interior so that a fighting element could fit inside it. The cover over the observation tower was made from matchsticks.

Below, the headquarters buildung before fixing to the main base with the observation tower cover removed.
Above, the headquarters in position with the observation tower cover in place.

The kitchens were built open to the front. The ovens and worktable were detailed using plasticard off cuts.
The barrack room had a stone base with timber and corrugated iron face, giving the right amount of texture.

The gatehouse was the simplest structure with a large wooden door. 


The surface of the courtyard was created by applying a fine sand. By chance the sand I used was black sand from the west coast of the North Island - non-New Zealand residents will not be aware of this, but many of the west coast beaches feature a fine iron sand with a black appearance. The advantage of this black sand that all I needed to do to provide a final finish was to lightly dry brush some light brown over the surface.
Finally to finish the whole model I applied some water stains and some foliage on the outside wall. 

Friday 21 April 2017

Russian Jägers

This week has seen the completion of the first of two units of Russian jäger infantry in winter dress. 

Despite my previous cries of dispair at painting troops in greatcoats, I actually enjoyed this greatcoated unit. The figures, in their skirmishing poses, have lots of character. I am looking forward to doing the second unit now.

The gap in the middle of the central stand  above is deliberate. An officer will fill the space in the next few weeks.


Monday 17 April 2017

Russian Napoleonic Peasants

With the lead pile partly renewed I have started back on the Russian Napoleonics.

First off the painting table is a unit of peasants. These are Perry Miniatures, two packs of the peasants with some captured weapons and one pack of peasants attacking with agricultural implements. There will be a second unit like this to come next month.

Once again they have been based on winter stands.

Friday 14 April 2017

Lake Victoria Gunboat Completed

Well the lead pile is restored…well a small pile at the moment.


First off the table is the Pom Pom gun and crew to complete the Lave Victoria gunboat. For this set I scratch built the Pom Pom gun and used the Perry Gardner gun crew from the Sudan range. The figures are probably not 100% correct, but I figure that most units serving in Africa would have had a mix of old and new uniforms. The officer from the set will appear on the staff of one WWI East African commands.

The Pom Pom gun was built using plasticard and Greenstuff from the image below. I was unable to find a suitable cone for the base – and unwilling to try to construct one – so I compromised and used a piece of 6mm plastic tubing, on to which I attached a plasticard discs top and bottom.


The Pom Pom gun under construction…


And completed.

The addition of this piece completed the gunboat, to which various items (such as anchors, winches, ropes and life belts) have been added since the last time it appeared in these pages. Below is the finished item.

Wargames Rules

At various time there have been questions on this blog about rules used for particular games. In the vast majority of cases the answer has been that they are home grown, generally written by me. Ever since I first started wargaming I have been a writer of rules and over the years my ideas have ranged from super complex to the ultra-simple sets. The current iteration of rules meets somewhere in the middle and are written to suit the type of games that our group plays, that is large multi-player games involving eight or more players and 30-50 units a side.
The current iteration focuses on the period 1700-1870, but with a few modifications I have made them stretch back to encompass the Wars of the Roses and the English Civil War, and stretch forward to take in the Russo-Japanese War, WWI and the Spanish Civil War. I don't concern myself with ground scale or figure scale. It is all about what looks right on the table and delivers an enjoyable game that captures the spirit of the period.
Some of the concepts behind the rules are very old, some very new and the whole set is really of number of components scavenged from many sources over the decades and modified to suit. For ready access for the group I play with, and for anyone else who wishes to make use of them, the rules and their associated support information is made available for free through the Free Stuff page on this blog.
I have no intention of releasing these commercially and request that if anyone dose download them that they are not posted elsewhere for sub-distribution. That said, the rules are maintained in their storage location as a living document. As changes are made they are published to the folder and a brief description of the change is recorded in a revision record near the front of the document.

My background is aviation publishing and I have applied some of the principles used in that medium to this publication. What this means is that there is a basic rule book supported by a series of Quick Reference Handbooks (QRHs). Each of these QRHs is specific to an historical period, ACW, Napoleonic, Carlist Wars, etc and contains the basic information required to play a game in the form of checklists that contain a specific logic that leads you though a game turn. Each checklist contains the basic information you need to complete task (e.g. the firing checklist starts by telling you to pick a firing unit, specifies the criteria for a valid target – is it in range, arc of fire, shooting through a gap, etc - then tells you the number of dice you need to roll and the score required to hit, then what the target needs roll to save, what the result is and then asks if more units firing go to the top of the checklist, if not go to the next checklist. The back page of the QRH contains a selection of notes that are specific to the historical period represented.
At the core of the rules are two key elements: Order and Activation. Everything else, firing, close attacks, initiative, etc, simply bolts on and can be changed with some ease if needed.
Looking at order first, units can be in one of five states of order:
Good Order – where the unit has taken no losses or has suffered up to (and including) three hit points.
Disorder - a temporary state where a unit has crossed disordering terrain or similar. It is still classed as in Good Order, but in some activation tests and in all close attack calculations a minus factor may count. This clears automatically the turn after unit has crossed the obstacle, cleared the disordering terrain or the activity that caused the disorder has ceased.
Silenced – a state for artillery units only that is forced on them either by an activation result or weight of fire.
Disrupted – where a unit had taken four or five hit points, has suffered an adverse Activation result or has suffered a loss in a close attack.
Shaken – where a unit has taken six hit points has suffered an adverse Activation test result or has suffered a severe loss in a close attack.
It is worth noting here that the rules have been designed to work with units of three stands, usually with five or six figures on a stand. This can be extended to four stands without too many difficulties, but more than that and units can inflict terrible losses very quickly. In our Napoleonic games, for example, our armies are organised in battalions of six stands of four figures each and the fire from six stands can be crippling and distorts the game. Since we don't want to rebase our extensive armies we get around the problem of excessive losses by allowing the unit two free hits. They carry these until they take a third hit and then the counting of actual hits begins.
Activation represents two things in one – control and morale. It works on the premise that as long as units are in good order and under the control of their leaders they will pretty much act as you (the general) wishes – sometimes they will move a little slower than you want and sometimes they can move a little quicker. However, when units get knocked about a bit and are ruled disrupted they become less reliable and when badly knocked around they become shaken and are very difficult to manage. Shaken units are likely to quit the field if pushed.
Initiative allows for a change of who goes first in a turn to vary. The initiative process has been a bit contentious over the years and we have tried to work out different systems, but it is almost impossible to define the criteria that might lead to a change and usually just comes down to a modified die roll. For me a change of initiative should be a rare event and this system seems to capture that. In some of our games initiative remains with one side the entire game, but conversely we have had games where it has changed almost every turn. When it does change it can give you a real advantage if you are ready to exploit it. As a game organiser you can manipulate the initiative a little by stating that a particular side has the initiative at the start of the game, rather than allowing each side roll equally.
What we have found over the few years we have been using this system is that we can get a decisive result even with very large games in a single session – typically we start play at 10:30 AM and under thus system we get a clear result by 3:00 PM (including a break for lunch), whereas in different times we would finish at 5:00 PM and still have to determine the result by discussion or by “military probability” as a dear old departed friend of ours would say.
It also became evident that the rules are quite easily adapted to almost every period that we play simply by modifying a few factors (altering rates of fire, additional modifiers for pikes in the ECW, re-roll misses for British musketry in 1914, and so on) and by forcing players to use historical tactics – e.g. in the War of Spanish Succession infantry can only be in one of two formations – line or march column…any other formation makes them disrupted.
When you read through the main rule book there are probably things that don’t make sense because some knowledge has been assumed – as a group we have been playing together for more than 30 years and some things are just intuitive to us. Feel free to ask any questions through these pages

Saturday 8 April 2017

East African Terrain

Once again this has been a week for making scenery items.

First up is a small outbuilding that will stand along side the Plantation house from last week. There is another small wooden structure that will go along with this. 

Most of the rest of this post is a tutorial in response to a request from a reader for a description of how I made my jungle pieces. But before I get going kn that I want to give a bit of a plug for Auckland wargamer John's new blog that documents his grandfather's experiences in WWI through his grandfather's own account. Each post is reports exactly what occurred 100 years ago.

Details can be found here.

Now on to the tutorial.

As the base of my jungle pieces I use foamcore board because it is light and quick to cut into shape. When I started the project I made them about 60mm by 50mm in irregular shapes. Before long I decided to make these pieces bigger, about 150mm by 100mm and in varying heights.

For the examples here I have made two pieces from foamcore board, stacked three and four levels high, and one large piece made from expanded polystyrene. The latter is intended as a high rock outcrop or cliff into which I want to cut some caves.

Below is the four level piece assembled. Note how there are some steep slopes that feature areas of erosion. Then it is time to attach small stones in random patterns. Still further below is the rough shape of the polystyrene piece.


The polystyrene piece was worked on first. The first thing to be done is to cover the whole piece with tissue paper. First the surface is covered with PVA glue then the paper is pressed onto it. Then a watered down solution of PVA is applied over top, adding more paper if needed, allowing the paper to wrinkle and bunch as much as possible. When finished and dry the surface has the appearance of a rough cliff face.


On this same piece I want a really rugged rock face and for that effect I have used some pine bark that I have scavenged from the garden, see below. This bark is then stacked and glued on the stepped top of the piece.


Then the whole surface of the two smaller pieces is now coated in PVA, covered with coarse builder's sand and some small stones were added. I only put sand on the flat top surfaces of the polystyrene piece. They were then left in the sun to dry.


When the glue us dry all of the pieces are painted black. For this I use a low cost artist acrylic that is thick and helps to hold the sand, the stones and the bark to the pieces. Again they are left in the sun to dry.

When the black paint is dry I dry brushed a coat of burnt sienna, to provide depth. Then I dry brushed a mix of burnt sienna and yellow over the whole surface to to provide contrast, and finally an even lighter mix as a highlight. On the big piece only the exposed top surfaces are given the earth tones.


Next the rock surfaces are painted a mid grey and then dry brushed with two lighter tones of grey

Now I add different types and tones of foliage. First I glued on some bushy pieces on the high ground and on rocky ledges. Then I add one or two pieces of twig from the garden as fallen logs. Finally, to the smaller pieces, I added the plastic "bushes" that a friend got me for a small cost. These come on a large sheet of 81 bunches, each of which contain eight individual bushes. The first thing to do is to cut the individual bushes from the bunches. Then with an awl I puncture the surface of the base and then with a small amount of end of PVA fix them in position. 

And these are the finished items.