Saturday, 23 August 2014

Still Here: Bits and Bobs off the Painting Table

No, my absence isn't due to some wonderful, long holiday in the sun. Busyness, partly due to greater responsibility at work, has stymied my painting over the summer. 

I did finish this French Officer for the Great War Painting Club over on LAF. I like these impromptu collaborative painting challenges as they offer a chance for me to paint something random from the lead pile. 

The horizon bleu offered a challenge - I basically fudged it from VMC ultramarine, black and white. Hopefully it won't offend any Great War aficionados. 

For a suitably gritty appearance, I went with lots of my recently purchased Vallejo weathering powder, including mixing a paste for mud effects on his puttees and coat. 

This is absolutely not a new project for me, he was a free sample from Forgotten and Glorious. A really nice sculpt, quite tall all and chunky that means he painted up really well. Barely any cleanup required either. The original characterful Adrian helmeted head would be my only criticism. So I swapped it for something suitably Gallic from the plastic spares box: Victrix Napoleonic French, I believe. 

I did also finish off a few more Mahdists in time for the game at earlier in the  month. Just four as I thought that's how many I needed to fill the trays. But damnation, I was still two short - not sure how I miscounted really! Ah well, I can fix that easily enough. 

With such pitiful offerings, I've been indulging the hobby with the Wargamer's UXB. In my defence, I've decided to try not to just have one force for a project. So, with the 15mm Chain of Command flying through the painting table recently, I've rounded out that project by dropping an order in for opposing panzergrenadiers. Just a platoon at first, but before long I'd found a free shipping and 5% off code: as long as one makes the minimum spend! So I've a supported platoon equivalent to the paras making its way over, which should enable me to put on some games at Wyvern myself. 

Monday, 11 August 2014

New Improved Crop Fields

I've been overusing the old coir doormat 'crop fields' - they've been a good way to break up large areas with area terrain cheaply and easily. But they do, frankly, look like cut up bits of doormat. So, inspired by a better example at Lonely Gamers, I set about to make some improvements:

The one on the right has been recently been cut and the chaff left, or perhaps has been ruined and trampled by a battalion passing through. All in all, a simple job that only took a while because of the drying times. I want to make more up but I ran out of the foamed PVC that I use for the bases after these two. I reckon I could make use of another 4 in varying sizes and in different tones. I've a load of Perry fencing around too - I'll fence in the next ones in and make up some matching fencing strips to link the fields up.

These aren't really Sudan terrain, though could serve for more fertile farmed areas near the Nile and towns. They will come in useful for games in Spain though: both Napoleonic and SCW. I've always been meaning to make up a vineyard too and I've twice the reasons now.

The 95th patrol through the Spanish countryside

I've also realised I didn't get around to posting up my photos from the excellent Blog-Con back in May. How the summer has flown. Well that means I didn't get chance to public ally show my appreciation to the esteemed gentleman Curt, who very kindly made a contribution to my Pulp collection. Yup, you guessed it: true to form, it's a Mountie (photographed by me in the Curt style):

Thanks Curt: Lovely paintwork and very much appreciated. He will take pride of place in the collection.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Black Powder Sudan AAR: Scouting Hashin

Last weekend I have the opportunity and pleasure to put on the first game of what will hopefully be short Sudan campaign at Wyvern Wargamers. Dane took command of the Mahdists against two British commanders in a small engagement of scouting forces. The initial briefing was:

Spring 1884: Egyptian-ruled Sudan is in turmoil. El Mahdi has emerged and gathered his 'Ansar' around him: the tribes Korfodan, Beja and Arabs. Egypt maintains isolated garrisons across the Sudan, but two European-officered field forces have been destroyed by the rebels, at Kashgil November 1883 and most recently, El Teb on 4 February. Britain rushes to support its protectorate and secure Suakin, a port on the Red Sea to secure shipping to the far reaches of the Empire.
One cavalry and two infantry brigades are hastily landed at Suakin, commanded by Major-General Sir Gerald Graham. As they are assembled, Graham orders a small force to reconnoitre towards the town of Hashin in the west, to ensure the security of Suakin and sufficient water supplies. The bulk rest of the British force assembles to face Osman Digna's main body, still believed to be to the south west.

Colonel Ashburnham leads four companies of infantry, plus scouts and support elements. As no large bodies of Mahdists are expected so close to Suakin, engage any Mahdist scouts at your discretion.

The British command was:
1st Brigade: Major M Greenham
-King's Royal Rifle Corps
-28th Bengal infantry
-Screw gun
-10th Hussars
-Irregular horse

2nd Brigade: Major A Cathcart
-Royal Marine Light Infantry
-Naval Brigade
-Gardner gun
-Mounted infantry

With no Mahdists immediately in sight, the British commanders advanced cautiously, sending out cavalry scouts to identify and draw out any Mahdists. Looping ahead of the main force, the British Hussar troop round an escarpment and loop back towards the infantry square.

The British square advances steadily, with the Royal Marine Light Infantry on the leading face. The scouts fail to identify any Mahdists forces, with the irregular horse heading off on a wild goose chase on the British right flank.

Before the British cavalry make it back to the square, the Mahdists spring a trap - charging at full pelt to engage the exposed Hussars*. The British wheel about to receive the charge and a swirling melee ensues with no clear winner.

As the cavalry break apart, the Beja camelry engage, routing the beleaguered Hussars: the shame of Her Majesty's cavalry! The British mounted infantry take a sporadic fire from nearby shrub and mill in confusion, re-mounting and surging to front of the square.**

Meanwhile, the battered baggara cavalry plough into the locally-recruited irregular scouts. Seeing the proud British cavalry routed, they too turn tail and flee. The British cavalry are no more, though the Mahdists cavalry are weary and spent.

As the cavalry engagement peters out, the square opens up on the remaining Mahdist cavalry. Under a hail of rounds, they are similarly routed from the field. Meanwhile, the Mahdist infantry emerge, throwing up great clouds of dust as they surge towards the British square.

Realising the need to bring firepower to bear, the British form a line with speed and precision. The guns sit centrally, the line anchored by the Bombay infantry and KRRC.

The British open up on the horde of Beja, who stall under the steady fire**.

The scrub is finally cleared of Beja skirmishers by bayonets of the brave lads from Bombay.
As the Emirs of the Arab infantry wing finally rouse their troops for battle,**** the Beja surge forwards into the a British fire once again. Slowed by the rough ground of the dry riverbed, the charge falters without contact.

The British line prepares to fire once again. With the day slipping towards evening and many brave warriors strewn across the field, the Mahdist force melts away to fight again another day. The British scouting force claims a minor victory, having repelled the Mahdist scouting force without significant loss. But they did not have it all their own way, they didn't reach the ridge to scout Hashin, the British were cavalry battered and shamed and the square didn't receive and repel anything like a full charge. They turn back for the short march to Suakin before night falls.

*I allowed a rather ambitious attempt to spring a trap and charge from off-table, for which Dane rather fortunately rolled a triple move to make it in one turn with the Baggara horse. The poor Hussars, charged from the rear, could only wheel to face.
**Second British blunder.
***All three units disrupted - most unfortunate for the Beja as the charge falters!
****The second Mahdist infantry wing twice failed its command roll to advance on the square. Third time lucky they got moving, but too late to threaten the square wig a coordinated charge. Having said that, the Mahdists had the better command rolls for most of the game, with the British blundering three times throughout the game!


All in all, quite a close and tense game - the British definitely didn't have it all their own way and for a while it looked like they might actually struggle. Black powder gives a satisfying game in 3 hours or so, and is easy to both pick up and run. A nudge more period flavour needed perhaps - the random events table ended up only being used once.

I think it works well to present the British commanders with the challenge of a bare field so they don't quite know what to expect. A British defensive game should be good too, 'recycling' the Mahdist units to wear the square down and target it's weak points.

I was keen to confirm the stats of each unit were suitable, I'd modes away from those in the Black Powder rules and upped the British firepower to 5 but also the stamina of most units. This made the Mahdists harder to drive off in one turn, but easier disrupt with a '6' from the 5 firepower dice. I think I'll add a limited ability to 'shrug off' disruption using a 'Follow me' order, to allow the Mahdists an unexpected way of delivering a charge to the British line - even once they get it it should be a close fight 1-on-1 so I'm not concerned about it unbalancing things.

The Beja skirmishers were overpowered, intended to be more of an irritant. They need to lose a point of stamina and I think I'll deduct the benefits of skirmishing to it harder for them to hit and make them easier for the Brits to hit with shooting.

While I've put on a couple of games with Sam last summer, this is they first with everything on the field painted and all the movement trays finished. Looking good! This isn't quite the whole collection, but from here I can just add bits and pieces to bolster each force and change the compositions.

Thanks to the players for an enjoyable evening and to Paul for the loan of a desert mat - just the right colour it turns out. 

Friday, 1 August 2014

Potential Spanish Civil War Project: Plenty of Possible Platoons

So, a few of the Wyvern Wargamers chaps have declared 2015 project to be Spanish Civil War, which presents an opportunity to invest in some of Empress miniatures' highly acclaimed range. The idea is to play Chain of Command, which we're already familiar with for WWII, so I'd be looking at a supported platoon. 

There is plenty of choice in both the official lists and the Empress range. I've been reading around the subject a little, most recently Ernest Hemingway's SCW classic, For Whom The Bell Tolls, and resources on Arlequin's and Curt's great blogs. 

I remain stumped over which platoon I'd like to start off. My initial preferences were:
1). Republican, partly because of the classic English support for the underdogs
2). Not irregular platoon (i.e. militia). I've always struggled choosing a good colour palette for pure irregular forces. Uniforms tend to come out better, a little variation is appreciated.
3). Avoiding grey and navy blue uniforms, both colours that I've painted a lot of in recent years. 
4). A platoon with a better range of Empress sculpts: at least 3 packs plus some support options. Though I am willing to do conversions such as head swaps. 

My first thought was Peninsular Army Cavalry. Advantages are that it would look great, the mounted Empress miniatures are excellent. I also haven't seen a any cavalry, let alone a whole platoon in the few SCW-related blogs I follow. Unfortunately, my initial enthusiasm dimmed when I started totting up the cost: really rather expensive, once you get into mounted and dismounted options for multiple units, plus support options. And I don't particularly enjoy painting cavalry at the best of times, never ideal for finishing a project, though they do often look great when finished. Back to the drawing board. 

Second plan used the lovely Assault Guards models. THey can be Republican, multiple packs and 
separate heads for conversions, check. Ah, but Guardias de Asalto wear a navy uniform, or grey overalls, which isn't ideal. Humm. Then a moment of inspiration, the Carabineros: frontier guards. Doable with the same minis, but they wear 'pea green'. Better! This remains a fairly strong contender. 

Then I saw the Italian Tankettes, so cute:

CV33, available from Empress Miniatures.

Which put me onto the Italian Corpo Truppe Voluntarie (CTV). While they are Nationalist, they fit the regular and colour requirements. Once again, I don't recall seeing any painted up in the English blogging community. The platoon is very well equipped and led and they have a plethora of support options. But that doesn't really feel right for the SCW: one might as well stick to WWII if you have the luxury of LMGs in every squad and armour support on hand! 

Which leaves the current choice at Carabineros or CTV. There are other options, but can anyone suggest anything I might not have thought of that fit my original criteria? 

Monday, 21 July 2014

Sudan - Getting There

After a slow start, the summer painting has picked up again, though the stuffy heat plays havoc with e paint. As you may recall, I'm trying to finish off a few bits and pieces to round out each force and top of the list was a third command base for the British. I've got a late September date pencilled in to put on some Sudan games, probably with a trial run in August. Time to get everything finished up in one final push.

Obligatory sepia shot

This galloping officer didn't to seem to suit being an infantry commander (unless he's leading his men away from the Mahdist charge...). So he's going to head up my cavalry brigade, being accompanied by a trooper of the 10th Hussars.

It's clearly been an equine month (have I mentioned that I dislike painting horses?!) as I also painted a horse holder stand for my mounted infantry in the Sudan.

Camels, who needs em? 

I'm not aware of a manufacturers that makes Sudan British horse holders, only camel holders, but mounted infantry were used. These are actually ECW horses from Warlord games, but I couldn't see anything particularly anachronistic on the baggage. The gap on the base is for a guard - turns out I don't have the mini that I was going to use, so I suppose a small Perry order will be going in fairly soon. Because I don't quite have the whole range...yet!

And finally, another piece of flavour terrain or Pulpy plot point - a small camp. They are from the Perry miniatures / Renedra tent sets. 

The smoking fire came out pretty well

Friday, 18 July 2014

Basing the Phyllion Way 2 - Custom Sabot Trays

I recently wrote up how I do my basing, but I've also been working away on some customs sabot trays. I've previously just bought Warbases sabot trays to vase my uhits up , as they are well priced and do the job perfectly well. But they don't do any 'mob trays' of a standard, square size. No doubt hey could do me some custom me ones, but inspired by a Captain Blood's fine work over on LAF, I thought I could make my own up.

Captain Blood's test piece - image used without permission from his post on Lead Adventure Forum

Despite following such a tough act , I think mine came out rather well:

To save me cutting the core bases, I turned back to Warbases and the largest size of their round cornered bases. For the holes, I turned to Jimbibbly of LAF (fine proprietor of Oshiro Modelterrain). He was only too happy to cut me some custom Perspex holes. Until I told him I wanted 120. But like a trooper, he delivered me these:

Then a flash of inspiration - My Mahdists are all bases on 2ps, many* of which are magnetic. With great foresight, I had also pilfered the spare 'save the date' fridge magnets that we sent out for my wedding last year. Magnetised trays it would be!

Cut to size:

Then just superglue the Perspex rings on: 10 to a base in as random a formation as I could make with the space. The white bits are off cuts of card, just to make the filler less thick on larger areas.

After that I just followed the same process as for basing my troops, starting with wood filler to smooth it all out.

Then slather with pva and sprinkle sand, allow to dry and repeat. To avoid the warping the thinner wooden bases warping as the pva dries, I clipped two back to back while drying - theory being the force on each should be pretty much the same so neither should wrap significantly. It seems to work (at other times I use the 'pile of books on too' technique - usually the wife's cookbooks!)

Coming along nicely

The first batch of nine after a good coating of scenic cement.

I'll explain the blank ones later. 

I've still got to paint them up, but I've run out of may 'terraining' emulsion colour of choice. They are perfectly useable for now.

All told, these took no longer than the work I already did on improving the standard Warbases sabots trays - sanding off the harsh edges, pva and sand, paint them up and flock/tuft. They are to my own specification, look a little less obtrusive being just a single layer of mdf and are magnetised to boot! Not a bad for few evenings of work over the World Cup, if I do say so myself. 

*only 2 pence pieces from the early 90s onwards are magnetic. It turns out a fair of my Mahdists are actually based on older ones - ah well! 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Now for Something a Little Different: 15mm WWII

Are you sick of deserts yet? Yes, a brief interlude to normal service here as I've spent the last couple of weeks ploughing through a WWII platoon for Chain of Command.

I settled on US paras, finding a Flames of War box of Greatcoated paras at a ridiculous price on eBay - something like £8 with postage.

They were prepped months ago in time for the challenge last winter but the sat, undercoated and based on my painting table for months.  I undercoated them Army Painter Leather brown, serving as the colour of the greatcoats, intending to pick out details in the appropriate colour then given them a good wash of strong tone ink and a few highlights. Every so often I'd pick them up and start to pick out the details, but with 15mm being an unfamiliar scale I too often found that I'd just shove them away with barely any progress and return to the mound of  28mm minis. But I've had so much fun playing Chain of Command up at Wyvern Wargamers that i was gripped by the enthusiasm of pushing through and getting them finished.

This is the core US Parachute infantry platoon, assembled according to the CoC list:

Two infantry squads of junior leader, an M191A4 MG with three crew and a rifle squad of eight riflemen. While I've multi-based on FoW medium bases, junior leaders are mounted on UK pennies. They are well-led with two senior leaders, mounted on UK 2ps.

The platoon comes well supported with a 60mm mortar squad and a bazooka team. 

They are Elite, with 6 Command dice and are Aggressive troops - both very handy. They lack numbers though with just two squads (albeit of a fair size at 12 men), so will need to be carefully used. For elite troops, their platoon rating (which will help determine what support elements are available to an opponent) is surprisingly low at +1.

As I'm using multi-basing, I've made up some combined shock and casualty markers using Minibits dice holders.

Naturally, having a selection of support elements will come in handy. With a few small add-on purchases I've added two sniper teams, a Forward Observer and a third squad, this time of regular infantry with a BAR. This gives me a fair choice from lists three and four.

I think the third squad may be the basic 'go to' option as bulking out the platoon will come in very handy to have enough troops to seize and hold objectives.

And finally, armoured support. I settled on an M8 Greyhound armoured car. I had a lot of fun painting it, inspired by a recent trip to Bovington Tank Museum (where I took a few too many photos of tanks). I'm unfamiliar with painting vehicles, but enjoyed trying some weathering with sponge, powders and a gooey mud-paste, though that doesn't come out so well in these photos.

The markings are water slide transfers, I've not used these for years but found some appropriately sized ones that I think were meant for a 1:72 scale half track.

This is perhaps a first for me - an entire project done in one fell swoop! Here's hoping I can get them on to the table soon. With one project finished, might this open up enough space in the painting queue for another...?