Wednesday, 25 March 2015

SCW Terrain - Vineyards Finished

Evening all,

It's been quiet around here, but I've been beavering away on various bits and pieces. First to completion has been these vineyards, built in anticipation of some 28mm Chain if Command Espana games this year. I made eight strips to give me a decent field of blocking terrain.

They were fairly simple if a little time-consuming to make - I used an up scaled and tweaked method that I found on someone's blog:

For the build I used:
  • Bases: fat lolly sticks from Hobbycraft.  The same that I used for my recent 15mm hedgerows
  • Trees: Woodland Scenice tree armatures - from a bag of 114 deciduous  sized between 3/4" and 2" that I bought as 15mm scale trees. I used less than 20 of them because I cut a few larger armatures into two or individual stems.
  • End posts: a bag of cocktail sticks from Lakeland, chopped to length with a support piece cut to 45 degrees. I got some with a few grooves cut in them which helled when adding the twine. 
  • Twine:  black cotton thread liberated from the wife's sewing up box. 
  • Foliage: Woodland Scenics 'Olive green' bushes and 'Light green' clump foliage
  • Groundwork: Wilko cheap wood filler, sand and flock using my usual method. 

The step-by-step process, in brief as I didn't take any photos during the process (you may wish to consult my basing tutorial too).
  • Take lolly sticks, discarding any warped ones
  • Tidy up a selection of tree armatures - I trim the mold lines off (force of habit and pickiness for me  -  you many consider this optional)
  • Superglue four armatures fairly evenly along the length, keeping them fairly parallel with the base.  Cut larger armatures to desired size.These didn't have a base, so I drilled a hole carefully in the lolly stick and glued the stem into the hole for extra support. 
  • Carefully drill holes for the end posts using a suitable bit - some of mine split as I was doing it but I thought it worth pinning them in rather than just gluing on top. 
  • Cut cocktail sticks to desired length. Stick into the drilled holes with pva. Cut short supports to length, trim to 45 degrees (approximate). Glue supports on. Leave to dry. 
  • Bend armatures into suitable shapes. 
  • Slap on wood filler to disguise the bases for the armatures 
  • Wrap cotton thread around the groove of the cocktail stick, add a blob of superglue to hold. Bring along the length to the other end post, wrap and glue. Repeat so you have two runs of twine along each base. 
  • At this point I put a quick burst of black spray onto each side of the end posts so I wouldn't have to worry about coverage when painting. 
  • Add the ground texture - I apply pva then talus, sand and rocks to suit - I keep varying grades in separate tupperwares. I the. Used bulldog clips to pin each strip onto a baking tray - this (may?) minimise warping of the lolly stick base as the pva dries. 
  • I usually add a second layer of texture to cover anything I've missed (optional)
  • Leave to dry well, knock off any excess. 
  • Dropper on Woodland Scenics scenic cement to bind and seal the sand (optional)
  • Paint the groundwork, then the end posts and armatures to suit. 
  • Hot glue gun on the foliage. I started with an Olive green central clump then added Light green to the higher branches. Try to keep each bush fairly slim with definition between them. I think the smaller bushes look better than larger but ended up with a variety sizes. 
  • Pick off any excess foliage, tweaking the shape of the each row to suit
  • Trim off any dried glue on show or hide with more foliage
  • Dropper or spray on scenic cement to bind the foliage (optional)
  • Add flock and tufts to taste
  • Done!

I'm quite pleased with them - they fill a hole in the Spanish terrain collection and rather nicely evoke the region - much more so than wheat fields or ordinary woods.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Challenge Distractions: Terraining

Keen-eyed followers of the AHPC may have noticed a drop-off in my productivity. As in 'dropped off a cliff'. After finishing the Carabineros I fancied a change, so hit the terrain as a 'brief' diversion. Too many days later, I've finished off these Jump-off Points for 15mm Chain of Command, era-appropriate supplied mounted on 40mm round mdf bases. 

These are really nice pieces, a set called 'stacked supplies' from Baueda, though I got mine from Magister Militum, who charged rather less postage. 

I have submitted them to Mr Campbell, as much to mark my lack of productivity, but he will no doubt 'zero' them as terrain pieces. Still, glad to get these off the table as CoC gets played regularly so I should really get fully equipped for it. 

I've also been building some new terrain fitting for the Spanish peninsula: some rows of vines to make a vineyard. While I have quite a bit of suitable terrain, it's due a refresh, I figure these will help evoke the region and nicely break up line of sight. 

They've progressed slightly more and are now ready for painting. Should be a quick job. With a 28mm Empress sculpt for scale. 

That's it for this week, but rest assured I've been trying to paint miniatures since - ready for the final challenge frenzy. 

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge V: February

February passed in a flash! And my challenge entries showed admirable persistence with the Spanish Civil War project. First up, the three leaders of the section:

Taking inspiration from Curt's idea of different base shapes for different roles/weapons within units, I've taken a simplified version by basing these on 30mm rather than 25mm round bases. This should help identify the leaders, oh so important for Chain of Command, on the tabletop. My weapon teams will be on 40mm-50mm bases I think.

The platoon is led by the Teniente (pimped with extra gold on his lapel and markings on his cuffs)

His second, Sargento Primero

And a section leader, Sargento, with an SMG to add oomph

The grind of painting output has been brightened by participants offering snaps of their painting stations. It's interesting how we all have different set ups to practice this craft - though having seen some others I think I need to reopen negotiations with the other half!

I currently paint in 'the hole', an a love under the stairs in the back bedroom. Not the best light there though, so I've got a decent daylight bulb to paint by. The corner desk is from ikea and has lots of useful storage for hobby supplies. You can see the challenge box file of prepped miniatures (now half empty).  

In the 'hole', entertainment comes from Netflix on the iPad or podcasts. I usually prep miniatures downstairs in front of the TV, often with the wife crafting nearby. So I've. A mobile prep station that I can just bung on top of a unit in the dining room. It is from Polish company Hobby Zone - much better design than most on the market, a very reasonable price - highly recommended.

February's second and final entry followed a trend: the last four Carabineros in tunics. These finish off the section.

Here's the whole crew together. I'm really chuffed how they came out, the Empress sculpts are fantastic and I think suit my painting style. I'm delighted with the distinctive grey-green that ties all of the various uniforms together.

A few have asked if I'm planning on any support for them, though much of the support will be drawn from Army units. I wasn't going to do a Hotchkiss MG specifically for the Carabineros and the CoC list doesn't permit an LMG. However I do have a Bilbao for them that might, just might make an appearance in the challenge.

These edged me over the 100 point 'Duel so Civil', but I am a long, long way off my 500 point target. Insufficient application throughout the challenge. Particularly, as I took a little detour, as my next post will detail...

Sunday, 1 March 2015

AAR: Impromptu Chain of Command 10mm and Stalagbite!

I was up in Yorkshire the orther weekend seeing the brother Gharak. As usual these days we hadn't planned any gaming, but I'd thrown the 10mm WWII just in case. And lo, we found the time for not one but two game of Chain of Command on a 2'x4' board on the dining room table. All ranges were played as cm. 

The first, while tightly fought, saw Gharak's many MG42s seeing off my British platoon. For the second, I remembered to dig the camera out! 

After the patrol pahse. We were playing a flank attack, one that I've never played. I was very concerned about being pinned in on a hill from two sides, but just about managed to force a JOP near cover on the near short edge. 

The first sections deploy on facing hills and trade fire. Thankfully, Gharak hadn't indulged in panzergrenadiers again- I'm not sure I could have faced eight MG42s once again! 

Shock still starts to mount, but I'm winning the firefight - with fewer units on the table I could more reliably spend my order dice on trading fire. With two senior leaders, I could drop one down to take the worst of the shock off - Gharak didn't have that luxury. After a few phases, his section was forced off the crest of the opposite hill. 

Gharak pushed mechanised units down the table length and packs the woods with more troops. I manage to snatch an undecided JOP on the near left table edge and use my third section to occupy the woods on my hill. 

The stalemate broke when Gharak made a bold (c.f. rash) move on my right flank - barrelling a mechanised section towards the nearest JOP, which was undefended. This would have enabled him to capture a JOP and roll up my flank wi a fresh section. 

Except it wasn't undefended. To their misfortune, I rolled a double-phase at this most I opportune moment and out popped my platoon's PIAT. 'Thunk'....missed! Phase two: 'thunk'...kaboom! Direct hit! 

The half track exploded, taking out half the section with it. Stranded in the open, one phase of fire pinned them, then I was able to rake them with more fire, with little that could be done to extract them. 

The inevitable rout...

...and my saved CoC dice ended the turn and the fame as the German morale tumbled. 

Heroes of the day, the plucky (and rarely used) PIAT team. 

And for something slightly different to make a true gaming weekend, Gharak's little daughter (3) had been tempted into the hobby with her own game: a cute dungeon crawler called Stalagbite! From Midlam Miniatures and sourced at Vapnartak, it uses MDF tokens for dwarves exploring a hex-based randomly generated dungeon full of treasure. Obviously, the dungeon is also full of biting stalagmites and 'Jeeping Creepers' (or was it Creeping Jeepers?!')

Of course, Gharak being a true gamer, those MDF markers were quickly replaced with painted miniatures, and stalagmites made from DAS clay. The dungeon fully painted and tokens in bright child-friendly colours. And those naff dwarves replaced with sneaky goblins - plastic GW Knoblars I believe. I reckon Gharak has spent more time painting this than anything for a good few years! 

Well, the diligent fatherly work had paid off - it was a blast. A neat little game, simplified rules to make a dungeon crawl fun for two adults and one little lady - a born gamer, surely! 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

AAR: 6mm Sudan and Blood on the Nile First Impressions

A fortnight ago I got the opportunity to play the Sudan conflict in a whole new scale, using Paul and Dane's burgeoning 6mm collection. It certainly gave the games a whole new sense of scale. We played the first scenario from the new Blood on the Nile supplement to Black Powder: the Battle of Shaikan. Also known as the Battle of El Obeid, the historical battle it saw Hicks Pasha's Egyptian army utterly annihilated by Mohammed Ahmed's Ansar. 

This put an Egyptian column being ambushed from all directions by the Mahdists. Things started badly for Hicks, with command issues meaning his force struggled onto the table into  disparate lines. 

Aren't they small! 

Meanwhile, the hordes descended...

The leftmost Egyptian brigade is wiped out by the impact and the central brigade enveloped.

They hold out for one turn...

...before also being swept away. This leaves a desperate last stand of the third brigade - a crushing defeat for the demoralised Egyptian army, just like history.

Thanks to Paul and Dane for letting me join in, your collection is looking great and groaning quickly, apparently.

History doesn't reflect well on a Hicks Pasha, who led thousands of men to their deaths with over-stretched supply lines, morale issues and poor intelligence, overambitious objectives and ultimately serving only to fuel the uprising. Mike Snook, Sudan expert and author of 'Go Strong into the Desert' wrote a damning indictment on the ever-informative Victorian Wars forum.

I had chance to flick through Paul's copy of Blood on the Nile. Thoughts? I've not seen the Warlord campaign books before, so I was surprised it was soft back rather than hardback, despite its £20 price tag. Within was a lot of wonderful eye candy, as one would expect, which I imagine is one of the reasons people pick the book up.

A hearty caveat: I didn't have chance to read it through properly, but a good flick through suggested it had a series of engagements of varying size across all of the campaigns, including a neat partial section of the huge 1898 battle of Omdurman. The stat lines seemed to be pretty similar to those given in the original Black Powder book. There were a few special rules to give an era flavour, but I thought these were surprisingly light touch and something that an imaginative player could bolt on easily enough. One could be more imaginative while still using the core BP rules, for example I reckon my amendments, last played in the Autumn, went further.

I was disappointed in the scenario we played, as it was so utterly one-sided: poor quality troops arriving turn by turn in column surrounded on all sides by superior warriors. Two of my units didn't make it near the fight due to repeated failed orders, and we decided our tailing brigade didn't need to turn up as the Egyptians were destroyed before they were available. So about 2/3rds of our force still wiped our Hicks' force with he loss of only one unit. While that is historically accurate, I'd have hoped for a scenario book that offered a more interesting to game for the Egyptian player.

All in all, I wouldn't say I was inspired to pick up my own copy as it doesn't do what I'd be looking for: enrich the games themselves. That's unfortunate as I fancy the Perry version of Colonel Fred Burnaby above. For someone new to the conflict, it's an accessible front door to game it: I'm sure it will suit some people's purposes just fine. But in my opinion, at that price point, I'd say  Go Strong into the Desert is a much better source book, while it only details the Red Sea campaign, it has detailed OOBs, much richer and more insightful background, loads more uniform detail and excellent plates. Mike Snook's Beyond the Reach of Empire that covers the desert and rivercolumns receives   similar praise, though I don't have a copy myself yet.

Perhaps I'm being unfair on Blood on the Nile, having not read it through fully. I'd be interested in what others think, particularly those who have.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Analogue Hobbies Painting Challange V - January

Well, the end of January already. A fairly good month for me in the AHPc, definitely an improvement on December. Its also been a month when side duels have started being finished. I had wagers with both Challenge-master Curt to paint 100 points worth of Civil War infantry ,and a general duel with Juan to hit 250 points. Alas, I was outmatched on both counts, still not having recovered from my sluggish start. But they were a lot of fun and served to get me at the desk in recent weeks to give both a run for their money.

December was a month of finishing off Sudan painting, but January started a new project, the mush-discussed Spanish Civil War using Chain of Command. Its nice to be doing something a bit different and an opportunity to try some new methods.

First up, a test paint for a section of carabineros, or frontier guards.

A poor choice of miniature for a test paint: I wanted to try a suitable green of their uniforms, but after some blank staring at the mini i realised he was wearing a 'mono', or workers overalls. Drat. I'm led to believe that the 'mono' would traditionally be blue or grey, particularly if he had republican leanings. Well, I baulked at painting those colours again, as I seem to have majored on blue and grey for most of my projects in recent memory. So brown my chaps' monos shall be, in my little corner of Spain.

Next up, a swing back to a previous project, 15mm WWII US, to bulk out my support choices. 15mm isn't my scale of choice, I try to paint them too much like 28mm miniatures, and found differences in scale between and within manufacturers a little frustrating. But, this project was a labour of pragmatism, rather than love, allowing me to play some games with lkocal opponents with relatively small cost. I'm pleased with how the basing came out, i was going for 'autumnal'.

We've a 57mm anti-tank gun and .50 cal, for some firepower

A handful more infantry bases, so I can field a full infantry platoon

Two more engineer teams: minesweeper and flamethrower and a medical orderly. 

Next up, was the SCW proper. The carabineros, or more accurately, Real Cuerpo de Carabineros de Costas y Fronteras were the Spanish frontier guards and customs police and fought on both side of the Civil War, though siding perhaps slightly more often with the Republicans. Though largely deployed at ports and frontier crossings, they were responsible for patrolling their area of responsibility. They were lightly equipped, with just one Hotchkiss machine gun in the armoury of a command of multiple companies. During the Civil War, support weapons would have been drawn from army or other units, which is what the Chain of Command list allows.

I used the painting guide at Balagan, and some other googling about. While I wasn't able to find many useful images of Carabineros uniforms, this was the best:

 I'm loosely basing my forces around the northern front with Basque forces. so my Carabineros will be headquartered in the region around San Sebastian. I went for a ragtag look compared to the above, to reflect supply difficulties.

The bases have a different highlight tone to my usual - Vallejo Iraqi Sand rather than Buff. I prefer it. They're similar in shade to my Sudan desert bases, but I'm adding a lot more tufts, including a white and yellow flower tufts and red flowers. The latter seemed fitting, not only as they add welcome colour, but because the red carnation is the national flower of Spain, apparently! These are all from Silfor Mininatur. I am irked that some recently bought 'late autumn' tufts seem to be different to my usual ones - they're my favourites and get used a lot.

The price of Curt's victory in our duel? These are to be dubbed the 'Campbelleros' evermore. Perhaps I need a Campbell to lead them, a brave Canadian ex-Mountie that emigrated to Spain and took up a role with the carabineros...?

More brown overalls!

I've the rest of the 20-man section on the painting desk and well on the way to completion. After that, a move to the Nationalist side and some Requetes. Or more Sudan units - who knows?!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

AAR: A dabble in AVBCW at Wyvern

I made it to Wyvern again a couple of weeks ago, to play an A Very British Civil War scenario using Stu's collection. We used Chain of Command, as its known and remains popular at the club.

Stu kindly put on a scenario for Mark and I involving the Astwood Defence Association protecting their most prized asset. Stu briefed each player:

Since the opening salvo in the war things have been quiet for the Astwood Defence Association. They had guarded their parish boundary from "wrong'uns" and had cooperated with the authorities when required to do so.

With 149 men to call upon and a WW1 Artillery piece as the centre of power they believed they could see out the current difficulties until peace returned.

That was until the crack down, fliers were posted at the guildhall requesting that all weapons were handed in to the Government to aid in the war effort. Sources within the council has indicated to the ADA that if they did not offer up the Artillery piece it would be taken by force.

With the gun they knew they would be easy pickings for other stronger forces close by. The Gun would have to be moved, if only they had time....

I played the dastardly Fascist forces: two sections of Police and one section of BUF. After a short, sharp patrol phase, this was the layout: the sacks of grain being BUF jump-off points. The location of the gun was not known - my bet was either in or beside the farmhouse courtyard. The ADA would have to move it off one of the exit roads on my right flank.

In a play to start aggressively and throw the ADA off-balance, I brought my armoured wing right on - a recon patrol. Mark realised he hadn't taken any antitank, though we consulted carefully for the MGs vs.vehicles rules, and agreed for the sake of balance and good fun that each of his sections could have a single, precious mills bomb.

Mark shut down the quickest road route with a MMG team and sniper, forcing me to avoid the danger by pushing through the wheatfields either side.

Brave ADA troops leapfrogged the hedgerows under covering fire. This was to oppose my troops which were massing on the right flank, particularly after the MMG drove my 'armour' off the road. THat suited me in the end, as they could draw line of sight to the exit points for the gun. 

Seeing the right as a knotty problem to be unpicked slowly using the armoured cars, I pushed asecond section of policemen widely around the left to avoid the loitering ADA sniper. I hoped that Mark would be too focused on the other flank to pay them much attention. Then, they could seize the gun ansd claim victory - bwa ha haaa! Alas, another section of ADA emerged from the farmhouse, and the two sections settled down into cover to trade shots

With my left flank ploy blunted, I turned back to the right, pushing police into the dead ground behind the barn. But....


The local farmer's association were inside, preparing the gun to be moved. A melee ensued and the my police driven off, though the farmers were also mauled and combat ineffective. A burst of fire from the armoured cars' lewis guns saw them rout too. The combat was hotting up.

The dispositions - both forces split either side of the road - I nestled a sniper to the rear of the central field with the corn stooks, with good lines of fire. I also held the advantage of a third section off-table. But where to put it on, to swing the game?

Morale was balanced - both of us around the 5-6 mark, and I couldn't see an obvious way to swing the game in my favour. For a few turns, I spent all my command dice on the police section and my sniper on the left - firing both if possible every round meant they could see off the more numerous and lewis-gun carrying ADA section. While the recon, fairly safe from significant harm on the right, just sat on a hedgerow, reluctant to proceed further without support.

With the left won, though my section now below strength, both our morale around 4, Mark pushed a fireteam down the road to the barn, no doubt in a further attempt to move the gun inside and claim victory. Seeing my chance, I spent a CoC dice moving a jump-off point far up the left, putting my BUF section in good cover with flanking fire.

A sharp of fire burst saw the attempt to move the gun blunted and the ADA team fleeing back down the road. At this point, Mark's morale collapsed and he conceded.

All in all, a cagey game of Chain of Command. Investment in attacks on one flank or the other paid off for me, as I wasn't afraid to withdraw to the lee of hedgerows when out-gunned. Really, the ADA section with lewis gun should have beaten the police, but I just had more command dice to spend so won out. And something to be said for patience - having a fresh section to bring on when a moment presented itself paid dividends and claimed the win.

My taking armoured cars did riskunbalancing the game, without any antitank on the opposing side. Mark had 10 support points too, the shame! But actually, the MG against vehicle rules worked well - they could mount up shock (forcing me to spend orders removing it) or drive them into reverse or towards cover. While I had two mobile lewis guns that were fairly safe from fire, this just made up for me having one less to start with. It didn't overly unbalance the game - though I suspect Mark will have learned a lesson to bring something with a pit of punch.

Its interesting that as well as the different feel of AVBCW, playing CoC in 28mm felt rather different to 15mm - much closer terrain and larger footprints of units gave even more of a different game. And boy was I happy not to be attacking against German MG42s once again!

I've always been intrigued by AVBCW, and can see the appeal of it as a platoon game with esoteric and underpowered supports compared to more historical games of the era. So I'm glad I got this game of it in, cheers to Stu for putting on a great fun scenario. All of the miniatures and terrain are from his collection.

I couldn't make the club tonight, but who knows what will be in store in a fortnight?