Sunday, 28 July 2013

Zariba, zariba!

Or, More Fun with Rubberised Horsehair.

This is becoming the summer of terraining, as I finally put sand and paint and horsehair together to make these two zaribas/zarebas, or makeshift defences. A zariba was simply "an improvised stockade constructed especially of thornbushes and used for defense in parts of Africa". They were constructed by British forces in the Sudan from acacia bushes to protect encampments, supplies and pack animals.

Ok, it's a tight squeeze with my big ridge tents. Time to buy some renedra bell/dog tents...

I used two large vehicle bases I grabbed on a whim from Warbases at Salute. I'm a sucker for paying a quid to save me the time it takes to draw out and cut my own shapes and I've also found that the mdf is much less prone to warping. These were really easy pieces to make, I just sandpapered the edges, built up some height using wood filler and leftover cardboard and coated the top in PVA and sand. Once thats dried, I painted it with two watered coats of emulsion and wash/drybrushed to achieve the right colour. Then just rip/cut the rubberised horse hair as before, tease into bushy clumps, dab on the same stone-coloured emulsion and hot glue gun it onto the base.

With the KRRC manning the defences - they were built to fit an eight-man tray. 

Thursday, 25 July 2013

This week, I have not been idle

Well, actually, I have been fairly idle all told, but I have managed to make some progress over the past week, despite the heat. It definitely feels like the weather for terraining rather than fiddly painting. 

Having a slightly milder Saturday, with all of my errands out of the way early, what better thing to do than paint a load of movement trays? And voila, Warbases' finest:

So you can see how they look filled, some stealthy Beja marksmen, my favourite Mahdist unit so far.

And the steadfast King's Royal Rifle Corps.

Much better. I did spend a little extra time sanding down the sharp edges on each of them before texturing the tops, which I think removes some of the harshness.

While I've god a good stack done in one session, I will need a load of custom-cut tray for my Mahdists and a few more cavalry trays to fit the growing collection. Looks like I'll have to find another spare Saturday in a few months!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Black Powder AAR: Supplying Handub Fort, Sudan, April 1884

A couple of Saturdays ago, Samulus dropped over to try out Black Powder with my growing Sudan collection. Without enough troops to play one of the larger set-piece battles, I knocked together a fictional scenario: an Anglo-Egyptian force led by Major-General Davis sent to re-garrison and re-supply a fort at Handub, near Suakin, weeks after the defeat of Osman Digna's tribes at the second battle of El Teb. A small Anglo-Egyptian force is sent, not expecting significant resistance so soon after a major Mahdist defeat.

The British force deployed in brigade square, with two British battalions at the core: the King's Royal Rifle Corps and the Royal Marine Light Infantry, with firepower from the Naval Brigade's Gardner Gun and a single Screw Gun. This core was bulked out by two battalions of Egyptian infantry and both mounted and foot Egyptian irregulars. Samulus took control of the Mahdists and I the British.

My, what a neat formation...

Mid-morning and two-thirds of the way to their destination, the Anglo-Egyptian approaches a dried up wadi, with a ridge-line in the distance. The Anglo-Egyptian force had unit mid-afternoon (eight turns) to clear and seize the ridge in order to reach their destination by nightfall.

A handful of Mahdists occupy the heights, surely no match for the British firepower advancing upon them.

Beja skirmishers lurk in the scrub to the Anglo-Egyptian left, ready to pick off targets.

After an initial, plodding advance in brigade square, the British commander Major-General Davis and his Egyptian counterpart Ka'im Makam Bey become impatient, ordering the square to be broken up in favour of a quicker advance in line. This would also allow crushing firepower to be brought to bear, to clear the Mahdists quicker.

But disaster! Approaching the range of the Beja riflemen on the ridge and skirmishers in the scrub, the Egyptian brigade wavers in the face of the enemy, turning about and retreating to a safe distance. The Naval Brigade are carried along with them. What a disaster, without even a shot being fired!

With a blunder rolled, the steadier British are exposed, but there isn't much to do but hope their commanders can bring them quickly about to reinforce the line .

So much for the formation! 

Meanwhile, in an effort to steady their allies, the British screw gun open the firing for the day, scoring a direct hit on the Mahdist horse milling on the right flank, disrupting them.

So much for range-finding

Berated by their brigade commander, Captain Cathcart, the Egyptians are brought about, but make slow progress towards the advance British advance positions. The Beja in the scrub lurk patiently.

Irregulars are sent in to clear out the skirmishing Beja and start exchanging fire.

Keen to clear the ridge, the British advance continues steady, and they clear the wadi and approach the range at which their Martini-Henry rifles can be brought to bear with devastating effect. Meanwhile, despite the range the screw gun maintains effective fire, even at long disrupting riflemen on the ridge.

As they approach the ridge, the British spot more Mahdists on the far side of the ridge. More and more are identified, with many hundred of tribesmen sheltering in the relative safety of the far side of the ridge. With the Egyptians still floundering around trying to return to something resembling a fighting formation, the British are in trouble


The impetuous Baggara charge home against the British irregular horse, who barely put up a fight and are thrown back.

While Beja camelry swing round on the exposed British flank, ploughing through the screw gunners before they can bring their gun to bear.

Cutting down the gunners, the camelry pile into the RMLI (still being in the painting queue, the mounted infantry were standing in). After some quite dreadful rolling, they too are destroyed.

With the cavalry brigade having the the British into disarray, the rest of the tribesmen surge forward, seeing their chance to deliver a single, devastating blow. The irregular infantry skitter off, while the Egyptians and Naval Brigade rush to plug the gaps. Two units of the elites Beja slam into the KRRC, who hold steady, firing to the last despite being severely outnumbered by the swarming Beja

The KRRC are pushed back into a fighting withdrawal, but regain some British pride by breaking one of the Beja units.

Morale saves on 4+, you say?

Despite that final, fortunate combat result, I declared the encounter unsalvageable for the Anglo-Egyptian force and handed a major victory to Sam. While the Egyptian infantry were relatively unscathed, their unsteadiness (having the rule wavering) and lack of a defensible formation or position, and being outnumbered over 2:1 meant a fighting withdrawal was the best that could be achieved, with no hope for securing the ridge that day.

Post-game analysis

Well, what an introduction to Black Powder. I'll write up my thoughts on the rules themselves another time, but suffice to say a great game was had by us both, despite some erratic luck!

In hindsight, the plodding advance of brigade square would have been much safer, protecting the guns and should have enabled me to see off the Mahdist cavalry. The plan to smash the Mahdists on the ridge with sheer firepower were thrown into disarray by an ill-timed blunder. In fact, my order rolls were wretched throughout - the Egyptians took two turns to get moving again - whereas Samulus succeeded pretty much every one. Command rolls on 2D6 seem to be my nemesis.

Except the one actual blunder didn't really come at that bad a time, my entire force was out of rifle range and out of charge range of the Mahdists behind the ridge. I pushed on and assumed my luck would turn, I'd get double-moves to bring the Egyptians back into line. But I had time, should have stopped the British for as many turns as the Egyptians required. I was too worried about the turn limit and underestimated the Mahdist forces, even though I knew exactly how any units they had lurking!

Man of the match must go to the screw gunners, who managed three hits on sixes on the first three turns, resulting in three disruptions: impressive shooting.

As for the scenario, it works just fine, the British needed an objective to get them moving to some degree so they don't just stand and blow the Mahdists away from long range. (n.b. you may recognize the terrain and forces as being a stripped-down El Teb from the back of the Black Powder book). The British had that basic option of a slow, reliable advance in brigade square or upping the pace but risking something going wrong. Which it did, of course! Meanwhile, the Mahdists could sit tight knowing they were fairly safe from the British guns and weigh up their best time to charge out with both the cavalry and swarms of infantry.

Next time, I'd like to try the same scenario, but tweak the forces slightly, while I had kept the force balance broadly the same as in the BP book, I don't think I'd factored in how much of a disadvantage it would be switching half the line units to Egyptian infantry. My initial thoguhts are:

  • Bulk the Naval Brigade up from tiny to small to make them more useful
  • Switch out the irregular horse for British Hussars, to give the British a unit with both reach and a bit of 'oopmh'.
  • Probably drop one of the Mahdist infantry units too, or at least have them as a reserve that arrives much later, to give the British more of a chance of doing enough damage in their 1 - 2 rounds of shooting before the charge hits.

But all in all, a great afternoon's gaming, over in just over two hours despite a little book-consulting being required to resolve some situations properly. Now I just need to finish painting the units I hastily base-coated, get some proper command stands finished (I was scrabbling around a little to find enough command figures) and get my sabot trays textured and painted. Given me a few months and it'll look awesome!

Friday, 19 July 2013

Oh Gosh it's Hot

Happy Friday to you all!

The sweltering weather here in the UK is making it hard to devote time to hobby matters. It's fair to day a number of our community are suffering. But my hobby projects have also been brought to a complete standstill by work being staggeringly busy with a number of things all coming in at once. Hot sleepless night and that mean I'm pretty knackered right now and very much looking forward to a restful weekend. If I get some painting or terrain done, all the better!

Anyway, a fortnight ago (wow, that long?) Samulus and I managed a great Sudan game using Black Powder. I had put lot of painting hours in before that to get it looking as good as possible in the time available. A real success despite it being our first try with the rules, but the dramas will be the subject of a much fuller write-up soon. In the meantime, here's a little teaser of the day's action.

What's that on that there hill, eh Perkins? 

Friday, 5 July 2013

A first attempt at vegetation for the Sudan

I haven't built much new terrain specifically for the Sudan project this year. But I did get hold of some rubberised horsehair recently to make thorny acacia bushes and scrub areas. This is the first experiment with it, three more 60mm round features as standalone scatter or alternatives to go in my tree bases.

The horsehair is pretty much how it came out of the pack, just cut and torn up into clumps and with a light drybrush of pale emulsion.

This is the horsehair as it came, about 1 inch thick. As it was flat on each side and thick, I tore it widthways which gave a good varied texture and used the flat side as the bottom of each clump as I cut them out. I found it pretty easy to work with to get a decent effect.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Fuzzy Wuzzies sir, faahsands of 'em

Alright, not quite thousands. But as the summer rumbles on, the Sudan project continues bearing fruit. Another ten Mahdists ready to throw out the 'Turks' that are interfering in their tribal lands again. 

A mixed group this time, though mostly the most feared of warriors, the Hadendowa of the Beja tribe. To borrow from Mr Kipling (not a cake in sight though):

   So 'ere's ~to~ you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your 'ome in the Soudan;
   You're a pore benighted 'eathen but a first-class fightin' man;

As well as five plastics, the five on the left are metals from pack SA10 and will serve as a small unit of Beja marksmen.

I've a game arranged with Samulus on Saturday so it is great to have these done to make a near round fifty Mahdists. I'm not quite ready really but about 80% of the minis used will be full painted amd the rest base coloured, which is very pleasing considering I've done the whole project myself in around 12 months.

I also knocked out two Egyptian officers in just two nights, so they will be able to lead from the front on Saturday. I think the poses are fantastic, the Perrys do such great command packs. I made the mistake of not shaking the Windsor and Newton Galeria varnish before applying so they came out really shiny. But I think two coats of Dullcote had saved them.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Oops - lead pile getting a bit big...

I just realised how big my Perry Sudan lead pile is getting. This is just the new packs, not including packs in various states of construction/basing/painting, nor the other projects that have been bolstered this year.

In my defence, this includes a still-unassembled pack from Salute, a very kind birthday gift from Gharak (cheers bro!) and some packs I picked up at a very reasonable price on eBay (circa half price).

Still, it will keep me deep in the Sudan project for some time!